boss keeps removing his clothes in front of me, I worked for months while everyone else got paid to do nothing, and more

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

1. My boss’s boss strips to his underwear in front of me

I started a new job very recently, same role I was doing before but at a different company. Above my direct manager is a managing director, John, who oversees several teams. But it’s a relatively small company, so I still have regular contact with John. My desk is actually next to his (open plan office).

Because our office is open plan it can get a bit noisy, so my colleagues and I will often head to a quieter area outside the meeting rooms to take calls. The meeting rooms are pretty small, and they all have completely transparent glass doors with just a small company logo on the center.

John cycles to work and changes at the office, then changes again to cycle home. Instead of changing in the bathrooms, he uses the meeting rooms. For example, today he walked past me as I was on the phone, acknowledged me with a smile, and then walked into a room and stripped to his boxers. There are several bathrooms available within 30 seconds walk of his desk so I found this an odd choice and it made me a bit uncomfortable.

Is this normal? And if not, is it something I need to do something about like go to HR? For what it’s worth, he hasn’t shown any other strange behavior and comes across as a very competent manager. I don’t want to make a big deal out of something which seems quite minor, but I also want to be on top of anything which could be an issue.

Nope, it is not normal for a colleague to strip to his boxers in full view of others at work! I suppose … maybe … it’s possible that John is thinking he’s behind a door so has some semblance of privacy but the doors are clear glass. Surely he’s sufficiently aware of the properties of glass to realize he can be seen. I’m not saying he’s definitely an exhibitionist, pervert, or predator … but if you don’t want to be thought of those things, you generally don’t repeatedly strip down to your underwear in full view of coworkers. Ever, but especially if you’re in a position of power over others.

This is solidly in the territory of something that would be appropriate to take to your own manager or HR. I know it can be weird to complain about someone two levels above you when you just started, but this guy is undressing in front of you! You can be pretty low-key about it and still get the message across quite well if you want to (a matter-of-fact “could you ask John not to take his clothes off with only a clear glass door between us?” should do it).

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I worked for months while everyone else got paid to do nothing

I work for an archive and when the pandemic hit last year, we closed. Our board decided to continue to pay all employees (full time and part time) during the timeframe that no one was working. Full-time staff got their normal hours and part-time staff were given their average hours.

I’m glad they did that and I’m not trying to look at gift horse in the mouth. However, while almost all of my coworkers were not working, I still worked. I have one of the only roles that allows me to work almost 90% from home and my job was vital to keeping everything running so we could open up. It wasn’t a matter of asking me to work, it was a matter of I had no choice but to work. And I’m not saying I didn’t want to either; I wanted to make sure we could be up and running when we did have to reopen. The only other people who worked were three of our top managers.

When we were allowed to leave our houses again, for four months I was the only non-manager staff member who came into work several times a week. After that, most staff were given work from home projects (most of which I had to develop) and were asked to work certain number of hours while still being paid their normal salary.

Here’s the rub. I never got anything for my efforts. Sure, my boss thanked me but that was about it. I hate feeling a little put off, I’m very happy my coworkers got paid during that time, but I just … I did a lot of work. I went out of my way on several occasions to get things done. I took on more tasks than I usually would have to do. I don’t know what I was expecting but I feel like I should have been compensated just a little? I’m not going to complain about it to anyone but it’s been in the back of my mind lately. I realize this sounds very petty and please, if I am being petty, say so! I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I know a lot of people lost their jobs and would have loved to been in my shoes.

I don’t think you’re being petty. It’s natural to notice that everyone else got paid for not working while you still had to work, even though I’m sure you’re glad your company took care of your coworkers financially instead of leaving them with no income. Sometimes, though, this is just the way it shakes out: some jobs are doable in those circumstances and others aren’t, and some absolutely must be done while others aren’t as crucial. It’s worth recognizing, too, that you probably have a lot more job security than your coworkers did/do, which is worth something.

But yes, a good employer would have recognized you in some way, ideally with money (like a bonus). Have you thought about making a case for that to your boss? If you can show that you went above and beyond during this time and were crucial to keeping things running smoothly during a very difficult period (and assuming your performance has been strong during this time), it’s worth trying.

3. My company doesn’t give raises so my boss promoted me and now I can’t go any higher

I work in a small specialized office. There are analysts at three seniority levels, the supervisor, and the director. I was hired as an analyst I, then shortly after I started, an analyst II position opened up and I got promoted into it. Now, about a year later, I approached the director about a raise. It turns out that our company doesn’t do merit-based raises aside from promotions — so the director is pushing for a title bump for me! I didn’t ask him to do that and never dreamed of making that title so quickly.

I appreciate that he’s doing this because he wants to keep me, but I can’t help but wonder … if I get this promotion, what now? I’ll be at the highest attainable level in this office until the supervisor or director leaves, which could be many years. My only option for further progression will be looking elsewhere.

So now I’m curious — is the director making the right strategic call here? Would a smart manager wait a little longer to promote an employee he wanted to keep (if the employee showed no signs of wanting to leave), or is the short-term more important than the long term?

It sounds like he’s trying to do as right by you as he can within a system that sucks. A policy of never giving merit-based raises aside from promotions just ensures that people will go elsewhere as their skills increase, since it makes no sense to stay in a job long-term at the same rate of pay you were getting when you were contributing at a lower skill level.

Now, would it have been smarter for him to hold off a bit, maybe waiting another year or two before bumping your title in order to stretch out the time that you were still working to earn more and then getting it and then being happy with it before you started wanting more again? Maybe. But if he thinks you deserve the title and pay bump now, maybe he simply wants to give you what you’ve earned rather than contriving a reason to wait.

Either way, he’s sort of screwed by this system: Either he refuses to give you a raise you’ve earned, which risks you starting to look elsewhere … or he bumps you to a title with no room for growth beyond it, which also risks you starting to look elsewhere. It’s a bad system.

4. Asking about health insurance coverage when interviewing

I’m ready to start looking for a new job in my field. I love where I work, but I know I could making more money and getting more challenging work somewhere else.

I also have a chronic form of cancer, which requires me to take a daily medication. My current job’s health insurance covers this completely, but my main concern in finding a new job is that that might not be the case. How do I tactfully bring this up during the interview process? Is this something that might lead to a company being reluctant to hire me?

I would love to tell you there’s a risk-free way to raise it during the interview process so you don’t waste your time if it’s not covered, but I’m going to recommend waiting until you have an offer. At that point, you could say, “I have a chronic condition that’s under control but requires medication. Is it possible for me to check with your health insurance plan to ensure it’s covered?” The reason for waiting until the offer is (a) convention — reasonably or not, employers aren’t used to candidates getting into the nitty gritty of their insurance before that and (b) it eliminates the risk that medical information will bias them against you (even if only subconsciously) before they make a hiring decision.

(Note that you may need to get the plan name and ID and call it directly to find out. Ideally you want to be discussing the specific medication in question with the insurance company, not with the employer.)

5. When does a reference get too old to use?

My first job out of college was a year-long fellowship, where I worked directly for someone I’d consider a leader in my industry. Our professional relationship was solid but a bit awkward personally due to the age difference. They served as a reference for my next two jobs. This person has also always had an extremely busy schedule and is difficult to contact in general. When they served as a reference for my current position, they did not respond to my email reaching out to confirm they would still be comfortable serving as a reference, but my company was able to reach them.

I am hunting again and wondering if it would still be appropriate to use them as a reference since it has been almost three years since I’ve worked for them and we have not kept in contact. I have other references I can use, but their name would likely carry more weight with potential employers in my industry. Should I remove them from my list of references? Is there a recommended point when one should stop using someone as a reference in general?

References do become too old to use at some point, but not after only three years! How long depends on the context. If you worked with someone for only a year, that reference might be too old after 7-10 years, but if you worked with them for a decade, the reference will have a longer shelf life. And the shorter one could last longer if it’s clear why you’re still using them, like if the work was highly relevant to what you’re applying for in a way that no jobs since have been.

The fact that you haven’t kept in contact doesn’t matter. It’s very normal for people to get back in touch to ask for a reference when they’ve been out of touch for a while; that’s just how references work. I’d worry more about the person being hard to contact and not responding to you last time (although they did respond to the reference, so they’re prioritizing the right things). I’d send a short, friendly request again and see if they respond — but I think you can leave them on the list unless they say not to, just with a note that they can be hard to reach (and make sure you’re offering up others to counteract that).

{ 325 comments… read them below }

  1. Manana*

    LW4- you only need to know the insurer name and plan type (e.g. United Healthcare, Choice Plus plan) to be able to get a plan overview from the insurer. Instead of divulging medical info to an interviewer, you can say something like wanting to check what doctors are in network (which may be a legitimate concern anyway).

    1. Dilly*

      Not necessarily. Depending on the size of the company, they can negotiate a lot of nitty gritty details with the insurance company so a specific medication might be on the formulary for one company but not another.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          Yes, which is why I appreciate so much when recruiters send me a copy of the benefits package. It’s not hard to do and can alleviate so much stress.

          1. Cj*

            I wasn’t able to determine which of my meds were covered until I actually was covered and had a membership number so could log in and see the details specific to our plan. The following year, my employer switched insurers and it all changed, so just because it’s covered now doesn’t mean it will be in the future.

          2. Karo*

            I once asked a company to send a copy of their benefits plan while I was considering their offer and they said that it was “proprietary information.” I’m still perplexed by that one.

            1. Franz Kafkaesque*

              Good grief. That is utterly absurd. Maybe it is because I work for a health insurance company that I am so attuned to this stuff, but I can’t imagine accepting any offer without complete plan information and a full breakdown of costs. This can have an enormous impact on peoples’ lives.

              1. Selina Luna*

                I honestly only asked one question about the health care coverage for my current insurance: does it cover blood tests. I have a chronic disorder that requires me to undergo blood tests about once every six months or so, and my old job didn’t cover “testing” including blood tests. The hospital charged $1500 for one blood test. I don’t mean one tube. One test that got one result.

                My current coverage isn’t the most amazing ever, but it covers freaking blood tests.

            2. ThatGirl*

              That is absurd. I’ve always asked for benefits info when getting an offer and many companies give it to me up front – often with the price of premiums for the year for the different options. The one company that did not give me detailed info (it was a letter that just said “yep, we have health insurance”) I considered that a red flag and went with a different offer. When we live in a country where insurance and employment are so closely tied, how can anyone expect you not to want that information to make a good decision?

              1. Hazel*

                I agree that this info is critical in deciding whether to accept a job offer and/or whether to negotiate a higher salary to compensate for inadequate benefits.

                Many years ago, I came across a company that acted like it was so odd that I wanted details about the offered health insurance plan. And when I called the insurance company to get more info, they were perplexed at first because I wasn’t already a member with an ID number. I finally got the info I needed, but it was a hassle.

                When I have been job searching in the last five years or so, detailed health insurance information was offered by the company as they made the job offer. It was super easy to find out what is covered and at what level and what the deductibles/co-pays are, etc.

            3. Triplestep*

              This happened to my son. I told him it was part of his total compensation and needed to be part of the offer. He found a polite way to tell this to the (extremely inexperienced) internal recruiter and she sent it to him.

            4. Anon Supervisor*

              That means it’s crappy. Most companies who have really good benefits don’t shut up about it.

        2. A*

          Health insurance person here! We actually field these calls a lot. While having the exact details of the plan helps, we still can help out and answer most questions with just the employer name and what kind of job you’re interviewing for. Some things do have to wait until you have active coverage, but those are few and far between – just might take us some digging.

          Sadly, all that comes with the caveat of: depends on the company, depends on the rep who answers the phone, depends on the day… but there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to get the info. In my state at least we’re audited for compliance on our ability to answer prospective/non- member questions.

          I’m in NY, so feel free to email me if anyone has questions about how my work world works. I LOVE helping people beat this system.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. We had an unpleasant revelation when the plan that we thought was same-same turned out to be enough different that a medication was no longer covered. This might also be something to talk to the prescriber about re: options if not covered.

        1. Snailing*

          This is because the pharmacy formulary can change, even if the overarching plan is very similar. If it’s anything to do with prescription, the medical network won’t help you – you need to specifically ask for the pharmacy formulary. Any good HR person can get this directly from the insurance carrier or from their benefits broker. Each insurance carrier uses a different formulary, and many have multiple formularies depending which plan you have with them. And even then, like someone else said, the carriers will tweak these every single year.

          Source: I work for a benefits broker and we always emphasize checking the formulary before changing plans for this very reason!

    2. Nicotene*

      If you’re despairing at the thought of having to wait until you get an offer, only to find out that the insurance won’t cover you anyway (I get it, that sucks) – keep in mind that you may be able to negotiate around this issue financially too. So if you land an amazing job but the insurance doesn’t cover this medicine, you may be able to request either money to cover the difference or to pay for supplemental insurance or something.

    3. Anon Supervisor*

      Employers can decide to exclude coverage for certain services, such as speech therapy for conditions that are not related to injury or illness, or can restrict the network. Also, if it’s a smaller company, they may only offer a high deductible plan.

  2. Decidedly Me*

    LW4 – I recently had someone ask this during one of the early interviews. He didn’t give me specifics (and I didn’t ask), but I think he said something about it being important to keep his current docs, which I think most people understand. There were no issues telling him either.

    I wouldn’t give the specifics (that’s your business), but I think you should be fine to ask about what the insurance plan is.

    1. Triplestep*

      Agreed. It’s part if your total compensation so there’s no reason you can’t ask for insurance details at the offer stage, and frankly no one should need to ask … the company should be providing it as part of the offer. But I would not disclose personal medical information at any stage of hiring at all, even at the offer stage. It’s not their business and it also gives them information they’d probably rather not have.

  3. John Smith*

    #1. Any vacancies in your office? :). Even if he were some Adonis, it’s not on. Does he think it’s a Diet Coke break moment (window cleaner stripping off shirt in front of bunch of admiring ladies)? You could say “I’ve noticed you changing in the office, wouldn’t the bathroom be more suitable?”. Maybe if you see him changing, make an overt gesture of covering your eyes as you walk past. Or wiggle your little finger as you walk past. Maybe even get a group of willing pretend admirers of all sexes to stand outside and pretend to admire?

    (Don’t do the last two).

    The other issue here is that the meeting room may be a bit wiffy after he’s finished changing (plenty of cyclists at my office stink out rooms with sweaty BO or half a can of deodorant). That in itself may be a cause of a polite complaint.

    1. OP1*

      Hahaha that made me laugh. He’s not one of those super slick guys you see in adverts, he’s a quiet 40-something father of two which added to the shock because it just seemed very out of character. I’ll admit the first time I saw it I actually stood there for a while in confusion before making myself scarce.

      1. Ganymede*

        Some people are just less modest! As a former actor, I was used to stripping down in front of people for quick changes etc. I once changed my trousers in a tai chi class and my teacher gently suggested that although *I* was fine with it, others might not be….. Oops! Lesson learned.

          1. NotRealAnonForThis*

            Yup. I’m a runner as well, and I’ve noticed that as an overall group, runners can be a little less than modest. Most of the high school level sports I played had a similar overall level of nonchalance about nudity and changing.

            1. pleaset cheap rolls*

              Yeah – he’s in the wrong, but I don’t think he realizes it.

              Note also what Chilipepper says about changing in a bathroom.

            2. KaciHall*

              My boyfriend’s baseball team in high school once was running late to s tournament and changed in some random family’s yard in Gary. The entire team. Some of whom switched out boxers for sliding shorts (or whatever they’re called.)

              A lot of athletes seem to have very little modesty because they’re so used to getting changed in front of other people. I would have thought they would grow out of it as they reach middle age but maybe not!

          2. A tester, not a developer*

            I know competitive cyclists (at least outside the US) are quite casual about stripping down.

            1. JSPA*

              Competitive cyclists above a certain level pee on camera, while in motion, often in coordinated fashion. Below that level, they do exactly the same, except they’re less likely to be on camera. The term announcers use is, “nature break.”

              1. A tester, not a developer*

                It’s impressive – if you don’t think too much about the actual urine part. :)

        1. Chilipepper*

          Yes, I was on a high school sports team. I have no modesty left. I have cycled to work and I hate changing in the bathroom. The floor is not as clean as I would like and its hard work keeping trousers from touching the floor. If we had a conference room, I’d prefer changing in there, glass door and all.

          1. Ashley*

            More bike friendly areas really need to include changing rooms in their design. If this were a regular occurrence I would probably have my own yoga mat or rug to use to stand on the floor because public bathroom floors are really gross almost always for barefeet.

          2. Chalk Dusted Facsimile*

            One of the very, very few things I miss about working at Dell is that headquarters had a gym, and any cycle commuter could use it to change, shower, and freshen up after — company provided body wash, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, etc.

          3. Smithy*

            Absolutely this.

            There was a period of time in one job when I had a small private office, and being able to change in the office was a delight. Obviously issues of modesty were not at play, but in addition to the issues around the cleanliness of the floor – having room than a stall provided was also nice.

            When the office was moved and I had a shared office – I stopped and moved to the restroom, but it was a real bummer.

          4. Observer*

            If we had a conference room, I’d prefer changing in there, glass door and all.

            And while I understand that, I hope you would not actually do that. I get that most bathrooms tend to the gross side. But it’s just not OK for this guy to be doing this.

            1. JSPA*

              That’s really culture dependent.

              There are parts of the world where people would not think of displaying a bare forearm, or the top of their head.

              There are parts of the world where topless sunbathing on beaches is the norm, or where naked saunas are part of work culture.

              I can think of places where “ducking out of direct line-of-sight and shared airspace” while “keeping bathing-suit zones scrupulously covered” is well within norms. Others where it’s very, very peculiar.

              In the same way that in some areas, Edibles or a joint are normal at work-related functions that also serve booze, while at others, it’s an immediate firing offense.

              1. Observer*

                There is no place in the US, where this is close to normal. And based on the other responses, the same is true in most of the other places that this blog gets read. Given that context, it’s not ok for this guy to be doing this.

            2. DJ Abbott*

              So, I have an idea from a Dorothy Sayers novel.
              In Murder Must Advertise, the copywriters routinely put brown paper on the glass part of their office door so they could change for dinner out.

              Maybe OP’s colleague could do something like this? I don’t know how many glass walls are in the conference room but if it’s only one or two, maybe he could carry a big piece of paper and tape it to the glass when he wants to change?

        2. Lonely Aussie*

          I’m probably one of those people who would do something like that.
          My job makes us shower in and out of the site every-time we cross the “clean” line…. nothing like meeting the (also female) site boss for the first time in your bra and knickers lol.
          Apparently there’s a few of the older guys who go nude in the common area of the guys showers.

          1. pleaset cheap rolls*

            “Apparently there’s a few of the older guys who go nude in the common area of the guys showers.”

            This is not rare in gyms, etc.

            1. PT*

              A lot of gyms don’t have shower stalls, just a shower pit, because men can’t be trusted to behave in them.

              Source: I used to work at a gym and was privy to everyone who was kicked out for misbehavior in the men’s shower. It happens A LOT.

          2. JustaTech*

            Of the many things I don’t miss about working in a clean room, having to see my coworkers in their undies is high on the list.

        3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          I’m German, and we’re on average less concerned about seeing skin that’s not face or hands.
          Our office doors are glass with a 2′ milky strip at eye level, so an average Joe like me has to stretch a bit to look into the room – but that’s common to do before barging in on someone in a call. (With Covid, we are supposed to keep doors closed).
          It is common to change between business attire, cycling gear, or PPE in an office. You just close the door and that’s that. If it’s a shared office, you ask for the other users to give you some privacy.
          Nobody would be shocked to walk in on a colleague (of either sex) in the process of changing – it might be slightly awkward, but we’re all adults. You just say “sorry!”, get out and wait outside the door for the person you need to talk to.
          I know from my time working in the US that norms are different. Readers, how is the etiquette in other regions?

      2. I Herd the Cats*

        I’m guessing “less modest” rather than “creepy,” but hey, it’s still not okay. I was thrilled when our building was renovated with a fitness center and people started changing there. One suggestion: those peel-off, press-on window privacy decals, they come in large sizes for use on doors and windows, like frosted glass, sort of (lots of different patterns, depending on the pattern they completely block the view while letting in light.) We had one covering the bottom 3/4 of a glass wall in a small room people used in a similar way (changing from commuter clothes, or into more formal clothes for an after-work event.) I’m not suggesting it’s your job to fix it — just a cheap, easy solution for management rather than replacing a door, if they want to go that route. Also, our door locked so nobody barged in accidentally.

        1. EPLawyer*

          I like this solution. Not everyone wants to change in the bathroom as noted above. If there is an open office plan (another strike against them), there is no office to close the door and change. This is the best he can do. Just make one of the conference room doors not completely see through glass, which people in conference might appreciate it. Having a room for private conversations where everyone can’t see what is going on is a good idea anyway.

          1. Data Bear*

            Not to say that his behavior isn’t inappropriate and in need of changing, but here’s another vote for the real villain being open-plan offices, icky bathrooms, and conference rooms with glass doors.

          2. Filosofickle*

            See, I’m gonna go ahead and say no it’s not the best he can do! While there are better office designs possible, right here right now in this office as it exists…the best he can do is change in the bathroom. No matter how gross the floor is, you change there if it’s the only non-public place to do it.

            I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he could be simply oblivious, but he needs to be made aware of this and then stop, pronto.

            1. Yorick*

              But the comments you’re responding to are about changing things so it will no longer be a public place.

              People don’t want to change in the bathroom, and people who need to go to the bathroom probably don’t want them to either. So adding something to the conference room’s glass door to make it non-see through is perfect.

              1. Filosofickle*

                The comment I was specifically responding to was that, with an open office “Not everyone wants to change in the bathroom as noted above. If there is an open office plan (another strike against them), there is no office to close the door and change. This is the best he can do.” I disagree. The best he can do is change in the bathroom.

              2. Heather*

                I mean, if people don’t want to change in the bathroom…that’s too bad, but if it’s the only place you don’t risk flashing your coworkers I think they kind of have to.

                1. JSPA*

                  Bit of terminology creep, here. “Flashing” refers to genitalia, not to loose, detail-hiding underwear. I get that it’s underwear. But we’re doing a lot of pearl clutching at the idea that there is only One! Layer! of! Cloth! between our eyes and his body.

                  While if someone wrote in to say, “I think my coworker may be going commando”–which is also a “One! Layer! of! Cloth!” situation–we’d probably suggest that the person asking the question avert their eyes and stop wondering what’s under their coworkers clothing.

                  I’m not saying the two situations are 100% identical. There are social distinctions between external clothing and underwear. But neither of those things constitutes “flashing” (which is, y’know, an official sexual offenders list crime, and thus not a term to throw around loosely).

                2. Sacred Ground*

                  @JSPA, I’m not sure where you’re getting such a specific definition of flashing. I’ve heard the term used to describe showing one’s underwear. People can flash all kinds of things. Gang signs. Flashing cash. Flashing a weapon, even.

                  It always meant to me, in general: “to show someone something they otherwise wouldn’t see.”

                  A “flasher” is someone who shows off their nudity to unwilling viewers, usually but not necessarily their genitals. This boss, unless completely clueless, is behaving like a flasher. He is flashing his subordinates, whether they see his bare butt or genitals or not.

        2. Malarkey01*

          It is EXTREMELY nice to have one room where you have privacy in an office whether it’s to use as a mother’s pumping room, quick change, a difficult conversation with an employee, or my employee that had a very ill child that would occasionally need 15 minutes to just cry.

          I would totally ask HR, or even manager directly, if it’s possible to frost the glass so that you can kill multiple birds with one stone.

          1. BigGlasses*

            Yeah, I worked in an office with an open plan and where all the meeting rooms were glass-walled and I would regularly think … just WHERE do they hold difficult conversations? Where do they fire people? Why wasn’t this considered when putting together this shiny bright ‘modern’ design?

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              I think those considerations get easier when you stop thinking of employees as human beings and start viewing them as autonomous capital, like a desk that moves or a printer that refills the coffee pot for you.

            2. Spotted Kitty*

              My office has glass walls on the conference rooms. They have blinds to pull down. But the only time the blinds are pulled down is when someone is getting fired, so we all kind of know what’s going on.

              1. AndyTron*

                At my old job there was a super confidential planning meeting that was held in a conference room with glass windows, so the organizers had to cover them with those giant presentation post it sheets.

              2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                So start using the room to change (with blinds drawn) to muddle the statistics :-)

            3. PT*

              My last job was trending towards these. Among the portfolio of programs we ran were youth programs, so the whole building was designed to follow the child abuse prevention policy with 360 degree sightlines. All offices and rooms in newer facilities were glass walled with glass doors, or open plan, to reduce the number of private places an adult could take a child. Plus cameras outside any closed off rooms or blind spots like store rooms or restrooms to track who was going in and out.

              Usually there would be an office designated with blinds or shades for things like PIPs and terminations.

            4. JustaTech*

              My husband’s company was originally only open-office, until they started getting bigger and realized that some departments need to have genuine privacy. So Legal and HR got, not offices, but a suite of conference rooms that are completely opaque, so they can have both private and confidential meetings.

              Then again, they also have extensive (clean!) changing rooms, one-person conference rooms and lactation spaces as well.

          2. SpiderLadyCEO*

            I love this idea! My office has a solid wood door but the wall separating from the hallway is clear glass – and all the offices are like this. I worry about what will happen when someone is pregnant and needs to be able to pump!

        3. BookMom*

          This is a great idea! I can vouch that the window privacy decals look nice, stay up, and remove cleanly. I have them on the windows of my finished basement and actually get compliments on them. (Mine look like rice paper but they come in other styles too.). I also installed a heat-blocking version on an office window when sunlight kept messing up the sensors on a photocopier next to that window. It is a two person job to get them up straight, though.

      3. Trek*

        I would be so tempted to pick up my phone and pretend to video him. When he looks up give him a big thumb’s up I got this! If he asks why tell him you need video for our virtual holiday party!

        Probably asking HR to speak to him is a better option.

      4. JSPA*

        As a cyclist, though not male, there’s blurring of lines associated with cycling, in that cycling lycra is a single-layer piece of clothing, like a swimsuit.

        One doesn’t normally ever wear underwear with either of those things.

        So if he’s added a layer to his cycling get-up, he’s likely feeling overdressed on the bike; dressed “adequately minimally” during changing; and then dressed normally, once he’s in office clothing.

        It’s not an ideal choice–clearly, in that it’s forcing you to consider the question! But chances are high that it’s done with no ill intent / intent to display / intent to flash.

        I hate changing in a bathroom stall because of the risk of some part of gear or clothing hitting a wet spot or dirt. I still do it, if needed, of course. But depending on the office, I (too) might not assume that something as covering as boxers meant that it was needed, unless someone mentioned a preference.

        “Would it be possible to take your changing routine to a bathroom, I prefer not to catch flashes of coworkers in their skivvies” is where I’d take this, before (or instead) of taking it to HR.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Maybe ask HR to have blinds installed in that door because “of course” bicycle-commuter grandboss should have privacy and not have to use an unhygienic bathroom stall?

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Oh and privacy film! Very inexpensive, and the window-clingie kind can be done even in a rental.

      6. tamarack and fireweed*

        I wonder if “Hey, would a set of movable privacy screens for the meeting room be a good investment? I think it would help with people changing there…”

        Because I can totally see why someone who is just less modest about their own unremarkable body would prefer a clean, carpeted meeting room for a quick change to taking his shoes off in the washroom.

        (While I’m personally quite modest, I also think that we all come naked as the human factory setting, and people change clothes or fix their grooming, so none of these *should* be something to be embarrassed about. A little bit of screening can take out the surprise.)

    2. Some internet rando*

      I have to say I am having a really different reaction to this…. Maybe its because my job is to work with people who have experienced sexual trauma… but this is a serious boundary violation. My husband is a cyclist and would *never* change in front of other people. Many athletes might be comfortable with their body but still know know to change in front of others in the workplace. Come on! I don’t know why the request has to be “low-key” or “matter-of-fact.” This is inappropriate. I think the #metoo movement has shown that many seemingly “nice guys” with families and hobbies can also be predatory…. this feels really icky to me. Say something. Be direct. Do not be low key. This feels like someone who is either so oblivious about how this could impact others (which sucks) or someone who is testing the waters and pushing boundaries. Either way he needs direct feedback that this is wildly inappropriate.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, I’m a runner and I’ll happily change my t-shirt in front of other running friends, but I still wouldn’t get fully changed in the office where colleagues can see me! Back when we were working in the office I’d sometimes get changed into my running/yoga kit before I left in the evening, but I would absolutely do that in the loos (even though the cubicles were really small and awkward!) I would not change my clothes in front of people at work.

      2. Observer*

        I don’t know why the request has to be “low-key” or “matter-of-fact.”

        Morally? It doesn’t. But if you want to be effective and burn as little capital as possible, low key is good. And in a way matter of fact makes the point better than a more fraught presentation. Like would you think twice to ask someone to make sure the door is locked behind them when they go through that doorway? Would you expect anything other than “Oh, yeah, I’ll take care of that”? That’s what you want to imply – this is totally a normal way that normal people operate and OF COURSE you’ll comply because OF COURSE you’re normal (and not a creepy boundary crosser.)

        Now, if that doesn’t work you definitely do need to ratchet it up, either directly or with HR. But starting this way makes it more likely to get what you want, which is for the behavior to stop.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          This, right here. It’s on point.

          If someone is truly clueless about their behavior – nothing sinister or creepy behind it – a low-key yet direct approach will likely change the behavior and preserve the working relationship. In most cases, the person realizes how inappropriate the behavior is, changes their habits – ha! – and saves face. No need to blow up the bridge and build a new one when a small repair will work just fine.

          If the offender deflects, defends, attacks, and/or continues the behavior, then it makes sense to ratchet things up.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, and also the OP doesn’t sound that bothered about it; she’s not sure it weird and said it seems minor. I’m not going to tell her to go full-steam on something she’s not that upset about it (assuming I’m reading her letter correctly, which I realize I might not be — either way, the suggested language should get the job done).

      3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I agree that directness is necessary.

        But it feels premature to assume that he’s being predatory, and I would challenge that operating with that assumption is unhelpful to preventing sexual trauma. Assuming that (rather than simply being open to the possiblity of it) can add a lot of weight and shame that often prevents people from speaking up.

        In many, many cultures (and sub-cultures) matter-of-factly disrobing is not inherently sexual. While it’s important to advocate for our boundaries, we should be able to do so while understanding that boundaries can often be arbitrary and culturally-influenced.

      4. ThatGirl*

        There’s no reason to go 0-60 if OP hasn’t said anything before. I think it would be easy and effective to say “hey, could you change in the bathroom instead? It’s really distracting when you do it in plain view”. Or words to that effect. You can be direct without being aggressive.

      5. Queer Earthling*

        I don’t work with trauma, but I do work in a sex-related industry, and it pinged my ickiness alarm as well. His intentions might be fine, in which case it really won’t hurt him to realize that his behavior is making others uncomfortable and to correct it. Or, he might be enjoying himself a bit, in a way that he can push back if anyone complains. “I’m just chaaaanging, it’s fiiiine, you’re the one who’s making it weird!”

        I’d love it to be the first one! I hope it’s the first one! But either way, stating your boundaries and asking for a solution is a perfectly acceptable thing, even if it’s something that no one else in the office seems to mind.

      6. Nia*

        Yeah I have no idea why people are tripping over themselves to give him the benefit of the doubt. The idea that a grown man needs it explained to him that its inappropriate to change in front of other people is ridiculous. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          And he might think he’s just changing his clothes ‘away from people’, not quite grasping he’s doing it behind glass walls. Far too many people operate in their own bubble, not realizing they’re on display.

          I’m with you, people should know what’s appropriate at work. Even Jack McCoy changed into jeans behind his office door, and he was kind of brash in those days.

        2. Palliser*

          I fully agree with you–this is the rare time the commentariat has it very much wrong. I’ve been working in offices now for 20 years, including in places with open plan offices and glass walls/doors and not once has a person done anything like this. There are certain norms that everyone is expected to know and abide by as a prerequisite for working in an office environment, and not changing where everyone can see you is one of them.

          1. Tired of Covid-and People*

            It passed egregious ten miles ago! It isn’t appropriate to disrobe in the office, full stop. I would be beside myself if I saw anyone do this. The color of your skivvies is none of my business.

          2. MCMonkeybean*

            I think it’s just to do with who is the one writing in–if he were writing in asking if it was okay to change behind glass walls in the office I think most of us would be like “wtf no that is so inappropriate and you need to stop right now!”

            Or if another of his employees wrote in saying they wanted to report the boss for sexual harassment for stripping down regularly in plain sight but wondered if they were overreacting I’d say “go for it, that is really not okay of him!”

            But OP is the one writing in and they don’t seem to be upset or feel harassed or want him to face any sort of repercussions, they just want it to stop. Going at it with the perspective of “maybe he is just somehow oblivious to how awkward this is but can someone please tell him to change somewhere else?” is the best method for their particular question, IMO.

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              Okay after going through more comments I am seeing more people than I originally did who seem baffled about why anyone would not want to see their boss in their underwear, so yeah I’m gonna say I agree with you that those people are way off base. But I just don’t think this *has* to be a big deal if OP doesn’t want to make it one and it didn’t sound to me like they want that.

        3. Allegra*

          I am genuinely surprised by how many people are rushing to excuse this. Sure, it seems clear that he’s not intentionally doing this to harass somebody, and if OP’s not aghast and offended they don’t have to be, but–we all know this isn’t okay! I don’t think norms around cycling really enter into it, it’s norms about business that matter here. You don’t get down to your skivvies where a coworker can see you in a standard office environment! Especially if there’s already a power differential! You should know better, sir!

      7. Generic Name*

        I agree with you. Just because bro cyclist grandboss is cool showing his boxers to the entire office does NOT mean the entire office is cool with viewing him in his boxers. I think it comes down to consent. If I shared an office with someone who (theoretically) asks if it’s okay if they change in front of me, I have consented to that, but the entire office hasn’t consented to seeing this guy in his underwear. I think this is another example of the importance of knowing the difference between intent and impact. Grandboss may not intend to be creepy or to make someone feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean that someone won’t feel creeped out or uncomfortable by seeing him change.

    3. yala*

      “Maybe if you see him changing, make an overt gesture of covering your eyes as you walk past.”

      I wouldn’t do this one either. It could easily be interpreted as a fun joke to show that you’re ok with it (making it an overt, kinda dramatic gesture makes it seem more ironic than an issue of genuine discomfort).

      Or he could be the kind of person that enjoys the idea that he has the power to make people uncomfortable.

      Straight on is probably the best way to handle this.

      1. John Smith*

        Well, that puts out my other suggestion which was to get a group together and belt out The Stripper tune as he’s changing….

        1. JSPA*

          I don’t find funny the idea that actual sexual harassment is the answer to potential sexual harassment. Maybe because people used to buy into that, for real (and it did nobody any good at all).

          1. John Smith*

            I think we work in very different cultures. There is absolutely no sexual harassment involved or intended. It’s just good natured banter which, in my team, everyone would be involved in regardless of sex / gender.

  4. KHB*

    Q3: I’m curious to learn more about how exactly how this employer’s system works. You say they don’t give merit-based raises, but do they at least give cost-of-living raises? Or maybe even seniority-based raises, where everybody’s salary increases every year by a flat X% (where X is a bit more than the rate of inflation)?

    If so, then I’m not so sure it’s such a bad system. It’s probably better for internal salary equity (assuming that there’s a similarly rigid structure for setting people’s starting salaries) than an ad-hoc system where people who ask for more are rewarded with more. Alison’s presuming that just because you want a raise, you must have earned it, but that’s not necessarily true. Your skills are developing every year, but so are everybody else’s, and if that’s already baked into the salary structure, then I wouldn’t be so quick to conclude that the system sucks just because it’s not giving you what you want right now.

    Of course, if “no merit raises” means “absent a promotion, your salary remains at $Y/year forever and ever amen,” then that is a bad system, and you should run away at your first opportunity.

    1. Drag0nfly*

      This is insane. No, it is NOT true that everyone’s skills are growing every year. The fact of the matter is, skills never have been, and never will be, equally distributed. Also unequal is the drive to acquire or improve skills, or the drive to put in your best effort. That fact is just observable reality.

      Some people are lazy. Some people start great, rest on their laurels and stagnate. Some people are fine for *where they are* but they lack the ability or inclination to go past where they are. We’ve ALL seen such people. The archives are full of them. Such people are absolutely *not* equal to the employee who continues to exhibit a work ethic coupled with a growth in skills and ability. The former types should not be treated as the latter type, and the latter should be recognized and rewarded.

      I’d advise the OP not to cast pearls before swine, so to speak. If her employer cannot or will not recognize the increase in her skills, her work ethic and the value she brings to the table, she *should* go to a company that will.

      OP, don’t let anyone talk you into downplaying or devaluing your own worth. It’s great your boss is willing to give you a promotion, but you are right to be concerned about an artificial ceiling, or just as bad, the Peter Principle. Your boss is giving you valuable information about whether this is a company where you can stay long term. This company’s system sounds “entry level,” where you get your foot in the door and learn as much as you can, but you can’t build a career there.

      1. Forrest*

        It depends very much what the employer is trying to incentivise: the fact that someone is growing their skills and ability doesn’t automatically mean they are becoming more valuable *to the employer*. Sometimes employers want the people who are doing the same solid work year in and year out, and are steady and reliable with great institutional memory! Sometimes there isn’t opportunity in the organisation for everyone to develop, and if the company would prefer those people to move on if they’re going to get bored dealing with the same work year on year. Not every organisation is able to satisfy people’s needs for a career track.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          This is my job. I need to be good at what I do right now, but I cannot advance beyond a certain point without a graduate degree, so there are a bunch of skill that, while I am probably capable of learning them, my employer does not need me to do and wouldn’t want me to do, anyway, because it wouldn’t be appropriate within the profession.

        2. Never Nicky*

          Institutional memory though is a valuable commodity and should be rewarded appropriately. I’m not saying every old timer needs to be recognised, but I know my value to my organisation is as much what I know about our field and who I know (built up over more than a decade) as my professional skills (twenty years in the making but nothing a competent person couldn’t do)

          1. Forrest*

            Exactly– that’s a situation where seniority-based raises are far more useful than merit-raises. If you want people to stay in more or less the same roles for 10 or 20 years, give or take some juggling of duties or small changes in job titles, increasing their pay with seniority is a far better way to incentivise that. Having everyone in the team trying to Prove Their Worth by reinventing yet another wheel every year to earn a merit-based increase would be incredibly disruptive!

      2. KHB*

        The thing is, people aren’t always very good at self-assessing which of your “types” they are. The AAM archives may be full of people who think their coworkers all coast along and don’t improve themselves, but pretty much nobody thinks that they themselves fall into that category. Everyone thinks they’re the top performer who’s singularly deserving of a raise/bonus/promotion/reward, and then they get pissed off when they don’t get it.

        I’m sure there are some employers that punish excellence and reward incompetence, for reasons known only to themselves. But more often, I suspect that maybe what the employee sees as “excellent,” the employer sees as “average” – not because the employee isn’t performing at a high level, but because all of her coworkers are too, because the employer hires good people who will be good at their jobs.

        And maybe the employer doesn’t want to reward employees who push themselves to superhuman levels to go “above and beyond” (and to out-do their coworkers), because they don’t want employees to do those things in the first place. One, because it leads to burnout. Two, because any reward they could provide would pale in comparison to the effort it took to earn it. And three, because maybe they’re not looking for employees they can develop into the next World’s Greatest Teapot Analyst – they’re looking for people to do a particular set of tasks competently and efficiently, and get a bit more competent and efficient each year with experience and practice.

        I obviously don’t know if any of this is what’s going on in OP3’s case (again, there’s not enough information), but if it is, then no, it’s not “insane” to look at salaries from the assumption that everyone is doing their jobs to a high standard and is equally deserving of a raise, so the available raise pool should be divided equally.

        1. Snow Globe*

          People may not be good at self-assessments, but a good manager should be good at assessing an employee’s contributions and skills, and should be able to provide appropriate compensation for that. Any system that specifically does not allow a manager to do that is a very poor system, for the reasons that Alison stated.

        2. EPLawyer*

          Yeah and far too many companies are “that’s the way it is. We don’t do merit based raises because 30 years ago we decided not to do it and it isn’t changing.” Nothing to do with being fair or acknowledging everyone is growing and changing. It’s “hey we don’t have to pay people more every year, great way to keep costs down.”

          A LOT of companies are this way. You can only get more money by leaving. It has nothing to do with whether the person’s skills are average or great. It has to do with the company’s raise structure.

          You are reading a lot more into the letter than is there. Nowhere does the LW say that there are COLA raises every year (lots of companies don’t do COLA) or seniority based raises (incredibly rare). What LW does say is she was surprised to make Analyst II so quickly which does say something about how HER skills are advancing compared to others.

      3. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, “fair” doesn’t mean that everyone gets exactly the same thing regardless of effort, improvement, or skills. Bias and discrimination exist, but refusing merit raises for everyone isn’t the way to solve that particular problem.

    2. LW3*

      We do get annual cost of living increases, yes (around 2%) — otherwise you’re right, it would be totally untenable.

      In my case, the justification for the raise wasn’t just skills growth, but rather some significant achievements in cleaning up the mess I inherited. So my contributions this past year really were unusually valuable and my performance review was stellar.

      1. KHB*

        From what you say, then, it sounds like taking the title bump now would be appropriate, but that expecting future rewards at a similar rate might not be (because you can’t clean up the mess you inherited more than once).

        A 2% annual increase is on the low side of average, I believe, but not so low as to be completely ridiculous. Maybe the employer does things this way because they find that that’s what works for them, or maybe they’re shooting themselves in the foot by being stingy with raises – and in the end, I’m not sure it really matters. They’ve been upfront about how their system works, and you get to decide if it works for you or not.

        1. LW3*

          Very true. One of my main goals for this year is to become a little less essential to my office lol (by documenting my work really thoroughly etc). Right now if I’m out, no one can easily cover for me. I’d like to be able to take a week’s vacation without the work just piling up, and if that changes people’s perception of me from “the sky would fall on us without LW3, keep her at all costs” to just “LW3 is pretty great” — so be it.

      2. Foof*

        We often criticize offers that say “let’s not pay you more now so we can pay you more later!” Because, in the end, you’ve earned less money even if it might “feel” like progress when you get a raise. If your manager thinks the title bump is appropriate, as well as its attendant compensation, and it’s work you want to keep doing then great! If you later start to think you could do better elsewhere because the lack of further advancement opportunities, certainly bring it up then and also start shopping around.

      3. AnonaMoose*

        Ooph. We ONLY get merit increases (and admin regularly states they don’t want “too many people” rated highly) and our workloads continuously go up as resources get cut so going beyond becomes harder and less worthwhile. We barely make COL even if we bust our butts. Then they wonder why people are leaving in droves?

        1. LW3*

          See, if that’s my alternative, I’d rather have a guaranteed COL increase than have to fight for a small merit raise of the same size!

          1. KHB*

            Yeah, me too. We used to have a system like that, and it sucked. We’d go through an elaborate performance appraisal process every year (that essentially just came down to the boss’s whim), and then my boss would tell me that my excellent performance earned me all of a 1.8% raise, but if I try even harder next year, I might get more. And because I was the only woman on my team, I’d always be left wondering how much my boss’s unconscious (or conscious) bias was influencing his decisions.

            Several years ago we switched to sort of a hybrid system that works much better: Everyone who’s not on a PIP gets a flat percentage increase that’s equal to COL plus a little bit more, and a small number of “top performers” get an extra 1% or so on top of that. It’s still not great, because the effort required to be a top performer isn’t commensurate with the reward. But it does mean that we can opt out of playing that game without worrying about falling behind: We can just do our jobs, take the standard increase each year, and be happy.

      4. GreenDoor*

        I was asked to switch to a new position and was told “well, you’re at the top of the range for this position. We can’t give you a raise this year, but we’ll see what we can do next year.” I took the position because it was a title bump and I figured it would look better on my resume and give me more opportunities. But my internal attitude was “fine but now you’ve given me zero incentive to learn new things, take on extra tasks, and innovate.” So yea, you are working under a stupid system. Take the bump to make you more desirable to other employers and don’t hitch your wagon to any stars here.

        1. KHB*

          Or if you look at it another way, you’re freed from the pressure of caring about learning new things, taking on extra tasks, and innovating.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, I’m not presuming that someone who asks for a raise must have earned it or that everyone’s skills grow every year! But cost-of-living raises keep your salary at the same level in terms of actual purchasing power (they’re intended to make sure your purchasing power doesn’t go down). And many, many people are indeed more valuable to their employers as the years go on while they remain in their job. Not all. But many. And this company says they will not reward that in any way. As your contributions to the company increase (if they do), you won’t be compensated accordingly. When you’ve been in your job for a few years, they’re going to be paying you for the value you brought to the job in your first few months.

      1. KHB*

        Just to be clear, much of what I said in my early comments no longer applies, now that LW3 has been by to supply more information. I was still envisioning a possibility where the company might be giving out a flat 2.5-3% annual raise (which would beat COL and thus reward longevity and experience). It sounds like the situation isn’t as good as that – but also not as bad as the “no salary adjustments at all” that some people were inferring. And it sounds like they will make an exception to the “no merit raises” policy for extraordinary circumstances, which LW3’s situation apparently is.

        And the company does reward people who contribute at a higher level with experience, by having several salary grades for effectively the same job. Is that enough to fully account for someone’s growth in value over a possibly decades-long career? I don’t know, maybe not. But I think Forrest makes an important point, above, that just because an employee grows their skills in some way doesn’t mean that the company has to find that improvement valuable or be willing to pay for it. Maybe the skills they need in this role really do get maxed out after a few years, and it’s not important to them to have people who stick around for decades.

  5. TWW*

    #1 Clearly the boss is wrong to undress in view of others.

    When I was a bike commuter, I really appreciated that my workplace had a designated clothes changing area.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah. And when I worked at the office, I really appreciated that my workplace provided a changing area and shower facilities, as well as lockers for clothes. I wasn’t a bike commuter myself, but at least I didn’t have to smell those who were! Some people took biking very seriously, at least one guy commuted two marathons’ worth every day he came to the office.

    2. OP1*

      Your comment has reminded me of something I didn’t consider in my original letter. Obviously I’ve never been into the men’s bathrooms, but the stalls in the ladies are quite small. You could change in there but it definitely wouldn’t be easy. Assuming the men’s are the same I wonder if that’s a factor and if so would that change the advice?

      That being said, there’s plenty of space by the sinks where I guess he could change since he obviously doesn’t mind people seeing him undressed but it would still be a bit more private than in full view of everyone.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I don’t thin kit changes the advice. He has other options than the conference room, and in a worst-case scenario he could make alternative arrangements – a roll of paper aped over the glass door, a handwritten sign on the outside of the bathroom door for the time it takes him to change, or whatever.

      2. TWW*

        Personally I think changing in a toilet stall is gross and sometimes impossible. Changing in front of the sinks would probably be frowned upon by other employees.

        That doesn’t change Alison’s good advice. The boss’s behavior is inappropriate regardless of whether a suitable changing location exists.

        1. lailaaaaah*

          Exactly this. If there is no good changing location, maybe he doesn’t bike to this particular workplace, or doesn’t change, or the office takes this as a cue to create a changing space. But he definitely shouldn’t be doing it in view of his coworkers.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Right? If your only option for changing out of your biking clothes is in full view of the office…you don’t bike to that place.

            1. littledoctor*

              I mean, for some people biking is their only option. Bicycles are much cheaper to maintain than cars IME, and not everyone can use public transit in a pandemic.

          2. Clisby*

            Yeah, like the company could realize there are all kinds of reasons people might need some privacy in meeting rooms (they’re all glass???) Install shades, or blinds, or curtains that generally are open but can be closed if necessary.

        2. Washi*

          Yep. Some people are saying OP should advocate for better changing facilities, which she can if she wants to, but this is her grandboss! All she really needs to do is point out the inappropriateness, this guy is two levels above her and can advocate for designated changing rooms if he wants. Either way, he shouldn’t be taking off his clothes in full view.

          1. BigGlasses*

            100%! I absolutely think there should be a more ‘private’ meeting room for all kinds of reasons, only one of them so that this guy has somewhere to change … but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily OP’s job to push for that. Seems like this guy would be well placed to do so.

          2. LifeBeforeCorona*

            Recently a Canadian MP had someone take his photo while he was nude and changing from workout clothes to office clothes in his office and it was widely posted. The person who took the photo apologized but in my opinion should have been made to resign or fired. My argument was what if the genders were reversed? Would he get a free pass if the naked person was a woman? That being said, the boss really should not be changing clothes in full view of anyone.

        3. The Prettiest Curse*

          A reasonable substitute option might be getting a roll-down blind for his office door, if he’s determined to change only in there and the bathrooms aren’t an option. We had these at my old offices and just had the rule that if the blind was down, it meant “do not disturb”. Although, since this dude seems determined to inflict his partial nudity in people, he’s probably not going to stop doing this unless it becomes an HR issue.

          1. Elenna*

            Eh, “determined” is maybe a harsh word. He might be an asshole, yes, but it’s also entirely possible that he thought “okay, as the person whose body will be on display, I’m okay with this” and just… kinda forgot that others might not be okay with seeing it even if he’s okay with displaying it. Still insensitive, but he could very well respond to OP’s comment by stopping and being embarrassed that he was making anyone else uncomfortable.

            1. JustaTech*

              Yes to this. I had a coworker who refused to use our lactation room while pumping (because it was also the blood draw room and frankly wasn’t very clean). So she used her tiny office, which she shared with two other people. One of them (also a mother) was totally fine with it, but the other person (a guy) was really uncomfortable, but didn’t feel like he could complain because he agreed that the pumping/blood draw room was gross. So he would just go do things in the lab while she pumped. (It resolved pretty quickly when some other medical stuff meant she had to stop pumping early.)

              When we moved buildings we had a separate pumping room and blood draw room for many years, but during our recent renovation the PTB decided that these rooms should be combined again, even though the staff argued against it, and I’m pretty sure it’s in violation of city statues.

        4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          By the washbasin in the men’s is still far better than where anyone can see him.

          1. Cat Tree*

            Yes, assuming this is in the US, our culture is that it’s less appropriate to change in front of someone of a different gender. We also have different expectations of what we might see when entering a bathroom versus walking past a conference room. Assuming the bathrooms are segregated, it would be a step up from changing in the office.

            1. Observer*

              We also have different expectations of what we might see when entering a bathroom versus walking past a conference room. Assuming the bathrooms are segregated, it would be a step up from changing in the office.

              Yes. This is true regardless of gender. I don’t want to see my female coworker in her undies any more than I want to see a make coworker in his undies. At least in a bathroom I know that I could be seeing stuff that’s not office appropriate.

        5. Karo*

          Changing in front of the sinks would probably be frowned upon by other employees.

          Considering where he’s currently changing, I don’t think he cares about that.

        6. Artemesia*

          changing in the open area of a men’s room is a lot more appropriate than in a class walled office in front of everyone. He probably views boxers as akin to shorts and doesn’t see it as inappropriate as it is.

      3. Juniper*

        That was my first thought as well — changing in the women’s restroom is bad enough, I can’t imagine the men’s. There’s likely nowhere to put your stuff apart from the floor, on the toilet or in a sink, and you have to do the little hoppy dance as you balance on your shoes to avoid touching the disgusting bathroom floor. He probably figures that that early in the morning, the meeting rooms aren’t in use and at least provide a semblance of privacy by being in a closed-off room.

        My advice: ask your manager if facilities management can frost one of the doors. There are probably others that would also appreciate a place where they can get a modicum of privacy (any breast feeding moms?) in a clean environment not associated with toilets.

        If not, I may just let this go. I don’t think you’re wrong for being uncomfortable, but I don’t think this is a really egregious thing. There are probably no great options and he’s trying to find the least worst one. Probably more than anything, this is a result of inadequate facilities that might not be easy to solve. If there’s a way you can avert your eyes, or go down the hall, that’s probably what I would do. Full disclosure, I’m in Scandinavia so my views on bodies are influence by the prevailing social attitudes that may not apply elsewhere. Take my advice with a grain of salt :)

        1. OP1*

          A good idea, having at least one private room would be great. I stopped breastfeeding before I joined and the other Mums here all have older children; but obviously it’s still a good idea for the future.

          1. Smithy*

            As someone who has changed in work bathrooms and loathed it – I think this idea is both helpful to the immediate situation and the office more broadly.

            In no way am I advocating an appropriateness for a grand boss changing in view for a more junior colleague – especially in a US cultural context. But I think by promoting how a more private space for changing, pumping, etc. would be of value avoids any push back on changing in the restroom.

        2. allathian*

          I’m also in the Nordics (technically Finland isn’t a part of Scandinavia), and attitudes to nudity are certainly less rigid here than in the US. But that doesn’t make it appropriate to change in front of other people, especially not people of the opposite gender. It’s also one thing to catch a glimpse without trying to look in a changing room when everyone is in various stages of undress, and in the professional environment of an office.

          My team did two training days at a spa. I didn’t jump in the pool because I’m severely allergic to chlorine, although if I’m honest I’m glad I had the excuse to avoid it, but most of my coworkers did and it was fine. But it would be awkward to see my coworkers in a swimsuit at the office nevertheless.

        3. Observer*

          If not, I may just let this go.

          No. I don’t care how hard it is for him to change in the bathroom. This is just not appropriate, and the OP should not have to deal with this as the price to actually get their job done.

          He probably figures that that early in the morning, the meeting rooms aren’t in use and at least provide a semblance of privacy by being in a closed-off room.

          Right. Like he can’t see the OP there.

      4. Claude*

        Rather than call out his behaviour, I would suggest an improvement to the office so he doesn’t have to change as publicly anymore. Highlighting the (perceived) lack of facilities is very low key. Once there is a designated space to change (they could even just frost the glass doors by the sounds of it) he would have to be really weird not to use it.

      5. Foxgloves*

        Surely changing quickly in the bathroom is less of an issue, particularly the gents where there are probably urinals so there’s a certain degree of public undress anyway?! But also, I’m confused by why he’s literally stripping down to his boxers- surely he could swap his trousers and then switch his shirt, or vice versa, so he’s always half covered and not basically naked in the meeting room/ bathroom…? It’s the full on undressing that’s unsettling to me…

        1. Observer*

          I’m confused by why he’s literally stripping down to his boxers- surely he could swap his trousers and then switch his shirt, or vice versa, so he’s always half covered and not basically naked in the meeting room/ bathroom…? It’s the full on undressing that’s unsettling to me…

          Yes, that stood out to me, too.

          1. JustaTech*

            Having mastered the fine art of changing out of a wet bathing suit and into dry clothes in a room with zero privacy without ever being “undressed” (without a towel!), I have to think that it must be possible to get at least most of the way into bike clothes without totally disrobing.
            Though bike shorts are bulkier than a swimsuit, which might make it harder. But still, he could try. (Or wear a towel!)

      6. Sutemi*

        Most workplaces have at least one ADA compliant stall that is larger. I would change for my bike commute there, it wasn’t ideal but there was a little more room to spread out and a hook to hang my bag.

        1. Accounting is fun*

          I used a product called an UnDress when I had to change at work. It is a dress that is designed to allow you to change clothes without flashing your undies to anyone. I used it to change from bike clothing to office-appropriate clothing. It allows you to keep shoes on as well making changes in the bathroom much less gross. There is a male version as well that I would recommend to this person – as well as using a bathroom or other space that doesn’t have glass doors.

        2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          This ties up the accessible stall for those who need it for its intended purpose, though. It’s particularly a problem if you’re changing in or out of something that takes longer than a minute or two (it’s a regular problem with cosplayers at conventions who want to change into elaborate outfits at-con), but something to keep in mind regardless.

      7. Dust Bunny*

        He could just change in the common area of the bathroom, though. It wouldn’t be completely private but it would be a lot more private than the conference room.

        Also, this might be because I live in a warm climate and you pretty much don’t bike anywhere without getting sweaty, but, ugh? Can we not use general-use rooms for bare, sweaty, skin?

      8. meyer lemon*

        I don’t think it’s your job to figure this out for him. If he wants to cycle to work, he needs to figure out a way to change that is okay with him and doesn’t require taking his clothes off in front of his coworkers. That’s not too much to ask!

      9. MCMonkeybean*

        Changing in a bathroom is often unpleasant, but if that is literally the only place where he could do it without being seen then it remains the only appropriate option. Or else if there is like a coffee shop or something nearby that he could use as part of his daily routine, but that’s on him to figure out if he has any better alternatives. He is making the choice to bike to work and he needs to figure out how to make it work without stripping down in the office.

    3. Not Australian*

      I used to travel in on a motorbike and that required a lot of special gear – boots, helmet, waterproof suit etc. Luckily I had an office to myself which had no windows and I was able to lock the door and change there, as our only nearby bathroom was almost always occupied at that time in the morning by someone who was (in flagrant contravention of the rules) taking a smoke break in there. Hospitals, right? The rules are always for someone else!

    4. tg*

      It sounds like the appropriateness of the facilities could do with a review, you could do with a changing area, and also a quieter office area to make phonecalls from. Can anything be done to quiet the open plan area?

      1. OP1*

        I work in sales, so having an open plan floor is encouraged and part of the culture. However, there’s definitely plans to change office in the medium term future and move to a different location. I’m not sure if I have the standing right now to bring these kinds of changes up given I’m so new.

        1. Shirley Keeldar*

          And honestly, you don’t have to. All these suggestions are reasonable, but your boss is a grown man and has a lot more authority than you do. All you have to do is say, “Can you please stop changing in full view of the office.” He can figure out how!

          1. Qwerty*

            This is what I’m struggling to get past. There are so many comments telling the OP to make suggestions on finding a workaround for her grandboss to keep him happy. The grandboss has so much more power – if he doesn’t want to change in the bathroom, then it is on *him* to work with HR on a better solution. OP only has to tell HR if she doesn’t want to see him nearly naked – it is not her responsibility to find him a better changing option.

            I can’t help but contrast the acceptance of a high ranking man getting mostly naked in the office compared to the uproar over modesty panels a while ago where women were told to be more careful in how they sat at their desks.

            1. Clisby*

              But the change doesn’t need to be targeted for this one person. Surely there are other reasons to allow privacy in meeting rooms. To me, a company that doesn’t realize and accommodate that is a pretty bizarre company.

        2. foolofgrace*

          I think you should mention it when you go to HR to inform them about the undressing. They probably don’t know it’s a problem, and you’d be doing everyone a favor by suggesting a built-in changing / privacy room (they’ll need one anyway if they hire a nursing mother). They probably haven’t thought this far but it’s something to take into consideration.

        3. Haha Lala*

          Use your new-ness to your advantage here! Tell your boss or HR that you’re sure they didn’t realize it, but your desk is right in the sight line of grandboss changing every morning, and then ask if they have a solution. Maybe you move desks (which is a temporary fix really) or maybe the realize that half-naked grandboss in full view of staff is a bad idea then come up with a better place for him to change.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Right, it looks like OP’s workplace does not provide any options for privacy outside of a bathroom stall. Honest confession, I’ve changed in meeting rooms for after-work hikes, because changing in a tiny bathroom stall that dozens of people had been using all day, feels gross to me and I’d like to be able to only use that as a last resort. But ours did not have transparent walls, and had doors that locked. OP’s office seems to be just… glass everywhere. I don’t like it.

      I once worked at a place that had lockers and a shower. It was fantastic. I wish more workplaces had that.

    6. Anon for this*

      Several years ago I would frequently (a day or two a week) visit another site and work out of my team’s storage/office space there. It wasn’t my office, but there was no one who worked there permanently and I was the primary person who used it, so while I wouldn’t be put out if someone else worked there, I did somewhat consider the desk and chair to be “mine.”

      One day I came in to discover dirty bike gear (shirt and shorts) draped over “my” chair. I pinged my team, basically going, “UH…” and my manager figured out pretty quickly that another manager who worked at that site had been using that space to change. He read the fellow the riot act, and the next time I came in to a very clean chair, and dirty bike shorts were never a problem again.

      I think the changing happened elsewhere, too, since one of the points of the riot act was “Yes, the door locks, but her key opens it.”

      And even with this having happened, I can’t imagine a colleague CHANGING IN FRONT OF ME.

  6. Ashley*

    LW2, you could ask for additional vacation time as part of the bonus. Having a longer then normal stretch might help you recharge after all the work you did once your coworkers are back to help shoulder the load.

    1. JelloStapler*

      That’s what I was thinking, let others step in and give this employee a paid break.

    2. Cj*

      This would be fair. But you know what? Tons of people where I live made more on unemployment with the extra $600/week than they did working. Counting their regular unemployment, the add’l $600, the fact that it’s not subject to FICA taxes and first $10,200 not being subject to income tax, the didn’t net too much less than I make as a professional. And I didn’t get a day off because of the pandemic because I could work from home.

      Much worse, grocery store, etc. workers had to continue go be exposed to many many people a day, risking getting covid, and not being paid nearly as well as the people on unemployment.

      There is a lot of resentment about this issue in general, not just if it was your own co-workers getting paid for not working when you were. But such is pandemic life. It’s not fair, and there is no way to make it fair, because the entire pandemic isn’t “fair”.

      1. Reba*

        This comment strikes me as slightly unfair (ha).

        It’s true that there are things that will never balance out from this period. But just because some people have it harder doesn’t mean that the OP should not seek to get appropriate compensation for her work! She can be grateful for good fortune while still asking for what her contributions are worth.

      2. BuildMeUp*

        If someone made more on unemployment than they did while working a full time job, that just means that they weren’t getting paid enough at their job.

        1. AnonForNow*

          That is absolutely not true. The state I live in would have paid me more in enhanced unemployment and I make more than 45k a year. You cannot tell me that 45k in a state where cost of living is fairly low is not enough. I am 100% on board with $15 an hour minimum wage, but let’s not distort reality to make the case.

          1. Bumblebee*

            Yes, yes I can. I’m pretty sure my family’s breadwinner earned about $45K in a low
            COL area in the early 1990s and it was emphatically not enough to raise a family on.

            1. Clisby*

              Maybe we have different ideas of low COL. My husband and I, and our newborn daughter, lived in Columbus, OH in the mid-1990s. He quit work to stay home with her because we could easily live on the $48,000/year salary I made.

      3. JustaTech*

        But there are ways to make it fair-er. Or at least recognize the lack of fairness.

        Some kind of material thanks, to start. A bonus, a raise, more vacation time, a better chair or computer or something like that. An official commendation to make sure the group recognizes OP2’s work. Some kind of letter that can be used to support a future promotion.
        Additional political capital in the office.

        And I really applaud OP2 for not taking this out on their coworkers.

      4. Black Horse Dancing*

        Unfortunately, if people are making more on unemployment, those companies are paying poverty wages.

    3. Nea*

      I’m going to suggest extended vacation time as the entire bonus, and a serious amount of time at that.

      I was on a 50/50 work schedule while my housemate has worked full time. There were and are stresses on the both of us, but hers are much, much higher because she never got a moment’s down time.

      Ask for at least a week off!

    4. ella*

      I was going to suggest this. I would probably ask for a solid month off, though obviously I have no idea if that’s feasible for the LW and their position.

    5. PersephoneUnderground*

      Yeah, they might not be able to give bonuses right now after being semi-closed for so long and still paying their employees, but there *are* still things they can give you, like a nice chunk of banked vacation and the flexibility to use it whenever you want.

    6. I could never get the hang of Thursdays*

      Yes, I was in a similar situation with my company. My employer gave me 2 extra CTO days as compensation for working while the majority of the staff was furloughed during a govt ordered shut down.

  7. A Genuine Scientician*

    #2: You absolutely *should* get some sort of recognition out of this. A bonus would be great, though it’s hard to know if they’ll be able to afford that. But if they can’t, you can suggest something else; extra PTO this/next year, for example, or freedom from holiday coverage for some defined period, or something else of real value to you but which might not cost them much if anything in direct payment.

    It is great that they were able to continue to pay people even when they couldn’t do their job. Truly. But that doesn’t change the fact that you did extra beyond your normal job, for no additional compensation, while many of your coworkers did less while still being paid the same. You’re not asking that they not be paid or their pay be cut; you’re asking that you having gone above and beyond what others at your level did be recognized and compensated. The fact that your job *could* be done from home doesn’t negate that extra you *did* compared to basically everyone else.

    1. EngGirl*

      I was coming on to essentially say the same thing. Before going to her supervisor LW 2 should think about what she really wants most and ask for that. Maybe it’s “Hey can I get some kind of compensation?” But maybe it’s “hey I worked for several months for the same pay while others were paid while not working. I’m burning out. Can I get a couple of 2 week vacations not out of my PTO all taken within this specified period?”

      I also think that if feasible they should make a push for cross training so that nothing like this happens in the future.

    2. Reba*

      Yes, as OP mentions she works at an archive, i.e. probably a non-profit cultural organization, I think that a monetary bonus is unlikely. But, additional PTO, or comp time could be workable.

      I think the emphasis should be on the work the OP did, really going above and beyond. Certainly the fact that other people did not work as much is part of the story, but don’t get stuck on what OP did and others didn’t do. Instead, ground the request on your exceptional work keeping the organization going through a really trying period, and say that you want to have some breathing room now that it’s not all on your shoulders, you could even mention that you want to avoid burnout. The organization came through to support its employees who didn’t come in; hopefully they will see that they need to do the same for the one who did!

      1. Public Library of Tiny Dinos*

        No particular advice for OP#2, just want to say from an adjacent field (libraries) that I FEEL YOU. My co-workers were on paid furlough for months while I worked remotely, with two kids under age 5, without a break. I am so, so glad that my colleagues’ jobs were secure and they got paychecks. I am also afroth with envy and frustration. You can feel both.

    3. TRexx*

      I think the OP should focus on their own work and merit rather than others.

      You just did the job you are paid to do … If her performance did in fact go above and beyond- then certainly ask for a raise or extra compensation based on your own merit. But please do not sit across your manager and ask for extra comp for just doing your job because no one else was able to. That would be a wrong approach in my humble opinion.

  8. Vichyssuave*

    #2 – No advice, just commiseration. My team had to work on site the entire time (there is no way to do our very essential job from home), and I personally was exposed at work and had to quarantine* 4 times before I was able to get the vaccine. Meanwhile we had coworkers in other sectors who were paid to stay home and do nothing for about 3 months before they coordinated to be able to get people working from home.

    *Social quarantine in which as long as you tested negative and were asymptomatic you could (and had to) come into work but couldn’t leave your house for any reason for 2 weeks otherwise. It took a real toll on a lot of us to be mandated to work during that quarantine period despite work being the cause of the quarantine/risk in the first place.

    I’m glad my coworkers were taken care of. And of course thankful to have had steady employment throughout this ordeal. But I think a lot of us essential workers have some bitter feelings about a lot of what happened this year. Hopefully there may eventually be some kind of hazard pay or bonus for those in similar situations.

    1. Liz*

      “Social quarantine in which as long as you tested negative and were asymptomatic you could (and had to) come into work but couldn’t leave your house for any reason for 2 weeks otherwise.”

      I’m sorry, am I reading this right? You had to come into the office during your quarantine? That completely negates the point of quarantine! My team have been coming in throughout much of the pandemic (we’re in healthcare) but when colleagues have been asked to quarantine, that ABSOLUTELY included not coming to work, and the rest of us just had to find a way to cover or just postpone some appointments. (One colleague was exposed TWICE in succession thanks to roommates and was effectively out for a month.) These rules are in place to protect everyone, including staff. I’m so sorry your boss put you at risk like that! It’s just not ok!

      The past year has been exceptionally tough on those of us in essential roles, but I’m absolutely livid on your behalf that your employer was so lax in following quarantine protocols.

      1. Vichyssuave*

        Unfortunately we’re the kind of essential where if we fall below certain staffing levels, there would be a public safety crisis. We do fall under exemptions/allowances made for returning to work for our state and county for asymptomatic individuals.

      2. Sled dog mama*

        My director had this happen, one member of her family tested positive and two days before that quarantine was up another family member tested positive. She was out close to 6 weeks from that.

      3. doreen*

        That “quarantine outside of work while you’re negative and have no symptoms” was very common exemption to quarantine requirements for certain professions – if everyone who was exposed had to do a full quarantine after each exposure , there would not have been enough healthcare workers to take care of the sick.

      4. TK*

        As doreen says below, this wasn’t uncommon at all. This was standard advice given to essential workers in my rural area– if you’re essential, you can still go to work during quarantine but nowhere else, as long as you didn’t have symptoms and/or tested negative.

    2. No Furlough For Me*

      I’ll jump on the commiseration wagon with you. I work in healthcare and my outpatient department had to stay open last year, but with seriously scaled back operations. (we are an ancillary department, not “life sustaining”) About 80% of our staff got furloughed and I was one of the remainder who worked all the way through. They had been able to collect the bumped up unemployment benefit and our facility made up any difference; so pieced together they received their full pay for 4 months. When they came back though all we heard about was how it was “unfair” that we kept earning vacation time the whole time. Yes, they were literally collecting full pay, without using any vacation time, while at home for months, and thought they should be also banking vacation time too. None of them seemed to think this was double dipping at all even though earning vacation time based on hours worked is our standard. Two of us also covered all of the weekend days during the furlough, and when full staff came back were originally pulled from the rotation for the remainder of the year. The furloughed staff complained so much that it was “unfair” that we ended up back in the rotation. I think I worked a total of 16 Saturdays to everyone else’s 2-3 in 2020. Those of us who worked barely got a thank you even from administration because the mindset was, “be glad you are getting a pay check.” I get that, and I was grateful for it. But yeah, a little something beside an obligatory pat on the back would have been appreciated.

    3. Narise*

      We had to furlough people at the start of COVID and later laid off most of them. It wasn’t easy. However there were several employees who thought furlough is great I’ll just use all those weeks of PTO that I haven’t used catch up on all my projects. Except on furlough they can file unemployment but not be paid by the company including PTO otherwise it doesn’t save the company any money. I had four staff members calling or in my office once this was clarified on a call, terrified that they would be furloughed.
      I thought it was great that some companies could pay their employees not to work but not all companies could. While I agree that we are all in this together we are not all facing the same situation.

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

    OP1 (boxers) – no it’s not normal :) but I don’t think I would take it to my boss or to HR when I’d just started a job, particularly since it doesn’t seem to be “exhibitionist” in any way – I assume he realizes people can see through the glass, doesn’t really care about being seen in his boxers and it’s practical for some reason (e.g. no space to get changed elsewhere).

    I would probably bring it up tactfully with my new co-workers first and get more of a sense of what’s going on: has it been addressed before, etc.

    1. Juniper*

      If it’s the boss’ boss, I’d be careful about talking about it with other co-workers when you’re the newbie. Likely he’s been doing it for a while, and they may very well not care. Things like this can be difficult to bring up tactfully when you don’t know the culture yet and don’t have social capital, and you don’t want to be seen as gossiping.

    2. Observer*

      particularly since it doesn’t seem to be “exhibitionist” in any way – I assume he realizes people can see through the glass,

      Those two pieces are a bit contradictory. He knows that people see him and he’s doing it anyway. I hope he’s not actually actively trying to flash anyone but he’s still showing off a lot more than is appropriate.

      but I don’t think I would take it to my boss or to HR when I’d just started a job,

      And being new means that you need to accept things that are wrong? Or that you also need to work around a “*broken stair” rather than pointing out the safety hazard and trying to get it fixed?

      Of course the OP knows their culture better than we do, and needs to judge the risk level. But this kind of baseline advice is of of the things that allows abuse to flourish.

      1. Oh, my*

        How do you get to “flashing”? Boxers show no more of the body than shorts (short pants) or a short skirt.

        1. Observer*

          I didn’t say he is flashing. I DID say that he is showing off way more than is appropriate, and he knows it.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        I suspect his thinking might be something like “they know I’m going to change in there so they’ll just not look in this direction”. I’m not saying that’s good – but it’s doesn’t make the situation contradictory vis a vis not exhibitionist and also not caring if someone happens to glance.
        That said, a $12 vinyl cling that looks like window frosting, a spray bottle of water, and 20 minutes would fix this, so it’s kinda dumb it went on this long.

    3. Dr. Rebecca*

      I don’t “mind” being seen in my underwear either, but I know it’s not appropriate at work, so I keep my clothes on. It’s not about what I’m comfortable with, it’s about what is and is not “work behavior.”

  10. Jessica Fletcher*

    #2 – This sucks! Assuming you aren’t the only person with the skills to do your responsibilities, they should have farmed out enough of your tasks so that everyone was doing an equitable amount of work. That way, everyone would get paid their normal hours, but no one would have to work their full schedule.

    If sharing the load was totally impossible, then yeah, they should both recognize your efforts and financially reward you for it. And give you some extra, paid vacation when others are back to work!

    1. Chas*

      I don’t know what the regulations for this are like in LW2’s workplace, but in mine the government’s furlough conditions meant that people who were deemed to be not working/ put on furlough couldn’t do anything at all, otherwise we wouldnt get support from the government (which was paying for 80% of people’s salary)- it was strict enough that my group ended up paying 2 months of a coworkers salary because she got taken off of furlough because someone saw that she’d written one letter to a funding body for our boss).

      If LW2’s employer is in a similar situation it might not have been possible to dole out the responsibilities like that. But I agree that they should have considered if that was possible and at the very least LW2 ought to be getting some kind of bonus reward for being the one who worked the whole time.

  11. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    It sounds like in the case of #1, Bicycle Man has got into the habit of changing in the office, and perhaps no-one’s ever noticed or questioned it before. In an OldJob the motorcycle guys certainly got changed in the meeting rooms because there was no way in hell there was space to get leathers off in the cubicle in the mens toilet. Luckily, our glass was frosted…

    TBH, it doesn’t sound like Bicycle Man is doing this to be a pervert. He’s just getting changed. I think I’d be tempted to Just Not Look (unless he was a H.O.T. of course, LOL) being as I am British and therefore stereotypically ‘reserved’.

    1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Ok, I gotta ask, what does H.O.T. mean? I agree,the guy doesn’t *seem* to be pervin and creepin, but a little decorum and awareness should be in order. It may not bother him, but he needs to know that others aren’t wondering what kind of drawers he has on.
      Funny story. Due to a weird building layout at a place I once worked, to get to a file storage room, you had to walk through the men’s locker room. Just so happened that I was in mid change…nothing on but briefs… and the president of the company’s wife comes walking through to look in the storage room. I stood there and said the goofiest, silliest “HIIII!”. Don’t know if the following scream was from embarrassment or fright, but she ran back out, with apologies being professed as she went. Later I told her no worries, it happens… we’re mostly all adults here.

    2. Cat Tree*

      His intention doesn’t really matter here. There are very rare cases where I might have to see a coworker undress, but this isn’t one of them.

    3. pcake*

      Or he could be an exhibitionist who’s found a way to get his jollies showing off without seeming like an exhibitionist showing off.

  12. Juniper*

    LW2, people are just starting to return to the office now and are stumbling around as they figure out how to adjust to their new old routines. Give things some time to settle, and then approach this as you would any large project that you pulled off successfully. I understand the feeling, and I don’t think you’re being petty, but I do think there’s a time to bring it up and now isn’t quite it.

    1. Allonge*

      I think the point to consider the timing is valid, but I would not definitely say now is no time to do it – it totally depends on the company, for one, and another, waiting too long might have bad consequences too: LW should try to shorten the period of resentment as much as possible (so as not to get more and more resentful) and two, in some cases companies might also go ‘yeah, but that was last year, what have you done for me lately’. Which would be a terrible reaction, but still.

      Anyway: yes, don’t do this conversation on the same day that everybody’s new arrangements are decided, but I would say do it before and not after.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I would say the timing absolutely is now before it’s all forgotten or swept under the carpet!

      2. Juniper*

        I definitely see your point! I think the part that gives me pause is the fact that she was essentially just doing her job, even if it was extra work and she was occasionally going above and beyond. I’m worried that if she frames it as being compensated specifically for continuing to work during COVID (some people are suggesting extra vacation or a bonus) she won’t get what she ultimately deserves, or worse, risk being seen as petty or unsportsmanlike (neither of which I think she is).

        But as part of an official performance review, being able to point to such an undeniable example of work ethic and results is a golden ticket. This that could give her a more permanent boost, whether it’s in the form of a raise, promotion, or some other benefit, that a temporary acknowledgement would fail to achieve. I wouldn’t spend that capital just yet.

        1. Allonge*

          This is the part where the ‘depends on the company’ comes in though: if there is an official performance review process, it absolutely makes sense to bring most of this up then. It would be the case in my company: boss cannot propose a raise outside of this process, so no point in pushing for it now.

          But I would still bring it up: let’s have the discussion on what counts and what does not count as above and beyond while it’s still fresh and decide on how it will be rewarded so LW can put it out of their mind until it happens (or not, but it should). And I would arrange to take some leave for sure.

          In a less structured place though, it might make more sense to talk it all the way through now.

    2. Beth*

      I don’t quite agree with this. It’s true that things are up in the air and shifting rapidly at a lot of workplaces, but I think that actually makes this the right time to address the issue! Since things are in flux already, there may be more room than usual for OP to get adjustments made. For example, offloading some of the extra tasks that have fallen on their shoulders during this period, identifying backups who can take on essential tasks so OP asking for a couple weeks off becomes viable, and resetting expectations of what OP’s work will look like going forward. A purely financial request like a bonus might need some flexibility (I think OP can still put the idea out there, but it’s true that the dust might need to settle before it gets approved), but there are a lot of other things that should be done that are better done now than re-adjusted once again after everyone’s settled in from this adjustment.

    3. AnonForNow*

      Can we not offer this kind of “advice” please? You are basically saying “listen, you worked really hard while everyone else didn’t but can you please just wait a little longer to be compensated because going back to work is hard on these people who HAVE NOT WORKED in a while” Give me a break.

      Why do some people have to light themselves on fire to keep others warm? Just, no.

  13. rudster*

    With LW1, I’m reminded of the Modern Family episode where somebody has to tell Cam not to visit Mitch’s workplace in bicycle shorts, because it’s not the great look he thinks it is. Boss’ behavior is definitely odd, but put in perspective, boxers aren’t really more revealing than other articles which we would not consider inappropriate to fleetingly be seen in in the office or even in public. Most people wouldn’t care if someone walked into the office in bicycle shorts after their morning bike commute (on their way to the changing room), but bicycle shorts can be pretty darn tight – and surely reveal more of certain areas than loose boxers. Same if someone someone popped into the office on the weekend just to pick up a document on their way to a run in the park and was wearing trunks or running shorts, which can be thin and fairly short. Again, probably more revealing than boxers, but because we consider these “outerwear” and not “underwear”, we would just shrug.
    In the absence of other concerning behavior, I would be inclined to file it away under harmless quirks for now.

    1. Heather Chandler*

      Presumably, the coworkers popping into the office would have shirts on though. I may be reading the letter wrong, but to me stripping down to one’s boxers means those are the only clothing on at that given point in time. I certainly would be pretty taken aback to see a coworker in nothing but shorts, no matter what kind, in the office.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      But they’re still boxers, which are underwear. I’m pretty sure if I stripped down to a bra and panties in my glass-walled office, there would be an issue.

      Which brings up another problem: Double standard for men and women? If he were female, I cannot imagine this would be taken quite so calmly.

      1. LadyKelBot*

        Right? I mean just this week we had a question about the inappropriateness of someone (maybe!?) not wearing a bra on a zoom call.

    3. foolofgrace*

      And bathing trunks are just as revealing, people look at other people in them all the time, but it’s totally inappropriate in an office. It’s like swearing — I can swear up a storm at home but when I hear those words at the office it’s jarring.

    4. introverted af*

      I think the distinction between bicycle shorts and underwear is like the difference between underwear and swimming suits, especially for women. One is functional and you put it on intending to be seen in public in it. The other is underwear.

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

      Well, boxers are NOT really the same as shorts. They have an opening in the crotch that allows a man to pee without taking his trousers all the way down, so…there is a possibility of full exposure.

      Does the company have a room for mothers to pump…something that would be available to John that the OP could suggest besides a bathroom? But before they go to HR, I think they do need to address this to John. “Hey John, I get that there aren’t any spaces for real privacy in the office, but I was really surprised and uncomfortable the other day when you changed clothes so openly. And now I wonder if others in the office would also like a space for short use privacy. Can the company invest in a shade for the glass doors or set aside a small room for people who may need it, and the bathroom would be inappropriate? I’m thinking of new mothers who need to pump, or diabetics who need to take their insulin shots, or people to change clothes…”

  14. Kate*

    Letter #1 This reminds me of when my boss would strip off in front of me before a free Yoga class my work put on once a week. She would strip right down to her underwear and no bra. I just went with it. I didn’t look and just got changed myself.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Reminds me of the fitness center at my workplace – at least it’s all done in a changing room where that’s expected, but you get real accustomed to the idea that you might be stripping down to nothing in front of a colleague/boss/etc.

  15. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP1: I remember my shock when a coworker at one place came into the office and took his motorcycle leathers off at his desk and accidentally pulled his trousers off as well. We all got to see what pants he had on! Luckily he got incredibly embarrassed and from then on would change in the disabled loo (he was disabled, funnily enough with the same issue I have).

    I’d definitely raise it with HR if this were a regular occurrence. It’s just not expected in a workplace to see coworkers and managers in their undercrackers.

    (Amusing anecdote: I once changed clothes in a server room – not going into reasons – but at least I made sure it was a) locked and b) that there was no video monitoring)

    1. Observer*

      Amusing anecdote: I once changed clothes in a server room – not going into reasons – but at least I made sure it was a) locked and b) that there was no video monitoring

      Good idea. But I would say that today any server room that doesn’t have video monitoring is inadequately secured.

      So, that’s probably not an option anymore.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Oh this was a long time ago, back when we carved operating systems on slabs of rock….

  16. nnn*

    Rig up the A/V system to play stripper music in the meeting room when he goes in to change!*

    *Don’t actually do this.

    1. A Cat named Brian*

      Omg. Thanks for the laugh! But She would have to have a poll and a strob light as well to set the ambiance…maybe a sign on the door, “The Platinum Club”, no cover charge on Thursdays…

  17. Richard Hershberger*

    LW2: Lutheran pastor’s kid here: This is the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). It is an illustration of grace. The thing about grace is that by definition it is not based on merit. It is not earned. In the parable, the workers who had worked longer were pissed when the workers who had worked less got the same wage. Grace is a hard concept to accept. We can always think of someone less deserving that we are, which rather misses the point. Jesus was describing the Kingdom of Heaven, which often does not translate well to this vale of tears. The earliest Christian church was, as I enjoy reminding my conservative friends, communist (Acts 2:44-45). That didn’t work out well, either.

    So getting back to the LW’s situation, don’t begrudge your coworkers receiving your employer’s grace. No happiness lies down that road. But do ask for a couple weeks of extra vacation. Pitch it as needing time to unwind for all the work you did. That won’t affect the budget. And it will show you just how gracious they are (or are not).

    1. Anon at the Moment*

      I’m not a religious person but I had a friend who is. One day I was unloading on him about the annoying things at work and he told me how he tries to keep the parable you just mentioned in mind when faced with similar situations.

      I don’t know, it just kinda stuck with me and now when faced with situations outside of my control or with people who always seem to get the breaks and I don’t, I try to remind myself to extend a little grace. It helps me to tamp down on that BEC feeling and feel a little more in control. I appreciate the refresher Richard!

      To OP, your situation sucks and I would absolutely be frustrated. I would try to “extend a little grace” to my colleagues not necessarily for their sake, but for my own because dwelling on it would drive me crazy. I hope your org is able to recognize your hard work and more importantly, I hope your colleagues extend you a hell of a lot of grace going forward.

    2. kathy*

      This is a beautiful message.
      I would probably ask once for additional compensation. We’re all our own best advocates, and often you’ll never get anything if you don’t ask for it! But after that, I would let it go and agree with Richard – don’t begrudge your coworkers for the benefit that they received.

    3. Allonge*

      I think the part to be cautious of here is, it’s perfectly possible – at least for some people who compartmentalize better – to resent the situation without resenting the persons involved in it.

      If I were LW, I would be happy that my colleagues got compensated in a period when it was not possible for them to work due to no fault of their own, AND still feel like ‘should it not be my turn now’. And actually this is how I read the letter: LW knows very well that this was still one of the best possible solutions, they would just like to have some kind of acknowledgement of their efforts. Which, as you say, is reasonable.

    4. Anonymous Hippo*

      I don’t think she is begrudging their grace, I think she would like an acknowledgement of her efforts.

    5. Another Michael*

      Respectfully, I don’t think this a good way to approach thinking about this situation.

      Workplaces can’t and shouldn’t exist to provide workers with benefits that exist beyond our plane of existence. In fact, it seems like the letter writer has thought about and is comforted by the fact that their workplace did the right thing. That still leaves space for an acknowledgement of the LW’s feelings about this and a good workplace would be thoughtful about creating some equity (be it a pay or time bonus, etc.) for this employee.

  18. Anony*


    I’m not sure I understood your layout completely, so sorry if I got this wrong.

    But you are not at your desk when you see him changing, aren’t you? Sounds like you had walked to the quiet place, and then he arrived, acknowledged you, and went into a meeting room. If this is correct, I think what you do is walk back to your desk, if he arrives to change. He may have assumed that would be your action, not that you would stay to watch.

    It’s still an idea to get frosted glass, but making sure that anybody who needs is can get some privacy, not just him.
    Since this is the office quiet place (blind spot?) he may have chosen this especially for better privacy than a bathroom. (A men’s bathroom during morning-rush with everybody’s morning-coffee-movements would not be ideal in any way.)

    If you actually get this view from your desk, it’s a little different, but it seems like there is no creepiness going on, just somebody making the best out of available options.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      I was wondering, since OP1 is a newbie, maybe there’s some kind of history and unspoken agreement that they aren’t privy to around this. Like the other commenters suggested, bathrooms can be cramped for changing in, gross for trying to lay out your clean work clothes before putting them on, in high demand for actual biological needs, etc. Maybe everyone else just knows that when Commuting Big Boss comes through, they meander off for a couple minutes. Not that this isn’t weird and maybe there’s another solution that can be found.

      1. Sandi*

        It might be worth saying something to coworkers, asking if there is a history. I had a coworker who changed in her cubicle at the same time every day and everyone knew not to walk past at that time.

    2. OP1*

      No I’m not at my desk when I see this although there’s definitely at least 2-3 people who would see from their desks (but they’re also part-time so aren’t often there).

      I definitely didn’t feel like it was meant to be a creepy or threatening thing. If he hadn’t acknowledged me before walking in I would almost have thought he didn’t notice me and it was some awful misunderstanding

  19. KTV123*

    #4- I work in health insurance and my company has an easy to use medication coverage checker (you can choose your plan) right on their home page- you don’t need to have an account to check general coverage. I know we aren’t unique in having this feature so even if you know the company that provides the coverage it may be relatively easy to check.

    1. Corporate Recruiter*

      Tacking on to this to say to OP #4- I’ve been a corporate recruiter for 10+ years and constantly field questions about our health benefits, if you feel more comfortable waiting until an offer that’s totally fine but it’s not as out of place anymore to ask during the interview process.

    2. Generic Name*

      I’ve been covered under a number of different insurance companies, and the ease of finding the information one is looking for via the website ranges from “so terrible it is non-functional”, to “okay”. To the OP, if you can find the information you need on the insurance company’s website, great! If not, you may need to call them. Also, if you are interviewing at a large company, they may even say what insurance provider they use on their website. Also make sure you know the brand name and generic name and dosage of your medicine when you’re checking. My son just switched plans within the same insurance company and the old plan covered the brand name of a medication, but the new plan only covered the generic. So the particular plan even within the same insurance company absolutely makes a difference in coverage.

  20. over caffeinated sloth*

    Letter one, not sure if there’s something about the environment I’m missing but it sounds like the rooms have solid walls but just a window in a door. If that’s the case I don’t see why this is so indiscrete in your eyes. The toilets in a lot of places are not great for changing. There is no where to set your clothes or bags but the floor. The floor is often wet with who knows what and you end up trying not to put your bare or sock feet on it by balancing on your shoes while you change your trousers or shoes. The men’s room likely has very few stalls and they’re also likely grim as I gather a lot of men’s visits to the bathroom go to the urinal not the stall and the stall will see a lot of odorous uses.

    If he’s in a meeting room with solid walls and the only way to see him is by looking through the window of the door, I’d drop this or just take it up with him directly as a first step. He’s staying in his boxers so he’s as covered as most people at a beach or pool, he’s not nude. He’s letting you know he’s going in there by waving, so you know he’s likely off to change for his day/commute and have notice to avert your eyes if you need to, he’s not coming in the room with you and stripping down while forcing you to look and talking to you. If you have the option to avert your eyes from the door window while he’s in there and he’s not trying to put on a show/draw attention to his activities and state of undress, if he’s literally just changing quickly in the most private space open that isn’t the dirty, cramped bathroom I’d just not look at him. Or ask him to allow you to move away from the meeting rooms before he undresses in the future if you’re so uncomfortable you can’t just not look. It doesn’t sound like he’s trying to get his jollies off knowing people can’t avoid seeing him semi-clothed. You say he’s overall an enjoyable colleague and it doesn’t sound like you think he’s a perv, just a guy who needs to change to cycle and I think going to HR about this without saying something to him first, especially as the new person, is the nuclear option that has a high chance of torpedoing the relationship going forward. Like if he’s not a pervert and he’s just a guy comfortable with changing to his boxers in semi-privacy who hasn’t considered that other people who might happen passed the window might be uncomfortable with that and you don’t give him the chance to say he won’t do it anymore or he’ll give you notice and let you leave before he strips in the future and just run right to HR, that just seems like a lot of people would consider it an over reaction.

    1. OP1*

      So three out of four walls are solid (these are the walls to the outside of the building, and the walls which separate the rooms from each other). The ‘wall’ facing the inside of the office is actually just a floor to ceiling pane of glass, and the door is built into this, also made of glass. So at any time you can walk past and see inside the whole room.

      1. over caffeinated sloth*

        Our meeting rooms like this are in a row down a corridor. Could you ask him to use the furthest one or something? I just think if I’d been doing something for a long time and it was never an issue and then a new person started and I was told there’d been a complaint, one it’d be easy to guess where it came from and two, I’d likely be hurt or annoyed that person didn’t just come to me first when we’d had a fairly cordial relationship to then to see if we could solve it between us. He may just be clueless that not everyone is as okay with people in their underwear as he is. If he’s a reasonable person he’ll likely be willing to change elsewhere or develop some system where you can avoid the rooms while he’s doing it. It can’t take him more than 5-10 minutes if he’s just changing his clothes from work wear to cycle wear. I mean, cycle wear is just as revealing as a pair of boxers most of the time anyway.

          1. over caffeinated sloth*

            It seems odd to suggest that multiple meeting rooms are arranged in a row most places they exist? It seems odd to suggest that’s a really out there suggestion when the original letter says they’re removed enough from the main area to be quiet enough to take personal calls when the main area isn’t. If they were in a cube shape in the middle of the office they wouldn’t be much quieter than the main area is…

      2. Shirley Keeldar*

        I am…even more boggled than I was reading the original letter, knowing that he’s changing in front of a FLOOR TO CEILING pane of glass. I’m surprised at the pushback you are getting, OP—your stance of not wanting to see your boss’s boss in his underwear is entirely reasonable! “He’s just a guy changing” is not a sufficient excuse. He can figure out how to do that somewhere else. This just isn’t that hard.

        1. foolofgrace*

          Yes, and as someone else commented, why is he allowed to do this when a woman would not be? I wouldn’t worry about being “found out” as the complainer; so what? What’s he going to do with his assumption, dedicate his working day to making your every waking minute a living hell? I bet he’d just be embarrassed, as well he should be.

  21. Czhorat*

    For LW3 – I don’t see any value in rationing the same limited promotions over a longer time period. Ask that means it’s that you’d have less time with the new title making more money.

    One piece of career advice I was given is too negotiate the best salary your can on the way in because increases will airsoft l almost always be a percentage of what your making. Big steps are rare.

    I’ll also note that dinner jobs have a ceiling to what they’ll pay because that’s what they’re worth to an employer. The next step up often comes with more responsibility and higher expectations.

    If you’re next step would be director level your need to decide if that’s the direction your want on your life now, and then understand that there are only but so many such positions available. The next step up may indeed be out the door.

    Good luck.

        1. Czhorat*

          SOME jobs.

          That’s what I get for commenting on my phone.

          The swype keyboard is not your friend.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I’d still use a physical, qwerty keyboard phone if they were still made anywhere near reasonably.

  22. Janet Rappa*

    LW #4 – ask to see the formulary. That lists all the covered medications and the level at which they are covered. Also look into whether med costs are applied to deductible and out of pocket expenses, this can help you determine total costs. Best of luck!

  23. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP#1: Somebody just needs to say ‘Dude, no.” Surely others in your office have witnessed this.

  24. Visiting Squid*

    LW1, it might not be the case here, but I’ve found that people from different cultures sometimes have different norms and comfort undressing in front of someone is definitely one of these (my brazilian capoeira friends routinely strip down to their underwear outdoors to change into clothes for the game and nobody bats an eyelash). It sounds like he has chosen the best option out of no really good options, so I would just take note that this is something that happens and avoid looking through the door if it bothers you. If it’s still on your mind you could advocate for changing rooms, but I would try to let it go.

  25. Roscoe*

    #3. A basic rule of finance is money now is better than money later. Sure, he could’ve strung you along. But now you will be making this extra money NOW, which I’d think you’d be happy with instead of waiting 2 years just to get to the same point

    1. LW3*

      Sure — my question was very much about the title and not the money. I’m the one who asked for a raise after all!

      1. LW3*

        I also just want to add that I was asking whether the director was making the right strategic call for him. I didn’t intend my original letter to come off like I thought this was a problem for me. (I know this site is primarily for advice and people are naturally going to assume letters are about problems, but I really was just curious!)

  26. Cat Tree*

    For #3, why would anyone keep working there if they have other options? What kind of person comes up with this policy? Do they like having high turnover? Every employee in that company should look for a job at a better place. That is not the company to build a long-term career.

    It seems so ridiculous that I would even have to ask, but since I know companies like this exist, I always ask about raises during interviews. I’m not working as a favor to the company so if they can’t pay me the right amount and continue doing that for the time I’m there, I won’t even consider working for them.

    As a side note, I think that routine raises should be separate from the increase in pay due to promotions. That’s how my current company does it, and it should surprise no one that we have high retention. Turns out paying people more money often keeps them in jobs.

    1. Lucious*

      One justification is controlling payroll. If no raises are given except during promotions -and said promotions are easily tracked – that makes payroll budget planning easier.

      Of course the company takes a hit in higher training and hiring costs when people leave after seeing their real salary erode year over year. But these costs are A) less visible to senior management than the “Payroll” line item and B) keeping salaries low = immediate payroll expense win. It’s a bad management system unless short term cost metrics are all the org cares about.

    2. LW3*

      Good question. As I mentioned it’s a very specialized office — there aren’t that many positions out there in this same line of work. (And most of those jobs are either within hospitals or universities, not for-profit companies.) For me personally, I like this work and this office, and I’ve been here less than two years, so while I’m of course keeping my eyes open for other opportunities I’m not looking to jump ship yet.

      To clarify, if by “routine” raises you mean cost of living, we do get that!

      1. Cat Tree*

        Sorry, I realize now that my comment was needlessly adversarial. I didn’t mean to imply that you or your coworkers are personally wrong for staying. The company is wrong for expecting large numbers of people to stick around long-term. Individual people have valid reasons to stay and you shouldn’t need to justify that to me.

        I also saw that your boss got you a good raise, so the “no merit raises” rule isn’t as strict as I was imagining.

        1. LW3*

          No worries! (I am after all a young woman in my first post-college job so I appreciate people challenging me to make sure I don’t sell myself short.)

    3. Just @ me next time*

      Not everyone is constantly looking for a higher salary! I work in government and we don’t have merit-based raises*. Each job has a particular classification based on the scope of the work required (so a filing clerk who mostly follows set directions and rarely has to make critical decisions might be classified as a 9, someone who needs some specialized knowledge might be an 18, and someone who is managing several others and has spending authority might be a 27, etc.). Then within each classification, there are five “steps” associated with how long you’ve been in a role. You go up one step a year until you hit five. Once you hit step five of your classification, you only get cost-of-living increases.
      There are some people who try to move on pretty quickly once they hit step five, but not all of us. I’ve just hit step five in my own role, and for where I am in my life, it’s enough money for me (well, I’d love to improve my housing situation but the market where I live is broken and I would need like half a million in cash or double my salary to make a difference, so that’s another story). I like (most of) the work I do and the team I work with, and the health and pension benefits are solid. I also absolutely hate the process of applying for jobs, so I’d only be really motivated to leave if I saw a job where the work sounded more exciting/interesting and the benefits were equally good. And there are some employees who have been in their roles for 10+ years and may stay put until retirement. In the departments with high turnover, it’s usually related to culture and working conditions in addition to positions having a low classification.

      *Note that the system I’ve described doesn’t apply to our senior leadership and anyone else considered “excluded” (i.e.: not in our union). They still have particular ranges their salaries have to fall into, but I think there’s more flexibility in how their compensation is determined.

  27. LW3*

    Hi all, here’s my update: After all that, my boss came back with a ~5% raise for me and no title bump. (Which I’m of course fine with since that’s what I asked for!) My guess is that the promotion was vetoed since it really would’ve been astronomically fast for me to make the highest level after less than 2 years, and my boss just pushed really hard for the raise. He even hinted that he tried for more, but that salary equity within the office came into play.

    I agree it’s certainly not a good policy, but at least it’s not completely rigid. I’m grateful he went to bat for me, glad the company thinks about salary equity, and honestly pretty relieved that I’m not in a dead end yet, title-wise…

  28. Lora*

    OP1, you have all my sympathy. I used to have three rules for other humans in a workplace getting along with me:
    1. Don’t ask me to do anything illegal, ever.
    2. The only correct touches in the workplace are handshakes, high fives, and CPR, with the occasional awkward short goodbye hug at retirement luncheons, type of thing.
    3. I never want to see my colleagues undressed (official locker rooms excepted).

    My male bosses ROUTINELY did not understand why I had to have these rules or that they were so frequently violated that I finally gave up on #3 as completely infeasible. Why the hell do people fling their clothes off at every opportunity in front of others?? Are they two year olds? It’s like dick pics all over, everyone thinks theirs are so lovely the whole world wants to see it, and NOBODY wants to see it, good god. I blame pornography for giving people this idea that the mere unveiling of their swimsuit areas will cause us all to run for our smelling salts and intimidate the horses or whatever.

    Yes, changing in a bathroom is sub-ideal, but in a glass walled room is much much LESS ideal. Grandboss can either ask Facilities to put up some curtains/frost coat the glass or deal with the bathroom. Frankly, the bathroom floors get Lysol’ed twice a day in my office (when I was in the office) and the carpet gets disinfected exactly never, so you’re really better off taking your chances in the bathroom.

  29. because archives*

    OP 2, as someone who works at an archive, I get how you feel. Although everyone in my library is working, many are fully remote where archives workers are among those who have had to navigate and deal with the stress of going into our workplace along with taking on other tasks “because you’re in the building.” The attitude from higher ups seems to be that “well, this is your job, because archives” without any acknowledgment of the stress or appreciation for keeping things going on-site.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Also in archives. My bosses were superstars about scraping together absolutely everything we could do remotely so I spent six months doing online research to upgrade the biographies that go with our collections, updating metadata, etc. We’re now back part- to full-time, but we’re a small, low-traffic department so we’re lower-risk than most. But it’s at the point now where I’m out of remote busywork and really need to be back pretty much full-time.

  30. FDSnovice*

    OP1 I would think that if he has the ability to make it to manager level that he would understand that glass is see through and that changing behind said glass in the view of women is a form of sexual harassment. I would approach this as him being creepy. The plausible deniability is paper thin. The other commenters are coming down surprisingly soft on him considering the long history of women being subjected to gross stuff like this in the workplace throughout history. There is a small chance he might just be an idiot and not a creep but in either case he doesn’t need any help in gaslighting us in to thinking that he isn’t doing anything wrong. This may escalate if you don’t do anything to address this now. If you do then he might retaliate. I’m sorry this is happening to you.

    1. OP1*

      He’s definitely more of an idiot than a creep. I’ve had the misfortune of working with many creeps and I definitely don’t get that vibe from him.

  31. Geek*


    I think you just need to let this go. You negotiated a wage in exchange for your time. Your employer held up their end of the bargain.

    I get it. I can totally understand why instead of looking at the glass as half full how I might look at it instead as, “Hey…they got more in their glass.”

    Maybe it would help to put yourself in your coworkers’ positions? If I were home and unable to work, I’d be thankful that through the *grace* of the board, I was able to still have money coming in. But for what time period? At what point would it be economically unsustainable for the employer to continue paying employees for no work? If their budget situation changed, those employees would be the first to be jobless. In a pandemic. If the pandemic lasted longer, those employees would again be first on the chopping block.

    How many of them spent their non-working hours leisurely enjoying themselves as if on vacation vs worrying about how to replace their income? If their jobs at your employer require hands-on participation and cannot be done remotely, how easy would it be for them to find replacement work during a pandemic that can be done remotely?

    I worked my usual hours during the entire pandemic. I am fortunate that I was able to do that. I am fortunate that my employer is in a line of business that was not put in financial peril.

    1. Firecat*

      Wow really?

      Pretending like OPs desire for recognition is somehow a them problem is pretty gross imo.

      If I were OPs boss I would have done some combination of the following.

      1: encouraged everyone who could wfh because of OP to thank them.
      2: arranged for a bonus, if not in 2020 then once revenue returned to X.
      3: created a formal award of some sort to recognize OP and anyone else who went above and beyond and host an all hands virtual award ceremony.

      I would not think “Well I hired them to do a job and they did it – the fact that it was at risk of their personal safety and entailed much more then usual this year doesn’t matter.” That’s not an empathetic view at all and is a great way to spike turnover and breed resentment.

      1. Geek*

        That is a valid view. Like I said, I can understand it.

        After paying for a lot of staff not to be productive, how are the organization’s finances? Neither of us know, and the letter writer didn’t mention it.

        The way I read the letter is that the letter writer is jealous of coworkers and wants something additional. It may help to consider other views. It may not.

        1. AnonForNow*

          Why is wanting to be compensated for going above and beyond (ie working during a deadly pandemic) somehow seen as jealously? You can be happy that others are not left destitute while also expecting to be compensated for your efforts. This is not a zero sum game.

        2. Letter Writer*

          Finances are fine – we’re a nonprofit, we have a budget at the fiscal year that doesn’t change. That’s a big reason why staff was paid, it was already budgeted for that year. We can’t really have overage, especially just how much it would have been had only 3 or 4 people were paid for almost 5 months.

    2. Letter Writer*

      I can understand why you would assume I’m jealous of coworkers but in this case, I’m honestly not.

      I know how lucky I was, while I was working, I was still working from home which is vastly different than working in office. I had a lot of luxury with that and I recognize that completely.

      I wasn’t thinking of asking for a bonus and I wasn’t expecting it, I was just hoping I’d be given some comp time or additional vacation time so I could have the ability to take some time off, honestly.

      1. enlyghten*

        I didn’t read any jealousy or anything into your letter. It was more ‘This kind of stinks. It would be nice to have a little recognition.’

        I also went to work throughout the entire pandemic. My colleague with kids (who does very similar work) is still working from home. Other colleagues who make literally 3x what I do were sent home with no work and full salary for nearly six months. I can understand feeling some kind of way about that.

        To my company’s credit, I was given an award that came with a bonus. In my opinion, you asking for a little comp time is eminently reasonable. Recognition, done well, is great for morale. This is a sterling opportunity for your company to reward you and show the workforce that they appreciate and reward hard work. It sounds like a win-win to me.

  32. Put the Blame on Edamame*

    LW2, you absolutely deserve recognition for this. A potential side benefit (without being too Pollyanna)is that you have a great set of examples for your resume, and maybe you could even turn it into a case study or white paper for your field of how you coped and what you did?

  33. Dust Bunny*

    Re: Boss in boxers.

    I think this is inappropriate, anyway, but I also feel like there might be a double standard here. I know boxers cover as much as most shorts, but a) is this an office where shorts are appropriate? and b) boxers are still underwear.

    I mean, a bra and panties cover as much as many bathing suits, but I think we can agree that bikinis are not appropriate in the majority of offices. If a female boss couldn’t get away with stripping down to a bra and panties in her glass-walled office (and I really hope she couldn’t), then the male boss shouldn’t, either.

    1. OP1*

      We’re a relatively casual office but the only time shorts are ok is if you’ve walked/run/cycled in (he isn’t the only one several people do but all of them change elsewhere) and you wish to change clothes

  34. BeanDip*

    I have a question about the first letter. Are just the doors glass, or the entire room? Can he just…move to another side of the room so no one can see him? I think I’m confused

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Oh, that’s a good question. If it’s just the door and he’s not moving to one side, that’s not great.

      1. OP1*

        Yeah I commented elsewhere but it’s the whole wall and the door that’s glass not just the door

  35. voyager1*

    LW1: That he is doing this in the office is weird but he is probably doing it because the floors in the bathroom are probably wet. I probably would just ask him about it and if that is the case about wet floors see if something can be done.

  36. It's a Beautiful Day*

    For #1 all I can think of is how sweaty his boxers must be, then he put clothes on over them and sits in them all day???

  37. blink14*

    LW #4 – depending on the type and size of the company, they may have some health insurance information available on their website if there is a publicly accessible HR/benefits section. I also have several chronic health conditions and it is a real concern, especially if you are on treatments that can get very expensive.

    I did this when in my last job search, and it allowed me to at least identify what the provider, and in some cases, there was pretty detailed information about co-pays, co-insurance and deductible, etc. However, it’s more than likely you will not be able to determine exact coverage until you are an employee of the business, because every plan has little quirks and weird things they don’t cover, even if the insurance provider covers something in general. In my case, my insurance plan has no deductible or co-insurance which is awesome, but for instance, any imaging done at a hospital related imaging center has a $100 co-pay. I live in a major metro area and actually finding an independent imaging center can be pretty difficult depending on what you need. But my overall costs are kept low because there’s no co-insurance or deductible, so it’s a cheaper trade off for me either way.

  38. Salad Daisy*

    #1 I am going to go out on a limb here and assume the boss uses the men’s bathroom and the LW uses the women’s? If that is the case, do they know what the men’s room looks like? Is it clean? Is it stinky? Are there puddles of……water (or whatever) on the floor? Is there anyplace for the boss to put his clothes down while they are changing? Even though where I work the women’s bathroom is clean, it would be awkward to change clothes in one of the small stalls.

    Is there a gym in the office? If so, there may be a clean dry changing room boss could use.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Then they could take it up with the men in the office not to be gross and/or with whatever housekeeping/janitorial service they have to come an extra day.

      What is up with professional adults and gross bathrooms? We had one guy out of 45 or so employees who wasn’t handling the bathroom appropriately and HR warned him twice and then suspended him for three days, which finally got the message through. This can be handled if workplaces are willing to deal with it.

    2. Observer*

      If that is the case, do they know what the men’s room looks like?

      What difference does it make? It’s not on the OP to find solutions. It’s on the boss and the workplace.

    3. OP1*

      I am female so no I’ve never been in the men’s bathroom. There’s no gym or any other facilities on our floor, not sure about the other floors in the building because they have different companies working for them.

    4. meyer lemon*

      Given that the boss is two levels above the LW and has been there longer, I’m sure he’s in a good position to come up with solutions that don’t involve exposing himself to coworkers. This isn’t a case where you need to figure out a solution before you can bring up the problem.

    5. Qwerty*

      How is that the OP’s problem? If the grandboss wants to change in the office, then he needs to come up with a solution that does not involve stripping down in full view of female employees. (Ideally not in front of the men either but I’m leaving room for gender-specific areas like bathrooms and locker rooms).

      The guy is high ranking in a small company and the other men who bike to work manage not change in front of others. The state of men’s bathroom is not the OP’s problem.

  39. Bee Eye*

    #2 – I work in IT and was in a similar situation where my small team had to come in while most everyone else stayed home. We were in the middle of a laptop project getting everyone else setup to work from home, meaning we were configuring machines and then giving them to people and training them on how to use it. The exact opposite of social distancing, right? We were at least acknowledged for the work and I did get a 5.5 percent raise last year, but otherwise there wasn’t much recognition given. On the plus side, it was actually kind of nice coming into the office when nobody was here. Things were quiet, you could park anywhere, no dress code, etc.

    1. Letter Writer*

      My job is essentially IT with additional tasks completely unrelated to IT. A big reason why I had to work (aside form making sure our stuff was up and working) was to make it so other people could access our stuff from home, which at the time, I was the only one capable of.

      I’m a party of one in this, trying to get around 20 or so staff members the ability to work from home. Since I was repurposing almost everything, there was a riddic amount of set up to even get things going, and then trying to make sure everyone had exactly what they needed and handling endless amounts of support calls from people working at home.

  40. D3*

    I think that yes, there are lots of people who are “less modest”. And those people would probably just say “I don’t care if people see me in my underwear!” and think that’s the answer.
    If you are one of those “less modest” people, please remember that YOUR FEELINGS ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES THAT MATTER.
    You might not care if people see you in your underwear because (sports, theater, whatever) but other people do care. It’s awkward to see your boss in their underwear, even if the boss doesn’t care.
    You may be “less modest” but that does not mean that you can do whatever you feel comfortable with around others. Even if you think the others are being prudes.

    1. mreasy*

      Yeah, I’m surprised by folks implying this is ok. A basic right of the workplace is not to have to see your colleagues in their underwear, period.

  41. Franz Kafkaesque*

    Just wanted to encourage you to feel completely comfortable asking about health insurance. I don’t have any chronic conditions that require specific coverages at this point in my life, but I always ask about health insurance about mid-way through the interview process. Now, I’m coming at it from a cost angle and I let employers know that the cost of their insurance plan (or, perhaps, what portion of the premiums the employer is willing to pay) is taken into consideration when it comes to salary negotiations. Not saying it can’t happen, but I’ve yet to have anyone taken aback by that.
    When you stop and consider that inadequate medical coverage can lead to death or financial ruin, I view it as something that is completely within my right to ask about. If anyone is bothered by the fact that I don’t want to be sick, dead, or bankrupt, then I don’t want to work for them anyway.
    As others have suggested, you may be able to frame the conversation as “needing to make sure your doctors are in network on this employer’s plan” and I think that is a good approach. No need to discuss specific medical issues.

  42. Naomi*

    #1- Yep, see if there is some sort of office understanding. There might be other commuters doing the same thing, and you just don’t know. Some people thing bodies are just bodies and we all have them, so changing clothes is just… changing clothes. If it were me (well no, I wouldn’t care), but if I cared I would suggest to boss or HR that investing in shades for this one conference room that doubles as a changing room would be a benefit to everyone.

  43. T I Red*

    LW2: I’m in the same boat, well everyone who works at this location anyway. Our other location facilities were able to have a modified schedule so that folks were basically working part time for full time pay. Our location was unable to do that due to high volumes of work. This work could have been sent to the other locations but the corporate folks didn’t want that. So we were here everyday while everyone else got a break. There was no thank you, no acknowledgment, nothing. It was pretty disheartening. This is a lab environment if that matters at all.

  44. Also Chronically Ill*

    LW4, I just went through a very similar situation. Alison’s advice to wait until the offer stage is what I did, and it worked well for me. Here is what I did:

    When I got the offer, I asked for “details on the health insurance plans offered.” They ended up sending a chart of employee vs employer contribution, so I had to get a bit more specific and asked for a list of available plans, and added that “I take an expensive medication that isn’t covered by all insurance plans.” I mentioned nothing about my chronic condition, though I could have said “I take an expensive medication for a well-managed chronic condition that isn’t covered by all insurance plans.”

    The hiring manager didn’t even blink, and got me a list of insurance plans. Turns out the one I’m on now was on that list, so I was glad I asked.

  45. El l*

    Re My Company Doesn’t Give Raises:

    It could be worse. I also work in a small specialized office, with similar problem re raises.

    The difference with you is that at least your office gives promotions. Mine doesn’t. (Believe me, I’ve tried) That’s why I’m looking for another job.

    I’ll add two other things to her (good) advice.
    1. Be thankful your manager is willing to do this for you. A lot of managers wouldn’t stick their neck out.
    2. View this as a stepping stone. You can tell your next employer that you rose quickly and got as high as you could. That’s impressive.

  46. DownWithJPP*

    LW4 – I just went through something similar. I have decent health coverage and a frustrating job so I had been looking elsewhere. When I got to the second round, they wanted me to do a video interview with multiple people and there was a little work beforehand that I would present in the interviews. I emailed the hiring manager back, told him I was interested but asked if I could see what their benefits package looked like so that I could make sure it made sense for both myself and all of their employees I would meet with to spend that kind of time in calls. Ultimately, I found out that I have better coverage where I am and since we are trying to start a family, it just didn’t make sense to continue. They appreciated me considering that aspect of it. Some places may be a bit ore stodgy about that but it worked out well for this one when I approached it as wanting to respect their time also.

  47. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    LW1: Is he a theatre kid? He sounds like a theatre kid. Source: Was a theatre and sports kid, I learned to change when I had a chance and usually needed to do so in front of others.

    He shouldn’t be disrobing in full view the office, but if he’s used to settings that changing in full view isn’t abnormal, he may just need a gentle nudge to draw the drapes.

    A girlfriend had to remind me of this when I dropped down to my briefs in front of her mother to put on a tux.

  48. Molly*

    Not exactly on topic, but I have to ask. One of the links at the end of this column was to the stoma bag letter. Near as I can tell, the LW did not pop up in the comments and I see there was no update. Am I wrong? Was there any kind of followup or update? Not even in comments?

    1. Observer*

      That LW did pop up in the comments to say that they were leaving and not coming back. A lot of the comments were very harsh and they felt they were being unfairly treated (with some justification, to be honest.) Also, according to them, many of the comments were very unhelpful because the comments ignored / disbelieved a key fact in the letter.

    2. agnes*

      OMG I missed that letter when it was first published. I had a stoma bag myself for about a year when I had a colon resection. I cannot even imagine someone doing this–I would consider this almost a hate crime against a person with a disability. I hope the business fired the employee asap.

      I can’t believe how horrible some people can be. well, actually I can believe it, having worked in HR for a long time. Sometimes I wish I could hit people “upside the head” with my fly swatter and say, “What the H*** do you think you are doing?”

  49. agnes*

    LW #1 Definitely say something to your manager, or maybe even directly to the person. He may think that boxers=shorts, but that’s not the case. It’s the whole process—taking off clothes, etc—not just what is covered or not covered.
    LW #3 I don’t understand businesses like this, but there are far too many of them. You do what’s right for you.

    I’d also like to put a plug in for public sector employment. A lot of younger people don’t think about it because they’ve heard that it’s hard to get promoted, or that wages are below market, or that there are too many slackers working. . While that may be true in some instances, , it’s not true in all. And total compensation often includes good pension plans, fully paid (and good quality) health insurance and ample PTO. The government workforce is aging, and now is a great time for younger people to sign on for a public service career.

  50. Lauren19*

    LW2 if you want a bonus ask for it, but if you want time to relax and recover from a very stressful year, ask for a sabbatical. After the past 13 months your employer should recognize the criticality of your skill set and work to ensure those skills are dispersed across the team. Once you have solid coverage for the work that only you have been able to do, ask for the time!!!

  51. Carol*

    OP 1: The only reason this guy is not getting challenged (and the only reason there’s any “it’s not a big deal” in the comments) is he’s a dude. If a woman did that, 100% there’d be uproar. Regardless of the double standard, it’s absolutely not appropriate either way, same way it wouldn’t be appropriate to show up in a swimsuit at work.

  52. PersephoneUnderground*

    Caveat to Alison’s advice for OP #2- if the OP struggled and wasn’t totally *stellar* during this period, she still deserves compensation or recognition of some kind for being one of the people who kept the place running at all during Covid. This year was *hard*. Showing up a getting her work done in this case *is* above and beyond. So she shouldn’t get too hung up on showing high work quality in a before-times sense, but in showing how important her work was at this time. If she also nailed it, good, but remember that keeping things running at all during a global crisis was a big lift!

  53. MCMonkeybean*

    For OP1, if you are confident that your boss is just extremely oblivious rather than harassing you or being gross I would talk to HR and rather than phrasing it as like “please ask him not to change in front of me” I’d go with something more like “This is kind of awkward, but I’m not sure that John realizes people can see him when he changes in the meeting rooms after biking to work. I was hoping someone could point out to him that perhaps the bathroom would be a more appropriate venue for that…”

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      Just want to clarify: I think if someone wanted to make this a big deal that would be totally fine, because it is baffling how boss could think this was okay! But I think we’ve seen some letters where someone reported something and then felt like they wanted to take it back when it became a big thing, and if you make it sound as though you feel personally harassed in any way then that is something the company *should* take really seriously. And I might be misjudging from the letter but it didn’t sound like you want it to become a big thing.

  54. JJ*

    A variation question for #5: I would DEARLY love to hear some advice about professional references for long-term freelancers looking to get back into a full-time position. If your last in-office FT job was, say, 8 years ago, but you’ve been full-time freelancing since then, who do you get references from?

  55. AngryOwl*

    OP1—I see lots of advice for you to advocate for x, y, z. I just want to point out that you should feel no pressure to do any of that. This is a guy who is two levels above you and has been there longer, if he wants these things, he can ask for them.

    Like Alison says, you are completely in the right to talk to HR and comment. This is not normal. I have no idea why so many are determined to give this guy an out today, but don’t let that make you doubt yourself.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, what I want to come out of this is for the guy to use his clout to advocate for privacy spaces for himself and his fellow bikers, runners, etc. To have the guy shamed into changing in a bathroom stall and threatened with sexual harassment charges will do nothing to solve the problem of there being nowhere in the entire wide-open, glass-walled office for anyone to change before/after physical exercise.

      I have no idea why so many are determined to give this guy an out today
      Because a lot of us were forced to change in dirty cramped bathroom stalls and hated it. Now you know why.

  56. JSPA*

    LW #4 – not that you should have to hide it, not be embarrassed, but if there’s no online formulary or search….and if you happen to have family who might be covered to any degree under your plan, “someone in my family has done well with a specific drug that’s not universally covered” is a lower-stakes way to ask the question.

    It’s also not a lie; you are part of your family, and you are doing well.

  57. Higher Ed*

    I will start by saying I have immense respect for the healthcare, essential, and retail workers. I can’t even imagine how you’re managing, and I think of you often.

    Regarding today’s letters, though I’m in a similar situation to LW#2 with a bit of LW #3 thrown in, and I’m all out of grace. I had enough grace for maybe 6 months, but our institution went fully remote in March 2020. Yesterday we got an email from HR that we’ll continue to be mostly remote through the end of 2021 and that those who can work remotely should continue to do so (determining this is up to supervisors, but the message is, don’t bring people in unless you have to).

    Because my job can 100% be done remotely, I’ve been doing 100% of my job. There are people in my office who can only do 25% of their job remotely, not their fault, but the institution doesn’t want them back until it’s safe, so they’ll continue to get 100% of their pay for nearly 2 years. Now that things are opening up, this has so much potential to be abused by those who don’t have enough work to do. One of these 25% ers is an admin in my office who answers all their emails (even during business hours) from Outlook for iPhone – they could be literally anywhere!

    Merit raises and additional time off aren’t an option. Vacation allotment is based on years of service, and everyone gets the same percent raise every year, unless you’re at the top of your range, which means your pay stays flat, as mine has for over 10 years. The only concession they’ve made is to allow some vacation carryover, but aren’t willing to pay out any for those who can’t use it due to job duties.

    I really do appreciate the administration’s focus on keeping people safe, but it seems to be at the expense of accountability and morale. The institution isn’t requiring vaccines for staff or students (we’re in a metro area and don’t have on campus housing) so this timeline could be extended if rates go up again (even though we’re in a state with a relatively low rate). Thanks for letting me vent.

  58. B Wayne*

    LW#2: “It wasn’t a matter of asking me to work, it was a matter of I had no choice but to work. And I’m not saying I didn’t want to either”.

    Who exactly ordered you to continue working? Were you asked to continue working or did you feel your role was key to keeping the doors open? Who told you your role was that vital and who assigned you the continued work? I would think the ultimate responsibility for keeping things going are the managers and their bosses. If they needed you, they would ask you. I don’t see anywhere you being ordered to continue working only “it wasn’t a matter of asking me”.

    To me it sounds like you didn’t want to be idle and choose to work, rationalizing the job would collapse without your continued contributions. I don’t see “above and beyond”, I see “never left”.

    1. Letter Writer*

      What I meant by that was I never stopped working, even the first day we closed. I’m not a manager (since I’m a party of one) but I’m part of the upper management team. The first day we closed, I spent like 2 hours in a meeting with my director working out what our next steps were. I was most def. a vital part of keeping things going, for not only the institution itself but for the staff that did need to work, to be able to work.

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