can I steal my boss’s job while he’s on leave, women in menswear, and more

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

1. I’m the interim manager while my boss is out — can I make a play for the job?

I work with a small team of people who historically have only had a team lead. About eight months ago, we hired a true manager for our team for the first time. He was okay. He recently (unexpectedly) left for three months of FMLA leave and I was asked to step into his role with no warning. So far, I’ve been really enjoying the challenge and I think it’s been going really, really well. I’ve had feedback from above and below me that I’m doing a much better job than him and I feel like I have a great rapport with all of the team, and that we’re working really well together. We also just hired a few people who I’m orienting right now, which is also going well.

He’s due back in a month. We don’t know 100% that he is coming back, but my understanding of FMLA is that you are legally required to offer the job back if they return. However, he’s been here less than a year so I’m not even sure true FMLA rules apply yet.

Regardless, this brings me to my question — should I see how this plays out or should I make the case to my boss that I should stay in this role even if my old manager returns? I truly believe it would be better for the team and department. But is that even ethical? Am I being selfish? There’s not a similar leadership role I could move to, so it would probably be this or eventually leave. I may or may not have a say in this, but I’m wondering if I should make my case to my boss or keep my mouth shut and see what happens.

If this is FMLA leave, your company is required to hold your manager’s job for him, even if they find someone they think could do it better. FMLA protection only covers people who have worked at a company for a year, so that may not be in play. But if they’re calling it FMLA, they might have their own internal eligibility rules that are less restrictive than the government’s.

Regardless of all that, though, you don’t want to seem like you’re making a play for someone’s job while they’re dealing with serious illness or a family member’s health crisis. That’s the kind of thing that can harm your reputation, follow you around for a long time, and affect how much people trust you. It will also make it harder for you to manage effectively in the long term.

What you can do, though, is to say that you’re very interested in the job should it be open at some point. That’s as explicit as I’d be. If they’re seeing significant improvements under you, they’ll get the point — and from there it’s up to them.

2. Using sick days to get work done at home

At both my current and previous jobs, my company has had the following bad combination: (1) detailed work that needs to get done on a tight deadline, (2) an open office where people interrupt you all day long, and (3) absolutely no working remotely despite pleas from employees.

At my last job, my boss openly acknowledged that he would sometimes use sick leave to stay home and knock out whatever tight-deadline project he was working on. I’ve continued to do this at my new job. I’m lucky because I get enough sick leave that I usually have plenty left over at the end of the year, and it doesn’t pay out so I’m not really “losing” anything by doing this. It does annoy me that this could come back to bite me some day if I had an extended illness — but that possibility seems remote compared to the immediate need. It also involves misleading my boss, which feels wrong. Where do you fall on this practice?

I don’t think you should be using sick leave to work at home. First, as you point out, you might need it for actual sickness at some point — and if you do, you’re not going to be happy that you used it doing work for your company. Second, by doing this, you’re inadvertently helping your company believe its current set-up is working just fine.

I’d much rather see you and your coworkers make the case to your company that you need quiet places where you can focus on your work, and if that can’t be in the office, you should be allowed to do it remotely.

Of course, if they say no, you’re right back where you are now, tempted to use sick days to get work done, and thus enabling their crappy set-up. So it’s a tough situation (of their making).

3. Women wearing menswear to work

I was wondering what is your opinion on women wearing “male” style clothes in the workplace? By male style, I mean two/three-piece suits in a traditionally masculine cut with a tie and brogues or loafers.

I’m a university student and I think this is fine, provided everything fits well and matches. But my mum was horrified (like, she was really upset by this). And I’m not sure who’s wrong. Would wearing a waistcoat and tie to an interview (or to work) really impact employers’ opinions of me?

You’re right and your mom is wrong. In most situations, it’s absolutely fine for women to wear “men’s” styles.

I say “most” and not “all” because there are some particularly conservative fields and offices where this would raise eyebrows. But it sounds like you wouldn’t want to work for them anyway — and there are tons of other places where it won’t be an issue.

4. I’m being offered less than my predecessor

I took a temp-to-perm position replacing a guy who was fired after 30 days. Given he hadn’t worked out they advised that decision time from their side would be around two months. I’m now about a month in and they just made me an offer for the permanent position. It’s pretty decent, and more than I was making at my last job.

Here’s the thing: I happen to know what my predecessor’s salary package was because HR accidentally emailed it to me. (HR knows I saw this.) The salary is the same, but they offered him a larger annual bonus and several other perks. He and I are the same age with comparable experience and qualifications, and were offered the exact same position a matter of weeks apart.

If I hadn’t known his package, I would have likely accepted their offer. But knowing they offered him more benefits makes me reluctant. What do you think I should do?

They know you saw his offer, and you don’t have to pretend you don’t. That makes this easier! You can say, “As you know, Cecil’s salary package was accidentally emailed to me. He was offered XYZ. If you can offer that to me as well, I’d love to accept.”

5. Coworkers asks our admins to tell me she was looking for me

I have a coworker who comes by my office to look for me, and if I am not there, she will ask our admin staff to tell me she is looking for me. At first this seemed harmless enough, but it’s starting to bug me. Our admins usually tell me this coworker was looking for me on my way in or out of the office (because that’s when they see me) and I often don’t have the time to stop and call her or go find her. I would much rather she call me if she needs something, or email me if I am away.

Is there a way I can tactfully communicate this to my coworker? She is my superior but she is not my boss, and we both report directly to the same boss (the CEO of my company). I don’t want to step on any toes but I feel like this isn’t the best way for her to communicate with me and I would like to try to improve things if I can.

Yes! The next time it happens, say this: “By the way, when you’re looking for me and don’t see me, would you shoot me an email instead of leaving a message with the admins? That way I can be sure I’ll see it when I’m back at my desk — otherwise they often give me the message when I’m on my way somewhere else and can’t stop to respond.”

You could also enlist the admins’ help. Ideally when she asks them to tell you she’s looking for you, they’d respond with, “Jane has asked that we tell people it’s better to call or email her directly rather than leaving messages with us.”

{ 466 comments… read them below }

  1. Zombeyonce*

    OO #1, please follow Alison’s advice. Asking for your manager’s job may seem logical to you in some ways but it’s going to look really bad. If you do end up as the manager at some point (which may happen more organically, especially if he doesn’t return), you don’t want to have given the impression that you are willing to kick someone when they’re down to get ahead. There’s ambitious and then there’s cutthroat. One is good and the other is a bad look.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah—this is unfortunately a situation where ambition is going to look really crass in light of the circumstances. It’s ok to be ambitious and hard-working. It’s ok to want ot advance. But it’s not ok to try to scoop someone’s job when they’re on (possibly protected) extended medical/care leave.

    2. Properlike*

      Your integrity as a manager is key. If you’re known as someone who will manipulate a situation for your own benefit “to make it better”, then how do I (as your employee) know that you’ll honor my two week notice period? Or that, if I report a confidential problem, you’ll keep my name out of it? Or that you’re not going to throw me under a bus over an issue because it makes you look better or “helps the company?” Don’t be the person your employees write in about to this blog.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        These are great points. OP, know that the people you’re managing are likely paying attention. They’re not going to forget how you treated someone else in a precarious position when you stood to personally benefit.

        1. YourFriendlyNeighborhoodSocialMediaGuru*

          From my personal experience, someone tried to do this to me while I was out for two major surgeries over three months. Now, I will never forget their name and have refused to provide a character statement for them. If OP ignored Alison’s advice, their ambitious moves wouldn’t just be seen as being overly ambitious to the point of a bit cruel (this is someone’s livelihood afterall & medical issues can really ruin you for a while) it could also be seen as tactless. Emotional skills are just as important as how many improvements occur under your leadership – it’s not a great leadership move to kick one of your teammates while they’re down.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            All of this. I’m reminded of a great Leo McGarry quote (West Wing reference) – “There’s a way to be a person.” This (gunning for an ill manager’s job) definitely ain’t it.

          2. Linzava*

            Thank you for sharing this. It’s really important that OP sees the potential other side to this. The opportunity in the situation was the chance to cover for the manager and develop the skill. There is no opportunity for the position if the manager is planning to come back, that would be stepping on someone.

            1. Kate*

              Yes – the way to handle this is for OP to approach his/her manager and say, “I’m glad I was able to help Boss’ Name while he was on leave. An unexpected outcome for me – is that I realized I loved the work. In the future, should an opportunity present itself, I’d really love to pursue a similar role here.”

              you need to show that first priority is helping your coworker, and you’re glad you were able to help. But during it – you realized you like that work and want to continue to develop those skills so that when the time is right, you are prepared to step into a similar role. It’s basically like you test drove that job, and want to start saving to buy one like that soon. :)

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                If I read the letter right, this is a trial position that might be replicated in other teams. LW could look at it from the angle of “when you roll out this model elsewhere in the company I’d like to be considered”.

              2. TootsNYC*

                the good part about this is that there might be some OTHER job that opens up, or even that they create.

                ALSO NOTE: By actively pursuing this specific job, you may look bad to the people above you, not just to the people who might report to you.

                That kind of ambition at someone else’s expense can make the higher-ups reluctant to trust you as well.

                1. Marmaduke*

                  Especially as, in this case, they’ll be seeing your behavior toward the person *currently* a step above you. It’s unlikely to escape their notice that you could do the same to any of them during their own tough times.

          3. DollarStoreParty*

            One of my coworkers went to my boss to “tell her the truth about me” while I was having major surgery. While the surgery was happening. You’d think that would be bad enough but she had an entire list of lies and conjectures that had zero to do with my job performance. She would hear me on the phone and make assumptions about the conversations – many of them were actually with our boss so she knew what they were really about, but this coworker told her I was plotting against her (our boss)
            What she also completely missed was that I have an extremely close relationship with our boss – she knows more about me and my life than anyone here.
            Anyway, I came back from my leave and the employee in question was gone within two weeks, she decided to leave after confronted with her lies.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      When in unfamiliar territory, I have asked myself, “If the situation were reversed what would I want the other person to do? What would I think is fair?”
      So if I were on leave, I would figure on the other person just rocking the job. And why not? It’s their moment to shine. However, I can return to this job so it’s up to me to have my best game on when I return to work.

      That’s me. Not everyone returns with their best foot forward. The company may notice this, OP, and eventually decide to make some adjustments somehow. It takes time for this to play out. Meanwhile you could decide that a year or whatever is too long for this to play out and you could move on. TPTB are also aware you could do this.

      The one definite that you have in hand is that you are doing the job on a temp basis and you are excelling. This is something that you can put on a resume or bring up at your own company for future promotions.

      But, yeah, if I am on leave, I have either lost my health or the health of my family member. This can happen to anyone of us at anytime. Please don’t take my job away from me, too. If I come back and screw the job up, that one is totally on me. (BTDT, and I felt I had to work twice as hard to prove to the company that they were right in holding a spot for me.)

    4. snowglobe*


      It also occurs to me that the OP is viewing this as the current manager wasn’t quite as good at the job, and it’s possible that whatever illness that led to the medical leave could be the reason they weren’t performing at a really high level before. So it’s possible once they are done with the leave, things might actually improve on that front.

      1. Sparrow*

        Ah, I hadn’t thought about that, but you’re right. The manager hadn’t been in place all that long, either – less than six months, it sounds like. Between those two things, it’s entirely possible he may be performing at a very different level six months from now.

      2. MsM*

        As someone who’s had to take FMLA before, I’d say it’s not just possible but probable. It is possible the manager’s not as much of a rockstar as OP even at full capacity, but if I were the big boss, I wouldn’t even consider making changes without giving them a chance to do better post-emergency – and I would think very poorly of OP for not recognizing that.

      3. MK*

        Very true, and that’s an added reason why the OP should not do this. Say she does suggest that they get rid of her boss and the company allows his to come back (either because they are legally obligated or for PR/morale reasons), perhaps with the intention to fire him later on. Then the manager comes back and performs really well, the company sees no reason to go through with the firing and the OP has basically made a play to get a person in a difficult situation fired for personal gain and failed. Her reputation is compromised and the manager, now her boss, might find out.

      4. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        Moreover the OP has only been doing the job for about three months, maybe less. If the manager came from outside the company whereas OP already knows the company, sheer familiarity might have been a factor in the performance difference. The manager could well become as good or better than OP yet.

        1. Pommette!*

          This is an important point. She’s an insider, and he isn’t – yet. Those backgrounds entail different learning curves, and it’s entirely possible that that is what is behind the difference in their performance levels. If that is the case, the difference may be entirely temporary.

          It’s also likely that coworkers are more willing to openly compliment her work because they already see her as a friend and lateral colleague, rather than as a manager.

          This isn’t to minimize her accomplishments – they’re great! But it’s better to think of, and talk of, those on their own terms, and without comparing herself to the manager who is on leave.

          1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

            This is so very true. We brought in outside people in the two management spots above me. For the first few months with both of them, I had to train them on what felt like basic things and there were definitely moments where I was like “wait, why aren’t they just paying ME for this work?” but now that they’ve been here a while and have mostly figured out the internal process stuff I was teaching them it’s clear to me why they’re here. They’re AWESOME. But institutional knowledge doesn’t just appear with an offer letter.

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            They’re also probably willing to compliment her work because the OP is currently in the ‘hero’ position – she’s stepped up at the last minute to help out and is doing a good job of it. People are naturally going to be more effusive towards that person – “Thank you so much for stepping up! You’re doing such a great job!” etc etc – than they would be towards the person who just, you know, has that job and does it all the time, especially when they’ve only known that person a few months. That doesn’t necessarily mean that their management would want the OP to actually replace the other guy for real.

            1. Alanna of Trebond*

              THIS. Plus, OP likely has an easier load in some ways whether she realizes it or not. Filling in for someone on leave means handling the day to day (and week to week), but often long-term projects and bigger priorities can wait. I’ve filled in on leaves, had bosses who were filling in, helped coworkers figure out their interim plan, etc. It’s a tough job to do and I don’t mean to minimize OP’s accomplishments at all, but it’s likely that there are aspects of the full-time role that you’re not seeing. (It’s also true that if the person on leave is weak on that day to day stuff, the replacement is definitely going to seem like a big improvement, and hopefully that is a big signal to the people above her that there are some weaknesses that need to be corrected!)

              OP — having performed well when your manager is out is going to reflect well on you. When they return, I think it’s possible to open a conversation about how you enjoyed the role and feel that you performed well, and that you’d like to be considered if roles like that open up in the future.

        2. Marissa*

          Yes! Yes! Yes! A brand new manager, developing a new position, working on long term things vs. someone familiar and collegial with the team on a short term basis. This is not an apples to apples comparison, and it would be a mistake to use doing this task well as a reason to undercut the manager.

      5. Blunt Bunny*

        Yes and if not OP would be better suited suggesting they could cover for when they are physically unable to get into the office. For example if they had medical appointments or were particularly unwell. You could also ask for training or professional development courses. If you took part in recruitment or on boarding you can ask to take part in more of this in the future.

      6. MistOrMister*

        This is a great point which didn’t even occur to me when I read the letter. Not too long ago I had surgery and there was some restructuring at the office right when I got back which gave me added work. I was JUST able to do my job before the surgery but I’ve been able to keep up with the added work now that I’ve recovered. I hadn’t even realize how much my issues were impacting my work output but it is very probable the new manager was in that same situation. Not to mention, the mental stress of having to deal with an illness is no small thing. Especially where the surgery needed requires a 3 month recovery – that’s very major work being done and and with a recovery period is that long, the risks going in were likely not minimal.

    5. Tinybutfierce*

      Yup, I basically had a similar situation done to me at one of my last jobs. All five of my staff left shortly after I was gone, because aside from just general personality conflicts with the guy who replaced me, the way he went about weaseling his way into my position axed any chance of a positive relationship he may have had with them as their manager. It worked out the best for all of us who left, as that company was garbage and treated its employees the same, but y’know.

    6. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      This could absolutely affect your reputation in your industry for years to come and prevent you from advancing in terms of future opportunities. People notice and remember things like this.

    7. Partly Cloudy*

      OP#1, this might be a good example of actions speaking louder than words. Let your work speak for itself, show your enthusiasm (but tempered – I agree with what everyone else said about not looking like you’re cutthroat or willing to kick someone while they’re down), and take everything one step at a time. There are a lot of unknowns in the situation right now.

    8. Zennish*

      If a manager came to me with this, I’d think they were being a snake, and would be suspicious of their motives in every interaction thereafter.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Same. If someone pulls this on *their own manager*, what would they be willing to do to me if I was in the way?

        1. TootsNYC*

          or to other people whom I want to perform well. I.e., it won’t always be about how they’ll treat me, but how they’ll treat other people, and whether I want to deal with that fallout

          If I’m a manager in a “rank” above our OP, I have a big-picture view of the staff and the company. I’m going to want managers who behave with honor. Because it affects morale, etc.

          But I also am just really uncomfortable with scheming people. So a reputation traveling up the chain of command is as important as your reputation traveling down it.

    9. SheLooksFamiliar*

      There’s a difference between taking advantage of opportunities that come your way, and being opportunistic. You don’t want anyone to accuse you of being the latter, a reputation like that follows y ou.

      OP, it sounds like you have a lot going for you and your boss likes what you’re doing. You’ve built goodwill and confidence, and even the whiff of trying to launch a coup could wipe it all away. Alison’s advice is sound, and I hope you take it.

    10. quirkypants*

      I took some extended leave a while ago and a couple people stepped in to cover for me.

      The situation seems a bit different from the OP but I’ll throw a couple thoughts out:
      – While I was out, they definitely got great feedback and they did a great job given the hand they were dealt, but *my* superiors didn’t see all the things that weren’t done (which I had to clean up on my return).
      – Not all parts of being the “boss” were actually delegated to them.
      – Another perspective is they got great feedback based on the fact that expectations were lower.

      Best part was, when I came back a couple people made a case for my responsibility (appropriately, by asking ME) and when I told them about the growth opportunities it became clear they only wanted to do the “cool” stuff. Small example from these team mates: They wanted to be a part of interviewing new hires! Fun! Right? But when I asked them to come up with a list of must-have skills, nice-to-have skills, some sense of how they’d evaluate these things, and to go through the resumes to help evaluate them they balked!! All of a sudden they “didn’t have time”.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I saw a co-worker apply for the position she’d been covering on behalf of another co-worker, and when that co-worker decided not to return, the one who’d been covering applied for the permanent position. She had gotten good feedback on the small part of the position that she had covered, but she ultimately wasn’t chosen to fill it permanently because, during the interview process, she displayed such a lack of understanding that what she had done wasn’t the complete job. Even when given the opportunity to ask questions in the interview, she said she didn’t have any because she understood the job so well from having done it herself for six weeks. Once it became apparent that the gap between her hubris and her actual understanding of the job was so great, she lost the opportunity.

      2. Anonymeece*

        “– While I was out, they definitely got great feedback and they did a great job given the hand they were dealt, but *my* superiors didn’t see all the things that weren’t done (which I had to clean up on my return).”

        That’s the other thing. Alison has often mentioned on here that being an interim is not necessarily the same as being in the position; certain allowances are made because they know it’s a temporary situation.

        OP, not saying you aren’t doing a great job, but on top of the incredibly bad optics of gunning for the position, there may be stuff that you haven’t had to do, because they know you’re not “officially” in that position.

    11. Dwight*

      This seems as bad as stealing someone’s job while they’re on maternity leave. Don’t do it. Tone down the gumption.

    12. Krakatoa*

      There is absolutely no time when gunning for someone’s job couldn’t backfire spectacularly against you. If someone isn’t doing well as a manager, you can bring problems up and apply if they don’t work out, but the question “can I steal this job” is going to be no 99.9% of the time.

  2. Zombeyonce*

    OP #2, I don’t know if you may have the same setup or plan to work with your company until retirement, but at my company this would end up costing you in the long run. Here, unused and built up sick leave counts as extra “years worked” and some long-term workers end up with more pension (often via PERS) because of huge banks of sick leave.

    And you really never know when you might need sick time unexpectedly! A sudden illness or an accident might make you resent your company if you don’t have adequate sick leave because you’ve used it to work.

    1. Tau*

      And you really never know when you might need sick time unexpectedly! A sudden illness or an accident might make you resent your company if you don’t have adequate sick leave because you’ve used it to work.

      I was going to mention this. It’s easy, if you’re generally healthy, to think that X amount of sick leave is a lot, surely you’ll never need that much… but you’re just a bit of bad luck away from a lot of illnesses or accidents that will require not just days but weeks off work. I ended up out sick for over six weeks last year in between the flu, symptoms from a health condition, and recovery from surgery to deal with that health condition. If you’d asked me before how much sick leave I expected I’d need, the answer would have been much, much lower!

      Also, training people to expect that when you are out sick work will still happen, emergencies will still be dealt with, etc. could really come back to bite you at some point.

      1. Mel*

        Yes! I mostly don’t need sick time, but a few years ago I used all of it plus some vacation time on a series of minor medical procedures.

        At my new employer our time rolls over (to a point, but that point is over a decade down the road) and I’m so glad that I’ll be building a bank of sick time for unforeseen medical situations. It makes me feel much more secure to have that.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This was a conversation here a few weeks ago. Slews of people who had accumulated what felt like ridiculous amounts of sick leave, and then there was cancer. Or a crushed ankle. Or…

          1. Harvey 6-3.5*

            A coworker of my wife was on a foreign trip, shattered bones in her leg, flew home (with difficulty) and then even had to wait for the surgery, so she’ll be out for an unplanned couple of months. Thankfully she has enough leave.

      2. Feline*

        Seconding the unexpected need for sick time. If you’re young and healthy, you probably don’t think you’ll need it, especially at the end of the year.

        I had a totally unexpected medical crisis and hospitalization that could happen to someone any age in early December last year and wasn’t able to return to work until January. If I hadn’t saved up plenty of sick time and had vacation scheduled around the holidays, I would have been unpaid and unable to work.

        If you are going to burn up your sick days thinking “la-la-la it won’t happen to me,” at least make sure you have short term disability insurance so you can get by. You need one or the other. Take it from the gal who has a PT appointment today from that medical crisis 10 months ago. Unexpected happens.

        1. OP #2!*

          I think you’re right as a general principle. In my case, I don’t plan to be at this job very long (and when I left my previous job, I lost about four weeks of banked sick timed, unpaid) – but it’s true that you never know.

          1. Rainbow Roses*

            “Unexpectedly!” Exactly this!

            I’ve been working for over 20 years and most companies I’ve been at has a “use it or lose it” policy regarding sick days. I still don’t call in sick because I feel guilty if I’m not really sick. And yes, I did feel resentful to those who I know game the system to get additional paid days off.

            So 20 years of being healthy and never calling in, and then wham!, I suddenly needed 3 weeks off. I was so glad I didn’t call in for every minor thing and had all my sick days for this unexpected thing.

            You say you don’t plan to say at this job long but unless you’re leaving in the next week, you still never know. Sometimes, you’re fine one minute and in the hospital the next.

          2. Tau*

            Admittedly this seems to be a US/European* cultural difference (sick leave isn’t something you accumulate but something you’re entitled to if you need it, and what you’re allowed to use it for is often restricted in comparison to the US) but I’ve always felt that the reward you get for not using your sick leave is… not having been sick. Because being sick sucks. It just wouldn’t occur to me to consider sick leave something I should gain something from if I was lucky enough to have been healthy throughout the year, and it’s always a bit odd to me to see people say they think it should be paid out or used for holiday or the like.

            OFC, we have a lot more holiday than you on the whole, so maybe that helps explain why it’s easy not to see it as another form of PTO.

            * European = I know this is the case in the UK and Germany and would expect most EU countries to be similar, but don’t know if there are exceptions.

            1. Sloan Kittering*

              Yeah I dunno but if you had only two weeks of vacation in a year, you might start eying that unlimited pot of sick leave :D

            2. Marmaduke*

              US culture unfortunately includes a hidden vein of prosperity gospel, where bad things are a punishment for bad behavior, so good health is a sign of moral superiority and should be rewarded.

    2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      I was also thinking that the company may have a real reason why working from home isn’t allowed, like confidentiality reasons, so this kind of secretly working from home can cause real problems.

      1. Tinuviel*

        Agreed. Besides your own time management, there are lots of reasons why you shouldn’t take sick leave to secretly (openly?) work from home.

        -People won’t know if you’re sick-but-working or sick. Expectations of you while on “sick leave” might change.
        -Could even affect other workers’ perceptions of what sick leave is for and how to use it. Your coworkers/juniors may feel they can never take time off even if they’re sick.
        -Difficult for your boss to see how long/when you work. Hard to gauge what is an “appropriate” workload or level of availability for you.
        -Decision-makers come to expect a higher level of productivity than is possible given your “hours worked”. If you have a metric of “productivity per hour worked” this would be way off.
        -Problems/natural consequences of tight deadlines/interruptions at the office/no remote work like slow productivity and balls dropped don’t happen, so nothing comes to light and nothing changes.
        -Access of company resources outside of company property/without permission could create liabilities. Issues with confidentiality, unauthorized or unsecured access, accidentally getting flagged for fraud, etc.

        And most of all, you’re taking a company practice from your old job to your new one without checking if that is OK or accepted. I’m not sure why you assume that this practice would be OK at a different company.

        1. Shad*

          Regarding the last point, I interpreted the letter as talking about different positions at the same company.

        2. OP #2!*

          Yeah even though our work is not confidential I’m guessing the company would not like the data security element of it. For the record it was never really an accepted company practice at either job; my boss wasn’t doing it openly, he was doing it as a wink-wink, nudge-nudge type way.

        3. Stripes*

          Your first two points are spot on. We can work remotely and it has definitely changed expectations, but I don’t know if us employees are perpetuating it unnecessarily.

          Years ago, being sick meant you were at home not working. Recently everyone was issued with a laptop and remote access, and now it seems normal to work from home when sick, rather than take the day off completely. Managers and employees both do this. Not everyone, but from what I can see it’s like 90% of people working from home when sick…

      2. somanyquestions*

        I work with classified government data, and I am allowed to work at home. I find it difficult to believe there is no way they can manage it. They just need rules.

        1. amianai*

          Sure, but you probably have a VPN, procedures for working from home, etc. If her company doesn’t allow working from home, they may not have the appropriate setup.

        2. Veronica*

          Yes, my company has a lot of confidential stuff and people work from home. Some of the things I’ve noticed are secure logins/portals to do the work, and any flash drive that’s inserted in a work computer is automatically encrypted.

    3. Harper the Other One*

      Seconding the “you might need it, no matter how much it seems like” argument. My partner had an unexpected health thing this summer – minor, but between trying to figure out what was going on, a quick surgery, and a post-surgery period where he wasn’t allowed to work or drive, it was four weeks. Fortunately his employer has excellent leave policies, but if he worked for a place where sick time accrued but he was using it up to work from home, he would have had weeks of unpaid time for something not particularly serious.

      1. Helena*

        Exactly. My husband was incredibly fit, ran half marathons, never a day off sick. Until he broke his hip in three places in a freak accident on a nursery ski slope and needed almost a month off work, and adjustments for the next three months after that (remote working, time off for appointments and physio, taxis to off-site meetings as he couldn’t drive).

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            Looks like “nursery slopes” are the beginner-level ski hills. Like we’d call them “bunny hills” or similar in the US.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          My mom got taken out by someone on a green slope. She was standing still and they hit her. Broke her pelvis, and she was off work from Mar.-May. IIRC she took the max under FMLA and then was able to go back before her job was at risk. She is older, though, and did not have a big bank of paid sick leave. Seems she has to have some minor surgery every year, but it usually ends up being a few weeks to a month off.

          1. Lynn Whitehat*

            Green slopes are the most dangerous IME. You have flailing beginners, kids horsing around, tired people headed to aprés ski, and black-diamond skiers zooming to the lift for Widowmaker.

      2. Rivakonneva*

        Thirding this. A co-worker vanished off the face of the earth for about a week. When he came back we found out his partner had been out for a walk and was hit by a speeding pickup truck. Between the surgeries, recovery time, physical therapy appointments and lawsuit court dates the partner wound up missing a lot of work. So did my co-worker since he was the primare caregiver. Thank goodness both of them had plenty of sick and vacation time saved up!

    4. Samwise*

      And you really never know when you might need sick time unexpectedly!

      This. We are all temporarily able-bodied. And even if you are fortunate enough to always be well, no guarantee the rest of your family will be.

    5. Quill*

      On the other hand – any and all of that sick leave can go away at any time if the company says “you can only roll over 15 days now” or “we’re not doing pensions anymore.”

      This happened in my local school district and yes, it affected people who had already retired under the previous plan. There wasn’t any recourse for the teachers.

      1. Galloping Gargoyles*

        The “you never know” argument is a great one ad very true. I’ve been in my current position almost six years but don’t have much of a sick bank built up because husband had cancer treatments, a serious illness that took us to a hospital out-of-state for a week and then for follow up visits, which took 2-3 days time off because of the travel time, and then physical therapy for me for four months to recover from a fall on the ice that resulted in serious whiplash. None of those are situations I could have predicted and I was very grateful to have sick time to cover them.

        I would also say, as an employer, that sick leave is to be used for illnesses, doctor’s appointments, etc. If I found out an employee was misusing sick time there would be a serious conversation. Yes you’re misusing it to get work done but you are doing it sneakily and I would question what else are you doing sneakily. If I found out a manager was doing that and encouraging a member of her team to do it as well, there is a good chance that manager would lose her job.

        At a minimum, I encourage you to talk with your manager about this practice. I think Allison’s suggestion to push back as a group for quiet working space or the opportunity to work remotely is the best method to take though. Good luck!

  3. Zombeyonce*

    OP #3, don’t listen to your mother. Plenty of places (especially if you live in a more liberal place) will not only NOT penalize you for wearing menswear, they’ll consider it a positive. Women often look absolutely fantastic in well-tailored suits and it’ll likely make you more confident and that will help you interview better.

    And I hate to say it, but some places will assume a woman in a suit identifies as LGBTQ+ and will give you extra consideration as a “diversity hire”, whether or not you are.

    1. All Outrage, All The Time*

      Really? A woman in a suit reads as LBGTQ+ I think that’s an enormous stretch and I think it’s uncool to suggest taking advantage of possibly being a “diversity” hire.

      1. Princesa Zelda*

        I mean, personally I lean on my menswear and masculine haircut to advertise my being Q+, so it’s not necessarily wrong. Crossdressing is more accepted with straight women than it used to be, but in a lot of places and to a lot of people it’s still a big flashing neon sign saying “HERE BE A LESBIAN.” And anybody who would discriminate based on gender presentation or assumed sexual orientation isn’t someone you want to work for, anyway.

        1. AnonForReasons*

          I agree with you Princesa Zelda. I wore a lot of menswear when I was younger (in the 1980s) and loved the look and never had any problems with it.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I do think how it is viewed follows the trends, though. I wore more menswear type stuff in high school in the grunge-era 90s. It would have stood out more circa 2005. Now wider leg pants, doc martens, etc. are more main stream again. (I think?)

        2. Blue Anne*

          Yeah, same. I present pretty masculine/andro and absolutely don’t hide that when interviewing. I’m done working at places that aren’t accepting. And if I get diversity points, fine. Nice to get points for my queerness for once.

          1. EH*

            Same. I wear a suit and tie to interviews, in part to offset my very brightly colored hair, but also because that’s the dressed-up outfit I feel most comfortable-and-badass in. So far, it mostly seems to make me not get interviews (I’m in the same outfit in my headshots on my site/linkedin/etc) – but when I do get an interview, I get the gig 2/3 of the time. And as a bonus, I know that my hair and masculine clothing aren’t a problem. I don’t want to work somewhere anti-LGBTQ+ or where I couldn’t have bright hair, so while it’s frustrating to get zero interviews, it’s nice not to have to worry about figuring out if a prospective company is straightlaced or not.

            1. Blue Anne*

              Right! As soon as I updated my linkedin headshot I started getting fewer interviews. But that’s okay really, right? At least they’re not wasting our time, and we walk into interviews knowing they’re forewarned, ha.

              1. EH*

                Exactly! It can be stressful going long stretches without an interview, it’s better than wasting everyone’s time interviewing at places where I wouldn’t want to work anyway.

                N.B. This is obviously a huge privilege, and if I didn’t have unemployment payments and a partner to rely on, I’d probably be more willing to change my appearance in service of getting hired.

        3. Quill*

          Fancy Friday in college was always a game of “spot the lesbians.” (Or genderfluid and agender people, as more and more of us became aware that was an option.)

          Whereas my major basically had a flannel menswear uniform because we were environmental science and I got clocked as not straight by the fact that I didn’t participate in the flannel / skinny jeans / knit hat trend.

      2. Tinuviel*

        I think the tie will read as “extra” in some conservative industries. I’ve seen women in 3 piece (pants) suits before but not with a tie (mostly because in my experience even dudes are itching to get them off).

        I also think it’s important to be aware about what your clothes (can) say about you, and to do so with intention. It is a part of your self-expression after all. I would read a person who presents feminine in hair/form/jewelry etc wearing a 3 piece suit with tie as “very dapper” and “not too concerned about gender roles” and “strong sense of self” and maybe “meticulous” or “probably an expert in something like coffee or French monarchs or solving mysteries”.

        Other people might read “if this person isn’t too concerned about gender roles and expectations, they might chafe at work expectations, and I haven’t thought too deeply about the difference there.” Or “strong sense of self, that means they’ll probably push back on things, and I haven’t reflected on why that displeases me”. Might help OP weed out places they don’t want to work.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          I think that you’re right that a lot of the impression is going to come down to details of tailoring and overall look. A three piece suit that’s tailored in a feminine style, worn with jewelry and low heels is more likely to be seen as an expression of fashion than a statement about sexual orientation. On the other end, wearing a very masculine cut suit with classic button down shirt and tie and men’s dress shoes, no makeup or jewelry, and short hair is much more likely to be interpreted as lesbian or trans. And I do think that the latter will cause problems with a non negligible number of employers, even outside of conservative fields. Honestly, I think the number of places where it would give you a boost as a diversity hire are going to be vastly outnumbered by the places where it will hurt your chances.

          At that point, it comes down to a personal assessment of risk, and how much you need a job. It can be an excellent filter for employers you would be better off not working for, but it could also lengthen a job search, or leave you with fewer options.

          1. Yorick*

            I agree. It could definitely come across as LGBTQ+ and that will hurt your chances at some places, but that may be ok since those are probably places where you wouldn’t enjoy working anyway.

          2. Blue Anne*

            Right, exactly. At this point in my life, I wear a “men’s” haircut, bland-but-fashionable men’s/unisex clothing (I fit in with the guys at my investing meetups) which I take to a local queer-specializing tailor as necessary, no makeup, rarely any jewelry, and either flattening sports bras with no padding or just binders. I’ve also been a weight lifter for years and have serious muscle, no concerns about getting too bulky here. I’m not trans and don’t take hormones so when people see me there’s definitely an assumption of some kind of queerness or gender related stuff going on. (Which happens to be correct although whether that should be the assumption is a whole other conversation.)

            So that’s very different from when I used to show up to interviews in a woman’s suit, flats or conservative heels, chin-length hair, light makeup and no jewelry. It’s also different from the AFAB folks who are out there wearing bow ties or suspenders every day (super cute but please don’t go to your interview like that.) Style makes a huge difference on this stuff. It’s funny, we all know that style makes a big difference to perception but it seems like there isn’t a whole lot of discussion around the different perceptions of obviously queer styles? Or maybe I just haven’t found it!

            As far as field – I’m in accounting in the Midwest. I definitely think I’ve started to miss out on job opportunities because of the way I’m presenting myself. Job hunts are taking a lot longer. But luckily, accounting professionals are also in demand, so I’m okay. And there are starting to be companies who would be thrilled that their solid candidate for that finance job also happens to be an obviously queer person. I’d really like to end up at one of those companies. Also – I’m definitely more comfortable and confident now than when I was trying to be girly, and once I’m in a job and actually working with people, I feel like I’m getting much better reactions. I don’t know if that’s just because of feeling better, because I’m not generating the reactions that come with sucking at makeup and women’s style but trying to do it anyway, or just because I’m being perceived as more male so I’m being given more weight. But there are positives in any case. So I’d encourage people who want to explore their presentation to do that.

            Geez, this turned into an essay, sorry.

            1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

              I thought it was very interesting, and not at all too long. How did you find a queer-specializing tailor?

              1. Blue Anne*

                Word of mouth! Since we’re not in a huge or particularly liberal city, the LGBT community here is excited about services catering directly to us. Ask around for whatever you need and you’ll be directed very quickly towards the one or two queer-affirming services for that thing in the city. Barber, real estate agent, tailor, masseuse, photographer, lawyer…

                Related note, I’m seriously considering opening up a LGBT-focused accounting firm once I get my CPA. :)

        2. snowglobe*

          When I think of a woman wearing a tie, my first thought is Annie Hall. Surely the OP’s mother is of an age that she would remember that?

        3. MK*

          Eh, for some of us clothes serve a mainly utilitarian purpose and are not a comment on our souls. Also, someone may well be an eccentric dresser but not intended in rocking the boat in other ways and meticulous about their appearance but not in other areas or their unusual clothes might mean they have interest in fashion itself and not hint at eclectic tastes in general.

          1. Tinuviel*

            That’s still a statement though! “I am more concerned about comfort and use than superficial-level appearance.” I would think maybe this person likes to work with their hands, or likes to read a lot, or is no-nonsense in general. Of course these are assumptions! So I’m very likely to be wrong and certainly wouldn’t base any major decisions on a first impression. But it is a form of self-expression and I think everyone should cultivate the ability to express that well, whether that’s “I love fashion” or “I really can’t care less about it.”

        4. Gazebo Slayer*

          “Probably an expert in something like coffee or French monarchs or solving mysteries”

          Ha, this is great. Somebody please write a mystery novel with a dapper, waistcoat-wearing butch sleuth who is a coffee connoisseur and expert on the history of the French monarchy. I have such a lovely mental picture. :-)

          1. Tinuviel*

            Medical expert instead of French monarchy, but I was picturing the red-haired doctor friend from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries!

            1. Valkyrie*

              I love her so much. The doctor AND Miss Fisher.

              My next series will have a bisexual woman from the 20s who certainly could be an expert in the French monarchy. And French wines.

      3. Oryx*

        Not a woman in a suit, but a woman in menswear. Women can wear suits, of course. That’s why women suits are a thing. But a woman in specifically menswear does read as LGBTQ+. I know plenty of Lesbians and bi women who wear menswear for that reason.

        1. Blunt Bunny*

          I think it depends on the size of the person. For example a tall woman may be able to find more suitable options in men’s clothes than in female clothes.

          1. Theo*

            I’m a short butch often read as a woman, and size doesn’t matter. I can actually more often find pants that are the correct length in the men’s section because it’s done by inches.

          2. DyneinWalking*

            Eh, I think figure is much more important. For a woman with broad shoulders and more narrow hips it might work. Women with a large bust and/or wide hips, however, would likely struggle to find men’s wear that fits.
            As a tall woman with wide hips, narrow waist and narrow shoulders I never considered men’s wear, ever. It’s hard enough to find jeans in the women’s section that let me have wide hips but also be very thin.

            That being said, I myself probably would associate a woman in men’s wear with being lesbian – even though I the one woman I ever met who did this was dating a man. It’s a really uncommon fashion choice, and for the reasons I stated above I don’t think it will ever change much. So people probably won’t run into a lot of situations where the cliché is contradicted, allowing it to persist.

            1. Blue Anne*

              Well in terms of workwear fit – nearly any woman is going to struggle to find formal menswear that fits straight off the rack. Many men also struggle to find formal menswear that fits well straight off the rack. It often needs to be tailored regardless of gender.

              1. Marvelous Mrs. Manager*

                +1000. If you own a suit, regardless of body type, there’s a 99% chance you should get it tailored. Even the mannequins and models have clips at odd places to make it fit right. Find a good tailor and pay them well.

              2. Indigo a la mode*

                I originally misread what you wrote at “nearly any woman is going to struggle to find formal menswear that fits straight ON the rack”…which would have been equally apt!

      4. Samwise*

        Yes, in many places, even pretty liberal or progressive places, a woman in a menswear suit-and-tie, especially with a vest or waistcoat and brogues or shoes that look like men’s dress shoes, will read as LGBTQ+ .

        A woman wearing just one piece of menswear, however, will not.

      5. MatKnifeNinja*

        I’m reading this a woman in a suit that John Mulaney (comedian) would wear. A suit bought or made a men’s store, not a tailor suit for made for a woman.

        The area I live an work, people will ask if you are coming out, and a lot of other questions. If you aren’t LBGTQ+, this may be more of a hassle than you want.

        There is a lesbian teacher at my niece’s high school that wears men’s clothing. The cut and style is definitely masculine. I think she looks great, all the bits are cover. Shes’s an excellent teacher. If it wasn’t for a union, she’d be gone. Parents crab about her clothes all.the.time.

        If you work and live in an area that’s “You be you boo!” Rock the suit. Where I live people still get in a foam about piercings, tattoos, hair cuts and dye jobs. A suit as a stylistic choice (not bring in the LBGTQ+ community), would almost border on not worth it. I have friends who would LOVE to wear a tailored smart men’s suit to work. Tbey feel much more at home in masculine clothes. Work would morph into drama, so they are busily saving money to move out of this Rust Belt state.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Yep, I was also wondering if the OP meant a women’s tailored suit in a man’s style, or actual men’s clothing. In a few rare cases, men’s clothing could fit a woman, but generally it will not fit well and be baggy or tight in various places. Poorly fitting clothes are not a good look for anyone and in this case, it would look like someone is playing dress-up. But I work in a traditional office, so if the OP is in a west coast hip area or funky start-up then I wouldn’t bat an eye.
          But, there is nothing unusual about a woman wearing suits tailored in a men’s style, ie Emilie du Chatelet style. Every few years you will see them on the runway, so it is actually very chic. I used to have a fitted 3 piece pinstripe suit that I loved, but it was just to dang hot to wear.

          1. Dahlia*

            There’s nothing that says you can’t get a suit sold for men tailored to you because you identify as a woman. Most men don’t just buy them off the rack and go either. The options aren’t “tailored suit sold towards women” and “untailored suit sold towards men”.

      6. CupcakeCounter*

        I think it depends on the suit as well – OP and Zombeyonce are referring to a very specific style of men’s suiting not just a standard business suit.
        Go with the suit OP – what I am picturing in my mind looks awesome.

      7. CatMom*

        I mean, wearing a 3-piece suit with a bow tie is definitely an accepted form of queer signaling for a cis woman. I agree that if this person is cishetero she shouldn’t take advantage of the misperception (though that’s really Zombeyonce’s notion, not the OP’s), but as a queer person I would actually probably also assume she was queer AND that she wanted me (and maybe specifically me as a queer person) to know. So while it’s never *good* to assume, I wouldn’t call it a stretch at all to think people might.

        1. Mimi*

          I saw an apparently-female-presenting candidate come for an interview in a men’s-tailored suit a couple of months ago, and she totally rocked it. I can’t remember if it included a tie, but it did include a waistcoat.

          I did assume that she was probably some flavor of queer, and probably also an awesome, self-confident person.

          (This in a liberal east coast city.)

        2. Starbuck*

          Where’s the line between taking advantage, and embracing gender non-conformity for everyone and anyone? I’m really asking, because the notion that you need to have a certain identity to wear “men’s” clothing seems so backwards to me. The expectation that if you’re a straight cis woman you need to be dressing in a way that reads feminine (wearing jewelry and makeup with a suit, as others above have suggested) seems like sexism.

          1. Venus*

            From what I have learned, gender-queer is essentially defined as not wanting to conform to society’s expectations of gender. Think of girls described as ‘tom boy’. Which has a lovely quirk in the concept, in that it is based on one’s society, so if OP lives in a place where straight cis women are expected to wear suits then she is not gender-queer, whereas if she lives in a place with her mother’s attitude then she is gender-queer.

            You may be right in saying that societal expectations of gender are sexist, and that people shouldn’t need to have an identity in order to wear gendered clothing, but I would argue that cultural and societal expectations are hard to change and so for those people who want to change them it is easier to develop an identity so that they can have a more supportive community.

            1. Gadget Hackwrench*

              Gender-Queer is also used synonymous with non-binary. (Speaking as a person who identifies as both interchangeably, has a preference for the former in terms of pride flag colors and the latter in terms of words.)

              I have absolutely no doubt that I’m flagging as LGBTQA+ and have been for a very long time. I’m Bi, but married to an “opposite” gendered husband, so people definitely aren’t getting that idea from my relationship status. My mother was also horrified at the idea when I merely added a necktie to a women’s suit! Now I also wear a man’s belt, a binder, and sometimes mens shirts. Pants are still from the women’s dept tho, because mens pants give me “zipper boner” and I really don’t like that. Point being, yes, people will probably think you’re LGBTQA+ but I don’t think it’s wrong to dress the way YOU choose to dress even if you are 100% Cisgendered Heterosexual, just because it might accidentally cause you to take a “diversity spot.” That’s overthinking things too far.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I don’t think there’s any requirement–it’s just that it often happens.
            And so if you’re a cisgender heterosexual woman, and you wear a suit with completely “traditionally male” styling, people may assume something about you.

            But you’re not wrong for doing so.

          3. smoke tree*

            I don’t think there is such a firm line to be drawn between “legitimate” LGBT/gender nonconforming identities and wanting to express yourself in a way that is not widely accepted for someone of your (perceived) gender. We all ultimately benefit from less policing of gender norms and expectations.

            1. kt*

              Agree with you and TootsNYC, coming from the perspective of a person in their late 30s who didn’t know about agender or gender-queer or gender-fluid expression while growing up but just wanted to be a person with breasts wearing a t-shirt & doing math without anyone bothering her. “We all ultimately benefit from less policing of gender norms and expectations.” Amen!

      8. Venus*

        I know several female-born and male- or androgynous-presenting folks who are legitimately part of the LBGTQ+ group because of the Q. It’s not a big stretch! I wouldn’t assume they are lesbian, of course, as that would be narrow-minded.

        OP3, please feel encouraged to wear a suit in a work context, as you will be joining a small yet very happy and equally-successful-as-their-peers bunch of folks. I admit that I can’t imagine any one of those people wearing a tie, but only because I work in a field (nerds) where “ties are for weddings and funerals”, so the wearing of a tie at work by anyone would suggest a weekday funeral. Many of the female-bodied folks in my workplace wear items that are mainly found in the men’s section (collared shirts are most popular for both genders) and I agree with Alison that interviewing this way allows you to select for a supportive and inclusive workplace.

      9. vlookup*

        There are suits and then there are suits. A woman in a suit doesn’t necessarily read as queer, but the specific look described by the OP definitely does. Same thing with other menswear, short haircuts, etc. — a short women’s haircut isn’t inherently queer but mine, for example, intentionally signals “I’M GAY.”

        The differences are sometimes subtle/primarily legible to other queer people, but in the case of the OP I think they’re gonna read as queer to just about everyone. And that’s awesome if that feels comfy to them — go forth and queer your workplace, OP 3!

      10. LabTechNoMore*

        Sorry to be “that guy,” but I really have to push back on the notion that being perceived as LGBTQ+ will help your consideration as a job candidate. By and large it hurts your chances, as is the case with any minority status while seeking work (sex, race, disability, etc.). I live in the Bay Area, and even here the most I see is a perfunctory inclusion of LGBT to the boilerplate “We won’t discriminate against you and encourage everyone to apply”-type statements at the bottom of the jobs page. And, of course, since there’s no uniform, legal way for employers to determine which candidates are LGBT and which are straight/cis, it’s pretty clearly lip service.

        Now, veering back on topic, I’d also add on that geographic locale of the company/HQ is another consideration that would affect how you’re perceived wearing non-traditionally gendered clothing, depending on how traditional/conservative the location is of the place you’re interviewing at.

    2. 1.0*

      “they’ll consider it a positive” “extra consideration as a “diversity hire””

      where and what industry, i’ve been subjected to homophobia in the workplace before in liberal jobs in liberal cities and have consistently found being visibly out is absolutely a risk, i want in on these industries and jobs that actively WANT to hire lgbtq people

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I work for a very large company in a liberal city and they are very public and proactive about hiring a diverse workforce. I’ve seen it here in practice so I know it’s not just lip service. I’m sad that you’ve had such a tough time finding the same sort of employer and hope that changes for you.

        1. Mary*

          What does that mean in practice? In the UK, you can solicit applications from under-represented groups (eg. a note on the advert saying, “We particularly welcome applicants from Black and Asian background, as these groups are currently under-represented”), but once all the applications are in you’ve got to treat them equally as you shortlist and interview because the Equality Act goes both ways! (There are exceptions, but it has to be something required by the role specifically, not just a general desire to increase diversity in the workforce.) What are the options where you work?

          1. Loose Seal*

            We see that too in the U.S. I applied for a job last fall that specifically said it welcomed applications for women and minorities. Who’d they hire? A white guy.

        2. Alton*

          I’m not saying this is the case for your company, but while I think that a company vocally prioritizing diversity is a good sign, it’s not a guarantee that people in hiring positions won’t have implicit biases. There are plenty of people who are accepting of LGBTQ people in theory but who have biases against people who “look gay.”

          1. Zombeyonce*

            This is definitely always a possibility. The entire company (down to line workers) is also currently going through “unconscious bias” training. While it won’t fix everyone, it does make a difference.

            1. nonymous*

              If it’s the big company I hope it is, this is super to hear. I do outreach work with refugees and it is always disconcerting to hear intolerance from the parents, but it is also hard for us to push back in the moment too strongly because we are trying to build trust in other areas and not come in as know-it-alls from the dominant culture. A lot of the parents work in warehouse type jobs, so it is great to hear how workplace training can reinforce the lessons if tolerance and acceptance their children are also learning in school.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The disadvantages of being perceived as a minority still significantly outweigh the advantages, unfortunately. (The idea of “diversity hires” is also really problematic, as it’s often used to undermine people and imply they wouldn’t have been hired otherwise.)

          1. dn*

            Yes. I work in a field that “wants” diversity hires (higher education), and the idea that someone is a “diversity hire” is insulting and problematic. My partner is perceived as a minority, and it is a chronic source of stress and challenges in his professional life. What’s almost as bad is people expressing the idea that he got the job because they “want diversity.” He is completely qualified–more qualified than most of his peers–and even if he were a “diversity hire,” he still has a harder job than people who aren’t perceived as a minority.

      2. Mary*

        yeah–I’m sure there are some places that will consider it a positive, but to assume they are a *majority* and that they cancel out the ones where it’s either a negative or neutral is unfortunately naïve.

          1. Mary*

            No you didn’t, but I still think it’s odd to mention people assuming you’re LGBT+ as if that’s only ever an advantage and never a disadvantage!

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              I think we can all safely assume that people are aware that there’s often a disadvantage to looking as though you are a minority (whether it’s orientation or culture or race or ethnicity or what have you). I’m pretty sure most people are aware that there are often negative biases, and I’m not sure we need to explicitly say “ah yes, but some people won’t like that!” when the entire question is about whether or not it’s incredibly *common* for people to Not Like That to the point where it will harm their job search.

              Zombeyonce was pointing out that there may be the *positive* side with some companies seeing improving diversity as a huge advantage.

            2. Blue Anne*

              The disadvantages are obvious and don’t need to be stated every time we talk about being queer in the workforce.

              1. Mary*

                They actually aren’t to people who aren’t in the workplace yet. My job is working with students and trying to understand whether they are likely to encounter discrimination and what that means in practice is really useful.

                And nobody’s answered what “diversity hire” actually means in practice in the US, so I’d still be interested to hear that! There’s a perception in the UK that you can get an advantage in the workplace because you’re from a minotised group, which is untrue (except in very rare, specific circumstances) and also really damaging because it’s used to tokenise people. I don’t know what the law is in the US and whether Zombeyonce is talking about a real advantage or simply a perceived one.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  In the U.S., it’s illegal to make a hiring decision based on protected class — things like race, sex, religion, etc. You can and should do things to try to bring more diversity into your candidate pool, but you can’t choose who to hire based on those characteristics.

                  “Diversity hire” is often used to mean “she only got the job because she’s a woman/POC/etc.” and is generally highly undermining to the person (my sense is the the original commenter didn’t mean it quite like that, but it’s a really problematic term for that reason).

                2. Zombeyonce*

                  I didn’t think of “diversity hire” in that context at all, so thank you Alison for pointing out that people consider it to mean that someone wouldn’t get hired “unless”. I’m sorry for the miscommunication there! I didn’t realize the term was used that way, and I won’t use it again.

                  What I did mean is that some places (like my work) at actively trying to hire a more diverse workforce. I haven’t done more than be a participant in interviews at my company so I don’t know how that comes into play (whether it’s something in a posting encouraging more people to apply or something else), but I know it’s factored in somewhere.

      3. AnonForReasons*

        Ones that I’ve worked in that are highly creative and welcome people who are visibly out: book publishing (not all, but many publishers), filmmaking, design work in an ad agency.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          To the point that being openly lesbian would give you an advantage? I’ve worked in publishing and other creative industries, and while I wasn’t discriminated against, the idea that highlighting I’m a lesbian would mean I’d get more opportunities than a straight person in them is baffling – and to be honest, insulting.

          1. Mary*

            Yes, there’s often perception bias in play here–the assumption that because there *are* visible minorities in a field, that they must be particularly welcomed. If you look at senior people in the field you nearly always see men, white people, cishet people and non-disabled people promoted faster and higher.

          2. smoke tree*

            For a job at a publisher that focuses on publishing queer literature, I can see how the line is a bit fuzzier–for example, a queer editor may have a more nuanced take on editing queer stories than a hetero editor would. But of course, it makes much more sense to look at the editor’s actual track record rather than making assumptions based on their identity.

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              That’s an incredibly niche employer though. There are of course a tiny number of other examples, but I’d wager they’re less than 0.1% of employment.

      4. Blue Anne*

        My experience has been that many large corporations, even in conservative industries, are happy to hire diverse people for the social consciousness points and to meet their publicly stated targets. It doesn’t say a lot about what your experience is going to be once you’re in.

        I worked in the Big 4 in my early 20s and hated it. Bad experience even in a liberal city. Now that I’m a lot more comfortable with myself and more experienced in the workplace, I think it would go better. Either way I’m a nice data point in their internal diversity surveys.

    3. sacados*

      Yeah, the only thing I would be slightly concerned about is to make sure OP3 knows her industry, because in some cases a three piece suit could be a bit *too* formal even for an interview.
      So would want to make sure that wasn’t the case at the offices OP is interviewing with.

      1. Blunt Bunny*

        I agree but they have asked for in an interview and we generally dress more formally I would wear a blazer to an interview but not wear it when I started (although I feel really professional when I wear them). There are women who work in blazers here and some men in blazers and ties. But the norm here is shirt or nice top and jeans. Wearing a waistcoat would be overly formal for most workplaces I associate them with weddings.

        I think the other thing to consider is the cost of a 3 piece suit, assuming you want to wear it daily and not just for important meetings and conferences. You would have to have a different shirt everyday and the blazer and trousers matching. And I assume you can’t just stick in the normal wash.

        Wear what makes you feel comfortable. I honestly can’t imagine anyone getting upset over something someone else was wearing to work.

      2. Joielle*

        Yeah, I thought this too. Person in a two piece suit – great. Person in a three piece suit – trying a bit too hard. At least in my industry. Nothing to do with gender, just… office norms, I guess.

        1. Theo*

          I’m a person who — if they ever move jobs — would be interviewing in a suit. I own a vest that goes with my (very nice, tailored to my height, men’s cut) suit but I would probably never wear it to an interview in my industry! Much too formal. I’d wear the trousers and jacket, and maybe a tie, and perhaps take off the jacket for the interview proper depending on how my interviewers were dressed. For context, I live in a major east coast city in a queer/trans welcoming industry, and I strongly feel people should get to wear whatever gendered clothing they want to work, as long as it’s work appropriate and roughly in line with what folks in your office are wearing.

          If you are a woman wearing “menswear” that’s cut in a traditional masculine style (as opposed to cut for “women”), then definitely be prepared to be assumed as queer, gender non-conforming, or trans. Since these are not negative traits to be, you should have no issue with it :D

          1. Theo*

            (By “you” in that last sentence I mean specific-you; depending on where you are, other people may or may not feel the same, but hopefully you not be offended to be mistaken for queer or trans, if you’re not — but since you ARE using things that queer and trans folk use to signal ourselves, it may happen, especially with short hair. If you would be, consider why!)

            1. Joielle*

              I think your suit sounds great! Like you said, you probably wouldn’t wear the vest to an interview because it would be too formal, not because of any gender implications. If a three piece suit is not too formal in your industry, then awesome!

              I’m personally a queer woman with a very queer short haircut, which I keep specifically to signal that I am queer, so I am definitely not offended to be read as queer. I’m not sure if you intended to reply to my comment specifically, but if you did, just wanted to make that clear.

      3. LQ*

        The formality of it I think will come across a bit more strongly from a woman wearing a 3 piece suit than a man wearing one. And a waistcoat would be very strange for anyone. The formality of it was what made me go, noooo. Don’t do that. But that will be a know your industry thing.

        1. pleaset*

          I don’t think it’s formality that differs by gender but more the quality of the whole look. With a guy, unless he’s older, the waistcoat is hard to pull off well. It’s costumey and not in a good way unless the guy really really knows what he’s doing.

          With a women, the menswear aspect makes a statement and the waistcoat may add in a positive way.

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        That’s what I was thinking too, but I’ve worked in pretty casual offices so I wasn’t sure if I was off base. But my first thought was that a three-piece suit is formal enough that the types of places where it would fit in probably overlap significantly with the types of places where they are very conservative and might frown on a woman in menswear.

      5. Lily Rowan*

        It’s funny — the only person I can think of through my whole working history who regularly wore a three-piece suit to the office is a very dapper woman.

        1. pleaset*

          A knowledgeable woman can pull of the vest aspect with a suit. Most men – no. Older men, yes, but most men, no. It’s a bad look.

          1. The Bean*

            Yeah I feel like the people who can generally pull off three piece suits are: professors of all genders and ages, old men, dapper Black men, and dapper masculine of center queer women.

            I love the look but I’m too femme to convincingly pull it off. And everything I buy from stores like Wildfang tends to look too long and boxy on my petite frame.

            1. Glory Hallelujah*

              A surprisingly large number of professional hockey players can and do pull them off – I think it has something to do with the “barrel of muscle” body that they tend to develop and how that looks in a vest.

          2. Lora*

            That interviewee would be permanently described as “Pre-tenure Dumbledore” in the minds of the interviewers, I think…

      6. Environmental Compliance*

        Yeah, that was honestly my first read as well. It sounded way more formal than (at least in my industry) you’d ever wear to an interview.

      7. msjwhittz*

        This was my thought, too, especially since it sounds like OP is very early-career. You can wear menswear (or menswear-inspired pieces) with no problem in most workplaces, but a three piece suit, even for an interview, will read as out of touch (or perhaps naive/overeager/trying too hard) in all but the most formal of workplaces.

    4. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      A nice suit and classic shoes can look very sharp on women with a “no frills” style. I used to snatch my brother’s old jeans and blazers because Mum (bless her) used to make me pretty things in pastels with ruffles. When I got older, she made me more classic, streamlined things.

      1. Anonny*

        A few pieces of “frills” – like a pretty patterned tie or shirt, or “feminine” style jewellery – can add nice visual contrast and look gorgeous.

        (I do this, albeit from a male starting point. I’m currently looking for a fabulous waistcoat for casual wear.)

        1. JaneB*

          EVERYONE looks good in a fabulous waistcoat (I have an unmistakeably female fat-hourglass figure and I have a couple of excellent waistcoats)

          1. Terry the Cloth*

            May I ask where you found such a thing? Because that’s my body shape and I want a fabulous waistcoat or four!

            1. yala*

              They used to be everywhere about 10 years ago. I love waistcoats and am lamenting how difficult they are to find now.

              …I’m seriously considering learning to sew to make myself some new ones.

            2. starsaphire*

              Find out where the costumers and cosplayers shop. Victorian-era re-enactors always can get their hands on things like fabulous waistcoats in gorgeous fabrics.

              Or, buy a plain standard vest in a sale and take it apart for a pattern… :)

              1. starsaphire*

                Aaaand I really need to learn to read further down in the thread, before parroting advice someone already gave an hour ago. Sorry!

        2. Samwise*

          Resale shops. Or check out folks who make clothes for cosplay, or Etsy. Or you can sew it yourself — waistcoats are pretty advanced sewing, though. You can do it even if you have no experience sewing — just take your time, follow directions scrupulously, and maybe get a more experienced friend to guide you through it. This last option is great because you can choose the fabrics and embellishments (buttons, braid, lace, etc).

        3. CanuckCat*

          Might I suggest Jag and Co? Their vests are a little on the more spend-y side but they do custom fitting. Also would recommend dapperQ; not a clothing store but they do great roundups of places to shop menswear for women (or non-binary peeps).

    5. Mel*

      Even at many more conservative places that aren’t in conservative *industries*. I worked for a very conservative, very small publisher for years. Everyone higher up is deeply religious. No one would have blinked.

      Another job was at a bank, I think it would have been ok, but there you would definitely been “edgy” depending on the department.

      1. Theo*

        You know, there’s some emerging thought that consistently reading things that make you unhappy is a version of self-harm. Maybe… don’t read the column if you’re stressed out enough to make this username?

      2. Will G.*

        I mostly agree with you here (and definitely support your right to critique how a cishet moderator handles these issues), but I don’t the implication that no one would stand for this if it was about people of color instead of LGTBQ people. Race is hypervisible in some ways– this does not lead to people of color being treated better.

        (I’m an LGBTQ person of color for the record.)

      3. The Bean*

        That came across as super tone deaf to me too.

        I don’t know any industry where being lgbt+ is an “advantage.” Except maybe some areas of the entertainment industry. Companies look for “diversity” hires because they are trying to counteract an endemic problem of hiring, promoting and retaining lgbt people.

    6. removed*

      Removed. You’ve been banned in the past for being aggressively rude and hostile to me and others. You’re still not allowed to comment here. To be clear, it has zero to do with your dissent and everything to do with your repeated rudeness toward others. – Alison

      1. Joielle*

        As always, the advice is for the workplaces we have, not the ones we wish we had. Would it be awesome if every employer supported everyone dressing as they like? Yes, of course. Is that the case? No.

        She’s not saying it’s a good thing, but it is a thing. I don’t think anyone can argue with that, and I don’t think it helps the OP to just say “Wear whatever you want! Damn the man!”

        1. Lily Rowan*

          And honestly, there are fields and offices where the dress I (a cis woman) am wearing (knit, flowy, patterned) would be inappropriate. That part is not about gender presentation.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Sadly true, but such companies will likely treat a non-het woman or one who doesn’t conform to gender norms even worse. (Likewise a nonbinary person. A man whom they consider too “feminine” will run into a different but related set of problems.)

    7. Lucette Kensack*

      Wow. The reason the (deeply problematic) concept of “diversity hires” exists is because LGBTQ+ folks (and people of color, people with disabilities, women, etc.) are discriminated against in hiring. It’s wrongheaded to suggest the opposite.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah… if your comment sounds like a version of something someone’s racist uncle would say at Thanksgiving dinner, maybe think about it.

      2. vlookup*

        Totally. This is a super problematic concept and it’s def not going to help OP or other gender non-conforming folks feel more comfortable Doing Gender at Work.

      3. Zombeyonce*

        I wrote above as a reply to Alison, but I want to put here in case you guys see. I didn’t know that, to most people, “diversity hire” means “they wouldn’t have been hired if they weren’t [race/gender/orientation]” and I apologize that I used a term I didn’t understand correctly in my comment. I won’t use that term again now that I know it describes a horrible assumption.

        What I did mean is that some places (like my work) at actively trying to hire a more diverse workforce. I haven’t done more than be a participant in interviews at my company so I don’t know how that comes into play (whether it’s something in a posting encouraging more people to apply or something else), but I know it’s factored in somewhere.

    8. Kate*

      As a hiring manager, I care WAY more about how a candidate conducts themselves before, during, after the interview than their chosen style of suit at the interview. I do care that they appear to have groomed themselves for the interview, and taken care to dress professionally. I don’t care if the candidate is wearing a $500 suit that looks fabulous, or Wal-Mart dress pants and a cardigan or polo shirt from Costco. I’m looking for effort – not style. And again – that accounts for 5% of my impression of the candidate. The rest is all about the work!!

      I’d also agree with what Alison said – if the hiring manager judges you in any way for your personal style… do you really want to work there?

    9. Dust Bunny*

      A woman in a suit would definitely not read as LGBQT+ at my workplace, and we have had several female employees whom I know were LGBQT+ who were as femme as anyone, thus contributing to actual diversity instead of just the appearance of diversity. (And some who were not femme. And . . . you get the picture. But the clothes don’t literally make the man or woman.)

    10. chocolate chip cookie*

      This is such an interesting conversation. We have a few out people, but I’m not sure about trans (major city on NE).

      We have one person here.. when she started, she wore conservative slacks and button downs. About a year or so in, they’ve cut their hair, wear their hair in that style where the top half is a ponytail and bottom half is shaved off. Mens’ skinny jeans, Ts, tattoos out (on arms). AFAIK she still goes by she. Strictly from an aesthetic POV…I think it looks amazing (and in fact, if this was someone outside of work, I’d find that type/style attractive as hell).

    11. anon today*

      I”m genuinely shocked by this comment and all the support. For a comment section with users that claim to be super woke and progressive, everyone is sure stereotyping and being narrow minded on something that might not be true. Not all lesbians wear male clothing and pushing the idea that a woman in male presenting clothing is automatically queer is pretty harmful to queer women who don’t want to fit that aesthetic and feel like they have to because people think lesbian = masculine dress.

      1. Starbuck*

        Anon, same. Rigid gender roles and the accompanying standards of dress are harmful to all women… and it’s absurd to pretend that gender non-conformity is pretty much always going to count against you in the workplace unfortunately, if it’s even allowed in the first place.

      2. vlookup*

        Eh, I think of this more as a cultural signifier than a stereotype. It’s not that suits and menswear and so on always read as queer, but there are definitely ways to style men’s clothing that are going to read as queer, sometimes primarily to other queer people and sometimes to everyone. I don’t think this is a bad thing! For me personally it’s incredibly affirming. There are plenty of gender non-conforming straight people out there and that’s awesome too.

        On the other hand, thank you for pointing out that not all queer women have the same gender presentation. Erasure of more femme queer women totally happens and it sucks, especially when it’s other queer folks doing it. Being invisible and being too visible each have their own challenges and can each be a safety issue in different contexts.

      3. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, I’m a little uncomfortable with that automatic assumption too, as a fairly femme bi woman who’s known a lot of other queer women who are not masculine-presenting.

      4. bonkerballs*

        Nobody is saying all queer women dress in men’s clothing, but lots of queer *do* and do so expressly to signal to other queer women/people that they are queer. I live in a very liberal queer city and there are definitely certain hair styles and clothing styles I come across where you know with probably 95% accuracy that that woman has purposely chosen to present herself as queer. There’s nothing wrong in acknowledging that part of queer culture, even if that’s not a particular piece all queer women engage in. There are parts of all cultures that not every member engages in and there’s nothing wrong with that.

        Furthermore, even if what I’ve said was not the case, there’s nothing wrong in talking about what stereotypes are out there such as the fact that women who dress a certain way/wear their hair a certain way will more likely than not read as queer.

    12. Decima Dewey*

      I started wearing menswear when I was heavier. A man’s dress shirt that could accommodate my chest was ipso facto a blouse. I often buy mens sweaters, because I want my sweaters to come down to my hips.

      Occasionally someone’s made assumptions about my sexuality, but that doesn’t matter to me.

    13. Anony*

      I don’t think I understand the LGBTQ+ thing at all. I’ve never equated a woman wearing pants, suit, and tie as anything besides “business formal and looks nice”. (I’m a very, VERY conservative woman.)

  4. Lil*

    ughhh the ‘constant interruption’ office culture. i absolutely do not miss that and dread getting a new job with that as a potential.

  5. Zombeyonce*

    OP #4, I like Alison’s script but I have a small addition: when you say “He was offered XYZ,” add “…and we have very similar backgrounds and experience.” It will not only explain why you think you deserve the same package, it will (hopefully) alert them to the fact that not offering you the same package looks like gender discrimination.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      Yeah they really need to know that it appears that they are offering similarly qualified women less than they offer males.

    2. Exponential Vee*

      I’d also suggest casting a critical eye over the rest of the organisation before you decide to take the job rather than looking elsewhere. Are there other areas in which they are discrimination against women? How is their gender balance accross the company?

    3. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      Is OP #4 female? That was my first thought, too, but I couldn’t pick up any hints, much less confirmation, from the letter itself.

    4. Witchy Human*

      If the LW was hired as temp-to-perm and her predecessor was simply hired as a full-time employee, it doesn’t surprise me at all that her offer was lower. They don’t think they have to lure her in as much because she’s already there.

      I wouldn’t jump to gender discrimination. Lots of places are just crappy to temps.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yes, this could be the case… or OP could be female AND a temp, and getting cheated because of both. :-(

      2. Marissa*

        This is true, and they may be offering a lower package because they feel burned by the last guy. But in the end she still winds up getting the short changed based on what his offer had been. I love the addition, too.

        Pay discrimination can also happen in small, subconscious ways that add up to a larger systemic problem. Maybe the company is more likely to hire women on a temp to perm basis than men, who knows. I think the addition to the script does a good job of alerting to a possible issue and advocating for herself without being accusatory.

  6. Sam*

    I’d read a waistcoat, particularly, as a bit cosplay-ish, but that’s just because a three-piece suit looks dated on anyone, and a waistcoat on its own looks like you’re a bartender. But hey, I’m opinionated about menswear on *anyone*.

    1. Tyche*

      Yes, I’d say no to the waistcoat in most circumstances.
      It reminds me to much of weddings and other very formal cerimonies etc, too much formal even for an interview.

    2. Shiny alolan raichu*

      The CEO at my last place wore a three piece suit most of the time (even way before he was CEO). It was slightly weird for a while and then it wasn’t, it was just him, you know?

      I saw him in jeans one day and THAT was weird. Took a minute to recognise him!

      1. cmcinnyc*

        We had a CEO who showed up at the company picnic in jeans and a baseball hat and no one recognized him! And we do have a few dandies here–pocket squares, watch-chains and all–and yes, after a while that’s just So And So Snappy and not A Thing.

        1. starsaphire*

          There were a couple of guys at PreviousJob that did the matching-pocket-square-tie-and-turban in gorgeous bright colors, and it is SO snazzy! I love it.

    3. FD*

      Yeah, I think a waistcoat would be slightly odd interview-wear for any gender. Not a deal-breaker, but a little strange.

      Suit and tie would be OK though!

      1. Samwise*

        I have not worn a waistcoat at an interview, but I’ve worn it to work in the winter. Part of my boho look (in other words, I acquired my fashion sense in the 70s and I am never letting it go)

      2. yala*

        It’s been a hot minute, but I’m pretty sure I wore a waistcoat to my interview that got me the job I have now.

        I dunno, I just think they look nice (or at least, I find them pretty flattering, and I always feel a little more Dressed Up in one). But it’s also not a whole suit-ensemble.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        I think this is just very dependant on location, industry and the specific office. I work in an office in the UK (where I think the OP may be from as well, based on “university student” and “mum”?) and a number of men in my office wear 3-piece suits all the time, and I would never have thought much of it. They’re having a bit of a moment right now, actually, the Peaky Blinders look is very much a thing. A woman in a men’s-cut 3-piece suit would certainly stand out more, though.

    4. Tim*

      Yeah, I think here the waistcoat would come off as a costume rather than as formal business wear, regardless of gender. I guess they might be common interview wear somewhere in the world, though.

    5. Delta Delta*

      I was thinking that, too. The danger, if it isn’t well-tailored or isn’t something the wearer is actually comfortable wearing, is that the outfit can look like a costume.

    6. Sparrow*

      Really? I’ve known several people (primarily men, but not exclusively) that have waistcoats in their regular wardrobe, and I’ve never found them to be any of those things. They generally don’t wear them as part of a suit, but maybe with dress pants and no jacket. In general, they look stylish and polished, though I recognize that could be a result of their overall styling.

      That said, I would definitely find a three-piece suit to be WAY too much for an interview in any field I’ve worked in, but some combination of those pieces would be fine. As OP noted, as long as things match and fit well, I wouldn’t think much of it either way. A woman wearing a two-piece suit with no tie wouldn’t even register, even if it had a more “masculine” cut and she was wearing men’s shoes. I’d notice if she was wearing a tie, but that’s because I generally don’t like ties…

      1. LilySparrow*

        Yes, a waistcoat (or in the US, a vest) looks more fashionable these days as a top layer piece. The 3 piece suit is extremely old-fashioned and is likely to look costumey on a young person of any gender.

        I also see decorative waistcoats mixed with different types of jackets in some “statement” styles (like the boho style mentioned above). But that isn’t menswear at all, it’s squarely in the women’s fashion wheelhouse.

        1. fposte*

          Though to me vest and trousers without jacket risks looking like a cater waiter. I’d stay away from black if you do this.

      2. Quill*

        I used to wear a jean vest that fit more like a waistcoat over a tshirt and skirt. Loved it, but unfortunately my boobs no longer go with that outfit…

    7. Kiki*

      Yeah, my concern isn’t that it’d be strange for a woman to wear a waistcoat or three piece suit to an interview— it’d be out of the ordinary to see anyone wearing that to an interview. It may read as too formal or costumey, like Sam said. That being said, I do know people who do dress like this and pull it off . BUT I also know a few people who tried stints of this and looked silly. I think it has to do with investing in high quality pieces, making sure things actually fit well, and not going overboard with accessories and twee accents.

      1. Kiki*

        I want to add that I work in a notoriously casual field and casual region of the country, so that may be skewing my interpretation of this. A typical two-piece suit would already be considered very formal for our company, so in this specific context, a three-piece-suit would make you stand out a lot. Standing out isn’t necessarily a bad thing! But for a new grad, the interpretation of the look may not be “they have mad style!” it may be more like “did the person organizing the interview not tell them what the dress code is?”

    8. NotSettledOnANameHere*

      Just here to point out that wearing vests/waistcoats/etc. is actually pretty normal dress clothing for folks that are queer, gender queer, gender fluid, a gender, etc. My partner probably owns 5 of them, and regularly wears various outfits that are entirely ‘menswear’ to work (suits, bow ties, etc.), particularly for presentations and formal meetings. I don’t know this letter writer at all, but I do think that before people keep dismissing this look as ‘odd’ that some awareness should be brought that it’s ‘odd’ for some cultures but not queer culture.

      1. AMT*

        Trans dude here. Personally, I think you need to have a certain look to pull it off, especially at work. Poorly-fitted three-piece suit that looks like something a teenager got at Men’s Wearhouse for a wedding = no. Waistcoat as part of a well-fitted ensemble in a workplace where other people wear suits and it doesn’t make you seem out-of-touch = yes. I had a coworker in a business casual hospital environment who constantly looked like an early-90s Applebee’s waiter and it was just…painful.

    9. Allison*

      I think it really depends on the office, the fit, and the fabric the waistcoat is made of, so I would veto it for an interview but it could be something you cautiously introduce into your work wardrobe once you’ve gotten a feel for office culture, and established yourself as a competent, intelligent professional. When you’re young and inexperienced, odd clothing choices can easily define you in a way that can damage your career, but if people see you first and foremost as reliably good at your job and a generally “normal” person, quirky attire isn’t as big of a deal.

    10. Oh No She Di'int*

      I don’t think this is an especially odd wardrobe choice, if done correctly. I recommend googling images for “Joseph Gordon Levitt vest”.

    11. Mike*

      Actually, the three piece s coming back into fashion. Especially when combined with the current two button jacket.

      In fact, one of our recent interviewees wore one and he looked really sharp.

    12. Emby*

      I’m a woman who wears mens wear, and usually wears a vest/waistcoat. it classes up my outfit without needing to wear a suit jacket, which would be too formal for my job. it also keeps my tie in place, which is helpful, because the tie hides the boob gap that is basically inevitable in button-down shirts

      1. Quill*

        I have an aesthetic weakness for ties that are tied more interestingly than the standard knot. But primarily on other people…

    13. Everdene*

      I think a waistcoat is within the range of pretty standard workwear for many people. My partner has worn them on and off for years at work (when he was young it was so he only had to iron the sleeves and collar of his shirt!) and will be interviewing in a three piece suit next week. If it fits and you are comfortable/confident in it then it is absolutely fine!

      As an aside the England football manager usually wears a three piece suit and last summer people of all ages and genders wore them everywear as he inspired a ‘moment’.

      1. londonedit*

        I have to admit I’m a little sad that Gareth Southgate seems to have swapped the waistcoat for a jumper these days. Still rocking the shirt and tie, though!

  7. Approval is optional*

    LW#1. You really don’t want to get a reputation as someone who tries to ‘steal’ their manager’s job while the manager is on leave, whether it works or not. The downside if it doesn’t work is obvious, but let’s assume that the PTB do cut your manager loose and give you the job. Short term this sounds like a positive for you. But consider the long term – do you think any manager in this company going forward will be comfortable giving you opportunities to ‘act’ in their role while they are absent on extended leave, or if they are seconded to a temporary promotion etc? And consider the affect this reluctance will this have on your future access to promotions/new opportunities?

    And not for nothing, I’d give a serious side-eye to managers who told me I was doing better than the person I was temporarily replacing – it is undermining of your manager and doesn’t really say anything good about the loyalty of senior management to their management team.

    Also keep in mind that you don’t know what skills the manager you’re filling in for is capable of bringing long term to the role (presumably there was a reason he was hired and nobody internal was; perhaps these skills are the reason), and whether you have similar skills. Perhaps he has the skills to put in place long-term goals for restructuring, KPI setting/tweaking, or creating/implementing business innovations, and you don’t have those skills. And perhaps senior management will ultimately value those skills more than the skill to manage the team in the here and now. (And, given the disloyalty they are showing at the moment (see above), the chance they’d ditch you if they do give you the role, and then find you lack the skills to put these long term plans in place, isn’t zero)
    Take the skills you’re learning, the feedback you’re getting and the good references you’re ‘cultivating’ and use them to move on and up somewhere else OP.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      OP, just a general caution about flattery. “You are doing better than so-and-so.” I have seen people use this compliment to butter up a person and get them to take on even MORE work. So this one can go in different directions.

      Always consider the person giving the compliment, is it possible that they have an ulterior motive for what they are saying? Do not base your next move on general compliments because that is not a solid foundation to work off of.
      You need a bit more than flattery. If someone opened the conversation then yes, I would talk about FACTS, such as “Yes, outputs are up by 10% because we streamlined X process. X used to take 3 hours and we now have it down to 45 minutes. It’s a nice savings in labor/time.”
      Notice how there is no mention here of what Predecessor did or did not do. All you are saying is that you noticed something could be made easier without sacrificing accuracy so you made the change. Don’t run comparisons to other people’s efforts. It’s fine to talk about how you developed and carried out your own efforts. Also notice how specific the conversation is. You are not saying, “I want boss’ job.” That is up to the listener to figure out you would be good at the boss’ job. The listener can tell that by the specifics of what you think of to say.

    2. post it*

      YES, it is so sketchy to tell OP they are “doing so much better.” They apparently have no issues with either undermining the manager and/or replacing him while he is out on leave. Legally protected or not, it is a crappy thing to do and it should serve as a warning as to how this company might treat you when it’s convenient for them to do so. And the people around you will also take it as a similar kind of cue about your own scruples or lack thereof.

      Also, it sounds like new boss was only there 6 months and OP has only been replacing them f0r 2. That’s really not enough time to assess the totality of either of their performances, especially factoring in that OP is familiar with the org and new boss was an external hire. You are totally right to point out that they presumably chose to make an external hire for a reason and there is a difference between short- and long-term effectiveness.

      1. post it*

        I meant to add, new boss was probably also dealing with whatever has put them on leave for three months which may very well have had an impact on their performance.

    3. nonymous*

      I have a new supervisor who got the position because everyone senior to her (there were three) with the same degree declined. As her subordinate, I can say that she is *not* doing better than her predecessor, some of which I expect that over time she will grow into and other stuff in which her desire to appear right always and never look like she’s “learning the ropes” is impeding that growth. Basically she throws a minor fit when unexpected stuff happens and then ignores them; our roles had not overlapped significantly before now so I’m asking her a *lot* of unexpected questions. I’ve been able to get my job done by working around her to present accomplishments after the fact and sticking to praise otherwise.

      But she is happily spinning the performance narrative I’m seeing in OP#1’s letter. So my advice to OP is that before they internalize a rock-star status, perhaps a bit of self-reflection is in order? They could be a rock star supervisor. They could be a rock-star interim supervisor (different threshold). Or people could be telling them they are a rock-star because it is a lubricant to getting things done (someone up thread suggested as a way of getting more work out of OP). 60 days is just too short to see any of the long-term benefits that a supervisor brings to the table.

  8. GM*

    OP#1, I think this would cast aspersions on your credibility and trustworthiness going forward because if you’re willing to filch someone else’s job while they’re on FMLA leave what else would you be willing to do for the next promotion and the one after that?
    Alison’s response is perfect and you could absolutely make a strong case to your grandboss that you took on this role and did a fantastic job of it, but that’s probably all you could and should do.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I wouldn’t want to work somewhere that let someone poach a job during an FMLA crisis, let alone for the person who did the poaching.
      Ive heard too many stories of women whose jobs weren’t the same when they came back from maternity leave!

      1. londonedit*

        I’ve actually done a maternity cover contract before, and this was absolutely at the forefront of my mind. I loved the job, loved the team, and we all spoke among ourselves about how much we all wished we could carry on working together – but we also knew that was something we could NOT say outside of our own little group, because the woman who would be coming back from leave had every right to come back to her old job, and the last thing I wanted was for her to feel like she was intruding. I was just doing the job while she was away; it wasn’t MY job, as much as I enjoyed doing it.

        1. Not Australian*

          Yes, I was in this situation – did a three month maternity cover and was in a good enough position after it to be able to say “If, at any time, this post becomes vacant again, I’d love to return to it.” Six months later it was mine on a permanent basis. It can/does happen, but you need to be very diplomatic and discreet about expressing an interest.

          1. londonedit*

            Oh yes, definitely. ‘If at any time this post becomes vacant again, I’d love to return to it’ is a perfect way to frame it, in a discreet conversation with the boss. You definitely don’t want to come across as ‘making a play’ for someone else’s job, even if they are out on leave.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Yes — and this comment is something I wish I’d known to say. Instead, at the end of the temp position I took a full-time “permanent” job at a startup, without saying anything. That was a mistake — a few months after her return, the woman was promoted. No one called me because I’d just started a new job. And I didn’t see the job posting because I wasn’t looking — I hadn’t yet realized that the hiring manager had plans for the position that didn’t match with the owner’s plans. Rats.

      2. 2 Cents*

        Seeking Second Childhood—if you want another one, add my name to the list. When I left, I was managing the Teapots Distribution program. When I returned from maternity leave, the backstabbing guy they’d hired right before I left had assumed that role and I was essentially demoted to a different department and as an assistant. I left that job after 7 months (for more money and better hours).

    2. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I would also worry that one of your more ambitious reports, seeing your success, might decide to jump in on your new position if the opportunity arrises. Call it the Anne Boleyn – Jane Seymour effect.

      1. Not Australian*

        Interesting take. I don’t want to sidetrack, but I’ve never really seen Jane Seymour in that light!

  9. Triplestep*

    LW#5, were I your admin, I’d have started to pass Co-worker’s message to you via email along time ago. Co-worker says “please tell Jane I’m looking for her …” and before she turns to leave I’ve already opened a new message, typed “Co-worker was just here looking for you” and hit send. If you don’t want to ask Co-worker to change her ways, you could let Admin know it’s OK to send an email like this. They’d probably prefer it to having to remember to tell you.

    1. LizM*

      Only if it’s the admin’s job to take messages for LW. My office’s admin staff supports our whole office, not just the people who sit near them. I wouldn’t consider it their responsibility to stop what they’re doing to write an email.

      It’s not clear what the LW’s relationship to the admin is.

      1. Triplestep*

        If it’s not the Admin’s job to take messages for LW#5 then we have a whole different issue here. Because Admin is already taking a message if they are being asked to relay the message that Co-worker is looking for Jane. The combination of Co-worker standing in front of Admin (and then Admin using e-mail to transmit the info) is not what turns this into taking messages. Admin is already taking a message in this scenario and email allows them to get it done and forget about it more quickly.

        Another way to look at this is that Admin is taking a message for (or doing work for) Co-worker and not for Jane. This is actually more accurate since Co-worker is more senior and is actually the one asking something of Admin in the first place.

        1. Morning Glory*

          The OP is looking for solutions that stop the practice of admin taking the coworker’s messages, altogether. It well may not be the admin’s official responsibility to take these messages, but something she’s currently doing in addition to her duties as part of ‘additional support as needed.’

          In that case, it’s not an egregious issue for the admin that would be worth pushing back on, but it is still annoying and unnecessary, and the best solution would still be to ask Coworker to send OP an email.

          1. Observer*

            Of course, asking the COWORKER to send an email is the obvious and ideal solution. Given her behavior though, it’s quite possible that she won’t change her habits. So, this could be a decent work around – it’s easier for the OP and probably actually easier for the admin.

            1. Morning Glory*

              That wasn’t my impression of what Triplestep was saying, since the LW hasn’t spoken to the coworker yet.

      2. TootsNYC*

        except that if an admin is supposed to take messages for me, then wouldn’t he deliver those messages in the way that’s most effective for me (as long as it doesn’t create undue hardship for him)?

        1. The Rat-Catcher*

          That probably depends on industry and the size of the staff your admins support. If they are just your admin or support a small group, or at C-level that’s probably reasonable. But if it’s two admins in an office of 50, it’s not reasonable to expect them to remember and adjust to the message preferences of each person.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      OP, when someone is ranked slightly higher than me one thing I have done is expressed concern about their being inconvenienced. “I am sorry you had to look for me. If you need me the best way to find is X or Y.” The framing is you show them how it is to their advantage to use a particular method to contact you/find you.

      In the end, I wound up using this approach with peers and subordinates, too. The reason why is because it’s “hear-able”. I am expressing concern for the extra effort on their part. At this point the ears fly open ready to hear how to make things easier. (Hey, this technique works on ME, I am up for anything that makes the workday easier.)

      1. TootsNYC*

        I would also be saying, “Please email me, because I might get to see that on my phone between meetings. I think it would be faster.”

    3. a1*

      Regarding this

      Our admins usually tell me this coworker was looking for me on my way in or out of the office (because that’s when they see me) and I often don’t have the time to stop and call her or go find her.

      Just because they tell you on your way elsewhere doesn’t mean you need to take care of it right then and there. Just make a mental note and follow up with Jane when you have time (just as you would if you got the message via email).

      1. NotMyRealName*

        It’s a great way to have it fall through the cracks. We have this problem with our receptionist. She’ll mention at time that she needs coverage to the coworker who handles that schedule as she’s on her way out. Things get missed and then we’re scrambling. If the requests for coverage are emailed, it’s much less likely to get missed.

    4. LilySparrow*

      And you can also instruct the admin to say, “Can I tell them what it’s about?” When I was adminning, that was the autopilot followup for any message, by phone or in person.

      That’s the real issue here – Coworker’s method is wasting a lot of time because the message doesn’t convey any useful information.

      There’s nothing wrong in theory with wanting to connect in person – it can be a much better option than email in many situations. But in practice, the logistics of this situation are driving a wedge instead of building connections.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is exactly how the admin teams within my organization handle it. If I call looking for my boss, and she’s in a meeting, they will shoot her a quick message that says, “NAM! called, but it’s not urgent and can wait until your meeting tomorrow” or “NAM! and Manager came by to speak with you about an deadline-sensitive issue – can they do a walk and talk with you between your 2 and 3?”.

      A number of our admins are recent college graduates and new to the organization, which typically means that they are less comfortable pushing back on others and may not know the organization well enough to have learned yet who gets VIP treatment (and no one wants to explain to a C-level person why an admin told her to email someone herself).

      There are also some things that one calls or drops by to discuss specifically because you do not want to put them in email. Not necessarily illegal/immoral things, just things that you want to ensure you’re handling correctly before the papertrail starts.

  10. A fly on the wall*

    LW#5, I was just thinking of a similar situation at my office. Allison’s script is great, but I’d also suggest gently inquiring if there’s any particular reason why they’re using the “walk up and visit” mode of engagement. That might let you make the conversation about team norms.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I read the coworker’s behavior as a (weak) passive aggressive power move. “I need to know where you are at all times!” “No you don’t.”

      Second the suggestion to ask about the coworker about best communication practices. Be kind but firm. And leave the admins out of it.

    2. Yvette*

      I would change this part of the script from “…otherwise they often give me the message when I’m on my way somewhere else and can’t stop to respond.” to “…otherwise they often only see me to give me the message when I’m on my way somewhere else and can’t stop to respond.” The former kind of makes it look like the admin may not think of it earlier, and only thinks of it when their memory is jogged by physically seeing them.

    3. LilySparrow*

      Is there a reason the coworker shouldn’t stop by for a quick question? This is a very normal thing to do. It just doesn’t suit OP5 because they are in and out so much, so it’s not effective.

      1. casinoLF*

        This is super normal in my office. People are on the floor for a meeting anyway so they stop by and see if the people I support are available/around. If they tell me to leave a message I do just that.

  11. Elizabeth West*

    Speaking as a long-time admin, please don’t do this, OP #5’s coworker. If you tell me to tell Jane something the next time I see her, someone else might add to my actual work before I see her and I’ll forget to tell her. If I’m on the front desk, the amount of distracting interruptions I can receive before Jane passes by will number in the hundreds. Anyway, you’re an adult; call or email the person yourself.

    In the words of Hermione Granger, “I am not an owl!”

    1. Triplestep*

      Hence my email suggestion above. Outlook, ctrl+n, “Co-worker is looking for you”, ctrl+s. The time stamp tells Jane when Co-worker asked Admin to pass along the message, and Admin can forget it and move on.

    2. Anony*

      I think this is company dependent. I am also a long-time admin in a fast-paced, high volume office and passing messages to those I support is considered a key part of my job that I am expected to handle without blinking. I treat it like a phone call, jotting down the basics if email isn’t immediately available for some reason, then email the message off.

      1. Ginger Baker*

        ^100% part of my role as well. In fact “track down Partner and make sure he connects with the various people looking for him” is one of the most valued things I do for him.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        Same here – I can remember one person being surprised I’d emailed her a message on a day I knew she was on training and wouldn’t be able to respond to it that day – I had to explain that that was my way of making sure I didn’t accidentally forget/lose it.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Very much this.

        When I was doing EA work, it very much was my duty to pick up the baton when it’s passed on like that. “Tell Someone I’m looking for them.” results in a message being sent to them. Yeah, the other person should/could do the emailing themselves but they’re not, so my response was to email, since I’m probably at my desk or close by to say “Hey Nancy, Dolly is looking for you!”

        Just like if someone calls my phone extension because they’re the people who hate leaving messages and want a “human” to take their message. I don’t just pass them back to voicemail, I take the stupid message and pass it to the right person. If I pushed back on it, at that job specifically, given the administrative work I had signed up for, I wouldn’t have lasted long at all.

    3. Marthooh*

      I was going to say “Don’t use the admin to tell your coworker not to use the admin to send messages.”

    4. kittymommy*

      Seriously. I have some people who as me to do this all the time (“hey if you see your boss, let me know. I need to speak with them) and then they are ticked because Boss X stopped in for five minutes and I didn’t tell them (I was at lunch/in the bathroom/getting water/etc.). For the most part I’ve been able to stop it with a suggestion the “email is a thing that you can use” but a couple still try. It is incredibly aggravating and not effective at all.

  12. many bells down*

    LW3’s mom sounds like my mom, who has Very Definite Opinions on clothing that are often contradictory and strange. Like, everything I wear is either too tight or too loose, and people will think I’m gay if I wear Doc Martens!

    1. ZaDale*

      What is with Mothers Of a Certain Type and Doc Martens? Mine said the same thing when I bought my first pair. And she still wrinkles her nose when she sees them on me, 15 years later. (at least I have squashed the comments with my questioning of ‘why would that be bad, mom’)

      1. Mary*

        I was 14-15 in the mid-90s, and *everyone* wore DMs–I had DM shoes for school and saved up to buy myself DM boots for out of school. My mum was over the moon! She couldn’t believe we were voluntarily putting ourselves in flat, well-fitting, well-made shoes which would last two solid years of daily schoolwear!

        1. Media Monkey*

          my daughter is 11 and has DMs for school (not the boots as they are not allowed but she has owned a pair of DM boots, normally red or pink since she was about 7 or 8).

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        There was an old insult “your mother wears army boots” that may come into play here.
        I have some foot issues and can’t wear pumps…I had to remind mom so many times that it got annoying. I kept pointing out that our VP wore the same shoes. (Wash. Repeat. Sigh.)
        It was just hard for her to change her style sense.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Reading this with more coffee, I feel the urge to point out I wasn’t wearing army boots… just loafers.

        2. Nanani*

          Your mom sounds like a bit of a wet fart.
          “Pretend you don’t have a physical issue so you can look how I want you to” is a stinky attitude.

          Rock those loafers.

        3. emmelemm*

          Yeah, my mom is also a “females should wear heels because it makes their legs look more attractive” person (I blame the era), and I’m a “I got bad feet, I wear big clunky shoes” gal.

      3. Samwise*

        Doc Martens have been mainstream for awhile — the company makes shoes in fun colors and kid-sized boots for a reason– but they also have a pretty long history of being worn by various subcultures (skinheads, LGBTQ+, etc) as part of that subculture’s “look”. It’s not unreasonable that someone who was young in the last century would associate DMs with one of those subcultures. I myself always have a brief lizard brain reaction of “skinhead!” when I see them.

        1. pleaset*

          “It’s not unreasonable that someone who was young in the last century”

          Ohhhh snap.

          You’re right.

          And speaking as someone who was young in the last century, it’s important for us to recognize that things change. If we don’t see that, we’re even older than our calendar years.

      4. Catsaber*

        I’ve pulled out the “and why would that be bad?” many times over the years, to great effect. :)

        I shaved my head recently and my mom was legit worried my employer would fire me. Despite the fact that I’ve been working here for 10 years, have had nothing but glowing reviews and promotions, and it’s a state university so as long as I’ve bathed somewhat recently, they’re good…

      5. Dust Bunny*

        I found a pair of vintage motorcycle boots at a thrift store–you know how in movies people do the slow-motion dive at something they want? Pretty much–and when I showed them to my mother, she gasped and said, “I always wanted a pair of those! My brother had them but when I was young [in the 1960s] women really could not wear stuff like that!”

        I also have 14-hole DMs and DM T-straps.

      6. Starbuck*

        My favorite comment was “you’re really going to wear that? It’s so… intimidating?” about the leather jacket I was wearing as I’m on my way out the door for a date…. yes mom, that’s the point.

      7. many bells down*

        In other news, I am 46 years old and my mother still does not believe I am bisexual *shrug emoji*

    2. Alice*

      I think mothers are legally required to have strange but very firm opinions on clothing. Me and my sister have the same identical hoodie, except hers is raspberry red and mine is maroon. For some reason mum hates my sister’s sweater and always remarks about how dreadful it looks. My sweater, on the other hand, is fine. I love my mum but am glad she doesn’t get to have opinions on what I wear to the office.

    3. A tester, not a developer*

      My husband thinks if I wear them people will think I’m a fascist. A fat, middle aged woman fascist. :(

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Then I’m a middle aged woman fascist also. I had a pair as a teen and loved them. I’m buying a new pair soon.

    4. Nanani*

      Yeah, some people, possibly including LW3’s mom, think everything and anything that isn’t explicitly a dress or skirt+hose is MEN’S CLOTHES and ~What will People Think~ if a woman wears them.

      You definitely don’t want to work for a company with those opinions, so don’t listen to them while job hunting. Or ever.

      1. RC Rascal*

        Buffy the Vampire Slayer wore white Docs to the prom, in the original movie. They were very useful for taking out vampires.

    5. yala*

      My mom is very much the same, only even moreso because she belongs to a church where all the women wear long skirts and sleeves. When I dress feminine, it’s a problem because I’m showing too much decolletage, when I dress more casually, it’s…well, a slur I won’t type here.

      To be fair, she’s not entirely wrong, since a number of my queer friends have told me that my usual Nice Outfits (which involve waistcoats) give off a queer vibe, which could definitely part of the difficulty of my dating life, but at the same time, they’re what I’m comfortable in, so… *shrug*

    6. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      Many Bells Down – what?! I never owned actual Doc Martens because they were too expensive, but owned a knock-off pair from Payless shoe store. I always came of age in Seattle in the 90s, so was all about the baggy clothes, flannel, Doc Marten-type shoes, etc. I even owned a Doc Marten t-shirt for a while that I always got compliments on! But never once did I ever associated Doc Martens with someone being gay. Haven’t thought about that Doc Martens in years :)

      1. Starbuck*

        Yeah, I think it really depends on the rest of the outfit and probably cultural context too. Having also grown up in the PNW in the 90s, they’ve always read as grunge/punk to me.

      2. many bells down*

        I had gone out to a goth club (DM’s were goth to me as a child of the 80’s) and a couple women had made passes at me. When I mentioned it to my mother, she launched into a rant about how it’s those combat boots I wear that make people think I’m gay and that’s why women hit on me. It then came up every time she saw me wearing them.

        The fact that I’m bisexual and therefore TOTALLY OKAY with women hitting on me is apparently not a factor, because she still doesn’t believe that.

      3. Vicky Austin*

        I, too, came of age in the 1990’s, and EVERYONE at my high school and my college wore flannel plaid shirts, t-shirts, jeans and Doc Martens. It didn’t matter if you were male, female, gay, straight, or bi: everyone dressed like that. The photos in my high school yearbook show an endless sea of flannel and denim.

    7. TheKatie*

      My mum was young in the 80’s, when the original short Docs were a thing. She thinks that they are the best Doc Martens, and likes my sister’s pair. I have two longer pairs of Docs, and a pair with higher heels. She is less approving.

  13. nnn*

    For #1, it might come across as less mercenary not to mention anything about your manager’s job specifically (even though it is the only job if its nature in your organization) and rather focus on the fact that you enjoy the work.

    Maybe something like:

    “I’m finding management work really [gratifying/intellectually satisfying/a good fit with my skills and temperament], and I’d be very interested in [doing more of this kind of work if an opportunity should arise/developing my career in this direction].”

    It does seem counterintuitive to focus on “I like it” rather than “I’m getting better results”, but that is a way to make your interest clear without even appearing to consider sniping a job from someone who’s dealing with a crisis.

    (Meanwhile, document all the ways you are in fact getting better results, and hold onto them for when you’re actually applying for a promotion/raise/new job.)

    1. dogtanian*

      I think too that, assuming it’s true, if OP is willing to make their interest in *any* form of development and progression known, that would be good. This isn’t true of every organisation, but opportunities to progress might not be limited to boss’s job. Presenting it in those terms would look less like angling for boss’s job and more that they’ve got a taste for the added responsibility and want to see what the next steps could be.

      It can be hard to go back when you’ve ‘acted up’ for whatever reason so I do sympathise. But (and I realise OP doesn’t need telling this for the tenth time) there are ways you can deal with that and built on what you’ve learned, and ways you really shouldn’t…

    2. Clisby*

      I like this wording better, too. And who knows, there might be some other management opportunities coming up.

      (By the way, I join the chorus of people side-eyeing any superiors telling OP she’s performing better than her predecessor. That’s way out of line. )

  14. Feotakahari*

    Regarding #3: there’s legal precedent for refusing to allow men and women to dress the same at work:

    “Plaintiff’s theory, if viewed abstractly, would seem to possess a semblance of logic. However, [—] If this interpretation of the Act is expanded to its logical extent, employers would be powerless to prevent extremes in dress and behavior totally unacceptable according to prevailing standards and customs recognized by society. For example, if it be mandated that men must be allowed to wear shoulder length hair despite employer disfavor, because the employer allows women to wear hair that length, then it must logically follow that men, if they choose, could not be prevented by the employer from wearing dresses to work if the employer permitted women to wear dresses. While dresses on men would be a greater departure from the norm than is long hair, if plaintiff be correct, it cannot be gainsaid that to prevent men from wearing dresses while allowing women to do so would discriminate against the rights of men, and such discrimination would be present in the same manner as it would be present when men are prohibited by employers from wearing long hair. Continuing the logical development of plaintiff’s proposition, it would not be at all illogical to include lipstick, eyeshadow, earrings, and other items of typical female attire among the items which an employer would be powerless to restrict to female attire and bedeckment. It would be patently ridiculous to presume that Congress ever intended such result, yet if plaintiff’s interpretation of the Act be accepted, then it must follow that such extremes in behavior are also included within the coverage of the Act.”

    So yeah, that’s how they get to fire you for being openly trans and then claim they’re not “discriminating” by it. We’ll see if precedent changes when the Aimee Stephens case hits the Supreme Court.

    1. Tinuviel*

      Woof. “OK we all know it’s fine if a woman wants to dress more neutrally aka manly, but can you imagine a man dressing more neutrally aka womanly?! The horror!” *laughs in patriarchy*

      1. Marmaduke*

        My husband relationship with gender is complicated and constantly changing, and we have learned A LOT as he’s started wearing dresses and skirts in the workplace. It’s frustrating because he gets pushback from management that is never aimed at women in masculine-cut suits. People are so rigid about masculinity.

    2. Harper the Other One*

      Oh, no, not a MAN in earrings or eyeshadow! I can hear the stock prices dropping from here!!!

      That argument is so infuriating.

      1. Jaid*

        Meanwhile, Jeffree Star looks fabulous, has what I call The Wall of Birkens, and is CEO of one of the top selling cosmetics firms out there. And his YouTube channel brings in 18$ million alone.

        A guy could do worse.

        1. Autumnheart*

          Just saw him on a floor-to-ceiling promotional board at Sephora the other day. It also took me a minute to realize that, on the shelf where I was browsing nude eyeshadow palettes, the placard had a man on it wearing no-makeup makeup.

    3. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      Like it or not, it is a fact that in many more places, it would be more difficult for a man to wear a dress than a woman to wear a suit. I am not saying this is right, in fact, I believe it to be wrong, but it is still a fact.

    4. CanuckCat*

      Meanwhile in France, male bus drivers skirted (heh heh) uniform rules during a heat wave, by donning the optional skirt from the women’s uniform, when management wouldn’t relax rules and allow them to wear shorts.

    5. Elenna*

      “Oh no, a MAN in MAKEUP! Clearly this is a ridiculous thing that must be prevented at all costs!”

      *long sigh*

    6. Starbuck*

      I sure hope so – there’s no other way to read the above than just blatant approval of sex-based discrimination. If our judiciary weren’t so cowardly and was actually motivated to ensure equal protect under the law and prevent discrimination based on sex, trans people could have been protected years ago. It’s infuriating.

  15. WS*

    LW #4 – then if there’s something you don’t know about why he was offered more, they can explain it. But the odds are high that there’s no actual reason apart from they think they can get you more cheaply.

  16. Karak*

    Re: Menswear

    If you are a woman, it’s fine to wear menswear or men’s fashion, but you may need to get it tailored. Men and woman have slightly different shapes, and you may have the suit hanging or straining on you in weird ways. I’m

  17. Junior Dev*

    #3, I think women look great in suits, given they fit well and are generally well put together. I also think men look great in suits, and non-binary people too. Suits for everyone!

    You’ll probably have to invest more in a suit as interview clothes if you want it to look professional, compared to what you could get away with spending on the “slacks and a cardigan” or “dress and tights” type of looks. I tend to look like a teen boy in his dad’s clothes when I put on poorly fitted menswear. Depending on your body shape you’ll probably want to get it tailored. Disclosure that I don’t have a suit yet but I am saving for one.

    This 3 part article has some good advice. Autostraddle is a goldmine of practical butch fashion info.

    1. Sally*

      Suits for all!

      I love this! My ex (a woman, generally butch looking) never wears dresses or skirts, and one time when she was looking for a new job (in NYC, very late ’90s), the recruiter (who was based in Texas, which might be relevant) called and asked her to wear a skirt suit to her interviews. Apparently one of the interviewers either complained or commented about her wearing a pants suit. She told the recruiter to take a flying leap and said that she wasn’t interested in working anyplace that had a problem with women wearing pants.

  18. FiveWheels*

    I work in a conservative firm in a conservative field in a conservative city in a conservative country. I exclusively wear trouser suits to work and always have. Not menswear any more than a pair of jeans and a t-shirt is menswear.

    If you’re comfortable wearing a suit, wear a suit.

    1. MistOrMister*

      I think maybe they mean clothing that is specifically male oriented. Women can wear pantsuits and they are clearly designed for women. But I’ve known some women that wear clothes that appear to be from the male section. The cut/style is more masculine. Women’s and men’s clothes are just not cut the same. They also wear/wore men’s dress shoes. It is usually fairly obvious that they have clothes from the men’s section, which I don’t have a problem with…just pointing out that it’s easy to pick up on. That being said, when I was in school i bought men’s pants a lot of the time because I liked the fit and the fact that i could more easily find clothes based on size since they were more uniform. God help us all when we have to shop for women’s clothes and a size 0 fits you here, but there you need a 6 and this other place you’re a 14! Cripes!

  19. FD*

    #3- I think it’s a calculation you have to run. Women wearing clothing perceived as highly masculine tend to be presumed to be lesbians, irrespective of whether they are or aren’t. Some employers are going to discriminate on that basis, whether consciously or unconsciously. Early in your career, you have to decide whether it’s worth it to deal with that.

    I also think that the reverse, a man wearing clothes perceived as feminine, is going to run into a LOT more hostility and discrimination, which is BS but there you have it.

  20. cierta*

    OP #3 – coincidentally, the thing I was reading straight before this post was this ‘ask Polly’ letter ‘My Kid is Nonbinary and I can’t get over it’: I’m not saying wanting to wear men’s suits (which I think is a _fabulous_ look on women) means you’re gay, or non-binary, but it did make me think that some of your mum’s horror might be less about the impact on the workplace, and more about her working through some of the feelings this letter is talking about.

  21. Bluesboy*

    #3 I didn’t understand whether this is a style you would like to wear every day to work, wear occasionally, or a more hypothetical question?

    I work in finance, and it would be accepted without an issue where I am. The only thing I would point out, is that it would make you stand out from the crowd, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but at the start of your career is a little daring (and you said you’re still a student, so I imagine the best advice for you assumes you are in a junior role).

    I mean, if you have a few years experience, work well and have a good reputation, and ALSO dress in an unusual way, people notice you, and remember you as a good pro. My old boss would go to formal events dressed spezzato, with a double-breasted jacket and no tie, so he stood out a lot! But everyone knew that he was extremely good at what he did, so standing out helped him.

    But when you’re just starting out, and will make some mistakes, it makes you more noticeable and you want to make sure you are remembered as “OP4 the great analyst” and not “OP4, the woman who dresses like a man”.

    I think it would be wise to just do it occasionally until you are confident you have established a strong reputation in your company. Then, if you want to dress like that more regularly, gradually build it up.

    I would give the same advice to a man who wanted to wear double-breasted suits every day, or colourful belt buckles – anything that makes you stand out needs to be the SECOND thing people say about you, after commenting on your competence. It should never be the first.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think this is well put. A distinctive style can be really fun, but you definitely don’t want it to be the *only* thing people know about you/say about you when you’re just starting out. You’ve got me now thinking of a teacher I had in school who was known for rocking funky bowties–but also for being the absolute best accounting professor.

      For OP, I think a suit and tie regularly would be fine but the waistcoat is what would take it into distinctive style territory. Regardless of gender, I think that’s just not super common in offices.

    2. Starbuck*

      I agree with this point; non-conformity in appearance can certainly make you stand out and get noticed, for good or ill! I have very (very!) long blue hair, and have for a while, and it definitely makes me more accountable in some ways. For example, a year after I graduated college (a big school, 30,000+ student body!) and moved states for a job, I ran into someone there who recognized me from the large (200+ students) class we’d shared. I had no clue who she was, we’d never spoken! If I’d behaved poorly in class, she certainly would have remembered it. Now, I live in a small town and work in a public-facing role so I get recognized constantly. If I was prone to shenanigans in public, or while out at the bar, etc. it would definitely make it back to work.

  22. Mary*

    My brain keeps mashing up this headline into “can I steal my boss’s underwear whilst he’s on leave”.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      … which would, quite frankly, not surprise me any more than some of the other headlines we’ve seen…

        1. Zombeyonce*

          Dang it, I had just managed to repress that particular letter and now it’s back taking up valuable mindspace.

      1. boo bot*

        BUT what if I’m covering for him while he’s on leave, and I think his underwear would look better on me?

  23. Jung the Foreman*

    Re the last part of question 5 – “enlisting the admins’ help” – I don’t know exactly what your admins’ job descriptions are, but if I were them, and it weren’t part of my job to manage your messages, I’d be quite frustrated to be asked to do that. It’s one thing to pass on a message like “x was looking for you” and another to be asked to say “y says don’t do that; do this.” It makes them an unwilling medium in a potential disagreement that’s nothing to do with them. If they’re asked to pass a harmless message on to you, it’s up to you how you handle that message; not them.

    1. Colette*

      But the admins could easily say “I’ve been asked not to take messages like this. Maybe you could send an email?”

      1. Lizzy May*

        To a person more senior than the OP? I’m an admin and I wouldn’t want to do that in many cases. There are some senior people where I have a strong relationship and could say that and there are others where I don’t have the standing to push back and it wouldn’t be fair to me to ask me to be in the middle of it, especially if that is the first time the senior person is hearing about the request to send emails. If the OP wants to be communicated with in a certain way, it’s on her to say that to the senior coworker rather than farming it out to someone else.

        1. Colette*

          It really depends whether this is the kind of stuff they are supposed to be doing for anyone. If it is, then this works, but if they’ve been doing it to be nice, they can set boundaries about what their job is supposed to be.

        2. GooseyLucy*

          100% agree with this- if you don’t want people to communicate with you in this way, it’s up to you to change it. Off the top of my head, I can think of several people I have worked with in the past that would not be impressed with being told something like this by an admin, and it’s not fair to expect the admin to have to relay the message for you.

          The suggestion above of framing it along the lines of “Sorry you had to go looking for me, in future please send me an e-mail/call me and let me know what you need so I can get back to you as soon as I can” is a winner for me. Goes without saying that you may need to reinforce this a couple of times, but it still means that you are taking ownership of the message you are sending them, and as a result you can control the tone of it.

      2. Marthooh*

        As Jung the Foreman said: “It makes them an unwilling medium in a potential disagreement that’s nothing to do with them.”

        Don’t dump conflicts on the admins! It’s cruel and may very well cause more trouble with them than it saves with your coworker.

    2. HalloweenCat*

      I couldn’t agree more. OP 5, if YOU’RE worried about stepping on hierarchal toes, please do not ask your Admins to do it for you. If this coworker perceives it as the admins asking/being “insubordinate” in some way, they have a lot more to lose than you do.

    3. Nonprofiteer*

      I occasionally get a message like this from my admin – in a casual, very tech-enabled office where this is not a normal way to get in touch with someone. I wouldn’t ask my admin to tell people to stop, but I generally don’t take action with any urgency. Your question becomes urgent when you take the time to email/call/IM.

  24. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    #1 If I watched my manager take over someone’s job while the person was in a vulnerable position like being absent on FMLA, I would lose confidence in their ethics and cease to trust them. People are more observant than the LW realizes and his manipulations can be pieced together by co-workers.

    1. kittymommy*

      Same. If I saw my interim manager campaign to take a the other manager’s job for themselves, especially while the original manager was on FMLA leave (ostensibly for a serious illness) it would deeply change the way I viewed them, and not in any way for the better.

      LW1 needs to think long and hard about this. They may be great at their job but a move like this can reflect on how people view them and respect them for a long, long time.

  25. Delta Delta*

    #2 – Don’t do this. Your already crappy workplace will become worse at your hand because you’ll have helped to create an expectation that people who take a sick day actually work all day. Then when someone is legitimately sick they’re never actually able to take a sick day. It reminds me of the letter with the boss who showed up at an employee’s chemotherapy appointment. Not good.

    1. Rebecca*

      Came here to say just that – don’t do it. Take your sick time, watch TV, lay on the sofa, sit in the backyard, whatever, but don’t work. The company needs to see the effect of the constant interruptions and their work from home policy. If tasks aren’t accomplished, or there are many errors due to interruptions, then that’s how it is. Unless management feels some pain, nothing will change.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yes. Currently, from their point of view, the no-remote-work policy is working fine! So obviously everyone saying they can’t get everything done are a bunch of whiners and slackers. Nope. Let them deal with the consequences of their decisions.

      2. The New Wanderer*

        Seconding this. There are two basic arguments against using sick leave for work.
        1) Sick leave is a benefit. By working while using sick leave, you’re reducing your benefits which only costs you, not the company. You may not be getting paid out but it’s still there for when YOU need it, not when the company needs you to use it.

        2) If you’re using sick leave hours to do work, you’re effectively masking the actual length of time it takes to accomplish all your work due to the difficulties of an open office + no remote-work policy. You’re probably also masking the quality issue by doing higher quality work at home while “sick” than at the office as the company requires. If it takes longer to do stuff because people can’t concentrate (too noisy) or keep being interrupted (no privacy), then it takes longer. Let it take longer. Let it be the actual quality that results from these circumstances. And let the company find the right solution to this very real problem, which is not you using your benefit only for them.

  26. Project Manager*

    #2 – in addition to what everyone else has mentioned, if you’re completing work with sick leave, your company doesn’t know how many hours a given task actually requires and will underplan FTEs needed for future work. This will put everyone at a disadvantage.

    1. abscde*

      EXACTLY. This was SUCH a huge issue at my last workplace. People would work 80 hour weeks to get their ridiculous workloads semi-complete and then complain that they were overworked. I had to explain to MANY people that working 80 hour weeks does not help us because 1. the second 40 hours, you are so burnt out that it’s more like 10-15 total hours, so it’s a really bad use of time 2. Every week you do this, you move the goalposts on how much work the org thinks can get done in a single role. I was so pissed about it that I wrote it into the handbook before I left that “the expectation is that all work in a single role can be done in an average of 40 hours per week.” I bet no one follows it though, and I bet they still act confused why staff members have 3+ nervous breakdowns per year and extremely high turnover. Bleh.

    2. Lynn*

      My company used to have a few people who would work on a project “off the books.” The next person would come in and have a budget set at, say, 150 hours for a job that really took 200 hours. “But Erica finished it in 150 hours, why can’t you?” Working off the books like that sets up unrealistic expectations for the company (and the client, depending on the job) and sets up the next person who has to do that for issues.

      1. Angus McDonald, Boy Detective*

        I’m sure there was a letter on here about something very similar, although I don’t have the link handy!

        1. OP #2!*

          Yes, although this is no different than working on vacation, or in the evenings / weekends, right? I’m in a type A professional field and even though we all agree we “shouldn’t” do this, 100% of all of us do it with a shrug.

          1. Free Meerkats*

            Well, stop doing that; including working on vacation, or in the evenings/weekends. For all the reasons you’ve read on this thread.

            1. OP#2!*

              Haha I mean I agree in theory; we all agree in theory; but at the level of the individual, you’d quickly be fired for being less connected and productive than everybody else.

  27. Lynca*

    OP1- So if I have the timeline straight, this person has only worked about 6 months in the job before they went out on FMLA? Given that I would take the “you’re doing so much better than manager” feedback with a huge tablespoon of salt. This is a newly created position and the person came from outside your workplace. You’ve said they were okay and it sounds like they weren’t having serious performance issues. You may bring something to the table they didn’t consider but they obviously felt this manager brought something they couldn’t get from an internal hire.

    That said no one, not even someone that was struggling with performance, should have to worry about the state of their job while dealing with a serious medical issue. Don’t do it.

  28. AvonLady Barksdale*

    The best-dressed woman I have ever known wears styles that would traditionally be seen as menswear. I have never seen her in anything but a wool trouser suit and a crisp oxford shirt unless she’s wearing a tuxedo. Her clothes are impeccably tailored and fit her perfectly. When I first met her, I thought she was the first person I had ever met who had real style.

    Two things are key: fit and confidence. Both of these things can be tough when you’re first starting out, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of reach. If your clothes fit you well and look as if they belong on you, and if you feel confident wearing them, then they are your clothes, not a “statement” or a “costume.”

    I would, however, avoid a straight tie unless they look really great on you. But that’s just my own aesthetic preference.

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I’m dating myself but back in the 80s when I started working I sometimes wore button-down shirts with a skinny leather tie, pants and a blazer. Since I was flat-chested it was a good and unique look for me and went over well even though I worked in a conservative workplace.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      Reading that letter made me immediately think of Blake Lively’s wardrobe in A Simple Favor. She wears a lot of suits that are very well tailored and looks amazing. (They do get more and more risque as the movie goes on, but the earlier suits are definitely office-appropriate.)

  29. Jules the 3rd*

    OP3: I’ve been wearing ‘menswear’ to the office since the mid-90s. It’s No Big Deal.

    I actually chose the style because I’m 5’10”, conventionally ok looking blonde in tech. I consciously decided that I wanted to read as ‘one of the guys’, and that button-down shirts, vest, pants and jacket would help with that. The fact that 3 layers up top visually reduced my curves was not an accident. 20 years later, I’m more in ‘reliable boss’ mode, and wearing more feminine clothes (my slacks today have a *bow* at the waist), again as a conscious choice about what archetype I want to evoke in the workplace.

    I’m enough of a chameleon that I am comfortable with these choices, and anyone else who likes the style should be free to enjoy it. I don’t think there’s a down side for individuals, though the broader social implications of ‘men as default’ are also in play.

  30. A day at the zoo*

    The fact that you would even think about doing that speak volumes about your character and it is not good. If you have solicited any kind of feed back from your team that you are “better” than your manager, they already know your character and will share it with your manager when they arrive back and will remember always.

    Industries are very small and people move jobs. I know of so many people who got blocked from jobs due to informal references. This is something that may follow you for the rest of your career.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I think it speaks volumes about the company, as well. When you’re the only person who isn’t participating in some sleazy manipulations to advance your interests, you start feeling like a chump when you can’t get ahead the honest way.

      A gut check as to whether this is a healthy work environment is also necessary.

    2. Veronica*

      I don’t know if I’d say even having the thought is a sign of bad character. OP is excelling at and enjoying the job. It’s natural to think of the next step – trying to get the job.
      I think what determines character is whether a person would actually do it. In this case it sounds like OP wasn’t sure about the ethics so she asked, which is a good thing to do.

    3. MOAS*

      That’s absolutely not fair to say that they have no character. Nor is it said in their letter that they are soliciting feedback–it could be that the feedback is coming to them unprompted.

      The fact that they are asking before acting shows they know on some level that there’s another way to go about this. Not everything to do with the working world is intrinsically known as ABSOLUTELY WRONG. We learn, sometimes the easy way (asking people or writing in to AAM) or the hard way.

      I agree with everyone else though that this is not the best way to go about it and if the OP’s letter and tone were vastly different, I’d agree with that comment. But not in this situation.

    4. Jadelyn*

      Wow, this is really unnecessarily judgmental on the OP. Like, if they actually DID it, yes, that would speak volumes about their character. But unless you tumbled out of the womb already knowing how to handle every single ethics dilemma in existence, maybe you should lay off the person who had the presence of mind and conscientiousness to ASK someone for help before doing something they were uncertain of.

    5. smoke tree*

      My read is that the LW was having some qualms but wasn’t sure about the professional norms/ethics in this type of situation.

    6. OP #1*

      OP here – to clarify I have absolutely not solicited any feedback, and frankly wasn’t sure what to say when faced with it. The “better job” came from a few of my direct reports, and upper management hasn’t slandered my boss or said anything bad about him, just that I was doing a really great job.

      I may have gotten too excited with the feedback I have gotten, and I think it’s good advice to not let it go to my head and wait see what happens. I have had the conversation with my boss that I would be interested in the role if it should come to be open.

      I also want to add to those characterizing me as a slime ball who wants to kick someone when they’re down that that isn’t the case. I have a lot of empathy for my manager, and I definitely agree that his health issues leading up to the leave likely affected his performance. However, I care about the team too, and multiple people telling me that I was doing a much better job supporting them made me feel like it was in the best interest for everyone that I stay. I see now that maybe I’m giving myself a bit too much credit, and likely I’ll run into roadblocks down the road as well even if I were to stay in his role.

      Regardless, I won’t be bringing up anything else and I’ll let my work speak for itself and see what happens.

      1. MOAS*

        The fact that you’re even asking here and your post here shows that your heart & head are in the right place, and you just need your head to follow (which you are!). You’re not a slimeball or sleazy or a bad person with bad character as some have said for not knowing how to handle this. Best of luck to you and I hope you can give us an update soon.

      2. Krakatoa*

        I think it’s good that you realized that it may have gone to your head a little bit. There’s nothing wrong about being excited for positive feedback and wondering if you would be a better fit. It’s just that acting on it has such a high risk of backfiring that you shouldn’t do it. Sometimes we just latch onto ideas enough that we undersell the potential drawbacks and negatives. The other manager may have been doing a great job or had more to the job that you don’t know. The positive feedback from management may have been under the caveat of “given the circumstances” meaning you made the best of a bad situation and are doing well. It’s impossible for us to say, but I think it’s important to consider. I think it’s good that you had the foresight to solicit advice and you may very well be the best person for that role But timing and circumstances are as important as quality in some cases.

        Let it work out organically. If the manager doesn’t come back or doesn’t work out in the future you are free to apply. If you don’t have it, you can use the experience for a new job if you want to take that step.

      3. Observer*

        I’m sure you’re not a slime ball. But you can be sure that if you make any sort of play for the job, you will be seen that way.

        Don’t mention being interested in the job again, unless your bosses make it very clear that the other guy is not coming back. What you can do is express interest in more responsibility etc. And, as others have mentioned, document your accomplishments, so you can refer to that when you move on. Given how you describe your organization, that’s probably going to be your best bet.

        See how this plays out. If your boss comes back and you see that there really is no room for growth within the organization, you can start looking elsewhere. It’s a common trajectory, and no one (reasonable) will have a negative reaction to that.

  31. Just J.*

    OP#1 – I am agreeing with all of the advice that has been written so far. So I won’t add to that. But, if you think you did a good job and others did as well, then ask your bosses for a sit-down review of how you did. Tell them you really enjoyed your time as acting manager, tell them you are interested in growing into a role like this, and ask what steps you need to take to get there.

  32. SaffyTaffy*

    OP3, is your mum critical about your gender presentation in other ways? Sometimes a loved one’s focus on one thing they’re uncomfortable with can cloud their judgement on other things. Like, my dad thinks his little brother is a spendthrift, so whatever the little brother buys is automatically extravagant and a bad purchase.

  33. Anne of Green Gables*

    #1: I agree with everyone that you do not want to make a play for this job in any way. I even think that Allison’s script is a little too forward. One option to consider is to wait until you have a one-on-one with your boss and say something along the lines of, “I’ve found while filling in for Felix that I really like the managing aspect. ” and then go on to either ask if some elements can be incorporated into your job or if you can be considered if anything were to open up. Mention it the way you would any element of work that you’d be interested in getting more experience with. And personally, I’d wait until *after* this guy returns to say these things so that it’s super clear you are not out to poach anyone’s job. You don’t want to be anywhere near that reputation.

    I know you said that there isn’t a similar leadership role that you could move into, but I still think it’s worth mentioning that it’s an aspect you enjoyed and would like to see incorporated into your work, either in your current role or in an outside role. You never know what might be coming and a good manager will look for ways to use and increase your skill set if they can, even if it’s not as outright as a whole new role.

  34. Rusty Shackelford*

    I just have to point out that one of the ads on today’s column is for men’s clothing, and it shows a man wearing a HOODIE under his SUIT. #3, please do not do that.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      OMG NO. I missed that and…. is this the new trend at hipster startups? Please please tell me it isn’t and this is not a thing and that is just a very stupid picture.

  35. Goya de la Mancha*

    #5 – ugh that is on par with “oh can you just leave them a message for me” when I ask if they want to be transferred to voicemail. There are more efficient ways of getting a hold of someone, use them.

  36. agnes*

    #4 I’m wondering if you are female and the person who left was male? If so, then I think there is a bigger issue here and you should definitely bring it up with HR.

  37. call centre bee*

    To be frank, OP3, your style of dress might give you an unfair advantage if I was interviewing you XD

    “Yeah I know her CV said she conned her last three employers out of business but did you see that waistcoat! DAMN!”

      1. Lepidoptera*

        Okay I’ll see your man in a well cut suit versus a woman in a well cut suit and raise you a man in a well cut suit and a greatly taken care of beard versus a woman in a well cut suit with a fedora.
        Who wins now?

    1. Arctic*

      Seriously, it’s a great look and I’ve never known anyone (male or female) who can’t pull it off.

      Yeah, there are lower case c conservative people who would be turned off by it. But even in more traditional fields that’s going away. Maybe the tie would be too much if you know you are interviewing with a very traditional company or firm.

  38. Allison*

    OP #3, on the one hand I want to say screw gender roles, wear whatever you want. On the other hand I will caution against clothing choices that might stand out as odd or quirky when you’re just starting out. Trousers and a blazer with a button down is just fine for interviews and first-day attire, but I’d hold off on the waistcoats, suspenders, and any hats you might be thinking of until you get a really good feel for what’s standard in your office and industry, and play it safe until you’ve established yourself as someone who gets stuff done, does it well, and does it reliably. When people don’t know much about you other than the fact that you dress like a character on Mad Men, they might make unfair assumptions about you – they might think you’re weird, you don’t understand office norms, you’re not good at your job, you’re “not all there” mentally – and they might treat you differently because of it, paying extra close attention to your work and trying to micromanage you, or leaving you alone but passing over you for high-level work you might otherwise be considered for because they don’t trust you to be competent. It’s not fair, but it’s a thing. But if you make yourself known for being smart and super good at your job, you could be the awesome badass who also happens to wear 3-piece suits.

  39. Jennifer*

    #1 Maybe I am loopy due to lack of sleep or coffee but I chuckled a bit at “he was okay.”

    Please keep in mind that just because people are telling you that you are doing a good job, it doesn’t necessarily mean they want you to take this poor guy’s job. If you feel ready for more responsibility, maybe you can talk to your boss about that, not in the context of taking someone’s job, but that you think you can handle doing a bit more. Or maybe it’s time to start job hunting. Also keep in mind that the managers “okay-ness” may have something to do with the fact that he was ill or a family member was ill or maybe even dying. It’s hard to really do a stellar job at work when you’re constantly worried about things like that. Don’t write this guy off.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      I laughed at that as well! Damned with faint praise.

      I feel like there is also a bit of office-politicking going on here as well. So this team has historically never had a manager… and then they bring in a brand new guy from outside the company as their manager… and the best they care to say about him is “he was okay”… and then he goes off on leave… and now the OP, one of their own, has stepped in and is doing a good job… like, no shit, of course they like you better. You’re Cool Mom. The other guy is That New Manager Guy, Why Is HE In Charge, He Isn’t Even From Round Here.

  40. Don't Blame the Ozone Layer*

    All other things aside, mens clothes have pockets! That’s good enough to make them good enough for me.

  41. OhBehave*

    FMLA actually states: When an employee returns from FMLA leave, he or she must be restored to the same job or to an “equivalent job”. The employee is not guaranteed the actual job held prior to the leave. An equivalent
    job means a job that is virtually identical to the original job in terms of pay, benefits, and other
    employment terms and conditions (including shift and location).

    Even with this caveat, it’s still not a good idea to poach this job. Bosses are seeing the good job you are doing and that speaks volumes. I suggest you speak with your boss (current) and express interest in future roles similar to this one. Do this before the guy on leave returns. Be mindful of tone and attitude in this meeting. Talking down about this person will get you nowhere.

  42. BigRedGum*

    #2: SICK LEAVE

    Sick leave is for 2 things – when you are sick and when you want a day off to chill and NOT work.

    1. Paula M*

      OP#2: I agree with all the replies so far. One more addition: does your use of sick leave meet your company policy for the use of sick leave? I’m guessing not, especially as you wrote, “It also involves misleading my boss, which feels wrong.” If it feels wrong, if it feels like you have to lie to do it, don’t do it. You have to respect your own behavior and regular lying destroys self-respect. No employer is worth that.

      1. MistOrMister*

        Not to mention, it looks kind of shady to me. I can’t put my finger on why exactly. I guess technically the company couldn’t get in trouble the way they could if someone was working off the clock since you are getting paid for that day. But, I dunno, it’s just rubbing me the wrong way. Maybe because of the subterfuge involved.

        1. OP#2!*

          Yeah I think it doesn’t help that both companies have always kind of had a “mental health day” attitude towards sick leave, whereas I know many workers would only use leave if they are literally too ill to get out of bed.

  43. Me*

    OP 1 – Have you considered that if the boss went out shortly after starting on FMLA, that perhaps he wasn’t at his peak performance because he had something significant going on in his life? Also, he was a new employee – new employees take some time to get up to speed. You have the advantage of excelling quickly because you aren’t new to the organization.

    Express interest in chances to advance. Do not gun for someones job.

  44. Mountainly*

    #1–In addition, I’d also encourage you to discuss with your manager when he comes back, or your manager in your temporary role, not just that you would be interested in that job but also what you found engaging about the role, so they understand your enthusiasm and interests. Even if that job doesn’t come open, there might be an opportunity to use those skills and interests in another way. It’s much more professionally appropriate and shows that you are eager to grow without seeming predatory.

  45. Dagny*

    I’m floored at OP #1. Seriously, get some ethics. Your manager has been dealing with an illness or family situation rendering him unable to work, and your thought is that it’s a perfect time to gun for his job?

    The OP stipulates that the manager is a man, but let’s imagine a world in which the manager was a woman who just had a baby. If that does not convince you how disgusting it is to poach the job….

    1. Observer*

      Ha! Unfortunately, lots of people would be just fine with that – many even more so than the situation described. Because it’s “her choice” to have a baby, don’t you know.

      1. Dagny*

        Right, because everyone saying that sprung full-grown from their father’s brow, and never had wives who performed this service on behalf of their family. Who knew parthenogenesis was so common?

        1. Observer*

          Or maybe they DID have wives – and they think that first priority in jobs should go to the men who are the natural bread-winners and women should prioritize staying home with the kids anyway.

      2. Parenthetically*

        Plenty of commenters on this very page, in fact, which is why I try (and often fail) to skip comments sections that have to do with maternity leave and similar topics.

    2. OP #1*

      Hi, to be clear my question wasn’t “should I wage an all out campaign to steal a job from my ailing boss” it was “should I let my boss know that I’ve had stellar feedback from my team and might be the best fit for the job”. Obviously reading the feedback here, the answer is no, and I don’t intend to say anything close to that. I was somewhat thinking that it would truly be better for everyone if I remained manager, but I think I need to temper my excitement for the feedback I’ve gotten.

      To the “I don’t know how to convince you to be nice to other people” comment – if I didn’t care about others I wouldn’t have posted here. This is a new scenario for me and I’m trying to figure out how to navigate it and advocate for myself at higher levels – clearly this case isn’t the place for that.

      1. Close Bracket*

        You’ve had stellar feedback in the short term, but everybody gets a honeymoon period. You need to have some leadership responsibilities and get feedback in the long term before you conclude that it would truly be better for everyone if you remain manager. If it is better for you to be a manager, don’t do it by stealing somebody else’s job. Look for opportunities to advocate for yourself that don’t involve undermining other people.

  46. Kate*

    #1 – There’s a bigger systematic issue in play, which is that seeing people try to steal a job when a co-worker is out on FMLA/maternal/paternity leave will discourage others from taking leave when they truly need it. We as a society seem to be moving in a POSITIVE direction when considering these things (such as the slew of states recently passing FMLA laws) – let’s encourage that momentum, not detract from it.

  47. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    OP1: I implore you not to even consider this. If I were your superior and it became clear that you were attempting to usurp a position while the current occupant is in that vulnerable of position, I would consider immediate termination. It shows poor judgement and questionable ethics.

    In the grand scheme it also causes harm. Those managers that never let you advance, give you more responsibilities, or let you learn something new…this is their number one fear.

    1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

      I’d like to add that, you may be doing well but he’ll likely come back to the same position. If there’s even a hint of what you are wanting to do, you’ve ruined your working relationship with him. It will take YEARS to regain his trust.

      1. Dagny*

        If the OP even has “years.” If I were a manager who went out on FMLA leave and found that my employee had been trying to snake my position while I was dealing with illness or a dying family member, I would be working on managing that person out of the role for practical and ethical reasons. I would not want the legal nightmare of dealing with him trying to snake a co-workers’s projects or try to steal someone else’s job who later goes out on leave, or try to manage an employee who is actively hostile to me.

        1. Observer*

          Well, years not only within the organization. People talk. And they don’t always stay in the same organization nor do they limit their conversations to their own organization.

  48. HRAwry*

    OP 3: I don’t think anyone would bat an eye at a woman wearing a men’s suite or male clothing. I think a waist coat would cause pause (in more conservative environments) because it’s seen as overly formal. There is a group of men and woman at my company that wear waist coasts but it’s after they are hired and seen as a group thing.

  49. Data Miner*

    OP1 – I think you could dovetail Alison’s advice into a broader conversation about your career trajectory at the company now that you have these new skills that you didn’t 3 months ago. If to Alison’s question, your boss doesn’t see a similar opportunity to what you’re doing now, I’d push a little by asking if there are any projects you could work on that would continue to use and expand this new skill set. The angle here is that you’ve now become more valuable to the company so what else can you do to help.

  50. vlookup*

    #3 – If this is what feels right for you, I highly encourage you to go for it and ignore the commenters telling you not to look weird or stand out.

    I’m a butch-ish queer woman and I was so nervous at first to rock a menswear look at work, but it made me feel so much more confident and comfortable in my skin, and that ultimately made me better at my job. I work in the nonprofit sector in a major city, so YMMV, but I’ve never felt like my gender presentation has negatively impacted my career. I’ve had fewer uncomfortable interactions at work than in other parts of my life, perhaps because people feel more pressure to keep their problematic thoughts to themselves in the office than in other settings.

    I wore a dress to a work gala on one (1) occasion early on, because I was bringing my mom as my plus one and I wasn’t ready to go there yet with her or with my new job. It was horrible, my coworkers complimenting me on how I nice I looked made me want to crawl out of my skin, and I swore I would never do it again. After that I strode boldly into my masculine of center-looking future and never looked back.

    Some specific advice:
    – Take your cues from other people wearing menswear (i.e., men). When I was the only gender weirdo in a fairly heteronormative office, I looked at what men wore and aimed for just slightly more formal than the norm — the goal was to look put together and make it impossible for anyone to say I wasn’t following the dress code. You don’t necessarily want to go way more formal than everyone else, but maybe you can develop a reputation for being charmingly dapper.
    – Wear clothes that fit your body. This can be challenging and frustrating! Hang in there.
    – Know the different between office attire and fancy/going out attire. Bow ties, rainbow suspenders, the H&M skinny ties I loved so much in my early 20s — fine for a dressy night on the town if that’s your thing, but probably not for most offices.

    Good luck! I bet you’re going to look sharp.

    1. Veronica*

      *Everyone*, of any gender or orientation, has trouble getting clothes to fit off the rack. I’ve never talked to anyone who didn’t need tailoring. I’ve been size 16, size 12, and I’m currently size XS, and at all sizes I needed tailoring.
      So don’t feel you’re the only one when you go to the tailor! :)

  51. Close Bracket*

    should I see how this plays out or should I make the case to my boss that I should stay in this role even if my old manager returns?

    Someone at my last job used my intermittent FMLA request to make a play for my job before I even took any time off. That person was an asshole. Don’t be that person. Seriously. There is a special place in hell for underhanded social climbers like that.

  52. Parenthetically*

    Nah, OP#1, this ain’t it. “Should I try to steal someone’s livelihood while they’re going through a crisis requiring extended leave” is the most Slytherin move, and I do not mean that in a “Snape was secretly loyal all along” kind of way.

  53. vanillacookies*

    Re: Letter 3, is it not typical for women to wear 2-piece suits? Or maybe I should ask, is a women’s pantsuit not the same as a 2-piece suit?

    1. Close Bracket*

      Women’s pant suits are styled differently from men’s pant suits, and women don’t typically wear a tie. Sometimes they were wear loafers or brogues.

  54. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #1, why do you need that job exactly??

    Why don’t you use this to climb in another way? You’ve impressed the right people it sounds like, good. That means that the next opening that comes up, that’s a real opening and not a temporary thing with someone out during a health crisis.

    If he’s bad the job, he may not last there very long. Let him run the course at least, don’t just knock him off the rope ladder and jump up there instead.

    You are already in the lead and you don’t need to bulldoze yourself in there, good things come to those who wait for the right moment instead of going in for the kill like that.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I know you said there’s no other roles in the organization you could eventually move to. However look at what happened here. They didn’t have anything other than a lead and created the position 8 months ago. So who’s to say they won’t create another position somewhere else in another 8 months? Then the people who all remember how you were great in the position when put in it temporarily will say “Oh man OP#1 is a great option for this position, remember when they were great when Michael was out for a couple months?”

      Things aren’t absolutes, new things come around all the time. It’s all about patience. And in the end, you got experience that will help you to move on later if that is indeed the only way to advance. Just don’t shi* where you sleep and try the hostile takeover techniques.

  55. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    Oh my, OP#3 . Your letter reminded me of what I did this year.
    I’m a woman, pretty much. But at some point during the year, I decided that a shirt, a tie and the accompanying vest or jacket would be perfectly fine for me to wear. My boyfriend at the time gave me 5 or 6 of his ties, and I started using them regularly.

    I only got compliments from most employees. I was the receptionist o_o . When I didn’t have a tie on, some would joke and ask about it. I would joke that I was the classiest “dude” on site with my coworker. I have numerous pictures of such outfits, and I kept wondering why a man wearing a dress would be seen as weird while I could have my ties (while wearing bright red lipstick, of course) in peace.

    People are so weird :(

  56. Lils*

    OP #5: I have successfully trained coworkers to contact me directly because the situation you describe also bugs me. I just don’t respond to relayed verbal messages. Instead I say, “Ok, thanks, if it’s important she’ll email or call” and then go about my business. I never go hunt the coworker down and say “what did you need?”

    The coworker just wasted my time and that of the third-party person when they could have talked to me directly via email, text, voicemail, handwritten note etc. I don’t reward that behavior.

    Exception: some kind of emergency situation in which I am needed immediately. Possible exception: my boss is looking for me, but I really don’t do this for her either–she has my number and can call or text!

  57. AuroraLight37*

    #1- Keep in mind that if you are allowed to do this, it tells you something about the company. That something is, “If they’ll do it with you, they’ll do it to you.” Sometime, you will end up being on the receiving end of this kind of treatment. I can guarantee it won’t feel good.

  58. Former Employee*

    OP #3 doesn’t say if she is lesbian/queer/trans. If she is, then I think it’s fine for her to dress in such a way that expresses her identity.

    However, if she is a straight woman who just likes to dress in menswear, then I think it’s a bad idea to do so in the workplace because I see it as creating confusion. Then, she should save it for when she is with people who know her personally.

    1. Carolyn*

      OK, no. This basically says that gender roles are required to be conformed to, unless you are willing to embrace the other gender role. That’s a really problematic kind of gender policing, claiming that the gender binary is A-OK because you can pick either side. How could a hiring manager even evaluate if the letter writer dresses due to aesthetic preferences, body image issues, identity, or politics? Why should they care?

      I’m a woman, because for me that identity is entirely in my biology falling on that side of the messy binary, and I’ve gestated two small humans. I don’t identify as _feminine_ . IDGAF about pronouns. I wear my hair short, rarely wear makeup, and tend towards the masculine in my style. That my partner is a man and not a woman says nothing about my rights to reject gender-based standards. I’m not interested in picking anyone up, especially not at work, so why is it important that my style reflect my sexuality? All my lesbian and trans acquaintances are fine with my level of gender-queerness/non-conformity.

      I do aim my style a little more feminine for interviews, maybe wearing a skirt or shoes that “signal” woman, and maybe enough makeup to nod to convention. I actually find this a very hard line to walk, how much to conform when I need a job, vs looking for somewhere I’ll be comfortable being me.

  59. casinoLF*

    Not for nothing LW5 but why isn’t the admin just emailing you? That’s SOP at my office. I don’t think it’s weird to come by looking for someone and leave a message with the admin at all.

  60. Annaramadanna*

    L3, I am probably about your mum’s age, or older. I came of age with the second wave feminist movement. My issue with women wearing menswear (ties et al) is based on seeing waitstaff at higher-paying restaurants, where the women are required to wear menswear because … it’s not classy enough to be a woman at a high-end restaurant? (Couldn’t women wear slacks or skirts and a nice blouse and still be considered knowledgeable and professional? But then again, I hate wearing anything around my neck — ties and turtlenecks are out for me.) Anyway the attitude that it is cool to require women to wear menswear in certain customer service occupations seems very sexist and annoying to this second-wave feminist. Are men EVER required to wear skirts or dresses on the job? Not in the mainstream workforce, that I know of. But my gripe is with a case where the employer presumably is requiring women to wear menswear to emulate men because presumably it is not acceptable to have a women sommelier or server unless she is wearing a tie. Glad to see in the comments above that some men are breaking the barriers by wearing dresses and skirts. I second those commenters who said it’s important to understand the culture of your industry; that said, wearing clothes that make you feel wonderful are such a help for one’s confidence level. Best of luck to you, L3!

Comments are closed.