staff doesn’t say thank you, reference checker only wanted to hear about “exceptional” candidates, and more

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

1. Our staff doesn’t acknowledge the ways we’re trying to make them feel appreciated

I am a partner at a small (15-person) organization that has transitioned to remote work relatively easily since COVID. But, like lots of companies, one of our challenges has been finding ways to make employees feel appreciated and connected while we’re physically apart. We’ve tried a variety of things, including virtual happy hours, extra time off, early bonuses, small fun gifts, gift cards, and funds for happy hour supplies or a meal out. While a handful of employees say thank you every time, more than half never even acknowledge either the bonuses or the gifts. (This lack of acknowledgement of bonuses was an issue even pre-pandemic).

I enjoy working with this group and feel that we generally have a very friendly office and enjoy each other’s company, but this drives me nuts. My internal monologue keeps saying, “A simple thank you would be nice,” even just occasionally.

For context, the senior team is three people who are late 40’s, early 50s and the rest of the team is millennials, but are all experienced professionals. Is this a generational thing? I think calling people out on this would probably backfire, the longer it goes on the harder it is not to hold a grudge.

It’s not a generational thing! It’s that your employees probably see this as stuff you’re doing for the business, not as personal favors to them. And they’re right! That’s how you should look at it too. These initiatives are to keep people engaged, happy, and motivated, right? And the reason you want to do that is because it keeps your organization healthy and well-functioning. I’m sure you’re also a kind person who wants the people you work with to feel appreciated … but ultimately this stuff is driven by the business’s interests in engagement and retention, and that’s okay!

It’s great that you’re being thoughtful and working to make employees feel connected. That is work that can feel thankless (like much of management in general). But just as you wouldn’t expect people to thank you for their salaries or their time off (hopefully!), you also shouldn’t expect them to thank you for corporate initiatives. Some people will and it’s nice when they do — but you shouldn’t hold it against people who don’t. These aren’t gifts in a personal relationship! (I suspect it feels more like that to you because it’s such a small organization, which means you probably know people personally and talk to them a lot. But this is still business and so business norms, not social ones, still govern.)

All that said, it’s worth checking in with people to make sure that the initiatives you’re using are the right ones and having the effect you want. Not as a roundabout way of hearing “thank you,” but because it’s possible that people really want X when you’re giving them Y. (Probably not in this case because you’ve included money and time off, two highly popular options, but it’s still worth checking. Who knows, maybe the thing that would make the biggest impact on their happiness is “solve the bottleneck with accounting” or “stop sending us urgent work at 6 pm when you knew about it all day.” It’s always worth asking.)

2. Reference checker only wanted me to call if the candidate was “exceptional”

I agreed to serve as a reference for someone I used to supervise (who is great, I keep trying to hire him back), and got an email from a recruiter at the company that I wanted to run by you: “Jamison is interviewing for the Manager of Things position at Our Cool Company and gave us your email as reference. I’m sure you don’t have time to do a call so please disregard this email unless you found his work EXCEPTIONAL. But if he was exceptional, kindly respond and let us know with detail why.”

I have never gotten an email like this before, and it to me seems like a red flag — they’re not really doing any work to check his references, plus there’s a typo and the all caps word. All things told, had I not been on the look-out for a reference check, I might have disregarded this as spam.

I’ve seen all-email or fill-out-the-form references before, which I don’t love, but that’s clearly a thing that happens. Is this “don’t reply unless…” format a new trend? Wouldn’t a good recruiter want to hear the why of an almost-but-not-quite reference? It feels lazy to me — takes more of my time and less of the recruiter’s.

I certainly plan to respond with a strong endorsement of Jamison’s work, but I’m wondering if I should also say something to Jamison about this odd email (if in fact you think it is odd.) He’s had a couple experiences with bad managers in the last few years, and I think he is really looking for a good one.

I don’t think it’s a big red flag (though you can certainly mention it to Jamison and let him decide). But it’s not a good way to check references. References shouldn’t just be pass/fail; they should be nuanced. A glowing reference for one type of position could be a less great reference for another. Good reference checkers want to hear that nuance. Plus, if they don’t hear back from you, they just conclude the candidate isn’t good? What if you missed the email or are on vacation? What if you work for a company that strictly enforces a rule against managers giving references? (Hopefully in that case you’d write back and explain that, but some people won’t.)

Also, what bad info might they miss out on that they’d actually want to hear? If you don’t respond because the candidate embezzled and thus is not EXCEPTIONAL, they’ll never learn about the embezzling — and if his other references all loved him, that’s all they’re going to hear about.

I think the intent is in part to take less of everyone’s time (you don’t need to respond at all unless you’re gung ho about the person). But it’s lazy and missing the point of reference checking.

3. When can I list new hobbies on my resume?

I am in the process of making improvements in my life, and I’ve been seeing consistency in some of my new hobbies whereas before I would flake. I’ve kept up my Duolingo streak, I’m beta reading a friend’s novel, and I’m meeting word goals I set for myself on my own writing. All of these habits I’ve been keeping up with for about a month. It feels too soon to put them on a resume (one of my life improvement goals is to get out of retail work), but when would be the appropriate time?

Those are things that probably will never go on your resume because they’re not professional accomplishments in the resume sense. The exception is language proficiency; if you reach a point where you’re genuinely proficient (which will probably require going beyond Duolingo), you can include that on your resume.

The other things are valuable, but not really resume-worthy. If you start beta reading for multiple people and it becomes a sort of side business, that’s something you could list. If your own writing gets published, that’s something you can list (although even then it may only make sense to include if it strengthens your candidacy for the particular jobs you’re applying for).

If I’m misunderstanding and you’re proposing listing these not as work or skills, but in a Hobbies section, that’s different! In that case, you can list them as hobbies as soon as you feel like they’ve got staying power — don’t include them if you’re not confident you’ll still be doing them if an interviewer asks you about them in three months. You don’t need a Hobbies section, but there’s nothing wrong with having one.

4. Personal appointments during lunch breaks for teachers

I’m a middle school teacher and teach virtually. Without giving too much detail, we get a one-hour duty-free lunch each day (all students have lunch at this time too). I usually run out to get lunch or run errands close by. No big deal. Recently I went out to get my eyebrows done. I finished within 30 minutes and returned to school. A parent at my school spotted me and was upset (I don’t know them, nor have I ever taught their kids.)

It was clarified to her that this was my lunch break. I tried to give my boss the heads-up in case anyone said anything and he was weird about it. He basically said stared after me for a long time and then said, “But it was your lunch, right?” Then we had a conversation about what he referred to as perception.

He’s new to our school and I’ve been here a long time. No attendance issues and good evals. Am I over-thinking this? Should he have had my back? My receipt shows I paid and left well within the hour. I know parents are not happy with distance learning, but teachers deserve a lunch break.

Yeah, he should have had your back. It was your lunch break. It’s up to you if you want to spend it eating a seven-course meal or skip lunch entirely and get your eyebrows done. (That assumes the parent was upset to see you off school grounds doing something personal during the school day. If her objection was that having your eyebrows done is an unnecessary risk to take right now … well, she’s not wrong, but it’s still not something your employer should be interfering in.)

That said, teachers are notoriously subject to all sorts of judgments about their out-of-work behavior, judgments that would never fly in other professions. So your principal isn’t wrong that perception is a thing — but he still should shut down parental complaints about a teacher daring to use her lunch break for personal errands.

5. Resume accomplishments that don’t make clear what your job is all about

You often advise job seekers to use their resumes to list accomplishments, rather than job duties. How does a candidate share their accomplishments while also making clear what their position entails? If I were to only list my accomplishments, it wouldn’t be clear what my position was responsible for doing.

One way to do it is to have your first bullet point under that job summarize the job in a single sentence, then use the rest of your bullet points to talk about your accomplishments. And that summary in the first bullet point doesn’t need to be exhaustive; just cover the most important things.

{ 645 comments… read them below }

  1. Megan*

    Completely agree with your point in Question 1. During COVID in particular, my work place is doing all these “fun” activities and morale boosters and I look like a scrooge but you know what would boost my morale? Sustainable case loads. Working IT. etc. not “let’s sit around and talk about positive things from the day” or “let’s all bring in baby photos and guess who is who!”

      1. Keith*

        LW1: has anyone on the team rage-quit in the past 6 months? There’s your thanks.

        LW3: i happened to put several year participation in a regional charity bike ride on my resume in a hobbies and interests line, and it was an ice breaker in the interview for my current job as the hiring VP also participates in the ride, so list em if you’re ready to talk about em.

        1. TheLayeredOne*

          LW1: has anyone on the team rage-quit in the past 6 months? There’s your thanks.

          This made me laugh. LW, the perks your company is providing do sound great! My company gave us all an extra week of PTO this year and I really appreciated it. My way of saying “thanks” is to continue working diligently and *making the company money* during a months-long global pandemic and despite huge, stressful changes to my home life.

          1. Momma Bear*

            We also received a week of PTO and let me tell you that was more appreciated than just about anything right now.

        2. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

          Apparently I should put my several years’ participation in a regional charity bike ride on my resume, too!

          I have gotten comments on my military reserve service in interviews, so I keep it on there even though it’s been more than 20 years. That said, I don’t know if it’s ever gotten (or prevented me from getting) an interview or a job.

    1. Massmatt*

      I rolled my eyes when the LW got into the “they’re millennials “ stereotype. I’m in my 50’s and don’t thank my employer for this sort of stuff either. Do you thank your employees at the door for coming into work each day? These morale boosters may be helpful, but they are helpful for the *business*.

      1. Mookie*

        Indeed. This is a “management” distinction, not a age-based cohort one. Chances are favorable our present-day middle-aged to senior professionals weren’t effusive in their gratitude when the shoe was on the other; if age has any bearing, it’s that compensation + benefits + labor rights enshrined in law have all shrunk and do not meet the needs nor the times. But, yeah, virtual happy hour. Right.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, me too. I’m in my late 40s so solidly gen X, but this millennial bashing is getting old so fast…

        1. Slinky*

          No kidding. At age 38, I am an older millennial. Getting painted with the “entitled” brush as I approach 40 wears thin.

        2. BBA*

          Love to see the ghost of “millennial are thankless, entitled brats who get everything handed to them yet they care not for the labor of others” haunting the nightmarescape of 2020

        3. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          I’m the baby boomer mother of a 35 year old millennial, and even I’m sick of this shizz!

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I am chuckling. Employees show thank you, they don’t say it.

        OP, if you aren’t getting thanked, I would say that is pretty normal. Additionally, if you want to do something actually meaningful make sure your employees are taken care of on a day to day basis. Bosses should be saying thank you to subordinates at random times. Toxic bosses and toxic cohorts should be shown the door. Employees should see on-going concern that they have the equipment and resources they need to do their jobs. In the end, your thanks is you have a group of people who are willing to walk barefoot across burning coals to get their jobs done for you. That is what thanks looks like.

          1. Autumnheart*

            And if these morale-boosters and events are intended to thank the employees, then why would they thank you in response to your thanks? At some point someone has to stop saying “Thank you”. And yeah, the thanks is the engaged workforce that prioritizes your business in their lives, and the profit margin.

            That being said, if OP is feeling like they’re doing good work that isn’t getting acknowledged, maybe OP needs a little morale-boosting. But OP is a partner instead of an employee, so that has to be organized by OP and peers. It can’t come from the bottom to the top. But you can do something for yourselves.

      4. Le Sigh*

        As an elder millennial, same. I have thanked my boss on several occasions, especially if I know she went to bat for something (getting my staffer a better raise, giving me some grace during a family crisis). I do appreciate a lot of what our executive team tries to do and it sounds like LW is working hard to find ways to support the team. But also, sometimes this is part of being management. LW’s letter has a little bit of the tone of “why can’t these employees kiss my feet and thank me for all of my hard work!” I mean, this the job! I know that’s probably not what they mean, but falling into the lazy stereotype of generation blaming isn’t helping anything.

        1. another Hero*

          I (millennial, not that it matters) often thank my boss for, like, helping me solve a problem or offering her feedback on something I’m proposing to do–actual face-to-face things–because I appreciate the perspective, even though it’s her job to give it, and I Ilike being reasonably polite in my interpersonal interactions. I don’t thank her for my *income*! Op wanting to be thanked for bonuses, in particular, is wild to me; there’s a groveling energy in the idea of doing that. Staff aren’t thanking op for the bonuses not bc they don’t appreciate them but bc they correctly aren’t viewing them as personal gifts motivated by generosity but as business expenses with business motivations–and almost certainly, considering the bonuses are regular and not covid-specific, as something they’ve earned. I assume op doesn’t expect to be thanked when they take vacation days.

      5. oranges*

        In all the ways that “THAT’S WHAT THE MONEY’S FOR” applies to employees not expecting constant thanks for doing their job, “THAT’S WHAT THE WORK’S FOR” applies to employers not expecting thanks for investing in the moral of their workforce.

      6. Amber*

        Yeah. I had a boss who would thank me all the time for doing the basics of my job, and I found it demeaning and insulting. I don’t want to be thanked for doing my job, I want to be treated like an adult with professional respect.

      7. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

        My manager kept mentioning millenials to me in private conversations. He and I are closer in age to each other, and the rest of the team skews much younger. I only lightly pushed back on it. Eventually he stopped regardless.

        1. TMP*

          Yes! I don’t show up for a Thank You. I show up for the $$. I do try to have good manners and thank people when they do something nice for me. If a boss gave me a personal gift that would certainly rank a thank you. But, generic “gifts” to the whole company falls in the category of salary/benefit of working there – not really a gift.

      8. Anon for Today*

        Word – the millennials as entitled brats is extremely old. Many people of various generations can act entitled and selfish at work. The vast majority of the gen z’s and millennials that I work with are well-adjusted professionals.

    2. Snow Globe*

      I think the LW should remember that the purpose of these activities is to “make employees feel appreciated.” So the bonuses and gift cards, etc., are basically ‘thank you’ gifts. There is no need for employees to thank you for a gift that was intended to thank *them*.

        1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

          That’s not how it works in the non-work world. E.g. when someone hosts you for a few days in their home, you should send a thank you note and (at least some say) a gift. Then the host should reply to the gift with a thank you note. You don’t have to then thank them for the note, nor does the host have to reply to a gift with a gift. Either of those would be an endless cycle. But yes, the host should thank the guest for the gift.

          1. Filosofickle*

            Huh. While acknowledging I can be out of step with norms on gifts & thank yous, I would never think to send a written thank-you note for a guest’s thank-you gift. Why? I don’t see the gift as different than if they just sent a note, period. Either way they are thanking me, and I don’t need to thank the thanks. (And now thank looks like a made up word.)

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            If the gift is given in the presence of the giver, a verbal thank-you is enough, there is no need to write a note. These situations aren’t really analogous, though. A host and a guest are exchanging social graces; an employer and employee have a fee-for-service arrangement.

            I find thank yous for things like OP#1 describes sporadic, but I’m not offended by not receiving one because the employee is not a friend or a social acquaintance that received a gift of kindness. It’s from an employer trying to keep their workforce’s morale from tanking.

      1. Mockingjay*

        “So the bonuses and gift cards, etc., are basically ‘thank you’ gifts.”

        Sums it up perfectly.

      2. BethDH*

        This is important.
        I also think it is often work that the manager does on top of regular, more official-feeling job tasks, so maybe OP feels like they should be thanked by someone for putting in extra during COVID craziness. That’s an okay feeling, but if it’s that then the company (as represented by OP’s own manager or the owner) should be thanking OP, not the employees. And of course it goes back to the point about management being a thankless task.
        I just wonder if this is less about thank yous in general and more OP feeling like everyone else is getting appreciated and not them.

      3. Washi*

        Exactly! I actually think the things OP lists generally sound good to me, particularly bonuses and days off. Maybe not everything would be my cup of tea, but you can’t please everyone (someone below said they wouldn’t appreciate a gift card because their spouse would just spend it!) and that’s probably why the company is trying to do a variety of things.

        I work at a Jewish organization that gives us candy on certain holidays and it always puts a smile one my face! But it’s actually never even occurred to me to track down whoever put the candy in my staff mailbox and say thank you. OP, as long as your company is already a functional place to work and you’re not laying people off one minute and handing out gift cards the next, people probably do appreciate some of the stuff you’re doing. It just probably doesn’t occur to them to say thank you for the thank you.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          someone below said they wouldn’t appreciate a gift card because their spouse would just spend it!

          It’s not that I wouldn’t appreciate it, it’s that it wouldn’t impact me.

          1. Washi*

            Fair enough! I’ve certainly let my share of gift cards expire over the years, they don’t really do it for me either :)

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              I didn’t even think of that angle… “We have to go to Wal-Mart this week because we got a gift card. If it expires, the Waltons win!”

            2. Environmental Compliance*

              My mother is notorious for this! To the point where all gift cards are stored by my dad, who will remind her of which ones are still there and needing to be used….and when she inevitably forgets again, will use them for her.

              Somewhat a win-win, because the cards still get used, Mom 100% forgets that they existed, Dad gets to use up the Home Depot ones, and buys her Lane Bryant while he’s out, and then she’s all excited he bought her stuff. (This is a constant source of entertainment for all us childrens.)

              I think at one point she had $1500 in gift cards just… in her dresser. We were amazed that the majority of them still worked.

              All this to say – yeah, gift cards aren’t for everyone. We give away a lot of the restaurant ones especially, and I tend to give away (or make my spouse use) the clothing store ones.

              Bonuses, extra PTO are both great options. Making sure I’m not drowning in work? Even better.

              1. Tidewater 4-1009*

                This is why the best gift cards are Visa or Mastercard, because they can be used anywhere like cash.
                I still have a coffee gift card from two years ago. Coffee upsets my stomach and the tea choices at most shops don’t work either. If I ever use it, it will be to go with a friend and get a cup of hot water to go with my teabag.

                1. Jen*

                  One note about VISA or Mastercard gift cards is that they start to depreciate a set time after they’re activated, so if you have one that hasn’t been used in a while, it’s a good idea to double-check its balance.

            3. lemon*

              My problem with gift cards is that they’re often for places I’d never go. At a previous job, I was given gift cards for Cheesecake Factory, a popular local pizza place, and a popular local Mexican restaurant. I appreciate the thought, but I’m on a specific diet and can’t really eat anything at those places, so I ended up giving them away. Now, prepaid debit cards that can be used basically everywhere are a different story. Those are always appreciated.

              1. Assistant Manager*

                Once, during an employee appreciation giveaway, a department head won a $25 Victoria’s Secret gift card. Yeah, that wasn’t weird or problematic at all!

                I’ve been saying for some time that gift cards for these events should be kept very neutral. Places like Amazon, Target, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Starbucks, even Uber or a food delivery app. Not saying any or all these companies are perfect, but at least keep it to companies that are not explicitly gendered or specifically interest based.

                (I will note that the VS card beat the time that our great giveaway gifts were all from the Dollar Tree or useless junky generic “executive gifts” from holiday racks. Yeah, we feel really appreciated that time around!)

                1. Lunita*

                  I’d actually be annoyed to get a card to Walmart or Amazon because I purposely don’t shop at either place.

                2. Assistant Manager*

                  Lunita, if this is because of how employees are treated, the no gift card from a retail chain will make you happy. I’m saying that to be snarky or to derail this thread, but while Walmart and Amazon have terrible reputations, they are not that far outside the norm.

      4. AnonForThisOnly*

        I do think it depends on the org size somewhat. I’m at a big corp., so I don’t really think about thanking my department leaders for gifts. Great, so you spent some of the budget thanking us, esp. easy to do in a year where we have almost no business development travel overhead. It’s not that personal. I’ve thanked people for things like lunch in the past, and they sometimes say, “Ha, don’t thank me, thank Uncle [long-dead company founder].” It might be more personal in a 15-person org.

        1. JustaTech*

          Usually if we have a department lunch I’ll thank the person who I know did the ordering (the boss’s EA) rather than the boss himself.

      5. Rayray*

        Exactly. It’s generous and kind to do these things, but you’re right – it’s their thank you to their employees. If the employees are staying focused and getting their jobs done, I’d say that’s how they show appreciation to their employer. A verbal or written “Thank you so so much!” Every single time they get a perk or acknowledgement isn’t necessary.

      6. Anne Elliot*

        This was a very helpful reframing of the issue for me, thank you. I was really having trouble understanding the responses to the effect, “If you want us to be grateful, do other/different things for us!” I was definitely lining up with the OP on “Jeez, we did something nice for you, would it kill you to say ‘thank you’?” Understanding that the perk is itself a ‘thank-you’ that does not require an additional ‘thank YOU’ makes perfect sense.

      7. Butterfly Counter*

        THIS! OP sounds as though they want recognition for being nice, but the purpose isn’t just to be nice, it’s to improve morale and help the business retain workers. If that’s happening, you’ve reached your main goal and you shouldn’t expect a thank you for that.

        You want me to thank you for thanking me? Well then how about you thank me for thanking you for thanking me?

        Keep this up and it will just get ridiculous.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Who knows, maybe the thing that would make the biggest impact on their happiness is “solve the bottleneck with accounting” or “stop sending us urgent work at 6 pm when you knew about it all day.”

      Can’t +1 this enough. An extra $50 gift card would be nice, but my spouse would have it spent before it’s even known about. An extra day off is an extra day’s work I have to squeeze into the balance of the week (and probably a day’s work I have to roll back and redo right at my own peril).

      But to make me truly feel appreciated?
      Just listen to me. Please.

      Listen to me when I provide feedback that the work notebook is a pitfa that’s too small for desktop work and too big to claim to be mobile. Listen when I provide feedback that he new project is 200% more work than is necessary and only 25% of the desired benefit will be realized. Listen when I provide feedback that some employees are not “more equal” than others; enshrining that attitude burns my team out from boredom and their team out from workload. Listen when I provide feedback that I really did need that last free tool that was taken away to placate another team’s control fetish.

      Hell, even if you come back and explain in medium detail why nothing I fits into the your picture, that’d at least tell me that I’m still corporeal and sentient. Which I can’t buy for $50 or order during a virtual happy hour.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        This is a good point. Everyone knows money is important, and if people are underpaid, that’s the most important thing. But morale goes up when people are heard and their ideas and outputs are used.

      2. Coffee time!*

        yep dh etc just got a useless gift that shows no real thought towards who would get it. .you know generic stuff that you would recycle as a hostess gift for someone you didn’t really know or donate for gift basket somewhere. but that wouldn’t be needed this year w covid. He said had the thought of just leaving it in the office gathering dust to make a point. Why not be able to use his vacation time cus too much work and stress and being on the frontline with covid double standard. instead of getting something that just recreates more work for him to get rid of. not a gift.

    4. Firecat*

      You aren’t alone.

      I remember a prior boss of mine who complained at length about his team not saying thank you for all he does for them during a business travel stay. He listed a lot of perks: movie tickets, cake at staff meetings, and breakfast for certain morning meetings.

      After he looked at me expectedly I said:
      To be honest, movie tickets aren’t my thing. I actually still have the tickets you gave me last year. Usually I have to scramble to give them away.

      As for the cake – I never saw that as a perk. I thought it was a bribe to get staff to travel into the meeting? (Well yeah he admitted but a thanks would still be nice).

      As for the breakfasts, I didn’t attend those meetings. But I also only eat between 11am and 7pm as a rule so breakfast is notsomething I’d find as a perk.

      When I tried to approach some items I thought would actually be appreciated:
      Creating back ups for roles
      Holding certain team leads accountable for professionalism
      And addressing the widening rift between people who work in X and Y type roles… He hand waved it away as too expensive and interpersonal matters.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        My manager frequently texts that she’s running late because she’s stopping to pick up donuts for the office. And then when she gets here and puts the donuts in the kitchen, she goes from cubicle to cubicle telling people she brought donuts. And then she sends out an all staff email telling us there are donuts. And she really, really, really wants us to thank her for the donuts. I have GERD and can’t eat a lot of fried foods, so I almost never eat a donut when she brings them, but she stands there expectantly like she’s done something heroic waiting for me to thank her.

        You know what she could do to make me appreciate her? She could get here when we all expect her to and be available to help and support us when we need her. I don’t need donuts, I need a manager who has my back and is around when I need help.

      2. CoveredInBees*

        Yes! I want everything you mentioned and nothing your boss offered. Movies aren’t that pricey where I live. I can’t have sugar so cake and probably the breakfast (since I’m picturing various pastries and fruit) wouldn’t be helpful for me either. But make my daily work life easier? Yes, please.

        My old employer thought soggy sandwiches (that were always ham despite many Jewish and Muslim employees), cupcakes and lapel pins were a great way to say thank you. So great that we’d be required to attend during our entire lunch break and cram into a room way too small to accommodate all of us. When I started my job, there was a small collection of lapel pins in my desk. When I left, it had more than doubled. Literally no one in the office wanted them.

    5. Quill*

      Morale would be better if my job were more secure. No more worrying that stocks will go down due to a drug trial that isn’t all it’s hyped up to be and I’ll be let go in the middle of a pandemic.

      Another huge benefit would be if our bureaucratic partners would STOP MISPLACING MY PAPERS but that’s out of my company’s hands.

    6. JJ*

      Oh man, reading #1 I was like, this sounds exactly like an old job where they angrily took away the Friday happy hour because people would just take their beer to their desks and keep working instead of APPRECIATING THE NICE BEER GIFT (though not adjusting workloads enough that people actually had the time to spend socializing). That always baffled me like, you’re mad that people socialize for like 15 minutes and then *diligently go back to their desks to do more work for you*? It felt pretty bad to be chastised for that.

      OP, it is great that you’re making a strong effort to keep morale up, keep doing that! People probably appreciate it more than you think, but in the end I’d try to reframe it in your head as more of a business investment and less of a gift you should be thanked for.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I had one of those. We had Friday mandatory fun happy hours that were quite a lot of work, and responsibility for planning and hosting rotated through departments. The owners wanted us to LOVE it. Sometimes we did but not always. If it was a slow week, I looked forward to getting “free” time to shop and set up a party. But there were lots of Fridays when they would come to my department and beg everyone to come down but we were just trying to get our end-of-week work done so we could go home! (My department wasn’t decidedly not social, to boot. We were constantly letting the owners down with our lack of Fun Energy.) Worse, most of us had to drive through a mountain pass to get home so drinking then hitting the road wasn’t the best idea. The ice cream social event I created was unusually well attended, probably because it wasn’t so alcohol focused.

        1. JustaTech*

          That’s been my experience too, of people getting all irked that everyone doesn’t come to their “fun” thing when the organizers didn’t take everyone’s schedule into account. There is a whole group in my department that lives really, really far away and to beat traffic works like 7-3. (Now they also have to work Saturdays.) So of course none of them ever come to happy hour at 4 on Friday!

          I had a boss once who wanted to do Journal Club (ie everyone reads a scientific article and rips it to bits) at 5:30 on Fridays. “I’ll bring beer!” he said. “Everyone has gone home by 5, and only John likes beer. Maybe at lunch?” And that was the end of journal club.

    7. Keymaster of Gozer*

      My theory is some people just want to ‘fix’ this whole pandemic situation and return to situation as normal, so they’ll do any little thing that makes them feel like they’re making a difference for minimal effort. Such as refusing to wear masks/distance/clean (‘if we act like everything is normal then it will be’) or sending vouchers for online zoom meet-ups/drinks (‘it’ll make others happy’) or the dreaded ‘fun activities like a tour of your house!’.

      As you rightly say though, it’s ignoring the things that are actually causing problems with people, like overloading one person with work because others are on reduced hours/people to take care of, or not providing decent computer kit for home workers, or assuming everyone has more money since they’re not commuting…etc.

      Ask the staff what’s going to be appreciated and what isn’t first.

    8. Autistic AF*

      A former company asked staff what would make our day around Christmas a couple of years ago. Several people wanted a coffee, a closer parking space, etc. I wanted them to address a process issue that was causing my team a lot of grief. They made this big “look how great we are!” article on our intranet… and I didn’t even get the dignity of a response. I can buy my own coffee!

      1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        Back at ToxicJob, they had a big to-do about what management needed to do to improve things. They got all kinds of suggestions about fixing our awful phone system, reinstating long-abandoned reward programs, updating tech, sorting out confusing processes, etc. Did they act on any of that? Of course not. They added vanilla creamer to the break rooms and patted themselves on the back for it.

    9. John from IT*

      Also like, aren’t the gift cards, bonuses, etc. just a way for the COMPANY to say thank-you to the WORKERS? It’s really pretty goofy to expect a thank-you for a thank-you…

  2. Jen*

    Teacher, here: Allison is spot on about your principal, who should have your back. I am super-careful about perception, but that’s my own choice based on a tendency to overthink. (We get two “personal days” of PTO a year and I never use them for in-town outings, because it might “look funny” to parents.) My boss, though, knows that nitpicking folks is a good way to demoralize and burn out teachers, who generally spend a ton of time, emotion, and money that parents don’t perceive, either. You really don’t want teachers starting to be religious about the clock. I’ve seen teachers’ unions “work exact contract hours” as a sort of mini-strike, and the minimal teaching possible is ugly.

    1. Phil*

      I remember when I was about 8, my teacher would duck out at lunch to get take out, and would often be finishing off a bottle of Coke as we lined up to go to class. We as kids were a little envious that she got to leave school during the day, and then we forgot about it five minutes later and no parent (to my knowledge) made a big deal about it.

      Parents these days need to get a grip.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I grew up in a small town. We saw our teachers at church on Sunday, in the grocery store, etc. One teacher lived literally across the street from the school, we all knew she went home for lunch. We knew they were people with lives outside of school. Now if one were out drinking and carousing on a school night then showed up hung over the next day, then there might be talk. But running errands on their lunch hour, totally normal.

      2. Anne Elliot*

        When I was in high school (back when the earth cooled), freshman and sophomores were “restricted to campus” for lunch, meaning they had to stay on the school grounds and eat cafeteria food or sack lunches. Juniors and seniors were allowed “off campus” so if they chose, they could partake of the glories of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and the grocery store, all located in a shopping area across the street. It would never have occurred to anyone, parent or student, that TEACHERS were “restricted to campus” for their lunch hours — the very idea would have seemed ridiculous.

        1. Fish*

          On my first teaching placement a few years ago, I learned that it was a Friday tradition for all the teachers who had time to go and get cheesy chips for lunch at the pub around the corner from the primary school. However, no one wanted the pupils to hear the teachers talking about “going to the pub” during the school day so we all referred to it as “the bank” instead. As in, “Are you coming to the bank at lunchtime today?” Sounded dead boring to any kids that overheard, and we all found it endlessly amusing, and like we were getting away with a big secret :D

          1. Hula-la*

            I’m a teacher and we still do that. We call it the “library” or a “poetry reading”, and when I was first teaching, I was really confused as to why all my colleagues were heading to the library after school on a Friday.

    2. Kimmybear*

      Remember those kids who freak out when they see a teacher in the grocery store because they assumed they live at school? Those people become parents without changing their assumptions. As a parent during COVID, I wonder if there is an element of “if it’s safe to get your eyebrows waxed, why isn’t it safe enough for in-person learning?” I don’t think that way but I know there are parents that do even though that is completely outside your control. And your principal should have supported you.

      1. Rach*

        #4: teachers are held to different standards. I don’t much agree with that, but it is reality. However, we are in a global pandemic and you thought it was necessary to get your eyebrows tweezed?!? WTH?

          1. Sharkie*

            I mean kids are rude and ruthless when it comes to stuff like this, and if a parent is this much in a twist over what a teacher is doing on their lunch break , the school might have a weird culture. I also broke down and got my brows done for the first time all year a few weeks ago just to feel “normal” and my waxing place had like a chem lab hood thing between me and the tech so maybe the place was like that?

            But OP isn’t asking for eyebrow critique, they are looking for a “hey is this a normal workplace thing”.

            1. Caliente*

              Um yeah I just got waxed also and it’s not a big deal, people. Masks were worn the entire time. I actually went because the woman who waxes me, not just the brows, is someone I totally love and respect and want her excellent business to going. This it s about fiscal support as well as far as I’m concerned.

              1. Caliente*

                I also had my hair done as soon as the salon opened- to support the 2-woman shop I love. All safety precautions taken.
                But seriously, these people need to make money as well.
                Maybe it’s also because for my services I sought out (long ago) and love the women who do them so I will indeed support them if I can.
                Now this was a couple weeks ago- I was fine with no services at all from the shut down until the reopening. If they didn’t reopen until next year, I’d be fine as well. Not really about vanity per se.

              2. ...*

                Yup, where I get my nails done isn’t some nameless faceless corp that won’t matter a lick to some fat-cat business man, its a 1 woman owned local business who is really struggling. and I will be su supporting her with precautions!

              3. Rainy*

                I paid my stylist (who also does my brows) during lockdown because in the before times I was in the salon every three weeks (I have a shockingly high maintenance hairstyle), and I love her. She’s immensely talented and she and her music teacher partner deserve to be able to support themselves.

                I have an appointment Saturday. I’ve combined things so now I’m at the stylist every 8 weeks (the last two weeks are HARD), but especially with rules around how many people can be in the salon at a time? She needs all the business she can get or she’ll leave and take her knowledge of exactly how I like my brows with her.

          2. Lizzo*

            Assuming y’all (and LW) are in the US, there *are* parts of the country that are doing a good job controlling COVID spread, and something like an eyebrow service (esthetician client can remain masked the entire time + time together is less than 15 min) is lower risk than many other self-care activities one could opt for at the moment.

          3. ...*

            We don’t know where this person lives, what procedures were taken, or what COVID cases are like in their area. Please give people some benefit of the doubt/take them at their word. Both parties can wear masks during an eyebrow wax and it lasts under 5 minutes.

          4. LizM*

            And if she had hair that clearly hadn’t been cut in 6 months and undone eyebrows, you know there are some parents that would complain she looked unprofessional on zoom. It is hard to look polished on a webcam, and women are held to impossible standards. Unfortunately, those standards haven’t relaxed in the times of COVID. I’ve decided to embrace a more natural looking eyebrow in the last few months, but honestly, I can understand the need for someone who spends all day on zoom to want to look polished.

        1. Caroline Bowman*

          Thing is, and this is where Alison and I differ, the judgement and lecturing on Things People Do For Themselves and Don’t They Know There’s a Pandemic winds me up. I myself got literally screamed at because I had the nerve to enquire on a local forum in my immediate neighbourhood if anywhere was open because my car battery had died (not USA). Screamed and sworn at. ”WHAT KIND OF EFFING IDIOT ARE YOU??” etcetera. Not that anyone here has said that obviously, but it goes down that track.

          This person went out on a short errand to do something for herself on a lunch break. She didn’t neglect her duties, expose any students or do anything illegal or shameful. She may well live completely alone. She may have seen no other human than the eyebrow person (for 10 mins, undoubtedly masked and gloved) that week.

          This whole ”how can you think of X or why WHILE THERE’S A PANDEMIC” thing is insidious. Let’s not do that.

          1. UK reader*

            I agree, I was really surprised by this element of Alison’s response and very tired of this attitude in general.

            1. Disco Janet*

              Yes, thank you. It is totally understandable to have pandemic fatigue, but the whole “I’m tired of the pandemic things so I am going to act like it is over” is magical thinking which is very dangerous thinking. That said, I do think it is okay to do self care like haircuts and getting eyebrows done if done with minimal risk.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I’m surprised by the surprise about my statement “If her objection was that having your eyebrows done is an unnecessary risk to take right now … well, she’s not wrong, but it’s still not something your employer should be interfering in.” Some things are necessary risks (obtaining food, medical care, etc.) and some things are not. Everyone can make their own decisions about what they’ll do from each category, but let’s not pretend it’s accurate to put eyebrow waxing in the “necessary risk” category.

              You can disagree with that if you’d like, but I’m removing a ton of off-topic comments and personal sniping here which somehow ended up about Anne Frank (!), and am closing this thread.

          2. Tansan*

            It’s not weird to question why people are choosing to do in-person, non-essential outings and services during a pandemic. We don’t know where OP is and how cases are there, but we know they’re bad enough that learning is happening virtually, so probably there is still a general “please don’t go out if you don’t have to” thing in effect. Probably OP took many precautions, but it’s still a non-zero risk for others, and we’re all stressed at how some people are comfortable taking risks that affect others.

            I agree that OP should be able to do what they want with their lunch break, provided it’s minimal risk to others–that’s the reality we’re all dealing with now. And that parent overstepped in trying to “report” OP, after all, they were out too in order to spot OP.

            1. PVR*

              The exposure risk is low enough that even if one of them tested positive, the contact tracers wouldn’t even count this as a direct exposure. Eyebrow waxing takes just a few minutes where an exposure would be defined as an unmasked conversation lasting more than 10-15 minutes within 6 feet. This is a one on one treatment, there are no crowds involved and is such a low risk activity. This is not an instance of someone doing something risky and endangering others, like going unmasked into a crowd and having a ton of contact with others.

            2. Mockingjay*

              Before we derail into what kinds of errands are justified in a pandemic (a never-ending discussion), I want to point out how hard most service industries are working to provide safe, clean environments for patrons. Salons already follow stringent health and safety protocols in normal times; these have doubled for COVID.

              But these points don’t apply to the letter writer. She is teaching virtually, which means she goes into the classroom by herself in front of a camera while her students view her online. Interactions in the building are probably quite low.

              I’m more concerned that LW has a reactionary principal who had a knee-jerk response to a complaint. Parental complaints are a fact of life in education. If he doesn’t have her back in a situation in which students aren’t present, I don’t see him as being supportive of her or other staff in “normal” circumstances.

            3. Anne Elliot*

              Respectfully, and with all love to Alison, I think it _IS_ weird to question why other people are doing what they are doing when we don’t know them, their circumstances, where they are, their personal calculus for risk, and the personal calculus of risk of their service providers. It is unnecessarily judgmental when the OP didn’t ask for an opinion on the necessity of her errand nor was it necessary to have such an opinion in order to answer the question she actually did ask.

              I would also point out that we also do not know how the service provider feels about it, either. I can tell you from personal experience that the ladies who run my tiny local store-front eyebrow threading shop, have repeatedly indicated they are grateful for the loyal customers who are still showing up for services, in an environment they have made as clean and safe as possible. What people seem to overlook is that patronizingly privileging the health of these workers to the extent that their services are no longer accessed, has the direct result of putting them out of a job.

              Everyone has to make their own decisions as to what is personally acceptable and safe, and I think we should stop acting like these are simple decisions that are easily judged from the outside. I am firmly on the side of the public health, but I’d like people to stop acting like prioritizing public health does not have a very serious economic cost that is not itself deserving of consideration.

          3. Funk*

            As someone who has kids doing remote learning now precisely because we want to minimize any potential exposures and avoid our older household members getting super sick… well it’s a thing. A serious thing. Did everyone have masks on etc? Sorry it’s what everyone has to face, especially those who directly interact with others as part of our jobs.

            1. Lady Meyneth*

              Could you elaborate a little? I’d understand this thinking better if school was back to in-person, but when it’s virtual, what does it matter if the teacher who does not have contact with any children takes a small personal risk to do something for herself?

              I’m not being snarky, I’m really curious about the rationale here. Being high risk with other high risk friends, I get how upsetting it is to see someone you have to interact with be totally reckless. But when it’s not someone you need to interact with right now taking a small risk, why should anyone care?

              1. AnotherTeacher*

                Two thoughts:

                1. It might not be teacher-specific — that person might be just as horrified to see her aunt getting her brows waxed.

                2. Schools are closed because it’s not safe to have face-to-face interactions. While I can rationally explain a LOT of differences between a classroom with 20 students all day long and a 15 minute brow wax, I understand that there’s some frustrating cognitive dissonance between “can’t teach your kid” and “but can get brows waxed.” I don’t agree, but I get it.

                1. Anya Last Nerve*

                  I agree with this. As any parents know, there has been a lot of tension between teachers who claim it is not safe for them to teach kids in person, and working parents who are having to make tough choices because their kids are not in school (many parents – primarily women- have had to quit working to be home with their children). If I had to lose income to stay home with my kids because teachers said it was to risky to teach in person, you can bet I would be irritated if I saw teachers getting their eyebrows done or having lunch at restaurants etc. This isn’t just about perception of the OP – it’s her union and her coworkers as well.

                2. anonforthis*

                  I agree with your #2, including the “I don’t agree, but I get it.”. The issue of school openings/closings is very sensitive right now in some places in the US. I live in a city where the teacher’s union is regularly threatening to strike if schools go to a hybrid model because of their concerns about teacher safety (which I think are legitimate). We’ve experienced a significant drop in enrollment, and many parents that do not have the means to enroll their child in an in-person private school are upset. After such an acrimonious battle between the union and the city, I can see how a pro-return-to-in-person-school parent would take issue with a teacher getting a brow wax (which may be perceived by some as a high risk activity) on their lunch break. Not saying it’s fair, or that it’s right.

                3. Nita*

                  Anya – yep, I think this is part of it. Between the economic impact and the impact on children’s mental health, I do not think the relationship between parents and teachers in my neighborhood will ever be the same. It’s really sad, and it’s upsetting when individual teachers get blamed for the failures of others. People are really on edge. A few have lost jobs, and some are mentally unraveling before my eyes :(

                4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  “can’t teach your kid” and “but can get brows waxed.”

                  I’d repackage that as “won’t infect your kid but will make sure I’m well groomed even if there’s a tiny chance of infection”.

          4. MamaSarah*

            I think if the service is offered in her state, no one should judge her for utilizing it (I live in California, where things reopened slowly). Eyebrow threading is particularly fast – it takes maybe 5 minutes at the spot in our local mall. Both persons can easily wear a mask. This is significantly less of the duration we use to define an exposure (being within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more).

            1. Anon326*

              Exactly this MamaSarah!

              If the service is open (therefore endorsed by the government as a ‘low risk activity for COVID’) then stop insinuating people are ‘Cov-idiots’ by using the service. It’s second guessing and curtain twitching like this that is driving mental health problems and distrust between the public and the government

              In addition, as someone who is originally from India (with all the facial hairy fun that can entail and I have been bullied about as a teen) I resent the implication that epilation is always a frivolous thing. I would have had practically a full moustache and quite the sideburn and beard if my sister hadn’t been able to help wax me during lockdown.

              1. Snow Globe*

                Well, as a resident of Florida, I do not consider endorsement by the government as a “low risk activity” to be scientifically valid, but otherwise I agree with you.

                1. boo bot*

                  @Snow Globe: yeah, I think one of the huge problems nationwide has been that it’s really hard to shake the thought that if things were really dangerous, the government would shut them down (and if they’re not shut down, they must not be that dangerous).

                  I live in NYC, and there was about a week – maybe less – in March when we were being warned not to go to bars and restaurants, but they were still open. Of course, people still went, because… if it was really that dangerous, the bars and restaurants wouldn’t be open.

                  It’s a huge cognitive dissonance to have these things be both unsafe and available, and it’s extremely messed up for states/cities/countries to be putting people in that position.

              2. Pretzelgirl*

                Same Anon326. Waxing helps my mental health. I too bullied as a kid for my hairy eyebrows. I get very anxious, when they start to grow in.

            2. Washi*

              Totally agree. Something I have found extra stressful in the pandemic is the idea that simply following the government guidelines is not enough, I should be doing my own research on exposure risks, ideally coming to the conclusion that everything is too risky and I should just stay in my house 100% of the time.

              This individual teacher did not personally decide that nail salons should be open and schools should be closed. I get that this parent is probably super stressed, but that’s why it’s important for the principal to have teachers’ backs.

              1. kt*

                Yeah, this insistence that for “personal freedom” and “personal responsibility” reasons everyone’s got to be their own epidemiologist, own doctor, own workplace accommodations specialist and safety expert — not good! Those are jobs that we require training for and pay money for with reason!

          5. WorkingGirl*

            I got a tattoo this summer. Was it necessary? No. But the only people in the shop were me, my artist, one other artist. Everything was wiped down. Artists were masked and gloved. Took like 15 minutes for the tattoo itself and i felt WAY safer there then i do when i’m at the grocery store!

            1. Rayray*

              This is a great point. I’ve gotten haircuts and have been judged for it but I feel safe with my stylist. We both wear masks and she wipes her booth down before and after each appointment. She even rescheduled an appointment when she had to get tested for COVID due to having been in proximity with someone who’d had it.

              Definitely better than grocery stores where people throw temper tantrums when asked to wear a mask or indignantly go the wrong way in one-way aisles.

              1. UKDancer*

                I also get my hair done and have been judged for this. I trust my salon’s procedures and my stylist a lot more than I do the supermarket or the public transport.

                If I am feeling good about myself because my hair is done, my nails are nice and I don’t have hair growth on my face, that makes a lot of difference to how I feel, when I’m happy it makes me more productive at work and makes the other restrictions on going out, rule of 6, theatres, being unable to meet my friends indoors etc a lot easier to bear.

                Also it keeps the hair and beauty industry (which is critical to the economy) in business.

          6. Totally Minnie*

            I mean, there’s a difference between taking your car to the mechanic and going to a salon for a non-essential beauty treatment that requires having someone else literally inches away from your face. It was wrong of people to yell at you for needing to have your car repaired, because without a functioning car, a lot of people can’t do things like get to their jobs or go to important medical appointments. But I do side-eye people who are getting unnecessary beauty treatments with their faces inches away from the faces of strangers. Different things are different, and it’s okay if we react differently to them.

            1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

              Where do you go where the stylists’faces are actually “inches” (usually used to measure things less than a foot away, usually less than 6 inches) away from your face.
              I would be extremely creeped out, unless they’d found something like a pimple or mole, and were trying to figure out if it was a mole or pimple.
              is it close contact that lasts at least 15 minutes? Yes, but we aren’t making out with the stylists.

          7. Observer*

            the judgement and lecturing on Things People Do For Themselves and Don’t They Know There’s a Pandemic winds me up. I myself got literally screamed at because I had the nerve to enquire on a local forum in my immediate neighbourhood if anywhere was open because my car battery had died

            I don’t think that name calling is a good idea, regardless of what the person is doing. But there really is a significant difference between “getting my eyebrows done” and “making sure I have safe transportation.”

            I don’t think the school can do anything about it. But I do think that you don’t have to be a helicopter or otherwise unreasonable parent to wonder why on earth someone is having their eyebrows done during a pandemic when they know that they are going to be going back into a classroom full of kids who live in households you probably know nothing about.

            The problem with this is not that someone is doing something for themselves and “how dare you think about yourself when there is a pandemic going on” but “what are you thinking to do something that might transmit a high contagious and fairly serious disease when there is a pandemic going on?!”

            PS I do think that this is a bit of a derail, because it does sound like the parent’s issue was not safety but just that the teacher went out of the school during the school day.

            1. Observer*

              Sorry, I apparently didn’t do the tags correctly.

              This is what I meant to say,.

              I don’t think that name calling is a good idea, regardless of what the person is doing. But there really is a significant difference between “getting my eyebrows done” and “making sure I have safe transportation.”

              I don’t think the school can do anything about it. But I do think that you don’t have to be a helicopter or otherwise unreasonable parent to wonder why on earth someone is having their eyebrows done during a pandemic when they know that they are going to be going back into a classroom full of kids who live in households you probably know nothing about.

              The problem with this is not that someone is doing something for themselves and “how dare you think about yourself when there is a pandemic going on” but “what are you thinking to do something that might transmit a high contagious and fairly serious disease when there is a pandemic going on?!”

              PS I do think that this is a bit of a derail, because it does sound like the parent’s issue was not safety but just that the teacher went out of the school during the school day.

              1. PhysicsTeacher*

                It seems in a couple of comments like you may have missed that this teacher is teaching virtually, not in person. They will not be going back into a classroom of kids.

          8. DataGirl*

            That bugged me too. I’ve had my eyebrows done in the pandemic since things reopened in my state- both myself and the stylist wore masks and the stylist additionally had a face shield and gloves. Oh- and to even get into the salon I had to fill out a questionnaire on symptoms and exposure and have my temperature taken. It’s probably a safer activity than going to the grocery store with all those precautions.

          9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I myself got literally screamed at because I had the nerve to enquire on a local forum in my immediate neighbourhood if anywhere was open because my car battery had died (not USA). Screamed and sworn at. ”WHAT KIND OF EFFING IDIOT ARE YOU??” etcetera.

            Freaking wow, what the ??!?! I live in an area where you can get a side-eye for having a mask on, or for saying “no I cannot do X, I’m trying to limit my activities because of the pandemic”, and I’ve found *that* tiring. But to scream at someone for trying to get their car fixed when it broke down?!?!?! What’s next? not going to a doctor when you’re sick, because we are in a pandemic? Ugh, I wish we as a society found a reasonable middle-of-the-road territory on this, but no, it always has to be one extreme or the other.

            That said – depends on the location. If there’s an outbreak in your area, maybe stay home more, if there isn’t, go ahead and get those eyebrows done. (I wish I could say “use your judgment”, but that did not work out too great here in the US, it seems.)

        2. AuditingNerd*

          In my County, salons are heavily regulated since reopening – one customer in the salon at a time, masks and face shields, etc. I’ve gotten my hair, nails and brows done in the last couple of months. These services are provided by women who are small business owners trying to recoup lost wages from quarantine. It should be viewed in the same light as eating at a local restaurant or something.

          1. nomadjustdisappointed*

            Yes same. My stylist rents his own booth, customers directly pay him. Is he really supposed to just not work for the next 2 years until a reliable vaccine comes out?

            Honestly Allison I am huge fan of your site and I am really disappointed in this one line you wrote. Maybe that is dramatic, maybe not. But I am just sick of this attitude in general from people. That we completely write off several lines of work bc it is “too risky”, then shame someone for participating in the service. This isn’t someone attending an unmasked wedding with 100 people. It is 2 masked people receiving a quick 5 min service.

            1. AuditingNerd*

              Thank you for your insight! I get there’s a lot at play here – reopening schools vs non-essential businesses, the double standards teachers are subject to, and so forth. But, to just broadly dismiss an entire industry is really icky.

            2. DontBelieveEverythingYouThink*

              Hear me out, nomadjustdisappointed. I thank Allison for having the courage to go against what’s easy (placating her readers), and instead defend what’s difficult but right: we need to sacrifice and cut back on non-essential errands to curb this pandemic. If you are frustrated with the situation, I recommend you write to Mitch McConnell to allow the second stimulus to go through, so workers can get paid instead of losing their jobs through no fault of their own. I am alarmed by the views expressed by folks on this site–folks seem to think that by acting like things are normal, we will make it so. Given how many people are supporting this view, it’s no surprise that most states are seeing COVID numbers spike yet again. Scientists have stated that small-numbers encounters (not just weddings) are helping fuel this recent wave. Not saying that all salons aren’t safe, but inevitably, some aren’t taking proper precautions. If folks aren’t willing to curtail their behavior, we’ll be in this predicament for much longer. I’m tired of the pandemic, too, but pretending things are normal won’t work, and consigns thousands of the most vulnerable members of our society–the old, people of color, the poor–to preventable death. If doing my small part to stop it means going without my eyebrow threading (as I continue to do), so be it–it’s a small price to pay. Think about it–might you see a grain of truth in what Allison is saying?

              1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

                Yes because McConnell is totally going to listen to me. Come on. I am paying a small price not to go do things like get my eyebrows done but all those small prices add up to the person who is providing the service. The current political reality means that they will not be getting any help when their businesses fail and they cannot find a new job, or end up in an even riskier job. Yes, some people are acting incredibly irresponsibly but if those of us who are doing our best to comply stay away then they are only left with customers who don’t. And how does that help?

                1. bluephone*

                  Spot on. Yes, it would have been great if our elected officials did X, Y, and Z different back in March 2020 (or even January 2020 when it was already obvious that something big was happening over in Wuhan). It would be great if we’d all been getting stimulus checks every month for the last 7 months. But those things didn’t happen and they’re not going to happen. I don’t want my friends, family, neighbors, etc. to get sick but I also don’t want my town to collapse because 90 percent of its small businesses (including salons, coffee shops, *dentists*, *independent pharmacies*, etc) close permanently. We live in a world where some governments did not respond well back in March (to put it diplomatically) and now, some of the areas of the U.S. are doing great, while others are still swamped with COVID. It sucks but that’s the actual world we live in so we need to stop faffing about with “oh but if only!”
                  Which means that snotty asides like, “well [the parent] wasn’t wrong…” are not helpful.

              2. Paperwhite*

                I am alarmed by the views expressed by folks on this site–

                Just because people are declining to participate in the national sport of Judging Teachers For Everything All The Time doesn’t mean we don’t care about the pandemic.

            3. Another Academic Librarian*

              I work at a library. I am a librarian. I think libraries are important and vital social institutions.

              But I will also be the first person to tell you that no one should be physically going to the library right now.

          2. Penny Parker*

            And, the news has clearly stated that a major cause of the pandemic surging is people eating at restaurants. So, that is not a good example. I live in Wisconsin and the legislature has been out of session all summer and has no plans to return until next January. Meanwhile they have sued about the pandemic measures our health dept is trying to use. It is a total joke that if the government says it is okay to be open then it is okay. It seems like there are some commenting here who do not have a clue about how dangerous this pandemic is and how deeply the government has failed us. Please quit spreading this plague.

            1. Penny Parker*

              My comment was directed to AuditingNerd*’s comment of ” It should be viewed in the same light as eating at a local restaurant or something.” Please Just. Stop. That. Please quit spreading this plague.

            2. ...*

              If we eschew all non-essential services for years, so so many more people will suffer because they will not have jobs, food or homes. Yes the government has messed up badly and the federal response has been offensive. But if no one was getting any of these services or going out at all I truly fear for what employment would be like. Also, for what its worth, 6% of covid cases have been tracked to restaurants and bars in my state, whereas 42% have been tracked to nursing homes, and 22% to factories. based on Alisons comment above I feel I should stop here

              1. DontBelieveEverythingYouThink*

                … you’ve made a classic mistake: Restaurants aren’t contributing as much to the rise in COVID at this point *because* either 1) they are shut down or 2) people are refraining from going there due to knowledge of how COVID is spread (even in states with fewer/minimal regulations). If restaurants were back to full capacity, the numbers would be higher. It’s like saying I’m glad you’re concerned about workers–I am, too! But the truth is, the GOP has has forced us into a situation where we are forced to choose between jobs and health. It doesn’t have to be this way: see South Korea, for example, provides subsidies *and* compels some employers to pay a shutdown allowance. Now Mitch McConnell is selfishly shutting down talks to provide much-needed payments for workers (payments proposed by the Dems), so that the GOP can have an electoral advantage by withholding them for after the election. If we all had shut down for a month–a real shutdown–we wouldn’t be in this predicament any more.

                1. ...*

                  Oh I totally agree with you about all that.Restaurants at 50% where I am which I think is decent. I wouldn’t advocate for increasing the capacity. But I think something middle of the ground is good.

        3. AnonNurse*

          Wait, what?! That’s a personal hygiene choice and if she took the proper precautions, it’s nobody’s business. None of us know her personal status. Maybe she has a muscular condition and can’t hold her arms up long enough to tweeze. Maybe she has poor eye sight to the extent that fine work like that is difficult. I know those are long shots given her profession but there are a lot of people out there that it’s true for.

          If all people stop their personal grooming habits including eyebrows, haircuts, nail treatments, etc, that’s putting a LOT of people out of business. As a nurse, I 100% preach the right things to do and the importance of mitigating risk. Wearing masks, washing hands, and socially distancing are imperative right now!! That being said, I also plan to have a pedicure today, as it’s my day off. I go to a salon that cleans between customers, socially distances between chairs, washes hands, wears gloves, wears masks, and does everything they can to keep the risk as low as any other outing right now.

          Completely cutting out an industry is unnecessary, harsh, and extremely judgmental.

          1. Agree*

            >>Completely cutting out an industry is unnecessary, harsh, and extremely judgmental.

            Agree. It is also classist and displays some major white-collar (and let’s face it, usually white) privilege.

            1. UKDancer*

              Definitely, neither of the beauticians I see are white or UK nationals, I know for a fact one of them sending money back to pay for her mother’s care in her home country and the other is paying to send her daughter to a good school in their home country so she can better herself. My hairdresser is a UK national and she’s got 2 young children so she also needs the money.

              If we don’t decide to support peoples’ businesses, they will struggle and they have a lot less safety net than I do (being a white, middle class woman with a white collar job).

            2. Avasarala*

              Wow. “It’s classist and racist NOT to use non-essential beauty treatments during a pandemic.” That’s certainly a take.

              If it’s not safe to gather indoors for non-essential services–which in some areas it’s NOT–then answer is not “use non-essential services because tHe EcOnOmY!”, it’s “the government should support businesses and individuals who are suffering financially because of the pandemic.”

              You wouldn’t get your nails done if your city was a warzone. You’d wait until things got better. We don’t know OP’s situation and we’re all commenting from how things are near us–and in some places, yes, we must forego non-essential services in order to keep ourselves and our communities safe.

          2. yala*

            “If all people stop their personal grooming habits including eyebrows, haircuts, nail treatments, etc, that’s putting a LOT of people out of business.”

            And if the pandemic just keeps stretching out more and more and more, that’s going to put a lot of people out of business, or in the ground.

            I’m not saying OP is a Terrible Person for going and getting a quick beauty treatment (though the whole concept does make me Very Uncomfortable).

            But all this “WHAT ABOUT THE BUSINESSES” is essentially the arguments covid-deniers et al have been using for months to get us to just reopen like there’s nothing wrong. Flipping DISNEYLAND just made a public statement blaming the mean ol’ governor with Really Strict Protocols for being responsible for them laying off several thousand workers.

            Over on our end, our town is full of local restaurants. Of COURSE people are going to go out–the mandate against dining rooms is lifted, so it’s fine, isn’t it?
            And naturally, our numbers are terrible.

            We all make little “oh, this probably isn’t so bad” choices because, frankly, we’re exhausted. But all those “this probably isn’t so bad” choices keep snowballing.

            I mean, the obvious solution is a government monthly stimulus, etc, to keep folks afloat during a proper shut down. But we’re not going to do that. So, yeah. I guess folks do have to patronize businesses, since no one up top is going to help any of us.

            But the whole judgement against judgement thing, combined with a lot of the outraged “Well, we HAVE to!” I’m seeing in the comments is, frankly, disheartening. Allisonn gave one single sentence, and, like she said–she’s not WRONG. It’s incredibly understandable that a parent would be upset to see a teacher doing something that seems Risky if they’re living in a place where schools are still full virtual.

            It’s also none of the principal’s business. It’s probably not even the parent’s business (I mean, how did she see her there if she wasn’t there herself). But it’s very understandable.

            1. Kyrielle*

              I’d actually be LESS upset to see a teacher doing something optional but risky right now, than when we first go to hybrid or in-person school. There’s no risk right now of them exposing the kids if they get it, after all.

              And the risk from a classroom full of kids, even with precautions, is a lot larger than the risk from one teacher with one beautician. (Not to mention, were the kids physically in school, there’s a question of bathroom usage and kids eating lunch in shared spaces and lots of other things that a teacher’s lunch-time eyebrow touch-up doesn’t involve.)

            2. Ann O. Nimity*

              “We all make little “oh, this probably isn’t so bad” choices because, frankly, we’re exhausted. But all those “this probably isn’t so bad” choices keep snowballing.”

              I’m in healthcare and I support this comment, especially the part I quoted.

            3. justabot*

              Well in my state, schools are fully open and it’s the parents who are ignoring all safety precautions and hosting their own MASSIVE homecoming parties for their little darlings, with no masks, no crowd control, and throwing huge parties at their homes or renting out venues, even though the schools have canceled parties like that this year. Meanwhile, the teachers get to go into school every day and be around those kids who were at the parties and their entitled families who aren’t taking any precautions. So no, I don’t have a ton of sympathy for a parent freaking out that a single teacher went to get her eyebrows waxed while off the clock on her break.

            4. Lunita*

              I did go out for a non essential service once. It felt pretty safe-just me and the stylist-but I still worried about it, felt guilty, and definitely won’t do it as often as I used to. But I understand wanting that feeling of normalcy and how after awhile, things feel pretty safe. But I wonder how many of these workers would Really want to be out working if they were getting a paycheck or income regardless. Because that is what should happen-the government needs to pay for people to stay home. And really, in the absence of that, if I can afford the service but believe there’s a risk and still want to support the business, I could just send them money. That’s what I did for before going in to see my stylist.

        4. Lily Rowan*

          Honestly? It is five minutes of masked interaction and makes me feel 1000% better about myself/my appearance. I am not the OP but I have weighed the risks and found that one to be minimal and worth it.

        5. Khatul Madame*

          Poor OP probably regrets mentioning her eyebrows. The optics and the judgment from the random parent would have been the same if she’d have used her lunch break to run out to the pharmacy to get medication for an ailing family member, or something equally benign. Even if she’d had the shopping bag with the pharmacy logo in plain view…

        6. Me*

          “However, we are in a global pandemic and you thought it was necessary to get your eyebrows tweezed?!? WTH?”

          This is very much not fair. You have no idea what COVID looks like in her community; it’s not the same risk everywhere. Second, there’s a certain extent of individuals deciding what level of risk they personally are open to. What if she got her hair cut? Would that be acceptable to you? What if she ran to the store for a birthday card? Acceptable? Some people order everything online because they feel there’s no acceptable risk while others have zero problem going to the store.

          If her community is open for personal services then she is entitled to deicide if it’s a risk she’s comfortable with.

          1. Barb*

            It would be great to know what this commenter decides is worth it during a global pandemic, so they could get similarly picked apart for minor activities that haven’t been linked to any super spreader events but aren’t pure enough for others.

        7. yala*

          That was kind of my first thought too. It’s not technically relevant (it’s no business of a parent what a teacher does during their time off so long as it doesn’t endanger the students, and if they’re only teaching virtually, then this wouldn’t), but like…yikes? Why?

      2. Ana Gram*

        I think that’s part of it. Many parents where I’m at are very strongly advocating for schools to reopen and teachers are just as strongly advocating against it due to safety. But when your teacher friends mention going to the wineries on the weekend, it makes you wonder.

        Not saying this is the case where the LW is, but it’s most likely part of the issue. I doubt the principal wanted to say “don’t get your eyebrows done” but I bet they were thinking that.

        1. PVR*

          Going to a winery with a partner and socially distancing from others for what maybe an hour or so? carries a lot less exposure risk than spending 6 hours in a classroom with 25-30 other bodies who probably can’t distance and windows that most likely don’t open.

          1. Ana Gram*

            I’d agree if that was the case but my teacher friends talk about going out in groups of friends and SO’s and staying a few hours. Wineries and breweries are a popular weekend activity where I live and I don’t have kids so I don’t have much of an opinion about it either way but I can understand the annoyance the parents must feel.

            1. PVR*

              I can see why they would be annoyed too. I think it’s hard to navigate risk right now because there is little guidance other than extremes—don’t worry about it! It’s not that serious vs don’t do anything! Everything is a risk! And so everyone is just kind of making their own decisions about what is safe or not safe. Quarantine fatigue has set in and it’s not really realistic to expect people to completely shut themselves off from society for such a lengthy time, nor is probably necessary. But without guidelines on which activities carry the lowest risks, how to say safely visit loved ones, I think many people have just given up a bit.

              1. Ana Gram*

                Yeah, that’s definitely true. It feels a bit like we’re all playing a game where everyone thinks they know the rules but no one really does. It’s tough right now.

                1. PVR*

                  Most of us aren’t epidemiologists and can’t possibly weigh the risks effectively. And there is so much conflicting information out there it complicates that process that much more.

                2. Blerpborp*

                  For sure! We are all determining rules based on our media diets, our own mental bandwidth to read all the information that is coming out, our own state and county regulations and case numbers, and sometimes even well meaning well informed people are going to disagree about what is a reasonable risk.

        2. Allonge*

          Presumably these parents know that reopening schools is a risk to their kids, too, right? Schools are not closed so teachers can go for an eyebrow treatment, they are closed to protect the children (I would say primarily). And as long as they are closed, teachers get to go out and about according to the general rules.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            In many districts schools are closed to protect the teachers, I think. The data is showing that with precautions, schools aren’t causing big outbreaks among kids. But there are a lot of teachers who are higher risk themselves or who live with people who are and who don’t want to go back. In several districts around here the main group advocating for no in person at all (as opposed to partial re-opening for the highest-need kids, which is what the politicians and district leadership are often pushing) are the teachers unions.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              To elaborate a bit more: it’s easy to give parents a choice about whether their particular kid goes back in person or picks an all-remote option. It’s a lot harder to figure out how to make the teaching staff align with the in-person versus remote balance, get all the subjects and grades and specialties covered in the formats they need to be, and respect the needs and desires of teachers who don’t feel comfortable being back in the classroom.

              Lots of schools around here have child care programs being run in the building – small numbers, but enough that the public health folks have decided that at least some elementary kids can be in-person safely. But they can’t re-open school at all until they figure out how to arrange the teacher staffing puzzle pieces.

              1. PVR*

                I think it’s also important to keep in context that many schools that are open only have half the number of students in class and so they are spaced out appropriately in the classroom. If school goes back to full time in person, then these conditions will no longer hold and we may no longer see that outbreaks are rare.

            2. Allonge*

              And I would hope that teacher’s unions do exactly that.

              I wonder if there was an independent body tasked with protecting the children (independent of the parents’ frustration too) – would they say go back to school?

              Honest question by the way, there are quite some people arguing the risk of missing schooling is way bigger than the risk of even long lasting health damage.

              1. Nita*

                You mean like the CDC? I know it’s kind of political these days, but the CDC has not advocated keeping them home, and after having been through this spring and summer I agree. If you asked me in April or May, I’d have a very different answer, but right now, here’s what we have:
                – private schools operating safely (no cases in the two I know of personally), 5 days in person, since the first week of September
                – public schools operating pretty safely (28 cases out of 16,000 tests) on a hybrid schedule since late September
                – our pediatrician says she’s only seen a handful of cases, all with mild symptoms, and all seems to have come from parents rather than school
                – complete chaos with online learning in public schools, with teachers who can’t teach due to their own child care issues, teachers getting reassigned to classes they’ve never taught, students who cannot log on, and caregivers who can watch and feed the children but can’t figure out tech issues.
                And before schools reopened, I’ve seen some really nasty mental health issues in my own children and their friends and neighbors. Anxiety, depression, mental breakdowns, completely outsize meltdowns, kids who seem way too young to be alone bullying other kids on the playground… I’d say that at least for my part of the country, “protecting the children” actually means having them in school, with safety precautions.

                1. PhysicsTeacher*

                  The problem is that many (most?) of the schools operating in-person right now are also not following safety guidelines for in-person school.

                  At my school, 450 students eat together in a cafeteria. There are stickers placed on the tables for where they are allowed to sit. These stickers are MAYBE three feet apart. We continue to have football with spectators where masks are not enforced.

                  This is part of the disconnect for teachers and the rest of the public, I think. Teachers mostly know that the safety measures necessary for in-person education would require a radical redesign of the school day, and we have no confidence that it will actually be done (my district didn’t). People continue to come to the board of education meetings here to demand that we not require masks during the day.

                2. Allonge*

                  @PhysicsTeacher – this, plus – here (European country) we are having a quite harsh second wave. Schools have reopened in May and the government will keep schools open as long as humanly possible (restaurants already closed back except for takeaway and delivery). But there are plenty of infections at schools, parents are concerned both about the kids and what they bring home, at certain points schools have to close for two weeks etc.

                  I understand this probably still sounds like heaven for some parents who are dealing with online schools since March! It’s really not quite so straightforward though, not long term. Teachers indeed can be worried about getting sick (no duh, plus, you knwo they are kind of essential for the school to be operating). Plenty of parents will also be worried about how even a non-symptomatic child can bring the virus home, to higher risk family.

                  And in any case, not the decision of individual teachers.

                3. Nita*

                  PhysicsTeacher – yes, I will never understand parents who want their kids back in school but also want to pretend nothing unusual is happening, and are up in arms about masks and testing. That’s a staggering level of denial and entitlement. This would be so much easier if we’d all be on the same page about needing to be serious about safety.

                4. Black Horse Dancing*

                  In my tiny town, the one private school , which insisted on in-school, has had at least two covid cases I know of and I believe it actually may be up to four. And yep, came from the kids to adults. So it all depends. Kids are a vector and the adults are more at risk.

              2. Observer*

                The answer is almost certainly yes. We have a lot of data at this point, and it’s pretty clear that schools are not really a bog locus of spread if the school does things right.

                The big problem is that a lot of schools are NOT doing what they should be, which really is unfair to teachers.

            3. nonegiven*

              We have in person school, and they had to quarantine and test like 90 people from one case.

              I don’t think personal services taking place with masks with only two people within 10 feet are a big deal.

              It is crowded, close conditions in poor ventilation that is spreading the thing, places like church, school, factories, bars and restaurants, and the restaurants I’ve been to have roped off every other table or closed the dining area altogether.

          2. Ana Gram*

            Where I live, it appears that schools are closed primarily to protect teachers. The local government is using schools to run day cares (for a fee, of course) and is staffing them with employees who are not teachers. If I were a parent, I’d be fairly bent out of shape about how things are being handled. One teacher getting her eyebrows done in the middle of the day certainly isn’t the direct cause of one parent’s life being upended but it’s a reminder.

            1. Allonge*

              Look, I am also not a parent and I cannot imagine how hard it must be for so many of them, so I emphatise as such.

              But telling a teacher who IS working, doing the best they can in the online world that they should be locked up for the next 2 years lest a random parent gets upset… is way way out of line. Parents will be upset either way, as their life is hard now. Teachers should get to live their lives. Some of them are parents too!

            2. Paperwhite*

              I’m not legally a parent but I’m helping raise two kids, including helping negotiate all the fun of distance learning, and I really don’t think one teacher getting her eyebrows done is worth calling her school to complain about her. Doing that wouldn’t make me feel one bit better about the current situation nor would it help anyone for there to be one less teacher working on educating kids.

            3. Observer*

              That’s not really fair. The OP is not the one who made the choice for the schools to go virtual. We have no information about their opinion of that.

              The reality is that the OP did not endanger any student, nor did they slack off on their job. Also, from what the OP says, the parents seems to have been bent out of shape over the teacher “net doing her job” rather than endangering the kids. That’s just not reasonable.

          3. anonforthis*

            I don’t think this is the case. The CDC, APA, and many other public health experts have said schools need to re-open. The Atlantic had an article recently that said schools are not spreaders. The public health authority in my city recommended that schools re-open but the teachers union threatened to strike. My pediatrician last week told me to send my son to preschool because schools were closed because teachers and administrators are scared (he sits on our very large urban school district’s public health advisory committee). If the union is threatening to strike because of risks to teacher safety, it can send a mixed message if a parent sees a teacher out doing an elective beauty procedure (with someone inches away from their face) during school hours. I want to be clear – I have many friends that are teachers, and they do not always align with the union, and do not take the same aggressive tone. I also think that in our very large urban district there are huge issues with returning because of lack of bathrooms/handwashing stations, ventilation, and over crowding that other districts may not experience. I think everyone should be allowed to follow guidelines. But I can see why the principal was a bit taken aback.

            1. Oxford Comma*

              The support for reopening schools is not as monolithic as you are making it out to be.

              There are a lot of factors at play and many schools are simply not prepared to protect their staff. I know people want their kids back in school, but it’s so much more complicated than that. Many schools are underfunded and overcrowded.

              In my region, our cases are for the moment, low. Anyone in the salon industry needs to wear face shields and masks. You can’t even wait inside. You have to call to be let inside the salon.

              OP could have been in there for 5 -15 minutes max. I guarantee you there are schools that are having issues with kids not masking or distancing and they’re with their teachers and classmates 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

              1. anonforthis*

                Thanks for your response. This was in response to a comment that parents should understand that schools are closed to protect kids, and my point was with CDC and APA saying that its in the best interest of kids (because of how COVID affects kids) for schools to be safely reopened, a large push to keep schools virtual was coming from teachers/administrators who are worried for their health. Absolutely due to the underfunding/overcrowding of some schools, it is challenging to reopen them in a way that protects staff – seems we agree on that point.

      3. Count50*

        Yeah, I definitely suspect this was about the teacher finding it safe to get her eyebrows done and not about her doing something personal during her lunch break. Who knows where this teacher stood on in-person schooling but I think it’s valid for a parent to be pretty pissed if the teachers in this district weren’t willing to teach kids distanced in a classroom yet this teacher was cool with someone two inches from her face.

        1. PVR*

          I think school should be virtual and yet I don’t think that getting your eyebrows waxed is that risky. In fact, it’s less risky than a dentist appointment (assuming both parties wore masks). People forget that the length time of exposure is a critical factor to become infected. So the 5 minutes it takes to get your brows waxed and be inside that 6 foot distance wouldn’t likely meet the threshold for a contact tracer to count it as direct exposure. But being in a classroom all day, (or for 40-50 minutes in high school) would. You also have the difference of a one on one encounter vs a group of people. Groups of people are always risky.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          I think this can help explain why the parent had such a strong negative reaction, but that doesn’t make it acceptable or appropriate, and OP’s principal should still have had her back.

          Honestly, if I had been that parent, I would have been polite in the moment but fuming to my spouse in private. Like, you want to know how I spent my lunch break? On a conference call while mediating fights between two kids who are thoroughly sick of each other and trying to figure out if the thing they just did in Peardeck or Nearpod or Lalilo or Boom or whatever the new site of the day is has to be turned in on Canvas, and if there’s a submit button for that on the site itself or if we have to save it to Kami or Google Drive first and if the kid’s answers will carry over if we do it that way. How nice that your union is totally unwilling to find any sort of way to get even just the highest-need kids back in person in our district while you get to go get your brows done. Want to hear about how much child care most parents don’t have to enable errands like that right now?

          Every parent of elementary schoolers that I know right now is barely holding it together. Many feel like the teachers are trying their best, but also don’t quite understand the burden that remote learning is putting on parents.

          My rational mind would know that none of that is this teacher’s fault, that running errands and being in the classroom are totally different things, that someone who has to maintain high energy levels with a camera a foot from their face for 6 hours a day might find that easier if they can use personal grooming services. But the pandemic can make it hard to be rational sometimes.

          1. Arctic*

            If I were your spouse I’d be fuming that you are wasting my time fuming at an innocent teacher for things beyond their control.

            You admit these thoughts are totally irrational (and, trust me, they truly are) but have no problem posting them here where the LW can see and be made to feel guilty for running an errand.

          2. Sunflower*

            I will just say you need a major reality check if you think teachers have any sort of say in programs or processes your school district is using. Teachers didn’t chose this program. They literally received a Zoom meeting in the summer for 4 days of training on it- they are learning too. They don’t have impact on the remote vs in person learning decision. Please take your concerns up with the school board and not the poor teacher who quite frankly ‘just works here’ and you seem to have zero issue with the one thing she can control- how she teaches.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              I have written to my school board, and filled out the surveys, and all those thing.

              I would never take my frustrations out on individual teachers – I wanted to express why this parent may have been frustrated.

                1. Avasarala*

                  I think it was helpful context for the many commenters without children/childcare stressors saying “just be rational” “this isn’t risky” etc.

          3. Observer*

            You want to let off steam? I sympathize. But expecting teachers to not take care of themselves to cater to that is not reasonable – and it is NOT going to make your life easier, nor that of your kids.

            In fact, the exact reverse is true. I know how hard the whole tele-school thing is for parents. What you seem to be forgetting is that it is hard for the teachers, too! A lot of them are dealing with the same child care and access problem you are. And almost all of them are dealing with a mix of technology issues and the problems that come with teaching remotely while bound by rules, regulations, expectations and curricula that were never meant for a distance learning environment and a student body for whome remote learning is mostly not the best match. This is TOUGH.

            Expecting that teachers further neglect themselves to perform solidarity is a self-defeating attitude. Please don’t make your kids life harder by pressuring principals to do this their teachers.

          4. Black Horse Dancing*

            Why don’t we talk to the families of those school workers who have gotten sick or died from covid? Facts are most schools can’t keep these kids six feet apart nor keep them all corraled and controlled even with the best of training and structure. We need more money, more tech, erc.

        3. AngryOwl*

          A quick eyebrow job is very, very different than being in a classroom with a bunch of kids who are likely not mature enough to properly follow all protocols. Not to mention the kids of people who are mask/Covid deniers.

        4. Sunflower*

          I disagree. I know of multiple school districts and teachers facing this and as far as I know, every parent that complained was to do with teachers being out and about and nothing related to what they were actually doing.

          Being in contact with one other person for 15 minutes is not the same as being in a classroom with 30 students(possibly rotating) everyday.

          The idea that teachers had a decision in virtual teaching is complete off base- teachers have had extremely minimal decision in the district’s decision to reopen or not.

        5. Paperwhite*

          Fifteen minutes vs eight hours, and one person vs a whole classroom? This is about scapegoating teachers, as usual for US society, and not about any rational risk control.

        6. Observer*

          I think it’s valid for a parent to be pretty pissed if the teachers in this district weren’t willing to teach kids distanced in a classroom yet this teacher was cool with someone two inches from her face

          Still not reasonable. Even assuming that the teacher’s union pushed against a REASONABLE opening plan, it’s not reasonable. Because the parent doesn’t have the slightest idea of the particular teacher’s stance. And because it’s just NOT reasonable to demand that teachers (or anyone for that matter) act as though they are putting people at risk when they aren’t. It doesn’t really matter why they are not putting people at risk.

          Also, from what the OP says, it’s pretty clear that this is not even the issue that the parent objected to – the whole discussion around it being lunch hour says that the parent was upset that the teacher was “slacking off during school hours.”

      4. Flower necklace*

        People who take the stance of “if it’s safe to do X, why isn’t it safe enough for in-person learning?” always surprise me. There is a world of difference between going to a grocery store or getting a haircut and working with children all day. It’s not the same.

        My district is virtual, but I am in a position to have seen, firsthand, the difficulties that teenagers have with maintaining social distancing and wearing masks properly. Even though I’m not at risk and live alone, I’m not looking forward to going back.

      5. Jellissimo*

        I also wonder if this was more the issue the parent was having. There is a lot of polarization (people who think teachers are “lazy” for not teaching face to face) and that resentment could be what the parent was expressing. Not that OP shouldn’t be allowed to do as they please during their lunch hour, but that if the teacher’s union is in favor of virtual learning, the optics of a teacher having a nonessential service, in which there is close physical contact, I can see how those optics could be bothersome. Not that it’s right: just that it might be it. Unfortunately there is a lot of judgment being passed on people’s choices these days.

      6. Observer*

        if it’s safe to get your eyebrows waxed, why isn’t it safe enough for in-person learning?

        That’s actually a reasonable question. But *IF* (and I’m not convinced) that was the issue it wouldn’t matter if it was the OP’s lunch or not. Nor would the issue have been “perception.”

        I don’t know that the school can get into the safety of what teachers do on their own time, but it’s a legitimate issue for parents to raise. On the other hand, outside of the safety issues, NOTHING a teacher does on their own time should be an issue that parents get to weigh in on. And, from what the OP says, it doesn’t sound like a safety concern as much as “how dare the teacher have a life” Prinicipal should most definitely have had the OP’s back.

        1. PVR*

          As many people have covered this isn’t actually a reasonable questions. The risks are worlds apart for many reasons.

          1. Observer*

            Actually, no.

            Maybe getting your eyebrows done is actually a safe activity. That’s not the point – it IS reasonable for a parent to bring up questions of safety. Of course, if the activity is safe, then the teacher (and principal as well) should point out that, in fact, this is a safe activity and “I’m still uncomfortable” is not a good enough reason to ask teachers to refrain from specific activities.

            In other words, it may not be reasonable to have an issue with THIS particular activity. It IS reasonable to ask about the safety of non-essential activities – IF and only if – the teacher is in the classroom.

            1. Indigo a la mode*

              “Actually, no.” is a pretty snarky response given that the question PVR responded to was not “Is it reasonable for parents to bring up questions of safety?” You put those words in their mouth.

              PVR is absolutely correct that the risk of an eyebrow wax is far, far, far lower than sitting in a classroom, sharing air with 30 people (all of whom have contact with who-knows-how many people outside the classroom), for six hours a day, five days a week.

              1. Observer*

                The question was a total indirection and implied that anyone who asked is necessarily being unreasonable, which is why I was being snarky.

                I’ve been pushing back pretty hard on the idea that the OP (or anyone, for that matter) needs to not engage in reasonable activities because of “perception”. But it is legitimate for a parent to ask about it (again, assuming the teacher is in the classroom). Of course, if the activity in question is actually pretty safe, then that’s the answer. But saying “This is safe, how do you not already know that” is not appropriate.

                I want to be clear here – The issue I am addressing is whether it is generally acceptable to ask about the safety implications of activities when there is a significant possibility that it could affect the students. It’s reasonable to ask and the question should be answered reasonably. To be honest, though, it’s not really relevant to the OP, as they are teaching remotely anyway, so the parent really has no standing to object.

        2. Oxford Comma*

          I wonder why the parent had no problem being in the salon, but had a problem with the teacher being in the salon.

          We keep bringing covid into this and maybe that’s the issue the parent had, but I wonder if this is akin to someone complaining because they saw you at the supermarket when you’ve called in sick and it’s compounded because the LW is a teacher and we treat teachers like dirt in the US.

          Either way, I am on the OP’s side.

      7. TardyTardis*

        There have been teachers who have gotten fired for posting pictures of themselves at a wedding looking like they were holding alcohol. For reals.

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      Yes, the principal needs to back up the teacher. Some parents just have unrealistic expectations of teachers and think they are always on the clock and must be available for students at all times. My friend who is a teacher spent years working in a small community. She would consistently get stopped when she was out in public by parents who wanted to talk to her about how things were going for their kids. She and her husband eventually agreed that he would do all their grocery shopping and other errands, so she could stay home and avoid having to keep dealing with that when parents spotted her out and about.

      1. AnotherTeacher*

        I will NEVER forget when a parent tried to talk to me about her son’s quiz grade at 6:30AM while I was wearing one of those tiny towels after a shower at the gym. That was when I started going to the gym branch several towns over instead.

        But, I think in this case it’s very much what Guacamole Bob is describing — the current situation has overwhelmed some of the rational “teachers have lives too” thoughts that I know people want to have.

    4. More questions than answers*

      – “But it was your lunch, right?”
      – “Exactly, that’s why this reaction seems so weird.”

    5. Mookie*

      “Perception” is such a curious word choice here because it appears to acknowledge the presence of messy subjectivity which ought to be tempered by context. Why is the plain truth of the thing still inadequate? No rules were broken, spiritual or literal. There is nothing ethically dubious about the appointment, in the sense that we expect our teachers to behave as better ascetics than our pastors and rabbis, half the time. Management and in this case, principals, can “help” parents manage their lordly expectations and assumptions by not receiving this kind of gossipy, milk monitor-esque ‘feedback‘ blandly and, more importantly, not put the onus on teachers to try better to conceal their bodily and earthly needs and the meagre benefits their unions have fought tooth and nail for. There is nothing for the LW to answer for here.

      1. Annony*

        Two points:
        1) The teacher stated she was teaching virtually. She has no contact with the students. Her choice to get her eyebrows done in a business that is legally open is not a part of this question. The parent, who was potentially upset probably thought the teacher was skipping virtual screen time, not becoming a risk of spreading a disease.
        2) School leadership that takes the easy way and does not back their teachers is one of the main reasons for attrition in this profession. I’ve had great principals who will back me up with the parents (when I am right), and I’ve had terrible principals who will ask me to apologize for a perceived slight (telling a student they received a failing grade because they turned in no work) “because it’s just easier for us all”. Those are the principals that cause you to change your career or look for another job.
        TLDR – he should have backed her up.

        1. Observer*

          The parent, who was potentially upset probably thought the teacher was skipping virtual screen time, not becoming a risk of spreading a disease.

          Yup. That makes it much worse.

          1. Observer*

            I mean it makes it much worse that the principal didn’t back the OP completely and that he got into a whole discussion of perception.

      2. mgguy*

        College level here…

        I’ve had a department chair ream me out for a mistake I made in handling a class situation, and rightfully so(nothing this benign as the LW) but he STILL avoided throwing me under the bus to the students when they came to him about it.

    6. HS teacher*

      I am a high school teacher. I also think a lot of it depends on your school and community. I am extremely protective of my personal time and my personal life, and if I take a personal day (I also get two per school year) I would have no issue running errands and doing what I want to do. However, I also know that at my school this wouldn’t really cause an issue.

      I am interested in your perspective on working contract hours, because my day is done at 4:00pm and I leave at 4:00pm on the dot. My time is important. Most of my coworkers do the same. Would your school look down on this?

      1. Gumby*

        “Teaching to the contract” is not just about leaving at 4 on the dot. It’s about not doing all of the little things that teachers do that are not required by contract and are not paid. Serving as the faculty advisor for student clubs (Spanish club / student council / National Honor Society / Key Club). Letting kids eat in your classroom (thus having to eat your lunch there too). Drop in tutoring hours. Extra AP test prep sessions. Updating bulletin boards. Buying supplies for the classroom that you know have no chance of being approved. Teaching bar graphs from the book without the help from mini-bags of M&Ms.

        The teachers I knew growing up – and I knew a lot because both of my parents taught – stayed away from anything that would affect student learning, but it could also include things like not writing new tests each year / not having multiple versions of tests, not doing any of the enrichment-type projects that tend to be more creative but also time consuming, not grading homework or assigning things that are easy to grade (*cough*scantrons*cough*) even if they are poor ways to measure student understanding, not planning field trips, etc.

    7. Pink Dahlia*

      One of the things driving my friends and family out of teaching is the parental perception that teachers should conduct themselves like education robots and have no lives of their own. (That, plus getting assaulted by students while earning less than minimum wage.)

      My mother had to quit going to her private club (not a fancy place, similar to an American Legion) because some of her students were waiters there, and they gossiped about her ordering alcohol. A 60-year-old woman was getting hassled for having ONE Twisted Tea on a Saturday night, because “teacher”. The idea makes me want to rage-quit a profession I’ve never even had.

      1. Artemesia*

        When I was a young teacher — still the age of getting asked for my hall pass by staff that didn’t know me yet — I got gossiped about because some parent ran into me in the liquor store. I lived in a state where you had to buy liquor in a state run store, so it wasn’t like where I live now and you can pick up a bottle at the grocery store. Was told ‘perceptions’ — and pointed out that the only person who could have a negative ‘perception’ about an adult buying alcohol was another adult who was also IN THE DAMN LIQUOR STORE buying alcohol themselves. That actually shut up the vice principal, but probably not the gossip.

      2. Paperwhite*

        This is so true. When I worked with teachers I was in awe of them and infuriated by some of the parents’ ridiculous expectations. At least the administration generally valued the teachers.

    8. Blackcat*

      One evening, a parent sent me an email demanding I meet with their child before school the next day…. at 11pm. I obviously didn’t see it until the next morning.
      By then I had FIVE increasingly hostile emails and two voicemails, from between 11:05 (yes, 5 minutes after the first!) and 2am.
      My boss also got an angry voicemail, too.

      He was waiting for me by my classroom when I got in, and after a brief, “What the hell is up with this dad?” comment, he made it 100% clear he was going to stay put in front of my classroom and prevent that dad from speaking to me. I think he was extra protective because of the dynamic–I was 23 at the time, and he perceived the voicemails as a threat. Fortunately neither the kid nor dad showed before school, and the dad was banned from setting foot on campus and from contacting me directly.

      In a much more minor thing, there was also apparently a complaint from one parent that kids knew (really, had figured out) that I was living with my boyfriend and therefore “setting a bad example” (my boyfriend helped out with the team I coached during special events, so the kids–high school kids–knew him). I only knew about the complaint because a kid told me they overhead their parent complaining to my boss about it on the phone. My boss never said a peep about it to me. My guess is he essentially told the parent to shove it (kid could only hear parent’s side of the convo).

      My boss 100% had my back with ridiculous parents. It’s part of being a principal. And he wasn’t even a very good principal overall, but he really knew that if you give in to one unreasonable parent about one thing, it snowballs.

      1. Mx*

        And since when it’s not been okay to live with one’s boyfriend ! I thought not from the 60’s or 70’s. So sad people can still be so narrow minded nowodays.

      2. Observer*

        really knew that if you give in to one unreasonable parent about one thing, it snowballs

        Isn’t that the truth! It’s something that every principal should keep in mind.

      3. Coffee Bean*

        I think I love your boss. I know Alison has a “worst bosses” list at the end of the year. But I would love to see a great bosses list

    9. NotAnotherTeenLibrarian*

      Being on Zoom all day might have her looking at her face more often, and more aware of what things need to be done . I have to be on Zoom meetings once or twice a week, and my pandemic grey hair is getting to me, so I’m getting a cut and color this week. Yes, there is a risk, and a perception issue, but if I have to look professional on camera it is a risk I’m going to take. Maybe seeing her face 8 ish hours a day makes those small things noticeable. You may say, her eyebrows can wait it’s a pandemic, but she might be thinking I’m looking at my face all day, this is a small risk I’m willing to take.

      We are all doing risk management in some ways, and I think it’s really rough when employers start telling us how to manage those risks outside of work time.

    10. Anonymous271*

      I just wanted to say.. we don’t have enough info about what is going on for the teacher and their school and district. My SIL is a teacher and her union has had massive fights with the district about going back to in person learning. She is in a highly populated area and just based on caseload, it isn’t safe to go back for in person learning. The parents really want the kids to go back, however, and the district agrees. So she was actually warned by the union to just be careful of perception to not give anybody any ammunition. Is it dumb? Yes. But trying to use logic and rationality in this case hasn’t been working.

      Not saying that this is absolutely what is happening with the LW, it is happening around the US.

      And, to some extent, it depends on where you are. Getting nonessential grooming is going to be viewed differently in a place that has firm regulations in place (like CA) vs places that dont (like FL).

      And the reality is just that people view these things differently. Low risk is not no risk. Everyone has different things that they are willing to take that (small) risk for. And for those of us that are pretty minimal about grooming, it can be really hard to understand why anyone would take that risk, even as small as it is. This is not an excuse to make a big deal about it, though.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        If they’re distance learning though it’s not relevant since she’s not seeing her students in person, so even if it’s a risk to her it has little effect on her job (unless she gets sick enough to have to take time off I suppose, but that’s a bit far from what it sounds like the parent was actually complaining about).

    11. Datalie*

      Former teacher here– the school I taught at had minor meltdowns when teachers left campus for their lunch. It was ridiculous and teachers ran errands anyways. My supervisor actually told me I was betting off calling in sick than planning to take my 2 personal days in a row for an important family event. The school lost a lot of quality teachers over the nit picking– especially those second career teachers who didn’t tolerate being pushed around for silly stuff like leaving for lunch.

    12. PersephoneUnderground*

      Yeah, the principal was spineless here. The parent was 100% in the wrong here but he still somehow put it on the teacher that they should be worried about “perception”. Sometimes people will “perceive” things incorrectly, and there’s nothing the object of that ridiculous judgement can do about it. She’s a teacher, not a robot, and something this unreasonable isn’t possible to guess ahead of time and prevent. So it simply can’t be put on the teacher like that- it’s on the principal to shield teachers from this BS so they can do their actual jobs, like any good manager does for their team.

    13. Momma Bear*

      Our old school had a grievance with the administration and the teachers started teaching to the minimum. The principal couldn’t even pay people to attend events after school. I think they were required to attend two and the teachers made sure that the bare minimum of teachers showed up for each event and they never offered more than their required number of events. It stank for those of us who knew what fun the events were prior to his arrival and antagonizing of teachers. I hope the OP’s principal doesn’t get like that. Nitpicking professional people’s time and off the clock behavior is a quick way to lose good people.

      So anyway, the brows thing. What a teacher does on their personal time is theirs. So many teachers put in more time than people ever realize. Today my child’s teacher stayed for at least an hour after class to help a handful of kids. I’m sure he didn’t get paid extra for that. If you are WFH and you have a moment to get away from those four walls, then people need to leave you alone about it. The perception being what? That you’re goofing off? Parent could log in with their child to see the work OP does. That is what OP should be judged on. Not eyebrows.

  3. Ambarish*

    > because the candidate embezzled and thus is not EXCEPTIONAL,

    I’d hope most employees don’t embezzle, which *would* make someone that did embezzle EXCEPTIONAL :-)

    1. Eisbaer*

      Exactly! EXCEPTIONAL can mean exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. See also: DYNAMIC and UNIQUE.

      1. Threeve*

        “Candidate’s work was pretty average, but he wrote all of his reports in rhyming couplets, it was pretty exceptional.”

    2. Rayray*

      Haha I thought the same thing but I knew what they meant and didn’t want to nitpick. :) I’m just happy to see other people who think like I do. I do wonder if they was at all the intent of the email, exceptional in any way.

  4. Fiona the Baby Hippo*

    It gave me pause in Letter 1 to read that there were pre-existing issues with people not acknowledging their bonus. I understand wanting to hear a thank-you after sending a thoughtful gift card (and I am certain I thanked any boss who gave me a personal gift over the years), but it’s never occurred to me to say thank-you for a bonus. It’s always felt like something I earned not something that was bestowed upon me graciously. I don’t thank my boss on pay day, I wouldn’t thank them when a bonus drops.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      This year we didn’t receive our spring bonus (thanks COVID!) and indications are that there won’t be an end of year one either. Considering the current trying times an acknowledgement would be nice. It doesn’t have to be effusive but a simple thank you would not be amiss. I always thanked my director for my bonus because it also came with a letter thanking me for my work and it mentioned the times I went above and beyond.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Ah, good points!! The focus should definitely be on thanking the employees – they make the company money! And they’re sacrificing more than ever now as well. How tacky is it to require them to thank her when they’re pulling their hair out homeschooling kids and making the morning meeting?

      2. Annony*

        An acknowledgment is nice, but seeing a lack of acknowledgment as an issue is a step too far. Companies give bonuses to acknowledge hard work and retain good employees. It isn’t a gift.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      For me those things are a bit different – I don’t get any particular notice on payday, the money just turns up in my bank account, so there is nobody to thank. With my bonus I either am told about it in person by my boss or this year was sent a message and attached letter over Teams, so there’s a direct conversation where it feels natural to say “thank you” – to me it would actually feel very rude and unnatural to just, I don’t know, sit there and stare at my boss until they go away? I thank people for holding the door for me so it seems strange not to thank someone for informing me that I’ll be receiving a large amount of money. However I am British and apologise to furniture for walking into it so maybe that has something to do with it.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, for me personally, the question of whether something is a well thought-out personal favour or a business-y retention strategy doesn’t even really come into play here – the situation does.

        If someone directly presents me with something, I will say Thank You basically automatically; like, I get my pay from one of my part-time jobs in cash at the end of each month and when my boss hands it to me, I pocket it and say “Thanks” because it’s the base-level polite and normal response in this kind of interaction.

        My other part-time job just directly transfers the money to my bank account and it would never occur to me to thank someone for it because there is no personal interaction. I talked yesterday about how much I like big picture talks but this is one of those situations where, to thank someone, it would feel like a big picture talk and that would just be so unnatural – I wouldn’t go out of my way to thank my employer for something that is… well, just happening, basically.

        As such, I’d react differently to all the things OP mentions – I wouldn’t thank her for the virutal happy hours, for example, since there probably wouldn’t be a way to do that naturally, but if she sent me a little gift or a gift card, I would absolutely say (or write, however the news was brought to me) a quick Thank You.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Yes, exactly! For me at least it isn’t to do with the grand strategy behind it at all, it’s just a basic social exchange. Now that I think about it, back when our company accountant used to walk around the office handing out payslips pretty much everybody would thank him even though there was no actual cash in them and he wasn’t the one paying us. It’s just, I don’t know, a social thing. Politeness.

          I’m not sure if the OP is expecting enthusiastic profuse thanks or something, which would be a bit much to expect as a matter of course, but if her colleagues are genuinely just not acknowledging these things at all or offering even a very basic social thank-you, that does seem quite strange and rude to me.

          1. Mel_05*

            Same. When they handed us an envelope with our deposit statement on it, I said, “Thank you” because it’s the social convention when being handed something and saying nothing would be odd.

            But when the stuff just appears in my account it would be odd to find my boss or HR and thank them.

            For bonuses… I think I’ve always said thank you, but I’ve always been handed the bonus personally.

            1. LifeBeforeCorona*

              Yes, our director would seek out each person and hand them an envelope. We knew what it was and he always got a thank you at the time.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              yes, I mean you’ll say thank you as the boss hands you something you need for your work too, like a pen or whatever.

        2. KWu*

          This is how I was feeling too–it raises my eyebrows a bit that OP is this peeved, but otoh, it is also hard for me to imagine not automatically saying “thank you” when being told by my boss that they’re giving me something they clearly think is an extra/fun thing.

        3. WorkingGirl*

          Yeah. My boss gives us bonuses in a sweet, handwritten card, that he hands directly to us. I say thank you!

        4. Today*

          On board with this. My boss recently surprised me by extending my request off without losing hours. I’m part time hourly in retail so every request off is a potential for lost time – not usually a full day but maybe 4 – 5 hours depending on business, availability, how many labor hours are left once the full timers get theirs in. You bet I thanked her.

      2. Devon*

        Yes, this makes a lot of sense. At my workplace for instance, we did a few secret Santa gift exchanges (a book exchange for those of us in book discussion Slack channel and then a care package exchange), and it made sense there to directly thank the gift giver if/when their identity was revealed or just by writing, “thanks to whoever sent me this specific thing!” on Slack. However, it doesn’t seem intuitive to respond to the mass email that director of HR sent out telling everyone in the organization that they’re getting bonuses.

        Also, for the LW, I would evaluate the salaries/benefits you provide to employees. If you were providing under market salaries even pre-COVID and not doing any sort of COLA and/or don’t provide great benefits, I could see why your employees don’t want to give you effusive praise for doing things that don’t involve addressing those issues.

      3. Willis*

        I agree with this. I’m picturing OP sending an email to the 15 people in the org about extra time off, a bonus, or gift cards coming their way and about half replying with a ‘thanks’ email, which seems about par for the course to me. Some people will reply, some won’t, but no need to get upset that not everyone does. But if I slacked a specific person and told them to take extra time off cause they had a hard week or something like that and got no reply that would seem a little weird/cold. Not because I want a display of gratitude, but because it’s more of a one-on-one conversation where a response is natural. If that’s what’s happening I agree with the OP that it’s odd and maybe they don’t like what you’re offering…but my bet would be it’s more of the first situation.

      4. Momma Bear*

        For something like a bonus, I don’t think it’s out of place to acknowledge it. I once received an unexpected bonus – boss never mentioned it. I just noticed that my deposit was bigger and looked into it. I did thank boss when I found out, but it was well after the fact. Part of a merit bonus is that you are getting noticed for good work, and it’s nice to see that the boss recognizes it.

    3. Beth Jacobs*

      I think it also depends on the opportunity to say thank you, I guess? At my old job, my boss would let us know whether there would be bonuses that half-year, but I didn’t actually find out the amount until I got my paycheck (apparently, she didn’t know either – she put in some percentages about how money should be allotted amongst her team without knowing how much money was in the pool – weird). So then I think it might be strange to start a conversation about bonuses just to thank her.
      At my current job, my boss tells me how much bonus I’m getting at my biannual review. So the thanks is natural there, along with thanking him for the feedback, since we’re already having that conversation.
      Since everyone’s remote at OP’s company, this might be more about the fact that there isn’t a natural opportunity to say thanks. I’d just leave it be.

    4. SomehowIManage*

      I always that my boss for the bonus, even though it’s something I earned, because he or she has some discretion in the amount I receive. I also thank anyone who has organized a function, like a happy hour, because it does take some effort to organize them. Of course, our events are usually fun and not just an extra drain on my time… A lot of people that executives for the annual meeting, and I don’t do that because it truly is a business meeting.

    5. Daffy Duck*

      I do send a Thank You email to the boss when I get a bonus. Where I work not everyone will get a bonus, the amount may vary, we are requested not to talk about them with coworkers. We will be notified in person prior and the extra money will show up in our paycheck. I always say thank you in person when notified by my manager or HR, and send a short thank you email to the boss when it shows up in my bank account.
      Yes, I do good work and have earned that bonus. I am not in a job that gives extra cash for meeting sales goals, etc it is a completely internal position. However, bonus’ are completely voluntary and acknowledging/thanking those decide to pass the money on rather than keeping it as company profit lets them know I appreciate it and that it actually showed up in my bank.

    6. JokeyJules*

      yeah to be honest i’ve always seen bonuses as compensation for meeting or exceeding a KPI criteria. i did my job especially well and should be paid especially well.
      i did have a boss pad my bonus with a little extra once, and acknowledged and thanked them, but that was more to ensure it wasn’t an admin error and i wouldnt have to give it back.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Maybe I say thank you maybe I don’t. It varies. One time a few years ago, my good boss got me a raise. She forgot to tell me. Much later, when she remembered, she said, “I did not expect that you’d actually notice it. It’s a small raise but it’s the best I could get.” She was right. I had not noticed. I did apologize for not noticing and she laughed. “I get why you did not notice. It’s okay.” I really did appreciate her asking with out me reminding her.

      I have the same motto here as I do with gifts in my personal life. If not being thanked annoys a person that much, then that person should not give the gift. I hope OP can find satisfaction in trying to right by the employees. I take consolation in the fact that I am sure there were times where I forgot to say thanks myself and people just overlooked it.

    8. JustaTech*

      At my company I wouldn’t even know who to thank for my bonus. We’re a big enough org that bonuses are based on some weird calculus form the corporate overlords based on a combination of your position and if the sales team (who seems to quit en mass every two years) managed to meet our predictions.
      My boss, his boss, his boss, and his boss have no say at all in any of that.
      I think I’ve met 3 sales people in the last 9 years, so it’s not like I could thank them directly either.

      Now, when my 3 bosses ago boss got me a major raise without me asking (because I was seriously underpaid), I thanked *him* effusively, in person. But that was personal action for me specifically, not just how the system works.

  5. Elizabeth West*

    A hobbies section is okay? Really? I’m surprised. I always thought you should leave that stuff off.

    My indie publishing is in the freelance section on mine because I’m making actual money off it (Baby Yoda-sized money, but still) and people keep asking me what I’ve been doing. But that’s not a hobby and I can’t imagine putting, say, miniatures or figure skating if I were still doing that on my resume. Does anyone care what you do outside of work?

      1. Me*

        Law huh? That explains it. I was asked about what I do outside of work as an interview question when I applied for a position with the States Attorney’s Office and I was taken (on the inside) aback. One because it’s never happened before and two because I’m fiercely private and draw a hard line between work and personal. I didn’t get a second interview which was fine because it was clearly a bad fit on both parts, but I always wondered about that question.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        In law firms, I think you’re supposed to prove that you’re not all work and no play even if you stay at the office until 9pm at the earliest ;-)

        I don’t have a CV or resume as such in that I’m a freelancer, but my “translator profile” definitely includes my hobbies. I always remember a time when I was working at an agency. I had a translation to deal with, about horses, and it was quite technical, it needed a translator with above average knowledge of horses. I just did a search for “horse-riding” in our database and to my surprise, a translator specialising in dry-as-dust financial reports had listed it as a hobby. She was absolutely thrilled to do the translation, it made a change for her, and I was thrilled to have a top-quality translation to deliver to our client.

      3. Public Sector Manager*

        It depends on the firm or agency you’re applying with. I’ve been practicing for 25 years, 20 of those years in state or local government, and I think a hobbies section is a waste of space on a resume. My agency hires about 5-6 attorneys a year and we all ignore the hobbies section.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Here in Europe it’s more common so I had to figure out what my hobbies were when I moved here. Wish I could list “Repeatedly binging The Mandalorian in various languages”. :D Does Baby Yoda need money? I guess for soup.. frogs are free!

      1. allathian*

        Some parts of Europe, no doubt. I haven’t seen much of it in Finland, fortunately. I’m always at a loss, because I don’t have any “cool” hobbies. I like to read, play mobile games, and watch TV, and that’s it. I don’t exercise enough for it to count as a hobby.

      2. Southern Viking*

        Here in Sweden it’s fairly common. Many employers (in white collar jobs such as sales, communication or law) love people who run marathons or any kind of endurance or crossfit. Quite a few places have company teams that participate in local races or obstacle course races such as Toughest.

        I usually mention being an equestrian, because it’s associated with good leadership skills.

        1. Wisco Disco*

          That’s good to hear. My husband associates it with my being very good at throwing money out an open window ;)

        2. Steve H*

          Wait really? That’s interesting – I’ve never heard that before. What does horse-riding have to do with leadership?

          1. Lucette Kensack*

            It doesn’t. But it’s an upper-class hobby and so it gets coded with positive associations.

            (I have 20+ years of experience riding, training, competing, teaching, managing a barn, etc. I know of what I speak. Riding horses doesn’t impart leadership skills any more than fishing or, like, rollerskating does.)

      3. Jam*

        It was the first bit of advice I got for my CV when I moved to Ireland – that I needed some hobbies or interests to make it more personal. And every interview I’ve been on they make some comment about “it says you like knitting, finish any sweaters lately?”

    2. Double A*

      I put one line at the very end. Buy I’m in education, so sometimes hobbies can be relevant to like what kind of extracurriculars you might be interested in being involved in.

      1. BubbleTea*

        Yes, this is what I do too – “In my free time I enjoy walking my dog, sewing and stage managing amateur theatrical productions”. Innocuous enough not to put anyone off, vaguely interesting, and two of the list show staying power and organisational skills.

    3. Liz*

      I listed hobbies when I was long-term unemployed, but that was mostly because I needed something to fill the gap, and they were hobbies that showed some degree of reliability and responsibility. (Amateur theatre, running charity events, etc.) I volunteered in my field as well during this time, which proved helpful in the long run, but I did also have a couple of people ask me about the events side of things in interviews.

    4. Super Admin*

      I always think of a hobbies section on a CV as like a conversation starter for a small talk piece of an interview. When I had a phone interview for my current job my manager and I bonded over us both having three cats and an interest in horse racing!

      1. Doc in a Box*

        Yes, that’s how I see it too. I often turn to it first when prepping for an interview — it’s a good way to get the candidate comfortable by talking about a recent book they’ve read, or a recipe they’d recommend, before getting into the nitty-gritty details of the work.

        Mine includes Creative Writing (with a short list of relevant courses — hopefully some publications soon!) and Hiking.

        That said, my field doesn’t include resumes but rather CVs. I’ve seen people list their children’s names and dates of birth!

      2. gladfe*

        I think that’s exactly the right way to think about it! It’s not an “unprofessional skills” section; it’s a list of possible conversation starters. I’ve conducted interviews for campus jobs before, and you wouldn’t believe how many college students put down hobbies they’re not prepared to talk about. I’d say something innocuous about their hobby to make small talk, and they’d start guiltily stammering that they hadn’t had time for that since high school. Don’t put down hobbies you’re not prepared to make 20 seconds of cheerful small talk about! If you don’t have any hobbies you want to talk about, feel free to leave the section off completely. I promise we can find something else to talk about while I walk you to the elevator.

    5. JC*

      I have a section for languages, certifications and programming languages on my resume. I list a couple of languages and ensure they are marked as “hobby level” to demonstrate I’m an active learner but not proficient (learned that lesson after someone tried to switch an interview into Greek!). I also list online learning platforms and the courses relevant to my role, again note that this is self study and there to demonstrate I spend my time learning and actively upskilling. I wouldn’t list ice skating or writing a novel, unless it was significant (either I was professionally competing or making money)

    6. londonedit*

      It’s fairly common in the UK, but it should be for things that demonstrate non-work skills or that demonstrate who you are as a person. So ‘Hobbies: baking, reading, going to the theatre’ is pretty pointless. But ‘Other interests: qualified rugby coach and long-serving committee member of Biggleswade Rugby Club; active member of Midsomer Cake Association (Champion Baker 2019); keen fell walker and amateur dog trainer’ would be totally fine. It’s not so much people caring what you do outside of work, it’s about having an opportunity to showcase skills or experience that make you look like more than just a set of dry work achievements. I have an ‘other interests’ section on my CV and I’m always asked about it in interviews – it’s an icebreaker and you can also use it to show off skills like ‘Yes – I can tell you being a rugby coach has certainly taught me a thing or two about trying to get people to work as a team!’

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        My (UK) CV has a bit about my hobbies designing computer themed cross stitch, and a few very niche interests. Then again I work in IT where weirdness can be a real asset.

      2. JC*

        This does feel like it splits roughly US vs Europe. I’ve found resumes are expected to list dry achievements like school, sport participation, internships etc, usually in bullet point format. Mine was 1 page. My CV has always been longer, more detailed and included blurb on hobbies for U.K. roles (2 pages). It’s just whatever is standard for your country or industry

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I have a volunteer/activities section because some of the things I do (e.g. ESL tutor, archaeologic site steward, GOTV campaign organizer, HIV Awareness fun run or) because some of the things I do for those cross into skills on the job that may or may not have been part of past roles but might be useful to new roles.

    7. Czhorat*

      I’ve never thought to put hobbies on my resume, but I’m well known in my industry for two of mine (juggling and playing the ukulele), and it has come up in hiring discussions.

      I feel that it’s a small way to both set you apart in a crowded field and make you seem more like a “real person”.

      1. Paperwhite*

        But have you juggled ukeleles? Seriously, though, those are definitely intriguing hobbies. Which is probably the point– intriguingly uncommon and/or social hobbies might be useful on a resume.

    8. MMB*

      A hobbies/interests section would never have occurred to me either. I think in my area of the country (at least in my previous field) it would come off as ……odd. I do include a small section for my volunteer work though.

    9. Pink Dahlia*

      From what I’ve seen, it’s often used as a screen for “cultural fit”. Like, hire the guy who’s into golf and competitive sailing, not the guy who’s into intramural softball and tailgating.

      1. Threeve*

        I have a long-time volunteer gig on my resume, in part because it sort of signals my religion; if an organization or manager is going to have a problem with it I prefer them to know before the application process goes anywhere.

    10. Rayray*

      It’s nice to see the professional world becoming less stuffy and without personality or joy. I don’t have a hobby section on my most recent resume but I have used it before. I’ve also been asked about hobbies in interviews. People like to interact and be more personable rather than pretend they go home to stare at the wall or work on more spreadsheets.

    11. Enescudoh*

      The very last line of my CV reads ‘I was once a backing singer for the Spice Girls’, and I don’t think I’ve ever gone to an interview where I haven’t been asked about it or told it’s really cool…

      1. Pink Dahlia*

        From my perspective as a woman in tech: by now, this would be used to age discriminate against you.

    12. a clockwork lemon*

      I’m in the legal field and have mine as a combined “volunteering & hobbies” section. My hobby/sport involves doing lots of work with animals, and when I applied for my current job I was in a leadership position with an animal rescue–I found out much later that it was one of the tie breaking factors when it came down to me or another candidate during the final interview round.

    13. Gamer*

      I used to work in the videogame industry. We had a recruiter screen the resumes for us. Even though I was the hiring manager, I only got to see the resumes and not the complete application with all the “tell us about yourself” stuff. In my case, it absolutely helped when our applicants included a section listing the videogames they’ve played. It showed experience with our products, and specifically the niche projects that my department managed. The videogames themselves weren’t actual work accomplishments that typically belong on a resume, so I only saw a couple of people do this and moved them to the interview stage.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      If it fits somehow with the job.
      My husband put on his resume that he wired a house for a friend. He also talked about his train layout with a massive amount of wiring. He built a tv from a kit and so on. He tossed technical things to see what would stick. The boss-to-be picked up on one or two of them and asked questions. My husband talked enthusiastically and at length about these things. In a simple example, the tasks showed my husband could solder and the job required being able to solder. The boss found dozens of these cross-over skills in the examples. This is how a person with a degree in labor relations ends up repairing machines for a living.
      He always said he appreciated having the degree because he was around a lot of very educated people. But he never used the degree itself at all.

  6. Dan*


    OP, I don’t thank my boss for my paycheck every two weeks. When I get substantial raises or promotions, I do say, “thank you for recognizing my hard work, it’s much appreciated.” It’s a *professional* thank you to management, not a personal thank you, if you will. I recently got moved in a reorg, and had to leave a department with really good management. When my department manager informed me of the transfer, I told him I expected it, but was nonetheless disappointed, and thanked him (and the other relevant parties) for taking good care of me for the last few years.

    I probably thanked my boss three or four times in as many years. I do not thank my boss for the Christmas party or other “social” events.

    If I were your employee and knew you wanted a personal thank you, I think I’d go nuts. You describe many things, some of which are helpful, and some not so much. As a rule of thumb, your employees want more money and more time off. The rest? It’s nice and all, but… In any event, my take on how the things you’ve listed might be received:

    1. virtual happy hours: Nope. Don’t care and won’t thank you for that. Picking up the tab in person at the bar? Ok, I’d go and like it, but realistically consider it the cost of you doing business.

    2. extra time off: Definitely happy, but only if it’s no strings attached. E.g., I’m not expected to work harder to cover the work that’s not getting done.

    3. early bonuses: Well… you don’t go into detail on this one, but you aren’t getting a “thank you” for something you’re otherwise going to do, and/or is an expected part of my compensation for meeting targets.

    4. small fun gifts: Big fat nope. Fun for you is not the same fun for me. Besides, if I just have to throw it out at some point, then I’d rather not have it. I live in a small apartment, and I really don’t have room for unexpected “stuff” that I wasn’t already seeking out.

    5. gift cards: Maybe? But $20 here and there just doesn’t move the needle for me anymore. I’d actually find it a bit awkward if management just announced, “hey! $5 gift card to Starbucks for everybody! Yay, right?”

    6. and funds for happy hour supplies: In a pandemic? Where I live, the bars are closed.

    7. or a meal out: This is more my style, but… I live in a HCOL area, so a meal out that is going to get a voluntary genuine thank you from me is going to cost you at least $100/pp (and you covered my SO, right?). I promise you I’m not being a snob, I just live in an area where a “nice meal” (plus drinks, tax, and tip) costs that much. For reference, I spent $25 at a fast casual place for dinner tonight, and if you picked up that tab? I’d probably forget it by the end of the week.

    All in all, when it comes to small or inexpensive gifts, gift cards, restaurant meals, or happy hours, you really, truly do have to look at them as a business transaction, because that’s exactly what they are. If you consider them personal favors, you’re going to be *highly* disappointed when your employees don’t see things the same way you do. And if I caught even a whiff that you were trying to buy, coerce, or otherwise incent a personal thank you? I’d be highly annoyed.

    To sum it up: More cash and more time off will *always* be appreciated, and the amount of thanks you get will be commensurate with the size of the check or number of extra days off.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I assumed that the funds for happy hour was linked to the virtual happy hour, and that they were supplying money to cover the costs of your drinks, and then the idea was that you’d all have a zoom meeting with cocktails, or something.

      However, over all, (and speaking as a partner owning a small business) I think that a lot of this falls into the category of things which I wouldn’t expect to be thanked for, or would only expect a brief ‘thanks’ in passing if the opportunity arose.

      For instance- bonuses – depends on how they work. We have a pretty formal structure for bonuses and while they are discretionary , they are based on very clear criteria and are effectively earned by someone achieving over target, so I wouldn’t expect to be thanked unless we decided to pay more than the formula suggests.
      I think if you are giving extra time off or extra money then that’s a good thing to be doing but ultimately it is something you are doing because you think it makes long term business sense.
      Would it be nice if people thanked you? Yes (particularly if the current situation is making life harder for you as a business as well as for individuals). Is it unreasonable for people not to thank you? No. From their perspective, you are doing these things to thank them for their hard work, so the transaction is They work hard, you thank them by providing bonuses of one kind or another. You don’t say thank you for a thank you.

      1. Mockingjay*

        After 8 or 9 hours of work online, the last thing I want to do is a virtual happy hour. I want off the damn computer so I can go outside and play with my dog.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Oh, nor would I. I wouldn’t want one and I particularly wouldn’t want one with my coworkers, and I assume that if my employees want to virtually meet up with each other for drinks they would be happier doing it without my involvment 1

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I think the HH thing is so workplace/team dependent though. I work for a small-mid sized company (about 3,000) and we have a few teams who definitely want team HH or team coffee meetings 1-2 times a week, facilitated by their manager, but with a rule of no-work talk.

            I have no desire to do this and didn’t even ask my team if they want me to do it – they can arrange it if they want. Some people really connect with co-workers, especially on smaller teams, I have found. And some don’t. It’s so all over I don’t think there is a blanket stance on this.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Showing appreciation by giving “stuff” can easily backfire. You need to know people’s tastes pretty well, and that’s not common in the average work group.

      For my 10th anniversary at my organization, I was given an ornamental wooden bowl. Yes, it’s quite nice, but now I need to find a place to put it. And it needs to be dusted, at least occasionally.

      And since I’ve already decided that my first project after retirement is going to be a complete Marie-Kondo-type purge of my apartment, it may not last long.

  7. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    LW1: Alison is right, requiring thanks changes the entire system from a work reward to you being a gift giver- which is a weird shift in power dynamics. They do the work, but it comes off as you personally rewarding them (because how are they supposed to thank a whole company?), and now they’re supposed to feel obligated to thank you…for the reward for work they did?
    I’ve worked with two companies with less than 5 employees each and always expecting thanks does blur the line between “this is a business” and “we are a family”. Don’t make them navigate that. Please give your employees the gift of allowing them to see these perks as business and not as, “my friend in admin loves me!”.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this.

      LW1, please stop expecting thanks for bonuses. Your employees have earned it and the bonus is your thank you to them. Don’t expect a thank you for a thank you.

      Small fun gifts: lots of people don’t find them fun at all, but rather a burden. Especially if it’s poorly chosen, such as chocolate to a person who’s allergic or trying to lose weight, or a bottle of wine to a teetotaler.

      Gift cards: same thing. They can be fun, but also require effort from the recipient to order something. Especially if the amount on the card is so small that it barely covers postage…

      Some people enjoy virtual happy hours, others hate them. I do hope that your virtual happy hours are truly voluntary and that you don’t count declining to attend against people even in your head.

      Extra time off is good, but only if your employees can take time off without having to worry about their work getting done while they’re away.

      That said, if you’ve given them extra bonuses, provided funds for meals out or happy hour supplies at home, given extra time off and gift cards, it really sounds like you’re overdoing it. It’s probably impossible to keep the same sort of camaraderie and team spirit WFH as it is in an office, and it’s not realistic to expect it, either. As long as your employees are reasonably productive, that should really be enough. They’re dealing with all sorts of things these days, feeling socially connected to their coworkers is probably pretty low on most people’s priority lists right now, especially if they’re worried about their health, the health of their loved ones, loneliness in their private lives, the current political situation, the stability of if not their own employment, their spouse’s employment, etc.

      If you find yourself becoming resentful when you’re not receiving the thanks you want for the gifts you’re giving your employees, you should consider doing what advice columnists recommend for relatives who don’t get the thanks they’d like for gifts, assume the gifts aren’t wanted and stop giving them. Even better, start considering some of these things as your costs of doing business rather than gifts. This is especially important with the bonuses, even if you do nothing else, stop expecting thanks for them. You don’t expect thanks from your employees on every payday, after all.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Yes! If employees want activities, let them organize them and come to you with a budget. Never make them mandatory, or give off the vibe that not attending loses you benefits in the office somehow.

      2. PVR*

        So many great points! I think it can’t be overstated how overwhelmed most people are right now. Those factors are going to completely overshadow everything else in a person’s life, and even if they would have said thank you in pre-pandemic times, they may be so distracted, that they may not right now. It’s also probably not the easiest thing to organically thank you right now when everything is virtual.

    2. Thistle Whistle*

      If I get handed a bonus letter I say thanks, the same way I say thanks when anyone hands me anything. But when bonus letters come by internal mail or get sent to the house, nope not no-one gets thanked.

      Plus bonuses are quite often included in job specs here in the UK, and recruitment consultants openly discuss then when trying to sell you a job. They are an expected part of the remuneration, and only don’t happen if something is wrong. It’s acknowledgement that the company is doing well and a thank you TO THE EMPLOYEE for their hard work, its not a gift. A gift is something given WITH NO EXPECTATION of anything in return, otherwise its a transaction.

    3. Minnie Mouse*

      I worked for a guy who expected us to thank him for our paychecks which meant he held them hostage until he could hand them out in person. When a new employee asked why we didn’t have direct deposit this was exactly his reasoning. Let me say it DID NOT sit well with the employees. Other bonuses and “extras” were also cancelled last minute or held over our heads because we were unappreciative. It was incredibly demoralizing and led to even fewer thank yous and engagement with the supposed morale boosters. We even had a meeting about the office’s low morale that could best be described as “the beatings will continue until morale improves.”
      These things are supposed to be a thank you to your staff. Don’t make them thank you for being a decent human being in the middle of a horrific time.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Good lord. How did this guy ever make it into management? Or was he the owner?

        1. Minnie Mouse*

          He owned the business and inherited it from his father. People who knew him growing up said he was a spoiled, entitled brat. We also had to contribute to his birthday and Christmas gifts or he would throw a fit. Expected contribution was $15 from people making $10/hr. We got nothing in return except maybe a pastry on our birthday. We had bonuses spelled out in our contracts, but he acted like they were a huge imposition on the business and that we never actually earned them, but they were based on sales. He overspent on a building expansion and started stealing my easy clients to avoid paying it out. I quit and he said I was stabbing him in the back. I’m so happy to be away from that gaslighting, abusive sonofagun. If you’ve ever read the essay on “Sick Systems” that’s his playbook exactly.

      2. Paperwhite*

        That sounds ludicrous and horrific to endure! Did that walnut drive his business into the ground acting like that?

        1. Minnie Mouse*

          He spoiled his admins (aside from pay) so they stuck around. Why wouldn’t they since they never had to be on time to work to answer the phone since the professional staff can do that while they also do their own work? Half of the professional staff quit within a week and he was furious. I imagine they hit on some hard times after that, but overall the clients are treated like gods even when non-paying deadbeats so there’s plenty of business. I imagine COVID is having a massive negative impact because it is a very recession sensitive business. I know there’s a TON of debt and other professional staff wants to leave because he misled them when hiring.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      requiring thanks changes the entire system from a work reward to you being a gift giver- which is a weird shift in power dynamics

      Yes!!! And from there, it is a hop, skip, and a jump to “just be thankful you even have a job in this economy”. Which in turn leads to all kinds of unsavory things.

  8. germank106*

    I wouldn’t put your hobbies on your resume unless the skills you use are directly related to the job you are applying for. Why not just mention your hobbies in the interview? Sounds like both your writing and duolingo would be great conversation starters.
    I’ve been knitting, tech editing and pattern writing for more than 40 years now, but I’ve put my hobby on a resume just once. The ability to focus on details and being able to “read” my knitting was very much in line with the job I applied for. When I got the offer the hiring manager explained that my mentioning my hobby was the reason I got the job.

    1. Massmatt*

      I agree, in my field putting hobbies on your resume would either seem out of touch or like padding.

      Resumes are about showing someone why they should hire you for a job, anything that doesn’t do that is distracting filler, IMO. Duolingo, knitting, theater, interest in movies, and playing words with friends aren’t going to get you the job, nor should they. Think up another line or two of accomplishments in your job history instead.

      1. Thistle Whistle*

        Yep. UK based here and hobbies generally are padding. Mine disappeared as soon as I had and real relevant experience.

        Plus if you have any really unusual hobbies its better to leave them off. You don’t want valuable interview time taken up by people asking questions about grooming your llamas.

      2. perstreperous*

        I am probably an old cynic, but I worked in graduate recruitment for some time and the number of candidates who quoted absurd numbers and difficulties of hobbies in their CV (many were clearly exaggerated or probably just made up) put me off them being quoted at all.
        Also, what the hobbies are tends to skew the candidature – someone who grew up in a council estate is unlikely to have “sailing” or “flying a light aeroplane” as hobbies and, if a reviewer thinks that expensive hobbies are a good thing in themselves or reflect well on the person who practices them, there is a bias right there.
        In professional CVs (IT) they are never quoted – I think I might have seen two or three CVs stating hobbies out of hundreds.

    2. AP.*

      I’m reminded of a story I once heard about an opening for a well-paid quantitative analyst job at a financial company. A lot of candidates for this job would put down chess as one of their hobbies, since it’s strategy-oriented a game that a lot of mathematically inclined people play.

      So, when the hiring managers saw chess mentioned on a resume, they would say, “Why don’t you play a game with one of our colleagues?” As it turns out, the colleague was a former Russian junior chess champion. He would quickly determine if the candidate really knew anything about chess, or if they just wrote it down as puffery.

      The moral is that even if the hobby relates to your job, be wary of adding it to your resume if it is just a whim or a new activity you’ve just picked up.

      1. Mathmo*

        Bit harsh – I’m sure it’s possible to genuinely enjoy chess and still be terrible :p

        I have a mathematics degree (Oxford, 1st fwiw) and I’ve never played chess beyond knowing what the rules are. I also wouldn’t put it on my resume obviously but it’s not true that if you’re good at mathematics you’re automatically amazing at chess ;)

        1. Mahkara*

          Yes, I’m an engineer (so good at math, although not at mathematician level) and am terrible at chess. Something about it has never quite meshed with me. (I do enjoy playing, I’m just mind bendingly awful at it.)

    3. Roeslein*

      I think it depends on what else the OP has on their CV. For people with less experience I do look at hobbies more. If someone is otherwise a monolingual or mostly has retail experience or other work that doesn’t scream “curious about other cultures”, then it might provide relevant information if the job requires cultural awareness. Agree that Duolingo hardly counts though – it’s a fun way to pick up some vocabulary but it almost completely lacks cultural context.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        mostly has retail experience or other work that doesn’t scream “curious about other cultures”, then it might provide relevant information if the job requires cultural awareness

        I really don’t even know where to start with some of those assumptions. Retail, eh? This is a really narrow and potentially classist way of understanding how people develop cross-cultural competency, but I don’t want to be too hard on you because it’s a common way that a certain type of person thinks.

    4. Batty Twerp*

      I forgot to take off the hobbies section when I applied for a job once – the primary hobby was related to first aid. I got the job, and my hobbies meant that I was first in line to be “volunteered” to take fire warden training. I assume they thought the transferable skills were remaining calm in a crisis, knowing how to talk to the emergency services on the phone, and rocking a hi-vis vest (I do! I own several. If I wear them all at once I look like a traffic light), but it was additional non-work-specific pressure that I hadn’t meant to agree to and it didn’t last long.

    5. Lonely Aussie*

      Following on from that something else to consider is that some normally innocuous hobbies might work against you in some industries. I’ve always worked with large animals, having horse riding/horse stuff in the hobby section is helpful, gaming/nail art on the other hand is something that would turn off a lot of the people hiring me. Horse riding is good because it shows animal handling skills, gaming/nail art would probably invoke the stereotypes of the worst kind of gamer and that I was afraid of getting my hands dirty.
      I’m into all three but only one is actually helpful on my resume and the other two would hurt me.

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      My hobby is researching and writing about early baseball history, including one (so far) published book and a bunch of articles. My job includes, among other things, researching and writing. So I figure it is relevant to some extent. It also serves as a good conversation item. But I wouldn’t give much space to it.

    7. Clisby*

      Agree. For example, before retiring my sister was an RN. She had also taken classes in ASL. She didn’t learn ASL because of her job, but if she had been applying for a new nursing position, I think it would have been entirely relevant.

  9. Jennifer Juniper*

    Question #1

    I can see things from both points of view. The employees may not be getting what they wanted. However, it’s still polite to say thank you when someone does you a favor or gives you something – especially when that person has control over your paycheck and future at your job!

    1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      But it’s not a favor. It’s compensation for hard work during a difficult time.

      1. Beth*

        Yeah, it’s neither a favor nor a gift from an individual. It’s a retention effort on the part of the employer. The company’s thanks is, they hope, in people being satisfied enough with their compensation to keep working there through a rough period.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I’ve been trying to unpack it in my head what rubs me the wrong way about seeing various forms of compensation (including bonuses) as a favor. I think it would make me feel like my employer is not seeing me as a valuable contributor to their business, but is keeping me around and throwing cash and benefits at me out of the goodness of their heart. It also means they don’t really feel they have to keep me around for their business’s benefit, and so are likely to let go of me anytime. It *also* means that, since they are seeing my compensation, not as something I earn, but as a generous gift of theirs, that they can cut the compensation at any time.

    2. Frankie*

      Agree, Jennifer, especially with your last sentence. It costs nothing to say thank you as a way to preserve relationship, even if you don’t really mean it.

      Building and maintaining relationship with other people, whether professionally or socially, never comes naturally to me. So I’m really grateful for my high school tutor who one day pulled me aside and taught me that social niceties like this would go a long way to help me dealing with people.

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      I think the politeness arguement only works depending on how these things are being distributed.

      For example, if I say: “George, can you forward me importat doc?” and he sends it over, I’m going to follow-up with a “thanks!” even if sending it is part of his job. But if George uploads the doc to the shared folder, I’m just going to download it – not email him a specific thank you calling him out for doing what is just a standard part of his job. In fact, in the second case, I think a thank you would be weird.

      So while it’s possible the employees are being a little abrupt, IMO the letter doesn’t give enough information to know.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        In American culture, being employed is seen by many employers as a favor to their employees – one which the employees should be grateful for. Furthermore, the employees, especially female/junior employees, should demonstrate their gratitude with thanks, enthusiasm, and unquestioning obedience.

        1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

          And we’re supposed to just accept that and not gently push back on it (as Allison did with the LW) because…?

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Furthermore, the employees, especially female/junior employees, should demonstrate their gratitude with thanks, enthusiasm, and unquestioning obedience.

          I’ve never had this message given to me, implicitly or explicitly. And I’ve got to add, a workplace where this is part of the office culture sounds to me like a workplace with a lot of sexual harassment suits waiting to happen :( But, again, thankfully I’ve never worked at a place like that. I’ve worked at companies varying in size from 50ish to 50,000ish people. I also had an SO for two years that was a small business owner and hired a decent number of female/junior employees, and he’d have been horrified to find out that it is considered “American culture” for him to demand “thanks, enthusiasm, and unquestioning obedience” of them. Are we sure this really is the workplace norm today?

        3. Paperwhite*

          The existence and enforcement of this concept in American business culture has definitely been my experience in multiple workplaces… and my experience is that this concept is a big problem. A really big problem, for several reasons which others in the discussion are pointing out.

        4. Observer*

          Yes – by problematic employers.

          Good employers know better than that. And they don’t expect thanks for a paycheck. (Yes, there are some exceptions, but that’s not what’s going on here.)

        5. Observer*

          Furthermore, the employees, especially female/junior employees, should demonstrate their gratitude with thanks, enthusiasm, and unquestioning obedience.

          If that is a serious statement, that is GROSS! No ONE should be expected to act that way at work, and singling out women is incredibly sexist.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            I am a woman. I was pointing out the norms in dysfunctional American businesses. I am not endorsing said norms. I apologize for not being more clear about my position. Thank you for calling me out. I appreciate it.

    4. Seacalliope*

      That last sentence is why it’s so pernicious. The power dynamics make it not okay to expect thank yous (for thank you gifts!) and instead turn good faith compensation into weird, emotionally dependent blackmail.

    5. Observer*

      Most of the things that the OP describes – especially bonuses – are not “favors” though. They are compensation, things that enable the staff to do their job and acknowledgments / thank yous. NONE of these require a thank you!

  10. Jean Kouisgn*

    ’ve seen all-email or fill-out-the-form references before, which I don’t love, but that’s clearly a thing that happens.

    While I’m not crazy about how flat these can be, especially when compared to a conversation, there are some benefits to these. One I can respond when it makes sense for me, even if that’s 3am.

    Also, they can help weed out fake references (such as a few friends pretending to be former managers). I used to sit near one of the recruiters at a previous job and v;::: from time to time would overhear comments like,” can you explain why 3 of your references came from the same IP address?”

    Still prefer phone calls, but the online references aren’t completely useless.

    1. Malika*

      I had never thought of the IP address argument. That’s a good one to remember if I ever discuss with my team whether to use them.
      Fake references baffle me. In the age of LinkedIn, don’t they get sussed out very quickly anyway?

  11. Director of Alpaca Exams*

    LW #5, how sure are you that you need to explain what your job title covers? Even if it’s something like “sales manager” that could mean a million different things, your accomplishments will make it clear whether it entailed supervising people (“Oversaw training of 200 staffers on our new TPS reporting system”), what kind of sales you were doing (“Increased small and medium-size business revenue by 87% year over year”), and so on. If there’s something your position has you responsible for that you haven’t accomplished, I don’t think that admitting as much will get you far in the hiring process.

    The only time this might be useful is if you have one of those fun titles that they let you make up for yourself. I know someone who excelled so much at sales that his business card just said “Evangelist”; if that’s your situation, then yes, probably best to list it as “Evangelist (Director of Asia/Pacific Sales)” so people don’t get hung up on trying to figure out what the heck it means. If you’re changing fields, you may also want to translate specialized titles that people in your new field are unlikely to be familiar with. But short of that, it’s probably unnecessary.

    1. Perfectly Particular*

      I have had to do the same because industry norms for the same role can be different. So as a Product Development engineer, my accomplishment may have been “launched product A, which exceeded forecast by 400% in its first year”, but I used the responsibilities bullet to explain that my role in launching products included design, testing, supplier selection, and regulatory clearance.

    2. Taura*

      I’m not the LW, but I do have a job title that can mean WILDLY different things all in the same field (diagram creation to working in the regulatory database to working in the company database – a completely different program to the first one, to scheduling and activating equipment, etc) and I’d have to specify my job duties so that I didn’t get called for a job that wants #1 when my experience is all #3.

    3. Melody Pond*

      My job title and accomplishments do not really match up to give a complete picture at my last position(this one it would) Bookkeeper/Assistant General Manager doesn’t really explain much when you bullet point the reduction in collections, supervising a major overhaul of retail space, and upgrade of retail space software. A decent position summary would be very valuable there. Especially since despite being an international company my position and how I was utilized was actually quite unique. When I got my first promotion they actully created a new job title for me.

  12. pcake*

    LW1 – These are high on the list of things my husband and I don’t want at all from a job: “virtual happy hours, small fun gifts, cards, and funds for happy hour supplies or a meal out “. Gift cards? It depends. Someone gave me a $100 gift card for an expensive home goods store, and every single thing there I might want is over $300. I ended up giving the gift card to someone – using it would have meant spending 20% to 40% more than the going rate for everything there and would have made me spend a big chunk of my own cash.

    That being said, I have the kind of manners that require me to thank the giver, but in reality, I don’t appreciate any of the aforementioned things at all. They’re thoughtless gifts that show the job doesn’t care what I like, want or prefer. One job sent everyone what I gather is nice wine, but I hate wine and neither my husband nor I drink – this was another one I gave to someone.

    Extra time off – is that PAID time off with no penalties of any sort? Last time I got extra PTO, I had to do all the extra work in advance, which sucked as it was crammed into my already tight regular work, so I was totally exhausted, frazzled and burned out. “Early” bonuses? Does that mean my regular bonus but early? Isn’t a bonus a reward for working well and being part of the team for a year? Or if a performance bonus, wouldn’t that mean I am getting a fraction of the extra money I made the company? If so, shouldn’t they be thanking me?

    Maybe I just have a bad attitude, but no one I’ve worked for or with has ever thought so.

    1. Dan*

      If you have a bad attitude, then you’ve got lots of company :)

      I actually find expensive gifts that I wouldn’t ordinarily buy for myself a bit confusing, TBH. I do drink wine, but I don’t drink the expensive stuff. If somebody gave me a bottle of wine worth more than, I dunno, $40? I’d wonder if I was actually supposed to drink it, and if so, when. Same is true with the “cheap” gift card to an expensive place. Even in my book $100 isn’t nothing, and I recognize that someone probably paid close to face value for that. But you paying $100 for something that’s ultimately going to cost me at least as much in matching funds in going to drive me nuts.

      The funny thing with wine (and other expensive stuff) is that if I regularly consumed things in those higher price ranges, I’d probably not consider it a “special” gift, and think it par for the course.

      When I reason this stuff out a bit more, I realize giving these kinds of gifts is hard, if not pointless. If you give me some random bottle of wine worth more than $50 and you have no idea what my preferences are, you run the very real risk of spending money on something I’m just not going to appreciate or understand the value of. At that point, I’m wondering why you didn’t give me the cash? I’d much rather have $50 in cash than the same priced bottle of wine. And, if you give me a bottle of wine cheaper than what I usually drink, then I think of you as a cheapskate. Two buck chuck (now $3.29 chuck) is not the wine gifts are made out of. If I don’t drink, then what? Now you’re clueless, and still expecting me to thank you, because “it’s the thought that counts.” (Which is incorrect at work…at work, it’s the cold hard cash and time off that count, not the “thought”.)

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Also, alcohol is an EXTREMELY problematic gift for so many reasons:

        1. The employee, or someone in their household, is an alcoholic or a recovering alcoholic
        2. The employee’s religion or culture forbids alcohol consumption.
        3. The employee could be pregnant or breastfeeding
        4. The employee could be taking medicine that precludes drinking alcohol

        I would never give alcohol as a gift to an employee, because I could be causing a drinking binge/relapse/potentially fatal medication interaction or disrespecting their identity.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Recovered alcoholic here, I still don’t want booze purchased for me or told to purchase it.

          Give me the money though and I’ll get some expensive tea :)

        1. JustaTech*

          Often people think that you’re supposed to save the “good stuff” for a special occasion.

          My parents bought a case of wine from a famous vineyard that happens to be a homonym of my name the year I was born. We drank two bottles the night I got my Master’s degree.

          Also, really fine wine does increase in value as it ages. But only some wines from some vineyards from some years.

      2. EchoGirl*

        In addition to people who don’t drink at all, you also don’t know what kind of wine a person prefers. When my husband and I closed on our house, our loan broker gave us a bottle of wine that 1. was a dry type, while we both prefer sweet wine, and 2. wasn’t kosher. We ended up giving it to my parents (the kosher thing is from his side) as a thank-you for helping us move.

    2. TechWorker*

      Yeah gift cards for places that sell stuff you can buy on amazon for ~70% if the price are frustrating! I got one of those from friends for my birthday – lovely thought and much appreciated but I struggled to find something where I didn’t feel like I was being ripped off…

      1. Jaid*

        I got a 25$ gift card for Nordstrom that I’m still holding on to. One, the nearest Nordstrom is two hours away from me and two, the only things I see for around that price point is costume jewelry and totchkes on sale.

        One of these days, when I go there with my folks on a day trip to KOP, I’ll just use it to buy lunch at their cafe and be done with it…

        1. NotCreativewithNames*

          See if it works at nordstrom rack. Prices much better and there one in KOP as well, across the street from the mall

          1. LutherstadtWittenberg*

            Nordstrom Rack has moved to The Village in KoP. Just watch for the hideous buildings being constructed near Wegmans.

        2. pbnj*

          I’ve sold gift cards online for places I don’t go to. Of course you don’t get 100% of the value, but I figure it’s better than it just sitting in my wallet or feeling like I have to spend more than the gift card to get the entire value.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yes! Probably not worth it for anything under $100 or so. One of my mother’s friends gave us a $500 blender for our wedding (!?) and we were able to return it to Williams-Sonoma for a gift card and then sell the gift card for about $400 online. That is my biggest gift card success lol.

          2. DarnTheMan*

            If you’re Canadian, a lot of people will use them as payment on Bunz or other swap sites (i.e. you give me your office chair, I give you my $25 Nordstrom card).

        3. Delta Delta*

          Yep. This same thing happened to me (Macy’s not Nordstrom) and I ended up using it for some measuring cups that I had to buy online and still pay shipping. Although I have to admit they have turned out to be very sturdy and I’m still using them 15 years later.

      2. Observer*

        That’s bad enough. But at least if I can get something I wanted, that’s ok – I still come out ahead.

        If I get a card from a place where I can’t but anything for the cost of the card? That’s a hard no. Even if you are giving this to people who are getting nice salaries. Either give them a card that has enough on it to actually buy something, or skip it. Don’t give someone a “gift” that’s really just a discount.

    3. Maj. Pothead, reporting for doobie*

      Came here to say all of this.

      What do I REALLY want as a “reward”? Clear processes that actually work. Adequate IT support. A reasonable workload. Not having profanities screamed at me on open calls by higher ups that are frustrated with the very processes that only they have the power to change. You know, just basic stuff, that should be happening anyway.

      Granted, it is not addressed in the letter, and I will admit to being a bit “jaded” (my colleagues tell me I’m just realistic), but my very first thought was that these employees don’t “appreciate” these gestures because what they really want is some of the dysfunction and chaos removed from their day-to-day lives. Now, in all fairness, it is possible that these are not issues in the OP’s workplace. But, I’ve been around the block enough to say I’d be quite comfortable betting a large sum of money that they very much are a part of this workplace and the OP is either not aware of them (even though it is their job to be) or is simply turning a blind eye to it.

      A gift card does not make me feel better about working weekend after weekend to deal with an entirely unreasonable workload or to correct mistakes made by people that are paid far more than I am.

    4. Jennifer*

      Am I the only one that thinks this comment is a bit harsh? Just me? Okay…

      It’s money and food. I get the pushback on the thank yous but it’s literally money and food. There’s no indication that it’s from a high end store. And the bonus is straight up cash. I won’t say you have a bad attitude, but I don’t get the complaining.

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        I think a lot of the push-back is coming from the tone of OP’s letter. It feels very performative, like “here’s this thing I did because I deserve thanks”, rather than “I did this for you because you deserve thanks”. There’s also the jab at millenials (who are grown adults that have been working for years) which is old and trite and we’re tired of hearing it. And unless OP is the owner, most probably assume these gifts/ happy hours/ etc are being done at the behest of the owner or OP’s boss. I would bet some of OP’s frustration is because her bosses haven’t thanked HER, and she’s passing that frustration on to the rest of the staff.

      2. ...*

        Me either. My company has given food delivery gift cards, cookies, notebooks, and other gifts over the pandemic. Its on top of our regular pay structure and regular bonuses. Frankly I appreciate it and I enjoy it. Did the $50 gift card cover my entire dinner? No, I still had to pay $16 for a shit ton of sushi. Who cares? Im sure the cookie is offensive for some other reason. If its so oppressive to get a gift card then donate it to a homeless shelter, Im sure someone will be very thankful for it.

        1. Jennifer*

          Exactly. If you don’t want it give it away to someone that does. The hostility seems a bit over the top.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        I will just say that whenever there’s any letter in which an LW describes any kind of benefits, perks, gifts or events that they/their company offers, I just assume that a significant number of comments will just be tedious, exhaustive lists of reasons why individual commenters think those things suck.

      4. Koalafied*

        Yeah, the expectation of employees performing gratitude is off-base, but a gift is not really the burden the comment above makes it sound like. I have a shelf in my closet for new things I acquire but don’t want that I raid at Christmas when I don’t know what to give my cousin’s new girlfriend who I’ve never met but have been told is coming to Christmas dinner. Gift cards can be sold if you really want cash.

        If the workplace has other issues then of course they shouldn’t be attempting to solve them with trinkets. But we don’t have any indication that’s what’s happening here and the umbrage being taken at the idea of these gifts being given is a bit much.

  13. Beth*

    A good rule of thumb for LW1: Any time you’re thinking “Is this behavior I perceive as bad happening because millennials?” the answer is almost definitely “no.” Millennials are adults! All of us are, and we have been for ages! We are not unfamiliar with professional or social norms. Assuming that whatever you’re dealing with is millennials being rude/lazy/clueless is likely to leave you frustrated and upset at a situation that could probably be solved if you recognized the real problem. Maybe you’re dealing with a genuinely rude individual and need to decide how to handle that. Maybe your expectations are outdated, or you’ve misread the situation (as in this case, where, as Alison points out, you’re applying social expectations to a business interaction), and adjusting your own perspective will change how you feel about it. Whatever the problem, it’ll be more productive to work through it than to blame it on some kind of assumed generational divide in manners-having.

      1. Dan*

        Yeah… I find the whole concept rather stupid, mostly because this type of categorization doesn’t do very good around the edges. I’m a *super* young Gen X, to the point where some definitions even classify me as a millennial. (Not many, but some.). My brother is two years younger than me, and squarely in the millennial camp. Yet I’m going to have far more in common with older millennials, such as he, than I will with a “fellow” Gen X’er… born in 1960.

        1. A.N. O'Nyme*

          Same. Depending on where exactly you draw the arbitrary red line I’m either one of the last millennials or one of the first Gen Z’ers (I sometimes see them referred to as postmillennials?). Guess I’m doomed to be considered “the other side” by either generation ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

        2. Everdene*

          I came across the term Xennials a little while ago – it covers the older millenials and younger Gen Xers and therefore puts both me and Oak in the same category. Some of my millenial friends have teenage children, others are senior doctors or lawyers, some are caring for aging parents, some have been married and divorced more than once, some have been working in professional roles for two decades and have exceptional work history, some have multiple degrees and are highly regarded academics, some are skipping from rental to retal funded by zero hour jobs, some are working to change the world for the better.

          Millenials is not a synonym for ‘kids these days’ and we are not an homogeneous group of rude, entitled snowflakes who have had everything handed to us.

        3. doreen*

          There’s always some disagreement about where the lines are- but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a definition that puts 1960 in Gen X. 1960 is definitely Baby Boom

          1. Dan*

            I googled those definitions, and whatever I was looking at was using 19 year windows to define a generation Maybe I should have used 1961 instead of 1960?

            Either way, as a young X’er, the oldest ones are old enough to be my parents without being a big scandal. That clearly covers a big window, and the idea that I could be part of the same cultural group as someone who could be my parents is highly amusing, because no, I don’t have much in common with them despite what people who get into these things say.

            1. Koalafied*

              1945-1964/1965 is the typical definition, with the end of WW2 being the generation’s kickoff point.

              Your general point stands though.

        4. Mockingjay*

          Yeah, depending on when the year is set, I’m either the last of the boomers or the first of the Gen X’ers. *shrugs. I honestly have never cared about an arbitrary label. I’ve worked with high and low performers of all ages throughout my career. It’s all a mix of personalities, skills, work environment, management. And we all perform differently at points during our careers.

        5. dancers*

          The concept is silly, absolutely. I was born in 1978 and my older brother was born in 1970. We had very different childhoods and while we of course share family memories, we don’t share a lot of cultural touchpoints. But we are both technically Gen X. Meanwhile, I have a ton in common with my friends who were born in the early-to-mid-80s, though they are technically millennial. (As technical as any of this can be, anyway, which isn’t much.)

          I’ve heard the argument that we late 70s/early 80s babies fall into the Oregon Trail Generation, Gen Y, Xennials, etc. rather than either X or millennial. I buy it, but also in general I think smaller cohorts are more useful, especially with the pace of change as breakneck as it is now.

          Anyway. LW clearly meant “millennial” to mean “someone younger than me” which is a pretty common thing that people do, but not very accurate or useful. And they should probably reassess that dismissiveness.

        6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I was born in 1963 and was under the impression that I’m on the tail end of the boomers…
          A generation is defined as 25 years, so obviously if you’re born at the end, you won’t have much in common with those born at the start.

      2. SweetestCin*

        The amount of fun I had informing a smarmy jerkbutt who enjoyed badmouthing Millenials that he was, in fact, a Millenial himself?

        Its still in my top fifty best days.

    1. Doc in a Box*


      Now that the Zoomers are entering the workforce, I’m seeing a lot of the ire previously directed as Millennials finding itself a new target. A lot of shows from the late 90s/early 2000s feature Gen X kids in the same role. Three’s Company, from the 70s/80s, has Janet, Chrissy, and Jack (Boomers) vs the Ropers (Greatest Generation?)

      If there’s anything generational about it, it’s a stage-of-life thing, not a year-you-were-born thing.

    2. Paperwhite*

      Well and truly said.

      Whenever I see people carrying on about The Younger Generation/Kids These Days/Millennials/Teenagers/Whatever I think about a letter I found in a history book, in which a man berated his son for his hairstyle, for his terrible friends, and for skipping school. The letter was in cuneiform and written around four thousand years ago.

      1. boo bot*

        Same. And that dude’s parents’ generation probably complained about how kids today never bother to memorize anything because they’re too busy writing stuff down on clay tablets with their new-fangled cuneiform…

    3. whistle*

      Honestly, I’m at the point where I skip over any writing that includes the term “millennial” or “boomer”. I’m so sick of generational stereotypes.

    4. DarnTheMan*

      +100. I’m 30 which puts me squarely in Millennial territory; I’ve also been working full-time since I was 23 and part-time since I was 15. I know plenty about professional courtesies and am someone to tends to be overly effusive in my thanks and still wouldn’t necessarily think to thank my bosses for a bonus. If anything OP1’s letter reminds me a bit too much of one of my former jobs which was with an equally small company and where the owners tried to cultivate a real ‘family’ vibe which boiled down to them expecting us to be eternally grateful for hiring us (including repeatedly making the point that if they didn’t have the company, none of us would have jobs if they thought we weren’t being thankful enough.)

  14. dancers*

    Re: Thank Yous

    My company did a small round of bonuses in the spring. Around 5pm on the day our checks dropped, I got a, “did you see your bonus?!” from the boss. It felt like a pretty strong signal that he’d been waiting for me to proactively say my thanks.

    It was really awkward. Obviously I was grateful – who doesn’t like more money – but it’s not like the boss took the cash from his own pocket. This was an initiative set forth by the company. He just had to make sure my name was on the list. And yes, he thought well enough of me to get me on the list. And again, I was grateful for the inclusion…but he wasn’t doing something above and beyond for me, he was just doing his job as a manager. Plus, “thanks for the money!” feels kind of crass/weird? I don’t thank him for my paychecks.

    Still, I felt pretty crummy for having apparently committed a faux pas. And even though I liked the gift (of money) itself, I ended the day feeling not nearly so pumped about my bonus as I otherwise would have. It just feels like attaching these strings to your employee morale boosters isn’t helpful for anyone involved.

    1. Dan*

      This reminds of the time I got promoted at a previous job. I can’t remember if I was supposed to be all excited or not, but I wasn’t. The thing was, I hadn’t had a raise in three years, and I was told I was at the high end of my pay band so I wasn’t going to get a raise until I got promoted. (Me not getting raises wasn’t stopping the landlord from jacking up my rent.) The year I got promoted, well, if I didn’t get promoted I was going to go on the job hunt in earnest. So the thanks my manager got for my promotion was me not quitting. I may have even expressed my thankfulness with the words, “It’s about f’ing time” or something similar in nature but more appropriate for the office. I also wasn’t that excited because my raise wasn’t big. it was under 10%, which given no raise in three years was pretty small. So it truly was, “well I guess I won’t quit this year.”

    2. Bagpuss*

      Where you work for a partnership or small independent business where any bonus or paid-for gift *is* coming pretty directly from the boss/owner’s pocket but where it is a bonus for good work it’s also something you’ve earned, not a gift…

      1. Metadata minion*

        And even there, being a small business owner means that your pocket and the business’s pocket may be more directly connected than a manager in a larger company, but as far as your employees are concerned, it’s still the business’s finances.

        1. dancers*

          Right. Maybe “out of his pocket” wasn’t the most helpful example to use with this particular LW. If LW sees the bonuses and gifts as part of their own personal money, it could explain why they feel so entitled.

          But explaining isn’t the same as excusing, and the point remains that LW isn’t giving the gifts and bonuses as personal favors. The gifts are a business decision for morale and retention. Maybe that money would go directly into LW’s savings account if it didn’t go into employee gifts, but maybe (and I think, more likely) it would be spent on the business in another way. The staff doesn’t know, and it isn’t their job to know. If anything, most managers in this situation would take umbrage if their employees asked for details like this. From the employee side, none of this is personal on the LW’s part…but they’re being asked to respond like their buddy has done them a big solid for no reason other than kindness.

    3. anon73*

      That’s like fishing for compliments – it’s never going to be sincere because it’s forced. A few months ago, my manager realized I had been with the company for 5 years (they announce anniversaries in company meetings) and he told me I’d be getting a cash bonus for it. I didn’t say thanks, because like you said it didn’t come out of his pocket. I said “cool” or something similar. And he wasn’t offended or upset by my response because he’s a reasonable human. You didn’t commit a faux pas, your boss did. They should have said “The company gave out bonuses, and I just wanted to make sure you got it.” The awkwardness is completely on them.

  15. AnNina*

    LW: 5.
    Thank you for asking this! I Word at health-care and personally I feel that my duties vary so much from Place to Place, that I really need to take some space to explain them in my resume. For example, one Place is all about seeing patients, and in the next I work mostly with staff. Title is the same.

  16. Roeslein*

    OP#3 – I enjoy language learning as a hobby. I don’t have space for a hobby section on my CV, but I absolutely mention it (along with hiking and other things I’m into) when asked about my hobbies in interviews! It usually leads to interesting discussions (so what are you learning at the moment?), and in my opinion it shows intellectual curiosity and awareness of cultural diversity – there are worse ways to spend your free time than learning about other cultures. And languages are still valuable even if you are not professionally fluent! For instance, I’m currently learning Polish (I’m only pre-intermediate), and while I’m not going to hold client meetings in Polish any time soon, it’s still given me a lot more perspective on culture, history, politics etc. than I otherwise would have (and even questionable Polish helps with connecting with the staff in our Warsaw office). That’s my European perspective however – if you were in Europe, I would say absolutely include “learning languages” as a hobby and be prepared to have a conversation about it (ideally prepare a few sentences in your target language, in case somebody on the panel speaks it). Not sure about the US.

    1. Roeslein*

      Having said that though, Duolingo is more of a game – it’s fun for kids, to do as a complement to other (possibly self-directed) learning and for beginners to pick up some new words, but on its own is unlikely to impress anyone familiar with language learning, and you’ll look naive if you present it in that way.

      1. Littorally*

        Agreed. Duolingo really doesn’t do much to teach you the culture, and ime doesn’t actually give you genuine language proficiency of any kind.

      2. Nanani*

        Very much this. It’s a nice complement to other learning strategies, especially if say, your formal class only meets every X days and you want to keep lessons fresh in your mind.
        Depending on the language, sometimes the phrases Duolingo teaches are just NOT how a fluent or native speaker of the language would say anything ever. It has a strong “translate every word” bias that ignores that fact that in some languages, you convey things in a different way.

    2. Beth*

      Yeah, languages fall in an in-between zone that I think makes it OK to have them on your resume, depending. I list languages I speak in an “other skills” section because I have a second language that I speak fluently (not a native speaker, but native-like enough to fool people), and a third that I can at least make myself useful in even if it’s not quite what I’d consider fluent/professional level. But I don’t add languages that I’ve only looked at through Duolingo–it tops out at too basic a level, it’s mostly recognition-based rather than output-based so I’m not confident in my ability to construct even basic sentences on the spot, and overall I feel like it’s truly more of a game/hobby than a work-relevant skill.

  17. Old, but Not Set in my Ways*

    Allison, thanks for pushing back on the “generational thing”. Like racism, sexism, transphobia and all the rest, stereotypes about a person’s age need to die.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      The oldest millennials are in their 40s. Some have kids in high school. The younger millennials (that I have two of in my family) are in their mid-20s, well into their careers, and starting families. And people are still seeing them as avocado-toast-eating college freshmen. Boggles my mind. Additionally, millennials as a generation are extremely large in size and span a large time period, and as such are far too diverse to be all painted with the same brush. I’m so glad that this ridiculous stereotyping skipped my generation, to be honest (apparently we are invisible).

      1. Me*

        Gen X is typically define as 1965 to 1980. Millennials are approaching 40 but are not in their 40s. I was born in 1980 and turn 40 this year.

      2. DarnTheMan*

        I think a lot of people use ‘millennial’ as shorthand for ‘thing young people like/do that I don’t approve of.’ I saw an op-ed recently railing about millennials in university behaving badly and thought ‘grad students?’ – since the majority of the tail end of the millennials are no longer undergraduate age, that’s GenZ now.

  18. Violetta*

    What’s with the judgement on the LW getting her eyebrows threaded? We don’t know what the situation is where she lives and what kind of precautions she and the salon took.

    Like a commenter above I’m very tired of people getting lectured over things like this. Yes, we’re in a pandemic. But we have ways to manage our risk now that we didn’t have in March (knowledge and PPE). Businesses like a salon still have to make money because no one is handing it out 7 months later.

    1. Magent*

      I agree, there is no need for the judgemental comments. Adults need to manage their own risks, if you don’t think it is safe or sensible to get your eyebrows done then don’t do it, there is no need to look down on people who do.
      People are losing their homes and businesses and that has serious real world consequences, people get sick and die from lack of money.

      1. Czhorat*

        It’s not just the teachers’ risk; is risk to the workers at the salon, their co-workers, and their students.

        “Manage your own risk” implies that you’re an island in with no connection to other humans. That just isn’t true, particularly in a pandemic.

        Perceived risk of covid-19 exposure makes the parental complaint at least a bit more rational.

        1. PVR*

          Eyebrow waxing is a one on one service. In my state for any service at any salon, whether it is one stylist or many, you wait in your car until you are texted to come in—and you wear a mask the entire time. There is no risk to anyone beyond the provider and the patron.

          1. Shenandoah*

            And if the provider or patron is sick, but not symptomatic? Provider sees 20 patrons – how many of those become infected? How many of those go on to infect those in their household?

            They are doing those things to lower the risk. Saying it is “no risk” – that’s just not reality.

            1. PVR*

              That was poorly worded. Let me re-state that. There is not risk to others in the salon at the time of service. It is 2 people, not a situation where many people are within that 6 foot distance. Of course if one of them gets sick, more people may become affected, I just meant at the time of exposure.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                “Of course if one of them gets sick, more people may become affected”

                Yes, that’s literally the whole concern.

        2. Violetta*

          I was referring to Allison’s comment in her response, not the parent. I actually don’t know why the parent called the school; it may have been concerns over COVID exposure (though, why, if classes are remote) or maybe just outrage that the teacher dares to run a personal errand in the middle of the day (maybe they think the teachers don’t get lunch breaks).

          1. Bostonian*

            The parent didn’t call the school (that we know of), the OP gave the boss a heads up in case that happened.

        3. Haha Lala*

          If she’s teaching virtually, then the students aren’t at more risk due to her.
          The workers at the salon are aware of their risk, and almost certainly taking measures to limit it, such as additional PPE and limiting customers.
          And realistically, since this school is teaching virtually, she is likely distanced from her coworkers as well during the day, so also not putting them at any more risk either.
          This is close to the same risk as going to a grocery store. Would the parents have the same reaction to that?

        4. Lizzo*

          OP is teaching virtually, so no risk to students or colleagues there.

          Eyebrow threading/waxing is a relatively low risk activity: both the service provider and client can be masked while doing it + it is a very short and quick process, so you’re in and out in less than 15 minutes.

          “Manage your own risk” isn’t necessarily self-centered. When considering activities right now, I ask myself, “What is the risk to me? Is it likely that I would get sick?” I also ask, “What is the risk to the people providing the services I am paying for? Am I likely to get them sick (if I am asymptomatic and see them)?” And of course there is the question of, “What is the risk to my local small business owners if they don’t have any customers?”

        5. anon73*

          No it doesn’t make it rational, it makes it judgmental. I have been going back to my nail and hair salon since they re-opened because I’ve been a regular at both places for years, and I trust that they are taking the necessary precautions to keep me as safe as possible. People need to stop shaming others for their decisions when they don’t agree with them.

          1. GothicBee*

            Not to mention if a salon is open, well they need business otherwise they won’t be able to stay open. I absolutely think people should do what feels safest to them, but at the same time, the person doing the eyebrow waxing needs to make money too, which means I’m not going to fault anyone for supporting a business that has reopened.

        6. justabot*

          It’s also a risk to the salon and their workers if they have no patrons and no source of income or ability to pay the mortgage or bills or employee salaries. No perfect answers.

        7. HoneyBadger*

          1) The teacher is not coming in contact with their students, so that’s a moot point.
          2) The salon made the decision to be open. OP didn’t force them to provide a service to her. Maybe they deem the loss of business, and therefore their jobs, to be a greater risk to them than COVID. So let’s not pretend we know what’s better for them than they do.
          3) What was the parent doing there? Why do they have a right to be out and about, but the OP doesn’t? I get the optics are bad (If we can’t teach in-person, why can we go to the salon?), but as others have suggested, this is nuanced, and 15 minutes with one person using PPE is not the same as hours in a classroom with 20 people.

        8. Observer*

          As a general thing, maybe. But the OP is teaching virtually, which means that they are NOT putting the kids at risk.

          If the salon is open, and the OP does not have covid (and doesn’t have reason to think they have it), then it’s more than a bit condescending to say that the OP has an obligation to not keep the business from taking the risk of covid. Especially since you have ZERO idea what risk calculations the owner and staff are making. It’s quite possible that for them NOT providing the service is a greater risk than providing the service.

    2. Ellie*

      I agree, and it reminds me of the judgement I got when I kept my kids in daycare through the worst of the pandemic. But seriously… they couldn’t go to their grandparents, it was far too risky. And I work in Defence – you can’t just decide not to turn up during a national emergency. Everyone decides on their own level of risk, why not just assume the best, and take your own precautions.

      1. DArcy*

        People judge because you’re not actually managing *your own* risk, you’re imposing risk on people who are denied the agency to make choices for themselves.

        1. Violetta*

          There’s nothing in the letter suggesting that. Her job is remote. You don’t know if the LW sees a 100 people a week or 0.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Well we know it wasn’t 0, because she at least saw the person who did her eyebrows and the parent.

            I’m not saying that’s the end of the world. Balancing keeping people safe with keeping people employed is tough and I believe there really are no good choices right now. But people need to stop acting like this is a no-risk situation. Every situation has risk right now and every choice you make might have terrible consequences. It sucks and I have made some irresponsible choices myself. But at least I am willing to admit that they were irresponsible.

            I keep this thought in my head at all times: “If you found out tomorrow that you were positive for Covid, would you feel good about what you have done and where you have been in the last week?”

        2. PVR*

          Without any sort of cohesive guidance we are all left to manage our own risk. If Ellie is an essential worker and sending their kids to an OPEN daycare in order to not expose the grandparents then Ellie is not only managing their own risk but others as well. In this case the choice is, choose an open daycare that has instituted precautions, rather than sending the kids to higher risked individuals. What is there to judge? We can’t possibly know all the ins and outs of others decisions and so by and large should not be judging others. Maybe if Ellie was singing unmasked in a indoor crowd for hours on end, sure. But that’s not the type of judgement facing others. Where I live, I saw judgement for going to the grocery store and wearing gloves/not wearing gloves; wrong way in one way aisles but also for doubling back—god forbid you forgot an item; buying too many groceries—assuming they were hoarding but maybe they were buying for a quarantined family or not wanting to shop too often; buying too few groceries and exposing themselves unnecessarily—but maybe they had a big family and were impacted by the milk and meat limits that were in place at the time—and the point is that none of these judgements were fair or useful and may have had perfectly valid reasons behind them. I have seen judgement for going to the doctor or dentist! For right or wrong, life has had to go on in some capacity. While some people are making truly terrible decisions and refusing to wear masks, many of us are making the best decisions we can with the complexities we each face. While many of us are rightly worried about this pandemic and how it affects both us personally and the world at large ultimately we can be only responsible for our own actions.

          1. EchoGirl*

            Not to drift too far off the topic, but I find one-way aisles to be kind of a weird idea. People are still going to pass each other because they move through at different speeds (I know that technically the idea is that you just wait, but realistically, that’s not feasible and would just extend people’s trips to an absurd degree — and it’s not just “people are inconsiderate”, it’s that the things that take time aren’t optional for some people), it definitely means people are covering more ground inside the store and probably extending how long each person is inside, and there have been times where I just needed to cut through an aisle and the ones going the right way were crowded while at least one going the wrong way was completely empty — I would think that in terms of risk management, it’s better to go down the empty aisle than to try and work my way past multiple people!

        3. Archaeopteryx*

          Reminding people that there’s a global pandemic on and it were all still being asked to go out for only necessary things, especially when they’re indoors, is pretty mild “judgment”. Also it’s kind of fine to judge that personal beauty services probably aren’t as essential as grocery store trips and that maybe it’s OK and even helpful to push back on people getting such pandemic fatigue that they think it’s OK to simulate a normal life again.

          Your decisions still affect everyone you come into contact with as well as everyone those people come in to contact with and so on. At some point you could very well end up killing someone and not know it. It’s worth reminding people that plenty of us are still limiting ourselves to outdoors and essential activities only; humans are social creatures and if they feel like everyone else is doing it, then the part of the brain that evaluates risk thinks it’s OK for them to start going out too. Using incredibly mild peer pressure to push back against that hardly makes you Gladys Kravitz.

          People love to push back on the idea of judgmentalism, but not being judgmental means not making assumptions about people’s circumstances or what’s in their heart. Judging that someone’s actions are not the best means that you’re using your rational faculties for their intended purpose.

          1. hello*

            “Reminding people that there’s a global pandemic on and it were all still being asked to go out for only necessary things, especially when they’re indoors, is pretty mild “judgment”. ”

            Who are you imagining “asking” us to go out for only necessary things? In my area, and I think this is true of most, most “unnecessary” businesses are open. People are back to getting haircuts, going to restaurants and bars, staying in hotels, buying clothes, going to gyms, and pretty much everything. So no, the government is not “asking” us to stay home anymore. Aside from banning very large concerts and sports games, everything is open. Yeah, it’s risky, but life is full of risk. We kinda have no choice but to live with COVID and not let it destroy our economy and our mental health.

          2. Paperwhite*

            I really hate the attitude that we’re all tired of the pandemic so let’s just act like it’s not happening anymore — as you point out it’s false and dangerous. But I also really hate the attitude that being a teacher requires submitting to 24/7 monitoring and evaluation of every action because The Children and now also because Pandemic. So which terrible idea do we pick?

          3. HoneyBadger*

            It’s possible that at some point in your life you’ve killed someone by accidentally transmitting the flu when you went to the grocery store and not known it. It’s also possible that at some point in your life you’ve hit the brakes on the highway that had a domino effect and caused a traffic jam, and then 2 minutes later and 1/2 mile behind you caused a car accident in which someone died. And you never knew it.

            But I bet you still go to the grocery store. And I bet you still don’t hesitate to drive on the highway.

            Life needs to go on, albeit with precautions. Contracting COVID isn’t the only bad outcome of this pandemic. People are losing their jobs, their businesses, and their livelihoods. The quality of our K-12 education is suffering. The long-term negative impact to our economy and the future of our children will be massive. Let’s have some balance here. Frankly, I’m judgmental of people who are willing to sacrifice entire industries and millions of jobs in a futile effort to eradicate a virus that isn’t going anywhere and, according to CDC statistics, will have only a mild effect on the overwhelming majority of us.

          4. PVR*

            But if we trust science enough to know that the seriousness of the pandemic is real, that masks are necessary, that outdoor activity is (mostly) safe (see the Rose Garden ceremony for an example that outdoor risk is non zero), can we also use science to mitigate our risks and determine which activities are safer? People are not catching the virus from fomites, nor from the grocery store… nor from salons. So rather than judging someone for adding a little normalcy to her life by having a service that most likely wouldn’t even be classified as an exposure by contact tracers should one of them test positive maybe we should reserve judgement for people taking truly unnecessary risks—like going to bars or indoor unmasked parties.

          5. Observer*

            Do you really think that any teacher who is teaching remotely “forgot” about the pandemic? If so, you have NO IDEA what you are talking about. Remote teaching of elementary and high school students is NOT easy – especially in situations where the school and / or the parent body are still getting the hang of it.

            The fact that some people are limiting themselves and not going out of the house is not relevant. The risk factors for each activity are different – and also different for each person, because there are so many things that go into this. And “someone else who I don’t know or have contact with is at higher risk” doesn’t really count as something that people need to factor in.

        4. Allonge*

          Presumably these same people would also judge a parent leaving daycare aged children at home unsupervised?

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. I don’t care about the person going to a salon where everyone is wearing a mask the whole time, including the customer. Especially when it’s an eyebrow waxing, which only takes a few minutes usually. I give way more side eye to the groups that walk into a restaurant without masks, especially being in a state where masks are supposed to be mandatory, since they made possibly be in close proximity to others for more than 15 minutes (I’ve noticed some restaurants are now allowing tables closer together to allow for the recently increased allowable capacity). Or to a friend of mine who has gone to several large parties with lots of strangers and then goes to see her very young grandkids the same weekend.

      1. virago*

        I understand that people are frustrated by what they see going on around them.

        Understandably so. My sister, who is a teacher, is right there with you! She’s teaching middle school kids remotely, while her two high school children are taking classes remotely, and her husband is working remotely as well. Fun for the whole family.

        However, in the OP’s case, I’m going to assume that she went out only to get her eyebrows done, not to Dollywood or to a 30-person backyard gathering. If the parents of OP’s students otherwise trust her judgment as an educator, they would save themselves a lot of agita by giving their kid’s teacher the benefit of the doubt, assuming that she carried out this brief personal errand in a responsible manner, and letting it go.

      2. Jennifer Juniper*

        That last sentence made me gasp with terror. I hope her grandchildren are OK – and that their parents are aware that Grandma isn’t taking precautions!

        1. The Other Dawn*

          The kids are fine and their parents are aware…and they’re doing the same thing. But that’s as far as I’ll go with that scenario.

        2. HoneyBadger*

          If you take a look at CDC statistics, you’ll see that young children are hardly affected by this virus at all.

          1. DontBelieveEverythingYouThink*

            HoneyBadger, sadly, that doesn’t apply for the numerous children who have contracted a mysterious disease after they got Covid: do an online search for “Multisystem inflammatory syndrome” and you’ll see what the repercussions have been for some. The problem with Covid is you can’t predict exactly which children will be fine, and which will be (lung) scarred for life, with numerous respiratory and neurological problems. I’m not up for playing Russian Roulette, even with someone else’s kids. I’m a bit suspicious of the right-wing talking points proliferating on this board right now.

            1. HoneyBadger*

              The CDC calls MIS “rare,” which means that, at least from a quantitative standpoint, young children are still hardly affected. But I don’t see how citing CDC statistics is a right-wing talking point. It’s a reputable source that compiles scientific and epidemiological data.

              If you think about it, every time we drive down the highway with a child in our car, we’re playing Russian Roulette with their health and safety–even if we obey all traffic laws, we can’t control what other drivers will do. We could do a deep dive into the myriad ways we play Russian Roulette with our children’s health every day, but it wouldn’t be useful. The best we can do is look to reputable sources, like the CDC, to calculate risk and make informed choices. I’m not saying it’s a great idea to go to a large gathering right now, because I don’t think that it is, I’m just saying the risk for the children mentioned above is relatively low, probably somewhere in line with their risk of being injured in a car accident on the way to Target.

      3. Janon*

        Agreed. I finally had a haircut months ago and while I was there I got my eyebrows done. We both had masks on, she wore a shield and put a towel over my face, minus my eyes. They only allow 5 people in the salon at a time. I won’t go to a quick place because I don’t trust it as much, and if my place did not take precautions, I would have not done it. There are guidelines in place for a reason – so we can keep people safe and have people keep their jobs. We can’t pretend this isn’t going on anymore, but we have to learn how we can function with it going on.

    4. SteveHolt!*

      Totally agree. There was was less risk for me to go to the mail salon to get my eyebrows waxed, which took 5 minutes, than for my biweekly supermarket trip. And I do both wearing an N95 mask. Save your outrage for people having unmasked birthday parties and dining indoors.

    5. doreen*

      Sometime, the judgement is not about what you do so much as how different things you say/do fit together. In March, there were essential workers at my agency who refused to come to work- they didn’t have symptoms, they didn’t have children/parents to take care of. They refused to come to work because “the agency isn’t protecting me, so I’m going to protect myself”. One fell apart emotionally she she found out a coworker tested positive. They got judged only when these same people decided to go on vacation to places that had outbreaks and that would have required them to quarantine when they returned if they weren’t essential workers. Somehow, it was too dangerous to come to work, but not too dangerous to go to Dollywood.

      I know teachers don’t decide if there is in-person learning or not – but I am looking sideways at all the teachers I know personally who were 1) advocating to continue virtual learning and 2) posting photos on social media of group gatherings. I’m not one who thinks teachers shouldn’t have a drink, but when someone is posting photos of his small backyard gatherings of 30 or so in July and August, it’s kind of hard to take him seriously when he doesn’t think schools should open in September.

      1. Violetta*

        I see your point, but I’m not blaming the teachers here. A backyard (outdoor!) gathering in the summer (when cases were much lower than now, in large parts of the world), with people you know and who you have some level of trust with that they are socially distancing sensibly in their daily lives, is completely different from being in an enclosed classroom 30-40 hours a week with 20-40 kids who may or may not wear masks and of whom you don’t know how if their families manage exposure in a reasonable way or if they’re COVID deniers.

        1. doreen*

          As I said , these are people I know personally who just happen to be teachers – which means I a bit about them and their friends.The gatherings did not always have the same guests, so while there might have been only 20 or 30 at each one, it wasn’t the same 20 or 30. Some of the guests were people I know to be COVID deniers who I wouldn’t trust to be socially distancing or wearing masks – and they certainly weren’t doing any kind of distancing at these gatherings judging by the photos.

        2. Disco Janet*

          Exactly. And many schools do not have windows that will open and have very inefficient air circulation. They are not really comparable situations.

    6. AngryOwl*

      I agree. And I’m baffled by anyone who acts like getting your eyebrows done is the same as being in a classroom with children. The risk factors are very different.

    7. MsClaw*

      Yeah, this ‘If her objection was that having your eyebrows done is an unnecessary risk to take right now … well, she’s not wrong’ really struck the wrong note with me. The place where I get my brows done has both staff and customers wearing masks, you have to get your temperature checked, and you can’t come in until it’s time for your appointment (no congregating inside), you’re in there for maybe 20 minutes. What is the issue?

    8. Jennifer*

      I agree. I had my hair done once. Masks were worn the entire time. I was the only client. The salon is extremely clean.

    9. sparkly kitten*

      Agree fully. I was so disappointed to see this unnecessary judgment, which had nothing to do with the LW’s question.

      I can tell you that I haven’t gotten my hair done since March, and I’m finally considering going in. This is because I have discussed the risks with my household and had detailed conversations with the salon owner about safety protocols they are taking. I still haven’t decided whether or not I am going in, to be honest. However, I am an extremely cautious person. If I decide to get my hair done, it will not be a decision that is made lightly. It will be decision that is made with proper risk assessment, and one that is best not just for me but for my household and others I come in contact with.

      I’m saying this because it is honestly not the parent’s business, nor ours, to cast judgment on this person for getting her eyebrows done when we do not know the situation. Teachers are fully remote (and they are overworked, a separate issue), so the risk is certainly not to the students. Many salons have extremely strict PPE protocols. Eyebrow waxing takes a VERY short time, and with proper protocols I’d argue that it’s much lower risk than, say, the physical therapy I am required to have with a specialist in an enclosed space, or the periodic trips I need to make to Costco to feed our house. (Of course, the argument there is that one is more important than the other, but that’s a moralistic judgment and I don’t really buy those arguments. Sometimes things need to be done for our health, and that includes mental health.) Basically, we don’t know the full eyebrow-doing story, and frankly we don’t need to. I know it would really demoralize me if I asked for help and was judged for an action that we really don’t know anything about.

      LW, your principal should have backed you. Your time is yours, and as a teacher myself (albite not a public school teacher), I can say that we should be allowed to function as adults outside the teaching environment — i.e. doing life stuff that people do — without being looked at like we’re aliens.

    10. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      Quite. In my area, which is currently quite badly affected, businesses like this are open with appropriate precautions. I avoid doing things that aren’t necessary too often, but if nobody goes to the neighbourhood hairdresser or coffee shop or café those businesses will fail. They don’t get any assistance unless their business is “viable” here. So I have been to get a haircut and a few other things.

  19. EventPlannerGal*

    I will go further than Alison and say that you definitely should not put languages on your CV as a skill until they go beyond Duolingo levels of proficiency – there’s no “probably“ about it. No shade to Duolingo, it’s a fun app and I use it for vocab practice a ton, but alone it isn’t really going to give you the level or type of proficiency that would be relevant in a business context, and it’s just asking for some incredibly embarrassing situation where the interviewer switches to that language and all you can say is “Jean-Paul is taking me to the airport”.

    1. Humble Schoolmarm*

      Agreed! Duolinguo has been one of my pandemic survival activities and it’s been interesting, but as a language teacher I don’t really believe it can make one terribly proficient. It also has some weird phrases that it teaches. I can’t imagine a beginner conversation that I would have that would need to include “Reem has a green skirt” or “Seamus is stealing yellow underpants” (that last one’s my favourite).

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Haha yes I love the weird phrases! That one’s great, and makes me very curious about Seamus. My favourite one was when I unlocked the first Flirting bonus round at the very beginner level, which included “I’m not drunk, I’m just intoxicated by you”. I mean, I love it but I’m also intrigued by what Duolingo thinks are the first things you ought to learn…

        1. Nanani*

          I always figured the weird phrases were intended to make you actually learn the grammar and vocabulary instead of coasting on logic. Like, you aren’t necessarily learning anything about grammar if you know the words individually and can guess at the order, but if the sentence is completely novel then you have to pay attention.

      2. Doc in a Box*

        I feel like the weird phrases are one of the huge pluses of learning a new language. There’s a great Eddie Izzard bit where he learns a bit of Old English and then goes to Holland (apparently Old English is very similar to modern Frisian) and attempts — with some success — to buy a brown cow, or as he puts it, ooona broooon cooo.

      3. EvilQueenRegina*

        Ordering a glass of wine for your cat and selling your family for a euro are ones I’ve had!

      4. A Teacher*

        Yep. I’m a language teacher and a Duolingo user too, and agree totally. It’s a fun support that can absolutely increase your language abilities in combination with other practice and learning (like, language classes, reading, and actually speaking the language with other humans), but by itself is just a sort of fun game. On its own it would look very naive on a resume/CV. (Also, unless you are proficient enough in a language to actually use it in a work context, it’s probably better to leave it off the resume in most cases.)

    2. Malika*

      Putting language skills on your CV is a very dicey thing. You might think they are great but if the hiring manager does not, it can come across as lying. My French is good enough to read the newspaper and get around during a holiday. That makes it better than the French of most of my friends, but no way do I use it in a professional setting.

    3. Littorally*

      Heavily agreed. I’m bilingual and at one point spent a while trying to use Duolingo to maintain my other language, as I don’t have much daily use of it — and found it really terrible for that purpose. There’s such a focus on isogloss even in the supposedly high level lessons, and no focus on actually expressing yourself in ways that make sense in the language you’re supposedly learning.

      You might as well memorize a translation dictionary for all the good it does you, really.

      1. A Teacher*

        I have found it to be better than nothing to maintain my second language (which I am not proficient in; I was at most a B1 at certain point). Key word ‘nothing’. If the goal is actual language learning the time would be better spent reading a book or writing a daily journal, that sort of thing. However, if I’m going to fiddle around with my phone anyway I guess it’s better than mindless Facebook scrolling.

        1. Littorally*

          Better than nothing — I’ll agree with that. But I got a lot more mileage out of browsing sites and joining Reddit communities in my second language, and watching youtube videos in that language too. Seek out people actually using the language!

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        Yeah, it does have that dictionary feel to it, right? I think I’ve mainly found it useful as a vocab acquisition tool because I already had a reasonable grasp of the structure/grammar of the language and could sort of slot the new words into a framework that I already knew. I know some people do learn better from use rather than from learning lists of verb endings but I’ve never been able to do that, I need lots of boring grammar lessons first, so maybe that’s why it seems counterintuitive to me.

      3. Nanani*

        Seconded very hard.

        Though there is definite variation in that isoglossiness across languages it offers, Duolingo’s origin as a tool to learn ENGLISH, and not the other way around, is a constant presence.

  20. NP204*

    The comments on the teacher thing are ridiculous. 1- it’s their personal time. Full stop – nothing but that is necessary to know
    2- It’s a pandemic is completely irrelevant here because the government is clearly allowing the business to be open during a pandemic. Oh it’s not fair that the eyebrow place is open and school it virtual? Not the teachers fault and there’s a vast safety difference in something that takes place for less than 15 minutes one time vs 40+ hours a week in what are typically poorly ventilated spaces. There’s a reason the government has deemed one ok but not the other. Teachers don’t need to live like hermits because school is virtual; if the general public is allowed to do something, so can teachers

    1. LW3*

      Hello! LW3 here and thank you. I appreciate your thoughts and feel the same

      Plus, I didn’t close in person learning down. I’m literally 1 teacher, the district made that decision.

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Solidarity, LW 3! Plus, parents find interesting things to critique pandemic or no. I once had a parent go off on me because her (high school aged) daughter reported that I sometimes clench my jaw when frustrated. If I had to bet, though, your principal’s reaction was probably something like “The parent’s upset about eyebrow waxing? At Lunch? What nonsense! Wait, I’m a new principal and have to get the parents on side so I have to do something or parent will go off on me…” Cue perception talk. Yes your principal should absolutely have your back, but a lot of them do fall in to the trap of feeling they have to do ‘something’. And yes, the something is usually ridiculous.
        Good news: I’ve had a few of these awkward conversations about foolish complaints and they’ve never harmed my relationship with the principal (other than a loss of respect on my part).

      2. NotAnotherTeenLibrarian*

        LW3, I just wanted to say I get it. I know that looking at my face a few times a week for work makes me think I need to do certain things, like my eyebrows. If you have time and feel safe, do it!

      3. Sunflower*

        Seriously- my friends who are teachers were sent a survey on their feelings of remote vs in person learning and pretty sure their responses were not heavily weighed. The idea that a teacher has any bearing on the decision of virtual vs in person learning is completely wrong.

      4. Paperwhite*

        I hear you, and I hope you see how many of us in the discussion think you don’t deserve censure.

    2. mreasy*

      Exactly. If the salon shouldn’t be open, the “concerned parent” should be engaging with government to try to change things, instead of holding teachers to an impossibly high and arbitrary standard of behavior. Teachers are expected to be perfect in their personal lives while working long hours at an incredibly stressful job for salaries that are not at all commensurate. My SIL burst into tears at an (outdoor, distanced) family gathering lately because it was the first week of in-person school and the parents had been so angry and critical of how things were being handled and blaming teachers for everything. It’s absurd how we treat the people who are responsible for kids!

    3. Gloria*

      Just because the government allows the business to be open, doesn’t mean that it’s safe. Governments are under a lot of pressure to let businesses operate even if it’s not in the best interest of public health.

      That said, OP is teaching virtually. There’s no chance of infecting students, so I don’t even understand the complaint.

      1. Sunflower*

        There are states that aren’t taking it seriously but salons and outdoor/indoor dining is open in even the most cautious of states that have taken the pandemic very seriously since the start. Please don’t group the situation in Florida with states in the Northeast that have been extremely cautious.

        1. Gloria*

          Well, we don’t know what state OP is in and there are very few states that I would categorize as “extremely cautious.” Most states haven’t been as cautious as the should be and for most of us it isn’t a good idea to rely on government guidance alone to decide if an activity is safe.

          1. Me*

            Even with in states there are areas of great difference. We all need to make decisions about risk. As others have stated grocery stores have less standards of safety than most salons do. The judegement isn’t helpful or fair.

      2. nonegiven*

        If you dont want to get your hair cut then stay home. It will give me more social distance while I’m having my hair cut with my mask on and the stylist’s mask on and no one else within 10 feet of us.

    4. Just a PM*

      NP204 hit it on the head: if the public can do something, so can teachers. I’m curious about where/how the parent saw LW3. That indicates that the parent herself was out and about too — whether doing errands, getting her own self-care treatments, or working. If the parent was really that irate and concerned about exposure, and I knew who she was, then I’d turn it back on her. Why was she out in the middle of a pandemic? But I’m petty and passive-aggressive.

      If LW3 knows which of her colleagues taught the parent’s children, it might be worth a check-in with those teachers to get a feel for the parent’s behavior/attitude in case there’s another run-in.

    5. Shenandoah*

      The salon worker is in there all day, and most waxing rooms I’ve been in qualify as “poorly ventilated.” We’re at 200k+ deaths and cases are not going down. Clearly governmental approval of something means diddly for safety. (see: indoor dining)

      Look, I agree that it is the teacher’s personal time and they should be held to the same standards as the general public. But parents of school age children are completely exhausted and we are just in a different reality. The parent was wrong to complain, but I understand why they did.

      1. PVR*

        The salon worker may be in a poorly ventilated space but with the same 30 other people for 6 hours at a time—who are children and can’t really be expected to keep their masks on properly. The salon worker probably doesn’t even see 30 people total in a day. The risk to a teacher is still far higher than the risk to a salon worker.

        1. Shenandoah*

          If your point is “risk of transmission through in person teaching” > “risk of transmission from salon appointment”, I agree. But that does not mean the salon worker and their patrons are at no risk.

          1. PVR*

            Yes there was a missing “not” in my first sentence. Not only is the exposure taking place with less people at a time but over a very short period of time. The risks to a salon worker vs a teacher are vastly different. Additionally the odds of more people being exposed at the time of service and therefore infecting others is quite low compared to a classroom. As parents we are all facing unprecedented stressors and decisions, but I wouldn’t begrudge a teacher getting her eyebrows waxed and not wanting to teach in person.

          2. UKDancer*

            Nothing in life at the moment is free of risk, so it’s an individual judgment call which risks we’re all willing to take within the legal confines provided for by the Government.

            1. hello*

              This is a great point–to say something is “risky” does not prove it’s bad. There is no such thing as perfect safety. We all have to choose which risks to accept, within our own individual circumstances and with our own individual values. If other people make different choices from you, it’s probably because they have different circumstances and values. Stop scolding.

            2. Sunflower*

              Worth remembering that nothing in life is free of risk (including staying home), this pandemic has just made us that much more aware of it!

      2. Paperwhite*

        Would it help that parent and their child if the school district had one fewer teacher? If not, then complaining is just scapegoating the teacher for our entire societal disaster.

      3. Observer*


        It doesn’t even matter if the activity was safe. The OP is teaching remotely! Which means that they CANNOT be endangering their students. And the OP is NOT the one who mandated remote learning, so even that’s not relevant.

        “I’m stressed so I’m going to blame someone who did not cause the problem” is NOT a reasonable coping strategy. It’s not even a USEFUL one.

  21. LW3*

    LW3 here: thanks for your answer Alison!

    I also enjoyed reading the comments left by others. At the end of the day I believe that I was not the one that chose to close the schools down. In fact, when our union voted I voted for in person.

    My issue is that it really does feel like open season on teachers. If I saw someone out and about, I wouldn’t trip like that. I had a mask on and followed all safety protocols.
    The mom was probably pissed she saw a teacher out living life during lunch.

    1. amanda_cake*

      I am a school librarian. Originally, they wouldn’t let us leave for lunch because they were afraid of the parents seeing us and having comments about it. During the regular school year, teachers do not have a duty free lunch and they are not allowed to leave the school for lunch.

      Since central office employees can go out for lunch during their lunch hour, they eventually relented and have started letting us leave for lunch.

      Places with duty free lunches and being able to leave campus during a regular schooling situation have always fascinated me.

    2. IDK*

      As a parent to a high schooler, I don’t feel you did anything wrong. You wore a mask and followed protocol. I do wish your principal backed you up more. However, please don’t take the parents reaction personally. They were probably making some assumptions (not that it’s OK) and the stress of virtually learning on them may have made them react in a manner they wouldn’t normally.

      As someone who works in a traditional office setting, even during the pandemic, sometimes you just need to get out of the work environment for a few minutes for your own sanity. You are working and living in the same place. All the time. A few minutes out to do something routine can be a great stress reliever!

    3. Shenandoah*

      Would strongly recommend extending a little compassion towards the parents of your students. Most of them haven’t had a break since March and I’m sure they would LOVE to get to be “out living life during lunch”.

      1. virago*

        Please don’t forget that many teachers are parents too. For example, my sister is teaching middle school remotely and her teenage kids are taking classes remotely. Fun for the whole family.

        And it’s not easier for teachers to work from home while their children are taking Zoom classes than it is for any other parent. An educator who’s doing his or her job right doesn’t have downtime to address their own kid’s struggles with word problems or essay questions.

        1. Shenandoah*

          Sure – my best friend and her husband teach at a different school than their children go to. They are in person, their kids are at home. It’s an impossible situation and I know they are far from the only ones in that situation.

          I genuinely think that most teachers are doing the best they can and deserve praise and compassion. My comment was specifically for *this teacher’s* lack of compassion towards her students’ parents.

          1. HS teacher*

            But…this teacher’s “lack of compassion” is because a parent took the time to issue a complaint with her boss. Forgive me for not feeling compassion for someone threatening my career.

            1. Shenandoah*

              No where in the letter is it stated the parent complained to the boss. The parent was upset. The teacher gave their boss a head’s up that a parent was upset.

              (For the record, if the parent did in fact contact the school, I strongly disagree with that action. I also think in Normal Times, that parents need to do a much better job of remembering teachers are humans who do not have to be “role models” when they are off school grounds.)

              1. HS teacher*

                I apologize, I misread/didn’t pay close attention. Fair enough. I guess I would say it goes both ways. We can just as easily say that parents need to extend compassion to teachers.

                1. Shenandoah*

                  Definitely agree that a lot more compassion needs to be extended to teachers in general! I can’t imagine how hard it is to completely switch how you are doing your job on the fly and keep kids engaged and learning through the screen.

                  My comment really was only directed to this teacher’s dismissal of the likely reason why the parent was upset. I hope you are getting lots of support and compassion from your community.

              2. Observer*

                No, the parent gave a hard time to the OP in person.

                Which is to say that the parent jumped to conclusions about the teacher and failed to extend basic compassion themselves. And in fact, the OP makes it clear that if they had their way schools WOULD be open.

          2. Arctic*

            She hasn’t shown any lack of compassion. The mother was a jerk. None of this is the teacher’s fault.

            You don’t get to take your frustrations out on innocent parties and then demand they have compassion for you.

            1. Shenandoah*

              “The mom was probably pissed she saw a teacher out living life during lunch.”

              This is not a empathic, compassionate response. Agreed that the parent was a jerk and the pandemic is not the teacher’s fault.

              Re your second point: okay, sure let’s put compassion aside for a second. Do you think it is LIKELY that the parent was pissed ONLY because a “teacher [was] out living life during lunch”? Maybe in the Before Times. I highly doubt that was the only thing fueling the parent’s frustration now, or even in the top 5 things. I think the teacher being dismissive of the reality of WHY the parent was frustrated is not a good look.

              1. Arctic*

                I think going after a LW for not being “compassionate” to someone who was a jerk is a significantly worse look.
                You should be dismissive of people who are jerks to you.
                I think it is LIKELY that the parent was projecting things that have nothing to do with the teacher onto an innocent person. And that is 1000% their own problem not the letter writer’s. I think you are being unkind to someone who is having a normal reaction to being treated poorly for no compelling reason.

                1. Shenandoah*

                  So we should only hear people’s complaints and concerns when they are voiced sweetly and kindly? Tone policing is a great way to shut down legitimate concerns. When someone is upset with me, I do try to consider my actions and how they could have contributed to that person’s feelings.

                  I think the key difference in our viewpoints here, is I *do* think there was a compelling reason for the parent to be upset and I don’t believe you do. (Again, I do not think the parent should have vocalized this to the teacher. The teacher is a representative of the school, but they are not the decision maker.)

                2. Lady Meyneth*

                  @Shenandoah. I’m sorry, but can’t you read the double standard in your comment?

                  Should we only hear OP’s complaints and concerns if they are voiced sweetly and with perfect empathy toward a stranger taking exception with what she does on her personal time?

                3. Observer*

                  @Shenandoah The thing is that the parent did not have a reasonable issue with the OP. Whatever is going on it their life, and no matter how hard the remote learning is, nothing they said to the OP is reasonable because complaining to the OP about going to the eyebrow place was not reasonable. Full stop.

                4. Arctic*

                  Yep, if you raise concerns like a jerk you are going to be ignored. Sorry, that’s the plain truth of it. Call it “tone policing” all you want.
                  NONE of this is the teacher’s fault. This is not a valid complaint directed at the teacher. That you think it’s OK to be rude to people for things out of their control and that person should then have empathy over it is really concerning.

        2. I'm just here for the cats*

          +1 Totally agree! Also, most teachers are working harder than they would during normal times.

      2. Ellie Mayhem*

        Teachers and schools didn’t create this pandemic, so they shouldn’t bear the burden of fixing it. Schools are responsible for providing education, not free child care. Every workplace that claims to value its employees should be finding ways to support their employees with children; we’ve had since spring to figure it out, but everyone just throws up their hands and blames the schools and the teachers. It’s a societal issue that not coincidentally affects more women, and should be up to society to fix, not just schools.

      3. Kiki*

        Compassion doesn’t mean accepting nonsensical intrusions as to how this teacher is spending their personal time. I get that everyone is really stressed right now. I get that parents are especially stressed. That doesn’t mean stressed people get a pass to go around inflicting stress on others.

        1. Kiki*

          It all reminds me too much of when I worked in retail and customers who were having a bad day or a rough time in life would take it out on me. I can be compassionate and still recognize that it was mighty uncool of those people to take their bad time and turn it into a bad shift for me. This LW didn’t cause the pandemic. This LW didn’t make school virtual. This LW didn’t make the decision to reopen nonessential businesses.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            Agreed. I think it’s INTERESTING how people so often mysteriously find themselves just ~venting their stress or whatever at people who by nature of their jobs (often service workers, retail staff, waitstaff, receptionists, call centre staff, but also teachers who have to maintain a squeaky-clean reputation) cannot really defend themselves. It’s just basic punching down and I don’t find it especially sympathetic.

      4. HoneyBadger*

        To be fair, the parent who was judging LW was obviously “out living life during lunch,” otherwise she never would have known that LW was at the salon…

        1. Shenandoah*

          We know the parent was out. In my area, salons are often next to grocery stores, pharmacies, doctor’s offices.

          If the parent was in the salon as well – I retract all my comments and will heartily declare the parent a jerk and a hypocrite!

      5. Observer*

        Most of them haven’t had a break since March

        What makes you think that the OP is any different? Are they supposed to not take whatever care of themselves that they can because someone else can’t do the same?

        Don’t pull people down just because you are having a hard time.

        Also, if your kid’s teacher is taking care of themself, you will be better off, because they will be doing a better job of teaching your kid.

    4. Guacamole Bob*

      LW3, I totally agree that you didn’t do anything wrong, and that your principal should have had your back.

      But, I’d ask you to have a little empathy for the parent. She shouldn’t have gotten upset with you, but I hope you can understand how you unintentionally struck a nerve. None of it is your fault in any way, but seeing a teacher out on a lunch break running an optional personal errand while kids are stuck at home with remote learning is kind of symbolic of our entire society’s poor priorities in handling the virus.

      1. Arctic*

        I don’t think it’s symbolic of anything. Kids are going to be stuck in close proximity for *hours* in buildings which in many places have poor ventilation. And, depending on age, you can’t guarantee they’ll keep their mask on.

        This is inherently high risk.

        It’s horrible for kids and parents (and statistically moms get it the worst) but it’s not because people are allowed to have their eyebrows waxed.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          I’d argue that it’s because we’ve failed entirely to support businesses and individually financially at the federal level in on ongoing way so local officials have been backed into a corner where they’ve had to allow opening for way more things across many industries than would be ideal just to reduce the massive economic suffering, causing much higher rates of community spread that make it unsafe to reopen schools. At the same time the federal government has failed to give schools the extra money they need to implement new procedures, fix HVAC systems, buy sufficient PPE, etc.

          So no, not eyebrow waxing specifically, but our government has totally failed to control the virus in ways that other countries have managed, and that’s a big part of why I just had to play tech support to a six year old when she got kicked off zoom in the middle of class.

          1. Arctic*

            Nobody has denied the government has failed here. But that schools haven’t installed new HVAC systems is not because the LW got her eyebrows waxed.

            I don’t agree that the reason there was a gradual reopening was entirely lack of funding. Significant research into the Spanish Flu epidemic has show that extended lockdowns (or lockdowns that are too early) end up being counter-productive. With people no longer taking it seriously. And monitoring cases and basing restrictions based on that is a sane method of handling that problem.

          2. Paperwhite*

            Our government has failed in so many ways. But that doesn’t justify taking it out on one specific teacher.

            Whenever people say “so and so had a bad day, etc, so that’s why they took it out on you” I think about 1) not everyone is allowed to act that way. For example I know I can’t yell at people in public (not that I want to) because I’ll get the police called on me. Also, 2) it’s a reason but not an excuse. Teachers have a difficult job to say the least, and I think we as a society should have more compassion (and more resources) for them.

          3. EventPlannerGal*

            Great! And that’s OP’s fault how?

            You have to manage your emotions. These are very large issues and it is not right or fair to use teachers as symbols of those issues to justify taking out your emotions on them as individuals.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              Part of the issue is that in my district, the teachers union has completely stonewalled all reopening talks. Teachers are getting instructions from the union to not even answer surveys about reopening. The union position seems to be “not until there’s a vaccine”, regardless of any other metrics, data from school systems that have reopened, plans to bring only some kids back, willingness to let teachers opt to stay remote, PPE provision, reports of how many kids are struggling with distance learning, how much some kids are seriously falling behind, etc.

              So I am, collectively, pretty pissed at the teachers in my district. And I get it – individual teachers don’t control union policy. But if the union is going to state that there’s no way to sufficiently mitigate COVID risk enough to return to the classroom at any point in the foreseeable future no matter how well the virus is controlled in our area or how phased-in the reopening, then yes, I’m going to be frustrated when seeing teachers take seemingly unnecessary risks outside the classroom.

              Maybe the politics are different where OP lives.

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                I mean, you said it yourself. Individual teachers don’t control union policy. And furthermore, I feel that is is entirely self-evident that one person going for a 5-10 minute treatment that can be undertaken with masks, gloves and thorough cleaning of all equipment is not the same as packing hundreds of incapable-of-real-social-distancing children and all the adults required to care for them into one building for 8+ hours a day, 5 days a week and seeing what happens. They are not the same thing and as an adult you should be able to use your capacity for reason to figure that out and manage your emotions accordingly. If you don’t want to do that and prefer to get pissed off at teachers for things that are beyond their control, that’s entirely your choice.

              2. ...*

                Sounds like the politics may be different. This sounds like what is happening with our teacher’s union and I 99% think we live in the same city based on what you’ve stated. But we are one of very very few areas with a strong, unified teachers union that is willing to strike and go up against the parents on this. So I dont think we can judge the LW’s behavior against one of the strongest teacher’s unions in the country as she likely doesn’t belong to it.

              3. Observer*

                So? You do know that we expect 1st graders to start learning some emotional regulation? You also know that people are expected to actually not take out their frustrations on people, no?

                I get your frustration. How does it make it ok to make assumptions about an individual? How does it make it ok to just take it out on someone you know nothing about? Do you also think it’s ok to give a cashier a hard time because the store has a policy you don’t like?

                “I’m frustrated and unable to manage my emotions like an adult” is an explanation. But it is NOT a reasonable reason for this kind of behavior.

                1. Guacamole Bob*

                  I don’t take my frustrations out on cashiers, wouldn’t have done what this parent did, and clearly stated that I think OP was in the right and her principal should have her back. I’m not writing here to take my frustration out on OP in any way, but to contribute to a more general discussion of why there’s a perception problem here and why OP’s principal may have reacted as he did.

                  OP’s question kind of boils down to “does my principal have a point that there’s a perception issue here” and my responses here are meant to convey why I believe that, depending on local politics about re-opening, the union’s position, local COVID case numbers, etc., that yes, he does have a point. If the people you’ve elected to represent you to your employer are going around telling everyone that community spread is too rampant to get even a small percentage of the district’s kids back in the classroom for another several months, then seeing teachers patronizing nonessential businesses of any kind is going to strike a nerve.

                2. Observer*

                  That’s your fundamental error. It doesn’t really matter what the union is saying. As a parent you (the general you) should have the sense and maturity to understand that what the union says does not reflect what every teacher believes, that there is a difference between school with all of its ramifications and short visits to non-essential businesses, and that expecting people to take unnecessary precautions because you’re ticked off at the union (even if that’s justified) is every bit as unreasonable as the position the union is taking.

    5. AngryOwl*

      LW3, I agree. I feel for both sides in the school debate, but attacking teachers for low-risk activities isn’t going to help anyone.

    6. Arctic*

      You are totally in the right here! The pandemic has resulted in a wave of poverty and injustice. Parents (largely moms) have been put in horrible positions. But none of this on you! Not at all! You are allowed to live life on your own time.

    7. anonforthis*

      LW3 thanks for your note! What did your union ultimately decide to support? Did the union push for virtual learning? Hang in there.

    8. DarnTheMan*

      LW3 my roommate is a teacher and got her hair cut twice while still doing virtual teaching (we’re in Canada but in a city that did recently have to roll back certain openings due to spikes); in times like these things like eyebrow waxing and haircuts can be as much for our mental health as they are for our physical appearence.

    9. Ellie*

      Or just pissed in general… people have short tempers these days, everyone’s nerves are frayed. Doesn’t mean she had the right to take it out on you though, it sucks having to justify yourself all the time.

  22. Anonosaurus*

    #1, I thank my boss if he has used capital to advocate for me to get something over and above my agreed compensation, or at least tried to. I do not thank him for my annual COL increase or my performance-linked bonus (when those used to exist) because he did not personally arrange for these, they are part of my agreed compensation and don’t require a personal acknowledgement. I see your issue up to a point because I think people forget that the bosses are human and have human emotions including the desire to be acknowledged/liked. But it’s kind of like being a parent – you have to deal with your own emotions and not expect your kids/workers to take responsibility for them. By all means complain to your SO or your mom or AAM about it but don’t “call out” your poor staff who have enough to deal with and won’t have the bandwith to soothe your hurt feelings.

    As Alison rightly says, think about whether the rewards you are giving are the ones your staff really need. An extra day off is a nice gesture but unless you reduce my targets it is only going to create more stress so I’d rather not. Right now the biggest bonus the company could give me would be to relax its currently unreasonable expectations of my performance.

  23. 2legit*

    Frank Thoughts:

    I have not eaten take out or dine in food since March. I will not do so until the pandemic is over. If at all.

    Happy hour? I spend enough time working, I don’t want to socialize at work.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I was scrolling through comments to see if someone had already said this. A virtual happy hour is 100% nothing else than an extra staff meeting after hours. Granted, no one knew this at the beginning, my workplace hosted a few, and I hosted a couple for my teammate friends myself. But it quickly became evident that no one wanted to log into a happy hour after a full day of work (and in fact, people would rather stay an extra hour or two working on their projects than sit through a virtual happy hour), and they died a natural death.

      And I, too, am baffled about the “meal out”. As in, actually having the team come out to a restaurant? We are in a 2nd wave of Covid, for the love of dog! Last thing I want to do right now is go out. I have eaten takeout and had one patio meal, but that’s it and it was very occasional.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’m also not going out to eat/go to see a film/etc till this is over. Additionally agree on out of hours social with workmates. At the end of the day the laptop/camera/microphone goes off and I go play on my computer alone. I need that to recharge myself for the next day!

    3. Jennifer*

      I don’t understand how ordering food from a restaurant to be delivered to your house is any riskier than ordering food from a grocery store to be delivered to your house?

      I agree about the virtual happy hour. Hopefully those are voluntary.

  24. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#1 — Please be careful. Are you quite sure you’re not using these staff appreciation gifts as a way to elicit appreciation for yourself? If your staff thanked you enthusiastically for these things, would it reassure you that you’re a good manager? It’s an easy trap to fall in to, especially in small organizations.

    The best way you can show your staff how much you appreciate them is to be vigilant about their workload and schedules right now. Don’t let work leak over into evenings and weekends just because your staff are all working from home right now.

    And if there’s a bottleneck in accounting, fix it. Your staff will appreciate it!

    1. EPLawyer*

      This was reminding of the letter last week where the Wife of one of the owners was insisting on something fun for the employees instead of listening to what they wanted as appreciation gifts. As noted above, and along those same lines, it’s not about you. It’s about the employees feeling appreciated. You are thanking them for continuing to show up and do their jobs. They shouldn’t be thanking you for remembering that this is occuring.

      It’s business. They are exchanging their labor for a paycheck. They don’t owe you anything more than that. Once you start thinking they do, you become resentful. Which never ends well.

  25. Jam Today*

    LW #1: I wonder how often management thanks their employees, down to basic courtesy in emails by saying “please” and “thank you” rather than “do this task”. If you cultivate an icy culture, don’t be surprised when people are exactly the way you’ve trained them to be.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think there’s any reason to think the OP has cultivated an icy culture. That’s a stretch from what’s in the letter. Most people are normal humans who don’t bark orders at others. (Obviously not every manager, but there’s no reason to accuse the LW of being a jerk.)

  26. Thankful for AAM*

    We have never had one on one or departmental meetings at my workplace or department (that works as well as you think it does, which is not at all). Staff are unhappy and morale is at an all time low and management just realized how bad it is.

    So we have had a couple of meetings about the low morale. I noticed my coworkers thanking the manager for having meetings. It sounded so strange to me.

    On the one hand, it was nice to finally have a meeting but on the other, its like thanking her for actually doing her job and managing us!

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      I’m guessing your coworkers are thanking the manager to make sure they can keep their jobs. This is an employer’s market and will be for a long, long time.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        We work for a government so we are unlikely to be fired. And keeping our jobs is on our minds.
        But my coworkers seem genuinely happy that the manager held meetings. I sort of want to ask them about it – like, were you thanking her for doing her job? I think it was more my thankful coworkers wanted the behavior to continue so they were rewarding it.

  27. AthenaC*

    #2 – At first I thought maybe they had decided not to hire Jameson but would reconsider if he was EXCEPTIONAL … but then I reread the letter and I don’t think that is being implied by the recruiter’s email.

    Very strange all around!

    1. Nicotene*

      I also thought at first, “ah, they’re filling the spot with an internal candidate, so they’re not seriously considering Jameson.” That might not be true but that was my assuption.

  28. hbc*

    LW1: The personal/professional divide isn’t the part that’s off-putting to me about the expectation of gratitude. I just think it’s a bad mindset to expect thanks for thanks, appreciation for your appreciation. If someone deserves my appreciation, then they just…deserve it, and I’m meeting my personal obligation (or the business’ obligation) to recognize their contributions. Expecting acknowledgement of that undermines the appreciation.

  29. Workerbee*

    #4 And what was the parent doing that she was also out in the risk-taking world to see OP in the first place? Ugh! Plus, the teacher is teaching virtually, not returning to an in-person class.

  30. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    #2 – Just another problem with the reference system in general. I’d tell Jamison how bad it reflects on the place he’s applied for (maybe even forward it to him), and maybe remind him that he’s appreciated and wanted at your organization, and if you have an open position that would have been a promotion when he left, mention it.

    But references, all around, suck. Voodoo hiring at its finest.

    #3 – Alison may well be right more often than she’s wrong, but I’ve found hobbies to help with my interviews. I list Cross Country* and Hockey*, which oddly enough pique complementary interests (it’s not uncommon that an interviewer is interested in one or the other, but rarely both) and vintning** and cidry** (which either draw interest on their own or the question of the absence of brewing beer). Clearly they are of least importance, and would never appear on the first page when my résumé has flown to a second page, but they do seem to break the ice and start conversations.

    *It might help that I don’t look the part of either sport, and thrived due to sheer effort and thinking outside the box. Both prized in my professional role.
    **It might also help that both are essentially detailed processes, driven by quality of ingredients (components), and patience; all assets in my professional roles.

    1. Another commenter*

      I have personally landed two jobs due mostly or partly because of a hobby. I almost always list this specific hobby on my CV. For positions where my activities in that hobby are directly relevant it comes under experience with a clear indication that it is unpaid.

      It is relevant that this hobby is highly respected where I live. I had one prospective employer who asked multiple times if I would quit if I got the job. They may not have liked me for other reasons, but I know they certainly didn’t like me saying I would not quit.

      Personally I would hold back on hobbies that don’t have anything more to them than “I enjoy doing”, and you need to be able to talk about any hobbies in an engaging way. So knitting when you make blankets for the homeless, make your own clothes, win awards etc can work, knitting when you’ve never done more than make a dodgy beanie for your dog not so much.

  31. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    #1, want to add that, among other reasons that have already been given and that I agree with, I suspect no one wants to be the first to send out a thank-you email, because it is awkward and puts the sender in an awkward position; like they are trying to gain favors from the management. Early this year, we all received care packages from our corporation (that has tens of thousands of employees). I said to myself “oh that’s nice” and left it at that. One person sent out a thank-you email and copied the entire office, and it felt… weird. Like trying to get the management to see this person in a favorable light? Meanwhile the management sent 50K of those things out, and really does not want to know or care about the individual recipients. A few of us replied all to the thank-you email with our own “thank you”, cannot speak for everyone else, but in my case, I replied because I didn’t want to leave the original sender hanging there with their lone note of thanks, looking all kinds of odd.

    1. Delta Delta*

      That’s a good point. I commented below that it costs nothing to say thank you, but it might be hard if you don’t entirely know *who* to thank.

  32. Lizzo*

    LW#1: Alison is right to point out that these gifts are part of a business transaction, not a personal one. Plus, you are saying “thank you” to your employees for their hard work to ensure that your company is profitable and can stay in business–an important thing, especially during these COVID Times. That’s what a good employer does, and there should be no expectation of something in return.

    Re: what you are gifting to folks, are you sure you’re hitting the mark? Time off is good provided there are no strings attached, and money is also a winner, so kudos to y’all for doing that. As others mention above, the greatest gift you might be able to give some of your colleagues are business-related things that make their jobs easier, e.g. IT support.

    As far as physical gifts, I would recommend what my employer does: when I was hired, I filled out a questionnaire that asked things like, “favorite snacks, favorite dessert, favorite places to shop, charities I support, food allergies/preferences” and so on. When I arrived on my first day, I received a small gift basket that included some of those favorite things. It was a lovely welcome! And everything in the basket was stuff I could safely eat (I have a bunch of food allergies). It was a small thing, but it was clear that some thought had been put into it, and that thoughtfulness mattered even more than the physical things. I was also happy that they hadn’t just defaulted to something like a bottle of wine as a gift, since I don’t drink and would have just given the bottle away.

    I’ve actually used those questionnaire responses to help me select thoughtful personal gifts for colleagues, too. Just last month I packed up a box full of dark chocolate goodies to send to a colleague who had moved to a new city. We are all remote, too, so being able to know someone’s preferences even though I haven’t spent a ton of time with them has been very helpful.

    Hope this suggestion is helpful!

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      As far as physical gifts, I would recommend what my employer does: when I was hired, I filled out a questionnaire that asked things like, “favorite snacks, favorite dessert, favorite places to shop, charities I support, food allergies/preferences” and so on. When I arrived on my first day, I received a small gift basket that included some of those favorite things. It was a lovely welcome!

      Oh wow, how cool is that! Being a new employee is so stressful, and this is a lovely way of telling you that you fit in, and are welcome. I’ve never seen anyone do this, probably because it never occurred to anyone. Your place must have a phenomenal HR department, which I’m sure helps in other ways too!

      1. Lizzo*

        It’s a small staff (less than 20) with excellent leadership/management, and 100% buy-in from staff about how to treat each other. Best place I’ve ever worked.

    2. londonedit*

      I agree. My boss buys me a bottle of fizz at Christmas, and I say thank you for that, because it’s a personal gift out of their own pocket. I don’t email the CEO to say thank you for an annual bonus, because that’s not a personal gift, it’s something everyone’s getting.

    3. DarnTheMan*

      Not possible right now but one of the biggest morale things at my current job was whenever someone new started, they got a welcome card signed by their team and a little personalized banner hung on their desk wall with ‘welcome [name]!’ – most people liked them so much they left them up for years after starting; it’s a nice way to make a desk feel a little more personalized before a person even arrives.

      1. Lizzo*

        Our staff has always been partly remote (we were migrating to full remote when the pandemic hit), and we’ve managed to do group cards by having folks handwrite and scan/photography or type messages to the card recipient, then a staff member assembles them, prints them out, attaches them to the inside of the card, and mails the physical card. You could always mail the welcome banner with the card to arrive sometime during the first week (or even just “WELCOME” if getting ones with names made up is too challenging).

  33. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

    As sort of a side question to #5, what do you do if your job doesn’t really lend itself to “achievements”?

    I’m not in any kind of leader/mentorship type position, nobody reports to me, etc. Aside from creating process documentation and reference materials (my own project), my role in the Bean Counter department is more or less “assemble the financials at the end of the month and reconcile the accounts to make sure stuff didn’t go haywire.”

    As much as “survived year end audit” feels like an accomplishment every year… it’s not.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      As much as “survived year end audit” feels like an accomplishment every year… it’s not.

      It is! But you might need some time to recover from burnout to word it as an accomplishment.

      When I’ve been in such roles–and to the extent I am in such a role–you almost have to define your own metrics, track them, and define your own goals. E.g. “Developed” or “Refined system for Bean Counting Verification to improve accuracy and catch human error,” “Refined Bean Tally documentation.”

      The only person who really has to know how mundane those things are is your successor.

    2. Mel_05*

      I have a job that doesn’t lend itself to achievements either. I’m a graphic designer and most brands aren’t A/B testing their ads to see whether it was my design or the great special they’re running that boosted sales.

      So I describe my work in terms of what would make me a desirable candidate.
      What will an employer need me to do?

      So, I show what kind of work load I can handle.
      Like, I had a fast paced job where I would design ads for X clients each week.
      I designed for X different publications every month, plus X annual publications.

      This gives employers an idea of how fast I am, what level of project management I’m used to, and the type of deadlines I’ve had to meet.

      I almost might describe projects as achievements.
      I’ve redesigned X number of publications.
      I regularly completed branding systems for our clients.
      I created complete campaigns for print & digital with accompanying promotional items.

      This doesn’t really tell the employer how *well* I did them. And as a graphic designer I’ll have a portfolio of my work so they can get the idea. But it gives them a broader idea of the level of work I’ve been doing.

    3. Mockingjay*

      What @Sola said about creating your own metrics is spot on.

      Businesses really need that mundane stuff done, and done well. For instance, process documentation is gold in my industry. We have multiple project teams doing similar tasks and they all need to work alike. Financials – keeping track of money is crucial for any business. I work on a fixed price contract and our financial analyst has to track every last bean so we don’t eat our profit. I am in awe of his accuracy.

      When you list what you do, look at the effects of what you do for your accomplishments. “Completed end-of-year audit and attained Exceptional rating for third year in a row.”

    4. Lifelong student*

      However, a metric related to audit or accounting might be a reportable accomplishment- like decreasing number of required adjustments, preparing workpapers for auditors to decrease length of audit. I included on my resume the fact that in multiple years no accounting records under my control were subject to auditor adjustments or comments. Also included decreased time to close monthly books by an actual percent.

    5. Paperwhite*

      I have stmbled into an admin assistant career, and so my resume has a lot of “maintained”, “supported”, and “tracked” on it to describe the daily, weekly, and other recurring tasks I’m responsible for. And I try to make note of where I’ve improved the processes, such as my Improving The Filing System example.

  34. Roscoe*

    #1 I totally get the feeling. I’ve been on the social/Party Planning Committee at previous jobs. Even though I volunteered, there was something just annoying when people didn’t even acknowledge the work that went into the party with a “thanks” or “good job”. I get what Alison is saying, that this is a buisness decesion, but I also understand your POV. I see it this way, if I have certain metrics to hit a goal which gets me a bonus, I’m not going to thank my manager for that. If my manager or someone else sends me cookies for my birthday, even if it was out of company funds, I’m going to thank them. Sometimes its polite to thank people, even if they aren’t doing things for totally altruistic reasons.

    #4. I used to be a teacher. First off, the fact that you get a full hour for lunch is great! I never got that much time lol. But aside from that, parents are notoriously busy bodies when it comes to teachers lives. They hold teachers to standards that they themselves would never meet. In fact, most of my friends who left teaching would cite parents as one of the main reasons they left. So, while that parent was being a pain, I’m not surprised. Your principal on the other hand? He was being a jerk. Depending on your relationship with him, I’d discuss it with him in more detail so you know what his policy is. He may very well think you should be on site during your lunch break as much as possible for “emergencies” or something. While I don’t agree, it may be good, since you are new to working with him, to figure out what his policy is on that and take it from there

  35. Elmyra Duff*

    LW 1: I promise you no one wants a virtual happy hour, especially this far into working from home.

    I worked in a very toxic office for years after college. One that tried to offset the toxicity by a quarterly pizza party instead of working on leadership development and giving employees a living wage. After like two years of “not being thanked enough,” our manager decided to replace our $50 VISA gift card holiday bonus with a dollar store Christmas ornament to teach us a lesson. Needless to say, I don’t know anyone who works there anymore.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      We’ve done a few, but they’re at the end of the workday but still on company time. I’m fine with that. No pressure to drink, just socializing.

    2. ...*

      Employees at my company are requesting virtual happy hours and virtual get togethers from me, so thats not universal advice.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I think this depends on your company. An awful lot of people in my company want virtual happy hours. We don’t have them every week but when we do have them, they’re pretty well attended. As they’re not mandatory there’s a clear number of people who do enjoy this sort of thing.

        I don’t always go if I have another plan, but sometimes I do.

  36. JeanneM*

    Teachers are held to different standards and it really stinks. My brother is a teacher and and an athletic coach, and he has to use a fake name on his Facebook account so his students and their parents won’t see pictures of him a enjoying a beer now and then or doing something silly (yet harmless) with his friends. Because heaven forbid a teacher is seen having fun outside of school.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I had a teacher friend who worked with someone who got fired for being in a photo where there was also a beer bottle.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      I know of one story where a pupil circulated photos of some guy who’d done one of those check your balls testicular cancer campaigns on facebook, claiming it was one of their teachers. The school were investigating the teacher to see if he’d broken any guidelines – turned out it was someone with the same name who’d posed for the photos and nothing to do with that teacher.

    3. virago*

      The more things change, the more they stay the same … My friend’s dad, a retired high school teacher now in his 80s, started teaching in the late ’60s and remembers buying booze in the next town so nobody he knew would see his car parked in front of the liquor store.

    4. Paperwhite*

      This is so true. When I worked in a school and the kids would come to me and say in Scandalized Tones how they saw Mr. X in a movie theater or found Mrs. X online I’d try to gently remind them that teachers have lives (and then I’d warn the teacher immediately).

  37. anon73*

    #1 – Providing these things to your employees is the cost of doing business. You’re making it personal. Your employees are saying “thank you” by doing their jobs well and being productive. Some may go out of their way to thank you, but you shouldn’t hold it against people who don’t. And other than money and time off, most people don’t want to participate in virtual events (after they’ve spent all day on their computer), or receive gifts that they have no use for.

  38. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Employer: don’t expect someone to say thank you for compensation. Employees: if you get something beyond your normal compensation (gift card, etc.) it costs nothing to say thank you and it can act as an acknowledgement of receipt. I worked for a boss who, one year, couldn’t give year-end bonuses due to financial issues. he sent a nice email saying he appreciated everyone. People didn’t respond because it didn’t invite any sort of response. He was (are you ready?) upset that people didn’t thank him for the appreciation email. That guy was a moron.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Addendum to Employer: Appreciate the expressions of thanks you do get instead of worrying about the ones you don’t get.

    2. irene adler*

      We get modest bonuses- like $100-300 per year.
      It’s a small business (12 employees) so it’s easy to give the CFO a thank you card.
      Only, she then kvetches -to me-about all those who don’t give her a thank you card.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Irene, you can easily solve this by taking the card around and getting everyone’s signature before giving it to the CFO.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            Point out that it will take literally two seconds and will earn them valuable goodwill from the COO. This is not a hill for people to die on.

            1. Observer*

              Wait, so Irene is supposed to take on extra work to stoke the go of a spoiled brat who doesn’t understand how work works? It’s not even like it’s such an enormous amount – Even at the high end, it’s a really small bonus.

              In fact, the CFO sounds like the kind of person I would be job hunting to get a way from. If someone came to me with a card to sign, I would sign it and totally roll my eyes. But is someone told me that I really need to sign it or I’ll be in the CFO’s bad books, and the CFO was someone with influence on my job? I would be job hunting.

      2. Delta Delta*

        Then your CFO is a petulant child with an MBA. And it doesn’t even need to be a card. An email works just fine and the record is permanent.

    3. Sacred Ground*

      Exactly. Any extras that your company is giving is given in thanks to your employees for continuing with difficult circumstances beyond anyone’s control. You are expecting to be thanked BY them for giving thanks TO them. That’s not how it works.

  39. AnonNurse*

    #4 – okay, I already posted part of this as a response but I want to also include it as a stand alone comment as well.

    I actually don’t agree with Alison’s response that it’s an unnecessary risk. That’s putting a lot of personal judgment on this decision when it’s the OPs decision to be made. It’s a personal hygiene choice and if she took the proper precautions, it’s nobody’s business. None of us know her personal status. Maybe she has a muscular condition and can’t hold her arms up long enough to tweeze. Maybe she has poor eye sight to the extent that fine work like that is difficult. I know those are long shots given her profession but there are a lot of people out there that it’s true for.

    If all people stop their personal grooming habits including eyebrows, haircuts, nail treatments, etc, that’s putting a LOT of people out of business. As a nurse, I 100% preach the right things to do and the importance of mitigating risk. Wearing masks, washing hands, socially distancing are imperative right now!! That being said, I also plan to have a pedicure today, as it’s my day off. I go to a salon that cleans between customers, socially distances between chairs, washes hands, wears gloves, wears masks, and does everything they can to keep the risk as low as any other outing right now.

    Completely cutting out an industry is unnecessary, harsh, and extremely judgmental. Also, I think the principal should have backed up the teacher and told the parent the teacher was on their lunch break, which means outside of illegal activity, it’s no ones business where she is during that time. Some people need to be told (in nice terms if possible) to mind their own business!

    1. Arctic*

      I completely agree. We are at a point where this isn’t going away and we have to find safe ways to live our lives. Industries like this have done a good job where I live. Everyone must be masked. Temperature checks. Distance between patrons.

      I can see how people say this about eating in-doors (an industry I very much want to survive and feel for but requires patrons to be maskless some of the time.) But extending this far is ridiculous. Judging others for basic grooming (for them) is ridiculous.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. We each of us has to assess the risks we’re willing to take and decide. For me, I wear a mask, the beautician wears fresh gloves, a mask and a visor and everything is sanitised in between and the treatmet is quick. That’s a risk I’m willing to take because of the benefits to my state of wellbeing from being well groomed and free of facial hair. On the other hand I’m a lot less comfortable in restaurants because I don’t know what is happening in the kitchens.

        Also in the UK the beauty industry contributes a lot to the economy and it’s a sector I want to see continue to survive. I don’t want to see the nice people in my local salon put out of business so I am willing to support them as long as they continue to apply Covid-safe measures and comply with the law.

      2. DarnTheMan*

        +100; I’ve had my hair cut a few times since salons re-opened but I’m quite okay with it; my salon took out all the magazines, stopped offering drinks, everyone wears masks all the time and my stylist works on the second floor where I’m usually the only client up there. They also stopped accepting new customers which I think is fine because then the people they’re seeing are already a known quantity to them. Where I live businesses can get hefty fines or even be made to close down for non-compliance and I know the owner doesn’t want to risk it so he’s doing everything he can to ensure they stay open.

    2. WellRed*

      I was pretty surprised Alison added that in there. It didn’t seem helpful, seven months in. We all have different levels of what we are willing to accept/forgo and that’s different than it was back in March. To assume we must all stay indoors with the doors locked and everything delivered (which…still requires others to be out working) and that the virus will go away and that the economy won’t further deteriorate is unpractical. I got my first haircut a month ago. My hair was a big snarled mess at that point. I needed it cut and no, I am not cutting my own hair. I did however color it myself. choices.

    3. Elise*

      Hard agree from me, and I’m frankly pretty disappointed by both Allison and this community’s insistence on judging LW#4. We know so much more now about COVID and Sars-CoV-2 than we did in March, and it’s clear that masks, hand washing, and limiting indoor exposure are the best ways to prevent getting sick. Sounds like LW#4 did everything she could (and should) to protect herself and the salon worker, which is what we want people to do.

      Epidemiologists are (very prevalently) out there advocating that we stop shaming people for doing ordinary things while masked and using these precautions, because it’s diluting the message that’s actually scientifically backed – wear a mask, wash your hands, limit indoors contact as much as possible. It’s feeding into anti-mask/anti-science confusion, too, because every time you say “those aren’t enough, you’re still putting people at risk,” they point to it as evidence that masking/hand washing/staying outside doesn’t matter and they should just do whatever they want (which is to crowd indoors, unmasked, coughing on everyone and using unwashed hands to touch everything, apparently).

      1. The Other Dawn*

        “I’m frankly pretty disappointed by both Allison and this community’s insistence on judging LW#4.”

        I agree.

        Everything we do these days is a risk assessment. We have to make decisions based on the information we have, the precautions we’re taking, our own situation, and our risk tolerance. I know a couple people who wipe down their groceries and mail, and take off all their clothes the second they come home (assuming they will even venture out at all) and throw them in the washer. I have a friend who is acting as though everything is back to normal. Even though she’s wearing a mask when she has to, she’s been to some large gatherings with strangers and then sees the grandkids later that day; has resumed meeting people online and then in person shortly thereafter; and visiting her elderly mom in another state. I’m somewhere in the middle: I wash/sanitize my hands; wear a mask; social distance; try to limit my outings to grocery shopping and other essential trips; stick to restaurants I’m comfortable with (not all are obeying the local rules); and avoid large gatherings.

          1. abcd*

            +1. I understand the severity of the pandemic. I understand the health risks it poses to other. I personally feel annoyed when people choose not to wear a mask in a public space. I become frustrated with people who act like its no big deal. But I can’t shame people or frown upon people wanting to live their life. I have chosen to enjoy some of the things I enjoyed pre-COVID such as visiting the salon or periodically eating out, but I have also chosen to limit my exposure by ordering groceries and other supplies online and spending more time outside or at home. Everyone has a different risk tolerance and or viewpoint on how much time they can handle at home. My grandmother lives in a nursing home and has been off the grounds only 3 times since March for essential appointments. We are not allowed in. We are now allowed distanced, outside visits. I can hear in her voice the toll on her mental health of not being allowed to comfortably sit with her family for extended periods. I do not wish that on anyone. Shaming someone for choosing to get their eyebrows waxed, nails done, haircut, etc. only adds stress to an already stressful time.

      2. Anon Lawyer*

        The comments section here has hit the Covid shaming pretty hard. Anything other than hiding in your house getting groceries delivered gets you screamed at. And I do mean anything.

        1. Anon Lawyer*

          And I’ll add, that I actually haven’t gotten my hair cut or gotten a pedicure or done eyebrow grooming, because those things, while nice, aren’t super important to me personally so I’ve been willing to forego them. But the idea that individuals can’t choose to prioritize particular legal and low-risk activities in safe ways is ridiculous. Alison, you should both stop the digs about this kind of stuff in the letters and start shutting it down in the comments.

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            And not everyone in the comments is from the US either. I’m in Australia, where in 6/7 states the caseload is so low and eyebrow threading (when done safely) is so low risk it’s not an issue. (In Victoria there would have absolutely been judgement because they’re coming out of a really strict lockdown. But they smashed the heck out of their second wave, so they’ll be opening up soon and presumably low-risk activities such as eyebrow threading aren’t going to be shut for much longer.)

        2. DarnTheMan*

          Whereas I question some people who I know who have been getting grocery delivery because to me it’s a privileged position that puts the risk of going out in the world and potentially contracting COVID onto someone else while you stay comfy at home (obviously this does not apply to people who are immunocompromised (and/or have health risks)/live with someone immunocompromised (or with health risks) or live in areas where accessing a grocery store would involve something like taking a lengthy public transit ride).

          1. Anon Lawyer*

            I personally order grocery delivery most of the time because I’m a single mom and don’t want to take my baby into the store. Is that good enough? I don’t know; it’s complicated. Where I’m sitting, most people are trying and I’m not going to second-guess them too much.

            Except the people who clearly aren’t trying, but the people getting savaged on this website are usually not doing anything egregious.

  40. KRM*

    I have gotten a couple pedicures. I wear a mask, they wear masks (always have) and have face shields. There is more than six feet of spacing between the chairs being used now. For me, the support of a local business and doing something ‘normal’ for an hour more than balances the slight risk.

    1. AnonNurse*

      Couldn’t agree more. In my job I am constantly taking care of others but also told that I can’t pour from an empty cup. The few minutes every few weeks that I sit down and, as safely as possible, allow someone to take care of me for a change, are not minutes I’m going to feel guilty about.

      Also, I have many friends in the personal care and restaurant sectors. They need support in this time as well and I’m especially glad to support small, local businesses.

  41. Hiring Mgr*

    For the teacher, first of all the parent was being completely ridiculous.. There are safe ways to be out and about – most of us have gone to stores of one kind or another over the last several months.

    In reading the letter, it seemed like the principal DID have your back – when he said “But it was your lunch, right” that sounded as if he was saying “you do what your want on your own time and it’s nobody else’s business”.. I guess it was the talk about perception?

  42. Uranus Wars*

    For #1, I am one of those who never say thank you for corporate gifts, even when I appreciate them! If they are something across the board to me it’s a perk – and like Alison said I see that (whether giving or receiving) as such.

    For me [the not saying thank you] its driven from not wanting my team to thank me for things I give them for the company or on the company dime – whether that’s lunch, a thank you gift for a big project, etc. Someone on my team go married and I sent them a wedding gift and got a TY note, which I saw as different.

    If my boss goes out of his way to make arrangement for an exception, or one-off, or fights for a promotion or something else I am getting as an individual I always say Thank You, or sometimes even a Thank You card…but that’s specifically for things only for me.

    Hope that makes sense!

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I’m wondering do the employees know that the LW is the one doing all of this? On the employee side it could look more anonymous than the LW realizes. They might not know who to thank.

  43. AngryOwl*

    I’m so over Covid shaming, all around (aside, of course, from mask/science deniers). This clearly isn’t a “stay home for two weeks” situation like we thought in March, and we are all figuring out how to create a new, livable “normal.” And it’s so incredibly regional, because cases/laws/belief in science differs across the country. This all sucks for everyone, attacking people over it does no good.

    1. AnonNurse*

      Yes! Shaming people who are wearing masks and being careful and trying to balance this new normal is just not necessary!

  44. Richard Hershberger*

    EXCEPTIONAL: This is simply word inflation. It is like those survey businesses want you to take after making a routine transaction, rating the person who handled it on a scale from one to five, with five being “exceeded expectations.” The problem is that any response lower than a five is considered cause for disciplinary action. There is no provision for “handled this routine transaction competently,” unless we are supposed to be astonished when this happens. So if we answer the survey at all, we feel obliged to give fives all around lest we get the poor checker in trouble. This in turn means that there is no provision for expressing the thought that they really did exceed expectations in a non-routine way. There was one time I felt moved to such effusive praise, for an employee at my credit union who went out of her way to help me out of a jam, of neither of our making. I wrote the home office a letter–an actual paper letter in a paper envelope with a stamp on it, sent through the US Mail. My thinking is that this is so astonishing that the home office will sit up and take notice. She has since been promoted. I enjoy pretending to myself that the letter helped.

    So getting back to EXCEPTIONAL, I would take it as actually asking if the candidate is competent. I’m not sure how, or if it is even possible, to respond with the information that the candidate really is exceptional. But if the candidate is solidly within the “competent” range, you are good to go.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Also, taken literally, there are professions were competence is the exception rather than the rule.

    2. Kelly L.*

      And it sounds really script-y. I’ve noticed that reference checking is increasingly handled by boiler-room call centers who really just want to tick the box that they really did work there and that they’d be eligible for rehire.

  45. learnedthehardway*

    Q#2 – that is an extremely odd way to do references. In fact, it’s unacceptable.

    It sounds like the recruiter is outsourcing part of their job to you, in terms of identifying which candidates are stellar. That’s VERY problematic – a) the referee doesn’t know the job or company for which the candidate is being considered, and can only comment on their past performance in another job in another company, which may have been a totally different situation or culture, etc. And b) this is extremely unfair to candidates, who are now not being evaluated on their merits, but rather on the enthusiasm and perceptions of their references. Also c) this is a good indication that the company is doing references on all the candidates brought in for interviews, which is a waste of candidate’s references’ time and disrespectful to candidates (references do get “reference burnout” if contacted too many times to put effort into something that does not benefit them personally. That, and they start wondering what is wrong with the person they’re referring, as there is a strong expectation that only the candidate offered the role will have their references checked – multiple reference requests are perceived to mean that multiple offers are falling through. I’ve had that happen to me, personally – a reference called up and asked what was going on, after doing a third reference interview.)

    Personally, I would go to the effort of contacting the HR Director at the company, to express my concern about this process. Odds are the recruiter is doing something the head of HR would find unacceptable. (Ideally, you’d bring this to the candidate’s attention, but they don’t really have the standing to push back on the recruiter or the process during the recruitment phase.)

    1. Just a Thought*

      Q #2 This approach to reference checks is talked about in Zero Defect Hiring — by Dr Pierre Mornell March 1998 Inc Magazine. This article was widely shared and used in one of my college courses on HR processes.

      This was when phone messages were taken down on paper and passed along by hand. You would call for a reference check and, if you did not hear back, you did not know if it was a sideways “bad” reference or if they did not get your phone message. So you call again …. now they maybe call back just to be polite and give a decent reference but you did not know if it was produced by chasing them for the reference.

      So while the model is outdated, it was based in a process of pushing a reference to actually call back for strong candidates so they could get hired.

  46. Jennifer*

    Re: Thank yous

    I don’t think it’s a generational thing in this instance, but can we stop pretending that age has no effect on the way people view things sometimes? It’s not ageist to point that out, any more than it’s racist or xenophobic to point out cultural differences. Differences are great. I love having friends at different stages of life because they provide a variety of POVs. Whenever someone dares mention age here there’s a lot of pushback in the comments and I really don’t get it.

    Now that that’s off my chest – I would normally say thanks for a corporate gift because that’s just what I was taught to do when you receive a gift, but it would kind of be with an internal eye roll. The gift itself is a thank you so saying thank you for a thank you is just annoying. Plus, are the employees paid fairly for the work that they do? Are benefits adequate? They may feel that the gifts are the least the company could do to make up for what is lacking in their compensation. I remember being underpaid at a previous job and the company acted like they’d parted the Red Sea when they brought in pizza sometimes. Relax.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I think it’s not as much the age being mentioned that got people worked up, as hearing the “ugh, millennials” for the 1000th time, when millennials vary in age from 25 to 40, and are in no way a monolith that all behave the same.

      1. londonedit*

        Exactly. It had an air of ‘Is it just the fact that all these entitled young people have no manners these days?’, which gets extremely boring. I’m a very old Millennial/part of that weird bit in between that no one quite knows what to call, and it’s ridiculous being lumped in with some sort of ‘selfish young people with their avocado toast and their selfies’ thing when you’re nearly 40 and you’ve been a functioning adult in society for over 20 years.

    2. Paperwhite*

      Aside of childhood, I’m not sure age tracks that closely with stage of life. For example, I have friends who got married at 22 and friends who got married at 50. Plus, the whole Millennials Destroying Society meme is deeply annoying.

      1. Jennifer*

        That’s true. I mean more about the time periods you lived through, the things you saw and experienced as a result, the amount of life experience you have, work-related and beyond, and how it affects your world view. Not necessarily when you choose to get married or buy a house or any other major life event.

        I didn’t read the OP’s letter as though she was saying millenials are destroying the world, and I realize you’re being a bit hyperbolic. I just think she was saying, ‘here’s more info, it may be relevant, it may not be.’

    3. DarnTheMan*

      It can be ageist though, if how you’re framing it is as OP#1 did with ‘ugh why are all my staff (who are all younger than myself and the rest of senior management) all such thankless boors?’ I know plenty of rude older and plenty of polite younger people so whether or not these particular staff are being thankful over gifts likely doesn’t have anything to do with their age.

      1. Jennifer*

        I don’t think it has anything to do with their age either. I just don’t think the OP was completely out of line for suggesting it might be.

  47. D3*

    OP1: Sounds like you’re more concerned about feeling appreciated than you are about making sure your employees are appreciated. Are these gifts *really* about making you feel like the kind and generous boss? The gratitude you’re wanting is about YOUR feelings, not theirs. Maybe sit with that and think about it for a bit.

  48. Ann O'Nemity*

    I agree with Alison; management can be a thankless job. Corporate gifts aren’t going to met with warm gratitude. It can feel like even when you go above and beyond, using your own capital or reaching into your own pocket to help the people you manage, you’re not guaranteed any sort of appreciation. It helps to keep in mind that you’re not doing these things to get personal thank you’s. You’re doing it to ensure a productive and engaged team, which in turn helps the business.

  49. Nanani*

    LW3 – Bless.
    A month of duolingo is not resume worthy.
    Depending on the language, infinity months of duolingo might not be resume worthy either – the quality of the lessons is highly variable.

    Not to say that it’s bad, but Duolingo is at BEST a tool to keep vocabulary and grammar forms fresh between more serious learning – whether that’s interaction with native speakers or a formal class or other forms of self study.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I think OP could keep the language thing in her back pocket to *talk about* in the interview (agree, not on the resume), especially if they ask about hobbies or what you like to do outside of work – I get this question surprisingly often – because it does show intellectual curiosity. Just keep in mind that you’d want to say something like, “I’m really interested in learning Spanish so I’ve been practicing on Duolingo to learn a few phrases,” not like, “My hobby is practicing Spanish” (implying that you’re quite good). Especially if the language you’re learning is a common one, it is very likely you will be outed if you oversell your skills.

    2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I think the time frame is the problem with putting this stuff on your resume. It’s great to be able to say that you’ve started writing for fun or learning Chinese in your spare time if asked about it during an interview, but doing it for a month is not going to be very impressive. From a personal development standpoint it is a good start, but frankly I don’t think it would come across well at all.

  50. Lygeia*

    For #2, I could see this coming out of a short-sighted outside recruiting firm. They don’t want to mess up their candidate’s offer by getting a lukewarm or bad referral so they only solicit “exceptional” ones. I work in a recruiting firm, so I could see this happening. It is incredibly short-sighted though because if they aren’t a good candidate, they will probably be fired anyway, and that will tarnish the firm’s reputation (not to mention losing the fee in many cases).

    But as many people including Alison have noted, there are a lot of bad recruiting firms out there.

  51. Vulpix*

    There’s a meme from a Jason Sudeikis movie featuring the 4 main protagonists comparing situations and it always ends with the son having the worst situation and asking the others “Wait, you get [thing]?” I of course can’t think of the name of it, but Jennifer Aniston is his costar.

    That’s what I’m thinking of with the teacher in letter 4! When my mom taught middle school (public, she retired a couple years ago), her lunch was the same as her students, about 25 minutes or so. And she was expected to still keep an eye on her students as they ate. So she was definitely the son going “wait, you get an hour off duty for lunch?” in that meme format!

    1. Jennifer*

      I wonder if that’s primarily due to the fact that she’s working remotely, so there’s no need to oversee the kids. The parents/caregivers should be doing that.

  52. ElleKay*

    For #4 I’m not sure, from the letter, that the Principle was criticizing? If the immediate response was “It was your lunch break, right?” that implies to me that they do have your back. The follow up conversation about perception may have been them ‘thinking out loud’ to contextualize why it seemed strange to the parent but I don’t see any evidence that the Principle actually said “OK, you can never go out for lunch again!” or anything like that.

    That said, I’m also not sure why the LW told the parent what they’d been doing. (This might be obvious since brow waxing leaves the area red for awhile) If a parent said “Why were you off campus.” Then a response of “Oh, it was my lunch break/period.” should be sufficient; no need to add extra details (even if your face is red, as far as I’m concerned.)

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I took the letter more like the parent was surprised to see the teacher out of school and thought maybe the teacher was playing hooky or something. Especially if they are doing remote learning, they may think that the teacher isnt doing her job.

  53. Michelle Heinrich*

    I feel like listing hobbies and other activities can be very useful in certain situations.
    • It can help show your personality and, as others have mentioned, lead to interesting interview questions. Hobbies can make a person seem relatable, and sometimes that’s helpful depending on the situation.
    • For non-profits (and certain smaller offices), it can highlight other ways in which you might be helpful. For example, like LW3, I edit and beta-read for people. Putting that skill on a resume has helped me get at least one job in which my boss semi-secretly needed help with writing. I also used to manage a bookstore (when such things existed) and found that hiring people with interesting hobbies led them to be interesting employees who were able to assist customers in unique ways. Oddly, gardening has proved useful in several jobs, too.
    • Activities like coaching, theatre, and volunteering can show how you get along with people or that you are committed to ideals. Also, in areas like sales and real estate, it can help show what your sphere of influence might be.
    • Other activities such as gaming, chess, etc. might show that you’re a strategic thinker, while anything sports-related (running, yoga) can show that you’re healthy and care about your body.
    In the end, it all depends on the person, the job, the hobby, and what you want to get across. Would I list the fact that I read Tarot cards? Probably not unless it was for a job managing a spiritual shop or something. Would I list organic farming and gardening? For much of what I might apply for, yes.

  54. Yeah gonna be anonymous*

    I’m somebody who is working picking non-essential orders and trying to dodge the other people doing the same thing in a narrow warehouse aisle. ( not Amazon.) Is this what you folks are doing, too? Or are you working from home and ordering off the web, while taking umbrage at those who question your choices? I agree that some of this arguing is over the top, but please don’t forget there are breathing human beings on the other end of your order, who would prefer to keep breathing. A couple of non essential things stuck into an order with some stuff that is essential? Sure, go for it. An entire order of stuff that you probably don’t need? Well, hopefully this won’t be the order that gets me to close to someone with covid and eventually results in my death.

  55. Brownstag*

    LW2 – I read a book that suggested a similar strategy, but to leave a voicemail in off hours saying the same thing. The idea was that references may be so constrained by fear of litigation etc. that they may fail to be open and share details and nuance of negative information anyway. This, along with several other unconventional vetting strategies was designed to bubble up the best candidates. I agree with Alison’s assessment.

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