interviews when you have food allergies, snow days when not everyone can work from home, and more

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

1. Food allergies and etiquette

I recently found out (by way of nearly dying the night before my wedding, no less) that I have a life-threatening allergy to seafood. Due to the severity of the reaction, I only eat at restaurants that have absolutely no seafood on the menu. This severely limits me, as most restaurants have at least one seafood dish, and even those that don’t often have “hidden” things like Caesar dressing that have fish in them.

I am extremely nervous about how this may impact my future. I currently work in corporate finance and I am going to get my MBA, so I will surely be interviewing in the future. If someone wants to meet over a meal, do I disclose this? Do I ask to meet over coffee instead? It’s easy enough for one interview, but what happens if I’m invited to a company for a “sell day/weekend”?

I also worry how this will affect my long-term career goals — food can be such an important way to connect. Going out for lunch, potlucks, cakes for special occasions, company dinners, catered meetings — I’m mourning the loss of all of these opportunities. Will I ever be able to shake the “allergic” label, or will people always feel a little bit uncomfortable that I never join in the food festivities?

A lot of people deal with similar issues, more than you might think — not only people with serious allergies but also people who follow religious dietary laws and others. You should be fine!

If you’re invited to an interview over a meal, it’s fine to say, “I have an allergy that makes it risky to eat in most restaurants. Would it be possible to meet over coffee instead?” In other situations, like a sell weekend, it should be okay to bring your own food if that’s the easiest way to handle it. If asked about it, you can matter-of-factly say, “Oh, tricky food allergies — this keeps it a lot simpler.” If it’s an option to go to group meals and just nurse a drink or a snack you bring yourself, that can be useful since a lot of networking happens over meals; just stay matter-of-fact and treat it like it’s no big deal and other people will generally take their cues from you. (It’s also helpful to research restaurants that are safe for you ahead of time so you can suggest those.)

You will probably run into people who want to solve this for you — to find a restaurant you can eat at, order something in for you, etc. If you’re comfortable with that, let them do it. If you’re not, it’s fine to say, “It’s restrictive enough that this is easiest, but thank you for offering!”

It’ll be simpler once you’re working somewhere; at that point the logistics of bringing your own food get a lot more straightforward (you just do it, basically). And if you have a good office, the person who orders food for events will often work with you to get you meals from a place you know is safe.

2. Snow days when only some people can work from home

Over the past year due to COVID-19, my agency has been able to support most of the staff in most departments with either working from home full-time or figuring out some sort of part-time work-from-home situation. However, this is not a small agency and there are still many positions that cannot be completed from home. My question is about how snow days should be handled. Management wants everyone with the ability to complete their work from home to do so, but is giving those whose work can only be completed in-office the day off fully paid. This doesn’t seem fair and also makes me wonder about situations where people who can technically complete their work from home may lose power or internet.

Treating people fairly doesn’t mean everyone gets treated exactly the same. It’s reasonable for a company to say that they want everyone to work who can and those whose jobs don’t allow it won’t be penalized. And people who can work from home get perks that the office-only people don’t — in normal times, things like not having to take the day off when they have a repair person coming or a kid is home sick or being able to do laundry while they’re on conference calls … and in current times, the massive safety advantage of being able to work from home and limit their potential virus exposure.

This is the flip side of those advantages. And I’d argue the people who can work from home still come out ahead.

3. Should I tell an employer why I’d never take the job?

After completing the last round of interviews for a role I had never been very enthusiastic about, I concluded there was nothing they could offer that would make me happily accept the role and so emailed the HR rep to withdraw from consideration. As this is a company it’s conceivable I’d like to work for at some point in the future (albeit not in this role or department), I left it polite and vague. They quickly emailed back to ask for an explanation and now I’m conflicted. I learned many things about the company and the role that were major red flags for me.

There was little to no cross-training, resulting in people on the team being unable to take vacations since there’s no one to cover for them. Conflicts between short-term crises users are having and long-term team goals were left to individuals and not managers, resulting in the boss admitting people who were “unable to manage their time” were punished for not “achieving team goals.” Their tech stack was outdated 20 years ago and, while they’re updating, that would make them out of date by about 15 years — meaning if I accepted this role, every year I worked for them I would be increasingly unviable for jobs in the modern era. The HR manager in my initial screen seemed very skeptical that I, a woman, would really be interested in or capable of a highly technical role. When I asked how they are handling keeping morale up during a pandemic, I was told they have a very formal mandatory fun plan. Suffice to say, there were many issues there and none of them sound polite or positive when I type them out.

How do I play this? I feel like any even slightly informative or truthful response can only hurt me and potentially burn bridges. Is it rude to just ignore the follow-up email or is that also going to cause potential drama? I’m already the sort of person who declines most exit interviews (if you didn’t listen to me while I worked for you, why would you care now that I’m leaving?) and I can see even less reason to go out on a limb to help an employer who would have sent me an automated rejection email without any explanation if the tables were turned. I’m almost tempted to respond that my freelance consulting rates are such and such, if you’d like to discuss this further let’s make an appointment, because I do have a lot of ideas about how they could improve and modernize. But I’m sure that would be seen as wildly gauche. What do you think?

Yeah, don’t cite your consulting rates. They’re not asking for consulting; they’re asking if there’s something you can easily and comfortably convey about why the job wasn’t right for you (just like many job applicants ask if there’s something the employer can easily and comfortably convey about why they were rejected). It’s okay for them to ask.

But you’re not obligated to give a full answer! You can go with something vague, like that you’re focusing on other roles that are more in line with what you’re looking for in your next position. Or you could pick one thing, like that it’s important to you to work with more cutting-edge tech in order to keep your skills up-to-date. Personally, I’d love for you to attribute it to the HR rep who didn’t think women are interested in or capable of highly technical roles — that’s something they need to hear about, and there’s no reason you can’t say it.

But you don’t need to say any of this if you don’t want to get into it. It’s fine to just stay super vague — “I appreciated getting to know your team more but right now am focusing on other roles that are more X and Y.”

4. Should I tell my boss I want to change careers?

I am in my mid-20s and currently three years into my first post-uni job in the arts sector. I work for a very small charity in a close-knit and supportive team. I am considering a complete career change into a totally unrelated sector as, while I have enjoyed my current job, I don’t see myself doing it much longer and don’t want to progress in this sector.

I’ve had a new manager start recently who has subtly asked about my future career plans and mentioned that he wants to help support me in developing skills that will help me progress in the future. At my recent appraisal, my boss said similar things and asked me to consider training and development opportunities they could provide that would help me develop my skills in my career going forward.

I don’t know how honest to be about the fact that I want to change careers and have no desire to progress in this sector. They are so supportive and keen to help but seem to be assuming that I will want to progress in the same sector. I don’t have any immediate plans to leave, but I also don’t want to give a false impression when I do plan to leave eventually. Should I share with them that I am wanting to change careers, and if so how should I go about it, or should I just say that I don’t know what I want to do yet?

Don’t tell them that you want to change careers, or even that you don’t know what you want to do yet. That’s the kind of thing that gets people written off as not invested, can affect what opportunites you’re given, and can even put your name at the top of the list if they need to make cuts.

That said, you don’t need to fake ambitions you don’t feel. It’s usually okay to say something like, “I’m really happy with what I’m doing currently and would like to stay with what I’m doing for the foreseeable future.”

But it’s also worth thinking about what kinds of skill-building they’re able to offer you. Even if you don’t plan to stay on this path, will any of those skills help you with other jobs when you’re targeting other jobs later? (And if you have no idea, sometimes it’s useful just to be able to show that you took on progressively more responsibility and/or continued to get better and better at something, even if it’s not directly relevant to whatever comes next.)

5. Can my employer make me return to the office before I’m vaccinated?

I am a client-facing senior employee at a very large national corporation. To their credit, my company has ordered everyone to work from home since March and has focused on making us as productive as possible at home. The company has been vague about when we will return to the office, but at this point it is clear that we will be home through the winter.

Can the company make return to the office before I am able to get a COVID vaccination? As an under-40, healthy individual with no underlying conditions, I suspect that I will be last in line for the vaccination, and rightly so. Many of my colleagues are older and belong to groups that will be prioritized. I imagine that offices will begin to open up once a large chunk of the population has been vaccinated. I have been careful about social distancing and would prefer to work from home until I can get the vaccination. Can my employer make me go back to the office before then?

Legally, yes, your company can require you to return to the office as a condition of keeping your job. If you have a disability that makes that risky, you can propose alternatives (although they can counter-propose other solutions). In your case, though, it doesn’t sound like that’s the case.

That said, just because they can require it doesn’t mean they will. You can talk to your manager and explain it’s important to you to continue to minimize your risk (and the risk of others in your household) until you’re vaccinated; lots of people are doing that, or will be doing that, and a lot of employers are willing to work with people on this. Not all, but it’s worth making the case for it.

{ 419 comments… read them below }

  1. IJustWannaHaveFun*

    2 – As someone who works in office because I’m in food production. Yeah, it’s fair. There are things that at home workers don’t have to think about. My mental health has been poor since this pandemic has started and I had a snow day that was super needed. Constantly being aware of potential covid exposure, social distancing, communicating covid awareness, and loads of other things. It was nice to turn off completely for a day. There’s a lot I don’t have to think about when I’m at home. I can see why it seems unfair that some don’t get a break, but many who work in office are dealing with a lot more than their job. Everyday is a risk when we step outside, especially with working in office. (Though my company is fantastic at it, it’s still a risk.)

    1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Yeah, it seem like an extra oblivious objection this year. Not to mention physical jobs tend to be lower prestige and lower pay.

      1. Smuckers*

        I once worked at a company that made the office manager and warehouse guy either make up hours or use PTO if the office closed for snow. The rest of us were able to work from home. It was so petty and it’s one of the reasons I’ll never go back there. We were all (non-management) in agreement that the 2 employees in question worked just as hard as us, probably for less pay, and we didn’t begrudge them a couple extra days off one bit.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Part of our job involves keeping big systems that won’t fit into people’s homes running (think A0 printer size) and I’ve been told that at the start of the pandemic people in my job who couldn’t make it in for whatever reason (including high risk and bad weather) were told to ‘take it out of your leave’.

          Luckily they’ve changed that policy. Helps that we do have strong unions.

        2. Cat Tree*

          Around 2014, I worked for a really toxic place. Nobody could work from him because we didn’t have laptops. I don’t know where they even managed to buy desktop computers at that time. It was super inconvenient for meetings because I had to print everything ahead of time that might come up. So nobody could work from home, even employees whose work was mostly computer based.

          On the rare occasion that we were closed for snow, the salary employees just got a free day off. The hourly production workers had to use vacation or not get paid. But the plant manager had a butts-in-seats view and only closed for really extreme reasons. I (salary) often took a vacation day anyway to avoid risking my life by driving to work. One time, I made it in and the plant closed early, about an hour after I got there. Anyone who proved loyalty by showing up got paid for a full day, while everyone else had to use a vacation day. That really highlighted for me just how little he cared about actual work getting done compared to just physically being there. Naturally, there were plenty of other problems at this place.

          1. WFHHalloweenCat*

            My company also didn’t have laptops for every computer based employee until a year ago! We have a mix of salaried and hourly employees but if the building closed for weather, we were ALL expected to use PTO or go unpaid. No free day off, even in states of emergency where we legally weren’t allowed on the roads.

            1. introverted af*

              Our office’s best option up until now has been…….iPads. With a remote desktop app. This was a pre-pandemic policy, and I just think it’s so silly. But we’re also a non-profit, so of course budgets are tight now (not because we’re bringing in less money though – we have to be sensitive to the university we serve, which like, ok fine yes, but also, our budget didn’t take tens of millions of dollars of budget cuts due to state changes.) /end rant

        3. Lentils*

          Lol, I have a fun “not a snow day” story about my old job. I was in finance at the corporate office for a private security company, and they didn’t let hourly employees work from home under any circumstances – which I didn’t know about when our city unexpectedly had two weeks of constant snow and I’d only been there about two months. I tried to bus into work and the only bus that went to my job was cancelled (the office itself was located on a very steep hill), so I was panicking and then I happened to run into a coworker in a different department who told me the instructions were “work from home if you can.” I assumed I could do that, so I went home and did as much work as I could from my own laptop (maybe like two hours’ worth). Then I got a very stern phone call from my boss informing me that, nope, WFH was not allowed for me at all and my team was required to either take PTO on snow days or come into the office. Oh, also the way that company handled PTO was all in one bucket, earned by working, and like I said I was about two months in so I had maybe 1 1/2 days of PTO at the time?

          The next day, I spent literally an hour fighting my way through foot-deep snow to the closest bus stop (usually a 20-minute walk), and then forty minutes walking up the hill to my office once the bus got me as close as it would go. I went in every day for the next two weeks, and luckily I found an alternate bus route that got me so that it only took 30 minutes to walk to work on flat streets rather than uphill. But yeah. I wasn’t able to pull 40 hours those weeks because the buses up and down the hill stopped running after 6:30 PM, and some days I didn’t get in until almost 10 AM because the morning buses were all fucked up too.

          I do not miss that place, and I have some thoughts and feelings on how companies should handle snow days, lol.

      2. AskJeeves*

        This. I’m full-time WFH and it’s a *huge* perk. I would never resent someone else for getting the odd free day of PTO (even in snowy climates, there’s usually at most a handful of snow days per year) considering that I get to work from home every single day. Particularly in COVID times, this is a really tone deaf complaint.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      Yeah, I don’t see the problem. If you live in a place where snow days are a thing (and not in, like, Detroit or Milwaukee, where snow still means business as usual) you’re probably talking about two or three days a year, maximum, most of the time. An advantage of working from home is that you don’t have to take annoying time off when others do (waiting for the plumber), and one of the disadvantages is that you don’t get to take happy time off when others do (snow day). If you have to go into the office every day, snow can mean a free day off as a perk. If you don’t have to go into the office every day, snow doesn’t mean a free day off.

      This to me isn’t that different from other situations where the time and attendance requirements are different for various jobs. For example, it may really matter whether the receptionist is punctual every day to open the office, but it doesn’t really matter if, say, the accountant is 15 minutes late. The receptionist can’t really point to the fact that the accountant is always late as a reason he should be able to be late and leave the phones uncovered and the doors locked. The requirements are different.

      1. Lee*

        I’d like to point out that this isn’t true for all WFH people. If I have to do something non-work related at home, I still have to take the time off because I’m expected to be available all the time at my computer. Requirements vary not just position, but by office and company and culture.

        I’m not saying that the obvious advantage doesn’t outweigh the disadvantage, but I think that the idea that WFH people can do whatever, whenever is untrue, and has already been pointed out multiple times right here.

        So while I’m still really happy that I’m WFH, and consider myself lucky, I think some grace might be nice here. As has also been previously discussed WFH is stressful too, and people need breaks and some allowance, even though they obviously don’t have the major going-into-work stress. So if you can give people the day, why not? Is it really reasonable for your coworkers to resent that (as posted below)? Maybe it is, but I don’t think it is really much in the way of giving everyone a break during this horrible time.

        Like just about everyone right now, just because I’m WFH doesn’t mean I don’t have any issues to deal with, some pandemic related, some not. And WFH means I’m more likely to lose my job, which means I’m not pushing back on work-related problems the way I might otherwise. So, yes, I could use a break too. I’m not saying that it isn’t harder for people to go into the office – it is, I know it is – but the attitude that people who WFH don’t deserve a break, well, that goes against everything I’ve been reading here for months. And is part of what I think of as the way employers manipulate employees, pitting them against each other to benefit the employer.

        I’m sure this will be unpopular, but nobody has it easy right now, everybody has problems, and the idea that giving somebody something takes away from somebody else – I hate that and I don’t think it is true, at least in every (or even most) cases. Employers just make you think it is true.

        1. doreen*

          I don’t think many people believe that “WFH people can do whatever, whenever” – but there are a lot of days I wouldn’t have taken off in my working life if I had been able to work from home- days where I had to take the whole day off to wait for a delivery when the actual delivery took less than thirty minutes, when my children were mildly ill and didn’t need taking care of so much as they needed general supervision, when the office didn’t close for snow but I couldn’t dig my car out and shovel my sidewalk early enough to get to work at a reasonable time. You might have such a strict WFH schedule that you can’t take your lunch break when the delivery guy shows up, or bring your sick kids food/drink/medicine at any time other than your previously scheduled breaks – but I don’t think that’s most people working from home.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I think mostly that restrictions on WFH staff are imposed by managers who resent them WFH. I was told by my last boss that they were closing the Paris office and I would have to either WFH or in the head office (which involved a two hour journey door to door). I thought, great, WFH, I’ll be able to go to the swimming pool at lunchtime then work a bit later to make up my time. My colleague asked if she could just move her start and end times 30 minutes earlier, so that she could pick up her kids from school, and they said no, citing that finishing at 4.30 was “too early”. I’d have thought that getting her work finished early was a good thing, then the PM wouldn’t have to stay late to review it, but no. Given such a lack of flexibility I didn’t even bother to ask about flexi-time, and started freelancing instead. I’m doing the same work, only I do it when it suits me. Which might mean I get up early to finish something and hand it in by 9am when my client is just logging in, or I might do a couple of hours a day over the weekend so that I don’t have to slog away all day on Monday. I feel like I’m working less and earning more. While I am totally earning more, I’m not sure that I’m actually working less, it’s just at hours that suit me better.

            1. WellRed*

              “I think mostly that restrictions on WFH staff are imposed by managers who resent them WFH.”

              Well said.

        2. Perfectly Particular*

          Many companies are doing their best to keep everyone employed, in spite of downturns in the business. I’m not sure it makes sense to shut down the business for the day, losing ground on project deadlines, missing sales, etc. when maybe 85-90% of the workforce is available to work.

        3. Person from the Resume*

          The snow day was not a mental health day b/c COVID was stressful. It was a last minute people cannot safely get to the office day.

          I understand and do feel that “I want a snow day/day off” when others get it, but while it is absolutely normal feeling that people experience I also acknowledge it is a kind of selfish and childish feeling.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            “I understand and do feel that “I want a snow day/day off” when others get it, but while it is absolutely normal feeling that people experience I also acknowledge it is a kind of selfish and childish feeling.”

            This is how I feel about it, too. My library’s going to be closed for a couple of days next week for building repairs, and I understand why some of the WFH support staff would feel disappointed that branch staff get days off when they don’t. But also, I’m disappointed that I don’t get to work from 7-3 in my house every day where I won’t be exposed to COVID. So, while it’s not exactly a fair trade off, I’m excited for my upcoming days off and don’t feel overly sad that the finance folks still have to work. That’s not to say that their jobs aren’t hard or stressful, they’re just hard and stressful in ways that are VERY different from the stress I’ve been experiencing.

          2. Kali*

            Yeah, I don’t really consider a snow day a “perk”. I mean obviously it is a perk if you get to take the day off, but they exist as a safety measure for in-office workers if the weather prevents safe travel. It’s not like office workers are getting extra days of vacation or personal time.

        4. IJustWannaHaveFun*

          I think you may be self reflecting this to mean more than what it is. Normal WFH doesn’t expect you at the desk every single minute. This sounds more like a company issue. Having a single snow day won’t fix it.

        5. ElizabethJane*

          I think a lot of us still have to take time off for WFH stuff (I have an hour commute to my office – if I have to go to the dr. I need to take 3 hours off for my appointment. If I’m WFH I have to take 1.5 hours off for my appointment since I don’t have nearly the same commute). But the reality is there are other things that any normal office wouldn’t make a person take time off for…

          I had to be home to sign for a delivery – literally less time required than a bathroom break so no, I didn’t have to take any PTO and I would argue that any company that makes you take PTO to answer the door and scribble your signature down is insane.

          Same thing with swapping laundry or whatever – it takes 2 minutes and it’s nice to be able to wash my sheets during the day instead of falling into the trap of having to do it after work and suddenly I want to go to bed but the sheets are still drying (not that I do this regularly).

          I don’t think people are saying that the WFH crowd can go to the spa willy nilly but realistically all WFH people can do more during the day than non-WFH people, even if it’s just mild household things like switching a lightbulb or changing laundry.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            This. I’ve been working from home for almost a year now. Whereas I used to have to schedule super early appointments and take at least a half-day to deal with my children’s medical appointments (which are every other week plus monthlies), I can now take an hour-long break to handle them and come right back to work. Not having to be physically present in the office saves so, so much time, from two hours of commuting time to being home for appointments and deliveries. I do have interruptions related to my kids’ school, but it tends to take less time than an office coffee run would.

            I don’t have my feet up on my desk. I am probably working more hours (and I was over 40 hours a week in the office), and I’ve gotten a lot of things done. Even with everything going on, my situation is still better than the essential personnel who have to commute, be in the office, and expose themselves to more risk. I’m not going to begrudge them the odd paid snow day. If I need a day off, I have PTO.

            1. Venus*

              I’m surprised that I haven’t seen anyone else mention this part yet as I expected it to be first and most obvious – the commute! Even if you only commute 10 minutes each way, you would need a monthly snow day (not one or two per year) to offset the savings in time! When working from home there aren’t worries about traffic, bus schedules, weather, or any other problems.

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Chiming in from Detroit – I’ve had to take several snow days over the years. Yea, in Detroit the main roads get plowed early, but depending on which suburb you are in they might not plow for two or three days, and if you are in the minority that don’t have SUV’s you can’t always get out of your road until the plow comes by or the neighbors drive over it enough to smush the snow down. With enough overnight snow, you can get trapped pretty much anywhere.

        1. Cj*

          I’m in MN, where 6 – 8 inches of snow can mean business as usual. But if that snow (even 2 – 3 inches) is accompanied by high winds, nope, not going anywhere.

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          Fellow upper Midwesterner here, & you’re absolutely right. Snowplows need time to do their job, & side streets (where people’s houses often are in cities) are last on the list to get plowed. My mantra used to be, “If the buses aren’t running, neither am I.” I’ve been WFH since March, & my current employer is now within walking distance, so not the problem it was a few years ago. Also, we can get wind chills low enough that people are told not to go outside (January 2019).

          The people whose work requires them to physically be in the office tend to be among the lowest paid. I don’t begrudge them a paid day off due to weather. (A year and a half ago, we all got on due to a blackout in our city. I couldn’t WFH – No electricity.)

          1. Cj*

            We had a big storm here on December 23. Lots of people, including me, either had not electricity or no internet. The day before we were actually told to stay home that day (CPA firm so we can all work from home), and do what we could, which wasn’t much in a lot of cases.

          2. Texan In Exile*

            RE snow-removal strategy. Caroline Criado Perez has a story about sexist (yes!) snow-removal strategies in her amazing book, “Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men.”

          3. Natalie*

            I’m surprised that mantra works for you! I’m in Minneapolis and our bus system shuts down as an absolute last resort, I think they’ve only done so 2 or 3 times in the last decade. But we’ve had many more blizzards and other terribly commuting days that could have been helped by more people working from home or flexing their schedule if they were able to.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                Nope. City buses. It’s rare but does happen. Smaller city than Minneapolis, so it can be an issue. Our last mayor pretty much lost reelection due to people being mad about poor snow removal.

        3. Joielle*

          Also upper midwest here. I take public transit to work, so I take a day off or WFH when it’s cold enough that I could get frostbite in the amount of time I need to be outside. It usually happens once or twice a year. If the windchill is below -20 or so I’m staying in!

        4. Who Am I*

          In late 1998/early 1999, I was visiting relatives in the Detroit metro area for a long weekend. That was the weekend that it snowed so much over night that it shut down the airport and you couldn’t see the cars parked on the streets because they were literally buried under the snow. My spouse, my cousin, and I spent a good chunk of the day shoveling out the driveway and it was too dangerous to drive home (4 hours away). I had to call in to work the next morning and they were very skeptical because they hadn’t received that amount of snow. Our drive home took at least 2 hours longer than normal.

          And to keep this on topic – I’ve been WFH since March and I certainly wouldn’t resent people who can’t WFH getting a snow day while I had to log in. I’ve had an advantage over them all year long, especially now when I don’t have to drive back and forth in the snow and cold. (I’d love to be able to WFH permanently; it’s been wonderful for me.)

      3. Jennifer*

        Aren’t the major snowstorms happening in the northeast right now? I think even in the colder parts of the country snow days can be a thing and it’s something management should consider beforehand.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I’ve lived in Philly, all over Indiana, in northwest Kentucky and now in Chicagoland. They’ve all had snow days, but the bar to clear is much higher in the Great Lakes region and upper Midwest. Kentucky can barely handle 2 inches of snow; in Chicago it takes a foot or so to shut things down (or blizzard-like conditions).

          1. TardyTardis*

            Less than an inch in Arkansas–but it usually means less than an inch of *ice* and nobody has chains or studded tires, including both regular transit buses and school buses.

        2. Lemon Ginger Tea*

          Yup, I live in Maine and my kid had a snow day yesterday. It wasn’t even that much– like 8 inches, but it mostly depends on the timing of the storm along with wind, consistency, etc. If it’s really wet and heavy snow and high winds, that’s a much messier and more dangerous situation than a light fluffy snow that’s pretty easy to plow and clean up.

          And re: the original issue. Up until the pandemic my office pretended it was impossible for me to do my job from home, so we made a rule that if the courts close, I get a paid snow day. Now that premise has been disproven, my paid snow days are gone and I’m WFH, snow day or not. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. I don’t mind the trade in of being able to WFH now during the pandemic, and I expect beyond when I have a mild cold or have any other reason to not come into the office but continue working.

      4. Lake-effect snow is crazy*

        Milwaukee (and MN, and other cold places) definitely has snow days – it’s just that the bar for canceling school or work is much more extreme (it requires a lot more snow, or extreme cold weather). So it can still happen 2-3 times a year, depending on the weather.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          My observation is that every location that gets snow at all typically shuts down two or three days a year. The amount of snow isn’t the issue. It is the infrastructure in place to deal with the snow. Lake effect cities make massive investments in snow removal. Places that get two storms a year, each dropping a few inches, do not. Any why would they? That would be an insane allocation of resources. Those lake effect cities similarly don’t have the equipment to immediately clear the two heaviest storms of the year, and for the same reason. There is a point where it makes more sense to shut down briefly than to have yet more equipment that is rarely used.

    3. MK*

      Honestly, the people who have been safely working from home during the pandemic complaining that the people who have had to risk exposure every day going to the office might get a couple of days off extra due to bad weather…is incredibly petty. I was surprised by Alison’s response.

      1. LB*

        Yes, I was surprised to see someone object to something that is clearly a company doing the best for everyone. It seems very fair to me. Some of our on site workers who attended site during the Christmas period (when cases were high around here) got a couple of extra days of annual leave. If anyone in my team had complained about this, I would be so disappointed.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        Very much so. OP, maybe have a think about the risks your coworkers are having to take every day while their colleagues are safe at home. Your “but it’s not fair!” reaction to the possibility of a couple of snow days REALLY lacks perspective.

      3. NYWeasel*

        The complaint reminds me of when I had to mandatorily work on site for all holidays (including one Xmas when we got 9” of snow). The trade off was that I was given floating holidays which I liked to use in the summer. But without fail, every time I took a day off, I’d have some coworker or another make snide comments about “Must be nice to get all these extra vacation days!” I soon developed my own snide responses in return, offering them the chance to change places. Funny…none of them ever took me up on the offer, haha!

      4. SomehowIManage*

        I got the impression that the LW was a supervisor wanting to make sure her/his employees were being treated fairly, rather than someone being petty about not receiving a benefit…

        1. MK*

          Τhat doesn’t actually make it less petty; the manager of a team who is able to spend the pandemic working safely from home concerned about the “unfairness” of other teams who have to put their health in danger regularly coming to work getting a few extra days off is still petty and out of touch. Advocating for your team doesn’t mean demanding that they get every single thing other employees get, when the circumstances they currently work under are so different.

          Worse still if the supervisor is managing both types of positions. If I was an employee who had been risking catching covid by going in to work for 11 months now, and I found out that my manager is writing to advice columnists about the “unfairness” of my getting a couple of extra days off compared to my colleague who has been safe at home all year, I would lose a lot of respect for their judgment. Being fair is not about treating everyone the same at all times, and in this case it should be obvious that, if a group of employees who have drawn the short stick in this pandemic is getting an insignificant advantage, that’s not an injustice to be addressed. Has the company or this supervisor done anything to compensate the workers who have to go into the workplace, while the rest of their colleagues work from home, for the risk they have to take, that the others have been able to avoid?

          1. EPLawyer*

            I don’t see it as petty. I see it as making sure everyone gets a break. Snow days can be fun for everyone — regardless of the type of work you do. Some school districts that are fully remote still gave the kids snow days, because unexpected days off are part of being a kid. I feel the same way for adults. Just having a day to not think about work can be nice.

            The solution is that if you can work from home, you should do as much as possible. Trust the adults to know their schedules and priorities. But if they don’t do as much as they would on a normal day, let it go. Maybe they took time to build a snowman with their kids.

            1. Gray Lady*

              I think the reason that many fully remote school districts give snow days is that teachers use the school building for broadcasting their classes. All their physical resources are in the classroom. So they’d still have to get there if school were held.

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                This happened to my child’s teacher last week: he could join the online class snowed in at home, but all his resources including the pptx on the laptop were safely locked into the cabinet at school.

            2. IJustWannaHaveFun*

              I don’t see it as petty but no one is saying that WFH people don’t deserve breaks. In my area, the schools that have snow days is because teachers are teaching from schools and can’t make it in.

              It’s just a perk. It’s no different that letting a high achiever take an extra break, leave early, come in late, or whatever else. WFH have perks than office workers don’t.

            3. Koalafied*

              The solution is that if you can work from home, you should do as much as possible. Trust the adults to know their schedules and priorities. But if they don’t do as much as they would on a normal day, let it go. Maybe they took time to build a snowman with their kids.

              This has always been my org’s approach since long before the pandemic. There are days the office is officially closed, and for people who need to do their work in the office, they get the day off. For those who are able to work from home, you’re asked to do so, but it was also always made clear that if you have to spend an hour shoveling your driveway, or if you have kids home from school that need supervising, that’s fine. Just like the office workers can’t get to the office on a snow day, some remote workers can’t churn out a normal 8 hours’ worth of work on a snow day. The policy was, “We trust you to do the best you can, whatever that looks like for you.”

            4. MCMonkeybean*

              If you need a break, use your PTO. These people are not choosing the take the day off of work; they physically cannot get to the office and they should not be punished for that. But nothing in their situation impacts the work from home employees in any way.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Because they wrote into an advice columnist?

            I am not clear on what a person should do when they are in doubt, then.

            At least OP asked. How many times has the OP or an employee not asked what to do or how to think about a problem, then just forged ahead with their own solution and had disastrous results?

            Sometimes Alison takes questions that seem pretty basic to a lot of people, except maybe the LW and some others.
            I’ve trained a lot of people at various jobs. I would rather hear a basic question than spend days cleaning up a mistake because someone felt their question was too basic to ask and people would lose respect for them.

            I am sure Alison sees it here. In the course of encouraging people to ask questions, it’s AMAZING what people ask and how basic the questions are. I concluded that if one is not prepared to ask or answer basic questions, then probably one should not be leading people.

            1. MK*

              I agree that generally asking is a good thing. It’s just that in this case it strikes me as very disappointing that a coworker or supervisor would see a group of people who are burdened by the pandemic more than their colleagues getting an insignificant perk and question the fairness. As in, seriously, this is where your mind went?

              1. Koalafied*

                Myopia is a thing, and stress can make it more likely – in fact, not only in terms of attention, but quite literally people under stress have a narrower and shallower field of vision because when we’re in danger our brains literally shift processing power from the peripheral and the distant in order to concentrate on what’s immediately in front of us. These are stressful times, LW was just looking at the snow days in front of them, and needed to be reminded that they exist in a context that includes the peripheral and the distant.

              2. PT*

                If they are listening to employee complaints such that it’s becoming a morale issue, yes, they have to have an answer as to why they chose X course of action instead of Y. Even though in this case, *the employees themselves* would be the ones being jerks, not the manager, the manager still has to handle it correctly.

            2. myswtghst*

              This. Not everyone has the same life and work experiences, and I’d prefer we continue to encourage people to ask when they’re in doubt.

          3. Ace in the Hole*

            Not everyone who has the capability to work from home on occasion can work from home routinely.

            For example, I work for a piece of essential public infrastructure. In my position I can work from home any given day but I have on-site tasks that require me to physically come in the majority of the time (things like maintenance, site inspections, emergency response, etc). I’m in the same pay bracket as most of our employees who can’t work from home at all, although some of the senior employees are in a higher bracket. Throughout the pandemic I’ve been coming in to work the same amount as they have, and I have a higher risk of exposure because of my different job duties.

            There was a period where we were all on modified schedules with 2-3 days on call instead of on site. But while most of my colleagues got to take those days off (with pay!) unless they were called, I worked. I didn’t complain about it because I saw the necessity – my work was developing covid safety protocols. It was necessary but it certainly wasn’t fair.

            You describe it as “petty” to be upset at unfairness of coworkers who have been exposed getting a small perk that’s not offered to people who “have been safe at home all year.” But I haven’t been safe at home all year. I’ve been exposed every bit as much as my colleagues who can’t work from home, and I’ve done more work for the same pay. So why would it be petty for me to want the same perk my coworkers get?

            1. MK*

              Eh, your last paragraph makes no sense? I said it’s petty of people who worked safely from home to be upset coworkers who had to go into work getting extra days off. You say you haven’t been working from home all the time, so your situation is different that what is described in the letter and my comment doesn’t apply to you. Obviously.

              1. Ace in the Hole*

                Because the letter describes a situation where may people are only part-time working from home, and that anyone who has work that can be completed from home will not get the day off (presumably whether or not they’re normally able to work from home). But you’re describing it as “incredibly petty” that those people might feel slighted for not being given the same number of days off as their coworkers who don’t have work that can be done remotely even though it’s likely a significant number of employees are in a situation similar to the one I described.

                You’re ignoring the large number of workers who can occasionally work from home but still have to work on-site most of the time when you say the letter writer is being petty, which is not a very generous or kind thing to do. If you can see why what you said doesn’t apply to me, you should give the LW enough courtesy to assume that they have people in a similar situation rather than assuming the worst about them.

                1. IJustWannaHaveFun*

                  You’re talking about an organizational problem that a single snow day won’t fix. Snow days are snow days because people can’t make it into the office. It doesn’t apply to you because your describing something very different.

        2. Observer*

          I got the impression that the LW was a supervisor wanting to make sure her/his employees were being treated fairly, rather than someone being petty about not receiving a benefit…

          What gives you that impression? And how does that change the advice? It’s still a very bad way to look at the issue.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        We have a large # of engineers who have laptops but their projects involve physical objects (testing designs, quality control, etc). They get all the exposure risk but have laptops so have to WFH on snow days. The line workers don’t.
        So they to me get the worst of both worlds–every snow day is a scramble to find some way to do a piece of their job without their regular setup. This year with added distraction from other remote work/school family members.

        1. MK*

          Eh, aren’t engineers much better paid than line workers? I work in the court system and in a legal position; my workload has decreased because of the lockdown to maybe 70%, while courthouse clerks go into work every other day, so 50% less. But I wouldn’t complain about people who make about a third of my salary working less for reasons that are beyond anyone’s control; sometimes higher positions come with these disadvantages.

        1. MK*

          I guess I was surprised by the tone? To me, essential workers getting a couple of extra days off should be more like “Great, at least they are getting a tiny benefit!” than “Eh, it’s not ideal, but let it go”. Maybe I am reading too much into the first sentence.

      6. NotAnotherManager!*

        I found it pretty petty, too, but I’m also unsurprised because years of managing have taught me that there are some people who see any benefit they do not receive as a slight, regardless of circumstances. They’re not the majority, but they complain the loudest.

        We weren’t able to do bonuses for a lot of people this year given COVID, but the essential staff who goes into the office received substantial bonuses because they have been going into the office while the rest of us are working from home. And, of course, some people who’ve been getting substantial assistance from the essentials complained that they didn’t get the bonus that the essentials did.

      7. meyer lemon*

        Even if you leave the pandemic aside, it still seems totally reasonable to me. I’ve been a remote worker for the last few years, and sometimes the in-office staff would get a snow day when I wouldn’t. On the flip side, I didn’t have to spend any of my time commuting, so I still came out way ahead.

      8. Green Tea for Me*

        I felt this way too.

        Is it fair WFH people don’t get snow days? Maybe not. Is it fair that I got Covid because I have to come into the office and spend 8 hours a day with someone who isn’t socially distancing in their private life? Definitely not.

    4. Kittens&Ponies*

      Who knows, it could be an office like mine. The people who can work from home during a snow day aren’t allowed to work from home any other time, so it’s not like they’re actually enjoying perks that the paid day off people can’t. They’re not allowed to work from home if they have a repairman coming to the house, etc.

    5. HR Exec Popping In*

      In the work-world, a snow day is not the equivalent of being in school and getting the day off to sled. This company sounds like they have been thoughtful and compassionate with employees. Encouraging people to work from home during the pandemic if their job allowed. For those individuals that can not do it, do you really want them to go without pay because they can’t get into work due to the weather? Because it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to pay employees that are able to work (as they currently work from home) to not work just because it snowed.

    6. MCMonkeybean*

      I really want to be generous and I can understand the initial gut reaction of “that’s not fair, I want it too.” But this is the type of thing you should maybe think for a second and then once you start typing it out you realize “oh, this is extremely petty and a terrible attitude and I need to get over it.” Please OP spend some more time thinking about the first part of your letter where you came close to acknowledging that these people who are having to go into the office every day during a pandemic are putting themselves at more risk than what you have to deal with on a daily basis. How could you possibly begrudge them this one basic good thing your company is extending to them?

      It’s making me kind of angry, honestly. So often we see the other side of this, like: “my company closed for snow and they’re making me use a day of PTO for it!” or whatever. Here we have a company trying to do the right thing and people are still complaining. This attitude is like those people who complain that retail workers or people at fast food restaurants don’t deserve a $15 minimum wage because it comes close to what they are earning at their office job.

      1. Colette*

        The OP specifically mentioned people who might lose power or internet in the storm. Other people might now have childcare issues, or have to spend considerable time dealing with the amount of snow if it’s a huge snowfall. There are real reasons why people who can usually work from home might be unable to do so during an unusually big storm.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          But then the answer is to handle those situations as needed, the same as you would if someone lost power due to a power line being down or had childcare issues because their child was home sick.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          These are individual circumstances while in-office workers are overall unable to safely travel into work. It makes sense to have a blanket policy for those in a fairly uniform situation and to have WFH people in one-offs to use leave or their own discretion to deal with their personal situations.

          1. Colette*

            I agree that it makes sense to have a blanket policy for those who need to be onsite and can’t travel and to deal with other people who have issues because of the snow individually, but I don’t think those who can usually work from home but can’t because of the ramifications from the snow should have to take leave.

            If you’re giving a paid day off to those who can’t work because of the snow, it’s fine to expect those who can work to do so – but if someone can’t work because the power is out, they should get the same day off as someone who can’t work because they can’t get into the office. (By the same logic, if it’s a sunny day in July and someone who works from home loses power, it’s reasonable to expect them to go into work or somewhere else with power so that they can work, because they can no longer work from home until they have power.)

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              I just find that to be a subset (power out) of a subset (WFH) issue that could be handled at the discretion of a manager and not require a formal policy. Rather than conjecturing on all the possible what-ifs that may only affect a handful of people (because I’d guess that a large-scale power outage in the area would prompt some official decision/announcement), it just seems like a some big-picture perspective is in order and MCMonkeybean hit the nail on the head.

    7. Momma Bear*

      Also, if someone does lose internet, that should be discussed with their manager to see if they can get a paid day off or not. I do agree that WFH gives many day to day advantages – everything from waiting for the repair person to not having to eat a half day off to run off to the dentist.

    8. TheAG*

      This. And it’s becoming annoying for those of us who are required to be at work due to production demands to hear those who aren’t, complaining openly when they’re getting the extra perks that come from working at home in my company.
      It’s particularly telling that the work from home employees were bitterly complaining about not being able to roll over extra vacation days…2 of the people complaining about it, I had to ship them samples to Miami (we’re based in Milwaukee).

  2. RG*

    I find it interesting that OP apparently hadn’t had seafood until they were an adult! It’s especially mind-blowing to me, as someone who grew up in the Gulf Coast, but I’m hard pressed to think of a culture or cuisine that doesn’t include seafood in some way, saltwater or freshwater. I know I’m assuming you have a general allergy, like my uncles that are allergic to iodine, so I get it if there’s a specific fish and we just don’t see the details.

    Anyways, I agree with Alison – people are (usually) good about working with you on this. For a fun alternative, you could always suggest switching to an ice cream place instead of lunch as well.

    1. Storie*

      Lots of people develop allergies suddenly as an adult. And then again—lots of people don’t eat a wide variety of foods. I always remember giving my college roommate a plum to try for the first time!

      Anyway. As the mom of a child with a severe allergy, I will tell you you’ll get used to it, and you’ll be surprised at how many people with food allergies there are. Yes it’s a bummer and requires extra thought and planning basically all the time—but you will get the hang of it and once you feel more confident, the work side of things won’t seem so daunting.

      1. WS*

        Yes, adult-onset allergies are a thing! With medication in particular, but my mother has a lifelong allergy to mushrooms, and from her 60s onwards more and more foods have caused a problem. Sulphites, nightshades including potatoes, cantaloupe and cashews are now an issue. A lot of older nurses develop a latex allergy which cross-reacts with cantaloupe but my mum is still fine with latex.

    2. Artemesia*

      allergic reactions are sort of cumulative. She may have had fish in the past and had mild enough reactions that she didn’t identify it as a fish thing, and then had an anaphylactic reaction because the particular seafood was particularly dangerous for her and this was the first time she had eaten it recently.

      She needs to do whatever gives her the greatest peace of mind and just do it cooly and matter of factly and she will be fine.

      1. many bells down*

        Yes, I developed a latex allergy over time, when I had a job that required very frequent use of latex gloves. Before I was wearing them on a regular basis latex didn’t really bother me.

    3. Maggie*

      I have 2 sisters, both allergic to peanuts. One sister’s allergy has weakened as she’s grown up. The other’s has intensified. In college, she went to the ER in anaphylactic crisis because she ate a chocolate chip cookie at a catered event that had, in the kitchen before being set out, been sitting in top of a peanut butter cookie. She will not step inside a 5 Guys, a Texas Roadhouse, or Asian restaurants. It is frustrating to have to write off the restaurant experience for an entire cuisine, but it’s not worth the cross contamination risk for her. LW, people will doubt you and assume you’re overreacting, and I’m sorry for that, but it is possible to navigate. Good luck.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Removed a string of off-topic comments here about people’s own experiences with developing allergies and multiple assurances that allergies can develop later in life — let’s stay focused on advice to the letter writers. Thank you.

    5. MommyMD*

      Most allergies are acquired after having had the offending agent over time. It’s not unusual at all to experience a shellfish or other food or medication allergy even after years of exposure to it.

  3. Daffy Duck*

    Unless you have an offer on the table I would take the offered training and any special projects. Even if your current and future career are very different many skills are transferrable. Teaching oil painting to seniors may seem to be different than working for a widget company but finding funding, organizing space and supplies, developing a curriculum, communicating and collecting feedback are valuable skills wherever you end up.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Agreed — and developing more in this way will only help clarify and solidify ideas about what you might want in the future. Plus being engaged and interested will be good if you need to rely on this team for future references.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. I wouldn’t turn down any training, even if it is or seems completely unrelated to my current career. You never know when it might come in handy. Plus the company is paying for it, so why not?

      1. Ganymede*

        I agree, but read the small print – there might be a clause that says you have to pay for it if you leave the company within a certain time. If the training is useful and not too pricey, it might be worth it anyway.

        I agree with everyone saying that working in the arts is a great way to learn a wide range of skills. Stage management is an extreme example – I would literally hire a good stage manager to run the world, it is such a demanding and multifarious profession. But all logistical, admin, financial or person-centred skills are good wherever they are learned.

        Your colleagues will also be used to people being desperate to work “in the Arts”, so that’s probably why they assume you will want to stay. It might come as a shock to them when you leave for a different field, but they will take it in their stride, I am sure! Frankly, as a former performer and theatre producer, I would not take an admin job in the Arts, it’s hard work with low pay and an expectation that you will LOVE it because it’s THE ARTS even if you are doing nothing particularly creative yourself. I remember getting applications from young idealists saying they wanted to Change The Face Of British Theatre, and I’m thinking… hang on, this is 3 days a week doing my filing, doing time sheets and calling printing firms…

        1. Cj*

          IME, it’s not normal training/professional development that you may be expected to pay back if you leave, just tuition reimbursement. That’s not to say that it can’t happen.

          1. PT*

            If it’s a nonprofit and it’s expensive training, if you leave too soon after training (ex: you took the training knowing you’d leave) it may be viewed as unethical and affect your reference accordingly.

            I worked at several nonprofits and this was the unofficial policy. If it was mandatory for your job, fine, but if it was optional and more for your growth and development in the company? Best to pass it up if you’re leaving soon or you’ll be always known as “we paid for her to take an $800 training and she gave notice three weeks later.”

            1. Momma Bear*

              I once skipped a class because while I could have gotten the $1500 back I would have been obligated to stay at the company for at least a year. Otherwise I owed them the full amount. Turned out I didn’t stay the required timeframe (forget if it was 2 or 3 years…which made more sense for a degree but not for my certification class) so I’m glad I didn’t bother. But if it’s paid for at no obligation later – learn all the things.

    3. Guacamole Bob*

      If there’s any of the training and special projects that offer more broad-based skills, that can be one way to go. Project management, event planning, data analysis – what would get you a little closer to something you’re interested in or a skill that would be good to have on your resume in a different industry?

      I had a boss once when I was an admin who liked to hire young smart people and have them as an admin for a couple of years before finding higher-level spots for them in the company. I ended up running lots of budget reports and such for him before transitioning to a role as a data analyst. The person after me struggled with the budget reports but loved event planning, organized the annual trip for the sales staff and the annual dinner for the Board, and then eventually moved to event management full time. In another small nonprofit where I had a partly admin, partly programmatic role I spent a while teaching myself database development in MS Access (not my best choice, in retrospect, but it worked) to make it easier to track certain aspects of our programs, and understanding how relational databases function was a good grounding when I moved to a more technical role elsewhere.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        This is what I was thinking! Something related but not focused; my first job out of school was seemingly so mundane and definitely not related to the job I do now but if it weren’t for those early learning opportunities in updating policy, creating small marketing materials, ordering giveaways, running a travel budget, learning EXCEL, event planning, etc. I would not be anywhere near as close to successful as I am in my current job!

    4. Smithy*

      I agree with this, and would also add that the pandemic has really made of lot of industries aware of how tech savvy/sophisticated they are. Things like planning/running remote events, social media engagement, remote community engagement – all of that can be wildly relevant to small arts organizations as well as a number of other organizations.

      To take Daffy’s oil painting to seniors examples – I think where you can think about this is what are skills that are super industry specific (i.e. advanced learning in paints, painting technique, etc.) and what might be still relevant but more general. If you’re working directly with community members, I could even see a case for asking for training in first aid/public health if that sounds more interesting than curriculum development.

    5. natter*


      Also, LW…you are young and maybe everything with your career change will go seamlessly. But if you do hit any walls, it can be useful to have your old field to fall back on. While you’re still there, you should maximize your opportunities.

    6. IvyV*

      Two of my ironclad career rules are:
      * Always keep learning, especially if the company is paying
      * Go to any event where the company is providing food (because if they are invested then so should I be)

  4. Sue*

    Two of my co-workers have seafood allergy and our big boss loves seafood and loves even more dining out with us as a social thing. Nonetheless, big boss understands that they can’t tag along every time but when the restaurant serves no seafood, they come along then. Most people are decent about allergies and would understand your situation and work around it for everyone’s benefit.

    1. Edamame*

      I work in Japan, famous for seafood, and we have had seafood allergic, vegetarian, pescatarian, kosher, halal, and picky eater colleagues come visit on business trips. No seafood was tough but we accommodated them. You can’t help what restaurants choose to serve on their menu but I can’t imagine it would actually hold you back at work (especially if you can drink alcohol, haha).

      What was really helpful as an organizer was getting detailed advanced warning of the trip of what was OK/not OK. I’d actually rather hunt for “no seafood, no fish, no shellfish whatsoever” than figure out “vegetarian but I like sushi”. (This was an extreme situation where the coworkers couldn’t read the menu themselves, you will be able to advocate for yourself I imagine.) And either way those people were wizards at their jobs and earned our respect during the workday before we got to dinner.

      I hope this anecdote shows that you can have a fulfilling career with international networking and bonding even with your food restrictions!

      1. Cat Tree*

        I’m really glad to see “picky eater” on the list of standard food restrictions. As an adult picky eater, it feels embarrassing to request different food. In the past, I would often just choke down a polite amount of something I didn’t like and I felt like I was a kid again, forced to eat something before leaving the table. Now I usually just don’t eat and pretend I’m not hungry. I actually don’t hate very many foods, but the few I can’t stand show up in a wide variety of things so it can be difficult.

          1. Cat Tree*

            For me, it’s mayonnaise. Just thinking about its gloopiness makes me gag a little. Sandwich trays are usually ok because condiments are on the side, but wrap trays are dangerous because they usually come with everything already on them (understandable because they’re harder to unwrap an reassemble). But if I even for a sandwich tray, if I don’t get in early enough to get turkey, the only options are egg salad, tuna salad, or roast beef that is too pink for me. I also dint like mushrooms or most fish, and those are also widespread.

            Other than that I’m actually pretty easy to please. In a restaurant I can make do with plain chicken or even a plate of plain rice or pasta, as long as it’s only one meal. It’s catered lunches that are tricky.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              Fellow mayo hater here! I always feel queasy after having any. It very well may be psychosomatic, but I still avoid it at all costs. Also not a fan of mushrooms (though I adore seafood so we differ there).

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              Starving is often used hyperbolically to mean very hungry or unfed. For example, “want to get some lunch? I’m starving!” It’s pretty clear Cj did not mean they will literally be malnourished to the point of death from skipping one meal.

              There’s also a spectrum from preference to requirement that can be difficult to articulate. I don’t like the texture of eggplant and would prefer not to eat it. My cousin finds the texture of eggplant so revolting she can’t eat it without vomiting. Clearly the two are not equivalent! She has autism-related sensory issues that make certain textures and flavors extremely difficult or impossible to tolerate. If I went to a restaurant and turned up my nose at everything because it’s not to my taste, that’s on me. But if she goes someplace that doesn’t serve food she can comfortably eat… that’s a very different scenario, even though technically she just “doesn’t like it.” Someone in that situation should be treated with the same courtesy as someone with any other dietary restriction (religious, ethical, health-related, etc).

              1. pancakes*

                I’m familiar with hyperbole and nonetheless think it’s an absurd thing to say. It would seem absurd to me even as a one-off but the commenter said it again further down in the comments, too. There’s no indication whatsoever that it’s a sensory issue. Saying “yes, this” in response to someone who says they’re picky strongly suggest it’s just pickiness.

                1. Ace in the Hole*

                  I disagree – many people with sensory aversions do describe themselves as “picky,” because that’s how the behavior is often labeled when they’re growing up.

                  And getting on people’s case for ordinary colloquial use of hyperbolic language is neither productive nor polite.

          2. Black Horse Dancing*

            I don’t get this. Vegetarians eat potatoes. If you eat anything at all besides meat, there’s vegetarian dishes.

      2. Fish Free Laura*

        This is very helpful, thank you! I have been interested in looking for a job post-MBA abroad, but am worried because in some places seafood is as staple, and if you add a language barrier, that can be really scary. This comment helps put my mind at ease!

        1. UKDancer*

          I’m not sure where you’re based normally but it’s worth noting that in the EU it’s legally required to label food with any major allergens (and fish, molluscs and crustaciens are all on the list). So if you’re staying in an EU member state, you should be able to see the menu / food packaging and check what is listed. When I travelled in Germany with a colleague with a dairy allergy, we got quite good at reading the menus carefully.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Cosigned. If you are allergic to one of the common allergens, the restaurant has to know whether it’s included and has to tell you.

            Sometimes they’ll come out with (eg) a bottle of fish sauce and show you the label that says “may contain crustaceans” but there aren’t any deliberately included (ie potential cross contamination in the factory) and I prefer to err on the side of caution and ask for recommendations.

            It’s much harder if your allergen isn’t on the list, mind you.

            1. Prague*

              They’re supposed to tell you, and check with the kitchen if they aren’t sure, but sometimes they are wrong. Eating out can be a minefield.

              OP, if you read this, it does get easier after a while. Mostly because you get used to it, I’m afraid. Good luck!

        2. JSPA*

          If you have not done a full allergen panel to distinguish further, you might want to do so. Fish is a separable allergy from crustaceans; most crustaceans and fish are a separate category from a subset of crabs (which cluster with a subset of insects, not with the other crustaceans); mollusks are another category. If you respond to multiple categories, you may actually be having a response to something more minute that they all feed on, or that’s present as a breakdown product in many marine environments, which in turn can set you up for allergies to seaweed.

          Knowledge is power, and in this case, once Covid restrictions make it make sense for you to have blood samples taken, doing a detailed seafood and insect allergy panel could be a game changer.

          P.S. insects as food and in food can be a big hidden allergen problem, from cochineal in juices and yoghurts, through, “did you know you can eat cicadas,” through the “worm” (not a worm!) in Mezcal/Tequila through the level of cockroach parts allowed in manufactured foods and raw ingredients.

          1. Fish Free Laura*

            I have had very extensive testing done and am under the care of a board certified allergist! Thank you, though!

            1. Shellfish Free Erin*

              That’s great to hear!

              In some cases, some people will be more restrictive than they need to be after a major allergy episode, or they will develop fear of food due to the traumatic allergy episode. I learned that there are mental health professionals that specialize in working with kids with food allergies after I had a kid with food allergies. The children of food allergic people are more likely to have food allergies than other people, but they may not have the same food allergies as their parents.

              Are people still doing the all day interviews or having people travel for the weekend for interviews during COVID? I think I had one all day interview early on in my career. However, the interview process seems more humane than it used to be. This may vary by field though.

              If an employer does not accommodate your food allergy in the interview, that may be a red flag about the employer.

              In one job, I had a manager who would have an employee, whose religion excluded shellfish, go buy the shellfish for the annual party, This manager had two employees who worked for her with severe shellfish allergies. We would leave the party when the shellfish arrived or stay as far away from it as possible.

        3. Artemesia*

          I have a food intolerance and traveled in Russia where it is in everything. I don’t speak Russian. Using my phone translator I was able to communicate with waiters and managed to get dishes made without this common ingredient fairly easily. I am not sure I would rely on that for a lethal allergy, but it is surprising how much you can communicate with today’s portable tech tools.

        4. Edamame*

          I’m glad! The 2 things you really need to worry about are (1) dishes where seafood is a hidden ingredient (broths, desserts, sauces, salad toppings–it’s much broader than you imagine) and even many cooks/servers are not aware it’s in there, and (2) smaller restaurants are much less likely to be able to handle difficult allergens than larger ones. Big restaurants used to serving foreign clientele will be able to accommodate most restrictions easily, but it’s kind of cruel to go to a small mom-and-pop ramen shop and ask for something without soy…

          Good luck!

      3. Reba*

        I recently (well, within the past couple years) traveled with a colleague with a severe shellfish allergy. We both knew how to say “no shellfish” in the official language and to closely question servers or food sellers (this was a place where a little dried this or that might be added to the sauce or whatever). Just be sure to add the right words to your vocabulary. Even in pretty remote places, this was fine! In less remote places, I think awareness of special diets has grown a lot, so there are good possibilities for still enjoying some aspects of local cuisine.

        1. JSPA*

          A lot of people don’t know what’s in sauces, especially sauces made with other compounded ingredients. Someone has to recognize that “dish that lists hummos” almost certainly implies Tahini used to make the hummos, and that Tahini is ground sesame, to recognize that the dish contains “sesame.”

          Labeling requirements don’t seem to be deeply enough recursive, or replete enough with all the common synonyms, to prevent fatal allergies. I’ve met people who don’t know that chickpeas are garbanzos, or that either one of those is the major ingredient in hummos, or that tofu is made of soybeans, or that Textured Vegetable Protein is bean/pea based, or that Beyond Meat is pea based. At which point, asking about “beans” doesn’t work.

          Similarly, while most people may recognize fish sauce (which can be made of fish alone or mixed seafood) and oyster sauce as being what their names imply…some may think of them as sauces that go with seafood. And many who’d think of fish sauce as a problem, if asked, may not think of non-vegetarian kim chi as a problem, if it’s one of ten ingredients in a soup or stew.

          1. Bethany*

            The amount of times ‘oyster sauce with vegetables’ has been in the vegetarian section of the menu…

    2. Quinalla*

      It is awkward – I’m a mom and sister of people with allergies, not that severe luckily, but still you have to speak up. I’m that Mom who’s always letting people know for birthday party invites (well, not right now, but normally!) that hey my kid is allergic to X & Y, no need to change your menu, just let me know if I need to bring a snack or we’ll get her some safe cake afterwards. She is very good about advocating for herself, but its all she’s known, we found out about her allergy when she wasn’t even 2.

      The good thing nowadays are there are very few people who don’t “believe” in allergies. I still run into one every once in awhile, but 99% of people believe and get it as they usually know someone who had allergies. Growing up with my brother, there were tons of people who didn’t believe food allergies were real – they thought it was just people being overblown, thinking allergies were like food sensitivities (hint: they aren’t!) or just plain not believing it was real. Food allergies are more common now (for real and also just more diagnosed) so it is a thing folks have to deal with.

      I hear you about mourning the loss, my daughter talks about this occasionally and it is a bummer :(

      1. Jules*

        I’d also like to acknowledge the sense of loss that LW is experiencing. I went through it too with my own adult-onset food allergies. Communal eating is an important component of so many cultures, and was always one of my favorite ways to connect with people. I used to be able to dive in with abandon, trying everything without fear. Suddenly, I was suspicious of all food. Had to read every label, interrogate people who brought dishes (are you sure you didn’t throw in any _____ at the end?) and it sucked all the joy out of eating with people. LW1, you had a vision of what your career path would look like, and now you have to rethink that a bit. As Alison and other commenters have said, there’s a path, and lots of people successfully figure it out. But it’s also okay to mourn the loss of that original vision.

        1. H2*

          Yes—it’s a chronic, lifelong, life-altering health condition. My son has a severe peanut allergy, and just as hard as the management of it is the resetting of expectations. He doesn’t have the same experiences in the same ways that I imagined for him. It’s ok to be bummed out by that.

          I will say that as you navigate managing your allergy it will get easier. Most restaurants are really very good about allergies and cross contamination these days, and eventually you may feel ok about, say, Panera, even though they have Caesar dressing. My son participated in a clinical trial with one of the most famous allergists in the world, and out of all the kids we met with severe allergies, most were able to navigate situations like eating out without too much trouble. And people are very accommodating and will understand. If you tell someone setting up a lunch about the issue, it won’t be the first time they’ve handled a similar request.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            More support if you’d like.
            I eat a very limited diet, with very simple whole foods. I can eat in a restaurant once in a great while, and then pay for it for days after. I had to go for one meeting at work that involved a large room full of people, an MC and some entertainment. The restaurant was so, so, so dark that I could not see the food on my plate very well. As I was chewing along, I realized the salad had ground up nuts. The place was so dark that I could not see enough of my salad to know there were nuts on it.

            I had to laugh to myself because I realized this place was quickly becoming a dinosaur. If they did not change what they were doing they will probably not last another decade in business. The lack of awareness was jaw-dropping. Then I paused, I am lucky that I can laugh. I have friends who would have been a 911 call at that point because of that salad. I chose not to say anything so as not to embarrass my good boss. But we never went to that annual event again, either.

            In our lifetimes we will see many changes in the restaurant industry. And this is because more and more people are expressing the fact that they have limitations for various reasons. I revamped my life 25 years ago. Back then I had friends scold me, “It’s rude not to eat the food in front of you!”. I had a family member say, “What do you mean you eat a lot of veggies? I don’t understand what you eat. I don’t know what to cook us for dinner.” We have progressed some since those days.

            We place way more value on food than we should, we use it for entertainment/bonding/socializing/ and more. It’s meant to nourish our bodies and give us energy that is all food is. As we collectively become more and more aware of how food is directly tied to our health, you will have less and less awkwardness.
            Age also helps. I got to the point where I could say, “Oh I very seldom eat in restaurants any more. You know… doctors and all that.”

            1. ThatGirl*

              I understand what you’re saying, and I don’t want to sound dismissive, but food is more than just energy. Food is culture. It’s been that way throughout human history. Of course, we should all find other ways to socialize and bond with people — diet can be so fraught for so many reasons, from allergies to eating disorders to societal value judgments. But it’s not as simple as saying that we overvalue food; it’s deeply embedded in human evolution and history.

              1. UKDancer*

                You’re right. Food is also a gesture of trust and the establishment of a bond. So when I’ve been to Russia, Romania and the Balkans there’s a heavy emphasis on sharing bread and salt with them, either in a ceremonial way or through sharing a meal with them. You don’t have to do it but the business goes a lot better when you do and people relax when you’ve partaken. I’ve seen it when I’ve had Serbian visitors to my company, they visibly relaxed once we offered them tea and biscuits as it showed we were greeting them in the correct manner.

                I don’t understand it on an intellectual level but I feel it on an emotional one.

            2. pancakes*

              I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a restaurant to serve someone a salad with nuts in it if the person hasn’t mentioned an allergy to them or asked about which dishes might include them. People who do have serious allergies generally take care to identify what they’re eating before taking a bite. I don’t at all agree that not taking pleasure in restaurants is more evolved or a perspective one necessarily gains with age, either. It’s quite blinkered and ahistorical to suggest it is.

            3. EventPlannerGal*

              Honestly I think that the move to divorce food from culture and community and hospitality and purely view it in terms of energy and calories is a very sad thing. Food (and the processes that go into making it, serving it, passing it on etc) is of incredible cultural value and has bound people together for thousands of years. (I had a few classes at uni on the anthropology of food, which is fascinating, and was thinking about this recently after reading Jay Rayner’s review in this weekend’s Observer of Claudia Roden’s Book of Jewish Food – well worth a read.)

              I suppose that my professional bias is showing here – maybe one day we might live in a brave new world where nobody values food for anything but health and everybody lives on Huel and vitamin supplements because that’s “all food is”. Frankly I hope that’s not within my lifetime.

              1. UKDancer*

                Yes. I think food also has memories and emotions bound in it. When I make my grandmother’s scone recipe I think of her and remember my childhood experiences and people long dead. My German godmother taught me how to make Frikadeller and chicken noodle soup and when I make them I hear her voice telling me how to do it.

                When I try and replicate a recipe for borscht that I found online or something from my Thai cookery book I think about the people who make that food and the times I’ve eaten it before. I remember the borscht I had in Kyiv and the Thai place I used to go to with my ex-boyfriend.

                One of the few things I’ve enjoyed about this wretched lockdown is that I’ve had time to cook from scratch a lot more as I’m working from home and can’t go out. There’s something pleasurable about cooking something and seeing the dish come together which nourishes the soul as well as the body.

                1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

                  Food is so, so deeply entwined with emotion and memory, sometimes on a very visceral level. Not just the good either-I still can’t eat strawberry banana yogurt since I puked it up as a kid.

      2. Roy G. Biv*

        I think most people who don’t believe in allergies usually believe in “allergic to bees.” Probably because so many people are already afraid of bees*, so add in “and if a bee stings me we need my Epipen AND an ambulance ride to the ER,” and now they’re true believers. They just need to make the next leap of faith to “peanuts or shellfish will kill Aunt Trudy, so take it seriously.”

        *Unfortunately so. I mean, where do people think we get honey?

    3. Kimmybear*

      I have an adult onset allergy and my kid has a peanut allergy. I’ve only encountered one person who was intentionally obtuse; everyone else is really accommodating. I think if you frame it as not a big deal and flag it at the start, most people will be really fine with it.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. I’ve only had one person who refused to accept my unwillingness to eat shellfish and he was renowned for being difficult in general terms.

        Most people I think would prefer their colleagues not to go into anaphylactic shock or become violently ill. If you are as matter of fact as possible and make it easy for them, most people I’ve found are quite happy to go to places that work for those with allergies.

      2. Fish Free Laura*

        Unfortunately my “intentionally obtuse” person is my MIL, but that is a whole different story. Otherwise, people have been kind so far. My last boss actually likely prevented me from having a reaction on a work trip 6 months before I realized how deathly allergic I am. I had ordered a salad and asked that they not put the fish on it (I never liked fish and suspected I might have an intolerance), they forgot and I was going to just eat around it – he insisted that it be taken back and remade entirely.

    4. Code Monkey the SQL*

      Yes, we had a person with a peanut allergy at our office, and it was no big deal to remember that A: she might not participate in communal food days and B: we needed to let her know where the ordered food would come from ahead of time, so she could let us know if she needed something different.

      OP, I’m so sorry for the big scary change this has made in your life, but I do want to say that it can also act as a built-in A-hole detector. If you encounter a job interview or scenario where the people can’t flex to accommodate something that might sicken or kill you, you have a 100% valid reason to turn those folks down and find a (literally) less-toxic opportunity.

      1. Fish Free Laura*

        In another comment someone said that I shouldn’t force people to go to vegetarian restaurants (the only places I am comfortable eating) because “as a a meat and potatoes person, I would starve”. I can feel the AH detector working already! This is an awesome point and has made me see this in a new, more positive, light. Thank you so much!

        1. Artemesia*

          I have vegan and vegetarian relatives and when we visit we go to those restaurants AND I nearly starve because I have a strong sensitivity to onions and it is a rare vegetarian dish that doesn’t contain them. I can eat salad which I don’t much care for but to get a solid main dish is difficult. Literally every one of them that is at all casserole like will have onions as a main ingredient.

          1. Fish Free Laura*

            I’m sure that is really frustrating for you. But keep in mind, this isn’t a dietary choice I made, I could – quite literally die. Apples and oranges. I have to believe most people would be willing to suffer through a salad for one meal to ensure I can be included and continue to live.

    5. Abogado Avocado*

      #1 I, too, have a life-threatening allergy that was discovered after I nearly died. For those who haven’t been through this experience, it makes you incredibly wary of restaurants and of situations in which you can’t be absolutely sure what’s in your food. Yes, you can carry an epi pen, but they’re very expensive, they expire far more quickly than you’d expect, and, if you’ve nearly died before from a particular food, you just don’ t want to get within 100 miles of that food again.

      However, I’m in a job where people like to transact business over food (or, at least, they did, pre-pandemic). So, I’m upfront about the allergy and how it limits where and what I can eat. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised to learn how many others have a similar food allergy and how willing they are to go to restaurants that don’t serve the fatal food. Which isn’t to say I don’t quiz the wait staff to ensure there’s no random fatal food lying about in the back (because it’s a popular food that someone might bring for lunch). I’ve been pleased to learn restaurants take allergies very seriously and will detail the measures they’re taking to prepare my food in isolation from other diners’ orders. And from all of that, I conclude that the world is far more flexible and generous than we might have been led to believe. May you have the same experience.

      1. Fish Free Laura*

        Thank you! I hope so as well. SO far only one commenter has said they think this will limit me in my career. I hope they are wrong!

        1. Hillary*

          I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 25 years, and an MBA for almost 15. And I’m in a relationship-oriented job where lunches and dinners are very much a thing. It hasn’t been a limiting factor. My dietary restrictions are just one thing to consider, although it helps that I’m usually the client or guest.

          I travel with protein bars, dried fruit, and nuts in case I need them, but these days they usually come home with me. During international travel China and Poland were the most difficult because vegetarianism isn’t really part of the cultures. It went fine and I got a fun story about how confused the servers were at a nice restaurant in a small Polish city.

          Tactically, the thing that makes it easy is I always have a solution ready. I can’t eat at (steakhouse), how about we go to this Mexican place instead. I do my best to make friends with the admins so I can manage things in advance.

    6. Caterpie*

      Not allergic but I do have Celiac. Due to the cross contamination issue, I also have to be extremely careful about restaurants. Sue is right (in my experience) about people being decent about allergies/restrictions.

      I’ve actually run into the ‘opposite’ problem where people try to be inclusive and order a gluten free item for me, not realizing that I still can’t/shouldn’t eat it. A lot of restaurants do carry GF items but don’t have a separate prep space, cooking utensils, etc and can’t truly guarantee no cross contamination. I recommend you come up with a script in this case too!

      1. Caterpie*

        I also wanted to add that some people do get a little weird when you just want to bring your own food on days where the rest of the group is doing take out/catered meal.

        I know they’re coming from a good place, but it can be a little frustrating when they don’t believe you when you say you’re 100% happy to bring your own meal.

      1. AS87*

        I’ll give them this, they directly said it was formal mandatory fun instead of saying it was optional and then putting down those who chose not to participate in a passive aggressive manner.

          1. NYWeasel*

            We had a mandatory “picnic” once that involved a 2+ hour drive out of the city and back. A few intrepid souls figured out plausible excuses, while the rest of us spent a long, miserable day, all in the name of “fun”. That was one day. I think if they’d announced it was a full program, most of us would’ve quit on the spot!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Me, five minutes into the mandatory fun activity: “Okay. I am good here. I have had enough fun. Can I leave?”

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I rather makes one wonder why the LW is concerned about burning this bridge. It alone would make me vow never to work there. I have to wonder if “a very formal mandatory fun plan” is actually how this was worded, or if there were obfuscatory euphemisms involved. Actually coming out and saying this seems to require self awareness incompatible with the policy.

      1. OP_Mandatory_Fun*

        There was no irony, no humor to the delivery of the literal quote, “oh yes, we have a very formal mandatory fun policy.”

        The lack of awareness was worrying on top of the statement itself. I was worried because I work in a smallish industry where there aren’t a ton of employers and also sometimes one team or manager ruins a team but maybe doesn’t reflect the whole company so maybe I would work for them in 5-10 years … In a different department.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Absolutely incredible. I can imagine the statement as apologetic irony, where the speaker knows how absurd the idea is. But no humor or irony requires that someone heard the expression and thought to themselves “Yes, that exactly describes our policy. How wonderful it is to finally have the vocabulary to express it!”

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      Inserting here an obligatory reference to that Weird Al Yankovich album…. You know, the one that has “Mission Statement” on it. (Not including link so as not to make unnecessary work for Alison.)

  5. Language Lover*

    LW#2 Losing power or internet at home is possibly something that an employee can negotiate. My employer would let me be flexible about getting my work done around the power/internet connection.

    But one thing that working from home for about a year has taught me is that there are a lot of daily advantages to being able to work from home. I won’t list them all here but one of the best is that if it snows just enough to be a nuisance but not enough for a snow day, I still don’t have to deal with traffic on those days which can turn my 20 minute commute into an hour both ways. That more than makes up for one or two snow days over the course of a winter.

    LW#3 I’m kind of surprised you might want to work there in the future. It seems like there are so many issues that could take a few years to resolve that they might not remember you by the time you’d reconsider working there–barring an absolute need for a job.

    I wouldn’t ghost them if you would like to keep your options open but you can choose to be more vague about your reasons if you don’t want to be honest.

    1. Anononon*

      Yeah, I have a short commute to work, but it involves major highways and traveling from one state to a major city in another. The lack of stress of not having to debate if the snow will be “bad enough” to go in or not, or leave early or not, is great. Especially, prior to the pandemic, we did not have a big “work from home” culture, so I always felt judged if I decided to stay home.

    2. iliketoknit*

      Re #2 – my office went to offering WFH as an option well before the pandemic, in part to address snow days. (It wasn’t originally intended to be so universally used, but I’m grateful they’d already accepted it before they were forced to.) Making telework a thing meant that on snow days, the office didn’t grind to a halt; people could get their work done from home. (Perhaps also worth noting that it hadn’t previously been available in part for security reasons.) I was bummed because I loved snow days! But I can hardly fault my employer for not being as excited by them.

      In any case, our policy is similar – if someone can’t work from home, the snow day is a paid day off. However, the policy also notes that if the snow day creates conditions that prevent working from home – like power/internet going out, or the need to care for kids home from school (or any other kind of caretaking) – then it reverts to a paid day off. So I think this is definitely a policy that can be negotiated, if it’s not part of the system already.

      (I should maybe add that once the pandemic hit, my office adjusted expectations such that even jobs that formerly couldn’t be done from home can now be done from home, and a lot of people have to deal with kids being home while they WFH all the time, not just snow days, so the opportunities for anyone actually to get a snow day have dwindled to power/internet outages, but in theory if the office is closed by weather and that precludes you from doing the work you need to do, you’re not going to get dinged for that.)

    3. Cj*

      I’m really surprised they might want to work there in the future, also. A lot of the stuff, like “very formal mandatory fun” sounds like it might be company wide, not just the dept they interviewed with. I’d give them the keeping their tech skills current as the reason.

    1. BeenThereOG*

      As am I! I thought this person might have been interviewing at my organization until that sentence.

    2. Seal*

      I inherited a department that had a 4-page policy on celebrating birthdays and other milestones. Among other things, it mandated that all staff members regularly donate to a kitty for birthday cards and treats, which was illegal at our workplace (public university). Much to everyone’s relief, it was one of the first policies I dropped.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Someone will form a committee to assign someone to officially track the quarter day and calculate the official date of the Leap Year birthdays each year based on date/time of birth and age. Celebrations shall be held based on the consensus date.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I had to read this twice before working out it wasn’t compulsory donations to a cat charity.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I read it at first as “donate a kitty for birthday” and thought each employee was given a kitten for their birthday!

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              Now I’m picturing Bob, who’s been in Accounts Payable for 15 years, sighing as he, yet again, moves one of the 15 cats off his keyboard as the others crawl all over every part of his cubicle.

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        I bet some of that 4-page plan started off well-intentioned or because of incidents. Within my own university dept it’s free-for-all which means some birthdays get celebrated, and some don’t at all; and some get taken out to lunch and some get a card left on their desk; and some retirements get a full off-site, catered, open-bar affair complete with printed/mailed invitations; and some get an email thanking them for their years of service. The mandatory part is really the stickler, but i wish my org had a blanket policy for some of these things.

        1. Observer*

          I bet some of that 4-page plan started off well-intentioned or because of incidents

          Maybe. But I can’t see how a mandatory staff contribution to a birthday kitty could come from such a place – especially in a place where this is literally illegal.

    3. Forrest*

      Everyone involved in The Office or 30 Rock is going, “DAMN, that’s a good line, why didn’t we write that.”

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            OMG, Alison should totally write a sit-com based on all her AAM questions! It’d be amazeballs.

    4. OP_Mandatory_Fun*

      Right?!? But they made it sounds like non optional after hours events in which sharing feelings, but only good vibes, would be promoted. So, ya know, The Bad Place.

  6. Marni*

    For #2, if the employer wants to be really thoughtful and avoid possible resentment — even if that resentment isn’t really warranted — they could give the WFH emplyees an early release or double-long lunch on the snow day. Work still gets done but the WFH employees have the chance to go sledding with their kids (or shovel their walk in the daylight, or whatever snow-based activities they need/want to do) so there’s less of a feeling that they missed out on a treat.

    1. Travel_mug*

      I actually think trying to give the small perks that front-line workers are getting right now to WFH employees causes some resentment on the other side.

      Like- I’m a front line health worker who has worked in the hospital throughout the pandemic. I’ve dealt with the fear of exposing my husband and other family members, the regular COVID tests, the symptom monitoring, the trauma of treating patients in an incredibly resource scare setting, the seeing my colleagues get sick and die on the front line. Also, by the way, with a pay cut, as our hospital made broad pay cuts do the financial losses during the pandemic (I think all hospitals in my city did this).

      The rare kind of perk we get for this shouldn’t be shared with the employees who are safe at home in the name of fairness. Nothing about this is fair! They are in an incredibly privileged position to be safe at home, and if they can’t see that, and are going to begrudge us the tiniest perk, I just don’t understand it.

    2. DyneinWalking*

      Don’t. Reasonable WFH employees won’t resent it if the other employees get snow days off, but reasonable non-WFH employees will definitely resent it if you invent ways to give snow-days to WFH employees. The point of snow days is (or at least, it SHOULD be) to not require employees to commute in dangerous conditions, which could lead to accidents or being stuck at the office after work hours, i.e.significantly and badly impact the employees. (Honestly I would consider it a “perk” the same way that staying home when sick is a “perk”…)
      WFH employees don’t commute, so there are no bad outcomes to prevent, end of the discussion.

      WFH has several perks as it is, such as more free time because it’s not spent on commuting. I don’t think the employees who still work in the office get to work less hours to make up for possible resentment…

      1. Liz*

        This! I’ve been a WFH for almost a year. Prior to that, if it snowed, or other bad weather, or i needed to be home, i COULD WFH without issue. Where some of my co-workers cannot. I often wondered if those who couldn’t got paid when i stayed home working, but I was never resentful. You are correct in that we get “perks”. One day last week i went to the laundromat at lunch. couldn’t do that when in the office, but i was able to go, wash my stuff, come home, hang it up, all within my alloted lunch time.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        I’ll admit that as a WFH employee, I had a very brief flash of disappointment when the notice went out on Monday that in-office employees got a snow day but WFH employees were expected to work. But then I got over it, because I’m a grown up and I recognize the reasonableness of that decision by our management.

        And to be honest, much of the initial reaction is about child care and whether my kids’ school would be running remote learning on schedule – my kids are at an age where days off school make it hard for the adults to work a normal day, and remote school isn’t as good as in-person but does serve to occupy them and keep them on a routine. Normally we have backup options if there’s a snow day for school but not work, but… pandemic. Fortunately the school district had a normal remote day so it was business as usual for everyone in the house.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Since a good many non-WFH employees are hourly workers, it is wise to remember that the hourly workers are VERY much aware of all the perks salaried workers get and take for granted to the point of feeling entitlement.

        I think it is fine to remind people of how well they are doing because of their position with the company and that others deserve a “break” or reprieve here and there also.

        Hourly workers do watch how the company handles things and they do keep a score card. I have seen this for so long I know it’s wide spread.

    3. Mockingjay*

      I agreed with Alison’s response: Treating people fairly doesn’t mean everyone gets treated exactly the same.

      Not all jobs translate to WFH. Companies can and do have different policies for different groups of workers. Treating employees fairly means paying them market wages, giving them a safe work environment, tools and training, and accommodating individual needs when possible. The bottom line is that companies are in business and usually cannot stop for inclement weather. If the majority of employees can WFH during a snowstorm, the company can require them to do so and make other arrangements for those few employees who can’t.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Annnnd good employers build flexibility into work loads and work schedules so that non-WFH employees can successfully keep their jobs when weather/life/whatever throws curve balls.

      2. JxB1000*

        #2 100% agree with Alison’s response. “Treating people fairly doesn’t mean everyone gets treated exactly the same.” However, those who work from home also deserve some slack if impacted, such as if schools or daycare are closed and they suddenly have to balance childcare with work. Otherwise, it is what it is.

        Years ago we had most of our people were in headquarters city and just a handful in a satellite office 3 hours away. In rare occasions the main office was closed due to weather, those in satellite city asked if they could close also. (???) They were not impacted by the weather situation and could work mostly independently regardless if the main office was open. I always thought the logic on that was really weird. We’ve had situations where a particular building was shut down – bomb threat, water main break, electricity issues – and those in other buildings didn’t assume they should be sent home also.

    4. Kes*

      Yeah, I don’t think WFH people need snow days just because in-office folks have them, since the ability to WFH is in itself an advantage for many.
      What I do think the company should do is also allow leeway for those WFH for how the snow day may impact them – power outages, need to shovel, need to be watching the kids if they have a snow day from school. But they can do that without just saying “we have to give everyone a snow day because some are getting one” since there are plenty of advantages in the workplace that are not distributed evenly including the ability to WFH, I agree with others that trying to imply that everything is or can be even will just increase resentment in those in-office.

  7. Cant remember my old name*

    #4. I am a firm believer of milking every job for what it’s worth, even if it’s not your dream job. It sounds like you know what you want to do next, so think about what skills you need to make that change, and see if there’s transferable skills and training you can receive at your current job. One way I’ve done this in the past is to look at job postings for jobs I want but don’t feel qualified for and try to identify the gaps in my experience.

    1. Hmmm*

      I agree.

      As someone who is now leaving the arts industry into something completely unrelated, my advice is to take up on their training offers as much as you can. I have an advanced degree in arts management, and after working in the field for several years doing donor management/fundraising, I’ve come to realize that this line of work is a really bad fit. While I was still employed in the arts, my organization let me take professional development courses during work hours, and I got to learn how to use Photoshop, make advanced PowerPoint presentations, and use Excel formulas and functions. I also got put on a couple of large scale projects that really buffed up my resume, and were great projects that I referenced during my interviews. Even though I was interviewing for jobs outside of the arts field, interviewers were still pretty impressed by my experience.

  8. Analyst Editor*

    I think pointing out the outdated technology is the best thing to say in response. It’s true and there’s a small chance that might spur them to modernize, both technologically and socially. I think if mentioning the allegedly sexist HR rep, keep in mind the possibility of coming off like you have a chip on your shoulder, but you might not car about that.

    In general, it would seem that you harbor more negative feeling towards this employer than is warranted given that you don’t actually work for them and all those braves didn’t actually impact you in any material way. I don’t think that your rejection explanation is the place to give in to spite.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Notifying a company that their HR rep said women aren’t interested in or capable of highly technical roles (which is not “allegedly sexist”; it is sexist) will not come off like having a chip on your shoulder (!). Let’s not play into that trope here, which is incredibly damaging to women. Good lord.

      1. Czhorat*


        OP also has better perceived standing as someone rejecting a job offer than someone who was rejected and could be seen (wrongly) as being bitter; they have nothing to gain by telling them this.

        In fact, I’d lean towards saying that the HR rep’s sexist comments made the OP feel unwelcome and that this was part (though not the entirety) of the reason. That would be a good deed and, perhaps, give them cause to work on fixing their culture. I also recognize that this is easy for me to say as a cisgender white male who is never likely to face any kind of hiring discrimination.

        1. Firecat*

          My cis gender white male spouse experienced lots of gender based hiring discrimination because he preferred “women’s work”. Administrative assistant, fund raising, grant writing, and non profit work.

          This crap goes both ways although it hurts women way more often.

          I will say my husband never spoke up because he was afraid of looking like he had a chip on his shoulder about being rejected.

        2. OP_Mandatory_Fun*

          I very much doubt a company that employs hundreds would do some sort of internal investigation because one woman opted out. It seems safer to assume that this is their system working as intended.

          1. pancakes*

            What makes you so sure the letter writer would be the first and only person to have observed sexism in the HR rep’s behavior?

            1. OP_Mandatory_Fun*

              I was the LW for that one.

              I’m not. I’m just a woman who has had a lot of gross experiences and mostly they were because people meant to be gross and when I was like, hey, ya meant to be gross? I got in trouble for noticing and nothing changed. It’s hard to believe people want to change when also moving the responsibility for them being motivated to change into the people they’re hurting.

              1. pancakes*

                Sorry, didn’t notice the user name until after commenting.

                Point taken about having had bad experiences calling out sexism in the past, and as Alison said you’re not obliged to raise the issue in this context, but I don’t think the question is necessarily, did the HR rep mean to be gross. The question can also be, is this company knowingly taking on the liabilities associated with being openly sexist in hiring? Is leadership aware this is how their HR rep behaves? That’s possible, but it would be pretty unusual and risky. And you can’t get in much trouble with an employer that doesn’t employ you. If the sexism is indeed coming from the top down and spread throughout the company, your future employment prospects there are already limited.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Unfortunately there’s a reason the awful trope exists–there are plenty of people like that HR rep, and this hiring manager could be the same. In *their* perception, what Analyst Editor said could happen.
        I’m having a hard time writing this and keeping to the site’s no-politics policy so I will stop here.

        1. Allypopx*

          You’re not wrong, but OP said “they’d never take this job” anyway, so I think risk < reward in this case. It's better for the company to hear it, and they're specifically soliciting feedback.

          1. OP_Mandatory_Fun*

            It wasn’t my dream job but I was genuinely considering if money could make up for the other issues until I got further into the process.

        2. pancakes*

          The fact that there are indeed sexist people in HR doesn’t oblige any of us to regard sexism as the default in that line of work or any other, nor to regard it as not worth objecting to.

      3. Asenath*

        But did the HR rep actually say that women aren’t interested in or capable of highly technical roles? It sounded from the letter that that was an impression OP got. It might have been a perfectly correct impression – we all make conclusions based on things like tone of voice and intonation, and often they’re correct. But it’s not very strong information to give feedback on. I’d probably stick to something very concrete, like the outdated technology, and mention only that one issue, which seems the most serious to OP’s future had the job been accepted of all the red flags (although really, the mandatory fun plan is fascinatingly bizarre). I wouldn’t normally bother with feedback at all, but if I’d withdrawn my application, and I wanted to be polite in case things changed and I wanted to apply again in the future, I would pick one really obvious and unquestionable problem and stick to that.

        1. H2*

          That’s what I thought, too. I’m a woman in a STEM field, and although I get this impression sometimes, I wouldn’t bring it up here unless something very clear-cut to that effect was said. If it was, then for sure you could (should?) bring it up. But if it’s more an impression then I would stick to more concrete reasons.

        2. OP_Mandatory_Fun*

          She asked me, a wan whose entire professional career is technical and who applied for a highly technical role, more than three times if I was sure I was interested in such a technical role.

          It was 100% gross and absolutely said to me that she was skeptical a woman was capable of succeeding in this role.

          1. tangerineRose*

            That’s worth commenting on, if you want to. I’d probably say about what you just said and also mention the outdated technology.

      4. Khatul Madame*

        A very likely scenario is that the same HR rep is collecting the OP’s feedback/explanations why she is withdrawing. It would make for an interesting conversation or email exchange, especially if the HR rep’s sexist attitude was expressed through tone of voice rather than words.
        The technology angle seems safest, but sexist workplaces stay this way because they are never called out.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Outdated software absolutely can put a major crimp in the technical progress of a techie career.

      That’s however the only accurate bit in your comment (‘allegedly sexist’ ‘give into spite’ ?). Are you doing ok?

      1. boff*

        FWIW i took “give in to spite” more referring to responding to the question on why they declined the job with freelance consulting rates; that’s a bit of an escalation!
        I do understand that reporting sexist behavior may feel riskier than citing outdated tech – it shouldn’t be but people can sometimes get way more defensive about prejudiced behaviors than technical difficulties.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Oh I’m well aware of the sexist issues in companies, fought against it a couple of times. Doesn’t make me defensive or have a chip on my shoulder or reading too much into things which was the original comment here. That’s why I asked if the commentator was ok, because it’s an unusually harsh and stereotyping post for this forum and we’re in well stressful times.

    3. Nikki*

      This is such an odd comment! The LW didn’t sound at all spiteful to me. She decided she didn’t want a job after learning more and removed herself from consideration. I’d also argue that mentioning the HR rep makes a lot more sense than mentioning the technology. This company already knows its tech stack is outdated. They likely haven’t updated it yet because updating a tech stack takes years of work and millions of dollars and not all companies prioritize tech appropriately. Hearing from one job candidate that their tech is outdated isn’t suddenly going to convince them they need to update. The HR rep, on the other hand, is a much easier fix, assuming they want to fix it. If the rep’s comments are a representation of the company’s culture, this isn’t a company the LW would want to work at anyways.

      1. TechWorker*

        I agree, but also unless the HR rep is a complete idiot (possible ofc) I doubt they said ‘here at TechCompany we don’t believe women can thrive in technical roles’ or anything close to it. Probably more like ‘are you *suuuurre* this is the kind of role you want?’ and/or querying technical credentials in a way LW felt was gendered? Like I would 100% love to complain about that but it can be difficult to do so if it was more of an impression than any one standout statement.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Regardless of how it was phrased, LW can absolutely complain about this sexist impression. The company asked for feedback; here it is. “Your company, the HR rep in particular, conveyed a firm impression that women are not encouraged in technical roles. Also, I have concerns that the lack of up-to-date infrastructure impacts the ability of company to be completive in today’s marketplace.” etc.

          LW 3 can discuss one, all or none of these reasons. It’s a purely voluntary exchange.

          I don’t think the company is a completely bad one per se; LW 3 noted that she might consider working for them in the future, but there are obviously areas (technical staffing, infrastructure) that need fixing now. It might be they are hiring fresh to address these areas and were sincerely interested in what LW 3 could contribute to this department.

        2. meyer lemon*

          This seems like a pretty low-stakes opportunity to bring it up, though. The OP doesn’t want the job and the company asked for feedback; the consequences to the OP are going to be minimal regardless of whether the company actually does something about the feedback or not. She doesn’t have to make an iron-clad case for it to be worth mentioning.

    4. LQ*

      It sounded like a very…boringly technical checklist of reasons to me.

      Outdated tech and outdated thinking in HR (at least) are both really good and dull reasons to not work somewhere. (And mandatory fun is a guarantee to rile people up on this site.) I’d be mostly worried about the outdated nature of a company with 20 year old tech and 60+ year old ideas on women in the workplace and that’s a very reasonable thing to say.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I had two thoughts:
        If these folks have not figured out that these items are a problem, I sincerely doubt that OP is going to have much luck getting them to see the light.

        And I kept wondering why OP is concerned about burning a bridge. I am trying to take OP at their word that this place is something that they may want later on, but I have to wonder WHY. The place sounds like a trash can fire.

        I do know there is a price to pay for speaking the truth. And I do know there were times in my life where I walked away rather than say the truth. I did not feel I was in a strong enough position to speak up. Currently, my give-a-damn died a while ago and it’s probably not coming back. However, OP, you can always go with the “it’s not you, rather, it’s me” approach. “Oh thank you for all your time and concern. It was lovely meeting all of you. I learned so much and I am so appreciative. Unfortunately, looking at the bigger picture and factoring in some personal considerations, I have decided to go in a different direction. But again, I thank you so much for all your time and consideration.”
        If they ask for more detail, “Oh, it’s like I said, it’s personal stuff, it’s life factors that I realized I had to consider.”

        Bottom line, it’s none of their darn business why you withdrew. Just like it’s none of your business why they went with someone else if they had rejected your application.

        1. OP_Mandatory_Fun*

          They’re a big company and my industry isn’t huge. I didn’t want to burn a bridge in case it’s one bad manager or one bad HR person and another division somewhere else there might be great. You never know.

    5. Observer*

      I think if mentioning the allegedly sexist HR rep, keep in mind the possibility of coming off like you have a chip on your shoulder,

      “Allegedly”? If the HR person said that women are not likely to be interested and competent to do highly technical jobs, they said something sexist. That’s NOT “allegedly” sexist. It *IS* sexist.

      And bringing up something that is illegal and egregiously bad for a number of reasons is hardly having a “chip on your shoulder.” If a company looks at it that way, that’s a sign of a MAJOR problem with the company.

      Telling people that they might come off like they have a chip on their shoulder sounds like either concern trolling or a way to dissuade people from pushing back of totally sexist behavior.

  9. Half-Caf Latte*

    Maybe it’s just healthcare having warped my thinking, but I think it’s good they’re encouraging all work from home? Is this new since Covid and remote work became standard?

    I’m glad they’re paying those who can’t get in. my org has this weird (but common) culture where we’re all essential on snow days. My boss is basically like “well the nurses on the units have to go in.”

    Yep. They sure do. I’m not doing that job anymore because my family life doesn’t allow for it so I sought out a non-patient facing role, but let’s pretend I’m doing the same work as the ICU staff.

    1. SBH*

      YEP. I work in a senior living facility doing art programs for the residents (obviously all on-pause/on zoom during the pandemic) and my boss told me I couldn’t work from home through COVID because the nurses can’t and it wouldn’t be fair. “We’re essential!” No, we’re really not. Nurses are. I am not.

      Other fun reasons given – “Well if we let some people work from home, we’d have to actually go through all of our employees and figure out who else can work from home!” and “I don’t like being home with my husband, don’t you agree it’s nicer to be here surrounded by people?”

      1. DyneinWalking*

        God, insisting on NOT working from home during a pandemic in order to “be fair to the hard-working nurses” is about as helpful as insisting on lighting fireworks next to an out-of-control burning building in order to “celebrate the firemen for their hard work”.
        First rule of support: Refrain from doing anything that makes their life harder.

        I’m sure nurses are jealous of everyone who can work from home, but I also bet they wish that everyone who can, did, because that’s one simple and efficient way to cut down on unnecessary physical contacts between many households…

  10. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    OP #3 wrote:

    “this is a company it’s conceivable I’d like to work for at some point in the future”


    1. allathian*

      Very good question! Even if all departments aren’t equally toxic, they’ll still be served by the same HR, presumably…

      That said, if it’s a relatively small field and there’s a non-zero chance that the LW might run into employees from that company at, say, conferences, being spiteful in giving the company information won’t help the LW’s reputation in the field. I’d go with the tech issues myself, a company that’s 20 years out of date won’t modernize just because someone turned down a job with them and said that obsolete tech was the reason.

      1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

        How in the world is telling the truth “being spiteful”?

        I agree it’s not a good idea to give a great long list of all the red flags, because the longer the list, the less chance the organisation will take any notice, but the LW didn’t sound at all spiteful to me.

        1. allathian*

          No, it wouldn’t sound spiteful, my phrasing was off on this and I apologize.

          That said, I’m not sure what good it would do for the LW to say anything about the obvious sexism, either. I would probably feel differently about it if I’d been hired by the company and denied an opportunity to advance because management didn’t believe in my capacity to do the job because of my gender. Even then, in an exit interview I’d probably say something about leaving because I didn’t feel there were any opportunities for advancement for me at that company. Individual employees rarely have the ability to change a toxic company culture, they can only decide to leave or to decline an offer.

          It’s important for the LW to remain employable in her field. It’s up to her to decide if she’s willing to be potentially labeled as a troublemaker for saying that she declined an offer because she felt the culture of the organization was sexist. Some people would be willing to take that risk, but if the LW isn’t, then she doesn’t have to. Especially given that she can point out to obsolete tech as a perfectly valid reason for declining to take the job.

          1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

            Ah, I get where you’re coming from. (And I feel bad for having a go at your choice of phrase). Because yes, unfortunately, it’s always risky to tell an employer whom you might want to apply to again that their HR is sexist.

      2. Cj*

        If the OP had been rejected, I can see why they would sound spiteful. But they withdrew from consideration, so what spite is there to be felt? Other than if they referenced their consulting fees – that would be out of line not matter what.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I am chuckling.

        If OP can pick up all this info JUST on an interview, I can’t imagine what the employees have to say.
        I would fall over in shock if this information was NOT widely known about this particular company.

        My husband spent 8 years at Toxic Place. He was very sure that no one realized what that place was. Once he got out of there, he found out that everyone in the arena know what a jerk the owner was.

        That’s not to say that you need to confront this situation, OP. Play the cards the way you think is best. But do not be surprised if years from now people comment, “Oh bullet dodged, good for you!” because they already know what you have said here and they can add even more to the storyline.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I still get mileage from talking about working for Terrible Boss for three years, ending about twelve years back now. He was disbarred a few years after I left, but his reputation within the local legal community persists.

        2. OP_Mandatory_Fun*

          Right?!? I get that it’s an obligation to speak out against badness but my entire professional life experience screams that they already know and don’t care. How could they not?

          1. Observer*

            We’ve seen more than one story of an HR person being pretty terrible, even when the rest of the company – even the rest of HR is pretty decent. So, I’d want to think about that possibility if I were in your shoes.

            In other words, the HR person know who they are, but do their bosses know this?

            For one example, look for the recent letter about someone who kept on insisting in dead-naming a coworker in a different department. HR said the nothing could be done. Turns out that HR most definitely COULD do something about it. The particular HR rep who made the claim wound up fired.

            Links to follow.

            1. Observer*

              Original letter

              John complained to HR, but they said that because she is not explicitly harassing him for being trans, they can’t do anything.


              The head of HR agreed that this was outrageous and that HR should never have tolerated it. A week later, Lizzy got fired. Then the HR rep who had said this wasn’t explicitly transphobic got fired about about a week and a half later


            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              That was someone who was already employed, and they had to keep on hammering for quite some time before things were resolved.
              OP is simply withdrawing from a hiring process, she has no chance of hammering, only one strike.
              I’m surprised at Alison’s answer. I think mentioning the out-of-date tech is far more telling an answer: they can’t argue with it, and since OP was applying for a tech role, it stands to reason that she wants the tech setup to be up to scratch. Whereas making the point that HR had trouble believing she really wanted to work at that tech role, when her whole CV screams “I’m a techie” could alienate HR and thus sabotage any chances of working in another department of that firm.
              OTOH it could be that the department head wanted a woman to break the glass ceiling and that’s why they’re asking for more info, in that they’re genuinely upset not to be able to hire such a promising profile. That’s maybe a long stretch and the department head should have contacted her by phone for such a convo.

      4. OP_Mandatory_Fun*

        Yea, that’s the thing. Smallish industry not a ton of employers, even if the companies themselves are large. There will be conferences and seminars and events and maybe in 5 years I’d want to work for a totally different team there. I don’t want to be blackballed as the angry woman who was too good to work with their tech and was arrogant enough to think they care how I feel about their HR practices.

        1. Not a Ghost*

          I’ve been in a very similar place this week, and almost ignored my interviewer’s request out of fear of burning a bridge. Ultimately I sent a reply that alluded to my concerns without directly calling them out. It feels like the safest road.

    2. Ellie*

      Because you never know when you might need a job? Maybe they’re the biggest employer in the area.

      In which case, don’t risk burning any bridges. The outdated technology is something low-risk you could mention, because its nothing personal, easy to understand, and is something they can’t reasonably offer to change to get you to join. I wouldn’t mention the sexist HR manager, tempting though that would be, because in the IT field, it is too much of a risk that you’ll be branded as difficult to work with. I’m sure there are people there who know the culture, who would understand what the problem might be. I’ve called out our sexist (and racist) HR many times where I work to no avail. Its actually quite a good place to work provided you have as little to do with HR as possible.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Small field, largest employer in the area, future change in management, better run team in another department, not wanting to close off options — all sorts of reasons. The OP doesn’t need to defend that to us!

      1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

        “The OP doesn’t need to defend that to us!”

        I didn’t see my question as OP #3 having to justify her position. But her comment that she might “like” to work for that company in the future, despite all the red flags… well, it’s like someone complaining to a waiter that their hamburger tastes awful, and when the waiter apologizes and asks if there’s anything else wrong, they say “Yeah! How come it’s so small?”

        1. OP_Mandatory_Fun*

          Looking for a job in a pandemic makes ya a tad more open minded about what is and isn’t tolerable.

          To a point

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Understood – I’m somewhat punchy on this after a bunch of people yesterday insisted a LW should defend her decision about waiting to leave her husband.

      2. Mental Lentil*

        We work with two large companies, both with multiple buildings on multiple campuses. One is incredibly uniform from building to building; the other is so different from building to building that each one is almost like a separate company, so OP’s desire to work for them later makes complete sense to me.

        People need to remember that their experience is not a letter writer’s experience, and take them at their word.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      There’s a firm I worked for that is very outdated on tech, really sexist, has a huge culture of paperwork, mandatory ‘fun’….

      …and I’d credit them with a lot of my career. Because I learnt a lot about adapting and surviving there. Because I met some wonderful people who I’m still good friends with and managers who helped. Because it paid for a roof over my head. Because it still is the largest employer in my area Etc.

      If I was offered a job back there now? I’d probably raise the issue of the old tech I no longer have experience with, unless a miracle happened and they’ve actually upgraded to an OS that is still supported.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My org’s HR has been amazingly unpleasant almost every time I’ve had to deal with them, and at this point they’ve actually cost me several thousand dollars through their incompetence. However, I can also count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to deal with them directly (and I didn’t interact with them pretty much at all when I was hired, the first actual interaction of substance was probably three years in) and I love my team, my department, my management and my actual job.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, I’ve had a similar experience – but I haven’t had to deal with them for 4+ years, so they have a very limited effect on my day-to-day life.

      2. miss chevious*

        My org’s HR basically held me hostage* during my interview, but their impact on my day-to-day since then has been virtually nil. It was an orange flag, because it might signal larger organizational dysfunction, but there weren’t any others, and I’ve been very happy here since (5+ years).

        *I was put in a conference room with strict instructions not to leave. After the last interview, the HR contact was completely unavailable by phone or email for 3 additional hours. The building has very strict security and I was applying for a compliance-related role, so disregarding instructions and security procedures didn’t seem like a good idea. Eventually, I managed to catch one of my interviewers passing by, and they took pity on me and walked me out in time for me to use the bathroom and grab a cab to catch my flight. Turns out, the HR rep “forgot” about me and went home early. They no longer work there, which might not be directly related to this incident, but I hope is. :)

    6. MCMonkeybean*

      I agree–I think the biggest reason I would write off this company as a whole rather than just that department is the technology piece. If I’m reading correctly that they are finally updating their 20-year-old tech by moving to 15-year-old tech, that’s a huge deal-breaker. Stuff that old is probably not even really supported by the company that makes it anymore which is a huge PITA whenever you have problems. And that sort of decision is likely not limited to the department–I would assume that the managers of that department would also prefer more recent technology but have to get the cost approved. It sounds like this is the type of company that cuts out on basic costs in a way that results in so much extra work that the overall cost factoring in things like employee’s salary is higher.

  11. Dandy it is*

    1. I would recommend talking with your allergist about this. They might be able to give you advice or direct you to local resources that can help you navigate the work social aspects of having a severe food allergy.
    The closest experience I have had is being on a medical diet for several weeks and having to socialize for work. I found the more matter of fact I was about it, the less push back and more accommodating people were. This sometimes included me bringing my own food to events or specifically speaking with the chef. However, I always brought it up to the event coordinator prior so it wasn’t a surprise on the day of the event.
    Also, having the list of restaurants that you are okay eating that you can suggest as options is helpful.
    You got this.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Definitely agreed. I use a ‘matter of fact’ tone when talking about my allergy, same tone as discussing the weather.

      (Rare and severe allergy to decaff. There’s too many coffee shops that think it’s funny to give someone decaff, or get decaf in with the regular coffee. Really can’t risk it anymore unless it’s the one place I know takes decontamination very seriously)

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Agreed that having a list of ‘safe’ options at the ready is a great idea.

      OP, while you’re still adjusting it might be worth looking into vegetarian or vegan restaurants in your area, since they won’t have any seafood in the kitchen.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, especially vegan ones. I’m less sanguine about vegetarian, because many vegetarians, including my sister, still eat things like eggs (in baked goods) and cheese. Now that there are so many non-dairy creamers, my sister’s switched, but she’ll still put milk in her coffee rather than drink black coffee if there aren’t any vegan/vegetarian alternatives available.

        1. londonedit*

          Vegetarians do usually eat eggs and cheese. That’s the main difference between a vegetarian and a vegan diet – vegans eat no animal products whatsoever, whereas by and large vegetarians don’t eat meat/fish and products derived from them (such as gelatine) but they do still eat animal products like eggs and dairy. If someone needed to completely avoid the presence of eggs, for example, then they would need to avoid a vegetarian restaurant and stick to vegan ones – but for a seafood allergy either vegan or vegetarian restaurants would be fine.

        2. ceiswyn*

          Yes? Eggs and cheese (albeit preferably not made with animal rennet) are standard parts of a vegetarian diet.

          There’s a lot of individual variation in vegetarianism, but the general principle is that you don’t require animals to be killed. So generally no seafood (because killing animals) but there’s no reason to avoid eggs or dairy.

          The diet that avoids any animal products at all is veganism.

      2. Cj*

        Please do not make other people go a vegetarian restaurant. As a meat and potato person, I would starve.

          1. Joielle*

            Yeah – in my experience, vegetarian restaurants always have something on the menu for when you bring someone there who doesn’t really want to be there (speaking from personal experience, I was vegetarian for 8 years during/after college and my meat-loving dad ordered that meal at many restaurants, many times). Like, it’s not 100% tofu and lentils, you can get an omelette or something. You’re not going to starve because you had to eat an egg once.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Is it okay then for the vegetarians to starve? And no, a small side salad is not a meal for a lot of people.

          Food restrictions go both ways. It is entirely possible to compromise on this, though to be expected also that not everyone can go to every single meal out.

          (Also, a potato is a vegetable albeit starchy, so I’m a little confused there as well. There’s plenty of vegetarian dishes that are comprised of mostly potato.)

        2. Jennifer Strange*

          I love meat (especially seafood!), but if someone requested to eat at a vegetarian restaurant to avoid dying (or even just because they prefer it), I would be 100% okay with that. Even if there is absolutely nothing on the menu that interests me, I’m not going to starve by eating a smaller meal one time.

          1. Partly Cloudy*

            Exactly. There’s a massive difference between an allergy or intolerance that would make someone extremely sick and a preference.

        3. Fish Free Laura*

          Interesting perspective. Keep in mind, I will – quite literally – die if I am exposed to my allergens. Someone above said the silver lining of this is that it becomes a built-in asshole detector. I definitely agree.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I *really* like the idea of my allergy being a built in AH detector.

            Certainly the people who consider a life threatening allergy to be comparible to just not liking specific foods are pinging mine.

          2. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Found you one :) A sell weekend where they refuse to help you eat safely because the poor meat-and-potato-preference people wouldn’t get their steak would sure tell you a lot about their culture…

        4. Lady Meyneth*

          This really sounds like you just don’t know what you’re talking about. Have you ever gone to a vegetarian restaurant? I’m a very anti-vegetables person, and not only are there options for me in vegetarian places, some of them can be delicious*. I still remember the amazing cheese soufle I had 2 years ago when eating with a vegetarian friend.

          I agree that a vegan restaurant would be too much, and I absolutely would starve in one. Vegetarian seems like a middle ground and can be a great alternative for both crowds.

          *I suggest staying away from the “meat substitutes”. Those seem to taste consistently nasty to meat eaters, and may have contributed to your perception overall.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. I can’t stand meat substitutes. They don’t taste right to me in that they taste slightly like the meat version but without the proper flavour.

            On the other hand if it’s a dedicated vegetarian place they can do some really interesting things. I know one vegetarian place that does the most incredible macaroni cheese and an Indian place that has some amazing vegetarian dishes.

          2. Name (Required)*

            I know people who have egg/milk/seafood allergies. Vegan is their only option. You can’t stomach one meal to ensure they don’t, quite literally, die? If you find it annoying, imagine what it is like to have to live like that constantly…

            1. Lady Meyneth*

              I’ve never seen any vegetarian restaurant that didn’t have at least a few vegan options, which is why I consider them middle ground. I honestly can’t think of any dish I would eat that had neither meat nor some king of cheesy sauce. Maybe it’s annoying, but no, I don’t think I could stomach one meal like that. I’d probably opt out of that meal entirely if possible, or not eat anything at all if I had to go to a vegan restaurant.

          3. EventPlannerGal*

            I think that some people look at the single sad mushroom risotto that’s the only veggie dish on the menu in meat-heavy restaurants and think that that’s what all vegetarian cuisine is like. No, that’s what veggie food reluctantly provided as an afterthought by people who aren’t very interested in it is like. Veggie food devised and cooked by people who know what they’re doing is frequently fantastic and inventive. I’m not even vegetarian but I usually end up getting veggie dishes at some of my favourite restaurants just because they have a great selection and are often much more interesting than the standard meat options. Personally there’s really only so long I can stay interested in different ways to do a steak, you know?

          4. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I realize that the whole “I’ll starve” thing is likely a joke, considering that eating a garden salad with a vinaigrette dressing for a single lunch when you’re used to large helpings of meat and dairy-laden food is not actually going to cause you to die from hunger, but it’s bizarre to me that it’s a joke being made when the OP could *quite literally die* from exposure to her allergen. And I adore meat and dairy-laden food, but I also adore not making someone take their life in their hands entering a restaurant, so {shrug}.

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              Yeah, those comments are pretty ridiculous. I am a stupidly picky eater and I don’t like most vegetables but I can find at least one thing to eat on pretty much any menu. Eat your meat for dinner and get your lunch at a restaurant that won’t kill your coworker.

            2. Lady Meyneth*

              It’s a joke, because I can definitely skip a lunch without starving :-)

              But. Like I said, I don’t eat vegetables at all except in some very specific ways I have to cook at home. Yes, it’s preference and it wouldn’t kill me to eat it, but a garden salad would not be an option for me, and I would sit without eating in a vegan restaurant if I was forced to go to one. Vegetarian restaurants usually have plenty of vegan options, and are good about cross contamination, at least where I live.

              But if someone with a dairy/egg allergy was afraid to go to one, honestly I would avoid eating with them. Maybe that makes me the bad guy, and I’m sorry they have it so hard, but me seating without eating in a vegan place isn’t any better than them seating without eating somewhere else; if we coulnd’t find a place we both could eat, I’m fine opting out of the event entirely.

              1. Fish Free Laura*

                Well, I hope you never manage or attempt to hire someone with life threatening allergies, and I hope I don’t come across someone like you while interviewing. I know I would not feel comfortable working for someone who wasn’t willing to make an accommodation to keep me alive. Also, this gets into very tricky territory as life threatening allergies are disabilities protected by the ADA. You have the option to sit and not eat, I do not, because the steam from seafood cooking could cause anaphylaxis.

                1. Lady Meyneth*

                  I don’t see it as not making an accommodation, just as making one that works for both sides. Vegan doesn’t work for me, but pretty much any other option does, and I’m struggling to see why someone might have only one type of restaurant they’d go to. For example, for you who can’t eat fish, a vegetarian restaurant would pose no problem. Vegans get a lot of options at vegerarian places too, so that’s a non-issue. For someone who is allergic to eggs, we could do something else, maybe a sushi place. And on and on.

                  If someone absolutely only eats at vegan restaurants, then yep that’s a no go for me. We’d be meeting over coffee instead, or in a plain ole conference room.

    3. Fish Free Laura*

      Thank you! Since I had such a severe reaction, I’ve worked closely with a Board Certified Allergist and a therapist who specializes in disordered/restricted eating.

      I will definitely preemptively come up with lists of safe restaurants! That is a great tip! Thanks for the support!

    4. AskJeeves*

      I keep kosher and this is right on. Be matter of fact, be brief, and clearly state what you need. Alison’s advice to kindly ask that people *not* accommodate you if you don’t want that is excellent. People are generally nice and want to help out! But if it’s too complicated or you just don’t feel comfortable relying on assurances that the food won’t be cross-contaminated with seafood, it’s way easier if you head that off at the pass. The worst is when people go out of their way to try and accommodate you, but it still doesn’t work, and you have decline what they’ve arranged special for you (especially in a networking or interviewing context, where the host may take it personally). I’ve been in the professional world for fifteen years now, and it can be challenging when these things come up, but it is manageable.

  12. Allonge*

    Hi LW1 – allergies, even non-life threatening ones, can be really scary for the first couple of months after they are discovered. Especially as an adult, when you never had to think of what you eat as potentially so dangerous before. So, I fully emphasize, this is tough. I consider myself really lucky that I was diagnosoed at 11, when I was old enough to understand what I should not eat, but young enough not to have a whole lifestyle to change. It really is difficult as an adult.

    But like Alison says, it’s also really really common! I bet you know a lot of people who have food allergies and are handling it without you knowing about it. Unless you were training to be a seafood chef, this is very unlikely to have any impact on your career. Follow Alison’s scripts, be very clear on what you need, do your own homework about possible locations and food sources. People will take their clues from you. I have a colleague with multiple severe allergies who manages this very well, she has 100 times more of a social life than I do.

    1. UKDancer*

      As someone who has done a lot of booking hospitality, arranging events etc I can confirm that a lot of people have allergies or special dietary needs and most of the time caterers will accommodate these.

      In my last job our director (senior and very serious chap) had a severe nut allergy. This did not impede his career progression. He was just extremely careful. When we had the Macmillan coffee morning (which is something people bring cakes in for) he always brought in fruit so he had something as did others with allergies. We made absolutely sure his food was served separately and not contaminated.

      When I’ve travelled on business we’ve always checked what peoples’ needs are. By and large if you’re the one with the need it’s good to identify proactively somewhere you can safely eat and suggest it to the others. For example when I traveled with a Muslim member of my team to the Hague he asked if we could eat in a Halal restaurant. I told him if he could find one near the hotel I’d be happy eating there. He whatsapped me 2 Indonesian restaurant options and I picked one. The food was excellent.

      In my experience if you suggest somewhere that suits your needs, most people are happy to avoid having to do the legwork of finding the restaurant in a strange town. I’d stick to somewhere that’s broadly normal for your area. By this I mean most people that I’ve travelled with from the UK are happy to eat in a French, Italian or Burger place. A lot fewer will try somewhere more esoteric (as I found out when I suggested an amazing Georgian restaurant and got no takers).

      I can say online menus are great for this sort of thing as a lot of them label the allergens.

    2. cleo*

      Agreed. Food allergies and celiac disease run in my family – I’ve gone through and watched other go through this. I think the first 3 – 6 months are the hardest, especially for adults. You have to relearn / question everything and it takes awhile to figure out what all of your basics are. Not just restocking your pantry, but figuring out how to socialize safely, etc.

      Alison’s scripts are right on. If you treat it matter-of-factly, people will follow your lead. Especially if you make it easy for them and suggest something that works for you.

  13. LDN Layabout*

    Regarding #2, I would consider this fair even during non-pandemic conditions. Sure, wfh you may miss out on snow days, but if you live in a snowy climate you also miss out on those days which are not snow days but you set off on your commute earlier than usual because you know the roads will be a mess. I’d guess that in the end, those wfh still end up on top of that equation.

    During a pandemic? It doesn’t come off well to complain that the people who have to continue risking their personal safety and the safety of everyone they live with are getting something those working from home are not.

    Losing power or internet is a completely different subject and should be something the office has discussed anyway in terms of protocol/process because it can happen at any time, not just during a snow day.

  14. Paul Pearson*

    ” I was told they have a very formal mandatory fun plan.”

    A “mandatory fun plan” sounds like a euphemism for being sent to a Siberian gulag or North Korean prison camp. YOU WILL HAVE FUN! YOU ARE NOT HAVING ENOUGH FUN! BOREDOM IS BANNED! GLEE IS MANDATORY! THERE WILL BE MORE GLEE! THE BEATINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES!

    1. Elizabeth*

      Right? Who are these jello for brains companies?!?!? And do they get that THERE IS A PANDEMIC and that all this socializing only makes our anxiety worse?

    2. Quickbeam*

      As someone who case manages catastrophic work related injuries, I can tell you that mandatory fun plans have a true dark side. We insured a business where the boss mandated events and participation. One year he required all employees to participate in an ice skating function. An elderly gentleman in accounting who was afraid of losing his job put the skates on and promptly had a compound fracture in his ankle. A million dollars of care later (and an extreme hike in their worker’s compesnsaion rates), the manadatoy fun policy was dropped.

      The owner of the business was shocked to find out that if you require an activity, you are on the hook for the injuries.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        omg. I feel so bad for that older gentleman. I hope he got more than his medical bills paid from all that.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Ice skating seems peculiarly unsuitable as a mandatory activity. It is far from a universal skill. Bad at bowling? Take your gutter balls and grin and bear it. Don’t ice skate? How exactly did Boss think this would play out? Even apart from the potential for fractures, how many times does an employee have to land on their butt before they have had the minimum allowable fun?

    3. OP_Mandatory_Fun*

      That phraseology is what made me think, damn, I got write into AAM about this. The audacity to say it like that.

  15. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

    LW 1 – if you absolutely had to go to a restaurant (which I think is unlikely to happen often) you could always see if there were any vegan restaurants available. At least in my city, there are a number of them and they are growing, so that might be a good shortcut as you know there will not be any fish products involved!

    1. LGC*

      To be fair she’s going into finance, so depending on what she’s doing she might have to regularly deal with this (post-plague).

      1. Elizabeth*

        As I understand the letter a company she’s interviewing with is making her travel to some strange city to spend a weekend socializing to make sure she us the right “fit.” Talk about mandatory fun! What a way to weed out women, introverts, people who hate to travel, parents with young kids, people who have pets etc. Why is it always you genius MBA types who come up with these hare-brained ideas?!?! Why are going to accommodate your food allergy when they obviously won’t accommodate anything else?

        Aaaaargh, I would just rather stay at home with my cat and a good book. I don’t know why she even wanted to work there but I guess that’s why I’ll never be a CEO!!!

        1. allathian*

          Oh, I don’t know why a mandatory fun weekend would automatically weed out the women, even young ones. I do agree with the rest of your statement. If mandatory fun is so important, do it during the week.

          I wouldn’t even attend trainings during a weekend. I guess I’m lucky in that I’m not expected to do it, either… But finance is an intense, and to me, an utterly insane field. Many traders burn out by 40, and at least one intern in the banking sector has died on the job after weeks of 20-hour days.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            If it’s a residential trip, there’s the added safety risk of not wanting to be around a lot of strange men while being a woman overnight.

            1. Colette*

              And the fact that women, in general, have a lot more responsibilities outside of work (childcare, elder care, household responsibilities). Women, on average, do more of that work than men.

            2. Alyssa*

              There are a lot of reasons that people of all genders would find travel and time away from home difficult, but I’d like to respectfully push back against the perception that overnight travel and interaction with strangers are categorically dangerous/inconvenient for women (as a woman who has done a great deal of solo travel for work, both domestic and international).

              1. UKDancer*

                Definitely. In lockdown the part of my job I miss the most is the travel. I really enjoyed going away, going to conferences and international meetings and meeting people in different parts of the company and with our suppliers. I never felt being a woman made it any more dangerous than it would have been for a man. I took sensible precautions (staying in good quality hotels in a room with a locking door, not wearing valuables and avoiding dark alleys) but I never felt at risk or worried about my safety.

                I’d hate to feel that as a woman I was considered less suitable for travel related jobs.

              2. Keymaster of Gozer*

                I’m referring to specifically a ‘social’ getaway where there are fewer rules. Business trips are different scenarios.

                1. H2*

                  First of all, a social business trip is still a business trip.

                  But most importantly, I want to still push back against this, respectfully. I think that you’re making such a huge effort to be sensitive to the problem that it’s gone to a place that is kind of patronizing to women (I can totally travel alone safely, even if it’s just for pleasure! With no extra rules!) and kind of insulting to men (I don’t think that the vast majority of men need company rules to not assault women). I totally see that you are coming at this with the best possible intentions, and I totally agree that there are reasons why the kinds of “weekend interview” situations are harder for women (I bear proportionally more of the burden of childcare/pet care/day to day stuff than my husband does, etc). However, I don’t think that safety is one of those issues, at least in most places (and if I were interviewing for a job in a place I wouldn’t feel safe alone…I would want to know that).

        2. LQ*

          I get what you’re saying, but I think that just saying it’s a bad idea to require this isn’t actually helpful to the OP who is not in charge of the field, isn’t someone who is going to be able to change everything and stop the things that you don’t like about it immediately.

          Just telling the OP to not bother trying to come up with a way to manage this is weeding the OP out. There are options and solutions that can help the OP. Testing to see what they are actually allergic too (especially if they are mourning the loss) is a good one.

          I’d suggest that conversely the OP could potentially shift around this and lean into being the person who knows where to recommend going to eat. It may be harder for the sell weekend thing, but in a lot of cases, if you suggest some place, or ideally, multiple places, it will go over really well. It would definately be a lot of work to do, but if you’re looking to continue these social food traditions it can be really good to have the skill of researching restaurants and having a set of acceptable and good ones that you’ll be able to recommend.

          1. Fish Free Laura*

            Thank you! I enjoy my field (corporate finance), and don’t mind the idea of a sell weekend – as it does help me get to know a company and if I would be happy working there. I see the accessibility issues, however those who are getting an MBA know that this is standard protocol and are generally prepared. I love the notion of being the person who recommends where to eat, as I am a major foodie anyway!

        3. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Some of us enjoy the socializing aspect of our jobs. It doesn’t make us crazy or weird, and it also doesn’t mean that we’re “rah rah people!” all the time either. OP needs advice on how to handle this issue that will probably come up for her quite a bit– she doesn’t need the incredulity or the disparaging of her chosen field.

          The “OMG, why do they even ask you to leave your house?!?!” gets so tiresome. Some jobs are like that. Some aren’t. People are different.

          1. Emily*

            Thank you for this! I completely agree, and I am also working in finance and utterly sick of the stereotypes constantly heard on threads like this. Yes, it can be tricky being a woman and a trader. But I love my job, have amazing colleagues that I hang out with very frequently, and a company that treats us well (one of the big international investment banks, incidentally). And yes, the hours can be intense, but it’s a trade-off we were all aware of before we accepted our jobs. The job has also allowed me to buy a flat and will hopefully mean I can retire early. So there we are – people are different and choose their jobs accordingly.

            OP – you sound considerate and as other people have said, definitely become the organiser/restaurant expert. My colleagues would definitely turn their noses up when it comes to vegan restaurants (at least if frequent), but perhaps there are places around that only do steak that you can mix in with vegetarian options? Here in London UK there are a ton of places that are heavily specialised (e.g. Relais de Venise – only one thing on the menu) that will make it easier to exclude shellfish but still vary the cuisine a bit. Of course still worth checking that no shellfish is handled there. But at least in my experience, the social side of eating out has been really important for my career progression.

        4. Insert Clever Name Here*

          But this question wasn’t about “I can’t/don’t want to go on a sell weekend because of childcare responsibilities/because I’m a introvert/because I hate travel.” This question was “HOW do I handle this due to food allergies.” Alison has addressed how to handle some of these situations in other letters.

          It’s ok you don’t want to work there; no one is trying to convince you to do it.

        5. Jennifer Strange*

          This feels like a very extreme reaction to someone else possibly being asked to socialize for a job opportunity.

  16. LifeBeforeCorona*

    Treating people fairly doesn’t mean everyone gets treated exactly the same.
    This should be a poster in every office.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I get a large, free parking space right outside any of our offices. Is it fair to the other staff who have to park in a paid car park up the road?

      Is it fair to me though that they can walk 400 metres and I can’t?

      Analogies often help to explain to others why something can appear totally unfair at first glance but actually be equal.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        My favorite analogy is the illustration of children of varying heights trying to see over a fence to watch a baseball game. In one panel, each child gets the exact same box. Some can see over the fence while standing on a box, but others can’t. In the next panel, each child gets a box that is the right height to allow them to see over the fence.

        1. Formerly Ella Vader*

          I always get distracted by thinking about whether it’s fair for the kids to be kept outside the fence because they aren’t paying money for the tickets. Is it a problem that they’re stealing revenue from the baseball business? Or is baseball a human right and there should be no fence?

          I wish there was a similarly-simple graphic illustration that didn’t distract me (and other big-picture socialists)

          1. Adultiest Adult*

            There is also an image involving bicycles that I like, if the box metaphor doesn’t work for you: a person who needs an adaptive bike, tall and short people who need appropriately sized bikes, and I think maybe a child who needs training wheels? I’m sure you can search for it.

    2. Governmint Condition*

      Somebody should explain this to my union. Government employee unions too often demand identical treatment for non-identical employees.

  17. Greige*

    Welcome to the club, OP1! First, it’s worth finding out whether you are allergic to shellfish (crustacean/mollusk/both) and/or fish. You could have any combination, but they’re not the same, and believe me, you only want to restrict your diet and rquest accommodations for what you’re actually allergic to. Mollusks are not one of the big 8, so it doesn’t have to be labelled in food, so canned fish could be dangerous even if you’re not allergic to fish.

    Second, you should know that steam from cooked products can also trigger reactions. So you’re smart to avoid restaurants with anything you’re allergic to on the menu, and you might have to request that colleagues don’t bring your allergen into shared spaces. Start training yourself to self-advocate calmly and firmly, because that is a necessary skill for protecting your life and career.

    Third, it’s really helpful to keep a list of restaurants that are safe, and periodically review their menus. That way, you’re not scrambling when someone wants to schedule something. Be aware that even restaurants that normally don’t serve your allergen might have specials, especially on Fridays. (Fish Friday is especially popular in communities with a large Catholic population.) So if it’s the kind of place with specials, call ahead to check.

    1. UKDancer*

      Definitely, it’s worth knowing which is it is. I have some degree of intolerance / negative reaction to shellfish mainly of the digestive upset type when I eat it. I have no problem with white fish of the cod / haddock type. I don’t have a problem in places where fish is served if I’m not eating it.

      Knowing which places serve food you can eat and are safe is wonderful. People are a lot more willing in my experience to go with you if you say “I can’t eat in X but can in Y” rather than saying “I can’t eat in X we need to find somewhere else.” If you do the work and planning for them, most people in my experience will be happy to adjust their plans to ensure you’re safe. The easier you make it for them, the more they will be happy to do it. Most of the chain restaurants and a lot of the independents have their menus on their website so you can check with them what allergens are in what.

    2. SweetestCin*

      (Adding to the list with what I’ve learned over the years having a shellfish allergy)
      Fourth – shared fryers are a thing, so you’re likely being the correct level of safe if you’re avoiding a place that has it on the menu. I don’t do fried food if any seafood is on the menu either. (We avoid seafood based restaurants for the most part)

      Fifth – its been helpful to me to learn what “types” of food will contain your allergen: example “Oscar” as a descriptive to a steak. That’s steak topped with seafood!

      Sixth – I’m hazarding a guess that finance might at some point mean some level of international travel? If you’re traveling abroad, and its “not your primary language” in that location, make sure you get a grasp on what the important words are in that language: your allergen, the fact that you have an allergy and cannot eat such-and-such. (“Soy alergico a los mariscos, podria matarme” is what I made sure my parents knew when they vacationed in a Spanish speaking country – “I’m allergic to shellfish, it could kill me.”)

      Seventh: when you DO run into the charming person who doesn’t believe in allergies and thinks you’re too picky, I do hope you’re in a position where you can cock an eyebrow and express disbelief aloud that “wait, the safety officer doesn’t grasp that certain food could actually kill me?”.

      For the most part, I’ve not had issues, and the issues that have come up were fairly easy to navigate. I once had a boss who (honestly) loved to surprise staff with what restaurant we were going to for XYZ event. It took a couple of my declines for him to realize “you cannot surprise me. I’m sorry, but its a medical situation and its life threatening; I either need to know where we’re going or I can’t go.” and it was not an issue from that point forward.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Piggy backing on your fourth – assume the fryer is shared, even if the restaurant has a “no shared fryers” policy. I learned from a coworker with a seafood allergy that one local chain restaurant had this policy, but around half the restaurants didn’t actually follow it and cooked fish and french fries in the same oil.

        1. SweetestCin*

          Absolutely. Accidents and outright “oh this won’t hurt” happen. Frequently. Except that, well, it CAN hurt in this case.

          I mean, I know that the number of times where I’ve mixed up a utensil (half the house is allergic to milk, half is not) with a milk-containing substance/not containing substance and had to deep-six the contaminated food is greater than zero. That’s in my house, with me as one of the half of the house allergic to all forms of milk.

        2. kittymommy*

          Surprisingly the places I have the most issues with sharing fryers are “nicer” restaurants (as opposed to fast food). I go to say Bonefish or something I can’t eat any of their chicken that’s fried due to cross contamination, but go to Popeye’s? Not a problem. I think it’s due to sheer volume of use.

      2. Swingbattabatta*

        Oh totally agree on the shared fryers – I don’t eat fries or chicken tenders or anything fried at a place that also serves fried fish. Good reminder!

    3. katertot*

      Yes to the Third part! I have a mentor that has severe adult onset allergies and she has a list of restaurants in the area that she knew she could trust that she would suggest and had ready- I’m sure she wasn’t able to develop that list overnight but I know it has helped her in feeling more comfortable for mealtime meetings/networking opportunities.

    4. kittymommy*

      And FWIW, LW, I have found every restaurant I have gone to (and I ate out a lot pre-pandemic) were very accommodation to my allergies (shellfish and avocado – anaphylactic shock with both)). Chefs, wait staff, management all did everything they could humanly do to avoid cross-contamination.

    5. Fish Free Laura*

      Yes, I have worked extensively with a Board Certified Allergist and am allergic to all seafood. Fish and Shellfish, all varieties (or at least all the ones that are available to test for). Fortunately, I eat mostly vegetarian anyway, and never liked seafood much! Thank you for the tips! Working on self-advocating is something I need to do once the world reopens.

      1. MaryB*

        I just wanted to chime in as someone with a deadly allergy who works in a similar high-pressure relationship-based field (corporate law). There have definitely been awkward moments, and its annoying that I have to spend time at dinner meetings having a chat about my allergies with clients’ C-suite execs….every time. But it hasn’t held back my career at all. If you just speak up confidently and have a plan in place for the accommodations you need (having interviews over coffee, suggesting safe restaurants as alternatives), I think you’ll find that you will be annoyed by always having to explain but will be able to be just as successful as someone who can eat at any restaurant.

        For the sell weekends – when I was a summer associate (basically a months-long job interview with endless free meals out at restaurants), my allergy wasn’t quite as bad at the time so I had some flexibility, but there was another summer associate who brought all of her own meals all summer due to allergies, and no one had an issue with it whatsoever.

        Good luck in your career!

  18. Never Nicky*

    Even before corona, I worked remotely. I live in part of the UK that doesn’t really get snow. My colleagues work (in normal times) out of an office in part of the world that can, and we have had to close the office.

    They’ve had snow days, and I’ve carried on working as usual. A snow day used to mean peace and quiet for me, with far fewer emails, so I’d be massively productive. Whereas for my colleagues, they’d be dealing with the weather, with children off school, with clearing driveways, with ice and slush when the roads were cleared AND with a backlog of tasks, because our work doesn’t stop for snow.

    Why on earth would I begrudge my colleagues a snow day?

  19. CoveredInBees*

    OP1, as Allison said, you’ll be able to figure it out. Having your own list of safe restaurants for you to recommend can ease your own anxiety about this. I’ve found that people are generally happy to help, especially if you’ve done the research for them.

    Also, I know many people who equate seafood with shellfish (a common allergen on its own), so it can be helpful to be explicit that you are including fish (even freshwater fish) in what you can’t have. A colleague made “sugar free energy balls” for me when I had gestational diabetes, the thought was sweet but the balls were even sweeter having been made of chopped dates, maple syrup, and nuts. Two things packed with sugar but she was just thinking of the granulated kind. For me, it wasn’t a big deal like it would be for you.

    1. Fish Free Laura*

      Thanks for the tip! I typically (well as much as I can since the world shut down) specify “Fish & Shellfish – if it comes from the sea, it will kill me”. I suppose I need to work on the delivery – waitstaff find it amusing, I doubt my colleagues will!

      1. H2*

        Oh, I don’t know. I think you could say that! I think that sometimes discussing food allergies can land with a bit of a thud (because people don’t know exactly what to say), so being matter of fact and cheerful about it is good. I’ve had to learn over the years to stop being apologetic (my son has a severe peanut allergy and at first I would totally be at a party apologizing that I brought him a special cupcake, or whatever). You’re not inconveniencing anyone! I also think that being up front with the severity of the allergy is helpful, as well, because it helps people to know how to proceed. Your colleagues will know someone with a severe allergy (more than likely) and won’t be surprised or put out.

  20. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I look upon it like days off due to chronic illness. I dare say several coworkers have thought I’m sitting at home, watching tv, having a nice relaxing day and it’s not fair that they don’t get to do that. Why can’t they have the same amount of time off?

    In reality I have spent a whole day trying desperately to even get basic tasks achieved and stared at the wall a lot. It’s not a holiday. I imagine being snowed in is no picnic either.

    1. Cj*

      Actually, I like being snowed in (as long as I don’t lose power), whether I’m working from home or not. Of course, I’m not the one who shovels the walk and plows our quarter mile long driveway!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Can honestly say I don’t. To me, snow means I literally cannot leave the house.

        Good practice for lockdown though I guess!

  21. Anon-mama*

    OP2, this is very generous. I wish my municipal employer did this in pre-Covid times. I work for a department that until 2020 was thought it was only possible to have in-person, on-site work. For big snow storms, our public building was considered essential (but only if there were enough people to staff it). If you couldn’t make it in (or didn’t think you should even try), you had to take a vacation day (but city hall could work from home). In our area, that meant holding back a few days of leave every year just to be able to be paid for a day when it snowed. I’m so very glad that the pandemic changed their thinking and we can now work remotely and we can save our PTO for other things–like dealing with covid infection or quarantines.

  22. Ubi Caritas*

    #1, there’s nothing quite like going into anaphylactic shock in front of your co-workers, so you need to do whatever possible to keep yourself safe. It IS tough, because food is so important in most cultures, but Alison rightly points out you’d have restrictions if you were vegan or kept kosher, etc. In my experience, you can’t trust restaurants to know what’s in every ingredient they use. I love Alison’s advice and would only add if your manner is generally warm and friendly, people will soon forget you aren’t eating.

    1. Fish Free Laura*

      Yes, I’ve found this is the hard part. If a vegan accidentally has something with animal products, they aren’t going to the ER. Trying to get people to understand the gravity of the situation while still being matter of fact or nonchalant is difficult. Also, everyone and their mother needing to tell me what the know about allergies. I really am not interested in hearing Jane’s opinion on how I can “heal my gut” and cure my allergies. But politely shutting these conversations down can be tricky!

  23. Anonymous Pygmy Possum*

    OP3 – if it weren’t for the “mandatory fun” thing or the “women wouldn’t be interested in a technical role” thing (though maybe I’m wrong) I would think you were interviewing for my company! I like my job, despite the wide variety of issues that the zero cross-training and severely outdated tech stack causes, but I absolutely wouldn’t wish them on anyone. If my company treated me any worse I’d definitely be trying to leave sooner, but they treat me really well and I’m not planning on staying in jobs like this long-term anyway.

    Best of luck in your search, though!

    1. OP_Mandatory_Fun*

      I actually just started a new job that I accepted after declining to keep in the running for the one I wrote in about. Its only week one but people are nice and no one has bat an eyelash re: woman doing a highly technical role so, success! I hope you find a good next job as well!

  24. Noncompliance Officer*

    LW3: On snow days and fairness: In the pre-pandemic world, my partner’s company had instituted a snow day policy out of “fairness.” The company is large and includes several 24hr crisis centers. The crisis center employees have to report to work, no matter what. Because the crisis center employees have to report to work during inclement weather, the company decided that all employees, even non-essential, office employees who have nothing to do with the crisis centers, have to report to work during inclement weather.

    Sometimes “fairness” really isn’t fair.

  25. agnes*

    #1 My son has a seafood allergy as well (shellfish) and we’ve been in the ER one too many times with it. He carries a card with this information on it, and an epi pen, and has gotten very matter of fact about sharing it. “I have a life threatening allergy to shellfish–would love to have lunch with you in any place that doesn’t serve any because even a small exposure will ruin both our days!”

    Also if you have a shellfish allergy it also affects some medical procedures that use iodine– such as CT scans, etc. So it’s important to know. Good luck!

  26. Greige*

    Seconding all of those!

    For your Seventh: the goal of related interactions with such people is not to convince them, but to get their compliance. Some people make surprising choices when their personal convenience is at odds with someone else’s safety, and they’ll tell themselves whatever they need to if it resolves the cognitive dissonance. You can’t fix willful ignorance, and it’s not your job as an allergy sufferer to try. Find an high-level advocate to shut them down, or cite laws or whatever you need to do.

    That said, I have to remind myself not to assume someone is in this category unless it’s clear they are. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and sometimes we have to ask people to be vigilant about things they’ve never had to think about before. Realistically, that’s an adjustment.

  27. Lacey*

    OP #2: I work from home and I’m totally fine knowing that in-office employees get snow days and I don’t. It is so glorious to not have to drive in the snow, to not need to get dressed up for work, to fix lunch in my own kitchen… I don’t feel bad about not getting the occasional snow day.

    Another consideration is that because I’m at home, our slow times are way more refreshing for me than they are for an in office employee, so I’m really not suffering for lack of snow days.

  28. LQ*

    I’m in awe that the pandemic still hasn’t taught people that “fair” is an absurd notion in work and in life. If it was “fair” all the actually essential employees who have had to do a brutal amount of work over the last year would have gotten months of “oh it’s ok COVID is stressful and it’s fine if you slack and you should totally take a week off don’t worry about it” “grace” that is constantly being granted to nonessential employees. Nonessential employees aren’t exactly stepping up to take the burden off of people who’ve been working for months straight.

    Fair is a very deeply privileged notion and rarely used as “it’s not fair that I have this advantage that other people don’t” but nearly always in, “I want that thing that other people have.” If actual “fairness” mattered you’d sometimes see it the other way around.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      “Fair is a very deeply privileged notion”

      I have never heard it phrased like this, but it hits the nail squarely on the head. It also explains why the people I see complaining about fairness are mostly the same ones who have the most privilege.

  29. Anon for this one*

    And people who can work from home get perks that the office-only people don’t — in normal times, things like not having to take the day off when they have a repair person coming or a kid is home sick

    I wish. We *can* work from home, and effectively (as we learned during Covid), but we’re not able to choose to work from home for our own convenience.

  30. Name (Required)*

    #1, as someone with several food allergies my entire life, I can offer sympathy to your concern.

    People do often want to fix the issue and include you, so be prepared to either have a list of places you know you can eat, or be ready to stand your ground if you decide to join a business meal but not eat (which…comes up a lot). Because if you decide to do that, someone will usually encourage you to try something, so be ready to be firm about it. (My allergen isn’t airborne enough to keep me out of as many restaurants, so I often join for the conversation without eating).

    It is helpful to learn some snacks that sit well in your stomach to help you nurse a drink if you join for a business meal but don’t eat. Because the drinks are always still offered.

    The hard part is when you end up on international travel. Some cultures really put the emphasis on the big meal to treat travelers. That can be hard to explain gracefully that you will join a meal, but not eat (especially when they host you). Hopefully you have a translator if you get to that situation, especially one you are comfortable with.

    I’ve learned that in some countries the local cuisine doesn’t use my food allergen (traditionally) and that with a translator that confirms this, I can enjoy the meal.

    In other countries, there is not a chance I would ever risk it because they use so much of certain ingredients without thinking that they’d kill me without realizing it.

    It can be very tough. But there are enough of us out there that chances are you’ll share a meal with one of us at some point and we’ll be able to commiserate over it.

    It’ll be a learning curve for sure, but many of us function successfully in the same situation, and it hasn’t slowed our careers.

  31. agnes*

    #4 I see a lot of letters here and in other columns (and people in my office) from younger professionals asking a similar question, so I’d like to offer some insight.

    One mistake that I see a lot of young professionals making is assuming that your boss is your personal career mentor. Sometimes that can be true–more often it is not. My suggestion is to find a mentor either outside your company altogether, or at least outside of your reporting structure within your organization. It’s great that you are thinking about your longer term interests, however, sharing a vague “not sure this is where I want to be” will likely negatively impact your current job and is unlikely to get you any of the help you are seeking.

    Good luck. Your schools alumni association or career development services might be able to assist you in finding a mentor.

  32. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

    My cousin has stopped coming to our outdoor family gatherings because seafood is served, even though it never touches the grill or most of the potluck food offered. Airborne seafood allergies are a thing, and definitely require different conversations because the cross-contamination check doesn’t require direct contact. So you know your allergy, don’t get talked into going to a place that handles allergies well if any seafood is being fried, etc. The danger is in being afraid to speak up, but just being matter-of-fact about it is the way to go. You’ll get your script down, portable snacks to have on hand, and it will fade into the background.

    1. Reba*

      People would really rather have shrimp than your cousin’s presence? I know folks get really attached to their signature or traditional dish, but sheesh.

      In any case, I do think that “getting talked into it” is a real risk, especially in the part-work, part-social contexts the OP is talking about, where there will be a strong pressure to get along or make a good impression.

      It is tough to feel you you have to lead with a medical fact and make that one of the first things people know about you.

      1. Fish Free Laura*

        You must have missed the above comment where someone suggested looking for vegetarian restaurants (which is what I do currently), and someone said they would “starve” if forced to go the a vegetarian restaurant because they are a “meat and potatoes person”. As another commenter said, the silver lining is that it becomes a built in asshole-detector. After reading the comments, I’m inclined to agree. People can be so strange about food – I think I will have to accept that if someone is weird about it, I don’t want to work for them anyway.

    2. Kaitydidd*

      Jesus. I feel bad for your cousin. It’s not generally that hard to go without someone’s allergen for a single gathering. My SO has an allergy to a common food ingredient, and my family left it out of dishes (except for the one my SO doesn’t like anyway) on the one time we were able to eat in a gathering before covid.

    3. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

      Well, yes it is kind of crappy… and no. We originate from a fishing community, and it’s more when extended family visits and wants to partake in what they can’t easily get at home and grew up having. There are usually several events over a long weekend, and cousin comes to some.

  33. Jennifer*

    Alison makes some great points here. If people at your job are whining about fairness because they have to work from home while others get the day off, I find that pretty outrageous. What else are they supposed to do? The work from home people are still coming out seriously ahead. If they don’t want to work and would rather make hot cocoa and play in the snow, request a vacation day.

  34. HR Exec Popping In*

    #4: First off, I am so glad to hear your managers are having these types of career conversations. More managers should do this. I understand you want to be upfront with your manager, but no one knows what the future holds for them. I understand that right now you think you want to eventually change careers. But since you are not actively doing so now, I would encourage you to take advantage of any and all development opportunities. That does not mean you need to lie to your manager. You can simply tell them that you are open to exploring other roles but don’t know what you are interested in specifically. Then think of a few skills that might benefit you in your long term career regardless of where that is. This could be technical skills, leadership skills or interpersonal skills. For example, project management is a great skill that is generally helpful in most professional roles, regardless of industry.

  35. hbc*

    “Treating people fairly doesn’t mean everyone gets treated exactly the same.”

    I would go even further and say that there aren’t any plans that are completely fair from all angles. Unlimited sick time isn’t fair to the employees who never get sick and have to work more for the same paycheck. Lumped PTO isn’t fair to people who get sick because they might never get an actual vacation. Tuition reimbursement isn’t fair to the people who came in with high level degrees already in hand, the sales guys get frequent flier miles on the company dime, etc, etc..

    This policy is completely fair from the perspective that all the people who are prevented from working (through no fault of their own) do not have to use PTO on their forced day off, and it does not harm anyone who can work that day.
    Leave it be.

    1. Kaitydidd*

      You’re right.

      This reminded me of a policy my agency put in place recently. It’s a good one, and I’m glad they did, even though I’m salty about just missing being able to benefit from it. Basically, if an employee gets their professional licensure they can receive a lump sum of around $5k if they agree to keep working for the agency for a certain number of years. I happened to obtain my license about 6 months before this went into effect, and that $5k would have made my life easier. Oh well. I still want other people to have that option.

  36. Shrimps R Us*

    I have severe anaphylaxis to shellfish/seafood.

    You learn pretty quickly what is easy to order that dodges you allergies.

    When in doubt, talk to the head line cook/chef. Tell them you have a life threatening food allergy. Believe me, they don’t want any issues with someone not breathing in the restaurant.

    1. Lucky*

      Not to get on a soapbox, but I’m going to get on a soapbox and shout to the heavens:

      Caesar Salad dressing usually contains anchovies, i.e. tiny fish.*
      Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins) usually contains anchovies, i.e. tiny fish.*

      If you have a fish allergy (i.e., seafood, not shellfish) don’t eat these things. (And yes, you can make a Caesar-like dressing without anchovies and most health food stores carry vegan-friendly Worcestershire sauce.)

      *Fun fact, there’s no official breed of fish called Anchovy, they are just small finned fish that can fit in a jar.

    2. Fish Free Laura*

      I want to believe that, but I’ve only had the allergy for a year. In which time I’ve eaten out only a handful of times (thanks covid) and already I ended up in the hospital because they seasoned the burger I was having with Worcestershire – even after I explicitly asked them about Worcestershire in particular. Here’s hoping I get better at discerning who can be trusted and who can’t!

  37. Policy Wonk*

    RE: Snow days, the problem I have with the policy is that some of those who work from home have young children that can’t go to school or daycare because of the snow. Pre-pandemic this meant that they had to take a day of leave when there was a snow day, while those who worked in the office didn’t have to. This struck me as unfair. Add to that that much of our work relies on inputs from people who now have the day off and not much would get done in any case. I’m on the side of if you close, you close – for everyone.

  38. SleepyBri*

    Re: OP with food allergies

    I developed an allergy to corn as a young adult. It can feel…nearly impossible to navigate team events and food based networking.

    What I’ve found useful for me is to just be incredibly transparent. In my experience, by and large people want to know if you have dietary restrictions and they want to know how to help you navigate them.

    Because corn is such a hard allergen to recognize, I created a quick list of 10 or so common names for corn by products as well as provide a list of common items corn may be hidden in (like corn syrup in sauces, corn flour in breads, etc). Whenever my team did a good based event, that was provided to the event planner so they could coordinate with restaurants. If the planning allowed, my input was always requested for what sorts of restaurants or meals would be safer than others.

    So I think my advice is to come prepared and unafraid to advocate for yourself, and I think you’ll find people generally want to help you.

    Best of luck

  39. Flabbernabbit*

    LW#3 I’m wondering what people would normally do if going on an interview after HR seemed very skeptical that a woman would really be interested in or capable of a highly technical role on an initial screen. If I kept going, I would have brought it up in the second interview. As in, this may not have been intentional, but this (factual exchange) happened in my initial screen with (person). Can you respond to this? And request examples and official policy on gender equity in general. I wouldn’t normally ask that if there were no red flags.

    This after at least one horrible interview experience where I was kicking myself for not speaking up but instead walked away vowing not only to never work there, but cautioning others when approached for my advice on working for that company. At least this way, the company can course correct and you get more information about fit. In OP’s case other issues made it a non-starter, but I found the HR thing interesting.

    1. OP_Mandatory_Fun*

      I know this is a cynical take but I come by it honestly, I have a hard time doubting anyone doesn’t know their business has entrenched misogyny and I’m tired of getting in trouble for basically having noticed dysfunction that everyone is happily quietly ignoring and enabling, thank you ever much. The clout needed to address their stuff and have it do anything but just punch me in the face is a career goal I’m still grinding on. In the meantime, I notice and do my best to just avoid the grossness where I can.

  40. employment lawyah*

    1. Food allergies and etiquette

    …I also worry how this will affect my long-term career goals — food can be such an important way to connect.

    You’re right–it quite possibly WILL hurt your long term goals! There are a lot of ways that people connect over food. Some industries are more focused on that than others, and if you’re saying that your industry is one of them, that could be an issue.

    IMO that is a perfectly reasonable issue to be concerned about and you may want to take that into account in career planning.

    For example, a lot of legal referrals come from church, I’m an atheist, and I lose a lot of business to people who see their clients in the parking lot every Sunday. If someone were considering my type of law, i’d warn them about that issue, too. However, I’d have zero issues w/ a food allergy like yours.

    It is what it is, but it’s worth considering.

    4. Should I tell my boss I want to change careers?
    Not unless:
    1) You trust your boss explicitly and also believe your boss is more loyal to you than the company; or
    2) you want to get fired or laid off.

    5. Can my employer make me return to the office before I’m vaccinated?

    You can fairly be treated as lower risk because you ARE lower risk. If you’re not lower risk then you can let them know at that time.

    Moreover, if most others in the office are vaccinated, there may (at that time) be data which would make that comparatively more safe; the data are still developing as there are more vaccines.

    1. Fish Free Laura*

      OP #1 here: Oof, this is not heartening. Then again, it is counter to what a lot of people who actually have food allergies have indicated in other comments… But, something to ponder and discuss with my mentor.

    2. tangerineRose*

      “You can fairly be treated as lower risk because you ARE lower risk.” True but if the LW can work from home, the company should keep allowing it. Lower risk doesn’t equal no risk.

  41. Khatul Madame*

    LW4, request training and certification in Organizational Change Management (OCM). It is relevant to all industries and in demand right now.

  42. Susana*

    LW hoping to get vaccinated – you may not want to go the route, but worth knowing that Biden signed an executive order in January that says you can get unemployment if you refuse a job on health/safety grounds. It’s new guidance to DoL about having to take “suitable” work to get UI – this says you can cite corona as a reason it’s not suitable. Though you may not want to do something that drastic, of course, it may give you some leverage in negotiating work conditions with your employer. Good luck!

  43. Anon For This*

    I’m kind of surprised by the amount of piling on to OP#2, and especially the running theme in the comments that remote employees must be “resentful” of onsite employees for getting a snow day. I work for a university that, to their credit, scrambled to get everyone working remotely who could early in the pandemic, and then burned through all possible goodwill balancing the budget by furloughing the lowest-paid employees instead of dipping into the emergency fund from prior years’ surplus (actual quote: “that’s only for a global catastrophe, like a meteor hitting the Earth”).

    Am I resentful of my onsite colleagues? Of course not! Do I resent the university? ABSOLUTELY.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      I don’t understand how that is comparable to the situation in the second letter? In your situation the employer made a decision that caused people financial harm. Most people would understand some resentment there. In the letter here, the employer made the correct decision to *not* cause their employees financial harm by continuing to pay them even though they couldn’t physical get to the office to work. That is not something that should warrant resentment.

      1. Anon For This*

        Ah, sorry, I left out the most relevant part of the comment- no one gets snow days anymore except onsite nonessential employees. (Essential employees have to go in anyway, hybrid work remotely even if they were scheduled for an on-campus day, fully-remote work as normal. And of course it was like pulling teeth to get permission to work remotely before the pandemic.)

  44. Yvette*

    # 2 reminds me of how OldJob handled something similar. This was way before working from home was even a logistical possibility. There were several severe storms where some people made it in, and some people did not. (Some even managing to make it in from way farther away than people who did not.) Those who could not make it in were not penalized in terms of having to take it as a personal, or sick, or vacation day, they were paid for the day. Those who managed to make it in were given an extra personal day. People who could not make it in were not penalized, those who made it in were compensated.

  45. TheDailyGrind*

    Re Snow Days – I appreciated Allison’s comments re working from home vs in-office. As an in-office person thru the pandemic, it’s been very annoying to hear coworkers who have been working from home comment on how they can now do all the things they had to do at night during the day instead. Or waiting for a return phone call or email, but finding out they were on a bike ride or working out & then in the shower. Not to mention no travel time, gas money spent or getting up earlier to get ready for work. The fact that an in-office worker who gets a snow day doesn’t seem unfair when compared to the daily perks of working at home.

  46. Jennifer Strange*

    OP 1 – You have probably researched all of this yourself, and are well aware but just in case: worcestershire sauce is made with anchovies. I only discovered that fairly recently because my husband makes a cheese dip that calls for worcestershire and we have a friend who is vegetarian.

    1. Fish Free Laura*

      Yes, well aware! I work with a board certified allergist, as anyone with an anaphylactic allergy does. Thank you for looking out for me, though! Hot tip: if you need vegetarian Worcestershire sauce, check out the store brand or off brand ones. Most of the cheap ones do not contain fish.

  47. JSPA*

    Dangerous to cite only,

    “the HR rep who didn’t think women are interested in or capable of highly technical roles.” While it’s indeed “something they need to hear about,” what happens if they fire that HR rep, then come back to you, expecting you to take the job?

    The attitude and the tech issues combine well: the technology, even with upgrades, will be semi-obsolete, and the attitudes towards women in tech is deeply obsolete.

    1. Flabbernabbit*

      Agree that attitude and dated tech could be part of the same archaic red flag. But the extreme end of firing HR person because of that instance or more reasonably providing coaching has zero to do with a specific hiring decision. Or with any expectation that a candidate must consider taking a job because of it. A bizarre correlation and way outside of norms, in my opinion. Even if it happened and the company actually shared an internal disciplinary action with the candidate, she had already declined and need not do so again.

    2. MCMonkeybean*

      I do not think there is even the tiniest risk of that happening. There is an enormous gap between “please tell us why you didn’t want the job” and “we will do literally anything to get you to work here including firing someone else.”

  48. No more see food see coffee*

    Alison’s guidance is solid: in a matter-of-fact manner state that you have a food allergy restriction and “would it be possible to meet for coffee instead?”

    After you rock the interview and start your new job, please, please find a co-worker that you trust and tell them the specifics of your allergy and what to do if they sense you having a reaction. Tell the co-worker where you keep your Epi-Pen and give them verbal permission to use it on you. Our seafood allergies are sneaky. I’m grateful for my co-worker that saved me my stabbing me with my Epi-Pen.

    1. Fish Free Laura*

      This is a great tip, thank you! My dog is task-trained to bring my my epis – so transitioning back into the office without her is a bit scary. Finding a competent coworker will definitely help! Thank you!

      1. SweetestCin*

        Noting that having several departmental coworkers knowing *where* I stash my Epi-Pen in my desk and having shown them how to use them has helped to reinforce the need for safe food that won’t kill me. Where we have the ability to select what is done for food for company things, my department opts to make sure I’m include fully.

        Oh, and our safety officer might’ve made it known that on top of everything else, its far too much paperwork if I am exposed at work and he’d surely appreciate it if we just bleeping didn’t. (He’s a riot and his way of getting this across was quite inventive, language wise.)

  49. In my shell*

    Related to #2 – We’ve had a consistent closure pay policy for years and out of the blue yesterday a *not new* employee asked if she could trade her regular day off for the following day because her regular day off was a snow day for those who were scheduled (she wanted snow day pay for her regular day off and to get the following day off as her regular day off).

    ?! I was agog at the request. Right? Am I missing something?

  50. Swingbattabatta*

    LW 1, I haven’t read the other replies yet, but wanted to chime in and say I have a severe seafood allergy (fish, not shellfish), and am mom to a kid with another severe food allergy.

    Just a couple of practical tips – I find that most people/restaurants are very accommodating when you are clear that you have a severe allergy. Servers will typically go confirm with the kitchen whether there is fish sauce or other elements hidden in dishes, etc. I have made it clear (in a kind way, obviously) that I need my chicken/steak/whatever cooked and prepared on different surfaces than fish (something in the oven at the same time as fish can trigger my allergy), and they have always been incredibly understanding. I also find that certain foods are more safe – pasta and flatbreads/pizza, namely, and grilled meats.

    But that being said, if you don’t feel comfortable risking it, you should never feel obligated to do so. A straightforward, unapologetic, and to the point “oh, I have a severe allergy and it can be hard to avoid in restaurants” typically does it for me. If someone pushes, I usually respond with a breezy “I don’t feel like having my breathing passages swell shut and making a trip to the hospital and maybe dying”. That typically shuts people right up.

  51. Ellen Ripley*

    #5: “Can the company make return to the office before I am able to get a COVID vaccination?”

    Yes, of course. As long as they’re complying with national and local public health restrictions, they can require in-person work for any reason they want. It may not be a good idea for public health reasons, for company image reasons, or for employee goodwill and retention, but they can certainly do it. They get to set the terms of the job, and you get to decide whether the job works for you.

    If you end up needing/wanting to push back on a return to the office before you get a vaccine, I think it’s a better idea to push back on the basis of arguments about productivity, safety (for clients/customers, too, if relevant) and morale, not on arguments about whether something is legal or allowable. Keep in mind that a lot of us have had to go out to work in person this whole time or for a while now, so expecting your risk to be absolute zero is unrealistic and a bit tone-deaf.

  52. pleaset cheap rolls*

    I don’t understand how AAM’s suggestions about bringing food helps when the issue isn’t not being able to eat the food, but rather that the allergy is so intense that the OP cannot go into a restaurant that serves any seafood.

  53. Sasha "Potato Girl" Blause*

    OP1, as a person with some uncommon food restrictions I totally agree with Alison’s advice.

    I don’t have anything to add about interviewing, but here’s a couple tricks that worked for me when I started my current job. First I built a list of known safe restaurants by looking up places in the area and reading menus online. Then I decided on a few scripts:
    – For being invited out to lunch with a few minutes lead time: “What’s it called? I’ll check out the menu online real quick and see.”
    – For leaving-right-now situations: “Thanks but I packed a lunch today,” whether or not that was actually true.
    – For known unsafe restaurants: “That place doesn’t agree with me, but you all have fun!”

    Most people are too polite to ask why I can’t eat certain foods/what happens if I do, but I have a stock answer for that too — “Oh, then I have to take rescue meds that cost as much as the GDP of a small country and give me vertigo, so it’s easier to just eat carefully!” quickly followed by changing the subject to my favorite foods or restaurants.

    Sorry you’re having to deal with this. Restrictions are so hard to get used to, especially when you enjoy food. The first six months were really hard for me – I teared up in the grocery store more than once – and it was a whole year before the resentment had faded away. It was about a year and a half before I stopped feeling stressed, angry, and awkward about restaurant dining. Hang in there, it gets less difficult eventually.

    1. Sasha "Potato Girl" Blause*

      Forgot to add – if it’s a place that doesn’t show menus online: “I’m not too hungry but I’ll come along anyway,” assess when I get there, and if I can’t eat anything I have a couple of filling-enough protein bars from my snack drawer when we get back to the office. (Or if you don’t have your own desk, there are some sturdy bars that hold up well in a purse/laptop bag; Costco’s brownie/cookiedough 20-packs are my current faves)

  54. Just @ me next time*

    #2 – Our office (public service and unionized) says in the event of an office closure:

    a) If your job allows you to work from home, you are expected to work as usual
    b) If your job allows you to work from home but you have a personal reason why you cannot work (e.g.: your child’s school is out and you need to care for them, you left your laptop or other equipment in the office, your power or internet is down), you can use up some of your vacation days, take unpaid time off, or arrange with your supervisor to make up the time in the future
    c) If your job doesn’t allow you to work from home in any capacity, you aren’t expected to work and you’ll be paid (at least for the first three days; anything after that is up to senior leadership to decide)

    It used to be up to a supervisor’s discretion whether their team was expected to work, but after one snow day where certain teams worked and others did not, people raised a stink and the policy had to change.

    It’s worth mentioning that in my organization, almost everyone can now work from home (not the case before the pandemic), and we live in a climate where snow days are rare.

  55. Coverage Associate*

    Just chiming in with moral support for LW5. I am 30 years younger than the next oldest member of my organization. I am already bracing for the “why haven’t you come back yet?”s

    But it’s a voluntary organization, so they can’t make me come in. My paid work is mostly accommodating, but doesn’t understand some California quirks, though they have dozens working here.

  56. lilsheba*

    I am extremely grateful I don’t have to stress over weather now that I’m WFH. I can actually enjoy snow and not worry about being stuck at work, or having to miss time because the driveway is icy as hell and I don’t want to break my neck to go to work. On the other hand people who have to go to the office/workplace should get snow days off paid, because it’s a hazard! People shouldn’t have to risk life and limb just to go to work.

    By the same token, those of us who WFH have no excuse for being late, or even out sick if it’s a mild cold. But my main thing is being late. Your commute is short, you can’t blame weather or traffic, there is no reason to ever be late. And those that say “my alarm didn’t go off” we all have smart phones, there is no reason to not have an alarm on every single day. You’re a grownup now and need to act like it…..

  57. Des*

    I WFH and to me having some coworkers get days off because they have to come into the office during the pandemic sounds fair. There’s a lot of mental stress they are dealing with that I don’t have to.

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