how can I avoid shaking hands, looking for joy at work aggravated me, and more

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

1. How can I avoid shaking hands?

I freely admit that I am moderately germophobic: I hate catching colds and take precautions to avoid being exposed to them. Nothing excessive, but I use a stylus to call elevators, wrap a paper towel in my hand when leaving the restroom, use sanitary wipes after going through a buffet, and do not take phones from people who thrust them at me to look at something. I understand that it’s impossible to completely avoid colds, but I do the best I can.

The one thing I have not managed to do is to find a graceful way to avoid handshakes. I work in a large company with collaborative teams, and from time to time I’ll be in a meeting or professional event or social function with someone I don’t know, and their hand will come out for a shake. I hate shaking hands, and if I’m unable to avoid it, I do whatever I can to get myself to a restroom to wash mine as soon as possible. This is not ideal, but I’d rather avoid it to begin with.

Sometimes I will say, “Oh, I have a cold but it’s nice to meet you” (in which case they are always happy to back off!) but that only goes so far when I am with people who have seen that trick before. I’d rather be honest. How rude is it to simply say, “I don’t like to shake hands but it’s very nice to meet you” (with my hands clasped behind my back)? Or do you have any other ways to politely shake off a handshake? To be clear, I’m not looking for advice on how to get over my aversion to handshakes, only on how to avoid handshakes without being rude. I should also note that my company’s PTO policy encourages presenteeism with their combined vacation/personal/sick time off bank. People come to work sick so as not to deplete vacation opportunity, and you can hardly blame them, right?

Yeah, “I’m getting over a cold” is the easiest, least awkward way to avoid handshakes, but you’re right that you can’t keep re-using it with the same people. In those situations, I would tweak your script somewhat and say, “I don’t shake hands but it’s very nice to meet you.” Say it warmly and with genuine friendliness so people don’t think you’re being chilly. Some people may still find it a little odd, but it shouldn’t be a big deal. Most people will figure it’s either for religious reasons or a health precaution.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I made a goal of finding joy in my work daily — and it aggravated me more

We have new performance management software in which employees are supposed to set goals which are reviewed and approved by their supervisors and then those become the evaluation criteria for the employee at the next annual review.

Last year I made one of my goals, “find and write down something about my work that gives me joy each day.” I did that (kept an Excel spreadsheet with daily entries) and totally hated doing it. It wound up being a Gripe Journal as much as anything by the end of the year (it was a challenging year). A lot of days it felt artificial and futile to find anything that gave me joy, and on a lot of days I identified the thing that gave me joy as going home at the end of the day.

Well, my supervisor LOVED that goal, adopted it for his own performance metrics too, and wants me to keep doing it for the coming year. How do I find joy every day in a genuinely frustrating environment without making it seem like I’m some kind of “Little Mary Sunshine” bubbling and smiling through whatever gets thrown my way?

Can you push back on the goal? It would be reasonable to say, “I’d prefer not to include that goal for myself this year. Last year I found that having to do it every day felt artificial and forced — and sometimes it highlighted frustrations I was experiencing rather than minimizing them. I love that you want to use it for yourself! But for me it ended up being counterproductive; I found it’s better for my morale not to tie myself to that system. Instead, this year I want to focus on (insert new goals here).”

If you think it’ll help with your boss, make one of your new goals something else that’s gratitude-oriented — for example, making sure you give genuine praise to a colleague at least once per week.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Co-lead causes confusion with voice-to-text

I’m a scientist who works for a university and is is running a large project with a co-lead who is at another university. Overall the project is going well, but there has been a consistent problem that I’m not sure how to address.

My co-lead often replies to emails using voice-to-text on his phone, and he does not read the email he just dictated before sending it. Voice to text on whatever phone he has is not even close to perfect, and while sometimes I can determine what he meant to say, other times it’s a mystery or there are sentences that say the opposite of what he intended. Or they contain totally off-topic words.

I mentioned this to him in a joking way and he told me he uses voice-to-text to answer emails while driving and so “doesn’t want to take his eyes off the road to read the response.”

I had hoped my pointing out the issue would change the behavior, but it hasn’t. When it’s just emails between the two of us, I can reply back and ask for clarification, which makes communication slower, but I can deal with it. The larger problem is when he does this with group emails, especially when the voice-to-text creates sentences that say the opposite of what he intends, including about decisions he is being asked to make.

I’ve talked with him again more seriously about how if he doesn’t have time to write these emails when he is not driving (and driving is not a large part of his job, most days it’s just his commute), I can take some of those responsibilities, since these emails have caused large amounts of confusion, and almost a lot of money one time. But he blew me off and said it “wasn’t a big deal” and “folks make typos.” This is well beyond typos and I’m not sure what else to do, as we’re collaborators who work for different universities, so it’s not like I have any authority over him, but I also need and want this project to go well.

Ask one more time, and this time be very direct that it’s causing problems and wasting time and explicitly say that you’re asking him to stop. For example: “We’ve talked about this before but at this point I want to formally ask you to stop using voice-to-text for our emails if you won’t be able to read them over before sending. The mistakes are causing too much confusion — sometimes your emails say the opposite of what you intended, and it’s causing people to spend a lot of time confused and seeking clarification. As you know, once it almost cost us $X. Can you please stop doing emails that way so we don’t run into that confusion?”

If he insists on continuing after that, there’s not much else you can do to stop him. But you should at least stop doing the work of clearing things up on his behalf. Instead, when he sends a confusing email, reply back with, “It’s not clear what you mean here — I think voice-to-text has struck again. Can you send a corrected version when you’re back at your desk?”

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Interview over breakfast

I have my second interview with a local company Friday morning. The first interview was at one of the company’s locations with the hiring manager, a team member, and someone from HR. The second interview is with the managers from different locations of a department which I would be working closely with. However, it’s taking place at a breakfast restaurant (Google’s description). So how do I handle this? I’m already questioning the formality of it (although I will still wear a suit), but what about food/drink? Do I order something if the interviewers do? Do I offer to pay? I’ll likely be too nervous to want to eat, but I don’t know if that would be rude.

If they’re doing a morning interview at a restaurant, it’s probably breakfast, but it’s possible that it’s just something like coffee. Show up prepared for either and follow their lead — if they order breakfast, you should too. If they just order coffee, you should just have a beverage as well. But if they do order a meal, follow their cues about what to order — if they’re all getting coffee and a muffin, you don’t want to have a massive stack of pancakes and sausages in front of you.

Even if you don’t feel like eating, you should still order something and try to eat at least a few bites. That’s just about about being gracious — people don’t usually like to sit at a restaurant eating while the person across the table from them isn’t, and you want to minimize awkwardness here.

Assume they’ll pick up the check — this is a business expense and they’re the ones who issued the invitation and chose the restaurant. It would be very bizarre if they didn’t. At the end as you’re leaving, thank them for breakfast. More here!

5. Can I ask my employer to pay me for doing my side job for them?

I have a regular 9-5 job, but on the side I also do voiceover work and have done some local radio commercials. Most people in the office know I do this and are very supportive. I was talking with a friend in our marketing department, and we have done radio commercials in the past (though it’s not common for us), and I was joking with him that if they ever did another commercial in the future they should let me know! Then he said that if they ever did another commercial, they might come to me.

This is a hypothetical scenario, but if they did ask me to record a commercial for them, could I ask to be paid the way that I’m typically paid for doing commercial work? I usually receive a lump sum for recording time and usage. Can I ask them to pay me that (in addition to my salary)? Or does this fall under the “any other tasks as assigned” umbrella? If I didn’t do this semi-professionally I wouldn’t even think about asking (for what it’s worth, I’m not a member of SAG-AFTRA).

Legally, yes, they could decide this falls under “other duties as assigned” — but many good employers would be willing to pay you if it’s very different from your regular work for them.

I’d begin with the approach that you’d be up for doing this as a freelance project using the same set-up you use with other clients (including doing it outside of your regular work time). Start with, “I typically charge $X for recording time and usage. Does that work on your end?”

If they won’t agree to that, then you can decide whether or not you’re up for doing it anyway. (Although keep in mind that once they realize you’d want to charge them your normal rates, they may become less interested — and that’s okay too.)

{ 610 comments… read them below }

  1. Sami*

    OP #1: I frequently use voice-to-text as well (arthritis in my hands) but I always preview what I’ve said. Geez, it’s not that difficult.
    Put the onus back on this guy for clarifications.

      1. Sally*

        I agree (I read my voice-to-text messages before I hit “Send” also), but I think in this case, since he’s dictating while driving, he should wait to respond until he is not driving.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I’m wondering more generally why this is a problem that needs to exist at all – surely he can wait until he’s at work to answer his work email, right?
          (I mean, I understand a general “I might as well use my commute for [X and Y work-related thing]” but I usually see that related to public transport, where there often is indeed nothing else for you to do (really, he’s driving himself, maybe he should, you know, concentrate on driving), and also, if he has to get into an email back-and-forth afterwards because of his incomprehensible texts, it’s not like he’ll have gained much free time at work in the end, anyway.)

          1. OP#3*

            OP#3 here – Your right, these emails are not urgent, our project is not one where if an answer is delayed hours or even days something terrible will happen. My co-lead often treats every email like an emergency though, which is probably part of the issue here.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Eh, then you can preface your email with, “Not urgent, please wait until you are in the office to answer”.

              Up here, our problem is that phone connections are so lousy. Half the time I do not understand the person. I felt bad about this, until one day I just decided I was done doing that. I stopped trying to piece together what the person was saying and simply told them to call back when they can get a better connection. I’d suggest the same for you. Send back a message requesting a redo because you can’t follow the initial message you received from him.

              It’s funny/odd to me that I held myself to a standard of making sure a person understands (is able to hear or read) what I am saying, yet when it comes to others I was willing to really struggle to try to figure out what they actually wanted me to know. For extreme cases where the person is just not caring if I understand I will tell the person, “As soon as I can understand what you are saying, I will help you with your concern.” This usually gets their attention and they change what they are doing.

            2. WellRed*

              I wonder if your offering to take over some tasks is somehow also driving this need to treat emails etc as urgent, instead you of just saying “ not urgent.”

            3. gsa*

              I would not make any effort whatsoever to correct his behavior. I would continue replying with a polite, I don’t understand what you meant”.

              If you do that enough, and he gets frustrated, maybe he’ll go to y’all’s boss to complain about you. At which point you can explain the situation.

              Any ways, Good luck.

                1. fposte*

                  Yes, this is really more like a diplomatic initiative between two countries. Macron can’t just lecture Merkel on email practice or complain about it to Antonio Guterres.

                2. Glitsy Gus*

                  For this reason I think it’s all the more important for you to stop trying to run interference for him, especially on group emails.

                  If someone else writes back that they don’t understand then leave it to him to fix the confusion, if anything I would only jump in with a, “I agree, this is an unclear response. Fergus, please clarify.” or if they directly contradict themselves, “Fergus, this seems counter to our previous conversation. Can you clarify? Did talk-to-type change your meaning?” Just set it there and make him deal with it if he is going to continue to do this. If he wants to do something completely stupid, inefficient, and unsafe (just because your eye are on the road does not mean that dictating an email is not distracting you) then he can deal with the fallout.

            4. animaniactoo*

              Have you tried quoting the e-mail back at him and asking for clarification on each section?

              “Did you mean X here?”
              “I cannot figure this section out, please advise.”

              and so on?

              In other words – make this convenience for him not convenient by making him go back and answer all the garbledy-gook.

              1. Flyleaf*

                That’s too much work. The responses should be short. “Huh???” “Gorilla???” “No idea what you are talking about.”

                It’s on the other person to figure out what was wrong and to reformulate the message. Wait until they response.

                1. Ann Nonymous*

                  Yeah, make his problem be his problem. Respond simply, “Sorry, I don’t understand.” That’s it.

              2. TootsNYC*

                and not only is it too much work, but it’s the wrong person doing the work.
                And it makes it easy for him to keep doing this.
                Our OP needs to make sure that voice-to-text costs him MORE time.

        2. NoviceManagerGuy*

          My employer bans phone calls and device usage when driving, including hands-free. This would be a firing offense at my job.

          1. Veronica Mars*

            Oh man, our execs routinely call into web conferences while driving. Including ones where you need to see the slides. Its pretty scary. Also, really jarring to listen to blinker noises over conference room speakers.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              That’s horrifying. I really hope no one gets hurt- and if they do that there’s a massive lawsuit, multiple executive firings, and a change of policy.

              1. Veronica Mars*

                Its funny to me that their time is *so precious* that they *have to* multitask like this, but they’ll have time for a 2 month hospital stay if (heaven forbid) the risk ever comes to fruition.

            2. and so it goes*

              It’s amazing how many higher-ups will call in while driving. We’ve even had academic partners do it. They’re either not paying attention to the presentation or they’re not paying attention to the road. (The academic partner, at least, we could tell wasn’t paying attention to the presentation. Which was bad, because we specifically had him call in to be a subject matter expert and answer specific questions; there was only 5 people on that darned call and he was supposed to clarify matters, and he didn’t even care enough about us to not be driving during the call or ask us to reschedule the call, no I’m not still mad).

              Meanwhile, us peons know not to drive and conference call.

              Rank Hath Its Privileges.

              1. Observer*

                Yeah, but YOU won’t be the person in traction or facing charges if there is a serious accident.

                1. and so it goes*

                  Not facing charges, yeah, but I’m definitely in a position, god forbid, to be hit by distracted drivers.

                  I’m mostly a pedestrian, but I have a policy of not assuming any car has ever seen me. I give the Midwest Wave Of Thanks to cars that stop for me.

              2. Gazebo Slayer*

                I’d be seriously considering an anonymous tip to the cops on an exec who texts and drives. This is a serious safety issue, and the cop who pulls them over won’t necessarily know or care that they’re a bigwig at Widget Corp.

                Of course, the cops in my city tend to take their time in responding even to violent robberies, and I’d be more conflicted about it if Texting Exec were a person of color. But it’s something to think about. I’d be afraid these drivers would get someone else killed.

            3. Arya Snark*

              Pretty sure half of my 1:1s with my boss (owner/president of the company) take place while he is driving.

            4. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Years ago I stopped conducting phone interviews with candidates when they’re behind the wheel. I tell them, ‘The road needs all of your attention right now, I’ll email you to reschedule.’ Sometimes people get snippy about it, but their safety is more important than the call. No one had an accident but someone had a close call once – I think it bothered me more than the candidate!

              Seriously, if you need to participate in a call – interview, team meeting, whatever – don’t drive!

              1. Mynameisnotjane*

                Yes! I had a phone interview during my job search and it was scheduled for 4:30, which would be during my commute home. I left my office, parked in an office complex around the corner, and took the call before heading home. Was it a pain in the butt to sit in my car for an hour? Of course! But there’s no way I could concentrate on an interview while driving. Or concentrate on my driving while answering interview questions.

                1. DeeEm*

                  Interesting. I don’t talk and drive often, but I sometimes find myself calling my friend or sister on a commute home (hand free) because it makes me a more patient and calm driver. I don’t really see a big difference between talking hands free with someone on the phone and talking to a passenger in a vehicle — except that I’m never tempted to look over at the (nonexistent) passenger when I’m using the phone (so my eyes are on the road pretty much all the time). So, I don’t think talking hands free is inherently more dangerous — it’s no more dangerous than listening to a podcast — assuming, of course, one is NOT trying to also look at slides or some other nonsense.

        3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          He also must be reading the email before responding to it – so he is already driving dangerously. We need to stop treating driving as something that can be a multitask.

          1. Washi*

            A lot of phone can read emails to you, so that’s probably what he’s doing? But I agree with your second point completely; I think a lot of people talking on the phone or dictating emails underestimate how distracted they are driving.

            I know it’s not in OP’s control whether he does this, but I have very little sympathy for what the coworker is doing and would consider bringing it up to my manager in a “do you have any advice on handling this?” way so that the manager is at least aware of the issue.

            1. OP#3*

              From what folks have told me, that is not what he is doing, he is reading them, with his phone in his hand, while driving.

              1. JessaB*

                Which he should not do at ALL this is bad, very bad, but geez, he can read the incoming message but not read or have the phone read back to him the outgoing one? Riiiight.

              2. Gazebo Slayer*

                Holy hell. Whoever has the power to do so needs to tell him if he ever does that again he’ll be fired.

              3. Dr. Doll*

                Sounds like you might not have this collaborator much longer, cause he’s gonna kill himself or someone else.

                Because this is happening, any chance of escalation to deans, risk management, even the granting agency?

                1. fposte*

                  I’m trying to think how this would work for us at my university. I don’t know that I see anybody the OP could reasonably ask to step in here. Definitely not the granting agency–it’s way too piddling–and I don’t even see the OP as having the standing to consult a dean at Other University. One ironic obstacle is that the project is actually going well; if this were endangering the project and future funding, it would be easier to find leverage (we’ve had the university grants office tell us not to work with Other University again when they really can’t get their stuff together).

                  What I might do is see if anybody up the ladder in my own department/school had a connection in Other University at the co-lead’s level or above. That’s going to be dependent on how much contact the OP has with her dean, etc., but if she has regular contact, I might say to my own dean “Hey, we cannot get this guy to write a comprehensible email and it’s a problem–any thoughts of anybody who might be able to nudge him?”

                  Ultimately, though, I think your workable choices are 1) accept this as the price of the partnership or 2) bump up your communication with somebody junior on the project at Other University who can serve as de facto amanuensis.

              4. Quill*

                Oh jeez OP he’s gonna get somebody killed.

                I know from personal experience that you can total a car after taking your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. I once sardine canned a car trying to brush away a spider that had descended in front of my face, thank god I didn’t have a passenger at the time.

                For his safety and everyone else’s you may have to bring this to someone higher and have them “clarify” their never ever respond to emails while driving policy if they don’t already have one.

                1. Tidewater 4-1009*

                  Emails, texts, or any kind of message.
                  The policy should specifically say no using devices while driving including hands-free, so there are no loopholes for the professor or anyone to grab.

              5. It's a New Day!*

                Is there a cel-phone law in your area? Definitely bring it to the attention of higher-ups if there is, or even if there is just a caution against it, or even if there is nothing at all. The damage to the company reputation and pocketbook from a lawsuit brought by a pedestrian/cyclist/other driver he has hit will exceed by great measure the time he thinks he is saving by this ridiculous, self-absorbed behaviour.

                You said this is part of a joint project between two universities, so no specific boss over both of you, but your own admin may wish to speak to the other admin, to avoid having their name dragged into it.

                I think it is past the point of utility of trying any “bits” – straightforward, jokey, helpful. The only thing that maybe you haven’t tried is to call a formal meeting with him, possibly involving higher ups, bringing a sheaf of emails you have tried to work with, and laying it all on the line.

            2. Sam.*

              It sounds like these folks are academics, in which case they don’t have managers in the way that you’re thinking. The university setting complicates this more than many people seem to realize, especially if they’re tenured professors. I am curious about how they figure out that the co-lead sent a message that’s opposite what he meant – do people start following his original instructions and sometime later he realizes they’re not doing what he intended? Or do they realize at the time that something seems weird and ask for confirmation? That might impact how I’d go about dealing with this, but I think it’s likely that OP’s best bet is asking him to clarify or confirm every message he sends until he gives up on voice-to-text (and even if he never does, at least everyone’s confident about what he means before they act).

              1. OP#3*

                Yah being in two different academic institutions makes it much tougher, though even if we were at the same university it wouldn’t be simple, because academia is a mess.

                Its a long story on how the messages that say the opposite of what he meant were discovered, but essentially yes folks did what his email said to do, and then he got upset later when they weren’t doing ‘what he said to do’. But he also did not take any responsibility for causing the issue.

          2. Quill*

            The car may read emails out to him via a connection with his phone, like my mom’s newer car does for texts.

      2. Is butter a carb?*

        It was because you were answering this question using voice to text!!

        Just kidding. I couldn’t resist.

    1. Gen*

      Could they request that the voice-to-text person start adding ‘dictated not read’ to all the messages? I used to work with some old school bosses who still had secretaries and that acted as a warning that there could be errors from them not speaking clearly. Also acts as a heads up to people used to dealing with this problem from this person that it’s likely to have happened again, so they can immediately jumped to ‘this isn’t clear’ without putting the energy into trying to decipher it?

      1. OP#3*

        That is not a bad idea. I’m not sure if co-lead would do it or not, but I could see it being something they would consider.

        Perhaps add it their email signature just on their phone to make something they don’t have to think about, hmm, interesting idea. thanks!

        1. Millennial Lizard Person*

          Noooo, don’t let him get away with just putting “sent from phone, sorry for typos!” in his email! He doesn’t need to be sending emails like this at all!

          1. WorkIsADarkComedy*

            I had a colleague who routinely added “Dictated but not read” to emails that had too many typos or other problems. It was maddening, in part because it was disrespectful of everyone else’s time (having to decipher emails) for the sole purpose of making his life easier.

            It’s a responsibility at most jobs to communicate clearly and not waste your coworkers’ time. This fellow is shirking that responsibility. Don’t let him get away with it. You might poll the other people who receive his messages and, if you can, push back as a group.

              1. OP#3*

                thanks for helping me laugh a bit about this everyone.

                You all make good point, a disclaimer isn’t a solution, esp given that some of the sentences come through with opposite meanings.

                1. Triumphant Fox*

                  The best solution really is to just keep replying with “What did you mean?” over and over again. It’s the least amount of work for you, it puts the onus back on him to figure out what he meant, and if he gets frustrated, his behavior may change. If he doesn’t, then he keeps sending garbage but you no longer feel the need to decipher it. Academics are so stressed for time, I’m not surprised he’s trying to manage things while driving to save time, but by the same token, you need to protect your time and not let him waste it like this. Unless you are very junior to him or he is a rockstar in his field, then all bets are off.

                2. Nesprin*

                  Oof, the more I hear about this the more I think I’ve worked with this person (academia!).
                  For certain collaborators I’ve had to cut down all communication to scheduled meetings, with an agenda and a followup todo list with a note to correct the email and resend if anything is not correct. Emails/calls outside of these meetings tend to turn projects turtle as the ability to misinterpret goes up, especially if the side email was related to budget, deadline or deliverables.

          2. Observer*

            It the OP had authority over him, I would most definitely agree. He needs to stop doing this. But, given that the OP may not have the ability to make him stop, it’s worth doing whatever it takes to make sure that people know that anything that came in from his phone needs to be treated with GREAT caution.

        2. Observer*

          Does he already have an auto-signature that indicates that he’s responding on his phone?

          If he does, then start responding to EVERY email he sends with a request that he re-state everything in his email, and confirm what he meant. And when (not if), he asks why point out that what you are seeing is not inconsequential typos, but stuff that often either makes it hard to understand what he is saying or actually CHANGES what he says from what he intended to say. People need to know for sure that he meant what’s in the email before they reespond.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Is that what that means? I remember it being mentioned in How to Win Friends and Influence People, and the author used it without knowing what it meant and somehow offended someone with it, but never explained what it did mean! TIL!

    2. Anon today*

      If this were the OP’s manager, I would almost suggest malicious compliance — while of course saving the email as proof that I was following written instructions. In this situation, though, the given advice is best. But I would email back every. single. time and try to make it his problem.

      1. maddierose2999*

        i would also set up that response email as a template/quicklink, so you can send it quickly and without over investing or getting too frustrated each time.

        1. OP#3*

          That is a great idea. I often forget such templates exist, this would be a perfect situation to have one ready to use. Thank you!

        2. Observer*


          Make it his problem. But not only that – even if he doesn’t change his behavior and even though it technically might slow things down, it will actually streamline things by getting some clarity on what he actually means.

          I’d also add a second template for when he responds with “Yes, that’s what I meant”. Say that you need him to actually re-state what he wrote, since you have no way to know if what’s in his head is what’s in the email.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            I love the idea of actually having a template that basically says “other people are not mind readers” (in politer language).

      2. Rage*

        At my previous employer, we got a new CEO. He used voice-to-text on his commute back from a nearby town where he was teaching a class at the local college. He’d been on a little over a month at this point, so we were still feeling each other out. We were working on an all-hands retreat, and he had told me to just order lunch from whoever my favorite caterer was. I responded, “OK. Lunch at noon?” Then my phone rang and I got on a call with a board member. His response came back “Jerk.” I saw it, was confused, but was concentrating on the call.

        Apparently he tried to V2T “Sure” and it autocorrected to “Jerk” and he hit send. He was mortified, but I found the whole thing hysterical. So much so, that when he asked what I had ordered for lunch, with a completely straight face, I said “Jerk chicken.”

        1. Kelly L.*

          I’ve seen some hilarious voice-to-text-while-driving fails online. It’ll pick up the driver cussing at other drivers, or singing along with the radio.

        2. Moonlight Elantra*

          A few weeks back, my husband went bowling with his coworkers. He texted me a picture of his (really good for him) score and I typed Impressive! and juuuuuust as I was about to hit send, it auto corrected to I’m pregnant! Thankfully I caught it in time, but good god, Samsung, that should NOT be an autocorrect option!

        3. Aitch Arr*

          My company’s name has the same letters as a internet acronym.

          When a colleague texted me and I used my car’s text-to-voice assistant feature, the voice assistant spelled out the words of the internet acronym instead of just reciting the actual letters. Pretend my company is called LOL, which stands for Laughlin, O’Leary, and Lawrence*.

          The voice assistant made it sound like my colleague was texting “we just got approved for 15 interns. That’s a Laughing Out Loud record!”

          * – not my company’s real name

    3. Jdc*

      I had to leave a temp to perm job on day two because I was stuck in a small office with the owner who screamed into his phone all day. This was also when Siri had just become a thing so it was even less accurate. All day “Siri tell John…no Siri, delete, tell John”. Two days of migraines and I just knew i couldn’t do it.

      1. Leslie Knope*

        Siri does not like my voice for some reason. I’ve tried re-calibrating it and it hasn’t worked. I’ll try to dictate a text, “Running a few minutes late, stuck in traffic” and it won’t understand me. So then by the time I arrive at the meeting I’m still trying to get Siri to text the correct message and the whole thing is moot. Luckily no one else is in the car with me so I’m not giving anyone a headache…just myself.

        My favorite was “Hey, Siri, remind me to call Dmitri.” It responded with, “Ok, I’ll remind you to call them bean tree.”

        1. Kyrielle*

          My kid likes using text-to-speech rather than typing even though he’s not driving (he’s also not coming out of the bedroom to ask), and I get such hilarious things as “I’d like another geez the as a Zamboni” (he wanted another cheese stick and some bologna – but I did have him look up Zamboni so now he knows what that is!).

          1. Zephy*

            I had a Pebble Time Round smartwatch before the company folded and sold all their IP to Fitbit. Sometimes the voice-to-text feature worked, and sometimes it really, really didn’t.

          2. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

            I once sent a voice-text to my sister to alert her that my dog, Barty, was crated in the living room. What she got on her end was “Party is crowded in the living room.”

        2. emmelemm*

          My partner likes to use Siri in the car, but he is a MUMBLER. He doesn’t believe it, but he is. Most of the time I can figure out what he meant to say regardless, but every once in a while I get something incredibly puzzling.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I no longer trust voice-to-text even on social media. Not after seeing some of the drivel it’s produced. (Some of you have seen that drivel because I was a slow learner and _did_ trust it when I first started using it.)

    5. Abogado Avocado*

      OP #3, I agree with Alison’s suggestion, with one caveat: don’t ASK him to re-send unintelligible emails when he’s back at his desk, TELL him, as in: “Please send a corrected version when you’re back at your desk.” I would also recommend going individually to each member of your team (at least, those in easy reach) and asking them to respond similarly if you or someone else hasn’t sent that response.

      Every time you make ask your colleague to change, you give him an out to say no — even though it’s clear from your question that his use of voice-to-text is causing chaos. So, work around that by telling, not asking, and by enlisting all other team members you can get to in the struggle. I suspect they’re just as frustrated as you are.

      1. TootsNYC*


        Everyone, every time.
        Make this more work for him, so he has a reason to stop it.

        Every minute you guys spend figuring out the grammar of a sentence (let alone any crucial information that’s garbled) is a minute HE is stealing from you guys.

        Every one of you should write back, “I see this is voice-to-text. Can you resend later when you’ve had a chance to correct it?”

        Use reply-to-all, so everyone knows that this email isn’t to be trust. And then you can all of you reply-all back and say, “Yes, that would be helpful. Thanks!” and “Good idea–voice-to-text can be so hard to read” and “yeah, I’m worried something will have come out wrong, like the $x problem.”

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      Voice-to-text software is in the dog-walking-on-its-hind-legs stage: one the one hand it is impressive, but on the other hand it doesn’t actually do it very well. People who use it seem to think it is a lot better than it really is. My boss uses it all the time. I encourage him to let me proof read anything important before it goes out the door.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I’ve only tried it for simple things like “text Grant that I’m on my way.” But even then it has about a 70% success rate.

  2. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

    OP1, something I’ve seen work before would be to use Alison’s ‘glad to meet you’ script but instead of having your hands behind your back put one over you heart (first closed) and a little head nod. That with a friendly smile and a warm tone works wonders!

    1. MK*

      Eh, this would come off really weird where I am from, and gimmicky, like you hiving people the Vulcan salute (unless the person looks like they are from not-the-dominant culture, then they would assume it’s a different custom).

      Also, and I guess this may be culture-dependent, I think Alison is displaying the social consequences of refusing to shake hands. In my country, it will be a case of most people finding it very weird. Not rude especially, but it is what people will remember you for, and it would probably get the meeting off in an awkward way for others to have to take back the hand they offered in friendship and respect.

      And, no, I doubt most people will jumb to religious reasons. Most people will correctly guess you are put off by touching them. And it is your right to not do that, but it will come across as off, even to people who will realise it’s not personal and they shouldn’t be offended.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This may be a cultural difference if you’re not in the U.S. It’s not uncommon in the U.S. to be aware there are people who don’t shake for religious reasons (although there may be regional exceptions to that).

        1. MK*

          I am aware that this religious restriction exists, but I still don’t think it would be the first thing to come to my mind.

          1. Liddy*

            I don’t think that religious restriction would be the first thing to come to mind for most Americans either. As far as religious restrictions are concerned, this is not a common one at all. I think most Americans will assume that OP is a germaphobe and, like you said, it will be the thing that people remember OP for.

            1. Veronica Mars*

              Agreed – and I’ve lived in the deep south and New England.

              That said, the other day we had an immunocompromised person come in for a meeting, and the boss walked in and shook his hand and then said “Oh, I’m going to sit over there because I’m deathly ill” (and man, he looked it). The poor person had to leave the room to wash his hands and the sick guy looked pretty embarrassed for himself, so maybe he learned his lesson? I just do not for the life of me understand why someone would think people would rather shake their hands than not get sick? But I understand why OP doesn’t want to hand shake.

              1. Arya Snark*

                I’ve had to go a workshop with a cold where we all sit around a small table for two days straight. Not going wasn’t really an option unless I was deathly ill so I made it work. I brought my own hand sanitizer and used it frequently (after every sniffle/sneeze/hack). The workshop host/leader served me everything (drinks/snacks/lunch) so I wasn’t touching anything communal. No one else got sick – thank goodness!

            2. kittymommy*

              Same. I don’t think religious reasons would be the first thing that would come to mind. Germaphobe and/or weird quirk (whether right or wrong)would be the first, by a long shot.

            3. JessaB*

              The first thing I would think of is arthritis or carpal tunnel and “no shaking hands owwwww” unless I knew for sure there was a religious thing

              1. TomorrowTheWorld*

                It’s one of two advantages to having any form of arthritis affecting your hands/arms (mine is rheumatoid). The other advantage is not having to dress “business” anything because I can’t do buttons or tie shoelaces. Ha! (ow)

            4. Another Academic Librarian*

              I think this is very location dependent. I am in a major metropolitan area in the NE/Mid-Atlantic, and not shaking hands for religious reasons is very common here. I am actually pretty surprised that to hear that other people have not encountered this.

              1. These Old Wings*

                I also live in a major metropolitan area in the NE/Mid-Atlantic and have never come across this?

              2. doreen*

                Although it’s very common in my location ( NYC) , I’m not surprised that other people haven’t encountered it at all – what’s common in a major metropolitan area in the NE/Mid-Atlantic region is not necessarily common even in a small town in the same region.

                1. Nena*

                  I’m surprised too. All these people have never encountered an orthodox Jew or Muslim who practice their faith in this way?

                2. Nena*

                  I just saw you said you were NOT surprised. I guess I am. Surely people are aware of this religious practice in other faith communities?

                3. Extroverted Bean Counter*

                  @Nena – I’ve only ever heard of it from this site.

                  I live in Chicagoland, and no, I have never (to my knowledge) encountered someone who didn’t shake hands for religious reasons. Perhaps I have – I have met many Muslim and Jewish people in my life, but not in hand-shaking scenarios where their level of orthodoxy would be of note.

                  For folk not personally acquainted with people of different faiths, the nuances of different practices aren’t really that well known. There’s the “big” things, Jewish and Muslim people not eating pork*, or Hindu people not eating beef, and maybe knowing that in some temples the men and women are separated, but not shaking hands is not a well known practice at all.

                  *and even then, that’s not a rule across the board!

                4. MK*

                  @Nena, it’s not that someone might have never met someone who doesn’t shake hands for religious reasons or at least have heard of the practise; it’s that the same person probably meets a germophobe every other week, so this comes to mind first.

                5. doreen*

                  @Nena – there are plenty of places in the US where people wouldn’t necessarily ever encounter Orthodox Jews or Muslims who don’t shake hands for religious reasons ( and I believe in both cases, it’s typically opposite gender handshaking that doesn’t happen). There are places where less than 5% of the population follows all non-Christian religions combined – and the percentage who won’t shake hands is going to be lower.

                6. Hellow Sweetie!*

                  @Extroverted Bean Counter
                  There’s a pretty substantial orthodox Jewish community in Chicago! I have hasidic jewish (strictly follow the religious laws) family members who lived in Chicago for over a decade and they were part of a close knit community there. My religious cousins avoid touching members of the opposite sex.
                  (I do not adhere to their practices myself, I’m a secular Jew)

              3. Arya Snark*

                I’ve experienced it too while living in NY (state, not city, but close to an orthodox religious community).

              4. Jules the 3rd*

                I have run across an explicit refusal to shake hands a few times in the US South, mid-sized city with diverse population. It was always a non-white man (I am female), and politely done.

                Thinking about introductions over the last five years or so – hand shaking seems to have faded as the default introduction reaction. I think we mostly defaulted to a polite head nod and smile. White men do still seem to put out hands for a shake, maybe half the time, but the last three women I met, definitely just the head nod. The polite refusals were 5+ years ago.

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  To be clear: I did not ask at the time, but the reason ‘non-white man’ seems relevant was that two of the men were clearly middle eastern, and the third was a black man from Africa. I assumed they were all Muslim and this was a religious requirement.

            5. TootsNYC*

              I once went to introduce myself and shake hands with a department head whom I hadn’t met yet at my new job. (“Hi, X, we haven’t met yet, I’m Toots”)

              He said, “I don’t shake hands because of germs, and I know who you are.”

              The not-shaking-hands thing was a little off-putting, but the tone and the “I know who you are” was REALLY off-putting. I kept telling myself not to be insulted because of his germophobia. But if he’d said anything else, it wouldn’t have been so harsh.

              So I think you could raise your right hand up just a bit (basically bend it up at the elbow) in a little salute or wave, and say, “I’m not a hand-shaker, but I’m glad to meet you, .
              And smile and be friendly.

              People will remember the non-hand-shake, but they’ll also remember the friendliness.

            6. SimplyTheBest*

              I never understand this line of thinking. There are very few people I know that I can only remember one thing about them. I find it much more likely people will remember OP is a germaphobe AND whatever else they know about her.

          2. Archaeopteryx*

            Agreed, I live in a pretty metropolitan West Coast city and this website is the only place I’ve heard of a religious restriction on shaking hands. I think most people would respond respectfully either way, but it would come across as odd or standoffish too many.

        2. Picard*

          In my part of the world (US, southern bible belt) I can guarantee that no one is going to think religious reasons first. They will assuredly think germaphobe and probably not really in a kind way.

          I can’t think of anyway you can do this (again in my part of the world) were its NOT going to come across as odd and a bit rude.


          1. Falling Diphthong*

            When W Bush left office, his advice to the incoming Obama was 1) People need to believe in their president 2) Carry and use lots of hand sanitizer.

            I agree that if you can’t plead arthritis, there are some regions/contexts/fields where refusing to shake hands is going to mark you as odd, in an off-putting manner. “I think you’re germy” is not a comfortable message to deliver, even when it is true and well-supported by visible evidence. Depending on how much of your job is meet and greet, this might matter a little or a lot.

            1. Zennish*

              Yep, I have pretty much the same issue as the OP, and I’ve learned to just shake the hand, then break out the pocket hand sanitizer at the first discreet opportunity.

          2. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

            I’m in a VERY cosmopolitan part of the UK, and yes, I’m afraid I can’t think of any way this would not come across as ‘weird’ and/or rude. The person you were refusing to shake hands WITH would probably think you thought there was something wrong with them (e.g. that they were dirty / that you were prejudiced against them in some way). I’m not saying I would think that, but many would.

          3. Beckie*

            I’m on the west coast of the US, and I think it’s becoming more common to not shake hands in the midst of cold/flu season. Half my office has been sick lately, and so no one has blinked when I’ve not shaken hands.

          4. Clisby*

            No, you can’t guarantee that. I’m from the Deep South and have lived here all but about 9 of my 66 years. A religious prohibition is absolutely the first thing I would think of if a person of the opposite sex simply said “I don’t shake hands.” (I’m not aware of any religious prohibitions on shaking hands with people of the same sex, so if it happened under those circumstances, I would think it was some reason other than religion.)

        3. Yorick*

          I don’t think I heard of a religious objection to handshakes until I read it on this blog, so I don’t think we can assume people in the US would think it was for religious reasons.

        4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Everyone who refused a handshake on religious reasons state that in my experience. Then they tend to do something to express a greeting that never involved clasping their hands behind their back.

          Nods and bows typically.

          I’ve ran across the folks who cannot shake women’s hands but not so much anyone’s hands though.

      2. CBM*

        I am retired, so only interact with people closely at limited occasions. I’ve found that sort-of waving my hands up, past/by my nose/face, with “I’m sorry, I may have a cold” works for nearly everyone. I have a compromised immune system, and I get flu shots, and DON”t have a cold nearly as often as when my spouse still worked with a lot of people. So I’m not eager to touch anyone else, like the sweet Girl Scout cookie-sellers who have come by recently.

      3. Quickbeam*

        I am not really a germ phobe but have an immune compromised family member. I am frequently meeting clients at work and hand shaking is unavoidable in my industry. I carry a very small bottle of hand sanitizer in my pocket and discreetly gel my hands afterwards.

      4. OP#1*

        MK, the point of the question was to *avoid* coming across as a refusal–or if that’s even possible. Thanks!

      5. LabTechNoMore*

        [i]Eh, this would come off really weird where I am from, and gimmicky, like you hiving people the Vulcan salute [/i]

        The Vulcan salute may actually be well-received depending on your audience. (Though then you’d need to brush up on your Trekkie trivia to maintain the facade.)

    2. Mami21*

      I touch my hands together and do a slight nod of my head, together with a bright smile. It seems to be a natural way to indicate ‘I acknowledge and return your greeting!’ in a way that feels more warm then literally holding your hands out of their reach.

      1. Willis*

        A small wave and a warm, “good to see you!” or “nice to meet you” could work too. I do that sometimes although I have no aversion to handshakes. The key with some of these alternatives is to do them before the other person has a chance to stick their hand out, at which point then it probably makes more sense to use the script.

        Someone said that in a meeting I was in a while ago, multiple times as various people arrived. I just assumed there was some physical reason they preferred not to shake…it didn’t seem rude at all, and honestly I don’t even remember who the person was that did it.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        This seems to be becoming the default in my area, though my experience of it varies by gender and ethnicity.

    3. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      In my (very diverse) country this would be unexpected and probably considered odd.

    4. Renata Ricotta*

      In my large US legal market, if the other person beats me to me outstretching my hand with a clear non-handshake greeting like a wave or a hand to the heart and nod, I wouldn’t think anything of it. If I already had my hand out and someone left me hanging, I would feel weird about it unless it came with an “I’m sick” explanation or similar.

      1. BethDH*

        Yes, how weird it would seem depends a lot on how quick on the greeting you can be. If you start the “nice to meet you” exchange and accompany it with a nod and a smile, I wouldn’t even notice the lack of handshake.
        In other cases, saying something early in the exchange (so the outstretched hand isn’t just left hanging) is key. I like the “I may be getting a cold” phrasing, but honestly I wouldn’t think anything of it if you said you don’t shake hands as long as the rest of your greeting is warm and direct. Eye contact and using their name will be more important.
        Depending on your field, you might also see whether carrying something helps. I often have a laptop or notebook in one hand and a cup of tea in the other at conferences, and I find that a lot of people automatically skip the handshake then anyway.
        Overall, though, how “memorable” this makes you depends on how smoothly you can respond and move on.

      2. Washi*

        Yeah, I think this goes more smoothly if you can avoid leaving the other person hanging with an enthusiastically outstretched hand. That’s why I appreciate the wave, it gives me something to do with my retracted hand!

        1. Washi*

          Ooh I just realized that another thing I unconsciously have been doing is waving and starting the introductions when I’m still too far away to shake hands (not shouting across the room, but maybe when I’m still ~4 feet away) and then usually we’re finished with the introduction part of the conversation by the time I’m close enough for us to touch.

          I actually don’t mind handshaking, but I work in social services with a really diverse population where it’s pretty hit or miss whether people want to shake hands for a variety of reasons. To me what can make things awkward is not the avoiding handshakes part, but the misreading each others signals part, so I try to give a lot of cues that I’m not going to initiate handshakes.

        2. CookieWookiee*

          I find that staying JUST outside of the handshake bubble (where you’d each need at least a step for your hands to meet) saying still, keeping my hands at my sides, then nodding, smiling, and saying hellonicetomeetyou as I’m being introduced, usually suffices.

        3. Sharikacat*

          Howie Mandel is well-known for his germophobia. Back when he was doing things like celebrity poker, he was wearing latex gloves. Obviously, this isn’t something you could get by doing at work. But he found a compromise that worked for him: the fist bump. That was really important to his hosting job on Deal or No Deal, since you really couldn’t have a host not physically greet a contestant somehow. It feels like a fun little gimmick if you don’t know about the germophobia, and if people do find out about it, it really isn’t the end of the world. At least it then shows you’re making a genuine effort.

    5. Avasarala*

      This is why I love the bow! Hands stiffly by your side for men, overlapped in front of you for women. Keep your back straight and bow down, eyes on your shoes (not on the person!!). 15 degrees for greeting your elderly neighbor in the morning, 30-45 degrees for seeing off clients in the elevator, 90 degrees for apologizing for your crimes. No touching involved!

      1. Sally*

        Why the gendered difference in hand placement?

        Whenever I see group photos, I’ve noticed that women and men tend to hold their hands as you describe, and the hand clasp has always struck me as making the person look insecure, like they couldn’t figure out what to do with their hands. Maybe that’s because of a subconscious bias on my part (cis, queer, white woman) that says men are implicitly more sure of themselves. In any case, it would make me not want to give that impression of myself, in case others had the same feeling about it.

        1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

          I’m curious myself. My first default thought was strange ideas of modesty, but on reflection I suspect the hand-placement-while-bowing difference may be to do with how men and women often stand. In my experience, anyway, men tend to stand with their legs further apart, so crossing your hands in front of you would pull your shoulders in and generally be uncomfortable. Whereas if you were standing with your feet together you might find balancing harder if bowing with your hands out by your side.

          This is entirely speculative, though!

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I wonder if it could have been a way of avoiding wardrobe malfunction in traditional women’s garb? I don’t know anything about how kimonos are put on, but I wonder if there was some sort of gap potential?

            1. oops I guess*

              Could be leftover vestige of the curtsy which I think did require holding the garments in front.

            2. Chinookwind*

              Having worn a kimono, I can totally see the hand in front as a way to keep the kimono closed ( I learned the hard way to do that when exiting a car).

              As for men, I am thinking it may have originally have to do with controlling a sword or other weapon slung at the hip so it doesn’t hit someone behind you.

        2. Temperance*

          I don’t doubt your take, but I think the bowing this is so you don’t give folks a full view of your bra while bending. This may be a big chest problem.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            But crossing your hands would actually make it more likely to compress your chest, cause a neckline gap, and make a problem.

            My first guess is a military reason for the men’s hand position, keeping them in ‘pull the sword’ readiness. The women’s position makes no sense to me at all, unless it comes from a tradition where the women are usually holding something to hand to a guest.

          2. Chinookwind*

            I can’t talk about other clothes, but Japanese kimono definitely don’t allow for an unintentional gap from above. My triple D’s had to be firmly tied in place for the outfit to fit properly in both casual and formal versions (the woman dressing me said I had the figure of a woman with many young children and bound me up tight in the traditional method). For the first time in my life, I proper posture and a sudden understanding of why Japanese women move they way they do.

        3. Avasarala*

          That’s a good question! I’m not sure exactly, but that’s how it is. You’ll see in photos as well, men have their hands by their side, or if sitting, in fists on top of their knees; women have the same overlapped in front look.

          I’m sure you could read/assign a meaning to it, but I don’t know how to separate it from existing bias, as you said. Is overlapping hands in front insecure/weak as a gesture, or because women do it? I don’t think it’s always perceived that way, as you do see some men do it sometimes. I’ll post a link example, but sometimes you see “sorry for the construction” signs of men/androgynous animals with their hands in front (or by their side).

          My armchair theory is that it has less to do with anything innately gendered, and more to do with the extensive training on how to sit/stand/etc. “correctly”. Both men and women clasp their hands in front or behind their backs when listening to a speech, for example!

    6. old curmudgeon*

      I know someone who also preferred not to shake hands, and she’d hold up an elbow to “bump elbows” as an alternative. She does so with a big welcoming smile, making it clear that she’s not opposed to meeting, just to touching hands. It seems to work well for her.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I agree. It seems as though would stand out quite a bit in a business context. I don’t think I’ve ever come across it before. If someone did that, I likely wouldn’t know I’m supposed to bump elbows and I’d just be standing there wondering what they’re doing.

          1. old curmudgeon*

            When meeting someone who was unfamiliar with the greeting, my friend would augment her big smile with a cheery comment of “elbow bump!” which usually sufficed. If someone seemed particularly insistent (or clueless) about wanting to shake hands, she’d add “sorry, immuno-suppressed, doc says no handshakes.”

            It definitely depends on an organization’s culture, though. The context in which I met this friend was when we were both volunteering for a non-profit that worked hard to be diverse, welcoming and what the kids these days call “woke.” In that group, it was completely a non-issue, particularly since most of us knew that she was immuno-suppressed and were respectful of that.

            I can completely see that in a more staid, buttoned-down, corporate culture, a raised elbow and a greeting of “Elbow bump!” would more likely raise eyebrows than elbows. Although between a bad flu season plus coronavirus, who knows, HR departments may start promoting elbow-bumps as healthier greetings than handshakes.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This would seem at odds with the modern rule to sneeze into your elbow, not your hand.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Not really. The disease spread issue, as I understand it, mostly has to do with the fact that people routinely touch their faces (rub eyes, wipe mouth, etc) after having touched a germ-bearing surface. You don’t rub your elbow on your face that often (presumably).

          1. B**** in the corner of the poster*

            I lived in Tanzania, and an elbow bump was used pretty regularly! It came in handy when my arms were full or I was sick.

            1. Leslie Knope*

              I’ve done it before when my hands were full and I didn’t have a convenient place to set the stuff down.

      2. SomebodyElse*

        I’m curious how this works out in practice. Like is there a weird awkward pause while people work out what she’s getting at? Do people try to ‘shake’ her elbow?

        Honestly, it seems way over the top to me. Shake hands, use sanitizer quietly.

        This may or may not be how I lure people to my booth during our user conference. I always have bottles of hand sanitzer out in the open. Between that, the candy, and the small garbage can I have developed the trifecta of lures :)

      3. emmelemm*

        My friend who is severely immuno-compromised was told by her doctor to do an elbow bump. She’s pretty blase about her disease in general (“I’ll either die or I won’t”), so she’ll usually fist bump or something instead. And hugs me unless I’m actively sick. :)

      4. Gumby*

        That is what my parents’ pastor did when he was immuno-compromised. It’s traditional that he stands at the door and greets congregants as they leave and everyone adopted the elbow bump (or just not shaking hands at all) pretty easily. But that was a situation where most people knew him and he only had to explain it once – it wasn’t a ‘could pop up at any moment’ thing. I assume that when he was out and about he did not use that greeting with strangers who were not already aware of his situation. But it was kind of cool in that context.

      5. Scarlet*

        I would laugh if someone wanted to do this and think it was fun and playful. I would not hold it against anyone, but that’s just me. It would certainly be memorable, that’s for sure – but I like people who don’t take things so seriously.

      6. Donkey Hotey*

        My wife (who works in Public Health) introduced me to this during the Swine Flu outbreak. They called it a “swine five” as opposed to a “high five.” Everyone working in the hospital got it (the joke, not the swine flu).

      7. Donkey Hotey*

        My wife (who works in Public Health) introduced me to this during the Swine Flu outbreak. They called it a “swine five” as opposed to a “high five.” Everyone working in the hospital got it (the joke, not the swine flu).

    7. NoviceManagerGuy*

      I’ve had somebody say to me “I’m sorry, I’m a germaphobe” to turn down a handshake and it was no big deal. I said “I have three little kids, so good thinking!” and moved on.

      Of course not everybody is me.

        1. OP#1*

          I wasn’t referring to the elbow bump, sorry that was not clear. In certain cases I can remind people that I’m germophobic, perhaps.

      1. Ellie*

        Yes – I would not be at all offended if someone said they were a germaphobe, especially if they were smiling/otherwise seemed friendly. It puts the focus back on yourself as the problem, no judgement for me. If someone just refused to shake hands that would be weird and part of me would wonder if it was my gender. A germaphobe just makes me think of Sheldon Cooper.

        1. Scarlet*

          I would, quite frankly. I’m super clean and make a point to do some of the same things as OP – with the papertowel on door knobs, constantly washing my hands and using hand sanitizer to boot. I take a lot of Emergen-C and other vitamins. Lots of stuff is going around – so I do everything I can short of being obsessive about it.

          So if someone flat out refused want to shake my hand, that would be assuming I have a bunch of germs/bacteria/whatever all over me, and that would be insulting.

          “I’m immunocompromised” or “I’m just getting over a cold”, puts the assumption on them rather than me, and is much more “polite” imo

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            You *do* have a bunch of microorganisms on you, no matter how often you wash your hands. Everyone does, even before getting into the fact that phobias aren’t rational and knowing how clean you are isn’t necessarily going to help the LW feel comfortable shaking your hand.

    8. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      Saying “I don’t shake hands” is the way to go. It says that declining to shake is not about the other party, but you. That’s important in this situation. Not making it clear that it’s a general practice can lead the other party to feel insulted.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        I think people will feel insulted either way. At least in most US culture, there’s an expectation of a handshake in the business environment (and often outside of that). It will be off putting for some to be the recipient of a handshake refusal.

        This really should be carefully considered by the OP.

        1. But There is a Me in Team*

          Yeah, it sounds like the OP is firm on this, which I respect, but understand a consequence is it will make many people (in the US) wonder what other professional norms you don’t comply with or aren’t aware of. So you just have something quirky to overcome and as other commenters have said, try and make sure that’s not one of many quirks. My best advice is if it’s a job interview, shake hands then and sanitize at first opportunity. I’ve been getting limp, Scarlett O’Hara handshakes (where they daintily place their fingers on top of your palm) from young women lately (I’m a woman) and I am just baffled. Like am I supposed to kiss your ring now? It’s very jarring and distracting.

        2. Scarlet*

          ^^ This right here. There seems to be a lot of folks on both sides of the fence. Some would take offence and remember you negatively for it (myself included), others would not care. OP needs to tread lightly, but as someone in the offence-taken-camp, I still strongly recommend against “I don’t do handshakes” or the like. An excuse will go over better.

      2. Matilda Jefferies*

        I agree, I think this is the best solution. It’s honest, it’s repeatable, and it makes it clear that this is a “you” thing and not a “them” thing. People might think it’s a little weird, but…eh, most people have a quirk or two. If this is your “thing,” then so be it.

        I would add two cautions, though. Try to make sure this is your only “thing” – most people will ignore one, but if you’re the person who won’t shake hands and also the person who wears crazy hats and can’t stop talking about why Die Hard is actually a Christmas movie, it gets to be a little much.

        Also, watch your body language – don’t put your hands behind your back! I’m not sure exactly what the answer is, but look for something that conveys “warm and friendly” rather than reserved. If you can pull off “I’m happy to see you but I just have this one little quirk,” you should be fine.

      3. Stormy Weather*

        That’s how I came across it at an interview. The man simply backed away a half step and said, “I don’t shake hands.” It was jarring, as that’s the first time someone ever said that to me. You’re on the nose with saying the non-shaking party should make it about themselves and not you.

    9. Koala dreams*

      I agree. It’s better to give your own version of the greetings and not hide your hands behind your back. You can make a little wave, or put one hand on your heart, or put two hands together in front of you and make a little bow. If people look confused, say “This is how I do greetings” or “I don’t do handshakes, this is how I prefer to greet people”. Most people will follow your lead and do the same gesture, or politely say “Oh okay”. Some rude people will insist on the handshake, so be prepared.

      As for people noticing and remembering, yeah hopefully. Next time they’ll wait for your greeting instead of putting their hand out. And isn’t that what you want?

        1. Leslie Knope*

          I agree with Koala. Having your hands behind your back may seem a little standoffish, but clasping your hands together can sometimes convey happiness or excitement. You can put your hands together in the middle of your torso and either keep them close to your body, or reach out if you feel like you REALLY can’t avoid the handshake. That position would give you more flexibility without seeming awkward.

          Good luck!

        2. old curmudgeon*

          I seem to recall that Bob Dole, whose right arm had been badly injured during WWII, used to carry a pen in his right hand in order not to be placed in the position of having to shake hands. Possibly if you can arrange to have something in your hand – a cup of coffee, a legal pad, a laptop, whatever – you could use that as a subtle dodge to a handshake. Although that would not have the effect of also communicating to the other person not to try to shake your hand the next time, which sounds like another part of your goal.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        “As for people noticing and remembering, yeah hopefully. Next time they’ll wait for your greeting instead of putting their hand out. And isn’t that what you want?”


      2. pegster*

        But saying “but it’s a pleasure to meet you” after declining to shake hands is a greeting. A greeting doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical gesture and creating a special one, to me, makes a bigger deal of it and turns it into something more awkward than just using that phrase.

    10. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      I’m not averse to handshakes, I’m just not a touchy person and I avoid handshakes when I can. Typically I just do a little wave and a smile, so everyone sees my hand isn’t going out to shake but I am still obviously greeting them. And waving is something that’s common in American culture already (unlike bowing, elbow touching, or the hand-over-heart thing), so it’s not read as oddly.

      1. Beckie*

        Agreed, I’ve been doing a little wave recently, and that’s been pretty effective at diffusing awkwardness when I don’t reach out to shake a hand.

    11. ellex42*

      Honestly, if I saw someone do this I’d find it difficult not to burst out with “Wakanda forever!” or “My liege!” some other pop culture/facetious response.

      1. Lex*

        Thank god I’m not the only one. I have a contractor who bows and in my head EVERY TIME I say “hello m’lord” because I’m an asshole in my head.

        1. ellex42*

          There are just SOOOOO many options to choose from…I’d be giggling every time. Do I dip a curtsey? Do I offer my sword?

          Outside of certain cultures, bowing is really odd or uncommon, or reserved for meeting royalty.

          1. Leslie Knope*

            I have a friend who dressed up as a cowboy for Halloween once. It’s still a running joke in our group, 5ish years later, to pretend to tip your hat at him and say “ma’am” in a fake Texas accent because that’s what he did the whole night. He had a feel alcoholic drinks that Halloween and the accent ended up sounding nothing like Matthew McConaughey…which is what I think he was going for..

    12. JJ*

      I think no matter what you do, OP, if you don’t use the sickness excuse you should assume that people will feel put off by it. Not that that’s the right response on their part, but it’s really really ingrained social behavior that you are opting out of. “I don’t shake hands” is a pretty blunt rejection of an offered social nicety, I’d try to soften it and then lay the friendliness on a little thick for the next few minutes to alleviate any impressions that you’re standoffish.

      Also, if you did shake hands I don’t think anyone would find it strange if you quickly popped on some hand sanitizer after you all sit down to the meeting (NOT right after the handshake, that would be sending an “ew, you’re gross” message that’s even worse than being perceived as standoffish).

      Consider also the capital you’re using on this, there may be instances where it’s not worth potentially offending the person whose handshake you’re refusing.

      1. Windchime*

        Honestly, I wonder where all of these potentially-offended people are. I have declined to shake hands when I’m sick, and if someone were to say to me, “I don’t shake hands, but I’m so pleased to meet you!” with a friendly smile, I seriously wouldn’t think a thing about it. The only time I would think about it is when I met them again, and it would just be to remind myself that Jane doesn’t shake hands (so don’t offer mine).

        I really think a simple explanation, along with a smile and a warm greeting, will be just fine for most people. I just don’t think too many people are going to be offended or judgy about it and, if they are, that’s just kinda too bad. They’ll get over it.

        1. Scarlet*

          I would be offended.

          I do not have germs, nor am I crawling with bacteria. I am a very clean person and do much of the avoidance behavior OP #1 does in regards to door handles and other frequently-touched objects.

          This is my behavior, for my purposes to avoid illnesses, even though I am an otherwise healthy person.

          Do I assume when meeting everyone that they are disgusting and going to give me a bunch of germs by shaking hands? No. That would be rude AF.

          I shake people’s hands then discreetly use hand sanitizer when I can, or wash my hands at my earliest convenience. If I’ve had to touch things in the interim, I’ll spray them down with Lysol or another disinfectant spray.

          My point is, I do not have “germs”. I’m very adamant about that. I go through quite a bit to ensure that bacteria (excluding airborne bacteria, nothing really to be done about that) is not part of my life.

          “I don’t shake hands” puts the assumption on the receiver that they are carrying germs or WHATEVER that could possibly be given to OP if hands were shook. That’s insulting on its own, but more so considering all I (and many many other people) go through to eliminate germs from our lives. I would be put off and it would reflect negatively on the person. Although I wouldn’t, I can certainly understand why some people would insist on shaking hands if this is who they are perceiving it.

          If OP does not want to shake hands, well that’s certainly his prerogative, even if I would not make the same choice. I’ve said before in some above comments, I strongly recommend an excuse.

          “I’m immunocompromised” or “I’m just getting over a cold” and similar excuses are perfectly acceptable, since the “blame” for the action rests on OP, not the receiver.

          So for you to say “that’s just kinda too bad. They’ll get over it”, well ok maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s a low level admin who won’t affect your career or a vendor that wasn’t going to buy your product anyway. But maybe it’ll be your interviewer or a hot customer or even the CEO. Do you want to take that chance and say “oh well, they’ll get over it?” Better safe than sorry when the solution is an excuse imo.

    13. Rainy*

      I am in the US, and I say “oh I don’t really shake hands, but I do bump elbows!” and put my elbow out, then bump my (clothed) elbow with their (clothed) elbow if they offer an elbow. If people seem taken aback, I say breezily “when I stopped shaking hands, I stopped getting colds!”

      I’ve only had a couple of people really push back on it, but I am the boss of my hand and whether I touch other people with it.

  3. Karli*

    OP1, I often say along the lines of what Alison suggests – usually “Oh I actually don’t shake hands, but it’s lovely to meet you”, or similar. It’s never been a problem.

    1. Sleve McDichael*

      I think ‘I don’t shake hands’ or ‘I can’t shake hands’ is in my opinion much politer than ‘I don’t like to shake hands’. Somehow the ‘like to’ just rubs me the wrong way, and I’d be offended by that. Your script I’d be fine with Karli, I’d barely notice. I don’t what it is but the suggested script immediately got my back up, like it was personal somehow?

      1. Goldfinch*

        When I lived with a severely immunosuppressed person, I used “can’t” instead of “don’t” and only gave more info if it was requested. It generally went over pretty well.

    2. Viette*

      This script is perfect in its simplicity and blandness (in a good way). I especially like that there’s no apology in it.

      You can sell quite a lot of things with a warmth of tone and a sense of universality! If the OP is good at being friendly and at implying that she doesn’t shake hands with anyone at all, and not just the one person in front of her right now, she should be fine. And I’m sure there are people who will be insulted by not getting their hand shaken, but that’s not necessarily important to the OP. It’s like if someone offers you food and you say, “oh, no thank you, I don’t eat [dairy/spicy food/etc].” Some people will get all huffy about it, but what are you going to do, eat something you hate just to placate them?

    3. Smithy*

      While I agree with this, I would also encourage the OP to be diligent with this practice across gender.

      I worked for a while in a country where this practice was religious but with a religious split (men would shake men’s hands, but not women). Totally get the religious practice, but it was also a country where there were a lot of other misogynist attitudes in the workplace. So you wouldn’t get a hand shake and while hand shaking/back slapping with men, the only woman is asked to get coffee.

      So if this is a regular practice you look to adopt, I encourage being aware of if/when you do make an exception. Even if it’s seniority driven for exceptions, it can read that you never shake a woman’s hand – except very rarely but are seen shaking men’s hands more frequently.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Dunno if this might help, but I have arthritis and any kind of firm hand grasp is going to hurt me a LOT so I have to avoid them. While going to interviews recently I’ve taken to doing a slight bow in return to extended hands for handshakes.

        Pretty much most of the time people just accept it and move on. I’ve only had to respond to one guy who outright said “why you bowing? You’re a woman!” to which I said I had ‘hand issues’.

        I just like having a method that doesn’t require me to explain my medical issues to strangers. Maybe it’ll work?

    4. Kipo*

      Hand shakes are funny.

      I’ve had several, always men, get pretty aggressive when I dared to offer my left hand up (think right hand is injured somehow) for a shake. I’ve also been part of interview panels where the weak shake is commented on mercilessly.
      It seems that with shaking its either do it perfectly or not at all.

      1. JustaTech*

        The would-be hand-shakers who really get me are the people who want to shake my hand while I am in the lab wearing gloves! Bright purple gloves, too, not something you could mistake for human skin tone.
        Some times it’s people who are also wearing gloves (ehh..) but more than once it has been a person who is bare-handed reaching for my gloved hand. I just step away and do a little wave at shoulder height and continue the introduction, but part of me just wants to scream “I’m working with blood!”.

        1. Close Bracket*

          That just happened to me. In my case, the gloves are to protect the hardware from me, not me from the hardware. I spent half a second contemplating the risk to the hardware from getting this guy’s hand print on my glove (low, very low) and went ahead and shook. I should probably have taken my glove off or declined the shake, though.

    5. Another germaphobe*

      I have mild OCD and hate shaking hands. In more social professional settings (conference happy hours, etc) I find I’m able to avoid 75% of handshakes by having my hands full with a drink and a plate of food. This is my front line of defense, because usually people will see you’re juggling a lot of things and realize you don’t have a free hand to begin with. The “I’m getting over a cold” line works great at conferences or social events where nobody will really know that you have, in fact, been perfectly healthy.

      I’ve found “I’m not a hand-shaker, but it’s great to meet you!” paired with a smile and a wave and an immediate redirect question to ask them something about themselves works nicely. The question puts the focus back on them instead of letting the “we’re not shaking hands!” linger.

      I give in to the handshake if it’s in a setting like a one on one meeting with someone important, like a job interview. To me it’s not worth risking the awkwardness in those situations.

      1. OP#1*

        Another germophobe: Sometimes people will be on the opposite side of a large conference room table and still insist on standing up and leaning across the table to shake hands!

        Thanks for letting me know you’ve successfully pulled off an avoidance technique.

  4. Blarg*

    #1: I really admire you being clear in your own boundaries in your request for advice. I don’t have anything brilliant beyond what Allison said — just wanted to give you kudos for a well written request.

    #3: Maybe try to level set the urgency? Like actually have a conversation where you say, “when I send you an email, it isn’t so urgent that it requires an immediate response. I hope you aren’t rushing to reply on my behalf. If I ever need something rapidly, I will call you so we can discuss it. You can take your time to read my emails and reply when you’re able to focus and hopefully that saves us all time and confusion in the long run.”

    1. OP#3*

      #3 here – I agree, that level of urgency is something that is clearly not set at the right level. Our work is not the kind where emails waiting a few hours or even often days is a big deal. I often use email for stuff that can wait and texts/calls for stuff I need to hear back on today, but I don’t know if I’ve ever communicated that to co-lead. I should do that.

      1. Elaine Benes*

        It wouldn’t help you with the group emails, but you could try to set a mental block around his commute times- don’t send any new emails just before/during those times, or if you need an answer from him, just call. It’s sort of more work for you but maybe less aggravating?
        Unless he’s just piling up the day’s emails to respond to once he gets in the car :( You could try suggesting that if he wants to respond to things while he’s in the car, he should just call instead of the type-to-text to save time?

        1. OP#3*

          Yah it doesn’t seem to matter when the emails are sent, as it seems to be more of a piling up emails getting responded to as he’s driving home.

      2. Blarg*

        If it would be well received, you can also mention safety — because if he’s doing this more than once per commute, he’s looking at his phone while driving, even if it is less often than were he typing instead of dictating. And presumably you’d like to keep him safe and out of the hospital or jail.

        If the commute is a quiet brainstorm time for him that he’s afraid to lose, perhaps suggesting he either record dictation to be transcribed (students need work!) or that he speech-to-text to notes so he can review it later without his colleagues having to attempt to interpret.

        Lastly, consider level setting the whole team around his garbled emails. Let them know that if there’s anything unclear in an email they should assume everything in the email is potentially erroneous, to avoid the “opposite of what he meant” issues. Set an appropriate sense of urgency. Depending on team dynamics, perhaps take the lead on replying all to group emails requesting clarification of the whole email.

        He should be responsible for the extra time it takes the team to parse his intent, not you or other colleagues.

        1. OP#3*

          Yah I know others have tried to talk to him about his email while driving/texting while driving/etc. And he doesn’t think it impacts his ability to drive safely, so I’m hesitant to get involved with that. Though I agree, its not safe and I don’t want him to get injured/injure someone else because of an email.

          Figuring out a way to keep putting the work of clearing all this up back on him makes the most sense. As a person who mostly doesn’t do email after work, this might force me to keep a closer eye on my email in the evenings (as it appears he commutes a bit later in the day then me usually), which I’m not a huge fan of, but it might help.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            He doesn’t think *texting while driving* impacts his ability to drive safely? Like, not looking at the road?!

            Yeah, no. Escalate to his supervisor. Get in touch with his organization’s legal counsel and let them know what a huge liability he is. Maybe they’ll be able to scare him out of it.

            1. MayLou*

              In the UK it’s illegal to text while driving (although of course people still do), is this also the case in the USA? Interestingly I think the law is mostly enforced by a shift in attitudes rather than actual enforcement, perhaps because having a law makes it clear it’s serious and dangerous.

              1. fposte*

                It’s state by state in the U.S., but all states but two prohibit texting while driving; twenty-some states ban handheld phone use of any kind all driving.

          2. Bee*

            I’m really stuck on the fact that he doesn’t see a problem with reading emails he’s received while driving but somehow DOES see that it’s unsafe to read over the ones that he’s written, he has somehow configured this to be both wildly dangerous AND inconvenient to everyone else but him.

    2. OP#1*

      Blarg, thanks for your remarks. I tried not to come across as a nut case! I just wanted to avoid an answer along the lines of “You should seek therapy.”

      A few years ago, I caught the flu (the actual seasonal flu, not a cold) despite having had the flu shot in the fall. I was down with a fever of 103, and I gave it to my husband, who ended up in the ER (he was tested there and had both strains, so I assume I did too!) I’m not saying it came from a handshake, but this time of year I am especially vigilant.

      1. Shad*

        Would you be willing to shake hands outside of flu season (barring obvious illness)? I know the church I grew up in always asked that we not shake when we did the “peace be with you”/“also with you” thing during flu season to prevent the spread of disease, so it’s possible a seasonal approach would read better than a more general one.

        1. OP#1*

          Not really, because colds are a year-long thing. But during flu season perhaps I could bring that up if someone seems put off by it?

      2. ...*

        I dont think you need to utilize all these strategies that people are coming up with like bowing or putting your hand on your heart? If you just casually said “bit of a germaphobe but very nice to meet you!” while smiling I think it would be more normal than coming up with this other protocol. Saying you’re a bit of a germaphobe is familar and something people understand. Whereas someone putting their hand over their heart and curtsy-ing would just have me scratching my head. So would the elbow bump thing! It would come off as really “kooky” and you’d be “that person who tried to elbow bump me in a business meeting”.

    3. foolofgrace*

      “when I send you an email, it isn’t so urgent …” This is a pretty long say, and it doesn’t take into account times when it actually is important to get a response. If you go this route you should be prepared to state, in person or in email, very clearly, that the request actually *is* time-sensitive.

  5. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    OP5 – Before you go to your employer, you would also want to consider whether you’ll be doing this recording work during your normal work day. Would you be willing to not be paid your normal hourly rate during that time or take PTO to complete these tasks? You’d want to make sure if you’re charging them for it differently than your normal salary that you’re not “double-dipping”.

    1. designbot*

      Exactly. One way to split the difference might be to say that your time is already covered but your typical usage fee is $x.

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          Do you have a talent agent? This sort of negotiation is exactly what they are there for. If your day job employer asks, you can just give them your agent’s contact info and let them know that your agent handles the business/contract end.

          1. Hey Nonnie*

            ETA: this has the added benefit of clearly communicating that you are a VO professional, you have industry-standard expectations around that, and they should treat you like one too.

            You at least need to clearly discuss and agree to expectations around usage / buyout. You don’t want to end up with a permanent product conflict and not have gotten compensated for how that impacts your future VO career / earnings. Usage is a much bigger deal than the day rate.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            This also gives some cover for why this isn’t simply part of the regular job, since presumably you have contractual obligations with your agent for this sort of work.

    2. JustaTech*

      Not only make sure everything is *super* clear, but get everything in writing. At my work we needed to have some video work done and one of the guys at the plant did video work on the side, so he offered to do it, but no one ever clarified how it was going to work and he expected to be paid his standard video work rate, and his bosses were like “nope, during working hours, no extra pay” and it was a freaking nightmare.

      Especially if you’re using your own equipment, be very careful to get everything in writing.

  6. Person from the Resume*

    I don’t know LW#5. I think if they ask you to do this during the course of a regular day where you would be performing normal duties for them if you weren’t doing the voice over work then you shouldn’t expect to be paid like it’s your second job.

    Not that you can’t try what Alison suggests, but I’m betting they are not expecting to pay you your side job fee for it. And if you do do the job during a workday and they pay you for both jobs that’s double dipping.

    1. Lilyp*

      Allison addressed the double-dipping part, but I still think you probably shouldn’t ask. Unless there’s exceptional circumstances — maybe the voiceover work is exceptionally more strenuous and/or valuable that your normal position/salary or you’d need to do it evenings/weekends on top of your normal workload or you really want to discourage them from asking or something, I think it would come across as sort of stingy or weird. I know it’s a cliche that this phrase gets used in terrible ways but it really would strike me as “not being a team player”. Assuming it’s something you could do during normal work hours without clobbering your workload and it doesn’t usually pay like 10x your hourly salary or anything….why wouldn’t you just do it as a favor to build goodwill with another department and position yourself as going above and beyond? That sort of visibility could be really great for your reputation at that company.

      1. Avasarala*

        On the other hand, if they normally pay someone to do it, and OP is a professional, I think OP should do it and charge them for it. That sort of visibility could be really great for OP’s resume.

        1. Colette*

          The OP already has clients for this work, and she could add this to her resume regardless of whether she is directly paid for her or not.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Actually, no. Any creative work you do for your company as part of your job is considered work for hire and the company owns the IP, copyright, everything (unless other arrangements are made—get a contract). If they want to be dicks about it, they don’t have to credit you or allow you to use it in your portfolio at all because work for hire means you have no right to claim that work. (I mean you could still put it on your resume and talk about it but they could deny you did it and there’d be nothing written down to prove you did.)

            This happened to me when a previous employer asked me to do some writing on their website. I write professionally and said this would be good for my portfolio and they said haha nope! because “other duties as assigned.” I ended up not doing it because I make a lot more money for my ghostwriting than my hourly wage, partially to compensate for the fact that it’s uncredited.

      2. OP5*

        Just for the record – I’m perfectly happy to record anything for them anyway! This was more just a question of whether or not it would be something I could/should charge them for, as I do actually get paid significantly more for the commercial work I’ve done, I just don’t do it often enough to be able to support myself on it. But if they wouldn’t pay me the extra fee I wouldn’t tell them no!

        1. Phony Genius*

          Aren’t there usually royalties involved whenever the commercial is put on air? If so, how would you work this out with your employer?

          1. OP5*

            I guess that’s where usage comes into play – someone suggested above that I say “time is covered but for usage I charge x,” which I like. Though who knows if we’ll even wind up doing one – and I might just do it for them regardless!

            1. Hey Nonnie*

              But usage is. Is the spot running for 6 months, a year, 5 years, forever? As long as the spot is running, OP will not be allowed to do another VO gig for the same product/service. Clients take a dim view of having the same voice selling their competitor at the same time they’re selling them. Usage has a direct impact on future earnings potential, and OP needs to be compensated fairly for that loss.

              Also, clients extend usage agreements all the time, so while not technically royalties in the sense of payment for each run of the spot (it’s generally done by time frame in one or more specific markets), it IS something you can earn passive income from for a long time.

              My teacher was the Johnsonville brats guy. That spot ran for more than 30 years. Yes, he got paid the entire time, because he couldn’t do another sausage ad for the rest of his career.

        2. What’s with Today, today?*

          I’m a morning show host & News Director in radio, 18 years of experience. Businesses employees come cut spots all the time, but I don’t think I’ve met one yet that’s getting paid extra. When the business has their own person do the spot, it’s usually to avoid the talent fee I would charge.

          1. Nonprofit Nancy*

            Yeah I was thinking this. They are likely considering OP mostly because they are free (at least that’s how it works in my office). If they have to pay market rate, you run the risk that they would do a search to find out who else they can get for market rate and hire that person.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              This is almost definitely why. I don’t want to discount LW5’s skill but companies are generally going to try to cheap out whenever possible.

              If you do creative work for free, that’s a hobby. If you do creative work for free that you usually charge for, that’s charity. If you do creative work for free that you usually charge for because a for-profit company doesn’t want to pay for it, you devalue the creative work you do.

              Someone will always be willing to do creative work for free but working for free sets your value at zero and your work is worth a lot more than that.

        3. InternWrangler*

          I think there is a nuance that you initiated the conversation about it; it could almost be seen like you volunteered for it. So that makes it a little more difficult to negotiate your rate on it. Just something to consider.

    2. alienor*

      Yeah, I’ve done several voiceovers for company projects and I know other colleagues have done modeling for photo shoots, and it was done during regular work hours and covered by our regular salaries. I wouldn’t bill them because they’re already paying me, much like I don’t bill them for other things I do that are within my skill set but not necessarily my title or job description.

      1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

        My company hires freelance writers to write 99% of llama reports, and when someone in-house does one, that person gets paid freelance rates separately from their salary. But that’s an established protocol. If your workplace doesn’t already have something like that and you’re a salaried employee, then you can probably expect any work you do for them on work time using their equipment to be covered by your salary.

        However, if you’re going to record this at home using your specialized recording setup, that would give you much more of a case to be paid separately.

      2. Mary*

        It depends very much on whether the rate would be similar or not. If you’re a lawyer who charges $200 an hour and you do your voiceover work for $250, I’d probably not worry too much about the difference. If you’re a lower-paid worker making $20 an hour but you charge $80 for voiceover work, it would be outrageous for the company to get that for $20 an hour.

        1. OP5*

          I will say it’s a pretty stark difference what I can earn in a voiceover session versus what my salary would work out to – around 10x more. But like everyone else has been echoing I really don’t want it to seem like I’m trying to double dip.

          1. pegster*

            I think that if there’s a stark difference in pay, and you want that addressed, the cleanest thing would be to only do the voiceover work outside of regular work hours. Then it would be clear that you would be paid and at your voiceover rate. Doing it during the work day and then expecting some differential payment, to me, while understandable, could backfire (might not be the understanding of those taking you up on the offer).

      3. OP5*

        Yeah that’s where I was ultimately conflicted, because it’s not just “something that’s in my skillset,” it’s something that others actually pay me to do. If they asked me to model something, I wouldn’t even consider charging them for it because I don’t get paid to do it professionally elsewhere.

        1. Well Then*

          I think this is an important distinction. You’re not being asked to do your regular job duties in a different context; you’re being asked to perform a completely different service for the company. It’s just luck that you have that skill, they didn’t hire you for it and they don’t pay you for it. So to my mind, they should compensate you for this specialized work they are commissioning that is completely outside your role at the company.

          1. Hey Nonnie*

            I agree, especially considering the usage issue. Imagine having to turn down paying work from every other Llama Stable for the rest of your career because of that one spot you did for the employer you worked for 10 years ago, because they’re still running that spot, that cost them nothing.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              I can’t imagine it working that way legally if you do the VO work as an employee “other duties as assigned” and the company considers it work for hire. Work for hire means you have no rights or obligations to the content, it belongs solely to the company.

              Whether other companies in the same industry would hire LW5 for VO work is another question and that consideration depends on how many companies in OP’s industry usually hire VO actors. If it’s very, very common, I recommend LW5 tell their company to kick rocks (but more professionally).

  7. PollyQ*

    Ideally, LW#3’s colleague will agree to stop sending out unreviewed voice-to-text emails altogether, but if LW can’t get him to agree to that, she could suggest that he send the email only to her, and she can check it over for basic coherence and accuracy before it goes out to a larger group.

    1. Sami*

      Why put the work on OP? First she’d have to figure out what the colleague means, fix it all, and then send? Heck no.

      1. PollyQ*

        If LW’s going to be partly responsible for cleaning up the mess, and it sounds like she is, then avoiding the mess altogether would be an improvement. And as I said, ideally the colleague would clean up his own act, but LW doesn’t have any power to compel him to do so, and so far, he doesn’t seem to see the problem at all.

        1. OP#3*

          Yah I’m co-leads colleague and peer, and I would really prefer to avoid anything that turns me into his administrative assistant. Though it is tempting at times to just fix stuff and move on, I should really put that effort into convincing him of the larger issue, and maybe setting up some project specific boundaries/guidelines for email response times.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            This is why I think you should spend less time and effort interpreting his dictated messages. It is up to the person writing to make sure their message is as clear as possible (appreciating that this may never be 100% in real life), not for the half dozen people reading it to think “huh so maybe EGGPLANT ought to be AIR STAMP and maybe SON OF A was aimed at another driver and wasn’t intended to be part of this message”.

            I love the idea suggested above of just having a standard response “Fergus, this voice-to-text is indecipherable. Please resend when you get to your desk” and Just Not Engaging until he’s using his words properly.

            1. foolofgrace*

              “Fergus, this voice-to-text is indecipherable…”

              I really like this. It *is* indecipherable, so call it that. Softer language obviously isn’t going to work with this person.

        2. WellRed*

          Her power lies in returning the messages with an ask for clarification. Quit translating for him.

        3. Observer*

          The only way to avoid the mess is to get clarity directly from the person sending the emails. Also, if the OP ever makes a mistake in “clean up” the blame is going to fall on them rather than the person who is actually at fault. At least, this way it’s clear where the responsibility lays.

          And maybe one day the CL will mess up in a way that bites him hard enough to make him change his ways. If the OP tries to clean up for him, that won’t happen.

      2. Willis*

        Yes, Alison’s response is great cause it keeps putting the ball back in his court till he can get the email right.

        This type of stuff drives me nuts…so busy he can’t email from his desk but instead this dumb shortcut ends up being more burdensome for everyone. Same thing with folks who skim and respond to emails super fast but only address a third of the content :/ Take a little longer and do it right the first time!

    2. DataMonkey*

      I wouldn’t suggest this because it would put the burden completely on the OP while the other person doesn’t have to do any work to clean up his mess.

      Instead – I would have the conversation that Alison suggests and see if he changes his behavior. If he still doesn’t see this as a problem and keeps on creating more confusion/errors/misinterpretation with his voice-to-text method – I would seriously reconsider my collaboration with this person. I work in academia too and have collaborators at different universities so I understand how important good communication and complementary working styles are to make these collaborations work. My experience also tells me when a person won’t acquiesce to what I see as a fairly reasonable request then there are probably other issues with the collaboration. After a certain point, it is not worth my time, energy, mental health, etc. to keep on working with the person even if the science is exciting.

      1. OP#3*

        OP#3 here – I hear you loud and clear, the past few months have been really eye opening, and how this issue, and some others I did not mention, are resolved will really impact whether I work with co-lead in the future. I’m working on writing out a script to practice today and have a chat with co-lead tomorrow, fingers crossed it helps!

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Please send in an update at some point in the future! This is tricky and it would be interesting to see how it is resolved.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Oooh yes, I am interested in hearing how everything turns out. I am especially curious why this dude even feels the need to respond to emails while commuting!

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          Is email this person‘s particular bugaboo, or is this just one example of him preferring any amount of confusion/inconvenience/danger to others (danger as in dictating while driving) to even the slightest increase of effort on his part? Your description of his responses come across as though that may be his mindset.

    3. Myrin*

      Yeah, no. I mean, I get where you’re coming from, but I’m just really, really opposed to people taking on more work than they would normally have to because someone refuses to behave appropriately. In fact, I am a huge fan of forcing people to correct their own behaviour, which works very nicely with Alison’s very last script – if OP just refuses to work with his incomprehensible emails, he will have to do something about them.
      The misspelled and confusing parts will clearly come from Jerky’s email address, so it’s not like it’s going to look like OP is the one making illogical decisions or constructing hard-to-understand sentences.

    4. Temperance*

      Nah this just makes her his secretary, and will both give her extra work and take away her authority.

    5. Observer*

      Absolutely NOT. The OP needs to find a solution that puts LESS burden on them, not more! Also, while the OP doesn’t have the authority to make the co-lead stop, they should most definitely NOT be an enabler.

  8. Soylent Green*

    If they offer breakfast, please order something. I often meet candidates for breakfast if it’s a before work meeting, but don’t want to be eating if they are not and end up dying for something to eat!

    1. Eng*

      If you find that candidates aren’t eating breakfast during interviews I’d consider stopping the breakfast interviews. I would be really uncomfortable trying to eat during an interview, “american breakfast food” options might not accomodate certain diets, some people genuinely don’t eat breakfast, some people have breakfast at 6… You could eat breakfast yourself and just order tea/coffee for the actual interviews.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I just had an interview that was at noon, in the office of the company. Of course I ate before I went. Then I get there and they told me they had ordered me lunch. It was SO AWKWARD. I didn’t want to refuse because there was the food they had already paid for, but I was full and it was a sandwich I would never have picked out for myself. We all sat there, eating in silence while I hyper focused on how neatly I was eating a very sloppy sandwich, and should I eat the chips, they are so loud and slow down on the water you don’t want to ask for another. I couldn’t finish the sandwich because I was so full and they kept offering to delay starting so I could finish, and when I convinced them to start there was this half eaten sandwich just sitting in front of me the whole time. I know they thought they were being nice, but mostly they just wanted lunch themselves and just made me feel 10x more awkward. I would not want to eat again in an interview for anything.

        1. and so it goes*

          I think a lot has to do with how “formal” the interview is. When I’m having a job interview, I’ve got a notepad in front of me, I’ve got a pen, I’m taking notes, I’m referring to things. That takes both hands. I do not have a spare hand for eating. I do not have spare space in front of me for a plate. It’s awkward.

          If it’s just a casual conversation, then sure, food it is. But a job interview is stressful. I don’t eat when I’m stressed. It’s a stomach ache waiting to happen.

          Also, honestly, interviews+food just make me feel like the interviewer had to shove this interview into a food-time and so they’re doubling up by eating during the interview. I’d rather have their full attention instead of it being split between me and the pancakes.

        2. Stormy Weather*

          How odd that they ordered for you. I’ve had a first round in-person interview at Starbucks, but I ordered my own coffee.

          I once had a lunch interview where I didn’t order a salad like the other women. I sometimes wonder if that’s why I didn’t get the job.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I stand behind my decision to avoid salad and other disgusting things.

            (+1000 worthless Internet points to anyone who knows where this is from.)

        3. LJay*

          This whole thing is super weird. I’ve done lunch and dinner interviews and that’s fine. But never at the office itself, only at a restaurant. And never have they ordered for me! What if you were allergic to something in the sandwich or on a low carb diet (medically prescribed or not) or pregnant and that food made you gag (or it had deli meats or cheeses you’re not supposed to have) or any of 1000 other things that could make eating that particular sandwich not cool for you? It sounds awkward and frankly inconsiderate of them and it’s so weird I’d be concerned it was some sort of stealth screening test or something.

      2. Well Then*

        This. The mere idea of meal interviews makes me want to sink into the floor and disappear. Job interviews are already nerve-wracking, and candidates want to appear polished and concentrate on providing good answers. Why add more factors to make this interaction more complicated?

      3. Third or Nothing!*

        Oh goodness yes, it is SO HARD to find breakfast food at restaurants when you’re dairy and egg free. My only option is typically oatmeal prepared with water instead of milk, unless they happen to serve hashes or burritos. I can make those work.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I think for breakfast in particular, you’ve got to be able to let people skip eating gracefully. You’ve got the people who aren’t going to show up for an interview on an empty stomach and already ate something, the people who really don’t like eating first thing in the morning and really aren’t hungry, and the people who want to avoid eating frequently messy breakfast foods while interviewing.

      1. Millennial Lizard Person*

        +1, I am always starving in the morning, so I’d eat breakfast before I came. I would not at all be able to focus on an interview if I was halfway through a waffle!

        1. RubyJackson*

          That’s good advice anyway- eat before the interview because you don’t genuinely want to be hungry. Just nibble to be polite.

      2. Faith*

        Not to mention, some people can have digestive issues after they eat. Not to be too TMI, but within 30 minutes to an hour after I start eating my first meal of the day (whenever/whatever it is), I MUST have access to a toilet. A breakfast interview would be a nightmare for me.

    3. alienor*

      I almost certainly would order coffee or juice instead of breakfast at an interview, but I also wouldn’t mind at all if the interviewer did get a meal.

    4. Liddy*

      I really would not want to eat in front of an interviewer. Interviews are already uncomfortable enough for the candidate. Adding food to the situation would just make it even harder. I’d be worried that I’d end up with food on my chin or unintentionally show bad table manners.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        100% guaranteed I would drop food on myself, quite likely down the front of my shirt. No way would I risk anything beyond coffee

        1. ...*

          I’d totally still hire someone who spilled food on themselves though! Unless the job was like “statue” or something.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same – I would prefer to just talk about the job and not eat. Breakfast is better than lunch, because then I can get a coffee (my normal breakfast) and maybe something small and be done with it. I don’t enjoy most breakfast foods, though I could find something small like a fruit bowl, if everyone else was eating.

    5. Smithy*

      I’ve found that if at a meal meeting where there’s a bit of a power imbalance such as an interview – I’m not going to have much of an appetite. But also feel odd not ordering.

      My go-to has been to order food that doesn’t require cutting up up food or using my hands. For breakfast something like oatmeal or scrambled eggs, non-breakfast food – risotto has worked. Basically a meal I can pick at, eat some, but not feel overwhelmed by the meal.

      1. Well Then*

        Not a job interview, but at my first job of out grad school, the VP of my department took me out to breakfast as a nice welcome gesture. I ordered a yogurt parfait, thinking that would be safe, but it was served in an old-fashioned milkshake glass – a tall, narrow glass full of yogurt with a pile of granola and fruit perched precariously on the very top, over the rim of the glass. It was impossible to dig into. At one point a large, juicy blackberry popped out and rolled halfway across the restaurant. The VP tactfully pretended not to notice. I somehow made it through the rest of the meeting, but this was 6 years ago and I still vividly remember that breakfast.

    6. Sara without an H*

      Breakfast meetings (not just interviews) seem to be a thing in my field. My advice to OP#4 would be to come prepared to eat something light and not too messy, muffins or bagels, or something on that order. A lot of “breakfast restaurants” will offer a “healthy” choice, like fruit and granola, along with their usual heart-attacks-on-plates.

      I don’t recommend showing up empty and ravenous. Sneak in a protein bar or a pot of yoghurt before you get to the restaurant. That way, your brain is working, you can respond coherently to questions from the interviewers, while waiting for your order of coffee and toast.

      1. Sara without an H*

        And yes, in OP#4’s case, the interviewers should pick up the check. If they don’t, that is a red flag.

    7. e271828*

      If you are the host, you should lead by ordering something! Expect your guest candidates to take their cues about how much to order and the price point from what you have ordered.

    8. nym*

      I’m one of those for whom breakfast doesn’t work. I say “my stomach wakes up three hours after the rest of me”. Trying to eat less than 3-4 hours after getting up is flat out nauseating, I can’t do it. I’d try to order a fruit cup and eat a grape or two, or if I really wanted to impress I’d get up at 3am so I was hungry at 7:30. But then I’d be tired when I most need to be on my game, so catch-22.

    9. Oranges*

      Some of us can’t eat. Like literally can’t but since it’s an inverview would feel weird about saying “for health reasons I can’t eat”

      My usual example would be bariatric surgery since I can’t eat much and I can’t have liquids while I eat. But recently I got an odd digestive issue where I only have 10 safe foods until they figure it out.

  9. Diahann Carroll*

    OP # 1

    I have OCD and fear of contamination triggers my compulsion. Over the years, I’ve gotten into the habit of carrying a small travel size bottle of 91% alcohol in my purse, which I bring with me when I’m meeting new people. If I have to end up shaking hands because someone just thrusts theirs out at me and/or grabs mine before I have a chance to say something or wave (which actually happens an alarming amount of times – overly chipper people are something else), then I wait until I’ve shaken hands with any/all newcomers I’m meeting and we’re seated before I discreetly spray my hands either under a table or off to the side of my body when the people aren’t looking. I haven’t caught a common cold in years and have never had the flu for what it’s worth.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Hit submit too soon – basically, try to carry some form of sanitizer at all times and then make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water as soon as you have the chance.

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      I mean, overly chipper people are not something else. They are themselves. If you want respect for not shaking hands, give respect for those who happen to stick their hands out first. I appreciate it when someone does that bc it signals what I should do, shake hands. Sometimes it is not clear if this is a shake hands situation and I appreciate it when someone makes it clear.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes–shaking hands is a very, very common ritual in our culture. There is nothing weird about people extending a hand to shake yours, any more than it’s weird that they ask “How are you?”

      2. Mill Miker*

        I thought the “overly chipper” was referring to people not just extending their hands, but actively grabbing a non-extended and shaking it anyway.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, I think “overly chipper” is actually a very polite way to describe someone grabbing a non-extended hand!

        2. Lance*

          That’s how I’m reading it; I think others are missing the ‘grabs mine’ piece before the parentheses.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            That’s exactly what I meant, but you know how some people rush to be offended about everything these days.

            1. Just no*

              “you know how some people rush to be offended about everything these days.”

              …or your comment just wasn’t clear.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                This is the favored retort of someone who didn’t read the comment they’re offended by. ;P

        3. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yeah – I shake hands if the other person extends theirs, but if someone grabbed my non-extended hand I’d be weirded out and get chilly with them.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            It usually happens when I’m about to wave. I think people misread the cue and think I’m about to extend my hand, so they reach out and grab it without thinking. It’s awkward as hell, lol.

    3. Call me St. Vincent*

      Came to say the same thing. I stopped trying to deal with the hand shaking thing and just Purrell right afterwards in a discreet way or go to the bathroom after I shake hands and wash my hands (sometimes both).

    4. Temperance*

      Okay I’m one of those “overly chipper” people who will extend my hand while meeting you for the first time. In my field, it would be weird not to.

    5. WellRed*

      I’m not big on handshakes myself but see it as normal behavior, not “overly chipper” behavior to be judgy judged.

    6. OP#1*

      Diahann Carroll, yes, if I’m in a situation where I have my purse with me, that is my fallback plan (though I really prefer soap and water!). If there’s a meeting, though, or unexpected introduction, I can be caught short. Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one with this aversion and letting me know how you deal with it!

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        If you ever get caught where you end up shaking hands anyway and want to find a discreet way to use hand santizer after, I will sometimes feign a cough or sneeze a few minutes into a meeting as an excuse to use the conference room hand sanitizer. I then offer it to my guest too. I think it looks better than “ew, I think you are dirty, I need hand sanitzer.” Instead I wasn’t germy when we shook hands but now I am so I need the hand sanitizer!

        The other thing we do is keep a big jug on the reception desk. We walk clients in and out through the lobby (where most hand shaking occurs) so it is easy to casually grab some sanitzer on the way by.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Ahhh, yes – the fake sneeze. I’ve done that too, lol. Or put my hands down on the seat to slide it under the table if I’m in a conference room with a table, or even down on the table itself, at which point I’ll pretend I touched something gross and need to wipe my hands.

  10. Pjm*

    #1. Unfortunately, I think it is going to come off as a bit rude and make the other person feel a little uncomfortable no matter how warm you try to be. They may interpret it as treating them like you think they are diseased. Personally I also wouldn’t be able to help but feel insulted, so I think other people you encounter may feel the same way. Couldn’t you shake hands and then wash your hands or use sanitizer later? Also, as long as you don’t touch anywhere on your face, shaking hands shouldn’t make you sick. You would be more likely to get sick from particles being transmitted in the air from person to person. So, really anyone trying to avoid getting sick would need to wear a mask.

    1. Lilyp*

      I think the LW probably does understand that this might impact first impressions and can weigh the tradeoffs and make her own decisions here. It may indeed make some people feel slighted or uncomfortable but the peace of mind can be worth it to the LW anyway.

      1. MK*

        Eh, I am not sure the letter indicates any such understanding. The OP asked about a non-rude way to avoid shaking hands, but in my opinion this isn’t a matter of manners or politeness, when the underlying fact is that the OP doesn’t want to touch others (in a completely impersonal way that is understood to mean respect) because they might give her diseases. A lot of the time, when people ask for a polite way to do something, they assume that if only they hit on the correct ettiquette, it will be a non-issue. Alison gave her a polite script, but it’s also useful to know that, no matter how you dress it, this might still be offputing to people.

        1. Ariaflame*

          In your culture maybe, in other cultures not so much, and given how much we use hands to touch things, then noses, eyes, and mouth they are a common vector for illness. Someone with an illness is not morally bad, but it’s also not morally bad to not want to follow this particular custom because they don’t like it.

          1. MK*

            I am not judging anyone for not wanting to shake hands for whatever reason, just stating what my experience has been. And for what it’s worth, it seems that commenters from a wide range of locations also had similar experiences. Of course there are cultures where handshakes aren’t usual, but if the OP was from living within such a culture, they probably wouldn’t have reason to ask for advice!

            I actually think that handshaking as a default custom is on the decline at present, but I doubt it’s going to disappear soon enough to serve the OP.

        2. OP#1*

          MK Alison acknowledged some might find it weird, but overall she basically gave me her blessing. I understand there might be instances where I would never contemplate it, such if I’m introduced to the CEO, but as Lilyp noted I can make those assessments as needed.

          Recently I met someone new at a happy hour. I had just had a brisk walk in the snow and had to blow my nose as I was sitting down. When her hand came out for a shake, I told her it was a bad idea!

          1. MK*

            To be clear OP, I am not suggesting that you should go against your inclination here, or that there are likely to be dire professional consequences from your avoiding handshakes. I just believe the social awkwardness will be more frequent and pronounced that Alison acknowledged; and I am sorry for that.

        3. Allypopx*

          A lot of things are offputting to people. Some you can anticipate and some you can’t. We all have idiosyncrasies and preferences, and LWs are typically just trying to find the most graceful way to accommodate their own. There’s nothing wrong with this.

        4. Librarian1*

          I don’t understand why this is so upsetting to some people. Of course, other people can give you diseases, that’s how diseases spread! It’s not personal and it’s based on fact.

    2. alienor*

      Well, it probably depends on the person. I do shake hands, but I don’t enjoy it at all (not so much because of germs as because I just don’t like touching strangers, plus most handshakes I receive seem to be horrible limp things), so I’d be relieved if someone said they couldn’t or didn’t shake.

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          And while I don’t mind, I think we should also start a trend of being more accepting of it – rather than trying to persuade people to shake hands as some people here are doing.

          Support it – please.

          1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            Sorry I was not clear – I don’t mind shaking hands AND want to start a trend of being more accepting of people who don’t want to shake hands.

      1. Librarian1*

        I don’t love touching strangers hands either and I also don’t like having my hand crushed by someone who has to prove that they have power by squeezing my hand so hard it hurts.

      2. Clisby*

        This is me. I never initiate handshakes, any more than I initiate hugs. (Well, I initiate hugs with family members or close friends, but I wouldn’t be shaking hands with them in any case.) I don’t *refuse* to shake hands, but I can’t think of all that many circumstances in my life where handshaking even arises; it would have to be something kind of formal. I’ve been trying to remember whether I’ve encountered Muslim men who didn’t shake my hand, but then realized since I’m not going to hold out my hand, likely the issue just wouldn’t come up. (It is possible I just live among a large population of men who internalized the old-fashioned social etiquette that a man never extends his hand to shake a woman’s hand; it’s her decision as to whether to shake hands. But I doubt it.)

    3. Betty*

      I do think this is true – I would certainly find any avoidance of shaking hands in an “everyone usually shakes hands” situation a bit “off”. However, if the OP recognises that and decides it’s a (minor) social sacrifice they want to make, that’s up to them. It can be greatly mitigated by not making it personal and by being generally warm and friendly throughout the encounter, so it’s not like they’re repulsed by me as an individual.

      I worked in a hugging workplace and I DON’T HUG, so we made a friendly joke of “Hey Betty! Distant wave!” and waving maniacally cheerfully across the room with everyone I worked with regularly. I was “that person” but not “that unfriendly person”, and I was OK with that.

      1. JanetM*

        My work culture is not huggy, but I do spend a lot of time in very touch-dominant subcultures.

        I have found that the majority of people respond fairly well to a smile and, “I don’t do hugs, but I do shake hands!” (I realize this does not help OP1.) Some have suggested alternatives, like a fist bump or an elbow bump, that work fine for me. And with some I do the ASL sign for a hug (arms crossed over the chest).

        I love the idea of, “Hey, Betty! Distant wave!” although I don’t think it works as a first-time greeting :-).

        1. Shad*

          I didn’t realize that was the asl sign! My family has always done essentially that gesture for on the run hugs or distance hugs without any connection to asl that I’m aware of.

        2. MayLou*

          Oh gosh, this reminds me of an experience I had at a friend’s wedding. I was introduced to a man who went to hug me and I sort of jokingly said “Nope, no hugs!” or something and tried to redirect to a fist bump. He tried TWICE MORE to hug me at that wedding, and the third time I physically pushed him away and raised my voice in a tone that had no humour at all. I didn’t get a creepy sexual predator vibe, more a sense that being a friendly affable cuddle was part of his self-image, but my goodness, he did not respect my clearly stated boundaries.

        3. Betty*

          I love the idea of, “Hey, Betty! Distant wave!” although I don’t think it works as a first-time greeting :-).

          Hah, yes, it worked for me because it was a very casual workplace (obviously! It was seething with huggers!) and I went for something so comically opposite to a hug that it became a friendly joke – in the way that a one-step-removed-from-the-desired-hug handshake might have been oddly stiff and formal. When I (rarely) met new one-off people I did just grit my teeth (I actually found myself clenching my jaw and tensing my entire body… ugh, hugs!) and tolerate a brief hug. If it was someone new that I’d be seeing more often, I’d say (just as they turned to me and waaaaaaay pre-hug), “I’m more of a distant wave kind of person!” and everyone “in the know” would laugh along with it so it was never too awkward (and always became apparent it was me, not them).

          It worked out really well for me there, but I’d struggle more with the make a joke aspect in a formal workplace where handshaking was a core part of meeting lots of new people. Very much a “read your workplace culture” thing, I think – both about how important the handshaking really is to people there, and to the best way to excuse yourself.

    4. Lonely Aussie*

      As someone on the spectrum, I’d love it if we could move away from socially required physical contact and stop judging people for not wanting to shake hands whatever the reason. Coming into contact with others (strangers especially) can be a highly unpleasant experience, I often feel either a jolt from the other person’s skin or its almost like cold water is running down my back. I mostly “pass” as nt but notice I require much more recovery/tire quicker if I’ve had an uptick in handshakes/contact, something which is very common in the good old boys network of my industry.

      1. OP#1*

        Lonely Aussie, I never thought about that. Thanks for bringing that up. There are probably a lot of people who have a similar aversion for other reasons, and that gives me another reason not to thrust *my* hand out for a shake when I meet someone!

        1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          OP#1 I wanted to suggest an alternative that is used in many other cultures who might not shake hands for religious reasons (especially with a person of the opposite gender, but could be useed regardless). Instead of putting your hands behind your back, put your right hand over your heart and do a slight bow. This is a good way to acknowledge the greeting and be respectful without having to actually touch the other person.

          1. ...*

            This is a nice thought, but it would come across really weirdly in most offices in the US. I wouldnt say anything to the person or treat them differently but I’m not sure that’s true of all people. We tend to be a very accepting workplace

      2. Lance*

        Very much agreed on this point, as someone also on the spectrum. If someone else doesn’t extend their hand to shake, then I’m not going to; it’s not a personal insult, it’s just ‘I do not touch others if I can avoid it’. On the spectrum or no, people should absolutely be allowed to refuse to shake and have alternatives for it deemed just as polite.

      3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*


        And more generally, accept that people are different.

        Someone wrote above “I would certainly find any avoidance of shaking hands in an “everyone usually shakes hands” situation a bit “off”.’

        I might feel that way involuntarily, I’d try to put that out of my mind immediately. Why should we care? Let it go. Try to be better. I’m trying.

        1. Viette*

          Yeah, shaking hands is really not *that* big of a deal in the vast, vast majority of workplaces. It’s not like, oh gosh I can’t wait to meet Jessica and get to shake her hand! The people getting offended about it are acting like it’s the meat of the entire encounter, like the whole conversation is basically canceled if no handshake occurs. You don’t shake hands, it’s, at worst, awkward, then it’s over and interaction moves on.

      4. Jules the 3rd*

        I see and sympathize with your discomfort. Having read your comment, I wonder if my increase in just nodding to a new person is actually because I stopped initiating handshakes in order to manage my own sensory processing challenges. My reaction isn’t as strong / the same as yours, but I do have a negative internal reaction.

        Thank you.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Personally, I love the idea of someone just saying upfront, “I don’t shake hands.” I don’t need a reason, I just need to know how to interact with them in a manner that is comfortable. I’m not a fan of guessing and I love it when a person cuts right to the point. My response to “I don’t shake hands” is “Thank you for telling me.”

      I am good with copying their gesture, too. “I don’t shake hands but I wave.” I can jump right in with a little wave right back. I have also done “air hand shakes” that do not involve contact.

      1. MousePrincess*

        I almost feel like “Sorry, I can’t shake hands” would get at it too. Can’t makes me feel like there’s a reason other than that you think I, the handshaker, am gross, and it gets to the same point.

    6. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “Personally I also wouldn’t be able to help but feel insulted”

      Glad you share this honestly and pointed out some people may feel this way.

      That said, you should work on this.

      1. JustaTech*

        For myself, I would only feel insulted if someone was selectively choosing to shake some people’s hands in a way that was obviously exclusionary (like, only shaking the hands of senior people). But I also just don’t interact with that many new people in a professional capacity, so it’s not something I experience regularly.

        (One of the nice benefits of working in the biomedical field is that people tend to be more hand-conscious and more accepting of the friendly wave in lieu of hand shaking.)

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          “For myself, I would only feel insulted if someone was selectively choosing to shake some people’s hands in a way that was obviously exclusionary (like, only shaking the hands of senior people).”


    7. Observer*

      You know, I happen to think that the OP is under-playing their behavior in that I think that what they are doing actually does come pretty near to excessive. And it’s probably a good idea for them to realize that to help them calibrate how they interact with people.

      Having said that to establish context, I think that this post is actually more rude than what the OP wants to do. For one thing they explicitly asked for how to do what they want to do, not how to make themselves do something different. Asking “Why can’t you just do what you don’t want to do” just totally ignores that. As long as the OP understands how it comes off, and is willing to make that tradeoff, that’s their choice to make. They are not trying to do something that is objectively rude or harmful to anyone, merely “violating” an arguably archaic social convention.

      And when it comes down to it, why does your feeling about this over-ride their feelings about the matter? When it comes to touching others the rule should be (outside of a very few exceptions) “2 Yeses or a No”. The person who does not want to be touched over rides the person who wants to touch.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Not shaking and being nice about it isn’t rude.

      My “wut” moment is the fact they wish to clasp their hands behind their back… that’s standoffish and rarely goes over well, even if you’re smiling. You’re physicality in an awkward position.

      Religious folks tend to bow and say “I can’t shake for personal reasons but I’m happy to meet you!”. They don’t seemingly shrink away or create noticeable space.

      If you do this with other’s outside of your own race or gender, you can also come across as discriminating if they have nothing else to play that off of.

      I’ve even had OCD folks say that and nobody flinched. Or “I have arthritis so I cannot shake” as well.

  11. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP2, I think pushing back is a good idea.

    You could also tell your supervisor that while you found it an interesting and valuable* exercise, you don’t feel that repeating it would benefit you. Propose something that you’d prefer to do instead and be able to explain why its a better option. (There’s surely a limit to how many of these you can include.)

    If your supervisor insists, ask for it to be once a week instead so that you can “take a bigger picture view”.

    * Value being however you define it e.g. that committing yourself to doing something every day for a year is more difficult than it might seem, or that looking for daily joy is too prescriptive, or that it’s better to focus on something you have more control over like “what did I learn this week” or “what positive impact did I have today”.

    Heck, I love my job and I don’t think I could come up with “daily joy”.

    1. Tim Tam Girl*

      I reckon that if your manager LOVES the idea, they may not be up for hearing your negative experience with it or may judge you for having had it. If you think that’s a likely outcome, I would skip the discussion of your negative experience altogether, framing it solely as, ‘Actually, this year I’d like to change it up a bit and try [Alison’s suggestion of praising others, or another variation you’d prefer]!’ If you present the change as a strictly positive one that you want to try to further improve your workplace experience, you may be able to avoid being pressured to keep doing something you ended up hating.

      My only exception to this would be if your manager were considering ‘encouraging’ (read: pushing or mandating) others to do it. In that case, I would explain that while you like the general idea gratitude practice, this specific experience had turned out to be unexpectedly challenging/ demoralising/ [your adjective here] and you are concerned that others may have this experience as well – especially if it’s pushed on them instead of it coming to them on their own.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        That’s why I suggested OP put a positive spin on it, while pushing back on the idea of doing it again.

    2. Avasarala*

      I would even be careful with Alison’s suggestion of praising others. I try to remember to show gratitude and practice loving kindness and everything, but also I would hate the feeling of “gotta praise someone, crap! KAREN I LIKE YOUR DRESS.”

      I know goals are supposed to be SMART but I’m trying in general to replace “have to” with “want to” and find that it’s counterproductive to be too prescriptive about things like showing gratitude and finding joy. Maybe there’s someone you can mentor at work instead or another way you can “pay it forward”?

      1. Sharon*

        At a place I no longer work for, they put me on a team under a project manager who “encouraged” us to do some kind of peer praise at the beginning of every team meeting. I try to get along with everyone and appreciate when my coworkers do good work (and try to do good work myself) but I found this to be insipid and kindergarteny. It’s so fake to force people to find some way to praise each other. And yes, it was often “I love your dress” kind of feedback. I never actually participated in the praises and I felt pretty sure that the manager judged me for it.

      2. Allonge*

        I really like the pay it forward thing. Work-related, somewhat measurable impact even, and just plain good practice.

        As for ‘project daily joy’, if I were mandatad to do anything similar, I am afraid I would soon find an online collection of expressions of work-related joy and copy-paste with a fair amount of randomness. How exactly will he say I did not find joy in a constructive meeting on 25 January? I mean, come to think of it, who checks these things anyway?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      The whole idea of “finding joy” just has me chuckling. Com’on.
      If I HAVE to look for joy, then that is probably because there is not a lot of joy to be found. I’d have to ask the boss if we could avoid dwelling on the fact that joy is hard to come by.

      I’d end up writing stupid stuff such as, “I am filled with joy that the copier is not broken today.” Or, “Today is Friday and this brings me sheer joy.”

      I actually have issue with the word “joy”. It’s similar to the issue I have with the word “passion”. Employers expect us to commit every cell in our bodies to the company. It’s really okay if I do not find “joy” or “passion” in my work, I will still do a great job. And the boss will survive my supposed lack of “joy” or “passion” and the boss will be okay. It just makes me want to say to the employer, “You are buying my labor, not my heart and my soul.” grrr.

      1. Amy Sly*

        I’m reminded of the meme about “I’m using Marie Kondo’s advice and getting rid of everything that doesn’t spark joy. So far I’ve thrown out the bills and the bathroom scale.”

        As for passion, feel free to share with your bosses that the root of “passion” is “suffering.” (It isn’t called Passion Week because Jesus was excited about being betrayed, beaten, and crucified.)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I am glad you mentioned that about “suffering”. Good example with Passion Week. He was so “excited” he sweat blood. We now know this to be a medical condition where blood vessels burst under extreme pressure. “No, Boss, I am not willing to burst blood vessels for you.”

        2. Vicky Austin*

          Huh. I’ve always called it Holy Week. However, we had the reading of the Lord’s Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Maybe it’s different for various denominations. I was raised Catholic and currently attend a nondenominational church.

      2. Strawberry Red*

        This question reminds me of that episode of HIMYM where Marshall tried to find joy in the corporate law job he hated. “Much of what I do does not make me cry!”

        1. Buni*

          When I worked for the town council I kept a packet of my favourite chocolate biscuits in my drawer. I was allowed one + a cuppa at 11am, and another one + cuppa at 4pm. It was the only way I kept alive.

      3. Shad*

        Honestly, while there are days I’m genuinely glad someone *finally* got back to me, and I’m going to be pretty cheery about one messy case settling for a long time (20k plus pages of medical records), most of the time work is just…something to provide income.

      4. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, a mandate like this reeks of toxic positivity. Like one of those workplaces with tyrannical management, below-market pay, no benefits, and a crushing workload that expects people to be super grateful for free coffee or a weekly pizza lunch or a foosball table in the break room. Or just to be happy because they’re a faaaaamily.

    4. Lyudie*

      For a while I was doing a planner that had a daily gratitude thing…tbh most days the thing I was grateful for was “coffee”.

      I like the suggestions of what did you learn and what was a positive impact…that’s kind of where my mind was going.

      1. Agnes*

        I did the gratitude journal thing for awhile. Every day was some variation on “Time with family and friends” and “Ate something yummy.” I mean, good to remember those are life’s fundamentals, but somewhat pathetic.

      2. JustaTech*

        When my dad was a kid my grandfather would ask at the dinner table “what did you accomplish today?” Not what did you do, but what did you accomplish.

        Sadly I have some days where my answer would be “homeostasis” (the basic biological functions of staying alive).

      3. emmelemm*

        I was doing a gratitude journal for a while and some days my entry would be “Coffee this morning had exactly the right amount of cream and was exactly the right temperature.” Because you know, when you get the coffee *just right*, there’s nothing like it. But I don’t always get the coffee just right.

    5. RC Rascal*

      OP#2–Finding a daily “joy” is setting the bar way too high for a difficult work environment, IMO. However, I have done something like this to keep me going in a difficult time at work–I called it 5 Positive Things. At the end of every day I would make a private list of 5 positive things that happened that day. It might be things like: The commute was easy. Tyrant Boss was out of the office. Sales Rep Bob got a large order. I had a productive conversation with direct report Bran. I got through all my email for the day.

      You get the picture. I had a variation of it where in the morning I would write down 5 things that needed to happened today in order for it to be a good day. If I got through those 5 things the day was OK, no matter what else happened.

      This also helped me not get emotional sucked in to all the folks who would stop by my office with their own work related bitches that day. (There were lots of justifiable work related bitches at that job).

    6. time for lunch*

      I agree. I have a really hard time with the Gratitude-Industriousness Complex, down to a very deep level.

      I worked with an online writers’s group while finishing a book project a few years ago and there was a daily check-in that included three things one is grateful for. In the group, maybe because I was desolate for social support for a hard project, I could do it and feel ok about it, but I’ve since tried to use a Best Self journal to work through some projects on my own. It also has a daily request for gratitude, on a form seen only by me, and wow did it enrage me, over and over, day after day, to be asked this joy/gratitude question. Each one was met with angrier scrawls and swears.

      Eventually, I took a Sharpie and revised that section to “things that don’t suck today” and “things that are ok,” and was able to do all right with it, even feeling some reassurance from listing those things. I also crossed out the horrible “inspirational” quotations printed on each day’s entry which similarly sent me into an angry fit with their platitudes.

      This helped, though I did ultimately abandon the journal after about a week, so.

  12. XF1013*

    OP#3, another thing you might ask: After he dictates an email using voice-to-text, can his software read it back to him aloud using text-to-voice to make sure that it’s right before he sends? That way he could verify the email while continuing to drive. It’s not ideal, but if he otherwise refuses to do anything else about this problem, it might help a little.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      He must already be using text-to-voice to read out whatever email he ends up replying to, so it would cost him mere seconds to have his system read out his planned reply, and postpone replying if it’s gobbledegook. He doesn’t need to eyeball it. If he refuses then I think LW should use Alison’s script claiming the entire thing is illegible and blaming the software. Don’t spend any effort on interpreting.

      It occurs to me that if the text to voice isn’t very good, he may be misunderstanding other people’s messages in the first place, leading to the content of his replies being terrible even if you can translate the spelling errors. Perhaps this angle might be useful to LW if he pushes back – blame the technology in both directions to allow him to save face.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        My boss uses voice to text with her family a lot. She spells words that she knows will get mangled, especially if they are critical words. “Do NOT, n-o-t, worry about getting groceries, I will pick up the groceries.” She has pretty good luck doing this, if nothing else the family member knows the word she is spelling is a critical word and the context of the message hinges on that word. *Does not work for every conversation but it can help here and there.*

    2. LKW*

      This. He may not realize this feature exists. If he can dictate he can have the robo-assistant read it back and he can correct what may be wrong.

      Totally hands free.

    3. OP#3*

      Oh that is a good idea! I don’t use voice to text, or text to voice, so that hadn’t occurred to me to suggest! thanks!

  13. Jo*

    OP1, for people you’ve met before, I’d go with some variety of ‘I don’ t/can’t shake hands, but it’s great/ it’s lovely to see you again’, and change ‘see you again’ to ‘meet you’ for new people. Also saying this in a warm friendly and genuine tone will help this to convey this in the way you want it to come across.

    1. OP#1*

      Thanks. For what it’s worth, people with whom I work closely know about my aversion, and they treat it as more of a quirk, rather than rudeness. In fact, most of them have said–I don’t blame you!

      1. ellex42*

        Now that will be playing in my head for the rest of the day. Thank you so much.

        OTOH, as a greeting, that would be brilliant. Especially with mandatory Hammer Pants.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          “Now that will be playing in my head for the rest of the day.”

          Remember to toss a coin to your baby shark. (Did that fix it?)

    1. OP#1*

      The fist bump and the elbow bump mentioned above would, in my opinion, be even worse. In most cases it would be too casual in a work setting and require more of an explanation to begin with.

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        I had a co-worker’s husband try to elbow bump me in a social setting once and it was beyond weird and awkward, I would have rather him just state that he didn’t shake hands or even leave me hanging.

        1. ...*

          Right! I would never remember someone saying oh im not a hand shaker but great to see you! but I would remember someone trying to set up this elbow bump situation!

  14. Allonge*

    Honestly, this would be a nightmare goal for me. I am bad at the do something every day type of things in the first place (ok that is for me to handle).

    For an exercise like this though, I think it is genuinely overkill to do it once a day. How many times can you use ‘well, I get to go home today too’? And in a way it cheapens the real joy moments, when you add them to the list of whatever – box checked points. Finding something to be grateful for weekly, as Alison proposes, is much more realistic.

    But much much more importantly, this I think should never be a work goal. It is waaaay too personal, and it feels a lot like my work is dictating what emotions I get to feel (or have to feel). How is this part of anything in my performance?

    If it works for someone, that is great! And of course depends on organisational culture etc, but I am thankful (ha!) that I only ever worked at places where this would be way too “woo” to put on paper.

    1. valentine*

      How is this part of anything in my performance?
      The boss loving it makes it seem like there’s a less useful goal among (hopefully!) others that will help OP’s career. I hope all the goals aren’t things you’d write in a journal or put in a time capsule.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Writing every day is overkill to me.
      If I find something once a week that wows me for 3 minutes I am having a great week. Typically this would look like, I have been working on a problem for x weeks and today I finally resolved it. There really isn’t time to wallow in this joy, I need to move on the other 23 problems that I have not solved yet. Whoops, make that 25, because in the process of solving this one thing, I had to let other things go and I now have 2 new problems in place of the one problem I solved.

    3. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes I think part of the reason that may have become such a grind for you is because every day is definitely overkill. If you did it once a week on Fridays, it would give you a chance to reflect back on the week as a whole I could be more introspective and have a greater chance of actually helping you appreciate moments and aspects of your job that you might not have noticed otherwise.

      There’s also the fact that Joy may be the wrong positive emotion to be fixing on. Joy is exuberant, energetic, and much more rare than things like satisfaction, gratitude, or cheerfulness. You can’t expect any part of your life to make you wildly joyful every day because if it was an every day occurrence it would cheapen it. So if your boss still pushes for a positivity journal, try “A moment each week that makes me smile.”

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      Nightmare goal for me, too. So much so that if it were a requirement, I would start brushing up my resume. Not only is the task hideous, it is clearly irrelevant. Hideous but necessary, you suck it up. Hideous and irrelevant is pure dysfunction.

  15. Fikly*

    LW3: You said you addressed this in a joking manner. That’s the issue – you need to make it clear this is a serious problem, not something you are amused by.

    1. OP#3*

      OP3 here, agreed. There are some age and gender power dynamics at play here (I’m a woman, co-lead is not and 20+ years younger then co-lead) that I need to get better at ignoring and just address issues more clearly.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        Sending strength and solidarity! You’re in the right and he’s not; he’s being ridiculous. “Oh, I want you guys to keep on doing the work of figuring out what I mean because clear communication is just a tad inconvenient for me.” No, thanks.

        Send an update! We’re cheering you on.

      2. and so it goes*

        It’s funny how you can read a letter and be like “the co-lead is an older dude and the LW is a woman who is younger than him” and then scroll into the comments and be right. ;) There is absolutely a gender and age thing going on here. I hope you have the kind of good relationship where you can say “hey, this is disruptive and causing problems, can you please stop”, and he’ll listen to you.

    2. Pomona Sprout*

      I think you’ve hit on something here, Fikly. This dude probably has no idea what a serious problem this is or how much trouble it’s causing for others, because it hasn’t been conveyed to him clearly enough. So when the LW talks to him about it again, they need to be as clear and direct as possible, and avoid any semblance of joking or anything else that would trivialize this and make it easy for him to blow it off again.

      A lot of us were never taught that it’s okay to be clear and direct with people or learned how to do it effectively (i.e., how to be clear and direct while also being polite and pleasant). This is a vitally important skill, not just in the workplace but in all areas of life as well; it’s a key component in a large percentage of the issues people write letters to Alison and just about every other advice columnist about (or at least a large percentage of the letters that get published).

      So the first step here is to politely and pleasantly spell out the problems this is causing in a way that is as clear and direct as possible, so he know that this is causing REAL problems for a lot of people (not just the LW).

      Of course, he may still not get it, or (worse) may just not care. I know next to nothing about this dude, but we all know there are people in the world who really don’t care that much about how their actions affect others (including some people in high levels of the U.S. government. *cough*) If he continues to show a lack of concern for the problems he is causing other people, the next step is to dump the problem back in HIS lap. Every single confusing email needs to go right back to him. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, do not spend one second trying to decipher his gibberish. As others have suggested, blame the software. “Sorry the software seems to have garbled up what you were trying to say. Please clarify, thanks.” Rinse and repeat, as many times as necessary. This way, it becomes a problem for HIM, which (with luck) may motivate him to change his ways. If he still doesn’t change, it will suck, but at least you’ll know you tried.

      1. OP#3*

        Yah, one thing I’ve really appreciated about reading Ask A Manager this past 12 months or so is the constant reminder that clear communication, early and often, is vital. Applying it to my own work circumstances is tough sometimes, but I greatly appreciate Alison and everyone else’s input today, its been really helpful. I’ll send an update once I have one!

        1. Marthooh*

          Talk to him about the false economy involved with his voice-to-text shenanigans. I suspect he likes to respond immediately because him having to think about a problem more than once, but of course that wastes other people’s time when they have to decipher. I’m sure voice-to-text can save a message as a draft, so all he has to do later is edit for sense.

      2. Fikly*

        There is a theme I have noticed here (and elsewhere). Much of the advice can be condensed down to: “Use your words.”

        How many times has Alison asked, have you actually told x person that? Or advised someone that before they take an issue with a coworker to their manager, they first need to tell coworker that it’s an issue? And so on and so forth. Communication can be very uncomfortable! But really, so much of the advice here and elsewhere boils down to use your words.

        Another key piece of general advice, which you’ve given here for this LW’s context, is to not let other people’s problems become your problems. Which is to say, this guy’s problem is that he wants to email people while driving his car. I’m not even going to start on the safety hazard aspect of it, but really, do not allow his need to do that to become your problem. Every time the voice to text is an issue, send it right back to him, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

        Eventually, he may clue into the part where sending an email while driving is not actually saving him time. If he doesn’t, well, you can save the “voice to text garbled this, need you to resend” as an auto-response, and then it takes you 10 seconds to send, versus how long per email trying to interpret the mess?

  16. Amerdale*

    If your boss insists, I would try to a) shift it to weekly because some days just suck and b) to either as Alison suggests to praising others or finding something that made you proud this week. Especially in a frustrating environment I find this easier. Staying absolutely calm and professional, when a customer gets rude, may not give me joy but I might be proud how I reacted. Or I’m proud that I worded that tricky email so good.

  17. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP5, if they do expect you to do voiceovers as part of “other duties etc etc”, there are 2 other approaches you can consider.

    “Actually voiceover work is charged at $X per hour which is substantially more than my rate, so I don’t think it makes sense to include this as an additional duty.”

    “My voiceover work is a source of income for me so I can’t afford to do it at no cost for the company. Let me refer you to someone else though!”

    But a reasonable company wouldn’t even go there in the first place.

    Just bear in mind that any issues on the voiceover work could spill over into your day job. You might want to keep those boundaries firmly drawn. There are plenty of examples on AAM.

    1. Angelinha*

      It’s tricky though because they’re not expecting her to do voiceovers…she kind of offered. I agree that there’s no need to do it if they’re not going to pay the regular rate, but I could see the offer being interpreted internally as “oh cool, a way to save money, let’s use our in-house voiceover person next time” and not as “voiceover coworker is bidding for this contract.”

    2. Arctic*

      Those would make sense if they came to OP. But when OP offering their service if it comes up and then going hardball would be a tough pill to swallow.

      1. OP5*

        For the record I have no intention of hardballing my company :) this was really just a hypothetical question of whether I could/should, as I was kind of joking with my friend anyway, I have no idea whether they even would ask me, which is why I’m posing this question now before it comes up so I know what to do! But if at the end of the day they want me to do it but wouldn’t pay for usage or whatever I’d still be perfectly happy to record for them.

        1. Quickbeam*

          OP5, I’ve had a similar circumstance at several jobs. For the sake of this post, say I’m an accountant but also a certified sign language interpreter. What I have negotiated with several employers is as follows:

          I am happy to step in at the front of the house and interpret for a drop in Deaf customer as part of my job. However, if you need me to interpret a seminar or do lengthy off hours interpreting work; I will need to be paid my free lance rate. That seems to always work out well. I think it helps to hammer to expectations out ahead of time.

        2. MagicUnicorn*

          You sound as though you have already decided this, but please reconsider. Agreeing to do skilled work for less than it is worth makes your company’s expectations of its value plummet, and hurts other people who charge a fair price for that work.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Thank you. I made the same point in a comment chain above and I’m glad I’m not the only person seeing this as an issue. I’m suspicious of companies that use “other duties as assigned” to avoid paying someone else to do a completely different job that would be compensated differently, like the company I worked for who scheduled three part time admins to come in over the weekend and paint the office.

            LW5: If it’s your hobby, have at it. If you’re a professional, don’t work for free. (Exceptions for charity but make it a cause you care about, not saving your company from paying a professional rate.)

  18. TheKatie*

    Ah, voice to text… My phone uses it to send me my voicemails. The most recent one from my mum opened with “Hi Mr Johnny Holmes” when she called to ask about my progress towards home.

    1. OP#3*

      That sounds about right. Some of the emails I get truly make no sense what so ever.

      Perhaps someday technology will overcome this. I try to get a good chuckle out of it when I can.

      1. foolofgrace*

        OP3: I’ve had problems when using voice-to-text where the radio or tv in the background gets picked up and put into the text. The first time it happened I thought I was losing my mind: “I didn’t say any of that!” and then I thought maybe I was getting messages from Beyond. That would be really weird, getting texts from my dead mother!

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Mr Gumption occasionally plays with his voice to text. Here is a transcript of the last: “Hey Jon Name, ameoba cats go to take? Corn hole lampray. Light thou!” He was asking me to grab some chicken adobo from a market on my way home.

    3. SummerCamper*

      My husband has a colleague who uses voice-to-text, sometimes to hilarious or cringeworthy results. Last week was particularly bad: “Sexy unsupervised children on campus, go get them right away.” There were SIX children, guys. Six of them.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      Voice to text does not understand my MIL’s accent at all. We get some hilarious transcriptions of her VMs, and tend to read them first to try to guess what she said before listening to them. My favorite one included something like “sorry for your late, purple birthday cake”, which bore no resemblance to the actual VM.

    5. and so it goes*

      I keep a running list of ways my voicemail’s voice to text has mangled my Very Common Name. It’s… a lot.

  19. Anonny*

    About taking cues from interviewer for meal interviews: I’m diabetic and just having a drink doesn’t work for me. The carbs in drinks are pure sugar which will cause my blood sugars to skyrocket, and then get burned through by my insulin dose and my blood sugar will tank. To counteract this I normally have a muffin or biscuit to provide some more starchy carbs that takes longer for my insulin to process, but what should I do if my interviewer only orders a drink?
    (I don’t like black coffee or plain tea so anything I’d usually order that isn’t water requires some kind of accompaniment so I don’t go low.)

    1. Allonge*

      That should be perfectly fine. Getting water only is fine too – say you had breakfast already. If you feel like drinking something more substantial, have a muffin. I don’t think Alison is describing the Only Way Not To Be Rude to handle this – she is giving directions to someone who has nothing to start from.

      You (and I, with food allergies) have a different starting point – some things obviously don’t work. Health comes first. Eat the muffin or sandwich. If they expected you not to eat, the interview should not be at a restaurant.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        Agree with the idea of different starting points. I’m vegan, don’t like any warm beverages, really don’t like the unripe fruit plate you get at most breakfast places, and hate commercial juices. Which is to say, there is nothing I like at most breakfast places. At a breakfast interview, I’d order tea and a fruit plate and make sure there was water. I’d nibble at any of the fruit that was ripe and drink the water.
        Order something light and nibble a little! Eat before you go.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Ah yes, the sad fruit bowl. Goes well with the sad watery oatmeal bowl. I’m not vegan but I can’t eat dairy or eggs so I also have lots of trouble finding breakfast food at restaurants.

    2. Fikly*

      Do you like coffee with milk? I’m diabetic as well, and a decaf latte with almond milk is a go-to that basically keeps my sugar neutral. They’re unsweetened unless you add a flavor syrup.

      1. Anonny*

        I can’t stand coffee at all; normally I have a hot chocolate in winter and something like a still lemonade or orange juice in summer but I’d worry they might make me look childish.

        1. Allonge*

          I try to put this as gently as I can, but I think you are overthinking this. Hot chocolate, lemonade or orange juice are not childish and anyone who makes judgments based on choice of beverage (other than, say, getting a margarita at breakfast) is not going to be someone you want to work for.

          1. Pretzelgirl*

            I agree. Personally I would just eat beforehand (if its possible) or just order what you want and be done with it.

    3. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Would it work to eat a snack right before the interview, enough to avoid blood sugar issues? Then if you need to eat at the meeting you can have something else small.

      1. Observer*

        I’d be very surprised if that will work for Juice – the timing on this stuff is often important.

    4. Salsa Your Face*

      How about sparkling water? It’s unsweetened so it shouldn’t affect your blood sugar. And it’s not “just water” so the interviewer won’t wonder why you “didn’t order anything.”

    5. Observer*

      Can you do seltzer or diet soda?

      This is one of the reasons that I really don’t like this kind of set up – it really can create difficult situations.

    6. Miss Meghan*

      I think if your interviewer gets a drink, any drink (including water) is just fine. You don’t need to match hot drink for hot drink, or drink fanciness, or anything like that. Just get what works with your health needs and thank them for the offer but say you prefer water if they ask again.

    7. ...*

      I think as long as you are in the realm of what the interviewer gets you’re fine. So I’d plan on a drink and a muffin. Then if they just get a drink, its not weird to have the muffin on the side. IF they get a full breakfast you obv could too but you could get a muffin and still be “having food”. Personally Id eat someting before. I once went to an interview at a coffee shop and the interviewer did not offer coffee or get one himself even! I wanted the job but I was like this companys broke no lol

  20. Jesicka309*

    OP 1 – I find having my hands full can sometimes help? Like if I’m at a client meeting and I’m carrying my notepad, laptop and a coffee cup, plus my hand bag, an apologetic *holding up of full hands* and “oh nice to meet you!” Or “thanks for today was great meeting you all” gets me out of trouble? It doesn’t help situations where you’re naturally hands free (eg when you’re hosting the meeting and already set up) but I definitely don’t get offended if someone with full arms can’t shake my hand! Similarly positioning yourself in an awkward spot like across a big table or the furthest chair from the door – make it physically hard to shake hands and you’ll find most people won’t bother and will be happy with an enthusiastic wave. Aside from the pushiest of folk who will always find a way u fortunately.

    1. londonedit*

      This is what I was thinking. If someone’s holding something, then a jaunty ‘Oop, I won’t shake hands, but lovely to meet you!’ while giving a little wave and nodding towards the coffee cup/notebook/papers you’re balancing in your right hand/arm is totally fine.

    2. Nancy*

      There’s been some speculation that the Duchess of Cambridge uses clutch bags to avoid handshakes: if she’s holding her bag in both hands, in front, it’s supposedly a sign that she doesn’t want to shake hands.

        1. JustaTech*

          And even better, most of the other people will also have their hands full, so they won’t offer to shake hands. I’ve noticed that when about half a group of people has their hands full, the other half don’t tend to try to shake hands.

  21. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    A slight bow, or incline of the head coupled with a large smile wouldn’t offend me. I’m not sure I’d even think about it.

    I personally do a little wave at times, but I know it doesn’t look very professional.

  22. Sapmi*

    LW1 Allison’s script is great, but there are situations where not shaking hands comes across as rude. I lead international teams often in contact with business partners from all over the world, and we adapt our ways of greeting others. The key here is that this is done out of respect for their cultures, while respecting the cultures among our team members. Assuming you are white and Western, we are lucky to be able to greet people from many cultures in their own ways. Germophobia is not a culture, and I would not have tolerated that as a reason for not shaking hands. You may carry a small bottle of sanitiser to remedy, but again, if caught, it may indeed send the wrong signal. It is simply not normal to wash your hands after a handshake.

    By all means, within your team or with contacts you know well and have rapport with, do tell them that you are not a handshaker or a hugger – we all want the people we work with to feel comfortable. That is quite normal in fact, but it is also common curtesy to put your personal preferences or issues aside in first meetings.

    By the way, I haven’t had the flu or a cold in five years despite shaking lots of hands from all over the world!

    1. Fikly*

      Well, it’s not a culture, but it is a mental health disorder. So your intolerance would be violating the ADA, if you were the LW’s boss and insisted on them shaking hands.

      You, anecdotally not having the flu or a cold, is not statistically significant in any way, and means nothing, by the way. You know nothing of whether or not the LW has underlying health issues that make them more likely to get ill, or more likely to become seriously ill if they do become ill, as well.

      1. Call me St. Vincent*

        I practice disability law. We don’t have enough information as to whether this is a mental health disability that would rise to the level of a cognizable disability under the ADA or if it is just a mere preference. Phobias can certainly rise to the level of a disability, but people use the term germophobia colloquially all the time without referring to a specific mental health disability. While it could potentially be a disability covered by the ADA (or maybe a perceived disability), as described in the post, without more information, it seems unlikely to be. Also, based on Sapmi’s post, it doesn’t sound like Sapmi is in the US so the ADA may not apply to them at all, although there may be other nondiscrimination laws in their country that might, if this were to qualify as a disability under that law.

        1. Fikly*

          Oh, I know we don’t have enough information.

          But Sapmi’s attitude is horrifying and terrible, and I brought up what I said to point out that it is also potentially breaking the law.

          Because there are absolutely cases, in the US, where this would be classified as a disability, and it would be protected. It may not be this case, but they do exist.

          1. fposte*

            It’s true that some instances of mental disability are protected, but it’s really not accurate to say “your intolerance would be violating the ADA.” The law is too situationally dependent for that claim.

          2. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

            Is it really horrifying and terrible? I’d argue it’s just another professional viewpoint.

            I’m in the UK, and it’s highly unlikely that anyone with a phobia or a ‘phobia’ would be covered by disability law.

            1. Fikly*

              It’s horrifying and terrible to say my need for what I view as good manners is more important than the other person’s need to feel safe. The first thing is nice to have. The second thing is very important.

              Because that is what is being said here. It doesn’t really matter if the LW’s fear is rational or not. The fear is there, and Sapmi is saying that what aren’t even universal norms (not that there are any universal norms) are more important than the LW feeling safe.

              1. anon4this*

                ” It doesn’t really matter if the LW’s fear is rational or not”
                Actually when it comes to safety, an irrational fear can do more harm than good. It can be lonely, isolating and ultimately its pointless because we’re all covered in germs. It can also hinder their immune system to constantly slather their skin in antibacterials.
                Getting “sick” very occasionally/rarely can even be beneficial as your immune system produces antibodies to fight off and protect your body in the future.
                Tolerating an annoying phobia is one thing, but pretending safety is an actual issue just because their irrational thinking wants it to be one, does not make it so.

                1. Fikly*

                  That’s not coworker’s responsibility to LW.

                  Coworker doesn’t have to pretend, or even talk about the issue. All coworker has to do is not call out LW for not shaking hands. Lets not pretend this is a huge inconvenience for coworker.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Tics and quirks are not protected by the ADA.

        We can infer that the LW does not have an immuno-suppression reasons to avoid handshakes because they don’t ask how to succinctly explain this (e.g. “Under medical care, can’t shake hands” while bowing) and instead ask how to avoid handshakes. You can avoid all sorts of business and social norms if you either have a visible, clearly understood reason you can’t perform them (right arm in a sling = can’t shake hands) or have a succinct explanation (“excuse the clogs; foot surgery”). If you’ve violating business norms for reasons of personal preference, that’s harder to carry off. In some fields/regions, you can easily substitute the bow; in others it’s going to be a problem. And we don’t know how this applies to OP, whether handshakes come up once a month or once an hour.

        1. Fikly*

          You can’t infer that – plenty of people prefer to keep medical information private. They also aren’t asking how to explain that they are scared of getting sick.

      3. OP#1*

        I realize that it’s popular to armchair diagnose people with ADD, autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, and other mental health disorders, but that’s not the problem here. If I would refuse to attend meetings or other events in case someone wants to shake my hand, that would be another story.

        1. WellRed*

          Well, it’s really not up to others to decide what they will”tolerate” what we do or don’t do for whatever reason with our own bodies. Sapmis disdain for others is indeed rude. I say this as a non phobic handshakes.

          1. Fikly*

            I took “the irony” to be a comment about a person complaining about someone else being rude while being extremely rude themselves.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        There are all sorts of personal quirks your boss might not tolerate in your business interactions when you are representing the company. Failure to shake hands when that is the expected custom with these people; answering “how are you” with a detailed litany of your bad year; commenting favorably on their attractiveness rating.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        The old saying, “we are being paid for our willingness to get along with others” has merit.
        If we want to find reasons that others tick us off, we WILL indeed find those reasons. It’s not hard. At all. The trick is to sort what is an actual issue and what is not.

      3. Viette*

        And what are they going to do, grab the OP’s hand and force her to shake? Scold her extensively before moving on with the conversation? Blacklist her and refuse to interact with her? All those seem like massive overkill (because they are) and puts the unprofessionalism ball right back in the court of the person getting offended about not shaking hands.

      4. Arctic*

        Well, bosses don’t have to be polite. If the company is hosting international people (as the person we are responding to envisions) and an employee insults them on the small chance of getting a cold that would not be acceptable.

        Now it’s likely OP isn’t in anything close to this situation.

      5. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah this attitude is 100x worse than not wanting to shake hands. Handshakes may be common but nobody *owes* you a handshake and you do not get to decide whether or not their reason for not wanting to do so is acceptable.

        I’m a little surprised to be honest how many people in this thread think it’s *so* unusual that it risks being all someone is remembered for. I feel like there has been at least the start of a cultural shift away from forced physical contact of any kind, including hand shakes. I think rejecting a handshake can lead to awkwardness in the moment but I honestly can’t imagine even remembering that it happened 20 minutes later, let alone thinking of that person forever as “the guy who didn’t want to shake hands.”

    2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “Germophobia is not a culture, and I would not have tolerated that as a reason for not shaking hands.”

      Glad I do not have you as a manager. It’s not good to be involved in international work and be this rigid.

      1. Allypopx*

        It’s really not. And if I were your client/colleague/manager I would not tolerate finding out you were forcing people to place themselves in politely avoidable physical discomfort for appearances, and would take my business elsewhere or raise serious concerns about your judgement and priorities.

    3. Observer*

      By the way, I haven’t had the flu or a cold in five years despite shaking lots of hands from all over the world!

      Which is nice for you, but that doesn’t translate to everyone else.

      In general, “I personally have not encountered this problem, so tit must not really be a problem” is an ironically disrespectful take for someone who stakes their position on the idea of being respectful.

      1. OP#1*

        Yes, absolutely. I have read many articles about how to avoid getting colds and hand hygiene is always at the top of the list.

      2. Fikly*

        It goes hand and hand with “I am a member of x minority, and I did not find this offensive, therefore it is not offensive.” Also no.

    4. Lime green Pacer*

      It’s worth keeping in mind that, although it is *not* the OP’s situation, there are cases where people absolutely must opt out of handshaking. If they are immune compromised (for example, from cancer treatments), they are not going to want to shake hands. Some people who have suffered physical or sexual abuse have problems with shaking hands also. (I learned about that in the context of “the sign of peace” at church services.)

      So, if someone does not wish to shake your hand, it might be wise to assume that they are not doing out on a whim. They may “just” be germophobic, but there could be something much more important behind it that they are not willing to disclose.

    5. Karli*

      “That is quite normal in fact, but it is also common curtesy to put your personal preferences or issues aside in first meetings.”

      No, not really. For example, if everyone at a meeting orders a coffee, I still won’t because I don’t like coffee.

  23. Foxgloves*

    In terms of the hand shaking one- one option is to pre-empt the handshake by introducing yourself first, keeping your hand on your chest while you do so, maybe with a little nod. I used to organise events which included a congratulatory handshake, and I used to tell the participants who for religious/ other reasons who didn’t want to shake hands to do just this. It was never awkward or difficult, and if you’re actively putting your hands somewhere else that clearly doesn’t invite a handshake, most people won’t go in for one.

  24. Harper the Other One*

    OP #3 – that would drive me around the bend. When you have the more serious conversation, one thing to point out would be that if he thinks he’s “saving time” he’s wrong – multiple rounds of correction take much more time than sending one correct email!

    Another tack to take would be to point out that this could affect his professional reputation. Voice to text is so inaccurate with scientific terms that it’s quite likely at some point that he’ll end up on the record as saying something laughably incorrect. If he’s already done so, make sure you bring that up – “I’m sure you don’t want people thinking you don’t know the difference between X and Y…”

    1. OP#3*

      That is a good point. I should pull up a few instances that make it clear its not ‘just typos’ (if it was just typos I would not care, typos are just a part of life). Thanks for the suggestion!

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        This is a great angle. Typos are unavoidalbe but legilbe; voice-to-text errors are usually semantically distant substitutions, and the system will rarely produce a non-word. Worse, although it would be obvious that a chemistry lab wouldn’t actually want to order llama feed, would it be obvious that a professor could accommodate sixteen grad students in the seminar and not sixty?

      2. EPLawyer*

        Don’t fall into the trap of having to explain in great detail to get him to believe you. You don’t have to come with charts and slides (exaggerating here). A simple conversation like Alison said “You think you are communicating well, you are not. These things can wait. If you rush it, it only leads to more work. One time it almost cost us $X. It needs to stop.”

        1. OP#3*

          Yah that is a good point. I do tend to over prepare for stuff like this, and it shouldn’t be necessary.

        2. fposte*

          I think that phrasing is more suitable to a subordinate, though; this is a peer, and possibly a senior one to boot. “It needs to stop” is not likely to get the collegial response the OP needs for the project to continue.

  25. C Average*

    I routinely tell people I don’t shake hands, because I have eczema on my hands and find it sometimes painful and sometimes just gross to have people touch them during a bad flare. If I smile and soften the statement with “but it’s wonderful to meet you, [name],” it’s usually fine.

    On the rare occasions anyone seems put off by it, I hold up my hands apologetically and say, “Sorry, they’re really dry right now and I’m trying not to subject people to them,” because I don’t want to get into the whole eczema thing with strangers.

    It’s very seldom a big deal at all, and when it is, it’s because the other person chooses to make it a big deal, which is on them as far as I’m concerned.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I think you do have to say something like what you suggest about dry hands or leaving someone’s hand hanging seems rude.

      I would also think that any of the suggestions to bend with hands together as if in prayer would strike me as very odd and I would remember the oddity more than your skills.

      I worked in a Modern Orthodox Jewish school where men and women do not touch or shake hands. All but one MO person in the entire school shook hands with the opposite gender when someone outside the community put a hand out. The goal was respect. I think leaving someone’s hand hanging is disrespectful unless you say something about why; I’m under the weather, my hands are dry, I hurt my hand, etc. With coworkers, I want to respect their wishes so letting me know they don’t shake is helpful. That way I can even help them avoid handshaking situations – “over there is Wakeen, he does our IT.”

  26. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP3, this should be treated as any other situation where someone sends a badly written email because they didn’t check it through first. It would be unacceptable for me to bang out a messy email on my phone while queueing at the grocery store, and send it without reading it, because it suited me to do it that way.

    It doesn’t matter what the reason is, sloppy, error filled communication is unprofessional.

    I would let him know that his current way of sending emails is causing extra work for everyone else and could create risks for the project. In writing.

    And then I would just reply to each email with “There are typos in your message. I don’t have time to figure out what you mean, so please fix them and send it out again.” Or, “Sorry Gribbins! Not sure what you mean. Please clarify.” Repeat as necessary.

    Doesn’t anyone else respond to this? Or are they just waiting for you to sort it out?

    1. OP#3*

      I often get emails directly from other folks asking me with co-lead means, rather then them replying to the email chain and asking. Perhaps if having a more clear and direct conversation with co-lead doesn’t work I can suggest other folks in the group reply straight to the group emails asking for clarification, to emphasize that its not just me that finds all of this confusing.

      1. DyneinWalking*

        Tell them to do that, but in addition, you might want to forward these emails to him. Honestly I feel that you are spending FAR too much time on trying to fix his mistakes. Captain Awkward has this saying of “Return awkward to sender”. In your case, I’d adapt that to “return nuisance to sender”.

        Every time someone approaches you asking about misunderstandings caused by co-lead, refer them to him. Every time you get an email about it, tell them to ask him and also forward that email. Every time he writes an incomprehensible email, send a template mail asking for clarification. Resend it every couple of hours. Every time someone misunderstands something because of the mails, answer that person plus co-lead, telling co-lead to clarify. Make him clean up every. Single. Bit. of the mess he’s causing. There’s no clean-up you can really do, you’re just as confused as everybody else! The best you can do is to loop back all of the misunderstandings back to him. Just be as friendly and earnestly confused as you truly are and don’t take up more responsibility than strictly necessary, after all, you have a thousand emails proving that you aren’t the cause of this mess. But right now, you are suffering and he is not.
        Make him suffer.

        1. Observer*

          This was my first response.

          I would tweak it just a bit. Instead of forwarding an email, I would respond to the person asking and put CL in the address line as well. It’s one less step. More importantly it keeps the asker from keeping up the conversation with you – You want this to be squarely in the lap of CL.

      2. Blarg*

        And not your responsibility to manage your co-lead’s behavior … that def seems like “the younger woman will help us clarify” territory to me (as OP has explained the gender/age gap in other replies). Clarify with the guy who sent the confusing thing. AND avoid multiple chains of non-reply-all corrections that could compound confusion.

      3. Thankful for AAM*

        As the others said, return awkward to sender. I would return every single email that had one slightly confusing sentence and I would reply all. “Voice to text struck again, please clarify.”

      4. Not So NewReader*

        So he is failing to communicate and you are picking up his slack.
        So very No.
        It’s a basic part of his job to communicate clearly. If he cannot do this then he cannot do the job (or probably any job for that matter, this is such a basic skill).

        As we go along here, OP, I don’t doubt you when you say there are other issues. This type of problem very seldom exists on its own. There are usually other dropped balls, missed cues or just a general lack of caring.

  27. Retail not Retail*

    This is presumably not a position op1 would ever find themselves in (I’ve had a very filthy working history), but once I was stocking bags of charcoal and got called to a register. They had loose sweet potatoes and I was doing my best to touch them as little as possible. The man was like what you don’t like those? I held my hands up and the woman laughed at him.

    In my current job, I have had to shake hands but among my colleagues we high five or fist bump. I did recently avoid a hand shake because I was filthy as usual (wet gloves are gross! You lose dexterity!).

    Op2 – if I had to do something like that it ironically would have been easier in retail – “helped a customer with a complicated issue!” – but my job now would be like the time my boss asked “how was that area?” “I saw a cool bird!” “I meant the work. What you were supposed to be doing.”

  28. lobsterp0t*

    I also hate shaking hands. I work in recruitment and am therefore constantly exploded to stuff if I do shake hands with every candidate. As soon as I stopped, I stopped getting sick!

    I just make sure to have my hands full as often as I can. And I don’t offer a hand even if I seem to have one free!

    For a while I had stitches but they weren’t obvious so I would just say I had a hand injury.

    Due to my role I wouldn’t be able to say “I don’t shake hands” but I find ways to make it impractical and keep it super smiley and friendly by using my body language to avoid the option where I can.

    1. Yvette*

      I believe hands full was the suggestion last time there was an question along these lines. Walk into meetings with an armful of papers/notepad in one arm and a full open coffee cup in the other. (Has to be open, covered ones are too easy to juggle.)

  29. Tomalak*

    I read once that the Queen, because her job involves shaking an enormous number of hands, is rather careful. As well as wearing gloves a lot, she carries hand sanitiser around in her handbag. Presumably sanitising soon after a handshake will kill germs anyway,

    1. BringHatsAndGlovesBack*

      There’s fashion gloves starting to be available. And conductive thread to enable touch screens. I always have cold-fingers, and may still be bitter about not being able to get the last polka-dot pair from Free People in January…

  30. The answer is (probably) 42*

    OP3: I have to wonder how he’s even reading these emails in the first place? As other commenters pointed out, if he’s using text-to-voice to listen to the emails, he should definitely use it to review his own emails before sending them.

    But also, if he insists he *must* reply by speaking, could he just send a recording of himself speaking? That would be extremely annoying in a different way, but it would at least remove one middleman and probably reduce the number of errors because humans are way better at parsing human speech than machines are.

    (Full disclosure, I use WhatsApp and I loathe talking to people who default to the voice recording feature. I don’t mind it if someone uses that feature occasionally because they’re driving or juggling kids or something but if you can type then type! If I have pause my music every time I want to chat with you I’m gonna get cranky.)

    1. OP#3*

      I think the only instances where he reads them are the few occasions thus far where I’ve been unable to translate and have had to completely circle back to figure out what he meant. So yes, that is certainly part the problem.

  31. Rebel*

    OP1: I have a condition called hyperhydrosis in which my hands sweat excessively. I hate shaking hands, so I’ve thought about this a lot. I agree with a comment above that having your hands full is the best option. Even if it’s a water bottle in one and a coffee mug in the other.
    In my case I try to always have a cold water bottle with me so if someone does insist on shaking hands still, I put down the water bottle and then it seems like my hands are wet from holding that.

    1. Triumphant Fox*

      I have this too – it’s gotten better over the years but it is so easy to trigger it. Now it’s really just any time I’m nervous/slightly overheated instead of constantly. For my job, I have to shake hands with a lot of people on stage and with the lights and the heat in the room and I feel so terrible for every person. As much as possible, I try to just point them to the next people or nod/bow but it’s super awkward.

  32. Not So Super-visor*

    Can I be the weirdo who kind of loves that goal for OP2? As someone who regularly struggles with mental health issues, I try to keep a gratitude/joy journal. I can tell when I stop keeping it because it’s usually the start of a mental health decline. I find that writing these things down reminds me that my life, my job, etc don’t suck. There may be sucky parts of my day or job, but overall there is always something good in the midst of it.

    I will agree that it’s weird to have it as an official performance goal though. I don’t think that I’d ever admit to my big boss about keeping something like this.

    1. Mill Miker*

      My experience with gratitude journaling has typically gone more like what OP2 describes. It seems to make my moods much worse, to the point where I get too worked up to even write anything down.

      My wife used to keep suggesting gratitude journaling when I was going through some particularly stressful work times, of the “write down three things” variety. When I struggled to come up with anything I always go the “What about your good health? You’re not in debt? You have a lovely wife?”, but I would get frustrated that day-in and day-out I only had the same set of things that described my life in general, with no progress. (And that’s ignoring the fact that the work stress was really jeopardizing my health and relationship, and the “no debt” thing was just a reminder that I could probably afford to get out of the bad job, but was being pressured to keep it anyway).

      In the end I would just get more frustrated with myself for not feeling grateful enough.

    2. Allonge*

      Hey, not at all weird! This is exactly the type of thing that should be 1. decided and 2. appreciated by the person doing it. It can be awesome to find something that works, especially for difficult stuff like mental health. It’s just not, as you say, a work thing.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      I think it’s a perfectly fine personal goal, but that is not something I’d accept as a professional goal for someone’s annual evaluation. Our performance management system is built around SMART goals and improved work performance, and I think HR would be concerned that goals of that sort would lead to a situation in which someone’s personal feelings or medical situation became a subject of review.

    4. Close Bracket*

      You can be the weirdo who loves that goal for *themself.* Loving it for someone else is an overstep.

  33. Phillip*

    OP2, I would make an autoreply/copypasteable “can you clarify?” style short message for any of these that could be misinterpreted. I have a client like this and it took me years to realize I didn’t have to bend over backward with “did you perhaps mean X? Or was it Y? Apologies if I am misreading! etc etc” style messages. They’re talking to you via robot so you don’t have to feel the need to give a super kind human response. Loose pasteable scripts like that help in the group scenarios too because you can fire em off fast, and most folks looped in on it will interpret as “I’ll wait for the clarification.”

  34. Jean*

    Ugh, the voice-to-texter. Dude, you don’t need to reply to emails while you’re driving. Not a good use of anyone’s time and also still really unsafe. Just because he’s not reading his responses before sending (and how is he even “responding to email” if he’s not reading the email he’s responding to?) doesn’t mean he isn’t distracted and causing a menace on the road. Sounds like he needs to get his head out of his ass.

  35. Yorick*

    OP1, are you ok with a fistbumb? In the US at least, a decent number of people have seen Howie Mandel do this because he doesn’t like shaking hands.

    IMO, many people are going to assume you’re a germophobe, so it might be better to just own that when you explain so nobody thinks it’s personal.

  36. Dust Bunny*

    OP1 My aunt has Raynaud’s, which makes shaking hands unpleasant for her. She just says she has “problems with her hands” and politely declines; she doesn’t specify but most people assume it’s arthritis or carpal tunnel or some other thing and let it go.

    1. Chili*

      I also say that I have problems with my hands to avoid handshakes and it seems to go over well. I think people tend to assume I have a hand injury, but actually my hands are always super cold (to the point that they feel wet to other people when they are actually quite dry) and deeply unpleasant for other people to touch.

      1. Chili*

        A couple times people have asked “Oh, what sort of hand issues?” and I explain honestly. Most people get it, but a few end up insisting on shaking them (I think to try to make me feel less self-conscious about my hands) but then they always immediately regret it, lol. My hands are really cold!

  37. UbiCaritas*

    OP #1 – I have arthritis in my hands. I hold up my hand and say “I’m sorry, arthritis,” or even, “I have arthritis, I’m sorry I can’t shake hands.”

  38. Oh No She Di'int*

    #2 Ugh, this sounds impossible and counterproductive on its face. If I were your manager, I think I would have discouraged it from the start.

    I remember hearing about a psychology study in which half the participants were asked to name 3 reasons why they love their spouse, and the other half were asked to name 10 reasons why they love their spouse. At the end of it, the people who had to name 3 reasons rated their relationships as much stronger and more profound than the people who had to name 10 reasons. Why? Because coming up with 10 reasons why you love someone is way harder than it sounds. By the 10th item, it starts to feel forced and contrived. So those people naturally thought, “Well, I guess I don’t love my husband/wife as much as I thought I did.”

    I may have the details of the study wrong. But the point is, trying to force that kind of cheeriness day after day, 365 days a year HAS to backfire at some point. I’m wondering if your supervisor didn’t also secretly have a similar reaction. Humans aren’t all that different from each other. Would you feel comfortable confiding and saying something like, “Look, that seemed like a great goal at the time, but sometimes it seemed more harmful than helpful. Did you ever have that experience?” It may be that he’s secretly looking to lay down that burden too.

  39. Been Around the Block*

    Hi. I’m OP2 with the problematic Joy Journal, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to find out that lots of other people wouldn’t want this goal either! It seemed like a good idea at the time (after all, I did originally make it a goal for myself – it wasn’t handed to me by somebody else) and I do think I learned something valuable from it. Namely, while I agree that it’s important to feel good about one’s job overall, no job on Earth is wonderful every day, and that’s OKAY. It doesn’t need to “bring joy” every day to still be a great job. And sometimes there are other kinds of satisfactions, not particularly joyful but satisfying nonetheless. For example, taking on a task that nobody else wanted to touch with a 10-foot pole and despite all the things that made nobody want to do it, getting it done in a way that was professional and reflected well on the capabilities of our department. I love some of these other suggestions of alternate goals, and am going to pick an alternate self-improvement goal (such as learning something new each week, or genuinely thanking a colleague for something I appreciated them doing) and suggest it as a new goal for the coming year. Thanks everybody for all the great ideas!

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      “And sometimes there are other kinds of satisfactions, not particularly joyful but satisfying nonetheless. For example, taking on a task that nobody else wanted to touch with a 10-foot pole and despite all the things that made nobody want to do it, getting it done in a way that was professional and reflected well on the capabilities of our department.”

      SO WISE!!

      Sorry to yell, but people underestimate the deep satisfaction–and indeed profound joy of a different kind–that comes from facing down a challenge and overcoming it. No, it’s not the same kind of joy as riding a merry-go-round. But it’s the kind of joy that gives life meaning and texture. Congratulations to you!

    2. Dr. Pepper*

      The thing with joy and happiness is that they’re relative and constantly chasing them pretty much guarantees that you won’t find them. Obligation kills joy, so being obliged to find a joyful thing every day is pretty much an impossible task unless you’re the sort of person who does this anyway unprompted.

      I too think you’re much better off going for goals you can DO (as in action) instead of chasing backwards from a feeling. We don’t control our feelings, they’re there to tell us things, not goals in and of themselves. That feeling of deep satisfaction comes from doing something we know is meaningful. You don’t wait to feel satisfaction first and then go and do something. It starts with the action, which is something you have complete control over.

    3. Stormy Weather*

      I like the goal of learning something new every week. Personally and professionally fulfilling.

    4. Triumphant Fox*

      This reminds me of that Fleet Foxes song “Helplessness Blues.” Finding joy every day feels like an expectation that you are going to fall short of – and it’s just so unsatisfying. I have found that thinking of my job in terms of achievements I can add to my resume has helped give me focus in a position that has very little direction. But I think “satisfaction” is better than “joy” in your job anyway – I’m satisfied that I’ve made progress on 4 small projects this morning, while none of them were especially joyful, they are done!

    5. JSPA*

      If you want to sell a change to the boss, here’s one way:

      “I realized the joy list was, paradoxically, making me too inward focused and judgemental about the state of my happiness. The log made me realize how many brief moments of positivity don’t reach ‘joy’ status, but still make a stressful process much more bearable and productive. What I really want to do instead of tallying ‘joy’ is to increase my happiness quotient by letting people know, in the moment, how much I value their effort and their presence. I’d rather not have that as a stated goal. It takes away from the positive impact of receiving freely given appreciation. My stated goal is ‘Increase happiness incrementally.'”

  40. Rainbow Roses*

    #3 People get away with shoddy work because others keep fixing it. I’m guilty of this myself because it’s easier and faster. But I’ve learned to send back work because while it takes time to “train” them by putting the burden back on them, it’s better in the long run.

    1. OP#1*

      Haha! I see the note below the cartoon says the same thing I did about “i have a cold” only works the first time!

  41. ellex42*

    I don’t shake people’s hands in December and January if I can at all avoid it. I can’t use hand sanitizer (all of them make my skin break out in little itchy red spots – ALL of them) and I’m so tired of getting sick around the holidays, and there’s always some illness going around at that time.

    A smile and “I’m sorry, I prefer not to shake hands but it’s great to meet you” seems to work well. I know some people don’t like apologizing, so you can leave that part off if it makes you uncomfortable (to me it’s an apology for the sake of politeness, no more). The “it’s great to meet you” softens the refusal. Sometimes people will ask why I don’t want to shake their hand, but that’s fairly rare.

    There are more people out there than you might think who are immunocompromised, have a relative or friend who is immunocompromised, can’t afford to miss work, or have any of a dozen other excellent reasons to avoid handshakes. Personally, I’d just rather not get sick if I can avoid it, and that’s perfectly okay, too.

  42. Leela*

    OP #3 I’d also push back on his typos statement! I’d say explicitly “You mentioned earlier that everyone makes typos but the issue isn’t typos, it’s that your messages aren’t comprehensible or clearly state the opposite of what you mean”. I second everything else Alison said to say (it’s causing time lost for the confusion, it’s almost cost money before) and if this person still refuses, is there any kind of project overseer or higher up you can take this to?

    I’m tempted to put your communication to this other person in an e-mail so you have written proof you’ve said it (and include “I know we’ve talked about this before” because you might need to if you end up having to escalate this, if you can escalate it

  43. The Tin Man*


    AND DON’T EMAIL WHILE DRIVING. I don’t care if it’s speech-to-text; you still need to hit buttons to open, send, select the recipients, etc. Never mind reading a previous email it’s a response.

  44. Sunflower Sea Star*

    #5, if you did record for your company, would this be something you do in the office, or would you need to use your own studio/equipment for this? To me, that’s the difference between “other duties” and “side job”
    If you can do it with what the company provides, at your work location = other duties as assigned
    If you need a recording studio with professional level gear, and the company isn’t providing that = freelance gig

  45. Chili*

    This relates to #4, but isn’t advice directly for the LW. I wish people wouldn’t do interviews over meals! There are so many reasons it could make someone uncomfortable. I’m a slow eater– more so when I’m talking — which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s always so awkward to be done with the content of the meeting/interview and then I have to finish my meal while the other person sits there. It also can be nerve-wracking for people from different backgrounds– in my experience most people don’t really care as long as you demonstrate really basic table manners (e.g., chewing with mouth closed), but there are theoretically all sorts of rules for dining in professional situations. And people can have so many issues with food… It just seems like it’s setting people up for uncomfortable situations. Once you’re colleagues or if you know each other well– go for it– but for first or early impressions, meeting over food is a no-go in my book.

    1. SweetestCin*


      I have food allergies – we’re not talking discomfort, we’re talking “cross contamination could land me in the hospital or worse”.

      They’re very manageable with work on my part. Once I’m hired, I share as needed in order to keep myself safe (i.e. don’t spring a trip to a seafood restaurant on me, no surprise “meals are included and you can’t go anywhere else” meetings, etc., where I keep my Epi-Pens). If I’m interviewing, I want the conversation to be about my abilities as they pertain to the job, NOT my medical condition that has absolutely nothing to do with my abilities as they pertain to the job!

  46. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    OP2: My personal philosophy on goals is that they should have some kind of end point where you know you’ve succeeded or not, and it needs to be something over which you have control. “I will be healthier” isn’t a great goal because there’s a ton of ways of determining “health,” so how do you measure success? What if you eat healthier but get more colds – are you reaching your goal or not? “I will make my workplace more friendly” is also not a good goal because that’s not entirely up to you – you might be trying to be more friendly, but that doesn’t affect Irma the Admin who’s always a sourpuss. But “I will cook at least one meal from scratch every week” is a good goal, because whether you cook or not is your choice, and you’ll know if you met the goal or not immediately (if you cooked a meal from scratch on Tuesday, then you succeeded for the week).

    In the case of the Joy Journal, having emotions isn’t something you can really control. You can control your behaviors, but you can’t make yourself be happy if you’re not. So the goal was doomed to failure because you can’t succeed at something that you’re not choosing to do.

    So whatever your goal this year ends up being, I’d try to make it something you can actually succeed at, so that you’re not discouraged again.

  47. DaisyC*

    OP#1, in going overboard trying to avoid germs, you are actually increasing your odds of getting sick by creating resistant bacteria and killing ‘good’ bacteria. Can’t you just shake hands with someone and then wash your hands afterward? With non anti-bacterial soap. (seriously, anti-bacterial soap and hand sanitizers do more harm than good. washing with regular soap and water is the best)

    1. Ladylike*

      Have you seen how many otherwise normal-looking people exit public restrooms without washing their hands? I have no desire to build up my tolerance to diarrhea and stomach viruses by purposely exposing myself. Nope nope nope.

      1. DaisyC*

        Are you suggesting never using public restrooms because a small percentage of people don’t wash their hands? I try not to monitor what total strangers do around me, that have no impact on me. And the last time I heard someone complain of a person not washing their hands after using the bathroom, they didn’t realize there was a sink IN that particular stall. So appearances can be deceiving. I use work and public restrooms all the time and I can’t recall the last time I saw someone not wash their hands. And if that did happen, maybe they were in the stall changing clothing, or doing something other than using the toilet. Point being why so quick to judge?
        Anyway my original point remains. By being THAT germophobic, a person actually increases their chances of getting sick, not the other way around.

        1. fposte*

          They really don’t, though. Hand sanitizer has nothing to do with antibiotic resistance, which is what you seem to be thinking of, and there isn’t antibacterial soap these days, so the OP isn’t using that. There was also no evidence that antibacterial soap raised an individual’s risk of illness–there was concern about the potential for broader effects but no indication that it was localized (and there wasn’t data about the broader effects, just concern).

          It may not be reducing her chances that much, since a lot of illnesses aren’t transmitted by surface contamination, but it’s not likely to be raising her risk, either.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            If there’s no antibacterial soap anymore, what do I have in my bathroom? I’m seriously asking because the bottle says “antibacterial soap” but I could be misunderstanding. (I obviously have no issues with the idea of antibacterial soap, since I bought it.)

        2. Ego Chamber*

          What is this comment? The comment above you is suggesting OP isn’t weird for not wanting to touch random strangers who are somewhat likely to have really gross things on their hands and you’ve turned that into … never using a public restroom?

    2. Jedi Squirrel*

      This is not how this works. Using alcohol-based hand sanitizer does not create stronger bacteria in the same way that using antibiotics creates antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It is a completely different biochemical mechanism. The key is to make sure the alcohol completely dries on your hands without wiping it off.

      Good old soap and water is still a good defense.

      1. fposte*

        Plus you really can’t get antibacterial soap in the U.S. anymore–triclosan is no longer permitted in OTC soaps.

        1. ...*

          Really!? I swear I saw this at the store last week. Maybe it was antibacterial but being sold with another active ingredient. I never buy it anyway but that’s super interesting!

          1. fposte*

            There’s stuff with chlorhexidine being sold as antibacterial, which leads me to believe that’s not a strictly enforced FDA term (chlorhexidine is an antiseptic rather than an antibacterial, really) or else they haven’t gotten caught yet.

            (And of course you can go on Amazon and find products with triclosan and triclocarban.)

    3. Observer*

      A couple of things. Not all hand sanitizers create resistant bacteria – it depends on the mechanism.

      More importantly, while your overall point is valid “can’t you just do x” when x is something that the OP explicitly sated they don’t want to do is totally unhelpful.

    4. OP#1*

      “Can’t you just shake hands with someone and then wash your hands afterward? ”
      As I said in my letter, my question is how to avoid having to do that. It’s just not feasible sometimes.

  48. Sled dog mana*

    I’m not big on shaking hands, just personal preference from working in medical clinics, anything to reduce the possible contamination and need to wash or sanitize again. I already wash/sanitize so many times a day, purely due to clean hands before and after patient contact that it’s hard on my hands.
    Something I found that works for me is purposely making the handshake awkward. By this I mean seating myself far enough from the person who might offer a handshake or being in the opposite side of a slightly too wide table. Then I’m free to offer a wave during introductions without any problem, of course this won’t work in every situation which is why I’m never without my tea mug (always filled to the brim before walking into a meeting) and my notebook and pen. Voila hands full of hard to juggle things to prevent handshakes at the door.

  49. Bopper*

    Shaking hands:

    Howie Mandel, noted germophobe, just does fist bumps.

    I had a coworker who was Jewish who I suspect was orthodox and didn’t touch women but he would put his hands in a sort of praying position and give a quick bow…so he was acknowledging you without touching you.

  50. Ladylike*

    OP #1 – “I’m sorry, I CAN’T shake hands but it’s very nice to meet you.” Said warmly with a regretful smile. “I don’t” sounds like you’re choosing not to, but “I can’t” sounds like it’s out of your control. Or the white lie, “I’m sorry, a hand condition prevents me from shaking hands, but it’s very nice to meet you.” I’ve read several letters to advice columnists from people who deal with chronic hand pain, or who have been the victim of crushing handshakes and are sick of it, and are looking for polite ways to decline handshakes. It might not be 100% honest, but maybe the “condition” is, “I don’t want your germs on my hands.”

    My inner germophobe likes your other preventive measures, so I’ll be stealing them. :)

  51. Ms. Green Jeans*

    I’m a bit germphobic, and I also feel a bit triggered by having my hand squeezed for social norm purposes. Around work, I pretty much carry around a notebook and pen everywhere, and I just offer a giant smile and wave my notebook. It’s a bit goofy perhaps, but it’s the perfect intro to my general awkwardness, and I own it well.

  52. Buttons*

    “find and write down something about my work that gives me joy each day”
    This is not a performance goal, and any manager who thinks it is has no idea how to set goals. Goals should be relevant to your job and produce measurable outcomes. Keeping a gratitude journal can be a personal development goal, but c’mon. That has no place in your job.

  53. Chronic Overthinker*

    OP1 I can certainly understand your issue of avoiding handshakes. I actually have a friend who has severe social anxiety. Shaking hands/hugging is so not their thing. They usually fist bump, which may not be appropriate for a professional setting. I think a nice smile, a closed eyes bow and a perfunctory “I don’t shake hands, but it is good to make your acquaintance” type of script would be perfect. You may have to adjust your script for people you have met before and the more you work with people, the more they will remember your greeting style. :)

  54. Slow Gin Lizz*

    OP2, I watched a fantastic YouTube video by CGP Grey about how setting new year’s resolutions about doing something daily or weekly is a recipe for failure. Instead, the video recommends setting a theme for the year and then when you are faced with a decision about what to do, decide to do the thing that best fits the theme. So, for instance, if your yearly theme was joy, you might be faced with a decision about whether you wanted to go for a walk or stay home and watch YouTube videos, and you’d decide based on which one would bring you joy.

    I’ll try to post the link to the video below, if AAM will let me, but if not you can probably find it yourself. It’s called “Your New Year’s Resolution Has Already Failed” but the title isn’t really descriptive of what the video is about, IMO.

  55. HailRobonia*

    Regarding handshakes, during the height of flu season one year my grandboss encouraged us to do “alternate” handshakes – we discussed several options and the best was “elbow bumps.” When offered a handshake we would say things like “how about an elbow bump – flu season!”

    1. JustMePatrick*

      Some people will offer you a fist for a fist bump. Comedian Howie Mandel does this, a self-professed germophobe. I also have a co-work who does this as well.

  56. Same, dude*

    Interesting question, OP1.

    I will shake hands, but what makes me uncomfortable in office culture is meeting alone with women I don’t know.

    It’s not a Mike Pence thing! I’m also AFAB. But I’m currently working through some trauma related to a sexual assault by another woman. So I just get really nervous being in a closed environment with one I don’t know. It makes me a lot less effective in such meetings and interviews, even though I know this is not a rational fear.

    OP1, I feel your problem! It’s hard to have such a fear in the workplace and have to confront it so often.

  57. TootsNYC*

    Instead, when he sends a confusing email, reply back with, “It’s not clear what you mean here — I think voice-to-text has struck again. Can you send a corrected version when you’re back at your desk?”

    I’d say so this every time it even appears that he has used voice-to-text.
    Even if it does seem clear. And use reply-to-all. so everyone else knows to expect a cleaned-up version.

    “Voice-to-text has garbled this; can you send a corrected version…?”

    Kick it back to him EVERY time it’s voice-to-text, even if it’s pretty clear. After all–you all thought it was clear that time that it nearly cost $X.

    Pretty soon it won’t be saving him any time after all, and maybe he’ll get the hint. And at the very least, you’ll have clear info.

  58. Half April Ludgate, Half Leslie Knope*

    LW5, my old company did lots of V/O work with various employees (and occasional freelancers/local media when we wanted a specific voice) and my colleague who scheduled them would have been startled if a fellow employee had requested payment.

    Not saying it’s the same at your company, but at mine, we had a “help each other out” culture, and every so often you’d be asked to participate in things that weren’t your usual gig (with the option to say no!) I even had a few colleagues volunteer to use their DJ equipment from their side gigs for various events.

    Think back through your time there – have other employees volunteered various non-work services for free, or were they paid? Ask around, and hopefully you’ll learn more about this aspect of your company’s culture.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      I agree, it’s good to know if your company culture expects employees to do things for free that the company would otherwise have to pay professionals to do. This isn’t “helping each other out,” this is devaluing skilled labor to save the company money. If that’s the culture, it’s good to know that.

  59. AltAcProf*

    OP 1 : I also hate shaking hands for similar reasons, especially at functions where we then sit to eat. My way around it has always been to make sure I am carrying something — my keys, a notebook , etc. and then nod and smile enthusiastically. Doesn’t work every time, but people won’t usually displace objects to shake a hand.

  60. butters*

    “Nothing excessive, but I use a stylus to call elevators…”

    I have literally never seen anyone do that ever.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t know that it’d be easily noticeable. If you hold most of it in your hand and it just sticks out a little, it’s going to look a lot like a finger.

  61. jesus cat*

    i once did a voice to text that said “i think we should watch porn”. you need to double-check those or you risk HR nonsense.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Some high school kid got suspended a few years ago for a bad autocomplete that turned his text into something like “gunman be in the cafeteria at noon” rather than “gonna be in the cafeteria at noon.”

  62. Hating germs*

    I have an issue with people who pick their hands and hand things to me after. I run a register and encounter many people throughout the day who will lick their fingers to count cash then hand it to me. I’m expected to provide excellent customer service, but find it hard when I’m being handed something that is still wet from someone’s fingers.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        I’m pretty sure the money is more unsanitary than any germs that are being added to it. Super grosses me out when people lick their fingers to count bills though.

  63. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP2: I actually made that a goal in my personal life back in 2013. I forced myself to post a daily Facebook update about one thing I was grateful for. I forbade myself to repeat the same thing twice. Soon I started posting things like “I am grateful for air.” (Yes, that was an actual post.)

    I ended up freaking out my friends and making them worried. Turns out I was going through undiagnosed depression and I was the last one to know!

    1. Vicky Austin*

      I did the same thing, too, for a year. I got the idea from a friend who did the same. One day when I was stuck, I said “I am grateful for oxygen.”

  64. CoffeeforLife*

    OP1 I gave an elbow bump today (like a fist bump but with my elbow) to avoid hand touching. I don’t think that’ll catch on in professional circles but we’re trying to remain infection free over here :)

  65. Vicky Austin*

    #2 Instead of trying to find joy in your work, why not try to find something to be grateful for in each day, including work and nonwork hours? It could be something as simple as a delicious blueberry muffin or a pretty sunset. I did that for a year and tried to come up with something different each day.

  66. Pobody's Nerfect*

    OP#1 – From about November to March, I straight up tell people who offer a handshake “Oh I don’t shake hands during cold and flu season, but thank you, it’s nice to meet you.” Most of the time I put my two hands palms together in front of my chest while I’m saying it. The response most of the time is “Oh, right, ok.” I wish I could use this wording all year long. I haven’t quite figured out what to do the rest of the year. Humans are gross and carry gross things on their hands. In a world where rapidly-mutating viruses will likely outdo us all and be the last living things on earth, I don’t think it’s a strange thing to want to avoid their ill effects as much as possible.

    1. OP#1*

      I am very interested in these helpful comments from people who have actually used these techniques. Thanks.

  67. Edwina*

    Breakfast meeting LW: I work in Hollywood, where breakfast meetings are as common as lunch meetings (and almost as common as dinner meetings). Generally, order coffee or tea, and something very light like fruit and yogurt. If they’re actually ordering breakfast, get something extremely simple like scrambled eggs and toast. Nothing like pancakes, waffles, no bacon, no biscuits and gravy. You want something sort of “elegant and refined,” something simple, something unnoticeable.

  68. M*

    i don’t generally shake hands at work because of colds, etc. I’ve found that when i meet someone new at work, etc. if i just clasp my own hands together (like praying), smile, and slightly incline my head and shoulders towards them, like a head only “bow” they drop the handshake and immediately move on usually without thinking about it. It’s all about how you personally handle it. when you walk up you do it naturally. and if you don’t make it weird, they wont either. most folks don’t run up to you with their hand out to shake anymore. i DO still shake hands when meeting someone like a high level client or when i walk into interviews, etc. I think it depends on the level of formality in the situation. if you’re interacting with someone in their 30’s or younger you can also sorta be like, “oh! sorry…. elbows?” and then bump elbows. i forget where that came from, but people in that gen usually universally know that as an alternative hand shake offer in a business setting.

    1. OP#1*

      A number of commenters have made that same suggestion, so it must be fairly prevalent. I am going to give that a try at my next opportunity. Stifling my own instinctive impulse to offer my hand back for the shake will probably be the hardest part!

  69. kms1025*

    OP#3 i would not bother asking again…Instead with every unclear message, private or group, I would bounce it back to him with “need clarification here” or something to that effect.

  70. Sue*

    I can’t believe a germaphobe eats at a buffet restaurant. You do know there are germs in the air you are breathing? On the tables you are touching in your meeting that many other people have touched? As a former germaphobe, educate yourself.

    1. Pobody's Nerfect*

      This is hostile and unhelpful to the OP’s original request/letter. People with OCD issues like health anxiety or germaphobia exist in the world and have to function in it the best they can. Sometimes this means eating out at restaurants. Other times it means not shaking hands with people. Good for you that you are now a “former” germaphobe. Perhaps you had access to help techniques that others do not. Perhaps your case was different than others. Humanity exists on a now-recognized spectrum of mental and physical health capabilities and limitations, but it sounds like you’re the one who may need to educate yourself on what that means.

  71. Oranges*

    Alison, what scripts would you suggest for the people who can’t eat/drink at a meal interview and don’t want to go into why not? Or even that it’s a medical issue.

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