employee gets hangry when she doesn’t eat, my boss and sister-in-law are problems, and more

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

1. Employee doesn’t eat and gets hangry

I own a hair salon and recently I’ve had an issue with one of the stylists. She will go all day without eating and then get very moody with everyone. Not to sound insensitive, but her behavior doesn’t seem to be that of someone who has an eating disorder, just poor planning. Most stylists I know often order delivery on their busy days and eat while our clients are processing. However, I think she isn’t very tech-savvy (doesn’t know how to use an app) plus I think she doesn’t want to spend the extra money on delivery fees.

She gets very obviously moody, starts being clumsy/messy, and even complains about being hungry. It’s really irritating, but she is the type of person who refuses help. I’ll offer to order her something or offer her the granola bars we have in the break room, but she brushes me off. I think she thinks I’m being an annoying mom type but really I just don’t want to deal with her hangry attitude because it effects the entire salon atmosphere when she gets like that. Any tips?

You can’t manage her eating, but you can manage her behavior at work. Handle it the same way you would if she were being grumpy and messy and it didn’t seem to be linked to food. That probably means saying something like, “You’ve frequently seemed grumpy in the afternoons — like the other day when you said X to Jane and Y to Cecil. That doesn’t seem like you. What’s going on?” That’s a pretty soft approach and gives her a chance to tell you if something else is going on, plus flags for her that you’re noticing it and consider it a problem without coming down hard on her right out of the gate. Sometimes that’s enough for the person to fix the problems on their own. If not, then you have a more serious conversation: “I’m still seeing the issues we talked about. It affects everyone else in the space and isn’t fair to your colleagues, so I need you to find a way to rein it in.”

If you have a decent relationship with her, you could probably say, “I might be off-base, but my sense is that it happens when you haven’t eaten. Can you try bringing lunch or snacks with you this week and see if that changes things?” But you’d be saying that in the broader context of “your behavior is a problem and you need to find a solution,” not making the food the focus.

2. My boss and my sister-in-law are problems

Long story short, I work with my sister-in-law (we weren’t in-laws when we started) and there was a falling out with my husband’s family. Sis-in-law blamed me and decided to tell everyone we work with that I’m manipulative, a liar, etc. Which is difficult as I’m a department director and it negated my authority and damaged my reputation.

My boss is the COO and is also HR (small company). When all of this initially went down, my attendance became an issue because I was having full-scale panic attacks before coming to work and while at work. I was honest with my boss about this. She went and told not only my sister-in-law, but other employees.

Flash forward a few years (not sure why I stayed), and we have a child. I found out today that my boss has been relaying information and pictures of our child to my sister-in-law without my consent. I AM FURIOUS. I guess my question is about if any employment laws were violated here. I am in tears and close to turning in my keys and walking out.

If you’re in the U.S., this doesn’t break any laws. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not weird and inappropriate; it is.

It sounds like the COO has a history of violating your privacy, and the environment you’re working in is toxic and dysfunctional. Throw in the toxic family angle, and this is a situation you shouldn’t stay in. Job searching isn’t the easiest right now, but people are finding other jobs. It’s worth actively working on leaving.

But for as long as you’re stuck there, assume anything you tell the COO will get passed along to other employees, including your sister-in-law. If you don’t want info/photos of your child being shared with your sister-in-law, you can’t share any with your boss. If she doesn’t know anything, she’ll have a much harder time violating your privacy. (You can also, of course, speak to the COO about it and make it clear you don’t want those things shared — but based on the history, I don’t have a lot of confidence she’ll care.)

3. Premature promotion?

I have been in my job for about nine months. Being promoted after one year is considered quite fast, and my manager has made it clear she despises those who ask about promotion too early. She even ranted to me once, calling those who express disappointment in not getting promoted as entitled and ridiculous. However, many other coworkers have told me that if I don’t repeatedly express interest in promotion, even prior to my “time,” I will be passed over for lack of interest. If the position is available three times and I applied once and someone else applied twice, they’d be chosen.

Well, the position I’d naturally advance to is open now, and I’m in competition with three others. Do I apply to stake my interest and risk angering my manager? Or not apply, sticking myself at the same level for much longer?

Generally speaking, in most jobs (although not all of them) nine months is too early to be applying for a promotion (and it sounds like that’s the case for your office too?). So just as general guidance, unrelated to the rest of your question and without knowing any context that might change things, normally this would be premature.

That said, why not ask your boss about it directly? Whenever you’re hearing one thing from your boss and another from coworkers, it makes sense to just directly ask about the difference. You could say, “Can I ask you about something I’ve heard conflicting info on? You’ve told me many times that you don’t like it when people ask about promotion too early, which I understand. But I keep hearing from colleagues that it’s crucial to start expressing interest in promotion early and that people who get promoted are the ones who apply the most and the earliest. I value your guidance and I wondered what your perspective is on why they’re advising that.”

4. Do I have to help people who want to network with me when I’m already drained?

I work in an industry that’s been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, with a long slow recovery that will take years, possibly a decade. My large, international company has cut our workforce by more than half since March, with different rounds of layoffs in different countries. My job has survived, but my inbox is flooded daily with LinkedIn requests for coworkers who weren’t as lucky.

I’m 100% happy to add them to my network, even if I didn’t know them well (we had a lot of turnover and I worked with a pretty small group of employees.) The problem becomes when they want more.

My super-niche job sounds really glamorous — let’s say “llama fashion photographer” — in a company of people who mostly do less glamorous-sounding work. I used to regularly field coworkers saying something like “you have the best job” and “I applied for your job” and “I am happy in sales but really I want to do what you do.” (I know it was meant as a compliment but it got wearing.) And now that they are all laid off, I’m regularly fielding requests (via LinkedIn) to chat with me about my career path.

Alison, I don’t want to! I know it sounds petty and selfish but… I got my start back when the internet was mere science fiction, so my particular career path isn’t open to these 20somethings. Also, my job is hard and not nearly as glamorous as it sounds and pays very poorly compared to what they are used to. Finally, I’m exhausted all the same work with a team that’s been cut in half AND being a mom during a pandemic. Also, I’m an introvert and made my career photographing llamas for a reason — they don’t talk to me. I don’t have the emotional energy — or time! — to have a “quick half-hour zoom catch up” with every person who wants to find their new path in the glamorous world of llama photography.

Do I have to respond via Linkdin? Do I owe them a quick chat? What’s my obligation here — especially to coworkers I never actually met, much less worked with?

I would reframe this to yourself less as “I don’t want to” and more as “I am at the limits of my bandwidth and this isn’t something I can take on right now,” maybe with a side of “my experience isn’t likely to be as useful to them as they hope.” Which means that no, you don’t need to do a Zoom meeting with every person who contacts you. (You wouldn’t have to otherwise either, but hopefully this will make you feel less guilty.)

That said, are there lower-energy ways you could still be helpful? Since you’re being contacted in what sounds like large numbers, there’s an argument for writing up a short Q&A that you could send people or post online. You could include info about the things like what kind of pay to expect and what the day to day realities of the work are like, as well as what your own path was like (even if the same path isn’t realistic now) and what kinds of paths you’ve seen into the field more recently.

Then you could reply to hopeful networkers with something like, “I’m so sorry but my schedule has virtually no give right now. But I’ve received so many requests for these kinds of conversations that I wrote up answers to some of the most common questions I hear. I hope this is useful to you, and best of luck!”

5. Asking about the end of a furlough

I was furloughed at the start of the pandemic lockdowns because the company I worked for was forced to stop operating. I was sent an email in March saying they would reopen on September 30 pending local lockdown laws. That date is approaching and I’ve seen on social media that they have started to reopen and resume business. I haven’t heard anything from my manager and I was curious about the appropriate way to contact them and ask for more information?

Send an email and say, “Hi Jane, I hope you’re well. I wanted to check with you about plans for reopening. Is the September 30 date that was mentioned at the start of our furlough still in effect? I’m eager to return to work when it’s possible, and I hoped to get any updated information that’s available.”

{ 291 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Please keep comments focused on advice to the letter-writers — comments about your own personal eating habits or needs are off-topic and will be removed.

    Additionally, letter #1 is bringing out a lot of speculation. Please stay focused on advice to the letter-writer; if you’re speculating on facts not in the letter, the commenting rules ask that you specify how it changes your advice.

  2. Lena Clare*

    LW2, that’s awful, I’m sorry!
    A strict information diet for the COO (she shared your personal medical info with your s-i-l?!?) coupled with job searching sounds like the only way to go here.

    1. Lena Clare*

      And setting stricter boundaries after the other person has repeatedly violated them previously is always difficult, but being consistent will help, as will not giving in out of frustration. Expect extinction burst behaviour from them.

    2. Helen J*

      I hope you can find another job/company to work for soon. The double-whammy of family drama that turns into work drama must be exhausting! I agree with Lena Clare the put the COO on an information diet and expect an extinction burst of some kind. Once the COO realizes you are not sharing as much as you used to, she may start asking for info to pass along.

      1. Artemesia*

        One trick to this is to talk as much as usual but adjust the content — so where you talked about your kids and your health, you talk about recipes, tv shows, weather events — you are blabbing away as much as before so there is no ‘shutting down, shutting out’ going on — but you aren’t feeding them information they use against you.

        1. Anxious cat servant*

          This. It’s called Grey Rocking in some circles and it involves being as boring as possible and only sharing stuff you’re ok with seeing on the front page of the newspaper. It takes some practice but it’s possible to blather on for a sufficiently torturous time without saying a single important thing. So if COO asks about daughter then lead in with something dull but mildly cute daughter said about your pet and then follow up with increasingly boring things about that pet.

          The goal is to give no ammunition but also no toeholds for the problematic person to use to force more information. If they learn any conversation will lead to them knowing the exact brand of brush your cat prefers, all the brands they don’t like and why, and how many times in their life you’ve managed to brush their belly, the pryer should decide you’re not worth it. That’s the point, at least. Worked for me.

          1. Mama Bear*

            I had a manager I had to do this with. They didn’t entirely like it, but I didn’t need them nitpicking my life (down to the roads I used for my commute). I’d shift the relationship to be very professional and document everything in case the COO brings up something in a review in retaliation. Give the company nothing to share or forward.

          2. Quill*

            I could fill an hour talking about my office plants so yeah. Use a different topic of conversation to DDOS the people who you can’t trust.

      2. AKchic*

        I would expect a fishing expedition, and even being called out for no longer sharing. I.e.; “we used to be so close! What’s wrong?!” As long as you are job hunting and require any kind of decency from this COO/HR person, you are going to need to keep it bland. “Oh, there’s nothing new to report” and “I’m working on separating work and personal life a bit more”, both with cheerful smiles.

        I’d also document everything. There will likely be some shadiness going on behind the scenes in general, and you’re going to want to keep track of things. I wouldn’t doubt your SIL is keeping track/tabs via the COO/HR and has been the whole time. They are friends, and that has a lot of pull, apparently. The COO/HR has violated your boundaries (and standards) before. They will do it again.

    3. Lisa Simpson*

      OP 1: It sounds like it might be hypoglycemia. Whenever I don’t eat and my blood sugar drops, I turn into a nightmare.

  3. Lena Clare*

    LW1, I have such a strong visceral reaction to people who complain but won’t accept help or do anything about it, that’s really more my problem than theirs! But because they’re your employee you have really good standing to work with them on their behaviour and to make the working environment more pleasant.
    Having said that, I’m wondering if the employee has money issues and can’t afford to eat during the day?

    1. Nessun*

      LW said they’ve offered snacks and food. It’s a legitimate concern not to want to spend on takeout, but this employee needs to be aware of her behavior. If she wants to bring from home, I’m sure that’s permitted. If she doesn’t want to eat at all in order to save money that’s up to her, but she still needs to check her attityclde with coworkers and clients.

      1. Aphrodite*

        She’s probably not an employee. Most salons “rent” out their chairs so she is likely an independent contractor. If that is the case, OP #1, you may also want to consider having her leave. Someone like that is not just unpleasant for other employees; customers are being distressed too. I know I wouldn’t show up there with that kind of atmosphere regardless of how much I liked my own stylist. (And of course I’d tell my stylist why.0

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          I wonder how well her business is doing anyway. If my stylist started snapping at everyone I would find a new one fast. I find getting my hair cut stressful enough without any extra tension mixed in. Plus I question if she’s really doing her best work like that.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s also hard to get rid of stylists if they are well loved and simply renting, since she takes her clients and cash with her on her way out.

          If she’s not bringing in much money because nobody likes the grumpy grump or if she’s actively harming business, that’s a different tune to sing. But this happens a lot in salons because people follow stylists from place to place a lot, even if they’re not very likeable individuals to their colleagues.

      2. Kes*

        Yeah, while it’s worth considering whether there are factors preventing the employee from eating, at the end of the day it’s their responsibility to feed themself – the boss should be pointing out the pattern of behaviour, at which point it’s the employee’s responsibility to figure out what they need to do to fix it

    2. JobHopper*

      Lena Clare makes a good point.
      Everyone has a different schedule in your business. But could the business have a fridge to keep lunch in (if it is allowed?) I am amazed that I can spend 10 $$ on lunch at McD’s and 15$ at some others when it is only me and I want to go there.
      I am hoping it could really be that simple. Keep cold drinks in there, maybe a few apples, and I wonder if the other staff might be interested, too.

      1. WellRed*

        I think this makes sense. There’s a lot of focus on takeout food. I kept asking: why not bring lunch? OP, is a small fridge and microwave doable? I’ve never worked at a place that didn’t have those, at minimum.

        1. Colette*

          Even without a fridge, the stylist could be bringing a granola bar or apple or nuts or something else that’s portable, doesn’t need refrigeration, and is easy to eat – but she’s not. So a fridge and microwave are nice, but they won’t solve the problem, since the stylist would still have to plan ahead and bring food.

          1. JessaB*

            Also, we have a lunch bag that’s on rollers, with a pull handle and a local inexpensive store had flat rectangular ice packs (like 1/2 thick large boards) that fit it, one in front and one in back and you put your stuff in the middle and it kept fine when I was working a ten hour shift. So theoretically you can stuff your own cold space under your desk.

          2. TardyTardis*

            Peanut butter sandwiches last a surprisingly long time in a purse if they’re wrapped properly. Peak time during tax season can mean a hurried chowdown back by the office, although my boss was rather good at insisting we take the breaks we were supposed do.

        2. Natalie*

          I would honestly be surprised if a salon didn’t have a fridge already – they usually keep bottled water, white wine, etc on hand for clients that needs to be refrigerated.

          That and, it sounds like this is an issue with this specific stylist, so I don’t know what the benefit of troubleshooting the OP’s set up would be. If there is something reasonable the stylist needs, she can ask about it when they have a conversation about her afternoon bad mood.

        3. Mama Bear*

          It would also limit the number of people coming into the salon. I started packing frozen lunches to limit the number of times I left the office. It overall sounds like there’s no set lunch break for the stylist to get food, and it might be a financial issue – OP isn’t privy to all of the stylist’s bills. What I would do is invest in a cheap microwave and fridge and find a space for a break room so people could have more options. It is a problem when someone shifts the mood of the whole office. Maybe between clients, or at the end of the day tell the stylist that you noticed x and y and that’s a problem because of a, b, c. See what she has to say.

      2. Wintergreen*

        I like the point about drinks. I’ve known several people who just feel uncomfortable eating around people, especially if they are not eating too. Maybe talk to stylist about keeping juice or protein drinks for later in the day when her blood sugar is crashing. Some of the protein water out there just looks like flavored water, doesn’t taste too bad, and doesn’t cause blood sugar crashes the same way sugar heavy juices might.

        But the first step really is speaking to stylist (early in the morning! I get hangry too and at that point I’m not open to suggestions.) I wouldn’t be too shy about bringing up that you’ve noticed your observations lead you to think the problem behavior is related to stylist being hungry. Hungry is not a medical condition in that everybody gets hungry. Just stay away from discussions as to what is leading to the hunger and don’t imply, be straightforward, and try for as much privacy as possible at your location for the discussion.

        I might try something like “Jane, before we get busy can I speak with you for a minute? I’ve been noticing that when you skip lunch, you have a tendency to get a little irritable in the afternoons and it can become awkward for others in the salon. Would it be possible to keep a stash of snacks or protein drinks at the salon for those afternoons when you become busy?”

    3. JokeyJules*

      someone very close to me has a hard time remembering to eat, so they’ll get pretty down or angry or tired or upset but it truly doesn’t occur to them that they hadn’t eaten enough that day until they sat down at the end of the day and realized they had eaten less than 500 calories. it isn’t intentional, it just happens. i’m wondering if that sort of thing is happening, the employee truly doesn’t realize that they hadn’t eaten that day and thinks theyre genuinely having a bad day.

      1. JessaB*

        If that’s happening though, there are really simple solutions, there are apps for that, there are general alarm apps, no reason you can’t go analogue and get yourself a timer. It’s not intrusive, I have an alarm app, and a text to speech programme, I saved wavs from the tts so when my alarm goes off it says “take your medication.” And for the one pill that I take three times a day it says “take specific medicine” so there’s no reason why a “did you eat?” can’t be scheduled for someone who needs it. IF this is the issue at all.

        Also normally I wouldn’t mention this, but is it possible that they are hungry and it’s because they’re food insecure. There’s a lot of that right now, with people who never were before.
        On yet another hand, it might not be about food.

        1. Autistic AF*

          It’s not necessarily that simple – it’s just as easy to tune out an alarm or timer if interoception is an issue. Its great that it works for you, but that doesn’t mean it will work for everyone.

        2. Mama Bear*

          People who have never been food insecure before are facing some tough realities right now. Definitely could be a part of it.

          1. Jack Russell Terrier*

            I think the point is that really you have an obligation to get to know your body and its needs and work with that. Otherwise it’s not fair on you and others. I speak from experience. I’m not saying it’s always easy but really it should be a priority. I get hangry. I had to learn how to recognize that an accommodate it. If it reaches a certain point, a switch gets flipped and I turn into a monster I literally cannot control (being hangry is physiological). It’s horrible those around me and it’s terrible on my body. It is incumbent on me to make sure I am on top of this. I don’t know how to help someone do this, although I have some suggestions. My point is, we are taught to subjugate our body to our mind. This is incredibly unhealthy. We need to find ways take care of our body. Learning how not to let ourselves get hangry is one of them.

        3. New Jack Karyn*

          This woman sounds not tech-savvy, and downloading apps might not be her thing. And she didn’t write in for advice–her boss did.

    4. TootsNYC*

      Most stylists I know often order delivery on their busy days and eat while our clients are processing.

      I’m wondering if they get a lunch break!
      They should.
      That’s something a boss can address–you have to take a break.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Most stylists I know are independent contractors (those chairs are usually rented), and midday is when clients often have time for a cut, so the scheduling issue is probably unresolvable with set lunch breaks.
          But this reminded me of when my manager talked to me about my “attitude” and suggested I needed medication! Especially as I was nearing middle age! I think it’s clear that management was the cause of my bad mood, not being near 40. (I wasn’t even that grumpy, just not as cheerful as usual after staff cuts that laid more work at my feet.)

      1. Nanani*

        I was thinking this!
        Mandatory lunch breaks sound like a good idea here.
        You can’t force someone to eat but putting lunch on their schedule is a very strong reminder to do so.

        Maybe fold it in to how things are changing due to the pandemic. Since scheduling is much stricter (to the best of my knowledge in person services where I live do not take walk-ins anymore) you can put in a lunch break as well as cleaning/surface disinfection/PPE refreshing breaks.

  4. Jackson Codfish*

    Perhaps the hangry employee has financial challenges and can’t afford to either bring or buy lunch regularly, and is resistant to taking charity (which the granola bars may feel like). Being embarrassed about finances may also aggravate the temper issues.

    1. jasmine*

      Since the granola bars are left in the break room for all the employees to eat, it doesn’t seem that they’d feel like accepting charity. More like an employee benefit.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          The work cynic inside me sees the employees who don’t need the free food gobbling it down as the hungry ones stay hungry. Reading AAM has taught me that free work food turns people into vacuum cleaners who pick up every crumb. Maybe only bring out the food when she is working and has a fair chance at it.

          1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

            The problem there is that if the food isn’t consistently available to everyone, it risks feeling even more like charity. And if that is a hang up for the coworker, it’d risk really exacerbating the issue.

            One thing I’ve seen work, to reduce the free grazers and help with making the snacks not seem like charity simultaneously, is to put a small container out with them, for “snack fund donations.”

            1. UKDancer*

              Also I think it depends what the food is. In my office doughnuts go really quickly as does anything involving chocolate. Muesli type bars move a lot more slowly. So I think if it’s something less “exciting” then people tend to take it when they’re hungry whereas if it’s something indulgent like krispy kremes, people eat them whether they’re hungry or not.

              I like the idea of a small container for voluntary donations.

            2. Annony*

              We also don’t know that the issue stems from financial difficulties. Maybe she doesn’t accept the granola bar because she doesn’t like them, has dietary restrictions or is doing intermittent fasting. There are many possible explanations so bringing out granola bars when this stylist is working is not only shifting the burden of managing (and paying for) another adult’s food intake onto the OP, it also may be completely pointless.

              OP needs to talk to her like an adult. Tell her that her attitude is a problem and that it seems to happen when she is hungry and ask her what she needs in order to fix the problem.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think we’re getting really far into speculation here. Lots of workplaces provide food and it’s available without being hovered up. Truly, the OP just needs to speak with the stylist, who is an adult and needs to be capable of managing her own food intake.

          3. RussianInTexas*

            My office (when we are in it) has constant supply of granola bars, ramen cops, some other similar types of snacks (sometimes cookies, gummy bears, whatever the owner’s wife picked up at Costco that weekend), fruit.
            Since the snacks are there always, no one vacuums them up, or gobbles them up.

    2. Nishipip*

      Also, do the employees not get proper lunch breaks? LW said that the other employees eat while their clients are processing. Eating when you get a minute is very different than eating during an actual, timed lunch break. I wouldn’t be surprised if not having a break and instead having to eat in front of clients while working on their hair had something to do with her not eating during the day.

      1. EPLawyer*

        As noted above, most stylists are independent contractors. They set their own hours. There is no actual timed lunch break. If they aren’t styling hair, they aren’t making money. Which is why the other stylists eat when they can.

        The hangry stylist is so busy booking appointments she is not eating. She is probably not realizing her attitude is affecting her customers too. I wouldn’t go back to a stylist who had an attitude and made mistakes. She needs to see that her own approach to working straight through is probably harming her business.

        1. Nurse Zoey*

          This really just isn’t true…commission based salons where you are an employee are just as common if not more so than booth renting. When I did work commission I was never able to schedule a lunch, it’s really just not done.

          1. soon to be former fed really*

            What salons are these? In all my 65 years, I’ve never been to one and ‘ve been to many a hair salon. Time is indeed money, and my hairdresser is an independent contractor who does not schedule lunches or breaks, but who does snack and eat on the fly. OP’s booth renter is an adult who can manage her own food intake, feedback should be limited to behavior only. It doesn’t matter why she does not eat for long periods of time.

            1. Nurse Zoey*

              I’ve been a hairstylist for 12 years, this is my experience. I’m not disagreeing that she can’t find time to eat, I’m disagreeing that most salons are staffed with independent contractors who control their own hours and scheduling. I work at a salon with 2 booth renters and 10 are commission, meaning employees.

            2. Yorick*

              I don’t think I’ve ever been aware of whether my stylist is an independent contractor or an employee of the salon. Even if you’ve asked at every salon you’ve been to, that isn’t generalizable to all salons.

              1. RussianInTexas*

                All my stylists always display the state license that states “independent contractor, licensed by” at their work station.
                Visible Changes, ULTA, TGF Haircutters all have that.

            3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              You’ve never heard of Super Cuts and other chain salons? Or are you a snob and lump them into some kind of “not beauty salon” category?

              My hair has been cut once by an independent stylist with their own salon, so not renting a chair either but did rent to other stylists.

              Usually I just got one of the chain beauty parlors where they’re hourly employees working for minimum wage and tips.

              They don’t get lunch breaks, they do it while someone’s hair is setting. I don’t know how this is difficult to understand. They’re not doctors, they’re not cramming paperwork in between patients.

        2. AnonEMoose*

          She really may not realize how much this is affecting her coworkers/customers. When my DH and I were dating, I realized fairly early on that he was not fun to be around when he was hangry. So the next time it happened, I suggested (quite firmly) that he eat.

          And once he had, I pointed out the pattern. He was honestly surprised, and he’s told me since that me pointing it out helped him start spotting the early signs himself and head it off, so now it happens very rarely.

          1. Pretzelgirl*

            My Dad gets incredibly hangry and does not realize it until it hits bad. Its been like this for many, many years. Usually my mom has to tell him to go eat something before he gets really hangry and screams at someone. My mild mannered, wouldn’t hurt a fly father, turns into the incredible hulk.

            I get it as well, but I heavier than my father (who is very thin) and it doesn’t affect my as bad. I also have learned to manage it by eating snacks and packing them in my purse or diaper bag.

            Sorry I know this is about my eating habits. But I just wanted to point out that often people get very hangry are the last to realize that they are in fact HANGRY.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              I agree about the not realizing part – my DH certainly didn’t. I think that for some people, they’re not really thinking about the root cause of being irritable…they’re too busy being irritable!

            2. Alli525*

              Yep, this. I’ve seen memes that say “am I actually angry or do I need to eat/drink a glass of water?” I’m not someone who forgets to eat/drink, but I do forget to take deep breaths (like a 4-7-8 sequence) when I’m getting upset, and that makes a huge difference too. We can’t allow our stress to override/let us forget our basic needs.

        3. Tidewater 4-1009*

          Last year I stopped seeing a stylist who has also been a friend for many years because she was so distracted by her financial stress. She was very overextended and focused on working as much as possible and too distracted to address my hair problems.
          Another stylist I know had posted about her new salon with organic products, and I went to see her about the products just one time… and kept going. She is relaxed and focused and the salon is soothing and extremely professional. It’s awesome.
          I wanted to talk with my friend about how the stress was affecting her work and suggest some things that might help her financially, but didn’t get a chance before the shutdown. She didn’t answer my texts after the shutdown. I hope she’s ok.

        4. Nita*

          Yeah. I would pull her aside and tell her that from the outside, it’s obvious her not eating is causing her to snap at people and make mistakes, and that it’s going to cost her business if she doesn’t stop and take a short break to eat. Maybe she’s not realizing how much this is affecting her, or how obvious the problem is to others.

          Also, I can see a reason why she’d be reluctant to eat even if there is food in the break room. She’s probably working in a mask, and would have to wash her hands, step out (and eat on the street?), and all of that it would probably be longer than the ten minutes it takes her to munch on something. But maybe she’ll give more thought to solving this problem if she’s more aware of it.

      2. Natalie*

        “Processing” in this case means hair color – it’s going to be at least 30 minutes, possibly longer.

        1. Helen J*

          My stylist has done this before- eat while I’m processing. She puts a timer on her phone and apologizes but she needs to grab a quick bite. I always say “no problem” because everyone needs to eat.

          1. soon to be former fed really*

            Could be deep conditioning time, or dryer time, or any block of time the stylist isn’t directly working on a head. Mine juggled multiple clients before covid, but now just does one at a time so eating is easier for her, but I never had a problem with her eating or snacking before. People gotta eat!

          2. The Rural Juror*

            I usually sit and process under the hair dryer, so it’s not like I can hear anything to have a conversation during that time anyway. My stylist will offer me a drink, get me a magazine, then scoot off to have a little break. She always makes sure I’m cozy before leaving me “unattended.”

      3. S*

        The stylist wouldn’t be eating in front of their clients. While the client is processing for at least 20-30 min., the stylist would be eating in a back room.

        1. soon to be former fed really*

          Mine snacks in front of clients, but usually eats in the back where there is a fridge and microwave.

        2. Nishipip*

          In which case it would be important that the OP makes sure her employee knows that this can be done. That the stylist can leave her client alone on the chair while she goes in the back to eat lunch, and she won’t be penalized for it.

          I think generally if employees aren’t taking breaks (which is whats happening – if she’s not taking 15 minutes to eat) it’s crucial to look at the culture of the work environment to make sure that it encourages lunches and breaks.

          1. Natalie*

            I think generally if employees aren’t taking breaks (which is whats happening – if she’s not taking 15 minutes to eat)

            No, we know this single employee isn’t taking breaks to eat. We don’t actually know what other employees are doing routinely, aside from the fact that even when they are busy they figure out how to eat.

  5. Cautionary tail*

    Hmm, LE #1 sounds like textbook hypoglycemia rage. I see this in someone I lnow all the time. A few minutes after she finally eats, the anger just dissipates and my friend returns to normal.

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      That sounds like what happens with my daughter. I had not heard the term “hypoglycemia rage” until now, but that’s exactly what happens with her if she goes too long without eating, and she has confirmed that it’s caused by her blood sugar dropping precepitiously. I’ve learned to recognize the warning signs and encourage her to eat something when things seem to be headed that way. I have no idea if that’s what’s going on with #1’s employee, but I can definitely confirm that this is a thing!

    2. nonegiven*

      I was thinking maybe she’s dieting for either weight or medical reasons and it isn’t agreeing with her.

      1. Different name*

        Reminds me of a former coworker who would go on these insane celery-only crash diets. She was already moody as hell but the low would dial her up to 11. That, coupled with her being a LOUD chewer, and eating slowly to savour every morsel of her daily celery meal was… unpleasant.

        1. TootsNYC*

          back when I had a boss who seemed to just always assume I was wrong and screwing up (even when I wasn’t), people would warn me to avoid her on the weeks she was doing a cleanse. “She’s doing a cleanse today,” they’d say; “she’s on a rampage and overreacting. Don’t interact if you can avoid it.”)

    3. I edit everything*

      Yeah, we learned as a family to watch out for the “hungry-grouchies,” especially on trips/adventures/outings. The rule is that anyone can call a halt and ask for a snack at any time, and should feel compelled to do so when they feel the hungry-grouchies coming on. And it’s perfectly fine to say to someone else, “You’re getting hungry-grouchy. Let’s pause for a snack.”

      That doesn’t carry over to a work environment, unfortunately. But calling the stylist on her behavior, pointing out that she’s making mistakes and affecting other stylists and clients, is totally acceptable.

      1. Artemesia*

        And there is no reason the boss can’t point out the link between not eating and the behavior. It is possible the stylist hasn’t figured that out herself. So at least once pointing out that ‘hangry’ is a real thing and that when she doesn’t eat all day her behavior is not professional is probably necessary to change this. It is the season for giant bags of not too expensive apples — time to keep a big bowl in the break room so there is a snack at hand.

      2. JustaTech*

        I think that it can carry over into the work environment, depending on the kind of relationship you have with your coworkers. Both my boss and one of my peers get hangry/ clumsy when they haven’t eaten in a while, so if we are all in the lab and I know it’s past their usual snack/lunch times I’ll tell them “I’ve got this, you go eat something and come back”. It works because we’ve all acknowledged, out loud to each other, that this happens and sometimes they need a reminder.

        Now, both of them are perfectly aware of how they are when they are hungry, but we all tend to get caught up in the moment of the work, or we’re almost done so they just want to push through. So when I can tell they’re past the point of needing to re-fuel it’s far easier for me to gently remind them than to risk a big mistake because someone is hungry.

    4. RussianInTexas*

      I get terribly hangry. It’s a family joke that they have to supply me with snacks on the road trips.
      I do know this about myself, so I am aware.

      1. MamaBear*

        I agree with hypoglycemia, and want to point out that it is a medical problem–possibly within the definition of a disability. I know someone with this type of hypoglycemia, and it short-circuits good judgement, so asking someone to moderate their behavior when they’re experiencing an extreme blood sugar mood swing is like asking them to not fall when they’ve already stepped off the cliff. You have to address the problem when they are in their right mind, not when they’re “hangry.” I recommend you say you’ve noticed a connection between their skipping meals and behavior that is not likely to please customers, and let’s strategize together how to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Are there scheduling solutions you could offer so that the employee has time to get her nutritional/physical needs met so her blood sugar doesn’t crash? Is there a place in the workplace where she can keep high-protein meals or snacks? It doesn’t have to be an either/or between establishing that this has to change and working with her to make it easier for her to comply.

  6. Bilateralrope*

    LW1: What is this employee doing on her lunch break ?

    Does she have a lunch break ?

    Because it sounds like you’re employees don’t get lunch breaks. Sure, that’s probably legal where you are, but having an employee skip their lunch seems a predictable consequence of not giving them enough time to eat.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think there’s any reason to conclude that! The OP notes some stylists order delivery on their busiest days, which implies they’d be eating lunch on other days too.

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          Stylists are usually contractors – they can take longer lunches but it cuts into the time they work. So when it’s busy they work through lunch eating as the OP describes.

      1. MK*

        She says they eat while clients are processing; to me, that they actually don’t have designated lunch breaks and have to eat hurriedly in the few minutes they can grab before clients are ready.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          She says that happens on especially busy days — which implies that they’re having less rushed lunches on other days. Hopefully the OP can clarify, but as others have pointed out if this is a standard salon set-up where the stylists are contractors and set their own schedules, it may be moot anyway.

          Regardless, I’d ask that we not assume this is being caused by the OP denying people breaks, as there’s no evidence of that and the commenting rules ask that we give people here the benefit of the doubt. It’s a crappy experience to be a letter writer and come to the comment section to see a bunch of people accusing you of doing something you haven’t done and shifting the focus to something that isn’t even a factor.

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

          I read “while clients are processing” to mean while their hair colour is processing – which is usually at least 30 mins. So it might not be at the same exact time every day, but it’s definitely enough time to have a break (provided they haven’t scheduled another appointment into that gap).

          1. Annie*

            This! Especially if doing multi-stage color processing. I have dark brown hair and when I had it dyed pastel purple, there were three different steps (bleach, toner, then finally color) to the process and my appointment was booked for four hours. At least two hours out of the total time was just me waiting in a chair for time to go by, and my stylist actually had a couple other short appointments scheduled during that waiting time because there’s literally nothing to do for long stretches except very briefly check on how the hair is processing.

          2. UKDancer*

            Definitely. My stylist has mentioned to me that lunchtime is their busy period usually so more often than not she takes a short break at 11:15 before lunchtime to eat and then another one at 2.30 for tea and cake. The salon is busiest at lunchtime and after work so they adjust break timings to accommodate, but they definitely do have times for breaks.

            She has also said they’ll often have a break once they’ve put a colour on and while it’s processing because they’re not actively working on the client at that point.

            1. The Rural Juror*

              My hair salon is a block away from my office, so I usually try to schedule a trim during my lunch hour. I’ll walk over, get the ends snipped, then still have time to grab a sandwich. While I’m there, inevitably one or two men will pop in and ask if she time for a walk-in. I can see how lunchtime would be super busy for a stylist who does a lot of quick, 20-min haircuts, and welcomes walk-ins!

          3. NoviceManagerGuy*

            Thanks for that context – I’ve gotten buzz cuts from my wife for all my hair cuts since 2010 and I thought this meant they ate while the clients were paying, which seemed super rushed.

      2. WorkerBee*

        We shouldn’t be assuming things about the writer, but I do think it’s fair to ask, is there anything actually within your control you can do to make sure your stylists can do what they need to do to function and feel comfortable and doing those things?

      3. Bilateralrope*

        Fair enough.

        I’ve got some other things going on with me right now that made me think about lunch breaks. I might post about some of them in the open thread this week.

    2. JR*

      I think stylists usually do their own scheduling, don’t they? So it would be up to her whether she schedules herself a lunch break or not?

      1. TROI*

        In the US stylists are almost always independent contractors who are in charge of their own scheduling. I know my friend likes to pack her schedule tight to account for no-shows. When she gets a day that people don’t flake she is happy because she likes that money, but she is scrambling for time to eat.

      2. Chocolate Teapot*

        My local salon works on a walk-in basis (well, it did!) and so I think the stylists stagger their breaks based on how busy the salon was. There was always an upturn over lunchtime and after work.

    3. hbc*

      I don’t get why you’re implying this is cause and effect. Everyone else there eats. Even if there isn’t a Proper Lunch Break (TM), if other people have time to order food in, receive said food, and eat it, surely she’s capable of finding time to cram down a granola bar, an apple, or a couple of Baby Bels from home.

      It would be awfully…precious…of the employee to be regularly suffering from hunger because she doesn’t ahve a dedicated 30 minute slot and she’s doing zero with the time she has.

    4. Gaia*

      My stylist sets her own schedule and has told me she never sets a “lunch” break. But she also regularly takes a rest and eats while my hair is processing (there’s nothing else she could be doing for me then anyway). I don’t see why this person couldn’t do the same.

    5. RecentAAMfan*

      I get this hypoglycaemia rage too! I’ve had it forever and easily recognize it. And since sugar is actually absorbed through the lining of the mouth it takes literally seconds, not minutes or half an hour, for the effect to be felt (assuming I consume something like juice or a candy). All this to say, a quick drink of something sweet, followed up if possible by something to help keep the blood sugar up -like a granola bar – should do the trick. A leisurely lunch break isn’t necessarily needed if hypoglycaemia is the problem.

      1. Tired of Covid*

        I’m diabetic, and get faint if my blood sugar drops too low, definitely no energy for rage. Perhaps it affects non-diabetics differently. It is not recommended for diabetics to go for more than four hours without eating something. In any case, adults must manage their own heath and food intake. Bad behavior is not excused by low blood sugar.

        1. Artemesia*

          I get grouchy and it took me awhile to figure out that blood sugar was why. This is why the OP needs to have the conversation at least once about the link between eating and mood. The stylist may think she is doing fine without regular snack/lunch breaks.

  7. AG*

    In regards to LW1, I don’t eat at work at all. I have really troubling GI issues and it’s totally unknown when they will hit. But the effects of the GI issues are way worse than being hangry. I understand at times I’m being difficult and some food would help but if I react poorly I could be completely incapacitated the rest of the day (or severely reduced in effectiveness). It’s really difficult to broach the topic with people you don’t trust too. The whole dynamic is stressful. Not just work but (pre pandemic) social instances too. Every decision is planned around when is it “safe” for me to eat. When I do eat it’s a severely limited diet. Plenty of people offer all sorts of helpful options whether they know of the issues or not. But I have to decline. It’s not that I’m rejecting help but that the risk is really problematic. Broaching the topic in private with good faith assumptions might get the LW to open up if something is going on (including issues as others suggested)…

    1. Colette*

      It’s up to you (and the stylist) whether you eat. But taking out a bad mood on others isn’t OK, whether it’s because you’re not feeling well, you haven’t eaten, or you’re just in a bad mood. Particularly in a business like a hair salon, a grumpy stylist could cost them a lot of customers.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Yeah, there may be jobs where you can get away with being “difficult” when hungry but a hair stylist isn’t really top of that list. Nobody wants a visibly angry, impatient or clumsy person waving sharp objects around their face and the reason for the moodiness is sort of immaterial. (And even if the customer knew it was just the hanger at work, I know that when I get hangry that’s when I start making mistakes/poor decisions and I do NOT want that from the person in control of my hair.)

    2. I edit everything*

      This is a good point, but if the stylist’s income depends on performing her job well and getting return clients, and if she can’t take a few moments in private to take a breath and rebalance her mood, then she’s shooting herself in the foot, and the ricochet is hitting all the other stylists. She can’t just close her office door or hide in her cubicle with headphones one. Being personable and present is a requirement of her job. She needs to find a way to do it. Even if it’s eating a few crackers (or whatever is least likely to cause an issue for her) in the break room.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Well, in a public facing, hands on job like this, being pleasant to coworkers & creating a positive atmosohere for customers is a core job requirement.

      Whatever the underlying issues, if they cause the employee to be snappy, irritable, and unpleasant then she won’t be in the job for long.

      No explanation, however sympathetic, is going to make this behavior okay. Because it is actively harming the business.

  8. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

    OP1: Speaking from a client perspective, going to the hair salon isn’t just about the service, it’s also about the experience of being pampered. It’s supposed to be a me-time treat – indulgent and relaxing. If I had a stylist who was moody, clumsy/messy, irritable and complainy? Yeah, not a returning customer.

    Even if she’s primarily taking out the Hangry beast on her coworkers, clients are there long enough to pick up on the tension and bad vibes. Plus, the client’s ear is right at the level of the stylist’s stomach… hungry gurgles and diarrhoea gurgles don’t sound that different and you’re close enough to worry about getting sick.

    So if you don’t get a resolution through the softer approaches and you’re concerned that you finding her irritating isn’t enough to base the conversation on, there is that whole creating-an-unacceptable-atmosphere-for-clients and potential-loss-of-business to go in with too.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      That’s where I’d start really. “You’ve been really harsh and unfriendly to clients after Xpm. Is there anything causing this that we can fix?”

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, this. And I don’t even need to be pampered, I just don’t want to be groused at. And I’m not coming back to try a different stylist once I think a salon won’t deal with a crabby one.

    3. CTT*

      Reading this was giving me flashbacks to the first 15 minutes of every episode of “Tabatha’s Salon Takeover” – that’s the not the vibe you want in a salon!

    4. Sylvan*

      Yep. I mean, I’m not exactly looking for a spa-type pampering experience, but I think a good attitude helps when you’ve got scissors near someone’s head?

  9. Nacho*

    I was promoted after 9 months in my last job, but that might have been an exception. We had really high turnover.

    1. TechWorker*

      ‘A promotion’ means vastly different things at different companies and from different starting points (Eg, it is a tiny pay raise and not much responsibility change, or a big jump with new responsibilities and higher level work), so not sure timelines at other workplaces necessarily mean that much to OP! (I am sure there’s workplaces/jobs where a promotion after 2 years is totally unheard of :p)

      1. Grey Coder*

        Yep, promotions are entirely dependent on company culture. I’ve been promoted within 6 months of being hired, though I’d had experience in the promoted role in my previous company. (There was not a big salary bump involved.) But I am also aware of places where you are expected to just put in the years before you are even considered. OP#3 really needs to ask about it.

        1. Artemesia*

          This and in having this conversation with the boss she makes clear that she is interested in promotion but also not impatient about it. She is in a catch 22 right now if what she is hearing is accurate, so she needs to cut right through it and lay it out for the boss rather than trying to guess her moves.

        2. Premature3*

          It’s all over the map! One of my colleagues was promoted right at 12 months. It’s not a promotion to a manager, it’s a reclassification. Think of it like you have receptionist levels 1,2,3 and then a supervisor, and I’d be going from 1 to 2. Unfortunately I’ve asked multiple managers and In different ways-there is some part of it they can’t or won’t define.

      2. Nacho*

        It was a 20% pay raise and completely new responsibilities that put me in a position of authority over employees in my old job, though not managing them.

      3. Can Man*

        At my current place most people get promoted after 3 months… to the second level of trainee. They certainly have an interesting career ladder.

  10. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    Regarding letter #2: there are a few things the letter doesn’t make clear.

    First: what is the relationship now between the OP and the sister-in-law (SIL)? Is SIL also a department director, as is the OP? If not, is she a direct report of the OP, or a non-reporting subordinate?

    Second: is there a connection between the boss and SIL?

    Finally, how did the boss get information and pictures of OP’s child, unless OP has been sharing them with the boss? (In any case, the boss is an ass for sharing information about OP’s panic attacks with SIL and other employees.)

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I really don’t think it matters what the actual work relationship is between OP and her SIL. SIL is getting info from OP’s boss, that’s all we need to know. Maybe SIL is pressuring the boss, but the boss is still wrong to be sharing photos, and that’s where OP has room to change the situation by no longer sharing with the boss.

  11. learnedthehardway*

    I have a child who gets extremely “hangry”, to the point that when they were young, their teacher described them as “Scary” because they would switch from being sunny and happy, to enraged and paranoid, as soon as their blood/sugar levels dropped. Even now that they are older, I won’t have a serious conversation with them about anything, without making sure they’ve eaten.

    I’ve done a lot of work with my kid to make them aware that they are always responsible for their behaviour, whether they are having a hypoglycemic episode not. They are also responsible for making sure that they manage their food intake so that they don’t get into a “hangry” state.

    A key thing with this is that I DON’T discuss this issue when they are in the middle of a “hangry” episode. That’s pointless, because they are past the ability to be rational about it. I just shove food at them until they come out of it. I would suggest the OP have snacks on hand for just such a purpose.

    Also, I would not beat about the bush and ask what they think the issue is. I would pick a time when they are not “hangry”, and I would tell them that it is clear that they get hangry when they skip meals, and that they must take their break to eat. The staff person (like my kid) may be completely unaware that they are behaving any differently than usual. I wouldn’t leave it to them to figure it out.

    (It took me years to realize that I do this, and to put emergency snack rules in place for myself. If I’m in an episode, I could literally stare at a menu for an hour and not be able to make a decision about what to eat, so my default is to order a hamburger and an orange juice.)

    1. Forrest*

      How old is your kid? My 5yo is like this and me and my partner are both aware of it, but I don’t feel like she’s ready to start taking responsibility for it herself yet. When did you start working on it with yours?

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Not my own child, but I worked in a theraputic setting with children who sometimes had conditions that required proactive management. In our case, we worked with the children on “building up” responsiblity. So with a five-year-old, for example, we might say: “Pause. I need you to check in with your body. Can you check if you’re [hungry/tired/hurt/whatever]” (and we could run through a list).

        Or we might ask them to picture their future self in their mind and ask how we could take care of “future John” right now. This one was particularly helpful for certain children, who could sometimes imagine how upset “future Maria” would be upset to have to leave the playground, and we could role-play out some appropriate ways to share that feeling, while they were calm. (Other children seem to struggle more to visualize their future selves, so YMMV.)

        These were children with different developmental needs (who had pesonalized plans) so I’m not sure exactly how well this works generally. We wanted to give them an opportunity to identify/communicate their needs, rather than us telling them (even if we were 100% what they needed). And on occasion, they would identify a need different than we had anticipated anyways, so that’s helpful!

        Takes some practice, because you need to “catch” them while they’re still in a mental state to identify the need (before it’s tipped over into crisis mode, when it will be hard for them to self-regulate and answer). Also you can more or less expect that sometimes they’ll articulate a need like “I need Asha to give me that toy”. Definitely not a perfect science!

      2. NoviceManagerGuy*

        One of my three-year-olds is built like this (she gets it from me), so when she’s furious about something and hasn’t eaten (she’s also our only somewhat picky eater, though she’ll try anything) we offer her something reasonable, like nuts, and tell her that we will talk about it after she has eaten and drunk some water.

      3. Jay*

        My kid was like this. Probably still is but she’s 20 and knows how to manage it. We started at 3 trying to help her make the connection. “Wow. You’re really grumpy. I bet you’re hungry. Here’s a cheese stick.” Not the same as “you’re sad, have some ice cream!” Her preschool/day care didn’t do protein snacks because of their bizarre response to kashrut issues and so she ate lunch at 11:30 and didn’t have any protein again until I picked her up at 5:30. I always had cheese sticks with me because even the one-mile drive home was too much when she was in that state. I was THRILLED when she climbed into the car one day (about age 5), started to whine, and then stopped and said “I think I’m really hungry. Can I have some cheese?” I agree that it’s not possible to have a real conversation about this when they’re already over the edge. We just pointed out the connection, offered the food, and made her responsible for her behavior. “Even when you’re angry/hungry/mad/sad, it’s not OK to yell at Mommy.”

        By the time she was a teenager, moods were less often related to hunger but very much to stress, so rehearsal weeks before dance recitals were hell. We tried to stay out of her way (we call this “let the wookee win.”) but still called her on the worst of the rudeness. She was a senior in HS when she said “I want to apologize in advance for being rude. It’s tech week and I have a paper due on Thursday. I’ll do my best but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be rude.”

      4. TootsNYC*

        I think 5 is absolutely old enough to start!
        But you need to be involved in the coaching in a very proactive and teaching way.

    2. RecentAAMfan*

      Our middle son was exactly like this!! And absolutely no use talking about it in the middle of an episode! He’d just wail “I’m NOT hypoglycaemic!!!”
      (I’m like this too, but with lots more self awareness obviously. Which he’s developed too thankfully now that he’s an adult)
      The key is prevention ideally -With appropriately timed snacks and meals, but in the heat of the moment, nothing like juice to get that blood sugar up fast.

      1. Lady Heather*

        On the flip side of that, I have had the dietary equivalent of “Are you PMS’ing?” thrown at me about a trillion times by my parents when I had very real, valid disagreements with them – like when they violated boundaries or broke promises, or when I was angry because they accused me of something I hadn’t done and refused to believe me when I said so.

        Even people who are hypoglycaemic, or PMS’ing, (or female), (or teenaged), can have valid reasons to be miffed.

        (Hope this isn’t too far off-topic – I’ll shut up about it now.)

        1. JSPA*

          Valid point, in that it may be helpful to ask the employee if they believe everyone and everything else gets irritating in the late afternoon. If that’s their perception, they may need to unpack that before they’re ready to accept that the common denominator is…them, at that time of day.

    3. Diluted Tortoiseshell*

      I don’t think it is beating around the bush to not assume it’s food and give the employee a chance to explain themselves.

      I can’t tell you the number of times a manager “intuited” that X was an issues, then when they came down with the hammer to address X after all their observations it turns out it wasn’t even close to the issue.

      Starting from a kind perspective that let’s the employee reflect and come out with what they think the issue is is the best approach even if it does turn out to be food related.

    4. Matilda Jefferies*

      Same. I’m an adult, and I still have these issues, as does one of my kids.

      The really key thing is to talk about it with your employee when she’s calm, and not hangry. One of the problems with low blood sugar, in addition to crankiness, is it takes away any ability to make decisions. So even questions like “would you rather have a granola bar, or some yogourt?” become nearly impossible to answer. You absolutely have to plan ahead, and as learnedthehardway said, it can take years of practice.

      I haven’t read the whole thread, so some of these suggestions may already be here:
      ~Have lots of snacks available – high protein if possible
      ~Set an alarm for every 4 hours or so, and eat something, even if you’re not hungry
      ~Learn to recognize hanger before it goes too far. It sometimes feels very sudden, but there’s usually a buildup of some sort – get in the practice of really listening to your body, and trying to find that point where you know what’s coming and how much time you have to stop it
      ~Make a plan for when it does go too far. Decide ahead of time that yogourt (or whatever) is the snack at that point, so there’s no decision to be made. Remember that your brain is not your friend in these moments, and it will trick you into saying you don’t want yogourt, or it’s too complicated, or some other weirdness. Don’t listen to your brain. Eat the yogourt, and figure the rest out later.

      Of course, these are all things that the hangry person has to do for themselves – it’s not up to OP1 as their boss! But even if you want to show her this thread, or point to some other internet resources, that might help get her started. Good luck!

      1. JSPA*

        “Offer a cheap but healthy snack at 11:30 instead of 3 PM” might do the trick, and give OP standing to say, “I notice things go a lot more smoothly when you’ve had a little bite during the day.”

        One thing nobody has touched on is Covid, which is surprising.

        A lot of people working with the public do not want to unmask and remask during a work day, to the point of becoming dangerously dehydrated, let alone hungry. You’re up close with clients, so “outside of mask likely contaminated” is absolutely a real fear.

        OP may not share that concern (some people have already been sick, some have just decided that they can’t operate if they allow the stress to surface) or OP may not cut hair themselves, and thus generally have a desk’s worth of distance from the clients, or OP may be methodical enough to deal with the stress better.

        But if that’s going on, “it’s easier to be safe when you’re functioning at high level, and you function at high level by taking your breaks to eat and hydrate” is a good tack to take.

        Finally, if OP is firing (as opposed to furloughing) people, even if they’re high risk or have high risk family members, OP might want to reconsider that. If someone feels forced back into an in-person workplace with close customer contact, it’s quitle normal for them to feel upset all day, and beside themselves by afternoon, with or without food.

  12. Dan*


    I’m going to make a few assumptions here… usually, AAM titles the bolded questions, and since this one says “Employee doesn’t eat and gets hangry”, I’m going to flag this and say that my understanding is that lots/many/most stylists are independent contractors who rent chairs from the salon owner, and therefore aren’t employees. (If the title came from the LW, my apologies.)

    If the stylist is an employee, I’d give one set of advice, but if the stylist is an IC, I’d give another. The former being “what does you state law say about mandated lunch breaks given your employee’s classification” and the later being, “I dunno what the norms are for this business, but hangry doesn’t fly.”

    AAM/OP, can you clarify whether the stylist is an IC or an employee?

    1. MK*

      I think Alison’s response works for both. Even if the stylist is an independent contractor, the owner does have the right to demand civil behaviour from people she rents her space to.

      1. Dan*

        One can/should require the civil behavior, it’s how one goes about making “accommodations” that changes depending on employee classification. ICs get a terse “deal with it or peace out” whereas with employees, you start getting into federal and state laws regarding paid meal breaks. I know you know this better than most of us, but it is a nuance that is very material here.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Of course, but there’s nothing to indicate the OP isn’t meeting her legal obligations. Certainly if she’s not, she needs to … but my guess is that’s not the case here.

      2. MJ*

        So you’re the one I can ‘blame’ for me reading the title as: employee gets hangry when she doesn’t eat my boss


  13. Dan*


    You really, really have to know the landscape to advocate for a promotion at 9 months. At my org, promotions are a BFD. We have a lot of lifers (I’m 40 and I’ve worked with people who have dates of hire before I was born), and most people will only see one or two promotions (if that) before retirement. The difference in pay bands is substantial — probably $30k per level or so — and I’d say that if you started really sqwaking about a promotion with less than three years as a more junior hire, you’d be out of touch with reality. (It’s fine to *ask*, but it has to be a real question, not a veiled threat or statement of discontent.) After five years at my org, threats of “promote me or I’m out of here” are appropriate. And… at 5 years, you’ve either really earned it and they *should* promote you, or you haven’t and don’t realize it and you should quit anyway. At the more senior levels, you shut up about it, because you really do know what it takes and whether you’ve met the bar. If you’ve met the bar, it’s a short conversation.

    I got my first promotion at the four year mark. I’ve got 20 years (at least) left until retirement. While I’m in a position to get the next promotion, it may never happen, and if it does, I have no idea when. If I get the next one, it will highly like be the last.

    Point being, you really, really, really have to know the landscape for promotions to know how to advocate for one. You’ll probably be fine by asking an “innocent” question along the lines of “how do promotions work around here, I’m curious?” and seeing what response you get. Veiled threats = see ya.

    1. MK*

      There is no indication that the OP is thinking of issuing a veiled threat, or that she doesn’t understand 9 months is way too early for promotion. As far as I can tell, the only reason she is considering applying for promotion is that she has been told it matters very much to have expressed interest early (which by the way is a very nonsensical way of choosing people to promote, why do they reward being unrealistic?).

      1. Dan*

        I admittedly read the first half and skipped the rest. At my org, one only truly applies for management-track promotions, technical track promotions are just awarded.

        Rereading the question, it seems that OP’s manager takes issue with people “expressing disappointment” in not being selected, and not so much the application itself. If the bean counters are truly counting beans, then I think the OP isn’t out of line by putting something up on the scoreboard (applying for the promotion) and then keeping their mouth shut when not selected.

        OP ought to get some clarification on whether number of applications = success at getting promoted, or if there’s more to it than that.

        1. Premature3*

          Let me offer some more info. Folks do get promoted after a year. You’re right, 9 months is early, and I said as much in my letter. I have no notions of threats! I am semi in demand in my industry but I have no desire to do that. I want to stay here for at least 2 years total, or more! This isn’t a manager role though- we have levels of hierarchy within the same job title -think level 1, 2, 3, then manager. I can’t get any straightforward clarity from management on the whole, # of applications thing., which is why coworkers are trying to help or maybe “help”.

    2. KateM*

      And it isn’t necessarily conflicting information that OP#3 is getting here – it may be that coworkers say how it works, boss says that she really dislikes the way it works.

  14. Dan*


    I get it in more than one way. To your direct questions at the end, the answers are, “no, no, and nothing.” You really, really don’t have to respond to coworkers you’ve never met at a large org.

    And as a fellow introvert, I don’t have the energy for “shoot the breeze” conversations that aren’t going to do anything for me. Which is funny, because I can be social when I want to and there’s something in it for me. (I’m not that transactional about that, I promise.) But networking questions about “how I got my job”… well, my story is my own and it ain’t going to do you a darn bit of good if you don’t have any relevant experience, so me wasting my time sharing it with you is just that. It’s going to take *years* to replicate my background if you don’t have something similar.

    I’m kind of curious though, about the particulars of your company/role. I’d guess that you work in my field, which has been hit hard by COVID, but nobody I’m aware of has laid off half their staff. Industry numbers for us are looking at a ~30% RIF overall, although specific companies have gone bust. Also curious, because my company is generally full of engineers, and we wouldn’t call each other up asking about how we got our jobs.

    1. LW#4*

      If there are engineers in your company, we don’t work in the same industry *at all*. I’m in one of … three? four? surviving large, English-speaking companies in the industry (many have gone belly up since Covid) so I want to be discrete (sorry if it sounds coy).

      I think I’ll take Allison up on her plan to write a Q&A though. Most people balk immediately when they hear “I make $49k a year” and they are used to six figures, so that will be a good start!

      1. Kes*

        Yeah I’d almost consider writing a LinkedIn or Medium article titled ‘Why You Don’t Really Want to be a Llama Fashion Photographer’ (or What it’s really like to be… to be less dramatic) where you talk about these aspects. That way you can point inquirers to it but it can also reach others trying to research the field

    2. Office Plant*

      I’m wondering if LW 4 and I worked at the same company. I know one very large hotel chain has had layoffs up to the 50-60% range at some hotel properties (which is public info due to the WARN act), and large layoffs at the corporate level. Recovery of the hotel industry won’t start until a vaccine is available and travel restrictions are lifted, and getting back to pre-Covid business levels will take years. (To be very clear, I do not expect the LW to share more details about where they work. I’m sharing more about an industry that has been hit hard in the way LW described.)

      I certainly understand LW4’s networking fatigue- the industry has suddenly and hugely contracted, leaving a lot of folks out in the lurch. If I were LW 4, something like a LinkedIn post sharing “How I got here” might stave off some of the questioners, and would give something easy to point to for those that ask.

      And to LW4- I really hope your company has seen the worse of the layoffs done now, and that the requests will ease up as those laid off find other roles.

  15. Kwebbel*

    OP #4 –

    I feel you, and I don’t think you need to respond to anyone if you don’t see any benefit of doing so for you or them!

    I had a similar situation recently. In the past six months, I’ve received 2 requests from people at my old company saying they left our old employer and are looking for work, and that they enjoyed working with me and would be grateful if I could introduce them to someone at my new company. I also received an email from my former boss saying he’d started a new job, and would love to have me on his team.

    The messages were very kind, and I was conflicted when I received them. In the first two instances, I knew the departments were downsizing, so I really couldn’t offer them any support (and I obviously couldn’t tell them about the downsizing, either). In the last case, I would have loved to work for my old boss again, but I couldn’t afford to move to a city on the other side of the country to work for him.

    Then I talked about it with some of my old coworkers who’d also left the company, and it turned out the three who approached me had also approached my other colleagues as well.

    I didn’t feel that the messages I got from them were any less sincere, but it helped me reframe things in my head to know that I wasn’t the only person they were contacting. They have other connections as well, and if they’re bold enough to reach out to me, they’re probably reaching out to others, too.

    I bet (and hope) your former coworkers are reaching out to others as well, even if the messages they send sound very personalized (which they should; it’s good networking). But you don’t hold their fate in your hands, and they probably don’t think you do, either.

  16. ACM*

    LW4 might also including a line in her email like, “I’ve been getting a lot of people asking this very question.” It’s possible that a lot of these former colleagues think they’re being creative/original when thinking about transitioning to this somewhat niche-sounding role; it might be useful for them to know that they’re really not (aka competition would be steep).

  17. Aine*

    For LW1, as someone who got hangry a lot, I suggest that you bring up the issue when she’s not hangry. I know that if I get to the “hangry” point, I am not logical, at all. It’s best to have this sort of conversation when both parties are reasonable, if possible.

    On an unrelated note, the refusal of food when offered really hit home for me, personally. The hungrier I am, the less I want to eat and nothing will look or sound good to me. I don’t shop if I am hungry, not because I will buy too much, but because I won’t want to buy anything, at all. I’ve worked really hard on trying to not let myself get to the hangry phase and I have made decent progress, but with my weird schedule (changes weekly), it’s hard to eat at the same times every day.

    1. Lady Heather*

      This is exactly me! I have this weird thing where I lose my appetite (and get nauseous at the sight/thought of food) when I haven’t eaten in a while, and on the other hand, when I have a “can’t eat another bite” full stomach, I get hungry.

      Though I don’t get hangry,

      Couple of thoughts:
      – Employee might have an eating disorder
      – Employee might have a somatic digestive disorder making it hard for them to eat
      – Employee might be doing some kind of fad diet, juice cleanse, intermittent fasting, thing.
      – Employee might not be able to afford food

      LW1, hopefully you have a fridge that your employee can put a brown-bag lunch in (or a smoothie, or one of those awful medical liquid diet drinks that taste horribly disgusting unrefrigerated and only moderately awful when refrigerated). I haven’t worked anywhere where ordering in is the norm and I wouldn’t want to – that expense adds up fast.

      Regardless of cause, she needs to stop acting out, though.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I have never – never! – been one of those people who forgets to eat or doesn’t want to eat (barring illness). But in the past two months I’ve been working with my doctor to find the right treatment for a chronic condition….and one of the side effects for the leading drug is loss of appetite.

        It has been kind of shocking to me, actually. I won’t feel motivated to get food at all, but I’ll still suffer the effects of not eating (headache, irritation).

        That said, I agree with Alison’s answer (the food issue itself isn’t the employees to manage) but even though OP notes it’s likely not an eating disorder, I hope she’ll remain sympathetic, since there may be other factors.

        I think it’s very possible that the employee doens’t realise the extent to which her hunger is surfacing later in the day (even the complaining is something you can really do knee-jerk, without processing what it must be like for others to listen to).

    2. Forrest*

      My partner’s thing is that if she’s hungry, she’s convinced she’s not allowed to eat and that someone (for a long time, me) is trying to stop her. She’d get hungry, come and ask me if I was ready for lunch/tea, and if I said I wasn’t particularly hungry, that was me being self-righteous and trying to stop her eating, and she’d end up in this state of wild indignation and hunger where even though I was ACTIVELY TRYING TO STOP HER, she was just going to HAVE LUNCH, and SEE IF I CARE. We had some WILD and to me baffling arguments about it in our first few years living together. She’s much more conscious of it these days and mostly knows that if she’s hungry she should just go and have something to eat!

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        My partner grew up in a household where ‘hinting’ was a main method of communcation, whereas mine was more direct. So similarly, he would ask if I was hungry in order to communicate that he wanted to eat. When I said no (having taken the question literally) he would interpret that as me asking him to wait.

        Took a little trial/error our first year to identify the communication mismatch and address it.

        1. Creamsiclecati*

          My husband and I had the same communication issue when we got married! Growing up, his mother would phrase everything in the form of a question. Instead of “do the dishes”, she would say “were you planning on doing the dishes?” And he would know that meant he needed to do the dishes.

          When we moved in together, I would ask a question genuinely wanting to know the answer: “were you planning on doing the dishes?” meant I really wanted to know if he was going to do them or if I should do them, but he would take that to mean I was asking him to do it. We had to learn each other’s communication styles.

          I wonder if OP1 has been hinting indirectly when she needs to be more clear about her meaning- we do not act this way towards clients and coworkers.

          1. Mystery Bookworm*

            Yes! We had that exact issue as well! I’d ask about a timing, or a chore, and he’d hear a request or even a critique, depending on the context.

            It got SO much easier to parse after we got to know each other’s families a bit better.

          2. hbc*

            That’s funny, I was thinking the clarity might need to be around how to get time to eat. If she hasn’t worked in salons before or been her own boss, she’s waiting to be told “You can take a break now.” Hearing that there are granola bars in the break room would be irritating if she thought she was never given permission to go back to the break room.

          3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            This reminds me of my parents. They were sticklers for eating at very precise times. I moved abroad to a place where people typically dine much later. I would ask them if they were hungry, especially after they’d just arrived, since they might not have had time to fit in a proper meal while travelling, or the in-flight meal might have been inedible. Instead of telling me how they felt, they’d look at their watches to see whether it was “time to eat” and respond accordingly. So I would just put a snack out to tide them over until the meal was ready. My father would start nibbling, and my mother would chide him, saying he wouldn’t have room for his dinner when it eventually got served.
            Anyway, it may be that this stylist has a similar weird attitude to mealtimes. Although it’s far more likely that she has some kind of IBS problem, and as Alison suggests, OP needs to address the anger part rather than the hunger part, because nobody wants crabby workers around when they’re getting their hair done.

        2. Artemesia*

          We solve that by being in charge of our own breakfast and lunch — even together in this lockdown — someone makes dinner, but the rest of the time we are on our own. I grew up in a hinting culture too and my husband is not sensitive to hinting. I have had zero success at hinting about things I might like for Christmas for example — I have to just say it. (I could of course just buy it — but we do like to be able to get each other something appreciated for holiday gift giving — took me 3 years to get a fitbit and it finally took ‘you know what I would really like to get some time is a fitbit’.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My husband does the same thing – if he doesn’t eat on a schedule, he gets hungrier and hungrier and less inclined to even think about food (but he will still whine about both being hungry and not wanting to eat). In his case, then the low blood sugar symptoms pop up and start to trick off his medical anxiety, which leads to even worse spiraling, and earlier this year he got a big eye opener in the form of a large ER bill because he thought he was having a heart attack and it turned out to be a panic attack kicked off by a blood sugar crash because he hadn’t had anything to eat by 4pm except a brownie and a half dozen cups of tea with a ton of honey. (And he’s STILL total rubbish at eating on schedule, which drives me bonkers, even though he *doesn’t* have a weird schedule to blame, he just gets caught up in whatever he’s doing and ignores his “eat now or else” alarm. “We” are working on it, as best as I can be a part of this “we”, which is not much.)

    4. Ray Gillette*

      Glucose tablets might be useful for you, OP’s employee, or anyone else who gets cranky when they get low blood sugar but also doesn’t want to eat. You can find them in the diabetes supply section of any drugstore. Chomping on one takes minimal effort and will bring your blood sugar back to a manageable level quickly.

  18. Thistle Whistle*

    The OP can be understanding and encourage the stylist to make the best decisions for her (possible) medical issue but it is up to the stylist to manage their own decisions/actions. The stylist needs to factor in food when she takes bookings. Medical cause or not, the stylist needs to behave professionally and that means ensuring she isn’t moody or clumsy in public/with clients, especially as that could impact on the clients outcome/decision to come back to the salon.

    In a lot of places you don’t always get a dedicated lunch break and so you need to be prepared to eat when you get the chance. And sometimes that means grabbing a snack or two between meetings (or when your client is under the drying lamp etc). Its not ideal but its life. Since I left school I’ve only seen set lunch breaks in places that were still running like its 1970. Some days I get a good break and can eat my food, go for a quick walk and recharge, other days its bearly 5 minutes to eat my sandwich between meetings. Its my responsibility to say that we need to push back the start of the meeting by 5 minutes so I can eat and/or take a comfort break.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      This was going to be my comment. I haven’t had a set lunch hour since I left academia about 8.5 years ago (administration). If the stylist is in charge of her own schedule, then she needs to act accordingly. Even if she isn’t eating due to medical reasons, access, forgetfullness or diet, she still needs to find ways to still give the clients in the salon a positive experience.

      When I am in back-to-back-to-back meetings (not the norm but does happen) I can’t just be short and snippy in my 3:00 meeting because I didn’t grab a fast bite running between earlier meetings and haven’t had anything since 7:00 a.m. And that’s not really on my employer to manage.

  19. Cheluzal*

    My spouse is a hairdresser and most of them are absolutely in control of their schedule. They will go all day without eating just because they get busy and don’t think about it. It’s actually a common phenomenon, but they don’t take the irritation out on others. The woman in the letter could mitigate this by simple snacks in between but she’s choosing not to.

  20. cncx*

    I got HANGRY like go to jail for assault hangry when i tried to do intermittent fasting. People sell intermittent fasting as the be all end all for blood sugar but it isn’t for everyone.

    Also if someone is a stylist and their situation is making them clumsy, that’s a work issue.

  21. TimeTravlR*

    I wonder what exactly is the thought process behind promoting person A over person B or C just because person A applied more often?! That is absolutely crazy and I hope it’s not true but rather a perception of the employees.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Admittedly, I’m hangry (which brings out the conspiracy theorist in me), but I’m getting the sense of somebody trying to play dumb political games with OP. My money is on the coworkers, because what Boss says sounds fairly reasonable, but what the coworkers tell OP absolutely does not (apply for promotion early even after Boss explicitly warned not to do it? people get promoted based on the number of times they applied? This is banana crackers.) Are the coworkers trying to preemptively take OP out of the competition, I wonder?? In light of that, I think Alison’s script is perfect.

      1. Artemesia*

        yup this is why she needs to clear the air with the boss. I am hearing this which makes no sense to me, but wanted to get your advice.

      2. Premature3*

        Oh no! Oh brother. Usually my personal tactic is, I will apply when I personally feel ready, which means being able to point to the rubric and have examples ready. BUT I also know that people get promoted all the time (in this environment, historically it’s been the men) who couldn’t really fill the rubric well. Hm.

    2. hbc*

      I don’t think anyone is really like “Three applications or you don’t mean it,” but I’ve definitely felt worse turning down a person for the second or third time when they’ve been qualified each time. There’s the sense that someone has been waiting X years for a promotion and they’re justifiably frustrated and feeling under-appreciated.

      Of course, if you applied before the clock should have started ticking, that doesn’t help your case. But OP can definitely signal to her boss that she’s generally interested in moving up the ladder even if she’s still content to keep learning and growing in the current role.

      1. Kes*

        Yeah I definitely read it as a seniority thing where if X has been trying to get promoted for the past few times, they’re more likely to get chosen over Y who has just started applying, because it’s a lot easier to explain that we only have so many promotions to give and everyone has to wait sometimes, than to tell X that they got passed over yet again by someone newer, without creating bad feelings there.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I think hbc’s last sentence is key. OP, when you go to your boss and ask about it, try to make it clear that you are happy in your current role and hope to stay with the company for some time. The more obvious it is that you’re not in a big hurry to be promoted right away, the more reasonable your question will seem to her.

    3. LQ*

      It’s a weird perception where I work too. People will say with all seriousness that you should apply for every single job opening to show you want a promotion. I’ve flat out told people, I have only ever applied for jobs I’ve gotten, there have been hundreds of jobs that have been open that I did not apply to, and yet I still got promoted! “Well yeah but…”

      This was weird to me when I was an individual contributor, but so much weirder when I got promoted to managing people because I had to stop and look at all my coworkers and employees differently. The “just keep applying” is basically no one. And the people who do that and who perpetuate that are all still entry level folks and have been for a long time. Some have never applied for a promotion at all. But it’s also just a few folks who talk to everyone and if they catch the ear of a new hire before they figure out who has their fingers on the pulse of things it can really confuse folks.

      So really stop and look at who is saying that and who is actually in promoted roles in your organization.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        But it’s also just a few folks who talk to everyone and if they catch the ear of a new hire before they figure out who has their fingers on the pulse of things it can really confuse folks.

        I have seen this in my past workplaces; people who themselves have no clue what’s going on, despite having worked there for 5+ years, pounce on a new hire to share their misguided work advice! Hopefully this is what the case is at OP’s job.

    4. Generic Name*

      Yeah, based on what the LW said, something seems weird about this work environment. Why is the boss ranting at an employee about when other people ask for promotions? Whether the boss has no boundaries or is trying to weirdly hint at something to the employee, neither of are ideal boss behavior. That coupled with the notion that promotions are given only to people who display that want them the most by repeatedly applying (regardless of whether or not it makes sense to ask for a promotion), something just seems off.

      1. Premature3*

        It is not ideal! I can definitely fill in details if you like, and I have them. Basically there are 2 managers and one actively tries to get her people promoted and one definitely does not.

        1. valentine*

          Can you get transferred to the other manager?

          Either way, start applying. You can’t stop your manager blocking you or whinging, but you can show interest in other roles.

  22. Week old sour dough*

    1. There are memes about the eating habits of hair stylists- they’re on their feet all day sustaining off iced coffee and then eat like 800 calories in a hurry while their clients are waiting. My stylist (she’s very young, like 23) does this too.

    You should have a conversation with her that she’s not allowed to be crabby and rude, and that she should pack snacks or learn to order. Can she put an order in with the other employees when they order? This is such a silly thing for it to carry on as an issue. Food insecurity is real, but that’s still her responsibility to take care of. Options have been presented to her.

  23. Workerbee*

    OP #4: It’s okay that you don’t want to, and you also don’t have to do a thing about it. Care for yourself, first—it sounds like that’s the biggest (hidden?) struggle of all, in which you are definitely not alone. If at some point you have the time, inclination, and energy, and you find yourself thinking of those requests, then you can readdress them in bulk if you wish. Or not!

  24. Luke G*

    The whole situation around #3 makes me uneasy. I can easily see how two conflicting sets of circumstances could be playing out, and OP3 should tread carefully so as not to act on the wrong one:

    – The coworkers are right, and you have to “ask early, ask often” and keep badgering about promotions. The boss may find this annoying and say it’s not appropriate, but lots of people say one thing and do another in cases like this. If you ask the boss what she means she’ll tell you “don’t ask about promotions,” but if you listen to that you’ll be passed up in favor of those who annoy her but also keep their interest in front of her.

    – The coworkers are wrong and the boss is right, that it’s annoying. Maybe it’s just a perception thing, where limited promotion opportunities make the coworkers FEEL like persistence is key, or maybe it’s a case where 1 or more people who were being persistent in asking were also strong enough employees that they got promotions that the boss thought of as “in spite of being annoying” while the coworkers thought of as “because they were persistent.”

    So yeah, asking the boss is a good first step, but I’d think you should take her answer with a little grain of salt and also pay very close attention to who gets promoted, and how.

    1. Premature3*

      Thank you! There are a few details I couldn’t fit in my question that sort of fill in my own sense of uneasiness-such as the rumor (but it’s a rumor!!!) that this manager has not always treated women with my degree kindly. You’ve captured my feelings here. Some other commenters suggested a kind of middle ground – pushing the boss more by applying but also recognizing what she’s said about early appliers.

      1. Luke G*

        I also saw some other advice on how to “be persistent” without actually applying- ways to show your goals and inquire about next steps in a way that shows you’re interested but doesn’t risk crossing the line into being unrealistic in your requests.

        Best of luck! It sounds like you’re doing a good job of listening to what people say in words but also paying attention to what they tell you with their choices.

  25. Delta Delta*

    #1 – If I’m spending time and money on hairstyling, and if my stylist is hangry and nasty or clumsy with me, I am a) not returning and b) writing a Yelp review of the experience. The shop owner – whether she’s the employer or whether she has stylists as contractors – needs to have a direct and frank conversation with the stylist at a time when the stylist isn’t ragey and wielding scissors. It can be direct – “you get hungry in the afternoon, and if you don’t eat your attitude changes. It hurts business, and you need to figure out your schedule to include eating.” That’s it. I’m not going to speculate about the stylist’s possible other factors; if the stylist’s behavior is such that it has the potential of hurting the overall business – whether that’s by losing clients or by potentially physically hurting clients – it needs to be contained.

    1. Allonge*

      Yes, I was thinking – if I see the stylist in the next chair treating their customer snippily / clumsily, I might start thinking about returning, if I am not 100% satisfied otherwise. It absolutely could have an impact on other stylists, and the overall business.

  26. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#4 — I have nothing to add to Alison’s excellent advice (post an FAQ with the gritty details of careers in lama photography), but I really wanted to thank you for one sentence:

    I got my start back when the internet was mere science fiction, so my particular career path isn’t open to these 20somethings.

    I’ve occasionally been asked about getting started in my own field, and you’ve beautifully summed up my frustration with the question.
    Thanks, and please take care of yourself. Bandwidth is precious right now.

    1. LW#4*

      Hee. Thanks. Yeah, the job I do today is SO DIFFERENT than the job I did when I started. Now people doing my job start on social media so my background in [now mostly defunct industry] is so useless.

    2. Artemesia*

      Me too. I am the guy with the red stapler — the only survivor of a brutal merger where all my peers lost their jobs — I found a perch temporarily and then slithered back in. Denial is not generally a good career strategy but it worked for me.

  27. Quickbeam*

    LW #4: I had a similar job that I only got due to a very unusual dual career background. After I was in the role, I found out that my classification was only 1 of a couple statewide in a tight career ladder. I was peppered with calls asking how they could get my job, when was I retiring, etc. It was exhausting.

    I did as Alison outlined and it was very effective. Linkedin had not been invented yet but as an e-mail response, it stopped repeat follow ups. I was pretty upfront about the realities of he job which most people were not aware of (like having to stay at hotels which took the state rate, most of which were a step below sleeping in my car).

    I only put the basics together once and then used it for the rest of my career there. I think word got out because the requests did dry up after a couple years. Good luck to you, I feel the pain.

  28. Alexis Rose*

    I know a lot of other people have commented on the hangry issue, but I have an additional anecdote/thought.

    My husband is an absolute MONSTER when he is hungry. He will be snappish and irritable and take offense to the smallest of things. He does NOT realize that he is hangry when its happening. Like literally does not make the connection unless I ask him point blank “are you actually upset about this or did you skip lunch?” and then he will get this look of realization and say “Oh. No I didn’t eat lunch! that explains it!” In my mind, I’m screaming “YOU’RE 33 YEARS OLD HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW!?” but I think that logic and cause/effect of hungry/miserable to be around is just completely beyond him when he is in that state. The only thing that’s worked for us is enforcing an eating schedule. Like I will refuse to leave the house with him unless he has eaten something.

    My point in bringing this up is that…… the employee here may not be able to make the connection between her behaviour and the food at all if the only information she is given is “your behaviour is unacceptable, fix it”. I think Alison’s last sentence getting at the cause/effect of it may actually be necessary. I think since she’s also making comments about being so hungry etc. when this is happening, you have the standing to gently suggest that there is a correlation in noticing this problem on days where she is complaining about being hungry.

    1. Rexish*

      I always thought that I knew when I was getting hangry and I was able to verbalize it and supress it. But then my boyfriend picked me up from the airport and the second I sat down he handed me a banana and told me to eat. I was not hungry, but clearly he was worried about hanger and was prepared :D

      1. blink14*

        This made me laugh! My family and close friends are the same way with me, a fellow hangry person. If I’m going out for a late dinner or an event (when these used to happen), I will preemptively eat something small, and one of my friends always gently reminds me to eat a snack before we go. And I almost always have a snack with me!

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I think this is like my PMT. I used to have an argument with my partner once a month, and the next day I got my period. But I never ever ever made the connection. I have since learned of a (luckily very rare) hormonal imbalance you can have when breastfeeding that actually makes you feel suicidal just when the baby first latches on. Similarly, the mother will have these black thoughts but then forgets about them entirely until baby asks for the next feed. So this stylist may also not be able to see any connection: when she gripes about something not being in its right place, she is really annoyed because the other stylist never puts things back properly, and she’s probably quite justified in the moment. I’d recommend OP just mentioning in passing that there seems to be a connection and it might just be simpler all round for the stylist to always make sure she’s had some food.

    3. blink14*

      YES! I’m a hangry person/hypoglycemic, and it boggles my mind how people just forget a meal. How do you not realize it? How do you not know you are hungry?! Breakfast I will occasionally skip, especially if I sleep in, but I cannot skip lunch or dinner. Or my snacks!

    4. doreen*

      Long before we got married, my husband turned into a monster when we were on some sort of daytrip. It turned out, of course that he was hungry – but he had no idea what hunger felt like. Apparently, he had always eaten before he actually was hungry.

  29. oyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy*

    1. Try leaving a trail of magic beans from the door of the salon to her chair. Tell her that the beans will turn her into a beautiful unicorn with rockets instead of wings. She will eat enough beans to kick her brain into a mode where she can hear you, because apparently, you’ve said “Eat something during lunch because you get extremely grumpy and this is service industry where you have to try and be nice to people no matter what” already, but she couldn’t hear you because she was too hungry.

    2. This sucks. I’m sorry.

    3. What’s more important in your life? You and your success, or your manager’s feelings?

    4. No.

    5. ASK!

  30. CatPerson*

    Why does LW2’s boss have photos of her child to begin with? Is she sharing those photos at work, and if so, why?

    1. Julia*

      You’ve never met anyone who has a child and shows – sometimes prompted! – photos of the new child to people they know?

      1. doreen*

        I’ve known loads of people who show photos to other people in the office or display them – but no one who gives copies of photos to co-workers who can them show them to others, with the possible exception of a birth announcement. Th only way somewhat common way I can see for the boss to relay photos of the OP’s child to the sister-in-law is through social media – OP posts a photo to Facebook ( for ex) and boss (who is friends with OP) then either shares the photo and SIL (who is friends with boss) can see it or boss saves photo and sends it to SIL. The way to stop this is to cut off boss’s access to photos social media – either defriend, stop posting photos or set privacy settings so that boss can’t see/share photos.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          My boss actually e-mailed the photos of his new baby to the whole office.
          This is how you get someone’s child’s photos.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        I think the point here is that usually people show them, but now with COVID are people *sending* them, as in via email, whereas before it’d be someone handing you their phone.

        People share pictures of their kids/dogs/etc. pretty commonly, but I do wonder if this has shifted in the *method* of sharing. I can’t rip someone’s pictures off their phone to share with others, but I can fwd an email.

    2. Generic Name*

      You’re asking OP why they are sharing photos of their children at work? I guess you’ve never worked with or met any parents? Parents generally think their kids are amazing and want to share the amazingness with everyone. (I’m a parent, so don’t @ me) I think it’s pretty normal to share photos of your own kid with bosses/coworkers. Sharing photos of someone else’s child (to an estranged family member no less) is weird.

    3. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      It’s almost expected in some workplaces. They’ll have cute Halloween or “get to know you” montages that get shared in meetings. You have to put up photos at your desk or people make snarky comments about being one foot out the door. If you’re not participating in the mandatory fun, it’ll be used against you, especially for those like the OP’s who were subjected to a bunch of drama previously.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’ve seen people attach the new baby’s photos to their announcement email that goes out to their team, e.g. “Baby Fergus was born at 11:59 PM October 31, 20 inches, 7 pounds”.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes exactly. We’re an open plan office so there’s not much people do in terms of putting up pictures etc but a photo has always accompanied a baby announcement as long as I’ve worked there.

        One of my colleagues had a baby recently. She told someone in her team and they sent around an announcement saying basically “Tangerina and her husband Wakeen are delighted to announce the birth of little baby Wakeenetta, 7lbs 3 oz. Mother and baby doing well.” There was a photo of the three of them looking happy.

        I’m not wild about this sort of thing but some people like it and I can always use my delete button if I am not bothered.

        1. MsSolo*

          This is standard in my office too. I wonder if the longer mat leave is relevant, though – you’re going to be gone for the better part of a year, so by the time you’re back and sharing photos in person they’re a very different set of pics (and honestly, by that point no one really cares any more).

    5. Sylvan*

      My coworkers and I share photos of kids, other family members, pets, etc. If we take a good picture, we typically share it.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Another thought – boss might be connected with OP on social media (which SIL is not), and be able to see the photos on there.

    7. Sled dog mama*

      I’m slightly confused by this as well. I’ve shown photos to coworkers (on my phone) but I’ve never sent a coworker photo (Allowing the coworker to then forward that photo to someone else).
      Only thing I can think of is that LW is sending photos by email or posting them on a website. If emailed LW has lost all control of the photo once sent and if shared on a website then LW probably needs to examine the security settings of their account and tighten them.

  31. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #4 – in addition to Alison’s’ advice, cut yourself some slack. It’s not on you to help everyone who’s lost their job. Don’t feel guilty because you’re still employed. You owe them NOTHING. This may sound harsh, but you have to take care of yourself first. Don’t feel obligated to accept every LinkedIn connection (unless you truly want to), and don’t feel like you need to answer every message.

    1. Generic Name*

      I came here to say something similar. Saying “no” and not doing something you don’t want to do (unless it’s a basic part of your job, which this likely isn’t) is part of having healthy boundaries. You are not obligated to help everyone simply because they ask.

  32. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – there have been many suggestions as to WHY your stylist won’t eat during the day, but it’s irrelevant. Focus on the behavior and send the message that it’s unacceptable and needs to be fixed. I’m sure if she’s snippy with other employees, she’s not treating customers well either.

  33. blink14*

    OP #1 – as someone who gets hangry and has hypoglycemia, I feel your pain! I am militant about eating at regular intervals, especially at work. I take lunch at the same time every day (even working remotely!) and if I have to move my lunch break around, I take it early as much as possible vs late, to avoid having an issue. Throw me off my schedule and I get a short fuse pretty quickly.

    I’m very aware of when I’m hungry, when I need to eat, when I have a hypoglycemia episode coming on. Hypoglycemia is a real thing that can actually be totally unrelated to diabetes, and can be genetic. It runs in my family, and two other people in my immediate family have it. However, they don’t have like an internal appetite monitor, and often don’t realize they are hungry or haven’t eaten, leading to bad moods and lashing out. Both over time have developed an eating schedule, making sure they eat at certain times, even something small if they aren’t hungry, to make sure they are keep things balanced.

    It’s possible your employee doesn’t realize she has a similar issue. It’s also possible she’s on a diet. And also possible she is really struggling financially and can’t afford to order delivery, which does add up really quickly. Maybe she resents that other employees do that?

    I wonder if its possible for you to build in a break time into everyone’s day, maybe add some fruit and bottled water to your snack offerings, or something else that is low cost but healthy. That might encourage her to actually take a break if it’s scheduled. Some people are also just really bad at knowing when to take a break when working.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I can’t afford to order delivery, either, which is why I pack a lunch. It’s easy to pack something that isn’t messy and doesn’t need refrigeration for the half a day before you eat it. Not being able to afford delivery isn’t a reason to not eat.

      1. blink14*

        Totally agree – I almost always pack a lunch for work. I get the sense the employee either resents that the other employees order out a lot, and maybe feels its expected, or they aren’t good at fitting in a lunch break.

        1. maaawp*

          It’s hard to be the person bringing in a PB&J when all your coworkers are ordering in Seamless, or going out to the sandwich spot together.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes. When I first started out in work and was the most junior person in the team, my colleagues often went to the chippie around the corner on a Friday for fish and chips. Did it suck that I couldn’t afford to join them and had to stay in the office with a sandwich I’d made? Yes it did. But they weren’t having fish and chips at me.

              The stylist needs to work out a way to manage her moods better which may be bringing in a sandwich and some fruit to eat or setting an alarm to ping and remind her to eat when she’s put a colour on. Carrying on being bad tempered is a sure way to annoy your colleagues and lose clients.

              1. blink14*

                Totally agree. I’m pretty impervious to this kind of stuff, so I just do my own thing. If you’re being pressured to do go out all the time, that’s one thing, but if its more that it bothers you personally and the employees are just doing their own thing and not being braggy about it, that’s just you need to deal with the fact that people can make different choices and there is nothing wrong with that.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            Is this not quite literally the “not everybody can have sandwiches!” thing that is/was in the site rules? Yeah it sucks being the person with the sad sandwich lunch; it also sucks being the person who loses all their clients by screwing up their hair or is asked to leave because their bad mood brings down the entire vibe of salon as soon as it hits lunchtime. If money is the stylist’s problem – which is entirely hypothetical as it could be any number of things – she still needs to figure out how to manage it or she may well end up in a much worse financial position by driving away her clients.

            1. irene adler*

              I bring my lunch every day. But- we have a refrigerator and a microwave. So I can prepare more than a PB&J.

              When I heat up my lunch, everyone wants to know what I fixed cuz it smells so good.

              (I also have my main meal of the day at lunch. So it’s gonna be something I spent some time preparing)

              1. Natalie*

                I was replying to a comment about it being emotionally hard to bring your lunch when other people are going out to eat, not about the logistics of bringing a lunch.

                1. Nobody is the stylist’s punching bag.*

                  IMO, the manager shouldn’t do anything. Those who have takeout or delivery have the right to enjoy it. I really doubt that they think anything, let alone think less, of the hangry stylist not ordering delivery.

    2. Hi there*

      The answers to this question have been so educational for me. I’ve noticed that my husband really likes sugary items like orange juice and dried fruit and that he is a bear when he is hungry. I had never put the two together before today. Still his problem to manage but now I understand a lot better.

      1. blink14*

        Glad to hear this! If someone doesn’t realize they have this issue – or they do and don’t manage it well – it can be a tough conversation. I had some snapping moments in my early 20s where I totally knew this was happening to me and my family wasn’t taking it seriously – even though some of them struggle with it, it can be genetic. My family finally realized that it is a really serious thing for me.

        Biggest tip – snacks everywhere. In your bag, your husband’s work bag or desk space, car, etc. You get to a point where literally you will eat anything. If its true hypoglycemia, that also comes along with feeling dizzy, shaky, issues concentrating, vision trouble, etc. Its not a fun time.

  34. Lisa Simpson*

    Op 1: it sounds like it might be hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). When J don’t eat or don’t eat well, mine drops and I turn into a nightmare, so i maintain a strict eating schedule.

  35. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    #1 The Hangry Worker.

    I had a friend like this and she turned into a weird super ranting bitch when she was hungry and once she ate, she returned to her regular sunny self…and I think she was clueless. When I saw it the first time, I was rather stunned by the very odd rant she spewed out (thankfully not at me or about me) and the next time we were scheduled to spend hours together and I learned she had skipped breakfast, I cheerfully suggested we get some before the event started. Weird behaviour avoided but really, it should not be up to me to manage her this way.

    And, it’s not up to the salon manager to manage this either, by this I mean actually eating. But it is up to the manager to manage the situation if the behaviour affects the business. I echo what was said above: wait for a time when you know she’s still in a good place (and fed) and point out the problematic behaviour (but not the lack of eating) and say it’s got to be managed better or stop altogether.

    People develop bad habits. People get into a work zone and forget to eat. It could even be food insecurity but the behaviour is an issue that impacts her clients and the first step is to get her to recognize her own behaviour, to own it and then to try to fix it.

    1. blink14*

      This! I am the very aware hangry person, and I think sometimes people just aren’t aware of how their mood can shift dramatically when they need to eat.

      1. Lord Gouldian Finch*

        Heck isn’t this the whole angle on those Snickers ads? (Not that I am endorsing Snickers(tm) candies as a solution to this, it’s just how they’re marketing them).

        1. blink14*

          it SO is! And that’s totally how I feel – like a monster has taken over and then you eat a Snickers and its all good, hah! Seriously though, it is a good visualization of it.

    2. Betty (the other betty)*

      I would even add that the manager should mention “This seems to happen when you haven’t eaten. I know that some people get ‘hangry’ when their blood sugar drops. It’s ok to grab a bite to eat in the back” (or whatever can be offered to make sure the stylists knows when and where she can grab a snack).

      Then realize that in the middle of an episode, the stylist may not be capable of understanding that food is the key to helping her behave professionally. Depending on their relationship, the manager can ask the stylist if it’s ok to remind her to have a snack when needed.

      My son is a classic hangry person. He is a whole different person when his blood sugar drops (and most of the time, he’s not even feeling hungry). He is also irrational when it happens, and it took a lot of work for him to be able to recognize that he needs to eat something…now! Seriously, I’ve know this and have been providing snacks forever (just put this granola bar in your pocket for later!) but he’s just now figuring it out and he is about to graduate college.

  36. 867-5309*

    OP4, you should exhausted so it also okay if even thought of writing the short Q&A that Alison suggest feels like too much for you right now. If there is a trade association or online article by someone in your field, you can also share that instead, if it helps you to feel helpful.

    “I’m so sorry but my schedule has virtually no give right now. I’ve received many requests for these kinds of conversations and am directing people to [insert website or org name]. I hope this is useful to you, and best of luck!”

  37. theletter*

    OP3, there’s definitely ways to express interest in a promotion without applying for it.

    – make sure you’re meeting the requirements for the work you have now, plus a little extra
    – ask if you’re meeting your boss’s expectations now, or if there’s any work they’re waiting to give you b/c you’re ‘new’.
    – ask your manager what they would expect from someone at the next level.
    – look for training in the tasks required at that level.
    – ask about where/how improvements could be made that would benefit the whole team
    – ask if your boss thinks a promotion could be in your five-year plan
    – say that you’d like to apply for a promotion when the time is right, at your boss’s recommendation.

    1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      This is what I would do. It sounds like OP would come across as applying too early, but I think they could also try having a chat with the boss. “Hey boss, I know it’s a bit early for me to start applying for a promotion but I’m interested in the X role that has recently become open. Could you talk to me about what makes a good candidate for it and what I can work on for the future?”. Unless the boss is a jerk I’d ignore the mind games aspect for now.

    2. Premature3*

      Thanks! I’ve definitely done a number of these. The response is usually that there is some extra ephemeral quality, ie, “sophistication of understanding” that goes into being reclassified. My work “mentor” was passed up for the same promotion in favor of someone he hired and trained and had a year on, so I think the “not pissing someone off” part of this is important. But these are all great suggestions, so thanks!

  38. Hare under the moon with silver spoon*

    LW#4 – As always Alison’s answer is spot on. Would add if you are in a niche, seemingly glamorous role and you were leave a brief FAQ on Linkedin it can be a kindness to disabuse people of how fun it is – many people are not aware of sheer volume of training/mundanity/client chasing involved of many so called creative/fun jobs. Unfortunately the endless self promotion on social media means people can get a skewed idea of the real career paths/work life balance of, for example, illustrators and photographers, as they have to sell the idea of the job, themselves, their lifestyle, their career path as much as their actual work itself.

  39. Liz*

    LW #3: This may just be a matter of your boss not liking it when people start asking for promotions “prematurely”, it may not be a company policy and other managers could be ok with it precisely because it helps them know who is interested in advancement. Or, what your coworkers are telling you could be demonstrating that at this company the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If they only promote people who ask about it a lot and apply multiple times, then they could be worried about losing those people and that’s why they get promoted, eve if it’s “before their time”.

  40. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    OP #3, I’m going to read into this statement, let me know if I’m out to left field. “She even ranted to me once, calling those who express disappointment in not getting promoted as entitled and ridiculous.”

    I’m wondering if she’s trying to say that there are people who buy into the culture you further discuss and put their name in, and expect that the first time that they will be promoted and get upset when they do not? To me it sounds like you have a culture that you need to assert a few times that you want to be promoted before you actually can be promoted, and it sounds to me more like she doesn’t understand why people don’t pick up on the fact that just because you applied once means that you should get the position. Therefore, if I’m reading this corporate culture correctly, I would apply expecting to be turned down this go around, and make sure to make no comments to your manager about how you are bothered by not getting the promotion. Based on what you said, it sounds like you would understand why you might not get promoted the first time you apply, so I don’t see you complaining to your boss or doing the whole ‘miffed and not going to do my best work’ attitude. I’m betting people have that have worked with her, which is why she’s likely annoyed.

  41. Blaise*

    LW1: this is a really basic question, but do you have a fridge and microwave available so that people can easily bring their own lunch if they want to? If not, your stylist might not be able to get delivery, and might feel like she has no other options.

  42. TootsNYC*

    Letter #3:

    there are ways of expressing interesting in being promoted that aren’t as direct.
    “I’d like to move into a position like that–can I ask some advice about what it would take?”

    Or, “I’m going to apply for that promotion. I know it’s a little early, but this is such a great chance to get some practice interviewing and some information about how that role is viewed, and get those interviewers used to seeing me.”

    You can express interest in it happening without framing it as something you think you should get right now.

  43. Potatoes gonna potate*

    I’m Type 2 diabetic and I get two types of lows: hangry where I haven’t eaten, and just super low when I don’t want to eat but have to take something to get my sugar back up again. I’m lucky I had a job where my boss was understanding when I said I had to sip some soda or juice first before I could do anything (it rarely happened though). Doesn’t matter what the reason is, there’s no excuse for worker to be angry and taking their bad mood out on anyone else.

  44. Keymaster of Gozer*

    LW1: story that some here will have heard from me before:

    Back in my early 20s I was seriously injured in an accident. It’s left me with a disability and chronic pain issues. When the pain got bad, I’d stop eating, drinking, and would lash out at everyone in a 15 mile radius because how dare they not be as miserable as me?

    Until my then boss took me aside and told me quite seriously that my behaviour was inexcusable. I had to do whatever was needed to sort myself out so I wasn’t ripping people’s heads off like I was in Labyrinth. They’d offer help where they could but the behaviour had to stop. Now.

    First, I was angry. Then I went home and cried a lot. I had been thoroughly unpleasant and downright unprofessional in hindsight. But he’d said quite clearly that there were no excuses for the behaviour that would allow it to continue so…I kinda had to find a solution.

    And we worked one out! I’d go see a pain management specialist and a therapist, and promise to leave the office for 5 minutes if I felt angry, and they’d help find resources if I needed it. I also started making sure I sorted the food/water thing myself (not going into details, not relevant)

    It worked. I really do owe a lot of my professional life to that one guy telling me that my behaviour wasn’t acceptable.

  45. CupcakeCounter*

    Why not go to your boss and say “I know it is too early for a promotion but the X role that is currently open is exactly where I want to go next in my career. What can I do over the next months/year or so to make myself a top candidate for it next time?”
    This way you are expressing interest while complying with the direct, clear information you are getting from your boss.

    1. Premature3*

      This is normally great advice, but I ask for critique near constantly (1-2x per month) and the response is “oh you’re doing fine.” But I wonder if this could be a sort of in-between solution if I figure out how to word it well??

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        It might be more productive since you’ll have a specific goal and role in mind. Asking for open ended feedback might be a bit too vague for your boss, but asking how you stack up against an existing role might make it easier for them to see where you are good and where you need more experience etc.

  46. Nobody is the stylist’s punching bag.*

    #2, as someone who gets hangry and emotionally dysregulated, I tell you that, since your offers of help have been shot down more than once, the ball is in her court. She’s also not helping herself by choosing to not learn how to use an app or taking the time to plan. You tell her what you need done. How she gets it done is her responsibility. There’s no excuse for verbally and emotionally abusing others.

      1. Pretzelgirl*

        Delete if you want….
        I learned this too. My husband was tired of my hangry-ness and I was too. That meme that says “I am sorry for what I said when I was hungry” was really true for me. I would get so angry and then feel terrible afterwards for how I acted after. So I knew it was time to start managing it better. So I bring snacks with me everywhere. Especially if we are going to be somewhere without access to food. I spend time figuring out what helps keep me full and my blood sugar up. It also helped I put on some weight and I don’t get as hangry anymore. I wouldn’t call myself obese but I am not longer incredibly thin. But everyone is different, my situation may different from the employee in this letter. The important thing is finding out what works for you and your body.

  47. learnedthehardway*

    LW#4 – I really sympathize about your issue with being asked to network all the time. I’m in an industry where networking is a huge issue, even in good times. It’s absolutely impossible to deal with the number of requests, right now. I could just about wring the neck of whoever decided to put out a note on LinkedIn to the effect that they were open to networking conversations from anyone in their network and to just contact them for help. Now everyone seems to be copying that same note, and the volume of networking requests has gone off the scale.

    I’m in a similar situation as you – I can’t help anyone in my industry, I can’t help people break into my industry, and I don’t know of any open opportunities (except the ones I’m directly responsible for, which the people who contact me are invariably not qualified).

    I’m liking Alison’s advice to have a script available that you can copy and paste into response emails, together with a note that the volume of work you’re responsible for right now precludes an actual conversation.

  48. JSPA*


    I’d apply, but give your boss a heads-up. Something like,

    “I wanted to let you know that I have applied for the X position, even though 9 months is awkwardly soon to apply for a promotion. I’m mindful of your comments about moving too fast. I’m primarily throwing my hat in the ring to get practice and perhaps some feedback, as I see myself moving in that direction eventually. I wanted to let you know my thinking, so you don’t think I’m unhappy here, or planning to sulk at being passed over.”

    There’s a big difference between “trying” and “sulking when it doesn’t work.” Sulking is always going to be unprofessional and gross. Someone sulking when they are passed over at the 9 month mark adds “ridiculous” and “entitled” and “lacking perspective” and “hugely tiresome” to that list of adjectives.

    If your boss wants you to focus on the job you now have and on being professional and collegial it does not follow that she’s necessarily opposed to you also doing some level of career development and practice.

    1. Premature3*

      This makes sense. I don’t know if there really was sulking! It’s hard to tell. But, I consider myself very mature and usually loathe to bring any personal feelings in. The reality at this job is that 9 months is a bit early, but not crazy early-someone just got promoted with 12 months. I appreciate this advice!

  49. HR Parks Here*

    LW3, it depends. I have worked places where their was a policy that stated that you had to be in your current role for 1 yr before being eligible for other roles. As an HR manager, however, I want the best person for the job. If I already have an amazing candidate inhouse, how long they have been there seems too legalistic to not act on.

    Also, if you do decide to apply to show interest…that’s how I would take it if I saw you applied after being at the company for a short time, watch your back. you stated “My manager has made it clear she despises those who ask about promotion too early.” I once had a manager who waited 15 years to finally get promoted to the position she had ( I would have switched companies personally if promotion took that long) I was there a year when her position opened and I overheard her on the phone talking about me after I applied for the job she was vacating stating, vehemently ” you don’t get to just walk in her and be a manager after a year” She also resented me for being a single mother who achieved the same level of education and career aspirations as her when she thought her only option to career success was to forgo children. Lets just say she derailed my career out of spite after that and I had to leave that company to have any chance at not being pigeon holed.

    1. Premature3*

      That sounds similar to my situation! There are rumors she resents women with my degree, as well, although I hate to base my career on rumors. But it makes it tricky to know when I’m going to “cross” her.

      1. HR Parks Here*

        My suggestion would be to gain some political allies. Looking back on my situation, the friend of my enemy is my friend so to speak could have helped. In other words if I had some relationship (professional of course) with more influential people in the company, they may have stepped in to stop her or knew the poison she poured into her bosses ear or anyone higher up about me was false.
        Eh, its been awhile but it still stings. I had to relocate to another state for a different position and am still not where I would be salary wise if she hadn’t kicked me in the face on her way up the career ladder instead of reaching her hand down to help me up. Funny, I don’t think some people are introspective enough to se how they project their own insecurities on to others or just how ugly the green eyed monster makes them behave.

  50. JSPA*

    OP #1: I have a (genetic, currently inadequately addressed) circadian rhythm disorder.

    I get slow and stumbly and stupid and irritable when the sleep wave hits. If I eat, it may shift the timing, or it may just leave me with undigested food in my stomach (so add a stomachache to the other issues). This is a genetic thing. It’s not common enough that it is in any way directly likely for your employee; but it’s yet another example of, “the most likely scenario is not the only scenario.”

    Same’s true for digestive disorders (or heck, “morning sickness / it’s not just for mornings!”); if she’s having to rush to the toilet after eating, she can’t fix the overall situation by throwing down a granola bar and continuing to work.

    Going in with, “this behavior can’t continue, what can we both do, to make it not happen” is therefore the right answer. Scheduling a 45 minute floating snooze break or a more extended “eat and account for consequences” break or scheduling her for 6 days worth of 6 hour days or whatever may be needed to fix the problem, if “just eat an X” isn’t an option. Adequate medical care for all would also be great; but that’s a different topic.

  51. Baxterthedog*

    I had a hangry co worker and it was the WORST. I tend to get a bit hangry myself so I pack a lunch. Every day she would go ON and ON and ON about how hungry she was. She had a lot of flaws in generally but this certainly wasn’t helping anyone’s productivity. After months and months I just wanted to yell “Well bring a lunch then!” It can be such a daily distraction and really ruins the mood.

  52. Bibliovore*

    LW 4- the phrase that someone used and I have made my own is ” I am sure that you will understand that I am unable to to help/serve/volunteer/meet/consult right now on project x/committee y/ opportunity z/connection A because I am at capacity due to the pandamic”

    1. Bibliovore*

      oh AND… I have a unique position that for me IS the dream job and many would love to have. The problem is that my path is SO odd, SO unique that no one could have ever followed in it. In addition to that I have discovered those who want to know “how I got here” express an unwillingness (and who can blame them) to work for crappy wages and 20 years in the trenches working nights and weekends.

    2. JSPA*

      This leaves open the “ask again after Covid.” Not necessrily wrong, but it may help to be more substantive. Something like,

      “Path-wise, I dove into a wormhole that opened in front of me then closed as I passed through. More generally, my advice is to consider ahead of time exactly how frugally you are willing to live, so you know what to do when you run into a job that fits like a glove but doesn’t pay much. Beyond that, I’m sorry, but on top of not being able to offer much more insight in general, I’m also [insert your text here].”

  53. Quill*

    #1 I agree with Alison that keeping the solution based on “this is the problem behavior, this is a suggestion I have to solve it” but I’d like to point out some other possiblities that I hope you’ll take into consideration when planning solutions.

    The attitude change could be due to pain or fatigue as well as hunger. Enough people are light or noise sensitive, or have trouble standing or stooping for long periods, and don’t necessarily know the root cause of their declining mood, that it’s worth keeping in mind.

    1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I don’t think any of those possibilities change the basic advice, though. If the stylist is having trouble dealing with the realities of the job without being a cranky mess then they need to evaluate their options and stop acting out at work.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, I just want OP to remember that there are other possible solutions rather than getting hung up on “it’s obviously the food,” when it comes time to talk to the employee.

  54. Lady Heather*

    LW4, as a “middle ground”, you might also like offering to answer one/two questions via email.

    3/4 people won’t respond because they aren’t interested enough to formulate clear questions, aren’t interested enough to have done research to narrow down what they want to know, or didn’t really have any questions.

    The small amount of people who are genuinely interested, you can then respond to by giving a short or short-ish answer to their question.
    (Or if their questions are too broad, you can reply with “That’s very broad, can you narrow down your question?”.)

    Also, if a question is “How did you get into llama fashion photography?”, it’s fine to reply “My first job was developing film in a darkrooms, and llamas look great in 1960s dresses, so it kind of went from there”!
    You are – if you offer to answer questions – responsible for answering questions. You are not responsible for giving career guidance, or for encouraging them to move their career to llama fashion, or for helping them get started there, or for telling them what they want to hear.
    Try to see if you can separate the two – “they want my job but my job sucks and I want to be helpful but I can’t really help”, and “they are asking for my time and energy, am I willing to offer my time and energy and if so, how much and under what conditions?”.

    There’s a lot of middle ground.

    And “No, thanks, I’m too busy” is, of course, also a totally okay reply.

  55. Formerly Ella Vader*

    #1. I saw that the OP#1 speculated about one possible reason the stylist might seem to be cranky because of not eating, guessed that the behaviour wasn’t consistent with an eating disorder, and wants to figure out how to respond having reassured herself that she isn’t being insensitive about one possible medical explanation.

    I do think it’s useful to have a bit of private guessing (what if it’s this, what if it’s that) before talking to the worker, although I agree with Alison and others that the root causes are none of your business, and even if the stylist chooses to disclose something it’s not for you to advise how the stylist should solve the problem.

    My private guessing would also include things like – what if the stylist is often/sometimes short of money to order takeout, short of time to pack lunch, suffers from something like IBS or unidentified sensitivities that make it sometimes feel worse to eat than not eat, lives with people who often take the last of the lunch things, isn’t actually hungry in the afternoons but suffering from lack of sleep, is pregnant, has a bad back, is troubled about daycare arrangements or a sick parent … None of those are things you should ask about or make her feel like she needs to tell you about, and none of them are things you should be advising her on how to deal with. But if you have those options in your head, that will help you be sensitive and ask open ended questions, like Alison suggested.

    I do wonder if you could mention that the behaviour problems you’ve observed have always happened late in the afternoon, and bring up the possibility of schedule changes. Would she like to try earlier or later shifts, to have an hour blacked out in the schedule so that even if an early treatment runs over she gets a break, or to re-evaluate any salon rules you have about staying on site during breaks. And if you don’t provide a quiet breakroom where the stylists can be uninterrupted and socially distanced while eating, maybe you could?

  56. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Maybe she can’t eat, doesn’t want to, whatever. But you can regulate that with having soda or juice around as well. I know this from my own personal eating disorder which makes eating at school or work formally impossible before treatment. Fun fact, just because someone doesn’t look anorexic doesn’t mean they’re not, nobody guessed it looking at me.

    Regardless, it’s best not to assume someone has a disorder! Just tell her the attitude has to be fixed or she’ll need to find another place to work. It’s seriously all about the behavioral issues and if they want to give background information to why they go down that path of bad behavior, that’s on them. Excuses or not, they shouldn’t be allowed to be there if they’re getting sloppy, they’re going to hurt someone. That’s how someone gets chemicals spilled on them or burnt by wax or a nip on the ear, etc.

  57. Jennifer Juniper*

    Since you don’t have a policy against eating on the floor, OP, I don’t see why your employee doesn’t bring lunch from home, even if it’s just a PB&J and a piece of fruit.

    There are literally tons of things this woman can bring from home that require no prep, like prepared salad bowls, cheese and cracker packs, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.

    You’ve even offered this woman granola bars from the break room!

    I’d see if this is part of a general pattern of martyrbating. If it is, that would be a bigger problem than this lady being too disorganized to pack a lunch!

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