should I wear a mask to a job interview, candidate interviewed in a see-through shirt, and more

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

1. Should I wear a mask to a job interview?

I live in a state where masks were mandated in public spaces until recently as we move to limited reopening, but generally everyone is still wearing them in stores. My state has been hit hard, but less so my specific area. I have an in-person job interview tomorrow and was wondering whether or not I should wear a mask to the interview. I would prefer to as a precaution, but am not sure if that would look unprofessional. If it makes any difference, the business I’m interviewing at is not currently open to the public.

Wear the mask! It’s a public health recommendation, and you want to anyway. It does not look unprofessional in the current context.

If you happen to be interviewing with someone who has a problem with that, that’s incredibly useful information for you about whether this is a place you’d want to work. An employer that looks askance at you wearing a mask to an interview is an employer that’s going to be cavalier with your safety once you’re working there (and not just with COVID-19 either).

2. Job candidate wore a see-through shirt on a video interview

So this didn’t happen to me, but it did make me curious on how to handle this situation while keeping it appropriate.

My friend Bob was tasked with performing the first in-person interview for a candidate. Obviously, because of quarantine, all interviews are now being performed over webcam. The candidate he interviewed chose to wear a simple white t-shirt. I imagine this normally wouldn’t be a huge problem, maybe a bit too casual for an interview, but their office dress code is pretty casual anyway. Unfortunately, she also chose to wear no bra and we know this because Bob could see her nipples in full view! He conducted the interview as normal.

When Bob reached out to me, he was curious what my thoughts were and how to handle it. As much as I agree that it’s strange, I have also worn items of clothing that appeared fine in my home but turned out to be more translucent than expected.

My recommendation was to give her the benefit of the doubt and to make his decisions based on her resume and the actual interview itself. I would hope that next time around she’ll choose something more appropriate. That said, as a woman I desperately want someone to reach out to her to let her know but I imagine that’s probably too risky to bring up.

Do you have any thoughts on this? Is there a better way to handle this and do we need to reconsider how we judge an applicant during quarantine?

Assume it was an unintentional wardrobe malfunction, since it’s highly unlikely that she deliberately decided to expose her nipples during a job interview. And it doesn’t make sense to hold an unintentional wardrobe malfunction against someone, particularly on a video call during a pandemic (when it’s common for people not to realize how something will appear on camera).

If she otherwise seemed professional and to have good judgment, it’s not something that needs to be A Thing. If Bob already had concerns about her professionalism, I can see why he’s wondering if this is part of that larger picture — but then I’d focus on whatever those other concerns were and decide where to go from there (which could be deciding those other issues are prohibitive, or doing a second interview to get more data, or so forth).

And yeah, I understand the impulse to let her know, but this is one of those things where you just politely pretend it’s not happening.

3. Writing notes on your hand at work

Is it ever acceptable to be writing reminders or notes on your hand? A coworker of mine does this all the time, and I am intrigued as to why she does this as there is plentiful paper in the office.

Her hands are predominantly full by the end of the day and don’t look particularly appealing, especially when there could be clients around. My daughter is a student and has done the same in years gone by, which I have accepted but I was shocked when she recently came home from a professional work placement with these scribbles on herself. Is it just me or is this practice becoming more and more common, and should it be deemed acceptable? I have been known to do this myself on the odd occasion, but only at a pinch and would certainly not say it’s my norm.

It’s not a big deal to do it in a pinch, but if someone does it as their normal M.O., it’s going to come across as disorganized and a bit … professionally immature. It’s not something you’d see a senior exec doing (and if you did, they’d look very scattered). Carrying a small notebook will serve you better.

4. My colleagues are uninterested in my work

I started at a new job less than six months ago, joining a small team from a (mostly) family business. It is a complicated job managing a lot of different accounts but I dealt with the steep learning curve pretty quickly, even though it was tough. My coworkers are nice people and did their best to answer any questions I had.

The COVID crisis has complicated a lot of things, and it’s been even harder trying to do this job from home, but I have done okay, I think. What I don’t understand is why my boss and coworkers seem so uninterested in what I am doing. Everyone else is put on the weekly meeting agenda for project updates except for me — even though what I’m doing for the company at this time of year is absolutely central to their mission. (I don’t have delusions of grandeur — I’m the sole point person for the logistics of one of the major initiatives they do every year.) When I ask to be put on the agenda, they seem puzzled and instead say, “We can handle this through email if you need to.” During the “check in, what are you doing?” part of our weekly meetings, nobody asks about my (really huge!) project. When I speak up about how this project is going — and I always do it in a positive, prepared manner even when I have issues to discuss — I am mostly greeted with silence that other people don’t seem to get, and it’s awkward.

Recently, I found out that my predecessor in this position also felt ignored before she left after only a couple of years (and I heard that my boss seemed puzzled as to why she left). And this job has had relatively high turnover compared to the other jobs at the company. I am beginning to dread the weekly meetings because I always feel confused and demotivated afterward. I’m working at 150% on this project and yet I feel like my boss just isn’t at all interested in what I’m working on. What can I do to connect with my coworkers with what I am doing? It seems they don’t care “how the sausage is made.” Should I even care that much?

Talk to your boss! She’s in the best position to give you insight into what’s going on or help you change things. Why not say to her, “I’ve noticed I’m not included on the weekly agendas for project updates and when I’ve asked to be included, people have seemed resistant. And when I’ve tried to proactively offer updates anyway, there’s not much engagement. I’m reading it as lack of interest in the X work, but I’m wondering if there’s context I’m missing.”

5. I’m being offered a new role but without a clear salary

I’m a mid-career professional and have recently been offered the opportunity to take on a higher-level role starting next month. The last time I had a promotion, I had been doing higher-level work for a long time prior to the promotion, so I accepted immediately and was happy with the salary adjustment, and continued on with the roles I’d already been playing. This time, the jump would be bigger, both in terms of stress and responsibility, and in terms of the salary gap between levels — I would essentially be replacing my boss.

I’ve been assured that the role would come with a promotion, but no one has given me a time frame (typically we promote people only once a year — nine months from now) or a new proposed salary. It seems like they assume we’ll figure that out later. Frankly, I like the work I’m able to do in my current role and I’m not sure I want the promotion unless it’s fairly compensated, and not in 6+ months. Is there an appropriate way to say, “Thanks for the opportunity, but please make me a clear offer?”

“I’m very interested in doing this work, but I want to make sure I understand what the title and salary will be before we move forward. Can we iron that out so I have a clearer picture of what this would look like?”

{ 614 comments… read them below }

    1. Sue*

      I agree with the advice but I wouldn’t call this a “wardrobe malfunction” as that implies an accident like a strap breaking, etc. I would even say a skirt being somewhat see through without a slip (a common occurrence in my experience) is in the ballpark. But not wearing a bra is a deliberate decision and likely to be observable so I wouldn’t put it in that same category myself.
      But..I don’t care if someone makes that choice (although it is somewhat surprising for an interview when you might expect someone to take extra care with their appearance).

      1. Karo*

        Hard disagree re: whether or not it’s a wardrobe malfunction. Yes, not wearing a bra is a deliberate decision, but the malfunction here is in her opaque shirt being secretly see-through.

        Hell, for all we know she was wearing a bra, it just happened to also be lacy and/or see through. Most of the bras I’ve been wearing during quarantine are lacy/unlined bralettes; you could 100% see my nipples through them if my shirt wasn’t opaque.

        1. Quill*

          Also some shirts are way more see-through in specific lighting or via a camera as opposed to the bathroom mirror

          1. Rabbit*

            But as an adult you know if your clothing is see through, and obviously you shouldn’t wear a sheet bra under a white shirt. I think letter implies he could see her actual nipple, not that she was cold and he could see the silhouette of nipple.

            1. Betrayed Librarian*

              If she hadn’t seen what the shirt looked like over the webcam before the interview started, she might not have known how see-through it would appear. Should she have checked before the interview? Probably. Is this a horrific, career ending mistake that means she should be thrown out of consideration for this job no matter how well her interview went? Absolutely not.

            2. Quill*

              As an adult you also mute your microphone and know if your camera angle is looking up your nose, right?

            3. biobotb*

              No, you can’t always know if your clothing is see-through if it changes dramatically in different lighting. If you move to an area with new lighting that suddenly makes a top see-through, there’s not guarantee that there will be a mirror around that you can see the change in.

            4. Eukomos*

              Not always, no. People know if their clothing is see through in the lighting conditions near mirrors they frequently stand in front of. Other people frequently see us from perspectives and in lighting we never see ourselves in, and webcams only increase the disparity.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        The malfunction part was the top being translucent when she almost certainly thought it was opaque. If she intended to wear a sheer top to the interview, I cannot believe the choice would’ve been “plain white tee”.

    2. Casper Lives*

      The “no bra” surprised me because I’d never do an interview (where the interviewer could see me) without one. It’s a wardrobe convention, whether it’s comfortable or not.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I always wear a bra for telecons, even when I plan to have the video off, just in case.

      2. MK*

        And for what it’s worth, I don’t find shirts (or any other more formal top) comfortable without underwear. Soft casual tops, yes, but dressier ones are meant to be worn with underwear and don’t “sit” right without some support.

        1. river*

          There are plenty of women who have small breasts and don’t need any support. She probably just didn’t realise the lighting made her top see-through. An avoidable error, perhaps, but not one that casts any major doubt on her judgement.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes. It’s possible her build is such that this wouldn’t have been at all noticeable if it weren’t for the light.

            But even aside from that, not wearing a bra isn’t an inherently outrageous act.

            1. Wendy*

              I generally put one on when I’m leaving the house. I could totally see myself putting on a nice top for a Skype interview and not noticing that the bra was rather more mandatory than usual :-/

              1. Liz*

                I agree although as part of my WFH routine, i make myself wear one, even though its just me. To avoid forgetting to put one on if i have to go out of the house!

              2. MusicWithRocksIn*

                It kind of sounds to me like she was just hanging around the house in her usual quarantine outfit and jumped on the call without putting any thought into what she was wearing. Which for me is super weird because I probably spend about as much time doing hair/makeup/ outfit picking for a job interview as I do for attending a wedding.

            2. Tallulah In The Sky*

              Thank you for saying this. No, not wearing a bra is not unprofessional or something to shame women for.

              1. Environmental Compliance*


                Signed as someone who wishes a bra wasn’t necessary, but haven’t yet found a good way to contain larger…assets…that like to be perkier for no damn reason.

                Tank tops don’t work, I will end up drenched in sweat. I prefer not to have the Jiggle (TM) as it makes me personally uncomfortable (and certain things get sore with that much friction).

                Treat it as an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction, one-off occurrence, and move on. FWIW, I’m someone who doesn’t want to see anyone’s headlights at work but is fine ignoring especially perky ones.

                1. Rachel in NYC*

                  That’s the problem- he could see her nibbles is vague enough that she could have been wearing a bra but the wrong bra or she wasn’t wearing a bra.

                  I also admit that this is why I currently make sure that my camera only gets me shoulders up for video calls right now- no bra requires.

                2. Koalafied*

                  It’s possible. Since LW is hearing this second-hand, we don’t know exactly what Bob saw. I’ve absolutely heard men exaggerate things like this before. (Ex: A sliver of a woman’s bra cup was momentarily visible because of the way her v-neck shirt stretched when she leaned over to reach for something. She quickly fixed it. Male colleague later reported to others that “her boob popped out” in the meeting.)

              2. OOOFSTER*

                Came here to say this! I honestly feel bad for people that say things like “it may be uncomfortable, but it’s convention’ GTFOH with that. ick. Women, it is up to us to stop this, not reinforce it!

                1. soon to be former fed really*

                  I’m old enough to remember the bra burning years. Most of us put those suckers right back on. My clothes fit better. It does come off at home (although my well-fitting cotton bras are ot uncomfortable), but for an interview? Yeah, I’d put one on. And white tee shirts are usually used for wet tee shirt contests for a reason, they are notoriously see-through even without water!

              3. Alton*

                Agreed. Though men sometimes wear undershirts under professional clothes, I don’t think that a man’s nipples being noticeable occasionally or his shirt being more translucent than he realized is seen as nearly as “shameful.” I can concede to that it’s unprofessional to wear really revealing clothes, which can mean that it’s better to wear some sort of supportive garment if you have a larger chest, but women don’t inherently “need” bras.

                1. Kettricken Farseer*

                  I worked with a man years ago who often wore thin shirts and while you couldn’t see the nipples themselves, you could certainly tell if he was cold. We called him ‘Nipple Dave’

                2. soon to be former fed really*

                  Because a mans breasts and nipples are not sexualized. We’re not going to change this in our lifetime.

              4. soon to be former fed really*

                It’s not not wearing a bra that is the problem, it’s the nipples being on full display.

                1. amianai*

                  “Can tell you have nipples” != “On full display”

                  Let’s at least stick to what was in the letter, which is that they were somewhat visible instead of assuming they were out and proud.

              5. blaise zamboni*

                +1 I’ve seen male nipples through white shirts plenty of times. No one seemed bothered then.

                I know this is a convention and I’d never go without a bra for something professional, because I know this is the reaction people have. But it sucks. They’re just nipples.

                1. BeesKneeReplacement*

                  Although sometimes nipples show through bras, even those foam-lined “t-shirt bras” and the cattiest girl in your high school shouts in the middle of the hallway, “Wow! Are you cold because I can soooooo see your nipples!”

              6. BeesKneeReplacement*

                Yup. This is honestly the first time I’ve heard that not wearing a bra is unprofessional. It’s such a weird thing to me. At one point, being without a girdle was unacceptable, but that passed and I assumed similar attitudes about women’s undergarments had gone the same way. Maybe it never registered because I need support if I’m upright at all for more than 5 minutes, but I was doing it for my own comfort, not anyone else’s.

            3. A Teacher*

              Yeah, honestly I haven’t worn a bra (except a sports bra to work out in if I’m doing something extra jiggly) since March and I am seriously considering never wearing one again. You know, unless I need one for working out or maybe if I’m dressing up for a wedding or the like. I’ve got small breasts and I just don’t need one and they are so uncomfortable.

              1. Karo*

                Man, I don’t think my Aunt has worn a bra in the 32 years I’ve known her, including weddings, funerals and the like – and she’s not small chested. And the only reason I even know that/have ever thought about it is because she accidentally flashed me once. You do you.

              2. A Simple Narwhal*

                I’ve only worn sports bras the entire quarantine, I’m struggling at the idea of wearing a “real” bra again someday!

                1. Quill*

                  I’ve gotta order more because not wearing one is not good for my posture, but also shopping online is a pain…

                2. Third or Nothing!*

                  I’ve only worn sports bras or wireless nursing bras for 3 years now and I’m not sure I can go back. But I also want something pretty cause I feel more confident when I wear pretty things. DARN IT can’t we have pretty undergarments in extended sizes that don’t cost $100 each?

                3. Koalafied*

                  @Third or Nothing – check out Aerie! They have a commitment to inclusivity and a large selection of bralettes attractive enough to be worn as outerwear in the right settings (ones where you can bare your midriff).

                4. Curmudgeon in California*

                  I only wear sports bras, period. I’m fairly well “endowed” (I call it burdened) and if I don’t wear a boob strap, I end up sticking to myself.

                  My experiences with underwires and heavily structured bras in my younger years were not pleasant, either in terms of physical discomfort or unwanted attention. I’ve ended up with cuts and gashed from underwires, and lets not talk about the creepers.

                  If a workplace wants me to dress superfem and wear skirts, blouses and shape emphasizing bras, it’s definitely not the place for me.

              3. Koalafied*

                I haven’t worn a bra since 2016! I do like to have some containment, but I switched to bralettes, or close-fitting tank tops, usually cropped, on occasion. After about six months I realized I was never going to wear a bra again and threw them all out.

              4. GS*

                I haven’t worn a bra except in the situations you describe for twenty years, it seems to be fine. I work with a LOT of men in a traditionally masculine field. I do need to choose the shirts I wear carefully, but it’s not too much different than choosing shirts that don’t clearly show the lines of a bra through it in the first place. I wear a fair number of printed collared shirts, plaid shirts, or sweaters when I’m in office clothes.

            4. CatPerson*

              I’m really glad you said that, Alison! I only wear one to work because I don’t need one, and I wish I didn’t have to wear one then! If I have to go back to working from office after several months of not wearing one, it’s going to be agony!

            5. Cercis*

              Once upon a time, women didn’t leave the house without their girdle (panty girdle that had garters was what my grandmother wore, and didn’t leave “for town” without it on). My first professional job required that women wear pantyhose (or some kind of leg covering), in 1997. There’s a very good chance that more women will quit wearing bras as a result of this pandemic just like we gave up girdles and pantyhose. I personally have only worn a “nice” bra when I was dressing up since March, otherwise I go completely without or wear a comfortable sports bra. I’m a C cup, and I’ve decided I just can’t be bothered to care (of course, I work as a consulting arborist in Austin Texas, so there are fewer “requirements” for me).

          2. Avasarala*

            I also wondered whether the shirt was actually see-through, as in, could the interviewer see colors or just contours? Could they see her actual nipples or could they just tell that she had them?

            I don’t think it affects the advice, but I bring it up because it is very common for clothing to still reveal the shape of what is underneath–underwear lines, bra contour lines, body fat rolls, nipples on men and women–even through multiple layers of clothing. She could have been wearing undergarments and the contours still show through.

            If that’s the case I wouldn’t see any reason to doubt her judgment, any more than judging dudes for being able to tell which way they’re hanging by the drape of their pants.

            1. Tiny Soprano*

              I’m inclined to agree. Some people just have pointy nipples that you can see in anything short of a steel breastplate. No padded bra can compete, and then you look like you’re not wearing a bra. Super embarrassing.
              If she seemed otherwise professional and of sound judgement, I wouldn’t assume intent.

              1. MayLou*

                What would the reaction be if it was a man whose nipples were visible/prominent through a light-coloured shirt?

                1. caps22*

                  I’ve definitely seen that, particularly with men who are wearing nicely tailored white dress shirts with no undershirt, which is common outside the US. It’s not my favourite look, and neither is the chest hair peeking out the top of the open collar, but it’s still considered professional.

                2. Ladylike*

                  Even for a man, a white T-shirt for a job interview is just not appropriate. When we do interviews for production line workers in my company, they dress better than that. It’s just not interview attire.

                3. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  I have always worn a white t-shirt under any button down shirt to work, even in the summer I usually wear a white t-shirt under a polo to prevent any nip slips. I am not sure where I picked up the idea of undershirts, but I thought all men wore them. Beyond the issues of being see through, I find under shirts to be very beneficial. They help prevent armpit sweat stains on the actual button down shirt and generally keeps it cleaner and easier to wash. Replacing a t-shirt because it has sweat stains is cheaper than replacing a button down.

                  I have never observed my coworkers closely enough to notice what under garments they do or don’t wear, but I imagine that if a male coworker wore a shirt that was see through without an under shirt I would mostly ignore it, but I would probably them know at the end of the day that it was a bit see through. If it were a male interview candidate I would not mention it at all.

                4. Mike S*

                  I’m a guy and my nipples have been noticeable through dark red knit shirts. (Pointy is pointy.) I had a boss who would make humorous comments about it occasionally, but that was it (that I know of).

                5. Alice's Rabbit*

                  At my office, they’re asked to wear an undershirt. It’s unprofessional, regardless of gender.

              2. MsSolo*

                Since I’ve been pregnant, a padded bra, t-shirt, and woolly jumper aren’t enough to prevent a visible outline from the right angle.

              3. Black Horse Dancing*

                Tiny Soprano–this is my male boss. He nips out more than any woman I know and yes, it’s noticeable. He’s still considered professional.

              4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                Making occasional pointy nipples, even though a bra, less obvious is one of the (several) reasons that I wear shirts with loud patterns pretty much all the time. (The other main reason is that it’s less obvious when you spill something on them. I have several lots-of-shades-of-brown patterned shirts that I particularly wear on days when I’m worried about potential coffee spills, for instance. (The third main reason is that no one notices that all of your shirts are of identical cut and fabric if they’re all really different prints. I can basically wear the same shirt every day and it simplifies shopping immensely.))

            2. Retail not Retail*

              I also wonder if, as a guy, he understood what he was seeing. Sometimes they get hard and say oh you’re wearing a bra? Ha!

            3. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Likewise, was she actually without a bra? It is entirely possible to have a bra that does not stop nipple bumps. I’ve had a few myself. And in an age of mail-order clothing, it is easy to end up with one where the padding inserts are the part thats painfully visible. I can easily imagine spotting those god-awful little round pads on a video test and removing them, not realizing what would happen when the air conditioner kicks in.

              1. Mockingjay*

                I don’t like bras. I tolerate heavy sports bras in the gym, but my everyday bras are as light as I can find. (I’ve tried heavier coverage and I sweat through them.) If you notice nipple bumps – those are just body parts. (And for those offices that insist on keeping the AC set on Arctic – you will see nipple bumps. No bra in the world can conceal the result of frigid conditions.)

              2. Ladylike*

                If the white T-shirt was made from the more modern, threadbare-looking fabric (which many of them are), I would not be surprised in the least if the color and contour of her nipples was visibile.

            4. Jdc*

              Yes. I don’t get this concept that women are supposed to magically pretend they don’t have nipples. If you see a point, well, shockingly, like most every other human and many animals, I have nipples. The horror. If you can tell me the shade of pink, ok be offended.

              1. Jdc*

                And might i add that men’s suits leave little the the imagination down south. So if we have a problem with nipple outline you all should know I can see the outline of your package all day long. Which, personally, is not a complaint.

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  This has not been my experience. I have worked in professional offices for 20 years, and I have never seen the outline of a coworker’s package. On most, even rear views are not prominent. I’m a straight female, US South, I’ve checked out packages and rears at the club, so I at least know what I’d be seeing if this was a common thing.

                  I did notice tighter pants in Europe, could this be a geographical difference?

                2. Vins*


                  I’ve seen plenty of package in suits in the South when men were wearing properly tailored suits. When wearing off the rack, not as much.

                  YMMV, but when I’ve visited friends in Atlanta we once were agog at the amount on display by the male lawyers out for lunch.

                  Tailored suits with a very modern (last 20 years) slim cut do show package. Husband is always asked if he dresses left or dresses right. There’s a reason they ask that. They want to know how he’s going to arrange things bc there’s not enough room in the crotch to shift around. It all has to be positioned.

                3. Vins*

                  As an old, I can tell you that one used to see it in casual wear (go watch men in shorts on Magnum PI reruns) but not suits. Now, shorts are loose, suits are tight. We’ve flipped it entirely.

                  Anyone in a tailored slum-cut suit made in the last two decades will show some package. Loose cut older suits won’t.

                4. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

                  “Husband is always asked if he dresses left or dresses right. There’s a reason they ask that. ”

                  I’ve never been asked that. I wonder if it was a joke.

              2. Vina*

                No joke. It’s always something professional tailors ask men.

                Every man I know with customized or tailored suits have been asked.

                Just gooogle it

                “When you’re fitted by a tailor, they’ll ask if you dress ‘right’ or ‘left’. They’re asking you if your appendage naturally hangs to the left or right of your trousers’ crotch. … The majority of men dress to the left. It’s basic biology – most males have left testicles which hang lower than the rig”

                Maybe you haven’t been asked b/c it’s obvious or the tailor already knew.

            5. Ohlaurdy*

              Yeah, this was the first thing I thought of actually. I have pretty huge breasts and my nipple bumps end up visible at some point in time for every top other than extremely thick sweaters. I’m not willing to wear a different bra than the one that makes my body the most comfortable, and I decided a really long time ago to stop worrying about it.

          3. Em*

            I am a doctor doing video visits with patients today without wearing a bra. I am however wearing a colored tank top under my patterned white blouse, and have on an unbuttoned cardigan. I have small breasts and no need for any support unless I’m running or something (and even then a bralette is usually fine)

      3. Tallulah In The Sky*

        Just because you wouldn’t doesn’t mean nobody should. I don’t agree that not wearing a bra is something inherently unprofessional, or something we should penalize women for.

        My guess is, if she had worn a darker coloured bra, or with patterns, and the interviewer could see it through her clothes, it wouldn’t be very professional either. So just make sure you dress professional and check for wardrobe malfunctions.

        1. Vins*

          Yes, I’d find brakes fine. A colored bra and light shirt would make me wonder. If the woman was 20, I’d think “hasn’t learned yet.” If she were 50 I’d think she should have learned. Skin tone color bras, pinks and corals and browns just a shade lighter than your skin tone, etc always work with light shirts. Even better than white

          In this case, I’d assume she didn’t intend to show nipple.

          As for the white T-shirt, I’ve seen plenty of female lawyers wear nice tshirts under sweaters and suits . It’s not inherently casual unless it’s a casual shirt. A $100 well made one from Talbots would not be.

          1. Katrinka*

            I’m in my 50s and I’ve had shirts that I thought were thick enough to hide my pointy boobs because when I tried them on they were but when I wore them to work and took off my jacket, discovered they weren’t. It happens. The polite thing is pretend it didn’t happen (even if asked) for anyone other than friends, family, or co-workers.

      4. Karo*

        That 100% depends on how you’re built and how comfortable you are with your body. Generally speaking, if you have smaller breasts or less give-a-damn, it’s less likely to be a wardrobe convention and you’re more likely to be okay going without a bra.

      5. KoiFeeder*

        She could wear a camisole instead. I wear a binder in lieu of a bra, but that’s not really normalized.

      6. LeahS*

        Oh this is making me remember the time that I stayed over at my then boyfriends house and had a job interview and forgot to bring a bra!! I was mortified but at least my shirt was maroon and I had a sweater. Totally different situation but it was awful haha

      7. Eukomos*

        Neither would I, but plenty of people have different bodies and preferences than I do. They’re not wrong, just different. And this particular woman was unlucky. Also, how do we even know comfort was the reason? Or if we’re talking mild or severe discomfort? I’ve definitely had medical issues where bras caused pretty severe discomfort, and if I could have been mentally comfortable going out in public without one it would probably have been the medically better choice.

    3. Anon woman without breast cancer*

      Agree she should have worn a bra. However… and this is a stretch…like me, she could be going thru health issues (I have not worn a bra since October). I wear tank tops under my shirts, tho. But literally this week I got 4 sports bras ordered online, and am trying them out now after my breast cancer surgery and all the changes I have been thru. But likely she just mis judged and it can be politely ignored.

      1. Tallulah In The Sky*

        I truly wonder, why should she wear a bra ? If the shirt hadn’t been seen through, would it have mattered ? If not, the issue is the shirt. If it is, I really wonder why people find this unprofessional.

        You should absolutely dress appropriately, which means if you’re not wearing a bra make sure you’re not flashing anyone, but I don’t agree that a bra is mandatory for all women to be professionals.

        1. Vins*

          Americans sexualize women unfairly and inconsistency. I wear bras and shave my armpits and legs. If someone else doesn’t, I don’t care.

          The lines of professional dress are entirely arbitrary. My law school – very liberal west coast – told all women to wear skirts and have manicured nails. Also, to wear hose. Friend in conservative rural Southern state said her law school told them none of those.

          I’ve seen male Judges in jeans in court.

          1. Manicured nails AHHHH!?*

            (I’m doing a law internship late this summer, provided the current pandemic lets up before then)

            Manicured nails as in from a salon? Or just cut nicely and clean? I keep my nails long but always clean, and occasionally paint them with drugstore nail polish.

            I’m hoping its the latter, because I dislike getting manicures and also cannot afford that regularly! But I am in the south so maybe they won’t care? This is not something I had thought about for my internship.

            1. Vina*

              I just think neat and clean is fine. But they meant professional manicure.

              My point is the rules suck and are arbitrary and ever-shifting.

              I practice in several (non-contiguous) states all over the USA (one of them in the South) and have a BFF level friend in Kentucky. No one wears hose. Most of the women wear pants some of the time. Very few wear actual suits. Usually a skirt and sweater. Even in the summer b/c Southern courthouses are notorious for being meatlocker-level cold.

              The South is not nearly as frigid and conservative in court dress as people think. YMMV if you are in a big firm or more conservative court.

              Best advice I can give you is layers b/c of the meat-locker level air conditioning in the more humid climes.

              1. dragocucina*

                I’m reminded of our former DA in my southern county. She never wore skirts, has flame red hair, and never wore muted colors. She left public office and is now doing quite well in private practice. Her personal style was never a point of discussion. Having served on a jury trial that she prosecuted we just commented on her presentation of facts.

                I do agree on the meat locker level of cold in the courtroom. I think my teeth were chattering so loud it was hard to hear testimony.

                1. BeesKneeReplacement*

                  Yup. Some lawyers do very well having a specific look. I recall a defense attorney who wore various color seersucker suits May-August, sometimes with a formal string tie. Combined with his shiny bald head and white goatee, he definitely did not fit in with what other attorneys were wearing (in Brooklyn). I never once heard of it negatively impacting his career and it meant he was always easy to spot.

              2. Delta Delta*

                Yes to meatlocker-level cold. I practiced in a courthouse for some time where my party’s counsel table was positioned directly below an a/c vent. In the summer I would often bring tights to put on before hearings, and would bring giant pashminas so I could wrap up in them like blankets. That table was legendary for being freezing cold.

          2. Delta Delta*

            File that to “more crappy law school career services advice.” I say this as a lawyer and law school instructor. They’ve got no idea what really goes on. Heck, where I practice I’ve gotten away with “nice” flip flops in court.

          3. Anonymoose Esquire*

            Lawyer here — during mock trial in law school, some of my (fellow female classmates) got more feedback about the height of their heels than their ability to present a case. It’s infuriating. In practice (albeit very liberal west coast city), unless the heels are so obviously distracting (have feathers on them or something) or you can’t walk in them, I don’t think anyone cares.

            But yeah, professional norms and professional dress are not this objective thing. Like all things, they are influenced by systemic racisms/sexism/ableism.

            1. Katefish*

              In law school I was told not to wear heels in any color other than black so as not to be distracting. In practice people usually wear something suit-adjacent, but I practice before a judge that likes bright colors and would think this was dumb advice even if I didn’t.

        2. Alice's Rabbit*

          If you want to wear a thin, white shirt, some sort of undergarment is required. Male or female, no one wants to see nipples at the office.
          It doesn’t have to be a bra. A camisole or undershirt would be fine. Or a sports bra, for a halfway compromise. But whatever you choose, the fabric needs to be solid enough to smooth out those tips.

    4. Jedi Squirrel*

      This is unkind and unfair at best, and victim-blaming at worst. There are all sorts of reasons she might not have been wearing one.

      I know a lot of people who are having laundry issues right now because they live in an apartment and don’t have an in-unit washer and dryer.

      Try to lead with grace.

      1. Vina*

        Since we have no idea if she did this on purpose or accident, what this actually looked like, if she were wearing a bra, if this was a fancy t-shirt of high end material or a walmart special, etc. the only two choices are be graceful and assume accident or be judgmental and assume she did it on purpose. I know which I’d chose.

        We simply do not have sufficient facts to judge this woman as having been purposeful or really stupid. We don’t. We can spin all sorts of fictional hypos and what-ifs. But those aren’t relevant b/c that’s not what LW asks.

        LW: Tell your male friend to ignore it and assume it was an accident. If it is a pattern and on purpose and clearly unprofessional, his employer will deal with it when she shows up.

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        “I know a lot of people who are having laundry issues right now because they live in an apartment and don’t have an in-unit washer and dryer.”

        I’m skeptical that there are apartments without sinks, though. If you handwash yesterday’s clothing in the sink every day and hang it to dry, you’re good to go.

        1. Vina*

          Not if it’s silk and some types of other natural fibers.

          Also, having a sink doesn’t mean having an iron, etc.

          It’s entirely possible that there’s no way for her to effectively clean her professional wardrobe.

          It’s also assuming she has one. I know so many people that can’t afford an interview suit. It’s a catch-22. Can’t get the job without one. Can’t afford one without a job.

        2. Third or Nothing!*

          Our washer and dryer were broken for about 2 1/2 weeks. It was hell trying to wash everything in the kitchen sink, and my workout gear never truly got clean no matter how hard we scrubbed. It was even harder than when I had to wash clothes in a bucket while visiting friends in another country where indoor plumbing isn’t the norm! Washing in the sink is not a great solution unless you’re really set up for that sort of thing and you know what you’re doing.

        3. Jedi Squirrel*

          This is not really practical if you have roommates, children, or god forbid, a baby.

          I’m struggling to keep up and I live alone and wear things more than once (more than twice, usually).

        4. Avasarala*

          Have you tried handwashing your clothes in the sink? It’s really hard, things never quite get clean, they don’t dry in time/properly and get smelly. This was a proper job back in the day and weak handwashing in a small apartment sink is not a good substitute.

    5. Observer*

      Your comment and most of this thread are just jaw dropping, and not in a good way.

      Lots of women with perfectly good judgement don’t wear bras. And it’s totally not unreasonable to expect a t-shirt not to be transparent, event though they tend to be a bit more drapey. Not realizing that this particular combination is going to be a bit of a problem REALLY does not say anything about anyone’s judgement.

      1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        I think the combination of things though is more than a bit questionable. Is it inherently unprofessional to not wear a bra? No. Is it inherently unprofessional to wear a T-shirt? Depends on industry, but in some this is fine. But to wear a t-shirt to an interview? Unless this woman is very, very junior, that’s questionable in and of itself. Sure, pandemic, maybe in normal circumstances she’d borrow a blazer but gambled that it was worth the risk to the interview rather than to risk it, but add to that that it was a white shirt, worn without a bra such that the nipples were “visible”, which I understood to mean could see color rather than just outline, and it starts to add up to a pattern to the point where it’s reasonable to question her judgement. Any one of those things could be written off, but all of them is a bit much.

        1. BeesKneeReplacement*

          Some people will refer to any top that isn’t a button-down or sweater as a t-shirt. I’ve had very confusing conversations with people on more than one occasion because of this. I have tops that were made out of a jersey knit (ie t-shirt material) that we entirely suitable to wear as an attorney in court.

          The lack of specifics about the shirt worn and what was seen leave too much to everyone filling in the blanks individually.

    6. staceyizme*

      I wonder about the “no bra” assertion because it IS possible for nipples to show even with a bra. Also, we’re in a world where moms are entitled to breast feed and be free from remarks or other harassment. Noticing someone’s body when it’s otherwise covered is increasingly an anachronistic privilege that’s more likely to occasion difficulty for the person who noticed and took action (such as discriminating in a job interview) than otherwise. It’s creepy in the same way that noticing someone’s menstrual products in their desk, purse or locker or commenting on someone’s use of insulin or other medication is. Don’t focus on someone’s physicality so much. Not every little fart, nip slip or inappropriate yawn requires policing. We’re human and perhaps work should take a half step forward and just DEAL with that fact.

        1. Lexi*

          I wonder how many men have no idea that you can see nipples through a bra. I best most of them have never thought about how hard it can be to get bras and shirts to cooperate sometimes.

    7. stiveee*

      I hope mandatory bra wearing is cancelled after quarantine. I don’t need one, and everyone has nipples.

    8. Alice's Rabbit*

      I tend to agree. Everyone knows that a white t-shirt is sheer. Not only do you need a bra, you need a beige or gray bra. This is not a malfunction; it was a deliberate choice.
      But if he wants to give her the benefit of the doubt, he can conduct a follow-up interview, and see if she’s more professional than the last time. If yes, then maybe hire her, but be sure that her on-boarding includes the company dress code, and be willing to have the conversation with her when she dresses like that again.
      If no, then don’t hire her. How someone dresses for an interview absolutely matters when making hiring decisions, as Alison has pointed out time and again.

    9. OpsAmanda*

      I think it’s questionable that she wore a plain white t-shirt to an interview. Even if the industry is more casual, you usually dress up for the interview. Maybe not a full suit, but at least a dress shirt.

  1. Courtney*

    LW#3, is there an environmental aspect they might be concerned about? I.e. they’re not happy about ‘wasting’ paper? I personally take all the scrap paper in the office, clip it together, and use it as a notepad and carry it to meetings. I didn’t think it was worth wasting money or paper on a notepad I’d just throw out so this works for me. Of course, people might have feelings about this optics of this, but I work in a small enough office that most people know me and can shrug it off.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Very early in one of my first jobs (so late 90s-ish), I went to a project meeting empty-handed. A senior employee took me aside afterward and told me nicely that I risked looking unprepared and disengaged if I didn’t at least have something on which to take a few notes for myself in a meeting, so it was a good habit always to bring a pen and pad to a meeting.

      That has stuck with me. I don’t always use them for meeting notes per se (… sometimes in a really boring meeting where my presence seems unnecessary, I’m working on something for another project, or writing my grocery list), but I try always to have writing materials nearby at work, and I’m usually glad I do. Also, these days sometimes I show up with my iPad, but I still don’t show up empty-handed.

      Now, LW3’s people DO have something on which to take notes … it’s just not quite what she had in mind.

      1. Courtney*

        That was solid advice. I wasn’t ever told that explicitly however I started doing it when I realised I was missing and forgetting important things from meetings :)

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        When I read this my first thought was that I used to write on my hand all the time, back in the dark ages of the 90’s before we all carried tiny computers in our pockets. These days I just type a quick note into my phone if I need to remind myself of something. But at work I do try carry a small notebook and pen with me whenever I can.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I still do it, if I just can’t remember something. Like if I need to remember to buy toilet paper, I write a big T on the back of my hand.

          I always take a pad and pen into meetings. If nothing else, I can doodle. And we already had this conversation about how it helps you listen, so don’t @ me.

        2. Phony Genius*

          I can’t get used to seeing people take notes on their phone. And sometimes, people take a picture of something rather than writing a note about it (sometimes during a presentation). I keep pulling neck muscles shaking my head without actually moving it.

          1. MusicWithRocksIn*

            I’ve never done it in a meeting, but I am otherwise super guilty of taking photo reminders. They are so handy! Often it is, “hey this thing – need to buy more” or “look for this online at a cheaper price” but I also will do it lots of other things.

          2. pancakes*

            It’s very useful to have a photo if it’s something you want translated via OCR. I used that the other day for a packet of seeds from the Ukraine I couldn’t read. It’s also sometimes useful to embed a photo in a note, either in the Notes app or another, like Evernote. I’m not sure what the problem is for you but these apps and technologies are probably not going away anytime soon!

          3. Mr. Shark*

            It’s so easy to just take a picture of some things, though.
            Using your phone has become so common, I see it in meetings all the time. I use my phone at times and take notes on it, but generally I just bring in a piece of folded scrap paper and take notes on that.
            I do have a small note pad that I use at times as well, and I’ll use that up and then use scratch paper until I have a chance to buy a new one.
            But using a phone is not that big of a deal these days.

    2. Jackalope*

      I personally find it hard to keep track of small notebooks. They generally are too big to fit in my pocket and I end up leaving them places. I try my best not to use my hands for notes but they are something I always carry with me, so I will sometimes write notes that are very important (such as “Rent!” if I’m afraid I’ll forget to pay…).

      1. Courtney*

        That sounds pretty fair to me! I feel like ‘Rent’ is different to a full days worth of work and meetings, and I definitely do this too for buying things like my brother’s medicine (which reminds me, I need to stop at the pharmacy tonight to pick up my brothers medicine).

      2. MassMatt*

        How about using Evernotes, or any of the hundreds of other apps available on your phone? Maybe you don’t like typing on a small Keypad but it’s better than writing on your hand. It just seems so unprepared, and yes, immature. An emergeny, OK fine, but this coworker’s hand is COVERED in notes repeatedly. That is bizarre.

        1. Batgirl*

          I’d love to do that if phones were not strictly banned in my workplace. I also have Jackalopes issue of not being able to carry one. (I have a trolley for books, pen on my lanyard, a holster for supplies, arms for everything else) my hand is taking surprise notes until we all get robo-cop style desktops for our faces.

        2. Rae*

          OP 3: This is me! I used to write on my hand all the time. It is much easier to keep up with than many scraps of paper. BUT in an effort to look more professional and be better organized I got a blank To Do list tattoo on the inside of my wrist. I also had a notepad printed with the same style To Do list and 25 lines. Important urgent stuff goes on my wrist, everything else goes on the notepad. Obviously I function better with a to do list to work from, but I also work in a field where I rotated through several workspaces each day and often need to follow up later with clients or co-workers.

          1. yala*




            If I could handle needles (and something indelible on me), I would do that in a heartbeat.

          2. RecoveringSWO*

            Ok, that’s just a baller tattoo idea! It’s like Memento, but for professionals, not revenge seekers. Good for you!

            As an aside, if anyone is interested in transitioning to notepads when it hasn’t worked in the past, I would recommend one of these waterproof/indestructible notepads (link:×5-top-spiral-notebook ). You can get them in sizes small enough to fit most pockets and light enough to attach to something else you carry via keyring. At my busiest job, I got into the habit of looking at my notepad everytime I sat down at work. Training myself into that habit was really useful and then when I entered a more conservative field, I easily transitioned into bring a sleek planner with me everywhere (Bonus: mine has a zipper so I can store tampons if I don’t have pockets or want to carry a purse around that day, not that I should be embarrassed.)

          3. OP#3*

            Wow, that’s pretty dedicated. I mean I don’t think I would encourage my daughter to get that done, but I bet she can relate.

        3. The IT Plebe*

          +1 for Evernote, but having your phone out during meetings, even if you’re actually taking notes, still looks pretty unprofessional and like you’re not actually engaged. It sucks because that really is the best solution if you’re not into keeping track of small paper notebooks, but the optics just aren’t good.

          1. Observer*

            This is becoming a less and less common attitude as note-taking apps (not just evernote) have become all but ubiquitous.

            And if you want to make sure that people know you’re not just playing games a casual comment about it generally takes care of that.

            1. Mr. Shark*

              I try and make sure everyone next to me sees me taking notes, if I’m using my phone. Sometimes I’ll keep it flat on the table, or just make it obvious that I’m not hiding anything and not on Facebook or other social media.

        4. Turquoisecow*

          Yeah, most people in my office carry their phone around with them everywhere, so even if paper is unavailable or inconvenient, it wouldn’t be hard to take out a phone and type oneself a note. My phone comes with a Notes app for this very purpose, and while I don’t use it often, it’s much more convenient than writing on my hand, and less likely to wash off.

        5. yala*

          Honestly, digital notekeeping has never really worked super well for me for little reminders. It’s still too easy to forget.

          Granted, I haven’t done the write-on-hand thing in a while, with the exception of the occasional absolute-must-remember-to-do-this-thing-i-keep-forgetting bit. Thing about ADHD is it’s easy to forget stuff that isn’t literally right in front of you.

          1. LJay*

            Yeah, digital notekeeping has never worked for me because it’s sort of out of sight, out of mind.

            But carrying around a small notebook does because it’s an extra physical item sitting in front of me and I see it and go “hey I have notes in there”.

            I have never done the hand thing, even in grade school.

            Also in a pinch when I’ve left my notebook somewhere else and am running to a meeting I grab a clump of post-it notes. Then I can either just stick them to my computer or desk when I am done with them or stick them in the notebook when I retrieve it.

            1. Quill*

              Yeah, my organization tends to lean towards “if I haven’t seen it, it doesn’t exist” so

            2. Marc deMarco*

              Rather than digital notekeeping, I text it to myself. It’s a whole text string of to dos.

      3. Em*

        Use stick-it notes! They’re my desert island office supply.

        My desk at work is full of different sizes/styles of them and I always carry a stack around the office with me shoved in a sweater pocket. The larger, almost double normal sized notes fit nicely on top of my cell phone for easy hand-carrying.

        I love it that I can remove used ones so I don’t lug old/possibly sensitive info around with me but the stack still looks nice unlike removing pieces of paper from a notebook/notepad. And, more than once, I’ve saved a higher ranking person in a meeting who forgot their notebook of choice by being able to offer up half my stack so they still look professional – hard to do taking notes on a piece of paper torn out of someone’s notebook.

        Important reminders can be affixed to my computer screen or cell phone or another high-visibility place. And the nature of my office means I’m often tasking subordinates with things when neither of us are at our desk or with our phones, so the ability to hand off written-instructions for a complicated task is worth it’s weight in gold.

        1. Gloria*

          The problem with post-it notes is that its easy to put them down and forget about them. You’re not going to lose track of your hand or forget to look at it.

          1. yala*

            Yeah, I doubt availability of paper or supplies is why.

            I love sticky-notes. But…they’re not great for reminding me of stuff I MUST do soon

          2. Betrayed Librarian*

            This is why I used to write things on my hand. I have ADHD and I lose things. A lot. If I write a reminder on a post-it or a slip of paper or a pocket-sized notebook, I’m probably going to lose that note. I have never once lost my hand.

            That said, my phone has alarms and gmail does delayed message delivery, so if it’s something important that I’ll need to be reminded of later, I can send a scheduled email to myself. I haven’t written notes to myself on my hand since I mastered the art of the smart phone.

    3. MK*

      I do that also. And you can keep notes on your phone if you are concerned about waste.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        How many of us have heard or red complaints that someone was just playing on their phone during a meeting? I don’t go anywhere near my phone during a meeting for this reason!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I do wish I could edit…too many times I miss the speech-to-text misspellings. :(

    4. Avasarala*

      I do similar. I used to resort to writing on my hands when I was afraid of forgetting something absolutely important. I don’t think it should be plan A or B.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Yes, for me it’s a short term reminder of high importance, like needing to pick up a prescription. My son writes on his hand to remind himself what homework needs submitting (in the Before Times, anyway).

        I take *a lot* of notes in meetings and calls. I’d have scribble all the way up to my shoulder if I didn’t use a notebook!

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I am one who forgets stuff frequently if it’s not written down, so I’m constantly taking notes (either in a notebook or on my laptop) so I don’t miss anything. If I wrote them down on my hands, I’d look like Post Malone. That being said, I agree with Alison that seeing someone with hands full of ink is going to come off as professionally immature. If you’re trying to save the environment, use the technology available.

    6. Smithy*

      In a post-COVID world and the perspective of optics, I would be concerned about assumptions that I’m not washing my hands regularly.

      1. Observer*

        Good point. Especially since it really is hard to keep this stuff readable after one or two proper hand washes.

    7. Observer*

      Using scrap paper is one thing. Writing on your hands is another.

      Using scrap paper that you’ve prepared comes across as being put together and prepared. It’s also a LOT less in your face than writing on your hands.

    8. Claudia*

      My only concern would be if the notes are still on her hand at the end of the day. If it was a long enough day that she would have used the bathroom, and the notes were still there, I’d be worried she hadn’t washed her hands and that’s kind of a big deal any time, but especially right now.

  2. Heidi*

    I’ve been really impressed by some of the sleek-looking masks people are wearing in the grocery store. If you are worried about looking too “hospital,” one of those might go with an interview outfit better. But even if a spiffy mask isn’t an option, I’d still wear one. There’s a possibility that everyone else will be wearing one and wondering why you aren’t.

    1. Kate*

      I have a stylish-looking mask for the rare days I have to go to work in person (Aka once in three months) and then some utilitarian ones for the grocery store, etc.

      A couple mask tips for the OP’s interview, since they may not have thought of them (I hadn’t): most masks for the public aren’t designed for you to be talking a lot. Make sure it really fits well around your nose — you can put a metal clip in front a cheap one if necessary. Also watch your mask around your chin — mine goes quite low on my jawbone (I am not convinced it’s designed for women…) and when I had to speak at length about something (aka jaw going up and down a lot), the mask kept drifting down and needing to be adjusted.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I saw a delicious one advertised online today: from a distance it just looks stylish and floral, but if you get up close you can see that the swirls read “Back the f– up” and “Six feet, motherf–er.”

      I mean, perhaps not for a job interview in person, but for the supermarket it’s tempting.

      1. Just delurking to say...*

        I need that design on the back of a t-shirt for the supermarket queue.

        1. Grapey*

          Stand in front of your cart in line. You can control how far back you are from the next person, and you’ll at least have your cart as buffer from the person behind you.

      2. Leah K*

        I saw an article about a woman making masks with tiny penises and flowers on them. If someone asked her why she had penises on her mask, she would say “Of you can see them, you are less than 6ft away from me. Back the eff up”.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        I’ve seen fabric on Spoonflower that has stuff like “Wash your f*cking hands”, “Stay the f*ck at home”, or even “If you can read this, you’re too close. Back the f*ck up!” I ordered some to make masks with. Otherwise, I’ve been pulling cute fabric out of my stash and making masks that way.

    3. LGC*

      Plus, IT’S CORONA TIME. Some businesses have masks as mandatory to begin with! (Some of those businesses will provide masks upon request.)

      Since it sounds like LW1’s area has a pretty strong mask culture, I’d err on the side of caution here.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        At mine, if you don’t have a mask they *will* give you one. You aren’t getting in without one. But they aren’t doing in-person interviews, because that falls under “if you managed to do it from home before, keep doing it from home.”

    4. Zeus*

      I sew some of my own clothes so if I have extra fabric from some of those projects (I often do) I have made masks to match my outfits! LOL Of course, I rarely go anywhere right now but when I do…. LOOK OUT!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’ve been sewing ones with a filter pocket, from an Instructable (google “DIY face mask with pocket – 10 steps (with pictures)”). I’m getting pretty good at it. For a nose wire, I went to Lowe’s and got some of those long plastic-coated twist ties for tying up tomato plants. They’re green, but you can’t see them through the fabric. The blue shop towel disposable masks are still a really good option, and you don’t need a sewing machine. Google “easy no-sew shop towel mask shortened edit” for instructions.

        Depending on how well the fabric ones turn out, they’re perfectly suitable for wearing to work or an interview. I might even wear my Star Wars one and just let my nerd flag fly. If it’s the right fit, they’ll think it’s cool.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I bought 1.5 mm aluminum bonsai wire for nose wires. It doesn’t rust or flake off paper if you wash it.

      2. BeesKneeReplacement*

        Eshakti is selling masks out of the same material as their dresses. I imagine this is going to be a style for a while.

    5. OP #1*

      This is good advice. I actually don’t even have one of the paper hospital ones, but I do have 2 cute cloth ones my friend made me – one with bright pink leopoard print and the other is a teal color. I have a third one that is made out of t-shirt fabric that happened to match my interview shirt, so I wore that one to the interview. Ironically, that mask was supplied by my current employer. I ended up wearing the mask to the interview, but then when we sat down, we were about 6 feet away from each other, so I took it off for that portion of it due to sitting a safe distance away and it being distracting (and already having a low chance of actually protecting me.)

      1. fhqwhgads*

        FYI all the guidance I’ve read indicates the recommendations are 6 feet AND a mask, not 6 feet OR a mask.

        1. Alli525*

          Thank you for saying this! Particulates from an open, talking mouth can fly a lot farther than 6 feet, especially in a closed room (vs open outdoor space). One college – Stanford or Princeton, I think – is requiring everyone on its slowly-reopening campus to wear masks at ALL times, unless they are alone in a room or car. No exceptions except under ADA, which must be arranged in advance with their disability office.

          1. Anon for this*

            Stanford, at the least. Excerpt from their social distancing protocol:

            “Require all persons to properly wear face coverings at all times in the facility (except if 6 years of age or under, medically inadvisable, or the face covering would create a safety hazard for workers under established health and safety guidelines).”

      2. Elizabeth West*

        In an enclosed space like a conference room or an office, it’s better to keep it on.

        1. Rainy*

          It takes 5 minutes in an enclosed space with an infected person for the viral load to hit infectious levels.

    6. AgainDT*

      Honest and dumb question: where do you get a mask? I made a homemade one, but it’s not great. How do you know what to look for for just general going out, not medical?

      1. Alli525*

        Etsy is a great place to start. I also personally know someone who works in theater costume design, so now that everything she does professionally has been shut down, she’s making masks – if you don’t know anyone personally, consider reaching out to your local high school or community theater company to see if they can connect you with someone.

        1. sam*

          last time I checked, Old Navy was sold out, but you could sign up to get notified when they were back in stock. They were cute and VERY WELL priced (5 masks for $12.95, which is incredibly reasonable – a lot of other places are charging that kind of money for one mask).

      2. pancakes*

        There are tons on Etsy, for starters. If you’re looking for one that can accommodate a removable filter, I’m happy with the one I ordered from Hedley & Bennett, but the ear straps aren’t adjustable. It fits me well but I have other masks with adjustable ear straps that seem like a better idea (though no pocket for a filter).

      3. Kiki*

        One thing I look for are adjustable nose clips– I wear glasses, so masks that don’t sit right on my nose and cheeks cause really bad fogging. That’s not really an issue if you don’t have glasses, though!

        1. sam*

          tip for glasses fogging – try washing your glasses with dish soap – it helps eliminate the fogging issue (and is an old scuba diver trick for goggles)

          1. fhqwhgads*

            Please don’t use this defogging trick for mask-wearing during a pandemic. If your breath is escaping the top of the mask enough to fog your glasses, the mask doesn’t fit correctly and isn’t doing what it’s intended to do: stop your droplets. If you do the soap trick, you lose the fog which is an important clue that the mask needs adjusting at the bridge of the nose.

            1. sam*

              wait…do you think that the cloth masks that people are making are supposed to be perfectly sealed?

              Your breath still…moves through cloth, and the point of cloth masks is that they stop *most* droplets. They are not medical grade N95 masks. People need practical solutions to deal with the fact that their glasses fog up. Not unrealistic expectations and more anxiety over some ridiculous idea that cloth masks are somehow supposed to be hermetically sealed.

      4. Curmudgeon in California*

        So, I make masks. I’ve seen the ones advertised on Facebook, and color me unimpressed. To me they look like they are cheaply made and won’t last more than five washings before they fall apart.

        Everyone and their brother makes than with ear loops. I hate those – they are uncomfortable after an hour. Elastic that goes around the head is much more comfortable.

        There are ones with nose wires and filter pockets. Those are better than just a couple pieces of cloth and ear loops, IMO.

        Personally, I like cotton, or cotton and cotton flannel, with interfacing to help with filtering.


      5. Eukomos*

        Redbubble is doing them now, it’s like Etsy aimed less at crafting and more at visual art so there are some cool prints. Also my grocery store is selling them in the pharmacy section so that might be worth a check.

  3. OP #1*

    OP #1 here- I have a slight update to my post already that I thought I’d share since it adds a slightly interesting twist here. Before emailing Allison, I replied to the email about the interview to confirm the time and asked where to go etc and added a line saying to let me know if the company has an COVID19 related health policies that they would like me to adhere to for the interview. The manager responded saying I could wear a mask if it made me feel more comfortable, but the people there won’t be wearing them. Obviously this isn’t the best sign about the company to begin with, but if I got this job, it would be mostly independent work that could likely be done much from home or with limited contact with people, so I don’t want to eliminate this job prospect just yet, although I recognize his response is a red flag. Given that the masks are mostly to protect others and the interviewer doesn’t seem to be concerned about that and won’t be wearing one for my safety and it would be slightly weird to have my face covered during an interview, I am wondering whether or not I should still wear the mask. Note- I posed this question to Allison, but it was too late to add it to the blog post, but her answer was to still wear it and proceed with caution given the red flag of the company being cavalier about safety like this. Since this email was after this was posted, I’m adding it here to update the readers.

    1. Gaia*

      I would still wear it. And I would question how they have handled the pandemic and what precautions they are taking.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        It definitely struck me as odd that the business is closed to the public because of the pandemic but they’re still doing in-person interviews despite this.

        1. Claire*

          That’s what seemed like the biggest red flag to me–given that the business is in a state where masks are not currently mandated and in an area that hasn’t been badly affected, not requiring the staff to wear masks but allowing them to do so is unwise, but possibly no more than that. The fact that the business is doing that while still being closed to the public (assuming that this is in response to the pandemic and not just because it’s not a public-facing business) is a lot more worrisome to me–either they are concerned about the spread, in which case they should require masks, or they’re not, in which case they should be open. Being closed but not requiring masks gives me the vibe that they don’t care much about their employees. Definitely pay attention to the culture and be aware of the red flag, OP.

        2. Enough*

          I would like to know what being open to the public means. There is a big difference between a retail store and a company that has clients that come in for meetings with employees. If it’s the latter I can see them being comfortable/trusting enough with each other to forgo masks.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            It’s not really a matter of trust, though – it’s a matter of risk management.

            Face to face meetings indoors without masks are a high enough risk that I’m going to judge any employer that’s okay with it. It’s not necessarily a deliberate and malicious flouting of safety, but at a minimum it indicates that they don’t understand how the virus spreads well enough to protect their employees.

            1. sam*

              yeah, I mean my company isn’t generally “public” facing for many of our roles, and we have offices in a bunch of states that are varying levels of open, and yet as a company they have said that no one is going back into offices until at least labor day, and I know from speaking with people on the planning committee that there will be mask policies and whatnot if/when we do go back. Good companies have good risk management, not just because they are touchy-feely do-gooders, but because they presumably also have things like workplace liability insurance that will require them to take all reasonably necessary precautions for a safe workplace, and masks are, quite frankly, easy compared to rebuilding the entire space to give everyone walls.

            2. leapingLemur*

              Even if you trust someone is being careful, that doesn’t mean they’ve somehow not gotten infected. Masks are important right now.

        3. OP #1*

          I was thinking this too. I should clarify though that the business actually is not usually a public facing business to begin with, but I originally thought (at the time of writing in ) it had a public facing element linked to the business in a category of businesses that are closed to in-person customers right now. I have since learned that there is not a public facing element attached to this business like I originally had thought.

    2. pcake*

      This is a job I would never take. They don’t take safety at all seriously – not yours or theirs – or they’re deniers. And keep in mind that just because some companies have jobs that could be done at home doesn’t mean they let their employees work from home. Ask A Manager is full of people who ended up having to work in the office and even share a space after they were told they could work from home.

      1. TeapotNinja*

        100% in agreement. This is a big red flag saying this employer doesn’t care about the safety of their employees.

        Anyone doing in-person interviews these days is blowing it big time.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          What if you do catch COVID-19? Will you get paid at all with no sick/vacation days banked?

          If you test positive, that’s two weeks quarantained. That’s not taking into account how sick/not sick you can be. It may two weeks of sniffles, or three weeks on a vent, plus a tour of duty in a rehab center until you are strong enough to go home.

          The lack of masks have me feel it’s gonna be “sucks to be you if you can’t come back in a month.” They maybe will keep your job, but what about pay?

          Why aren’t they using Zoom/whatever if you could possibly work from home for the interview?

    3. Tinker*

      Yeahhhhh, I try to extend the benefit of the doubt regarding folks who are deviating in the moment from recommended mask practice, but I really wonder about a company that is announcing in advance that they don’t intend to wear masks while interacting extensively with an outsider that they want to make a favorable impression with.

      Interpretation of course variable dependent on context, but if I could independently raise one eyebrow I’d be doing that.

      1. Willis*

        Yeah…even if they don’t wear them regularly when it’s only employees in the building, its pretty careless for the people interacting with OP not to put one on while she’s there. Do the interview by video if you’re unwilling to make safety accommodations for people. And even if the buildings not open to the public, presumably they at least have other interviewees coming. Definite red flag.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Right — it’s one thing if they’re careless in the moment without thinking about it (which is still bad), but it’s much worse to tell you in advance that they’re intentionally not taking recommended precautions.

        I would be very, very wary of the job. Not just for Covid reasons, but because of what else it says about their concern for employees and safety in general.

      3. cncx*

        yes this is me. if i see someone outside without one on, benefit of the doubt but like…inside in an office where there should be policies about externals…huge waving red flag.

      4. Lady Jay*

        I mean, in my city, people who are “okay with you wearing a mask” but choose not to do themselves is just another day in the South.

        At any given point when I go out, about 30% of ppl are wearing a mask. I walked past a guy while I was wearing a mask, and he looked me in the eye and said, “I’m not going to infect you.”

        This is not to excuse the business, only to say that depending on where OP lives, there could be many irresponsible businesses.

        1. Jack Russell Terrier*

          This happened to me once – I looked her in the eye and said ‘but I could be asymptomatic and would hate to infect you’. I don’t think it struck home though.

        2. OP #1*

          I live down south for one year before and could totally seeing this kind of thing happening there. We still have some people like that in my current location. I currently live in a major US city that is not down south and thankfully our city has been ranked one of the highest in the US in terms of complying with the recommended safety guidelines for COVID19 which has slowed the spread in my city. It’s still a risk given we’re in a city, but we’re not a hot bed.

        3. Blueberry*

          I’m glad that guy has the superpower of knowing whether or not he’s infected. Wish I did!

          1. leapingLemur*

            I feel like some people really aren’t paying attention – he could be asymptomatic and feel fine but still spread COVID-19. Also, he clearly doesn’t realize that other people are wearing masks for his safety.

            1. Blueberry*

              You are totally right. I mean, look at people in this very discussion pooh-poohing masks and saying they’re “living our lives” instead! I was hoping the milestone of one hundred thousand deaths might have made some kind of impact on public consciousness, but it appears not, most sadly.

        4. AP*

          The latest version of the NY Times coronavirus map has a neat representation of where in the country cases are rising vs. falling. There’s a stark difference between the northeast U.S. and the south. I think some of the Southern states are going to be hit pretty hard soon.

    4. Casper Lives*

      That’s a smart way to suss out their mask policies! Good luck job hunting.

      At least the interviewer proactively told you they weren’t wearing masks. I’d definitely ask a lot of culture questions when you go, like how often people actually work from home (not just the policy), how Covid-19 has effected their business, and be on look out for anything that hints at disregarding employee safety further, not taking Covid-19 seriously, or political reasons for not wearing a mask that could indicate they make decisions politically instead of evaluating on best business/employee interests. It could be the interviewers who aren’t taking the pandemic guidelines seriously instead of the entire company. It depends on who you’re working with.

    5. Miso*

      Hm, I’m not in the US, but in my country you have to wear masks in stores etc, but not in your office if you can keep enough distance or have a sneeze guard between two people.
      So nobody is wearing masks when customers aren’t around, and personally, I wouldn’t be worried about that.

      1. Fikly*

        There isn’t going to be that kind of distance in an interview setting, though.

        And what makes employees less infectious than customers?

        1. Miso*

          Why wouldn’t there be?
          I didn’t have that many interviews in my life, but in the majority we were definitely more than 2 metres apart.

          We also have sneeze guards here, I’m sure they’d use those in an interview if the room was too small otherwise.

          For the last question you don’t have to ask me but the politicians and scientists in my country.

          1. Random commenter*

            That’s kind of interesting. Are you at opposite ends of a long table?
            Ever interview I’ve done has had me within 2 metres of the interviewer(s).
            For context, I’m in Canada.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              US South, and all in-person interviews have been at about 1M distance, after the handshake. Usually across the short side of a conference table.

          2. Gloria*

            For the last question you don’t have to ask me but the politicians and scientists in my country.

            Maybe you are misunderstanding the politicians and scientists in your country because there is no way they told you that your coworkers are less infectious than your customers. Being around more people does increase your chance of infection, but there is still a very real risk even if you’re around just your coworkers.

            1. Myrin*

              I feel like it’s pretty clear that Miso didn’t mean that politicians and scientists are literally claiming that, for some magical reason, one’s coworkers are less infectious than one’s customers (who are, also magically, never anyone’s coworkers either?).
              (Also, she mentions the caveat of having enough distance and/or guards between people, something that might be harder to achieve with in-person customers – although I personally think it’s probably easier than many assume, they’re just too lazy to think about it for five seconds -, so I’d guess where the differentiation between coworkers and customers comes from.)

              But I’m from the same country and it is indeed a fact that the only two places you have to wear masks are stores and public transport. And that is in fact something that politicians have declared on the advice of scientists.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                My understanding is that risk is a function of number of exposures (E) * time exposed (T) * proximity (P). Stores / Public transport = high E, low T, high P. Offices as described, medium E, high T, low P. It sounds like their model’s assumptions put more weight on P than T .

                The reason people are surprised about your gov’ts advice is the ‘air flow in an office’ study, where 98% of people in one area got sick, while only 4% of people in the other side of the office got sick, and they think it was an air flow issue. Only one descriptive study, and no one’s sure if it was the P or the T that was the driver.

                There’s tons we don’t know about this virus, so people are making their best guesses. The problem comes when people don’t think about or communicate the assumptions well, and people just start going by rote.

              2. Gloria*

                The only reason that governments are not requiring masks in an office without customers is because there is no practical way for the government to enforce that, not because there isn’t a risk. Smart employers require them anyway. Sneeze guards and 6 feet of distance only help a little bit.

                1. Myrin*

                  I didn’t say there was no risk? Or that I agree with politicians’ declarations, for that matter. I commented solely to (hopefully) make it a little clearer what Miso was talking about.

          3. Fikly*

            If the politicians and scientists are telling you that your coworkers are less infectious than other people, they are lying to you. Outside of your workplace, your coworkers are simply other people, with the same chance of being infected as anyone else.

            1. Venus*

              My coworkers are all working from home and are all healthy (so far). The general public includes health-care workers and other essential workers, who are more regularly exposed to the virus. In my experience there is a difference in risk.

              1. Turquoisecow*

                “Healthy” is irrelevant when you have asymptomatic carriers who are contagious. Unless literally none of your coworkers are leaving their houses or accepting deliveries (which seems unlikely), you can’t be sure that none of them are infected and asymptomatic.

                Feeling fine means nothing in this case.

              2. Fikly*

                You don’t know that they are healthy. All you know, is that they say they feel fine. Even if that is the truth, that does not mean they are not infectious.

                While they may be working from home, how do you know they are not encountering the “general public” and getting infected from that avenue?

                You may have a notion of difference of risk, but you do not have an understanding of how to evaluate it.

            2. Kiwi with laser beams*

              OK, Miso probably shouldn’t have tried to apply their country’s policies to what sounds like an American situation, but I do need to clear this up: if Miso’s country’s reasons for not having compulsory mass masking in all settings are the same as my country’s, it’s not because “politicians and scientists are telling you that your coworkers are less infectious than other people”. It’s because there are other policies/measures/factors that are slowing/stopping the spread of the virus effectively enough that the scientists and politicians have judged that that level of masking currently isn’t necessary.

          4. LITJess*

            Just want to point out that 2 meters/6 feet is a MINIMUM distance and that you’re not automatically safe at that point. Ideally, you’d stay 15ft or more away from other people, wear a mask, and never be in a room long enough to breath the same air for an hour or more.

            So it seems unlikely the interview would meet actual best practices for staying safe and instead in this case, not even meet the bare minimum (masks + 6ft distancing).

        2. TimeCat*

          An interview is actually likely to be particularly high risk for transmission. Enclosed space, extended period of time, and talking, which increases potential virus load.

          I wouldn’t go. They aren’t taking reasonable steps to protect your health.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I would be — there’s increasing evidence for airborn transmission of CV19.

      3. Rez123*

        I think this is one of those things where your location and the rules around you really affect how much of a redflag this is. For me, I don’t see this as a red flag. But I’m also pretty sure that if I was in a different location and had different experience with the virus, I would have totally different opinion.

    6. Maxie*

      It sounds like employees who want to wear masks would be made to feel uncomfortable. If you can afford to not risk your health, I would recommend against this. But please wear a mask and social distance for the interview if you go. You don’t know who has COVID-19 and is asymptomatic, or if you are and are a danger to other people.

      1. Avasarala*

        Agreed with this. Where I live it’s usually considered “rude” to wear a mask when dealing with important customers and so on, but if you’re sick/special reasons you can preemptively beg their pardon by explaining the reason and saying you’re wearing the mask for your health, or whatever. Surely COVID counts as a special reason where this would be forgiven.

        1. leapingLemur*

          Are important customers assumed to always be healthy, or is it OK for important customers to infect people?

          1. Blueberry*

            Just like they used to say “A gentleman’s hands are clean” as a reason for doctors to refuse to wash their hands, now we’re expected to consider certain people too important to be susceptible to infection. As if the viruses care about human rank.

          2. Avasarala*

            As Blueberry said, it’s “rude to imply that customers are sick” or to imply that a worker would be working while sick, that’s not very professional now is it.

            It’s not logical, but even in those ridiculous circumstances, you can preemptively explain and then wear the mask. Many places have signs saying “Sorry but we’re going to have our staff wear masks, it’s not personal, sorry for the inconvenience.”

    7. selena*

      Saying they don’t wear masks but would allow you one sounds like they’ll be surprised if any candidate shows up with a mask (given that most candidates would want to copy whatever the interviewers are doing).

      Definitely be specific about job-conditions: i once worked for a company where hr bragged about work-from-home, but it turned out my own manager was paranoid about laziness and wouldn’t allow wfh for anyone ever. I didn’t mind at the time: it was a short commute and the office was pleasant to work in (The manager was terrible in other aspects too, and a big reason i left)

    8. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Personally I wouldn’t risk going. It sounds like they may be ‘the situation isn’t serious’ types and that, at the moment, is a severe health risk to themselves and others.

      It could also open up to more ‘oh there’s no danger so come into work and sit close to other people’ behaviour for them if you’re hired. An interview is a two way process and if this is the best behaviour the interviewers are showing it’s scary what they consider what they’d be like at their worst.

    9. Teacher Teacher*

      I know someone who got COVID from conducting in person interviews. This was the week right before NYC shut down. Symptoms started dropping up and then she was contacted by a contact tracing letting her know that one of their interviewees was positive. She went to the hospital was admitted for about a month. Is discharged now, is on oxygen still weeks later.

      If you go in person wear a mask, and if they give you weird looks etc leave. If you’re in a desperate need of a job, some perspective if you catch it from them and end up hospitalized, you’ll probably be in a worse off financial situation.

      I’m assuming OP you’re in the US. If you were in a country with universal healthcare I’d still be wary but I’d be more confident that you’d be taken care of health wise.

      Good luck, what a stressor already added to a stressful situation.

    10. PB*

      I would be skipping that interview. Masks are to keep other people safe. They’ve basically just told you they don’t care about your safety.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        Exactly what PB said. Your mask protects them, their lack of a mask means you are not protected (unless you have an N95 mask).

        This is a tough call OP, I’m not sure I would go to an in person interview. This is a case where a phone or online interview should be the first, screening, step.

    11. Zeus*

      This company doesn’t seem to get that everyone in that building is breathing the same recycled air. Ugh.

    12. Nervous Nellie*

      If you got the job you would be mostly remote? Don’t count on it, OP. I had the same situation and started a new job 4 weeks ago. I was told that the role would be remote, and then it was, “oh, you know, this role is hard to train remotely” so I was told I had to come in a few hours a day. The gradual upcreep of that means that I am there nearly 40 hours a week now. And the mask use that I was told would be consistent is very hit and miss. Mask users will remove them to eat, and forget to put them back on. People touch items on my desk, and stand too close. The company owner wears a mask sometimes, but not always, and I have heard so many excuses from colleagues about their mask use. I am terrified every day.

      That your potential office is already telling you that your colleagues won’t be masked up is indeed a huge red flag, and a tip of the iceberg of what you may face if you join them.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        Even if everyone is trying their best to follow guidelines, we are none of us perfect. And when not everyone is even trying? When management has a “whatever” attitude? In effect, there are no precautions at all. The company is just putting on a little window dressing.

      2. OP #1*

        The job was for a position that would require independent work all of the time given the nature of the job. Most of the job involves scheduling appointments and driving around town to different clients. This is how this particular type of job normally is all the time, but some of the client visits could possibly be replaced w/ calls/emails right now depending on the client preference. The interviewer told me this role would only require coming in to the office for a meeting once a week and then as needed to get stuff. This is how it normally is even without COVID.

        I totally get what you’re saying though! My most recent job was like what you described where I was supposed to come for training for a day or two and then go remote until I could move. They didn’t have my lap top ready yet, so I stayed in the office for the first week. Then suddently the work from home agreement shrunk down to letting me go part of a week at home before I had to come back to the office which was a major inconvience since I lived 2 hours away and had to stay at a friend’s house when in town for work.

    13. SomebodyElse*

      Hmm… Obviously your comfort level is what matters here, but to offer a different perspective I’ll chime in.

      Before you condemn this company let me explain what you would encounter at an interview at my location…

      You would walk in a door and greeted by a person who is behind plexiglass and who’s desk is about 6 feet back from that glass. You would walk past that office door and another office on your way to the conference room. The conference room has a 10 foot table, that you would most likely be seated on opposite ends of the table from the interviewer. You would be offered a beverage, probably in a disposable cup, from our breakroom which is wiped down with clorox/lysol once per hour. If you had to use the restroom, you’d walk the short way (2 1/2 feet?) across the hall to the individual bathroom, which has been wiped down with clorox/lysol once per hour.

      Now you might see one of the 3 people reporting to the office for essential functions right now, or one of the 6 people that are generally in the office on any given day under normal circumstances. (all of which occupy a single office or spend their day in the warehouse with the overhead doors wide open)

      So yeah, with all of that, masks are really not going to add too much to that party. Now I’m not saying all offices are like this, but enough of them do have conference rooms that are off the beaten path and low occupancy by regular employees, I think that saying that they are irresponsible might just be a little premature.

      1. Gloria*

        So yeah, with all of that, masks are really not going to add too much to that party.

        That’s not true. In an office where the air is recycled through the ventilation system (which is most offices) all of those air droplets that would have been stopped by the masks are moving around the office. The masks would do far more to prevent infection than all of the other preventative measures combined.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          Last I checked, most office buildings are not hermetically sealed, and again, I’m offering the perspective of my office, which does have a questionable HVAC system which draws more than average air into the system (I know this, because of the humidity levels in the summer being pumped in and the bitter cold in the winter that literally howls in).

          A mask in my office would not decrease risk in any meaningful way and the effects would be negligible.

          It’s very possible that the interview location for the LW will be in a location totally opposite of what I described, it’s most likely to be somewhere in the middle of what I described and packed. My point was, the LW doesn’t indicate that they know what the environment is.

          1. Gloria*

            A mask would absolutely decrease the risk in your office. I say this as an epidemiologist who is part of my city’s covid task force. The messaging around masks has been awful from the beginning. Masks are our best method of reducing risks when we are outside our homes. The only reason that no government is requiring masks at all times is because the public would not accept that. But it is being recommended by pretty much everyone with any expertise in infectious disease.

            1. SomebodyElse*

              Ok, I’m going to disengage here, because you are clearly missing the point of my original post and I’m not trying to convince anyone here of anything except to make an informed decision about the company. If no required mask is all the information that the OP needs… then job done walk away from the interview. I personally think that would be a mistake with no other data evaluated.

              @gloria Wear a mask if that is what makes you feel comfortable.

              1. Observer*

                In other words “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”

                The FACTS say that even in a perfectly set up building with the right amount of space, masks DO matter. All the rest of the commentary is fluff.

              2. Blueberry*

                She’s an epidemiologist trying to give us vital information. I think your response is dismissive and unwise.

                Gloria, thank you.

              3. LITJess*

                No, I think the epidemiologist pretty clearly said that your layman’s explination about why you think your office is safe is flawed at best. But please, continue putting others at risk because that’s what not wearing a mask is about at its core. The mask doesn’t protect you; it protects everyone else. It’s not about your “comfort”, it’s about how much you care about the health and safety of your neighbors, coworkers, and community. You not wearing one, makes me less safe not the other way around.

            2. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Former virologist here to say your work and advice is very important!

              (And absolutely masks help. I saw an experiment someone had done with 2 agar plates: one coughing on it with a mask, one without a mask. The one without the mask had way more growth. I know that’s bacterial growth but it’s a good visual)

            3. Curmudgeon in California*

              Thank you.

              I have been having the mask fight with several people. I work for a university with an attached hospital. For people who need to come to campus for research, they are saying masks PLUS distancing.

              The original CDC “Oh, masks won’t work for regular people” message was, quite frankly, wrong on the face of it (just going by what has worked previously in Asian countries.) But people fixate on what they are first told about a subject. So it’s an uphill fight.

    14. MatKnifeNinja*

      5 people in a room I don’t know from Adam? No masks? Me with asthma?

      Having went to 4 COVID-19 funerals these past two months, and doctor friends who have spent a good chunk of their time putting people on vents, and taking people off to let them die, not a chance in hell.

      They are letting you know up from who they are. I’m taking it as they play fast and loose, and worry about the company first.

      I wouldn’t go, but people roll their dice and take their chances all the time.

    15. juliebulie*

      I would still wear it. It shows respect for the safety of others.
      I probably wouldn’t take a job where they didn’t show the same respect for my safety.

  4. Seal*

    #2 – It could be that the white t-shirt/no bra combo looks fine in person but not so much on a webcam. I had a Zoom meeting today with a colleague who was wearing a tank top, but some combination of the lighting, the color of the tank top, and her skin tone made it look like she was going topless. Definitely not the case, but I did a double take when she joined the meeting.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Sometimes lighting really is the main problem. I have a black t-shirt that I didn’t even realise was pretty transparent until I saw it in certain light and you could definitely (unintentionally!) see the outline of my breasts since I wasn’t wearing a bra because pandemic. Thankfully, I don’t have many video calls so the only person who noticed was me, but it truly can happen with any colour of fabric!

      1. Lonely Aussie*

        Oh god. I had issues with the black going sheer at last year’s work xmas party. Was given a really nice black maxi dress that in the house lighting looked opaque. The party was after work, so I wore the dress to work. All was good until I showered out of work and discovered the cleaner had knocked my bra onto the shower floor, it was totally soaked through. Decided just to skip it, I’m pretty happy braless and all was well until I walked into the pub…. In the mirror behind the bar, there was the clear sparkle of my nipple piercings through the fabric due to the lighting. Spent the rest of the night hiding in the corner.

        1. Them Boots*

          Love this! Sorry it happened to you and thanks for sharing! Best laugh of the day

      2. Jdc*

        My husband tells me constantly about the top i was wearing when he met me, sans bra. I thought it was not at all see through, apparently i was quite wrong.

      3. Third or Nothing!*

        Yes, some things look fine inside the house but once you get outside in full sun, you can clearly see the bra underneath the shirt. Happened to me once when I was traveling in an area where that is highly frowned upon. Had to go find a clothing stall ASAP and get another top.

    2. Claire*

      Lighting can be a problem even in person–for a while I was living in an apartment with lots of windows letting in soft, natural light and working at a call center that had bright fluorescent lights, and I quickly learned that an outfit that looked fine at home was not necessarily appropriate to wear to work–and webcams just make it all the worse.

    3. RecentAAMfan*

      I’m starting to feel like I’m the only person who seriously checks myself out before video calls. Not to say the hair isn’t a disaster etc, but I’d certainly notice a nipplegate waiting to happen!

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        See, I would at first, and then I’d get complacent and go “oh I’ve worn this to work before I know it’s fine” but then forget that work’s lighting wasn’t the same as home lighting and oh crap that’s way more see through in this lighting.

        1. Smithy*

          100% had a version of this happen with a silk shell that I regularly used for interviewing pre-COVID times. At some point it got a water mark stain of sorts, that I assumed a dry cleaner could get out. Took it to the dry cleaners, couldn’t noticeably see it, wore it again – and then walking into the interview noticed the stain had not been in fact been removed. Spent the interview tugging my jacket to make sure the stain was covered.

          Took the top back to dry cleaners, again assuming it could be removed – repeat cycle a few weeks later…..

    4. sam*

      this should also be a lesson for everyone – even on family zoom calls, I always use the selfie function on my phone/ipad a few minutes before actually getting on a call to make sure that I look OK. Sometimes things are just…weird, like when the lamp in my living room is reflecting off my glasses and makes it look like i’m a space alien, and sometimes your colleague accidentally look like she’s not wearing a shirt.

      1. Karo*

        Like Environmental Compliance said, though, eventually you get complacent. My immediate family is spread out so we’ve been doing weekly Skype calls for literal years and I just don’t pay attention to what I look like anymore when I join the call. What I’m wearing is what I’m wearing – most of the kids are in their pajamas even though it’s 7:00, my Dad always looks like a space alien because the light behind his head makes half his hair disappear, etc.

    5. MechanicalPencil*

      I have an incredibly thin nude bra that doesn’t do a lot to contain the perkage when it gets cold. So it looks fine under a white shirt…until I get cold. Bras suck.

    6. Delta Delta*

      I have 2 tops like this. One is a very nice fitted v-neck sweater that is exactly the same color as my skin. if I wear it it looks like I have no shirt at all. I hate not wearing it because it’s nice, but I also hate wearing it because people always do a double take because it looks like I’m shirtless. The other is just a long-sleeved t-shirt that I wear around the house, so no big thing.

    7. Kiki*

      Yes! Sometimes cameras create issues that the naked eye wouldn’t detect. I’ve definitely worn clothes that are opaque in person but in photos you could see through them. It’s totally possible she did a mirror check beforehand and thought all was well.

  5. Gaia*

    OP 1, Id wear the mask and I would include questions in the interview about how they’ve handled the pandemic. It speaks to their culture in a way few other things will. Obviously not everyone can be so selective right now, but if you can you should take a critical eye to how they are operating right now and how they respond to your mask.

    1. I Love Llamas*

      I agree with Gaia. Wearing your mask will also give you the opportunity to see how they treat “non-conforming” folks. Are they gracious and make no comment or do you get some side eyes and snide remarks? I suggest you practice all the CDC guidelines – wear your mask, keep your social distance, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer – and see how they respond. Please update us if you do the interview. Good luck!!

  6. Claire*

    LW2: this is why you always try your interview clothes on the day before! That wouldn’t necessarily have helped this woman, as it’s possible that she doesn’t use her webcam very often and the lighting might have been odd (a shirt being surprisingly translucent seems like it would fall under that category), but it’s always good advice to check that everything still fits and there aren’t any stains or tears and nothing’s showing that shouldn’t be. In person, I might be tempted to pull her aside and discreetly ask her if she has a jacket (or offer to lend her one if she doesn’t), but unfortunately, the nature of video interviews is such that there’s no way to bring it up in a way that doesn’t make it a big deal.

    1. RedinSC*

      Honestly, it’s just more professional to always wear a bra for your interview.

      1. river*

        Always? Some women have very small breasts and bras are just meaningless. A person’s appearance being suitable is much more important than mandating ‘because female, must bra’

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Not wearing a bra only comes across as unprofessional if people can tell that you’re not wearing a bra. Plenty of women have builds where that’s not the case. (Also, the issue here was nipple visibility, which can happen even with a bra.)

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          This. I wear bras with padding (even though I definitely don’t need the extra addition) because I’m always “cold”, and don’t enjoy announcing to the the world “hey, here are my nipples”.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Me too! Lord knows these large tracts of land don’t need any extra acreage, but if I didn’t have substantial padding the world would know just how cold I am all the time and I’m not comfortable with that. The worst is when the removable pads in my nursing bras move and stop covering the nipples – it’s impossible to readjust those while wearing the bra so I kind of just have to live with it until I can get home.

            1. BeesKneeReplacement*

              I hated those pads! They were always folding over on themselves, creating some very bizarre lumps. Luckily, I mostly worked from home so I just got rid of the pads. Even better, however, was throwing them all away last week to be replaced by normal, not-stretched-out and stained bras.

          2. fhqwhgads*

            It’s a little unclear to me if the visibility we’re talking about is “cold” or not. The letter used the word translucent so my reading is it was visible through the shirt, like it might be with a wet t-shirt, not visible in the sense of…pointy.

            1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

              I don’t think that matters, and I was only commenting on Alison’s comment about nipple visibility WITH a bra.

              1. fhqwhgads*

                If the problem were coldness, wearing a bra may or may not have made a difference in terms of visibility. If the issue were translucence, sure a bra solves that, but so would wearing a black shirt instead of the white one.

                1. Avasarala*

                  Agreed. It doesn’t affect the advice, but translucence is more preventable than pointiness.

          3. Tiny Soprano*

            Mine don’t care about the level of padding. I’ve just decided to roll with it now. Sometimes I even do a bit of ‘lesser of two evils’-ing and make sure the bra IS slightly visible. So people know I’m definitely wearing one.

      3. Mx*

        Disagree. I don’t wear bras and I find sexist to expect females to wear bras. And why not a corset ?

        1. Ping*

          This is a logical fallacy. A corset is the nuclear warhead of bras. No one is asking for that.
          It’s reasonable to not show body parts no matter the gender. It’s not sexist to ask for that.

          1. Jdc*

            Then men better stop wearing suits because i can see the whole outline of their stuff.

              1. Jdc*

                Briefs or boxer briefs actually make it more noticeable because it’s all jammed in one spot. This is why I enjoy my husband wearing gym shorts. Ha

                1. Vina*

                  Those bike-short type undies make even the smallest bulge seem gigantic. There’s a reason men like them.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            I dunno, after having a kid, only a corset really makes the nips invisible… It was a surprising change. I had to alter my personal style significantly to minimize them, but I’ve never been able to completely erase them (as I am not wearing a corset to work…). The best I’ve manages is thick jackets (the brocade one is my favorite), but they are overdressed for most situations and I can’t wear them 6mo of the year.

            The expectation that women will erase their nipples is a significant financial and social burden, it would be nice if we could let that go.

      4. misspiggy*

        A lot of people (like myself) have back pain which makes sittingstill for a webcam interview plus wearing a bra intolerable. I tend to be careful about clothing because of long experience with that issue, but for many people the combination is new.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Oh my yes. I have the daily ‘do I wear a garment that puts severe stress on a part of my back that is fractured’ or ‘do I go with a 40H chest unsupported and just wear baggy tops’ question.

          I’m actually loving the part of isolation that means I can go without that cage monstrosity for weeks!

      5. Magenta*

        This is a sexist double standard. I often see men’s nipples through their shirts but no one would suggest they need a bra or other underwear.

        1. Lentils*

          OP2: not quite the same, but when I interviewed for my current job, there was some minor flashing. I’m relatively flat chested, and at the time was working in a casual environment so had to run to the store last minute and find something on mega sale. I chose a v-neck dress that seemed very sedate in the dressing room. None of my modest assets were even remotely visible. But I didn’t wear a cami under the dress, didn’t think about the fact that I wouldn’t be standing like a mannequin the whole time.

          There was gapping. There was lace peeping out from my bra. There might have been excess skin at some point (I didn’t check- I just pushed through that interview block and adjusted in the bathroom). It kept. Happening. The whole. Day. I also have ADHD and I’m a chronic fidgeter, so in interviews and other high stakes professional interactions, I’m constantly reminding myself to staaaahp moving. Which mean I just sat there quietly, bra akimbo. Did I mention one of the people interviewing me was the company director?

          The interviewee may have noticed belatedly that she was more on view than she realized… but she may have been so mortified that she just pressed on instead of adjusting her computer’s camera so it looked a little higher.

        2. Amy Sly*

          They’re called undershirts, and they used to be as expected for men as bras are for women.

          1. Gloria*

            Undershirts don’t cause discomfort the bras can cause a lot of people. Also, I’ve seen plenty of men’s nipples even when they are wearing an undershirt.

            1. Amy Sly*

              Yes, neither bras nor undershirts can completely erase nipples. My point was that there is not (or at least, there hasn’t always been) a double standard that says women must take steps to erase their nipples while men can point proudly without taking any measures to avoid it. It used to be expected that both sexes were supposed to wear appropriate undergarments to minimize nipples showing up through their clothing. The bra burners and the guys who decided to forgo the undershirt were of the same generation.

              As for bra discomfort, I’m not a member of the itty bitty titty committee. I get that bras can be uncomfortable and unpleasant. Of course, feeling gravity tug at ligaments with every step or the girls flopping around is also uncomfortable and unpleasant, which is why I wear one every day anyway. Most of a bra’s discomfort can be avoided by proper fitting and buying for comfort instead of looks though.

              Support your local independent bra stores! And if you don’t want someone that close to you, at least buy from thirdlove. Don’t shop at any store that doesn’t have at least H cups, because if they don’t have that big of a selection, they don’t take fitting seriously — I’m looking at you, Victoria’s Secret.

              1. Gloria*

                I actually do think there is a pretty big double-standard when it comes nipples. When women’s nipples show, they are sometimes assumed to be doing it on purpose. No one says that about men.

                Based on this comment and others from you, I assume your income is a lot higher than average because your suggestions assume that people have plenty of money to spend on clothes, which is not the case for a lot of people.

                1. Amy Sly*

                  I’ll admit, I’ve finally managed to get an income above average in the last couple of years. Nine years ago, my $65K house was in foreclosure, we’d just barely managed to get our car back from repossession, and I was working in mall selling shoes to my fellow law school graduates for $8/hr plus commission while my husband with an electrical engineering degree was washing dishes for a living. Oh, and I was using clinical trials to get at least periodic access to antidepressants, because the county health service decided I was a drug seeker for wanting sertraline and so refused to treat me.

                  I know what it’s like to be poor and desperate. I know what it’s like to scavenge the clearance racks and overstock stores to find work appropriate shirts or a bra in one’s size (which at 38G, the only place I routinely found them at clearance prices was Dillard’s, and then only the most obnoxious colors that were being phased out). If you’ll notice my comments, I’m not condemning her or anyone else for not being able to get better clothing. I’m pushing back on the notions that hiding nipples is a double standard, that bras have to be uncomfortable, and that women’s clothing is only available in cheap, thin quality.

                2. Gloria*

                  There’s actually quite a bit of evidence that women experience a lot more challenges than men when it comes to clothing (more expensive, expected to own more clothing, expected to where more undergarments, expected to cover themselves more, etc.) so I’m not sure what there is to push back on.

              2. Vina*

                “ men must take steps to erase their nipples while men can point proudly without taking any measures to avoid it”

                If that’s the case, why can’t women go topless? We sexualize women’s breasts. We don’t with men even if they have significant tissue there. I’ve never seen a man shirtless in public out of doors told to put a shirt on b/c it was unprofessional, sexual, etc.

                I’ve seen plenty of work outings to parks where young men took of their shirts to play volleyball, etc. Women can’t even be seen showing too much cleavage.

                There are gender differences in how we view breasts.

              3. Keymaster of Gozer*

                One of these days I hope they invent a bra I can wear without pain. No luck so far.
                (There are none that can support Very large chests while keeping pressure and weight off the entire upper spine)

                1. we're basically gods*

                  This is a situation for which corsets are exceptionally well suited! No, I’m not joking– I have several well-endowed friends who wear corsets as daily support garments, one of whom has a connective tissue disorder. A bra would exacerbate her issues with dislocations; a corset keeps her happily supported and also keeps her ribs from going places ribs aren’t supposed to be.

                2. KoiFeeder*

                  Hold up, corsets help with rib dislocation issues? I thought corsets/back braces were on the “probably don’t if your ribs like to go wandering” tier…

                3. Keymaster of Gozer*

                  I have about 15 corsets! (I love wearing medieval style dresses and corsets fit really well for that.) You’re absolutely right in they support the bazongas without irritating my spinal fractures…but the problem is I’m a big person overall and if I try to sit down in a corset all the fat on my lower torso shoves into the edge of it and it’s also painful.

                  So, no driving cars or sitting in an office in one. (I do wear the medieval dresses to work sometimes though…)

                4. Amy Sly*

                  Koi, re: corsets, the trick is to get the right size and lace it properly — snug, not like you’re Scarlet O’hara trying to get her waist to 18″. Like Keymaster notes, they can be rather uncomfortable for sitting because of how the corset hits your legs, but for standing they’re great. They also help with proper posture.

                  I have a Sixth Doctor by way of Marie Antoinette costume, with a corset and 3′ wide panniers and frankly, the most uncomfortable part is the blond wig.

                5. Red Light Specialist*

                  @Amy Sly, my love for your cosplay comment knows no bounds. I only wish I could see a picture.

                6. KoiFeeder*

                  Amy: That sounds like it’d probably require a fitter, since weird ribs. So I’ll have to wait on that… for now.

                  At least with the quarantine, my joints haven’t been jostled.

        3. SomebodyElse*

          Umm… I would.

          I hate that undershirts for men has fallen out of general use. And yes, I judge men whose nipples and chest hair I can see.

        4. White Peonies*

          Its just not as well known or discussed. My brother in law has prominent nipples and he wears nipple covers to interviews, to work, and when he feels uncomfortable. He was teased to no end in school and was let know by a co-worker at one point that he was not promoted to a speaking position because he looked unprofessional due to his nipples showing.

      6. Seeking Second Childhood*

        She may have BEEN wearing a bra. We don’t know if it’s color or, er, altitude.

        1. Lyudie*

          I had the same thought, if it was just the outline/shape that can totally still happen with a bra. If it was the actual color of her nipple, she could be wearing a see-through bra. I have a couple like that and I think I will be a bit more paranoid about what I wear them with after this letter O.O

      7. Tallulah In The Sky*

        No, it’s professional to dress professionally, which means making sure you’re not flashing anybody, which can be achieved without a bra (with a tank top for example). Would it have been ok if she had worn a bra, but a dark colored one or one with patterns, so clearly visible through her shirt ? The malfunction here is the shirt, not the lack of bra.

        And as many people already explained here, there’s a good chance it was bad luck. Women’s clothing sadly tend to not be as opaque as think. Shopping for work tops I’d feel comfortable wearing without a tank top takes me longer then it should because of that reason.

        1. Doc in a Box*

          “Women’s clothing sadly tend to not be as opaque as think.”

          +1. When covid first started and we didn’t have adequate PPE, I was raiding my closet for old shirts for a face-mask. The recommendation was to hold the fabric up to the light, to ensure the weave was tight enough for droplet precautions. I was shocked to realize how many of my shirts (casual and even some workwear!) were essentially translucent in the right lighting.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            I was sorting some hand-me-downs for my kids the other day, and when I got through a pile of standard boys t-shirts to discover one that was a much thinner material my first instinct was that it was probably a girl’s shirt and I should put it in my daughter’s pile. Which I quickly realized was deeply messed up, but says something about the state of clothing sold for women and girls.

            1. Amy Sly*

              Companies do make properly opaque women’s clothing; you just won’t find it for $5 at H&M corresponding to the latest micro-trend.

              1. Gloria*

                The $5 H&M t-shirt more affordable and more accessible to a lot of people than the $25-$50 high-quality cotton t-shirt.

                1. Amy Sly*

                  Sure. But that’s the trade-off — you can have stuff that is cheap or stuff that is quality. I don’t care which someone chooses. My annoyance is reserved for when people say “they don’t make stuff at the quality I want” when what they mean is “they don’t make stuff at the quality I want for the price I want to pay.”

                2. Vina*

                  Also, there are plenty of cheap thick t-shirts for men at H&M, so it’s clearly not a price issue only.

                  Go to your local Walmart and look at the thickness of a man’s t-shirt v. a woman’s. Even at Dollar General, you’d see a difference.

                3. Vina*


                  This still doesn’t account for the fact that men can find non-opaque clothing at the lower price-points and women can’t. You are foisting the responsibility of this back on the women for not choosing more expensive items instead of acknowledging the sexism built into how clothing is made.

                  There is a well-documented history of women’s products either being inferior or costing more than men’s. Dry cleaning. Razors. Clothing. All subject to a “pink tax”

                  You are placing the blame on women who don’t want to pay the pink tax or can’t.

                4. Guacamole Bob*

                  @Vina, yes, this.

                  I’ve started buying men’s jeans, which fit well when I look for the slimmer cuts (I’m a woman, despite the username). They’re the same price and the material is much sturdier.

                  I have boy/girl twins, and if I spend $6 on a t-shirt at Target for each of them, the shirt from the boys’ section is a much thicker material. Not necessarily high quality material or construction, but thicker.

                  And even though they’re the same size, my daughter’s laundry bin has substantially less volume for a similar number of articles of clothing than my son’s. That’s both the material and the typical cuts. Boys t-shirts come down to their elbows and girls have little cap sleeves. Boys get sweat pants and girls get leggings. Etc.

                5. Amy Sly*

                  I’m not “placing blame.” I’m not faulting anyone for wearing or buying clothing with thinner material. I’m not saying it’s fair that men’s clothing is often made with thicker material at the same price points.

                  I’m simply saying that the higher quality clothing for women is available, but it costs more than the fast fashion clothing at discount stores.

                6. Grapey*

                  For every person that actually needs that professional wardrobe piece AND needs to save that $20, there are far more that are simply addicted to fast fashion and have no inclination to learn to care for their clothes with the “accessible” “I can get another for $5” attitude.

                  I get sick thinking of my high school days where I’d spend $40 on a ton of those cheap sandals from Old Navy that broke in a week vs me having a higher end $40 pair for 5 years and counting.

                  The boots theory of poverty is an important concept to understand but it’s been used as a free pass for too long to excuse America’s rampant consumerism and love of fast fashion.

              2. andy*

                But you can buy appropriate boys wear there from exactly the material these people want for girls.

              3. Eukomos*

                A couple years ago the company who made my previous favorite t-shirts, which were a nice reasonable medium-weight fabric, switched to paper thin fabric. I tried several stores searching for t-shirts that were of sufficiently heavy fabric that you couldn’t see the lace on my bra through them, but also more drape and comfort than than an old Gildan shirt. The one that ended up fitting those (what I thought were) reasonable criteria cost SIXTY dollars. Luckily I didn’t need too many shirts and was moderately well-paid at the time, but we can’t all swing that all the time.

              4. Curmudgeon in California*

                I mostly buy men’s clothing. It comes in larger sizes, better construction, at half the price.

                About 30 years ago I bought two pair of jeans on the same day – one men’s, one women’s. The women’s cost twice as much and wore out (the seams fell apart) in six months. I wore the men’s jeans for 10 years. Needless to say, if I can find men’s clothes that fit, I buy them.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              That’s deliberate, so you have to buy more shirts for layering. It’s a total racket.

              I buy men’s t-shirts; even the thin ones aren’t see-through. Plus, they’re cheaper and have better graphics, which really pisses me off.

        2. BeesKneeReplacement*

          Yup. When I go clothes shopping, I always hold the fabric over my nail to see if it shows the difference between the white and the nail bed. I won’t try it on if it does. In the past 10-15 years, retailers have decided that women should buy two shirts and layer them, instead of buying 1 shirt to begin with. Not only is this a rip off but it can look too casual for work, be too warm, or simply unflattering.

    2. Jill*

      Yeah honestly though sometimes you just slip up! I wore a thick, black, sweater dress to a friend’s wedding, she called me later to say her photographer showed her the unedited proofs and you could see my SHINY BRIGHT PINK bra underneath every time there was a flash. No one noticed that night and she was able to edit the pictures, but I threw away the bra immediately.

  7. char*

    Regarding #3, I often write reminders to myself on my hand. I know it doesn’t look professional, but sometimes it’s the only way I can manage to remember to do things! If I write reminders down on paper, I’m probably going to just forget that I even wrote anything down to remember. But I see my hands all the time, so if I write reminders there, that can bring them to my mind often enough that I eventually manage to remember to do whatever it was I needed to remember.

    I’m trying to move more to setting alarms on my phone, but some reminders just don’t work well as alarms that are set for a specific time. Plus, sometimes I won’t remember to set an alarm without some other reminder to remind me that I need an alarm!

    1. Batgirl*

      I do this allll the time and I was surprised to hear Alison call it unprofessional. But then when she described it in the context of a ‘senior exec’, I probably would expect that person to have a regular notebook on hand. For me however, I doubt I am going to change this habit; I teach, I am carrying books, glue, scissors, teaching materials like a pack horse, students give me info while passing in the hallway more than anywhere else (I keep a pen on my lanyard) and I have ADHD, so this is a tool that helps me deal with chaos, or something I might forget. I didn’t need it when I was reporter (notebook always on hand and information delivered in a more steady way) but I do now. That said, I do use an organiser notepad for meetings, at my desk or anywhere I’m not carting around a mobile classroom.

      1. RecentAAMfan*

        I think Alison describes it as unprofessional because it’s kinda high school-ish.
        I can’t imagine seeing a well groomed professional sporting notes all over their hand.

        1. MayLou*

          I think this really depends on how much you consider appearance to define professionalism. My office has a very casual dress code, we eat at our desks, we can write on our hands if we want, and we’re all professionals. I consider professionalism to be about behaviour, not about appearance, but I recognise from this site that others disagree. In an environment where it’s considered “unpolished” for a woman not to wear makeup, I can see writing on your hand to be an issue, but I don’t see how that affects professionalism.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            It is your office’s culture to accept writing on one’s hands. In many offices, that is not an established part of their culture, and it will come across unprofessional and unprepared when it is done consistently and often.

            At all of my offices, there was no expectation to wear makeup. I oscillated between full glam and bare face often, and many women wore no makeup. These offices have varied between full business dress (suit or equivalent) to full casual (tshirt and jeans). In none of these offices would it have come across well to constantly be writing on your hands/forearms.

            I don’t think you can completely remove appearance from professionalism. Often being professional does include a measure of “put together”-ness based on appearance – you should be dressing for the event/situation, you should have all the materials you need…. I should never show up to a regulatory inspection looking unkempt and without my inspection clipboard & documents, but also should never show up to a construction site to perform said inspection in a big flowy skirt and super high stiletto heels, no PPE whatsoever. So, yes, professional by default doesn’t mean Suits Only, but you should still have a certain level of grooming that happens, appropriate clothing should be worn, and you should in general be prepared for whatever job duties you have at the time, which might include a notepad or digital note taking device.

          2. Allonge*

            I don’t know, in my office no one cares about makeup or high heels or stuff like that but regularly writing on your hand would be frowned upon. We are in a classic office environment, we get notebooks and paper from office supplies (and have laptops and company mobiles!). As long as you are carrying a pen, you can carry a notebook or something similar.

            In other words, it’s to do with professionalism because an appearance of having it toghether enough to bring a notebook is a reasonable expectation of professionalism in this office. For others, it may be different.

          3. Myrin*

            At least where I am, it’s not so much about appearance/looks as it is about writing on your hands in particular being viewed as immature.

            We had an almost identical letter here a few years ago so I’m just gonna quote myself from way back then:
            “The more I think about this, the more I come down on the side of my own attitude being at least influenced by my culture – I’m familiar with a wide array of professions and jobs from academia to trades and retail and in none of those people would jot down notes on their hands (barring some sort of emergency, of course). It’s very firmly seen as something only young teenagers do and even there it was kind of rare at least when I was that age.”

          4. LJay*

            Writing on your hands is a behavior.

            Choosing not to carry a notebook or take notes in any other fashion that requires an ounce of preparation is a behavior.

            I don’t think it is necessarily an issue in professionalism, but in every job I’ve been in it would come across as unpolished.

            In my field you definitely don’t need to be polished in all aspects (or sometimes any aspects) to do your job or do it well.

            But I would still say if they were looking to promote someone, that the person who always showed up with a notebook or electronic device for taking notes would have a heads up versus the person who writes on their hand. (Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone in my workplace write on their hands though).

            And it would not just effect promotions, it would affect others’ subconscious and conscious judgments about someone’s competency.

            Because clearly you know you’re going to have to take notes, and remember things, but instead of being prepared with some sort of system you’re just jotting it down on the first available surface. And instead of coming up with some sort of system to remember things you’re relying on it literally being on your skin.

            (And yes, I know that this is the system for writing down and remembering it, and that thought may have been put into developing it, and that this may be the best system a person has come up with. But it’s the impression that counts more than the reality).

            It’s like always being the last one to run in the door just as a meeting starts, or always forgetting to attach the attachment to your email on the first shot, or replying quickly because you only skimmed the email or only caught part of the conversation and then having to correct yourself or elaborate, or writing with a bright blue or pink gel pen.

            None of those things necessarily make you less competent at your job (and honestly I do a lot of those things due to ADHD – thank god Outlook now informs me when I forget to attach something). It’s not necessarily fair. But it’s an impression that you’re less engaged or less prepared, sort of frazzled, and/or just not paying attention to professional norms.

            1. Batgirl*

              Oh sure. If it’s a meeting or something you need to ‘show up’ for then you certainly need a notepad! I’m not suggesting taking notes at length on your hand! I have a job where stuff happens outside of meetings :)

        2. Turquoisecow*

          Same. I’ve never seen anyone do it at any of the large corporations I’ve worked for, and it would be jarring to see an executive start scribbling on their hand.

          If I’m in a meeting, I bring a notebook. If someone stops me in the hall, I have my phone and while it’s not a great look ordinarily to be typing on my phone at work, making a reminder or a note of something would be understandable. Would definitely give them impression of being more organized than writing on my hand.

          It’s not just about appearance for appearance’s sake, it’s about impressions (or, to use a bit of jargon, “optics”). Writing notes on your hand makes you look disorganized and unprepared, where as writing on a notebook makes you look prepared and ready for anything.

          1. Batgirl*

            Phone in the hallways would work for me if it wasn’t strictly verboten (common in UK schools). I could be fired as it’s both a child safety issue due to the camera and a bad example to the kids. But the leadership don’t care about hand notes so I keep a pen on my lanyard as kids love to catch me between rooms.

      2. CastIrony*

        I was surprised as well, batgirl. I have undiagnosed ADD, and I feel that writing on my hands is the only way for me to remember things. However, as I have grown, I do this less often, but have been recently shamed into not doing it in my retail job because “the ink will poison me”.

    2. caps22*

      But don’t you wash your hands a few times throughout the day? Or are the reminders literally very short term?

      1. Smithy*

        From what I know about my friends who are teachers, having breaks to use the toilet (where pre-COVID most hand washing occurred) is pretty infrequent. That being said, in a post-COVID context, the optics of not more frequently washing your hands I would be concerned about.

      2. Batgirl*

        Extremely short term. I use the bathroom between class sessions whether I need to or not (im teaching except for that one minute five times a day) where we have the sinks in corridors (we like to make hand washing visible) so I’m most likely to write on my hand just after I’ve washed my hands anyway.

      3. char*

        Most of my reminders are short-term. But also, noticing that a reminder is faded and “refreshing” it by writing it again reinforces the reminder in my head again. I also write reminders that I expect to need to stick around longer lower down on my wrist where they’ll wash off more slowly.

        There are just so many times when I realize that I need to do something, but am not currently in a position where I can do the thing (or to do much of anything more complicated than scribbling a one-word reminder on my hand). But thoughts leave my head so fast that once I do have time for the thing, I’ll have forgotten that I had anything I needed to do. Hence the hand-reminders. Even they don’t always help. But they help sometimes.

    3. Legally a Vacuum*

      I have pretty terrible ADHD. I started carrying a memo pad everywhere and dating the page. The key for me was always having it on hand.

      1. Batgirl*

        Yeah, I have done this too. If you work in just a few rooms, or have a dedicated pocket or bag for your main notebook (Never random papers. Ever) , it can work. Currently, my hands are more efficient. I have a trolley and a teaching holster of pockets all filled with resources. I dont have enough pockets for what I need, for the stuff I’m expected to do; teach. There’s no room for me to ditch something in favour of unexpected memos that happen on the fly. I don’t need a pocket for my hands and my workplace is fine with it! There are times when its the preferable option.

      2. LJay*

        This. I have baad ADHD. I was diagnosed in first grade.

        I learned pretty early on that checklists and notes are my friends.

        Part of my accommodations in school (it wasn’t an IEP but similar, I forget what it was called) was making sure I had a planner that I kept updated in each class with all my due date information that the teacher would review and sign at the end of class. That way I had homework written down and could not forget it.

        It’s stuck with me for the last 2 1/2 decades.

        I know it’s not a habit that works for everyone but it’s one I need to keep up. And I always have it with me. (And if I do misplace it somewhere and need something in a pinch I keep a ton of post-it notes on hand as well).

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Were your accommodations from a 504 plan? I’m calling attention to it in case some readers have kids who have a condition that doesn’t qualify them for an IEP, but might for a 504 plan. ADHD is commonly not IEP-level, but you can get a 504 for it.

      3. char*

        I write reminders on my phone sometimes, since I always have it with me. But I haven’t managed to get myself into the habit of actually checking my reminders regularly at a time when I could actually address them. So instead I just see the reminders when I’m checking my phone for some other reason, and by the time I’m done with what I was doing on the phone, I’ve usually forgotten about the reminders again. (That’s why I’ve started moving to alarm reminders, so I can schedule the alarm for a time when hopefully I’ll be free. Even then, I often get the timing wrong, miss the alarm, and forget the thing anyway…)

  8. Mherd*

    Guarantee that the interviewee from LW2 realized her wardrobe malfunction a few hours later and is now appropriately mortified

    (okay, maybe not guarantee, but I would put money on it)

    1. Zeus*

      I can see it now. She finishes up her interview and comes out into the living area to tell her mom/partner/roommate all about it. And mom/partner/roommate looks at her with eyes wide. Is that what you wore? Yep. OMG, I can see your nipples!!!

    2. Person of Interest*

      I don’t know, deciding not to wear a bra seems like a pretty deliberate choice, where the person is likely aware and doesn’t care that her nipples might show depending on what top she is wearing and other factors. I would think this person has made this lifestyle choice and if it makes other people uncomfortable that’s not her concern.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        This is what I was thinking.

        And honestly I’m fine with it, but people can’t be surprised or shocked when they are judged by those decisions.

      2. Sarah*

        This depends a lot on the person. If I didn’t wear a bra, it would probably be somewhat noticeable. But if you are somewhat flat chested, you can often get away with not wearing a bra and are also likely to not be as used to considering this aspect of clothing in general. In other words, some people don’t usually wear bras. I’m sure most people have made the mistake of not realizing a white shirt could be see-through. Many people, including myself, have limited access to laundry right now. So I can totally see how this could happen unintentionally, where I can’t picture why someone would do this deliberately. If it is deliberate, it will likely happen again at the next interview, at which point you can decide how to address it, but there are definitely people who don’t wear bras so I think during a pandemic they should probably get a pass if they seemed otherwise professional.

      3. biobotb*

        It was probably a deliberate choice not to wear a bra, but it’s quite a leap from that to assuming that she’s aware her nipples show and doesn’t care what other people can see. If you’ve never had a moment where you discovered that your clothing revealed way more than you realized once you left your bathroom lighting, count yourself lucky.

      4. MissDisplaced*

        I’m not certain we can say that. Perhaps they were planning to put on a jacket but it got too hot? (happening everywhere lately)
        I know that’s a reason I hate jackets, I start to melt in them during interviews. No, I’m thinking they likely had no idea the shirt was see through and would be mortified if they did.

      5. Jennifer Thneed*

        Like Sarah says below, lots of women don’t wear bras because they don’t need them, and if they’re right about that, you’ll never know. And lots and lots of women have nipples that will “show thru” a shirt as a bump, even thru a brassiere! But usually when people talk about nipples showing thru a white shirt, they mean that they can see the color of the nipples, and that’s the sort of thing that really can be an accident if a shirt is less opaque than you realized.

  9. Casper Lives*

    I can’t place the coworkers’ motivations for ignoring #4’s work. I guess it could be that she’s not a family member so they’re not interested? But it’s a major project, you think they would care about how it’s going. I don’t have advice. It’s just odd!

    1. MassMatt*

      I think possibilities are either that they have just created a clique and you (nor previous people in your role) are not in it. They may just have been together for so long that a new guy is frozen out. Or maybe they regard the work you do as a necessary evil. Either was, it’s crappy.

      It’s a difficult talk to have with your boss but try to have it, and I hope you post an update. Good luck!

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        It doesn’t even have to be a clique thing. Maybe the previous person in the role didn’t speak up in those meetings because it wasn’t their thing. Maybe management decided not to even invite that person to the meetings, leaving them alone in their cubby to do their job – but during CoVid, many more people get invited to many more meetings.

    2. MK*

      The only explanation I can think of is that her work isn’t directly affecting other workers or it’s technical. I mean, IT is vital, but generally speaking there is no point to have the progress of their ongoing projects announced to the company.

      1. European*

        Depends on what they’re working on?
        I mean I work in e-commerce, so we’re probably more IT focused than other businesses. But we also have departments (content, sale, purchase,…) that are not directly IT related.
        It’s still always good to know what IT is working on and how it’s going to hopefully make our work more productive/easier/whatever in the next weeks, months, etc.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Could be, especially if this happened to the person in the position previously. But OP needs to talk to their boss before making any assumptions.

      3. solo IT person*

        yep, i have the most technical job in my department and tbh i would be *thrilled* if i got to skip our now-weekly “what are you doing?” check-ins. the team knows they can flag issues for me at any time and i will update them on anything important, but my day-to-day is verrrry boring for the average person. that said, it was like pulling teeth to get people to flag issues for me my first ~6 months–apparently the person in my position had been really unresponsive and departments were extremely siloed. maybe it could be a holdover from the last person, they didn’t want to be on the agenda so it’s just assumed LW#4 won’t want to either?

    3. Avasarala*

      Here is what came to my mind:

      -OP says they handle logistics. In my experience, nobody respects or cares about logistics until things go wrong on the day of the event. It’s one of those jobs like stage crew and editing where being good at your job means erasing your own presence.
      -OP’s job is important to the company and its mission, but is it important to other workers? Does OP collaborate with anyone, does anyone rely on OP to do their job?
      -Is the project OP supports interesting or valuable to others, regardless of OP’s role in it?
      -Can you get your motivation from elsewhere, from the relationships you build with outside vendors and so on?
      -Can you build relationships with your coworkers based on other aspects, and use that to build interest in what you do?

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        >”where being good at your job means erasing your own presence”
        Thank you for a phrase I’ll be using…that’s exactly what I’ve tried to describe my attitude towards editing fiction.

      2. vampire physicist*

        This is where I went too – vital doesn’t necessarily mean that updates in a public meeting are relevant. If the issue is lack of recognition, that’s something to talk about with your boss since that is a real issue, but recognition shouldn’t come via making a meeting longer than it needs to be.

      3. Djuna*

        Yeah, my immediate thought was poor LW 4, doing essential work that no-one cares about unless something breaks. Then they care, but then you’d want to be invisible.

        I feel like their boss should maybe think about that side of it and remind people (one on one) that the reason they feel no updates are needed is because LW 4 (and predecessor!) has being doing an excellent job. That might help reframe it a little for everyone. They should totally get time on the agenda, and because I’m cheeky, I would lead with “Here are the risks if this doesn’t go according to plan….” to get people to sit up and listen.

      4. CM*

        I agree with all of this. I have more of an infrastructure job where doing it well is important to the company’s mission, but my coworkers don’t need (or frankly, want) to know the details unless I’m working on a project with one of them directly. So reading OP#4’s letter, I was wondering what OP#4’s motivation is for being included. If other people need to hear your status update in order to do their jobs, then you should push to be included. But if you want them to know your status because it’s important to the company as a whole (though not relevant to them specifically) or because you want to feel included, I would suggest finding some other way to do it. It could be that they would prefer to get your updates by email because they want to keep the status call limited to issues that affect everybody’s work.

      5. EPLawyer*

        That’s what I got too. LW’s work is very behind the scenes. So naturally it would not be brought up at a lot of meetings nor would everyone else be excited about it.

        LW, you sound very excited about your job. But you cannot rely on others — and this is key — to share the same excitement.

        You need to gauge where your job atually falls in importance to the company not where you think it should. What are the meetings actually about, besides updating on projects. Are they updating on projects related to the new release of the rice sculpure of llamas? Then yes people need to update on their projects related to that. If your job getting the HR compliance reports for the year out, then of course people are going to be wondering why you always want to be on the agenda at the meetings. Even if it is a huge thing that happens this time of year. It’s just not about the core function of the business.

      6. LJay*


        I manage logistics like shipping and receiving and moving parts around the world.

        Nobody cares about the process – they just care about the results. Was the part there on time to meet needs, yes or no? If yes, great. If no, then it was a failure in their eyes and it’s my fault.

        They don’t care about the work that goes into making it happen, and wouldn’t understand if I did get into detail about customs clearances or whether something is moving as an LTL or partial load or a sprinter van vs a box truck vs a straight truck or how international holidays are going to affect movement. They don’t even seem to understand time zones or the laws of physics sometimes.

        The only update they generally need from me is “Everything is good” or “This isn’t going to make it, can you source elsewhere or are we going to need to push this project?”

    4. Ama*

      I kind of get it — I work for a science funding non-profit, and I am the main person that works with the people we fund. When I first arrived here (seven years ago) the Grants Department was basically its own little silo — other than occasionally recommending a grantee as a speaker for another department’s event we never really talked about our work to our coworkers. Our current CEO has done a lot to unsilo our culture but even then it’s been a real struggle to get certain departments (for example, our fundraising and finance teams) to get interested in learning even some of the basic concepts of the type of science we fund. Thankfully I now have some colleagues on both of the problem teams who understand that having at least a rudimentary understanding of basic terminology and concepts makes it easier to do their jobs and that’s in turn made my job easier, but there are still a few colleagues who basically don’t try at all to understand even after being here for several years, and they are really frustrating to work with because they’ll come to me with the same questions over and over.

      For a while our quarterly all staff meetings went in an order that meant my department was always last to update (at the end of a 2 hour meeting that was usually running over) and I could just see everyone’s eyes already glazing over when I started in on my presentation. So I asked if we could start rotating and started to see a little more retention from my colleagues.

    5. Formerly Ella Vader*

      For #4:
      In a small family company, it’s easy for practices to get ingrained because of history. Maybe one of the previous people in the role tended to take too much time in meetings, tell things afterwards to people who weren’t supposed to hear them, or be a gatekeeper in a way that the bosses didn’t think was productive. So they got in the habit of siloing that person/department away from the operational meetings.

      Also, I wonder if there’s any reason for the bosses to think that your reports might include information they don’t want everyone on the operational side to know. They might be in the habit of keeping some or all of the people at that meeting out of the loop about finances, upcoming contracts, or other commercial matters, and they may be avoiding saying that directly to you. If you’re aware of this concern, you can find ways to demonstrate that you’re sufficiently discreet without actually saying “I know the engineers aren’t supposed to know that we lost a client”.

      My own experience suggests that it is possible to change these practices incrementally over time, possibly without raising the alarms that a direct request might generate.
      – Thank them for including you in the operational meetings, and mention things that you learned that are helping you do a better job.
      – Identify some particular things about your work that it would be helpful for the other people on the team to know. “In last week’s meeting I heard that they are expecting to be busy in July. I was counting on being able to pull some of their crew to help set up and tear down for the conference July 28-30, so I could let them know about that in next week’s meeting …” is how you could raise this to your boss ahead of the meeting, or you could raise it in the meeting in the other-business or check-ins part. At first, stick to things where it’s easy to see that it’s helpful for them to know. Even if your boss makes the announcements in front of you, that’s better than nothing, to start.
      – Keep updating your boss on examples where you speaking in the meeting led to good results. “After I mentioned in the meeting that we were having trouble getting all the shipments out on time because we didn’t have any FedEx envelopes, someone found a stash of them and now we’re all caught up.”
      – Look for situations where you think a recurring problem or inefficiency could be improved if you could take a few minutes in a meeting. Ask the person who runs the meeting, ahead of time. “We’ve been spending a lot of time tracking down incorrect timesheets – I was thinking that we could save a lot of time if I showed the department heads what to look for when they’re approving timesheets.” If you get turned down about this kind of suggestion, ask about hosting a separate quick call.
      – Also, pay attention to your individual relationships outside the meeting. But if anyone in management or with management’s ear is likely to portray you as snoopy or trying to expand your role and information beyond what’s appropriate, don’t do anything that will give them more evidence.

  10. Lilipoune*

    With all the hand washing in time of covid, I am not sure the hand notes will resist long enough to be usefull anymore.

    1. Nessun*

      That was my first thought too. How do you guarantee you don’t lose a piece of info pretty quickly if it’s on your hand and you’re washing them constantly? Just reminds me of bad rom-coms where half the phone number of the love interest goes missing.

      1. Batgirl*

        It’s kind of an added incentive to ‘do the thing’ quite honestly. If I get back to my desk and see something written on my hand I just do it straight away before it gets washed off. Particularly if it’s a phone number. Or it might get written out onto my desk-bound to do list if it can’t be done straight away. Also, the washed-out faded note on my hand still serves as a reminder even if it’s unreadable. A lot of the time it’s “Input a mark for Lewis’ homework as submitted” rather than “This is a complicated phone number you won’t remember”. I don’t think people with good memories understand that I won’t remember the encounter with Lewis in the corridor at all, without a visual reminder. Those people only need to write down things like phone numbers.

        1. Lonely Aussie*

          I commented below, but you’ve reminded me, I totally place notes on my arm/hand depending on how quickly I need to use them. Short term stuff is on the hand, longer term/important stuff on the upper forearm. There’s something really satisfying about scrubbing my hands after marking it all off.

          1. Batgirl*

            I have ADHD, so the small stuff is exactly the type of thing that slips through the net. Especially if I’m being thrown out of context info. Notes on hand is the most effective tool I’ve ever found. Better than post It’s! You can’t lose it and washing your hands is simply an extra reminder. Brilliant.

            1. Lonely Aussie*

              Autism with ADHD traits (not diagnosed but wouldn’t be surprised if I have that)
              Post It’s and slips of paper from note pads are my hell. I am doing a lot of data entry at work and people just throw all these note pad pages at me. I have been known to transfer them onto my arm or make a note how many pages and who gave them to me on there.

              1. Batgirl*

                I only use post it’s if I can put them on my monitor where they will stay put and visible. Alas, clean desk policies who knows not what you do to ADHD bods.

    2. PeanutButter*

      Personally I have always taken notes on someone’s hand to be an indication that they don’t wash them nearly often enough, and refused to shake hands with them pre-Covid. Definitely not going to stop adhering to that personal policy now.

    3. Ange*

      My experience as a healthcare worker who regularly washes their hands properly and occasionally writes notes on their hands is that notes on your hand (written with a normal biro) will fade with regular washing, but to get them off with one handwash you really need to scrub at that area (so more than the normal handwashing I’d do between patients). If I just wash my hands as normal any notes will be faded but legible.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Same here. I suspect there’s a lot of variation based on what kind of pen you’re using and how…porous? or something?….your skin is.

    4. Never Surprised*

      that was my first thought too, they would look dirty to me or that the person wasn’t washing their hands as much as I would hope someone I was physically near was doing.

    5. Lonely Aussie*

      I’m a hand/arm writer, mostly cause I work in an environment where note pads tend to be trashed (I regularly get soaked at work) and I’m yet to lose an arm/hand. I’ve killed soo many note pads though. I work in the food supply chain so need to make sure records are entered into the system for QA.

      Notes in Biro on hands will stand up to light scrubbing if you’re careful, especially if you go over them a few times but best bet if you need them to stick around is to write them on the forearm, high enough that you’re not scrubbing that area when you wash hands. Or Sharpie. Sharpie survives most stuff and is easily enough removed with bug spray as needed. I probably wash my hands the most of my coworkers and haven’t lost a note yet. I kind of like that I can wash stuff off as needed to make more room if I have to, rather than ending up with a note pad full of numbers/notes that won’t make sense tomorrow. Seems a more environmentally friendly option too.

    6. TimeCat*

      Strong agreement. Pen washes pretty easily off hands, it creates an incentive for the person to not properly handles. Plus you risk losing the notes to sweat or a bottle with condensation. Bad idea.

        1. TimeCat*

          I did a summer program in London and it definitely gets hot there. Not as hot as a summer in Chicago, but plenty hot.

          1. Lonely Aussie*

            For what it’s worth, I work in a manual job in the Australian heat so sweating and get drenched almost every other day at work and I’ve managed to keep my hand notes intact. They actually last longer than a note pad which get turned into pulp. I have the burden of the death of so many note pads on my soul.

            1. Batgirl*

              It takes three scrubbings with the use of a nailbrush to get a handnote off, so if mere heat can do it then I was guessing it was somewhere more like hell than simply the mortal heat of Australia.

              1. Lonely Aussie*

                I wonder if some people’s skin holds the ink better than others? I’m really surprised at people talking about losing notes or washing them off without a good scrub.

                1. Batgirl*

                  I was thinking that too; people are different. Something to keep in mind when someone uses a different organisational tool than you. Honestly I don’t know what someone would have to do for me to jump to ‘dirty and disorganised’.

                2. Environmental Compliance*

                  Yup. Am oily person. Notes don’t even take on my skin unless I use a Sharpie, and even that’s gone in a day or less.

                  My husband, though, can accidentally write on himself and it’s there basically as a tattoo unless he scrubs off several layers of skin.

                3. Avasarala*

                  Agreed. When I had the habit I had One Good Pen that would withstand handwashing. All other pens dragged on my skin or faded quickly.

    7. kittymommy*

      This is immediately what I thought of. Honestly, if I see a co-worker with a hand full of notes to themselves and they don’t look smeared or distorted I’m going to wonder how often they washed their hands that day.

  11. voyager1*

    LW1: Honestly, this for me would really come down to how bad I needed a job. If I was unemployed and money was tight I would skip the mask. If I was currently working I would think harder and be more hesitant.

    1. StellaBella*

      Interesting, and I get what you are saying takes priority, but from a risk management perspective, would you not wonder if any of the interviewers were asymptomatic, or lived with a partner in direct line health care exposure, or other risks? I am struggling with this balance now as I am sending out a lot of applications and hoping to find a new gig soon. Personally I will be wearing a mask on the bus, in an interview if in person, etc for a while now.

        1. MayLou*

          Whether or not you’re worrying doesn’t indicate whether or not you should be worrying. There’s a global pandemic of a virus that is spread through contact and by people not displaying symptoms. Those are facts, regardless of whether you are getting on with your life.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*


            This “I don’t live in fear, but you do you” irritates me to no end. It’s like people have taken leave of all common sense. One analogy that I’ve been thinking of is, I live in the snow belt, with a high probability of heavy snowfall and blizzards with limited visibility, ice rain etc throughout the winter (and sometimes as late as early May *sigh*) When a winter weather warning goes out and people are warned to stay off the roads and to stay home, I haven’t seen anyone in my area go, “Eh, it’s not snowing now, the forecast is probably fake news, and besides, I’m not afraid of a little frozen water. I’m going for a ride!” Everyone knows that they want to stay home until it’s safe to drive again, if they value their health, their lives, and their cars. Not because they live in fear of winter weather, but because it’s the sensible thing to do. So the streets empty pretty quickly. But now the same people are all like “Eh, I’m not afraid of the flu”.

          2. SomebodyElse*

            I think we should really let adults perform their own risk assessment and make the choices they want to.

            The LW can clearly wear a mask if she wants to and feel more comfortable doing so. The LW can also decline the interview, go to the interview and decline any further interviews or any offered jobs.

            This company has done their risk assessment and determined that they are comfortable with no masks, and the employees who work there have either agreed with that or are wearing a mask of their own choosing.

            1. pancakes*

              They’re going to make their own choices regardless of what anyone says here, though. Even very harsh comments wouldn’t take away the company’s or the employees’ personal agency to make choices.

            2. Seacalliope*

              The problem is that the risk assessment regarding masks is not about the risk the individual is willing to assume, but the risk they are willing to lay on others. That is why there is strident objection to “lol you do you” as an attitude.

              1. leapingLemur*

                “risk assessment regarding masks is not about the risk the individual is willing to assume, but the risk they are willing to lay on others.” This!

            3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              The problem is that in this case, the other person is evaluating whether/how much they are willing to risk harming me. That you don’t think it’s dangerous to come within a foot of me shouldn’t override my evaluation that I want at least six feet between me and anyone I don’t live with. That mask isn’t just protecting the wearer: it’s accepting the inconvenience in order to keep other people safe.

              The relevant comparison here is the classic, your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins. That’s true whether or not your intention was to punch the other person: if you want to exercise wearing a VR headset, you do it indoors, and warn anyone you live with that it will be dangerous to come near you for the next half hour. I’m not staying home because I enjoy it: I’m staying home out of an abundance of caution for the sake of other people safety.

            4. Observer*

              That’s fine when the risk it TO YOU. The problem is that not wearing a mask ENDANGERS OTHERS. That changes the appropriate parameters of your right to make your own risk assessment.

            5. LJay*

              But the letter writer wearing the mask doesn’t protect her, it protects the other people around her.

              The other people in the room wearing their makes is what protects her.

              People not wearing a mask are not affecting their own personal risk they are affecting everyone else’s risk, so it is NOT their right to perform their own risk assessment.

              Y’all who don’t want to wear a mask can be the ones to stay inside until this all blows over. You are infringing on my right to not be infected by deciding you’re not comfortable wearing a mask and in that context I don’t give a rats ass about your comfort.

              I do agree that at least this company gave the letter writer this information ahead of time, and that she should decline the interview if she doesn’t feel safe, or decline the job offer if she doesn’t feel safe.

            6. SomebodyElse*

              The LW absolutely can do a risk assessment here, in that they know that other people won’t be wearing a mask at the interview. If that is a deal breaker for then the answer is quite simple, decline the interview.

              The company has obviously done their own risk assessment and deemed masks not necessary… therefore job done on their part (regardless if you agree or disagree with their conclusion).

              It is the same as a store who requires masks, they’ve deemed the risk warrants action (mask wearing). If a person disagrees with the store’s assessment and refuses to wear one, then they are choosing not to shop there.

              See how nicely this all works… people and organizations decide and based on that others can choose how they want to proceed. Look I get it, people are very adamant on both sides about mask wearing… I personally feel like that’s great… rock on with the side of the fence you fall on. It will work itself out in the end.

              1. Observer*

                Sure, it will “work itself out”. But how many people will die in the meantime? How many people will be sickened etc. Not by their own choices, but by someone ELSE’s decision?

              2. Avasarala*

                It “works itself out” by people dying because others are going around not wearing masks.

                I feel like you don’t realize how high the stakes are with this!

              3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                I will never be able to wrap my head around the fact that (by my rough estimate) half the people in the country I live in, decided to treat the act of infecting others with a potentially deadly disease for which there’s no known cure or vaccine, as a personal preference. If someone had told me a year ago that this would happen, I would not have believed them.

                My faith in humanity has certainly taken a nosedive this year.

        2. Thankful for AAM*

          The interesting thing is, the countries that have been most “successful” with limiting the spread of covid have kept most businesses open but everyone wears masks all the time. They dont live in fear, they take sensible precautions and move on. Like we do with seat belts.

          1. pancakes*

            Right, I don’t think people who speak of thinking through consequences as “living in fear,” etc. realize what they’re saying about their own thought process.

          2. Avasarala*

            If the fear keeps people’s masks on, then let’s live in fear! Let’s live cautiously!

        3. Generic Name*

          A lot of people don’t wear seatbelts or helmets either, but that only affects the person not wearing them. A person deciding to not wear a mask or stand 2 feet from someone else is putting themselves and other people at risk. Wearing a mask protects others and is an altruistic act. I’m sorry that you feel it’s unnecessary.

        4. Blueberry*

          And quite a few people are dying (or very ill on a lingering basis), so what’s your point?

      1. Lisa*

        I think we should start doing our normal things, but take precautions. Definitely do in-person interviews; also definitely wear a mask on the bus. If you look at all the studies spread is most likely indoors, in small spaces like a small interview room. I’d be most comforted if a company chose to have the interview in a larger conference room (what is being recommended) but if not I’d definitely wear a mask. It’s a health issue. It’s like if you broke your foot and had crutches during an interview – not ideal maybe, but necessary

    2. blackcat*

      IDK, this would depend on the region for me. It seems far riskier to take a job where they aren’t taking precautions and you may get sick (which costs $$$) than it is to keep looking.

  12. RedinSC*

    #3 don’t people wash their hands there? In general I’d be skeved out by this, but especially now, those hand notes are really telling me this person 1. Is not well organized and 2. Doesn’t wash their hands and that’s just too gross to want to work with.

  13. Maxie*

    #2, if your friend is trying to determine if this is a one-off or a judgment problem, your friend could do a second video interview if she is a serious candidate.
    But, and this is a big but, I don’t agree that women should have to bind their breasts, lift them and pretend they don’t gave nipples. Policies like this are also unevenly enforced for women with large breasts, breasts that are not firm and riding high (most older women and many women after pregnancy or breastfeeding) and thin women with prominent breasts who are considered attractive. But I also don’t agree that women who are not models should have to wear makeup, that any woman should have to pluck her eyebrows or wear high heels and dresses or that women with curly or frizzy or ethic hair should have to tame or straighten it to be considered professional. It’s not called discrimination, but what other word is there for not hiring women or harassing women at work who do not sport a thin WASP look? We should be judged for our skills and work product, not our appearance. I was harrassed for decades by bosses for not wearing makeup or dresses. My hair is frizzy and curly, my breasts are large and I don’t wear heels. At a young age I knew it was ridiculous to be judged for my appearance and attire when I was hired for my brains. I can’t count how many make bosses told me I would be so pretty if I wore make up or a dress. I’m not comfortable in dresses and don’t work well.

    1. Fikly*

      I 100% agree with this.

      But…I think there’s a difference between being able to, well, see the outline of nipples, and being able to see what color they are. I don’t know which was the case here, but if it was the second, that’s not ok in the workplace. That wouldn’t be ok for a man, either.

      1. Avasarala*

        Yeah I otherwise agree but I think it’s OK that we pretend everyone doesn’t have nipples at work.

      2. Tallulah In The Sky*

        Absolutely, and I understand the interviewer being uncomfortable. But the reaction here shouldn’t be “She should wear a bra !”, which some commenters have expressed. Dressing professionally shouldn’t mean asking women to wear certain things (like a bra, make up, heels, dresses) (at least in most jobs, where the way you present yourself isn’t part of the job description). Being covered up and making sure no sexual attributes are visible is, but as long as the outfit matches the company dress code, no one should care who is and isn’t wearing a bra.

        1. Fikly*

          Yeah, you shouldn’t police whether or not someone is wearing a bra.

          The need is to not be able to see what color someone’s nipples are. The way the person prevents that is up to them. There are plenty of ways to prevent that without wearing a bra.

        2. Allonge*

          To be honest, “should wear a bra” was also my first thought, but having read the comments, it extends to “or something ensuring appropriate covering anyhow”. So I hope for a lot of people who say wear a bra, it’s just the shorthand and not meant to be specifically prescriptive.

          1. Fikly*

            When communicating, what you say matters way more than what you mean, because what you say is what actually affects other people.

          2. pancakes*

            “Should be appropriately covered” is not meant to be specifically prescriptive? Generally prescriptive, then?

            1. Elsajeni*

              “Should be appropriately covered” is something you can achieve in a variety of ways — she could have worn the same shirt with a bra, the same shirt with a camisole or undershirt of some kind, the same shirt with a jacket that covered the general nip region, a different shirt that was less sheer and the exact same bra arrangement, etc. It’s prescriptive as to what the standard is (“I should not be able to discern the color of your nipples”), but not as to how you meet it.

      3. Smithy*

        Had this been a man wearing a white t-shirt so thin you could see the color of his nipples – I doubt this letter would have been submitted because the interviewer would have been far more inclined to assume “wow, what an unfortunate mistake”. However, because it’s a woman – whether just the shape or the shape and color – the question isn’t just “is this so unprofessional they don’t move forward”? Rather the question is, “is this such a horrible thing that happened to her, that she should be informed so as not to bring additional shame and disrespect to her”.

        Also….if we start wading into the water of “shape of nipples is an acceptable occasional oopsie, but color is beyond the pale” – then this opens the door to having an outsized impact on women of color who are more likely to have darker colored nipples.

        If this woman is wildly qualified and professional in every other context, then proceed. Should there be a true worry about her appearance for later interview rounds, then it might be worth saying that while the typical dress code in the office and for remote employees is casual, that senior leadership does have expectations that interviewing candidates adopt a more business casual style of dress.

        1. Fikly*

          I disagree – because dark shirts do not cost more than light shirts.

          If there was a cost difference, than yes, there would be a difference in burden on people with darker skin tones, but there is not a cost difference, so no, this not opening a door.

        2. Avasarala*

          Wait, are you saying women of color’s nipples are more likely to show through shirts? Aren’t their breasts also more likely to be darker colored? I really don’t see how skin color makes a difference here.

          And I agree that a man is less likely to be the target here, but we do have a story shared above where a man was not promoted because he looked unprofessional because his nipples showed through his shirt.

  14. Psammead*

    LW1: It doesn’t sound to be the case from your comment above but I’d add that one complication to wearing a mask in an interview might be if the interview panel included somebody hearing impaired who replied on lip reading to understand what was being said. However I believe people are starting to produce masks with clear panels so that your mouth can be seen and you can remain safe

    1. BeesKneeReplacement*

      They are. Also, there is increasing support for plastic face shields instead because some people find them more comfortable and therefore wear them more often. They also don’t cause glasses fogging, need to be readjusted after talking or moving around, and avoid the lip reading issue. Also, if I use a straw, I can still drink my iced coffee with one on. Remember when we were all arguing about disposable straws? How quaint.

      Yes, the shields don’t provide the same level of protection that a mask will but many people will get sufficient protection and, if people are more likely to wear them then that’s more protection than we’d otherwise get.

    2. OP #1*

      This is a valid comment and reason why it could make sense to choose to except the risk not to wear one. In this situation, the interviewers were not hearing impaired at all to my knowledge.

  15. JR*

    Re: OP #5 – in my experience, at companies that only do promotions once a year, that only applies to promotions that you’ve “earned” by doing higher-level work (like your last promotion). If you’re promoted to fill an actual vacancy (which this sounds like, as you say you’ll be replacing your boss), they’ll do that off-cycle.

  16. cncx*

    I see OP1 has already replied so i just want to amplify- wearing a mask tells me a lot about the potential employer’s reaction to a lot of things- safety, politics, etc. So for example where i live restrictions have eased into recommendations- if i were to interview i would still wear a mask so that i could see how they react, honestly. I don’t need a job badly enough to walk into a corporate culture that waves red flags like that.

  17. Arts Akimbo*

    OP#3, is your colleague quite young, maybe? Your post gave me a massive flashback– I used to think I was SO cute and quirky for writing my to-do list on my hand in college! Plus it was the only place my undiagnosed ADHD self wouldn’t lose them and would actually look– such a clever lifehack!! But I cringe now, thinking back. I… got away with a lot of extremely unprofessional behavior Because Artist, when I really wish someone would have just sat me down and explained “This is what professional behavior looks like.” Now, whether I’d have listened at that point in my life is anyone’s guess.

    I am definitely not recommending you sit your colleague down for a chat! That would probably be an overstep in this situation. This may be a time for live and let live. Some people just have to figure stuff out on their own, or at least from a higher-up in the org.

    So mainly I just posted to cringe about my 21-year-old self, LOL!

    1. Lisa*

      It makes me think immediately of my “artsy” friend in high school . . . and not in a good way

  18. PX*

    OP4: what a conundrum.

    From what you say, it seems to be consistent in your office culture that your role isn’t valued somehow, which is a shame because you’d think at least your direct boss would care. Is it just in meetings that others are uninterested? Is your role unique to what everyone else does? If so, that might be part of the problem: people dont see why what you do matters, and so they dont care. As someone else mentioned above, if you do an ‘invisible’ job where doing it well means people dont notice, that may be part of the issue.

    As for your boss themselves: do they have 1-1s with you or otherwise care about your professional growth/development? What are they like outside these team meetings – supportive? Do they advocate for you in other ways? If they are otherwise decent, then I think Alison’s advice is good. And if you know for a fact (not just rumour/suspicion) that this contributed to your predecessor leaving – its maybe even something you could work into your conversation more broadly (ie some kind of recognition within the broader team/company may help people feel valued).

    If none of the above applies, then I think the only thing is a mental re-frame. Basically assume this is how its always going to be – then figure out how best you can deal with it. Are you fine with others not caring what you do?

    For me, I’d go into it as a job with a limited time frame (2-3 years?) and one where my sole purpose is to get fantastic items for my resume. So big projects (like you are currently working on), meeting deliverables early etc, and then leave once you’ve ticked a few boxes.

    1. Moonbase Alpha*

      I am the OP. You have sort of read my mind on mentally reframing the situation. I’m disappointed that they are so disinterested in the nuts and bolts of this project, because I think they have let the scope of the project creep out of control. I went into the job thinking I would learn the ropes for the first year, doing things the current way they are done, and then suggest ways to streamline and improve the process. Since they aren’t interested in how it’s being done now (just that it gets done), they haven’t so far shown any interest in improving the process, which means… well, I don’t know how long I can stick around because it’s just a hair short of overwhelming. (I am only able to soldier on without feedback because I have been around the block a few times and have learned not to panic.) I think there is poor communication in this quite congenial family business, and they just don’t have any idea of how massive this midyear project has become. “Unsustainable” is a good word for it.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Sounds like you need to do an actual honest-to-god letter to the top couple of people and your immediate boss. Write up this situation as if you were in business school. Give the workflow, give the workload, show how this is unsustainable for one person, and put in a proposal for a solution. You’re the only one who knows how it might work better. Do you need one month temp? Do you need a one-time software investment to script a conversion utility between the way they do it in the way you need it? Do you need someone to record information in a spreadsheet that is currently only transmitted orally at these meetings? Good luck! Being proactive is tough, but if you work this out, you’ve got one hell of a resume item for the future.

      2. Ben*

        Does this project involve technical or specific expertise that’s outside the core of the company’s business? I have often found that is a recipe for dismissiveness, and I wonder if your colleagues even understand the nature of what it is you’re doing and why it’s both important and overwhelming.

        Working in law firms, I have seen this where attorneys, especially senior ones used to just having things “get done,” totally underestimate or don’t even consider the amount of time, effort, and complexity their requests require of people who do technical things like work with electronic discovery. And unfortunately, most of the time if you tried to explain it their eyes would glaze over… they just don’t think it’s their job and they don’t care what it takes.

      3. Avasarala*

        Sounds like you are basically Desmond in Lost, where you stumbled into what you thought was an interesting opportunity, and now you are trapped pushing a button every hour to save the world. Literally no one cares that you haven’t slept more than an hour in years, as long as that button continues to get pushed…

  19. Tallulah In The Sky*

    OP #4 : I don’t really have advice to offer, but I want to sympathize with you. When you’re in an environment where everyone acts a certain way, it can quickly feel like you’re the unreasonable one. I just want to let you know that you aren’t.

    What you describe sounds alienating and demoralizing. At an old job I was the only developer not working in a team for a while, I was working on some smaller projects which didn’t require more. The other teams made it a point to include me in some meetings and asking me about updates, not because they were really interested in what I did, but to include me.

    I hope you’re able to talk about it your boss, who will hear you and take some steps to fix that. Would love to hear an update from you :-)

  20. Jedi Squirrel*

    #3: I once worked for a principal who wrote on her hand all the time. I would offer her a piece of paper, and she’d say “No thanks! Can’t lose it if it’s on my hand.”

    She was a terrible person to work for: passive-aggressive, played favorites, had weird boundary issues, toadied to upper administration, had spies. Yes, it’s unprofessional, and when I see someone do it, I don’t want to work for them. I just get the shudders.

    Small notebooks are very inexpensive.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      And for me it’s post it notes because when these were first big on the market, I had a boss who was very PA and rather than talk to me directly would wait until I was away from my desk and leave a post it. For years, I couldn’t use them and got pissed off just seeing one attached to my work. LOL

  21. Rae*

    OP 3: This is me! I used to write on my hand all the time. It is much easier to keep up with than many scraps of paper. BUT in an effort to look more professional and be better organized I got a blank To Do list tattoo on the inside of my wrist. I also had a notepad printed with the same style To Do list and 25 lines. Important urgent stuff goes on my wrist, everything else goes on the notepad. Obviously I function better with a to do list to work from, but I also work in a field where I rotated through several workspaces each day and often need to follow up later with clients or co-workers.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I”m not sure if you’re serious but I actually think your To Do tattoo is clever. Not something I would do but if I saw it in the workplace I would probably give you points for 1) creativity and 2) knowing yourself!

    2. Anongineer*

      I’ve actually considered that type of tattoo as well! I always write on my hand if I need to remember something (though I’ve gotten better about using paper at work) and was hoping the tattoo would at least make it look more professional/organized. Glad it’s worked out for you!

  22. Ping*

    One of the biggest problems with writing on your hand is that the ink smears and disappears. Then you have no record.

    For a professional environment you really want to record things in a notebook. You have proof of agreements. You can date/time stamp it. You can review your notes. You can follow up days after the event. Because people’s memories can get fuzzy with time. A written document provides lasting proof.

    Writing on your hand is temporary. Your hand is also small, which means there is no room for extensive notes. It’s easy to make things cryptic and that can create error.

    And good luck scanning your hand if someone wants a copy of your notes.

    There’s a reason adults use notebooks.

    1. MessyHands*

      Are these really “notes” though, or just a quick word meant to remind later? I do this frequently (but not filling my hand) and would never use the method for, say, meeting notes. Just one-word phrases to remind myself of something straightforward.

    2. TechWorker*

      Yeah tbh the type of stuff I scribble down in meetings no-one would ever ask for a copy of – if it was actual meeting notes it would need typing up anyway.

    3. Batgirl*

      Just out of interest who is this person who is putting sensitive documentation on their hands? Sounds like a very specific and odd example. If I put something on my hand it’s not a dated and timestamped piece of evidence. I’m not faxing my hand before I do the filing! It’s a short term memory aide not a replacement for your brain. It’s “call x” or “add y to the to do list”. When I was a court reporter, the notebook came with me and it lived in my court bag. Each page was dated, it was a legal document. My current notebook lives on my desk (a big part of managing ADHD is strictly keeping things were they live). I use hand notes when I’m away from my notebook. My editor from my court days would have been fully within his rights to sack me for court notes on the hand. But little memos to myself? No one cared.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        FWIW, I have had multiple, multiple staff who were in charge of documenting compliance required data and managed to lose said data because they wrote it on their hands, then got distracted and forgot to rewrite it down where it’s supposed to be recorded and it wore off.

    4. Avasarala*

      I don’t think anyone is recommending taking important, lasting notes on their hands. Most people use it for quick reminders they need later that day.

      But also many people can remember things across several hours, unless they’re very stressed or have ADD or a very busy job or what have you. So it has a bad impression of someone being not very organized.

  23. NerdyKris*

    I’d be very concerned if someone managed to have something written on their hand for the entire day. It tells me they haven’t washed their hands since they wrote on them, and very few people can get through the day without using the bathroom at least once.

    1. Batgirl*

      Ive been meaning to ask this of someone with this popular opinion; sorry to single you out. Are you saying that when you write something on your hand it comes off in one wash? You’re scrubbing at the skin and it just comes away first time?

      1. Policy Wonk*

        Depends on both the ink and the soap. If a sharpie, probably not. A standard pen, it will smear. Given the stuff we have now during the time of coronavirus, if it’s standard ink and you actually wash for two verses of Happy Birthday, yes it will wash off.

        1. Jdc*

          Yep depends on both I agree. Some pen/ soap combos it washes easily or at least partially, some it stays. I don’t write on my hand except maybe an emergency now and then but experienced this. So you’re loosing the notes. Or not washing your hands.

        2. Batgirl*

          Gosh really? Mine’s on like a tatoo unless I use a nail brush multiple times. If I want it gone in one handwashing I’ll need to add makeup remover or alcohol to the nail brush. Two verses of happy birthday won’t do it with just soap.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Same. I do the notes on hand thing sometime (something basic like “buy milk”), and the ink does not wash off until I get home and clean it off with alcohol or hand sanitizer. People have mistaken my notes for tattoos in the past.

        3. Environmental Compliance*

          Also depends on your skin. If you have drier skin and it soaks up the ink better vs oily skin (me) and the pen doesn’t even want to write on you.

          1. Lonely Aussie*

            A normal biro takes a fair bit of scrubbing with warm soapy water to remove from my skin. Like it’ll come off but it takes work. I’m actually finding this whole, drawn on hands are dirty thing kind of funny I guess because mine get washed really thoroughly to clean them and then new notes added. I probably wash them more often to clear up space for other stuff. I tend to need to take down ID numbers and other stuff like that and then put them into the computer system so as long as it’s on, I don’t need the info anymore.

        4. TiffIf*

          Also, if you are using hand sanitizer in the absence of soap or in addition to soap it can take the ink off a lot faster.

      2. NerdyKris*

        I honestly wouldn’t know, I don’t write on my hands. Now that you mention it, it does take a bit to scrub off when I get ink on my hands, but I’d still think it would smear with at least one normal hand washing.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          It really, really depends on your skin type and what sort of pen (even under the category of “normal” writing pens — is it the kind with thick oily ink or the more watery kind?) you’re using.

        2. TiffIf*

          When I accidentally get ink on my hands, my first strategy to get it off is usually hand sanitizer, which is also in common use these days.

  24. MessyHands*

    Lw3: Oh, man, I’m a hand-note person. Not to this extent, but one or two throughout the day; I got the habit from my mother. If people ask or express concern, I just laugh it off and tell them (honestly) that I’ve never lost my hand, but I have lost notebooks or scraps of paper! I also make sure to wash clean when I’m done with my note so things don’t accumulate. I suppose how this is viewed is largely dependent on your industry and workplace culture, though.

    1. Mazzy*

      I don’t get this! Why do you do it? There is paper and waste paper and the empty parts of junk mail to use! I always assumed it was for show, just like when people hash out meals on a napkin, or, I remember watching once, on the back of a paper plate, by two ladies in 90s power suits. I thought the ladies doing that thought they were being urbane or cool or something, like they were so busy and businessy that they were hashing out deals all over the place that they ran out of surface space. But not out of necessity!

      1. Asenath*

        I used to do it when I was in school and wanted a quick reminder I’d be sure to find without going through my school notebooks. I was usually out going somewhere and didn’t have bits of paper or napkins handy. I dropped the habit – which I didn’t do very often – pretty quickly when I left high school and needed more notes. Sometimes I had a notebook for these notes, sometimes I had scraps of paper and now I generally use an app on my phone.

      2. Batgirl*

        It’s not a great idea to do it for show, because people neither like it nor understand it. I learned a long time ago to use an unnoticeable ink colour like pale green and do it under a sleeve if you’re stuck somewhere you can’t wash your hands. I also learned a long time ago that people have better executive function than I do. They can remember things just by saying to themselves ‘it is important to remember this’ or they will write things on a note and they will remember that they wrote a note! They will even remember where it is.
        I have a proper to do list but whether electronic or paper, it has to stay in one dedicated place where I’m in the habit of checking/seeing it regularly. If I carted it around I’d lose it. The first thing I learned about ADHD is to give everything a home. There are times when someone gives me information and I can say ‘Hey can you email that to me?’ and they will! Other times I don’t feel comfortable admitting I won’t remember stuff because I know its the type of thing other people would remember. So I write it somewhere I won’t lose it until I can get it on the list.
        I get compliments all the time for being ‘naturally organised’. Nope I work very, very hard at it and I also work hard at making the effort invisible.

        1. Turtlewings*

          “I also learned a long time ago that people have better executive function than I do. They can remember things just by saying to themselves ‘it is important to remember this’ or they will write things on a note and they will remember that they wrote a note! They will even remember where it is.” — Exactly this! Must be nice to be able to write yourself a note and actually remember to look at the note later, or even remember that the note ever existed. Can’t relate.

          1. LJay*

            I have bad ADHD and terrible executive function.

            The notebook is a visual reminder that I need to check in there for notes since that is it’s only function.

            The notebook’s home is on my person at all times while at work. Just like my wallet and car keys. Before/after work it goes into my backpack that goes to/from work with me and it stays there until the next morning. (If I was in one office more consistently it would live on my desk overnight but I travel a lot for work). I do sometimes leave it somewhere (though really I mostly go from my car to my office to my boss’s office to a conference room) but I’ve embedded a habit to check for it regularly so it never gets too far away from me before I realize it’s gone and backtrack.

            I do ask people to email me things all the time though – if it’s detailed enough that I need to jot down more than one or two sentences they just need to email it to me so I have all the details in one place.

            I can’t really deal with single pieces of paper though. Those will almost certainly get lost. And notes on my or laptop phone will be forgotten immediately once I close the app (and possibly remembered with horror at midnight, otherwise just not ever thought about again until I open that app for another reason) since the phone and laptop have more than one function they just don’t remind me in the same way.

            1. Batgirl*

              Please share your secret! I’m super interested that you keep a pad, wallet and car keys on your person at all times as you trek about. You don’t ever lose track of them? I find that I will end up leaving my handbag somewhere if I cart them around with me. It’s been safer so far to keep it at my desk, especially if I have my hands full.

      3. MsSolo*

        Sometimes it isn’t notebook appropriate. If I’m in a meeting taking notes, and suddenly remember I need to get milk on the way home, the last place I want to record that is in the notebook! I’ll never think to check my Q4 Project Board Update Meeting notes for a shopping list before I leave the office. As others have said above, getting your phone out in a meeting can very easily be read the wrong way, and scrap paper has the uncanny ability to vanish as soon as you take your eyes off it (especially since most women’s ‘professional’ clothing lacks deep pockets). My hand is in the meeting, and it’ll be in the shop too.

        1. LJay*

          Okay, this one makes sense to me!

          Maybe I should start writing that I need to get gas in the morning on my hand when I decide not to get it the night before. Since I never remember and drive past the gas station in the morning before I remember I need to go there (and don’t leave enough time to stop and get to work on time anyway) and then arrive at work almost out of gas and then am afraid I am going to run out before I get back to the gas station on the way home.

          Of course getting it on the way home the night before is the more reasonable thing to do lol but sometimes just stopping and doing that seems like an insurmountable task.

          For my groceries I have a home notebook with a grocery list that I update whenever I get below my reorder threshold. But if you don’t have set going to the store days and times I can see how that wouldn’t work in this case. You’ve gotta remember to check the notebook to see what you need and if you don’t think you need anything there’s no reason to check the notebook.

        2. Avasarala*

          This is a great example.

          Recently I’ve switched to telling Siri to remind me hours later.

      4. Lonely Aussie*

        Because random bits of paper get lost, misplaced or destroyed. I’m yet to lose an arm or a hand. My system is that stuff that needs to stay between washes is on my forearm near my elbow, stuff on my actual hand gets entered/done right away and then I scrub it off my hand. So my hand might always have writing on it but it’s been scrubbed and had new stuff written on it multiple times over the day.

      5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Because, using MsSolo’s example on this subthread, while I may very well remember to get milk on the way home while I’m in the meeting, I will totally forget it and drive straight home on autopilot when I’m getting off work, exhausted after a work day, several hours later. I guess I could write it down in a handy notebook, then forget that I have the notebook and drive straight home. Then remember the notebook when I go to the fridge to get milk and realize I’m out. People aren’t doing everything they do *at* others, tbh.

      6. SarahTheEntwife*

        I can’t lose my hand, and I’m constantly looking at my hands just because they’re there usually hanging out more or less in my visual field. Paper can get lost, and I have to remember to look at the paper.

        Getting medicated for ADHD helped a *lot* with being able to actually keep track of and remember notes, but for crucial information if I’m having a spacey day I will absolutely resort to hand notes. It’s either look unprofessional because I have a note on my hand or look unprofessional because I have bright pink sticky notes five different places saying MAIL RENT CHECK. :-b

        1. TiffIf*

          Paper can get lost, and I have to remember to look at the paper.

          This is why I put reminders/schedule things in my phone constantly (literally just put a reminder in my phone for saturday to watch the SpaceX launch). I don’t have to remember it anymore and then my phone notifies me half an hour before something is happening/needs to happen.

  25. Policy Wonk*

    #3 – one of the first things I tell new employees and interns is to take a notebook and pen with them wherever they go. They may need to take notes, they may get an assignment, they may want to write something down. The number of them who tell me no, they have a great memory, then later borrow a pen to write something on their hand, or ask if I know what Fergus asked them to do is really maddening. Writing on your hand in a pinch is tacky, but acceptable once. Doing it on a regular basis is not. Plan ahead, bring a notebook and pen. (And it’s a good idea to check to make sure the pen works.)

  26. Zeus*

    LW #3 – this may be way TMI, and a little off topic, but your letter reminded me of a boyfriend I had a very very long time ago (I am quite old) who would ask me to draw comics on his back with a pen. I would take the Sunday funnies and duplicate Charlie Brown, et al on his back. He said it felt good. Older me thinks it’s odd but I suppose harmless.

  27. Person of Interest*

    #5 – I’ve been in similar situations; you definitely need to get written confirmation of your new title and compensation agreed to by you and your boss, and the date that goes into effect. If they won’t commit to the formal bump, then tell them you are happy to stay with your current role, responsibilities, and salary until they can commit. It really feels awful being asked to take on the extra work without the recognition; it’s one of the reasons I soured on my last job.

    1. MassMatt*

      #5–Surprised this hasn’t gotten more comments but clearly the see-through shirt/bra and mask-wearing for an interview are garnering the bulk of the attention.

      I have worked at places where basically it’s expected that you do the work for the upper-level job first, and only THEN will you get promoted, and they might take their sweet time about it even then. I got my first promotion because there had been a lot of management turnover and no one was taking on the work of training new employees. I did that for a few months before they posted the position. The person who promoted me had been in the same situation, except he did the job for TWO YEARS before the company finally gave him the title and compensation. Large companies are often notorious for this.

      The drawback of refusing or even appearing reluctant for promotion is that you may not get another chance for the opportunity.

      Unless the job entails far more hassle or hours than your current one, I would recommend considering it. Unless your company is likely to give you the work without ever giving you the promotion (which would stink, but it happens), doing the work can build up your skills and experience for your career overall.

      1. Cannonball*

        LW5 here, thanks for the input, both of you! I’m not that concerned that they won’t *eventually* promote me, but I am concerned about taking on the work only to find that they expect me to do it for barely more than I’m making now — and concerned about how it would impact my career here if it becomes clear that I don’t want it in that case. It’s not totally clear to me exactly how much more hassle it entails, but my impression from working closely with my boss for the last several years is that it’s a lot more.

        I plan to wait for a planned transition meeting (which I think is meant to be more about how to move the tasks than actually formalize my promotion, of course) and then ask for more clarity on the transition plan. I think what’s slowing it down is that at my company individual managers have almost no say over salary and don’t even have full power over promotions — all of that is standardized by HR.

  28. Elenia*

    In regards to letter 3, not only is it useful to carry a notebook, as others have said, but I have found it invaluable to flip back to and refer to weeks later. What was was it we decided in that meeting….ah yes.

  29. Ladylike*

    Wow, I totally disagree with the advice to OP #2. Video conference, pandemic, or not – who the *hell* wears a white T-shirt with no bra to a *job interview*?? This would seriously make me question her professionalism and her understanding of workplace norms. Just no.

    1. Bree*

      Some people don’t need or want to wear bras, job interview or not, and that’s fine.

      1. juliebulie*

        Agreed. I don’t have an issue with the no-bra. I’m more surprised by the T-shirt. I’d definitely wear something a little more formal (and substantial) than a T-shirt for a job interview.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          The t-shirt surprises me, but if the interview is in software or something that might explain it somewhat, and this is a time when it’s uniquely difficult to just run out and find new interview clothing if the suit from your last round of interviews doesn’t fit anymore or whatever.

      2. Maxie*

        Does this mean that bras are required or not required based on body type? This reminds me of an post where the manager created a rule that employees were allowed or not allowed to wear leggings based on body type.

        1. Bree*

          No. No one is obligated to wear a bra for any reason if they don’t want to. I said “some people don’t need or want” to recognize that either reason is valid. Personally, I don’t want to wear a bra, but I need to for physical discomfort reasons.

          1. Maxie*

            Bree, I reacted to “Some people don’t need or want to wear bras” as some poeple need bras and some people don’t, which is usually based on body type and breast size.

    2. Blueberry*

      And so the policing of women’s bodies, and the denial of opportunities to women for being visibly female, continues onwards.

      1. Ladylike*

        It has nothing to do with policing women’s bodies. If she had worn, say, a shell and a cardigan, or a button-up and a blazer – typical interview attire – her bra/nipples wouldn’t even be in question. The white T-shirt is the main “offense”. The lack of bra just adds to the too-casual vibe, like she just rolled out of bed and threw on the closest shirt.

        1. Blueberry*

          *thinks of all the men I’ve seen interview and even be hired wearing T-shirts*
          *considers how productive it would be to write another iteration of “sexism still exists in 2020 and women are often sexist against other women”*

          … yeah.

          1. NOM AAM*

            +1. If this a law firm or whatever where conservative dress is expected, OK. If this is a startup, not OK — this is sexist.

          2. Tiny Soprano*

            *thinks of how I still frequently have visible nips through a bra and traditional work attire*
            *sweats profusely*

    3. My Brain Is Exploding*

      I think a white t-shirt, by itself (eg, no sweater or jacket with it), is inappropriate for an interview, even for a job with a casual-dress company.

      1. BeesKneeReplacement*

        I also wonder if this was just a plain, white, short-sleeved, jersey-knit cotton shirt (which is what *I* would describe as a t-shirt) or literally any top that isn’t a chunky knit sweater or a button down (my husband or random other people I’ve encountered).

    4. NOM AAM*

      Women MUST NOT be judged on whether they wear bras. That is sexist thinking. As is the moniker “ladylike”.

  30. Bree*

    Letter #3 (notes on hand) made me powerfully and emotionally nostalgic for high school, when I did this all the time. Sometimes my friends and I would write notes on each other’s hands, too. Which reinforces that it can look immature, certainly. But it was also a kind of nice memory for a gloomy Thursday morning, so thanks LW and their coworker!

    PS – If you don’t want to carry a small notebook, the Notes app on your phone works for this too.

  31. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    LW #2: Would your friend be so concerned if it was a *male* candidate who had a slightly-too-casual shirt and nipples showing? Everyone has nipples, but only female-presenting people are expected not to, and to do everything in their power to conceal them. Stop policing female-presenting bodies and focus on the candidate’s merits.

    1. Michael*

      FWIW, I’d also be taken aback if I could see a male candidate’s body through their shirt (I assume from context we’re not just talking about bumps, but actual see-through clothing). That said, the answer is the same in both cases, which is to assume it’s a embarrassing but ultimately minor mistake and move on.

  32. LQ*

    #4 –
    I’m in a sort of similar position. I’m doing a giant project that will shift the whole organization, costs more than our annual budget, all that. But when I talk about it people just kind of …sit quietly and then move on. I’ve been fairly excluded from a lot of the things that someone at my level would normally be involved in.

    Over the last couple months because of COVID I’ve had to be more involved in some of these things and gotten closer with these coworkers who have all sort of confessed that essentially they are just entirely overwhelmed by the scope and size of the work I’m doing and trust my judgment on the work. So they are trying to stay out of my way and keep me off in the corner so that I can do it without interruption. They are trying to be kind with this behavior.

    They still don’t read my reports. They still don’t really know what to say when I do talk about the work. I’d still be very hard-pressed for any of them to even describe it other than “LQ is going to make everything better.” But weirdly I am now more involved in what THEY do, which is more work for me, but much less isolating. It’s easier to do 2 jobs in this case than just the 1 I’m supposed to do. It helps me better understand and make sure that what I’m doing gets at the goals it needs to. And I don’t feel like I’m an island. But that was a handful of hard conversations and bad, hard moments to get there. And my boss still would rather I be an island.

    I’m just using this to say that you aren’t alone in feeling like this, and it doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. It can be something else. It may never get much better even if it is better. That’s sounds weird.

  33. Posting Under a Different Name for This One*

    OP2, I’m probably in the minority here but I also think it’s worth mentioning the women’s nipples get far more scrutiny than men’s. Breasts are a secondary sex organ, like the adam’s apple, that men sexualized. I used to be judgemental about women not wearing bras, especially at work, but since quarantine I’ve only worn one to exercise. (And my cup size is DD.) Perhaps we can start to change the conversation… Granted, I don’t want to see a man’s nipples at work either but our assumption if we did see them through a shirt is that he just didn’t realize it, not that he was unprofessional.

    1. pcake*

      I’m a woman, and I wouldn’t be any happier to see a man’s nipples than a woman’s – sure, we’ve all got nipples, but perhaps they’re best exposed in a less work-related setting. I also wouldn’t expect to see the soles of a candidate’s feet or their butts during an interview.

      Still, wardrobe malfunctions do happen, although for an online interview, I would wear the same clothing – including a bra, which in my case makes a huge difference in my appearance and how my clothes fit – that I would wear in an in-person interview.

  34. foolofgrace*

    #1: I haven’t seen this in the comments so far, and I’m sure everyone knows this, but masks are not meant to protect the wearer; they are meant to protect others from the wearer. So by wearing a mask to an interview the interviewee is protecting the interviewers, but the interviewers by not wearing masks are not protecting anyone else from their possible germs. Personally I think masks might offer some protection to the wearer but I’ve got to go with what the experts say. If I really needed that job, I’d roll the dice, kiss it up to God, and not wear a mask if others aren’t wearing one.

    1. OP #1*

      I was kind of thinking along the same lines originally. I personally believe it might add some (limited) protection to me as the wearer, but the research I’ve heard has mostly cited it’s more to protect spread to others. Given this and the fact that the interviewers don’t seem concerned about this risk, I’m not sure if the slight benefit I might get from the mask is really worth the distraction. On the other hand, it could add some protection and I’ve been wearing it everywhere public anyways, so in that sense, it seems like maybe I should wear it.

      1. juliebulie*

        Please show respect for your interviewers’ health and wear a mask, even if they don’t value that respect or extend it to you.

        1. soon to be former fed really*

          The virus is primarily spread through the release of respiratory particles, which happens even with regular breathing and talking, not just sneezing or coughing. Presymptomatic people can shed the virus before actively apprearing sick. People are not getting this. Wear masks, people. I would haveone on at that interview since they insist on doing it face to face (also the worst positioning for viral transmission), when a virtual interview could be done. They should at least hold the interview outdoors if it must be in person. Covid-19 is no plaything.

    2. soon to be former fed really*

      In nations like China who have tamped down Covid-19, everyone wears masks! You could be presymptomatic or asymptomatic and be spreading the virus unknowingly. The reason filtration rate (N95 masks filter out 95% of particles down to three microns in size) matters is because masks can protect against viral particles infecting the wearer! Various materials offer more or less protection, and adding liners (I use coffee filters) boost protection even more.

      Your interviewers are not behaving intelligently, unless you will be at opposite ends of a huge conference table where hopefully nobody sneezes.

      Please inform yourself and follow all CDC recommendations. This is going to get worse before it gets better because people will not wear masks or stay ways from others, and probably aren’t washing their hands either. Take this seriously, people. It’s a freaking pandemic and each one of us has a responsibility to protect public health as much as we can!

      Off soapbox now.

    3. soon to be former fed really (*

      You are incorrect. Masks keep germs in AND out. You must be young and perfectly healthy, with no older or at risk relatives to suggest rolling dice with Covid.

      I can’t believe what I’m reading in this thread! 100,000 dead already, there will be at least another 100,000 more, an no, not all the victims are old and infirm. There are children and young people in the mix too.

      I’ve linked to a very useful and informative site written in laymens terms. Knowledge is power. This is no ordinary virus or flu.

      1. NOM AAM*

        there will be at least another 100,000 more….

        I don’t disagree that that “this is no flu,” but that is not what the latest models are saying.

        1. blackcat*

          Depends on the model. I think there’s broad consensus that if there’s a second wave, there will likely be more than 100,000 more deaths. Most modeling only goes out until August or September because there’s too much uncertainty after that. It’s true we will likely see <100,000 additional deaths over the summer, but not over the next calendar year.

  35. Turtlewings*

    Re LW #3 — as someone who writes notes on my hand fairly frequently: I could write in a notebook or on a piece of paper all day, it won’t help because I won’t remember to look at the paper! The whole point of a note on the hand is you’re guaranteed to see it. Maybe it looks unprofessional. It’s also unprofessional to forget to do something important!

    1. soon to be former fed really*

      Do you use hand sanitizer much? It takes most inks right off. Frequent hand washing like we are supposed to do now doesn’t help either. I thought God made sticky motes tohelp us remember things, LOL.

  36. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    LW1, and others, who choose to wear masks – please be mindful of those of us who are deaf or hard of hearing. We cannot lipread you through a mask.

    1. triplehiccup*

      That is a great point. What is the ideal solution, in your opinion? To me it seems like it would be on the interviewer to volunteer that information when the candidate asked about wearing masks. Even then, I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with “everyone sits in an office without a mask” as the solution. If we have to meet in person sans mask, I’d be ok with meeting outside and maintaining 6 ft distance. Maybe talking through a glass door if the weather is bad? But that would probably look funny. At work there’s always a balance between pragmatism and optics – how does that calculus change now?

      1. Bree*

        Clear face shields might be an alternative an office could provide to employees or visitors to an office where someone lipreads.

    2. soon to be former fed really*

      What do you recommend? I am high-risk and will be around no humans without a mask including my own family. The virus is primarily spread through respiration including breathing.

      1. soon to be former fed really*

        That said, I appreciate it is a difficult time for you now with people mostly covered up, but this is something I can’t compromise on.

        1. Avasarala*

          Agreed–there are many workarounds we might try. We could share video clips of us recorded in different rooms. We could transcribe messages, either through chat or having another colleague transcribe the interviewee’s answers. Or whatever you would do for a deaf colleague who can’t lip-read.

          I appreciate the hurdle but we cannot ask people to remove their masks. It’s just not safe.

    3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Do you wear a mask when you’re talking to people who don’t lip-read, or do you leave it off because you might encounter someone else who reads lips?

      I might be willing to do without a mask, if we couldn’t find another solution, like email, a whiteboard outside the shop, or Zoom–but only if you wear a mask consistently: If I’m not masked and you are, your risk goes up more than mine does. If neither of us is masked, we’re both at greater risk, as are the people we interact with later.

      I say “might” because I’m not an emergency responder or any kind of essential worker. For safety reasons, I, like a lot of other people, haven’t seen my girlfriend in more than two months. That’s the comparison: is this conversation more necessary, or more important to me, than the chance to see someone I love? Some medical things might be, and I can’t think of anything else.

    4. blackcat*

      So the MA regulation specifically points to speaking someone who is deaf or hard of hearing as an exception to mask regulations.
      It’s something I think about a lot, since I’ve been active in accessibility initiatives in my professional community. Masks both muffle the speaker and hide the lips, which makes this very hard. I’m not sure what solutions exist (not wearing a mask isn’t a solution, IMO, as someone who has had COVID and has family members who are very high risk), but I’d be very interested in hearing about possibilities.

      1. Bree*

        I just saw an article about masks with a cutout and a clear plastic panel where the mouth is specifically for this reason. Very cool!

  37. The Bimmer Guy*

    OP1: I would also advise against telling anyone else about that incident. Gossip spreads and this woman, especially if she’s hired, doesn’t need to have a whole company of people who know she had that kind of wardrobe malfunction in an interview.

    1. OP #1*

      I think you meant to direct your comment to OP #2. Question #1 was the wearing mask to an interview question. #2 was the wardrobe malfunction.

      1. caps22*

        Haha, OP1, wear the mask but also wear opaque clothes and suitable undergarments to the interview :)

  38. Yamikuronue*

    LW5 definitely, definitely ask about the salary. I was given a similar promotion, where when they changed the titles on my whole team they bumped mine up, with salary to come later. Then it got rolled into the usual raise cycle. Then it had to be fought for as it was “an unusually high raise”. Then COVID hit and everyone took a pay cut and all raises were cancelled. I still don’t have my new salary figure, let alone the pay I was meant to receive.

    1. Cannonball*

      Yikes, thanks for the warning — I’m LW5! I’ll plan a time to bring up next steps with HR with my boss (they are the ones who will need to approve, so at this point he doesn’t even know).

      1. Cannonball*

        Also — I’m sorry that’s how this played out for you. Hope it gets resolved once the pandemic is over!

  39. Employment Lawyer*

    2. Job candidate wore a see-through shirt on a video interview
    The simple solution (if you otherwise like her and are worried about it) is to schedule an extra video interview or two, at which point you’ll know if it is an error or a trend.

    It IS an error, though: If you’re in a video you are supposed to take a second to see how you look, whether to adjust backlight, remove unappealing things from the background, make sure your fly is up, or make sure your shirt isn’t see-through. You aren’t a heel if this makes you want to move on.

    3. Writing notes on your hand at work
    That is childish and unprofessional.

    Get your friend a gift of a few mini Moleskin notebooks, or some fancy index cards and a holder from Levenger, and deal with it that way.

    4. My colleagues are uninterested in my work
    It sounds like this position is best for someone who does not require active validation *in addition to* a good salary, inoffensive management, good job security, and decent working conditions. Are you sure you want to be that person?

    Frankly I’d suck it up or leave, though you can dig a bit if you want. I wouldn’t count on your new job being better, though.

    1. EBStarr*

      >>The simple solution (if you otherwise like her and are worried about it) is to schedule an extra video interview or two, at which point you’ll know if it is an error or a trend.

      I don’t really think it’s appropriate to schedule an interview for the purpose of looking at someone’s nipple area. I could be biased, because where I work I’m pretty sure it would be considered a major faux-pas to even mention someone’s appearance in an interview evaluation (unless they were wearing a T-shirt with a racist slogan on it or something) and I am blissfully happy that my industry/company is like this. But even if it were OK to judge someone based on a wardrobe malfunction (I personally disagree with that but see more gray area), it crosses a major line to go in to an interview actively planning to look at someone’s breasts…

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      I’m sure the friend in #3 is aware of the existence of note paper. People who write notes on their hands aren’t doing it because they can’t find anything else; they’re doing it because it works better for them.

      This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s appropriate in most offices, especially not when you’re doing it all the time, but if it’s due to executive functioning issues handing someone note cards would be insultingly insufficient as a solution.

      1. Batgirl*

        I would actually love someone to hand me index cards as a memory aide because that would crack me up. I can’t think of anything more spectacularly useless!
        But also I would love it because I am a stationary nut. I adore pretty notepads to scribble in and index cards are super for brainstorming and using for reference info on noticeboards. So do! Do gift me with stationary. It won’t help, but I’ll like it.

      2. soon to be former fed really*

        I guess this person isn’t washing her hands frequently or using much hand sanitizer, yuk.

      3. soon to be former fed really*

        Good grief, executive functioning issue? Hands have to be clean now and writing on them does not help with that at all.

  40. we're basically gods*

    LW2: It’s also possible she didn’t realize exactly how much of her would be showing in the webcam; the angle is pretty easy to adjust, so she may have expected that only her head and shoulders would be visible, and not realized that her chest was also showing.

  41. TurtleIScream*

    I conflated the topics in the headline and read “should I wear a shirt to an interview?” I think no matter where you fall on the spectrum of what it considered professional and appropriate, the answer to that is almost always “yes!”

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      I’m trying to think of situations where you wouldn’t necessarily have to wear a shirt and it’s a hilarious thought exercise. Brand ambassador for athletic wear? Lifeguard? Sumo wrestler?

  42. AndreaC*

    LW3: Also make sure that your co-worker isn’t writing any sensitive information on her hand. If she jots down someone’s SSN or something, it’s visible to everyone.

  43. NYC resident in tiny apartment*

    We are in the middle of a global pandemic that has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and sent the economy into a tailspin, and people are worried about nipples? Where is the compassion? I work in a business professional setting and my non-WFH attire is typically a dress, makeup, blown out hair, heels/flats, manicured nails, jewelry etc. Now? I don’t have laundry in my building, my dry cleaner is closed, I haven’t cut/colored my hair in months, my eyebrows are a mess and I wear a t-shirt on video conferences and call it a day. No one has said a word to me. Life is harder than usual right now. There are a lot of reasons people wouldn’t have a perfect interview outfit ready.

    1. Tiny Soprano*

      Agreed. At the present time I’m much more interested in seeing people’s pets on video calls and couldn’t give a toss what their hair/wardrobe/nipple situation is. Plus I’ve known so many people who’ve gained or lost weight over quarantine, there are probably people whose interview clothes don’t fit them anymore.

  44. Wing Leader*

    OP #3:

    Oh boy, I’m the person who sometimes writes notes/reminders on my hand. I try not to do it, though, unless I REALLY need to remember something that I’m sure I’ll forget otherwise. If I write it down on a piece of paper, I will most likely lose that paper.

  45. Stephany*

    If you can regularly use your hand as a note pad, you are not washing your hands often enough, and you are visibly demonstrating that fact to your coworkers. I think most of us has made a quick note on our body, but multiple notes multiple times a day? And they are still on your hand at the end of the day? Yuck.

    1. Batgirl*

      I’m subtle about hand writing just for optics sake of not revealing my ADHD, but this thread was a real ‘today I learned’ about people assuming wrongly about handwashing. I never knew that people could accidentally wash off ink. Someone on here says it comes off with condensation! It would take me 15 minutes with a combo of scrub and alcohol to get it in one go. Normal handwashing just fades it. Now I know why some people insist they can ‘sweat off their makeup’ – something that privately never made sense to me. Its designed to stay on your skin and they make special remover!

      1. KoiFeeder*

        It depends on the ink, the skin chemistry of the person, the chemistry of the water and soap used for handwashing, and frankly I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the air plays some role in it too. My skin is a hellish greasepit and nothing’s gonna stay on there. Someone with healthier skin probably wouldn’t lose the notes even before handwashing.

      2. OP#3*

        As it happens I wrote a reminder o. my hand today with a biro. It took perhaps 4 or 5 washes to come off. My daughter often has stuff on her hand for days but certainly does wash her hands I can assure you. She also has since said it works for her as is sort of a comfort habit which I sort of get. Just to clear matters up my colleague doesn’t go into meetings and take notes on her hand, just when out in the field and much much prefers this to carrying a notebook and risking losing it.

  46. Fieldpoppy*

    I think I have hit a wall on pandemic patience, because many of these comments made me quite cranky, and I don’t usually feel that way ;-).

    * Nipples: I am old enough that I still have a lot of thin bras that don’t completely obscure my nipples if it’s cold or what have you; I hate the past decade’s trend toward “tshirt bras” which are *always* padded and add even more bulk to the middle aged boob spread I do not enjoy. They are way less comfortable for mid-sized boobs than the thinner simple microfibre underwires I’ve been wearing for years. I don’t understand the nipple phobia that has arisen in the past while — assess this poor woman based on her qualifications for the job, not what a bad camera/lighting did to her appearance.

    * Masks: wearing a mask is not about your and your rights or your fears, it’s about you potentially having asymptomatic spread and adhering to the social contract that says we don’t go around stepping on people’s feet or poking them in the eye. Masks don’t protect you, they protect other people, and OP, if your interviewer thinks they are about you, that’s a huge red flag about their overarching understanding of what it means to participate in a socially accountable community. I question a lot of things about this whole set up (and I saw your comments, so I think you’ve already done the interview), but I would seriously question their ability to make good health and safety decisions in any way.

    * LW #4, I hear you on the loneliness of doing hard work and not being recognized. Do you have an ally or two you can go deeply into it with?

    Off to take a nap now. Alison, thank you for your incredible commitment to your work and this community.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      “I don’t understand the nipple phobia that has arisen in the past while” – I can’t speak for others, but for myself as a young-ish feminine looking woman, having visible nipples gets me attention I don’t want. As much as I’d enjoy smashing the patriarchy and relish subverting expectations in other ways, I don’t like to wear things that make lots of men leer at me because it makes me feel unsafe. :( Hope that sort of answers your question (although I know it wasn’t actually a question).

      1. Fieldpoppy*

        I do get that, AND it makes me SAD that that is still true after so many decades of pointing out that it’s men’s reactions that need to change, not women’s clothing choices.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Yep, makes me sad too. We are teaching our daughter that her body is an instrument and not an ornament, but it saddens me to no end that I will likely have to have a chat with her one day about how the way she dresses can be interpreted by others. She’s only 3, though, so hopefully by then the world will have improved. And should we ever have a son, we will DEFINITELY teach him to respect women as actual people and not objects. Change starts with us.

        2. Tiny Soprano*

          There’s no point trying to evade reactions anyway. When you have a female-looking body, the line between slatternly temptress and literal potato is so fine you’d need an electron microscope to see it. Sometimes you’re both at the same time! Because it’s other people’s perceptions, not what you actually look like that defines whether you are temptress or potato (or my personal favourite, the tempting potato.)

          1. BeesKneeReplacement*

            I find nearly all potatoes tempting. Baked, fried, mashed…I want them all. But only actual potatoes.

  47. Letterwriter #2*

    Hi everyone, I’m letter writer #2.

    In terms of an update, it was decided shortly after this interview that Bob’s company would no longer be hiring externally and any new roles should be filled by current employees. Thankfully my friend has offered to connect her with anyone in his network. Here’s hoping she is more mindful in the future.

    That said, I have to agree with many of the commenters here on several things:
    1. Bras can be uncomfortable and if I could get away with it, I’d never wear one either.

    2. Nothing is more frustrating than the too thin women’s t-shirt that is basically ubiquitous these days and I would never use it as a way to question a woman’s judgement. I also suspect that she may not have even considered that her breasts were even in view of the camera. There are too many variables here, so I think it’s safe to assume it was a mistake.

    3. BUT I do find it weird she did not dress up more. I just started a new job and not only did I plan my hair, shirt, and make up for the remote interview but I also went overboard staging my environment! I made sure my lighting was perfect, and I even moved furniture and decor around to stage the background of my interview space (but maybe I’m just a details freak).

    I’m glad that for the most part, everyone agrees with the advice. It took a few minutes to convince my friend and my bf that it wasn’t some sort of “power move” (their words, not mine). Also, for anyone concerned the only people aware of this wardrobe malfunction is me, my boyfriend and our friend Bob. Hopefully she had no other interviews lined up that day. :P

    1. Avasarala*

      Oh wow. I never thought that committing a common fashion faux pas could be a power move. Do they think that toilet paper stuck to your shoe, or having your skirt tucked into your underwear, or having your shirt buttons misaligned are similar displays of power?? Or are they picturing some seduction scene from a movie?? I’m sorry that is just ridiculous…

  48. ArtK*

    LW#5 I really feel your pain. Let’s say I’m responsible for making sure that our product is free of certain types of flaws. Now these flaws don’t affect the users directly so there’s a lot of resistance to taking the effort to fix them — sometimes that takes a lot of work on the part of the other people making the product. Possibly even redesigning certain parts of the product. On the other hand, if one of these flaws were to suddenly manifest (say, our teapots explode), it would be very difficult and expensive to deal with the fallout.

    One of the things that I’ve done is recruit some people higher up in the organization as sponsors. I gave a presentation about how serious these flaws can become if not fixed and invited the VP over the whole product line. He chimed in several times about how important this stuff was and that we needed to take it seriously. That seemed to help get some attention.

  49. Wintermute*

    #2– It’s worth considering that especially cheaper cameras (the kind you might buy because you need them for job interviews and need one now, and all that’s open to buy one is a walmart) have… questionable IR filters on them. By default a digital camera picks up IR quite well, they apply a film to the inside of the lens to block this and limit the camera to visible light, you can hack some cameras (notably the one that you could buy for a Game Boy, which hardware hackers often do) to remove that film even and make them an infrared camera.

    Why does this matter? Because IR is notorious for seeing through clothing! she could have looked at herself in full bathroom lamp light and seen nothing scandalous and made the reasonable choice that she was being discreet when, unfortunately, a cheap camera could see right through her clothing.

  50. OP #1*

    Update from OP #1 for anyone interested:

    I was skeptical of the company’s choice to conduct the interview in-person right now, but decided to go anyways and proceed with caution since I was interested in the job and have not been getting many responses to job apps since the pandemic hit the US and my normal field of work is kind of dead right now because of pandemic related shut-downs/safety concerns. I ended up wearing a mask (cloth one that matched my shirt) to the interview, but then we ended up sitting down about 6 feet apart from each other, so I ended up taking it off for that part of the interview since we were a safe distance apart and I found the mask to be distracting (and research seems to show they do more to protect others than the wearer and the others here seemed unconcerned.) This was with a small business in a niche field, so the interview was in a large warehouse with only three others present in the building (social distanced, but not wearing masks.)

    I learned that the position would only require coming into the office for a meeting once a week and as needed to pick up materials (always like this, not just b/c of COVID19.) Due to the nature of the job, some in-person client visits are necessary in order to perform the job, but much of it could be done over phone or email instead if the clients are okay with that. When I asked what pre-cautions they are taking regarding the pandemic, they told me some people wear masks for the client visits and they use hand sanitizer and attempt to use social distancing. This was somewhat of a red flag that they didn’t have a more clear plan regarding safety, but I’m also not sure there is a lot more they could do for that right now given the nature of the job. The interview itself was also a bit of a red flag because it only lasted 15 minutes and consisted entirely of them telling me about the job and asking if I had questions. They did not ask me any questions about myself at all. I attribute this more to inexperienced people being bad at interviewing, but this worries me that this lack of careful hiring process could lead to other problems at this company. This is known to be a very laid back industry though that doesn’t follow normal business etiquette though, so this doesn’t entirely surprise me. They also do not offer health insurance since the company is too small, so this was also a somewhat of a red flag of not showing concern for employee health.

    In an interesting twist to this, I realized the night before that I had actually interviewed with this same company for the same position a year ago and didn’t realize that this was the same company. (I had thought this was a different company in the same field.) I was very turned off by the interview last year because at the time, I was living in a different area and had to drive two hours for this interview which lasted about 10 min and the interviewer only asked like 1-2 questions and then just told me about the job. The person at the front desk seemed unprofessional and stand-offish and did not great me when I entered or exited the building. Needless to say, I was not impressed by this company’s professionalism nor their disregard for my time or employee’s health with the lack of insurance (although company was probably too small to feasibly offer health insurance.) I never heard back from them after this interview, but wouldn’t have accepted a job there at the time anyways.

    I think I would enjoy the work here and could do well at it and the manager seems pretty chill, but I will have to carefully weigh these factors before I consider accepting any job here if offered. Based on the bad experience interviewing here a year ago plus the other red flags, I definitely have some reservations about possibly working there. I was laid off from my previous job back in December and currently have a temp job that is likely to last until mid-July (although no specific end date is set and it could end or reduce hours sooner). The temp job is not in my normal field of work and is at a much lower pay and skill level than I would normally work for, so I would like to find full time work soon, but I’m not desperate and can afford to be somewhat selective with my next move. I also recognize the current job market is tough and I’m trying to switch to a new field of work due to lack of jobs in my area in my previous field, so I realize I can’t be overly picky and might not get a perfect job situation in my next job.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      No health insurance sounds like a deal-breaker even if there wasn’t a pandemic…

      Best of luck with finding your next job soon! I don’t feel that this place is it. Thank you for the update!

  51. Alexandra Duane*

    (I apologize for posting a non-nipple-related comment.)
    When I see someone who has written on their hand, I have to conclude that they don’t intend to wash their hands anytime soon. It’s distasteful in normal circumstances, but in the context of the current pandemic, it’s downright alarming.

    1. Dust fairy*

      Do you not think it’s slightly narrow minded to say everyone who writes reminders notes on their hands does not wash their hands. It can take multiple washes to get ink off ones hands.

  52. Bex223*

    LW #3, I write notes on my hand at work all the time. I can’t speak to why the person you reference in your letter does it, but maybe my reasoning can help. I work[ed] as a manager in the restuarant industry, do not carry my phone around with me (I’d leave it in the office), I always had a pen clipped to my shirt, and my work pants had false back pockets and tiny front pockets so no practical place to carry paper. I would usually think of something or be told something important while making my rounds in the dining room, so I’d jot it down on my hand and then transfer the note to a notebook when I got back to the office. Or sometimes I would have several people accost me in quick succession, so I would right down anything that needed to be done immediately (change a tv channel, speak to a guest, take something off a ticket, etc.) so that I wouldn’t forget what I needed to do by the time I got to my destination.

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