is it okay to write my partner’s cover letters, I don’t want to sign a petition about bathrooms, and more

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

1. Is it okay for me to write my partner’s cover letters and apply to jobs on his behalf?

My partner and I both have MAs in English Literature, but decided not to pursue doctorates/specialization because 1) not a lot of jobs 2) we wanted to do more community service work than ivory tower.

Unfortunately, it feels like we’re starting over completely and like every application is a Hail Mary. This has weighed really heavily on us both, but my partner struggles with it a bit more. He’s so so so unhappy at his temporary factory job, but a year of applying and getting rejected has taken its toll. Applying gives him so much stress and anxiety that sometimes he can’t even finish the application before it closes. It took him two weeks to finish a cover letter once. This is very much not like him. Is it okay for me to do the application for him, cover letter and form filling, etc., as long as he reviews it and is the one to hit submit?

Some people might say yes, but I’d say no — at least where the cover letter is concerned. The cover letter is supposed to be written by him. It’s supposed to be a sample of his written communication skills. That’s true about 10 times over if the jobs he’s applying for have writing as part of their focus, but it’s true even if they don’t.

The rest of it — filling out application forms, etc. — isn’t nearly as much of a problem in and of itself. But it speaks to a bigger problem: that your partner is in a state where he can’t job search on his own. By stepping in and doing it for him, you might be papering over the deeper problem (or not — he might be tackling that head-on and it’s just not mentioned here).

Most importantly for you, I worry about what this means for your own job search. Handling two job searches at one time will burn you out (and then who will help you, if your partner already can’t?) or take away from the bandwidth you have for your own applications.

2. I don’t want to sign a petition about bathrooms at work

My company rents space from another company which has the whole floor of a building. That company uses about a third of the floor and rents out the other space, mostly to small firms and independent workers. The floor has two sets of bathrooms. Of the 60 or so people who work on the floor, maybe 12-15 are women, with eight of those working for my company. The owner of the space and the other renters are in industries that are typically male dominated. Because of the gender break-down of the occupants, there are three men’s bathrooms and one women’s bathroom. Our space is on the opposite side of the building from the women’s bathroom, about a three-minute walk away.

My boss is circulating a petition among the other tenants to make one of the men’s bathrooms into a women’s bathroom. I’m sensitive to the long walk and the need for some women to need the trip to the bathroom to be shorter. However, as a person who suffers from GI issues that mean I can need an unoccupied toilet quickly, I don’t know how to broach my concerns that I’m really not on board with this idea.

So the petition is asking to have one women’s room and one men’s room at each end of the building, not taking away the men’s room that’s currently near you, right? Assuming so … that seems pretty damn reasonable, and more in line with what an office building would normally have. I hear you on the GI issues, but what about women on your end of the building who might have their own GI issues and currently have to walk three minutes to the nearest bathroom?

Ethically, I think you have to support the petition. I suppose you could suggest a compromise of turning one of the mens’ bathrooms near you into a gender-neutral bathroom. But I don’t think you can ethically support keeping things are they are now, with the women stuck with a three-minute walk.

3. A bad connection ruined my video interview

I recently applied for a job that is at a regional office in my city, but the company is headquartered on the opposite coast. About a week ago, I had a 45-minute phone interview with the recruiter. We had amazing rapport and a there was a clear connection between what they are looking for in a candidate and what I’m looking for in a company. They then asked me to do a 30-minute interview via a video service with the woman at headquarters who would be my manager.

The second interview was a disaster. There was a major sound lag between us — 10-20 seconds delay, even after we turned off video. The call even dropped once completely. I had to ask her to repeat herself many times and she had to do the same for me. I did my best to stay upbeat and look for solutions to the tech challenges, but I was genuinely flustered. I know my answers to her questions came across rambling and off-topic. They WERE rambling and off-topic — I was hearing her response to what I was saying 10 seconds after I said it, while I was in the middle answering her previous question from 10 seconds before that. It was a nightmare.

We did our best to end on a positive note, but I could tell she was frustrated and unenthusiastic about my responses. Justifiably — the whole conversation was a jumbled mess! A couple hours later, I emailed the recruiter this: “Would you be so kind as to pass along my thanks to [manager] for her time? Also, please let her know I’d be happy to speak again if she would like to follow up — we had an unfortunately choppy hangout connection that made conversation a challenge this morning.”

Was this an appropriate message to send? Is/was there anything else I could do to salvage this situation? I’m kicking myself for not suggesting we switch to a standard phone call as soon as it became clear video messaging wasn’t going to work for us.

Ugh, that sucks! I’m sorry. Your message was perfectly appropriate. In fact, you could have been even more blunt if you wanted to — as in, “We had a very bad connection on the video that made conversation pretty challenging, and I’m worried that it made it hard for Jane to get a good sense of my fit for the role. I know these things happen, but I’d be happy to talk with her again if either of you think that would be helpful — maybe this time by phone!”

You could even send a version of that now. You could email the recruiter with something like, “Thinking back on my conversation with Jane, I’m worried our technical issues were so severe (and affected my ability to hear what she was asking and target my responses) that it might have left her with a different sense of my fit for the role than she would have otherwise had! I’m not sure if you’ve had feedback from her yet, but I’d love the chance to speak with her again without the technical challenges if she’d be open to a second try.” It’s possible that could prompt the recruiter to pitch Jane on the value of doing that. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this if the first interview hadn’t gone so well, but since it did, the recruiter might push for a re-do. Or they might decline — especially if the hiring manager is busy and she’s got other strong candidates — but there’s nothing wrong with being a little more direct about it.

4. Can my manager share my health info with HR without violating medical privacy laws?

My husband and I work in different divisions of the same organization (a university). I am currently expecting our first child and we are thinking through when/how to tell our employer. We’re under the assumption that as soon as I tell my manager, he’ll inform our HR partner who will likely inform my husband’s HR partner who will inform my husband’s manager.

Here’s where we disagree: my husband thinks that spread of information would be a violation of HIPAA. I don’t think HIPAA applies here because our managers and HR are not medical professionals. I think there’s nothing preventing our family medical situation from being discussed at the management/HR level (or even at the staff level), and we have to assume word will travel. Who is right?

You are. HIPAA only applies to medical providers and and health plans, and in most cases not employers. (The exception to that is your employer’s health insurance is a self-insured plan, where the company pays individual claims itself.) Your manager could indeed share information about your pregnancy with HR, who could in turn share it with others. (Whether or not the second part of that will happen isn’t certain, but the first part — your manager talking to HR — is reasonably likely.)

5. Contacting old mentors but preserving boundaries

I just came across your advice about staying in touch with old mentors, and I love this idea and would like to practice it. However, I have a couple of concerns represented by two separate past mentors. One friend-requested me on Facebook a couple years after I graduated with a sweet message about remembering it was my birthday that day. I didn’t want to accept the friend request — we had a warm relationship but not *that* personal — so I didn’t respond to the message. How could I reach out to her without inviting any closer social connections? The other mentor was my boss from two years ago, but she works for a nonprofit that still includes me on emails asking to volunteer for events. I don’t want to volunteer anymore or be (even subtly!) guilted into doing so, but I would love to see this mentor. What would you suggest?

Contact both of them! Contact the first one over email with an update on what’s been going on with you and inquiring about her. Tell her you appreciated the help she gave you in the past and wanted to check in. (Bonus points if you can tell her something concrete about how her advice has helped you — “I’m so glad you were such a stickler about X because it’s served me so well now that I’m doing Y” or “I always think about your advice on X when I’m doing Y” or so forth.) If you feel weird not having ever acknowledged the Facebook message, you don’t need to — people miss connection requests all the time, or aren’t on Facebook that much, etc. (In the future if that happens, a good response is to send a connection request on LinkedIn with a note that says something like, “I really just use Facebook for family/for cat photos/am hardly ever on Facebook/, but I’d love to connect with you here and stay in touch!”)

With the second person, reach out in the same way. If she asks you about volunteering, say, “It’s not something I can commit to right now but I’m so glad things are going well.” Also, unsubscribe from that list if you want!

{ 663 comments… read them below }

  1. PollyQ*

    LW#1: If you’re going to hand-hold your partner through anything, let it be finding professional help for their anxiety. I know from experience how hard it can be to find a therapist when I’m dealing with intense depression & anxiety, so I urge people to consider stepping in to help in a way that might be considered over-involvement in other situations.

    1. Washi*

      I agree. This is harsh, but it my experience with depression and anxiety, either I need to suck it up and find a way to make myself do the thing, or I need to get professional help. Having someone else do the thing for me feels like a small relief in the moment, but it also feeds my sense of helplessness and uselessness and I am a burden, which just furthers the depression spiral. I’ve had better luck with letting stuff slide a little but doing it and small bits when I can, and then getting to feel that small sense of achievement.

      If I were the OP, I would prioritize helping my partner get into therapy if he wants it. And if he doesn’t, maybe ask HIM if there are specific tasks he’d like help with (like proofreading or formatting, not writing the whole letter). He should be the one in charge, calling the shots, because once he gets the job, you won’t be able to do that for him, and he needs to feel like he can handle it.

      1. Risha*

        I can’t agree with this. I have anxiety and depression as well (bipolar with generalized anxiety disorder co-morbid), and sometimes being unable to do a particular task has very little to do with how you’re doing in general, and with how you are as an employee overall, and someone performing that task for you just means that task is finally done.

        I’ve been off my mood stabilizer for several years (after multiple psychiatrists’ insistence that I was stable and it would be fine), and was off of the antidepressant too until a series of family deaths in quick succession last summer, just as a precaution. My apartment is clean, my body is clean, my bills are paid, my cats are happy, my boss loves my work and I’ll almost certainly get promoted next month. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have issues making phone calls, and had issues making calls back when I was medicated, and will probably always have issues making calls, and that sometimes needing to make one means several days of constantly escalating anxiety. Sometimes it’s literally impossible to force myself to do it, no matter how many months pass or how important the call is. If someone volunteers to do it for me, it’s a relief and nothing else, and I can move on with my life.

        With all that said, I agree that for a writing job, she shouldn’t be writing a cover letter for him. However, if it’s the entire process that is a problem, which it sounds like it is, then there’s no reason why she shouldn’t do the actual submission for him or the like.

        1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

          This, I have anxiety, especially around making phone calls, and having someone able to help me with it (sometimes it’s making the phone calls for me sometimes just dialing the number/pressing talk). It really depends on how many triggers that one phone call will cause. (in my case, I don’t have a problem answering the phone.) Some how people just don’t understand that things on the upper anxiety scale for those of us with a anxiety diagnosis can be impossible to do. Even if it’s seen as a necessity. (for example, it took me 6 months to book driving lesson, and I was only able to do so because I went online to do so)

          1. Risha*

            I have to say that the rise of online portals where you can message your doctor has been a godsend. I’ve gone literally several months unable to call to make an appointment before, and now I can just send a message and the receptionist calls me back and it’s handled.

            1. valentine*

              if it’s the entire process that is a problem, which it sounds like it is, then there’s no reason why she shouldn’t do the actual submission for him or the like.
              There are many reasons mentioned on this thread. If your employer won’t remove calls from your duties or you can’t hire an aide to make calls for you, your partner shouldn’t be the go-to and them doing it isn’t sustainable. And that’s just calls. Job application materials are a massive burden, especially when OP1 also needs to do her own.

              1. Risha*

                We don’t know anything about what he is or is not capable of, because all we know is that he’s having trouble with job applications. I make phone calls for work on a regular basis without a problem, because that has absolutely nothing to do with my anxiety disorder over personal phone calls.

                I’m not going to discount that helping him might be a burden to the OP, because job applications are a giant time suck and pain in the ass. But partners are supposed to help each other, within reason. I suspect that if he had broken his leg, a lot of people would take issue with the suggestion that she not help him upstairs to bed each night, just because it’s difficult and potentially dangerous to her.

        2. Washi*

          Right, I think it’s fine for him to delegate specific parts of the process! By “the thing” I meant, looking for a new job, not any one component of it that might be causing issue. But OP seems like she’s on the way to taking over the entire job search, and I don’t think that’s a good approach.

    2. Not a Blossom*

      If I hired a writer and then found out they hadn’t written their own cover letter, I would NOT be happy. It’s obviously not a fire-able offense, but it would make me keep a much closer eye on them and be less likely to cut them some slack.

      Depression and anxiety suck. I know from first-hand experience. But doing this isn’t the way to help. If you have the bandwidth, you can help by picking up more of the household chores and things like that, but don’t do his job search for him. Do help him get to therapy. Be willing to research therapists on your insurance, find one who is taking patients and seems to be a good fit, and even make the first appointment if necessary (assuming he agrees to go). That will be the more valuable help anyway.

      1. Mike C.*

        What about literally any other job where the main role isn’t writing? Don’t you think that’s a bit specific?

        1. fposte*

          It’s relevant to the OP, though. Unless he takes a sharp and surprising turn into quant land, it’s likely that the jobs he’s applying for will draw on communication skills; a cover letter is important in conveying those. It would be an issue in most higher ed positions I know.

          More practically, if he can’t finish the cover letter that doesn’t bode well for him finishing work assignments, and it’s going to be a lot more demoralizing for him to struggle with the job than with the cover letter. I think the OP risks setting him up to fail at a stage with higher stakes.

          1. Mike C.*

            I honestly believe, having been in a very similar situation years ago that once they’re in a new job, everything will change quite dramatically. And if writing is really that important, employers should be asking for separate writing samples/exercises.

            1. Not a Blossom*

              I absolutely would ask for writing samples, but of course, there would be the suspicion that he got help with those too. Even if he could prove he didn’t and his work was impeccable, I would still always question why he didn’t write his own cover letter. Again, I wouldn’t fire him for it, but I watch his work much more closely and likely be more critical, even if I didn’t intend to be.

              Helping her husband get therapy is a much better option because it will help in the long term as well as the short term.

            2. fposte*

              Why? The cover letter *is* a writing sample. Applicants who don’t treat it as such are asking for trouble.

              1. Kelly L.*

                I would kind of disagree, actually! Even people who write their own are usually using a lot of boilerplate and cliche.

                1. fposte*

                  So will what they have to write in their jobs :-). Seriously, good cover letters illuminate how somebody handles words without necessarily being creative flights of fancy.

                  When I hire, cover letters tell me a *ton* about writing ability. I’m stressing this particularly in this case, since it’s likely with his background the OP’s partner either is going to be in a communications-strong role or will be judged highly on his communications, but it’s true in a lot of jobs.

              2. Snuck*

                I agree fposte…

                If the husband isn’t applying for jobs where his writing skills will be used, but other types of work… then just create a generic and get it out there…

                But if he is applying for any kind of administrative, creative or communication role… then for heaven’s sake… the letter is a first reflection of HIS abilities as per his qualifications.

                I’d be VERY confused to find out that he’d had it written by anyone else if I was hiring him (even if the role wasn’t needing his writing skills, given he has them!)… and if the role depended on his writing skills I’d immediately dump him from the process if I suspected it wasn’t his work. Plagiarism, integrity, ability to produce high quality own work, and ability to accurately write for different audiences are all integral to these sorts of roles… and if I can’t trust him, I won’t hire him.

          2. RedLineInTheSand*

            I don’t think the last part is necessarily true, that if he can’t finish the cover letter that doesn’t bode well for finishing work assignments.

            His depression and anxiety seems to be from looking for a better job, hence once he finds one it should clear up and he should be able to perform.

            Speaking from my experience.

            1. fposte*

              I didn’t say that it couldn’t change, but it has to be considered that it might not, either. Having trouble is a a reasonable alert that he might have trouble.

            2. Paulina*

              His depression might clear up once he has a new job. But it also might not, and from my own experience with depression: having the thing happen that you think will fix things, and then still having depression, can make matters a lot worse. Being in the “I should be happier but I’m not” state can be worse than when you though you knew where your problems came from. If he gets therapy then he may be able to better handle both situations (without the job or with a new job), whatever arises. It would also stop the OP from being expected to fix their partner’s situation all by themselves.

          3. Eukomos*

            The stresses a person is under while on a lengthy job search and the stresses they’re under after they’ve got the job are very different, though. Unless the job is somehow extremely close to the process of job searching there’s no reason to assume the anxiety issue would carry over.

    3. Log Lady*

      Completely agree, as harsh as it sounds. LW 1 — coming from a person who has depression, your partner frankly needs to get a grip. Whether that means moving past his anxiety and finding a way to do his own applications/cover letters despite the struggle, OR seeking professional help. Easier said than done, but come on. You’re his partner, not his secretary. I mean this kindly — if he’s struggling with anxiety so badly that he can’t even fill out an application or write about himself, he needs to find a therapist and psychiatrist ASAP.

    4. PolarVortex*

      This: particularly when LW1 states this is not like him, that’s big red warning flags of anxiety/depression. Even a regular physician can prescribe some meds that could help, start there if they can’t afford therapy just yet. The anxiety/depression won’t get better with getting a job – and quite probably would tank him in interviews too if he could even get to them. I can’t agree enough that the efforts would be better spent getting him help vs helping him get a job.

    5. Witchy Human*

      Come on. Let’s please stop pretending that therapy is an instant or guaranteed fix.

      Whereas the ability to stop spending half his waking hours in a miserable situation…there’s no chance whatsoever that it wouldn’t help his mental health tremendously, no matter what else is going on.

      How spouse can and should support that is in question, but this attitude reeks of the “your problems aren’t real, just get therapy” stigma that many people with mental health issues (myself included) face from loved ones.

      1. Acornia*

        No one said his problems were not real. They just said that therapy was a better solution than codependence.
        Also, no one said therapy was an instant or guaranteed fix. Just that it was a better option than misleading employers with the cover letter.
        I feel like you have personal issues that are making you read this VERY differently than intended.

        1. Commenter*


          How does someone recommending therapy imply that they think the problems aren’t real?? I’d strongly recommend therapy in situations like this precisely because the problems ARE very real.

          It’s absolutely true that therapy isn’t a quick or guaranteed fix (it can take a ton of time – and sometimes luck – to find the right therapist and therapeutic techniques to make a difference), but it’s still far more likely to help than trying to fix everything by oneself.

        2. Risha*

          I’m going to throw my personal issues right into this and say that there’s absolutely nothing that says that just because he’s struggling with applications and his partner could conceivably help a little with that burden, it makes him “codependent.” Partners are supposed to support each other, and sometimes difficulty with a particular task is just difficulty with a task.

          Everyone who’s implying that he should be getting mental health care instead of doing the work of getting a new job (rather than those saying consider it in addition to) is being ablest, even the ones who genuinely mean it to be helpful. You know what this reminds me of? This reminds me of every time a fat person expresses a health concern and the comments section fills with suggestions that they lose weight.

          Would therapy be helpful? Most likely. Would getting a new job be helpful? Also most likely. Should his partner write his cover letter for him, given these are writing jobs he’s applying for? No. Does that mean she can’t help at all, or that he shouldn’t be applying if it’s hard for him to do? Come on, give the poor guy a break.

          1. A*

            ….so everyone that thinks that having OP write the cover letter for her SO is unethical…is ableist?

            I fundamentally disagree with the notion that having anyone other than the applicant write their own cover letter, is justifiable. Even if OP’s SO ends up in a better place mentally as a result – in my mind it’s dishonest to the employer. This doesn’t automatically translate to me being an ableist. It’s not that black and white.

            1. Risha*

              I literally said, “Should his partner write his cover letter for him, given these are writing jobs he’s applying for? No.” So no, no that is not what I said or implied or suggested in any way.

              What I did say: “Everyone who’s implying that he should be getting mental health care instead of doing the work of getting a new job … is being ablest.” Fullstop, that’s the only thing I called out as such (and I stand by it).

          2. PollyQ*

            No one suggested he should get therapy instead of job-hunting. The therapy is supposed to help him with the challenges he’s facing, including job-hunting and the possible mood issues that may have been triggered by the current job and difficulties finding a new job.

              1. PollyQ*

                Really? Which ones?

                Many people suggested therapy, and many said that LW shouldn’t take over job-hunting tasks for her partner, but that’s very different than saying that the partner should stop job-hunting entirely in favor of therapy.

        3. RedLineInTheSand*

          One spouse helping another through a hard time is hardly codependence, it’s part of being married. When I can’t do it anymore my spouse helps me through and I do the same for him.

          1. A*

            But this isn’t a chore or something – it’s a submission of a cover letter as if it was written by the candidate. In my mind, stepping in to ‘help’ your SO in a manner that is deceitful to another party (in this case the employer) is very different than supporting them.

          2. biobotb*

            If you’re doing your spouse’s job for them, I think that would probably be codependence.

      2. Emily K*

        I didn’t get any “therapy is an instant/guaranteed fix” read on the above comment.

        One of the reasons I like the advice to help him with finding professional help is that mental health can and does put a great amount of strain on relationships, and not infrequently can be a primary factor in the end of a relationship. If we were looking purely at what would help the partner the most, then sure, having LW take on any task he’s struggling with would offer the most immediate relief. But long term, that’s not likely to have a positive impact on their relationship. LW can’t become the crutch her partner needs to function in the world or they could very well both end up resenting each other (LW for the burden of doing the things her partner can’t do, and partner taking the ego hit of worrying that LW sees him as incompetent and/or dependent).

        Caregiving is emotionally resource-intensive and exhausting, so I’d have to agree that the best thing LW can do for their relationship is to find a professional who can do the intensive caregiving labor. Then even accepting that treatment can be a long and difficult process, LW’s partner won’t be transferring all his frustration at the long and difficult process to her. It will lighten the load their relationship needs to bear and allow her to support him in healthier and less codependent ways, and give her more energy left over for her own needs. (And if she ends up being the sole breadwinner for a while because of all this, all the more reason not to foist the additional job of managing husband’s job search onto her. I can’t imagine I would be able to learn a new job and absorb all of that new information and training while simultaneously still managing a job search that’s equally demanding – normally the job search ends before you have to start a new job.)

      3. Not a Blossom*

        What? Saying “your problems aren’t real, just get therapy” implies that you think problems addressed in therapy aren’t real problems which is, to quote the great Eleanor Shellstrop, bullshirt.

        No, it’s not an instant or guaranteed fix, but it will likely help the underlying issues, especially if the OP’s partner is prescribed medication that works for him, which actually can be a reasonably quick help (not fix, per se, but help).

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          If he has a real tangible problem, sending him to therapy is effectively gaslighting him. It’s not the situation, it’s your brain chemistry. This is abuse.

          1. Emily K*

            Wait, what? Who would diagnose the brain chemistry problem other than a mental health professional? I’ve always either seen a psychiatrist who did both the talk therapy and the medication side of things, or a psychologist who worked in conjunction with a psychiatrist who could prescribe medication. Both psychologist and the psychiatrist are qualified to diagnose mental health disorders, although only the psychiatrist is licensed to write prescriptions. If there is an underlying brain chemistry problem, therapy is the first place you start, so that a trained mental health professional can diagnose you and determine whether you would benefit from pharmaceutical intervention.

          2. DMFK*

            1. That’s not what gaslighting means
            2. It can be BOTH the situation AND your brain chemistry, and a psychiatrist will be able to prescribe meds as well as provide therapy
            3. Helping your romantic partner solve a problem that is making them unable to function is basically the exact opposite of abuse
            4. This comment reads like you are trying to sound woke, so I would recommend doing some more research on the purposes of therapy and how it interacts with life situations and brain chemistry, if you’re interested in understanding therapy and medication better.

          3. iglwif*

            I … don’t see where you’re getting that from?

            Like, to start with, depression and anxiety are real and tangible problems. And therapy is how you get diagnosed with and treated for those real and tangible problems (including meds if appropriate). I know we don’t remote-diagnose people here and I’m not trying to do that–I’m saying that if I were the LW, I would do what my spouse did when I was behaving in a similar way, which was to make me an appointment with our family doctor to discuss whether I needed to see a therapist. (I did. It was SUPER HELPFUL … including helping me gather up the courage to quit the job I was unhappy in and stressed out about.)

            That said, I’m sure therapists do exist who gaslight people, because as we all know, no profession is entirely without fuckwittage :P

            1. ampersand*

              Exactly this. If LW’s significant other is depressed, talking to an uninvolved third party can help. If they’re not depressed and just having real-life problems that suck but aren’t exactly causing depression, talking to an uninvolved third party can help. Therapy isn’t a panacea but it’s a solid start. And if therapy doesn’t work for the SO, that’s a good data point to have.

          4. CanuckCat*

            Jumping because what? I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, I am on medication for said disorder /and/ I also go to therapy to talk about how to manage my anxiety. In fact my anxiety was hideously exacerbated by a terrible work situation so a big part of my early days was helping me to normalize what I felt about the work situation and how to cope with it (at least until I could quit) because it was that or be an anxious, teary mess every day. The whole point of therapy is not just to talk about your feelings but also to talk about “real tangible problems” with an unbiased third party, who can often help you find solutions that someone who is very close to you (like a spouse) might not be able to.

            1. iglwif*

              ^^^THIS. ALL OF THIS.

              At the point in my life when I was doing the worst, mental-health-wise–like, not sleeping but not wanting to get out of bed, feeling sick to my stomach whenever I thought about work, bursting into tears at random times, dreading every conversation with my boss, being too anxious to eat, suicidal thoughts–I had a job I had once loved but which had become, for a whole constellation of reasons, a really bad situation for me.

              The obvious solution was to quit that job, and everyone could see that except me. Or, rather, I knew I needed to not be there, but after many, MANY years there, it was hard to imagine *not* being there, and I felt guilty about “abandoning my team”, and I fretted about what would happen to our projects and our clients, and I was terrified of giving notice to my boss, etc., etc., etc.

              Therapy (and meds) helped me dig far enough out of the black pit that I could march myself into my boss’s office and tell him that I was leaving. I still had a long way to go: therapy didn’t fix everything immediately. (That’s not what therapy does, or is supposed to do.)

              Quitting that job WAS the obvious thing to do, and it was the best thing I could have done. But I could not have gotten to the point of feeling I *could* quit that job if it hadn’t been for therapy!

          5. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

            As someone who has had real, tangible problems and therapy was the only thing that actually helped, I find this incredibly offensive.

            1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              He is being abused and exploited at work. Rather than quitting his job, everyone is saying he should go to therapy to better cope with being abused? Take medicine so he doesn’t feel the abuse as keenly?

              That is the offensive part, the normalization of abuse.

              Abuse is NOT ok and it is NOT a medical problem.

              1. BethDH*

                Where are you getting that? The letter says he can’t get a job in his field. He hates his current job, yes, but that sounds like it is because it isn’t the career he trained for, not because they’re mistreating him!

                1. LW1*

                  To be fair, part of the hatred of the job is because of mistreatment. But that wasn’t necessarily the focus of my question.
                  However, I am kind of confused about this discussion over abuse and whether or not something is a medical problem. I can assure you all that counseling has been a discussion and as soon as he feels financially able to take that step he will (which will be post wedding, when he is on my insurance). I do think we should be more careful in jumping to such extremes though, because the evidence given doesn’t quite support those conclusions. I am also fairly certain that many of us are not qualified to decide what is or isn’t a medical condition.

                  My concern was how far I can go to help him. I love him and want to help him through his dark times, as we will vow to do when we get married, but there is no direction manual on how to do that! Any suggestions in that vein would be wonderful :)

                2. Veronica*

                  LW1, there is always one jerk in a workplace. One person who yells, or bullys, or manipulates, is generally unpleasant, or all of the above, or more than one. For many years when I was young it seemed everywhere I went there was someone trying to abuse me.

                  I concluded since I can’t avoid them I’d have to learn to cope with them. I worked on not letting it bother me. Learning and remembering it’s not about me is what helped most. The abusive/unpleasant person behaves the way they do because of their personal issues. It’s not because of me or anything I do. If they weren’t targeting me, they would be targeting someone else.
                  I reached a point where I could ignore almost all of it. I’m fortunate to have good colleagues now and when our flaky admin appeared to be trying to interfere with my work, I stood up to her quietly and she got better.
                  I hope some of this helps your fiance.

              2. Emily K*

                All the letter says is that he’s very unhappy at his temporary factory job, which could be for any number of reasons that don’t automatically mean he’s being abused and exploited at work.

              3. iglwif*

                I don’t think anyone has said that LW’s spouse should not quit his current job, or that he should go to therapy/counselling *instead of* quitting his current job, or that the best approach to take here is to learn to suck up the parts of his current job he doesn’t like.

                Most of us are speaking from experience when we say that if you are anxious and depressed, even when that’s a logical response to a shitty life situation such as a job you hate, therapy can be a hugely helpful part of the process of getting back to feeling good about your life.

              4. A*

                …I’m starting to think that you’re either a troll, or responding to the wrong letter. Literally half the things you just wrote…never happened.

                Please, oh please, show me where it says he is being abused and exploited at work. All I see is OP mentioning that he’s incredibly unhappy/miserable there. I got the impression it was largely due to how unrelated to his passion it is, especially since she referred to it as temporary and went out of her way to mention that it was in a blue collar setting.

                This just undermines actual abuse and exploitation in the workplace. Please stop.

              5. CanuckCat*

                Again as someone who came from a borderline verbally abusive work situation and used therapy to move past it, going to therapy wasn’t about “normalizing” the abuse. Before I started therapy, I knew I needed to look for a new job but when I came home every night I was so exhausted and so upset, all I wanted to do was crawl into bed. After starting therapy – which taught me ways of at least coping with my daily work life (without normalizing the way in which I was being treated) – I was able to come home and actively search for new jobs because I wasn’t expending as much emotional energy each day being so upset about my current job.

          6. Oryx*

            I’m not entirely sure what you think happens in therapy or if you have had a previous bad experience, but this makes zero sense.

            As someone with a “brain chemistry” issue that presents as depression, anxiety, and mild OCD, therapy — in addition to medication — is what helps me function. For me, medication alone wouldn’t be enough.

          7. A*

            Hah. This gave me a giggle. Thanks – I needed that!

            (I’m choosing to believe this is sarcasm, because otherwise I….cannot compute)

          8. Librarian1*

            That’s absolutely bullshit and it sounds like you don’t understand what therapy is. Therapy isn’t about brain chemistry, it’s about helping people learn ways to manage their issues, including issues they are having with situations they are in.

      4. A*

        I haven’t seen a single comment that speaks to that. The prevailing context surrounding the recommendations of therapy is that it could help in developing coping mechanisms.

    6. Veronica*

      One thing he could work on with or without therapy is finding the positives in his current job. Remind himself that it’s a good steady paycheck and try to appreciate it. Look for small things like kind colleagues, favorite snack foods, natural outdoor beauty, and appreciate them.
      This got me through many disappointing jobs when I was young.
      Also if possible, maybe he could work on his search during lunch and breaks, and that would give him a feeling of progress.

      1. RedLineInTheSand*

        Thanks for this advice! I’m actively trying to change how I view my job. On the real, I don’t like it. But I’m trying to reframe it. So far, I have that it allows me to pay my bills. I have medical reasons why I don’t want to look for another job right now.

        1. Veronica*

          You’re welcome! I hope it helps!
          I got a lot of enjoyment from natural beauty – at one point I worked near the lake and I took walks on my lunch. It was especially nice when I encountered animals – A goose who yelled at me for walking around it without saying “excuse me” :), and a horse with a mounted police officer. The horse and I cheered each other up. :)
          But even just a few trees and some grass can help.

  2. Nikara*

    OP2: it’s a bit unclear from your letter if there are two bathrooms with one stall each on either side of the building, or two bathrooms with multiple stalls each. If it is the former, it seems like a great solution would be making all bathrooms on the floor gender neutral. Then whoever needs whichever bathroom can get to one quickly.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Agreed. IMO, no single-stall bathroom anywhere should be gendered. It also is much more inclusive to trans and non-binary folks who might currently or in the future work for your company or the others.

      1. Captain Radish*

        Agreed. Although I’ve never really understood why bathrooms are gendered in the first place. I suppose it makes more sense back “in ye olden days” when bathrooms had no stalls, but not anymore.

        1. Eleanor Konik*

          Lots and lots and lots of bathrooms don’t have stalls, still. I guess they don’t want to convert the urinals over…

          1. Sharkie*

            My high school used to be an all-boys school. The way the school was built half of the girl’s bathrooms was on one floor and the boy’s bathrooms were on the other floor. It was a pain in the butt. They also kept the urinals but turned off the pluming and converted it into a bench thing.

            1. Zephy*

              My high school had a section that had 3 long hallways, with bathrooms at either end. The toilets were fully enclosed in water closets that had real doors with locks, not stalls; the sinks were outside, in the hall. Ten of these were at either end of the long hallways. Once upon a time, all the bathrooms at the south end were marked for boys, and all the ones at the north end were marked for girls. Eventually they decided to switch half of them, but all they did was move the placards, so the girls’ bathrooms at the south end of the hall had urinals and the boys’ bathrooms at the north end didn’t.

            1. Mr. Shark*

              So the urinals were out in the open and it didn’t bother anyone? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like that.

              1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

                Really? How come?

                Genuinely asking. I’ve personally never cared about seeing urinals.

                1. SpaceySteph*

                  I’d assume Mr. Shark meant seeing people using the urinals, not the presence of urinals themselves.

                2. Mr. Shark*

                  Yes, what SpaceySteph said. In general, I don’t want to use a urinal out in the open (even with dividers) with people of the opposite sex around.

                3. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

                  Ohhhhhh, ok! That’s understandable to me. I’d still probably be… Not OKAY with it, but okay with it, if that makes sense. But I know that many, many women don’t agree, so I get it totally.

                4. biobotb*

                  But people who use urinals to pee shouldn’t have to pee openly in spaces where they don’t feel comfortable. It’s not just about what you feel comfortable seeing.

              2. Starbuck*

                Agreed, I would not use a multi-person bathroom with urinals in it. Just can’t. No problem having them in single-user neutral bathrooms of course.

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          If we had proper stalls it wouldn’t be so much of a problem, but in America all the stalls have these giant gaps in them, which would make things a lot more uncomfortable.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            We’re all trained from birth not to look at the gaps, though. Seriously, I don’t know anyone who has ever seen anything through a gap in a bathroom stall (or, if they have, they’re taking it to the grave).

            1. PolarVortex*

              Depending on the gap though, despite your best efforts not to look you still catch unfortunate glances. The one place I went to that had a 2 inch gap boggled my mind – the latch on that sucker was an eye hook, there’s no way anything else would’ve worked…

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              At our state fair, we had different people arrested 4 years in a row for peeking into the boy’s stalls. I’m fine with sharing a stalled bathroom with transwomen, but I would have concerns sharing stalls with cis men. It only takes one to harm a whole lot of people.

              1. Emily K*

                I actually think the best solution to this is for the hand-washing area to be open to the outside, so that as soon as you step out of a stall, you’re in “public” instead of in a windowless room with a closed door.

                Several high-end restaurants in my area have adopted this design in the last 10 years. Each of the toilets is in a completely enclosed small room with real walls and a real door, and the sinks and mirrors are in a large area open to the rest of the restaurant by a big archway ranging from several times the size of a normal door to that entire wall being eliminated. You get total privacy in the single-occupancy toilets, and the safety of being in the public eye as soon as you step out. And you can maximum efficiency by not having toilets that go unused while patrons are waiting simply because the unoccupied toilets are designated a different gender than the waiting patrons. (Plus, I’m pretty sure it increases hand-washing compliance when people know that anyone could see them leave toilet stall and bypass the sinks without stopping to wash on their way out.)

                1. Emily K*

                  (Also more family-friendly! Lets dads take their young daughters to the bathroom without making hard choices between leaving them unsupervised or entering a women’s space.)

                2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  As a plus there have been plenty of times where I did not need to use the restroom but just wanted to wash my hands before eating, or after spilling something particularly sticky. In multi-user bathrooms it is not as big of a deal, but in single user bathrooms I am then taking up space where someone else could use the restroom.

                3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                  It’s also more sanitary to not have to touch a (probably dirty) doorknob after you wash your hands.

              2. She's One Crazy Diamond*

                This is exactly how I feel. I’m 100% fine sharing with trans people of any gender including non-binary people, but am absolutely not okay sharing with cis men. I just wouldn’t feel safe.

                1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

                  No, I can’t tell, so probably the only way to really be comfortable would be to share with only women or non-binary people. And how does it not make sense? I’m a sexual assault survivor, and would honestly quit a job if I was forced to share multi-stall bathrooms with men.

                2. Mr. Shark*

                  As Dahlia said, you can’t always just tell by looking at a person one way or the other. And I get your point, but equating all cis-dudes as potential sexual assaulter seems wrong.

                  But your general point is fair. I’d rather not share a restroom with someone of the opposite sex, especially at work. For some reason, a random stranger would be less weird.

                3. Veronica*

                  We don’t equate all cis-dudes as sexual assaulters.
                  We all know that some cis-dudes are. We need to be safe from *those who are* when we’re using the restroom.

                4. neeko*

                  This is extremely similar to the justification that people use for forcing transgender and non-binary folks to use the bathroom for the gender the were assigned at birth. People are just going to the bathroom.

                5. Dahlia*

                  …you also can’t tell that someone is nonbinary by looking at them. And women assault other women, too.

                  This is seriously like the #1 transphobic bathroom argument being spewed here.

                6. Veronica*

                  Dahlia, you are very biased. Do you not care about the many women who get assaulted, all the time? Do you want to enable that by making all restrooms gender-neutral?
                  This has nothing to do with any trans person. It’s about keeping all women safe.

            3. Veronica*

              Sometimes in the past I looked at the cracks to determine if someone was in there, and all I would see was a little clothing.
              This must have been in restrooms where all the stall doors swung shut… I could have checked for shoes, but couldn’t always bend over…

              1. Kelly L.*

                Yeah, I’ve heard the cracks are intentional and you’re supposed to be able to just vaguely see movement/clothing and know there’s someone in there, but not get any detail.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  And yet in the restrooms I’ve used in Europe/UK, there are no cracks or gaps and somehow everyone manages. :-/

                2. Mr. Shark*

                  They need to get rid of the gaps and just when you lock the door, it shows if it’s occupied or not occupied, just like in airplane bathrooms. I don’t know why such a simple concept hasn’t been done on every bathroom stall.

            4. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

              my stupid spoiled cousin would peek into the gaps ALL THE TIME. her parents “didn’t believe in discipline” so she was a complete terror and thought it was funny when i told them what she was doing. one time, she climbed UNDER the stall door while i was using it. i nearly kicked her teeth in when her nasty butt got on her hands and knees and crawled under because she wanted to “see my butt.”
              So yeah. those gaps and short doors need to go extinct.

              1. Meredith*

                Some stranger’s kid crawled under the door when I was in a restroom once and just smiled at me. I was too stunned to do anything.

                1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                  As a parent of a toddler, I would also love it if the doors couldn’t be crawled under! My kid’s never actually done so, but it’s a pain to hang onto a kid while you use the bathroom. (In Japan I saw stalls with little fold-down seats that you could buckle a small child into while the parent used the bathroom. Brilliant!)

                  Also, in the elementary school where I teach, every now and then a kid decides it’s hilarious to lock a stall, crawl under to the next one, lock it, and repeat… until all the stalls are locked and no one can get in to use them. What a great joke! (/sarcasm)

                2. LunaLena*

                  @Elizabeth – I’ve seen those seats in the US too! They’re called Koala Kare seats, and yeah, I think they’re a great idea. I don’t have kids myself but I was always haunted by an X-Files episode in which a toddler is lured onto some train tracks while the mom is using the bathroom.

                3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                  At a school outing many years ago, the PE teacher’s boys got crawled in under the doors and locked all the stalls from the inside.
                  About 60 15-year-olds shared those precious few stalls. Took hour of increasingly desperate waiting until the janitor found a key to unlock them again.

            5. Mademoiselle Sugarlump*

              Wow! I’ve never had it happen at work, but have had little kids look at me through the gaps in department store bathrooms, etc.

          2. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

            So I just googled “American Toilet stalls gap” and you have me floored… I read a whole buzzfeed page (a very long one!) with pictures and gaps on both sides of the door, as big as fingers and all. WTF?

            Why? WHY are there such huge gaps? Living in Western Europe, I have never seen gaps like that in toilet stalls.

            Back OT: 3 minute walk to the bathroom?!? That would be really troubling for me. As a person with kidney problems I would sign that petition right away. Make it more equal for all. You could still take the 3 minute walk to clear your head, but for others it might be a “life-saver” and perhaps even for you as well, OP2, when you get suddenly ill (I hope it never comes to that, but) close proximaty to a toilet can be very handy.

            1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

              Wow, I completely missed the point. For some reason I believed OP2 to be a woman, but apparently it is not?
              And you feel discomfort because the new way would mean you have more people visiting the toilets, instead of just men? While I understand the discomfort because of your GI-problems, whe says some of your female co-workers don’t have the same issues? It would be a relieve for them ass well to have easy acces.

            2. Brett*

              The gaps are a two part thing.
              The huge gap underneath is part of ADA compliance. You do not have to have the gap, but if you do not have it, then you must make all stalls wider (rather than just the accessible stalls). Pretty much all bathroom designs opt for the toe gap rather than wider stalls.

              Because of the toe gap, the stalls are not that stable and, over time, easily come out of alignment. This can break the hinges, latches, the ability of the door to latch, the ability of the door to swing. This could result in frequent replacements if there was a tight tolerance in how the doors and sides of the stall fit together.
              Instead, the stalls are bit will large vertical gaps, giving a lot of freedom to move over time and requiring less repairs due to the instability from the toe gap.

              1. Tina*

                Having lived for a while in America and now living somewhere without weirdly gappy toilet stalls – I’m dead curious, how is this an ADA thing? I’m not having a go at anyone, just really want to know.

                1. disabilitydetails*

                  It allows wheelchair maneuverability for the footrest.

                  “4.17.4 Toe Clearances. In standard stalls, the front partition and at least one side partition shall provide a toe clearance of at least 9 in (230 mm) above the floor. If the depth of the stall is greater than 60 in (1525 mm), then the toe clearance is not required.”

        3. Dr Wizard, PhD*

          In my experience, it’s just that men’s bathrooms are *way* more efficient when there are urinals.

          I visited Italy earlier this year, where apparently urinals aren’t as much of a thing, and there were always massive queues for the men’s bathroom anywhere I went.

          Totally a fan of gender-neutral stall bathrooms, but I can see the efficiency of having urinals available.

          1. boop the first*

            And that’s the rub… men’s bathrooms are built to be more efficient, which is why they serve the queues much faster, which is why there are some women who are sick of waiting in long lines during major events/festivals because developers keep building washrooms equal in size for some reason.

            1. a heather*

              Right. Women’s bathrooms can fit fewer people per sq ft, because urinals take up less room, so can service fewer people. Giving mens and womens rooms equal square footage actually gives women less access than men.

              (Invisible Women is a great book, btw.)

            2. Meredith*

              Right, that’s the other issue with this petition. 1 of 4 bathrooms that serve 60ish people is designated for the 12-15 women, which is, indeed, 1/4 of the occupants. Except an equal number of facilities is not, studies and (frankly) the observation of anyone with eyes has shown, fair. You actually need MORE facilities per capita for women then men because men are more efficient in the bathroom, by biology and men’s bathroom design. Having 2 of 4 bathrooms for 15ish women and 2 for 45ish men actually seems eminently reasonable.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            My dorm as a college freshman was in an eight-story building, with each floor single-sex and a communal bathroom for all 25 residents of the floor. My room was on the seventh floor. The sexes of it and the eighth floor had been switched at some time. I’m not sure why, but I suspect boys were climbing onto the roof from the lounge balcony, and the thinking was the girls were smarter than that. The bathroom plumbing was not changed, so the girls’ floor had urinals and the boys’ did not. It wasn’t a big deal for the boys, as the bathroom was plenty large for the population, but I suspect it was a hardship for the girls. Also, once the weekend parties got going, the distinction rapidly broke down.

        4. rolls eyes*

          I suggest researching the history of women fighting for access to facilities outside of the home.

          1. Magenta*

            Reverting to mixed sex loos is such a backwards step! Having no access to safe single sex facilities was a huge barrier to women being able to take part in public life in the past and is still a huge issue in some parts of the world even now.

            Some religions women can’t share bathrooms with the opposite sex, especially when menstruating and other women just don’t want to. Where loos have been made mixed sex in schools and offices there has been a lot of distress caused to women and girls, many of whom end up trying to hold it until they can go somewhere “safe”.


            1. J.*

              The suggestion was to remove gender designation from the bathrooms if they’re the single-toilet kind, where only one person would be in them or using them (presumably with the door locked behind them) at any given time.

            2. Mr. Shark*

              It’s interesting that the second article, there was a poll about whether one would prefer a women/men’s only restroom, and the result was about 63% prefer a single-sex restroom.

            3. neeko*

              But what about non-binary folks? And people whose gender expression doesn’t fit what others might expect?

              1. Mr. Shark*

                neeko, and that’s the complication. Making it comfortable for non-binary along with those who would prefer not to be in mixed bathrooms. That’s why single, gender-neutral restrooms make sense. It’s gets more uncomfortable to me when it comes to dealing with schools and showers/changing areas for younger kids and teenagers, which already has a lot of challenges before introducing non-binary or trans into the mix.

        5. FiveWheels*

          I didn’t really understand the desire for single sex bathrooms until I visited the USA and discovered to my horror that big gaps either side of the door were the norm.

          1. kittymommy*

            Based on the amount of people I have walked in one because they can’t figure out how to lock the damn door, I have gained an appreciation for the gaps!

          2. JSPA*

            I’ve never understood why we tolerate such large gaps, either, and I grew up in the US.

            I understand “the large bottom gap means we can get in if someone locks themselves in, in a crisis” (though frankly, a better latch, that can be unlatched from outside with a special tool or a key is a better answer, and newer, upscale facilities do this).

            But tolerance of too much side tolerance is just weird. Or, “something used as an excuse to discriminate.”

            I’ve thought of installing fabric “gap hiders” on the outside, but that would be unsanitary. Anyone know of a reasonable retrofit option?

            1. PolarVortex*

              Google Stove Gap Covers – they’re usually plastic or silicone, which means they can be cleaned easily.

            2. Liz*

              You can get metal ones; we had one stall in our ladies room that had a HUGE gap, but they put up some kind of metal thingy so now you can’t see anything.

            3. Mamunia*

              I used duct tape to create a flap that overlaps the gap, taped down one side. We have an situation where the wall to door frame gap is about an inch, and the door frame to door gap is another inch. When people are making eye contact with you, the gaps are too big! The cleaning people or landlord have not taken it down, hoping it stays up!

            4. Mr. Shark*

              They need to get rid of the gaps and simply make it so that when one locks the door, it indicates if the stall is occupied or available. Simple as that.

          3. Quill*

            Shoddy stall construction is pretty rampant, but the lower (floor to door) gap apparently exists to make mopping easier.

            1. valentine*

              the lower (floor to door) gap apparently exists to make mopping easier.
              Bending down to get the right angle won’t be easy for long and someone needs to open the door to clean the toilet, anyway.

              But changing the restroom like OP2’s colleagues want is the easiest solution and most likely to be successful.

              1. disabilitydetails*

                The lower gap is also an ADA compliance measure.

                “4.17.4 Toe Clearances. In standard stalls, the front partition and at least one side partition shall provide a toe clearance of at least 9 in (230 mm) above the floor. If the depth of the stall is greater than 60 in (1525 mm), then the toe clearance is not required.”

          4. whingedrinking*

            A few months ago I went to a convention in Seattle, and was beyond horrified that in the washrooms on the ground floor, the doors only went about halfway up. Like if you were sitting down, you would be just barely concealed if you weren’t too tall and someone outside the stall wasn’t standing too close, but as soon as you stood up or someone got closer than about three feet away, nooooope.
            I assume this was to prevent people from using drugs in the more easily accessible washrooms (the upstairs toilets did not have this charming feature), but aaaaaargh it was bad.

            1. many bells down*

              Oh yeah most of the public restrooms in Pike Place are like that. I always warn people visiting.

        6. Iris Eyes*

          There are still people alive who had to deal with not just gender separated bathrooms but also race segregated bathrooms. I just happened to be reading Hidden Figures at the same time the headlines were all about gender neutral bathrooms and it really helped as a point of reference. In America we are weird about sharing toilets. It totally squicks people out at the thought of sharing a toilet seat with so many unknown people (hence the tissue covers, hover squaters, and never-in-public.)

        7. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          Bathrooms are usually allocated based on building code requirements: number of toilets per sex, type of dividers, whether gender neutral is allowed. That’s why you sometimes see single restrooms labeled Men or Women. The building code says so, and the building will fail inspection and lose its certificate of occupancy if it deviates from the code.

          1. Llellayena*

            Actually, the code is written to just indicate how many of each fixture (toilets, sinks…) is required for each 50% of the occupants, which does assume bathrooms are separated by gender but does not require it. The only real gender specific bit is that men’s rooms can include urinals as part of the fixture count and women’s rooms can’t. If you provide all single stall bathrooms (which are required to have standard toilets, not urinals), they do NOT have to be labeled for a specific gender but DO have to provide enough of them that a gender split can be accomplished. Multi-stall bathrooms are gender specific mostly because of the urinals. I think we label single stall bathrooms by gender mostly because of perceived societal separations and perceived cleanliness by the opposite gender.

        8. Gdub*

          As a woman, I don’t feel safe pulling down my pants in a room with men. The flimsy stalls don’t make a difference.

          1. Eeeek*

            Exactly. You are vulnerable and in a sense exposed even if behind a door. Single stall restrooms are a totally different thing. Anyone can use those. Or the new thing where it’s lots of individual floor to ceiling pods and public sinks. Also fine. But it’s actuallt regressive to make everything neutral. If there were only mixed sex multi stall bathrooms in an office I would not work there as I am totally uncomfortable being in a room with men with their penis out. To me that is a dealbreaker. If I am an uptight prudish American that’s weird about bathrooms than so be it! Sorry just no. And urinals in use in a mixed sex restroom! WTF?! That’s basically traumatizing to a little girl. You could see a grown mans penis. Ahhhhhhhhh

            1. Mr. Shark*

              I agree with no mixed sex multi-stall bathrooms with urinals, especially in an office in which you interact with people everyday. I think that would just make it…odd.

          2. NewEngineer*

            I was recently at a conference; the hotel restroom stalls were solid walls with no gaps under or over them -or under or on either side of the door. Rest position for the doors was slightly ajar; when locked, an indicator would go from green reading “open” to red reading “in use”. Tripped at one point and fell into a door; it held my full body weight easily and the stall wall didn’t shake. Sinks were outside the stalls, and there was no door into the sink area, but there were some bends so it wasn’t directly visible from the hallway. From what male colleagues said, the men’s rooms were of a similar construction; nothing out in the open; no idea if there were urinals in some of the stalls or not. For that kind of restroom, I’d be fine with mixed occupancy; with standard US stall construction, I’d feel a lot less okay with it, but some of that also depends on general corporate culture. I’m just starting out in a notoriously “good old boys club” field; if I had the impression that sexual harassment was generally tolerated, I’d feel a hell of a lot less safe if there were stalls at all (as opposed to single occupancy; not as opposed to having all the facilities in plain view) -a sign on the door’s not going to deter or encourage a predator one way another.

      2. banzo_bean*

        In California there is a new law that mandates that single stall bathrooms must be gender neutral. There are some exceptions, but I am happy about it. It means more bathroom accessbility for everyone!

        1. Massive Dynamic*

          YES – I love this law. But also, I’ve never been hesitant to take over a “men’s” bathroom that’s a single stall, especially when my daughter was potty-training. I got so many weird looks from guys, like the figure with pants on the door was supposed to be a force field to keep us out.

          1. Mr. Shark*

            Single stall gendered restrooms never made much sense. There have been times when I would’ve liked to use the woman’s single-stall restroom because the men’s was in use, but somehow I’d get more than weird looks if I did that.

          2. many bells down*

            I did it once on a road trip with all women and they were SHOCKED. I was like “there’s no law that says I HAVE to use the urinal!”

            1. Jen2*

              Weird, I’m always nervous about getting a negative reaction, but in experience, other women are always reasonable about it. And usually the women farther back in the line offer to be a sort of lookout to warn men not to go in while there’s a woman using the men’s room. What else are you supposed to do when there’s a long line for the women’s room and a perfectly good unused men’s room right next to it?

              1. Mr. Shark*

                I think that’s much more common–women going into the men’s bathroom at events. The other way around–nope.

    2. valentine*

      Four toilets for 60 people would be a nightmare.

      I read it as wanting the privacy of an empty restroom, when OP already has the advantage of a guaranteed unoccupied stall, which women don’t.

      1. doreen*

        I don’t think it’s a matter of wanting an empty restroom. I think it’s because cutting the number of stalls available to men will decrease his chances of finding an empty stall when he needs it.

        1. valentine*

          Men are more likely to be using urinals at any given time.

          If these are single-seaters, a woman may have their same urgent need as OP2.

      2. Llellayena*

        4 toilets for 60 people is actually more than is required by building code. I suspect these are single stall bathrooms, in which case making them all gender-neutral would be the easiest solution.

      3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        “However, as a person who suffers from GI issues that mean I can need an unoccupied toilet quickly,”
        That was how I interpreted this sentence as well, and thought sorry, but that much privacy is a privilege your work situation cannot allow, but reading the comments, I see that OP means unoccupied seat on a toilet, not restroom. Language is weird.
        And yes, I definitely empathize with OP’s medical need, but the women he work’s with have them, too and the situation is far more of a burden on them.
        Ultimately, I think a petition in this case is not going to affect (is that the right one?) change, so sign it or don’t. It should be a matter of your company’s executive having a conversation with the leasing company stating this doesn’t work. We need X to continue here.
        I honestly think using a petition is not professional/appropriate/necessary in this situation. “Hi, we rent X space and have discovered we need another female bathroom. How can we resolve this?”

        1. Preggers need nearby bathrooms*

          And as a pregnant woman, I can say that a far-away bathroom just won’t work! We sometimes have to pee every hour and can NOT hold it.

          1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

            Not only pregnant women!

            I’ve read some statistics at the doctor’s office that says 1/3 women have trouble with incontinence, and 1/4 men will be confronted with this as well.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I didn’t take it to mean “I need to be the only person in a multi-stall bathroom,” though. Just that the OP is concerned that all the available men’s space on their end might be taken up when they needed. Which I’ll admit is a valid concern, but as Alison pointed out, women are just as likely to have that same concern, and it’s time to play fair.

    3. Willis*

      I got the impression they’re single stall bathrooms, in which case yes – propose making them all gender neutral!

    4. Jen S. 2.0*

      In addition to the issues mentioned, I’ve seen research that says that men spend on average 35 seconds in the bathroom, while women spend on average 70 seconds. Further, men have urinals, which don’t take up a stall, while women always use a stall; male stall users (including, evidently, OP2) have less competition. Men already have an advantage in the bathroom, so it stands to reason that women should have the opportunity for more convenient bathrooms.

      I love the solution to make a gender-neutral bathroom convenient for everyone. That doesn’t take anything from OP2, but adds convenience for the ladies. But either way, be aware that women are already more inconvenienced than men when it comes to the bathroom, and then you currently have the women having to hike. Yikes.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The OP strikes me as very self-centered. This formerly pregnant person has often (to paraphrase OP) needed “an unoccupied toilet quickly”. I am keeping tight control on my urge to be snarky.
        If OP faces conversion of the only nearby men’s room, he’s probably best off disclosing under ADA and requesting a desk near a rest room. Like many a person with ongoing GI and/or bladder issues has already done before him.
        And really– multi-stall single-gender toilets can be split into two rooms. That’s worth pushing for.

        1. sunshyne84*

          Yea, I’m really not understanding what their issue is. Even if the men’s bathroom has mostly urinals and one stall I would imagine the building designed the bathrooms for men and women and the “women’s side” has all stalls. How often has OP not been able to find an empty stall? I’ve never seen any lines outside a men’s bathroom. They definitely need to make a women’s bathroom on their side.

          1. valentine*

            If OP faces conversion of the only nearby men’s room
            OP2 objects to the conversion of one of the two men’s rooms near them.

        2. Not a Blossom*

          I agree that he’s self-centered. He’s not losing the only nearby men’s room; he would be losing 1 of 2. He works on the end that has 2 men’s rooms.

          I have several female relatives who suffer from gastrointestinal issues that sometimes require them to get to a bathroom quickly. A 3-minute walk would be a nightmare in those situations, especially because, depending on the number of stalls, they might still have to wait.

          1. Banana Bread Breakfast*

            I feel for him because I have GI issues as well, and the closest toilet to my cube is single-stall and about two minutes away. There have honestly been times where I get there, realize it’s occupied and that I have to go another minute or two to the next closest, and honestly the world feels unconquerable and I’m hit with a wave of defeat.

            All that being said, I STILL don’t have much sympathy for him. His situation may have seemed cushy but it was not the norm, and it’s a basic understanding of public health and society that everyone deserves access to the restroom. It’s really only fair.

          2. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I don’t think he is being self-centered, but if he is it is not unreasonable of him to be concerned.

            OP says there are 60 people, about 15 females, and 45 males. Right now 3 male bathrooms equals a ratio of 15 (45/3) men per bathroom, and 1 female bathroom equals a ratio of 15 women per bathroom. If you convert to two male and two female bathrooms it skews the ratio. The new ratio would be 45/2= 22.5 males per bathroom, and 15/2=7.5 females per bathroom.

            I do think that the second male bathroom on OP’s end of the hallway should be become gender neutral, especially if it is a single occupancy bathroom, but even it it is a multi-person bathroom. A gender neutral multi-person bathroom would work well. Males could go in and use the urinals be in and out, females would have access to stalls nearby.

            In Europe I have seen and used multi-user gender neutral bathrooms, it worked out great. There were only stalls no urinals in the bathroom. Even in the use when I have gone to some theaters during intermission there is usually a long line for the women’s bathroom, toward the end when the line at the men’s bathroom has mostly died down, ushers have directed women to use the men’s restroom. Women could use the stalls, and men could continue to use the urinals or get in line for the stalls. It all worked out with out an issue.

            1. Not a Blossom*

              But, as stated above, if you factor in the average usage time of men and women, you learn that even doesn’t always mean equitable.

              I think multiuser gender-neutral bathrooms are rather uncommon in the US and that a lot of people would be uncomfortable with that set up, especially if it included urinals.

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                You make a good point, average usage time is different between men and women. But being equitable does not mean instant access to the bathroom with no wait times or the same exact wait times. Sometimes you will have to wait to use the bathroom.

                If OP’s bathrooms are all single occupancy they should all just be gender neutral. in fact I think all single occupancy bathrooms should be gender neutral.

                Your are also right that gender neutral multi-user bathrooms are uncommon and make people uncomfortable, but they will never become common and make people comfortable if they are not implemented. I think the comfort of who is using the bathroom in the stall next to you should be secondary to the comfort of having a nearby bathroom/stall to use when you need it.

                I had a situation one time where a women was using a stall (multi-stall/urinal) in the men’s bathroom. I was fine with that no problem there. But there was friend who was trying to block the entrance to the bathroom because she didn’t want men in there. Normally I would have waited, but in this situation I really had to go, only needed to use the urinal, and there was a time crunch from intermission ending. I walked right past the friend because when you have to go you have to go. Both the women in the stall, and myself were able to use the bathroom without issue.

                1. Veronica*

                  Well no one else is saying it so I will: The issue with multi-user restrooms being gender neutral is, it makes it much easier for women to be assaulted by men in the restroom.
                  The flimsy, wide-gapped stalls wouldn’t do much to stop an attacker. The fully enclosed stalls with good locks on the doors, described above, might, but those are unusual in the US.
                  Of course most men would never dream of doing such a thing. But we all know there are men who would everywhere, and it only takes one.
                  I also understand why men would not want to be using urinals with women around. Having random women see their parts as they walk by.

                2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  I think that is a red herring. If someone wants to attack a person in a bathroom, it being gendered is not really going to stop someone. A person intent on attacking someone can just as easily enter a gendered women’s bathroom and assault a women there.

                  When using the urinal I don’t want anyone (males/females) seeing my parts, that is why I make sure to unzip/zip up before leaving the confines of the urinal.

                3. valentine*

                  A person intent on attacking someone can just as easily enter a gendered women’s bathroom and assault a women there.
                  Entering a space they belong in, such as a gender-neutral bathroom, even if they have to wait for women to exit stalls with proper,UK-type doors, gives perpetrators an advantage they don’t have when people would notice and comment on their having entered the women’s restroom.

                4. Veronica*

                  Also most places I go now have the door to the women’s room locked and a user has to get a key from the receptionist. Gender-neutral would wipe out that safety feature.
                  IMHO only single-toilet restrooms with good locks should be gender-neutral.

                5. Mr. Shark*

                  People keep talking about usage time, but I think that goes out the window when you’re talking about GI problem. We’re not talking about access to the urinals for this guy. He needs the stalls, and (I’m assuming) there are less stalls in men’s rooms than women’s rooms, simply because of the urinals.

                  So this piling on that he’s being self-centered–I don’t really blame him for that. He has to be concerned with his access, just like anyone would be concerned with their access. With 45 men on the floor, it’s not unlikely that two stalls could be in use when he needs one, if one of the restrooms is converted to a women’s restroom.

                6. Arts Akimbo*

                  You’re talking about men using the urinals in a restroom with women in the stalls like it’s no big deal– and it’s no big deal for me, a woman. But every man I know evinces notable discomfort with the idea of using a urinal in a room where women are. I think it’s men’s discomfort with the layout of unisex bathrooms that needs addressing, just as much as women’s, in the US at least. Maybe some kind of privacy screen for the urinals?

              2. TardyTardis*

                After camping as a child, being in the Air Force, and raising small children, my privacy expectations in the bathroom are… flexible.

            2. a heather*

              You’re taking the bathroom as a whole into your ratios, not the number of facilities to use in the bathrooms. Urinals take up less space than stalls, so mens rooms generally have more facilities per sq ft.

              A bathroom with 3 stalls for women vs a bathroom with 2 stalls and 2 urinals for men means for that one bathroom, more men can use it at a time.

                1. biobotb*

                  No but a lot of the men going to the bathroom will be using the urinals, whereas all the women going to the bathroom will be using the stalls.

          3. Hera*

            Yeah, no sympathy here either. I severe bladder and bowel issues (medical diagnosed, I will have them for the rest of my life), he wants to keep it all for himself, but women who might experience the same as his problems, or medical issues like I have, have to take a three minute walk to go to a toilet? Hell no!

        3. Mr. Shark*

          Why wouldn’t the OP be self-centered? I think any women who are asking for a women’s restroom on their side of the building is also being self-centered. There’s really nothing wrong with that. The OP has concerns that removing one of the restrooms in the area in which he works is going to cause him problems accessing the stalls when he needs them. I’d be concerned about that if I were him, and I’m sure the women are concerned about it as well.

          Whether his concern is fair is something else. It’s reasonable that a 3-1 ratio of men to women means a 3-1 ratio of restrooms, for the most part. People here are saying that men take 35 seconds to use the restroom, but we are not talking about just using a urinal in the case of the OP. We probably have about 60 people on my floor, and often both stalls are in use, and going to another restroom, both stalls are in use there too. Luckily we have multiple floors so can find other stalls if needed. So I get his concern.

          I agree with the gender-neutral, single stall. That makes the most sense, really, if that’s a possibility.

        4. a heather*

          Yeah, he’s being selfish. HE needs a toilet so having lots of options is good for him, but neglects the fact that if HE had to run to a bathroom that’s a 3 minute walk away, it would suck for him. Well, there are certainly times where that would suck for me as well. Other people have problems, too, and you should be MORE empathetic if you have similar issues, not less.

      2. Magenta*

        Mixed sex bathrooms are not convenient though, women bleed, sometimes the blood gets on our hands and clothes. It is bad enough having to wash blood off my hands or try to get spots off my clothes in shared sinks in a ladies loo, there is no way I would be ok doing it in a shared space.
        Women have to adjust their clothing to use the loo, this puts them in a vulnerable position and may be uncomfortable doing this in a mixed sex area, especially if they have trauma in their past.
        Also as someone who has cleaned toilets as a job, men’s rooms are generally nastier, men who stand when they pee often miss and get the seat.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          I think that men’s and women’s rooms can both get pretty gross, but in totally different ways. We both think the other sex’s bathrooms are grosser, because we are not used to the kind of gross that happens the way that we are used to our own. We also both have different unspoken rules of the bathroom. I do think a lot of people in a modern office building would be very uncomfortable sharing a bathroom, especially due to the large gaps that modern stalls seem to have in them.

        2. JSPA*

          All of these issues are fixable, though. (And none are relevant if these are already single-person bathrooms.)

          Clothing can all be “adjusted” in the stall.

          Plus, anyone who is too traumatized to straighten their skirt with a man around, or needs a religious accommodation, can legitimately ask for an accommodation. But to presume that level of discomfort is to ask society to normalize trauma, fear, etc. That’s pretty fraught.

          Blood on hands? Carry wet-wipes (put in feminine products bin, not toilet).
          Blood on panties / clothes? Double up on protection; carry spare undies and a plastic bag for the soiled; change protection more often; try a menstrual cup; tie a strategic sweater around your waist. Side note: It sounds like, to you, blood is a privacy issue, and it’s fine (except for embarrassment) so long as it’s all women. To me, it’s a health issue. So…I don’t feel great about you not doing the vast majority of blood control within the stall.

          1. Colette*

            Many of your solutions here require women to bring a lot of things into the stall with them, though – wet wipes, spare undies, etc. That’s not a great solution.

            And I’m not sure how someone would do “the vast majority of blood control within the stall” if there is no sink in the stall.

            1. Tinuviel*

              I don’t see how a woman could do total period damage control outside the stall. You shouldn’t change your underwear outside the stall. You shouldn’t walk out the stall with blood on your hands… Women who have their period have to bring things into the stall with them. They make little pouches for that. This is like womaning 101….

          2. Liz T*

            Eh, all through college I had gender-neutral bathrooms and it was fine. There should also be single-occupancy bathrooms for people with religious needs and such; if I’m dealing with menstrual blood on my hands, I’d rather NO coworkers see it, regardless of gender.

            1. AMT*

              Yes, I think the solution is to have one single-stall bathroom where people who prefer it due to [disability, trauma, religion, trans/NB status, or whatever] can go, and make the rest of the bathrooms gender neutral.

          3. FormerFirstTimer*

            And for women to take all that stuff in the stall would really require taking their whole purse, because 90% of women’s clothing does not actually have usable pockets. And a lot of women are uncomfortable taking their whole purse because it screams, “I AM MENSTURATING” and we’ve been taught from birth that that is a shameful thing.

            1. Emily K*

              But you’re still taking your purse to the restroom even if you only take it as far as the sinks and not into the stall with you.

        3. Emily K*

          I’m not sure what you mean by “adjust their clothing…in a mixed sex area?” I’ve never adjusted any clothing until I’m in the stall, even in an all-women’s bathroom.

          I’d also say that for the restaurants/food shops where I worked in my teens and 20s, the women’s bathroom was almost always grosser than the men’s. I reckoned men had learned to wipe up after themselves at home, but women who hover 1) don’t hover at home so didn’t learn to wipe up after themselves and 2) are so repulsed by the thought of touching the toilet seat that there’s no way they’re going to clean even their own pee off it. There’s also the blood factor that while infrequent was never present in men’s rooms at all, and children-related messes that were more common in the women’s rooms since women are more frequently the ones out with children in public. (Also, the only time I ever encountered poop on the floor, like someone who actually just pooped completely on the floor instead of even trying for the toilet, presumably for some psychotic reason, was in a women’s room.)

      3. Vicky Austin*

        A man or boy has to walk to the urinal, open his fly, pull it out, pee, flush, put it back in, zip up his fly, and then walk to the sink and wash his hands.

        A woman or girl has to walk to the stall, step inside, close the door, hang up her purse on the hook inside, pull her pants down or her skirt up, pull down her underpants, check the seat to make sure it’s dry, wipe it if it’s not, pull some toilet paper off the roll, place it on the seat, sit down, pee, stand up, pull some more toilet paper off the roll, wipe herself, throw the toilet paper into the toilet, flush, pull up her underpants, pull her skirt down or her pants up, take her purse off the hook, open the stall door, and then walk to the sink and wash her hands. And if she has her period, there are a few extra steps in there as well.

        1. JSPA*

          People with prostate issues or nervousness can also need to sit to pee, even if they have “outie” organs.

          If any person is carrying a purse / bag that might get in the way, they have to hang it up or put it down. No gender either requires nor prevents carrying such a bag.

          Plenty of women hover and shoot. (That’s why the seat is too often super gross.)

          1. Quill*

            Yeah, can we stop doing that, all sorts of people do not have the bendyness in the leg and waist region to copy people who do that, and then so many of them top it off by not wiping down the seat!

            1. Starbuck*

              Or at the very least, put the seat up if you’re not planning on sitting on it! I vastly prefer to encounter a toilet with the seat left up, rather than one that’s been peed all over.

        2. TechWorker*

          You know the whole ‘lining the toilet seat with paper’ thing is a) not something all women do and b) counter productive in terms of hygiene…?

      4. AnonAndFrustrated*

        35 seconds? I have a coworker who regularly spends 35 *minutes* or more each bathroom visit, several times a day. And it’s not because of a GI issue like the OP, it’s a avoid-work-wasting-time-on-my-phone issue. 35 seconds would be a welcome miracle.

      5. valentine*

        I love the solution to make a gender-neutral bathroom convenient for everyone. That doesn’t take anything from OP2
        The competition would still be a loss, if only partial, for OP2.

    5. AnotherAlison*

      One of our buildings did something similar to OP2’s building. We are a male-dominated company, and each floor of the building had 1 multi-stall restroom for men and one for women. Due to the urinals, there were fewer stalls for men, and one of the executives got mad about having to wait, so they turned one of the women’s restrooms on the lower level into a men’s room. This meant 2 men’s rooms, no ladies’ room on the floor with the large conference room/training room. Women had to go to another floor to use the restroom, which left a pretty lousy impression if we had female clients in meetings on the lower level.

      After about a year and a half, they changed it back to a ladies’ room. . .sort of. They left the urinals they had added in place and did not add back the stalls they removed. the urinals got a screen placed in front of them so no one uses them.

      OP2 – you will be fine with access to a restroom. How about you let the women have proper access without a cross building hike, too?

    6. Quinalla*

      Agreed, if they are all single occupancy restrooms, definitely ask for the petition to be changed to make them all gender neutral. We have 3 single occupancy restrooms at my office and they are just gender neutral which is so much easier as everyone has better access to restrooms.

      If they aren’t, then honestly I’m not sure I really understand the concern. In multi-occupancy restrooms, men are much more likely to get access to a stall than women. While I understand the building is male-dominated, it actually doesn’t sound like the percentage is actually that high. My work and conferences I go to are generally ~5% women, in those, yes men are actually waiting in line for the restroom longer than women, but in closer to 50/50 situation, women are ALWAYS waiting longer. In your situation with 20-25% women, if the bathrooms are “evenly” split, the waits will likely work out to be about equal. It’s honestly frustrating that codes requiring equal facilities for women and men does not give equal bathroom wait times, but it is still a heck of a lot better than what we had before which was a lot of floors/buildings/etc. with no women’s restroom or a giant men’s and one single occupancy for women.

    7. Chaordic One*

      I know this is too late for most people to see, but I have to comment on my workplace. I think it was designed by a woman who was seeking to avenge women who had to wait in line to go to the loo. Actually the building was designed with the expectation that most of the employees would be women, probably 80% women to 20% men. It turned out that the actual ratio is closer to 40% men and 60% women. As a result, while there is an even number of men’s and women’s restrooms, the men’s restrooms have only 1 single toilet and a single urinal, compared to 5, or in case 6, toilets in every women’s room. This has lead to problems for men who really have to go. They run from floor to floor or to the adjoining building.

      I’ve also heard from the men (and from the cleaning crew) that the urinals are physically located very low to the floor which has led to problems caused by men who have problems with their aim. Maybe they were positionied this way for very short men or for boys. I don’t know. Some of the men have complained that with the urinals being mounted so low to the floor, that even when they, um, hit their target that it bounces back and splashes them.

    8. Snuck*


      I’ve worked in an environment with a similar breakdown of gendered staff…. 140 person floor plate, about 5 women, four bathrooms (two each end… admittedly on a 1min walk probably between them… how big is a building to have a three minute walk between bathrooms on the same floor???!) …

      We kept one of the bathrooms to be womens only (and had a stall each) and left the other bathroom (five stalls, no urinal) for men only… There weren’t enough stalls in the men’s bathrooms (they generally, in Australia at least) have less stalls and more urinal… and this addressed it. (It is the norm in Australia also for toilet stalls to just contain a toilet, and the basins and dryers etc to be in a communal space outside the toilet stall, but within the ‘bathroom’, apparently this might not be the norm elsewhere?)

      This meant a couple of women had to walk a little further… but we took a very central bank of toilets near a lift well as the women’s… and it was ok. There was a disabled access toilet (large single room toilet space, with a shower, toilet, basin in a small bathroom space with wheelchair turning and handrails) as well that people often used to shower after exercise, or for more private toilet reasons, but no one used it as a ‘regular’ toilet … it was a tacit agreement it was reserved for unusual needs… or disabled (we had one wheelchair user).

      I am fairly sure that wherever you are there would be a raft of laws about how many toilets (metres of urinals, stalls per male and per female etc) need to be provided… If you feel your needs cannot be met by the toilet solution, propose an alternative, but if you refuse to engage you risk not being part of the solution. FWIW I have gastrointestinal problems too (coeliac, IBS) and raised this when we were negotiating which toilets the women were to have… we could have taken the men’s with only one stall and a urinal but that wasn’t sufficient if one of us was needing to go at the same time as another. Women are documented to need more toilets than men because they take longer, and cannot access a urinal as well….

  3. Massmatt*

    #3 it stinks to have an interview go badly because of technical issues but it’s really common. Video conferencing especially can be notoriously unreliable.

    Unless you provided the link yourself and we’re interviewing for a role where you would be doing tech support though I don’t see what you can be expected to do other than maybe suggest aborting the video conference altogether and switching to a phone call.

    Video interviews are great when they work but hopefully no one takes a failure out on a candidate.

    1. Lionheart*

      Except that there is a difference between blaming the candidate for technical issues, and assuming the candidate is weak as a result of technical issues.
      fwiw OP, I had the same thing happen once. Turning the video off really helped the connection in my case, but I was off my game. I kept saying “I’m sorry, did that even answer your question or did I go off on a tangent then?” I was mortified, but the interviewer just said “no problem, it’s really difficult when you can’t see the other person” and I ended up getting the offer. So, you never know…

      1. OP3*

        Thank you! Since I wrote to AAM (shortly after the interview; despairing), I heard back from them with a request to complete a written exam – so it appears I’m not completely out of the running. Your experience gives me hope!

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          FWIW I had a similar experience a few years ago… Was on a video interview with terrible connection, kept freezing, etc.. Decided just to abort and do a phone call.. I was worried but wound up getting the job.

          I think most people realize that even in 2019 these video call systems all have their issues so people are more forgiving overall

    2. Snorkmaiden*

      One other thing you could do is leave a pause after your answers. If the delay seems to be 10-15 seconds, pause for that long so they have a space to ask a new question.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      Glad to hear that the LW seems to still be in the running.

      For future and for others, if turning off video doesn’t work stop using the internet to make the call and call them on the phone. Some people still have trouble or their phone is internet based but most phones will be better than the problem the LW described. If a phone call we’re having that problem, it would be so unusual, you’d likely decide to stop trying and do it later because the phone technology is not expected to fail that badly.

    4. Person of Interest*

      I work from home so this comes up a lot. If there is an option to join a video call using a phone dial-in number instead of using the computer audio I ALWAYS do that, in case the computer connection is bad. The audio quality is usually better via phone anyway.

  4. Madame X*

    Letter number one reminds me of a comment that was left on this website a while ago. the commenter explain that she writes all of her husband’s job applications. a lot of people responded to her with the same concerns that Allison posted above. Nobody likes to write job applications but you have to do it and the more you do it the better you get at it.

    1. valentine*

      a lot of people responded to her with the same concerns that Allison posted above.
      I’ve seen the opposite and felt like the tide changed. The OP applies “or it doesn’t get done,” and there were several responses from people who do the same, though not always for the same reason.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        ‘The OP applies “or it doesn’t get done,”’

        That’s sort of the problem. And it’s not just a work problem. It’s a relationship problem about becoming your partner’s mother and doing all their adulting for them.

        1. Zip Silver*

          Not necessarily everything. My wife had hang ups on job searching when we first got out of school, and was working a retail job in the meantime (gotta pay bills). I ended up seeing her up with a job through somebody I knew in the chamber of commerce which was related to the field she wanted to be in, and things took off from there.

          Sometimes you just need a bit of a push to get out of the rut you’re stuck in, and I totally get why OP is wanting to help out, and isn’t necessarily what their entire relationship is like.

          1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            That’s the gray area of networking, though.
            There’s a line between introducing two people you know: “Hey, buddy, I have a candidate for you.” Parents, friends, fraternity/sorority, alumni all pass names around. It may be less than ideal, but it is a reality in the business world. Connecting two people you know is different than what OP is proposing.
            And: let me take over your job search for you.
            Even if you an your wife felt that she was floundering and needed a helping hand, you stayed within the lines of typical help. You introduced two people you knew to each other, you didn’t take over her job search.

        2. Madame X*

          This is what I think is the bigger issue. Although it is unethical, the odds of his future employer finding out about this misrepresentation are very low.

          It sounds like there might be a bigger underlying problem for why the husband is unable to edit (an existing resume) and write/edit a 2-3 paragraph letter. The OP is taking a huge burden of conducting 2 job searches. All the time she is spending applying to jobs for her husband is time she is not spending applying to jobs for herself. Job applications are hard enough when you are applying for one person only. She also did not mention if he has interviewed off of these applications. Is his anxiety limited to the writing portion of an application only? What if he gets anxious then as well?

          The problem seems like it might bigger than the OP realizes. The best way to support him (without risking burn out for herself) would be to help him get a handle on his anxiety (therapy perhaps if that is available to them).

      2. A*

        Agreed. I’m actually really shocked at how different the responses are on this one. Personally my viewpoint hasn’t changed – it’s disingenuous to have anyone other than the candidate write the cover letter/application.

    2. MK*

      I realize the OP isn’t asking for personal advice, but this doesn’t sound genuinely helpful to their partner either. It’s trying to deal with a symptom and hoping it will solve the underlying problem, and it usually doesn’t work that way.

      1. Red Ghost*

        On the contrary: it looks to me like OP wants to solve the underlying problem (partner is stuck in a dead-end-job he hates), wheras AAM suggests to treat the symptom (the resulting anxiety and depression).
        Maybe a compromise would be acceptable: OP makes a summary paragraph by paragraph, what the cover letter should contain and then her partner writes full sentences (maybe with OP’s help at first). That way the cover letter is still a sample of his writing, but OP can help with the fear of the empty page. And OP’s partner will hopefully gain skill and conficence in writing cover letters.
        (Also, OP’s partner should go see a therapist, if he doesn’t already.)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I tend to agree here. Speaking as that partner with life crap going on and despair about my job setting I could have used more help from my husband.
          I landed on that it was my own problem and suck it down. But it would have been wonderful to have someone bounce ideas around with me.
          I think here I would try something like, “Do you want us to work on this together for a little bit?”
          If he does not have a master resume or a collection of previous cover letters to refer back to, OP, maybe that is something that you can work together to set up. You can show how he can steal from previous materials to put something together faster/easier. He should not be re-inventing the wheel every time he fills out an application.
          The key to me, is that you do it together. He is working also. If you are sitting there by yourself writing away, that is not what I am picturing. And the second half of what I am picturing here, is at some point, he faces his giants and starts doing this on his own. And that is because you helped him break the process down into bite-size bits that he can handle.

          I do remember many times of having my stomach in knots to the point where I could not straighten up and having on-going headaches (literally) trying to pull myself through an employment application. It can get deeply personal with questions such as “Where do I fit in on this planet?” Part of what you are doing is cutting into that background noise that comes from those bigger questions. Your voice drowns out those other Negative Nancy voices. Again, I would not keep doing this for him if I did not see small changes or improvements every so often. Sometimes partners cannot help because they are too close to the person.

          I did help my husband with his resume. But I could see going into it that once he got to an interview he’d knock it out of the park. He was a super geeky guy and he wowed most employers. His problem was he did not see that about himself. He described himself as average. sigh. I hope you chuckle. I got him to put his geeky hobbies on his resume. This got him launched into his new career path. The interviewer said, “you do WHAT in your spare time??” And they talked at length about the geeky hobby. The interviewer could see my husband would adapt well to the new job. Later the employer said that people who have a personal life interest in parallel areas make the best employees.

          1. hbc*

            I think working together on it could be lovely. What the OP describes (they do it all, spouse reviews and hits submit) is completely different.

          2. starsaphire*

            I love this explanation!

            I do a lot of resume-writing and cover letter help for my friends (for free, and only for friends) and this is exactly how I do it. I make them sit across the table from me and I say, “Ok, tell me a little more about this llama-wrangling job,” and I listen to them tell me a couple of wild stories, and ask a few questions, and then write down, “Reduced coyote-related shrinkage by 5% using innovative fencing techniques,” and read it back to them. They inevitably say, “Yes, that’s right, I just never thought about it that way!”

            I’m not writing the resume, I’m distilling it from what they’re saying. And with cover letters, I’ll help them come up with an outline if they don’t already have a draft, but I make them write the thing. I confess that I do check them over for punctuation and spelling, though.

            It’s kind of like the thing with Harry and Ron and the luck potion, to be honest. They walk away thinking I wrote their resumes. I walk away having enjoyed a free cup of coffee and a pleasant hour swapping stories with a friend, knowing they wrote their new resume and I just typed it out. :)

          3. Clisby*

            I agree with all of this. It’s similar to what I’m doing with my son now that he’s having to focus on college application essays. There’s no way I’m writing essays for him, and I’ve even advised him he should have teachers/guidance counselors review them rather than ask me. However, I’m perfectly happy to brainstorm with him. He sounds similar to your husband – he’s not depressed, or anything, but he’s 17 and doesn’t really think there’s much interesting about himself. Whereas I, who have known him all his life, can think of a number of interesting things (at least, interesting to me, because they all represent times when I was sort of surprised at the direction his life/interests were taking.)

          4. LW1*

            Thank you for your response! He definitely would knock the interview out of the park. He’s really very charming and personable, it’s just that fear of rejection that is getting in the way of him being able to force himself to put that much effort into the application. I think what you said about those personal, existential “where do I even fit on this planet” questions are what makes the cover letter writing so difficult for him. After basically being told nearly a hundred times over the past year that he wasn’t good enough for the job that he’d applied to, he probably just feels like he doesn’t belong in ANY job

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I think if you steer him toward talking about things of substance as opposed to overarching characteristics, this will resonate with him. I know I have trouble going from the particular to the general, I think a lot of people do.

              So in my husband’s example, he did model trains as one of his hobbies. Well, in the process of describing the layout and the different type of things he wired into the layout he told the boss a lot about how he thinks and what kinds of problems he can work through. He had signals, and rail switchers and he had train cars that dumped stuff out at pre-determined places. And he talked about how he did the wiring for all this stuff.
              The hiring manager knew enough about what my husband was saying that the HM could see hubby would be able to do this job. The boss took the particulars and saw how they fit into the general abilities necessary for the job.
              Before this job my husband was on a huge bummer. He had quit a professional arena vowing never to go back again. He took a crappy job and had that for years. Then he decided, okay enough of that crappy job, get serious. But how. My thought here is sometimes we just have to help the spouse/partner. But I am a big fan of working together as opposed to doing it for them. I did it for my guy because he was making this big jump for the both of us.

              I am so pleased to see you are a big fan of his abilities. This is such an asset for him and for you. It means you can tell him things with sincerity. That is huge. That can carry you though a lot.

              Once my husband got that first job we never went back to such a dire situation. The second job was just offered out of the blue, he never put in an application. When he decided to leave that second job he had two offers on four applications. And one of those offers became his third job in the arena. All total it was three jobs over the period of almost 30 years.
              Sometimes people just need help getting over a hurdle. Once over it, they never need that level of help again.

        2. MK*

          My thinking was that, even if the OP’s cover letter and application gets her partner an interview, if they are really so depressed they cannot even apply, they are unlikely to get an offer.

          1. Eukomos*

            Just because he has crippling levels of anxiety about submitting applications doesn’t mean he’ll have the same reaction to an interview, they’re different situations. Maybe he’ll feel more hopeful once he gets an interview and be very charming. I know someone who’s got the opposite problem, she’s a good writer and has no problem applying, but when she gets to the interview she struggles because she gets anxious in social situations. Mental health isn’t a clear cut functional/non-functional binary.

        3. JSPA*

          We forget how many jobs used to physically wear people out, and that some still do; this level of inability could be, but it needn’t be classic depression in need of unpacking.

          If the job is so physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting (e.g. meatpacking plant) that the job is clearly the only (or, the main) problem;

          If the application is not a job where writing style is a gigantic part of the job, or if spouse has already proven their excellent writing and time-management skills when not exhausted from slinging sides of dead cows around;

          I’d ask spouse to verbalize what sorts of background they want in the cover letter, and look over my shoulder as I type it in. Then cede the keyboard to them, to edit, while I hover. I’d also write it in their style, not mine. (Bonus: seeing someone else write in “your” style is strong motivation to edit, as it’ll feel like a bit of a caricature when it comes from outside.)

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            This is true, there have been several recent exposes of what it’s like to work in an Amazon warehouse (the LW says warehouse job) and that you are effectively treated like a robot the whole time you’re there, not even time to run to the restroom because it ruins your metrics.

            And educated white collar workers aren’t exempt from this sort of punishing work environment: Facebook content moderators and Apple “black site” contract employees work under the same conditions, though most of them have college degrees and some of them are software engineers.

          2. LW1*

            Thank you for focusing on the job! In the relative hiddeness of the comments section, I feel comfortable saying that we works for a major shipping company and spends most of his days in a sweltering warehouse moving very large packages. This is not an entry level office job that makes him miserable. It is a job in which physical labor until you’re exhausted IS the job and the leadership is ineffective, to put it kindly. Unfortunately, it was the highest paying job we could find as quickly as we needed it. While he does have some feelings and behaviors that I feel warrant counseling, I don’t think the problem is as clinical as it is just trying to escape poverty.

            I had hoped to find a job that would allow him to quit and focus more of his energy on applications, but while it might sustain us for a couple months it wouldn’t leave us much room for emergencies or unfortunate events. We’ve already lived that way for too long.

            1. A*

              Could you work together on the cover letters verbally? I’m just thinking that might be more realistic if he’s physically exhausted by his job. Maybe talk through some of the content in the form of a conversation – so writing it up is really just formalizing/summarizing what was discussed?

              1. JSPA*

                exactly this. It’s transcribing and adding punctuation and maybe tossing similar phrasing or synonyms back-and-forth (“pick another adjective, you’ve already used ‘proactive'”). Read it back to him. Repeat until he says it’s good enough, and you don’t think it’s terrible (or vice versa).

        4. Ms. Ann Thropy*

          Perhaps the depression and anxiety ARE the underlying problem, and the dead-end job is the symptom (albeit one that is adding to the depression and anxiety). Alison is right to tell OP to focus on her own job hunt, which is daunting enough. She needs to put her own oxygen mask on before helping him with his.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I think the LW sees the joblessness as a substantial cause of the underlying problem, though. So if I can just help him get a job then he won’t be as depressed any more and he’ll be in a position to do his best work again.

        1. LGC*

          Which makes sense! But it might be at the point where it isn’t that the partner is depressed because he doesn’t have a job in his desired career – it’s that he’s depressed AND he doesn’t have a job in his desired career. So the depression might be its own problem.

          (And yes, there’s the strong possibility that LW1’s partner is a lazy jerk who just expects LW1 to do everything for him like they’re his parent. But I’m assuming that’s not the case. Also, I’m not a doctor so I can’t say for sure whether the partner is depressed – I’m being a bit lazy by using that word, but it could be something to look into. I think that’s all of the disclaimers I need to put in.)

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Good disclaimers ;)

            LW is acting based on her perceptions – as we all do – and the whole point of writing in to AAM is for perspective. I hope Alison’s advice and everyone else’s collected thoughts have been useful for her.

          2. Washi*

            Yeah, I’ve seen it happen where the person gets a great new job and everything is fine again. I’ve also seen a lot of magical thinking where if they can just get a new job, everything will be fine, except no job is ever right and they’re just as unhappy in each new position as they were before.

            We can’t really judge from the letter, but the kind of apathy the OP is describing certainly makes me wonder if the spouse being stuck in a boring job is really the only issue at play here.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I remember my uncle saying partnerships are not 50-50. Each partner puts in 50% and together they have 100% is NOT how it works.
              He said it’s actually that new math, where each partner puts in 100% to get to 100% as a couple. So 100% plus 100% from each partner actually equals 100% as a couple.

              To this I add, it is wise to know when to step back. It’s always good to keep an eye peeled for indicators that we are not actually helping. My husband had a few speeding tickets. I went to court with him to be supportive. After a few more speeding tickets, I realized he needed to go on his own and handle it. It was when I stopped helping that the speeding tickets stopped happening.
              He liked the job BECAUSE of the all the driving, he drove between 500-700 miles a week. I figured he needed to get a grip on the speeding ticket problem on his own.

            2. LGC*

              True! My best friend had a period of a few years where he was bouncing between dead end jobs (including a stint where I got promoted to be one of his supervisors – this worked out as well as you’d expect!), and he angsted CONSTANTLY about his job and how things would get better if he just got a new job.

              It did not.

              Eventually he grew up, got engaged (and married!), and – yeah – got a decent job. In fact, he’s making more money than I do. And he mostly got happier. Although he still has his moments of existential career despair and that he feels like he needs to leave his job. And it’s like…my dude, you’ll find a way to hate your new job in a week because no job is perfect.

              I do think that sometimes your job can be so terrible that it causes unhappiness/depression in your life generally. But I also think that this is actually kind of uncommon, even after the numerous horror stories in the comments about how their toxic old job caused physical illness due to stress. (Like, I don’t doubt those stories, but I don’t think they’re as common in general.)

          3. LW1*

            He definitely isn’t lazy and doesn’t want me to do these things for him. What’s happening now is more the result of having written so many cover letters that came to nothing that the act of cover letter writing is attached to feelings of failure. At this point, I wouldn’t even say we’re aiming as high as a desired career.
            One that pays enough to fill the tank and buy groceries without feeling pins and needles and has benefits would be just fine.

            1. A*

              When I was suffering from ‘cover letter fatigue’ during 9 months of me scattering my resume to the wind – I ended up saving one cover letter from each job type/industry I was applying for and using it as a template moving forward. Did it minimize the customization of each? A little. But it allowed me to keep moving forward and in an ethical manner (I had considered having a friend write them for me!).

              Applying for another mid-level position at a CPG company? I’d pull up the corresponding template/previous example I had, and customize the first & last paragraphs to speak to that specific opportunity – everything else was recycled.

        2. Quill*

          On the one hand, I sympathize, because my depression kicks up every time I get laid off, and it may be a situation where the fastest way to access actual medical care is to get a job…

          On the other hand, gotta start doing what you can now, or the depression won’t get any better when you are employed.

          1. RedLineInTheSand*

            He is currently working at a factory job, and LW says that a year of applying and getting rejected has taken a toll on him. So, it seems that his depression is not because he is without work but because he doesn’t like his work and is having trouble finding another job.

            1. Quill*

              That’s worse, in a way, because awful job eats your spoons and job searching is capricious at best.

    3. Chaordic One*

      I’m aware of a few instances where this seemed to work out O.K., where the letter writer knew the person they were writing for well enough that they did a reasonable written impersonation of the applicant and were able to get an interview and a foot in the door. But still, it isn’t honest and Alison is right to call out the letter writer and point out that there are a lot of potential problems with doing so.

  5. Sue Wilson*

    OP2: I totally understand wanting to make sure changing the bathrooms doesn’t limit your ability to handle your health issues. But this is a “got mine” impulse you have here. Unfortunately for some women, even without GI issues, going to the bathroom can be imperative, just because of biology. I think Alison’s idea of a gender-neutral bathroom is a good one (for many reasons…although i hope there are comparable levels of cleanliness between each bathroom and the men’s bathroom at the other end should be changed to gender neutral too), but the best way to express your concern is too express it as generously as possible, i.e. look for solutions that will help all GI-affected people, no matter their gender.

    1. Anax*

      Useful not just for the obvious reasons, as well –

      This is a bit gross, but… god, I’ve had a few unexpected “red tides”, and a brisk parade through the cubicles is NOT what I would want at those moments!

      I’ve also had several workplaces where the bathroom is the only place to find paper towels or cleaning supplies, and if I knock a full can of soda onto my desk (AGAIN), this would be an extra six minutes of green sugar-water soaking into my keyboard and papers.

      The bathroom may also be the only place to wash hands and check for asparagus between your teeth – and doors or extended walks are no fun with sticky donut-fingers, hoping no one notices the sugar on your chin.

      And honestly… a three-minute walk is actually a big hurdle to me right now. I’m dealing with recurrent tendonitis in my hip, and a few dozen extra feet are the difference between being able to walk when I get home, or being stuck in a wheelchair or with a cane. It’s an invisible disability for the most part, but it’s pretty painful and requires rest to heal, like carpal tunnel does.

      Having a nearby bathroom is pretty important for LOTS of reasons, and I would guess that at least a few women in OP2’s workplace are dealing with some of these issues.

      1. valentine*

        check for asparagus between your teeth – and doors or extended walks are no fun with sticky donut-fingers, hoping no one notices the sugar on your chin.
        Can you keep a mirror and wipes at your desk?

        1. Xandria*

          This is just one of many things though, and it’s also creating a divide between genders. Expecting women to keep wipes and mirrors at their desks, but not men? Particularly when woman are already frequently viewed in the work place as vain and self indulgent.

          Its not like the petition is getting rid of the mens room. Its literally not going to make anything worse for the men, and the women’s lives will be easier.

          Any enby people working at your office are sol, but you know, thats true most places.

          1. valentine*

            It’s a quick solution versus any length of a walk, especially when it pains Anax, as it would me, not a suggestion in lieu of giving the women another bathroom. The bathroom needn’t be “the only place” to check or freshen up.

          2. Myrin*

            Expecting women to keep wipes and mirrors at their desks, but not men?
            I might be misreading you but just because valentine replied to a female commenter doesn’t mean she wouldn’t give the same suggestion to a male one, especially if said man had medical issues making a trip to the bathroom uncomfortable and he remarked that he has no place to go but the bathroom when he wants to quickly check himself in a mirror.

            (Or did you mean “in the OP’s particular workplace”? In that case, yeah, that’s totally true. But I still think valentine was adressing Anax’s situation in particular, not the OP’s.)

            1. Yorick*

              We’re talking about the OP’s situation. Anax is explaining why OP’s situation might be worse for his female coworkers than he imagines.

              1. Anax*

                Yup, that’s accurate. Thanks!

                And I’m a guy, actually! (And trans, hence the red tide still being relevant.)

            1. CMart*

              They are not, but the men currently don’t have to walk across the building to make sure they haven’t powdered their shirts with their morning treat.

              Everyone can keep wipes/mirrors etc… at their desks, but really only the people far away from a restroom would do so. In the LW’s situation, that’s the women.

            2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              There’s also a general societal expectation for women to look more “put together” than men. I mean, ideally no one should have food in their teeth, donut powder in their beard, or soup on their shirt in the office (and should engage in some grooming to take care of that stuff when it inevitably happens anyway), but it’s one of those things that women are often judged more harshly for. (I am firmly on Team Screw That, but I decided to hold myself to male rather than female grooming standards back in middle school so I know I’m an outlier on this.)

          3. JSPA*

            There’s nothing gendered about donut sugar, or mirrors. Some people seem to be conflating “the gender they are, while having experiences” with “gendered experiences.”

            And then conflating those with “any person with menstrual cycles may have a sudden, pressing need for a restroom.” Which is generally (but these days, not always!) gendered along the lines of one’s recognized gender.

            I almost never wear skirts, but I do have wrap skirts, for precisely this reason. Wrap skirt + wipes or tissue or a hankie + no-applicator tampon = it is possible to jam one in, without exposing anything, almost anywhere, when the flow hits, and you’re desperate. (Apparently many army women are big fans of OB for the same reasons.)

            1. Liz T*

              Having used both, I’m curious–why are OB better for this situation? Because there’s less waste?

              (I started using OB just because they last longer in my purse–standard tampons usually had their wrappers torn to shreds by the time I got to them!)

              1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

                they are also significantly smaller to carry, in addition to less waste since they don’t come with an applicator.

            2. Lehigh*

              Are you really suggesting that women should put in tampons at their desks so that the men can have an extra restroom?

              1. valentine*

                I thought JSPA was merely jamming the wipes/tissue/tampons in a fold in the skirt for travel to the restroom, but I see I am alone and wrong.

            3. Anax*

              Yep, just describing possible relatable experiences which might resonate with OP2.

              Not always, these days! I’m a guy.

              Honestly, that walk-of-shame to the bathroom when you MIGHT have visible bloodstains on your pants, hoping not to get stopped for “a quick question” as you do a waddle/power-walk combo move… augh, that’s the WORST for me!

            4. EventPlannerGal*

              I’m sorry, I feel like I must be misunderstanding what you’re saying here. Female employees should wear wrap skirts to insert tampons at their desks or in a stationery cupboard or something?

          4. Anax*

            Honestly, it’s a pain in the neck for trans guys too, so I feel that. I REALLY miss the little in-stall trash cans, and the many toilet cubicles (as opposed to urinals, which I can’t use). Gender-neutral bathrooms with equal amenities would be so nice.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Happily this commenter is not someone with a 3minute walk to the toilet…just speaking generally.

          1. PB*

            Right. Anax was giving examples of reasons one might need to make a quick, unexpected trip to the restroom, not looking for suggestions on her own donut fingers.

      2. T3k*

        The red tide sucks so much. I usually don’t need to go to the bathroom much, but during that time I feel like I have to go every hour if not more. I can’t imagine how work would get done if I had to spend 6 mins. to go back and forth each time (and pray it doesn’t catch you by surprise one month and you can make it to the bathroom before it hits).

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, I 100% do not know how I’d manage the red tide without birth control and the associated lack of guessing when it’s about to reach high tide.

          1. Anax*

            Same. I have PCOS, so it’s COMPLETELY random without meds – anywhere between three weeks and five months apart. With BC, it’s still pretty random – it might not come, it might be very light, it might last for weeks – but at least it’s predictable. Such a bother.

            1. Quill*

              Went a year without and an entire month with it continuing, nonstop, before I was on BC. Also had a cyst that sent me to the emergency room thinking my appendix was rupturing, never going off BC again. :)

      3. Magenta*

        Would you really feel comfortable dealing with unexpected period moments in an mixed sex/gender neutral loo though? It is embarrassing enough knowing that other women could walk in on me washing blood of my hands/clothes at the sink, I would be mortified if a man did.

        1. Yorick*

          I’d rather do it in a mixed sex bathroom than not be able to make it to the women’s bathroom down the hall

          1. blackcat*

            I’d really prefer many single user restrooms, including a sink. When I have to deal with my menstrual cup, my hands can get super bloody. I can wipe them on toilet paper, of course, but it’s FAR easier to reach over to a nearby sink, rinse my hands, pull my pants, then do a proper wash and be on my way. That’s what I do at home.

            1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              I also, as a fellow cup user, strongly prefer private sink access for this reason, and will scout out single-user restrooms at places like conventions for this purpose even if it means walking further. (Some multi-user restrooms also have a stall with a sink in it at the very far end. I’ve seen that twice now, in my grad school’s library and in a hotel, and it’s also a great option for cup-changing reasons so I check the multi-user restrooms too.)

          2. JSPA*

            Yep. Having had to do it in the car, while stuck in stop and go traffic, with a towel or jacket over my lap, I’d be fine with a unisex bathroom.

            The gender or equipment of the person pooping in the next stall is really not part of my awareness, when I’m trying to unwrap and not drop (and maybe hold my breath) just as them possibly fiddling with a tampon or pad is not even conceivably on my radar if my bowels are acting up, and I’m the one making the GI stinks and sounds.

        2. ACDC*

          I’ve only heard of gender neutral bathrooms in the context of a single toilet bathroom. I can’t imagine have a multi-stall bathroom being gender neutral. The former is really common, while the latter would be weird for me. I don’t think that is what anyone is envisioning when they say to convert the bathroom into a gender neutral space.

          1. Yorick*

            I’ve seen one multi-stall gender neutral bathroom. It’s no big deal, but I am always a little surprised when I see a man in there, just because it’s unusual.

          2. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I have used multi-user gender neutral bathrooms before. They were all stalls. The only thing that was really shared were the sinks to wash your hands. I think it worked out well no real logistical issues.

            I have even been to events where due to long lines at the women’s bathroom, women end up using the men’s bathroom, the men continue to use the urinals and women use the stalls. Again there were no really issues. Everyone did their business, washed their hands and went on their merry way.

            1. Mr. Shark*

              I’ve been to events like that too. And for some reason, it’s okay. But in an office or other location in which you know people, it’s often awkward enough to walk out of a stall after a normal but noisy/smelly visit and see someone of the same sex, but it would be more awkward if it was someone of the opposite sex.

              I know it shouldn’t be because we all have to go, but that’s the way it is.

          3. Bee*

            We have multi – stall, gender-neutral bathrooms at my job. ( one bathroom with 3 stalls and 3 urinals and another bathroom with 2 stalls only).

            Generally, since the bathrooms were converted from gendered bathrooms, the men still use the old mens room since it has urinals and the women mostly use the former women’s. I don’t mind seeing men in the stalls only bathroom with me (a cis woman) but I have to admit I feel a bit uneasy using the restroom with men at the urinals. I think its just that I wasn’t raised to use bathrooms that had urinals so I’m not used to seeing people use them. In time I think the weirdness will wear off tho tbh.

            My only recommendation to OP2’s company would be consider removing the urinals from the former mens room if going gender neutral, I think those pieces fo equipment make women feel like they are in the wrong bathroom even if they are fully allowed to be there.

            1. Mr. Shark*

              If you’re going to keep the urinals, they should be in a stall as well, so there’s complete privacy. I don’t see how people (either sex) would be okay with urinals out in the open in an office setting.

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                Yes I am against urinals out in the open in the middle of the office.

                But if the urinals are in a bathroom I have no problem with them not being in a stall. Putting urinals in a stall eliminates the space advantage/benefits of urinals. I am a fan of dividers in between urinals, but if everything else if full and there is an open urinal next to someone I will go ahead and use it divider or no divider.

                1. Mr. Shark*

                  haha, of course not in the open office. I mean, open in the bathroom. I guess I disagree with not having dividers. Yes, of course, if there are no dividers, you deal with it, and most people aren’t interested in looking at anything but the wall right in front of them.

                  But a mixed-gender without some sort of separation seems odd to me, much too much open air between using the urinal and women walking into the bathroom.

                  At one location I’ve been at, they have had the same “walls” that they use for stalls extend out to the same location at the stall walls for the urinals. So even though they are technically open to the main bathroom, they offer a lot more privacy. That would be better than nothing.

            2. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I understand your point about the urinals. But unless another stall can be added to replace the urinals its seems, silly to remove the urinals and in turn remove a facility that makes them efficient. By removing urinals it would push men to compete with women for the use of stalls, and increased wait times for everyone.

        3. Anax*

          Uh… Yes. I’m a trans dude, so that is in fact my life. It is indeed awkward, but thankfully, everyone is trying to ignore everyone else in the bathroom, so it’s never been a problem.

        4. Dasein9*

          Trans guy who only recently got rid of that problem here.


          Won’t even register most of the time. Nobody wants to know what you’re washing off your hands.

          1. neeko*

            Seriously! No one is paying attention to what you are doing in the bathroom. They are just trying to use the bathroom themselves.

      4. SigneL*

        Oh, I feel your pain. I have terrible tendinitis and am unable to take any of the meds available. Rest and ice are the only things that help me (and, you know, I have to walk to get to the ice). No help here at all, just sympathy.

        1. Anax*

          Sympathy back at you; it’s really frustrating to be mobility-impaired, and to never know whether your body is going to cooperate that day.

          PT thinks I damaged my hip socket in a bad fall when I was a tween, so my bad hip flares up every so often – but this is a particularly unpleasant and long-lasting flare. Wheelchair means I’m not stuck at home all the time, though, which is awesome!

      5. cncx*

        yeah i had knee surgery and the roughly 300 steps to the bathroom and photocopier in my new office made me work in the old office for a few weeks on purpose- it was really, really difficult and painful for me to hike to the bathroom or make copies when in my old office the bathroom and the copier were across the hall.

        also in my new office there are 4 womens’ stalls for around 80 people and even if it meets code in this country, the bathrooms are usually full and i have to wait in line at least once a day or go to another floor. so i understand OP but like, this is a problem for everyone.

    2. Lynca*

      A mandatory 3 minute hike to the bathroom daily would definitely be a burden regardless of health issues. It’s even more of one with them. I’m surprised there are not pitchforks. I think you’re right that the OP needs to be sympathetic and not see this as taking something away from him. It’s making the situation more equitable.

      That is really what strikes me. I’ve never been in a building that still has a 3:1 ratio of bathrooms skewed to one gender. That is just a huge imbalance and outside what people would consider normal in a workplace.

      1. doreen*

        It’s not so strange when the people working on that floor are skewed the same way – 60 women with about 15 women means about 45 men. Just about 3 to 1.

        1. Joielle*

          What’s strange is assuming that because that gender imbalance exists now, it will always exist. It’s a small thing, in the scheme of things, but the 3:1 bathroom ratio is just another signal that it’s a male-dominated industry that caters to men, which is an antiquated notion. Why not change it instead of perpetuating it?

          1. Lynca*

            It also perpetuates that the skew is “normal and functional” in the workplace when it’s clearly not. You don’t just petition for another bathroom because you’re bored. The female workers obviously have a need that’s not being addressed.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            Downthread there’s an example of an office that’s 80% women and 50% women’s restrooms. Yet people aren’t happy with that noble framing of some future goal as laid out in restrooms people need right this minute.

            I really don’t see the problem with the restroom balance in a space reflecting the current use of that space–downthread there’s an example of a large public restroom with two entrances that moves the interior barrier back and forth depending on the expected makeup of the group using the facility. With the caveat that distance also matters, so if it’s not gender neutral single stalls, then it’s one M, one W in each section of the building. (NB I’m writing in the US, where the public stalls with huge gaps all around the door are a thing.)

            1. blackcat*

              But then there’s also the thing of having visitors/candidates etc come into that space. Having gone to an interview where I had to walk past three mens rooms in order to get to a womens room…it was a very minor thing, but something that clearly communicated to me that this was not going to be a welcoming space for me.

            2. JSPA*

              The ratio to get equal numbers of men and women in and out of the restroom in equal time (i.e. to standardize wait times) has been worked out for music and sports venues; it’s somewhat culture dependent, but it can be defined, and it’s not mysterious. Google “potty parity.”

        2. doreen*

          I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be changed – just that it’s not so strange. I once worked somewhere with two single stall toilets, and the law at that time required them to be designated as “male” or “female” (no idea why). So 15 women were supposed to share one stall, while the only man had one to himself . But it was 50-50, so I guess that was supposed to be OK ( We just ignored the signs, but that wouldn’t have worked if it had been two restrooms with two stalls each)

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        He also needs to think of the social implications. If he doesn’t sign the petition and the women he works with know about it, I wouldn’t be surprised if they held it against him. There was a woman I used to work with who refused to sign off on getting direct deposit (the owner would only do it if we all agreed) and we were all pretty annoyed with her. Every two weeks when I would have to run to the bank I had a *dammit Deloris* moment. Image working with eight women who think *dammit OP* every time they have to hike across the building to the bathroom.

        1. Willis*

          The letter didn’t even read to me like they were asking him to sign the petition, but that the boss was asking the other tenant companies to go in on the request with him. It sounded like the OP was considering proactively lobbying against the bathroom change with his boss, which is even worse than just declining to sign the petition!

          1. Antilles*

            It’s much more out of line. It’s not your place to object to your boss sending the petition around to other companies. The other companies may say yes or no*, but it’s not your right to tell the boss not to send it.
            *Don’t rule this out – if OP is right that the other companies are exclusively/only male, it’s entirely possible that the other companies shrug it off as “meh, not my problem” or “wait, that would require bathroom renovations that we’d all have to pay for, I’m not signing this”

        2. Gloucesterina*

          The fact that they are in a workplace where organizing a petition is broadly understood as the best pathway to get reasonable workplace needs met may also be a signal of larger social/structural problems in the organization.

          1. Gloucesterina*

            Oops, sorry I missed that the tenant companies are organizing a petition – so no one organization is involved.

            1. blackcat*

              Eh, it could be that there’s an issue of structural problems *with the building management.* If the tenant companies are trying to fix it, that’s a good sign for their culture… but they also rented space without thinking of the bathroom issue.

      3. blackcat*

        I’m a woman in academia in a male dominated field. I interviewed at a place where the only women’s room was about a 5 minute walk from where most of the faculty were. I had to walk by THREE mens rooms to get here.
        Before bailing on academia, my husband was in a department with the same issue. HR declared one of the men’s rooms to be womens. They changed the sign. The next day, the sign was ripped out of the door, with a paper “mens” in its place. They replaced the sign. Same thing happened.
        Eventually, everyone trying to get the change gave up. And the vandal when unidentified and unpunished.
        People are really possessive of their toilets. This entire thing does not at all surprise me.

    3. kittymommy*

      Seriously. I am female and I too have GI issues, some which necessitate me needing to get to a bathroom immediately. The LW should remember that just like he has preferred to keep his health issues privet , and thus no one is aware of his need, there are likely women who might have the same need and desire that he is unaware of.

  6. Not A Manager*

    I sort of disagree with Alison about LW#1. It sounds to me like her husband is depressed and Just Can’t with all the applications. If she has the available energy to help him out, then I think it’s fine for her to do that. She can certainly do all the “administrative” parts of the applications. She could ask him to dictate wherever the applications need for thoughtful responses. And in terms of the cover letter, yes he should write it, but she can act as a writing tutor (really more of a babysitter, probably), and help walk him through the language.

    I feel like in some cases you just have to triage. He needs a new job, and he needs a job in his own industry. Once he gets to the interview stage, the ball’s going to be in his court. If he needs some assist in getting to that stage, and if she can give him that assist without harming herself, I think she should.

    1. Tinuviel*

      In my opinion, this is one of those times where OP needs to be a wife/partner, not a secretary.

      It sounds like as you said, her partner just Can’t with this applications. But writing a cover letter is not “administrative work.” That’s content. That’s work-work. That’s like mom doing kid’s science project and kid getting a prize.

      I think OP needs to take a look at this whole situation, and instead of seeing, “Partner and I need jobs and he is struggling more with applying than I am, so I will help him apply to jobs”… go with, “so I will help him as only a life partner can.” Maybe she can pick up some of his chores so he feels less overwhelmed. Maybe she can help him bounce off ideas, help him talk out his points and then he can write them down. Maybe she can offer emotional support and commiseration and have a hot bath and good meal and favorite slippers ready as a reward for when he is done. Maybe she can talk with him about possibilities like quitting and taking some time off to recover, or seeing a counselor, or doing a career change.

      I think any of those would be more valuable to him, and more ethical of her, than doing it for him. And I say this as someone who applied to jobs with depression, whose partner struggles with administrative paperwork. The dude has a MA in English, he has the skills to write his own cover letter. The issue is his own mental blocks, and OP is in a better place to help with those.

      1. valentine*

        In addition to the employer not seeing the husband’s writing skills, my concern would be the husband won’t interview well because he didn’t do the foundational work and getting an interview isn’t going to dissolve his block.

        1. MsM*

          Yep, there’s only so much she can do to prep him for the interview if deep down he feels like he can’t do this.

        2. Mike C.*

          Yeah, it’s really important to think about the employers out there who might be misled in a cover letter that contains no other falsehoods and comprises an otherwise small part of the hiring process.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            What kind of stance is that? Misrepresenting something as your work that isn’t actually your work is wrong. Same as lying on your resume or having your spouse write a work report for you.

            1. Mike C.*

              And yet it’s perfectly fine to use resume and cover letter writing services? Come on now. It’s only unethical if you cannot perform the job or prevent otherwise more qualified candidates from being considered.

              1. Colette*

                Isn’t the point of having someone else write your cover letters to prevent more qualified candidates (i.e. those who write their own letter) from being considered?

                A lot of jobs require writing – it’s not just jobs with “writer” in the title. If you apply with a beautifully-written letter but can’t construct a sentence on the job, you’re not going to do well.

                If he can’t write a cover letter, he can just … apply without one.

              2. AMT*

                In a lot of cases, though, employers treat cover letters as a de facto writing sample. I agree that it’s *slightly* more of a gray area than plagiarizing a writing sample, but it’s also a good way to misrepresent your abilities and subsequently not be able to perform when the job calls for clear writing. Who wants that?

      2. Zillah*

        I also grapple with depression, and I do want to offer the counterpoint that for me, at least, the core issue is the task that’s making me feel anxious. Taking other tasks that aren’t as difficult for me off my lap doesn’t necessarily help me deal with the anxiety-provoking task any better, and it can even make things harder by depriving me of things that reinforce my ability to do something.

        Which isn’t to say that the OP should write their partner’s cover letters or that the best answer in this kind of situation more broadly is usually just “do it for them” – I’m just saying that taking other things off a person’s plate isn’t always productive.

        1. Tinuviel*

          Sure, that’s why it wasn’t my only suggestion. Someone who was your life partner would hopefully know that about you, and could help you in ways that would make you feel better.

          But there are some things that you can’t do for someone even if they’re struggling with it, like go to the doctor for someone, or take an exam for someone. Writing cover letters for someone falls in this category IMO. But as their partner, there have to be other ways for OP to help.

    2. That's a No from Me*

      I agree with you. He might be able to dictate the cover letter too with her support. I would absolutely help my spouse in that way if he were suffering depression.

      1. valentine*

        Especially given OP1’s own job search, and most especially if they’re competing for jobs, it might be best for hubs to enlist the help of a third party.

      2. Senor Montoya*

        It’s also ok for her to read drafts of his letter and make suggestions, as long as having to come up with a draft and/or show it to her doesn’t make her partner feel worse.

        My husband reads and makes suggestions on all of my cover letters and other job search/award materials, and I do the same for his. Sometimes we talk over ideas and structuring for these before we write them. But we do write our own drafts.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Being supportive doesn’t mean doing the work for him. It sounds like there’s a larger issue at hand. Yes job searching and the constant rejection can take it’s toll, but it sounds like it’s taking a bigger toll than what’s considered “normal” for OP’s partner. Once he gets a job is she going to go with him and help him get through his day? Assuming your answer would be no, then this is no different.

          1. Alton*

            Sure, but a bad job can definitely trigger depression or be a major factor in some people, and that may or may not mean that the OP’s husband will continue to struggle if the bad job is taken out of the picture. I do think it’s important to keep in mind that lifestyle changes aren’t always a cure–getting a good job was actually what finally spurred me to get help, because my mental health was still suffering even though my life was supposedly coming together. But I’ve also been in positions where getting out of a toxic work situation made a huge difference for me.

            It might not even be possible for the OP’s husband to know how much of the problem is connected to the job and job hunting process until he removes those factors.

            1. Colette*

              Sure, the depression could be directly related to the job – but maybe it’s not. We don’t know and, as you point out, he might not either.

              But he needs to own that, and take action to get out. The OP can support him in doing that (e.g. proof-read cover letters, introduce him to people who are hiring, figure out a way that he can take a few days off to job hunt, help him locate job-hunting support groups or resources, point out job fairs). But she can’t do it for him.

              One of the hardest things to do when you’re competent in an area is to stand back and let someone else do it – but that’s really important. It won’t be done the way she would do it, but … that’s OK. He is an adult and is capable of handling a job hunt. (And if he’s not, no amount of cover-letter writing will help him.)

        1. Witchy Human*

          And even if it’s not the larger issue, it’s the issue that can be definitely fixed.

          1. biobotb*

            How, unless he’s willing to quit without another j0b lined up? If he were willing to do that, why hasn’t he done it? It seems to me that the tangible steps he can take right now are to see if he can address his depression and mental blocks to the point that he can actually apply to jobs. This doesn’t necessarily mean his depression is “fixed” but that he’s just capable of dealing with his stressors to the point that he has a fighting chance of making a job change.

        2. biobotb*

          But they can’t do anything about that, unless he’s willing to quit without another job lined up. And it sounds like they don’t consider that to be an option right now. But they can take steps to address mental blocks that are preventing him from writing cover letters and applying to jobs.

    4. It's mce*

      I think she can to a point. Maybe he can work a rough draft and she can review or edit it or make suggestions. I think also for him to do some writing will also fair in the interview. If the interviewer asks him something from a resume or cover letter, and he can’t answer/respond to it, that’s a red flag.

      1. Witchy Human*

        Or he can write the basic template and LW can be the one to tailor it to each job–which is sometimes just filling in the name of the job, mentioning [x], [x] and [x] specific skills, and maybe a few other details.

        I feel for this guy, and I think there’s a fair amount of gray area here.

        1. biobotb*

          Then she’d still be doing the work for him. And probably understanding the job needs/qualifications way better than the person ostensibly trying to get the job, if she’s doing the work to understand how the letter needs to be tailored.

  7. RG*

    You know, I’ve considered asking about bathrooms at interviews, lol. One job had a similar setup to the one in #2, with three men’s bathrooms to one women’s. That meant that when cleaning staff cleaned the bathroom at around 3, I had to go to a different floor! And of course my co-workers couldn’t understand why that would be annoying.

    1. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I wish it was more common to get a full tour when interviewing. There are so many little things that seems shallow to ask about but can really impact your quality of life. Like open concept office spaces. I always want to know if I will be out in the open, but I feel so awkward asking about it. Bathrooms are even harder.

      1. Jamie*

        Me too. I also think it would be nice for places to show you where your desk will be, when it’s known. Work environment is really important for a lot of people.

    2. Spartan*

      I have been there done that but the genders were reversed. 500 people, roughly 400 women 100 men on 4 floors. There were 4 sets of bathrooms but the women’s had 4-5 stalls each and 2 sinks. The men’s had 1 stall and 1 urinal and 1 sink. If a meeting took a break on a floor sometimes you had to run up or down the stairs to get to the bathroom so you could get back in time. And if it was after lunch the wait could be ridiculous. Add to that the cleaning crew cleaning during the work day taking 1 bathroom out of rotation for what felt like forever. I will say that I got some great stairs workouts to find the open bathroom.

    3. Fikly*

      I have actually done this with kitchens, because I have Celiac and have to bring my own food, and need to, at minimum, have a way to keep it cold.

    4. AnonAndFrustrated*

      I was recently considering applying for a job at my same employer but in a different dept. I looked up the bldg floor plan for where the job would be & found there was only one women’s restroom with one stall for the entire bldg/dept, which looked like about 60 offices. I decided not to apply, as that seemed very uncomfortable to me.

    5. ND*

      You can totally ask at interviews! I’m usually the greeter of interviewees at my office and have often been asked if they could use the restroom either before (if they’ve arrived early) or after the meeting.

  8. Sue Wilson*

    4. I think a lot of time people want boundary-crossing actions to be validated as boundary-crossing by law, and I think that’s where your husband is irritated. If the law understands that medical information can be dangerous to hand out indiscriminately, it seems like it should shut up indiscriminate employers too, where that sort of info can be most damaging. But HIPAA is really about enforcing already existing medical community guidelines about information. It’s not really directed at anyone else but the medical community, legal splash notwithstanding.

  9. Kevin*

    I write all my wife’s cover letters. She is brilliant and has a master’s degree in a social science field but has very low confidence in her writing ability. My background is technical writing (and I read AAM religiously) so I get asked to write her cover letters. I don’t mind helping but I do wish she would try herself because I feel like the cover letters should be in her voice.

    And the burnout factor is real. I feel pressure to produce solid gold cover letters for her so times we’ve both been job hunting my energy for my own cover letters is lower afterwards.

    1. Holly*

      You need to stop doing this. How is your wife’s confidence supposed to go up if she believes she is only receiving interviews because of your handiwork?

    2. Gaia*

      As someone who hires for roles that don’t require specific writing skills (other than basic email abilities) I would be livid if I found out I hired someone that didn’t write their own cover letter. I would consider it akin to lying on their resume. It is submitted on the understanding that they wrote it.

      I think you’re doing a disservice here. I know you’re trying to help but a better way of helping would be to help her get comfortable writing her own.

    3. Tinuviel*

      …They should be in her voice. Did you help her write for her master’s?
      And does she know that you feel pressure and it’s hurting your own job search? That doesn’t sound ethical in work or partner-wise to me.

      1. Zillah*

        I don’t think we really have enough information here to make these kinds of broad judgments about another commenter’s relationship.

        1. Tinuviel*

          I’m not judging anyone’s relationship. I’m commenting on this: but I do wish she would try herself….And the burnout factor is real. I feel pressure to produce solid gold cover letters for her so times we’ve both been job hunting my energy for my own cover letters is lower afterwards.

          That sounds tough for Kevin, and unethical for his wife to do that.

      2. Kevin*

        I didn’t, she already had her Masters before we met. My understanding is that her school/program didn’t require a thesis, but she did get negative feedback on some written work she did in grad school which is where this “I’m a bad writer” thing came from. I see it more of a imposter syndrome issue.

        The burnout issue is fine, I don’t mind helping and it’s not like I’m being worked in a coal mine against my will. Alison just said to LW1 it would burn them out and I agreed it does, in my experience.

        1. Barbara*

          Kevin I just want to say that it is a very nice thing to do and I’m sure your wife greatly appreciates it!

          1. Ramona Q*

            It’s not actually, Barbara. Even if well-intentioned, it’s not nice. It’s unethical and unfair and he should stop for both of their sakes.

        2. Yorick*

          Don’t write them anymore. Potential employers are assuming she wrote them. You can still proofread them or something – that might make her feel better about it even if it’s not necessary.

        3. EPLawyer*

          She’s not going to get better if she doesn’t practice. If I hire someone then find out they have terrible writing skills, I am not going to be happy. In social work, you need to be able to write well to produce the reports necessary.

          The best thing you can do for your wife is get her Alison’s book. Then be willing to work with her on the cover letters, not write them. Start when she is not job searching so you can practice. Then when it comes time for the real thing she has a few under her belt that you edited. It keeps easier with practice.

        4. It's mce*

          Have her do rough drafts and edit or offer feedback. I did that for my ex and friends. It’s better that way.

          1. Jamie*

            I do that with my kids when they have asked for help with cover letters or wording on applications.

            I don’t write them for them, but I absolutely coach when asked. It helps them learn and I’m not going to hoard everything I learned on AAM over the years from my own kids.

            1. Quill*

              I *type* my mother’s cover letters on occasion, but she writes them out first!
              My mom never learned to type efficiently and at this point (late 50’s) probably never will, especially if she stays in industries where most of the typing is replying to emails.

              1. A*

                That’s totally fair assuming she isn’t applying for a position that would be negatively impacted by the inability to type fast. I did something similar – a close friend of mine is partially disabled (his words, not mine) and has mobility loss in his hands. He was applying for a position that was phone based – but still had to complete a cover letter. His speech-to-text software wasn’t quite getting it right so he ended up dictating it to me instead so I could also format along the way. Definitely not the same as the ethical question on hand!

                1. Quill*

                  My mom taught elementary school for the last fifteen years, she used a chalkboard more often than her work laptop. I’m just hoping she can find something else where she won’t be penalized for her lack of current computer literacy (besides the typing, the school did not use very many modern, business-related programs at all!)

          2. AuroraLight37*

            This. I am happy to edit/offer feedback, but I learned years that doing all the work for someone else doesn’t benefit them in the end.

        5. A*

          While this is certainly well intended… it’s unethical. And imposter syndrome is a very real issue that many (I’d venture to say the majority) of people have to overcome – your wife is no different. Holding her back from being forced to overcome that is a disservice to her down the line. Similar to the burn out factor. Yes, it’s real. Everyone else also has to contend with that AND they also write their own stuff.

          I’m going to ignore the ‘no thesis’ thing, because it honestly just make me want to cry.

        6. biobotb*

          Maybe your wife should take some writing courses to increase her skills, increase her confidence, and take her job off your shoulders.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My partner is a writer and I’m clinching at the idea of him writing a cover letter for me.

      However as a hiring manager, I’m never putting that much stock in cover letters. So I’m a bit eye-rolly at the backlash you’re getting.

      Unless she’s doing work with heavy writing requirements, it’s really not a big deal. I assume all applicants have some help, some more than others.

      She really needs self care and possibly some therapy in the end. Having negative feedback from college professors hurting her self b esteem so much is an awful lot to carry on through life with.

      My teachers told me I was bad at a lot of things. The Real World says they’re wrong. They don’t get that much power and it’s crushing to me that your partner is still letting their opinions first hurt her to this extent.

      1. soon 2be former fed*

        My daughter writes excellent cover letters, all on her own. Not everyone has help, as you assume.

        For me, being in a psychologically debilitating job motivated me to go into overdrive to find something else. If a person becomes so impacted by a bad job that they cannot fully help themselves to get out of it, there is likely an underlying issue that just changing jobs will not help.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I find it hard to believe that she had no assistance what so ever. Of course she wrote the actual letter on her own but she was taught how to structure a letter, what points to cover and so on. That’s still assistance.

          Anyone who takes Alison’s advice here, that’s a form of assistance.

          I didn’t mean that they had someone actually sit down with them and do it for them.

          Does she have a proof reader? You’ve read them, so you may be the one who is proofing. That’s assistance.

          I say this as someone who has only ever read advice and bang out my own cover letters as well. Despite having access to people who could proof read them or write them for me if I wanted to. I still wouldn’t say I did it “all on my own”.

        2. LW1*

          Unfortunately we are location bound (I take care of my grandmother) and there just aren’t many jobs to go around.
          If it were a matter of going into over drive to get out, we would both have different jobs right now. Even for a 30-45 minute commute, there just aren’t many full time jobs to go around.

    5. Stephanie in HR*

      Many hiring managers – and HR – don’t read cover letters. It doesn’t matter if you write them. I never submit a cover letter unless it’s required (which I think is really silly).

  10. Heidi*

    So is this floor with only 4 bathrooms really enormous? I thought I worked on a pretty big floor, but it wouldn’t take anywhere close to 3 minutes to cross it.

    1. Approval is optional*

      I’ve worked in a secure workplace where it took at least a couple of minutes to walk from one side of the floor to the other, because of all the doors one had to key open. I ever timed it, but a trip to the library (on the other side from my office) was quite a hike.

      1. Lynca*

        I work in a secured workplace too and it can take several minutes to find an available bathroom in the afternoons due to a combo of closed for cleaning/single stalls being occupied. The furthest one is at least a 4-5 minute walk. Which I’ve had to do while pregnant.

    2. WS*

      It would take me 7 minutes to cross my entire floor at a brisk walk – people have timed it! There’s eight (all gender-neutral single stall) bathrooms on the floor, though, so it doesn’t take me long to get to a bathroom.

    3. Reed*

      We recently had to have the bathrooms closest to my office refurbished, (they’re one floor down from us), so we had to walk to the bathrooms on our floor, which meant going up down one flight of stairs, across the landing, up one flight of stairs, along a very long corridor, up another flight of stairs, another corridor, and down stairs again. You never know where a renovation or extension will stick a wall.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      I thought the 3 minute walk to a bathroom sounds reasonable/short.

      I can understand the annoyance of walking by a several men’s rooms to get to a women’s room and that makes it seem long. But I think a lot of people have to walk more than 3 minutes to a rest room in an office building.

      I’m torn. The LW’s reason for not wanting to sign is selfish. On the other hand, the boss circulating does put pressure on the LW to do something he doesn’t want to do.

      1. Cynical*

        The three minute walk is not reasonable when there are bathrooms closer by that could easily be made available to both genders.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Google Maps tells me my building is almost 600 feet wide, and 300 feet takes a minute to walk. If the halls are crowded or if you’re going across a section that requires zig-zags, it would easily take 3 minutes to get to the other end. I am grateful this building has two multi-stall bathrooms at every plumbing point.

    6. SisterSpooky*

      My building is half a block, so the end to end length is one full block (residential sized block, not city). Definitely takes at least 3 mins end to end. We have one set of bathrooms located just about in the middle.

    7. Mr. Shark*

      We have a fairly big floor, and I just timed it to one of the restrooms at the end of the floor (we actually have 3 ea M/W, one set at each end and one in the middle). Anyway, it took one minute to walk to one set of restrooms on one side of the building. Three minutes does seem like a lot. I can imagine in a hurry that it would be a very long walk, and could be embarrassing.

      So I understand OP#2’s concern if there are no stalls available for him because the restrooms suddenly become 1 M, 1 W on his side of the building. I don’t know where the women sit and how much of a problem it is for the 15 women to use the one restroom, and I understand how it should be more equal (and the gender-neutral single-use restroom makes the most sense), but that doesn’t change his concern and his problem.

    1. Filosofickle*

      I so disagree that video interviews are dumb! They are a huge time savings compared to in-person for an early round. Being able to see someone’s face helps me connect personally, see their non-verbal cues, and avoid interrupting or talking over. I’m much less successful on the phone.

  11. Sue Wilson*

    OP1: Is this a problem of coming up with a cover letter from scratch, or is he having trouble even tailoring a general cover letter to a specific employer?

    If its the former, then he should have general cover letter for specific types of jobs, and just need to tailor those to specific companies. It may be that he’s putting too much effort for what he’s getting back, and that’s tiring him out. By now you guys should have an idea of the general way applications are formed so that you can make a resume like document to just cut and paste to the form (attached the real formatted thing though). I think you can help with that (not write for him, but maybe do this together and refine/edit your general letters for each other). Simplify the application process as much as possible, so that when you need to promote yourself on that cover letter or on some essay on the application, you don’t feel like you climbed a tedious mental mountain to get there. It’s not that you shouldn’t care about each application, it’s that you shouldn’t care about the dumb parts lol.

    If its the latter and its the constant rejection that is really getting to him….then honestly, he may need to take more breaks, or be very selective. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but this sounds like he’s getting into a negative headspace that is looping because he’s can’t get away from his hated job without doing something he thinks he will be rejected from. It may be that he needs something to look forward after his job, and that he relegate job hunting to a day in which he didn’t also have to do his hated job. He also might just want to apply for things he’s really excited for! I know he hates his job, but if he thinks he can stay there while job searching, he should try for jobs he really likes. It can be very depressing to do a lot of work to apply for a job you don’t really care for and still get rejected. That may be affecting his applications. Trying for jobs he is excited for might mean he is more able to fully convey that to employers.

    1. Liza*

      Yes, seconding a lot of this. My advice to LW’s spouse is this: keep a standard form saved so there is as little work to do as possible. Have a designated paragraph where you address the specifics of the job and leave the rest alone. If you are applying for similar roles as a rule, write a standard paragraph aimed at what you EXPECT to see. If possible, write this when you are not actively applying so as to remove the pressure and hopefully reduce anxiety. Aspiring to write a perfect and totally unique cover letter for every role would be too much for me as well. Make it as easy as possible.

      Also: if possible, seek therapy. If you are suffering from anxiety over the automation process there is no guarantee that won’t follow you into the new job. Where possible, take steps to resolve the underlying issues.

      I know what it’s like to feel this kind of anxiety over job searching. Fortunately, the entry roles I was looking into were all online applications with no cover letters, but they did ask for “supporting statements” which would ask for details about how I meet the listed criteria. Some vacancies were so over subscribed, they would be removed within half an hour, so the only way to do it was to have your statements pre-written and just paste them in. If I spent more than a few minutes trying to tweak it, the vacancy would time out and vanish. I needed to learn to lower the bar and recognise that writing a unique statement from scratch just wasn’t practical in those circumstances.

      Advice to LW: I would try to help in practical terms, but involve your partner as much as possible. Rather than writing the letter off your own bat, sit down and have a conversation about what could go into that one paragraph, make suggestions, and try to come up with it together. It might be that you have to take dictation, or even come up with elements of the wording yourself, but try to make it a group effort.

      In relation to Sue’s advice above, another approach would be to use the jobs you DON’T care about as practice runs. For me, making every application a high stakes operation just made me more nervous, so the jobs you’re not bothered by could be viewed as opportunities to just practice getting that basic template right and try to get applications in by the deadline. This was a big step for me in terms of taking the stress out and increasing my volume of applications. Whichever approach works best for you.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        Your last paragraph is so empowering! What a great way to reframe the slog of job-hunting: See it as an opportunity to improve our skills in self-presentation and project management rather than one more dreary example of Write Your Heart Out, Press “Send” and Get No Response Whatsoever. It makes the idea of creating that copy-and-paste file seem exciting. (Okay, maybe not as exciting as [insert your favorite activity here] but a lot more compelling than racing to finish before the online portal times out.)
        Thank you.

    2. ACDC*

      I’ve never written a cover letter from scratch. I have my generic cover letter that I tailor to a specific application. I think the OP writing a new cover letter every time is unnecessary. The OP’s partner can save a generic letter, update it for a specific application, then maybe have OP review it and give notes?

    3. LW1*

      Thank you Sue! Your last paragraph really hit the nail on the head. We thought it was better to just apply everywhere we could, but maybe that’s how he got into this head space. I think slowing the job search and only applying to jobs he can actually get excited about might be better.
      The rejections have really been the issue so maybe fewer rejections at the expense of fewer apps out might be necessary.

  12. Lobsterman*

    I was today years old when I learned that AAM updates, among other times, at midnight Eastern Time.

    1. Clementine*

      I have become accustomed to reading the next day’s first post at 9 pm Pacific time. But that means one less post the next day, so it is a mixed blessing ;) .

      1. annab53*

        This is so funny. I’m on the west coast and was just wondering if I should read this post before going to bed or wait until morning. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has to make such monumental decisions!

        1. EPLawyer*

          I’m East coast but often up until midnight (which is how I discovery AAM posts at midnight). I split the difference. I read the post at night, but wait to read the comments in the morning.

      2. Jax*

        It strangely never ocurred to me that these posted at 9 pm on the West Coast. No wonder there can be a couple hundred comments between the time I see this at midnight then check again at 5 or 6 am.

          1. chersy*

            I usually see AAM posted at around 1-2PM HKT (thus, I read this with my cup of coffee, before my start of day. Heh, I support North America clients)!

        1. Quill*

          I was wondering that too! Of course, I knew posting was automated to some degree, but I’m Central Time, I really can’t win these kinds of things.

          1. Xandria*

            Its my going to bed thing! It makes Sunday’s not so bad, because even though my weekend is ending, I get an AAM post before I go to sleep!
            (Which is a little ironic, because I don’t work a M-F job, and my dark day is Monday, but the Wife works M-F, its the end of my time with her)

          2. T3k*

            I read it right before bed as well. Also, there’s several blue light filter apps to get around that so I don’t feel as guilty being on my phone in bed :p

          3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            My android has a built in blue light filter! Check your settings if you have a newer model, I bet it’s in there.

    2. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I discovered that while on maternity leave. It was so weird checking AAM and finding a new posting with no comments yet. Getting up at all hours with a baby taught me many things.

    1. valentine*


      I’d have to request a bench and locker in the hall so I have something to do while I wait and don’t have to lie on the floor. I hope they don’t bill hours, so they’re not needlessly losing money on these treks.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      One hopes it’s multi-stall! But even in that case, you could get there only to find it closed for cleaning.
      I find that frustrating and I *do* have multiple options. (My new desk is in an addition originally intended for a pair of call centers so there are plenty o’ stalls. For which I am now very very grateful.)

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I once attended a filk convention at a smallish convention center (attached to a hotel) where the staff were apparently in the habit of closing the women’s bathroom “for cleaning” overnight and leaving only the men’s open after a certain hour. I ended up asking a male acquaintance to go check the men’s room for occupants and then stand in the doorway so I could use the restroom about 2 in the morning since I wasn’t ready to leave open filking yet. (I really didn’t care if men came in, but I didn’t want them to be surprised to find me in there if they did.)

        When I alerted the convention staff the next day they made sure the hotel fixed it (I decided it wasn’t worth waking up con staff at 2 am over – I know those people are volunteers and need their sleep), but I’m curious how long the hotel had been getting away with this.

  13. Archaeopteryx*

    Although the disparity in restrooms reflects the disproportionate gender breakdown, choosing to keep it that way when you have the chance to fix it also signals, “we don’t plan on rectifying this gender balance anytime soon.” It’s better to even it out.

    1. Gaia*

      Yep. This is very much “we disproportionately hire men and have zero intentions of addressing that.”

      There is a solution here and it is gender neutral bathrooms. It also addresses the issue of people using the restroom when they present as one gender but identify as another (or none).

      1. Lonely Aussie*

        Agreed. I work in a male dominated industry, which has the bonus of appearing “progressive” in terms of hiring but under the surface is the biggest cesspool of toxic masculinity and sexism.
        The number of mens vs womens facilities is something I keep bringing up at work. We’re required to shower in and out of the work site (bio-security reasons) and while the men’s showers in each area have four showers, the women’s shower only has one. Area’s are staffed with seven people, so there’s some shower overlap for the men but when you’ve got three or four women in an area that one shower is crippling. Can’t swap the showers with the men as the women’s shower is behind a locked door with only women having the key.
        I’m sure when we’ve got to the point that we’ve had two to three women in each of the area’s it’s factored into the hiring decisions, we’ve never had more than a certain number of female staff. It seems almost like it’s a way of capping the number of women the company “can” hire.

        1. Lora*

          It is exactly this and to this very day (well, two weeks ago anyway) I had to Explain to facility planners that no we WILL be having just as many women’s locker rooms as men’s attached to the manufacturing area, thankyouverymuch.

          “But why? There’s no women doing this kind of manufacturing work!” I had to explain in little words for them, that in fact, right this very minute, at our other facilities, the split is about 50/50 or 60/40 depending on location. “It isn’t like that in [actual 21st century modern European country]…”

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        For a long time now I’ve been advocating a two-room approach — one area for urinals, the other for small private stalls. Key being PRIVATE — walls & doors that don’t have visible gaps.
        If I ever open a nightclub, the door labels will be “Walls” and “Stalls”.
        If you ever open a nightclub, you’re welcome to the idea…and I’d love an invite. ;)

        1. Gaia*

          I love Walls and Stalls! I once went to a restaurant that labeled their bathrooms “Humans” and “Also Humans” with a sign between that said “just pick one and for God’s sake wash your hands”

        2. Kelly L.*

          My favorite bar has two restrooms, both gender neutral. In practice, more women prefer one of the two because it has more legroom when you’re seated, but you can sit in the other one too in a pinch.

      3. blackcat*

        Yeah, I’d go to one mens, one womens and two gender neutral. Folks who really want a single-gender space can have it, everyone is more likely to have a convenient toilet in the event of an emergency.

          1. blackcat*

            I’m not sure either, but for folks who have STRONG FEELINGS…. this is the best compromise I can find.

          2. The New Wanderer*

            Our office has a dedicated men’s single stall, a dedicated women’s single stall, and one without a designation. Given that there are far more men than women, the gender neutral one defaults to primarily a men’s room because it’s the closest option to the majority of the men. I have used it when necessary, but much prefer the women’s designated one. For one thing, since there are so few of us using it, it’s easy to keep it clean and tidy and for another, I never have to touch the lid to put it down.

            However, if they were all converted to gender neutral tomorrow, it wouldn’t be a big deal to me.

  14. staceyizme*

    LW1- yes, you can write the cover letters and do the applications. No, it isn’t ideal. It surely isn’t a longterm solution. But if you’re dealing with a partner who is depressed and who needs concrete, practical help to move forward and you both share the same basic educational background? Yeah, I think that you’ve got this. That said, it isn’t advisable to do it for longer than it takes to get your partner a better job. And- if your partner is able to access benefits that include counseling? Do that. Self awareness and conscious, intentional choices will build resilience.

    1. Tinuviel*

      “it isn’t advisable to do it for longer than it takes to get your partner a better job.”

      Isn’t that… how long it takes, though? Why would she help after he gets a better job? And wouldn’t that extend to the next job, and the next?

      And if you were the employer, and found out that John with a MA in English’s beautifully-written cover letter was written by Jane with a MA in English… wouldn’t you wonder if John was actually not that good if he needed his wife to write for him? (And have some sincere questions about his integrity?)

      1. Zillah*

        I think the point is that if he gets a better job, he’ll be in a place that’s more conducive to addressing the underlying issues that the LW (who isn’t necessarily female) is talking about so that he can deal with them in the future.

        1. Tinuviel*

          I know that is the point. I still think it’s wrong to apply to presumably jobs involving writing (because both have a masters in English literature) using someone else’s writing. It would be like having your native-speaking partner write your cover letter in a language you don’t speak. The employer is judging the partner based on content that he did not produce. What happens when he gets an interview based on this? If he isn’t in a state to write a cover letter, will he be able to research and prepare for it?

          And I referred to OP as “she” in accordance with the common convention here to default to “she.” I know the LW is not necessarily female.

          1. LGC*

            To be fair, it’s more like if LW1 wrote the cover letter in…let’s say their native language of French, and their partner speaks French as a second language. Like, the guy applying still parlez-vous Francais, it’s just not a reliable reflection of his ability.

            1. Tinuviel*

              Fair. That would still be wrong for the reason you say, that the cover letter would no longer be a reliable reflection of his ability.

      2. Barbara*

        “found out that John with a MA in English’s beautifully-written cover letter was written by Jane with a MA in English…” and how in the world would I ever find this out?

        1. Tinuviel*

          I don’t think OP should do it even if it’s never found out. I think it’s ethically wrong to have someone else secretly, wholly write your cover letter/resume/other work product on which you are evaluated.

          1. Question Mark*

            People pay others to write their resumes all the time. It’s not illegal or morally wrong.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Resumes are a different thing. It’s generally understood that your cover letter is going to be a sample of your written communication skills and that it’s written by you, which is an expectation that for whatever reason we don’t apply to resumes to nearly the same degree.

              1. JamieS*

                In this case that’s a valid stance. In general it’s a ridiculous stance. People don’t write letters the same way they’d write most incidental written communication, such as emails, that occur in jobs that aren’t writing focused.

                1. JamieS*

                  In the case of the specific letter there’s an implication the jobs they’re applying to are writing-focused or related. Therefore it’d be reasonable to use the cover letter as a measure of writing ability.

                  At jobs that aren’t writing intensive, by which I mean paragraph form not 1-2 sentence emails, it’s not reasonable to use a cover letter as a measure because letter writing is a different type of writing than daily business writing (emails, memos, etc.) Actually the ability to summarize data/info accurately is better represented by the resume.

            2. EPLawyer*

              It is very much morally wrong. A resume is a representation of YOUR skills as YOU present them. Now can you have one edited and take advice on it? Sure. But flat out having someone else write it and then submit as your own is a deliberate misrepresentation.

              If you think no one will find out, trust me as a lawyer, the ONE thing you think will never be found out — is always found out.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Hmmm, I do think resumes are different. I don’t know anyone who hires who would object to someone paying for resume help (which is super common to do!) as long as the candidate feels their experience is accurately represented on it. But that’s because resumes are more like data about your experience. A cover letter isn’t just data; it should be more personal and, importantly, is supposed to represent your written communication skills.

                1. EPLawyer*

                  I’m going to disagree with you a bit here (I’m allowed to do that right? I won’t be banned or anything will I?)

                  A resume is not just a list of your jobs, as you always say. It’s about organizing essential information in a way that is easily read and understood. Which is a lot of what an office job is. Producing information for others to use. So it should reflect how the person is at organizing and can they tell what is important or what is not?

                  To me there is a difference between writing your resume and then someone editing it and someone actually writing it and you taking it and saying “that’s accurate” and then submitting it. Because then you know nothing about the actual applicant’s organization skills. Or ability to take masses of information and distill out the essentials to achieve the goal.

                2. JamieS*

                  Is it actually different or does nobody object because it’s become normal regardless of any moral or ethical dubiousness?

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yes, you’re allowed to disagree!

                  But you’re representing a viewpoint on resumes that I don’t think is typical. Resume writing services are commonplace, and every hiring manager I’ve ever talked to knows people may use them. Cover letters are generally expected/presumed to be a sample of your writing.

                  That may just be the way convention has shaken out, but the fact that it IS convention makes it not okay to present something as your own that isn’t, when people will assume it is.

              2. Quill*

                Please tell that to contracting companies that reformat my resume without my consent and end up chopping bits off that make me look like I just stopped typing in the middle of a sentence.

                Or who change my instrumentation experience, because “oh, High Throughput? She must mean HPLC.” (Not even remotely the same thing, but also the number of people who think “BA in the sciences is the same thing as a mechanical engineer,” are startling.)

        2. Annie*

          It’s pretty easy to tell if someone didn’t write their own cover letter – writing styles are pretty idiosyncratic.

          Are you assuming that everyone with an MA has an identical writing style?

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          Well, plenty of people have mentioned it in the interview to explain why they are unfamiliar with the content of their resume or cover letter.

    2. Zillah*

      Yeah, this is kind of where I’m coming down, too. While it’s really important to give people who are struggling with something a metaphorical toolbox, sometimes they also need someone to just build the damn bookshelf for them to get back on their feet.

      The flip side, ofc, is that it can lay really problematic groundwork, and putting so much effort into someone else can hurt your end goal for yourself and leave you feeling used if the relationship goes south or if you don’t like how they’re spending their time while you’re putting all that effort in. Like… tread cautiously.

      1. Ohplease*

        Strongly agreed. Literally can’t imagine watching my educated, brilliant spouse drown in temporary, situational panic and anxiety, having the ability to assist (especially if it’s basically writing a first draft for him to “review” as OP indicated is her intention)… then giving him a lecture on the ethics of that collaboration/assistance instead of actually helping, and continuing to watch him drown. It’s a cover letter, not a security clearance. In the world of devastating unethical secrets that will come out and destroy your life… “my wife wrote my cover letter before I reviewed it” is pretty low risk.

        Maybe they could make a blood oath and swear on their eternal bond to never reveal the dark and tawdry scandal betwixt them as long as they both shall live!

        Or maybe it IS a writing job that didn’t somehow request any additional previously published writing samples beyond this immaculate and incredible cover letter … AND he interviewed brilliantly… but gets the job, writes horribly and an HR + management tribunal is convened to hold up the cover letter and wonder, in horror, where went the man who originally wrote such poetry. The style! The voice! Where did he go!

        Or perhaps he’ll interview well, get the job, do it brilliantly, and one day years in, the person who originally hired him will bring up that glorious cover letter that has haunted her for so many days, and beg him to reveal his poetic secrets, or perhaps reach a class on it, and the guilt – oh the guilt! – will twist him up to the point where he’s driven to confess the deed.

        My mind’s changed, OP, don’t do it! Consider the terrible and super plausible risks to helping your husband through a temporary slump with his cover letters!

        1. Tinuviel*

          OK relax, those of us voting “no” are not claiming he will be pulled before a tribunal (at least I’m not). We’re debating the ethics.

          And I also think there is a wide area between “watch your loved one drown” and “do it for him and save him.” There are all sorts of ways to do it where the content comes from him, but OP helps (rather than OP comes up with the content and he pushes send).

          1. Myrcallie*

            As someone who just got out of a relationship where the issues started with me going ‘hey, my brilliant partner is struggling *right now*, let me do X for them instead of them worrying about it’, I second this. OP’s partner needs to take the lead on this, especially when OP is also going through a job hunt of their own- and if he can’t, he needs to seek help, not rely on OP to do it for him.

            (I might be projecting here a little. But generally- as someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression- it’s been more helpful to seek therapy and accountability from other people, rather than relying on friends/family/partners to do things for me.)

            1. Allonge*

              I think this is really important for OP to consider. Is this the only thing where partner is not pulling his weight, and is it likely to be temporary? Or is this part of a pattern?

              It’s natural that in a good partnership we want to cover for each other. But it needs to have limits, and this is a BIG ask. It’s not taking the trash out when it’s not my turn.

            2. Washi*

              Completely agree! Ethics aside, I don’t think the best things is for the OP to just step in and manage everything for him, which it sounds like she is on the brink of doing. I don’t see a problem with OP’s spouse delegating some small, concrete tasks to her, but it needs to be his idea. I guess I don’t know what this guy’s program consisted of, but if my spouse managed to get an MA in literature and was so paralyzed that he couldn’t write a 3 paragraph cover letter….that’s probably a sign he needs professional help.

            3. One of the Sarahs*

              I’ve been there too, and found it super hard and exhausting to navigate the parts of my life where I had to continually rescue my partner, and also see them as an equal – plus never having them be able to help me with my own stuff, as it made them anxious. I recommend couple counselling to help re-balance, but OP needs to look after themselves and their needs too.

        2. Barbara*

          Seriously. Like, the cover letter gets you in the door. It’s not written in blood for god’s sake.

        3. Joielle*

          LOL. Yeah, this is where I come down too. Personally, I would not refuse to help my spouse with a task like this, knowing that he is highly educated, damned smart, and more than capable of whatever job he would be applying to, even if he has a mental block about the actual applications right now.

          If OP writes the cover letter and the husband modifies a few sentences to give it his voice, I think that’s a reasonable thing to do for your partner who needs help with a task that seems insurmountable. Of course, the OP should take care that this doesn’t bleed over into other parts of the relationship, but I don’t think that’s the huge risk or inevitability that people are making it out to be, and I think the OP is perfectly capable of recognizing if that pattern starts to emerge. Sometimes you really do just need help doing the thing.

          1. misspiggy*

            This is what I came here to say, but you said it so much better. Certainly in my context, where the cover letter is considered a formality and hardly anyone reads them, other than to check the person can spell, understands the job, and doesn’t sound deranged.

    3. Gaia*

      I firmly disagree. This is lying during the application process. In no situation would an employer think a cover letter was ever written by anyone other than the applicant. And if the job requires writing skills it is without a doubt fabrication of application documents.

      If we’re going to say this is okay we might as well say it is ok to lie on their resume to make their background more appealing to get a better job to address the depression/search slump/application fatigue.

      Job searching sucks especially when you hate your job and feel unfulfilled and aren’t seeing results. I have BEEN there. I lived there. It was horrible. I get it. But you know what also sucks? Finally landing that hoped for job only for your boss to fire you because you were deceptive during your candidacy.

      1. That's a No from Me*

        You clearly feel very strongly about this. And I feel strongly that it’s okay for someone else to write a cover letter. I’m an employer and would not fire an otherwise good computer programmer, customer service representative, graphic designer, etc. because someone else wrote their cover letter! The only time I expect a job-seeker to write their own cover letter is when applying for a writing position.

        1. TechWorker*

          So firstly they both studied English Literature so these absolutely could be jobs that involve writing ;) and secondly presumably you mean ‘the only time I’d be disappointed if a jobseeker didn’t write their own cover letter…’ – even for non-writing jobs the default is very much that it’s written by the applicant…

          1. Gaia*

            Would you be ok with a programmer submitting someone else’s code sample? Or cheating on an aptitude evaluation relevant to their work?

        2. Starbuck*

          “The only time I expect a job-seeker to write their own cover letter is when applying for a writing position.”

          I think you are an outlier in that regard and I’d caution anyone from assuming that most hiring managers think this way. Sure, it’s pretty low-risk that you’re ever going to be caught in this lie (unless there’s a really big discrepancy between the quality of the cover letter and the rest of your written communication) but I imagine most people would think pretty poorly of someone who did this – it’s liking getting someone else to write your school essays for you. That’s the context most people are going to bring to it, anyway. I’d be curious to hear how you formed such an opinion that’s so outside the norm.

        3. Tinuviel*

          Genuinely curious–if you expect that cover letters are not written by the applicant, what do you use them for? What value do you see in them/what information do you get from them?

          1. Barbara*

            Do they know how to format a letter, is it a good cover letter for the position, it is specific to the position/company, does it tell me something the application doesn’t? Trust me, people can be farming out their cover letters and still submit a crappy one.

            1. Tinuviel*

              “Do they know how to format a letter”—Can you say that for sure if they didn’t write it themselves?
              “Is it a good cover letter for the position”—What does that tell you about the applicant? They know a good writer?

              I don’t see how your points beside “does it tell me something the application doesn’t” allow you to conclude anything about the applicant if they didn’t prepare the materials themselves. Are we picturing totally different images of what “writing a cover letter for someone” looks like?

              1. Barbara*

                Person A hires/has their spouse write/has a robot write/whoever write a cover letter. Presumably they are still going to read it before submitting it (but hey, maybe not, maybe they’ve completely outsourced the whole applying for a job process, some people do!) Person A would still need to know when reviewing that it needs to do this: Do they know how to format a letter, is it a good cover letter for the position, it is specific to the position/company, does it tell me something the application doesn’t?

                So as I said: people can be farming out their cover letters and still submit a crappy one. Just because someone else does writes it doesn’t mean it’s going to be good or what I’m looking for. Trust me, I see far more generic crappy cover letters than not. A cover letter is one part of step one for what at my company is literally a probably 15 step process including a writing test. If they are a crappy writer it will be figured out pretty easily. In this case they both have English lit degrees and he’d might do well on my writing tests. If that’s the case IDGAF if he didn’t write his cover letter AND I’d never know. I’m not going to give more than 2 seconds of thought to something completely out of my control.

                1. Tinuviel*

                  I guess you just use it to judge whether someone can identify a good cover letter rather than whether someone can produce one. I’m glad you have a more thorough hiring process… I wonder if you even need a cover letter at that point.

            2. hbc*

              So, you want to make sure that they can generate a good cover letter, either by their own knowledge or having enough judgment to hire a good ghostwriter? I promise you that this is a minority viewpoint in the value of a cover letter.

        4. Barbara*

          Yeah, I hire people and there is absolutely no way to guarantee someone wrote their cover letter. They could’ve hired someone, plagiarized it from online, used a family members, etc. etc. If it’s important that they have good writing skills then I have a writing component as part of the initial screening. It wouldn’t be a deal breaker at all.

          1. Myrin*

            There is a big difference between saying “there is absolutely no way to guarantee someone wrote their cover letter” – which I think basically everyone would agree with, because how would you ever be able to guarantee something like that unless you sat right next to the person while they wrote it? – and saying “[t]he only time I expect a job-seeker to write their own cover letter”; if you already expect (expect! not “can theoretically imagine” or thelike) that someone else wrote an applicant’s cover letter (which is an unusual stance, if you ask me – I thought it was culturally well-established that the norm is to write these things yourself), it is indeed very fair to ask why you want to see a cover letter at all then.

            1. Barbara*

              “it is indeed very fair to ask why you want to see a cover letter at all then” and my answer to that is above.

              1. Myrin*

                I saw that, but the only thing I can agree with here is the “does it tell me something the application doesn’t” part. Because I don’t understand why, if you don’t think the applicant wrote their own cover letter, you’d then assume that they formatted and tailored it to the position themselves; that seems pretty random to me.

                1. Barbara*

                  I’m not assuming they did any of it themselves. Again, just because someone else does writes it doesn’t mean it’s going to be good or what I’m looking for. Trust me, I see far more generic crappy cover letters than not. A cover letter is one part of step one for what at my company is literally a probably 15 step process including a writing test. If they are a crappy writer it will be figured out pretty easily. In this case they both have English lit degrees and he’d might do well on my writing tests. If that’s the case IDGAF if he didn’t write his cover letter AND I’d never know. I’m not going to give more than 2 seconds of thought to something completely out of my control.

                2. Myrin*

                  @Barbara, I think we’re talking past each other a little (and I don’t want to unnecessarily belabour this topic, so I promise this is going to be my last reply here) – the original point Tinuviel asked about and which I added to was what the purpose of a cover letter is if you expect (!) it to not be written by a job applicant.

                  You gave some answers to that but except for one, I didn’t find those convincing.

                  So now I’m not really following the jump from that to generic cover letters and your company’s specific hiring process. It’s valuable and interesting information but it seems like a different discussion from the one we were originally having.

                  If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying that the cover letter is, in the grand scheme of your company’s hiring process, just a tiny thing barely factoring in at all and really only just as a starting point. Which is fair – it sounds like your hiring process is pretty thorough and intense. But I do want to caution that 1. that’s certainly not the case at all workplaces (everywhere I’ve personally worked so far, my cover letter was a deciding factor for being interviewed at all) and 2. it still doesn’t answer the original question – in a case like yours, wouldn’t it then make more sense to not expect cover letters at all and instead simply have interested people fill out a form with just their basic info or similar?

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Barbara, I think you have a very outlier opinion on this. Of course you can’t guarantee someone wrote their own cover letter, and of course if writing is a key skill for the job you test their writing in other ways during the process. But there’s no point in requiring a cover letter if you don’t intend for the applicant to write it themselves, and I think you’re pushing your argument in strange ways there.

            I don’t think I’d fire someone if I found after hiring them that they hadn’t written their own letter, but it would absolutely change the way I saw them and their judgment, and they’d have a higher barrier to overcome to impress me and gain my full trust at that point … for a very long time into the future.

            We don’t do the OP any favors by arguing this isn’t a big deal, when for many employers (particularly those hiring for jobs where writing matters), it absolutely is.

            1. Barbara*

              Okay, I’ll just say in reading through all these comments so far I’m not the only “outlier” so far, so perhaps consider maybe we’re not as rare as you think. I’m also still confused how if you go through a hiring process, you’ve tested their writing during the process and they’ve been hired how you would ever know. It should be obvious and exposed before you hire them. I trust you so I’m curious how you think this would happen?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I think there’s only one other person saying it (at the time of this writing). But we do see people argue all sorts of things here that I’d argue are wrong and not representative of how most workplaces work.

                To answer your question, if it’s not a problem ethically, then presumably they wouldn’t hide it and could mention it at some point (in discussing cover letters generally or so forth). If it’s to be kept quiet, I’d argue that points to the fact that they know there’s something wrong with having done it!

                1. hbc*

                  Yeah, this is where I fall. If OP wouldn’t write the cover letter in third person and/or OP’s partner wouldn’t respond to a compliment about their cover letter with “Oh, that was all [my partner],” then let’s not pretend this is a neutral action.

                2. Jamie*

                  This is a great way to illustrate it. If asked if they had help with their resume there is no shame in saying yes…I’ve definitely benefited from help on mine. But if you wouldn’t admit to someone else writing a letter you signed your own name to then you should write it yourself.

                3. JamieS*

                  People don’t volunteer information all the time. I wouldn’t say if someone else wrote my resume which is apparent okay to do. Lying when being directly asked is different but just not volunteering the information indicates nothing.

              2. ChachkisGalore*

                Just chiming in to say – you are not the only outlier and your approach sounds very typical for my entire industry.

        5. Bagpuss*

          I think that the majority of employers would expect a cover letter to be written by the applicant and that the siginificant proportion would consider it similar to lying on a resume to have someone else writing it. Your cover letter is how you market your skills to the employer, it misses the point if someone else is doing it, and ‘feels’ deceitful if that is not obvious (as it where, for instnace, the employer is being contacted by an agency or recruiter)

          LW#1, what I would suggestis that you encourage your partner to have a template letter which they use as a starting point and personalise to the specifc job each time, and that you offer support and suggestions but don’t actually write it for them.

        6. MCMonkeyBean*

          Non-writing jobs usually still involve some amount of writing, even if it just extends to sending emails. I am an accountant and yet in every interview I’ve ever had my writing background has generated significant interest because it’s a skill that can be hard to find in my field. So even with non-writing jobs if someone appears to have particularly good communication skills that can be a significant part of what makes their application stand out to the employer. And if they didn’t actually write the cover letter than that is a significant misrepresentation.

        7. A*

          Ok. But that is not the average response.

          I’d be willing to bet every dollar I’ve ever made that the statistical majority of employers assume that the cover letters are written by the candidates. Especially since young adults are taught to write their own cover letters – because it is what it is. Why would you assume that, aside from writing related jobs, candidates are going against their education and the societal norm?

  15. Alice*

    #2, I’m sure you didn’t mean it like that but you come across as rather insensitive. Women working there might have their own health issues and, besides, biology means women need to use the toilet more. Right now my office layout means I am 2 minutes away from the nearest bathroom and I’m not guaranteed to find it unoccupied. It’s not fun when I’m trying not to bleed through my pants. Gender-neutral bathrooms would solve many problems here, for everyone involved.

    #3, That sucks, I’m so sorry! I also dread video interviews and I don’t know what else you could have done except maybe suggest to switch to a phone call. Hopefully the interviewer doesn’t hold the technical problems against you. She might have been frustrated at having to use her company’s crappy video call software, and not because of your answers.

  16. Paperdill*

    OP2: I do sympathize with your needing the bathroom urgently on occasions, I really do. But I sympathize because, like many women, *I* often need to use the bathroom urgently. In fact, statistically women are far, far more likely to experience bladder issues and bowel issues (not to even mention menstruation issues) that necessitate quick access to a bathroom that a 3 minute walk does not accommodate.
    My place of work has an equal number of men’s and women’s bathrooms, despite 80% of the workforce being women. When one of use is desperate and the ladies’ is occupied, we knock and check and use the mens’. I realise that I am fortunate to work in a culture where this is ok, but maybe this is something to take on board when considering your particular dilemma?

  17. Myrcallie*

    OP1 – it sounds like your partner needs help for anxiety/depression before anything else. If he’s like this with the cover letter, it sounds like he’s going to have real difficulty in work. That, and you need to be able to do your own job search, which is soul-sucking enough when you’re doing it for just you. Put your own oxygen mask on before you start trying to do stuff with his.

    1. Natalie*

      Having been in the LW’s position and the partner’s position – that is, both of us have had soul-sucking jobs that were literally ruining our lives (mine came with suicidal ideation, fun!) – many times getting out of the bad situation *is* help for the depression. Depression and anxiety can be plenty situational, they’re not always symptoms of an underlying MI. And of course even when they are, a terrible situation will exacerbate it and make treatment all the harder.

      I’m not saying that means it’s obviously the OP’s highest and best support to write the cover letters, just that suggesting partner go fix their depression instead is massively oversimplifying things.

      1. Myrcallie*

        I’m not saying it’s not situational! I’ve been in those situations too (both out of a job, and in a job that also gave me suicidal ideation), but what helped me was having a partner who supported what I was doing without doing it for me. In my experience, taking on the bulk of X big task on my own for a partner, rather than supporting them through the process of doing it by taking on bits of work at their direction and providing accountability, has always ended badly.

        And whether or not it does work for them, I stand by the idea that therapy should be the partner’s focus right now.

    2. Jamie*

      If he’s like this with the cover letter, it sounds like he’s going to have real difficulty in work.

      Definitely not necessarily the case. Some anxiety and depression is situational. I’ve never had issues with depression, not through divorce or deaths of loved ones, but losing my job knocked me on my psychological ass in a way nothing else did. After a certain point I found writing a cover letter so incredibly daunting I was in tears and it would take me hours to work up the courage to start. Ngl I debated many times just tossing my resume into the ring without one, because I’ve seen it work, but it’s like there was a little Alison on my shoulder telling me not to forgo the leg up of a good cover letter.

      I am not saying her husband isn’t in a bad place, but many, many people have symptoms of anxiety and depression due to the devastation of job loss or a toxic workplace. Or in my case losing a job from a toxic workplace.

      1. LW1*

        The daunting and tear inducing letter writing experience you had sounds very similar to what he is dealing with. It honestly does feel very situational to me because this wasn’t always the case. He used to write cover letters just fine. Then first it made him cranky and took forever, then he put it off and tinkered with it, and then and then and then. You know? It’s the repeated rejection, which comes via email without warning and even when you’re in a good mood, that seems to have gotten us here. Like you said, it’s knocked him on his psychological ass. As his partner in life, it has been pretty hard for me to watch, so my impulse has been to ease his experience in any way I could figure out. But I think it’s my enabler side that had me thinking “can I just write it?”

    3. Witchy Human*

      I’m not saying how the LW should assist her husband in his job search. But this isn’t an “oxygen mask” situation. It’s not wrong to prioritize the needs of someone else, especially if we love them, and being unable to fix something completely isn’t a good reason to give up on improving it.

      1. Myrcallie*

        But why should she do two people’s job searches? Being unemployed and supporting a mentally ill partner is likely to take a toll on her mental health, too- and I say this as someone who’s been in that exact position. It’s wonderful that she’s helping him, but I’m worried it’ll have a detrimental impact on her ability to look after + get a job for herself.

      2. biobotb*

        I don’t think that doing someone else’s job search, thereby allowing them to avoid addressing their own problems and avoid developing coping strategies, is really helping in the long run.

  18. Annie*

    5. Of course you’re allowed to enforce boundaries you feel comfortable with, but sending someone one happy birthday message is pretty normal. As a longtime mentor I’d be quite thrown by someone who was not a current mentee saying “I want your help but you aren’t allowed to be even slightly friendly towards me.” Professional relationships are a two way street just as all relationships are.

    Boundaries are (rightly) discussed a lot, but the focus is usually on people whose boundaries are too low/weak. But people with inappropriately high/strong boundaries can be just as big a problem. Not saying it’s the case here, and of course the LW doesn’t have to do anything they’re not comfortable with. But most people would not be bothered to the point of reaching out to an adviser over one non-offensive message, and that does seem like an unusual perspective on boundaries.

    1. sunshyne84*

      Yea, that was odd to me as well. If OP opened the message and didn’t respond I believe the other person can see that. So to not respond would be rude and then have the nerve to be friendly later? I wouldn’t bother with them. If they wanted to keep their Facebook to friends and family they could’ve just said thanks and redirected them to LinkedIn.

    2. Yorick*

      I agree. A happy birthday message is perfectly reasonable, and it’s kinda weird to think it’s too personal. Now, I probably wouldn’t notice if someone didn’t respond to my birthday message. But if I did feel they ignored me and they reached out for help, I wouldn’t feel much obligation to go out of my way for them.

    3. OP 5*

      OP5 here! The issue was that the birthday message came through Facebook in tandem with the Facebook friend request, so I would have felt awkward responding to her message but ignoring the friend request. I was just out of college and couldn’t think of a graceful way to turn down the request. Instead, I read and appreciated the message, but then marked it as “unread” so I could have plausibly missed it. Just to be clear though- if she’d emailed me the birthday message or even sent it through LinkedIn I would have had no problem whatsoever responding in kind! She did connect with me on LinkedIn later on (and I gladly accepted). With Alison’s advice, I now have the confidence to pretend the Facebook friend request never happened and send something thoughtful to her via LinkedIn.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Thank you for this!

      Enforcement of boundaries on people who aren’t really trampling on them in the first place isn’t ideal.

      I would assume you’re over our relationship and be pretty uninterested in responding to requests for assistance down the road. You seem to only want to be in touch when you need something and that’a fine enough but not if it means ignoring a standard happy birthday message.

      My old boss and mentor always sends me birthday greetings and it reinforces our bond.

      I have an old boss on Facebook and just have them filtered on iffy posts. Not that they’d care enough but there are certainly things I’ll share I don’t want to bother them with. We have extremely different politics and know it.

    5. Kes*

      I don’t think the problem was the happy birthday message so much as the medium – they sent it with a facebook friend request, but the mentee isn’t comfortable connecting to a professional contact on facebook, which they use for personal connections, but also doesn’t want to harm their relationship by rejecting the friend request

  19. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    Because I am actually a six-year-old child in an adult’s body, thank you thank you Alison for always putting the bathroom questions at #2.

  20. anonnnnnn*

    OP2, support the petition. You should do it because it’s fair and because your female coworkers might also have urgent bodily needs – but if the fairness angle doesn’t sell you, then think of how your female coworkers might resent you if they find out that you didn’t.

    At my old (horrible) job, I had to take the elevator 5 floors down every time I needed to use the bathroom. I’m a wheelchair user and there were no accessible restrooms for 5 floors. I STILL think back on that and want everyone involved in that decision-making process to get in the sea.

    1. Quill*

      I’m… gaping at that idea even though I once worked in a building where the “accessable” entrance involved a 35 degree slope that wound through a series of two sharp right turns in a 3 foot wide hallway, then two separate elevator rides. (I often had to take dolleys through there, I shudder to think of navigating it more frequently.)

    2. juliebulie*

      Wow. That really is horrible. I don’t think there’s any nice thing that an employer could possibly do that would offset the suckiness of having to go down 5 floors for an accessible toilet.

      And I love “get in the sea.”

  21. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    OP3, I’m so sorry! I’ve been in that situation more than once (with Skype) and it suuuuuucks. In my case, most interviewers were understanding and offered to call to a mobile phone, or had a corporate plan that offered to join the conversation by phone or using their app. If the company doesn’t call you back based on that, you dodged a bullet.

  22. Carlie*

    I’m shocked at how many people think it’s ok to have someone else write a cover letter. It’s supposed to give the employer a sense of the person, as well as an example of their writing skill. In my field, the cover letter shows whether the applicant has any idea what kind of organization we are, how their expertise might fit and fill our needs, and how closely our environment fits their career goals. If someone else does that, it’s all out the window.
    This might be a mental test – what would you think of an applicant if it was above board, and the letter said “written and edited by Jane Doe” at the bottom under John Doe’s signature? Would you downgrade that candidate? If so, it’s dishonest for them to have someone else do it. If not I guess ok, but I don’t see any reason why you would then bother to have a letter.

    1. Allonge*

      I don’t think it’s ok for someone else to write a cover letter but I can sympathize a bit with the idea as I had to think back to a few times when I was revising resumes and cover letters of friends (as a favor to them). Sometimes quite extensively! There is a fine line between keeping their original message but suggesting improvements and re-writing, and I can see how someone thinks that it can be ok to go one step further.

      Again, I would not recommend doing it and would definitely encourage my hypothetical spouse to get mental health assistance (but I live in a country with actual healthcare).

    2. Joielle*

      I don’t think anyone is saying it’s ok as in “yes, this is a great and ideal state of affairs!” but more like “OP, you’re doing the best you can in a hard situation and if this is what you can do to help your partner out of a rough spot, it’s not some career-ending massive ethical breach.”

      Of course, hopefully OP’s partner can get the mental health care they need to be able to do this entirely on their own, but I entirely sympathize with this situation.

      1. LW1*

        Yes- even as the letter writer I wasn’t necessarily going into this as if it were possible that it was completely okay. Obviously, ideally you would want to be the writer of your own cover letter. But I suppose I was trying to figure out how valued cover letters are/how bad would it really be?
        As Allonge indirectly points out- counseling is only an obvious solution if it is accessible; for many Americans, it isn’t. To that end, we are technically able to access healthcare but as his only access to insurance is through his parents, who are out of state, it isn’t entirely affordable for us.
        I am incredibly grateful to all responses and those who have extended empathy! The longer we’re on the job market the longer we spend in financial instability (though I have recently gotten lucky with an entry level position, we aren’t that much better off yet). We would scramble to come up with even 500 in an emergency. In a way, I feel that my question had more to do with how to (financially) survive this period rather than how to easily get him out of a dreaded task.

    3. Name Required*

      I’m definitely in the bucket of thinking it’s really not that big of a deal. What I’m taking away from a cover letter is how well the candidate is suited for the position, I’m not focusing on how well they can write an essay … because none of the positions I’ve hired for require writing essays, and that’s really what a cover letter is.

      I also tend to think that cover letters can be pretty classist, especially when required for positions that do not require higher learning or extensive writing skills. My husband is terrific at quantitative stuff and not great at qualitative writing, and I would 100% write a cover letter for him if he was coming home every day horribly depressed and crying, if it got him an opportunity at interviewing for a job where he could apply his actual skills.

      … if a manager thought less of him for having help on his cover letter after he was performing well at the actual job, that seems like focusing on such an unimportant thing. Allison argues here that it isn’t the same as getting help on your resume, but I disagree.

      1. That's a Yes from Me*

        And I hope those who are opposed to having someone else write a cover letter will consider your comment about classism. Not all jobs are “professional” or require a college education. Do they expect — even for jobs like working on an assembly line — to have a cover letter that appears to have been written by someone with a higher education?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No. Like I talked about in my recent piece on how to hire well, decent hiring managers get clear on what is and isn’t a must-have for the role and don’t screen people on things that don’t connect to an ability to do the job well.

  23. Gabriel Conroy*

    LW#2 (bathrooms):

    I hesitate to say that the letter writer is obliged to sign the petition. If this is such an issue of fairness, it’s management’s responsibility to honor the request regardless of the number of petition signers. It’s a somewhat big ask to put it on a person who benefits from the gender imbalance more than the average guy does to be responsible for signing a petition that if honored would lessen that benefit.

    Even though I say I “hesitate” to say he should sign the petition, in the end, I guess he does have a moral obligation to do so. Equalizing the bathrooms is the right thing to do, and as a human being he has an obligation to do the right thing.

    1. Alex*

      I agree, I don’t think someone should have to sign a petition based on ethics. Their signature should be they way of expressing their preference, it is his vote. If you can use ethics to force him to sign the petition, why not use it to just force the change?

      I will admit I like the gender neutral change as a compromise and I think it would be easier to get approved.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Presumably they don’t have the ability to force the change via ethics or anything else, or they wouldn’t have to resort to a petition. They might have the ability to use social/ethical pressure to persuade one of their own coworkers to sign, but that has no relevance to whether they have the ability to reassign bathrooms in their building.

    2. Anononon*

      “It’s a somewhat big ask to put it on a person who benefits from the gender imbalance more than the average guy does to be responsible for signing a petition that if honored would lessen that benefit.”

      I’m going way bigger picture here, but isn’t that the case with all civil rights issues?

      1. Gabriel Conroy*

        I’m not so sure. I see more disanalogy than analogy.

        But I get what you’re saying, which is why the second part of my comment admits he has a moral obligation to sign the petition.

    3. Kes*

      I don’t think anyone is obliged to sign petitions. However, “I don’t want this imbalance to change because it benefits me as is” is not great. While I feel for OP’s issues, as others have pointed out there may well be women in the office who are also suffering from similar issues, who are additionally having to deal with a longer “bathroom commute”

      1. Gabriel Conroy*

        I guess I mildly disagree with you because I do think he has some moral obligation to sign the petition.

  24. Brian*

    Regarding OP1, maybe there’s a good middle ground between the apps not getting done and you doing them for him. Maybe you can offer to edit his first draft of a cover letter, which might help him finish sooner.

    1. boo bot*

      Something that might also help is writing an outline with him – a lot of times people get stuck staring at a blank page, and if the two of them together can talk through the bullet points of what he wants to say (and put those bullet points on the page) it could help him get past the first hurdle.

      For me one of the main obstacles of any daunting task tends to be that I don’t know how to break it down into smaller steps; when you’re writing something, making an outline is a good first step, as is just making a list of questions you want to answer, or points you want to make. As soon as there are words on the page, you’ve got something to work with, and it’s way easier to move stuff around and expand on existing points than to sit down and start from “Dear hiring manager,”

      1. banzo_bean*

        Agreed, I came her to suggest LW 1 tries helping brainstorm cover letters with her partner. Once you’ve been consistently writing cover letters for an extended period of time, it’s hard not to get writer’s block.
        Additionally, LW might be able to identify some strengths of her partner that make them well suited to the job better than her partner can. It can be hard for me to brainstorm reasons why I am awesome, but I could spend all day doing it for my husband.
        Additionally, I would suggest LW let her partner read her previous cover letters for inspiration, much like Alison lets us read some really great cover letters from time to time.
        But I get where her boyfriend is coming from. In an extended job searching period, my confidence in my self can really decline, while at the same time I am expected to write letter after letter about why I am so great and employable? It’s an endless loop!

    2. Anonymous Job Seeker*

      I am currently in a similar situation to the LW’s partner. Stuck in a job that is incredibly draining but being overwhelmed by the process of job searching. My partner has been wonderful in helping me with the job search. I find jobs to apply to during the week and then on then on the weekends, we go to the library to work on applications. At the library, we go through the job postings that I’ve saved and choose the ones that fit my experience/qualifications the best. When cover letters are required, we work together to write it. I definitely couldn’t do it on my own but I’m learning with her help. She also does the filling out of online forms. If she’s working on editing, I’ll do something productive like fill out my planner or look for new job postings. My partner and I try to split the work evenly and consider it part of our weekly chores. We also try to do something fun afterwards to make the process a bit easier.

      For more context, we are both women. I have ADHD and anxiety and I am currently working with a therapist and a psychiatrist. Self-improvement is a very long and difficult process, but I’m working on it.

  25. Ratios*

    I have sympathy for LW #2. Based upon his reporting, 1/4 or less of the workers are women. I work in a similar situation (I am a woman), and have dealt with the re-assigning of bathrooms. It’s basically terrible for everyone, because buildings aren’t built for unbalanced gender ratios, and often they aren’t designed for the amount of people in general that are being fit into a workspace. When you’re about 5-10% women, it makes a lot of sense to do a 3:1 male-female bathroom ratio. When you hit about 20-25% is when you have to look at flipping it back to 2:2. So when the bathrooms flip back to 2:2, the women stop waiting in line and the men start waiting. Then it gets better if more women are hired. The gender-neutral bathroom is basically the only good solution.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I get the need for more male bathrooms because of the situation described, but someone shouldn’t have to walk clear across to the other side of their building to use the bathroom because it’s the only one available. 3 minutes is quite a long walk for a bathroom break. I kind of feel like there should be an equal number of bathrooms regardless of the male to female ratio – in every public place I’ve been to where they are equal, the women are always waiting in line and the men are in and out quickly.

      1. D'Arcy*

        Given that men’s bathrooms have a higher practical capacity, a 3/1 split is grossly unreasonable despite the preponderance of male employees in this situation. While OP#2 may be entitled to his own opinion, his coworkers are likewise entitled to judge him harshly for it.

      2. doreen*

        I’m sure that in most public places the women are waiting in line while the men are in and out – but not all. I’ve been to many sporting events in venues with an equal number of men’s/women’s rooms and it is not uncommon for there to be a short/no wait for me and a long line extending down the concourse for the men’s room

        1. Tinuviel*

          Men only wait when there are significantly more men than women there (sports arenas, some concerts and some conferences are the only ones I’ve seen). The thing is women take a bit longer and men have more facilities in there. They’ll put 3 stalls and 3 urinals for men and 3 stalls for women–that’s 6 men at once vs. 3 women. If anything there should be more facilities for women.

  26. Middle Manager*

    How well people communicate in writing is important to many jobs, including most of those I hire for. I have a very limited sample of their writing and attention to detail- the application form, resume, and cover letter. I would not be happy if I found out someone else did them for the candidate and when they got on the job they couldn’t write nearly as well as the person who wrote for their application process.

    1. Joielle*

      I don’t think the OP’s spouse “[can’t] write nearly as well as the person who wrote for their application process,” though. They have similar educational backgrounds – which is not to say that their skill is exactly the same, but it’s not like the spouse only has a high school education and the OP is writing beautiful MA-level prose.

      1. Middle Manager*

        I would still say it’s a problem. They might both be equally good writers, but the spouses style of writing was perfect for our work and then it turns out the person we hired has a very different style that isn’t a good fit. And two people with the same degree can have pretty big differences in skill. It’s just one person’s opinion, but I would have a problem with it.

  27. Mannheim Steamroller*

    The bathroom question reminds me of the setup of one bathroom at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. Basically, it’s long double-ended bathroom: door, sinks, urinals, a few dozen stalls in groups of 4-6, more sinks, door. Depending on the event, interior walls are closed or opened to assign some stalls to men or to women. (For example, when the National Organization for Women is in town, most of the stalls will be assigned to the women’s side and only a handful will be on the men’s side. Later on when all the gay men’s choruses meet, some of those stalls will be on the men’s side and only a bare minimum will be on the women’s side.) I remember thinking that it was a brilliant compromise.

    1. New Job So Much Better*

      That’s how they do it at hotels during the romance writing conferences I’ve attended. Most of the men’s rooms are marked off as temporary lady’s rooms.

    2. Kelly L.*

      That’s super smart!

      A few years ago I went to a concert featuring an artist whose audience is about 90% female. The venue reassigned a couple of the men’s restrooms to women’s for the occasion.

    3. Bluebell*

      One thrilling moment in my girlhood was the science museum overnight, and we got to use the boys bathroom!

  28. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    A petition? How about just — hey, there seem to be women here, let’s share the bathrooms for goodness sakes.

    1. ACDC*

      No kidding. Plus I’ve definitely hopped into an empty men’s restroom when it was an emergency with no shame at all. I need a bathroom pronto – I don’t care which symbol is on the door (caveat: I have never, and probably would never, do this in a multi-stall men’s room, just a single toilet bathroom).

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Well it sounds like management is planning to petition the owners of the building. I imagine they don’t have the ability to just make the change themselves but are trying to show that it’s what the majority of the building occupants want.

  29. hbc*

    OP1: I think the problem is that ghost-written cover letters might be okay in a tiny, tiny percent of cases where the people involved believe whole-heartedly that theirs is a situation where it’s fine. Maybe this is one of those cases, but it’s unlikely. Does the hiring manager really deserve to be unknowingly taking a chance on a writer who reacts to stress by not being able to write? Is it fair to other applicants if the “voice” or writing style of the cover letter is what tips the decision on hiring?

    That’s leaving aside all the personal stuff, like how someone who is demoralized will feel in a job that is only his through outside intervention. (Do you even call it “Imposter Syndrome” when you actually had some impersonation going on?) What happens when/if this job isn’t what he hoped–is OP roped into another round?

    Help. Sit together and have him bounce ideas, give suggestions for general themes or a wording here and there, but don’t do the work for him. It’s not good for anyone involved.

  30. Food for thought*

    As a woman with GI issues, there needs to be a closer bathroom. At my office, I have to walk about a minute to either of our two restrooms and sometimes I’ve only JUST made it. I can’t fathom having a further trek. I feel for those women… ooof.

    1. Jamie*

      Three minute walk would be a deal breaker for me.

      I hope a manager there wouldn’t dare question women from being away from their desks for ~10 minutes hourly when need be.

      As to the OP – with only 60 people involved it’s likely that who did and didn’t sign will become known, think long and hard if you want to be that guy in the eyes of your co-workers.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        And this sounds seriously like intimidation and a hostile work environment to me…

        1. Jamie*

          What does? Denying women equal access to facilities or my saying he doesn’t want to be that guy.

          1. Jamie*

            Just saw your other response so now I understand your intent.

            Co-workers thinking less of someone is not intimidation nor does it create a hostile work environment. I didn’t suggest harassment, this isn’t about being in a protected class. He has a right to want to keep the benefit for himself, but others have the right to have non neutral opinions about that stance.

            1. Kay Webble*

              Well stated. @database developer dude, last time I checked, “dog in the manger” was not a protected class.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            The idea of what should be done with the bathrooms and the idea of signing a petition are TWO SEPARATE ISSUES.

            This is not about free speech, this is about OP being compelled to speak.

            For the record, I wholeheartedly support gender-neutral single-stall rooms, and if they made the stalls properly, I’d support gender-neutral bathrooms altogether. Still doesn’t make it right to intimidate the OP into signing a petition against his own interests.

            1. Jamie*

              What’s intimidating about pointing out that people may think poorly of him for this stance? No one mentioned harassment or bullying. We don’t live in a vacuum and people are judged for their actions, good or bad, all the time.

                1. Jamie*

                  I’m not being snarky in my responses, but no. I can disagree with people, even think negatively of them as people, and still have a functional working relationship. Many people can, proven by all the cooperative work that gets done across the world every single day by groups of people who don’t all necessarily think highly of everyone else.

                  The fact that you jumped to intimidation is about you, not a universal truth.

                2. DariaInABox*

                  Being impacted at work isn’t the same thing as “hostile work environment.” People are going to judge you on your actions, that’s life.

                3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                  In reality, it is what life is all about.

                  It’s the same thing with other non-pressing matters. Like who doesn’t hangout at lunch and finds a quiet corner to be by themselves. It’s the person who is kind of side-eyed when they refuse to go to a company sponsored event and then they miss out on networking opportunities due to that.

                  Is it fair? No. Is it illegal or anything near hostile work environment or intimidation, no. You’re using terms that are grounds for lawsuits here, that’s why everyone is pushing back at you for it.

                  In the end, it boils down to fit and this is the kind of thing that you can be seen as “Not a team player” for.

                  I agree completely that the management needs to stop making this so much about “we all need to stand together!”. When our landlord is involved, we demand things from our core not our entire entity. We’re the ones with the power to just up and leave anyways, we can choose to not resign a lease or to fight with them if we’re locked in, not the crew members themselves.

                4. A*

                  I hope you find what you’re looking for in life, you sound really angry and condescending. It must be exhausting.

            2. A*

              How is pointing out potential implications the OP hasn’t considered (aka one of the main reasons people write in to AAM), intimidation?

              Also, this is not an accurate use of the phrase ‘hostile work environment’ and I urge you to look into it further to avoid additional misapplications moving forward.

      2. Fabulous*

        10 minutes away from their desk LOL – only if there was no lines and no “business” being had!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve got GI issues to thanks to losing my gallbladder. I’d honestly just use the men’s bathroom at some point. Come at me for it and I’ll go ahead and bring you a doctors note and make it a really big deal. I’m not sh*tting myself because of poorly designed layouts.

  31. RandomPoster*

    For LW4 – can you and your husband just coordinate to tell your bosses on the same day? Or is there a particular need for your boss to know (make accommodations, etc.) and a need for his boss to not know (upcoming promotion, internal politics, etc)?

    1. OP #4*

      That’s the plan. This conversation really came about as a hypothetical because we want to wait until my husband’s probation period has ended in a few weeks, but I’m having pretty severe morning sickness already so it might come out earlier than planned.

  32. Database Developer Dude*

    While the situation for OP#2 would be better served by making all the bathrooms gender neutral, and I wholeheartedly support that, it is not unethical for the OP not to want to sign a petition. What’s happening here in the commentariat is that people are assuming the OP’s situation, and assigning motivation to him that he may or may not have.

    You don’t owe it to anyone to sign a petition, and the namecalling I’ve seen for him not wanting to sign the petition is absolutely abysmal.

    You can say all day long “gender neutral bathrooms”, and that’s great. The second you try to force someone to engage in your petition is the second you become the problem. If I were in this situation, even if I completely agreed with the object of the petition, I’d go to HR the second someone tried to force me or shame me into signing the petition.

    1. anon9*

      Dear lord, I had to go up to reread the letter because you make it sound like someone was brandishing a knife at LW#2 and making him sign. All that letter says is: “My boss is circulating a petition…” and the LW is worried about how to explain himself when someone asks him “I noticed you didn’t sign, what’s up with that?” He’s not being forced (or shamed, for that matter, where in the world are you reading that in the letter?) to do anything and it doesn’t sound like he will be forced or shamed into signing it at all. People are allowed to circulate petitions and people are allowed not to sign. LW#2’s concern is solely on how to sensitively say, “It sucks that there are people who need a closer bathroom but I am also people who needs a closer bathroom so I can’t support this as it will severely impact my comfort and the comfort of anyone else like me who works on this side of the floor.” A gender neutral, single stall toilet is the best middle ground in this case, to be honest, esp if everyone else is dead set on or don’t care about turning it into a women-only restroom. (As a reminder, that’s the proposal in the letter – there are no discussions of gender-neutral bathrooms at their workplace, just conversion from men’s to women’s room).

      Your reply was hyperbolic to say the least. Yeesh.

      1. Jamie*

        “It sucks that there are people who need a closer bathroom but I am also people who needs a closer bathroom so I can’t support this as it will severely impact my comfort and the comfort of anyone else like me who works on this side of the floor.”

        I agree with much of what you said but to the above…it will impact the comfort of anyone else like him, who is male, on that side of the floor.

        The women who are like him in needing urgent access to the bathroom at times are already being negatively impacted.

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        No, my reply is not hyperbolic, because this is not a petition issue, it’s a management issue. Managers need to manage, and not foist things off like they’re doing now.

        If I’m at work, and you bring me a petition, and tell me “you have to sign it”, you know what? It doesn’t matter even if I 100% agree with the cause. I’m still going to tell you to eff off. Signing petitions is not appropriate for the workplace, or has everyone forgotten the interns who got fired for petitioning for a relaxation in their dress code??

        This is a management failure, plain and simple.

        1. blackcat*

          There are multiple possible things, including building management has gotten the request and said “Gee, that sounds like a lot of work for us, and we don’t even know how your employees feel about it. So no.” So manager thinks, “Obviously this needs fixing, and I need my employees to sign a stupid thing to get the task done.”

          I don’t actually view that as a failure of management. Building management, yes. But no sign it’s a problem with OP’s boss.

          Per OP’s question, I don’t really think there’s a way to say “My need to have a bathroom close by should outweigh my female coworker’s need to have a bathroom close.” That doesn’t come off as self-centered.

          I think it would be totally fair to ask the boss to switch to a petition to make one (or two!) of the men’s rooms gender neutral so OP still has access. But taking the position that it’s better to inconvenience a whole group of people–who might have medical issues like the OP!–rather than oneself is not a good look.

    2. hbc*

      I think any negativity that is being directed at OP (versus the bathroom situation itself or warning about potential negativity in the workplace) comes from his apparent lack of connection of his bathroom needs to those of others. It comes across as “My need to have as many bathrooms near me available for my use is more important than others having *any* bathrooms available for their use.” I don’t think that’s the thought process, but it’s kind of the end result.

      1. Jamie*

        Well said. I think that’s the case, too. And it doesn’t make OP any kind of monster to have that initial impulse.

        If anything is going to cause one to put their own needs first as a kneejerk response it’s basic but urgent biological needs. That’s why I think Alison’s response and the comments are important, to show the impact outside himself.

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        It may or may not be the thought process, but the comments imply sexism where there might not be any. If OP had no GI issues, I’d say “sure, go to town with the accusations of sexism”. He does, so no, don’t do that.

          1. Joielle*

            This. And nobody’s even saying “Argh, OP, that heinous sexist, he deserves to be fired!” Just, like… “OP is being a little self centered about a privilege that should rightly be distributed more evenly.” Which is feedback that we could all probably use from time to time.

            When you have an advantage, evening things out makes it feel like you’re being disadvantaged, when in reality it’s just… evening things out. That can be hard to see from the inside, which doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person, just that you need an outside perspective.

        1. blackcat*

          Many people take the definitions that the “-isms” are “bias + power.” Does not require malice.

          Wanting to preserve one’s gender/racial/etc-based privilege is definitely bias + power.

  33. londonedit*

    LW1: I would absolutely recommend that your husband keeps a (good!) generic cover letter on file. You could by all means help him to revise or edit that template letter, but I still think the words actually need to come from him in the first place. Having a template to work from means he won’t be stuck staring at a blank Word document trying to start from scratch every time, and all he’ll need to do for each application is tweak the basic letter to fit the job he’s applying to. It’s what I do – the jobs I apply for are all pretty similar, so it’s just a case of tweaking things to highlight particular achievements/experience that relate to the specific job I’m after.

    1. juliebulie*

      I agree – this is a good compromise that lets the husband still feel ownership of the process and the letter itself.

  34. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#4: When one of my staff announced her pregnancy, my second step (after congratulating her) was to set up an appointment with HR. Because I didn’t want to mess up anything up. If your manager has any brains, she will run, not walk, to HR to make sure she understands your university’s leave policies. In fact, you may want to talk with HR yourself to make sure you understand what kinds of support are available to you.

    As to whether your HR person will talk with her counterpart or not, that depends on their local structure and customs. Is there some particular reason your husband doesn’t want his manager to know about this? Because it might simplify matters if he just told his manager himself.

    1. OP #4*

      Hi, he’ll absolutely tell his manager and we’re planning to announce on the same day. This conversation came about as a hypothetical because we’re planning to wait until after his probation period ends in a few weeks, but I’m having pretty severe morning sickness so I might have to tell my boss much earlier than I otherwise would. I fully expect we’ll both need to sit down with HR to figure out the leave situation and our managers will probably do the same. Thanks for your comment!

      1. SpaceySteph*

        I have struggled with morning sickness during this pregnancy and the last one, and though I don’t know the extent of how bad yours is, I do think you can deflect a little (i.e not feeling well, medical issue, non specifics). They’ll probably start to suspect (especially if you’re openly barfing in trash cans during meetings), but hopefully any reasonable human would suspect privately until you came forward with it. And hopefully they would respect your right to keep the news to yourself until you’re comfortable sharing and out of the danger zone.

  35. SomebodyElse*

    A little bit of a different take on the bathroom letter.

    I wouldn’t sign the petition mainly because I think the petitions are worthless and not worth the time it would take to sign it. OP if your boss wants to change the bathroom situation, then I would suggest that they take it to the leaseholder directly after discussing it with the lease signers of the other companies who rent. Presumably this bathroom situation isn’t a new one, so whomever it was from the OPs company who found the location and signed the lease either knew about this or had the opportunity to see what the bathroom situation was at the time of lease signing.

    This is one of those times where whomever is in charge of the OPs company needs to sit down with the leaseholder and discuss the situation or live with and move to another location with better facilities.

    As for as the ethical obligation for the OP to sign the petition. I strongly disagree with that idea. If the OP wants to sign the petition than fine. But insinuating they lack ethics if they don’t sign is ridiculous. As I said, I would refuse to sign for the reason above which has nothing to do with my ethics.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, I agree that the OP signing should be irrelevant (and, more generally, that it’s people’s option to sign or not sign petitions). But I got the impression from the letter that what OP’s boss was doing is what you describe here – developing a petition to submit to the leaseholder after getting the other tenant companies on board. Like that it would be a request signed by a representative of each company leasing space, not all the employees that work in the building. If that’s the case, OP should definitely not interfere with that processes in an effort to preserve his easy access to multiple bathrooms. I’m not sure why the OP would think he’d need to broach this with anyone or that him not being on board would impact what the boss is trying to do. Other people need bathrooms too!

  36. Aggretsuko*

    During a horrible crisis time at my job in which I was likely to get fired, a friend of mine took it upon herself to apply for jobs on my behalf. This is a terrible idea because someone else really doesn’t know your capabilities. She applied for things I didn’t want and wouldn’t have wanted if asked, that I did not qualify for. I applied for a job I did want and then I found out later that so did she, minus the writing samples they asked for because she had none of mine. Now I can never apply at that place again and it was somewhere I really like.

    Obviously I got no interviews from these and it “helped” not at all, but if I had, god only knows what would have happened. I feel like having someone else “help” is just a horrible idea. Even if somehow the husband is actively involved in this, the wife really knows everything he does, etc. I feel like it could really backfire if/when something comes up where it becomes obvious that the husband didn’t do the work. I know it’s bad that he’s so demoralized that he can’t apply for jobs, but the wife doing the work isn’t a solution either.

    1. Colette*

      This is a good point. Writing a cover letter feels like helping – but the primary thing it’s accomplishing is making the OP feel better. It probably isn’t helping the husband – he’s not going to feel more confident as a result of someone else doing it, and it isn’t going to improve his reputation with potential employers.

    2. Holly*

      Why can’t you apply there again? People apply for jobs a second time all the time even if they screwed up the first time. (But obviously what your friend did was not great at all!)

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Yes, sketchy recruiters do that all the time, they skim resumes off of public resume sites or dig into their archive of old resumes, submit them to every possible job that person’s resume is remotely appropriate for, and then when the person applies on their own and gets the job, swoops in and demands the placement fee.

    3. CmdrShepard4ever*

      You know your own situation better. But I do not think that having two applications submitted to the same employer for the same position is a “never apply to that job again.” At worst I think it is a wait a while and you can reapply later. If the one application did not submit the required writing sample, it was probably dismissed entirely before someone even checked the name on it.

  37. Super Anon*

    #1 – A word of caution. When I was in college and feeling cynical about academia after some negative experiences, I wrote a paper for my then-boyfriend. I could write well, and very fast. I cranked out a ten page chemistry paper in a couple of hours so we could go out and do . . . some fun thing that I’ve completely forgotten about.

    I got my just desserts. He turned into a real jerk and we parted ways. But the paper helped his career and he still benefits from it. I didn’t even get to study chemistry in college due to a tough break in high school (getting kicked out of the class for having test anxiety, which would be seen as illegal today, but that was a different era). I read science text books on my own time, did the reading assigned to people taking those classes, but never got credit. And that was only part of my frustration with academia, but I digress.

    Anyway, people change and relationships don’t always last. If you do good work and let other people take credit for it, the effects can endure. You can really sell yourself short that way. It’s also a dishonest thing to do to pontential employers, when you think about it. You’re misrepresenting a candidate’s writing style. I know you probably mean well and weren’t looking at it that way, but it’s a fair angle to consider.

    Support your partner emotionally. Support him in dealing with his anxiety. Don’t do work under his name. Always do your own work, take credit for your work, and get paid for your work.

  38. Buttons*

    Why would there need to be a petition signed at all? Why doesn’t the renting company speak to whoever holds the lease and let them know they need a woman’s restroom closer? It seems silly and like a way to stir up feelings and resentment between the two companies sharing a floor. If there was an insect infestation would they sign a petition to get it taken care of, or would they make a request to whoever has the responsibility to fix it?
    As far as ethics go, I don’t really understand how it is an ethics question at all? If you don’t want to sign something, because you don’t agree, then don’t.

  39. Database Developer Dude*

    You all really need to read what Alison wrote to OP#2. She’s equating not signing the petition to not supporting equal access to the bathrooms. This is poor management on OP’s bosses’ part. He should be contacting the landlord on his own authority and saying “Hey, we’ve got women here, can we turn the one of the mens’ bathrooms into a womens’ bathroom or a gender neutral one?”. Instead, he’s pawning it off on the employees. When in charge, be in charge.

    The OP admits to GI issues, and that is their motivation for not wanting to sign the petition. Sexism is being assumed where it’s not in evidence. Saying “You have to sign this petition” is morally and ethically wrong.

    Now for the record, in the cited situation, I fully support and endorse turning one of the mens’ bathrooms on that side of the floor into a womens’ or a gender-neutral bathroom.

    The petition is not the way to go about this. If you want to be a manager, manage. This is part of management, arranging things to make your employees’ jobs easier.

    1. Jamie*

      Sexism is being assumed where it’s not in evidence.

      Sexism isn’t being assumed on the part of the OP. The impact of 2 men’s rooms to no women’s is sexist as blatantly disadvantages one group of people over another based on sex.

      OP wanting to maintain his advantage means he wants to maintain the sexist impact, but that doesn’t mean his intent is sexist. If the same numbers applied, but rather than men and women it was engineers and sales, or people with odd numbered offices compared to evens by which they were dividing bathrooms for some reason, I am sure he’d still want to maintain the status quo which gives him an advantage over others.

      Fwiw I think petitions are stupid and managers should manage…but he asked for advice and it’s good for him to see how his stance could be viewed by others.

    2. DreamingInPurple*

      “Sexism is being assumed where it’s not in evidence.” – Sorry, but you are factually incorrect. Sexism does not have to be intentional to exist. OP2 is saying that they would prefer to maintain the current situation where men have access to two close restrooms and women in their area have access to no close restrooms. There is no factual way that this isn’t institutionally condoned gating of access based solely on gender – which is sexism, by definition. Please stop perpetuating the idea that ill intent has to be there, because all it does is allow people to avoid having to confront what they are doing to others.

      I actually agree with you that it’s deeply problematic that a petition is being seen as the way to remedy this, but if other more sensible options have been tried but haven’t gained traction then that is a problem in itself. This may be the one avenue that’s available to the women at that site.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        Even if it’s the one avenue that’s available, that doesn’t create for the OP a responsibility to sign the petition. This is a management failure, plain and simple. If there are 60 people on the floor, and 15 of them are women, and 45 of them are men, but the people are segregated by company, why hasn’t the manager approached the landlord to solve this problem??

        My objections are NOT AT ALL to the bathroom changes being proposed, they are to the petition itself. Frankly, I don’t see why every single floor of the building doesn’t have one mens’ room and one womens’ room on EACH side of the building. A building has four sides, doesn’t it? There should be one of each on each of four sides, in my opinion.

        A petition, however, is NOT the way to accomplish this.

        1. blackcat*

          My reading is that the petition is *for the building manager.* OP’s boss is trying to get *the building* to change practices. We don’t know that the boss hasn’t approached building management, one way or another.

        2. DreamingInPurple*

          Actually forcing the OP to sign a petition or face job consequences would be unethical, sure, but that wasn’t anywhere near the main subject of my comment that you are replying to. I also never said anything to imply that you had any issues with the proposed changes. I did say that you are wrong about the OP’s stance not being sexist, which you are choosing to sidestep.

      2. Jamie*

        I agree with you actually and can see how my wording was unclear.

        Intent doesn’t matter because the impact is sexist. The person to whom I was responding seemed to me to be implying commenters were accusing the OP of sexist intent and that’s not what was happening…but yeah, my wording muddied my point. Sorry about that.

        1. DreamingInPurple*

          Not sure if this reply was meant to be to me, but I wasn’t actually trying to reply to your post earlier, I just hadn’t refreshed the page since you’d made it and ended up making a very similar one!

      3. SpaceySteph*

        The desire to perpetuate an unequal status quo because it is advantageous to oneself is not defensible behavior. Maybe the root of some people wanting to uphold Jim Crow laws was because there was less line for the white bathroom, or because it was easier to get into the good colleges when blacks weren’t admitted…that doesn’t make it ok.

        The OP notes that most users of the floor are in male dominated fields. I have to wonder in what other ways some of those companies are telegraphing that they don’t care that much about workplace diversity. If I (an engineer) went to interview at a company and found out there was less women’s restrooms and I had to walk farther than a male coworker every time I needed to pee, it would give me pause as to whether the company would be a good place for me to work.

    3. Observer*

      No, the OP specifically does not want to change one of the bathrooms over, which is why he doesn’t want to sign the petition. And while his reasoning is merely selfish, it IS effectively sexist – He’s basically saying that it’s ok for women to have inadequate access to bathrooms, to make his situation easier. In other words, the OP may not be sexist in general. But in this case, his attitude is most definitely sexist.

    4. Joielle*

      If your kneejerk reaction to being asked to support a change that 1. would make things fair, and 2. you actually do support is NO, YOU CAN’T MAKE ME, then I think you gotta do some work on yourself, dude.

  40. Scarlet*

    LW #1 – that is so sweet, and I completely understand the anxiety applying for jobs – it’s so hard to be rejected over and over again and still keep your head up. Job hunting is the WORST. Put his resume out there for him! Hopefully when he gets a couple call-backs it will boost his spirit and help him get enough momentum to keep going. Good luck to you both!

  41. miss_chevious*

    OP #1 — I would listen to Alison’s advice here, but I wanted to add as a fellow M.A. in English Lit person (the Victorian novel — whoo!) who now works in a corporation, don’t give up hope during your job search process. I went the law degree route, but there are plenty of us with M.A.s as terminal degrees who get into the business side of things as well.

    Because your degree is in something less directly applicable to the field, you will have to overcome some initial resistance to your application by being great on paper and giving great interview, but once you’re in the door, that won’t matter, and the subject matter of your degree becomes less and less important over time. For me, some XXX years out of school, it’s become a topic of interest and curiosity with co-workers, just like their degrees in biology or anthropology or sculpting (!!!) (I work at a large bank that does none of those things. :) )

    1. Jamie*

      I worked with an incredible process engineer who had a degree in Philosophy from an excellent school. It was definitely an unconventional career path, but he was great at what he did!

  42. KX*

    Re: Cover letter.

    Having an MA in English is not a guarantee of beautiful prose and engaging communication skills. It’s a guarantee of critical thinking skills, the ability to make a written argument, and probably also extensively literary and historical knowledge and insight, but it is not a writing degree. It’s not an MFA. You can’t just swap one MA in English’s writing for another.

    You can help with cover letters from the ground up, and provide an outline or suggested structure. You can add fancy/higher level formatting to a plain text document. You can make recommendations on sentence order and boiler plate business letter-common phrases and usage. You can copyedit and proofread it. You can do all this helpfully and ethically, but you cannot write for someone else.

    People need to be judged on their own work. Leave the cover letter off if even a guided rough draft is a burden.

    1. LW1*

      Thank you for understanding what it means to have a degree in English! Though we are both talented writers, we aren’t even necessarily applying to writing based jobs. That said, I wasn’t thinking to try to swap our writing. The plan was for him to look it over and change things to his style. I knew it would be a murky area though and wanted to get another opinion.
      The problem is not that he CAN’T write a cover letter. He has written them before and gotten interviews on them. The problem IS that applying with little success for a year has worn him down so hard that it is becoming very difficult for him to keep doing it. It has really become an emotional issue.

  43. Rainbow Roses*

    #1 I’m sure people will disagree with me but I say go ahead and help him as much as you can. I’m one of those people who just can’t put together an impressive cover letter and application (except for plugging in facts like name, ph#, etc). I don’t know what it is with this mental block. However, once I manage to get a job, I’m always one of the best workers. I can write good reports on the job; just not my own resume. So perhaps he’s someone like me who shines more in person. Right now, he just needs go get his foot in door and a decent application can do that for him.

  44. Magenta*

    I gave no definition of male or female, I said nothing that suggested I was excluding transwomen. I just said that I would prefer not to share a multi-stall space with men. I gave examples of why single sex bathrooms are preferable for women.
    I find that a lot of people chose to read concerns like mine in a transphobic light because it makes them easier to dismiss. There is no need to bother with objections when they come from a “TERF”.
    In reality I regularly share bathrooms with transwomen and think nothing of it, I view the transwomen I know as women and would defend their right to use the facilities they feel safest in.

    1. anon9*

      I didn’t read your response as transphobic — I was responding to another person who seemed to have though so if you want to make this clear, I suggest you reply to them.

  45. Leela*

    OP #2 I have lots of digestive issues and I’m on chemo, and I’m female. If I lost the opportunity to have a close bathroom because you wanted more than half of the options available to you when *you* were having GI issues, I would absolutely lose it.

  46. Buttons*

    I write people’s cover letters all the time, because of my job I know what should be covered in a cover letter and can take the person’s skills and highlight them in a way that most people can’t. I don’t feel like I am doing anything wrong, the people I help are perfectly capable of writing the kind of writing needed for their job/profession, but resume and cover letter writing is a specialty in their own right. People pay a lot of money for professional resume and cover letter writers.

    1. Buttons*

      Adding: I have posted full paragraphs of cover letter examples on the open thread when people have asked for help with how to phrase something. I just don’t see anything wrong with it. The point of the cover letter is to highlight the relevant skills from a resume that matches what you think the hiring manager or recruiter is looking for. That isn’t a skill everyone has.

    2. Tinuviel*

      Well… people pay for others to write their essays in school and take tests for them too. And there’s a long Twitter thread somewhere of men in academia thanking their wives for basically writing their books and research for them, for none of the credit. Ghostwriters have a clause in their contracts that they can’t say who they ghostwrote for for a reason.

      I think if you’re in an industry/world/situation where the cover letter isn’t that important and communication/writing skills aren’t important, then you shouldn’t need a cover letter in the first place.
      But every industry/situation I’ve been in that required a cover letter used it as a way to gauge the applicant’s communication skills and their ability to condense information persuasively. Those are pretty generic business skills that most people need to have to some extent.

      So helping someone struggling with a phrase here and there is one thing, or giving insight into what a hiring manager is looking for… but ghostwriting is widely considered shady and deceptive, even though people seek and offer these services. Like selling knock-off or stolen goods, pirating media or software online… many people do it but it’s not considered ethical.

      1. That's a No from Me*

        Are you comparing writing a cover letter for someone else to breaking the law? I’m one of the employers who does not consider it unethical for someone to submit a cover letter that was written by someone else unless writing will be a key part of the job.

  47. BlueWolf*

    For #1: My fiance has been struggling with anxiety/depression for quite some time. He recently lost his job and has been trying to job hunt. As much as a second income would be helpful, I have not done any applications for him. I will occasionally send him job postings I think he’d be interested in, but otherwise I would never think of writing his cover letters for him because the employer needs to judge his candidacy based on his work, not mine. However, I will certainly read through his cover letter and help copy edit or maybe help with some wording here or there. LW #1’s partner should start with a generic cover letter as a template and then adjust it as needed for each job posting. LW #1 can help review it, but he needs to do the bulk of the work. Sometimes we do things to try to help someone that actually will be harmful to them in the long run.

  48. Leela*

    I once worked at a company with more men than women where the men actually *requested* that we turn one of the women’s bathrooms into a men’s bathroom since we were so outnumbered.

  49. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

    OP 1: I was in a similar situation once. My partner was miserable and burned out in his field and had made the decision to embark on New Path X. He could. not. stop. screwing around with the application materials, though, and I seriously thought about jumping in to just write ’em already. In our situation, it would have been a mistake if I had. We both thought the foot-dragging was a product of his job-related misery (and I’m sure some of it was), but there turned out to be a much more important explanation: he didn’t actually want to take New Path X–he just wanted to escape Miserable Job. The application foot-dragging turned out to be the first sign that deep down he knew New Path X was not the right way forward. If I had written the application essays/cover letters for him, he might have gotten carried onto New Path X before reckoning with his indecision and discomfort, which would have created longer-term problems.

    I’m not arguing for or against writing his materials. But I do recommend taking a step back to look at the bigger picture together first.

  50. LilySparrow*

    You don’t notify your manager about pregnancy as “medical information.” You notify them because it’s going to affect your availability and use of leave time.

    Those are totally appropriate and normal things for management to discuss with HR and coordinate across teams for planning & coverage.

  51. QueenoftheCats*

    #1 I wanted to offer some brainstorming ideas that you might want to also consider:

    -offering editing/content feedback
    -helping him reasses if he’s applying to the jobs that match his skill set/experience
    -seeing if his graduate or even undergraduate schools offer alumns workshops on changing careers/revamping resumes
    -Someone else mentioned this, but I liked the idea: helping him create a general cover letter that he can use as a template for future cover letters

    But whatever you decide to do, make sure you know what your limits are and stick with them. After all, you have your own job apps you need to send, too! I think the airplane rule applies: “Put your O2 mask on first before assisting others.”

  52. 4Sina*

    At 460 comments, I’m sure this doesn’t matter (and I didn’t read all of them) – but yes, the answer is the petition should be in favor of making *all* of the bathrooms gender neutral. This way, anyone can use the toilet that is open and most convenient to them without being in need (and is literally the bare minimum on making your workplace friendly to any binary non-conforming or trans employees).

    Also, it sounds like there’s still a ton of bathrooms for men even if ONE was switched? You have GI issues. That’s terrible. The women who work here might also have GI issues probably find their situation terrible as well – imagine that.

  53. Third or Nothing!*

    OK OP#1, I have some suggestions for you. My husband has anxiety and depression and was in a ridiculously toxic welding job at the beginning of our marriage. After we had our daughter, things got so bad that he had to take a leave of absence on doctor’s orders. During that time, he job hunted like crazy and landed his current position with an aircraft repair company with great benefits, pay, and actual work/life balance.

    Not saying your partner has anxiety/depression, but since he’s struggling so much with being unhappy at his job and feeling overwhelmed, I think some of our coping strategies might be helpful.

    Things I did to help him:
    1) took on more than my share of the family responsibilities so he felt less overwhelmed
    2) encouraged him to rest when he needed it and not push himself past the point of exhaustion
    3) wrote a ton of encouraging notes
    4) edited his resume and cover letters
    5) convinced him to see a therapist (actually she’s mine too!)
    6) held him while he cried…a lot

    Things I did to help myself:
    1) kept up with running
    2) let him know when I was feeling overwhelmed so we could shift the burden back for a little while
    3) started seeing a therapist
    4) adjusted expectations

    I know it’s really really hard to see someone you love struggle so much. You just want to fix everything and make it all better, but you can’t, and it sucks. Be very aware of how you’re feeling in all this because compassion burnout and fatigue is totally a thing, even if you’re not a professional caregiver. And a year is a long time to deal with that.

    I hope things improve for you guys soon and that this is just a bump in the road on the way to better things.

    1. LW1*

      Thank you so much for your understanding comment! Some responses have really spiraled here.
      I do think I will work harder to make sure the chores and things aren’t becoming added pressures.
      But yeah, watching him struggle like this is hard! He really is so brilliant and the issue would never be that I would write a letter he isn’t capable of also writing. The problem is that he doesn’t seem to know that anymore. And the pressure just continues to mount from so many directions: we need more money, he needs to get out of this toxic job where he had to report his superior for illegal activity, etc. I’ve already convinced him to see a therapist but he can’t because we can’t actually afford it – which makes me feel so crumby!

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        You’re very welcome. We’ve been there and come out the other side so I totally get the struggle.

        You mentioned you don’t have the funds for therapy. I don’t know all the resources out there, but I did find this website with some free help lines: If you’re in the US they should have some ideas for free/cheap resources. Alternatively, I do know there are therapists out there who work off a sliding scale, like mine. She charges me far less than I’d pay if I went through insurance, which is super helpful for us.

  54. LW1*

    LW1 here.
    Thank you for the quick response! I’ve decided that it would definitely be a bad idea to be writing his cover letters.

    And to give some context/detail to the therapy discussions- we have talked about his going to counseling. I was diagnosed with mental illness in high school and have gone to counseling ever since- of course my first response to this situation was to get him into counseling. Unfortunately, counseling does cost quite a bit of money that we don’t necessarily have. My parents have been paying my doctors office visits but they have a bit more financial security than his parents do. While I am fully willing to make sacrifices and do what we have to do to get him happy and healthy, it makes him really uncomfortable. Also, he doesn’t feel comfortable going while he’s still on his parents insurance (we are 25, getting married soon) and wants to wait to go to counseling. I do not believe in forcing him to go, so I just bring it up every so often to check in. I want him to go when he is ready.

    However, the stress and anxiety over applications does seem to come more from feelings of failure than anything else. All of the ghosting and rejections really do take a toll and the thought of putting yourself back into that really does suck. Eventually the task just fills you with so much dread. That’s on top of the fact that his factory job is so exhausting and frustrating that he doesn’t want to do anything when he gets home. To avoid the grumbling and tension that always happens when I push him to apply, I tend to just let it slide.

    On the other hand, he does interview well and gets pretty far into the interview process. Despite being an English major, he’s actually a better speaker and performer than a writer. We’ve been trying to find jobs that will speak more to that skill, but to be honest we’re getting so desperate in terms of us both needing a better wage that we aren’t that picky about where we apply as long as it’s full time and has benefits (re: counseling).

    I think what I might do is help with the redundant form filling (putting in our address, phone numbers, etc). That way he doesn’t feel like he sunk and wasted SO much time when applications don’t work out. I’m not trying to hold his hand or coddle him, but at the end of the day I also really need him to get a better paying job. I have gotten lucky to get a secretarial position that I’ll stay in for at least a year and helps alleviate some of the financial pressure, so I haven’t been applying for about a month. I think I’ll just focus my coddling efforts more on making sure everything in the house is taken care of so he can focus on applications easier.

    1. Madame X*

      I’m so glad you responded! It sounds like you have a plan in place. I can empathize with your husband- job application rejections suck. It really is a numbers game, you just have to keep applying (and adjusting as you do, of course). Good luck to you both!

    2. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      LW1, you sound like a kind and thoughtful partner. Your plan makes sense to me. Best of luck to you both!

  55. alittlehelpplease*

    There was a case decided in Florida federal court from 2017, Holtrey, that strongly suggests that the scenario in OP4’s story is a FMLA violation.

    1. Close Bracket*

      Yes, I did wonder whether other laws might have privacy aspects that applied. LW is describing information flowing around HR and her and husband’s respective managers. I guess they don’t need to talk about the pregnancy aspect, but they do need to talk about any leave LW and her husband might ask for. So there have to be exceptions to any privacy considerations for those purposes.

    2. Beatrice*

      The problem in Holtrey was that the employee’s medical information was shared with peers and subordinates. Sharing with the manager of another employee who will also be eligible for FMLA is a very, very different thing. I’m not a lawyer, but the employer has a limited amount of time after they become aware of a need for FMLA leave to notify the employee of whether the leave is covered under FMLA or not, and since both husband and wife are employed by the same company, their leave time is handled a little differently (family bonding time is split between spouses employed by the same company), and since her eligibility and his is joined by that rule, it might not only be okay for the employer to communicate about the leave between the HR and managers affected, it might be necessary for them to do so to fulfill their legal obligations.

  56. IT Guy*

    I disagree about cover letters. Very rarely in a work context are you expected to write a solid page about why you’re awesome. You’re expected to be able to communicate about the task at hand. I would be more than happy to talk about that. Talking about myself is… painful.

  57. No guilt*

    I’ve written many cover letters for my husband. They give him anxiety, writing is not his strong suit, and he doesn’t have a writing-centric career.

    He excels in his jobs. And, I like shelter and food. I have zero qualms about doing this, just as he has helped me with a PowerPoint or two. We are a team, and we are trying to survive.

    Maybe in another universe we would feel the eithical concern outweighing our basic human survival. But not now.

Comments are closed.