team is meeting in-person despite company rules, counting school as work experience, and more

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

1. My team is meeting in-person despite mandatory telework requirement

I’m lucky in that I work for an organization that recognized the importance of telework early on in the pandemic. Nationally, almost everyone has been moved to mandatory telework, except for rare instances of “critical” work. My team is not critical. Our jobs can be done entirely remotely. We have the tools and technology that we need. My problem is that my team has started meeting in person. They are not going into the office, because that would violate the mandatory telework order. However, they are meeting at restaurants or at team members’ houses, which still violates the spirit of the policy. Each time, my manager has indicated that participation is voluntary, though I have been the only team member to decline.

Not surprisingly, they’ve said “masks are encouraged but not required,” and I’ve seen pictures where people did not have six feet of separation, nor were they wearing masks. We work in a safety-oriented group, which means that if our employees get sick after meeting in person, our professional credibility will be harmed. It also makes me question how safe my office will be whenever we do return to work.

My manager has shown questionable judgement in other areas as well, but is well-liked by her bosses. Her immediate manager is not only aware of the meetings that are occurring, but has attended them. He has expressed frustration at not being in the office, and hopes that we get to return quickly. My coworkers seem to enjoy attending these events, so I don’t have “safety in numbers” to be able to address the concern with my management.

What should I do? I am concerned for my own health, as I am high-risk (I have a disability recognized by the ADA), so I do not intend to participate in any of these events. But I’m being excluded from team activities and face-time with management, and I’m worried about my team’s professional reputation. And, quite frankly, I’m angry at how cavalierly they are treating a global pandemic and that they are so flagrantly violating our organization’s policies. There are avenues to go around my boss and my boss’ boss, but it will be obvious who reported them. I generally like my job and the flexibility it affords, but seeing this behavior from my management and coworkers has made me lose a lot of respect for them.

If I’m understanding correctly that your organization as a whole is handling the virus responsibly, even though your team (up through your boss’s boss) is not … yes, you should mention it to someone higher up. They’re operating in a way that’s out of sync with the values and guidelines laid out by your company, they’re putting people at risk, and they’re putting you in a situation where you’re worried about suffering professionally if you don’t risk your health in ways your company has said they don’t want you to.

About it being obvious that it was you who reported it: You can try to address that when you escalate the issue by saying something like, “I’m concerned about retaliation for going over their heads to flag this. Can you help me figure out how to prevent that?” (For example, they might be willing to find a way to stumble upon the info themselves.) That’s not foolproof and it still might get connected to you, but I’d argue it’s important enough to do anyway.

Another, possibly counterintuitive, method is to be transparent about it with your manager: “I wanted to let you know that I’m asking X about how to navigate these in-person meetings. My sense was that the company wanted people to avoid in-person contact, so I want to get some clarification about whether I understood that correctly.” Whether to do that depends on your boss, though.

2. Can school count toward years of work experience?

I’m finishing up my BS in accounting next month (yay!) but I’m terrified of the job market. Mainly I’m worried about my lack of experience. I’ve been working as a bookkeeper since February and before that I had an internship (about three months) at a car dealership, so I have a little experience but a lot of jobs ask for 2-5 years.

I saw an article that said that you can combine your school and experience to say that you were “immersed” in your field for that amount of years. So because I have an associates degree in accounting (2 years) plus a year and a half at my bachelors and work experience (1 year) I could say that I’ve been “immersed in the accounting world for 3 year.” It seems a little sketchy though, so I’d love to get your advice on it.

It’s bad advice. Jobs that ask for X years of work experience are talking about work experience, not school, so combining them is going to come across as if you either don’t understand how different work and school are or are being actively deceptive. And of course, as soon as they look at your resume they’ll see how much actual work experience you have, and then they’re going to be either confused or annoyed — and neither of those is a good reaction for your resume to produce.

3. My employee tells us way more than we need about his schedule

Our small office of six has a lot of fluidity and flexibility to our comings and goings. Our jobs sometimes require evening and weekend hours to attend industry events, many of us have to produce content outside of 9-5, and our main office is three time zones earlier, which means that many of us start our jobs before we brush our teeth in the morning.

As such, our company culture means that showing up 20 minutes late, leaving early, taking extended lunches and meetings are all par for the course. We know we can count on each other to get our work done, no matter when that might be. Overall, I think we do an excellent job of being accountable to each other with all this fluidity.

Except for one employee. He he never takes lunches or meetings, and he will send emails to let us know if he has to leave five minutes early (and is exceedingly sorry if he does). I’ve both brought it up seriously and jokingly, letting him know that it’s not necessary, and we trust him with how he spends his time. The feedback I’m getting from other employees is that this makes them feel uncomfortable and like they are being judged since he’s operating with a different set of rules. They’d rather he just convert to their system of independence. It doesn’t help that he’s the awkward guy in the office.

Is the majority of the office being overly sensitive? Or is there a way to tell this employee that we don’t need to account for every moment of every employee’s work day?

In theory everyone could just ignore this and write it off as this guy’s quirk, but there’s no reason not to just tell him directly to stop doing it (especially since otherwise whenever you hire someone new, it’s going to give them mixed messages about your culture  … and it’s annoying to get a bunch of unnecessary emails about someone’s comings and goings anyway).

I know you’ve tried to address it already, but telling him it’s not necessary is different than telling him to stop doing it. It’s time to tell him directly to stop. Hinting or taking a softer approach is often fine as a first attempt when you don’t want to hit someone over the head with a message that doesn’t require that, but once it becomes clear the message didn’t take, you’ve got to get clearer. So: “Cecil, please do not send any further emails about your schedule unless you’re going to be out for a half day or longer. It’s causing confusion on the team about what I do and don’t want people to report.”

4. Announcing a partner’s gender transition at work

You’ve covered the question of gender transitions at work. Any advice for bringing up a partner’s transition? I work on a small team (four staff and my boss). Spouse works in a different industry.

I don’t talk much about my personal life at work, and I make it a point not to friend current coworkers on social media. We’re not a particularly social group, which suits me just fine. But I do mention my spouse every now and then, and I give everyone a card with family photos during the holidays. I don’t want to hide who my spouse is and who she’s becoming, but it feels odd to bring up out of the blue.

For what it’s worth, I’m not expecting to get a negative reaction on this, but I am bracing myself for intrusive questions, particularly from my boss.

One approach is to just be matter-of-fact about it the next time your partner comes up: “Oh, David goes by Jane now and uses she/her pronouns, so I’ll be referring to her that way from now on.”Or the slightly more specific: “David is transitioning and uses Jane and female pronouns now.” If you want, you can then just continue on with what whatever the conversation had been, which should signal to most people that you’re not opening up a discussion about it, just delivering an FYI.

Readers with personal experience with a partner’s transition, I’d welcome additional thoughts in the comments.

5. Should I mention it if I get laid off in the middle of a hiring process?

I’m currently a long-term contractor in higher ed, and my contract is being cut short by several months due to COVID budget-tightening issues. It has nothing to do with my performance; there’s just no money in the budget. I’ve known this for a few weeks, but in recent interviews with outside companies, when asked why I’m looking, I mention that COVID is having a very negative effect on higher ed, I’m assuming layoffs are coming, and that’s why I’m considering new opportunities, which is all true!

I’ve been interviewing with an outside organization for what looks to be a great job, and hopefully a request for references and an offer will be coming soon. But it’s looking like my contract will end before they speak with my references or extend an offer. Should I tell the hiring company that I’m no longer employed? Should I ask my references to not mention the fact that my contract ended? I feel like I should be honest here, but I could really use your guidance in figuring out when to mention it, and what kind of wording to use.

You don’t need to hide this! Layoffs are very normal right now (always, in fact, but especially right now); it’s not something that interviewers will be alarmed to hear. A large portion of people job hunting right now are looking because they’re in your same situation or a similar one.

But you also don’t need to go out of your way to announce it when it happens. You shouldn’t hide it; don’t speak of your job in the present tense once it ends, and don’t talk about future plans there in a deceptive way, etc. But if it comes up or if you find yourself needing to contort your language to avoid mentioning it, you should straightforwardly say, “So that you have the most up-to-date information, my contract did end up wrapping up earlier this month because of budget shortfalls during the pandemic.”

Don’t ask your references not to mention it; that’s putting them in an odd position where they’d potentially need to lie for you. If you think it might come up on reference calls, just give your interviewer a heads-up before reference checks begin.

{ 312 comments… read them below }

  1. Stained Glass Cannon*

    OP#3, my first thought is that your employee was unfortunate enough to come from a micromanaging-type toxic culture where people are nickel-and-dimed about their comings and goings, and the constant reporting is a carry-over from that. If that’s the case, he might need some extra reorientation to get him over that anxiety.

    1. Sara M*

      That is 100% what caused this problem for me when I switched companies once. It helps to add, “Other places track your time more carefully, but here, I trust you—as long as your work is getting done, which it is.”

      1. Annony*

        Yep. It may be really hard for him to just stop. Is it possible to help wean him off these emails by telling him that it really isn’t necessary to update you if he leaves early, but at the very least he has to stop emailing the team? It may be an easier shift for him to make since he can reassure himself that you know he is leaving and your team no longer feel as if he is pressuring them to follow his lead.

        1. Hazel*

          I had a hard time with this when I started a new job 2 years ago. Over a period of about a year, I asked my manager 3 separate times if she really was OK with my coming in late/staying late and leaving for appointments whenever I needed to. (I didn’t just bring it up as though I had never asked before – I said that I wanted/needed to confirm it because everyone else came in very early and left early.) Each time, she reassured me, and the 3rd time, she was puzzled that I was even thinking about it, so I finally decided to take her word for it. In the beginning I was unintentionally inviting the rest of the team to my doctor appointments when I added them to the team calendar, and the team gently made fun of me, so I asked the person I felt closest to how she handled it. Turns out everyone else shared their calendars with the boss and just marked personal things as “private.” That way, I knew she could see if I was available or not, which helped me calm down about it. Plus, I was able to check my work email on my phone, in case I was worried that someone was looking for me.

      1. allathian*

        Oops. Sorry Alison.

        Still, the fact remains that some people need a more structured working environment than others, whatever the reason for that need is. I hope that the OP can get to the bottom of this and stop the emails at least. Would this count as a performance issue that’s bad enough to put him on an official PIP? It’s tough for the rest of the team if they feel that they’re being judged for taking advantage of the freedoms you have been able to grant them to use their time flexibly.

        If you ever have the opportunity to hire a new person for your team, I’d recommend being honest about your company culture and asking them how self-directed they are and what kind of working environment they prefer, and if they’d be comfortable working in your team. Some people who need a more structured environment would probably self-select out.

        1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          I hope this isn’t PIP-worthy if it’s as minor an annoyance as it seems. It really seems like an overreaction to me, unless he is told directly to stop it and then tries to make it explicitly about how he is so much more conscientious about time, etc.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes — a PIP would be a massive overreaction. You don’t use PIPs for minor behavioral quirks, you just talk to the person and tell them clearly what to change and assume they will comply with a basic, straightforward request. If they don’t, you ask why they’re not and solve it from there. (Really, PIPs should only be for solving performance problems that require genuine work and effort, not “change the way you report your schedule.”)

        2. Environmental Compliance*

          This does not seem to be nearly enough of a performance issue to put him on a PIP. OP has hinted that he could stop doing the behavior. They need to have a direct conversation with him about the behavior telling him to stop, not escalate up to a PIP immediately.

        3. Aquawoman*

          Can the OP put the rest of the office on a PIP for over-interpreting emails instead of writing it off as a quirk? If office culture can’t accommodate different sorts of people, there’s a problem with the culture.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Eh, people get to be annoyed by being flooded with unnecessary emails that go directly against the culture on managing your own hours. It’s a stretch to say they can’t accommodate quirks; this quirk happens to be annoying.

          2. Observer*

            This guy’s behavior is not PIP worthy, but your snark is uncalled for. This guy’s behavior is legitimately annoying, and even in appropriate. Especially since he is emailing everyone, not just his supervisor.

            1. Aquawoman*

              It’s not snark. I understand that this is annoying, it would annoy me, also. Calling for a PIP necessitates creating fault; creating fault does not make for good office culture.

              1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                The OP didn’t ask Alison if this guy should be on a PIP, though, a commenter did. Maybe your snark was aimed at that commenter, but it is snark.

          3. SomebodyElse*

            I really don’t understand this comment. A good manager will notice if one of their employees is making the rest of the team uncomfortable. This is what is happening here. Most likely unintentionally this employee is doing something that could affect the team overall. Right now they have what I would call a respectfully casual system for work hours, one person can absolutely affect and change that culture.

            This is something the manager needs to address with the employee (but not with a PIP) it needs to be a direct conversation:

            “Bob, I know I’ve joked with you before about your notifications to the team regarding your schedule, I was hoping you would take from that I don’t need or want you to send a notification for such minor changes to your work schedule. I should have been more direct the last time. I understand that you want to keep the team informed so they know when you are available, but it is only necessary to do that if you plan on being unavailable for more than (whatever is standard on the team). I trust all my team to professionally manage their schedules and that includes you. “

            1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

              Totally agree here. Also, that OP describes the employee as otherwise “awkward” possibly changes how the rest of the team interprets his blast email updates.

              Someone who does this despite have good rapport with the rest of their team? Chances are that most people will be able to write it off as a harmless quirk. If someone who’s, well, difficult to get to know does the same thing, it’s a lot more difficult to figure out what their motivations are. Are they monitoring their colleagues? Are they judging everyone else for how they flex their hours? It’s not fair, but that might be a big part of why what might seem like an innocuous quirk is making employees uncomfortable.

        4. Lily Rowan*

          But it doesn’t sound like he needs to work in a less-structured manner, just send fewer emails about it! In an attempt to maintain work-life balance, I work a pretty strict 9-5 (ish). I don’t care if someone who reports to me takes two hours in the middle of the day to do whatever and catches up on email at night. Both things are fine, as long as the work is getting done! But no one needs a thousand status emails.

      2. Middle School Teacher*

        I don’t understand why this was removed but speculation yesterday about the boyfriend being disturbed by every little sound was allowed to run rampant?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I can’t tell you how frustrating comments like this are. I was off yesterday, as stated on the site.

          But also, from the commenting rules

          I do not read and approve every single comment. The volume is far too high. So if you see a comment that seems problematic, please don’t do this: “I can’t believe this comment is allowed! Why has Alison approved this?!” Instead, assume I haven’t seen it and feel free to flag it and I’ll take a look (if you include a link in your comment, it’ll go to moderation so I’ll see it).

          No one flagged a single comment yesterday.

          1. flagging?*

            How does one flag a comment? The only option I see is to reply and the commenting rules don’t state how flagging happens.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              When you reply to it with a comment, include a note to me that you’re flagging it — and then you must include a link too. It can be a link to anything, but all comments with links go to moderation, so I will see it. (That’s actually in the piece I quoted above.)

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            FWIW I did think that there was a really really large number of comments on that post diagnosing one condition or another (autism, misophonia, ADHD, depression and I’m sure a few others too) in a not terribly helpful way but I didn’t say anything because I sort of assumed that when most of the comments were doing that then maybe that rule wasn’t being used any more. Maybe that just says a lot about my susceptibility to peer pressure, though! I hope you had a nice day off yesterday.

    2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      That was also one of my first reactions, especially if your employee is new-ish and there’s other hints in how he handles his autonomy.

      Also, if he’s the awkward guy and is aware of that, there’s some chance that he may assume that not being nickel-and-dimed only happens if you have a certain amount of social/political capital, which happens in toxic work cultures sometimes.

      1. qtippyqueen*

        That was exactly my thought too that he comes from a place where rules apply differently based on social/political capital. I have worked places where some people coming in and out whenever is OK, but for some people it is not. It has nothing to do with position or seniority, rather who the bosses liked. Suzy comes in 40 minutes late with coffee, cool, part of the culture! Ryan comes in 4 minutes late, it is not OK.

        1. AKA teacher's pet*

          also it depends on the job. When we were working in the office, my time was flexible due to accommodations as well as my job duties. My performance reviews were consistently outstanding and my productivity high. I could be depended on to show up when I was needed. There were others who did not have that flexibility due to job title- they were needed to staff a desk etc. A new hire might assume favoritism. I sat down with my new reports to explain the situation but no one in another dept would have a clue.

    3. Allonge*

      Yes, I have seen this too.

      An alternative (or possibly additional) explanation is that some people just don’t have a sense of what is relevant and what not in some situations. E.g. one of my former colleagues was always sending emails like: I have a medical appointment so I will be out of the office because [in-depth medical issue description]. Yes, we told her many times that she does not need to justify AND that her sharing medical info like this is a major privacy risk for the company and she should stop.

      She never did get that.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, and it’s worse when your manager does it! In my organization, every calendar is open to every employee, so theoretically I could go and look at our President’s calendar if I wanted to, but I don’t. Work-related meetings are shown openly, but the cultural expectation is that private appointments are flagged as private, and they’re really private, not even your boss can see them. IT probably could, but they’re busy enough as it is so there’s no reason to suspect they would check random private calendar notes.

        My former manager used to put things like medical appointments on her calendar without flagging them as private. It made me really uncomfortable. Once in our 1:1 she asked if there was anything in her management style that I had any feedback on, so I was able to open up about how uncomfortable seeing her medical and other appointments made me feel. I told her that all I wanted to know when I looked at her calendar was when she was available and when she wasn’t, and if she was absent in the middle of the day it was all the same to me if she went to a doctor’s appointment or if she went shopping. I also asked her how she felt about me flagging all private appointments private, and she said that was absolutely fine and she had no expectations that I’d keep her informed about my non-work appointments (if she had requested it, I would have provided that info by email to her, not by opening all my private appointments to the whole org). She’s nearing retirement and has spent most of her working life in an environment where she couldn’t schedule a doctor’s appointment during working hours without asking her manager’s permission to do so, so it took her a while to realize that her reports wouldn’t think she was doing anything inappropriate if she went shopping in the middle of the day. But my feedback that she requested also bore fruit, she started flagging her non-work appointments as private. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to give this feedback to her if she hadn’t requested it.

        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          It is great that you were able to talk to your manager about this – I can’t fathom discussing boundaries with a manager without it going of the rails pretty horribly. As a manager, though, she’s the one who has the most responsibility for modelling and following the office culture so it’s good that she clued into that.

          Ugh, I had a colleague like this who kept every part of her personal life in her calendar without flagging this stuff as private. It sends a weird message when someone’s trying to schedule you for a meeting and Scheduling Assistant shows deets about their Pap smear and kid’s summer camp registration. Like, we know that people’s outside lives intersect with their work days from time to time, but at least try to show a bit of discretion and that you can compartmentalize different parts of your life.

          The rest of us (yes, including all the other moms) flagged anything that wasn’t work-specific as private, even coffee and lunch get-togethers that don’t include everyone, so it’s not as though there was a norm that was difficult to identify.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        Would it actually be a privacy risk for the company? It sounds like she was sharing her own information, which is hers to share or keep private as she prefers. It may definitely be TMI but I’d be surprised if it was an actual risk as long as she didn’t incorporate information about other people’s medical conditions/care.

        1. Allonge*

          We are in the EU, with GDPR applying and so even if she shares this info herself we need to treat it as sensitive data – storing it (so, when I have it in my mailbox as she sent it to me) is already an issue. And yes, there are larger issues but this is really easy to avoid. At least one would think so…

      3. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Ugh. I used to have a colleague who did this in an office with the sort of autonomy that the OP describes. Not only did she not understand that it was unnecessary oversharing, she also didn’t quite understand that the constant justifications for using PTO or flex time kind of set a precedent for the rest of the team. In a team of a few people, it created a risk of making people who didn’t want to share much detail or open their lives up for justification look secretive, difficult, or awkward. Now, of course this colleague couldn’t fathom why someone’s reason for taking time off could be seen as “wrong” somehow.

        People like this often have a massive amount of trouble understanding that especially on small teams, their actions have as much (if not more) of a role in shaping team culture as do official rules. In my experience it’s almost impossible for them to understand this perspective. You might think you’re sharing, but you actually come across as asking for permission or seeking approval, two things that our policies and office culture were meant to crack down on.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My new manager’s phrase was “manage your own hours”–we’re expected to track our flex time to hit 40/week, put any non-standard out of office time into our calendar, and use out of office replies when it’s a longer block of time.

    5. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. I’ve managed a few employees like this over the years and it’s either they transitioned from hourly non-exempt to salaried exempt, or they came from a company/worked for a boss that micromanaged their time. It took several times of telling them there’s no need to announce when they’re leaving 15 minutes early, going to lunch, etc. and to just go, but eventually it sunk in. I still have one person who will ask me if he can sign off (we’re all remote now) an hour or two early, and I always tell him he doesn’t need to ask permission, just tell me and then do it, then set the “out of office” message. He says he likes to keep me informed and feels weird just announcing he’s leaving early. That’s fine with me since that’s the only time he does that and it’s not often.

      Either way, OP needs to directly tell him to stop reporting every movement and just get on with his work like everyone else do. This will likely need to be said more than once, but hopefully he will eventually stop.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I forgot to add that maybe OP came previously had a job where coverage had to be arranged or he needed to account for his time because of the nature of the job, like a call center or front desk or something like that.

      2. MtnLaurel*

        That was me! I transitioned from a very micromanagey supervisor (who had to know where i was every 15 minutes) to a job in which I worked from home with the expectation that I would manage my own hours. It took me a good year to adjust, and my new supervisor telling me “I trust you to manage your own calendar” explicitly.

      3. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Yeah, it’s understandable when it comes from the people who are new to a salaried exempt role or have experience dealing with micromanagement – I know I struggled with the latter for longer than I should have. It is weirder, however, and sends a different message when none of those things apply to the person doing this. For example, when many people on the team have worked under the same managers for over a decade and yet just one insists on being performative like this.

    6. WorkingGirl*

      Yeah I had a past job where that WAS the norm. My position was entirely remote but I’d still get whole-department emails of “so and so is five minutes late today”, “in order to accomodate a client call in another time zone, so and so is starting and ending two hours late today”, “so and so is working from home this afternoon.” It was exhausting to read!

      1. AnonforThis*

        I also worked in a job where this was the norm. If you were calling out or were going to be more than X minutes late, you needed to call the front desk and leave a message. It was customary for whomever was covering the front desk to communicate the delay to the rest of the office. There were times when the employee’s message (i.e., the voice recording, which got relayed as Voice2Mail, with associated transcript) was just forwarded to the entire department via email because of….a lack of discretion? I can’t think of an actual good reason for why this was done. There’s really no reason why I needed to listen to or read the actual voicemail describing Jane’s illness or Joe’s family emergency. It was incredibly invasive and really distasteful, in my opinion.

        I know that my takeaway was a mental note to never share anything with colleagues that I wouldn’t want forwarded to the entire department. Even if a manager may benefit from knowing some reason for why the employee’s schedule needed adjustment, please be aware that all other employees that are privy to this information unnecessarily may start to have misgivings about how freely information is shared.

      2. Annony*

        I am so glad all my past jobs have simply had a calendar that you wrote on if you were going to be out. If you were looking for someone and didn’t see them, you would glance at the calendar to see if they were out that day.

    7. Mel_05*

      Yeah, I think that can happen to anyone. And, while a lot of us would figure it out in a couple weeks or once we’d been spoken to about it – if he’s already awkward, maybe he’s not good at reading situations and needs you to spell it out.

    8. anon73*

      I thought the same thing, but it’s important for OP to be direct about their expectations as well. It sounds like she’s jokingly hinted that this person’s constant time tracking of himself is unnecessary, but OP hasn’t just come and said to stop it.

    9. Phony Genius*

      I’ve seen this happen when people transition from the military to a civilian job. They have worked their whole life with specific work hours that must be adhered to exactly, and now suddenly find themselves in a flexible environment, timewise. Some people make the transition better than others.

    10. NotAnotherManager!*

      This was my thought as well – I get schedule (and vacation) oversharers all the time, and we just talk to them directly about what we do/do not expect here. Most of the time, it just comes from either being really new to the workforce or from a prior position where clockwatching was a huge thing.

    11. Deliliah*

      Yep. I came from a retail background where you had to ask permission to leave the floor to go to the bathroom. It took me MONTHS to not feel like I needed to Slack my team that I needed to leave right on time or that I might be five minutes late coming back from lunch.

    12. Amosey*

      My current workplace absolutely requires us to send emails when we’ll be away from our phones for anything more than 5-10 minutes- personal calls, working with IT, performing a long work task we’d rather not have interrupted, Dr’s Appts, etc, etc. I find them incredibly annoying, but also feel very judged when I forget to send them. When one workplace requires it, it can be difficult to imagine not needing to send them.

    13. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, I think here it is important to be direct as Alison suggests and explain that because of the flexibility required for the job everyone is trusted to manage their own time, and that by sharing his own schedule with the team so much it undermines that trust with his coworkers. But also say you understand this is not how a lot of other businesses operate and that it can be hard to break these habits, but that he really needs to stop because it is how *this* business operates.

  2. Artemesia*

    This question about calling school ‘work’ has come up a couple of times — there must be an industry of ‘really bad advise for people new to the workforce’ out there. It is upsetting to see people struggling in this hellscape for seeking a first major job and then getting advise that will be an anchor around their neck. Kudos to the OP for questioning this terrible advice.

    1. Sandy*

      There are a few specific fields where PhD-level schooling counts as a certain number of years of work, but OP, if that’s the case where you are applying, they will tell you in the ad.

      Same goes for schooling-as-experience being used to determine pay: it’s almost exclusively for advanced degrees, and they will tell you.

      Here is some language from the United Nations hiring system as an example:

      “Experience / Degree Level For P3/NOC – 6 years relevant experience with Undergraduate degree; or 5 years relevant experience with Graduate degree; or 4 years relevant experience with Doctorate degree”

      “ 21. All new appointments in the Professional categories (FTA and TA), normally begin at step I (one) of the appropriate grade. One additional step may be granted for each additional year of relevant work experience beyond the minimum required for appointment at step I (one) of the grade up to:
       A maximum of step VI (six) for P-4/NO-D and below, and
       A maximum of step V (five) for P-5/and D-1/P-6 appointments.
       All D-2/P-7 appointments, regardless of the experience of candidates, start at step I (one). An additional two steps may be granted for a completed Ph.D (or equivalent), or one additional step for a completed M.Phil. (or equivalent).”

      1. Mind ya business*

        1. Are these meetings on company time or after hours? If it’s not paid time, I don’t see how the company can really do much about it as long as the people are adhering to the state/city guidelines.

      2. Roeslein*

        I was a full-time university employee during my PhD training (which was in the same general field I am still working in), paid tax, paid into a pension plan, etc., and I absolutely count it as years of relevant experience. In fact my work then was not very different from my work now, it just involved writing papers for academic journals instead of reports for clients and training students instead of interns and new grads. I am happy to explain why I count it that way, and openly mention that I previously worked in academic research. I have had no issue getting job offers for roles that require those years of experience. If employers disagree, which some do, that is their problem – but I am no longer accepting roles that are meant from people with 4-5 years less experience than I actually have. I did when I first defended, and was miserable: I was basically treated as a new grad (and one from an unrelated field as well) who couldn’t manage e-mail, and never worked in a team and knew nothing about the field. It was incredibly frustrating and I was constantly held back. When hiring, I absolutely consider a PhD as years of experience if it was in a directly relevant field (obviously, biology to management consulting is another issue, but I would still consider it as work experience, just in a different field).

        1. MK*

          But that’s not what the OP is describing. If you were a full time employee while getting a degree, of course you should count that as work experience. But that doesn’t mean time in school should automatically be counted as such.

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, what Roeslein is describing would’ve been a full time job regardless of whether she was also a PhD student at the same time (although of course many of those full time university jobs are intertwined with a person’s doctorate in some way, mostly because it’s a position which is only available to PhD students in the first place, but that’s neither here nor there regarding the question at hand).
            In the same vein, OP’s time at the car dealership as well as the bookkeeping she’s been doing since February of course count as work experience, but the three-or-so years before that where she’s only been doing her Bachelor’s don’t.

          2. Roeslein*

            Absolutely – I was responding to Sandy’s comment re: circumstances in which PhD-level schooling counts as a certain number of years of work, not to the OP directly.

          3. JSPA*

            OP wasn’t full – time, true. But considering how many students don’t pick a major until year three of a four year college, OP #2 was far more focused on a specific career, and was training for that career from the very start of their education, than is common. This is absolutely something to highlight in a cover letter. You’re not someone who was OK with numbers, and decided that accounting would pay the bills [jk], while your deeper focus on archeology wouldn’t.

            OP has been committed to, focused on, and training for a career in accounting from the start, and is more attuned to and mature in the field than their work history alone. And that’s the way to present it–not by fudging the facts or using obfuscating jargon.

      3. knitter*

        When I was job searching a few years ago in the educational non-profit field, I saw frequent job posts that said Masters degree or 2 additional years work experience.

      4. doreen*

        I’ve worked for both a state and municipal government, and in both systems, it is very common for there to be alternate ways to meet the minimum education and experience requirements. But the announcements are very clear – they will say something like “six months experience OR one year of satisfactory education” or ” A bachelor’s degree and three years experience. A master’s degree in X may be substituted for two years of the required experience and a master’s degree in Y may be substituted for one year of the required experience. ” If the announcement doesn’t give alternate requirements , then they won’t accept education as a substitute for experience ( or vice versa).

        1. Tiny Magnolia*

          I work for a state agency and we have something similar. It’s mostly using experience as a substitute for “mandatory” degrees, particularly in jobs where a 4-year degree isn’t really needed, as opposed to “school counts as real experience.” I’d rather have someone with practical experience working for or with me than someone fresh out of school. It was similar when I went to grad school… I’d much rather have project partners that have real-life experience as opposed to those who did not.

    2. Arthur*

      It is field dependent. A lot of my time at uni counts as “experience” for many jobs. The fact that I performed independent work while a student is counted no differently to doing the same work while paid.

      The difference is that where the job requires that higher qualification, then requested experience is on top of that. It sounds like OP was doing course work rather than independent work, and the qualification is required. In that case time studying wouldn’t count. If however she’s applying for jobs that would highly value, but not require, the higher qualification sure should contact them and ask (especially if placements were part of the study so there is practical experience).

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Doing internships, or co-op programs, where you’re doing work-place like work, either for pay or unpaid for credit, could legitimately be counted as experience. Doing coursework, or projects for a class generally doesn’t. So I’d count my co-op work terms (full time paid experience where my work was for the benefit of the company), but not my senior year lab project (which was part of a course).

        1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

          This is absolutely correct. The best general rule of thumb I’ve heard and use is was the work for a class or was it for experience? Yes, internship and co-ops count as credit for degrees, but their overarching purpose is generally for experience.

          An even better rule of thumb is if you need to Obi Wan your resume generally speaking you shouldn’t.

    3. AnonyMouse*

      There seems to be a trend where even jobs that are advertised as entry level require 2-5 years experience. In some fields it’s getting harder to break in with no experience, and I suspect that’s why this kind of advice is becoming more popular.

      1. Researcher*

        2-3 years experience AND a college degree, in some instances, and the work really does not require those qualifications.

        1. Quill*

          I see entry level advertised as 2-5 years experience plus a BS and also as 2-5 years experience plus GED / High school Diploma for very similar jobs, it 100% depends on the location where I live. (The rural / city split is basically so sharp you can walk across it… it’s a major highway though so people don’t, generally. But the problem with the GED job is that they want to pay you $10/hour for the exact same duties in QC that the BS job wants to start at $16/hour… both are ludicrously underpaid but that’s the state of the industry around here.)

      2. char*

        Yup. When I graduated from college about 8 years ago, pretty much all of the “entry level” job postings I saw required at least 1 year of experience, and many of them required more like 3 years. It’s that catch-22 – you can’t get a job because you don’t have experience, but you can’t get experience without a job. If, at the time, I’d been given the advice the OP had been given, I would probably have been tempted to follow it.

      3. Ray Gillette*

        The more I think about this, the more I think it’s using “entry level” to mean two different things. The more traditional view is that this is a job for someone who is new to the workforce. But more and more it seems like what it actually means is “this is the lowest-level job available in the company.”

        When I hired recently, I didn’t advertise the position as entry-level because it did require experience and I wanted to avoid any confusion. But the position is still at the bottom of the org chart, so I can understand how someone who wasn’t thinking about that would slap “entry level” on the posting and call it a day.

    4. Thankful for AAM*

      I don’t remember if Alison has done an article on really bad career advice but I’d read it!

    5. SometimesALurker*

      I have often wondered why so much of the advice out there is terrible. I can’t explain the bad career counselors, but my guess about the bad articles is — content mills, and things that aren’t quite content mills but don’t have real editorial standards, either. These are places that let freelance writers write about just about anything, whether or not they do their research and whether or not they have expertise, and they throw it up on websites that want a steady stream of “new” content for the clicks and the ad dollars. To an extent, the bad information on that kind of site can be self-perpetuating, as someone who wants to do their research but isn’t being critical of their sources could find the same advice in five articles (also written without expertise) and then put it in their own.

      I mean, Alison’s written a bit on this, and IIRC her theory is partly that people want to sell and buy advice that tells you how you can “beat the system” and provide shortcuts, and I think she’s right. The content mill part is just what I conclude when, like today, I’m boggling at why there’s so *much* of this content ou there.

      1. Smithy*

        When looking at the world of “click bait”, I think that in the quest for having the most clicks possible – articles get targeted to all new graduates so that they have the broadest audience. Looking at the specific demands of a BS degree in accounting and coaching new grads with that degree on how to apply simply isn’t going to juice the numbers as much.

        If anything, it’s what makes the world of alumni career offices so disappointing. Those offices should not only be best positioned to know what the unique value add/selling point of a degree from that school – but also how to blend that with real world professional standards.

      2. lemon*

        A lot of advice from universities (professor and counselors) is really bad because a lot of those people have only had careers within academia. You’ve got professors who’ve never actually had a non-academic job because they went straight from undergrad to a PhD to teaching. Or, they worked in industry 15 years ago, so their most recent experience is within academia. And, as Alison frequently points out, academia is a weird beast. Its norms don’t really match up with the norms of the rest of the working world.

        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          …even so, a lot of bad advice that comes from universities doesn’t even line up with modern university hiring norms. It’s bizarre.

      3. Arvolin*

        A long time ago, I’d often see magazines and newsletters that existed to sell advertising. They often wanted a certain amount of original content, and they didn’t care what it was, as long as it was vaguely related to something and wasn’t expensive. This isn’t new.

    6. Case of the Mondays*

      I graduated in 2003 and had employers consider my full time internship and service learning (part time volunteer work) as work experience. I never worded it that way on my cover letter but the internship and service learning was listed under Work Experience with a honest description of what the work entailed, the number of hours I worked and that it was for course credit, not pay. I had at least two jobs start me at a higher pay based off that experience.

        1. Chinook*

          I have to agree for the same reason “stay-at-home parent” experience doesn’t count as work. When you are student, it is rare for you to be fired.

          My B.Ed required 3 rounds of student teaching, which is work but, at the same time, it isn’t. Yes, I had to lesson plan, teach, deal with parents and paperwork, etc., but if I made a mistake, I was educated and corrected, not written up on a PIP nor fired (at worse, I would fail and have to redo the course). I had a safety net in the form of a supervisor whose job was to ensure that I never messed up horribly whereas, when I actually taught on my own, there was no one to catch me when I stumbled or fell on my face.

            1. Chinook*

              But that takes A LOT of effort or something illegal or unethical. I want to hear the story that taught you that, manawhat.

    7. Rez123*

      It makes me think of the meme where a goup of little kids are at a construction site and it says “when you need 10 years of experience before the age of 22”. My mind goes to the enry level jobs where you need 2-5 years of experience and it has one of those applications that automatically reject you when you don’t fit that requirement. It’s bad advice but I can see with some degrees on how it could be worked into “experience”.

    8. Lukewarm Coffee*

      I agree that you can’t count years at school as work experience. However, in my organization many entry level jobs include something like “2 years of analytics experience”. It’s common practice to include coursework, internships and any work experience in assessing whether the candidate meets the 2 years of experience.

  3. Fiona the Baby Hippo*

    oh my GOD OP #1 I have nothing to add except that my jaw was ON THE GROUND reading that! Masks encouraged but not required?! The magical thinking with all of this astounds me!

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this. Masks don’t do much good unless everyone is wearing them. It seems like the OP’s boss and grandboss are oddly out of touch with official company policy, Alison’s suggestions are great.

    2. Zona the Great*

      My first thought was that she must work for Cynthia Bailey. The thought process in all of this astounds me. Call Andy Cohen STAT!

    3. Language Lover*

      This is my biggest frustration with the mask issue. People might understand that wearing a mask is supposed to protect others from you but in practicality, it is still treated as something people do to make themselves feel safer…akin to wearing a seat belt.

      1. BRR*

        I completely agree with that. There have been a few letters recently about interviews and I remember at least one where the interviewer said “you can wear a mask if you want.” My husband, who knows how masks work, made a comment about his brother in law catching covid from BIL’s grandma even though “BIL was wearing a mask.” Well guess what, BIL was only around grandma as backup care because grandmas usual care provider caught covid and grandma didn’t wear a mask around BIL so BIL caught it. End of rant

      2. Mel_05*

        Yup. Even people I know who are super pro-mask seem to think of it as a safety measure for themselves.

      3. Arvolin*

        Hmmm. My idea is that I don’t want to take chance on giving COVID to someone else, so I try to wear a mask anywhere I could possibly infect someone if I’m asymptomatic or presymptomatic.

    4. MsRoboto*

      There must be pictures of this on-line as OP #1 is aware and seems to have first hand knowledge of the non-mask wearers and the likelihood they were not social distancing.

      Those pictures with some explanation from a clandestine email should be sent to HR or higher to report this.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, really. I was thinking, OP has access to pictures??? Send someone important a hyperlink, OP.

        One day at work years ago I was told to go kill the baby rats. I did not want to kill the baby rats, even though I am not a fan of rats. I geared myself up because when an employer tells an employee to do something they either do it OR they could potentially lose their job. OP’s company has been pretty clear here, “Wear masks and distance from each other.” That is pretty straightforward. Choosing not to do it is insubordination. It’s irrelevant that these employees think this or that, as it has NO bearing here. The instructions are do X. If they are not doing X, it might be time for a write up or dismissal whatever the company has outlined.
        A boss says “go kill the baby rats”, guess what is coming up next…. the employee has to choose how much they want the job. It’s irrelevant that I don’t wanna kill the baby rats or I believe that killing animals is wrong or I think that killing these particular animals is wrong. That has no bearing here. Likewise it is irrelevant that these folks don’t believe they need masks or whatever it is they think.

        OP, if what you really want is to be informed of what is discussed at these meetings maybe you could ask someone to take notes and send them to you. Figure out what you want to have happen here. I do understand that reporting this can have some serious fallout and you may not want to deal with the fallout because you have to continue to work with these folks.

        1. Cj*

          I would have caught and moved the baby rats to a remote area where they would not cause problems. And Mom too, if they were young enough to still need her. This is a line I personally would draw

          1. Artemesia*

            Like there is any area where a rat population ‘doesn’t cause problems’. Turning rats loose ought to be a firing offense.

            1. Chinook*

              In Alberta, it is a jailable offense. We take our “rat free” status very, very seriously.

              Plus, if it is a place that does any experimentation on rats (a regrettable need). setting them loose runs the risk of setting loose a contagious disease like hanta virus, etc.

      2. LW1*

        Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the pictures. I saw them during a screen share and didn’t think to take a screenshot. I’m not sure if the pictures ultimately matter though – there’s plenty of email traffic. But I’m not sure who/how to go about reporting it – initially I was going to mention it to my manager’s manager. But it turns out he’s not only ok with it, he’s attending! So I worry that either I wouldn’t get taken seriously, or that I would but then I’d face retaliation (which seems to happen a lot, even though there’s supposed to be protections). It’s kind of a toxic work environment, but previously my group was pretty good and I had been insulated from it.

        1. Northerner*

          Does your company have a COVID task force that’s been in charge of setting policies? Or, failing that, competent HR? It sounds like your team isn’t really trying to keep these meetings a secret, so I don’t know that their immediate conclusion if someone higher up intervened would be that you’d made a complaint. It seems like it could plausibly come up in casual conversation, from you or anyone on the team.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Another option is an Ethics Hotline, if your company has one. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

        3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I think this would be something to take to HR. It sounds like this is a large enough organization that it should have its own multi-person HR department and team. And this is exactly the type of thing they would want to know and deal with. Good luck, LW1!

    5. Minnie Mouse*

      The very small business I work for is run by COVID deniers and no one wears masks in the office despite one positive case. The infected person had a meeting with several other people without masks or distancing right before getting sick and no one else wanted to get tested. In fact the positive person went to work and met with clients with COVID symptoms. I’m not sure why they ended up getting tested, but it has been a nightmare including the office manager lying about whether I had close contact with the person (I knew who it was because of how few people work here). They tell clients they don’t have to wear masks around us. They think masks are dangerous, violate their civil liberties, ect.
      And no, I can’t just find a new job. That’s not so easy in my line of work.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh wow. Met with clients? Aside from all the ethical and health concerns, isn’t that a quick way to lose clients?? Sorry to hear about all this happening. I really hope that you are not required to come into work, but frankly it does not sound from your comment like that is the case.

        1. Minnie Mouse*

          Thankfully I rarely have to go to the office anymore due to my specific job, but I do meet with clients daily who are complete jerks and try to get me to take my mask off. It’s just a horrible place to live during a pandemic.

        2. Chinook*

          Definitely a way to lose clients, especially if they were shocked/uncomfortable with meeting someone without a mask.

          1. Quoth the Raven*

            There’s a gyro joint near my place that I really enjoy, but walking past it while walking my dog, I’ve never seen the owners, the staff, or the cooks (you can look straight into the kitchen) wear a mask since COVID started, not once. Safe to say I have not plans of going back anytime soon, if at all.

      2. willow for now*

        Argh, that “violate their civil liberties” bullsh!t. Exactly how does this violate? We wear clothes in public, a la “no shoes no shirts no service’. The masks are just another piece of required clothing for right now. Just put it on!

        1. char*

          Yeah, I was going to ask, do they also tell their clients that clothing is optional? Surely all these laws against public nudity are also infringing upon their individual freedoms!

    6. Tiny Magnolia*

      Exactly. Masks encouraged? What the actual. My local Subway restaurant has a sign specifically stating that masks are “required” and I’m like “Nope nope nopety nope not eating at any Subways ever again.”

      1. Allonge*

        Honest question from a non-native English speaker: what’s wrong with required? Encouraged I understand the issue with, but if I read masks required at an entrance, I would have the feeling that I had to have one on to get in.

        1. DrSalty*

          As a native English-speaker, Tiny Magnolia’s statement doesn’t make sense either. A word might be missing.

      2. Pobody’s Nerfect*

        You won’t eat at Subway because they require masks? Am I missing something? Seems like they’re doing the right thing for everyone by requiring them.

        1. Fiona*

          Maybe they forgot the “not” and it was supposed to read “not required”? Otherwise this comment makes no sense…

          1. Ariaflame*

            Either that or they’ve got a lexical glitch? For ages my brain kept equating opaque with translucent or transparent.

        2. Artemesia*

          Only way I could interpret that is as a typo and it was ‘masks not required’. or that the ‘required’ was in quotes to indicate we don’t really mean it.

        3. Councilwoman Knope*

          I think the issue is it says “required”, not just required. The quotes imply that they are just pretending to enforce the rules and wouldn’t actually require them.

          1. Partly Cloudy*

            I’d be willing to bet that whoever made that sign is using quotes for emphasis, which is a whole separate facepalm issue, but I’d take it to mean that masks are actually required.

      3. Idril Celebrindal*

        I am honestly encouraged that there is at least a little corner of the internet/world where there is genuine confusion over this statement. There are so many places where the commenter would really be saying that they will boycott a company for requiring masks, but here we all assume/hope that this is a typo.

    7. gladfe*

      I’m going to to throw out an option for OP #1 that would work well with the politics at my job, just in case it works well at theirs:
      For us, disability accommodation requests are documented by HR, even if you and your manager have already informally decided on a solution, and our site HR manager is closely aligned with upper management on covid issues. So if I were in OP #1’s shoes, I’d say to my manager, “As you know, I can’t attend the team meetings because of (disability), but I’m disappointed to be missing them. I’m going to talk to (site HR manager) about whether the company can help with any accommodations so I can participate in the meetings remotely.” My goal would be to make it seem less like I was going over my manager’s head than talking to her boss’s boss, but I would also be confident that the HR manager would quash the meetings completely as soon as she found out about them. I also would trust our HR manager to take preventing retaliation very seriously, especially once this was framed as an ADA issue, more than other managers without HR background.
      Just to reiterate, I know this wouldn’t be the most effective approach at a company with different internal politics (or a less reliable HR manager), but it’s another option OP #1 can consider.

      1. LW1*

        Thank you for the suggestion on what language to use! I’m not sure if our HR is particularly competent, but it is worth a try.

    8. Nanani*

      Some people seem to think mask-wearing is less important than, I don’t know, manners?
      So non-masked people in a small space (elevator, shop aisle) say things like “Oh I don’t mind” when someone properly masked needs to use the space. It’s bogglingly backwards.

  4. Bex*

    Not quite analogous, but my partner and I for many years had informal custody of my younger sibling and I’d talk about her a bit at work. Well, part of what prompted us to go for (and gain) full legal guardianship was my sibling coming out as trans and letting us know he preferred a male name and he/him. So when I started talked about sibling again at work, I just quickly said, “oh, by the way, sibling identifies as male and is going by Connor now.” Same thing happened in my wider professional network as well, as I’d check in with contacts and keep up to date. Just a quick mention and moving forward.

    A few folks had questions but for the most part, what I’ve had is people who will use the old name or pronouns, and then either quickly self correct (“So, how is Belinda – sorry, I mean Connor – adjusting to distance learning?”) , or graciously accept my quick correction – “they go by Connor now, and he’s doing really well!”

    I know it’s not the same as a spouse, but you’d be surprised how many people take this in stride if you don’t make it a thing!

    1. allathian*

      Good on you for supporting your trans sibling!

      For many people, the idea that someone can love an intimate partner so much that they’re happy that their partner is finally becoming who they were meant to be, rather than the gender they were assigned at birth, is simply something they can’t understand. That’s where the intrusive questions may come from. I know that I personally could never be in an intimate relationship with anyone except a straight or bi man who identifies as male. But if someone told me at work that they’re supporting a transitioning spouse, I would keep my curiosity in check, because it’s not my business. If my coworker is happy with their life situation, I would be happy for them.

      Good luck, OP. I hope you can navigate this without having to stop mentioning your spouse at work or showing photos of her and that you can avoid any intrusive questions from your boss. You seem to be in a supportive environment, so perhaps being very matter of fact about it could help you avoid those questions.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        +1 to the keeping curiosity in check. I may run into many things that I am curious about, but one of the hallmarks of being an adult that I have tried to aim for is recognising when something is none of my business, no matter how fascinating or confusing it might be. And these days it would be very easy to find information about whatever the issue is that would give me an idea of what it might be like.

      2. Pan*

        My husband is in the process of transitioning to female (not out publicly yet) so I’m loving the commentary on this. In our case, the pandemic is giving him a lot of lead time before he *has* to come out to co-workers – he’s getting a chance to settle on dress and presentation before they see him in person every day.

        In our case, I’m coming out as pansexual to family friends who didn’t already know – specifically in advance of my husband’s announcement, whenever that might be. Hopefully that will help prevent some of the “so are you getting divorced now?” questions! So far it’s always been theoretical – I’ve never dated someone who wasn’t a cis man until now – but representation is important and I like that our friends all KNOW that they know a queer person (if that makes sense) instead of assuming that since we’re currently presenting as a M/F couple, that we’re both straight.

      3. Coenobita*

        For many people, the idea that someone can love an intimate partner so much that they’re happy that their partner is finally becoming who they were meant to be, rather than the gender they were assigned at birth, is simply something they can’t understand.

        I am super late to this thread (the one day I don’t read AAM in the morning…!) but this has been a stumbling block for me. When my spouse first starting coming out to people, it didn’t occur to her/us to explicitly include “also, we are staying together” in that conversation, and our extreme matter-of-fact-ness created some really awkward scenarios (e.g., my in-laws assumed we were breaking up!). I do recommend proactively doing a bit of the “we are happy! our relationship is stronger now because we can be our whole selves!” thing, assuming it’s true.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      One of my former colleagues had their child transition. It was similar — a very straightforward, oh, “Edgar is going by Jane now”. I noticed he raised in a small group (informal chat before a meeting) and I wonder if that was strategic….we were about to start a meeting, so not a lot of time for questions, and people are maybe less likely to be intrusive in a group?

      1. UKDancer*

        I had something similar at work in a former company. A colleague explained about her child that “Rachel” was now going by “George” and using he/him pronouns. She was very matter of fact about it and acted as though we were all reasonable people who were going to accept this of course. Everyone just nodded and remembered to say “George.”

        1. Tabby*

          Yeah, this is really normal for me — most of the people I know are from a generation where this is more openly accepted, and therefore it is commonplace for people to transition/come out as myriad things I don’t completely understand, but don’t feel disturbed by (I mean, I didn’t really even know what gay or lesbian was as a teenager (didn’t find out til my twenties!), and I also didn’t really care/find it disturbing/remained pretty unbothered by it happening around me, so maybe it was fate, or whatever). I kinda feel bad when people come out to me rather dramatically (think long, obviously prepared speech and everything) and my reaction is basically, “Okay, (new name/gender words), wanna grab coffee? Go to the bookstore?” as if nothing at all unusual has happened. Because, to me, literally nothing unusual has happened! This person has just revealed to me themselves, and I am very okay with whoever it is they are.

    3. JSPA*

      I volunteer with a small local LGBT focused org. The tension when it’s a spouse vs non-romantic family member has two parts. One is the very understandable, “I support you in supporting your spouse, but how are YOU? Is this difficult, do you need support independently / additionally?”

      Given time to think, most friends can muster “Oh, good for Dania! If there are changes for you you need to talk about, I’m always here.” But at work, “I hope you both find happiness in the process and outcome” is about the bounds of appropriate. Without time to think, you may get more, “how hard for you / how challenging for you.” It’s projection, but not necessarily trans – phobic or unsupportive. If you want to head it off, “James is transitioning to Dania, we’re doing great, thought you should know” will head off the negative projections.

      The other class are the “category – anxious” / “information – seeking missile” people. I’m one by nature. I had to learn to squelch, with friends, “does this mean you identify as a lesbian or bi or just Dania-oriented” and “are you staying together as a couple-couple, opening things up, or what.” While that should all obviously be non – work appropriate (!) some workplaces blur the coworker-friend-family lines. So having a plan to share what you intend to share up front, and shut down what’s not appropriate, is useful.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        This is an amazing response, and thank you. I’m definitely keeping your script in mind if this ever comes up.

        I’ll be honest, I think I’d just freeze if I was one of OP’s coworker. I’m not phobic, I have trans friends and I’ve had some friend’s siblings and children transition. But when it’s a partner, I’m pretty sure my knee jerk response *would* be “how hard for you” or to ask about the new dynamics of the couple, and since that’s not something you’d ask a coworker, I’d probbably look shocked, dumb and mute for a while.

  5. D'Arcy*

    OP #4, you need to talk to your partner about how she individually wants you to handle this. Do not even indirectly bring it up with coworkers unless she specifically tells you that she is okay with this.

    1. WS*

      +1, and have your Trans 101 lecture ready. Most people are completely fine and will just have the occasional name/pronoun slipup at the start, but there always seem to be one or two who just *have* to know everything in gruesome detail. In my experience, an impersonal Trans 101 lecture seems to be better at putting off the nosiest of co-workers than either giving or refusing personal information.

      1. Eeyore's Missing Tail*

        What do you mean by Trans 101 lecture? Forgive me, I’m not familiar with that and would like to learn more.

        1. Mockingjay*

          I think WS means having a brief, canned statement at the ready for the Nosy Nellies who want to know intrusively more about the situation than is warranted for collegial office relationships (rather than researching information themselves).

          Also applies to medical history, divorce or separation, or other personal topic you really don’t want to get into at work.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Yes, you can in essence put it as part of the curriculum of “Intrusive Personal Question Responses” certification, which includes:
            “Trans 101”
            “Sexuality 101”
            “Marriage & Relationships 101”
            “Reproduction Plans 101”

            with 200 level courses including popular topics like Shutting Down the Office Matchmaker, Dealing With Grief in the Office, and When and How to Share Health Information (If It’s Not Your Information, It’s Not Yours to Share).

      2. gladfe*

        My coworker had a spouse transition, at a workplace where most people are older and conservative. She got fed up with the questions, so (with my permission) started bluntly saying, “I’m sick of talking about this at work, but you can ask gladfe.” I spent about two weeks doing Trans 101 lectures during every break. It was a weird couple weeks, and some people definitely judged me for… I’m not even sure what… being too OK with other people being trans, I guess. But I’m a cis woman married to a cis man, so I didn’t have to worry about facing any serious discrimination as a result. It also made it socially feasible for me to be really blunt about what was OK (“No, that would be just as bad as asking any other coworker about their husband’s genitals.”) without it feeling like as much of a reprimand as if my coworker’d had to do it herself.

        1. Rose*

          It never ceases to amaze me how many adults need to be specifically told it’s not ok to casually ask another adult about their (partner’s) genitalia at work or in social settings. This feels like a kindergarten lesson.

      3. LizardOfOdds*

        Yep, came here to say this. People ask the most bizarre questions in a moment like this, probably without thinking but it can come across as intrusive and rude.

        Also, if OP doesn’t have a strong personal relationship with coworkers, I think it’s totally OK to not give the Trans 101 lecture. It’s reasonable to say, “it’s really Jane’s story to tell if she wants to share it, and I’d rather not talk about her experience on her behalf.”

      4. Arvolin*

        Or your co-worker can always have a desk just outside the office of someone going through transition and an acrimonious divorce who has lots of phone conversations about it at work and doesn’t close her door for them.

    2. LW #4*

      Way ahead of you. I’d never out her without her permission. She’s (rightly) decided what’s she’s comfortable with on every step of her transition, and I’m following her lead.

  6. Analyst Editor*

    OP1, would your level of comfort with this change if your colleagues did all wear masks, kept it 100% outdoors, and observed the rules? Is covid well-controlled in your specific area?
    I would hope that if you mentioned your high risk to the manager, and at meetings you attended people were specifically asked to observe precautions more conscientiously, they would. If you were comfortable with that, and don’t live in a hotspot, it could be worth trying — thus potentially making your team mates observe better precautions and getting the facetime with them.

    1. NforKnowledge*

      But OP1’s team has already shown they have no inclination to observe all the rules. I don’t think it’s worth even trying to corral them into having a technically-low-risk-enough meeting, especially when OP will have no support from their boss or grandboss if anyone doesn’t abide by the rules.

      1. Haha Lala*

        If the rest of the team isn’t wearing masks or distancing at a work event, I’ll bet they’re not any other time either. For someone that is high risk, any sort of meeting with these team members would be an unnecessary high risk (and against company standards). OP is being excluded from activities due to being high risk. Can the rest of the team meet somewhere where OP can still call in? It’s not the same as all being virtual, but at least OP can still participate.

    2. Daffy Duck*

      I wouldn’t bother, they won’t observe the social distancing guidelines. These are people who are openly defying company guidelines already, they will ‘forget’ to sit 6+ feet apart or pull down their mask to speak. OP will then be stuck with the option of putting herself and loved ones at risk or walking out of the meeting.

    3. anon73*

      I don’t know that it matters to be honest. The company has put forth strict guidelines and meeting in person is breaking those guidelines, even if they are doing it outside of working hours as a type of social event. It’s clear that these people don’t take the guidelines seriously, or they wouldn’t be engaging in this behavior. I’ve learned in the last 6+ months that I can only protect myself and control my own environment because there are way too many people not taking this seriously (if I had a dollar for every person I’ve seen with a mask around their chin I could pay off my mortgage, and I rarely go out except to get groceries). OP needs to talk to their HR department and stay home to protect themselves. I realize that OP doesn’t want to risk having a target on their back, but most companies have a “no retaliation” policy in place. This is serious enough that it needs to be reported and managed properly.

      1. JustaTech*

        And I think another think the OP could bring up is that this team clearly *knows* that the company doesn’t want them to be meeting in person, which is why they’re having sneaky meetings off-site rather than in the office. The team knows that someone in the company really doesn’t want them meeting in person, and they’re sneaking around, which kind of implies that somewhere up the management chain there are Consequences.

        The problem is the OP doesn’t know how far up the chain they would have to go to find the person who would both be upset and could enforce Consequences.

    4. Half-Caf Latte*

      First, it’s unfair to put all the onus on OP to “make it safe” or whatever.

      Second, I don’t see a benefit to doing this- coworkers have proven themselves unsafe to OP, and this sets up OP to police their coworkers, everytime a mask is below a nose, someone seems unwell, wants to go inside because of the weather, etc. Further, if it comes out that this team was doing this and is censured by the larger company, OP doesn’t come out looking rosy for trying to find a less egregious way to violate the rules.

    5. prof*

      I’m high risk and I won’t be inside in the same room at any distance even with everyone masked. I will be in the same building and a different room, and I wear my mask at all times (it does some good for the mask wearer). I will meet people whose behavior I trust outdoors and even unmask (in low numbers) if we can stay 6+ feet, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near people like OP1’s coworkers under any circumstances. I’m a biologist too, hence the caution…I know a bit about this stuff….

    6. LW1*

      I don’t think this is really an option for me. My manager and coworkers are all aware that I’m high-risk, and they still say that masks are “optional”. In my opinion, that’s incredibly disrespectful and I have no interest in literally risking my life to socialize with them in person (to clarify, this is during work hours – some of the other comments indicated this wasn’t clear). I fully expect to have to grin and bear it, which I can do even if I don’t particularly like it. But the larger issue is that it’s violating our organization’s mandatory telework policy, and we work in safety so it will be professionally embarrassing if and when they all get COVID.

  7. Jcarnall*

    I’ve never had a partner transition, but I have had colleagues at work transition, and my own feeling now that the workplace is no the place for Trans 101 lectures. I found the easiest way to shut down a colleague making inappropriate comments about “June who now wants to be Victor” was in fact to say gently, “You know, I think we should just call people what they want to be called” and illustrate with “you hate it when people call you Susie when your name is Susan”.

    I literally cannot think of any query your workmates could make about your partner’s transition that wouldn’t be completely inappropriate at work, and can therefore be shut down with “I don’t discuss my partner’s life AT WORK”. All they reasonably need to know is your partner’s new name & that she’s the Sam person, you haven’t secretly gone through divorce and remarriage.

    1. Fred*

      A good option I’ve found with other issues if you are happy to have that conversation is to point out it’s not really a workplace conversation but you’d be happy to catch up over lunch/coffee. This means they have to put some effort in, you take things away from the immediate, and one on one you can have a more meaningful conversation. If you don’t want to have that conversation then simply stop at the not a workplace conversation.

      Also, please don’t launch into a lecture. Your colleagues probably don’t want to be lectured to/at. Some of your colleagues will be confused if you aren’t clear. If a colleague previously spoke of spouse Darren and is now speaking about spouse Sue I’d assume they were different people unless you hit me over the head with it. I probably wouldn’t comment, but if you expected me to realise they were the same person you’d need to tell me.

      1. Chinook*

        Yes to the lecture, especially if they get the pronoun or name wrong. I get names and pronouns wrong of nieces and nephews all the time (a family trait – the joke, when we start going through names, is to stop us when we get to the dead pets), so it wouldn’t be a political statement if I forget that your daughter is now your son, just a brain fart.

    2. Forrest*

      I kind of feel like the Trans 101 lecture at work IS, “Wow, I don’t think this is a very appropriate question!”

    3. Nancie*

      I can think of one appropriate question— that personally for me helps remind me of the name change. “Is there a story behind Victor’s choice of his new name?”

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        This still feels like a wildly inappropriate question given you probably wouldn’t (or at least shouldn’t!) ask the same question when someone changes their name for other reasons (e.g. getting married, getting divorced, changing it because they want to, etc.).

        1. Pan*

          I think I’m with Nancie on this one. Marriage or divorce usually IS the reason behind a name change, so that’s assumed unless the person says otherwise. If one of my coworkers announced one day that they were changing their FIRST name, though, I’d probably ask. Maybe not if I knew there was trauma in her background, because I’d assume it might be a touchy subject in that case, but I’d ask otherwise. Or I’d ask someone closer to that person who might know. I’d be prepared for the answer to be “none of your business,” though :-P

          1. Caramel & Cheddar*

            I was thinking more of situations like we’ve seen in past letters, e.g. “How do I deal with my coworkers who are wondering why I’m *not* changing my name when I get married” or (not sure if we’ve had a letter on this) “How do I explain to coworkers why I’m keeping my married name even though I’m now divorcing,” etc. It’s not appropriate to ask why any more than it would be to ask why someone is changing their first name. If you’re fine accepting “none of your business” as an answer, that’s fine, but maybe consider not putting someone in the position to have to say that in the first place.

        2. Junger*

          Yeah, the answer will likely be very personal or very banal. And you really don’t need to know that for a colleague’s spouse.
          Just accept it and move on.

      2. She Who Means Well*

        I took Nancie’s question to be why that name specifically as opposed to why the name change. For example, “Jane is going by George now.” “Oh, George is a lovely name. Does it have some special significance for him?”

  8. Miss Honey*

    OP5, I just went through the same situation as you, except that I resigned because of a bunch of reasons I didn’t want to get into. I was worried about the optics but it really didn’t matter. I was asked why I resigned without another offer in hand. I gave a brief answer to this and it didn’t come up again. (I got an offer and am working there now, so I feel confident in saying that it didn’t affect my application!)

    One tip I would offer is, this is usually a bigger deal for the job applicant than it is for the hiring managers/recruiters. If you treat it matter-of-factly and give them a clear answer that doesn’t raise more questions (Alison’s phrasing is great), you should be fine. Definitely don’t hide it. All the best!

    1. Enescudoh*

      Yep, OP5, I’ve been through this before – and didn’t even have the excuse of a pandemic. I had an interview lined up and the day before I was fired for pretty spurious reasons. I rehearsed a line with my family for the interview which came up as soon as they asked me about my current role – I did the usual responsibilities, achievements, then said,

      ‘Just to be up front, my role with Squirrel Publishing came to an end yesterday. I’m sure it won’t have escaped your attention that they’re having a pretty turbulent time of it right now and I think they wanted different skills in that team. It’s obviously a shame but I was ready to move on anyway at this point, I was ready for a new challenge and starting to feel I’d learned all I could in that role.’

      So my advice would be that yes, they’ll understand that layoffs are sooooo widespread right now, but when talking about why you want to leave your role, try and combine some positive stuff – try not give an answer that could be interpreted as ‘I don’t really want to except for the pandemic’. But in simple contexts about references/start dates, they won’t mind, and they might even be pleased you don’t have to work a notice period.

      1. Office Plant*

        Honestly, people probably don’t even need to include fluff about wanting to stay with their old company. I was laid off due to the pandemic, and I’ve been saying just that to employers. They’ve all been like “yep, got it” and move on. Right now, layoffs are just not something that requires a ton of explanation.

    2. OP#5*

      Thanks so much for this feedback, folks. It ended up being a non-issue: my contract was extended at the very last minute! I just asked my references to not highlight–if possible–the fact that my end date was a moving target, and they were all fine with that.

      And here’s your early “Good News Friday” update…I got the offer! I start at the new company next week, and I’m thrilled; the team seems awesome (and less dysfunctional than my current situation), the work is exactly what I want to be doing, I got a nice salary bump, and it’s a permanent job! Huge thanks to Alison and you lovely folks, as I spent hours reading through posts and comments to better my interview and negotiation skills, and it all worked out.

  9. Lady Heather*

    LW2, I think this is especially bad advice if the job requires the degree!

    Though you can apply to jobs you aren’t qualified for – men do it all the time and get hired, women don’t do it as often. Just then be honest about not meeting all qualifications.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yes, it’s better to sell your good points rather than try to spin yourself into meeting ones that you don’t. I’d side-eye someone who tried to tell me having an A.S./B.S. was two/four years of “work experience” because it’s not.

      And, in all honestly, we’re going to calculate years of experience based on the job application, not use each candidate’s interpretation of experience. Prior jobs, internships, assistantships, etc. count as work experience; coursework does not. (But I also don’t require work experience for entry-level jobs, just a 4-year degree because it’s required by the contracts we support. We also do degree verification because of long-ago issues with dishonesty.)

    2. Squeakrad*

      I teach business communication at our state university and I would be aghast if one of my students did something like this. Especially in accounting, where many candidates will have experience, hours toward a CPA, or other major internship experience at a big four firm – saying you were were “immersed in” your major would really be seen as lying.
      If you are in accounting major and do not have a year or two of accounting work experience I would not be applying for jobs that require 3 to 4 years experience. There’s a knowledge base that you would need to have if you had that long in the workforce that most new graduates just don’t have even if they’ve had internships.

  10. Comp Expert*

    Honestly OP1, I don’t think what your colleagues are doing is a big deal. I’m not in the US, but in my country the government is permitting restaurants to operate and people are allowed to meet in small groups provided they follow safety protocols (distance and masks). My office is also still working remotely and we are not encouraged to come to the office if we can continue to work from home, but their view is also that as long as we are following local regulations, we are fine. So, my team is meeting in person about once a month – outside, masks etc. It’s not breaking any rules and it’s really important for the social cohesion of the team. It’s completely optional because people obviously must take their own circumstances into account but I don’t think the practice is inherently wrong.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Extrapolating from other countries experience is not safe here. The US per capita injection rate and death rate are much higher than it is in other countries with equivalent income & technology levels. European countries spiked early and then reacted and reduced the spread. The US infection rate has risen.

        1. Beth*

          The article also notes the increased incidence of deaths that haven’t been attributed to Covid or included in Covid statistics, but have mysteriously spiked (especially after the administration took control of data collection and reporting).

      1. ....*

        I agree the USA is noooot looking good, things are going pretty haywire in Europe right now! France, Czech Republic etc

      2. Georgina Fredrika*

        depends on what part of the US they’re in, though. The US is a big place and some places have been better at maintaining low transmission than others. Last month (not sure about this month) the NYT detailed how the US Northeast was pretty in line with Europe, it was really the rest of the country that was spiking high. I think going to a restaurant in Florida is a lot different than going to one in Massachusetts.

        1. Doreen Green*

          While this is true, cases in the Northeast have begun to rise again, and just in the past few days the NYT started warning of the beginning of a second wave in that region.

        2. That Girl From Quinn's House.*

          It really has to do with how cooperative people are being with the basic hygiene of disease prevention.

          Remote as much as possible, masks + distancing + ventilation for everything that has to be done in person, take a rain check on things that aren’t compatible with 1 or 2.

    2. pcake*

      The company says telework is mandatory, so it seems to me that a bunch of people getting together where ever they do to work together is going against the company’s stated policy.

      1. Roeslein*

        I am not in the US either, but I agree with CompExpert here – it’s not clear what happens during these meet-ups, but as long as there are meeting socially only in their free time and do not do work on those occasions (and of course follow the appropriate rules / guidance for their specific location!) and people outside the company are allowed to meet, then it seems they are entitled to meet whomever they want too (again, as long as they follow the law where they are – here that would mean that e.g. you have to wear a mask to walk around the restaurant, but not while sitting at a table, potentially keep the group under a certain size etc.) For some people (e.g. those who have relocated recently) their work colleagues may be the center of their social life – it wouldn’t be fair to forbid them from meeting friends just because they happen to work in the same company, when others are allowed to see their friends – as long as nobody is engaging in illegal behaviour.

        1. ACM*

          But they’re regularly set-up meetings with literally everyone else on the team, including the manager. I really think this answer would be different if management weren’t involved. It’d still suck, but not be massively different from being left out of informal happy hours.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            Seconding this. The masks/no masks issue is really secondary. The problem is that OP is now getting less face time with everyone in their department, specifically because of a disability/risk factor, despite the company having a policy against things that would do exactly that.

            1. Georgina Fredrika*

              are workplaces really required to give you equal access to your team when the event is voluntary, though? It’s not even clear from the letter whether it’s a work or social meeting – I would guess it’s somewhere in the middle if it’s voluntary. I get it, it sucks to be left out, but is it really everyone else’s responsibility to stay home because you’re home? They know the risk and accept it.

              My workplace also says “you do not need to come into the office!!!” but in all honesty the policy is in place mostly to make US comfortable as employees, not because my employer is interested in regulating our lives or forcing us to stay home.

              If they found out we were having a voluntary work meeting for team bonding, …well I actually think it would be sanctioned so the “found out” part wouldn’t be relevant

              1. introverted af*

                It’s not about equal access to the team – it’s about equal access to the manager. If everyone else has an opportunity to make nice to the manager and build a stronger bond with them, that hurts the OP. It’s not a “requirement” in the way that following legal requirements around safety, financial responsibility and transparency, or rules for the care of children are “requirements,” but it is a part of the standard workers should hold their employers accountable to. In this instance, the limiting factor for OP is their disability/health concerns but if it was gender, and OP was the only one left out because they didn’t feel comfortable attending then of course we would see this as a problem.

                1. Georgina Fredrika*

                  that’s a fair point.

                  I guess the way I see it (and I think I’m in the minority on this one) is that we’re truly in an unprecedented time and it goes both ways.

                  If voluntary team building provides a valuable function of keeping people engaged with the company & on the team (I know some companies/teams struggle with retention of top employees more than others, not sure where OP’s company lands) and it doesn’t translate well to Zoom, isn’t the most reasonable option to conduct optional meetings that don’t require the immuno-compromised OP? This isn’t a normal time thing (like ongoing gender discrimination) because if there were no pandemic, it sounds like OP would opt to join. Like in some ways they are just making the best of the hand they’ve been dealt, in a way that doesn’t risk the OP at all.

                  OP mentions that they’re concerned with what this means when the office DOES open up, but I honestly doubt it would change much for how they weigh that because if it’s live or die with your health, I wouldn’t trust that your coworkers aren’t occasionally getting dinner, seeing family etc. over the course of the next year & just not mentioning it at work. It’s almost guaranteed someone in your office will not be strictly quarantining for an entire year

              2. Observer*

                In a situation like this, there is a good chance that attendance would not be considered truly voluntary. This shows up a LOT in terms of requirements to pay hourly staff and liability for accidents, etc.

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

            Whatever activity is, the manager being there makes it an official company meeting. Which means that whatever happens there could be a potential PR emergency if a client or random person complains or pictures go viral.

        2. LW1*

          I know I can’t control what people do in their off hours, nor do I have any desire to. These meetings are during work hours, though I’m not sure how much “work” is being done (…which would be another issue, but not immediately relevant here). They are also doing “team-building” activities – surely I’m still part of the team? But it certainly doesn’t feel like it.

      2. Liz*

        I kind of agree with this. My company has a number of offices in different states, and I’m in the HQ office. Several states have “re-opened” and employees in those offices are back. We are still under “stay at home orders” so still working from home.

        they did say though, IF you need to go into the office, limit your time, do what you need and leave, and you must take your temp. fill out a form, and submit to HR. Additionally, if you go in, you must notify your supervisor. I’m actually kind of happy about this as i don’t need to go in, and am glad we aren’t being required to.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      When there’s still a virus out there killing people every day and people have been told to not meet in person…yet are doing it anyway and with the attitude that masks/distancing are ‘optional’…..I’d say it’s a big deal.

      I’m not in the USA but my country is heading back into regional lockdowns.

    4. Mystery Bookworm*

      Whether this practice is ‘a big deal’ depends lot on circumstances that we as readers cannot know (like what sort of work they’re doing, what the COVID numbers are like in their area, and how much employees are missing out because they’re vulnerable).

      I think we should take OP at her word when she says it’s against the standards/regulations for her area and company.

      She is also missing out on this bonding time because of a medical vulnerability — and it’s really not best practice for the company to set-up regular meetings that discriminate against people with medical sensitivities (unless it is truely unavoidable for the work, which OP has said that it is not).

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        One firm I briefly worked for had a lot of ‘team building and update’ meetings that were out of hours, full of physical activities and in the middle of the countryside. There was no way I could attend them (1 evening in the woods would be 2 weeks recovery). There was also no way I was ever going to get the facetime with management any other way or progress my career without it. The overarching attitude there was ‘suck it up, we’re fine doing this’.

        I just got another job and left after 6 months. Now, had this been this year and with all the fear of getting a deadly illness included I may have complained as far up the chain as I could go.

    5. ACM*

      Buuuut her coworkers are meeting maskless and not outside? It does make a huge difference. And even so, as others have pointed out, creating unequal access to the manager based on health conditions is not okay in a team environment. Answer might be different if they were just random people from different teams meeting up socially.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, it’s not okay on health grounds or on any other protected personal characteristics. I’m thinking about last week’s discussion about people having religious restrictions on attending happy hour events in a bar. Or for that matter, networking on the golf course that at least in earlier decades tended to exclude women.

      2. Colette*

        And they’ve been specifically told not to do so. It doesn’t matter if it’s allowed legally; it’s not allowed by the company. That’s like saying “you can’t make me wear a suit to work, it’s legal to wear sweat pants!”

    6. Knitting Cat Lady*

      I don’t know exactly what OP’s team does, but OP says it is safety relevant.

      So the optics of the whole team catching corona and infecting each other would be bad. Especially if they meet on company time to do work, despite mandatory solitary teleworking.

      The danger that customers would go ‘The fuck were they thinking? Are they this cavalier about everything else safety related?’ is very real. And so is the possibility of customers taking their projects elsewhere because they lost confidence in the quality of OP’s team’s work.

      The health aspect is bad enough on its own. But the political fall out when people get infected could be even more damaging to the future of OP’s job.

      1. Carlie*

        Yep. One of my personal guidelines with deciding if an activity is too risky right now is “If I catch covid, would I want to end up on the news as the ‘look at this idiot who gave themselves covid doing this thing’ story of the day?”
        It’s not a bad guideline.

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          Ditto. As a big organizer of kids gatherings among parents, I was getting pressure to continue. No go for me.

        2. Filosofickle*

          This. I agreed to attend an outdoor wedding (because it was outdoors and close family) and am deeply conflicted. I’m realizing now that sufficient space and precautions are highly unlikely. If I attend & get sick it would absolutely be a “look at that idiot” moment. :/

          1. F.M.*

            I was just reading an article today for my state about how many outbreaks this month have specifically been connected to weddings–lots of them involving people in bigger groups than the guidelines permit, indoors, dancing, without any masks–and officials saying they think even MORE outbreaks are connected to weddings that people simply aren’t reporting as such because they know they did wrong and don’t want anyone to know.

            Outside might be fine. But… it might not. I wish you luck in figuring out what kinds of precautions they’re tkaing.

            1. Ada Doom*

              Oh, yes. Look up Millinocket, Maine. One wedding, several outbreaks, many deaths. It’s mind-boggling and not the sort of thing you want to hear the family in another country saying “oh, I saw your county on the news…”

        3. Tired of Covid-and People*

          I’m unable to post it here, but there is a chart named Coronavirus Riskiest Activities (Relative Covid Risk.jpg) , where activities are graphically displayed from minimum to maximum exposure/risk. I have shared it with everyone I know. If Alison would like, I can email it to her and perhaps she can post it. It’s helpful in gaining a little bit of control while we are mostly helpless.

      2. LW1*

        Yes, if they catch COVID and spread it amongst the group (which is probably just a matter of time at this point), it will reflect very badly on us. Our reputation already isn’t that great, and this certainly won’t help.

        1. JustaTech*

          Not to mention you’d presumably get stuck with everyone’s work until they recovered.

          Maybe you could address it sideways by asking about recovery/succession/contingency plans? I know lots of companies (big and small) have rules like you can’t have all the executives on one airplane, or all of the people who know how to do Z in one car, just in case.

          I brought this up to my 2X boss who kept asking me to come in to the office (for “cohesion”) and I said “I am the only person who can do Y with any confidence, so if I get COVID this project is on hold for the rest of the year. Do you still want me to come in to the office for non-lab work?” “Oh, no, no of course not!”
          It depends on the boss, but sometimes they need to be reminded of the consequences.

          1. ACM*

            Oh I like this. I think natural consequences (or pointing out natural consequences) is always more effective than saying, “But the rules are…” Even if, as in this case, the rules are there for a very good reason, it reminds everyone of why they’re there.

    7. Marthooh*

      “…people are allowed to meet in small groups provided they follow safety protocols (distance and masks).”

      According to the letter, people at these meetings are not distancing and masking, so this actually is a pretty big deal, what with the lack of safety protocols and all.

    8. Brightwanderer*

      I don’t know which country you’re in, but many are able to permit those things because they’ve got a good handle on controlling Covid-19 via earlier measures, and the virus spread is currently low enough that those meetings are not a risk. This is emphatically NOT the case in large swathes of the USA.

      (And if you happen in the UK, like me, I would absolutely not be holding up anything our government is doing as an example of acceptable behaviour. They’re literally repeating the same mistakes they made earlier in the year, by dragging their feet on imposing stricter measures at a time when we have rising cases.)

    9. Jennifer*

      I kind of get your point, simply because people are going to restaurants and other places anyway outside of work. I think the main issue is they are violating company policy and management is cosigning. But unless I’m misunderstanding she can still attend meetings remotely.

    10. NotAnotherManager!*

      The difference here is that the meetings are breaking company rules, there is management present (lending an air of mandatory attendance to the gathering), and there is an issue of tarnished industry reputation if the team becomes ill. And her team is not meeting outdoors with masks in a safe manner – she clearly said they are gathering indoors, maskless, and close together.

      It’s not that OP#1 is being left out of optional team happy hours or lunches, she’s being excluded from what is essentially an official team meeting sanctioned by two levels of management that is in direct opposition to company policy and in contradiction to health guidelines.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          It’s kinda like “hey, we’re holding a team meeting! With managers! Oh but it’s offsite at a place you can’t go. But we’re not excluding you!”

          It’s just discrimination trying to hide behind a mask (or not even that in this case…)

      1. kt*

        Yes, this.

        Of course if the team were doing something entirely different than what they’re doing, it might be ok. But the letter is pretty clear! No masks, indoors, no social distancing, during work hours, with management attending, in the US. I have to wonder what letter Comp Expert read!

        To me it is rather akin to the “team-building with managers on work time on a ropes course with no alternative provided for people who are not physically able to do a ropes course” letters.

    11. JSPA*

      Several European countries are in, or entering a second spike which promises, in some cases, to dwarf the first spike. Furthermore most or all of these cases will involve the more stable variant of the virus that occurred in Italy, then went to the US then returned to Europe and Asia. Which is to say, guidelines based on the first round may well prove to be inadequate for the second round.

      We have confirmation that re- infection within only a few months is possible, and that the second infection can be as strong as, or stronger than, the first.

      The US failed in spring to learn from Asia’s and Europe’s example; it would be terribly sad if you’re up an Asia fail in the fall to learn from the US’s example.

      “Not having gotten sick yet” is no proof at all, that what you’re doing is intrinsically safe enough.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Actually had a member of staff tell me today that “everyone who was going to catch this has done so, so the safety procedures are not needed anymore!” with a very smug grin. His proof hinges on him ‘taking vitamin c and garlic’ along with his family and none of them have been ill so therefore the methods work and we don’t need to do masks etc.

        I wish there were a way to beam an epidemiology textbook, and one on statistical bias maybe, into these people’s heads. Anyone wanna help develop the tech?

        1. JustaTech*

          Maybe we could use 5G? /s

          As for your staff person, friend, garlic is for *vampires*, not viruses. I know they both start with V, but they’re really not the same.

        2. Idril Celebrindal*

          OMG, this frustrates me so much. I have started reflexively deleting all emails from certain family members (who all live across the country from me, thank God) because of the “Don’t live in fear! Healthy Living and Good Nutrition will defeat the virus!” Like, really?!

    12. fhqwhgads*

      You’re saying “as long as they follow safety protocols (distance and masks)” but OP said they’re not doing that. So, what they’re doing isn’t safe.

    13. Observer*

      So? What relevance does any of this have to what the OP is describing?

      The OP’s area does not have Covid under control. The OP’s company has strict guidelines that staff are flouting. And they are also ignoring safety protocols.

  11. Elle by the sea*

    OP2: I wouldn’t generalise that school can’t count towards work experience. In the US people call PhD “school” as well, even though it’s a job in many cases and you have to file tax return. (To my European ears, it’s rather strange to call university school. :) ) A bachelor’s can rarely count towards work experience, but a PhD can. It depends on your field, really. If you are an engineer or a research scientist at a company, the job as often states “5 years of work experience or a PhD”. I could almost always use my years in grad school as work experience, because you work there as a researcher and the experience you get/the skills you need to do well is a lot more like actual work than being in school.

    So, I would say it’s probably a bad idea if you have bachelor’s, but I wouldn’t say it’s off-base in general.

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      This is true, but if someone is asking the question, they are very likely not in such a program/field.

    2. allathian*

      Getting paid for a Master’s degree is fairly common where I am, at least in some fields, such as engineering or economics/business administration. It’s like a paid internship, with supervision both from the school and the employer.

    3. Chriama*

      It’s my understanding that you’re rarely paid for the degree itself, but for being a TA or a research assistant. I would put that as work experience since it was paid work, but something like an MBA or professional degree that is self-funded wouldn’t count! And of course, any other job you happen to have while going to school counts as work experience.

    4. Gloria*

      OP clearly says they are working on their BS. If OP had said they were working on their PhD, the answer would have been completely different.

      Also, I’ve never heard anyone in the US call PhD “school.” They typically call it “grad school” just like you did.

      1. TechWorker*

        In the U.K. we never call undergraduate ‘school’ though. It would always be ‘university’ or ‘uni’. Idk why ‘grad school’ then still gets used but hey, language is weird :)

        1. Forrest*

          I don’t think we really use “grad school” in the UK? I have a PhD and work in universities and have only ever heard it from people who are more familiar with the US system. The only place we might use “grad school” is for a specific doctoral training programme like this: But that’s really different from the US use of grad school to mean any postgraduate education.

        2. BubbleTea*

          I think UK use of grad school has been imported from the USA – it isn’t universal and most people would say they were at university doing a (post)graduate degree.

          1. Elle by the sea*

            Yeah, it’s not used in the UK. I only use it because I studied in the US and people laughed at me for calling it uni all the time. So when I came back and accidentally asked someone where they went to school (meaning university), they thought I was trying to condescend on them. :)

            1. Elle by the sea*

              And what you call a graduate degree in the US is usually referred to as a postgraduate degree in the UK and in most European countries I know of.

      2. Elle by the sea*

        By “school” I meant “grad school”. It still contains the “school” bit, which I’ve got used to but it still sounds like school to me, haha!

    5. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      That makes sense if you hold a research assistantship, as do many graduate students. But to put a finer point on it, that’s not the same as treating your time in doctoral studies itself as work experience – your classes aren’t, your comps aren’t, and some employers would argue that your teaching assistantships aren’t either.

    6. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      ” I wouldn’t say it’s off-base in general.”
      It is off base in general. Academia and research-focused positions are exceptions. Even the job announcement you mention, the fact that it’s 5 years work or PhD shows the latter is not assumed to be part of the former.

  12. acm*

    LW1 illustrates exactly why even this generally (formerly?) libertarian-leaning person thinks that “live with the virus” or “do what you think is best” doesn’t work as policy during a pandemic. It just results in high-risk people being homebound and shoved to the margins of society, or taking massive risks with their health to avoid being sidelined. I’m glad that the OP at least has her company’s larger policy to fall back on. (I know that decency and not wanting to get horribly sick and/or die should be enough, but as we’ve already seen abundantly, it’s not.)

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      High risk, still need to work for a living, first thing I did before heading out for an inperson interview was make sure my will was up to date. I really really really wish I were joking.

      1. LW1*

        I really wish you were joking as well! This is an absolute nightmare for so many people. I hope you can stay safe.

    2. Captain Raymond Holt*

      I have some libertarian leanings as well, and I agree with you. This is one of very few situations where strong government control is the best policy. My own political philosophy is that citizens should be able to trust their government to let them do what they think is best in 99% of situations, so that when a situation like this pandemic arises, we trust the government to crack down when necessary. But that crackdown should be very rare.

      We’re definitely getting this wrong.

    3. Observer*

      There is a difference between being libertarian and being stupid + selfish.

      Libertarians want to limit government to things that only government can do, and to avoid limits on people’s behavior to things that directly affect others. Stupid + selfish people just want to be able to do what they want when they want to without any consideration of the possible direct consequences to other people.

  13. Jane*

    LW#1, my company also went to global telework. And then a week later we got updated guidance clarifying that teams weren’t allowed to meet to work at each other’s houses, at restaurants, etc etc….there was basically a FAQ that went through lots and lots of possible questions, and provided answers (that were mostly a repetition of ‘the rules are there to stop the spread of disease so you’ve got to stick to them and not meet for work purposes’) . I don’t know if any teams were breaking the rules and meetings or if they were just addressing questions they’d got about how to get around them, but it made it perfectly clear what wasn’t allowed.

    Just thought I’d mention it as an example of how your company might deal with it without calling out you specifically, by making it very clear that what they’re doing isn’t allowed.

    1. LW1*

      I second that – it’s very helpful! I think there is a place to submit questions, so I will try that first!

  14. Forrest*

    OP2, I agree with Alison that deliberately merging education and work on your resume in a vague away is a bad idea: vagueness on a CV is just never a good look, and it’s always

    However, I think there’s a second question about whether you should apply for jobs that ask for 2-5 years experience if you’ve got 4 years of school + six months’ experience. It depends! If it’s a relatively low-level role (Finance Assistant, Finance Clerk) that asks for a high school diploma + 2-5 years experience, and you have a related Batchelors degree and 6-12 months of experience, I would definitely go for it. You can certainly count the knowledge that you’ve gained as a Finance undergraduate as equivalent to someone working in a finance role straight out of school. On the other hand, if it’s looking for a degree-level qualification PLUS 2-5 years experience, then I wouldn’t bother until you’ve at least 12 and probably 18 months post-university experience in addition to your degree.

    But either way, you should make it clear that you’re talking about 4 years in school and 6 months’ work experience, not try and blur them together–nothing is more annoying or suspicious when you’re reading a CV/resume than someone who is trying to fudge things and hope you don’t notice. Whereas someone who says upfront, “[ok i haven’t got that but] I have got THIS” and leaves it up to the reader to decide whether that’s equivalent and adequate is telling you something about their honesty and probity as well as their experience.

  15. Humble Schoolmarm*

    Hi OP3! My work-friend’s partner transitioned two years ago. Because we’re both part of a trio of work friends who do share some personal stuff, co-worker was able to do the ‘recruit an ally then tell the staff approach’. A little while after she confided in us that her spouse was struggling with gender identity, she did a quick announcement to everyone at the start of a meeting. I’m pretty sure it was just “Spouse John is now Jane and uses she and her pronouns”. We as the friends got to head a lot of the weird questions off at the pass that way, but honestly,there were too many of those. After the announcement, my co-worker mentioned their spouse exactly as they had before only now it was,”My wife and I did fun thing” instead of my husband.

  16. MN Auditor*

    LW #2: if you have a bachelors in accounting you’ll be fine. I understand not wanting to go the public route, but there are so many more options out there and something they don’t talk about (or at least they didn’t at my school) as it looks better for them to send their students to big 4. One piece of advice I have would be to reach out to a recruiter that specializes in accounting/finance. I’ve used Robert Half, but I’m sure there are others and they can be really helpful by listening to what you want to do and helping to match you to jobs that fit your skills/experience. Good luck!

    1. OP #2*

      Thank you! I had a recruiter at Robert Half reach out to me about a job opening, but they needed someone ASAP and I needed to finish school before I went full time (I doubled up my classes to graduate by the end of the year-no way I could work on top of that!) But she added me on LinkedIn and told me to let her know when I was ready, so that gives me some hope :) I have a 3.8 GPA and I’ll have a year of experience as a bookkeeper, but I keep hearing how hard it is to get your first job in accounting so I’m a little freaked out!

      1. MN Auditor*

        yeah, you’ll be fine. Take a look at some of the larger companies in your area as they usually only use in house recruiting but the external recruiters are also a great resource. Also take a look at the development programs the bigger companies do/offer. There’s no guarantee of a final job at the end but they ALWAYS need accountants/finance people and the bigger the company the more they need. Though, smaller companies can be a good way to get experience.

  17. Workerbee*

    OP #4, sounds like you sure don’t need the extra stress of anticipating intrusive and awkward questions! Perhaps skip the usual photo holiday card this year and distribute a more generic one. As you say, you’re not particularly social with coworkers and don’t talk much about your personal life anyway. However, I understand that you’re in a small team and the holiday card might just be the easiest path.

  18. Bob*

    LW1: I agree with everything Alison said.
    But i want to add make sure you have lots of documentation. If your boss denies it you will need screenshots and pictures and evidence to corroborate what your reporting.
    But in the same vein you want to stress that it would be obvious it came from you so would like to be shielded from retaliation. Also check if your state/province/country has whistleblower protections.

  19. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP3, your environment sounds at the extreme end of the bell curve when it comes to schedule flexibility. I’ve worked in a lot of companies with varying degrees of flexibility, and I’ve never been in a workplace where long lunches are the norm and people come and go at any time – your workplace is pretty unique, I’d say.

    Someone who has come from a fairly rigid (or even just “average”) workplace, especially someone who is new and / or fairly junior, is likely going to take some time to adjust to this set-up. Maybe be a little more understanding about this and explain kindly to this guy that you know your workplace is different, that there are specific reasons for this, that people are measured by their ability to complete their work, and that he will not be penalised or judged for keeping the flexible hours that the job in fact requires.

    The fact that you have labeled him the “awkward guy” suggests to me that you (and your team) tolerate his behaviour less than you would if he was popular and “fit in” in other respects. Sometimes we have an unconscious bias towards someone who doesn’t have the best social skills.

    Also, I wonder if your team (it sounds as though you are the manager/supervisor) really does feel uncomfortable/judged? It sounds to me as though they just find him annoying – and are maybe being a little mean.

    1. Colette*

      I think you’re projecting a lot here. I assume “the awkward guy” is someone who doesn’t pick up on cues – like, for example, not sending an email if you’re leaving 5 minutes early.

      It’s totally plausible that a team can see someone do something out of step with the norms and wonder if they should be doing it, too.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        You’re welcome to disagree with my comment, but suggesting that I made it because I’m “projecting” is pretty dismissive and rude.

        You don’t know me from a bar of soap, and have no idea how I would feel or behave in a similar situation.

    2. Observer*

      I disagree. Even in fairly rigid workplaces, it’s not common to have to update the entire staff. If it were just the OP that he were updating, it would be different. As it is, people see this and are trying to figure out a reason why he seems to be making this big deal over 5 minutes to the entire team.

    3. Heather*

      It’s not that unique, is it? Every professional job I’ve ever had has operated like OP describes. I would think having to email anyone if you’re leaving an hour early is the outlier, unless of course you’re in a support role.

      1. Metadata minion*

        Yeah, I think of that sort of minute-by-minute updating as usually only necessary if you’re staffing a servicepoint or something like that.

    4. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      The fact that you have labeled him the “awkward guy” suggests to me that you (and your team) tolerate his behaviour less than you would if he was popular and “fit in” in other respects. Sometimes we have an unconscious bias towards someone who doesn’t have the best social skills.

      I’m not sure that it’s entirely about popularity here. Do you recognize that that bias sometimes comes from the fact that poor social skills sometimes make it more difficult for someone to have their behaviour match their intent? When “awkward” is really about a social skills/communication issue that makes someone difficult to read, it’s difficult to build trust and rapport. So yes, awkward guy’s behaviour may be read differently than a less awkward person’s would, but for actual reasons.

  20. MxLibrarian*

    For LW4, I’d check with your partner before referring to them as their deadname, even just to say their name has changed now. I agree with the other commenters to ask before you say anything at all, but if they want you to, “my partner” might be better than “David.”

  21. Jigglypuff*

    My spouse transitioned in pronoun and name use. As their new name was close-ish to their deadname, I simple used the new name and made sure to insert pronouns as often as possible in conversation. Pretty much everyone else followed my lead on that. I’ve only had one person ask questions about it, and that person basically said, “So, I need to call Spouse with he/him pronouns, just like Coworker uses they/them pronouns.” They were asking respectfully, so I answered in kind.

  22. Superspreader meetings*

    OP#1: I work in the public sector and we went back to the office fairly early in the Spring (due to a mix of lacking telework tech and the needs of the community we serve). Mask wearing was mandatory and in-person meetings were cancelled. We went close to 5 months without a COVID case despite a high community transmission rate.

    A few groups started in person meetings last month on their own initiative. It wasn’t long before we had our first major event at work, leading to two whole units having to be quarantined.

    So, yes, this is a bad idea.

    1. LW1*

      I’m glad to hear that masking and cancelling the in-person meetings was so successful, and it gives me hope for when I do eventually have to return to the office. It’s so unfortunate that people are getting complacent and letting their guard down – it shows that the safety measures are working, so we should keep doing them, not stopping them! I hope my coworkers and management come to their senses before something bad happens. Several of my coworkers are older, and several also have high-risk family members – it’s so obvious to me that these meetings are a bad idea, and I truly don’t understand why they don’t understand that.

  23. Jennifer*

    #1 my cynical take? Keep doing what you’re doing and attend these meetings remotely. I watched senators basically do the same thing you have to do yesterday. Reporting this is only going to make things worse for you. I’d only report it if they decided to make in person attendance mandatory. You have to do what you need to to keep yourself healthy and employed.

    1. LW1*

      Ha! I also tend towards the cynical. I’m willing to carefully give it another try or two (there have been a few other suggestions in the comments), but I’m not in a position where I can sacrifice my job to do the right thing. Even though there’s policies about retaliation and whistleblower protections, I don’t trust that they actually work and I’ve witnessed that they don’t. It’s a toxic work environment, but up until now I’ve managed to keep my head down and not get involved. My immediate work group hasn’t been so bad (until this), but I guess it’s probably time to start considering a job change, on my own terms.

  24. The Happy Graduate*

    LW #1 – if you’ve seen pictures, hopefully that means they’re on social media which makes it MUCH more plausible for upper management to “stumble” on to them!

    1. LW1*

      Unfortunately, they’re not on social media (that I know of). I saw them through a screen share and didn’t think to take a screen shot. Wish I had!

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        It doesn’t sound like it will be long before the next one of these get-togethers so I’m sure you’ll have another chance!

  25. HatBeing*

    OP4, I work at a small software company in HR/Ops and my wife started her transition after about a year of me working there, so my co-workers had met her a few times pre-transition. I too am a fairly private person, but our office is friendly and folks of course talked about their spouses, weekend activities, pets, kids, etc in a general small talk way. 6 months into her transition I mentioned it to the leadership team and everyone was supportive, but in a very casual hands off way (which is just what I want!). One person called me ‘inspirational’ and I told them no, I’m just living my life, and they chilled. I did mention it to a few employees when they asked about my spouse and we talked about it in one D&I meeting, but it was never a big deal. I live in a city with a large tech industry and many laws protecting the LGBTQ community, so that made the change easier.

    We are all working remotely now and I was able to take a week off to help my wife after feminization facial surgery. I told my co-workers she was having surgery and no one pressed. I feel very lucky that my co-workers respect my privacy and everyone keeps conversations professional. Being the head of HR helps, since I get to set the standards! Good luck and hopefully no one makes a big deal about it.

    1. pugsnbourbon*

      My wife transitioned after I’d been with the company for almost seven years, so a lot of my coworkers had met her/seen pics of her on social/heard me talk about her, etc. I used email to tell the people I worked most closely with and folks in other departments I used to work with. And from then on I just used her name/pronouns.
      The response was overwhelmingly supportive and folks took it in stride.
      Big ups to you OP, and wishing HatBeing’s wife a speedy, easy recovery.

  26. My Partner is Trans*

    My partner is trans and she started transitioning 17 months ago. I had been talking about my partner for years before hand so my team and boss knew her as he/him pronouns and a male name. In a one on one I told my boss about it to make sure he knew before the team did. I knew he would be supportive and I was concerned about one team member so I just wanted my boss to be aware first.

    And then I took a minute in the team meeting to just say “my spouse you all know as Lucifer and he him is now Chloe, she/her, and my wife. Thank you.” and then my boss just jumped right in and started with the next topic.

    And then I didn’t make a big thing of it, I just started referring to my wife and her new name, and if anyone said he/him and her deadname I just did exactly what Allison said and went “oh she goes by she/her and Chloe now”. For people inside and outside the team.

  27. Shirley You're Joking*

    LW #1 — This is flat out appalling. But, even if someone higher up weren’t appalled by it, they should recognize that from a business standpoint, the company shouldn’t want the risk of the whole team (except you) being infected, sick, and unable to work.

    Good for you for not giving in to this idiocy.

    Btw, if you have a medical condition covered under the ADA, if you formally ask for an accommodation to attend these meetings via video, that would be a way to highlight to HR that they are happening. I get that you might not want to do that, but it’s an option.

    1. LW1*

      If they continue to happen (as I suspect they will), I will probably try that. Thank you for the suggestion! They did at least attempt to include me virtually in the last one, but it wasn’t particularly successful. I never thought about requesting accommodations as a way to raise the issue that it’s happening in the first place. I’m not entirely sure how to do it yet, since going directly to HR would probably not go over well with my manager.

  28. cncx*

    RE OP1, this is one of those times where “HR works for management” works in your favor. My employer has been absolutely amazing about wfh and meetings and stuff and i guarantee if one of the teams in my company was meeting face to face and calling masks optional, the people’s hammer would come down hard, starting at the board level. If the business is communicating one message and a team wants to go rogue it’s really bad optics.
    Given that you are part of a risk group, i really think you have the standing to go higher than your boss. i agree with Shirley You’re Joking- tell your HR, management and/or manager you’re asking for formal accomodation to attend via video. You’re missing out on their teambuilding and hobnobbing that they’re not even supposed to be doing.

  29. Hiring Mgr*

    #2, I used to have a guy on my team that did this also. It was certainly unncessary, but it didn’t bother me or anyone else on the team so I let it lie.

    I’m not clear why the other team members feel judged when they’ve all been doing it your way the whole time and it’s been fine. My initial thought was yes, the others ARE being too sensitive, even if it’s a little annoying… but it’s your team so you know what’s best. (also does the fact that he’s the “awkward guy” play into this more than it should? Or is he the awkward guy because of this?)

  30. CM*

    I’ll keep in mind that “do you need support” may come across as assuming this is a negative for your family, rather than being supportive as intended. Thanks for sharing that!

    In other contexts, it’s always worked for me to repeat lines like “We’re doing great, thanks” ad nauseam until the person gives up asking for details.

    1. CM*

      Argh, this was supposed to be a reply to JSPA above who said that they work with an LGBT organization and a common reaction is to express concern for the person whose spouse is transitioning, but a better reaction for an acquaintance is to say something like “I hope you both find happiness in the process and outcome.”

  31. A few things are nice*

    LW#4: I have been through this. My coworkers had all met my spouse at social events and my office is one where people talk about their families and personal lives.

    With my spouse’s permission, I took opportunities as they arose (at lunch, in a small group meeting that was happening anyway, etc). I said something like, “Since we talk about our families here and you’ve all met my spouse, I wanted to let you know that she’s transitioning and she goes by NewName now. We’re not making any big decisions right now [I said this to stave off questions about our marriage and whether we might divorce] and I don’t want this to be A Thing at work. I just wanted you to be aware of it.”

    That worked well for me. In fact, my boss later told me he was impressed with how I had handled it. Granted, my workplace is very liberal and all of my coworkers had already been through diversity/inclusion training that included 1.5 hours on Trans 101. So my approach might not work everywhere.

  32. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP1: I’m sure your state/local health department would be very, very interested that your team is violating safety protocols…

    1. Jennifer*

      If the restaurant is open and there is no mask mandate in the state they aren’t really any breaking any protocols.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        My sister’s work place is having “social gatherings” at restaurants once a week. Everyone shows up. Because it’s in a restaurant, no mask needed because everyone buys something (drinks/snacks).

        It’s not a sanctioned work thing. Sometimes the manager shows up, sometimes not. I think it’s more to keep it “hey we just all met up outside office hours on our own time” if the manager isn’t at all the meet ups.

        There is no fine tuning it. Either you use up all the good will chips you got, or lump it. My mask non wearing relatives and friends flat out don’t care about “people hiding out in their basements.”

        I have severe asthma. I have not seen my older relatives since February. I wear a mask everywhere. I have relatives who fly around the country for vaycays, weddings, baptisms, and work. It’s a burn hearing about BBQ picnics of 50 people, no one wearing a mask. No social distancing.

        I have done the hi/bye drive bys. You wear a mask, stay for 10 mins and get the heck out.
        I feel comfortable doing that much.

        Good luck. When people don’t follow the rules it’s sad.

        1. Jennifer*

          I don’t disagree with you. I’m just saying there’s not much point to reporting this to the health department.

        2. Jennifer Juniper*

          It may help to remember that some of these people could end up dead in a drawer or intubated and ventilated. Not that you or I would wish that to happen! Just a way to keep your motivation from flagging.

  33. WantonSeedStitch*

    Yes, this! I find that when someone is overly cautious with getting permission and checking in and so on, and it gets to be annoying, it really does help to say, “I trust you to be professional! I just need you to tell me if you’re going to be doing X or Y, but please don’t e-mail me or the rest of the team about Z, because that’s more info than we need, and I don’t want the rest of the team thinking they need to e-mail everyone about Z or feeling that I don’t trust them unless they do so.” Letting people know what your expectations are, and what the consequences can be of doing more than that even if it’s well-meaning (i.e., everyone else gets paranoid) can do wonders.

  34. HanoverFist*

    #4 – I hated coming out at work, which I did years ago. But it’s really the same feeling for me to discuss my wife’s transition there, which I did a couple of years ago. I only told my boss and my supervisor, as I work most closely with them and would need to ask for time off related to my wife and would be mentioning her by her new name from that point on. And I told them it’s not a secret. Most others, who I didn’t tell, just seemed to figure it out on their own (maybe someone told them. I don’t care).

  35. Experienced in School*

    OP#2 – I’d say Alison’s advice is right on for this question (Bachelor’s in accounting vs 3 years work experience in the field) BUT the original suggestion you asked about wasn’t entirely wrong in that there are definitely cases where things you did in school count towards the years of experience listed in a job posting. That tends to be when the posting is asking for years of a specific skill though, not just years in the industry.
    “BS in computer science and 3+ years experience in PHP and C++” is accessible to a fresh graduate, if they’ve been doing all their assignments in those languages since high school.
    Similarly, one of the comments higher up the thread about counting undergrad vs PhD level education, it’s at the graduate level that you tend to be carrying out large research projects that are somewhat comparable to work experience, and tend to be gaining the types of skills that get called out as requested skills experience (e.g. 3+ years of AI development)
    A job posting that asks for a degree and work experience without stating experience doing X is in my opinion not very well written, but makes a clear case for Alison’s answer.
    As another example, when I started a job as a new PhD, the job posting was clear about not requiring much work history, just skills history; but then my manager told HR to count my many years in grad school when vacation time was based on “years of experience”.

  36. Analyst Editor*

    I think that’s off base. I belong to a group and have friends, all of whom take covid seriously, decry deniers, etc. But have at least once, to my knowledge, let their guard down in a small group of acquaintances — outdoors and even in — because people are people, and the desire to have a normal conversation and normal interaction is strong, especially when the sun is shining and the company is good and your state seems to be past the worst.

    I bet everyone in the situation I described would be more careful, with no resentment or complaint, if they knew about a high risk person or even just someone who asked for their own comfort that everyone who back to masks.

  37. Ann O'Nemity*

    #2 As a hiring manager, I’m going to consider both education and experience. If someone has less experience and more education, or vice versa, I’ll take it into account. But I want to be the one making those calculations; I don’t want applicants conflating education and experience. They aren’t synonymous, and sometimes one is more important than the other to me.

    I can think of one “grayish” area, and that is when job ad wording talks about equivalent experience and/or education. For example, “requires associate degree and three years experience, or equivalent combination.” In a case like that, I would err on the side of applying anyway, but be honest about how much education and experience you actually have.

  38. The Rural Juror*

    LW #3’s situation reminds me of a friend’s coworker they’ve told me about in the past. They work for a company that worked from home regularly before the pandemic. I believe they were 2-3 days WFH, but had certain days they needed to be in the office together as a team, usually from 10am-3pm. So their schedule was incredibly flexible, and even the days on site were pretty easy since they had time to drop kids off at school and whatnot before heading to the office. Win win for them!

    But they had ONE coworker that always had some excuse for not coming in on the on-site days…and he overshared about the reasons why he wasn’t coming in. His next excuse was always tied to the previous one, so his emails kind of ended up reading like a soap opera about mundane day-to-day activities. Such as:

    “My wife is sick today, so I can’t come in because I’m taking care of the kids.”
    “Now the kids are sick as well, but the good news is my wife is feeling better. Still watching the kids today.”
    “Well, now I’m sick. But my wife is better so she’s watching the kids while I rest.”
    “I’m still feeling worse for the wear today, and on top of that we need to call a plumber.”
    “The plumber was a no-show today. I waited for several hours. Calling a different plumber.”
    “Plumber came today and fixed the toilet. Glad that’s taken care of now.”

    I always got a kick about hearing what the new excuses were for the week. I don’t think they work together anymore, though. Turns out this guy wasn’t a good fit for their work culture. Who would have thought? Haha!

  39. Brett*

    As a “right now” thing, I think it is very worthwhile to mention you have been laid off if you will be working remotely. At the moment, onboarding remote employees has become a lengthy process because of a shortage of laptops and other critical remote employee equipment. Seems most companies are now at 4-6 weeks to bring a person on.
    For someone who currently has a job, this is not a huge deal. They have long notice of when they can start and can decide to handle their current employer accordingly (providing a long notice if they know the employer will react appropriately or a shorter notice if the employer is likely to terminate them when they provide notice).

    For someone who has been laid off though, we know that means they are going without a paycheck while they wait for us to onboard them. So, we can try to move them up in priority for getting equipment issued. That does not always work, but it could mean they can start 1-2 weeks earlier and get their first paycheck a pay cycle earlier.

  40. Kiki*

    #2: I’ve heard this advice before, but don’t think it’s a good idea. It ends up being needlessly confusing. It does work for some people, I think generally when they’re applying to a field where employers are inflating the level of experience they need or could actually get for the compensation they’re offering (think job listings that ask for 10 years managerial experience for a team lead at a restaurant who will make $16 per hour and no benefits). But for most job postings, I think this sort of attempt at experience inflation just tends to annoy hiring managers more than anything else.

  41. LondonLady*

    OP#4 I think matter-of-fact is the way to go. I recently had a call with a client whose adult son had done work experience with my firm. “By the way, how’s Benedict?” “Benedict is now Lucy and she’s just fine, thanks for asking. I’ll say you said hi!” His absolute comfort (good man!) with the situation made it seem utterly normal. Then we were on to discussing the current project.

  42. M*

    My partner transitioned almost 3 years ago. We live at my job, and our kids are friends with lots of co-workers kids who are also our neightbors, so we did have to share a bit more than you might otherwise. I sent out an email (partner and I composed the email together) that just said “Oldname is now NewName and uses he/him pronouns. Thanks for being part of this exciting new part of our family’s life.” This last part was specifically at my partner’s request and the reason we included it was to give folks a guide on how to respond. By putting ‘we’re all happy about this’ in the email, it headed off a lot of the looky-loo questions and gave folks who wanted to express their supportiveness some language – I got so many email that said some version of ‘this is so exciting’ – using the exact word I had used in my email, it was clear people wanted to be able to respond but not intrude so we were really glad we had done it that way.

    After that, I just used new name and pronouns and expected everyone to keep up.

    1. Lizzo*

      I really like this. I think most folks want to be supportive of family/friends/colleagues but are uncertain how to do that in a way that is centered on the person who is transitioning, and their needs/wants.

      In recent memory, when friends have told me they are trans and/or have come out about their sexual orientation, I have always felt two types of emotions: joy that they can be their authentic selves, and also sadness that they have not been able to be authentic up until that point. I also feel worried for them and how they will be accepted and treated by other people.

      The framing of this as a joyful, matter-of-fact thing helps remind me that this is not about me and my feelings, and that my role here is to be extra supportive and unselfish, especially because others may not be. Also, my LGBTQ+ friends should not be asked to do emotional labor on my behalf if I’m confused/worried/sad about their gender identity; that’s completely on me, and I’ll do that work because I care.

      To that point: LW4, you do not have to alleviate anyone’s discomfort about your partner’s choices that may appear in the form of invasive questions.

  43. Daffy Duck*

    So how far up the chain should LW go? Manager is the one who is instigating this, and her boss has attended so both of those are a no-go. Boss’s boss maybe? But we know boss feels fine going to these meetings so maybe it goes further up the chain also. An HR that is separate from her chain of command seems the way to go to me.

  44. K in Boston*

    OP #3, as an employee and an Awkward/Anxious Person, when I start a new job, I ask The Boss what the rules at the start are about my comings and goings, or set them up for myself and ask if The Boss agrees. May be useful just to come up with something like that for your employee that can also be used if other People Who Like a Lot of Clarity ever join your team, or if questions arise from your other team members.

    Some examples:

    – The Boss only needs to be notified if I’m going to be more than 30 minutes or leaving more than 30 minutes early.
    – The Boss only needs to be notified if I’m not going to be in by 8:30am or leaving earlier than 4:30pm.
    – The Boss only needs to be notified if I will be working less than 5 hours that day.
    – ONLY email The Boss and this one other immediate team member about your outage if it’s less than 1 week; for everyone else, just put up an OOO message and update your calendar.

    I had a previous office that just onboarded everyone like that, i.e. had a presentation that said these are the core hours you absolutely must be here, and if it doesn’t affect these hours, you don’t have to let us know.

  45. Emmie*

    1: There are two paths I recommend considering: reporting to HR, or to your speak up hotline. HR will have more experience keeping your anonymity. The speak up hotline is designed for anonymous reporters. Be as specific as possible when making your report – dates, times, locations, and meeting leader. Meetings with multiple attendees works in your favor because anyone could have reported this violation. Companies with these policies implemented them because of worker safety issues; the risk of COVID exposure at work and its liability; and some states have very specific protocols to follow for in person meetings with some states providing workers compensation coverage for COVID exposures at work. So, HR and your highest level of managers will hopefully take this more seriously than others are.

  46. employment lawyah*

    4. Announcing a partner’s gender transition at work
    Well, if you’re going for preemptive notification, AAM’s script is good.

    Two obvious alternatives:

    1) Treat it as a non-issue; send the Xmas card from you and [spouse’s new name], and deal with folks who individually if they ask (which, FWIW, may be only a single person, since they will probably let everyone else know and then people will hopefully be too courteous to ask.)

    2) Tell someone (boss, friend) and assume that they will pass it on, or explicitly ask them to do so.

    Everything has pros/cons, all of them are equally professional. Just do what you think will work best for you, given the people who you work with.

    In all contexts: if you really don’t want to talk about it, then you could add on something to that effect while you announce, e.g. “David is transitioning and will be known as Jane from now on; I am not interested in discussing this at work but wanted to let people know so you wouldn’t be confused by my references.” (Or something similar) Putting a “don’t ask questions” in the opener can come across as less rude than saying something and then having to provide individual “leave me alone” responses.

  47. Erin from accounting*

    OP#2 – I graduated with an accounting degree in 2019. Companies and firms are used to hiring students straight out of college! Usually the recruiting process starts Junior year (or even sophomore year…), but you are totally qualified to apply to staff/junior staff roles as a new grad with minimal experience. That’s how most of us start out!

  48. Thanks*

    Watching this space for advice on the transitioning partner one, since I’m soon to be in the same situation. My husband is still using he/him but that’s looking to change soon. The pandemic has been good in one respect – he’s been able to try out different aspects of changing his appearance (growing out his hair, taking low-dose estrogen which changes your face shape, etc) before having to fully commit to “treat me as a woman now!” like he would if he were seeing the entire office in person every day. No one can tell you’re wearing pink sneakers when your coworkers only see you on zoom :-)

  49. plum merchant*

    LW#4, my partner transitioned about a year and a half ago and it definitely wasn’t a big deal at my company. I have talked about my personal life at work and several of my coworkers had met him pre-transition. So when he was ready to share the news more widely (I asked before doing this!) I told the people I usually get lunch with “hey, just a heads up that you’ve heard me refer to [OldName] before, but he’s transitioning and going by [NewName] and he/him pronouns now. I’m really happy for him!” I think framing it as “hey this is exciting news but also not a Big Deal” helped. I didn’t get any weird questions, just the same sort of “oh, that’s nice” that comes up any time someone has life news. But we also have trans coworkers so it wasn’t a new concept.

    If you do get weird/intrusive questions from your boss, I think you can just look visibly uncomfortable and say “Oh, I don’t think my partner would be comfortable sharing that” or “oh, I’d rather not talk about her medical plans! But how are things with your family/work project/subject change?”

    There was sort of an awkward in-between zone between when my partner started using he/him privately and when he was OK with me sharing it more widely, during which I did a lot of avoiding using any pronouns at all and using “my partner,” since I didn’t want to misgender him OR out him. But that was my awkwardness to deal with. (And my coworkers’ response helped lay the groundwork for me to feel comfortable coming out at work myself this year!)

  50. A Genuine Scientician*

    I’m curious if there’s any flexibility on the education as job experience one for certain categories.

    For example, I got my PhD by working in a research lab at a university. I spent years not taking any classes, but working 55ish hour weeks at the lab bench, conducting research in microbiology, and being paid to do so. I lucked out and got an academic job, so it’s become a moot point for me. But there are a lot more people who get PhDs than there are academic positions available. If I were applying for say, a job doing water quality analysis for the state that listed as a requirement “3+ years of microbiology work experience”, would that be something I could reasonably say I had?

  51. Trans husband*

    To #4 be prepared that you might get a lot of Concern questions. Like “oh wow are you okay?” With that tone of voice that implies that they can hardly imagine a more tragic fate than having a partner transition. My partner got this from a lot of family and doctors and assorted folks and it was really upsetting for her. It was pervasive enough that she wasn’t able to get medical treatment from one doctor because she kept insisting my wife’s symptoms must be caused by stress due to my transition (no joke). I imagine folks who do this think they are coming from a place of kindness, wanting to be supportive of someone who might have complicated feelings about a transition, but I wish they’d realize that it can come off as really presumptuous and insulting and try to find a more supportive way to check in. Not everyone reacts like this, obviously, but I thought id put it out there as something to prepare for in case it does happen. My wife felt kind of blindsided by how upsetting it was and how difficult it was to respond since there is a pressure to view it as a kind comment rather than a hurtful one. But it was really exhausting for her to deal with supposedly pro-LGBTQ folks who still acted like her marriage to me was a tragedy rather than an expression of love.

  52. Ivy*

    #4 I had the same thing with my son. I’ve been at my company for a long time, we are a close-knit group, and many of my coworkers knew about or had met my son pre-transition. My son approved of me letting people know at work and I just dealt with it very matter-of-factly in a tone that really didn’t encourage questions. A few people I was close to demonstrated some curiosity — nothing inappropriate, questions like “when did that happen?” for example — and I just included a statement “he’s much happier now, which is of course what we want for him” in my short response. Can’t really argue with that!

    The biggest challenge is that I didn’t want to announce it in a meeting or anything, so there was a window of time where some people knew and some didn’t and negotiating that was interesting. So better to just dive in and get it over with.

    Finally, I was pulled aside by a few people who weren’t inappropriate in any way, but who wanted advice because, surprise, their own family was experiencing something similar. I appreciate that it can feel isolating at the start and that not everyone has such a good support network so I was happy to provide some suggestions or pointers in, again, a very matter-of-fact way.

    Finally, if I did have any in appropriate questions or nosiness, my goto responses are:
    A) A wide-eyed “Wow.”
    B) A very flat toned and non questioning “Why do you ask.”

  53. Anonymooose*


    Counting your school time wouldn’t be good because it’s completely untrue and you’d be lying.

    “Immersed” is a way to fake your way into something where you we not at all involved, contributed to or led.

    I am/was immersed in Game of Thrones but I sure as shit didn’t help make the movie, write the book or chop off Ned Stark’s head.

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