I don’t have a poker face, coworkers are obsessed with my vegetarianism, and more

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

1. Will my lack of poker face stop me from being promoted?

I work in a conservative field, in one of the less conservative departments. Our team culture is that we have all conference calls via video chat, which I don’t mind for the most part because my team is spread across the U.S. and it allows us to know each other better than if we simply spoke by phone or Skype. However, I have a very expressive face: if I’m irritated with a decision or I think a suggestion is amusing, it all shows up on my face. I generally turn my video off if I know I’m going to have a lot of trouble; if I’ll be speaking with particular people about particular topics and I know my face will out me for thinking they are making poor decisions, I’ll mute my video. But on occasion I’ll be on a call and my face will give me away. The other day, our manager made an offer to a person who the rest of the team didn’t think would be a good fit, and when I had a separate call later with my manager, she said, “You didn’t look happy at the end of that call.” I explained some of my concerns and outlined some other (unrelated) bad news I had gotten that day, and it hasn’t come up again since.

Yet since that day, I’ve been wondering if my face will prevent me from getting promoted. I’m currently in a managerial role but don’t have direct reports, but I have reason to believe there will an opening in the next level up within the next 6-12 months. Is inadvertently looking like I think someone is an idiot is the type of thing that will really hamper my chances of moving up into a more strategic/people-facing role? Shy of getting Botox and effectively shutting off all communication from my face, what can I do? I am practicing keeping a neutral face, but really struggle with it, especially if anything unexpected comes up.

Yeah, that can potentially hold you back. Looking irritated or like you think a colleague is an idiot is unpleasant for the people around you and if it happens more than very occasionally (like once a year) it will indeed make people question whether you’re cut out for more responsibility. That might feel unfair, but the thing is … you’re showing obvious disdain for the people you work with! That’s a pretty big deal.

It has the potential to be an even bigger problem if you manage people. If your face shows impatience, irritation, or disdain for the people you’re managing, that’ll carry even more weight and can seriously affect your team’s quality of life, as well as willingness to talk with you, suggest new ideas, etc. (Think about how you’d feel if your boss’s face conveyed those emotions while you were talking.)

This is one of those things that can feel very much like “this is just the way I am”  — which makes it extra frustrating when you hear it’s a problem — but lots of people who have felt that way at some point have ended up finding ways to control it. There’s lots of advice in the comments on this post and this post that might help.

2. Coworkers won’t stop talking about my vegetarianism

I deal with a lot of anti-vegetarian micro-aggression at work. I’m a tech worker, but I work for a city department of public works and, culturally … it’s pretty old-fashioned. People seem to feel the need to interrogate me about my breakfast shake, or oat milk’s existence, or that they heard Tofurky is disgusting. And no, HR won’t care, and yes, I’m looking for another job. But putting a pin in those solutions, how would you handle these situations? One on one, people are generally respectful about it, but as a herd they tend to bottom-denominator. Also, I never bring it up. Ever. I know that being a vegetarian often triggers other people so I don’t say anything about it unless I have to.

Ah yes, people who insist on taking your personal dietary choices as implicit commentary on their own diet, which is probably what’s happening. These people are annoying.

You’ll never be able to stop it, but you can decline to engage by making it really boring for them and determinedly asking about something else:
* “Eh, I hate talking about food. Tell me about (your trip to Tahoe/your kid’s concert/your massive new computer monitor/that weird memo we got).”
* “I’ve taken a vow of silence about my diet at work. Tell me about (that play you saw/the puke in the conference room/that amazing hat).”
* “Diet talk is so boring. Tell me about (your weekend/the latest on Harry and Meghan/the fire in your car).”

If someone is really obnoxious, try: “It’s really weird that you’re so fixated on this when I never bring it up.” Or even: “You’re being rude right now, so let’s move on.” (You can only say that last one in certain contexts, and generally not with people senior to you, much as it might be deserved.)

For what it’s worth, some of these people might genuinely be interested in better understanding vegetarianism or even wondering if they might want to try it themselves; they’re not necessarily all obnoxious hecklers. You’re not obligated to be their source of education if you don’t feel like it, but you might feel less besieged if you see a range of potential motivations behind all the comments.

3. My coworker is dating a sex offender and there’s a daycare in our building

Someone I work with is in a relationship with a registered sex offender. She introduced me to him at work party. I am sure it is not a case of mistaken identity.

I had seen him once or twice before at our office, but I had no idea who he was or why he was there. Once I was introduced to him, I recognized him. When I was a student, I spent a summer volunteering at a nonprofit where the mission was to assist child victims of predators. The recognition of him came from my time there. An online search confirms it is him. I don’t think anyone else knows about him; it has never come up when I’ve been there.

Our work has nothing to do with children (education, social work, etc.) but our office is located in a building that has on-site daycare for workers of the many companies and firms who have space in the building. Him coming to our building is a violation because of his status. He isn’t allowed to come here because of the daycare.

Tell your local police department. They should be able to take it from there, and they’re equipped to investigate and enforce the terms of his release. That’s a cleaner, more direct way to go, as opposed to you trying to address it with your coworker or your company. You could also inform the daycare directly (but I’d do that in addition to, not in place of, informing the police).

4. What can I do when I’m bored at work?

I work in customer service for a hobby retailer. During our busy holiday season, phones will literally ring nonstop all day, but most of the time, we have two main duties in addition to answering phones and emails. Once those main duties are done (usually around noon), it is usually DEAD. 40 minutes between phone calls, no emails for hours, dead.

During that dead time, we are required to “look busy,” since we have an open-plan office that lots of other people in the company routinely pass through. I have been at this job for over a year now, and still struggle with looking busy. I’m very efficient at my job and like getting things done, and my manager has even jokingly told me to do things more slowly — not because of any flaws with the actual work, but so we won’t run out of tasks too early in the day. (She has been explicit about that reason.) At my last performance review, my manager said I’m doing great work and she wants me to have more responsibility, but the nature of our office is such that there just isn’t more for me to do.

I try to fill this time by reading blogs related to our industry (there aren’t many) and researching techniques that our customers have questions about, but there’s only so much of that out there. All of my other coworkers, including my supervisor, spend lots of time on Facebook, but I don’t feel comfortable with that, especially because my supervisor’s desk has a direct line of sight to my screen. Knitting in the office is explicitly forbidden, and I can’t leave my desk in case the phone does ring. Do you have any suggestions for generic office activities that I can do to make the most of my downtime? I know the idea of getting paid to sit in a chair and do nothing seems appealing, but the boredom makes me anxious and I would rather be doing something!

Two options are to propose your own work (figuring out if there’s a problem you could try solving or a project you could tackle) or to create your own self-designed program of study (learn to code, learn a new language, learn all there is to know about platypuses, whatever lines up with your interests). But if you can’t fill all your time with that and everyone else is on Facebook, another option is to read books from your computer (as opposed to bringing in a physical book, which it sounds like you couldn’t do). There are lots of e-readers for computers, not just mobile devices.

5. If I have a shorter work week, when should overtime pay kick in?

My employer has a 37.75 work week, with an unpaid half-hour lunch. Do I have to work 40 hours to start getting overtime? This means I am working 2.25 hours straight time and then start my overtime pay! Is it legal for them to do this?

Yes. Federal law only requires overtime pay (time and a half) for hours worked over 40 in a week. Even if your company has its own shorter standard week, the legal requirement for overtime pay won’t kick in until you go over 40. (A few states require overtime pay after X number of hours in a day — but all of this is based on the thresholds in the law, not your company’s own definition of full-time.)

{ 620 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’ve removed several threads started by people suggesting the child predator might not have done something all that bad (“maybe he peed in public,” etc.). The letter is clear that he did indeed prey on a child, and we do not need to question that. (The LW also confirmed that to me after this published, in case there’s any doubt.)

  2. Junior Dev*

    OP 2, in addition to creating your own course of study, you can go a more formal route. Many community colleges have all-online degree or certificate programs. (I’m sure other colleges and universities have these too but community college is the one I know most about.) The certificate programs are nice because they often are small, like 3-5 courses, and you can often do all the work at whatever time of the week is most convenient for you so long as it gets done by the deadlines.

    There are also professional certification courses and exams. You might even ask your work to help you pay tuition or certification costs; it seems like they’re pretty aware of the situation where you have lots of downtime, and if you can make the case that this is valuable to them as a company they may be willing to pay for some or all of the cost.

    1. Junior Dev fan*

      Junior Dev, it’s great to see your back. I and others were concerned.

      These are great suggestions for online classes and certifications.

      1. Junior Dev*

        Ugh, sorry to worry anyone. I was pretty overwhelmed for a while and interacting with people online became really stressful. I’ll try and remember to post more about it in the weekend thread.

    2. tgirl*

      Another route is something like coursera, the courses need a certain amount of study, you won’t just walk through them, but the course content can be good. They are also free (though if you want actual certification you will need to pay).

      These courses are (I think) a bit lower level:

      These are higher level courses (again, I think0:

      1. Goliath Corp.*

        You should also be able to access a lot of free online courses through your local library system. I’ve taken a couple recently and it’s a nice way to fill up free time and show that you’ve been proactive about your development on your annual review or resume.

        1. JessaB*

          This too, my library system gives us access to Lynda coursework for free as well as language learning with Mango. So yeh, loads of library systems have really cool offerings that are no longer just books and ebooks.

          1. Galloping Gargoyles*

            In addition to Lynda and Mango, the library may also offer Universal Class which has a wide variety of courses you can take. Niche Academy is another resource that the library may have.

  3. Viette*

    LW #4 – another thing to consider, if you like your co-workers, is if there’s any opportunity to cross-train or do any group learning via online programs or similar. Sometimes what’s especially stultifying about having nothing to do is that you don’t get as much human interaction as you normally would, in your case from answering the phones and being super busy addressing customers’ needs.

    Sometimes that can make it hard to concentrate on things like reading a book or studying on your own. And since nothing is happening for anyone, it might be worth taking advantage of *everyone* being bored and work on things that allow you to think with other people, and not just by yourself.

    1. Sarah Simpson*

      You should see what online resources your public library might have. If they have LinkedIn Learning, there are a lot of interesting courses, and you could very likely download ebooks or e-audiobooks to read. They may have all kinds of interesting digital products.

      1. AuroraLight37*

        Librarian here! If your library has Gale Courses, you have a lot of options. I’ve taken grant writing and tutoring in ESL classes there, and they have a bunch more I want to do.
        Also, check out Coursera and edX. Both are free and provide access to university courses. Udemy would be another source, though I believe it charges.

      2. Drago Cucina*

        Echoing the library resources. An eBook won’t have adds, so its a different look when people walk by. There are books in many fields and business leadership that might be helpful.

  4. AcademiaNut*

    For desk-suitable activities, in addition to reading and doing on-line coursework, you could also volunteer for Distributed Proofreaders (or DP Canada, if that’s where you’re located). This consists of proofreading OCR’d text that’s being made into public domain ebooks. It can be done a page at a time, and as little or as much as you want.

    If you’ve ever wanted to learn a language, this is a good opportunity as well, particularly if you can use headphones.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      The Smithsonian also has similar volunteer opportunities for helping to digitize materials.

      1. 123456789101112 do do do*

        And the Library of Congress! “By the People” is the name of the website.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      The Gutenberg Project is a similar effort; my dad volunteered with them when he couldn’t get out any more.

    3. Quill*

      I initially learned to do excel programming out of boredom, I’d probably brush up on my spanish a lot harder if duolingo didn’t look so much like a game…

      1. Mama Bear*

        Your mileage may vary, but Duolingo has been very helpful for many people and absolutely improved my child’s fluency.

        1. Aquawoman*

          I’m using Duolingo and I’m actually impressed by how it’s set up. I don’t care at all about the gamified aspect (except keeping my “streak” going is helpful). But the way they teach the language, in context with a lot of repetition, seems to work very well for me.

          1. Leisel*

            I log in to their website and use my desktop for Duolingo when I’m at work, that way I’m not just staring at my phone at my desk (also, I like using the keyboard). The only downside to that is I can’t use the microphone, so I just click “can’t speak now.”

            I told my boss I was doing 20-30 minutes a day of Duolingo (if and only if I have the downtime) and he was cool with it. It’s beneficial to understand other languages in our line of work.

        2. Quill*

          It’s more that I worry about people looking over at my browser or phone and going “oh, that’s a game, not study / work” when the rewards come up.

          I also mostly need to work on speech fluency – my read spanish is pretty good after doing a minor in it, my written spanish is OK, but my spoken spanish is, frankly, a disaster.

          I gotta start again I just don’t think my workday’s gonna accomodate it that well.

        3. Bee*

          Has Duolingo ever gone back to making you actually come up with & correctly spell words? I found it really useful for refreshing my French like five years ago, but then they switched to “put these words in the right order” exclusively and it started to feel pointless. If I want to be able to speak and write the language, I need to be able to recall the words myself, not just recognize them when they’re given to me. (That said, this method is quite good for gaining a basic 101-level understanding of the language in a country you’re about to visit!)

          1. Quill*

            Oh, they have a mode where you have to transcribe what you hear! I find it pretty nice for brushing up on where the accents go.

            (Though my problem with spanish has never been vocabulary, it’s been not knowing which letters have accents and also the verbs… I do wish they’d roll out a “I’ve learned this as a formal course and need to continue working on grammar” setting.)

            1. Jerusha*

              With the newest update they’ve started having free-text-typing translation exercises – I’ve started seeing it in Level 1 topics (green), and I would be surprised if it doesn’t persist, and possibly even increase, at higher levels. (I had everything leveled up to 1, and was working on 2, and they added a bunch of new lesson topics! On the one hand, yay! new content! On the other hand, I almost had everything leveled up, and now there’s a bunch of topics at Level 0.

              (Note: I’m taking French for English Speakers. I would expect similar features in other languages, but I don’t know for sure that they’re present.)

            2. Ophelia*

              I need kind of the opposite – “no one will ever read my writing apart from whatsapp messages, but I really need to be understood out loud/understand when people are speaking” – mode

      2. Tableau Wizard*

        I think the concern is that Quill doesn’t want to appear as if they are playing a game at work, which it sounds like duolingo might look like

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, exactly. I’m less paranoid about that now that I have a cube where my back isn’t to the entrance, but I’m definitely concerned about the optics of it potentially seeming more like slacking off than vaguely work related at a quick glance.

    4. BB*

      When I had a job similar to this, I did a lot of my personal geneology research at work (the part that can be done online of course). Not for everyone but it does increase my problem solving skills and looking at old scanned documents like the census looks work appropriate.

    5. university admin*

      There’s also Zooniverse (crowd-sourced data analysis), which has a bunch of different types of projects classifying data (pictures of stars, transcribing Abolitionist letters, identifying birds, etc etc etc).

  5. voyager1*

    LW3: Going to disagree with AAM on this. I think you need to speak to the coworker. Assuming this is the USA, all states have a searchable sex offender list online. This isn’t hearsay, if it is him it is him. And honestly if you were dating a sex offender wouldn’t you want someone to tell you?

    1. PollyQ*

      I don’t think he’ll be able to keep it a secret (if it currently is) from his girlfriend once the police get involved.

      1. voyager1*

        To be fair, she honestly may already know. And he might not know there is a day care there. Honestly I think that chance is thin, but not zero.

        I just think running and calling the cops without even talking to coworker just seems so bizarre.

        1. Anon for this*

          I don’t understand why that feels bizarre. This isn’t an interpersonal issue or some other garden-variety conflict; this is a registered sex offender violating their parole. I’m not usually one for running to the cops, but this is a bright, shining exception.

          And not for nothing, but lot a of convicted sex offenders convince people to date them, and marry them, and trust that they’ve changed – even when the risk to those people’s own loved ones. It’s true that the co-worker may not know the boyfriend’s history, but there’s also no reason to believe that they would necessarily do anything even if they did. And either way, it’s still a particularly scary type of parole violation and the police (and, in my opinion, the daycare centre) need to know.

          1. Stitch*

            My sister is a prosecutor and she once had a mother of a child molestation victim ask to modify a stay away order so she could date the perpetrator again once he was released from prison. My sister, of course, did not grant that request and had CPS and the police regularly monitor the situation. My sister was so angry about it.

            Don’t assume people are rational. Talking to coworker could actually make it worse.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              I have never wanted to rage punch my computer more than now. Thank goodness your sister was there to protect that precious child.

              1. MountainMama*

                There was a woman on a different (now defunct) forum whose sister was not only dating a registered sex offender, but was living with him. And had a daughter the same general age as his victims. It was ok, though, because her mother worked at the courthouse and had read his file and felt that he was safe.

            2. Atalanta0jess*

              Yeah. :( When I finally heard someone say that abusers don’t only groom their victims, they groom the other people in their own lives too, it made so much sense to me, explained so well what I’ve seen. Abusers make very deliberate attempts to keep other people in their lives feeling positive towards them, in all kind of ways.

          2. Temperance*

            I work with a child welfare org as a volunteer. The number of mothers who will try to bar their kids from testifying is shocking.

            1. Ani*

              In my state, parent’s don’t hold that privilege. It’s vested in either a guardian ad litem attorney or the judge.

              They still try though.

              1. TardyTardis*

                I have a former friend who gaslighted her own daughter because of *course* her wonderful husband would *never* do what her daughter said he did. (still very miffed off).

          3. Burned Out Supervisor*

            Word. There’s one in my extended family and he’s snowed a lot of them into thinking he’s changed (and even one aunt doesn’t think he’s guilty of it…he most definitely is). OP, just go to the police and let them handle it.

            1. Stitch*

              My sister prosecuted a case where a guy impregnated his 12 year old niece. My sister literally could have proved the case with the victim’s birth certificate, her child’s birth certificate, and a DNA test showing the guy was the father of her child.

              And yet the victim was the one who ended up ostracized by her family.

              People suck. Victims of child sex abuse get blamed all the time.

              1. Ani*

                Men – particularly white men – get a pass.

                People twist themselves into pretzels to blame someone else for their bad actions.

              2. whingedrinking*

                Sadly, it’s very easy to blame the person who makes the problem visible rather than the person who actually caused it. I remember a letter at Captain Awkward where the LW had had some kind of conflict with their sibling. The LW said they would be willing to reconcile if the sibling went to counselling; the sibling would not go. The LW’s family was pressuring, not the sibling to do this very reasonable in the circumstances thing, but the LW to “forgive and forget”.

          4. Falling Diphthong*

            Yeah, I don’t get what the coworker would do in this scenario.

            Tell him that LW was trying to make trouble for him, I imagine, which isn’t an incentive for LW.

            1. LunaLena*

              The co-worker could just tell her boyfriend he can’t come and visit her at work any more.

          5. Annon as well*

            My parent married a sex offender. Didn’t tell us for 2 or 3 years until my sibling asked them to watch their children for the weekend. Parent said… no, my spouse isn’t allowed to be alone with children – we are still WTF-ing six months later.

            1. Annon as well*

              My comment was not constructive. My apologies OP and Allison! I am personally so wrapped up in my parent’s situation that I can’t think straight on this subject.

              I honestly think you should seek out an annonymous tip line and report a sex offender at the same building as the daycare.

              1. Pomona Sprout*

                There was nothing wrong with your comment, Anon as well. You have nothing to apologize for.

                Your parent, on the other hand……

            2. Just no*

              Anon as well, I think your comment was very constructive, actually! You demonstrated how people who are in relationships with people who have committed sex offenses often (1) know, and (2) continue to allow them to have contact with vulnerable people.

              This is why LW needs to go to the police, not the coworker.

        2. PollyQ*

          The other advantage to just going straight to the police is that then the offender won’t know who ratted him out. If LW goes to the girlfriend first, and then drops the dime, there may be strong suspicion that she was the reporter, which could lead to possible retaliation against her.

          1. voyager1*

            She has a risk of being retaliated if LW reports the sex offender and he gets picked up.

            He doesn’t know who reported him, but when he gets out he goes looking for the coworker. She could be littering looking over her shoulder for the rest of her life once he gets out. LW never has that risk.

            If LW informs the status of coworker’s sex offender boyfriend then at least she has some say on what she wants done. If the LW takes matters into her own hands that say is lost.

            Coworker might decide breaking up with the guy and telling him to leave her alone and she won’t report him might be the safest decision. Coworker might decide she wants to report him too. Either way LW has little risk in this, the coworker has most of the risk. She should have some say in it.

            1. Yvette*

              Or she may already know and not care because “He’s different now” or “It was all a misunderstanding” or any of the other ways he may have spun it. Even if she didn’t know, he may still spin it in a way she will believe. Maybe because she wants to believe.

              1. Burned Out Supervisor*

                Yeah, it’s not really the girlfriend’s say in what should be done in this situation. BF is straight up violating a court order and it needs to be reported.

            2. valentine*

              She should have some say in it.
              Nope. If you think she’ll be in danger post-report, warning her would make OP3 a target.

              1. Stitch*

                Agreed 100%. Safety of kids is the highest concern here, but OP is also right to protect herself.

                It’s also his girlfriend’s work. This guy has no reason he has to be there regularly so it’s not like there’s a strong hardship to him being banned.

              2. boop the first*

                I also just find it hard to believe that coworker would be “the target” (the target of what, exactly? He’s a sex offender, not violent crime), because I find it equally hard to believe that coworker has a clue. I doubt it comes up if he’s fine with crossing boundaries. And if she DOES know and literally invites him to cross boundaries, welp, she made a choice.

                1. Small Biz Escapee*

                  I think someone who is okay with sexually violating people could be OK with other types of violence.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  if the cops pursue this, there’s no reason for the guy to think that his girlfriend is the one who alerted them. She’s probably not in any danger on that score.

            3. Avasarala*

              Coworker doesn’t get a say in whether the criminal violating his parole gets reported to the police. This should happen regardless. She can break up with him or not, doesn’t matter, he is still putting those kids in danger and that is not acceptable. The coworker is not at risk, those kids in the daycare are.

              1. TechWorker*

                Thank you. To be fair – coworker may also be at risk but that’s clearly not the main point here.

              2. Mama Bear*

                Agreed. This isn’t about the coworker so much as it is about the children in the building, and, depending on his offense, everyone else. I’d just report it.

            4. Seeking Second Childhood*

              “then at least she has some say on what she wants done.”
              This isn’t an etiquette issue–it’s legality & public safety. She gets no ‘say’ in this. He _has_ violated parole.
              That said, I’d suggest OP tell the police that he may not realize there’s a daycare in the building, and allow the possibility of an identity mixup because the parole officer can take it from there.

              1. Mary Connell*

                The girlfriend knows there’s a daycare in the building, right?

                If she knows there’s a daycare in the building and knows that he’s a sex offender, then he should know. No excuses. Either he’s there in violation of the registry or the girlfriend is doing the coverup and risking his reentry into society. Either way it’s a situation for the police. Neither scenario suggests the need to contact the coworker first.

                1. Colette*

                  Or she doesn’t know he’s not allowed to be near a daycare. But regardless, that’s for the police to sort out.

                2. Goliath Corp.*

                  There’s also the possibility that he’s told her he’s a sex offender but convinced her that he was unfairly charged (e.g., he dated a slightly younger teenager when he was 18 and her parents had a vendetta against him). So he plays the victim and she doesn’t think he’s a danger to children.

                3. valentine*

                  I’d suggest OP tell the police that he may not realize there’s a daycare in the building, and allow the possibility of an identity mixup
                  All kinds of no. This undermines OP3’s credibility. You don’t go in with, “During my work for abused children, I learned of this predator,” speculate in his favor, and suggest you may be wrong. Even if OP3 were uncertain, the solution is the same: Leave it with the police.

                  (If applicable, they can also tell their former employer he’s resurfaced.)

                4. MatKnifeNinja*

                  At any point, the boyfriend could have made an excuse and stayed outside. In the car, side of the building, whatever. He figured, “Eff it” , and decided to be in violation of his registry.

                  Either he is really clueless or doesn’t care. Both are a bad way to roll.

                5. Burned Out Supervisor*

                  “At any point, the boyfriend could have made an excuse and stayed outside. In the car, side of the building, whatever. He figured, “Eff it” , and decided to be in violation of his registry.”

                  This is an excellent point. It is beholden to the offender to ensure that he/she is in compliance of the terms of their release, not on those they may come in contact with. While the CW’s boyfriend could feasibly state that it didn’t occur to him that there’s a day care in the building, I don’t think the police would be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt if he’s been in the building multiple times.

              2. un-pleased*

                If the coworker were a victim, letting her have some say over the process might be appropriate, but it would not be on LW to give her that space. That would be part of the process through the police, prosecutor’s office and victim services. She is not the victim here. Also, LW doesn’t need to tell police he may not know there is a daycare. They will do interviews if it comes to that, and his ignorance of the daycare’s location may not be any benefit to him, depending on the agreement. The burden may rest on him to look up daycare locations anywhere he spends time, and not doing that would not absolve him of responsibility.

            5. Loose Seal*

              Technically, the children have the most risk. I lean toward calling the police. It likely won’t be the first time someone has reported him, warranted or not.

            6. MK*

              I think you are exaggerating the risk to the coworker. If he does go looking for whoever reported him, his girlfriend would not be the first person to think off, especially if she hadn’t ended their relationship (which would be the first thing to do). In fact, if she had no idea of his past, it might arguably be safer for her not to know beforehand, then it will be obvious that she couldn’t have been the one who reported him. And if she does know, frankly she doesn’t deserve much consideration in my view, when she stands around while he violates his parole.

              1. Ice and Indigo*

                Agreed: if the girlfriend obviously doesn’t know, he’s surely less likely to retaliate against her. And this is assuming he’s a danger to adults at all, and not someone who targets children because adults intimidate him. (I say this with no sympathy for him, for the record.)

                The police need to know about this, the call has to be made, so just make it as simple as possible. We don’t know what’s up with his girlfriend, we do know he’s a danger to children, so OP3 would just be acting on the knowledge they have.

            7. Gazebo Slayer*

              The coworker doesn’t have a right to stop OP3 (or anyone else) from reporting this guy just because she’s his girlfriend.

            8. somanyquestions*

              Just letting this man continue to ignore his past and do what he wants is a terrible choice that can lead to more children being harmed. LW has no real choice but to talk to the police.
              Telling the co-worker will set the LW up for ongoing retaliation. That’s dangerous and she should never pick that. She would only be helping the sex offender.
              It’s cowardly to ignore this, and it’s weirdly enabling to jut “keep it between friends” when this guy did things that made a judge say he was a danger ongoing.

              1. Gazebo Slayer*

                Yeah, the “keep it between friends” attitude is how serial predators keep reoffending.

                1. Quill*

                  Especially child molesters: a lot of them tend to pick out naive wives and girlfriends as cover, so they’ll have a wide eyed and squeaky clean character witness. And people who are suspicious may hold back on action in order to protect *her* regardless of what they think about him.

                2. RVA Cat*

                  What’s top of mine for me in addition to the daycare – does the co-worker have children? They are even more likely to be in danger from him.

                3. Ani*

                  Another poster – I think Aveline – a while back said that we make a mistake about focusing on good or bad people instead of good or bad actions. It means we don’t see bad actions out of a person b/c we must justify it b/c we view the person as good.

            9. Falling Diphthong*

              Then at least she has some say on what she wants done.
              This is not a basic right the coworker has.

              Outside of not dating him–a separat issue from his violating parole–it’s not up to her.

            10. Observer*

              Look, I feel bad for the CW if she really never knew that he’s a predator, and then he’s mad at her. But she still doesn’t get to decide what she wants done.

              The police need to know, because even if he stops coming to this building, he he is definitely violating his conditions of release. If he’s doing it here, he’s doing it elsewhere, which means he NEEDS to be stopped!

            11. Rusty Shackelford*

              No, the coworker doesn’t have a say in whether a registered sex offender violates his terms by visiting a building that houses a daycare. Why should she?

            12. emmelemm*

              Coworker doesn’t have any say as to whether her boyfriend gets to be in a building with children or not. No way, no how.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            I think that’s the main reason I would vote for going straight to the cops.

            It sounds like the daycare is not a business open to the general public but just for the people working in the building, in which case it may not be heavily advertised and he could honestly have no idea that he isn’t allowed in the building. Because of that I can see reason to want to talk to them directly instead of going straight to the cops… but I think keeping your name out of it would be best to maintain a professional relationship with your coworker going forward.

            If she already knows about him then she would probably be angry at you for getting involved, and if she doesn’t know then she will probably feel embarrassed. Either way your relationship would likely become quite fraught if she knows that you know–so best to let someone else handle it!

        3. Caroline Bowman*

          He is a convicted child sex offender. He is a paedophile. He currently spends time with his new girlfriend at her place of work (which is weird in itself. My now-husband literally never came to my place of work in our entire many-years relationship. I know sometimes people work close by, meet for lunch, but it’s still a query), he knows precisely what the law dictates around where he can be in terms of proximity to children, but has chosen to ignore that.

          I think it is unlikely that his new girlfriend is quite aware that he is a convicted child sex offender. It’s not impossible, but it’s unlikely.

          Saying that, I do think that the OP should privately and ideally off-site inform her co-worker, possibly with a supervisor present, whoever might be most applicable of what she knows and that she will, within the day, be going to the police and informing the daycare. She needn’t be nasty or hyperbolic about it, just neutrally present facts and then explain what she will be doing next.

            1. Ice and Indigo*

              I appreciate that point, but on the other hand, I’ve seen more than one self-described paedophile literally argue that it’s a marginalized identity exactly analogous to being gay, and in one case this was a person sharing material that took the side of a serial molester. Online pro-paedophilia culture is a thing – this article is old, but relevant (https://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/21/technology/21pedo.html) – and there’s a line between ‘troubled person trying to live a responsible life’ and ‘person trying to justify their desires to themselves’ that isn’t always clear from the outside. I’m not saying ‘hound every person with a troubled sexuality’, but in a situation like this, where OP seems to know that this is an actual predator, I don’t think it’s the moment.

          1. Colette*

            I disagree with this. Infirm the police; the coworker will find out (if she doesn’t already know.)

          2. MusicWithRocksIn*

            I really don’t see what informing the coworker will do other than open a giant can of worms. It opens the OP up to retaliation, it opens up the possibility for the girlfriend to warn the boyfriend. And it kinda reeks of stirring up unnecessary drama. Tell the police, and put the children first. If the girlfriend still doesn’t know what happened once the fallout had settled down, that is the time to think about telling her, or say you heard it from someone else.

          3. valentine*

            OP should privately and ideally off-site inform her co-worker, possibly with a supervisor present
            This is weird and convoluted. Inviting a supervisor makes it not private and a workplace matter. I can’t imagine management agreeing to this and where would they go?

            Never warn the enemy. You don’t want this guy skipping town.

          4. KoiFeeder*

            I wouldn’t even want to touch the girlfriend issue.

            If you can find out that the workplace has a daycare, and if the co-worker met him via a circumstance where he knew her workplace prior to physically meeting her (idk how dating apps work, but some people put their jobs there, right? or is that a movie thing?), he may have specifically chosen to date her for access to the workplace daycare. And she may not care!

            The only people you need to talk to here are the police, and hopefully they’ll actually do something about the situation.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          Respectfully, disagreeing.
          This is not OP’s problem to solve.

          I think OP needs to collect info off the offender website and go to her boss. Get management involved.

          This is too big an issue with too many aspects. Bluntly stated, I think that OP’s boss should protect OP by reporting it themselves so that OP does not have to worry about retaliation. A good boss will bury the information about where the tip came from. “I thought I recognized the face from a newspaper article” or some similar statement totally protects OP as the reporter.

          OP this is not your problem or the GF’s problem. It’s a company problem. No different than if a known arsonist/violent person/etc kept hanging out at the building. Gather your facts and go to management.

          IF, heaven forbid, something happened OP you do not want to be standing there by yourself saying, “Well I tried to talk to Jane, I was working on this…”. NO. Bring other people with you, do not walk alone.

          1. Candy*

            I disagree that it’s a company problem, especially if OP’s company shares the building with other companies. I think it’s more of a public safety problem. OP would be reporting it to the police as a concerned citizen and not as a representative of the company.

            1. MsChanandlerBong*

              In my state, every competent adult is a mandated reporter. If she knows something is up, she may be legally obligated to report it just by virtue of being 18 or older. Even if she’s not in a state with that type of law, it’s still the right thing to do.

          2. EPLawyer*

            Don’t even involve the company. Just go to the police. Period. This is a police issue, not an employment issue.

            He knows there is a daycare there. There is most likely a playground for the kids and those things are obvious. Why do you think he is visiting the new girlfriend at work so much? Predators go where the prey is. They seek out situations that will ge them close to what they wannt.

            1. clarity*

              “He knows there is a daycare there.”

              “Why do you think he is visiting the new girlfriend at work so much?”

              1. clarity*

                It would be more credible to say “It’s very possible he is coming to visit the girlfriend because he knows the daycare is there. Predators do that.”

                That is scary enough.

            2. Mockingjay*

              Notify Law Enforcement. They have the procedures, the authority, and the resources to swiftly investigate the situation and take action.

              1. JSPA*

                Its also cover for OP. OP can ask the police to come ask her questions of a general nature, then use that as an excuse to search and “discover” BF’s Megan’s Law status. And after that (if police are ok with it) talk to the coworker.

          3. MusicWithRocksIn*

            Bringing someone else in means someone else is going to weigh pros and cons and think about what to do and maybe I should and are you sure. The OP should go to the police right now and stop more time from passing. Someone is breaking the law – that doesn’t require a boss – just someone to do the right thing.

            1. NLMC*

              It’s been years since I’ve read anything but isn’t this what happened at Penn State? Someone witnessed the abuse, reported it up the chain, and the school decided not to go to the police?
              This allowed the abuse to continue long after it was known.

              1. RVA Cat*

                Yes, an employee *witnessed Sandusky raping a child* in the shower and leadership buried it.

              2. SQL Coder Cat*

                NLMC, that is exactly what happened at Penn State. And at UCLA. And with the US Women’s Gymnastics team. I could go on, but everyone gets the point. In those situations it was an employee. But because the offender isn’t an employee, I can easily see the company banning him from the premises and then not reporting because they ‘don’t want to get involved’. Which keeps the proper authorities from knowing he’s violating parole and risks more victims.

                OP, just report it to the police. That’s what they’re there for.

          4. tinybutfierce*

            I don’t think you’re wrong about looping in OP’s boss to at least make them aware in case there is some sort of retaliation, but this is not a company issue or one OP’s boss should be in charge of handling, it’s a legal and public safety issue, and it IS different from the arsonist/etc. examples you gave; we don’t ban arsonists from ever being near a building again, but this person has been banned from being in proximity with children because of his conviction status. Maybe he’s not aware of the fact there’s a daycare there (which, frankly, is also on him, because it’s his responsibility to ensure he’s not violating his parole, intentionally or not), maybe he is, but regardless he’s violating the legal parameters of his release.

            1. Quill*

              Yeah, order of operations here is to send your knowledge to the police (for the public safety aspect) then bring it up to your boss / manager to ensure that the company doesn’t get blindsided when the police investigate (If, and only if, management is reasonable enough that this isn’t going to lead to retaliation against OP,) and to judge the situation with the coworker before you decide whether or not to tell her. OP is going to be the best judge of whether coworker will retaliate or if it would be kinder to mention it to her before the police get involved.

            2. aebhel*

              Yeah, it’s not that I don’t think the OP’s boss shouldn’t be notified, but it should be *as well as* the police, not *instead of* the police.

          5. Observer*

            Why bring more people into this? There is really nothing for the company to do here, and employees are not children that need to have all actions vetted and taken for them by Bid Mama / Papa supervisor.

            As for “protecting” the OP, their best way to do that is to discuss this with as few people as possible. Which means, go straight to the police with this. If there is an anonymous tip line, that’s the best.

          6. Jessica*

            Definitely disagree here. The cleanest way to handle this is to report it to the police, for a variety of reasons. We don’t know that the company would do the right thing, or if OP would be retaliated against. The crux of your argument rests on what a good boss or a good company would do, but I don’t think that’s a good assumption to make here.

          7. LJay*

            It’s not a company problem. It’s a legal problem.

            A known arsonist/violent person, etc could also be a legal problem, depending. But they’re not violating the law by being on the property like this guy is by violating his parole.

            If there was a known arsonist playing with kerosene on the property you’d call the cops. If someone was actively stalking an employee you’d call the cops. If someone was violating a no-contact order you’d call the cops.

            Just going to the boss leaves the opportunity for the boss to tell the coworker, to bury it and not tell anyone, etc.

        5. PhyllisB*

          I agree with you, voyager1. My first thought was, “does he even know there’s a daycare there?” I also disagree with Alison that she should call the police.
          My former son-in-law is a registered offender. His “crime” was he went out with a 15 year old girl that he met at an over 18 club. She told him she was 19 and looked older than her age so he took her at her word. When he found out her age, he quit seeing her, but she got vindictive and told her mother things that weren’t true. Her mother had him arrested. He had no money for an attorney and the court appointed one didn’t really try to help him. (And yes, I had his story checked out when he started dating my daughter.) He was the sweetest, kindest person you would ever want to meet, and he was very careful about following rules. He wouldn’t even take his child to the church nursery (one of us did it) so he wouldn’t be in contact with the children. My point is saying all this is: people get put on the registry for all sorts of reasons, and not all of them are heinous.
          They’re still humans and should be allowed to live their life without being shunned at every turn.

          1. annie o mous*

            I sort of wondered this myself. I am not saying people shouldn’t be careful, but how do we know its not a situation like the above?

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Because the OP said this:

              “When I was a student, I spent a summer volunteering at a nonprofit where the mission was to assist child victims of predators. The recognition of him came from my time there. An online search confirms it is him.”

              I’m pretty sure if she recognized him from that work, this isn’t a case of an 18 yo dating a 15 yo or someone peeing in public

              1. Quill*

                Yeah, it’s not like she just put his name into the database, she recognized him and then confirmed.

                1. valentine*

                  His “crime” was he went out with a 15 year old girl that he met at an over 18 club. She told him she was 19 and looked older than her age so he took her at her word.
                  Your attempt to dilute the crime doesn’t change it. He’s not an innocent and she deserved better. If he needs to card his sex partners and confirm their ages via public records or state agencies, so be it.

                  how do we know its not a situation like the above?
                  It wouldn’t matter if it were.

                2. Ani*


                  I agree. This is trying to shift the blame onto the 15 year old. Legally, it doesn’t matter if she lied. He’s still responsible.

                  Ethically? 18 year old is a lot more mature than 15 in most cases.

                  I’ve only once seen mistake of age as a defense that worked. It was when a man thought he was 17, but was already 18 b/c of a screw up on his original birth certificate.

              2. pamela voorhees*

                Follow Allison’s advice and report it to the police. They can sort it out. Speculating on “but what if he’s niiiiiiiiiiiice” is how offenders are allowed by society to reoffend. Your biggest responsibility is to the children in the daycare, not to the man.

            2. Anon for this*

              There are a lot of people who do not find the above situation OK or excusable, and it is a crime. Just like him being there if he is a sex offender. Both are illegal and people can report illegal things to the police, and they should.

              1. Anon for this*

                Sorry, last thing I will say. “Had his story checked” – Unless you have a sworn affidavit from the young woman saying that she lied I’m not sure how you could verify this. It sounds like you have a happy family and that’s awesome, but others may not feel the same about the scenario.

            3. LJay*

              It doesn’t matter if it is a situation like the above.

              He’s still a registered sex-offender, and it’s still illegal for him to be in the vicinity of a day care.

              If he’s such a good person he should be more careful about violating his parole.

              If he’s unaware that he’s violating his parole that’s between him and his parole officer and the courts to sort out not a random bystander.

          2. Jay*

            But the LW knew this guy from victim support for children . I think she knows more about this case than us and it is not the same as your story.

          3. MusicWithRocksIn*

            She came across this information while working with child victims. That strongly suggests that his victim was a child. Daycares are usually pretty obvious, most have an outdoor play area, and then all the children going in and out. It is on him to follow the rules of his probation. In the time of google and smartphones it is especially easy. He broke the law, go to the police.

          4. Health Insurance Nerd*

            No one is suggesting he should be shunned, but the terms of parole for a sex offender basically always include a provision stating the offender must stay away from places like playgrounds, elementary schools, daycares, etc… even if this guy’s situation is like your son in laws (which I highly doubt given the details in the letter), he is still bound by the conditions of his parole.

            The LW needs to call the police, and the coworkers boyfriend is responsible for knowing where he should/shouldn’t be hanging around.

          5. Someone On-Line*

            Fair or not, the person should know the limits of what they can do as a registered sex offender and make sure they are not in violation of the current law. That is their responsibility. If they feel the status is unfair, that is time to bring in a lawyer and to advocate for better laws and nuance with sex offender registries. As is, this person is looking to end up in jail or have parole revoked, and that’s not going to change the system at all.

          6. Observer*

            My former son-in-law is a registered offender. His “crime” was he went out with a 15 year old girl that he met at an over 18 club.

            Except that the OP knows that this is not what’s going on here. They explicitly say that they recognized him because his connection to victims of “child sexual predators”. No one is going to call the guy you talk about a child sexual predator.

            1. Ani*

              I also feel the need to point out that statutory rape is strict liability. It doesn’t matter that the 15 year old lied about being 19. It’s on the over-18 to verify age. Full stop.

              1. Lissa*

                Legally, yes, but from a moral perspective I think it’s reasonable to have some nuance in what we think is forgivable… even if that varies individually from person to person.

                1. whingedrinking*

                  Yes, this. The son-in-law may have been guilty of negligence but he wasn’t malicious. Also, while I’m not a fan of adults who do date teenagers intentionally, I would argue that it is a different situation from people who prey on children young enough to be in day care. If we definitely knew that this was the former situation rather than the latter, then there might be room for deliberation on calling the cops. The LW’s phrasing, though, suggests that the day care kids are at risk from having this guy around. Even if they aren’t, if there’s any room for doubt, the only moral choice is to call it in. The stakes are too high to gamble on this guy preferring teenagers to toddlers.

          7. PVR*

            That sucks for your son in law but that is NOT the issue here!! OP worked with CHILD VICTIMS of sexual abuse and that is how she knows who this guy is! And that he was a registered sex offender in the first place!

          8. Not Me*

            Are you seriously advocating for *less* *protection* of **children** who are already victims of horrible crimes??

            Yes, convicted sex offenders are still humans. No, they do not get to live their lives exactly how they want to, because how they want to live their lives endangers others.

          9. Ani*

            Counterpoint: I’ve worked with plenty of child and teen and women and men victims. I’ve seen so many cases where the families think that the underage girl/her parents were manipulative and “my person” could not have done what he was accused of. There was a mountain of evidence he did.

            Very few cases of statutory rape get prosecuted. My prosecutors won’t go to court unless there is evidence other than the victim’s word b/c they know they are likely to lose. Because the actual default in those trials is for the jury to blame the “jezebel” young woman/her manipulative family and excuse the older male perp. Our society is one where we blame victims. Particularly if the victim is a young woman.

            A lot of posters are assuming some 18 year old who got duped by a manipulative 15 year old or one where her parents who didn’t like the consensual relationship. It is rare, rare, rare for that to be prosecuted, much less successfully. The overwhelming majority of cases are where the older above-18 man was grooming the girl. GIRL.

            I’ll accept that your ex-SIL was one of the rare cases. But it’s not fair to try and make his case into some larger trend. That’s not the reality I’ve seen in the trenches.

            Also, statutory rape is a strict liability offense. It doesn’t matter if she was 15 and lied and said she was 19. It’s up to the over-18 to find out her age.

            Even if she was the one who lied and pursued him, he’s still responsible under the law.

            1. Zombeyonce*

              I don’t accept that her ex-SIL was one of the rare cases. Yes, it may be true, but it also may be true that she’s only heard one side of the story from a very persuasive man that spotted a 15-year old in a place she shouldn’t have been and took advantage. Either way, it doesn’t change the facts of LW’s situation one single bit and PhyllisB isn’t doing young victims of predators any favors by defending those predators, especially those that have been convicted and sentenced to stay away from children.

            2. Zillah*

              yeah. also, i think it’s really important to use accurate language here – the crime wasn’t that he “went out” with her, it was that he had sex with her.

            1. Ani*


              There is no evidence the man is innocent or being over-punished.

              Irrespective of that, let the cops sort it out. They will be able to see the terms of the registry, his probation/parole/etc.

          10. Slick Sylvia*

            It’s his responsibility to know what places and conditions would constitute a violation of his mobility. Whether or not he’s a “nice person” or truly guilty of “something heinous.” Ugh.

          11. Iris Eyes*

            I’m sorry your son dealt with that. I knew a parole officer in a military county who had to deal with this exact scenario so many times. Sometimes with a lovely added component of attempted blackmail by the girl or her family. Many men’s military careers were ruined because they assumed that a girl in a bar was old enough to be there. Honestly I don’t understand how a crime can be committed when the aggrieved party is knowingly committing fraud. It is important to understand the sex crime laws in your state and just what can get someone on that registry before you get your neighbors out with torches and pitchforks.

            But as DANGER: Gumption Ahead points out. The OP seems to know the details of the situation and have reason to be concerned about a daycare on the premises. So I’m going to side with the OP on 1) knowing the charges and 2) making a credible estimation of risk.

            1. Idrisa*

              As someone who works a lot with veterans, sorry, that’s on them.

              The adult is always responsible. If they are old enough to be in the military, they are old enough not to chase tail young enough to be illegal and ruin their careers.

              A teen is not knowingly committing fraud if they are too young to be accountable.

              This is rape culture 101 excusing men.

            2. Anon for this*

              And you have 100% air tight proof of this epidemic of young girls trying to trap military been by having sex with them and then trying to commit extortion? Come ON!

              1. Anon for this*

                Also I’m sure the story they gave their parole officer is a completely factual account of what happened. Just positive of it. Truly disgusted by the comments today.

            3. Burned Out Supervisor*

              Assumption is not knowing. Kids get into bars all the time when they’re not of age. I work part time at a store that sells alcohol. If I sell booze to a kid, that’s 100% on me for not verifying age. If a man doesn’t want to get jammed up by chasing after women at bars, then he needs to keep it in his pants and behave himself.

            4. GeoffreyB*

              You’d think after the first few times of somebody making this assumption and ruining their career, the others would have learned *not to make that assumption*.

              Part of the point of age-of-consent laws is that minors occasionally need to be protected from having their own poor judgement exploited by others.

        6. SheLooksFamiliar*

          To be fair, it doesn’t matter if the co-worker already knows the man she’s dating is a registered sexual offender of children. What matters is the offender is showing up in a place he does not belong, and I’ll go so far as to say it is HIS obligation to find out if there are children around. He should have asked his girlfriend if there was a daycare center in an office, or ‘take your kid to work day’ going on, or if local church had a pre-school or daycare program, or if Girl Scouts were selling cookies door-to-door, and so on. He doesn’t get to assume he’s ‘safe’ because he’s in an office building.

          Voyager1, you said downthread that the girlfriend should have a say in this. No, she should not. This is a pretty clearcut violation, willfully intended or not. The girlfriend’s wishes mean absolutely nothing in the face of such a violation. I don’t give child abusers the benefit of the doubt, and hope the OP goes to the police ASAP.

        7. Jennifer*

          Nah. This is an actual reason to call the police for once here. I think people are too 911-happy here also but this is an exception. I’m assuming this was a crime of abuse against a child. He should not be anywhere near children.

          1. Quill*

            Also call the non-emergency line, folks! For stuff like this, that’s more of a tip off to investigate a parole violation than an active emergency, you’re not asking for a squad car to show up.

          2. Anon for this*

            Right! If I’m going to call in someone for driving drunk I don’t attempt to find their friends and family first and clear it with them. Its a crime. Report it to police.

        8. Laney Boggs*

          To build off of Anon for this, I think we can infer from OP3’s background that this is a man who did groom and assault children, and not a case of 19-with-a-16yo-girlfriend that people like to point to (not that it matters in the eye of the law, for better or worse). If he’s near children, the police need to be informed.

          1. Zillah*

            it sometimes does matter in the eyes of the law, though! in some states, even if one person is under the age of consent and the other isn’t, a smaller age difference can significantly reduce the severity of the crime or even make the sex legal.

            the state i grew up in had that – that’s actually how i knew that someone my friend had just started dating was lying about why he was a convicted sex offender, because the old 15/18 excuse doesn’t get you seven years in prison there.

            1. DarnTheMan*

              Romeo and Juliet Laws! Which are fascinating from a legal standpoint (but definitely only applicable under very small sets of circumstances.)

        9. KayDeeAye*

          Calling the cops doesn’t sound at all “bizarre” to me. If he’s knowingly violating parole, the police actually *need* to know about it! There are other places in town that he can get entirely too near small children, I’m sure, and so it honestly seems…irresponsible to simply get him warned away from this one daycare center without any further consequences. If he’s violating parole it’s important that this gets recorded somewhere official.

          In any case, reporting a police matter – and violating parole is definitely a police matter – to the police is plain common sense. While I wouldn’t say the coworker has no responsibility here, the main responsibility for keeping away from kids belongs to the person who has been ordered by the courts to stay away from children. So let the police know he’s not doing that and let them do their job.

        10. KAW*

          Not bizarre, normal reaction to someone violating the terms of their release. This isn’t an issue to resolve by alerting the co-worker. If your co-worker were dating someone that planted a bomb in the building, would you attempt to talk to the co-worker first before involving the appropriate authorities?

        11. AKchic*

          Talking to the coworker may not help at all.

          At best, she isn’t aware and will dump him. At worst, she *is* aware and has bought into the idea that he is fully rehabilitated, or believes his story that he was somehow lied to about the victim’s age (the most common lie) or that he was seduced (another very common lie) by the victim and that since he’s not going *into* the daycare and isn’t actually attracted to minors at all and is “getting enough at home”, there’s nothing to worry about. Yeah, all of that is ooky, but these are very real things I have heard in my own time working with sex offenders, being related to sex offenders and having married a sex offender (yeah, didn’t know that until afterward since he wasn’t charged or convicted – thanks US justice system!).

          Depending on his case, he may still actively have a parole/probation officer, and that might be the person to talk to. Or, call the sex offender division to let them know what is going on and *they* can handle it from there.

          Actually having a face-to-face with the coworker puts the LW in danger. It outs the LW as a potential “rat” should anyone else recognize him or someone from his own personal life (or his victim’s circle) turn him in, or the coworker or boyfriend could very well threaten her outright. It is much safer to just alert the authorities. LW is under no obligation to disclose this knowledge to the girlfriend, who has access to the offender registry same as anyone else, and could have done her due diligence prior to getting deeply involved with him. If she chose to get involved after being made aware, knowing the ramifications, and still chose to enable him to break his conditions, that is on her and it shows her own lack of judgement (among other things).

        12. aebhel*

          I disagree. The main issue here isn’t whether or not the coworker knows she’s dating a sex offender, the main issue is that a sex offender is in violation due to the presence of a daycare in the building. Maybe he doesn’t know (unlikely), but that’s really not the OP’s problem, nor is it her responsibility to deal with him or to get involved in her coworker’s relationship.

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

        Secrets aside, I would be surprised if he hasn’t played the victim card with her girlfriend yet, claiming the accusations are some sort of wicked vendetta.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, the lack of distinction in the database of sex offenders between “drunkenly peed in public” “teenagers dating across the age of majority” and “child molestation” pretty much enables child molesters to pull this card. Especially if they molested people who had hit puberty and blame the victim with “she looked older / she told me she was 18” (not suggesting that this was the case for Phyllis’ SIL, but the lack of legal distinction enables other guys to tell this lie.)

          Anyone know if there’s a difference in parole terms between the public urinator and other registered sex offenders, or is staying away from daycares a term across the board?

          1. Ani*

            The public urinator thing is always trotted out in these discussions. It’s rare. It’s only in a handful of states. In most cases, you have To also be peeing in a way that’s indecent exposure. So, the cops have to be able to see the genitals. In some of these states, you have to be able to see the genitals and it has to be in front of children.

            There was, a few years ago, a panic about the public urination fueled by the media. So a lot of people imagine it’s a big problem. It’s not.

            There are, statistically, very few men who are on the registry who don’t deserve it.

            The true problem is how little we prosecute real sex offenders.

            If you end up on the sex offender registry b/c of public urination, then it’s highly unlikely there would be a daycare provision unless you had your member our in front of children.

            1. Quill*

              Thanks for clarifying! Personally I think the lack of public clarity about what can put you on that list is what enables people to claim it wasn’t that bad or that they’re the victims of the system. All I really know is that locally we’ve had a few highly publicized cases where there was media coverage about people who don’t belong on this list being prosecuted (teens sending each other nudes, etc.)

              (Tangentially we also had a recent case locally where a teenager was villified in the media for killing her abuser, which was an absolutely disgusting time to read the news.)

          2. Observer*

            Yeah, the lack of distinction in the database of sex offenders between “drunkenly peed in public” “teenagers dating across the age of majority” and “child molestation” pretty much enables child molesters to pull this card.

            This is a real problem. And it’s not just that it lets people make the argument that OF COURSE “all” the people who wind up on the registry are there for these lesser things. It’s also a problem because it puts too much “noise” in the registry, which makes it much less useful for its intended purpose.

            But, none of that is relevant here, because the OP knows that this guy is a predator.

            1. Zombeyonce*

              This isn’t a real problem, it’s incredibly rare for people that drunkenly peed in public to actually end up on the registry. It is, however, a commonly used excuse for people actually on the registry to explain away their reason for being there.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                Right. I’m not familiar with there not being a distinction. The registry in my state says why people are on it (at least in broad terms): public urination vs public masturbation vs child molestation vs statutory rape vs rape of minor vs etc. I had a coworker who was on the registry and the registry said why he was on there so I’ve never understood this “maybe he was just peeing in the woods” nonsense.

        2. Goliath Corp.*

          I should have read through all the comments first but I said the same thing above.

      3. Wing Leader*

        Honestly, I think that 1) coworker already knows he’s a sex offender and, 2) coworker knows about the daycare too, but just doesn’t care. I hate to crap on the coworker, but people tend to be very irrational and will excuse anything when it comes to their significant other. My cousin did this–she dated a man who was out a parole and was not supposed to be around children, but she brought him all sorts of family events anyway (when plenty of children were present). Whenever someone brought it up, she insisted that rule was just “a formality” and that he wasn’t going to hurt anyone.

    2. Lena Clare*

      I wouldn’t do that! Inform the police and the creche, then stay out of it. The co-worker will find out.
      Besides what good will it do, telling her that her new partner is a sex offender? She might (hopefully not, but it’s a definite possibility) double down and choose his side rather than the LW’s.

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        Agreed 100% – DO NOT go to your coworker first, or at all. Their relationship isn’t your business; you will unnecessarily expose yourself; and frankly, this is not a situation where a ‘polite FYI’ is warranted over the other factors. You can’t possibly have all the info here and you can’t predict how the coworker will react. So you have to act on what you DO know: that he’s breaching parole and that children are potentially at risk. This is about something far more important than your coworker’s feelings or her sex-offender-partner’s reintegration into society. Those are not your problem. Sure, there’s a spectrum of sex offences, and maybe the partner visiting the daycare isn’t *actually* a risk. But it’s not on you to exercise any kind of expert judgement or sensitivity on that.

        Report it to the authorities. Is Crimestoppers in the US? If so, I’d report it to them – the info goes straight to the police and you can remain anonymous.

        1. Allypopx*

          Yes. This isn’t about polite coworker etiquette or a friendly heads up. You have important information, pass it along to the proper authorities and let them handle it. You aren’t responsible for your coworker’s relationship but you know this guy shouldn’t be near children. The children are the party to be concerned about here.

    3. Nancy*

      Speaking with the coworker has a high risk of causing tension or worse in the OP’s relationship with the coworker and in her office. She is not obligated to take that on.

    4. Diamond*

      Nah. If they go to the co-worker then they get embroiled in the relationship and that could cause all kinds of problems. I wouldn’t want to get involved with someone like that. Much cleaner to just clue the Police in. If there’s been a misunderstanding, the police can figure it out, and if a crime has been committed they can figure that out too.

    5. Lynca*

      You’re assuming that she doesn’t know. She very well might know and more importantly we don’t know how she’ll respond. Regardless, the issue is not how to protect the c0-worker’s emotions. It’s how the OP should respond. Calling the police and informing the nursery is the cleanest way to address this.

      It also protects the OP from any misplaced backlash from the co-worker. That is a thing that unfortunately happens in situations like this.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        People are amazing in what they will overlook. [Insert many stories here.] Maybe she does not know, but that is up to her to discuss that with TPTB, it’s not up to OP to go over it with her.

        It does not matter if she knows or not. Management can discuss that aspect of this with her at some point. It’s more to the point to get the guy away from the kids. Then deal with these other issues.

    6. Oh_oh*

      She may very well know.

      I know a handful of people dating child molesters and they know about it and just insist that the person is reformed and that everyone should calm down and let the person around their kids.

      I know a couple of women who were married to child molesters without knowing anything. But, these were men who hadn’t been caught yet. Once the police got involved there was no hiding it.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, I know a former wife of a child molester. Long story short: he picked her because she was good and trusting and loved children and made him look even more above reproach than his job already did. She was a teacher and wanted to start a family, so I’m sure using her as an avenue of access to children also figured in. After he was investigated and convicted, divorcing a dude who was in prison was a legal and logistical nightmare.

        1. Starbuck*

          Wow, you’d think it should be easier since the grounds are so clear-cut and obvious! What a shame.

          1. Oh_oh*

            It probably varies by state. I know someone in the process of divorcing her incarcerated husband and in her state just being in prison is grounds for divorce.

            1. Quill*

              It was more property division stuff, she needed his permission to sell anything they bought jointly and that was hard to get.

      2. Burned Out Supervisor*

        My aunt is married to one. He served 10 years for it and my grandmother insisted that we welcome him back into the family (where there are a lot of young female cousins) because he “had found Jesus.” Dude, I don’t care if he found Jimmy Hoffa, I’m not coming to Christmas dinner to look at his stupid face. My aunt is in deep denial about it, so I suspect my grandmother’s reaction was more of a way to ensure that she didn’t alienate my aunt.

    7. Health Insurance Nerd*

      Hard disagree. It isn’t the LWs responsibility to make sure the coworkers knows her boyfriends history- that’s why you Google who you’re dating as soon as you know their first and last name.

    8. D'Arcy*

      Given that the safety of children is at stake, you really have to hedge against the worst-case possibility that the co-worker will actively cover up for her boyfriend. That’s why you keep her in the dark and talk ONLY to the police, or at most the police and the person in charge at the daycare.

      (Note: I’m saying you have to *hedge against* that worst-case possibility, not that you should assume it must be the case. Let the police do the investigating.)

      1. voyager1*

        But this isn’t a either/or. You can inform the coworker and call the police too. I just think the coworker deserves the LW telling her. Like I said originally, would you want someone to tell you if they knew you were dating a sex offender? What if the coworker has children in her house too?

        1. Wing Leader*

          I really don’t think OP should say anything to coworker. She’s just going to be placing herself like a landmine in their relationship, and she deserves the opportunity to report this anonymously. If the coworker doesn’t know, she will find out when the police get involved.

        2. SQL Coder Cat*

          voyager1, if the OP reports it to the police, they will investigate- let them inform the OP, especially if she has children.

          1. valentine*

            let them inform
            Yes. Even if the police don’t violate him, they can tell the coworker.

          2. pamela voorhees*

            Absolutely. The information means much more coming from an authority figure like the police — you’d be astounded how easily and yet vehemently people will dismiss inconvenient & upsetting information (“You think my boyfriend’s a sex offender? How dare you! It’s because you want the Johnson account, isn’t it?!”). Stay out of it.

        3. LJay*

          If she cares, the registries are public information and she could have looked it up before now. And telling the cops will likely get him away from any children in the house more effectively than telling her would.

          1. Zillah*

            in fairness, i think that’s something a lot of people just don’t think to do – it’s not apathy, just… not thinking about it and/or not finding it useful bc of how many people who deserve to be on it and aren’t.

            still not on the op to tell the coworker, though.

    9. Ann Perkins*

      This is a public safety issue and the police need to attend to it. The only possible thing to gain by going to the coworker is that maybe she’s unaware and will break off the relationship, but the police still need to know that he’s violating his parole, and the daycare should be aware of the issue too. Call the police, call the director of the daycare. If he does hang around the daycare at all, they might want to make their own police report as well. And any decent daycare will have good security measures but they would likely appreciate knowing so that they can keep an even tighter eye on comings and goings.

      I would find it hard to believe that he doesn’t know there’s a daycare there, unless it’s incredibly small. Most daycare centers will have an outdoor play area as well as parents and kids coming and going quite a bit, not to mention signage.

    10. CoffeeAdict*

      As someone whose son is in a daycare center in an office building, I would want the OP to inform the police and to give the daycare center director a heads up. The police can do what they can about the parole violations, and the center can practice extra vigilance.

      1. Wing Leader*

        That’s a good point–inform someone at the daycare so they can keep an eye out. Not saying that this guy would try to do anything, but better safe than sorry. One of my bosses is going through a messy divorce with a volatile husband, and we have his photo underneath the reception desk. If anyone sees him in the building, we are supposed to call security.

        1. valentine*

          OP3 can ask the police to tell the daycare. The more anonymous they are, the better, in case the coworker decides to investigate.

    11. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      AAM is 100% dead on on this. Why would the coworker have anything to say in this scenario?

      People don’t report stuff because they don’t want to get involved, or they think the family should work it out themselves, or they don’t want to be wrong and embarrass themselves, or they second guess what they saw, or they don’t want to “cause drama,” or they come up with reasons they might be wrong, or whatever other thing.

      And kids get hurt.

      It’s not the OPs job to solve the problem of their coworker dating a kiddie rapist (sorry not sorry – I think these guys don’t deserve polite euphemisms.) It’s their job to call the cops.

      Heck, I’ll bet you anything there are ten other people out there right now who see this guy doing other small things that are concerning, but they only have that one piece of the picture, and they don’t think it rises to the level of reporting.

  6. JKP*

    I’ve had my share of looking busy jobs. I wrote an entire novel on my work computer. And yes, reading books or fanfic online. Anything that looks like you are intensely studying or working on the computer. Sometimes if I didn’t have a computer, I would write in a notepad, writing stories or even letters to family or friends.

    1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      I was going to suggest writing as well as reading. Anything in a Word document or Google Docs window can plausibly look work-related.

    2. Mary Connell*

      Some more ideas: Write a book. Write an article. Start a blog. Do genealogy. (Now that’s an addictive, time-intensive activity.) Get an online degree or certificate. Online education has changed dramatically in the past decade. There are now many schools like Western Governors University that are not diploma mills. Participate in a crowdsourcing project. There are always document transcription or genealogical indexing projects available. Learn how to add information to Wikipedia articles.

      1. Manders*

        I love doing genealogy at work! It helps that I’m in an academic institution with access to heritage quest and other cool databases.

        Other things I do because I have a ton of downtime:
        * Read textbooks. There are free versions for just about everything. I’m currently reading an intro to Microbiology and recently finished an intro to Anatomy and Physiology one.
        * Read fiction. I watch a lot of booktube so there are a ton of books on my to-be-reads.
        * Study languages. I study Korean and Spanish and use a wireless single ear earbud so it’s not noticeable and doesn’t block out sound. You could also listen to music with it but I tend to sing along so not an option for me.
        * Play games that don’t look like games. I play Fantasy Movie League which involves a lot of spreadsheets and math.

        1. Intermittent Introvert*

          You could also plan something using internet resources. Design a plan for a garden landscape or dream home. Plan a trip. Plan a strategy to overcome a bad habit.

    3. NeonFireworks*

      I wrote a novel too! And started learning Python. Most boring job I’ve ever had, but I got a lot of other stuff done.

    4. Butterfly Counter*

      Yes, I was also going to suggest writing.

      If you’re worried about it being too non-work related, maybe write a blog about this hobby you do the retail for. You already said there are only a few blogs out there that cover it as a topic and being a retailer, maybe you have a unique perspective on it? Or something funny about customer calls that you could share? Or FAQs?

    5. miss_chevious*

      Please do not use work equipment for your creative projects unless you are certain that your company policies don’t dictate that use of company equipment gives them ownership rights over the work. I’ve had more than one friend burned by a company policy that gave their employer ownership rights over their code or other content. (Of course, the company doesn’t usually care unless/until it looks like the content will be economically valuable.)

  7. interrobang*

    For OP3:
    Alison’s advice is good, but if you’re up for it, please first tell your coworker that her boyfriend could get in serious trouble for being in a place with a daycare. She may not realize it’s a condition, and she may not have told him that there’s a daycare there. Sex offenders face tons of obstacles after release and he could be convicted of another crime for being present even if he doesn’t know about the daycare. So, if you’re feeling kind, please alert your coworker that he’s likely violating his probation/post-prison supervision/sex offender reporting by being there and tell her that, *if* it continues, you plan to inform the police.

    Full disclosure: I’m a public defender, and I’ve also seen that once people have served their time, our legal system works hard to keep them from rejoining society. Piling on new convictions is one more way that sex offenders end up homeless and unemployed, which isn’t good for anyone. /soapbox

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            She might not know that he is prohibited from being in a building with a daycare in it. She might not know that he is a convicted sex offender: I doubt it would have come up on a first date, and when would you bring it up?

        1. Temperance*

          Why? It’s actually on him to meet the conditions of his parole, so he should be making sure he’s in compliance.

          He made the choice to sexually abuse at least one child. That choice has consequences. Let’s not give him the benefit of the doubt.

          1. un-pleased*

            Exactly. He has to know and abide by the terms of his parole, not his girlfriend, no one else.

        2. Allypopx*

          I still wouldn’t encourage the OP to talk to the coworker directly. This is not a work issue and the possibility of consequences or retaliation for the OP is too high. Let the police and the parole officer handle it.

          1. Observer*

            Yes, the possibility of retaliation against the OP goes up tremendously if they speak to the coworker.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        Wouldn’t the onus be on him to check, though? It must be tiresome and difficult but but probably he has to take more care to comply with the conditions of his parole and check things that most people don’t have to.

            1. Stitch*

              Yes, they are given guidance on places to avoid and told where they are allowed to live, so they don’t move into a place and “surprise, you can’t live there”. Doing otherwise would be unfair to the offender.

              1. Allypopx*

                Right. If you get a restraining order against someone, you also have to give them your home and work addresses. These things can’t be enforced if the person doesn’t know where they’re restricted from going.

              2. Turanga Leela*

                It’s not a restraining order, and restrictions on sex offenders (both during parole and after) are notoriously onerous and often unfair. You might get a PO who tells you where you can’t live, but I’ve never heard of someone getting a building-by-building map of where he’s not allowed to go.

                These restrictions also vary a lot state by state.

              3. Observer*

                That’s not really possible. Day cares open and close often enough that it really, really is not possible.

            2. Ice and Indigo*

              Why not? If they were unable to find children under their own initiative, they wouldn’t have molested any in the first place. It’s not as if schools and daycare centres aren’t on ordinary maps; parents need to be able to find them.

        1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          Agreed, it’s not on OP to decide how to handle this based on speculation of what the offender might and might not know. And it’s a completely unfair burden to place on OP – weighing up the potential safety of the children in the daycare vs his reintegration into society. That’s a decision for the authorities to make, so report and let THEM make that call.

        2. D'Arcy*

          Being out on parole is *already* the benefit of the doubt, and it is his responsibility to comply with the terms of his parole.

        3. MusicWithRocksIn*

          In the era of google it is very easy to check. And honestly Daycare’s are not often a stealth institution. Most of them have outdoor play areas. It is most likely on the first floor of the building, with easy access to the front door and extra fire exits. You probably see kids going in and out all the time. There are lots of extra codes for daycares.

        4. boop the first*

          I agree. It must be really hard to live that way, but at the same time, the other option is to stay in prison, so really, having a hard job of researching every place you go is kind of a privilege.

        5. 2 cents*

          Yup. This is akin to people with allergies being responsible for asking about ingredients before they eat something. He knows the rules and it’s part of his job as a parolee to investigate his surroundings and comply with those rules.

            1. Eukomos*

              She compared the mechanism of who’s responsible for what between them. She didn’t say that having an allergy makes you somehow the equivalent of being a sex offender, don’t be obtuse.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Daycares tend to have playgrounds attached to them. So the kids can go outside. It’s not like they are hidden away in a corner with no markings or anything to indicate it.

        1. Roscoe*

          Not necessarily. I’m in Chicago. Some of our corporate buildings have daycares in them that you would never know about from the outside.

      3. Health Insurance Nerd*

        It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t know- ignorance isn’t a valid excuse for violating parole, especially when you’re a sex offender!

      4. SheLooksFamiliar*

        He might not know, but it is his obligation to find out. In my area, registered sexual offenders of children are coached to not assume children won’t be around. They are supposed to ask questions: Is there a nearby school, daycare, playground, or park? Church pre-K or after-school program? Community center with children’s programs? A neighbor who babysits kids in her own home/apartment? Is there a child-friendly event at the office building and/or complex the offender is visiting? An Employee Appreciation Day that includes family? On-site daycare? Pediatrician’s office in the building? A family therapist? And so on.

        The onus is on the offender to ask and verify so as not to be in violation, and the offender needs to stay vigilant. Many offenders don’t ask questions because they’re essentially outing themselves, and I could not possibly care less about that. I don’t cut a lot of slack for sexual offenders of any kind, but especially when children were involved.

      5. Ani*

        If he’s a registered offender, it is on him to know. Full stop.

        He would have been told this by attorney, a parole officer, and several other people.

    1. Artemesia*

      I agree with this. Unless the day care is super obvious e.g. first floor clearly signed as a day care, the guy may in fact not be intentionally violating his conditions. The co-worker does need the heads up though. This seems like a kinder way to go.

    2. Lena Clare*

      This is a really good point, I hadn’t realised this. Thank you for pointing it out.

    3. Academic Addie*

      I agree with this. I recently did a visit somewhere where I walked past an internal daycare for 3 days before realizing it was a child care facility. It was for employees. I wasn’t an employee. It wasn’t well-labeled. I just didn’t know. If I had, I might have asked about visitor access, as I have young children.

      I’m not normally a fan of anonymous notes, but this might call for one. Ordinarily, I’d say talk to the person. But if OP is concerned about the nature of the violation (or other unreported violations they know about) and the impact on their life, seems OK. Print out of the registry entry and relevant public records?

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        It probably wasn’t well-labeled by design, to protect the children from the various sorts of people who would have valid reason to be wandering around a place of business (clients, vendors, interview candidates, delivery people) and exactly zero reason to be near children.

    4. Massmatt*

      The whole concern about the sex offender visiting a building with a day care (shared by multiple employers, presumably a large building?) in it is feeding into false stereotypes of sex offenders.

      The vast bulk of child abusers are not strangers in greasy raincoats hanging around day care centers, they are people the children and their parents know and trust.

      It is uncomfortable to think that your own friends and relatives (and CLERGY!) could do such things, so we construct boogeymen.

      1. zaracat*

        I don’t really agree with your reasoning here. Yes, most sex offenders are people that children and parents know and trust – but they gain that trust by proximity and familiarity, and being the friendly and helpful BF of a worker in the building is exactly how they might get a foot in the door.

        1. zaracat*

          That is, the real risk is not that so much that a sex offender would snatch a child from the day care, but that they’d use casual contact with the parents of the children to worm their way into their lives and get closer access outside of the day care setting. Grooming is not just targeted at children, but also carers.

          1. Sleepless*

            This absolutely. I know a sexual predator who is in prison for some very, very bad things, confirmed by the legal system and by other people I know. If he is ever out in society again and spends time in a building with a day care, I can absolutely see him finding a way to make friends with the parents and build a relationship with the kids. This guy is *good.*

        2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          I don’t generally +1 as a comment, but PLUS FREAKING ONE because this, and your comment below are absolutely correct.

      2. Cambridge Comma*

        OP seems to have detailed knowledge of the person, though. She isn’t working from a stereotype. If she’s concerned, let’s assume there’s cause for concern.

        1. Stitch*

          Yeah and this guy isn’t a “sex offender because he peed in a fountain” guy. LW has clear knowledge that he abused a child.

          1. Temperance*

            Most convicted sex offenders aren’t that guy. I know you know that, but had to say it before the “HE MIGHT HAVE PEED ON A SCHOOL” brigade shows up.

            1. Stitch*

              Yeah, my hope is that the attitude comes from a place of lack of knowledge. In just one summer interning, I saw way more horrifying stuff than I cared to (and decided firmly the criminal field wasn’t for me).

            2. Health Insurance Nerd*

              They’re already here in the form of “he was 19 and she lied about her age and then lied to the police and the police believed her but he’s a great guy and didn’t do anything wrong”.

              Funny, I knew one of those guys- guess where he is now? Back in jail for some very, very upsetting crimes.

            3. Sylvan*

              It’s interesting how that’s the default response some people have to conversations like this. “What if he did something that’s not really that bad!!”

              Gross. What if he did something that OP knows at least some of the extent of and verified? Which is actually the case here.

              1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

                The especially gross thing about “something not that bad!” is the “something” is what they actually got CONVICTED for – not what they did, intended to do or have long thought about doing.

                Reconsider any “not that bad!” and I’m guessing where there’s smoke, you’ll find fire.

      3. Liane*

        It doesn’t matter what Boyfriend’s (or any other pedophile’s) modus operandi is/was. What matters is ***it is ILLEGAL for Boyfriend to be in the same building as a childcare.***
        Just like a driver losing their license for DUI. They can’t legally drive a pickup, even though they only drove drunk in a sedan.

      4. doreen*

        And the restrictions sex offenders have may not prohibit them from being in a building with a daycare center – sometimes the restrictions only apply to schools , not daycare centers and they often don’t apply to where the offender happens to be, but to where he lives. He may not be allowed to live within X feet of a school, but that doesn’t mean he can’t walk past it.

        As for why not daycare centers- I won’t disagree about offenders grooming parents, but that’s not the reason for these restrictions. The restrictions are about the “snatching” that doesn’t happen very often.

        1. skunklet*

          Yeah, I’m going to chime in on this. We DON’T know the state that OP is in, so therefore, we can’t even google the laws for that state.
          Not every state has a requirement that a sex offender on the registry not be around a daycare. My home state of VT only has restrictions if you’re convicted post 1996, for example (you’re still on the registry, though).
          So there’s TONS of conjecture on this thread, so my advice is to go the police and let THEM figure it out. If he’s NOT in compliance, then they will deal with it. Period.

      5. SheLooksFamiliar*

        ‘The whole concern about the sex offender visiting a building with a day care (shared by multiple employers, presumably a large building?) in it is feeding into false stereotypes of sex offenders.’

        Massmatt, that is not the issue here. The sexual offender in question must be compliant with the terms of his release/parole, and that means he cannot be within a certain distance of children. Full stop.

        Before you call me a victim of stereotyping: my devout church-going father sexually abused me and my sister – her more than me, but I still lock my bathroom door when I take a shower. My church elders didn’t believe me when I reported him, because he wasn’t a stranger in a greasy raincoat. Hell, I trusted strangers more than my own parents! Believe me, I understand that sexual abusers of children are often close family or friends. I lived under the same roof as mine…again, that’s not the issue here.

        1. Massmatt*

          I am sorry for your terrible experience, but you are making my point. Children are more at risk from people they and their family know and trust than strangers.

          The guy the LW refers to is probably awful, and almost certainly abused trust to do what he did.

          All I’m saying is that a fixation on a person with a known offender history but very tangential (if any) relation to the children at this location is probably misplaced. If you want to protect children, scrutinize the relationships with their other family/relatives, teachers, coaches, babysitters, and yes (again, it bears repeating) CLERGY. This is where the real risk lies.

          1. Ice and Indigo*

            It is perfectly possible to endorse BOTH keeping a careful eye on known adults AND to say that a man with at least one literal conviction, considered dangerous by a letter writer who has experience and training in the field of child abuse, is worth reporting to the police. That’s not a ‘fixation’, which is honestly quite an insulting framing. That is discussing the problem that’s actually in front of the letter writer.

            Stranger kidnaps are more rare, but they still happen; there was a spate of attempts around schools in my neighbourhood recently. If you’re going to tell me we shouldn’t have been warned about this because it was a statistical anomaly, we’re going to have words.

            Saying ‘Let’s be aware most abuse happens by trusted adults’ is the correct position when making broad plans for a better society for children. Saying it when a well-informed and experienced letter writer spots an individual their direct experience tells them is a danger to children in a building containing children is not. He’s there now, other situations are happening elsewhere. Even if it’s not a 100% certainty he’s dangerous to those kids, is that a gamble with their childhoods you really think it’s worth making?

            SheLooksFamiliar, I am so sorry he did that to you.

    5. Caroline Bowman*

      It is a very unfair side effect of the legal system in most countries. For child sex predators, whilst I objectively understand being homeless and unemployed is not a good thing for society as a whole, I’m finding it incredibly hard to care terribly.

      I’d generally work from the assumption that the co-worker wouldn’t want to date a paedophile and that she doesn’t know. I would inform her that in your previous life, you ran across this person and he categorically is a convicted xyz and that since there is a daycare on the premises, this person may no longer be there. Then say that you absolutely have to inform both the daycare and the police. The girlfriend deserves the information. On the off-chance that she already has it, well then it will hardly be a shock, but it’s totally reasonable to want to share that with someone who may be massively affected in future.

      1. Amy Sly*

        For child sex predators, whilst I objectively understand being homeless and unemployed is not a good thing for society as a whole, I’m finding it incredibly hard to care terribly.

        My only feeling is that if we’re not going to let them work or have a home anywhere, we’re not doing them or us a favor by letting them out on parole or giving them non-life sentences. If they’re too dangerous to be trusted in the community, they’re too dangerous to be out of prison. Letting them out only to make them live under bridges because there’s nowhere else they can go is crueler than keeping them in jail.

        1. Valprehension*

          Yeah, this. Child abusers are one of the few groups of people that I feel completely comfortable saying a blanket “nope, you don’t get to be in society” about.

      2. Quill*

        If they’re homeless and unemployed they can’t as easily be kept away from potential victims and also may escalate their tactics. (Also they put homeless youth at further risk.)

        1. KoiFeeder*

          And most homeless youth are homeless because they don’t have a support system and it’s not safe for them to seek out assistance, so their victims are more likely to just suffer.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Public defender you would know- now, doesn’t he have to disclose to the GF before he can date her? Isn’t that one of the bizillion rules they have to follow?

      1. Yorick*

        No. In some cases sex offenders will have to notify neighbors when they move somewhere, but they don’t have to tell other people that they know personally.

    7. KimberlyR*

      I won’t say that he definitely knows there is a daycare there but it’s usually pretty difficult to hide-childcare centers are required to have x amount of outdoor space per child so there is likely a playground attached. It is possible to use a very close park or public playground but most daycares aren’t carting infants down the street to a play area. So I imagine the work building has a fenced-in playground attached and looks like some sort of child-related facility.

      1. doreen*

        Maybe- there’s a daycare center literally right next to my office, as in I can see the kids play area through my window. But part of the building is two stories high, and the rest is five and the play area is on top of the two-story portion. All you can see from the street is a fence around the two- story portion, which is not unusual here even in buildings without a day care center. You can’t see the playground equipment. My granddaughter goes to a daycare center in a hospital- they may have an outdoor playground, but if they do, it’s in an interior courtyard or something because it’s not visible from the street.

    8. Observer*

      I get the issue of offenders reintegrating. But, given how often people who date actual offenders, which this guy IS, there is a real chance that CW won’t react the way one would hope. Which would mean that once that OP goes to the police both teh CW and BF will know who reported it, and that could make like very difficult (or worse) for the OP. Why would you expect them to take that risk?

    9. Roscoe*

      I was going to reply something like this, but I’m glad I saw this before I did.

      I’m in a big city, and some of our corporate buildings have daycares that you’d never know about from the outside. Going straight to the cops just didn’t sit right with me.

      Besides your point about the legal system making it hard to rejoin society, we just don’t know enough. What did he do exactly? Im sure OP knows, but chose to not disclose it. And again, this isn’t necessarily a defense of him. But being on the sex offender registry can cover such a wide variety of things that its hard to really make a judgment. We don’t know if this was a one time mistake, or if he was a repeat offender. We do know that he served his time and is now free.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        He is not free – he is on the sex offender registry. Which means professional people who’s job it is decided he should not be around kids. It means if he is around kids it is illegal. He is breaking the law, and the condition of his ‘freedom’. As a parent with a kid in daycare I am disgusted with the lengths people are going to what about and maybe if for this man who is breaking the law. It was his job not to go near daycares and he didn’t do it. Now it is the police’s job to decide what to do next. Sex offender who was recognized as someone who traumatized a child does not get the benefit of the doubt.

        1. SomeoneWhoKnows*

          Just because you’re on the registry doesn’t mean you aren’t free. You can be required to be on the registry but have served your sentence years (or even decades) previously.

      2. DarnTheMan*

        Okay but OP did disclose? “When I was a student, I spent a summer volunteering at a nonprofit where the mission was to assist child victims of predators. The recognition of him came from my time there. An online search confirms it is him.” Really hate to think of anyone classifying an act with at least one child victim who is requiring therapy treatment as a “mistake.”

      3. Zillah*

        There are lots of things that I’m comfortable calling mistakes. Molesting children is not one of them.

    10. Turanga Leela*

      Came here to say this. Sure, you can say it’s on him to know, but if the day care isn’t obvious, there’s no way for him to know. No, sex offenders are not given maps of where day cares are located; yes, he can still get in trouble—potentially big trouble—if he’s near one and not supposed to be. It sounds like OP is confident he can’t be in the building.

      It would be a kindness to tell the coworker before calling the police.

      1. Observer*

        That’s not the case – the day care WOULD be on the building directory.

        Also, while it might be a kindness to the predator, it is probably NOT a kindness to potential victims. And they take precedence.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Yes – Thank you. The news has been overflowing with predators that weren’t caught for years because so many people did them a kindness. We need to put the children and their safety first.

        2. Turanga Leela*

          If it’s obvious that there’s a day care in the building, then OP should take whatever steps she wants. I’m addressing the possibility that the day care isn’t obvious. Not all buildings have clearly marked directories.

  8. Artemesia*

    Not enough work today — absolutely design a course of study that prepares you for job advancement. Advanced computer skills or accounting skills so you can do budget management or management skills — or what works for your career arc. Failing that, a self improvement course of study that is challenging — learn a language or delve into history.

    No poker face? You aren’t owning it. While we are not in total control of our face always — RBF is a fact of aging for example–showing disdain, contempt, disagreement is totally within our control. If you don’t develop some self discipline here you torpedo your career.

    1. Lena Clare*

      Yes, plenty to do if you can find stuff you’re interested in.
      Novel writing might be another one.
      I’ve got to say…I’m kind of envious. I’d love a job that stopped being busy in the afternoon so I could do my study/writing, but then the grass is always greener, amd maybe it’s not all that!

      1. Tau*

        For what it’s worth, last summer my work ran out of work for me and it was flat-out the most miserable time I’ve ever spent at my job. Sure, in theory I could have studied (and did do some Coursera courses) but in practice I want to do my studying in the way and place I like to, not forced to stay in the office for hours on end and pretend to all onlookers that I am doing Actual Work. The whole thing was incredibly demoralising and I used to come home from work utterly exhausted and near tears; it was one of the big things that tipped the scales to me job-searching and near the end I was close to asking my doctor if I could get a sick note for stress because it was having noticeable effects on my everyday life.

        All of which is to say: OP, you are probably going to get a lot of comments along the lines of “oh, you’re lucky! I’m so jealous!” Don’t listen to them. Maybe those people would enjoy your situation, maybe they’d discover they would not, but in any case you are not doing well with it and that is understandable and deserves to be taken seriously. I sadly don’t have much good advice for you – as mentioned above, I did not deal well with not having enough work at all – but I hope you get something useful from other commenters.

        1. Quill*

          generally speaking if I had that much free time on the regular at work I’d worry extremely hard that I was going to be let go, but if *everyone* has it, I’d be a little more comfortable.

      2. A Silver Spork*

        I had a job a couple of years back that was… dysfunctional, to put it mildly. I got switched to a new department where the head really didn’t like me and wanted me gone, but my performance reviews were stellar and I had no write-ups so he couldn’t just fire me. He very clearly *wanted* to fire me (he was emailing me to discuss minor issues to create a paper trail), but until he could get enough evidence he started taking away all of my tasks. But also not allowing me to help out other coworkers who were swamped with work (got a stern email about that). Or leave early (got a really stern email when I did… even though I submitted PTO for it which he had approved). And I definitely wasn’t allowed to have non-work websites up on my computer. I suppose I could have worked on my novel, but I was worried about whether writing it at work would give them partial ownership of it.

        In the end I would open some sort of work document on my computer and then either dissociate (not recommended) or secretly read stuff on my phone while also panicking about getting caught (got through 44.75 Discworld books that way, and I would have finished The Shepherd’s Crown if I didn’t decide to leave early on my last day).

        1. Timothy (TRiG)*

          Is reading The Shepard’s Crown in public advisable? (I’ve not dared to tackle it yet myself, but I’ve heard stories of ugly crying.)

            1. JustaTech*

              I was fine until the end and then I absolutely bawled because there won’t be any more.

              As long as I didn’t think about that while I was reading it I was fine (some staring into space while thinking, yes, crying, no).

          1. A Silver Spork*

            Depends. If you’re at a job where people regularly cry because of bad management, terrible work practices, and the looking specter of layoffs, people won’t even notice!

        2. Hydrangea McDuff*

          I read the entire Outlander series and The entirety of a now-defunct website recapping Buffy during a terrible boring office job 20 years ago. It was very seasonal as well. I also taught myself how to use excel and Quark from “dummies” books.

      3. Tiny Soprano*

        In my unpredictable periods of downtime at my last reception job, I wrote half a sci-fi novel and it was easily the best writing I’ve ever done. Knowing you might only have five or ten minute bursts of quiet time, it really helps you beat writers’ block. On the rare days where everyone was OOO and there was nothing to do, I got some serious editing done.

        1. Quickbeam*

          Really be careful with personal fiction writing on company computers. If you end up publishing, you may end up with an ownership battle with the company. Have seen it.

          1. Quill*

            It’s for this reason that I tend to only work on fanfic on work computers. I already default don’t own it and can’t make money off it, have fun dealing with owning some percentage of my AO3 kudos on ‘what if the gate to death in Harry Potter connected up to the dead realms in other fantasy series?’ or ‘seriously this story only exists to give me an excuse to explore fictional future antibiotics via Star Trek, featuring the crew being dumbasses, as per usual’

            1. What was I doing SQUIRREL!*

              Okay, did anyone else go to AO3 and try searching on “star trek antibiotics” so they could read this?

    2. Mary*

      Completely agree with you about OP1. OP1, you need to reframe the question: the problem isn’t, “oh no, I think my report is rubbish and i can’t stop my face showing it”, it’s “i think my report is rubbish.”

      It’s one thing to disagree with decisions that senior managers are making, but with your reports you’ve got to be able to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe that when they’re disagreeing with you it’s because they have a well-founded reason. If they’re doing something that you genuinely think is wrong or bad for the organisation or not aligned with the team goals, your job is to tell them not to do it (unless your reports have a high degree of autonomy it might mean listening with an open mind and allowing them to explain why they think their course of action is the best one.)

      But the key thing is seeing your reports (and colleagues) as people whose ideas might differ from yours, but whom you can respect nonetheless. Work on your attitude, not your muscle control!

      1. WorkIsADarkComedy*

        Here to say just this. OP1, maybe you can’t stop your face from showing what you’re feeling, but you can take a hard look at why you’re feeling the way you do.

        No question that workplaces are full of irritations and stupidity. But you can make a conscious decision to approach these situations in different ways. For example, if Fergus frequently pipes up with half-assed ideas, you can make a prediction about when the next time he’s going to do that, and internally give yourself a high five if you guessed correctly. If there are irritations that come up every time you Skype, address them up front in a productive way.

        Make your work life more bearable for yourself, and your face will be a window into a less pissed off heart.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          I have seen the advice here before about looking at work through a detached and clinical lense. Remove the personal attachment to it in order to attain a more objective POV. Might be good advice to brush off and try. From on perons who cannot hide emotions from my face to another – Good luck!

        2. OP1*

          Ugh, yes. You are entirely right. Compounding my irritation with what’s going on with irritation that I can’t just feel my feelings in private without my face outing me is not a happy way to live. I’ll try the “quiz show” approach– thank you

      2. OP1*

        You’re right. I’m coming from a place of being very negative about decisions that are being made up the ladder, and while I generally need to work on not showing everything I feel on my face, I also need to either decide that things are how they are and I need to live with it, or I need to leave. In reading through the comments today, I’m realizing that I have been in control of my face in the past, but my control is slipping, and as you pointed out, it’s more about my attitude than anything else. Thank you!

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      For the OP1 side, I want to zero in on contempt. That is hard to come back from–for romantic relationships it’s a death knell–and really not a good thing to be expressing re your coworkers, clients, boss, etc. Not radiating disdain/contempt/etc is an adulting skill for anyone not literally a diva, which most of us are not.

      1. OP1*

        This is a great point. I’ve held eye-rolling as the key marker of showing contempt, but it’s absolutely possible to show contempt without a single eye-roll.

  9. Sami*

    OP 1: Take an acting class or get involved in the local community theatre. Check out community groups and community colleges.

    1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      OP1 wrote “I am practicing keeping a neutral face, but really struggle with it, especially if anything unexpected comes up.”

      Practice more. Try having a mirror in front of you when on non-video calls. And if you’re only trying to do nothing with your face, consider instead trying to actively hold a different face (an attentive non-judgey face) instead. Work to achieve that new face.

      I had person reporting to me who had this issue. She’s since left and started her own company, and has gotten better. I think she worked on it.

      1. GothicBee*

        When I was younger I went through this weird phase where I tried to look as still and emotionless as possible and never react to anything. No idea why I did it at the time, but it did help me a lot with controlling my expressions. Though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going as extreme as my “devoid of emotion” face.

        Also, in the moment, if you keep a drink nearby, sometimes taking a sip can give you a second to school your expression if you’re initially tempted to react negatively. Or even just having something else to focus on, like taking notes, may help.

        1. lizzsook*

          I have this same problem, and I use the take a drink of water trick a lot. I pretty much never go to a meeting without some sort of beverage.

    2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Also an open book here OP 1, so I feel your struggle! A baby step that helped me was to make an effort to consciously reframe my thinking in meetings so that my face reflected a different emotion. Instead of allowing myself to think things like “what idiot tree fruited this dumb idea and how long am I going to have to hear it bouncing off every stupid branch on the way down”, I would pivot to “well… that’s a different way of seeing it, I wonder what’s behind that thinking…” or “the suggested approach is impractical, but I wonder what the key point is they’re trying to address here…”. Still RBF, but more contemplative than judgey. Plus thinking that way helps in more ways than one ;)

      1. JJ*

        This is what I was thinking too. You’re allowed to be a human with emotions, but working on being a bit more blasé about things that aren’t in your purview (like a bad hire decision) will serve you well, both face-wise and just for your own peace of mind. If there’s something important you feel they may not have considered, just calmly state your perspective, and then accept that they might be 1. making a poor decision anyway, or 2. have information you don’t that led to the decision. Then just relax and let someone else handle that circus and those monkeys.

        1. Annony*

          Yes! This has helped me a lot. When someone is making a decision I think is stupid, unless it is something that I actually have a say in, I mentally keep repeating “not my problem” and move on. If I keep thinking “That’s so dumb! Why would you do that?!” it tends to show on my face.

        2. OP1*

          Thank you– this is something I struggle with (a lot!). Part of my issue at this point is that (metaphorically speaking) the ringmaster is making decisions and then I’m part of running the circus… either way, I definitely need to adopt a more even-keeled approach to how things are going.

      2. hbc*

        Yeah, this is what I come back to in most of these “I wear my emotions on my sleeves” posts. There are a lot of people who don’t have poker faces, and they get by just fine because they’re not showing derision or contempt in situations that don’t call for it. The emotions and thoughts behind the facial expression are the real problem to be worked on. It’s hard to train yourself into it, but “Interesting, that seems like an obvious mistake, I wonder where we have a disconnect” is a far, far better reaction for a manager to have than “That idea is dumb, period.”

        At the very least, OP should explain verbally what’s being expressed visually. If their face says, “You’re an idiot for making that decision,” it will help a lot if their words put it more gently as, “I’m a little surprised that Jane was chosen, but I’m sure I’ll adjust.” This may seem like overstepping to say in a group meeting, but if everyone is seeing the death glare, that will help tone down the message OP is sending.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, it sounds like so far they have only tried changing their face to not reflect their thoughts–so I think they should try changing their thoughts. If they’re really serious about wanting to work on this and shoot for a promotion then honestly I would suggest trying therapy.

      4. Quill*

        I have a lot of practice in “what the screaming idiocy is this” from school and past work environments. If you ever see me blink really long and work my nose around like it really itches… either I have allergies or someone just popped off a really inadvised kernel of idea.

        Works better than “hey dude why the duck did you write out this plan in THIRDS of an inch?” for maintaining my sanity, at least.

        1. OP1*

          I’ll try that! If I suddenly start scrunching my face and apologizing for allergies, it can certainly explain why I just frowned really hard.

      5. NapkinThief*

        Just wanted to express my appreciation for this: “what idiot tree fruited this dumb idea and how long am I going to have to hear it bouncing off every stupid branch on the way down”

        I laughed, I chortled, I felt seen!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      OP, this is something very worth while to invest your time in and it will serve you for the rest of your life.

      Facial expressions and tone of voice are two things that need to be under control, in order to convey professionalism to others. People who constantly make facial expressions or who cannot rope in their tone of voice are seen as being less than professional.

      I worked with a person who rolled their eyes at every single thing that went awry. It was exhausting to watch. Eye rolling is one of the characteristics identified with bullying.
      I am not saying you are a bully. I am saying how we use our faces to convey our messages can work against us in some very serious ways. Please don’t get blindsided by this one.

      My thought is to learn to use your words, OP. I grew up in a family where much of the conversation was facial expression without words. I had to deliberately learn to put into words what I was thinking. Next step, I had to convey that thought in a manner that the listener would be able to hear it and respond appropriately.
      This also may entail learning different ways of dealing with anger.

      There are many books out there with how to say things, when to say things and so on.
      It is extremely difficult to STOP doing something if there is NO plan on what one WILL do in place of the old response/habit.
      I suggest building a plan of what you will do to communicate with people.

      Notice I never said that your thoughts were wrong. We are allowed to have thoughts and opinions on things, that’s not a problem. How we convey those thoughts and opinions to others matters, and it matters greatly.

      1. TechWorker*

        Yep – also worth trying to really dig down into your reactions in this sort of situation. Can you pinpoint exactly what puts you off about new report and articulate it clearly? Can you explain what your concerns are with the idea being presented to you – or do you actually need more info to be able to rule it out? That might help you to give criticism professionally and avoid knee jerk reactions but also ‘thinking hard’ is probably a better facial expression than ‘disdain’ :p

        In other words, try to actually take the thing more seriously, even if you think your conclusion will be to feel the same way!

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        Yes, it’s definitely something you can learn to get under control without stopping being true to who you are or anything like that. It’s important not only professionally but for the sake of being kind to people in your personal life too. You don’t want to be the person who sits there at your cousin’s wedding with a big snare on your face because you don’t think the couple’s going to make it.

          1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

            Noooo! I want to keep in my head the image of a person getting up on stage and faceplanting the snare drum in drunken disbelief!

            1. CaVanaMana*

              Right! Sometimes I’m accused of this facial expression thing too and most of the time it’s because I’m thinking of something inappropriately funny, only related by a stretch of imagination and physically struggling to keep it to myself and not laugh.

              My response is, “if I had something of value to say, I would say it.”

        1. Shan*

          Yes! One of my longtime friends has a very “expressive” face, and I’ve actually had to say “no need to roll your eyes at me” like I’m her mother. It’s one of those things where I’m able to look past it because I’ve known her since I was seven, but if I was introduced to her as an adult and she did that, I won’t bother getting to know her better.

  10. Marmaduke*

    LW4: you mentioned reading blogs about your industry. Have you considered writing one of your own?

    1. Delta Delta*

      I was going to suggest that, too. IRL I was once bored at a job and joined a team of writers in an industry blog. Turns out TONS of people read that blog and it brought business to our company. Can be a total win-win!

    2. Zombeyonce*

      This is such a great suggestion! If LW doesn’t think she’s qualified, that’s an even better reason! Ask questions and go out and find the answers and write about them and the process. I guarantee that others have those same questions.

  11. giraffe*

    OP 4, I used to read a lot of books when I was in this situation. Two specific ones I recommend — if you’re a kindle person, the amazon Kindle Cloud Reader opens right up in your browser. Also, there’s a website called Scribd; there’s a free trial for a month, and then after that it’s a single-digit subscription amount per month to read “unlimited” books (obviously not every single book in the universe, but they have a surprisingly broad catalog). I also started speed-solving crossword puzzles and got pretty good at it, if seeing the little boxes on your screen would be acceptable.

    Just remember that although it may feel uncomfortable to be underworked, your company has structured your job this way on purpose. If you’ve got huge stretches of time with nothing to do, it’s not because of anything you are doing or not doing or the speed at which you work; your job is designed to be like that. It can be fun for a while to have so much ‘free’ time in a day, but if you decide that ultimately you’re looking for a differently paced day, you may find yourself looking for a different type of role. Everybody has different working styles and it’s okay to decide that either you’ll lean into the slow days and make them work for you, or that this isn’t a great fit and it’s time to move on.

    1. Massmatt*

      There is the possibility the employer needs x number people for peak times and can’t reduce the headcount, but I have to wonder how well this business is run if the employees have this much time on their hands. There’s a chance someone else will figure this out and come up with a more flexible or efficient model and this company will join the vast pile of the outmoded when someone else could do the same thing better, or faster, or cheaper. At the very least, there’s the possibility of cutting staff to reduce costs.

      Great that people here wrote novels on their employer’s dime but that’s not the mark of a sustainable business. I would put some of that free time to use looking for a job with more work to do.

      1. giraffe*

        It’s certainly contrary to our capitalist society, but many businesses choose to operate this way. It’s probably not the most efficient or cheapest, but it’s still a totally valid philosophy to hire more people than you need and not overwork them, as opposed to constantly be hiring, training, and letting go of temps or reducing to fewer people with completely unsustainable workloads during the busy times. I don’t think we need to assume that the company is poorly run because they’ve planned for the people in this one department to work below 100% capacity.

      2. MK*

        No offense, but that’s nonsense. A lot of roles, including retail workers, basically mean that you are paying someone to be in readiness to serve your customers, even if there are very few of them. An old schoolmate used to work at a high-end furniture store, where there were days that only a couple of customers would come in; they had to have the store open in case, and one sale a week was usually enough to turn a profit. The OP’s company might save money by firing that team and distributing their tasks to other departments, but then they would have overworked staff and possibly frustrated clients. As someone who has stopped doing business with many companies who decided to ”streamline” their customer service, I doubt that compromising your customer satisfaction for saving a little on wages.

        It’s possible that the OP is fast worker, or that they need a more intensive workload. But it’s unlikely that the company is going bankrupt paying for more workers than they need to.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, one of my part-time jobs is in the kitchen of an inn. This time of year is notoriously slow – I was there for four-and-a-half hours on Sunday and we had about thirty or so customers over the course of that time, probably even fewer. When that happens, my bosses send me home early once I’m done with all my work, but they themselves stay until closing because a sudden influx of people is always possible (which actually happened the Sunday before last – we dawdled around for almost two hours and suddenly BAM the whole room was filled with several groups of people who all decided on a whim to go have a meal).

        2. ContemporaryIssued*

          I agree that it is better to have adequate staff who knows their stuff during busy season when its all hands on deck than scarce staff and then hiring various temps who are ill-equipped or undertrained for the busy season (not that they have to be but typically it takes a while to learn the ropes of any job).

          Anticipating the traffic at some service jobs can be very tricky, too. I remember at an old job we used to have part timers who could be called in on a week’s notice, but sometimes a situation would change more rapidly than that, and our bosses would scramble to either offer days off or extra shifts. And if we had a long phone queue, customers would not be happy. It was a lot of work to be “efficient” and even then we had periods of high traffic and low traffic.

          I would rather a bored customer service representative eager to help when the customer calls or emails. The vast majority of customer service staff is too busy to breathe, in my experience and one sick leave or holiday can throw even more chaos into the picture.

        3. Quickbeam*

          I once was a nurse manager of a satellite unit that occasionally had no patients. When people complained about having nothing to do, I explained we were paid for our expertise in readiness so that we were prepared to admit 24/7. There were always inservices people could do online. But we had to staff patients or no.

          1. Quill*

            I know someone who worked nights at a hospital non-emergency call line. The deal was read, knit, do whatever the heck you want at desk but you will pounce on the phone like a striking eagle the minute it rings to provide customer service.

      3. Harper the Other One*

        I think it very much depends on the type of business. I worked specialty retail (selling musical instruments) and back to school was BANANAS. Christmas was steady. June was moderately busy as people returned rental instruments for kids who weren’t going to continue. Other than that… it was pretty slow. But they needed a person with the specialty knowledge on staff because most of the guys who sold guitars/drums we’re more consistently busy (and wouldn’t have been able to tell you which end of the flute to blow into!) The revenue/profit that I brought in during the busy times more than made up for the slow ones.

        The chain I worked for did get me to do a little product research and occasionally help put together a large supplier order, but even those projects were heavily seasonal. Some jobs just really do have a different pace.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP, try Project Gutenberg — anything out of copyright in the US is eligible to be there. You can read online or download text files.

      1. Shad*

        Many local libraries are also building extensive e-book collections, both in digital text and in audio format. In addition to the expanded list of books, these services automatically return your books at deadline, so there are never any late fees.

        1. Leisel*

          I came here to say the same thing! I love being able to check out ebooks. I mostly read them on my lunch break through Kindle on my phone. The only thing that stinks is there’s a waiting list for popular books because they only get a certain number of licenses. If you’re open to reading whatever is available then it’s wonderful! I read things I might never have picked out normally just by filtering to “available now.”

          Pro tip: my mom and I share log in information because we’re both avid readers. We live in different states and her library system is actually statewide, not just citywide. If there’s a book I can’t get right away I’ll usually double check her library system, and sometimes I get lucky!

      2. AuroraLight37*

        Also check out Internet Archive. I read books on there all the time, and it’s free to sign up.

    3. GothicBee*

      I second Kindle Cloud Reader. Also, Google Play’s books can be accessed online. When I have free time I also like browsing articles on Longform (longform.org). It’s a feed of longform articles from a variety of sources that gets updated daily. You can find some really interesting in-depth stuff there.

    4. cleo*

      Ebook subscriptions are great. A lot of libraries have ebooks and online subscription services free to anyone with their library card. My public library has Hoopla – you can read on a browser as well an app – and I love it.

  12. Adam807*

    For #4, if you read a lot online maybe subscribe to site you like through Feedly, and save articles you want to read to Instapaper or Pocket. They all have a generic look so they won’t scream “I’m doing personal reading at work!” if someone sees your screen. And TweetDeck looks a little less like Twitter than the regular site. I don’t know of a good fix for Facebook, I’m afraid.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I use feedly and save things I want to read to pocket! I keep up with so much of my industry that way. For Facebook, there are lots of groups for professional organizations that you can join. Or, like starting a blog, you can start a group that is related to your industry. I use FB for work/professional development and just let my supervisor know what I am doing so if she ever sees me on it, she knows why.

  13. REM*

    Using the term “micro-aggression” is inaccurate here. That term applies to subtle racism experienced by marginalized groups. I don’t doubt that the letter writer feels bullied and singled out by unwanted attention to their diet, but that term (much like “hostile workplace”) doesn’t apply to the situation as described. This is why it’s not an HR matter. People are allowed to be rude and intrusive jerks about your diet, but not your race/ethnicity, and co-opting the word minimizes the real effect micro-aggressions have on marginalized groups.

    1. A Silver Spork*

      “People are allowed to be rude and intrusive jerks about your diet” um, what?

      How about “people are not allowed to be rude and intrusive jerks about any harmless identity or behavior” instead? Jerk behavior on the basis of something that isn’t a marginalized identity (although you never know, LW’s vegetarianism may be based on disability or a minority religion) is still jerk behavior and needs to stop.

      1. Sleve McDichael*

        Pretty sure REM means legally allowed. It’s not against the law to be a jerk. Just like a manager is allowed to fire someone for being vegetarian, but they’re not allowed to fire someone for being Maori. Not saying that’s good, of course.

    2. Avasarala*

      Microaggression does not exclusively refer to race/ethnicity! They can be about gender, sexuality, religion/spirituality, national background, language, citizenship, or any other category of marginalization you can think of. The reason it’s a “microaggression” is because it’s a single comment, or event, or situation that isn’t that big on its own (micro) but is emblematic of the larger, painful oppression of a group (aggression).

      So because the term is not exclusive to race/ethnicity, we don’t have to play oppression olympics and say that OP’s issue with people being jerks about their diet is not as bad as racism. This isn’t about ” legally protected classes” or even the idea that you can judge people’s choices but not what they are.

      1. M Bananas*

        I get what you mean, but I think this part: “[…] is emblematic of the larger, painful oppression of a group (aggression).” might be what’s chaffing REM.
        People can, and are, all types of jerks to vegetarians, but by and large they are not an oppressed group and alluding to that by using micro-aggression (even though the general definition applies to what OP is experiencing) feels a bit off.

        Either way this is jerky behavior which is unacceptable OP, I’m sorry you’re experiencing it and I second the grey rock method mentioned by other commentators.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          Actually, just like religion, vegetarianism and veganism is a lifestyle choice and is protected in some state. It was recently ruled as being on the same level as religion in the UK , I believe. Just like religion, it’s a choice many people like to ridicule.

          1. Jennifer*

            Yes, but as far as I know, people aren’t made to feel unsafe or physically harmed because of their choice of diet as they can be because of religion.

          2. Ryn*

            Please show me all of the people who have been killed or imprisoned for vegetarianism. Oppression isn’t “when people are mean to me” and comparing the plight of vegetarians to, oh I don’t know, let’s say Jewish people, is genuinely offensive.

      2. TechWorker*

        Honestly the use of that term stood out to me as well. I think both that OP absolutely shouldn’t have to put up with shitty comments about their diet and that saying ‘it’s not comparable to racism’ is just a statement of fact. (Not oppression olympics, cos vegetarians aren’t oppressed… not all bullying is oppression….). So yeah, the term comes across a little strangely.

        1. Julia*

          As a vegetarian, I agree. Avasarala above is correct that microaggressions don’t just happen with regards to race, but also gender and other factors, but vegetarianism isn’t quite on that level.
          (I wonder if that would change in the case of someone deliberately feeding OP meat extract or something, though?)

          1. DerJungerLudendorff*

            I think micro-aggression fits pretty well here, in that it’s a good descriptor of what the coworkers are doing.

            Being vegetarian certainly isn’t on the level of a marginalized racial identity, but I didn’t think that that was implied with the term. In wider society it generally won’t be a big deal, but in this organization it does cause them problems.

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              Agreed. The *actions* are microaggressions – small little digs that individually would be brushed off, but, when encountered en mass, can be incredibly Chinese-Water-Torture aggravating. The fact that the microaggressions are related to vegetarianism as opposed to larger parts of LW’s identity like race, sexuality, religion, etc. make them, perhaps, less awful (though again, I don’t feel the need to start the Oppression Olympics) doesn’t mean they aren’t microaggressions.

      3. Thankful for AAM*

        #4 there were so many good ideas here. But no one mentioned you can do so many of them for free at your local library.
        In case many of you don’t know, here is some of what you can do at my library for free, maybe yours too:

        -Lynda.com classes
        -Kanopy.com movies (not for OP4)
        -Libby/overdrive for free ebooks, eaudio books and movies
        -Hoopla for free ebooks, eaudiobooks, and movies
        -Freegal for free music (you can keep 5 songs a week, again, not for OP4 at work)
        -rbdigital and zinio for online magazines
        -consumer reports
        -many homework resources for kids
        -health databases to look up conditions and medications

        And so much more!

      4. Jedi Squirrel*

        Yes, but those are not things you have a choice over. You don’t choose your gender, sexuality, religion, national background, birth language, etc. You do choose to be a vegetarian. Just like some people choose to be carnivores.

        As someone who has experienced actual microaggressions based on race, I am agreeing with REM.

        1. Alice*

          As far as religion, many people DO choose theirs, but a religion that is chosen is not less worthy of respect than one you were born into.

        2. Salty Caramel*

          Religion is a choice. Many of them have a rite of passage where the members choose to be an adult in the eyes of their. You might be born with parents of a religion and raised in that religion, but you choose to make it a fundamental part of who you are. It can be changed, unlike race, gender, sexual attraction, etc.

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            Yes but it’s not just a lifestyle choice – it’s what you believe to be true about the universe and morality and basically everything. So in a way you choose it, inasmuch as you decide whether to keep practicing a certain religion once you reach adulthood, or if your beliefs change you might go looking for a different religion than the one you were brought up in. But for people who are actually serious about their faith, it’s really not something where you can just go shopping around for what you most want to be true. I know that people do that but it’s not really how… believing in things works. Any more than believing that climate change is real and making choices about your actions accordingly.

            1. Lady Heather*

              I’m not sure if I understand you. Are you saying that religion isn’t a choice because it’s an expression of one’s belief about good, bad and the universe and climate chance, or are you saying that vegetarianism isn’t a choice because it’s an expression of one’s belief about good, bad and the universe and climate change?
              Or are you saying both?

          2. PVR*

            Sort of. In many places religion and culture are so intertwined that I’m not sure it’s fair to say it’s a choice.

        3. Rob aka Mediancat*

          You can very well choose your religion. People convert and deconvert every day.

          Does that mean it should be open for microaggressions?

      5. Mia*

        It’s not exclusive to race, but it *is* exclusive to marginalized groups. OP’s coworkers shouldn’t be jerks about her diet — that is shitty no matter what — but it’s not the same thing as the subtle bigotry a POC, or queer person, or trans person experiences when we’re talking about microaggressions. I would argue that OP is experiencing something more akin to bullying than low-level oppression.

    3. HoHumDrum*

      I agree, but I think it’s because that’s such a perfect term for that death by a thousand cuts type awfulness people abuse “microaggression” because they have a linguistic hole they want to fill. But microaggression has a specific meaning and purpose and is not meant to be all purpose. Perhaps microrudeness? Microjerkitude?

    4. Thankful for AAM*

      I think microaggression is the correct term as the OP used it. And as we trust the OP here, if it feels that way to them, I believe them.

      Here is the definition from Wikipedia, it requires only an act against a group, and vegans/vegetarians are a group, at least IMHO.

      “Microaggression is a term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group, particularly culturally marginalized groups.[1]”

    5. Jennifer*

      Amen. I’m so sick of people co-opting words like discrimination, bullying, and micro-aggression that are used by people of color and people in other marginalized communities for relatively minor situations. I’m vegetarian and a POC, and I can tell you, the rude comments I get about my diet don’t compare to racism AT ALL.

      These people are being rude and it sucks. Dealing with rude people is a part of life sometimes and using Alison’s suggestions could easily shut it down. Also, as she mentioned, some of them may be asking questions out of curiosity, not hostility.

    6. Jennifer*

      Also, no one at work knows I’m vegetarian because I don’t talk about it. You can choose to conceal things like your diet because you don’t want to hear rude comments. Race is something most people have difficulty hiding.

    7. Student*

      I get crappy comments about my diet and food choices all the time. I am not a vegetarian – I just eat food that other people don’t like or don’t approve of.

      It’s deeply unpleasant, but I would agree that it is not at “oppression” or “microaggression” level, even when it crosses into ethnic and gendered food policing.

      OP, maybe it helps you to hear that this is not exclusive to vegetarians. There are a certain type of people who seek out food issues to complain about. They are complaining about your vegetarianism merely because it is the easiest target in front of them, but they would still find something food-related to complain about if you ate a hamburger or a steak or anything else. It reflects badly on them, not you.

      I get through it by telling myself that they are just secretly struggling with a lot of personal food/eating issues. I usually give them a very mild rejoinder, like “You just wish you’d thought to bring chocolate for lunch!”, or invite them to join me in my imagined food-crime “Try some of this hummus! It goes great with these chips!” (which will either drive them away in disgust or get them to take a bite and stop complaining).

    8. Observer*

      You are simply incorrect.

      For one thing, micro aggressions are NOT just about race, or even marginalized groups – which include much more than race, than you!

      Just because something it legal does not make it ok or “not an HR matter”. It is NOT ok for people to harass, bully or be rude to people for things that are none of their business. If there were an objective issue here – eg the OP is eating foods that someone in their office is severely allergic to, that would be one thing. But “I think this is stupid” does NOT count!

  14. A Silver Spork*

    Fellow vegetarian here, and yeah, have met (thankfully only a few) of THOSE people. Going by the most charitable interpretation, maybe they’ve had run-ins with some of the militant fringe sections of the community and are proactively going on the offensive when you haven’t done anything wrong… but that’s still not cool.

    You really shouldn’t *have* to do this, what you eat is none of their business, but I’m wondering if maybe you could strategically hide what you’re eating, do stuff like put your oatmilk in a thermos, take the packaging off the tofurkey so it looks like bird-turkey, that sort of thing?

    But yeah, definitely make it as boring as possible when they bring it up, and in fact avoid the subject of food unless there is an actual need for it. It’s the path of resistance.

    1. Claire*

      It’s annoying isn’t it. People think you’re being vegetarian AT them when the majority of vegetarians/vegans are just minding their own business. I’ve had coworkers go on about “militant vegans” then it turns out they’ve never actually met one of these mythical militants, they’ve only heard rumours they exist.

      1. Julia*

        This. I have received so many more unsolicited and out-of-the-blue comments on vegetarianism than I have ever even seen another vegetarian talking about their diet. I only ever mention it when someone plans a food related event, as where I live, there are usually no veggie options unless you specifically plan for them.

      2. X. Trapnel*

        Oh they exist! I’m a dairy farm worker – I had a lady on Facebook tell me the world would be a better place if I killed myself after I’d put up a picture of one of our newborn calves.
        It came completely out of the blue – whilst I don’t make a song and dance about my job, neither do I hide what I do. I blocked her and promptly got a heap of messages from her mates calling me an evil baby murderer, and more of the “kill yourself, hope you die of cancer” schtick. Most of my farming friends and colleagues have had similar experiences. From what’s posted on farming pages I follow, this kind of behaviour is a common issue for livestock farmers and farm workers throughout the western world. :-(

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          Chiming in to say I’ve recently had to defend my friends from a militant vegan on Facebook. No relation to farming that I know of.

        2. SaneVegGuy*

          It’s true, but you’ll also see see the converse on vegetarian/vegan pages too. Militant meat eaters being rude and antagonistic. There are nutjobs on both ends of the spectrum who have nothing better to do than troll the internet. You just happen to see more of one side of it than the other.

        3. GS*

          Yes. My area also has some organized vegan groups that use various tactics (posting pornography and then reporting, primarily) to shut down facebook farm groups where information on, for instance, training dogs or breeding chickens is shared.

      3. DarnTheMan*

        I got protested by militant vegans for trying to go out for dinner one night (they objected to the use of game meat in the restaurant’s cooking) but I also recognize that those are a very small subset of most vegetarians/vegans, much like TERFs are a small subset of feminists.

    2. Kelly Kapoor*

      I have worked at my job for seven years and I still have coworkers who are taken by surprise when it comes up that I’m a vegetarian. I don’t hide my diet at all, but much of the food I’m bringing in is just…normal food without meat in it. Leftover pasta, a sandwich with tomato, pesto, and fresh mozzarella, a garden salad, a few slices of cheese pizza.

      Obviously I am in no way advocating that the OP should have to modify what she eats in order to avoid coworker’s rude comments, but if it bothers her, she could examine if what she’s bringing in can scream “THIS IS VEGETARIAN FOOD” a little bit less.

      1. Ice and Indigo*

        That seems a pretty unreasonable accommodation to have to make. If the co-workers are hung up enough about vegetarianism to be auditing the contents of OP’s lunchbox, there’s basically nothing she can do to placate them short of renouncing vegetarianism. If she wants the tofu, she can have the tofu!

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Agreed. LW shouldn’t have to hide their salad, just be like “yeah, that’s my lunch – it’s ok.”

      2. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Sure, but my son drinks non-dairy “milks” because he’s allergic to milk. Lots of meat eaters eat vegetarian options all the time because they like to switch it up. Or they like the taste. I had a director that was a meat eater but was going to try a “vegan” day once a week/month to broaden her palate. If you’re following the Weight Watchers points program, veggies are a zero and I could totally see someone suddenly showing up with a lot more veggies in their lunches on such a program.

        So, don’t hide what you eat. Shut down the comments: “And?” “So?”

        I find this SO bizarre. Vegetarianism has been around so. damn. long. It’s really quite common. Heck, even veganism as a “thing” has been around at least 20 years (we had one during lent in the year 2000. We modified food options for a lunch and moved on) and probably much longer than that. The meatless burgers and meatballs now available at big chain restaurants are positively advertised.

        Why on earth do people feel weird about this still?

        It would make me want to say: “It must be so nice to have so few worries in your private life that you feel you can worry or talk about my personal choices like you have any say in it.”

        1. kittymommy*

          I will never ceased to be amazed by the amount of energy people put into policing other’s food/diet.

          I was having a conversation the other day about restaurants (I eat out a lot and people ask me for recommendations) and in the course of the conversation I made an off-hand comment that I really don’t eat a lot of meat so I may not be the best person to ask for suggestions on BBQ. And I don’t like chicken at all, instead I sub it out with tofu. It got so silent in the room you could have heard a single piece of straw rustle on the ground.

        2. DarnTheMan*

          +1. My lunchtime dietary tastes tend to run towards that of a fifth grader, much to the amusement of many of my co-workers. I’ve found all it takes is a “yup” to shut down comments, regardless of what’s being said.

      3. Mujj*

        I am a vegetarian and have only dealt with one coworker who was truly rude and hung up on my diet. Like OP, I never bring it up and it usually comes out when someone asks me directly. When this first coworker started she would eagle-eye everyone’s meals and apparently one day realized that I never bring in meat. So even bringing in less meat-substitute-type foods might not deter someone. This coworker started loudly deriding the fact that there’s always been ONE VEGETARIAN everywhere she’s worked. When I never piped up she finally asked me directly if I was and often inquired about my medical and mental condition after that lol. Thankfully she no longer works here.

        1. Ice and Indigo*

          “there’s always been ONE VEGETARIAN everywhere she’s worked”

          Why, it’s … it’s almost as if vegetarianism is a common thing that lots of normal people do!!

      4. emmelemm*

        There is no food that screams THIS IS VEGETARIAN FOOD. She can eat what she wants and her coworkers shouldn’t comment on it.

        1. Kelly Kapoor*

          I can’t tell you how often we have gotten free food at work, and the vegetarian options run out much quicker. I only work with a handful of other vegetarians, but there are so many people who are trying to eat less meat for a variety of reasons, or just think the vegetarian option looks more delicious. So I totally agree that there is nothing that should scream “vegetarian food.” I am honestly baffled that a coworker would even notice that a sandwich doesn’t have deli meat in it, or a bowl of pasta doesn’t have meatballs. And to care enough to comment is even more baffling to me. That’s why I was just wondering what the OP is eating that’s making people comment so relentlessly. Whatever it is, OP should keep eating whatever makes them happy and no one should say anything or care. I just know personally if I were annoyed by constant comments, I would probably make more of an effort to reduce how often I bring in an entire tofurkey dinner for lunch.

          1. Ice and Indigo*

            Believe me, it doesn’t have to be anything outlandish. One time I had a guy follow me round at a barbecue trying to start an argument because I was eating a veggie burger. Provided by the host. Who was having an open house and didn’t know me, just my plus one. And had veggie burgers as a options lots of guests chose.

            Besides that, how exactly does food ‘scream vegetarian food’? Food can’t talk, or if it can, you ain’t a vegetarian. It’s just stuff on a plate, and if people notice that it’s vegetarian, they’re already scrutinising.

    3. HoHumDrum*

      Been a vegetarian my whole life, starting in a small farming community. You would not believe how many people feel the need to be rude or invasive about other people’s food. Full on adults would lecture me when I was a child about how difficult I was being by not eating meat, or how my parents were bad parents or wackos for raising me that way. Or they would demand to know why and then explain why my beliefs are wrong and try to get me to give it up.

      Now that I’m an adult I’m fully over this conversation, I avoid it at all costs but some people are just jerks. I have also met some militant vegan types, but honestly the bad attitude towards my diet started way before those were prevalent.

      I think the thing is, in America, we’ve attached all these values to eating meat and animal products. Animal products are manly/masculine, and vegetarianism is effeminate! Eating meat is patriotic! It’s for good, down to earth people, unlike those rich elitist crazy coastal vegans. Not eating meat is offensive to farmers, and means you don’t value their work and are an enemy of small town America (never mind that farmers also grow the vegetables I eat). Also I was once lectured by an adult that god told us to eat meat in the Bible and it’s offensive and contrary to his will to not eat it, so there’s the religious element as well.

      I’m sorry LW2, it’s so frustrating to be treated like *you’re* being the difficult one, just because you don’t conform. For people who are good natured but ignorant or confused I try to put them at ease by demonstrating comfort around meat (“Ribs for lunch? Oh, looks tasty!”) but for the malicious that won’t work because their goal is to be mean to you and nothing you can do will later that. Definitely look for a new job, one with fewer jerks. Best of luck!

      1. My Dad, I’m talking about my Dad*

        Yeah, some people have vegetarianism or even eating “health food” as a stronger in-group/out-group signifier.

      2. Anonymousaurus Rex*

        Yes, and context/geography matters too. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was a child, and it was a struggle when I was growing up in the 90s in South Carolina. It was never an issue once I moved to California. When I visit my mom in SC I still run occasional comments, but it’s such a common way of eating now that that has receded mostly compared to the downright mean comments/concern trolling I’d receive from peers and their parents growing up.

      3. Bubbles*

        I am also a lifelong vegetarian, for religious purposes. Not the typical member of this religious group, but my parents raised us in it and that’s what I knew. I was fortunate that the small community I was raised in was rather respectful of those of us who were vegetarian, to the point that in the late 80s, our school cafeteria provided vegetarian meals (totally unheard of then!!!). As an adult now, I’m careful to not discuss my diet too much, though I have an interesting back story that makes for an amusing anecdote when explaining my restrictions.

        Most people simply can’t grasp not eating meat or what meat is. I am so often offered food with bacon (which makes me laugh) or seafood and I have to explain that no, that is an animal, so I can’t eat it. I genuinely don’t understand how people fail to comprehend why fish and seafood are meat. Like… it’s an animal. Sure it lives in water instead of on land, but it’s still an animal.

        I’ve learned to not really discuss it until a situation comes up where food is being presented – like a potluck or working lunch. I will quietly let the organizer know. And when we have potlucks, we ask people to write a little note with the name of the dish and the ingredients. Not really a big deal, but there’s always those people who complain about it.

      4. disconnect*

        “Also I was once lectured by an adult that god told us to eat meat in the Bible and it’s offensive and contrary to his will to not eat it, so there’s the religious element as well. ”
        Meh, the bible also says a lot of crap about love thy neighbor, give away all your shit, pick up your cross and follow Jesus, pray in private, but hey, let’s focus on the important stuff, I guess.

        1. HoHumDrum*

          Yeah, I don’t think she was real big on the whole “love thy neighbor” part. She followed the vegetarian lecture up with one about how I must not be truly that passionate about women’s rights since I was against going to war with Iraq (since Hussein was not nice to female dissidents I guess you can’t count as a real feminist if you don’t support American imperialism). I was 12 at the time.

    4. Saraquill*

      I’m not a vegetarian, but I cook it often and adore sharing recipes and cookbooks. Reading the above letter and comments makes me wonder if I’m one of THOSE people. Is recipe sharing intrusive?

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Not at all! And I’m personally always delighted to get a new yummy recipe :)

      2. Annony*

        It depends. Are you emailing a listserv with random recipes? That would be annoying. If you are responding to someone complimenting the dish by saying that you will send them the recipe, that is perfectly fine.

      3. Quill*

        I hope not because last potluck I was busy bonding with a coworker over her pakora. I’m a sucker for roast and fried veggies.

    5. Quill*

      Part time vegetarian here and honestly… I don’t get these types of questions pretty much ever? But I’ve always worked in fairly multicultural fields and nobody is looking at my lunch. It’s also probably not obvious in my case that I attempt to go about 90%-95% meat free because the only time I eat meat or seafood is when it’s already been prepared for a group. Occasionally I used to get someone who could not get over “but don’t you LOVE BACON,” but that tended to be before I worked places that had a lot of people with a variety of cultural approaches to meat.

      I do however recently get a lot of internet vegans yelling at me about cheese and honey though (I’m somewhat vocal on social media about supporting beekeepers for conservation reasons and a lot of people don’t understand what honey is?), so I sort of understand both sides thinking that everyone is judging them when they make their dietary choices… but I have zero sympathy for people who make other people’s food a big deal regardless of which side of the divide they’re on.

      Everyone at work needs to shut up and eat their lunch, and make sure that you have options for all the most common food restrictions at your catered events.

    6. Dr. Pepper*

      I’m not a vegetarian but I do often eat food considered “weird” by western diet standards. Hiding your food isn’t a good solution, especially if it’s already known that you eat “weird stuff”. (Though why eating, say, vegetables is considered “weird” is beyond me.) It’s just adding a level of shame, like you now feel like you have something to hide. People pick up on that and for true bullies that type of behavior is like catnip.

      Something I do when someone decides it’s a good time to make a fuss over what I’m (quietly and without comment) eating is to give them my most boring and blase stare and say “…and?” Or just shrug and say “I like it” in a bland voice. Return awkward to sender and keep doing it until it’s not fun anymore. Often people just want a reaction.

      1. Annony*

        I’m not vegetarian, but when people say negative things about my food, my standard response is “I like it, but it’s not for everyone” with a shrug. They usually stop since they are not getting a reaction or an argument.

  15. Nini*

    Re LW3: I’m seeing several comments suggesting talking to the coworker or even the boyfriend first, but based on the letter the boyfriend is a person convicted of sex crimes against minors and the coworker is either ignorant of that or knows and is dating him anyway. In my opinion, OP is perfectly fine to not speak with either of them and reach out the police first and let them handle the situation. If it were me I’d want to do my part to make sure he wasn’t a danger to any children in the building but also wouldn’t want to personally get involved so that the coworker and the boyfriend knew who had ratted him out. That has the potential to backfire in a myriad of different ways.

    1. Oh_oh*

      Yeah, also, a lot of sex offenders get away with stuff because people or organizations decide to deal with things themselves instead of going to the police.

      The police aren’t perfect, but they are the correct people to take this to and can handle it far more effectively than anyone else.

      1. Paulina*

        Yep. Dealing with it internally, doing the warning yourself…. it doesn’t enable the dots to be connected. What if this is a pattern of (current/recent) behaviour with this guy, and everyone who notices treats each incident separately and gives him a warning without reporting? Then all he’s getting is some feedback on what he can get away with, and nobody sees the pattern.

    2. un-pleased*

      People are also ignoring the fact that when you have legal conditions about the distance you have to stay way from something or someone (e.g., a daycare), you are legally responsible for maintaining that distance. It makes no matter to parole officers or the cops if you didn’t measure out 300 yards or whatever the deal is. Your purported ignorance is not a defense against violating that agreement, and you can be jailed for it. One would think that a person who was trying to move past that experience and do better would check, or stop coming by once it became clear that there was a daycare nearby.

      The police are the appropriate party to deal with this. It matters not one bit whether the coworker knows/believes/cares that her boyfriend is a sex offender. It is so irritating that commenters seem to disbelieve that the boyfriend is what he is, when LW has knowledge of his status. LW owes him nothing, but she certainly has a duty to the children in proximity.

    3. AuroraLight37*

      Yeah, at this point the smart thing to do is to report him and let law enforcement sort things out. Don’t go to the coworker, who is at best an innocent dupe and at worst an enabler, and since you don’t know which, staying out of her personal life is best.

      1. emmelemm*

        Exactly: at best a dupe, at worst an enabler. Either way, the coworker has nothing to do with the issue and nothing she has to say about it matters in the least. Sex offender + daycare = police.

    4. Blueberry*

      Yes, this. I am 99% of the time not in favor of calling the police, but this is the 1% where they should be called.

      (And it’s sadly instructive to see how ready people are to take the side of sexual abusers against victims.)

    5. MatKnifeNinja*

      My state has an online sex offender list.

      If you know the name, you can submit probation violations tips through the site. Law enforcement here will follow up.

      My neighbors did that when the registered offender in my complex wouldn’t quit hanging around the fenced in “for kids only” (not just a regular park ) playground.

      He was found guilty of possessing child porn.

      And…when you make deals, parts of the deals do suck. This guy was let out early, but has to be so many feet away from kid related stuff.

      No problems giving the police a heads up.

  16. I Heart JavaScript*

    Before I became a software developer, I was an admin with a similar feast or famine setup as OP4. All of Alison’s suggestions are good, though I found learning a new language kind of hard to do quietly at a desk (since you couldn’t do the speaking practice part).

    If you like reading SciFi / Fantasy, sign up to be a Hugo voter. For about $40, you’ll get free copies of most of the nominees for a year, plus it gives you a reading list and community to participate in.

    If coding sounds interesting, FreeCodeCamp online has an excellent free curriculum you could start to explore. There are other excellent resources out there (and I’m happy to share what I know), but theirs is one of the best, especially for people just starting out.

    Amazon’s online kindle reader looks a lot like a PDF (so, boring and obviously not Facebook) as does Google Play’s. You can always make goals for how many books you want to read this year (and track it) by signing up for Goodreads.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      …you can sign up to be a Hugo voter?? How did I not know about this?!

      1. LizB*

        Yeah! The Hugos are voted on by the members of each year’s WorldCon – but you can sign up for just a voting membership, if you don’t plan on going to the actual convention. (Although the actual convention is also super fun, if you’re in a geographic and financial position to make it there.)

      2. Jerusha*

        The current (2020) Worldcon is CoNZealand, in Wellington NZ. If you go to the convention name dot nz slash registrations, you’ll find the rundown for all the membership types. “Supporting” gets you voting rights for the 2020 Hugos, nominating rights for the 2021 Hugos, and voting rights for site selection for the 2022 Worldcon (current bids are Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Chicago, IL, USA). A Supporting membership is currently NZ$75, which works out to approximately US$47.

        The 2021 Worldcon will be DisCon III, in Washington DC. Their registration page is at discon3 dot org slash registration. A Supporting membership there (currently US$45) will get you nominating and voting rights for the 2021 Hugos, nominating rights for the 2022 Hugos, and voting rights for site selection for the 2023 Worldcon (Active bids for 2023 are Chengdu, China; Memphis, TN, USA; and Nice, France).

        I will second LizB’s remark that the convention is super fun. However, if you haven’t been to a fan-run SF con (convention) before, I’d suggest you find a local or regional con first – I suspect that Worldcon would be overwhelming as your first con!

  17. Dan*


    I’m going to go big picture on this one, because I don’t have all of the details.

    First things first, if your only facial expressions are some variation of condescension, and it’s frequent, then that is 100% absolutely a problem that will be career limiting in some way. You’ll just carry the label of “John, who thinks everybody is a moron, and isn’t afraid to tell them.” AAM is right, that’s not a good look as a manger (no pun intended) because your good people will quit and go for someone with better social EQ.

    Now that that’s out of the way… body language can be a way to get your opinion solicited when you may not have standing to just “barge” (metaphorically or literally) into someone’s office without an invitation. Your boss got to hear you out on what may be an important decision, and that’s a good thing. (Although, rereading your question, the offer had already been made. If you already had your chance to say your peace, and got overruled, that was a no-no. If the announcement of the offer was a surprise, you should be forgiven.)

    Also, do you get a chance to communicate verbally or in writing about the things that bother you? If not, that’s probably a bad thing, as it’s easy to get labeled as passive-aggressive or a gaslighter. (Jane always says everything is fine, but her facial expressions say otherwise. She never plays it straight with anybody.) If you do regularly get to actually engage your colleagues about your concerns, then you’re more likely to get cut a little slack.

    Finally, if your colleagues have a good idea or something otherwise positive, do your facial expressions convey that too? If not, that’s something to work on, because otherwise, you’ll get the label “James thinks everybody is a moron” in a New York minute.

    TL;DR there’s some bigger picture things that I think you need to get a handle on before you’ll know how career limiting your body language may be.

  18. Tallulah in the Sky*

    #4 – “I know the idea of getting paid to sit in a chair and do nothing seems appealing, but the boredom makes me anxious and I would rather be doing something!”

    This hits close to home. For over 9 months we had a lack of work in our team (think only 1 or 2 days worth for one week). For me, this led to a bore out, and I know another coworker struggled because of our lack of work too. Some down time once in a while is great, but if it’s lasting several months it can have some negative effects.

    I’m doing better now (got some help), and now when there’s not much to do (because the lack of work is still an issue, although not as bad as before) I do some training or listen to a podcast linked to my job. I’m a developer, so it is quite easy to fill the time with extra learning. This sounds like something I could have done since the beginning, but it didn’t feel professional or “good” to do this during my work hours. I was here to work, not to listen to podcasts or read articles ! It didn’t help that when I talked about this to some colleagues and my manager, the answer I got is to create my own work. I learned that this is not something I can easily do (a combination of lack of expertise and lack of creativity I think ?), and it only made me feel like a failure when I was looking at my computer screen completely lost.

    All to say, I know how weird and “bad” it can feel to do something else then your actual work during your work hours, but it’s better then to do nothing. If you are unable to find something work related to do, Allison’s suggestion are good. Learning a new language, reading a book… personal development is better then facebook or nothing. Or find a project you can work on which can help you on a future job search (because at some point it might have to come to that, at least for me).

  19. Lady Heather*

    OP4, Project Gutenberg has a large collection of public domain ebooks (meaning they’re free to read).

    Good fanfiction sites are fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org. In my opinion AO3 has a more easily searchable archive, but it also has a lot more NSFW content. (For the most part that’s hidden behind “please verify you’re an adult” warnings.)

    Also – I don’t have Facebook, so I don’t know- but doesn’t Facebook have a workplace layout? A forum I used to be on had such a mode and when you used it, the forum looked like an Excel sheet.

    I feel for you – this sounds boring and kind of awkward. I hope your workload increases, or you’ll find other entertainment.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      FWIW, I recommend archive of our own at work because of the % of mature content. That could trip flags on IT filters.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Bad typo — I do NOT recommend it. I started typing that I recommend AVOIDING it and switched midstream.
        Sorry about that.

        1. Lady Heather*

          I hadn’t thought of that – one of AO3’s primary advantages is that it allows story tags which is great (unless someone uses more than a dozen of them on a story..) but the tags often are explicit, so they might trip an IT filter even before you open the story.

          FFN (fanfiction.net) doesn’t allow explicit sex (it does allow suggestive sex in stories rated M) although it’s enforcement leaves something to be desired. Still, that tends to be rated M and in short stories sometimes it’s marked PWP.

          When 13-year-old-me started reading fanfiction, I wasn’t really aware of the necessity of ‘judging whether this story is erotica’ before starting to read. After all, I was used to libraries and bookstores and even books written for adults just have longer words, complex themes and adult main characters.
          A basic rule of thumb is that high-quality fanfiction by well-established authors on FFN isn’t explicit (because good authors know the rules and post stories like that on AO3). Whether that rule of thumb protects you from the wrath of IT filters depends on your IT filters.

        2. GothicBee*

          Agreed. One thing I’ve done is download epub versions (while at home or on my personal phone) for the fanfics I wanted to read and then uploaded them to my Google Play account to read at work. I would still recommend avoiding any that are explicit while at work though.

          1. Sandan Librarian*

            In nearly two decades of reading things online it has never occurred to me to do this for anything other than actual books. I’m glad I came across your comment.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I love that as a society we have advanced to the stage of a demand to make fun websites look like Excel spreadsheets.

  20. Rexish*

    #4 since it seems like you are allowed to do personal stuff I’d take an online course or try to learn a language. A friend of mine woked in retail and didn’t have Computers in the shop, they were also not allowed to bring any personal items such as books or phones. The shop was in the back end of a new mall that people hadn’t found yet so there were no customes. All they did was re-fold everything the whole day just to have an activity.

  21. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I use an online magazine program called Readly (I’m in the UK). The subs are about £5 a month which is very reasonable for the vast range on there. Lots of cookery magazines are my favourite but there are all sorts of things.

  22. LDN Layabout*

    LW1: It’s worth taking stock of the rest of your life and whether you struggle with an ‘expressive face’ there.

    Do you grimace if someone serves you food you dislike? Do you roll your eyes if a friend/family member makes a decision you disagree with? If you’re dealing with something annoying outside of work, how do you react?

    Sometimes it’s a case of ‘this is just how I am’ and sometimes it’s a sign of ‘I really don’t care about this place enough to make an effort’, which can be subconscious, not even deliberate.

    1. Mookie*

      I think this is very constructive. The LW characterizes her expressions as inadvertent, but when she provides the context, the faces are mirroring her sincere reactions. There’s a substantive difference between RBF and being unpracticed/lacking the will to edit body language, facial expressions, and tone and tenor of voice. Even if it’s only semi-conscious, socially-adapted people can pick up on the distinction between the two. The former is Just How This Person’s Face Is, and it’s clear when interacting with them that their stock expression is not passing judgment on the world around them. The latter can read as… just rude. So, yeah, people will judge you if you regularly behave in ways that read as passive-aggressive, and making faces is often passive-aggressive. If you want to work in management and be good at it, you’re going to need to give direct feedback with care and not make people guess what your objections or concerns are.

    2. Smithy*

      I think this is very insightful, similar to how angry-bosses only seem to “lose control” when they’re with subordinates.

      People make mistakes, ask silly questions, and can appear overly obtuse all the time. And if you’re regularly noticed to be quick to lose patience, it can really hurt over time. It’s also worth adding that if you’re a woman – this may be used more quickly against you than if you’re a man. RBF and being viewed as having a bad attitude are common enough – let alone if you’re making distinct faces of displeasure or frustration.

      1. Ice and Indigo*

        I might also add – OP, are feelings like disdain, exasperation and irritation something you feel often at work? And if so, is it only at work, or at other places too? Because if you’re just frequently annoyed at your workplace, you might think about whether there are any practical steps you could take to make things less annoying, and if it happens everywhere, you might want to work on your general perspective-taking so you could improve your patience skills with other people.

        It could be that you’re surrounded by annoying idiots, of course, but if not, then developing a habit of telling yourself, ‘They may have their own reasons/issues I don’t know about’ might help.

        1. Smithy*

          I do think that versions of “assuming the best or kindest” explanation can help. Maybe it seems like some is asking very pedantic questions – but even if they are more senior, maybe they have a new boss or VP new to the company and are asking more questions into specific details. Maybe an unrelated tension between two departments, maybe a specific micromanage, maybe someone is on a PiP and bringing extra nerves, etc etc etc. All of these issues can make communication with colleagues more belabored and slow.

          Additionally – those issues can lead to some reliance on more conservative workplace practices. Requesting formal write-ups of meeting notes, sending information via email and not just Slack or Teams, etc.

          It may be that the OP is working with people making truly bad decisions, and in that case it may be worth reflecting if the frustration is with company overall. But in cases where they’re disagreements of degree or personal preference, finding ways to let those decisions go is critical. Not just in terms of your facial expressions, but in terms of the relationships you’re building and how you can influence decision making over time.

        2. PVR*

          I think trying to identify these situations as they arise can help—or training yourself to be more aware of disdain/annoyance immediately so you can think neutral/happy thoughts or become more aware of what your facial muscles are doing in that moment. I like the advise to immediately reframe the reaction too instead of, omg I would never have offered Suzy that position, try to reframe your thoughts as, ok that was unexpected, maybe they see something I don’t and then force yourself to look happy or neutral and raise the issue with your superior at a more appropriate time. You are all ready identifying a lot of these moments by muting video, why not take it one step further and practice a neutral face in those moments? Another way to practice might be in low stakes scenarios like reading emails or on the phone, so you get used to masking negative reactions.

          1. OP1*

            Oof. Controlling my face while reading emails sounds like an impossibility! But I totally agree that it’s a great place to practice– thank you

        3. WellRed*

          I too wonder how frequently this happens at work as opposed to personal life. Maybe OP is at the wrong company or in the wrong role.

    3. Filosofickle*

      Good suggestion. If it’s coming up a lot or in certain domains, than can tell you something.

      I had a “rubber face” in my younger years, everything I thought just instantly showed on my face. It undermined my good work and people saw me as arrogant. I learned to (mostly) control my expressions and it has contributed to much better relationships and reputation. I was on a blind date once, and the guy remarked “I can’t read you at all”. Yeah, if you’re getting blankness from me it probably means I’m miserable! I don’t bother hiding the good expressions.

      NGL, it took years to really master but now it’s second nature. It’s so worth it, though. People now see my work and my wit first, not my critical emotions. It also has helped me get past my own kneejerk reactions, too! Those weren’t always right.

  23. Rez123*

    #1 Yes, it might hold you back. I wouldn’t be happy if I saw it on my bosses face that they think my idea was stupid. It would definately have an effect on our relationship. Non-verbal communication is powerful. Purposeful and accidental. But I also think this is something you can work on.

  24. Zona the Great*

    I’m curious about Alison’s advice that you generally shouldn’t tell a senior colleague that they’re being rude (about the food). I’m not sure I agree. What are others’ thoughts?

    1. Sylvan*

      I wouldn’t flat-out call them rude, at least not on the first try. Embarrassing someone by bluntly calling out rudeness isn’t what I want to do. I don’t want conflict at work in general, especially with senior colleagues.

    2. Jennifer*

      It’s a good idea to be a bit more tactful to someone who has the power to fire or promote you.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      I think it’s more that you can choose to be direct to peers without much risk, but some managers get tetchy if you say “don’t do that” directly to them.

    4. Yorick*

      I think there are very few times you can say “you’re being rude” to someone who’s more senior than you.

    5. Observer*

      I think Alison is being pragmatic here rather than talking about moral / ethical issues. Telling your boss “You know that’s really rude” is generally a career limiting move.

  25. Helen B*

    LW 4 (not enough to do), as well as all the good stuff other people have suggested, have you considered online volunteering for citizen science projects? Zooniverse has lots.
    https://www.zooniverse.org/about (about the site)
    https://www.zooniverse.org/projects (current projects)

    I like this because it is a bite-size way to make a genuine contribution to the wider world, talk to new people, and find out about interesting stuff, in tiny moments of down-time or if I need to reset my brain between pieces of work. It’s a better feeling than Facebook IMO!

  26. D'Arcy*

    LW #3, I would immediately report the situation to the police so that they can take official action and to the daycare so that they can respond appropriately to the threat.

    I would, however, not engage your co-worker about this issue; there’s really nothing positive that can come from either of those actions. I would quietly write off the co-worker as someone who has *tremendously* bad judgement in her personal relationships and whom I definitely want nothing to do with outside of work, but I wouldn’t take any further action regarding her unless she proactively makes comments that defend this person and/or child molesters in general.

      1. Blueberry*

        It’s already been established that depending on jurisdiction this might not be true. The police (and I can’t believe I’m on the side of calling them, but this is the time to do so) would have the information to know if this is a parole violation or not. (To be sophist one could say a parole violation is not a crime per se, but that would be sophistry)

  27. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

    you can get a poker face, just practice it.

    I have a very expressive face. You can’t show your cards like that, especially in a senior management, and multiply that times 10 if you are a woman. It will kill you with management above you, hurt you with peers and cause all kinds of issues with reports. Oh and, put you at a disadvantage in negotiations.

    Practice a neutral, relaxed expression + open, relaxed body language. You got this!

    1. Jerm*

      And if you become a manager, you’ll be setting the tone for your office/subordinates. You can easily create a toxic work culture this way, as subordinates roll their eyes, grimace, shrink away, etc. You’ve essentially given them permission to be disdainful of others.

      1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        To be clear, I still have issues! My biggest challenges still are when I am not in a formal meeting. For a meeting, I have my routine – choose my chair, relax my face, relax my body language. Keep my relaxed face steady, remember to look at whomever is speaking, PAUSE before opening my mouth. Etc.

        I still have issues when I am caught off guard outside of a scheduled meeting and I am working on them.

    2. Smithy*


      I’m an older millennial woman, and without a doubt have had either facial expressions or RBF referenced in terms of having a bad or unfriendly attitude. So I give this advice with a lot of caution that this is what worked for me, and is not something “women should do”. For me it was smiling. It started being a practice that helped over the phone, particularly during phone interviews – but I would notice how it would relax my face, help with my breathing, and have me focus on something else.

      Having a poker face certainly doesn’t mean smiling all the time, but similar to Wakeens’ point about breathing and focusing – whatever helps get you to that more thoughtful and slower place is a tool to consider.

      1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        Upon further thought, I think “poker face” wasn’t the right term for me to use. I think of a poker face as more stone faced. What I go for is “relaxed, calm & unflappable”. The net effect is you can’t read my expression to see I am screaming inside :)

        And, YES, we are not going to tell women to smile more but using your facial expressions to appear friendly and accessible is a thumbs up.

        1. Smithy*


          I certainly have some ADD-related impulse control related things – so for me it was all about finding tools that helped me slow down and appear more calm. As smiling is not necessarily my default, it required effort and thus helped in that process.

          For the OP using so much video chat, something else to consider might be whether a fidget spinner or other handheld item that could be off screen might help? Even maybe just taking notes by pen and paper?

          1. Quill*

            I swear by doodling because sometimes you just can’t. Give people’s speech your full visual and auditory attention at the same time.

            Of course, I didn’t exactly ever get discouraged from doing it, because even though I did it pretty constantly in class when I was a kid I got really good grades so teachers pretty much ignored any evident that I might not be paying attention the way they expected. Though I don’t think it necessarily gave me a great reputation at my first internship where I made an entire flipbook of frogs dancing during the course of an 8 hour product symposium.

    3. TypityTypeType*

      To agree: This does matter.

      I had a boss who was mostly OK, tried to be helpful and fair … but had a terrible habit of turning on an annoyed and impatient face the instant she thought you were taking too much of her time (it didn’t take long). So the shy or diffident people left conversations with her feeling rushed, distressed, and not listened to, and the more assertive people ended up feeling rushed, annoyed, and not listened to.

      She could have been a good manager, but that “You’re wasting my time” stare was deadly.

    4. JustaTech*

      Are positive expressions OK at work? Can I be delighted by something, or should I try to just generally narrow my range of expressions to “pleasantly neutral to pleased”?

      I ask because I’ve had friends have problems with their direct reports thinking they were mad/angry/cold just because my friends weren’t very expressive.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I think they are! Being delighted is awesome and should be shared. I’m very expressive and have mastered the calm face for difficult situations but generally don’t downplay the positive reactions, within reason.

    5. aebhel*

      Yep. It’s not that hard to stop rolling your eyes or grimacing, and as far as RBF goes, a relaxed expression does a lot to mitigate it. But also, the two are different; RBF is just a neutral face that looks unfriendly–I have that, a lot of women do, and while it might be pragmatic to try to look friendlier there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it–but it sounds like OP is actively expressing contempt and disapproval, which isn’t really the same thing.

    6. Ice and Indigo*

      You can also practice a friendly-polite smile. I don’t mean go around grinning like the Joker non-stop, but if you’re in a meeting or similar, flashing a social smile isn’t inappropriate.

      Two advantages: if you smile a lot, other expressions have a softening context, and if you’re trying to keep spontaneous irritation off your face, a social smile is a good way to cover it. It’s hard for your face to make one expression when you’re actively making another. Even if the smile looks a bit strained, at worst that signals you’re trying to be polite about whatever you’re feeling.

  28. Bree*

    For OP #1: To me, it’s surprising that your negative expression is so obvious to others even over video conference, where I at least typically pay less attention to people’s faces than in person, not to mention any technical barriers. So I’m wondering if this is maybe more noticeable to you than to your coworkers? In the incident you mention, your manager might have been paying particularly close attention because they knew they were hiring someone the team didn’t like, and were primed to see a negative response. Have there been other times people commented on your face, or just this once?

    If it’s happened more than once Alison’s advice and a lot of the comments are good. And it sounds like you’re maybe not happy in this job, in a broader sense. But I just wanted to bring up the possibility that this is something you’re more self-conscious about than you need to be.

      1. Bree*

        In terms of the one time described, “You didn’t look happy at the end of that call” doesn’t necessarily mean “You often look upset during calls and it’s a regular problem.” It’s worth making sure the latter applies, in terms of this being a real pattern.

        1. OP1*

          My manager has laughed at my facial expressions before (but in those instances, it’s typically something like an eye-brow raise that gets the attention). So, I guess it’s possible that this particular manager pays more attention to it than others do, since I haven’t heard anything from previous managers

          1. Observer*

            The fact that no one SAID anything doesn’t mean much. A lot of people won’t say anything, but it will still be an issue.

    1. Nanani*

      I wonder if there’s something else at play.
      Like if the LW is one of few (or the only) woman with what they call “resting bitch face” then any expression that isn’t a smile tends to get interpreted as overly negative.
      Or if they’re a minority in any other way where either their physical features or cultural background means their facial expression doesn’t match the defaults of the majority, similar effects can result.

      LW might still want to work on faking it but it might also not be entirely their fault.

  29. KWu*

    “Knitting in the office is explicitly forbidden” — someone taking out their frustration at unwanted scarves?!

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It’s about optics. Even if you’re browsing the web or looking at FB, it still “looks” like you’re working to an outsider. Knitting, reading a book, or any other busy activity that is not in the least work related is going to look bad.

  30. Delta Delta*

    #3 – Saying that the boyfriend’s presence violates the terms of his status is unclear. Many commenters are assuming “status” = “parole” which it may not. If he is not on parole or any sort of other corrections-based supervision, the only “status” he has is one of being a publicly-registered sex offender. If, in fact, he is on parole, he likely has conditions concerning his behavior around child-friendly places (daycares, schools, parks, etc.) but without knowing the exact language of his terms, it is unknown whether he is violating the terms or not.

    All that having been said, there are people who have offended on children, and who actively seek out new romantic partners who can assist in access to children. We don’t know if that’s the case with this person or not, and it would be inappropriate to speculate. The co-worker may be well advised to be wary that his interest in coming to her work isn’t to see her, but to get closer to the daycare. So, I think I’d start with a quick chat with the co-worker. If the goal really is to keep the guy away from the daycare, the co-worker can tell him not to show up. (whether he does or not is a different story) Alternatively, the facility, if alerted, can serve him with a notice to stay off the property and if he shows up, that’s an easily provable offense.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      OP specifically said that coming to their building violates his status. The specifics are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. I wouldn’t get involved talking to the co-worker.

    2. PVR*

      The coworker may not have that type of power over the boyfriend though! And if he isn’t currently on parole or breaking the terms of his parole, calling the police will not result in a bad outcome for anyone. The police are the one who will know his current parole status and specific conditions! Why is everyone working so hard to minimize the severity of the situation?! It’s so disturbing.

      1. un-pleased*

        Seriously. The coworker is not in charge of the boyfriend, and he is the one who may or may not have a legal agreement he made as part of his interactions with the criminal justice system that would be his responsibility. It is his job to meet that agreement. Period.

  31. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    re LW3, the whole point of sex offender registries and mandatory reporting and all of these twenty-first century things is so that the experts deal with the grey areas.

    I’m involved with screening potential volunteers for a children’s sports club. If a person fails that aspect of their police check, I can’t permit them near the children I’m responsible for, regardless of how lovely and capable they seem, or how reformed I think they are, or how infrequent the contact with the children, or how many other adults are there. The line is drawn by experts with all the information, and it’s not my job to assess it.

    It’s no fun having to exclude someone, but the rules exist for a reason. If you keep a convicted but now reformed person away from stuff they could benefit, that sucks, but it does also make it much easier to keep the really bad people away from the most vulnerable people. Like, Sebastian Vettel could probably navigate the M5 safely at 120mph but I want him to stick to the speed limit so nobody else has an excuse.

    LW3 should absolutely report this person via the usual channels (she will know what those are). I would say it is unusual to have that much information about an offender, so I feel like she ethically maybe has a greater duty to do so than someone who just by chance googled something that one time. If she didn’t have that work history and just thought he was a bit creepy and looked like someone who was convicted of something then the advice might be different.

  32. CM*

    #5 — Oh, man. This sounds like the rare case where someone is actually following the law about overtime, and it makes my heart swell.

    In lieu of telling my whole boring story, I live in Canada and I was once in a province where the overtime rules are obscure but not incomprehensible, and I worked for a company that willfully misinterpreted them and kept making us work for free (not for straight time — for free). I didn’t report them, because I didn’t want them to retaliate against me, and it bothers me to this day. (Also, when I consulted a lawyer, I found out lots of companies “misinterpret” the law the same way and it’s a big problem sometimes leading to class-action lawsuits).

    So, hooray for someone who actually tries to follow the law when they pay people.

    1. Antilles*

      Also the rare case where the strict “40 hours is 40 hours, end of story” OT law involves not having enough hours to get to 40…rather than the far more typical story of “employer won’t pay OT but assigns 50 hours of work”.

  33. CA in CA*

    OP #1-agreeing here with Alison’s advice. I got in trouble more than once for having no poker face when waiting tables and I really can’t see it flying in my current office setting. Fake it til you make it in this case. Maybe try watching something obviously outrageous (like, oh, I don’t know, certain politicians on TV) and practicing keeping a neutral face as they talk. Not being able to hide the fact you think a coworker is an idiot will not only hold you back, but people will soon start having the same reactions to you and I’m willing to bet if it goes on long enough you’ll get called out on it.

  34. Allypopx*

    #1 instead of practicing a neutral face, practice redirecting your reactions in these situations. If I find something irritating I’ll blink a few times instead of screwing my face up, for instance. You could (subtly) clench your jaw, or fidget with your fingers, or tuck your hair behind your ears, or anything else so that you aren’t trying to bottle up your reaction, but instead you’re reacting in a less obvious way.

    Now these won’t get you through a poker game – these are certainly what we’d call tells, and anyone who knows you well could very well still pick up on them. But they’re more professionally acceptable, and show some mastery over your emotions.

  35. Thankful for AAM*

    Nesting fail above so repeating here.
    #4 there were so many good ideas here. But no one mentioned you can do so many of them for free at your local library.
    In case many of you don’t know, here is some of what you can do at my library for free, maybe yours too:

    -Lynda.com classes
    -Kanopy.com movies (not for OP4)
    -Libby/overdrive for free ebooks, eaudio books and movies
    -Hoopla for free ebooks, eaudiobooks, and movies
    -Freegal for free music (you can keep 5 songs a week, again, not for OP4 at work)
    -rbdigital and zinio for online magazines
    -consumer reports
    -many homework resources for kids
    -health databases to look up conditions and medications

    And so much more!

  36. LQ*

    OP#1 I’m going to suggest something entirely different. Don’t worry about your face. Focus on your emotions. Shifting from being annoyed that someone suggested something stupid to excited that you may be able to contribute something to help move forward. Shift from disappointed that your project got canceled to understanding that it’s the right thing to do because of the circumstances. Shift from frustrated that your coworker is taking credit for someone else’s work to eager to make sure that the right person gets credit.

    It’s not a perfect way to handle it, but it makes work an overall better place for me to be at.
    You can marry this with the practice for a neutral face and end up doing really well. But this also fixes the do you want your boss to look annoyed when meeting with you, because I’d say I don’t want my boss to BE annoyed when meeting with me. So try to deal with the root of it by reframing the situation.

    1. Fieldpoppy*

      This is what I was going to say too. Someone said this upthread as well — learning to be less reactive (rather than not showing your reactions) is a really important part of being a manager or leader. You have to take things with a bit more detachment and think about the implications, what is the best course to move forward, etc in the context you are leading in. An important part of leadership is being able to respond to things you don’t like with curiosity — “oh, that’s not how I would have done that, but I wonder what makes that person think it’s a good idea?” That’s how you learn and understand the bigger picture.

      I teach and coach leaders, and one of the most common experiences I hear is that when they start seeing more information from different layers of the organization they start understanding the ‘why’ behind things they had black and white responses to when they were at “lower” (and more limited) parts of the organization. They suddenly realize that things that seem stupid from their point of view actually make sense from a broader perspective. Learning to cultivate this kind of openness and curiosity is an important part of growing as a leader, and then your face will take care of itself.

  37. Oh_oh*

    OP 1: I sympathize. If I am not careful people can easily tell when I am disgusted or annoyed by something (but not delighted, unfortunately!) . It is something you really have to work on, but I have found that with practice you really can improve and it’s totally worth the effort.

  38. Mbarr*

    OP4: Check your local library to see what e-learning activities they have available. Mine has a plethora, including access to LinkedIn/Lynda courses which run the gamut from hard skills (e.g. learn to code) to soft skills (e.g. learn how to communicate better with Type A personalities).

  39. Casual Librarian*

    #1– I also lack a poker face. To this day, I’ve managed to mask most of my feelings by taking a drink from my water bottle. It allows me to focus on something else while still moving my face. Plus, less people will look directly at your face while you’re taking a drink. If your expressions are usually pretty quick, this might help.

    1. OP1*

      This is helpful, thank you. I always walk into meetings with at least a coffee and a water, so this is very actionable

    1. Elsajeni*

      I mean, people ask about and make comments about other people’s food and diet choices ALL THE TIME. I do think there’s a chance that some of these comments are really in that broad category of “Tim always has to comment on everyone’s breakfast,” and not actually singling out the OP, and for her own peace of mind it may be worth trying to keep that in mind and think of this as less About Her and more about… people just being weird about food. But I don’t doubt at all that she’s also getting comments that are singling her out in a weird way, and that is rude and irritating, and makes even the “people are just weird about food” stuff extra-irritating!

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        I’ve been a vegetarian for many years. These people are definitely out there. Some people are threatened, and the goal is to be as public and annoying as possible so this weirdness doesn’t catch on. Some are just weird about food and would have something to say no matter what it is. Some are curious and mean well, but haven’t really thought about how many times you must have been asked “but how do you get enough prooooooooteeeeeeeeeeeein”, nor that you’re obviously getting nutrients somehow.

        People’s reactions are really really weird. I’ve had people point out menu items to me like I’m five and can’t read it for myself. “Look! They have a Veggie Lover’s Pizza! :-) :-) :-)” Not just once either, a lot of people. The protein obsession. Arguing about whether plants can feel pain too. Interrogations about food that is in a gray area, or they think it is (what about clams? Chocolate-covered ants? GMO corn with frog genes?) Imaginary dilemmas like “but what if you were stranded on a desert island, and the only food was meat?”

        Alison is right that the grey rock technique is the way to minimize the annoyance. Personally, I would also recommend whatever you can do to eat somewhere where fewer people can observe you and make a Thing out of it. You can reduce it, and it will also naturally go down on its own if you’re seeing the same people every day. But if you’re surrounded by people like this, you will never get rid of it entirely. Best case is you find a routine where you’re not triggering their “LOL, what’s the deal with Tofurkey” on a daily basis, only at company parties and stuff. :-\

    2. SarahKay*

      There’s a fascinating article on the BBC website about why veganism, and to a lesser extent vegetarianism, is so unpopular with non-vegans. I’ll add the link in a second comment but you can search for “BBC The hidden biases that drive anti-vegan hatred”.
      I’m a cheerful omnivore, but I’ve heard a reasonable amount of at-least-slightly-hostile comments towards vegetarians / vegans in lunch discussions at work and if I’m honest with myself I certainly haven’t said anything to discourage those sort of comments.
      At least as a group we’re polite enough not to do it in front of (known) vegetarians, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if OP#2 is facing a certain amount of hostility.

  40. Mockingdragon*

    LW4, when I hit this problem I found Project Gutenberg. There’s so much to read! And it just displays as plain text, so anyone walking by shouldn’t be too interested

  41. Database Developer Dude*

    From Alison’s answer to the vegetarian LW: If someone is really obnoxious, try: “It’s really weird that you’re so fixated on this when I never bring it up.” Or even: “You’re being rude right now, so let’s move on.” (You can only say that last one in certain contexts, and generally not with people senior to you, much as it might be deserved.).

    Generally not with people senior to you? If someone’s being intentionally rude, that’s junior high school behavior. Why should that be something to take just because the person’s senior to you?? It’s attitudes like this that perpetuate bullying in the workplace.

    1. WellRed*

      It’s not that you have to accept the rude behavior, it’s that there are other ways to call it out or redirect it. Don’t embarrass the boss, even if it’s deserved.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        If the boss is acting like a junior high school mean girl towards you, I seriously doubt they’ll be embarassed by you calling out their behavior.

        In this case, commenting on the OP’s food IS a “that’s rude, let’s move on” moment, regardless of who the rude person is. If it’s the boss, that makes it WORSE because of the power dynamic.

        1. Allypopx*

          But the power dynamic is exactly the reason why you would be more delicate with how you handle it. It will depend on your relationship, of course, but in most situations it’s not appropriate to tell your boss they’re being rude.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            But it is appropriate for your boss (or someone senior to you not necessarily your boss) to comment on things that are none of their business??

            I recently decorated my cube with a couple of funko pops (Black Panther and original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Black Ranger)…someone seeing me bring them in made some comment and said “I’m not judging”. My response? ” oh it’s okay, I don’t care if you’re judging. Caring would require me to give a shit what you think.”. This person was the program manager for a separate contracting company on a different contract with this client from where I’m at, but as a PM, he’s senior to me.

            Basically, this attitude tells me that one of the perks of being senior is getting to act rude, junior high schoolish, or mean girl or generally downright disrespectful towards those you’re senior to. Is that really the idea y’all want to convey?

            1. Allypopx*

              That example is a completely rude and unwarranted response in that situation regardless of how senior the person you’re speaking to was, so I’m not convinced you have the appropriate perspective to be giving any advice on this topic.

              1. Database Developer Dude*

                Well, right back at you. I’m not convinced you have the appropriate perspective either, because you seem to be wanting to justify junior high school behavior based on the person’s rank in the hierarchy at work. That’s just plain evil.

                1. Allypopx*

                  You seem to think there’s no middle ground between “eff off” and allowing something to go unchecked. Alison’s suggestion, and mine, only say that there are more professional ways to address things. Be it rude behavior or…benign comments about your cubicle.

                2. DarnTheMan*

                  Wow so it’s “evil” now not to want to be known as the person who constantly picks fights with and swears at everyone? You must be fun to work with.

                3. Ice and Indigo*

                  I can see how if you have high school trauma, it might be easily triggered, but not every less-than-100%-positive comment about your taste is actually high school behaviour. ‘I’m not judging’ really sounds more like a gentle tease, which is something non-evil adults do all the time; it can be an invitation to have a playful conversation as often as it is an insult.

          2. DarnTheMan*

            Agreed; I mentioned upthread that people like to comment on my lunch a lot – one of these people is a director. I have no idea what’s she’s thinking in her comments so I just cheerfully reply “yup” to whatever she’s said (usually some variation of “that’s so cute”) and move on. Because while I don’t report to her, I also don’t want to be that staff member who picks a fight with a more senior staff member over comments.

    2. Observer*

      Why should that be something to take just because the person’s senior to you??

      Because you want to keep your job?

  42. Amethystmoon*

    The books on your computer thing only works if you are able to install said e-readers. We aren’t able to install non-company approved software. It’s all given to us from IT updates. Unless someone else has a way? Is there any service that has books on PDF or text files? They also won’t allow us to bring USB Sticks in. I did notice however, that there is a SD card reader on my computer, so maybe that’s an option. Otherwise, I just e-mail myself from home to transfer files, but there is a size limit.

    I will admit to writing fan fiction at work when I was bored. It just looked like I was doing something in Word to the casual passer-by.

    1. Bookish*

      Kindle Cloud reader lets you read any of your Kindle books through your browser. I’m sure there are plenty of other browser-based ones that don’t require any installation.

      1. Mockingjay*

        My local library has free e-services that can be streamed through a browser and includes e-books and audiobooks.

    2. JanetM*

      I believe Project Gutenberg has .html and .txt versions of most if not all of their books.

      1. SarahKay*

        There’s an article on the Gutenberg website about their history and philosophy, where they say that
        1.Electronic Texts (Etexts) created by Project Gutenberg are to be made available in the simplest, easiest to use forms available.” which they decided was “plain vanilla ASCII” – so .txt files all the way :)

    3. Dahlia*

      Kindle Cloud and Overdrive (library ebooks) both work on browser. And you can use google docs.

  43. WellRed*

    Who knew there were so many office workers out there dying to write fan fiction or a novel?

    1. Mockingjay*

      My supervisor at ExToxicJob wrote a self-published novel on Amazon. Although, unlike the OP, she actually had work to do.

  44. I'm just here for the cats*

    #4 find out if your employer has any free online trainings or webinars that they offer their employees. My last job had a bunch that i was interested in but there was never any down time. I just found out that my current job had webinars too. From my experience they range from grammar and writing all the way to technical stuff and even manager related stuff.
    If your boss is unsure maybe check with HR or another department.

    Another option is does your employer offer job shadowing? Is there another department hat you would be interested in learning more about and possibly move into in the future.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      Professional development courses that was the word i was thinking of. Check with HR or someone.

  45. Stormy Weather*

    I’m finding myself in regular video calls at my new job and am having to school my expressions much more. It’s a hard thing, IMO, and there’s a bit of a learning curve but it can be learned. Practice practice practice.

    What I wish people understood was when my face is in a neutral expression, I am not upset. In meetings it’s okay to put a tiny smile on my face, but if I’m just at my desk, it’s Resting B*tch Face.

    1. Observer*

      That’s a different thing – and I also think harder to change because it really is NOT a reflection of how you feel. Showing disdain, disgust or irritation is a different thing. And it really is something that needs to be restrained.

  46. Ryn*

    Just wanna say that I did my 4th grade animal report on platypuses and they are fascinating creatures, strongly recommend looking into platypuses.

  47. StaceyIzMe*

    One of my siblings also struggles with facial expressions and it can be a challenge in some situations. Think of it as showing your cards when you aren’t meant to. It gives information to people that you might prefer to keep private. You can smooth your expressions by somatic mindfulness. Keep your focus on how you WANT to show up in the context. You’re not really “fine” being amused, annoyed and irritated by turns at work, are you? Your colleagues may not have a poker face, exactly, they might simply have developed some practice with moving from an initial response to a preferred response in terms of energy, focus and emotion in a professional setting. You can do the same, in all likelihood. We aren’t generally “stuck” with our emotions and reactions. We definitely get to choose them. If you think about it in the broader context, it might help to shift the idea from “I’ve got to have a poker face” to a more desired emotional resonance.

  48. Dust Bunny*

    LW2: Stop answering. I’ve found that feeding people bits of information just keeps them coming back. Tell them you don’t know (even if you do. They’re not entitled to food reviews) or it’s just a shake or whatever and then change the subject or excuse yourself because you have work to do. The fact that they asked or said something to you doesn’t obligate you to engage, and the less interesting you are in your responses, the less inclined they’ll be to keep hectoring you. It’s okay to say, “I told you I don’t know, why do you keep asking?” or “Google it”. Turn it into work for them.

    1. Dr. Pepper*

      Yes! You’re not obligated to give people information simply because they ask. Tell them it’s a shake, or a sandwich, or a salad, or whatever completely generic description covers the bases. Or even just say it’s your lunch. Don’t make it a conversation. Only the most determined of bores and bullies are willing to carry on a completely one-sided with no input from the other person.

  49. Go Fund My Bad Decisions*

    Protect the children in that daycare. The sex offender KNOWS he is not allowed in that building and is choosing to break the law. Call the cops. Now.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Does the sex offender actually know there’s a day care in the building? My firm’s Tysons Corner (VA) office building complex has a day care in it, but you wouldn’t know that unless you passed by its actual location.

      In any case, something does need to be done. If the offender is made aware that there’s a day care there, and he continues to show up, go to the cops.

      1. Anon for this*

        Doesn’t matter if he knows or not. Its on HIM to abide by the law and that means he may need to research where he goes first.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Even if he doesn’t know. The cops will tell him. Telling a sex offender where he can and can’t be is way above the OPs paygrade.

      Let the legal system do their job and keep yourself far away from confronting someone you know is dangerous.

    3. Okay*

      He is not breaking any law. There is no law that says a sex offender can’t walk within x feet of a daycare.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Depending on the state OP is in, there may very well be such a law. These laws vary by state.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        Depends on what his release conditions are and what the local regulations are. It’s entirely possible that the individual is banned from being within X distance of a school or daycare.

        1. Carlie*

          Oh yes. Depending on the state and what category the crime falls into, some people even have to notify everyone in a certain radius by mail as to where they are living and working, and if that radius includes a school or daycare, the school may notify every parent of a child in that school about it.

  50. Essess*

    When I had an extremely slow receptionist job, I used the down-time to take free college courses on Coursera https://www.coursera.org/ and inexpensive classes at Udemy https://www.udemy.com/.. That eventually ended up giving me enough training to get promoted into a much higher-paying technical job in my company.

  51. Essess*

    Well, darn. My comment appears to have gotten caught by the moderation filtering even though I used the code tags around my links. I’ll post without the links this time and you’d have to google the actual links.
    I commented that when I was a receptionist in a very slow office, I filled my time taking free online college courses through Coursera and also low-cost technical classes through Udemy. My company started giving me additional duties related to the topics that I’d learned and that stepped me up into a much higher-paying technical job in my office over time.

  52. Tootsie*

    #2 Some petty and passive aggressive advice: get a white board or make a sign that reads, “Number of days since I was last asked about my vegetarianism” Include eye roll emoji. Place by your desk. Make up a random number to write on board. Next time someone asks or makes a stupid comment, your smile disappears, look visibly annoyed, maybe sigh very loudly, go directly to your sign, erase the number (aggressively as possible) and write a big fat 0 in red marker. Sit down and glare at the offender.
    Sorry, that’s probably not helpful for your situation, but it might be a way to make their annoying behaviors funny while you’re waiting to get out of there. Good luck!

  53. introverted af*

    LW4 – if you are looking for a way to read, your public library may also have an e-reader app, or may allow you to download e-books to your Amazon account to read on a Kindle or Kindle app. I know my library uses Libby by Overdrive which has a mobile app or it can be accessed on your desktop through a browser.

  54. Anonymous at a University*

    OP 1- please work on this. I had to since I interact with students every day, and here are some things that helped me.

    -Step back mentally from as many interactions as you can. When a student is telling me some ridiculous story about how a volcano exploded near their home just down the road (we…don’t have volcanoes in this state) and therefore they can’t turn in a paper, I mentally just say, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” and remember that it’s not because they hate me or my class particularly, it’s probably because they procrastinated like crazy and don’t want to admit that.

    -If it does affect you, fall back on policies and rules. If the student telling me the story then says, “So I need an extra month to turn my paper in,” I can just say, “Sorry, but as it states in the syllabus, this is what I do in a situation like this…” If a decision someone else is making affects your work, present it in as calm a manner as possible, backed up with examples of how it affects you. This will get you much further than glaring or looking contemptuous.

    -The empathy test Alison mentions is an excellent one. I wouldn’t have liked my professors in graduate school sighing at me or visibly expressing contempt about something I said or did; I’m not going to my students. Imagine your boss (or co-workers) doing it to you, and I’m sure you would not then accept, “I don’t have a poker fact” as an excuse.

    -As a last-ditch consequence, do remember it will cost you professionally. I have a current colleague who screamed at someone else, who had done nothing to her, with swear words and then refused to apologize, because “Swear words and not apologizing is who I am.” Our department chair didn’t do anything because he was the offender’s BFF, so those of us who had witnessed it went to the yeller and made our disapproval clear. She was also disinvited from a colleague’s home because the woman she yelled at was going to be there, and since it was a social occasion and not a work one, our department chair had no say in that. The yeller got the message real quick and went and apologized, and hasn’t screamed at someone with swear words since. “This is who I am” doesn’t fly in situations like that, and you might very well not get the promotion if you don’t work harder at this.

  55. Dancing Otter*

    LW4, you say your employer is a “hobby retailer”, and mention knitting being prohibited as though that were something that has come up repeatedly. So, I’m guessing that the “hobby” involves fiber arts, at least in part.
    Literally HOURS can be spent browsing Ravelry, and it will present as industry-related. Of course, there are forums about anything under the sun, but the general intent of the Ravelry site is fiber arts. If the “hobby” in question is more in the area of fabric, there are several forums for quilting (huge fabric investments in that one – ask me how I know) and sewing, even vintage sewing machines.
    Reading the reviews of new yarns could well provide value to a fiber craft retailer. Looking at trends in knitting/crochet design, or up-and-coming designers, would also be a legitimate use of your time.
    If your employer sells patterns or kits as well as supplies, can you talk to the people in charge of choosing and marketing those? Maybe they need sample-makers, which would put knitting/crochet/whatever squarely in the work-related productivity category. (Assuming you actually like to knit/crochet/whatever, and are good at it. I know an online yarn retailer that’s notorious for the poor quality of their samples.)
    You could also spend time browsing the sites of other hobby retailers to see what they might be doing better or, at least, differently. Maybe you’ll see something worth throwing in the suggestion box. Likewise, companies that produce the sort of items your company sells.

  56. Stormy Weather*

    Gah! The only time your vegetarianism should be an issue is when someone is arranging food for a work event.

    And they should make sure you aren’t just eating a bunch of side dishes. it drives me nuts when my vegetarian friends can’t get protein.

    1. JustaTech*

      This! Unless you’re picking a lunch place or ordering food, whether or not someone is a vegetarian has literally nothing to do with anything, except maybe eliminating a suspect for “who microwaved Icelandic fermented shark?”

      1. Salty Caramel*

        There’s a nasty place in the afterlife for people who microwave fish. Hell, I don’t even do it in my apartment.

  57. hello*

    OP 5 – great time to read AAM too! If you have a hobby you can do research on it. You could write letters to all your friends and family.

  58. Leela*

    OP #1 – my face shows everything! Or at least it did historically. I didn’t even know for the longest time because no one told me like you were told.

    I’m having a much easier time after having worked on it for many years, so age might be a factor as to why it’s going better now but here are some things that have helped me stop putting everything on my face:

    -do you watch Futurama? If not, it’s great! But if you imagine that you have an internal Bender, someone so preposterously rude about everything but in a comical way, and that he’s responding to these things, it can kind of work like he’s absorbing the irritation or thinking someone’s an idiot but reacting in such a comical way that you probably would never act it breaks me out of going “this person is an idiot” and has me going “oh man Bender’s at it again”

    -if your hands aren’t in view, clench them! It’s distracting enough that it works for me (but you definitely don’t want them to be visible; other people will read this as fists of fury and assume you’re about to lose it)

    -When I can feel a reaction like that coming on, I slowly suck my stomach and sides into my spine and hold, which is also distracting enough

    I have no idea if any of that helps, and I’m sure the Bender one made me sound crazy, but as a lifelong emotion shower this really helped me!

    1. JustaTech*

      I don’t know about OP1, but I find these super useful immediate suggestions (since completely re-framing my entire brain is way more time consuming).

  59. Overtime*

    Re: LW5 (and Alison, if you see this, perhaps you can clarify), my understanding is that if your regular hours add up to less than 40 and you work 40 hours, you are paid more than in a normal week (i.e., for 40 hours instead of 37.75). What doesn’t kick in until after 40 is “overtime pay,” meaning time-and-a-half.

    But maybe someone can confirm this?

    1. Ramblin' Ma'am*

      I think there’s a distinction between what’s federally mandated and what a given company may do beyond that.

      I’m salaried n0n-exempt, and my company considers 35 hours to be a standard work week. I frequently work between 35-40 hours and am paid extra for that (at my normal hourly rate). Frankly, I think if a company isn’t going to pay overtime until an employee hits 40 hours, they should just make 40 hours the standard week.

  60. doreen*

    OP #5 – You aren’t entitled to time and a half unless either a law or a contract requires it, and that typically is after you have worked either 40 hours in a week or 8 hours in a day. As a matter of fact , your employer might not even be required to pay you anything extra when you work the extra 2.25 hours – I know of jobs where you are paid a certain amount for 40 hours of work but typically work fewer . You don’t get docked for working 35 or 37.5 – but you also don’t get paid extra for working 40.

  61. CountryLass*

    #3, is it obvious that there is a daycare there? It could be that it is hidden and he didn’t know it was there, so I would personally inform the police, not the daycare. They may have to disclose that there has been a sex offender in the area to parents, who may then pull their child and that would hurt the daycare provider, on someone else’s mistake… Obviously if you see him hanging round the daycare section, or if it is obvious then that is different as there is more likely to be a higher risk of a threat than him entering a building where he did not know that there was a childcare.

    But please, as a parent myself, tell the police. You don’t want to let it slide and then find out you were right. I reported a conversation I had with a client where his ex had made some comment that led me to think there may be some Harold-Shipman-type behaviour going on, as I couldn’t bear the thought of not reporting it. I haven’t heard anything in over 12 months so I assume I was wrong, but my conscience is clear.

  62. RetiredLady*

    Years ago I worked in a store where they intentionally changed our work schedule to a 38 (or less) hour week. Then when someone called in sick for the evening shift they would ask someone who had already worked the day shift to stay longer but we wouldn’t get overtime pay for the extra hours. Eventually any new hires were part time and they never had to pay time and a half.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s retail standard. Their positions are never 40hrs to avoid any overtime.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, I know a lot of people who are in the constant retail hell of 39.5 hours per pay week but this means you can work 8+ hour days, not counting those unpaid breaks, for 8 days in a row if we make it straddle two pay periods! Or if we have to give you a day off we just make you do two half shifts and only give you a single day off that’s different every week.

      2. RetiredLady*

        I worked there many years ago and this was a newer idea at the time. Luckily for those of us who were already working there with a 40 hour schedule, they increased our pay rate per hour so we weren’t out money working the shorter hours. Just no time and a half if we had to stay longer.

  63. HerGirlFriday*

    LW1 – since you do a lot of work via video conference, try setting up a small mirror at your desk so you can monitor your expressions and adjust accordingly. The mirror won’t be visible to the other video conference attendees. Place it close to your camera so your eye contact appears to be on the camera or your computer monitor.
    This is a customer service trick to help phone operators remember to “keep a smile in your voice.” I know some of my City’s call center operators use this trick to maintain a neutral tone for upset callers.

  64. Observer*

    #1 – Please think of what’s happening this way:

    How would you feel if your boss were a “yeller” or “screamer”? If you are showing disdain of disgust, you are yelling – not audibly, but visually. Just as most reasonable people would not say “that’s just how I am” about yelling, you can’t say that about the visual form.

  65. Ace in the Hole*

    OP5, one caveat to Allison’s statement: in some states (California, for example) there are rules about daily overtime as well. By California law, any hours over 8 in one day get paid overtime rates even if you’re not going over 40 hours in the week. In California you also get overtime for any hours worked on the seventh day of your pay period if you’ve worked more than 30 hours that week and didn’t get a day off (for example if you worked five hours every day that week, all five hours on day 7 are overtime). Check your state’s labor laws carefully!

  66. Mannheim Steamroller*


    Some commenters have noted that the offender might know about the daycare. That is legally irrelevant. Its mere presence automatically puts him in violation whether he knows it or not.

    (I have read about towns using this rule to move school bus stops to locations which strategically put registered offenders in violation so they’ll have to move before the stop takes effect.)

  67. Anna*

    LW 3: As a mom, I’m asking you please, please follow Allison’s advice. The police need to be contacted.

    LW 2: I get that your coworkers are being really annoying and intrusive about your diet. You should push back. I would, however, caution against using terms like “micro-aggression” to describe your situation. That term is usually reserved for how minorities deal constantly with small, unnoticed slights from privileged groups, and being a vegetarian isn’t the same as say, being a racial or sexual minority.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing with you on the “microaggression” concern – that term is generally reserved for people who are dealing with others’ unconscious biases about characteristics intrinsic to themselves (eg. race, sexual orientation).

      Also, the OP is dealing with rudeness, not discrimination, and it’s not micro – it’s overt.

  68. HR Ninja*

    Quasi-related question in regards to LW1: Do you think women are viewed differently, i.e. more harshly, on not having a good poker face in the workforce? Obviously outright frustration, annoyance, etc. is not great in a professional setting from either gender, but is there a gender bias on women needing to seem more “pleasant”?

    1. Nanani*

      Yes, yes there absolutely is.
      There is the thing where women are expected to smile all the time and basically be decorative, and also the thing where stepping out of the bound of “gentle/nurturing/friendly” is perceived as “anger” or something like that.

      Also intersects with race (see “angry black” stereotypes) and other axes.

    2. Haggard*

      In my experience, yes. And by “in my experience,” I mean, in working through my own internalized biases after being real messed up from an experience of particularly bad continual harassment, I noticed this in myself. I noticed that when women made negative statements/expressed negative emotions it bothered me more than when men made them. For me, it had to do with expectations of pleasantness, but also with the idea that women are usually less justified in their anger and just being dramatic, or that they should be more grateful/humble. And I am a woman! So I def. had to work through that!

      From a quick Google search, I see there has been research done that suggests that women are penalized for being angry in the workplace more than men are. “Can an Angry Woman Get Ahead?: Status Conferral, Gender, and Expression of Emotion in the Workplace” by Brescoll & Uhlmann.

    3. Goldenrod*

      YES! I’ve really struggled with this too. I feel like women are held to a standard of having to smile more and express fewer negative emotions. It’s not fair.

    4. Delphine*

      for women, it becomes a double-edged sword. it’s not enough to have a neutral expression, your expression must be, as you note, pleasant!

  69. tinyhipsterboy*

    LW1: I don’t mean to derail, so please, Allison, lock this if you feel it is, but I’m curious: what about those who look irritated or angry when their expression is neutral? I’m a cis guy, so I don’t experience the whole “resting bitch face” phenomenon to the same degree that women do, but my boyfriend flagged to me recently that there are times where I look or sound irritated… but in those times, I’ve been careful to keep my expression neutral and my voice even. I’d worry that forcing a smile would come off hostile or mocking, and my default expression looks a little irritated, so what do you do in those cases? A lot of the advice in the other posts aimed toward relaxing the face, but when that just makes you look angrier…

    LW4: Seconding ereaders on the computer, as well as other activities! If there’s nothing else work-related you can do, is there anything that you’ve been meaning to get done? Whether it’s writing, catching up on books, or teaching yourself a new activity/language/etc., it’s a good opportunity to get stuff done!

    1. OP1*

      I have a permanent frown line (thanks to not-great vision and dry eyes), so I generally do look irritated anyway. A lot of comments on the other posts (that Alison linked to above) advise trying a neutral smile. I haven’t had much luck with it not looking like a smirk, but do agree that generally focusing on keeping your face “pleasant” looking helps.

  70. breamworthy*

    I would be so tempted in this situation to make up a police investigation in order to both warn coworker/deflect blame (and of course actually call the police as well). “Hey Jane, on my way into the building this morning, a police officer pulled me aside and showed me a picture of your boyfriend, and asked if I had seen him around the building and, more specifically around the daycare. What the heck is that about?”

    * Not saying I would actually do this, just that it is tempting.

  71. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – Someone I know well manages a specialty retail store, and they are constantly saying that they wish their staff would use downtime to learn more about their products so that they can be more helpful to customers, as well as earn more in commissions.

    So, I would suggest getting to become an expert on the products your company sells – perhaps talk to people who do purchasing and ask for product samples or literature, look up reviews of the products online to find out what people think of them / what common problems are. Watch videos on the products being demonstrated.

    Doing this sort of thing will also help you progress within the company, as you’ll be displaying interest and commitment to your role and will be learning more about the company’s suppliers, the products they sell, etc. etc.

    Another thing you could do (with your manager’s permission) might be to volunteer to do projects, or support other functional areas when they are busy.

    If you’re doing all of that, and still have time on your hands, or if you can’t get permission to do more, I would start job hunting and take your enthusiasm to a company where you can grow your career further.

  72. Leela*

    OP Vegetarian – I was vegan for 3 years (only stopped due to a few diagnoses that are not compatible with vegetarianism) and oh man, do people just love to comment on it and ask questions when you are just sitting there.

    Me: Eats a veggie burger
    Coworker: Hey are you eating a burger? You told everyone you were vegan!
    Me: Yeah, it’s a veggie burger
    Coworker: Oh my god all vegetarians talk about is food.

    This was a pretty common occurrence. As was people staring at me intently while making a big show of licking meat in front of me and asking “oh SORRY does that BOTHER you” and laughing about it, when I was just sitting there eating my lunch or talking to friends.

    I never found anything to make them stop. I hope you do. I’m more here to say, I feel you, and I’m sorry you’re experiencing it!

    1. Blueberry*

      Why are people so often so terrible? I am sorry you had to deal with such ridiculousness.

  73. Goldenrod*

    I can relate to not having a poker face – I inadvertently have a very expressive face too. It can be hard at work! I tend to convey everything I’m feeling without even meaning to.
    Alison is right though – you CAN learn to get better at controlling it. It’s not easy, but I’ve gotten better at appearing “neutral.” Keep working at it, and good luck!!

  74. prudencep*

    #OP1 I had a manager once go on the attack at me in front of a group of people and I burst into tears (possibly understandably). When I spoke to her later she didn’t apologise for her behaviour but commented that I shouldn’t have cried in front of everyone. Furious, I vowed to myself I was going to develop the world’s best poker face! It has taken awhile but I worked and worked at it and now I think I’m pretty good at it, so it is possible. To start with it was probably distracting – focusing on my face while I should have been listening to people. I can’t quite remember how I got started, but there was lots of remembering to breathe and also physically relaxing my face. Tbh I think the ongoing fury I felt about the situation helped me to mask other emotions in the beginning which helped! It’s definitely possible to learn, and it becomes a lot easier with time.

  75. Janis Mayhem*

    I’m torn on whether LW3 should tell her coworker. Definitely call the police, yes. However, my late father was a child molested and my mother didn’t find out until he was reported. She promptly divorced him. I think she would have preferred a warning if their situation was closer to your coworker’s. Then again, sometimes people double down on the relationship or blame the messenger. No matter what, though, I hope you do not reveal the situation to your office at large, even after calling the police (which you should definitely do).

    1. Observer*

      It happens shockingly often that people double down.

      I feel bad for your mother, because that must have been an ENORMOUS shock to her. But, is it possible that if someone had warned her, she might have warned your father? Perhaps inadvertently, or because she wanted to confront him. That would not be a good thing.

  76. SomeoneWhoKnows*

    #3 – to be fair, him going there may not be in violation of anything. There’s a LOT of little nuances and rules governing sex offenders, and they vary from state to state and situation to situation. The rules also change constantly, so yes, I agree with going to the police and then let it be. They’ll be able to determine if it really is a violation and if so, what needs to be done about it.

  77. Local Woman*

    OP 2 – I’ve been a vegetarian for 14 years, from age 13 onward, and here’s what never fails to shut off this line of questioning for me:

    “Oh, I just don’t happen to like meat.”
    Yep, never liked it. Yep, pretty much all of it. Ate [fish/chicken/beef/meat in question] when I was younger; I didn’t like it then and I’m not a fan today. Oh, it doesn’t bother me—please go ahead, eat your burger!—I just don’t eat meat. I just don’t happen to enjoy it, never particularly have.

    I act as bored and dispassionate as possible. A lot of the time these guys just want a gotcha moment or a weird little argument or to flip you, but they pretty much never argue with your own taste. I personally have the advantage of this explanation being true but I’ve tried a whole lot of things to get people off my back about it and this is the only thing that works in my experience. I spent years in a food-based workplace where this came up a Whole Lot. Best of luck out there!

    1. Agent Diane*

      Vegetarian for 31 years here. Shrugging is your friend here.
      Co-workers: Hey! Who’s up for food after work? We can hit up the burger place! Oh wait, then OP can’t come.
      OP: *shrug* Gourmet Burger Kitchen do a great vegan burger so I’m in!

      Co-workers: hands up if you’re vegetarian? Oh, you can’t. You’re too weak!
      OP: *shrug* Never heard that one before.

      And so on.

      (Off topic: due to just watching TeenTitansGo!, I am hearing the co-workers as Cyborg/Robin/Beastboy and OP as Raven.)

    2. DefCon 10*

      This is exactly how I answer questions about why I don’t drink alcohol. It usually shuts the line of questioning down with minimal awkwardness on all sides. Even worked when I was in college.

  78. Rollergirl09*

    Where do you people live that you can’t see exactly what crime was committed on your sex offender registry? Where I live you can see when the conviction is, what their current status is, and there are categories for the type of offenses (ie sexual activity with a minor 15-17 years vs sexual activity with a minor 14 and under). It wouldn’t be hard for OP to suss out the severity of the crime.

  79. Former Employee*

    For OP#2: I suggest you regale some of these co-workers with “Tales from the Slaughterhouse”. I normally don’t do that sort of thing myself, but they sound so obnoxious that maybe they deserve it.

  80. Amanda*

    I’m not suggesting you get Botox, but I had the same problem with expressiveness and irritation showing up on my face. I got a very small amount/ natural looking Botox recently and no one knows how I feel about anything anymore unless I tell them!

  81. EddieSherbert*

    #2 I totally get your frustration; even well-meaning folks can sometimes be pretty insensitive about dietary choices (or even dietary restrictions like allergies!) and hearing the same “jokes” and comments over and over again gets old.

    I’m super lucky to work somewhere that’s like 25% vegetarian or vegan (our work cafeteria even does Meatless Mondays), but honestly my family (especially grandparents and older relatives) was very unsupportive when I first became vegetarian.
    I’m a big fan of:
    “My diet isn’t up for debate.”
    (4th time) Still doing that WEIRD vegetarian thing? “Yup!”
    (20th time) Still doing that WEIRD vegetarian thing? “Yes and I have no intention of changing that, so please stop asking.”
    But why would you give up BACON?!?! (my confused face) “Do you really want me to run through the ethical and environmental reasons for my decision right now?” …99% of the time they scramble because dear gawd they don’t want a vegetarian lecture!… (my sudden understanding and said very politely with no hint of laughter) “oh, you’re trying to be funny. Got it.” (move onto to something else, ideally talking to a different person and not this person)

    And if they’re genuinely interested, I usually let them know that I totally support their effort – even if it’s just trying Meatless Mondays it makes a difference! – and I’d be happy to share a few of my favorite recipes or answer any questions (possibly setting a date/time for this… I may not be available right this very second… or telling them to just email me if they have questions).

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Funny enough, my partner has started telling people that he is “trying to eat healthier” and “watching his calories” (instead of saying he’s vegetarian) when they happen to comment on him ordering a veggie burger or something, and then they’re *SUPER* SUPPORTIVE of it (when he’s just trying to eat healthy… versus when he’s vegetarian).

      People are odd!

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