my coworker is overworking herself, are tank tops business casual, and more

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

1. My coworker is overworking herself

I’m concerned about my coworker but I’m not sure what to do or if it’s my place to do anything. She regularly starts working at 7 am and works until 10 pm, skipping her lunch break. She does usually take a couple hours in the afternoon to spend time with her horse, however. Last week I noticed she was working at both 11 pm and 4 am one night, sending messages to coworkers in other parts of the world. This week she has broken ribs from falling while riding, but she isn’t taking any time off even though she has said she feels awful. She also isn’t taking any medication stronger than Advil because she doesn’t want feeling loopy to affect her work. As far as I know, she’s never taken any vacation time in 2+ years of working here, even though we have unlimited PTO and the office culture is generally supportive about using it.

After my boss quit from the stress of too many projects, our grandboss has said he wants to make sure no one else gets burnt out, but I haven’t seen him take any action. In fact, he’s a big contributor to my coworker’s to-do list. I’ve tried encouraging my coworker to take time off, especially to heal from her injury, but she tends to just laugh it off. It’s true that if she did take time off, deadlines would be missed — she has sole responsibility for a lot of things.

Should I say something to our grandboss? HR? Or just let her do what she wants?

You are kind to be thinking about this, but it’s not really your place to get involved. You can certainly tell her she seems overloaded and ask if she’s talked to her boss about decreasing how much is on her plate … but attempting to intervene beyond that would be overstepping (and could seem pretty paternalistic if she found out about it). It’s also possible she has reasons for working this schedule or even likes it (I know that sounds unlikely, but some people get fulfillment from this kind of thing — which doesn’t make it healthy or wise, but does make it not really your business unless you’re her boss).

The exceptions to this are (a) if she’s very junior and you think is unlikely to be comfortable speaking up for herself at work, (b) if you’re in a leadership role where you’re expected to share info that’s affecting the team, or (c) if it’s affecting your own work.

2. Are tank tops business casual?

I used to work for a somewhat conservative insurance company. In terms of progressive policies, they were amazing, but the dress code was very “old school” — business casual, no flip flops, men couldn’t wear shorts, we could eventually wear jeans but not jean shorts, and so on. It wasn’t onerous, but graphic t-shirts and casual tank tops were definitely not okay. I probably could’ve gotten away with a sleeveless dress as long as the straps were very wide. I’ve worked for a few companies since this time, mostly with more lax policies — a gym where I wore a branded t-shirt but could otherwise wear whatever, including not even wearing shoes, as long as it was clean and I didn’t smell bad, and a nonprofit where I basically just lived in nerdy graphic t-shirts, leggings, and hoodies most days.

So that brings me to my question: are tank tops professional? Like let’s say you work for a company where it’s not a rigid business casual code (e.g., you could still plausibly wear a cotton t-shirt and jeans). Would a basic cotton tank top also count as semi-formal so long as you had on clean nice pants and stuff?

So, the dress code you described is not old-school! Old-school isn’t business casual; it’s suits. No shorts is pretty normal for offices. Not universal, but really common!

Tank tops are a grey area though. They definitely don’t count as “semi-formal,” especially if they’re basic cotton as opposed to a dressier material. (I think you are maybe lumping everything that’s not super casual into one big “businessy” category, but there are meaningful gradations of difference in there.) But some business casual offices are fine with tank tops and others aren’t. Some are fine with dressier tank tops but not basic cotton ones (which do generally read as quite casual). There’s no one blanket answer; you’ve got to look at the specific dress code (where tank tops will sometimes be specifically called out as prohibited) and watch what other people wear. When in doubt, you can always ask your boss!

3. Ads that don’t list salary — when can I ask about pay?

I came across an ad for a job that I think would be a great fit for me. Easy commute, exciting organization, a field that I’d be really interested in progressing in, and I check all of the boxes on the requirements. The only issue is that the salary for the role isn’t listed anywhere. I’ve checked all over the job sites to see if I can find it outside of the company website but no luck.

I have a sneaky feeling that the role will pay less than what I currently earn, which is a real shame but I have a mortgage and can’t afford a pay cut. Should I email to ask about the salary before applying? I don’t want to waste my time on an application for a job I couldn’t take, but I also don’t want to offend the hiring manager if it turns out it pays better than I expect it to.

You can try, but there’s a high likelihood that you won’t hear anything back or will get an answer that’s vague to the point of useless. If they didn’t put the salary in the ad, it’s often because they don’t disclose it to applicants at this stage. But it’s possible you’ll get a hiring manager who just didn’t think about it, or who’s willing to talk about it directly even though their company won’t let them put the salary in the ad. You can go ahead and ask; just be prepared for not getting a response (and you risk the application window closing while you’re waiting to hear back).

If you’re really interested in the job, you’re better off applying and raising the question in the initial screen. I know that’s ridiculous because it makes no sense to waste your time or theirs if you’re too far apart on salary, but that is still the weird world we live in much of the time.

The good news is that the conventions on this are starting to change. Just five years ago, I was still advising not asking at this stage at all because so many employers were bizarrely — and preposterously — turned off by it. Now, though, asking about salary early on is finally getting more normalized.

4. My boss invited me to lunch at their house

I am in support role at a nonprofit and have supported my boss, who is the CEO, for the past four years. Recently they asked me to their home for a meal and I am unsure what proper protocol is. Do I bring a gift? Do I need to return the favor?

My boss and I have a great relationship and before the pandemic would regularly go out to lunch where they treated. The element of eating at their house just throws me off.

Additionally, I am job searching without their knowledge (turned down one offer and am in the process for others) and I just feel like leaving after this “intimate” lunch will be a betrayal.

You do not need to return the invitation with an invite of your own! That might be expected in a purely social situation, but in this one it’s enough to say thank you and be a gracious guest. If you’d like, you can bring a bottle of wine or another traditional host gift. (Know that with wine, the expectation isn’t that they’ll serve it at that meal so don’t be offended if they don’t!)

And you won’t be betraying your boss if you leave soon after the lunch. The lunch indicates they like and appreciate you, but it doesn’t obligate you to stay longer at your job than you would otherwise! That said, since they’re clearly making an effort to connect, when you resign you might make a point of telling them how much you appreciated working with them and hope to stay in touch (if that’s true).

5. How to tell coworkers my spouse came out as trans

I work for a small company, where everyone met my spouse “James” during a virtual happy hour. Since then, my spouse has come out as trans, goes by the name Jane, and uses she/her pronouns. Personally, this revelation of her identity is cause for celebration. Professionally, though, it’s left me on uncertain footing.

I’ve almost responded to questions like “what’d you do this weekend” with “my wife and I …” countless times already, and once someone asked me how “James” was doing and I stared in slack-jawed confusion for a second before realizing they were asking about my spouse.

I don’t want to keep Jane a secret and I have every reason to believe my company would accept this information graciously. I’m just not sure how I should broach this personal topic. Do I tell people individually as Jane comes up in conversation, even though there are some people I don’t talk to for weeks at a time? Or do I use the all-staff meeting when it’s my turn to update the company on interesting things that have happened in my life to introduce Jane in between photos of our dogs and my recent camping trip? Or are there other options I’m not considering?

Fwiw, the company is too small for an HR person/department and I’ve only been with the company for a few months. Also, Jane has okayed me sharing this information with the company and has left the specifics of how up to me.

I don’t have personal experience with this and I’m hoping people who do will chime in with advice, but my thought is to just be matter-of-fact about it. So if someone asks about Jane by her previous name: “Oh, she goes by Jane now and uses she/her pronouns. But she’s doing really well — just started a new job that she loves and is up for an award for this amazing rice sculpture she made.” Or if you’re asked about what you did over the weekend, you could just be straightforward: “My wife and I saw a terrifying horror movie and I am never leaving the house again.” If you want, you could add in additional explanation — “My wife and I — James goes by Jane now — saw a terrifying horror movie…” — but I’m not even sure you need to.

Trans people and partners of trans people, what’s your advice?

{ 512 comments… read them below }

  1. Sami*

    I can’t think of many workplaces where a tank top (by itself) would be appropriate. A gym would be, a fashion/department store as well would be okay.

    1. Worked in IT forever*

      The only time I’ve worn one in my business (very) casual office was as a layer under a partly open cardigan that I never took off.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I am wearing one right now. But it has a very dressy, blousy front and I am wearing a short sleeved wrap over it. I have a few button up tanks as well, but I also always wear them with some kind of wrap. Personally, I would really prefer my armpit stays covered while in the office at all times.

      2. rachel in nyc*

        I may have in the summer (so I could wear the tank top in the subway) but added a sweater in the office. The only reason the sweater would have come office would be if the A/C broke…and I was on my way home.

        (My coworkers knows I don’t do the office in the summer without A/C)

      3. quill*

        I have a few highly decorative ones that I have worn in the past, but it’s generally been an exception for the very hottest part of the summer. As in “the choices were visible sweat stains due to walking from my car to the office, or no sleeves at all” heat.

      4. IdahoSmith82*

        I work in the same industry as the Tank Top OP.

        For women- if they are tasteful “fancy” tank tops/sleeveless blouses (think embellished, not strappy, nicer materials, etc) then for all of the offices I’ve worked in, they were considered appropriate as layers and on their own.

        That being said- all of those offices were in California. Sleeveless attire is slightly more common/acceptable for women there than in other locations from what I’ve seen.

        1. Pickled Limes*

          This is what I was thinking. There are tank tops and there are sleeveless tops, and they’re not necessarily the same thing. For business casual, a sleeveless top that’s made of blouse-style fabric and has some shape and structure to it would probably be totally fine. But a stretchy knit tank top would work best as a base layer rather than being worn on it’s own.

          I also laughed a little bit when I read the description of the dress code as “old school,” because I’ve literally never worked anywhere that’s allowed staff to wear shorts, or t-shirts with words on them, or leggings as pants, or even jeans unless it’s casual Friday. These are all really, really common dress code restrictions in a business casual office.

          1. Merry R.*

            I think that this attitude is changing significantly, though. While shorts are definitely not something that I’d ever wear to the office, I wear jeans and a graphic t-shirts pretty much every day, and I work in a conservative field. Other women in my office frequently wear leggings. I see other men and women in my office building wearing shorts (tech firms).

            1. IdahoSmith82*

              agreed- even before the shutdown.

              My office (in a really conservative industry) was really casual, and allowed jeans as long as they were nice (aka you didn’t look like you’d just finished painting and/or wrestling with a bear), you weren’t meeting with a client, and you did what you were supposed to do- casual attire in general was allowed. Nice shorts/capris also allowed, but no flip flops (because one of the executives hated the noise they made).

              But again-Southern California.

          2. LisTF*

            Yes I chuckled at the description of “old school” which I take to mean ‘from like, the 1900s, probably’. (1999 was over 2 DECADES ago). Way to make us feel ancient, LW! Lol

          3. LizM*

            This is where I am. I’m in a very casual office, and I will wear a sleeveless top, but not a tank top. It’s hard to define the difference,, it’s kind of a “know it when you see it” situation, but in my mind, a sleeveless top is basically a blouse where they didn’t sew the sleeves on. Tank tops are usually thinner straps, tighter fitting, and cotton or stretchy material and often (but now always) lower cut.

            Even then, I usually have a sweater or jacket, and mostly only take it off at my desk in my office, or if I’m in the conference room, both of which have south facing windows and is almost impossible to cool off when it hits 95+ degrees.

      5. OyHiOh*

        Same. As it happens, I’m wearing a cotton tank today – under a lightweight blazer that will stay on until I leave work. Fine as a layer, definitely not by itself.

      6. Prosaic*

        Same. I feel like bare shoulders are still a risky play, but honestly American offices seem to be kept so cold that it’s just too chilly to wear a tank top indoors most of the time anyways.

      7. Elizabeth West*

        I will sometimes put them on as layers under a low-cut blouse, as clothing manufacturers seem to have no concept that women can’t/don’t want to wear revealing shirts at the office. :P

        1. rnr*

          Oh my GOD this has been a pet peeve of mine for years!! Who wants to show cleavage at the office? Or are they just trying to get us to buy additional layers for underneath? Because I have had to do the same thing.

      8. Aitch Arr*


        I wear tanks often, but under cardigans and with some sort of necklace to dress it up.

      9. Glitsy Gus*

        Yeah, I have a few silk shells and nicer tank tops I wear under sweaters and jackets. If I’m really warm I may take off the sweater at my desk, but I’d throw it back on if I had to head anywhere further than the restroom.

        I don’t think anyone in my office would be horribly offended by my sleeveless top, it just really doesn’t feel “put together” enough to count as work wear.

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, this. I admit that I have an issue about too much naked skin at work. When we’re at the office, the vast majority of my coworkers commute by public transit because the office is a hundred yards from a big transit hub (trains, buses, streetcars), and I hate the idea of brushing against someone else’s naked skin in the crowd. So no sleeves shorter than slightly above the elbow and no shorts/skirts shorter than slightly above the knee for any gender or body size/type. I guess I’m glad that most of my coworkers seem to have the same sensibilities as I do! I only remember one intern in our team who used to wear tank tops until our then-boss asked her if she was going to the beach after work. We don’t have a written dress code, but the intern got the message.

      Our office obviously has AC and in the summer I often bring a wrap to work to wear there even if I don’t wear it on my commute.

      1. lyonite*

        To me, it’s more about the casualness than the amount of skin. A sleeveless shell is about as bare as a tank top (though generally with a higher neckline), and that would be fine for a casual office on a hot day. But a tank is much more gym/beach wear–like showing up in sweatpants.

        1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

          Agreed. I have several sleeveless work tops that are fairly businessy, and can easily wear to meetings or conferences. I also have cotton tank tops that cover exactly the same amount of skin that I would never wear to work in the office (although they were fine for cafe work). I feel like part of it is design and part is materials, business casual tops are more likely to have buttons, collars, patterns or details that read as more dressy or formal, and are more likely to be made from materials that also code that way (e.g. silk rather than cotton).

          I also had a chuckle at business casual being categorised as “Old School”, for me old school means at least a full suit, possibly even a tie!

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yes, the exact same physical shape of top, one in green silk and one in green cotton–the first reads as normal business wear to me, often with a jacket or cardigan. The second reads as far more casual.

            1. anonymath*

              Yep. A basic cotton tank will never, ever be semi-formal, because it’s basic cotton. Basic cotton can’t be semi-formal.

              Heavy fine-knit cotton can be semi-formal, but as has been discussed here in the past the weight of the fabric and the type of fabric do play into how it is “read” and heavier fabrics in general are more formal than lighter fabrics. A sort-of exception is silk because it’s lighter than everything, but even with silk, heavier silk is generally more formal than lighter silk.

              In general a tank top can never be formal or semi-formal, either, in a business environment. I can see a fancy blinged-out top with the tank top shape being formal at a romantic dinner, or a party, but not in the office. There’s a reason shells and sleeveless tops cover the bra straps/shoulder tops. A very general rule is that the more skin is covered, the more powerful you look (there’s a lot of sexism and Northern privilege built into this, but check out people on TV news for instance: the men are covered everywhere, women are covered everywhere if they are prime minister etc, women are less and less covered as they go down the hierarchy of power, ending with the cliche of the scantily-clad weather girl, and yes I’m reproducing societal sexism all over the place here, because that’s what I’m trying to point out).

            2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

              In addition to fabric and fabric weight, the way collars and hems are done is another signal of casual vs formal. Raw edges and artistically frayed jean hems read “fun.” Thick, stretchy, cotton collars and cuffs read sporty. A shirt collar always reads business – to the point where it made the polo shirt into our earliest “business casual” shirt, way back in prehistory.

              So a silk shirt with deliberate raw edges is going to come off as cocktail (unless you put a blazer over it), but the same shirt with smooth, neatly hemmed edges will be business formal. If you are looking for office jeans, look for the ones with the boring hems. If you want a cotton shirt for work, look for jersey, but also look for a neckline that is finished more seamlessly versus one with a set-in ribbed collar.

          2. Bee*

            In fact it is quite difficult to find work-appropriate summer tops that are NOT sleeveless – they’re so much easier to make and you can charge about the same amount for them. I went looking for short-sleeved blouses a couple years ago and couldn’t find any that I liked! I wouldn’t wear a cotton tank top (even though a cotton v-neck tee seems fine to me), but a sleeveless shell or blouse is extremely normal business casual.

            1. T. J. Juckson*

              I really like what is apparently called a “French sleeve” (per Muji, at any rate), which is like a cap sleeve. More coverage than a tank or shell, but still quite breezy.

        2. triceratops*

          I agree! Like Allison mentions, I think there is a whole spectrum of tops that could fit under the category “tank top” but be wildly different levels of appropriateness for a work place, depending on dress code. Like you said, a sleeveless shell top is a perfect example of a work appropriate “tank.” I also have sleeveless button-up blouses that are my go-to for office wear in hot weather. Tanks that are your typical ribbed cotton Hanes brand racerback tank are likely too casual for most workplaces as well as a spaghetti strap camisole style tank. A racerback tank made out of a “nicer” material, like linen or silk, or with more structure like a slight peplum may elevate a tank top to a level of work appropriateness. It’s really interesting to think about how clothing can signal different things depending on the style.

          1. doreen*

            I had to talk to a coworker about this just the other day. She just got promoted into management and our dress code is different than her former position. She was wearing a very thin, white cotton tank and I know our manager would have gotten on her if the manager had seen it. The actual style of the shirt would have been fine if it had been made of a different fabric or even heavier cotton- but this one was very thin cotton , similar to this

            1. Yorick*

              Yeah, that looks like underwear. It looks like those white undershirts men wear. No way is that by itself appropriate for an office.

          2. Dramatic Romantic*

            This is very workplace situational.

            My work “uniform” is quite literally ribbed cotton tank tops from Old Navy, that I buy in bulk in black, navy, maroon and olive, cardigans that work with the tank tops, jeans and sneakers. The office is kept at 68 during the summer, so I freeze. I am not client facing. My office is adjacent to a warehouse, so closed toe shoes (and no heels) are a safety requirement. I have steel toe boots and a hardhat to put on if I need to go onto the warehouse floor, and I’m required to wear a Hi-Vis safety vest if I go out into the trucking yard. The men in the office tend to wear plain t-shirts and jeans or company branded shirts.

        3. The Original K.*

          Yeah, I’ve been wearing tank tops this week that are not shirts I’d wear in an office that billed itself as business casual (I’m still remote so I’m dressing casually). We’re in a heat wave so I didn’t think much about it beyond “it is too hot, I need to keep cool, I’m going to wear as little as I can, even in air conditioning.” However, I have sleeveless shirts that aren’t tank tops that I have worn to business casual offices, that were marketed as office wear – different material, higher necklines, wider straps, dressier in general.

        4. WantonSeedStitch*

          I agree. I think of “sleeveless blouse/shell” in a different category from “tank top.” Sleeveless dresses and sleeveless blouses are things I have seen in my business-casual workplace, including on upper management. Very neat, well-fitted, and polished. But a tank top is basically the sleeveless equivalent of a tee-shirt, and not something I would wear on its own to work. I’m a big fan of sleeveless dresses for work in the summer, myself. I can wear them as-is on my commute so I don’t get ridiculously overheated, and put a shawl on over them in the air-conditioned office if I get chilly.

          1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

            It can be a fine line! And that line is often the neckline.

            Back when we were in-person I would wear neat, smooth jersey tank tops in the office, but only a) underneath a jacket or cardigan and b) with a scarf obscuring and raising the neckline. My rayon shells showed a similar amount of chest but I didn’t use a scarf because the neckline read fancier and the drape obscured cleavage from the top view. I wouldn’t wear the bare shoulder one on its own but would the cap sleeve one, which is maybe two inches of fabric more but read so differently.

            I’ve now got boat- necked jersey tank tops and those read close to as business casual as the shells. No cleavage at all.

        5. Smithy*

          The variation with women’s clothing and work is so much more subtle where it really does push far more conversation around a top that’s sleeveless vs a tank top and at which point does one cross into the other in a way that’s not appropriate. All of which to say is that particularly for women who’s entered the work world on the more casual to business casual side – just sending out all the support in the world for proactively reaching out to peers, mentors, and bosses for advice on this.

          I’m not going to make a case for how a cotton spaghetti strap tank top could fit into a business casual case – however, I’ve seen a number of thick strapped, loose tank tops made of heavy material, like the weight of a velvet, that do work in the business casual world. And also a sharp reality that whenever it comes to “less” clothing, that women with a larger bosom will be judged differently on their appropriateness than a smaller bosom.

          There are certainly jobs where this matters around more strictly punitive measures – however for those in jobs where it’s more about “dressing for the organization/sector/success”, it can be tough.

          1. triceratops*

            I love that you mentioned that this is only something that happens in women’s fashion. For men in white collar jobs, sleeveless shirts of any kind are not appropriate. Easy peasy – there’s no variation among sleeveless shirts that might make some appropriate and others not. And like you said, there’s a whole host of other things women have to self-monitor like bosom size that make clothing choices fraught with difficulty.

            1. Cooper*

              Ugh, having this exact issue today. I got a new dress that seemed to have a respectable neckline that wouldn’t choke me, and it’s fine if I’m standing with perfect posture, but every time I lean forward or do anything at my desk, I feel like I’m basically falling out of it. It’d be fine on one of my considerably-smaller coworkers, but on me, it’s Cleavage City. Population: Me.

      2. I take tea*

        I really dislike touching strange people’s bare skin as well. It feels far too intimate. I go with about the same dress code as you, it feels appropriate for work. I don’t want to signal “off to the beach” when I’m at work.

        For me it’s a little bit equality too, a man could probably not get away with something sleeveless, so why should I?

        1. Jack Straw*

          This is a sincere question–Why are you touching people on their upper arms at work?

          1. parsley*

            It can feel a bit more polite than waving your hand in front of someone’s face if all other avenues of getting their attention have failed.

            1. too young to die, too old to eat off the kids' menu*

              It’s totally not polite if the person you’re touching is jumpy and/or super focused. That’s how shit gets spilled.

              1. quill*

                You run a risk of being beaned with whatever I’m holding if you sneak up behind me and touch me, but I do believe that the original comment was in regards to being jammed shoulder to shoulder on the bus or subway.

              2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

                It’s pretty standard behaviour to tap someone on the shoulder or similar to get their attention, especially if they are wearing headphones or something.

          2. Me*

            I don’t think they are actively touching people’s arms. As the person above mentioned it can be easy to brush against someone while commuting or moving through an otherwise crowded space. Also sometimes just the idea of the possibility of something is enough to make people uneasy even if it never happens.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I am confused as well. There are reasons why sleeveless shirts wouldn’t be considered business wear, but “I might have to touch your bare skin” shouldn’t be one of them.

          1. Liane*

            The original mention of “touching bare skin” above, by Allathian, specified at a transport hub, so I am guessing accidentally brushing past people while commuting. As opposed to deliberately touching, or being touched by, a co-worker.

            1. Watry*

              And you can brush by people in the office too, especially if it’s cubicles-just a couple of weeks ago a coworker accidentally got her elbow in my breasts.

            2. I take tea*

              Yes, thank you, it was supposed to be a comment to Allathian above. When commuting (I’m living in a place where commuting means crowded public transport), it really feels too intimate if we don’t have layers of fabric between us. (I really don’t miss this right now!) At work I generally don’t go around touching my co-workers :-)

    3. AcademiaNut*

      I would classify a plain white tank top as on the very casual end of a casual workplace. If an office is within shouting distance of business casual, it wouldn’t be appropriate. Sleeveless tops in general are a bit different – I wouldn’t wear a plain cotton tank to work to my very casual office, but I regularly wear sleeveless tops of silkier or more textured fabrics that aren’t tight fitting.

    4. Ding ding*

      I have worked in many locations that one would describe as business casual where a tank top would absolutely be appropriate. I’m honestly confused by this. It’s a shoulder, who cares?? I guess a lot of work I’ve done has lacked decent air conditioning during hot times of the year?

      1. Nas*

        This. It would be absolutely fine in my office (not US) and in many other places that I know. Eg. I’m sure I saw professors (or at least student assistants) wear it.

        1. De (Germany)*

          Would be fine in mine, too, but i wouldn’t call my workplace “business casual”, just “casual”. People have been known to wear shorts and go barefoot in summer…

        2. anonymath*

          In my department security once asked a man to leave as they thought he was homeless, and then some staff and students came over, ‘no no no he’s a professor!’

          So without some caveats I wouldn’t take academia as reflective of business norms!

          1. rural academic*

            Agreed, academia is not a “business casual” environment, at least for faculty. Faculty can get away with wearing almost anything, and eccentricity is frequent. At my institution, male faculty in particular run the gamut from suit & tie every day to band t-shirts and cargo shorts every day; female faculty don’t have quite as much of a range, but wearing sleeveless tops in a hot classroom would not be unusual at all.

            1. Pippa K*

              I have a respected professorial colleague (male, I need hardly specify) who wears short 70s-style gym shorts and knee socks in hot weather. I’m always torn between “a woman could never wear that” and “absolutely nobody should wear that!”

              1. Concerned Academic Librarian*

                Before the pandemic, I would have never worn a casual tank top into work, let alone shorts. This summer, after the way we’ve been treated, the epic heat, and with our HVAC being as awful as it is, I can no longer bring myself to care. Unless I have a class to teach or an in-person meeting, I’ve been wearing Bermuda shorts and sleeveless tops into the library.

                So far no one has batted an eye. I do have tenure though and maybe that’s the key.

              2. JustaTech*

                Ah academia, where you can pretty accurately place a person (mostly men) in the hierarchy by how casually/poorly they are dressed.
                Sandals, white socks, beat-up hiking pants, very worn fleece vest? Tenured professor with several million-dollar grants.

              3. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

                I think we might have gone to the same university. Or more likely there are multiple such dudes out there…

      2. sunglass*

        Yeah, it’s not really a big deal in my office in summer – it’s an ancient listed building with absolutely no air conditioning, and it is absolutely boiling in the summer. No one bats an eye at seeing shoulders (and maybe even the revelation that some people wear bras) because we’re all too busy trying not to melt.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Defining business formal and business casual has never been about the amount of skin showing, though–it’s about norms, some of them illogical. So in a traditional office men can wear suits with full-length pants, but not shorts or capris or skirts. Women can wear suits with skirts, with pants is a bit fashion forward, and shorts or capris would be side eyed even if they were longer than the skirt.

        Full-on Elizabethan court gear would cover lots of skin, but not fit as “business semi-casual” either.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          True. I have some friends down in Austin, and I know that nice business shorts are a thing down there and fully accepted into business casual in many offices. Up in the North where hot days are fleeting it is very much not a thing I ever see, but people have to adapt to their environment.

          1. PT*

            But while people in Austin may get business shorts during the pit of summer, people up North get snow clothes. I doubt anyone in Austin would be able to get away with some of the outfits people wear to work up north on days they have to trudge in through a blizzard and don’t want to ruin their nice work clothes with slush and rock salt.

            1. Autistic AF*

              Northern Canadian here, I commuted via bus with a decent walk for years. I kept a pair of indoor shoes and changed out of the big winter boots when I got to the office, which was pretty standard. Same with the parka, giant scarf, etc. It’s easier to dress for cold than heat (especially during this sweltering heat wave).

        2. Save the Hellbender*

          Maybe the disparity is in what a tank top is! If it’s a sleeveless t-shirt, no, if it’s a sleeveless blouse, should be good unless the men in the office suffer from the same alleged affliction as men at many high schools – an inability to concentrate if a woman’s shoulder is exposed.

      4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Eh, it’s not the shoulder that’s the problem. A lot of casual tank tops are cut deep under the arm, have low necks, and are made from stretchy, clingy fabric.

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          Exactly. And many men’s tank tops reveal far too many nipples for an office setting (my standard for the office is that zero nipples is the right amount to show off).

      5. too young to die, too old to eat off the kids' menu*

        > It’s a shoulder, who cares??

        I’ve been dying on this hill since middle school.

        Unrelated, I managed to get second degree frostbite on my shoulder last July (yes, in summer) and physically couldn’t wear anything but tanks and strapless bandeaus. Bandages aside, I think I pulled out professional pretty damn well.

    5. louvella*

      I feel like the workplaces where shorts have been fine, tank tops have also been fine. But I have tried to avoid showing bra straps.

      1. Tupac Coachella*

        Bra straps definitely make a difference in my mind. I work at a business casual job that’s generally not particularly fussy about wardrobe as long as people look neat and put together, so a nice non-ribbed tank top that fits well wouldn’t raise eyebrows (especially paired with a pencil skirt or something else that balanced the look), but bra straps would change that calculus. Rule 1 or work wear: no undergarments should be clearly visible.

        I usually wear a cardigan with tanks or cap sleeves though because 1) I’m pretty much always cold and 2) I have a large upper arm tattoo. While it’s not inappropriate and does occasionally make an appearance, I do think it makes me look less formal, and I like to be in control of when the giant-arm-tattoo part of my personality is visible.

    6. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’ve worn one (black one) under a suit jacket but that’s as far as I’d go. And that was because the wretched office was over 30c regularly and that was the bare minimum of clothing I could get away with.

      (Yes we had to wear suits)

    7. Striped Badger*

      I’ve also taken the rule to be (with some other factors); short-sleeves = yes, no-sleeves = no

    8. BK*

      I’m typing this from the office (shh, it’s lunchtime), while wearing a basic black cotton tank top and shorts. The shorts are the type that look like business-y slacks, just, well, shorter. It is perfectly okay for my company, which is a few hundred people, in a tech-adjacent field, in a large European city. I would see almost everyone in the company wearing the same in the summer (by same I mean shorts and t-shirts for the men), except the top layer of management, which is about 10 people.
      I think it all comes down to the specific office culture. When you’re new, err on the side of formal, and observe your coworkers to see what the norms are – and feel free to ask your boss.

    9. Well...*

      I am right now attending a conference and the speaker is in fact wearing a tank top. Another participant (big name in the field) has been wearing a gym shirt/loose tank top all week with his video on so…

      There are some corners of academia where this is pretty common.

      1. Dwh*

        Yes. I’m in academia and I agree. I would not describe typical attire in my field as “business casual” though. I go to conferences in different subspecialties, and the way people dress and style themselves varies widely.

        1. Well...*

          Agreed, it’s not business casual, and very few people in my field would describe our attire this way, even at conferences. I was responding to the original comment that not many workplaces would allow this.

    10. Person from the Resume*

      I fully agree.

      The professional-level of the tank top depends on the material too. Cotton and the traditional ribbed material read as casual as a cotton free 5-K t-shirt or something like that. Tank tops with different material can read as more professional and can be worn under another top or sweater.

      For offices which are usually air-conditioned a tank top by itself is just not professional. But also shorts and usually flip flops are not professional for offices (although people are waiver on the flip flops. Don’t do it, people. Flip flopping through the office with the snap of the sole is not professional).

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I’ve also worked places where they crank the air so much in summer time that I need to keep a large selection of wraps and cardigans at my desk along with a pair of gloves. I swear that they they infuse engineers with polar bear DNA at the state collage.

        1. EmmaPoet*

          LOL, the math department at my university was notorious for people running round in shorts even at -50F, because the building was forever an oven.

    11. Jack Straw*

      At my last job, the only rule was no sweatpants or clear workout wear. We wore shorts (of varying lengths, no one measured), tank tops (both loose, dressy material and form-fitting cotton ones), jeans, leggings, flip flops, etc. AS an office, we were admittedly not customer-facing, but all the work got done the same as if we were in long pants and button downs. ;)

      I was a teacher before that job and actually had to go buy a few more casual pieces and more jeans because I stuck out like a sore thumb in my classroom clothes.

      1. Nancy*

        That’s pretty much my office’s policy as well.

        I think LW should just ask someone who works there.

    12. learnedthehardway*

      Where I am, we’re all still working from home due to COVID. I often wear a shell (ie. dressy top, no sleeves), where in an in-person business meeting, I would have had a suit jacket as well.

      Yesterday, I completely forgot to change before a video meeting, and ended up doing it in a tank top. Oops. Luckily everyone else was really casually dressed, but I felt I was pushing it and won’t make that mistake again.

    13. Jennifer Juniper*

      If you’re a woman or are read as one, I would not wear a tank top. First of all, bra straps, and possibly other parts of the bra, could be exposed, which is not a professional look. Second of all, some creeps may see a tank top as an invitation for harassment or propositions.

      1. Purple Cat*

        Oh goodness, misogyny 101 with this answer. “some creeps may see a tank top as an invitation for harassment or propositions.” What a woman wears has absolutely no impact on a creep’s behavior and I can’t believe in 2021 that “advice” is still being handed out.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        That’s very “girls must cover up so they don’t distract the boys”, isn’t it? Even if you’re framing it as concern for women, it’s the same idea. The sight of a bare shoulder is not an invitation to harassment and I don’t think it’s helpful to perpetuate that idea even if it’s ostensibly out of concern.

      3. Well...*

        Creeping on women wearing tank tops is a far less professional look than a stray bra strap…

        1. quill*

          Agreed. Approximately 50% of the working population wears bras, and obsessing about where your straps are throughout the workday does not a functional office make.

      4. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        I wear racer back sports bras. So depending on the cut of a shirt sometimes part of it will show. No one has ever mentioned it once when we were still in office and my boss even said he would have just assumed that it was a layered top. So bra straps aren’t necessary the be all end all. Also even though my peaking bra strap might technically be against dress code I tend to dress more conservatively than the business casual dress code. (Which several coworkers take as far to casual as they can. Think blinging out a t-shirt and calling it a top. or blinging out flip flops and calling it sandals. Leggings as pants. Capris. Not like silky dressing ones. Just plain ol cotton petal pushers) I tend to wear dresses or skirts that hang below the knee usually mid shin.

      5. Oryx*

        This — this is not it. If creeps see a tank top as an invitation, that’s on the creeps, not the person wearing the tank top.

      6. Shan*

        Okay, so first, I really don’t think women should be expected to live our lives focused on avoid the possibility of creeps.

        But to add to that – the creepiest man I’ve worked with so far in my professional career was a dude who was super hot for modest dressing. Like, he’d stop by my office to rapturously describe my own outfit to me, making a point to gesture at his own wrists and neck to describe how much it covered. He told me he went home and told his WIFE about it. He always sounded very aroused while doing this, and 100% gave off the vibe that he was about to go jerk off to the thought of my covered arms as soon as he walked away. Fortunately, he was axed during a round of layoffs shortly after I started there, but still – it was very disturbing, and I would have had to go to HR if he’s stayed.

        Point is, creeps really don’t need to see shoulders to be creepy, so that should have no bearing on the matter.

    14. LadyProg*

      I worked in tech and now more specifically video games, in very relaxed environments, and I’m always in tank tops! I’m not in the US though, I’m in Canada.

    15. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      I work (well, now I work at home wearing whatever, but in the Before Times) in an office on the far casual end of business casual–everyone in jeans every day, but the faded jeans are only for Fridays. And while blouse-type sleeveless shirts were fine, a cotton tank would definitely get the side-eye. That said, my “summer uniform” was cotton tanks under short-sleeved cardigans, and that was perfectly fine. The cardigans, though they were also plain, dressed it up enough. Objectively it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is what it is.

    16. DataGirl*

      I have several sleeveless blouses or ‘shells’ that are made of silk or other higher end fabrics that I would consider business casual, particularly if worn under a jacket or cardigan. I would not consider a regular cotton tank top business casual.

    17. Orange You Glad*

      I have a few solid cotton tank tops (the straps are thick and come all the way to the edge of my shoulder) that I would wear to my business casual office under a cardigan. If it got hot, I would occasionally take off the cardigan and still felt dressed appropriately. I wouldn’t consider wearing a spaghetti strap tank top to the office though.

      1. I live in recycled sari skirts*

        Same. But I did get a cute like cropped denim jacket so that I could wear some of my spaghetti strapped tanks with my ankle length skirts. I just wear it with the knowledge that the jacket is going to stay on from the time I get out of my car at work until I am getting back in to go home in the evening

    18. Green Tea for Me*

      I think at least part of it is that cotton tank tops/camisoles were originally intended to be worn under clothes to protect clothes from sweat/oils from your skin. So in essence something like that is underwear or lingerie.

      My personal rule is that if I would typically wear it under something (to give extra opaqueness to a thin top, to give a little extra coverage to a wrap dress that’s cut a little low) then it isn’t appropriate to wear on its own. But I wouldn’t wear a silk shell under a thinner t shirt, so that seems work appropriate, even though it’s a similar cut.

    19. kittybutton*

      I would also add that Alison flagged the OP’s referral to standard business casual as “very old school”. The OP seems to be quite out of touch with standard business dress norms. The gym where shoes were not required is on a completely different planet from a standard business environment. So with that said, I don’t think the OP should trust her own instincts around what makes sense professionally (and I say this as someone who was absolutely the same way early in my career. I cringe at some of the inappropriate things I tried to make work as work clothing.) My advice for OP is to completely steer clear of tank tops because I don’t think you appreciate the distinction between a blouse that could be work appropriate and a casual tank so you should err on the side of caution.

      1. Sandman*

        This was me when I was younger. I had absolutely NO idea what was appropriate clothing-wise for an embarrassingly long time. Play it safe until you can hone your instincts, OP.

      2. GothicBee*

        I wondered if the LW might be in an especially hot climate? Because the emphasis on shorts seems weird otherwise (and I thought they were mentioning the no-shoes thing because it was such an outlier).

        What I usually do when starting at a new workplace, I start out around the mid-range of whatever the dress code is. Then, I gauge what direction to take based on what other coworkers are wearing. Generally if I want to go with something more casual, I’ll add something dressier in another way. So for example, if my workplace was one where I could wear a t-shirt and jeans and I wanted to wear a tank top, I’d probably go with a nice looking plain tank top, dressier looking jeans, then add some statement jewelry, or a vest, or something else to kind of up the look. In fact, I’ve worn a tank top under a nice vest at my business casual workplace, so I think it can work, but you’ve gotta consider the overall look, rather than whether a tank top alone is okay.

    20. GS*

      I work in finance at a global HQ and occasionally wear a dressier tank top to the office with a cardigan over it, but no one has panicked if I’ve taken off the cardigan (I run hot).

    21. Academia Escapee*

      When I used to commute, I generally wore tank tops and threw a cardigan on once I got to my desk. But then I worked in the attic of a converted brownstone with horrible AC. If my employer didn’t want me to visibly sweat through my clothes, they had to be OK with tank tops. And they were always cotton, because there’s no way I was going to wear a fancy-looking polyester shell or blousy top. I always chose “sleeveless” tops rather than true tanks, meaning the shirt cut off at my shoulder rather than showing shoulder/bra straps. I think I still looked professional.

    22. Justme, The OG*

      I’m wearing one right now and it’s actually dressy for my business casual office. It has wide straps and is tunic length.

    23. Paris Geller*

      tank top cut blouses are explicitly mentioned as being fine in our employee dress code–I’m wearing one today (I have a cardigan over it, but I’ll take the cardigan off if I get hot). However, even though I guess this is technically a tank top, I don’t think of it that way–I think of it as a sleeveless blouse. When I think “tank top” I think of cotton or other casual material that would be suitable in say, a gym.

    24. GothicBee*

      Assuming tank top means casual sleeveless top (like the sleeveless equivalent of a t-shirt) and not just any sleeveless top, I agree. However, a sleeveless blouse should be fine for business casual dress codes (especially in hotter climates). Unfortunately I feel like this is one of those situations where men’s clothing is more limited. I’m not sure a business casual men’s sleeveless top exists. That said, if your workplace dress code is informal enough to allow t-shirts, then a regular tank top should also be fine. I don’t see a reason to forbid bare arms altogether.

    25. Sara*

      I feel like there’s some distinction between sleeveless blouses (totally fine in my workplace in any situation) versus actual tank tops (fine if I’m working alone in my office, weird if I were teaching or in a higher level meeting). Either way, I’d say actual cotton tank tops are not close to business casual, but sleeveless blouses are (though it still could depend on the office).

    26. Lenora Rose*

      I think half the confusion depends on what the OP means by tank top. Because I have sleeveless tops that are work appropriate enough to wear under an open cardigan and even wear solo if the AC has died, but the only way I would wear anything I thought of as a tank top would be under a shirt with an otherwise too low neckline.

      1. Super Duper*

        This. There’s a huge difference between a sleeveless blouse and a tank top. I think of a tank as a cotton camisole with thin straps (like the kind that might have a built-in bra). That is not appropriate work wear for an office, ever, as far as I’m concerned. But a nice shirt that happens to be sleeveless would generally be fine, unless you work in an unusually conservative office. Besides being a more dressy look, sleeveless blouses also generally cover the top of your shoulder, and often have a higher neckline, too.

    27. The Rules are Made Up*

      Yeah… My workplace is incredibly casual (I routinely wear leggings, sweatshirts and jeans with rips in them, guys wear shorts and t-shirts) but we still don’t wear tank tops. That’s more casual than I’ve ever heard of.

  2. Brandrith*

    LW5, when I was in that boat I generally would bring it up as it became relevant (like if someone asked how my spouse is doing), and also encouraged people I trusted to share the news with other people I didn’t talk to as often, so that it could disseminate without my having to have the conversation every single time. And congratulations to Jane on her coming out!

    1. Emma*

      Yep. I was a student when my partner came out so it didn’t really come up, but if I was navigating that situation now then I would want to model how I want other people to react. So since you probably want people to react as “oh, that’s new but no big deal”, you want to project the same message in the way you tell them. Personally I think the best way of doing that is to just mention it as and when your spouse comes up in conversation.

      The other advantage of this is that if anyone might be inclined to ask inappropriate questions, the conversation will probably have moved on by the time they think of one, which gives them the opportunity to digest the news and consider whether their curiosity really needs to become a conversation.

      1. Coenobita*

        I think “oh, that’s new but no big deal” is a good way to go. In my case, I’d only told a few people at work (my immediate team, some coworkers I’m more friendly with) before the pandemic, so now it’s been a while since my wife came out and I don’t want to make it awkward for people as it comes up now. I try to take a “oh, did I forget to tell you?” approach, the way you’d say “oh, did I forget to tell you that I moved?” if someone brings up a neighborhood where you don’t live anymore. It’s personally important to me that people know I’m still married to the same person as before, so I am careful about not just bringing up “my wife” without an a quick explanation if I’d previously talked about “my husband” with someone. But others might be more comfortable with just making the name/pronoun switch and not dwelling on it.

        I’m curious how the “let people spread the news for you” thing works, in situations where it works well. I’ve mostly experienced that in situations (not necessarily about a transition, just in general) where it turns into gossip and speculation. And I can’t imagine my teammate being in a conversation with a third person where my spouse just happens to come up.

        1. PolarVortex*

          It was myself coming out and not a partner, but I was very quiet about the transition initially and used word of mouth. I just told those I trusted and they started using my new pronouns and others started reaching out as they heard my pronouns from other people. Honestly it went so well that I felt safe enough to be very out about it for an educational company meeting (we do a lot of education on marginalized groups). Letting people spread the news made it easier than having to “come out” constantly which, much like the letter writer’s conundrum, is awkward to do when people know you a certain way.

          Additional thoughts on how to let people know James is now Jane:

          Quite honestly, it’s the end of pride month but it would’ve been I think a good idea if you all were in an office to put up some simple pride pins or tiny pride flags for the trans pride flag and use it as a talking point about Jane’s transition.

          Or the opposite, find the chattiest person in your office and you do the whole “I want to share this information out without it becoming hurtful gossip. I know you would NEVER spread hurtful gossip since you’re always so thoughtful and supportive but do you think you can help spread the news that James is now Jane?” Since you spoke so highly of them, they’ll feel so pleased to be your messenger person and they will probably try to live up to your nice comments about them in calling out anyone who reacts poorly.

          1. Op5*

            We’re all virtual, alas, so in-person cue’s don’t work, and there are only 12 employees and since we’re all virtual I have no idea who (if any) is the chattiest person among us. Also, being so new and 100% virtual means I don’t really have folks I know well enough to trust. Well, I have one, but I don’t think he’d like being put in the position of spreading the news.

            I’m very glad your coming out went so well, though!

          2. Coenobita*

            This is great, thank you! I do plan to put up some little flags at my desk when we go back (someday…). I also love the idea of being super positive/complimentary in enlisting a messenger.

      2. Lucien Nova*

        Yes, absolutely this. Put it forth in a matter of fact way, don’t make a big deal out of it. If you’re acting like this is just a normal part of life – because it absolutely is – people will generally follow your lead.

    2. Humble schoolmarm*

      My colleague’s wife transitioned about two years ago and I was on team people who know and spread the news (although this was slightly different then op’s situation as my colleague had already confided that her spouse was questioning her gender identity). My colleague did share the news at a staff meeting, but we were discussing how to support our trans students, so it was quite relevant to the discussion. My colleague was very matter of fact about it (i.e. as the wife of a trans woman…) There were some questions that I handled, but they were pretty much all of the “wait, is this new, or did I misremember?” variety.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I would predict a lot of people having that “Is this new, or did I misremember OP’s spouse?” reaction; OP should account for that.

    3. Rae*

      Pretty similar here. My spouse transitioned almost 18 years ago and there was a lot of trans 101 conversations along with it, but just a quick fyi to people in the moment as it came up. I moved to 2 different companies with those same coworkers, and years later I still find people who have heard through the grapevine, but nothing very gossipy.

  3. Overworked*

    I have a coworker like letter 1, he was working 12 hour days. He eventually asked me how I am able to do such a good job. I think he was written up or talked to about his work. I told him rest and to never feel guilty about taking time off. If she is really junior she might not know – hopefully she can find time to rest. I did not more than a few days off in my 1st job for at least 2 years so I can understand.

    1. Mockingjay*

      As someone who has an avid equestrienne in the family, I can vouch for 1) the work ethic – barn work never stops (24/7, 365); people in this industry are very independent, hard-working, DIY fixer personalities; and 2) working through injuries. Riders are notorious for literally getting back in the saddle against medical advice and common sense.

      My family member was recently hired for a different industry job via phone interview only; the manager took a chance on her without the formal interview because she knew several persons in the horse world and they were the hardest workers the manager had ever seen.

      TL;DR: Your coworker can probably handle the load. If she can’t, that’s her manager’s business to correct or realign.

      1. quill*

        TBH a manager should probably reign her in over the ribs thing. Other than that, it sounds like she’s working her schedule around her horse somewhat successfully.

        1. Alexandra Paige Levine*

          I see what you did there. Did you come up with that one in the spur of the moment?

          Anyway, it doesn’t sound like the manager will do anything since he’s the one saddling her with so much work.

        2. JayNay*

          hm, I think a manager should step in if the workload on her team is so unevenly distributed that one person works such long hours. That’s bad on a number of levels: the worker could burn out, and it affects team morale if it sets the expectation that you always have to be on because Jane is up at all hours sending messages.
          I’m not sure what to think of LW’s grandboss in all of this. On the one hand, they specifically said they want to avoid additional burnout for employees. I’m not sure why one employee then handles such an amount of work and projects. At the very least, there should be cross-training and redundancies in case of emergency.

      2. Kay*

        Actually came here to comment this exactly, I’m basically the coworker in the first letter. Horse people are a different thing entirely. I wouldn’t think twice about working through broken ribs, and most horse people I know would not either. With my WFH flexibility right now I’m doing the same thing as the LW’s coworker, taking some time to ride in mid-afternoon and working into the evenings. Consider that she’s getting exactly what she wants out of her schedule.

        I don’t know how much it’s a factor for the LW’s coworker, but for me, working constantly is an anxiety sop from being involved in an incredibly financially difficult hobby. The next vet bill is always, always around the corner. One of the primacies of my working life has been to overcompensate in the office because my horse life would quickly become untenable without full-time employment. (Frankly, since I’m in nonprofits, it’s untenable without full time + part time on the side, but that’s another conversation.)

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          This is why I had to opt out of being A Horse Person, even though I love horses and grew up around them. I just couldn’t see a way to make it work financially and have a job and some kind of non-horse existence too.

      3. EventersAreAwesomeButSometimesKindaDumb*

        I can definitely confirm that the ribs thing sounds like pretty classic equestrian behaviour.

        Sincerely, someone who thought she was fine to go to work the next day because she was only *lightly* trampled after a cross country schooling incident that included stitches, a concussion, and a goose egg on my forehead.

        1. Retired Prof*

          When I finally got my neck problem diagnosed, the doc asked “how long ago was the car accident?.” I was surprised – no car accident. Finally, wracking my brain I asked, “does falling off your horse on your head count? Oh yeah, a bunch of times.” Then the doc asked when I broke my collarbone. Again, total puzzlement on my part. “How much would that hurt? Would I notice it if I also broke my hip at the same time?” She stopped asking questions then.

          1. EventersAreAwesomeButSometimesKindaDumb*

            Oh man, same. After the stitches incident I luckily got assessed immediately — one of the ladies that rides with my coach is a medical doctor and she was out on cross with us watching her daughter school. She had me come over to her house (September 2020 so still plenty of COVID risk at the hospital) and stitched me up on her kitchen table. She told me I was not allowed to go in to work the next day (conveniently a Friday so I ended up with a whole recovery weekend) and suggested I see someone about the concussion.

            When I had an appointment with the kinesiologist/athletic therapist who did the concussion assessment she asked if I’d had concussions before, and same thing as you — “does it count if I’ve never been *diagnosed* with a concussion? Because I don’t usually go to a doctor but the doctor happened to be there at the time.”

            “How many times have you fallen off and got your head?”

            “This calendar year, or the last 12 months, or?”


    2. MassMatt*

      Multiple red flags jumped out at me reading #1.

      A manager has already burnt out at the company. This is unusual, and should not be normalized. In a functional organization, serious questions should be asked about work load and steps taken to prevent recurrence. That doesn’t seem to have happened here, at all. The grand-boss seems to have paid some lip service to the issue, maybe because it was expected of him, but instead of reducing work load on the coworker, he is adding to it. When the burnt out manager is mentioned, is the conversation more “she was given too much work” and “she didn’t take enough time off”, or is it “she couldn’t handle it”? I bet it’s more the latter, which is not a good sign.

      That the coworker has sole responsibility for multiple projects and deadlines would be missed if she took PTO tells me the company is drastically understaffed and work is not distributed broadly/fairly, nor are people cross-trained adequately. What are you going to do if your coworker’s next riding accident leads to her being paralyzed? Bring her work to her hospital bed?

      It was not at all a surprise to me that this company had “unlimited PTO”, but I seriously question whether the culture encourages its use as much as LW says. LW, ask yourself when was the last time you took a full week off? The time before that? How often do you do so each year? Your coworkers?

      I’m sure there are places with unlimited PTO where people can actually take time off, but everyplace I know with such a policy is one where doing so is shamed, and NOT taking time was a source of perverse pride. At one place I interviewed, someone bragged that they only took a few days off for the birth of their child. I asked someone else there about their PTO (my alarm bells were ringing!) and they said of course they took time off, they liked to take a couple days here and there vs: a week all at once. Digging further–this person was talking about WEEKENDS. He occasionally(!) did not work on WEEKENDS.

      I am wary of anyone who says they can’t get away from work because they have too much to do and would never get caught up, etc. These are usually warning signs of a bad organization.

  4. A Genuine Scientician*

    While I think Alison’s probably right that it’ll be fine to just be matter-of-fact, you might want to start by asking Jane if she has preferences for how you address her transition with your work colleagues. She may not care much, but she also might be very much against you using her deadname at all unless it’s directly in response to someone else having used it.

    1. Vendelle*

      I think that conversation has already been had. Direct quote from the LW: Also, Jane has okayed me sharing this information with the company and has left the specifics of how up to me.

      1. A Genuine Scientician*

        I took that to be in connection with the questions of “Do I tell people individually as Jane comes up in conversation, even though there are some people I don’t talk to for weeks at a time? Or do I use the all-staff meeting when it’s my turn to update the company on interesting things that have happened in my life to introduce Jane in between photos of our dogs and my recent camping trip?”

        I could be misinterpreting, but from what’s been said I can easily imagine Jane not caring whether you discuss this with people one on one vs send a blanket email, but would indeed care about using her deadname.

        1. MangoTango*

          That would be an odd thing for Jane’s partner not to already know how she feels about.

        2. Good grief*

          And yet, it is generally pretty unavoidable to use a dead name in this situation so that someone doesn’t leap to wild conclusions unsupported by the evidence and assume you’ve left your previously-introduced partner. Use it once to clarify and move on is reasonable.

          But of course this comment seems covered by “and has left the specifics of how up to me.” Further, it doesn’t matter. Alison provided one script with the deadname and one without. OP – who presumably does actually know her wife – is an adult who can modify the script based on Jane’s preferences regarding her deadname, if any. There is no need to raise this rather patronizing concern.

          1. Gan Ainm*

            I don’t know that it’s fair to say people would be “leaping to wild conclusions” if, having been introduced to a husband, they now nonchalantly hear about a wife with no further explanation. Trans people are a small % of the population and it’s only extremely recently that people will talk openly about it, whereas divorce is very common. It’s not crazy for people hearing hoof beats to think horses.

          2. Allie*

            To be honest I’d just assume the spouse was always Jane and I’d heard it wrong. And then feel mortified that I’d been calling their spouse the wrong name.

        3. Starbuck*

          I think we can trust that OP probably knows how their wife feels about deadnaming and doesn’t need pointers in that specific direction.

        4. Rae*

          I always wanted to be respectful of my spouses feelings during and about transition, but thankfully he was also respectful of me. The idea that I could never use the name I met him under and used as we fell in love would be….odd. Although it probably just would have meant it was time to move on. Transitioning with a spouse is a little different than doing it alone. Still a personal journey, but you’ve got a passenger whose life is changing for you to be aware of.

    2. Alana Skye*

      I can think of wording that doesn’t mention her wife’s deadname, for example “I went for a picnic with my wife Jane this weekend, I’m still married to the same person but she is transitioning and using she/her pronouns and the name Jane now”

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Or even just “my spouse/partner – who is going by Jane now and using she/her pronouns.” That’s not to say that you can’t use the word wife for Jane EVER, just that when you initially have the conversation with colleagues, it’s a gender neutral way to say “the person I am married to” so it’s clear that she’s the same person.

        1. Reba*

          This would work for me because I’m pretty sure I don’t remember most of my coworkers’ partners’ in the first place! I’m also trying to make “spouse” happen ;) I recommend it!

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I recently had to fill out paperwork that asked for emergency contacts, and their relationship to you. I used “spouse” and “child” instead of “husband” and “daughter.” We can all do it!

          2. Not playing your game anymore*

            Ha. I met a colleagues gf/now wife years ago. She introduced herself as “I’m with Rob”
            I’ve verified her name often when I know I’m likely to see her, and damned if I don’t have to do the Hi “I’m with Rob,” er Susan conversation in my head. If I saw her more often I’m sure I’d get past it, but there it is.

            I also have Caitlyn Jenner anxiety. When speaking of the 1975 Olympics is she Caitlyn or does Bruce still exist when speaking of the past?

            1. Metadata minion*

              In general, unless the person tells you to do otherwise, you refer to a trans person by their current name even when talking about past events. If it’s some sort of very formal situation where it’s important that you cross-reference things with documents that used their former name, you could use something like “Caitlyn Jenner (competing as Bruce Jenner)”.

            2. lgbt*

              To address your last question: unless they’ve specifically said otherwise, it’s appropriate to use a trans person’s current name even when referring to them before they were using it. Same goes for gender words (e.g. “when you were a little girl” for a trans woman, and so on). If you need to clarify something, like why Caitlyn Jenner was running in a men’s event at the olympics, “before she transitioned” or “before she started going by Caitlyn” are good to use.

              Of course individuals will sometimes have different preferences, but the above is a good rule of thumb.

            3. Midwest Teacher*

              You use their current name. I’ve seen some good discussion around this recently with Elliot Page coming out, so if you’re interested in learning more, you may search for some of those articles. For example, when discussing him, you can reference his previous works rather than his dead name if someone doesn’t make the connection between his new name and who he previously presented as.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Yes, Elliot Page and Caitlyn Jenner raise some questions for me. What is the best way to do this? Do the record books change? Do they add an asterisk? If Elliot Page had won an Oscar before transitioning, would the records say “Elliot Page (acting under the name Ellen Page)?”

                1. Indigo a la mode*

                  Elliot Page’s wikipedia page does it entirely nonchalantly (“For his performance, Page was nominated for several awards, including an Academy Award for Best Actress, a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role…”) and doesn’t bother with why he was placed in the Actress categories.

                  The Academy Awards page from that year says “Elliot Page (nominated as Ellen Page) – Juno as Juno MacGuff.” Done that way, it sounds like what they’d do for a stage name or a woman’s maiden name.

                  Both ways make sense to me, as long as he’s cool with the latter.

                2. too young to die, too old to eat off the kids' menu*

                  Or how they do it on IMDB with name changes or variances (middle name vs no middle name etc.):

                  Elliott Pages (credited as Ellen Page)

    3. Op5*

      My wife gave me unilateral control over this, fwiw, and while she’s very clear that her legal name (the phrase ‘dead name’ makes her uncomfortable) doesn’t represent her anymore, she doesn’t mind hearing it / it being used in certain circumstances, so long as she’s not being purposefully misgendered.

      1. ElizabethJane*

        Yes. My brother is trans and has said he doesn’t consider it deadnaming in certain circumstances. And I did text him about this to confirm before replying.

        “Hey long time no talk! How’s Kate?”
        “Oh Kate goes by Kevin now. He’s great. He recently started a new job and it seems like an excellent fit!”

        At that point he doesn’t see me saying “Kate goes by Kevin” as deadnaming so much as just clarifying. Obviously I’m speaking for him alone but I’d imagine many people would be fine with a quick matter of fact correction if it’s clear the initial error was innocent.

      2. Super Duper*

        I think you can just casually bring it up when people ask about “James.” Just saying “Jane and I went camping” could be really confusing. Honestly, I think it’s a little unrealistic to expect people to read into the new name and figure out the truth based on passing water cooler chat with a new coworker. More likely is that people will be confused, make assumptions (you divorced James and are now dating Jane?), or ask intrusive questions. Better to preempt it all by being breezy but clear: “Thanks for asking! James recently transitioned so she’s Jane now and using she/her pronouns. We went camping this weekend at State Park, have you ever been?”

        1. The cat's pajamas*

          Does anyone have suggestions for when you run into a mutual friend or colleague but don’t know if your trans friend is out to them yet? I’ve had this happen a couple times and struggle between not deadnaming someone vs. not outing them.

          1. inksmith*

            I’d probably ask my friend what they wanted me to do in situations where I wasn’t sure what mutual friends knew, and then do that. Easier and safer than trying to guess. My best friend came out as non-binary a few years ago, and that worked for us, or sometimes they’d tell me in advance, you know, my sister doesn’t know yet, so use female pronouns for me when you talk to her about me.

    4. Trans Am*

      Yes. Talk to Jane. Her opinion is the one that matters most. Try not to use her birthname/deadname if possible unless she gives you the okay.

  5. Lake*

    2. In my (very limited) experience, the only way a tank top would be worn in a professional (non-casual) environment is with a blazer (and possibly scarf) which hide the fact that it’s a tank top. If you’re wanting to wear something like a tank top but more professional, you might try a sleeveless blouse. (Just search “sleeveless blouse” and a bunch of examples should come up.)

    5. Personally, I prefer Alison’s recommendation of including a slight explanation (‘by the way James goes by Jane now’) for clarity. Otherwise I would be very confused – did I misremember your spouse? did you divorce and remarry? do you have 2 spouses? I wouldn’t ask because it’s not my place, but confusion would cause me to dwell on it, whereas a quick explanation would help me think ‘oh that’s a new fact’ and move on.

    1. emmelemm*

      re #5, I agree. If you just slip it in to the conversation with no explanation at all, I’ll probably be wondering “Did I misremember all our previous conversations? Did I say the wrong thing at some point in the past?” Whereas if there’s just a little explanation, I’ll go, “OK, new information, cool” and stop thinking about it.

      1. Allie*

        I had a friend for years who I knew by one name, and then he introduced himself by another name at a party. I genuinely was questioning whether I’d been saying his name wrong for years, and this was a good friend. Fortunately it turns out he just sometimes went by his first or middle name, depending on the situation and since a lot of his coworkers were around he was using his “work” name, which I didn’t know him by.

        Your coworkers may then also be going ‘huh maybe I misheard “James”‘.

        Also be patient about accidental dead naming. It can be very hard to remember names, and a coworkers spouse’s name isn’t necessarily going to stick as well in someone’s brain. I have a very good friend who is trans and despite making a concerted effort, in the beginning I’d sometimes stumble “Dana, no David”. You have to be really conscious about it in the beginning.

        1. I take tea*

          I have a friend who’s been really patient with our group, and just do a little “who’s this Clara you’re talking about” when someone would use the old name. I’m very grateful for the patience, because sometimes you just slip up. People who do it on purpose is another thing, and I do hope that will not be an issue here.

      2. Op5*

        Thanks for this tip. The few people I’ve asked in real life just said to use wife/Jane and pretend like that had always been the case, and I felt weird about that because I know I would not instantly think “same spouse, just trans,” but my brain is wired a little different than most.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I think in this case, your brain is wired the same as a lot of people. My first (or second or third assumption) would not be “same spouse, just trans,” it would be “did I miss the divorce/remarriage news” or “wow, I sure remembered that wrong.”

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely! My first assumption would be that I missed a divorce / remarriage. I know a lot more divorced people than trans people so would tend to assume that in my head. I’d much prefer the OP to say “Jane, formerly John and now using she/her pronouns” just so I don’t ask stupid questions or say something inadvertently gauche.

        2. Coenobita*

          Yeah, the “pretend like that had always been the case” approach would not have worked for me! I definitely do NOT want people wondering if I had gotten divorced and remarried (especially since, in my case, my wife came out a lot more publicly during the pandemic) and I also don’t want people think I was hiding my own queerness previously by covering up my same-gender spouse.

          I will say that it is nice meeting people for the first time (or talking to people I know never met my spouse pre-transition) and just referring to “my wife” without thinking about whether I need to explain anything!

        3. Midwest Teacher*

          I am trans and I’d still be confused if that’s how you did it. I don’t think most people would make the connection that she’s the same person without any kind of explanation if you just started referring to your spouse with a different name and pronouns. I’d assume you remarried someone else.

          1. MerciMe*

            I agree (I’m also trans).

            This isn’t something where folks have to choose between clarity and courtesy – just be clear, specific, and direct. “Last weekend, my wife and I – she goes by Jane now and uses feminine pronouns – anyway, we saw that new Teapot movie that’s in theatres…” I practically guarantee that as soon as you reference pronouns, folks will pick up that Jane is trans or at least some flavor of gender nonconforming. Even easier to catch it in the wild: “So how are you and James Eyre doing these days?” “Oh, she goes by Jane now. It’s really delightful to see her so confident and happy.”

            I think a more intuitive way to understand advice about “pretending it’s always been that way” is to treat the transition itself matter-of-factly, while avoiding deadnaming the person even when talking about their pre-transition life. Not pretending the transition didn’t happen, but treating it like any other name change. People change what they want to be called all the time. I had a friend switch from her dad’s last name to her mom’s in her 30’s. People get married, or adopt nicknames. This is (while profound to the person transitioning) very similar in nature, from a social perspective.

          2. Kesnit*

            Another trans person here who would be totally confused if you suddenly switched name and pronouns without any explanation. However you choose to explain it, make sure you explain it.

        4. Paris Geller*

          Yeah, my first assumption if I was your coworker would be that you had divorced & remarried or some other situation of separation.

        5. donkeys*

          I think that’s probably a good instinct, especially at a relatively new workplace where you haven’t spent a ton of time with people. If you gave me names and photos of all my colleagues’ partners that I’ve happened to chat with at a holiday party, I might not be able to match up everyone, but I’d at least have a vague idea of who belongs with whom based on the bits and pieces I can remember. I think just giving the one-sentence explanation so people can just re-file their mental rolodex with updated info instead of making them wonder what they have to change would be simplest.

        6. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

          Wow- maybe I’m just a little less stable than most people but that seems so cruel! Making your coworkers question their own sanity and the validity of their memory, like, I can see how that would be easier as a validation of your wife’s identity . . . but if I’d known someone and they suddenly showed up not only with a new name and presentation, but also insisting that their name and presentation had always been thus and I was incorrect to remember them otherwise? I’d be sure I had suffered some kind of break from reality.

          I know the word gaslighting gets thrown around a lot but I am pretty sure telling people that their memories are false and that if they remember something other than the fact you’ve presented, they’re crazy. . . . is what the phrase is actually for.

        7. Ellie*

          I’d be confused by that, and would assume they’d been a divorce, or that James was someone else and I’d gotten things really messed up. Why not just say, ‘actually my partner transitioned – she goes by Jane now, and we’re a lot happier!’. That lets them know what happened and that they didn’t imagine anything and tells them how to react to the news (positively) all in one.

    2. Properlike*

      I came here to say I would similarly be very confused and not want to ask follow-up questions. A brief explanation does so much of the heavy lifting and allows me to be properly happy for you and your wife.

    3. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I’d change that slightly to “James is Jane now.” The “goes by” can mean nickname or temporary and seems to remove it a bit from Jane’s identity.

      1. Coenobita*

        I also have a trans spouse and while I completely agree with your point, I’ve found that phrasing can be hard for people to understand in conversation and it leads to confusion. Maybe it’s because there are so few words and it’s easy to mishear? Maybe it’s because my wife’s name starts with a sibilant that runs into the “s” in “is” so her name is hard to make out? Who knows. But in my experience “goes by” or “changed her name to” instead of just “is” seems to be clearer.

    4. Ellie Rose*

      Agreed. LW5 can handle this however they feel comfortable, but without SOME reference, I would assume a different spouse.

      Not a spouse, but my coworker “Tanya” has younger sibling who recently realized they were trans, and have basically just sorted out “not he; they is fine for now, possibly she; no new name for now”.

      Several of us know her sibling, so next time they came up in conversation where I said “how is your brother doing”, I got the response was “doing pretty well, just did XYZ, feeling a lot better since they realized they are trans even though they’re still working out what exactly it means for them. They’re going by ‘they’ for now!” and we chatted a little. I asked if they had a new preferred name so I could practice before I next saw them, and Tanya said nope, but she’d keep me posted.

      This has happened for a few mutual acquaintances with other coworkers (we have a wide group of mutual acquaintances) and it’s always about what Alison recommended: matter of fact + in context of other information. “They’re doing a really cool project right now — oh, and by the way, Mary goes by “they” now instead of ‘she'”.

    5. Epsilon Delta*

      A short explanation will also short circuit the “wait I thought you had a husband?” conversation (or side conversations between other people when OP isn’t around). I could see myself blurting that out before my brain caught up with my mouth, simply because I try to remember basic details about my coworkers and I’d be so surprised to have “remembered” this wrong if OP was someone I chatted with regularly. I would then feel terrible about it when I heard the full (one sentence) explanation.

      Actually I’d probably feel terrible about it either way because it’s a rude question, but if OP doesn’t give any explanation she should be prepared for people to ask that question either out of intentional nosiness or shock/confusion.

    6. ElizabethJane*

      Yes especially because in the letter we have the psuedonyms “James” and “Jane” which I suppose could make a person think “Did I just hear incorrectly the first time” but the reality could be something like “Keith” and “Victoria”. And that’s definitely going to read as “completely different person”.

    7. ampersand*

      Exactly. I’d be so confused if I thought I’d misremembered someone’s spouse’s gender, because usually I know this info (I remember things like names and birthdates, and gender by comparison is easy—so I’d wonder how I got it wrong, and it would drive me crazy). I think a simple, direct explanation is in order just to mitigate confusion.

  6. TBS*

    OP 2

    I feel like it really depends on the material and style. There are dressy sleeveless blouses that can be paired with slacks and be business casual. However, a thin-strapped cotton shirt paired with jeans likely won’t be perceived that way.

    It also depends on what your definition of business casual is though. I would never label what you described as business casual or old-school, so that’s something to consider.

    1. OP2*

      I think it might be helpful if I clarify that I don’t think that jeans and a tank top count as business casual per se but (if the tank top was a dressier one) maybe it could at least come across as reasonably formal/put together enough to “get by” (???), if that makes sense. I’ve worked so many places with extremely different dress expectations and only 1 place with a formal and specific business casual dress code; everywhere else I get extremely mixed answers when I’ve tried to talk to cowokers (e.g. a manager said that jeans were not recommended at one job, but then she proceeded to wear jeans regularly and literally everyone else wore jeans so I think she was just trying to come up with an answer for me where there really was no official policy) so I think I honestly no longer have any idea what’s “normal” in at least a somewhat-formal setting, which I’m now transitions into in the course of graduate school. I’m finding reading Allisons response and these comments very helpful to get a sense of what people consider normal tbh :)

      1. DataGirl*

        If it helps at all I’ve worked at places with dress codes varying from business to casual. I’ll speak to women’s dress code only- my experience: Business = suits or slacks/dress skirt with a blouse and blazer. Business casual = slacks/skirt with a blouse/nice top or sweater/sweater set. Casual= jeans acceptable, leggings might be acceptable, top can be just about anything as long as they aren’t showing excessive skin (think no halter tops, no spaghetti strap/low cut tank tops). I have seen people try to get away with what I’d call housewear in the casual office- think sweatpants, pajama pants, flip flops- while they didn’t officially violate the no-dress code-code, they were frowned upon by management. FWIW- I have never worked anywhere that had a business casual dress code and allowed jeans and t-shirts- unless it was for a special event like casual Friday.

        1. quill*

          Lab & office casual: same as business casual except jeans and (non graphic) t-shirts are ok.

      2. Smithy*

        If you’ve been working at places with no guidelines but also aren’t aggressively casual, I think a better approach might in asking questions/seeking guidance in ways that are more open ended.

        I’ve largely worked for nonprofits that are business casual with occasional business formal days – none of which are written explicitly. So first, paying attention to what people are wearing is a great call – but I also think it’s possible to try and nurture a more supportive relationship with peers or older colleagues around work clothing. This might be hyper specific to a place I used to work, but we were right across the street from a Nordstrom Rack. Having a work buddy who’s style I liked go with me to look at items was likely more hand holding than can be reasonably expected, but it was incredibly helpful.

        I share all of this having come from a place where I struggled to identify a good nexus between business casual, dressing for myself, and clothing that fit. I was someone a boss told to go home and get changed before going to an event, because the style was just wrong. So take your time, find your guides, and it can come together.

      3. Shad*

        Even jeans can read very different in terms of formality depending on cut, color, and level of wear. For example, skinny jeans read to me as club-dressy, not work appropriate, and newish dark navy jeans (without holes! None of that pre-distressed business) read much more dressy than anything faded or starting to wear through.
        That sort of thing, where the broad class could go either way, can definitely contribute to confusing blanket rulings and make it a lot harder to figure out what’s okay, especially in a more casual work environment.
        I’d definitely say that the classic ribbed tank top is a hard no for work, but they make women’s sleeveless tops and dresses in such a wide range of materials and styles that it’s hard to make a blanket ruling if we’re calling them all tanks. Personally, if you want to wear one when you’re still figuring out the norms of a particular office, I strongly recommend layering with a blazer or cardigan. Those fix most of the reasoning, backfill reasoning, and gut-check that can put a dressy sleeveless top out of norms, and you can always take it off to head home or as you get comfortable that the shirt is okay there.

      4. MCMonkeybean*

        There are lots of places where jeans are okay, and probably a fair amount where basic cotton tank-tops are okay too… but those things are generally never going to read as “formal.” It’s just that some places won’t care how casual you are.

        One other thing though: this may not be where you are at at all so sorry if I am misreading but I want to highlight just in case. Trying to get a sense of what is normal in business vs business-casual vs casual dress codes is good and important information to learn, but it is kind of coming across like you are trying to see what you can “get away” with. I don’t think that’s a great way to start out. At any job, I would definitely err on the side of being overdressed rather than underdressed while you take time to learn the dress code and get a sense of what other people are wearing.

        After having my company go more casual and letting us wear jeans all the time instead of just on Fridays, I honestly don’t know that I could go back to a less casual place. Obviously you have to wear clothes every day so I totally get how what you are allowed to wear can genuinely have a major impact on how happy you are at your job! But if that’s something that’s important to you then you can ask about it during interviews and try to find a place that is genuinely casual, and I think that is slowly becoming more common–especially after so many people have been working from home this past year. But I don’t think you should accept a job at a place with a less casual dress code and then try to see how casual you can get away with. Especially because if you’re really walking the line, then it’s possible that bosses or coworkers may be judging you for it (consciously or unconsciously) while at the same time thinking it’s not quite a big enough deal to actually have a talk with you about it.

        1. Smithy*

          Your last paragraph really hits. While there are certainly jobs where there are very rigid dress codes to be learned, a lot of jobs have far more informal ones – but that doesn’t mean they don’t include judgement for those on the margins.

          I had a former colleague who used to dress far more in the style of “business wear as seen as on Ugly Betty/soap operas”. Her attire often included 4 inch high heels, tight pencil skirts, and bright colors. For a more casual industry, it was a look that engendered a judgement that ultimately cost her capital she didn’t have to spend in other areas. And I’ve seen it go the other way. Where a more casual style is adopted that technically isn’t inappropriate but doesn’t read as polished or sophisticated as other leaders. Similar result, judgement and workplace capital being spent.

          There are times where these are issues that may really be worth challenging, but just be honest with yourself if that’s really the challenge you want.

          1. MCMonkeybean*

            TV can certainly skew things too, honestly! I remember watching the show “Suits” and Gina Torres wears a ton of dresses that are so cute and she looks amazing, and I would always think “there’s no way a partner in law firm like this one would really wear a dress like that at the office” haha.

            I think the best barometer for what is acceptable at your office is generally going to be what the people around you are wearing, especially those a level or two above you. Small example: I would generally not consider maxi dresses to be office-appropriate (I think they are somehow both too casual and too dressy at the same time) but when I saw multiple managers wearing them around the office all the time I decided that meant I could go for it too.

            Side note–this is unfortunately harder to do at companies that don’t have a lot of women in leadership. I am lucky to work on teams with a lot of women in fairly high positions!

            1. Smithy*

              Maxi dresses, cold shoulder shirts – just all parts of the reality of women’s fashion have wider swings when it comes to trends. And also ranges of prints that can make a basic style of clothing (dress, blouse, etc.) more/less casual or professional – i.e. leopard, florals, stripes, lace, etc – all of that can really impact how professional clothing reads for women. And how much it can change over time.

              For women who prefer women’s wear and who really don’t enjoy the evolutions of fashion – certainly diving into what kind of cold shoulder shirt is appropriate at work and when may make no sense. But bigger picture, it’s why for women who struggle and also want to invest in that “next level” work wardrobe for their field – I can not stress finding explicit fashion mentors or professionals you admire and mirroring their style.

          2. Treefrog*

            Your capital point is what I came here to mention. I work in a conservative industry where full suits are worn daily by most people. My last two employers had casual Friday for those without client meetings but senior management in both cases were fairly grudging about it and didn’t like people to be too casual – they’d rather it was ‘business casual Friday’. Lots of people, including me, would wear jeans – mostly on the dark wash / smart jeans spectrum, in the knowledge that management would rather we wouldn’t and we’d take a capital hit from it.

            It was the sort of thing you were able to get away with once you’re established and respected and they know and like your work. If someone new asked me about jeans I’d probably have said something similar to OP’s manager – lots of people do it but be aware the big boss frowns upon it.

        2. Laika*

          Certainly agree with your last paragraph here. My last job had extraordinary hours (starting as early as 4 AM, ending as late as 12:30 AM) and they had no functional dress code. It wasn’t a public-facing role and we worked in small, poorly ventilated studios that could get as cold as 16C (60F) or as warm as 30C (87F), so “dress code” was almost a matter of survival. Morning shift folks wore basically pyjamas, midday looked slightly more business casual but with layers if they had to bundle up/strip down, night shift was a blend of both.

          One employee regularly dressed in short, low-cut bodycon dresses and a full face of makeup. She did nails and hair as a side gig, so she looked great, but it definitely wouldn’t be appropriate in almost any office. People definitely talked about it/judged her for it; not least of which since it seemed to suggest an impressive lack of judgement or ability to read the culture.

      5. TBS*

        I completely understand the confusion. I have worked at a lot of places where the guideline seems to be “look put together” without specifics and still get confused. I also worked at one place that had a no jeans rule, UNLESS you wore heels, which felt sexist. It was a young office and it resulted in a lot of women wearing jeans and going out heels (think platforms and strappy).

        As a women in my early-30s, I’ve settled on slacks or nicer looking jeans and sweaters, blouses (including sleeveless blouses), or even cotton shirts if they provide a lot of coverage and are plain. Often dresses, as long as they aren’t too tight. For shoes, nice boots, heels, flats, or nice looking sandals (not flip flops). I work for a large university and have seen a range from my female colleagues — from an older boss who wore an array of colorful power suits (think Hilary Clinton) to a current cross-department superior who wears running shoes, jeans, and sweatshirts.

  7. Cant remember my old name*

    For OP1, depending on your teams workflow, is it possible to avoid handing things off to her or managing additional tasks yourself so it doesn’t land on her while she’s injured (assuming that would have no negative impacts on business or your performance)?

  8. Kate*

    I a colleague of a person whose spouse came out as trans. The way it came up was really natural, and I was told really matter of fact when I asked about something boring in daily chit chat. My reaction was surprised, becasue it was unexpected and I think I said some encouraging words about being big news and really happy for them etc, and the conversation moved on.
    So I guess I am saying news like this may surprise people and perhaps expect that reaction but being really straight forward is the best way. I consider myself an ally of the LGBTQ+ community and being told really life changing updates does give some people a double take even if they are nothing but happy and supportive of you.

    1. Viette*

      Totally agree with this. It’s still big news! Expect people to be a little surprised or not know what to say — it’s not every day in our society that a person we know transitions. Your coworkers might want to react a little bit. So be matter-of-fact about it, but control the conversational tone, too, and make it clear that it’s exciting/good.

      1. Op5*

        Thank you both for the insight! That was one thing I wanted to make sure: that they knew it was good and not a “she’s trying to solider on,” or “she’s in denial,” and I feared mentioning it in passing might give that impression. Like, obviously I’m not gonna hire a band, but I did feel like something a little bigger might be better all around

  9. Maxie's Mommy*

    A tank top that’s dressy or that’s clearly part of a suit (same fabric as the jacket lining, for example) is acceptable. A tank with very thin straps or made of very thin material is likely not. Are you planning on wearing a blazer or cardigan with the tank top? If you choose a hoodie–and–tank combination I’d leave the hoodie on.

    1. OP2*

      Yes, I would likely have on a light cardigan, hoodie, or blazer, depending on the setting, but may take it off if I got too warm (I am in a type of work where I have a /ton/ of autonomy over things like my training, specializations, client load, dress code etc… but it also means I have a lot of responsibility to manage perceptions of clients on my own, and I may also be asked to represent an org, so here we are, me trying to figure out how to manage my wardrobe when I have to go work in person again). I also have a fairly large chest, so I don’t tend to wear strappy tank tops at the best of times, if you grasp my meaning. I am glad that someone thinks formal tank tops are ok :)

      1. Ya Girl*

        I wear things like this at work all the time:—georgette-floral-teal/15221218.html?cgid=Clothing_Tops_TanksCamis#start=12

        But I think a more casual top like this does not come across as professional:—heritage-slub-heather-grey/15261089.html?cgid=Clothing_Tops_TanksCamis#start=19

        Since you say you’re client facing I would err on the side of being more dressed up, especially if you’re younger. You don’t want to look like a kid that doesn’t know how to dress for a professional job.

        1. OP2*

          Thanks for the suggestions!!!
          I am in my late 20’s and I pass for anywhere between 20 and 35. Given my job, passing for older or mature (not necessarily the same thing) is definitely important /unless/ I am working with children (which I do), in which case passing as a bit younger can w0rk to my advantage.

          1. Ya Girl*

            I totally get that! Hopefully those suggestions help, I run hot and go sleeveless all summer, but there’s definitely an art to doing it professionally.

      2. Hazel*

        I think there may be disagreement on what we each mean by “tank top.” I wouldn’t consider sleeveless blouses (or shells – not sure how they got that name!) to be tank tops.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Right, I keep getting thrown of by “tank top”, too. I wear sleeveless blouses or shirts to work often because I live in a hot climate and go outside quite a bit throughout the day. I do wear a lot of simple cotton or jersey knit tshirts to work, but only plain colors and no graphics. However, I would never wear what I consider to be a tank top. That feels too casual…even for my extremely casual workplace.

        2. OP2*

          I think there is definitely a bit of a misunderstanding about what a tank top is — anything without sleeves I tend to call a tank top

          1. womanaroundtown*

            You can totally get away with a sleeveless blouse/shell top in business casual, even if you take the blazer/cardigan off (hoodies strike me as just as, if not even more casual than casual cotton tank tops do, actually)! I am a lawyer in a very relaxed setting (can wear jeans), so I will wear cotton tank tops (no ribbing) underneath my blazer frequently. But if I do have that kind of top on, I will not take off my outer layer – I think that takes the outfit from acceptably professional to inappropriate. I might take it off for a moment or two if I get hot in my own private office, but if I am seeing anyone, I think it’s important to keep the outer layer on. FWIW, I’m in my early thirties and the youngest on my team – I actually think that makes me feel more strictly about making sure my dress is professional, so that it doesn’t give anyone a reason to think less of me (not that your clothing SHOULD do so, just that the in this world as it is, we often do get judged on appearances).

            1. Aitch Arr*

              I agree on the hoodies. Leave those at home, especially if you are client facing.

      3. DataGirl*

        I googled ‘business casual shell top’ and got a lot of image results that look like things I would wear in my business causal office. ‘sleeveless top’ or ‘sleeveless blouse’ return similar results. Generally they have wide ‘straps’, are high-cut/ don’t show a lot of cleavage, and are made of slinkier fabrics like rayon or silk- or for winter cashmere or velvet.

      4. Archaeopteryx*

        Under a cardigan gives a lot more leeway for cotton (to still be business casual) than just the top by itself. If the tank top is flying solo then the cut/fabric you’ll want to be fancier, but I think a very plain cotton tank under a cardigan usually reads as ok, since it’s more of a base layer of clothing. You probably wouldn’t want a ribbed one or an overtly casual style like that, but very basic should be fine.

      5. BookJunkie315*

        ModCloth has great sleeveless work blouses and they are having a great sale right now. I worked in state government and many women would wear tank tops with skinny pants and kimono tops:

        If you are on a budget like me, Amazon’s Daily Ritual clothing line has great, comfy tops for work. The XXL size fits the “Well-endowed” very well too:

  10. Maya*

    LW 5: Your spouse’s mileage may vary, but I don’t recommend using their deadname. Just saying “she goes by Jane now” is enough.

      1. Ellie Rose*

        Oh, I think that’s a helpful compromise.

        Most people I know are OK with a one-time use of deadname for clarity when you are talking about them to previous acquaintances but since some people really aren’t, “you’ve met my spouse previously” will help get across the same objective of “yes, the same person you were thinking of.”

        1. Chilipepper Attitude*

          I think using “spouse” is the way to go to avoid communicating Jane is a new partner.

          1. Ellie Rose*

            I’m a bit confused by your reply. Do you mean just using the word “spouse”? Or Jessica’s suggestion of “you’ve met my spouse previously?”

            Because just using “spouse” doesn’t really say anything, but I can’t tell which you’re replying to. Sometimes people change from “husband” or “wife” to “spouse” contextually for the same person, or they might pick it up if they divorced and remarried because it’s different relationship so they’re using different terms, so to me on it’s own it doesn’t mean anything other than “a person I’m currently married to”

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        As someone who can have weird memory lapses with names, I would love this. I had a classmate in college who changed his last name for bitter family reasons. The story was startling enough that my jerk brain didn’t register which name is the current one period…so I went the next couple of years avoiding using his last name. I didn’t know how to look him up in the alumni directory either comma so we have completely lost touch. I regret this.

      3. Op5*

        My wife doesn’t mind her birth name’s use in certain circumstances, even around her. She says it’s just not a good fit anymore, and finds the term ‘dead name’ unsettling. But I know that it can look like I’m being disrespectful if I use it, and that using Jane’s birth name can make other trans folk feel uncomfortable, so I appreciate the advice on how to get around using it.

  11. maybe maybe*

    I don’t think t-shirt and jeans are semi-formal and neither are cotton tank tops. However, if a company would let it’s employees wear tshirt and jeans, I don’t think they’d balk at someone wearing tank top and jeans.

    1. All the words*

      Maybe it depends on location too. We’re in “dress for your day” mode right now, which means we’re mostly casual. “Casual” in the offices I’ve worked in never allowed tank tops unless they were coupled with a sweater or jacket. Shorts, likewise, have never been allowed, no matter the type. This is the financial sector, fwiw. Pretty known for being fairly conservative.

    2. twocents*

      My company let us wear T-shirts and jeans but not tank tops. It was the amount of skin that the typical tank top shows that’s the issue.

      1. A Person*

        It’s partly about body hair, which is why women (the ones who shave their pits) can wear sleeveless tops at work or in dressy settings, but men (who tend not to shave their pits) cannot.

  12. Galahad*

    OP1 – Overworked
    “she has sole responsibility for a lot of things”

    This is a huge red flag when an overworked person is going so far beyond the norm not taking time off. It can be a sign that someone is stealing from the company or doing illicit things that they don’t want known.
    It’s time for your boss to enforce task sharing to get a second pair of eyes on what is happening in her role.

    1. EPLawyer*

      I don’t think this is happening — especially since Boss is the one who is giving tasks to the coworker. Coworker isn’t stepping up and taking them, they are being assigned. Coworker wanting to be a team player doesn’t say no.

      But this company is in for a world of missed deadlines when coworker inevitably burns out or if, heaven forbid, something happens that puts her in the hospital instead of just in a lot of pain. Those deadlines would get missed if that happened.

      Unfortunately as Alison said, its a coworker you can’t change them. I would just be REAL obvious about my time off while still turning out quality work. Maybe the coworker will realize they don’t have to work insane hours that way.

      1. ferrina*

        This is my read too- it’s not an issue of something sketchy, it’s an issue where Coworker is being given too much work. I’ve only ever seen this end one way- someone leaves the company. Grandboss might say he wants to avoid burnout, but without actually taking steps to do that, it’s just blowing smoke. This system is working for Grandboss- work is getting done and he doesn’t need to hire anyone else. There’s a danger that if Coworker does push back, Grandboss may lash out because she’s upsetting his norm.
        Sometimes you can cross-train, but usually that’s just a band-aid fix. Every time I’ve seen that, the company finds another way to send everything to Coworker. Without serious leadership change, it is likely that she will never have a reasonable workload again. (and with serious leadership change, the process is minimum 6 months, usually closer to a year or two with recovery time).

        Best way to support her is to remind her that this is not normal. Those hours are ridiculous. Keep saying stuff like “Wow, that’s a lot of hours. Are you doing okay? I would be really fried if I had to work those hours!” or “That’s an inhuman workload! What is Company thinking?!?” or “How long have you gone without a vacation? I’d be looking to move on if I were you.” Coworker is probably trapped in a mental paradigm where this is the norm and may even think that she’s slacking or somehow not to up to par because she has such a high workload. Keep gently reminding her that this is not normal and that it is okay to walk away from a job that doesn’t treat you the way you want to be treated.

        1. Jack of All Spades*

          Thanks for your comment. Particularly when you’ve seen cross-training or lateral moves within a company as attempts to reduce an overworked person’s workload, have you seen any patterns in how that ends up failing or backfiring? Maybe different depending on the size of the company?

    2. LQ*

      Someone’s working themselves into the ground and you want to scream at them for stealing…

      This is incredibly unkind and completely baseless.

      1. SarahKay*

        I think you are slightly over-reacting to Galahad’s comment. All they said was that it can be a sign that someone is stealing, with no mention of screaming at anyone.
        And, sadly, whatever the facts may be in this case, it’s not completely baseless as a general thing; quite often fraud is only found out when someone becomes sick enough that they have to miss work and a second person has to cover their tasks. This is common enough that many financial roles will require people to take at least one complete-week vacation every year to prevent someone always doing x task and thus covering up theft or fraud.

      2. ratatatcat*

        I don’t necessarily agree with Galahad’s comment – I agree with EPLawyer’s comment above on this – but nowhere in Galahad’s comment did they imply that they should be screamed at! That seems to be a bit of a leap. They only said that this sort of situation opens up the potential for those sorts of problems.

      3. Galahad*

        If something is going on, stealing is the most likely. But I have also seen this situation where a person is working themselves into the ground to hide the fact that they don’t really know what they are doing at their job and their “solutions” are taking 5 hours when the standard person would take 20 minutes. (For example, the admin that is hiding the fact that they do not know excel and is reproducing tables from scratch in word each time and hand calculating all the numbers to type them in, and deleting their word templates after printing, too).

        I would not say my comments are baseless, they are based on my experience with several different situations / different companies. And each time I was shocked because it was always a really sincere, hardworking, genuinely nice person.

  13. mark132*

    LW1, I rather resent coworkers who do this. I got thrown into a situation where I was taking over for a coworker who worked like that, and the team I was working with got rather nasty about the fact, that I wasn’t willing to do the same thing. In my case I mentioned it to my manager who was also my coworkers manager and he talked to my coworker, and discouraged him from continuing to work extra hours.

    If your grandboss is serious and you feel comfortable mentioning it to him, it may be worth a very short conversation, especially if he’s serious about his statement on extra work. Obviously if its just “hot air” I’d stay out of it.

    1. Annie J*

      I don’t think though that that is the co-workers fault, but the team that wont respect your own work decisions.
      Also, you don’t say if he was paid to do the extra work or not but if so, I don’t think it’s right to mention this to a manager, with an eye to giving him less work, as this could consequently mean less money for him.
      I know if one of my colleagues went up to my boss and told them I was doing too much work I’ll be pretty darn annoyed, especially if I’m relying on that extra money for a mortgage or for other family concerns.

      1. mark132*

        In my case both my coworker and I are salaried so we don’t get paid more for more hours.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        I think it is reasonable to assume the person in the question is not being paid extra for the long hours, otherwise it would be obvious to OP why they worked like that. (And also if they were being paid extra, I think most jobs would quickly put a stop to someone working that much overtime).

        And it can genuinely be a problem if someone works ridiculous hours and sets up unreasonable expectations for what one person can accomplish. Especially in a situation like mark132 describes where then they leave and someone else comes to take over the position while the bosses don’t realize that the predecessor was basically doing the work of 1.5-2 jobs and it’s not reasonable to expect that the person they hired can produce the same output.

    2. Malika*

      I was that coworker two jobs ago with an insane workload and seemingly no leeway to lighten it. Thankfully i just left after a year. The insane hours were sold as part and package of the start up phase and when i left it was made very clear that my tasks were going to the new co-worker or parked indefinitely. When the new people came in i explicitly told them what would be parked and how they could answer questions about those tasks if someone came along asking about them. All the answers involved ‘I am not responsible for that’ in some capacity.
      The precious lesson i learnt is that people are only impressed with your work if you keep to the hours you are officially contracted and you use all your PTO. Even if that means less gets done it speaks to the skills of applying effective boundaries and communication. Especially early in your career, overwork can creep up on you and it is hard to shake off entrenched expectations. Yet the above mentioned skills are perceived as way more valuable than an overly zealous work ethic.

  14. mark132*

    LW2, This is one area where things are different for a male employee vs a female employee. As a male employee if I showed up with any type of sleeveless shirt let alone a tank top, I would get a lot of looks and comments. I have seen female coworkers with sleeveless shirts at least where I work, though I don’t recall any tank tops.

    1. Ellie Rose*

      This is accurate, but I’d add that I’ve also never seen a business casual sleeveless men’s shirt. Tank tops in the commonly meant sense are, as you noted, different from sleeveless shirts. There are a LOT of sleeveless business casual women’s shirts or blouses, typically but not always meant to be worn under a cardigan or jacket.

      I think that the standard here is at least partially related to the fact that we simply don’t have widely accepted fashion for men at the business casual level that show similar amount of skin. Shorts are a no for any gender in business casual, so men are stuck with pants unless their office will be OK with men in business-appropriate skirts.

      I have a sleeveless silk pleated top in muted jewel tones with pretty full skin coverage that hits business *formal* when paired with the right jacket, and I would still hesitate to wear it without another layer in any office that has a dress code of business casual.

      And yet the guidelines change again for dresses. If it is a very wide-strapped sleeveless dress (3-4 inches, covering more than half of the skin from neck to shoulder) and tailored (e.g., not a sundress), it fits most business casual.

      1. Audrey Puffins*

        I always assumed business dress standards were based on body hair. There’s a societal understanding that women will remove their leg and armpit hair, therefore there’s more wiggle room for a woman to wear a sleeveless top or a skirt, whereas men much more usually remain hairy, and you will also rarely find an office dress code that permits them to wear tank tops or shorts. I don’t know if it’s the actual reason, but it’s a heckuva coincidence if not.

        1. Myrin*

          Hmm, I guess I see where you’re coming from but the theory seems to fall apart pretty quickly when you remember that women also have hair on their arms (there are cultures where it’s customary for people to shave their forearms, too, but I don’t believe that’s generally a thing in the countries most of AAM’s readership hails from).
          Also, at least anything surrounding “no shorts” rules generally comes from the historical mindset that short trousers are for boys (i. e. not adults) and as far as I’m aware doesn’t have anything to do with bodyhair at all.

          1. I take tea*

            I do think Audrey is right a bit, I think that people would react differently to an unshaven woman in sleeveless than to a shaven one. I think the former would be much more likely to get the reaction that it’s too informal.

        2. DataGirl*

          I was thinking about the body hair angle this morning too. A couple years ago my office significantly relaxed their dress code but previously it was extremely specific, including no bare shoulders/upper arms. I am honestly not sure if that was an attempt to make women cover up more skin, or if it was to cover armpits/body hair.

        3. MCMonkeybean*

          I’ve never thought about it before but that sounds plausible. Not that it means it *should* be the case, but it wouldn’t shock me if that was where a lot of our ideas about what’s “okay” come from.

      2. mark132*

        My employer has a gender neutral dress code, so theoretically I could wear a skirt to work, but practically speaking that’s not really an option.

    2. OP2*

      Honest question: is there a difference between sleeveless tops and tank tops? I was /definitely/ including sleeveless tops in my mind in the broad definition of what I “count” as a tank top

      1. Anononon*

        Yes. A tank top is a casual type of sleeveless top. Like, both blouses and tshirts are tops, but very different in the level of “formality”.

      2. Jack Straw*

        Sleeveless shirts are typically wider at the shoulder area and have a higher and narrower neckline vs. tank tops.

      3. Metadata minion*

        To me, “tank top” primarily means the more casual jersey fabric type of sleeveless top. I would usually call the more formal kind a sleeveless top or sleeveless blouse (or maybe shell for the kind you normally wear under a formal jacket).

      4. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Based on discussions on this page, it seems to be regional. I would distinguish between a tank top (athletic material or t-shirt type material), camisole (anything with spaghetti straps that doesn’t fall into the tank top category), and a sleeveless blouse (wider shoulders, made of the same sorts of fabric that women’s blouses with sleeves are made from).

        Of the three, I’d only consider the sleeveless blouse appropriate for business casual by itself, but I might wear a tank top or camisole as a layering garment underneath something else (depending on the details of both the under and outer layers).

      5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        A wide strap shell, or other dressy sleeveless top is probably okay – especially if you have a light sweater or jacket to cover up with if the boss side-eyes the top.

      6. Gray Lady*

        Sleeveless shirts are basically cut like a shirt with sleeves, only the armhole opening is finished at the edges rather than being a seam attached to a sleeve. Tank tops are cut much wider at the neckline and usually below the armpit, and have straps at the shoulders that are not more than a couple of inches wide and sometimes quite a bit less than that.

    3. Mr. Cajun2core*

      mark132 – Thank you for saying what I was about ready to say. I fully agree with you that in most places a if a woman could get away with a tank-top, generally a man could not.

      I have to say though, that in my work place, my boss did say that would “love” (her word – not mine) it if a male employee of hers wore a kilt. However, I don’t think that she would permit tank tops without some sort of jacket.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I have a male coworker who only wears kilts in the summer. There was a brief chat last summer with regards to we don’t want to know your underwear preferences, but other than that it’s been fine. It’s cool to see all the different patterns he has.

        1. Mr. Cajun2core*

          LOL! about underwear comments! I do have a friend who wears kilts and like your office, it is interesting to see all of the different patterns!

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Yeah, last summer he was just really getting into them – and they greatly helped his posture, because he had to relearn how to sit when wearing a kilt so as to not “accidentally display the underwear preferences.” It’s been smooth sailing this year.

      2. mark132*

        Any sleeveless shirt I’ve seen sold in normal stores are all t-shirt style for a man, usually aimed at exercising.

        1. Mr. Cajun2core*

          That is true. However, I am probably still thinking of the 70s when there were tank tops for boys which were not aimed specifically for exercise but they were definitely very casual.

          1. mark132*

            The only “dressy” sleeveless shirts I’ve seen are more costume like something the chippendale (sp?) dancers would wear.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I like how my boss handled explaining the dress code in our office. 98% of the time we are fairly casual, so concert tshirts are fine, and shorts can be worn as long as they hit the knee (same with skirts regardless of gender for both). The only no’s:
      -nothing ripped, torn, or distressed
      -nothing that will display any type of underwear
      -nothing profane/vulgar/obscene
      -nothing from any political campaign
      -masks can’t have any writing on them (exception for name of a sports team/school)

      We have only had one person need a chat (in the two years I’ve been there) – and the problem was their Deadpool tshirt was just a bit too gory for an office.

      1. Mr. Cajun2core*

        I am generally not one for limiting freedom of speech but a “no political” restriction makes sense in an office.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          We’re government adjacent – and the current boss takes the Hatch Act deathly seriously. The office is actually on Federal property, and while we’re not public facing, the boss doesn’t want any of us risking a violation.

      2. mark132*

        I have a favorite t-shirt that I have that contains a political advertisement on it from a presidential candidate. The catch is the advertisement was from the 1844 election, and it is very regionally specific. So when I wear it I get a lot of comments, all complimentary and some people want to know where they can get one too.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          So, my first thought was “Tippecanoe and Tyler too!” but that’s not the right year. Was it “Hurray, Hurray, the Country’s Risin’ – Vote for Clay and Frelinghuysen!”?
          I’m just being super nerdy and weird over here, please don’t mind me.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          However this shirt would probably get a pass given that it would be more history than politics at this point.

  15. Mon*

    A workplace that doesn’t require you to wear shoes is highly unusual. Even in gyms or other exercise studios the employees usually wear shoes or cover their feet unless it’s for a specific class. It’s not old school to expect people to wear shoes at work, it’s basic safety and hygiene.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes definitely. I can’t think of working anywhere that didn’t require footwear. I think my company would object on health and safety grounds (too much risk of dropping a box of printer paper on your feet) as well as hygiene. I mean people wear sandals in summer sometimes (me included) but some form of foot covering has been mandatory everywhere I’ve worked.

      Even when I’ve gone to a swimming pool the staff have been wearing flipflops and not bare feet. Given the way people tend to pick up verrucae at swimming pools, I’m not sure I’d want to be barefoot there more than I needed to.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      This – I’m pretty sure most gyms I’ve been to have actually specified that you need to wear shoes, both for hygiene and safety reasons (all those weights and machinery etc), unless it was something like a yoga studio. I think perhaps the OP’s understanding of dress codes might be a bit out of sync in general if they think “no flip-flops, no graphic tees, no jorts” is conservative/old-school and going barefoot at work is anything but very unusual!

      1. WellRed*

        OP definitely has an interesting take on categories of business dress, almost backward in some respects. The no shoes thing also surprised me and would probably surprise OSHA or worker’s comp if in US.

    3. Jack Straw*

      I regularly took my shoes off and often walked to the copier barefoot at the last not-for-profit I worked at. It’s unusual, but not unheard of. We also wore flip flops, leggings, tank tops (both dressy ones and cotton underlayer/workout tanks), shorts, and our Ops Director’s uniform was a rotation of Charlie Brown, Muppets, or Broadway show tshirts with worn, fraying cargo shorts.

      I had to buy new “work clothes” when I moved to an org that dresses jeans/business casual. lol

      1. Jack Straw*

        I just re-read your comment — required is the key word. Even my super laid back NFP org required us to wear shoes, so yes, absolutely agree with you. We just often removed them while at our desks.

        1. quill*

          I mean, I have taken off shoes at my desk, (while wearing socks!) but since I can’t exactly walk well in bare feet I always put them back on before I have to go anywhere.

      2. Ginger Baker*

        I’ve seen people do this at *two* very corporate jobs, so can confirm it does happen…but also hated seeing it every time and it was definitely commented on by others in a negative fashion so just FYI on that.

    4. OP2*

      It was an unusual setting; they mostly taught things like dance, yoga, etc. where people took their shoes off as they came in, so there was really nothing “weird” or inappropriate in this setting if the staff weren’t in shoes

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        Don’t use that job as a benchmark for ANYTHING regarding dress code. It really is that unusual.

      2. Project Problem Solver*

        It’s still surprising to me based on the risk of injury and potential worker’s comp alone. I agree with the other comment here -that job seems like it had highly unusual standards.

    5. Mr. Cajun2core*

      I did work one place where shoes were not required. I had one coworker who routinely walked around in his socks. However, that was a very casual and small workplace. There were 7 people in the company total. Our dress clothes was shirt and pants and that was pretty much it. Tank tops were acceptable.

  16. John Smith*

    #3, there’s a few reasons I’ve come across why salaries aren’t mentioned. One is that it’s low and would put people off from applying. The second is that it’s high and they don’t want people applying just for the salary. The third is that they’re shady in some way.

    I wish it was illegal to not provide a salary – it is after all the main reason why
    most people go to work. I once approached an agency for a position, went through screening, various aptitude tests and a lengthy interview before they told me the actual “competitive” salary.
    It was way below the market rate and wouldn’t even cover essential outgoings (rent, utilities, etc). A complete waste of everyone’s time.

    It’s a bonkers position and should be stopped.

    1. Princess Deviant*

      Couldn’t agree more! Ime the reason why salary isn’t advertised is because it’s too low. It’s really frustrating! It takes me absolutely ages to apply for a job. I’d be so unhappy to find out that the job paid poorly after all that effort. It usually puts me off applying at all, tbh.

      1. MassMatt*

        I agree, generally if an employer is avoiding talk about salary it’s because it’s poor, or average at best. Using generic terms like “competitive” is rife, it reminds me of Lake Wobegon’s “…where all the children are above average”. No, no they are not.

        Ditto with companies that try to cover up for poor salary by touting equally underwhelming benefits. Your $50/month gym discount does not make up for $5000/year lower pay and no company retirement contribution.

        I also hate when the salary band is extremely wide. A prior employer of mine (at an internal posting!) would only describe the position as “grade 12”. It took many calls to HR to even find out what that meant, it turns out that could be anywhere between $24,000 and $60,000. OK let me guess which you are going to offer.

    2. Skippy*

      I don’t doubt that there are exceptions, bu in my experience most of the places that don’t advertise the salary are offering wages that are no better than average, and often below market. In my industry if you pay well it’s seen as a selling point for the job.

      I should also note that almost all of the job boards in my field require employers to include a salary range. It’s so refreshing not to have to waste my time applying to jobs that don’t pay enough money.

    3. Bex*

      It’s so bewildering to me why companies keep doing this. It’s crazy that the way to get them to stop would be to make it illegal, because it is really not in their own interests! I recently applied for a position very similar to the one I have now, but at a larger organization and with “senior” added to the title. No pay range in the posting. The application process was very simple and they didn’t even have a place for a cover letter (which is fine with me – I can write a great cover letter, but I understand why hiring managers don’t care about them in roles like mine), so I went ahead and applied without trying to find out about the pay because it took so little of my time. Got invited for a Zoom interview (and I work from home, so again, very simple for me to arrange), and when it was time for my questions I quickly found out this was the only interview round and the next stage was an offer, so I didn’t bother asking about the pay then – I’d either find out soon, or it wouldn’t matter! Offer came in a few days later, from an HR person I’d never heard from before, at $4/hour less than what I make now. I told him so, he pitched the benefits package (which was find but not great) and said he could go back to the compensation team and see if they had any flexibility if I wanted him to. I said yes, please, and he came back a couple hours later with a $0.25 increase in the hourly rate. I declined and wished him good luck. This process clearly took more of the company’s time than it did mine, AND I was specifically told in the interview that of ten slots in this role, “a couple” have been open “for a while” because they’ve been “having trouble finding candidates.” Help yourselves out, folks!

      1. JustaTech*

        I’m currently listening to my senior management complain about finding candidates (for positions we need filled) – either the candidates are asking for too much money, or they’re way underqualified, or they get poached at the last minute by another company offering *way* more money.

        There’s nothing to do about the underqualified people except move on, but maybe someone should review that “salary survey” and bump up the wages. Or don’t complain when we can’t get experienced people. (And no, of course the salaries aren’t listed in the ad.)

      2. Teapot supervisor*

        My least favourite variation on a theme on this one is recruiters who give out neither salary information nor steer on company.

        I’m sure a lot of industries are the same but in my industry job titles don’t always mean a whole lot. I like being a teapot supervisor so I tend to go for ‘the same but bigger’ when I’m job hunting. My job title is the same as it was in last job and I’m roughly at the same place on the org chart but I’m supervising a team which is three times the size, and earn around 15% more. I’m also very much a supervisor and only make teapots in ‘everybody’s pitching in’ crisis situations, whereas at last job I was responsible for about a third of the teapot making. Likewise, I know people who have been ‘teapot supervisor’ at smaller companies where the job has essentially been the next step up from entry level and not even really been a supervisory role – just a more senior version of teapot maker. Meanwhile, the ‘teapot supervisor’ at the big household multinational is taking home a six-figure salary, essentially heads a team of hundreds (although not directly managing all of them, of course!) and is two or three rungs below the board.

        Job descriptions are, of course, a good guide but they’re not a foolproof gauge. Does ‘leading a team of 8’ mean 8 direct reports or supervising a team of 8? Does ‘mid to senior position’ mean within the team or within the company? Do you expect me to make a certain amount of teapots because this is actually a fairly junior role or because you’re the kind of company where even senior people are expected to make teapots? I’ve applied for some jobs where I thought the job description sounds like a modest step up from my own – only the discover they’re expecting somebody with literally double my experience!

        So, to properly assess whether a job is a good next step, I find I really need company info, salary and job description. Recruiter ads which take away both company info and salary are pretty much guesswork. Don’t get me wrong – I GET why they do it (nothing like missing out on commission because somebody Googles the job application!) – it’s just that putting an hour plus worth of work into a job application only to be told ‘Oh no, sorry, this job is for major multinational, earning three times your salary – there’s no way you’re qualified’ or ‘Wow! My client, super small company, will be really excited to have somebody with your experience on board. Now, are you happy with salary which is a fraction of what you get now?’ is scream inducing.

        (To clarify, not saying big company = good, small company = bad here – more that, in my industry as I imagine a lot, ‘teapot supervisor’ at the big household name tends to be more senior than ‘teapot supervisor’ at a small company so the company is important in trying to figure out just how senior they’re talking.)

    4. Epsilon Delta*

      Possibility four is that they’re advertising the same job all over the country and intend to adjust the salary based on the market where the employee lives. That way they’re paying someone in California the Nebraska market rate or vice versa.

      1. Epsilon Delta*

        I’ll add that it’s probably not the best way to go about posting the job nationally and I’m not defending it, but I’ve seen it done.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        One way to handle that that I’ve seen from federal postings is: $base rate + locality adjustment.

        1. Jlynn*

          Federal jobs also usually post the pay scale. GPS (General Pay Scale) JPS (judicial pay scale) you can look up. For instance an admin assistant in the judiciary might say JPS 9-13 or something so you can look at the scale and get a pay range.

    5. ferrina*

      Some places just don’t think about it, have a really wide range or in a few cases, if you have to ask, you don’t know the market well enough to be applying. Many places don’t put salary because they know it won’t incentivize you to apply, but there are a few places that do it for less nefarious reasons.

      The last job I applied to didn’t have the salary posted, but in the screening interview, they asked what my range was to make sure that we aligned (if you don’t list a salary, this is a courteous way to do it). I gave a number and we continued. It was a good match, and eventually I was offered the position- at 15K higher than the number I had given them! They had a really wide salary range for that position, and during the interview process it came out that I had a really rare combination of skills that they wanted. They put me higher in the range because of those skills (and because they knew I had a competing offer, and I was planning on negotiating up that range based on new info from the interviews- but they offered above what I would have negotiated)

    6. Librar**

      My current workplace does not permit salaries to be posted in job ads even though all of the positions I’ve encountered are at or above market rate (it’s an enormous org and I can’t speak to every job, but I’m familiar with salaries at many levels and in different departments). Many of us are vocally opposed to this policy and there is a movement underway to convince the powers-at-be to change it, but for the time being, that’s how it is.
      Unfortunately, I have some colleagues who feel that asking about salary at any point up until the offer stage is not acceptable. The most heated argument I’ve ever had with a coworker was after an initial screening call when he wanted to exclude a candidate from further consideration because they had asked about salary and he felt it was “presumptive and inappropriate” at that stage.
      If you’re concerned about the reactions of people like my coworker, I’d try to use softening language around your request for salary information. Something like “I really appreciate you all taking the time to talk with me today and I want to be respectful of all of our time going forward. Are you able to provide any information about the salary for this position at this point in the process?” And then follow with the requisite “Thank you’s” regardless of their response as you file the information away for later analysis.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Yes, I despise this; I do not want to go through the whole process only to find out I can’t even feed myself. I had to turn down a job once that would have left me with $14 at the end of the month, and it wasn’t even guaranteed as permanent because it was a county job and could have been eliminated after the next election.

      I’ve taken to asking for a general range during phone screens if one is not provided. If they hem and haw, I know it’s probably too low for me, or I’ll sometimes say, “I don’t want to waste your time if we’re not on the same page.”

      I think it’s really hypocritical for companies to expect me to disclose my previous or desired salary when I don’t even know what they plan to pay. It’s not fair to make me do that. I always feel like if I give a figure based on the average, they’ll bin my resume because they’re too cheap to pay it. Just fecking tell me.

  17. Annie JAnnie*

    In every workplace I have worked in they’ve explicitly banned open toed shoes and sandals because the potential for an employee to spill hot coffee and burn a coworker, or for someone to stub their toe is too great and that of course can be A lawsuit for the company.
    But I don’t really get dress codes for non-customer facing roles in general, besides I have a feeling employers could save a whole heck of a lot on Aircon if they let employees wear T-shirts and short-sleeved jackets.

    1. curious cat*

      What temps do non casual offices maintain? I’m in a casual wear office and I estimate it’s set to low 70s F in the summer. Am curious how much savings casual wear would bring in terms of office temperatures.

      1. Annie*

        Well I think everyone is different in terms of the temperature they feel comfortable working at, and I think for a business having one set temperature for the Aircon is fine but they also have to allow for people who feel cold at that temperature or too warm and the easiest way to do so is to allow them to wear either T-shirts if too warm, or put on a jumper if too cold and this way you don’t get Aircon wars, and it just generally creates a nicer environment.
        As for the cost savings, well every little helps.

      2. DataGirl*

        In the US, OSHA standard is 68-76 degrees for workplaces. Generally that is mostly enforced for places like warehouses/manufacturing- I don’t believe there is a standard for offices but I have definitely made complaints using that regulation in offices where the temps were extremes outside that range (one place where my desk was directly under the vent and a thermometer registered in the 50’s, and another place where the ventilation was broken and it got into the 90’s).

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I find that amusing because for me, I’m much more likely to injure myself wearing heels (which would probably be just fine, or even encouraged) by twisting my ankle or tripping on the stairs than I am by having a coworker randomly spill boiling coffee on my feet.

      I have worked in places where steel toed work boots were required in certain environments, for safety, and in others where you had to take your outdoor shoes off and put on the provided slip-ons before entering the lab.

      1. CmdrShepard*

        I get your point, but requiring closed toed shoes is different from requiring heels. Most flats are closed toed (not all flats are sturdy) and some heels have the toe/front open also.

    3. WellRed*

      Banning open toed shoes is one thing but banning them because someone might spill hot coffee is ridiculous (unless you worked at a coffee shop).

      1. Bibliothecarial*

        It happened in my old job! An employee stubbed their toe on something and sued the place. Apparently they did injure their foot significantly from the stubbing.

        1. Metadata minion*

          Did they win the suit? Unless there was something very unusual going on (peeling floor tiles, maybe?), that seems like the definition of a frivolous lawsuit. I routinely have little bruises on my hips right at the level of the tables at work, because I have terrible proprioception and run into them all the time. I’m not going to sue my employer for daring to have furniture.

          1. Shad*

            If you bumped your hip hard enough to need surgery, though, that actually is a reason to file workers comp (at least to my understanding). And workers comp turns into a lawsuit at least colloquially when their insurance doesn’t want to pay.

      2. Hillary*

        One of my former workplaces had an OSHA-reportable incident because of sandals – someone stubbed their toe in the warehouse and broke a bone. Open-toed shoes were already banned from the warehouse, after the incident they turned off card access for everyone who didn’t *need* to go to the warehouse (the venn diagram with not going to follow the rules was very high).

    4. DataGirl*

      Only places I’ve worked where open toed shoes and sandals were banned were places where there were sharp instruments or machinery. *warning, gross story ahead*

      In the 90’s I worked at a fabric store and we were required to wear closed top shoes but enforcement wasn’t great- one day an employee had on sandals at the cutting counter and dropped a pair of scissors- the tips went straight down into her foot. The shoe dress code was very strictly enforced after that.

    5. turquoisecow*

      When I worked as a cashier, open toed shoes were forbidden because I suppose the risk of dropping some heavy item on the foot was high (though I don’t recall that ever happening, since we didn’t really lift many things) but in the three offices I’ve worked since (all business casual), sandals were allowed. Not flip-flops – generally, anything you’d wear to the beach or pool is not good for an office – but nicer sandals, absolutely. It was only women I ever saw wearing them, though, maybe because dress sandals for men aren’t a thing.

      In any case, the risk of my coworker (or myself) dropping something on my feet in the office was low enough it never occurred to management to ban them.

    6. MassMatt*

      I have never heard of a “short-sleeved jacket”. It would seem to defeat the purpose–if it’s too warm for long sleeves, why wear a jacket at all?

  18. Ponytail*

    The difference between US and British English strikes again! A tank top in Britain would be very acceptable at my work, as it’s what we call a sleeveless jumper. If anything, you’d look like a bit of a nerd in most jobs!
    But assuming a US tank top is like a sleeveless t-shirt, I could see that it wouldn’t be considered acceptable business attire.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        That appears to be what we’d call in the UK a ‘strappy top’. I’ve worn them under suit jackets but very much wouldn’t wear one without any kind of covering.

          1. Ana Gram*

            I don’t know…I’m American and wouldn’t use either of those terms. If someone did use them, I’d have no idea what they were referring to.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            American with English cousins here.
            The garment is just a “vest” unless you’re getting a tux or a high end suit, in which case the price tag will say waistcoat.
            Unfortunately the word “vest” also means a heavy sleeveless knitted swester/jumper. So it’s a “knit vest” if you’re asking at a store.
            As opposed to a ‘down vest’ which has snaps or a zipper in front.

            1. an infinite number of monkeys*

              I remember seeing one in a (US company) mail-order catalogue – so, some years ago – that did, but spelled it “weskit”!

              1. UKDancer*

                Sounds like the catalogue was quite old fashioned! In UK English weskit is a very colloquial way of saying waistcoat which is kind of informal and very mockney in a 19th century / Sherlock Holmes type way. The sort of person who drove a hansom cab through London pea soupers might talk about wearing a weskit.

                I don’t think anyone nowadays in the UK would talk about wearing a weskit but I am happy to be corrected.

              2. New Jack Karyn*

                I was today years old when I realized that ‘weskit’ is a pronunciation of ‘waistcoat’. And I’m a big reader! Thank you!

            2. Kelly L.*

              I remember a few weeks ago someone suggested a LW wear a waistcoat, and the Americans in the thread were envisioning some kind of Victorian steampunk thing rather than just a vest. It’s really not a word we use much here for modern clothing!

      2. Llama face!*

        Just as a point of interest, in my part of Canada anything called a tank top has wide straps. The really thin strap tops would either be called a spaghetti strap or a camisole depending on whether they are supposed to be an underlayer(cami) or not. A tank top is casual wear or sports wear clothing and is distinct from a sleeveless top (also wide strapped- sometimes work appropriate depending on the design and material). Definitely some language variation here! :)

          1. quill*

            I mean, “tank top” was a catchall category for “sleeveless but not super dressy” for me growing up in the midwest (great lakes region) so it covered spaghetti straps (banned at school) basic ribbed tanks (banned at school) and some of what people might be calling sleeveless blouses (inspected at school to ensure the straps were 2 inches wide.)

            The only consistent definition of a tank I can really find in the comments section is “has straps but no sleeves”

      3. Teach*

        I’m guessing this is regional within the US too! Because for me a tank top is anything sleeveless. You can be more specific, like camisole/spaghetti strap tank top, but that’s just a type of tank top.

        1. Washi*

          I would have said the same was true in DC, where I lived until recently and Alison is based. I don’t think of tank top as being specifically thin-strapped.

    1. Virginia Plain*

      Yes ponytail it’s what we would called a vest top, or a strappy top if we wanted to emphasise that it has spaghetti straps etc.
      Alison your examples would be about the same re what is and isn’t acceptable in most U.K. workplaces too – vest top no, sleeveless blouse or shell top yes.

    2. Princess Deviant*

      I think you’d need to wear something under the tank top (sleeveless jumper tank top!) though, right? I’ve never seen someone wear just a tank top on its own. And I’ve never seen anyone wear a strappy tshirt (what Americans call a tank top) in the office either!

      1. Llama face!*

        A little more fun with language: I think a British jumper is something like a sweater in Canadian English, right? Or at least it’s a type of shirt? But to a Canadian, a jumper is like an overalls dress (with the bib top but a skirt bottom instead of pants). It’s possibly similar to what British people would call a pinafore dress. Waaay back in my childhood it was a popular cold weather girls’ outfit to wear a corduroy jumper, usually with a blouse underneath and knee socks or thick tights/leggings.

        1. SarahKay*

          Agreed, a British jumper is a knitted sleeved garment, roughly equivalent to sweater in Canadian / US English.
          It can be a thick / chunky item for lots of warmth and probably worn over a t-shirt, or a thinner one for use a a top on it’s own. It’s sometimes used as a catchall for a warm top with sleeves, so I might say “I’m cold, I’m going to grab a jumper” and come back with a sweatshirt, but a lot of the time people will distinguish clearly between jumper and sweatshirt.
          And for thorough confusion, I have a corduroy pinafore dress (jumper) that this winter I wore over a polo-neck jumper (sweater)!

    3. Bagpuss*

      Thanks, Alison.
      I’m in the UK too and I thought that was probably what was being discussed but wasn’t sure. That would be a vest top, here. And not appropriate in most offices.
      (I think what we would call a tank top would be a sweater vest, in US English)

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely I agree. In the UK a vest top is not appropriate in most offices for white collar jobs. I’d add in most places I’d worked it would also be far too cold to wear one for office type work as most places tend to keep the air conditioning on the chilly side.

        1. londonedit*

          Yes, I agree. Sleeveless tops have been fine in all the offices I’ve worked in (publishing tends to be quite casual – plenty of people wear jeans and t-shirts to work) but I wouldn’t wear a strappy vest top. If I was going to wear a sleeveless top it would need to be one with more coverage at the front – most strappy tops tend to be low at the front as well as having thin straps. It’s a bit like the cleavage-or-legs rule – if you’re exposing one, the other should be covered up.

        2. TechWorker*

          Well either my office is particularly casual (it is pretty casual) or I am just constantly flouting dress code rules because black tank top (with slightly wider straps and a high neckline at the back than the one Alison showed) is what I live in. (Sometimes with jeans or with a smarter skirt/trousers). Definitely ‘white collar’ but also tech where dress codes can be pretty lax.

        3. UKgreen*

          I am inwardly chuckling at this because I have come into the office today for the first time in a while and I am wearing more layers indoors that I need outdoors – the aircon is on ‘freeze yer bits off’ mode ‘because of Covid’ and I cannot wait to go outside where it’s about 20 degrees warmer and I can take off my jacket and jumper. If I was just wearing what OP2 is calling a tank top I would be in A&E with hypothermia!

      2. Ponytail*

        It sounds like what we’d call a vest is an American’s tank top, and vice versa!

        But yeah, a strappy top would be an undergarment when it comes to UK office workwear, it just wouldn’t be appropriate. And I work in an office that accepts knee length shorts – strappy vests are a different category.

        1. Violet Rose*

          I ran into this exact linguistic snarl a few years back when I was looking for pieces for a costume – I was looking for a grey “vest” (meaning something like a waistcoat) and my British friend offered me her grey camisole. I hadn’t run across the term “tank top” for sweater vest/sleeveless jumper, though, and am wishing I knew it back then!

          1. Ponytail*

            I’m a knitter and it’s a pain looking for patterns on Ravelry because I have to remember to look for ‘vests’ whereas the very British part of me squirms at the thought of knitted vests! But yeah, it’s a funny quirk of our shared language.

          2. UKDancer*

            There’s a line in a Buffy fanfiction I read somewhere which went “Giles was wearing black pants and matching suspenders” and it made me howl with laughter because the image that created in my mind was definitely not the one the author intended. Especially given the actor who played Giles was also known for playing Frank n Furter on stage.

            Language variations for clothing names are fascinating.

            1. Nonny-nonny-non*

              That is just awesome! And a very, very different picture from the one the author would have meant :D
              Similarly, I was recently on a call (with mostly UK people) where a US manager told a UK male colleague that this was time for ‘belt and suspenders’ to make sure we achieved our aim. Someone pointed out that in the UK that would be ‘belt and braces’ and that suspenders was a very different thing in the UK. US person asked for clarification, and it was explained that suspenders are (usually!) women’s undergarments… and that it perhaps wasn’t entirely recommended that he google it on a work computer.

    4. An American(ish) Werewolf in London*

      I work in marketing in the UK (though I grew up in the US – been in the UK over 30 years) so I am enjoying the tank top/vest top conversations :)

      Where I work, for a marketing agency almost anything goes. I would feel fine wearing a cotton tank top/vest top and many do (though I might find myself chilly back when we were actually going into the office regularly). I personally am very glad that I can totally choose what to wear without worrying if I’m showing too much (non-private) skin. It does drive me a bit nuts that there is this idea that women in particular mustn’t show shoulders (though, to be fair, I think a man in a vest top would actually be glanced at more curiously than a woman). One go-to look for me is a vest top (cotton) with a cotton shirt over the top (ideally with pockets – don’t get me started on the pocket conversation).

      Of course, as always, it does depend on the workplace and its culture, as has been pointed out before. Every one, and every workplace is different.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely varies by field and occupation in the UK. I think marketing is probably less formal than something like corporate finance.

        I think in my company it’s less showing shoulders and more the type of material. So a sleeveless silk top would probably be fine (and I’ve worn them occasionally in the past) but a strappy vest in cotton on its own would be considered too informal.

        Although I tend to run cold and my office is chilly so I’d very rarely want to expose my shoulders at work regardless of acceptability because goose bumps are not a good look on me. I’m usually wearing a long sleeved blouse or top with a thermal vest underneath and a jacket on top. I’ve a colleague who runs warm and she usually is wearing short sleeved dresses long before I am considering shorter sleeves.

        1. An American(ish) Werewolf in London*

          Oh, marketing is absolutely less formal. A few years ago, I worked for a marketing company based, unusually, in Canary Wharf. For those who don’t know, Canary Wharf contains mostly banking and finance firms, so even coming out of the tube, you could immediately tell just by looking who our employees were simply by dress. The finance folk were all suited and booted, proper business formal.

    5. Maree*

      In Australia a tank top is a cut off t shirt that shows your midriff for women and a muscle shirt for men. I smiled at the thought of it being business wear. (But I watch enough tv to know what was meant).

  19. High fives all*

    LW5: Big high five for you and your wife!! You note it’s cause for celebration- so I’m celebrating virtually! Hearing about someone shaping her life to make herself happy, with a supportive partner, just makes the day shine.

    1. Just delurking to say...*

      Doesn’t it? My city’s on day #1 of lockdown #4 and reading this letter was one of the few bright lights in a pretty lousy day. OP5, congratulations to you both. More virtual celebrations here!

      1. Op5*

        Thank you both! It’s been one huge celebration for weeks now. Some day we’ll need to do the dishes again and be normal people, but for now we are reveling in Jane being able to be herself out loud.

        1. Lizy*

          That’s why someone way smarter than me invented paper plates. Normal is overrated anyhow. :)

  20. Virginia Plain*

    What is the rationale for not posting the salary in a job ad? Who is out there that doesn’t care what a job is paid? It’s probably the second most important thing – 1) what is the job, 2) how much does it pay and 3) where is it?
    I means it’s literally the whole point – you get a job to earn money. Was there some weirdly widespread fallacy in the past that bosses thought people did jobs for sheer love of the work? I mean I know that idea pops up but I thought it was a minority thing not something that would be big enough to gain such traction.
    I’m sure over here if you didn’t tell people the salary you just wouldn’t get any applications.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I think sometimes it’s because there are a lot of variables – for instance the salary may depend on the successful candidate’s level of experience / specific relevant qualifications – so the range might be very wide.

      I don’t recall seeing may ads with no information at all, but things like ‘market rate’ and ‘salary dependent on experience’ are quite common where I am, and in my field – I think because often there sis a core of essentials but can be quite a big range of desirables, in terms of expertise, specialist certifications etc .

      I guess that it also depends on the industry – if it’s common for jobs in a particular field not to post exact details then people will still apply , it’s where most ads have salary details and a few don’t that the ones which don’t are less likely to get applications

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This nicely sums up the case for a number of my positions. We also charge for people’s time (and can charge more for higher expertise/credentials), so it’s not even about what’s in the budget for salary because my team are (or should be) profit not expense. I can pay someone more if we can charge more for their work, and, sometimes, the ranges are so broad as to be meaningless.

        I don’t know why HR won’t post entry-level salaries. They’re standard and vetted annually against market, and they’re part of any initial phone screen to ensure it makes sense on both sides to move forward. There are a couple factors for which one can be paid more than the standard, entry-level salary – relevant work experience or relevant specialized degree – but those are outliers.

      2. pbnj*

        I wish companies would at least post a wide range to cover ranges in experience, b/c if the bottom is too low I’d know not to waste my time.

      3. LTL*

        I don’t think a broad range is meaningless. It gives you a minimum and a maximum. It’s definitely better than nothing.

        1. quill*

          Yes. If the lowest part of the range won’t cover a reasonable cost of living, you have valuable information there.

        2. Pickled Limes*

          And where I work our job postings specify that new hires can be hired up to the midpoint of the range depending on experience, so even if the range is quite broad, it’s less likely that a person with less experience will demand a salary at the top of the range. You can put ranges in the job postings with a bit of an explanation, and they actually do have meaning and help applicants decide whether the job really is for them.

    2. Myrin*

      I reckon it’s not so much that bosses genuinely thought people did jobs for sheer love of the work but that they wanted to pretend that they do, combined with the weird adage that it’s somehow unseemly to talk about money at all.
      Also the misguided thought that if you become invested enough in a potential job already during an interview, you might be willing to accept a lower salary once they reveal it to you because the job sounds otherwise perfect.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Talking about money is tacky. We should work for the company out of sheer loyality, not needing to pay bills. Also, if workers were able to compare salaries across companies they might — horrors — band together and push for higher wages.

        Capitalism for the owners, serfdom for the rest of us.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Sadly, there are still some employers who want people who just work for passion and feel it’s declassé to mention something as crass as financial compensation until the new recruit is signing the paperwork in HR.

      A few years ago this bit went round about someone in Canada ejected from the third round of interviews for asking salary, and the job was designing online takeout menus. Don’t get me wrong–I had basil fried rice and dumplings for dinner last night, and I ordered online–but I don’t think there are that many people doing that job just for the kicks and with no thought of monetary compensation.

    4. Betty*

      I think it’s because they might be able to hire a qualified person who will do the job for less money. It goes hand in hand with asking candidates for their salary expectations without sharing a range. Someone might say they’re looking for $xxx salary which is below the budgeted amount, allowing the company to save $$.

    5. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I just persuaded my boss to let me put the salary range in a recently posted ad. I know there are people with the same job title we’re hiring for making well above the range in our budget, and I don’t want to waste their time or mine.

    6. ratatatcat*

      We’re hiring for a ‘entry-level’-ish position right now where the range is fairly significant, depending on experience – so our recruiter advised us not to include the base minimum, as it might offput the more experienced candidates, and on the other hand, we technically have a maximum but it’s well above what we’d be willing to pay most of the candidates who we are currently interviewing.

    7. All the words*

      One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that employers really don’t like it when staff knows what their co-workers earn.

      “Hey, the ad for the job opening in my team says the new person will be making more than I will, and I’ve been here 3 years!”

  21. ThatsUnfortunate*

    LW5–my husband and I had been married for several years before he came out as trans, so pretty much everyone in my department knew him pre-transition.

    So with my husband’s permission at the next department meeting when they asked if anyone had any personal news to share I said “many of you know my spouse and I would like to share the happy news that he recently came out as trans. So while in the past you might’ve heard me mention my wife, now you’ll hear me talk about my husband. In the past you might’ve known him with a different name or pronouns, but now you can call him “name” and he/him. Same human, different phrasing.”

    This was a safe, inclusive environment wherein I had no reason to worry about my employment and there were no safety concerns for my husband, so that would obviously alter things—but for my job it was a quick and easy way to get the news out there.

    1. Op5*

      Awesome, good to know this worked so well for you. I’m bad at being nonchalant, so this feels more attainable than a low-key “oh, my spouse goes by Jane now,” in the middle of a conversation.
      Thank you!

  22. Message in a Bottle*

    LW1 – I have no advice for you, but thanks for caring enough about your coworker to write in.

  23. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP1: I was that coworker- with an added side of being a really angry and unpleasant person to work with (I mean it. I was not a good person).

    The thing is, despite how many people told me to do less work or tried to show concern I simply didn’t want to hear it at best, or told myself they were just what is called now ‘concern trolling’. I worked those long hours for a number of reasons but one was to try and keep my mind off my medical problems (spoiler: didn’t work) that included chronic pain and a messed up brain.

    What DID finally stop it was my boss pointing out that my harsh and angry behaviour was a problem, and my husband later agreeing, and that I was headed straight for an official warning. The long hours were another symptom of the main problem – that I was ignoring just how bad I was getting.

    Basically, sorry to say that there’s probably no conversation you can have that’ll stop her if she’s anything like me. All you can do is carry on as usual and try to not get dragged into thinking her way is ‘normal’.

    1. Malika*

      It’ s hard to face up to reviewing your past behaviour and coming to this conclusion. I admire you for being so clear-headed about it, it’ s a sign of becoming a more considerate colleague and putting your self-care in a higher priority.
      It’s very easy to normalize overwork, especially in this hustle culture we are now in. I found for myself it was in some ways a procrastination. Lots of less-important tasks got pulled to the front so I could avoid the problem of a mislabeled bill or having to communicate with a problematic colleague. This just caused more fires and an ever longer to do list. I know have as a goal to eat the frogs first in the morning right after opening my to do list. Suddenly my longer hours practically vanished and have a happy workplace and me with one third of the work from my past job!

  24. Also a Horsey Human*

    LW1-the broken ribs thing? Totally normal for horsey people. I have worked through a broken foot (twice), broken ribs and a probably fractured leg (probably as I never got it looked at). Recently I was in conference calls while waiting for a plastic surgeon to see a hand injury. Just part and parcel of horses, it won’t even register to her that it’s alarming to others.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Haha this is what I was thinking! I’ve been caught out having to explain some apparently incredibly dodgy-looking horse-induced bruises and injuries that I hadn’t even really registered as bad. Even if it feels awful you just kind of keep going. This person does sound overstretched but I found that part pretty relatable, lol.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      And I’m not a horse person, but I did a half marathon with broken ribs a few years back. There’s nothing a doc can do about them, and they tell you to do whatever you feel up to during the healing, just be careful about physical actions.

      1. quill*

        I went on dig with microfractures and it put me out for the count, honestly. I ended up being dig secretary for the first three weeks because I could not bend to do any actual fieldwork.

        On the plus side we have EXCELLENT sitemaps now.

    3. Lonely Aussie*

      Yup can confirm, horse peeps are nuts and terrible at looking after ourselves. I have two horsey friends who cut down their casts to ride after riding related broken ankles and most of us have been kicked, bitten, trod on, crushed or hit the ground at high speeds. It’s a very dangerous sport and there’s this real attitude of you get back on unless you’re dead or in a coma. Thankfully that attitude is slowly fading but as a kid, I was put back on after a concussion, cracked ribs and in shock. All separate falls. Bill Rycroft and Gillian Rolton both rode in different Olympic games with broken collar bones.
      Even the pain killers thing doesn’t surprise me, if your coworker is daft enough to be riding she probably wants to be alert as possible (especially after a fall) even if she’s giving you the reason that it’s for work.

      (there’s a certain level of irony about the whole thing though, cause the same friends would totally baby their horse if they have so much of a sniffle or “felt off” under saddle. Also, probably call a vet and a chiro and a dentist and book the horse in for red light therapy or something. Store brand painkillers and frozen peas for the rider)

      1. Delta Delta*

        Horse-ish person here: I have paid more for horse acupuncture, horse massage, horse chiropractic work (my own chiropractor considered doing it: “it’s just angles,” he said), horse dentistry, hoof care (really the most important part of a horse, imo), etc. than I have for my own care over recent years. My falls haven’t been bad, but I have certainly had reason to say in court, “your honor, may I just stand for this whole proceeding? I fell off a horse the other day and sitting is …. complicated.”

        That said, I’ve also ridden at terrible times of my life when I’ve been distracted and feeling overwhelmed and over worked. And that was the only time I could mentally check out and just focus on something that wasn’t work, which is maybe what she needs in the middle of the afternoon. That doesn’t fix that she’s overworked, but at least she’s getting that complete mental break for a bit.

    4. Lora*

      Yes, this – I don’t have Money Pits (AKA horses) but I grew up around them along with cows on my aunts’ and uncles’ farms, and chronic injuries are just something that happens. You get stepped on, kicked, butted, bitten, thrown off animals and hopefully not gored or trampled.

      It’s most alarming and frustrating when people want to put their young child on a strange horse / cow / etc. for a picture because it looks cute, not knowing how incredibly dangerous that is and how their kid could be easily killed in a split second.

  25. Waving not Drowning (not Drowning not Waving)*

    OP1 – I’ve got a similar co-worker. Its also coupled with an insecurity issue, of not feeling good enough, and that she has chaos in her personal life (death of close relative, husband works shift work, kids), so work is the one thing that is constant, and she feels in control.

    In the past I’ve tried to help, but understood that she’s an adult, and she can make her own decisions. Now, I’m her manager, and, I can’t overlook it. And its not fun.

    1. Malika*

      Being a manager of such a person is tough! It sounds very familiar, I was such a person. I felt like my work was never good enough and that everything needed to be handled immediately. Chaos in private life certainly doesn’ t help, it can feel that the only form of any power is in your workplace when outside you feel batted by the winds. With my last two jobs, that attitude caused problems. I had to leave both due to overwork and the people after felt they couldn’t measure up to the workload. I think it’s a no-win situation, as the company also needs to learn to take on and train people at the right time instead of waiting until chaos when the overworked person collapses. I hope your coworker gets to learn boundaries and that quality gets rewarded in the workplace more than quantity.

  26. Drtheliz*

    I wear tank tops under my blouses all the time, but that’s because I have an – ahem – larger chest, and it prevents any incidents. I do insist that they’re fairly high-necked, though. I’ll also sometimes wear an open blouse over a tank in the summer (and can take the blouse off when commuting ;) )

    1. kicking_k*

      I think wearing a tank/camisole as an underlayer is not controversial – but wearing it on its own would be. I’ve done the same; also sewed a piece of fabric into low V-necks to give the impression of a camisole underneath without actually having to wear one :)

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, exactly, it’s not that tank tops are inappropriate in general, it’s that on their own they may be too little coverage for a lot of offices.

    2. Reality Check*

      I do the same thing. The tank top is a good under-layer for my freezing cold office, and I’ll take off the outer layer (usually a blouse) for the sweaty ride home. On its own, I think a tank top is too skimpy for the office.

  27. lailaaaaah*

    With regards to the trans spouse- I’d always say ‘oh, my partner goes by [name] now and they/them pronouns, but they’re doing really well, thanks for asking!’ It took a little while, but me treating it as a very straightforward thing really helped.

  28. Richard Hershberger*

    Ah, youth! To think that business casual is not mere old school, but *very* old school. Business casual as an everyday thing dates to the 1990s, with lots of soul-searching at the time about whether it would drive clients away, and that one guy who would show up in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. Before that it was suits all the way, except perhaps on “casual Friday.”

    1. Reality Check*

      I remember those days, and I’m not so old. I went to a secretarial school and skirts (no more than 2 inches above the knee, of course), close-toed shoes, and nylons within 2 shades of our natural skin tone were all mandatory. A tank-top was unthinkable. This was the early 90’s.

    2. John Smith*

      One previous company I worked for insisted on full suits. Dress down was being able to loosen your tie and undo the top button on your shirt (reserved only for extremely hot days). It was mental and turnover quite high because of it. Weird thing is the organisation was mostly administrative – no customers, no visitors. I lasted a week before telling them they’re nuts for doing this and left.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Interesting parallel with companies requiring physical presence even for jobs where there is no real need for it.

        1. John Smith*

          Very much. It so happens that the organisation was used by the government for fiddling expenses by bending targets to suit its own needs.

          I really do seem to be attracted to the wrong employers….

    3. EmmaPoet*

      Yes, in the beginning it came out of Silicon Valley, where a button-down and khakis were de rigueur. Then other industries started to adopt Casual Friday, and endless books and articles came out defining what was acceptable and what was beyond the pale. There were broad areas of agreement- polo shirts were generally fine, where jeans might or might not be.

      1. Jlynn*

        I remember starting out in the 90’s (insurance company) wearing suits and heels. Later we got casual Fridays which were basically what we called golf attire – a polo and slacks. That went on for years. Not until early 2000 when I worked for a solo lawyer did I get really casual. Started off as slacks/nice top and we got to shorts and t-shirts if we knew we weren’t in court or seeing anyone that day. Now, even working for the courts 4 years ago (federal level in the Midwest) I started out in slacks and a nice top – or a casual dress with a sweater or something. Most days, since the pandemic started and when we returned to the office, I wear jeans and a decent shirt. On a good day I’ll wear a sundress and sweater or something. (Today the Judge wasn’t even in a suit, and yes he had court. He will wear a collared shirt so you can’t tell under his robe, but he was basically in a pair of Dockers and a short sleeve button up shirt) Overall, business has gotten much more casual thru the years.

  29. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP1, one additional exception I’ll add is if her role is one where a tired employee could injure someone. Pilots and truck drivers are regulated so they get sufficient sleep. (I think/hope bus drivers & train engineers as well.) Many people are pushing for the same for medical residents, doctors, & nurses.

  30. The Other Dawn*

    Yeah, business casual is not “old school.” “Old school” would be suits w/tie for men, dresses/skirts/suits for women.

    Anyway, a true tank top would not be OK on its own in most business casual settings, though it would be fine under a cardigan or blazer. A sleeveless top may be more acceptable on its own, but that depends on the material, fit and coverage, and varies from place to place.

    1. OP2*

      I feel like I am showing my age/what kinds of environments I typically work in where it led to me I assuming that business casual is “old school”; I think my interpretation is probably influenced by my only experience of a business casual code coming out of a company with a very structured heirarchy amongst other things, and it strikes me as “old school” for… a reason I can’t fully articulate.

      1. Me*

        I don’t know if this is a factor or not, but if you are on the younger side, I’d caution you against basing too much of your ideas of what is office appropriate or old school on peers. From experience, including my own mildly clueless moments (think tight one shouldered tank top), people new to the working world sometimes miss the mark on unwritten dress codes and dress too casual for their office. I’ve done it, I’ve seen it done frequently, and there’s even the occasional lw here that mentions it.

        Overall business casual is the most common. There’s variations within business casual but for the most part a good rule of thumb is if you’d put it on for an average non work day, it’s probably to casual for the office.

      2. Threeve*

        It really depends on how a company defines “business casual.” My last business casual office meant “suits/ties/heels aren’t required, but nothing less formal that slacks/skirts/collared shirts/blouses.” I consider that pretty old school, and I’m in my late thirties.

        1. MCMonkeybean*

          Yes, actual “business casual” is (or was) a lot more formal than I think most people realize. I only learned this during my brief stint at a bank. I think it’s pretty similar to “business” except you can take of the jacket more. But since there’s not a lot of terms to describe all the other levels of dress codes between that and “casual” I think we’ve kind of expanded the term to cover everything between full-on suits versus jeans with a t-shirt.

          I personally used to refer to my office as “casual business casual.” Jeans allowed on Fridays. Guys could wear polo-style shirts instead of button-downs but were still generally expected to have some sort of collar. I was able to wear more casual dresses than I could have worn at the bank, like a sundress with a cardigan was fine. Some open-toe shoe styles would be fine but definitely not flip-flops.

        2. Tired of Covid-and People*

          Skirts? No where would that be considered business casual. That’s not old school, that’s ancient school.

          1. MCMonkeybean*

            Uh… what? Pencil skirts are definitely still a normal part of a business casual wardrobe.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        Dress code isn’t just about age, but the type of organization factors in. The place I work was business formal until the early 2000s, is now business casual (absolutely no shorts, athletic clothing, hoodies, graphic tees, flip-flops, etc.) with jeans allowed one day per week. But it’s also a professional services/consulting organization that often hosts clients, industry events, and other things that have executives, board members, and professionals in and out of our offices. Consulting, accounting, law firms, large corporations, finance — a lot of these types of organizations are at best business casual (some are still business formal) because of the nature of the work, not the age of their leadership. If one is hosting important clients, going to court, or something, it’s still suits and full business formal.

      4. GraceRN*

        That’s a great point. Often, dress codes are manifestations of the organization culture. There are wide variations in org cultures and I understand it is hard to articulate. Maybe instead of thinking about dress codes as a dichotomy of “old school” vs “new school”, it might be more useful to think of dress codes as a spectrum, with “conservative” on one end and “relaxed” on the other end. For example Suit + skirt + pantyhose + close toe pumps would be conservative, and spaghetti strap top + shorts + flipflops would be relaxed. Typical business casual with dress slacks/skirt + dressy top would be the middle of the spectrum. With this, age wouldn’t necessarily be the determining factor in what to wear.

      5. New Jack Karyn*

        It is totally normal for a younger person to not have a clear idea on the intricacies of dress codes, and also not able to fully articulate their own thoughts on stuff. Asking about it, and engaging in conversation about it, shows a lot of maturity on your part.

  31. Beth Jacobs*

    Follow-up to #2: My office is business casual, but the industry as a whole is really conservative. When I don’t have any external meetings, I’ll sometimes wear a black tank top under a wrap dress to hide cleavage. Is that okay?

      1. BookMom*

        I do this all the time. I love wrap dresses but they just show a little too much cleavage on me, even when the catalogue model or another person with the same dress is perfectly covered. my workplace is pretty casual and progressive, but i wouldn’t feel comfortable. (I think it stems back to wearing a new dress to a big event and realizing the fabric stretched or shifted a bit after wearing a few hours so i was having to readjust discreetly.)

        I do notice even managers wearing tank tops on zoom from home, whereas they wouldn’t wear them in the office.

        1. quill*

          I frequently have to add extra buttonholes and buttons to tops, either because the original placement was not strategic on me, or because the pattern appears to have been simply extended from a smaller size without thought to whether the rest of us would like to cover our bras. Fortunately I’m pretty good at minor alterations, since I always have to fix my pants waists too.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Under is fine.

      Tank top on its own as the sole top is usually a problem. Presuming we are talking cotton tank tops with the narrow straps, not a sleeveless top.

      1. OP2*

        TBH I was talking about more like a sleeveless top, maybe a bit thinner (2.5 to 3 fingers wide maybe?) ; I am quite chesty and won’t wear tops with very narrow straps at the best of times (like no spaghetti straps)

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Sounds reasonable to me. I do the same thing with a dress of mine that has a wrapped top and a neckline that’s fine for dinner out with my husband, but a bit too low for the office. (Since the dress is a fairly neutral blue, I have a tendency to wear a red or purple tank top under it, and then coordinate my accessories to the tank rather than the dress.) Basically, a tank top as a layering garment underneath something else (that won’t be removed during the workday) is generally fine.

    3. EmmaPoet*

      I think that’s fine. A tank as a layering piece is all right. A tank on its own is probably not a good choice for most offices.

  32. Birdlady*

    LW5: An friend of mine was happily married to a man we (other friends) thought was a good one, and good for her. A few years ago she was referring to “her wife” in an interview and I was a bit sad her marriage (to this good man) had come to an end. So I felt relieved when I found out a bit later I that her spouse had transitioned from MTF and my friend was still married to the same person.

    So if you think people are happy for you being happily married, I would recommend letting them know that James is now Jane rather than starting mentioning your wife out of the blue.

    1. Op5*

      Thanks for the anecdote! I was worried about folks thinking this, so it’s good to hear that concern corroborated.

  33. Allonge*

    Hi LW1, so as someone who is considered overworking (although not to this extent), thank you for your concern for your colleague. Alison is quite right that there is very little you can do, so just a small comment from the other side of this, as it were.

    Generally, I appreciate gentle concern about my wellbeing and the impact of work on it. If someone keeps bugging me about it though, this very easily turns into annoyance with the person, as usually it feels as if I don’t have a choice about it – either I get things done or they fall apart. Now, I know this is not a healthy attitude, but still, it can feel like you are commenting on something I have no control over.

    So, my suggestion based on the above is to keep it light and infrequent, and listen to her reactions.

    In the same manner, you could maybe mention your concerns one time to a manager you have a very good relationship with and you know would be receptive about this, saying ‘I am worried about coworker’ or similar – but only if the relationship is like that!

    In the end your coworker has to figure this out for herself though.

    1. Jack of All Spades*

      Speaking as someone who has a history of being assigned impossible workloads, this is solid advice.

      Getting criticized or made fun of for working long hours when you don’t have control over the workload only adds to the frustration and cornered feeling — now not only is your boss piling on work, your coworkers or family/friends are demanding that you answer for your boss’s behavior. For someone who is already carrying a lot of mental burden, it can just add stress and poison the precious few hours not eaten by work.

  34. BeenThereDoneThat*

    #3 I always ask what the pay range is for a position when a company reaches out to schedule a phone screening. Almost all of them have been willing to tell me the pay range. The few companies that have told me they couldn’t disclose the pay range ended up being a waste of time when if I did go through the interview process anyway, so I’d just decline to interview with those the next time I’m job hunting. (I found out later on the pay was super low, or there multiple interviews were with people who seemed totally uninterested and didn’t ask me any questions, etc.).

  35. restingbutchface*

    OP5 – what is your spouse’s suggestion or request about how you talk about her when she isn’t there?

    1. Op5*

      Use Jane and she/her pronouns when referring to her nowadays, but otherwise she doesn’t much care. She finds the term ‘dead name’ unsettling and doesn’t loathe her birth name; she just says it’s no longer a good fit. So using her birth name to refer to her pre-transition is okay so long as it’s with good intent.

      1. restingbutchface*

        Awesome (and I have the same unease over “dead names” personally, but just for me, not others). Has she told you how she would prefer you to manage these situations?

        The reason I ask is that the idea of people talking about my gender and sexuality when I am not in the room makes me *sweat* and your wife has a rare opportunity to offer input into those conversations. I know one lady who insisted her spouse send a team email, edited by her, advising everyone on her new name and pronouns – wouldn’t be my choice though! Another person told their partner to “confide” in one person who could be trusted to relay the messaging accurately around the office – that would be my sort of style, but what does your wife think?

        I get the sense the subtle person by person approach isn’t working for you and I totally understand why. It’s exhausting to have to think, does this person know Jane’s name, are they being shady when they say James or have I just not talked to them in a while, did they flinch when I said wife, how should I phrase my next sentence… urgh. Tiring.

        Another argument against this approach, apart from the emotional labour required is that you know how gossipy people can be. If one person hears about your wife and another remembers your husband, well, put two and two together, add some trans exclusive assumptions and you get “omg OP left poor James for a hot lesbian affair, did you hear??”.

        Finally, if there is anyone from the LGTBTQ+ community at your office who isn’t out at work, this sort of modelling can just… change someone’s entire life. I mention this last because other people are not your responsibility, but it’s always comforted me to think that being in a place of discomfort may help someone I don’t know. It’s Pride month, so it’s on my mind a lot – and you could even use that as a starting point to add context to the conversation.

        Thank you for coming to my super queer TED talk :)

        1. Op5*

          I really appreciate your super queer TED talk! I’d been uncomfortable with the low-key slow rollout approach since I started considering how to tell my coworkers, but I couldn’t come up with a good reason other than “I’m awful and being nonchalant.” You put words to the many other reasons I’d find it taxing.

          Fwiw, my wife doesn’t have any preference on how I tell them; she just wants me to be comfortable in how I announce it so I’m not nervous and because if I’m not nervous, it’s more likely to read as the happy thing that it is.

          I’m kind of leaning towards using my slide in the all-staff meeting to tell everyone, because it’s a time specifically scheduled for me to talk about my life so I have time to make sure it’s clear this is a good thing, but I can also move on to something more banal relatively quickly to also make it clear it’s not something to make a huge deal about.

          1. Ginger Baker*

            I think since your company is so small, that’s a pretty reasonable approach (and likely what I would do). It’s a very different thing to make a General Announcement to the whole company when “whole company” is 12 people versus when it’s 1200 people!

          2. Turanga Leela*

            I was going to suggest a brief announcement, either over email or at a meeting with your team. It’s very similar to having a baby (except that you’re not taking leave) or getting married—it’s happy news that people should know about so that they have context for basic social interactions at work.

            I’m not trans but I’ve gotten emails from friends that are basically, “I have some important news. My wonderful spouse has come out as a trans woman, and going forward she’ll be using the name Jane.” Some have included links to resources on gender identity in case the recipients had questions.

          3. restingbutchface*

            DO IT DO IT DO THE SLIDE!

            Ahem. I mean, if you want :) Here’s my argument-

            – you can prepare in advance so no more off the cuff mental gymnastics
            – you can get the tone down perfectly, instead of making it a minor grammatical change, hey guys, I have some really great news to share with you all!
            – you can deal with any immediate questions but you can also really enjoy and drink in the positive comments/congratulations
            – great opportunity to practice activism in the workplace and just like when you toss a pebble into a lake, you’ll never know where the ripples will end. This goes double if you’re someone in any position of authority.
            – your coworkers sound great but on the very odd chance there’s someone who isn’t so great, this creates a very clear line in the sand. Anyone in the LGBTQ+ crew has to constantly assess whether the person they are speaking to is being shady or actually, just don’t know. A lot of microaggressions get written off because, “oh, they must not know my pronouns/my partner’s gender/my chosen name”. Sneaky sneaky, but you can ensure that doesn’t happen and I bet it’ll be a massive relief.
            – you can add a super cute picture of the two of you instead of like, Zoom face (yes I’m vain)
            – I bet it will be the most interesting meeting all year (seriously, go last on the agenda because who can top that?)

            Let us know what you choose, as you can tell I am heavily overinvested.

            1. restingbutchface*

              I really am unhealthily involved in this, but one more thought – when I started talking to people about my gender and sexuality, people would often downplay it. Especially if I wasn’t there myself, like, “oh nbd but RBF has a girlfriend, not a boyfriend”. I know they’re doing it to be kind and thinking that it looks as if they’re super relaxed about it but actually… it is a big deal.

              I overheard two friends talking about me and one made an incorrect assumption – I expected the other friend to say something similar to the above, but what I heard was, “no dude, RBF has a super hot girlfriend, seriously, you should see her. She’s really smart and funny too.” (Not a script for the office, just an example)

              My heart skipped a beat because yeah, I do need to be hyped up sometimes and the journey I’ve gone through to be here IS A BIG DEAL.

              Your wife sounds 100% more chill than me though, so this might not apply. If we were colleagues and you casually said Jane instead of James, I’d be thinking I had misunderstood something or that I’d messed up and everyone knew this but me. No room for the positive regard that anyone who shares more of their genuine self is entitled to. And no room for me to say that’s awesome, I’m so happy for you both.

  36. Pretzelgirl*

    For the tank tops, I really think this office dependent. At my current place of employment, some women will wear a dressy tank, with nice jeans and sandals in the summer. No one really cares. I have def worked other places, that this would not fly at all.

  37. Jennifer C.*

    Re tank tops:
    “Tank tops” are not okay in a business environment. But a dressy sleeveless shirt, appropriate for wearing under a suit jacket, is almost always fine with similarly-dressy pants or a skirt. I’m a lawyer in a city in the southern US, and if you had to take your suit jacket off in court (due to AC failure), a sleeveless shirt would probably be okay as long as your armpits are not visible and your upper arms are slim and toned. (Sexist? Yes.)

  38. RudeRabbit*


    I’ve gone through this recently as well! It is important to know how comfortable your spouse feels about their identity update at your work, and how they would like your coworkers to refer to them. Especially if your company does any social events (even virtual) where your spouse would be included, it’s best to get the baseline from them.

    After that, I left it up to correcting pronouns and names through casual conversation. No big announcement at all, but if someone asked how “Jane” was doing, I would respond with “oh! Jane actually goes by Jim now. And they are doing great, thanks for asking. How is your family doing?” There will be a few slip-ups, and just casually correct your coworkers because 95% of the time I’m sure it’s an honest mistake. The other 5% may need a less-than-casual conversation, but that’s based on your own work dynamic.

    Hope this helps!

    1. Op5*

      I’m glad to hear that went so well! I struggle with being nonchalant, though, and worry if I do it this way it’ll come across as a bad thing because I’ll sound weird/nervous trying to behave in a way counterintuitive to me.

      1. RudeRabbit*

        The best part about all this is that you probably feel more nervous than you are coming across. It may help to practice with some close friends or colleagues; roleplaying is an underrated tool!

        You’ve got this!

  39. Chris*

    “After my boss quit from the stress of too many projects, our grandboss has said he wants to make sure no one else gets burnt out”

    LW1: Depending on your relationship with the grandboss, this might give you an opening to raise your coworker’s tendency towards overwork with him.

      1. Lauren19*

        I rarely if ever disagree with Allison, but gotta say I do here. I had someone approach me about one of my employees approaching burnout (she was at the same level as my employee but didn’t report to me). I was SO thankful because although I knew we were in a very busy period, I didn’t know how bad it was impacting her. If Grand boss is at all a decent person he’ll take that convo to look at the situation for himself.

        1. Me*

          There’s no indication the person in question is approaching burnout. They don’t work the way the LW would, but that’s about it. They’re working odd hours but they are also taking hours during the day for down time. Some people really do thrive on working. It’s their prerogative.

          I don’t work that way either but I would not be happy if a coworker decided they needed to insert themselves in something about my work that had nothing to do with them. As a general rule of thumb it’s ill advised to be watching your coworker clocks.

  40. Spicy Tuna*

    Tank tops are generally OK if and only if they are layered under a cardigan or blazer. I live in a year round warm climate and take public transit to work, so I frequently will tank top for the commute and put my “office layer” on before arriving at the office. Most offices are air conditioned to sub-arctic levels anyway, so too much bare skin makes for an uncomfortable workday!

    Regarding the overworked co-worker…. In my experience, people who work at companies with unlimited PTO either never take it, or abuse the policy. I think it’s a terrible policy all around!

    1. OP2*

      Yep! My plan is to wear scarves, cardigans, etc. Mostly cause I live somewhere with winter and snow, and also just cause I love sweaters.

  41. Ray Gillette*

    Letter 1 is yet another example of the pitfalls of “unlimited” PTO. LW says the culture around PTO is encouraging, but how encouraging will they be when deadlines get missed because nobody can cover the coworker’s responsibilities?

  42. Knope Knope Knope*

    LW 3, I would not answer an email about salary before someone has formally applied. However, I do like it to be included in all of my initial phone screens. That is not because I want to withhold the information, but the hiring process makes it a very impractical conversation to have before that stage. At my current and last two companies (mid-size to extremely large global companies) the hiring process has always followed roughly the same format:

    Step 1.) For a new job, I put together a proposal for a new headcount to be approved by my direct manager, finance, and HR. If the headcount is tentatively approved, HR will do a salary analysis that takes into account what competitors pay for similar roles, geography (for instance, a similar role will pay more in NYC where there is a very high income tax than it would in Florida where there is none) and years of experience. Though I do not have any direct revenue driving responsibility, the expected revenue impact would be part of the proposal. If this a job that is rehiring an existing role, we will take this opportunity to make any adjustments to salary expectations.

    Step 2.) Finance will evaluate the proposal. They take into account the proposed salary and our overall headcount budget for the division. During different times of the year, the calculations could be different. For instance, if another department has multiple highly-skilled positions open, I may be asked to consider a role for someone with fewer years of experience or in a cheaper location. Once we come to an agreement, finance will give me an approved salary range for the role. There is very little I can do to change the salary at this point until we are ready to make an offer or the person has already been hired and has been working for us for some time (usually, but not always, a year).

    Step 3.) I write a job description and provide it to HR. They approve it and usually provide guidance again on the years of experience that we write as a requirement based on the approved salary and location. As a hiring manager, I have already had my chance to negotiate this so that I can hire the person with the experience I think I need at a fair salary. I never pay attention to this requirement again unless we feel it is causing a significant problem in the recruitment process–usually that people are applying with very high salary expectations or insufficient related experience. But we won’t know this until later. (As an aside, since I see people ask about the years of experience requirement a lot, I find it is mostly for salary setting. As the manager doing the hiring, I look for context. So if I am hiring someone with expertise in X and 3 years of related experience, and I get two candidates with experience in X who have accomplished achievement Y that my team needs to work on, and I can provide a role that offers a logical next step in their career, it makes very little difference to me if they have 6 months of experience with X or 2 years of it. I would interview them both depending on the rest of the details in their resume and cover letter. If someone had the same achievement but 20 years of experience with X, I would be skeptical that I could meet their salary or career progression goals. In each case though, I would consider a phone screen to find out more.)

    Step 4.) I am assigned an internal recruiter who posts the job publicly and sets up a regular catch up with me. This person screens all of the incoming resumes and sends me an initial list of qualified candidates. I then give my feedback (these candidates look great! Let’s screen 1, 5 and 6 from the list. These candidates are all too technical, we need more creative background etc). I have no access to the full candidate list.

    Step 5.) start phone screens. At this early stage we are already taking personal consideration around salary expectations for every candidate. If someone seems overqualified, I would want to know salary expectations, and if they have mitigating factors like wanting to relocate or change specialties that make up for a lower salary. I would also want them to know the salary range so they could decide if the interview process is worth their time. If someone is more junior we may hope to start negotiations at the lower end of the approved range so we have room to negotiate up. At the end of the day, I have the same approved salary so I really am limited regardless of how awesome the candidate is.

    Step 6.) If the initial candidates don’t meet our criteria or we’re not aligned on salary we’ll expand recruiting efforts. In extreme circumstances, I will ask to have access to all the resumes, but I usually won’t have time to look through them all and recruiters usually prefer not to share the whole list.

    From there, ideally we’ll conduct our interviews and land on a candidate whose expectations are aligned with what we can offer, and everyone is on the same page. In extreme cases where we can’t find someone who meets our requirements or we found someone so unusually perfect for the exact role with a salary range outside of my approved budget, and there is no one who could do it reasonably well within the approved budget, I can try to see if there is any wiggle room in the original headcount budget pool from finance. It happens, but rarely. Usually if it is a small amount, like $5k or there is some change to the bonus structure we can offer that is much easier to get approved.

    I would be all for salaries being posted in ads, but it would impact negotiations later or could even change based on location if we are able to hire in multiple locations, so I understand why we don’t do it. I am sure there are other reasons too.

    All that said, the amount of work that goes into setting salaries and looking for the initial slate of candidates and taking their salary expectations into account early on would make it impractical to start answering cold emails from people who haven’t even applied. I get why the salary question could make the application a waste of time, and that’s ultimately up to the individual. But I have to make the same calculation about how to spend my time, too. (This morning, that included writing a really long comment on AAM haha)

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I seems very odd to ascribe the high cost of living in New York City specifically to income tax rate. Surely if that were the case it would apply to the entire state, but no one would suggest the cost of living in Rochester is the same as in New York City.

      1. Knope Knope Knope*

        I’m just giving a general example. We wouldn’t want the takehome pay significantly different for the same job just because of taxes. I have never hired anywhere in NY outside of NYC, so I am sure there are other considerations, but I don’t conduct the analysis.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I’m not saying this is the case here, but the framing is very close to what we get from the “taxation is theft” crowd.

          1. Knope Knope Knope*

            Ah definitely not the intended implication. Just that location is part of the analysis.

          2. MissElizaTudor*

            If you don’t mind clarifying, what about this is similar to taxation being theft? I don’t see it, unless it’s just the idea that higher taxes result in lower take home pay?

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              The issue is ascribing the high cost of living in New York City exclusively to taxes. It is part of the mix, but hardly the entirety. We would all prefer to have a lower cost of living: eliminate the state income tax and the fine denizens of New York City would enjoy this happy condition!

              I understand that this was not the intent. Also that it doesn’t make the full leap. But it is adjacent, by over-simplifying reality and ascribing the bad stuff to taxes alone.

      2. Purple Cat*

        But there is additional income tax for NYC specifically that wouldn’t apply to Rochester…

        1. doreen*

          Yes, municipalities can impose their own income taxes, and NYC is one of the cities that does. I pay more income tax in NYC than I would in Rochester ( which as far as I know does not have a local income tax)

    2. Tired of Covid-and People*

      There has got to be some budget consideration when there’s a job opening, certainly it’s a more narrow context than using a dartboard. I get that you have flexibility, but just no idea at all of the range? That sounds untenable to me. Maybe I’m jaded, but I think companies like this hope to rope someone in and lowball them. Most people know wages aren’t the whole compensation story, but require a base level of income. There must be history on what similar work pays in the organization at various experience levels. If not, a compensation study needs to be done stat!

    3. Sacred Ground*

      It seems putting the cart before the horse to finalize a pay range and THEN write a job description.

      This process doesn’t address that the overqualified are denied the opportunity to self-select out without having to apply in the first place, which wastes their time and yours. For all those words, you have described your company’s process in detail while still not giving one good reason to continue the practice of keeping the compensation out of the job posting.

      So, your company is unconcerned about the qualified candidates who will pass/are passing on your postings because they lack the single most important piece of information to decide whether to apply at all.

  43. HatBeing*

    LW#5 I also work at a small company and my spouse came out as trans about two years ago. Most of my co-workers met her pre-transition at a company party where she had stereotypically masculine traits (wore suits! had a curly mustache!) so there would not have been a moment of ‘maybe I misremembered.’ I am HR, among other things, but this wasn’t a work related thing, so I after confirming with her, I told the senior team in our weekly meeting and mentioned it in our DEI monthly meeting. I brought it up in conversation with folks in the way Alison mentioned so there wouldn’t be confusion and everyone was pretty cool. These days I don’t mention it and just mention my wife to new co-workers. We are privileged to live in an area that legally protects gender expression and identity and I know a lot of folks don’t have that luxury.

    I did run into some awkwardness with one of my slightly older than me co-workers (old millennial me vs gen x him) who kept on calling me ‘inspirational’ and I said no, I’m just living life.

  44. J. D.*

    For LW 5: Either of the given examples are good!

    The important thing, in my (trans) opinion, is to treat it like it’s no big deal, because it isn’t. You’re essentially correcting the mental dossier someone keeps about you and your spouse from “Jill, married to James” to “Jill, married to Jane”. And updating (mental or real) paperwork isn’t a big to-do, it’s just something that needs to be done sometimes. But acting apologetic, or like respecting someone’s gender change is a big ask, or a weird ask, makes it weird. Hope that makes sense!

    1. Op5*

      Totally makes sense! If anything, I’m concerned about making sure they understand that my spouse living authentically is a good thing, not a “she’s soldiering on,” or “oh, poor OP5, her life just blew up” sort of thing. I’m thinking about using my slide during the all-staff meeting as the platform, so I can show a picture of us happy together and announce it and then move on to more banal topics to really drive home “this is good, but it’s also not something to make a big deal about.”

  45. Fabulous*

    #3 – In my last job search I asked about salary in the initial screen and it worked out really well!

    I framed it as, “Before we proceed with scheduling an interview, I want to make sure we’re aligned on salary expectations. I’m looking for X – does that match your range for the position?”

    I think for that particular position, we were aligned on the dollar amount, but they also disclosed it was a part time job (which was NOT listed in their ad!) so it was really beneficial that I asked ahead of time.

  46. Office Rat*

    OP 5, when my wife transitioned, I had to deal with it at work. I am a transgender man, and while I am not in the closet, I was read as cis while there, so her shift would also probably include my being out.

    I handled it by waiting until she shifted her name, and coincidentally needed some surgery in the same period. I talked to my grandboss, and said I’d need the time off for my WIFE, and that her name was XXXX now. I also let my boss know it was important for me to be there for her because she’d been there for me when I transitioned. At this job, it went well.

    However, because people do suck, you want to be aware that in some jobs, this may not go well. When I transitioned at a federal job, one supervisor made it her life’s goal to make not only my life, but my in-the-closet wife’s life hell. We both left career track positions there because of that supervisor. (HR, and upper management were content to let her continue in her campaign of harassment.)

    My wife, still in the closet, used my being out as a litmus test at a different job, and they turned on her rather quickly, and she found that finding a new job was the best alternative because if they could not handle her being married to someone that was trans, they would not be okay for her to be out and trans.

    I don’t want to tell you these stories to scare you, but it’s a reality. Where you are at geographically, and who you work for specifically, can make a big difference. Hell, departments in the same organization can be radically different in levels of support. Right now, the entire topic of transgender existence is very hot, and has been made into a political position, when we just want to exist, and that means some people are terrible not only to those of us that are transgender, but our spouses and loved ones.

    So my recommendation would be to take a good hard look at who you work for, and be careful.

    1. Op5*

      I appreciate the warning!
      I know that you can’t conflate LGBT+ issues, but to celebrate pride my company had drag queens from a queer restaurant in Lisbon (struggling to pay their employees due to COVID) teach us how to make sangria over Zoom. Everyone attended and everyone seemed to have a great time, even when the drag queens pseudo-flirted with everyone. So I’m hoping that’ll translate into their accepting this without much if any hassle.
      And fwiw, it’s a 12 person company at the moment, distributed across the US (but mostly on the West Coast and NYC).

      1. Office Rat*

        That’s a great sign! As much as I hate to say it, geography matters a lot. and the coastal areas are definitely a better bet.

        Good luck!

  47. AnonInCanada*

    Re letter #1: or maybe perhaps co-worker has something to hide that will unravel in her absence? Maybe she’s running some sort of scheme where’s she’s skimming some of the company funds? I don’t know how big your company is, but this is the reason why many of them force employees to take vacations, to see if anything gets discovered while they’re away.

    1. Malika*

      Even for less nefarious reasons, this is why people with high workloads need to take time off. Processes should not be dependent on one person being in the office all the time, it is not fair and certainly not efficient. I had a workplace whereby the office manager took a month off in the summer. Only then did people realize just how much she had on her plate and why it was a good idea to hire extra admin.
      When I started my new job, I immediately started to compile a to do list on how to handle any tasks to complete during my absence, and after the first month applied for vacation days so the absence processes could be tested. I can now take free days when i wish and transparency is assured. This should be career self-care 101 for everyone when they start working. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and this also applies to the workplace.

  48. Fabulous*

    #2 – I’m not sure what kind of tank tops you’re referring to (spaghetti strap? “wife beater”/undershirt style?) but generally speaking, the wider the strap the better. As with most dress codes, underwear should remain *under* so spaghetti straps would likely not be appropriate.

    But style and styling matters too! A silky flowy spaghetti strap tank might be okay, but a cotton tighter fit probably wouldn’t be since it’s seen as more casual. Though, if you throw it on with some nice shoes and jewelry, maybe!

  49. Working Ma*

    My kid recently came out. I mentioned it to a few colleagues to whom I am closer, then sent an email to the rest of the team I work with the most. The email was brief, positive, and to the point “Kid is now going by BLANK/pronoun and is doing very well. Please join me in using BLANK/pronoun when we discuss Kid.” For the other staff, I mention it when casual conversation brings up the kids–again, to the point and unapologetically.

    I have an advantage in that I am in a position of authority, so I took this as my opportunity to set an expectation for how our office will embrace such news–professionally and politely. For a lot of our staff, this is a no biggie. For some, this is clearly the first person they’ve known was transitioning. Since Kid isn’t here to witness/experience reactions, the stakes are lower. If I–a parent, who loves this child more than anything–can show that this news is a positive development and requires no condolences as it is not nearly the source of stress that Kid’s refusal to eat the dinner we cooked for them is, maybe that does some good and will relieve a trans person of that burden down the road. I dunno. But it can’t hurt, certainly.

    Obviously, this doesn’t evoke the same questions a partner transitioning may evoke, but my (maybe too optimistic, I fear?) is that people will recognize the limits of their business and keep those questions to themselves.

    Also: congratulations!

    1. Op5*

      That’s great, way to set the tone! Congratulations to your family, and thanks for the advice. :)

  50. LQ*

    LW #1: You have learned one incredibly valuable lesson from this. Your grandboss is a liar. Or at the very least prioritizes a lot of things above people not getting burned out. Maybe your grandboss is being crushed from pressure from his leadership and is doing the best he can but at the end of the day he cares more about getting the work done than people not burning out.

    This may be fine. You may work in a critical, essential, work you do actually matters to people everyday field and your coworker is doing the work because they know that if they don’t do it someone goes hungry or gets evicted or dies. We don’t know that. You do. Sometimes you do the work because it needs to be done, and sometimes bosses push people who can be pushed right up to their limit because of this.

    But never trust your grandboss when he says he cares about burnout (more than other things). If he did, he’d do something different. Yes, even if the person likes to work, or is escaping a chaotic home life. He may care about it, but it’s lower on the list than he’s leading you to believe.

    1. Malika*

      I had a grandboss who’d start putting the office lights out at 17:30 and would ask why we were still there. During his tenure, overtime was kept to a severe minimum and there were no costly cases of work-related burnout. Granted it was before WFH and 24/7 reachability was a thing, then it is far more difficult to implement prevention.

      If they care, grandbosses can take an active role. Quality measures can be made clearer, and the definition of done can be sharpened. Letting go, prioritising and ensuring quality within a realistic workload is beneficial to everybody. Busywork and no boundaries are of benefit to no-one, and just hold the overworkers career and their workplace back.

  51. pugsnbourbon*

    Hi LW5! My wife transitioned while I was at my previous job. I’d worked there for almost seven years by then so people knew her/had heard me talk about her. What worked for me was sending emails to different groups of people I worked closely with and timed them to send when I was out of the office for the day. I get hives when I’m the center of attention and I didn’t want people to fuss over me. Most of my coworkers either responded with short messages or really beautiful notes of support.
    Wishing you the best!

    1. Op5*

      That’s a great suggestion, thank you! And it’s great to hear that you received lovely messages in response. <3

  52. too young to die, too old to eat off the kids' menu*

    I’ve been LW1’s coworker (probably not literally) for most of my career, but for varying reasons – not all of which have been negative. Sometimes it might seem like I’m on 24/7 but it’s really just about having the flexibility to get things done when I want to rather than forcing it when the motivation isn’t there (deadlines and meetings etc. aside).

    And sometimes when I’m working in the middle of the night, it’s just because I know that emptying my inbox is the only thing that will kill my insomnia lol.

    THAT SAID, I’ve also used overworking as a way to hide and excuse my disordered eating, mostly from myself. I had a perfectly understandable, even commendable reason for skipping lunch almost every day, and if I lost track of time and it got too late? Well, there goes dinner too – don’t want to sleep on a full stomach. On some level I knew that if my schedule wasn’t overburdened by something outside my control (e.g. social life, hobbies, vacations, sleep, etc.), my whole rationale would fall apart, so I only doubled down if anyone ever commented on my schedule or encouraged me to take a break.

    Not at all suggesting that that this is the case with the coworker in the story – especially since she does have a daily hobby. Just wanted to provide some perspective from someone on the other side… it’s always possible there’s something more there that you’re severely unqualified to try and help with.

  53. MCMonkeybean*

    Question 2 was definitely way off from what I was expecting! I thought they were asking about the sleeveless “shell” style tops that are I think designed to be worn under a woman’s suit jacket but are now often worn on their own. I think at actual “old school” places they probably would not be allowed on their own or anything else sleeveless, but I wore them a lot at my business-casual company. (I actually had to purchase a lot of them one winter when my side of the office was heated to *82* degrees every day because apparently the other side of the office was too cold. I genuinely almost quit over that it was so unbearable but thankfully we moved to a newer building shortly after with a better heating/cooling system).

    Certainly there are a lot of places that essentially have no dress code, but OP really really needs to recalibrate. Allowing jeans but not jean shorts is SO normal in even pretty casual offices! And no flip-flops is like the bare minimum for a lot of dress codes. (Though from experience I think a rule like that is often not enforced–I think they were technically not allowed by my office but some people wore them anyway and no one seemed to care.)

  54. Project Problem Solver*

    LW #5, my wife came out as non-binary about 2 years ago. My situation is a bit different than yours, but I’m generally pretty nonchalant about it. If asked “oh, how’s your wife doing?” I say “oh, they’re doing pretty well!”

    I generally don’t specifically point out pronouns because they are often included in my reply. “How’s James?” “Oh, her name is Jane now, but she’s doing really great!”

    If someone misgenders them, I do usually point it out: “oh, she always works for Company?” “They actually, but yeah, they work in Department.”

  55. Anonymous Hippo*

    On #3, when I was job searching I simply put my current salary out there from the get go, mainly because it’s pretty high and a lot of jobs aren’t going to come close to touching it. Basically said something like “my current salary is x, and I’m looking grow this in a new position (or looking not to move back, depending on how keen I was on that job) so I just want to make sure we are on the same page. Honestly, I almost always got told they couldn’t come anywhere near that, but I’d rather I know that immediately than after I’ve gone through all the work of interviewing and getting excited about a job.

  56. Delta Delta*

    #2 – Joining the chorus of “know where you work” in terms of figuring out dress code. I’m a lawyer, which tends to be a more “conservative” field. For a while, though, I worked for a law firm where it was very common for lawyers to wear jeans or, in the summer, shorts, to the office and then change into court-appropriate attire if necessary. The clientele of the office didn’t seem put off by the more casual vibe, and more than one person commented that it helped them feel comfortable that their lawyers weren’t so fancy that they seemed to think they were better than their clients. However, the line was drawn at graphic t-shirts, anything ripped or holey, shorts/pants that were too casual (like gym shorts vs. a sturdier material), etc. Sandals were okay. One person complained about someone walking around barefoot and the boss didn’t think that was a problem. Everyone else was kind of grossed out, and the barefoot walking stopped when that person stepped on a staple.

    Today’s a hot day and I’m wearing a sleeveless dress. If I had to appear personally somewhere I’d probably throw on a cardigan and shoes and that would do the trick.

    1. gingersnap*

      As I just posted below, our office just sent a reminder about appropriate business casual attire. We are a non profit and our work is very informal but of course, no sleeveless tops without a “covering.” I was so mad. I have a whole collection of lovely blouses and dresses that are sleeveless but very formal and great for when my office turns into a sauna in the afternoons. But of course we wouldn’t want to offend the menfolk with our scandalous shoulders. le sigh.

  57. Former Retail Lifer*

    From my work experience in several business casual workplaces in a couple of different fields, a strappy top or cotton tank top would not be OK, but a sleeveless top in a nicer material with at least a two-inch strap would be fine.

  58. lilsheba*

    For OP 1, it probably is best to not get involved. That being said, why would anyone work that much, and have zero work/life balance? I wouldn’t be able to take that. I can do my 8 hours and then I’m over it for the day!

  59. gingersnap*

    Re Letter 2, We recently got sent an office-wide reminder on appropriate summer business casual wear that had me seeing red. Naturally it was all aimed at women’s clothing and included the fact that any type of sleeveless top was not allowed without a “covering” like a cardigan. Wouldn’t want our shoulders to scandalize….

    1. GMan*

      Can men wear sleeveless clothing in your office?

      Women already have a lot more options when it comes to work-appropriate clothing in office settings than men do; women have the option of pants suits, skirts, dresses, blouses, cardigans, oxford shirts, etc.

      For men, you get: oxford shirt, your choice of chinos or slacks.

    2. Salad Daisy*

      When I was in college I worked one summer for a major department store. Women were not allowed to wear sleeveless even though the store sold plenty of sleeveless tops.

      I would err on the side of conservatism and keep your tank tops at home, or wear them under something.

  60. Cindy*

    A tank top is usually considered cotton and casual. A sleeveless blouse is not the same as a tank top. To me there is not such thing as a dressy tank top and if you were called on it, I would point out its a sleeveless top :)

    If you want to wear a cotton tank, you can wear a cardigan, jacket or open shirt over it and I think it can be transported to business casual.

    A good rule of thumb is to see how your manager dresses and follow their example.

  61. El l*

    Re Overwork:
    I think this is a cultural issue – admittedly playing on a person’s insecurities about work. Here’s why:
    First, “Unlimited PTO” is more likely to be contributing to her obsession, rather than taking away from it. The whole point of that sort of scheme is, “When your projects are done, you can take as much time off as you want.” Well, where’s that line? In an office culture (or a person) that doesn’t prioritize well, every little project can seem too important to delay.

    Second and third – notice how they’ve had problems with overwork in the past. And how so many projects seem to be her sole responsibility. Where’s the redundancy in the system in that? Even if she’s a control freak, management has a hand in that.

    Whatever public noises the office makes about taking PTO, it sure seems like they (still) encourage burnout.

    1. Malika*

      In my last workplace, a developer with a new family took close to sixty days off. It was tech startup with unlimited PTO and some people would grumble when they saw he wasn’ t in the office again. He was very good at negotiating parameters for projects and deadlines, and he always had his s- together. It is definitely possible.

      I agree that having a lot of projects as a sole responsibility is a red flag. The coworker can’ t let go, and management just keeps piling the responsibilities on. A job like that can seem like a place where your management parks stuff. They are assigning responsibility to get it off their plate, but they aren’t thinking on how the task should be completed. It’ s akin to me bringing my dirty plate to the kitchen sink and think done without washing and putting it back in the dresser. The dirty plate is now out of view but it sure isn’ t done. If you can’ t say no or assign a time and place for that task you are just an overflowed sink with dirty dishes waiting to collapse.

      1. El l*

        Yeah. I hear you on unlimited PTO – if everyone involved are adults and think about the other person, it could work fantastically well. You just need a different attitude than many offices have…probably including that of LW.

        Agree on your analogy, too. I wonder how they’re checking that the project is done well. Because there’s room for doubt on whether a person working hours like that is doing a good job.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      First, “Unlimited PTO” is more likely to be contributing to her obsession, rather than taking away from it. The whole point of that sort of scheme is, “When your projects are done, you can take as much time off as you want.” Well, where’s that line? In an office culture (or a person) that doesn’t prioritize well, every little project can seem too important to delay.

      I thought it was “We’re not going to bother tracking the PTO you’re not going to take.”

  62. EmmaPoet*

    To me, a tank reads as inherently casual, so probably not workable solo for a lot of offices. Camisoles read as evening wear, ditto. A sleeveless blouse/dress may work, it depends on the environment and the company culture. I’m used to working in fairly chilly environments year round, so my fellow women all prefer at least a short sleeve since you may be standing under a vent at the reference desk.

  63. quill*

    LW 5: A previous coworker had transitioned before I arrived at a previous workplace, but not significantly changed his name, because he had academic publications under his birth name.

    Most of us were unaware of this until I had to look up one of his publications and he let me know that they were all under his more obviously feminine birth name: we just assumed that he had a rare / antiquated name. If your spouse has stuck particularly close to the name they were given at birth, your coworkers who have only heard once or twice about your spouse might assume the same thing. After all, it is very common for women to go by more masculine nicknames (and potentially later drop those): I’ve known enough girls called Jack and Charlie, as well as the more unisex Alex and Sam, etc.

    1. Op5*

      They’ve seen my spouse with a beard and such, so I don’t think I can get away with much here. Also my wife’s birth name is the sort of masculine that doesn’t have any feminine equivalent, so I’ve never heard it or its diminutive form used to describe a woman/girl. I think I need to be explicit or else they’re going to be very confused or think I ran off with someone new.

      1. quill*

        Then yeah, probably preemptively announcing spouse’s transition is probably your best bet! Best of luck to you both!

  64. Cooper*

    If a tank is made from a dressy material/has nicer details, I’ve generally seen them be okay on hot days. (Which is, I suspect, why they’re acceptable on women but not men– fancy menswear tanktops aren’t a thing I’ve ever seen.)
    I still prefer to layer a lightweight wrap over the top, but that’s because I get cold when the AC is blasting!
    In general, for the casual end of business casual, I go for the sort of clothes/coverage that would be appropriate for a high school with a reasonably lax dress code– skirts need to pass the fingertip test, shoulders usually covered unless it’s VERY hot, no holes in anything, no offensive slogans.

  65. a clockwork lemon*

    OP1 – I originally thought this letter was about me. A few things to keep in mind, from someone in your coworker’s shoes:

    1) If I’m taking my time and having a leisurely afternoon with my horse, my “barn days” can easily be around five or six hours. I generally will respond to emails and Teams messages during that time if the stuff I’m responding to isn’t super involved even though I’m technically not working, because that’s my workplace culture. As for injuries–that’s just part of the sport. Broken ribs in particular aren’t an injury that would prevent anyone from working at a computer, and tons of people don’t like taking narcotic painkillers for an assortment of reasons they may or may not want to share at work, and I think your concern there is a major overstep.

    2) If she is overworked, she knows she’s overworked. She knows, from experience, that if she doesn’t do these tasks, they won’t get done, and that taking time off will create more work and stress for her than carving out a few hours a day for self-care (hanging out with her horse) and building her schedule around that priority. If you really want to help her, and you are genuinely concerned about her health and well-being, could you offer to cover for her or ask to be cross-trained on some of the tasks she handles alone so that she actually CAN take time? If you’re not willing or able to make that offer, saying something to her is useless at best and insulting at worst.

    1. Raida*

      This. Cross-training goes a long way to making it ‘all right’ to take a day off, and making it an option to share the load on projects. *Plus it tells staff they can learn new things *Plus it tells staff they can progress *Plus it’s cheap training *Plus it’s risk management

      Where I work we also look for those tasks that take one person six hours once a month and try to simplify/automate the process enough that it becomes a ten minute job, with easy instructions, so that other team members can learn it. And then we test out those instructions and see if someone could, without training, pick up the task.
      The people who “just couldn’t” take time off at specific times of the month because nobody else knew how to do a task were actually easy to find, too – because their manager and team know that the task is important and only that one person does it.
      Also, generally all the time is not interesting work, just processing. So the person doing it gets to spend more time doing the things they like instead of slogging through a day of boring work.

      I highly encourage cross training, especially in teams with ‘no time’. Hell, I’ve seen a manager buy their team lunch so they could use their lunch hour to learn a couple of tasks that only one person knew how to do because there was no other way to find the time to train

  66. The Unreal McCoy*

    A woman who works for me came and told me that her husband was now her wife and had changed her name, and obviously that she had been struggling with the news for a long time after her wife told her this news. She ended up telling the whole team I think because she wanted to do it in one fell swoop so that people weren’t really confused and could control the narrative. But you know your team and workplace best. We are a small team and know each other’s partners and their names and things.

  67. June*

    Instead of a tank top wear a shell. More formal yet still sleeveless. Not made out of jersey (t-shirt material) but still cool.

  68. However comma*

    LW4: could this possibly be creepy? Maybe I’ve gotten too paranoid in my old age – my visceral response was that it was a deviation from the normal pattern and therefore suspect. Of course, that depends on the situation (CEO is coupled/has family and all will be present vs. they’d be alone at CEO’s home). Being alone at CEO’s home would be problematic for me – I’d find an excuse not to go there, or suggest going to the kind of public establishment they’re used to instead.

  69. Eliza*

    Regarding #5: I don’t think you need to make a big announcement unless people ask. You haven’t been there for a long time so people might just write it off as not remembering properly. If people use the name James or ask how James is just say “Oh you mean Jane? She’s great!” Most people will catch on quickly. If someone presses just say “They used to go by James but they use the name Jane now.” Some people might try to get more detailed information out of you but really thats none of their business.

    1. Op5*

      They saw my partner live over an hour-long virtual happy hour, where she had a beard. One person on the call especially liked playfully picking on her (it made sense in the context, trust me) so she was regularly the center of attention, and her (very masculine) name was used repeatedly. I don’t think people will write it off as misremembering.

  70. Unreliable HVAC*

    I work in solar energy – engineering, procurement, contracting, operations, and maintenance. When I was in the office, there was no dress code, and everyone wore pretty much what they wanted, from executives to sales to PMs to construction. Most people favored casual business casual, but you’d see a range of styles.

    Our office also has the most unreliable HVAC system, and because it’s in a very warm climate, tank tops, spaghetti strap tops, short dresses, shorts, and sandals are common, especially among people who aren’t customer facing (and most of us aren’t).

  71. HereKittyKitty*

    I live in AZ where everything is on fire and it’s like 115 for a month out of the year and for us, dressier tank tops tend to be fine. I wouldn’t wear camis and plain tanks that are made mostly for wearing under clothes, but a lot of women wear “dressy” tank tops with ruffles and stuff on the front and that’s acceptable. Sort of like the a-line tanks that flare out a bit more at the bottom.

  72. no phone calls, please*

    Regarding #3 –
    We recently posted two (fairly entry-level) job openings in a highly competitive region and for the first time we included the starting salary ranges. We were thrilled to find that the number of quality candidates for both positions was notably improved (!) over prior hiring cycles despite heavy competition for these workers (our competitors have SO MANY identical job openings that they say they can’t fill)!

  73. DontBeMe*

    LW with the overworking colleague, Alison is right – don’t get involved. I had a co-worker who was working herself sick and brought it up to our supervisor. He talked to her and she accused me of lying and sabotaging her, and he chose to believe her over me. She continued working at the same pace and I got a reputation for being bad to work with that persists to this day.

  74. s*

    LW5: I’ve also been the spouse in this situation, made slightly more weird by the fact that they (spouse) decided they were ready to be all the way out just before the pandemic started (and weren’t quite sure which pronouns they were going to want long-term as someone both trans and nonbinary so even after I started using the new setup it varied). So all of the in-person work-adjacent social events that they’d usually attend with me haven’t happened, and a lot of the hallway chitchat where I might mention them hasn’t happened either. So I’m guessing there’s at least several coworkers who haven’t caught on.

    (Also I’m back in the office today for one of the first times and realized I really, really need a new photo of us for my desk, lol.
    I’ll just tuck this one away so as not to confuse things any further.)

  75. MissInTheNo*

    There’s a difference in a tank top and a sleeveless shirt. Showing a little arm is probably better than showing cleavage or leg. Its very hot where I live and I wish shorts were acceptable at my agency.

  76. Evelina Anville*

    Letter 2

    This is not what OP 2 is asking, but for anyone who may find this helpful:
    It can help to think of business clothing formality as a spectrum. If super formal is on the left and super casual is on the right, business clothing categories go:
    Business formal -> Business -> Business casual (This is a large category with a wide range within it) -> Smart casual -> True casual

    Business formal traditionally consists of dark suits (black, navy, grey) with white shirts. Suit jackets must be worn. Men must wear ties and pocket squares. Women must wear skirt suits, hose and closed-toed shoes. Suits can have muted patterns if the pattern looks like a solid from far away.

    Business allows more color. Suits can be brown, dark green, plaid. You can wear colored shirts and have fun with ties. Women can wear pants suits. Shoes should still be close-toed or peep-toed, and jackets should still be worn.

    Business casual is a huge range. On the business-ier side, it’s just like business dress except you can lose the jackets and ties. Sometimes, the rules are collared shirts and non-jeans (so polos and khakis are fine). As you move more toward the casual side of business casual, you can add casual pieces. (For example, shirts don’t have to be collared, but you still shouldn’t wear jeans. Or jeans are fine if you wear them with formal shoes and a blazer. Or colored denim is fine, but blue jeans aren’t allowed.) In most business casual offices, hose and ties would look out of place; so would shorts or shirts with writing on them.

    Smart casual overlaps with the more casual side of business casual. It usually involves looking more put together than you would on the weekend. Jeans are the norm, but they’re typically dark-wash denim without holes. You might do jeans and a graphic T with a blazer or a scarf. Sandals and tennis shoes are common, as long as they’re not actual running shoes (the kind with laces and a logo). Comfort and personality are key, but you need to look like you shower regularly.

    Truly casual is uncommon in corporate workplaces. I’ve seen at least one tech company that allow ripped band Ts, cargo shorts and bare feet, but it’s not the norm.

  77. Raida*

    #1 You should talk to the grandboss. You don’t have to say “I think you are overworking my co-worker” but you can say “You stated that you wanted to avoid anyone else getting burnt out, so what are we going to see to address that?” and start making it clear to them that there’s an expectation that they act on a staff health issue. You can say, in that conversation, “Hell, I’ve seen people work until almost midnight and avoid medical advice to work!” without saying “I’ve seen [co-worker] working what would equate to four hours sleep and she’s got broken ribs but won’t take painkillers! You keep giving her more work”

    I do not agree that it is ‘not your business’ because you aren’t her boss – this is a workplace health issue, which the grandboss has identified, and the business is responsible for. You should bring up workplace health issues, and you should bring up risks to management. Already someone else has had it so bad they left from burnout!

  78. LongSleeveSally*

    When I started my current job years ago, the manager that showed me around on my first day went on and on about how I should not wear a tank top. Not ever. Don’t. NO TANK TOPS. He was so emphatic about it that it’s nearly the only thing I still remember from that day. I was wearing a jacket at the time. This summer our few in-person interns sometimes wear tanks and no one cares. I think the rules are temporarily different, and I expect that management will try to make us dress better once we are back in the office more. Right now they are relearning how to interact with people in person, along with everyone else.

  79. Woah*

    a silk tank top with a cardigan or structured blazer is nice. but otherwise bare arms and shoulders in the office would be hard for me to get behind.

  80. BLT*

    LW 1– I have a coworker like this, and well, she does it to herself. After many years of observing her work patterns, I don’t have a ton of sympathy. BUT. It gets under my skin because I think it creates unrealistic expectations for the rest of us who are hourly employees and *do* take our lunch breaks, come in and leave at our scheduled times, and generally maintain healthy boundaries. She’s the superstar who gives 110% and the rest of us are… whatever. Thoughts on addressing it, or do we just let it go?

Comments are closed.