explaining a drastic appearance change, employees won’t use hearing aids, and more

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

1. Explaining a drastic appearance change we when return to work

Like many, I (a mid-40’s woman) have been working from home since last March, so I have not seen my coworkers in person since then. In that time I had some very serious medical issues related to COVID, including a few hospitalizations, and the ramifications are lifelong. As a result I’ve lost 80+ pounds and my appearance has changed drastically. In the cases where I’ve seen non-work people, they have not recognized me immediately. I am on Zoom calls, but it’s hard to really see the changes until you’re face to face.

I know people will have well meaning comments when I return to work, but this weight loss is a blessing and a curse. I’d gladly take all the pounds back to be completely healthy again! I don’t want to discuss my medical issues but I also don’t want to encourage any conversations about my “lifestyle change” or “how I did it” either. I almost died, it’s not a good way to lose weight! Do you have any advice on a graceful way to deflect these comments?

Are you comfortable just saying, “It’s from being very sick”? (You could add, “but I’m doing better now” so people don’t worry terribly.) Or, “It’s from almost dying of Covid” or anything else that succinctly communicates the situation? That won’t shut all of it down because our culture is so profoundly messed up about weight that some people will see even weight loss from a serious illness as a lucky break, but it’ll shut down a lot of it.

If pressed to discuss it further, you could say, “Well, it’s medical so I’m not really getting into it at work. Thanks for understanding!”

2. My employee with hearing loss won’t wear her hearing aids

One of my direct reports is a sweet woman who has mentioned that she has hearing loss but that she doesn’t like to wear her hearing aids at work because they make everything louder. It is noticeable that she needs them though. When you speak to her, she frequently will get a blank look on her face or have to have things repeated, and she speaks quite loudly. With mask wearing due to Covid, the situation has gotten worse, and I have also had to remind her to maintain social distancing (as she often tries to get closer to hear better.) Her hearing is becoming a real issue. How do I ask her to wear her hearing aids without seeming ableist or creating any potential legal situations?

You can’t insist she wear hearing aids, and you shouldn’t. It might be helpful to realize that hearing aids aren’t like glasses. With glasses, you put them on and boom, your vision is corrected. Hearing aids don’t work like that; they can magnify environmental noises at the expense of voices and otherwise provide auditory input in a way that’s uncomfortable. Not always, obviously. But if your employee says she prefers not to wear them, there’s probably a reason. And legally, you cannot require them.

What you can do is to lay out the work-related problems you’re seeing and ask her what accommodations would help. There may be other strategies each of you can use that will improve things. (There are a lot of ideas here she could look at.) Meanwhile, you definitely can insist that she maintain social distancing while this gets worked out.

3. I was promoted under threat of retaliation and want to leave without burning all my bridges

I was offered a promotion to team lead a few months ago after my old lead left because of how bad the job is. Management was calling her in on her days off and she was working every weekend! So I turned it down, citing wanting to focus on my technical skills at this point in my career to be polite. Unfortunately, no one else took the job after I said no, so my manager came back to “ask” again. I got called into a meeting with him where he accused me of not being committed enough to my job. Then I got “offered” the role again. He only gave me until after lunch to answer. I made a panicked decision to take the job, fearing retaliation and not wanting to be fired. I told myself I could commit for a year and then leave, to try and get something out of the role for myself professionally.

Now I’m doing a minimum of 15 hours of overtime a week and working most weekends. I’m exhausted. We haven’t replaced my old role but the amount of work has stayed the same, despite my repeated requests to make something change, so I’m just doing both jobs. I have no training for management and am barely keeping it together on a personal level. I miss my old life so much. I pretty much just wake up and work until I am so tired I have to sleep. I don’t even feel like a person anymore. My manager is content to say “I’ll do something about it” and then not do something about it indefinitely when I bring up these issues.

I can’t live like this for a year, but I’m struggling with feeling good about leaving within a few months of being promoted. It seems like that will blow up any hope I have of using this place as a reference and might impact my reputation within the industry. I only graduated two years ago, and this is my first “real job” — I don’t have older references to fall back on except internships. I’d like to get out of this nightmare without burning every bridge or hurting my team. If I stayed six months, does that look better to other employers? And I care about my team, and I worry that leaving so soon will also put them in a bad place where they’ll have even less manpower and more pressure to overwork from above. Is there anything I can do to help them before leaving?

I feel like I’ve made a horrible mistake and it would have been better to refuse the role and start job hunting aggressively. Any advice?

Oh my goodness, you get to leave whenever you want to! Your boss might not like it but your boss is an awful person who basically forced to you to take a job you didn’t want and now is overworking you to the point of constant exhaustion, despite your pleas for help. Were you ever going to get a great reference from him anyway? I wouldn’t count on it, no matter what you do. Plus, it’s very normal not to use your current boss as a reference; most employers understand that can jeopardize your current job. You might have wanted him as a reference in the next job search, the one after this one, but it’s not a huge obstacle that you won’t have him. You’ll have other colleagues you can use. In fact, what about your team lead who left the job you were then forced to take over? She’d be a good option. It’s also fine to use references from internships when you’re early in your career. That’s normal and not strange in the least.

Other employers won’t be terribly concerned that you left a few months after being promoted. That doesn’t look that odd. If asked, you can explain you stepped up when they were in a pinch but you’re looking for something that won’t have you working seven days a week. Reasonable employers will fully understand that, and you don’t want to work for anyone who doesn’t.

As for your team … you can’t protect them at the cost of your own health/quality of life/ability to sleep. They’ve got to negotiate their own work lives on their own, and they’ll be able to figure out this is a crappy company that they need to leave just like you have. Feel free to encourage them in that direction! But trust that they’re adults and they’ll deal with it … and really, anyone worth sacrificing yourself for wouldn’t want you to make that sacrifice.

Read an update to this letter here

4. How do I teach someone time management when I’m bad at it myself?

I work for a very small research nonprofit. I have been asked to manage our youngest associate, Josie. Josie is very bright and does great work — when she does it. But she’s unreliable, misses deadlines right and left, and doesn’t communicate that her work will be coming in late. I believe it’s a time management issue and just being new to the workforce and not understanding norms.

If it were just as simple as saying “you must meet deadlines, and you must communicate to your team if you’re delayed,” that would be fine … but I feel compelled to help Josie learn better time management skills and set an example through my own actions. The truth is, though, that I am not great at time management. I’m often guilty of spending too much time chasing rabbits down holes, or trying to perfect a single slide or paragraph at the expense of other urgent work. The reason that I don’t miss deadlines is because I’m fueled by anxiety and determination, and so I’m willing to stay up all night to make sure the work gets done.

But I realize that my work patterns are not great — even if the results are good — and I would not want Josie to emulate my behavior (to the extent that it’s visible to her). How do I teach her to be effective at time management when it’s something I struggle with myself?

I’m not sure you can! It’s very hard to teach someone something that you haven’t mastered yourself, and especially if they see you doing something totally different. Also, time management is a thing where different methods work for different people. I manage my time in very specific ways that work well for me, but trying to teach those ways to other people has made it clear what works varies greatly from person to person. Some of the systems I see other people use would never work for me, and vice versa.

I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a nice bonus if you could teach Josie time management — it would be — but the most important part of your role as Josie’s manager is to be very, very clear about what outcomes you need from her. Lay out the expectations she must meet and hold her accountable to them. If you’ve already clearly told her she absolutely must meet deadlines or give you an advance heads-up when she needs more time and that’s still not happening, that’s a pretty serious performance issue. You can make suggestions (like that she find a time management book and read it) but ultimately it’s on her to figure out what she needs to meet those very basic expectations.

I also wouldn’t assume this is about being new to the workforce. Most people new to the workforce grasp these concepts easily when they’re spelled out. She might just not be right for the job.

5. My dad won’t stop sending me LinkedIn connection requests

Over the years, I’ve had my dad periodically request to connect with me on LinkedIn. My dad and I are in completely different industries. I think this is his indirect way of trying to “help” me even though his job connections wouldn’t be helpful. I don’t have other relatives on LinkedIn since it’s a professional platform.

Part of me wants to just block him on LinkedIn because I think he will just brush me off if I tell him directly to stop this time since he has good intentions. I should also note I’m hardly on LinkedIn myself, I just happened to see he sent a request recently.

Is the main reason you don’t want to connect to him that he’s not in your field? If so, it’s not weird or uncommon to connect to people you know on LinkedIn even if they’re in different fields. And you never know when a connection of a connection will actually turn out to be useful.

But if you don’t want to (and I realize there could be other reasons you prefer not to), just ignore the requests. Delete them, move on, done. If he asks about it at some point, you can say, “Oh, I’m never on there, I don’t even see requests most of the time.” Or if you really want to make it stop, you could block him on the platform — but that seems like an extreme step unless there’s more to it.

{ 360 comments… read them below }

  1. Sami*

    Oh OP 1– I’m so glad you wrote to Alison. I have the same problem. In two years I’ve lost a lot of weight. The most since last March when I got sick (not Covid)— over 200 pounds. While I’m at the appropriate weight for my height, the weight has come off due to being sick for the past year, including seven hospitalizations, two surgeries, two stays at a nursing home/rehab. While I’m glad to be at this weight, I’m definitely not happy how I got here.
    Hoping you are healthy!

    1. Casper Lives*

      Oh no I’m sorry that you and OP1 got so ill. It’s a shame that our culture prizes losing weight at almost any cost.

      My mother was a healthy weight but got quite duck with covid. She’s down to a size 2. She still experiences bad days of being fatigued to the point of being unable to leave the bed. She’s fully retired now instead of working part time due to these lingering issues.

      And the thing her church group etc comments on most us the unnecessary weight loss! They know she was ill and isn’t fully recovered. Yet it’s like there’s no connection in their minds.

      1. Avi*

        Entirely too long ago an acquaintance of mine suddenly lost a lot of weight, going from a pretty chubby guy to a ‘normal’ weight in less than a year. Got a lot of compliments about it.

        Six months later the cancer killed him.

        I’ve refrained from passing comment on other people’s weight ever since then, because that’s always the first thing that comes to my mind.

        1. Hemingway*

          It’s super triggering to me with an eating disorder. It makes me super scared of gaining any weight back because clearly people are noticing my weight.

        2. Dandy it is*

          Several years ago I lost 30 pounds. I was trying to lose weight so extremely happy. Then I was diagnosed with cancer because after the weight loss I still felt like crap. I had to be out on medical leave for a while and when I came back an off-site coworker complimented me on my weight loss. I looked at him and said cancer can do that to a person. He stumbled over a response. My friend coworker said I was a jerk for doing that because I lost the weight prior. I said he didn’t know that and that might not be the next person’s situation.

          1. CircleBack*

            I tell people my mom’s story all the time to try to teach them never to comment on someone’s weight. She really did lose it due to cancer, and when a coworker who sees her once or twice a year started to compliment her on it, she just straight out said “Thanks I have cancer.” A perfect example of pushing the awkward back on the person who introduced it into the situation.

        3. Third or Nothing!*

          I got a ton of compliments the year I lost weight in college due to stress, having to walk several miles a day when my car broke down, and not having enough time to eat much food at all. First time in my life the scale went down instead of up. I learned exactly what it took to make those numbers move the way I wanted them to…and if I hadn’t been fat I would have surely been diagnosed with an eating disorder. Still working to repair the damage at age 31.

        4. Allura Vysoren*

          I’m a healthy person but chronically underweight. People love to comment on how skinny I am and how they wish they could be this skinny. The truth is it’s a combination of good genetics (my mom and grandmother were both the same way, until they had kids) and an anxiety-driven eating disorder.

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            I’m very similar (just genetically predisposed to be scrawny) and after I had glandular fever I ended up extremely underweight for a while. Fortunately I’m now healthy again, but something really gross struck me the other day. The number of people who reeeeeeally liked how I looked when I was dangerously underweight. It’s wild how strong that societal conditioning is

      2. Quickbeam*

        I used to work on a pediatric floor with lots of end stage cystic fibrosis patients. They tend to digest food badly in addition to the breathing problems. You would not believe how many visitors would say “OMG you look so fantastic!” as these kids and young adults were dying. I’d even overhear “tell me your secret” and other tone deaf stuff like that. We really are a completely addled culture on weight.

        1. Alexander Graham Yell*

          Yeah, a friend of a friend’s lung function was waaaaay down right before her transplant and her body was just barely hanging on. She was so skinny and so sick, it took her saying, “Dying is exhausting, y’all. I’m dying, that’s what this is. That’s why I’m skinny, because I’m DYING” for the comments to stop. (She’s now 3 or 4 years post transplant, healthy and happy, just to make sure you know there’s a good ending here.)

      3. FrenchCusser*

        Lost 75 lbs last year also due to illness, and I would tell people not to congratulate me and THEY WOULD STILL DO IT.

        Drove me batty. I just kept reiterating that I didn’t want to hear how great I looked, and finally it stopped.

        But it went on for far too long.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Years ago, I lost tons of weight rapidly due to an illness that made it painful to eat literally anything. So many people made comments on my weight loss, and every time it was a reminder that I was constantly in pain and hungry. A few times I could only manage to hold it together for a few minutes then went to the bathroom to cry. That was a really hard time in my life.

      I never comment about anyone’s weight unless they explicitly say it was intentional.

      1. Hemingway*

        But even then, it could be intentional because of disordered eating, and it makes it worse for the person if they gain it back.

        What originally fueled my eating disorder was getting compliments on my weight loss when I was just cutting out extra junk, etc. I had never been very thin, and so those compliments made me want to lose more and more.

      2. Spallanzani*

        I’m so sorry about your illness. I had the same experience with my first pregnancy. Severe hyperemesis put me 15 lbs down in the first two months. I kept getting comments about how I ‘looked great’ and I wanted to claw people in the face while I was on the way to the bathroom to vomit again. Then when I announced and started to show, people kept commenting on how I hadn’t gained too much weight, good job, blah blah. I refrained from pointing out that my lack of weight gain was threatening my and my baby’s health and I would much rather be plump and healthy.

        I don’t know why “don’t comment on other people’s body” isn’t drilled into people’s heads as a child.

        1. Qaoileann*

          As a fellow hyperemesis sufferer: WORD.
          (I got medication which brought the nausea down to a level where I could function okay, but it lasted my whole pregnancy).
          Occasionally post-pregnancy people would ask how I was feeling about my “baby body” and I was just like: “Do you know how amazing it is to have food taste good again?” Priorities, people.

        2. Third or Nothing!*

          Oooooh that grinds my gears! I don’t know if I had HG, but I sure did have some terrible nausea for the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy. I was actually -losing- weight because I couldn’t keep anything down except for toast, and my midwife was all “yeah it’s normal for overweight patients to lose weight during the first trimester because they’re taking so much better care of themselves.”

          Sorry, I wasn’t aware that only eating a bit of toast and laying on the couch every evening is better than eating a full, balanced, and varied diet and running 20 miles a week. But OK. Never did get any help for it but I did finally find a meal replacement supplement that didn’t make me sick so I at least had the comfort of knowing my daughter was getting the nutrients she needed.

          1. 2 Cents*

            I wasn’t diagnosed with HG either, but lost 25 lbs in the first 8 weeks of pregnancy. Coworkers commented that they’d thought I was pregnant (hard to hide the vomiting in communal bathrooms), but were confused because I was losing so much weight, even though I “looked great!” Baby rejected everything but gummy bears, ginger ale and club crackers. So. miserable.

            As someone who has been labeled chubby to fat her entire life in only negative ways and has battled eating disorders, I don’t comment on anyone’s body, including mine, in public or in private. It’s my business. Yours is your business.

        3. person who's been pregnant*

          If it makes you feel better, by the end of the first trimester, the baby weighs less than an ounce and therefore doesn’t need a lot of raw calories for its growth. That is why hyperemesis during the first trimester doesn’t usually affect the baby’s growth unless it’s so severe that you need to be hospitalized for dehydration or something. The embryo/fetus hijacks the mother’s blood sugar regulation system to ensure it gets nutrients, even if the mother isn’t. (That, by the way, is why gestational diabetes is a thing.) I’m not trying to discount how badly you felt, just pointing out that your baby was probably actually doing OK if your hyperemesis was only for the first few months.

    3. i want to sleep*

      I’m currently in my second go-around with “health issue made me drop a ton of weight”. This one I don’t know what the health issue is, but the last one, I did.

      Someone to me: oh you lost so much weight!
      Me: I didn’t lose it, I know exactly where it went.

      1. pretzelgirl*

        I hate comments on weight loss in general. Whether it be from medical issues, actually trying to loose weight or whatever. I keep getting comments that I have lost weight, and I have not lost anything. Its frustrating bc I am not really trying and its a little embarrassing to be told I look “better” when I thought I looked fine before. I realize mine is not a medical reason for loosing weight, but its still frustrating.

        1. kt*

          My favorite example of the above is when I got a new haircut and a friend’s mom gushed over the “weight I’d lost”. It was weird.

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            My boss literally asked me if I’d lost weight when I finally GAINED 8kg. I went from completely flat chested to suddenly having big boobs for my frame, so you’d think it’d be obvious I couldn’t have lost weight? But I guess that social narrative of “looking good = losing weight” is just so strong…

        2. Threeve*

          I lost a little weight–like, less than four pounds–and based on where I gain and lose weight really the only noticeable change was going down a bra size. I got so many “wow, you’ve lost weight!” comments. And every time I thought, “…how much attention have you been paying to my boobs?”

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            If you got new bras, it could be the bras were just fitting you better so you looked like you weighed less. When I finally got sized into the right bra I looked like I had dropped weight when I hadn’t. You could just see my waist again because my boobs were no longer sagging over it LOL.

        3. Roeslein*

          Me too! I’ve been pretty much the same weight since I was 13 except during pregnancy and the comments I got following maternity leave were incredibly frustrating. It felt weird because I didn’t do anything to lose the weight, just sat on the sofa and breastfed my baby while watching Netflix – nothing to deserve congratulations, and yet people were talking about it like it was some sort of moral victory. Really weird.

        4. Lime green Pacer*

          I learned to mentally translate those “Have you lost weight?” comments (when I hadn’t nor was I even trying) to “It’s great to see you!” and “You look nice today!”

        5. Paulina*

          Yes, why can’t people MYOB on weight. A while back I lost* quite a bit of weight, intentionally and healthily, and even so I still hated the “good for you!” and similar attempts to bring it up, entirely by the female staff at work. I explained I didn’t want to discuss my weight at work; some immediately dropped it, some kept bringing it up and asking questions that I never answered. I tend to find cheerleaders demotivating and distracting, and found it inappropriate for them to get into my personal business, especially in a way that seemed so gendered and unprofessional.

          (* I sometimes refer to it as “misplaced” rather than “lost”. It showed up again after a while.)

    4. C*

      My father went through something similar when he had mouth cancer. He went from being overweight to dangerously underweight. When he was in remission and back to work he got a lot of compliments for his weight loss. He would say “it’s a great diet called having cancer”. That suited his dark sense of humour and personality but I understand it may not be the way others would address it. He’s been cancer free for two years now and got a personal trainer to gain back healthy muscle weight but he will never look the same again.

        1. Lana Kane*

          My mom’s answer to how she stayed so slim (only after the person had asked a few times) was “chronic diarrhea”.

      1. kittymommy*

        I once was complimented on a large weight loss I had (note: I was underweight already so there was no way this additional loss was a good thing). I tried to be polite but the person kept bugging me so I finally told them my secret – just bury both your parents in a month and a half, put your uncle in the hospital and have your grandmother diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and you too can drop 20 pounds pretty damn fast.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I did something similar. I was size 12 when I had a sudden weight loss from PTS several years ago. I tried, but never gained it back.
          A woman I had just been introduced to asked me how I stay so thin and I said, “you start with abusive parents in a fundamentalist area and this causes post-traumatic stress, and you leave there and work your way up to a decent life, and then a situation at work causes a sudden weight loss from PTS. And it’s also partly body type and current stress.”
          And I’ll do it again, if necessary. Insensitive boors need to hear it.

    5. Gigi*

      Everyone just needs to stop commenting on people’s bodies. I don’t care if you think it’s a compliment, it’s not ok. In my whole life, I know one person whose weight loss was due to exercise. Everyone else it’s been illness. And really, our bodies are no one else’s damn business. Just because you can see someone has lost weight doesn’t give you the right to ask about it.

      1. JokeyJules*

        THANK YOU.

        i lost ~15lbs during covid….from severe anxiety destroying my appetite and my digestive system in general. Every time someone mentions it, i’m reminded of that crippling anxiety and what came with it.

        Also, not for nothing, i was happy and content with my body. it isnt helpful to hear how much of an improvement you think i’ve made. i dont consider it an improvement – and it doesn’t feel good at all to think that someone else does.

        1. JessaB*

          I finally lost weight, I’m nearly 60 years old and have been large all my life. I now have stage 4 kidney disease. That’s why I couldn’t eat or keep weight on. I’d rather be fat. My mother lost 100 lbs due to cancer. I knew all my life that I had a phobia of losing weight because it killed her.

          It’s outrageous that people think it’s okay to talk about people’s body shape/size/configuration. And it stinks that it’s one of the major discriminations still somewhat acceptable.

      2. meyer lemon*

        Yep. In the same way that I pretend I can’t hear anything going on in a neighbour’s apartment, I also keep up the polite fiction that I don’t notice anything about another person’s body, in the hopes that they return the favour (they usually don’t). But I don’t enjoy weight loss talk even when it is clearly intentional, so even then I try to keep my comments pretty neutral.

      3. Sarah*

        I agree.

        In 2019 I lost a small but noticeable amount of weight through diet and exercise, going from “upper-normal” to “normal” weight for my height. Some of my coworkers would not stop “complimenting” me about it. I’m sure they meant well, but it was super uncomfortable because I don’t like feeling that my body is being scrutinized at work.

        Husband and I are hoping to get pregnant soon, and I don’t look forward to the comments about my body if/when that happens.

      4. Paulina*

        Preach! There are very few people in the world that I would not find it extremely presumptuous for them to try to start such a personal discussion with me. Unsurprisingly, those that I am close enough to for it also know me well enough not to, or are simply the sort of people who wouldn’t. Unlike the OP, though, I go for a brief and direct shutdown (and then immediate subject change) rather than graceful.

    6. Chc34*

      A few years ago I went into a depressive spiral and basically stopped eating. I lost 40 pounds. Everyone kept complimenting me on my weight loss and I wanted to be like “thank you, I’m falling apart.”

    7. Not playing your game anymore*

      In 2019 my partner got very ill, no appetite, drastic (more than 100 lbs) weight loss. Everyone raved about how great it was, which really hindered me trying to get them to seek medical help. Ended up spending Thanksgiving and Christmas 2019 in the hospital. Finally got a (grim) diagnosis and started treatment. Partner is doing much better, and the enforced stay at home time of covid has actually been good. The bad part is as health and appetite return so does some of the weight, and partner is dreading going back to work and dealing with the disappointment of people who were way to invested in someone else’s diet.

    8. AKchic*

      Thanks to medication, I gained 60 in 6 weeks. When complaining to the doctor, they UPPED my dosage, which caused another 30 in 3 weeks, plus suicidal, homicidal, generally rage-y, and hey, we also noticed it counteracted my birth control (nobody told me it would do that! I already had three kids!). I miscarried fairly quickly, stopped the medication, and 13 years later still haven’t dropped all the weight.

      I lost a lot of the weight during my morning sickness while pregnant the next time (I hate medication changes when the doctors and pharmacists do not spell out that the medications CAN mess with birth control, because it absolutely will for me). I randomly gained 60lbs again in my late 20’s when I got early onset perimenopause. Then, I randomly dropped 60lbs in my early 30’s and decided I wasn’t going to question it, blamed hormones and moved on. Am I a healthy weight? Not quite. Am I a weight I can live with? Yes. Do I need to see a doctor? Oh, for sure, but I don’t trust any of them in my state and that reputation is well-earned.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        Yes, one of the reasons I moved from Kansas to a major metro area was to have better doctors. I have a lot of allergies and Kansas doctors were both clueless and arrogant… I’ve never forgotten the “best in town” one who said it was impossible for my symptoms to be related to what I was eating. *eyeroll*
        Hormones may have been a factor in my PTS weight loss, it coincided with menopause. No one told me about that either. No one told me anything about what happens to the reproductive system after menopause, even here with better doctors.

    9. Marion Ravenwood*

      When I first got divorced I lost a ton of weight (through not eating, overexercising – because going for a run meant I didn’t have to think about how my marriage was falling apart and what a failure I was – and general stress), to the extent I was really worried about myself. The amount of people, including close relatives, who’d say things like “you look so well!” was actually weirdly upsetting. I wouldn’t wish that type of weight loss on anyone and for that reason would never say something about another person’s appearance.

    10. Proserpina*

      Around this time last year, my sister who lives with me basically lost the ability to eat or keep food or liquid down. She lost about a pound a day for six weeks or so until our doctor finally figured out why (she’d started reacting to one of her medications she’d been on for years).

      Thing is, she and I were both overweight, and in the process of going on a slow, careful weight loss journey together. And as I cared for her for during that time — tracking her calories, helping with multiple ER trips, cleaning up vomit, taking her to the doctor to get IV fluids, and a bunch of other stuff too — not once was I jealous. I was just horrified. She was MISERABLE. I remember thinking to myself, that I’d rather be fat for the rest of my life than lose weight like THAT.

      I also remember thinking I was glad that she WAS overweight, because I was watching her fat fulfill its exact biological purpose: acting as an emergency reserve. If my beanpole brother had been the one going through the same thing, he might well have been hospitalized. But my sister had the fat to burn. It honestly changed how I looked at people who want to lose those ten “vanity” pounds. It made me almost want to tell everyone they OUGHT to be ten or fifteen pounds overweight, in case *something happens.*

  2. Phil*

    LW1: I also had a life and appearance changing medical problem. I have a one sentence answer and a one hour answer, depending on the circumstances. Practice the one sentence answer to get it down. That’s usually enough to stop further discussion.

  3. Artemesia*

    #1. If you say ‘it is medical and I don’t want to discuss it’. people will gossip about your bariatric surgery. I think if you want to cool the inappropriate talk and well meaning annoying ‘compliments’ about your weight loss, you just need to nip it immediately with ‘I almost died of COVID — it was pretty grim, don’t want to talk about it’. That makes it clear and also makes it clear you don’t want to discuss it. You shouldn’t have to ‘explain’ such things but vague just creates more speculation and gossip than being frank. Glad you made it through — scary stuff.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I agree with this.

      I do understand that people don’t want to share medical details, and they definitely shouldn’t have to. But it’s like my former coworker who had to tell everyone she had cancer to stop the weight loss talk and the “you look great” talk in her hearing.

      I hope you’ll feel better soon, OP.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      This is a good point to avoid being the topic of gossip about weight loss. OP, I am hoping you feel better.

    3. Beth*

      Unfortunately, I think this is accurate re: ‘medical’ being read as ‘potential weight loss surgery, juicy gossip material’. Our culture thinks of weight as a moral issue more than a medical one (despite all the health talk that gets attached to it, ironically), and that means that if you don’t make it really clear that what happened is actually not at all juicy, it’s going to keep getting talked about.

      “Yeah, I almost died of COVID. I’d rather not talk about it, actually–people keep congratulating me on the weight loss, and it feels pretty terrible to have the side effects of such an awful experience talked about as a positive” might sound like a grim response to someone expressing what they probably think are compliments. But honestly, anyone who’s commenting on your body both needs to learn that those comments are more likely to do harm than good, and also deserves to feel awkward and ashamed about their comments. On top of that, saying something along those lines is probably the single most-likely-to-succeed way to shut down gossip on the subject. I’m sorry–you shouldn’t have to share medical information if you don’t want to–but if getting the topic well and truly dropped is your goal, putting the awkwardness back on the people who brought it up is the way to go.

      1. Chriama*

        > it feels pretty terrible to have the side effects of such an awful experience talked about as a positive

        I really like that. I think it forces a more empathetic perspective on people (it’s easy to picture yourself experiencing the more visible effect, losing weight, than the more serious effect, nausea, difficulty breathing, weakness so strong you can’t get out of bed, etc). Force that image to the forefront of their minds, and all but the most obtuse will recalibrate.

      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Our culture thinks of weight as a moral issue more than a medical one (despite all the health talk that gets attached to it, ironically)

        I lost about 20/15 lbs not long ago. This was due entirely to a change in some medications I take for a chronic issue.

        One of the more dissappointing things was the amount of assumptions re: my behaviour that surfaced when people commented on it. Before the medication change, I ate fairly healthily and exercised often. After the medication change, I ate a little less heathily and exercised often. Listening to people praise me for eating better or exercising more (when all I did was swap one little pill for another) was really….well, it just made me a little sad, honestly.

        Especially since, given the pace of the weightloss, it should have been obvious that it couldn’t have been driven by exercise or cutting out snacks.

      3. hidz*

        “Putting the awkwardness back on the people who brought it up is the way to go” — 100000% agreed.

        OP1, as someone who has been there — rapid weight loss brought on by GI problems in my senior year of high school transformed me from “chubby teen” to somebody who was, by the end of the summer between my first and sophomore years of college, “hot,” which is to say extremely underweight for my body type — I will never forget the look on the face of the former classmate who approached me in a grocery store to compliment my ill body after I told her that actually, I had been very sick for years. (This still shocks me, because this very person had been very ill our senior year of high school and gained a lot of weight, so I would have thought she would’ve Just Not Done This, but… I don’t know, man.)

        Anyway, that’s the route I would recommend. Just make these people uncomfortable. Hopefully it will make them reconsider making comments re: people’s appearances in the future, and if nothing else, how they respond will be useful information for you to file away. Like I said, it’s been 10+ years and I’ve never forgotten this interaction, OR the comment I received from a “friend” in my senior year who told me she wished she could have a disease like me so she could eat as many donuts as she wanted and not gain any weight :) I didn’t say anything to her, but hoo boy do I wish I had!

      4. OP #1*

        I think I agree with this approach – I know people are well meaning but it’s been awful. I honestly can’t believe how much this question has resonated with people! (And how kind and thoughtful this community is)

    4. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

      “It’s an unfortunate side effect of being quite ill” is short, and heads off weight-loss surgery if you care about giving that impression.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I think that setting a goal of minimizing gossip is an exercise in futility. I changed my diet and lost 3 sizes. Oh my the gossip line lit right up. It lit up to the point that the company nurse dragged me in to her office to weigh me. I laughed to myself the entire time. I had only lost 4 pounds. It took her forever to get that little slider thing up beyond 150 pounds. She was sooo very sure that I weighed around 100 pounds. Finally the beam balanced and she said, “Where do you put it all???” That was it, I started laughing out loud.

      What I did not expand on is that my health fell apart. I had stuff going on. I decided to control my symptoms I would do a better job of watching what I ate. (One of many, many things I did.) It was purely incidental and irrelevant to me that I lost those clothing sizes. I put a ton of effort into getting my life back. To minimize the whole story down to a number on a scale showed a Grand Canyon size lack of understanding. I had no inclination to bridge that gap. I had a finite amount of energy and I decided that energy would go into reclaiming my life.

      I found freedom in reframing. I decided that I can try to control the gossip, which probably will not work out OR I can just focus on reknitting ME. Interestingly, as I went about my normal day doing normal stuff people got bored and found someone else to talk about. The drawback here is that this takes time. So I decided, “So be it.”

      1. Cats on a Bench*

        A company nurse weighed you?! What business is it of hers or the company’s how much you weigh? I can see her asking you to come in to talk about her concerns regarding your weight loss, but to make you weigh you too? That’s quite an overreach. Honestly, I’d have found even a chat to be too intrusive of the company, but the weighing is even more so.

        1. Malarkey01*

          Even calling you in to talk concerns for a COMPANY nurse is a huge overreach. They are not your personal health provider and have no access to your health info and it’s SO inappropriate to discuss medical care for you unless you seek them out or they are administering emergency aid.

    6. Doc in a Box*

      When I was in college, I became severely depressed and stopped eating. I would go to the dining hall with my friends, pick at a salad for whatever was a socially acceptable amount of time, and leave. I lost about 25 lbs (I am 5’2″, so this was a really significant amount of weight) and got so many “compliments,” attention from guys for like the first time in my life. I felt AWFUL and didn’t know what to say; it all made me feel even more isolated and alone.

      This was long before college mental health services were even a thing, and it took me a long time to come to a reckoning with what was going on. I am in a much better place today, and, as a mid-30s professional, I now have the confidence to say something like “I nearly died of [x]” but I would not have been in that position 15 years ago, even if I had been able to name what was happening to me.

      LW 1, I hope you are comfortable saying something to your clueless colleagues; if nothing else it will make them think twice before commenting on other people’s bodies. If not, you could always use the fallback of “why do you think it is appropriate to talk about my weight at work” in as flat a manner as you can. Or just return awkward to sender by staring at them in silence until they get it.

    7. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      Absolutely. I lost a visible amount of weight over a month when my youngest was hospitalized for an infection. Stress, not sleeping, with a bonus that the hospital’s third party catering company couldn’t handle either her or my food allergies = yeah, I lost weight. Of course, I was working remotely at that point (because hospitalized child too young to advocate for herself) and it all being Pre-Covid, I had *that* coworker ask me how my spa vacation went once I returned to work. In front of my team and all of the bosses, who were well aware of what went on.

      Then there was the former safety representative who loudly yelled that I looked fantastic across the office. I was very sarcastic in my answer (she was a gossip. And thankfully retired shortly thereafter.).

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        “Spa vacation? Well, if I ever take one. I’ll be sure let you know how it is. No plans for the foreseeable future, though.”

    8. Nope.*

      Sadly, you are probably right about this. A decent person would leave well enough alone. Not all people are decent.

      I once had a coworker who made it her job to knock on the door every.single.time I was in the restroom. I basically have superglue adhered to my internal organs. I’m lucky peeing a lot is the worst of it. I’m sure she was saying things I’d rather not hear… and she knew my history! Some people just like to stir the pot.

    9. Nicotene*

      Unfortunately OP probably will get well-meaning comments about this: our society is so sick when it comes to weight, eating, and women’s appearances. My advice is to try and contextualize it that way. I lost a significant amount of weight in a really bad way and people were so unintentionally awful about it … “lucky you!” or “good for you!” was what I kept hearing, and I was just like ???

      Also, when I went to the doctor to discuss my unintended weight loss and the factors that were causing it, she totally paid zero attention to what I guess seemed like a non-problem to her and was like, “mm your cholesterol is high, you should cut meat and dairy.” I was sooooo angry.

    10. AKchic*

      I think you’re right about the idea of weight loss surgery. People *always* jump to that conclusion. Or some other kind of “lose weight quick” surgery (liposuction; for example).

      When I first lost weight this last time, my chest did not get the memo, which made my weight loss much more pronounced (150lbs and still a J cup… I looked like a short semi-stick person with balloons stuck to the front of me). People would ask if I had surgery, whether it was to lose my stomach or to enhance my chest, or both. Sorry, I was not trying for the Dolly Parton look. Sure, it really helped when I dressed like a pirate, but I don’t dress like a pirate very often (only a few weekends/days a year). Seems like a bad investment, y’know?
      Luckily, it only took 4 years for my chest to get the memo that I lost weight, and they have dropped to a much more manageable G cup and I look much more proportional to myself.

    11. JustaTech*

      Is this a place where one could use the office gossip to your benefit? Like, proactively tell the office gossip that you were very ill and you don’t want to be complimented for being very ill?

      In some offices “nearly died of COVID” would be considered just as juicy as “maybe had surgery”.
      Or does this not actually work in practice?

  4. Trolly*

    One of the “You May Likes” on this post is “my employee drastically changes her appearance in the middle of the workday”. Just want to say this is my favorite question of all time :-). I think about this woman every so often, like when I see a salon in a mall. I wish I knew her because I have SO MANY QUESTIONS.

      1. asterisk*

        What was the update? I went to the original post, but didn’t see any information about an update.

      2. disconnect*

        It still bothers me that the focus of that letter was on the woman who drastically changed her appearance midday, and not on the institutional sexism that was the root cause of the whole situation. I remember a few commenters pointed it out and were drowned out. Like, sure, I think the manager handled it as best she could, but what did the manager do to rebuff the sexist comments in the first place? Throwing up your hands and saying “the world sucks and I can’t do anything about that” perpetuates the sick system.

        1. Daffy Duck*

          What sexist comments are in the letter? The original letter specifically states the OP didn’t bring it up to her due to the optics. His manager talked to her when folks outside the company were bringing it up.
          If an outside male vendor changed his hair color from shoulder-length blue to short black and changed from a button-down shirt and khakis to a grey suit over lunch when we had all-day meetings I would likely not recognize him, and think it was a bit strange. If he walked into his manager’s office after a request to not change at lunch with his shirt unbuttoned and bare chest on view he would be let go. This isn’t sexism, it is basic professional standards. It seems that the company didn’t have an issue when she wasn’t representing them in public venues.
          Now, if male employees were drastically changing appearance at lunch when meeting with outside vendors and the company didn’t talk to them about it when they talked to her – that would be sexism.
          This is from someone old enough to be denied a car loan unless my husband would co-sign.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            I just read the update, and the whole spiel of “it’s hard to be taken seriously as a woman in the workplace anyway…” smacks like sexist concern trolling.

            Sure, if you have contact with outside vendors then the expectation that you don’t change your appearance too drastically in the middle of the day is defensible… in certain roles. I wouldn’t like to be in a role either where that’s an issue, so I am disappointed that the LW at the time felt she couldn’t give a reference after her employee walked out spectacularly. This said, as conservative workplaces go this is probably less bad than other things. I hope the employee is fabulous in a new role somewhere.

          2. jojo*

            My mother got divorced in those days. She had to put grandpa on her bank account so she could cash her paycheck to feed us four kids. 1973 when Washington passed the law, she took him off.

        2. Nea*

          I don’t see institutional sexism in saying “please don’t change your appearance during public events so drastically that people from outside the office literally do not recognize you.” Anyone of any gender and any age who makes themself unrecognizable mid-public event is drawing attention away from the company to themselves and that’s unprofessional.

        3. Myrin*

          The comments were drowned out because there was literally zero indication of a sexist reasoning in both the letter and the update.

      3. OP #1*

        Hi guys – OP1 here! I was not available yesterday so I am late to the party here. I can’t believe how much this question resonated with people and how many kind, thoughtful and useful suggestions this community came up with.

        I’m much better now (hooray) but I’ll deal with effects for a long time. Thank you to this great community and to Alison for answering my question!

  5. ThePear8*

    #5 – I’m connected with my dad on LinkedIn, we’re in completely different fields, and there’s nothing weird at all about it? We don’t interact at all through the platform. I could see this being an issue if you think he’s the type to try and comment on your every post or something (whether trying to be helpful or just being a nosy parent), but if it’s just connecting just for the sake of having him as a connection in your LinkedIn network, there’s probably nothing wrong with that.

    1. Casper Lives*

      Yeah I’m connected to one parent and not the other on LI. We’re all in different fields. I’m connected with the one that doesn’t try to cross all of my boundaries all the time.

      I wonder if there’s more to it? Like LW’s father is in their business all th time.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think by definition someone who is constantly linking without getting a positive response is someone who is all up in her business and can’t take a hint. If I asked my daughter about linking and she ignored or changed the subject I would understand that the answer is ‘no’. Her Dad just keeps pushing.

        1. CObol*

          Everybody’s relationship with their parent is different, and Alison sort of hints at ignore the advice if your relationship with your dad is more complicated than the letter writer writes. That being said, I would probably assume my daughter (or wife, or sister, or brother, or mom, or dad) simply didn’t get the request. But I don’t see a reason to hint at this with family.

          1. Sandi*

            “simply didn’t get the request”

            It’s too late for LW5 as they are already in a reject / request cycle, but this is my practice and I would recommend it.
            I ignore requests from family and if they ever were to mention it I would express a surprised “I haven’t seen a thing! Must be a social media glitch. They can be quirky” because it’s believable.

            1. Pockey*

              Do you not have a pleasant relationship with your family? I’m not trying to pry or be offensive with that question just trying to figure out why you would even need to lie about it with them. I flat out told my mom that no I didn’t want to be Instagram friends (my insta is private) but we are connected on LinkedIn.

              If my family member told me it was a glitch I would be like “ok I’ll just request again”. It’s definitely believable but only for the first time. If they tried again that excuse wouldn’t work over and over. Best to just be honest (if that’s an option).

              1. Allison Wonderland*

                I don’t know, it may be fine with your mom, but some older, less tech-savvy family members are just kind of awkward on social media, feeling the need to comment on every post or writing public comments that should have been a private note. I’m thinking more of Facebook, not Linkedin, but still. But it would seem rude if I said “I didn’t accept your request because you’re embarrassing.” So I would probably say I don’t use the platform much. Or more likely, I accept the request, but restrict how much they can see on my page.

        2. Lars the real Girl*

          Or it’s the definition of someone who agrees every time linkedin asks “click here to invite your contacts” or whatever they’re calling it now when they send friend requests to all of your contacts. That would be my first inclination – that dad doesn’t even know he’s sending requests regularly.

          1. Anonym*

            This is a very real probability! Linkedin is always trying to get you to connect with more people, and if you use the contacts feature it’ll be literally everyone in your phone/email, regardless of whether they even have an account. It took me a while to figure out why I kept getting connect requests at my old email address (not connected to my LinkedIn account) from people I was already connected to. This was the explanation.

            1. PT*

              That’s what I was thinking, LinkedIn is always asking me to “add Fergus McJerkface to your network.”

              Fergus McJerkface did not like me, I did not like him, he did not add me on LinkedIn, it is just LinkedIn being spammy.

      2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        That’s what I’m trying to understand. It appears to be one of two situations:
        1. There is a problem in the relationship between OP and their father and OP does not want that contact via LinkedIn. If that’s the case, OP’s choice to not connect is more about the relationship and we don’t know what that relationship is.
        2. There is no problem in the relationship and OP has picked up the idea that one should only connect on LinkedIn with people in their industry. In that case, OP misunderstands the power of LinkedIn. It is a networking sight and one should not limit their network to only those in their industry. If that’s the case, then OP should not only connect with their father, OP should also seek good advice on how to use LinkedIn.

        Obviously, I don’t know which situation this is.

    2. Cobol*

      I’m connected to my mom and wife, and we’re in completely different industries. I don’t think there’s anything weird with it.

      1. pretzelgirl*

        Agreed, I don’t have linkedin anymore. However I connected with most people I knew, whether it was from work or my personal life.

    3. calonkat*

      Agreed. I’m in government work that has nothing to do with my niece (greeting card editor) or daughter (data person for the same greeting card company). But they are both connections on LinkedIn. Honestly it makes more sense than some of the weird requests you get! And we’ve reminded each other to update the info on the site when job titles change :)

    4. L*

      I’m hardly connected with anyone in my field. It has just been my facebook friends sending me requests. Yeah, I don’t really use LinkedIn, I see no point. The use of LinkedIn depends wildly on your field.

    5. Janet's Planet*

      Right. Jeez, just connect. This isn’t something to write in for anonymous advice on. There’s obviously something deeper going on here.

      1. Forrest*

        I mean, if your think your dad is going to rock up on your LinkedIn page going, “How are you doing son, looking forward to seeing you at Auntie Bea’s party!” it’s completely legit not to want that turning up on your LI page! But if you do use LinkedIn actively, and you trust your dad to be professional about it. then widening your circles to people beyond your immediate industry is very normal and can increase your access to people you *do* want to connect with.

        Also near in mind that LinkedIn is very fond of giving options for you to accidentally send “I’d like to connect” messages to everyone your phone has ever met, so it’s entirely possible that your dad has no idea that he’s trying to connect with you.

      2. 36Cupcakes*

        That’s really judgmental and if Alison didn’t think it was an appropriate question she wouldn’t have published it.

        1. Janet's Planet*

          That’s fair; I am judging them. They wrote in for office/work type advice but if they’re considering blocking their father on LinkedIn because he dared to send them a connection request, they should seek out family advice, not work advice.

          1. Pockey*

            It’s not a wild assumption to make either. And more readily believable than they just don’t know that it’s perfectly fine to be friends with your parents on LinkedIn (if everyone is acting professional).

          2. Temperance*

            Have you thought about the fact that LW might be younger and new to work norms, or might have a family situation that is fairly enmeshed, toxic, or unhealthy? She might genuinely be trying to figure out work norms AND life norms, and comments like yours aren’t helpful.

            I also feel some kind of way about your tone. Not everyone grew up in a middle class, white collar world where our parents might be a little dorky but largely harmless, FFS.

          3. Mockingjay*

            This site is full of questions about maintaining professional boundaries between coworkers, managers, ex-jobs, friends, and family. It’s a very reasonable thing to write in about.

          4. Fern*

            Fourth-ing the other comments that this is a completely appropriate question that I don’t understand all the judgment about. Before this letter and follow-up comments, I wasn’t sure if connecting with parents on LinkedIn looks immature. It’s not on the same level as bringing a parent to your interview or putting “stay at home parent” or “head of my household” on your resume, but there are often questions about the maturity and reasonability of mixing jobs and family. Jeez! ;)

          5. meyer lemon*

            I mean, it’s an advice column. Sometimes people will ask questions about things that you personally don’t have questions about. That’s how it works? If the answer seems obvious to you, you can just scroll on by, or maybe even offer something helpful for the letter writer instead of judging them.

            Also, if this site stripped out all questions that involved fraught interpersonal relationships, there wouldn’t be much left.

      3. Anon for this one*

        I was in a similar situation to the one you envision (“something deeper going on here”) in that I had a family member I was estranged from try to view my LI profile to find out what I was up to and where I was.

        In that case he didn’t actually send a connection request as such, but did create an account under a fictitious name posing as a person in my ‘field’ (that I would plausibly connect with for networking) and got access that way.

        Not saying this is the case with the OP, but if you do have any concerns about your father like this, be aware of the “pseudo account” route also.

      4. Allison Wonderland*

        The LW seems to think users should only be connected on Linkedin to people they know “professionally,” not personally, so not friends and family. That’s not how most people use it, but it’s not a totally off-base assumption to have, especially if you don’t use it much.

    6. Sanders*

      #5, you wrote that “his job connections wouldn’t be helpful”. That is a very limited way of thinking, and I think you would be surprised. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that *every* human has something to teach us, and that sometimes valuable connections pop up in the most unexpected places. What if one of your dad’s colleagues is married to one of your future hiring managers? What if one of your dad’s colleagues used to work in your industry? Or has an old roommate who is the boss for your dream job? One of the main points of LinkedIn is to help you find those 2nd and 3rd degree connections that may open doors for you.

      1. Qwerty*

        This. OP 5, I hear you on setting boundaries with parents on social media platforms. I haven’t added either of my parents on FB or IG. But conversely, LinkedIn is a place where I’m fine adding family precisely because of the 2nd and 3rd degree connections it makes. It’s actually kinda cool to be able to network with family members or see each other in that new way.
        The trick I do with people who request me on social media who I don’t want to connect with is just let it sit in “pending.” Don’t reject it because they could request again. Ignore, move on, and gives you better plausible deniability when you say you never notice.

    7. The Original K.*

      I’m connected to a number of family members, none of whom do the same work I do. (I was connected to my dad, but I had his profile taken down after he passed away.) I’m not posting anything on LinkedIn that I wouldn’t want them to see, nobody is misbehaving (e.g. posting a comment like “I called you the other day and you didn’t answer, give your uncle a call!”) and maybe they have connections who DO do the same kind of work I do, you never know.

  6. The Dangerous Soup*

    #2: I agree that you really shouldn’t tell someone they should use their hearing aids if they have their reasons for not wanting to. However, the same also goes for glasses as it does for hearing aids. Glasses actually don’t just magically fix someone’s vision either, especially when you have a more serious vision problem. It’s kind of a similar situation. For instance, my glasses make things less blurry but don’t totally correct my vision. Therefore, I still have bad vision even though I’m wearing glasses and they don’t help for everything. The same may be true for the hearing aids.

    1. rudster*

      I hear you! No pun intended. I have both severe vision issues that cannot be corrected fully with glasses, as well as profound hearing loss in one ear. Because the hearing loss is neurological (sudden onset caused by a large tumor on my auditory nerve), rather than conductive, it cannot be corrected with a hearing aid, which would only the garbled sounds louder but still just as unintelligble. My other ear is still good so I get by, but I have almost no ability to discern the direction a sound is coming from, and it is extremely difficult to follow conversations if there is any kind of background noise, so I always have shift positions so my good ear is toward the speaker and often have to ask people to repeat themselves.

      1. TiffIf*

        My mother got an ear infection which burst her right eardrum long before I was born so she has never been able to hear from her right side in my life. Growing up when one of us kids would forget and try to say something from her right she would have to turn to catch it with her left ear and would tapp her right ear to remind us she can’t hear out of it.

    2. doreen*

      I spent many years with a glasses prescription that I didn’t wear because it didn’t do any good – whether I wore them or not, I was still functionally blind in one eye and there weren’t any problems with my vision in the other eye. I spent years with relatives telling me to put my glasses on when due to my particular issue , the most my glasses could possibly do is improve the vision in my left eye while my right eye is patched.

      1. staceyizme*

        This is a good reminder that every case is different and that people who aren’t the ones managing a condition don’t really have the standing to try to advise others to wear glasses, hearing aids etc… Even in the case of unwelcome comments due to weight loss in the aftermath of severe illness, it’s best to stay quiet and follow the lead of the other person. People are often well meaning. But not always well informed. And correcting that knowledge deficit when it comes to medical or personal matters for colleagues or even closer relationships is unnecessary and unwise.

        1. Colleen*

          I just wanted to comment as someone who’s hard of hearing. I understand your frustration as a manager, but you absolutely cannot ask someone to wear their hearing aids. Hearing aids are a personal choice. I wore hearing aids growing up, and I absolutely detested it. It can move around and become pretty painful, and to be honest- my hearing did not get better just by wearing it. It just amplifies the sound- think of it as an example where you can hear loud music in the room next door, but you can’t hear the exact lyrics. Please stop seeing hearing aids as a fix for the situation because it isn’t. And you’re more likely to break the trust your employee has in you by asking her to wear it.

          I completely agree with Alison’s recommendation to see what accommodations can be instilled to help with the situation.

    3. VI Guy*

      I rarely wear my glasses because they do little to fix my vision and it is hard to explain that I can’t see well despite having them.

      I have some nice tools at work to help me see better, and many people seem to think I’m lucky. They like to ask about the tools and say I’m lucky. I point out that the tools just get me to a point where I am equivalent to them, but they don’t seem to get it. They say that despite my vision loss, I’m still lucky. Makes me really question their ability to understand disability.

      1. Batgirl*

        That’s kind of psychologically fascinating. It’s almost as if people are intent on being positive/denying issues in spite of your clarifications.

    4. LoLo J Street*

      I’m so glad that you said that about glasses! I read that line in the original reply and was very taken aback by the assumption that glasses correct your vision instantly. They certainly aren’t magic, and they can’t fix eye disorders like strabismus or glaucoma.

        1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

          It’s still an apt analogy. Think about people that wear bifocals or progressives. Their needs are complex enough that they need correction in multiple forms. Rather than having multiple frames to carry around, they’ve opted to sacrifice quality of vision for convenience.

          Not dissimilar to people with hearing needs that are either constantly adjusting the corrective level or taking them out based on the context of their environment.

          I wear glasses for distance vision, but I have a strong astigmatism that means correction is needed out past ~4-5 feet. I adjusted my workspace in such a way that I can wear glasses while using my computer, because I got tired of taking them off and forgetting to put them back on. I would inevitably get caught in a situation where I needed them, but didn’t have them.

          1. LoLo J Street*

            But I think the problem here was that Alison was saying that wearing hearing aids was NOT like wearing glasses because glasses immediately correct your vision. I agree with you that is actually IS an apt analogy to compare the two! Especially with regards to the misguided assumptions that using these corrective mechanisms should be a given in all situations.

        2. LoLo J Street*

          Totally understood! I think that is certainly the case with a majority of glasses-wearers as well. But there is definitely a subset of people for whom glasses can help, but may also create problems of their own (e.g. overcorrecting for long-distance vision at the expense of blurring shorter distance things like computer screens).

    5. MeghanJK*

      Agreed! I have hearing loss caused by cartilage deformities in both of my ear canals. I was evaluated by an ENT as a child and he determined that hearing aids would actually cause sounds to distort more! I have 30% loss in both ears and have developed other strategies to handle my hearing loss especially since it can be impacted by sinus infections.

      I usually make sure one of my ears is pointed towards the speaker, ask for repeats as needed, and I can lip read. Lip reading isn’t very useful right now with masks, but I’m making due. Background noise is a pain to deal with so I make sure not to play background music during instruction or direct teaching in my classroom.

      1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

        Let us commiserate over the people that will get quieter and quieter with every request to repeat themselves.

        1. Budgie Buddy*

          The unlucky but frequent intersection of the self conscious (who may also be saying something they would prefer not to proclaim at high volume in a public place) and the hard of hearing…

    6. Sva*

      I think a big difference is that glasses rarely make your life actively worse, whereas hearing aids can be really difficult and exhausting to use, because of sensory overload or because the sounds you hear are hard to interpret. My mom had a deaf student in her class and the way his hearing with the aids was described was “like from the bottom of a swimming pool”. Pretty sure that would drive me insane in about 15 minutes, even if it made me able to hear people speak.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        No, seriously… I got my first pair of progressive lenses, all shiny and proud… and after a few days my eyes hurt, my vision was blurry and I was suffering from headaches. The wrong glasses can totally make your life worse – not as severely or commonly as hearing aids, I would guess, but still. And if you got those wrong glasses to deal with a problem that needs resolving you’re now back to the drawing board.

        1. jojo*

          Bifocals. Progressive is the ones that turn into sunglasses outside. I have Progressive bifocals. I have to tilt my head up for closeup. Or to read my phone.

          1. Rabid Rabbit*

            No. LOL!

            Progressives (multifocal) have three prescriptions in one pair of glasses, and lack the telltale transition lines of bi- or tri-focals.

            The ones that ‘turn’ into sunglasses outside are called transition or photochromic lenses.

            You have photochromic bifocals.

            1. tamarack and fireweed*

              With all due respect, I wasn’t looking for recommendations. Neither classical bifocals (with a visible inset) nor progressives (with a gradual transition between the areas) work for me day-to-day, though progressives are fine during (in-person) meetings when someone is presenting at the front of the room.

              I just have two pairs to hand all the time, one for close-up, one for distance.

    7. tamarack and fireweed*

      I came here to say that. I’m a lifelong glasses-wearer (moderate to severe nearsightedness, with some astigmatism), which has been unproblematic for the longest time, but since my eyes are now well into presbyopia I find that I have to do a lot of switching between reading/computer and distance glasses. A lot of standard lens types don’t work for me, and tire my eyes out to the point of blurry vision at any distance. So I would take badly an injunction to wear my glasses when there’s almost certainly a good reason why would elect not to.

      It’s probably a good idea for any occupational health type issue not to assume that you know what the employee should be doing, especially if you can’t contribute any first-hand experience of your own. Even then, stating the problem, and then formulating all suggestions as questions (“would wearing your hearing aids / using progressive lenses / … help to avoid problem_XYZ?”) is a better baseline.

    8. Argh!*

      Re: #4

      Supervising someone with poor executive functioning forced me to step up my own game, so if you can’t self-manage at the moment, being more pro-active as a manager will automatically force you to get a grip on your supervisory duties.

      If Josie can’t or won’t self-manage, then you have to do it for her. I’ve been in this position, and I used several tools — checklists, more frequent check-in meetings, Outlook features, and breaking tasks down into component parts with separate deadlines. Yes, it’s micro-managing, but micro-managing is in the eye of the beholder. I was clear with my supervisee that if they couldn’t figure things out, I would have to micro-manage, and they were actually okay with it.

      Youtube & the web are full of self-management tips and tricks. Even if you don’t have ADHD or an executive function disorder, you may find some good ideas by searching for time hacks for ADHD and such. You can also use the clock on your smartphone to set a time limit on a task, remind yourself of things you tend to forget, etc.

      When I had this person as a supervisee, I also had a version of this person as a supervisor. It was crazy-making, but my own organization greatly improved. This may be a good learning opportunity for you.

    9. Emily B*

      Yess!! I have low vision in one eye (that means even with glasses the vision cannot be corrected to a certain standard) and I just have to have text big on my screen and *frequently* ask my colleagues who sharing screens to make text bigger.

  7. mourning mammoths*

    #5 I don’t know about you but for me, I get at least one connection request per month, sometimes more, from random creepy dudes that have no reason to connect with me. It’s clear they are either interested in scamming me or dating me (regardless of their location in the world). I think my SO gets similar requests from women, again, scamming or ‘selling services’. So, decent reasons to not look at your connection requests OR for to hide your profile for people you are not yet connected with on LinkedIn (aka, if you blocked him and he asks about it).

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Heh– I did! I got a connection request on LinkedIn from my father. Totally different industries. Didn’t attend the same schools. Haven’t spoken in almost 30 years. I’ve had enough successful therapy to delete it, I had a “can you believe he did that” session with my partner, I let it go.

        I have what I consider to be a healthy relationship with LinkedIn. I either accept, ignore, or delete and never give it another thought. It’s my page, for me, and I am its only gatekeeper so I make the rules.

        Basically, LW, accept or don’t, but don’t spend too much time on this. Unless your dad is bugging you about it in person, this isn’t worth worrying about.

      2. AKchic*

        In my case? Absolutely. If my father found me on LinkedIn, I would block him, just like I would block my first ex-husband. As far as I am aware, my father doesn’t have social media. His sister does, and I’ve blocked her whenever I find her, just as I do my first ex-husband. Certain types do not get to send me friend/networking requests.

    1. Batgirl*

      I think this is a timely reminder to delete my profile entirely. Never got anything from it but this kind of hassle.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        Can you deactivate it instead? You might want it if you have to look for a job. I was hoping I’d never have to look again, but here I am.
        I find LinkedIn difficult to use and don’t unless I have to – but it has been handy this time for getting in touch with former colleagues when I don’t have their phone numbers. Two of them use it frequently for their career… to me it’s way too much trouble. Almost everything is easier and works better on other sites.
        Also I’ve applied to several jobs where they ask for the link to my linkedin profile. The RemoteWoman site requires this instead of a resume.
        So cumbersome as it is, you might not want to delete it.

    2. A*

      Ugh, YES! Something about it being on a ‘professional’ platform makes it extra creepy. My creepiest social media experience was on LinkedIn. When I was working for my last employer I received a connection request for the former (now retired) CFO with a note saying they really enjoyed their time working there and like to stay in contact with the industry. We had plenty of mutual connections and I thought it would be a good networking opportunity. I accepted the request and we exchanged a few messages with small talk about the industry…. and then he hit me with “I’d love to come visit the office again, and say hello to everyone!”…. followed immediately after with “and I’d love to take you out for a drink after, does the bar across the street still have a hotel attached? ;)”

      I immediately blocked him and alerted HR just as an FYI. Ick.

  8. WoodswomanWrites*

    #3, your boss is a mean person who threatened you to take a miserable job–not a promotion of any kind–exploits you. Alison is spot on that he is completely untrustworthy as a future reference. This isn’t a person to maintain any kind of relationship with. I hope you can get out of there soon and when you do, you can celebrate never having to be in touch with him again. That’s a bridge that should be good and well burned.

    1. 653-CXK*

      Yes to all of the above.

      No reasonable boss attempts to force a person into a job that they don’t want – ever. LW3’s boss is a abusive gaslighter and a manipulator, and successfully cowed them into taking this job (gee, wonder why no one else wanted it?); and whenever they promise to bring in help, they renege or do nothing, because they know LW3 is in constant fear of being disciplined or fired at any time. Classic “keep them right where they want them” tactics.

      The best thing for LW3 to do now is quit. Don’t bother giving this awful boss even two weeks – turn in whatever you have, collect your belongings, and leave. Your abusive boss is exploiting your fears for their gain (and sick satisfaction). Leave now and take back your sanity, even if it means a loss of income.

      1. Rebecca*

        OP, feel free to quit and go work someplace else. They’ll figure it out. I wouldn’t worry about the rest of the team, either, because they see what’s going on and I’m sure they’re job searching too. My employer laid off and furloughed 25% of my dept 10 months ago, no plans to bring anyone back, because management says “oh look! we’re doing more with less, this is working great!” We’re overwhelmed with work, 1 coworker quit this month, and now they’re rearranging the deck chairs again. There’s always some excuse as to why they can’t hire someone.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I had a boss who was forced to take a promotion. What happened next was a nightmare. For years I tried to see it from her perspective. Then one day I could not be that generous any more. She lost parts of herself and those parts were probably never coming back. She drank. She did drugs. And she had the unevenness in personality you would expect with those habits. It was almost impossible to work for her.

      OP, it’s okay to pull yourself out of a bad situation. You do not have to stay and “prove” something to anyone or to yourself. Being able to identify when we are in over our heads and need to make a change is nothing to take for granted/brush aside/ignore. My example above is what can happen to a person if they stay on.

      Worse yet, you are in a situation where you are set up to fail. No matter how hard you work, getting any sense of accomplishment will be fleeting AT BEST. My old boss often talked about how she was set up to fail. And she was correct. She went from one day to the next in misery with all her so-called failures. (It was actually management’s failure to support her and properly train her.)

      If you remain in the situation too long there is a danger that you will forget where the exit door is. Allowed to go on even longer, you may forget that the exit door even exists. I watched my boss change into a person who sincerely believed she could not work anywhere else. No one would have her. She ended up staying until retirement.

      In short you are correct, this is not a minor thing. It’s a bfd.

      1. LKW*

        The only thing you need to prove is that you’re not going to put up with these circumstances. If leaving is the only way to prove that, that’s what you have to do.

    3. Sparrow*

      And LW, don’t worry about your coworkers. I once aggressively (and ultimately successfully) job searched when I was being strong-armed into a promotion, and it turned out I was just the first of a deluge of people quitting. Most of them had already been looking, but a couple told me that my resignation was their wake up call to get out, too. Things will be so much better on the other side, I promise!

    4. Batty Twerp*

      The bridge is already smouldering, and the bad boss is the one holding a match.

      Just leave #3; use your earlier intern experiences as references and look forward to the day when you can look back and say “Wow, I’m glad I escaped THAT nth circle of Heck.”

    5. Antilles*

      There is zero chance this guy will ever be a viable reference or a person you have a business relationship with after leaving the firm. Zero, zip, zilch.
      You could work those 15 hour days for a year, you could be wildly successful in that year, you could kill yourself trying to do this job, and you could also cure cancer during your non-existent spare time just as an added benefit…and you know what’ll happen? He’ll still view you leaving as some combination of “couldn’t hack it here”, “not committed enough”, and/or personal betrayal.

    6. KP*

      OP#3, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this and hope you find a better work home soon. Allison is (of course) correct that you’re never obligated to stay in a job that’s actively harming you like this. Your team will manage, and you may well find that getting out and never looking back is the best way to recover.

      At the same time, while you have no obligations here, your position as a team lead does give you options. You can stay connected on LinkedIn. You can make sure that your staff has your personal contact information and offer to serve as a reference (as long as you represent your position accurately). You can send them any opportunities you come across (postings, trainings, webinars, etc.) that are a good fit for their career goals. Again, you’re totally justified in walking away, but if leaving your team is causing you anxiety, know that you are not powerless here either.

    7. MassMatt*

      I’m amazed at the cognitive dissonance that this “promotion” is so toxic that no one wants it, and the boss seems to be fine with that. And fine with that person working 60+ hour weeks, working every weekend, etc.

      LW, you say this is your first “real” job so you don’t have much to compare it to, but even experianced people can have their sense of what’s normal warped by a toxic job and boss. So by all means GET OUT, and ASAP. Do not let the boss bully or guilt you into working crazy hours etc “to show commitment” or whatever.

      I am curious, is your boss working this many hours? If not, how is HE showing “loyalty”? If he is also working 60+ hours–OK, does he own the company? If so, why is he expecting someone who doesn’t own the business to act like someone who does?

      Get out as soon as you can, don’t let the fear of a bad reference hold you hostage. This boss sounds too irrational to act as a good reference anyway.

      1. lnelson1218*

        That is a good question. Is the boss working? Witnessed once a newly promoted manager gave a ton of work to the account manager, but then always left early (and came in late).
        Seriously, no office job is worth your health.
        Read in another website about work/jobs, a guy did manage to find another job and then went to his abusive employer to “give him a last chance to do what is right” The boss didn’t and the guy turned in his resignation right then and there. My hero. Under the idea of “think about what you really want. I want to be somewhere else.”
        I wish you the best of luck in finding something else fast. As others have said: that bridge is already burned. Most of it by the idiot boss.

    8. Tidewater 4-1009*

      Yes, except job searching in a pandemic…
      Could you cut your hours instead? Just don’t work more than 40 hours a week. Manage your boss in whatever way seems best – Just do it without saying anything to him, or talk to him and tell him what you’re doing. You know him and probably have some idea of what will cause the least fireworks.
      If he doesn’t like it he can fire you – and then you can probably get unemployment comp till you find another job.
      Good luck! :)

  9. PollyQ*

    #1 – One possible way to ward off unwanted congratulations is to pick a colleague who is a little gossipy, let them know that the weight loss was due to illness (or even say COVID) and ask that they tell people you don’t want to discuss it.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I did this in school when my parents were going through a divorce. It worked suprisingly well.

      Also, most people are kind about this sort of thing. We notice the people who ask us obnoxious personal questions, but we don’t always register the people who say nothing, or decline to gossip about us when we’re not around, or who mentally correct themselves when they make an assumption.

    2. Asenath*

      Yes, I did something similar for a different illness, and it worked really well. My initial impulse was to try to keep everything totally private, but a minute’s thought told me that everyone I worked with was going to notice changes, so I went with making my statement about what was going on to a tiny handful of people, and let them spread the word. It worked just fine. I didn’t have everyone I worked with asking me about it.

    3. Homophone Hatty*

      Dan Savage has advocated this method for people who want to come out to a large extended family without it being a whole thing every time. Pick a gossipy relative or two and the job is done for you pretty quickly.

    4. Ama*

      At a previous job I had a coworker with cancer, and he told my boss (who was the administrative staff director) and she told the rest of us admin staff because our office as a whole was very gossipy, and that way if we heard someone talking about his weight loss, making remarks about his erratic in office schedule, etc., we could discreetly tell them it was due to a medical issue and he didn’t want a lot of fuss made about it. All of this was with the coworker’s express permission — he didn’t really mind if people knew but he didn’t want to have to have the same conversation multiple times.

      1. Ro*

        Something similar happened at my job, a guy went on paternity leave and the baby was either stillborn or born with some illness incompatible with life. Before he came back the director sent an email telling the whole department this and that he spoken to the guy and he was asking that we:

        a) Don’t ask about the baby
        b) Just treat him normally (as in his specifically did not want to hear a hundred people say how sorry they were on his first day back)

        I assume the guy didn’t want to have the same conversation repeatedly and didn’t want to be reminded of his loss constantly at work.

        I was so glad they did this because if they had said what hapened but hadn’t explained what he wanted I would have been worrying should I say something? Would he feel I was rude for not acknowledging his loss? Or would mentioning it hurt worse? Different people deal with loss in different ways so knowing his preferences was massively helpful.

        1. A*

          That is such a good approach. I know it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone because they might not be comfortable with it being broadcasted…. but it really does help to avoid issues for all parties involved.

  10. Fiona the Baby Hippo*

    Not nearly as bad a situation, but I accidentally ate raw lettuce on a trip to Mexico 10 years ago and came back to the office looking thinner and paler, considering I’d just been on a tropical vacation. My boss said “You look so slim in those jeans!” and I was too drained to think of anything to say but the truth: “I’m the sickest I’ve ever been in my life!” No one said anything again.

  11. Liz*

    LW2, does your workplace health insurance cover hearing aids? Does it cover GOOD ones? A good hearing aid should not simply “make everything louder”, but would be tailored to the hearing loss profile of the individual, programmed to pick up and amplify the frequencies where their hearing is impaired. Perhaps your colleague is struggling with inferior, cheap hearing aids because this is all she can afford? Could appropriate coverage from a health insurer remedy that, if she wishes? I don’t know how workplace insurance works, but is that a conversation that could be had with her, just to make the offer?

    1. Beth*

      I see what you’re saying here, and it’s definitely worth OP considering. But I’m not sure that it’s is fully true that hearing aids don’t make everything louder? My aunt recently got hearing aids, and I’m pretty sure hers are good ones (she has good insurance and also good enough finances to cover her needs; she discussed them with multiple audiologists before making a selection; and these are tailored to her, both based on her hearing loss profile and with adjustments made based on her feedback from using them). She still complains that they make everything louder–which she likes for things like talking to friends and hearing bird song, and hates for things like road noise and and overhearing people talking nearby in more crowded spaces.

      Obviously, some of those are similar frequencies; you can’t program hearing aids to amplify human voices in one situation and not others, for example. From what she’s said, I’m pretty sure her perception of ‘too loud’ is more situational than a programming issue. It seems to me that after years of slow hearing loss, her brain just isn’t used to filtering out background noise at all anymore, and even hearing a little bit of it is disruptive to her in a way that it wasn’t a decade ago. If she still worked (my aunt is retired) I could definitely see her taking them out at work to let her focus.

      1. Not playing your game anymore*

        I have a hearing problem… it’s only certain ranges of sound. I tell people I have only the AM band of frequencies. Doesn’t matter how loud the aid make the AM sounds, I’m never going to get FM. (Oh dear is this a hopelessly dated explanation? Do people even know about AM and FM radio anymore?) Anyway… if a sound is in my range, I may well hear it “better” than a person with more normal hearing because the background noise that muffles it for you, may not be there for me, and when I’m wearing my aids, that’s only intensified. My aids do help me somewhat but not a cure-all by any means. As an example, when we are cooking something occasionally the smoke detector goes off. Doesn’t bother me at all… but my partner will run turn on the exhaust fan. The fan noise is soooo loud and annoying to me. This is why I have a hearing dog. Cause there is no way I hear an alarm at night.

      2. A*

        My Dad has the same issue. He ended up learning ASL in his 50s because he was so fed up with it (but was struggling to communicate in the workplace – and ASL interpreters were covered under ADA).

      3. Patty Mayonnaise*

        The end of your comment is exactly what’s happening – your aunt’s brain “forgot” what is was like to hear normally so she interprets it as “everything is too loud.” The audiologist tailored the aids to amplify the frequencies she was missing.

        1. Inca*

          I don’t think that’s it entirely. Hearing isn’t just postprocessing the sounds that come into the ear, it also does adjustive work before that. So there are some physiological and neurological systems, that can adapt to make it easier to hear the things you need to, and filter the things you don’t. It’s actually pretty amazing. We can’t only differentiate between sounds left and right, but also usually can detect up/down and close/far away. There’s more to it than stereo sounds and calculating the difference
          We don’t have the expressive moveable ears as do horses and cats and lots of other animals, but there’s still a lot.

          And some of that will have been lost, because hearing aids have a different physiology: they sit in your ear and you can’t adjust for near/far or up/down sounds for example.
          And that’s not just in the brain. (The brain will probably attempt to compensate though – but this can also be a source of fatigue: it’s a lot of post-processing. And some information will have been lost and can’t be recalculated.)

    2. Biziki*

      This is such a good point. High quality hearing aids that go above and beyond just making the world scream at you are so expensive. Up to $4,000 per ear! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a health care plan that covered more than $1,500-2,000 total.

      1. Pennyworth*

        I know a couple of people with high-end hearing aids which can be adjusted for frequencies etc. They still make everything loud. I think the problem is that they can’t differentiate between the person talking to you and someone talking nearby, which we normally filter out if our hearing is not impaired. I wondered if #2’s workplace is noisy? That would make hearing aids hard to wear. Perhaps LW#2 could ask her employee if there are any particular sounds which her hearing aids amplify, in case it is possible to make the workplace quieter to accommodate her. Another solution might be to ask her to wear her hearing aids and just turn them on when she needs to have a conversation.

        1. londonedit*

          Yes, my dad has some very expensive hearing aids – he has a hearing aid for the ear where he still has some hearing, and a device for the other (pretty much totally deaf) ear that broadcasts sound from that side into his hearing aid. He still can’t hear properly, especially when the batteries start to run down, and he still finds it extremely difficult to hear anything in crowds or louder environments, or if someone is sitting on his ‘bad side’. It’s really incredibly debilitating and I think sometimes he would prefer to just not wear his hearing aids and have a bit of peace and quiet!

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            When we took my children to see my (now late) grandfather he was always delighted to see them, but always discreetly turned off his hearing aids within half an hour of their arrival.

            Hearing aids are really tiring to wear.

        2. JSPA*

          Yep. It’s a comfortable lie we tell ourselves, that the best hearing aids “must be” better than they actually are. There’s no “must.” It’s like insisting that dialysis is exactly the same as functional kidneys.

          The people who might be able to use computing power and nanotechnology to come up with novel solutions that fully prioritize speech while suppressing, on demand, other sorts of noise in the same auditory range, or who could come up with a better dialysis paradigm (or even glasses that adjust for focal distance in real time) are designing Teslas, spaceships, Tesla spaceships. I absolutely don’t wish ill on Elon Musk as a personal thing (!) but if he or a loved one had hearing loss, kidney disease, or even a pressing need for bifocals, maybe we’d see some real breakthroughs. Until then, we need to stop pretending that “tools that to some degree and in some circumstances help” = “problem fixed.”

          1. the cat's ass*

            Thank you-this is a perfect analogy. I am so grateful for my hearing aids as they have really improved my ability to hear one-to one conversations. I’ve had them for a few years and i have successfully filtered out a lot of the ambient noises (my car is loud! washing dishes sounds like Niagra Falls!) that were so startling when i first got them, but there are still a lot of ambient noises that are awful (crowded cafes are the worst). They enhance/improve my ability to hear. They are NOT a cure. And I’m really happy to remove them at the end of the day-it’s so nice and quiet!

            1. Not playing your game anymore*

              Yes!! Being able to remove my aids is my super power. Peace and quiet at last. I’m very grateful for what they can do. I can use a normal cell phone and listen to an audio book while wearing them, but… I love my moon roof on my car, but I absolutely can’t wear my hearing aids with the moon roof open.

          2. Colleen*

            Thank you. I’m heard of hearing and it’s frustrating to hear that people think hearing aids are the fix. In reality, they aren’t. And it’s so sad to see that people think some adjustments will be sufficient (like a lot of people said, it really depends on a variety of factors, and none of us except for your employee and her audiologist is qualified to decide what that should be). You’re better off seeing what kind of accommodations can be put in place.

        3. EchoGirl*

          It’s been my experience that people who can filter the sounds they want vs. those they don’t want are so used to it as a given that they struggle to even comprehend the idea of some people not having that ability. As someone who’s had this issue my whole life, I didn’t even realize until I was in college that this is a thing most people can do, because it’s so assumed that nobody bothers to tell you it’s a thing — except when they’re using it as an analogy, which is how I found out about it.

          1. Kaitydidd*

            I learned about it at the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco when I was a tween. I lost all hearing in my right ear when I was a year old, and it didn’t occur to me that anything other than locating sound was really affected. I really struggle to catch what people are saying in noisy environments.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      New to hearing aids here and hating some things about them that I might not want to discuss with my boss. They are extremely difficult to use with headphones going on & off all day. They complicate masks. (Extenders & standard mask straps are different problems.) They started hurting my ears within days, and I’m left with a phantom feeling of them still being there days later. The sound is not geat, like tinny sounding wireless mics at recent televised events. Followups would be a lot of covid exposure, and returning involves a possible loss of the FSA funds I used to buy them.
      The only concrete thing I have here OP is if her job involves phones, offer to let her try a series of headphones until she finds one that works with them. And look/listen to your office — if it’s an open floor plan YES it could be too noisy and distracting. If the room is so noisy the only way to concentrate is to block out the co-workers with headphones– for me, removing hearing aids is the better option.

      1. NYWeasel*

        We have a friend with profound hearing loss who ended up getting a cochlear implant, and has many of the same issues with the quality of the sound. First, the employee referenced in this question clearly uses lip reading to help process the sound she gets from her hearing aid. With that in mind, can you secure masks with the clear PETG panel so she can see her coworkers lips? Second, my friend uses text on a phone to make sure she understands things—is this an option here? The way we handle it is we say something once or twice, and if she’s not able to catch it, we just text it to her.

        The main thing I suggest is that I’m picking up a frustration with how her condition affects everyone else. It’s good to realize that she’s affected more than everyone else by being forced into a sort of isolation. Involve her in figuring out what combination of things works best for helping her interact easier.

        1. GothicBee*

          “It’s good to realize that she’s affected more than everyone else by being forced into a sort of isolation.”

          Yes! That’s such an important point. I can’t speak for the employee, but if someone asked me what they could do to make things easier for both of us to communicate, it would be a relief.

          1. MassMatt*

            When Hellen Keller was asked to explain the difference between being blind and deaf, she said “Blindness cuts you off from things. Deafness cuts you off from people”.

        2. PT*

          The clear panel masks might be a problem, though. A lot of the masks on the market do not adequately filter particulates: they are not FDA or NIOSH rated (ASTM is working on it) which is why health agencies are recommending double-masking for the flimsier masks.

          A coworker who’s selected their mask to have a tight seal, to be three layers of thick fabric that move with their breath, that is a surgical mask with a plastic fitter, or that is an FDA/NIOSH approved N95/KN95/KF94 is not going to be happy that you’re asking them to assume more COVID risk with an inferior mask.

        3. meyer lemon*

          It’s not really clear from the letter whether the masks make it harder for her because she can’t read lips, or because they tend to muffle the sound of speech (possibly the OP doesn’t know either). But either way, your main point applies–the important thing is to work with her to find a solution that helps her communicate more easily.

      2. Alex*

        Just for your information – there’s hearing aids that can directly couple to a TV/media player/smartphone/bluetooth device and pipe the audio in directly, without using a headset.

        We have a user in our office that has that as an ADA (our local equivalent anyway) accommodation and she is in a sales role and on the phone all the time. Desk-based microphone and audio directly into her hearing aids.

        1. Lucy P*

          We have someone in our office with those too. The hearing aids are paired to their cell phone. We offered to get them a device that pairs the hearing aids to their desk phone (handset produces too much feedback to the hearing aids so they have to take all their calls on speaker phone). They declined because they thought it would be too much trouble to have the aids paired to both devices.

        2. Not playing your game anymore*

          Yes. Was just going to mention that. Bluetooth aids are life changing for me. I was able to call my doctors office and actually talk to the nurse myself this morning rather than having to have my partner do it for me.

    4. Harper the Other One*

      I think it’s a combination of both. My mom was fortunately able to afford top of the line hearing aids, and she was surprised at how they DIDN’T just amplify everything, but were more directional. However, there are still lots of situations where the hearing aids aren’t ideal (including, as someone mentioned above, problems wearing masks and headsets).

      Plus, it’s important to remember that not all people experience hearing loss the same way, so even a top-notch hearing aid may not work for her the way it works for other people.

    5. Forrest*

      The LW can look into the health coverage, but I really don’t think she should raise this with her employee.

      There are also lots of types of hearing loss which just aren’t very well helped by hearing loss. And for lots of D/deaf people, the pressure to “fix” their hearing loss in a way that means that hearing people don’t have to change their behaviour or their environments (but which might be actively painful or uncomfortable for the deaf person!) is extremely stressful and damaging.

      There are lots of other accommodations LW could discuss with her employee, and lots of places she could look for help. It might mean making sure she only meets in a very quiet room with this employee, putting as much as possible in writing— she should talk to her employee about all this stuff, and look to organisations which have expertise in this area for suggestions (especially if the employee’s hearing loss is new, since she might not have her own ideas about what helps yet.) But really try and resist the urge to put pressure on her to wear hearing aids: that’s potentially making your employee exist in discomfort because it’s not convenient for you. I’d be surprised if that wasn’t opening up a risk of disability discrimination.

      1. Washi*

        Totally agree. I mean, if you were working with an amputee, you wouldn’t tell them to go get a prosthetic limb because it would make life easier, even if you knew insurance covered it, because it’s a very personal thing.

        I used to work for a program that among other things, provided free hearing aids to low income elderly people. I’m a social worker, not an audiologist, but I realized pretty quickly how important education and communication strategies are for people even with hearing aids (and fwiw quite a lot of people would get them and then not end up wearing them because of various issues.) And even if you know what works best for you, there’s still a lot of ableism and lack of education around hearing loss that can make it hard for someone to speak up to their boss (or family!) about ways to make communication easier. She may be inching toward you to hear because a lot of people get very annoyed when asked to repeat themselves.

        There are some basic strategies that can help, like talking in a quieter space and making sure you have her attention before trying to talk to her, but you should have a conversation with her where you problem solve together from the perspective of “how can we work together most effectively” rather than “how can we fix your hearing problems.”

        1. Forrest*

          I mean, there was the famous letter here of, “I had breast cancer, my boss wants me to wear prosthetics even though they’re uncomfortable”. This isn’t as obviously egregious as that, but it might help LW reframe the problem in her mind. It’s not, “my employee is refusing to use something she needs to communicate”, it’s “I’m putting a duty on my disabled employee to be less disabled because that’s more convenient for me”. People leave jobs and sometimes the entire workforce over stuff like this.

        2. MassMatt*

          I want to push back on this trend in the comments a bit as though this person’s hearing or use of aids is none of the LW’s business. Her colleague’s inability to hear is interfering with getting work done, this is definitely something that’s OK to bring up! Don’t be a jerk about it, don’t be intrusive, but still–this is work, for most jobs people need to be able to communicate.

          No, I wouldn’t tell an amputee “you need to get a prosthesis”, but if the job entails handling packages or whatever then not wearing the prosthesis can mean the packages don’t get handled.

          1. Beth*

            I mean, yes, if it comes down to a baseline “this job requires adequate hearing in order to be able to fulfill the requirements” then the employee’s use of hearing aids might become OP’s business. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case! It sounds like communication is required (as it is in most workplaces), but hearing aids are absolutely not the only way for deaf and hard-of-hearing people to communicate. OP needs to work with her employee to identify areas where problems are happening and find solutions, not mandate hearing aid use when that might not be the best solution.

          2. Forrest*

            The point is that from a disability rights point of view, speaking isn’t the only way of communicating, just the one that’s most convenient for an abled majority. There are lots of other ways to make communication easier that LW should explore with her employee that aren’t, “do something that requires no sacrifice or adjustment on my part but which is painful, exhausting and stressful for you”.

      2. A*

        Yeah, it seems like at most LW can *request* that she have them on hand for expediting a conversation, and request she wear them for the duration of a conversation or meeting. But she’d be allowed to refuse and that not be held against her.

    6. Snow Globe*

      This could be an explanation for why the hearing aids don’t work well, but it is extremely unlikely that the LW can do anything about it. Unless it is a small company and LW is president/owner, they likely have no power to switch to a better insurance plan.

      1. Shenandoah*

        Sure but LW can advocate for better coverage. Sometimes all it take is a word in the right ear. (I reached out to the Director of Benefits at my 500ish person company to ask that they consider adding coverage for infertility treatments – it took them a year to make it happen, but they did add some coverage for that.)

    7. Ashley*

      I would actually suggest looking into your state’s Department of Rehabilitation. I know over a decade ago my state would cover hearing aids required for jobs although the person we were trying to get them for lost their hearing due to the industry they worked in.
      A family member with hearing aids typically keeps them off so the noises don’t bother him and then turns them on when needed. I think he enjoys the freedom not to be bothered by background noise on a regular basis.

    8. edj3*

      I have a hearing aid for my left ear due to intermittant low frequency hearing loss from Meniere’s Disease.

      Please believe me that while the hearing aid does help, it’s not like my hearing is remotely the same in that ear. Alison is right, this isn’t like glasses which do correct to 20/20 (I also wear glasses).

      Plus the aid really isn’t all that comfortable–think of wearing an in your ear ear bud all day long. It’s not very pleasant.

      And yes, hearing aids are quite expensive. I got mine about 5 years ago and just the one cost slightly over $2,000 none of which was covered by my excellent health insurance.

      1. JanetM*

        When I got my hearing aids, I learned that my insurance would cover the exam, but not the aids, because they’re considered “cosmetic.”

        1. Shenandoah*

          This is something that makes me BANANAS. My husband came home from his exam with all sorts of information from his doctor that his hearing loss could lead to other health issues (like heart problems and dementia), but neither of our insurances will pay a penny towards them.

          He has his irritations with his hearing aids, but they have given him MUCH better quality of life and they are certainly not cosmetic.

      2. GothicBee*

        Yeah, I think a lot of people don’t realize that, at least in the US, pretty much no insurance covers hearing aids. It’s really rare and I’ve never been on a plan that covered them.

      3. HOH Commenter*

        Yep. My current job covers them, but only up to $2k every other year. They didn’t cover them originally until we had one of the bigwigs from the parent company come to do a presentation on the insurance benefits they offered and I asked why they don’t offer HA coverage but they do for glasses. Next year I saw them added and they’ve been part of the plan since.

        People complaining about hearing aids being expensive: Reach out to your state’s Bureau of/Vocational Rehab Services (BRS/VRS for short). They can and do help with the costs. Sometimes they cover all of the costs; sometimes they require you to pay a portion of it.

        I haven’t seen anyone point it out yet but hearing aids are EXHAUSTING to wear. Your brain is constantly engaged in busily filtering out background noises; you’re constantly concentrating on the thing/s you need to hear and understand, and if you’re in a naturally loud environment (mall, grocery store) that work doubles. That can result in a massive headache or migraine depending. I keep my hearing aids off because I simply love the quiet I gain from it. I don’t have odd noises that I have to investigate and learn it’s just my fridge or heat kicking on. And I’m not broadcasting my disability to the world because there are some creepy CREEPS out there who have some sort of fetish for people who wear hearing aids or something.

        Masks are the worst. They cover the lips and muffle sounds. I actually get tireder much faster these days when I have to be in public because I work much, much harder than I used to to figure out what you’ve just said to me and respond accordingly. There ARE FDA approved clear masks and were designed by a Deaf woman (name is escaping me at the moment), but there are other issues: fog, glare from overhead lights or the sun or a screen of some sort reflecting off the clear plastic, and spittle that comes out naturally as you talk and you spray that window inside the mask. All of it hampers communication.

        Sometimes having hearing aids are a hindrance more than a help. I have family who choose not to wear theirs because they’ve found it doesn’t provide the help their audiologists say they’ll receive from them.

        1. Adultiest Adult*

          The medically-approved version of the mask with the clear window is known as The Communicator; we had to get them for an employee with exactly the same issue in the letter, and those who work closely with her. They are anti-fog by design. The downsides is that they are relatively pricey and, at least for me, the clear mask window doesn’t line up with my actual mouth when I’m wearing it all that well, and I need to adjust it often.. It’s still a lot better than shouting or having issues with either isolating the employee or having her not be able to understand work instructions.

    9. GothicBee*

      I’m hard of hearing and don’t wear a hearing aid. They do not just fix everything even if you do spend money on a good one and have an audiologist adjust it properly, though I do agree that money could be part of why this employee doesn’t wear hearing aids. They cost a ton. My first (and only) hearing aid cost about $2500 and that was like 10 years ago. I didn’t feel it was worth the cost because in order to get a decent one for my type of hearing loss now it’d be closer to $3800 minimum (for one hearing aid) and the suggested ones for my hearing loss were more in the $5000 range. And these things are pretty much never covered by insurance in the US.

      As far as not wearing hearing aids, there are so many reasons someone might not to. Maybe they hate having something stuck in their ear all day. Maybe the sound, even calibrated correctly, is still obnoxious to them. If you’ve lived with hearing loss for a long time, adjusting to hearing aids can be difficult. Also, hearing aids do not make everything sound normal. No matter how good they are, they’re still filtering the noise through a small microphone which is going to be inferior to whatever you sounds you can hear properly without the hearing aid. That part can be hard to adjust to.

      That said, I think the LW should focus on finding out what accommodations would work. Is the LW trying to mostly communicate in person for everything when it might be better to use email or chat or something? Check in with the employee, point out the issues, and ask what will help.

      1. JSPA*

        A friend described conversations with hers in as, “having a shouted work conversation in a crowded subway station.” Another, like getting a bad phone connection with background noise and overlapping conversations in the background…every time. Plus she repeatedly got inflammation in her ear canal from wearing them. Even my European relatives, whose excellent hearing aids were covered, didn’t always have them in (or if in, not always on).

    10. Deaf Guy*

      I’ve worn hearing aids since I was a kid, for nearly 50 years (ugh that makes me feel old!). Not wearing them was not an option, I would not be able to hear people that were not shouting.

      Even the best hearing aids take some time to adjust to, but there is a world of difference between cheap hearing aids sold to the mass market (and these often target older users, people with hearing deterioration with age) and ones programmed to fit your individual hearing loss. Hearing conversations among other conversations is still the biggest challenge, but digital technology has dramatically improved this area, along with bluetooth integration with phones, TV’s, etc.

      In my experience no one is thrilled to need hearing aids but adults dealing with onset of hearing loss have a harder time adjusting, there is vanity, fears of growing old, and people are simply accustomed to the way they hear, even if they hear poorly. People around them often try to compensate by speaking louder etc.

      If you have a good relationship, I would try to find out is the fit uncomfortable, what kinds of noises are too loud, is she hearing feedback? Did an audiologist examine her to match the hearing aid to her needs, or did she get it online or from a salesman–big difference!

      Unfortunately, good hearing aids are expensive (several thousand dollars) and are usually specifically EXCLUDED from insurance coverage. The best insurance I ever had only offered a benefit of $4-500 or so, once per 2 or 3 years, which is laughable.

      And may I say the pandemic has been absolute hell for the deaf and hard of hearing! Even with my very expensive hearing aids, trips to the grocery store can be an ordeal as I am asked seemingly endless questions about do I have a discount card, do I want bags, do I want DOUBLE bags, etc none of which I am hearing well. Everyone with bad hearing lip reads to some extent and masks make it impossible. Yes, they make masks that are transparent around the mouth but I can’t bring a supply of these with me for people I interact with. The vaccines can’t come soon enough!

    11. Lizy*

      In the US – no. I’ve NEVER had a health insurance company cover hearing aids. They’ll cover the test, but not the aids themselves.

  12. Anon for today*

    As someone who’s struggled with trying to lose weight for pretty much my entire adult life, my first instinct on reading “It’s from almost dying from COVID” was ‘It might be worth it…’. And I was only half-joking. That says more about my own issues than anything, but I at least have the self-awareness to recognize that thought as inappropriate and I would never voice it out loud. I think it’s much better to say “it’s from being seriously ill” and leave it at that, than bring COVID into it when there are still so many people who can’t or won’t grasp the serious, long-term after effects of the disease.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      FWIW, I don’t think you need to own that instinct entirely. We live in a society that often prizes certain body types over health. It’s impossible to not internalise it.

      It might be worth OP reminding herself, when this does come up, that these comments say a lot about our culture and a lot about the speaker — but they don’t say much about her. And people who make them are probably more focused on their own struggles with their body and not thinking about her as much as she feels.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, when I was a teenager I actually lamented that I couldn’t be anorexic because I was just too hungry all the time. In our society, being fat is viewed as the worst thing ever – not just an external indicator of health but also a moral failure. I think it’s pretty common to wish for some diseas that will at least make you skinny.

        At least I have reached a point in my life where I have come to terms with my body. It’s not really acceptance, but at least I’m no longer trying unhealthy ways of losing weight. And when I try to make healthier choices in my life, the focus isn’t on weight loss but on the benefit of that thing for itself.

        1. Jaydee*

          My best friend and I would lament about the same thing as teenagers. I’m also emetophobic, which ruled out bulemia. I knew it wasn’t a *good* thought process to have, but now as an adult and a proponent of HAES, I realize just how messed up it was to feel like not having an eating disorder was a sign I wasn’t Trying Hard Enough(tm) to not be fat.

      2. ceiswyn*


        I thought all those things when I was obese – and now, as a post-obese person, I would genuinely rather die than go back to being treated the way society treated me when I was morbidly obese. Our culture is really hateful in the way it bullies and marginalises fat people, without even noticing.

        1. Magenta*

          I had a gastric by-pass just over a year ago and have lost over half my body weight. I now feel like I live in a different world, one where people acknowledge me, smile, are polite, treat me like a real person. Its pretty depressing really because I see how shallow people are, I am the same person, I just take up less space.

    2. pancakes*

      I don’t think it’s a good idea to categorically not discuss covid with people who don’t seem to have a handle on it. Whether by ignorance or choice, that is not something that should be pandered to.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        The thing is, a lot of people are in denial about covid and will get upset or combative if they (seem to be) challenged. OP probably doesn’t want to deal with that.
        Even in my deep blue cosmopolitan big city, a woman behind me in line at a store tried to tell me “we all breathe the same air” and “people are so paranoid here” and was basically saying she didn’t think covid should be taken seriously. All because I politely asked her to move back.

  13. deaf butterfly*

    As someone who is deaf and chooses to wear one hearing aid and not both every day – it’s utterly exhausting. I can imagine it’s frustrating, but even with my hearing aid, I still struggle, and I’d be so offended if someone said to me that I have to wear both. That second one is a different style and is more uncomfortable, it gives me headaches to wear it all day – even though it is top of the range and I’ve worked with my audiologist to make it as perfect as possible.
    Even one hearing aid can get exhausting. Right now, I’m listening to kids screaming (not mine) and while I know everyone has to hear that, the simple fact is that hearing aids are not a replacement for normal sound, the quality will always be different, and therefore it’s difficult.
    But more importantly than that, in a world designed for hearing people, those with hearing difficulties (not impairments please, that language is considered ablest by the Deaf community) we know that it’d be easier for everyone else if we could hear. But that doesn’t mean we have to give up the only choice we have which is to be as comfortable as we can manage.
    While it doesn’t sound like this person is Deaf, it’s not a bad idea to know that there is a Deaf community with a Deaf culture, and things like hearing aids and cochlear implants are very serious topics that shouldn’t be broached by anyone except the D/deaf or hard of hearing (hoh) person themselves.
    But do ask what you can do to help facilitate communication – my colleagues help answer phones for me, use email as much as possible, and give me time after getting my attention to fully focus on them as I have to concentrate on what they are saying; if they start talking straight away, I miss too much and can’t fill in the context.
    Sorry for the long message, I just had a lot of feelings about this. I’ve spent a long time feeling like the burden was on me to be as ‘not deaf’ as possible, but really, that’s not reasonable – I am deaf, and that will never change.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      Thank you for the note about using hearing difficulty versus impairment – I didn’t know that and will try to remember it!

    2. NYWeasel*

      I commented above that the focus of this letter was the frustration the OP is feeling, but from what my hoh friend has described, it’s very isolating for the employee to deal with hearing loss. I think if they reframe their thinking into how they can best partner with the employee to support her communication needs instead of how they should solve the issues, it will be a much more fulfilling experience for everyone. And partnering means asking the employee “What can we do to support you?” rather than “Can you do this to make it better for us?”

      1. lailaaaaah*

        Definitely. My old manager used to get all stressed out like ‘what if I need to ask you an on the spot question?’ whereas colleagues my age would just DM me – it was way more helpful.

      2. Le Sigh*

        the assumptions people make, and centering things on the hearing world, are so frustrating. my mom has considerable hearing loss from an illness and has aids. it cost a lot of out-of-pocket money just to get her ones that more or less work well enough, and even then they come with some serious limitations and she often still feels isolated in many situations. and the assumptions people make are so frustrating — when she was in the hospital for an extended period, she couldn’t wear the aids. it was documented in her chart, we told every single nurse and doc her communication needs, and so, so, so often, they would talk to her on her non-hearing side and then make assumptions about her brain function and recovery! and we’d point out that she couldn’t hear them, they’d switch sides and look surprised. so many times, it turned out no one had looked her chart. we worked with a lot of great docs and nurses, but we felt like we had to be there almost 24/7 to repeat the same things over and over and ensure her care.

        don’t even get me started on how often people assume that because of her speech limitations (from a stroke) she can’t understand them or is catatonic, and ignore her or talk to her like she’s a puppy. she understands! she’s a grown woman who just needs a minute to get her words out!

    3. Cats on a Bench*

      I was thinking of saying some of the same things, but I’m not D/deaf or HOH, just have friends who are and have learned so much from the Deaf community.

      OP2, you need to stop looking at the situation as one where the fix is to have the hard of hearing (HOH) person become less hard of hearing, but one where you (the employer/the company) accept them the way they are and accommodate their needs. Talk to them and see what will help.
      Some ideas:
      Think about how you can shift communication to a visual format. Some people understand better when they can see lips. You could get a clear mask and see if that helps. But don’t think that lip reading is the answer. Even people who are good at lip reading only understand a small percentage of what was said and things like mustaches and the speaker turning their head while talking make it impossible.

      In meetings, anyone speaking needs to be lit well, especially if you’re doing things on zoom. If people are back lit from a window or something, it makes their face too dark to see the mouth moving and other expressions. During meetings, put details of the information presented up on a screen or monitor and highlight where you are in the presentation. Obviously, this won’t work for all types of meetings, but for ones where you can prepare some slides in advance it will really help out your hard of hearing employees… and maybe some others who just have a hard time processing information in an auditory only format. Any time you can put information in writing it will be better than verbal for this person. You could see if your company can get CART services to provide live captioning for meetings. Captioning isn’t always great, but it’s better than nothing. Or maybe there’s some other app or speech to text program you can use to transcribe meetings on the fly.

      Also, any time someone else complains about having to repeat themselves for the HOH person, you need to shut it down. Remind them that they can’t help the fact that their hearing ability is different and you need to be patient and accommodate the request. I get it that it’s frustrating to a hearing person to have to repeat ourselves, and slow down, etc. but put yourself in their shoes. It’s not that they aren’t paying attention. They’re probably paying more attention than most hearing people because they’re trying desperately to catch every word they can. They are doing all the work and we are doing none, or worse, making them work harder because of the way we’re talking. It’s not their fault their ears work differently. They aren’t not hearing to spite us. They aren’t not wearing their hearing aids maliciously. We have no idea how well or not well the hearing aids work or how frustrating they are or if they cause pain. The HOH person gets to decide if it’s worth it or reasonable to wear them or not. You might need to explain all this to people who complain about it. Also consider, they aren’t just missing information when they ask you to repeat yourself, they’re missing out on connection too. Think about how many times people are sitting around chatting and laughing and just building camaraderie. Then one person asks you to repeat what was just said so they can be part of it too, only to be told, “never mind, it doesn’t matter.” But it does matter. You’re leaving them out. Then later, maybe weeks or months later, someone refers to that conversation and everyone gets to be in on it and laugh about it, except the one person you left out because it was too inconvenient or annoying to repeat it for them at the time. Deaf and HOH people are also often left out social networking invitations and that can also affect their professional lives the same way it affects women when only men get to socialize with their peers and bosses. Brainstorm with your employee about what they need rather than trying to convince them to wear the hearing aids.

    4. somethingstoponder*

      Here are some tips to communicating while wearing masks when one of you has trouble hearing:
      • Verify Attention. Make sure you have their attention before you start a conversation.
      • Speak Face to Face. Maximize available facial cues by ensuring nothing is blocking your view or theirs.
      • Reduce Competing Noise. Turn off any televisions, radios, cell phone alerts or move to a quieter area.
      • Speak Slowly and Clearly. Be attentive to the cadence of your speech and consider speaking slightly louder (being careful not to shout or exaggerate your speech).
      • Use Supplemental Media. Use printouts, images, notes, videos, etc. to supplement your communication and build on what you’re trying to convey

    5. Lana Kane*

      Thank you very much for sharing your experience. I realize it takes a toll to have to explain these things, on top of having to manage other people’s expectations on a daily basis.

      I think it’s not commonly understood that a hearing aid of any type comes with discomnfort, and isn’t just a little machine that makes everything better. I hope your post helps explain to the LW that what’s needed here is an accomodation. We could all stand to learn how to communicate with all kinds of people, and meet them where they are rather than expecting others to meet our needs.

      1. Another hearing aid user*

        Also, social distancing is a nightmare for hearing aids: imagine leaving your phone out to record someone speaking on the opposite side of a room. The phone microphone would pick up all sorts of background noise (printers, rustling, air conditioning) and the quality of the voice recording would be poor and unclear. It’s the same for a hearing aid. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enforce social distancing – far from it – but your employee’s hearing with hearing aids in an office with lots of background noise and maintaining social distancing, really might be worse than not wearing hearing aids. I often take my hearing aids out in such situations precisely because I can hear better without them in those particular circumstances.
        That said, for me, masks have made everything totally impossible, and I would opt for a video call where the speaker doesn’t have to wear a mask over a face to face conversation with masks any day. I literally can’t participate properly in a conversation with masks, hearing aids or none, and my hearing loss is only moderate.

  14. L6orac6*

    Unfortunately hearing aids don’t filter out background noises, that is the problem with them, when my Dad wore them that his number one complaint, all the times I had to repeat a word, because he couldn’t get the gist of what you were talking about. (Totally deaf now, a whole other story). Your Aunt can’t filter out background noises anymore as hearing aids don’t let you do that, no matter how pricey or well fitted they are.

    1. Deaf Guy*

      Hearing is very individual, there is a lot about sound quality that is hard to diagnose, but I disagree that hearing aids (particularly digital models) categorically don’t screen out background noise.

      Places like restaurants are always going to be a challenging environment but over the years I have noticed dramatic improvements in this area. The software in digital aids can tell where sound is coming from and do a good job screening out noise from behind you versus in front, etc. When I first went digital I noticed everything seemed quieter, and I was able to pick out sounds I was listening to better, and my own speaking volume dropped. Also, bluetooth technology means integration with, well, practically everything. I can set my aids to connect to my phone or the TV at the volume I need and not hear ANY background noise (well, except someone shouting). This has been a huge life-changer. For restaurants (OK pre/post pandemic), I have a wireless mic on a clip. If I’m dining with one person they can wear it (I call it “going on my talk show”), if it’s a group I can put it at the center of the table. I like to clip it onto the centerpiece to keep it out of the way.

      Honestly I think many of those with bad experiences may not have found the right solution for them but there is likely to be one out there. My deafness is profound AND I have tinnitus, so mine is not an easy, mild case.

  15. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    In the UK there it is considered polite (and perfectly acceptable) to ask someone to not wear, or to remove, their face covering when speaking to a deaf or hard of hearing person, as long as reasonable social distancing is maintained. It’s even covered by the UK face covering legislation as an exemption.

    My mother has become progressively harder of hearing as she has got older, and she currently chooses to wears a ‘sunflower lanyard’ (Hidden Disabilities Lanyard) when she goes shopping or uses public transport. To her, someone speaking through a face covering is entirely pointless, she can NOT understand them. No-one has yet refused to remove their mask to speak to her, so she’s not faced with a wall of mumble.

    (That said, men with thick beards present her with a huge lipreading problem, which has led to some amusing moments with the VERY hirstute guy behind the counter in her local Tesco Local :) )

    1. deaf butterfly*

      I’m Australian, where face masks are not as mandatory in most places now, but when they were, everyone was super understanding of it when I couldn’t understand them. I’d ask them to social distance and take their masks off, and there would be no problem.
      However, the beard thing – I have never had an issue with that, so I find that one interesting – and I’m so glad it’s never impacted me.
      Funnily, I can lipread people with accents well enough that it makes up for the fact that I struggle even more with hearing them – it’s only a few sounds I can’t lipread from them, but after working with a multicultural workplace for a few years, I’ve become used to it and can get away with it. It’s the Aussie mumblers who are the worst.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        My colleague has an accent that I never noticed for YEARS. We shared a cubicle, so we always spoke in person and it didn’t come across when I was reading his lips. One day when I was out of the office I had to dial in to a group call and couldn’t figure out who the guy with the accent was, so I IM’d my cube mate to ask him….he still thinks it’s funny! (I prefer lip reading to hearing aids 1000%- the background babble is beyond awful.)

    2. Marlene*

      I’m hard of hearing and DON’T want people to remove their masks to talk to me. That puts me at risk. So I hope people don’t do that as a matter of course.

      1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

        Great, such is the beauty of choice and polite asking! My mother would prefer to be able to communicate, as she feels being ‘cut off’ is more of a risk to her than catching Covid.

        1. Tired of Covid-and People*

          Sorry, no way I would remove my (two) masks, I have mask anxiety as it is. I would offer to send a text or something.

      2. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

        I got Covid after taking off my mask so my elderly father could understand me. I understand the impulse, but you are asking someone to play Russian roulette with the virus. Definitely look into writing things down or any alternative way of communicating.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I am a lipreader in the UK and have encountered difficulties with masks. Generally people are aware that a d/Deaf person could ask them to remove their mask so they can lipread, but when you actually need to do this most people slightly panic (or indeed bluescreen).

      A typical time when I need to ask someone to remove their mask is when there’s an additional layer of protection, such as a plexiglass screen or face visor; and when the interaction is going to be very short, such as checking in at an in-person clinic. Removing the mask for a minute or two in such situations increases the risk less than needing to yell for twice as long!

      1. Cats on a Bench*

        Depending on where we are, I’d rather pull out paper and pen and write what I need to say before I’d take my mask off. If outside and little to no people around, I’ll take off the mask, but indoors, I’m not putting my health at risk when I could easily write down what I need to say. Course, I realize there is an issue if the other person can’t read or can’t read in the same language as I’m writing!

        Most Deaf people I know are actually baffled by how many hearing people either don’t think of writing stuff down (and try gesturing instead), or just flat out refuse to do it when that is the most common sense way to communicate with a Deaf person if you don’t know sign language, especially if they’re requesting it or starting it off with their own written message.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          The drive-through COVID testing has developed over time (I’m in a trial so am tested fairly regularly).

          At first, the only way for staff/volunteers to instruct people arriving for testing was to get them to park up and call an indicated mobile phone number, whereupon the staff would read a script down the phone. And they couldn’t hold the script up to the car window. It was *hard*.

          Now nearly everything is on flip charts they hold up for you to read. I’m not quite sure what you do if your literacy or English isn’t sufficient (but I think it likely there are translations available in one of the many boxes as the NHS is good at having printed resources in languages spoken within minority communities).

      2. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

        Yes, very much so – in the UK shop staff etc. don’t technically / legally have to wear masks if they’re behind those screens anyway.

  16. Bagpuss*

    LW2 – you mention that the situation is worse with mask wearing – is this because they muffle voices or because your report can’t see people’s lips?

    I’d suggest asking her whether it would help (or if it’s worth trying to *see* if it would help!) for you, and others who interact with her frequently, to wear clear masks or the kind of masks with a clear panel, so your mouth is visible. If it is useful you could then ask your employer about covering the cost of those masks.

    Obviously that won’t help if she is having to interreact with people from outside your workplace, but it might help within the office.

    I’d also ask her about other ways to improve communication – would it be possible for more of her work-related interactions to be via e-mail? Is using the phone any better (for instance, if she is able to use a head set or take calls in a quieter room?

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I think it would be kind for the company to provide face masks that allow for lip-reading to the staff.

    2. Lousie*

      It is actually amazing the number of people that read lips without fully realizing they were doing it. This was brought to light during ZOOM church services over the past year. When masks got added many people suddenly couldn’t understand so we switched to the type with the visible mouth and it seems to help. Though anyone with a long mustache in my experience always has trouble with anyone trying to read lips.
      Having a family member with mutism I have learned to read lips and know the finger sign language alphabet for spelling when I am just not following. (There are still many points of frustration but it helps.) Grandma who is deaf doesn’t want to be bothered and prefer a white board to write her messages. I think at the end of the day you have to ask the person with hearing difficulties what they want to do besides get in your personal bubble.

    3. PostalMixup*

      I was going to suggest this, too. I have mild hearing loss that isn’t to the point that my audiologist recommends a hearing aid (mostly because of all the reasons mentioned above). However, I didn’t realize until COVID how much I rely on lip reading. I work in an environment with a lot of background noise, and I routinely have to ask my soft-spoken coworkers to repeat themselves because I can’t hear them and I can’t see their lips. Clear masks would help SO much.

  17. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    Re: time management — Alison is right. Strive for clarity of expectations.

    IMO, the power-dynamics of white collar office work are fairly nuanced (relative to dynamics most people have at work/school in their youth). Because of this, people often communicate in questions or requests that can sound like “nice to have” requirements (rather than just straight requirements) to a unseasoned person. It’s also easy to forget what we know about the impact of a missed deadline in our work. But because she is new, Jane may lack context and not have an awareness of how her workflow impacts other people.

    I think it’s worth asking how she understands the deadlines and what her perception is of the impact on workflow. You may find she’s misunderstanding what’s being asked of her and doesn’t grasp the stakes.

    1. twocents*

      This made me think: it may also be worth revisiting how LW communicates deadlines. My very first manager would put a lot of pressure to meet deadlines, which sucked in its own way, but at least we all knew that she wanted 10 things done in the span of 6.

      Then she went out on leave and the company management training program sent a very nice person… And we started missing deadlines all the time because trainee manager would say things like “when do you think you can get this done?” or “Can you add this to your list?” And no one understood that there was an actual deadline tied to the request.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Yes, exactly! If she’s used to school, she’s probably used to a list of specific, immobile deadlines (and if she missed those deadlines, it would only impact her.)

        But in workplaces deadlines are often changed, they’re often shared using softer language (“does it work for you to get me the report by Friday?”), some are soft/negotiable, some are hard/non-negotiable. And missing deadlines can have real impacts on other people’s work in a way that new employees may not realise.

        I still vividly remember making a mistake in filing an assignment when I was new. I didn’t realise that these files were pulled by another department weekly, who used them as the basis for developing content. So my typo on Monday meant two hours of extra work for my boss on Friday, as she edited all the content the other team had created with the bad info. She was very matter-of-fact when she let me know, which I appreciate.

        It’s really easy to assume that people understand the ramificiations of their mistake, but often that context is lost during training.

  18. Green great dragon*

    #1 – ‘I almost died, it’s not a good way to lose weight’ actually sounds perfect to me. But I’m sorry you’re having to worry about this.

  19. Kizzia*

    LW2 – I have hearing loss and I have hearing aids. They are adjusted to focus their amplification on the frequencies I have lost but they also amplify everything else to some extent and it is exhausting trying to filter out all the noises that normally I can’t hear at all (like humming electrical equipment and the rustle of people’s clothing as they move). They’ve been adjusted as much as is possible for they style they are (I cannot afford to drop thousands of pounds on high end ones knowing even then they wouldn’t remove the problem entirely, making everything loud it is simply what all hearing aids do) but I still have to limit how long I wear them for because it becomes overwhelming and then I struggle to hear anything because my brain just stops processing sound at all.

    What helped me was all my colleagues making sure they had my attention before speaking to me, making sure I could see their lips to aid comprehension (lip reading isn’t magic but when you have an idea of what the conversation is about it helps enormously) and also following conversations up with brief emails confirming what was agreed/actions to be taken so we could ensure everyone was on the same page. No one shamed me for asking people to repeat themselves and when we had meetings or calls with clients I was able to make the decision myself whether to mention it or not. This allowed me to basically only use my hearing aids when on the phone (they got me a handset that was compatible with my bearing aids and so amplified the callers voice properly for me) and in large meetings (where I had a clipboard with a hearing loop conductor inside it which amplified stuff for me without me having to tell anyone else in the room). I will be forever grateful to my manager and team for being kind and decent human beings about it and just taking it in their stride and making sure I had the accommodations I needed.

    I now work for myself and I pretty much use the same things and currently am not struggling with communication (although the amount of time being spent on zoom and thus with my aids in sometimes overwhelming but I schedule things carefully to avoid too much in each day as much as I can). When I do have to go out I do not wear my hearing aids (they do not mix with masks) but I use the voice to text option in my phone and get people to speak towards it if I’m struggling so I can read their words off the screen and that’s been fine so far (I care for my elderly parents so I always mask up and would never ask anyone else to take theirs off despite communication issue, I just don’t think it’s safe).

    All of which is a long way of saying please don’t assume hearing aids are magic bullets and make sure you and your team are actually making the efforts to communicate in the best way for your employee and also ensure that you’re aware of what terms of tech are available and offer them to your employee as well. Caveat – again, don’t demand they take all the accommodations you find, it’s about them figuring out what they need to work and every single deaf and hard of hearing person is different.

    1. Kizzia*

      I forgot to say if you’re in an open plan office you’ll need to ensure you employee has their back to a wall (which limits the amount of background noise which makes it hard for them to hear) and when in meetings offer them the seat which puts them with no noises behind them (corners are best). If your office has the radio on then that will also be causing issues as it’s yet one more sound that they’ll have to fight against to hear what’s being said to them.

      1. Anonym*

        This is all so good to know. Thank you for sharing! I never would have intuited that sitting by a wall or in a corner would have that effect, but of course it makes so much sense once pointed out.

      2. Kaitydidd*

        That’s so interesting! Having my back to a wall in noisy settings has always felt best to me, and I think that’s at least partly why! My left ear is fine, but my right is 100% deaf. It’s solely ornamental.

  20. Rebecca*

    When people asked my father what his weight loss secret was, he looked them dead in the eye and said, “Cancer.” Then he changed the subject.

  21. Anon foe this*

    LW1, in the past I’ve answered comments on my good-old-fashioned eat-better-excercise-more weight loss with “Well, I’ve been awfully sick” because “I don’t want to hear your comments about my body, even if you think they are compliments, thanks” isn’t an acceptable reply in our culture and I wanted to both shut down further comments and make a point about the speaker’s assumptions. It worked for the most part! Good luck and feel better.

    1. an infinite number of monkeys*

      Me, too, and I felt a little weird about it. It wasn’t *completely* untrue – I had gained weight due to hypothyroidism that was undiagnosed for a few years – but the weight loss was fully intentional and achieved through diet and exercise, not really the result of an illness. I feel so awkward with those comments anyway. It doesn’t feel right to lie, but pre-COVID I got to where I dreaded industry events (full of slight acquaintances) because there was just such a constant bombardment of uncomfortable, well-intentioned remarks.

  22. Reality Check*

    #2 I don’t know what causes your employee’s hearing loss, so I will just speak for myself. I have Meniere’s Disease which is characterized by ringing in the ears and sensitivity to noise. Sometimes it is BRUTAL. I can hear, sort of, but the ringing causes sound to distort so badly that I have a really hard time understanding what people are saying. A few things:

    Background noise greatly exacerbates the situation. One becomes very sensitive to noise.
    If people are speaking to me with a printer printing, water running from a faucet, people talking in the background, TV or radio playing, the list goes on, I’m going to have a very hard time understanding what is being said.

    If the speaker turns their back, begins walking away and says something over their shoulder to me, I’m probably going to miss it.

    Masks make this even worse. Everything is muffled.

    Environments with hard surfaces that cause echoing – such as a lunch room cafeteria – are a special form of hell for me.

    Meeting clients outside the building with trafffic and sirens are another form of hell for me (and the client as well). Bonus points if there is a storm.

    Don’t assume I heard what you said. Get an acknowledgement from me, especially if my back was turned when you started talking to me.

    Phone calls, especially if the person is on speaker phone, can be really difficult.


    On some days my hearing is perfectly fine. I can’t predict it either.

    On the bad days, anything that would amplify the background noise, such as hearing aids, would make this ten times worse.

    Face me when speaking, and please speak clearly. Don’t mumble.

    I know it’s frustrating, believe me. I have something as loud as an airhorn blaring in my head, it makes my head feel as if it’s vibrating, and causes me headaches. There is no cure for this, and it really sucks. Patience is very much appreciated!

    1. Grim*

      You have my sympathy. I have catastrophic tinnitus that has isolated me from every thing I care about and I had to stop working as I could no longer focus (Engineering). Everday is a sound hellscape without exit.

      Expensive hearing aids didn’t help me.

      1. Reality Check*

        Yeah I was out of work for 3 years due to the damn vertigo attacks, a subject worthy of another post. And you’re right about the isolation….

  23. Harper the Other One*

    LW4 – I would also focus on outcomes. Everyone has different time management strategies that work best for them so even if you were a superstar at organizing your time, you might not be the right person to coach on specifics.

    If you can offer any company resources that she can access to help her figure out a time management method, that would be a better option. Then you could say, “we need to make sure all projects are done by their deadline, which isn’t happening. Why don’t you visit [company link] to find out about some tools you can use to track and organize your time.”

    1. Allonge*

      Exactly! As someone who does have a good time management strategy (looking at my results), I would have no idea where to start to teach it.

      I had some time management training so I can explain a few concepts, but it’s such a personal thing that there is no ‘good’ way of doing it, nor a ‘good’ methor for teaching – some things work and some things don’t.

      Outcomes is what matters. That is what you can communicate and check. And yes, location of resources, even the existence of time management as a concept.

    2. Ashley*

      Maybe ask the intern what they used in school to meet deadlines. I have systems that work for me and could offer to suggestions if I was working with someone but I think we all that one person who if we want them to be someone at 7 we tell them to be there at 6 and they just never seem to meet a deadline for anything.

    3. Orange You Glad*

      I would start by talking to the employee to 1. make sure she has an understanding of the importance of deadlines 2. that the lateness without communication needs to stop and 3. what resources the employee may need.
      LW may need to change up how they work with this employee too. Would it help if you scheduled a quick check-in for a progress report a week before the deadline? That kind of reinforcement of the deadline may help the employee stay on task.

  24. cncx*

    I feel for OP4 because i’m really poor in time management because i really don’t have a good grasp on how long individual pieces of a task take to finish. What has helped me is overcommunicating to someone i trust (was lucky to have a good boss most of the past decade), use and abuse of my Outlook calendar.

    One point that may be helpful to drive home is to let josie know she won’t get in trouble/get sighed at/otherwise have a negative experience if she communicates where she is in a given task. I’ve gotten a lot of help meeting deadlines just looping people in. They may tell me something that i can do to get something done quicker, or tell me what the stakes are and what part to focus on. It’s hard in some workplaces if coworkers can’t be trusted, but it has worked for me.

    Finally, I went to a time management training and that person helped me figure out what works best for me, which is lists, and breaking stuff down in to daily achievables. It may be worth sending Josie to a class like that. Mine helped because i knew i was lost but i had no tools to mitigate.

    1. Ashley*

      What kind of training did you attend? Also was it individual or more the day long group seminars where they seem to shoot for the middle.

  25. lianne*

    #5 reminds me of when my dad’s old linked profile showed up as a possible connection for me a few months after he passed away. It took me by surprise and I started sobbing. We were estranged for awhile but I went to his funeral and I regret not talking to him or reconnecting before he died. Just typing this is difficult and brings back the guilt.

    1. Jean*

      I’m sorry for your loss. I know it’s hard, but try to extend the same compassion to yourself that you would to someone else in your situation that you care about, because you deserve it too. Hugs.

  26. NYWeasel*

    OP #4: I’ve been both the recipient and giver of feedback where both of us have the same challenge, and I find it actually a really helpful dynamic for addressing issues. When I was the recipient, it was really helpful to have my manager understand the challenges I was facing, and as the giver, the act of putting words to the issue helped me frame it for myself as well.

    In regards to the issue itself, as someone who manages project managers, time management is often a big challenge, but yes, it’s also difficult to figure out the right combination of actions & advice to get back on course. My starting point is having an open conversation where we talk about whether this work is actually what they want to be doing long-term or not. (I make sure my employees know they are safe to be honest with me—if they say no, we focus on helping them grow to where they want to be, so it’s still something positive). Assuming they say yes and want to put work in to addressing their issues, we do a bit of a root cause analysis: What are the triggers—is it only when there’s too much work? Is it because they lose sight of tasks? Etc etc

    At that point we talk through what they think might work with those triggers…Do they use tasks on the calendar? Do they keep a paper notebook on hand? How do they start their day? End their day? I’ve seen hundreds of different systems, so I know there’s no single right answer to give. It’s more about learning your individual environmental responses and then setting systems in place to automatically avoid the obstacles. I’ve often said things like “This works for me but it likely won’t work for you” or “I shouldn’t do this and here’s why”

    In this case, with you going through the same journey, be transparent. “In this meeting, I didn’t have X prepared and afterwards I realized that I should have aligned with Jane beforehand because she would have flagged that for me.” Just hearing someone else’s mistakes reinforces in your own mind what needs to be done. Good luck!

  27. Nora*

    LW1, I’ve been there. Ten or so years ago I got mono as an adult. The older you are, the worse it hits you, and I ended up not being able to work for a solid month. Over the course of the illness I lost maybe 20 pounds. I went back to work still feeling pretty rotten (but no longer clinically ill) and all my coworkers told me I looked great. That was…not what I wanted to hear. Especially when returning to health, being able to eat again, and sleeping less than 22 hours a day meant most of the weight came back.

    I’m a jerk, and was definitely more caustic in my responses than I needed to be, but I think you’d be fully justified in saying something like “yeah, the weight loss was a great tradeoff for almost dying of covid” whenever it feels appropriate.

    1. One Who Knows*

      LW4, constantly getting stuck on small tasks and relying on anxiety/last minute panic to meet deadlines sounds like you might want to get tested for ADHD.

  28. Safely Retired*

    #3 “…leaving within a few months of being promoted.”

    That was not a promotion. It was a victimization. If your boss wants to blame the victim that is their business, but don’t you fall for that garbage.

  29. Forrest*

    LW4, as a manager it’s great to coach your employees, but I don’t think you’re supposed to be the expert on every single thing she needs to learn! Do you have an in-house staff development programme? They nearly always have time management as a topic. If not, do you have a training budget to send your employee on an external course?

  30. KC*

    LW1, I have two people in my life (my husband and my coworker) who lost a bunch of weight due to nearly fatal health issues. Those comments are so hard!
    My husband, who is the cheerful and chatty sort, simply responds “Oh, I lost weightfrom Malaria! Worst diet ever! Do not recommend!” A lot of time, the reaction is just a laugh (they think he’s joking) and moving on to a new topic.
    My coworker, who is more private, just say “It was not a healthy weight loss and I’m still struggling with a lot of health effects.” People are usually shocked, but empathetic and don’t ask further questions.

    I appreciate this question– I just had a friend who has lost some weight on purpose complain that nobody noticed and she was feeling dejected and I had to explain why one should never comment on weight, ever. The impulse is strong for a lot of people!

    1. Indisch blau*

      I came here to say something similar. A friend from church lost weight due to esophagal cancer. He was open about his diagnosis (in church – don’t know about other contexts) and about his weight loss he’d say, “I don’t recommend it.”

  31. Damn it, Hardison!*

    LW1, I hope that none of your coworkers comment on your weight loss. I lost a significant amount of weight due to unknown reasons (possibly a combination of stress and a severe B-12 deficiency) and no one I worked with ever mentioned it. To the few people outside of work who have asked, I just said that it was an unknown medical reason and they all responded that it must have been scary to not know what was going on and that was it. I was worried that people would ask all sorts of questions but was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t.

  32. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    I sympathize, OP2. My mother should be wearing her hearing aids but never does, and then gets snappy and nasty whenever she can’t hear things. If you suggest that she use the tool she has at her disposal to solve that exact problem, she gets even ruder. Very frustrating.

    Just keep highlighting the issue every time it comes up. You can’t make her wear her hearing aids, but you can make her realize how much more difficult things can be without them. Good luck.

    1. Reality Check*

      Have you read what others are saying about this? Do you think making the employee feel like crap over this is really going to help?

    2. DeafandAnnoyed*

      No, this attitude is exactly the problem. Your mother is not the LW’s employee. Maybe you should try being more empathetic and patient with your mother.

      Hearing aids are not a panacea. The employee may not get much benefit from them. I have to say, LW 3, your description of your employee is rather hurtful for other deaf/HOH people reading in. Instead of considering how your employee’s hearing loss is negatively affecting YOU, think about how your employee is doing. Don’t you think she notices how annoyed you are at her? How does that affect her morale? You should be asking how you can help her succeed. You are not entitled to details on her hearing aids or how or why she makes a personal decision to not wear them.

      Hearing loss disabilities seems to aggravate people more than anything else. I can’t imagine anyone being so annoyed at a visually impaired individual or someone with a mobility impairment. It’s shocking how acceptable it is to try to force people with hearing loss to somehow conform to what YOU think they should do because it annoys or frustrates you to accommodate their disability.

    3. Forrest*

      This advice boils down to, “don’t work with your employee to find a solution that works for both of you, be as horrible as possible to try and make her less disabled”.

      People don’t stop being disabled because it’s inconvenient to you! They mask it and get progressively more exhausted (and more disabled) until they can’t do it any more and then they quit. And if they can, they take a case against you for discrimination and hostile environment.

    4. Generic Name*

      I’m not seeing how this applies to the OP’s situation, to be honest. It seems like your mom’s problem is more that she is snappy, nasty, and rude, hearing loss or no.

      1. Le Sigh*

        And the snappy, nasty, rudeness might be her frustration with feeling isolated boiling over. I dunno if the mom was this way before the hearing loss, but esp. if not, that’s something to consider. And hogsmeade, if you think the answer to that is “then wear the hearing aides” — have you asked her why she doesn’t wear them? Lower-end/basic models often don’t filter out any background noise and even higher-end ones don’t always solve the problem to be worth the hassle. Have they been adjusted by an audiologist? Has a doc talked to her about other possible ways to address this? Has your family tried talking to her about other ways to help her communicate that isn’t just “wear your hearing aids”?

        Maybe you’ve done all of this. I don’t know much about your situation with your mom, but the tone of your comment feels so dismissive and presumptive. Your mom might be less rude and snappy if she felt heard (no pun intended).

    5. PersephoneUnderground*

      I wonder if approaching your mother about alternative strategies might work better for you than repeating the same recurring argument. There are some great alternatives to just using the hearing aids being presented in the comments, so it seems a shame not to suggest trying them or asking your mother if there’s something else you can do to make things easier since the hearing aids aren’t a complete solution for her (otherwise she’d probably wear them). Disclaimer- obviously you know your situation best so please completely ignore me if I’m off base and pretend I never dropped this unsolicited advice.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        I’m on board with this sentiment.

        We don’t have to put up with snappiness at work or at home if we have approached someone with kindness. We can respond calmly with a solution finding approach so that everyone’s needs get met.

        “I’m sorry that you didn’t hear me when I tried speaking to you. What can I do to get your attention so that we can have this talk? Can we step away from the noise so we can talk better? Should I email you instead?”

        And if this is met with hostility, we can set boundaries about how much we can take of that.

    6. Batgirl*

      It seems like common sense to conclude that if someone doesn’t like using a particular tool, the tool probably isn’t helpful or useful to them.

    7. Lizy*

      Nope. Your mom probably is aware that it’ll help. Wearing aids is exhausting. Being hard-of-hearing is exhausting. Having other abled people tell me what I’m doing wrong? EXHAUSTING.

      1. Hogsmeade Airbnb*

        Being the recipient of abuse by someone who has the tool to solve their problem and isn’t willing to use it is also exhausting.

  33. CupcakeCounter*

    I did this for 15 months. My advice is to GTFO. No thanks, no positive reference, and I missed several important milestones in my only child’s life because I was glued to a computer both at the office and at home. Not worth it.
    Use the boss who just left as Alison said and find a new job.

    Also…stop doing the extra. Its HARD!! Especially when parts of Job A feed directly into Job B, but start eliminating a few things. They treat you like crap and there is no way you will win any battle there so start protecting you.

    1. EPLawyer*

      This second paragraph. Boss has no incentive to get you help. He is getting 2 jobs done for the price of one. It’s a winning situation for him. For you, not so much. Even as unreasonable as he is, you need to go to him and say “I have X, Y, Z to do. I can only do 2 of them what is the priority.” When he says “All of them.” You go back to your desk and send an email (with a bcc to a non-work email to yourself) saying “To summarize our conversation, I asked you about the priorities for X, Y, Z and you said they were all a priority.” Then you do what you can in a reasonable work week. When he complains you have the documentation. When HIS boss complains, you have the documentation. Enough work goes undone, they will realize that 1 person cannot do 2 jobs.

      In the meantime — you LOOK FOR ANOTHER JOB. So when they get mad at the work being not done, you are already well on your way with your job search — if not already out the door.

      Which brings up another point, you can’t look for another job if you are too exhausted to look. So start cutting back your hours so you have time to work your escape plan.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        EP lawyer has great verbiage, use it if you can and cut waaay back on your hours. Give yourself a life again.
        I was once at a place that had me doing 2 & 1/2 jobs. The new job, the old job and any old extra project the boss thought was interesting, as well as receptionist break duty. I was a lot like OP and working about 15 hours per day and weekends. For four or five months they told me they would hire someone additional. I asked for ONE DAY off and they pulled me in for a PIP. They said I had a bad attituted and was not accomplishing tasks. Tasks I had asked my boss to prioritize and they said ALL.
        I spoke to my spouse and handed in my resignation the next day. It was so stressful to leave with nothing lined up, but it was so toxic it was a relief. Good luck OP

    2. miss chevious*

      YES. I scrolled down specifically to say this — stop doing the extra! OP#3, you don’t need to do all the work there is just because your terrible boss wants you to! Work reasonable hours that leave you time for your job search, do the work you can do in that amount of time, and when things don’t get done, they don’t get done. Your boss will be mad about it, but he’s already mad and you’re already miserable. If you can care less about this current job, your actual life will improve.

      Now, this firm boundary setting isn’t a way to win friends and influence people at a job you want to keep, but you don’t want to keep this job! So reduce this job’s importance in your life and focus on getting a different job.

    3. Batgirl*

      Its not always possible to just bail on extra job duties, depending on how much punishment a boss is willing to dole out, but the OP should definitely consider trying. Some methods I’ve had success with are emailing: “I only have time to do either job A task or job B task today. I’m going to prioritize job A task and just wanted to let you know in case you needed it quickly and wanted to reassign”. If you get a “just do both” you reply with “of course I’ll move on to job B when I’ve finished job A. I’ll let you know when that is.” Obviously you’ll have more job A tasks on the morrow which is when you send the same email about job A task prioritisations again. It’s never going to feel good, or like you’re on top of stuff but stick to prioritising whatever helps you the most and try not to care about problems your boss has created for themselves. Shove it back onto their plate while remembering they are never going to be a reference and the emails cover your back. I did have a boss tell me I had to stay late to finish both jobs; so I stayed late. Tapping away …. Surreptitiously looking for jobs the whole time that I was forced to stay late! Well, how could he expect me to do two jobs before 5 when I seemingly couldn’t even do it with unpaid overtime?! I wouldn’t recommend it in these modern times of surveillance but I include it as an example of how totally not guilty I felt/still feel. I got that new job and he got fired for scamming the company eventually.

  34. HailRobonia*

    Related to #2: I have occasional interaction with an extremely old semi-retired faculty member who has pretty significant hearing problems. He does not wear hearing aids for whatever reason, and we have found that one silver lining in this pandemic is we can meet with him over Zoom and the voice transcription feature (flawed as it is) has been extremely helpful.

    1. JSPA*

      Yes! Zoom transcripts also become far less awful if people use their “newscaster” voice rather than their “joshing with chums” voice. I called in to a government meeting where the council had been giggling or gasping over the bad transcripts (and some of the words zoom chooses are slurs, or near-obscene, so…yes…problematic). I slowed down, enunciated as if I were teaching in a mid-size lecture hall with no amplification, and zoom produced a very clear transcript.

      OP #2, if the partially deaf employee doesn’t want to be singled out for zoom calls, but is struggling now that they can’t read lips to supplement their ears, you can actually even make (written) messaging or (well-lit, unmasked) zoom your default way to communicate–for everyone.

      Is it goofy to message in writing zoom from side-by-side offices, or two desks over? Well, not really. We now have over a half dozen (described) more transmissible covid variants circulating worldwide, and almost certainly a few dozen others yet-to-be-described and studied. You absolutely can make a rule that anyone you supervise is to use video as a default, rather than walking two desks over. And if they talk quietly, and let the electronics do the amplification, so much the better.

      (And if they need to stretch their legs, give them leave to go for a distanced walk.)

      Ignore this if people are at desks a scant 6 feet apart, and need to stay masked at all costs; but in that case, you may already be in trouble. The 6 foot rule is based on what worked a few months ago…not on what will automatically continue to work in the future, as the virus evolves.

      1. GothicBee*

        We use Microsoft Teams, and I had a situation where I needed to use the captions, and I was truly surprised at how accurate they were. They’re better than most live captions on TV (not that that’s saying much), but I recommend checking them out if anyone needs/wants captions. They may not be completely useless.

        Though I would say, I don’t know if zoom is necessarily a better communication option unless there’s some reason seeing each other is absolutely necessary. I’d recommend chat or email first. But definitely check with the employee as to what they prefer.

  35. Just a PM*

    LW #2 — Another hearing-aid wearer here. I’ve had them my whole life so I can’t really expound on the difference between “having hearing” and “not having hearing” that many here have so eloquently discussed. I wonder there are other people in your life who’ve had hearing loss or hearing decline — maybe an elderly relative or a parent? If there are, what kind of accommodations did you allow for that parent and can you do the same for your employee?

    I would also remind you that hearing loss is a disability that your employee can get accommodations for. I echo Allison’s recommendation to look for other accommodations and the resource she provided, JAN, is fantastic. I encourage you to look into these resources instead of pushing the hearing aids. The hearing aids aren’t working for her. Please try a different approach as requiring her to wear them is ablest and may leave you open to discrimination complaints (I am not a lawyer but if a colleague was trying to put me in a box re: my hearing disability, I would run to my EEO).

    I will say this, and not just to you but to everyone here. Please, for the love of fricking whomever-you-believe-in, have PATIENCE in these covid mask-wearing times. So many of us rely on lip-reading and facial expressions to give context to the words coming out of your mouth that are hidden in masks. As frustrated as you get that we can’t understand you, please know that we are equally just as frustrated and upset that we can’t hear you. There is a difference between hearing and understanding. We can HEAR what you’re saying. But we can’t UNDERSTAND what you’re saying. There’s a huge difference that many hearing people don’t realize exists. So please, have patience and kindness when interacting with us, get a mask with a plastic shield in it so we can see your lips, or write down what you say.

    1. Lizy*

      YES!!!! Hearing isn’t the problem. It’s understanding. It’s the same reason I have difficulties talking on the phone.

      As a kid, I did years of “therapy” where I learned how to distinguish between different sounds (like b and p), but it’s HARD.

      And seconding Toots – enunciating helps.

  36. Preggers*

    OP 1 oh I wish I could say it will be ok but ugh I’ve been there. Not Covid, I had HG during my pregnancy and weighed 30 lbs less pregnant then not pregnant and had long lasting health complications as a result. I started responding, yeah the one benefit to me and my baby almost dying. And immediately changed the subject. That was literally the only thing that shut those conversations down.

  37. Philly Redhead*

    OP #1, you have my sympathy. I had a similar situation. I was very heavy due to an endocrine disorder. They finally figured out it was a pituitary tumor which was f&*$ing up just about every system in my body and almost killed me. After I had surgery to remove it, I lost nearly 100 pounds. My response when someone asked how I did was, “Brain surgery.” While it shut down people wanting diet tips, many still asked for details of my medical problems. WHY do people think that’s ok??

  38. One Who Knows*

    LW4, constantly getting stuck on small tasks and relying on anxiety/last minute panic to meet deadlines sounds like you might want to get tested for ADHD.

    1. it's me*

      This sounds like my mother. I’m currently attempting to convince her that she has some sort of executive dysfunction….

  39. HannahS*

    For LW2, I think it would be helpful to reframe the issue: instead of asking, “How can this employee “fix” her disability so that these things which are challenging for me to deal with are resolved,” think about asking, “How can I change the working environment so that it accommodates my employee’s needs?” Ask her how you can help. You know she’s hard of hearing and you know that people need to stand far apart and wear masks, both of which likely make it harder for her to hear you and your colleagues. Maybe she needs more things emailed to her. Maybe she needs everyone to remember to speak loudly and enunciate better–people tend to suck at remembering to do that. But you shouldn’t ask her to use a tool that she’s tried and has found doesn’t work for her.

  40. BPC*

    Regarding your father sending requests on LinkedIn…. I keep getting requests to connect with my father, too. Even after he passed away. While I miss him terribly, I know he would find that funny (and tell just accept the connection and move on!). Now I see it as another way to remember him.

  41. Mr. Cajun2core*

    Alison – Could hearing aids be required if the job required it (though I see no evidence in this letter)? For example, a firefighter where instructions are shouted out to each other or some other safety issue. What about something as simple as a receptionist where the person has to communicate on the phone regularly?

    1. Lizy*

      Is the employer going to pay for the aids? Because they’re expensive.

      As someone who’s had jobs – including CurrentJob – where communicating on the phone regularly is required – NO. I deliberately would take my hearing aid OUT when I had to talk on the phone. You have to hold the phone just right and it still is a PIA to try and understand.

      As someone said upthread – it’s not necessarily hearing that’s the problem. It’s understanding. I can hear the fact you’re yelling at me just fine. I just can’t understand what words are coming out of your mouth.

    2. Another hearing aid user*

      This misses the point that hearing aids really aren’t a panacea. Hearing aids don’t fix everything and in some environments can even make it harder to hear properly. Even where they do help, visual cues, ideal distances for the hearing aids to pick up sound, and understanding from the person speaking may be necessary. If it is really critical for an employee to be able to receive urgent instructions, the situation needs to be looked at much more holistically than assuming hearing aids will fully solve the problem.

    3. Mr. Cajun2core*

      Thank you both for the comments. As someone who does not wear hearing aids, I was not aware of all of the particulars.

      However, I am still curious about something. There are some jobs where it is legal to not hire, discriminate, etc. because of a disability. For example, a blind person could not be a truck driver. An employer has to make a reasonable accommodation as long as the person can perform the basic functions of the job. If a person cannot perform the job, I believe that the employer can legally refuse to hire/discriminate.

      1. Adultiest Adult*

        This. You can’t force a particular accommodation (like wearing the hearing aids), but you can make it a requirement that they can perform the essential functions of the job with reasonable accommodations. That’s not considered discrimination.

  42. Mr. Cajun2core*

    OP#1 – First, I do hope that your health continues to improve.

    Second, I once had a co-worker who went through something similar (though before COVID). Her standard response was “The weight loss was not intentional”. She said that with a very serious tone and not even the slightest smile. Most people got the hint and dropped the conversation. If you are comfortable, you can use that phrase and use one of Alison’s tricks and quickly change the subject.

  43. Philly Redhead*

    OP #2, does your employee lip-read? Maybe keep a supply of masks with clear plastic inserts in the office so she can see colleagues’ mouths while they are masked?

    1. Another hearing aid user*

      Definitely helpful, but again not a panacea (they steam up/press weirdly against the mouth etc, and still muffle sound)

  44. Dust Bunny*

    RE: Josie’s trainer.

    I know that work is not like school, but even in school we all had to meet deadlines, and unless school has changed dramatically in the 20+ years since I left it, there were consequences to missing those deadlines, so she presumably had at least 12 years of practice at this before she got to you.

    Somebody needs to sit down with Josie and tell her point-blank that it’s time to figure out how to improve this. Maybe she needs to set herself mini-deadlines along the way. Maybe she needs to get herself evaluated for (ADHD, etc.); I hope your workplace has an EAP and decent insurance. Maybe she needs to entertain herself with rabbit holes on her lunch break, as I often do. Maybe she’s not the right person for this position and she either needs to be found a new role or find a new job.

    1. TootsNYC*

      yes. We all have many opportunities to learn these sorts of things, and it really is sort of our role to learn them ourselves.

      I’m a parent, and I struggle with this “I’m responsible for teaching my kid these big truths.” But some of them, they have to learn themselves.

      when you are only someone’s manager or colleague, it is NOT your job to teach them this sort of fundamental life skill. It’s a little disrespectful to think it is.
      And, even if it is, your role should be to create the appropriate accountability that will provide the pressure to learn it; to steer them to sources for solutions THEY can learn an implement (mention the Pomodoro technique; send them to the EAP; etc.)

    2. EngineerMom*

      School is a LOT different than work – the tasks are typically already broken down. It’s pretty rare to get an assignment like “write a 10-page research paper by the end of the semester” without other “check-in” goals along the way: submit a topic by X date, submit an outline by Y date, submit a draft copy by Z date, etc.

      Work is a lot different in that at many companies, the tasks are not already neatly broken down, and everyone has different assignments and deadlines. For someone who is used to being handed a schedule like that in the context of a course, where all her colleagues (classmates) are working on similar issues at the same time, this is a pretty jarring change. It certainly was for me. Also, while there are some penalties in school, projects end whether you’re finished or not when the semester ends. That doesn’t happen at work – there are adjustments to deadlines because the project has to be finished, whether it’s on time or not.

      Finding a good coach is the best thing this manager can do – someone in the organization who is good at time management, knows Josie’s work well enough to be able to be actually helpful in breaking down tasks, and can meet with her weekly to go over immediate and long-term deadlines.

      I finally got this in my current job, and it has made a huge difference in my ability to set reasonable deadlines and achieve them in the context of much larger projects. It has also really helped me understand what I do and don’t have control over – sometimes I miss deadlines because I need resources from another department, but my project is lower on their priority list. Communicating that to my own management is frustrating, but seeing how the upper managers then take that information and either clear paths for my projects or just accept the changed deadlines has helped me stop feeling embarrassed about having to say “I can’t finish this by the date I promised.”

      1. JimmyJab*

        Just re: your first paragraph, this was NOT my experience of school! At least college and grad school I was told your final, your paper, etc. was your whole grade, so make it happen! You could often get input along the way but that was your prerogative.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Another thing I disagree with in EngineerMom’s comments is that at any work I have had, intermediate deadlines ARE laid out clearly for people, and intermediate steps ARE clearly stated.

  45. AdAgencyChick*

    OP3, if you need a paycheck while you look for something else, don’t be afraid to be not-great at this job and set clear boundaries if that’s what you need to do to protect your mental health. What can you get done in a reasonable workweek? Go ahead and tell your manager “I can accomplish X, Y, and Z in a normal workweek, but not A, B, and C. How does that prioritization look to you?” If your manager is all, “You need to get it all done!” you can keep sweetly repeating “That’s not possible in a reasonable workweek, so what should I prioritize?” Yes, your manager will probably give you demerits in her mind and will write you off for any future raises and promotions. But since you’re trying to get out, does that matter? She clearly has no one else to force into this position, so she’s unlikely to fire you (and if she does, that might not be a bad thing since you’d get unemployment and not have to deal with this toxic place any longer).

  46. TootsNYC*

    The one thing I didn’t see in Alison’s answer was the suggestion to enlist a “mouthpiece” or two.

    Cast your mind over you colleagues, and see if you can identify someone who is either the office grownup or the office social director (or both). Speak with them ahead of time and ask them to help you pass the word, discreetly, that you would rather not have conversations about the weight loss and your health.
    “You know she had COVID, right? That’s how she lost the weight. It wasn’t fun, so let’s not make it a topic of conversation. That’s pretty unpleasant for her. We should be considerate.”

    If you say it yourself, I would go with “I don’t want to make it a topic of conversation” instead of “I don’t want to talk about it”–it’s a little less dramatic.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Co-signing this. I had my boss alert the rest of the office once to a personal issue that I knew I was going to be asked about otherwise because I knew that I’d get really emotional if asked. It was great — whatever she said, people left me alone about it and I was able to focus on the work at hand.

    2. cosmicgorilla*

      This is what I came in to say. It won’t cover everyone who might bring it up, but it can be spread to the people LW interacts with the most.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I agree.

      You can also mention it on a Zoom call before you get back to the office, if it comes up naturally, just to lessen the surprise when you get there in person, but definitely having an ally who can run interference is huge.

  47. EngineerMom*

    Letter #3:

    Don’t feel bad about leaving just a few months after a promotion, especially if it’s destroying your life!

    I was promoted from a job I loved into a job I hated, and left that company 5 months later. I had been heavily pressured to take the second job because they really needed to fill the position. I was the third person in a year to try working for that manager. The first guy was an outside hire that lasted 2 months. The second guy had previously worked for the company, and he lasted 2 weeks. I knew him well enough to know it was likely to be challenging, but not nearly the nightmare it turned out to be. I started looking for a new job 2 months after starting in that department.

    Fortunately, our HR person was really lovely and completely supported me, and when I did my exit interview, I was very detailed but professional on ways that manager could learn and improve. I’ve since heard after I left that his manager pressured him to take some management training courses, since it was pretty clear that the main reason he couldn’t hang on to anyone was HIM, not bad candidates.

  48. Erin*

    For the manager with the hearing impaired employee: hearing aide technology isn’t all that great, and background noise is seriously magnified, even with the top of the line hearing aides. My husband is hard of hearing and relies on a combo of hearing aides & lip reading. Lip reading has become difficult with Covid due to masks, and asking someone to repeat themselves has triggered more than one person to get completely irritated with him. Sigh.

    There are other accommodations you can make for this employee – getting clear masks for her close colleagues to wear, primarily using written communication with her, etc etc. Her hearing is a disability, and reasonable accommodations should be made for her, just as they are for anyone else with a disability.

  49. Me*

    For #5 – stop rejecting his requests. Just let it sit there. Every time you reject him, he can click the connect button again. If he asks, then follow the script about never checking it.

  50. Scorbunny*

    LW2, just be kind. My dad’s had some degree of hearing loss since I was a teenager, and so I guess I’ve just grown up knowing how to adjust my communication style to accommodate that. At my last job, I had a coworker who was dealing with some hearing loss of her own, and one day, she took me aside and thanked me, saying that I was the only one who was working with her and not making a big deal of the issue. Like I was the only one who would do things like making sure to face her when I talked and didn’t mind repeating things, and when I did repeat stuff, I’d do it slowly and clearly as possible, just as force of habit. It wasn’t something I was consciously thinking about and I would not have said I was going out of my way to help, and I felt so bad that apparently no one else would do the bare minimum for her. LW2, you’ve got to work with her on that, hearing loss is enough of a struggle on its own.

  51. sharpshooter*

    OP 1 your letter reminds me of Tig Notaro’s stand up set about how (in part) she got very sick, lost a bunch of weight and people kept complimenting her on it. If you need a laugh, you can hear most of it on the This American Life episode 476 What Doesn’t Kill You.
    I wish you the best!

  52. batshytecrazy*

    OP #2, I used to work with an older man who needed hearing aides because he was unable to have a conversation without them. I don’t know if the background noise Alison mentioned was a problem, but he routinely removed them in the office because he didn’t want to talk to his co-workers! We annoyed him. The problem was that he was an attorney and sometimes refused to use the hearing aides or any other form of assistance in court. The judges were not amused.

  53. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    Clear masks for the team. You can get masks with vinyl windows that will allow for some lip reading. It won’t help with the muffling of sound, but the visual cues might help.

  54. employment lawyah*

    2. My employee with hearing loss won’t wear her hearing aids
    This is a hard one. I’d talk to HR and company counsel.

    On the one hand, you may rationally think that she would want to be direct about it, because she would surely like you to be able to hear her; she would like to be able to hear you; and she would probably like to have everyone think those things are true. On the other hand, the ADA may restrict your ability to discuss it with her.

    I truly wish I could tell you just to say some uber-polite version of AAM’s spiel but I can’t. In my experience this is such a mine-filled area that I would strongly suggest you consult with your HR department, and ask if they need to consult with their company counsel.

    So I would be hesitant to “lay out the work-related problems you’re seeing” without HR/attorney involvement; using the wrong language can be an expensive mistake.

    And I would be hesitant even to “ask what accommodations would help” unless you REALLY REALLY know how things work in this arena. It is often the case that the employee and employer prefer different accommodations! The employer may want to offer the bare legal minimum; the employee (understandably!) would often like much more than that. And it is also often the case that even for the same accommodations there can be different paths to get there, of different cost/fuss/etc. There’s more than one way to accommodate.

    So it can be a risk to ask what the employee wants because you need to make it really clear that “what do you want?” does not imply “…because you shall have it!” or they can really get angry if your company prefers to use a different (cheaper) option.

    1. Another hearing aid user*

      Most accommodations will cost literally nothing: facing the employee when speaking, giving them a seat against a wall to reduce background noise etc. The point of discussions about accommodations is not “how little can we get away with” but genuinely trying to work out what would actually help (different people have different hearing losses and would benefit from slightly different things).

  55. Batgirl*

    I find it kind of interesting that OP2 has not said what’s so critical about the verbal method of communication they seem to want. There are jobs where you have to speak and technology isn’t an option, but I think they would have mentioned that if it were the case. We live in an age of text, IM and email bounty. Neither my boss not I have hearing issues but we probably communicate on Whatsapp more than any other way. Even if you’re very attached to the whole facial and body language thing OP, you could send her the general gist in text form and say you’re coming to her desk to hear her reaction. You could also teams call her and get the visual (at a safe distance!) while making use of the chat facility. Good luck.

  56. Narise*

    LW #3 Could you talk to HR and request to move back to your old role? Explain that you didn’t know the job required 7 days a week and you are not able to manage the stress and lack of sleep etc. You don’t want to continue in this role and want to move back to your old role. I’ve seen this work for others so it’s worth a try.

    If you don’t have an HR or they won’t help you start looking for another job ASAP and start drawing your own boundaries. Stop being available all the time even if it’s ‘I have a doctor’s appointment or taking my car to the mechanic’ and be out for a few hours. If you could go out on FMLA that would be better but I know that it’s not easy to do so and support yourself financially.

  57. Pardon?*

    An example – I have partial hearing loss in my left ear in the middle frequencies i.e. speech. (it’s very common)
    On a scale of 1-10 of sensitivity, 8 being the”norm”: I hear Lower 8, Middle 3, Higher 8.
    If I was to wear a normal hearing aid (the only kind I can afford) it would boost my hearing to Lower 12, Middle 7, Higher 12.
    So yes I could hear your speech better, but a phone ringing would be like someone screaming in my ear or a lorry going past would be like an earthquake.
    The doctor I went to advised me not to have a hearing aid as it would make an office work environment unbearable.

  58. CyndiLou Who*

    LW#1: Decades ago I caught viral hepatitis, was off work for 6 weeks during which I could barely eat and lost 25 pounds. It was so obvious when I returned that people kept asking how I did it, and when I told them the cause several of them wondered out loud if that would work for them! (I don’t advise it.)

  59. SugarHaus*

    OP #1 Someone had the audacity to ask at my grandfathers wake “how did he manage to lose all that weight recently?!” to which I responded “Because he was dying”. Being blunt shut that down real quick, and I think taking the advice of keeping it vague without offering any follow details will be useful.

  60. Lizy*

    #2 brought up some serious emotions. I wish it were so simple as “just wear hearing aids”! I wish I could GET hearing aids. I wish every mask would burn. I wish people would LOOK AT ME when they’re talking and enunciate. I wish background noise didn’t exist. I wish phones had a higher volume because even the highest volume isn’t enough. I wish abled people would stop suggesting things, especially abled people who has a grandmother/aunt/friend/cousin/random-person-they-know who is hard-of-hearing. I wish I wasn’t HOH, but I am, and it sucks.

  61. Boof*

    OP3, the only reason to keep working here while you job search is if you can actually say “no”. No you will not work weekends, overtime, nothing. You will work 9-5 M-F (or whatever your desired 40hr work week is) and triage the most important tasks to be done in that time and everything else will not be done. Boss will be mad. Boss will fume. The worst they can do though is fire you (yay); or, I suppose, verbally abuse you. But they either need to be paying you a huge amount of money (At least 2 jobs worth) or GTFO.
    I don’t know if you get unemployment if you quit, so that’s something to be said for, effective immediately, only doing what is reasonable to do. And if they fire you then you get to collect unemployment while recovering and then job hunting. I think?

  62. RB*

    #2 — I don’t think having to talk louder around certain people is all that hard. My parents both choose not to wear hearing aids because of all the unpleasant things they’ve heard about them. Also, they’re expensive and their insurance doesn’t cover them. We’ve simply all gotten used to speaking louder around them and planning events at places where there’s not a lot of background noise (pre-covid, obvs). So, noisy restaurants are out but quiet parks and peoples homes are fine.

    Ditto with a colleague at work — everyone just knows to speak louder around him, or they quickly learn that, if they’re new. It’s not a difficult accommodation for everyone to make, and it doesn’t affect his work in other ways.

  63. Kaitydidd*

    I’ve asked for accommodation for hearing loss at work. It doesn’t have to be expensive technology to improve things. I have one good ear and one deaf one. I sat with my deaf ear facing the entrance to my cubicle for years, and then with my back to the door in a different spot. It was awful. People often arrived at my desk (to me) very suddenly, and I got very tense about checking my surroundings. I asked for my desk to be oriented within my cubicle so that my good ear faces the door. Boom. I’m more comfortable, and it’s easier to understand people when they come over to talk.

  64. Betsy S*

    I’m getting a ton of help on time management from ADHD sites and podcasts. You don’t have to have ADHD for these to be helpful!

  65. stitchinthyme*

    Chiming in late, but just wanted to say that hearing aids can amplify sounds, but they do not help with clarity. When I got my first one, sounds were amplified to the point of being annoying, but I still couldn’t understand much with it. I ended up having to get a cochlear implant in my bad ear instead.

  66. EmmaPoet*

    I lost 15 pounds a couple years back when I was hospitalized for a week and being fed via IV, then the next week landed in urgent care with the same issue and nearly went back to the hospital. I was gaunt and exhausted and wasn’t able to do my normal activities. If anyone had commented on my weight loss, I’d have probably started sobbing on the spot. Yes, I did lose weight. I also spent two weeks scared that I was going to have major surgery. None of my clothes fit right, even my underwear hung on me. It took two months to get the weight back and feel normal again, and I was so relieved when I did.
    Everyone needs to STFU about weight.

  67. Gawaine*

    OP3: I’ll take issue with one thing, or at least the way I read it: “They’ve got to negotiate their own work lives on their own, and they’ll be able to figure out this is a crappy company that they need to leave just like you have. Feel free to encourage them in that direction!”

    Make sure you’re note encouraging other people to leave your company, especially if you’re in any kind of management position. That’s a potential cause for a common law tort in the US, and even if a judge finds for you, you’re often stuck with court and legal costs. Even once your gone, some companies have non-compete or non-solicit agreements that include language that may be used against you for some period of time.

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