employee isn’t flushing, colleague puts “read me” in every subject line, and more

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

1. Employee isn’t flushing the toilet

Forewarning, this is about bodily functions. I work in a small office, with one direct report. She is a great employee, really takes feedback well, but I am struggling with how to broach this topic with her.

There have been several times where I have come in in the morning before she gets here (I leave about 1/2 hour before she does), and there is a BM in the toilet that has just been sitting there all night. I think that this has happened 4 or 5 times at this point. I don’t know if she gets distracted and doesn’t flush, or what, but it leaves a horrible smell and I end up having to clean the toilet myself.

No one else (cleaning people, security, etc.) has access to the office at that time; everyone but her would be gone for the day. Any help on addressing this?

I’d blame it on the toilet, just to make it less awkward for both of you. (Which is not to say it won’t still be awkward.) How about this: “Looks like the toilet isn’t always flushing on the first try. We might need to get it fixed, but meanwhile can you double-check that it’s fully flushed when you use it? I will too.” (And who knows, maybe the toilet really is at fault.)

If it keeps happening after that, then I think you’ve just got to come out with it: “Hey, a few times I’ve come in in the morning and the toilet wasn’t flushed from the night before. Can you keep an eye out for that when you leave?” The more matter-of-factly you can say this — like using the exact same tone you’d use to say “oh, you left the milk sitting out” — the less awkward it should feel.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Colleague puts READ ME in every email subject line

I work at a company that regularly partners with other companies on projects. I have a new point person on a high-level project who puts READ ME in the subject line of every email she sends. Maybe she’s had issues with people not reading important emails in the past, but that is not how I operate. Not only is it insulting, it makes it difficult to search for relevant emails when I need them. Is there a polite way to ask her to stop?

Yeah, I’m betting she’s had issues with people not reading emails, but this isn’t going to solve it — if she puts this in every subject line, people will eventually ignore it and it’ll lose any power it had. And, as you point out, it’s obnoxious to do with people who don’t need it.

The easiest way to address it is to point out that it makes it harder to find the emails you need later. You could say, “Would you mind not putting READ ME in every email subject line? It makes it hard to search for the message when I need to find it later. And hopefully you’ve seen that I’m always good about reading and responding to your messages.” She still might not stop, though; this is someone who’s chosen to use a very blunt tool across the board, so she might not be great at tailoring her approach by individual.

3. If I leave, my employees won’t get a great work opportunity

A few weeks ago, my manager approached me about a new program they want to institute on our team. We would take two internal people and develop a year-long training program around them, giving them a technical career path (they’re not currently technical, but are interested in becoming so). It’s an awesome opportunity for them, since their current position offers no growth potential and getting into our field is hard. My manager made it clear that in order for the program to work, they needed someone (me) who would design the curriculum and mentor and manage them. I was free to say no (truly), but if I wasn’t interested, they would not create the program.

I agreed, and while things haven’t been 100% green-lit, chances are good. I am excited for the role and I really want to give these two people a career path. But I’ve realized chances are very high I will not stay at my company if 100% WFH remains a thing beyond summer. I despise working from home, it has been horrible for my mental health, leaves me feeling siloed, erodes the company culture that has made me stick around all this time, and sucks all enjoyment out of my job. Some people hate WFH because they’re WFHing in a pandemic; I hate WFH because it’s WFH.

My company has always had an extremely flexible 100%-remote-if-you-want policy (I came in anyway). Since the pandemic, our CEO has waxed poetic about how wonderful remote work is, whether offices have value, etc. The last date they gave for a return was “Q4, at the earliest,” because of safety concerns. The course of the pandemic has improved a lot since then, so I am hoping they will change their minds. You don’t need to force employees in if they’re not comfortable (not that my company ever did that), but in my opinion employees should be able to opt into the office if they choose.

If my company sticks with that Q4 date, then I think I need to see myself out, for my own mental health. Do I run the risk of burning bridges if I leave in a few months, knowing the program I would be potentially running would be year-long and is predicated on my participation? I don’t want to screw over my direct reports’ careers — this opens so many doors for them, and I would feel horrible! Nor do I want to leave my superiors with a bad taste in their mouths after they gave me this growth opportunity. How would I manage the potential fallout? Or do I just stick with it because I committed to the program?

This is a good opportunity to ask about their plans for letting people return to the office. You could say, “Before we finalize anything, I realized I should ask what’s looking likely for giving people the option of returning to the office if they want to. I strongly prefer not to work from home once it’s no longer necessary for safety, and I’d want to know when you think that will likely be possible before I commit to running this new program.”

But have that conversation now, before things are finalized. It gets harder to back out once it’s official and has been announced to the two others. That’s not to say you couldn’t still leave if you decide to, but the impact on them will be less if you figure that out now, before the program is green-lit, than if you back out after they think it’s a done deal. (But if you do decide to leave, you’re not screwing over anyone’s career. You aren’t obligated to sacrifice your mental health for coworkers — and it’s unlikely your employees would want you to. Plus, if your company were really committed to giving them this opportunity, they presumably could at least try to find someone else to lead it.)

4. How can I make sure my team doesn’t organize a joint gift for me?

I’m a director in a large consulting firm and currently co-lead a large team of 25 consultants. I’m going out on maternity leave in three weeks and I suspect they may organize a joint gift. Last year, this same team organized a joint gift for another director who went out on maternity leave. At the time, I didn’t feel it was my place to stop it altogether, so I made it incredibly clear on team calls, in emails, etc. that it was completely optional, and spoke with the other leads to share my point of view that the power dynamics of gifting up may make people feel they need to participate and that we have no insight into anyone’s financial situation, all of the excellent points you have articulated in the past.

Typically the consultants organize this and then bring leadership onboard, so how do I navigate this? Is it best to just let the other directors know my perspective and they can share with the team if they’re pulled in? Do I reach out to one of the more senior consultants and ask them to share with others if they hear something? I don’t want to assume, but also don’t want to put these guys in a weird position.

If you know which consultant is most likely to organize it, you can talk with them (or just the one you have the best rapport with) and say, “I know in the past y’all have often organized gifts for people going on leave. It’s really thoughtful, but I’d prefer no gift and would appreciate it if you can squash it if you hear of any plans.”

That said, I’d accept that they may get you a gift anyway and it risks feeling like overkill if you do any more than that (like also talking to the directors in addition to this). So after this, figure it’s out of your hands from there and be gracious if they give you a gift anyway. (I’d tell you to put more energy in squashing it if it were an ongoing tradition rather than a one-off, like if everyone was chipping in for an expensive gift on your birthday every year.)

5. Listing two concurrent jobs on a resume

I’ve a question that most likely has an obvious answer but I’m completely stumped. When I’m creating my resume, I get stuck on my employment. How do I list it when there are two concurrent jobs? Typically in the past, I’ve not included the one that was least relevant but in this case both are needed to be listed. I’ve been with Job A for almost six years and Job B for about three and each have specific aspects to them that show the proper amounts of growth/increased responsibility/etc. If it’s relevant, the employment I’m going after now is of lower to mid-management.

You just list them both, one after the other! I’d probably list the one you started most recently first, so it would be this:

Job B, Employer B, June 2018 – present
* accomplishment
* accomplishment
* accomplishment

Job A, Employer A, March 2015 – present
* accomplishment
* accomplishment
* accomplishment

… but if the one you’ve been at longer is more impressive, there’s no reason you can’t lead with it instead.

{ 339 comments… read them below }

  1. Anononon*

    I had a coworker who would mark every email as urgent, and it definitely got a bit eye roll-y. I think the reason for it was a combination of there being a decent subset of people in the company who were not as timely as they should be in responding and the emails he was sending to me were much higher on his priority/urgency list than they were on mine.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      I often find that people who often put READ ME or PLEASE READ in subject lines (or worse, mark everything urgent) do so because *they* ahem, triage messages themselves.

      Sure, sometimes they had a boss once who didn’t read messages unless they were called out, but 8 times out of 10, Wakeena is indignant that someone might treat a message from her the way she treats messages from them.

      1. Allonge*

        Oh, this, yes. I know there are always issues with people reading their emails, but this is not from someone who has it figured out – the instruction is a dead giveaway, actually, what else am I supposed to do with an email, please?

        For me, READ ME is the worst solution to any such issues – marking things urgent I can ignore (it’s so hit and miss that I cannot base a rule on it in Outlook, so it’s not too obnoxious), but subject line read me reads as spam and actually detracts from the message.

        I had a manager in the past with whom we had an agreement that we can put her name in the subject line if there is something urgent where it’s essential that she is involved, but even then we used the subject line still to indicate what it’s about (FLORINDA – teapot designs for your approval).

      2. DataGirl*

        IDK, I work with a group of people where some of us are very good about reading every single email we receive, but others are notorious for not reading anything we send out. In our case, it seems to at least in part be about power dynamics, what is being ignored is instructions on tasks that need to be done and how to do them. The people who don’t read are the ones who complain the most bitterly about being told how to do things and clearly resent being assigned work. And yes, I realize it’s a management problem more than anything, in that their manager is not holding them accountable for not doing things/not doing them correctly.

        My point is that sometimes it’s a case of pot meet kettle but in others it’s a clear pattern of behavior in the organization of people ignoring things they don’t want to do.

        1. abcd*

          I once had call center manager CC me on an email to her group. She had has issues with people not reading her emails so she sent an email asking for people’s favorite drink or some other random question. She later told me I was the only person who responded to the email. Not a single person in her own department responded. She started putting Please Read on the most important messages to insure they would read the most important messages after several people said they just didn’t have time to read all the emails.

    2. Just Another Zebra*

      I had a coworker who constantly sent his emails with the subject READ THIS. He got annoyed that people wouldn’t respond quickly, and didn’t respond well to people stating his stuff just wasn’t that urgent. After complaining to me once, I told him that I had to make sure Outlook knew his email wasn’t spam, because so many sales emails have that same subject line. Maybe OP could mention something like that? Or even “Read Me – Topic Name” so they can sort through easier.

    3. Violet Fox*

      But… if everything is urgent then everything actually has the same priority and nothing is more important than anything else. I just don’t see how that is useful.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          When I ask certain clients when they need their work by, the answer is “yesterday, ha ha”. My answer to that it “ok I’ll put it at the bottom of the pile then”. They then think I have somehow not understood what “urgent” means, at which point I tell them that everything else in the pile is urgent too. Their job goes at the bottom because there’s no deadline to push it up. It’s amazing, suddenly they are able to give me a deadline, and I can negotiate if it’s unreasonable, or out-source, or reschedule other stuff.

      1. Antilles*

        It’s the email equivalent of the “alarm sensitivity” problem where a warning system that’s too sensitive gets ignored…or the pre-technology story of the “boy who cried wolf”.

        1. Firecat*

          Reminds me of McDonalds.

          After a while we are all ignoring that burger patty steamer alarm.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            I’ve been re-watching the sitcom “Better Off Ted.” In one episode, the lab techs are so used to the alarms going off that they don’t ever think there’s an actual emergency. They’ll keep having their conversation/debate/argument while very very slowly putting on their hazmat suits. You keep waiting in suspense for one of them to drop because of dangerous fumes…

              1. Zephy*

                My college campus had a major county road running right through the middle of it, and was close to a major hospital. I started tuning out ambulance sirens during my time there because there would be at least one or two every day.

      2. Selena*

        My last company had a good system: we marked mails as ‘needs reply’, ‘needs action from someone else’, or ‘fyi’. And sometimes more specific if it was really urgent or really not all that important.

        Followed by the actual subject.
        ‘[reply needed] – teapot painting’

        None of it was official policy, but the unspoken understanding was always to only mark something as important when it really was.


        ‘readme’ in all subjects comes accross as agressive and accusatory (i was not planning to ignore your emails). But i wonder if maybe these people just had some bad education and somehow picked up the idea that it’s a good placeholder subject.

        1. Roeschtabong*

          What a great system! I wonder why this hasn’t become more universal, as I’ve only ever seen it do good wherever this or something like it has been done.

          Another item that I find helps to solve the problem of emails being ignored, one much more effective than marking everything urgent, is to give descriptive, specific subject lines that let people grasp the full content and import of the message. Rather than just “handle specs”, “FYI”, or “procedure change”, it might be better to provide a subject line like “New teapot handle design specifications (requested by Linda)”, “Information on assembly line downtime”, or “New spout attachment procedure per Aaron’s team, for review at next QC meeting.”

        2. FlyingAce*

          My company does that, but they use acronyms to state whether an item needs action, some kind of approval, is informative only, and so on. As a result, we keep forgetting which acronym we need to use, so we end up not using them. Thankfully, my coworkers in general are good at choosing descriptive subjects.

        3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

          I might even understand “read me” as something I only need to read… not act on.
          I like this strategy better.

      3. QuarantinePuppy*

        I think people who say everything is urgent mostly just believe everything they’re working on is more urgent than what everyone else is working on…

    4. The Other Dawn*

      A former coworker of mine would so something similar to this, though it was in the body of the email. Any email that contained what they deemed to be important/urgent information would be a big jumble of different sized font, bold, underlined, caps, italics, and different colored highlighting. I got to the point where I ignored any email I was just the CC on. And the ones addressed directly to me often took multiple reads before I could figure out what action I was supposed to take or which question to answer. Even after being told several times not to write emails this way, it continued.

      1. Audrey*

        An admin had her Outlook set so that every message was sent as Urgent. One quick glance was all she got.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I’ve got one of those too. Listen, if everything is urgent, nothing is urgent.

          1. Arvolin*

            I had a job once where lots of “ASAP” things kept coming in, and I mentally translated them to “whenever” and pretty much worked on them in order of receipt. However, if somebody said, “I really need this by Thursday”, I’d do my best to get it back to them by Wednesday. Heck, if somebody wrote a date instead of ASAP, I’d do it by then.

        2. Person from the Resume*

          Yep! Sorry, but if every message has the same default priority, even Urgent, that means nothing is actually high priority.

          But honestly that urgency tag on outlook means nothing to me. No one uses it consistently and reasonably enough that it can actually be used to prioritize anything.

          If I need a response, I will put ACTION NLT [date] in the subject, but that’s once in a blue moon.

        3. MusicWithRocksIn*

          I used to work with someone who asked for a read receipt on every single email she sent. What really drove me nuts was she was one of those people to respond to something you sent her with just an email that said “Thanks!” so every time I checked one of them my computer would ask me for a read receipt. Sorry Lady – you can’t have it both ways – if you are gonna have a read receipt on everything then you don’t get to send pointless emails.

          1. Exhausted Trope*

            Do you work with my company? I had a coworker who did that with EVERY email. It got so annoying so quickly. I never clicked the read receipt box ever.
            Finally, someone in management told her to stop. I was relieved, to say the least.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        That would have drove me nuts. I would have had to hit reply, “I can’t read this and follow what is going because of all the different fonts, etc. If you send it to me in plain style I will read it and answer for you.”
        I try to cram a 40 hour week into less than 20 hours. I do not have time to sort through something like that. And I have gotten to the point where I don’t mind explaining that to people…..

      3. Cat Tree*

        Good communication is a skill or talent, and is seriously under-rated until it goes horribly wrong like with this guy. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone. You’d think they would have the insight to compare email they send to emails they receive, but I guess that’s not always easy. Sometimes just telling someone to do it differently doesn’t help because they really just don’t know how to do it well.

        I believe it is a skill though, which means most people can improve if they are taught. I wonder if there are any classes specific to communicating better through email. Even a free online video might help some people.

        That said, your coworker sounds exhausting. It makes me less annoyed by my own bad emailer. All she does is write everything (including the subject line) in a stream of consciousness style with minimal capitalization. She also never includes enough background info for context and it takes multiple rounds of back-and-forth to pry it out of her. But at least she never used underline, italics, or highlighting so it doesn’t offend my eyes just to look at it.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I tried a couple things with my former coworker to get them to stop. I explained that they are completely diluting the message by making everything “important” and the formatting made it hard on the eyes. I also would either email back or walk over and ask what do I specifically need to know/do/answer because I can’t figure it out due to all the crazy formatting. I finally said that I have resorted to ignoring most of their emails because it was too hard to figure out what they were trying to say. Didn’t work.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            That’s what I ended up doing; if the distribution list was too general or the signal-to-noise ratio too low, I just flag them as spam until the email client starts delivering them to bulk e-mail. It saves a lot of time, and I get the same amount of information either way.

        2. EPLawyer*

          I have sooooo many clients like this. Paragraphs are Not A Thing to them. Its a huge block of text with no differentiation and its all “Oh I just thought of this thing.” So I respond as best as I can. The come back with “I asked 12 questions, you only answered 11 of them why didn’t you answer the 12th.” Because I couldn’t see it in the block of text that’s why.

          Ranks right up there with the ones who call and leave this as a message “Hi, its so and so, call me back.” I don’t know if they just want to know when the next hearing is, or their ex has flown out of the country with the kid.

          1. Elle*

            Aaaaargh. That drives me potty. If I have more than two things I need action on, I provide all of the context and then a numbered list of questions! Largely because I want it to be super obvious to the person responding if they have missed anything!

      4. DataGirl*

        I confess I do this. There is a large group of people who I have to give instructions to who just DO NOT read my emails. Most have been around longer than I have and appear to resent me coming in to a higher position than them and telling them how to do things when ‘we’ve always done it a different way’. So they ignore me, then when they get in trouble or have a problem bombard me with emails asking ‘how do I do x’ or ‘when is y due’ when if they had read any of the instructions I sent out they’d know the answer. In an attempt to get the most important parts to stick in their heads I do use bold, italics, colors, highlights, etc. Maybe I am annoying them, but I guarantee if I don’t highlight a due date someone will say they couldn’t see it because it was ‘hidden’ in the email body.

        1. Observer*

          The issue is not annoying people but creating an email that makes is HARDER to find the information you need.

          Formatting matters. If you don’t use enough differentiators that can be a problem. But too much is every bit as bad.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I agree. There’s nothing wrong with highlighting a due date or an important phrase or sentence. That makes complete sense to me. The problem is when the WHOLE email is formatted with multiple types of formatting. It makes it so much harder to read and I will eventually give up a lot of the time.

          2. Paulina*

            Some people also use it as a substitute for editing and coherent writing. So I get a big wall of text with many things jumbled together in a way that doesn’t make sense to me, and they’ve just highlighted parts of it instead of deleting the unhighlighted text and reorganizing what remains.

    5. BRR*

      I had a coworker who did this. I final asked them once what was urgent about one particular email because I couldn’t tell and this got them to mumble some reply and stop thankfully.

      1. pancakes*

        I’m a little surprised there are multiple people who’ve had coworkers who do this. Any place I’ve ever worked, a person known to not read their emails would be considered A Big Problem, and this makes no sense as a solution. It’s really silly and it’s an eyesore.

        1. Anononon*

          It often happens at my work because of sheer volume of emails that many people get – we’re talking 100s a day. We do high-volume work, so to some degree, the email level is unavoidable, but there is ongoing work to streamline processes wherever possible.

    6. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Had a coworker who’d put ‘MUST READ’ in front of literally every email he sent, including general chitchat. He didn’t stop until I told him I was going to put a one hour delay on every email he sent with that prefix on the email server.

      (Obligatory note: do not use admin powers for evil. I wasn’t actually going to DO it)

      1. EmKay*

        But you didn’t do it, you just promised to do it **if** coworker didn’t knock it off :)

        (I also do this, lol.)

      2. Jaydee*

        But…that doesn’t sound like evil. That sounds like a blessing to everyone who would have received one of those emails.

    7. EPLawyer*

      ” the emails he was sending to me were much higher on his priority/urgency list than they were on mine.”
      This is probably a huge component of it. Everyone has different priorities and some people just do not get that not everyone has the same priorities. It’s really hard to trust that people will get that something really is urgent. Of course if you say it’s urgent all the time, they are more likely to overlook the time it really is urgent.

    8. Narise*

      There is a person in one of our departments that would sign off each email ‘awaiting your reply’ on every email every time. I ignored it but I know it irritated the people that received multiple emails from her a lot more than it did me.

    9. Phony Genius*

      Somebody in my office always puts “Emailing:” as the first word of the subject. He says it’s to let us know he’s e-mailing something to us. I just got two of them today. He is known to not listen to reason about anything.

      1. SMH*

        I remember in the early days of faxing people would write on the fax: please fax this back to me, it’s my only copy. I think that’s the person you play head games with- I saw that you said emailing but you didn’t say anything about reading the email. Or I saw that your email said Emailing but I have that subject line sent to go to trash so no I won’t be responding. Not actually do this but just play with him and watch his head explode.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          please fax this back to me, it’s my only copy.

          You just made my day…

      2. doreen*

        Is he emailing attachments? I know there’s a certain way of emailing attachments that automatically makes my subject line – “Emailing : name of document”. Whatever method it is, I don’t use it much so I don’t remember exactly when it happens- I think it’s when I have a document open and email from the open document , not when I start the email in Outlook and attach a file

        1. Reba*

          Oh my goodness, you are right! This is a Microsoft thing, if you right click and choose “email to…” It adds this prefix automatically. Maybe only on older versions (hopefully)? How silly.

          1. Observer*

            Yes. SOOOO annoying. I haven’t done this recently, so I don’t know if they have changed it, but in the older versions you couldn’t even change the subject line for some reason. Which is even stupider.

        2. Phony Genius*

          I’d open the door to that possibility, except that his explanation seems beyond his level of creativity.

        3. AnonInCanada*

          You are correct. If you right-click a file in File Explorer, then select Send To > Mail Recipient, Windows will be kind as to put in the subject line “[Emailing: ]”

          1. AnonInCanada*

            …forgot angle brackets are treated as HTML code in WordPress. [Emailing: filename.ext]

    10. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Yep. A former co-worker called behavior like that ‘the tyranny of the urgent.’ His take was, if EVERYTHING is urgent, nothing is urgent.

      Then again, this co-worker replied to those emails with his own URGENT PLEASE READ AND HANDLE IMMEDIATELY headers, so maybe he was more about pithy comments than prioritizing. But he made a fair point.

    11. Trillian*

      It took me a while to reprogram myself to even read emails that were ! Important after the job where every burp and burble from Corporate Communications came ! Important. Then I discovered that yes, some really were ! Important.

  2. Mouse*

    OP3: I empathize with you so much. I feel like I’m the only one who can’t stand WFH, and every time our CEO talks about how great it is that we could downsize or eliminate our office, my heart breaks a little.

    That said, it sounds like you’re pretty highly valued in this organization. I wonder if you could negotiate a company-paid WeWork or similar solution. Even if it’s not 100%, if your company is able to subsidize or pay for 3 days/week or something, maybe that could help enough that you don’t need to leave a job that it sounds like you’re excited about.

    1. allathian*

      WeWork is unlikely to help, if the problem isn’t being stuck at home working as much as being away from a more collaborative in-person environment at the office. Some jobs require more collaboration than others. Some jobs especially require more collaboration with employees outside your immediate team than others. I’ve found that I mostly miss the casual encounters in the break room with people I don’t work with on a regular basis, because my team works just fine remotely. I miss my coworkers and they make my job more enjoyable, and I wouldn’t want to do without the office entirely, but WFH lets me focus on the core functions of my job with fewer distractions than working at the office does.

      1. Anonymous19122020*

        To the guy who wants to work at his office: I suggest having a chat with your company about future office plans, a lot of companies have found it cheaper to cut rent if office space isn’t really needed. If that’s the case, before you decide to leave, do you have another job lined up? Can you not leave your home everyday and work from perhaps a coffee shop?

    2. MK*

      Also, I think the OP should consider that, if she goes looking for a job that isn’t wfh right now, she might end up unintentionally searching for employers who don’t take their employees’ safety seriously. I understand being sick of wfh and wanting to get back to normal, but the pandemic isn’t anywhere near over yet.

      1. Natalie*

        They’re talking about Q4, so October 2021, not necessarily today. And, as discussed at length last week, it is actually possible to have people safely working in person now. It’s impossible to say without knowing the details of how an individual office is functioning.

        1. Tired of Covid-and People*

          Under the best of Covid management circumstances, the most that can be said is that offices can be made safer than before. There is no “safely”, not just yet.

      2. OP 3*

        Yeah, I’ve definitely thought about that. I’ve met a few people who were called back to their offices last fall, and I’ve always wondered what their employer must be like to insist on that. With that said, I think there is definitely a point *soon* at which it *is* reasonable for companies to call people back, or at least have a date set, though (July seems pretty reasonable to me as the earliest date; Q4, not so much).

        Also, I think there is a difference between “you can come if you would like by X date” and “everyone must come back on X date”. It makes sense to have a later date for the latter, since different people have different comfort levels. I just care about the former.

        1. Smithy*

          I work for an international organization where some offices outside the US have versions of people back in the office – so there clearly is an appetite when it can done safely and recognizing the value. However the US offices aren’t due to bringing anyone back from full time remote until October 2021.

          As someone who really doesn’t love WFH as a thing, I completely get how frustrating this is. However, if you’re going to rule out all workplaces with that Q4 2021 return date, you may be limiting your options and making a touch more of a desperate job search.

          It’s clear that your CEO may be taking away the vast majority of in-office work going forward, and it’s clear why that’s concerning for you. However, I just wanted to mention that I’m familiar with a few places that have strong plans and desires to bring people back…..it just won’t be until Q4 2021.

        2. KaciHall*

          We came back in June. No masks, open office situation. My job can be done remotely, the owners just don’t believe in the pandemic. Small Midwestern town, anything that has a job opening is also in the office.


          1. abcd*

            We’ve had people in-office throughout the entire pandemic (essential business, not everything can be done remotely). We sent almost a third of the office home, added plexiglass barriers, divided departments into groups and moved groups around the buildings to under-utilized offices to provide a safer environment. This along with additional cleaning, requiring masks, limited the number people in elevators, shutting down the on-site cafeteria to sit-down diners, etc. There are ways to bring people back the office in a safe manner if everyone is willing to work together.

          2. Tired of Covid-and People*

            Kaci, I feel for you, I would have had a nervous breakdown if I was in your shoes. Covid deniers are why it will be a long, long, time before there is a massive 50,000 person concert in the US like was recently held in New Zealand. It’s also why so many are dead and others are suffering long-hauler syndrome. If only the virus cared about beliefs. I hope you wore your mask at least.

        3. Selena*

          From your letter it isn’t clear to me how strongly you expressed your dislike of wfh: your superiors may think they are very accomodating by pushing back the date to Q4 and not fully realize that some people are itching to get back to the office

        4. Esmeralda*

          Depends on the employer and the industry.

          I work at a large state university. Work directly with students, as in, one on one in my office, with the door closed for privacy. We’ve been told by TPTB, back in the office and just like pre-pandemic, but we’re not requiring students to be vaccinated.

          If that can’t be resolved in a way that keeps me and my colleagues and the students safe, it’s probably time for me to go. If I can get a job at the private U that *is* requiring vaccinations, I will.

        5. Loredena*

          That gets tricky because opening the office can force some people back! Receptionist, office admins, etc. They also might already be in the office and have expressed concern about others coming in too soon. It’s a balancing act for sure!

          1. English, not American*

            There can also be concerns about having enough people with first-aid training or fire marshall training. Before the last lockdown my workplace had been trialling “bubbles” of half a dozen of the most desperate-to-be-back employees and the woman organising who could be in which bubble was quick to point out that it’s not as straightforward as “X wants to be in the office, let them”.

      3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        That’s why I’m waiting to job search till over the summer. I don’t want to work from home, but I also don’t want to work someplace that ignores the pandemic.

        If this is the US we’re talking about, we are in fact near to the end of the pandemic, or at least to everyone who wants to be vaccinated having been vaccinated. Over half of the adult population have already been vaccinated! We aren’t there yet, but we are close enough to start to think about what we want our futures to look like.

        1. Esmeralda*

          That depends on where you live. And in fact, the news lately is about the rate of vaccinations stalling and about vaccine resistance. It’s not at all certain that we will reach herd immunity in the US>

          1. PT*

            We will reach herd immunity. It is just a matter of whether we reach it the easy way (vaccines) or the hard way (people getting sick.)

            But we will reach it, either way.

            1. pancakes*

              We’re not an island nation, though, like New Zealand. I think it’s far more likely there will be consequences of the US refusing to waive patents on vaccines.

            2. Keymaster of Gozer*

              There’s not as much proof that getting Covid actually gives you any kind of lasting immunity to it…bloody viruses.

            3. Tired of Covid-and People*

              The people getting sick way requires millions of deaths, unacceptable losses.

        2. JM60*

          Over half of the adult population have already been vaccinated!

          FYI, it’s over half the US population that has had at least one shot, not over half the US population fully vaccinated. There’s about a month and a half lag between the first shot and being fully vaccinated. Even for the one shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine, it’s effective at two weeks, but it’s peak efficacy was reached at day 56 IIRC.

          1. nonegiven*

            I heard over a quarter of the people getting their first shot have already missed their second.

        3. Tired of Covid-and People*

          We are decidedly NOT near the end of the pandemic in the US. Maybe New Zealand, but not here. So many unknowns with Covid-19, and the constant mutations. It’s going to be a minute before the pandemic is officially declared over.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I am kind of confused because it almost sounds like if OP talked things over with the boss the company would work with her on this point. It sounds like the company is pretty fair-minded.

      I do strongly agree though that no job is worth losing an aspect of our health. And it would really raise the stakes for me here, if I were in OP shoes. I’d definitely would want to see what could be done on my behalf. OP sounds like she is a well-respected employee, as it seems like the boss is including her in the decision to take on this extra work. I hope, OP, that you can see you probably have some capital built up here with this employer and right now is the exact time to draw on that capital.

      1. Kes*

        Yeah it depends how strongly leadership have their hearts set on WFH but I think it’s worth asking about the possibility of going back to the office and stating that WFH isn’t your favourite, at least to communicate that there are people who are interested.
        That said if they are set on WFH it’s reasonable for OP to leave for somewhere they can work better. But plans are changing so much that I wouldn’t set too much stock in what leadership is saying and leave now; I’d wait until it is reasonable to open and many other companies are and then if your company is still set on WFH, look at other options.

      2. LDF*

        It doesn’t sound like the problem is OP’s home working space, it’s the erosion of company culture and togetherness. That can’t be solved by OP going in while others are WFH.

    4. OP 3*

      Yeah, I think the WFH crowd is definitely larger (or at least louder) than people who enjoy going into an office. I don’t begrudge anyone’s preferences, but it is a little isolating to feel like everyone else is doing great and I am struggling.

      My company is pretty big (20,000 companies, Fortune 500), and I live in a major metropolitan area. They resisted covering any WFH-related expenses for the better part of the year (they eventually offered $250 last fall), so … yeah, I just don’t see them jumping at spending any money 0n real estate if they don’t have to. I am but a small fish in the pond, and flexibility on remote work is a nope. I wish it was!

      I have actually tried WeWork, on my own dime. It definitely helps; I do better when I can leave my apartment and can separate “work” from “home”. I would take it if offered, because it’s an improvement over just languishing in an apartment alone! But allathian is right; what I really enjoyed about the office was the incidental interactions with others. I’ve rarely worked on a team where my actual teammates were colocated (although colocation does make collaboration easier).

      1. OP 3*

        er, I meant to write “20,000 employees”, not “20,000 companies” :P (although I feel like we must have acquired that many over the years!)

        1. The Rural Juror*

          I just recently listened to a podcast about Enron. For a second I thought they might have shell companies. And shell companies that buy shell companies…that buy shell companies…

          I’m in the same boat as you, though. I didn’t particularly enjoy WFH. I’m one of the few that jumped at the chance to *safely* go back to the office. I’m a lot better since going back. I’ve especially noticed that I sleep better at night after having a full day in the office and then coming home for my evening routine.

      2. Tired Bubble Teacher*

        Hi OP,
        It’s sometimes hard to tell from this kind of feedback how people are really feeling, plus a lot can change quickly in this fun pandemic world. We had the opposite problem at my work last May where the coming in people were the loudest. Like you, a lot of people were citing mental health concerns that were aggravated by WFM. As a result, the WFH preferring crowd didn’t really speak up because none of us wanted to tell the folks who were struggling that if we had to teach on-line anyway, we would rather do it with hot coffee, no masks and slippers. As it turned out, it was a moot point. The folks in charge originally mandated that teachers do on-line learning from school, but between the parents of young children and the high risk folks that were never accommodated, there was a huge push back when cases hit the schools last week. Now we can do either, as long as we tell our principals.

      3. HoHumDrum*

        The “WFH forever!” crowd may be loud, but you are not alone. WFH eliminates all the parts I like best about my job, as well as is terrible for my productivity and my mental health. I would absolutely look elsewhere if I thought we were staying wfh permanently. We are allowed to use the office when needed now that most of us are vaccinated, the first time I went in I was shocked by how much more I got done, and how much less miserable I was doing it. I am very pleased my office is being safe and that they’re not forcing anyone to come in before they’re ready, but I’m definitely one of the people choosing to go back in, at least part time.

        I really hope you are able to either work something out at your company or to find something less remote, it’s a valid need to fulfill.

        1. run_sunshine*

          Same, HoHumDrum. If my job transitioned to forever WFH, I would absolutely leave it. I chose to work as staff at a university in large part because I enjoy being in an academic environment, mingling and working directly with students. There is such a buzz in the air and it makes me happy! I also enjoy incidental conversations with coworkers over coffee, etc. All of that has disappeared this year. I’ve made it through WFH much better than I expected — including during the 9 months when I worked, slept, ate, and lived pretty much within one room — but it continues to be a slog for me. I am more productive at home, but I feel little joy in that productivity. For me, a job is about more than getting the tasks done.

          My university is really limiting how many staff members will come back in the fall, and I have pushed to be on campus for 3 days a week. I think that will be enough to make me feel better about the other 2 WFH days. We’ll see. I am so glad that people who want/need to WFH will be able to — this should always be the situation — but I imagine it’s going to feel really weird.

      4. Lily Rowan*

        I think the WFH crowd being louder is a real thing. I was in a meeting recently where someone made a crack about “if anyone would go back to the office full-time” and I raised my hand and then a few other people did, too. But I had to go first.

      5. STG*

        You are not alone! Once my household was vaccinated, I asked to come back into the office full time. I enjoyed WFH for about a month before I realized that it just wasn’t healthy for me. I know I was lucky to even have the opportunity to WFH since others aren’t able but it definitely was a prime contributor to a bout of depression during that time. I feel a lot better mentally now that I’m back in the office.

        No real suggestions but I definitely understand.

      6. Malory Archer*

        Hi OP,

        Also wanted to chime in to say you are not alone. While I liked WFH at first (sleep in! no need to dress up! my cat can hang out on zoom with me! can leave to run an errand midday!) after a while it felt like I was perpetually half in “work mode,” unable to shut the work thoughts off but only half productive when actually in front of my computer. Into the evening when I’m done with meetings I often still feel like I have to stay online in case of slacks from our West Coast team, and drawing clear work hours is really hard! And everything takes so much longer when you can’t just catch a coworker at their desk or the coffee machine for a quick question.

        All that said, I’m still one of the lucky ones since I live alone and have plenty of space. But I never saw ANYONE for the first few months of this and the isolation takes a huge toll.

        I work for a very social company in a large city and we’re still not allowed to go back. We may begin to let people go in on a sign-up basis some time next month, and I’ll almost certainly go in a couple days a week.

        You are not the only one struggling, not by a long shot. Sending virtual hugs!

        1. Seattle Sky*

          Just want to add my .02 that during ‘normal’ times and most everyone was in the office, the people who wanted to work from home very rarely got that option. In an ideal world, people could find the companies and work spaces that would support their work styles.

      7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        My employer was trying to make me WFH in the Before Times, because he wanted to eliminate the Paris office, being too expensive. But he was totally inflexible about working hours so I’d have had all the cons of WFH (loneliness, being able to bounce ideas off colleagues and talk through issues together, being forgotten by head office because out of sight out of mind…) without any of the perks (managing my time myself, going to the pool at lunchtime…). I refused, but my colleagues all accepted. So then his idea was to make me go to a co-working centre like WeWork. The HR woman tried to sell it to me saying that I didn’t want to be lonely – yes but I need to be with colleagues who know what I’m talking about, for whom listening to Rebel is part of helping the business run smoothly, not just a random set of people who I don’t know and who might be obnoxious, noisy, and leave the photocopier blinking desperately because they just don’t care about anyone else being able to use it.

        1. Lalaroo*

          This is what bothers me a little bit about people who hate working from home because of the social or collaborative aspect. It seems like easy to say “let people who want to work in an office work in an office,” but if part of why they want to work in an office is to talk to their coworkers, then it won’t solve the problem if people are free to WFH or in the office as they like if 90% of the employees choose to WFH. I wonder what the conversation will be if that starts happening – will the people who prefer to be in the office insist that nobody can work from home because they want the WFH people around to talk to?

      8. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Check out the WeWork documentary…hoo-boy, can you say cult? It may be different now since the founder failed his way to a billion dollar buy-out, but WeWork as depicted was something else, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

    5. Wolfie*

      OP3, I also wanted to say, like others, that WFH was terrible for me, even though I was fortunate to do it. I live alone, and I’m an extroverted introvert, but I have always hated working from home. I have lost easy, well-paying freelancing jobs in the past because… guess what! I just don’t get any work done at home. Last year was full of shame and guilt as I got paid full-time for reduced hours (as in, I wasn’t responsibly working enough hours).

      I’m now fully vaxxed and back in the office the past 2 weeks. It is just me, but at least I have the separation of work and home.

  3. Beth*

    LW4: I think, like Alison says, that this isn’t such a big deal as most ‘gifting up’ due to its one-off nature. You can of course ask for it not to be done, or ask for it to be kept small/personal (e.g. a card or a team lunch) rather than money based. But if people go ahead and do it anyways, please don’t worry that you’re taking advantage! It’s so normal to do something congratulatory for coworkers who are coming up on a major life change like a new child; it’s not the same thing as expecting an annual birthday or anniversary gift from your employees. If anything, I’d say it might be better to make sure that the same thing is happening for non-director employees with congratulation-worthy life events, than to try and quash a nice gesture like this.

    1. MamaSarah*

      I agree. If it’s a small gift intended to acknowledge a pretty special life event, it’s best to be gracious and extend a little gratitude. ☺️ I also think that people appreciate opportunities to give (it feels good!). Wishing all the best, LW4.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I agree with all of this.

      It might be inappropriate to have a traditional *shower* for someone senior, but a single joint gift is unremarkable.

      1. allathian*

        Agreed, especially if peers and reports also get similar gifts in similar circumstances.

        1. doreen*

          I think that’s important. I just got an email last week that my manager is receiving a certificate and pin to commemorate 30 years of service next week, and the support staff in her office is taking up a collection to buy a gift. Although I was told by directly by the support staff that this was their idea, I don’t entirely believe them – because many other people have received a pin and certificate for serving 25 or more years, and no one has collected to buy them a gift. The very same staff members collecting for this gift did not collect for this managers predecessors. I suspect that someone a level or two up from my manager or one of her peers has orchestrated this.

    3. Juniper*

      Yeah, it would almost be more awkward to push against it. Sometimes people just want to do nice things when the people around them are celebrating an important life event, regardless of seniority.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes I’ve never worked anywhere that did birthday gifts but almost everywhere I’ve worked has done something for people for major life events regardless of their seniority. So when someone gets married / has a baby / retires we do a card and voluntary collection and we’ve done flowers and a card for serious illness or major bereavement. Most people give a couple of pounds but it’s voluntary and nobody keeps track of who does it.

        I agree that gifts shouldn’t flow upwards as a rule but people often want to share our colleagues’ joys and support them in trouble. So I don’t think it’s a bad thing as long as people want to do it. It may be more trouble than it’s worth to try and stop it.

    4. MK*

      I almost think the OP is already going overboard with trying to squash this. With a team of 25 people, and assuming the gifts aren’t insanely expensive, the amount each employee will give is probably negligible (unless there is some other aspect making this problematic, like the employees are making minimum wage). I agree with the philosophy of not gifting up, and in general with not creating a culture where employees are constantly being asked to contribute for gifts for anyone, but it’s more important in my opinion to make sure that contributing is truly voluntary and the gifts reasonable than trying to ban them altogether.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, a little of this. Also, baby gifts are very well scalable – it’s not a ‘diamond ring or nothing’ kind of choice. As long as there is some sense in the whole thing, take the card and the cute baby toy / dress as intended, OP! Your heart’s in the right place, but there is such a thing as overdoing it.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes I think the last maternity collection we did raised about £25 and we got a gift voucher from Mothercare. So it’s not particularly something that results in a large cash sum being collected, it’s more of a token gift.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I agree. I think a good strategy here would have been to let a few key people know that she does not want gifts and then let it go. The problem with telling one person is that they can just bypass the request. If several people know they can tend to reinforce each other and spread the word.

        OP, I hope I can encourage you that since there is not a lot of joy on this planet right now, your group has found something to be joyous about. I’d suggest you let them have that joy.

      3. pretzelgirl*

        I sort of agree with MK. Remember if the team is going in on one gift, say a swing… they are splitting it 25 ways. Even if they are splitting some cake, and drinks it still isn’t going to be much. Personally I would like them celebrate you.

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Also, I at least always feel baby gifts are as much for the baby as for the parents. And the kiddo is definitely not their supervisior!

    6. OP4*

      Thanks very much you guys (+Alison). All the points you guys made were some of the reasons I was struggling with this. Another big concern for me is the pay gap between folks at the consultant/sr consultant/manager level and the director level can be astronomical, so yet another reason I didn’t want anyone to feel put upon or pressured. I love giving gifts myself, and we’ve organized gifts for team members who had weddings, etc. in the last year as well. I loved contributed to the last director’s gift, too! So, I loved the comment about finding little bits of joy in the midst of this pandemic… I SO feel that!

      Anyway, I ended up sharing with 1 director and 1 manager that I am close with that I’d rather not have the team crowd-fund a gift as it would make me uncomfortable and they were both very understanding. I received some good natured ribbing in return and threats to bombard me with cards, which would be just fantastic!

      Thanks all for the well-wishes!

      1. Calyx Teren*

        Hi OP—Another way you might be able to handle this gracefully is to suggest to your contact that you’d enjoy it if the team would fill in one of those pretty blank books with their advice for new parents. Zero cost for almost everyone except the book-buyer (and negligible even for them), and much more memorable and valuable in many ways.

      2. Scarletb*

        I don’t much like getting gifts, and finally managed to convince my mother that it would be far better to donate to a charity of my choosing than to buy, wrap, pack, and ship me a physical object… so my inclination here would be to nudge people in the direction of a children’s charity or some such, donations for the neonates section of your local hospital, whatever. They still get to do something positive to celebrate you, and it goes to folks who might really need the support, and it’s good feelings all round :)

  4. Observer*

    #1 – If your employee gives you a song and dance about ecology and not wasting water, point out to her that this is actually a hygiene issue, as feces is absolutely a way that various pathogens can spread. Also, by leaving it overnight, there is a significant smell in the office in the morning.

    Also, please think about what else you know or can observe about her hygiene. Does she wash her hands after using the bathroom? Before handling food? (You can’t police what she does with the food she eats, but if she’s not washing her hands, I wouldn’t want her getting near ANYTHING anyone else eats.)

    1. Sammie*

      I don’t think there’s a reason at this stage to assume that the employee knows it’s happening or is doing it deliberately.

      1. Beth*

        It seems likely to me that the employee is aware (surely if the toilet was routinely failing to flush properly, OP would know already?). But I agree that it’s better to start from a softer assumption than to assume that the employee doing it intentionally, much less jump to an assumption about their overall hygiene.

        1. Telgar*

          She might not know. It’s possible, that the employee closes the lid before flushing (which is more hygenic) and then doesn’t check if it’s properly flushed. If her feces have a high fat content, they might float and not flush. (Sorry if that’s to graphic.)

            1. kt*

              I bought a toilet in a remodel that is absolutely underpowered and terrible at actually flushing, and this happens unfortunately often. It’s truly annoying and even though it’s at home rather than work I still find it embarrassing on some level. It’s just icky. And I know that it’s the toilet’s fault (we’re the same people with the same… output… and the previous toilet did not have this problem).

              1. Rainy*

                Our downstairs toilet is like this, and in the before times when people visited, we warned everyone basically the second they came in the house. “You have to hold the handle down for much longer than is reasonable! Sorry!” When the pocket door to the downstairs half-bath malfunctioned, the building handyman found a sign that had obviously been put on the inside of the door by some previous tenant that said “YOU HAVE TO HOLD THE HANDLE DOWN”.

            2. Rainy*

              Oh gosh, your poor employee. How embarrassing for her! Better to address it though, yikes.

              I refer to my MIL as “The Mad Pooper” (à la Bob’s Burgers) because she got mad at me over our low-powered apartment toilets during an uninvited week-long holiday visit two years ago and stopped flushing the toilet, so I was just randomly having to flush her poop for a week. At least your employee was doing it inadvertently!

            3. Observer*

              I saw a comment lower down, and didn’t realize that you are the OP. Sorry about that.

              I’m glad you got this resolved.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Toilets & plumbing can have issues. Get an enzyme cleaner designed for septic systems and have the last person who leaves for the night put some in the bowl after flushing.
          Dual duty — you can talk about the problem without sounding accusatory, and if the problem shows up anyway, you can talk to the landlord.
          (Also are you SURE there’s no one else with access? After those crazy stories of people living in someone’s attic or back office undetected my mind takes great leaps.)

          1. hr*

            Yes, absolutely sure there is no one else with access. I addressed it with her this morning, and she said that she was taught to close the lid, it was right before she went home, and was just an oversight.

            1. Malarkey01*

              My friend is an industrial engineer who works on sanitation- ABSOLUTELY close the lid before flushing. Toilet water, and what’s in there, spreads up to 15ft outside the bowl when you flush. You don’t normally see it since it’s a fine “mist” or smaller droplets, but close it (and then do a quick check if needed).

        3. Lucy P*

          We have autoflush toilets that don’t flush so well. There’s a manual button to push in case you need an extra flush. Most people in the office are oblivious to the fact that things aren’t flushing, evidenced by waste left in the bowl. We’d like to think that everyone is on the ball about this kind of thing, but it could be that the employee is just clueless.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Nor me. It’s entirely possible that the flush is less powerful than her home bathroom, or that she puts the lid down for hygienic reasons and doesn’t then check, or that she uses more paper then other staff members so there is more often an issue when she uses the bathroom, or any one of a number of reasons not to assume this is deliberate.

        1. Observer*

          That could very well be the case, although I tend to think that it’s not the most likely scenario. But that’s why you don’t lead with the hygiene issue, but with Alison’s script.

      3. Observer*

        I don’t think there’s a reason at this stage to assume that the employee knows it’s happening or is doing it deliberately.

        I’m not assuming anything. I did start off with *IF*.

        Having said that I do think that there is a pretty good chance that it’s deliberate. One the one hand, it’s hard to imagine that the OP wouldn’t already know about a problem with flushing, and it’s really generally pretty clear when an attempt to flush the toilet didn’t work.

      4. Cat Tree*

        I wonder if she’s used to automatically flushing toilets and is forgetting that this one isn’t.

        When we’re not in the middle of a plague, I work in a large building with many bathrooms. The one closest to my desk was renovated and had automatic flush toilets. One toilet broke, and they replaced it with a manual flush for some reason. So we have 5 stalls with automatic and 1 with manual. There were times when I almost forgot to flush that toilet, and I think others have also forgotten. I have only seen it happen with urine so far though.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve forgotten to flush standard toilets because I’ve become so conditioned to automatic toilets at work and public places. Thankfully, I remembered, ‘Oh, right! This is a DIY!’ and didn’t leave a surprise for the next person.

        2. sb51*

          We had piecemeal renovations at work several years ago. There was a clear tipping point when signs went up by the stall door handles saying “this bathroom is still manual flush, please check”

    2. WS*

      I doubt they’re doing it for ecological reasons – you only let it mellow if it’s yellow! If it’s brown, flush it down!

    3. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Years ago we had a non-flusher and the general consensus was to let it be until they noticed and flushed it themselves. Luckily, we had access to other facilities and the non-flusher eventually got tired of cleaning up after themselves and became more diligent. If the LW has the fortitude they could always leave it for the employee to discover.

      1. twocents*

        The problem with that approach is that LW beats the employee into the office. Employee may just assume then that it’s LW leaving it.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      The cynic in me says that there’s probably something wrong with the toilet. It might just be me, but the times I have seen stuff like this it worked out that the toilet was failing for whatever reason.

      Most recently an elderly friend was having flushing problems. She blamed visiting family members. Yeah, okay. We finally poured some Drano down the sink drain and the toilet problems cleared up.

      1. BadWolf*

        They remodeled the bathroom near me and put in automatic toilets. But unlike the automatic toilets in other restrooms, these have no override/additional flush button. So if you needed an additional flush…it was not obvious how to create one (other than using the toilet again). Plus the toilets had a long enough delay, that often you were exiting/existed the stall when if flushed (which is nice to not be trapped in the flushing stall, but easier to forget if a flush actually happened). I finally figured out that you had to block the sensor for 10+ seconds to prompt it to flush (which is suddenly a lot time to just be standing there with your hand in front of the sensor). There was a rash of unflushed toilets so one day I left a note on the mirror that to “force” a flush, hold your hand in front of the sensor for 10 seconds. The note didn’t last the day, but the rate of non-flushes decreased. (This was a restroom used be a lot of people who I didn’t know)

        Anyway, as Alison suggested, leaving the door open for needs repair/improvement is a good thing to include.

      2. hamsterpants*

        I have a toilet in my home that does this. It’s a “water saver” toilet from probably 20 years ago. The flush is strong enough to remove the bowl contents from sight but not strong enough to reliably get them past the U bend. You flush and everything looks OK, but it doesn’t stay gone.

        1. Self Employed*

          My apartment got toilets like this in 2016. I’m sure the developers just went with the lowest bid.

    5. Colette*

      Huh? This seems unwarranted. The OP hasn’t said anything at all yet, there is no indication the employee works with food at all, and there is no need to invent things to be outraged about.

      1. Firecat*

        But but but!!

        Righteous indignation about what a song and dance trying to keep our earth safe is!

        1. Observer*

          You guys are reading a lot into what I said – none of which is there.

          To start with, I said *IF*. Which is to say that *I* and not the making assumptions. And given the likelihood that the employee knows what is happening, which is pretty high, the OP should have a response ready.

          Again, *if* the person is aware of what’s happening, a very likely response IS the ecological argument. And as another poster pointed out, that’s wrong. Wrong enough, I would say, that if someone uses the ecological argument it is legitimate to call it a song and dance. Why do you find it so offensive to call something like that out?

          Beyond that, regardless of the reason the person is going this, if they are not flushing and they know it, that absolutely should raise concern about their hygiene. And, yes, even outside of formal food prep, I don’t even want them being the one handling the office cutlery or opening a pack of cookies everyone else is going to share.

          1. JB*

            What you don’t seem to understand is that everybody absolutely did read the word ‘if’. What we’re disagreeing with in your comment is exactly what you’ve laid out here – the idea that it’s most likely that the employee 1. Knows that this is happening/is doing it on purpose and 2. Is probably doing it for environmental reasons, which, as you also point out, is a terrible idea.

            I don’t know a single person who thinks it’s appropriate to conserve water by not flushing fecal matter. Urine, maybe, but they tend to be frat house boys trying to save their water bill, not the planet. How many people do you know who are trying to conserve water this way?

            So yes, your jump from ‘the toilet isn’t being flushed at this specific time, but apparently is at all other times’ to ‘ah, the most likely explanation is that she is an unreasonable and unhygenic planeteer; you should be prepared to argue that point’ seems bizarre, out-of-touch, and hostile.

            1. Observer*

              Shrug. I guess I’ve been unlucky, but this does happen. And one would have expected the OP to be aware of a problem with the plumbing – it’s pretty uncommon that they would not. Especially since they are the one actually cleaning it up. It’s kind of strange that the employee would need to double flush or have some other problem with flushing, but not the OP. Of course it’s possible, but just unlikely enough that it makes it more likely that the employee does know what is happening.

          2. Colette*

            If she is secretly an alligator, it’s unreasonable to ask her to flush the toilet because her arms won’t reach that high, so you should be prepared to replace the toilet with one with a foot pedal so that she can flush it.

    6. Filosofickle*

      I have such a weird fear of not flushing! Can’t tell you how many times I’ve dashed back into a public (or someone else’s) bathroom to double check I’ve flushed. One time I used a restaurant bathroom after my new-ish partner…and he hadn’t flushed. He grew up in a “if it’s yellow let it mellow” household and I told him that’s totally great at home, I do it there too, but NOT IN PUBLIC TOILETS. No one should have to walk in and find someone else’s business already in the bowl.

  5. CurrentlyBill*

    OP2: I would interpret the “Read this” subject as the only action required of that mail. I would probably deprioritize it since I don’t have to do anything other than read it. Things I have to respond to or take another action on will get higher priority. Perhaps that’s an insight you can share with your direct.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. It sounds like ASAP, which I tend to delegate to the bottom of my priority list if I can, just because I find people who consider their own assignments to always be the most important, even when they aren’t in the bigger picture, to be obnoxious. Now, if their assignment is truly urgent according to the priority list we’ve been given, that’s different. But just marking something urgent or ASAP is unlikely to get your task a bigger priority…

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        In my work, I need definite dates. In my old job, I used to have to point out that ASAP isn’t a strict deadline. One person started using “sooner rather than later,” which managed to be both equally unhelpful & more annoying. We solved the problem by making due date a required field on our request forms & making it fillable with numeric dates only. And people still tried to find a way around it. If you don’t know when it’s needed, how urgent can it be?!

        1. hamsterpants*

          As long as your company has a good culture of actually meeting the need-by date, then that is all good! At my old job, though, the form had urgency+need-by date as a single field in a drop-down menu. A low-priority item was marked as to be completed within 12 hours. But then those items would take 3-5 days to complete in actuality. So you had to game the form to actually get things by the time you needed them.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            These were communications. We had a calendar & schedule, so dates really did matter!

      2. Tired of Covid-and People*

        When I was a fresh college grad, a wise supervisor training me taught me two things I never forgot and it’s been forty years: 1) date everything, and 2) never say ASAP, always specify exactly when you need something. It was a production environment, and ASAP went to the bottom of the pile, because my ASAP was not the submitter’s ASAP. These practices have served me well.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      This is a good insight.

      I have an external correspondent who always marks emails “response required by (genuine deadline)” or “no response required” early in the body of the email. It’s not something I emulate, but it is crystal clear. Perhaps LW could suggest a similar middle ground.

    3. Mockingjay*

      It sounds like that the Emphasizer works for a different company, that OP2’s company is teamed with. So OP2 may not have much leverage to change things, other than Alison’s suggestion. I would recommend more direct subject lines: “Hey, can you please label the subject line as ‘For your Info’ or ‘For your Action?’ That way I can get to your stuff in a timely manner. Thanks!”

  6. Observer*

    #2- When you bring it up with your colleague, you might want to reference User Interface studies. Basically one thing that shows up a lot is that any request that gets the default answer or any warning that you can ignore more than 50% of the time tends to backfire on you. It actually causes people to be more likely to make the mistake you are trying to prevent.

    1. Lady Meyneth*

      LOL, I’ve been burned by this twice just this morning. I work with a software that gives a warning 95% of the time. Usually the same one, and completely useless, so I’ve been conditioned dismiss those without even reading, much less saving reports. Now I’m testing a new kind of issue, and need to save all (still pretty useless, but different) warnings for traceability, and my hand won’t let me do it! I just hit dismiss before my brain computes I actually need that crap.

      1. JB*

        Quick hack: take your hand off the mouse between clicks when doing whatever task generates those warnings. Just until you reprogram that habit haha. It’ll give you time to think before your finger goes a-clickin’.

  7. Just Another Zebra*

    Hi OP1. I work with plumbers (I actually source all their materials and parts).q It may actually be the toilet causing this issue. Without getting into the plumbing logistics and types of toilets, parts do wear out/ break. Lines get clogged or damaged. Sometimes the design of the bathrooms (like if there are 2 back-to-back restrooms) can make things wonky. Since it is such an awkward topic to bring up, I’d suggest calling a plumber first. Have them auger the toilet just to be sure nothing is blocking it, and the parts in the tank are functional.

    If it persists, then have the convo with your report. But I’d actual blame the toilet before the person.

    1. Unfettered scientist*

      We have a toilet in our house that’s like this. You can flush and it goes away, but some percent of the time it will come back. In our case it seems to be caused by the bowl filling up during a flush more so than forcefully flushing down so often the stuff doesn’t make it all the way down and over the bends in the pipes and may come back. Flushing twice fixes it typically.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Our toilet in the office is like that. Lots of double flushing! I’ve noticed if they get cheaper toilet paper that there will be bits left over for the next guest haha

        1. Tired of Covid-and People*

          A plumber once told me that cheaper, one-ply TP is actually better for the system than the good stuff, which is thicker and clogs much more. I still use the good stuff, but less of it.

    2. UKDancer*

      I can confirm I’ve also had this problem. I got the plumber out and he cleared a blockage and changes a part and it’s not happened since. I would definitely recommend getting the loo checked. Maybe say to your colleague “I’ve noticed the toilet isn’t flushing properly as it’s not clearing. So I’m getting the plumber. Can you make sure to flush twice as that may help?”

      That way you rule out other causes of the problem before needing to have awkward conversations.

      1. allathian*

        Same here, in our old apartment we had a toilet that would regurgitate occasionally, but a plumber fixed it for us by clearing a blockage that was so far down the line that we didn’t realize it existed.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I had a housemate for a while who had eliminations that just. Wouldn’t. Flush. Without getting disgusting they were of a significant size and the plumbing in our Victorian house couldn’t deal.

        Landlord wouldn’t pay for the plumber to come out anymore so we resorted to just chucking buckets of water down the pan. Not a solution that’s viable for an office however.

    3. Iain C*

      I had this in a (then) new relationship. Apparently our… product… was different enough that hers got further down the pipe than mine after a flush, and mine would come back to haunt.
      To quote: ” I am happy you don’t have digestive issues, but I would like to take that on faith, please!”
      Luckily her flat was small, so flushes were audible in other rooms so I could persuade her it wasn’t my fault…

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A friend with a 1970s house began to have this problem immediately after installing low-flow toilets. Unfortunately the pipes were laid at a shallow enough angle that low flow does not work. Visitors are asked to flush twice…the family uses the room upstairs.

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        Low-flush toilets are the bane of my existence. Most of our work is commercial, and the number of times we retrofit old parts into these toilets is unbelievable. 1 gallon of water is sometimes just not enough!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Adding, it could be time for the septic to be pumped out, there could be tree roots growing into the line, there could be a break in the line or maybe the toilet is not flushing with enough power to clear the bowl.

      I really hate dealing with toilets because it always seems to involve try this, then try that, then try this other thing. It’s hard to know what is going on inside all that pipe work.

    6. Bagpuss*

      Yes – we have an older cistern in our office and it takes a while to refill. If you flush too soon after someone else has done so, you don’t get a full flush and sometimes this sometimes means not everything is flushed away. We’ve had it checked and short of completely replacing the entire system there’s not much to be done, and any new system might have a similar issue as it is to do with the water supply as well as our internal system

    7. Smithy*

      I think there’s also a way to flag calling the plumber to the direct report as part of the overall communications. Instead of flagging that the direct report needs to do something different, it can just be “I’ve noticed this issue with the toilet, so the plumbers are coming today.”

      Keeping the direct report in the conversation, first indicates an assumption that it’s not entirely this person’s fault. And then if the feedback is “this is an old building and without a major renovation, you will just need to flush twice” – then that’s coming from a plumber/expert.

    8. Observer*

      It’s certainly worth getting a plumber in. But I wonder how likely it would be to be a problem with only one person?

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        I got the impression it’s an issue at the end of the day, and this person just happens to be the last one to use it. Without getting too graphic – when a building is in use, like an office during the day, water is pretty constantly running through the pipes. Sinks, toilets, some fridges with water lines, all keep water flowing in one direction. When things sit for a bit, even just a few hours, sometimes things travel with the water backwards. This can be especially true if there’s a blockage down the line, or a toilet isn’t flushing hard enough. Depending on the layout, sometimes builders will go cheap and pipe in two restrooms back to back. It’s super common in commercial buildings, for the same reason laundry rooms and restrooms are “stacked” in residential houses. This can make it easy for matter to travel.

      2. JB*

        Conversely, how likely is it that this one person is flushing all throughout the day but then just decides to use the toilet and not flush before leaving at the end of the day? Because that is what the LW is describing and that seems way more bizarre than the more likely explanation of a plumbing problem.

      1. Observer*

        I would talk to the plumbers. Just because a toilet is new, doesn’t mean it’s a good one.

      2. Self Employed*

        The toilets at my apartment building + the plumbing never flushed properly and it was built in 2016. (I’m the first tenant in this unit.)

  8. CurrentlyBill*

    OP3: If there is the option to return to the office, make sure you understand why you want to go back. If it’s the hallway conversations, the face-to-face interaction, and the coffee pot comraderies, then realize that may not happen. An awful lot of people may choose to WFH. Since your coworkers don’t go into the office, you may not get the benefits you seek. Depending, of course on where the true value of being in the office is for you.

    On a related note (and I’m not saying this is the OP’s approach) office norms have generally dictated that introverts or folks with social anxiety or folks who just don’t like being around other people as much need to “get over it” or learn to deal the people. It makes them out to be the ones with the problem.

    Perhaps the ones with the problem are the folks who can’t manage to be productive in a remote environment.

    1. Willis*

      Your last paragraph seems a little rude. People can have different work styles without one of them being a problem, and enjoying office interactions and camaraderie doesn’t equate to being unproductive. I know there’s a strong introvert tendency amongst some of the commenters on this site, but it seems pretty disingenuous to act like there are no possible legit reasons to dislike WFH. The OP named a few.

  9. SaraH*

    If LW is the only one excited to stop WFH, returning to the office won’t in any way solve the problem because they’ll still be alone all the time, albeit in a different space. I wonder if they know that more people are anxious to go back on site.

    Also, I don’t know of any companies in my area planning to bring people back to the office in any different capacity than this company – Q4, no rush. Before planning to jump ship, LW should check around and be sure it’s not the same there.

    1. Lucious*

      A couple of relevant points :
      One, we do not know the OPs local covid-19 situation. Their local cases may be low enough that returning to on-site operations may be a logical decision.

      Two, not liking WFH can be completely rational. If ones job requires frequent communication with others in different areas, Zoom might not get the job done. 80% of human communication is in body language, not words. IMs & Emails by nature strip that context from discussions , and sometimes that context loss leads to errors and confusion. A siloed company is tough to navigate even in person. Remotely? Even harder.

      Further, bad regional Internet and distracting home environments mean WFH isn’t necessarily a productivity boon for everyone. I personally prefer WFH, but let us not pretend remote work is 100% beneficial for everyone.

      1. Colette*

        Of course WFH isn’t necessarily great for everyone, but that’s not what SaraH was saying? It’s true that if the OP primarily wants to go back to work to be around other people, that will only happen if the other people also decide to go back to work.

      2. Firecat*

        Is this a miss reply? It doesn’t seem like you are addressing any of SaraH points.

        Which is that a lot of companies are taking OPs companies’ approach do she should be sure when jumping ship it’s to a ship operating the way she wants and that, even if she does come into the office it may not give her the change she wants of she is the only one….

    2. BubbleTea*

      If my office weren’t 45-60 minutes away, I would be very tempted by the ability to go and work there even by myself. Not being in my home, where I am surrounded by distractions and non-employment jobs that need doing (laundry! Filing personal papers! Organising clothes!) would help me be productive sometimes. I have adapted to WFH better than I expected but some days a change of scene would really help.

    3. Mockingjay*

      Honestly, I’m getting tired of WFH. I don’t miss the commute at all, but there are too many distractions in my household and I am really not focusing the way I should. My company isn’t bringing back people until the end of the year. I can request to go into the office; a few people have returned, but approvals are case by case.

      1. Windchime*

        I live alone and I’m still getting a little tired of WFH. I like it for the most part and have adjusted to it, but I do miss the interactions with my coworkers in the kitchen or the hall. The thing I don’t miss is the 2 hours in the car everyday, fighting Seattle traffic to try to get to my downtown building. That was hell. But I miss interacting with my coworkers. Now I’m afraid I’m interrupting if I ping them for a chat.

        1. tra la la*

          Yes, I miss these interactions, too, and it’s bothered me that WFH sort of makes everything more formal — I know what you mean about worrying about bothering colleagues.

    4. Lady Meyneth*

      That’s a fair point, but it doesn’t even have to be about collaboration. I’m liking WFH, I’m super productive, and I’m introverted enough that I don’t much miss the watercooler chat. But not having the leave-the-office routine and the commute makes it really hard for me to fully disengage from work. I find myself checking emails and jumping back in to solve issues well into the evening, and it’s not in any way expected of me. I don’t really mind, but I can understand wanting that defined break.

      1. Anon for this*

        This. I’m pretty introverted, but I have difficulty working from home, psychologically, simply because it’s my home. This was a major contributing factor to my flunking out of a grad program I was in once. And of course that’s a me problem, but what I mean is that not wanting to work from home is not the same as not wanting to work alone, as some people have been suggesting.

        I’m lucky that my area has very low numbers and anyone could come back to the office who wanted to*. In non-pandemic times, going to a WeWork (I assume those tend not to be open at the moment — my town’s too small to have one anyway) would absolutely have been a material improvement over working from my actual home.

        *masked, not using conference rooms or break rooms, etc.

      2. JM60*

        There are pros and cons to both. While it’s not my primary reason for preferring WFH, I like that WFH allows me to skip “watercooler talk” and many other social office norms. In the office, an introvert avoiding an extrovert’s socializing will often be considered a little rude or “chilly”, while the extrovert won’t be considered rude for their push for more contact. It’s generally the extroverts who will have their preference accepted/win out more often in an office environment.

        That being said, even as an introvert, my main reasons for preferring WFH are financial (save on gas money, and I live in a very high COL area because of my job) and being able to use some entertainment while I work. I often like to watch (mostly listen to) Youtube videos in a separate window while I work, which I can do with minimal impact on my productivity. While there is not explicit prohibition of this in the office, the optics aren’t great. I also love working in tee shirt, shorts, and socks.

        I too have been jumping into emails late into the evening more often than before the pandemic. I think there’s been a time or two when I’ve replied to an email after midnight without thinking about the time.

    5. Firecat*

      It looks like a lot of people are not realizing that Alison turned off the replies to Currently Bills post and attaching their replies to SaraH’s post.

      In case others like me were a bit bewildered by the replies referring to things not on her post. They make sense in reply to the lost above.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      We are allowed to request a regular day or two in the office, and I approved this for one member of my team who was really struggling with isolation and being stuck at home. What they have shared with me is that their commute and being in the office gives them a change of scenery and a semblance of normalcy that helps them a lot. There are not usually many (if any) other people on their floor, but being in the office is helpful to them and they are following our organization’s rules for in-office work, so it’s not an issue for us. (I have another person on my team whose house is very cramped as they are hosting a sibling and grandchild who had nowhere else to go during the pandemic, and finding a quiet, uninterrupted place to work is challenging. They were also granted two days per week in the office.) HR monitors who is in and on what days to ensure there are not too many people in one floor/location. They also check security badge reports, so if you’re in the office unauthorized, you’re going to get a call from them.

  10. NPO Queen*

    OP 3, my company is also WFH until Q4, and maybe until 2022, depending on how things shake out in my city. I agree with trying to find out your company’s plans; I don’t know many jobs exist in your field if it’s hard to break into, and a lot of companies are moving online for the cost savings. You don’t want to quit, only to find yourself still stuck at home while you look for a new job! My company only gave a few weeks notice to confirm that we were extending WFH until Q4 (there had been rumors, but nothing definitive), so this might be a moot point if you have enough forewarning.

    1. MsSolo*

      Yes, I would be careful about quitting at the moment, because the pandemic isn’t over, and acting like it is too soon will prolong it further. If the only selling point a new organisation has over the current one is that you’ll return to the office sooner (a) that may suggest they’re being un-cautious in other areas too and (b) you may find yourself working from home anyway. Move for a company that offers more than just an office.

      1. JM60*

        And people often don’t appreciate how much lag there is between getting your first shot and having high immunity. The current CDC guidelines for “fully vaccinated” are two weeks after your final shot. Since the second Pfizer shot is at least 3 weeks after the first, and the second Moderna shot is at least 4 weeks after the first, being “fully vaccinated” for most people takes almost a month and a half.

        …Even for the one shot Johnson and Johnson shot, which less than 10% of people are currently getting, it confers effective immunity at the CDC recommended 2 weeks, but its peak effectiveness was around 56 days IIRC. I think the CDC stuck with “2 weeks after final shot” in spite of better immunity a month and a half later because it’s easy for the general public to remember, and the immunity is still effective at two weeks (albeit, less than later on).

        Anyways, people getting back to the office too soon before individual’s immunity kicks in, plus some people just refusing to get vaccinated altogether, will give the pandemic a longer tail than it needs to have.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I think that’s very wise advice.

      A year from now, it will likely be be much clearer which businesses are going full or mostly remote as a business decision, and and which are going with an in person model, and the OP can select which jobs to apply for accordingly, if needed. Right now, the remote/in person decision is dominated by safety considerations – the OP could change companies and end up working from home anyways, or end up being alone in the office.

      I can strongly sympathize with not wanting a full time work from home situation, either for work reasons or mental health considerations. But you’re not at the stage where going to the office is necessarily a sensible decision, for public health safety. The other danger, of course, is that places that are pushing WFH very strongly, particularly in unstable areas, will get you an employer that doesn’t care about employee safety, which is a problem in itself.

      1. pancakes*

        In some places it’s pretty close to sensible. In a broader sense, though, I think it can be problematic for people to regard a particular work arrangement as essential to their mental health. A person with that framework is setting themselves up for a crisis if lay-offs or some other disruptive scenario unfolds. It’s hard enough to be laid off or out of work without making your job central to your mental health or sense of self.

        1. Gray Lady*

          A person who is laid off isn’t “trapped” at home in the same way a person who works full time from home is, though. It’s true that if someone’s mental health is dependent on acting working and interacting with others all day long, that’s not a good situation to leave unaddressed. But I wouldn’t conclude that someone who is going up the wall working from home would be in the same situation if unemployed and able to come and go and get some other interaction through the day, instead of being stuck at home alone do to work requirements.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          I’m not sure to what extent one can just *decide* whether or not to regard something as essential to your mental health, though, especially when it’s something as significant as where and how you spend half your waking hours. I mean, if I could just decide that WFH has no effect on my mental health then I probably would have made that decision a while ago and saved myself a lot of stress.

          1. Smithy*

            It may not be deciding what is or isn’t essential to your mental health – but I do think you can decide how to approach it. Right now the OP is focused on returning to the office as that priority. For others, they may see it as a sign of strained mental health resources and seeking out EAP/mental health support to last a little longer.

            Personally, if I decided that working from an office/among peers was a critical piece of my worklife for my mental health – it would mean a dramatic professional change. For the most part, very few similar entities in my professional sector and location are bringing people back.

            It may be that for those looking at more stark options, being mindful that there are few to no options – that addressing the mental health strains for the medium term are more necessary. But if this is a job the OP really likes and WFH is the only drawback….it’d be hard for me to not see if there isn’t mental health care or other life changes that might make the medium term more tolerable.

            1. PersephoneUnderground*

              Except the top advice you’ll get from your therapist is to see how you can address the root of the problem, like seeing how soon you can safely return to the office! They also help with coping strategies, but it’s rare to be able to completely change your own needs. Instead the conversation is usually about recognizing them and finding ways to meet them, and also redirecting irrational or impossible-to-meet needs. But working in an office is a need that can be met, so the first steps with treatment will be exactly what the OP is doing. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this came out of discussions with an existing therapist.

              1. Smithy*

                Not a mental health person – but as someone who has gone to therapy, I do think it could vary based on how the OP presents the goals of therapy.

                A goal from therapy could be how to better survive/thrive in WFH with the acknowledgement that this is simply a reality for the next 6-9 months. But therapy doesn’t always revolve around only one outcome or one solution. As someone who saw a therapist for social anxiety, I was able to focus on where I wanted solutions – not necessary addressing root causes at all.

                Working in the office as a need seems somewhat amorphous. I worked in one office where the team’s culture itself was not collaborative at all and I felt radically more lonely than on my current WFH team. There are pragmatic needs about being in a physical office space that have to do with connectivity, access to equipment, space away from home/family, etc. But if the need for an office is human collaboration and connection…..that’s not going to be a guarantee and can indicate a much longer job hunt if the field is more niche.

        3. Observer*

          In a broader sense, though, I think it can be problematic for people to regard a particular work arrangement as essential to their mental health. A person with that framework is setting themselves up for a crisis if lay-offs or some other disruptive scenario unfolds. It’s hard enough to be laid off or out of work without making your job central to your mental health or sense of self.

          You are conflating two different issues. One is the problem of tying your identity to a job / profession. The other is the mental health effects of being in a certain type of job. In the former case, you can essentially wind up with a situation where “If I have a job I’m good, if I don’t have a job ~~insert bad thing~~. In the second case that’s not necessarily how it plays out. In fact, in some cases losing a job that has negative mental health effects can be a net positive from the health perspective. Because as stressful as losing a job is, losing the bad parts of it can be much more important.

            1. Observer*

              Most of life is not all that tidy. But overall, these really are two rather distinct issues.

        4. Sylvan*

          It’s actually fine to know what you need. Describing what you need doesn’t create the need.

      2. introverted af*

        Honestly this is helpful to me as well, as a reminder that I don’t have to know now. I want to WFH full time and my existing job just sent a very aggravating email today about how we will return to “fully staffed ‘normal’ office schedules” in July (like we haven’t all been working full time this whole time), but trying to search for remote jobs is such a hassle with all the jobs that are remote due to the pandemic listing their job location as remote, when in reality the job does require you to be in their location and they overall plan to return to that.

        I have been feeling anxious about making a decision on moving on or staying, when in reality it’s ok to stay and maybe apply for the jobs that seem like a really strong opportunity, and maybe just keep watching and see what happens.

    3. Smithy*

      As it turns out, my job at the start of the pandemic and my new job have both taken advantage of the full-time remote work to do major renovations to the office. Instead of just doing one section at a time, it’s turned the entire office into a full construction zone.

      From folks at my old job, the plan appears to be returning in September 2021, but everyone keeps on shrugging their shoulders and going “but who knows with construction?” The fact that both workplaces have continued investment in physical spaces clearly indicates a desire in the medium term for people to come back……but if it’s Q4 or even Q1 2022…..that’s all very possible.

      The pandemic has sucked and for those who are more extroverted or prefer a more collaborative work environment – this really can weigh down on your mental health. But if this is the only reason the OP is looking to leave, it may end up artificially narrowing their options.

  11. Sylvan*

    1. You could try doing what some poor soul had to do at a place where I worked. Write “Please flush the toilet” on a sticky note at eye level for someone sitting on the toilet. That’ll be clear to her and anyone else using the bathroom. Talk to her if it happens after that.

    If you talk to her, I think what Alison suggested might work. But I also think that it might not, and that you might want to talk directly if that happens. She’s an adult: She knows how you’re supposed to use a bathroom. She might have even been talked to about it gently before. But she’s still doing this. You can tell her to flush the toilet.

    P.S. There is a banner ad for porta potty rentals at the bottom of the page right now!

    1. Myrin*

      I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a situation where a sign like this worked.
      (In this case especially since, like you say, she surely knows how one is supposed to use a bathroom – a sign isn’t going to convey new information to her.)

      1. WS*

        It’s worked for me when we’ve had teenage interns who haven’t had the “out of home” experience at all, including “Get new rolls from the cupboard” taped so you’ll see it when you take the last spare roll. But I would expect that adults have already worked this out.

      2. Cambridge Comma*

        Yeah, usually when you reach the age of working in an office you are aware of the expectations around this kind of thing. If you don’t conform, it’s a decision.

      3. An*

        It worked for me once. Flatmate left a note on the toilet brush declaring that it should be used, too. I always close the lid before flushing and thus wasn’t aware that I left marks. I was highly embarrassed and always checked after that

        I can totally see someone closing the lid and not realizing that one flush wasn’t enough. Or even forgetting to flush, which in fact happens to me, too – though rarely, thank god, and only at home (given how long it’s been since I’ve been on a toilet away from home). I think it’s the many layers of clothing I’ve started wearing on cold days; it takes me some time to put everything in place and by then my thoughts are somewhat removed from “I just was on the toilet, I need to flush now” so I skip ahead to “wash hands”.

        If she’s never confronted with the sight of her lack of flushing, she might genuinely not realize. In that case, she might even prefer to get the message as a note in the bathroom; though I’d slightly change the wording to “please make sure you flushed the toilet”.

      4. Sleepless*

        But it can be such an opportunity for fun! Note on a box of tampons in the bathroom where I did occasional IC days: “These tampons are mine. Please do not use them.-Female boss” Underneath: “Sorry, I was out.-Male employee”

      5. Keymaster of Gozer*

        The only time a sign ever worked at a workplace in my experience was at the sewage works (worked at one briefly) which said something along the lines of ‘the more waste goes down the tubes the more we justify our jobs’

      6. Ama*

        I’ve seen it work but only when there’s an actual “trick” to flushing the toilet, i.e. “please hold the handle down for three full seconds” or, as happened for a while at my current office (pre-pandemic), “pull UP on the handle to flush” (that was a weird one, but it worked).

    2. hr*

      I don’t do passive aggressive notes. I don’t think that is the proper way to manage an employee. We had the conversation, it went well. It was an oversight at the end of the day.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Thank you for making this point. You had one somewhat awkward conversation and you didn’t implode from embarrassment. The problem is now likely solved and you can both get on with your lives.

        The passive aggressive note option probably wouldn’t have worked anyway and then you’d continue to be annoyed by the problem. I hate those notes.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          HA! This reminds me of the time I told my boss that the door handle on the W’s restroom wasn’t latching all the way. It’s a single-stall bathroom and you’d have to go inside, then PUSH on the door pretty forcefully to get it to latch and then lock. When leaving, no one really felt the need to forcefully close it, so it would pop back open as you walked away. I think he heard me, but the information went in one ear and out the other.

          The next week there was a sticker from the label maker on the door that said, “Please close the door when you leave.” Apparently he was annoyed when he walked by and the door was ajar. But then he got annoyed at people constantly slamming the bathroom door. The easiest fix was just adjusting the hinges so the door would no longer sag, then the handle could latch like it’s supposed to! But he didn’t listen and then got really passive aggressive about it.

      2. Sylvan*

        Okay. I think “Please flush the toilet” is direct and I did suggest being more direct than Alison recommended. Glad the problem’s solved!

        1. Elsajeni*

          I think the problem with a sign is, it’s not clear to me whether the OP and her employee are actually the only people who use this particular restroom, but if the number of users is limited enough for the OP to be totally sure that her employee is the non-flusher, then it’s also limited enough for the employee to realize that the sign is directed to her specifically. A sign might work in a situation where many people use the restroom and it’s impossible to know who’s causing the issue, or if it’s even the same person every time — plenty of public restrooms have “please do not flush paper towels,” etc. type of signs for this reason — but as a substitute for a slightly awkward conversation with the only person who could possible be the “culprit,” it does come across as passive-aggressive.

          1. Myrin*

            That’s my thinking exactly. I’m not generally against signs and I don’t think that they’re inherently passive-aggressive – certainly when there are dozens of people using a bathroom, for example, a sign might be a good first step. But OP knows that this could’ve only been her employee and I really don’t think a sign is anywhere close to an actual personal conversation with regards to directness and effectiveness.

  12. Heidi*

    For LW2, is “READ ME” the only thing the coworker puts in the subject line? Or is it “READ ME + some description of the actual subject?” If it’s only “READ ME,” maybe the LW could ask the colleague to include some more details in the subject line, or maybe even come up with a naming system (like: project name: topic). They could also ask the coworker to include the description first and “READ ME” at the end. My email only shows the beginning of the subject line, so even if “READ ME” were there, I wouldn’t have to see it. I guess LW could also respond to the email and change the subject line to something more descriptive so that all the emails in the train that follow will have searchable terms. That might be a little passive aggressive, but well, this is a person who puts “READ ME” in every email.

    1. pancakes*

      I don’t see a good reason to tap dance around this, or try to bargain with the employee. It’s an obnoxious and self-defeating subject line, and they should be told to stop using it.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Passive aggressive yes, but effectual. I’ve got a staff member who sends really long emails with exceptionally long titles and most people here edit the title when replying.

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      If it’s only “READ ME,” I agree that’s a phenomenally unhelpful subject line. I once worked with someone who just put “request” as a subject (to an email box that was pretty much meant for requests). When you got several of these in one day, it was a pain. I asked him to be more descriptive, so he started numbering them. Not ideal, but a definite improvement.

  13. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – In addition to what other people have mentioned about many employees and workplaces planning to remain virtual for the foreseeable future, I would also keep in mind – before starting to look for a new job – that employers that plan to have an in-person workforce – particularly when it isn’t necessary to company operations – may also be the kinds of companies that don’t take employee health and safety seriously, or may be headed up by people who are at best lackadaisical about COVID measures (or are COVID deniers), etc. etc.

    I’d think about how you would figure out whether a company is taking COVID seriously or not, while maintaining an on-premises employee population.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. Although to be fair, all the advantages I can see with being in person are fully negated by the necessity of using a mask. I miss all the interpersonal communication cues with a mask, because I’m only focusing on the mask. I haven’t had to work with a mask on, but I can’t see how it wouldn’t affect my productivity. I would comply with mask regulations, but I really don’t want to go through the annoyance of either policing my coworkers’ behavior, or putting my health at risk because others are performing mask compliance rather than using them properly.

      Of course, here we tend to assume that everyone is worried by and takes Covid seriously. It’s entirely possible that the LW is more worried about the mental health effects of WFH than about Covid and would be happy working in person for a company that doesn’t take Covid precautions seriously. Only the LW can make that call.

      1. Chilipepper*

        We have been back at work for 12 months. I don’t think masks make a huge difference. It was odd for a month or so, now it is just normal. For example, when passing someone but too far to say hello, we used to just smile, now we wave. We have all adjusted in ways like that.

        Another thought for OP#3, all our meetings are still virtual, even when we are in the same building. This is to avoid lots of people in close proximity. So being back in the office might be different from what the OP hopes for.

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Yeah, you totally get used to reading eye and body facial cues instead. My boss’s chin look strange to me now on the rare occasions I see it. Mask wearing people are just normal now. They are a bit muffled though, so do remember to speak up and enunciate extra clearly.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Adaptation is a marvellous thing. I used to be absolutely abysmal at judging emotions by tone of voice. A year of masks and phone calls and I’m getting a lot better at it.

      2. hamsterpants*

        It definitely depends on your individual perceptiveness, but people absolutely can learn to read expressions through even significant PPE. In a cleanroom environment, people are covered from head to toe, including mouth and nose, with white cloth. Eyes are covered with safety glasses. And people adapt! You learn to read more subtle cues. You can tell mood by how someone walks and stands. etc

  14. chersy*

    LW2 – The “READ ME” in the subject line (and hopefully with topic included, as in READ ME – ) would drive me bananas! Maybe you can coach your point person to only use it for urgent items, maybe use the urgent flag, and/or indicate URGENT or ESCALATION if only necessary? I get people’s inboxes are inundated and not everyone can get to their emails ASAP or actually read emails (my manager is like that, he hates reading emails), but READ ME sounds so jarring and distrustful that people will do their jobs.

    A suggestion: our project has a standard format for our email subject lines, as mandated by our leads, making it easier to sort through email. Something like: [Teapot Day 2021] Marketing Minutes of the Meeting April 23 or [Teapot Day 2021] ESCALATION – Issue: Green Pots Not Available by May 1.

    1. chersy*

      *(and hopefully with topic included, as in READ ME – {Concern/Issue})

      (I had used brackets, forgetting it would format, lol)

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      If I see ‘READ ME’ there’s a really immature part of me that wants to change it to ‘EAT ME’ or ‘DRINK ME’ and make the text correspondingly tiny or huge….

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Or just add “DON’T” at the beginning and forward it back to the author.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      We use similar deadline information or sparing use of urgent/non-urgent designations to make the information helpful and not just the background noise that “read this” on every email adds. (“Read this” in my organization would be pointless as the expectation is that you read your email promptly, and if someone were doing this, I think they’d probably be asked to knock it off pretty quickly.) We use things like “Llama Groomer’s Appreciation Day (Response Due MM/DD)”, or “Summary of Call with Key Client (Non-Urgent/FYI Only)” that add actual value to prioritizing email reads.

  15. Troutwaxer*

    OP3 the other thing you can do is make sure that you have the curriculum fully planned before you leave. What needs to be learned, what certifications are needed, what adjustments might need to be made, what kind of machines are needed (a lab in a rack with routers, switches and servers, or whatever) so that if you go someone can self-navigate or maybe you can come in as a consultant – in short, prepare the students so that if you leave their learning won’t be damaged.

  16. John Smith*

    LW2. Putting “read me” in an email subject line? Like no! I was going to eat the email, not read it. I fancy a nice byte or two. A simple, polite request as others have mentioned ought to do the trick. If it doesn’t, I’d be tempted to not respond to some emails where possible and if the sender queries this, say “sorry, but because you out read me in all your emails, I can’t keep track and will miss some. I really need you to use the subject line properly so I can track and prioritise your emails”.

    I have a colleague who requests read receipts for each and every email, no matter how trivial the subject is. Fairly frustrating, and personally, I find it a bit disrespectful to require a read receipt (I always click “no”) because it has an air of control freakery about it. Even though I’ve responded to her email (and she has responded back), she will call to ask if I’ve read her email because she hasn’t had the receipt report. Utterly bizarre.

    1. Klio*

      Check whether your email programme can be set to ignore receipts requests and not even ask.

    2. Cat Tree*

      There’s probably a setting that automatically adds the read receipt to her emails, although I still don’t get why she would set it that way in the first place. For people who do send back the receipt, isn’t that cluttering up her inbox to an obnoxious degree?

      I sometimes get emails from one person to a distribution list of about 50 people, always requesting a read receipt. It’s coming from a specific person’s account, not a shared generic mailbox. Why isn’t he annoyed by getting so many notifications that people clicked on his email? It’s also not the type of communication to warrant read receipts anyway. It’s always just informational, and while I usually find it useful and interesting it never requires any action from the recipients.

      1. John Smith*

        Kilo, thanks for that advice. Didn’t know there was such a setting! I’ll check tomorrow. Cat tree, she apparently manually selects send a receipt each and every single time. I don’t work with her directly but I here she’s a nightmare and is always way behind on her work. I think I know why!

    3. Tired of Covid-and People*

      I don’t get the receipt hate. I had an email name change a few years ago, but government systems being what they are, there are messages sent and received to me that get waylayed somewhere in the ether. I began using receipts to make sure my message got to the intended target. It is not disrespectful, and can serve a valid business purpose. This sounds contrarian for no reason, especially since now you have to answer a phone call too. Just allow the freakin’ receipt. Geez.

  17. Beth*

    OP3, I suspect this program isn’t riding on your presence quite as strongly as you’re thinking. Let’s say your company is really counting on it being specifically you that runs this and no one else (which, I don’t know if that’s the case, but it’s the most restrictive scenario I can read into this, so it’s a good thought exercise). In that case, you probably would need to be there for the planning stages, and possibly for a bit at the beginning to get it up and running. But if, say, you got hit by a bus at that point and would be out recovering for several months—do you really think the company would just drop the already-planned, already-running training project? Probably not, right?

    It’s not different if you quit. Once this opportunity is up and running, odds are it’ll continue to run even if you leave. If it was valuable enough to be worth pursuing before you left, then it’s usually valuable enough to try and make work even if you’re not there. And on the flip side, if it falls apart without you, it was honestly precarious anyways; the company was willing to dip their toes in the water, but not to seriously commit to it, and so it could have been shut down for all sorts of reasons even if you stayed (your time was needed for a more important project, the trainees were needed for other work, there was some kind of cost involved that the company didn’t want to pay, etc).

    1. Glow*

      The OP mentions mentoring, which can be a formal role in training that’s recognized by the government (e.g. registered apprenticeship). If they are the only person qualified to serve as mentor, it very likely could kill the program.

    2. Colette*

      It depends on the company and the people who work there. (Do other people have the appropriate level of knowledge to run the course? Do they have the skills to teach/mentor effectively?)

      It’s entirely possible that the company is willing to do it now because they have someone who can do it and they’re willing to take the productivity hit for the career mobility and future productivity gains – but that doesn’t mean it would be the plan if the OP leaves.

    3. OP 3*

      Correct, this is intensive mentoring, not just designing a curriculum. Other people could do it, from a possessing skills standpoint, but having the *interest* in doing so is another matter . Frankly, other people on my team just want to write code, and I think they would be unhappy in a formal management/mentorship position. I don’t know who else could take up the helm than my manager, who is already busy.

      With that said, you’re right; we would be plucking people from another team and backfilling them, so it is not like they could say, “Well, sorry, just go back to where you came from!” if I got hit by a bus. I guess my team would just have to make it work, because where else would those people go?

      1. Kes*

        The other option is that if your team hires to replace you, depending on who they hire that person might be able to take it on (and, if they care enough about it, they could prioritize that in the hiring). However, it’s certainly true that the program may or may not continue without you.

  18. Green great dragon*

    OP3 – if the key is whether you, personally, could come into the office I’d focus on that and ask whether there’s a possibility that you and others who want to can come in before the official date, rather than hoping for them to change the overall date. Depending of course on whether you think there’ll be enough other volunteers to give you the interaction you want. We’re mostly remote for the foreseeable, but anyone who wants to be in an office can be (explicitly for either mental health or lack of good wfh space reasons).

  19. Allonge*

    LW3 – what we did last summer when things were improving around here was to set up a gradual back to the office plan for those working from home. Things went back to pretty horrible pretty fast in our country, so we could not go all the way through with it, but we are actually still at step1 of that plan, which is: if you want to work in the office, you can, provided that not more than 10% of staff is in the office at any one time, and you are the only one in your particular office/room (I think there was also a cap on the people/floors allowed at first, but it never was an issue). You have to wear a mask and there are hand sanitizers etc.

    Anyway, would it be possible for your company to do this? For us, the building has to be maintained either way, so fully closing down was never an option, and this way those who have no good workspace at home for whatever reason could choose to work from the office.

    1. Colette*

      I think we’ll see going forward that more businesses don’t have an office, and everyone works from home. Not every business, of course, but some businesses have already decided they aren’t going back, and I think we will see more of that in the future. If the OP’s company decides to go that way, there won’t be an option to go back to the office.

      1. Kes*

        I do think that’s possible, although I also think many companies’ plans have been in flux a bit – some have stated firmly they’re going all WFH, some have said they’re going WFH but then purchased more office space, some have stated they will be going back to the office, and some are still in planning and haven’t landed on a final plan yet. And I think overall there will be a shift to WFH, but not as completely as people originally thought – most places that weren’t decidedly fully remote or in person seem to be settling on some balance of in-person/WFH, probably with more WFH than before, but exactly where the balance ends up falling in that spectrum is still being determined on the whole

        1. Colette*

          Personally, I think it depends on what the employees do. If a company announces that you can go into the office if you want to and, say, 70% of people go back, they’ll keep an office and some of the people who prefered to stay home will go back as well. If 5% of people go in, they’ll eventually wonder whether that justifies paying for office space. In particular, since the OP seems to want to go back to work with other people, that only works if the other people also go back.

          But I know of at least 2 companies that have already given up their leases and decided everyone works from home from now on. I’m sure there are more.

          1. Windchime*

            My company is doing a hybrid model. We are 100% WFH for the most part. There are some people whose jobs can’t be done from home, and other people who prefer to be in the office. So they got rid of a ton of office space and are keeping just a few floors; some space for hoteling and a few spaces reserved for those who want a permanent desk and want to come in at least 3 days a week. I think it’s a nice balance; those who want to come in can, and the rest can WFH.

        2. Filosofickle*

          I’m really curious to see this unfold. I’m in a remote-friendly field with clients all over the country, and what I am seeing is a more WFH/remote options but very few no-office situations. Clients are keeping their offices but remote staff will allow them to grow within the same or smaller real estate footprint. Right now I’ve been dipping a toe into the FTE world and even in my field fewer than 20% of jobs are even open to remote long term, and I see hardly any that state outright it’s long-term remote.

      2. Allonge*

        Oh, I am sure that will be the case, and this makes it even more important that OP discusses this with her boss – she knows now that WFH does not work for her, so the sooner she knows for sure, the better.

        It will be interesting to see how companies decide – frankly for all the people who love WFH, there are many who cannot wait to go back and also ones who don’t care that much either way. A company going fully remote can lose as many good staff as those who are all rah rah about going back.

  20. Darren*

    LW3 Training is a thing that very much can have different levels of effectiveness when done remotely over Zoom compared to directly in the office.

    You have the perfect opportunity to say something like, “I’m really excited by this opportunity and I’m sure Amy and Brian will love it too however I’m not comfortable designing and running such in-depth technical training 100% remotely.” Then go on to explain what you feel is necessary to make it work which is also an opportunity for you to spell out what it’ll take to keep you there. For example first 3 months are fine to be remote but then we need to start being in the office 50% of the time, upping to 100% by 6 months, so that when they are actively putting a lot of this learning into practice you are directly with them to give them that necessary hands-on help and feedback.

    If they can’t guarantee you can get that, you’ve got the perfect out to not start the program at all (so no need to feel guilty about needing to leave half-way through) and you’ll have an even better view as to whether remote work is here to stay even if in-person would make a specific activity easier or not.

    1. Kes*

      I don’t know if I really agree with this approach. OP’s concern seems to be more about their own work preferences, not the feasibility of doing training remotely, so framing it as such seems a bit disingenuous to me, and unfair to compel the workers in the training program to work in person because that’s what OP prefers.

      1. Darren*

        I wouldn’t say it is in any way disingenuous.

        1. The OP due to their dislike of WFH has likely never actually done remote training before on either side of the table and it’s a very different set of skills.
        2. The OP will likely naturally develop a training program that will be more effective in-person than remotely. Even if they had the skills I consider it unlikely they would then want to put the effort in to adapt it to remote.
        3. This is very much negotiation for a new role, the OP can happily list out the conditions (including that it be in-person or salary changes) that they will accept this new position under. It doesn’t mean the company will accept these conditions (or they might but only with modifications).

        This is very much a two birds with one stone situation.

  21. noname*

    #1 It may not be who you think it is. We had a guy going into the women’s restroom overnight and doing that.

    1. Firecat*

      This is depressingly common. So many letters hear about men trashing the women’s bathroom. Going there only to poop…etc.

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

      Yes. I wouldn’t be so sure that no one else has access. It could even be that she lets someone into the office while she’s supposed to be there alone — friend, partner, child, etc. — and doesn’t realize that they are leaving a mess.

  22. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

    I think the “read me” is beyond obnoxious, and if every email says that I would be extra annoyed.

    At my workplace we just use an actual descriptive subject line. And if I require review/approval or action from high level executives I will add to the title: For Review- April TPS report. Or Action required: teapot design selection (with a clear call to action in the body of the email). I only do this with executives, they get copied on a lot of emails FYI.

    If you find yourself relying on high importance or “read me” for a lot of emails in order to get a response, I would bet that you are not communicating effectively in those emails.

    LW if you have any suggestions for the writer to get responses quicker that may help too when you ask for them to stop with the read me. “The teams used to billeted list action items with due dates in red. You might want to try that if you are struggling to get a response”

  23. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

    For #1, the situation that Allison proposes is entirely possible! The toilets at my job are weird, and it frequently takes two flushes to make just TP go down, let alone a BM. Just approach it as something normal as possible, and the situation should be fine.

  24. CatPerson*

    #2, my boss used to skip the subject line altogether! Too busy, I guess? And then when looking for emails we’d have to open email after email to find what we anted. I told him he had to stop that and why, and he did. Other wise I would have retaliated by doing the same thing to him :-) . He was a good sport about it, though.

    1. irene adler*

      Exasperating isn’t it?
      I have a co-worker who puts “misc.” for the subject line on every email he sends. High priority, low priority, requests, scheduling changes, questions, you name it, it’s all “misc.”.

      C’mon folks-lil help here!- use your words!

      1. mreasy*

        I had a boss who used the name of our company as the subject line of every email he sent me!

    2. James*

      One of my colleagues has a habit of using the subject line as the first line of his emails. Once you get used to it it’s fine, but it looks really weird the first time. Doesn’t help that he is very abrupt (he calls it succinct) in his emails. Again, once you get used to it it’s fine, but I have had multiple people ask me “Is this guy mad at me?” due to the tone.

  25. Salt & Vinegar Chips*

    #4 If your team is voluntarily pooling money then graciously accept the gift. With 25 reports giving (depending on their salary I would expect them to give between $5 and $25 each) and other directors pitching in a gift of $100 – $600 should be fine, its all relative to how many people are giving and their salary. If you get the $1500 baby sleeper check into it, otherwise let it go. Luckily First baby and First marriage are the only real milestones that you are gifted large gifts. Now if one of your direct reports individually gifts your baby (you) a purchased gift of over $50 you can decline.

    When I got married I worked in an accounting firm at the lower end of the pay scale just above unpaid intern and I received a new top of the line Washer and Dryer set for our home as a gift from the company/team (it was worth more than anything we owned at the time including my 8 year old Honda). My co-worker was in charge of collecting the gift money, she said 150 people gave money (we had close to 200 employees at the time) towards it ranging from herself that gave $3 to the CFO that covered the remainder needed of $227.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’m surprised by your suggestion of $5-25. I am in law in the UK and wouldn’t expect to find paper money in a collection unless maybe a senior partner put it in, or someone wanted to make change. In all but the smallest offices, that still adds up to a generous gift.

      For reference, our largest coin is £2 and smallest note is £5, so we’re talking about contributions that are the price of a coffee.

      I can see why LW would feel anxious if she also thinks contributions would likely exceed $1000 in total.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I felt….rather off centre when the leaving collection for me at one firm (I had been there a long time and kept a lot of their systems running) exceeded a hundred quid. They gave me the cash and I brought a ring I still wear but my god that was an awkward speech to give. Like, I was expecting a card and maybe some stuff from Lush?

        Normal donation is ‘change in the pocket’ stuff. Coupla quid.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. I usually give £1-2. Average collection is about £35-40 depending on how popular someone is and how many people. When I moved from my last job I got a £30 voucher for a major beauty chain and a pot plant. That’s about what I’d expect. That’s why I didn’t think it would be a major problem to accept.

          @Keymaster that’s a lot more than I’ve ever received.

          1. Chas*

            Where I work people work in smaller, close knit groups that don’t have much to do with the rest of the department on a day-to-day basis. So £5-25 would be a normal amount for me to give for a present to someone in my group (currently 5 people), but I would never be asked to contribute for presents for most people in the department.

            (We also don’t often do birthday presents- I’m thinking about leaving presents, though there have been a couple of years where I ended up being given some chocolates on my birthday because it happened to come up that my birthday was soon beforehand.)

            When I’ve organised collections for charity, I find most people donate in the region of £1-2, unless they’re senior or it’s a cause they’re supporting for personal reasons.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Never received that much before or since. I’m to this day wondering how on earth I deserved that. Senior techies aren’t THAT vital.

      2. Colette*

        I think this varies by company a lot. In the mid-nineties I worked at a high-tech company where people would often throw in $5 or $10 for a gift – which worked out to be $100-$200 from the group. I’ve also worked places where people would throw in change (e.g. $2).

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        I think this depends a lot on the company – at my last place I was the collection-organising person and people might give anything from £5 to £50. I remember a collection for a very well-liked guy’s first baby ended up at around £1000. It does happen!

    2. OP4*

      If the team ends up putting something together I will be very touched and gracious about it. Honestly I would be thrilled to just get cards – it’s always the thought that counts. When we have pooled money for gifts before (other baby, a wedding) I think the totals came in somewhere north of $500-600. For the wedding we did a large registry item and for the other baby we ended up doing a nice gift basket with wine and chocolate for our colleague (I think it was her 3rd child, so she definitely could use those things, hah!)

      It’s definitely the dollar amount that gives me heartburn and not the thought. It’s also not my first child and I don’t have a registry/need anything… anyway! I noted in another thread that I spoke with a close director and a close manager that I’d like to discourage a gift as it would make me uncomfortable. They threatened cards instead which would be wonderful.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comments!

  26. Hiring Mgr*

    On #3, as Alison says if this is a worthwhile program it should live on regardless of whether you’re there or not. If WFH is that bad for OP and there’s no end in sight, then yes start looking now. On the other hand, OP mentions she could stay ’til end of the summer as is, but then Q4 is only a few weeks after that.. ?

    1. Richard*

      I’d be skeptical about assuming that a worthwhile program will live on without a motivated person making it happen. I’ve seen dozens of great programs wither and die soon after the person running it left, no matter what kind of transition plans people made. If a project isn’t an absolute necessity for the core function of the business, OP is correct to expect that it’ll be dropped without a highly motivated individual or two with enough time, energy, and support to keep it alive.

  27. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    Oh, gosh, I have worked with someone who prefixed every email with ‘TO READ’ or ‘ACTION’ or ‘URGENT’ (when it really wasn’t). Of course, this led to issues when something genuinely did need to be read or actioned RIGHT NOW because, in an inevitable Boy Who Cried Wolf-like scenario, most people simply ignored the emails…

  28. Cake Diva*

    The READ ME person just reminds me of customers who wrote “Make it pretty” on their cake orders.

    Because, you know, if they hadn’t said anything, I was going to make it ugly. *insert eye roll here*

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      If you’ve ever seen the Cake Wrecks blog, you’d think some decorators do approach it this way.

  29. often trapped under a cat*

    Apologies in advance for a batch reply….

    #1: agree, checking that the toilet is functioning properly is probably a good idea.
    Also, a few years ago when my employer installed dual-flush toilets as part of our sustainability campaign, they also installed signage explaining how to flush (pull one way for a low flow, another way for a higher flow). I’ve since run into a number of dual-flush toilets without signage and I never know which button to push or which way to move the lever.

    #2: I have a colleague who often ignores email from me. When matters are left pending for a week or more, I send a wrap-up email that includes details of all unanswered questions and put “Need Response” in the subject line. It’s a drag. But there’s no point in me adding “please read” to every email, because it won’t change my colleague’s behavior.

    #3: my office does major life event collections like this, but not birthdays, and no one cares if you put in $1 or $5 or nothing; the card and a collection envelope go around in a folder and no one knows who puts in how much. The shift to remote work killed the collections–it’s not possible to donate anonymously!–but we are doing group e-cards instead. The best thing is that messages have gotten longer and more personal because we don’t have to be as careful about leaving room for others to sign a physical card. Some of the cards I’ve signed have been 8 or 9 pages long! It’s really lovely.

  30. Happy Camper*

    I was just going to ask or search for a question related to the concurrent job question, so thank you for the answer and excellent timing!

  31. EmKay*

    Um OP 3, if you’re leaving in 3 weeks, your maternity gift is probably already bought.

    At least, it would be if I were the one organizing it.

    1. Firecat*

      Ha! Even though my company always gifts up – and the pressure is on – it’s usually still very last minute.

  32. James*

    LW #2: I once had a project manager that was obsessive about his email subject lines. We needed to follow a fairly lengthy set of protocols when drafting it. It was super-annoying at the time (“I just need him to send a file, the subject line is longer than the email!!” came up more than once), but I later saw the value. It helped us manage our email, as we could easily sort for that project. There were some legal issues involved as well, and these protocols protected us. And it prevented people from saying everything is urgent. I’ve actually continued to use some of the protocols ever since.

    As for how to fix it, I’ve found that a candid conversation or three works. It’s a behavioral change, so you can’t expect it to occur overnight; prepare for some backsliding and for the colleague to forget. But after a candid conversation and some gentle reminders I would imagine they will stop with the annoying subject lines, at least for you.

  33. AnonEmployee*

    LW #1 – How about automatic flushing toilets? Due to Covid, my company has implemented a number of touch-less options for the bathrooms and kitchens in our facilities.

  34. Becky*

    My team found a great solution to gifting up! My grandboss retired in January after 20+ years of building our department. There were tears when she announced it. As a tribute, we took up a collection for a charity she had volunteered with in the past – she found out when they called to thank her for the gift. It was a really nice way to demonstrate how much she meant to us by supporting a cause she cares about, while also not pressuring us to gift up. For a manager going on parental leave, supporting a charity for mothers and babies might be appropriate.

  35. Karen Zucconi*

    Every once in awhile I’ll send my boss an email that is NOT urgent and I will mark it as such. These are the emails she reads and responds to the quickest. I am tempted to take advantage, but I’m afraid I’d ruin it for myself.

  36. PinaColada*

    For the toilet issue, before I speak to her I would install generic signage on the stall, something like: “Our system is delicate; please make sure toilet is fully flushed before exiting.” Or something. I don’t think you would even need to leave the sign up forever, but that would probably give her the hint.

    If that doesn’t work; then you could say allude to it when you bring it up to her: “Yeah, we don’t have a very powerful plumbing system, so I’m reminding everyone to make sure the toilets are fully flushed, it’s been an issue a few times.”

    That way the message is ultra generic the first few times you deliver it to her. I’m advising this because you say she’s a great employee and takes feedback well; which leads me to believe she’s very conscientious. As a similar person, I would be *mortified* to discover I am accidentally leaving the toilet unflushed overnight and my boss has noticed. So this way you give her the best opportunity to save face and correct the situation before you need to directly say that she is the culprit, lol.

    1. hr*

      There is nothing wrong with the toilet. It was just replaced. The toilet was not even flushed at all. In more detail than you want, everything was at the front of the toilet. She is very conscientious, the conversation went well, and she was absolutely mortified when she figured it out.

    2. Cat Tree*

      No. The LW already replied upthread, but passive aggressive notes are rarely the answer because they just don’t work. A short, straightforward conversation is effective which is why Alison advised it. And that’s exactly what the LW did, and it worked. It doesn’t have to be this long drawn out game of hinting with little notes. We’re all grownups and can use our words to resolve things.

  37. hr*

    LW1 here. I am a very diligent supervisor, and made absolutely sure that it was the employee. I have cameras that I can look back on, and no one else has access to the office. It was not the toilet, as that was just replaced and functioning properly (we work with plumbers). The toilet was not even attempted to flush because the waste was at the very front of the toilet. She was absolutely mortified when she figured out what happened. If she goes at the end of the day right before day end, she was taught to close the toilet, and being end of day, got distracted and busy and forgot. Problem is resolved, and at least I feel better about addressing it again if the situation arises, which I don’t think it will.

    1. Myrin*

      That’s a great outcome, OP! It’s wonderful to see a letter writer reacting straightforwardly and directly and to have the problem solved without much fuss.

        1. Observer*

          Well, as embarrassing as it probably was, it’s worlds better than most other options. So kudos.

        2. Tired of Covid-and People*

          I hear you, as a woman especially, my straightforwardness and directness has been interpreted as “not nice”, despite this just being my approach to business matters.

  38. Office Palonium*

    It was worth coming here for the poop barbecue linked under the “You may like” section. Hilarious.

  39. Changed username for this*

    Sorry, I know this is really gross, but I *always* flush the toilet and sometimes it doesn’t…um…wash down everything. It’s bizarre and embarrassing. I think it’s because I have to sit in a certain position to be able to go and that position makes it harder for the flush to get everything. I’ve learned that I need to flush multiple times but I think most people flush and leave the stall so the employee may genuinely not realize this is happening.

  40. TimeTravlR*

    #2 – You might recommend the Hamster Revolution for email for this person. Just the basic of adding ACTION, CONFIRMED, DELIVERY, INFO, or REQUEST in the subject line does two things: It lets the receiver know right away what is expected of them, and also helps to sort the wheat from the chaff. We use it in our office and it has really helped. You don’t even have to read the whole book (although it’s short and easy to read and offers other great tips) but just instituting this kind of thing for email can help immensely.

  41. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: Our office put in modern toilets and they definitely work better if you hold the handle down for a count of “one-and” instead of just giving it a quick punch. Maybe you’re already doing this but your coworker hasn’t realized it’s necessary?

  42. Malarkey01*

    Not on topic but thanks to #1 the suggested links took me to the post about someone lighting fires in the bathroom and OH MY GOD THE COMMENTS!! Tears screaming down my face and I cannot breathe.

  43. RB*

    #3 So nice to see someone else who hates WFH. I mean, I don’t actively despise it or anything but I definitely hate doing it all day every day with no other options. I even think my work has suffered a little. And it makes it harder to feel this way when so many other people are saying they love it and want to keep doing it forever. It makes me feel alone in my misery.

  44. Email isn’t difficult*

    I had a colleague who would put his office number, “Office 120” as the subject line for every email. I asked him about it, and he then started putting his own name as the subject…? I didn’t know how to explain to him that Subjects are supposed to be like a title or encapsulation of whatever is in the body of an email to make the contents searchable without sounding incredibly patronizing or condescending. He was 10 years older than me and had weird boundaries around work that I just didn’t know how to deal with. Glad he’s gone!

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