correcting your boss’s grammar, coaching a peer, and more

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

1. Correcting my boss’s grammar

One of my pet peeves is grammar errors because in a past life, I taught English composition for many years.

The problem is that my supervisor asks me to give feedback on documents she’s put together. Nearly all have had grammar errors. I have pointed out the errors and suggested corrections but she’s either ignored them or argued about them. Nothing gets corrected. I feel that my feedback hurts her feelings and wastes my time. Should I continue to provide feedback or not?

Probably not. It doesn’t sound like she’s looking for grammatical corrections and might just want your input on the substance of what she’s written. The best thing to do is to ask her directly: “When you ask me for feedback on documents, do you just want input on the substance or are grammatical edits helpful too?”

I know it is VERY DIFFICULT not to flag it when something is flagrantly wrong, but if she doesn’t want those edits, she doesn’t want them and that’s her call.

2. Visible nipples

I’m rather well-endowed, and it seems that my nipples are “visible” unless I’m wearing a padded bra. This is both uncomfortable and makes me feel like Betty Boop. Is it really that bad that people might be able to tell I have nipples? I’ve noticed male colleagues with the same issue, and no one ever has a problem with that. For the record, no one has ever commented on them or my appearance — it hasn’t seemed to hurt my career. But I’m not sure anyone would say anything. Just wondering if I really have to choose between looking like a cartoon or sweating under multiple layers of clothing in order to be professional.

Reasonable people will understand you do in fact have a human body and this is a thing that can happen. You aren’t a cartoon character! But if it’s making you uncomfortable, what about trying those petal things that either stick to your skin or go in your bra, specifically designed for this reason? There are a whole bunch of other suggestions in the comment section on this post.

Read an update to this letter here

3. Can I try to coach a peer?

The comment thread on Tuesday’s post has me wondering about coaching my coworker, Alex. We are the same level and on the same team. Alex works hard and develops their technical skills and is always looking to do more and grow but has a very direct manner and tends to rub people the wrong way. I have directly received feedback from multiple people in our organization that they do not care to work directly with Alex, not a full “will not work with them” but they aren’t excited about it. A couple of us on our team are aware of this issue and they have urged me to talk with Alex since I have the strongest relationship with them.

I have thought I might mention things if the right time presents itself, but am I overstepping and is it not my business to coach/give feedback to a coworker? We have been in a weird spot for the last six months and floating without a manager and now with the pandemic it doesn’t look like they will be filling that role anytime soon. Also I received the feedback from colleagues who are all on the same level as us and am not certain if that feedback has made its way up the chain.

As a general rule, you shouldn’t try to coach a coworker unless (a) they specifically request it, seem genuinely open to feedback, and you want to do it or (b) you have a strong rapport with them, have observed they take feedback reasonably well, have reason to believe they’d be receptive to feedback from you specifically, and have asked if they’d like some help and received an affirmative answer.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that in other cases you can’t offer occasional suggestions like “I found a quicker way to do that, want me to show you?” or “the client you’re about to call can be tricky, let me tell you what’s worked for me with them” and so forth. But it sounds like you’re talking about much more involved, substantial coaching — and that’s not really something you have standing to do as a peer unless you’re in one of the two situations in my first paragraph.

4. What to say when a “vacation” isn’t a vacation

I inherited a house and all that’s in it from my mother after her passing. She was wonderful and I struggle with her passing still. She was also a hoarder.

I have months and months (and months) of clean-up in another state. It’s just me now (no siblings, single mom). I have a family friend working part-time on it, but it’s not anywhere near enough. The last two years, it sucked up most of my vacation days. This year, I intended to take a “real” vacation, and then, well, you know.

I’m travelling out there (driving, bringing supplies to avoid any rest stops, bringing my own food) to deal with some issues around the house that I’ve been putting off since March, and I know it will be exhausting. This is the first “vacation” I’ve taken since COVID, and it’s really really not going to be a vacation. I gave myself one additional day after returning, but I got handed a HUGE project with looming deadlines that was way over-schedule when it came to me, so taking days off is tough.

Everyone is telling me to enjoy my trip and have a good vacation. I don’t want to go on this trip. It will not be a vacation. I am going to do my best to have it not suck but I am stressed about it, not excited. What do I say when people wish me a relaxing/enjoyable/fun trip? I’m going to need a real vacation soon, so I feel this need for people to understand that this is not for fun. If I say “eh, I’ve got a lot to take care of, so it’s more of a working trip than a vacation” people seem flustered. Should I just let it go? Is there a better script?

I totally understand the urge to correct people who assume this is a relaxing vacation when it will be anything but. But “have a fun/relaxing vacation” is similar to “how are you?” in that it’s more a social nicety than an invitation for a real conversation about why your time off actually won’t be fun. I think people are getting thrown off when you respond the way you have been because they don’t know where they’re supposed to go with the conversation after that.

The only person who really needs the context is (maybe) your boss, if you want to make sure she knows you’ll still need an actual vacation after this. If you want her to have that context, definitely give it to her — but other people are unlikely to spend much time thinking about why you’re taking a second vacation when you just took a first. (Although if you get any strange reactions to the second one, you can just say something like, “My time off in the fall was to deal with my mom’s house — this one is for real vacation.”)

I’m sorry about your mom, and the stress you’re dealing with now.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Can I ask to volunteer for an organization?

My first job out of college was working at a nonprofit whose mission I really cared about. However, the job itself was pretty awful, and I ended quitting and leaving the nonprofit world after generally feeling burnt out and disillusioned. I work in the private sector now and am much happier. However, I miss feeling like I’m part of a bigger mission. (I care about the company I work for, but not as passionately as the big issues I worked on in the nonprofit world.)

There’s a nonprofit I know of that does amazing work, and I’d love to volunteer for them. Their U.S. office is across the country, so it’d be remote work. I was thinking of sending them an email briefly explaining my situation and offering to write articles for their blog/do social media work for them as a volunteer. They have a blog and social media, but both are very sparse. My background is in communications, so this is something I have a lot of experience with. (I don’t know if it comes off as pushy, but my reason for suggesting something specific I could do for them is because I know how exhausting it can be when well-meaning volunteers suddenly appear at a nonprofit and ask you to find work for them to do). I was going to attach my resume as well, just so they could get a sense of my background.

Is this a good idea? I’ve run it by some friends, and I’ve gotten everything from “go for it” to “I guess it can’t hurt” to “that’s a weird thing to do” and “they’re going to think you’re trying to sneakily get a job.” (I promise I don’t want any sort of job with them.) I thought this would be a great way to keep a job I enjoy but still help a cause and organization I care about, but since I’m pretty new to the professional world, I’m not sure if this is a normal thing to do or not. The company doesn’t have an organized volunteer system (otherwise I’d join that way), but they do list an email address for people with questions about careers there, so I thought I’d send an email to that address and explain what I was hoping to do.

This is a totally normal thing to do and you should make the offer! This is how a lot of people end up doing meaningful volunteer work.

That said, go into knowing the organization might not take you up on it. Overseeing a volunteer can be a lot of work, particularly with things like writing and social media: they have to get aligned with you on voice, someone has to edit and sign off on what you write, there may need to be feedback about why a topic or framing isn’t quite right, etc. That work might not be a strategic priority for them right now relative to other things, so don’t take it personally if they decline. But it’s absolutely fine to make the offer, and they might take you up on it. (In fact, my sister got her start in grant writing that way while on the run from academia.)

{ 336 comments… read them below }

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      I was going to ask the same thing! I am planning to do the same thing in a year or so. Alison, do you think you could do an interview with her?

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, she got her PhD in History years ago and did teach at the college level for a while, but left for all the reasons people leave academia. She then worked as a technical writer for a while but wanted more meaningful work so moved into nonprofits, and did volunteer grant writing for a while as a way in. And now she’s happily settled in nonprofit marketing. But she still answers all my history questions for me, with highly engaging and expansive lectures.

  1. Jha*

    1, if these are documents for external release you should continue to correct the poor grammar unless your boss specifically tells you not to. Clients will judge you for poor grammar. The company will look to blame the proofreader/editor for not spotting the poor grammar in the first place. They will blame the editor, not the boss. Therefore, you need a paper trail of having corrected the poor grammar and been overruled, or clear written instructions not to check for grammar. You will want to save these materials in hard copy.

    1. Colin*

      I also feel the need to point out that some things that grammar nitpickers point out are often not actual errors, but conventions and practices that have no basis in anything. (Go ahead and check out the classist history and logic – or rather, illogic – behind ‘don’t end a sentence with a preposition’). I once had to write speeches for a teacher-turned-politican who insisted on the arbitrary rules, but couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that oratory and literature were different art forms.
      Correct real errors by all means, but remember that the English language is meant to be fluid, not rigid.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, it totally depends on the kinds of “errors” you’re flagging. It’s not incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition and just as fine to begin it with an “and” or a “but”, unless it’s a very formal text.

          1. allathian*

            That’s a fair point. So does the use of the Oxford comma, which some people think is pretentious.

            LW, does your company have a style guide?

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              I prefer to defer to the idiots I’m surrounded by, the CEO, and the CFO, rather than criticize our idiots, the CEO and the CFO.

              Your mileage may vary. =)

              1. Chinook*

                But that is the beauty of a style guide – the company grammar rules are clear and consistent and not a matter of opinion. I wish more companies with public documents had them.

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  Yabbut… Taking the Oxford comma example, sometimes its use avoids possibly ambiguity. But then again, sometimes its use creates ambiguity, when the middle of three items can be interpreted as an appositive restatement of the first item: “my mother, Ayn Rand, and God.” Is this three items, or is Ayn Rand your mom?

                  It is a frequent characteristic of fake grammar rules that, while usually they do no harm, there are cases where actually following them is disastrous.

                2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  I’ll stick with the Oxford comma.

                  I listen to neither Eminem, Sir Mix-a-lot, nor your mother–Ayn Rand.

                3. Richard Hershberger*

                  Sure, you can re-write to remove the ambiguity some other way. But the same is true of ambiguity created by not using the Oxford comma. The Oxford comma discussion turns out to be beside the point. The real issue is ambiguity, with comma usage one tool for avoiding it. But that doesn’t lend itself to a rule that can be applied mechanically.

              1. Donkey Hotey*

                “They will take the Oxford Comma from me when they pry it from my hands which will be cold, dead, and stiff.”

            2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

              Why is the Oxford comma considered pretentious? I’ve started using it over the last year or two, because I find it makes things clearer, especially when you have a long list. Is it because it’s called the “Oxford” comma? Serious question. I am not a Writer or Editor, just a person who writes and edits as part of my “actual” job.

        1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

          Read legal briefs and decisions. “And” or “But” are used all over the place. This isn’t even a rule for formal text, it’s a style guide. Much like the New Yorker’s use of the diaeresis.

          1. Sylvan*

            Well, a style guide is a book of rules your company or industry follows, so it might well be a hard and fast rule for OP. But starting sentences with “and” or “but” is allowed by some guides.

      2. Sparrow*

        I came here to say this. If it obscures the writer’s meaning or makes the sentence difficult to parse, then, yes, that’s something to fix. As long as the original is readable and the message is clear, don’t change something just because it breaks a grammatical rule very few people care about.

        1. Hazel*

          I’m a grammar and punctuation nerd, and I used to be very nit-picky, but now I agree with you. It’s just not worth the mental energy to worry about things that don’t affect the meaning. If I ever need to look over someone else’s writing, I add the serial comma and remove unnecessary commas (I guess I feel strongly about those). And if there’s random capitalization (I’ll never understand this), I fix it. But I don’t ask about it; in fact, I just do it and don’t mention it at all.

          1. Cj*

            I posted this below, but since you’re a grammar nerd, I’ll ask you.

            “Grammar error” (which the OP said twice) doesn’t sound right to me. I would say “grammatical error”. I googled it, and the sources I found all say that “grammatical error” is correct. What is your opinion?

            1. Spencer Hastings*

              I think that compound nouns with “error” are extremely common and normal: spelling error, multiplication error, software error, etc. One of my pet peeves is when people argue about two totally acceptable things and go “but which one is REALLY RIGHT and which one is WRONG?”

      3. Chinook*

        Yes. As an educator with an English degree, I have found that you have to walk the line between “correct grammar” and not destroying the author’s voice. There are cultural differences in English usage even within the same dialect. As a result, I make a distinction between something being wrong (like spelling), something causing confusion of meaning (like the Oxford comma) and suggestions of other ways to word something.

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          Studying linguistics really helped me with this, and maybe the way we were taught to reframe grammar will also resonate with you: Instead of saying “correct grammar,” we used “STANDARD English grammar.” That accounts for the legitimacy of mental grammar, AAE, Southern/Northeastern differences, etc., while still acknowledging that in a college class you’d be graded against a certain rubric.

          I work in marketing and I definitely write documents in the way that someone would say them out loud. I will always use Oxford commas and change “me and my mom” to “my mom and I” (when appropriate), but I definitely loosen up on other structures so that my writing reads in a way that sounds more comfortable to most people.

      4. x*

        Yep, grammar is made up to begin with and should be able to adapt over time as language use changes. Not to mention that even at the time it was invented, not everyone was using english language the same way as the dudes who made it up.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          Grammar isn’t exactly “made up” — that’s the difference between natural languages like English and conlangs like Esperanto or Klingon. The English language is a result of the natural process of language acquisition over many generations. Certain grammar “rules” are made up, though — namely the ones that don’t correspond to the actual grammar of native speakers (like “don’t use the passive voice”), or anything to do with spelling (spelling is just a series of conventions).

          1. Jha*

            Avoiding passive voice — which is usually good advice — is a matter of style, not grammar.

            The passive voice is perfectly grammatical; it’s simply weak *stylistically*.

            1. mgguy*

              Unless it’s scientific writing, where past tense passive voice is the default.

              In fact, after you’ve read enough scientific papers, something not written past tense, passive voice will stick out like a sore thumb.

      5. Angela*

        This! I remember putting together a business plan that my boss only made comments on grammar and language, but all were minor subjective tweaks rather than actual corrections – and the actual content of the plan itself was left completely untouched, which was much more important. (This wasn’t going to be seen or used by anyone outside of our team, so it wasn’t a matter of presentation, but practical use.)

      6. Tidewater 4-1009*

        Yes, I’ve always felt language is a tool for communication. IMHO the best way to use it is the way that will get the point across to the recipient.
        Insisting on “correct” grammar when it’s not necessary, or counterproductive to the intended communication, is not good. And of course, not when it will look pretentious!
        Ex.: I typed the third sentence without commas and it didn’t mean what I intended.
        “not necessary or counterproductive” isn’t what I meant, so I added commas. Commas should be used to clarify and not to make rigid, counterproductive rules.
        Getting off my soapbox now!

    2. Sylvan*

      I’m not sure if I’d go as far as keeping hard copies, unless you’re in a very dysfunctional workplace where you might be a scapegoat. Also, while I agree with this comment about the importance of writing well, your manager might not. She actually might not care about her mistakes at all or see how they make bad impressions. (I’ve worked with people like this, including a newspaper editor.) (At least she was an editor and not a copyeditor.) When people don’t care, it’s hard to make them. It’s easier to pick your battles.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah. I’m a translator and proofreader, so it’s literally a part of my job to fix text written by others. I usually couldn’t care less about the content and often I’m not even qualified to comment on it, although I will if the writing is unclear or unintentionally ambiguous. Luckily I work for a government agency that serves the public, so I don’t have to deal with intentionally ambiguous writing very often. I’m so grateful for our plain language guidelines, I’ve been advocating for plain language my entire career, but during the last 7 or 8 years I’ve actually had backup, we had a government program that was big on plain language. It really improved my job satisfaction a lot, and I got much less pushback on my edits, because I could use the plain language program as a reason for them. Now they just seem to trust my expertise, and to be fair, most of the worst culprits have either retired or improved their writing in general.

        It’s really, really hard to ignore things that you feel are wrong in a text, when you’re detail-oriented, the way most people who do a decent job proofreading are. Ultimately, the OP’s boss can decide that grammatical correctness is not important to her, but then the OP may consider whether or not to continue in that job. It’s tough to avoid becoming cynical when you’re not allowed to do as good a job as you know you can do, or your input is completely ignored.

          1. OP1*

            Nope, these are very much NOT pet peeves of mine. These errors are all poorly worded sentences and many are so badly written they make no sense.

            1. a clockwork lemon*

              Those are style edits, which it’s clear your boss isn’t asking for input on. If something is legitimately difficult to parse, flag it for her as a content question: “is this X or Y?” But if you can’t tie your correction to a legitimate content issue, then it’s probably not appropriate for you to be flagging it.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Ahhh. I’d suggest a different approach then.

              I tell my boss (with more degrees than I will ever have) that, “This is probably not going to be that clear to the average person who is not working in our arena.” It could be a run on sentence or it could be too much jargon or it could be because it’s too brief, more words would add clarity. I explain which one and why. Sometimes I will say, “That sounds like it could be ambiguous to some people.”

              Sometimes I can say, “Okay what is it you want people to do here?”. And this brings a different conversation.

              I have a question for you. Does she talk the way she writes? Is she frequently confusing to others just in ordinary conversation? If yes, you may have a very different problem than what you are asking about.

            3. Observer*

              So? It’s still not your job. You are responding because, to quote your letter, “One of my pet peeves is grammar errors because in a past life, I taught English composition for many years

              So, you can do your actual job as well as you need / can, because making sure that the Boss’ writing is correct is not your actual job.

    3. Waffles*

      Not necessarily the OP’s job… i do a lot of writing and ask my reports to look things over, and I had to ask them to stop making these kinds of suggestions because it was really wasting time. We send external communications through editors for grammar, so really what I needed from my team was comments more on the correctness of the content.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I would like to emphasize my point by hacking up a hairball, right here and now.

          ~ Waffles the cat

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I’m one of Those Grammar People but I don’t offer corrections unless a) I’ve been asked to proofread something and offer suggestions, or b) It’s an obvious typo, misspelling, or editing bloop, such as a section of a sentence transposed into the middle of a different sentence. My immediate superior and I are both much better writers than our boss but unless he asks for input or it’s a formal item, we let it go.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I work for a solo practitioner lawyer. He often has me review work product before it goes out the door, especially court filings. This is both for content and copy editing, but the two processes are different. If there is any significant content critiques, these will result in substantial re-writes. Copy editing would be premature. Eventually we get to the copy editing phase. We are clear on which is which. He accepts my edits gracefully. Good lawyers tend to be pretty fanatical about clean work product, if it is going in front of a judge.

    4. Lynca*

      The OP specifically said she’s being asked for feedback. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the document is never going through a grammar check. It just might not be at that stage.

      I get the feeling OP needs to talk to her boss about what feedback she wants to get. I’ve had to write a lot of documents and I have learned I have to be specific in what I want edited. I don’t want grammar edits when we’re still in first draft stage and I need to make sure the content is complete. I usually don’t worry about the grammar (or formatting!) until we’re at 3rd draft or later when the content isn’t going to change.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        My thought as well! Depending on the process, grammar and style edits can be a waste of time, even if the document needs to look clean in the long run.

      2. Esmeralda*

        As Alison points out, “feedback” does not necessarily mean “fix grammar”. In fact, given the boss’s reaction, I’d say it’s pretty obvious that “fix grammar” is NOT what the boss wants. LW needs to ask what the boss wants and do that. And stop doing what clearly annoys the boss. It’s a waste of the LW’s time and it is not helping LW’s relationship with the boss. Who is, after all, the boss.

        1. Sparrow*

          I used to coordinate the annual publication of an institutional manual. When I sent text to the relevant parties for revisions or updates, I would always specify that they should focus on the content itself and that they were not being asked to correct grammar, look for typos, etc., because a copy editor reviewed everything before publication. Ideally, OP’s boss would’ve given similar instructions. Since she hasn’t, OP needs to ask so she doesn’t continue wasting her time on potentially unwanted corrections.

          1. Esmeralda*

            I worked as a technical editor for a few years. It drove me batsh!t crazy when the engineers would correct grammar (they were usually wrong) and formatting (sorry guys, there’s a style manual and we have to follow it), rather than reviewing the data/charts/figures for bloopers.

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              I’m a technical writer, and sometimes I leave an obvious error in place for people to find, just so they won’t feel compelled to nit-pick the unimportant stuff. People! YOU are the expert, I’m just writing it down. Check the content!! and let me worry about “which vs that” level-stuff.

              And everyone once in awhile, I give someone just the bare text with all formatting stripped out. It’s a teensy bit more work for me, but if it gets them to focus on the content the *first* time, it’s ultimately a time-saver.

      3. Malarkey01*

        This a thousand times. I draft a lot of policy documents that get passed around. I do not need 20 people making sometimes conflicting grammar notes for something that is going through a formal copy editor process. I need substantial content comments. Frankly, when I get comments that are pure grammar and not content it makes me question the persons content qualifications or lack of.

      4. Smithy*

        I also wonder if perhaps some of the points of frustration are around how time is invested?

        In my role, I work with colleagues in preparing reports for donors. When it comes to initial reviews, my number 1 question is whether we have all the information that we need from program colleagues. Is there information that’s missing that I know a donor wants to see? Answers that seem thin? I don’t want someone taking the time to both copy-edit and figure that out, when major sections of the report may need to be re-written or added.

        If someone worked for me who genuinely could not review/give feedback on content without copy-editing, I would be concerned about their long-term fit in the role. Not that we want reports going to donors with 101 grammar errors, but the most important issue is prioritizing getting content and giving program colleagues as much time and feedback as possible on exactly what that content is. If a final 10+ page report goes to the donor with 10 grammatical errors…’s not great, but I’m also not going to lose sleep over that.

      5. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Agreed. I’ve been asked to ‘just look over’ my boss’s reports or letters, and my red-pen wielding editing genes flew into action. The thing is, my boss didn’t want me to edit as much as read for tone and context. He didn’t care about punctuation, format, syntax, or anything except The Message. Once he could depend on my tactful yet useful feedback about The Message, he was more open to letting me edit grammar and punctuation.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      Yes this! Especially external documents. When mistakes go out, and are pointed out by external parties, the proofreader/editor gets thrown under the bus for the mistake because they were the last one who “touched” it. It’s the same for the graphic designers–someone (usually an executive) will make a last minute change that turns to a mistake and the designer gets blamed. Welcome to the corporate world! Cover your ass. Keep a version or email where you notified boss of your changes and corrections.

      However, because I both write and edit and design things, I have had editors start making changes to the writing and word choice itself, as opposed to proofreading for grammatical errors. I found out one time an editor recommended a whole slew of changes to something I’d submitted for review, basically making it look like a hot mess that needed a full rewrite. The reality was this “editor” was a freelancer trying to make more work for himself. Smh!

      It really threw me that someone would be so underhanded, or that the internal department believed the freelancer over an actual employee. Luckily, I had had my boss and one other person read it before I’d submitted it, and they had thought it fine. Of course, nothing was ever done about it though.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        When I got back the copy edited manuscript of my book, I re-read it start to finish. On multiple occasions I came across a passage that was unclear, or just clumsy. “Did I write that?” I would wonder. Upon comparison with the manuscript I had submitted, it turned out that no, I had not. A friend joked that I should have a rubber stamp with red ink saying “STET.” Sadly, that wouldn’t work with a computer file. In fairness, it may well be that the copy editor improved countless passages, which I therefore had no occasion to compare with the original. But it was not my happiest editing experience.

    6. Mockingjay*

      When I edit something, I flag content questions for resolution. For grammatical edits, I normally just quietly fix things – misspellings, punctuation, subject/verb agreement – without marking the changes. I only flag a grammar issue if I think it affects the content, which is rare. As a tech writer, it is my job to fix things when proofing; I don’t need permission for each edit.

      People rarely notice that you fixed a comma or ran spell check. They just read the edited copy and think, “that reads pretty well.”

    7. OP1*

      OP1 here. These are documents that will be posted on the company’s SharePoint. That’s why they need to be correct. Also, the errors I find are incomplete sentences and sentences that are unclear. I’ve been here for years and I have trouble understanding them.

      1. Elle by the sea*

        If they prevent people from understanding the content and make the document look as if it had been made in a hurry, I would probably venture to correct them in a non-abrasive manner.

      2. Sylvia*

        I have a boss with crappy grammar too, and I struggle with wanting to correct her. In your situation, I would probably say something like this:

        “I read through your document, and it looks pretty good, except I found a couple of sentences that are a little unclear/incomplete, and I thought I would flag that since this is going to be posted. Do you want me to keep an eye out for stuff like that in the future, or do you prefer me to just read through it like you asked?”

        And then do whatever your boss says. She may thank you for catching it, or she may tell you not to focus on stuff like that. At least you’ll know you did what you could, and if it gets posted wrong, it’s on her.

    8. Elle by the sea*

      All native speakers of a language use correct grammar. They just use different rules based on their regional varieties or sociolects. So, there is no point in correcting their grammar, unless they are in the process of learning the language or have explicitly asked for this type of feedback. But there is formal and informal style – your language is different in formal situations (communication with clients) and informal situations, like talking to your friends and family. I agree that nit-picking doesn’t make sense if the intended meaning is conveyed efficiently, especially if it’s a document for internal use. By nit-picking, I mean widespread but ridiculous urban legends, such as “split infinitives are wrong”. If the document is being created for a wider audience, style guides can be useful.

      1. AK*

        Exactly. And if the intended meaning isn’t clear, then it’s still best to approach it from that angle and suggest clarification instead of “correcting grammar” without being asked.

      2. El mano*

        All native speakers of a language use correct grammar.

        Good luck with that attitude when you submit a sh!tty writing sample. (I’m assuming you’re not the next ee cummings and submitting for publication; if you are, then I withdraw the comment.)

        1. Elle by the sea*

          Well, I’m definitely not the next E. E. Cummings. However, having been in that sort of business for a long time, I am experienced with publications, writing, publishing, language, and related issues. Not trying to be overly pedantic here, but you can easily submit a shitty writing sample while having a perfectly native command of the language. Writing is a trade (or an art, if you like) to be mastered. Having “good” grammar doesn’t make you a good writer and the root cause of one’s below par writing skills is not necessary their “bad” grammar.

  2. Bob*

    LW4: Have you considered paying a company to do the cleanup for you?
    I have no idea what your financial situation is, but if you can afford it perhaps its worth the incredible amount of energy it will save you?

    1. Sylvan*

      I can’t recommend professional junk removal enough, especially if you’re dealing with heavy things like furniture or appliances. Some companies are experienced with hoard cleanouts, too.

      Getting the entire house done would probably be crazy expensive, but it’s worth looking into furniture or appliance removal.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I totally agree. It was a lot less expensive than I was expecting and I didn’t have to lift a finger.

    2. Undine*

      Yes, my hoarder mother recently died and we hired an organizer. She’s been really good at separating the junk from the maybes, arranging haul offs, going through papers. She even videos stuff for us to review remotely so we can decide keep or toss. It is not cheap but it is moving forward way faster and way less painfully than it would without her. If you are planning to sell the house, then selling it sooner rather than later is potentially worth some money in and of itself.

      1. Kathlynn (canada)*

        And if property tax is anything like Canada, you are probably saving money if it would otherwise take you *years* to go through the house.

        1. Tertia*

          Just Google “hoarding cleanup.” There are several national organizations that can link you to local services.

        2. blaise zamboni*

          You can also google “home organizer [area]” or “professional organizer [area]”, or look up the same on HomeAdvisor/Angie’s List/etc. Just be sure you find someone who has experience with the type and scope of your project.

          My mom was an organizer and did projects that ranged from moderate “wealthy person with three closets of clothes still with tags” type things to…”every room is piled chest-high and there are raccoons living in here” disaster areas. She eventually settled more towards the middle, though. She had connections in her network who really focused on extreme hoarder situations, and she knew others that wouldn’t touch those with a ten-foot pole. Most organizers will come out for a free consultation and put in a bid, like any other home service.

          I don’t know how common this is, but my mom would also arrange estate sales for her clients who were moving house and wanted to sell lots of their nice furnishings and such. That might be another service OP could look for, though I realize that’s very COVID-dependent right now.

        3. Sylvan*

          You’ve gotten good answers here and OP’s described how they’re handling the house, but I wanted to add that “estate cleanout” is another term to search for. You also might have some luck with “foreclosure cleanout,” because companies that do those are prepared for pretty intensive junk removal jobs.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The remote video is a good idea. Everyone’s heard horror stories about the valuable X that was discarded by someone who just couldn’t be expected to know.

      3. Cj*

        If mom is a true hoarder, most of it can probably just go in trash. It’s so very, very hard to get hoarders to let go of anything, up to and including actual garbage, but since she’s passed, it seems like it should go pretty quickly.

    3. bunniferous*

      This. I sell foreclosures for a living, and we have companies “trash out” houses. Some of them are literally hoarder houses and/or filled with animal poop (oh joy…) I’m sure you could have them remove anything of value and take to a storage facility. I had a good friend of mine just go through this with her own mom’s house, similar circumstance, and it is VERY draining. If you can at all afford it, hire some help!

    4. Ms. Cellophane*

      I came here to say this. When my in-laws died, we had to figure out what to do, from 4 hour away. We ended up going through each room just enough to take the valuable stuff and left everything else. We hired a realtor and she found a flipper to buy the place. It was the best thing we ever could have done. Later we were able to go back and see the house before it sold, and it was beautiful and tremendously changed. Each son got some money from the sale and didn’t have to sit and grieve through endless weekends of cleanup.

    5. Tertia*

      Yes, exactly on the professional company. It is going to cost thousands of dollars, but (as someone has already said), it may well pay for itself by accelerating your timeline for selling. You might want to sit down and figure out exactly how much the house is currently costing you—you’re probably paying for utilities and insurance as well as taxes—before you start calling around for cost estimates. Having that information fully in mind before getting quotes will cushion the sticker shock.

      And I’d really encourage getting multiple estimates if feasible. This is a big business and the area may well have several suitable companies, all of whom might be eager for a job right now.

      My condolences, and good luck.

      1. MilitaryProf*

        I’m terribly sorry to hear of your loss. My wife and I recently had a similar situation–her mother had a home filled to the brim with stuff, and a decided habit of hiding valuables in the strangest places. We live 1000 miles way, but headed to the house to dig in to the mess. If you choose to handle this yourself, rather than hiring a company, that might be the best decision for your situation. But, the best advice I can give you is to check the local area for dumpster rentals, and have the largest one that will fit on the property (driveway, or wherever makes the most sense) delivered before you even get started. It is simply astounding how much volume is taken up by completely useless material in any household. And sure, you might be getting rid of some things that could theoretically be donated somewhere–but does someone really need a linen closet full of old used sheets and towels? Will a charity really benefit from hundreds of pounds of junk mail? And in our case, will any charity accept furniture that has been urinated on by a pet? (answer: definitely not) The cleanup wasn’t fun, to be sure–I was exhausted after 16-hour days. But, I was able to move through quickly and objectively, because she was my MIL, not my mother, and I’m glad we handled it ourselves, despite the amount of work.

        1. Jay*

          I will be eternally grateful to my husband, who spent the first few months of his retirement dealing with my mother’s house (I’m still working full-time). It was much easier for him because he didn’t have emotional attachment or memories tied up with every piece of everything. My mother wasn’t a hoarder. She lived in that house for over 50 years and in the couple of years before we realized she had Alzheimer’s, she developed a habit of hiding things in odd places, so everything needed to be checked. It took a couple of months and was still difficult for my brother and me, but SO MUCH simpler than it would have been without him.

        2. LW #4*

          This is exactly it: the hidden things of value. And since she died unexpectedly, I’m trying to find family things in the mess: letters to my — also deceased — grandma, my baby album that I’d never seen before, etc. My mother had recently inherited items from my grandmother and great-aunt

          The family friend I mentioned is being paid, as are occasional assistants she brings in, to go from “valuable or sentimental items are mixed in with 100 CVS receipts” to “items you can choose from before selling/donating”. I am planning on hiring someone to finish up the job, but I don’t trust them to know what’s valuable to me. like I do her. She has made huge strides and gotten out most of the trash, but has a full time job so it’s slow going.

          I’m lucky in that she wasn’t a hoarder that ended up with gross stuff inside (its basically just spiders and dust, since her cat was an outdoor cat and also passed a few years before she did). The back porch with boxes was all trash (water damage, mold, and cat pee from a stray that had a litter)

          1. Sue*

            I’m so sorry for your loss LW#4! I expect to be in your same situation at some point down the road (my sister and I are trying to start as much cleaning now as we can), and it’s comforting to read the advice here and to see you tackling this project. I’ve always thought I’d likely need to go on leave when that parent passes. Best of luck with the trip.

            1. LW #4*

              Sorry to hear and kind thoughts to you and your family. It hits everyone differently. Good for you two for planning now; I can imagine that’s hard and I think future-you will be grateful.

    6. allathian*

      Not just energy, but if you consider the property tax and other fees that you have to pay on an empty house, even if the junk removal costs thousands, you’ll be able to sell the house and get rid of related expenses that much quicker.

    7. Ali G*

      Yes! A lot of them also work on a “trash, donate, sell” model. They estimate a portion of their fee offset by the “sell” stuff and they do everything else and then keep the proceeds. My parents did this when my grandmother died. She wasn’t a hoarder, but was 95, very wealthy and had a giant house full of stuff, the majority of it not of interest/sentimental value to any of us.

    8. pretzelgirl*

      Yes! My grandma wasn’t a hoarder but there just was a lot left, after my mom and her siblings went through the stuff. Everyone took special keepsakes and they hired a company that came in and literally cleaned the house out in less than a day.

      With one out of state, 3 others with kids and full time jobs no one could swing cleaning out the house. The company did a great job!

    9. Anne Elliot*

      LW4, I think your issue might be lessened if you used different language to describe your trip. I would never call the type of trip you are describing a “vacation,” for the very reasons you cite: vacations are fun and relaxing and this is the opposite. I would say I was taking “personal time,” just like I would if I were dealing with an elderly parent issue or a home repair emergency or grieving after a death. Then if people say “enjoy your vacation!” you can say “It’s not really a vacation, I’m taking personal time to deal with some issues that have come up with my mother’s estate.” If you use language that sets up this distinction and reinforce the distinction with others, this also will help you explain later (if you have to) that your actual vacation is not the same as the time you took off previously, and you are entitled to do both, you are not taking “two vacations.” So call it “personal time,” refuse to have it construed as a vacation, and gently correct those who say it’s a vacation, becase it just isn’t. I’m sorry for your loss.

      1. Autistic AF*

        There might not be a choice in language! I’ve worked for a few places that required time to be reported/listed with the name of that type of leave. At a former job, I once spent 5 minutes arguing with my manager because I hadn’t designated which day of those I’d had to book off for the year was my flex day… On the sheet of paper everyone was passing around to make sure we had adequate coverage.

        “I’ll report everything correctly on our Outlook calendar and in Workday, this is just a temporary document.”
        “But I’m going to use it to track vacations!”

        We have similar requirements at my current company – no micromanaging, but LW4’s time off would be recorded as PTO.

        1. Grapey*

          I’d frame it as “I’ll be taking vacation days to take care of personal tasks” if you need to get nitpicky with managers.

          Otherwise “taking personal time off” is fine for water cooler chitchat.

        2. Anne Elliot*

          There’s almost always a choice in language, even if we’re only talking about how the OP talks about the trip herself, and how she re-frames it when she talks about it with others. (“You’re going on vacation??” “Not really a vacation; I’m taking some personal time off to deal with my mom’s estate.”) She doesn’t have to call it a vacation just because her company does. IMO the phrase “PTO” is a great way to deal with this exact issue of language: “Paid time off” doesn’t indicate you’re necessarily having fun, like “vacation” does; it just means you’re taking time off.

          1. Autistic AF*

            Conversationally, sure. How many of us are working from home without nearly as much casual conversation, though? That doesn’t stop the initial questions, either. Should people preemptively announce that paid time off isn’t for something fun?

            1. Anne Elliot*

              No, but people should feel free to correct any assumption that they’re off doing something frivolous and fun, if they personally believe that distinction is worth making, which the OP apparently does. You yourself are using “paid time off” as the terminology, which does not have the same implications of fun as “vacation” does, and the OP described specifically people calling her PTO a “vacation.” So I can’t figure out if we’re talking past each other, because you seem to be talking about “PTO” when all I’m trying to say is “LW4, you don’t have to join in yourself in calling this a ‘vacation.'”

        3. Spencer Hastings*

          For the bureaucratic purposes of actually requesting the time off and tracking it, yes, she’d use whatever name her company gives that time off — but that doesn’t mean that she can’t describe it more precisely in conversations with other people.

        4. Sutemi*

          Some neutral language might be to say you need time to deal with complications of your mother’s estate. That implies drudgery and perhaps emotional issues without getting into the hoarding.

        5. Jennifer Thneed*

          What the corporation calls the time off and what actual people call time off are very different things and that’s fine. The company might call it PTO, sure, but people will call it Going on vacation, or I’m having minor surgery, or I’m doing a road trip to finish cleaning out my mom’s house. And LW should stop saying “vacation” and instead call it “time off”.

      2. LW #4*

        Thank you. You’ve really hit on what I’m struggling with. I ended up calling it “time out of office” this time, but called it personal time in the past. It’s been long enough since it happened that people assume it’s something new and (kindly) ask what happened. I use the vague “things I have to take care of out-of-state”, sometimes with the modifier “family things”.

      3. Just me*

        #4- I would definitely give your manager some context (in whatever level of detail you feel comfortable with) for why you’ll be out. If I was your manager, I would want to know that you’ll be using that time dealing with something that may be draining rather than fun and I would modify my expectations that you’re definitely coming back to work “recharged”. Especially since you’ve been handled this big new project.

        1. LW #4*

          My supervisor is aware and, fortunately, is wonderful. I agree strongly with this advice for anyone else facing “not a vacation” time off.

          My company also has a relatively healthy work-life balance, and has been encouraging people to disconnect periodically while we’re all remote.

    10. BeenThere*

      Oh, yes. +1000 on this. Best money we ever spent. Our organizer helped us figure out what we wanted to keep (she had no emotional skin in the game, so it really helped). Then she took everything else away, and either threw it out, gave it away, or sold it. We paid her an hourly rate, plus 50% of anything she sold. She gave us receipts and records of everything for tax purposes, and all told, I think we paid her only about $300 over the 50% she got for sold items. The house was empty in days.

    11. boop the first*

      Yeah, we have an aging relative who is a serious hoarder and this letter kind of made me nervous. So far, all the family conversation about it was just a goal to “trash” most of it, knowing that the house will ultimately be demolished anyway. It worries me to think we might be spending years on a house that would hardly stand at the end of it.

      1. LW #4*

        The long time period is because I’m out of state, didn’t want to take extended leave, don’t have much family left to help, and am very attached so letting go of things is…a process.

        If you hire pros and don’t care about most of it, it can be much faster. If your family can work well together, I think a 6mos-1 year of intermittent work (weekends, occasional longer stretches) is enough time.

  3. RB*

    #2 – unfortunately the petal things sometimes work best with a bra over them so that might not allow you to skip the bra. I despise bras and have found the stretchy camisole to be my preferred option. Sometimes I use the petal things under my camisole. I have at least a dozen of the stretchy camisoles. You need a fairly high level of lycra for them to allow you to skip the bra and still have some level of support. Good luck!

      1. irritable vowel*

        I’m not sure about that – the way she said “multiple layers of clothing” made me wonder whether normally she prefers to wear no bra at all. If that’s the case, unfortunately it does come across as unprofessional to go braless, especially if it’s noticeable. (Of course, this shouldn’t be the case, but it is.) Perhaps a light, stretchy bra would help with the visible nipple issue but not be uncomfortable.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          OP also said “I’m rather well-endowed” so I think we can assume that she’s wearing a fully supportive brassiere and a stretchy camisole won’t do the job. (I’m sorta medium-endowed myself and I like stretchy underthings or camisoles with shelf bras for around the house, but when I’m in public I’m wearing something that gives me enough support that I can run for the bus if I need to.)

    1. not myself*

      I’ve found “lightly lined” bras from Lane Bryant work well for me. If people can still see a bit through that and my shirt, oh well.

  4. Artemesia*

    My mother was hoarderish but not a hoarder — the house was not filled with crap literally or figuratively but few things that entered ever left that were not trash. My brother and I lived thousands of miles away and so after her death we both went through the house and took the things our kids or we wanted. We then hired someone who cleaned out the trash, auctioned the furniture and such, donated what didn’t sell and sent us a check. Among the things they made disappear were an enormous chest freezer filled to the brim with food dating back 50 years. The fee was taken from the auction proceeds and after everything was done they cleaned the house and readied it for sale. My mother had maintained things fairly well although they were outdated, but we were faced with damaged floors or walls from junk storage. It made it easy for us. We didn’t get much money but a bit — but most important we didn’t have to deal with the disposal.

    1. Artemesia*

      were NOT faced with damage from junk storage. So when the house was cleaned up it was old and out of date but not ‘broken.’

    2. CatMintCat*

      We said my mother-in-law was the tidiest hoarder in the world, and very good at Tetris. The amount of stuff that came out of her cupboards after she died was incredible. We found the family’s ticket from their immigration to Australia in 1927 (treasure) and the council rate receipt for 1966 (trash). It was a mammoth job.

      1. abcd*

        My grandparents were like this! My mom and I spent multiple weekends going through their home of 60+ years. I always thought their house was super tidy. Little did I know they were hiding the most obscure and random items of “value” in every possible place in the house!

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        My mother-in-law is like this. Her house is completely full of stuff. Every room is filled with furniture that feels too big for the space. Every closet, every cupboard, every shelf is overfilled. There is no white space, no empty space that’s not filled up. It doesn’t look like the Hoarders tv show, because there’s no trash or random piles or stacks of crap, but it’s claustrophobic all the same.

        1. Coffee time!*

          lord yes! my mil was the type ..well there is space so why get rid of it so things looked a lot neater then they were but do you need pantyhose from every decade or endless bottles of perfume? Or 20yr craft supplies when your daughter teaches kindergarten and could use them. I looked though her bedroom and den when she hid her wallet and said I am never doing that again without a trash bag and donation box. We weren’t involved in moving her to assisted living but just cleaning up her stamp collection we had to keep took a whole afternoon. Two bins cus she just threw everything in tins etc so all mixed ..old notes, money, coupons..boiled down to a big shoebox of stamps , little box of personal stuff and 2 big bags of garbage. Money everywhere… She was a lovely person just couldn’t be bothered. Runs in the family!

    3. AgathaChristieFan*

      This is what I did for my mother who was also a neat hoarder. Not only did I get a check at the end but I didn’t have to take off from work. I also had the satisfaction of knowing that someone who loved quilting as much as my mother got her sewing machine and her fabric.

    4. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

      My grandparents had a very neat house and didn’t hoard things, but they lived half an hour from the nearest town, in the north woods. Actual log cabin!

      They were also born in 1926 and 1928, meaning they were young, vulnerable kids during the Great Depression. My grandmother is unusually short due to poor nutrition.

      So there was SO. Much. Food. when it came to clean out their house. The health downturn happened suddenly, so they were fully stocked. They had had the house built themselves from a kit- it was supposed to be four bedrooms. But instead, they had the larger downstairs bedroom have a concrete floor put in, with homemade floor to ceiling wooden shelves, an enormous chest freezer, and full sized fridge/freezer combo. They kept it all packed. Canned food, rice, beans, oil, peanut butter, bulk water and soda on shelves, milk, cheese, butter, juice, and more drinks in the fridge, ice, popsicles, and frozen fruit in the freezer. The chest freezer was full of bulk meat and Girl Scout cookies, since my cousin and I both used to sell them and they would buy. And that’s not even in the kitchen!

      Upstairs in the actual kitchen: some cans, baking ingredients, coffee, cereal, pasta, bread. Full fridge and freezer, but more with the things they intended to eat within the next week or two (produce, some meat, frozen food, ice cream, coffee creamer, toast and bagel accouterments).

      My wife and I ate for SIX MONTHS at least from just the shelf-stable food that was still within date by the time we got to it (not exclusively that, but used it for all shelf stable ingredients). It was…a lot, and they weren’t even messy hoarders.

      They took “must feed grandchildren/be hospitable” to an extreme- not in amount, but rather sheer choice! Other than some modern snack foods, they both could and would have and make just about anything you could think of, if you asked. And when offering food, it was always “sandwich? Cheese and crackers? Cookies? A bowl of cereal? Some soup? I have scratch and canned! Some fruit? Frozen or fresh? Carrots? Celery? Chips and dip? Or I could whip up a smoothie/some eggs/a frozen pizza? If you can wait, I can make dinner/bake cookies! Which of 20 choices would you like?”

      I miss them. My grandpa died, and I can’t go see Grandma due to COVID.

      1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

        Oh that is so sweet. Your grandparents sound like lovely people. I have a lot of nostalgia around “let me express my love for you in the form of your favorite food”!

      2. voluptuousfire*

        My aunt and uncle were both like that, not necessarily with food but with stuff. My aunt was born in 1930 and my uncle in 1938. My aunt kept everything so her house had it–old clothes for the kids to swim in if they didn’t have a suit when they were over, a cane and walker for my mom until her fancy walker came, etc. My uncle had all sorts of tools he bought but didn’t necessarily know how to use in case anyone needed it. I think it’s that generation.

  5. MK*

    OP2, as a general rule other people pay much less attention to us that we think, unless they are really focusing, and hopefully no one is focusing on your breast area at work. It’s very possible that your issue isn’t even registering with most people.

    1. Artemesia*

      Look in a mirror — if this is as prominent as you think, then use one of the easy fixes like the paste on things designed to mitigate this. Areas considered private should probably not be showing prominently in a professional setting. You don’t wear pants with a camel toe; you don’t wear tops that showcase prominent nipples.

      1. Tilly*

        Disagree. Humans have nipples. If your nipples show in normal clothing, then that’s…normal. That’s not “showcasing”

      2. Bobbing along boobily*

        There is nothing whatsoever indicating that OP is choosing clothing items that “showcase” her nipples. This comment is gross, unfair and unkind.

      3. Tilly*

        This has been a long standing head scratcher for me. I’ve dated several women (and I’m now married to one) who were very concerned with the idea that the contour of their nipples may show under clothing. These were very professional women, very impeccably dressed.
        What’s the secret? Everyone has nipples. Even men. How did that become a big hush hush thing? I don’t get it.
        And men certainly aren’t like – “oh no! If I wear these pants, people can tell I have a penis. I better tuck.”

            1. Paperwhite*

              In general, when [not-otherwise-marginalized] men are sexualized it’s something added to them. “And atop all that he’s sexy!” when women are sexualized we are “reduced” to sex and sex only. This let, for instance, Watson and Crick dismiss their theft from Rosalind Franklin by calling her “plain”. They didn’t think she was cute so she was worthless and they could steal from her; if they had thought she was cute they would have said that was all she was and therefor they could steal from her.

        1. Mel_05*

          I probably goes back to when people wore more undergarments. Back in 1904 no one would see your nipples and if they could you were in a state of undress and that was not OK.

          That’s me guessing though. I don’t know for sure.

        2. Jennifer*

          Because there are people who make really gross comments about our bodies, especially when we’re younger, that stay with us. If you’re a well-endowed woman, and became well-endowed at a young age, it’s even worse. I’m really conscientious about making sure mine are covered up too. I get your point but it’s a little dismissive to just say “Everyone has nipples. Get over it,” when there are very real reasons why some people feel insecure about it.

          Also, as someone said below, women’s breasts are very sexualized, especially in the US.

        3. Reality Biting*

          And men certainly aren’t like – “oh no! If I wear these pants, people can tell I have a penis. I better tuck.”

          Actually… many men do worry about this. I was once one of them. (Not anymore, but that’s another story.) They may not resort to “tucking”, but they/we certainly do think about underwear choice and the cut of the pants in such a way as to avoid the dreaded “print” in some contexts.

          1. londonedit*

            Absolutely – my partner recently had to wear some particularly tight trousers for a performance, and having tried them on, he went out and bought different underwear to make things less…noticeable.

          2. Ann O'Nemity*

            Yes, many men do worry about this, and buy clothes accordingly. My husband is very careful about purchasing skinny jeans because he doesn’t want a noticeable bulge.

          3. LunaLena*

            Burt Ward (Robin on the old Batman show) also had to strap himself down very tightly after the studio got complaints that his bulge was distracting. He said it was painful but he did it because the alternative was taking medication to shrink his parts, and he was worried it would have permanent side effects.

        4. nona*

          Well – at one point the fashion (sometime in the late Victorian? in England?) men’s pants was so tight that that the dudes did tuck, with the aid of a Prince Albert piercing to hold it in place. (like, Queen Vic’s son Prince Albert started the trend). Fashion is weird.

          But yeah, once we got past the the thrill of ankles and knees show, it kind of gets silly. There’s a similar concern/obsession over VPL that boggles my mind.

          1. Queer Earthling*

            The Prince Albert piercing thing is an urban legend, but it’s such a good one that I feel it should keep being spread around.

        5. Magenta*

          Is this a US thing? As a woman in the UK, with a professional job and many professional friends, this has never ever even been on my radar.

      4. MK*

        Well, no. If you look in a mirron to see if X is showing, you will certainly see X, because you are looking for it and your gaze will focus in that area. My point was that a random person looking at you will just glance in your general direction and is unlikely to notice something that “looks” prominent to you.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          This is like the phenomenon that explains why a friend feels her acne is her is one of her most prominent features — but I’m always a little surprised when I remember she struggles with acne!

          (Which is not to say it’s all in her head, but rather, my brain glosses over that aspect of her appearance.)

          1. Jennifer*

            Having an acne breakout isn’t comparable to having larger breasts. Men don’t yell, “Hey, nice pimples!” to women in the street. Hopefully, no one is doing that at the OP’s work either, but it just goes to show why some women try not to draw attention to certain parts of their bodies.

            1. virago*

              I have an hourglass figure and have been informed of this fact by men on this street, as if I wouldn’t have known without their catcalls. So I know how degrading that is.

              That said, adult acne does not go unnoticed. A friend of mine who was taking Accutane for it (and working at a certain worldwide cosmetic chain) was asked more than once, overtly or by implication, “Why do they let you work here? I thought they’d want your skin to be perfect.” And “helpful” people (women *and* men) in settings like the grocery store) would say things like “You know, they have Clearasil for that!”

              You don’t say.

              1. Jennifer*

                Yes, I get where you’re coming from. Both can be annoying and even hurtful. I’ve just found the comments on my chest to be so much more degrading.

              2. Warm Weighty Wrists*

                When I was a teenager, a woman in an airport called me over as though she had something crucially important to tell me, only to say … I should dab my first urine of the morning on my face to make my acne go away.
                I have stories of spectacularly inappropriate comments about both my figure and my skin. Let’s just all agree that commenting on other people’s bodies is to be avoided.

                1. Jennifer*

                  @EPG No, I think that making comments about someone’s acne doesn’t compare to making a degrading comment about a woman’s breasts.

                2. Pimply*

                  Commenting on acne is massively hurtful, and makes someone feel unattractive and like everyone is aware of their skin. I have acne, I’m middle aged. I’ve tried whatever you’re going to tell me clears it up, up to and including Accutane. I can be going about my day, feeling good and someone comments, and suddenly I am self conscious and imagine everyone thinks I’m just neglectful of myself and the only way I could have acne is if I am slovenly.

                  Bugs me more than any boob comments ever have because most people grow out of acne so it feels more personal.

                3. Jennifer*

                  @Pimply I’m sorry for your experiences.

                  For me, someone commenting on my acne or giving unwanted advice about it – hurtful for a short time

                  Being harassed on the street because of my larger than average chest – extreme fear of potentially being assaulted or followed to my destination.

                  For me, it just doesn’t compare. Once again, we’ll simply have to disagree.

            2. Mystery Bookworm*

              Hmm. I was building on/responding to MK’s comment above, not making a 1-1 comparison between acne and breasts.

              1. Jennifer*

                Of course, and I understand that. I just found that comparison to be a bit dismissive of what well-endowed women actually experience. It’s not just in our heads. Many, MANY people do notice it. But we can disagree.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          I once had a colleague tell me I should tell an employee to wear a bra, but I had literally never noticed because I don’t look at people’s chests, I guess (and I’m not judging people who do! I always look at people’s butts when I’m walking behind them and I don’t even mean to). Anyway, I declined to say anything to my employee because eff that. She dressed professionally.

          1. Sylvia*

            Glad I’m not the only one who looks at people’s butts, hah. I think it’s because I tend to look down when I’m walking anyway.

      5. Sylvia*

        I would agree with you if OP were trying to get away with wearing a lingerie top to work. But if she’s just wearing normal work clothing, then no. It’s normal to have a human body.

    2. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

      I’ve always been baffled by the notion that I should care, so I don’t. Sometimes I notice my nipples, maybe other people do also. I didn’t care when I was 20 and I don’t care now that I am heading to 60 and it’s never caused me a problem and nobody has ever said anything. Literally every single person on the planet has them! Mine aren’t special.


      1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

        * “every single person”: acknowledgement that there are reasons people might no longer have them

      2. Mystery Bookworm*

        Yeah, I think feeling aware of it would be more a reflection of me than of them — unless you’re wearing something very thick, this happens from time to time!

      3. Filosofickle*

        I didn’t care when I was 20, at all. It didn’t even occur to me. Around 30 I chuckled at my SIL for worrying so much about it — until that point it had still not occurred to me. Then sometime later in my 30s I realized I was now the one worrying. (That conversation with my SIL got to me, I guess.) I think it’s silly, and yet I find myself dressing to avoid it. It’s dumb but I can’t seem to un-care now.

    3. Jennifer*

      Some people will definitely focus on your breast area in any setting, including work, when you’re well-endowed, whether they realize they are doing it or not. As a fellow well-endowed woman, I understand the need to want to take the attention of that part of my body.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      People are going to notice. Perhaps it’s biological hardwiring, but people will notice. The OP can decide how much that concerns her. Personally, I haven’t worn an unpadded bra since before my kids, for this very reason. I’m on the other end of the size range so the padding/size is not an issue for me. I understand many larger women don’t get the support they need with sports bras, but they do make padded ones now, so maybe the smoosh factor would offset the padding factor, if the support was adequate? (Note these pads are removable and do kind of suck for washing. . .they get folded up and migrate around the bra.)

    5. The New Normal*

      I have NEVER noticed my co-workers nipples, male or female. Honestly. It does not cross my mind when interacting with a co-worker to check their nips. I did have one male co-worker who worked out a lot and complained that the blood flow post-workout meant his nipples were front and center in his polo shirts, but it was only something that I noticed once he called attention to it that day.

    6. mlk*

      Within the last few years, I was in a conversation at least one other woman and a man. I can’t remember who it was but the topic stuck with me. Somehow, the man ended up saying that he hated it when he could see a woman’s nipples through a shirt. The other woman and I replied, “duh, dude, we don’t have any control over it!” I don’t know whether he thought it was more of a sexual response because we told him that a small temperature change could cause a reaction.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Men should certainly understand the temperature reaction issue – after all, they have the cold water reaction at the “dipping point”, as someone I know calls it.

  6. Artemesia*

    For the person concerned about coaching. Always resist co-workers who want you to do the dirty work they won’t do like ‘talk to the boss about X because you have his ear’ or deal with the co-worker with the BO or who is unpleasant etc etc. Lots of people are happy to push other people into the fire so they don’t have to deal with it. This never goes well for the person flattered and gulled into speaking up or out.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      Yes, beware those who are asking you to do the dirty work. I will add, respond to people who tell YOU to do it that they should bring their concern (if it is work related) to their supervisor. Not to cause problems for Alex but so that managers know and can decide for themselves what, if anything, they want to do about it.

      Having said that, I have become a bit of an accidental mentor by telling people how much I like ask a manager and am enjoying learning what to do in x or y situation. People, even a very poor manager in another department!, started asking me what AAM would say about a situation.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP3, One thing that I’d consider doing is what Alison calls “in the moment” feedback. He uses the CEO’s nickname to say hello in the hall and you see the CEO’s lips go tight? After the 2 of you are past, you might say “I’m surprised you said that–he’s very formal.”
      If your *managers* have asked you to deal with this (instead of them doing it themselves which they *should*), then you can go one step further… He interrupts a co-worker during the team meeting even when questions are to be held to the end? Interrupt him in return: “Fergus, let her finish, I need to hear this!” Or “Fergus, $ManagerName said to hold questions to the end.”
      If you’re video call, do a side chat only if you’re sure your video calls don’t record those. And don’t get into a back & forth–if he replies, your only comment would then be something like “after the meeting OK?”
      Good luck!

    3. Allonge*

      The thing is, if they don’t have a manager and will not have a manager for the forseeable future, it feels very different.
      You are right and Alison is right about not coaching peers, but hearing negative comments on Alex’s style from other teams and not having a boss to discuss them with is… not ideal.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The root of it is that they don’t have a manager. That’s a big problem! Sometimes when you’re without a manager, you can step into the vacuum and do things like making sure work is getting assigned out … but you can’t really do the more sensitive parts of the job like coaching someone on interpersonal skills.

      1. Helping a Peer*

        Thank you all. OP3. At this point I wish I had given more description of the work issues other than directness because in reality the directness alone isn’t what’s wrong, its just the cherry on top and for some reason thought it was a nicer way to say things. I think the real issue is Alex is not collaborative and they think they are. Since Alex technically does work with others on projects I think they think that is being collaborative. The feedback I have gotten from colleagues is that Alex is unwilling to be open to ideas outside of their own plan. Also when Alex wants things done, they want it done on their timeline so if a coworker isn’t doing it at the speed or in the manner Alex prefers, they will go ahead and overstep that colleague and do that task. They see this as being driven and hardworking.

        I do think my previous manager was aware of Alex’s issue and may have tried to address some but Alex did not respect our boss so I do not think they were open to the feedback. This is partly why I think my team members urged me to say something since again it seems like Alex and I have the best relationship.

        1. Wintergreen*

          Is there any way to speak to whoever would be the person your manager should report to about being named interim manager? It sounds like everyone is looking to you to do at least the interpersonal management of the department and that you are at least somewhat open to it. As someone who is probably a little more Alex than I’d like to admit, a coworker I respect who suddenly starts trying to coach me out of the blue would not get very far and would probably lose some respect. A coworker I respect who is promoted to my manager (even temporarily)… I would be a little more inclined to listen to.

        2. JayNay*

          Hey there OP! What would happen if next time one of your coworkers complains to you about Alex’ actions, you said “have you talked about this with Alex?” Direct them back to taking action themselves. If they don’t feel comfortable speaking to Alex themselves or if they have and the issues continue, the next point would be their manager(s), who could then talk to Alex.
          I don’t see a good way for you as a peer to bring up these issues with Alex. You may not have the full picture and you weren’t there in the situation. I‘m not sure you can solve this. I’d try redirecting people’s complaints, and hopefully that will lessen your own frustration with the situation as well.

          1. Jack Russell Terrier*

            This is what I was thinking and I love the way you put it. People are trying to push this onto OP, yet you’re co-workers. They should be addressing it themselves, not bringing it to OP to solve.

        3. learnedthehardway*

          Personally, I would tell anyone who has a problem with Alex to address it with the manager, or in the absence of a manager, with the next person up the chain of command. If that’s the CXO, well, that person needs to be doing the managing until they put a new manager in place.

          Alternatively, you could tell co-workers that it would be best for them to address this with Alex directly. I’ll bet you won’t have many takers on that idea, but at least it gives you a way to push back on unreasonable expectations that you should manage your peer’s interpersonal skills.

          1. Helping a Peer*

            I agree, along with what Alison always recommends, directness is always the best way. When possible, it is the route to take.

            I think the thing my team is facing is that we fear Alex’s work style is a reflection of our departments work and fear that others will avoid working with us to avoid Alex. The issues that colleagues outside our team team raised weren’t necessarily direct things Alex could fix, it was more those interpersonal relationships and collaboration style that didn’t go well which I think is something that a person needs to be coached on how to improve vs receiving more specific direct feedback.

            We do have a grandboss who is the one that is technically our direct supervisor right now but since they over see many departments and overall my team is high functioning and achieves everything we need to-there is not a lot of direct management going on. I will likely pass on the feedback I have gotten from other departments on to them though.

            Moving forward, I do not think it my place to try and coach Alex. But at times when it makes sense, I can give feedback.

    4. KatieHR*

      I was just asked to do that same thing in my organization except it came from my peer’s manager because she doesn’t want to do it. Luckily my peer and I have different managers and I asked my manager about it and she said that it would be overstepping and I need to leave it up to my peer’s manager to handle. Such a tricky situation.

  7. roundround*

    LW4 I agree with the response, ‘have a good vacation’ is just a pleasantry no one wants a real answer like, ‘actually we are going to see my mother in law, who believes Covid is a hoax and we’re staying in an uncomfortable small room and…’ No one wants to hear it. I agree it’s like ‘how are you’ from acquaintances, if you’re not actually fine you still just say ‘fine! And you!’ and save the real details from your close friends.

    1. Kiki*

      Right– when used by colleagues and people who wouldn’t know the reasons for your time off, they really are just acknowledging that you will not be at work and hoping that whatever you are using that time for goes as well as it can. And maybe we could societally agree on a better phrase for that, but right now saying, “I hope that your time off goes as well as it can,” sounds strange and cold.

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      I think this really depends on who you’re talking to. In my office, it wouldn’t make sense to respond to anyone outside the immediate team with anything except pleasantries, but within our team it would be perfectly normal for it to come up in conversation that someone is going to be out on vacation and have them say something like “eh, this one’s for dealing with some family logistical stuff. I’m going to try to take a vacation-vacation in a couple of months.”

      We’re not a team that overshares, but letting your closer colleagues know that you’re not going to come back totally refreshed would be fine in our dynamic.

      But for people who are just trying to say something nice, yeah, don’t overthink it and just respond with “thanks!

      1. EPLawyer*

        This is a great script. It acknowledges the social nicety while explaining that it’s not really a vacation without going into detail.

      2. Mystery Bookworm*

        This a good script. I think most people understand “family logistics” or “dealing with house stuff” or that sort of thing and they’ll realize that it’s not a relaxing situation…but it also doesn’t force OP to wind up oversharing about her mother if she doens’t want to.

      3. Mockingjay*

        That’s pretty much my response: When coworkers wish me well, I just say thanks.

        It’s too exhausting to explain that for the last 2 1/2 years, ALL of my time off has been for family caregiving: husband, both in-laws (across the country), and both (adult) children. I’d give my right arm for a week at a quiet beach by myself. Instead my next slot will be to go see my parents who I haven’t seen in 2 years because I’ve been taking care of everyone else.

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      For all the people who say, “Have a nice vacation!”, unless the person in question says said explicitly that it is a vacation, “Safe travels!” is a much better platitude. It can mean anything from, “Don’t trip on your way to the fridge during your staycation!” to “I hope you don’t die descending the north face of Everest!”

      1. Smithy*

        Pre-COVID I used this a lot around all sorts of work correspondence because you never could quite tell if someone was traveling for work, vacation, family, etc. However, I will say that during COVID it does feel a touch more ominous and people either get defensive in talking about their driving/flying plans.

        As a result, I’ve switched to a version of “all the best for your time off” or some weird version of that. I’ve yet to hit on the right one for me, but just a point of caution on COVID “safe travels”.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Wow, you certainly can’t please everyone! “all the best for your time off” sounds very odd and stiff.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I agree that no one needs the details, but I don’t think it’s inappropriate to say something simple to reset expectations. A long-ago manager once replied “Unfortunately I’ll be painting my house. Wish me good weather!”

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      OP makes a good point though, that she will need a real vacation soon after this work-vacation, and does not want to raise eyebrows when that happens.

      1. Sylvia*

        That’s why she should have a conversation with her boss like Alison suggested. Her coworkers don’t have to know the details though.

  8. Caroline Bowman*

    LW4, I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my own mother just over 3 years ago and the sadness just goes on and on, doesn’t it? I was fortunate in that she lived locally and was the actual model of orderly, non-hoarder housekeeping, but it broke my heart repeatedly, going through her things, the bits and pieces of normal living, the junk drawer we all have, her fridge. It felt like betrayal and I wouldn’t go through it again for anything. Your situation is that much worse because of the distances involved and the enormity of the job at hand and so I TOTALLY understand why you are actually borderline angry about this being referred to as a vacation! It’s not!

    Of course, as others have said, your co-workers don’t know this and nor should they, so where it’s really casual, just smile and say ”will do!”, but do have a proper conversation with your boss and possibly some shorter, edited ones with your closer colleagues, not unloading emotionally, but just giving a small insight into what the purpose of the trip is. You will need a serious holiday soon. All that kept me going was the idea of a really lovely holiday we planned a few months after everything wrapped up. Some days it was all that kept me going.

    I truly and sincerely hope it goes MUCH better and faster than anticipated and you must not let yourself feel guilty or conflicted about making cold decisions around her things. Just barrel through till you’re out the other side.

  9. Felis alwayshungryis*

    Years ago my mother went for an extended visit (like, months) to her home country to give her sister a break from caring for their mother, who had dementia. It was not going to be a fun trip.

    Lots of people professed their envy and said to have a fun holiday, but she got good at saying, ‘oh, it’s not really a holiday, but I’ll try.’ It doesn’t really solve the issue of it being awkward but it at least ‘closes’ the encounter. If you breezily move on it shouldn’t be too weird.

    1. Al*

      I really love this approach – it would satisfy my need to correct the record whilst also making it comfortable for the other person to leave it at that. Hope OP sees your comment and gives this a try!

    2. Chai life*

      I just…didn’t label it as a vacation. I needed time off to deal with my father’s estate, so that’s what I named it. Time off to deal with an estate. Most folks just wished me luck (in a nice way) or expressed sorrow for my loss. And then understood why I was taking an actual vacation later that year.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      I had a coworker take an extended leave one summer because her son was having surgery. The number of people who referred to her “vacation” made me wary of ever assuming what anyone’s time out of the office is for!

  10. Not Australian*

    OP#1 I feel your pain. I worked for a start-up run by two women who had a good business model and were great at in-person communication but absolute rubbish with written material. They’d produced a brochure before I got there, which was supposed to introduce their business and explain their service. It was packed with typos and spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. I recognised that the ship had sailed on the first printing but suggested they may want to correct it before they had any more run off. Response? “We like it like that.” For the next few months I had to put up with teeth-meltingly bad English – my favourite example being their rendering of ‘an anomaly in the pipework’ as ‘a little nommaly in the pipework’ (which I always felt should be an animal of some kind). I escaped as quickly as I could, and the business didn’t last two years. Being a pedant, I went on to be an editor; written English – written *any language* – is vitally important to the way a business is perceived. In fact, since it’s usually part of the very first contact between business and client, it’s just as important as anything else up to and including the quality of the service. It’s no good being brilliant at something if you can’t communicate it effectively, after all.

  11. Another person with same problem*

    I don’t understand people saying – what the big deal, its just nipple. Let it show! The LW is asking this question because they want solutions, because it is a problem for them.

    I’ve been through this. When you have bigger boobs, you have seen many a wandering eye. And add a nipple showing through, the numbers of eyes are more. Some of just don’t want to show nipples. We’d rather be known for work.

    Most sports bras have removeable foam liners. They are not very thick and don’t enhance.

    I have removed a couple from my sports bras and just tuck them in any bra when I wear a Tshirt or a thin top. Instant smooth lines and no visible nipples. Winter seems to increase the problem. And the foam liners actually help add an extra layer of warmth. Amazon also sells sports bra liners..

    I’ve also tucked in a thin breastfeeding resusable pad… and at times, if I don’t have anything, just fold a kitchen paper towel and tuck it in.

    1. Allonge*

      Depends on the bra and the person but what I do is cutting the wires out from the padded bras (non-padded ones too). It makes a huge difference in comfort, and preserves the positives in padding.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I started wearing padded bras with no underwire and it’s sooooo much more comfortable! Lively is a brand I’ve really liked. It’s always cold in my office, so I haven’t been comfortable wearing bras with no padding or thin padding. Plus, I’m the only woman in my office (currently, anyway) and I’d just rather not think about if the guys are noticing if my “headlights” are on or not. Lively’s styles have a little more flexibility for me and don’t add any bulk under my work clothes.

    2. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

      Because that is the base question!

      ” Is it really that bad that people might be able to tell I have nipples?”

      Her base question is, it is it bad which is why so many people who believe it is NBD are saying so.

      1. Jennifer*

        A lot of people are dismissing the very real, lived experience of women who are more well-endowed. Just because you haven’t experienced it personally doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

    3. MistOrMister*

      I got a couple of relatively cheap bras from target that are hanes or jockey or whatever. Not sure if they are tshirt bras, but they are no underwire, but also padded. Most comfortable bras ever. I am not a fan of those bras where the pads are so stiff the bra can stand up on its own!! Those tend to be uncomfortable, but there are definitely options out there.

      I feel OPs pain about letting the nipples show. Sometimes I wear a camisole with the built in bralettes instead of a bra. Which is fine with a sweater. But I was highly embarrassed to go into the restroom one day and realized I could have poked out someone’s eyeball!! I know we all have them, but I just get self conscious to the point of ridiculousness once I know mine are standing at attention.

    4. Forrest*

      >>The LW is asking this question because they want solutions, because it is a problem for them

      they actually aren’t asking for solutions, though? The question is, ” Is it really that bad that people might be able to tell I have nipples? … Just wondering if I really have to choose between looking like a cartoon or sweating under multiple layers of clothing in order to be professional.” That is not, “Help, this is awful, please give me some more things I can try.”

      “It’s fine, let it go” is answering the question the OP asked; “here’s some other stuff you can try” isn’t!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hmmm, I don’t think I agree. I tried to figure out exactly what she was asking before I answered because you’re right that those are two different questions. But while she does ask “is really bad?” she also says she feels uncomfortable about it/like Betty Boop. If she feels uncomfortable, there’s nothing wrong with saying “you could try X.”

        1. Forrest*

          I agree it’s not completely clear that LW d doesn’t want solutions, but I do think, “it’s not a big deal” is answering the literal question she asked, so I think that’s a completely legitimate way of answering too!

        2. jane*

          I think she means that she “feels like Betty Boop” because the padded bras (to hide nipples) will make her already-large breasts appear even bigger. Like cartoonishly big.

          That’s how I read it anyway.

    5. Confused*

      Seriously. Y’all, it is not that hard to hide your nipples at work. I’m a 38H and I can manage to do it without looking like a “cartoon character” (dafuq?).

      OP, there is this thing called a T-shirt bra. It’s made with molded foam cups that should hide most nipples. If that doesn’t do the trick, I’ve heard good things about Duluth trading company camisoles in that they are nice and thick. My boobs are quite literally the size of my head and I can find molded cup bras and work shirts that hide my nipples. If you really must wear seamed bras, wear a thick camisole. It’s fine for a camisole to show to some degree in a business casual work top and if the camisole showing IS an issue, then that’s just not an appropriate work top.

      It does not take 100 comments to figure out how to dress at work to not show your nipples. That goes for men too, please keep your nips and chest hair under wraps.

      This was obviously just published as an excuse to start a debate about whether nipples are ok at work. OP can clearly dress around this issue, it does not take a rocket scientist to google “how to hide nipples”.

      For those of you that like showin em off, cool. It’s not work-appropriate, you can easily dress to cover them up, but you do you.

      1. Paris Geller*

        I find this comment to be rather unkind to the OP. Sometimes nipples show through. I am also a larger endowed women (definitely further past the alphabet in cup size than H) and sometimes no matter what I do, the nipples show through. I wear bras with a bit of padding so that my nipples don’t show through, but sometimes on a cold day it happens. I’m always a bit mortified when I go into bathroom and realize they’re peaking through (sometimes through multiple layers! A cami isn’t always a guarantee either. I’ve definitely had my nipples show through a slightly padded bra, a cami, AND a blouse, like more than once).

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Agreed, that’s pretty unkind. I’ve had that happen to me, as well. Gone to the restroom and realized a new blouse with a drape-y fabric was showing a lot more than I thought it was, even with a padded bra. It was a cold day…so they weren’t going away. Was I self-conscious about it? Yep. Did I really need to be? Nope. I have a body and my body has nipples. I choose to hide them as much as possible, but it’s not fair to say it’s “not work-appropriate” and suggest that the OP doesn’t know how to dress them self.

        2. GothicBee*

          I agree that comment is unkind. Plus, I don’t even think this problem necessarily has to do with how endowed you are. I’m only barely a C cup and have noticed that sometimes my nipples show through my fairly well-padded bras. Conversely, I have a friend who is much bigger but regularly wears unlined bras without having that problem. So… I think some people just have more prominent nipples than others. For me personally, I stick with bras that have enough lining/padding that if anything does show through it’s not defined enough to be a huge problem. But I do also tend to wear darker clothes, which I think hides things a bit better than lighter colors. So even if something is showing through, it’s not usually obvious.

          1. Paris Geller*

            Yes, I agree. I am well endowed and have problems with nipples showing through, but I don’t think it’s always a correlation of bra size. I’ve also noticed this with some men: even when they’re flat-chested and wearing thick material, the nipples show through. All bodies are different and some features are just more prominent on some than on others.

      2. Forrest*

        bra size is not really relevant–you can be pretty flat chested and have nipples that show through clothes, or massive boobs with very flat nipples. My nipples changed shape totally from breastfeeding! “This isn’t a problem for me therefore it shouldn’t be a problem for other people” is not how bodies work.

        1. Kiki*

          Yes! I get really frustrated when people are like, “Wear a thick camisole!!” I wear sweatshirts and bras with molded cups and somehow my nipples can find a way to show themselves if the room is chilly enough. Just because a solution exists for you doesn’t mean it exists for everyone.

        2. Ann O'Nemity*

          I agree that bra size doesn’t necessarily determine nippage, but it DOES affect bra options and comfort. That’s why I think it’s relevant to the conversation.

          1. Kiki*

            Right. And I may have interpreted LW wrong, but I thought they provided their bra size as context for why padded bras made them more uncomfortable– they make LW feel like Betty Boop. Some bras that have nice thick padding and prevent prominent nipples from showing can make the breasts as a whole look more prominent or cartoonish. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but could definitely make someone feel less comfortable in a professional environment.

          2. Forrest*

            I think it’s relevant, but I don’t think there’s a correlation between larger boobs and more prominent nipples (if anything, the opposite) so “it isn’t a a problem for me even though I have large breasts, so it shouldn’t be for you” just isn’t how it works!

        3. Third or Nothing!*

          Mine did too! “Headlights” weren’t a huge problem for me before I had a kid, but during pregnancy that changed and never went back. Betting the 2-ish years of breastfeeding didn’t help, but oh well.

          I’ve had nipples show through my very supportive very padded sports bra before. Sports bra! At this point I don’t think I can fight it, so I just roll with it. Wearing dark colors and patterns helps, as does having a light jacket handy. Sometimes I’ll cross my arms over my boobs to help warm up that area and make the problem a little less prominent. But at the end of the day, my body is my body and that will have to be enough.

      3. Me*

        The OP wrote in for guidance. It’s rude to dismiss them or accuse the publishing of a question as trying to stir up drama.

        Your comment would have stood alone with the unkindness – which is part of the commenting rules here.

      4. Queer Earthling*

        I’ve got much smaller breasts (C or D depending on the bra) and my nipples are pretty much always prominent. It takes some thick bras to disguise their presence, and I hate wearing thick bras (just like OP doesn’t! Which they stated expressly!) though in my case that’s due to sensory issues.

        Fortunately for me, I’m self-employed and in a sex-related industry, so my nipples aren’t a big deal, but if I weren’t, I’d have found this comment both unkind AND unhelpful. What works for you doesn’t work for everyone.

        1. Sylvia*

          Agree. I’m only a B cup, but I have nipples that really like to be front and center. They show through regular bras, camisoles, and T-shirts.

          And I completely understand why OP says she feels like Betty Boop. So many female cartoon characters are created to be an over-sexualized male fantasy (Jessica Rabbit, for instance) that it creates a ridiculous standard/expectation for women.

  12. NapkinThief*

    Just popping in as a data point to say men’s nipples bother me too! I wouldn’t speak to a man or a woman about it, but I definitely notice and feel uncomfortable.

    I get that we know people have real bodies and we aren’t Barbie and Ken dolls, blah blah blah – which is why I do my beat to studiously ignore when faced with the bright headlights of either gender – but I definitely believe it’s ok to admit it’s not normal to have every body part on display at work just because the parts themselves are normal! It’s ok to maintain privacy around private parts!

    This for me goes in the category with camel toe and wedgies; it’s certainly not shameful to have the body parts, but no one who’s not your doctor or your lover needs a detailed map of your particularly topography.

    THAT BEING SAID: I would fight not to judge someone overmuch who had the occasional visible nipple if it seemed genuinely unintentional. I can’t definitively say that there might not be an unconscious bias lingering there though if it was more of a daily thing.

    If you’re looking for solutions, I appreciate breastfeeding for introducing me to reusable breast pads – they work wonders for nipple coverage and some are very breathable; then you just pop them in the wash!

    1. midnightcat*

      “but I definitely notice and feel uncomfortable.”

      This is a you-problem though. And your post seems to be confusing having something actually be visible and having it show through clothing.

      I would suggest you try looking at people’s faces instead – that might help.

      1. Kate 2*

        Rude and nasty! PLEASE read the rules. Some things are really obvious, impossible not to notice even when you aren’t deliberately looking. I have an immediate family member who doesn’t wear bras. And she is big. Even just when walking there is a ton of movement. It very, very obvious and believe me, I don’t want to notice that! I think there’s a line between existing in your own body and not covering things other people shouldn’t have to see/pretend not to see.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          But… they’re breasts. This isn’t someone flashing their genitals around. Or even their breasts. It’s

          Quite frankly, being uncomfortable that someone is adequately but not perfectly covering an innocuous body part to your specifications of what’s acceptable is a you problem.

          Also fat jiggles. Fat people shouldn’t have to cover up or strap in every single scrap of skin to make people comfortable.

        2. DArcy*

          There’s nothing rude or nasty about pointing out that judging women for the shape and visibility of their bodies, even “not overmuch”, is both grossly sexist and entirely a you problem.

        3. midnightcat*

          I’m not being rude. I’m merely pointing out that yours is an outlier view and therefore not actually helpful for the writer.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Outlier views, however, can be helpful considering that OP asked if anyone really cares. When OP reads the comment section, she’ll see the vast majority of people don’t care but a minority do. She can take that information and do with it what she will (and if she decides to not care a whit about the minority, then that’s awesome!).

        4. Allonge*

          Rude? I would argue that not having come up with a way to look at people with less than perfect bodies/coverage is ruder, yet.

        5. Mystery Bookworm*

          I actually find this response to come across as quite rude – I hope not your intention?

          Obviously we can expect people to make reasonable efforts to cover up, but there is a wide variation of acceptable depending on circumstances. We cannot ask people to wrap themselves in layers upon layers just for our personal comfort.

          Most bodies have ripples and other movement when people walk. This is very normal. Many of us have been taught to sexualize that movement (if its a woman) or have been taught to be repulsed by that movement (if it’s someone larger), but I agree with midnightcat — that is really the observer’s problem!

          I hear that you ‘don’t want to notice’ and I believe you. It sounds like you feel upset and digusted by the thoughts that run through your head. But your family member’s body didn’t put those thoughts into your head and I think your anger is misplaced.

          On a very personal note: this is something I struggled with when I was younger. I felt aware of bodies that I perceived as were superior to mine. If I was trying to work out, or participate in a class, or hang out at a party and I was next to someone whose body I percieved as better, I could be incredibly distracted. Like you, I felt that certain bodies were very noticable and I didn’t want to notice them either – since they made me feel bad!

          But it wasn’t really the bodies making me feel bad, was it? Because of course people weren’t being skinny or tall at me as some sort of aggressive act. The issue was my thoughts and my focus. No amount of people covering up or desexualizing themselves would have helped. I remember being kind of mystified as I talked to my friends and realised not everybody felt as distracted by thoughts as I did. I’m very grateful that I was able to work on that. (Although it does flare up on bad days….I’m still a work in progess for sure!)

          I’m sorry it sounds like you’re going through something similar (although perhaps your thoughts are triggered by different types of bodies).

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            “Noticing” does not equal “looking at something in a lascivious manner.” You can notice that someone is doing something that makes *you* uncomfortable without then staring and drooling at it while thinking lecherous thoughts.

      2. NapkinThief*

        Oh man. I hope I haven’t given the wrong impression here. Perhaps what you think I mean by “uncomfortable” is too strong – maybe “awkward” would be more accurate? At any rate, I think there may be some misunderstanding about my perspective.

        “This is a you-problem though.” To some extent, I agree – which is why, as I said, I fight not to judge/give into the biases I know can potentially develop.

        “I would suggest you try looking at people’s faces instead – that might help.” I agree! This is where the studious ignoring I mentioned comes into play.

        “And your post seems to be confusing having something actually be visible and having it show through clothing.” Definitely not – which is why I used the analogy of camel toe and wedgies, both of those also being instances where body parts we typically maintain a polite fiction about at work can show through clothing.

        Ultimately, I was simply trying to answer what seemed to me to be OP’s question – no one has said anything to her (or her male colleagues), but does anyone care that her nipples are sometimes visible through her clothing? Is it worth the effort to hide them? I am doing my best to be gut-level honest here – if I were the OP’s coworker, I too would never SAY it or SHOW it, and I could try to pretend that I don’t care one way or the other, but all things being equal, yes I would prefer to not see the impressions of anyone’s nipples while at work, and I don’t think that’s particularly terrible or inconsistent with how we generally pursue professional presentation in the workplace.

        Not a judgement on OP, not a mandate – which is why I prefaced my final suggestion with “IF you’re looking for solutions” – she is more than welcome to not give two figs about what I think or anyone else thinks. But since she asked, that’s my genuine secret thoughts.

        1. midnightcat*

          I could try to pretend that I don’t care one way or the other, but all things being equal, yes I would prefer to not see the impressions of anyone’s nipples while at work, and I don’t think that’s particularly terrible or inconsistent with how we generally pursue professional presentation in the workplace.

          Most people don’t care.

          1. Anne Elliot*

            Respectfully, I don’t think you have the authority to say that. A lot of people, especially older people in the context of the workplace, do in fact care. In my workplace I think it’s pretty well understood that people (both male and female) should avoid walking around with their high beams on. People may not say anything to a woman who regularly sports visible nipples, but they will probably notice and, worse, they will probably judge that negatively, even if at a minor or subconscious level, and even if the woman never hears a thing about it.

            So to me the perspective that nipples are natural and people should just not look and most people don’t care, is kind of touchingly naive. That may reflect how the workplace SHOULD be, but I will assert it does not reflect how many workplaces actually ARE. To me as a woman, I would avoid any noticeable issue that I can easily fix and that I suspect may negatively impact my ability to advance, because, yes, women are subject to a higher standard and a double standard. We can all agree that sucks, but here we are.

            1. Jennifer*

              “That may reflect how the workplace SHOULD be, but I will assert it does not reflect how many workplaces actually ARE.”
              This x 1,000

    2. Fashionable Pumpkin*

      “if it seemed genuinely unintentional.”

      As someone who wears non padded bras to avoid the thrush-y nipples I’ve fought ever since I nursed my kid (who is now 15- my hormones just shifted to make me more prone to all forms of yeast infections), I assure you that I’m never intentionally showing anything. But they sometimes react to the temperature of the room, and I often don’t feel it unless it’s *painfully* chilly. I’m not trying to make anyone look at me.

    3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      I don’t like seeing nipples in general in a professional setting – but that’s on me.

    4. Confused*

      It happens to everyone from time to time, who of us hasn’t bought a new outfit and not noticed a wardrobe malfunction? If I saw someone’s nips every day, I’d think they didn’t know how to dress appropriately, but I wouldn’t say anything. I honestly wouldn’t say anything about most work clothing issues.

    5. Georgina Fredrika*

      I also feel weird seeing men’s nipples – I think it’s just the fact that most people’s clothing hides them, though. Like if 97% of men don’t have them show through, and only 3% do, it’s like my eyes are drawn to the relative anomaly the same way they would be if someone had a big stain on their jacket.

      But I think this might be a convention that eventually falls away, at least in America where corporate culture in a lot of places is now “wear nice jeans and a button top” instead of “suit and tie” the way it might’ve been at the same place 30 years ago.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      Honestly, I think this is a problem the observer/viewer should be working on, not the person with the prominent nipples.

      When you get right down to it, our ancestors thought ANKLES were provacative. Just goes to show you that what is considered sexual is very much a social construct.

  13. midnightcat*

    #1 The thing about correcting grammar is you need to know when not to do it.

    I get that typos are a pet peeve. They were for me too, when it was my job (in newspapers and magazines) to correct them. Nowadays I don’t care as much and am judicious about whether and when I point them out.

    There are also ways to deliver corrections. Are you being overly teacherly in how you do it? Are we talking red pen here, for example?

    1. MassMatt*

      I wouldn’t correct a partner’s love notes, for example, but in this context the boss is asking for feedback on the documents. That’s the time to provide it, right?

      Dunno why the boss is asking for feedback only to argue with and ignore it, it sounds like a can’t win situation. Point out that she wrote “their” instead of “there” and she gets angry; ignore it and she throws a fit because you didn’t catch the error.

      I’m skeptical that asking will get a straight answer but I can’t see how to break this cycle without starting there. Maybe the boss just wants to hear her writing is great? If she’s this defensive about feedback maybe she should stop asking for it from a subordinate.

      1. midnightcat*

        “ That’s the time to provide it, right?”

        Maybe, maybe not – depends on the particular bit of feedback.

      2. GothicBee*

        But unless the OP is an editor, I would assume the primary point of the feedback is the actual content/substance of the writing rather than the grammar. Also, I’ve found that a lot of people who describe grammar as a pet peeve tend to be overly pedantic about it (and I say that as someone who has a masters in English and used to work as a copy editor). If the boss is expecting feedback on the substance of the document but the OP is coming back with a list of misplaced commas, it wouldn’t be surprising that they’re annoyed.

        Plus as others have pointed out, there’s plenty of contexts where grammar feedback is a waste of time (internal only documents, documents that will be going to a copy editor later, etc.). If these are errors that affect clarity, then it can be worth pushing back on to a point (though it seems the OP may have already reached that point), but if these are just pedantic errors that annoy the OP, then I think they need to learn to let them go.

  14. Amy*

    In 2019, I spent a week of vacation dealing with my mother’s house after she died suddenly. In 2020, I spent a week of vacation moving my young family after my husband lost his job due to Covid.

    Maybe there was a time when vacation always meant sun, surf and margaritas, but most people, especially in a difficult year like 2020, get it. Also “a week off” works fine too. You don’t need to provide details.

    1. londonedit*

      This is what I’ve found this year. I’ve taken a week or two off work here and there this summer, and where pre-2020 people would be all ‘Oh lovely, where are you going??’ now it’s more ‘Oh good for you, are you going away anywhere or just taking time off?’ The expectation is definitely not that people will be jetting off for sun-soaked holidays and tons of fun. I agree with Alison that ‘Have a great time!’ is the social equivalent of ‘How are you?’ – it’s just the stock response when someone says they’ll be away. So you don’t really need to provide any info, you can just say ‘Thanks!’ and that’s the end of it. If on the other hand people are asking specifically about where you’re going and what you’re doing, I think people this year are much more accepting of answers like ‘Well, you know, it’s not a proper holiday but at least it’s time away from work’ or ‘It’s not really a holiday but at least I can get some stuff done’ or ‘Just taking a week off, nothing special planned’ or whatever. People know this year sucks for many many reasons!

    2. Mainely Professional*

      Yes. When I mentioned I would be “on vacation” next week, a colleague asked me “Oh, where are you going?” “Uhhhh….nowhere.” I think this is just default social pleasantry, and people aren’t thinking very hard about it. That said, I guess some people are traveling during the pandemic, but not me!

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        From the headline, I actually thought this letter was going to be about dealing with coworkers who were being judgmental about travelling at all during the pandemic!

  15. ACM*

    I’m wondering what type of grammar errors we’re talking about. If it’s something like “they’re/their/there” or plurals with apostrophes I’m surprised that fixing them isn’t welcome and sympathize if that’s the case!

    So I’m wondering if she’s worrying about things like comma splices, prepositions at the ends of sentences, things like that. While a composition teacher absolutely should watch out for those things, a great deal of business writing is not so concerned about them. The “no prepositions at the ends of sentences” in particular, along with several other types “rules” were artificially imposed by classicist grammarians in the the 19th century who wanted English to resemble Latin as much as possible, and they fly in the face of how English-speakers have been using their own language for centuries. (John McWhorter’s Great Lectures series on the history of language is an excellent and entertaining listen and really illuminating on this point.) Also, more recently, commas are being used in emails in a way that is technically erroroneous but are useful in that they add a visual pause or breath (e.g. “But, I will consider it.”) So it might be useful to consider how esoteric the “error” is and also whether it adds something by way of clarity or tone or even just “naturalness”, or whether it muddles the message. The latter is not great, but I think you need to let go of “errors” that accomplish the former in many cases.

    1. Kiki*

      I really like that you brought up that “grammatical errors” can sometimes be preferable to writing that follows all the rules. I had a coworker who was obsessed with proper grammar; it rarely added clarity and often made him come across as stilted.

  16. Ducky*

    As someone who myself “has a very direct manner and tends to rub people the wrong way,” I am 97% sure Alex does not want your coaching. They are almost certainly already aware of how they come across, and for all you know have spent years working on it themselves and what you’re seeing now *is* the improved version. It’s also entirely possible they’re neurodivergent and constantly trying to be “tactful” instead of direct is literally exhausting for them. Maybe they like how they are (direct can also mean “efficient”) and don’t care what your co-workers think. Hard to say from your description, but whatever the case, they won’t want coaching – especially from someone without training or qualifications – and their opinion of you will drop if you offer it.

    1. Helping a Peer*

      OP3 here. Thanks fo your take. Although I do not know if Alex is neurodivergent, but being tactful is definitely a harder thing to do. I also wish I had just included the directness as the issue because in reality my organization could benefit from more of it, but I think saying that probably sounded nicer. The reality is the issues are they tend to overstep and take control of things others were handling but I guess just up to Alex’s timeline or standard. The direct feedback I got from a colleague when I said they should check in with Alex since they had created the document together, the colleague said they weren’t interested in doing that since Alex ‘does too much.’

    2. learnedthehardway*

      There’s also a good question about whether Alex is direct or rude. Directness is – in itself – not a bad thing. Personally, I strongly prefer to work with people who are direct and who say what they mean. Saves me the problem of a) potentially missing what they are trying to convey or b) interpreting what they could possibly mean.

      I would far rather someone say, “That isn’t what I need” than be wishy washy about the work I’ve given them.

      On the flip side, if Alex is rude, that’s another issue entirely, and the OP shouldn’t have to deal with it.

  17. Jaid*

    As an aside:

    The one “You may also like” ◾my coworker is hassling me about his peer feedback, employee calls me “buttercup,” and more” has an OP complaining about having to travel by air to a conference which they described as a 1-2 hour award ceremony that they could have just as easily viewed by a webinar. That it was during the Christmas season, they didn’t get food expenses (????), and they usually got the flu was a bonus.

    Naturally, I wonder if we’re gonna get an update from them!

  18. Fried Eggs*

    LW1: I had a similar problem at my last job, and fixed it by asking my boss to be more specific about what kind of editing she wanted. You could say something like:

    “I get the impression sometimes that I’m not giving you the kind of edits you want. Are you looking more for copyediting, or input on the content, or both?”

    After I said that to my boss once, she got way more specific in her requests. Instead of “can you take a look at this” she started saying things like: “Could you check this for typos before I hit publish” (read: not looking to overhaul this text) or “Hey, I drafted this response to a journalist–do you think it works?” (read: change whatever you want, I’m struggling on this one).

    1. Dave*

      I would also suggest you suggest your boss downloading something like Grammerly to help catch more obvious typos if that is an ongoing thing. This might best be brought up on a team meeting as something you personally have found useful sharing of information.
      I do think that if what is being published is for large public consumption (ie mailers / website content) the editing standards change. I am amazed my company refuses to implement a basic someone must check all ad work before being sent to the printer to catch typos. I suggested this after we printed post cards with our incorrect phone number … and still have most of them because we might need them one day.

  19. Annie Porter*

    OP#4: I don’t know your financial situation, but please get (paid, if possible) help with this. I ran myself ragged taking care of my father’s house (not a hoarder, but definitely not a cleaner/organizer, and a heavy smoker who lived there alone for the better part of two decades. So a giant, disgusting mess.) I finally realized I wasn’t getting much sibling help and that I couldn’t continue to work full-time, manage my own household, and take this on solo. Added bonus if your family friend can get people access to the house so you don’t have to travel back and forth.

    I am not anywhere near wealthy, but I was the executor of the estate and knew it would pay for the following:

    1. A professional cleaning to at least make it bearable to be inside the house. That might be harder with a hoarding situation. That cost me about $600.
    2. Junkers. Every town/city has companies that will come with a big dump truck and just empty out whatever room(s) you ask them to. I had an entire, disgusting, would not enter it myself basement emptied out for a few hundred bucks. During your “vacation” ask family or friends to help you sift through and remove anything you actually want to keep, or anything with sentimental value. Then, get the rest cleaned out by the pros, guilt-free.
    3. If you’re planning to sell the house, have a trusted realtor come out and help evaluate it. What could be fixed quickly and inexpensively that would increase the value? Should you sell as-is and take the lower price to avoid putting time/money into it?
    4. Hire people for those fixes.

    I’m sorry for your loss, and I’m sorry for your situation, which makes the mourning process both harder and easier but absolutely increases the frustration factor exponentially. My heart is with you.

    1. LW #4*

      I appreciate the advice and kind words, and I am actually doing a lot of those things or planning on doing it later. I’m definitely not planning on doing the cleanout or repairs myself — I just couldn’t, physically, mentally, or time-off-work-ly.

      I have a referral for a professional estate sale-type person, since there are a lot of antiques, but my aunt (who lives across the country) and I do want to keep things that have value to us.

      I am fortunate enough to be able to hire help; I just don’t trust the *initial* work to people I don’t know.

      This trip has a “go shopping in the house” element: the kind folks working on it put items of each type in different areas. Here are the (25) wicker baskets; here are the (40) beautiful glass vases, some of which may have been from goodwill and some which were handed down, etc.

      It’s just emotionally hard because I want to keep it everything that had meaning but I don’t want to *also* end up a hoarder. The family friend who is helping also lost her mother around my age (she’s about 10 years older), so she is very very understanding and a huge help moving past some of those urges. I don’t know what I’d do without her.

      1. HR-Occam's Razor*

        Hello LW #4.
        2 years ago we moved my mother out of her home of 49 years as well as her small beach house. She’s not hoarder but is a collector and hobbyist.
        Deciding on what to keep, donate, or throw away I pushed a simple notion.
        Benefit or Burden?
        Does it have intrinsic value to you or anyone else that will carry the burden? Will it simply be a burden for someone later to clean up?
        I can’t speak for everyone but I can confidentially say that niece or cousin doesn’t want that milk-glass collection or much care about about the pie birds.
        Good luck!

  20. Thankful for AAM*

    Re #4 and the working vacation.
    I disagree a bit with the general advice that “have a great holiday” is just a pleasantry to be responded to with a plain “thanks!”

    I’d say, “thanks!, its a working holiday but I hope to take some time for fun too.” That responds to the pleasantry part and can make the OP feel better about the optics of another holiday or help the OP deal with well meant but frustrating comments.

    And hire a home clean out company! Use your holiday to supervise them if you want to.

    1. LW #4*

      I ended up saying something almost like this, thank you! I went with “Thanks! I’ve got a lot to get done but I’m setting aside from time for relaxation too. Looking forward to ” or variations on it.

      For me, this is often hardest on one-on-one calls or conversations with coworkers I’m somewhat close to, who would have asked me (and meant it) how my vacation was. They tell me what their vacation/time-off plans are and how it went when they get back, but I don’t want to dump on them “actually I’m going through my dead mom’s house”.

      Since she died two years ago, I found people are (politely) confused as to why this is still A Thing, or have actually joined since after this happened, so I’ve stopped talking about it with almost everyone at work, close friends and my supervisor excepted.

      My supervisor knows because I’d been granted special permission to work odd hours out of state for a week at a time, but that’s been put on hold right now because of too many people wanting to work longer term in states we can’t legally handle right now.

      1. Another child of a hoarder*

        I like the suggestions that give you a way to convey the not-vacation information but end with a positive note, which closes off the topic in a way that acknowledges the good wish and moves on to the next thing without awkwardness.

        If you are not in fact going to have any time for relaxation, you can try this: “Well, it’s taking care of some family projects more than VACATION-vacation, but it’ll feel really good to have it done!” Which becomes “. . . but it feels really good to have it done,” when you return and people ask how your vacation was.

        Sending you lots of good wishes.

  21. Ali G*

    #4 if you are worried it is weird that people think you are taking vacation now (when you are not, you are just not working at your job), and then will take “real” vacation later – are you planning to take that time in December around Holidays? If so I can tell you , no one will notice. They will be wrapped up in their own plans and frankly we will all just be relieved we almost made it to 2021, that no one will remember that week you didn’t work in September.
    I’m sorry about your mom and I hope you get that real vacation soon!

    1. LW #4*

      Thank you. I am very prone to assuming that people are judging every little thing I do, so the reminder that most people don’t think about me as much as I think they do is helpful :)

  22. Chriama*

    #2 – as a fellow well-endowed woman, I’ve noticed 2 things: 1: certain fabrics will show more just because of the way they conform to your body, and 2: if your shirt has patterns then your nipples are less obvious. Personally, I don’t notice mine that much, and it’s not something I pay attention to when buying clothes (though maybe I should!). There’s one shirt I stopped wearing because I taught a junior high school class and the teacher told me afterwards that the boys were commenting on it. I don’t think you need to worry about it in terms of professionalism, and I’ve literally never noticed anyone else’s nipples, but it definitely makes me uncomfortable when mine are super obvious.

    1. anon 4 this*

      This. I am not conventionally well endowed, but my nipples are…disproportionate, to the point that I notice them far more than I’d like to. Natural fibers are better than polyester, super-stretchy and clingy things are best avoided, those petal things can save an outfit, and ditto on the patterning. (Trivia! When MGM went to film “The Wizard of Oz,” Judy Garland was 16 and already had what the filmmakers considered an adultlike figure. They had Garland wear a brace and then they put gingham over it to make her more convincing as a child.)

    2. Oldbiddy*

      The fast-fashion thin T-shirts that are the worst for that, especially since they’re intended to fit fairly tight. I’m on the ‘we all have nipples so what’s the big deal’ end of things and even I won’t wear those without a padded bra. Many of the fabrics in the 80’s/90’s/00’s were much more forgiving.

  23. Public Health worker lol*

    OP4 no advice but I did just want to say sorry for your loss. My uncle passed away a year ago and was a hoarder, and my dad and one of their other brothers did all the hoarding/house clean up. It took me awhile to realize that that was part of my dads grieving process. Because I was like … why would y’all not just hire someone?? Hope your able to take some actual time off at some point!

    1. LW #4*

      Exactly; it’s letting go of that house and how my mother put it together. She had an excellent sense of interior design, so when I look past all the *stuff* I see the care she put into our home. Her taste is different enough that I don’t want to take replicate it at my home, but that means it will be gone forever at some point.

      She’s never been to my current place because we moved after she passed, so it’s the last place I can “see” her being around.

  24. CheeryO*

    #1, are you using Word’s track changes feature to make edits? This is potentially bad advice, so know your own workplace, but I occasionally just correct any egregious grammar errors and only turn track changes on for substantive edits and comments. My thought process is that no one wants to waste time talking about typos or grammar mistakes, but obviously they should be corrected. This is assuming that the documents don’t go through any formal editing process prior to being issued. YMMV.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I like this suggestion.

      When I’m asked to review a document I’ll comment where I’m perhaps correcting factual errors or recasting an unwieldy sentence, but for simple subediting changes I’d just add a line in my email along the lines of “I also corrected a couple of typos on p3”.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I do a lot of proofing in my job and I learned a while ago that I should ALWAYS track changes. It gives the option for someone to reject my suggestion, yet I still feel good about making the suggestion and I leave it up to them. And I’m glad I set that standard, because one person on my team who proofs my documents makes changes that are actually incorrect. Drives me batty.

      I am also the person who decided to write a style guide because I was sick of seeing really bad punctuation mistakes. And I mean bad. I won’t go into too much detail, but I saw some really strange uses of parentheses. I also got really tired of correcting one co-worker’s failure to remember how we write certain numbers in our reports (same guy as above, actually), so now he has a quick reference guide and I can release my frustration a bit.

  25. Not trying to be rude, just good at it*

    Many moons ago a “buddy” opened a store and rented a billboard above his location. It read similar to – If your looking for Llama Heaven, you’re their.

    I told him it was ridiculous and it made him look stupid. He told me it was “catchy”. The billboard lasted longer than the store.

    People kept asking me if the owner was stupid.

    1. Don P.*

      It’s worth asking, though. There’s a place near me called “Organic Furnature”, and I just checked their website, to remind myself that it was real, and I finally noticed that the ‘a’ is highlighted because you’re supposed to see the word “nature” in it. So it’s possible to have a deliberate error that makes sense.

  26. Jennifer*

    #4 I’m very sorry for your loss.

    Alison is right. Your coworkers are just making small talk. When you ask someone how they’re doing, unless they are a good friend you don’t really expect them to respond with a list of every thing going wrong in their life. It’s just a social convention.

    Unless you happen to work at a place where people are super judgey about taking personal time, I don’t think anyone will notice/care when you take your actual vacation.

    1. Wintergreen*

      A little sideways to the conversation. I struggle with picking up social cues and I HATE “How are you?” as a greeting/nicety. If you don’t want a response, just say Hello since most of the people I know who do this aren’t listening anyway. I often get into circular, annoying conversations like
      Me – Hello
      A – How are you?
      Me – I have a headache from hell, how are you?
      A – Sorry to hear that, I’m fine, how are you?

      However, I’ve never felt “Have a good vacation” to be anything other than well wishing. If it is bothering you though, I like the other comments about saying something along the lines of “I’m trying to get some overdue chores off my plate but I’ll try!”

      1. Jennifer*

        It’s almost like one word for me. Hihowareyou? I don’t even realize I’m asking a question. Sometimes I say it when I pass someone in the hall and don’t even stop.

        But yeah, if someone knew I was going to clear out my recently deceased relative’s house and said “have a good vacation,” I might be a bit put off by that. Otherwise, it’s just a social nicety.

  27. CatMom*

    OP2, patterns! It’s quite amazing how a pattern hides the nipple outline.

    I do think it’s important to say that you have a human body and nipples are part of it and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. That said, I get why you feel uncomfortable! When I worked with kids this was an obsessive concern of mine. Good luck!

  28. Jay*

    OP#1 – I work in marketing and have someone that proofs my pieces, there are times that she finds legitimate spelling and grammar errors and I am happy to fix them. Other times she points out “errors” that might be more of a personal preference or in the grand scheme of things doesn’t really matter – examples: change many more to a lot more or changing a comma to a semi colon. Yes the semi colon may be more grammatically correct but for the purposes I’m using it, it really does not matter. If you do continue to proof pieces for her (I like how Alison suggested asking what she was looking for within the proofing), I’d suggest just pointing out obvious or major errors – their vs there, misspellings, etc. and leave out any other changes.

  29. Observer*


    1. Make sure you are not nit picking on things that are actually acceptable. People have mentioned things that are actually not errors. But there are also things where acceptable usage has changed.

    2. Check in with your boss on this. Does she want proof reading or input on content and / or clarity? If the latter, the back off.

    3. If your boss is unclear but still refuses to change her work, then back off. You can’t make your boss care about your pet peeves, and you should not try.

  30. No Tribble At All*

    Hi OP#2– I get why you’re worried about a pair of radio antenna in the middle of your chest. Especially because so much women’s clothing is basically transparent! I’ve definitely worked with men who didn’t realize their thin white button-down needed an undershirt, especially if said button-down was a little too small. But if you get dressed in a warm dark room and you suddenly go to a bright, cold room, sometimes your outfit isn’t so great after all! What I’m saying is, as long as it’s not literally every day, and as long as no one can see the color of your titties, I think you’re ok.

    PS I’m sure in the open thread on Friday or Saturday we’d be happy to talk about different types of bras that provide different coverage :)

  31. DiscoCat*

    #2 I faced the same issue too, my nipples are mostly out and visible like bullets- apart from making me feel self conscious, it makes me feel cold (weird, huh?). I ended up buying padded bras without wire that make me look a bit bigger, but homogenous and without nipples on show. It does get hot in the summer, but I can live with that. I thought about the stick on petals, but their outline could become visible under the clothes if the nipples push the breast tissue out against the fabric of your clothes.

  32. blink14*

    OP #2 – this reminds me of a teacher I had in my late middle school years. She wore very, very thin shirts with nothing underneath – no bra, no cami, nothing. Obviously, that setting, this was NOT appropriate.

    However, it sounds like you are doing all the normal things when dressing appropriately, and not working in an environment where it would be more awkward than average. Maybe have a cardigan handy to throw over if you notice its a problem or if you notice it happens with a particular fabric, see Alison’s suggestion list.

  33. AnonNurse*

    #2 – Ugh, I wish there was a good answer for this one. I also am well endowed and have no control over my nipples being more visible in lighter color or lighter weight garments. This definitely isn’t helpful, and I understand that, but I finally just had to tell myself that others having a problem with it was just that – their problem. While I can’t say I don’t get a bit self-conscious every once in a while, I can say that I don’t worry nearly as much about what I’m wearing and what might be visible. I’m sorry it’s such an issue when it really never should be – they’re just another part of our body!!

  34. Janon*

    #2 – what about just lightly lined. I am not at all well-endowed but as i have gotten older and like to just be comfortable, i like less and less padding but still want some shape and coverage and that has been helpful to find lightly lined tshirt bras.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Finding good, comfortable bras is so important. They should never look cartoony.

      I cannot wear unlined bras with showing nipples, full stop. But I’ve been able to find lined bras (not padded, just lined) that are comfortable and reliably hide my nipples.

  35. Jennifer*

    #2 I’m also well-endowed and understand how you feel. I keep a cardigan handy to throw on when I feel a bit self-conscious. Yes, it’s part of the body and people shouldn’t focus on it, but sometimes they do. Your feelings are totally valid.

  36. I Love Llamas*

    OP#4, I feel for you. I had to clean out my mom’s house when she passed and we lived 1400 miles apart. It isn’t easy. I think folks on this awesome site have given you a lot of great logistical ideas. My thought is can you postpone your time off? With this big project looming, your boss might be relieved to have you postpone your trip so you can focus on the work. The house and clean-out aren’t going anywhere and if you have trades coming out for repairs, etc., they can always be re-scheduled. Please be kinder to yourself. The stress of the clean-out and returning to a huge work project seems daunting. Good luck and I hope that you get a true, unplugged vacation soon.

    1. blink14*

      I like this suggestion but I would be wary of making it known that you are postponing for a project – that can create a really hard cycle.

      I wonder also if this question is coming partially because you feel like you are taking a vacation during COVID times. Maybe in the future, you could say something like “oh, thank you, I own some property in X state, and I need to go check on it. Hoping to have a day or two to explore!” or something like that, so it acknowledges why you are taking the time, but also acknowledges that it’s common societal courtesy to say “hope you have a great vacation”.

    2. LW #4*

      I had post-poned the time off: it’s going to be an 8-month long project that I’m 2 months into, so I slotted it in between one deadline and another, giving myself time to work on the next after I returned.

  37. Erin*

    For the woman with the inherited house:

    I am so sorry for what you are dealing with! Do you absolutely have to get this house/contents sorted during your time off? (Is it being condemned if you don’t? Is it on the market and you need to clear it out?). If you can put it off, do it! Or maybe go out to the house with a specific plan of things you want to preserve/keep. Gather those things, and then head back home or wherever for the remainder of your time off.

    This task is mentally and physically laborious, and I know I would need to simply push it off for a while in favor of getting a much needed break.

    Best wishes to you :)

    1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      Not OP, but I just used a week of PTO to drive from the midwest to the west coast (we were moving, also not a restful way to use PTO!), and my partner and I had portable “urinals” that we used when we couldn’t find a suitable place to go outside. Since ours was a multi-day trip, we camped each night, and brought along a “toilet tent” with a portable camp toilet. All seemed like better solutions than either diapers or using public restrooms right now.

    2. LW #4*

      It means a car/camping toilet and a drive that’s under 8 hours.

      Maybe TMI for you: it works great and doesn’t smell.

  38. Hmmmyeah*

    LW#1: it might help to clarify what your manager is looking for when she makes the request. When I request revisions, I’ll often specify whether I’m requesting a review for factual accuracy, want them to take a look at the structure / make sure nothing is missing, or want them to clean up the language (grammar, etc.).

    Often when I need someone to review, the language has already been approved and I just want them to confirm I’m not saying anything blatantly inaccurate (but it will actually be a whole process to change minor words and such).

    Our GM has terrible writing skills but gets offended if you change too much (spelling and wording is fine, but if you dare to correct the content in any way, it’s not happening – he mostly wants you to correct his run-on sentences and words that don’t make sense in writing).

    On the other hand, my last director just didn’t like bothering with that stuff, so even though she had excellent writing skills she preferred that I fully revise the document and save her the trouble of checking her spelling.

    All to say that it depends what the person is looking for. I sometimes need to get 4 or 5 people to do a final factual review of documents I write, but if I let them fix wording (or even style) it would go on forever (as each person corrects to their preferred style).

  39. employment lawyah*

    1. Correcting my boss’s grammar
    Don’t. If it looks bad, you might even want to consider pretending you’re not as good and enlisting a third party to correct your boss, but it’s really hard to do that without annoying bosses. You might also suggest something like Grammarly, though of course it’s not as good as the real thing.

    2. Visible nipples
    Well, you obviously know the “no nipples showing” default and it’s always safer to meet the default, but you seem to be doing OK. Yes, some people will notice it I suppose, but so what? For what it’s worth, my wife points out that some tops (in particular a woolen blazer, but also chunkier knitted sweaters) will hide them as well, though I’m sure you know that too.

    3. Can I try to coach a peer?
    Not unless they ask.

    4. What to say when a “vacation” isn’t a vacation
    Well, this is a situation where you can lie. It isn’t really their business and if you explain it may bring up more personal questions. But I will point out from personal experience on this subject that you may find that it isn’t as unpleasant as you think, or–more likely–that it meets some of the “vacation FROM WORK aspects better than you may expect. Even though it may be (will be) stressful, you

    5. Can I ask to volunteer for an organization?
    Always, so long as you don’t mind them saying no.

  40. Smithy*

    #5 When it comes to offering to volunteer at a nonprofit, I just want to flag that if there’s not an established volunteer coordinator or program in place – then I would recommend initially proposing to volunteer for an initial period of time. Just as nonprofits doing great work can be terrible places of employment – nonprofits doing great work and serving as wonderful places of employment can be terrible with volunteers.

    If you really like/respect the overall nonprofit I’d offer to commit to a period of 2-3 months depending on what you’re volunteering to do, so that if it ends up being a bad fit, you’ll have an easier way out.

  41. Cj*

    “grammar errors” just sounds wrong to my ears. I would say grammatical errors. So I googled it. All of the sources I found say that “grammatical error” is correct.

    Interestingly, “grammar mistake” is correct, and “grammatical mistake” is incorrect.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      Why? Who made those pronouncements, what is their rationale, and why are they authoritative? “Grammatical mistake” sounds just fine to me, so I am utterly perplexed.

  42. LW #4*

    Thank you for everyone who had advice about cleaners and kind words dealing with estates — I’ve got to hit the road now, but I’ll be reading through them all later.

  43. Database Developer Dude*

    Help me out here, people…if a woman has visible nipples (through her clothing, of course) at work, why isn’t it on me as a straight, presumably grown man to control myself and my own reactions? I mean, come on…..

    1. Jennifer*

      It is on you. The point is not everyone is you. People do judge women more harshly based on their appearance, women with larger breasts even more so. As someone said before, some of us are trying to deal with the world as it actually is, not how it should be.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        You’re absolutely right, Jennifer, but that’s not the point I was trying to make. OP shouldn’t go out of her way to hide the fact that she has nipples. If anyone’s acting inappropriately, bring in HR.

        I look at this the same way I look at the case of that one cancer survivor whose boss came to her and said she was making others uncomfortable because her breasts weren’t symmetrical. I about had a stroke over that one. Women in the workplace aren’t mens’ personal Barbie Dolls. If I’d have been there, I’d have been fired for the things I’d have said to that manager.

        1. Jennifer*

          I get your point as well. I just think it’s hard to explain how uncomfortable it can make you feel if you think you’re somehow drawing attention to your breasts, particularly when you have a larger than average chest. I think she’s uncomfortable and trying to avoid an issue where she’d have to bring in HR.

    2. noahwynn*

      Right? Like I might notice it, but I can avert my eyes quickly and not stare. I’m a guy and self-concious enough about my own nipples showing that i but those little stickers made for runners and use them when I’m wearng polo shirts. I can’t imagine staring or making a comment and making someone else feel uncomfortable about a normal part of their body.

  44. Nonny for this*

    #2 – I have resorted to always wearing patterned tops because of this. I tried a few things, and nothing seemed to really work. T-shirt bras haven’t worked for me. I think it’s different for those of us with larger breasts, especially if you have a larger body overall. We can’t wear something flimsy that has a thicker cup, because we need support. Thicker padding makes your breasts look even bigger, which can make you feel self conscious and make your clothes fit differently. And they’re so darn EXPENSIVE! There’s no winning, it seems.

  45. This One Here*

    One of “my” attorneys is originally from Latin America (though he has a French name). His English is excellent, but in dictation he’ll sometimes say, for instance, “in the bridge” instead of “on the bridge”, so I just transcribe it using the standard U.S. usage.

    In emails, when he means “touch base”, he types “touch basis.” These are generally just emails that I’m cc’d on, and I can’t do anything about those.

  46. Phlox*

    LW #5 – Speaking as a nonprofit outreach person, I get a bunch of spam emails about offering to write blogs for the work website. Mostly something to keep in mind as you’re writing the subject heading/email text. Because of my inbox, I’m likely to assume offers like that are spam unless its really clear there is a actual human who wrote the email.

  47. Sleepy*

    LW #5, I work at a nonprofit and most of the offers I get for volunteering, I can’t take people up on. The two most common issues are an availability mismatch (we keep normal business hours and a lot of people who want to volunteer are already working at their own jobs then) or a skills mismatch (they want to volunteer in an area they don’t actually know much about, so they would only end up hindering the work of the professional staff).

    Rather than setting your sights on just one nonprofit, check out a site like Nonprofits can place ads for the volunteers they actually need, and I’ve gotten some great people that way.

  48. Lauren*

    Ugh, number 4. I’m with you, OP.

    I’m working in one field whilst trying to get what I need to break into another field; I’ve done quite a few trips interstate or overseas where I’ve been completing internships and work experience placements as part of that. These aren’t times to relax or anything, it all involves 6-7 days a week of 12-15 hour days, almost entirely labour jobs that I don’t think anyone in my office would want to touch with a 10ft pole. Heck, I doubt most people here would e keen if I gave full details.

    I got so sick of people asking about my holiday or talking about me going on “yet another holiday” or talking about my “relaxing holiday”. It wasn’t a holiday, I was working my butt off. It got to the stage where I actually stood up and said “Next person to call my work trips a holiday gets a play by play description of how I removed the intestines from a baby chick”. And you can bet I followed through on that threat, worked like a charm!

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