yawning at work, asking for a fancier computer, and more

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

1. Yawning at work

The letter you recently published on the klutzy, unpolished boss might have given me a bit of a complex!

I am a naturally very tired person. A lot of this has to do with my mental health (which I am working through with the appropriate professionals and medications). But I yawn a LOT at work, and especially in meetings. I try to be discreet by covering my mouth and not yawning in peoples’ faces, but my yawns are big, stretch-my-spine-and-fill-my-lungs affairs.

Can other people control their yawns? A search of the website seems to show that most people think yawning is rude, and a sign of … what? People trying to get attention? People not getting enough sleep?

My yawns are like muscle spasms. I can’t stop them, and my body is clearly telling me I need them. I don’t want to come off as “uninterested” or “unpolished.” Am I supposed to be doing more to control this? Help!

Yes, most people can indeed control their yawns — often by breathing deeply, yawning with their mouths mostly closed, or just stifling it. Some medical conditions and medications can make that harder though (or perhaps impossible).

But yeah, yawning in meetings does generally come across as bored or even rude, especially if you’re clearly not trying to stifle it. If you genuinely can’t control it, it might be worth mentioning to your manager that it’s related to a health condition and not a sign of boredom. But ideally you’d see if you can downgrade them from “big, stretch-my-spine-and-fill-my-lungs affairs” to something less visible.

2. How do I deal with coworkers complaining about their moms after mine died?

I have been at my current job for about five years and I’m fairly senior here. I work in a laboratory setting so I work independently but physically close with a lot of people. Many of the people in my area (at least four) are entry-level people who have just finished college and live at home with their parents. The topic of conversations many days revolves around them complaining about their families and living situations, along the lines of “ugh my mom is so annoying/I hate living with my parents/I can’t wait to move out/my mom does stupid things/etc.”

I’m not faulting them for this, as their parents and the challenges of living with them are a big part of their lives and I probably said similar things when I was in a similar situation. My mom died (suddenly and unexpectedly) one year ago today, actually, and the rest of my family is fractured, so I’m pretty much on my own. My problem is, it’s getting hard to endure listening to just normal conversations when people complain about their families when I want to yell, “I WISH MY MOM WOULD ANNOY ME! I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE 50 MISSED CALLS!!”

Do you have any advice on how to handle this? I know it’s not their fault my mom died, and I don’t know their situations, so maybe their moms really are awful, I don’t know. I don’t want to sound like Yoda by saying “you’ll miss her annoying you when she’s not here” and just generally being a downer, so I haven’t said anything, but it’s grating on me.

Headphones are not an option as they are not allowed in our lab for safety reasons.

I’m sorry! I know this feeling and it sucks.

I think you’re allowed one “you know, my mom died unexpectedly last year and I’d give anything to have her back annoying me.” If they have any sensitivity at all, they’ll cut back on the mom complaints.

But they probably won’t stop altogether because that’s the stage of life they’re at. There’s a good chance their perspective will shift in time, but right now this is where they are. Where you are is with a very fresh and painful loss, and those two don’t mix well.

That said, this one hits too close to home for me to advise on it confidently. What advice do others have?

Updated to add: There are far better (clearer, more direct) suggestions than mine in the comments, including these:

  • “Hey, this is a sensitive topic for me, can you take it somewhere else so I can focus on work?”
  • “My mom died very suddenly last year, and it’s made all these discussions of families hard for me to hear. I know you guys need to blow off steam sometimes, but could you please do it when I’m not around?”
  • “Hey guys, I lost my mother last year, could you take it easy on the parent complaints when I’m here? It’s hard for me to hear. Thanks.”

3. My student employees aren’t direct when asking for time off

We have student employees who ask for permission to miss a shift or not come in, but they are not really asking for permission; instead, I’m guessing that that’s what they want. It’s totally fine and in fact expected for them to call in occasionally, due to school/sickness/life/youth, but they’ll phrase it as “Do you want me to come in tomorrow?” or “Is it okay if I don’t come in tomorrow?” which causes some consternation among the full-time staff. Do you have suggestions for how to coach them to take more control of their time off? Or do we need to just get over it and let them learn this lesson as a new professional?

It’s useful to address it — it’s part of coaching student employees about how the professional world works, and it’ll help them in future jobs. If they say, “Do you want me to come in tomorrow?” you could respond with, “Are you asking if you can take the day off?” When they (presumably) say yes, you can say, “Yes, you can have tomorrow off” and then add, “This is the sort of thing you figure out as you get more professional experience, but the best way to ask for a day off is to directly request it — like, ‘Could I take tomorrow off?’ If you just ask if I want you to come in, what you’re getting at isn’t entirely clear.” You could add, “And frankly, my default will be to always want you to come in when you’re scheduled, but I can often approve time off anyway — so I want you to ask the right question.”

4. Can I ask for a fancier computer?

My job is evolving into a management role in which computer usage is key. Currently, I am expected to use a very bulky Excel program for most tasks, as well as specialized software, that takes my old work computer several minutes to process every time I run new calculations. Also, I am finding myself in many meetings where I am writing copious amounts of notes which then need to be brought back to my desk and cross-referenced with information on my computer, which would be alleviated by a tablet or laptop. At the very least, I need to request a new desktop computer. I would love to request a pro tablet or fancy laptop, instead, that I can carry to meetings for note-taking and use off-site as needed for evening work or at conferences. I am assuming that if I ask for a new computer, I will get a basic model one. What is the etiquette around requesting more than the basic model of equipment? How hard should I push for something that would make my life easier but isn’t essential for my job? Are there any good ways to phrase the request so I have a better chance of getting a more versatile and useful machine?

Request the equipment you need to do your job more efficiently! Say something like, “My current computer struggles to run programs X and Y and takes a long time to process new calculations. I’m hoping to get a machine with the power to run them without such a long lag. Ideally it would be a laptop so I can take notes at meetings more efficiently since I do a lot of note-taking. Would it be possible to order Specific Model 1 or Specific Model 2, both of which would save me significant time every day?” (If you can quantify the amount of time it would save you, that’s even better.)

If your manager says it’s not something the budget can cover right now, ask if it’s possible to plan for it in next year’s budget.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. My manager suggested I come in on my day off to talk about a raise

I work for a large company (more than 10,000 employees). I work in the same city, but at a different site from my supervisors.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to ask for a raise for the first time in my three years here after receiving consistently good reviews and feedback. I sent an email to Boss and Grandboss about the process of requesting a raise (would they like to meet in person, have me write a proposal and send it over, etc.) Their response was that I should go directly to HR to ask for a raise. This struck me as odd because I’ve never met my HR rep and they would have no idea of what kind of work I’ve been doing or how well I’ve been doing it.

I emailed my HR rep anyway, and predictably was told that requests for raises must come to HR from management. My HR rep told me that she also relayed this information to Boss and Grandboss. I also emailed my bosses to follow up.

After a week of hearing nothing from Boss and Grandboss, I emailed them for an update. Boss responded that we should arrange to meet on my next day off (I work some weekends, so I have random weekdays off, but she specifically “your day off”). Is it common practice to have employees come in on their day off to discuss a raise? To be clear, I have traveled to their site for meetings in the past, and management has had meetings at my site too. I have to hope that they aren’t having me come in on a day off to discuss a raise they don’t intend on giving. What do you think?

No, that’s not normal. This is a work meeting and it should be during work time. I’d respond back with, “I’m hoping we can do it on one of my scheduled workdays since I usually have conflicts on other days. Would Tuesday or Wednesday work instead?”

{ 581 comments… read them below }

  1. Sleve McDichael*

    LW#4, many companies have deals with computer manufacturers or suppliers to only offer a certain brand of computer, so you may find it easier to work out what you need your computer to do, or to be able to run and then ask IT what they can offer with those specs.

    I did this recently by going to IT first, getting the specs of two different laptops and two desktops then taking them to my boss and saying ‘I need a new computer. IT say I can have any of these; here they are in order of my preference.’ My boss came back and asked me a little about my preferences, then decided himself. I made it easy for him so it all went through very quickly, no sweat.

    1. Violet Fox*

      IT probably also knows how the system works to get people what they actually need, and what they have been able to get people in the past and what has not worked. The big thing is to focus on work needs, especially considering the meetings and not actually being able to do basic tasks. I’m not saying don’t express preferences, but more couch them inside of work needs rather than desires.

      Also, tell them in general about the problems with your computer being so slow doing basic tasks — they might be able to help with that right away.

      1. OrigCassandra*

        Yes. There may be interventions short of a new computer that would help — I wonder if your computer is still running on an old-school hard drive instead of an SSD?

        1. Jadelyn*

          They also might be able to speed it up by adding a bit more RAM to it, if a new box isn’t in the budget right now. Most basic workplace desktops start with piddly amounts of RAM (generally 2-4GB in my experience) and if you use Excel much, it quickly eats it all up. When I requested a new desktop last year, I specified to my IT that I wanted 8GB at least, preferably 16GB if they could swing it, because the main few programs I use are all memory-hogs and that’s where I was always getting bottlenecked.

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            I would die if I had to use a computer with 2-4GB of RAM. Mine has 16, and I could still use more!

            1. Jadelyn*

              Yeah, I love my IT guys. They got me 16. My old desktop had 4, and just opening Excel – no data, just a blank new spreadsheet – plus having Outlook open and my HRIS open in Chrome would put my utilization at like 80%. If I had to have multiple spreadsheets open, or gods forbid get into Cognos, yeah nope. Lag. Lag everywhere.

          2. Ralph Wiggum*

            As an IT professional, I second this. Put as much memory in as the system can handle. 99% of client systems are bottlenecked by memory, not CPU.

            Essentially, the computer is wasting a bunch of time writing out notes, then consulting those notes, because it doesn’t have enough room to keep it all in its “head.”

            Only exception is if you’re running a bunch of complex scientific analyses, like protein folding. Then you might actually be CPU-bound.

      2. AnnaBananna*

        And that’s why I’m really surprised that it hasn’t been switched out yet. Lord knows it’s practically impossible to work on Excel 2016 unless you have Windows 10 (ask me how I know!), and I found that any of our machines older than 3 years simply couldn’t keep up with the newer iterations of other applications (Tableau, anything Adobe related, even Chrome would hiccup, and don’t even get me started about Spotify!).

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If the company is too small for in-house IT, pull the recommended specs of the three programs that are most critical to your work. While you’re at it, get upgraded to the newest version and the current operating system so you get the most amount of time before you have to do this again.

    3. Random IT Guy*

      Ideally – as Sleve said – talk to IT first.
      Ask the options and express your needs.

      My company has set standards – and within these we can do things.
      Basically you can then go to boss dude and say ‘i have old desktop, but run into problem A, B and C – which impacts my work flexibility and speed – and i`ve asked IT and within company policies we do have (stronger desktop X) but to increase flexibilty and enable some outside work, i request to get (strong laptop Y) – here are the specs.

      This way, you show you have thought about this, have asked the expert (IT) and more or less limit the choice to ‘yes or no’ (instead of giving the bossperson the choice of a desktop or a laptop).

      Good luck.

      1. Lora*

        Am listening to these suggestions in wonder.

        I do a lot of high powered computational data analysis for my job with specialty software. I’ve worked at about a dozen companies over my career. Exactly one in all that time has been able to provide me with a computer that met my specifications and actually worked and ran the software correctly: it was a startup who folded a few years later, as startups do.

        It’s not even a cost/budget thing – in fact, it’s the opposite, often I’ll be told to use a very fancy computer that cost a zillion dollars to build but isn’t very robust and crashes when you look at it crosseyed due to some delicate hardware glitch. If I run the program on my home $1000 desktop, yes it will take three days to run, but it will RUN.

        I am very envious of those of you whose IT groups actually know how specialty software and computers work. I’ve never had such a thing even at big, enormous publicly traded companies you’ve definitely heard of. Typically they offer your standard $400 Dell whatever and the entire IT department has been outsourced and will delete your tickets as soon as look at them.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          Or you get management who doesn’t actually listen to IT. Witness my husband’s company deciding that they all need to get very fancy hybrid tablet/laptops and do hot desking, but actually the computers they bought struggle to run their custom software and in fact they rarely change desks, so the big old clunky desktop that just needed a bit of a RAM upgrade would have been better. He’s in an IT-adjacent department, but management had a thing for this shiny new expensive gadget and overruled their suggestions for something less expensive but more appropriate.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            Or you get management whose idea of a shiny new update is Windows 7 – in 2013! We actually had Windows XP until then.

            1. Jadelyn*

              When I started at my current company in January 2014, it was with a machine still running XP! I got our IT to get me a new machine, but I also said “at the very least can you get me on a current OS?” lol.

              1. Wendy Darling*

                The facility where all my doctors work didn’t want to pay for a recent version of their medical records software, so until about 8 months ago they were actually running Windows 2000 in a virtual machine on computers that ran Windows Vista.

                Something put the fear of god into them about a year ago and they’re all on Windows 10 now, but there was a long time where every time I glanced at the computers I was like “holy crap what antique OS even IS that?”

                1. Jadelyn*

                  My eyes just literally bugged out of my head. In the year of our lord two thousand and nineteen, they were using Vista to VM Win2k??? I, like…I honestly want to find the person whose idea that was and get inside their head. Why would you propose that as a solution? What was it a solution for? How long was that actually intended to be the status quo? I can only assume they got blackout drunk and woke up next to one of these strange bastard machines with no memory of how it happened.

                2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                  I’d bet the majority of computers in my academic department still run Windows XP, because they connect to instruments whose software requires the older version and we’d need to get a whole new instrument for each computer in order to use a newer operating system. Our IT mandates that they not be connected to the internet to try to protect from viruses, but that means they just get viruses from everyone’s flash drives. Ah well.

              2. Michael*

                The ancient computer on my desk has a sticker on it “Optimized for Windows Vista”. However it works on the software I use because it actually uses Windows-7 and has 16 GB of RAM.

    4. Guacamole Bob*

      Yes, my 10,000+ person company has an IT webpage with various levels and types of computers available. That means the whole company works from the same ~10 configurations of desktops and laptops/tablets, more or less, which is much simpler for them. There’s some standard level that IT provides to everyone from their budget, I think, and items above that get charged to the person’s department.

      It sounds like OP’s situation may be a little different, maybe at a smaller company. But regardless, a new computer is absolutely something to push for. Having the right tools to do your job properly is critical, and it’s seriously short-sighted to make people work with inadequate technology.

      1. Beatrice*

        I’m in this place too, but at one time we had a highly valued data analyst who did a lot of memory-intensive work, and her boss went to bat for her and got an off-standard computer purchased that met her specifications. There was only one requirement of hers that they didn’t meet…I don’t remember exactly what it was, but the concern was that it could allow her to create files that no computer didn’t meet that spec could open/edit, which would have either made it difficult for her to share files with others or required IT to then upgrade the computers of everyone she worked with (and she produced some widely-used stuff, so it could have meant hundreds of upgrades).

        She LOVED that computer. :)

        1. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

          I once had an older version of a drafting program that a lot of architects use. If an architect emailed me a file that was in a newer version then I couldn’t open it. It was a little embarrassing to have to ask frequently for them to re-save it as the older version. Finally my boss let me switch to a subscription-based style of the program instead. It meant I was getting the updated version every year, which was so much better! It made my job easier in other ways that I hadn’t anticipated, but it was also really nice to constantly be asking the architects to please send that file again…

    5. blackcatlady*

      Just switched computers to a system that is a laptop plugged into a dock to a monitor. That way at my desk I can use a big display monitor so I can see. But I can unplug the laptop and take it to meetings. You should prepare your case for what you need based on your work needs. Point out the company is wasting your time and their money while you struggle with an inefficient system. Good luck!

      1. Catwoman*

        I came here to suggest this. It’s probably a cheaper setup than a new desktop computer, which may allow for you getting a machine with better specs for your job. I’m a data analyst, and this is the setup I have. When you’re docked in to a monitor, it’s just like working at a desktop.

      2. Clisby*

        I used that kind of setup for years. Dock the laptop, plug in a wired mouse and keyboard and a 17′ monitor, and it’s no different from a desktop. Except that you can unplug the laptop and take it to meetings, for travel, etc.

      3. Artemesia*

        In my experience, companies will let you struggle along with inadequate equipment until you are forceful about the business need for something new; I got a mac laptop and dock for work and it made such a difference. But I drifted along for a long time with outdated equipment because I didn’t push.

      4. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        Yes, that looks like my setup. Small 12.5″ laptop is great for traveling (I go through a 32-page passport every 5-6 years). At the desk, two 24″ screens.
        We have a choice of 3 laptops and two desktops. 8GB are standard, more can be custom ordered as needed (my colleague does his data analysis in Excel and has 32GB, while I need only the standard 8 as I offload some heavy lifting to a server or run it in R or Python which is more efficient).

    6. Working with professionals*

      It will also help your case if you quantify the cost of the idle time you have waiting on the computer to complete processes. Break it down by lost productivity time in actual numbers and include how much money that is both from your salary and from the projects/activities you can’t complete this year from the down time. Creating concrete numeric specifics can have a greater impact than general statements.

    7. TootsNYC*

      If you approach IT with the clear info that you are investigating specs in preparation to an ask, that’ll make this easier. I’ve discovered they get antsy if there’s any unspoken thing that makes them fear you are asking them to give you one or authorize one.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Oh, and IT might be able to tell you who the last person was who successfully got a laptop, so you can ask them how they succeeded..

        (I will say–my company is far more lenient with laptops lately. They used to really balk, but they’ve taken to issuing them pretty regularly. We’ve gotten far more digital, and people work from home sometimes. And I see lots of people who appear to be relatively junior people carrying their laptops into meetings. So fingers crossed for the OP that her company is similarly inclined.)

    8. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Definitely speak to IT and find out what they recommend to run the software you are using. Most companies have very specific makes and models that they allow. If they think your current model is fine, ask them to come over and have a look / advise you about why basic tasks are taking so long. Also, look around and see what others doing similar work or at a similar level are using. Your company may still see laptops as an executive level purchase.

      And to have your request taken more seriously, don’t think/speak of it as a “fancier” computer. That makes it sound as though you may see it as a status thing rather than a business need.

    9. dumb dumb*

      OP here! Thanks for all the suggestions. I’m at a super small company and we all just got individual computers 2 years ago! Before that, it was one shared computer for 5 people. No IT department here. We have some company we outsource IT to but even they seem baffled by our old technology when we call them with a problem. I think my current computer is Windows 7 or at least that’s what the sticker on the CPU says (it’s definitely not Windows 10). Some people do have docked laptops and I like that suggestion. I will check out the specs for the programs I run and see if I can finagle a nice laptop and docking station.

    10. TardyTardis*

      Though even with that it took me a while to get a better computer–IT openly discussed the brand of ammo they wanted to use to shoot mine (64 mg RAM. No, that is not a misprint), but it took some whining up the chain of command before I finally got something better.

  2. many bells down*

    #2 I don’t know if it helps, but I think this can go both ways. I lost my dad 6 years ago; I miss him desperately and I’m sad when people complain about their fathers.
    On the other hand, my mother is… not a good person. And when people talk about how they miss their moms, I also get sad. Because I don’t have that mother. And when she’s gone I’ll miss that I never had that mother.
    Maybe it would help to reframe it that way. You had a wonderful mother that you miss, and they don’t get to have that. That’s how I try to look at it when people complain about their fathers: I had one worth missing.

    1. Owler*

      >> “That’s how I try to look at it when people complain about their fathers: I had one worth missing.”
      I like how you phrased this. I, too, had a dad worth missing.

      1. Liane*

        Me three. A dad worth missing.
        And also had the mom who’s often not a good person, and who I haven’t seen since I was a teen. But my mom-in-law was another parent worth missing–the only regret I have about that relationship is I didn’t realize I loved, not just liked, my MIL while she was alive, so she could hear me say the words.

        Thanks for that phrasing, many bells down

        1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

          Me four. I totally had a dad worth missing. I lost him in 1994 and I still miss him every day.

          1. ampersand*

            So I’m guessing we aren’t all secretly siblings, but count me in the “dad worth missing, not great mom” club.

      2. Rebecca*

        And me – like when I go to the store for a card, and I think – do people really have mothers like this? And my Dad is also gone, and I miss him terribly, every single day. It’s also much the same when my office mates complain about their husbands “he took me to the same restaurant 2 weeks in a row!” I want to say, you have a husband who takes you out to dinner! Quit complaining! But I stay silent. Many times we don’t realize what we have until it’s gone.

        1. LegallyRed*

          Also, have they no agency in where they go out to dinner? They can’t suggest another place or simply say, “Hey, let’s go someplace different this time!” I’ve never understood complaints like that …

    2. Girr*

      I like this as it helps put it into perspective how different family situations can be.

      I get sad when I hear people talk about their families in a we’re super close kinda way. Because I don’t have that (or rather, I could with my mother, but it wouldn’t be a healthy relationship).

      Even us siblings are divided in how we view the family dynamic, which also causes an unconscious rift amongst us.

    3. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

      And I lost my dad when I was 5. There’s been no point, since I was a young adult, that I haven’t both felt awful for someone who just lost their dad and also sad that my Dad didn’t at least live that long. Of course I knew that somebody losing their father sparking mild jealousy in me was my problem, and a peculiar one, but I let myself feel what I felt & also feel for the other person.

      I think the OP should ask for what she needs, by all means. When the loss is not as fresh, it’ll be easier to sort things into buckets so she is feeling what she feels while being able to tolerate normal parent complaint chatter in others.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Fwiw, I don’t think it’s a peculiar problem to have. I think we all feel jealous of people who have what we don’t, and especially of people who didn’t lose a parent at a young age.

        1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

          well I don’t think it’s appropriate to think “i’m jealous you had your father for this long”, but I don’t actually say it and I do focus on the other person and their grief so, it’s just a long term fact of life for me.

          I recently passed Dad’s 100th birthday. I thought “hmmm, that weird jealousy thing might be over because there’s no way he would have lived to 100, I might be in the clear. ”

          We’re all just humans on a journey. <3

        1. I*

          So sorry for your loss.

          I’m glad you do as you do. I have an acquaintance who lost a son last year. What people don’t know is that son abused his sister to the point she’s in a permanent vegetative state.

          Another friend has lost two sons. The third left the country because his mother became so overprotective in her grief he was barely able to leave the house.

          We have no idea what others are going through. Focusing on our own stuff and trying to be kind is sometimes all we can do.

        2. Eliza bawn*

          And that’s a loss that most woukd say shouldnt happen. Your advice his good. What does the Op expect? It reminds me of an ex best friend who sadly lost her father years ago. It wasn’t easy. But it’s something she holds over people’s heads still. She’s gone through the pain everyone has she’ll say. We all go through it. Sometimes there isn’t the same sympathy badge on the loss of a parent as on a child, or someone joining in the parental banter at work who has endured years of abuse growing up. That person might be trying to get to a place to share their horrible experiences through others’ every day complaints. You work with people Op, be considerate.

          1. Doc in a Box*

            Wow, that is incredibly harsh to the OP. They aren’t saying no one should complain about annoying parents ever, just that it is hard for them to hear those complaints because of their own loss. If anything, the OP is being extremely considerate of their co-workers’ life stage.

            I’m not sure what you were trying to say about your former best friend, but grief doesn’t follow a timeline, especially if it’s unresolved or if the person died unexpectedly. I have a patient whose granddaughter (whom he raised after her parents were murdered in a mugging) died in a car accident just before her high school graduation. It’s all he can talk about at his visits. Happened over a decade ago.

        3. Super Admin*

          We lost my brother 12 years ago – my Mum has never truly been able to deal with other people talking about their kids and grandkids (sore point, as I’m now her only living child and the best she’s getting from me and my husband are grandcats), but she also recognises that she’s in a unique position to support others who have lost children. An old work colleague of hers recently lost her adult daughter, and Mum realised that she was going to be the only one out of their group who could even begin to understand how she felt, and I think that actually helped both of them a bit.

          I’m sorry about your son. It’s incredibly hard to deal with others talking about their children. I wish you every strength.

    4. RabbitRabbit*

      Same. My dad was wonderful, and I lost him when I was in college. My father-in-law was a terrible human being and I’m resentful he got to live decades longer than my own father. My husband had to go through a mourning process, and still is to some degree, about not his father’s death but rather mourning what he’d always hoped for. Me, I’m relieved he’s gone and no longer able to torment us or the rest of his family. I tended to soft-peddle the abuse he inflicted on his family so I’m sure I had the occasional coworker thinking “oh I wish my dad was still in my life” – well, they wouldn’t have traded for my FIL.

      A friend I’ve known since we were little had the same experience with her mother, and still deeply mourns only what she wished could have been in the mother-daughter relationship.

      1. Former Employee*

        That is so sad. My dad passed away in 2018 at the age of 92. As I tell people, between one system and another failing him, it would have been unrealistic of me to be shocked/surprised that was happening to someone who was 91 when things started to go wrong and had just had his 92nd birthday before passing.

        He was well liked and highly regarded in his community and his religious leader had only good things to say about him at the funeral and the subsequent memorial service.

        In contrast, it was pretty traumatic when my mother passed as she was only in her 60’s and our relationship had gotten really lovely – sort of like girlfriends – after it had been difficult when I was younger. I thought we would have many more years. So wrong.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yes I think it’s important for the OP to rephrase it in their mind. I lost my mom suddenly and if others complained about their moms I would have never asked them to stop because I was hurting, because that would have made them feel terrible and guilty, and it’s not really fair to them. And just because someone complains about someone doesn’t mean they also don’t appreciate and love them.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      OP, I feel ya, I so do.

      Often times when people lose a loved one they can remember all the good points and just forget the rough spots. This can go the opposite way also, where people just remember the bad times (might be justified in some cases!).

      You are very fortunate to have good things to remember and that is a gift in your life that not everyone has. I suggest seeking out others who had similar experiences and talking with them to help balance out the negative you hear.

      When my husband passed I had to train my brain because for other people their lives went on. In the course of going through day-to-day life they found their husbands annoying. They would talk about the current annoyance. Yes, I remember that part also. When it came to the day-to-day stuff my husband and I both grated on each other at random times. People who are close to each other can grate on each other, it can be the price we pay for closer relationships. Life is challenging and sometimes getting through life stuff can really wear on people.

      For yourself, sometimes, OP, we can latch on to things and these things become a crutch for not processing our own grief. If I am dwelling on Sue who is whining about her husband’s inability to pick up his own dirty clothes, I have successfully avoided thinking about my own grief for MY loss. If distractions like this are done repeatedly, it can substantially block our progress in our grief process.

      I had to flip back to get details out of your letter. Your mom has been gone 1 year. I think that 1 year is still fairly recent and I think it’s NORMAL to be still struggling with grief. I see this in myself and I see it in others around me. The one year anniversary is still a fairly topsy-turvy time. You are still finding your new normal. It might feel like it should not take this long, but , yeah, it takes a while.

      In your particular setting you have a second loss, your fractured family. So you don’t have ONE grief going on here, you have SEVERAL griefs as you miss your mom, you miss the sense of family, and perhaps you miss what could have been with certain people if things had been better.

      Grief isn’t just for deaths. It’s for lost relationships, it’s for disconnections and many other things.

      Understand that your mind and heart are still crying. Yeah, you can have a smile on your face and be crying on the inside. This is what strength looks like. It’s what we do when we don’t feel like doing it. So you are strong, OP. I am sure your mom is proud, proud, proud of you. Just my opinion but I think losing our parent(s) is one of the toughest thing we will ever face in life. And this goes for people who had poor/no relationship with their parents, also. We NEED our parents, it’s not a want, it’s a need. I read of a study that said docs know in the process of losing our parents we begin to exhibit the health symptoms that will eventually bring our own passing. Losing the parent(s) is that powerful. Puts new light on when docs ask us how long our parents have been gone, eh?

      Read at least one book on grief. These books are not awful, I promise. Learn the stages of grief, the symptoms of grief, learn how grief can impact our behaviors/thinking. Look at the selection of books online, at the library or at the book store. I can almost promise you that one book will sound like the author is talking DIRECTLY to you. That’s your book, read that one.

      Consider joining a grief group. This would put you next to people who are thinking along the same lines you are, they have a hole in their hearts. But you get to see how other people are handling stuff and you might get ideas of things you would like to do that would be supportive activities.

      I am not talking about the coworkers here very much, right? yeah. It’s like bad drivers, we can’t make them drive better. If I could make your coworkers shut up for a minute, I would in a heart beat. The best we can do if fortify ourselves with additional inputs/help/activities to get ourselves to a different place.

      Because medical science can even see changes in us when we lose our parents, I’d also suggest looking at nutritional support for your body. Hydration is another good thing to keep a watch on, who remembers to drink water in the midst of all this upset? Most of us don’t remember. Yet dehydration can pull down organ function and pull down how well the brain is working. Try to rest. If you can’t sleep then opt for quiet times, where you read or do puzzles, whatever it is you do to relax.

      Mostly, I used a distraction when people started talking about family upsets. I was able to just redirect the conversation on to something else and that seemed to be enough. But quietly to myself, I said that I have to fortify me so that these daily living type stories are not so upsetting/disturbing. Over time I was able to work my way out of it using this multi-prong approach.

      It’s really important that you understand this is a life changing event for you (as it is for many people). Don’t sell yourself short, don’t skip over supportive activities. Be a good mom to YOU. Promise yourself to give you extra care.

      1. Jackalope*

        One book that I found very helpful was “Motherless Daughters: A Legacy of Loss” by Hope Edelman. I don’t know if it would be as helpful for you (my mom died when I was in elementary school and she focuses a bit more on losing your mother at a young age) but thought I’d recommend it just in case.

      2. I*

        I really think the LW needs to separate the normal process of people complaining about parents and her grief triggers.

        Is she mad at them because she thinks they are ungrateful? Don’t appreciate what they have. Not ok. It’s rooted in jealousy and judgement. Also, in ignorance as she had no way of knowing what their parents are like. Their complaints could be anything from garden variety complaining to serious comping with toxic and abusive parents. It’s also not ok to police or control coworkers relationships outside work. Telling them to be grateful veers into that territory.

        Is she mad at the situation because it triggers her Grief and makes it hard to cope with the loss? Totally ok. No different than if one of the women came in after Mother’s Day weekend gushing about what her kids did for her or what they did for her parents.

        I agree with you that what she needs to do is realize there is both triggered grief and jealousy in her response. It’s ok to ask for or even demand the others stop triggering the grief. It’s not ok to make them responsible for the jealousy she has over what she perceives their relationships to be.

        It really, truly sucks. American society and most western societies of which I am acquaintaned do a horrible job talking about grief – both through death and other losses. She not prepared to even learn how to cope. That’s not her fault. It’s a societal failing.

        LW – if you read this, know you aren’t wrong for having such a difficult time and for not knowing what to do. Society has failed you.

        On behalf of the AAM nation, sending you good karma and Jedi Hugs (if you want them).

        1. I*

          Sentence was cut off. I agree that she needs to make this about her, not the coworkers. That’s why she needs to look at how grief can cause irrational jealousy.

          That nexus is so rarely discussed and really nasty to suffer through.

          She wants her mother back. MAYBE She’s jealous and angry at people she perceives to have what she lost And to not appreciate it or throw it away casually. She can feel that if she needs to. But she can’t overstep into taking it out on others whose reality may not be what she is seeing.

          1. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

            I agree with this. Back before my parents had joined Facebook, and it was more of a circle of friends and friends of friends, I used to post about day-to-day things I thought were funny. One day I posted a quick anecdote about my dad doing something to embarrass me, because he thinks it’s funny to do weird things in public in front of his grown kids. I might have even said, “I almost died of embarrassment.”

            That post must have popped up on the newsfeed of a friend of a friend, because some woman who I didn’t know replied to it in a weird way. She said, in a sort of hateful tone, that I shouldn’t posts things about my family that make me seem so ungrateful.

            I think I blocked her after that, but I definitely didn’t engage with her. It just seemed so completely out of tune with what my post was about – a funny embarrassing story about my quirky dad. I wasn’t LITERALLY going to die of embarrassment. Something else was going on in that woman’s mind that she chose to take out on a complete stranger on social media. One of the reasons I stopped posting much, especially when more and more family started joining Facebook.

            Over the years I’ve learned to be more thoughtful of what I say, but I also realize it’s going to be impossible to go through life interacting with friends, strangers, the postman and whoever without accidentally triggering something in someone. Hopefully it’s something that invites a happy memory, not a sad one…and hopefully no one berates you on social media for it!

            1. I*

              The same people who wouldn’t tell a spouse that their parent is cheating because it’s none of their business turn right around and tell children (of all ages) to suck it up because…

              Either position is not about the others and their interests, it’s about the persons view of the world

              This woman was taking her grief out on you and trying to reassert control over something that had nothing to do with you.


        2. we're basically gods*

          I would never tell someone they ought to be grateful for a terrible mom, but having lost mine about six months ago, there’s also…only so much talking about moms I can take. I had a breakdown at work and had to go home early after a friend shared a cute story about someone interacting with their mom in a group chat– I was so distressed and out of it that I literally could not function.

          1. I*

            That’s so heart wrenching to hear.

            I hope that with time it’s less triggering for you. I also hope that your employer and coworkers are empathetic and give you the time and space you need to recover.

      3. Katie N.*

        Yes x100 on you still being in the very early stages of grief, OP. Honestly it wasn’t until AT LEAST 5 years after I lost my husband that I felt like myself again. Not to scare you—you will have lots of really really good days, weeks and months up until then—but I do just want to reassure you that you won’t feel this way forever. I look back and can’t believe how hard I was on myself the first few years that I was still so fragile. Sending love.

        1. Seeker of truth and light and grilled cheese*

          Thank you for this reminder! I need to stop being so hard in myself for the fragile years after my parents passed a month apart a few years ago. Oof. Doing much better now, but carrying some regrets about how I didn’t snap back faster – and I don’t need to regret that. It is what it is.

      4. Not in US*

        This is a lovely comment. I lost my mom when I was very young and this touched me.

        OP it’s hard, it’s always going to be hard, just different. The grief becomes different with time and it still sometimes catches me by the throat when I least expect it.

        Do all these things – read about grief, maybe see a therapist, take good care of yourself but also ask for what you need – even new grads should understand. They won’t be perfect but they will try and that’s all you can ask for. It’s not unreasonable to ask, but also know it won’t solve things long term. Virtual hugs if you want them.

      5. OhNo*

        That’s a really detailed and helpful response. Grief is such a tricky thing, and I definitely recognize behaviors and feelings in the OP’s description that I had after I lost my mom, too. It’s worth taking the time to work through these issues as you go, even though it requires a lot of work and self-reflection when you least want to linger on painful feelings.

        That said, it might still be worth mentioning to your coworkers, just so that you have a baseline of understanding with them. If nothing else, having the option to say, “I’m having a rough day – can you talk about this later when I’m not around?” may save you some emotional energy when you need to.

      6. Not a Morning Person*

        Thank you, Not so New Reader. That is such a good explanation and you have such good recommendations for how to take care of yourself in grief. It is such a lonely place to be that it helps to hear everyone’s suggestions and experiences to put it in perspective. We all grieve alone and together. It is a process and for most of us it takes longer than we think and longer than others think we should be taking. Again, thank you for your compassionate viewpoint and your helpful suggestions.

    7. roisin54*

      Thank you for this. I just lost my dad a few months ago, and I’m still in a place where I silently rage in my head when people express petty complaints about their dads. Thankfully it doesn’t happen that often because my co-workers and friends have either also lost loved ones or are otherwise sensitive to what I’m going through.

      1. Elenia*

        Thank you all so much. My mother died still mad I chose the “wrong” man. She didn’t forgive me even on her deathbed and when she died it was an uneasy peace. I grieve(d) a lot for my mother, but really, for what we could have had. Families are so complicated.

    8. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      I also had a dad worth missing. He passed away in December 2017, and not a day goes by when I don’t miss him.

    9. Kathy*

      I lost my mom when I was 13; my father passed away 12 years later. As an only child it has been very difficult to hear people talk (good or bad) about their parents. It is a fact of life and there’s really nothing you can do to stop it.
      Unfortunately even those my parent died decades ago, I am not over their deaths and I won’t ever be. It is probably the same for anyone who has lost people close to them. Just know some days will be better than others.

    10. Jay*

      That can be a really helpful personal and internal reframe. I also had a dad worth missing. He died suddenly and unexpectedly and when we hosted shiva, one of the congregants came to me and said, heatedly, “Well, at least you HAD a good dad. Mine is…” She went on at some length and I don’t remember what she said because I was so gobsmacked at what felt like anger directed at me.

      It’s inappropriate to ask someone who is grieving to sympathize with you because your living parent isn’t as nice as their dead parent. I know that’s not what you’re advocating, many bells down, but it brought back that moment of emotional bludgeoning.

      1. many bells down*

        I agree with you. It’s MY problem that my friend Joanna (who was very close to her mom) is always posting things about missing her that make me sad. She’s totally allowed to grieve that without my issues. It’s mine to deal with. Even when the weirdest things make my grief suddenly fresh and new – last week I got 8 minutes into Star Trek Picard and suddenly burst into ugly hysterical sobs because I used to watch Star Trek with my dad.

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        I agree, but would expand that to say it’s inappropriate to compare the grief of losing a good parent to the hardship of living with a bad one no matter which direction the comparison goes.

        I’ve had so many people tell me how lucky I am that I have a dad, how they wish their dad was still around. And all I can think is “if he were like mine, you wouldn’t wish that.” I would never in a million years go up to a grieving person and ask for sympathy about my lousy parent. If they bring it up looking for support, I am sympathetic to their loss. I expect the same courtesy from someone who has lost a parent… it is absolutely inappropriate for them to commandeer sympathy when I’m the one seeking support for dealing with the burden of my own grief for the family I never got to have.

    11. TootsNYC*

      they may well have a mother worth missing. My experience as a kid was to listen to my peers complain about their mothers, and the specifics were always so petty, and their moms seemed so pleasant (even on sleepovers). Even good moms are annoying sometimes!

      I intellectually knew moms could hide how horrible they might be, but I just couldn’t believe that all TWELVE mothers of the 12 kids in my class were that awful. And again, the specifics the kids supplied were just really petty.

      Which could make it harder to hear someone complain about their mom, if it truly doesn’t sound that awful.

      (the one friend from my young adult days who didn’t like her mom was amazingly uncommunicative about her. Once I met the mom, I totally understood why people cut off contact with their parents.)

    12. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is really lovely framing. I have a father who is *not* worth missing, and it used to really irritate me when people would lecture me about complaining about how horribly he was behaving toward my mother/siblings because “at least I still had a father!” – but I didn’t. He basically abandoned our family in every way but physical presence when I was a teenager, was emotionally abusive and manipulative, and did things that no one would even believe, if set in a work of fiction. He was an awful, selfish person. It pissed me off when people tried to project their wonderful, loving dad onto the one I actually had, particularly the people that hauled out some version of “blood is thicker than water” and didn’t I want to “make amends?” (I had nothing to atone for). I didn’t shed a tear when I found out he’d died (hadn’t seen him in at least 20 years) because I’d already mourned the father I didn’t get to have. I didn’t need to mourn him, too.

    13. Wot, no sugar?*

      This wildly oversensitive person needs to grow up and stop expecting everyone to discuss only topics that make her comfortable. Not everyone has a June Cleaver of a mom, so stop trying to shame people who want to justifiably vent about lousy parents. As a person who pretty much lives paycheck to paycheck, I am surrounded by wealthier coworkers constantly jawing about fabulous vacations and wildly expensive home renovations. Should they have to edit what they discuss because I’m not in a position to enjoy things like this? Having to listen to conversation that is potentially annoying and yes, hurtful, is part of being among people in the workplace If you can’t take it that not everyone shares your opinions and life experience, get a job as a dogwalker or a solo librarian. Talk about entitled.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Wow, that is really unnecessarily unkind to LW2, who – judging from her comments downthread – actually does appear to understand that not everyone has a good mother and that she can’t prohibit all talk of mothers (good or bad).

        1. Former Employee*

          While I agree that “sugar” sounds harsh, it may just be frustration at the idea that people expect others to edit their conversations to suit the individual. The problem is that we are all individuals and if you work with a group, you could be in the position of being able to talk only about the weather and game shows. (Other types of TV shows might be upsetting to some.) That would be exhausting.

      2. Misquoted*

        I can understand not wanting to hear the mom complaints when grief is so raw, and everyone grieves differently, and the raw, open, easily-triggered grief lasts as long as it lasts.

        I went through this sort of situation with my best friend, and it still bothers me. Even after a handful of years since her mother (whom I loved, too) passed, mentioning her would upset my friend, so I rarely mentioned her, and if I did, it was gently. My complaints about my own mother (the usual mother-daughter stuff) were met with a lot of “at least you still have her to annoy you,” even after a handful of years. Okay, I accept that. I don’t know what that feels like, so I vented about my mother to others who were willing to listen, and still mostly avoid the topic with my friend.

        But when my partner was sick with cancer, I still heard complaints from her (and others — I’m the friend to whom everyone can talk about their problems) about her boyfriend. I can’t imagine saying to her, or anyone, “Well, at least he’s not dying,” or anything close to that, and I never did. I eventually had to tell her that venting about whatever had always been part of our friendship (friends since 8th grade), and that if I could be there for her and bring myself to listen to her boyfriend woes the same day as cleaning up after my partner’s post-chemo illness, then she needed to be there for me even if it meant I needed to vent about my mother (whom she also cares about).

        Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to, and we didn’t speak for several months. It was only when she heard through the grapevine (as it turned out, six weeks before his passing) that my partner was hospitalized, that she contacted me. Though I can’t judge her for grieving in the way she does, I have not fully forgiven her for not being there for me during the absolute hardest time in my life.

        I don’t expect responses, and I don’t expect many to agree with my point of view here, but I appreciate being able to write it out.

    14. Boldly Go*

      For #1 yawner: I sympathize with you, I know that feeling of “that yawn just didn’t do it for me”. I learned some yoga breathing techniques years ago and they are really helpful in filling your lungs and breathing better. And the bonus is that many of them can be done fairly discreetly (or at least discreetly-er)while you’re in a meeting!

  3. Sapphire*

    Even blogged about yawns are contagious I guess. As soon as I read about LW’s spine-stretching lung-filling yawn, I just had to try it. Even now writing about it the urge to yaaaaaawwwwwnn is coming back

    1. Avasarala*

      It certainly feels good!
      I know a certain amount of yawning, as with other bodily functions, is uncontrollable (to varying degrees for different people). But you’ll build more goodwill if it looks like you’re trying to do something about it. Saying “excuse me,” covering your mouth, trying to do it quietly/unobtrusively, looking engaged during the rest of the event, all goes a long way to proving this was an inescapable accident and not a demonstration.

      If I was speaking or giving a presentation and someone gave a wide yawn, complete with arm-stretching and vocalizations, and that little “just woke up” headshake, I would think I was boring this person to sleep. If they were clearly focused but just comfortable in a warm room and kept stifling yawns with their hand, I’d think “yeah it is pretty warm in here, and 3pm.”

      1. Marmaduke*

        I’ve learned recently that tension in my body can keep me from “completing” a yawn, so I continue yawning every few minutes indefinitely unless I actually stop stifling and let it happen. I apologize in advance and have learned to accept that I may irritate some people, but if I do one real yawn I can get it out of the way and be more concentrated on what they’re actually saying.

        1. OP 1*

          Hi! OP #1 here. Marmaduke may be onto something with what I experience during these meetings.

          I realize my description may have sounded a little dramatic, so I should clarify: my yawns are big enough to make me stretch my spine, and yes, they do fill my lungs :) But I’m also not doing anything dramatic like the movie theater “yawn and reach” or anything. I’m covering my mouth, facing away from someone who may be near me, etc. Can’t stop them though.

          1. KayDeeAye*

            Yawning feels great. And it’s useful, too. But what about if you tried doing a BIG yawn and stretch before going into a meeting? You know, get it out of the way? That probably won’t eliminate the problem, but it might decrease it significantly. (And, OP, I have to say that even with your modified description here, these yawns do still sound kind of dramatic.)

            I’m plagued or blessed (because they, too, feel great) with a need to take a big, deep sighing breath from time to time. I truly am not sighing, but it’s very easy to interpret it that way. So I try to remember to do one or more of those before going into a meeting. It does help.

            1. Crooked Bird*

              Yes, this. The need to yawn comes over you after working hard for awhile, usually when the need to focus lets up a bit (which is probably why it’s in meetings!) If you can go ahead and do what you need, you spend 2-3 minutes taking big yawn after big yawn, and at the end you feel truly refreshed–a sort of brain break (because yeah, you’re not solving IT or HR problems between those yawns for darn sure!) I suspect it’s the combination of thinking about nothing (it’s shocking how good of a rest that can be for your brain) and getting that extra oxygen.

              What I’m really saying is, this is something you need! And OP probably needs it even more than others. The key is to see if you can grab a moment of the day to *really* do it–maybe in the bathroom or some other break-ish place–not in a meeting, so that you don’t have to worry about the optics & also half-ass your recharge moment.

          2. Marna Nightingale*

            I have asthma, and when I’m slightly low on oxygen I yawn uncontrollably too as my body tries to get more.

            I mostly go with “I promise you, I’m not bored. This just happens sometimes.”

            This seems to work pretty well on the whole.

            1. I*

              Or some variant of “I’m so sorry, my body is not cooperating with my desire to soak in what you are saying.”

            2. Glitsy Gus*

              I have the same problem. I have found, especially if I have any kind of nasal congestion on top of the asthma, which I usually do (thanks mold and dust allergies!), my breathing gets really shallow when I have to sit and be quiet for a while, and then that drops oxygen intake, which triggers the yawn.

              One thing that has helped me, especially before a meeting or some other yawn triggering situation, if I do a couple big, deep, breathe in and hold breaths before I go in and sit down I do better at breathing more deeply in general and then I don’t end up yawning quite as much. If it happens anyway I also default to the same, “I promise you, I’m not bored. This just happens sometimes.” that you use.

          3. JSPA*

            I distinguish between the small yawns of boredom / sleepiness and larger yawns which are more like a triggered spasm. Deep breaths of cold, fresh air can help, so CO2 buildup is probably part of it (but intentionally breathing deeply instead of staving off the deep yawn can actually trigger it).

            I wonder if there could be some interplay with asthma / other lung problems, and having both a large lung volume and a habit of breathing shallowly to not trigger that problem, such that a little shift in the air pattern suddenly exposes CO2 sensors to air that’s unusually high CO2 (&low O2)?

            (Our bodies do not actually sense the need for oxygen directly; they only sense the buildup of CO2.)

            My impression is that, not only is it not suppressible, it’s that way for good physiological reasons.

          4. Leisel*

            Our conference room at work faces west and gets pretty sunny in the afternoon. I usually end up sitting facing the windows and our clients sit opposite. Sitting still for too long makes me want to yawn, even if I’m fully engaged in the conversation. The warm sun doesn’t help!

            However, what I came here to say is that sometimes when I try to stifle my yawns I accidentally make them more noticeable. I thought I had perfected the act of breathing through a yawn with my mouth closed, but one day I ended up making a weird noise with my mouth while trying to stifle a yawn. Luckily no one noticed because someone was talking at that moment, but if the timing had been during a quiet moment it would have been embarrassing!

            Do what you need to do! Yes, minimize the yawn, but don’t stifle it too much!

          5. Zombeyonce*

            I yawn a lot (especially during meetings in cold rooms) and my yawn-hiding trick is to always have water with me. I’ve found that I can easily hide a yawn behind a glass of water/coffee as I’m starting to take a sip. No one notices the person drinking from a cup during a meeting and bonus: I stay hydrated!

          6. TootsNYC*

            you might just say, “Oh, goodness, I’m going to have to yawn. Excuse me.” and then yawn.

            Then it sounds like a deliberate thing.

            1. Always Yawn the Ball*

              If OP is anything like me, this would attention to things– I’m also Full of Yawns regardless of my engagement level (I yawned my way through every single one of my favorite and most engaging lectures in college!), so announcing “whoops, gotta yawn” literally every five minutes just wouldn’t work. I’ll usually apologize or make a joke for one or two of them in a one-on-one or group situation, but otherwise I just try to signal my interest via active listening, nodding attentively while yawning, etc. to reduce the impression that I’m not engaged.

              I do also have asthma, though, and saw people mentioning that upthread– I wonder if there’s a correlation between us asthmatics and frequent/compulsive yawning!

            2. Easter*

              This. Or if I yawn and I felt like it was too noticeable, I say “excuse me!” and then do something pointed, like grab my pen to take notes. Just some other visible cue that says “I’m here and paying attention!”

              1. Sparrow*

                Yes, making sure your body language otherwise says “I’m paying attention to you!” is really important, I think!

          7. remizidae*

            You can’t completely stop a yawn IME, but you can make it very subtle. You don’t have to open your mouth or make noise when you yawn, and you definitely shouldn’t be stretching in a formal meeting.

      2. Cate*

        And for some people, like myself, it’s not warmth but cold that triggers the yawns. At certain temperatures, if I can’t move around, being cold feels like it renders me unconscious. If it’s just a little chilly (and it often is for women in offices) I start yawning almost uncontrollably. Although at least I can counter perceptions by saying, ‘Sorry, I’m finding it chilly in here and the cold makes me yawn.’

        1. littlelizard*

          Hey, me too! I get more visibly sleepy when it’s cold. I’m very excited to see it’s not just me because a rude adult said rude things to me about it when I was a kid and tried to explain this.

        2. Zombeyonce*

          I always yawn endlessly and uncontrollably when I’m in about 65 degree weather, and unfortunately, that’s the exact temperature of all of our conference rooms. This means that I yawn through every in-person meeting I attend. It’s just my body’s reaction, but I do minimize it as much as possible. But I don’t say anything about it since that would mean prefacing every meeting I attend and that just feels ridiculous.

      3. Beatrice*

        One thing I’ve learned about yawning is that the movement of the muscles in the chin/throat area is almost as much of a giveaway as an open mouth. I try to handle mine by keeping my lips closed and shielding that area from view. With my particular anatomy, anyway, my method is more discreet that just covering my mouth.

        1. Blueberry*

          I was just about to suggest this. When I need to hide a yawn I keep my mouth shut, put my hand under my chin in a “thinking pose” and yawn through my nose, effectively.

    2. blaise zamboni*

      Me too! I can’t believe the power of suggestion sometimes.

      I feel you on this, OP. For some reason when I’m very focused in a meeting (usually 1:1 meetings to my deep dismay), I yawn over. and over. and over. It’s terrible, especially since I don’t yawn all that much outside of meetings! I try to stifle the yawn, cover my mouth, and maintain eye contact/attention on the other person as much as possible to show that I’m not disinterested. No one has reacted negatively so far, and most people don’t react at all. But it’s embarrassing.

      I meet regularly with one colleague after lunch. I yawn because I’m focused and it sets her off yawning too, and we go back and forth for an hour. She’s great and made it a joke between us. If you can swing that situation with anybody I recommend it haha.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I often find myself yawning in meetings, particularly when the room is stuffy and full. The most embarassing one was during an internal training, when I found myself nodding off, and the presenter said loudly “Hey, Chocolate Teapot. Stay with us”.

        I tried, but it didn’t really help.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          The only positive to having back issues… I stand up at the edge of the room in meetings set up with rows of chairs. I definitely feel less need to yawn when I can shift without jostling my neighbor.

          1. Sally*

            I’m going to try standing in meetings. My need to yawn is almost always due to needing to get more oxygen in my body. Sometimes it helps to stretch my shoulders forward and breathe deeply into my back (I’m fairly certain there’s more lung expansion room in the back of one’s body). That might be something for the OP to try, even if the reason for training is different.

            If it’s a smaller meeting where standing would be odd, I would do what i already do, which is to explain that for some reason my body keeps wanting to yawn & I apologize in advance. And of course I try to be as unobtrusive as possible when I do yawn.

        2. Quill, CCO & Bee Queen*

          The primary cause of falling asleep in class for me, in high school and college, was “oh, we’re going to switch over to a hard-to-look-at projector sheet or slide show that fills the room with buzzing and stuffy air”

          The projectors were definitely worse because if you tried to pay attention you were always squinting because they were never quite in focus.

          I also got told off by a grandboss once, tried to apologize with the (true) excuse of “Sorry, I had no idea I was so tired when I came in this morning, I might be catching a cold.” And then got a small lecture that I shouldn’t come in while sick… in a job that relied on coverage in the lab and had no sick days. :/

          1. I*

            My husband falls asleep if he’s in a chair and it’s dark. He makes me poke him bc he wants to see what’s going on.

          2. Leisel*

            I drive quite a bit for long distances and I’ve found that I get so much sleepier on a sunny day than when it’s overcast or raining. Even with sunglasses, your eyes are at least squinting somewhat when it’s sunny. Couple that with the warmth of the sun through the windows and I get sllllleeeeepy. I’ll drive with the windows partially cracked and the AC going full blast in the summer because the air circulation helps me perk up.

      2. Pretzelgirl*

        When I am very focused in a meeting or training my eyes start fluttering closed, like I am about to doze off. Its the strangest thing and doesn’t happen any where else in my life. In fact I rarely doze off watching TV. It can be embarrassing. One time I am sure a co-worker notice and shot me an annoyed look.

        OP- If its not frowned upon can you get up and “go to the bathroom”. Maybe just stretch your legs or yawn in the bathroom. I realize you cant take multiple bathroom breaks in one meeting. But maybe getting up once could get the blood flowing. When I feel like that getting up really helps. Good luck.

        1. Peachkins*

          Lol, same thing happens to me sometimes. I actually find it difficult to nap during the day unless I’m sick, and I’ve never fallen asleep in a movie or anything like that. I don’t know if it’s something with our meeting room or what, but I always find it difficult to keep my eyes open.

        2. it's me*

          I’ve done that before too, quite a bit. I realized it’s a weird sort of thing where I’m trying to pay attention, but I’m not actually required to do or say anything in that particular meeting so I guess my brain is like, time for a nap. Lol. My boss made a pointed remark about it so I’ve tried to stop.

      3. OP 1*

        I’m so glad you said this! :) I’m part of a small team (think five or less people). We have fairly long team meetings several times a week, of over an hour. We are all contributing during that time, but frequently my boss will be speaking the most. I respect what they are saying and am actively listening to them, but apparently not being the one talking is one of my yawn triggers!

        1. Brain Malfunction*

          for those of you who struggle to stay awake when you are focusing, but seem fine in other situations, get screened for ADHD. My husband was constantly yawning and dozing off in meetings where it was quiet and he needed to focus on one thing, as it turns out it was the fact he had ADHD and not having enough stimulus was causing him to shut down a bit. Meds made a huge difference.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            I think I have this problem. However, I can’t physically gulp down psych pills whole so taking medication is not an option (and doctors refuse to listen to me when I say this–would you like me to demonstrate how I will throw up in your lap if I try?).

            Seriously, if they’d just let me knit during the meetings I would stay awake and not yawn. Telling me I can stand during the meeting if I like DOES NOT HELP. I really need to not be sitting still staring at someone talking for 2 hours starting at 8 a.m. Monday morning.

            I got in trouble again for yawning. I’m sorry but your meetings ARE boring AND the only way I stay awake in the morning is to NOT SIT STILL.

            1. Anon123*

              I just learned that they make 1 style of ADHD med in a patch and some chewable pill formats. I’d go back to that Dr (or find another one) and ask again!

            2. JSPA*

              Adderall is tiny (like, many people don’t macerate their food that small) and unless you have a time release version, you can break it into slivers (or presumably even chew it). I understand that a childhood of choking on pills and puking can create a really high mental barrier against believing that some pills are no different to “eat” than food. And yet, many are. It helps some people to think about it as eating (rather than swallowing) the pill. Over awareness of swallowing causes people to do things like take a huge gulp of water while their throat tightens up (with Bad Consequences). You wouldn’t eat food that way, or drink that way! It doesn’t work for pills, either.

            3. Dahlia*

              When the kid I baby-sat was taking adderall, it came in those gel-type pills like antibiotics and her parents would open them up and pour the medicine inside on apple sauce.

          2. I*

            If LW is bio XX, there are a ton if conditions that impact ciswomen and transmen that can cause exhaustion and yawning. A good physical workout with a sympathetic doctor can help.

            For one ciswoman relative of mine, yawning was one of her only overt symptoms of a dormant autoimmune condition.

            This is why I get so frustrated with the assumption this is always rude and alway under the yawners control. Sometimes it is boredom and lack of sleep. Sometimes it’s something physical that the yawner is suffering though.

            As always, I think we be much better off if we were all less prone to assume I’ll intent and more prone to assume other explanations

            1. I*

              For anyone who is interested, if you google yawning plus autoimmune/cortisol/market/ diagnostic you’ll see that there’s a spate of recent research on involuntary yawning as an early sign of disease or disability.

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          If it’s mostly the same small group of people and you feel comfortable doing so, it might be useful just to say something along the lines of the commenter above – “I promise I’m not bored; my body just does this sometimes”. I think it would be odd to do this in every meeting if you were meeting with lots of different people, but if it’s the same team it feels like more of a “hey, here’s a useful fact about your teammate” kind of thing.

    3. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      I had one job where I started yawning the minute I walked in the door, lasting for two or three hours, every day. The whole place had very specific standards for the air conditioning because of the electronic parts being made out on the floor. My doctor told me changes in humidity can cause yawning in sensitive people and that the company probably had their humidity “set wrong”, whatever that means.
      In any case, I worked there three years. After 2.5 years, the yawning suddenly stopped. Of course, I don’t know if they changed something. I have still had this problem in specific buildings over the years, but have never heard the humidity theory again.
      There was not enough power in my jaw to keep those yawns at bay. I sympathize, OP.

    4. Profa*

      Yeah, I yawned continuously while reading this and the comments. I’m suuuuuper suggestible with yawning and I also yawn as a side effect of some gastric issues that, when flaring up, make me feel like I can’t get that full, complete breath.

    5. CheeryO*

      One of the standardized tests I took ~15 years ago had a reading passage about yawning and said that you may be feeling an urge to yawn just by reading about it. I always thought that was pretty evil of the test creators.

      LW, I feel for you, but it’s definitely rude to do a dramatic yawn in front of other people at work. For me, just taking a big breath from my diaphragm is usually enough to stifle it or at least turn it into something less showy.

      1. Annie J*

        SAME. You could tell when everyone in the room got to that passage, the yawns were uncontrollable. And then it was like dominos, it didn’t stop until we had our next break.

      2. OP 1*

        To clarify, I do my best to utilize all of the courtesy standards: cover my mouth, look away, maybe even appear slightly embarrassed.

        They are big (as in, effective) yawns, but not very dramatic. ;)

      1. Quill, CCO & Bee Queen*

        My labrador used to set all of us off when he was feeling sheepish: He’d yawn at whatever he’d done (usually bolting into the house with mud on him,) and then the family would be like a line of dominoes, which would set him back off… all while we were all trying to catch him to clean his paws off.

    6. Phony Genius*

      There was a Mythbusters episode about this. They found it to be confirmed. Yawns are contagious.

      1. I*

        As someone pointed out yesterday or the day befor, the FBI uses this as a means of determining if their agents are being observed. It works

    7. NaN*

      I’ve never understood the yawning=boredom connection. Is that really a thing? Yawning is as much of a physical reflex as sneezing is for me. Sometimes I can control it or suppress it, like a sneeze, but sometimes I can’t. I also yawn when I’m hungry, though, so I may be the weird one here.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Apparently, you are cooling your brain.

          A new study has suggested that the reason we yawn has nothing to do with tiredness or boredom, but actually works in order to cool down our brains and help us think a little clearer.

          Like any computer the brain has an optimal working temperature and when it becomes too hot yawning helps cool it down, increasing both the heart rate and blood flow while delivering a big gulp of air to the head, cooling the blood in that area.

          Previously it’s been thought that yawning served a respiratory function, helping to wake us up with a jolt of oxygen when we were feeling sluggish, but studies have shown that yawning doesn’t actually increase oxygen levels in the body; something that tallies with the simple observation that we don’t yawn when we exercise, a time when we definitely need more oxygen.

          (there’s more explanation there)


          1. AnReAr*

            I’d take that all with a huge grain of salt; I have asthma and yawn quite a bit and do so a LOT more when I’m exercising (sometimes to the point I’m yawning more than actually breathing). This leads me to believe it is definitely related to respiratory distress at least some of the time for some people. I think the author didn’t fully understand the two studies linked; the studies didn’t conclude that yawning was never related to breathing they just concluded that cooler temperatures made it less likely to yawn and hypothesized that yawning served an addition function helping to keep the brain cool (admittedly I did just skim them to see the sample size and methodology as well as the conclusions so I could have missed something).

      1. Willis*

        I don’t understand that connection either, and I think in real life boredom is rarely the reason people are yawning. Like you, I think of a yawn as more akin to a sneeze, and wouldn’t interpret is as rude unless someone was being histrionic about it, in a similar way that it would be rude to make a big production out of a sneeze. As long as the person is handling their sneeze, cough, yawn, etc in as quiet and unobtrusive a way possible (or leaves the room if they’re having a true fit) I don’t really get what the big deal is.

      2. OhNo*

        I agree, I view yawning as more of a reflex, too.

        I might still find it rude if someone yawned in my face, much like I would if they sneezed or coughed directly on me. But if they’re trying to be polite about it, I wouldn’t fault them for needing to yawn, or take any offense from it.

      3. Budgie Buddy*

        I think it’s because you rarely see someone yawn when actively engaged in something, only when their energy levels are already dropping. If someone keeps yawning while taking to me I take it as my cue to wrap up the conversation because they are probably worn out.

        (Or at least, what I’m saying is not relevant enough to to counteract how worn put they’re feeling! I often get tired easily and need to ditch events early, so I get it.)

      4. TootsNYC*

        Yawning is often an oxygen thing. if you get sleepy (which might happen if you’re bored), you might take less-deep breaths, and then your body needs to yawn?

        And so if you’re interested and engaged, you are less likely to get that sleepy.

    8. Aiani*

      I once watched something interesting about yawns. I can’t remember what show it was but it said that scientists have studied yawns and don’t believe that sleepiness is the only cause of yawning. There was one theory that people might yawn because your brain needs more oxygen. Maybe try to make sure you are not breathing shallowly during meetings so you can make sure to get plenty of air flow.

      I don’t know how true that theory might be but I know that I sometimes yawn when I am not sleepy at all. I do have allergies which stop my nose up so maybe there is something to this idea that a lack of oxygen causes yawns.

    9. Tomiann Parker*

      I have asthma and when I am low on oxygen I sigh or yawn a lot, it is a natural body reaction to oxygen starvation. I’ve mentioned this to my co-workers, but if I’m having a bad lung day I just state it right out at the start of the meeting,”FYI my asthma is bothering me today, and it often makes me sign or yawn- just wanted to let you all know it is the asthma, not because of the meeting.” I’ll often leave my inhaler in the table too, just as a reminder.

  4. inlovewithwords*

    OP #2: My sympathies. Eight years and I still feel the way you do, honestly. I think it’s totally okay if they’re being deep into it to go, “Hey, this is a sensitive topic for me, can you take it somewhere else so I can focus on work?” Which is both true and reasonable! You are not the right audience. At that age I don’t know that they’ll listen, but it’s not advice on “you’ll feel differently later” or anger, just a polite request. Maybe that’ll be doable.

    1. rockingchair*

      Condolences for #2 and inlovewithwords. My mum dies 10 years ago, and it’s still hard. So many regrets.

    2. Tea Rocket*

      I really like this script. In general, I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell (or imply to) people what they’re feeling or what they will feel in a future situation, and this case is no exception. But it’s totally fair for the LW to point out that she’s not the right audience for this discussion and to ask them to take it somewhere else.

      1. Marmaduke*

        I appreciate this approach. My history with my family is complicated and ugly and it really rankles to hear how much a stranger has decided I’ll miss them when they’re gone. Just inform your coworkers that’s its a sensitive topic and directly inform them of what you need from them.

        1. Botanist*

          Bingo. My mom died seven years ago when I was in my 20’s. She was really sick for a long time (multiple sclerosis for 17 years) and it was so incredibly hard on my family. Add to that the fact that she latched on to me as her savior who as going to take care of her family for her. I was so emotionally drained that it was a relief when she died. I feel very deeply for people who have lost parents that they have good relationships with. But that’s not me, and I don’t miss a thing about the last several years of her life.

        2. JSPA*

          So long as it remains an I-statement not a lecture / you statement, it’s legit, though.

          In the same way, if someone who had lost their parent went on and on and on about loving their parent and missing their parent, it would be fair for someone who was suffering with a really bad parent relationship to I- statement back. “I’m not the right audience for an extended session of X for Complicated Reasons” is broadly fine.

        3. TootsNYC*

          my history with my parents was pretty close to idyllic–and it would rankle me to tell people how much I should miss them then they’re gone.

      2. Avasarala*

        Yesssss plus if there is one thing young people hate to be told, it’s “You’ll agree with me when you’re older.” I always wanted to reply, “Well you’d agree with me if you were younger!” Of course people feel differently in different circumstances and life situations. I like this script for dodging that whole minefield.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Also, “you’ll agree with me when you’re older” is often flagrantly untrue. Lots of older people told me when I was younger that I’d change my political views when I was older and started paying taxes or whatever and…. NOPE.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I had a boss who had a daughter my age and she had terrible professional boundaries. She always told me that I’d get more conservative as I got older. Jokes on her, cause I’ve consistently moved further left over the past 15 years.

            1. I*

              Both myself and my husband just go further left on most issues. There are only one or two where we haven’t

              Ironically, the more money we make, the more of it we give away (as a percentage) and the more we believe in taxing the middle class and the wealthy more.

          2. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

            Typically when I hear that, it comes out in a condescending way. It’s a “you’re just not mature enough to realize x” undertone that ignores the fact that everyone’s experiences are different. I got told that I’d eventually move out to the suburbs and have an hour long commute like everyone else when I was older. Years later, it hasn’t happened and won’t be happening not because I’m immature but because my life is structured differently and I value different things.

            1. I*

              Bingo! It’s condescending.

              That’s also why LW cannot say anything about the relationships the others have with their parents. It’s presumption and judgement she’s really not in a position to make.

              She needs to stay focused on her grief and what she needs to make it through the day. Asking others to avoid a sensation topic is ok. Telling them how to feel is not

              1. LW 2*

                You’re right. I’m reading these comments and it seems like everyone is latching onto the one sentence about telling them how to feel, where I specifically said I *didn’t* want to do and haven’t been doing that, so some of the comments feel kind of off topic for me. I appreciate them all, though, although I can’t respond to all of them.

                1. I*

                  LW 2

                  It’s difficult to know where the LW’s are on some issues. It’s a problem of the medium rather than ill-intent. I’m glad you popped in to clarify.

                  Don’t worry about responding to everyone. It’s not necessary. It may also be harmful to you to expend that energy.

                  Do what you need to do to cope. Do not be ashamed of grieving. It’s a good and healthy thing. It’s how we are supposed to respond to loss of people we are supposed to miss

                  Also, you are not responsible for the tangents others go on or other posters who might take your situation and say how they’d respond. Particularly if the response of other posters is what is getting push back.

                  Some of the conversation here is directed at statements by other posters, not yours.

                2. Jenny*

                  I am sorry for your loss, LW2. I think a lot of these comments are not so much to you, it’s more in response to Alison’s original suggested script, IMO, which really did feel like it was telling people how to feel.

                3. Ace in the Hole*

                  I’m glad Allison edited her advice… I think a lot of us were responding not to you, but to the script she suggested. It was really toeing that line where depending on tone it could come across as lecturing people on how to feel.

                  I think telling people it’s a sensitive topic for you is a great way to handle it.

          3. Blueberry*

            Heh, this. My politics have indeed changed a lot as I got older — I left a patriarchal religion, abandoned respectability politics, and accumulated a great deal of anger as I accumulated enough data points to see the patterns of society. I’m much more liberal than I was as a kid.

          4. Librarian1*

            Haha, I was told by the director of a company I worked at when I was 23 that I’d become conservative after I hit 30. Hasn’t happened yet and I frankly don’t expect it to.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          This is not related to the mom topic, but on your comment about agreeing when you’re older–I always enjoy this Harry Potter quote: “Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels, but old men are guilty if they forget what it is to be young.”

        3. CheeryO*

          Right. Living at home as an adult can be super frustrating, even if you have a great relationship with your parents. I think it’s fine to politely steer the conversation to a different topic, but the idea of trying to guilt a coworker into feeling more grateful seems a bit condescending; logically, I’m sure they are well-aware that they’re lucky to have the time with their parents, and whatever you say isn’t going to change their feelings in the moment.

          1. LW 2*

            Everyone seems to be latching onto this sentence. I said I *didn’t* want to guilt anyone into anything and I haven’t been.

      3. Gazebo Slayer*

        “I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell (or imply to) people what they’re feeling or what they will feel in a future situation”


      4. AnonEMoose*

        Agreed – I know too many people who had awful experiences with their families to assume “oh, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.” The OP’s feelings are entirely valid, but this is one of those things that varies…a lot.

        As a side note, I really feel for folks just starting out these days – it’s tough out there. And if they’re still living with their parents due to financial necessity, it can be tough to renegotiate that relationship. So their feelings are also valid; it can be a difficult and frustrating situation for everyone involved.

        I think it’s ok for the OP to say that it’s a sensitive topic for her and ask them to take it elsewhere…but definitely don’t do the “I wish my mom was still here to annoy me” thing – you may end up finding out more about someone’s very difficult family history than you wanted to know. And as much as it hurts, try to recognize on some level that they may be coping with a difficult and painful situation of their own.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        People who tell me how I will feel have also just told me that I will not be talking things over with THEM.

        My family was big on “If you do X, you will feel guilty later.”

        My internal reply was, “Thanks for the heads up, but I won’t be living my life in FEAR of some random emotion I may or may not have later on. Fear of future emotions is not a solid basis for decision making.”
        My external reply was, “I guess I will just have to live with it then.” This indirectly pointed out that they were way to involved in my emotional well-being.

        For myself if people get started on a topic that is too emotionally charged, I simply said, “I can’t go there. My brain is in a different space right now and I just can’t get involved in that one.”
        This one has worked well for me given our current times. Too often people want to drag through the details of the latest news event and I can just say, “I can’t go there. I have to focus on matters closer to home.”

        1. JSPA*

          Gaming through future outcomes isn’t a “fear” thing, though? I mean, you can bring fear to any process, sure. But trying to situate yourself in many possible versions of “future you,” then looking back at the present moment, is an important decision – making tool.

    3. Marzipan*

      Yeah. In this case, I feel like Alison’s script is more of a hint as to what would work better for #2, but since these are people who are at a stage of life where they might not yet be quite tuned into that sort of approach, I’d be slightly more direct. Some level of ‘brief explanation of your choice + request to take it out of earshot + thanks for understanding’ doesn’t seem unreasonable to me, and carries with it a greater chance of actually paying off than just referencing your own situation and hoping they might intuit what would work for you.

    4. Shamy*

      This is great framing. OP, I am so so sorry for your loss. I lost my mom almost 4 years ago and still have random times when I break down. It often feels like there are constant “firsts” without them. I had a baby a little over a year ago. It was the first pregnancy I had been through without her and the first grandchild that would never know her. My older sons positively adored her. At the doctor’s office one day while heavily pregnant. there was a grandmother there with her granddaughter that appeared about 2. Her mannerisms and things she was saying to her granddaughter reminded me so much of my mother. It was all I could do to keep it together. It hit me hard that he would never know her or have the memories my older sons had.

      Even recently, my husband and I were riding in the car which has a bluetooth feature where the name of the person calling you pops up. His mom called him and “mom” popped up on the screen. In that moment, nearly 4 years later, I realized I would never again see “mom” on my phone screen. It hit me like a ton of bricks. When these moments happen, I just allow myself to feel it and cry if needed. I hope you will be gentle with yourself and give yourself whatever space you need to heal.

  5. New Jack Karyn*

    LW5: Start looking around to see if there are other jobs you might be interested in. Your boss doesn’t respect you or your work. You may not have to fire up the search right away, but just see what your options might be.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Agreed! I bet they turned down her request for a raise (assuming the referred to meeting has happened).

    2. LW 5*

      OP #5 here.
      Yeah, there’s definitely been a history of disrespect. Last year, they opened a position for an additional lead on my team. Before I applied, I asked my current lead to be a reference for me, and they agreed.
      They had me interview on a day off (I don’t know if it’s as uncommon to use personal time to interview for an internal position). I thought the interview went great.
      After a couple weeks of no response, I checked the online job posting, which had been taken down. I emailed Boss (above my lead) to follow up. Boss requested that I “call her at 2pm” that day.
      I called her at 2 for her to tell me that I didn’t get the job. It turns out the job was given to my curren lead’s sister (who did also already work on our team).
      So, in short, my lead agreed to be my reference even though she knew her own sister was up for the job, and my Boss made me call her myself so that she could turn me down for a job that they never intended on giving me.

      Thanks everyone for your comments and insight. Just typing all of this out has opened my eyes, and I will be job searching soon.

      1. Just Another Manic Millie*

        LW 5, before I saw your response above, I thought that the situation you outlined was very suspicious – being told to go to HR with your raise request, and then being told by HR that any raise request had to come from management, and then being told to come in on your day off to discuss getting a raise.

        But regarding what happened last year, I’m not sure what actually was going on. You said “my lead agreed to be my reference even though she knew her own sister was up for the job.” Are you sure that she knew her sister was up for the job? Is it possible that her sister asked for someone else who wasn’t a relative to be her reference? Even if her sister asked your lead to be her reference, is it possible that she asked her after you asked her? If that’s what happened, I wouldn’t have a problem with your lead recommending both you and her sister for the job, because she could have told herself that both of you were qualified, and it’s not as if she (your lead) would be making the final decision. And I don’t see where it’s obvious that they never intended to give you the job.

        But no matter what happened last year, I agree that your raise request was handled in a very fishy way, and I’m glad that you intend to look for another job.

        1. LW 5*

          Regarding the situation last year, I don’t know for certain whether my lead knew her sister was applying, but I would be VERY surprised if she didn’t. We all kind of just assumed that if Lead’s Sister wanted the job, then they’d just give it to her, but maybe they had to open the position. That whole situation just rubbed me the wrong way, and maybe I am just a little bitter about not getting that position.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Do these bosses work in a different site–is that why they want these convos on a day off, so that they don’t have to “spend” some of your productivity on travel time?

      3. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Anytime I have ever interviewed for an internal position, it has been during my normal workday. Sounds like making people come in on their day off for things like this is A Thing with your company, or maybe just your boss/grandboss. It’s definitely not normal.

        1. Star Nursery*

          Yes that’s odd they don’t schedule the internal interviews on a work day- that is what my employer’s have done to be more convenient for the employees

  6. April*

    OP #2, lost my amazing Dad four years ago at a young age and I’ve said things like Alison’s script. Life’s too short not to say something because it really bothers me.

    1. somanyquestions*

      No, life is too short for that, for both you & the people who have their own issues and lives. I’ve had too many people tell me that my problems with family should just be ignored because “I don’t know what it’s like to lose a parent”. Well actually, I do. I can’t talk to mine at all and haven’t in years because of his toxicity and the damage he does in my life. I will not be guilted into dealing with that, and heaping guilt onto that is not appropriate just because he’s alive.

      1. Rae*

        Wish there were upvotes here. As a non infant adoptee, I hate comments on my bio parents. Way too many people think I should want contact and think I’m horrible for avoiding it ..especially since I have to force the no contact legally.

        1. I*

          Also adopted. Great relationship w bio sister on maternal side . Bio dad is just a sperm donor- I had to get a restraining order.

          My adoptive mother is a piece of work. I will not miss her toxicity. She’s a manipulative, childish, selfish person.

          I really miss my adoptive father – who is my only “father” However, I realize he was an enabler and so it’s a nosed bag.

          I went in search of bio mother. People who knew couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to find sperm donor. Trust me, I have reasons

    2. Botanist*

      I’m so sorry that you lost your dad. An amazing parent is a gift- please be sensitive to the fact that not everyone is so fortunate. I lost my mom, who was amazing but also emotionally manipulative and had no sense of boundaries a few years ago, and as harsh as it is to say it, it has made my life better. I’m genuinely sorry for your loss, but if someone tells me that I should miss her emotional neediness, I will walk away from that conversation.

      1. I*

        She wanted you dependent on that negative feedback. It’s hard to kick it bc it’s like andrug.

        Waiting for her approval. Hopium.

    3. I*

      If you believe this, direct it at the parents who are causing the issues and not the kids.

      It’s a real privilege to have two healthy, nurturing parents. When you say something to the child who is the victim of overstepping parents, you make them responsible for fixing the abusers behavior.

      That’s really not ok.

      There’s a lot of pressure on victims of abusive parents and even dysfunctional ones who might not meet the level of abuse to make peace.

      Kids who suffer from toxic and abusive parenting have enough to deal with without being told they should be responsible for this!


      1. JSPA*

        These are all hugely important things to unpack, sort through and process. But in general the workplace is not the right place to unpack and sort through one’s emotional baggage.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I had great parents.

        It’s still really rude for someone else to scold me about how I should feel about them or talk about them when I’m grousing.

        It’s SO dismissive. And it’s also tone deaf, because you have ignored the concept that I’m perhaps letting off steam, and that this is one of the ways I maintain a loving relationship with my parents, by working through the annoyance when they’re not around.

        My own experience is that the person I knew who had a toxic parents didn’t actually complain about her to other people that much–my friend whose mother was acid itself? She almost never mentioned her mother. If you asked, socially, “How’s your mom?” she’d shrug and slide away from the question.

        But yes, pressuring people about how to feel can create a lot of burdens on other people.

        1. I*

          FTR, I don’t think that’s what LW is doing or wants to do.

          I do think it’s a general societal problem.

          So I really hope LW doesn’t feel that everything here is directed AT her.

    4. Librarian1*

      Aside from the fact that a lot of people have crappy relationships with their parents and will not, in fact, miss them when they’re gone, it’s really innappropriate to invalidate other people’s feelings that way. Just because someone is going through something less bad than what you went through doesn’t make their feelings invalid.

      1. Irinam*

        Some comparisons can’t or shouldn’t be made. Your last sentence is true. But there can be diff. Losses. Someone losing a parent and someone separating from family because of abuse can be the difference between a finality and an actually exhausting on-going maintains of a loss. One isn’t harder but it’s important to note some major differences at least between friends. But also the commonalities, needing support through hard things. If one has a loving partner and the other doesn’t, a friend would absilutely notice and respect that difference.

        1. Librarian1*

          That’s true. When I said “something less bad” I was thinking of the more run of the mill venting about parents that isn’t abuse (obviously, there’s no way for OP to know whether or not something is abuse, but I’m assuming that some of the people venting have good relationships with their parents and are just frustrated at the moment). In that case, it *is* less bad, but their frustration is still valid.

    5. TootsNYC*

      does it bother you because you think they are wrong?

      Or does it bother you because it reminds you that you miss your own dad so much?

      For the OP#2, it’s the second one–hearing them complain just reminds her of how great her own mom was, and how much she misses her. But she doesn’t want to tell them how to feel about the annoyances of having a living parent.

      It’s not cool to tell someone else that they should feel a certain way.

  7. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

    #5: I agree with Alison- you shouldn’t have to meet to discuss this on your day off. This reminds me of the type of person that makes employees travel (for work) on weekends or evenings so as not to interrupt business hours- even though what you are traveling for is work. And then they question the work ethic of people who travel during business hours…for work. But they think it’s okay for them to interrupt your life outside of work. This meeting situation seems like the same thing. It puts you in an awkward position of having to say it should be done during business hours. But I think you should speak up- Alison’s script about saying you have a conflict on the days you have off is perfect. You’re not saying you shouldn’t have to go in on your day off (even if that’s how you truly feel). You’re just saying you have a conflict on those other days.

    1. Alexander*

      Our office once tried to declare travel times as “non-working hours” (as the law only requires them to be declared “work” when you are actively driving, for example) – and they were SHOCKED when 3/4 of the company more or less bluntly said they will not do business travel anymore.

      I had this dialog almost in verbatim:
      Me: So, under the new system, you want me to leave my house at 5am to go to the Airport, fly to our Office in 500 miles away, do a full day of work, and fly back in the evening, to be back at home around 10pm – and since I would only spend about 6 hours of that time actually at the office, you’d mark me for missing two hours of work?
      Manager: No, well… you can write down that you worked 8 hours that day I guess?
      Me: …. go yourself.

      It took less than a week for them to send out an e-mail saying that there “might have been a misunderstanding” in communication (our CEO was foreign, and they actually blamed it on his rhetoric skills in our language), and of course all travel times will continue to be paid. So much for that…

      1. CL Cox*

        Your interpretation of the federal law is incorrect. Any travel that happens during your normal working hours is considered “working hours” – the method of travel does not matter. It is also considered “working hours” if you are away form home on business during your regular working hours. In other words, if you are sent to City A for a conference and your company books you to fly out Monday morning and return “Thursday evening, but the conference is only on Tuesday and Wednesday, you still get paid for Monday through Thursday regular working hours.
        But your employer does not have to reimburse you for hours that you are traveling during non-working hours. So, you don’t get extra pay if you’re flying out after working all day, but you do get paid if you’re flying during a work day.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Which still screws over employees. I spend an hour in a airport, two hours on a plane (probably doing work on my laptop), six hours at a conference, another hour in an airport, another two hours on a plane and I only get paid for eight of those twelve hours? That is bullshit and I would riot in the street if I didn’t get paid for that time or given the option to work a partial day instead during that same week.

    2. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      A company I worked for in the mid-90’s paid at end of day on Friday, which was 3:30pm. The accountant would stroll out at 3:40 or 3:45 to start handing out checks. My take home for 40 hours was $198.00. Most of the people who worked there lived an hour away and had to get to the bank in their town to cash the check so that they could buy groceries to feed their kids supper. Paycheck to paycheck was literal for them. Yet this guy took us their time Every. Single. Week. One week he didn’t show up until 4:00 and at least two families I knew had to ask relatives for help because the banks closed at 5:00 and weren’t open until Monday.
      This system infuriated me. But I was lucky that we had another paycheck in our family. While I needed the money, I didn’t need it right now, so I didn’t wait for my check. Every Monday morning, on company time–specifically NOT on my break–I went to the accountant’s office and collected my check. About the fourth week, he said that he thought I had been there on Friday and why didn’t I get my check then. That was my cue.
      “I have never worked for a company that treated it’s employees so poorly that it would force them to stand around on their own time to wait for the money the company owes them. I need to leave the parking lot by 3:35 in order to get home before my children get off the school bus. I cannot wait for you to bother paying us our wages.” [It was a high traffic area involving bridges, and whatnot. If I left on time it was 15 minutes. If I left ten minutes late it was at least 30 minutes. My kids were old enough to wait that long, but he didn’t know that and I don’t owe him the standing around time or the time in traffic.]
      He blinked a couple times, handed me my check, and I walked out. I suffered no repercussions but, of course, I didn’t stay there long. I still think about those families who had to put up with that, and I hope they are all right.
      To be fair, I don’t know that this policy was the accountant’s. The GM was a horrible person. Perhaps he wouldn’t sign the checks until 3:30. I don’t know who was responsible, but I protested in the only way I could at the time.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Yes. Be suspicious of any company that avoids paying employees for work meetings, including interviews for internal positions, discussing raises, updating your payroll information or filling out new hire paperwork (that last one shouldn’t be a huge amount of time but it’s a bad sign if they require you to fill it out on site but also won’t pay you to be there).

    3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      In 2019, I traveled for work on 28 non-work days (Saturday, Sunday and public holidays). This was mostly unavoidable due to client requirements like meetings, helicopter flights to drilling rigs, conferences etc. But I took the time off at other days (not time and a half, as I’m both exempt and not employed in the US).
      Mostly I like the work but some months get tedious, like the one month where I spent over 80 hours in the air.

  8. PerkyPatty*

    OP #1 – carry menthol cough drops with you. Pop one at the first inkling of a yawn. The object in your mouth will interfere with the yawn and the menthol will keep you perky.

    1. Arts Akimbo*

      Ooh, I am writing this tip down! I bet it works great for keeping you alert while driving at night, too. (I… have been using Hot Cheetohs for this purpose, and it does not do wonders for the breath.)

      1. Vendelle*

        I find that chewing on anything helps keep me alert when driving (and it stops yawning too!), so I always bring chewing gum or something like that when I have to drive in the evening.

        1. Marmaduke*

          I always take a pack of my least favorite chewing gum on long drives. I hate the flavor so much it keeps me very alert. YMMV.

          1. Sunflower Sea Star*

            LOL I listen to music a hate to stay awake, too. For me it’s mysogynistic rap. It enrages me, which keeps me from dozing off…

          2. boop the first*

            Oh geez… I think this is why I would never buy spearmint gum. My grampa used to give it to us in the truck on dump runs, which was up a steep mountainside I guess and it kept our ears from popping.
            But the flavour was dreadful and nauseating in that old, sweltering truck.

        2. So Not The Boss Of Me*

          Yes, chewing anything helps me. But just the act of chewing, with nothing in my mouth, doesn’t work. Bodies are so strange.

        3. OP 1*

          I can’t stand menthol cough drops (sorry, but thanks for the good suggestion PerkyPatty!), but I do always have gum on my person. This is worth experimenting with. I can’t think if I yawn more or less when I’m chewing gum. I’ll try it!

          1. I edit everything*

            My dad swore by peppermints for keeping awake while driving. But just having anything in your mouth would probably work–heck, give Jolly Ranchers a try, as long as you bring enough to share with the whole class.

          2. fposte*

            Even drinking water is good–it redeploys the mouth and takes its little mouth mind off of the yawn.

        4. Cheesehead*

          I would always eat cheerios–one at a time–to keep me awake while driving. Sounds crazy, but it works for me!

          1. TootsNYC*

            I’ve done this with popcorn.

            And when I had to drive back from dropping my daughter off at college, I’d always pick up a big bag of sugar-snap peas while we were stocking her up with groceries, and I’d eat them one by one on the way home.

            Then there was the night they had not sugar-snap peas, so I went with popcorn. Or chips some days, though those are a bit salty.

      2. Mill Miker*

        I’d be careful with that one. Mythbuster’s did a whole segment on trying to fool a breathalyzer, and the only thing that had any effect were some of the lozenges: They could make you blow higher than you would otherwise.

    2. Threeve*

      A mouthful of water or coffee right as the yawn comes on can disguise it, too–and stretching backwards a bit while taking a sip of something is pretty normal.

  9. Budgie Buddy*

    Thank you for the sensible advice for op 1. I struggle with chronic fatigue so hearing others yawn loudly does contribute to my struggles with feeling exhausted myself. I greatly appreciate when people are doing their best to be discreet and stay focused.

    My technique for dealing with yawns is similar to what I use for burping. I try to keep my mouth closed and let the reflex happen in the back of my throat. It cuts down on the noise/spasming a lot.

    1. Tau*

      I have a closed-mouth yawn too. It’s somewhat uncomfortable, but it takes the edge off the impulse and is a lot less obvious than otherwise.

      1. DyneinWalking*

        Yeah, me too. I keep my lips closed, my jaw nearly closed, and mostly just push my tongue (i.e. the “base” of the inside of my mouth) way down. I can also induce yawns that way. It probably makes my throat look weird, but I’m sure it’s less obtrusive than a full gaping yawn.

    2. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes for yawning at work I try to do it with my mouth closed so it’s unobtrusive, but if you aren’t able to do that the most important thing is to avoid vocalizing. Yawn with your breathing only but don’t activate your vocal cords like one of the seven dwarves and most people will let it slide.

    3. OP 1*

      Closed-mouth yawning won’t do it for me, unfortunately. That makes me yawn uncontrollably until I finally just let it happen! The best I can do is try to cover it, look away, etc. They’re definitely audible yawns – as in, you can hear breath escaping – but I don’t add extra vocalizations.

      1. remizidae*

        You really need to fix this. Audible, open-mouth yawns are rude, and as lots of other people have commented, you can do it silently and without opening your mouth. If you find it hard, practice.

        1. OP 1*

          I’m grateful that enough people in this thread have shared their advice and experiences that I can see your comment for the unhelpful and, frankly, demeaning that response it is.

          I yawn in your general direction.

          1. Topaz*

            Frankly though, yawning like this will come of as rude. As Alison said, “But yeah, yawning in meetings does generally come across as bored or even rude, especially if you’re clearly not trying to stifle it.”

            I see this as being equivalent to burping. We all do it, you can’t control it when it needs to happen, but you’ve got to do your best to make sure its completely undetectable to those around you. It sort of seems like from your previous comments that you are looking for validation that it isn’t rude. It is.

            1. OP 1*

              Topaz, you have read my previous comments, so you’ll know that I do everything in my power to be as polite and subtle as I can. I don’t make additional noises, and I don’t expose my tonsils to the people around me. If I stifle or try to yawn “through my mouth”, I have a hiccup-like response that will plunge me into a cascade of smaller yawns.

              I was not looking for validation, but it is true that I am grateful that there are many other people in the same boat as me who decided to comment today! I joked to a close coworker that there appear to be two camps: those who can control their yawns (and so think it’s rude when others don’t), and those who cannot (and don’t understand why it bothers people so much).

              I do think there are a lot of interesting conversations happening about possible medical issues: either new side effects, or undiagnosed problems, and I’m taking note of those. But as I also said down-thread, I’m on a whole bunch of different medications at the moment, so I don’t think it’s in my best interest to start anything new at this time… and my incessant yawning predates my medical history by at least a decade.

              With all of that said, and with the other conversations I’ve participated in, I don’t think it is especially helpful to tell me that I am being rude and to repeat advice that I’ve already affirmed will not work for me. But I’d be grateful for any constructive advice you can give me, and I very much envy your lifetime of silent bodily functions!

              1. somanyquestions*

                The thing is, everyone else isn’t agreeing with you here the way you insist. You’re saying it’s impossible to not have giant audible yawns, and well, we all yawn too. We’ve all figured out ways to not do that, because it comes off as really rude and your co-workers WILL judge you on that.

                You seem to just want validation that your way is just fine, and that would be wrong to give you because you will continue to offend your co-workers and there will be ramifications you should be prepared to see if you continue.

            2. Cas*

              Agree 100% Topaz and remizidae. The OP is looking for validation. Open mouth, spine stretching yawns are rude and can be avoided. The OP doesn’t want to try harder and is looking for validation that’s it’s fine to behave this way. Yes, it comes off as rude. Seriously.

          2. Jenny*

            “I yawn in your general direction.”
            I agree with the people who say you’re seeking validation here. Yawn noises are going to be seen as rude because people associate yawning people with being bored. I know that, because when I was managing a trainee who was doing that, I got feedback from everyone else who supervised him about that issue.

      2. Qwerty*

        How is your air supply during meetings? Does your posture disintegrate over the course of a long meeting? Or hunched over taking notes? I also yawn a lot during meetings, and noticed that when I’m not alert/engaged in the meeting, my posture/position gets worse and the yawns become more frequent.

        I don’t have a good resource about this, but I noticed it after watching the TED talk on power stances, realized that their positions labelled “powerful” also greatly improved my breathing, and the yawning decreased. So maybe that’s a trick that can help? I also occasionally take purposeful large breaths during meetings – it reduces the number of yawns and is easier to hide than a reflexive yawn.

  10. em_eye*

    LW2, I’m very sorry for your loss. I lost a parent when I was very young – so a different situation in some ways but one that can sometimes present similar challenges.

    I really don’t think it would be appropriate to tell your employees to stop complaining about their parents. If it’s causing you a lot of pain because it triggers something for you, that’s one thing. If it’s a general, low-grade sadness or annoyance or a sense that they really will regret complaining someday, I don’t think it’s worth addressing.

    Instead, I think it might help to reframe the situation. There are really two possible scenarios here. First of all, some of your employees might have genuinely toxic relationships with their parents. In that case, no, you wouldn’t want to be in their situation and have 50 missed calls from THEIR (not your) mothers, and in fact, they may not miss it when their own parents pass away. That could be because of a horrible situation like abuse, or it could be that they understand that their parents are Fine People Who Tried Their Best, but whose influence in their lives is not a positive one. If that’s the case and you use your own situation as a way to make them feel guilty enough to stop, they’re likely to be understandably peeved by the overstep.

    Obviously, in most cases your employees probably have pretty good parents, and they’re just venting about a mild everyday annoyance. It might help to understand that it’s not REALLY about their relationship with their parents – they’re probably frustrated by a real or perceived lack of control over their life, which is incredibly common for young adults. They might be upset because they’re relying on their parents for financial support that makes it challenging for them to have an equal relationship, or that their parents’ opinions about their life reflect a refusal to see them as adults. Maybe none of this is malicious intent on the part of the parents, but their frustration is real. It can feel deeply upsetting, almost dehumanizing, to not be able to make decisions for yourself, or to not have someone you love recognize the parts of you that you feel make you who you are. Is it as upsetting as losing a parent? Of course not. But people who have never lost a parent have no context for that might be like, so their problems expand to fill their lives and consume their energy, just like you can scream in pain when you stub your toe even though many people deal with worse pain every single day. You also can’t create that context by telling them that you lost a parent and how much it sucks. Unless you are a uniquely gifted storyteller, they’re more likely to feel pity for you than anything else, and pity distances people from each other and makes it even harder for them to understand where you’re coming from.

    Believe me, I get it. My dad died after being hit by a truck while crossing the street. When I was in college, jokes about how great it would be to get hit by a campus vehicle and get your tuition paid were really popular. It stung every time and I wasn’t comfortable telling even my friends to knock it off – I didn’t want them to give me that look grown-ups always gave me when I was a kid. But eventually I realized they were getting something out of the jokes that was real for them – they were exhausted with dealing with the administration and knew how much of their lives were in the hands of a faceless institution, and that dark humor let them feel like they had a little bit of power over the situation.

    1. no-fam*

      This is a great response. As a young adult who lost a parent that I don’t really miss and has a strained relationship with my living parent, I find it super frustrating when people try to tell me I’ll think differently when they’re gone or compare my situation to their strong family relationships. The reality for many of us is that no (or minimal) parental contact is best for everyone and/or that venting is an important coping mechanism. That said, I do think it’s reasonable and probably smart for the letter writer to say something like “hey, this is actually a pretty sensitive topic for me. Could you tone down the mom talk while I’m around?”, especially near the anniversary of the death or holidays or other times of year when grief hits particularly hard.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Sometimes we miss having parents and our parents are still among the living.
        So very sorry.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Well that just punched me in the gut…but thank you for giving me a better way to explain it when I get melancholy for the dad I should’ve had.

    2. Scarlet2*

      This is such a great comment! I’m glad someone brought up the fact that some people have extremely difficult relationship with their parents and having someone tell you that you should be grateful you still have them can be really tough to hear. When you’re struggling with this kind of issue, you already feel like a bad, ungrateful child and it can really pile on the guilt.

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      This comment is brilliant, thank you so much!

      The struggle for separation in young adulthood is so hard. I have a very good relationship with my mother now in my late 30s, but I had a far rockier relationship with her at 23, when I was a lot less mature and settled and when she refused to see me as an adult, didn’t understand the difficulties of the job market, and did things like yell at me for not renting an apartment two miles from the nearest public transit when I couldn’t afford a car because she liked the landlord.

    4. Rae*

      I came here to say this.

      Some of the complaints you mention, while even exaggerated, may indicate abuse, either verbally, financially or worse.

      I’m adopted. My biological parents were psychotic. They tried to get me fired for being crazy even a decade after I was removed from their care. My then boss and co-workers knew. My adoptive parents were less than helpful and I would keep my boss updated every so often. One woman I worked with blew up at me one day and said horrible things about me.

      She had lost her parents young and been raised by her aunt. She felt no parent could ever be bad, ever do anything worth complaining about and told me as much. I was dealing with serious things. Both my crazy bio parents and my “you’re over 18 now stbu adoptive parents” who had the money but wouldn’t help me add minutes to my cell phone so I felt safer while I worked my first real job far away from home.

      I hated my coworker after that. Everyone wants and needs to be validated. In these situations I would recommend finding a script that ensures that you recognize what they are dealing with isn’t ok.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It happens that people who lost their parents young have dream world stuff going on about what it would be like to have parents. Everything would be perfect if they only had their parents. I feel bad for them because of their loss, but there isn’t much we can do about their dream world stuff. I do think that dream world stuff brings on a new level of problems for them in life.
        As you show here all we can do is move away from people who can’t deal with reality. Yeah, I’d find that hard to deal with also.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        I seriously suspect that someone who believes all parents are by definition good would be a terrible parent herself. After all, if she is a parent she is axiomatically good, therefore she can do anything she feels like regarding her child….

        1. Autumnheart*

          In my experience, the people who have the most difficulty believing that parents can be bad, are the ones with really good parents. They think that when someone says “bad parent”, they mean that they got grounded for having a bad report card, or had a curfew as a teenager that was an hour earlier than everyone else’s. They think child abuse happens in Lifetime movies and newspaper articles, but not in real life.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            I think it’s people who have really good parents… but also a real lack of empathy and imagination.

            And people who think that newspaper articles aren’t real life (because “everything in the media is fake” or whatever) are a huge problem for our society as a whole – especially if they believe sketchy Facebook posts instead – but that’s a whole different tangent. :-(

      3. em_eye*

        Thanks so much for this! I agree – financial and emotional abuse are very real and there’s absolutely not a clear line between “I’m mad at my mom because she’s terrible” and “I’m mad at my mom because I’m annoyed by our relationship right now.” If someone is using money to control you, completely dismissing your identity, calling you to a point that it prevents you from living a normal life, that’s squarely in the first category.

        I think what I had in mind is something much smaller – like parents who check in a lot because they’re worried about their kid’s safety, or get on their case a lot for spending more time working or with friends than with family. I wouldn’t call either of these abusive in isolation (they absolutely can be if they’re part of a larger pattern of controlling behavior), but I think someone would be justified in complaining about them. I think as you grow up you kind of need to change how you see your parents and the many-years transition from “this person is the center of my whole life” to “this person is not even a major part of my day-to-day life anymore” can be bumpy even if there’s nothing egregiously bad happening.

      4. Night Heron*

        I really feel this response. I am almost envious of people who can’t fathom a toxic parent. It really hurts to have your entire experience automatically invalidated by someone who doesn’t know what you’ve been through, which in a lot of ways can feel extra triggering because their invalidation can be internalized the same way as a toxic parent’s – that your feelings don’t matter or are less important than someone else’s. Some people grieve what they’ve lost, some grieve what they never had.

        1. Marmaduke*

          This is so important.

          I was raised to believe that my parents were very good parents who had no choice but to hurt me because I was stupid and crazy and bad. When people call me unappreciative for distancing myself from my family or saying negative things about the relationship, it’s a reiteration: they did nothing wrong, and the abuse must have been all my fault, and I misunderstood because I am stupid and crazy and bad.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            That’s horrible. I’m sorry your parents were so cruel, and I’m sorry other people have continued their cruelty.

          2. Night Heron*

            Yup, exactly. I’m sorry you’ve gone through that as well as the unintended gaslighting by colleagues. So many people think they’re making a situation better when unfortunately the result is often the exact opposite.

    5. Data Analyst*

      This is a great response! I’m estranged from my mom, who is a terrible person. A few years ago, a friend lost his mom very suddenly and tragically. [tw brief description of death] – she fell on some concrete steps and hit her head/neck in such a way that she died. After this happened, friend was big on “do me a favor and call your mom and tell her how much you love her” etc. This first triggered in me a feeling of “oh shit! Should…I…do that??” and then to resentment – “I don’t have a good mom who I’d want to call, ever! Don’t tell me what to do!” and then round to the more reasonable take: this has nothing to do with me. This is part of his grief process and all it means is that he wishes he could see his mom again. Just like the students are in a stage where they have annoying moms to deal with and it has nothing to do with you.
      Although I still agree with the advice that just asking them once to discuss it less in your presence is fine – but if that doesn’t work, this kind of perspective may help suck some of the emotional charge out of it?

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        If your friend knows how awful your mom is, it’s still really unkind of him to badger you about contacting her. Your mom is not his mom.

      2. CM*

        That’s such a great perspective that you eventually came around to, but it’s unfortunate that there’s this cycle — grieving person dispenses wisdom to somebody (“tell your mom you love her!”) who finds it painful (why can’t I have the kind of relationship with my mom where that would be a good idea??). Kind of reminds me of how evangelical religious people need to spread the good news — they sincerely believe they are helping, and some recipients of that genuinely appreciate it while others find it harmful and offensive. Even though the life wisdom has the best of intentions, I think it would be better if we all kept to I-statements without telling other people how they should feel.

      3. Blueberry*

        I am so impressed with how you handled your friend’s grief and your reaction to it. When I was in a similar situation I ghosted the friendship. I wish I could go back with a leaf from your playbook.

      4. em_eye*

        I’m so sorry you had to hear that. It blows my mind that there are still people who don’t understand that not all parental relationships are good ones.

        A couple years ago, I shared with an older coworker that I didn’t have a great relationship with my mom and wasn’t speaking to her at the time, and while she was a lot more understanding than your friend, there was still a lot of “You should give her a call! Try to understand where she’s coming from! Talk to her about how you feel! Have a lot of long, deep conversations until you guys are super close again.”

        And now I have a very different relationship with my mom. I see her and talk to her quite often. But all the same frustrations I had with her are there – our relationship is more “friendly acquaintance” than “person I feel like I can trust and rely on for everything.” Ironically, if I hadn’t let go of the idea that my mom and I needed to be close, which came from detaching for a little bit, I think our relationship would be much worse. The time away let me become more secure in myself and lower my expectations of her. So if I’d taken my coworker’s advice it actually would have been really counterproductive.

      5. JSPA*

        There’s also the “you’re free to add an asterisk to anyone’s statement” clause. Just like ads that have an asterisk, and small print going to a “does not apply / your mileage may vary / not available in all states.”

        If it’s something they’re saying to everyone, it’s not a conversation, it’s a promo piece that just happens to point in your direction at the moment. There’s an implied, “general good advice* (*your situation may vary).”

        The internet is great for letting people find their affinity group(s), “tribe(s),” co-survivors etc. But finding your people can leave you a bit blind to the fact that it’s OK for people to give vague advice that’s going to be good advice for a huge percentage of the people hearing it.

        “Move more!” (asterisk: “not if you have a condition where moving more is damaging!”)

        “Tell your [family member] you love them!” (asterisk: “only if this is true, and if reaching out does not void a restraining order, or put one or the other of you at risk in any of many ways!”)

        “Eat more complex carbs!” (asterisk: “not if you have an ostomy bag, FODMAP issues, or various other sensory, digestive, economic or time-management issues that make this counterproductive or impossible for you!”)

        Sure, it would be great if, even in their time of grief, someone who’s grieving could cover the asterisk themselves. “If there are people you love and who love you, but you’ve neglected to talk to for a while or drifted apart from for no real reason, use this excuse to talk to them SOON.” But failing that, when they say, “PLEASE call your mom,” you can hear the actual, applicable version, instead. Because you already know your situation has asterisks; they don’t.

        1. Autumnheart*

          Yeah. I don’t mind “Hug your loved ones” because that phrasing leaves it up to me to decide who that is. “Hug a specific person!” is where it gets iffy.

          1. JSPA*

            Well, that’s where the translation comes in.

            “Your mom” is the words; “A person who’s helped me feel mothered in the absence of mothering from my official mother” is the nearest correct translation in your frame of reference.

            If you sign onto the “my life exists in creative translation” attitude, you’ll get increasing benefit as that practice lets you automate the re-processing needed to move past “awkward specific” to “kernel of importance.” Because people reminding people to “hug mom” are generally not focused on mom’s genetic status or legal status, vis-a-vis you. They’re encouraging you to make a moment for closeness with a deep source of nurturance, identity, and love, and to focus nurturance and love back at her/him/they/them/it.

            If you were effectively raised by, grounded by and found nurturance, support and solace from books, that can translate to running your hands over their spines, or volunteering with the local library. Maybe it’s the teacher who made sure you ate, when there wasn’t food in the house, and gave you a coat that “didn’t fit my child,” and checked in with you for years after you were in their class. Maybe it’s the friend’s parent who exempted you from the “dinner guests and sleepovers only with advance permission” rule, or even found an excuse to call your home in the afternoon, then suggested you stay for dinner and a sleepover if nobody answered, or answered “sheets to the wind” and belligerent. And maybe there was no one main person, but people who did some mom-ing in passing; collectively, they can also be “what I define as Real Mom.”

    6. Did not have a good mother*

      This is a great response, I also am sorry you lost your father.

      I think often when people talk about families they often automatically fill in their own relationship with their families assuming everyone has the same relationship. For example, my MIL is incredibly toxic, abusive and generally a horrible person. When we had kids we cut off the relationship entirely because she had started acting in an abusive way towards our kids… we were done and not putting our kids in that situation.

      However, whenever the situation comes up that we don’t involve her in our lives, and why, people always say “OMG I could never imagine being cut off from MY grandchildren/grandparents, how horrible for HER, maybe you should give her another chance, it probably wasn’t that bad, she didn’t mean it, she obviously loves you and her grandchildren etc.”

      The woman was abusive to everyone she could… but yeah, so sad for her. People were always thinking of their rosy relationships with THEIR grands/parents and how they would feel if their relationship was cut off and not the reality of the relationship that was happening here.

      I think OP really does need to realize that, like others have said, not everyone has parents that deserve to be missed, not everyone has a relationship with their parents, not everyone WANTS a relationship with their parents.

      OP’s co-workers complaints about their parents have absolutely no impact on the relationship OP had with her mother. For what it’s worth, should my MIL die, I am fairly certain my husband will mourn the fact that he never had the mother he deserved, but will feel relieved that her spectre no longer looms over us.

    7. Senor Montoya*

      I haven’t lost either parent and *I* would not want to hear it, either. It’s like any sort of annoying chatter (not saying that this is merely annoying, of course) — if it’s breaking your focus on work, they need to take it somewhere else or tone it down.

    8. Faith*

      This comment said what I was coming here to say, only much better. I lost my dad in a car accident when I was a kid, and it’s always been hard to deal with the grief/jealousy combo that can arise if you don’t stop to take the time to realize that other people are dealing with completely different things, and that’s why they say what they do.

      Also, I’ve found that it helps to remind myself that 99% of people would never say anything hurtful if they realized I had lost my dad, but there’s not really any way for them to know; it’s not like we carry around signs that say “lost my parent in a tragic accident”. No one’s complaining about their parent AT you; no one is intentionally trying to rub salt in your wounds. It’s okay to say “hey, I know your parents are driving you crazy, but I just lost my mom, so could you try to not be so vocal about it when I’m around?” Just remember that they might still slip up, but that’s because they’re human, not because they’re trying to hurt you.

  11. Massmatt*

    #5 it is weird and crappy that your bosses want you to come in on a day off—and this after being told to ask HR for a raise?

    But I predict any pushback on this will garner some variant of “well, I guess it’s really not important to you then”.

    Many bosses are weird about raises and promotions. Unfortunately, the ball is in their court when i5 comes to giving them out. Alison’s script is good, and in an ideal world wouldn’t be necessary, but here we are.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      This whole situation raised a bit of a yellow flag for me. I’d assume that the answer will be no, you can’t come in on your work time and no, you can’t have a raise. It may be extreme but I’d start low-key looking for something else.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        And for the love of all things covered with cheese do not debate the counter offer when you give notice.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This is where my mind went.

        They’re jerking the OP around and all this to probably say no given their awful cagey attitude.

    2. [insert witty user name here]*

      Yup, that was my feeling. They’re trying to make you jump through hoops to ask for a raise either in a weird test to see if you really “deserve it” (in their minds) or to see if you’ll just back off/forget about it/figure it’s not worth the hassle.

    3. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Well, their original plan to have OP go to HR and be told something that would end the conversation failed, so they came up with Plan C. (Plan A was ignore the subject for three years.) So now they’ve created another obstacle. I’d ask why it would have to be on a day off. Figure OP has nothing to lose, they are going to play games until OP leaves so at least challenge the rules.

    4. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      Specifying “your day off” is what is called in some industries “a dick move.”

      1. Wired Wolf*

        This seems to be why we can never have full-team meetings; somebody would need to come in on their day off and hence get paid for the meeting time which the company doesn’t like to do.

  12. Sella*

    In regards to #1, I currently manage an employee who does this in meetings. She does it in meetings with just us, but also when we have external stakeholders. Am I obligated to say something?

    1. Avasarala*

      I don’t know if you’re obligated but I’ve been chided for this kind of behavior in terms of “how you present yourself matters to the company.” If you think your external stakeholders/your managers will care, and you think you’d be doing your employee a favor to let them know.

    2. Threeve*

      Unless you think she’ll be offended or sensitive about it, it will be doing her a favor. “I’m not sure you’ve noticed this, but you tend to be very yawn-prone in meetings, and it can make you look tired or uninterested, which I know isn’t the case. I know it’s an involuntary movement, but there are tricks to disguise or mitigate it. Do you think that’s something you can try?”

      1. Senor Montoya*

        Even if you think she will be offended, if she’s your employee (reports to you, I assume?) and it’s having a negative work effect, you should bring it up. I’d use Threeve’s script!

    3. stivee*

      FWIW, any time there’s a change to my medication (an SSRI) I yawn uncontrollably until my body adjusts. It’d suck if someone pointed it out.

  13. Language Lover*

    I have an employee who isn’t a student employee who will do the “do you want me to come in tomorrow” thing. It is very annoying. The answer to “do you want me to come in tomorrow?” and “would it be okay if I took tomorrow off?” is likely going to be yes either way. I just want to make sure I’m saying yes to the thing she actually wants.

    1. Fikly*

      I would bring up once, that if she wants a day off, she needs to request one. And if the behavior doesn’t stop, just answer, “Well, you’re scheduled to work, so yes.”

    2. JJ*

      I agree that “do you want me to come in tomorrow?” is weird and immediately triggers thoughts of “yes…it’s…your job??” but honestly, “Is it okay if I don’t come in tomorrow?” and Allison’s “Could I take tomorrow off?” are functionally identical, and it seems weird to be annoyed by one and not the other.

      Also I was confused by LW saying “they are not really asking for permission; instead, I’m guessing that that’s what they want.” Employees “requesting” time off and expecting it granted is generally the routine, I got a whiff of “arg, kids these days!” or something from that one so keep an eye on that, LW!

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        It’s kind of a weird way to request it, though. Unless the job is something where workload is really unpredictable from one day to the next or you for some reason expect that tomorrow will be very slow, it seems oddly unclear to ask “do you want me to come in tomorrow?”. If it is likely to be slow or the employee has something they want or need to do, it would make more sense to me to be more direct.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          But they’re completely separate things. It’s understandable to say “do you want me to come in tomorrow” is a vague, confusing way of asking for time off. They should ask more clearly.

          “Is it okay if I don’t come in tomorrow?” is a very clear, polite way of asking for tomorrow off. What else would it possibly mean? I’ve been working for years, and that’s basically how I’d ask for a day off if it wasn’t something absolutely pressing (in which case I’d say something stronger like “I’m sorry for such short notice but I can’t come in tomorrow because [urgent reason].”) It’s pretty silly to lump the two things together when this way of saying it is literally a direct request for time off.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I agree, I don’t get it either. I somehow got the impression LW is interpreting “Is it okay if I don’t come in tomorrow?” as too informal for a time-off request or something. But I also vividly remember getting corrected (read: yelled at, with actual yelling) in front of all the other workers when I told a manager I needed to request some time off and asked what the process was for that because apparently the process was to ask “Is it okay …” and maybe grovel a bit (retail is weird).

            Whatever they’re doing, they probably learned it from previous jobs and they’re going to keep doing it until they’re told the process is different at this job. Not a big deal. That’s something managers do.

      2. OneWomansOpinion*

        Yeah, what else could someone possibly mean by “is it okay if I don’t come in tomorrow”??

        1. Works in IT*

          In my job (I’m technically a contractor. Employed by a contracting agency, not an independent contractor) I’m theoretically allowed to set my own schedule. In practice, I’m expected to come in and work a standard eight hour shift each day. I will occasionally ask my boss if he NEEDS me to come in on a day (never “tomorrow”, but still, in the near future) before saying I’m going to take that day off and making plans because hey, if he decided that I am going to be teaching interns things that day, I should not take that day off. And I don’t want to start by asking if I can take the time off because he is aware that my tiny department is overwhelmed with work and stressed and is willing to give us whatever days off we want whether it throws a wrench in his plans or not, and much of the time it’s…. really not a big deal if I take a day off the week before my birthday or the week after to celebrate my birthday, as long as I take a day off at some point in the month to celebrate my birthday.

          1. Cinnamon*

            I do something similar. It’s more “I was going to take off this day for X, did you need me in? I can reschedule for Y but not Z.”

        2. fposte*

          It could mean that you want to work from home. More to the point, it’s not generally how a day off is requested, and it’s worth teaching people new to the workforce what the usual templates are for such procedures.

      3. AKchic*

        In my opinion, it’s the Guess vs. Ask culture rearing it’s head in the workplace. Hinting that you want a day off, and making it seem like a favor to the employer when you say “hey, do you reeeaaaaaalllly need me tomorrow” is so irritating. It has so many layers of meaning that the non-asker/hinter didn’t actually mean. It suggests that the person doesn’t actually know their staffing needs, suggests that they are doing them a favor by coming in at all and “helping out” rather than doing the job they were hired to do in exchange for money, it questions the supervisor’s judgement in general, and requires the supervisor to figure out if the questioner is actually asking for a day off or a partial day off (and whether this is some kind of weird negotiation).

        It’s so much better to speak plainly. However, the LW did note that these are generally people new to the workforce, so a lot of them are dealing with familial interactions where the Ask vs. Guess culture is pretty engrained in them and it’s normalized to do things that way. My grandmother has gotten very much more “guess” as she has aged and become more immobile. I call her out on it often because she always frames it as a favor for us to do it for ourselves rather than something she’d like done for her. Example: “oh, you can open that window if you’d like” means “I’m too hot and it feels stuffy in this room to me, so open that window right now”. She thinks she’s being polite and undemanding. I mean, nobody questions a “helpless little old lady” in a wheelchair and nobody assumes she’d be manipulative, right? Except she very much is. And she is sweet as honey about it, too.

        It’s not hard to say “Hey, I need to take tomorrow off”. It’s clear. It’s concise. It ensures that the supervisor isn’t guessing at the meaning and there’s no hidden layers of meaning that aren’t meant to be there with a passive aggressively-sounding hinted (non)ask.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      I did that a couple times in my first job. I once started feeling really bad while at work one day (cramps) and couldn’t stand it anymore when I had about an hour left in my shift. I went to my manager and asked if he still needed me and he replied, “Well yeah, but if you’re sick I can’t do anything about that.” It still didn’t occur to me that I asked the wrong question.

      Can you create a system for requesting time off? Or make an informal policy about how to request missing a scheduled shift/request a day off?

      1. Senor Montoya*

        Make a handbook for them which includes this info, and go over it when you’re training. They really don’t know, and they don’t want to say the wrong thing.

  14. Tea Rocket*

    LW2: I normally agree with Alison’s suggested scripts, but this one feels a little off to me. If I were on the receiving end of such a comment, I would stop complaining about my mom in front of the LW, but I would also be resenting the one-upmanship inherent in it (“My mother died and yours is still alive, so clearly my life is harder than yours”) and I think it carries a subtle implication that losing her mother has given the LW some sort of special insight into parent/child relationships she’s not part of, which is not true. Not everyone will miss their parents when they’re gone.

    A much less loaded way to get the same idea across would be something like: “My mom died very suddenly last year, and it’s made all these discussions of families hard for me to hear. I know you guys need to blow off steam sometimes, but could you please do it when I’m not around?”

    1. Marzipan*

      Yeah, I feel like Alison’s scripts are normally all about actually saying whatever it is you mean, in a way you can be sure the other person will understand it, and yet with this one I feel like there’s room for the message to be missed altogether, or interpreted in ways that aren’t helpful for #2. I’d be a little clearer in asking for what would help me personally, and I’d want to avoid suggesting that my situation was in any way relevant to their own relationships with their own parents.

        1. Temperance*

          I just wanted to say that I love how you are always willing to edit your advice and suggestions upon taking input from others.

    2. Blueberry*

      I’m so glad you said this. What you said is what I thought when I read that line in Alison’sresponse, and when I saw her later amendment I silently cheered. Thank you for helping inspire that amendment and providing a more helpful path.

  15. alienor*

    #2, I’m so sorry for your loss. When my husband died years ago, I not only got to hear people complaining about their own husbands, but divorced people often responded to the news that I was a widow by saying “I wish my ex would die!” Needless to say, neither of those things were anything I wanted to hear, so I feel for you. I wish there were magic words that would make it stop happening (even if you say something that temporarily shames them into stopping, they’ll forget or new people will come in who don’t know), but just know that eventually time will take the sting out of it.

      1. Jean*

        Yeesh. I’m divorced and not exactly fond of my ex, but that’s such an out of line thing to say. Especially to someone whose spouse just died.

    1. Caroline Bowman*

      how appalling that anyone would say that to you! Unbelievably insensitive.

      I must admit that since my mom died a couple of years ago, I find it very hard to listen to the sort of run-of-the-mill complaints people make about their mothers. I adored my mom, miss her constantly, but it does help me to remember that when she was alive, because we were close, OF COURSE she could be annoying to me and of course I occasionally had reason to whine and moan, and my complaining in no way meant I wished she’d die or even that I thought less of her, which gives me some perspective; others are allowed to be irritated with their parents. I’m sure when your husband was around, you’d have arguments or get annoyed with him from time to time, but that’s a far, far step from wishing the person would die.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I think this is a situation where we notice only when we’re the ones in deficit. But just about everything we complain about is a luxury or sore spot to somebody (there are definitely unemployed people reading this column who are thinking they wish they had a job to have a complaint about), so it’s not about people being insensitive, it’s just about what we can’t tolerate in a given space and time, so I think it’s important to make the request in that terms.

    2. WellRed*

      My widowed mom, 71 (about 3 years) and her widowed neighbor, 60 (by about 4 or 5 years) were told by another neighbor age 45, who had lost her mom within the last year or so, “they didn’t understand how hard it was because they only lost their husbands.” I think my mom probably rolled her eyes internally but the other woman was quite upset.

      1. Blu*

        Shortly after my dad died my mom told me she was hurting worse than me because she had lost her dad (years before) and now her husband. She has since told me she feels bad she said it. Grief is tough

      2. Beehoppy*

        When my Mom died suddenly and unexpectedly someone told my Step Dad that her divorce was actually more painful than his losing his wife.

      3. Aunt Vixen*

        My widowed mom had lost her own mom maybe five months before my dad was diagnosed with a terminal illness, so she is in the unenviable position of being able to closely compare losing a parent and losing a husband and your mom’s neighbor can stuff it.

      4. ellex42*

        I was told “I know you didn’t love your [deceased relative] as much as I loved my [deceased relative].”

        Which…was actually true, and I’ve never pretended that my [deceased relatives]’s death was, or is, very painful. Still, it was an incredibly thoughtless and insensitive thing to say. My experiences with deaths in my own family or in others is that what you say out loud should be brief, generic sympathy is okay, and what you really think should mostly be kept to yourself.

  16. Aurion*

    OP #2, since you probably don’t know the whole story of your colleagues’ relationships with their parents, I’d stay away from any hints of “you’ll miss them when they’re gone” or anything that might sound like you know better than them. Your description sounds like pretty mild kvetching, but maybe they’re complaining about the minor stuff to blow off steam and not saying anything about the major problems those relationships have. You just don’t know.

    Instead, make it a request for you – “hey guys, I lost my mother last year, could you take it easy on the parent complaints when I’m here? It’s hard for me to hear. Thanks.” Everyone save for the most obnoxious jerks should respect that.

  17. RG*

    OP #2, I’m sorry for your loss. I wonder if taking someone aside at a separate time would help. For example, deciding to talk to the most frequent complainer on Monday when you get in. I know you didn’t say this in your letter, but if you’re worried you might come across as too emotional in the moment, taking time to set the scenario can help there.

    I hope that you can get some relief on this. It’s entirely possible that they don’t realize how much they’re complaining – I’ve found that it’s easy to get into a habit of complaining, especially if I’m being affirmed by people complaining about the same thing. So it’s possible that once you say something to at least one person, they’ll realize, “Oh, wow, that is all we do while eating lunch” or whatever and take steps themselves to put a damper on it. And while it may not completely stop the complaints, hopefully they can handle their situations better. Mothers are people, and people are going to aggravate you from time to time, based on what they do or don’t do or say or don’t say. But there’s healthy and unhealthy ways to handle that aggravation, so hopefully this will push them to consider which of those approaches they are taking. At the very least, I hope that if they persist in complaining, they at least have the manners to do so out of earshot of you.

  18. NotAllMoms*

    OP#2 It’s painful for me to hear people talk about how great their moms are, when mine is not. Something invalidating like “you’ll miss her annoying you when she’s gone” is one of the cruelest things anyone could tell me, so please continue resisting the urge to say it.

    1. Caroline Bowman*

      Good point, not all parents are great ones, and those of us who had the privilege of wonderful parents sometimes overlook that.

      I’d keep it ”I” directed with this OP, just say ”I was close to my mom and she passed away recently, so it hurts to hear your very ordinary, normal, reasonable annoyances, I know it’s me, not you, but please can you save it for when I’m not around?”

      1. LW #2*

        I like this one too! Thank you. I think it frames well the fact that I know they have reasons to be annoyed but it still bothers me.

    2. LW #2*

      Yes, thank you for pointing that out! My dad is…also not so great, and I agree with you that someone giving me any advice etc about my dad upsets me. That’s why I have specifically not said it and had written in for something better to say.

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      I expect it’s particularly cruel because it would be so hard to push back on, especially to someone who just told you her mother died and she misses her terribly. Some people have very good reasons for wanting as little to do with their mothers as possible, but that’s usually considered a socially unacceptable thing to say.

      1. Scarlet2*

        I think it’s Captain awkward who had a really good way of putting it: “sometimes you need to grieve the parent/relationship you wish you had”. It is its own form of loss too, which you generally cannot openly discuss because it’s not considered socially acceptable.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          I had a discussion about grief recently with my cousins, about the difference between my reaction to the recent passing of their grandmother (my great-aunt) at the age of 103, and the passing 10 years ago of a friend my own age.

          My very wise cousin said we are grieving not only for the loss of the person in our life, but also “grieving for lost potential”. I think the concept of grieving for lost potential describes what’s happening when a person grieves for the parent they wish they had (in both present and past tense). They could potentially have a good parent, but for reasons outside their control, don’t. And that potential relationship is a loss, even if the parent is still alive.

          1. TootsNYC*

            this may also explain why my grief over my dad’s recent death is simply not that sharp. He was 89 and in failing health; there isn’t anything he has missed, nor that I have missed.

  19. RG*

    OP #3 – I wonder if those student employees worked at previous jobs where it was common for the shift schedule to change in the days before? My understanding is that that tends to be common at hourly retail jobs, which most students are going to have in terms of job experience.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      Nah, I think they just don’t know what they’re supposed to do and are making it awkward. If OP (and everyone else with the same problem) just made a clear policy for requesting time off, then it would help. Though there are some people who even in adulthood get awkward about taking time off.

    2. LW3*

      You know, for one of the workers, I think this might be true? I also know that we’ve tried to frame it a couple of different ways to get them all to understand that we always want them to come to work… I have a feeling repetition of Alison’s script will get the point across. (Fingers crossed)

  20. Paperdill*

    Can most people control their yawns?
    This is honestly completely new information to me.

    I’m a yawner at the right time of day, in the right kind of environment (the windowless rooms my team love to have their meetings in) and I have tried to minimise it by keeping my mouth closed, but I caught myself in the mirror, once, and I honestly looked both scary and as thought I was in the process of doing a big poo – way more distracting that actually yawning.
    My solution, instead, has been to cover my mouth, minimise any other accompanying movement and to make sure I made every effort to look otherwise involved and contribute to the conversations.

    Now, I’m feeling like this klutzy juvenile who can’t control her yawns, having read this. Great.

    1. Willis*

      I have the same problem…under the right circumstance I keep getting hit with yawns I can’t stop. I take a similar approach, try to stifle it if I can or cover my mouth otherwise. Honestly, if I notice someone in a meeting yawn but they’re still engaged in the meeting I wouldn’t think much of it. If they’re nodding off or doing giant stretches at the same time, that’s a different story.

    2. londonedit*

      I try my best to stifle my yawns in the office/on public transport/anywhere where yawning might be considered rude. I’m sure it doesn’t look hugely attractive but I cover my mouth with my hand and stifle the yawn, so people can’t actually see too much of my probably weird facial expression.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I’m confused by your idea that it’s rude to yarn on public transport? Where you’re surrounded by strangers?

        1. Iris*

          You can’t be suggesting it’s ok to be rude to strangers, I’m sure! But I don’t see how else to interpret this comment. Can you please clarify?

    3. Washi*

      I think that IS controlling your yawns by controlling the accompanying movements. What OP describes is more unusual to me – having a gigantic, full-body yawn and not being able to control any part of it. I probably wouldn’t even register someone quietly yawning behind their hand, but the yawn+stretching combo would probably raise an eyebrow.

    4. Fikly*

      It depends!

      I was on a medication for a few years that had a weird rare side effect of causing yawns. I could not in any way control those yawns – they just happened when they happened.

      I will also yawn sometimes because of my asthma – when I’m having trouble breathing, my body yawns as a way to try to get better air. Those too, are hard to control.

      But more sort of “regular” yawns, those I can try and avert. I find sort of sipping in air through my mouth (quietly) helps to prevent them when I feel one coming on.

      1. Pommette!*

        I had a similar experience!
        A few years ago, I started a new medication. I had been warned about and was expecting headaches and nausea but not… yawning? really? yawning? (Note: weird as it was, I’m definitely grateful that I got the yawning over the headaches and nausea).
        The yawns were frequent and irrepressible. Nothing that I did seemed to have any effect on them. I was working with a relatively small team at the time (about 10 people), so ended up telling everyone about the yawns. It was awkward (I’m normally private about health matters), but beat having everyone think that I was aggressively and ostentatiously bored in meetings and while working.

        1. Fikly*

          I was so surprised by the yawning as side effect thing. I mean, really, yawning?

          And yeah, that’s pretty much what I did too. I kept it pretty vague though, I would usually say, I’m on a medication that is causing me to yawn as a side effect, and I can’t control them, please don’t take it personally!

      2. fposte*

        Then there’s the drug clomipramine, which causes some users to have orgasms when they yawn. Needless to say, that did not make them yawn less.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Pretty sure the same rules apply: try to stifle it as best you can, don’t make a lot of performative noise, avoid turning it into a full-body lean-back and spine-stretch production. ;P

      3. zaracat*

        Same here. I found citalopram (SSRI) caused yawning despite not feeling tired. I was not able to control the yawning (so no helpful suggestions for OP), but at least I was able to explain to colleagues that it was a medication side effect.

        1. WS*

          Same effect with the same medication! It did eventually wear off after about a year, but it really wasn’t like normal yawning for me. Normal yawns I can stifle or hide. These were GIANT YAWNS and if I tried to hold them back it only got worse.

    5. foxinabox*

      I’m with you! I think I’ll keep yawning and covering it, because IMO trying to stifle them looks more confusing and much weirder.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I think it’s kind of like knuckle cracking or chewing your nails. Most people do these things without realizing they’re doing them, but they’re not involuntary motions like muscle spasms. They’re just ingrained habits that we don’t consciously control, and it is often very difficult to even become aware of when you’re starting these actions. And even when they’re aware, people often feel compelled to carry them out anyway. I’ve spent time becoming aware of these impulses before I act on them, just out of curiosity.
      For yawning, if I feel the impulse but don’t want to act on it, I find that taking a deep breath in through my nose and tightening my jaw a bit, maybe jutting it out, too, relieves it somewhat.

      1. JSPA*

        That only works for the regular (shallow) yawns, for me. Not the deep, reflexive ones. I seriously suspect we’re talking about two different physical phenomena that happen to overlap, from an outside perspective. If you’ve never pulled your car over because you felt a big yawn coming on, you may not have the reflexive sort.

    7. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I have never been able to control a yawn once it hits! I just tried the deep breath technique and it didn’t work. I usually do the thing where I don’t open my mouth and try to swallow it, so to speak, and cover my mouth with my hand.

      1. Red Wheelbarrow*

        This isn’t a solution, just a kind of semi-camouflage, but I’ve shifted from covering my yawns with my open hand to covering them with the side if my fist (curled thumb and forefinger against my mouth). My hope is that this looks as if I’m having a thoughtful moment, or maybe stifling a burp (which isn’t great, but at least doesn’t read as signaling boredom). I haven’t tried this in the mirror, though, so I may just be deluding myself that it’s an improvement!

      1. Red Wheelbarrow*

        “I can stifle yawns, sneeze and hiccup completely silently, and raise goosebumps on command.”

        I like the idea of this as a line in a rap battle or an Old English warrior boast.

    8. Phony Genius*

      Hiding them may be easier than controlling. Teeth clenched, look down, one hand over mouth in the “thinking” position, the other hand writing notes.

    9. Zap R.*

      I have Tourette’s and a mental illness-related vasovagal disorder so the response to this whole yawning issue has been very depressing.

      1. OP 1*

        Hang in there. One thing I’m grateful to see in the thread, so far, is that most people have respected my acknowledgement that I AM seeing professionals and I AM on medications. I don’t need a fourth/fifth medication to add to my mental-illness cocktail just to stifle some yawns. :) You aren’t alone.

      2. JSPA*

        Eh, when it’s a recognized medical thing, all the rules change. Dragging your feet because you have bad attitude and are making a point of doing your work slowly? Rude. Dragging your feet because your foot drags? Completely OK. Not following a conversation because you’re playing candy crush under the table? Rude. Not following a conversation because they neglected to incorporate a signer or closed captioning for the people participating by audio feed? Completely not your fault. Snorting at a coworker’s statement to indicate contempt? Rude. Snorting because of your sinuses, or because you have a tic? Totally different implication / not rude.

        For people who are not aware of your status quo, “don’t mind me / I have a thing / sorry, that’s not directed at you” or adding some gesture to make the situation clearer come into play. I know people should not have to play up their issue to be treated well, but most Tourettes things are not easily conflated with rudeness; if you have another tic you’re clamping down on, and the result is loud yawns (or snorts, or whatever you’re worried could register as intentional rudeness), there may be worse things than letting a fuller version of the tic escape. (Depends on what your standard tics are, of course.)

        There was someone doing window installation in my workplace; one of the guys had an “exclamation of worry or pain” thing going on. Ouch! Ohno! Eeeek! It didn’t phase the team one bit…and after I heard him do a more repetitive exclamation and a couple of taps, I cottoned to the situation, and stopped worrying that they, the windows or the building were being damaged.

        It’s not that people want to get all up in your medical business–but they do better at minding their business if they can suss out that everything is within safe operating parameters, and that there’s nothing going on that they SHOULD be taking personally or dealing with.

    10. OP 1*

      Oh my gosh, a big poo… thanks for the laugh! Now I’m going to be self-conscious of my yawn face forever (but will definitely avoid mirrors).

      I motion that we start a support group for working professionals who can’t control their yawns.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I’ll be your first group member. Trying to stifle my yawns just leads to that horrible unexplainable noise from the back of my throat that is way more disruptive than a yawn.

    11. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I’m very curious what she means by “control.” I understand it to be an involuntary bodily reaction and am surprised/confused by the idea/suggestion that anyone could just choose not to yawn. I always sleep terribly and am always tired and I yawn a lot. It’s not something I could stop from happening.

      But some of what she describes sounds less like controlling and more just trying to be polite about it. I generally cover my mouth, like with a cough or a sneeze, and if attention is on me I would says “sorry” or “excuse me.” But it’s not generally loud when I yawn so it’s easy enough for me to be somewhat discreet. If someone is loud I don’t know that there’s anything they could really do about it?

      I’ve never understood why yawning is taken as a symbol of boredom. Does anyone actually yawn when they’re bored? The only time I ever see those things associated is when people on TV or in the movies do an exaggerated fake yawn to indicate someone is saying something boring… But I think it’s generally safe to assume that people in business meetings are not doing that.

      I feel like taking someone’s yawn as personally insulting is as unreasonable as being offended by a burp or a cough or a sneeze. Though of course people often *are* offended by burping, even though that too is (usually) and involuntary thing…

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Yeah, but since LW describes their yaws as being visually similar to the exaggerated fake yawns people do on TV to indicate boredom, it makes sense to be curious about the perception, right?

        In my experience, it’s not the burping or the coughing or the sneezing that reads as rude, it’s the exaggerated/performative extent of it. If someone burps loudly in a meeting without covering their mouth or making any kind of apology performance for the breach of social etiquette, it’s reasonable to assume they were either intentionally being disrespectful or they were raised by wolves.

    12. stefanielaine*

      I think even though stifling a yawn can look a little strange, but I think it’s one of those things that if we even notice, which most people don’t, we forgive of each other because it’s a polite gesture to avoid openly yawning.

      1. fposte*

        Yup, agreed; stifling a yawn is a way of demonstrating that you know this isn’t a delight for those around you. Sort of like a stifled burp vs. a big roar.

    13. Iris Eyes*

      Ice water might be a good tool for you. There’s some theories that say yawning is occasionally used to cool the roof of the mouth and thereby cool the blood traveling to the brain. If you keep your mouth cooler it may help. Some sort of intentional breathing may also help cut down on the frequency of yawns. I think trying to minimize the circumstances that lead to yawns is more possible than stopping one that’s in progress.

    14. Curmudgeon in California*

      Quite frankly, I can’t control my yawns any more than I can control my farts or need to find a toilet and poop.

      Maybe there are these superhuman, superpolite, super in control of their bodily functions, paragons of professionalism who only yawn, fart, and poop on approved break times. I don’t know that I have met any, and I sure am not one.

      I also find the expectation that I should be such a paragon of bodily control to be seen as “professional” to be demeaning and unrealistic.

    15. Diamond*

      I can’t. I can, with effort, keep my mouth closed but I’m sure I pull a very strange face complete with watering eyes. It’s just trying to hold back a sneeze or hiccup, sometimes as hard as you try it just can’t be done.

  21. designbot*

    #5, this may be way off base, but I’m getting major red flags from this. If you’re supposed to come to their office (which is not your office) on a day you’re not working, to talk to them about a potential raise… that’s putting you on your personal time, making your raise into a personal issue rather than a professional one. Now there are definitely other possibilities, but if your boss was going to try to pull some shenanigans about you doing him some sort of favor in exchange, this seems like how that would happen. Everything about this screams Danger Will Robinson to me.

    1. Bananaboat*

      1. I’m on meds that have the weird side affect of making me yawn at weird times and it’s worse when I’m stressed. I’m just upfront with my boss about it and explained that it is unchangeable and honestly there fine with it.

    2. Kate, short for Bob*

      I got the same feeling, especially as they tried to pass it off to HR first. They’re not treating in good faith here.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Me too. They don’t wan to give the raise, but don’t want to say so directly to OP. She’s a good worker, they know she will have options if she starts looking. So they are putting road blocks up to the conversation to delay it.

        A soft job search would not be out of line. You’ve been there 3 years. Might not hurt to see what else is out there. No one says you HAVE to move on.

    3. Bree*

      I also though the specific request to discuss on the day off was super weird. Does the boss not want to be overheard by OP’s colleagues? Does she plan on declining the raise and criticizing their performance, and think it would disrupt their work day?

    4. RC Rascal*

      This has a bad feel to me as well. How big is this organization? Recently one of our distributors sacked a key employee after he asked for a raise. It’s a small business, & they can react strangely to requests.

      There is some bad faith going on here , IMO.

    5. Amethystmoon*

      I am also getting red flags on this. Has the boss said anything about quality of work lately? Or have there been other red flags? However it does depend on where one works. Where I work, raises would be typically addressed during the performance review. Most organizations do at least give cost of living increases. It’s odd they wouldn’t do that at a minimum.

    6. Faith*

      Yeah, I get the feeling that when they say come in on your day off, they’re expecting you to come back with a “but why not on a day I’m already working?” and then tell you “well a raise/this job/etc. must not be that important to you if you can’t make time for it.”

  22. Observer*

    #4 – If your boss says that the laptop is not in the budget, ask about a better computer. Because a desktop replacement laptop intended for higher end use is likely to be significantly more expensive than a similarly outfitted desktop.

    Then you can look at a low end laptop or tablet as an adjunct to what you are doing either this year or next.

    1. CL Cox*

      We have been replacing desktop computers with laptps and docking stations for our admins. That way, they can take them into meetings and trainings, but use them like desktops when they’re in their offices. Surprisingly, the cost is not prohibitive.

      1. Observer*

        A lot depends on what you need in the laptop. But, yes that can be a good move for many situations.

  23. LDN Layabout*

    My mum died when I was 15. As we’re all aware, teenagers are notable for how much they don’t complain about their parents…

    It’s easy after tragedy to react as if people are directly targeting your loved one. It’s what you hear after all, people tend to refer to their family members by their titles instead of names so the instant it hits your brain? It cuts like a knife.

    What I’ve found really helps is reframing that in your head, even as you want to scream at them. They’re not talking about your parent.

  24. BlueFairy*

    For #1, and anyone else who might be wondering how exactly to do a mostly closed-mouth yawn: here’s some advice I once got from a supervisor after I yawned through an afternoon meeting. When you feel the yawn starting, lift the tip of your tongue and press the underside against the roof of your mouth. Lifting the tongue so you can press the sides against the top rear teeth can work too. Good luck!

    1. Orange You Glad*

      I was told once that yawning is an attempt to flood the brain with oxygen so deep breathing can really help.

      And that’s why yawns are contagious – it’s a signal that the air is thin so we all need to breathe more! (That’s possibly a science myth but that’s what I was told.)

      Deep breathing and putting my tongue on the roof of my mouth both have helped stop yawns for me.

    2. Just delurking to say...*

      Pressing the back of your tongue against the roof of your mouth also stops sneezes.

      1. Reality.Bites*

        I just pictured yawning and sneezing simultaneously. I don’t imagine it would be at all pleasant.

      2. LizB*

        It can help with brain freeze as well! (Probably not as relevant to a work context, though, unless you work QA for an ice cream company.)

  25. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    #4, fwiw I didn’t realise people still had work desktops, as I’ve worked under “all new computers are laptops” IT policies for about 15 years.

    There are two issues: your current machine is too slow for your needs; and it would be advantageous for you to be able to take it around with you. You definitely have standing to address the former issue on productivity and efficiency grounds (how much time per week do you and others lose to its crusty cogs turning? – what does that cost in staffing?).

    The latter may be more difficult if the culture expects and policy requires desktop, but you could be creative. Perhaps you could additionally have a tablet for meetings etc (which might not even need to be specifically yours so long as it syncs to the file server and is available when needed).

    Good luck. It is infuriating when your equipment stands in the way of getting your job done.

    1. TechWorker*

      LW4: it might be good to talk to your IT department if there is one about what your needs are actually likely to be – even cheaper laptops can be fairly reasonable these days in terms of compute power. (I guess it depends exactly how complex these excel calculations are, but IT may be able to help quantify that). If they say no to a ‘top end’ one based on budget it could be that something mid range would actually do the job.

    2. Rebecca*

      The how much time it takes to wait on the old computer – turning it into a cost to the company – is an excellent point! Many years ago I had an old dinosaur of a machine, and I had to wait for it to crank through, and I was non-exempt. So, I kept track of the wait time for a week – the 10 minutes every day it took to boot up, all the 5 minute lags here and there, and the time was significant. Basically they were paying me flat rate, then overtime, if needed, and extrapolated out over a year, the cost to pay me to sit there exceeded the cost of an updated PC.

    3. JJ*

      I believe IT can also run usage reports to see how badly your computer is doing, if it’s a tough sell to your boss? I had one job where one department (who pretty much just needed Word and the internet) had the newest, best computers and were using about 15% of their machines’ capacity, meanwhile the design team had older computers which were totally maxed out by the design programs, operating capacity was in the 90%s, so IT just swapped the machines around.

      If you’re spending any time transcribing those notes (it sounds like you are at least cross-referencing them with stuff on your computer) add that calculation to the time-cost argument too.

    4. Gyratory Circus*

      At my employer most people are issued thin clients (basically a computer about half the size of a toaster) since all of our work is done on remote desktops located on encrypted servers. Laptops are only for people who travel, or for those who work offsite part time (ie WAH several days a week).

  26. Melissa*

    #2 – My dad died really suddenly 8 years ago so I completely get where you are coming from. You are only a year in; that’s so soon! Everything is still so fresh and painful. I think it wouldn’t be rude at all to gently ask if the subject could be changed when you are finding it particularly hard. I am certain that they don’t mean to hurt you with their comments; they just don’t understand yet. They can’t until they have gone through it themselves.

    On the other hand, I definitely still complain about my mum! My painful awareness of her mortality doesn’t negate the fact that she really gets on my nerves sometimes. Almost certainly some of your coworkers’ gripes are just the usual complaints that post-university adults have when returning to live with their parents after a taste of independence. Some of these coworkers may have even lost a parental figure already but still need to let off steam about their remaining parent(s). Some may have genuinely awful parents that they need to vent about. You can’t assume their circumstances unless you ask. If you engage in these conversations and ask questions, you may find a level of understanding that helps you to deal with their comments. Or it might be helpful to try to reframe their comments in your head. They are still lucky enough to be unaware of what it is like to lose a parental figure. They still think their parents are immortal. It’s like believing in Santa, if you’ll excuse the reference. You don’t realise how magical it is until you don’t have that belief anymore and once it’s gone you can’t get it back. They won’t have this lack of awareness forever, sadly. Treat it like you would a child at Christmas who is excited for Santa. Like youthful naivety that you don’t want to spoil. They’ll find out eventually.

    Also: how are you doing, OP? You say the rest of your family is fractured but do you have people you can talk to about your grief? Friends? A therapist? Honestly talking about it is what has helped me the most. I hope you have people you can be completely honest with, who you can express all the awful feelings and uncharitable thoughts that grief forces on us. If not, then please consider finding a support group or a grief counsellor if you are able. Grief is a huge, isolating thing to deal with alone. I’ll be thinking of you.

  27. Orange You Glad*

    #2 – I have a written list of topics I just absolutely can’t talk about with compassion & empathy & patience.

    I’m a naturally compassionate person so I felt awful when certain topics came up that I’d try to be understanding & supportive about…but internally I was resentful & silently screaming in judgment!!

    So I made a list of topics that because of my own history & issues I just can’t talk with people about and have given myself permission to “nope” out of those conversations.

    For example, people who complain about their parents caring for them by being overly involved in their lives. I was neglected by my parents so when that topic comes up and someone launches into complaining about the thing I wish I had had, I say:

    “That sounds frustrating. I’m not the right person for you to talk to about this but I hope you can find someone to have that conversation with you. So about the [topic change]…”

    1. Retail not Retail*

      I have my list of nopes as well!

      I’m very very very lucky in that our conversations are free ranging and meander when we’re working so an abrupt change of topic or walking away from someone else’s conversation isn’t unusual.

    2. LW #2*

      Thank you for this! I need to write that list as well. I’m sorry you were neglected by your parents. The issue here is more of the conversations are going on just around me and not necessarily with me, so it’s hard for me to nope out of them because I can hear them but I’m not usually a part of them. If someone ever brings it up in a conversation I am a part of, though, I will definitely use your script!

  28. Retail not Retail*

    I had it worse than Op1 in meetings during my internship! I’d find myself almost drifting to sleep. It was understandable-ish for computer training we had to watch as we’d been working in an un-airconditioned house cleaning artifacts and then went to sit down in AC. Less so later in the summer when we hadn’t been working so hard. This one meeting was so interesting! But I found myself exhausted.

    A couple weeks ago we had a mandatory meeting on workplace respect. Big packed room. Well my boss had us work in the 30 minutes between lunch and the meeting so I had my prescription shades on. And my hip was whining like crazy! So I found myself in a chair at the end of a row so i could stretch it out. I was slouching with sunglasses on as we discussed respect! Talk about a bad image.

  29. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I have been through the situation in #4. I ended up framing my request for a more powerful laptop by documenting how long it was taking me to do certain tasks (such as making notes by hand rather than typing them directly, having to log on to a slow PC in the meeting room rather than just plugging in a laptop, waiting for my crappy machine to restart AGAIN, and the nearly 4 hours I spent on the phone to Service Desk one day getting really basic stuff sorted out).

  30. Kate, short for Bob*

    Unqualified grief advice, from someone whose father died suddenly a year ago yesterday:

    Grief is both a particle and a wave.

    At the beginning, it’s all wave; great crashing things that threaten to drown you and leave you gasping at random intervals. There doesn’t seem to be anything you can do about these, other than try to keep breathing.

    Then there’s the particles – and they’re everywhere. The tiny things that trip you up and the massive things that you can spot in advance and cope with a little better.

    I think the trick with particles is to wear them down – it’s the mug you always gave your parent when you made coffee, so use it for yourself and howl into it if you have to. It’s the time of day/week/whatever that you would usually have talked on the phone – so talk to her anyway. It’s the news article you would have whatsapped over – read it with her eyes and smile. Exposure wears away the rough edges, and gets you to that point where you can start to welcome the memories of someone you love without losing it at the supermarket checkout.

    With the specific particle of your colleagues’ complaint – you could work up to leaning in on it perhaps? Join in with a ‘oh I remember this one time my mum…’ and finish with a ‘miss you mum’. And remember that one time, and remember it fondly? And maybe that’ll be the thing that gets your colleagues to return the phone call and hug their own mothers? And maybe it’ll be the thing that gives them pause when they’re complaining in front of you.

    Anyway, unqualified advice. And I’m still working it out, but you can probably guess that one of my coping mechanisms is taking a step back and trying to work out what’s happening – so I hope you find it useful.

    1. Bellaboxes*

      (Longtime lurker, first time commenter.)

      This description is so poignant and beautiful I thought it was by Neil Gaiman.
      I’ve had to comment for the first time ever on this site to tell you.

    2. Sophie*

      “And maybe that’ll be the thing that gets your colleagues to return the phone call and hug their own mothers?”
      After many years of emotional abuse, including my parents accusing me of faking a chronic illness to inconvenience them and attempts at financial sabotage, I eventually decided it wasn’t really worth making much effort to return phonecalls when my parents emailed me two days before Christmas to say that actually, they weren’t interested in seeing me for Christmas after all. I am sorry for your loss, and I hope people around you have treated you kindly since. Unfortunately, sometimes there are lengthy and complicated backstories as to why people appear to be avoiding their parents, and which people generally don’t tell coworkers about.

      1. Kate, short for Bob*

        I’m so sorry that happened to you, I hope you’re on your way to finding peace with the situation, and I wish you strength

    3. FiveWheels*

      I lost my parental figure (it’s complicated) I traumatic circumstances just over six months ago, and I want to thank you for the particle/wave analogy.

      Powerful and accurate to the extent that I had to read your post very quickly to get through it without crying.

    4. Scarlet2*

      What you wrote about grief is beautiful and I’m truly sorry for your loss. However, I really don’t want to sound callous, but this gives me pause: “you could work up to leaning in on it perhaps? Join in with a ‘oh I remember this one time my mum…’ and finish with a ‘miss you mum’.”

      If you were talking about a group of friends, this could be fine (although, like Sophie points out, sometimes calling back your mum and hugging her could be the worst thing you could do for your own mental health). But we’re talking about a work setting and I think that, as much as I like my coworkers, if one of them started pouring their heart out to me, esp. after I made a throwaway comment about my mom irritating me, I’d really feel uncomfortable. I’ve formed some very deep friendships with certain colleagues, mind you, but I think deep emotional talks don’t really belong in the office.

      1. Kate, short for Bob*

        Just a suggestion, based on her description of the personal conversations around her

  31. jmbagirl*

    LW1, I don’t want to offer unnecessary medical advice but have you been tested for sleep apnea? The first night I used my CPAP machine I had the best night’s sleep in years. And so many flow on effects in living life because I was getting proper sleep.

    1. OP 1*

      Hi! LW1 here. I have not been tested for sleep apnea, although I do know I snore (my spouse and I sometimes compete to see who can go to sleep the fastest, as the other person has to deal with the snoring!).

      I touched on this a little in my initial letter, but I am already on a number of different treatments for mental illness. One of them – namely, chronic major depression – makes me tired all the time. I could sleep 24/7 if I didn’t have obligations to force me to get up. I really don’t think lack of sleep is my issue here.

      This is the only comment I’ll make on that particular issue, and I ask that any solutions please stay away from further diagnoses or medications. The last thing I need is a new device or medication to add to my drug cocktail. :) But thank you for the thoughtful suggestion, and I’m glad your CPAP works for you.

  32. LGC*

    LW1, this might sound passive aggressive, but…I’m in agreement – why not just acknowledge you’re having medical issues? (I know why, but really, that’s what you’re going through right now. Just in case you needed an internet person to tell you that.)

    On that note, humans make human noises, but there’s a difference in degree. If you yawn once or twice in a meeting over the course of a year, that’s a little different than yawning loudly and visibly in most meetings (where it sounds like you’re at). You shouldn’t have a complex over it, I don’t think, but it’s one of those things that can be audibly and visibly distracting.

    And definitely let your medical team know you’re constantly tired! That sounds awful to go through.

    1. Scarlet2*

      Yeah, I definitely have sympathy as someone with chronic fatigue and who can yawn quite a lot (yawning now!), but… is it absolutely necessary to have “big, stretch-my-spine-and-fill-my-lungs yawns”? I mean, at least, maybe putting your hand in front of your mouth and trying not to make too much noise? Looking at your description, I’m picturing someone who’s yawning with their mouth wide open while stretching back on their seat. Honestly, if someone did that in a meeting, I’d find it pretty off-putting because it would look like someone who’s openly displaying their boredom (I understand you’re not doing it on purpose, but that’s what it would look like to a lot of outsiders).

    2. MousePrincess*

      LW 1 – So glad you asked this because I never realized this was rude! I yawn constantly. I have sleep issues and am a generally low-energy person (I’ve had blood tests for lots of things with no answer). I always cover my mouth and don’t make any noise and don’t really stretch out or anything. I’m going to try to start stifling yawns!

      1. OP 1*

        “I always cover my mouth and don’t make any noise and don’t really stretch out or anything.”

        This is what I do. They ARE big yawns, but I do my best to cover them, and I don’t vocalize beyond what a big gasp of air sounds like!

        1. LGC*

          And this is why details are important! (And why I shouldn’t assume!) It’s definitely less bad if you do it quietly, but…the visual is still not great. (And part of that is personal to me, but I still think it applies in general.) And it’s still worth addressing head on, I think. But yeah, this was not as bad as I originally imagined!

          Also funny enough, I just yawned reading this. I’ve heard that yawning can be contagious, but I didn’t think it’d be contagious through the Internet! (Not your fault at all, I’m just surprised reading about it makes me yawn.)

        2. MousePrincess*

          OP1 – I used to have a manager who yawned AUDIBLY like a big “AHHHHOHHHAHHH” and did full body stretches IN MEETINGS. So I guess I got the sense that my meek little yawns were ok!

          Honestly I can’t really control if it! I can control how I do it, but I can’t not yawn. Just like I can’t not sneeze or cough. Of course I can not scream-sneeze or cough all over people, but at the end of the day, my body is in control. So I guess if it’s rude…maybe I just need to be rude. I do bring a water bottle with me everywhere I go and that tends to help and at least I can use it to sort of cover my mouth as well.

  33. pleaset aka cheap rolls*

    “Is it okay if I don’t come in tomorrow?” seems a bit casual but is clear to me.

    1. Alton*

      I agree. I was struggling to see what was unclear about that example as it seems pretty direct. I think the issue there is that it’s a good practice to learn how to give enough context about your request without going too far into the other extreme of sharing too much.

      1. JoJo*

        The employee needs to just put in a request for time off. I think it might help posters here to think about how they ask their own bosses — would it even occur to you to say, “Hey, do you want me to come in tomorrow?” unless you’re not a full-time worker, or possibly you work in a restaurant or in retail (but I’ve done both and unless it’s a particularly slow time of the year and the restaurant is letting staff leave early from shifts, then yes, of course they want and expect you to come in for your shift tomorrow).

    2. londonedit*

      I think with ‘Is it okay if I don’t come in tomorrow?’ it’s less that it isn’t clear in itself, and more that it isn’t clear whether the student is asking for permission to take a day off, or informing the OP that they will be taking the day off. What response do they expect, ‘No, it isn’t okay’? It also sounds a bit too throwaway and casual (to me, anyway). If they said ‘Do you mind if I take tomorrow off?’ or ‘I was planning to take tomorrow off, is that OK?’ I think that would be a little different. Maybe it’s the ‘if I don’t come in’ part that’s making me feel like it’s not the right way to approach it – it makes it sound like they’re bunking off or can’t be bothered to come in, rather than taking a day’s holiday.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        Right. The problem here is what does “okay” mean? Is it okay? I mean, presumably there is work for the student to do, so is it okay that I’ll have to figure out some other way to do it? Well, no that’s not okay if this is just a spur-of-the-moment plan to sleep in late. But of course it’s “okay” if you just found out you have to take your sick father to the hospital. As a manager, “Is it okay” puts the onus on me to figure out how important this day off is to you. But YOU need to figure out how important this day off is to you and then let me know.

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          I don’t think that employees should necessarily have to justify taking PTO (or even unpaid leave, if you have no paid ones). Time off can be taken for sleeping in.
          I’ve had the same exact situation: things were a bit slow at work, so I though “hey, a #3-day-weekend sounds nice” and I just asked my boss: “I’d like to take tomorrow off if there’s nothing urgent”. Of course, if there’s going to be a buttload of work the next day, I won’t take it off – it’s completely correct to have the manager tell me her workflow needs.

      2. LW3*

        This is exactly it for me and my colleagues, londonedit and Oh No She Di’int. It’s always okay if something comes up, but I also want to make clear that it’s not okay to just… take every day off. Or call off regularly when I’ve just arranged their project for the day. And I don’t know if it’s okay by your standards – by ours, we want them to take time off (for whatever) as needed but it’s best if it’s planned and irregular. I wish my workers would say “I’d like to take tomorrow off if there’s nothing urgent” rather than “Do you need me tomorrow,” but the team is def capable of coaching them and I’m glad to know that’s A’s suggestion, rather than just rolling over.

  34. Cordoba*

    I’m not sure LW#2 really has standing to ask the other employees not to talk about their families as long as the conversations are work-appropriate generally.

    They’re not doing it to be mean; they’re having normal discussions about a normal topic that is relevant to their lives. I would regard it as very strange if a colleague told me anything that boils down to “Don’t talk about your parents at work because my mom died a year ago”. I’d try to comply with this request, I suppose, but it would also strike me as a bit controlling and unrealistic. People are going to talk about their home and families at work, if they live with their parents then those conversations will inevitably include mentions of their parents.

    I was close with my dad, he died suddenly and unexpectedly, it never occurred to me that this might give me justification to ask other people not to mention or complain about their own dads. Sure sometimes it might be a bit tough to get a reminder of the whole deal, but that’s my thing to manage – without telling people they can’t discuss a common aspect of their own life.

    1. itsmorethanjustbeingtired*

      I agree because it’s not like it’s going to be less difficult to hear them talk about a lovely weekend they had with their mom who they love spending time with. And you can’t ban all talk about families. I would practice CBT habits of how to cope better when hearing people discuss something you don’t like hearing about.

  35. Jellybean*

    #2 – I think it’s completely reasonable to ask people to stop complaining, full stop. It really is.

    I came from a bad home of alcohol abuse and I can’t imagine feeling the need to complain about (very much alive) parents/childhood in front of someone who has lost a good parent. It’s just not necessary in a professional environment if it’s bringing someone’s mood and productivity down.

    It’s normal to banter about family life in general yes, and the default is that people do it – but don’t feel bad at asking others to stop.

    1. Susie Q*

      “I can’t imagine feeling the need to complain about (very much alive) parents/childhood”

      Just because you can’t imagine, doesn’t mean that other people feel this way. People have a right to be upset and complain about things that you wouldn’t. One person’s feelings don’t trump another’s.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I would suggest the “ask” be something on the nature of … “Hey, let’s cut the complaining at lunch a bit. It’s getting to be a drag.” No need to share out the details of the grief it’s triggering in the first moment. Changing the subject might be enough.

      And then, if the rest of the group can’t manage it, even if you throw in a new subject, then scoop up your sandwich quietly and walk away.

      If they ask why, you can drop a quick “Mom-talk gets me down lately. I miss her since she passed away. I’m going to go clear my head a bit.”

      Being the conversation police/wet blanket isn’t likely to fix the moment all at once. But speaking your truth and letting them make their own plan for how to change for next time might solve it more long term.

    3. windsofwinter*

      It’s fine to ask, but you have to be prepared for the highly likely possibility that it won’t stop. Humans aren’t robots that have the capability of being completely professional and productive at work. Our personal lives affect our work lives, and vice versa. Lots of unnecessary conversation happens in the workplace, and trying to shut people down this way is just going to lead to resentment and possible further reduction of production.

  36. beenthere*

    I hate to disappoint the poster whose mom passed away, but… you’re going to have to deal with this for the rest of your life (and in time, you will do it successfully, don’t worry). Our culture likes to pretend death doesn’t exist. And, despite the token show of support you MIGHT get when a loved one passes away, at the end of the day people who haven’t been through losing someone themselves (i.e., the majority of young people) just simply will not understand the level of perspective change it produces in the people who have.

    I say “MIGHT” because especially in this day and age, people just aren’t there for each other in general. It isn’t unremarkable these days for a death in the family of an acquaintance to even merit a simple “I’m sorry for your loss” acknowledgment. Sympathy cards are increasingly becoming a thing of the past. So even are funerals where people come to calling hours. And this is among older people who should know better! Most young people are naturally not going to be very sensitive.

    1. Susie Q*

      Beyond “I’m sorry for your loss”, what else do you expect from your coworkers and other people? Your co-workers aren’t your friends and family, they are your co-workers. They didn’t know the person you lost. They can sympathize but they aren’t going to grieve with you or be expected to manage your feelings.

    2. foxinabox*

      I know many people in their teens/twenties/thirties who have lost parents and other close loved ones and family members, or who have died themselves, and their communities have typically done everything they can to provide material and emotional support. There’s a limit to what that can mean no matter how much you care about the grieving person. But people absolutely care.

    3. Colette*

      I think people are there for each other quite a lot, although they may not express it in the same way as the past. Sympathy cards may be less frequent, but so are cards in general because we have much faster ways to communicate now. (That doesn”t mean there isn’t a place for cards, but, for example, I didn’t send a card to my cousin when my uncle died, but I did express my sympathies via a direct message.)

      But it’s also important to remember that, for example, the year anniversary of the death of someone you love is huge to you, but it’s another day to a friend – and it may be a day where they’re dealing with their own worries for a loved one, financial issues, stressful deadlines, etc. It’s OK to ask for help, but expecting it isn’t likely to work out for you.

      I also think there are different perspectives on things like funerals. Some people strongly believe going to the funeral is important and necessary; others don’t.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      And it’s not just people who haven’t lost someone who do this.

      I had someone actually try to prepare me for my dad to die instead of beat his cancer. They had recently lost their father and upon hearing dad’s diagnosis literally said “well if they can’t fix it, everyone dies at some point!”. Like…what?!

      People are often insensitive and self absorbed.

      I’ve lost a lot of people over the years just not my parents. I’m well aware of grief. It’s a beast. I saw my mom lose her mom at around my age now. She was a wreck. She still enjoys hearing other people’s family stories including the complaints about her friends still alive parents… she loved my Grandmother and was there when she passed even. She misses her every day. But she knows Gram wasn’t perfect and that everyone’s got their different relationships they live with and talk about.

    5. Jackalope*

      The “hate to disappoint you” part seems unhelpful. The LW isn’t saying that she never wants to hear other people talking about their moms again. She’s merely saying that her grief is new and she needs more time from her mom’s death to deal with it before she can handle hearing these things from other people.

    6. Aria*

      As someone still dealing with the death of my dad, I am PROFOUNDLY grateful that I can go to work and not have people harping on about it. The cultural willingness to let me grieve privately and not to keep forcing rituals and other people’s demonstrations of grief on me against my will is a blessing and a comfort to me.

  37. Jcarnall*

    LW1, yawning at meetings: You could be me!

    If I’m bored and sitting still I tend to get sleepy. Now, I would absolutely not say that all work meetings are boring, but the nature of the game is that all too many of them are. And yet: nodding off to sleep or even just yawning in meetings is really not a good look, no matter where you are in the work hierarchy.

    My strategy from stopping a yawn is physical – I consciously close my mouth and keep it closed, if need be by propping my chin on my fist and bearing down, and breathing in through my nose. Having a cup of coffee or tea to hand is useful – you can’t yawn while carefully taking a sip.

    Other strategies – I move my legs. I flex and unflex my arms. I put my hands down out of the main line of view and I clench and unclench my fists. All of this probably makes me look like a bit of a fidget, but honestly, I think fidgeting in meetings is a lot better than yawning. (Moving my legs I hope is pretty unobtrusive as usually we’re all sitting round a table.)

    I also consciously try to physically react to something the speaker is saying, especially if they’ve been going on a bit and in fact I am getting very, very bored with them: I don’t mean leaping up and cheering, I mean deliberately nodding, a mouthed “Yes”, shifting position to look at slides or Powerpoints – this may come naturally to some people, but what I try to do during a boring meeting is consciously perform Interested Attention. And most of it is really just because putting on a conscious performance of interest is enough mental/physical activity to keep me from yawning/nodding off.

    Ironically, when I am really interested and focussing on spoken material, I generally have my eyes down, listening with all my attention, possibly doodling just to keep my hand busy and help me focus.

    1. OP 1*

      This is good advice, thank you. I am a chronic meeting doodler. I need something to occupy my hands!

      The sudden popularity of (quiet, subtle) desk toys and fidget devices has done wonders for me. Sometimes I’ll play with fidget links or squish a little silicone cat while I figure out how to word an email.

    2. itsmorethanjustbeingtired*

      Have you seen a sleep specialist? If sitting still and quiet for more than 15 minutes makes you very sleepy, you may have a sleep disorder. I was like this and it just kept getting worse until all my little fidget tricks no longer worked. Turns out I have narcolepsy. I’ve had it my whole life and wasn’t diagnosed until 36 because the symptoms are misunderstood and not known even to a lot of doctors. Other problems that can cause excessive daytime sleepiness are sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. I don’t yawn in long meetings anymore or feel sleepy when sitting quietly for long periods during the day thanks to medication and better sleep hygiene.

      1. Jcarnall*

        While I appreciate the sincere goodwill of your comment, I find that even the most goodnatured attempt to diagnose me over the Internet makes me uncomfortable. I’d rather you didn’t, thank you.

  38. Reality.Bites*

    When I was working I would have loved to “just” yawn. I have trouble staying awake unless my mind is actively engaged. So no problem during meetings where I was a participant, but my company had quarterly “town halls” with long updates that I either knew all about or had no reason to know about.

    I had to sit there biting my tongue and digging my nails into my arm to keep from falling asleep. And I have sleep apnea, so when I fall asleep without my machine EVERYONE knows it.

  39. Big Bird*

    You might not need a new computer–you might just be able to add RAM, which is “memory” but not “storage”. Depending on what operating system you use that might not be an option for all sorts of technical reasons, but RAM is cheap (under $100) and takes just minutes to install. If you are even a little bit tech-savvy and know which operating system you are running you can google and determine if adding RAM is an option for you.

    1. foolofgrace*

      It sounds like the problem is with a downlevel processor. In some machines you can swap out the processor, in some (like at least some if not most laptops) you can’t, it’s soldered to the board. And brand can make a difference — I’ve had terrible luck with AMD processors (very sluggish) but great results with Intel processors. IMO they’re worth the extra cost.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        That used to be the case, and still holds true to some extent for mainstream laptops.
        On desktops and servers, AMD now hold the crown both for the fastest processor (Threadripper) as for bang-for-the-buck (Threadripper for servers, Ryzen for desktops).

  40. Wednesday's Child*

    LW 1, you mentioned medication for mental health. I know one of the antidepressants I tried had yawning as a side effect. For me the yawning effect wore off after a few weeks of starting the med or adjusting the dosage. But wow…they were huge, repetitive, uncontrollable yawns. I did give my supervisor a head’s up that it was a medication side effect.

    I don’t remember which it was, but it was either Citalopram(Celexa) or Buproprion (Wellbutrin). I’m thinking the citalopram, but a quick google search shows it can happen with any SSRI.

    1. OP 1*

      Now this is interesting. I am on Buproprion, but the primary side effect I get from it is (shockingly) alertness. I take it before bed, and find that I can stay up an hour or two later than normal. When I first started on it, I didn’t sleep more than three hours a night for two weeks straight. That eventually wore off (and culminated in a 48-hour crash), but I was incredibly productive for that brief period of time! Anyway, my yawning predates it by many years, and probably goes back to my early teens. Becoming a parent definitely didn’t help.

      Interestingly, Buproprion is not an SSRI. :) It’s an NDRI, which is why you can take it in conjunction with some SSRIs without “doubling up”.

    2. 221Tea*

      I’m on a SSRI as well, and yawns weren’t an advertised side effect, but oh my god. It was like a biblical plague. After a month they’ve gotten better, but those first few weeks it was as uncontrollable as hiccups. And it was less about oxygen (sometimes I didn’t even breathe during them) but more about stretching my jaw! I’d have to yawn wide enough until it cracked and that would give me a bit of respite until the next batch hit. I covered my mouth and didn’t make sounds (aside from my jaw cracking) but that was about all I could do.

      My coworkers teased me (friendly) about setting them off, but I don’t think I got any flak for it. My workplace, at least, seems to see it like a sneeze or hiccups.

  41. Not So Super-visor*

    OP#1 I feel you. I struggle with the same. I find that having some form of beverage with me (water, tea, coffee) in meeting helps quite a bit. Every time that I feel a yawn coming on, I take a sip instead.

  42. Bluesboy*

    #1 Not sure this is relevant as you specify that you yawn a lot because you are naturally a tired person, but I wanted to throw it out there.

    It is sometimes said that yawning is due to a lack of oxygen to the brain, and that breathing deeply can help to prevent it. I started trying that when I felt I was getting close to a yawn, and it seemed to work. When I deep breathe with a yawn coming on, I kind of feel like I let half a yawn go while breathing out. Sure, once I get out of the meeting, a massive yawn is going to come out, but at least it helps me put it off.

    I’ve since read that it probably isn’t the case after all, so either it IS true, and it worked, or it ISN’T true and deep breathing somehow has a placebo effect on me.

    Either way, it helps me. So you might try that!

    1. OP 1*

      If I try to stop a yawn, I get – for lack of a better expression – a “hiccup” of yawns. My body will just keep trying and trying to yawn until I let it out. Best to get it over with!

      My best friend of over a decade tried for years to get me to stop yawning while we hung out. “Is the movie boring?” “Do you need an energy drink?” “Do you want to go home early?” No, no, and no! I’m having a great time. I just yawn a lot!

      1. LongtimeReader*

        Goodness, yes- “hiccuping” is the perfect way to describe the flood of yawns I get after 15-30 seconds of attempting to stifle what becomes one long still-obvious half yawn. They usually come with extensive eye-watering, too, which also works against the original intended purpose of being less conspicuous. My issue has been severe then moderate anemia for awhile now (finally above a 7.0hb woohoo!). Athough I’m not feeling as sleepy with ongoing treatment, I still often feel winded sitting or walking which leads to multiple, sudden, deep yawns. Oxygen deprivation will do that & it’s truly uncontrollable even when you’re trying your best to do so. For anyone needing an extra kick to alertness- try sucking on pieces of ice, colder jolt & lasts longer than water. I crunch it by the cupful (I know, horrible) & it’s an instant wake up for about 20mins.

  43. ComputerD00D*

    I never had a problem yawning. And then I developed tachycardia related to some abnormal electrical pathway in my heart, and was put on 50 mg of a beta blocker twice a day. Now, I yawn constantly and have trouble controlling it. I feel your pain!

  44. iliketoknit*

    Re: #3 – I used to teach college and had very much the same frustration with “is it okay if I miss class tomorrow?” My usual response (though I’m not claiming this is a good response) was something along the lines of “are you asking me or are you telling me?”, followed up with “thank you for letting me know that you won’t be in class tomorrow [followed by any logistical info they needed].” Like I said, I’m not claiming it was a good response (I’m sure sometimes I said too “it’s not my job to give you permission to miss class,” which in retrospect sounds much snarkier than I meant it in the moment), but it was the same issue. Anyway, it’s a very student-y mindset, and I always figured it came from having “excused” absences in high school and earlier.

    (Just to be clear, there was no difference between excused/unexcused absences in my college classes – you’re an adult, you need to figure out how to prioritize stuff, if that’s not my class one day, that’s how it goes. Obviously if someone had some kind of chronic problem or drastic emergency, that’s one thing, but it wasn’t usually “is it okay if I miss class tomorrow because my IBS is flaring up,” it was “I have a big project due in my biology class, is it okay if I miss class tomorrow?” which left me feeling less than charitable.)

    1. Anonymous at a University*

      Students often phrase it to me as “Will I miss anything if I miss class on [day]?”, and my response is always, “Yes,” which I don’t think is too snarky. These are college students, and I don’t want them to think college classes are disposable (or, what is probably more likely, that if they miss the class on a certain day and there was work due that day they don’t have to make it up if they’re not present, which is something they appear to believe most of the time). I’m happy to give them reminders, to show them the detailed daily syllabus schedule if they haven’t looked at it in a while, and to tell them to turn in work early if they can, but I’m certainly not going to say, “Oh, no, you won’t miss anything.”

      1. Allypopx*

        I am a grad student and had a conversation with my professor a couple days ago that was just “I have a meeting I can’t miss next week and won’t be in class, is there’s anything you’d like me to do with the reading you assigned?” and he’s going to send me a couple short answer questions. It’s just so. much. easier. when you’re direct. I think it’s a service to students to teach them this, even if it feels uncharitable.

  45. Mbarr*

    LW4: I’d recommend asking for a laptop rather than a tablet.

    In all my recent companies, we get laptops that we can take to meetings with us (it’s easier to type on a laptop than on a tablet – even if the tablet comes with a mini keyboard). Then, at our desks we have docking stations, monitors, and keyboards. It’s the best of both worlds.

    (If you require a heavy duty device for doing software development, there are developer laptops out there, but for now a run of the mill laptop sounds like it will meet your needs.)

    1. Anonymous at a University*

      Related to the student employment question, is there a good way to tell student employees they’re expected to tell someone when they’re going to be out and just not have radio silence? I’m supervising a student employee this semester for the first time in several years; she’s a tutor for students who take my department’s classes. She works about 20 hours a week and tells us ahead of time what days she’ll be there and how long. This week she didn’t show up at all on Monday, when she had said she was going to work four hours in the afternoon, and didn’t contact us. I e-mailed her in the middle of the afternoon to ask if she was all right and was going to come in, but didn’t get an answer. She appeared for her scheduled hours on Tuesday, and I asked her to let us know in the future when she won’t be present. She said that her days off were “private.” I was baffled. I thought she might have privacy concerns, so I reassured her that we’d never ask to talk to us about details of a medical condition or give us a personal phone number or e-mail; sending something that said, “I won’t be there today,” from her university account would be more than enough. She continued to say she won’t contact anyone because “days off are private, they’re very private,” and the conversation ended inconclusively.

      Is there something else that I’m not thinking of that would give her a concern about this? Or do I need to simply tell her that she needs to let us know when she’s not there?

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        That’s just bizarre and nonsensical. I’d simply tell her she has to let someone know if she’s not going to be there, but reiterate that she doesn’t need to provide details on why.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        That’s weird.

        Have you sat her down and said, “If you’ve explicitly said you’ll be in, that’s a working day and we’re expecting you, so if we don’t see you we’ll worry that you’ve had an emergency. If your plans change and you want it to be a non-working day then that’s fine but you need to let us know not to expect you, and the best way is to [call Jane] [email Fergus] [say so in the group chat].”

        She’s right to protect her work/life boundaries but she needs to understand where and how to set them.

        1. Anonymous at a University*

          I didn’t say it in those exact words, of course, but I did tell her that we expected to be notified when she wouldn’t be in and that I had e-mailed her because I was concerned about her. She shrugged and said, “Don’t be concerned. It was private.”

          I have since talked to our admin assistant, since the student worker isn’t here today, and the admin assistant said the student worker had done something similarly strange. Our office supplies are in a locked cabinet in a room next to the admin’s office; only our admin has the key. The student told her she needed some supplies, and the admin asked her what she needed, only to get the same “That’s private” reply. The student wanted to go alone into the supply room with the key to the cabinet and for the admin to leave her office to preserve “privacy,” since there’s a glass wall between the office and the supply room and it would be easy for the admin to keep an eye on her when she’s in there. The admin, of course, refused to give her the key or leave the office, and the student worker just said, “It’s private” a couple times and then went back to work.

          I think she must have been in some strange situation in the past (work? family? who knows?) where this served her well, but I don’t think she’s going to succeed in this position with the idea that she shouldn’t have to answer perfectly reasonable work questions. I’ll have another talk with her.

      3. Working with professionals*

        Reiterate that it is absolutely a professional norm to let an employer know when you won’t be coming in on a scheduled day after all and possibly point her to AAM so she can see that this is important for her future work life as well.

        Somehow her comment that her days off are private makes me think somehow she forgot she had hours agreed to work that Monday maybe.

        1. Anonymous at a University*

          I made a comment above that she also considers it “private” what office supplies she needs, so in this case it’s more likely a strange personal quirk. But yeah, it’s something she’ll need to overcome if she wants to work here and many other places.

      4. Fuzzyfuzz*

        This is incredibly strange.

        I manage a lot of college-age and just after college-age interns. On Day 1, I try to preempt this by having a special conversation about how our office works (for example, our workday is X-X, please email me before the workday if you’re going to be absent; please shoot me an email request for any days off; let someone in the office know by email or phone/text if you’re going to be really late for some reason; if you need to rearrange your schedule, let me know two weeks before and we can work it out, etc.). The better and more conscientious interns look at me like I have 3 heads, but I explain that we see it all and that I want to make sure they’ve heard our expectations directly at least once from me.

        You could say something like, “In our office, we have a workload that we need to handle, and it is important for us to know if a team member is going to be out so that we can arrange our work and our schedules accordingly. Also, it’s important for us to know that you are safe if we are expecting you to come in and you don’t show up. Being reliable and respectful of others’ time is a core expectation of the job, so it’s vital that you let us know if you won’t be in on a scheduled day.”

        1. Anonymous at a University*

          That’s a good point. I didn’t handle her onboarding training, which was through an orientation process common to all student workers and our tutoring center, which handles all student tutors. The requirements for the position are having passed certain classes with good grades, going through the training, and being able to commit to between 15-25 hours a week. Maybe no one actually spoke up about ideas like, “You must notify people when you’re out.” Talking with her about it can’t hurt.

  46. The Cosmic Avenger*

    For #3, with that kind of guess culture/passive approach, I like to gently confront and explore. So in response to “Do you want me to come in tomorrow?”, I’d probably say “Of course, you’re on the schedule for tomorrow…did you want to take some leave tomorrow? That would be fine, as long as you let me know so we have coverage.”
    But I suppose for a long-time direct report where I knew that they were asking and the redirection hadn’t changed the way they “asked”, eventually I might just hear it as a request, and say “No, I can get Wakeen to cover your shift.”

  47. mf*

    #1: I yawn a lot at work too, especially in meetings. But instead of worrying about stifling it, I just explain it, “Sorry, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night,” and then go back to the topic of conversation. The message I try to send is: I’m not bored, just tired, and it’s nothing to worry about.

    1. Threeve*

      Seeming tired isn’t as bad as seeming bored, but for something really important–like a meeting with external stakeholders–it’s still not great.

      1. Emily S*

        Yeah, and there’s a limit to how frequently you can deploy that. If you yawn once or twice in a single meeting or the odd infrequent one, and excuse it as you didn’t get much sleep last night, then it’s true the yawning is not really even going to be something I remember for more than a minute.

        But if you’re yawning every few/several minutes all meeting long and tell me it’s because you didn’t get enough sleep, as a client I’d start to worry about whether you’re fit to be working on my projects that day or whether you’re so sleep-deprived it’s going to cause errors in your work. And if you do it every time we meet, then I’m going to get the impression that you’re walking around permanently sleep-deprived, which has deleterious effects on cognitive functions. It’s normal enough to have trouble sleeping or be up too late now and again that it wouldn’t make much difference to me, but I would be mildly concerned about having someone on my account who seems to never be sleeping enough.

  48. cubone*

    LW1: I never want to armchair diagnose or pathologize, but I mentioned in passing to my doctor once how I yawn excessively, especially at work or the gym. She immediately perked up, asked a ton of questions and eventually I was diagnosed with pretty severe anemia.
    So while I don’t think you should panic, it’s fair to ask your doctor if there are other potential medical things going on.

  49. Bopper*

    Why doesn’t a 10K employee company have a yearly performance review program that includes examination of salary?

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      At a guess, because they want to pay as little as they can get away with. You never review salary *downwards*.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      At my big company there were structured annual reviews–but they were so structured that they did not really leave room for negotiation. You were just told at your review what your annual bonus is and what your raise for the next year would be. There was a matrix built around the company’s performance and your personal performance. The bonus was built on a mixture of both and the annual raise would include one piece for cost of living that was the same for everyone and a second piece for merit that could fit in a specific range depending on your review score. If you wanted to bring up a bigger raise it would be outside of that annual review process.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        Ours is similar. You discuss the evaluation and the possibility to promotion to the next pay grade (minimum 3 years in grade), then it goes into a formula.
        Weird thing is that the evaluation is “calibrated” after discussion with your manager; no department can have too many excellent or poor employees-I find this crazy.

  50. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    Re: LW #1 and the yawning: my seventh-grade English teacher told us once that yawning is a way of getting rid of CO2 (not trying to get more air in, but get old air out), and that when you’re tired, your breathing slows, so you don’t get rid of CO2 as quickly, therefore causing yawning. You can test this by deliberately slowing down your breathing – you’ll start yawning.

    So, if you feel a yawn coming on, just breathe out deliberately. If you can do it through your nose, that’s even better. It’s not going to have that sort of satisfying feeling that a full yawn gives, but it works!

    (My teacher taught us the trick because she hated yawning in class but also knew that kids would get tired or bored at some point, so at least the breathing thing helped cut down the annoyance.)

  51. Buttons*

    Yawning: As you feel it coming on, keep your mouth closed, curl your tongue back as far as it can go and lick where you touch. This works for sneezing too. :)

  52. nnn*

    For #3, it might be useful to tell new employees pre-emptively, “If you need time off, follow this procedure”, with enough detail that they tell instead of ask.

    For example, “If you need a day off and you know in advance, send an email to Jane with the dates listed.”

    I suspect that, being students, they’re accustomed to being in environments where telling instead of asking is seen as presumptuous or pushy. But, regardless, you have a repeated problem of new employees asking for time off in a way that’s insufficiently clear, so you should add the expected behaviour to new employee training.

    1. Argh!*

      Or they could have a form for them to fill out. In the age of computer testing they might feel more comfortable with that.

  53. Allypopx*

    It’s always hard when people expect their experiences are universal, and empathy is so hard. Some people assume everyone wants to complain about their parents. I had a lot of people try to be gentle with me after my dad died even though I was incredibly relieved about it, and that made me slightly ragey. I think the best thing you can do under any circumstances is just state what you need, and not suffer quietly. Tell them it bothers you, they’ll understand. And if they don’t – well that’s a whole different issue.

    It’s probably good for them at this stage in their lives to be told they need to think more complexly about the conversations they’re having and where they’re having them. I think when you’re at that age, you’ve mainly been with people in your same age and social group and you don’t think about how coworkers or other peers might be in other stages of life and having different experiences. I’m sure they’re not being malicious towards you (not that you implied they were) and this will be a good wake up call for them, as well as give you some relief from their complaining. Good luck. I’m sorry for your loss.

  54. Workfromhome*

    #5 Major red flag. I like the script and idea that you are going to make it about scheduling conflicts rather than about how weird and inappropriate it is.
    Chances are o matter what you present you are not getting that raise.
    Why do I say that?
    1.Boss AND Grandboss said go to HR direct. This is incorrect. So either: A Neither Boss or Grand boss have ever been asked for a raise so they did not know how it works. Even if this was the case they didn’t make one single bit of effort to find out how it works by checking with HR or the company policies etc. B.They have been asked about raises but never followed through and gave one. If they did they would know that they had to go to HR with their request. C They know exactly how it works but told you to go to HR hoping you would give up.
    2. HR let Boss and Grandboss know you had asked and told them they needed to deal with it direct. Yet they did not contact the OP to say “Sorry we now know need to come to us first lets something up. They ignored that once again hoping you’d just give up and it would go away.
    3. When the OP did not give up rather than saying “sorry this slipped my mind come down to my office when you are in on Wed they said “lets meet on your next day off”. They are putting the onus on the OP to tell them when the next day off is. They could come back and say oh sorry next Thursday doesn’t work when is your next day off after that? They are once again putting up barriers hoping you just give up.

    All this adds up to no raise. Even if you do eventually wear them down and get a date. You go and present. They can stall again and again saying we need to review your case. even if they say OK what are the chances they will actually take the right steps to go to HR to recommend the raise and get it put through? How easy will it be to say “oh we tried but couldn’t get it approved?

    Start looking for another job.

  55. Phony Genius*

    On #4, don’t call the computer you need “fancy.” It doesn’t communicate the need for it; it makes it sound like a luxury instead of a necessity. I would call it “more powerful” or even “more appropriate for the task.”

    1. Allypopx*

      “Functional” is the word I usually go with. “I need a device that’s functional for the work I need to do. The machine I’m working with is costing me a lot of time and productivity and, frankly, frustration.”

    2. Threeve*

      This is a really good point! I probably would have asked if I could get something “newer,” but talking about functionality is more persuasive–it makes it clear that you care how it works, not how it looks.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      A million times this.

      More powerful
      More capable
      Better suited to my responsibilities

    4. theletter*

      +1 Laptops with the power to do the jobs are for people who do the jobs, there’s nothing ‘fancy’ about it. You could easily frame this as a case of your desktop reaching its end of use and you should be eligible for a replacement, preferably a laptop that can handle your specific software needs.

    5. Jedi Squirrel*

      Definitely seconding this. “Fancy” could make the request sound superfluous to TPTB. “Faster processing speed” or “more storage” are far more specific.

      FWIW, for me, a “fancy” computer would have flames stickers on it.

    6. Artemesia*

      You need X type computer with ABC type capacities in order to be productive with the tasks you do. The current one you have is not compatible with the software and slowing down productivity — always focus on business need when asking for things and don’t act like they would be doing you a favor, but that this is a basic business need. I think women tend to view these things as favors more than men, but projecting ‘business need’ and ‘commitment to improved productivity’ are not about doing you favors.

      1. Iris Eyes*


        Ideally you would move away from heavy data crunching in Excel since that’s not what its made for. However, getting a powerful enough computer that meets all business needs (including portability for doing presentations/meetings) is something that is in everyone’s best interests.

        Get specifics as other commenters have suggested on what you need. And request it with absolute certainty that eventually it will be done. If you get push back then quantify just how much it is costing them for you to use this machine.

        1. dumb dumb*

          I hear rumor that the long-term goal here is to take what we’re using Excel for and build it into company specific data handling software that can help us keep track of all the things we do. The good news is that this is a priority. The bad news is that even “priorities” take years to accomplish around here.

  56. KMC12191219*

    OP #1: Yawning is your body’s biological response to needing more oxygen. I tell people that when I yawn it’s a COMPLIMENT, not an insult – it means that despite my body’s fatigue, I am doing everything I can to enhance my alertness so that I can pay them the attention they deserve. Yeah, it’s BS, but it works.

    1. OP 1*

      Hahaha, this! If this is the case, I compliment everyone I spend any length of time with, multiple times a day.

  57. Argh!*

    Re: LW3

    Let me guess — you work in the midwest?

    Google “indirect communication” for a great (brief) article by the University of Iowa. If they have been indoctrinated to be indirect, they think they are communicating correctly. You might also keep an ear out for indirect communication among the full time staff. If that’s what students are hearing, they will mimic it.

    1. LW3*

      Alas no! But I think some other factors like gender and race may play into who does communicate with us in this indirect manner, now that you bring that up. I’m sensitive to not holding all employees to *my* standards/style; not everyone needs to smile all the time or be pleasant 24/7. At the same time, my perception was that it might be doing these people favors by teaching them how to seek time off in the work place but I wanted to be sure that wasn’t a selfish response from my team. Glad Alison thought this worthy of weighing in, it’s good to know it’s worth our effort to provide some feedback!

  58. Jennifer*

    #2 This is difficult because I don’t think there’s an easy answer. As people come and go, these kinds of conversations are going to continue. I don’t know how realistic it is to expect people to not bring up their parents in casual conversation, as hurtful as it may be. Even if you use one of the suggested scripts, as time goes on people forget, even though you haven’t, which is painful. I’d suggest practicing good self-care, whatever that means for you, and maybe excusing yourself for a few minutes when the topic comes up.

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  59. Mia*

    LW2, there are a lot of good scripts in the comments you could use, but I think some level of learning to accept the venting might also be useful here. I’m thinking specifically in any instances where someone is talking about upwards of 50 missed calls — that rises to the level of abuse, or at best a serious lack of boundaries. I completely empathize with what you’re going through and understand where you’re coming from, but I’d just be mindful that some of your employees might be in legitimately bad family/home situations and idk if telling them they can’t talk about it is ideal.

    1. Jennifer*

      Yes, the people who are venting may also be going through extremely painful situations. Maybe changing the subject when it’s been going on for a while or stepping away for a bit would be better, instead of telling them they can’t talk about it at all.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Agreed. I say this as somebody who is very close to her mother and will be devastated to lose her, but hopes to not lose perspective entirely: This is one of those “one’s rights end at the other person’s nose” situations. If the example the LW used is from real life, 50 missed calls is definitely grounds for complaint! But not everyone has to good relationship with their mother that I do, and there are plenty of toxic parents out there; people need to have a right to vent.

      The LW does not mention counseling but if this is still so raw that she’s struggling with normal everyday topics, she might look into it.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, for that particular example I was definitely wondering whether OP was pulling that from something that was actually discussed, and if so whether the person was being hyperbolic or literal. Because 50 missed calls is definitely not indicative of a healthy or desirable relationship.

  60. Allison*

    I absolutely agree that you should coach student workers (and even, when necessary, people fresh out of school) on how to ask for time off appropriately and effectively. Make it clear that of course you want them to come in when they’re scheduled, but if for some reason they can’t, they need to explicitly ask for the day off, and they need to do it well in advance when possible – a lot of places ideally want 2 weeks, your workplace may vary, but whatever the guideline is, it should be communicated to your employees, not something you expect them to “just know.”

  61. JBX*

    #4 New Computer – I wouldn’t ask for a specific model unless you are well-versed in what is available in your company. (For instance if a co-worker has one and you want similar, that would be okay.) Otherwise, for a general employee to research specific models would likely be a waste of time. In most companies, they will have set configuration standards, sources from which they purpose. Not to mention the array of possibilities is overwhelming for someone not tasked with those kind of selections. Instead focus on the FEATURES you need – faster processing power, storage, portability/size, screen size, options like touch screen or CD reader. And if you have issues with your current computer, report them via your company’s help desk process: EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. While companies will likely have a tech refresh plan, addressing immediate, documented problems tends to get action.

  62. Anonymousaurus Rex*

    Just reading about yawning has me yawning! I’m way to susceptible to contagious yawns. That said, I try to make them relatively small when in front of others.

  63. animaniactoo*

    LW, I know that you said a lot of the tiredness comes from a mental health issue, but I would just like to suggest, if you haven’t already, talking to a pulmonologist and looking into sleep apnea or depressed lung function. Among other things, it’s possible for the physical effects to create mental health ones as a result of physical wearing on the body. If that’s already been investigated and dismissed, please disregard!

    A couple of suggestions for tamping down the yawns: Right before the meeting, hit the bathroom and get in a couple of big ones and shake your head to do the “shaking it off” thing. Have a drink available in the meeting – when you feel a yawn coming on, take a sip. Open your eyes as wide as possible. Since they’re trying to close, forcing them to do the reverse thing sometimes helps push it back to a less noticeable response.

  64. a-nonny-nonny*

    indirect question asking: ugh. the area i live in does something similar when asking for ID. they don’t ask for ID. they ask if i am 21 or over. so when i first moved here, i’d say yes. then we’d stare at each other for awhile before i figured out they wanted to see my ID. just ask.

  65. Zap R.*

    LW #1 – I have Tourette’s and some pretty intense attention-deficiency issues so I have a huge problem with controlling yawns once they get started. I promise it’s not just you.

    That said, I find I’m able to *prevent* yawning and other involuntary stuff by taking notes during every meeting, even if nothing that noteworthy is being said. It keeps my hands busy and uses just enough brainpower to keep the ticcing part of my brain occupied.

    In some situations, I’m comfortable letting everybody know before we start that I might make weird faces or gestures but I understand that disclosing medical stuff isn’t always safe at work.

  66. blackcat*

    #4, if you want something above and beyond what they would normally supply, document how long the existing, inadequate computer is taking to do tasks, and how much time is lost per day compared to a more efficient computer.
    Depending on what you do, I’d ask for a powerful windows desktop machine set up for remote operation, then the most basic Surface model available. Point out that this will get you the computing power and flexibility that you need while only investing in one $$$$ machine.

  67. DuskPunkZebra*

    LW2, I’m so sorry for your loss.

    I think it’s reasonable for you to ask your coworkers to cut down on the family complaints in your earshot. Something like, “I sympathize with your frustration, but my mom died in the last year and it’s hard to hear you complain about your family through that lens. Would you mind keeping family talk out of the lab? I’d appreciate it.” You could be more circumspect about the details – I’ve known some people who’ve actually told my friends who have lost parents that they should be over it 6 months out (!!!!) – but most people would react with embarrassment and try to keep the discussion to a minimum.

    You could also simply ask to keep family discussion minimal as it’s distracting and potentially a safety hazard to have people who are worked up and frustrated in the lab, but you’d know better than I how that would land.

    I hope the impact of family discussion lessens over time for you and you can remember those times your mom was annoying and overprotective with fondness.

  68. writerhouse*

    When I first went on antidepressants, I had a (fortunately brief) adjustment period where I yawned a LOT – like, every five minutes – and had very little control over it. It was possibly the strangest medical side effect I’ve ever experienced. Apparently this is a documented effect of certain medications, although I had no idea when I first started taking them (I was panicking a little, went back to read through my paperwork with a fine-tooth comb, and there it was, listed as a possible side effect). Fortunately it happened over a weekend when I wasn’t working, but it would have taken a lot of my mental energy to stifle in an office meeting.

    Other commenters have mentioned the medical aspect, but I just wanted to second that this can, in fact, be a Thing.

  69. drpuma*

    OP1, you mentioned your yawns travel through your whole body. I wonder if you would get similar physical relief from becoming a person who periodically stands up in meetings?

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I was just wondering this. I tend to slouch, and I think I yawn less when I remember to sit up, which I guess both keeps me awake and lets me breathe better.

  70. I edit everything*

    Stifling yawns (at a concert by Edits Nothing’s aunt, in a very small venue with low turnout) started my TMJ issues. So, be cautious.

  71. DuskPunkZebra*

    LW1: yawning is also a temperature regulation thing! Your brain is too hot, and yawning is the air conditioning system.

    So some tricks: cool drinks, protein (efficient brain fuel, I like jerky or collagen powder in my coffee), better sleep if you can manage it (tired brains burn more energy and run hotter, just like computers), and increasing blood flow before meetings with maybe a quick walk around the office or some stretches in your office/cube if you have the space and privacy.

    Also consider something snug around your ribcage to give your body feedback. I tend to breathe deeply, sigh, or yawn because my body can’t tell that I’m getting enough air, and it messes with my anxiety. For me, my ribs can’t feel that they’re moving enough and I’m getting enough air, so I yawn and sigh a lot more than most. (This is a physical issue causing mental for me.) A little extra feedback from a snug shirt or a waist cincher is really helpful to me. Some kind of compression wear as a base layer could help give your body that little extra feedback and maybe you won’t yawn as much!

    As always, your mileage may vary, but these things work for me and they’re easy enough to experiment with. (And hey, I wear underbust corsets to work as back braces. 4 months in and no one even asks anymore. People get used to a lot if you’re just matter of fact about it.)

  72. Quill, CCO & Bee Queen*

    #1: I have a similar problem. Something about the darkened room needed for projectors flips a switch in my brain that makes me incredibly tired. Especially if the weather has been otherwise telling me to hibernate. I suspect it has something to do with my seasonal affective disorder.

    Some things I’ve attempted, with varying degrees of success:

    – Exposure to a full spectrum lamp in the mornings. (this seems to have done the most good, and it should be done pretty much every day for it to work: I haven’t felt like drifting off whenever I hit bumper to bumper stalled traffic since I got my lamp.
    – Standing through the meeting, forcing yourself to be slightly more physically active.
    – Being the note-taker. This is good for me if it’s on a topic I can actually contribute to and no one is on speakerphone. If someone’s on speakerphone it’s torturous, so handle with caution.

    One thing I DON’T recommend is upping your caffeine intake, because the time I tried to power through with a fairly regular caffeine heavy starbucks, before I took SSRI’s, it made me jittery as well as exhausted, and now that I’m on them excessive caffeine gives me panic.

    1. itsmorethanjustbeingtired*

      This sounds like you may have narcolepsy. I have narcolepsy and didn’t get diagnosed until I was 35 because the symptoms are so misunderstood, even for most doctors. See a sleep specialist. Excessive daytime sleepiness is different than just being tired.

      1. Quill, CCO & Bee Queen*

        Thanks, will make a note of it for the next time I have health insurance – unfortunately I’m an american.

        1. itsmorethanjustbeingtired*

          I’m American too, so I sympathize it’s tough to do anything without insurance. (I basically choose workplaces based on health insurance because of my disability.) Although once you do have coverage, there are low-cost sleep testing centers that are a bit more accessible than the ones in hospitals.

  73. Wing Leader*

    I’m going to be one of those people who feels different about #2. People are allowed to talk about their moms. It’s part of life. I understand if you want to cut down on the chatter at work or of they’re doing too much talking and not enough working. But, otherwise, you live in a world with many other people in it, OP. You can’t ask everyone to please not talk about this or that because you’re sensitive. I’m sure there are things you talk about that bother someone else. You need to learn to manage your emotions and not expect others to manage them for you.

    1. Anon here*

      This is where I land too–I understand that the feelings are still raw, and I’m so sorry for your loss. From what you’ve written here, though, the coworkers haven’t said anything insensitive or out of line by any reasonable standard. It isn’t up to them to manage your emotional responses to everyday chatter. Talking with a grief counselor or a close friend might really benefit here, especially as the loss is so recent.

      My experience with this is also personal, though from a different angle. Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer while I was engaged–a year to the date before our wedding. I was hospitalized for several months, lost all of my hair, and there was a more than 50% possibility that I was going to die or be seriously disfigured before our wedding date. I made it down the aisle as planned and physically intact, which was a miracle. Afterwards, however, it did used to irk when engaged friends/coworkers would complain about mundane wedding planning details as if they were the world’s biggest problems–so and so’s florist wouldn’t return phone calls, dressmaker being annoying, fighting with sister/maid of honor. Did I sometimes want to say “At least you aren’t worried you’re going to die!!!”? Yup. Did I ever–nope. My horrible luck wasn’t their fault, and therapy helped me give myself room to be sad for myself while being happy that my friends/coworkers were spared what I had to deal with.

      1. Wing Leader*

        Wow, that’s a lot to go through, I’m sorry. I can definitely see how someone complaining about the florist or whatever would sound absolutely irritating to you. But you kind of make my point. Lots of us go on about how stressed our wedding was without realizing that there might be someone like you around who has gone through so much worse. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be cognizant of that stuff. I’m just saying that it’s really hard for most people to tip-toe around all the time. As I grew up without a father, I often felt hurt and jealous of friends who had amazing fathers. But that certainly wasn’t their fault.

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      I think it’s more than reasonable for someone still in severe grief to ask the people she works with daily to adjust their behavior slightly. Yes, she’ll encounter other people talking about their parents, but as a coworker I would find the request completely understandable.

  74. MCMonkeyBean*

    For OP4 you might not need a whole new computer! At my last company a lot of us were having issues with some programs working very slowly and the first step was just requesting more RAM added to our current computers. That was pretty easy to request and get approved.

    If you currently only have a desktop and want a laptop though that is a totally separate issue, and one that should hopefully be easy to argue that your increased level of responsibility requires easier access to your information from meetings or from home. Good luck in getting what you need!

  75. itsmorethanjustbeingtired*

    LW#1 – If you haven’t already, try to see a sleep specialist. I went 35 years undiagnosed living with narcolepsy. I was yawning constantly, especially when having to sit for long periods of time. Sleep apnea causes similar excessive daytime sleepiness. These conditions are more common than you would believe and not even my primary care doctor was aware of the symptoms- she insisted I was just depressed but I pushed to see a sleep specialist because I knew it had to be more than that.
    All that being said- living with a sleep disorder is very hard because the professional world is incredibly biased towards morning people and expects everyone to be bright and perky all day. Even after documenting my illness and reminding previous employers repeatedly about narcolepsy being covered under ADA laws, I was judged because “everyone is tired!”

    So, explain you have a medical condition that makes you yawn a lot. I find sucking on hard candy, chewing gum or drinking cold water can help keep prevent yawning. Even just standing helps and when I disclosed my disability to my current employer I said that I may occasionally stand in the back during long meetings as opposed to sitting because it helps me from getting comfortable enough to trigger a sleep attack. That doesn’t bother anyone and is far less distracting to others than frequent yawning.

  76. Sun Tzu*

    OP#5, it is incredibly disrespectful to ask an employee to have a work meeting outside a workday. Do not accept.

    I would throw it back and ask her “Is there any reason why we should discuss my raise on one of my days off?”

  77. Koala dreams*

    #2 People often talk about how grief isolates you from others, but it can also bring you closer and give you empathy for others who are also grieving. I found this when my grandparents died, and other people shared their grief with me, which was very different from mine. I’m glad to hear that you are trying to feel empathy for the struggles of your younger co-workers. I think being open to other people’s struggles and grief is often good for you in the long run, even though it’s painful in the moment. I think the idea to tell your co-workers that parents is a sensitive subject for you is wise, and it gives them too a chance to be open and feel empathy for your grief.

    I’m also thinking about the situation for young people who might feel stuck living with their parents. Sometimes the parents are wonderful people, it’s just that it’s very stressful to share a household with people you wouldn’t choose. It’s similar to the situation when two ex-spouses have to live together after their divorce. It’s not that your parents or your ex are bad people, it’s just stressful to live together when you don’t want to, and it makes it very difficult for you to go on with your life.

  78. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP3 – oh my, this is calling out for a process. It sets expectations, it provides accountability and traceability, and it eliminates doubt and waffling.

    Work schedules are published every two weeks on Mondays. You are expected to be present for every shift that you are scheduled for.

    If you need to request time off for a week that has not yet been scheduled, fill out form X and give it to your lab supervisor as soon as possible, but no later than N days in advance of the schedule publication date. If you need to request time off for a day when you’ve already been scheduled, fill out form Y (make sure that you indicate the reason for the conflict) and send via email to your lab supervisor immediately.

    If you need to change your availability for the long term (due to a change in class schedule, etc), fill out form Z and give it to your lab supervisor. Note that if the number of hours you want to work is less than M hours/week, we may have to terminate your employment altogether.

  79. MissDisplaced*

    #4 As the usually only graphics and multimedia content creator in a company, I’ve always had to fight this computer fight.

    I suggest you make layout a business case for it. I had, for example, to show that the cost of my computer, software, and other multimedia needs were still far less done in-house by me, than by hiring outside agencies to create all of the videos and other graphics needed for the department over the course of a year.

  80. Tan*

    # 3 You describe these as “student employees” what do you mean by that? Are these part time jobs for students or are they students who help out for experience? Is the work regular in nature? Are you a “university” or has the person been sent for credit from a University, not for profit or normal company? Is the pay significantly below that of a “real” employee?… because I think the use of the terms “Do you want me to come in tomorrow?” or “Is it okay if I don’t come in tomorrow?” is understandable and even acceptable if the person you are talking about is effectively working for experience and/or not properly paid. Particularly if the experience work they help with is not regular (and often when this happens that person ends up doing menial tasks scanning documents etc). I’ve seen and heard a lot of examples of people giving students and interns grief about work ethic when (1) they are being underpaid or take home no wages and (2) they are not being given real work to do, which is exacerbated when the work is to tick a box at University. I just want to make sure are not criticising someone for not being professional when you /your company are not treating them like a professional.
    Conversely if you are paying them something particularly if it is similar to the hourly of a new full time staff member and have a set schedule they could query weeks in advance, then you need to sit them down and have a professionalism /”welcome to the real word of work” chat.

    1. RecoveringSWO*

      I agree that the type of work, payment, and whether or not university credit is involved could definitely play a role in why they’re asking if they’re needed vs. asking for time off.

      I had friends in a MA program that required x hours of intern/externship experience in the field. There were not a lot of employers who could provide x hours of consistently relevant work (this was a field involving sales and event operations) over the entire semester as required. Not many paid either. The students realized quickly that some employers were fine to send a student home when there wasn’t any real work for them and would still sign off their hours for school. Other employers made the students sit and twiddle their thumbs or do unrelated work to fulfill their hours. You can guess how bitter one group of grad students got–particularly in this field where extra hours of sales calls, location setup, etc. wasn’t really required to grasp the skills (vs. medicine, science, etc).

      If that’s that case here, LW’s students might be trying to tactfully request that they are only called in when they’re actually being utilized.

    2. LW3*

      Oh it’s def paid work! With our very rare unpaid work-experience people, I’m very clear with them that the work they do it by their rules and according to their schedule as much as ours since they are working for free. No, these are regularly scheduled workers who earn a wage and do work tasks, although I’m sure they find the job boring (often? always?). But it is paid and we do serve as references often once they graduate; I will work to set a firmer and clearer line.

  81. Katie A.*

    Re: yawning

    OMG, same!! When I was somewhat new in my current job, I received feedback that I was yawning too much. For me being told to yawn less was like being told to sneeze less or blink less or cough less – so unnatural, and, honestly, impossible.

    I couldn’t stop yawning, so I just kept my lips closed, which, honestly, I’m not sure looks less weird. I also started taking vitamin D which is supposed to help. And I noticed I would yawn like crazy when I was hungry, with my yawns picking up in intensity as the meeting stretched on towards lunch, so I started making sure I had a granola bar or some nuts in my bag to help me make it through.

    But yeah I hear you – I am incredulous that other people can control their yawns

  82. Green Goose*

    OP #1
    This happens to me too! And I truly cannot control it (so I’ll be reading your readers responses for tips). What I do is I just acknowledge it when it’s happening and let people know I’m not bored, I’ve had coffee etc. and that it’s just happening and honestly, people are fine with that. Good luck. It’s definitely frustrating when I get one of my yawning episodes because it truly won’t stop no matter how inopportune the timing.

  83. OysterFellow*

    I take a medication that makes me yawn and it’s impossible to stop. I can do the close-mouthed version, but anyone focusing on me can tell what’s going on. I definitely feel for you LW #1

  84. Elephant*

    OP 2, I’m so sorry for your loss. I imagine it is a very difficult time right now, as the first anniversary has just occured. I really don’t think it is right to ask them not to talk about their families, or even vent about them. For one, I don’t think you saying something to them will stop the conversations. Maybe for a little while, but they will very likely start talking about it again anyway. You just have different realities than each other right now, and that’s okay. Part of grief and healing involves seeing the people around you and “how good they have it”. It sucks and hurts. Its not up to you to decide whether they’re parents are worth complaining about or not. We all lead different paths and your grief does not belong to them. I say this as someone who has very difficult relationships with my parents, and one who abandoned me as a child. I know the feeling of wanting to tell others how good they have it or to stop complaining. But the truth is, we never know how “good” someone has it. And, I’ve found that when I use my energy to be frustrated with others, it detracts from my healing and adds unneeded negativity to an already difficult situation.
    I wish you the best.

  85. boop the first*

    3. Hmm.
    As someone who was never welcome to an office environment, I’m surprised by the “business norms” angle,
    Because outside of an office environment the business norm is this:

    Employee: “I have influenza and should really go home.”
    Boss: “No, you’re the only person here, you are making it so hard for us (applies guilt).”

    Employee: “My closest uncle died this morning, I still have the flu, and my family needs me this morning.”
    Boss: “No, it’s our busiest day (applies guilt).”

    Employee: “I need Saturday off because I’m moving.”
    Boss: “No one will cover you, so you’ll have to be here for at least 4 hours, that’s the best I can do (applies guilt).”

    Employee: “I need to take one of my vacation weeks 3 months from now, I know it’s impossible but it’s been 3 years since I’ve had time off…”
    Boss: (Literally avoids giving a solid answer for three months until it’s too late)

    Management: “Holy sh- an employee was attacked and is now bleeding all over the floor, food, and walls. The serving staff are all crying behind the bar…”
    Big Boss: “It’s our busiest day! Get back in the kitchen and stop crying! Call a replacement.”

    That last one sounds like hyperbole but it’s not. I’m just saying, this sentiment probably comes up a lot because that’s the reality for quite a large number of us. Being annoyed is a much better position than being doubtful and afraid. Think of it as an opportunity to surprise and delight someone. You are giving your employees a little taste of dignity and freedom that they’ve never had before, enjoy it!

    1. Iris Eyes*

      That reminds me of the letter from a while back about the employee asking to use the restroom.

  86. Hedgehug*

    I have this problem after lunch, but a big part of it is the horrible light in my office…
    Before meetings, I recommend stepping outside for fresh air and natural light to wake your brain up. Helps me .

  87. Buffy*

    LW#2 – I’m just six months past losing my dad. I’m buried under a mountain of grief and have so very few days where I don’t at minimum tear up over missing him. I’m around people all the time who complain about this parent, that spouse, their children, and their pets. I deal with it by remembering that it’s not my dad they are complaining about. Their complaints about their parents do not negate my love for my dad and the fact that I miss him so very much. I’m sorry for your loss. It’s terrible, isolating, and painful. But please don’t expect the entire world to never say a word that will remind you of your grief. I know you say that you would love to have 50 missed messages from your mom but I’m willing to bet that if she reappeared tomorrow and you had to deal with 50 missed calls in a day, it would be about 2 weeks before you were annoyed with her. This is not a contest. Their complaints do not invalidate your grief. Your grief and their complaints can exist in the same space. Heck, my siblings don’t have the same memories of my dad that I have. They are all dealing with unresolved issues that make them more angry about his passing. I don’t have that regret tinging my grief. My daughter has a very contentious relationship with her father, to the extent that she’s even said she wished it was him that died instead of my dad. Her very justified anger with her father did not negate my very real grief over the loss of mine. I didn’t tell her how she should not wish that and didn’t attempt to force my reality of grief onto her reality of an abusive, dismissive father and tell her that she would regret it when he died. Instead of asking them to not talk of such things around you, instead either learn to tune them out or even tell stories of what it was like when you were that age and your mom did something you thought was equally annoying. Because as much as you love your mom and miss her, odds are, she was annoying to you at many times in your life. I love my mom dearly. We have a great relationship. It’s not nearly so close as I was with my dad but it’s close. I’m going to seriously miss her when she dies. She’s got Alzheimer’s so she’s going to forget me long before that time. I don’t even want to think of the senseless cruelty of that. And right now, at this very moment, she’s annoying the ever loving crap out of me and I will complain to my close friend about it. Who will, in turn, look at me like I’m some sort of nut job because her mom? Is truly terrible. And she can’t imagine how someone with good parents like I had could complain about anything.

  88. Leela*

    OP #1 – I am an extremely loud sneezer. It sounds like a scream. Growing up I got in trouble at school all the time because teachers thought I was doing it to make a scene or disrupt their lesson. At work, I get death glares from anyone near me and passive aggressive comments about it. I can’t control it. At all. I don’t care if other people can; I can’t. I’m not happy about it either and I don’t know what to do!

    I do think that we have this weird notion that people aren’t allowed to be people at work. People yawn, they stretch, they sneeze, they cry, they pass gas (though hopefully not constantly), they experience pain from wearing heels. People can try and hide these behaviors because they’re not coded as professional right now in a lot of places (though you might not raise an eyebrow in another country) and I agree that when you’re somewhere where professional norms don’t allow for that sort of behavior you have to do the best you can, but I still think it’s very odd that we’ve tried to shuffle away so many extremely normal human behaviors that aren’t offensive for any reason other than some people a long time ago decided they are!

    1. Cheluzal*

      Agreed, and frankly shocked at Allison’s advice. This site tends to be more understanding of humanity and especially possible medical issues.

  89. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    LW4: I recommend picking what machine it is you want, so you have examples of what level you’re looking for. Try for 16GB of RAM, no less than 8. If you have access to cloud storage, 128GB HDD could be fine, but I’d so no less than 256GB, ideally 512GB. 15″ should be the smallest screen you go for if it’s 1080P. Apple’s Retina display is very serviceable at 13″, but the small screen means you’re really only looking at one item at a time.

    Avoid asking for a “fancy” computer. This makes it sound less like you need a new machine, and more like you just want something shiny.

    Lastly, look at how efficiently your spreadsheet is setup and what tools you’re using. Are your formulas as streamlined as they possibly can be? Avoid recalculating data, dependencies can both slow a sheet down and speed a sheet up depending on how they’re used. Some excel features are just always going to be slow. I love using the Solver & What If Analysis tools; but even on my i-9 5GHZ octocore laptop, they take time.

  90. Yawns*

    So this is probably rare, but I used to have the yawning issue. It was totally not in my control! Turns out that my asthma was pretty poorly managed, once I got on the right treatment, my body didn’t feel that immediate need for a big influx of oxygen! Probably not your issue, but you never know! I also think I didn’t realize that it wasn’t normal to really not be able to control yawning to an extent.

    1. Epsilon Delta*

      I had a yawning issue too! It eventually went away on its own, but it lasted nearly a decade. I never figured out what it was; I assume it was stress or anxiety-related because it happened more often when I was in semi-stressful situations like a new job. It’s so frustrating because it’s involuntary, you can’t stop it! I got really, really good at yawning without opening my mouth. It was probably still noticeable, but way less so than a typical yawn.

  91. Leela*

    OP #2 – I have a somewhat similar situation but from the opposite end. My mother is still alive but was very abusive and has done such long term damage to me that I won’t even do the DuoLingo Family lessons because it’s so triggering. It’s very triggering for me when other people talk about their mothers as even the word causes me to have flashbacks. Unfortunately I think it’s not feasible to manage other people’s ability to bring up their mothers but i do agree with the language Alison used in the edit, but if you say it once and they keep going I’d let it go knowing that while it’s very hard on your end, they’re not doing anything out of the ordinary or anything wrong (although ideally they’d at least scale back, or hold on to those comments until you’re not around, if they could). I’m sure it’s painful and I’m sorry to hear about your mother!

  92. ElleKay*

    LW #3 I had almost the same thing happen last week! We were in orientation with our incoming students and one student asked me- multiple times during the week- if “this session is mandatory” or “do we have to attend tomorrow” or similar questions.
    In all cases my default was “Yes, of course it’s mandatory and you’re expected to attend” (duh)

    But at the same time I excused multiple students who were sick, had internship interviews, or were working out prescription re-fill issues since they’re in a new city for the semester.

    It took me until Saturday to (have enough bandwidth to) consider that this student suffers from insomnia, was likely very jet lagged, and may actually have been asking to be excused for health/mental health reasons! If that was her question I would have let her go try to get some sleep! But that’s not what she asked!

    I have to find time to talk to her about this but, exactly as Alison says, direct requests are key to actually getting what you want!

  93. PennyW*

    LW#1: I have a lot of trouble with yawning, too; I don’t know if this applies to you–or to the bull in the china shop–but certain medications, like Prozac, can increase yawning. If you do take medications you might want to know if this is a side effect. Yawning can ask be part of the prodrome for migraine, the moment or moments when it becomes apparent you are about to get a migraine.

  94. Shiri*

    Sometimes if I have to yawn at an inopportune time, I literally do it with my mouth closed. I’m not sure this is actually a good way to handle it but I figure maybe then no one can tell who yawned and if they can tell it was me, at least it is clear that I was trying not to be rude.

  95. Ele4phant*

    Why does our culture generally interpret yawning as a sign of boredom and inattentive was when it usually…isn’t?

    I agree that it is seen that way and I try my best not to yawn, or be discrete about it.

    But I think usually people yawn for a number of reasons (they slept poorly and are tired, they have a health condition, someone else did it and it’s contagious). I feel like “I’m bored and flagrantly rude about it” is usually rarely the reason someone is yawning, and yet we automatically assume the worst.

  96. BlackKitten*

    Op #1 If you haven’t already, it may be worth discussing it with your mental health professional. While you said the yawning predates the medication, it is possible that the medication is contributing anyway. Sometimes changing the timing of when you take meds can help with side affects, and since not everyone responses in the same way it’s possible a non-standard dosage time or schedule may assist. (I speak from my own experience with treatment resistant mental health issues, having had many oddball responses, I ended up taking some reversed from the standard timing with good results)

  97. Karen*

    For LW1 with the yawning issue – just wanted to mention that various antidepressants (mainly SSRIs) and mood stabilizers give me that yawning thing.

    It feels like your jaw is trying to rip itself from your face. You can’t even close your mouth if you’re wanted. It’s infuriating.

    It happens to me during passive times like when I’m commuting from work or meetings. It stops when I’m not on SSRIs or anti-epileptic based mood stabilizers.

    Just want you to know you’re not alone.
    Apologies if someone said something like this already further down.

  98. Bowserkitty*

    LW#1, I feel your pain!!!!! I try to stifle mine a lot too but nothing really works.

    A similar thing happens to me when I concentrate during my work and suddenly I have to remember to breathe properly and subconsciously let out what sounds like a huge sigh, prompting coworkers to ask if I’m doing okay -_- I then I have to explain that I just have some weird concentration habits…

  99. SRMJ*

    #1 – IDK if training yourself breathe specifically to increase oxygen flow would help lessen the need to yawn (or if you’ve tried already), but some things I do are inhale through the nose (deeply if I’m thinking about it and hold it for a few seconds if I’m thinking about it) and check that my posture isn’t compressing my chest – like my shoulders turning forward, or hunching my back a little. I haven’t paid too close attention but I think it helps.

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