can I keep mentioning my period at work?

A reader writes:

I work in tech, in a fairly close-knit, moderately progressive office, with a majority of male coworkers. Many months, I get really bad fatigue before or during my period. It can knock me out for anywhere from half a day to a day and a half. If I need to take time off, I’ll post a message in my team’s chat like “I was sick with my period so I had to leave early yesterday.” Or I’ll say something similar to an individual colleague that I’m working on a project with.

I purposely say “period” instead of a vague “not feeling well” because I want to normalize it, it shouldn’t be any different from saying “sick with the flu” or “had a bad cold.”

It’s review season, and our anonymous peer feedback came in, and one of the comments said that I occasionally share too much “personal/health/body information” and that this makes them uncomfortable.

They didn’t say “period” outright, but I am 99% certain that’s what it is (in the past year, since we’ve been working from home, I haven’t been sick with anything else that I would’ve mentioned).

I have said “fatigue,” I have said “headache,” but as best as I can recall (or find in chat history), I’ve never mentioned anything about blood, or digestive issues, or cramps, or gone into any sort of detail.

I’m torn as to what to do because, I presume this person would prefer it if I just dropped the p-word from my vocabulary from here on out. I don’t want to do that, because I shouldn’t be ashamed of it, and I don’t want it to be a completely taboo topic. But also, I don’t want to make anyone unnecessarily uncomfortable.

I just wish they’d brought it up to me directly, so I could maybe have had at least one sentence to explain to them why I say it, why I think it’s important that there’s not stigma around menstruation, but then I would tell them I would respect their wishes and try to avoid mentioning it to them specifically.

I talked to my immediate manager about this…he was really supportive, but like me, wasn’t sure how I should handle this, since we don’t know who wrote this feedback.

I support normalizing talking about periods, but I don’t think work is necessarily the place to do it right now.

Frankly, I want to normalize people not giving specifics at all when they’re out sick. I’d like us all to just say “I need to take a sick day” or “I’m under the weather” regardless of what’s going on.

That said, I know I’m not perfectly consistent in this because I wouldn’t blink an eye at someone saying “I’m out with a cold” or “I threw out my back,” whereas I would at “I have diarrhea.”

Which makes me think the dividing line is … what, things people are squeamish about? Things that just feel like they’ve crossed a line into overly personal? And where exactly is that line, and why?

(I really don’t want to hear about anyone’s diarrhea though, so I support having some sort of line. Is the line “things involving areas normally covered by underwear”?)

Plus, when you give details about any reason for a sick day, you run the risk of people judging that reason. Just as you get people who think you should suck it up and work when you just have a cold, you’re going to get people who think missing work because of your period is a bit much (especially if they don’t have personal experience with it being that disruptive). I’d don’t love opening the door to that kind of assessment or the risk that you’ll be seen as overly delicate or dramatic. (I’m not defending that viewpoint! Just acknowledging that it’s there, and sometimes among people who have influence over you professionally.)

And frankly, when you tell colleagues, “I was sick with my period so I had to leave early yesterday,” what would be lost if you just said, “”I was sick and had to leave early yesterday?” No work-relevant info is lost with the less detailed version … so are you only naming it to destigmatize it? If so, I wouldn’t. I’m skeptical that it’s having that effect, versus just making people think you’re a TMI-sharer.

But I have a strong feeling that there might be a generational divide on this. Commenters, when you share your thoughts in the comments, please include your age or generation so we can see if that’s true.

{ 939 comments… read them below }

  1. Justme, The OG*

    I’m an elder Millennial. I don’t want to know specifics if someone is out sick at all. Like, at all. But I do think we should normalize menstruation. Just not at work.

    1. Two Chairs, One to Go*

      Agreed. And I’m in the same demographic. I’m also a woman.

      Probably because my period (when I had it – ongoing birth control really helped me!) caused so much digestive issues, I am pro-no-details! People don’t wanna know that and I don’t want to tell them that!

      A simple “I’m not feeling well” covers a lot of ground easily and is all that’s needed for work.

      1. pope suburban*

        Hard agree. I’m not ashamed of my period, but I don’t have the kind of relationship with my colleagues that would lead me to share that kind of information with them either. It’s not about stigma, necessarily, it’s about how close you feel to people and what access you feel people should have to your life. I don’t feel particularly owed an explanation for anyone’s absence; “I’m not feeling well” is enough for me to wish someone a speedy recovery and ask if I can cover anything for them while they’re out.

        I really, really learned this about myself when I started my current job. I have one particular colleague who massively overshares and it’s just uncomfortable- not because I judge her for having medical problems or think that sickness/treatment is “gross,” but because we don’t have that kind of relationship. There’s some other stuff going on there too, but the medical stuff is just…it feels like a guilt trip or forced intimacy. I don’t need details in order to respect someone’s right to time off to heal! I’m happy to listen to a friend who is going through health stuff, sure, but from a colleague? Nah, it’s just a different boundary and that’s okay.

        1. C*

          This! “I don’t feel particularly owed an explanation for anyone’s absence”
          I don’t want to know. I aggressively do not want to know, I will stop you from explaining and my colleagues are very much into oversharing.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              Me three!! And that is true whether the reason is period cramps or a cold or a pulled muscle. It’s not about “ew, periods are gross and shouldn’t be talked about” for me, and it’s not that I only aggressively don’t want to know when the reason is something frequently regarded as a taboo subject. I just plain actively don’t want to know why you’re going home sick… at all!! Whatever it is.

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Forced intimacy – that perfectly describes some super uncomfortable situations I’ve gotten into at work. Like when the very lighthearted conversation I had with the new guy about dogs turned into a super heavy conversation where he cried about his dog dying (eight years ago!!!) or when my small talk with the temp conversation turned into lots of info on how abusive her ex was. I am not your close friend or therapist and I do not want to be cornered into talking about anything sensitive or emotionally fraught. If you aren’t really sure if something is ok to bring up at work or not, better to error on the side of “Nope”.

          1. pope suburban*

            The particular colleague I mentioned here does this too- it’s one of the “other things.” She is not a very good performer overall, and is consistently condescending and abrasive toward coworkers, contractors, and sometimes even patrons. She gets called out for it every so often too, and she tries to deflect when that happens, by bringing up super-personal things like medical details or how she’s having a hard time in her home life (Note: she has known many people in our office and our patron group for years, and we are confident that no one is in physical danger; she’s very mean to her husband, but that’s kind of how she is with everyone and it’s not our issue to solve). We feel that we’re meant to feel bad when she does this and stop holding her accountable, but…no? We do our best to extend grace to anyone who is struggling, but that is entirely different to someone who is always slacking off and treating people badly. The feeling of suddenly being thrust into her personal business is alarming, icky, and frankly deeply manipulative- we do not have that kind of relationship, nor do any of us want that or find it appropriate. So yeah, I’m a big fan of erring on the side of “Nope” when it comes to gritty details at work.

          2. Good Vibes Steve*

            A coworker once had to go on leave to care for her ill daughter. That in itself would have been enough information, but she added that her daughter had to be institutionalized due to suicidal thoughts and severe eating disorder. We’re in a small town where everyone knows everyone. I was honestly shocked that she’d disclose such private, intimate details about another person so publicly when we all live in a fishbowl, and wished she hadn’t. That doesn’t mean I don’t completely support people who are struggling with mental health – it’s just something sometimes better kept private for many reasons.

            1. Self Employed*

              I feel sorry for the daughter that her mother is broadcasting her details like that.

        3. Mimi*

          I’m a middle millennial, and the only thing I want to know about why a colleague is out sick is contagious/not-contagious. (Or, maybe, not-contagious/contagious/contagious-and-you-really-don’t-want-it-so-stay-far-away-from-anything-I-touched.) To that end, it can be useful to know that it’s a migraine or really bad cramps, but I don’t need to know those specifics and “I’m feeling under the weather, but don’t worry it’s not contagious” or “I’m not feeling great and I’m going to stay home and keep my germs to myself” both accomplish the same end without setting a norm of sharing personal health details.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I am in roughly the same boat. I’m 40, cis female, and I’m all for normalizing talk about menstruation (broadly speaking) but I also don’t really want or need to know the specifics of anyone’s illness.

      And I kinda agree with Alison too, like….anything bathroom related is on the TMI side of things. I don’t need to know if you are throwing up, have diarrhea, a UTI, heavy period, whatever it may be.

      1. irritable vowel*

        Yeah, I think the bathroom aspect is more on-target than “areas covered by underwear” – anything involving the toilet and bodily …output… does not need to be mentioned in a work context, even if the particular aspect of menstruation that’s causing the problem (fatigue in this case) isn’t directly output-related.

        1. OhNo*

          I agree – as long as we’re clear that that should include vomit as well. I feel like any details that make it clear your symptoms are toilet-adjacent is NOT something I’m interested in hearing.

          I also think we should avoid specific symptoms or conditions unless they’re relevant to peers. E.g.: I say, “not feeling well” for most circumstances, but over the past year have occasionally specified “a bit of a cough” to make it clear if there’s a chance (however small) of COVID. Similarly, if I thought it might be norovirus-related I might specify that (without gross details, naturally). In both cases, it’s just a way to give my coworkers a chance to protect themselves if they’re so inclined.

        2. JB*

          I feel like the line is really ‘anything that is viscerally unpleasant to picture’.

          Like, if you were out because you had an oozing rash from poison ivy, I don’t really want to hear details about that either.

          1. MusicWithRocksIn*

            I once was out because I had an allergic reaction – and when I called in I think I said hives – and a woman I worked with emailed the entire office to tell them I had a ‘rash’ and would be out of work for awhile and I am still resentful about it because those are not the same and for some reason rash sounds a lot more gross and personal.

            1. Hats Are Great*

              Very early in my career, I once had to race to the hospital with an anaphylactic reaction to a skin product, and the office assistant told everyone I skipped work with a “rash.” Not only did that feel weirdly gross (nobody wants to hear about your rash!), but I had to spend the next several days explaining anaphylaxis to what felt like every single person in the office, and I basically got a permanent reputation as a slacker who skipped work for itchy skin anyway.

              1. Self Employed*

                Wow, it was SO not the assistant’s place to tell people anything about your medical emergency and doubly so when she was wrong.

          2. Noblepower*

            I’m in this boat as well – if talk turns to the color or copiousness of your nasal discharge, or anything even remotely resembling describing what someone might be coughing up, I become seriously queasy.

          3. Pen keeper*

            Yeah, some people like myself think very visually, so if anyone tells me about their diarrhea/period/vomit I WILL see it play out like a tiny movie in my head, and that´s just not what I want to do at 11.50 on a Tuesday. Especially, starring someone I will have to discuss scheduling with soon.

        3. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

          I like the bathroom as the bright line. Fever? I am OK hearing about it. Vomiting? Not OK.

      2. A Poster Has No Name*

        I don’t know if it’s bathroom related so much as bodily fluid-related for me. “I have a cold” is ok “I’m a snot factory today.” Just ew. “Digestive issues.” is fine. “Explosive diarrhea.” Ew.

        For me, at least, this seems to hold true for any and all bodily fluids, as I think through the various possibilities.

        But I’m very much on the side of “your body is your business” and all I would need to hear is you need a sick day. The rest is none of my business.

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          Yes, if your explanation evokes an image of … stuff coming out of you, you’ve said too much. Sometimes euphemisms exist for a good reason, and while “period” isn’t a horror-inducing word on its own, it does add unnecessary detail.

          1. KaciHall*

            Growing up, my mom has an absolute horror of words pertaining to menstruation. She did not like any talk about it at all. Couldn’t say I was on my period, couldn’t even say I needed pads or tampons (I had to discreetly say I was running out of supplies.) In response to being asked if I was sick, I said I was on the rag and literally got grounded for inappropriate language. My stepmother was exactly the opposite. As an adult, I find that period talk in personal life doesn’t bother me at all; at work I like it limited to ‘hey, I bought more tampons/pads and put them on the bathroom shelf’ – so not a taboo topic, just only discussed on the abstract.

            1. allathian*

              Ouch, I’m glad you had a more reasonable role model in your stepmother. Menstruation is just a part of being a person of childbearing age with a functioning womb, after all. I fully agree that period talk should be normalized, but I don’t think the workplace is the right environment for it.

        2. triceratops*

          I agree with what you mentioned in the first paragraph, and I feel like, “I have my period” is in the former category. To me, it’s more similar to “I have a cold” than “I’m a snot factory.” I’m 27 (a millenial) and for what it’s worth, at my last job, my boss would take time off for period pain, so perhaps I’m in the minority in terms of how unevocative “period” is. To me, it’s just a period, like a cold, and although I don’t need that detail to allow someone to take time off, it’s also not TMI. I do agree that this probably isn’t the hill OP should die on

          1. Beth*

            Agreed. “I have my period” is the same level of gross as “I have a cold.” Both imply some kind of bodily fluid is happening, if the listener thinks about it—but the speaker isn’t describing their actual symptoms, and the listener doesn’t have to think about the details if they don’t want to.

          2. Krabby*

            Agreed. I’m 31 and female. I see no issue mentioning my period to coworkers (“Might be a little slow getting you that report today. Period migraines, am I right?”) That said, I work in a very female-dominated field so most of my coworkers are women.

            I do also know women who have just never had bad period symptoms who can be REALLY judgmental with other women complaining about or using sick time for their periods. I usually try to know my audience before I bring it up and I will modulate with certain people.

            1. Llama Llama*

              Hah – my mother for my entire teenaged life. Then one day while I was studying abroad (and didn’t have my normal regiment of midol and a heating pad) I passed out cold in the shower from intense pain. When I got back to the states my doctor put me on birth control and boom, problem solved. Thanks for nothing mom!

      3. PT*

        I’d like to know if you’re contagious or not. “I’m going to be out today, it’s not contagious,” vs, “I’m going to be out today, please gird for two weeks of disruption and chaos as whatever I have rips its way through the rest of the staff” is an important distinction.

        1. ScootsMcGoots*

          I think that this will increasingly become an important distinction. I’m a young-ish millennial/gen z cusper and I’m seeing more and more people caring not why you took a sick day, but what they need to do about it.
          The way I see it, communicating contagiousness is part of the deal if we argue that employers should provide enough sick leave that we aren’t required to bring our petri dish selves to the office. You don’t need to say “I’m spewing vomit but it’s food poisoning so we’re good” but saying “I’m going to take a sick day today, but it’s nothing the rest of the office needs to worry about” seems like a nice considerate addition.

        2. Observer*

          I’d like to know if you’re contagious or not. “I’m going to be out today, it’s not contagious,” vs, “I’m going to be out today, please gird for two weeks of disruption and chaos as whatever I have rips its way through the rest of the staff” is an important distinction.

          Very important distinction. And this is the perfect way to phrase it. Because it focuses on the thing that people really DO need to know vs the really unimportant (to the rest of the office) details.

          1. L*

            So well said.

            I’m taking a sick day today. I’ve rescheduled my meetings and X is covering for me; I expect to be in tomorrow.

            I am sick and will need to be out likely until X. I am concerned that this may be contagious, so I’ll be staying home (working remotely if/when possible) until I am well enough to resume work. I’ve rescheduled X and asked Y to cover for me.

            1. Do you have your sh*t together workwise? Yes, great.
            2. Are you patient zero and I need to be prepared for the whole office to get the both end buckets plague? say contagious and let me deal with the rest.
            3. Also acceptable is I’m really sick. Please help cover my meetings on my calendar, watch for X, Y, Z. I’m now going to curl up in a ball and be offline for the next 48 hours.

            Otherwise, all I care about is you keep your germs/ailments to yourself and I don’t get a phone call that you missed an important meeting.

            None of those require any details unless you have been diagnosed by a medical professional with something highly contagious and you need to inform me so I can alert the team/burn the building down.

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          This is how my boss handles it – but we’re also medical adjacent. They ask for a brief overview – cold symptoms, flu symptoms, digestive issues, bad allergies. They don’t want the nitty gritty symptoms – so if you share them you do get told no details. It’s more so they can for spread patterns if a bug goes through the whole office.

          For period issues – our office uses “cycle issues” as our go to phrase.

          Age: early 40’s female.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Grr for mobile posting:

            It’s more so they can LOOK for patterns.

            But we’ve been asking for overviews for longer: medical adjacent – my boss wants to make sure that a patient didn’t bring something that was more contagious than was first thought.

        4. Noblepower*

          Gen X here, and this is also where most of my interest in why someone is out is focused as well – do I just need to cover for you and hope you feel better soon, or do I have break out the disinfectant and take a shower Silkwood-style?

        5. Kate*

          Yes; this right here.

          I’m in my 40s and have a teen boy and I’ve normalized periods since day one. But I would not give a reason for taking a sick or wellness day because it potentially opens up lines of inquiry or judgement that I don’t want to open. And if I don’t want work or coworkers crossing into my personal life, I don’t itemize my “personal life reasons” when it’s not required. Sick Day or Wellness Day means exactly that.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, this. With Covid it’s been a bit different, but since we’re all mostly WFH now, it doesn’t really matter, except that people in Covid quarantine are banned from going to the office under any circumstances.

        6. Kit*

          As an older Millennial (36) this is precisely the distinction I drew in my head. If it’s contagious, letting the office know is considerate, especially as more people are returning to in-person work (and as the Delta variant is becoming more prominent).

          The only reason I can think of to provide additional information for non-contagious sick days is to help your manager understand any ongoing issues; for example, if you threw your back out, letting them know that this might affect your ability to perform certain duties when you return to work? That’s good, because it helps them with a specific work-related issue (making sure that job duties are being distributed to those who can perform them). Otherwise, keep it simple: contagious/not contagious, COVID symptoms if applicable, estimated return date if you know or expect to be out longer than a single day.

          Of course, some offices will be more open to the details, and a manager or coworker who recoils at the mention of, say, anemia-induced fatigue or dizziness needs to get over it, IMO – but limiting it to relevant symptoms or broad strokes should be sufficient for any workplace.

        7. Anon for Today*

          Absolutely a good thing to know now. I don’t really care if someone has a cold or the trots, but if someone thinks they have COVID and are staying home because of that I’m just concerned and want to offer support and resources.

      4. meyer lemon*

        I think that in an ideal world, saying “I have my period” would be equivalent to saying “I have the flu”–either one could get into gross territory if you start describing the symptoms, but in itself it seems pretty inoffensive. I think menstruation just gets unfortunately stuck in the TMI bucket because it’s not talked about often. That being said, I don’t necessarily think any of these details need to be specified in a work context.

        (I’m 31 for what it’s worth.)

        1. NotCreativewithNames*

          But that’s not always the case. It might mean that. I’ve had periods for 30 years and luckily for me, never felt like I had the flu from it.

          I am pro less info at work. About most things.

          1. Bagpuss*

            I think the equivalence is that you are in each case giving a reason why you out – it doesn’t mean that they are both equally bad in terms of how you personally feel.

          2. Yorick*

            It’s that the terms are equivalent in that they can be used the same way in the same situations, not that the symptoms or whatever are.

        2. Amy*

          Doesn’t that just play into the idea that women are less capable in part due to a period? That whole thing about Hillary Clinton and the nuclear codes – what if she was hormonal?

          I do get sometimes severe cramps on Day 1 but I’ve also done literally everything while having a period – hosted events, managed complex negotiations, presented to large groups. I don’t do those things with the flu.

          1. Amanda*

            “I’ve also done literally everything while having a period.” Then consider yourself lucky. Some of us have immobilizing pain, nausea, fainting spells, etc that mean we literally can’t.

            1. Amy*

              I wrote below about very severe cramps that I need to be on medication for. But this argument that a period is a monthly time when women are all sick is straight 19th century.

              Why should saying “I have a period” be the same as I have the flu? Should women not captain planes on their periods? Drive? Operate heavy machinery? If it’s really like a flu, those things are unsafe. I think it’s a terrible analogy that we should be careful of

              1. Pickled Limes*

                I don’t think anybody’s saying “nobody’s well enough to work when they have their period.” What people are saying is sometimes, period symptoms can sometimes be severe enough that people need to take a few hours off work to rest.

                The people who are saying that “I have my period” and “I have the flu” are comparable statements are saying that in terms of whether or not the statement in and of itself conveys any kind of grossness. It’s not an attempt to say “having your period is as bad and debilitating as having the flu.” It’s saying “People don’t get grossed out when you tell them you’re taking sick time to recover from the flu, so they should also not get grossed out if you tell them you’re taking sick time because of your period.”

              2. Yorick*

                Well, you wouldn’t just say, “I’m on my period,” you’d say something like, “I’m sick with period symptoms.”

                Sometimes a woman really may not be able to fly planes or whatever because of her period symptoms. Other times, having her period is no big deal. But we shouldn’t have to dance around the issue.

                1. Amy*

                  Misogynists have used this argument against women for long time. What if she gets her period in space/ while flying / about to present to the UN / doing important work? She can’t be trusted. Her body will betray her. Yes, some women have serious symptoms while having a period. But if normalizing this means that we’re saying that people with periods are less capable of working, less able to handle normal work expectations, more likely to need extra time off, that’s really the snake eating its own tail.
                  Most women do not need 6 to 18 days off a year to deal with their periods and if someone does, they should consider speaking to a doctor about their symptoms.

                2. c-*

                  Amy, what mysogynists might or might not do is not relevant to the LW’s question. And frankly, women should not have to censor ourselves on account of what twisted thing mysogynists may come up with next, that’s like doing their job for them.

            2. Observer*

              “I’ve also done literally everything while having a period.” Then consider yourself lucky. Some of us have immobilizing pain, nausea, fainting spells, etc that mean we literally can’t.

              And no one should give you flack if you take off when you feel that way. But the point it not that NO ONE ever has a problem with their period. But that NO EVERYONE who gets a period has a problem. And it’s unhelpful to frame the issue as periods IN GENERAL being a problem.

              1. Tea and cookies*

                The thing is, I am less capable when I have my period. If I move too much some days I hemorrhage and I have a job where I can do 10k steps in 8 hours. Also I prefer to say I am having my period because it avoids going into a lengthy discussion about why every 4ish weeks I take a day off sometimes for a few months at a time. And I feel like I am too young to fry my womb just yet, or take it out, I tried surgically fixing it by another means and it didn’t work. The blood clotting drugs give me too much of a risk to clot I other places. I do not want an IUD as everyone I know has nothing but problems with them and I know of way to many people who have perforated their uterus from them. So taking a day off is what I do.

            3. Clogerati*

              I think the point is that just saying you have your period and need to leave isn’t actually descriptive of the reason for leaving. I’ve never had to leave work early because of my period and if someone told me they had to leave early because they were on their period I might assume that they had debilitating symptoms that came with their period, but some of the people I work with might be very confused because none of the other period having people in my workplace has had to leave because of that. “I’m under the weather/feeling faint/my uterus is out to get me today” gives a clearer idea of the picture. Being on your period CAN mean that you’re in pain, but it doesn’t always. Acting as if it’s akin to the flu or something isn’t accurate.

              1. sociolx*

                I think this is my hesitation here, too! I’m a mid-twenties cis woman who absolutely thinks talking about menstruation should be more normalized (or at least shouldn’t merit an “ew, gross!” response). But here, the reason for being out isn’t menstruating, it’s the symptoms that come along with menstruating for the LW.

                I sometimes experience awful cramps with my periods, but saying “I’ll be out because of my period” feels kind of like saying “I’ll be out because it’s the first Wednesday of the month,” since a period on its own wouldn’t necessitate taking off work (and implying that it does feels, as some other commenters have noted, like it perpetuates stereotypes about women being moody or somehow incompetent while menstruating). If LW feels obligated to explain why she’ll be out, something that alludes to the nature of the symptoms (e.g. “I’ll be out due to some recurring pain/fatigue issues”) feels like it would be more appropriate here (after all, you don’t take off work because you had takeout last night; you take off because of the food poisoning that resulted from that takeout – and even then, as others have noted, it’s sufficient to notify your supervisor that you’ll be out for a few days but it’s not contagious).

                All of this is to say that normalizing period talk is definitely important in the context of, like, feeling comfortable asking a coworker to borrow a tampon if you need it, but otherwise I’m perfectly happy not to talk about bodily functions (of any sort!) with my coworkers.

                1. Anonyone*

                  Hi there, as someone who works in a food adjacent position and is certified in food safety management, I would just like to point out that food poisoning absolutely has the potential to be contagious from human behavior. Food poisoning is caused by harmful bacteria and viruses like many other common illnesses, and if a person is not careful, it can definitely spread to others.

              2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                Yeah, agreed. Before birth control I was one of the people who would semi-regularly pass out during my period, and didn’t know anyone else for whom that was the case. “I’m on my period” as the explanation for calling out just doesn’t explain anything while at least toeing TMI territory. I’m as normalize-menstruation as anyone, and think it’s out of place to talk about at work. (I’m 28, ftr.)

            4. The Other GEYN*

              Also I feel like by that logic, it applies to every single human ailment. Like I’ve powered through law school finals with the flu (wasn’t the only one) and did reasonably well. But I’m not about to suggest that everyone is capable of doing the same.

              If misogynists are going to think cis women are going to be more “emotional” because of menstruation/whatever irrational misogyny reason, proving that you are ~not~ one of women is not going to fight misogyny.

              1. Fushi*

                This!!! Similarly, any number of things women (and any other marginalized group) do are going to be “playing into stereotypes.” Should women not be allowed to be stay-at-home-moms because misogynists assume all women secretly want to do that and penalize working women accordingly? Or maybe we can just admit for once that the problem lies with the discriminatory assumption and not with the people living their lives honestly.

          2. Good Vibes Steve*

            For me a period is something that I can power-through if absolutely needed (i.e. we’re headed towards a nuclear meltdown, or I have a presentation to the leadership team), but if I can just take a little bit of time off, I will do so, because why not? If the world is not about to collapse on itself, why suffer through in silence when you could get some rest?
            In this regard, it *is* the same as the flu – Joe Biden could have a bad flu and still need to power through it in case of a nuclear meltdown, or my male coworker could just have to suck it up for a crucial presentation; but if it’s not absolutely needed, they will take the time off. And if the flu is so bad it’s literally impossible, or it’s appendicitis and you’re lying in a hospital bed? There’s a Vice-President/ other coworkers who could cover/ presentations can be postponed (Nuclear meltdowns can’t, and that’s why there’s a line of succession).

          3. Gumby*

            That whole thing about Hillary Clinton and the nuclear codes – what if she was hormonal?

            Because we all know that testosterone isn’t a hormone… (Gaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh)

        3. hamsterpants*

          At least where I live, “I have my period” = menstruation = bodily function, whereas “I have the flu” is more general. For example, I described my post-vaccine malaise as “flu-like symptoms” but nothing unusual happened in the bathroom.

        4. meyer lemon*

          To clarify, I’m not suggesting that period symptoms are similar flu symptoms, I’m just saying that “I have my period” is a broad, general statement, similar to “I have the flu” or “I have a cold”–in all of these cases, your actual symptoms might vary.

          1. Amy*

            It may be like the flu or cold for some, in that it’s very disruptive, will leave you diminished and will require either a day off or serious powering through.. But that’s not true as a blanket statement for all women.

            1. Yorick*

              They’re not saying the flu and the period are similar diseases, just that those statements are similar in that they’re broad and general. Please stop derailing on this.

              1. Amy*

                It’s not derailing. They aren’t similar. The flu is universally understood to be bad and debilitating – people should not work through something serious like the flu. Nobody thinks the flu is no big deal. Plenty of people have zero issues with their period. It is not universally bad and debilitating

                1. IEanon*

                  Pre-menstrual symptoms can be so flu-like that “period flu” is a recognized descriptor. They are certainly bad enough to prevent someone from working.

                  But we truly should all be enlightened enough to realize that some women do experience debilitating periods without it having to be specified. “I’m on my period,” is enough of an explanation to cancel plans with friends, just like “I have the flu” would be.

                2. Amy*

                  Friends are different than the workplace. When you state that you can’t come in because you’re on a period and equate it to an illness it’s not a kind of normalizing I’d like to see. This LW may not be able to work on her period. That does not mean that other women cannot work or that the default assumption of periods is that they render you sick and weak. That isn’t the experience for many women and if LW wants to normalize how everyone’s bodies are different that’s fine but “period” does not universally indicate cannot work or attend events.

                3. Working Hypothesis*

                  But that’s just not the way in which anyone here has been claiming they’re alike. It’s not about whether people can work through both, neither or one but not the other. It’s that “I have my period” is a statement that references in very abstract terminology, but does not actually discuss in detail, messy menstrual-fluid-related stuff; and because it’s only referencing it in very abstract terminology, it’s okay to say, whereas discussing menstrual fluid in the office isn’t. The analogy to the flu was simply that saying “I have the flu” references in the abstract, but does not discuss in detail, messy snot-related stuff; and therefore is okay to say in a way that actually discussing the snot wouldn’t be.

                  That is literally the only way in which anyone here has been saying the two phrases are similar. It’s not about whether either one is debilitating sometimes, always or never. That was just not involved.

        5. MamaSarah*

          Influenza is moderate to highly contagious disease that can kill people. Your period, as painful and as unpleasant as it may be, is not a threat to public health. These are very different situations.

      5. Amaranth*

        I don’t think anything should make people visualize bodily functions. I don’t need to know Fergus
        has explosive diarrhea, thanks, and would rather he calls it a ‘stomach bug’. I blame the managers who act like anyone calling out sick is suspect. Thats why adults use funny ‘sick’ voices or give TMI when calling in.

        My main problem with talking about periods though is they are solely a female issue, and so I worry having a chronic issue labeled as ‘female problems’ creates a generalized stigma of women being unable to function in a work environment. Other chronic issues are equal opportunity.

        1. Midwest Teacher*

          Periods are not a solely female issue. There are plenty of non-binary people and trans men who have periods.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            While non-binary and trans men with periods do exist, they are still a very small percentage of the population, especially with many not out at work. Right now, in perception, menstruation is seen as a female issue. My understanding of trans/non-binary is that they’re still well under 10% of the general population, which seems like the usual threshold where perception starts moving from “It’s an x thing” to “Mostly x but also some y / z”.

            Good to keep non-binary / trans people in our awareness and grow it, but general perception doesn’t have them yet.

          2. Calliope*

            I think generally, people who think women can’t hack it in the workplace because of their periods don’t really acknowledge trans or non-binary people either.

          3. Yorick*

            Sure, but periods are definitely a women’s issue in that the majority of people who get them are women, and the majority of women get them. Let’s not dance around the fact that they’re stigmatized because women get them. If men were the ones who had periods, everyone would only work 3 weeks a month and products would be free and no one would find it weird to talk about them.

              1. RagingADHD*

                If the majority of men got them, and had always done so throughout human history, then society would treat periods very differently.

                It would be fabulous if the existence of trans people magically erased the existence of the patriarchy, but it doesn’t.

              2. Black Horse Dancing*

                OK, how about people with female reproductive organs? Or people with uteruses? I think you are being really word picky/what about ism here–periods are seen as a women/female issue because you must have a uterus to have one. Prostate cancer isn’t seen as a disease affecting women physically. Yet trans women can get it.

            1. Gan Ainm*

              +1. Nailed it.
              Similarly, I see a few commenters here repeatedly saying “not all periods are horrible / debilitating, so don’t say they are because it will give the impression women are less capable / give people reasons to discriminate against women…” and they are missing the point by a country mile. If this were something that happened to men it would be fine/normal/accepted/ celebrated, instead of worrying about being penalized.

      6. Yellow*

        Hard agree. 40 year old woman here. Women have periods, and we should be able to talk about them, but I don’t need to hear about it at work. Just like I don’t need to hear about your poop.

    3. Michael*

      Normalising menstruation means people can mention it at work without other people getting weird about it.
      You can’t have it both ways.

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        Eh, I think poop is pretty normal, but I don’t want to discuss with with my coworkers in pretty much any context.

      2. Anny*

        Don’t know that I agree with this. If I avoid mentioning at work that I was sick and throwing up, is that because vomiting hasn’t been normalized or because it’s not an appropriate detail to share in the context? I’d say the latter.

        1. KHB*

          “I’m vomiting” might not be an appropriate thing to share at work, but “I’ve got a stomach bug” would be just fine in many workplaces. (Not necessarily as something to mention when you call out sick – you shouldn’t need to give a reason at all for that – but maybe if a colleague sends you a “get well soon” email, or asks how you’re feeling once you’re back at work.)

          1. farrisonhord*

            I think this is an excellent point. Saying things like “stomach bug” “flu” “threw my back out” are all considered office safe and give context without too much detail. But where’s the line for period. I would argue saying you’re out for your period is on level with stomach bug or pulled muscle, but saying you’ve got horrible cramps and are bleeding through everything you own is too much detail.

            I’m 36/elder millennial.

            1. OhNo*

              An interesting point about where the line is. For some reason, my instinctive response is that it feels like even mentioning “period” is too much info. But my boss and coworkers have mentioned going home because of cramps before and that never even made me blink an eye, though it was clear from context and I knew that it was period-related.

              I’m a trans man, though, so conversations about the symptoms of periods are nothing new to me, even if I still have that instinctive impulse not to mention the word “period”.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                About how old are you?

                I think Alison’s point that the line is changing is likely to be true. I wouldn’t care if someone said ‘because period’ at work, but I wouldn’t myself.

                I also wonder if the line breaks some by intensity of symptoms – mine have never been bad, so I don’t talk about them much; friends with migranes / etc talk about them more. My one regular conversation is checking where that one friend is with her cycle so I can know what I’m going to sync to.

                1. OhNo*

                  I was born in the late 80s, so older millennial here. I was definitely raised with the whole “don’t mention your period where boys/men can hear” mindset, which probably has a lot to do with my personal aversion to it.

                2. Drb*

                  I’m 40, so technically a millennial. I would not tend to mention my period but would not bat an eye if someone else did. I think that mentioning your period is totally fine at work and believe that doing so is absolutely part of normalizing it, but I think only the more activist among us will be doing that already. I work in higher ed, and I think periods are and will be increasingly normalized.

                3. allathian*

                  I’m 49 so firmly in the gen-X camp.

                  I guess I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never had to miss work because of my actual period. However, my PMS symptoms are something else, and I have taken the occasional half-day off because I just felt like punching someone and I had a hard time keeping my work personality in place. “I’m feeling a bit under the weather and I’ll work a shorter day today” has been fine, nobody’s ever questioned it.

                  That said, I do know about debilitating symptoms because my sister went on the pill when she was 13 because her symptoms were so severe that she’d miss 3 days of school every cycle, and that was wildly irregular as well, as it often is for girls who’ve just started menstruating. She could go 3 months without any problems and suddenly have two periods in a single month.

              2. Llama Llama*

                Ok I think this is the problem I am having with this. Having your period is not inherently a reason to go home as a flu or cold or stomach bug would be. The real reason is that you are fatigued, or have cramps, or a migraine from hormones or whatever. Your period might be causing those things to happen, but the period itself isn’t the reason because as stated before a period generally happens to all women (or really anyone with a functioning uterus) of menstruating age monthly and we don’t all have to go home for it. Being vague about having your period and needing to go home sounds like you’re trying to get out of dodgeball in gym class. I think it’s better to either be totally vague “not feeling well” or specific “I have a headache” “I have cramps”.

                1. traffic_spiral*

                  I think this is where I stand “I’m on my period” conveys practically no useful information about the actual problem (I have headache/cramps/a stain on my skirt) so it’s pointless, while also talking about body fluids, which makes it TMI.

                  Just say the actual problem you’re having.

                2. OhNo*

                  It’s hard, because if it was any other condition it would be the other way around. “I have the flu” or “I have a cold” would be my preference, while “I’m vomiting a lot” or “I’m sniffling constantly” would both be TMI to me. It’s odd that this one case is where being more specific seems better than being general!

                3. Amy*

                  Yeah, I would also be confused if someone said “I need to go home because I’m pregnant.” The words period or pregnant don’t actually include much information – 10-20% of the office may theoretically be on their periods at any given time. I’d just stick with “I need to go home because I don’t feel well.”

                4. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                  I also think that for a lot of people, “period”=blood, while “cramps”=pain. So saying “I have cramps” sort of sidesteps the body fluid thing, even if it’s very obvious that it must be period-related.

                5. allathian*

                  Being specific while not giving too many details is definitely better if “I’m not feeling well” doesn’t cut it at your office. That’s because the severity of the symptoms is so variable. Just saying “I’m taking a sick day because my period just started” isn’t doing menstruating people, of whom most identify as women, any favors in the workplace.

      3. Smithy*

        To me, normalizing menstruation at work has more to do with having it be appropriate to ask colleagues if they have sanitary items on them and/or having a work toilet stocked. Also understanding that a situation where someone has bleed through stains at work is unfortunate and not something shameful along the lines of being wildly drunk in an office party.

        1. Mimi Me*

          Agreed. I’m all for normalizing periods. I’m going to make sure that my workplace keeps a ready stock of sanitary items in their bathroom. I’m not going to hide the tampon or pad in my hand while headed to the restroom at a restaurant with co-workers. I’m also not going to share the details of my period symptoms if I can use a vague “I’m not feeling well.” I used to work with a female manager who liked to announce who was on the same cycle as she was and it made me wildly uncomfortable, especially when I heard some male coworkers joking about “so that’s why she was so bitchy last week” about an issue that the manager was handling.

          1. Cat Lady In Training*

            I worked with people who are like that and it was so annoying! Also, my period sucks, I don’t want to think about it more then I have to. And it’s not that fun to talk about at all…

            1. HelloQuilts*

              I love hydrangeas also! I moved to a beach town where there are many beautiful hedges of hydrangeas.

        2. Jennifer Strange*

          Yes, this is where I fall on the situation as well. Tampons and pads shouldn’t be considered dirty words/gross things to see anymore than toilet paper should, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to announce to my co-workers that I just got my period any more than I’m going to announce to them that I just took a huge dump.

          1. Green great dragon*

            Agreed, as a 40-something. I’d like to be able to annouce the tampon dispenser is empty as easily as that the toilet paper needs restocked, but ‘stomach pains’ or ‘fatigue’ is the very most I need to know, not whether they’re caused by a period or having to run to the toilet 6 times last night due to a dodgy oyster.

          2. OhNo*

            Love that distinction, and I think for me it more or less lines up with the division between personal and general.

            People poop, so the bathrooms have toilet paper. But no one needs to know when I poop. Similarly, people have periods, and accommodations should reflect that. But no one needs to know exactly when I have my period.

        3. EPLawyer*

          This. That you can keep sanitary items in your desk without being told to hide them. But details of your period (flow, how it makes you feel, etc.) do not need to be shared. Anymore than details of your therapist visit or great detail of your root canal.

        4. Washi*

          I think it could also mean being able to ask for a mild accommodation, like working from home 1-2 days per month because of debilitating cramps (at least for me, I can make phone calls and use the computer, but moving around a lot makes it worse).

          But not explaining to your whole office exactly why every time you take a day off. I normalize going to therapy in my personal life, but I don’t announce to the whole office that I’m going to my therapy appointment (or endocrinologist, or PCP). I just say I’m popping out for an appointment.

          1. anonymouse*

            “I normalize going to therapy in my personal life, but I don’t announce to the whole office that I’m going to my therapy appointment (or endocrinologist, or PCP). I just say I’m popping out for an appointment.”
            This is an excellent parallel.
            I have a medical appointment.
            I shouldn’t have to share the details and I don’t need to know yours.

            1. maryann*

              I don’t even say “medical appointment”, just “appointment”. Always the least amount of information possible. If co-workers want to speculate on whether I am interviewing, so be it.

              I do agree that, particularly post-pandemic, the “something contagious” detail might be relevant. I usually say something like “I’m keeping my germs at home.”

        5. Ace in the Hole*

          Yes, exactly. Sometimes it’s important to discuss periods at work… just not in the context of sick days.

          For example, I am one of only two women working in my department. When the male supervisor redid the bathrooms and removed the trash cans because “people can just toss their paper towels in the one down the hall” and resisted my request to replace it, I explained to him in some detail why that was not a reasonable setup for the two women on staff. I think that was totally appropriate.

          1. infosecretariat*

            I hope they also replaced the trashcan in the men’s room, for the same reason.
            People throw away many things other than paper towels in bathroom trashcans.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              Fortunately, we don’t have gender-specific bathrooms! One of the things they did right. So there are trashcans in every bathroom.

          2. quill*

            Yes. We should have structures in place to accomodate bodily functions. We do not necessarily need the context of which bodily function that you, personally, are currently performing… it’s a level of intimacy that I generally would not be super comfortable with in the office.

          3. Momma Bear*

            Absolutely appropriate. He removed something from the office that you and your coworker needed.

          4. AnonEMoose*

            Completely appropriate. That was a level of basic ignorance that needed to be corrected.

          5. SuperBB*

            I’m baffled by his decision in the first place. Was he short on budget and decided the $10 trash can was the place to cut?

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              He argued there wasn’t space.

              Admittedly, the bathrooms are tiny – they barely fit a single toilet and sink. But I solved the problem in 30 seconds by putting a trash bag in a bucket and setting it under the sink.

          6. Robin Ellcott*

            That’s so funny, I had to do the same thing with my lovely male CEO who wondered aloud why we’d need garbage cans as well as compost (paper towel is composted here) in the washrooms.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              The bit that baffles me is that this guy has a wife and two adult daughters. He MUST have spent time around menstruating women… so how could he be so clueless?

              1. R2-beep-boo*

                People overlook stuff? We just built new offices, which are inside our production facility, so you can’t wear a watch. Someone from corporate ordered all the office supply-type stuff, and it never occurred to her that we needed clocks in the rooms because she always wears a watch.

          7. allathian*

            Oh yes, I wholeheartedly agree with you. But even in this case you weren’t really talking about having your own period just then and needing accommodation for that, but talking about the needs of menstruating people, the vast majority of whom identify as women, in general. I think that’s a reasonable distinction.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              Totally. I think that should be the goal of normalizing periods at work – it’s thought of as a normal thing and accommodating the needs of menstruating people is as normal as accommodating the need to poop.

              Another example: I don’t think it’s appropriate to keep a pack of tampons sitting out on my desk, just like I wouldn’t keep a roll of toilet paper sitting on my desk. But if there was no TP in the bathroom, it’s fine to openly carry some from the supply closet to the stall… I don’t have to hide it. So I shouldn’t have to hide a tampon/pad on my way to the bathroom either.

        6. AnonEMoose*

          50 cis woman here, and this is pretty much where I land. If I still worked in the office, I wouldn’t bat an eye at a colleague asking me if I had a tampon I could spare, or a pain reliever, etc. And I think that should be normal.

          Talking with my friends outside of work, it’s pretty much no-holds-barred in talking about this stuff, and I’ve always been honest with my husband about period-related stuff. Explaining to him why sneezing with a tampon in is a special kind of awful was kind of fun ;-).

          I’m completely in favor of being honest with girls/younger women in particular about period-related symptoms and experiences. I’m horrified by the ignorance out there, even among women, and I think talking honestly about this can help with that. So if someone who fit that description asked me about it, I’d be as honest as they seemed comfortable with, provided the context was appropriate (that is, we had privacy, etc.).

          I’m also completely in favor of giving boys – all children, really – at least a basic understanding of how bodies work. No one should go through life thinking that women can “hold it,” for example, and that belief seems to appallingly common.

          So I think menstruation should be a thing everyone is aware of, and everyone should know how it works, basically. But my coworkers don’t need the details of how it specifically works with me personally! That said, I wouldn’t bat an eye if someone mentioned to me that they were having cramps or something on that level.

          1. PhyllisB*

            The “hold it in” comment reminded me of my granddaughter. When she was in middle school so (13 or 14) she was in a Beauty and Beau pageant. While she and her escort were waiting to be announced, guess who showed up? Yep, Aunt Flo. She whispered her dilemma to him and he told her to just “hold it in.” When they were announced she grabbed his arm and pulled him across that stage at triple speed.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              Ugh – hopefully they didn’t have to wait too long and she didn’t have any wardrobe casualties!

          2. Smithy*

            Hold it kills me…..

            I also think that there is a lot more variation around how women experience periods that we don’t always know because it is so uncommon for it be shared in families, amongst friends, etc. I grew up in a house that was all tampons and therefore missed out on a lot of common “pad talk” as a result. I also learned the delightful lesson later in life that I could be on the pill and have regular bleed through during the month.

            So this idea that women can “just know” and “just hold it” and all that – it’s just not that simple. And normalizing that is important. But the ways to do that at work are around how all bathrooms are stocked, what’s kept in a first aid kit, access to toilets/bathroom breaks, etc.

          3. Mellie Bellie*

            Oh my god. I am 42-year old cis woman and this is the first time I have ever heard that some people think you can just “hold in” your menstrual fluid. Wow. My white jeans in middle school wish I had known that trick. (Eye roll!)

            As for the rest, yeah, I don’t need to know that your period is why you have cramps, diarrhea, migraines or other symptoms and can’t work any more than I need to know that you have a digestive condition that made the dinner you ate last night cause you to suffer from explosive diarrhea this morning. TMI for work, in my opinion.

            I just need to know you don’t feel well and won’t be into work today. With the newly-relevant caveat that if you have a believe as to whether or not you are contagious, please say so!

        7. Observer*

          To me, normalizing menstruation at work has more to do with having it be appropriate to ask colleagues if they have sanitary items on them and/or having a work toilet stocked. Also understanding that a situation where someone has bleed through stains at work is unfortunate and not something shameful along the lines of being wildly drunk in an office party.

          Yes! Or letting a supervisor know why you need to get to the bathroom NOW if you get hit by an unexpected flow, etc.

          Anyone remember the teen who got written up by her supervisor over this? I’m going to try to find the link for a reply.

        8. Quinalla*

          I approve of this!

          I also have been trying to be better about being a little more vague in why I am sick, out, etc. but I do think there is room for some detail. And I like the poster above commenting that at least you should say if it is contagious or not – this is important info and one of the reasons why “I’m out sick – not COVID!” is such a common phrase right now. It gives the important info people care about.

          I’ve been struggling with normalizing menopause symptoms and I’ve fallen on with close friends/coworkers, I don’t hesitate to just talk about it matter-of-factly, but for others I keep it vague.

        9. hbc*

          Just adding to the chorus of agreement. It’s not a forbidden topic, and it comes up naturally when it’s relevant. Our HR just sent out a list of things that can be bought with Flexible Spending Account money this year that aren’t usually allowed, and it said “…band-aids, sunscreen, menstrual products, and over the counter meds….” I grew up with this not being discussed, so seeing it in a work email jarred me a bit, but in the good “new normal” way.

        10. Sara*

          100% agree! Also that weird letter from a while back where someone had sanitary napkins visible in their CAR and a colleague got offended. Like it should be fine to store some tampons in your desk drawer and not have someone freak out if they happen to see the box.

        11. Jenny D*

          Yes, that’s one thing that I would like to have normalized!

          At my company, the toilets are stocked with sanitary items. But I’m a consultant, and will often work full time at a client’s office, where that is usually not the case. I always carry some in my purse and that’s why it’s an ingrained habit to always bring my purse to the loo…

          Also, I’ve got endometriosis. Two years ago I was having a really rough time with it, and had several hemorrhages to the point of going to the emergency room. One of the times this happened, I was at a meeting with a different part of my client’s company. I realized that it was getting bad and ran into the bathroom immediately after the meeting. When I realized the extent of the problem, I phoned the male coworker who’d been in the same meeting, and asked him to wait and help me back. He literally stood by me and kept me steady while we got back to the office (I was close to fainting a couple of times on the subway), and then stood outside the bathroom in case I would pass out while cleaning up, and got a coworker-friend who lives close to me to drive me home (as my car was at the office) and then to the emergency room.

          The fact that I’d been open about my endometriosis and its resulting pain made it a lot easier to ask for help when I needed. Most times it’s not going to be as dramatic as that was, but I’d like it to be at least as normal for someone to text a coworker and ask for a sanitary napkin/tampon, as it would be to ask for more toilet paper if there wasn’t any in the stall.

      4. LunaLena*

        I disagree with that. Work is its own specific environment with its own set of rules; what’s “normal” there is not necessarily “normal” everywhere else. Cussing and drinking beer is pretty normal in most social situations, for example, but it wouldn’t be appropriate for most workplaces.

      5. RussianInTexas*

        Eh. I am a 40+ years old cis female, I am not uncomfortable with my period, but I also don’t want to know if my coworker is having it. Or their poop situation. Or whatever coming out of their sinuses if they have an infection. Or pimples goo.
        We don’t need to discuss bodily fluids with our coworkers.

        1. Carol the happytobepostmenopausal elf*

          Yep. We had to have codes so people didn’t get queasy from TMI.
          A “call from Amarillo on line 1”- amarillo means yellow in Spanish, so Call from Amarillo means “Gotta pee”.
          “Dr. Brown on line 2” take a guess.
          Period issues? “I need to send those forms to Baton Rouge.” Asking if anyone knew how many stamps it took meant “Ack! I’m out of supplies.”
          Diabetic issues were usually not going to freak anyone out, but we had a coworker with epilepsy, and if she felt a seizure coming on, she’d mention flickering lights, so someone might be able to catch her. (She has a dog, now, and he alerts her or coworkers.)
          If the man with a colostomy had an aroma he couldn’t notice, one of us would discreetly ask if he had change for the soda machine. He would answer “yes, but it’s in my locker; I’ll go get it.”

          (I’m old enough for lots of medical issues in colleagues and self, many places, many jobs.)
          My daughter is a nurse, so it’s aboveboard. But “Code Brown” means a patient has a “bathroom issue”.

          1. Calliope*

            I don’t understand – why not just “have to run to the restroom”? Or “I need a quick break”?

            1. Lemons*

              Yes, referencing the *colour* of each individual excretion is rather contrary to the goal of avoiding TMI.
              As for the epilepsy example, if someone needed to alert me to a medical situation, it would be better for all involved to be as clear as possible. I would not be comfortable operating with weird, cutesy coded phrases.

            2. Middle School Teacher*

              I agree. These are silly and the epilepsy one is just plain dangerous.

          2. Mockingdragon*

            Was this a situation where you were trying to be discreet in front of customers?

            1. Regina*

              But then what’s wrong with “I need to step out for a moment” ? Coded or not, I do not need to specifically know my coworker is gonna take a dump!

              1. allathian*

                Hard agree on this one. I admit the “codes” made me giggle a bit, but then my sense of humor’s largely stuck in the toddler-preteen stage. Nothing, absolutely nothing can incapacitate me through fits of laughter like a good fart joke can. But I don’t share those jokes in the office, mind…

      6. SoloKid*

        I agree with this – what does “normalize it outside of work” even mean? Sons not getting squeamish when their moms/sisters talk about it? What about uncles in the extended family? Cashiers? Is that work related? I used to be a cashier and wouldn’t blink twice when someone got tampons or Immodium.

        Families can be squeamish about other “underwear covered issues” too (I think that is a great distinction fwiw)…my reaction to hearing a coworker, or my dad, having diarrhea would both fall along the lines of “er, thanks for sharing?”

        1. Regina*

          But then what’s wrong with “I need to step out for a moment” ? Coded or not, I do not need to specifically know my coworker is gonna take a dump!

      7. MissGirl*

        Normalizing might mean saying to your boss I have these period symptoms that mean I have to take a half-day off every month. It’s not necessarily posting in a public chat.

        We have an out-of-the-office Slack channel. We’ll say “out sick for the day” without specifics. We might give more context to our manager, if necessary.

      8. Michelle*

        The way I see it not talking about periods at work isn’t just about periods being “gross.” It’s about normalizing the basic human right to take a sick day without scrutiny. For example, I think you should be totally fine having menstrual products sitting on a shelf in your office. But if you take a sick day, it should be totally normal to give no unnecessary details. Sure let people know if it’s contagious and they might have been exposed, or how long you plan to be out, but what exactly is wrong with you is none of their business.

        Millennial here.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. I’m with Alison in that I want to normalize not giving details about why/how you’re sick.

      Although I acknowledge that the what you’re sick with can give an idea if you just need to be out the rest of the day or if you’re down with the flu/running fever and you’re going to be out longer.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        OTOH I all for normalizing menstruation because it happens, every month, and it definitely has an impact (although extremely rarely for work for me). But normalize it socially not at work because being vague about what you’re ill with at work is best.

    5. anon for this one*

      Yeah. Millennial and former period-haver here too. I mean, I’m not in management. But all I need to know to do my job is, “So-and-so is out today and will be back on [date].” Not because I’m squeamish about bodily functions, but because I don’t think there’s a need to know *why* someone is out.

      Personally, I think the way to normalize having a period, similar to normalizing mental health days, is to take sick leave for it whenever you need to, without feeling like you have to offer any sort of reason or justification for your absence.

      1. Mid Millennial*

        I’m 30ish, and agree that menstruation doesn’t need to be explicitly discussed in the workplace to help normalize it. If we always give reasons, it puts people who don’t want to explain (like someone who doesn’t want to discuss their mental health issues) in a bad position. Periods are like bowels movements – they’re natural, they happen, we don’t need to discuss them at work.

        1. CRM*

          You said it perfectly! I want to normalize not giving a reason for needing a day off because if my coworkers are describing why they are out then I will feel pressured to explain that I am out due to mental illness, which I am not comfortable discussing with my team (even if they would be totally supportive and non-judgmental).

    6. RosyGlasses*

      I echo this. I’m 43, in HR and management, and I want to normalize people just being able to be off work because they are ill or know they need it. Yes, there are always individuals that will abuse this, but I don’t believe in making a bunch of rules for the few abusers. I also think we should normalize and de-stigmatize bodies – but I also personally am uncomfortable with folks sharing their bodily functions freely. Even in non puritanical cultures, there often is a sense of sacred around cycles.

    7. AvaMonroe*

      Came here to say exactly this. Don’t want or need to know why someone needs to take a sick day. I trust that if you say you aren’t well enough to work, you need to take the day off. Gen X-er.

    8. Van Wilder*

      38, cis female. Agreed. I used to be an oversharer when I was in my early 20’s but not anymore.

      I applaud the OP’s efforts but, to Alison’s point, I doubt it’s having the intended effect. Maybe there’s another way to normalize periods? Like free tampons in the pantry? lolol. I don’t know but work is probably not the proper battleground for this fight.

      1. Michael Valentine*

        I was thinking something similar (I’m 40, female). Let’s normalize periods as something we don’t have to hide–tampons in the bathroom/pantry–but I’m not sure we need to announce them at work.

        I did have a friend at one of my first jobs who told me within five minutes of meeting her that she was constipated. She was hilarious.

    9. Blackcat*

      Agree. Unless it’s a chronic thing where there’s something I can do (ex: migraines worsened by lights in a particular conference room when there’s another option), I don’t want to know details unless we’re friends. And even then, maybe not so much.

    10. Cat Tree*

      I’m completely on team not-giving-details too. Years ago I had a severe chronic stomach issue that took months to diagnose (by going to a different doctor). It was occasionally bad enough that I just couldn’t deal with working. I’m so glad that my company trusts us to judge our own health, and all I ever had to tell my boss was “I need to take a sick day”. Since I didn’t have a diagnosis yet, it would have been so complicated if I had to explain what was going on. What would I even say? I guess I’d describe the symptoms and say my doctor doesn’t yet know what it is, and hope they deem it to be serious enough to warrant a sick day? I’m so glad I don’t work at a place like that.

    11. ursula*

      I agree, with the caveat that if your employer is not satisfied with the “I am sick therefore taking a sick day” explanation and requires more detail, they forfeit the right to be picky about the details they hear. I have worked places where “I am sick” was not sufficient – they wanted some explanation or a doctor’s note – and I was always tempted to blast them with the gory details.

      1. That_guy*

        I entirely agree with this. I’m an early 50s male and had a quite disgusting medical issue a few years ago. My supervisor was not satisfied with vague reasons given for being out (although I was taking my first sick days in many years), so she got details my wife didn’t want to know about.

        I was never asked the reason for my sick time again.

        1. quill*

          What goes around comes around…

          I wonder if a tendency to overshare when younger comes from constant scrutiny while in school? Because you can totally get an “extra” bathroom pass if you loudly tell a teacher “I’m on my period” so they back off about why you’ve already been to the bathroom during class twice already during this semester. Or attempt to cadge sympathy, whichever is more effective.

          But in a work context… I would argue that the setup in schools regarding being able to take time off is extremely authoritarian but it becomes way more obvious in the workplace when you feel you have to shock / TMI someone into letting you take care of your own body.

          1. The Other GEYN*

            I think that’s part of it. I’m 30 and can still remember trying to desperately explain to my PE teacher in a vague way why I can’t run a mile that day because I wanted to faint from my cramps. Fortunately, most of my teachers in middle/high school were pretty good, but I definitely remember a few substitute teachers that are like “if you ask for a bathroom pass more than once during class you better give a good reason” or “if you are in the bathroom for more than 10 minutes you better be prepared to tell the class why.”

            1. quill*

              Oof, I got “but other girls manage it fine!” a lot, and it’s almost like people all have different organs! I’m not the same height as all the other girls either!

            2. allathian*

              Oof indeed.

              I guess I’m glad that my lessons in school were pretty loosely structured, in that after a double lesson (90 minutes) we got a 15-minute recess. I can’t remember ever having to ask to go to the bathroom during a lesson at any time during middle and high school…

      2. Roscoe*

        Sure, but at the same time, I still don’t think that you need to share that info with coworkers. If you want to, for reasons, go into the details with your manager who won’t just accept “I’m not feeling well”, then have at it. But you don’t need to like put that in a slack message to your team.

      3. Elle by the sea*

        I guess here the monthly frequency plays a role too. Some people have an issue with regular, periodic illness and OP probably wants to avoid such concerns by specifying the problem, even though she didn’t mention that as a reason.

      4. Observer*

        if your employer is not satisfied with the “I am sick therefore taking a sick day” explanation and requires more detail, they forfeit the right to be picky about the details they hear.

        Totally. You can’t have it both ways. Either you let people be or you deal with what you hear like an adult.

      5. Michelle*

        YES! When I had surgery a few years ago, all nosy or invasive questions received blunt answers. You don’t want to know? Then don’t ask! I guarantee I won’t volunteer the information if you mind your own business.

      6. Lizy*

        Hard agree. I still remember the gal in junior high who was asking other gals for a tampon. The (sub) teacher would not buy the “I just need to ask a couple of girls a question” line and kept bugging her. She finally turned around and said, loud enough for an entire class of talking teenagers to hear, “I started my period and I need a tampon. Is that ok?!?!” Genius.

        I did something mildly similar with my (male) coworker. I just said “I have to pump. I’ll be back in about 15 minutes”. What? “I have to go pump.” Huh? I HAVE TO EXPRESS BREASTMILK FOR MY BABY.

    12. Pumpkin215*

      I completely agree. There is a time and a place for certain context. This doesn’t mean periods aren’t normal or anything to be ashamed of, it is just TMI. The diarrhea analogy is perfect. Not everyone needs to know your bodily functions, no matter what they are. Saying you are sick is the relevant information.

      I had a manager that way overshared. “I will be out on Thursday, going to the doctor, the weird skin tag is back. My doctor was on vacation in Tahiti but now he is home. The office is at 125 Maple street if you need to reach me. I plan to take the turnpike there after lunch. I think I’ll have a ham sandwich…” I wanted to scream SHUT UP!!! I do NOT CARE!! You are going to be out Thursday and that is the ONLY information I need”.

      Don’t be that person. Don’t use work as a platform to “normalize” everything. Just because something is personal does not mean it is shameful. It means that not everyone needs to know your business.

      1. Kate*

        As someone upthread mentioned, this is a type of Forced Intimacy!

        It reminds me of how I explained the difference between “keeping secret from somebody” and “privacy” to my kid; just because I don’t share my PIN and bank account information with people doesn’t mean that I’m withholding information and keeping secrets – that information is private and personal.

        Bathrooms should have extra toilet paper, pads, and tampons stocked in plain sight – that’s “normalizing” menstruation. But insisting on telling people about your personal bodily functions at your workplace isn’t “normalizing” periods, it’s forcing others to know about your intimate bodily functions when that’s information for your partner, family or friends.

    13. chewingle*

      Same. I don’t want people to think they’re entitled to the details of why anyone is taking a sick day. So no matter what the reason is, I say don’t ever give details.

      1. allathian*

        Agree, except if you have a manager who won’t authorize your sick leave unless you’re more specific. If that’s the case, then share as much info as you feel is necessary.

    14. 2 Cents*

      Agree to all of this (including the fact that I’m an older Millennial — 1982, represent!).

      Just wanted to say it’s not just about periods. I had terrible morning (all the time!) sickness, and other women who had been pregnant, but not been sick, just didn’t understand, though most were sympathetic. However, one woman told me she didn’t believe that morning sickness was really a thing because she never had it, so I must just be weak or something.

      1. Anoni*

        Yes, exactly, because millions of people who have experienced or are experiencing pregnancy and report on having morning sickness, and that some morning sickness is so bad, they’ve developed treatments for it, are just…weak and lying. What a toenail.

      2. allathian*

        Argh. Those people are the worst. And by those people I mean people who can’t seem to get it through their heads that just because something didn’t affect them doesn’t mean that it can’t affect anyone else either…

      3. Jenny D*

        I’ve got endometriosis. I’ve been on prescription painkillers, the heavy stuff, for decades.

        I used to have a friend who “didn’t understand what the big deal was”, she got cramps when she had her period and she could just work through it with an OTC painkiller…

        It’s like comparing a migraine to a faint headache – it’s in the same area, but the intensity of the pain is radically different!

    15. Joielle*

      Same, and same. And cis woman here. I’m all for normalizing menstruation! Tampons and pads should be a normal sight in bathrooms or purses or desk drawers, workplaces should stock them, nobody should ever speculate on whether someone disagreed with them because of PMS, etc etc.

      And people should feel free to call out sick for period symptoms – but you don’t have to be specific about it. “Not feeling well” is just fine, thanks. If someone asks you what’s wrong, you don’t need to lie or hide it, but going out of your way to say the word “period” strikes me as counterproductive in this context.

    16. Momma Bear*

      I really do not need to know why someone needs a day off. They say they are sick. That’s all I want. I do not need to know what kind of sick and trust that they are a competent enough adult to know when they are too sick to work remotely.

      I think there’s other ways to normalize, too. Like making sure there are supplies and appropriate trash cans in the relevant bathrooms (many small offices have shared space). Or not questioning a menstruating coworker who has to suddenly leave or change clothes.

      I think this is one of those times when the office culture doesn’t support this particular info sharing and IMO it’s not an agenda hill to die on.

    17. Jiminy Cricket*

      Same generation, female. I definitely consider OP’s message TMI. And I strongly doubt it’s normalizing talking about menstruation at work, but more likely to get OP labeled as a person without appropriate boundaries, which could affect their promotion prospects (they might question OP’s ability to manage others, for example). I strongly recommend that OP focus on other ways to normalize female bodies (lobbying for free tampons / pads in the women’s bathroom, or requesting well-equipped pumping rooms, for example, would make sense).

    18. Dark Macadamia*

      Yep, mid-30s woman and I would find it obnoxious for someone to repeatedly talk about her period at work. By all means ask for a tampon if you need one, advocate for staff bathrooms to be stocked with menstrual supplies if they’re not, don’t allow people to make sexist jokes about PMS… but I don’t need to know why you took a sick day.

    19. Elle by the sea*

      I agree. No one needs to know the specifics of you being sick. You are just sick. It’s more than enough info.

      I used to work at a large multinational company where people were constantly talking about their periods, smear tests and all kinds of things that should be normalised but I don’t want to hear about at work. It also created pressure that everyone should share there personal stuff, which is I am in general really uncomfortable with.

    20. Artemesia*

      Two outcomes: most people including women think claiming you are sick with your period is just being lazy and it is also very intimate and personal. Now some people in fact are disabled for a day or two by very difficult periods, but most people are not and just power through bad cramps and fatique etc. The LW may be generally unable to do that because she is among the minority of people who have very severe reactions to menstruation. BUT it will still shape an image of someone who stays home at the slightest inconvenience. And most people find very specific information that is personal is inappropriate to share. Would you say, I had to go home early because my constipation is making me feel terrible? or Alison’s example that we generally don’t discuss diarrhea at work — too personal.

      And of course talking about menstruation at work especially in the context of not doing work today also helps support the image of women as ‘other’ who are physically not quite up to the job.

      1. TreeHillGrass*

        Love your comment you touched on all the points in my head and now I don’t have to type them out!

    21. DoubleE*

      I’m a cisgendered woman in my mid 30s. I think periods should be normalized to the extent that they should be no more taboo than any other “bathroom stuff”. So I don’t talk about my period at work (just like I don’t talk about my pee or poop at work) but I don’t go out of my way to hide the fact that I have one. But I also agree with Alison that the vast majority of the time, it should be enough to just say you’re out sick regardless of the details. Unless an employer has compelling reasons to believe someone is abusing sick leave, the employer doesn’t need details. Even in that case, it would be between the employee and their manager/ HR, so their coworkers still wouldn’t need to know.

    22. Jyn’Leeviyah the Red*

      Same-same. Elder Millennial (Gen X cusper) and I would err on the side of not sharing specifics — but I’m a fan of not giving a ton of specifics, anyway. (I mean, if I’m getting over a bad cold, it’s pretty obvious what happened.) I like Alison’s stance on normalizing treating each other like professionals — I was on a sick day because I was sick. The end.

    23. booksbooksbooks*

      +1 from a man in his late 30s

      Many of my friends talk about their periods in social settings. It’s fine. We can laugh about it / empathize.

      At work, I think talking about periods comes off as over-sharing and over-dramatic. The only situation where it might be ok is if we work together a lot and are at the same seniority level and it’s in the context of venting about other things too.

    24. Alexis Rosay*

      Yeah. Agreed. I had a coworker who was going through menopause and was always talking about her period. It was too much detail for me. I would have been fine with “I’m going through menopause and I’m struggling” without the detailed period report.

    25. GothicBee*

      I’m a millennial (33) and a cis woman and I prefer to avoid specifying why I’m out sick unless absolutely necessary for some reason. I think that keeping it vague is important so that no one has to share personal health info if they’re not comfortable with it. In my experience when one person shares all the details of why they’re sick, other people feel pressured to do the same. Plus being vague provides cover for people who need to use a mental health day or are just feeling awful without an exact sickness or whatever else.

      Also, the LW might want to consider how other people tell the team they’re taking a sick day. Because if the norm here is that everyone just says “I’m going to be out for the day” or “I’m taking a sick day” and the LW is being specific as to the reason, then the person may have complained regardless of whether the LW mentioned their period or something else.

      As far as periods, I don’t think they need to be completely taboo at work, but context matters. And a bigger benefit to normalizing menstruation at work might be advocating for providing period products in bathrooms (for people who are working in person) or making sure that your healthcare covers a multitude of different types of birth control and other period related (or potentially period-related) stuff.

      1. Anoni*

        As an aside, I just realized that in this current time of history, it’s really difficult to just be out sick because you’re “not feeling well.” I know for my employer if we call out, we have to be fairly specific about what symptoms we’re having. The most annoying part is that several COVID symptoms are also symptoms of other illnesses that are unrelated.


    26. PhyllisB*

      I’m 70 years old, thus a dinosaur, but I don’t think she should do this. Not in a pearl clutching way, but this is not info other people really want to hear. Also, in the era I was coming of age in, this would have meant instant death to any career aspirations. Men in power were just looking for an excuse to keep women “in their place” and this sort of thing would be the perfect excuse. Hopefully men are more enlightened now, but..
      I spent most of my career as a telephone operator (all women in those days) and the talk got pretty graphic, but when I did regular office work, no. Besides, even women don’t always want to discuss this. There were times I would leave the break room because I just couldn’t listen to anymore.

      1. Mouse*

        I’m a person who has debilitating periods who is on the cusp of millenial/gen-x and this is what I came here to say. Women have fought tooth and nail to be allowed into the workplace against the stereotype that women can’t do any intellectual or minor physical tasks because of our uterine problems, and I don’t think our position is secure enough to say “so, lads, you were right, I have these debilitating uterine problems that render me completely about to do any work.”

    27. another Hero*

      I’m 29 and talk about my period all the time, but not at work. If I have bad cramps at work, I might say so to explain why I look pale, but if I’m going home because of it (a rare but not unheard-of occurrence) it’s just “I don’t feel well” (or, at that point, “I feel kind of terrible,” let’s be honest)

    28. Beth*

      Agreed, as a smack-dab-in-the-middle Millennial woman. If your office is one where it’s generally considered normal, or even somewhat obligatory, to share why you’re out (e.g “I have a cold,” “I was up all night with insomnia,” “I’m dealing with a migraine,” “I caught the flu”), then having menstruation side effects should be no different than that, and I’d be very inclined to push back on that one thing being the line for ‘oversharing’ when other health-related talk is normalized. But in an ideal office, no one needs to share their health info to justify sick leave, and no one is nosy enough to ask if the info isn’t volunteered. “I’m under the weather today” or “I’m out on sick leave” is all anyone should need to know.

    29. RudeRabbit*


      No specifics needed, especially regarding bodily fluids. However, feel free to ask me for hygiene products if you need them! I keep a stash in my office just in case. Periods and period symptoms are normal, just maybe not for regular work conversation (again, fluids).

      Mid 30’s woman

    30. restingbutchface*

      Seeing a lot of comments about how people don’t want to hear details… is there not an argument that if every county and business had a work culture that accepted and allowed for sick leave, people wouldn’t feel like they had to “prove” how ill they were when they’re suffering. That’s what I hear when my colleagues in say, America give me too much detail. They need me to know that they’re really, really sick or else they’d never miss a deadline/skip the meeting/take a day off. This applies double to younger colleagues who seem to exist in a constant state of worry that their job is at risk if they aren’t perfect. And they’re entirely wrong.

      If people felt secure and comfortable in their role, they’d just send an FYI to those who needed to know they weren’t reachable, slap on an out of office and take care of themselves. It’s a symptom (ha!) of a wider societal issue.

    31. Librarian1*

      Same. I’m 37 and a woman and I don’t want to know the details about menstruation, diarrhea, or any other bodily functions and I probably don’t want to know the details for certain other things. Saying “I’ve got a cold” is one thing, saying “I’ve got snot dripping out of my nose” is another.

    32. Jessica Fletcher*

      There are so many things going on here.

      I think normalizing periods at work looks like not hiding that you’re carrying a tampon, using a heating pad at your desk, not hiding that you’re asking someone if they have Midol. I don’t think it means announcing that you have your period or announcing that your period symptoms are so bad that you have to take a sick day.

      I guess that’s it. Whatever her intentions, OP’s actions aren’t trying to normalize periods. They’re trying to normalize understanding that period symptoms can be so severe that you need to call off. But OP’s boss, presumably the person who needs to approve her time off, is already on board. She doesn’t need to convince her coworkers at large that her period symptoms were bad enough to justify time off. It’s true that periods are normal, and it’s true that some people experience such severe symptoms that they sometimes need to call off. But I think OP should reconsider the Sisyphean pursuit of single handedly forcing a major cultural shift in her office. She’ll spend all her capital on period education, and she’ll become Jane With The Bad Period.

      When OP says “I’m sick with my period,” that could mean anything. Diarrhea is a common period symptom! To me, if OP said “I was sick with my period so I was out yesterday,” I would personally think maybe she had bad diarrhea. And I don’t want to hear that! From anyone! For any reason!

      I don’t give details when I’m sick, and I generally don’t want to hear details from anyone else, either. I think it would be fine to say something general like a cold, migraine, or if you insist, “a stomach bug.”

      **OP is so focused on assuming she’s the victim of sexism that she doesn’t consider how announcing her period symptoms could affect other people in the office. She says her office is mostly male. Maybe another woman made the complaint. Maybe she just doesn’t like hearing about other people’s bodily functions. Maybe men in the office have asked why this other woman never calls off for her period, and she wants OP to stop bringing it up. Maybe someone in the office is a trans man who experiences gender dysphoria related to his period, and OP mentioning her period causes him distress. There’s a lot of possible explanations that OP can’t be aware of.

      I’m a Millennial.

      1. Clogerati*

        I agree with you completely! I said upthread that I’ve never had to call out of work because of period symptoms, and I’m not aware of any menstruating coworker who has. If someone suddenly started calling out and citing their period as a reason I would be able to make an assumption as to the reason why, but I know that some of my coworkers would be confused (and probably concerned that this coworker had undiagnosed endometriosis or something). Period symptoms vary so wildly that citing your period while calling out would make people confused about 1) why you were even giving a reason 2) why the reason is one that several of our coworkers deal with on a monthly basis and do not need to call out for. Periods are extremely normalized at my workplace (we had a shared heating pad for a while and we have tampons everywhere despite having a primarily non-menstruating office, hell I had my thinx referral code on the bulletin board for a while) but you’d still get a confused look if you called out by saying “hey I’m on my period. I’m not coming in.”

    33. Something Clever*

      I’m an older Gen-X lady. I am pretty frank most of the time, but I’m turned off by the OP having a social agenda behind her oversharing. “I’m taking sick leave because of my period” is TMI. I don’t need to know why she is taking a sick day, or what is behind her headaches, etc.

      And there will always be that coworker who will be resentful that OP is using her period, a normal, healthy, recurring bodily function, as a medical condition. These are the same people who think pregnant women shouldn’t have preferential treatment when it comes to seating on the subway. Better to just say you don’t feel well or are taking a sick day, than potentially fostering resentment about this.

      I will discuss periods with trusted friends and coworkers. I personally would rather not discuss my menstrual issues with a large group of male and female coworkers. Yet I will make no bones about feeling hot, as I blame peri menopause. Is this contradictory?

      As someone else said, the line is about bodily fluids. When people have described the phlegm they are hacking up, the color of their boogers, the consistency of their feces, I get grossed out. I also feel kinda faint when my mother describes a nurse poking around for a good vein when she goes for dialysis. YMMV.

    34. JamieG*

      Agreed on all counts. I used to work with someone who would write things like “I went out to eat last night at this place and I think I picked up something from the food. In the middle of the night I had stomach cramps and had to get up…” blah blah blah. I don’t care! I just need to know you’re not coming in.

    35. Arlene*

      Why do you even give your team a reason? Only one that needs one is your boss. I do not tell anyone but my boss if I have to take a sick day.

    36. CoveredInBees*

      Same. I’m also an elder millennial and unless you’re warning someone you’ve worked with that they might get sick too, I don’t need to hear the details. Especially if it involves bodily fluids or body parts generally covered by underwear.

      I used to carry a (wrapped) tampon to the bathroom in my hand, no special purses or sliding it up my sleeve. No one ever cared or if they did, they said nothing. That’s normalizing enough for me.

    37. Circe*

      Elder millennial woman here, and here’s my take:
      – normalize not providing details for when you take sick/personal leave.
      – normalize the fact that periods are a reason that your employees may need sick leave.
      – normalize that period products are like toilet paper and first aid kits in that employees need them at work to get through the day.

    38. Greige*

      Same, same, same.

      And I wholeheartedly agree with everything Alison said about normalizing not giving a reason. Whether or not you can wrap your head around or agree with my decisions should have no bearing on my ability to take care of myself.

    39. AnotherHRlady*

      GenXer – 49 YO. I think calling out your “period” specifically is TMI. I would leave it as “I’m not feeling well”.
      Normalizing this normal bodily function is good, but not in a professional setting, because of the said potential professional ramifications.

    40. OhNoYouDidn't*

      Agree. Seems as if OP is giving unnecessary info just to push an agenda. There is a time and place. This isn’t it.

    41. Cs*

      I’m a late 20s cis woman, from an Asian (ie more conservative) country. I agree that periods probably shouldn’t be mentioned ad verbatim at work, and would love to see a workplace where I don’t have to give reasons for taking a day off. But if you do have to give a reason, I think it’s mostly about how you communicate it in a way that people can understand.

      My boyfriend and I used to work together, and he has really bad eczema – the kind that can keep him awake at night. However, things like ‘skin rash’, ‘eczema’ and ‘can’t sleep aren’t things people are socialised to take seriously, so he just flipped his communication to get to the heart of the problem: he would say ‘I had a severe allergic reaction yesterday and need to take the day off’. That was usually enough for colleagues to understand his situation without giving too much detail.

      For periods, headaches and fatigue, can it be about a recurring medical issues instead? Periods aren’t a medical issue, but severe period symptoms that affect your work are.

    42. Lorax*

      Agreed! I’m a mid-Millennial (32), politically progressive, cis woman, and I’d definitely prefer that we normalize not giving reasons for our time off. The thing is, while it’s great that this letter writer feels free to give this kind of information as an explanation for taking time off, for a lot of people, it’s *not* safe to give their reasons for needing time off: it’s too private, too sensitive, too upsetting, exposes them to the risk of discrimination or to unkindness, or could lose them their job. Those folks shouldn’t have to be the only ones fighting for more medical privacy in the workplace and for a culture of inherent employer trust. They shouldn’t feel pressured to give more information than they’re comfortable with, even inadvertently. To that end, I’d like to see us all normalizing privacy so that the people who need it aren’t the only ones asking for it.

    43. Bluebird*

      I’m uncomfortable with the concept of “normalizing, but not at work.” Americans spend about a third of our lives at work. Considering that, if we want to make any significant social change, the only way to do so is by doing it at work. There’s just not enough time spent elsewhere.

      1. Message in a Bottle*

        I agree. Work or school is the one place you can feel pressure to tough it out and stay. For any illness.

        Normalizing it other places seems less necessary because honestly, those places don’t pay you to be there and you can leave if you don’t feel well without any penalty.

    44. Sara*

      Agreed. Unless there is an actual REASON you need to discuss your period at work (i.e. “Jenna, would you happen to have a tampon I could borrow, as I forgot to bring one” or letting the custodial staff know that the bathroom is out of necessary supplies, if they are provided), I feel like it’s an overshare. But I agree this is a general thing about workplace illnesses, not specific to periods. I don’t need to know symptoms unless there is a specific reason (i.e. “I have a headache, could we do this meeting with the lights out” or something.)

    45. ShakeYourGrooveThang*

      Also an elder Millennial, and a woman, and I work in tech – and I don’t need or want to know details of why someone’s out sick. It would be a snowy day in hell before I’d explicitly say that I was out of work for anything having to do with menstruation or any other situation involving bathrooms and/or fluids being expelled from my body.

      I have an older GenX coworker with a chronic medical condition who way overshares about his health. It makes me uncomfortable because he gets into such detail – it’s a sort of forced intimacy that feels out of place in any setting but especially in the workplace.

    46. Erin*

      From a GenX female perspective: +1 to normalizing periods and +1 to simply saying “I needed to take a sick day” instead of specifying what ailment anyone is out with when they are sick.

    47. Nicole Stamas*

      I mostly agree, though I think it’s okay to mention at work when it’s relevant. Like, you should be able to ask a coworker for a tampon if you need it without getting grief from anybody.

    48. Snailing*

      Agreed about not sharing specifics about illness at work, for all the reasons Alison names above. But I do think periods shouldn’t be a big deal at work – for example, I’d feel no shame asking a coworker if they had a spare tampon and I don’t think that should be taboo. (Also a millennial, right in the middle at age 31.)

    49. ReMote ReLiable ReCeptionist*

      I’m solidly Millennial and yes, exactly. In fact, I think it’s much more important to normalize NOT giving details of why you’re out sick than it is to normalize menstruation, in this specific context. When you volunteer details unnecessarily, you contribute to detailed info being the norm– which means that if other workers don’t want to, because of privacy concerns or to avoid discrimination, they’ll be seen as behaving oddly. Even if I have a completely “socially acceptable” reason for taking sick time, like food poisoning, I only ever say that I’m “not feeling well”. It’s simply the right thing to do to set a workplace norm that protects people with more sensitive/stigmatized issues. “It’s not contagious and I expect to be back Monday” is the absolute maximum info your employer should need.
      That said, if your boss actually asks for/demands details… absolutely tell them you have your period.

    50. GS*

      I’m 31 and get my period and I don’t want anyone at work to know anything about why I am out. If I’m out with like the flu, after a day I might tell my manager that I have the flu because it will be multiple days where I can work.

      I love the idea of normalizing having a period! But the level that I do not want to know anything about the bodily functions of my coworkers is VERY HIGH. Just say you don’t feel well – I’m not your bff I don’t need to know.

    51. Kal*

      I’m a younger millennial who has periods and is very open about talking about it and all sorts of other bodily weirdness – but would not talk about it this way. Like, me and my partner share status updates on my period and on how our bowel movements go and that level of thing, and are totally fine having that discussion as we eat our dinner. I’ve also shared plenty of TMI-type things on online forums or with friends and such, because it does help when we talk about those things and share our knowledge about it, and with my disabilities I often find pockets of people who just don’t understand things I deal with because no one has ever been open about it with them before, and I am happy to be able to help then know more.

      But I wouldn’t talk about it at work unless there was a reason for it, and if I were their coworker, I would probably find OP to be going into TMI. Being open with friends and online always starts with a note that the following may be TMI for them and I’ll shut up if they don’t want to hear it, and tends to start only when I’m either venting about a frustrating health thing or they mention a health thing where I can offer info from my experience. Only adding that an absence was due to a period doesn’t really offer any info, other than to remind people that periods exist, I guess? It doesn’t really help the coworkers know anything about the weird, varied ways that periods effect people or how to better support people they are close to who have periods or anything like that. And getting into the level of detail to do any of that help would be too much with coworkers you aren’t already really close to anyway.

      Plus, while there’s a reason for me to share the level of health info I do with my partner at home, I don’t need to know any of that about my coworker. Its the same as how it would be normal for my partner to come up to me and pull up their shirt and go “see this mole on my back, is it weird or different?” but if my coworker came to me and pulled up their shirt to show me the mole on their back, it would be really, really off-putting and weird.

      And as someone with a disability, I am very, very much a fan of no one ever having to share their health info in order to explain away an absence or day where they’re not performing at their peak. The number of times people wouldn’t lay off me until I went into graphic detail about my IBS or such is far, far too many times (once is already too many). The more people treat it as completely normal that everyone is gonna manage their health the best they can and no one else needs to be the “are you really sick?” police, the better it is for all of us.

  2. Foreign Octopus*

    I do sometimes tell people when my period’s knocked me for six but most of the people I work with are women and, honestly, I don’t think I’d do the same in an office full of men. I suppose that makes OP’s point about needing to normalise periods but I also fall on the side of not overly sharing medical details unless it’s with people I’m comfortable with.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I think I would refrain from saying that it’s period-related because of all the men in the office. It’s not normalized even if it should be. I would also be concerned about the optics of people saying you are out sick without the context of it being period-related because yeah, that happens monthly. But by now most people know why so maybe they will all just get it? But even if they don’t…is that okay?
      46 yo cis woman

      1. Van Wilder*

        Yeah, I would also be concerned about feeding into some ancient stereotype that women are unreliable because BLOOD and PERIODS and HYSTERIA. I don’t think we’re yet in a place where this information would do more good than harm.

        1. Mimi Me*

          Especially since so many of us still feel like we can’t carry sanitary products without having to hide them from sight – you know, because somebody might think that we have our period.

          Frankly what I’d love to see normalized is people not asking personal questions about other people’s bodies. Imagine a world where nobody commented on the weight, looks, sicknesses, disabilities, or hair. How nice would that be?

          1. Larz*

            This is my tiny way of fighting back — carrying a tampon or pad in my hand as I walk to the restroom, rather than taking a whole purse or hiding it up my sleeve (which I used to do!!). If people notice, fine; if they call it out, they’re the ones being weird!

      2. Reluctant Manager*

        I’ve worked with almost exclusively women my whole career and it woukd cone across as really odd to discuss your period at work. That would hold true for diarrhea too but honestly to a lesser extent. 44yo cis woman.

    2. OyHiOh*

      The one time I told my boss I needed a sick day because of pain associated with periods, I relied on the tried and true “female issues” trope. I would have preferred to just say I needed a sick day, except that in the middle of a pandemic, I wanted him to know I hadn’t been contagious in the office.

      1. quill*

        Oh, I have used the “It’s DEFINITELY not contagious” for concerns after I have had period related symptoms that could easily have been mistaken for a stomach bug. My then manager (female) got it without further explanation but let me know that if it got worse I could go home anyway.

      2. Hcat1978*

        While I do think menstruation is nothing to hide, I also find the letter writer’s tactics a bit attention seeking.

  3. Dust Bunny*

    (Woman here) Just say you’re not feeling well. I get that you want to normalize it but a) in general it’s over-disclosure of medical information, which does *not* need to be normalized/encouraged and b) it’s unnecessary and to me it seems like you’re weirdly eager to mention your period?

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Also, I sort of feel like this might underscore the stereotype of women + bleeding = weak and fragile, which is definitely not where we want to go. It’s probably not a huge risk unless your coworkers are uncommonly Victorian, but most women I know would also like to refute the idea that menstruation is a debilitating “condition” that needs special handling and makes us unfit for certain jobs. (And I know it can be–PMS used to make me borderline-suicidal–but in general it’s a view we’ve tried hard to extinguish.)

      1. Cj*

        Exactly. What OP is actually normalizing is the idea that women are going to be out sick for a half a day to two days when they have their period. Which is the case for some, but certainly not all, women. It give credence to the idea that you shouldn’t hire women because they will be out sick at least once a month.

        1. Van Wilder*

          Yes this. And speaking of PMS, do you want your male coworkers knowing your cycle and wonder if the reason you’re getting so mad about (insert annoying or offensive thing here) is hormones?

          1. sn*

            I totally agree – you’re just asking for someone to bring the “feminine cycle” into other conversations. Shouldn’t happen, but it will happen. I guarantee it.

            1. Unkempt Flatware*

              I mean, it happened in Pawnee so it can happen anywhere. Congressmen Miltons are everywhere.

          2. lizcase*

            I had a male coworker comment on my emotional stability after I went on medication that took away my periods (I’m one of those who has severe symptoms
            with my periods), and asked if I was doing therapy. It surprised me, and then I had to wonder how bad it was if he noticed at work (turns out: very bad. .
            He hadn’t associated it with a menstrual cycle because my cycle was/is erratic.

        2. Sara*

          Yup. Obviously some people do have severe symptoms associated with their period (which hopefully they are working with a doctor on, although I know also that medical professionals can be less than helpful with these issues.) But it’s definitely not a regular thing where all or most women will regularly miss work due to period-related issues!

      2. Gray Lady*

        Same (43 yr old cis woman here). I am all for normalizing periods in the sense that half the population has them, we should not feel the need to hide sanitary items or be secretive about asking if anyone has extras. In other words, things that support menstruation as a normal, everyday part of regular life. If sick leave is the only time periods are being discussed openly in the office, then that is not normalizing menstruation, it’s reinforcing the antiquated notion that periods are disruptive and make women less able to function.

        1. Kate*

          Yes, thank you.

          There’s no need to hide tampons or pads, we also don’t hide toilet paper. But I also would never announce at work that I am having runny poos and need to go home for the rest of the day in an effort to “normalize” bodily functions. If I don’t want work entering my personal realm (and I don’t), I don’t announce to work personal details about my body.

      3. jenny*

        This feels too far in the wrong direction – the stereotype is a problem but people who are in pain and taking the time and rest they need aren’t the ones perpetuating it.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          There is still no reason to share that much information, about any physical condition.

        2. Emilia Bedelia*

          OP taking time off to care for herself is not the issue here. The OP is choosing to bring up her period and make a point of mentioning it as a matter of principle.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        To be clear: I am completely OK with needing to miss work because your period is kicking your butt, I just think that sharing that as the reason is ill-advised and inappropriate at work on the basis that “I’m out sick” should be enough information.

        1. Elsajeni*

          Oddly enough, I actually think sharing more detail would counteract this effect — I don’t think you should share more detail, really, the question of oversharing/TMI is still an issue, but if you feel that you have to explain why you’re out, describing the symptom (cramps, fatigue, migraine, whatever) is both more relevant and less likely to give the impression that just “having a period” is a debilitating condition, even if you still end the explanation with “… because of my period.”

          1. quill*

            I would probably do this in a more social setting than a work one still, though.

            Full disclosure I have a less than functional entire reproductive tract, and it’s probably more beneficial for me, when it does act up, to ask for time off without as much explanation (beyond ‘not contagious’) given the other reasons I might be out with, say, debilitating pain are also somewhat stigmatized / could easily invite speculation about how “worthy” I am due to gender, appearance, disability stigma.

      5. Well...*

        I had the same immediate resistance to this. I’m not super pumped about the idea of my coworkers making periods a cool conversation topic for work, because 1) I am a cis woman in a male-dominated workplace and I feel like it will reflect on me (which is real even if it is BS, many women both cis and trans don’t have periods!) and 2) I don’t want to invite people to talk about periods with me. Academia has terrible boundaries in general around what’s cool to talk about at work, and I just don’t want to add this to the list of things I have to field questions about.

        In principle I like the idea of removing shame around body functions, but also like… I wish my body and the bodies of other women were talked about less at work, not more.

        I’m early thirties, mid-millennial.

      6. GothicBee*

        This is a really good point. I think being vague when you’re out sick actually helps people who menstruate more than anything because it normalizes the idea that you can be out without giving a specific reason. It has the added effect of helping anyone who needs to be out sick for reasons that some people think aren’t good enough (e.g., headaches, migraines, etc.).

      7. CoveredInBees*

        Yes. Also, as Allison points out, if you tell this to someone who has experienced periods but never that extreme, you can come up against unnecessary judgment. Like when people talk about having “a bad headache” to my friend whose migraines incapacitated her for at least a day at a time.

      8. Mouse*

        Oh, me too! It was like all my thinking would go sideways and I’d be completely unmoored and everything was wrong and I’d have to lie perfectly still because I knew that if I got up I’d hurt myself and then a few days later I’d start bleeding and the crazy would fade away to be replaced by blinding migraines and insert-bathroom-TMI-here and then I’d have a few weeks or months or normalcy (because of course it was irregular and completely unpredictable when it’d arrive).

        It’s gotten a lot better in the last couple years; I’m no longer the literal personification of the centuries of sexist reasons that women do not belong in the workplace, I just get the physical symptoms now, but ugh.

        Women have fought so hard to be allowed into the workplace in spite of our “feminine problems” and the ground under our feet isn’t solid, it’s not safe to undermine that work.

        — Elder millenial / young gen-x

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*


      When I had strep, I didn’t want to broadcast it to the office because my coworkers freak out at the slightest mention of a germ. I didn’t want to be hassled about something I couldn’t help but I certainly wasn’t ashamed.

      So I said I was out sick and left it at that. That’s the only detail that matters. “I’m sick.”

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        I had something similar when I had an ear infection last summer. I figured all anyone needed to know was that I was too sick to work that day, it wasn’t anything that could be COVID, and I should be able to work the following day.

        I wouldn’t say I was ashamed — the thought was more “this might be TMI or a hassle to explain, so…I’ll just skip that part!”

        (Early 30s, female)

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            Yup. So those three things were all I said. The ear infection part, I figured wasn’t necessary.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      You know what’s funny? I find something like, “I’m leaving early– wicked cramps” less weird than, “I have my period.” I don’t know why. I have said the former to friends at work or co-workers I trust, never to my boss.

      But even so, I agree, it’s not something I share widely, even if it’s not something to hide. Just like I would say I’m unwell rather than describing my stomach cramps. I do, however, try to differentiate between “feeling ill and going back to sleep” and “feeling uncomfortable so working from the sofa with my heating pad.”

      This is timely for me. I was working in a coffee shop and had to bolt home because the cramps hit me HARD. Had I been mid-meeting, I would have made up an excuse to end it so I could get home.

      1. Pep*

        I agree with you…because having a period doesn’t necessarily mean you are sick, having cramps is a relevant symptom.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Yes, that’s it! My period isn’t a problem in any way, but the cramps sure are. And they pass or lessen in severity (for me, anyway), so it’s not 5 straight days of discomfort and pain and I wouldn’t want someone to associate my period with inability to work at all.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I mean, men can get gut cramps so at least there is a miserable unisex option there.

        (Also, I am eternally grateful that I only get mild, short-duration cramps. They’re still enough to sort of spoil my day, but at least they’re not “curled into a ball around a hot water bottle”.)

      3. Cat Tree*

        I guess it’s because of my IBS, but I don’t automatically associate cramps with periods. I occasionally get mild cramps during my period, but they’re nothing compared to the IBS cramps I can get any time.

      4. JokeyJules*

        same! millenial/gen Z cusp, and i don’t have any issue saying i have cramps, but saying explicitly that i have my period feels off. i can’t place my finger on exactly why.

        1. NotJane*

          If I had to take a guess, I’d say it’s because “cramps” have become a sort of euphemism for “period”. Kind of like how “stomach bug” is a stand-in for all manner of gastrointestinal illness. People will connect the dots and likely appreciate being spared the gory details.

          I don’t think it’s so much about “normalizing” periods – to me, that’s more along the lines of men being able to buy tampons for the women in their lives without feeling embarrassed, for example – as it is that, as a society, we’ve decided it’s impolite to share the details of our various bodily functions.

      5. Ace in the Hole*

        Agreed. You’re not out sick because of a period… you’re out sick because of whatever symptoms the period came with. It’s not like bleeding is a reason to stay home by itself, that’s what hygiene products are fore!

        Presumably LW goes to work most period days and only stays home if there’s a specific symptom (cramps, headaches, GI issues, whatever) that make her feel unwell. So if she’s going to give a reason for being sick, much better to give the actual symptom instead of generalizing it to “periods.” Otherwise it gives the impression that women can’t work normally during their periods, which is a problem in its own right.

        1. Tau*

          It’s not like bleeding is a reason to stay home by itself, that’s what hygiene products are fore!

          I have actually had bleeding so bad I couldn’t leave the house (because I’d bleed through tampon + pad in under ten minutes) but if you’re experiencing that chances are you have other problems… in my case it was fibroids.

          Back then, I told my boss that I was having health problems and asked him for permission to WFH at short notice if necessary. I also gave him a heads up that I might need to be out for doctors appointments and would likely need to be off for surgery in a few months’ time. The only detail I went into was that I was badly anemic, since I figured it was going to be fairly obvious I struggled with even minor physical exertion. The word “period” did not cross my lips.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            Oof, that sounds awful. I hope you’re doing better now!

            You’re right… if it’s that excessive, bleeding certainly can be a reason to stay home. But if it’s bad enough to make someone stay home from work it also warrants medical attention.

            1. Tau*

              I am, thankfully! It was awful at the time, and I’m still wary (especially because family predisposition + the fact that this actually happened to me twice means there’s a good chance the problem will recur) but everything’s been fine in the coming up on three years since my last surgery. Fingers crossed!

              But yeah – that level of blood loss really isn’t something your body can sustain, as the ever-worsening anemia proved pretty thoroughly :S. Definitely not a normal period issue, anyone who’s bleeding that heavily should probably see a doctor stat.

    4. Amy*

      I wonder if you want to invite too many people to think on your period problems. I’ve had terrible cramps over the years (to the point, when I was 8cm dilated with my first baby, I said “oh this is it? I can do this on my head”) and are you looking for advice? My first thought goes to – have you discussed options with the doctor? IUD? One period a year through use of the pill and skipping the last week?

      Do you want your colleagues thinking about this? Possibly second-guessing your approach? My mind went there almost instantly. And personally, I wouldn’t like how it opens the door to that line of thinking.

      I’m an old millennial

      1. Cat Tree*

        I think this is a good point in general. There is a cultural narrative that periods are inherently terrible. I trust OP to handle her own health, but I’ve had plenty of friends who suffered needlessly either because their doctor was dismissive, or because they thought their terrible periods were normal and didn’t think anything could be done.

    5. Cat Tree*

      I think there are better ways to normalize it by just living your life. For example, I don’t go to great lengths to hide a pad that I’m carrying to the bathroom and I don’t jump to hide it if someone happens to see it in my purse. I try to treat menstrual products as no different than other health care products.

      I also have IBS and I try to do the same with medications for diarrhea or constipation. If I don’t need to hide my Tums, I don’t need to hide my Pepto either. But I still don’t really talk about it because it’s a health thing and some people don’t like to hear about anything medical.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I think there’s an argument for just living your life, but it should be possible to mention comfortably and without a fuss *when there’s an actual reason for mentioning it*. The problem I see in LW’s situation is that it really is literally TMI… as in, it is information that the recipients neither need nor want. I don’t care whether you’re out because you have your period or because you have a cold or because you pulled a muscle — it genuinely isn’t a matter of squeamishness for me, it’s a matter of *not my business*.

          But I do think it’s worth normalizing period references, whether visual or verbal, in ways which *do* have actual communication purposes and aren’t just existent in order to rub people’s faces in the word ‘period’ until they get used to it. If someone asks you what’s the matter when you wince, you should be able to say, “just period cramps, no big deal,” even at the office. (And yes, I would say that rather than “just cramps,” at least in a mixed-gender group, because in my experience men often misinterpret the meaning of “cramps” and might be more concerned than warranted.)

          But in the cases the LW described, I really don’t need to know what they’re going home for, and I didn’t ask. I’d really rather go with Alison’s recommendation of normalizing NOT telling anybody what you went home for, whether that’s a frequently-squicky topic or not. It doesn’t interest me and it irritates me because it helps set expectations that I’ll have to tell people when I leave what exactly the problem is… and I would rather not. That’s not my team’s business, just as when one of my team has to go home, their reason isn’t my business.

  4. Enough*

    Female, 66 (solidly boomer). Don’t need or want or really care why you are sick. Just let me know you are not available.

    1. Hummer on the Hill*

      Female, age 68. Used to manage. I agree, never wanted details, because no matter the reason, it’s private medical info. Men, women, same rule applied. Just wanted a general idea of when they’d return.

    2. TvH*

      Female, 64, also boomer. It is no one’s business why I’m not feeling well. And I don’t need to know your personal business to that extent. It seems invasive to me.

    3. Persephone Mongoose*

      I’m non-binary/AFAB and 29 — totally agree. I would much rather us normalize not needing to go into detail about why we’re not available or need to take time off than discussion periods in the workplace.

    4. MtnLaurel*

      Female Gen X. I don’t want to hear details of any of it…just I’m not well is fine, male or female.

      1. HR Jeanne*

        Another female Gen X. I also would like to normalize taking time without feeling the need to give a reason or description. I think women especially feel like we need to have an explanation to justify that we need time off. I manage people and trust that when my employees ask for time off, they need it. I don’t need details and just hope they are feeling better soon.

    5. Chauncy Gardener*

      Female, 58. I don’t want to know (unless you want to tell me because you may need some kind of future accommodation) and I never want to tell what I might be sick with.

    6. CJM*

      I’m in my 60s too (retired now), and I used to email my boss about once a quarter to say only “I’m taking a sick day today.” Never a problem.

      One woman on my team (roughly my age) was chronically absent and tended to share details. I think she was trying to prove that she had valid reasons to be out. One day she sent four emails to update everyone on a medical issue. She described her “female problems,” as she called them, in detail. Each update was more breathtakingly gross. (I’ll spare you.) It was an epic example of oversharing. I’m a woman who’s gone through that stuff too, but I’d rather not share it or have it shared with me by my colleagues. “I’m taking a sick day today” is all I need to hear.

    7. Sara without an H*

      Female, 67, another late boomer. I managed for 35+ years before hanging up my cardigan and sensible shoes and retiring from libraries.

      What I’d really like to see normalized is the idea that adults don’t have to come up with “reasons” to take the leave that’s part of their compensation packages. As in: “I don’t feel well, so I won’t be in today.” “Fine, take care of yourself, let me know when you think you’ll be back.” Voice messages are fine, btw.

      And I wouldn’t limit that to sick leave:
      Lydia: “I need Tuesday off. Kitty will cover my hours on the service desk.”
      Me: “OK, fine, see you on Wednesday.”
      That Lydia has a rendez-vous with Mr. Wickham is nothing I need or want to know.

      As a manager, I was responsible for making sure that work got done and that all service points were covered. I appreciated advance notice of absences when possible, but I didn’t need, and definitely didn’t want, all the details about why employees needed to be off.

  5. pretzelgirl*

    Elder Millennial- I personally would not share if I was taking a sick day due to my period. It’s just my personal preference. But I also wouldn’t care if someone said they were.

    But I agree, I think we just need to move to a place in society where we can just say “I am sick, taking the day off”.

    1. LunaLena*

      Older millennial here as well, and I totally agree with this. I wouldn’t mention it in the same way I wouldn’t share details of food poisoning – for one thing, you never know if someone in the office is extremely uncomfortable with even the mere mention of blood – but I’m also fairly immune to talk of body fluids and wouldn’t care if someone else did.

      Discussing periods openly is pretty normal amongst my very mixed group of friends and has been for well over a decade, and I heartily approve of it being destigmatized in general. I just don’t see that it’s need-to-know information for everyone in the workplace.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I’d share food poisoning info if I had gotten it from a restaurant, just as a means of warning others about the place. But I wouldn’t share something like, “I barfed up whole chunks of romaine lettuce behind a bowling alley.” Well, unless it was funny, and then the funny part probably is the context.

    2. matcha123*

      Geriatric millennial checking in. I have terrible cramping, vomiting, fatigue, and more with my period. I’m not looking to announce that to anyone in my office. If I need to take time off early or the day off, I say that I’m not feeling well. And I reassure those in my area that it’s not a contagious cold. Especially during flu season I don’t want them to worry about catching something.
      No one has taken it the wrong way.
      In Japan women can take a menstrual day once a month, and I have taken it. I think I’d rather normalize other women understanding that everyone’s shark week is different. Just because Sarah’s is a light three days with no pain, doesn’t mean I’m lying when I’m on the floor crying on day two of seven.

  6. Daisy-dog*

    I’m wondering why you need to tell your entire team that you are out at all? When I am sick, I tell my manager. If there is a deadline that I can’t meet, we cover that together. My manager will go to the team and explain the situation and proposed solution.

    1. Person*

      For me, the question would be who is it going to affect that I am gone and to let those people know. Usually that would be my team because we tend to have various meeting or just general plans to talk things over during the day but depending on what I have planned that day, my manager might not always know who all to notify, so I would probably just tell everyone myself.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        I would certainly add an out-of-office message that says that I am out (no reason given). Overall, if I feel crummy enough to not work, I don’t feel well enough to re-do my calendar for the day.

    2. Green great dragon*

      Depends how you work. I’d email my team* asking Jerome to cover the 10.00 meeting, tell Kafka that I want to discuss his draft before it goes out so can he let people know it’ll be late, and the other Jerome to please chase up Montgomery for the missing figures. My boss would get cc’d, but I wouldn’t expect her to *do* anything except be available to the team.

      * assuming sufficiently mild illness of course.

    3. JB*

      It depends on how the team works. At my job if I’m going to be out it’s definitely expected that I inform my direct coworker myself – we are a two-person team and our supervisor manages three related teams; we manage our task load between ourselves with her input. She wouldn’t have any idea on a daily level what my coworker might need to cover for me.

    4. Simply the best*

      I think that can really just depend on office culture. Where I work nobody specifically tells their manager they’re taking a day off. We all just send an all staff email that says we’re going to be out that day. We have a staff of 12 and our work is often pretty collaborative, so it is helpful to know when someone won’t be coming in. Especially right now while everybody’s working from home and I can’t just see they’re not in the office.

    5. Anyhow*

      Female, 57- I also agree that it’s strange to me that you are communicating this to your **entire** team. When I have to be out I contact my immediate manger – so just one person. Furthermore, I never tell them why. I just say something along the lines of, “I can’t come in today so I’m taking a sick day.” Period. That’s it.

      Come to think of it, if someone whom I don’t manage were telling me a) that they were missing work and b) giving unsolicited medical reasons why, I would think that person was strange and attention-seeking.

    6. ecnaseener*

      Depends on the team. In my office (less than 10 people) we do let everyone know, because a significant part of our work is fielding phone/email questions which are sometimes time-sensitive. If someone needs help by the end of the day with a question in Jane’s area, I need to know if Jane’s out sick!

  7. Jules the 3rd*

    Early 50s, woman in tech. I would not use ‘period’ at work, though I have no problem with it in social situations. I am firmly in the ‘not about areas usually covered by underwear’.

    I do not want to think about genitalia at work. It’s not my business.

      1. Blue Eagle*

        I would go one step further and say anything coming out of any orifice. I don’t want to hear about your throwing up either.

        1. Green great dragon*

          I think it’s both. Bodily fluids/shedding of things, anything about bits that go in underwear.

          Though to be honest I have a very low threshold and refuse to listen. I still don’t really know what my boss did to his ankle the other day, though I believe all the rest of the team knows exactly what he did and the consequences of same.

        2. Astrid*

          Well, I was drinking while reading this and I laughed so hard water came out through my nose. Sorry for the overshare :)

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          Enh, I’m a parent, with multiple cats and a dog. Throwing up does not bother me in a work conversation. “I’m taking the morning off because the kid was throwing up all night” would not bother me.
          “I’m taking the morning off because the kid had diarrhea” is more than I want to know.

          I think… “I’m taking the morning off because *I* was throwing up all night” might… be bordering on more than I want to know. So maybe the line is *that person’s* orifices.

          And it’s normal that the line would vary among different people, so I’d lean towards not sharing.

    1. an infinite number of monkeys*

      52 cis F. This is kind of where I land, too. I’d be fine with “I’m out due to a stomach bug” (not that it’s any of my business!) but I don’t want to hear about vomiting or diarrhea. (Once a man I worked with said, “I really need to be no more than 30 seconds away from a bathroom today” and I really didn’t want that mental image!)

      Of course, by that logic, it ought to be fine to mention your period in general terms, as long as you’re not talking specifics, like bleeding all over everything or suffering painful cramps – or even a headache. Having a period should not, in and of itself, be TMI – but I do notice a knee-jerk “that’s TMI” reaction in myself, which is illogical.

      I do agree with commenters who are concerned that citing your period as a reason you need to take off work feeds into harmful stereotypes.

  8. Ana Gram*

    I just stick with “I wasn’t feeling well.” I’m an adult in a professional job and I don’t need to explain to my boss precisely how ill I am so they can decide if I can use sick leave or not. If you do need to provide an explanation, heck yeah, tell them the truth…in excruciating detail! But the whole team? Nah. Just say you were out sick.

  9. Kitty Cathleen*

    I almost always stick with a generic “not feeling well” or “under the weather”, unless I’m sick mid-day and need to leave early. I’ll usually be more specific then: “upset stomach”, “migraine”, but no more detail than that. Periods shouldn’t be stigmatized, but I also don’t want to share personal details about my health when I can avoid it. Doesn’t matter if it’s my period, food poisoning, or a mental health day. I don’t particularly care to share that much detail with my coworkers. For reference, I’m in my mid 30s.

  10. Mental Lentil*

    Older male here. Periods happen. And there are a lot of different things that happen as a result and every woman’s experience is different. I don’t have a problem with hearing it.

    It’s time to normalize normal bodily functions. (FWIW, periods are normal, diarrhea isn’t.)

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Point taken, but disease isn’t a normal condition. On the other hand, if someone said “my IBS is flaring up” or “I’m having celiac issues” I’m okay with that.

        1. Junebug*

          Right, but if you need to go home because of your period, something’s wrong. Common, but not normal. Periods shouldn’t cause pain or other distress.

          1. Quint*

            I am not a doctor but it is more than clear from all the comments today that painful periods (whether it’s occasionally or frequently) is indeed the norm for many people who have periods.

            1. JM60*

              It’s hard to use that as a metric for determining how common something is. People who have more painful periods may be more likely to come to the comments and tell people they have painful periods than those who don’t might announce that they don’t.

              Note: I’m not saying painful periods aren’t common; only that using comments to measure how common they are isn’t a good method because there may be a selection bias.

            2. ecnaseener*

              That is a function of under-diagnosing/treating disorders that cause severe menstrual symptoms. Non-disordered menstruation doesn’t come with severe symptoms after puberty. (The under-diagnosis is partly because of misconceptions that severe symptoms are normal!)

            3. Kal*

              Painful periods are the norm for many people (like me), but so is explosive diarrhea as part of IBS the norm for many people (like me!) – which is the point of the thread here. Just because it may be the norm for some or even a lot of people, that doesn’t mean it is actually normal, nor that that should be the metric for deciding what is work appropriate conversation.

              There are a lot of things that are normal to me that would get me funny looks if I mention them to people who aren’t close enough to really know my situation. For a fun example: did you know that while skin just falling off and leaving bleeding sores is normal to me, but it isn’t, in fact, normal to most people and most coworkers would not want to hear me talking about my skin falling off.

              This is why the term “normal” can be a rather unhelpfully non-specific word in these sorts of situations.

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        I think that’s a bit nitpicky. Overall, it’s normal for people with uteri to have periods, though some people have periods that aren’t standard/average.

        I’m sorry you’re having period issues. That really sucks.

      1. quill*

        Your period being the time when you either cannot poop or must do so every hour on the hour is more suited to say, stand up than a stand up meeting.

    1. Cat Tree*

      I get your point, but periods debilitating enough to take a sick day aren’t “normal” either.

  11. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m a manager, and I’m Gen X.

    Anything that mentions bodily fluids is where I draw the line.

    “I have the flu” is fine. “I’ve been vomiting and having diarrhea since 4 AM” is not.

    My sister’s paralegal describing the consistency of her menstrual flow in an email to partners was definitely not okay.

    I’m fully supportive of destigmatizing menstrual cycles, but your coworkers don’t need that many specifics. Someone is out sick. The why doesn’t matter.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Agree with this. Even “I am experiencing some digestive issues” doesn’t bother me because it’s vague and doesn’t mention a specific bodily fluid.

      I also agree with Alison that we should be normalizing not giving reasons for being out, though I would caveat that with we are still in a pandemic so if you have potential covid symptoms, that is fair to mention.

    2. cubone*

      This isn’t critical of your comment but I feel like there needs to be a scale of what we’re talking about because “I have my period” and “consistency of menstrual flow” are not next to each other on the scale in my head! There’s A LOT of room in between (same with “I have the flu” and “I’ve had diarrhea for 12 hours”).

      Here is my attempt, from the most vague to the most detailed:
      “I’m out sick” (vague)
      “I have cramps” / “I have a stomach flu” (vague but hinting at a specific)
      “I have my period” / “I’m having stomach troubles” (specific)
      “I have a heavy period” / “I have diarrhea” (specific with vague detail)
      “I have a heavy period and need to change my tampon every 10 minutes” / “I’ve been pooping so much I cracked the toilet bowl” (specific with specific detail)

      Personally, I am okay with everything between Vague and Specific, but not anything specific with details (vague or otherwise)

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Agreed – I have often noticed a pattern in these types of discussions where people are like “whoa, I don’t want to hear every last intimate bodily detail of your period!!” when what was actually said was “I have my period”. The word “period” in itself isn’t really TMI, I think. IMO the problem is more that by repeatedly using the same specific terminology to make a point (where it might be more natural to use varied language over time) it’s coming across as making a big deal out of it.

      2. sunny-dee*

        I just don’t see a justification in being specific. Why? What does that benefit anyone?

        1. cubone*

          So you don’t like it if someone says “I have the flu” or “I have a migraine”? That’s just as specific as “I have my period”.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Sunny-dee didn’t say they didn’t like it. They’re asking what the rationale is for doing it.

            My guess as to the answer is – some people think they need to give enough detail to “justify” the sick day. Rightly or wrongly, they expect “I’m taking a sick day” to raise suspicion or judgment.

            Another guess: they’re just in the habit of sharing a certain amount of detail bc that feels more sociable than being vague. They don’t want to come off as cold or whatever.

            (I was born in 1997, but the guesses above apply to a specific coworker who’s about 10 years older, so squarely mid-millennial.)

    3. Twisted Lion*

      Im with this. I dont need specifics. Normalizing periods is great but maybe not at work.

    4. Assistant to the Stars*

      38 and female – anything about body fluids is my line. I do not want to hear about it. I work with mostly women and I would find it incredibly jarring to hear someone say anything about their period in a professional setting.

      1. meyer lemon*

        But just saying “I have my period” isn’t any more descriptive of bodily fluids than something like “I have an upset stomach” or “I have a cold,” which tend to be pretty socially acceptable, even though fluids are probably going to be involved.

        1. anonymath*

          I disagree. I don’t actually want to hear about vomiting or diarrhea either. “Upset stomach” does not necessarily indicate the exit of fluids from the body. “Vomiting” does and is borderline for me. “Period” does necessarily indicate the exit of fluids from the body. I’d rather hear “I had cramps”.

          Also, I think one thing I don’t like here is that periods don’t necessarily mean you need to miss work! Normalizing talking about periods, ok, but implying that period -> incapacitated/unable to work is not ok. It’s not your period that’s incapacitating you. It’s your cramps, your fatigue, your headache, your migraine. I don’t need my male coworkers seeing a tampon in my bag and thinking that I’m incapacitated, because it’s just not true for me — I have pretty easy periods in general and have had to take meds for cramps like three times in my life (like once a decade).

          1. meyer lemon*

            What I’m saying is that “I have my period” is a pretty broad overview that doesn’t necessarily indicate anything about your individual symptoms. It could also just be used to refer to PMS headache and fatigue, which isn’t fluid-related at all. So I don’t really think there is any reason why it is inherently more graphic than any more socially acceptable descriptions of illness, except that there is a social taboo around it.

            But for what it’s worth, I think in a work context, it’s better to just tell your manager/team what they need to know (how long you think you’ll be out, whether you can work from home, whether you might be contagious).

            1. anonymath*

              I see your point, but still disagree, in that if you aren’t putting out menstruum, you don’t have your period. If your problem is the fatigue or the headache coming from the headache, does it get privileged above fatigue or headache from something else? Why do I need to know what’s happening with your uterus if you are going home with a headache?

              But I am an excessively literal person :) It feels so inaccurate/detailed about the wrong things, like saying “I need to go home because I had too many margaritas last night” rather than “I’m not feeling well, see you tomorrow.”

              1. meyer lemon*

                Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t be inclined to offer up that level of detail at work either! But I do see where the letter writer is coming from, because I think many people are inclined to see the word “period” as more graphic than other standard descriptions of illness/unwellness, just because it’s historically been seen as a particularly embarrassing and taboo subject. Which is funny because “period” is a pretty sterile and euphemistic term anyway.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          This is where I am. I am baffled by people saying that the word “period” is telling people about your bodily fluids but that “i have a cold/the flu” is not. They both *involve* body fluids, but neither actually describes them or mentions them (and being out because of your period could mean being out for any number of non-bodily-fluids reasons, so it’s the listener who is deciding that they’re being told specifically about menstrual blood). And the fact that “I’m out with a flu” isn’t TMI but “I have my period” is–that says a lot about how periods are not normalized and kinda goes to the OP’s point.

          I agree with Alison and others that you don’t need to give a reason at all, and it would be best for everyone if companies doesn’t expect a reason, so we should all work on giving no reason to normalize it. But if “I have a cold” is fine, it doesn’t sit right with me that “I’m out because of my period” isn’t.

          1. anonymath*

            But often enough when I stay out with a cold/flu there aren’t any bodily fluids involved, just extraordinary sinus headaches or fatigue!

            I guess at my workplace all the guys just say “I’m not feeling well” and we never share more info than that, which I’m perfectly happy with.

          2. allathian*

            I think the difference here is that having your period is a normal part of life if you have a uterus. It’s not in itself a reason to take a sick day. But the symptoms caused by the menstrual cycle vary widely, and those symptoms can be debilitating. In a way it’s like pregnancy. Being pregnant is not a reason to take sick leave from work, although in some cases it can be necessary to temporarily change your job description if you’re working with teratogenic chemicals, for example. Also, if you have morning sickness to the point that you’re running to the bathroom every few minutes, you aren’t fit to work.

            Because most women can work even when they’re having their period with minor or no problems, I think it’s better to be a bit more specific about the symptoms that the period is causing that make you unfit for work. That’s why giving cramps, migraine, or fatigue as the reason for a sick day, even when the root cause is your period, would be doing all period-having people a favor. That is, if you can’t just say that you’re feeling unwell and need to take a sick day.

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      the consistency of her menstrual flow in an email…. oh NO no no no no. nooooooooooooo

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Yep. She really wanted everyone to know why she was going home early that day.

        Mission accomplished?

  12. AA's girl*

    I’m 54. For myself, I would not say it was my period, because I would fear that I was giving them a reason to say that once a month, my work would be crappy/I couldn’t be relied upon.

    Conversely, I would fight to the death for the right of anyone to share that information if they wanted to, and the hell with you if you can’t deal with it. So yeah, I have two opinions at once.

    But you got to understand, we Gen-Xers, we’re mortally afraid to say ANYTHING about how we’re feeling, lest we be considered unworthy, so my opinion’s probably not relevant (see what I did there?)

    1. lex talionis*

      Yes to “giving them a reason to say that once a month, my work would be crappy/I couldn’t be relied upon.” I had a boss who when/if he found out one of us had our period would start to track it so he “could be extra nice and understanding “ he thought he was cool. We thought he was a judgmental ass. We started tracking when he came in hungover. He didn’t get it.


    2. Anonymous Hippo*

      I’m an elder millennial, and I have the same dual opinion. I wouldn’t mention it at work because I don’t want it to be used against me, and I’m almost 100% it would be. But I also think it should be normalized. So what I do is ban it from work, but I work to destigmatize in my private life.

    3. Lora*

      I’m about your age, post-menopause, and have been the Mean Boss who tells younger women begging off fieldwork because of periods, this is something you have to figure out for yourself, here are some products I have found helpful (Diva Cups etc) for managing long stints where the only bathroom is a port-a-potty a mile away or when you’re in the clean/BSL-3 room and getting out to get to a restroom is a 20-minute ordeal. A lot of work in my field is physically demanding and there’s no way around it: if you have to be near a bathroom, can’t do the physical work for any reason, you’re going to be widely viewed as unfit for the job. And I’ve seen that happen to men too, where not jumping in and getting your hands dirty is regarded as “not really competent, don’t know what they’re doing, book-smart but no common sense” type of thing.

      I say that as someone whose periods were insanely irregular, veering from “skipped for six months straight and definitely not pregnant” to “soaking two nighttime maxi pads and a giant tampon in 30 minutes for eight weeks before fainting from anemia” in an age when doctors told you that thinking happy thoughts about your womanhood would make your periods better. Somehow, you have to wrangle it so it doesn’t affect your work much.

      The other thing I would worry about is opening the whole can of worms when you find out how many men don’t know how women’s bodies work. Grown adult men with wives and children who think dumb crap like you can somehow just hold it, don’t women have only one hole like a bird’s cloaca, don’t you feel a draft when the egg falls out of your ovary, you just don’t drink enough water, if you eat magically pure food you won’t get a period, etc. People are crappy about “here, take this magic essential oil and cleanse your impure thoughts” whenever any health thing is mentioned out loud, I cannot imagine they’re going to get any better about periods.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        I totally scrapped what I was going to write because this is better.

        Also…normalizing periods to me means keeping period supplies around, preferably at no cost. Saying “I can’t do this because of my period” is stigmatizing, not normalizing. Yes, I understand that people have real medical conditions such as endometriosis, but that is that person’s specific medical condition. It’s not something that happens with every menstruator’s menstrual cycle, so saying “I’ll be out because of my period” is not actually correct anyway. You want a sick day because of cramps or a headache or whatever.

        1. anonymath*

          Alleluia. My period isn’t a problem. I understand that other folks have quite a different situation. That’s fine (well it sucks for them obviously) but it need not be applied to me.

    4. Nobby Nobbs*

      Younger Millennial, woman with periods, male-dominated industry, and all three paragraphs describe my feelings to a T.

    5. The Other GEYN*

      30 years old Millennial and same. Funnily enough, I grew up in a family of medical providers and got so used to “shop talk” growing up that it took me a while to realize that I was significantly less squeamish than the general population.

      IDK where I lean. On one hand, I think it’s important to just be able to say “I don’t feel well” and be able to take a sick day off. On the other hand, I think of the whole “not sharing personal/medical information” at work as more “employers/HR shouldn’t force employees to share personal/medical information” as opposed to a general rule. I dealt with some pretty bad mental health problems over the course of the last year and had to cut back on how much I work (and end up giving an “acceptable, non-medical” reason for it which my boss who is fortunately great was okay with) but there were days where I found it hard to function and it lingers and I wish I could just tell people why instead of putting in mental health effort to give some vague reason and then putting more effort to give a vague answer when people ask me if I’m feeling better.

    6. Jack Straw*

      45YO Gen X woman — This comment encompasses my thoughts to a T.

      I am alllll for normalizing periods (when I was a HS teacher I kept two period kits in my room for students–one in my desk for secret period havers and one in full view of all in the “student supplies” area for the more out period havers), but I’m also *hyper* aware of actively working against stereotypes of women in the workplace.

    7. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Yup. Went looking for this response and knew I’d find it.

      I don’t want to give anyone a reason to be looking at me and making calculations about my menstrual cycle going forward.

      “I feel crappy” or “I’m not able to work from the office today” is plenty.

      1. Quint*

        Also, this might not be very logical or fair but if the LW were my colleague, I would secretly worry that she was making women look “weak” in front of our male colleagues, or something. I might also feel some pressure to show that I am able to work through periods and that they don’t always cause us women to call out sick. No idea how I would “show” that, but this is what would be going through my mind.

  13. Mid 20s Female*

    Normalize not giving a reason! Sick is sick is sick. But that goes double when the reason is related to restroom activity.

  14. sunny-dee*

    I don’t know about generational divides (I’m literally on the line between Gen X and millennial), but I think this is very inappropriate. I personally look at the dividing like somewhere around excretions – not feeling well is fine, diarrhea or vomiting is too much. Hurt my leg is fine – oozing pus is too much.

    This is a personal issue. Normalizing with friends / family – great. Work is not the place for that. Just like you shouldn’t normalize talking about sex, religion, politics, family planning – it’s just not the right venue.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      Agree with the “secretions is too much” sentiment. The moment that anything being shared invokes secretions, that is TMI and not to be shared at work. Unless I am a close friend or your medical professional, I don’t need to know about your urine, poo, vomit, snot, pus, spit, blood etc. — certainly not at work.

  15. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    I wonder if the LW also wants to preemptively let people know it’s her period so that coworkers don’t start wondering about the timing of it behind her back? I mean, if it’s consistently every month, then it’s possible that the coworkers would wonder about it and maybe the LW thinks it’s better to just get ahead of that? That makes sense to me, anyway. And I’m not against period talk at work, if it’s in the general sense, and not in graphic detail. (I’m in my mid-40s, and incidentally just had a discussion about periods and menopause with a coworker this morning – but that was between 2 females! I’m not sure I’d have been as candid with a male coworker!)

    1. Night Owl*

      This was my first thought as well. I generally fall into the camp of giving as little detail as possible to coworkers regarding sick time, but if it were happening every month I would probably feel like I needed to explain it because I’d be afraid my coworkers would think I was slacking off/using too much sick time.

      1. allathian*

        Honestly, if your coworkers are tracking your absences to the point that they’re aware that they occur at approximately 1 month intervals, they don’t have enough things to do and are focusing on irrelevant issues. I certainly have neither the time nor the inclination to track my coworkers’ absences.

        Most people with periods don’t need to take a day off sick every month because of their period, so don’t penalize others for the accommodation you need but most don’t. Needing a day off every month can be a medical accommodation, but it’s neither standard nor normal. You have a medical issue, and it’s one that’s sadly frequently disregarded as unimportant by the medical profession. Saying you need time off because of severe symptoms caused by your period is fine, because that’s specific to you, but saying you need time off because you’re having your period isn’t okay, because about half of the working population has periods and their severity varies a lot.

    2. cubone*

      I explained more in my comment below, but this is exactly why I want to say “period”. It’s recurring but it’s not always long-lasting, so “period” is like a shorthand for covering: “yes, I absolutely can’t work today, but I might be fine tomorrow, but I probably won’t be again in 4 weeks”

      1. Momma Bear*

        I guess I just don’t get why. If someone is sick, I assume it’s short unless they clarify otherwise. One month may be smooth sailing for me and another not, and those specifics are not for other people to speculate about or track. COVID has revealed that a lot of my coworkers have underlying health issues I had no idea about, nor did I need to know about pre-pandemic. Just feels like unnecessary info/oversharing to specify it’s your period.

      2. sunny-dee*

        I don’t get why you need to say period, though. That would also be true for migraines or sore throats or a stomach flu or a lot of other things. You really don’t need to specify unless you’re trying to rub “period” in people’s faces, which just seems pointless.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      First, this may not be happening like clockwork – not all women have a regular cycle.

      Second, it may not always impact work hours. The symptoms could be worst over the weekend or during work hours. And OP said that it is “many months” not “every month”. Some months may not be as bad.

      Finally, I don’t really pay that close attention to other people and I doubt others do either. Maybe if there is a standing monthly meeting that OP moves every month without fail, I would start to question it. But overall, I wouldn’t notice.

  16. Wordnerd*

    I’m 34 and work in an office of primarily women ranging from 25 to 60, and I think this would come off as weird in an office-wide chat just explaining your absence for an afternoon. Definitely just “out” or “out sick” would be enough. Normalizing would be having period supplies out in the bathroom or not insisting that people hide their supplies on their way to the bathroom, or individual managers supporting their staff being out sick because of cramps or fatigue.

    1. KristineB*

      Great distinction between normalizing vs. oversharing. Totally agree with this. Let’s make it normal to carry tampons to the bathroom, and also normal to generalize when calling out sick.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        I dunno — I think that “periods are normal” is a fine thing to support, but “Spencer, specifically, is on her period RIGHT NOW” is not my colleagues’ business (regardless of the sex or gender of those colleagues).

    2. Wine Not Whine*

      Very well put.

      With the added benefit that, if someone wants to know why you’re out or how you’re feeling, they can ask you – which allows you to control what info you give to whom, and when, in a way that going into any specifics in a general email does not.

      (Boomer-X cusp)

    3. Chc34*

      Came here to say the same thing (I’m 31 and a woman). To me, normalizing periods in the workplace is proudly strolling to the bathroom with a tampon in your hand instead of trying to hide it in your shirt sleeve (which I have done!). But I would also find it odd if a coworker I wasn’t close with kept telling me they were off because of their period, in the same way I would if a coworker kept telling me about their vomiting.

    4. just another manager*

      I like this – yes. I’m Gen X and also work in an office that’s mostly women. Normalizing leaving supplies handy in a bathroom, etc., is both more useful and more to the point. We don’t all take the day off when we’re bleeding – some of us have additional symptoms that mean we need to, some of us don’t, and both situations are okay!

    5. Cat Tree*

      Completely agree. OP has good intentions and certainly didn’t do anything egregious, but it’s not the best way to normalize periods.

  17. Female 40s US*

    “ you’re going to get people who think missing work because of your period is a bit much” In my 20s I probably would have felt this way as a backlash to the attitude of ‘you can’t swim/do gym class on your period’ that still floated around during my younger days. Now that I’m (I think) wiser and have had much more experience (and pain) I wouldn’t blink an eye from a friend but I don’t want to hear details from a random colleague. (I would say the same about diarrhea.)

  18. UKgreen*

    (Early 40s woman here, in the UK. Totally supportive of normalising menstruation as a thing, totally against tampon ads using blue fluid to represent a period, etc. etc.)

    As a general rule, I don’t want to know about snot, vomit, poo, urine or blood. Yours, your kid’s, your pet dog’s… Keep the details of whatever your bodily fluids are doing to yourself and just say you’re unwell.

    1. UKDancer*

      I’d agree. I don’t want to know about things involving bodily fluids as a rule especially if it’s a one off. Just tell me you’re unwell. My company does, in common with a lot of the UK, need people to record their sick absence and people are asked on the form what the cause of the absence is. There’s a long list and people can be as vague or precise as they like. I infinitely prefer it when staff put something like “headache” or “cold” rather than giving a long explanation.

      I’d make an exception if it’s something chronic or long term, e.g. I had a member of staff at one point with bowel cancer who needed an ileostomy. He wanted to talk to me about the changes he needed at work to ensure he could empty his stoma bag. So we had a discussion about his medical needs and how to make sure he got what he needed as well as any other reasonable adjustments he might need during the treatment for cancer. While I wouldn’t normally want to know about the contents of someone’s bowels, I did because it was going to be a longer term thing. It was not a fun conversation but having it was a good idea in the longer term.

  19. Janet Pinkerton*

    I’m 32 and I work with more men than women, and all of them are older than me. I only have one close non-menopausal female coworker. And I would not mention my period. (Does one of my coworkers mention her hot flashes all the time? She does. But idk if she does it around the men too.)

    Notably (maybe?) I would mention pregnancy symptoms once I told them I was pregnant.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Eh, I’d give the hot flashes a pass (and a fan!). Those can be more than just uncomfortable, they can have VERY visible markers, like sudden flushing or sweating. And if you’re going into a meeting together, you can be prepared to let your colleague take the chair directly under the vent!

  20. Esmeralda*

    OP, when your co-workers have to take sick time, do they say why? Or do they generally just say, I’m sick and will be out tomorrow/have to go home ?

    If no one, or hardly anyone, is saying why, then you should follow the office culture and not say why. (And if it’s just one or two people who are, let us say, over-sharers, then don’t take them as your model.)

    If most of your co-workers do say “My back is killing me, I’m going home” or “I’ve got the flu, I’ll be out for the next few days”, then you go right ahead and give your reason.

    Alison’s observations are on point, so consider those, but if the office is all “I have X malady”, you can too.

    I’m a boomer. Right on, sister!

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      I think this is where I stand – if it’s an office norm to give a brief description of the illness, then keep it up. If no one else mentions what they’re off with, then don’t.

    2. Keyboard Jockey*

      This is me too. I’m female, 35. I have worked in places where the unspoken expectation is that you need to explain why you’re taking a sick day if you have no visible reason to. I have also worked in places that do not care, and it’s easier to give less info.

      The only time these days I mention it is if my enormous heating pad is really visible in a meeting, and I’ll just say, “apologies, cramps” and continue with business.

    3. Born 1986*

      Perfect reply. This also explains why I was confused about my own opinion: I decide from context just like this.

  21. Aggretsuko*

    I think I agree with a “don’t discuss areas covered by your underwear” rule. I don’t want to have to say to anyone “I feel sick this morning because of diarrhea” or whatever myself.
    I can almost understand specifying period because it’s going to happen once a month and be a chronic problem that keeps coming up for you. However, there’s a definite Grossout Factor with that topic–especially around guys who don’t deal with it–that makes me think you probably shouldn’t spell out exactly what’s wrong all the time. It seems inevitable that you would get a complaint along these lines about it.

  22. FisherCat*

    Younger millennial checking in. I’m… not a fan of any body talk at work that isn’t directly relevant. I wouldn’t say I’m squeamish exactly but I am pretty private about what info to share with colleagues. I do think someone saying they took a day off due to period symptoms would come across oddly to me (although I have also used sick time for this reason). A simple “feeling under the weather, will need the afternoon off” does the job whether its period symptoms, gastro symptoms, migraine, whatever.

    1. nonbinary writer*

      Also younger millennial and agreed on wishing body talk WASNT quite so normalized!

      For a while I had a similar mentality to LW about sharing when sick days were related to mental illness, but as I’ve gotten older I realize I want much stronger boundaries than that and frankly it’s no one’s business — me sharing medical info with people who have power over my livelihood doesn’t destogmatize anything, it just gives people in power even more ammunition. I’ve become significantly more private in the second half of my 20s.

    2. Emilia Bedelia*

      Agree! Also a younger millenial, also not interested in broadcasting my cycles to the office or hearing about others’. If someone is concerned about “normalizing menstruation”, I would say they should advocate for flexible PTO/WFH options, accessible and convenient restroom facilities, and most importantly, NOT requiring detailed medical information when taking time off.

      I think all that’s necessary for this sort of announcement is whether you’ll be able to work or not – ie, “I’m not feeling good so I’m going to work from home today” vs “I’m feeling terrible, I am going to take the rest of the day off – I will get that report to you tomorrow”. That’s it.

  23. LadyByTheLake*

    While I generally agree with the notion that it would be a good thing to destigmatize periods, I don’t think this is the way to do it. Unfortunately I think that what OP is doing reinforces terrible stereotypes about periods being a thing that makes women less reliable and “less than.” When I was younger I occasionally had horrific cramps, so I get it — menstruation can be debilitating — but by saying specifically “I can’t work because of my period” it can read as “I can’t work because I’m a woman” and that is not a message that should be out there.
    Female — closer to 60 than 55.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      I should also say that I pretty much NEVER want to know any medical reason why someone is out of the office and don’t want to normalize providing so much information. “Unwell” or “sick” are all the information I need. So I also object to this on the grounds of TMI in addition to the specific content.

    2. BRR*

      That’s where I think I’m landing on this. I’m all for destigmatizing periods but I don’t think this accomplishes that. Partially because of what you said that it reinforces negative stereotypes and partially because it just feels unnecessary to share why you’re out.

      The anonymous feedback could be from someone who is uncomfortable with period talk or it could be from someone who also doesn’t want to hear the details of your sore throat. And to the end of the letter where the LW wishes the coworker would have brought it up directly so that the LW could explain but also say they would respect the coworker’s wishes, that’s where I think the LW could destigmatize periods. Mainly under the narrow scope of, if the coworker was just uncomfortable with period talk as a whole and if there was a need for the LW to mention their period, I don’t particularly care if a coworker is uncomfortable.

  24. teacher*

    Millennial here. I have a pretty unpleasant period so I get it. I don’t think I would tell coworkers about it actually, but I have mentioned “that time of the month” to coworkers I am friends with, if it is relevant in the conversation. I must admit that I have never, and probably will never, mention my period to a male coworker. I also agree that we should normalize menstruation and that it is nothing to feel icky about, but yeah, I wouldn’t share too many details at work about it.

    1. Willis*

      I’m an elder millennial and I agree with your distinction between making an office-wide “I’m out sick because of my period” announcement vs talking about it with specific co-workers you’re friends with or when it may come up somehow in conversation. And I’d make that distinction for the vast majority of reasons people are out sick. I’d rather not share or hear much more than “I’m taking a sick day,” especially through officewide communication channels, but if we’re friends that regularly chat about non-work stuff, sure, tell me about how you think you got food poisoning at your mother-in-law’s over the weekend.

  25. SnarkyValkyrie*

    I think Alison hit the nail on the head. As much as I am all for destigmatizing menstration, I don’t want to hear details about anyone’s illness or discomfort because I just don’t find it necessary.

    I also feel, as a woman who works in an industry that is 80-90 percent male, that I would just be catering to stereotypes if I named it. It doesn’t mean it’s not valid, but just as many women don’t experience PMS/period issues, not everyone experiences migraines the same etc. So next time I told someone I was “feeling under the weather” they might assume, oh Snarky is on the rag…or some bs that has no basis in reality.

    I don’t think this is a generational thing, I think it’s good intentions being misplaced at work.

    1. Valancy Snaith*

      Same. I have no issue with destigmatizing menstruation, but I work in an 85% male and very macho environment and I am not going to play into any stereotype regarding weakness or inability. Whether it’s true or not is by the by, but the perception is what counts here. This is a classic “what things aren’t, not what things should be.” I’m 33.

      1. Kate*

        Yep. Destigmatizing mensturation is stocking bathrooms openly with tampons and pads instead of having them hidden in a hush hush supply closet shoved behind the toilet paper.

        I have clear boundaries around my work and personal life, and so if I’m taking time off to be sick for whatever reason I simply say I am off sick for the rest of the day. The farthest I would go would be to put forward a loose timeline for team expectations, such as: “… out sick, but do expect to be back ____, possibly the following day at the latest.”

  26. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Elder millennial here, and I don’t want to hear about anybody’s periods or diarrhea or bodily fluids at all, anywhere, especially at work. I pretty much want to assume that my coworkers are smooth plastic dolls under their clothing, frankly, with no genitals or orifices or anything, and I want them to assume the same thing about me.

    1. へ‿(ツ)‿ㄏ*

      Agreed. But I’m torn between women not having to hide tampons when going to the toilet and seeing them, knowing someone’s vagina is involved. へ‿(ツ)‿ㄏ

  27. SherBear*

    36 yr old female here – please don’t tell me about your period unless you are a close friend! I absolutely don’t want to hear about it from a coworker, not sure if I’d leave anonymous feedback on it but it would make me uncomfortable in the workplace and I would wonder why you are oversharing. I don’t want to hear about ANY bodily functions at work as it’s wayyy too much TMI.

  28. Typing All The Time*

    I’m Gen-X and I’ve heard women say that they were not feeling well. If we were friends, I think we’d add that it was because of our period or we had cramps.

  29. Snow globe*

    There is a dividing line, but it’s not necessarily what is covered by underwear. I also don’t want to hear about how many times someone had vomited. When. Had to have a biopsy on my eye, I was pretty sure no one wanted to hear the details of how the sample was obtained.

    1. nonbinary writer*

      Yeah I think “anything that excretes from your body” is a pretty good dividing line.

  30. chai latte*

    late 20s person here – i’m all for normalizing periods at work/school/etc in that menstruating people shouldn’t have to hide their supplies/tampons as they scurry the the bathroom but! when it comes to sick day reasons, i think less is more. “i’m not feeling well and i’ll be out today” is all the info anyone needs.

    1. CTT*

      Yeah, that’s where I come down on the “if we’re going to normalize it at work, do it that way.” I’m in a more conservative industry and lots of business-y clothes don’t have pockets, and I finally got sick of trying to stuff a tampon in my bra and decided to just carry one with me on my way to the restroom (in my fist, not waving it around). But I don’t want to talk about the intricacies of it with my coworkers because I don’t want to talk about any medical details beyond a rough estimate of when I’ll be back. [I’m early 30s]

  31. kanej*

    I’m a 27 year old woman, so a middle/young millennial.

    I would a colleague repeatedly commenting that their period had made them ill a little weird. Not because I think periods should be stigmatised – you should fully be able to talk about it with your friends and family and we should be able to have frank conversations about health in the media and with our medical professionals – but because repeatedly sharing the cause creates this social pressure to ask about it/talk about the illness/cause of illness. It also, as Alison said, creates a weird atmosphere of sharing why you’re out. That isn’t information that your colleagues need! They aren’t benefitting from you saying it’s your period. It doesn’t give context on how long you’ll be out, whether they can contact you, or anything else work related. It’s just sharing personal information for – what? Just to make your colleagues think about your period for 2 seconds?

    Also this feedback comment was pretty lowkey I think. It was just saying they think you share a bit too much and it makes them uncomfortable. They’re not saying you’re terrible or completely undermining the office atmosphere. If you want to keep doing this, you can, but you’ll be doing it with the full knowledge that all it seems to accomplish is to make at least one of your colleagues uncomfortable.

  32. Anonymous Esq*

    I’m a younger millennial (28) cis-woman, and I don’t wanna hear any details about my coworker’s illnesses or ailments. I agree that period is not a bad word, and yes, of course menstruation is a thing that happens, but I don’t want to think about anyone else’s vagina bleeding, just like I don’t want to think about anyone’s digestive issues, or overactive mucus membranes when they have a cold or allergies. I might be in the minority, but I do not need my coworkers to know about my bodily functions nor me know about theirs, just like I hate when any coworker tells me they have to pee. Just… I do not need to know!!!

  33. DataGirl*

    Mid-40’s woman here. I agree with Alison that I’d prefer to see normalizing not oversharing medical conditions in the workplace. “I wasn’t feeling well so I left early” is fine for a group chat. If I’m emailing back and forth with a colleague I’m friendly with, I’ll probably go into more detail but for larger groups I think general is better.

  34. RabbitRabbit*

    GenX here. I just want to know contagious/not contagious. COVID? Pink eye? Norovirus? Tell us. Otherwise, no, minimize the details. I don’t want people to justify their leave.

    Exception could be if the health problem is well known with your group and you care to update them about it. If you have a long-running battle against cancer and you’re going in for your infusion and you’ll be sick for a day or three after AND you want your team updated, do that.

    I personally commiserate with fellow migraine-sufferers – we brainstormed a solution to minimize the light shining into one colleague’s cubicle when we were back in the office – but yeah, I’m not real cool with going into detail.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Oh, forgot, I’m a cis-woman. I used to have amazingly bad dysmenorrhea – which is under control by Mirena IUD, as are my migraines – but I don’t go into detail about that even with migraine sufferers. If I mention that my migraines are under control I usually explain that triggers are different for everyone and it took years to figure it out, then if it seems relevant I might mention that it’s hormonal. If I’m talking to a cis woman who thinks hers are hormonal, then I’ll mention the Mirena.

      1. Despachito*

        GenX here too, and I second the contagious/not contagious info.

        Basically, I’d handle this on a need-to-know basis, i.e. to the extent it directly affects me:

        Contagious/non contagious:
        It is relevant for any people I am in direct contact with whether they can catch whatever I am sick with, and if the sick person was a coworker I’d personally find reassuring that there is nothing for me to worry about. But there is absolutely no need for excessive details.

        Does the sick person need help/has it covered?
        If I see someone visibly cramping, I’d wonder whether I should call the ambulance or leave the person alone But there is also no need to be excessively specific, just “it’s a condition I have, don’t need help” would be enough.

        Does the person need any unusual accommodation, like not standing up when greeting guests, and the cause is transitory? Then I’d not mind saying “I apologize to not stand up but I’ve sprained my ankle”, as I’d consider it the least awkward solution.

        But I’d never be specific about menstruation, I’d consider it gross, and I’d only mention it to my closest family. I do not think of it as of a taboo, just gross, and I’d not share details as well as I would not share my diarrhea/oozing pus/gall bladder problems. I sincerely hate when people are too specific when talking about their health, and I am frankly not interested in it other than my family and my closest friends.

    2. kittymommy*

      This is probably where I fall as well. I only need details if it’s going to get me sick and/or I need to disinfect stuff. Otherwise, none of my business. Gen X as well.

    3. Gina*

      I tell my boss when I have a migraine. Only because I usually lose vision in one eye and I can’t drive. And the meds the doc gave me for them specifically tell you that you cannot drive for 8 hours after taking the meds. So I’m done for the day if I have a migraine.

  35. Anny*

    I’m in my 30s and support the practice of being nonspecific when it comes to medical issues at work. I’ve taken sick days related to period symptoms, depression, back pain, colds…and knowing that I don’t need to be explicit about the reason takes away the pressure of feeling like I need to justify that it’s “bad enough”.

  36. Meg*

    I’m 33. I wouldn’t, but I also don’t want to include details about whatever I’m out with. I try really hard to just say that I’m not feeling well, or that I’ll be out sick (I will say, covid threw a wrench in this plan, and now I end up saying that I’m not feeling well but don’t have covis lol). I don’t think it should be my work’s business why I’m out, and even if I don’t mind I don’t want other people to feel like they have to disclose why they’re sick. I also want to give myself some cover if I need to take a mental health day. If I always say why I’m out, then it makes it harder to take the very occasional day because I can’t deal without lying.

    To be honest, I also worry that since people experience period symptoms so differently that people would think I’m being overdramatic. I was once hospitalized for period cramps as a teenager because the pain was so bad that my parents thought my appendix burst. That’s not common for me, but some people who menstruate never experience that level of pain. If I say I have cramps that could mean a huge range of things.

  37. AnalystintheUK*

    Honestly, I would worry that doing this might do the opposite of what LW intends – saying she’s sick with her period in a male dominated office could reinforce the “unreliable woman” stereotype that you sometimes get in those environments because she’s sick with a “woman thing”. Which sucks.

    Obviously her boss is supportive and maybe I’m just too cautious about this sort of thing myself – but as others have said, not sharing medical information is reason enough on its own to not mention it.

  38. Linda*

    I agree with the general sentiment that we shouldn’t have to share details. I think this is particularly important for mental health reasons. People should be able to take sick time for their mental health, without having to explain it, because fellow employees are even less likely to take that seriously. I fully support destigmatizing the period and talking about it more, but not as the reason for taking time off. There are probably more effective ways to move that conversation forward. I’m a ciswoman in my 30s and a manager.

  39. scooby dooby doo*

    i am 25 and i also have bad periods. i’ll openly and gladly discuss periods (mine and others’) in non work settings. but the work part makes me SUPER uncomfortable. if someone said this at work i would be like wow i really wish i didn’t know that. i think you should stop doing this right away.

  40. Anna*

    I don’t think you should have to give a reason at work.

    I agree that maybe the dividing line in liquids or solids or excretions coming out of your body.

    If a manager or coworker asked me why I was out and pressed me on it, yes I would reply in excruciating detail. That’s what they get for asking such a question.

  41. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    50s. I don’t want to know, and I don’t need to know. I trust you – and expect you – to manage your own health.

    Even if it’s something that’s going to seriously impact the work, I just want to understand what the outcomes are, not the reasons. Regular migraines, bad back, period, kid who needs specialist out-of-town treatments, whatever – if you expect to be out for a stretch of several days at a time, more often than once a quarter, then I need to know to expect that and to build slack into project plans.

  42. KHB*

    Gen-X woman here. I fully support normalizing talking about periods, but I don’t think this is the way to do it. If you’re regularly talking about your period in the context of taking sick days, you risk reinforcing the stereotype that women are less productive than men because we’re all taking “extra” sick days all the time.

    (Also, I’m not a medical expert by any means, but if your period is regularly knocking you out to the point where you can’t work, see a doctor about it. If your doctor tells you this is “normal,” see another one. It could very well be a treatable condition, and these things so often go undiagnosed because so many people buy into the idea that periods are “supposed” to be excruciatingly painful.)

    1. Gen/X*

      Gen-X woman from a liberal Western European country here. In my culture, there is a higher level for acceptance for talking about many bodily topics. Periods, breastfeeding, condoms, sex ed in high schools, pre-marital relations, etc. are not as much taboo as it appears to be in the US. That said, I would not share information about my periods in the workplace. Maybe only to my closest (female) work friend, in case it would affect their daily work.

      I have always had totally uncomplicated periods without any pain, cramps, headaches, mood swings or any inconvenience. I would not wish to propagate the myth that women are irrational, unreliable and hysteric during periods. Many women have uncomplicated periods.

      BUT I also know that many women can experience the abovementioned symptoms, and I do not want to propagate unsolidarity towards those women. Maybe open discussion about periods in the society (not individual discussion in the work place!) would help those women to have courage to contact a helth care professional.

  43. ENFP in Texas*

    GenX (age 50) female here, and not a fan of normalizing “discussing bodily fluids is fine and dandy at work”. I don’t care if it’s blood (from any source), vomiting, diarrhea, or even a really runny nose.

    1. Rayray*

      I agree. Keep it minimal, a simple “I’m not feeling well and need to use sick time today” is all a manager needs to hear. We are no longer small children needing to explain to our parents why we can’t go to school.

  44. Louise*

    Female, 26, young millennial – I would find this odd, but find it even odder that your work would mention it in a performance review. I also agree with Alison that I’d like it to be normal to give very minimal information about the reasons for sick time, in large part because I find that makes it easier to access recurring medical care like therapy or early pregnancy appointments without having to disclose information I don’t want to give out.

    1. CRM*

      Female, 29, and I agree completely. I want to normalize not giving details because there are some topics that I just don’t feel comfortable discussing at work, regardless of how supportive and understanding my boss/team is, and I don’t want detailing sick leave to become the expectation (so that it seems weird and shady when I decline to provide details). If that means we don’t discuss our periods at work, that’s okay with me. We can work to normalize the period discussion outside of the office.

    2. just another manager*

      I’ll add here that in my workplace, if someone (anyone!) has regularly recurring call-offs — and a couple of days a month, every month, would qualify — we’d talk with them about it. I don’t know if the OP has run into that, but for us, the reason is less important than the pattern. Some of our staff have filed to use intermittent FMLA leave as a result, but even then only HR and (maybe) the person’s direct manager knows why they’re taking so much sick time on a regular basis. The point is that whatever the reason, we have to make sure our customers get served and that we have staff available to do necessary work, and call-offs affect our staff levels and schedules. We’re also a union shop, so while the FMLA thing might be overkill for other industries, for our staff it helps smooth over some of those contract rules about doctors notes and such.

  45. Admin Here*

    Millennial woman with awful, sometimes debilitating, periods here. I don’t want to hear about periods at work. I don’t want to talk about periods at work.

  46. Shhhh*

    30 year old woman here. In the work context, I value normalizing not sharing unnecessary medical information with people who don’t need to know it (coworkers, higher ups) over normalizing periods. I would feel different if this was a discussion about, say, having freely available menstrual products in restrooms at your workplace – in that case, let ‘er rip. But when you’re talking about how to communicate about sick leave, I’d rather work to create an environment that doesn’t ask people to disclose the details of any ailment.

  47. Atx*

    I wouldn’t share period related info with men but I would with women. One of my direct reports will tell me when she’s having a day due to her period.

    With other female managers, I have discussed it.

  48. Rayray*

    I definitely agree with being vague. A simple “I don’t feel well” should be sufficient. I hate the idea of a boss pressing for details because I definitely wouldn’t want to share certain things, and I also think that if we are grown ups who are entitled to sick leave/PTO it should up to us to use it at our discretion. We should never have to tell our bosses what’s going on and give them the power to decide if it’s worthy of our own earned PTO.

    Besides, sometimes it simply is TMI for some people. As a woman I don’t mind too much if someone else just needs to vent about cramp pain or discomfort, but in genera I would hate to have conversations with my coworkers about their illnesses and pains. They’re adults and can decide for theirselves if they need to use some sick time.

  49. SpiderLadyCEO*

    Young female millennial – It’s no one’s business, I wouldn’t say it. My general thought is that bodily fluids do not need details – so periods, vomiting, diarrea – none of these things need to be mentioned. I also just – don’t want to say why I am out, at all. Maybe it’s my period. Maybe it’s mental health. Maybe I had a full day of drs apps – I don’t want to say, at all.

    That being said, if you are missing a day every month because of your period, that might be worth making it clear to your manager, just because of the pattern of absences. (And IDK, would it help if you could work from home those days? I find for me, while I don’t want to be in an office on bad period days, I can work – from bed with my heating pad.)

    1. Audrey Puffins*

      This second paragraph is excellent, it’s definitely worth discussing with your manager if there’s a pattern and especially if there’s a possibility of coming up with things to make your work-life easier at these times.

  50. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Generation X here and a woman who suffers flipping horribly with menstrual stuff.

    I’d love to normalise the whole thing – I do keep pads, tampons etc in my desk drawer and generally let it be known that if anyone needs one they can help themselves. Kinda funny how some of the guys avoid my desk like they’re about to get attacked by evil flying tampax of doom but I digress.

    I’ve said a few times that my time off was due to ‘severe pain’ or the like nowadays because back when I actually did say it was period related I got a staggering amount of unwanted advice, misogyny, outright mansplaining and other unpleasantness back. Everything from ‘this is why women can’t work in IT’ to ‘well periods are normal so you can’t be suffering’.

    So I just…stopped giving the detail. While it’s a nice ideal to change the world so that people who menstruate aren’t judged somehow ‘gross’ for doing so it’s also not a battle I think I can win.

    1. LKW*

      I land in a similar but not entirely identical place. Pads and tampons are part of my laptop bag kit. They’re in the same pouch as tylenol, chapstick, dental floss and an emory board. Got a headache? Here’s the pouch, you might see a tampon. You’re an adult, you can handle it.

      But when dealing with pain or illness, I don’t want to hear about your fluids and I’m not telling you about mine.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Heck, my desk drawer also has a sewing kit (I embroider as a hobby but can fix your clothes temporarily too), a series of tiny screwdrivers (sooo many times fixing glasses), half a dozen charging cables…

        It’s still funny to have some guys a ask for me to get what they need because they recoil in absolute horror in seeing a tampax box.

        But, thinking a bit, if someone just asked for a pad because they unexpectedly got their period I’d probably be cool with it. Now if they actually started talking about amount/consistency/amount of clothes wrecked I’d be a lot more ‘TMI’. Same if someone wants to nab some diarrhoea meds out of my drawer but talked more about exactly how bad it was.

  51. Meghan*

    Millennial here, and I wouldn’t mention the period. Two reasons: a) shouldn’t have to give a reason when you’re sick, just say you’re sick and b) it could open you to gender-based discrimination if you get the wrong manager. I’d just say you were sick and unavailable and leave it at that.

  52. Sylvan*

    No need to share. If you have time off or sick leave or a half-day (and you’re talking to someone other than your boss), you don’t need to explain using it any more than you need to explain spending part of your paycheck.

    Also, it’s a big overshare.

  53. mreasy*

    I am all for destigmatizing menstruation! But as a person who has to call out sick for other often-judged-harshly reasons (mental illness), I would rather we become a culture where calling out without giving a reason is the norm. That includes a cold, a migraine, food poisoning, throwing out your back, etc – “under the weather” for all of them should be the way. Geriatric millennial here!

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      That’s an very good point. I don’t give details of why I’m off when my brain decides to switch into ‘reality doesn’t compute’ or ‘system error’ mode. I’d rather my staff/coworkers didn’t find out about my schizophrenia etc. because I know I’ll get looked at like a crazy person.

    2. cubone*

      I think we should all take it a step further – it shouldn’t even be “I’m sick today” but just “I need a day” (personal, “time off”, whatever it’s called I don’t care).

      Sick, doctors appointment, mental health, it’s YOUR time. Who cares how you use it.

  54. No Sleep Till Hippo*

    Elderly Millennial here (36). My reaction was pretty much the same as yours, Alison. I fully support destigmatizing periods and letting people know just how bad they can be, especially people who don’t experience them. (I, for one, took steps to find a birth control that stopped mine completely.) On the other hand, I also fully support the effort to normalize a lack of details & judgement around sick days.

    Something that struck me as I was thinking it over was the phrasing, particularly the word “sick.” If someone said to me “My period really knocked me out yesterday,” I wouldn’t bat an eye any more than I would if they said “I was out with a cold.” I think the word “sick” in particular links it (at least in my mind) more closely with upsetting images of bodily functions and makes it feel more overshare-y.

    So maybe there’s room to experiment with different phrasing, to see if it mitigates the TMI feeling?

  55. Mouse*

    Mid-millennial here. I would not say anything like this at work, though I have occasionally wished I could! Sometimes I’d rather just say “yeah, everything’s fine, just cramping, I’ll work from home with a heating pad and be back tomorrow.”

    I did once have a glorious moment when a man at work asked me why I had been in the restroom for so long and I, a much sassier teenager at the time, replied with “can you really not think of a problem most women face that requires they take a little longer in the restroom for a few days every month or so?” He never asked me a question like that again, and I certainly hope he still remembers it!

    1. The Rural Juror*

      I was once sitting with a group of friends at a patio restaurant when a friend complained about cutting her hand earlier that day and getting blood on her favorite shirt. She thought it was ruined, but I told her to go home and try a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and dawn soap. One of our male friends said in a joking voice, “Well, well, well, Juror! How do YOU know so much about getting blood stains out of clothes?” implying that I was a serial killer or something. I looked him deadpan in the eyes and said, “Mike, I’m a woman with a period.”

      The look on his face was priceless! Then we all started laughing and it was all good.

      People really do stick their foot in it sometimes by asking stupid questions, don’t they? Ha!

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        Hah! Great story. Also remember– only use cold water. Hot water “sets” the stain.

  56. Audrey Puffins*

    Geriatric Millennial: I agree we should normalise talking about periods, especially among mixed company, but not this context. I’m in the UK, where there is an expectation that when you’re ill, you’ll explain why, but I love the norm that Alison has on this site – that I assume is a US thing? – that you don’t tell them the medical side, you just let them know the impact. “I’m sick with a migraine” – unnecessary. “I can’t work today – I expect to be back tomorrow but I’ll let you know if that changes” – much better. If periods come up organically otherwise, then by all means, keep that filter off, but protecting your medical ins-and-outs is more important in the workplace.

    1. UKDancer*

      I think some of the difference between the US and the UK may be that in the UK (at least where I’ve worked) you self certify your sick absence and there’s a space to enter the reason for the absence. This can be vague or specific. Looking at mine it’s mostly “cold” or “migraine”

      That said there’s a difference between what you say on the form (which is between you and your manager) and what you say to colleagues. I might, for example, put cystitis on the form on the corporate IT system but I would not say as much to my colleagues because it’s not something I’m comfortable sharing.

  57. Veryanon*

    I’m an older GenXer (52) and I’m all for normalizing discussions about menstruation, but I also don’t think it’s appropriate to share details of any personal medical situation at work, for the reasons given here. I don’t really want to know if you have diarrhea, or a migraine, or your period, or whatever. It’s none of my business! Just tell me you’re not feeling well, and that’s really all I need to know.

    1. GenX4ever*

      I am a Gen-Xer as well and I feel extremely uncomfortable with someone going into detail like this. Just saying your sick is fine.

  58. Kramerica Industries*

    I would compare it to saying “I have stomach issues” vs. “I have digestive issues” where the connotation of digestive issues is a bit ickier. Is there anything inherently wrong with “digestive issues”? No, but it still makes people think that it’s TMI. Same goes for periods – they should definitely be normalized, but the reality is that there IS a connotation associated with blood that makes some people uncomfortable, so there are friendlier ways to express “I feel sick”.

  59. [insert witty username here]*

    Elder millenial here. Quite frankly, I don’t care for people bringing up bodily fluids or specific functions at work (also not a fan of “bio break” and would vote for people using “rest break” or just “break”). Saying you have a cold doesn’t necessarily bring up images of snot running down your face, even if that’s what’s happening. Same with the flu -some people throw up, some people get diarrhea, but others just get a fever and need rest. But saying “I have the flu” generally just makes me think you’re snuggled up in bed sleeping it off. Now I will say – if someone says they have food poisoning, we all know what that entails without actually saying “I was spewing liquid out of both ends,” and really, saying “I had period” is pretty similar – there’s no specific talk of blood flowing out of you so hard that it looks like a crime scene when you walk up, but yeah, that definitely happens. But still…. I just don’t think it’s necessary. Right or wrong, hypocritical or not, “food poisoning” just doesn’t bring up quite the same mental images as “period.” So my vote is for keeping reasoning as generic as possible.

    1. carlie*

      Solid gen x here, and I hate “bio break” with the fire of a thousand suns. Just call it a break.

      And no, I don’t want to know what fluids you are excreting, why, or how it feels. You are at work or not, and I only want to know if I have to worry that I caught something from you or if you will be gone for several days.

    2. ShakeYourGrooveThang*

      Elder millennial, also can’t stand “bio break”. Just say “break”, people!

  60. PNW Planner*

    I struggled with the definition of “sick.” Sick always seems more for flu or colds. So I felt weird using it for non contagious things. I’ve been using unwell, which covers anything from mental fatigue to vomiting.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      That’s a good point. You can just say, “I’m not feeling well” and that covers a multitude of ailments, even if they’re not physical. Sometimes you get a little burnt out and that makes you feel unwell, which is completely legitimate.

  61. Millenial female*

    Yeah it’s a natural body function. So is farting, pooping, and peeing. I don’t really need that kind of info from my colleagues ty.

  62. Trotwood*

    In college I worked in a research group where our professor would frequently cancel our group meetings with emails along the lines of “I have horrible diarrhea so we won’t be having group meeting tonight.” It was definitely too much information, even as someone who is sympathetic to those sorts of stomach issues. In a work context it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of harm in just sticking with “I’m under the weather” and it doesn’t force your colleagues to think about your bodily fluids.

    1. cubone*

      I completely agree and feel the same, but I’d also love to hear from someone with IBS/Corhn’s/other stomach ailements. I get that’s TMI for most people, but I dunno, if you have to deal with horrible diarrhea as a regularly recurring symptom, I can also understand why after a while you might just… get sick of pretending?

      1. sunny-dee*

        It’s not pretending, it’s courtesy. Not saying every single thing about your bodily fluids is just courtesy. Some things are private and some things are public.

  63. Jen*

    Gen X female Here. I just want to know if someone is out of the office but have no need to know why. I too would give oversharing feedback during a peer review if a colleague talked often about their period. I don’t see why we need to normalize talking about periods in a professional setting.

  64. claritymoon*

    i agree with not sharing specifics! it’s no one’s business what you’re sick with, the only relevant fact is that you’re too sick for work. however. if you’re in the unfortunate position of having to leave early or take a day off every single month, share the reason with your manager. also probably talk to a doctor about what can be done to help you feel better during that time (although you’ve likely done that already). i’m all for normalizing periods but there are some bits of information i just wouldn’t volunteer in a work environment.

    that said, the person who anonymously complained about it strikes me as being a bit of a baby.

  65. Smithy*

    39 – I’m a big fan of normalizing not sharing why a sick time is being used unless it gets into more extensive absences. Whether it’s out for the day or a regular appointment, when possible I really try to make it about a regular appoint or out for feeling poorly. Because while I’m probably very comfortable sharing more than most in the medical space, I want to do my best to normalize general medical absences.

    Whether it’s healthcare that is more standard to keep private (early pregnancy), or retains stigma (mental health), or has a more murky status on professional appropriateness (prostate or breast exams) – all of that is only helped by calling colds and back aches also health problems.

    All of that to say……I’ve also had some of the best help in finding doctors through colleagues. We share the same insurance and have one common starting space (the office). At one job it was a dentist and another an allergist who seemed to see the entire office. So there’s definitely a line between how I want to use “I need PTO for a doctor’s appointment/I’m sick” and then a more collegial dynamic where I swap dermatologist recommendations. But it is one I am trying to create.

  66. Honoria Glossop*

    I’m an elder Millennial and I think in an all-team note or chat (maybe anything in writing?) I’d probably just say “not feeling well” because, as everyone says, no one needs to know. However, if someone were to ask – which is kinda nosy, but sometimes someone says something like “oh, allergies?” or “there’s a bug going around” – I probably would be honest and say it was period-related. I don’t know if that strikes any kind of balance or just fails to make either point sufficiently.

    1. Emilia Bedelia*

      I think if someone is going to be rude enough to ask about the details, they should not be surprised if they GET the details. If that makes them uncomfortable, well, now they know not to ask again.

    2. CatPerson*

      I would venture to say that you are also a P.G. Wodehouse fan. Yay! (We have a cat named Emsworth, by the way).

  67. Alldogsarepuppies*

    Female (who menstruates) in my late 20s. Complain to your boyfriend/girlfriend/bff/cat/sister/cousin etc about your period and how it affects you, to your heart’s content. Not your co-workers or boss. Don’t normalize that you need to explain why you are out. The only reason I should know why someone is out sick is if I could have caught something (i.e. my coworker that woke up with bad pink eye let us know so we could make sure to disinfect everything).

  68. You can call me flower, if you want to*

    I agree that it’s important to normalize menstruation, but this isn’t really the place for it . Your coworkers aren’t your friends or family. I don’t think they need to know personal private medical details, but I’m also a very private person who likes to keep my personal life separate from work. It’s not that you’re talking about your period-it’s that you’re talking about your specific medical needs in general. Many people don’t really have or want that kind of relationship with coworkers. That’s just my two cents.

  69. vho842*

    I think having a code for your manager would be good. Since they know about this, if you mention you’re out ill, they will understand without having to be specific with peers about why you’re out. I have done this in regards to absences, and considerate managers are good about reading between the lines.

  70. Jellyfish*

    Middle millennial cis woman here – You’re right, there is a stigma, but if one of my coworkers was doing this, I’d be irritated.

    Unfortunately, thanks to sexism, something one woman does can still get generalized to all women in the workplace. I don’t want other women expecting me to talk about my bodily functions in the open. Periods are different for every person who has them, and I don’t owe anyone an explanation of mine.

    I doubly do not want the men I work with to decide any time a woman is out sick, it’s due to menstruation. I don’t want their comments or their silent judgements. It’s hard enough to prove competency in a male dominated workplace without routine discussions of biological sex differences.

    If you want to talk about something like providing pads or tampons in the restroom, have at it! That’s a nice approach to address a genuine need in a way that’s less likely to weird people out. I don’t like the pressure to disclose reasons for a sick day though, or anything that adds to the stereotype of the weak woman whose feminine issues overwhelm her ability to work outside the home.

  71. Canonical23*

    I’m in my mid-20s and I would never mention my period at work. I work in libraries and have managed a staff of people of millennials and later, a staff of GenX’ers and younger “boomers.” Libraries are a fairly AFAB-dominated field and I think the only period conversations have been more personal conversations *after* the official call-out.
    So, for example, my assistant department manager once used a very generic “I’ll be out sick today” over the official system for call-outs/PTO and then when she returned later and we were both just engaging in small talk the next day she said something about “oh sometimes I get the most awful migraines on my period, thanks for letting me call out yesterday.”
    I think that you should never give a reason for calling out sick unless it’s something BIG or something that would require a lot of time off – and even then, use discretion if it’s not going to be something that utterly changes many things (long-term illnesses, pregnancy, etc.) I have two chronic illnesses that take a bit of management and most people I work with just know that “oh, Canonical23 has a few ongoing health things that they keep under control but sometimes they need a day or two off for doctor’s appointments.” I think it’s important to keep health-related convos low at work just because you never know when policies/managers might change and if you’ve normalized a culture where it’s okay to be vague about calling in sick, it becomes much harder for more….controlling….managers to start demanding all the details so they can judge whether or not you’re Sick Enough.
    Finally, while I agree that period should be destigmatized, I also don’t want to hear about people’s fevers or colds or nausea or bathroom habits at work. Destigmatization is going to be a lot more impactful doing it around family and friends – who you’re WAY more likely to talk about bathroom and health stuff with. The sort of period destigmatization at work that needs to happen is advocating for free sanitary products in bathrooms and making sure your workplace’s healthcare plan supports good reproductive care.

  72. The Original K.*

    Elder millennial woman here. I don’t give a reason when I say I’m sick, I just say I’m not feeling well. (I also don’t generally give a reason when I’m going to be out of the office – I just say “I’m out on [dates].” I also say I’m going to be out, rather than asking permission.) I do think “sick with my period” is TMI, the same way I would think “throwing up all night” is TMI. People don’t need the gory details.

    I used to keep menstrual products in my desk because I or someone might need them, and my coworkers who might need them knew that. That wasn’t a big deal – someone would come to me and ask if I had a tampon, and I would say yes and open my desk and give them one. Nobody was showy about it but nobody tried to hide it either. I guess that was my way of normalizing it.

    1. HotSauce*

      This reminds me of where I kept them when we were in the office. I have a shelf above my desk that I keep training binders, notebooks and other items. I bought one of those fake books from TJ Maxx that’s really a box and filled it with tampons/pads & put it on the shelf, one of my very nosey male coworkers who likes to rifle through people’s belongings picked it up and opened it then slammed it shut and dropped it on my desk with a loud “EW”. I wanted to smack him because 1. stop going through people’s stuff and 2. it’s not “EW”, they’re necessary for people who menstruate, stop being such a child.

  73. Ermintrude*

    I’m 41, and am something of an oversharer. I was told by a friend that other colleagues were talking about me behind my back after I explained at one place that my period was part of the reason I was feeling terrible and unable to keep working.
    This happened almost a decade ago though.

    When I think of people being squeamish about menstruation, I say, it’s not like I’m telling people ‘MY UTERUS IS CONVULSING AND EXPELLING MY UTERINE LINING OUT VIA MY CROTCH’ to everyone.

    One of my heros of this blog is the commenter’s aunt who sometimes had bowel issues while out and about and needed to dispose of her underpants in restroom rubbish bins, who dubbed herself ‘The Phantom Shitter of St. Augustine’. What a legend.

  74. M*

    I’m 34. I wonder if there is something here about mentioning your period (or any symptoms) to your whole team vs. sharing it directly to your manager. In my situation, my coworkers simply need to know if I’m in or out, so they know if they can ask me questions and get answers back by a certain time. They basically need the same information that my email out-of-office message would convey. But, I would let my manager know more details, so she can have a fuller perspective on when I might be back, leniency for deadlines, etc. She could tell a coworker, “I’m sure M will be back tomorrow” or “I’m not sure when M will be back, let’s try helping you a different way.”

    Letting your manager know you’re out because of your period, but letting your team know that you’re just “out”, seems accomplish some of your goal. It’s not perfect, but maybe it’s a more comfortable starting point.

  75. Jennifer Strange*

    Female millennial here. I am all for normalizing discussion of periods to an extent (I’ve been known to call in sick with the explanation that I’m having bad cramps, with the unspoken understanding that they are probably cramps of the Aunt Flo variety) but I wouldn’t specify “out because of my period” any more than I’d specify “out because of explosive diarrhea”. Yes, one of those is technically more descriptive/vivid than the other, but we all know what happens with a period, whereas something like the flu can involve vomiting, but doesn’t necessarily involve it.

  76. lunchtime caller*

    Also a woman (30s) who works with all women and while in a one on one convo “ugh my cramps are killing me” or something would feel normal, “I’ll be out sick because of my period” in the group Slack would still feel kinda TMI? It’s something about the group chat being Work Mode I think–I’d also feel weird being like “sorry, my cat just puked so I’ll be a minute late to the meeting” in the group chat for the same reason. And if I worked in a mostly male environment I definitely would not say it purely because I would worry about an image of “oh that delicate woman who can’t get her work done”–which of course is an unfair reading, but that’s also why this site recommends not becoming the Baked Goods Lady too!

  77. The Rural Juror*

    (Middle Millennial woman here) I would never say anything about it at work because I currently only work with men in a very tiny company. Back when I did have one other woman in the office, we did talk about things like that a little bit, but very little. I have one Elder Millennial male coworker who told me about his needing to get his prostate checked out, but we didn’t go into the details – it was more like, yeah, men need to do that and not be embarrassed to do it because it’s important. He wasn’t telling me about his friend that had had prostate cancer and it opened his eyes.

    So, yes, I agree with Alison that there’s a line where things start to make people squeamish. You can say you have a cold but people probably won’t imagine you blowing your nose. You can say you have a stomach bug and people probably won’t imagine you vomiting or having it go out the other end. But my coworker mentioning his prostate did conjure up some mental images I wasn’t overly pleased about! *shrug* The same may happen for people who don’t experience periods.

  78. Bucky Barnes*

    Mid-40s Gen X woman here. I’m on the side of not giving specifics. The only time I did was when it was really disruptive to work (I didn’t know I had endometriosis). Even then I just told my boss the bare minimum and that I was working on it, not the details.

  79. JRR*

    I think “don’t talk about things normally covered by underwear” is an excellent standard.

    I make a point of saying, “I’m taking a sick day,” for almost everything regardless of whether it’s intraunderwear or extraunderwear. That why, if it’s something I’d like to keep private I can just stick to my regular pattern.

  80. Jen*

    Gen X female Here. I just want to know if someone is out of the office but have no need to know why. I too would give oversharing feedback during a peer review if a colleague talked often about their period. I don’t see why we need to normalize talking about periods (or any bodily function) in a professional setting.

  81. Skittles*

    I’m a cis female, 40, and I manage a team of 10 people.
    When folks need to take time away from work I really don’t need to know why and I don’t ask although I’ve had people share way too much detail with me in the past or have been overtly apologetic when they really don’t need to be.. All I want is to be notified and given some sort of idea how long you think you’ll be away and if there’s anything you need from me or anything I can do to help.

  82. Carla*

    Personally, (mid-30s female here) I wouldn’t mention my period at work as I am private about my health. However, if I got anonymous feedback (presumably from a man) that I was talking about my period too much, I would go out of my way to mention it at every available opportunity :)

  83. mea*

    I’m a menstruating woman. Saying that you’re “sick with your period” makes it sound like having your period = being sick. That kind of further stigmatizes it. I agree that nondisclosure all around is best but if you want to share, maybe you could write an email to everyone letting colleagues know that you sometimes have to take a day or two off monthly due to medical reasons. You could normalize accommodations by working with your boss/team on not scheduling deadlines or big meeting during this window of time, if you can predict it. Other ways to destigmatize could be storing free menstrual products in a common, visible space (shelf in bathroom, supply closet).

    1. Lars the Real Girl*

      Yes. This. I couldn’t put my finger on why it sounded weird but I think this is it. Being on your period =/= being sick, so it’s an odd phrasing.

    2. Atalanta0jess*

      Yes, thank you for articulating this. This was bugging me too, partially because having your period isn’t the same as being sick, and partially because usually it isn’t JUST having the period that is making you feel crummy – like, it’s cramps, fatigue, digestive issues, headache, whatever. The phrasing makes it just sound like….”i have my period and thus will not be at work!”

      (I know for some people having their period is ALWAYS debilitating, but it’s not for everyone, and I think it gives this weird specific but not-specific information, if that makes any dang sense at all.)

  84. Spaceball One*

    I used to get migraines with every period, sometimes for a day, sometimes daily for two or three days. I was fortunate that, for most of that time, I had a boss who was not just a woman but also a good boss and human being, so I only had to mention to her one time that these things seem caused by my period, and I knew from then on that she’d never question why I seemed to get sick every month.

    After she left, I had a male boss who… is not a bad guy but is definitely more old-fashioned and does have a mild sexist streak. I never felt comfortable telling him why my migraines happened with so much regularity. I figured he could either take a guess or decide I was making it up or whatever, but I would not tell him any more unless/until I felt like I needed to.

    As an aside: I am now back to working for my previous, awesome boss, at a different company. But since I started taking medication for high blood pressure, my migraines never came back!

    1. Spaceball One*

      I should add that this was a place where there were sometimes issues with people abusing time-off policies and/or lying about their whereabouts or on their timesheets, and people would notice and raise eyebrows. So I was always hyperaware of anyone noticing a pattern to my migraines… even though there WAS a pattern, caused by my menstrual cycle. :Þ

  85. it's me*

    I’d like to know if someone is contagious but beyond that I don’t need or want details about bodily fluids.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’ll add that if someone has a condition where they will need help, then I’m on board. Like if someone throws their back out and will need extra time getting to meetings, or could use help carrying their marketing portfolio, then I’m all about it. If someone says a migraine is coming on they will be in the dark office around the corner, that’s okay. I’m being told because my co-worker is asking me for work accommodations, not just to drop a TMI/normalization bomb.

    2. Blackcat*

      Yep. Tell me if you can blame your gastric distress on some leftovers of questionable age or if it’s undetermined (and we want to disinfect for possible norovirus). But otherwise? Nope, no details needed.

      1. Salad Daisy*

        I had norovirus many years ago. I was at a meeting and one of my coworkers turned to me and said “Daisy, you are green!” I actually was a greenish hue. Went home, etc. I definitely told my company I was sick with norovirus so they could take precautions, clean, etc. Menstruation is not contagious so there is no need to explain other then “I’m feeling under the weather today.”

  86. Lance*

    Mid-30’s and male, and I would agree with Alison’s point of ‘anything covered by underwear gets a vague ‘not feeling well’ or similar’. Otherwise, and it might be something personal to me, things related to bleeding (like a period) are just… not something I would prefer to hear about in such clear terms, if I don’t have to.

  87. Devin*

    Late X cis woman here, I talk about period symptoms all the time with my friends (and often in mixed company) but I am firmly on the side of “it’s none of your employer’s business” when it comes to why you were out sick. You should be able to judge whether you can work or not on a given day without having to discuss your evidence. This doesn’t mean you *can’t* talk about it at work, in my opinion, but that’s a “friend” conversation, not a “coworker” conversation.

  88. Erika22*

    Millennial here – I’m a fan of normalizing periods, but I wouldn’t put anything about it in a work chat or anything, I’d just say I’m not feeling well. If I was in a one on one with a coworker with whom I’m friendly and we’re having small talk, I might say I have a headache/backache/cramps due to my period. But generally I’m in the camp of normalizing not giving an excuse for not feeling well at all. It’s everybody’s own business, and it makes it much easier for people to take mental health days, and it doesn’t inadvertently pressure folks to feel obligated to share their medical information to their team or manager when they aren’t comfortable doing so.

  89. Lifelong student*

    Would you want someone commenting on your reproductive system? If not, don’t comment on it to others. Same goes for any other bodily function.

    No one needs to know the root cause of any illness. Don’t overshare.

  90. MissBaudelaire*

    Millenial cis female here. I don’t think we have to say why we’re out of work at all. It is no one’s business why. Just that I’m not available. I might be inclined to say “I have contracted a highly contagious virus, here are the symptoms in case anyone else gets sick.”, depending on the office.

    On that note, I have no problems with someone talking about their period.

  91. Spicy Tuna*

    I’m young millennial/old gen Z (26), and I’m a woman who supports normalizing periods. However, I think the line of where I am ok with hearing about coworkers’ symptoms is drawn at when (and I’m sorry this might be graphic) stuff starts coming OUT of the body. You say you have a headache or even cramps? Doesn’t bother me. But saying the word “period” makes me think of blood, and that’s a little much. I similarly don’t want to hear about your diarrhea, vomiting, or snot. But fever, chills, and soreness are all mild enough that I’m not bothered.

    Personally, if I have to take a day to deal with my period, I usually just call it a migraine and nobody bats an eye. I do sometimes get migraines during my period though, so it’s not a total lie…though I support the point that we shouldn’t have to share symptoms in the first place.

  92. Sylvan*

    A lot of people are chiming in who work in male-dominated workplaces, and it’s good that you’re getting that perspective. I want to add that I’ve spent most of my working life in female-dominated workplaces, and talking about periods doesn’t really happen in them, either. This is something that many people consider private and don’t bring up at work unless, say, they need to explain it to their manager while requesting time off.

    1. HannahS*

      Hmm, that’s a really good point, too. I work in female-predominant environments and I can’t recall any period-related conversations. And we’re all doctors and nurses, so we’re all super comfortable talking about bodily functions. And even with that, I’ve only once had a fellow student show me an x-ray other truly impressive broken arm

      1. No thank you*

        I’ve worked at several camps including some girl scout camps, and even in those situations we don’t talk about it much.

  93. Dumpster Fire*

    Young boomer, old Gen-X, female. Yes, I’m all for normalizing normal bodily functions, but saying “I’m not feeling well, will be back online tomorrow” should be good enough. At the point that someone questions me for being out: THAT is when I’ll provide all the gory details about bodily fluids! If I’m working my butt off 27 days out of 28 (and then some!), I’ll take a day here or there so I can continue to do so; better that, than “hey DF, this stuff you did yesterday isn’t as good as your usual work.”

    1. Dumpster Fire*

      And, I’m not a big fan of putting something into writing (or email, auto-reply, etc.) that I’m not willing to have printed, forwarded, or posted online!

  94. Anonym*

    Late 30s, older millenial. While I appreciate the attempt to improve our society’s sexist weirdness about periods and the female body, I have concerns about this approach. First, I agree strongly with Alison that employees are better off in general when there’s no expectation of giving details about why they need leave, which can open the door to debate, judgement or pushback on the validity of the need for PTO. No details, we are all trusted to make this call for ourselves and not open it up to interrogation. Second, and I hate that this even has to be considered, but I can see some people semi- or subconsciously filing OP under “reasons why women are inherently unreliable and/or weak and shouldn’t be promoted or given stretch opportunities”. I hate it. I really do. But I don’t want to risk feeding those monsters.

    For myself, I’ve only a couple times in 15+ years of work shared that my period was the reason I needed to leave, and then only to drive the point home and embarrass the person for asking/pressing. “Yeah, I have really bad periods and passed out in the bathroom while vomiting…” They rarely ask again after that.

    1. Spicy Tuna*

      Nailed it on the second point. I had that thought as well but couldn’t figure out how to express that without coming off like an apologist for misogyny.

  95. CorporateRecruiterinVA*

    I am on board with normalizing things like this but I think we have a LOT of ground to cover before it will be ok in the workplace. I do think some of this depends on your immediate team and the signals they give about being comfortable with this kind of information. There are close colleagues I have at work (I am a woman, close colleagues I would count in this bucket are also women) who I MIGHT feel ok sharing this with but they are few and far between. I never require my team to tell me why they need to take a sick day but they sometimes share on their own. Honestly, if one of them gave me this explanation for taking a sick day I don’t think I would personally bat much of an eye at it but if they were sharing it widely on a platform where I couldn’t be sure of how the others viewing it would process that information, I would probably advise them to think twice about it.

  96. D3*

    I’m just over 50 and I’m thinking that any time you set out on a mission to destigmatize something you have to expect push back. This is that push back.
    That said, I don’t know that going out of your way to say it every single time is a good way to destigmatize something. You don’t ever have to give a reason why you’re not feeling well, so don’t make a point of doing it when it’s your period just because that’s your soapbox.
    Your efforts would be better spent addressing any comments you hear in a very matter of fact way. Guy at work complains about his wife “being all raggy this time of the moth” – sure, respond to that kindly and briefly. That sort of thing.

  97. Sami*

    I’m all for de-stigmatizing anything around having a period. However I’m also firmly pro health info at work. No one needs to know the details of why someone is out or has an appointment. There is still too much of a risk of judgment and/or discrimination.
    There are other ways to normalize having a period.
    —Gen X

  98. HotSauce*

    Regardless of why I need to call out from work I avoid giving any details at all. I just let my supervisor know that I’m not able to work that day due to illness. I support destigmatizing periods and I use the word among family and friends, but I do not discuss it at work, nor do I discuss any other bodily functions regardless of what it is because it’s not necessary. No one needs to know the specifics of my health at work outside of vague statements like, “I was out yesterday because I was feeling unwell” and that applies to a myriad of issues. We have a couple of coworkers who like to share in great detail their various maladies and it makes everyone uncomfortable, from the teammate who receives spinal injections to the person who has severe vertigo that makes her vomit uncontrollably. Our office has taken a stance on oversharing medical information, if it’s needed between a manager and report so they’re aware of frequent absences or appointments that’s fine, but generally speaking we’ve decided it’s just not appropriate for the workplace.

    1. HotSauce*

      Edit to add that I’m a late GenX cis female, the majority of my office is GenX/Millennial, with one or two Boomers.

  99. Spicy Tuna*

    GenX here – this is TMI. No need to share that you’re nauseated, threw out your back, are hungover, or just need a mental health day.

    At my last job, we regularly worked long hours, so my boss never had an issue if people needed to come in a little late from time to time for things like getting their car serviced, or a dentist appointment. Unfortunately, he always wanted to know why! So if someone said, “hey, I have an appointment tomorrow at 8AM, I’ll be in a little late”, he’d always respond, “No problem…. doctor? dentist? oil change?” MYOB!

    1. The Original K.*

      I’ve found that “Nothing you need to worry about!” is a good response to those questions.

  100. Malika*

    The only time i mentioned it was when HR sat me down because I had only (!) taken one sick day for my ailment. They said that people who take one day off sick were highly likely to be skiving from work and they wanted to address any issues head on. This was issued with a forthright, slightly threatening manner. I then told that i’ d been horizontal with my once a year is-dying-preferable?-it-sure-feels-like-it menstruation cramps. The slightly threatening manner dissolved into horror from this all male hr team and that was the end of any explanations for sick leaves.

    If they ask, they get. Otherwise they just get the explanation of all round under the weatherness and it’s never been an issue. If you keep it vague, i think being unwell is enough explanation for a sick leave. If you are a consistent employee, they will not hold these sick days against you as they can see your commitment when you are up and working.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      How odd! They’ve never had people take off a single day for a headache? What jerks.

    2. Paris Geller*

      . . . how odd. The majority of times I’ve had to use sick leave, it’s been for one-day off things–I ate something that didn’t agree with me, woke up with a killer headache, etc. I think in the past 10 years I can think of only two times I’ve been out with a contagious, multi-day illness. . . covid and the flu.

  101. cubone*

    This is so timely for me. I’m early 30s and was diagnosed with dysmenorrhea (extremely painful periods) a few years ago. I have medication that helps, but it also knocks me out and I’m definitely not operating at full capacity (and as much as I appreciate any encouragement for self-advocacy at the doctors office, please know I do not have endometriosis so no need to suggest I get checked for it). Unless it lands on a weekend, I’m basically out and it’s just so much better to take a sick day, rest, and then I might legitimately be back at 100% the following day (or 75%, and back to 100% the day after that – if any of us are ever at 100%!).

    When this started, I was vague at work, but the recurring nature made me feel that I had to tell my boss that I have a “condition that flares up” to get ahead of any negative attendance feedback. I was NOT going to share details because this boss (a woman) was known for publicly declaring multiple times that woman who take time off for their periods are lazy and how she has terrible periods but powers through anyways. So… that sucked to say the least. I finally got moved to another team with a great (also period-having-woman) boss, who I trusted enough a few months in to just explain what was going on. It was just such a relief to not have to be so weird/vague about something that didn’t feel, well, weird or vague at all!

    I feel like the issue of saying “period” or not to me is less about squeamishness and more about the level of understanding and judgement. I WANT to be able to say I have my period and taking a sick day because it feels like a shorthand almost. If you know me well enough, you know that means I’m in pretty intense pain and really need to rest. That’s sooooo much easier than saying “I have a flare up of my [private] condition”. And yes, I could say “I need a sick day” but when you come back the next day totally fine, people absolutely side-eye you.

    Also, when I was on that first boss’ team and taking vague “sick days” all the time, I definitely had several coworkers comment on it. Varying levels of rudeness to nosiness to genuine concern, but it was really frustrating, since I still never even remotely approached the maximum sick days allotted (it’s madness how “never taking a single sick day” is associated with “work ethic”!). I shouldn’t have to explain my reason for taking sick days (or any personal health info of course), but it annoyed me that it was something so explainable, and not that I felt particularly secretive about, and I just felt like I wasn’t allowed to say it.

    1. sunny-dee*

      There’s a difference in this context between telling your boss the specifics vs just emailing all of your coworkers every time you have a period.

    2. Lizy*

      I definitely think this is an exception to the rule. However, letting your boss know you have X condition and it affects you about once every month is very different, IMO, than just talking about how you have your period. I’d view it similar to how you let your boss know you’re pregnant and may need to take it easy, or you get kidney stones every so often or whatever. Giving your boss/supervisor – or even your coworkers when it affects them or they need to know – context and talking about the details are two very different things.

  102. AndersonDarling*

    There are so many things that could be destigmatized, but dropping a single word isn’t going to make that progress. I don’t really want to know if a co-worker needs to leave early because they need to pick up their bipolar meds, or if they need to talk to a lawyer about that criminal case they are involved in, or the 3rd trip to IVF, or any other issue that they are dealing with. I’m not cold hearted, but if it doesn’t apply to our workplace, then I’d like to use my mental real estate on my issues and those of my family/friends.
    Yes, I know other women have periods, but I don’t need to chart out the severity of my co-workers periods and schedule around them.

  103. 39*

    Older millennial female. Normalizing periods to me is being able to comfortably talk about them with friends, family, medical people etc, not coworkers. I don’t need to talk with coworkers about any personal health issues and I don’t want to hear about theirs. If someone needs to be out no specifics are necessary unless they have something super contagious that those in close contact should look for.

  104. A Nony Mouse*

    Millennial here: I’m all for ending stigma about menstruation in general, but this is your WORKPLACE. I don’t care how natural a bodily function it is, the workplace is not an appropriate setting to discuss the workings of your reproductive organs or digestive tract. End of story.

    1. A Nony Mouse*

      Also, if you want to reduce stigma? Lobby to get free menstrual hygiene products in the office bathrooms and stop people who make inappropriate jokes/comments. Making a special point to tell your coworkers every time you can’t do something because of your period just INCREASES the negative associations people have with menstruation–instead of “this is a natural thing that happens,” it’s “this is a thing that keeps people with uteruses from being able to do their jobs.” Knock it off.

  105. Former HR Staffer*

    40s female here. no one wants to know details about your bodily functions or issues. or details of a personal nature (we have a male colleague going through a divorce, and everytime he needs to leave for court/lawyer-related meetings, he sends a lengthy play-by-play to explain his absence. we now call him the desperate househusband of [insert co name here].)

    unless you want the office talking about you and referring to you as PeriodPatty, i would leave out details and just say you’ll be out for the afternoon. you seem to be keen on wanting everyone to be okay talking about periods, but i assure you, in a professional business setting, NO ONE ELSE DOES. there are some topics that are best left out of the workplace, and trying to force people to talk about your bodily functions is grossing people out and harming your professional repuation, bc people will have serious questions about your judgment.

    1. The Original K.*

      you seem to be keen on wanting everyone to be okay talking about periods, but i assure you, in a professional business setting, NO ONE ELSE DOES.
      This is a good point – OP is going out of her way to destigmatize menstruation, but her efforts don’t trump other peoples’ desires not to hear about it. I doubt the person who complained is the only person who would rather not hear about OP’s menstruation. Her coworkers might be fine talking about menstruation with friends, family, and their doctors, but they don’t want to talk or hear about hers or with her about theirs, and OP should respect that. It doesn’t mean they’re uptight, it just means they don’t want to talk or hear about it at work.

  106. Save the Hellbender*

    I think if OP’s manager doesn’t mind, and OP personally feels strongly about normalizing it, it’s fine to continue! I am also pro sticking to “I’m taking a sick day” but if this is a cause OP cares about and isn’t getting in trouble for, why does it matter if one colleague is squeamish?

    I’m Gen Z, btw.

  107. JillianNicola*

    Female, 40, so technically Xennial (that little microgen between X and Milennial). I agree that menstruation needs to be discussed and destigmatized … in personal/general spheres, NOT professional ones. No one wants to hear about their coworker’s colonoscopy or mammogram or how their gout flared up again, because it crosses that line from professional into personal, and if you’ve read AAM for any length of time you know that’s where things go sideways. Even normalization conversations have a time and a place, and your workplace ain’t it.

  108. Tertia*

    Just want to throw in that I strongly advise against assuming that only one member of the team is uncomfortable with that level of medical detail.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      And the comment may not have been about the word “period,” it may have been because the OP is setting a bar that everyone else should give details about their PTO.

      1. Dezzi*

        This is a super important point! OP, when you give this level of detail, other people are going to feel pressured to do the same. Is that something you really want to be pushing on your coworkers?

  109. Former Young Lady*

    Geriatric millennial woman here. I think it’s contextual.

    When I worked in live theatre, nothing was off-limits, and it made sense due to the nature of the work. (“Todd’s just had a vasectomy, so we’re modifying that pratfall this weekend.”)

    In an office environment, I seem to be that person in whom people feel compelled to confide their every malady, no matter how intimate. I’d rather they didn’t, because it’s none of my business, but I’m not going to judge them on it. If you’re doubled over in pain from ovarian torsion, I also don’t expect you to edit yourself the way you might when you have a cold.

    Once or twice, especially now that I’m working from home, I’ve felt compelled to offer specifics, myself — you know, to “prove” I’m too sick to work, since mere contagion isn’t an issue. I’m trying to break the habit. My boss is a True Millennial and she’s adamant that it’s none of her business, apart from how long we expect to be out.

  110. DrMrsC*

    I’m a physical therapist who shares an tight office space with 17 other people. Three of us specifically treat male and female pelvic floor issues, so discussions around menstrual cycles, menopause and all thing generally related to the “underwear areas” are commonplace. Though squeamish at first, everyone in our office has become generally desensitized to the three of us discussing such topics, sometimes in great depth, from a clinical/medical perspective. Those topics are now as routine as talking about someone’s shoulder surgery or knee injury. That said, if I were having a pelvic floor issue of my own, I would be having a quiet, private conversation with one of my colleagues, not announcing or discussing it within earshot of the larger, somewhat captive, audience. I think Alison was right on the money by mentioning the perception of oversharing. There is definitely a line between normalizing a general topic of conversation and oversharing your own personal details.

    Also, as a side note from a clinical perspective, if any woman is being knocked down that hard by their menstrual cycle on a routine basis, I strongly recommend talking to your physician and and seeking a second opinion if you get any answer that dismissively suggests “that’s just part of being a woman”. I recommend Dr. Jen Gunter’s books to almost all of my female patients to increase their level of medical literacy about their own bodies.

  111. twocents*

    I’m a Millennial, and my thoughts align with Alison. I’m a woman, so it’s not like periods make me squeamish or something, but honestly, I don’t care why you were out. I don’t even care that it was an illness rather than an early appointment or a family emergency or… pick a thing.

    If you’re sharing with the group that you left early, I assume there’s an actual reason I need to know you left early, and maybe the example communications are cutting off that part. Otherwise, if there’s no reason, then you’re being TMI for the sake of it.

    And since I saw some people comment above that this is a weird thing to bring up at performance reviews… I actually don’t think it is! It’s relevant information that you’re being personal to a level that other people aren’t comfortable with. Pre-COVID, there was a coworker who brought up, let’s say, her teapot painting hobby all. the. flipping. time. She had a one-on-one with her boss, she mentioned her current teapot painting progress. She was pulling up the computer screens to lead a call, and while the computer was loading, she was chit-chatting about her teapots. She might even be like this LW and say she didn’t talk about it “that much” (perhaps once a month with these individual people, because that’s as often as each of these separate meetings were), but it was often enough that she became known as the person who was obsessed with painting teapots and it was detrimental to her reputation.

  112. A nice HR lady*

    I’m a 39 year old woman and I agree that bodily functions (no matter how normal) should not be discussed in detail at work…especially alerting your entire department. I feel like people over share to justify themselves. If someone goes home early because of a headache, they think it makes them appear weak, whereas adding that it’s due to a period makes it seem more significant. We need to let people take time away from work without needing an elaborate reason why.

  113. LDN Layabout*

    Millennial, believes periods should be destigmatised, but I don’t think that’s what this LW is doing.

    I tend to stick to ‘not feeling well’ or ‘unable to come in today’ (because I am not feeling well). Any further detail provided would be fairly generic and not specific, which I feel like saying you have a cold or similar is.

  114. Murphy*

    I’m torn. On the one hand, I agree completely that no one needs to give a reason to take time off. But I also don’t think I’d bat an eye at “A migraine knocked me out yesterday” versus “My period knocked me out yesterday.” To me it’s not a big deal.

  115. Me*

    Very progressive 40F. I do not care why you are out sick. Really genuinely do not want to know. Much like I assume no one wants to know that I cant leave the toilet some days due to my aggressive IBS diarrhea.

    How is pointedly telling people you work with you need a day off because of your period normalizing periods? Genuine question. Discussing periods at work isn’t a thing that needs to happen. There’s no work reason for this.

  116. Jean*

    I’m with Alison on normalizing not giving details when you need to take sick time. It’s not required (or shouldn’t be), it doesn’t matter, and your coworkers/managers most likely don’t want to hear unpleasant health information, regardless of the area of your body it pertains to. It’s not about stigmatization of periods, it’s about respecting the boundaries between your workplace and your personal health.

  117. Admin 4 life*

    I’m all for keeping medical information private at work. I have realized though that things like migraines and vomiting are considered more acceptable than anything that occurs between the belly button to the toes.

    I have worked with women who consider talking about their hysterectomy as it relates to no longer menstruating to be up for discussion. It’s really the only time I hear it brought up and it’s like it’s okay to discuss periods if you’re no longer having them which just feels weird to me and like it’s reinforcing that periods are dirty and taboo.

  118. Sally*

    I’m 38 and I admit I do say when I’m feeling ill because of my period at work. I definitely think there’s a time and place for that sort of extra detail, I wouldn’t announce it in the team slack or tell my grandboss, but among colleagues I have. I admit that is mostly in reaction to growing up with it being quite taboo and being really irritated that I was supposed to pretend i wasn’t having this really normal bodily function every month. So yes, i do want to normalise it i suppose and I differentiate between telling someone about heavy bleeding for example (TMI for work) and saying you have a stomach ache or PMS because of your period – which I don’t think is particularly explicit. I do have a very supportive workplace though with lots of people who menstruate and can sympathise!

  119. MissFinance*

    I’m 26, so younger millennial. I also have multiple health issues, including that I’m in remission from thyroid cancer. Most of my coworkers don’t know a thing. My boss knows and my teammate knows because I take time to go to doctor’s appointments frequently, so that way my boss knows that I’m actually going to the doctor and not just blowing off work. Most of my coworkers don’t need to know.

    My boss is a man though, and I wouldn’t be comfortable sharing any details about my period, even though I did have to take off work a few weeks ago for it. I just told him I didn’t feel well.

    Female coworkers who I’ve been close to have totally discussed our periods, but I would never consider discussing it with a man at work.

  120. fposte*

    Boomer/X cusp. I don’t give people specifics about illness absences unless we’re already in a relationship where we’d talk about those specifics; generally I don’t hear the specifics from my staff and that’s good by me. If you’re not well enough to come in, that’s all I need to know. I understand the impulse to normalize menstruation discussion, but it’s at the expense of normalizing people’s privacy there.

  121. Alex*

    I agree that I’d much rather normalize grown ups making their own judgements about their sick days and health statuses by respecting their privacy, than mentioning periods at work. I’m a cusp Millenial//Gen Xer.

    You should be able to say “I’m taking some sick time” and leave it at that.

    Leave normalizing periods to not hiding your pads/tampons as you walk to the bathroom, etc.

    No one really wants to think about your bodily functions of any kind, be they periods, poop, pee, vomit, snot, ear wax, vaginal discharge, etc.

  122. Laika*

    Hm, this is an interesting one. I’ve had various co-workers talk to me about periods, all of us cis women (as far as I know). I’ve never felt uncomfortable hearing about it, but I think the key is about tone/time/place–it was usually something in passing like, “Ugh, I’m exhausted today, my period is really wiping me out.” It was stated just as casually as someone would say, “Allergies are totally kicking my butt right now.”

    When I’ve tried to do it myself, I always come across as a little bit weird. I’m already weird, but people’s social skills are rather good at picking up if someone is artificially trying to act ultra casual. I would have to gear myself up to awkwardly blurt, “My legs are sore today!!! Haha periods, weird huh!!!!”. The fact I was actively trying to normalize the conversation WAS what was generating the awkwardness; the people I’ve known who are open and comfortable discussing misc. body things never did it in a way that suggested they were doing it for any reason other than making conversation.

    Plus, it’s hard enough in person to do, when you can try to suddenly change the subject or crack a joke or whatever if you see the other person’s discomfort. When it’s in writing/a team chat, you can’t read other people’s reactions to it, and if someone feels uncomfortable, they may not get the benefit of a positive interaction with you until much later on. They just have to sit with that discomfort, and may (unjustifiably) attribute that discomfort to The Person Talking About Periods (rather than doing the introspective work of investigating why they feel that way, which isn’t really where people are expected to be spending their energies at work anyway).

    1. Maybe period talk in Australia is different*

      I completely agree. I would totally say ‘oh my god period cramps are killing me’ at work without blinking. My manager has stayed home before and said ‘Just period stuff, I’m online’. I’m in Australia so I’m not sure if we’re more relaxed about this.

      I also have friends who have endo/adeno and are very open about periods at work because they have such serious health issues from them, and their workplaces are fine. One of them is implementing period leave as a result, which is a great outcome.

  123. Awesome Sauce*

    I’m 45 and a cis woman, and I’m all for normalizing menstruation talk, but I’m also all for “not needing or wanting details about a co-worker’s sick leave.” When I have to take time off because my uterus is throwing a tantrum, I will usually just say something like “I’m feeling under the weather/not myself today and really can’t focus.” If anyone presses for details, you can always vaguely hint at the cyclical nature of what’s going on: “Nope, just one of those things that comes up from time to time.”

  124. michelenyc*

    Like most of the comments I am on board with normalizing talking about periods however, when it comes to sharing health information at work less is more. When co-workers or my direct reports I am good with you are going to be out for the day. I don’t need to know why. As long as you have PTO/Sick Days it’s your time. I have noticed with a majority of the population being on social media that a lot of people tend to overshare and that has leaked into their professional lives.

  125. animaniactoo*

    49/F – Eh. I would not mention it as part of one off situations like this. It’s TMI imo. I would stick to “I wasn’t feeling well”.

    I HAVE mentioned it when the context makes it appropriate, and support doing that. i.e. The fairly regular once-a-month dropout is noticed and made a deal out of “Unfortunately I have fairly severe pain when I get my period and sometimes just can’t work through that.”

    And while I once said something about loving having a female boss to whom I could say that I was out of it when she asked if I was okay because I did not look okay that “I have the worst cramps I’ve ever had in my life”, it is also true that about a decade before that when I had a male boss and was sitting at my desk going in to pain-shock, when he asked what was wrong I just straight up told him it was my period.

    I have more or less grown out of using the vague euphemisms I used earlier in my life/career “Female issues. I’ve found guys don’t like to talk about it much…”, but I still use them for “diarrhea” aka “I’m having some interesting bathroom effects”.

    Thinking about this further, I have only felt compelled to explain WHY I am out in a more detailed way when I have been out a lot, and feel a need to be clear that I am not taking the time off lightly. Between asthma attacks and an ulcer, almost yearly bronchitis, and now silent migraines, it’s more often than I would like sometimes. Interestingly having been able to work from home this past year, while I normally run out of days a little early, I made it to the end of the year with plenty of time left. BECAUSE I did not have to make the commute to work and often I can still work when I have issues… it’s just a question of trying to get to work… We’re at June now, when I would have easily blown half my days by now, and have just taken the first 2 unplanned days of the year last week. I just said I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t feel the need to justify it at all.

  126. Dona Florinda*

    As a 30 year old cis woman, I think normalizing periods means I don’t have to be mortified when someone sees a box tampons in my purse or something like that. Doesn’t mean I will tell everyone in my office that I’m on my period, or that that’s the specific reason why I’m out sick.
    If someone asks and you feel comfortable, I think it’s okay to reassure them that this happens every now and get when get your period so it’s not serious, but I wouldn’t go around telling people. Just as I wouldn’t tell that I have to leave early for a blood test to check my thyroid function, when just “exams” would be fine.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      Yeah, destigmatising having your period at work to me is no longer caring if someone spots pads in my bag/hand/pocket vs. my early 20s when I was stupidly anxious about the the chance someone might see them (!!!) or wondering if randomly taking my handbag into the loos looked suspicious.

  127. Oleanna*

    Just adding my voice to the choir of people singing the exact same song: I am a manager in my 20s, and my favorite workers are the ones who call out professionally and succinctly. If your management bothers you about reasons you’re out sick and is stingy about time off, then I support going full gross-out on them! Make them give you that sick leave!
    But I am not one of those managers, and I don’t want to hear anything about why you’ll be out unless you need something from me, like if you have a question about whether taking a family member to a doctor’s appointment is covered by our leave (it is).

    And this doesn’t apply to this letter writer’s workplace, obviously, but I am a female manager & often when people tell me details of why they’re out, I feel an expectation to respond warmly and sympathetically in a gendered way, and I truly resent being put in that position. I am not mommy! I also dislike the outsized role American workplaces have in the health and lives of workers. So in all honesty, I could not care less about specifics unless the person is out for more than two or three days. I just want the person to take the day off and feel better!

    When I’m absent, I stick to “I’m out sick today” or “I’m out for an appointment after 1:30” or something similarly straightforward and low-detail.

  128. Amanda*

    26, cis female here — I agree with Alison, I really would love to normalize not giving any details when taking a sick day and people being cool with that. I’m also pro-normalizing periods, but I don’t talk about poop, pee or vomit for the most part with my coworkers and I feel like periods fall into the same category. That being said, I agree with the commenter who noted that normalizing periods at work should include having tampons/pads in the bathroom, asking a close colleague for a tampon/pad, etc. Also, as someone who can get really awful periods that truly put me out (ie. nausea, headaches, serious fatigue) I understand the need to take sick leave when that happens. Maybe that should be something we all should be able to mention to our supervisors as a semi-regular need to take off. But honestly, I’m just in favor more flexible and trusting work places that wouldn’t bat an eye at needing a half day or day every month or so.

  129. Gina*

    Gen X’er here (I’m going to be 52 in a few months) Cis-Gendered Female. The past two years for me have been rough. Last year had to have a very large growth removed from my uterus. So needed time off for surgery. Told my boss why and he was very queasy about it. But that’s his personality. So this year I started bleeding. Only a few days after a normal period. And it lasted over a month. Every day. And each day it got heavier and heavier. I was in constant pain, tired, unable to focus. Wound up making a couple of mistakes at work. Boss called me into his office to discuss the mistakes. Told him what was going on. Again with the queasy but I needed him to understand just how serious it was. I’ve been on meds for 2 months now. But I think it’s stopped working. It’s starting all over again. I’m going to have to let him know because this time it’ll mean surgery (hysterectomy).

    So while I think as a society having your period should be normalized I don’t really want to talk about it with my boss. Unless absolutely necessary. Should you have to hide a tampon or pad in a pocket on your way to the bathroom? No. And there shouldn’t be any cracks from co-workers about you “being on your period”.

    But I also don’t think I need to announce the reason why I need a sick day. I’m sick that is more than enough info. Unless it’s something like above. I’m going to have to tell him about it because I’m going to need about a week off. I can do 95% of my job from home. But I’m going to need someone to cover the 5% while I’m off.

    If you wouldn’t tell co-workers or your boss about your diarrhea then you probably don’t need to tell them about your period.

  130. SMH*

    My husband manages people from teenage to boomer generation and he has noticed younger people tend to share more details than middle aged or older. He has also explained that he doesn’t need to know all the details. They still share too much information.
    Details that have been shared
    – Broke her toe while removing her bra. She caught her foot in her bra and fell. Not sure how this happens but broken toe would have sufficed.
    – Bleeding too heavy and can’t come to work.
    – Received a group text that a supervisor had a boil on her butt. Also confirmed that no it’s not a hemorrhoid after the other supervisors asked questions. Husband was not thrilled.

    1. The Original K.*

      … I guess you could snag your toe in your bra if you took it off by shimmying it down and stepping out of it, but I don’t know why anyone would do that.

  131. cactus lady*

    I also want to normalize not giving specifics when people are out sick. I work in an office where you’re expected to share and I hate it. (Note that it’s not EXACTLY required to share, but there is definitely the expectation that you will, my office way overshares on personal things in my opinion.) I just want to be able to say “I’m not feeling well” and have it left at that, whether I have bad cramps/a crohn’s flare up/the flu/need a mental health day. I’m all for normalizing period talk, but I agree that work is not the place to start. I’m 37.

  132. snake person*

    Millennial guy; I like Alison’s vision of a world where people take sick days without having to divulge anything, but I also think that the thing you’re doing sounds fine. Normalizing discussions about things that we might consider taboo is an activist action! You’re asking people to challenge and reevaluate their boundaries, and that can make people feel uncomfortable. This mild pushback is an example of how one of your colleagues has responded to that. This is productive discomfort: they have noticed what you’re doing. If they continues to encounter people talking about periods, it may well become normalized for them, which is the outcome you want.
    I think Alison is also right that making people a little uncomfortable carries some risks, which you should balance against how important your activism is to you. This kind of comment from a peer doesn’t feel career-limiting to me and I wouldn’t sweat it; I think this is a sign that you’re getting through.

  133. HannahS*

    I’m a mid-millenial (I think?) and my approach is to not give details on sick days. It’s not relevant to my coworkers and I don’t think it should matter. Personally, I’d rather normalize “You’re the best judge of when you’re too sick to come in so no need to justify it,” versus normalizing every individual reason why someone might not feel well enough for work. Obviously, doing that isn’t wrong either, but I err on the side of privacy.

  134. londonedit*

    I’m in my late 30s and I would prefer to just say ‘I’m not feeling well’. However I think this is a bit more complicated because women have for so long just been expected to get on with it every month while they’re menstruating and I think it would be a good thing if people in the workplace had a bit more understanding. Like how sports stars have started talking more about how their periods affect them – I think as women we should be able to acknowledge that for a few days every few weeks we might not be able to perform at our best, and we shouldn’t have to grin and bear it and pretend everything is totally fine just because it’s a ‘women’s issue’ and we might be seen as ‘weak’ if we admit that we’re struggling. I also think it’s complicated because we’re all saying ‘I have my period’ is TMI for the workplace, and I agree, but there’s no ‘politer’ way to say it. You wouldn’t say ‘I have terrible diarrhoea’ in the office, but you might say ‘I have food poisoning’ or ‘I have an upset stomach’ and people would get the drift. Yet just saying ‘I have my period’ feels like too much information by itself. So I think overall it’s best not to mention it at all, even though that does feel frustrating because it should be OK for women to be able to share – in a non-graphic way, just as you’d say ‘I have a cold’ rather than ‘My nose is streaming everywhere’ – that they’re feeling a bit off their game because their period is knocking them for six.

    1. allathian*

      Fair points. That said, I think that the best thing would be to get rid of the expectation that everybody needs to work at 100% all the time or they’re weak. There are lots of reasons why people don’t always feel so great. I’m also not sure it’s a great idea to normalize periods as a reason to take sick leave. Sure, normalize taking sick leave for
      the debilitating symptoms caused by your periods, but not for the mere fact you’re on your period or feel just a bit grotty but are able to work.

  135. Anoni*

    Alison, I definitely think the difference between “I have a really bad cold” and “I have diarrhea” is the proximity to discussing bodily fluids, which most people (not all) might feel squeamish about.

    Honestly, I do want to normalize discussing symptoms of periods and being on your period. There are physical side effects to the process that are dismissed as overreaction, but it might be helpful to talk about your symptoms rather than the all encompassing “period.” Someone made the point above that being out for part of the day or for a day and a half and chalking it up to your period can unintentionally reinforce the idea that women are unreliable because of their biology, and that sucks, but if you talk about symptoms, it could help remove that connection…which also carries with it its own stigmatization.

  136. m*

    I get the impulse but I wonder if there’s an inverse stigma that they’re actually creating here. Periods sometimes are terrible and make you sick but also sometimes periods are non-events and have no impact on work. There’s been the “you can’t give the nuclear codes to someone so *hormonal*” stereotype for ages and I fear this will accidentally play into that instead.

    1. Morning Glory*

      Yes, completely agree with this. As someone who has never had to miss work from my period I would not be thrilled about a coworker exclusively talking about their period in the context of how it is negatively impacting their work performance. That’s creating a stigma, not removing one.

  137. Dezzi*

    Everything else aside: you’ve been told you’re oversharing and making coworkers uncomfortable. Your coworkers have the right to not hear about your health issues/body parts at work. You should assume that if you continue a behavior you’ve been told is making your coworkers uncomfortable, there are going to be consequences for that. Is “I Must Tell My Coworkers About My Periods To Decrease Stigma, And You Can’t Stop Me!” really the hill you want to die on?

  138. TeaWrecks*

    I’m a younger Gen X cis-woman who has had periods regularly since I was a pre-teen. I don’t think there should be a stigma around periods, but I also don’t think the workplace is the hill to die on to try to de-stigmatize it, regardless of the gender of colleagues. If you’re not well, just say you’re not well – I don’t really need to know the details and in most cases I don’t believe anyone else needs to know, either. When I’ve had to call in sick I might allude to what is wrong to give an idea on when I’ll be back in the office, or if I’m ok to work at home but just not to be around co-workers (ex: I had pinkeye so I was fine to work at home but it’s contagious so I had to stay home for a few days).

    There are instances where letting someone know exactly what is happening is almost a necessary shock tactic. There are still some clueless people who don’t understand how bad a period can be or that they can start suddenly with a need to take a break *right now*, but that’s a completely separate issue for jobs where breaks are usually scheduled and having someone else to cover matters a lot (cashier, server, retail sales, etc..). This would also include the ‘if I don’t get to a bathroom right now I’m going to poop my pants or vomit’ type of things, and not just periods. Shocking someone into immediate action can be needed, but if you can just take the time off with no questions asked there’s no reason to give more details than necessary.

  139. Choggy*

    Just normalize that sometimes people don’t feel well, and don’t need to disclose why. :)

  140. PolarVortex*

    Mid Millennial.
    Quite frankly, I’m for normalizing taking sick days and normalizing periods but I don’t think that we should normalize chatting with random coworkers about periods at work.

    Not because it’s a bad thing to talk about, just I don’t want to know about anyone’s period any more than I want to know that you’re going to a hospital appointment for a colon exam. Both of those things are normal and fine, and I just have no desire to know what’s up with your nether regions. You can just tell me sick/ doctors appointment and I’ll believe you: for any sickness, for any appointment.

    That being said, if it turned out managers were questioning you regarding why you had to take a sudden sick day every month, then you could alert your manager to the situation with your period being atypical. (I hate using that word atypical because periods can be awful and medical places tend to downplay it (and therefore so do women) but since most people don’t need to take a day to sleep, I’m going with that word choice here.)

    That being said, you want to talk with very close coworkers about how your period it taking it out of you…as long as they’re okay with it that’s fine. But no need to chat all your coworkers/email a reply to a missed meeting saying it was for any reason other than you were out sick.

  141. NYC Taxi*

    Gen-X upper management female here in a male dominated industry. I’m all for normalizing periods – but in my office that means having free sanitary supplies well-stocked and available in all the bathrooms, the ability to wfh (in the Before Times anyway) if necessary, and taking a breather during the work day for whatever self-care you need. Take your sick day, but as with any other absence no one needs to know the details. Your period isn’t a “sickness” and telling coworkers you’re taking a sick day because of your period reinforces all the ridiculous stereotypes about fragile women who can’t do their job because of their periods.

  142. Reality Check*

    Gen X here. I’m on the side of keeping it vague. I don’t need or want to know. Also if some get into the habit of giving detail to their employer why they’re calling out, others who are NOT comfortable doing this might feel compelled to do so, just because everyone else is.

  143. Presea*

    Early Z/Late millennial here who menstruates… I think it can be pretty inappropriate to talk about your period for the sole purpose of ‘normalize not giving a reason’, and just something like “I’m under the weather” or, if you have particularly bad/long lasting ones, “I’m having a flare up of a chronic condition” is fine. I think it can also be fine to be a bit more blunt about it if you’re closer friends with someone or are more open about things, but then that becomes less of a ‘workplace’ boundary and more of a ‘friendship’ boundary.

    That being said, my period causes problems for up to a month at a time (I have it less often thanks to medication), and I really wish there was some normalized way to plan around these problems!

  144. nnn*

    I’m a 40-year-old cis woman and I’m unbothered by it. When I was in my teens and 20s, my male peers would have been bothered by it. I’m not close enough to enough men nowadays to tell if that feeling persists for them into middle age.

    However, I think it would be far more useful to normalize taking sick time without no explanation whatsoever, and OP has a glorious opportunity to do so! You can just say “I need to take a sick day,” and if anyone asks why, you can say “I’ve been specifically asked not to share personal health information.” And if they press for more information, you can look them dead-ass in the eye and say “I’m having a really bad period.” And if they object, you have a perfect reason to be even more circumspect about your reason for taking a sick day next time.

  145. Retired(but not really)*

    As someone who grew up with a mom who very vocally (to me at least) complained about the older members of friend groups “giving organ recitals” every time she talked to them, I definitely am not a fan of TMI. However I most likely will elaborate on my seasonal allergies especially now that the world as a whole seems to freak out over a sniffle.
    I will also second (third,fourth) the recommendation to seek assistance with the symptoms OP is experiencing as there could be a way to minimize them.

  146. Midwestern Weegie*

    Cis woman, early 30s- I’m all for normalizing periods (I’m on my third workplace now where I’ve either gotten management to leave sanitary products in both bathrooms, or implemented it myself), but I’m also very in favor of employers not prying into personal lives.

    I’d personally just say “feeling unwell”, and I really try to discourage my team from feeling like they need to share any sort of medical information with me unless I need to adjust something for them. Tell me about your migraines if we need to move your desk/get you a different monitor. I want to know about your back pain so I can order you a chair that meets your needs. Otherwise, your business is your business and I won’t pry.

  147. Jennifer Juniper*

    Forty-six-year-old cis woman here.

    If a coworker mentioned anything to do with areas covered by underwear, my automatic reaction is “EEEEEEWWWWW.” I wouldn’t say that, but I’d wince. Some things do not need to be mentioned in workplaces.

  148. Kay*

    34 female

    No I don’t want to hear about it. Bathroom issues to me should be kept to yourself. I absolutely hate that other women think they can just start blabing to me about their lady issues. I’m a very private private person with my closest friends if we have questions yes but strangers or work colleagues no. Bathroom issues are just best to keep to yourself.

    I also in general don’t want all the gory details about anyone’s health problems. Sure a quick word about a headache or thrown back but don’t go on and on about it

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      Thank god.

      I thought I was going to get piled on for not being feminist/enlightened/modern enough. I’m glad there are lots of other people out there who think that periods should be private and not for public discussion.

  149. GreatMindsThinkALot*

    Mid-thirties, also work in tech, fellow period-haver. Gotta say I, unusually, disagree with Alison here.

    If you’re saying it to them to give context about frequency, severity, or ability to work then that’s helpful from a work angle sure but if you’re only saying it to destigmatise it then also good for you.

    There’s nothing inherently disgusting about periods. If you were graphic about symptoms below the underwear, like Alison mentioned, then perhaps – that’s again similar to talking about your diarrhea, however I would never shy away from saying I have an ‘upset stomach’ or ‘food posioning’. The gross bit is implied but not said, and also there are other symptoms such as fatigue, sweats, dehydration etc, just as there are with periods.

    People who have periods should be treated fairly in the workplace, and that doesn’t always mean equally. Sometimes people who have periods will need a few more sick days than other people, just as any person (of any gender) who has any kind of health or body issue might need, and we will never be treated fairly if we dance around the issue. I have periods, my colleague Jane has diabetes, and my colleague Rashmi gets migranes. We all need ‘special treatment’ sometimes, but I shouldn’t be the only one that has to hide why I need to leave.

    Unbelievably there are still people out there, especially people who don’t have periods, who have no idea what kind of symptoms we can have or how they can be handled, which leads to them thinking we are overreacting, or lazy, or asking for special treatment. The more they are given the opportunity to understand by open and honest communication (without any need to be graphic or unprofessional) the better things will be for everyone.

    1. snake person*

      Hear, hear. The way you framed this resonates with me, as a bi person; hiding parts of our human experience from others reinforces an oppressive status quo. Sharing has costs for the sharer and challenging norms necessarily induces discomfort, but helping everyone understand the perspectives they haven’t been seeing is how we can achieve more inclusive workplaces. Obviously some workplace cultures are going to be more inviting for that sort of thing than others.

    2. Littorally*

      On a principle level, I think you have hit it right on the money. Dysmenorrhea (because let’s be specific here: it is not menstruation that is the problem, it is painful menstruation, which is a medical condition!) shouldn’t be treated differently from other chronic medical conditions.

      I do still think, as I said below, that OP is more likely to be tarnished with the existing stigma rather than to destigmatize anything, but if that’s a fair price in their particular estimation, then go for it.

    3. allathian*

      Yes, fair treatment doesn’t always mean equal treatment. If you give periods as a reason for leave, I think it’s crucial to specify that yours are more painful or difficult to manage than average. Plenty of women who have had at most mildly uncomfortable periods have absolutely no idea how painful they can be. I admit I’m in this group myself, as I’ve never had to take a day off work for period pains, although I admit to taking half a day off for PMS a few times when I was afraid I’d lose my cool at the least frustration if I didn’t leave early, either by weeping uncontrollably for hours or by assaulting the first person to cross my path. It’s nowhere near that bad normally, but both times it happened when I was very stressed for work-related reasons anyway and the PMS was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

      OTOH, my younger sister had to go on the pill when she was 13 because she had debilitating dysmenorrhea that kept her practically bedridden for 3 days out of every cycle, which was very irregular at the time. One particularly memorable day she was in so much pain that I had to support her on our walk home from the bus stop, and the last 50 yards or so, she could’t walk, so I put my backpack on my front and carried her on my back. She was in junior high and I was in high school on the same campus and our schooldays frequently ended at the same time.

  150. Cake or Death?*

    40 year old cis woman here. Everyone poops. Yet I doubt that anyone would think it’s appropriate to excuse yourself from a meeting by announcing “I have to go poop.”

  151. Dr. Rebecca*