what does an “end of day” deadline really mean, bathroom breaks on video calls, and more

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

1. What does an “end of day” deadline really mean?

If something is supposed to be in EOD (end of day) Tuesday, can I send it late Tuesday evening (like 8 pm) or Wednesday morning?

I assumed EOD meant that there wouldn’t be time in the day to review a thing and get it back to me, but I realized my supervisor sometimes means EOD like, an hour before EOD so we can call/review/discuss/set up next steps for tomorrow.

I know now to clarify that kind of workflow thing, but it came up because I had sent something Monday morning and not EOD Friday, since off-hours emails are disruptive … and I kind of don’t want my supervisor knowing I work weird evening hours sometimes.

Nooo! As a default, assume that “end of day Tuesday” means “by the end of business hours on Tuesday.” So not 8 pm that night, and definitely not Wednesday morning. If I’m expecting something EOD Tuesday, I might be planning to review it Tuesday evening — and you not sending it until later in the evening or the next morning will mess that up. It will also look “late” to a lot of people, and if that happens repeatedly it can make them feel they can’t take you at your word about when something is coming.

You can certainly ask the person you’re working with whether they care if something is in by the end of the business day or whether you can send it later that evening, and it might turn out they’re fine with it — but if you haven’t asked that, don’t assume it’s okay.

And in your case it’s turned out your manager means something even earlier, so yes, definitely clarify terms with her so you’re both on the same page.

But absent something like that, EOD generally means by end of the business hours for that day.

Also, this is probably moot given the above but: You said off-hours emails are disruptive and that’s not typically the case. These aren’t phone calls or texts. They’re emails, meant to be seen and dealt with when the person chooses to check their email. Unless you have an unusual business culture where emails are considered disruptive, that’s not something you need to worry about.

2. Should I be honest with my former boss about why I won’t work for her again?

I worked for an extremely dysfunctional company for seven years. It was my first real job, and I developed a warped view of what is considered “normal” in an office. It’s a very small consulting firm (nine people total) in a very niche industry. I left without another job lined up a year and a half ago because I couldn’t take it anymore.

My former boss, Jane, is a terrible boss. She takes things extremely personally and is delusional, erratic, and moody. She does not take responsibility and personal/professional boundaries do not exist. She fires almost everyone, and people who do quit are often punished because she is offended they’ve decided to leave. She preys on people pleasers, so often her employees stay with her for years (one of the reasons I stayed for so long was because I was afraid of her/the backlash of me quitting).

Unfortunately, Jane is very good at her job. She commands a huge amount of respect and has a lot of sway in our industry. She has sabotaged people’s careers because she felt slighted by them in some way. In my lead up to leaving, I was increasingly agitated and ready to burn some serious bridges with Jane, who up until this point thought we were friends (I know, I know). Everyone I spoke with told me to just let it go, as she would be an excellent reference (which is true), so I did. When I left, Jane told me she would miss me and that I was welcome back anytime.

For about three months after I quit, I could not find a job. Feeling desperate, I deluded myself into thinking maybe working there wasn’t that bad, so I asked Jane if I could go back on a temporary basis. She said no because there was no work for me to do. I found out that this was a lie and she had begged a former colleague to come back because she just fired someone. I was confused because though I was not a perfect employee, Jane never gave me reason to doubt she was not happy with my work. I never questioned Jane about it, and thought that was the end of it. Then came COVID.

Jane, who is inflexible and controlling and cannot handle change, refused to let people work from home. Her rationale was that it just wouldn’t work. This is untrue. She works from home often and everyone who works for her essentially does the same work as her. My former colleague told me they were no longer allowed to even discuss COVID at the office because Jane didn’t like that people were upset with her about it. Finally, after many years, Jane’s favorite employee and de facto assistant couldn’t take it anymore and quit. Now, in the span of two weeks Jane has messaged me three times asking me to come back and work for her. Hearing everything from my former colleagues has made me grateful that I don’t work there anymore and though I am unemployed (again), I would never go back. Should I be honest with her? I keep saying I’m too busy. I know it’s not my responsibility, but it’s maddening that Jane keeps getting away with what she does. I don’t think anyone (that she respects at least) has ever been honest with her.

Nah, preserve your reference.

It would be in Jane’s interests for people to be honest with her, but she’s made it clear it’s not safe for them to do that. If she valued real feedback, she would have created the conditions to get it. It’s not your responsibility to set her straight at the potential price of your own future references from her.

Keep telling her you’ve got other stuff going on.

3. Wondering if a coworker is okay over Zoom

During these times and all the Zoom meetings we are having sometimes I’ll notice a coworker looking different — extremely (and I mean extremely — not just tired) sad or just like they have been going through hell. Is it ever appropriate to reach out to someone I just know from work just to say “hey, I see you, I don’t need to know what’s going on, but I’m here for you”? Or am I just being overly feely? (I tend to be too empathic)

You’re being very kind, but I think it’s too much unless you know the person really well and know they’d appreciate that. (And if you know them that well, you might as well just ask, “Hey, is everything okay?”)

The thing about the wording you’re proposing is that it (a) is going to make some people really uncomfortable (not everyone wants their coworkers observing them that closely) and (b) has the risk of being insulting if the person is perfectly fine but just doesn’t look great that day.

4. Bathroom breaks during one-on-one video calls

I’ve been working from home since the start of the pandemic and will continue to do so. This has definitely increased the amount of meetings I’m in, specifically video calls. Well, I’ve been running into an embarrassing issue. I’ve always had a finicky stomach and find myself occasionally needing to excuse myself from meetings to use the bathroom. I’m also very newly pregnant, which has increased the urgency and frequency of these needs, but it’s not something I’m ready to disclose. In group calls I can more easily turn off video and blame connectivity issues for needing to drop my camera/missing anything. Usually it goes unnoticed. For one-on-ones, it’s harder and more embarrassing. It’s never more than once in a single meeting and I usually blame my kid or other working-from-home-in-a-pandemic distractions, but feel self-conscious and like this makes me seem flaky. Any advice for my embarrassing problem?

Don’t be embarrassed! Humans need to use the bathroom, sometimes more frequently or more urgently than other times. It’s just part of the deal.

I think it actually looks better to just excuse yourself to use the bathroom rather than blaming it on your kid! You could simply say, “I’m so sorry, could we break for two minutes so I can run to the bathroom?” You could add, “I’ve been in back to back meetings” if you want. No one is going to be shocked or outraged by that.

(I do think it’s trickier if you’re in a one-on-one meeting with a client, where the expectations of … professional polish are usually higher than with your own coworkers. For those … well, make sure you’re using the bathroom before the call if at all possible. But you’re still human with human needs, and in that situation I’d just be vaguer: “I apologize, can you excuse me for two minutes? I’ll be right back.”)

5. Job ad says “”access to transportation required”

I’m currently applying for a very cool one-year position in the city where I am hoping to move. I’m very excited! However, there is something in the job interview that I’m a little unsure about: the job says “access to transportation required.” I don’t know what they mean by that.

I’m currently finishing graduate school and I don’t own a car. This job would pay well, but not well enough that buying a car wouldn’t be a significant financial concession. I have lived in this city before, and commuted via bus and that worked just fine in the past, and I would be happy to take a cab on occasion if I needed to. I imagine that this would suit most needs, but I can’t actually figure out what the transportation needs of this job are in the first place, since the job description mostly just looks like in-office stuff.

Is this something I could ask about specifically during an interview? If they are expecting me (and actually need me) to own a car for the job that would be a big deal, but I don’t want to make a big deal out of it if it’s just boilerplate, or if they don’t actually mean I need a car at all.

Yes, definitely ask about it during an interview! As a general rule, if there’s something about the job description you’re unclear on, you can (and should) always ask about it while you’re interviewing.

In this case, it’s possible that there’s a reason for the requirement that isn’t clear from the ad; maybe there’s some regular duty that involves driving. Or it could mean they’re not conveniently located or accessible by public transportation and they want to be sure the hire has a way to get there reliably (although if that’s the case, the wording is too vague). But it’s also possible that the language was boilerplate left over from some other job, or is now outdated and no one corrected it, or who knows what. Go ahead and ask!

{ 550 comments… read them below }

    1. Cobol*

      Yeah I don’t want to dwell on this, because I think we’re all in agreement, but LW 1 keep your reference. Come up with a suitable lie, and never go back.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        I just don’t approve of lying, but no OP, don’t be bullied. Tyrants like Jane should never be allowed to manage people. Organizations are at fault for permitting it, not you OP.

        1. Generic Name*

          I think a suitable lie is something along the lines of saying you moved on due to “lack of fit” or something. OP doesn’t have to say Jane was great when she was awful.

          1. Cobol*

            I’m late to the respond game, but this. OP said they are scared if Jane being punitive, and have given examples. It’s not only totally appropriate to lie, but advisable in this case.

      2. Observer*

        I wouldn’t lie – too many ways it can go wrong.

        But “I’m so sorry, but it’s just not going to work out” or “It’s really too bad, but it’s just not possible. Too much other stuff going on.” is just FINE. It’s true, you don’t have to keep track of what you said and it preserves the reference.

        1. Weekend Please*

          You could even go a little further and say something like “With the Covid infection rate so high, I really don’t feel comfortable working in the office and am focusing on jobs that can be done remotely.”

      3. Joan Rivers*

        LW needs to quit kidding herself and move on.

        And the other ones need to ASK QUESTIONS.
        “What does end of day mean to you?” for example. CLARIFY.

        “What does transportation required mean here?” CLARIFY.

        Just casually ask if they mean X, Y, or maybe Z.

    2. MassMatt*

      I’m amazed how many terrible bosses there are that are so vindictive towards people that try to leave. Few jobs are forever, WTH. People like this pretty much guarantee people will leave without notice.

    3. MK*

      This is nitpicking. Jane is a terrible manager, which the OP admits. I think we all understand that when the OP says she is very good at her job, they mean she is very good at the core function of whatever the job is.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        It’s clear to us, but it may not be clear to LW. And someone who is only good at some parts of their job and terrible at others can’t be said to be good at their job overall.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Right. I often made this mistake in my first long-term job. I’d say, “Well, Bob isn’t a good boss, but he’s great at creating accurate TPS reports so he’s good at his job. Why is he getting fired?” If a big part of someone’s job is being a manager, and they suck at being a manager, but are good at the core job requirements (other than management), I’d argue they’re really not good at their job.

          1. T.*

            All too common! The best employee often gets promoted because they kick ass at their job and for retention it’s good to give raises and promotions but nobody considered lack of leadership and management skills. Some of that can be trained but so much of it is soft skills that have to be innate in personality.

            1. Urt*

              Can you even say you don’t want to go that direction without it coming across as ambitionless and a great path to become the next candidate for cost reduction.

              1. Indigo a la mode*

                Sure! My (tech) company, for example, has two career progression tracks: one that goes into management, and one for individual contributors. Lots of developers, for one example, would rather code forever than manage people who are doing the coding. Having very skilled, experienced devs is a boon to tech companies.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  We have a management path and an architectural path. Being the senior or lead architect carries as much clout as being a middle manager.

              2. Mel_05*

                I definitely have. I just explain that I love my work, but I wouldn’t love managing people who do my work. It’s never gotten me fired and I got hired at the last two interviews where I was asked if I was looking for advancement and said “nope!”

              3. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

                Absolutely, even in jobs that don’t have a well-defined non-managerial advancement track. It mostly boils down to demonstrating a willingness to keep your skills and knowledge current as well as being a resource for others.

        2. MK*

          But not all parts of the job are the same, and soft skills are a category of their own in my opinion. Often in this blog it is mentionned that being a pleasant and polite coworker is part of the job, but if someone is, say, a brilliant surgeon and rude to their coworkers, it would be pretty odd to say that they aren’t a good surgeon because they are rude. For a manager it’s different, but even there, if someone is awful at managing and it’s only 5% of their job, while they are fantastic in the rest 95% of their duties, saying they are bad at their job isn’t accurate.

          And again, it sounds like it’s pretty clear to the OP that Jane is a terrible manager.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I don’t understand why some groups of professionals “get off the hook”. My father had two surgeons for his bypass surgery. Each surgeon retrieved veins out of his legs. The leg done by the nice surgeon was fine and my father had no problems. The leg done by the nasty surgeon had medical level problems for a long time after. Our attitudes can manifest in our outputs. We have no way of knowing how many people did not complain to nasty surgeon as they did not want to deal with more of the nastiness. I know my father said nothing, he just wanted to be shed of the doctor.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Sometimes that kind of thing happens because nurses and techs are afraid to point things out to the nasty surgeon.

              1. boo bot*

                This. And sometimes the “brilliant but rude” surgeon doesn’t listen to the nurses and techs even when they do point things out, and doesn’t listen to or communicate effectively with the patient.

                Plus, if the rude surgeon and the kind surgeon make the same mistake, the rude one is much more likely to get sued, so it’s not even a good trade-off from a business perspective. (citation in link below)

                1. boo bot*


                  “Decades-old studies have shown that primary care physicians sued less often are those more likely to spend time educating patients about their care, more likely to use humor and laugh with their patients and more likely to try to get their patients to talk and express their opinions. It seems that more likable physicians are less likely to have claims filed against them.”

          2. Lady Heather*

            If one of those coworkers feels even slightly hesitant or wary of alerting the surgeon to a potential problem – for example, fearing a nasty comment or humiliating eye-roll if it turns out they’re mistaken – they’re a poor surgeon. (See also: crew resource management.)

            If the surgeon drives off coworkers increasing turnover, they’re bad at their job. If they’re rude to patients or rude to coworkers in the presence of patient, they’re bad at their job. Both because driving off patients is bad and because stress hormones interfere with wound healing.

            1. Fieldpoppy*

              Actually, in the faculty of medicine I work in, surgeons who are jerks don’t get promoted. These are docs who also have academic roles; it’s the academic advancement they don’t get if they can’t be decent humans or good leaders. In purely clinical environments, docs are technically self-employed in my province so it’s harder to create expectations, but more and more they would not get any role or support other than their purely clinical role. In other words, they don’t get a pass here in Ontario anymore.

            2. AntsOnMyTable*

              I agree. I always caution people away from cardiologists that are jerks. If nursing is leery of calling a doctor, some doctors are incredibly rude/mean/condescending, then that is a problem and can be harmful to the patient. Most conditions can be adequately managed by the majority of doctors or surgeons. You don’t necessarily need someone who is brilliant but rude.

          3. meyer lemon*

            As long as you work with other people, a certain baseline of politeness is a requirement of the job, no matter how technical. We tend to cut a lot of slack for “brilliant” men in high-status jobs, but blatant rudeness is still going to get in their way because at some point they’re going to need to collaborate with or receive help from another person. That’s not to say that a surgeon needs to be intensely charismatic, just a basic degree of polite and respectful.

          4. Forrest*

            It actually used to the case that doctors entering postgraduate specialty training in the UK had to demonstrate “empathy and sensitivity” in every specialty except the surgical specialties. But that changed in about 2015 and now surgeons have to be empathetic and sensitive too.

            BUT what you’ve posted is an example of a very pervasive myth: that individual input is so valuable in certain fields that it’s possible to be wonderful and good at it whilst being a horrible person. It makes compelling TV, but there are very few fields where it’s actually true! Where people are lauded as terrible people but just SO TALENTED it’s usually that they were good at being horrible to the right people who had no ability to complain and just had to suck it up.

            Nearly every significant achievement, including surgery, is performed by a team. One person can be critically important in that team, but they can’t do it all themselves. If you can’t manage basic things like respect and reliability, the areas where you can still be “brilliant” are few and far between.

        3. Myrin*

          I think it’s obvious that this is clear to the OP – after all, she not only literally calls her a “terrible boss”, she also spends three whole paragraphs detailing what horrible things she has been doing and saying for years. I think we can safely say that OP simply didn’t think to include “Unfortunately, Jane is very good at the technical aspects of her job”.

      2. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Jane is a shit manager, so if that is a core function of her job, she is NOT good at it. She may have a wealth of technical knowledge, but for positions that manage people, that’s only half the requirement.

      3. JSPA*

        OP defined it, so we don’t have to guess: Jane gets stellar results and is highly respected in the field (by outsiders). In addition, Jane does an actual job (besides managing: the tasks Jane does (at home) is the same as the tasks Jane doesn’t trust staff to do (at home). Presumably that’s what OP refers to. Jane’s own product, and the product Jane squeezes out of her people, is excellent.

        I’m not sure men who are hugely effective yet vindictive a-holes to their staff get anywhere near this degree hand-wringing over the definition of “good at their job.”

        1. Massmatt*

          I’m not clear why there’s so much dispute on this point either. I’m sure many of us have encountered someone who’s great at sales, or coding, or whatever, and is awful to work with or for. Lots of terrible people are good at compartmentalizing their behavior–they are great with clients, for example, and other professional colleagues, but terrible to their staff.

          The OP says the former boss is great at her job and has a lot of respect in the industry yet was vindictive to her employees and the workplace was dysfunctional. Let’s wrap our heads around that and stop second-guessing the OP.

    4. Asenath*

      There are people who are extremely good at some important aspect of their job – designing widgets, say, that outsell the competitor’s widgets – who are nevertheless hell on wheels to work for or with.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Came here to say this. Unless Jane can replace everyone in her field worldwide and do their jobs alone, Jane is in fact terrible at her job. My assessment of someone being good at their job is that they get things done. Things will not get done when everyone working for the person keeps getting fired/quitting/being exposed to Covid, and it would be solely this person’s fault that things do not get done.

    6. Sara without an H*

      All of this may be true, but it’s not the OP’s responsibility to call her on it.

      It’s entirely possible that Jane already knows she’s lousy to work for and is fine with it. She may think of herself as a “badass,” a “straight-shooter,” “demanding,” or someone with “high standards.” (Plug in whatever euphemism you prefer.) If OP told her the truth, she would undoubtedly interpret that as ingratitude on OP’s part and take revenge.

      My advice to the OP is to stop focussing on Jane and concentrate on job-searching. Jane is not fixable by human agency.

      1. A Plastic-Man stretch*

        OP no longer works for Jane. And taking a one-sentence list of accusations and extrapolating that Jane “is not fixable by human agency” is…quite the stretch of logic. We’re not even able to hear Jane’s side of things here.

        1. Anononon*

          What even are you trying to argue? 1) We always only hear one side of the story on this site – it’s how an advice column works. 2) A boss who BANS any talk about COVID because she doesn’t want to hear criticism about her awful management around certainly does not sound like someone who would appreciate any critiques from OP. That is by no means a stretch of logic.

        2. Myrin*

          What do you mean, “a one-sentence list of accusations”? OP spends literally three paragraphs – more than half of her letter! – giving examples of the ways in which Jane behaves horribly.

      2. Anne Elliot*

        This. It’s not just that it is not in the OP’s interest to let Jane know how terrible Jane is, apparently it’s not in Jane’s interest either. The OP says “Jane is very good at her job [and] commands a huge amount of respect and has a lot of sway in our industry.” Why would Jane be interested in doing anything differently? We might all assume she would be motivated to be a better human being (as we all hope everyone would be motivated to do) but Jane’s strategy of being Jane the Terrible seems to be working quite well for her, and nothing in the letter indicates she has any desire to change, or any awareness, no matter how dim, of any need to change. So it is hard to see how or why Jane would have any interest in the proposed conversation, and therefore hard to see any upside for the OP to have the conversation and lose a good reference in the process.

      3. Old school*

        The best boss I ever worked for had a reputation among those who did not work with her for being demanding. She had “high standards” but that meant that she expected me to do my best for the people we supported as a small HR unit. If I didn’t know something, she taught me, gave me responsibility as her confidence in me grew, and then had my back. She had scrupulous standards for ethics and accountability. She expected those who worked for her to project professional behavior and dress (early 80s in downtown DC under Congressional oversight, so this meant business attire with skirts and hose). Overall, she lifted up the work of those around her. All but one boss from then until retirement could not hold a candle to her.

    7. Firecat*

      It would seem that most of the folks on that industry disagree with you since she apparently holds strong sway enough to tank former employees in that industry.

      If everyone who hasn’t worked with her thinks she is brilliant then she is at least highly knowledable. It also suggests that she is capable of playing nice which makes her a crap person for sure.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        It would seem that most of the folks on that industry disagree with you since she apparently holds strong sway enough to tank former employees in that industry.

        Office politics is a hell of a drug.

        I still say she’s terrible at what she does. Not meaning that OP should call her out on that – she absolutely should not – but to be careful of working for Janes in the future.

    8. DiscoUkraine!*

      No, she’s not. My professional mentor is a Jane. She was also until very recently my boss.
      While very technically experienced and competent, Jane is deeply emotionally unstable and loves to trash-talk others while demanding you never speak about her behind her back. She threatened retaliation to anyone who dared go over her head to our grandboss about her antics. She creates “alternate” versions of the truth about verifiable situations depending on who she wants to impress. My Jane lives in a (work and personal) world where everyone tells her she’s awesome at everything to avoid her nuclear meltdown tantrums over being criticized or corrected.

      I could go on, but you get the picture.

      Alison’s comment: “she’s made it clear it’s not safe for them to do that. If she valued real feedback, she would have created the conditions to get it. It’s not your responsibility to set her straight at the potential price of your own future references from her” is 100% correct on how to deal with a Jane.

      You will NOT get through to Jane – moreover, your well-intentioned feedback will be met with subtle threats to double down and ruin your career/professional reputation because Jane is deeply insecure. Jane doesn’t want your candid feedback because it goes against her perfect internal narrative about herself as a Rock Star.
      Jane believes she has the political clout to get away with punishing anyone trying to besmirch that narrative.
      Jane is an awful person.

  1. My Dear Wormwood*

    #4: having IBS, my go-to is to add, “sorry, my stomach’s a bit upset today!” as I dash off…no-one wants to detain you after that, lest it get messy.

    1. WS*

      +1, I have Crohn’s and have had to dash off in the middle of actual meetings, not just virtual ones. Nobody has ever been particularly bothered with a quick “excuse me”. I think it’s far more noticeable and troublesome for the person who has to go – I had a colleague with IBS and I hadn’t even really noticed that she was ducking out about as often as I was until we met up in the bathroom one day.

    2. Heffalump*

      My go-to phrasing for this situation is, “I need to step away for a minute or two.”

      You’ve obviously read C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters.

      1. My Dear Wormwood*

        In the heat of composition I find I have inadvertently transformed into a large centipede…

        I recently discovered that there’s an audiobook version read by John Cleese. Can’t you just imagine him reading the parts where Screwtape is furious?

        1. Mrs. Badcrumble*

          Not to derail, but My Dear Wormwood, I listened to that audiobook in the late nineties (on cassette!) read by John Cleese and I can confirm that it is brilliant. It was also my introduction to The Screwtape Letters, so now anytime I reread it I hear Cleese’s voice.

          1. Quill*

            I might get into that if I ever finish Perelandra (Venus got me eyerolling hard. Take a perfectly lovely worldbuilding and make me spend the last quarter of the book waiting for the eden allegory to wrap up why don’t you, Clive Staples.)

        2. KayDeeAye*

          I have heard it too – yes, on cassette – and it’s freakin’ amazing. It’s even better than you might imagine it to be. I’ve looked and looked for it on CD or electronic file, but to no avail. Yet. Sooner or later they will re-release it. They just have to. I hold to that hope!

          Sorry for the derail!

        3. Gray Lady*

          I have heard that version, and the part you’re talking about is just as you’d expect it — fantastic.

        1. Cats and Bats Rule*

          +1. My organization uses this term also and it is brilliant, especially for easily-embarrased people like me.

        2. Skittles*

          When I worked in a call centre over 13 years ago bathroom breaks were called ‘comfort breaks’ and since I feel like that covers a few different things including getting a drink or going to the bathroom I have continued to use the phrase in every job since and my fellow coworkers have often adopted it too.

          1. Yorick*

            I like “comfort breaks!” “Bio break” is weird to me. We can just call it a break. We don’t need to confirm that the break is to take care of biological functions.

            1. Reba*

              Yes, I also hate “bio break” (perhaps in the same general area as aversion to “moist”) — like, we are working, let us pretend politely that we don’t have bodies!

              Also, just “break” would work, no? We can all figure out if we need water/bathroom/snack/whatever.

        3. DarnTheMan*

          One of the orgs I work with loves this term – especially since it covers all manner of things from bathroom to grabbing a drink of water or even popping outside for a breath of fresh air.

      2. LQ*

        Yeah, “I just need 3 minutes.” is the sort of go to code for ‘I really have to use the bathroom.’ or occasionally ‘I really need to get another cup of tea/coffee’.

        I will say that I’m far more likely to do this in one-on-one type meetings “Hey, can I get 3 minutes, I’ve been in meetings all day” due to the nature of why I’m in the larger group meetings and my role there. It’s really reasonable, and if you do it in one on ones then the next person won’t know you just ducked off for a minute either. You may know you’re going every hour, but everyone else only knows you ducked off once. It seems bigger to you than to anyone else so I think you’re making this a bigger deal than you need to worry about.

      3. hillia*

        That’s the default at my office. It covers everything from bathroom break to Fed Ex at the door to the cat wants out, and a whole host of other things. No one really wants to know the details of your life.

      4. Edwina*

        Or there’s always the “I do beg your pardon, I’ve come over a bit queer” (From Mike Leigh’s ‘Topsy Turvy’)

    3. Anonymity*

      TMI. I have colitis and just excuse myself for a few minutes. No one needs the details. In an in person meeting, I just get up quietly and leave.

      1. Artemesia*

        I agree TMI — ‘step away for a minute’ is fine. Or need to take a short break. And don’t blame it on the kids — that will stick as ‘she is distracted by the kids and we are not getting her best work’ (it will be untrue, but it is always a mistake to draw attention to your maternal role and particularly during these hellish work from home times. Yes, you may need to when the kid comes flying in or you need to run and assist on the home schooling– but don’t bring it up when you don’t need to.

      2. Willis*

        Yeah, this. People don’t need the details or a cover story…everyone knows people have to go to the bathroom. Unless you’re in a situation where you need to keep running to the bathroom in a one-on-one meeting, in which case say you’re not feeling well and reschedule.

        1. Fieldpoppy*

          As a person with IBS, I’m not necessarily “not feeling well” and it could be every day for weeks — it’s that there is an urgency that comes in cycles. And I have literally 20 hours a week of meetings — not working if I’m having a flare up is untenable. I find it better in my one on ones to say something like “my IBS is flaring up, I might need to dart out.”

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It sounds like the OP does just quietly get up and leave when it’s a multi-person meeting, but she’s asking about when it’s one-on-one (when you do need to say something).

        1. OP 4*

          Hi! OP here! I really appreciate all of these answers, especially from people with IBS/Crohns etc. Not exactly sure how to respond to the whole thread, but hopefully this works.

          Both IBS and Crohns run in my family so after reading all these responses, I think I should go get it checked out. I brought it up to my doctor once in high school 20+ years ago and was dismissed, so I never brought it back up. I had lost 30lbs in a month just from bathroom-related issues, and my pediatrician told me to just “be glad I was losing weight” and I never looked back, even after watching a close family member suffer from severe Crohns. I won’t go on my soapbox about how women are treated in the healthcare system, but kind of mindblowing I just let that be the final word all these years.

          Anyway, Alison is right. It’s the one on one meetings that I find the most embarrassing. I didn’t put this in my original note because I didn’t want to add too many identifying factors, but I have only been an independent contractor at my current company and am now getting several direct reports, in part due to an internal reorg. I have several years of management experience in prior roles and feel confident in myself as a manager, but I am specifically worried about suddenly dashing off during one on ones with employees who don’t necessarily know me well yet and are going through some upheaval already.

          1. Tuesday*

            I would just say, “Do you mind if we take a 5 minute (or whatever) break?” The person will say yes, and it won’t be a big deal.

          2. DataGirl*

            As someone who has a history of IBS and also had the ‘lost a huge amount of weight in a short time’ I’d highly recommend asking your doctor to test for C. Diff. Colitis. It is a bacterial infection that can develop after a stay in a hospital or other care facility, or after taking antibiotics. Also each time a person gets it increases their chance of getting it again. I’ve had it twice and the second time ended up in the hospital for a week, so it can be very serious, even deadly. If your doctor won’t take you seriously or order tests, find a new doctor. That amount of weight loss is not normal for just regular IBS.

            1. DataGirl*

              I just re-read your comment and realized the weight loss was a while ago, so maybe you don’t need a c-diff test now- but still going to the doctor is a good idea. I have also had doctor’s dismiss serious issues because I’m a woman (always older, white, men) so maybe you’d have better luck with a female doctor. My Gastroenterologist is a woman and she’s awesome, very thorough.

              1. OP 4*

                Thank you! It has actually happened to me like 3 more times in the following decades. I should get it checked out.

                1. Owler*

                  Please do! My Ulcerative Colitis calmed down during pregnancy (that was so awesome), and then came roaring back shortly after I gave birth. Can you check for any family history of gut issues? And please ask for a colonoscopy.

                  I can’t tell you how many women friends get told by doctors that their problems are just due to pregnancy or (next) post-partum hormones or (finally) the poor sleeping habits of parenting.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              I am simultaneously furious at the doctor and laughing hysterically at the mental image of someone just launching a dead fish at said doctor.

              But yes, please, OP – go to a doctor (or two, if need be!) and get this checked out. Many internet hugs – took me several years to get diagnosed with endometriosis, which at that point required surgery, and now ongoing physical therapy to work back residual pain.

              And FWIW, I often will blame “I’m needing to refill my water bottle” to get a little break during 1:1s. Or “Sorry, I need to step out for a couple minutes – be right back!!” And for those that do it to me – lovely! Now I am reminded to go get a drink or use the bathroom!

          3. Observer*

            I had lost 30lbs in a month just from bathroom-related issues, and my pediatrician told me to just “be glad I was losing weight”

            I’m making like a fish right now. . .

            What an incompetent twit. Even if you are GROSSLY overweight, losing 30 lb in a month (unless you are trying VERY hard under a doctor’s supervision) is always a HUGE red flag that something is wrong.

            Please do get this stuff checked out. Even if it’s a matter of annoying diet changes, getting this stuff under control can be life changing.

            1. Anon for Today*

              Losing that amount of weight just due to…umm…number 2 is highly concerning to the point where I would think the doctor would want you to see a specialist or send you to the hospital.

          4. Anon for Today*

            I have Chronic IBS/Colitis from complications from an appendectomy. I definitely support you getting a second opinion. IMO, people are much more open now to discussing gastro issues to the point where I’ve had awesome conversations with people about some kinda gross and embarrassing things, LOL! I recommend you try and get a referral to a GI doctor who specializes in bowel issues. As for what to say in your 1:1 meetings, I really haven’t felt weird about just saying “I’m sorry, I just have to run to the restroom for a minute.” But I suppose you might not want your reports envisioning you in the bathroom, to which I would probably just say “I just need a quick break, but I’ll be right back.” Good luck!

          5. Anon for Today*

            I also want to add that if someone said to me, “Oh hang on, I need to use the restroom” it wouldn’t feel weird to me…but I work in healthcare…

        2. KeinName*

          Yeah, I think it is totally okay to ask if you could pause the meeting for a minute, no one will remember you stepped away for a short time.
          If you are pregnant and think you might have a family risk of IBD it is generally recommended to have it checked out so as not to risk malnourishment of the child or risks due to inflammation in the general area where the baby grows. You can do a simple stool test to detect inflammation (calprotectin test), they wont do a colonoscopy on a pregnant woman I don‘t think. Many medications (5ASA) are safe during pregnancy.
          But it might be just sensitivity, especially since you only had a few episodes so far with lots of time in between, which does not sound like a prolonged flare of IBD. But might be good to also check if you absorb nutrients etc like you should!
          All the best!!
          (I have Chron‘s myself but I feel very healthy)

      4. Whyblue*

        I have colitis, too. On bad days, I have to run to the bathroom three times in a one-hour period. Two of my very close colleagues know I have a medical conditions (no details), so they are not surprised if I just drop my headphones and make a run for it. Since I generally don’t have the time to explain before I run, I tend to leave the camera off on bad days / mute myself and blame it on the doorbell or just drop out off the call and blame it on connectivity issues. Thankfully, I don’t have that many one-on-ones.

      5. MCMonkeybean*

        Yeah, I mean if anyone said that to me I certainly wouldn’t even think twice but I don’t think there is any particular need to specify whether it is your stomach or your bladder that is in need of relief. So while I wouldn’t have any problem with anyone saying it that way, it’s not wording I would actively recommend.

      6. Data Bear*

        Here’s another vote for no details necessary. I like the phrasing “I need to step out for just a few minutes; I’ll be right back.” And then when you return, you can just say thanks for waiting and apologize for the interruption, again with no details needed or provided.

    4. Mercurial*

      I like “I need a quick biobreak”. The nice thing about that is that in addition to not explaining er…which number you need…it also covers an emergency cuppa (which if you are in back-to-back meetings can also become a biological need).

    5. WorkingGirl*

      #4 is pregnant and i think anyone would understand a pregnant woman needing a bathroom break!

    6. Buni*

      A friend/colleague I have semi-regular meetings with has gut issues (I think diabetes related? Not sure). A couple of meetings ago she had to rush off and said “Gah, got to run, err…talk to Tilly for a bit!” and she put her dog on the chair so she & I could see each other. My friend got her break, the dog & I had some quality time, wins all round.

      Now whenever she needs a break she says “‘Scuse me, just need to put the dog on!”

      1. BadWolf*

        Ha ha — this made me laugh.

        “So Tilly, what do you think of the Llama teapot numbers from last week.”


        “I agree, they were pretty rough.”

      2. nonegiven*

        Some of those ‘sugar free’ products are full of sugar alcohols, which can cause cramps, gas, and diarrhea.

    7. A lawyer*

      I also have IBS. What I have sometimes done in one-on-one calls is suddenly look to my side, as if something is happening in my apartment, and then jump in and go “I’m sorry, I need a few minutes!” then mute the call while I dash off. It is dumb, but it makes me feel like I am giving the veil of “oh, something fell down, or the coffee pot overflowed, or somebody is at the door” which feels less embarrassing to me.

  2. And I'm Out*

    #4 – One thing I’ve noticed about working remotely is that we can have back-to-back-to-back meetings for 4, 5, 6 (or more!) hours at a time with no break in between. In the office setting, it seems like people were generally more mindful of commute time between conference rooms/meeting locations and thus end a bit early or start a bit late as people trickle in, and it was pretty common for people to arrive at a meeting and excuse themselves to go to the restroom first thing. Similarly, lunchtime meetings were often more lax on start time as people would trickle in and out for grabbing or warming up their food. In the remote setting, it seems like as soon as I close one Webex or Zoom and open the next one (either on time or a bit late if my last meeting went over), the next meeting is already in progress, and there’s no downtime. It’s strangely stressful! But it’s definitely still OK to state your needs so you can still get up and go to the restroom.

    1. MassMatt*

      This is an awful trend. I get that virtual meetings can be a means to replace the collaboration that would ordinarily happen in the office, but is suspect many of these meetings are pretty useless and actually detract employees from getting work done.

      Maybe as an organization agree to start meetings on the hour but stop at 50 or so minutes past? That is when attention spans start to deteriorate anyway.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        There’s a “new” feature on Office365 where meetings are automatically set to end 10 minutes short of an hour, or 5 minutes short of a half-hour. You have to turn the feature on, and I think it’s part of the overall Nannying aspect, but it’s worked well for me!

        1. London Lass*

          Yes, I just found out about this and have made it my default. One feature I do appreciate having!

          1. sacados*

            Google calendar has had the same thing for a while! It’s a checkbox in the event settings called “Speedy meetings” — when it’s enabled, every time you make a new calendar event it automatically sets it to end 5 (or 10 for longer meetings) minutes early.

        2. Observer*

          I wouldn’t call it nannying. It’s just a way to make it easier to do something that makes a lot of sense but would otherwise require a lot of fiddling that a lot people wouldn’t bother with.

          1. JustaTech*

            I think the thing that Batty Twerp was calling “Nannying” are all the other new features of Office, like how Cortana emails me every morning asking if I’ve followed up on that thing in my email.

            I did not ask the AI system from Halo to read my email, thankyouverymuch. Or to tell me how much I

            But a feature that would encourage meetings to end early enough for a bio break? That’s brilliant.

            1. Batty Twerp*

              Yup, that’s the bunny!

              (In my defence, my original comment was pre-caffeine, so if there was a better term than “Nannying” my brain wasn’t providing it!)

        3. nona*

          I think there is also a setting in Outlook you can use to set the default timing of a meeting, so that when you create a meeting, it defaults to starting at 9:05 (instead of 9:00) and going until 9:25 or 9:50. Or whatever you want to set it as. You could set it start 3 minutes or 7 minutes after the hour or whatever you want.

          I don’t know if there’s a separate thing in Teams for this, since I use Outlook to schedule (but Teams to participate). So, if you aren’t seeing it in Teams, look for it in Outlook.

          Just know that you are still going to have people logging in right at 9:00 and people will be tempted to start the meeting right at 9:00 (because they joined right away so they don’t forget) and not wait until 9:05 because 5 minutes feels like FOREVER when you are sitting silently on a call waiting for it to start. Especially if everyone is used to starting/stopping at the top or bottom of the hour and not 5 minutes off. So you kind of have to be deliberate about what you are doing and why.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        My company sent out an email recently encouraging people to not have meetings at lunchtime, or after 4pm on Fridays. It was nice to see them actively pushing for that but I’m not sure it is going to take. Especially since people take lunch at wildly different times on my team. But I think at the very least, that sentiment coming from the top makes it easier for anyone to push back on a meeting time and say “I’d like to leave that time free for lunch as I’ve got meetings before and after it, can we schedule this for another time?” or something.

        1. Clisby*

          Before I retired, I had worked for 27 years at the same employer. There was an unwritten rule not to schedule meetings that would run past 3:30, since 3:30 was a legit leaving time (we had flextime hours). There might be the odd emergency that would require meeting past 3:30, but it would have to be something pretty catastrophic for anyone to raise an eyebrow at anyone saying they had to leave the meeting at 3:30.

      3. Elenna*

        My company’s senior managers literally said just this recently, that people should consider scheduling meetings to end a little bit before the hour. I like my company. :)

    2. Elementary Fan*

      Yes. I’m pretty much in back to back meetings now and with an upset stomach it’s super stressful! Since most of my meetings are 1:1, I try to go between meetings and as a result I’m always starting a few minutes late. But what else can I do? I even have my calendar set to “speedy meetings” At least I’m not alone

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        My boss’s strategy is to never schedule 30- or 60-minute meetings. She’ll do 20 or 45, typically, so that attendees have a “passing period” on both sides (e.g., 2:05 to 2:50). Most meetings start five minutes late anyway as people wrap up meetings or run to the bathroom, so you may as well lean into it.

      2. UKDancer*

        If I’ve got a day of back to back meetings I’ve been known to message the other party in a 1:1 ahead of time and say something like “I’ve back to back meetings today could we start at 5 past so I’ve time to grab a brew.” Access to tea is universally understood in my company so that’s fine. More usually it’s because I want the loo to be honest but making tea is more socially acceptable to mention. This has never in my experience been problematic.

        If it’s a big meeting I just show up a couple of minutes late or finish the previous meeting a couple of minutes early and it’s less likely to be noticed.

        1. Virginia Plain*

          The non-negotiable right of access to tea is, I reckon, universally understood in nearly every U.K. company, both private and public sector. It’s probably in the Magna Carta… But indeed, the principle could work in less tea-obsessed nations. Grabbing a coffee, or some water, could work. I mean so many people are never more than a yard from their water bottle these days, and make more effort to keep hydrated than used to be the case, so it wouldn’t be unusual or remarkable to ask to nip off to refill your glass.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            A chuckle for you. I recently had to decline staying on after a meeting ended (10 minutes before my next meeting, but 5 minutes late)….only I slipped and said I had to ‘return’ the coffee!

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          The time it takes to boil a kettle is very similar to the time it takes to nip to the loo, generally speaking. Classic British multitasking to start the kettle, nip to the loo, and come back just as it clicks off.

          1. UKDancer*

            That’s what I always do. Kettle on, teabag in mug. Then go to the loo and refresh my lipstick. By the time I’ve done that the kettle has boiled so I can get the tea for my next meeting.

          2. Liz*

            Precisely this!! Here in the UK, “take a break for a cuppa” is practically ENSHRINED in unspoken rules of meeting management! God have mercy on the trainer that doesn’t schedule a tea break every 90 minutes!! And yes, it’s there so people can use the loo as well.

            Reading this blog has made me so aware of these cultural differences. I remember somebody writing a letter about coffee runs, and there were comments from people saying they would BUY coffee for colleagues, but being expected to make them (and note how everyone takes them) would be an imposition. For me, a Brit, one of the hallmarks of a British office is offering tea/ coffee to everybody and memorizing how they take it (head office has a list of drink preferences in the kitchen). That’s how you connect with colleagues.

            But I digress. YES – excuse yourself to use the loo! You are human. Make coffee while you’re up. Do not suffer in silence.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              I used to be in charge of maintaining the brew list at $OldJob. It had a description of the mug and everything.

            2. boo bot*

              “For me, a Brit, one of the hallmarks of a British office is offering tea/ coffee to everybody and memorizing how they take it (head office has a list of drink preferences in the kitchen).”

              I like this :) I think in the American context one issue is that there’s not an expectation that everyone will take a turn – if you make coffee for everyone, people will start seeing you as the one who always makes coffee, especially if you are, or are perceived to be, a woman. It won’t be, “Oh you made the coffee last time, let me do it!” but, “Oh, you make the coffee, you’re so much better at it!”

              Buying coffee is more clearly a one-time thing (because no one is going to expect you to pay over and over) and you’re separated from the work of coffee-making, which minimizes or removes the gendered-expectation piece of it.

        3. Indigo a la mode*

          I definitely interpreted “brew” as beer in my American English, and I’m tickled by the notion: “Sorry, man, I’ll be there in five, I just really need a drink.” In my office, people would definitely neither question nor look askance at someone grabbing a beer for a meeting.

          1. UKDancer*

            Brew in the UK is always tea at least it was in Leeds where I grew up and London where I live now. If someone says they’re grabbing a brew they would be getting a cup of tea.

            If someone was getting a beer or some other form of drink they’d probably specify it “I need to get a coffee” or “let me just refill my water glass” but a brew is always tea in my experience of UK offices.

            I guess beer is brewed as well but it’s not something anyone would ever say.

          2. Paulina*

            “Just grabbing a cold brew” — these days that can mean coffee.

            I’ve seen some remote meetings with people drinking wine, though this is in academia and I expect the participants were making a point about how late in the day the meeting was scheduled for, essentially partly reclaiming their after hours.

        4. justanothercivilservant*

          If you were to say “grab a brew” in the US , we would think you were going to get a beer!

        5. Librarian1*

          haha, as an American I interpreted “brew” as “beer” and was like, wow, you have a very relaxed office!

          1. Librarian1*

            Aaaaaand I am also the third person to make this comment! I should have read through the rest of the comments before responding.

    3. Jackalope*

      I have this for a regular non-work thing and I find it stressful for that too. I have often chosen to be five minutes or so late to the second thing (big Zoom gathering with no responsibilities on my end so this is fine) so I can have a few minutes to collect myself mentally.

    4. Mostly Lurking*

      We’ve started setting meetings to start at 5 past to allow people time for the loo, or refill their mug, or stretch, or whatever. Meetings are 5 mins shorter but they would naturally be that way if you needed to go between meeting rooms in before times. You can suggest it for your group or to the organizers of the meetings you’re part of.

    5. SusanIvanova*

      Our managers discovered that problem early on and agreed on a new rule: all meetings must be scheduled to start 5-10 minutes after the hour/half hour mark.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        This is good! Are there rules about finish times?

        I ask because I know some people who would definitely use “the next thing doesn’t start until five past” as an excuse to begin a new topic on the hour.

        1. DarnTheMan*

          Our office has encouraged everyone to start at 5 minutes past the hour and end 10 minutes before whenever possible; so what was an hour long meeting is now 45 minutes.

    6. BubbleTea*

      I had a three-hour training session without a single break in it. And then it RAN OVER TIME. The last 20 minutes were spent doing a “relaxing meditation”. Thankfully the trainer asked us all to turn off our cameras and mute ourselves so we didn’t distract each other from our relaxing meditation. I turned off my camera, muted myself, and went for a relaxing bathroom visit then made myself some relaxing lunch. I couldn’t have been less in a state of mind to meditate.

      I’m also currently pregnant, although I have told my colleagues as I’m further through than the LW, and I had to very quickly wrap up a meeting that was winding down because I was about to be sick. No one wants to see that on camera!

      1. UKDancer*

        That’s ridiculous. I mean I can’t get on with group meditation anyway but if a three hour session is overrunning nobody is likely to be in a relaxing frame of mind.

        I do a 90 minute evening class on zoom at the moment and fortunately the teacher has the sense to give us a comfort break halfway through. If he didn’t I’d ask for one. Running a course for 3 hours with no breaks is just plain silly.

      2. BHB*

        That’s mad. I’ve had a couple of long 2.5-3hr online training sessions recently, and whilst there was no break scheduled it was made clear upfront that if you needed to step away for a few minutes, you could set yourself to “away”. If nothing else, it alerted the trainer that you wouldn’t be responding to a group question as they typically waiting for everyone to respond before moving on.

      3. RabbitRabbit*

        Craziness. I was in an all-day online conference but they scheduled in breaks between sessions as well as a significant lunch period, and made overt comments about it to the effect of “now’s the time when we’d all be coming back from the hotel conference room hallways with our cups of coffee and selection of cookies,” etc. Those long sessions – at least the ones I went to – were all scheduled with semi-frequent breaks and significant amounts of snacks and drinks to keep people awake and happier.

        1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

          And running on time! Used to have an out of state, required a quick plane flight all-hands meeting annually (obviously pre-Covid). It.never.ran.on.time.

          Bonus? I’m not really thrilled about spending two nights out of state when I don’t *have* to, because I have to wait for reimbursement for hotel and meals, even the corporate CC was used for flights. A meeting that could be broadcast over zoom falls under *don’t have to, this is presenteeism at its finest*. The last flight home for us from that city was always to the point where we had to leave the meeting early. Every year. If it had EVER ran on time, this would not have been an issue!

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Most of the conferences I’ve attended or been part of hosting included snacks and regular breaks, for the reasons you mentioned. It was also expected that people would quietly leave during a session to heed nature’s call, or a literal call from the office on their mobile. Or stretch back from sitting so long. Or do whatever it is adults need to do during an hours-long conference.

          Onsite or on camera, it’s just not realistic to expect someone to stay in their seat for hours at a time.

      4. EPLawyer*

        This is a bit like court in the Before Times. You couldn’t just “quietly” step out. You have to be there for the whole thing. I’ve had to interrupt testimony because my client had to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW. Fortunately, judges understood “we need a break, your honor” to mean, if we don’t stop this second there is going to be a mess in the courtroom. They also need breaks and usually take them about evey 1.5 hours.

        One poor client started feeling sick while testifying. By the time he realized it, he was throwing up into the trash can. Apparently, this was not a first for the judge. She just checked if he is was okay to continue and we did. She did ask him to remove the trash can liner when we finished.

        1. armchairexpert*

          I have had clients who suffered from anxiety-related diarrhoea (as part of a wider anxiety disorder which formed the basis of the court hearing) and, yeah. One poor guy had to interrupt his own testimony partway through a sentence and run out to the bathroom because he didn’t even have time to signal to me that he needed me to ask for a break. Luckily, our hearings are in a tribunal setting not a full courtroom with guards etc!

      5. LQ*

        We had a training about equity and diversity around health issues that was supposed to go 4 hours without a break. I may have said something VERY pointed to the instructor about how they were actively discouraging people who may fall entirely within the group they were discussing from being at the organization, let alone going to this event. They ended up adding in 2 breaks and cutting back on the everyone must be on screen 100% requirement. (I was really crabby about being expected to cut 4 hours out to do this training by people who have no clue what they were talking about.) A little bit of awareness goes a long way.

          1. LQ*

            Right! I have never so much wanted to get a cutout of my face to stick in front of the camera. And I’m in meetings basically all day. But 4 hours in one meeting I’m just not going to be able to pay attention to.

            1. JustaTech*

              Oh my goodness, my face gets tired from holding the “pleasantly paying attention” expression after one hour, I can’t imagine trying to keep it up for 4 hours!

        1. BadWolf*

          4 hours without a break? Even if people are somehow able to hold it for 4 hours, they’re definitely checked out for a bunch of that meeting.

          Awesome job for pointing out that this was a bad plan for both practical reasons and stupid in the context of the meeting content!

        2. Sunny*

          In their place, I’d be concerned that someone would decide to make a point about what you see when you watch someone’s life constantly for four hours. Hopefully just by bringing us along to the kitchen while they get a snack.

        3. Observer*

          We had a training about equity and diversity around health issues that was supposed to go 4 hours without a break.

          So, you are being asked to waste your time being in a presentation by people who clearly not absolutely nothing about the subject they are presenting on? Whose brilliant idea was that!?

          I mean, that ON TOP of, as you noted, actively discouraging people in the group you’re supposedly worrying about from joining the class and even the organization.

          1. LQ*

            Same one who told us it wasn’t possible to change it when we wanted to change the hiring requirements for very basic call center work to not require a college degree. GED or high school diploma is FINE. But no, they said. (We won that fight too…I’m really unhappy with all of them so I’m always kind of looking for a reason to snip at them when they do shitty anti-diversity and equality stuff, which is a lot.)

      6. Observer*

        I had a three-hour training session without a single break in it. And then it RAN OVER TIME. The last 20 minutes were spent doing a “relaxing meditation”.

        Incompetent idiots seems to be a bit of theme in the comments today.

        I mean, how does a reasonable trainer think that a 3 hour session with no breaks can reasonably end off with a “relaxing meditation”? And that’s before it goes over-time! Also, mostly, if a training goes over time, you have to ask if the trainer knows what they are doing. So…

    7. Cat Tree*

      At my company, cameras are off as the default for most meetings (and I prefer that). But, I wish our meeting platform had some easy way at indicating that I stepped away for a minute, in case someone needs to ask a question to me specifically. In the before times, I would quietly leave the conference room to use the bathroom, so other people could look around and see I wasn’t there. But that doesn’t work online without cameras. However, I don’t necessarily want to interrupt the conversation to tell everyone I’m stepping away for a minute. So I usually wait for a long-winded person to start talking and go then.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Zoom does have that feature. And in a different platform, I wonder if you could change your screen name to Cat Tree – stepped away for a minute.

      2. Teapot Librarian*

        I prefer cameras on because I like seeing people (I totally respect that not everyone feels this way!) but I also like that turning your camera off can signal “I’ve stepped away for a moment and don’t want you to have to stare at my empty workspace.”

        1. Cat Tree*

          I would much rather continue with the current occasional awkwardness of stepping away than to clean my house, brush my hair, and put on a shirt every time I have a meeting.

      3. Green great dragon*

        Chat function can work for announcing you’re popping away for a sec without interrupting anyone.

      4. justanothercivilservant*

        In teams and some other formats there’s a “chat” area, its common for folks in my area to type a quick note “stepping off, back in 2 min”. That way it doesn’t interfere with the verbal discussion.

        1. Quill*

          Yup, that’s the way everyone does it in group meetings.

          Though most entertaining break for me last week was my coworker saying (after my kitchen sink leaking caused me to come in late) “Can we start in five? I need to check my sink.”

      5. Emilia Bedelia*

        If your meeting platform has a chat feature, you can type “brb” or similar, and then type “back” once you’re back on. My company uses Teams and this is what we do.

    8. I’m screaming inside too!*

      When I have back to back meetings, I’ll sometimes say at the start of a meeting that I will need to sign off 5-10 minutes early because I have another meeting immediately after for which I need to prepare. No one needs to know that the preparation includes a trip to the bathroom, and no one ever objects.

    9. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “Similarly, lunchtime meetings were often more lax on start time as people would trickle in and out for grabbing or warming up their food.”

      ” start a bit late as people trickle in”

      I hated this in-person – it’s wasting people’s time.

      In both the “new” environment and the old, just say you have to go with ten minutes to go or whatever. Say it at the start or (better) when the meeting’s scheduled.

    10. OP 4*

      This is a great point! I definitely end up with full days of meetings often and the virtual meetings all lead directly into meetings in progress. I am going to start baking in 5 minute windows for late starts/early ends.

  3. Mandie Greene*

    Agree with Alison that the default for most jobs is that EOD = end of business hours, but it’s culture dependent. I worked in investment banking and in management consulting, and in each of those offices “EOD” meant “don’t leave the office before you finish this” rather than “by 5 or 6 pm”. As always, it’s best to explicitly communicate. I find telling people things like “I’ll have this on your desk ready for you to look at when you come in tomorrow morning” to be less ambiguous than “end of day”, since people often have wildly different interpretations of how and whether to work in the evenings.

    1. Brianna*

      Same in my line of work (engineering / consulting). It might be that my line of work tends to have more flexible work hours, so 5pm isn’t pens down for most people. We have two acronyms:
      – COB = Close of Business, i.e. you can read it on the train home and it’s late if you send it past 5-5:30pm; and
      – EOD = End of Day, i.e. We’re not leaving until it’s done and you can read it in the morning when you get into work.
      I’m always very careful to use EOD not COB because I need those evening hours!

      1. Not Australian*

        IMHO that’s a very useful distinction to make, i.e. between the end of normal working hours and the actual end of the ‘workable day’.

      2. Susan Calvin*

        Came here to say exactly that!

        EOD means “I’ll have it done before I leave for the day” which may well be several hours after the recipient leaves, who can then read it in peace somewhere around the time my first alarm goes off the next morning – either because we just have near opposite circadian rhythms, because time zones, or working around weird customer schedules.
        If I actually want something sooner than “first thing tomorrow” I have to specify “within the next four hours” or “by 4:00pm my time”

        1. Susan Calvin*

          Lost my train of thought there a bit, meant to add – COB is something we use mostly with customers, who usually keep much more regular and contained-in-one-time-zone hours.

      3. Jane of all Trades*

        I totally agree – this may depend on industry, but in law EOD means – I want to have it ready for review first thing tomorrow.

        1. Catalin*

          Exactly what I was about to say! EOD in my company (large multi-national consulting firm) means “before the reader is likely to log on in the morning”. COB=5/530 p.m., EOD=needs to be done before first thing tomorrow.
          Fortunately, we don’t require people to be onsite working late on stuff, we’ll just take our laptops/stuff home and work from our dens, kitchens, beds, whatever we need.

          1. I need a cool screen name to keep up with this group!*

            I work in a later time zone than most of my colleagues so we’ve worked out that EOD will be by 8 am the next business day in their time zone.

      4. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Is it so hard to just say I need this by 4, 5, 6, or 7 o’clock? My end of day is 6, my boss’s end of day is 5.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Right? And mine is 3:30. So why don’t you (generic) just tell me when on the clock you need it, and we’ll do our damnedest to make that happen.

          1. Dave*

            I will say EOD because I really mean end of day and not in the morning because you don’t know when I am going to start work the next day.
            But I really do mean EOD especially on a Friday’s because sometimes I will work over the weekend when there are fewer interruptions and again the person I have asked for something doesn’t know when I will start work the next day. I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule to create my own hours. I have a general start time but if I wake up early I will start earlier. And to be honest I only set deadlines like EOD with co-workers. Outside vendors and customers I do provide a time.

        2. Smithy*

          I work an industry where EOD actually serves to provide people with a bit more flexibility than just the concept of “my work day technically ends at Xpm.”

          As someone in an international organization, where I sit in the Western Hemisphere – when I ask someone in Asia/Africa for a draft EOD, it’s understood (and often clarified) that it means I need something by midnight their time. Essentially, that they can do whatever needs to be done over the course of their day to get the materials done – and I’m personally prepared to then do the same on my end to make sure we hit the deadline. Now typically what this means is that people in the Eastern Hemisphere aim to have their work done by when they typically finish their workday – but it gives the leniency for their EOD to be 5pm or 10pm depending on how they set their evening hours.

          In situations where I want something ready by the time I log-in in the morning, then I usually will clarify something like 1pm their time – but for my industry – I’ve actually found those kinds of deadlines much harder for people to meet than EOD the day before. EOD provides flexibility where someone may aim for 5pm, but then things happen but then there’s the “all night” grace period when it can still get done.

        3. Lil Fidget*

          Ugh this gave me a flashback because my boss always had impossible requests by “COB” so I’d play the game of like, well, I’m still here working on this and it’s 8PM, so I guess COB today will be 8:30 …

          1. LawLady*

            Ha, I had this exact thought last week. My firm wanted a piece of administrative work (not client-facing) by “COB”, and I was thinking, well, I haven’t ended work before 9PM in weeks, so…

      5. Filosofickle*

        That’s how I use COB and EOD too. However it takes a bit of training and it still gets misinterpreted since most people don’t use them as precisely as I do. If their deadline impacts my action, I give more explanation or assign a time. Please send by EOD so it’s waiting for me first thing in the morning; or I need it by COB (no later than 6) so I can review in the evening and send to the client in the morning.

      6. emmelemm*

        Yeah, COB is useful because it pretty much definitely means 5:00, understood. (Even if your business in no way shuts down after 5:00.) EOD can mean different things in different situations.

      7. OP1*

        Thank you! That’s kinda where my confusion has been coming from. Adjusting to consulting has been a (g*ddamn) doozy for me, coming from industrial manufacturing where I was hourly and my hours were whatever was needed to make it happen. But then the whole COB/EOD thing has been a lot too, because I know some people do work late. I’ve definitely finished final drafts of something at 8 PM because I finally got 10 minutes of our principal engineer’s time for feedback at like 4:50.

        I wound up asking my manager a couple days after sending the question to askamanager and he explained that I can totally send after hours emails but to avoid after hours teams messages. of course, I forgot that on Saturday last weekend, because since I have gotten a device specifically for work apps, I completely forgot that people have teams on their personal phones. Which reminds me to send an apology & let him know that I’m going to make sure I keep off hours comms to emails only.

    2. MassMatt*

      I would ask for a more specific deadline but Alison is right that in no case would “end of business on x day” mean “the morning of the day after”.

      Turning in something the morning after a deadline would definitely be a problem everywhere I’ve worked, unless the work turned out to be far more time consuming than anyone expected, in which case I would want to let the person expecting it ASAP.

      1. Five after Midnight*

        That’s completely opposite to what I’ve been working almost my entire career: for me EOD/EOB/COB are all the same and mean: “it needs to be on the requester’s desk/inbox by the time they arrive at work the next day” – this is very much culture dependent! If it needs to be reviewed by overnight, that is always clearly requested, i.e. I need it by 5pm, etc.

        1. Five after Midnight*

          As a corollary, if there is a specific deadline, it’s always explicitly stated. This may be partly because we work fairly flexible hours and both myself, my bosses, and the team in general can be working early morning, normal business hours, or late evening depending on our life schedules. Therefore, we tend to assume everyone’s day starts about 5am and ends 5am the following morning. For reference, I’ve worked in corporate accounting/finance at multiple companies and this has been a consistent understanding.

        2. Allonge*

          Ha, this is also the way it works for me. We don’t normally work weekends, so if something is asked for for Friday COB, it means the person wants to work on it starting Monday – and so if you absolutely have to, you can still work on it over the weekend / Friday evening. If the requester actually needs it for the weekend, the deadline is Friday noon. Same with every other day.

          That said, Alison is absolutely correct in that this is not the thing to make assumptions about! Ask, always. It took me 9 years at my current org in various positions to know how it works, and a lot of questions too.

          1. A penguin!*

            And for yet another interpretation – for me EOD has typically been ‘before the requestor starts work the next day’ – but something due Friday EOD implied the requestor would be working Saturday (if the requestor wasn’t working the weekend, the item would typically be due Sunday EOD, meaning Monday morning), so a Friday EOD needed to be ready by Saturday morning, not Monday morning.

            I’ve always worked earlier shifts than my bosses, so have occasionally finished up something on a Wednesday morning that was due “Tuesday EOD” – and had it considered on time (as it was on the boss’ desk before they got in Wednesday).

            All these examples underscore the point that the answer is definitely “it depends”.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              True. And it’s so irritating to work like a dog to get something on somebody’s desk – working late, sweating bullets – when they’re not even going to look at it until the next morning anyway.

            2. Ophelia*

              Yep. This sounds like my office, but I definitely wouldn’t assume that this logic extends out beyond it, hah!

        3. rudster*

          I agree. I am a freelancer, and such often work “business hours” that run well into the late evening, or occasionally even through to the next morning. My regular clients are in a variety of different time zones, and also often working unusual shifts. For them and me, all of the above acronyms are understood to mean “in my inbox when I arrive at work tomorrow morning”. If they want a specific time, they will mention a specific time.

          1. NYWeasel*

            Yeah, working globally, we all run with EOD meaning “so I can start it when I get in the next day”. If I’m working with my European colleagues, I may clarify “EOD for you so that I can tackle it that afternoon”.

      2. Indigo a la mode*

        As someone who does good creative work late in the evening, I’ve gotten around this by saying “It’ll be in your inbox before you get in tomorrow morning.”

      3. Not So NewReader*

        My husband’s boss had a cool way of dealing with this. He instead of saying COB Monday, he would say “First thing 8 am Tuesday.” It was up to the employee to figure out how and when to get stuff to the boss. I really do wonder how much stuff is passed along that is received late in the day. It probably sits there until morning anyway. Meanwhile some poor employee is breaking their back trying to meet a make-believe deadline. (NOT always, but sometimes…)

        Years and years ago my husband was an early adapter because he emailed his completed work in. It saved a 1 hour drive each way.
        Both boss and hubby won something there. Hubs could take the time necessary to do an accurate job and Boss was super pleased to have the work “instantly” at 8 am. Now email is normal, but the use of first thing in the morning, as opposed to COB, seems like a good way of handling things where possible.

    3. Willis*

      Agree that this depends on your office culture and manager and the OP needs to ask until they get a better understanding of what their manager means. Also keep in mind that if it’s some deliverable that’s supposed to be to a client by the end of the day and your boss needs to review it beforehand, then yeah, you do need to give it to her before 4:59.

      Either way, if you need until the next morning (or over the weekend) ask beforehand and with enough time to finish it by the original deadline if the answer on the extension is no.

    4. Phil*

      I often have a little giggle when I see “COB” (close of business) deadlines in emails. I work in broadcast TV, in a team that offers 24/7 support, we technically never close!
      (Usually take it to mean 5pm though)

    5. Imprudence*

      I simply say 5pm Tuesday or 8am Wednesday or whatever. As an early bird, I quite like saying 8am, because it gives the owls a chance to finish things ready for me to start on them first thing.

      1. KHB*

        This. It seemed like an earth-shattering revelation when I realized I could set deadlines for specific hours, but there’s no reason why you can’t, and it makes everything so much easier when expectations are clear on all sides.

        If OP’s supervisor wants to have an hour at the end of the day to review OP’s work in preparation for the next day, then she should say she wants it by 4:00 PM (or whatever one hour before the end of their workday is). Most of the deadlines I set are 12:00 noon, for a similar reason: They get the morning to wrap up their finishing touches, and I get the afternoon to look it over.

        Just ask for things by the time you actually want them, everyone, instead of being vague and then getting bent out of shape when people can’t read your mind.

          1. Tired of Covid-and People*

            As a corollary, I never use ASAP since a wise person training me in one of my first jobs out of college advised me to: 1) always date notes, workpapers, well, everything, and 2) never uses ASAP because that is judgement dependent. My ASAP determination may not fit your needs since you have no idea what else I have going on.

            Just clearly state when you need something.

            1. Allonge*

              I once had a colleague who used ASAP for ‘drop everything and do this immediately’ and as soon as possible (so, spelled out) for ‘whenever you get to it, not that urgent’. It was confusing to him why that was not resulting in the desired response a lot of the time…

    6. Yennefer of Vengerberg*

      Ya, I also worked in consulting and was surprised by Alison’s strong response: “Nooo! As a default, assume that “end of day Tuesday” means “by the end of business hours on Tuesday.” So not 8 pm that night, and definitely not Wednesday morning.”

      In my industry, EOD 100% means I want to review this deliverable in the morning, so I don’t care if you send it at 6am the next morning because I won’t look at it until I get in at 8am. The exception is if something is EOD Friday because that means I want to look at it over the weekend. OP don’t feel too bad about misunderstanding your managers preference because I would have too. If someone wants to review something in the evening, they should explicitly say they plan to do so and want it by 5pm. But sounds like this is industry specific.

    7. The Dangerous Soup*

      Yeah, I’m in architecture and engineering and EOD for us means “don’t leave until it’s finished”. Sometimes this could be as late as 10pm.

    8. Calanthea*

      My two cents – EOD means before you leave work, and I need it to act on in the morning. COP/COB means I am staying late to do this and need it to go home. For the latter, I’d probably call and explain how important it was!

      So interesting from all the replies how many different ways people use this! So tl;dr – ask what it means in your office, I guess!

      For context: I work with a lot of academics, and their admin teams, so the sort of unwritten work culture is that no-one is *expected* to work outside of 10-4, but it’s totally normal for people to work at any time – I wouldn’t blink at an email at 6.30 am being sent on Saturday, but also there would be no expectation I would deal with it before 10am on Monday.

    9. Blisskrieg*

      I’m so relieved to read the varying opinions. I use EOD all the time to mean “before midnight” because I might be working in the evening. I specifically use it because I might need quiet hours after the regular work is done for the day to focus on it. I have never gotten pushback and I am regarded as really reliable. I do work in a culture of workaholics across multiple time zones, so that may play into it.

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We are across many time zones. I frequently hear people say “end of your day or end of my day?” My reply is often “before the beginning of yours.” Because if I am working with someone three-hour time distance behind me, I will stay late to get it done. If I am working with someone will ahead of me, I’m going to get supper now and come back refreshed for the evening. (We get some crazy last minute requests.)

    11. Person from the Resume*

      I agree you must define what it means for your boss and your organization.

      I work with virtual teams in 4 different time zones so everyone’s end (and start) of day is variable. I use COB more than EOD, but they both mean the same thing since there’s no standardized COB for the whole organization.

      When I’m feeling generous I might tell someone in a later time zone I needed it by the start of business so it was in my email inbox when I started my morning. But I did get burned by a guy who was late turning in everything. At least with COB if it was not in my inbox when I left I had a chance to remind him versus not being there in the morning and he’s not in the office yet.

      As for the EOD meaning an hour before the end of day that would surprise me, but you’ve learned so now I would just assume that all EOD deadline actually mean an hour before COB.

    12. Roeslein*

      I came here to say exactly this! Just wanted to reassure anyone panicked by this that in management consulting EOD / EOP (end of play) means “before I leave for the night”, as in “ready for the client / partner to look at first thing tomorrow morning”, and most definitely not “by 5pm / 6 pm/ close of business”! I don’t know anyone who asks for deliverables by end of day and still plans to look at them that evening.

      1. Roeslein*

        Also – if we say end of week it means any time until Sunday evening is fine so you can have your Friday night off (pre-Covid anyway). Nobody actually means Friday 5pm.

    13. LQ*

      I’m a little surprised by all the differences. I think you’re right about being explicit. I’ve had a lot of things where I’ve said “end of day Friday” because my plan was to spend the weekend reviewing the work and if it showed up on Monday morning it would be essentially useless and late, and may take an extra week so that I do have a weekend to review it. When I’m saying end of day I always mean because I’m going to look at it that night and I’m scheduling that in. To hear so many folks saying that it would mean to be ready the next morning is interesting.

      1. Roeslein*

        In my industry, end of day Friday = before you log off on Friday so I can work on it over the weekend, end of week = before you go to sleep on Sunday. Important distinction!

        1. LQ*

          I would never have thought of it this way. I think that this all is clear that industry, actual job, all that makes sense. Just say the time you actually need it.

      2. Uranus Wars*

        I know, me too. I commented below and am now seeing all these people who work flex hours, are freelance, etc. and can see how things can vary by industry. I still stand by my “COB means before you leave” shouldn’t be a conversation you have every week with the same employee though.

        1. Allonge*

          Oh no, it definitely needs A conversation but not repeated ones, unless like, this comes up only once a year or so. In which case it should be spelled out anyway.

    14. PurplePartridge*

      Agreed this is so culture dependent, especially for jobs where working after hours is common. The last marketing agency I worked at we’d always clarify as “our EOD”, meaning “don’t leave until this is done” which could very well have been after midnight for some folks. When talking about deliverables that had to go to clients, “their EOD” always meant by 5pm.

      The agency I work at now keeps much more regular hours (at least for my team), and while EOD still means before you leave, that’s generally understood to be around 5-5:30.

    15. Teapot Librarian*

      When I commit to having something to someone by the end of the day, I always mean “before you get in tomorrow” and SAY THAT. If I want something from someone by the end of the day, I also always mean “before I get in tomorrow” and SAY SO. If someone asks me for something by end of day, they often will ask for it by COB, and if not, I’ll clarify with them. And be resentful because I’m bad at deadlines especially when there is the high likelihood of being interrupted!

    16. Bookworm1858*

      Similar about being extra clear – I usually say end of YOUR day to my reports as I know what time they finish (some start and thus end their day before me) or else I’ll say noon if our standard schedules more closely align.

    17. Tibs*

      Yes, in places I’ve worked COB has always been used to mean “by 5pm” and EOD means before the next morning. I find it strange that EOD would mean by 5pm…

    18. EOD*

      EOD is absolutely “on my desk for tomorrow, it’s ok if it takes all night” in our office culture, though on Fridays it’s occasionally specified by EOD 5pm.

    19. lc*

      +1 to it being culture dependent. I work for an international company, so it’s hard to know what someone’s end of business hours even really are. We just use EOD to indicate when we want something available for review the following morning.

    20. Anonymous Hippo*

      Personally, I usually provide the context Generally I use EOB (end of business), I mean before you would normally leave work, so if you are one of my 7-4 reports, I’d expect it by 4, if one of my 8-5, by 5, etc. Then I just work a bit late to incorporate it before I sign off. If I don’t need it until the morning, I’ll simply let them know I need it before my normal start time the next day.

    21. :)*

      Another consultant weighing in that at my (technology based) org EOD means before the start of the next workday. If someone wants to review something in the evening they will say so and specify a time. That also carries over to EOD Friday means before Monday morning, unless otherwise specified.

      We’ll usually have this conversation with new clients to make sure expectations are set, but most of them work with the same model.

  4. Lola Banks*

    In my org COB (close of business) means 5pm and EOD can be as late as 10pm…basically before you log off for the day.

    When in doubt, just ask what specific time they want it by.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      In my office, I don’t think we distinguish between saying end of day and close of business, and both times it usually means “it’ll be waiting for you in the morning.” In addition, often when someone specifically says they’ll have it done that day by the end of the day, usually they end up reaching out around quitting time, saying that they’re still waiting on one little thing and now the document will be waiting for me first thing in the morning. So, whichever one people mean, it generally ends up meaning first thing in the morning.

      Seeing how many people have different interpretations, it’s really best to ask specifically whether they want it that night, or whether first thing the next day is fine.

      1. Jackalope*

        We have some things that have to be time stamped before we leave that day. The boss may not see it until the next day but for Reasons it has to show that we sent it the day of.

      2. V*

        It depends entirely on the work you do. If you don’t distinguish COB from EOD it’s usually because you don’t have an evening work culture. Any consultant will tell you there’s a massive difference in meaning. :)

        1. hbc*

          Huh. So the idea is you’ll say “COB” so the person gets it to you at 5pm and you’ll have time to do what you need to do by EOD? Because we definitely have an evening work culture, and COB is pretty much meaningless to us because there’s no solid Close Of Business time.

          It really only comes up if there’s a technicality, like we want to be able to tell our client that we got a document in by COB, even if it was 4:59:59 and too late for them to do anything with if they close up shop at 5:00.

    2. Beatrice*

      When I expect to work on something after hours, I normally tell them I’ll have it done before I log off for the day, but that might be in the evening. I usually do this with things that are urgent, and that wording has the added benefit of letting someone know I understand the urgency and am prioritizing it appropriately by staying late to get it done if I have to. Thankfully that doesn’t happen more than once a month or so!

    3. Mr. Shark*

      The thing for me is that they basically mean the same thing. And that is because at our work, we work in different time zones. So EOD of COB requirement from East Coast means that the West Coast can work on it after EC has gone home and is eating dinner, so that it’s there in the morning on EC while WC is still asleep or eating breakfast.

      If it’s the same time zone, it may still be required by COB or EOD, but in that case the requester will usually ask “Can I get that by COB so I can review it before tomorrow morning’s meeting that occurs first thing in the AM?” That would be specifically requested rather than just the assumption that it will be there in the inbox waiting the next morning.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      I agree with Lola — however one thing is critical — EOD never (ever) means the morning of the next business day. I am an early bird and when I say EOD, that can be quite late, but the main thing is that it needs to be there when I log in early in the morning because I intend to review it first thing. It’s it’s a Friday and I say EOD, that means I intend to work on it on Saturday.

    5. Bex*

      My organization is the same… COB means 5pm (more or less) and EOD is before midnight, and both are assumed to reference the senders time zone. So, if I’m sending something to our Beijing office, there is a big difference between COB my time (they’ll get it at the start of their business day) and EOD (they might not get it till their late afternoon).

    6. Bureaucrat*

      This is an interesting thing to me, because we don’t use EOD in my org. It’s COB (5pm!) or OOB (open of business) which means any time during the night. I don’t know if it’s just my org or all of gov that uses it.

  5. Anonymity*

    If I have something due EOD I make sure it’s there at least one hour prior to close of business. I don’t like toeing the edge. I think something due EOD Friday is three days late if it slides in Monday.

  6. Monica*

    Transportation means wheels or feet.

    Access to a bike, electric bike, wheelchair of any type, bus pass, or good walking shoes all count in my book

    (But yeah they need to clarify what they mean in the interview and in future advertisements)

      1. Artemesia*

        It might mean — have a car so you can run errands. It is badly put if that is so, but that is why she needs to clarify.

      2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        Well, if the work is such that you can’t do it 100% remotely, then it’s pretty obvious that you need to show up. I don’t see why someone would think it’s necessary to say that in a job ad! Things you need to say about needing a car are in my opinion: 1) if the location is such that no bus goes there, or the hours are such that no bus goes there at that time (but it’s OK if you live nearby and walk), 2) if the actual job involves duties where you need to drive to places in your own car, 3) if you need to drive but the company has a car to use (so you’ll need a driving licence but not a car of your own). And definitely employers need to make clear which one it is!

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Meh, I’ve seen employers put this in when their last hire was unreliable / late a lot and blamed it on transportation. Or it could also literally mean that driving around for errands is part of the role. OP just can’t know from the outside.

      3. Wendy*

        I could see this wording being code for “don’t show up late and blame the bus every day because we don’t want to play that game.” Like, they might not care WHAT your transportation is, but putting it explicitly in the job listing means if you constantly show up late they can fire you for not doing your job.

        1. BubbleTea*

          Surely they could do that anyway? I feel like it would be more useful to specify a business need for specific transport (e.g. “will need a car to make community visits to remote areas” or “occasional requirement to transport large boxes of documents”). I’ve never seen a job advert and assumed “oh, they don’t care if you turn up on time or not, because they don’t specifically say you have to”.

        2. boop the first*

          Yeah, I’ve noticed in listings where it’s in a place without buses, they usually say “access to your OWN transportation” if they mean car.

      4. The Other Dawn*

        That’s what I take it to mean, that the applicant needs a reliable way to get to work on time. It’s likely they’ve had issues with people saying they have reliable transportation and it turns out they really don’t. It could also mean the person will need to run errands or float to multiple locations or something similar. I agree with others that the wording is vague, though, and OP just needs to ask.

        1. hbc*

          Yeah, I bet the translation is “Our last guy couldn’t get to work when he couldn’t borrow his dad’s car anymore.” That’s why an ex-employer put something equally vague in a job posting. Of course, the people who think that getting a ride from their friends and family* is a good solution believe they have “access to transportation,” so it only deters the cautious planners.

          *Or catching the bus that is scheduled to drop you at 7:59 but rarely does. Or driving without insurance or on a suspended license until you get caught. Or biking until it gets too cold and slushy and then it’s a coworker’s responsibility to pick them up.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          Yes, I think “must have reliable transportation” often means either “we copied this boilerplate from somewhere” or “we’ve had problems in the past with unreliable employees blaming their car breaking down and the bus being late for the fact that they could never get to work on time”.

          It could mean errands, but in an urban area if they want you to have a car they should specify (and be really sure it’s a requirement).

          1. Washi*

            Yeah, I had a job where the job description said something about access to transportation, and required going to meetings in other locations during the day, but also public transportation was fine! (I’m in DC though, where driving somewhere by car isn’t always faster if it means you’re circling the block for 15 mins looking for parking.)

            They did also ask me about it in the interview, and I think they just wanted to avoid a situation where the person doesn’t have a car but would refuse to take the bus to a meeting, and they definitely were not going to pay for taxis all over the city!

            So yes, clarify, and also I think it’s fine to apply to job postings that say stuff like that even if you don’t have a car.

      5. Nonners*

        I have to agree. This is one of those questions that to me raises a red flag. It is the kind of question that might be used to screen applicants from low income areas where transportation may be perceived as ‘unreliable.’ So when you answer the question, don’t offer up more info than is required. “Do you have access to reliable transportation?” “Yes.” You should also ask why it’s important. If the job requires you to travel to multiple locations, that’s one thing, but it’s not their business if it takes you a train and two busses to get there–if you’re on time, you’re on time.

        1. LilyP*

          I agree with most of this, but if you need to attend off-site meetings during work hours on a regular basis it very much is their business if you’d need to leave 2 hours early vs 30 minutes to get there on time.

        2. OP-Transport*

          Hi! This is OP. Yes, this was actually one of the underlying concerns for me asking. And if that’s all that it is then yes I do have access to reliable transportation. I’m probably going to clarify anyway, since the sheer variety of comments on this post demonstrate that it could mean basically anything, and if the job involves a lot of transferring between locations I would like to know that. Frankly though, if they can’t handle people taking public transport it’s a bad sign, particularly given the nature of this city.

          1. New Mom*

            OP, I just had a thought. Do you think this has to do with Covid and they don’t want people taking public transport to go to work?

    1. MassMatt*

      It could be an indicator that the office is not served by public transportation, or that you will need to drive to fulfill job responsibilities. Though usually for the latter they will say “must have own car” or “must have reliable transportation”. I’d definitely ask what they mean.

    2. New Mom*

      At my old company we moved locations from a hip, trendy area ten minutes from Subway stop A to desolate, dangerous area 15 minutes from Subway stop B. We ended up losing the entire crowd who took the subway and walked to work within a year or so of moving and people brought it up as a reason to work from home.

      I think my company, who was very anti-WFH, started listing “reliable transportation” after the move.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        5. I have seen “Driving Licence required” on a job description before.

        Also, I was once contacted by a recruiter about a job. She made nice noises about my CV and was setting up an interview with the client company. She then started giving me directions to drive to the interview location. I asked if she know about public transport links (since I don’t drive) and she abruptly terminated the application process, since there was no point in continuing if I couldn’t drive.

        1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

          “Driving license required” is not really the same as having a car if you are expected to run errands. I have a car and a license but I used to take the subway to work downtown so my personal vehicle would not have been available during the business day (parking was too expensive). Not all or most places in the US at least have company cars you can use for errands.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. I mean I have a licence but I work in London so there’s no way on earth I’d choose to drive in there and very few people would actually want to do that. A lot of my colleagues don’t actually have cars of their own. I’ve one colleague who uses a motorbike and he comes in on his bike but he’s unusual.

            Also as a fairly new driver insurance is very expensive so the policy I have covers leisure use and commuting but I’m not insured to use the car to travel for work.

            So I’d want to know what they are wanting here. If it involves moving heavy objects / papers would I be able to get a taxi? If what they want is simply that I can get into work reliably then that’s no problem because London has great public transport. If it involves driving for work a lot then that should be made clear as I probably wouldn’t expect to see that in an office job.

            So basically I think the OP absolutely should ask questions about what they want them to be able to do.

        2. BHB*

          I’ve had to clarify what “driving license required” actually means on some job adverts. I have a license, but I don’t own a car. If they’re asking me to have a driving license because I’ll occasionally need to drive to other locations and can use a company car – fine (this is the case with my current job – they actually prefer that staff use a company fleet car rather than their own car). However, if they actually mean “must have your own car” then that’s a different thing and I’d have to rethink my application/decide if I want to purchase a car in order to have that job.

          Oh, and shout out to the one job who made my offer of permanent employment contingent on me passing my driving test within 6 months as being able to drive was a necessity for the position. I did as I was asked and passed my test within 3 months.. only to never have to drive for that job in the 18 months I was employed there. On the one hand I’m grateful as I don’t think I would have bothered to learn to drive had it not been for that job.. but on the other it was a big cost to me at the time and I was pretty annoyed that I didn’t actually need the license at all.

        3. pancakes*

          If you want to avoid being screened out that way, better to look for directions yourself via Google maps, Apple maps, Citymapper, etc., than ask the recruiter.

        4. DivineMissL*

          When I worked in the home offices for a National Specialty Retailer, our applications asked about having reliable transportation to and from work. We just wanted to make sure that the employees knew punctuality was important and that they were able to get to work on time (and get home safely). We didn’t care if that was car, bus, train, on foot, ride from mom, etc. (most malls are on the local bus route) and we were also told to specifically NOT ask if they had a car because that could discriminate against lower-paid employees. We only asked if someone had a valid drivers’ license if the job required driving (say, our maintenance folks or area managers had to visit stores). But I’d suggest to OP that they research transportation to the job site. You want to be sure that the bus or train schedule would get you to/from work on time without being late due to traffic or force you to arrive 45 minutes early.

        5. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

          In my industry “driver’s license required” is almost always part of the job description, but means “fully licensed so you can drive company vehicles.” You don’t need your own vehicle.
          As with this requirement, it does make sense for the OP to clarify exactly what the employer wants.

        6. Junior Assistant Peon*

          I could see a company in Manhattan, Chicago, etc running into trouble when some urban loft-dweller who let their driver’s license expire years ago gets sent on a business trip to some suburban location where there’s no good alternative to renting a car at the airport.

      2. Alternative Person*

        Had a similar experience at a previous company. While I was there, they reached the point where a bigger space was needed. The business was growing steadily, it was high on the front page of google results for their main product, the market was frankly theirs to lose.

        They moved from being in the same building as a subway exit in an area where a good portion of the target client base were to a building 15 minutes (on a non-busy day) from a subway station in the middle of a trendy shopping district in a country known for baking hot summers. Pretty much all staff were against the idea. Management went ahead anyways.

        They lasted four years in that location, everyone with a drop of initiative was driven off or pushed out, they dropped off the first page of google results for their main product, prices more than doubled. Clients went to new competitors that were cheaper or more convenient. They eventually had to move to a downmarket building in an area with at least three distant competitors and several independents.

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

        I interviewed with a company that still listed their former address, which was close to my job at the time. I knew it was a no-no when the interviewer rushed to make clear they had moved months ago.

      4. Jennifer Thneed*

        > I think my company, who was very anti-WFH, started listing “reliable transportation” after the move.

        Which was rude! Subway + feet is very reliable. It was the crappy location that was the problem.

    3. Urban Prof*

      I just wanted to chime in to tell OP#5 that in many large cities (like my own) there are several car-sharing companies (Turo, Zipcar, Getaround, probably more I haven’t yet heard of) that can make occasional access to a car affordable.

      I agree that the OP should absolutely ask, but it’s good to be informed about all of the options that “access to transportation” could include.

      1. OP-Transport*

        Hey! Yes, when I lived in this city before, I actually had a car-to-go account that I found very handy. It would probably be part of my transportation system if I moved back. Of course, it’s not quite the same as having my own car on hand at all times, but given the nature of parking in my city, it’s possible that sometimes it would be faster to snag a car-to-go than to have my own car parked somewhere near-ish

        1. Urban Prof*

          I’ve been car-free for over a decade. I’m fortunate we have such good public transportation options in my city. The expense of a car (car payment, insurance, city permit, parking permit) is outrageous, but the additional worries on top of it (pollution, petroleum industry support, finding parking, moving the car for street-cleaning, theft, vandalism) are even worse!

    4. Worldwalker*

      Remember that “a car” doesn’t necessarily mean a brand-new $40,000 SUV. It can be a $2000 beater from Honest Harry’s Used Cars as long as it gets you around.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        But even a beater can be expensive. 1. Insurance, 2. Beaters require more maintenance and can be expensive to keep up with.
        3. Parking cost. Not every place has free parking. I know someone who lives downtown And has to pay to park in the ramp.

        1. Cat Tree*

          Yes, as the purchase price goes down, the maintenance costs go up. A car isn’t something you pay for once and done.

          Also, if you want to pay less in gas, you usually have to pay more upfront. And it’s really hard to find used hybrids.

          1. Filosofickle*

            Cars are such a good illustration of the “it’s expensive to be poor” adage. Old cars frequently need work, they are less reliable, and you need cash for the cheapest cars, which are for sale by owner. I have a neighbor that seems to have a new old car every two years, because they don’t really have a choice to do it any differently. It’s a vicious circle.

        2. boop the first*

          But also, as someone who once had a cheap old car, it doesn’t quite meet the threshold for “reliable” transportation :P At least a bus tells you precisely when it’s going to be there.

          1. Filosofickle*

            I wish our buses were like that! There’s a bus schedule but it’s nearly always wrong and often by a lot.

            1. Self Employed*

              Nowadays, our buses have reduced capacity for COVID safety, so they fill up and people have to wait for the next one. I feel so sorry for anyone trying to use our local transit during the pandemic.

        3. Quill*

          My high school buddy had a Flintstone-mobile with a hole DIRECTLY through the back seat floor. I would not have called it ‘reliable’ transportation even back then when it never made more than a 20 minute trip across town, it growled and coughed if you tried to get it to hit 50 mph.

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes but there are a lot of other costs you have to pay such as insurance (very expensive for young people) vehicle excise duty, periodic testing etc. It’s not as simple as buy the cheapest car you can afford. A bus pass can be a lot cheaper and doesn’t involve ongoing maintenance.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        One really needs to ask. It could also be a motorcycle, unless the company needs you to move cartons.

      4. Nanani*

        “Just get a cheap car”
        Uh huh.
        I’m sure LW3 didn’t look at the cheapest options before writing for advice with the indication that buying a car was a significant burden.


      5. Uranus Wars*

        My brother and SIL buy a $500-$1000 car once a year for my brother. They have done this every year for the past 8-10 years. It started as a way to help pay off debt but then they enjoyed the low cost they continued it after they became debt free.

        They are careful in purchases and outside of oil changes and maybe tires they have had success. BUT they also don’t have to pay for parking and live a 15 mile round trip from work.

        I feel like their situation is SO FAR out of the norm that I am afraid to try it and I would never recommend it. Part of their luck is my brothers knowledge about all things mechanic…he does such a thorough inspection of the vehicles that its almost uncomfortable.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I don’t know their situation so maybe it does work out for them. But I don’t think that is generally a very cost effective way of owning a car. We have a 2007 that was purchased in 2010 for about $9k. At this point we have owned it for 10 years and are still planning on keeping for another 2+ years. Once we starting having to put major work into we will buy a “new” used car. So far we have not had to put any major work (a few repairs in the 200/300 range) into it besides regular maintenance oil change and the infrequent maintenance like brakes, tires, spark plugs, belts. So at the 8 to 10 year mark buying an inexpensive car every year might be cheaper, but I think if you buy a car and can keep it for 10+ years it ends up being cheaper in the end.

          1. Gray Lady*

            Yes, this. A moderate priced but still reliable used vehicle is a better deal than a beater that’s going to constantly be costing you for this, that, and the other thing, and probably including towing, plus the hassle of having to replace it so often, which takes time and a certain amount of money in fees as well. At least in my part of the country you can get something for under $10K that you can get quite a number of years out of if you’re careful about what you buy, without a lot of expensive repairs. When the expensive repairs start happening, that’s when you replace.

      6. OP-Transport*

        Yes, to be honest the sticker price of the car is less of a concern to me than the insurance/gas/parking that come with it and would take a significant bite out of my monthly income. Definitely not something I want to saddle myself with if I could get by with the bus and an occasional taxi/carshare

      7. Rez123*

        Parking spot in my building is $25k. And I don’t even live in HCOL. I’m pretty sure in big cities the price will be more than my apartment is worth.

    5. Asenath*

      If they specifically mention access to transportation being required, I’d assume driving is part of the job – and quite possibly, owning your own car. “Valid driver’s license required” would be used if they were providing the car. They could be implying that the job site is on some back road miles from anywhere, but that’s a little less likely. When I applied for a job some way off my usual tracks, how I would get there and back came up in the interview. I had rather vaguely assumed I would work that out if I got the job – maybe a bike? – but I didn’t get it. I was young and naive and the interviewer knew better than I did that I’d really struggle to actually get there without a car.

    6. Lifelong student*

      Many years ago I was employed in the center city. While I owned a car, I was not willing to pay the very high price for parking in the center city. The job did not require me to perform any regular duties which would require mid-day use of a car. When on a rare occasion I was asked to do an errand which would have required one, I declined. The supervisor was irate and stated that in the future, any job postings would require access to a car during the day. In my opinion, if an employer requires such a thing, the cost to park should be on the employer! Either by providing parking or by increased compensation. If employers pay mileage as a regular thing, I can see no reason why they should not pay for parking as a business expense.

      1. UKDancer*

        I definitely think if they expect you to have a car and use it for work they need to say so in the advert. Especially if you’re in a city with reasonable transportation.

    7. Person from the Resume*

      That’s why that is a badly written requirement. I suspect they mean you must drive your own car, but that is not what they said.

      1. Sylvan*

        I think they’re trying to leave room for people who don’t/can’t drive themselves every day, but have a reliable ride.

        1. SyFyGeek*

          As a former manager, if I used that in an ad, I would mean Applicant has access to transportation that will get them to work on time, and get them home after working a full day. And it means every working day, not most of them.

          It does not mean that Uncle Charlie will bring them, unless it’s raining, because he can’t see when it’s raining, but then Aunt Jane will bring them, unless she’s been fighting with Charlie about driving in the rain, in that case Applicant can ask BFF and Bff can do it, unless BFF gets job. And hey, do you have any openings that BFF could do? ‘Cause then of course I have access to transportation.

    8. WorkingGirl*

      My office is located in a suburb about 45 minutes from a major city. There IS public transit in the area but not convenient to our office at all. When I talk to potential interns, I make it clear they won’t be able to get here via public transit. We had one intern that would take Ubers every day. Most have had cars, and that’s preferable to us since it’s ideal if our interns can run business errands, but it’s not a requirement.

      1. Liz*

        Oooh this brings back memories! I dropped out of postgraduate teacher training because they sent me, with no discussion or advance warning, on a school placement to a rural school that I couldn’t get to.

        I had to take a bus at 0700 to the city where my university was, and then another bus at 0730 (the first one of the morning) from the city to the school. The bus got in at 0845 and they told me they needed me there by 0830. I explained the problem, and they shrugged their shoulders. “You need to sort it”.

        For the second day, I arranged to carpool from the university city with another student. This involved me getting a bus to the outskirts of the city, standing in the gutter on an interchange and her stopping illegally on a slip road because any other meeting point involved a lot more walking on my side or a significant diversion through the one way system for her.

        On the third day I missed my ride because the local bus to the city didn’t show up. Carpool colleague had to leave without me. I missed the 0730 bus and finally arrived at 0945 for my 0830 start.

        On day 4, I dropped out. It’s entirely possible that there might have been work arounds, but nothing I could imagine being able to reliably maintain for a whole school term.

    9. Sylvan*

      Where I live, it means you need to have something other than or in addition to a bus pass. The buses are unreliable and honestly not a good plan for getting to work without a back-up. (I rode them for a couple of years. They’re really that bad.)

    10. Blue*

      In my previous company, about 75 percent of the positions required daily driving, so the requirement for independent transportation made its way into the standard job listing boilerplate and usually didn’t get struck for the other 25 percent of roles. I imagine they were not unique in this.

    11. lemon*

      It really depends, though.

      I live in a city with a pretty good public transportation network. So when I see that in a job listing, it usually means they want you to have a car, either to run errands, or because they’re not close to reliable public transport, or the job entails visiting different sites frequently (like a lot of social service jobs).

      I’ve had a hard sell on convincing employers that bikes are an adequate form of transportation. Mostly because a lot of people are inexperienced cyclists who think they’ll be able to easily commute 10 miles each way each day or don’t think about what they’ll do in the rain or the snow. I’ve had to convince employers that I’m an experienced cyclist who rides in all-weather conditions. And even then, I was watched very closely for any screw ups.

    12. Rusty Shackelford*

      Transportation means wheels or feet.

      Interesting. To me, it definitely does not mean feet.

      1. Liz*

        I think “feet” in this context comes with the addendum of “and you live within walking distance”. I didn’t own a car until recently, and for 4 years my only reliable method of transportation to work was a 2 mile walk each way. I honestly preferred it to the unreliable alternative of taking 2 buses, or a train and a bus, and still having to walk for 10 minutes between the connections.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          But if the job does require you to drive (to different sites, for example), having feet and living in walking distance is not a qualification.

          1. Liz*

            Oh absolutely, which is why it would be wise for LW to clarify with the employer whether they are asking “can you get to work?” or “can you fulfill driving components of the job”. Just starting “transport” is vague, and gets used all too frequently to screen out poor jobseekers who rely on public transport.

            1. UKDancer*

              Definitely. It’s critical to be clear. If the question is “can you reliably get to work” then yes absolutely, I can get the train (every 15 minutes) or the underground (every 5 minutes) both of which are as reliable as can be expected. If the question is “are you willing to provide a car and drive it places for work” or “if we provide a car will you drive it places” then my answer would depend on which places and how often.

              On the other hand I am very happy to travel places by train or bus and get taxis when I need them and this has never been a problem for me and I’ve managed to do work travel to most of Europe without needing to drive anywhere.

    13. Lauren19*

      I knew a company that had its HQ downtown, where nearly everyone took public transportation. But even its most junior associates were expected to own a car to travel to the suburbs to see clients. Since this was considered part of the job, they weren’t allowed to expense cabs or rentals.

      Later, I worked for an agency that had clients across the country, so most of my normal travel was by air or train. When we landed a client in the suburbs of my city the only reason I was assigned to it was because I had a car.

    14. Alison*

      Wow I have a different view from a lot of people here – I think this means you need to have a car. That might be because our org requires a subset of our employees to drive for work (reimbursed for mileage) and our job descriptions say it’s required. However we do say more like “Requires a valid drivers license and a car” rather than just “transportation”. I would interpret this as needing some kind of vehicle (which maybe could include a bike) and not relying on public transport. Definitely ask in the interview.

    15. Need to show up*

      I was talking to a retail manager once and she put that phrase in the job description. The job was seasonal and not the best bus system. She wanted to make sure people would show up and on time for their shift.

  7. Veronica*

    #3 I have run into this situation with a co-worker. Another coworker was concerned about them and asked if I had noticed anything off. Since I was working with them on a project, I called them up for a check in on the project. I made sure to leave time for general chitchat. Turns out they were stressed and we talked about ways to deal with it. And if everything is fine or they don’t want to talk to you, then you do virtual water cooler chit chat and move on.

    1. Washi*

      I agree with this approach! Especially if you don’t know the person that well, there’s a good chance they don’t want to share their deepest feelings with you, so starting with work talk and a general “how’s it going” will let you gauge whether they might want to talk to you about it.

      One other thing is that I might myself be a little more open and briefly share something I am struggling with (not in graphic detail, just maybe something like feeling a little isolated, missing family, stressed about a project, etc) to kind of give them an opening if they want to take it.

  8. Anonymity*

    I don’t like it when I’ve had a bad night or just don’t feel “talkie” but I’m still polite, when people ask me “are you ok”? It’s like, don’t notice me that much. If I want to confide in you I will. The vast majority of the time, everything is fine.

    1. Artemesia*

      And no one wants to be told they look ‘tired’ or ‘off’ on a zoom call. Or in person for that matter. And as you get older, you realize that those are often euphemisms for ‘you look old.’ Never comment on peoples appearance — you can give them space to chat about stressors — but don’t probe and especially don’t probe based on their appearance.

      1. Birch*

        Agreed, and I also think work time is not the time to express your concern. If you know this person well enough that you think they’d open up to you about difficulties in their life, you know them well enough to ask outside of work time. If you don’t already have that relationship then it’s unlikely they’re going to feel comfortable talking about their personal life with you anyway.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        And as you get older, you realize that those are often euphemisms for ‘you look old.’

        Good point. As someone working in a field rife with age discrimination, a comment like that would make me worried about my job security, and then I’ll *really* start to look stressed.

      3. Quill*

        And when you’re younger it’s often code for “I am worried about you because you didn’t perform femininity highly enough today and I assume this means something is wrong, instead of it being a major chore.”

    2. Allonge*

      I think that is a great point: definitely don’t do this with work colleagues based on a single day’s appearance. To be fair, that is now how I read OP’s question, but worth pointing out anyway. We all have bad hair days and no sleep nights.

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I seem to suffer from ‘resting sad face’ — when my face is in a neutral position, a lot of people read it as sad (some basset hound ancestry, perhaps?).

      Personally I prefer someone opening the door to a casual friendship, like suggesting a remote coffee or telling me about what’s going on with them — followed by questions that open the door for me to confide if I’d like. Peers who don’t volunteer anything of themselves but want me to disclose can feel intrusive sometimes, like they expect to be in the privileged position that I would normally put doctors or similar.

      And being asked ‘are you OK’ or ‘are you alright’ can become exhuasting. It makes me more self-conscious, not less. And it can inadverantly send the message that people want me to actively project chipperness.

      That said, if OP is willing to talk then I don’t think it’s bad to ask once. But you have to be a) willing to engage and b) willing to accept a brush-off with good grace.

    4. Daffy Duck*

      I used to wear my long hair in a bun for work. One day I dropped by on my day off to grab something out of the office with my freshly washed very long hair down and no makeup. Coworkers just about lost it and I was asked if I had been sick for a week. No, lol I am just so pale I can fade into the wall.

    5. Cat Tree*

      I really hate when people ask if I’m ok (generally when I wear less makeup then usual), because it’s no-win fur me. If I say that I’m OK, they assume I’m just putting on a brave face and keep prying. It’s impossible to convince someone that I’m truly ok and that puts me in a weird position. And on the rare occasion that I’m not ok, that person can’t actually *do* anything to help so it’s just intrusive. I feel like people ask “are you ok?” to make themselves feel better.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Toss it back at them. “And how about you? Things going okay?” This can redirect them from further inquiries.

        1. Anonymity*

          Yes. Put it back on them. If someone wants to confide, they will. I don’t think it’s productive to subject people with the “are you ok” based on appearance unless someone is obviously sick or crying. And it’s most often aimed at women. Men are not generally subjected to the “are you ok?”

      2. In my shell*

        ALL THE TIME. *really* I’m good. I’m smiling and being friendly and polite and I’m never going to want to endlessly chit chat – this is just me. *shrug*

    6. OP#3*

      OP here :). Just to clarify a bit, I don’t know this person outside of work, but we have worked together for 8+ years and have had conversations about more personal stuff throughout those years. That said, all the comments about bad hair days/bad nights/etc. have me realizing that since we started working from home, I have begun to blur the boundaries (in my mind!) between home people and work people and just feel more concerned about everyone in general. That’s one of the ways my pandemic anxiety manifests. Thank you everyone!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Thanks for the update, OP. That’s a lot more self-awareness than I have on an average day, I really like this follow-up!

      2. Lily Rowan*

        I agree with the above comment about asking someone for “coffee” but not launching right in with “but are you *really* OK?” It’s nice to make the personal connection when we’re all working remotely!

      3. Anonymity*

        Seriously though, the “I see you” is too much. If any colleague said that to me I’d be like “quit looking so hard”. I have resting serious face and had to tell a coworker to please quit asking me if I’m ok. Also women tend to get the “are you ok” on light makeup days. If someone isn’t visibly upset, I leave it alone and wish others would.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Most likely, I would read this comment as “oh crap, I need to start getting up earlier to style my hair/wear makeup on calls”.

      Also possibly the reason why the requirement to have our cameras on in meetings did not last long in my workplace. The management requested the cameras on, everyone had them on for one or two weeks, then without anyone saying a word about it, they started being off again. Between being worried about how we look close up, how our backgrounds look, whether our family members or housemates can walk into the camera view etc, it was too much pressure.

      1. Anonymity*

        I would definitely take this as I need to up my hair and makeup game. Men don’t have to deal with this.

    8. LQ*

      Even when things aren’t ok, if I want to talk to you I will. I had someone use the “I see you” language when they were entirely responsible for how angry and tired I was as they’d screwed up a major thing and caused over a hundred hours of work for my team and I was doing everything I could to keep the burden off my folks, and this person wanted me to assuage their feelings of guilt over it. Nope. Let me alone to do my job since you couldn’t do yours. Stop seeing me. I’m not here for you.

    9. LilyP*

      “If I want to confide in you I will”

      Speaking for myself, if I was struggling I would feel really uncomfortable initiating that sort of emotional conversation with someone from work who hadn’t signalled their openness to it somehow. How can I know that you’d be supportive and not think I was being unprofessional or violating a boundary? Or worse, what if you were actually going through something way worse in your personal life and just holding it together better at work now I’m dumping my problems on you and making it worse! I totally agree with everyone saying don’t make it about appearances and don’t push if you get a soft rebuff, but I don’t think you should assume that someone struggling will be the first to reach out.

    10. Ryn*

      “Please do not perceive me” is how I feel about 90% of the time. I loathe when people I’m not close to make assumptions about my mood based on my appearance. Even when I am having a rough time, I always deflect, often cheerfully to make others feel more comfortable with it, which is even more exhausting than if no one had asked me. Frankly, I have no interest in people at work knowing my personal struggles and feel like my boundaries are being tested whenever someone asks.

      1. Alison*

        Yesssss even if something is wrong I have other people I would rather talk to. Hell even if I had no one else to talk to, unless it is something specifically about or caused by work, I would not talk to anyone at work about it. There are a lot of people who want a firm professional boundary and would feel like that boundary was crossed if someone pried into how they were feeling. Especially if it’s based on how you look on a video call? I stopped wearing make up and doing anything other than brushing my hair. I don’t look great on video. I would honestly be insulted if someone was like “you look tired are you ok” and I’d be like “lol meet the bags under my eyes. They’re always there, you’ve just never seen them before.”

    11. EventPlannerGal*

      100%. I definitely have work friends that I talk to about personal stuff but like, they’re friend-friends, where it’s just as natural and immediate to check on them as it would be for one of my non-work friends. If someone was at a level of acquaintance where I needed to consult an advice columnist to decide if it’s okay to ask then that’s your answer in itself.

      Also, not everybody wants to talk MORE about stuff that’s upsetting them! When I’ve had to deal with upsetting life stuff (breakups, bereavement, etc) then having to go to work and put on my work face and not wallow in whatever was upsetting me was absolutely invaluable. I’m sure that at times I didn’t hide my upset very well but you can be damn sure I was trying and my colleagues kindly and politely ignored it, and having someone be like “I see you! I know you’re upset! Let’s talk about it!” would have been… unhelpful. If someone wants to talk then they’ll talk.

      1. Scarlet2*

        “Also, not everybody wants to talk MORE about stuff that’s upsetting them!”

        This. We’ve been fed the idea that “you NEED to TALK about your problems” through pop psychology for decades and sometimes it’s making life more difficult for those of us who don’t want to just “open up” to any random person. People deal with stress/grief/mental illness, etc. in different ways, some need to talk and others just want to be left alone.

        1. UKDancer*

          Goodness yes. I used to have a colleague who always wanted to talk about our feelings and kept picking at it and asking how people felt and wanting us to bond.

          I hated it and felt myself prickling up like a hedgehog rolling into a ball each time she asked. I choose who I talk to about my problems and it wouldn’t be her. I mean honestly she was the least trustworthy person I knew professionally.

          In contrast I remember the time when I split with my ex and my rather grumpy, difficult boss patted me awkwardly on the shoulder and said he was there if I needed anything and did I need a hug. That was a lot better of an approach because it felt like he was sincere. The answer was no I didn’t need anything and didn’t want a hug but I appreciated his sentiment all the more because he was trying desperately to be supportive and was worried he was doing it wrong.

  9. Greg*

    #5 if a car is required, just look at a lease on the cheapest car you can get. You might not keep the job for more than 2 or 3 years. You would have matance covered. And you will for sure get something under $200 a month. With only $2500 down.

    1. Maggie*

      Uh, and insurance which is legally required, can be quite expensive for young people, especially young men. A young man really might not have $3000/yr ($100/month for ins + $100/month for parking + $50/month for gas) when an annual bus pass is only $1000. And that’s to say nothing of the price of the car itself.

    2. Chc34*

      $2500 down is a lot more money than a lot of people have, especially newly graduated grad students

      1. UKDancer*

        My car cost less than £3000, what was unaffordable for me was the insurance as a relatively new driver. I didn’t have a car for years because it would cost me too much to insure and living in London it wasn’t necessary.

        I think it’s definitely worth following up with the company as to what precisely they want you to be able to do.

      2. Quill*

        Leasing tends to be targeted, at least where I live, at people who want their car to never be old. It’s more expensive long term and I’m pretty sure that around here it’s not being floated as a CHEAP way to get a transportation… the lease might be lower than an average monthly payment to pay off a car but the cars they have for lease tend to be newer and more expensive to begin with.

    3. Clarice*

      There’s no”just” here. For many people that is still an unworkable amount. Please don’t assume everyone has that sort of money. (I worked for over ten years before I could have afforded to lease any sort of vehicle! So I learned to do without a car. Now, aged 45, I still don’t drive.)

    4. I'm just here for the cats*

      We just had this conversation at work. Leasing can be a bad decision if you have to drive for work. Mileage could easily go over.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I had fellow immigrant friends who leased their first cars and were happy about it for the whole three years they had the lease. Then came the rude awakening. Apparently, when they get you on the lease is when you return your car. If it’s dinged, or scratched, or y0u are over your allowed mileage, you pay top rates. They never leased a car again.

      1. Rocket Woman*

        #1 rule of leasing a car is ALWAYS buy the lease protection, so they cover any “damages” or rates you pay out at the end. I’ve known several people get caught in this – but it usually several hundred dollars, which isn’t always workable for people. A catch-22 for sure.

    6. Nanani*

      HAahahahaha “Just” plop down 2500 down and 200 a month.
      Hillarious, you should be a comedian.

    7. Generic Name*

      $2500 down?? That’s A LOT of money to many people. And those lease terms are available only to those who have good/excellent credit. If one doesn’t have a car for financial reasons, they probably don’t have an extra 2k just hanging around and may not have great credit.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        People really don’t realize that car ownership is a different kind of expensive for people with poor credit, regardless of income. Someone whose credit is poor enough that can only get 29.99% APR financing will find that even the cheapest car out there will be exorbitantly expensive to own, and poor credit sometimes plays a role in insurance premiums. Even when we’re comparing people with similarly modest incomes, cost of borrowing differences basically mean living in different worlds.

    8. Tinker*

      Among other things that one could say about this: if someone had come in here to tell recent-grad-student OP that they could just get a car for only $9700 I’d think it was clearly a “how much could a banana cost” sort of joke, and yet here we are.

    9. Rusty Shackelford*

      Or you could “just” move within walking distance. Or “just” ask the employer to provide a car service. So many options!

  10. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. I have to get input from people based in the US, so for CoB, it’s necessary to factor in the time difference. What I have taken to doing is giving them a slightly earlier deadline than the people based in Europe.

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      Yeah, in my job I have multiple offices in multiple time zones to deal with. Whenever I can I just default to “I’ll have it to you by Wednesday morning” rather than Tuesday COB. Trying to get anything to anyone by the ‘end of the day’ can not only get confusing, but is often not any more helpful than the next morning anyway because my end of day is middle of the night for them.

      Obviously this isn’t the case for people within your office, but I find just being honest about your time and communicating expectations is a good idea whenever you can. Tell them they will have it by Wednesday morning instead of Tuesday EOD if you get to set the deadline and you know you like working in the evening. If you don’t get to set the deadline, don’t be afraid to ask about clarifying a vague “end of the day” request. It’s easier for everyone.

  11. BonzaSonza*

    OP 3 – It’s not often I disagree with Alison, but in this case it might be a cultural thing. I’m an Aussie, and it’s in our national identity to ask “how are ya goin?” when someone appears out of the ordinary.

    It’s even encouraged to reach out and ask someone how they’re doing. We have a National “R U OK?” day aimed at suicide prevention and how invaluable it can be to reach out to someone. The general guidelines are:
    1. If you’re going to reach out, be in a good headspace yourself and willing to genuinely listen.
    2. Be prepared that they might not want to talk to you, or that the answer might be “no, I’m not ok”.
    3. Pick a good moment to reach out – somewhere private, and with enough time for a proper conversation.

    You can also gently open the door to a conversation with things like “please call me if you ever want to chat” “how are you feeling?” or “you seem more quiet than usual, is there anything I can help with?”. You’re inviting a conversation while allowing them to shoot a breezy denial and move on with minimal awkwardness if needed.

    If you’re ever genuinely concerned about someone’s well-being, the fact that you care enough to speak up might just save a life.

    1. Miss Marple*

      Hi fewllow Aussie here.

      It is encouraged at our company that if someone seems differentto reach out.

      As we are working remotely I send a message along the lines of:

      “You didn’t seem your usual energetic self today, is there anything I can help with? Feel free to call me on my mobile if you want to talk.”

      If they are someone I am close to, I am a little more direct and use. “You seem upset, do you want to talk”

      A friend of mine who gets depressive episodes and had a dysfunctional boss told me sometimes it takes the right person at the right time for you to open up. She was approached by an old boss and opened up to him over a coffee. He listened and then sent her details about our EAP (Employee Assistance Programme).

      I was upset one day, as a company employee was murdered along the same route I took to walk home. She was someone I had dealings with over email and I always found her very helpful and easy to work with. My boss noticed I was upset and discreetly came up to me and handed me the details for our EAP. Later I approached him and told him why I was upset and thanked him for approaching me.

      In a previous job one of my colleagues that I was not close to knew I had been off work due to the unexpected death of my father and set me the loveliest email. To this day I am touched at the sensitive way she reached out to me.

    2. Birch*

      The problem is, people don’t tend to feel comfortable honestly answering that question if you haven’t established a relationship of trust with them. OP said they know this coworker only through work, so there’s no reason for this coworker to trust that OP is going to be a good person to support them. Making general offers of “let me know if you want to chat” to a whole group is OK but pointing out changes in appearance or behaviour in someone you don’t have a friendship outside of work with—is likely to make them even more uncomfortable. There’s a lot of reasons someone might look or act differently but feel that it’s absolutely necessary to hide it publicly, and you pointing it out puts them in danger. I don’t want to derail the conversation here about self harm but I really think it’s more useful to encourage people to involve others in their social circle and make friends and offer support during “good times”–then you have an established relationship of trust and people might be more willing to reach out for support or take you up on an offer of support.

      1. Scarlet2*

        Agree. I struggle with depression and anxiety and the last thing I want is a colleague asking me “you seem more quiet than usual, is there anything I can help with?”. It would make me feel scrutinized and honestly, I wouldn’t open up to someone I only have a working relationship with, so I would just answer “no, I’m fine”. I’m European, so I don’t think it’s just a US thing. I’d say it’s a know-your-audience thing.

        The OP’s scripts are great with someone you feel closer to, but I think they should be used with caution with people you don’t really know well.

        1. Pobody's Nerfect*

          Chiming in to agree. My boss is forcing us to work at the office and since restaurants are all closed where I am, the only place we have to eat is at our desks or in the meeting room of our very small office. My very toxic big boss decided to join us and I couldn’t deal with having to spend my one break of the day listening to him talk, so I ate at my desk and listened to a podcast. (Probably not great for optics at a tiny company, but, well, I have my limits.) One of my coworkers came up to me and asked if everything was ok; and I didn’t really know how to respond. I said, “Not really, but I’ll be ok!” and thought he would leave it at that, but he asked me what was wrong, and there I really started to feel uncomfortable. It was really well-intentioned but, God, where would I have even started? Is anyone really ok in the midst of a pandemic that is completely unpending our lives? I also have a lot going on mental health-wise (I’m battling an eating disorder relapse and I’ve recently reconnected with my birth mother) and I really don’t have the emotional bandwith to get into all of that with someone I only have a working relationship with, not to mention I’m sure he actually doesn’t want to know all of that. So I just ended up kind of awkwardly hemming and hawing and saying, “Oh, well, you know…everything” and I think he saw I was uncomfortable and left it alone.

          Sort of ironically, I’m a pretty open person and wouldn’t mind a coworker reaching out/opening up to me. I just am never sure of how other people I don’t know will react to my situation, and really don’t feel like getting into it in a professional setting with people I’m not close to.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              I think a very brief, surface level conversation is fine.

              “You doing okay?”
              “Yes, why do you ask?”
              “Oh, you know. All of this. Stresses me out, but I’m glad you’re okay.”

        2. Autistic AF*

          Same here as a Canadian. Opening up to people has been used against me at work so many times in the past – I often get treated like a child if I stop masking. It’s rarely, if ever, intentional, but my Autistic mind works in a vastly different way and most people aren’t prepared for that in my experience (read up on The Double Empathy Problem for more information). The more I get questioned on whether I’m okay, the less okay it makes me, as the asker is pushing my boundaries.

      2. Mockingjay*

        Also agree. This past year has taken an extraordinary toll on all of us and most are struggling with stress, myself included. OP, if you do reach out to your coworker, are you prepared to assist when they unload the details of a fraught situation? Listening is great, but concrete action is usually necessary to address or alleviate a stressful situation and most of us aren’t trained in social services or counseling.

        If your company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), you could ask your manager for a reminder email or a intranet post that these services are available to all. If you don’t have an EAP, provide links to local services – counseling, discounted meal services, local COVID info hotlines, etc. HR at my company has been sending out periodic reminders of confidential help available. I honestly don’t want to talk to a coworker about my problems; work can be a respite from life issues and while my relationships with my teammates are cordial, they are not in-depth friendships inspiring trust with personal information. What would help from a coworker: offers to assist with work; providing tools, hints, or tips; covering a shift.

        1. OP#3*

          “Listening is great, but concrete action is usually necessary to address or alleviate a stressful situation and most of us aren’t trained in social services or counseling.”
          –Very sage advice. Thank you. I myself do not have the bandwidth to actually help. I just care. But caring and helping are two different things.

        2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          I disagree that one must be prepared to Deal With A Problem before reaching out to someone. You are saying, “I care about you” and “I notice you,” as well as “I’m prepared to be a sympathetic listening ear for a few minutes if you need one”. A counseler or therapist can certainly do the last, but not the first two. Also, if the person is just having a bad day and needs to vent for five minutes about their mom and the dog, it’d be way overkill and too much trouble to set up an appointment with a professional, but would be very reasonable for a coworker.

    3. WS*

      The other good thing about R U OK day – which didn’t happen on the first few – is that they give you guidelines of what to do if someone says, “No, I’m not okay.” Obviously these resources are Australia-specific but they might give the poster some ideas.


    4. Cat Tree*

      I think the most important thing is that if someone says they are ok, please just believe them. People only ask that question because they are certain the person is not ok. So if the person is ok, it’s nearly impossible to convince the asker of that. They assume the person is hiding some trauma because they want to look brave so they keep prying.

      If you’re not prepared to accept a “yes” as a genuine answer, don’t ask “are you ok?”

      1. Generic Name*

        Or the coworker may not be all that okay but they just don’t want to share personal details with someone at work.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        This, so much. If you ask if I’m okay, and I say yes, it’s because (a) I’m okay, or (b) I’m not okay but I’m not going to discuss it with you. I may appreciate the fact that you care, but I’m still not going any further. If you get an okay, drop it.

    5. Orange Banana Juice*

      If I don’t know them very well personally, I don’t ask but I will take it as a prompt to send a sincere positive short note if I notice they seem “off” that day.

      Like: “Hey – I really appreciate the extra work you did on Project XYZ! You stepped up when we were all struggling with the deadline and it made a huge difference. Thank you!”

  12. Jackiemorgan*

    Completely agree. I thought that when I read Alison’s response (and I usually think these are great too!). Mental health is a growing issue currently with the pandemic. Please say something if a colleague is looking distressed, dont just ignore or worry you might offend. I have personal experience unfortunately of suicide of close family member.

    1. Metadata minion*

      I think that’s a really delicate balance to draw. I agree that mental health is a huge problem for a lot of people right now, and the pandemic means many people are cut off from their usual support networks. But at the same time, if someone reaches out who the person doesn’t actually feel comfortable disclosing to, that can make things worse rather than better.

      I like the suggestion earlier in this thread of reaching out socially in a more neutral way. If everyone is working from home, you’re also cut off from the usual break-room-chat type socialization and that makes a great excuse to suggest virtual “coffee” or whatever even with a coworker you aren’t really friends with.

    2. WellRed*

      Please don’t just base it on how they “look” especially on a video call. I look much better in person, as do many others I’m sure,m.

      1. OP#3*

        LOL that would be terrible. I have gotten that sometimes too. It really wasn’t so much about their looks, it was more like they seemed upset, it looked like their eyes were puffy, their face made expressions of trying not to cry. So it wasn’t that they looked bad, just looked sad/very very upset.

    3. Cat Tree*

      The problem here is that you can’t tell someone’s mental status just by looking at them, and people with mental health disorders are often extremely good at hiding it.

      I’ve had bits of depression and anxiety in my life and nobody ever noticed and asked (not that they could do anything besides send me to a website that I could easily find myself, but that’s a different matter). The times that I have been asked were days I was wearing less makeup but feeling fine. And here the thing – they never actually want to believe that I’m ok. It puts me in a really weird spot where I end up trying to convince them that I truly am ok, and not just saying so to be polite or whatever. And the times when I have tried to explain that I look that way because of less makeup, they just double down. I guess that makes them feel guilty and then they feel the need to convince me that they’re truly good-hearted and concerned and not judging me for looking less pretty than usual.

      Also, the way to reduce mental illness stigma isn’t to insist that *other people* disclose their health to you. Honestly, my health isn’t your business, whether it’s mental or physical. If you want to combat the stigma, you can share your own mental health disorders and show that you’re not judgmental by avoiding harmful language in everyday conversation. Lead by example, not by forcing others to be examples.

    4. Anonymous for this*

      As someone who suffered from serious mental health issues that played out at work- like Metadata minion said, it’s a really delicate balance. Don’t say “I’m here if you want to talk” unless you are actually able and willing to be an outlet for your coworker. I think my coworkers felt like this was a script they had to follow when they saw I was struggling. Then when I took them up on it, they resented being pulled into my issues, which they didn’t have the bandwidth or interest to deal with.
      I think it’s much less fraught, and healthier for everyone involved, to make everyone aware of professional resources available (like an EAP) in a general way, rather than putting pressure on people to informally counsel their coworkers.

    5. DarnTheMan*

      I actually don’t agree with this; I have a coworker who mentioned it in a meeting once and reached out a second time – she’s very new to the working world and I completely understand that she means well but in both cases it puts me in the awkward spot of explaining that this is just what my face looks like. And as someone who’s had issues with depression and anxiety in the past, one of my goals for myself is to not involve anyone at work in them (unless it’s HR or my direct manager), specifically because it was my not being able to control my emotions at a previous job that lead me to the realization that 1) I needed therapy and 2) I needed to quit the super toxic job that was making feel that way.

  13. E*

    #1: I never use EOD, only COB. Less opportunity for confusion.

    “I’ll have that to you by COB Tuesday” gives them the opportunity to look at it after-hours Tuesday if they want. If I promise COB Tuesday, then either it’s with them by 6, 6:30pm on Tuesday or I reach out earlier with apologies and a gameplan. And COB is workplace-dependent, too. I used to work at a place where COB was closer to 5 than 6.

    “I’ll have to you first thing Wednesday” is what I’d say if I literally meant I would complete the work sometime before Tuesday ended.

  14. Foxgloves*

    OP- many people review things over the weekend, so not sending something due on Friday night until Monday morning can put a real spanner in the works. If you aren’t able to get something in by 5pm, just drop them a note saying “it’s coming today, it will just be later this evening”. Normally that should work! But the bigger question is why you (seemingly often) aren’t able to complete these pieces of work during your normal working day? If that’s something that is happening regularly, I’d look into whether there’s a bigger issue going on- is your workload overall too high or are these pieces of work larger than expected?

    OP4, my tactic is looking suddenly off screen and saying “Oh, my doorbell has just gone, would you excuse me for a couple of minutes?”- works pretty well, as no one can pre-empt with that degree of specificity when their doorbell might ring with one of the many, many deliveries…

    1. Workerbee*

      I’d worry about stigma attached for being interrupted by too much “home stuff” while being at home. I may be saying this from a place of unfortunate unease, as my company doesn’t like to allow that privilege. But bathroom needs are universal whereas doorbells and deliveries may be seen as optional things one should ignore.

      1. Imogene*

        I understand what you’re saying, but it could also be the police or fire department explaining you need to evac. It may be rare, but it’s happened to me at least once.

    2. :)*

      Re: “But the bigger question is why you (seemingly often) aren’t able to complete these pieces of work during your normal working day?”

      For orgs with a flexible working schedule, and particularly now with so many people working remotely during the pandemic, in my experience the idea of a normal working day doesn’t hold as strongly as it used to. If I don’t have meetings scheduled, I can often take time during the day to run errands or get excersise outside during daylight hours and then finish up my workday in the evening.

      1. Foxgloves*

        But the point is being asked for things by “end of day”- that suggests that the OP does work in an industry which is sticking to the concept of a normal working day. And it’s not about not having meetings- it’s about having a task to complete, with a deadline, and the OP isn’t meeting that. I’d be pretty peeved if I asked for something by EOD Tuesday and it came in Wednesday morning, and it turned out that was because someone had been running personal errands during the day. And I work in a really flexible industry!

        And it’s really important to remember that remote working doesn’t naturally equal flexible working. They’re often conflated, but they’re really, really different things.

  15. Spooncake*

    LW3: if it’s going to really worry you if you don’t ask, reach out privately e.g. via email. Please don’t say anything in a meeting, especially if it’s not one-on-one. I have depression and anxiety, physical heath problems, and a facial structure that just seems to naturally look miserable. I know I often look like garbage, and everything is Not Fine,but it’s all stuff that I’d prefer people not to raise publicly. People’s physical and mental health can be very private, and even if they don’t feel that way they still might not be comfortable having the issue raised in a professional context.

    1. OP#3*

      Oh no, I didn’t mean I would say something DURING the meeting or even on chat. I was considering sending them an email saying “hey you looked down and i see you” but reading all these comments I realize that would be ok for me but obviously not for a lot of people. Ultimately none of this is my business and I would not want to embarrass anyone.

      1. Scarlet2*

        I think a good option would be to just ask something neutral like “hey, what’s up/how are you doing?”. That allows you to maintain a casual contact with people without telling them you think they don’t look well (which is rarely constructive, tbh) or coming across as probing or invasive. Because you can’t really “help” someone with whom you don’t have a close relationship, but sometimes just having a nice, low-pressure chat with someone can be welcome (especially these days).

        1. pancakes*

          Yes, agreed. A person who is feeling down almost certainly doesn’t need to be told it’s shown up on their face. Likewise someone who looks as if they’ve just been crying.

      2. Allypopx*

        Just as a note, you’ve used “I see you” a couple times now – to me that sounds incredibly personal and I would feel very uncomfortable hearing it from a coworker I wasn’t especially close to. I might in fact feel uncomfortable hearing it from anyone besides my husband. Maybe even my husband.

        That may not be true across the board but I do want to mention that I, a person with New England temperament and a pretty big personal space bubble, am responding viscerally to that choice of words, and therefore it may come off creepy or intrusive to someone else. Or they might have a personal style closer to yours and it might be fine. But if you aren’t 100% sure, your impact might be the opposite of your intention, so default to much more casual language.

        1. Generic Name*

          Yeah, I wasn’t sure if it was just me, but if a coworker who I wasn’t close friends with said “I see you” when I’m feeling like crap would make me feel exposed. I went through a divorce several years ago, and I did my utmost best to not let it affect my work, so I didn’t really want to even bring it up with folks who didn’t already know about it.

        2. comityoferrors*

          Agreed. I’m from part of SoCal which is famously friendly. “I hear ya” and “I feel ya” are common refrains even from total strangers. But “I see you” feels way too personal for me, too. I don’t even say that to my closest friends and we’re all very open with our mental health struggles.

          If I’m struggling, I want to *feel* seen, but just stating that doesn’t really do it. Feeling ‘seen’ is about feeling that someone recognizes my pain and accepts me anyway – it’s not something *you* can do, it’s something that happens on the part of the struggling person IMO.

          Not to rag on you at all, OP, just providing another perspective! I think you sound very kind and earnest about supporting your coworker, and I encourage you to follow through with that if you can. But to echo Ally and others, use language that focuses more on catching up with your coworker generally. For a lot of struggling people, just having a friendly personal conversation can help as much or more than opening up about the problems specifically.

      3. Knope Knope Knope*

        Yeah the “I see you” thing would make super uncomfortable. I feel like it’s a creepy term in general that I would love to see die out. Like what does that really mean? “I see your struggles or emotions”? Ick. But if someone id clearly crying or was just crying on a video call, it’s not awkward to say “Hey are you ok? You seem upset.” If they say “I’m fine” drop it.

      4. Bookworm1858*

        Personal story: some years ago, I was visibly upset about something but trying very hard to hide it in the office. One of my kind coworkers came to me and said she could tell I was upset and to ask me for a walk, not to talk about it or anything but just because I clearly needed support. She no longer works with me but it’s still a good memory I’ll have forever of her. So I probably lean on the side of empathetic people too.

        I don’t know how often you talk with these coworkers now vs. in the office but one way around this might be to reach out with a personal email and just say you miss talking to them and wanted to send well wishes and ask if they’d like to do a quick check-in call to decompress from work stuff? Helpful if you already know you have a shared hobby or something to discuss.

  16. Xavier Desmond*

    If you are ever not 100% whether a deadline is either Tuesday or Wednesday then either ask or do it by Tuesday. No one is going to be annoyed if you did it a bit earlier than they needed it

    1. Myrin*

      I was thinking this. The very first route should be to just ask to be completely sure but if for some reason that is impossible, it’s best to have the thing done by the earliest possible interpretation.

    2. Heidi*

      I would do this also. I can see how EOD can be somewhat ambiguous while people are working non-standard hours at home, but “EOD Tuesday” cannot be interpreted as meaning “Wednesday.” I think I flinched when the OP said that.

    3. In my shell*

      YES. And while the deadline given may be spot on, it can be stressful to have any given employee always waiting until the last minute!

  17. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    I think it’s helpful for the person setting deadlines to specify when they want it – to take to the 9am meeting? to review overnight before the 9am meeting? to submit to the governing body before the deadline expires?

    I work in a very deadline-focused field and am highly conversant with eg Monday deadline in Hong Kong means our COB Thursday for safety; European deadlines “four months” away are actually 10.59pm our time on the first working day (in Munich) four months after ten days after the date of the letter… This means that we tend to be very specific about what we mean when we set internal deadlines too.

    In LW’s case it would be prudent to ask for clarification, but also perhaps try to set personal fake deadlines if she finds she’s very often only just turning work on on time and that isn’t the company culture. “Due Friday 12th” doesn’t mean you can’t complete it on Wednesday 10th.

    1. Delta Delta*

      While this is a good idea for some people, for others it’ll be a disaster. I worked with someone for whom deadlines were viewed as a suggestion, and who had zero respect for the fact someone may need to process the assignment in some way. If you were to say to her, “I need this by 6:00 on Friday so I can review it and it can go in the packet for the Monday meeting at 9:00,” she would send it at 8:57 on Monday, pointing out there was still time to get it into the packet for the Monday meeting. Not a big deal if it’s a 4-sentence paragraph. A bigger deal if it’s a 30 page document with charts and footnotes, and whatnot. Also this person got away with doing garbage like this, so I’m more than a little salty.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’m impressed you didn’t maim her. She would have lasted under nine seconds anywhere I’ve worked.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          She would have lasted under nine seconds anywhere I’ve worked.

          Yep. After the 2nd time such a stunt were pulled, the best case scenario is that the person’s new desk location is in the sling of a trebuchet.

  18. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP5, I once accepted a job and on my first day, discovered that it was client office-based and not company office-based. Maybe that would have been obvious to someone with more work experience, but it wasn’t at all clear to me. On my 3rd day I went in and told them I’d realised it wasn’t a good fit and I couldn’t stay. I was too embarrassed to say that I couldn’t drive and didn’t have a car (which might sound stupid but where I’m from, the norm is to have a car and a license). Needless to say they were pretty angry.

    1. Liz*

      I’d say that’s on them – seems like a pretty major point to miss out until right when somebody shows up on their first day. People take location into account when factoring their travel time and cost (or indeed whether they can even get to the location at all). They shot themselves in the foot by neglecting to tell you where the job actually was.

      I interviewed for my job at a location near my address and the first thing they told me was that the role was at their new site, rendering my commute 1 hour instead of 20 minutes. This would have been a deal breaker for many, hence why they needed to be up front on that issue.

      1. Polly Hedron*

        I agree that the miscommunication was on the employer. But I also think that they would probably have been less angry if OP5 had been honest about the reason for quitting.

        1. Liz*

          Oh yes, I meant the initial situation, not the reason given. I’d definitely argue in favour of honesty as it would be an important learning point for the company. I didn’t drive until my mid thirties and I have had to turn jobs down due to accessibility and commute time – better to be honest on all fronts.

  19. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    To me, “end of day” means the end of MY workday or the end of my boss’s workday, whichever comes first. Either way, it’s the same day. If someone turned work into me the following morning, that’s considered late. I’d be annoyed, especially if it was something I needed for a big meeting that day and needed time to review first. If it was due EOD Friday and was turned in Monday, that’s very late and wouldn’t be acceptable unless the person emailed to say something came up and they need a couple days or something.

    1. Daffy Duck*

      Yeah, I can’t conceive of EOD Friday being acceptable first think Monday. So many people, especially at upper levels in the USA, work over the weekend. Even if it is just for a quick review before an 8 am meeting I wouldn’t want it coming in at 7:50 am Monday. I would count that 3 days late.

      1. doreen*

        That’s what I don’t get about people who think an EOB or COB Thursday deadline is met if you send it by BOB ( beginning of business ) Friday – how does anyone else know what time I plan to start work on Friday? Even if I normally start at 10, maybe I’m traveling Friday and will be starting at 6am.

        1. Daffy Duck*

          As someone who is often wide awake and planning my day at 3:30-4 am there is a big difference between 5-6 pm Friday night and 8 am Saturday.

  20. Nom*

    On #1, this Allison’s advice is absolutely right. EOD means 5 PM. Not 8 PM :). I run into this issue a lot because I work with people in other time zones. I give them a deadline of 5 PM their time (which is 9 AM my time) and they send it at 10 PM their time… well there goes the time I had set aside to review.

    1. Adultiest Adult*

      Still depends. Your day might end at 5:00pm. My day has ended at 8:00pm for the 13 years I have worked with this company (our hours of operation are 8:00am-8:00pm and no two people work the same schedule). For this reason I am explicit in naming times for deadlines, not just generic expressions like “end of day.” But I agree with all the others that it certainly doesn’t mean the next morning–I am someone who likes to take full advantage of my evening hours, and I may have allocated 7:00-8:00pm to review that work, or occasionally even later. I think specifics rule the day here, rather than leaving people to guess what you mean when you say “close of business” or “end of day.”

  21. Disco Janet*

    #3, this may seem like an obvious thing, but it isn’t to everyone…make sure this isn’t just about the person not wearing makeup that day. I’m sure many people can relate to others thinking they look sick, tired, etc., when in reality you just didn’t feel like putting on makeup that day.

    1. Rebecca*

      Yeah, I get this a lot. Especially in the morning, when I haven’t got my work smile fixed on yet and someone catches me early on the way to the coffee, or when I thought I was going to be alone. This is just my face.

      I get the reverse too, when I do wear makeup for a thing. “Oh, you look so nice today. We didn’t recognize you!” It could have been a nice compliment and then – bam.

    2. Cat Tree*

      This happens to me all the time. I’ve only been asked when I’m wearing less makeup, never when I’m actually feeling down.

    3. Sylvan*

      Yeah, I don’t wear makeup regularly and don’t have this issue with it, but it happens when people who do wear makeup skip a day. Sometimes people just “look tired” because they aren’t wearing eye makeup.

    4. Nanani*

      I was just checking if anyone had already said this.
      If there is the slightest chance that “looks tired” is actually “woman’s face has less/no makeup than usual” – do not comment.

  22. Delta Delta*

    #4 – It’s okay to go to the bathroom. Everybody goes to the bathroom. Just say you need to be excused for a moment. Or suggest you both take 5 minutes to use the restroom and get a new glass of water, or whatever. The other person may also be glad to take a break, too. If they children are legitimately in some need/making noise/setting the kitchen on fire, then it’s fine to mention them, but don’t use them as a shield for your own needs if it isn’t necessary.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Just announce a break, whether teleconference, zoom, or in person. No reason needed.

      In a large or long meeting: “Let’s take a quick break before moving onto the next topic. Reconvene in 5 (10, whatever) minutes.”
      One-on-one meeting: “Can you excuse me for 2 minutes? Need a quick break.”
      The response I always get: “Great, thanks. Need a break too!”

      Everyone always has a reason to get up and move around: health condition, too much coffee, stiff back, wake up from Wakeen’s incredibly boring presentation…

      1. Uranus Wars*

        Good advice. This is generally how it’s worked for me, too. Even in a 30 minute 1:1…I’ve never had anyone say no to a “hey, can we take a 2-3 minute break?” I know not everyone does meetings all the time, but enough people are that it’s almost like a wave of relief comes over someone face. When it’s an internal one-on-one with someone I know well I’ve even asked for a quick 30 seconds to refill my coffee…and they say “great – I need a top off too!”

    2. Glitsy Gus*

      This. For one-on-one calls I do try to take a restroom break at the start of the call if I can. That way if I can Slack the person, “I’ll be on in two minutes, I just need to pop to the restroom!” they can wait a bit before calling in or even take a potty break themselves rather than spending that time muted alone. It’s worked out well for me when I can anticipate it that way (though I know that isn’t always possible!)

  23. I'm just here for the cats*

    Yeah when I was job searching there were multiple jobs that said own transportation required, or reliable transportation, etc. This was annoying and I didn’t apply to them because of it.
    For one I think it’s a way to be classist and rule certain people out. I don’t drive, and if I did my family has 1 car, can only afford 1 car, and the other person has walking & health issues so can’t take public transit and need the car.
    There was at least 1 job that I know was in office call center type work that would not require any driving. I knew people who worked there in the same role and it was a large employer. Apparently they didnt want people taking the bus to their downtown office, which was 2 blocks from bus station. Worked at the same building for different employer and had no problems with bus. This employer only want s certain type of person employed.

    1. Everdene*

      Oak has been looking at a job opening that is home work with ‘up to 10% travel’ and occasional visits to head office. However, the benefits package includes a car allowance. He doesn’t drive and, sadly for me, has no inclination to learn. Last night we were trying to work out if they would expect the successful applicant to drive/have a car or if this was a bonus thing. Class didn’t occur to me but that could be a factor too.

      If he applies and gets an interview he will ask that question because if he needs ro drive he isn’t interested. (He’s been in this industry 25 years. Clearly normally driving is not required)

    2. Blackcat*

      “For one I think it’s a way to be classist and rule certain people out.”

      Yup. I’ve seen it for jobs where a car is absolutely not essential, and I assume it’s because they want a “certain type of person” to take the job.

      1. Esmeralda*

        Unless the ad says, Must be able to drive or Must have access to a car or something similar, I would never assume this.

        I would assume that they don’t care how you get to work, or how you get to other places while on the job, as long as it’s reliable = could be public transportation, could be uber/lyft, whatever.

        That’s a question you can ask. Great question if you get a phone screeen, because then you can decide on whether to continue or not based on information. Why eliminate a possible job when you don’t actually know for sure what it means?

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          The thing is at least one place I looked specifically said “cannot rely on public transit” or something to that effect (its been like 3+ years) but the office was right on the bus route and in my small city the bus is pretty reliable. Maybe off by a few minutes but it’s never been hours or anything. And really I would always plan early. Like if I started at 9 I would take the 8:15 bus to get to the office at 8:45. Plenty of time to get settled.

        2. Self Employed*

          Back in the early 90s, I got a job that was contingent on having my own transportation–data entry, no need to use a car during the day, just picky about people being on time and San Diego’s transit system was awful.

          Well, my car was totaled over the weekend between the interview and the first day of work. They saw my ex drop me off in his pickup truck and fired me for “lying at my interview.” I tried showing them the police report of the accident, but they wouldn’t even look at it.

    3. Staja*

      I’ve usually taken it to mean you aren’t relying on your friend or family member or someone else for transportation. I’ve never had issues with public transportation not being considered “reliable” transportation. But, that was when I relied on the MBTA in Boston and surrounding ‘burbs. Up in middle of nowhere NH, reliable transportation is generally having your own car. (And so I got my license at 30 before I moved).

      1. Rachel in NYC*

        I was actually wondering if the city was a place like Boston, where public transit is great in some areas and less good in others. Honestly, NYC has the same problem.

      2. JessicaTate*

        Agreed. I don’t interpret “reliable” as necessarily meaning “own a car,” unless you live in a place with no or minimal public transportation. That said, often this wording (like with OP) is unclear on meaning, and it could be connected to many different scenarios. So, I would sure as heck not let it stop me from applying! I’d just plan to ask about it if I get called in.

        I will say, when I’m hiring, there does come a point (usually closer to finalists) where I discuss the job’s travel requirement, and ask about driver’s license and/or ease of getting to their airport. It’s not a disqualifying thing, but I’ve had people in travel-required jobs without a license… and it was a real pain when they need to go to a client that’s drivable, but not on public transit; or where renting a car at the airport makes life easier; or they live super-far from an airport and it’s hard to get a cab / takes forever; etc. It’s not a deal-breaker, but I want to discuss the additional headaches, and that I would expect them to manage it and not make it the problem of their co-workers or manager: “I can’t go to client x alone because I don’t drive and it’s really hard to get there otherwise.”

        1. UKDancer*

          I think it’s definitely important to be clear on what your travel requirements are.

          I’ve done quite a bit of (mainly international) travel for work and at no point has it ever been expected that I hired a car which is good because I don’t drive abroad. I would either take public transport or a taxi (depending on how safe it felt). I hired a car once when I went to a particular Balkan country with my boss and he wanted to explore it. He was happy to drive if I navigated and we had a good time driving a beat up Hyundai around some very badly maintained roads for a day or so.

          I think if you have travel patterns which are a lot easier if someone hires a car or drives then it’s a good idea to flag these in the way you do so the interviewees can see if this is going to be problematic.

      3. Delta Delta*

        Relying on another person for transportation can be iffy. I worked with a young woman once who needed to rely on her mom or her friend to drive her to our office, which was about 10 miles from her home. There was no public transportation. More than once she was either late or couldn’t come in because her ride was unreliable. The last anyone ever heard from her she was on her way in and texted someone to say she would be late because they had gotten into a minor accident. Everyone was understandably concerned and expected to see her in about an hour (she said they were about 1/2 mile from our office when the accident happened, and that she’d walk the rest of the way after talking to police). Then we never saw her again.

        1. Myrin*

          Goodness, that sounds scary more than anything else, honestly. Did she seem like the type who would “quit” in such an elaborate way?

          1. Delta Delta*

            We did learn independently that there was a minor accident. This particular person was very young and was ill-suited for the job (she was hired because she was the boss’s friend’s daughter and happened to need a part time job, not at all that she was qualified; also boss had an odd view of the position and grossly underestimated the qualifications someone would need for it). It was clear she was in over her head in the job and it seems like the accident was a convenient excuse to ghost.

            1. Myrin*

              Ah, got it. That’s good to hear (although not good for the position, obviously), honestly, because otherwise in you guys’ shoes I’d forever wonder whether she was kidnapped on the way to the office or what-have-you.

        2. Anonymous, colleagues who read here will recognize it*

          My son has a visual disability = cannot drive, cannot even get a license.
          When he lived at home, he either walked or took a Lyft. To get to work — I drove him because the cost of the Lyft would have eaten up his earnings. Fortunately, my supervisor was cool with my need to leave work early to drive him around.
          Now he lives in a large city with excellent public transportation + he can walk to work/school/grocery shopping/etc. That’s why he chose to live there.

    4. Tiger*

      Oh my gosh, this. I’m epileptic, and cannot drive. But I take the bus everywhere, and it is reliable. But there are so many jobs I can’t apply for because it specifies “needs a valid drivers license” and I cannot have that. I can take the bus anywhere, though. It is frustrating!

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I hear you! I don’t drive for multiple reasons but I think “needs valid License” or “reliable transportation” boilerplates need to be removed. I’ve got a friend who wasnt able to get his license for the longest time because of his eyesight. Finally, with doctor’s help, was able to get his license, but it was limited to a certain time, Like not early morning and not dusk/after dark.
        People are epileptic or have other medical issues where they can’t drive but can work just fine. Needs valid license should be changed to needs valid government ID if that’s the only issue. And how I get to work isn’t my employers concern as long as I’m not late.

  24. agnes*

    “Access to transportation” can mean a lot of things, but quite often it means “can you reliably get to work on time, even if public transportation is not running?” Definitely ask.

  25. Keymaster of Gozer*

    4: I have this problem quite frequently (hi to any fellow early menopause havers!) and during one to ones on video I’m quite fond of the ‘can we just break for a couple of minutes? Gotta go fix something quick’.

    Not specific on what needs fixing. Could be I need the bog (again), the cat’s just gone for zoomies and knocked over the kettle, I’ve just realised the front door has blown open and there’s an artic chill up my skirt, aliens landed on my lawn demanding directions (again).

    I generally leave it as an exercise for the listener. Does help though that if pressed I can say I’m gagging for a cuppa tea as I’m in the UK and ‘putting the kettle on’ is an accepted solution for….just about anything really.

    (I used to have a boss who recorded every single time you went to the bogs and then chastised you if you went more than x times a day. I learnt to never tell anyone at work that I was going to the bog)

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      Ok is bogs slang for toilet? I’ve heard UK people refer to it as Look but not Bogs.
      I learn something new everyday

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Oh aye. ‘Bogs’ and ‘khazi’ are the most common slang terms for toilet in my area of the UK. Toilet paper is frequently referred to as ‘bog roll’.

  26. it_guy*

    LW3: ‘Bio breaks’ are a real thing. When I’m on a call whether it’s zoom or regular phone call, it’s not unreasonable to hear somebody say, “I’ll be back in a couple of minutes after a bio break.” Sometimes it’s a real bathroom emergency, and sometimes somebody needs to duck out for a smoke break. The one thing I hate hearing is the sound of a toilet flushing on a phone call!

    1. Some Lady*

      Agree – “Bio Break” is a nice term because it feels like a softer way to say bathroom break, but it can also cover needing water, coffee, a quick bite, a stretch, etc., – all the realities of living in a human body. It’s always nice to be in places where people understand taking care of yourself for 5 min. will help with the overall workflow. Often, if I say I need a bio break, the other person is glad to have a few minutes, too!

  27. Data Analyst*

    #3 – there was one time I didn’t mind and was glad someone reached out to me about how I looked. I’m a new-ish employee and we were in a team meeting where my manager announced that our team would be growing and splitting in half and some of us would get a new manager, and I was in that half. I was so upset it showed on my face and then I turned my camera off. Someone IMed to ask if I was okay and reassure me based on what she knew about the new manager. But…other than a very specific case like that I think it would be an overstep. Just continue being someone who is generally approachable and kind and people may open up to you if they feel like it.

    1. Workerbee*

      Ugh, those public meetings where you get told something is happening to you without your choice! I tend to think those are the expedient/lazy way out for higher-ups.

  28. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    OP5 – in the past, we’ve used similar language on postings where travel (but not necessarily overnight travel) is required (i.e., client meetings, site visits, etc.) on a frequent basis. We can’t specifically require that an employee have a driver’s license or their own vehicle for this purpose unless the job specifically requires being able to drive yourself (i.e., you’re managing fleet vehicles and need to be able to drive them from point A to point B from time to time). If I had to guess, the issue is being able to move between various locations without major hassle and on more than just an occasional basis. You can definitely should ask for clarification and if this is something you could manage without a vehicle yourself.

  29. Not So NewReader*

    OP2, what you want to say to your boss is too complex and beyond her comprehension. If she knew certain behavior were unacceptable she’d stop. So this is a person who thinks the rules do not apply to her. You’d have to explain why the rules apply to her.

    Additionally, it’s actually HER boss’ job to monitor all this so you’re definitely not being paid enough to fix it. ;)

    What I tell myself in situations like this is “too little, too late” the time for a serious chat was a while ago and now that ship has sailed.

  30. Uranus Wars*

    Nothing much to add but #1 gave me such flashbacks to a conversation I had with one of my employees who said “End of Day” or “Close of Business” wasn’t specific enough and that it wasn’t her fault she missed the deadline – she had planned to get it to me by the time I got in the next day. If she went home and logged in then COB for her was whatever time she logged off. As Alison said in this instance I had actually carved out time to review it that evening after work.

    From then on out I had to say “By 4:00 p.m. today” which was the time she left. If I didn’t she would push back so hard. We had ongoing conversations about it and it even came up on her evaluation at the end of the year where she pushed back again. I think her response on the review was along the lines “I don’t know how I am supposed to be held accountable to a deadline when it’s not specific. I don’t know what I don’t know.”

    Anywho, I gave that long response down memory lane because I remember thinking “Who doesn’t know that EOB/COB means when you wrap up business for that day”. I think I might feel a little better knowing it just wasn’t her. And OP#1, don’t make your manager make this an ongoing convo. This is a energy suck and just doing things on time will make your relationship with co-workers/managers so much better.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Yeah, it’s not just her – but at the same time, sounds like you had multiple conversations with her and she couldn’t/wouldn’t adjust, so that is on her.

  31. dedicated1776*

    Re: letter 1, the manager just needs to be clearer. If I tell my team “EOD,” I mean I want the thing available to me first thing the next morning. If I tell them “COB” (close of business), I mean I want it by 5 PM so I have it that evening. They know that because I’ve told them.

    1. Luke G*

      And I think that’s the key- you TOLD your team what these things mean. Based on the comments it’s pretty clear there isn’t a single correct definition of those terms.

  32. NewtoCommenting*

    #4 – I wonder if there’s advice for folks whose bathroom breaks just aren’t 2 minutes long? I wish it were that easy to excuse myself for 2-3 minutes but as someone who struggles with stomach issues, sometimes those bathroom breaks are closer to 10-15 minutes and it’s hard to predict exactly how long I’ll need. It’s something I’ve struggled with too particularly now that we’ve been remote for a year and constantly have back to back meetings. Any advice would be helpful!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Ask for the maximum. “Sorry, I need about 15 minutes away from my computer.” As far as anyone knows, you’re putting the dogs out/letting the cat in/putting away an Instacart order that just showed up/bringing in the UPS packages/etc.

  33. VermiciousKnid*

    LW4, you don’t HAVE to tell anyone why you need a moment, but if you feel compelled, a white lie that has worked for me is: *look confused* “Sorry, someone just knocked on my front door and I’m not expecting anyone. Can you give me a second to see who it is?”

    It buys you a couple of minutes and all you have to say when you get back is, “Sorry about that. They had the wrong house.” and you can move right on.

  34. Firecat*

    #1 I will say that it’s not uncommon for people to have alerts on their phone for emails so late night 8pm plus can get complaints.

    Also if you are in a leadership position sending emails late at night can pressure your direct reports to log in late as well.

    It’s not usually considered “disruptive” though.

  35. DG*

    LW4 – If I’m in a larger meeting (i.e., more than one other person) where I may be expected to speak up, I usually drop a message in the chat to the effect of “I need to step away for a few minutes – I’ll be right back” and send another message when I’m back. No one needs to know whether you’re in the bathroom, signing for a package, helping your kid with an algebra problem, letting your dog out, etc.

    In a one-on-one meeting I typically ask if we can start a few minutes late. Most people are happy to oblige and appreciate the break.

  36. This is my super witty user name*

    In reference to #1: My first career was in a part of the US federal government where EOD means “entered on duty” — the day when you started working there. When I moved to the private sector I was confused the first time somebody said they wanted something by EOD. From context it was clear that the term meant something different from what I was used to, and I felt a little sheepish asking what that meant, but we both learned something.

    I was way more embarrassed when I discovered a couple weeks later that “P&L” was NOT a troublesome client that people kept worrying about, which is what I had assumed. Live and learn.

  37. MBK*

    OP4: The term that has come into use among my team at work is “bio-break,” and it’s generally understood that anyone can call for one at just about* any time.

    * generally not during a product demo or other outward-facing presentation, but otherwise fair game

  38. Gandalf the Nude*

    OP #3 – I agree with Alison that that kind of reaching out is not really appropriate in a work context. But a way for you to harness that kind impulse without being intrusive or presumptuous would be to send them an unsolicited kudos email. Some sincere, unprompted professional praise is almost always a boost, whether the target is down in the dumps or on top of the world. And if your coworker is Going Through It, you’ll have given them some support without crossing a professional boundary.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      That’s a nice idea. You could also send them something funny – a meme might feel appropriate when praise doesn’t.

      1. DarnTheMan*

        My team did a lot of that at the start when everyone was at their wits end; sending around funny videos or cheerful songs in an email chain to each other.

  39. Allypopx*

    #2 – “delusional, erratic, and moody” are words that tend to be super gendered in a business context. It sounds like you have a lot of feelings about the situation and that’s okay, but make sure you’re not looking at Jane and how reasonable she is through a different lens than you would a male boss (and be aware this can happen regardless of your own gender).

    1. Myrin*

      I mean, OP gives pretty detailed examples of Jane’s behaviour and these three words sound like accurate descriptors for it.

    2. Observer*

      Could we stop making everything about gender when there is zero reason to believe that it plays a role?

      The OP gives us some pretty specific examples of Jane’s behavior, and they are pretty bad individually. As a pattern, yes, “Terrible boss” is about as kind as you can get.

      Why on earth are you pushing the idea that the OP is only objecting to this because Jane is a woman?

      1. Allypopx*

        “Why on earth are you pushing the idea that the OP is only objecting to this because Jane is a woman?”

        Well that’s certainly putting words in my mouth. I made a comment about the way the criticism was directed, not the absence of any behavior to criticize. But I don’t want to derail so I’m not going to get into a lengthy defense of my point.

  40. lilsheba*

    For the bathroom breaks….I just say I will be right back, turn off the microphone (we never have cameras on) and then turn it back on when I return. I don’t feel the need to share the fact that I’m going to the bathroom because that’s private. Others do though, someone is always saying “I have to go to the restroom” well we don’t need to know this fact. Just go and come back.

    1. Allypopx*

      I agree with you in a group meeting, but OP is asking about one-on-ones and I think there is more of an expectation of sustained attention in those situations. You might not need to specify you’re going to the bathroom but I think you need more of an acknowledgement that it’s odd or disruptive.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes I think if it’s a 1:1 you can’t just get up and go. Say something either “there’s someone at the door” or “can we just pause for a minute for a domestic issue” or something to excuse yourself. I’d usually try and plead the need to put the kettle on to delay a meeting to allow me to get to the lo0.

        I think if you leave a 1:1 or very small meeting without saying something people will wonder what’s wrong.

  41. The S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Playing Galaga*

    Regarding letter #1, some businesses do have different understandings of what EOD means. My firm uses COB, “close of business,” for when they need something done by around 5 pm, and EOD, “end of day,” for when you finish work for the day. (Yes, I am a lawyer, and yes, I’m not always done with the day’s work at 5 pm, especially if different time zones are involved).

    It might help to double-check with your supervisor or manager to make sure you are on the same page. As the above comments show, “EOD” can have different meanings in different fields.

  42. blink14*

    OP #5 – I would definitely ask for a clarification. That could mean access to transportation required so that if there’s a weather event or something along those lines, you have no excuse to not get into work. It could mean you need your own transportation to handle work duties. It could also mean the the job may require some evening or weekend hours and you wouldn’t necessarily be able to rely on carpooling, walking, etc.

    My first full time, permanent job after college required your own car. Except, the job posting never said that, nor was it ever discussed in the interview. The job ended up being completely different from what I was led to believe, and required weekly use of my personal vehicle to do bank deposits – I applied for an in house marketing job, ended up with about half of my time dedicated to financial transactions which I didn’t have background for, nor was it included anywhere in the job description or interview. So, even if transportation specifics aren’t listed, it can still be a required part of the job you find out about later!

    1. Self Employed*

      Another factor for people trying to use public transportation is that quite a few jobs are in “industrial” areas where bus service stops soon after 5 p.m. (Not necessarily industrial jobs–could be any company that wants cheaper office space and doesn’t need to be in the financial district etc.) A colleague of mine advertised a volunteer gig as being “near transit” but it turned out they didn’t understand that the bus stop was for the morning and evening shuttle to the commuter rail station. They needed the volunteers on evenings and weekends, so not very helpful.

  43. New Name*

    OP 1: In my world, EOD and COB (close of business) have separate meanings. COB means the recipient wants it before they’re offline for the night and will review before they sign off. EOD means the recipient wants it in their inbox first thing in the morning, but won’t look at it before then. Working past 5pm is typical for us so it’s helpful to have that clarity.

    It’s also useful for working with staff in other countries. For some timezones, COB and EOD both occur when I’m offline, so it doesn’t matter for me. I say EOD to be clear that I won’t look at it until the next day regardless of their local time.

    It sounds like your supervisor thinks of EOD as slightly before the actual end of your day, so follow that, obviously. But in different environments, it does have the distinction of “anytime before I wake up tomorrow.”

  44. Janon*

    #3: If you’re not close, I would suggest not coming right out and asking. Two years ago, I was in the process of selling a house, doing the mortgage work on a new one, and there was a very stressful two weeks based on some errors that needed to be corrected. People knew what I was dealing with. A coworker who I work with a lot but am not close with asked if I was ok because it looked like I had lost weight. It was just uncomfortable. If there had been something larger, I would not have wanted to share that with this coworker. My suggestion would be one similar to what I saw above – if you meet with this person one on one, leave a few minutes for chit chat, as how their weekend was or something and allow them to open up if they want to.

    1. blink14*

      Totally agree. As someone with multiple chronic illnesses, I frankly some days just look like hell. Add in COVID stress and personal stress, and anyone is going to have bad days right now.

  45. Ms. Pots*

    #1 In my industry we use COB “close of business” when we need something by 5pm. EOD does mean, they are likely to review it the next day, but you should still try to get it in that day as soon as possible. It’s worth checking with your boss to understand. Though if you have bandwidth, definitely recommend getting it done sooner. I sometimes struggle with perfectionism and would rather wait to the last minute to turn something in. If this is you, I’d recommend striving titling the deliverable as a draft and making it as good as possible, and if you still have corrections, provide an updated draft in the meeting.

  46. Temperance*

    LW3: quarantine has been super hard on a lot of people. Even if you have noticed that someone looks tired or sad, pointing this out will just make someone feel bad. Also, prob a personal preference, but don’t say “I see you” to acknowledge that the person looks tired or sad.

    I mostly don’t wear makeup at home. For a planned call with video I will. for surprise video calls, I won’t. If someone pointed out that I look tired or sad (because, really, I’m both tired and sad rn, like most people following the rules are), I would just feel embarrassed and not “seen”.

  47. Middle Manager*

    #1 Please send it as soon as it’s completed and on time for the reason Alison point out- your supervisor very well may be planning to review it that evening or first thing the next morning and it can really throw off the plan if it’s not their when they have the availability.

    A prior employee of mine used to interpret due close of business (COB) as to literally send everything at 4:45pm. If she had three things due that day, they’d all arrive one after the other at 4:40, 4:42, and 4:45. Obviously she did not do them all in that five minute window, at least 2 of the 3 had been sitting around waiting for her to send while she worked on the other. In some of those situations, there was time on my calendar earlier in the day when I could have started my piece of project/the review of her work had she sent it as she completed it, which I had to clarify for her to keep all our projects moving forward. So my take, send it sooner than later and definitely on time.

  48. Glomarization, Esq.*

    “Access to transportation required” (or “drivers license,” or “own car”) is a way that some companies will try to illegally screen out candidates with disabilities. Whether someone has a car or can drive on their own is seen as a useful analogue to whether the candidates will have physical or mental limitations that the company does not want to make accommodations for.

  49. Anya Last Nerve*

    Ugh I had to deal with the EOD issue early in my career as a manager. I would say “please get me this by EOD tomorrow” and have it sent to me at 11:30 pm! I had to start being very specific – “I need this by COB (close of business) tomorrow and that means by 5 pm not by 11:59 pm.”

  50. Observer*

    #2- Do NOT level with Jane. It’s neither your responsibility nor your place to school her.

    Keep politely refusing to come back to work with her. And don’t worry about her “getting away” with things. This kind of stuff definitely comes back to bite people, even when you don’t see it. And, you are actually seeing a LITTLE bit of this happening with the quitting of her long time aid who she’s having a hard time replacing.

    If everyone were so enamored of her as you say, she would not have to be begging you to come back. Think about that for a moment.

  51. L.H. Puttgrass*

    “I found out that this was a lie and she had begged a former colleague to come back because she just fired someone.”

    LW2, are you sure she’s not talking about you? Jane sounds like the kind of person who would lie about why you left, which might have something to do with why you’re having trouble finding work.

  52. Spcepickle*

    Goodness we all need to ask for clarification on EOD. I have a report due every Wednesday EOD (my boss’s day is over at 2:30, mine is 4:30). What he and I mean is that he will review it first thing Thursday morning. I don’t often work overtime but with COVID, my hours are all over the place and someone I have been sending it at 8pm.

    Also most of my office does not work Fridays. So end of the day Thursday is really Monday morning.

  53. cara*

    For the bathroom thing – I’ve never thought twice about saying “Two minutes please, I need to use the restroom”, or asking for a 1-on-1 call to start 2 minutes late for that. I’m in my own house, I’m not zsking for permission to go to the bathroom, and it’s a basic human need. And as others said, its becomes a necessity to step out for a bio break when you have back-to-back zoom calls.

    I truly dislike the term EOD, but I agree that it usually means 6pm latest. If there really is so much work that you’ll be working until 8pm, I would like to know if its needed that day, or by end of day the next day. I had a professor who said it had to be in “by the time he woke up the next morning”, which I really liked as a deadline, instead of midnight. He wasn’t going to look at it until the next day anyways! So all said, I would just ask what they really mean.

  54. For goodness sake, wash your hands!*

    LW#3, I tend to agree with the other posters here, BUT depending on the culture of your workplace, why not set a zoom coffee date with co-worker? I do this somewhat regularly with coworkers, although this is embedded already in my work culture. I’m speaking as someone who is badly struggling, but who would be horrified if someone called that out. I think there is a very real actionable way to be there for people, without just saying, I’m here for you.

  55. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Re: #1,
    What does “by today” mean? I generally treat it as gibberish, demanding in jest the keys to the DeLorean and a kilo of plutonium if forced to engage, but I hear it often enough to suspect that people think it means something.

  56. PennylaneTX*

    OP1: Just agreeing with Allison that it definitely means by around 5/6 p.m. I worked on a video project with a pre-set deadline schedule (Version 3 delivered 1/23 by EOD, for example). The video was constantly getting sent to us late at night. It turned out the editor’s workday was 5 p.m. to midnight, after her husband came home from work to watch her kid, so she assumed EOD was literally “until the day is over”. We were baffled. The only time I’ve ever encountered someone who didn’t think it meant 5/6 p.m.

  57. Katie*

    While I agree that Monday morning is NOT acceptable for a Friday EOD deadline, I personally distinguish between COB (close of business) and EOD (end of day). If I mean I want it by 5pm, I use COB. If I want it by the time I start working the following day, I use EOD. This is widely accepted in my industry and EOD can mean anywhere from 5pm to 5am the next day (who am I to tell you when your day ends!).

  58. NOK*

    I really disagree with the advice in OP3, though after reading through some of these comments I totally understand why folks feel similarly to Alison. But if it really does seem like someone is feeling down (and not just tired/makeup-less/whatever), I’d almost always rather say something and put my foot in it than risk that person feeling any more isolated and lonely than they already do. Especially during these times.

  59. Regular In Form And Authentic*

    LW1, In my company (high tech), off-hours email (or slack messages) is something we are actively combatting, because people are so connected that people do interpret it as an expectation that they respond immediately.

    Otherwise, totally agree on the EOD / COB distinction. I also reach out when I’m going to be later than COB just to let people know (for child care reasons, I have a firm can’t-do-anything from 5:45-7:45pm, but will on occasion finish some things stuff after the baby goes to bed.

  60. SJJ*

    #1 – this can be culture dependent. I try to distinguish Close/End of Business vs end of day for this reason. If you’re not sure, ask.

    #3 sometimes you can find a happy medium and just reach out after a meeting and make it work related (ask a question, request feedback, get an opinion about another topic, etc) and add in a “how are you doing” or “dang these meetings are stressing me out. You feeling that too?” open ended questions.

  61. Retired Lady*

    I never learned to drive so I always applied for jobs I knew I could get to by bus. Quite a few years ago, I applied for what sounded like a strictly office job at a place that provided services for adults with special needs. The job required a driver’s license and the ability to drive a van they provided to take clients to events, interviews, etc. I saw they re-posted the job and included that a driver’s license was necessary. (This was back in the days when you found jobs in your local newspaper.)

  62. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

    For #3, something that doesn’t get emphasized enough is that recognizing that someone struggling with depression *is more than their depression* is a really important part of showing up for people you’re concerned about.

    When dealing with colleagues they’re not super close to or who don’t give the impression of having water cooler talk-friendly lives outside of work, well-meaning people sometimes don’t seem to know how or what to talk to a depressed colleague about other than what their struggles are. This sets up a dynamic where you start to feel like the depressed colleague’s therapist, and everyone involved ends up feeling like your offer of support backfired. What you thought was helpful makes the other person feel like they’re pigeonholed. No one wants the professional risk of being seen as a negative person because of the way their personal life is.

    The problem is, though, that you don’t do this to everyone. The hockey mom who’s at the ready to give you a play-by-play of her kid’s last game, or the guy who’s always on about his Crossfit and craft beer adventures get permission to have bad days without having people stop seeing the parts of them that aren’t about whatever it is that They’re Going Through. Someone whose life doesn’t seem as full doesn’t. If you’re going to offer an ear to a colleague who seems down, recognize your role in keeping that dynamic alive and make an effort to build actual rapport with people beyond MH check-ins.

  63. OP1*

    Ngl, my first thought was Oh Shit! I Done Fucked Up!
    That’s a very good thing to know. I’ve…been struggling pretty bad for the last month between mystery medical diagnosis attempts becoming a part time job, my ADHD meds not being refilled for 2-3 weeks because I had to do the whole controlled substance and drug test thing, and, month-long maintenance issues requiring the destruction of my entire office lmao.
    My manager knows about the maintenance problem at least, but it’s definitely a sign that things have been spiralling in a bad way. Tbh, I hadn’t thought of my manager wanting to check it over in the evening, and that messing with his workflow in some way. So that’s really good context. Part of why I hadn’t asked, to those wondering, is that I didn’t want to draw attention to the issue, and because… clarifying is scary. I’m in consulting so idk if anyone else gets the kind of constant pressure to be productive environment that I’m in but I am Crumbling!
    Lol, kinda the same reason why I didn’t ask HR (1 person) about the requirement that any medications causing physical/emotional/behavioral changes needs to be reported to your supervisor. Cos like, if I’m the one asking, it’s pretty easy to guess why.

    1. OP1*

      Oh, I should probably mention. Office culture is sometimes, we get emails for meetings sent on 2 PM Sunday. I had one deliverable literally get assigned at 6:30 on Friday bc our CEO responded to a client saying we’d get back to them by Monday. So then I was doing everything on Monday, but then my grandboss (who was my direct for this project) couldn’t look at it until Tuesday, so it wound up going out Wednesday.
      I’ve been up late on a project on Friday because I got 10 minutes with grandboss at 4:50 PM for an Important Presentation, so he can review on Monday. I’m just gonna start asking for specific times. ADHD brain does not like wishy washy deadlines and I have a really hard time prioritizing stuff sometimes (again, due to added stressors). So, if you need it by 1 PM it’s easier for me to know what exactly needs to get moved around in my schedule.

  64. Ryn*

    I work on the west coast while the majority of my colleagues are on the east coast, so I’m constantly checking if EOD means “6pm eastern,” “6pm western,” or “in your inbox by the time you get in tomorrow morning.” Usually it means the latter, but that’s definitely an org-specific thing.

  65. beanie gee*

    LW #1 – separate from defining EOD, what jumped out at me from your letter was this: “… and I kind of don’t want my supervisor knowing I work weird evening hours sometimes.”

    I would do some thinking about why you don’t want your supervisor to work evening hours sometimes. If I was your supervisor, I would want to know if we’re setting unrealistic deadlines, if we need to adjust your workload, or if you need more flexibility in your hours. If your supervisor doesn’t know you’re working long hours, they aren’t going be able to support making your job sustainable long term.

    It also tells them x thing takes y hours, so when they have others do it, they have unrealistic expectations when something actually takes longer.

    1. Allypopx*

      Excellent point. As someone with ADHD I work weird evening hours sometimes because…I get distracted during the day or I have a chunk of time where I feel more productive or I know I want to sleep in tomorrow or whatever else. I’m in a role with a decent amount of flexibility and if my boss has ever mentioned it I’ve said something like “I shifted my hours for the day” or “something came up at home so I’m making up a little extra time” or “got carried away! I’ll come in a little late tomorrow” or something else because she worries about our work/life balance – as she should!

      Supervisors should know when you’re working, so that they understand your workload or personal workflow better, or even for situations exactly like this. “End of the day” would be an obvious time if everyone left the office at 5, does your supervisor assume you’re doing that? Would communication be better/easier if everyone was on the same page about that kind of stuff? My guess is yes. Don’t hide this kind of thing from your supervisor.

      1. OP1*

        Yeah…that’s hard. My company’s culture is already a little whack (see: requirements to report medication which affects your emotional/physical ability & a doctor’s note that explains what date you’ll be cleared). You’re expected to work 8 productive hours, even if that really means 10 hours. Googling stuff to figure it out should be avoided unless it’s under 30 minutes because of hour budgets. And since the culture is so focused on feedback/productivity/improvement, there is a vibe I get that if my ADHD is anything other than perfectly managed, I am putting a target on my back. Like, “inconsistently meets expectations” is defined as struggling in the first half of the year, and improving in the back half of the year. Like, I really do think that if I say “I am having a hard time focusing and need help”, that will be a mark against me in terms of “continuous improvement”. Cause, it’d be seen as a regression, and not like, a normal thing that happens with a neurodevelopmental disorder that I will have until the day I die.

        1. Observer*

          I’m wondering what their reason for requiring this information is? It’s a very odd thing to require. And how would they even enforce this?

          1. OP1*

            I’ve seen AAM’s advice that this is actually illegal (esp since we are not forklift drivers). Never got an answer when I brought it up in a DEI context (I’m on our committee, formed after the Minneapolis uprisings). Didn’t get a super straight answer. And I don’t want to stick out as the person asking “why do you need this” bc I’m pretty sure the response will be, why do you ask? Do you need to let your manager know of anything? And I’m just so freaked out by it, overall lmao.

    2. OP1*

      Yeah, that’s kind of the thing. So like, if for example, I was dealing with an emergency, I’d let my manager know that I’ll be intermittently available during the day, and it would be expected that I’d work late that day or sometime during the week to make up the time, or take PTO. The past month has been a lot of cascading emergencies (I feel like if I list all of them, it makes me too identifiable, but basically property crime has been a PITA several times in the last month alone, on top of ongoing medical appointments abt 3x a week, and maintenance issues which took away my workspace for a month). But it’s also been a lot of distractibility or genuine inability to work because my brain is so fried dealing with all of those things. So, I work until 12 AM to make up for it, because I need to bill 8h, and my time has to be accounted for. Or I work on the weekend to prepare for any flex time I need that week. It’s not so much that I have too much work, it’s I have too much ~everything else~, and the unfortunate reality is that every 15 minute chunk where I’m not productive, I need to make up for it.

    3. OP1*

      Like to clarify re: billable. The time I spend cleaning up spilled water (this was a lot of water) on my desk while working from home is Not Billable. But when this happened in the office no on questioned my billing to an overhead code. Same for me setting up a second monitor and an office chair in a spare amenity area in my apartment building so I can focus. It’s generally not billable. Or, if it is, I need to make up for it anyway because it hurts my utilization (at least I work somewhere where PTO isn’t included in utilization). Discussions with staff not in my department to understand consulting/our company better are also not billable. Etc etc. So even though I’ve been at work, setting up my workspace, or eating for the past 6.25 hours, I still need to work another 4 hours to bill 7 hours today. And work 9 tomorrow to make up for my deficit. It is /exhausting/, and it now explains everything about my experience growing up with a consultant for a dad.

      1. OP1*

        I’m not necessarily saying breaks should be billable either or something, but it does suck when the normal BS that happens at work and takes time means you have to stay late, because that is ALSO considered a break.

        1. Roci*

          …you can’t bill something to overhead/general/similar category for internal things? I understand everyone wants to keep that down, but why do you have to “make up” that time, you still worked and should be paid for it? I have never heard of someone having to “make up” non billable time like that, I’m not familiar with your industry but that sounds like they’re not paying you for time worked.

          1. OP1*

            I think this might be a pandemic thing. Idk. But yeah, I billed 15m to cleaning up water I spilled on my desk from my plant. And. My manager wanted to talk to me about it and had me correct my hours.
            This was not a problem within the first month or two. I’m a klutz and I think I spilled 32 oz of water on the floor, and I just billed that to overhead. That was not a problem.
            Re: utilization, I brought up the whole setting up a place to work thing (I’d been trying different setups, seeing if putting a monitor on a bedtray was feasible, etc.) And he mentioned that while some time might be fine, it’d still wind up impacting my utilization and it was something I needed to be careful with.
            So…gotta be more billable to make up.
            I’m exhausted lmaooo.

          2. OP1*

            Oh, also, I’m salaried/don’t get paid overtime (the exempt one?), so yeah technically I’m being paid. Lol, almost makes me wish I’d taken my other offer, wouldn’t have left my favorite place in the world & would’ve been hourly, which is apparently common practice where I used to live for engineers. However, city budget funded so I’d probably have been laid off. And the health insurance was Yikes™.

    4. beanie gee*

      OP, I’m so sorry to hear about the cascading emergencies – that sounds exhausting!

      I’m also in consulting, so I feel ya on the billable hours/utilization rate anxiety.

      I would still encourage you to talk to your manager, as opposed to feeling like you have to hide it, since it sounds like you’re new to consulting and they might be able to give you some guidance on billing/flexing your hours. I would hope they would, at a minimum, want to know that you had to work 60 hours this week in order to get 40 hours billable, for example.

      Every company is different in what they “count” as working hours, and it sucks when people end up fudging their non-billable hours to make their utilization rates look better. This is how burnout happens. Especially if you don’t tell your manager since they can’t help you if they don’t know how bad it is.

      I really hope you and your manager can find a way to make the crazy hours more manageable!

      1. OP1*

        U are saying the correct things but it all feels so out of reach lol. Sorry, trying not to cry a little. I feel like since I’ve Had Issues, and my ADHD was visibly bad from the outside (first time ever for me! My college work was either customer service or manufacturing internships), and the demands on memory, my ability to accurately estimate time, even my ability to listen for longer than 15 minutes (specific time bc when I did my adhd testing I literally got so fatigued trying to listen for audio input that I felt like I was going to black out lmao. College was hell for the same reason), are all so much higher I just feel like this job and I are at a fundamental mismatch. I got asked 6 mo in if I was sure I wanted to stay there. The truth was “um, some of your HR policies freaked me the fuck out on day one, and I don’t think I will ever be good at this job in the way you want me to be”, but I was 6 months out of college in the middle of a pandemic, I moved away from my favorite place in the whole world for this job for health insurance reasons, so I said I wanted to stay on. And it fucking sucks! Because I’m actually really good at the work I do, and I really enjoy a different kind of engineering than the design work I did before. But everything else about the nature of consulting vs in-house salaried has been like putting my brain in a vat of hydrochloric acid for the past year. I didn’t try to go into consulting either, like tbh I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I had a lot of ppl interested me when I graduated, but this was closest to what I wanted to do and has good insurance and 4 weeks of PTO. But the structure of the work is such that I constantly feel like a failure. And this was before I started doing like 6 hours of medical appointments/diagnostic testing a week.

        Sorry for the rant! I’m overwhelmed, but it seems like to me if I acknowledge that I’m struggling, I’m just proving to my job that this job and I don’t mix.

      2. OP1*

        Thank you! It’s um..been really hard. I’m really nervous abt being honest about Struggling bc of the culture thing. And, tbh, I don’t even know what to ask for as far accommodations/having a problem/etc. This is my first job out of college and my first time having my ADHD be a visible problem with work. Working manufacturing internships didn’t come with the kind of keeping track of stuck projects/timeblindness/information processing abilities that consulting does. Like, literally my audio processing fatigues really easily and during ADHD testing, I felt like I was going to black out trying to listen for audio stimuli without being distracted or not paying attention. And it sucks, because I like and I am good at the parts of my job that aren’t managing hours or workflow stuff or whatever. But the constant “did Everything get handled? Did this person get back to me? What happened in the last fifteen minutes?” thing is so draining, and it’s unfortunately an inherent part of being a consultant. Which suuuux. I didn’t mean to get into consulting, and I didn’t really know a lot about it. But this job had good health insurance and was the closest thing to what I wanted to do. And 6mo in i got asked if I wanted to Commit To Working On These Things (hard question to answer as a new grad in a pandemic) and I said yes. But, it…is really hard. When I graduated I had two offers, and a third who asked me to slow down my offer process to see if they could get me in. Now, I kinda feel a little bit like a failure, and like the time I spent here made me a worse engineer for other companies that could’ve hired me on.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          My two cents. I think your company sucks. It might be some on you, but it sounds like it’s mostly on THEM.
          You are NOT a failure. It ain’t over until they roll the credits and no one is rolling the credits yet. Life is nothing but a long series of guesses. “I guess I will try this job or that job.” If everyone who got a rocky start quit working entirely, then 90% of the employees out there probably would not be holding down jobs now. Hold on to that thought. Way too many people understand your feelings of being overwhelmed, as they have had their own version.
          Don’t wait too much longer to restart your job search. This is no way to have to live.

          1. Been there*

            I couldn’t agree more.

            OP, one of my first jobs was a different industry but very similar workstyle: lots of timekeeping, did this person get back to me yet, where were we on this project from 3 weeks ago, lots of late late nights and chaos and meeting with clients you had to suck up to. I was new to the professional world and it was the best job I could get, and I SUCKED at it. I couldn’t keep everything in my brain, I couldn’t stand the hours and culture, I didn’t enjoy anything about the job. I was so miserable and felt like a failure.

            I changed industries and jobs and it was night and day. The workstyle is so different: mostly desk work, I get to determine my own schedule at my own pace, I perform maintenance/proactive problem solving rather than putting out fires, I don’t have to deal with clients, the hours are reasonable. There are still things I’d like to change of course, but I am way better at this job! And I feel smart and skilled and qualified to do the work I’m asked to do. I also saw a therapist to help detach my self worth from my job (so helpful and still a work in progress).

            One thing that really helped me is, because I didn’t know what industry/field I wanted to go in, I made a list of qualities about the workstyle I wanted (or that I didn’t like about my current job). It helped give me some key words to google and find jobs like that, and also helped me determine if a job was right for me. In the desperation of a job hunt I could convince myself that maybe I’d like sales, but I could look at my list and remember I didn’t want to be on the phone with customers all day.

            I highly encourage you to move on, I think you will be much happier and more successful, and I hope that my story shows you that it is possible!! Good luck!

        2. beanie gee*

          OP1 I’m so sorry this new job has been soooo hard. I agree with Been there and Not So NewReader that your company might just suck. BUT if you’re really considering leaving, I know it’s scary, but I would talk to your manager.

          I manage a lot of jr staff at a consulting company and I would 100% want to know if one of my employees was struggling. ESPECIALLY if they were thinking of leaving and hadn’t talked to me about it. It’s possible your manager sucks as much as your company. But it’s also possible your manager recognizes that you ARE good at your job and will help you. Because that’s what good managers are supposed to do.

          Starting ANY new job is scary, but even more so when it’s your first job out of college. Sooooo many of us question if we are good enough. I’m 42 and ask myself that on a weekly basis. You’re in a very demanding job, but that doesn’t mean you have to hide that you’re struggling.

          Keep thinking about what else is out there for you, but in the meantime, please do consider talking to your manager. It sounds like you need some resources or tools and that’s exactly what your manager is supposed to help you with.

          I hope the medical situation and everything else gets more sane for you.

          much sympathy from the consulting AND engineering world

          1. OP1*

            thank you, that really means a lot. Tbh, I don’t even know what to ask for re: tools/resources, but I might poke around on r/consulting for tips. Also, might just start taking Fridays off. At least for a little bit. I really appreciate what you’ve said!!!

  66. SummerBee*

    Alison, with respect to #1, I disagree with your interpretation. “EOD” means midnight. “COB” (“close of business”) is what you use if you want something done by the end of the work day.

    In my current role, we often have to clarify because we work across Europe and North America, so “end of MY work day” is different across the time zones. Therefore, by midnight and before the easternmost time zones start work is a very common deadline for us, and so the default interpretation for “EOD”.

    1. Allypopx*

      Personally I’ve never worked somewhere where “EOD” didn’t mean 5:00pm. I’m sure this is one of those things that varies a lot.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Exactly — there are people all over this thread defining it as end of business hours and all sorts of other ways. The point is you need to ask.

  67. Tris Prior*

    So, I apparently have Resting-Someone-Just-Died-And-I-Am-So-Sad face, which seems to be worsened by webcams. I am SO TIRED of people asking me if I am OK any time I am not wearing a huge smile and it’s made me feel a lot more insecure about my appearance.

    Some of us just have faces that look tired or miserable when we are listening or thinking or concentrating! Please don’t ask this question purely based on someone’s appearance. It could be as simple as, they decided not to put any makeup on that day.

  68. Sarah in Philly*

    Re: LW#3:
    I’m also super empathic/feely sometimes, and I think a nice alternative to asking how someone is, is instead to tell them something positive about themselves. Not a superficial “love your sweater today!” but something like, “By the way, I’ve been meaning to tell you how much you saved my ass with your work on the Strucker project!” or “I really appreciated what you said about Hydra at the meeting today; I’d been struggling on how to articulate it, but you said it more perfectly than I ever could have!”

    Do it sparingly so it comes across as genuine and not pitying. The idea being that it’s not necessarily your place to help your coworker with anything that’s making their life miserable, but it is 100% within your purview to be a nice coworker who brings a little joy and goodness into her life.

  69. RagingADHD*

    When I’ve seen something about “access to transportation” or “reliable transportation required,” it has always meant that transportation problems will not be accepted as an excuse for repeated tardiness, and they are heading off arguments about that.

    It often indicates between-the-lines that they are dealing with a lot of tardiness, no-shows, and high turnover in the position.

  70. HailRobonia*

    I work with people from all over the world, so when I give deadlines I always include the full time zone, e.g. “5:00 pm EST (UTC-5)”

  71. Jessica Fletcher*

    1 – Ask! On my team, EOD means before midnight on that day. COB means close of business/end of normal working hours.

    5 – Don’t ask if they expect you to have a car. Some (unreasonable) employers will expect you to have a car when one isn’t needed, and that disproportionately pushes Black and other people of color out of consideration. Instead, ask about the work travel expectations, such as whether you’ll actually need to be travelling locally for the job. You might be able to do it without a car, if public transportation is reliable and easily accessible in your work area.

    Imo, your local public transit is going to make or break your ability to do a job with lots of local travel. In NYC or similar? Sure, no problem. In a smaller, Midwest city with dramatically less investment in public transit? Unlikely, because it’ll take you a lot longer to get around, which will become a pain point for your boss, you, your coworkers, or all of the above.

    My other thought is that maybe the job is open because someone was chronically late and due to lack of transportation. I’m leaning toward this one based on their language.

  72. LondonLady*

    LW3 – It’s great that you are caring and thoughtful! I’ve found it works well to send a message in Zoom chat during the warm up or sign off – be careful it goes to that person not to All – saying “Hi! Great to see you!” or “Love your sweater!” or “Cute cat!” or whatever, and if they respond saying “Would be good to catch up some time”. That leaves them open to make contact or not.

    I have also occasionally found work-based excuses to contact someone who seemed low eg one colleague who lives alone and I’d heard from a mutual friend was struggling, I emailed her and asked for a debrief on a project she’d run as I was contemplating something similar (not strictly true) we fixed a call and had a great chat. Felt good.

  73. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    I have a client who could well be your boss. She’ll typically ask for a job to be delivered “on Monday”. Well, one Monday I had to handle an emergency in the morning. I thought it’d be OK so long as I got the job done by a typical “end of business” time, 6pm here. The client started nagging me at about 3pm and I was nowhere near finished. Turned out she wanted to review my work before delivering. In fact she had given me her deadline not mine! I now just factor that in so that I deliver “in time” according to her definition, but it’s a PITA. It seems that similarly, what your boss means is “mid afternoon, so that I can review it and have it ready to go before I log off for the day”. It’s best to just assume that going forward, and clarify if you really would like more time than that.

    You say you don’t want to send the stuff at a weird time despite working weird hours. Trouble is, you don’t know whether the person you’re sending it to works “normal” hours either. “End of day” mostly means the person wants to see it in their inbox before they log off, so they can get started with it first thing in the morning. It’s just a matter of peace of mind for them.
    Nowadays however, with more people working from home, “end of day” means “end of day” because the client might prefer to work over the weekend then go shopping on Monday morning instead. (Especially now, with curfew at 6pm here in France, people can’t pop into the grocery on their way home from work, so shops are really crowded at lunchtime and the weekend. So more and more people are working irregular hours to be able to go shopping during the week)

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