thermostat wars with a classist twist, boss won’t return clients’ calls, and more

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

1. Thermostat wars with a classist twist

My office is in the basement of a building owned by my company. The main offices are on the floor above me, and the floors above that are rented out as vacation/short-term rentals. Although I have a private office, there’s a bathroom, kitchenette, and shared workspace in the basement, as well as the laundry/storage for the vacation rentals. The shared workspace is open to all employees, but is generally used by salespeople/those who work outside of the office. Nobody is assigned to it; it’s just for people who stop by and need it.

Officially, the thermostat is controlled by the cleaning lady and me, but recently we’ve been having issues with those using the shared workspace. I generally let the cleaning lady control the temperature. She likes it much cooler than most people, but unlike us, she’s doing physical labor such as folding heavy bedding, carrying laundry baskets/supplies up and down multiple flights of stairs, etc. I sit at a desk; when I get chilly, I put on a light sweater. Recently, people using the shared workspace have been raising the temperature and complaining about “the cold.” When I explained the situation, a few pushed back, claiming that they “outrank” the cleaning lady. But we don’t really have that kind of structure. The people using the shared workspace are technically contract labor, while the cleaning lady is technically a paid employee, but I suspect they’re actually referring to the fact that they have “white collar” jobs. I fear race might play an issue, too, but nothing has ever been said outright. For what it’s worth, I’m a full-time, exempt employee who probably “outranks” the contract people if it came to it. If I claim that I’m the one who wants it cooler, people back right off, but that seems hypocritical and weird coming from someone wearing a light sweater.

We don’t have HR and nobody really cares about the basement but the occupants. Is this an acceptable hill to die on? Can I push back for the cleaning lady’s sake? She doesn’t speak great English, but she’s made it pretty clear that she likes it cooler, and again, she does a lot of physical labor. Also, for what it’s worth, she keeps it at the low end of the “room temperature” range (like 68 degrees F), but others prefer it closer to 73. How can I handle this?

Yes, push back. The “outranking” thing just seems to mean “she’s doing manual labor and we’re not” and “we feel better or more important than the cleaner.” But even if that weren’t the case, temperature isn’t something that should be decided by rank anyway. Rank matters when it comes to things like decisions about work projects, not who is going to be uncomfortably hot. And it makes far more sense to defer to the people who are in the space every day (you and the cleaner) rather than people who are in and out. (I’d also argue you should give extra consideration to people who can’t take off any more clothes to get cooler versus those who could at least try adding another layer to be warmer, but that’s not a universal viewpoint.)

That said, is there a compromise in there? OSHA recommends temperatures of 68-76° F and this is at the very low end of that. Could you try 69 or 70 and see how that works? It’s still closer to your cleaner’s preferred end of the spectrum without raising the temperature the full five degrees your colleagues want.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Clients are angry that my boss won’t return calls

The owner of the company I work for often doesn’t return phone calls or texts from our clients. Then I end up talking to them and they are angry. They’ll tell me, “I’ve left three messages” or the voicemail is full or “They at least owe me the courtesy of a return call”. The owner knows full well this is happening. It’s rare that a day goes by that this doesn’t happen at least once. I can’t handle these callers’ needs for them. They want or need to talk to the owner.

I’m sick of making up excuses. What do I say to these people? Right now it’s a variation on, “I’m sorry. Yes, they got the message. No, I don’t know when they will be in. I apologize.” Pretty soon I’m going to change it to, “You might as well forget it. They aren’t going to return your call in this lifetime.” Help!

This is really your boss’s decision to make. Talk to your boss, explain that people get increasingly angry, and ask what they’d like you to say in that situation. You can also include info about people’s irritation when you pass along messages (“she noted it’s her third call and sounds angry”).

But beyond that, it’s really your boss’s call. It’s a terrible way to run a business, but if they want you to just keep politely saying that you’ll relay the message … that’s the job and you have to decide if it’s a job you’re willing to do or not.

3. Employee is criticizing our sponsors on social media

I oversee a public-facing department at a nonprofit service organization. One of our long-time program managers is an oversharer. This includes on social media, where she has in the recent past criticized two of our sponsors in loooonnnggg Facebook posts, which included phrases like “Corporation X needs to get their s**t together.” These were criticisms based on her personal experiences, not related to work (think complaining about the customer service at Corp X when she was shopping there). Yesterday, she followed up with more complaining during a program meeting that included clients and volunteers.

I am not connected to her on any social media but her posts were shared with me by a coworker. I know she is connected to many of our volunteers and clients, as well as colleagues, on social media. She has also talks about promoting the program she manages on her personal accounts, so it’s clear to anyone following her that she is an employee. Our organization does not have any policies about social media use. Can I tell her to stop with the negative posts about sponsors and then hold her accountable, given her public-facing role? Should I instead ask HR about creating a policy about social media use that would ensure everyone in the company is getting the same message/equal treatment?

It’s a good idea to have a policy that makes clear to people what is and isn’t okay, but you don’t need a policy in place to talk to her — and you should indeed talk to her: “You’re in a public-facing role so you cannot criticize our sponsors on social media or in meetings that include clients, volunteers, or anyone else external. You could jeopardize our sponsorships or our reputation. This is a basic condition of your role.”

Also, it’s worth taking a closer look at her judgment in general. If she’s saying negative things about your sponsors from an account where it’s clear she’s an employee of your organization, this is probably not the only incident of bad judgment.

4. I was laid off and now they’re rehiring, but my old boss hasn’t contacted me

In summer of 2020, I was part of a Covid layoff at a small company (around 80 employees). When I was let go, I was given a severance package, in addition to the company paying for me to work with a job placement service for a couple months. The company made clear this was not a performance-based layoff and that I did great work (I had all good reviews while I worked there, etc.) but they had lost clients due to Covid and had to let a group of people go. My boss was terribly apologetic and offered multiple times to be a reference for me in my job hunt.

A year later, I’m still on the hunt and I look on my old company’s website and see that my old job has been re-posted a few weeks ago. I’m hurt and disappointed, and I’m also wondering if I need to stop using my boss from this company as a reference? I’m confused that he would tell me multiple times that he would be a reference for me and then not be interested in hiring me back. It seems to send mixed signals. I last texted with my old boss re: him being a reference a few weeks ago, so he knows that I’m still looking, What are your thoughts?

There are possible explanations for this that aren’t “your old boss thinks you suck!” The needs of the job could have changed in the last year in a way that means you’re no longer as strong a fit for it as you once were. Or they might only be able to hire back a few of the people who were let go and have already slated these positions for them. Or your old boss might not be actively focused on hiring yet, even though the ad is up (for instance, maybe HR posted it and he’s not going to even think about it until it’s time for him to look at applications). Or, yes, it’s possible that he’s not enthused about hiring you back for some reason.

You could contact him and feel him out! Email him and say something like, “I saw the X job was posted and I’d love to come back to that role. Since we hadn’t connected about it, though, I wondered if you were thinking of going in another direction for it or if it would make sense for me to apply.”

Either way, I wouldn’t conclude you need to stop using him as a reference unless you’ve seen signs he’s not giving you a strong recommendation (which he could do even if he doesn’t think you’re the best hire he could make for this particular job now). If you’re unsure, though, it’s always okay to ask a reference, “I just want to make sure, do you still feel like you can be a strong reference for me or would it be better for me to offer others?”

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Did I miss out on this job because the other candidate had a strong recommendation?

I recently interviewed with an amazing company and did amazing in my interviews. I could tell how much everyone really enjoyed me as well as my expertise. Everything moved very quickly and then suddenly I didn’t hear back for two weeks. When I did hear back, the recruiter went on and on about how great I did, how much everyone loved me, and how the reason it took so long to get back to me was because they looked to see if the budget allowed for both me and the other final candidate to be hired. Unfortunately there wasn’t the need/budget for both of us, so ultimately they went with the other hire. The recruiter said that the other person came highly recommended and with a personal referral.

My question is how much are referrals weighed? Clearly I did a great job and impressed everyone I interviewed with (I was told to check in periodically because they want me to work for them at some point), but not enough that I got the job. Or maybe I did better than the other person but because they had a referral from someone important (I don’t know if that’s the case, that’s just my assumption) the company had to go with that person? I’m obviously disappointed, but I know these things happen. I was just curious about your take.

How much weight a referral gets depends on the referral, and also on the candidate pool. If the recommendation is glowing and from someone the hiring manager trusts who knows the job, knows what kind of person would thrive in it, and has good judgment, that would count for a lot — definitely more than a referral from a VIP who doesn’t know the job that well (at least in healthy organizations). In a case where you had two really good candidates, that kind of strong recommendation from a trusted source could definitely push that person over the top. But in a case where I had two really good candidates, a referral from someone who I didn’t know well or didn’t know the job well would be something I’d consider as part of the whole picture but wouldn’t be the deciding factor.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t think too much about the role the referral played here. There could be a ton of other factors that ultimately made the employer choose the other person; the recruiter might have mentioned the referral just because it was an easy, quick thing to cite, not because it was super weighty. Sometimes there are just two great people and only one job to fill, and deciding between them is much more art than science.

{ 517 comments… read them below }

  1. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

    LW1: Pull rank. There is no rule saying you cannot and if the contract workers feel like they can get away with it then play their power game. And you actually can get away with it because you are the higher rank.
    You are not using your power for evil (which should give you pause if you were).

    1. Artemesia*

      Time to put a locked cover on the thermostat with you having the key. That is how it got solved in our gym at the condo where some people were dialing up the heat which made exercise uncomfortable for many.

      And of course the person there every day on staff ‘outranks’ occasional users.

      1. OhNo*

        Honestly, I’d make sure that only the cleaner has a key. At most offices I’ve worked in, maintenance/cleaning staff control the locked thermostats anyway, so that wouldn’t even be that unusual. If she wouldn’t feel comfortable saying “no” to any pressure they try to exert, then maybe it stays in the LW’s desk or something, where she can easily access it if needed.

      2. Koalafied*

        I once witnessed a customer in an Einstein Bagel stand up from his table and walk across the dining room, to open the unlocked cover on the thermostat, and change the temperature. He wasn’t wearing a uniform and was sitting with other people not in uniforms so I’m fairly certain he was not on shift and hadn’t been asked to change the temp by an employee. He just felt entitled to adjust the temperature for ~30 dine-in customers and ~10 staff so that he could be more comfortable for the probably 15-20 minutes he was going to be there. The confidence of a mediocre white man, as they say…

      3. JRR*

        Right? This is a problem with an simple mechanical solution. Why do people want to turn problems like this into complex social issues?

        1. Jonquil S*

          It will still be a social issue. If the contractors dislike the temperature this much, it’s entirely possible they will complain about being locked out of it to the next level up (i.e. whomever they’re contracted by).

          If management approves of the idea of a locked thermostat, great. But if not, you’re back to a social conflict that requires a social solution.

          As far as social solutions go: I once working in a building that had truly dysfunctional heating/cooling. Like, it was definitely not within the OSHA-compliant range. Different rooms were wildly different temperatures.

          The short-term solution was the company provided electric blankets with battery packs, 8-hour hand-warmer packs, and unlimited hot tea and coffee for people in the cold rooms.
          Then, they offered cool gel / ice packs, electric cooling pads and pillows, and unlimited ice water for the people in the hot rooms.

          Obviously, that company supplied heating and cooling materials because they legally had to do something. Given how long the central heat had been dysfunctional.

          But, I still think it’s a good gesture of goodwill from a company’s standpoint. Cooling materials are less useful for the cleaning staff because she’s walking around. But, keeping the temp low and offering personal heat products is a better win-win compromise, imo, than just saying one (or both!) parties has to deal with feeling uncomfortable all day.

      4. PT*

        This happened at one of the gyms I worked, too, because someone was setting the AC in the ladies locker room to “meat locker” and it was causing complaints.

        But in general I was shocked at the number of people who felt they could do this. I’d be checking kids in for swim lessons on the pool deck, we’d have the pool deck thermostat set at a comfortable temperature for small children in wet swimsuits, and a parent wearing a thick sweater, jeans, and boots would come along and start fiddling with the thermostat. “It’s too hot turn it down.” We set the temperature for the *swimmers* not the parents!

      5. SunnyGirl*

        I had to resort to this in an office with nothing but white collar workers. There was much pouting but too bad. I did try to find a happy medium temperature but with the lock on it, the up and down and fiddling went away…and interestingly, less complaints too.

        1. Koalafied*

          Probably because there were no longer as extreme temps being set! There is a weirdly pervasive mistaken belief that setting the temperature lower cools the room faster and setting it higher will warm it faster… which is not how HVAC works. People come in and think they’re so hot or so cold they want to jack the temperature all the way up or down so they’ll be comfortable sooner and typically never set it back to something reasonable once they’re comfortable either.

          1. Mitzii*

            Ugh, my husband does this with our dual-control car AC. Puts it all the way down, and then later I’m driving around by myself and wondering why my right elbow is freezing. I’ve tried to explain to him how a thermostat works, but he still does it.

      6. brightbetween*

        Waaay back in ye olden times, when thermostats were manually controlled with a little lever on the top or bottom of the box, the owner at my first job (also my dad) got sick of the temperature wars, and drove two nails into the wall to block the lever from going above or below his approved range.

    2. Fierce Jindo*

      Yes, do what you need to do to protect the cleaner from these snobby, selfish jerks.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        I’m gobsmacked they’re trying to pull rank on a cleaner instead of just… bringing a sweater? Wearing long sleeves? There are plenty of ways to resolve the issue that don’t involve touching the thermostat.

        I know that I run chilly. I just do. In the before times before remote work, I worked in a hospital. It was always chilly. Instead of pouting or getting involved in weird power players, I brought a hoodie. Super simple.

        1. HardlyLovelace*

          I really, really don’t understand the reluctance to wear a sweater. All I can think of that could be legit would be sensory sensitivities, but even then, I’ve never heard of anyone having an issue with soft fabrics. Until proven opposite, I’ll believe there’s a sweater for everyone.

    3. My dear Wormwood*

      If it doesn’t make your other dealings with them too difficult, I would be asking them, “What do you mean by that?” when they pull out the outranking thing. Make them say it. It might shame at least a few of them into pulling their head in.

      If someone has a medical reason for needing a warmer space, they can bring it up and a compromise can be sought, but this “I’m better than the person who is doing the work of making my workspace tolerable” thing can f right off.

      1. Gammagirl1908*

        Agreed. Make them say it out loud and then point out their mistake. She is there every day and they are there occasionally; her preference is the one that matters.

        My lovely housekeeper, who only comes once a MONTH, gets whatever she needs from me to make her job easier. I wouldn’t dream of making her uncomfortable. These jerks deserve to be made uncomfortable.

        1. generic_username*

          Right?! My husband likes to keep our apartment really hot. I usually just have a little fan on my desk to deal with it normally, but about an hour before our cleaners arrive I turn the thermostat down so it gets a little chilly in our apartment for them.

          I can see how they might try to turn the thermostat up if they’re cold, but once they hear that it’s at the preference of someone else (and it sounds like LW explained the whole part about the manual labor making it hotter for the cleaner), they should drop it

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            Right? Why is their comfort more important than the comfort of anyone else?

            Honestly, I tend to put things on the cooler side of things. You can always warm up with a sweater or something. But if it’s all swelteringly hot, you can’t peel off your flesh.

            On that note, once they realized the basement is chilly, would it have been that big a deal to have a cardigan for the times they went to the basement?

            In college, my husband had a roommate who would crank the heat to like, 85 degrees. Every day we could barely breathe. His solution was to turn on the fan. The other roommates had to have a meeting with him about it.

        2. LunaLena*

          I would also point out that, not only is she there every day, she performs an essential function for the company, just like everyone else, and therefore deserves the same courtesy as everyone else.

      2. English, not American*

        I seem to be the only one who didn’t automatically assume that the word “outrank” might not mean “we look down on the cleaning lady”. The letter mentions that she’s carrying things up and down stairs, so logically isn’t always in the basement, while the contractors presumably are down there for the full day they’re working.

        Everyone agrees that the person who is there “all the time” outranks the person who “comes and goes”, is it really so impossible that the contractors are using the same argument, applied to that specific day?

        1. English, not American*

          Argh! Double negatives. Didn’t automatically assume that the word “outrank” *must* mean “we look down on the cleaning lady”.

        2. hbc*

          I can’t imagine anyone using “outrank” in that situation without the clarification. Rank has a specific meaning, and no one would expect the CEO to say “The receptionist outranks me” and have it understood that it’s about hours in the office or years at the company.

          I agree that an argument could be made on that basis. It’s just that…if we think OP left out the part about them saying, “We’re down here for 8 hours and she’s only here for 2, so we outrank her in time spent in the room,” then we might as well talk about the space needing to be warmer for the resident iguanas that were never mentioned.

          1. English, not American*

            We don’t have any context at all from OP, just their own speculation and that the concept of “outranking” was used in some way (could have been a direct quote, could have been paraphrasing something else), without the actual sentence it’s all hypothetical.

            But I could easily see it seeming obvious that something like “our needs outrank hers” to the speaker meant “because we are here all day and she isn’t” or “because it’s four against one” while OP heard it as “we think we’re intrinsically more important than a cleaner”.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Just imagining a herd of iguanas wandering about in the basement, outranking everyone in terms of amount of junk food stolen
            (first time I saw an iguana was on a beach in Costa Rica, it stole my sandwich)

            1. MusicWithRocksIn*

              I swear iguanas are like the seagulls of the Caribbean, only more intimidating. When I was in Aruba we made some hotdogs on a grill in the courtyard and when we looked up there was a circle of them all around us, slowly closing in. Hitchcock really missed an opportunity with Iguanas, because it was creepy as fork, just that moment when you think “Wait, am I in a horror movie right now?!?”.

          3. quill*

            Yeah, “outrank” can be used in situations that aren’t about office hierarchy or class… but it’s usually clarified if the argument is “oh, we outrank you because we all have seniority” or “I’m the captain of the work softball team so I’m pulling rank.”

        3. BethDH*

          I had wondered whether the “they” was multiple people who meant they represented a larger voting bloc (or one person who thinks they speak for all the contractors), but I assume it was more clear to the OP.
          Nevertheless, even if there is a non-classist way it was meant, the suggestion above to force the complainer(s) to be explicit would work.

        4. Observer*

          Everyone agrees that the person who is there “all the time” outranks the person who “comes and goes”, is it really so impossible that the contractors are using the same argument, applied to that specific day?

          Impossible? No. Improbable?! HIGHLY.

          That’s just not the way the kind of prioritization is normally expressed in English. And it’s not sensible to assume that they actually said “we should get priority because we’re here the whole day and she’s not” and the OP is totally ignoring that in thinking and asking about the question.

          1. English, not American*

            I’m not saying we should assume they articulated themselves perfectly and the OP is lying, I’m saying that we don’t know what they said, only what OP took from what they said. It could easily be the case that someone said “our needs outrank [cleaning lady]’s” assuming that their reasoning was obvious and OP took that reasoning to be “because we look down on [cleaning lady]” when it was actually “because there are four of us and one of her” or “she leaves the room all the time while we have to sit in it constantly”.

            1. Observer*

              Please. We have a pretty good idea of what they said. This is not about “perfect articulation” but the expectation that sales people actually know how to speak within normal ranges. And the expectation that the OP is portraying the situation with reasonable accuracy.

              You are providing speculation that is highly unlikely – based on tings that are untypical and unlikely, with nothing in the letter to support this suggestion.

              BTW, if you give a look at the OP’s additional comment you will see that that’s not what’s happening.

              1. Clarabelle*

                I don’t know that I would assume they meant outrank in an earnest manner. In OP’s letter one of the reasons given for not changing the temperature is because they are deferring to the cleaning lady. Saying outrank could very reasonably be a tongue and check way to say if contractors feel the need to change the temperature for their comfort they have the authority to do so. Now if OP wants the temperature to stay cooler because of their comfort, they “outrank” the contractors and can keep it as is.

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  But why would they feel they have the authority to do so over the cleaning lady, but not over the OP? It’s very clear what they mean by “outrank”.

            2. TootsNYC*

              I’m willing to go with OP’s perceptions. They were there.
              It’s kind of rude to run around inventing things other people may have said in order to make the OP look unreliable.

              1. English, not American*

                I guess hearing a single word from a paraphrased comment is more than enough to brand people disgusting and imply that they should be beaten up because it’s too rude to even consider that there may be another explanation. I wash my hands of this site’s commenters.

                1. Uranus Wars*

                  Um, I don’t think anyone is advising the OP to beat anyone up. I think they are taking her at her word that she deals with these people daily and has had the conversation with them more than one.

                  Asking them to explain what they mean would give them an opportunity to offer your alternative explanation. You are saying we can’t take OP at their word, but we can’t really guess what the people not writing in actually mean and disregard any other advice.

                2. Lenora Rose*

                  Nobody is branding them disgusting. Nobody is saying they should be beaten up. And this kind of hyperbole looks a lot like the guys who respond to anti-harassment campaigns with “I guess we can’t ever talk to women alone.”

                  No, people are saying that the LW laid out a situation where they clearly perceived a group of white collar people as implying they are more important than a cleaner — an attitude that is common and pervasive and hardly the stuff of urban legend. And you have been going out of your way to explain how it is surely something else going on, they must be mistaken.

                  Is it possible they misread the situation? Sure. Does it help at all to assume they must have and respond to the letter as if they did? Not even a little.

        5. Roscoe*

          Yeah, outrank, to me, doesn’t equal “think they are less than”. Plenty of people in my office “outrank” me. I outrank others. That doesn’t mean I look down on them.

          And yes, sometimes when there are conflicts, the people who “outrank” the others do get their way.

          I feel that because this is “sales guys” talking about a cleaning lady, people got their hackles up. But if it was “VP of sales” talking about “new marketing associate” i doubt it would be as big of a deal

          1. TootsNYC*

            I think that it’s important that it’s sales–sales folks bring in money. of course they think they are of higher rank or importance in the company than support staff.

            If they’re too chilly to do their jobs well, because they can’t focus well, that’s hitting at an important business function.

            I’ve managed staff in a room that hit the OSHA number–it was 68 degrees, but it was WAY too cold for comfort. Putting on a sweater really didn’t help.

            1. Roscoe*

              Yeah, as a sales guy myself, I understand it. I know that a lot of other departments have their opinions of the sales team, often negative. Some is valid, some isn’t. I think people think we get our way more because we bring in income. I think that very much varies by company. Some places I’ve been absolutely does that. Other places, were the opposite and the engineers were catered to. But I really think the fact that it is sales does make people not take their side as much.

          2. Artemesia*

            Yeah — not here. They pretty clearly are ‘outranking her’ because she is the cleaning lady (and probably minority and definitely female).

          3. Ellie*

            I figured it was just because there were more of them – we use the term ‘outrank’ sometimes to mean that we’re a team of 20 and they’re a team of 3, so we get to choose. Not always fairly, I must admit.

            I’d go with Alison’s suggestion of setting the thermostat 1 or 2 degrees higher and then ask the cleaner how its going. If they say they’re too hot, then move it back. But it might solve the problem.

            Fun story: our office was freezing to the point of coats and scarves before one engineer had a look around and realised that there was an extremely old server sitting right in front of one of the temperature outlets. It was blowing hot air directly onto it… we moved the machine and the office temperature returned to normal. Up until then, we were all complaining about why the thermostat controls were kept under lock and key and how unfair it all was.

      3. The answer is (probably) 42*

        That’s what I came here to suggest- it’s kind of like the classic “pretend not to get the sexist/racist/homophobic/etc. joke so that you force the person to explain it, making it clear that the joke relies on prejudice or bigoted stereotypes”

        Make them say it out loud. Make them have to specify that they think they’re above her because they sit at desks and she doesn’t. It might not get through to everyone, but at least it can open up a conversation about how strange it is to presume that someone doing manual labor is somehow a “lower rank” than someone doing desk work.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Yes, please do this, OP, and report back.

        This outranking ish is so gross. This is why I am a big advocate of everyone having worked a manual/low-paid job at some time in their lives. Some of us never have and it shows. Additionally, that type of jobs is not “lower” and does not make a person doing it “worse”, it’s just a different category of work. I know people with college degrees (some in my immediate family) who tried it and were happier in it than with an office job. I might go that way myself at some point in time. Do these people even remember that a year ago, those jobs were considered essential and their own were not?

      5. Velawciraptor*

        So glad to see someone already said what I came here to say. When someone is that clearly out of line, I’m a big fan of “what do you mean by that,” “I beg your pardon?”, or something similar to put the offender in the position of having to either say the quiet part out loud or realize that they’re out of line and back down.

        1. knitcrazybooknut*

          I’m no longer in touch with her, but my mom used to say some pretty terrible things to me. As I realized what was happening, I started replying with, “I’m sorry; what did you say?” with a clearly curious tone. She would have to replay it back in her head. Just that moment of pause is sometimes enough for someone to reconsider their words.

          (Of course, mom’s response was, “Oh well YOU know what I mean!” Yes, yes I do. Haven’t talked to the lady in over eight years now. BLISS.)

        2. MissBaudelaire*

          When I hear those ‘jokes’ I tend to flatly respond ‘That’s not funny at all. I don’t want to hear that kind of talk.’

    4. Hapax Legomenon*

      Is pulling rank even necessary, or just combining the cleaning lady’s preference with LW’s support? If “the cleaning lady and I have agreed that 68 is a good temperature” ends the pushback because it’s indicating your preference, you still don’t have to directly pull rank and you’re not trying to claim you prefer wearing a sweater. You’re showing you respect what the cleaning lady wants.

    5. meyer lemon*

      I would suggest putting up a united front with the cleaner. Just say something like “[Name] and I actually prefer the temperature like this.” You can also remind them that the two of you work there all day, and that is a more relevant factor than your rank.

    6. LCH*

      agree with pulling rank yourself on behalf of the cleaning lady. if they want to make it about rank, fine.

    7. Samijwins80%*

      This is two problems 1) assumption of entitlement and 2) office temp is lower than most prefer. Just to address 2- can you close vents nearest the cold employees? In my office we have magnetic vent covers. This would allow for basement to be colder

    8. Davis*

      This is a bad idea. Everyone involved should just sit down and have a conversation about this like adults. “Pulling rank” about this petty stuff is dumb. I’m confident a compromise can be met.

  2. Chc34*

    LW: The “outranking” stuff is gross but honestly I would be really miserable in an environment that was kept at 68 degrees. I can’t just put on a jacket, my nose and my fingers get very cold and those aren’t as easy to cover. I agree with Alison that maybe you could try a compromise of 70 or so.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      That’s 20 C, which I agree is unpleasantly cold for air-conditioning, and a major waste of energy in midsummer. (In the middle of winter, I’d be perfectly happy with it) Of course, I’m speaking from the perspective of someone whose office A/C physically and legally can’t be set below 25 C (77 F).

      1. Kit*

        Oh, how humans vary! My thermostat is set at 65F year-round, because I’ve got a combination of issues that make me very heat-sensitive. I do know folks who are on the cold-sensitive side of the spectrum, and the ‘compromise’ usually involves neither of us being optimally comfortable if we’re sharing a space. It can be hard to work out a solution, but the one that suits the two permanent users of the space seems to be optimal here.

        Also, the classism is disgusting and I support OP in pushing back on behalf of the cleaning lady, especially when there’s a language barrier in play that may make it even more uncomfortable for her to try to raise the complaint herself. (If OP didn’t know what her preference was, this might be an overstep, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.)

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I’m post-menopause but still get hot flashes and night sweats. My home is set to 71 degrees year-round, depending on humidity. Also: heat rises, so the upstairs is warmer than the downstairs. Even changing my bed linens or scrubbing my shower in my second-floor bedroom can make me uncomfortably warm.

          If OP’s cleaning lady is working on multiple floors, it makes sense to me that she prefers cooler temperatures. And OP, please back her up. Your contracted workers are rude and snooty but, even if they weren’t, they shouldn’t control the thermostat.

        2. PolarVortex*

          I’m with you Kit, my work tends to be set around 70 and I’m perpetually too warm at the office. My home sits at 68 in the summer (for cost savings and crappy aircon) and 64 in the winter.

      2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        I’m one of those people who wouldn’t be able to work in a 77° environment. My hands and feet would swell up horribly and I’d fall asleep.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Same! And I’d be very, very crabby.

          A 68 degree basement sounds like an ideal workspace for me.

      3. Forrest*

        wow! Where is that? I would think of 20-22c as comfortable sitting-still temperature and 23+ as *extremely* toasty.

        1. Forrest*

          (Sorry, just re-read that and realised it’s the *aircon* that can’t be set below 25c, so presumably the temperature can be below that if you’re not artificially cooling the space. Never mind!)

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        They are in the basement, so I’m guessing not that much of a waste of energy. I’d expect a basement to be naturally cooler.

        1. Fierce Jindo*

          Yes, I would find it very hard to work—I’d feel crabby and ill.

          When my partner moved in, we compromised at 70 during the day in summer, 68 in winter, 65 overnight (I used to keep it at 60 at all times).

        2. quill*

          77 F is officially “too hot for business casual wear” for an office setting, and while I’d probably survive it in the summer (dressed for the outdoor temperatures) it would destroy me all winter. I cannot take more clothes off and still be decent / survive walking out to my car.

          1. allathian*

            Dressing in layers help. But then I’m in an area where winter temps often fall below -18 C/0 F, so I learned early.

            When the AC at the office in summer makes me cold, I just wear a wrap…

            1. quill*

              I grew up in the midwest, I know about layers.

              The problem is that no matter how many layers you dress in, you still have plenty of time in the building getting through security and traveling to your desk until you can peel them all off, during which you sweat, ruining your business appropriate lower layers.

        3. Koalafied*

          77F heat in the winter is stifling to me, but 77F air conditioning in the summer is not so bad. The air being totally dry really makes a huge difference in the “feels like” temperature. I keep my A/C on 75F in the summer, and when I come in from a muggy 88F actual/101F feels-like temp outdoors, the 75F with no humidity still feels like I’m walking into a pleasant refrigerator. In the evenings when I’m sitting in front of the TV directly under the A/C I usually bump it up to 77F because having the cold air blow directly on me when I’m completely stationary actually chills me.

          In the winter I usually keep the heat around 72-73F because it’s not nearly as dry as the air conditioned air. Sometimes in the “shoulder seasons” there will be a random day where I need cooling when I’ve been setting the temp based on a heating expectation or vice versa, and I’ll find myself being like, “Why is it so HOT in here???” and realizing it’s because I’m heating to 75 instead of cooling to 75.

      5. No Tribble At All*

        Yikes, 77F in the summer is too hot for me at home in shorts and a tank top with a fan on, much less in an office!

      6. Lenora Rose*

        25 C is “If I move I start sweating” range for me, and far too high for the majority of people I know. That would be a misery for at least as many people as 20 would be. I assume, though, when you say it legally can’t, that someone has a medical issue. In which case I sympathize but no way I could work that long term.

        Our house thermostat was 19 for heating in cold weather and 23 for cooling with AC when we had a programmable system – my husband tried 24 and it absolutely was too much for me when doing actual chores.

        I once had to cat-sit in a house set to 15. Thankfully, they let me change it for the week I was there.

    2. John Smith*

      In the UK, minimum recommended temperature is 16 °C (about 61 °F) for offices, or 13 °C if manual labour is involved. Not only do we have thermostat wars, we have people opening windows when the air con is switched on…..

      Totally agree that with the comments on “rank” – bang out of order. I’d be leaving a micro passive-aggressive note by the thermostat shaming those who turn it up. Or get a lock on it.

      1. Allonge*

        Wow. I would assume that people who put that in any set of rules were more thingking of ‘you have to turn the heat on if it goes below’ rather than ‘cool to this point’.

        I can see the sense for manual labour as usually you would be expectd to wear protective clothing so it’s not the sundresses, but 16 in an office? Brrr. And I tolerate cold much better than hot.

        1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

          Allonge, I think you have misread John Smith’s post. He didn’t say 16 °C is the maximum recommended temperature! You are allowed to go warmer in British offices, they just recommend that offices don’t go colder than that.

          1. Allonge*

            No, I get that, I just obviously did not make my point clear. There is a recommended range, to allow for human comfort.

            The point I was trying to make, badly, is that I don’t think the rule exists to allow people to cool to 16 or heat to 25 (or whatever the higher end is). For me the purpose it to ensure that the heat gets turned on below 16 and the A/C or whatever above the higher end.

            It’s the spirit of the law kind of argument. Obviously if everyone likes it at 16, more power to them.

            But I am also originally from a country that has freezing temps in winter and real heat in summer, so what do I know about UK recommendations anyway?

            1. Forrest*

              Yes, that’s it. 16c is the recommend minimum for office in the UK, and if the temp drops below that most decent employers will send people home.

              We don’t have a recommended maximum though– arguably with climate change we’re going to need one soon, but traditionally it’s been rare to have hot enough weather that indoor spaces get dangerously or uncomfortably hot.

            2. Lenora Rose*

              I was told by a friend who was there for a while that in (at least the area she was in within) France, they don’t heat/cool to an optimal room temperature the way that we tend to in Canada, but to “We can survive in this” temperatures, which are several degrees cooler in winter, and warmer in summer. (In her case, she was a self-described Penguin who was comfortable where all her Canuck friends were freezing, and found the indoor winter temperatures where she was in France to be barely endurable with blankets and heavy sweaters.) It might be the same in the UK.

          2. CreepyPaper*

            The temperature in our office (UK) is set to 17.5C year round and You Will Get Your Hand Slapped if you try to move it. There’s a reason for it though – we have an employee who faints if it gets any warmer. I’ve witnessed her passing out at 19 degrees. The rest of us are told to put on a cardigan and quit whinging.

    3. Shufflyboard*

      Don’t be silly. You are not going to get cold fingers and nose at 20°c. That’s warmer than it gets in the summer in some countries.

      1. ItIsWhatItIs*

        Except 68 AC is blowing air that is colder than that to maintain the temp so it’s definitely possible and I would also have those issues at 68!

        1. TechWorker*

          Yup I have experienced literal wind chill in my office. I think some wanted it more like 18, but for me sat directly under the aircon that meant two thick jumpers and uncomfortably cold hands.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            BTDT. I taped a piece of paper over the vent the cold air came out of, and the boss told me it’d stop the air con from working. Only that didn’t work as a threat, I’d have been only to happy to no longer have cold air blasting at my chest while the sun heated my back.

            1. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

              In a past job I was sitting in a private, high walled cubicle directly under the air conditioning. The room had floor to ceiling south facing glass so turning the AC off was not an option. That was the first time in my life I was grateful to be short- I bought a few yards of windbreaker fabric from the craft store and created a ‘ceiling’ directly over my desk. My coworkers teased me a bit about my cabana but everyone was comfortable.

            2. ceiswyn*

              In a past job, back when I was still a warm person, I had a vent directly under my feet blasting cold air at my permanently broken, arthritic, ankle. Even though the office temp was actually a little too warm for me, I had to get facilities to close off that vent due to the pain.

          2. Nanani*

            Thiiiiis. Which part of you is being blasted by cooled air matters a lot even if the thermometer is the same as a pleasant day outside

        2. Snow Globe*

          Yes – in the winter I can be comfortable with the heat set at 70, but in the summer 70 is freezing, because cold AC is blowing. In many buildings it seems impossible to find a seat where the AC doesn’t blow on you. That’s why I carry a sweater with me all summer long – in Florida.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I kept a pullover at work all year round: in the summer it was too cold from the air con, and in winter it was too cold because we had one tiny radiator for an office with four workers, plus the reception area plus the dining table for lunch.

      2. Chc34*

        I promise you I am more familiar with how my body reacts at different temperatures than you are

      3. Allonge*

        You may not, but plenty of people do (possibly more in countries that have higher maximum temperatures in summer).
        And walking around outside in 20C is a really different thing to sitting down in 20C inside. Especially if dressed for the 30-40C that is happening outside, which is not unreasonable.

        1. allathian*

          I run quite cold and always bring a wrap to wear at the office, even if I don’t wear it during my commute. There’s a heatwave here and it’s currently 29.8 C/86 F in the shade. Thankfully humidity’s only 56%… Thanks to our portable AC unit, indoors it’s a fairly tolerable 24.5 C/76 F. Currently on vacation and still 100% WFH until the end of August at least.

          1. allathian*

            Here, if the indoor temperature for employees is 28 C/82 F or more, employers are obligated to give a paid 10 minute break every hour, ideally in a cooled space. I got to enjoy this perk when I was working in a fast food joint when I was in college. If it’s above 32 C/90 F, it’s 15 minutes off every hour. So there’s a strong incentive for employers to cool things down.

            1. allathian*

              The cooled space was our walk-in fridge. No, I didn’t stay there for the whole 10 minutes, but it helped quite a lot.

      4. Just delurking to say...*

        It’s also colder than it gets in the winter in some countries. I live in the subtropics and there’d be mutiny (or space heaters) if our aircon got that low.

        1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

          Are you from Guam by any chance? Just curious because everyone in Guam says “aircon” and I’ve never heard the term anywhere else.

      5. Perfectly Particular*

        Working at home, I have my thermostat set to 72 F (22C) and by afternoon, I am wrapping up in a warm blanket and having a coffee to warm up. Sitting still in the A/C can be really chilling.

      6. EPLawyer*

        Yes you are. I am also one of those. If it is below 70 degrees, I start not being able to type because my fingers are too cold. I have poor circulation so my body does not naturally keep me as warm as others. It’s hard to type with gloves on. I would literally have to work elsewhere if my coworking space were kept this cool all the time.

        However, WHEN this situation comes up I mentioned my situation, I don’t pull rank. But yes, some compromise should be worked out. LW you are assuming that the cleaning lady NEEDS to have the temperature lower because she does physical work. However, you said she PREFERS it lower. She could be someone who just likes it cooler but doesn’t really need it that cold. I am not saying give in to the jerks, but 68 is REALLY COOL for an office.

        1. Fierce Jindo*

          Have you tried fingerless gloves? I used to WFH with my house at 60 in winter and I found fingerless gloves very helpful.

          (My fingers were the only thing that minded; I have crap circulation and wear gloves, with my t-shirt and no jacket, in early fall.)

          1. EPLawyer*

            I have but it doesn’t work as well. Also I shouldn’t HAVE to wear fingerless gloves when a couple degrees more means I don’t have to. And the cleaners won’t be overheated either at a couple of degrees warmer.

            1. Dahlia*

              It’s interesting how a couple degrees makes such a difference for you, but can’t make someone else overheat.

              1. Leggomyeggo*

                I don’t think that 70 is too hot. Whereas 68 degrees does mean gloves for me, and running out to my car at lunch so i can warm up. Everyone deserves a comfortable workspace, that said most offices won’t allow for space heaters but will allow for fans.

        2. biobotb*

          She may PREFER it cooler because she NEEDS it cooler. 70 degrees while moving around would be really warm for some people (like me — I’d probably get sweaty and possibly dizzy. I’d definitely feel ill the whole day). It’s amusing to me that you insist you have a need for certain temperatures, but are so certain that someone else doesn’t.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            You know, just to add to this, I used to work in a hospital laundry. It was hot. Like, Satan giving you a back massage, then breathing seductively into your ear hot. It was miserable.

            We had one coworker who would demand that the pipe that blew cool air onto us be turned away. She hated ‘cold air blowing’ on her. She wouldn’t switch positions where she wouldn’t have been blown on. She wouldn’t wear a jacket. She demanded that other people be massively uncomfortable so she could be marginally more comfortable.

            That’s what the chilly coworkers in LW’s note make me think of. They know the housekeeper will be hot. They don’t care. I don’t think it should be arctic, of course, and if someone has a medical condition, perhaps something can be worked out. Maybe a desk be moved so they aren’t right underneath a vent, or they bring a sweater, or have a nice warm drink or something. Maybe they scoot the AC so it’s at 70, but provide a nice fan for the housekeeper.

            Or, if she’s only there for two hours a day, they turn it down just while she’s working and then back up. Or they let her turn it down a little while she’s folding blankets or something that’s really uncomfortable, and then scoot it back up.

            1. Lettucebestrange*

              I agree — that figuring out what changes could be suggested or agreed upon to make the environment comfortable for all that work there. This might mean adjusting the temp throughout the day, using fans to direct the a/c vents to the ‘hot’ person, using vent covers to reduce airflow on the ‘cold’ people, everyone wearing adjustable layers (hot people wear short sleeves, cold people bring a sweater), cold people making an effort to move throughout their day, cold people holding their meetings on upper ‘warmer’ floors (as basement is cooler) etc.

      7. ceiswyn*

        Actually, I lose sensation in my fingers at temperatures below 18. Yes, this is a medical issue. No, there is no solution.

        1. alas rainy again*

          I have a issue that might be similar. My fingers turn yellowish pale with violet-tinged nails. I used to scare the other kids at recess with my “dead fingers” LOL! I used to keep mittens at my desk for cold Monday mornings (when the heating system has not yet reached full power). Those cut off gloves allowed me to type in a bit more confort.

      8. limotruck*

        What’s really silly is suggesting that because ‘some countries’ are colder than that, that no human being could possibly feel cold at 68F. Like others on this thread, I have poor circulation and a relatively-common medical condition that mean when it drops down much below 75 my fingers and toes lose blood flow almost completely. It’s painful and uncomfortable and I have always struggled in offices that set their thermostat that low, unless I am doing manual labor continuously.

        I am fully on team OP but let’s not go down the road of “I personally wouldn’t be uncomfortable, therefore anyone who says they would is lying.”

        1. Koalafied*

          I have similar circulatory issues – from one sufferer to another I want to pass along a tip, in case you haven’t discovered it yourself already: when you’re stuck in an environment you can’t make any warmer, I find that running my hands under hot water for a full minute or so and then quickly drying them very well will restore circulation for at least half an hour, maybe an hour. (You do have to dry them very well or else they get cold again very fast!)

          1. limotruck*

            Koalafied, I appreciate it! I also avail myself of the hot water trick when possible, although as I’m sure you know, it’s not always easy to find! That’s actually a big reason why I started showering before bed rather than in the morning–if I go to bed with cold feet or hands they won’t warm up as I sleep, no matter how many blankets I have on.

            1. knitcrazybooknut*

              I’ve been waking up with feet that are uncomfortably cold, so I use a heating pad over the top of my feet. Usually I just set it on two hours, which is enough to fall asleep. And it’s summer here!

              1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                When my feet are cold before bed, I use a microwaveable hot/cold thing (it has rice or beans or something inside it), heat it up, wrap it in an old pair of pajama bottoms (as a washable cover), and tuck it into my bed next to/under my feet. I like it better than using a plug-in heating pad since I know it’ll gradually get cooler and I don’t have to worry about burns or fire risk. If I’m planning ahead, I’ll warm it up and tuck it in bed about 10-15 minutes before I go to bed so my bed will be warm when I get in.

      9. kittymommy*

        With all do respect, that may be true for you but I’m sitting here in my office (in central Florida), current temp outside is roughly 83F and inside it’s likely around 72F (I have a space heater that I have set to 74 degrees and it hasn’t kicked on) and my nose of fingers are cold. Some people just get colder easier than others. I regularly have my heated keyboard on in the middle of summer.

      10. Sarah*

        What’s silly is assuming that everyone else has an internal thermostat just like yours. I have Raynaud’s, and my fingers and toes start getting uncomfortably cold around 68F. Cold fingers affect my productivity – I type more slowly, and with less accuracy, when I’m cold.

        By some estimates, Raynaud’s affects 3-5% of the US population — it’s rare but not extremely so. And there are other reasons one might feel uncomfortably cold at 68F.

      11. Rach*

        Currently have cold/painful fingers in my 68 degree office and am wearing a sweater despite it being over 100 degrees outside. It is too cold to do office work for myself and many of the other women at this temp but the men complained it was too hot and here we are (I work in tech). Compromising at 72 is reasonable for my office (a solution I plan on bringing up when the admin is next in). For the OP, compromising to 70 would be a good place to start. Making the office staff unbearably cold is not right, they have a job to do as well (yes more than one is classist/racist, but making everyone suffer because of it isn’t okay). And at 70, the cleaning staff should be fine as well. No one gets exactly their preference but no one is unsafe.

    4. londonedit*

      I’ve always thought 20C was a fairly standard room temperature! I usually keep the temperature at home around 20. But then I live in the UK where we think anything above 25 degrees is a ‘heatwave’, so…

      1. seahawks*

        Lol yeah. This is one of the reasons I’m loving WFH. If I were in the office, I’d be freezing. At home, my living room is currently 24, but I know I’ll probably be feeling a bit cold (even though I’m wearing jeans and a light-ish sweater, though I’ve finally been able to ditch the thermals) once I’ve been sat down longer. As a Texan transplant to the UK, UK office temps are miserable.

        1. Well...*

          Yes I’m not looking forward to having to being my hand warmers and never-ending cup of constantly remicrowaved tea back to the office. Being at home means I get to work without thinking about how I’m freezing for the first time in years.

          I worked in Spain for a few years and their temperature needs match mine way better. Open windows in the summer, hell yeah.

    5. Well...*

      Super cold offices in the summer do piss me off from a comfort and a waste of energy perspective. So many buildings are warmer in winter than in summer and it’s obnoxious.

      Also being too cold makes people fall asleep too, and I’ve heard reference to studies that it affects cognitive function particularly in women to work in cold environments.

      That being said everyone should come to a fair compromise and people doing manual labor absolutely get a vote.

      1. Well...*

        I also will add that I’m a big believer in professional attire allowing one to dress for the heat and encouraging it. Women’s clothing does but men’s clothing doesn’t, and it’s another reason people tend to push for unnecessary AC.

        1. ceiswyn*

          Yep, it does annoy me when men turn down the thermostat because they’re too warm – in their long, thick trousers and long-sleeved shirts. So because our culture requires men to wear unsuitable clothes, women wearing clothes appropriate to the conditions get to freeze.

            1. ceiswyn*

              Or men could (be permitted to) dress appropriately. That’s even less like rocket science.

            2. Ann Non*

              Maybe you are talking about in winter. Sure, bring a sweater. But in summer, from an environmental perspective, it makes so much more sense to allow both men and women to dress for the outside temperatures and not force people to wear sweaters!
              (I once lived with someone from Florida who insisted to wear tank tops in winter and sweaters in summer. Why??)

              1. MissBaudelaire*

                When I worked in the laundry that was hotter than an incubator for demon spawn, we were allowed to wear shorts and tank tops. Because, obviously? It was at a hospital, and someone from another department actually wrote a letter to our CEO to whine that it wasn’t faaaair we got to wear capris when she had to wear business attire. Why couldn’t we be forced to wear long pants?

                The CEO responded it because of our abysmal conditions. All I could think was “Why don’t you ask if you can wear something more appropriate instead of making us suffer?”

            3. Rach*

              Sweaters don’t protect your hands from the cold (currently wearing one and my fingers hurt).

        2. GothicBee*

          Agreed. IMO if we just let people dress weather appropriately (including shorts!), it would solve a lot of this stuff. My house is poorly insulated and old so it tends to be hot in the summer and cold in the winter, and I actually prefer that to keeping my house one temperature all year.

          Anyway, in this particular instance, I feel like the LW and cleaning lady should get to set the temperature over the people who just stop by to use the space on occasion. That said, if these people are staying the shared workspace for an entire workday or multiple days, I’d err on the side of increasing the temperature slightly as a compromise, if possible. You could also try adjusting the temperature on a schedule if that would work. If there’s times that no one else is in the office, keep it set lower, then if others are there, set it higher. Or, is the complaining possibly due to vent location? Can you redirect some vents in the shared work area so that they’re not blowing directly towards anyone?

      2. I Speak for the Trees*

        Hi, LW here. I’m energy conscious, too, and because this is the basement, it doesn’t take much to keep it at 68 degrees. In fact the AC isn’t even running much of the time. (The winter is another story, but even then it stays fairly comfortable.)

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          I was about to say, people act like the air is just blowing constantly, and I doubt that’s the case.

        2. Rach*

          It depends on location. I live in the southwest and in my office building the air is constantly running to keep it at 68 degrees and it is very uncomfortable.

    6. Guin*

      I say anyone who’s doing manual, heavy labor outranks part-time desk jockeys. LW can go to any hardware store and get a thermostat with a cover that locks for about $20. “Sorry, Ted, our HVAC specialist told us that too much fluctuation is wearing out the system.”

      1. Boof*

        I don’t think anyone “outranks” anyone where physical comfort and being confined to an environment for a period of time is concerned. First priority is safety, so it HAS to be cool enough for the person doing exertion not to get overheated. But if it’s more of a preference, the number of people with a preference matters too; having one or two people be comfortable and at least twice that amount of people shivering and wearing gloves while typing doesn’t sound like a great solution either.

    7. Dwight Schrute*

      So I used to be someone who always ran cold and now I’m someone who is always hot and let me tell you it’s far easier to be the person who is chilly than it is to be the warm person. I was always able to add layers to be comfortable indoors and even used hand warmers and space heaters and blankets in my office to be comfortable. Now as the warm person it’s much more difficult to be comfortable. I can’t remove all my clothing, and it’s far harder to work when you’re sweating and feel stifled than when you’re chilly.

      1. anonarama*

        Strong disagree! I have always run cold, and do run cold (in fact am wearing a wool sweater in my 73 house at this moment). Except, I ran hot when I was pregnant and it was wonderful. My hands didn’t hurt all day! My jaw wasn’t clenched from trying to resist shivering! I could wear appropriate clothing for both indoors and outdoors during the summer. Being pregnant sucked, but being warm at regular indoor temperatures for basically the first time in my life was incredible.

        1. Maia*

          I came here to say exactly this, including about the experience when pregnant! I do really wish people would stop saying “you can just wear more layers!” when I’m wearing thermal underlayers, sweater, gloves and hat in the office and still can’t get warm enough to think straight. I don’t know how to explain why the layers don’t work, but it feels like if I’m trying to do sitting-down work, the cold sets in from the inside out. I’m not disputing the experience of people who run warm, but I don’t think we can actually decide one of these is objectively worse than the other.
          (I’d still support the cleaning lady here though)

      2. poetry*

        If you run hot, you can wear lighter fabrics and less clothing, and drink ice water. That’s just as reasonable as expecting the cold people to cover up their nice business attire with sweaters, hats, gloves, and blankets, and to chug hot beverages all day. I’ve been there, and it was actually hard to type because my fingers were so cold.

        Ultimately, the only solution here is to compromise, rather than letting the cleaning person or any other one person dictate the temperature. People who are miserably cold all day are not going to be happy with OP or with their jobs in general.

        1. Just Another Zebra*

          But my read of the letter is that the cleaner and OP are the only ones in the office full time. It doesn’t make sense that someone who comes in a few hours a week gets to dictate the office temps.

        2. Susie Q*

          No it’s not. It’s much easier to add layers than remove layers. Not difficult to understand.

          1. Lemons*

            No one is misunderstanding. They’re explaining that the constant fatuous refrain of ‘just wear more’ adds nothing to the discussion, and why. Especially with the implication that they’re dim for not trying it. You’re not sharing some secret enlightenment.

            1. EchoGirl*

              Agree 100%. Advice like this tends to come off (to me, at least) as kind of condescending — like, do you really think we’ve forgotten sweaters exist?

              (I actually saw it taken one step further once on an online discussion, where someone commented about how they ARE wearing sweaters, several of them in fact, plus a blanket, and they still feel like they have to keep a steady stream of hot beverages to stay warm, and someone popped in to tell them they must not be doing it right (specifically had to do with the type of sweater IIRC). Because there’s no possible way that this perfect advice could actually be deficient or not enough to solve some versions of the problem./sarc)

              1. Lemons*

                Yes, this is absolutely my IRL experience- I can tell you how many layers it takes to be comfortable, but it’s a long list, I’d look ridiculous in an office, and unless one of those layers is a hot water bottle, it’s not going to achieve much. Whereas to cool down I have to… do basically nothing? Have a cold drink, take my socks off maybe?
                It would indeed be condescending to offer that as ‘advice’, not just because it’s bleeding obvious but I doubt it applies to those who aren’t extreme temperature outliers.

                Additionally, the ‘well, I can’t just wear no clothes! Can’t take off my skin!’ is also tiresome in how frequently it gets used as a gotcha. Yes, we’re aware. Actual advice about dressing for hot climates very rarely involves ‘just be nude, not hard to understand’.

                1. EchoGirl*

                  Yeah, I mean, maybe that would be a little more relevant if people wanted there to be *no* AC or to keep it at 80 or something (as kind of a cheeky way of saying “how do you expect me to adapt to this?”), but that doesn’t seem to be what most people who run cold are asking for.

                  Incidentally, I’m someone who gets both cold and hot fairly easily (I think I’m just generally sensitive to temperature), but I find being too cold much more unpleasant than being too hot, so I’ve always had issues with the concept that cold is always better than hot (not the idea that individual people might prefer cold to hot, everyone has their own preferences, but in the sense of treating it like a universal constant).

      3. LTL*

        Agreed. You can wear gloves for fingers and socks for toes, and also cover your feet with a blanket. There are so many options when you’re cold, assuming it’s not so chilly that people are cold even after they put their coats on. I would always have blankets at my last office.

        I get that it’s harder for some than others but there’s a limit to how many layers of clothing one can remove and how light that clothing may be. Suffering in a cold environment is better than suffering in a hot one when while we’re still in the room temperature range.

        1. Koalafied*

          Ehh, gloves don’t actually keep fingers that warm, and are basically useless for someone with poor circulation for all but avoiding frostbite. I wear mittens in the winter because the only way my fingers stand a chance of staying warm is if they can huddle together and pool their warmth, like emperor penguins in the arctic.

          I’m totally on the OP/cleaner’s side here because I agree that the person doing physically labor is going to be much more uncomfortable when they’re overheating than I am when my fingers are freezing, just for what it’s worth, gloves aren’t a solution unless maybe they’re electric heated gloves. What works for me is I usually make a trip to the sink about once an hour to run very hot water over my fingers for a minute or so to restore blood flow.

        2. Rach*

          As someone who lives in a warm climate, I don’t own gloves or scarves or hats and would look extremely silly wearing them at work. I already stick out as a woman in a male dominated field, I don’t fancy dressing like that in the middle of the summer when the men and in shorts and tees (I work in tech and it is a very casual office).

          No one is asking for it to be 80 degrees, but 72 (or 70 even) would be an amazing compromise.

      4. Susie Q*

        I agree as someone who usually runs cold. It’s much easier for me to layer than it is for someone to sweat because they can’t take clothing off.

      5. Flor*

        This is my experience, too. I ran cold as a teenager and run hot as an adult. When I’m wearing nothing but a linen dress with a fan pointing towards me and STILL sweating so much my fingers are slipping over the keyboard, I’ve kind of run out of clothes to take off.

        My office is actually the worst in the winter. If I’m wearing jeans and a lightweight pullover (perfectly reasonable clothing to wear under your winter coat IN CANADA), I’ll overheat so much I feel nauseous.

        1. Kit*

          I actually had precisely that issue with a coworker myself – she and I were both in sleeveless summer-weight blouses, but I was sweating and she was trying to bump the thermostat up. Pointing out that I could not feasibly remove any more layers without violating both our dress code and public decency laws did, however, get her to back off. (Why she couldn’t put on the cardigan that was hanging on the back of her chair remains a mystery to me to this day.)

    8. Dust Bunny*

      Same. That kind of cold is physically painful for some of us, especially if you don’t have great circulation in your hands or something. My office used to be kept at 68 and I had to be bundled up and wear gloves to tolerate it. The flip side of “people doing physical labor need it cooler” is “people sitting at a desk all day need it warmer”. I also find that that kind of intensive air-conditioning dehydrates me pretty badly. (For the record, I keep my home a/c at 80, which is definitely too high for most people, but there’s a lot of room in between.)

      Could the cleaning lady’s workspace have a window unit or something installed to keep it cooler without cooling the rest of the building?

      1. Salsa Verde*

        As the cleaning lady, I’d imagine her workspace IS the whole building – emptying all trash cans, cleaning all bathrooms and kitchens, just going around to all parts of the building to clean.

    9. MistOrMister*

      I agree, 68° would be miserable for me. I would want the cleaning lady to be comfortable, but wow would I suffer! I definitely get wanting it cooler while doing work that requires moving around, but temps in the 60s are hard to deal with when you’re sitting at a desk all day. It think 70° would be a good compromise. Although when people start saying the temp should be what they want because they’re above someone else…well, it makes me want to turn the thermostat down to 59° just to spite them….

      In one department at my office, a block of seats was always a lot cooler than the rest of the floor and I sat in the ice locker section, unfortunately. We asked about raising the heat but apparently they tried that before and it made the other half of the floor absolutely sweltering. So the answer was that the cold part just had to stay cold because we could bundle up. One thing I will say, no one ever took me to task on the days I got so cold I needed a scarf, hat and fingerless gloves in addition to my sweater and lap wrap/blanket.

      1. Observer*

        Although when people start saying the temp should be what they want because they’re above someone else…well, it makes me want to turn the thermostat down to 59° just to spite them….

        I kind of laughed.

        Seriously, “rank” has no place in this discussion and it’s REALLY off-putting that they said that.

    10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      When my children were young, I read a recommendation to keep the indoor temperature at or below 20 C (68). It is not freezing temp by any means. I doubt that the salespeople all have the condition where their whole body gets uncomfortably numb from cold at 68, but if they do, that’s what they should say.

    11. Temperance*

      Seriously. I couldn’t work well in those temperatures.

      I set my bedroom thermostat to 68 at night.

    12. Doing the best we can*

      OP said they would accept the temperature for the OP but since it’s the cleaner they are pushing back. Sounds like rather than it being too cold for them to tolerate, it is just not their ideal temperature.

    13. LTL*

      The other thing is that people sitting at their desks can get space heaters or fans for temperature adjustment.

      Between that and everything else, I think the cleaning lady should really have the final say here.

      1. I Wrote This in the Basement*

        Right, and another thing – my understanding is that they aren’t there every day. I.e, it’s a shared workspace and there are different people in that space every day, who all use it on an as-needed basis. The cleaning lady has to work there every day though.

    14. Momma Bear*

      I always have to wear a sweater in the office and before I begged Maintenance for some relief, there were days I got coffee just to warm my hands. While there may be some “we’re better than you” going on, I think it’s worth a discussion like adults, too. Could it be cooler at certain times of day for her? Is there a middle temp that is OK? Could the contractors get desk heaters? Etc. If it is shared space, it’s worth a shared discussion, even if the ultimate answer is “she’s here all day doing physical work and needs it cooler”. If there are other ways they mistreat her, then those need to be addressed as well. I wonder if the temp is symptomatic of a larger issue with her/them/the shared space.

    15. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      I’m seconding this. When we were all in office in the Before Times I frequently had to wear fingerless gloves to be able to type and wore long sleeves all summer. My home ac is set at 78 Degrees to keep the bills down and when it does run the closed vent right below my desk drives me out on the porch for a while. 68 Degrees in a basement environment probably feels all the cooler too. 68 Degrees is what I sent the heater to during the winter when I’m dressed in multiple layers to stay warm. Split the difference between the 2 wants and move the temp up a few degrees.

    16. Elsie*

      The classism is gross but there does seem to be an attitude among the OP and commenters of it being no big deal to work in a colder environment, just put on a sweater. That’s not true for everyone. I have Raynouds syndrome and working at 68 degrees would literally cause me to be so uncomfortable that I could barely work even with a sweater and gloves. Even at higher temperatures, my hands become so cold that I will actually be in pain even if I wear special gloves (ie the ones without fingertips that are made for elderly folks). I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to be too hot and uncomfortable while working but it’s also not easy for me to bear cold environments either. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Summer was always the worst time for me, I suffered through every workday and could barely concentrate on my work.

    17. Idril Celebrindal*

      One thing I’m noticing is how many people are suggesting that the sales people might physically need the temp higher because of the commenter’s personal/medical experience.

      I think it is important to note that this was not a reason given. If someone is arguing for raising the temp and don’t ever use “I physically need it” as a reason, it’s safe to conclude that isn’t a factor.
      If you did need it, would you deliberately weaken your argument and make it about your preference/social standing instead of your physical need?

      Instead, their argument is essentially “I want it that way and I’m more important than the person doing manual labor (who is of a different race than me).” We don’t have to suggest reasons they didn’t give for why they are asking if they’ve stated their (less-compelling) reasons up front.

      1. Rach*

        Only a few of those complaining said they outranked the cleaning lady. And no one needs to disclose a medical condition, “68 is too cold for me, can we compromise” should be sufficient.

  3. Farenheit to Celsius Translator*

    68 F = 20 C
    69 F = 20.5 C
    70 F = 21.1 C
    73 F = 22.8 C
    76 F = 24.4 C

    1. river*

      In that case, 70 is a great temperature. My vote (from the other side of the world) goes to 70F!

    2. Kathlynn (Canadian)*

      My office goes from 22c (currently) and I’m cold to above 35c (I’m sweltering, and humidity spikes). I honestly prefer the 76. But I get cold easily soo yeah. (plus I’m used to computer warmed rooms and using fleece blankets and thick blankets)

    3. ceiswyn*

      70 would be too cool for me, but having to wear a light cardigan is way more acceptable than having to wear a woolly jumper and tights and fingerless gloves, so that seems like a reasonable compromise.

    4. quill*

      Scientific room temperature is 76-77 F / 25 C.

      As someone who works in extremely temperature controlled settings, this is TOO WARM for doing any lifting. (Especially if you control for 50% or more humidity…)

  4. Observer*

    #1 – Thank you for thinking about the needs of the cleaner. Having said that, I do think that it’s worth considering moving the thermostat a BIT higher. Because at 78deg. some people are going to be too cold to work effectively, even with a sweater on. Like, go to 70deg. But not higher, because it’s true – the cleaner is doing heavy work and she can’t do much about it.

    Pull rank if it comes to that. It’s find for you to say that YOU decided that her needs outweigh their desires. If they are going to talk about “outranking” people (and I agree that they are being really icky here), well, YOU outrank them and get to make the final call. Embrace it.

    1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Yeah, 68 is pretty cold, especially for people sitting down while wearing summer weight clothing.

      Do consider what percentage of people have politely asked to have the temperature raised vs how many have been jerks about it. Sounds like there have been a good few people getting chilled. It’s not exactly fair to keep the temp low as just deserts for Alice when Betty is also shivering and wasn’t at all a jerk.

      Also consider how often other people are in the space. If it’s just OP and the cleaner 90% of the time, it’s totally sensible to keep it at their temperature. If you have 2 or three guests in there most of the time, not so much.

      1. Observer*

        It’s not exactly fair to keep the temp low as just deserts for Alice when Betty is also shivering and wasn’t at all a jerk.

        That’s not the issue at play here, though. The cleaner has a legitimate need for cooler temperature, and most people can manage quite well at 70, possibly with a sweater. And, many can even be comfortable at 68 with a sweater. That means that it makes sense to keep the place cooler rather than warmer.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          The cleaner does have a legitimate need, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be compromise – and the point is that just because some people have been rude you shouldn’t shut any door to compromise so the people that were not rude don’t suffer. Some people cannot be comfortable at 68, even with a sweater and a blanket. Some people’s hands get cold and they shiver and are miserable.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Yep, it’s easier to get warmer than cooler in a work setting. I can’t recall ever working in an office where I didn’t see sweaters or blazers slung over chairs or hanging on a hook. People learned to accommodate cooler temps, summer or winter.

          When it’s warmer in the office, you can’t really take off clothing to get comfortable…well, you could, but that’s another issue.

          1. ceiswyn*

            One of the reasons I left my previous job was that it was so utterly miserable being cold all the time. The office thermostat was set by a warm person who liked it to be about 17C – I was walking into the office in baking summer heat and then having to put on thermal tights and a jumper and fingerless gloves. It was like living in permanent winter. And no, I never did actually ‘get warm’; instead I was just tired and miserable at all times.

          2. I Wrote This in the Basement*

            I always kept a sweater or cardigan at my desk during the summer when we worked in an office. It wasn’t that cold, but with the cold air blowing at you from ceiling vents and then going down as the cold air does, it used to be too chilly for summer clothes. But honestly, better for thinking and concentration than a warm and toasty office would’ve been.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              ‘Warm and toasty’ makes me drowsy, except when I go to bed at night. Then it makes me sweaty and miserable.

              In the office, I just can’t concentrate when it’s too warm. Even with USB powered fans, I can’t function well. That’s why I feel for people who are affected by too-cold temps, it’s not easy for them, either.

      2. pleaset cheap rolls*

        “while wearing summer weight clothing.”

        Then put on a jacket or sweater. It’s not complicated.

        1. Lacey*

          I used to wear my winter coat in the office all the time, but the office dress code had me in thin dress pants or in skirts. So then I needed a blanket for my legs and generally my hands were still cold. It can be really hard to get warm in a cold office when your job is at the computer.

          I have a lot of sympathy for the employee doing manual labor though, because I also get real warm when I clean, so it would be awful to have it set at 73 degrees.

          1. Observer*

            It’s actually not that hard to dress warmly even with a more formal dress code. Dress pants do NOT have to be “thin”. Cardigans, blazers and even long sweaters are easy to put on. And, to be honest, putting a blanket on your lap, if it really comes down to it, is not that big of a deal. And, of course, if you are in a space with decent electrical wiring, you can generally get a space heater.

            I’ve been in both positions, where it was too cold and too warm. The latter made me sick and there was nothing I could do. When it got too cold? I got a long sweater that I didn’t even bother bringing home – it stayed in my office. And at the worst point, I got a space heater.

            I get that this stuff is not universal. But over all, it is more practical to deal with a space that is cooler than is comfortable for everyone than a space that is hotter. And, as always, don’t be like the Lead Year boss – if you run into an exception, deal with it using some sense and flexibility.

            Link to the reference to follow.

            1. Black Horse Dancing*

              But you also have to think that it may be 100 plus outside (US temp) and then coming into to 68. Going back and forth like that is crazy. 70 sounds good. OP, tell you cleaning lady the issues and ask about trying it at 70 for a few weeks.

            1. Rach*

              Long underwear are impossible to find in my state and I can’t imagine wearing them outside to and from my car when it is 115 degrees out. This is not a reasonable solution.

          2. Batgirl*

            That’s a very specific dress code if they called for thin fabrics! What’s wrong with woolen suits, blazers and shift dresses?

        2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Super easy to do if it’s your own workplace. I keep a sweater over the back of my chair too. Not so super easy to do when you are just popping in for a few hours and have to tote everything in from the car. Presuming you have a car. And didn’t take the blanket and jacket out of the car to be washed but forgot to put them back.

          Especially if you are running around outside all day, which these people likely do since they don’t have a need for dedicated desk space, and are really dressed for the outdoor weather.

          I don’t know about you, but I would think, “I should bring a sweater next time, it’s really freezing down here”, but I’d never actually remember to bring said sweater.

          Basically I think the request itself is very reasonable, even if the method of asking was not.

        3. ceiswyn*

          Carrying that much clothing into the office, or leaving it there and remembering to take it home occasionally to wash it, is quite awkward when your commute involves any kind of walk.

          1. pleaset cheap rolls*

            I do it all the time. My commute was walks and subway in NYC. It’s really not that complicated. Perhaps I’m being ableist, but walking with a jacket over my bag is not that hard. Nor is leaving it in the office. At least for me. YMMV.

            1. ceiswyn*

              Just a jacket? Not a jacket and a cardigan and thermal tights (which will have to be taken home for washing) and a woollen dress to change into for the office because your cotton commuting clothes aren’t going to cut it, as well as your laptop and lunch?

              1. ceiswyn*

                And, obviously, doing a full change into or out of all those things whenever you enter/leave isn’t awkward at all.

    2. Batgirl*

      I’m interested in exactly how they are phrasing that. I’m finding it hard to imagine people actually using the word outrank when talking about the temperature!

    3. Annony*

      I agree that the cleaner’s preference should be given more weight but everyone else should not be completely dismissed. I think 70 is a pretty reasonable compromise. It is closer to the cleaner’s preference but gives something to those who are freezing. The OP could also look at where the vents are placed in relation to desks and perhaps close a few of the vents or shift desks so that no one is sitting in a breeze.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. I had the vent redirected so I’m not getting frozen as much. While I very much sympathize with the cleaner and OP, I also think there’s room for a compromise. People shouldn’t have to pack on coats or gloves to work in the office in the summer, either.

      2. LC*

        Looking at the vents was my first thought too. In my last three offices, there could be what felt like a solid 5+ degree (F) shift going from an area right under a vent to the rest of the office.

        If the vents can be individually turned on and off (is that a thing?), that could make a huge difference. Or if they could just be tilted differently, that could help. If not though, moving desks seems like a reasonable thing to look into, particularly since it sounds like there’s not an issue with space/overcrowding.

        1. ceiswyn*

          When I was last at university, the setup for the MSc computer room had a vent blasting air directly at the thermostat. So when we were trying to heat the space, the thermostat used to think it was 25C even though the rest of the room was actually at 17C.

          Facilities came several times and confirmed everything was fine – from the door, fiddling with the thermostat. We were never able to get through to them that the setup was the problem and they needed to move the thermostat.

          They also ignored us when we said the vent was dripping water occasionally, and two weeks later the entire system was destroyed by flooding…

    4. AnonInCanada*

      Exactly this. After all, the contractors can put on something if they’re cold. You can only remove so much clothing if you’re hot before you’re cited for indecent exposure :-\

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I worked at a place where people dressed inappropriately for winter would whine about being cold, so they cranked up the heat to something like 80. I would get yapped at for being unprofessional when I would take off my button-down shirt and go around in a T-shirt because I was sweltering.

  5. Emily*

    LW 1: Definitely pull rank. The “we outrank her” thing in regards to control of the thermostat is gross and classist, and as Alison said, determinations about what the thermostat gets set at shouldn’t be based on rank anyway, but since they want to play the rank card, play it right back. You explained the situation and they basically said that the cleaning lady’s needs don’t matter because they (in their own minds) outrank her. I’d be a bit more sympathetic if they hadn’t pulled the “we outrank her” stuff, though I am firmly in the camp of “it’s easier to put more clothes on if you’re cold than take clothes off if you’re hot.” I do agree with Alison’s suggestion about seeing if the thermostat could be raised a degree or two, but if people still complain I think you should recommend that the next time they come they bring a sweater.

    LW 2: I think Alison’s advice is spot on. Also, I’d wager that if your boss is not doing a very basic part of his job by calling people back, he is probably also not the best boss in other ways.

  6. many bells down*

    Ugh, I used to work for a place like #2: they built homes and their “maintenance department” was a phone extension in an empty office that got checked maybe once a week. And even then, when I’d pass the messages on they were often ignored.

    It was endlessly frustrating for me, (and I was very much NOT allowed to tell people that there wasn’t really a “maintenance department” just an unmanned VM) so I had to come up with equivocation for why they’d called 6 times and never had anyone answer. It was one of many reasons why I left that job – and partly why the company imploded spectacularly a few years later.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      “Why the company imploded spectacularly a few years later.” I love your wording here. And the truth is that not answering or returning phone calls is not a sustainable business model no matter *what* your business is. I suspect OP2’s business won’t last too long. (Although I’m curious to know how old the business is now.)

      Also, OP2: your boss sucks and isn’t going to change. Sure, your boss doesn’t suck as badly as a horrible abusive boss does, but still sucks as a business owner.

  7. Happy*

    I’m surprised to see so many people thinking 68 degrees is excessively cold for an office. I thought 68 was typical room temperature (and I’m someone who always has a blanket or jacket on).

    1. Batgirl*

      Same bafflement here. Is it an air conditioning thing? Air conditioning is not common in my area, and 20 degrees is a warm summer’s day.

      1. Tau*

        Also from a country where A/C isn’t common, but I still consider 20 degrees at the absolute low end as far as acceptable room temperature goes. There’s a difference between walking around outside, where the sun is probably shining, and sitting still for longer periods. The thought that winter and summer room temperatures should be the same is also kind of weird to me, TBH. To me, 20C is a “let’s try to save on heating costs, also because it’s winter we’re all walking around in long sleeves anyway” sort of temperature.

        In the OP’s context, the fact that one of the two people who use that space constantly is doing physical labour and the other doesn’t mind does make 20C a lot more acceptable than it’d be otherwise, but I’d still check whether 21C might not be an acceptable compromise.

      2. Always Freezing in A/C*

        It’s absolutely an A/C thing. 20 C outside is a beautiful, comfortably warm summers day. 20 C inside with A/C, especially if you’re stationary at a desk and unable to move away from direct air flow is “need gloves, toque and endless supply of steaming tea to warm up my nose because a balaclava isn’t work appropriate” temperature. There’s a huge difference between a comfortable ambient outdoor temperature and artificial cold from A/C. Some people are particularly sensitive to the cold/dry air from A/C in particular.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Plus if it is especially hot out than going from the outside heat/humidity to the inside cold/AC can be miserable. I know some people say that if you go in and out enough it can make your immune system lower and make you more susceptible to colds – but I’m not sure how much research there is on that. But I was just down south where they crank the AC and I feel like I wasn’t a comfortable temp the entire time I was there because when I was outside I was sweating up a storm, but then when I went inside all that sweat got super cold and I was shivering.

          1. Sled Dog Mama*

            I don’t know about the immune system thing or getting a cold but I have definitely been physically ill from going between outside southern heat and humidity and indoor super cold AC.

    2. Teapot supervisor*

      Agreed! In the UK and I would describe 68F as mid room temperature and anything above 72f as uncomfortably warm!

    3. Allonge*

      I think it matters what the outside temperature is and how much it varies through the year because it influences what you can reasonably be wearing while getting to work and what you are used to.

      In a continental climate, if during winter you are dressed for freezing weather and walk into and sit down in 20 degrees, you take off your coat and scarf and whatnot and can still wear enough layers to make yourself comfortable in 20C. If it’s 40C (104F) outside in summer, you cannot dress in something that works in 20, you will be really uncomfortable or worse outside. But then you are cold sitting down in 20C, unless you put on an extra set of clothes, which is not always reasonable, not to mention that it’s really not healthy to have that level of temperature changes.

      It’s also not unreasonable not to want to wear a blanket at your desk.

      But mostly: people have different preferences and experiences for heat tolerance?

      1. EchoGirl*

        This one always made me crazy when I used to take the bus. No, it really wasn’t feasible for me to wear enough clothing in summer to stay warm indoors with that level of AC. And the job that was the worst for this was a call center where we didn’t have offices or even designated cubicles where we could leave such things to be used as needed — we had small lockers, but even those were shared, so leaving something in there that would take up that much space would be inconsiderate.

    4. Sc@rlettNZ*

      Same here. I live in the deep south of New Zealand and even in the middle of winter we hardly ever have the heatpump turned up past 20 degrees.

    5. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I broadly agree, although if some of these desks are situated under/near a cooling unit it is possible that the workers are being blasted with cold air semi-regularly.

    6. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

      20C is pretty standard here too, but mostly I am surprised that this people cannot simply bring in a light sweater like OP is doing. Especially after being told that there is a reason for this temperature, and especially since they are not even permanently there. To me it sounds a bit like the “lite” version of the interns trying to change the dress code. Not as egregious, but still, they really don’t have the “rank” they think they have.
      As for why some people think 20C is cold… it’s a fine temperature for me, but I’m writing from a cold country. I have a friend from Uganda and she is cold as soon as the temperature drops below 28C (which would be considered an insane heat wave here) because Uganda is apparently 28C all year round. But still, bringing in a sweater is not a burden, IMO.

      1. Prof*

        I mean…some.of us would need a snuggie with the hood wrapped around our heads and gloves at that temp. I wear fuzzy socks in the summer when it’s 78 degrees cause my feet still get cold when I’m sweating ha (yeah we set our AC high)…

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “and gloves at that temp.”

          That’s a medical condition I assume. Is treatment available? Though I get it if you don’t want drugs or therapy to deal with it, or perhaps the costs are too high.

          1. No Name Yet*

            Not to quite the same extent, but my wife has poor circulation and her fingers will absolutely turn blue/purple if the A/C is up too high…the treatment is putting on gloves. For a number of those conditions, there just isn’t anything that can be done except for layering or keeping the temperature up.

          2. NotRealAnonForThis*

            My husband has diagnosed Raynoud’s disease (primary, meaning that its not there due to some other medical condition).

            Treatments are balanced against severity. I can’t imagine how bad it would have to be in order for him to be prescribed the known medications that help (think calcium channel blockers and vasodialators; or Botox injections to block the nerves) or surgical procedures on his relevant nerves. Those all seem incredibly intrusive compared with not turning the A/C to < 70*.

            Thus far, bundling up, not keeping the house below 70*F, being aware of temperature conditions and planning accordingly, and frequent use of a steam sauna help him significantly. A battery operated vest in the winter has helped a ton (keeps core temperature up, so that his body doesn't have to work to do so and sacrifice blood flow to extremities).

          3. Always Freezing in A/C*

            I don’t have any medical condition(that I’m aware of) and am perfectly comfortable outside on a day in the high teens/low twenties (C) but the combination of being stationary at a desk and the dry blowing air from A/C means that at 20C my nose, ears and fingers are all uncomfortably cold. I absolutely would need a very warm sweater/blanket, gloves and a thick scarf around my nose and ears to be comfortable sitting stationary for any length of time at 20C in A/C.

          4. AnonToday*

            I have cold induced urticaria, and I haven’t been able to get most doctors to understand what that is, much less prescribe treatment for it. They’ve historically just bounced me back and forth between allergists and dermatologists, both of which charge specialist prices and can’t fix the problem.

          5. Bucky Barnes*

            It’s not a medical condition when air vents blow directly on your hands when you’re typing. I definitely have fingerless gloves that I wear off and on all year round.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Air-conditioned 68 degrees is not “light sweater” temperature for some of us. It’s “wool jacket, gloves, and scarf” because the a/c vents are blowing down your neck and you can’t move away from them. Think of the difference between 68 degrees in the sun and still air vs. 68 degrees in the shade and a stiff breeze: They’re both 68 degrees but they feel pretty different.

        My office is 73 and I keep a jacket here. If it’s mid-summer and the a/c is running constantly sometimes I need to bring in a heavier jacket.

        1. Cold Person*

          Yes, I have no particular medical condition but 68 climate controlled temp is super, super cold. I run cold – at 68 I’d be wearing a down vest, wool socks, lap blanket and drinking hot water. SO glad I work at home where we all run cold and don’t turn on AC until the house tops 85.

      3. pleaset cheap rolls*

        “I am surprised that this people cannot simply bring in a light sweater”

        I agree, but someone wrote above “Carrying that much clothing into the office, or leaving it there and remembering to take it home occasionally to wash it, is quite awkward when your commute involves any kind of walk.”

        It’s easy for me and you, but evidently some people find doing so a challenge.

        1. ceiswyn*

          Carrying a light sweater is easy. What many people on this thread have been pointing out is that for many people, a light sweater isn’t *nearly* enough. Would you not find it awkward to have to carry a full set of winter clothes and accessories to work every day?

    7. Bagpuss*

      I think AC does make a difference as it’s normally not a steady temp. but rather a cold wind, so if it is AC set at 68 it probably *feels* colder than that, particularly to anyone sitting in the direct line.

      That said, 68 seems reasonable to me and I would be acutely uncomfortable if it was as hot as 73.

      I do think that a small compromise to set it at perhaps 69-70 might be reasonable here, perhaps coupled with a recommendation that people bring / keep something they can put on when they come in if they feel it isn’t warm enough. (and having it lower on days when it is just you and the cleaner)

    8. Cookie D'oh*

      My husband works in facility maintenance for corporate office buildings. They set thermostats to 72 degrees. They are all locked and only the maintenance team can adjust them. They often get “hot” and “cold” calls from employees. They can adjust vents or airflow if someone has air blowing on them making them cold.

    9. Not fond of AC, nope*

      Yeah, it’s an AC thing. Artificially cooled rooms feel a lot colder than naturally cool rooms, because of the wind – indoor windchill!

      A room with a heating device set to 68 will be fine.
      A room with a cooling device set to 68 will feel freezing cold. Yes, even with an extra layer of clothing.

      I live in a country where AC thankfully is not a thing in homes, but in hotels the first thing I do is to set the thermostat higher. With AC bedrooms, I need to set it at 76-77 to be able to sleep without shivering or getting sick (tendonitis, headaches, colds and sinus problems). In a non-AC room, five degrees colder or more will be fine. The point is, being still and sitting still in an AC room is terrible if you react badly to the windchill aspect.

      In this situation, I would get sick if working in the 68 degree basement. I still think OP1 should pull rank and side with the cleaner, because that’s the decent thing to do – the others’ arguments are gross!

      It would still be a good idea to find out if any of the other worker’s are made sick, though, that would not be okay, either, but they should in NO WAY be pandered to because of their bullshit “rank” argument.

      1. I Speak for the Trees*

        Great comment! I’m the LW and, honestly because it’s the basement, the AC isn’t always running, even to keep it at 68 degrees. It stays pretty naturally cool down here.

        1. Batgirl*

          If it’s not the wind chill factor of an AC, I am really struggling to understand how it can be too cold! I did work in a basement once, and it’s true that the lack of sunshine can make it feel a bit cooler (but you’d be amazed how much the different lighting choices affects people’s perception of temperature. It could be worth switching light bulb colours). What you describe is considered bang on room temperature where I’m from (the UK), with possibly a need for a sweater as there’s no sunshine warmth. So there’s two possible explanations: 1) Culturally, this is a low temperature they aren’t used to. (I’m thinking of an evening river festival in India, seated on river banks of cold marble. My friends, British backpackers were delighted to cool down at last in shorts and tee shirts. Everyone else present was wearing a duvet, hat and coat.) Or 2) The temperature upstairs or where they normally work is different and they aren’t acclimating to it, or habitually dressing for the slight difference. I’d probably tell them pleasantly that this is the optimum basement temperature for people who work there permanently and that most people find the easiest solution is to add a sweater if they’re finding it cooler than other floors.

          1. Lemons*

            Is it really that hard to understand that different people experience temperatures, well, differently? I could never be comfortable at 20°, but it’s not hard to accept that many others would. Especially with so many of them in this thread going “no, that’s fine”.
            (Not cultural for me either; I’m also in the UK, born here, have lived nowhere else, and 25°+ is my preferred ambient temperature, where I can start to feel comfortable in short sleeves. If it were possible to adjust to my ‘native’ climate, I’d have done so by now. Some of us are just set higher.)

      2. Threeve*

        In addition to windchill, the combination of high humidity and cold (which doesn’t really happen in nature, only in air-conditioned buildings in muggy summer) feels extra chilly.

    10. an infinite number of monkeys*

      When I was 17 and moved into the dorm at the University of Texas (my parents were living in DC and northern Alabama at the time), I didn’t bring any warm clothes or bedding because of luggage constraints and because I was headed to Texas in August, so hypothermia wasn’t really on my radar.

      I was woefully unprepared for the way Texans use air conditioning. I don’t remember how long it took me to find my way to a place that sold heavy blankets and fleece sweatshirts, but I was so cold. So very, very cold.

      All my working life I’ve kept a fleece wrap at the office and a space heater under my desk. I’m pretty okay outside in the fresh air at 68 or so, but AC just hits different. My fingernails turn blue at normal office temperatures. Now we work from home and although I’m married to a native Texan, the silver lining to our power grid problems is that at least the thermostat is now set to a comfortable temperature!

    11. Anonymouse*

      I’m assuming that those people don’t live in the Southern US, where 68 in the A/C is barely tolerable. (At least to me, a post-menopausal woman. I would prefer 66.)

      1. Run mad; don't faint*

        I’m also a post-menopausal woman living in the Southern US, and I much prefer the A/C set to 74. Thermostat settings are just so individual, whether it’s a preference or a need. In this case, I do think that turning it up a degree or two in the basement is worthwhile trying, as well as considering other options, such as area heaters or (partially) closing some of the vents to make some warmer zones in the basement.

      2. biobotb*

        I’m premenopausal and have always liked it cooler. 68 degrees in the office has always felt uncomfortably warm, and I get unprofessionally flushed regularly.

    12. Cora*

      In the summer, that’s actually a waste of electricity. It’s normal for temperatures to fluctuate a bit indoors with the weather.

    13. Cappybanana*

      At 68 I’d be in physical pain (poor circulation). I don’t see why they can’t compromise and set it to 70. I used to manage cleaning and engineering staff and we certainly couldn’t require our commercial tenants to keep their spaces at low temps, however there were many interoffice thermostat wars and people generally err on the side of keeping it cooler (I kept sweaters and blankets for my legs but of course had to wear light clothes while commuting by bus/train in summer). Again, “cooler” is around 70. 68 to accommodate one person while everyone else shivers is pretty crazy to me, though I agree that the rank comment is gross.

    14. JustEm*

      I agree that 68-72 is pretty comfortable room temperature range in general, and am surprised by how many people are saying 68 is way too cold. Season and AC definitely play a role though. In winter, I set my home thermostat to 68 during the day and 64 at night, and it feels super comfortable and plenty warm. In the hottest part of summer, I generally like the AC at 76 during the day and 74 at night to feel similarly comfortable. But. If I’m working somewhere kept colder in summer, I am usually fine with a sweater… I’m surprised so many people would need gloves etc. (And I’m someone with raynaud’s phenomenon)

    15. fhqwhgads*

      I’m only surprised because we know it’s a basement. I guess the indoor temp of a basement may vary based on what equipment is in there generating heat – and if it’s a walkout basement or some such, but most of the basement basements I’ve been in wouldn’t really go above 68 on their own, even if it were 90 outside and above ground. I’d think setting the thermostat in a basement higher than 68 likely to mean the AC never turns on, but not that it’d actually get warmer.

    16. Rach*

      I live in a hot-why-do-I-live-on-the-sun state, I keep my a/c at 79, actually cooler than the temp recommended by my electric company. Currently my work is 68 degrees and it is miserable/my fingers hurt. 68 degrees is a “cold” winter’s day here, summer’s get up to 120 degrees. So I definitely think this could be dependent on one’s location as well as how hot/cold you run.

  8. Charlotte*

    Hmm–I don’t think this applies in this case because the employee was complaining about customer service rather than bigger-picture stuff, but the idea that rank-and-file nonprofit employees can’t criticize donor corps rubs me the wrong way.
    Like, my previous nonprofit job, I think we got some money from Amazon–but I don’t think that buys them a free pass to avoid legitimate criticism of their labor practices.
    Obviously it would be wiser to not link it so openly to your job, but I can see a case where an employee posts on their personal social media, which does not mention their employer, but it’s clear from Googling them where they work. Are they not supposed to criticize any corporation under their real name? What about, say, going to a protest against the environmental practices of an oil company whose CEO is a major donor to the employer?

    1. Anon for this*

      Yeah, I’m in a tough position, I work for company A, who has a contract with company B. And company B is trying to buy company C. And I really don’t support the transaction. and I feel pressure from others in the company to support it. And since I use services provided by company C and know what company B is like. I’m just like Nope, not something I can support. Just very quietly.
      And I worry that if people from work saw anti-purchase stuff on Facebook I could get into trouble from it. Even though I’m not even allowed to say which company I’m working for.

    2. Retail Not Retail*

      We have orgs with politics I disagree with pay for public events – I’m not in marketing or social media, but do I need to make sure that nothing pro-gay is on my social media just because X company gives us money?

      1. Allonge*

        That would be waay too much for me. Direct criticism of an org, called out by name is not the same as we will not tolerate a different viewpoint from theirs.

      2. Malika*

        Below i offer the comparison to the footballer Ronaldo criticizing a soda beverage company that was sponsoring his tournament during a press conference. I think if he encourages healthy living and drinking water instead of soda drinks on his social media, it is not a criticism but espousing his private and generalized view. Demonstratively sweeping soda bottles of the sponsor from his table in a public event is counter productive.

        The same goes for the non-famous. I feel you can share your pro-gay views and encourage your readers to support the cause. There are lots of aspects within this subject you can highlight and will further the cause without specifically calling out the political party that gives your organization financial backing.

    3. Allonge*

      I think people have to make a choice in these cases. Is it more important to make (legit) criticism under your own name, in public, or is it more important to be an employee in good standing?

      I think it’s important that companies are called out on bad practices. Doing so while being paid (even indirectly) by that company is not a right though.

    4. I'd Rather be Eating Dumplings*

      Agreed. I think you’re right that the substance of the complaints is important. OP’s example (saying that they need to ‘get their act together’ and talking about the customer service) feels qualitatively different than a thoughtful criticism of labour practices. I don’t think the latter should be unacceptable.

      A grey area for me is how the size of the org factors in. Amazon is a behemoth and it’s understood that you can complain about their practices without impugning the marketing specialist you liaise with (for example). But with a smaller org, even general complaints might feel more personal and therefore impact the relationship. I’ve no experience in donor relations so I’m not sure!

      1. Retail Not Retail*

        On the one hand, those comments can sound petty. On the other, we don’t know how the customer service was or what happened. A big local employer has their name all over my non profit. They recently screwed up in a personal order – if they’d been really rude (they weren’t), would we have been out of line to say, hey i think people should use competitor, this branch was rude? (We won’t be using them personally but they’re the kind of business companies use mostly.)

        1. misspiggy*

          Yes, I think so. You could have contacted their customer services privately, but if they know you work for an organisation funded by them and you’re publicly criticising them, that could jeopardise the work your organisation does.

        2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          I think it depends, TBH. OP’s example of “X needs to get their act together” isn’t a particularly diplomatic or useful way of offering an online critique. If someone is a donor, I think it’s fair for an employer to expect a more thoughtful comment (eg: “I found customer service difficult to reach and would have appreciated a quicker turn-around” — or whatever).

          The other thing is with a personal relationship and a local employer, it might be reasonable for them to expect you to first raise the complaint with them before airing it online.

    5. Bagpuss*

      I think it’s more that she shouldn’t be criticizing them from an account where she is clearly and explicitly linked to her workplace.

      If you couldn’t tell from her social media accounts where she worked, then I don’t think that the fact she was an employee should prevent her from being critical.

      I think the issue of whether she can be linked depends on how much effort is needed to make that link –

      1. hbc*

        Exactly. She is promoting the program and connected to a lot of program-related people on her social media account(s), and then ragging on the sponsors. If you don’t want your employer having a say in what you post, then you don’t present yourself as a representative of that employer in that medium. It’s pretty simple.

        1. GothicBee*

          This. I mean, I disagree with a lot of donors to my organization (heck, I disagree with my organization on a lot of things), but I need my job, so I avoid posting stuff on my FB account where I list my employer (and I don’t really use FB anyway, otherwise I wouldn’t be linked to them). On other social media accounts where I’m more active, I don’t link myself to my employer in any way.

          It’s like how IRL I would happily criticize my employer or a donor in private conversation with a friend or family member, but I wouldn’t do that in public while wearing a shirt emblazoned with my employer’s logo.

    6. twocents*

      I think there’s a difference between “maybe we got some money from the Amazon Smiles program” and “Amazon is deliberately sponsoring this event that you, Critical Employee, are responsible for being the public face of.”

      Criticizing Amazon in the first is whatever. Criticizing Amazon in the second is jeopardizing the non-profit’s success and your job… It’s so stupid that I understand Alison questioning the employee’s overall judgement.

    7. Colette*

      If the place you work depends on money from an organization, publicly criticizing that organization in a way that is easily traced to your workplace is a terrible idea, and can get you fired (or laid off, if the organization you criticize decides to stop giving your workplace money).

      There’s an expression about not biting the hand that feeds you that applies here. If you think the organization is so terrible that you need to criticize them publicly, maybe you shouldn’t be taking their money and instead find a new job.

    8. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I had the same thought (as someone who works with donors/sponsors). I think it’s pretty cut and dry to say “you can’t complain about your bad personal customer experience”, but it gets trickier if the complaints are about unethical business practices. Like, obviously it’s a bad idea for this employee to have a public rant about a slow Amazon delivery (plus it just makes them look petty), but what about thoughtful commentary on Amazon’s business practices and the harm it does to communities and individuals?

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        Does it make the critic look more or less ethical and credible to continue deriving income from the company they are criticizing while that company promotes the employer the critic is identified with?

        The more the evil entity deserves to be criticized, the less appropriate it appears for the critic to play both sides.

    9. Sacred Ground*

      You don’t HAVE to announce your employer on social media. Post anything you want under your own name. But if your employer’s name is attached to your account, then you have to be sensitive to that. It seems reasonable to me to ask an employee to not do anything that would embarrass the org. If they want to keep posting complaints about sponsors then they can simply remove their employer’s name from their personal account.

  9. John Smith*

    #2, I’d be interested to know what your boss is like in other areas, like how he treats staff. My manager ignores calls, messages, texts etc as he thinks answering them is beneath him (he’s said as much – he won’t even go to answer the front door if we have a visitor unless it’s a VIP).

    1. In the Parking Garage*

      Yes, I had a boss that did this and he was an ass. The initial calls mostly came to our front desk (who frequently just put the company phones on silent) so people just started pushing buttons until they got to me. I was in sales and we always answered. I just started telling callers that his voicemail was full but his work hours were x-y and they should try again during those hours. It was beyond frustrating.

      1. John Smith*

        And me, but it’s one he uses and made it even more hateful by insisting the P should stand for position and not person.

        God, there are times when I think I would chuck a bottle of water on him if he were on fire, but I’d want the cost of the water back with interest.

  10. LizM*

    I think you can pull rank while still supporting the cleaning person.

    “We want it warmer, and we outrank the cleaning person!”

    “Our organization doesn’t really work that way. But even if we went by hierarchy, I’m a permanent employee, and I’d prefer it be on the cooler side so that Sarah is comfortable, since she’s the one who is moving around the most, and is in this space permanently, like me.”

    On the other hand, have you talked to the cleaning person? I agree with others, 68 is pretty chilly, especially if it’s significantly warmer outside. I get really chilled if I’m outside in the heat and then come into a cold room while still slightly sweaty. Would she be willing to compromise and bump it up a few degrees?

  11. AssistantToBeelzebub*

    LW2: I have the exact same type of boss and job as you. All you can really do is apologize and offer to take their name, number, and a message. If they try to scream and rage at you, just calmly repeat “I’m sorry but Bob isn’t available right now. I can take a message if you would like.” If they keep screaming over you or demanding answers you don’t have, just keep repeating your offer to take a message. If you aren’t already, keep a timestamped log of all calls and give it to your boss at the beginning of the next work day. There is nothing else you can do. Don’t beat yourself up or let other people beat you up about it.

    1. AnonInCanada*

      No matter how thick your skin is, some of these demanding types will stop at nothing until the boss is on the line. And yes, this will greatly affect OP, who has to be put up with this, and will demoralize them. I’ve been in this position myself — boss who would deflect, defer, delay, and distance himself from clients, and I have to be the one who had to deal with the angry calls. Thankfully, he’s not the boss anymore. :-)

      1. OhNo*

        If that ends up being the case frequently, then the LW can set a policy (maybe in consultation with the boss, maybe not) that they will get off the phone after X minutes.

        I’ve had to do that before when I worked in a call center – I was allowed to hang up on people, though it was discouraged, and I had a few customers who thought they could just demand to be transferred to a supervisor and refuse to hang up until I complied. After five minutes or so, I would just say, “I have your number and will note that you called for XYZ. If you don’t wish to leave a specific message, I’ll have to hang up now.”, give them a few seconds to bluster about how I wasn’t allowed to do that, then follow through.

      2. Clogerati*

        I have a similar job (and now, unfortunately, I am also the one that people call to complain about not hearing back from) and sometimes you just have to hang up or put them on hold. There are ways to semi-politely do it, but at the end of the day being abused by someone on the phone isn’t actually what your job is.

    2. Jean*

      THIS. LW2, I know it sucks to be the one receiving these types of vibes from callers, but you just need to practice not internalizing it. You aren’t doing anything wrong here. Keep your tone neutral and repeat your response of choice. And I suggest you look for a new job too, because your boss may not be in business much longer if this is how he treats his clients.

    3. Clogerati*

      Same. It’s annoying but you can’t internalize it.

      I said in another comment that after being promoted and taking over some of the duties my boss had been neglecting I’ve now become someone that *some* of our clients call to complain about not getting a response from and I have learned that a huge number of those callers have wildly unrealistic expectations (e.g. emailing me at 7 PM on a Friday and calling 5 x on Sunday demanding to know why they haven’t heard back from me yet about an absolutely non-priority item).

      Once I saw the other side of the situation it was easier to give my boss some grace and not be as upset about being “stuck” with angry phone calls from clients.

  12. MK*

    OP5, your assumption that you did better than the hire but they got the job because of the recommendation sounds really off to me. Unless the recommendation was really a veiled command from a higher up, it’s probably a case of the two of you being more or less equally good and the recommendation pushing them ahead.

    1. OP5*

      I think the reason I latched on to that is the recruiter belongs to the company and when the recruiter expressed her disappointment that they went with the other candidate she said something along the lines of “you both did amazing but the other candidate came with a referral.” Which is why I assumed (maybe incorrectly) that the referral must have been amazing or from someone important… but obviously I don’t have that information. The bottom line is the same regardless, but I like to speculate haha

      1. Snailing*

        I’d think it was more that you both were neck and neck and the referral pushed it over the edge for the other candidate, but really there are so many criteria that go into hiring and each role has those criteria weighed differently, so it really just depends on how this company weighs a referral for this role.

        But even though you didn’t get this particular role, it’s really bolstering that you were given such high praise! And that they want to stay in touch for future opportunities – it means you could get an extra leg up the next time they have an open slot, or even just confidence-boost for other companies and positions you apply for!

      2. Reba*

        To me it reads like you two were both great candidates, but since only one could be hired they needed some kind of tiebreaker, and that was the referral. Better that than flipping a coin, I guess?

        We have no way of knowing, also, if the referral was actually a strong recommendation or more like (what I’ve seen in a lot of places) a current employee saying to a friend or contact, “hey you seem alright, you should apply and use this link and I might get a lil bonus”!

        It’s natural to want to puzzle out the clues in these interactions, but take this at face value. It’s not so much that the referral is this incredibly powerful thing, necessarily, more that it was a difference between you when they were looking for reasons to choose.

        1. meyer lemon*

          Yes, it sounds like they were struggling to make a decision and may have been left feeling a bit uncertain that they had made the right choice. It’s a lot easier when one person is clearly the front-runner. I’m not sure that it was really in your best interest to share that level of detail, though–just saying that it was very close and they wanted to hire both of you would have got the point across.

    2. B. iologist*

      Many years ago, we hired the better person, but the second choice was also wonderful. We couldn’t get another position. I think of her all the time, and hope she got a great job. She never applied here again.

  13. Writing from Europe*

    LW 1 – Writing from Europe here to offer some perspective: 68 degrees would be considered unreasonably cold here and frankly totally irresponsible in terms of respect for the environment. The norm is to keep offices at 78 degrees, especially in public institutions. No reasonable person would question that. In some *rare* cases like gyms or sports facilities you could probably go as low as 72, but that’s really the exception. I guess we just accept that – yeah – summer is warm, and it will get even warmer year after year if we keep our offices/houses at ridiculously low temperatures. Same goes for heating during the winter btw, we use it with moderation for the exact same reasons.

    1. Observer*

      The norm is to keep offices at 78 degrees, especially in public institutions. No reasonable person would question that.

      If you mean that in Europe no one who wants to appear reasonable would question it, I believe you. But to say that it’s actually the only objectively reasonable stance is simply wrong. Objectively. Because what is “reasonably cool” depends on many factors and in many situations, it really is too warm for people.

      1. Writing from Europe*

        Yes, of course warm/cold is a matter of perception. But what I meant is that we are trying to move away from simply considering what is “comfortable” for people as individuals and factor in long-term implications for the planet (and humanity) as a whole. It is really the day-today choices that can make a huge difference.

        1. Anononon*

          That’s not actually true about the day to day choices. About 100 companies are responsible for 70% of emissions causing climate change. While it’s good for people to be aware of their impact, the whole movement of “we can all chip in to make a difference” really just plays into the hands of those companies and shifts the blame from them.

          1. twocents*

            So based on your comment, it is true. Those companies have the most impact, but that doesn’t mean every one else has no impact and that the choices we make don’t matter

            1. Anononon*

              But that’s the thing. When it comes to reversing climate change, our individual choices won’t matter if we don’t focus on the bigger picture. Guilting people over several degrees on a thermostat is what the big oil companies want.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Sure, but still, we can each do our part. Even if those 100 companies were to suddenly go carbon-free and fully embrace sustainable development, we still ought to do our part.
            It’s like people saying they don’t want to ride a bike because of emissions. Until there are enough people riding bikes instead of cars, emissions won’t go down.

            1. meyer lemon*

              I don’t disagree with this in principle, but as a matter of practicality, most people have a finite amount of time/energy/inclination to concern themselves with climate change on a day-to-day basis. It’s easy to dump most of that energy into the “personal responsibility” bucket because it feels more immediate and rewarding to us. So I think it is still a helpful message that collective action has a much more profound impact than individual choices.

        2. Observer*

          Yes, of course warm/cold is a matter of perception.

          That’s actually not true. I’m not saying that perception makes no difference at all. But it is simply not the case that this is the primary driver. There is plenty of science on the matter.

          It’s all good and fine to worry about the planet as a whole. But that doesn’t make it “reasonable” to claim that everyone is going to be JUST FINE at that temperature.

          And while some people might consider it “sensible”, I think that any attempt to “save the planet” that depends on ignoring the health needs – and this is NOT just about “optimal comfort” but actual health – of a subset of the population is HUGELY problematic.

        3. nothing rhymes with purple*

          This is a good demonstration of how the burden of those day-to-day choices usually plays out, often weighing heaviest on those with the fewest resources to start with. Just as vegans who drive large cars feel entitled to scold omnivores who can’t afford cars and so take public transit, so does the decision to keep the temperature at 78 ‘for the good of the planet’ disproportionately affect the cleaner who has the fewest resources in the first place, especially if overheating makes her ill.

      2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        In the US. This is lifted directly off a energy company website. “Energy Star (a federal program) recommends you never set your thermostat lower than 78 degrees while you’re home. It suggests setting the temp to 85 while you’re gone, and 82 while you sleep.”
        Personally I think you sleep better with it cooler so 82 seems high to me. But i can vouch in a mid west state I have my temp set at 78 degrees and only 1 room gets a little stuffy on sunny days. With a fan running it feels several degrees cooler. And the minute i can turn the ac off and open windows I do. I had a programable thermostat at the last house and would up the AC or down the heat by a few degrees at night of if I was gone for the day.

        1. Observer*

          “Energy Star (a federal program) recommends you never set your thermostat lower than 78 degrees while you’re home. It suggests setting the temp to 85 while you’re gone, and 82 while you sleep.”

          Yeah, and almost no one follows the Energy Star recommendations. Even publicly funded places like Municipal libraries (where this kind of expenditure gets HIGHLY scrutinized) do not keep the temperature at 85deg. It’s a standard that was set with no real thought about the actual potential impact.

          In fact, keeping the temperature at the level in the workplace is almost certainly illegal. From the OSHA site:

          OSHA’s recommendations for workplace air treatment set federal standards for temperature and humidity levels. Regardless of business size, the minimum temperature for indoor workplaces is 68 degrees Fahrenheit and the maximum is 76 degrees Fahrenheit.

          Keep in mind that the OSHA standards are actually legally binding. And if there were any solid evidence that this range was too narrow in either direction, business would be fighting it.

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            Chuckle. OHSA obviously never visits slaughter houses. I worked in one where it could easily get to 90-100 degrees on the floor.

            1. Observer*

              OHSA obviously never visits slaughter houses. I worked in one where it could easily get to 90-100 degrees on the floor.

              There are a LOT of places that don’t follow the law. Not just about temperatures. We know that. That doesn’t really change the fundamental point.

              1. Rach*

                I’m not sure how it works but it is legal not to be in that window in many industries, warehouses and meat packing places all keep temps way higher than 76. My husband worked for a warehouse that didn’t have a/c in a state that regularly gets to 120 in the summer!

    2. AcademiaNut*

      East Asia here, and the same, except that it’s mandated by law for public offices (and public environments like stores). I’m not sure I could physically get my AC to 18 C when it’s 37 C outside.

      I remember when I worked in California, keeping a fleecy shirt and heavy socks in my office, and drinking hot liquids to warm up, because it was absolutely freezing in there, and then walking outside to blazing sun and 38C. I haven’t encountered the really icy A/C thing anywhere other than the US, and I’ve visited multiple continents in summer.

      I generally run fairly warm (people come up to me in the street in winter, and ask my why I’m not cold). However, I find that icy cold inside and blazing hot outside makes the heat so much harder to handle.

      1. Pennyworth*

        I think it is unhealthy, too, to be going abruptly from hot to cold like that. I remember years ago there was research into office temperatures which found they were often uncomfortably cold for women in Summer because the temperature was set to suit men in suits.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes, I didn’t have any problem with the heat in India the first time I went. There was no AC anywhere except the bank in Bombay (where we were shivering). But places were designed to keep cool: I remember buildings with latticed walls that prevented the sun from getting in yet let a cool breeze through, and everyone had a fan going, and people would routinely serve you glasses of cold water any time you arrived anywhere. It’s the sudden change which is not at all natural and does you right in.

        Nowadays when I visit my in-laws in the Middle East, first thing I do arriving anywhere is look for the air con and keep well away from it. They actually turn the thermostat down further for me, thinking “she’s from a cold country”. Then you go outside and it’s unbearable.

    3. missmesmer*

      Also from Europe (a country where we don’t have AC everywhere), I agree. 68F outside can be quite chilly when the sun is not shining, I imagine that with AC on, which is blowing even cooler air to even it out, it can be even worse. The whole ‘we outrank the cleaning lady’ is gross but to me, the cleaning lady is asking for a very low temperature and I am sure there is a happy medium here somewhere.

      1. Alica*

        This conversation has just made me realise how different A/C makes things. I would say England considers 20C to be room temperature, but that’s because generally we’re not artificially cooling said room to get there. I have always thought what other countries consider to be room temperature to be unreasonably high, but with cool air circulating I can see how it would be higher! Our office gets super warm in summer due to how it’s built (no A/C), so I’m actually loving the fact that due to COVID having the windows and doors open is a thing! 25C is more bearable when the air is moving. It’s a frequent battle between me and a colleague in usual times, as I melt above 25C and she won’t even take her cardy off until about 28C. Unfortunately when I get that hot I feel physically ill, so it’s a very real issue. (small office, there are 7 of us, comprising of the main office and the bosses’ office, so we can’t work in separate rooms.)

        Whereas my house is a cold spot, so as I am wfh today I am happily sat in shorts and a tshirt with the thermostat reading 19.5C. Lovely and sunny out, I’ve got my bedlinen pegged out! Best of both worlds.

        1. missmesmer*

          Whoa! I think in my current country of residence 28C is considered ‘hot work’ when the employer needs to take action by either cooling the space or limiting work hours. For desk jobs, the recommended ambient temperature is within 21-25C. 68F is definitely below what I would be comfortable with, especially if I am dressed for extra 10C outside.

          I happen to have worked as a cleaner in the past and currently working a desk job, so I can kinda understand both sides of the argument. It’s fair to want a cooler space when you’re moving a lot, but also it’s not unreasonable to not want to wear a blanket in the office. I’m sure there is a reasonable compromise to be found.

          1. Alica*

            This raises another difference is that unless it is unseasonably warm, a warm summer’s day in England is low 20s, so the temperature inside and out is not dramatically different (today it is about 22C out). You will have your days when it is getting more towards 30s but they tend to be rare. Monday, it was 15C and chucking it down all day. So you’re not walking from super warm to dramatically colder, which I suspect changes things more than you would think.

            Whereas in mid summer in Italy, my auntie was suspicious of why all of a suddent my uncle wanted to go into H&M, until she realised it had air conditioning….

            1. londonedit*

              Yes – I’m sitting here in a t-shirt dress, bare legs, with the windows and door open and I’m not at all cold. It’s about 22 degrees here, too, but the next few days are going to creep up into ‘too warm for me’ territory, nudging 30 (last year when we had temperatures of over 35 degrees for a week I was absolutely miserable and only pleased I didn’t have to get on the tube to go to work…)

              I also grew up in a house where you were told to put a jumper or a pair of socks on before even thinking about putting the heating on (my family were fairly well-off, it’s not a money thing, it’s a British thing). But I’ve lived with people who wanted the heating on at 25C all the time so they could walk around in a strappy top in December.

              1. UKDancer*

                Same. I’m sitting in my flat which is apparently 22 degrees and the external temperature is about 20 degrees. I’m wearing a dress and have bare legs and this is what I’d call pleasant summer weather. They’re threatening 29 degrees on Sunday which is too warm for me. In that temperature I get the small electric fan down and direct it towards myself.

                I grew up in a similar sort of house to Londonedit where you used layers to warm up. My central heating is on a timeclock so it comes on in the evenings and mornings if it’s below 21 degrees. During the summer it mostly doesn’t come on at all.

                I’ve never lived anywhere with air conditioning but we do have it at work. No clue what it’s set at. On very hot days I always assess whether it’s better enduring the heat on the journey in and out for the coolness when you get there.

                1. Just delurking to say...*

                  These comments are confirming my suspicion that an average British summer is much the same thing as an average Brisbane winter.

                  (For the record, our office temp is 23C, which is comfy now but will probably feel a bit on the cool side in a few months.)

                2. Batgirl*

                  I have never heard of a house where people would put the heating on before putting a jumper on. The jumper is free! In our house we also have snuggle blankets on the couch. So much more comfortable than drying the air out with heating. Once it’s April-October, mother nature is in charge of the temperature, though I would say some summers do require a fan. I suppose we’re lucky in that respect.

            2. allathian*

              Yes, the same thing’s true for Finland. That said, English homes are cold in the winter, or at least they were in the mid-80s when I lived there as a kid.

              1. londonedit*

                Finnish houses are so wonderfully well-insulated! Which I suppose they need to be to withstand some of the winter weather. I think British houses are generally built for the sort of middling temperatures we tend to get – newly built homes are much more well-insulated now, because everyone wants to conserve heat and not spend a ton of money on heating bills, as well as it being better for the environment, but the trouble is that a lot of British housing stock, especially in cities, is a couple of hundred years old and it’s hard to retro-fit proper insulation to something like a Victorian terraced house.

                1. Forrest*

                  It’s also moisture, apparently! It’s only recently that we’ve had the kind of heat exchange technology that allows you build fully insulated buildings in Britain and Ireland and still be able to have decent air circulation and avoid damp. Northern Europe is a lot drier, so they could have double-glazing and much more tightly-closed houses much earlier.

                2. Tau*

                  Yeah, I’m German and lived in the UK for university and later work. You should have seen my parents’ faces at some of the places I rented! You could basically read “Are we sure this is legal for human habitation??” off their expression!

                  It’s not just an old/new building thing, it’s also that old buildings in the UK can afford to keep the old single-glazed windows and not refurbishing to add insulation because it doesn’t get that cold. In most places in Germany, it is totally possible for a cold snap in winter to knock you down to -20C (happened this winter), and in that case if your place isn’t insulated well your pipes will freeze.

                3. UKDancer*

                  @Tau I can believe it. Nothing was as cold as the winter I spent as a student studying in Germany. It was about -15 degrees and the snow settled and lay for about a month. I had to get my parents to send out more thermal clothing. By and large the UK doesn’t have extremes of weather so it’s fairly mild and a bit damp for most of the year.

                  I can also relate to having lived in some complete dumps as a student. I think it’s a rite of passage. Still unlike in the hall of residence in Germany, nobody in English university lodging told me off for folding my laundry incorrectly and not using my fridge shelf properly. German wohnheims have a lot of rules!

              2. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

                They are! I live in Norway and I was in Bath one November. I’ve never been so cold in my life, but I suspect it was because the house did not have proper heating and insulation. Apparently, if it is a historical house you are not allowed to make any modification, not even to install modern windows with double glass panes.

                1. londonedit*

                  It depends. Historic buildings can be what’s called ‘listed’, and there are varying degrees of listing (Grade II is the lowest, then Grade I and there’s also a Grade I* for buildings of very high national importance). If you own a listed building then you can’t make any changes to the outside of the building – and with Grade I listing, often not to the inside of the building – without going through a specific planning process and getting special approval, and there are lots of conditions you have to adhere to. So you definitely wouldn’t be able to install standard modern uPVC double-glazed windows in a listed house, but you probably would be able to install specially made wooden double-glazed windows that looked like the traditional ones. However, those are obviously going to be several times more expensive, and since we don’t tend to have horrendously cold winters, many people would just put up with the single-glazed windows (which will also probably be quite attractive and traditional).

                2. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

                  @londonedit thanks for the explanation! I was staying in a house where supposedly general Nelson had stayed, so definitely listed! But I was told by people living in more modern houses that it still common, for example, to not have heating in the bathroom. But it might have been another Bath thing, because that town is almost entirely made of historical buildings, it seems. I guess if you grow up there you’re used to it, but I admit, when I was packing I was totally thinking “I’m from Norway, how cold can it be”. Learned my lesson. Fast.

                3. UKDancer*

                  I think it depends on the bathroom and how modern it is whether its heated although there’s an element of personal choice.

                  Mine is a fairly modern one and when I bought the flat it had a heated towel rail. It also now has underfloor heating because I like warm toes after a shower so I had it put in when I had the bathroom re-decorated. My parents have also got heated towel rails in theirs. I think this is because we all like warm towels after a bath or shower.

                  My grandfather (in a much older house) didn’t have heating in the bathroom and never felt the lack.

                  I’d expect most modern places to have some form of bathroom heating nowadays because it’s what people expect them to have although it may be an electric towel rail rather than full central heating. If it’s a listed building then it may be more difficult to retrofit.

        2. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

          I am also a bit surprised, because I grew up in northern Italy and 20C is pretty standard there. Is there someone who prefers 21C? Definitely, but I don’t think anyone would call 20 “cold” either. I also have no idea what the law says about office temperatures, though.
          OTOH, here in Norway 20C is warm, but is an acceptable indoor temperature for the winter.
          That said, there is definitely a difference between 20C natural temperature and 20C with AC! I don’t know why, but there is! And of course the biggest factor is the difference between those 20C and the outdoor temperature, so I’m starting to believe that OP’s office location is relevant info here.

        3. Forrest*

          I think moisture makes a really big difference too, especially between indoor and outdoor weather. A wet 17 degrees sucks the warmth out of buildings the way a dry 8 degrees doesn’t. I know so many people who’ve lived in temperatures that are technically much colder than the UK (Midwest, Scandinavia, even Canada) but who ~feel~ like English and Scottish cold is colder because it’s so much harder to stay warm in damp weather.

          1. londonedit*

            Definitely. We also very rarely get properly dry, hot weather – instead when we get higher temperatures they tend to come with high humidity that eventually ends in a thunderstorm. That’s what I dislike most – I can deal with 30 degrees if it’s a lovely dry summery day with a light breeze, but most of the time if it’s 30 degrees here it’s also muggy and humid and you just end up sweating.

          2. Batgirl*

            It’s true that it’s harder to stay warm, but it’s not difficult to. Not if you have access to constant cups of tea, an umbrella and decent wool.

            1. Forrest*

              I am the queen of finding geelong and cashmere secondhand, and am currently knitting a cashmere jumper! I don’t have a problem when I’ve got my walk to work to get my heartrate up, but working from home I’ve found it so much hard to get warm in the morning and have mostly been nicking my 6yo’s glow-in-the-dark unicorn blanket.

          3. biobotb*

            Yeah, I live in a damp area of the U.S. West Coast, and I get colder at warmer temperatures here than I did when I lived in the Northeast, because the air was so much drier there. I could run around in a heavy shirt when it was in the 20s there, and here I’m shivering and looking for a coat in the 40s.

      2. Susie Q*

        But the OP isn’t from Europe. European standards (which don’t exist) because Europe is a continent filled with lots of different countries and standards of practice don’t apply.

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      I think there’s a pretty large difference between situations where you turn up the heating to reach the desired temperature and those where you turn up the A/C or turn down the heating.

    5. Bagpuss*

      Whereabouts in Europe? I’m in the UK and 78 seems excessively warm to me – are you in Southern Europe?

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yep… 78 would definitely be in “free ice-cream in canteen due to heat” territory in my last office.

        1. Forrest*

          I think this is coming from someone in a warm place talking about not being allowed to use energy to bring the indoor temperature right down. So the temperature might well be lower than 25 degrees some of the time, but if it’s 30+ outside, you can’t shut all the windows and crank up the aircon to get the indoor temp down to 23c.

          I haven’t spent much time in southern Europe, but I’ve been in Portugal during a massive heatwave with temps in the mid-40s, and indoors it was rarely more than a comfortable 25-26 just because they were old houses built to keep cool without aircon. I think that’s a very different experience to an office which has either been heated to 25c or has a massive window in direct sunlight or something, which is about the only way you get indoor temps of 25c in the UK!

    6. Akcipitrokulo*

      Also Europe.

      No, it’s not unreasonably cold!

      20c (68f) would be thought of as comfortable in offices I’ve been in. Legal min temp is 16c (~61f) and going up above 23-24 (~74f) would have us hoping managers would do an ice cream run!

      I’m not familiar with farenheit – when I realised the complaint was that 20c was too cold I was a little stunned.

      So disagree Europe thinks it’s cold :)

    7. Susie Q*

      Europe is an incredibly large place. I doubt this is the norm across all the different countries and locations in Europe. Especially given the other comments from the UK stating lower temperatures are more common.

      1. londonedit*

        Absolutely – in Portugal when it’s 22 degrees in February all the British people will be out in t-shirts and shorts while the Portuguese people are in coats and hats!

      2. Willis*

        This. Obviously some people like it warmer, some people like it colder, and there is some ability to adjust what you wear to account for that. I think the point here is that there’s two groups at the OP’s office who fall in different camps and both are within a generally reasonable range. Regardless of what the customs are in another country or how much anyone could argue back and forth, customs and arguments don’t make one group warmer or the other cooler. I agree with Alison that the full-time employees’ preferences should ultimately take precedent, but that there may be room for some compromise at a midpoint, or maybe space heaters or desk rearrangement if that’s something that will help (which depends on the space and info we don’t have in the letter).

    8. meyer lemon*

      But it’s hard to generalize about temperatures because it really depends on your climate and the construction of the building. In a basement, in a cooler climate, you might have to add heat to reach 78 degrees.

    9. fhqwhgads*

      But it’s a basement. It’s almost certainly not totally irresponsible in terms of respect to the environment, because it’s pretty unlikely the basement needs a ton of AC to stay at 68. If anything, to get it up to 73 might involve turning on the heat.

      1. Rach*

        It definitely depends on the state, in my state, you have to run a/c to get cool temps in the basement. When it is 110 outside, the basement isn’t going to stay cool.

  14. Siv*

    She is asking for a very low temperature. And they are asking for one that is more in line with normal although to me still is on the cool side. They are not being unreasonable or asking for a high temperature whatsoever. I would leave it alone. When she comes in maybe she can lower it and then when they come they can raise it. That’s if a compromise doesn’t work. I would not pull rank on something like this.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I think they are being unreasonable because they say they out rank her even though they are not permanent employees and she is, and the company does t work in that way. I do think that they could meet in the middl

      1. Morning Glory*

        Just because their reasoning is bad doesn’t mean their request is unreasonable.

        1. Batgirl*

          I think it is unreasonable to change the temperature on a manual worker who absolutely has to be there, and who presumably can’t shed more layers… for the sake of people who wander in occasionally and who could put on a cardigan.

          1. Morning Glory*

            And I think that 68 is unreasonably cold. I have worked many active jobs where the temperature is 70-75 like in restaurants where we needed customers to be comfortable while we were moving around with heavy trays. This is not not some crazy proposition, it is very common. A lot of people can’t just put on a sweater in a cold room and feel comfortable; your hands get cold and stiff, your face and ears get cold. That’s not even considering the environmental impacts of blasting the AC unnecessarily.

            If this was a question where the contractors weren’t being snobby jerks, I think way fewer people would be on the side of a cold building. It’s come up quite a bit as a gendered issue in the past and most commenters have not sided with the ‘don’t worry about your chattering teeth, put on a sweater!’ mindset.

            1. Dahlia*

              But it’s a basement! OP says they’re barely running the air conditioning. To get it to 73 they’d probably have to turn the heat on in the middle of summer. Surely that’s LESS environmentally friendly.

            2. Batgirl*

              There isn’t any AC according to the OP, it’s just room temperature conditions. I agree that blasting the AC would be a very cold chilly environment.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      This is ignoring the fact that her job has a physical labor aspect to it, making a lower temperature much more necessary. And yes, she can lower it when she comes in, but if she’s just been running our doing her job it’s much better to walk into an area that is already cooled than into one that is going to feel suffocating to her and she then has to wait to get down to a temperature she needs. And I disagree that she’s asking for a very low temperature. It’s still within the OSHA recommendation (albeit on the lowest end). For me 73 would be miserable, and I don’t even have a physically-involved job.

    3. biobotb*

      I think this underscores how individuals find different temperatures. 68 to me seems like a very middle-of-the-road temperature, neither hot nor notably cold. Super comfortable. I personally would consider above 70 degrees inside to be a remarkably warm, very uncomfortable temperature. If I’m moving around, like the cleaner is, I’d be unprofessionally sweaty and possibly a little woozy at 70.

    4. MarieHasLeft*

      I used to clean houses and anything above 71 made me feel like I was going to collapse after a while. I think around 70 would be a good compromise, but I absolutely do think they are asking for an unreasonably high temperature when there’s someone doing manual labor around.

  15. Batgirl*

    Same bafflement here. Is it an air conditioning thing? Air conditioning is not common in my area, and 20 degrees is a warm summer’s day.

    1. Analyst Editor*

      If the air conditioner isn’t blowing on you it’s great. If you’re sitting under the vent, it gets really cold.

      1. SarahKay*

        So true. I’m in the UK, my manager is from the US originally. I’ve been on calls with US teams where I’ve said it’s too warm here at 25-30C (77-85F) and the US people have sounded surprised. Then my manager chips in to say that I’m in the UK and we have central heat but no air-con, and everyone makes understanding “Ohhh” noises.

    2. quill*

      I’m in the southwest of the US currently, and we are going to make it to 91 F / 33 C during the work day today.

      This is a somewhat higher than average but very common august temperature where I grew up in the upper midwest, and it’s currently a cooler than the rest of the week summer day where I am in the desert.

      If 20 is warm for you and not like, a minimum for actual summer temps, you simply live where you have not needed AC!

  16. My name is... Tweety*

    OP1: have you asked the cleaning lady if she wants you to die on this hill for her? All we know from the question is she prefers 68 degrees and will set it there if it’s left up to her. That’s a far cry from “this is really important to her” and even further from “she wants somebody to use work capital on this.” Don’t fight to to keep the temp low unless you actually know she wants you to.

    1. JustEm*

      Good point! She might be totally fine with 70 even if she prefers 68. I think asking her makes sense, especially since it sounds like OP let the other people know the low temp was because of the cleaning lady.

  17. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    In my old office, thermostat wars were real. But this was partly because there was one thermostat for far too large a space, and there were warmer and colder regions of the office depending on how near you were to the unit and how near the enormous plate glass windows.

    In the end, a compromise was reached wherein the company provided a bunch of sweaters for the employees in the coolest regions, and tried to rearrange the seating plan so those who felt warmer didn’t sit in the warmest regions.

    For what it’s worth, I set my house thermostat to 18°C (65°F, heating only, no A/C) and my car’s A/C no higher than 21°C (70°F) so I’m sympathetic to the cleaner’s definitions of “too hot”. But it is miserable to sit in an office that feels too cold, especially if you have any circulation issues, as it takes forever to warm up again, and even wearing a thick sweater it can be hard to keep fingers warm.

  18. always_hot*

    This is why I love working at home. I typically start to get hot at anything above 70. I keep my room at 64, with two large fans blowing on me while I work. When I’m at the office, it’s always a thermostat war, with the temp set at 74 and everyone else still freezing while I’m a sweaty mess.

    1. Ludo*

      I’m the same, at my last in person office job I at least always had a personal fan on me but it was still always too hot

      Some summer weekends I would be the only person in the office and I would blast the icy cool air it was glorious

  19. LDN Layabout*

    A referral can be anything from a minor column tick for a candidate or it could be 99% of what makes the hiring decision and based on the both circumstances both of these are ‘correct’ from a hiring point of view.

    I have one friend who’s getting a job offer now, no interview, based on a recommendation. The reason? She previously worked there, only left when the company split in two and they’re backfilling her exact position on a team she’s previously worked with. It saves the company time and money in both recruitment and training to get a candidate that they can be 99% sure will work out, it’s a win.

    Another friend is going into an interview with a referral from the hiring manager’s manager. Again it’s another case of, thanks to the referral, the company has direct experience of the person’s work experience, achievements and ethics from a person who’s directly involved in both strategy and day to day work. So it’s likely to give them an edge in the process. As it should.

    And then you’ll have the situations where nepotism or cronyism creep in…

    End of the day, recruitment/training of new staff is an expensive and time consuming process, a good referral which can reduce the inherent risk of those? Can be priceless.

  20. TechWorker*

    LW4: is another possibility that it’s been so long your boss incorrectly assumes you’ve been hired elsewhere and so wouldn’t be interested?

    1. Snailing*

      Seconding this – even though the former boss has actively agreed to be a reference, if OP hasn’t specifically told Boss that she’s still unemployed, then Boss could think she has a role that’s maybe just not perfect and so she’s halfway looking still, or just have a mental disconnect of “Oh yeah, wait, we’re hiring again for her previous role and should talk with her about that!” I wouldn’t assume it’s anything negative without directly talking with Boss about it.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yes, or at that maybe she’s looking elsewhere because she isn’t interested in that job anymore.

    3. lyonite*

      Another possibility is that they’re offering a significantly lower salary, and didn’t want to get into that with the OP.

    4. Simply the best*

      This was my first thought too. It’s a year later. It would be different if it was a month or two.

    5. OP to #4*

      Hi, I was most recently in touch with my former boss a few weeks ago re: giving him a heads up a company may call him about being a reference for me, so he definitely knows I’m still looking.

  21. Roeslein*

    LW1, assuming keeping the office that cold requires air conditioning where you are, there’s a environmental argument for not keeping the space that cold (i.e. it’s an energy suck). Certainly where I am based people would push back on that basis alone (but then air conditioning is not that widespread and people still seem to be able to do physical work).

    1. Snailing*

      Unfortunately, if OP is in the US, I wouldn’t expect leaning on environmental concerns to work. I say this as a jaded American myself – so many people just don’t care. :(

    2. Paris Geller*

      Eh, the US is huge and there are parts of it where air conditioning in standard for a good reason. I live in Texas, and 100 F + days are normal in July & August. People without access to air conditioning or other cooling devices die in heatwaves–just look at the heatwave from the west coast.

      1. Observer*

        People without access to air conditioning or other cooling devices die in heatwaves–just look at the heatwave from the west coast.

        This is true.

    3. nothing rhymes with purple*

      but then air conditioning is not that widespread and people still seem to be able to do physical work

      have you checked with them?

      Also, this would be another example of putting the burden of environmentalism on the people who can least afford it.

      1. Observer*

        have you checked with them?

        Almost certainly not. The reality is that people DO get ill, and many even die, from the heat. This is not a secret or even hard to verify. The people who claim that no one really “needs” cooling simply choose to ignore those facts.

        1. Roeslein*

          Actually yes I have worked physical jobs in the summer in places that did not have AC and 95 F was not unusual. Not sure why you would make the assumption that I haven’t just based on the fact that it is not the job I do now?

          1. Observer*

            Because your claim that this is not a general problem is simply not true.

            Sure, SOME people are ok with it. MOST people are actually NOT ok with it. Some people suffer immediate effects and others suffer in a more long term way.

            1. Morning Glory*

              Not from 73F they do not. Your argument is about people working in conditions that are nothing like the post.

              1. Observer*

                As I noted elsewhere in this thread, the health problem is not 73deg, but the idea that AC in general is not really important, even when people are doing fairly heavy work. In fact, the comment I was reply to specifically calling out *95* deg as not being a big deal.

          2. Lenora Rose*

            And those kinds of temperatures are why one of the last incident reports I typed up at my last workplace was for someone suffering from heat exhaustion.

        2. Rach*

          We are talking 70 f, not 105 f. I don’t believe anyone is asking the cleaning person to be in danger.

      2. Morning Glory*

        Check in with me! Yes, it’s perfectly possible to have an active job and be just fine when the thermostat hits 70. I’ve been a landscaper, I’ve worked in restaurants, I’ve worked at grocery stores bringing in carts from the parking lot at noon in mid-summer and at 9pm in mid-winter.

        The threshold for where this becomes dangerous to your health is not going to be 70F or even 75F. So it’s not relevant in any way to this post. This thread is full of white collar people completely with absolutely no experience working an active job you you all are just overreacting in a ridiculous way to try to be an “ally” to a woman who has not ever expressed that she needs the temperature to be at 68F to do her job safely.

        1. Simply the best*

          Far more people are pushing back about comfort rather than safety. And classist attitudes. No, it’s not unsafe for her to work in temperatures over 68°. That doesn’t mean it’s not uncomfortable. Just like it’s not unsafe for any of those office workers to be chilly. Just uncomfortable.

          So why should the comfort of the white collar workers who are not in the office full time be catered to over the comfort of blue collar worker who’s there all the time? Simply because the white collar workers “outrank” the blue collar worker? That’s what’s being argued in the letter.

          1. Rach*

            Most people I have seen are saying to compromise on the temp, with most saying to err on the side of the cleaning person and go closer to 70.

        2. Observer*

          This section of the discussion was not about the safety of working at 70deg. But of not having AC in general and doing physical work.

          And given what some of the people on this thread have expressed – eg that ANYTHING under 78deg is objectively and manifestly “unreasonable”, it’s totally reasonable to push back on yet another restatement of “AC is bad.”

  22. Asenath*

    I think 20 C (68 F) is a perfectly normal indoor temperature – I live in a part of the world in which air conditioning is almost never found in homes or small businesses, although of course larger office and other commercial buildings have it. I think where this office is located is probably important, especially since, on my few summer trips to hotter climates, I’ve found large temperature differences between air-conditioned spaces and outdoors much less comfortable than similar temperatures in both areas, even if such temperatures mean I’m hotter than I prefer. I also think that since the users of the co-working space come and go, they should defer to the regular occupants on the subject of the temperature. It’s obviously rude of them to try to pull rank and careless not to even notice that one of the occupants has a much higher activity level than a desk worker, so those are not reasons to alter the temperature.

    1. Rach*

      And I live in the part of the world where a/c is a must or you literally can die. 68 is far too cold and damaging to the environment when it is regularly 43 C out .

  23. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP1, ‘a few pushed back, claiming that they “outrank” the cleaning lady’ – seriously? I would have looked them in a (genuinely) confused way and asked them to explain what they meant. And then kept looking confused while they tried to wiggle out of it and explain that they didn’t *really* mean that she’s is less important because she is cleaning the office.

    That said, the consensus here seems to be that her preferred temperature really is too cold for most people to function, so perhaps have a more “comfortable for all” temperature that you can set it to, when there are others sharing the workspace.

  24. Perfectly Particular*

    I agree with everyone here that contractors stating that they outrank the cleaner is just… inappropriate.

    Can we work on getting away from calling her the cleaning lady though? Cleaner is fine, just like stewardess/flight attendant, waitress/server, mailman/ mail carrier, etc.

    1. Malika*

      If the cleaning lady would be replaced by a man, would he be called cleaning gentleman? I doubt it. I also prefer the more professional-sounding cleaner job title.
      Before we went into yet another lockdown, the cleaners at our workplace made our work safe and habitable. I attribute us staying largely covid-free to their diligent efforts. The least we can do is make their work easier. I hope they get to find a happy medium. Signed, a professional who would wear a woolly dressing gown to work if it was remotely acceptable.

  25. HahaLala*

    Lw1, I agree with the other comments, get a lock box on the thermostat.

    And then next time one of the contractors complains about being cold tell them that the thermostat is set for the comfort of the other employees who have more physical jobs, and if they’re too cold, they can help carry things up and down the stairs and scrub some toilets to warm up.

    In all seriousness, have you spent time on the main floor to see how warm or cold it feels? The air flow is probably different than the basement so the same 68 might feel much cooler. Or maybe there are some with big drafts that feel cooler, or spots far from vents that feel warmer. Can desks be moved around to accommodate the people that want it warmer?
    Does the AC work well on the higher floors, or is it warmer the higher up you go, so the cleaner is dealing with temps much higher than the thermostat? (I know my old house is much cooler on the first floor than the second …)
    Depending on how old the AC is, you might also benefit from having a tech come out and verify the system is well balanced— and maybe they can get more cool air upstairs for the cleaner, and she can be equally comfortable at a slightly higher temp.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I understood it that it’s the ac just for the basement, as that is where the open offices and kitchenette area is.

  26. voyager1*

    LW1: I really think the “ranking” thing is gross from all parties. But something to think about is this. If the sales folks (contract or not) sell the stuff that keeps the company going. And you are not a revenue generating job, then they probably do outrank you. They directly provide the revenue to pay your salary. You wouldn’t be there without them.

    1. Cappybanana*

      Capitalism rears its ugly head. Those sales people couldn’t do their jobs without the cleaning lady. I think your assessment is correct, because under capitalism non-revenue generating labor is indeed devalued. But I wish it weren’t that way. Ftr I’m team compromise-try 69 or 70 for a few days and see how it goes.

      1. Rach*

        Well, they could but it would get real gross, real quick. We have a large facilities department at my work but they are contracted through a different company and there is a definite hierarchy. It is sucks because we couldn’t run without our contractors and they don’t get nearly the benefits we get.

    2. Liz*

      Unless OP’s job is completely superfluous, I disagree. Revenue-producing jobs are important, but a company with only rainmaker jobs and no support staff, HR, payroll, legal, IT, and other “behind the scenes” roles is probably not going to last long.

    3. Batgirl*

      I really hate this way of thinking. Nobody who is given a job is there for decoration, unless you’re working for an eccentric billionaire. You’re there because you’re needed. So why does it matter if you generate direct or indirect funding? The same thing happened at a newspaper
      I worked for where the advertising department were spoken of as though they walked on water, yet the hacks and admin staff were both paid and treated dismissively. Funnily enough they struggled to sell advertising space when we were on strike.

    4. biobotb*

      You think ranking is gross, but also agree with it? Interesting.

      (Also, not sure how you think companies run if they don’t have various different roles. And if companies don’t run, revenue is immaterial.)

    5. EleanorsMom*

      Just to clarify, Sales people are paid by Payroll, connected by IT and kept comfortable by Facilities. What a fucking gross way to look down on people.

  27. hbc*

    OP5: Sometimes it helps to think about what a reference would mean to you. If you were looking at, say, pet sitters who seemed equally good on paper and with your pup, wouldn’t it be a huge deal that your best friend (who you know to be a good pet owner) has great things to say about one of them? It might not be fair in the sense of hiring the person who’s objectively better for the job, but you can’t know that without running some kind of complicated study.

    And maybe, if you had a reference for a sitter from your MIL or your boss, you might consider it just to avoid conflict, even if you weren’t sure about their judgment.

  28. Roscoe*

    #1. I’ll take your word for it that you believe its classist or has to do with rank. That said, if multiple people would like it a bit warmer, I do think there has to be some concern for the “common good”. If it was 50/50 split (as often happens with men vs. women in offices), it may be different. But, I’m not clear on the numbers, but it does seem that more people in general would prefer it a bit warmer. Also, as Alison says, 68 is pretty cool. I like it cold, but even that, I’d probably want it a bit warmer. Maybe 69 or 70 could be a decent compromise.

    #3. this is a bit tough for me. While I fully believe they shouldn’t criticize the sponsor in front of volunteers, there is something kind of crappy about saying she can’t criticize poor service she had on her personal time while on her personal social media. Like if Burger King was a sponsor at my job, but I had an awful experience with the service at Burger King, I’d be pretty upset if my manager (who Im not even connected to) told me that I wasn’t allowed to talk about this in my private space.

    1. Observer*

      there is something kind of crappy about saying she can’t criticize poor service she had on her personal time while on her personal social media. Like if Burger King was a sponsor at my job, but I had an awful experience with the service at Burger King, I’d be pretty upset if my manager (who Im not even connected to) told me that I wasn’t allowed to talk about this in my private space.

      If you publicly identify yourself with your employer, and Burger King enables them to pay the bills, then your employer has every right to ask you to keep your mouth shut. If you want to be able to say what you want in a public space, then you need to separate yourself from your employer in those spaces.

      1. quill*

        The issue I think is that she’s using a company-affiliated account. The company either has to come down on the side of “don’t tell people on your random social media that you work for us, yes this includes listing us as your employer on facebook” or “you cannot use the company spokesperson account for personal posting.”

        The problem comes from mixing the two spheres and the company should have a policy about preventing that which goes both ways – protecting the company from embarassment, and the workers from having someone digitally spy on their complaining.

    2. Batgirl*

      You could still do it, you’d just have to create an account that was genuinely personal and not easily identified with the online work persona. Besides, plenty of people get shit service from their employers when they’re off the clock as customers; I think most people use common sense in not biting the hand that feeds them and instead giving constructive feedback to someone well placed.

  29. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

    Cue me crying in the background when my building gets to 87F on a particularly hot day.
    (Covid protocols busted the buildings AC, and its a verrrrrry expensive repair. I’m hoping if I call maintenance enough, they’ll do something about it.)

    1. Caboose*

      You have my sympathies!! My office’s AC went out a few weeks back, and I was spending the afternoon working on an extremely boring and repetitive task (the sort that doesn’t require much human brain power, but requires enough that I couldn’t automate it). I felt like I was going to lose my mind.
      (But when the AC was still out the next day, they told us to all work from home! I can’t even imagine spending all day in that.)

  30. I'm just here for the cats*

    What is the bosses end goal here? If he never takes calls or calls clients back, and he is the only one who can help them, he is going to lose his business.

    1. EPLawyer*

      I’m going to defend the boss a tiny bit here. I haaaaaaaate phone calls. I can do Zoom calls (it has been great to switch to that from in person meetings, for both me and clients). Email is awesome. I will return your email within 2 business days. If I haven’t returned it in that time, I either got busy or it fell through the cracks. I apologize for the delay. But phone calls just take forever for me to psyche myself up for. I can’t pick up the verbal cues from a call as well as zoom or well, email skips that part for me. I am working on it but trust me, you call me, expect a long wait.

      BUT, I tell people email is best. I WILL get back to you in a reasonable time. LW2 needs to check with her boss and see if boss has another preferred way of communicating. Then convey that to the callers. It MIGHT solve the problem. Although I got one client who I have told repeatedly that email is the best way to get hold of me and that phone calls take a long time to be returned. So client emails with I need to talk to you call me. Instead of I don’t know putting what client wants to tell me IN THE EMAIL.

      1. Snailing*

        I have the same phone aversion, but especially if you’re the business owner, sometimes you just need to fight through that for the sake of doing business, so it’s not really a valid excuse (unless it’s tied to something medical where you could conceivably get an accommodation for, of course). I’m in a client facing role, for example, so I do need to sometimes psyche myself up for a harder call, but that prevented me from getting back to our clients, it’s not a reason that would fly with my manager at all.

    2. Lucious*

      >>”he is going to lose his business”

      So be it. It’s his business to grow or destroy. As Alison stated, the LW can keep working for the unreachable boss- or work somewhere else.

      1. Nicotena*

        I remember it was here on this site that I learned “you can’t care more than the owner does” and it was important for me throughout my career. Our ED does many things I think are extremely odd but at the end of the day, it’s her organization, not mine.

  31. Red Swedish Fish*

    #1 Does the cleaning lady at work the full day that you and the sales team work? If you work different hours you could change the temp based on that and only be uncomfortable while she was in the office. Do you have ceiling fans where the cleaning lady is cleaning?

    Last year with the pandemic we took in my sisters kids, my parents, and my Sister in law and her family (wife and 3 kids). We went from a family of 4 to a household of 14. I changed bedding tuesdays and the ceiling fan saved my life. Not really but I would have needed the room temp at 40’F to be comfortable and not sweating my out of shape but off climbing bunkbeds. My thought is that if you can get good air movement (ceiling fans, portable ventilator) the temp can be higher but you really need blowing air on you.

  32. AthenaC*

    LW#1 – Definitely pull rank. Also, just because you’re wearing a sweater doesn’t mean that you don’t like it cold – there are plenty of people who enjoy wearing a sweater in a cooler temperature, so don’t worry that you’ll look disingenuous if you say that you “like it cold.”

    1. Nicotena*

      I think you can fairly ask this employee to either keep her account locked down, or not post about companies you’re working with. Those are eminently reasonable options.

  33. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP5V – Main take-away from this is that you did really, really well. They were looking into trying to have you both!

    It could have been that you were both so evenly matched it was just the little extra that tipped it. Which is frustrating… but they did recognise how great you were. They thought you would be awesome; they just had only one role.

    This does bode very well for any future positions there – and a great opportunity for you to stand out as gracious and professional in how you respond.

  34. Anononon*

    I’m wondering if the phone call boss is an attorney. That’s super common for attorneys to screen calls, and it’s awful. My old boss literally made me roll play phone call scenarios during my interview for when calls should actually be sent to him (and I was interviewing to be an associate!). The order for answer to no answer was an issue with his kids, a judge/court, a new potential client, another attorney, and then everyone else, including current clients. Awful. He liked to make the excuse that he couldn’t answer current client calls immediately because he needed time to look at the file, blah blah blah.

    Now that I’m at my current firm, I always get a kick out of when I call another attorney, ask for the attorney, get he’s unavailable and then, when I say, okay I’m an attorney calling about a case we have together, I get the immediate “oh, wait, let me check, he might be available now/just wrapping.” Hilarious and awful.

    1. Amtelope*

      It’s not functional to just NEVER respond to calls — the LW seems to be talking about a situation where calls go into a black hole and never get returned — but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with screening calls, or with wanting some calls put through directly and wanting to return others later. I don’t usually pick up phone calls from clients (rather than returning their call promptly, which I definitely do) because we have to be very careful about what we say or promise to clients, and I don’t want to do a call off the cuff without any time to prepare.

      1. Anononon*

        The problem was that my boss didn’t return his calls promptly. After a couple increasingly irate calls from a client, we could usually get him to let us schedule a future call with them, which was 50/50 whether he actually called or just cancelled.

        I get there can be people who have good strategies for screening calls, but you can trust me that my boss was not one of them (one of his many, many faults). Really, he wasn’t that functional.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          Your old boss sounds like he’s due for an uncomfortable conversation with the state attorney discipline board.

          1. Anononon*

            Tell me about it. His main problem was that he was so lazy and he micromanaged, so he would need to review everything I did, but I had to practically beg him for weeks before he would take a look. Cases dragged on for months and months because he wouldn’t let me move them. (The good news about all of this is that everything filed went out with his signature, so I had zero public connections to it.)

      2. londonedit*

        Reminds me of the boss I had years ago who used to go out for long lunches every day (ah, old-school publishing!) We weren’t allowed to say he was out at lunch, or even that he was out of the office, we just had to say he was ‘away from his desk at the moment’ and offer to take a message. So of course we had to deal with the irate people who would call three times and say ‘What do you mean he’s STILL away from his desk? Is he even there??’ and the ones who knew him a bit better, who’d say ‘Oh come on, admit it, he’s on a long lunch isn’t he. Where is he? Is he planning on coming back this afternoon?’ Screening calls is OK in itself, but putting your employees in awkward situations isn’t.

        1. Anononon*

          Lol, it’s like with little kids, and you teach them to never to answer the phone and say that your parents aren’t home. “Um…they’re in the shower.”

          (Is that still a thing with cell phones? Or is this a new way to date myself?)

    2. Jay*

      See also doctors. I am one. I know. When I worked in a primary care office, I had to convince the staff that I didn’t want them to be a barrier between me and my patients. They didn’t need to try and convince the patient that they didn’t *really* need to talk to me and they didn’t need to try and take care of clinical stuff themselves. They just needed to take a message and I would call back the same day. This was not true for any of my partners, which drove me bananas. My time is not more valuable than anyone else’s. Aargh.

      And yes, when I call another doc’s office I always lead with “This is Dr. Jay and I need to speak with Dr. Soandso,” because if I don’t, I’ll never get anywhere.

  35. Snailing*

    OP 4, my boss and coworkers are also awful at returning phone calls. (I’m so thankful I’m not the pone in charge of taking all the calls now because it’s just tiring!)

    I’ve found it can help to manage expectations on the caller’s end – like Alison said, ask your boss directly how they want you to handle this, but also ask if there’s a general expected timeline for them to call people back (if there is one). Or if they prefer you to get an email address for your boss to email them back versus calling back. So that way you can tell callers “Boss typically returns calls in about a week, but if you’d like to get ahold of her earlier, she responds to email best. Her email address is I’ll also pass on your message for you.” This covers all the bases, and just keep as cheery as you can when people get annoyed that they’re calling again: “Yes, Boss is often on the go so she’s not typically here for phone calls. I’ll pass on your message again, but you may have the best luck emailing her at” rinse and repeat!

  36. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – it’s not a rank thing. It’s a comfort at work thing and a need/accomodation thing.

    Can they do their job and put on a jumper? Yes.
    Can cleaner do their job and not do physical activity? No.

    Cleaner’s needs win.

  37. Just Another Zebra*

    OP 1 – I work with technicians who do physical work all day. My office is the one closest to the warehouse, and I keep the temp at 68F (been known to drop it a bit on especially hot days) because I run warm. My coworkers who work in the other building will walk through, frequently with comments like “it’s so chilly in here!” “wow, you keep it cold!” “Do you have polar bears in your office?” But they come and go, and this is my space that I work.

    Unless I’m misreading your letter, your coworkers upstairs aren’t always there… So it makes sense that the “permanent” employees (ie – the ones always working in the office) set the temperature. They can put a sweater on for the day. I might feel differently if you were all together M-F 8-5, but you aren’t. The comfort of the person doing manual labor takes precedence. Push back on the temp, set it to 68 and put a lock box on it.

  38. Secret Agent Man*

    Your old boss might be unaware that you’re still looking and perhaps thinks you have found a new role. You should definitely get in touch and apply for the role. (IMO: Apply for the role and then reach out – but do what makes sense to you.)

    1. BadWolf*

      Boss might also assume you’ve no interest in returning to a company that laid you off (even if at the time of leaving, you expressed interest in coming back — Boss may have forgotten or assumed it was just being polite) and doesn’t want to hassle you.

  39. Malika*

    LW3: This reminds me of the footballer Ronaldo pushing aside the soda bottles during a press conference of the last Euro tournament and pointing to his water and giving it the thumbs up. It’s not an unreasonable sentiment to hold in private, but it is distinctly unprofessional to trash-talk the sponsors that finance your workplace/work-event. Free speech is sacred but there is a time and a place for criticism. Is there a platform within the company where criticism can be discussed by the employees? Constructive criticism aired internally can be acted upon by your sponsors without them losing face in public. An honest dialogue can take the hostility out of the air, leading to a situation where criticism can be dealt with adequately. A policy drawn up by HR that makes clear what you can and cannot comment on a public forum with your real name is a service to your employees, sponsors and workplace. When we ventilate our opinions online it can feel very safe and liberating. We often do not realize that it can bite us in the bum. For your sponsors, hearing criticism being passed about publicly makes them feel defensive and will make them less likely to listen to the criticism attentively.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I worked for a large non-profit in the US. As I recall, we didn’t really have much in the way of restrictions on what to post other than to avoid material which would reflect badly on our organization. We did, however, have to put a disclaimer in all our social media profiles to say that all opinions expressed were entirely our own and did not reflect the opinions of our employer. They didn’t check on this, but I think it was one of those things where, if you post something which raised eyebrows and didn’t have the disclaimer, you’d be in trouble.

      Also, publicly trashing one of your organization’s sponsors is just really unwise, because the sponsor could see it and be offended. It’s a pity that the colleague doesn’t have the good sense to realise that this is a bad idea.

  40. ThatGirl*

    LW4 should also re-read the terms of their severance just to confirm they are eligible for rehire. When I got laid off in 2017, it was due to my entire team’s function being outsourced; my performance had always been excellent. But when I signed the severance agreement I also agreed to their terms, which included that I was not eligible for rehire (without express permission from the CEO, I think). Why? I have NO idea. But I basically had to choose between applying for another job there right away or taking the severance money. I later had someone want to hire me back as a freelancer and even that was verboten.

  41. Erin*

    Yuck. Pulling rank on the cleaning person? That’s so gross. I would feel a strong urge to pull rank, and terminate the contracts I have with those contractors for disrespectful comments like that.

  42. BRR*

    #4 There are tons of possible explanations. Maybe they think you feel scorned and wouldn’t want to come back. Maybe they think you feel scorned and would come back for a paycheck but would leave as soon as you could. Maybe they don’t do any recruiting for a position, they just expect people to apply. And on and on and on.

    #5 I apologize if I’m off with this but I’m getting the feeling your real question isn’t just about how much referrals are weighed. Always remember that an employer is only able to choose one person to offer the job to (usually). Sometimes that means tough choice if there are multiple great candidates.

  43. RagingADHD*

    OP1, I’d say your answer is contained in your question. Can you push back?

    You already do push back, and it works. Therefore yes, obviously you can.

    If your real question is, should you push back, or are you being a jerk for pushing back? Again, you’ve provided your own answer.

    You already know the reasons why you keep it cooler. They are not jerk reasons.

    If you have ownership of this, then own it. If you want to be considerate of the contractors, maybe you could set up a “Mr Rogers” closet or coatrack where the sales staff can keep their own sweaters.

  44. Jennifer Strange*

    #1 reminds me of when I was stage managing a production of Nunsense. We would get so many complaints from folks about how cold it was in the theatre (about 68 degrees as well). I would point out that we had five actresses on stage in heavy nun costumes, under hot lights, dancing and singing (at least one of them in her 60s) and we didn’t want them to faint from heat exhaustion. They didn’t seem to care. I saw one man actually walk over to the thermostat and change it (and I immediately changed it back). After that we put a lock box on it.

    The cleaner is doing physical labor and needs the temperature a bit on the low side because of that. These workers can at least try putting on a sweater first. If they do that and it’s still too cold for them to work (and I don’t mean not their preferred temperature) THEN maybe look at bumping it up one or two, but they should not be able to set the norm. They have no rank to pull here.

    1. OyHiOh*

      The community theater I occassionally do shows with has the same issue. In our case, the building is converted from a former life in food/retail so it’s not designed to be a theater and, to make the matter more difficult to balance, the facility is a dinner theater. It is inevitable that during the dining hour, people complain about the theater being chilly. Once all the lights come on (because of the size and space of the building, all of the stage lighting hangs over the audience), the place warms up quickly, especially if we’re over half full. Our thermostat is on the back stage wall, basically only accessible by staff and crew, and is a mysterious beast only about 5 people know how to operate without shutting the entire system off.

  45. generic_username*

    LW1: My favorite thing to do in situations like this is to make them say the unspoken part out load.
    – “I outrank the cleaner.”
    – “What do you mean? She’s an employee here. This is her permanent workspace and you are temporarily using it. Wouldn’t she outrank you?”
    (Also works well for sexist or racist jokes, lol.)

    LW2: My former boss (also the owner) used to do this too. I had someone who once accused me of not passing on the messages (which…. why? What do I get out of that?). He eventually hired someone and gave him authority to handle thorny/complaining customers, and he gave me authority to tell sales people that I do make the decisions and that no we aren’t interested. Let him know that these calls are impacting you negatively and ask if there’s someone else who may be able to help these callers that you can pass the messages on to. Maybe he hasn’t considered deputizing someone to deal with the crap work of complaints.

    1. Batgirl*

      Yeah I feel like “I outrank the cleaner” would be easy to push back on because it’s so absurd: “I’m not sure you do”, “Not in this situation”, “I’m not sure how that’s relevant”, “I’m not really interested in ranking temperature preferences” or “What an odd point to make”. Literally any short line would do at pointing out the ridiculousness.

  46. Recruited Recruiter*

    LW 5’s situation is one that I have an interesting experience with the opposite end of. My former supervisor is well known in my field and region, and even though I don’t necessarily meet the minimum qualifications for all positions, I have become strangely sought after due to what my former supervisor has said to the professional community about me. I think that it may be possible that the right recommendation from a person with the right background and reputation (and intimate knowledge of what a position entails) might carry a lot of weight. I definitely turned down a couple jobs that have since been filled by people who interviewed around the same time that I did, and who are definitely more qualified than I am.

  47. ElleKay*

    OP 4- How long were you in this job? How much had your salary increased over that time? I wonder if HR/managment (NOT necessarily *your* boss) are taking this as an opportunity to try and drop the salary to a new employee-starting level as a way to save additional money.
    Presumably they know what they have to pay you; if they can hire someone new for thousands less (particularly coming out of having lost clients) maybe they’re trying to do that instead of bring you back?

    1. DEJ*

      A ton of people have asked me about going back to my old job and this is exactly why I wouldn’t, and also why I got laid off – because they can hire someone to do the job for much less than I was making for when they do decide to bring the position back. Other things mentioned by others above but I’ll reiterate is that they may assume you don’t want to come back to a job that laid you off, and some jobs have a period of ‘it needs to be this long before you’re eligible for rehire.’

      But I do agree that you should call and reach out and express your interest and make an effort learn more about what’s going on.

  48. Onetime Poster*

    OP1: The ranking thing really irks me and I agree with Alison: push back. However… as someone who finds it physically uncomfortable to do computer work with temperatures so low, I do think perhaps a compromise needs to be made. It’s not just about putting on a light sweater. I have, many times, had to wear gloves because my hands get so cold that my nails start to turn blue (I have mild Raynaud’s Syndrome). It’s worse when the A/C is blowing on me, and my nose runs all day. As a woman, we tend to be the ones ignored when it comes to setting shared space temps *higher*. So, yes, push back about the ranking. But do keep in mind that some people can’t be productive when they’re cold, even “with a light sweater”.

  49. B Wayne*

    Thermostat Wars! This reminds me of when I would be at work and the kids (in practically their underwear in the winter) would jack up the heat in house once I left. I’d come home to the gas chimney venting like a coal stove and the only thing hotter than the inside of side of my house was my collar!!

    So…I fixed it. I went down and got a clear, plastic thermostat cover with a key so there could be no monkeying around with the temps. Set it and forget it. 68 wonderful degrees! And they are less than the price of a nice lunch.

    Of course, each night I had to come home and take the now melted baggie of ice off the top of the thermostat cover the kids would put on there to try to boost the temps and that alone was worth the price of admission!

    Get a cover, set it at 70 and forget it. And maybe suppress a smile when someone thinks of a baggie of ice set on the cover.

  50. eons*

    LW2 – My old boss would not return calls to clients (who had paid him a retainer!!) sometimes for 3 weeks. Sometimes there was a legitimate reason (he was in trial, we were backlogged and now catching up, etc.) but often there was not. The easiest way I found to deal with it was to be *extremely* kind to the angry people. Convey that you understand their frustration. Explain that you personally can’t do anything other than to leave another message (i.e. you can’t answer their question/fix their issue). If there is a good reason for the delay, explain the reason so they understand that there is a reason for delay.

    It didn’t help at all to get my boss to call them, but the clients were not taking their frustrations out on me, not raising their voice with me and I wasn’t getting anxiety from answering the phone thinking I was about to get screamed at.

  51. Nope*

    OP #1, if comes to it, put a lock box around the thermostat (at home improvement stores/Amazon for less than $20) and only give keys to you and the cleaning lady. I wish I didn’t have experience with this, but we ended up having to do this at work b/c our finance guy wouldn’t listen to reason. Stupid that it came to that, but it’s very effective. Good luck!

  52. ACM*

    Re: #1

    I think you definitely should make it uncomfortable for them to say ‘we outrank her’ by asking questions and making sure things are all right for her on that front. If someone needs medical accommodation or whatnot, that’s fine and can be discussed and mediated to find a middle ground.

    This reminds me of the air conditioning wars at the office building I used to work at as a janitor. This happened a few years ago–they installed new fancy smart thermostats and temperature control, but it was in the hands of people who lived elsewhere in the country who decided that air conditioning this building didn’t need to happen on the weekends in the summer.

    In the Deep South.

    The building reached temps of 95 F on the weekends. I came in one Saturday to wax a floor (I could do it because the building would be emptier) and it’d normally take forty minutes for a coat of wax to dry, depending on temperature and humidity. This time, it took four hours for a single coat to dry.

    Then Monday came along and they turned the AC back on at 6 in the morning. It didn’t get the building below 80 F until after noon, and several office workers had to leave because the heat kicked off their asthma.

    This repeated the next week, except the aircon broke that Monday because it’d been run too hard and for too long and even with overnight shipping on parts it took two days of misery to fix.

    The Powers That Be said the policy would stay in place to conserve energy, but they offered a compromise: They could be notified there would be people working in the building on the weekend and they’d leave the AC on. The workers contrived to always send a notification that there’d be someone working on every floor on the weekend, and the building’s air conditioning was not run to death to again.

  53. Meep*

    LW #1: We have two floors of offices and we have someone who consistently comes downstairs just to make the thermostat to 60 degrees before leaving. A handful of times I have watched her walk in, change the thermostat, and then walk out. We are in Arizona so it is going to be blowing all the dang time. She is upstairs on the completely opposite side of the building with her own personal thermostat so changing it has zero bearings on her temperature upstairs. In my case, it is easiest to just change it two seconds after she leaves.

    Remind them that you work there while they are “visitors” and set it to whatever you want. If they still kick up a fuss, visit their office and thermostat until they get the message.

    LW #2: The CEO of our company is notorious for not responding to emails. Like he has an international reputation for it. He makes his VP read and respond to his emails, which doesn’t help when she is equally bad, if not worse, at responding. There was talk at one point of me controlling both their emails (nowhere near what my job is as a researcher and software developer). When neither of these two chuckleheads respond and it falls onto me, I apologize and get the answer directly for the client.

    It is enabling in a way, but you are already enabling your boss and at least the client will be happy.

    1. Observer*

      We have two floors of offices and we have someone who consistently comes downstairs just to make the thermostat to 60 degrees before leaving.

      That’s incredibly weird. Why would she be doing this? So many questions….

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

        That is weird. Either she hates those people in particular and hopes they are unable to realize why it’s so cold and fix it, or she doesn’t understand how thermostats work and thinks turning it “down” is turning it off?

      2. Batgirl*

        People in offices get deeply weird about three things: 1) the temperature, 2) free food and 3) tea and coffee access.

  54. Tinker*

    For the folks in #1 I’m like…. okay, yeah, let’s go with the idea that you outrank the cleaner. Except, the concept of rank has meaning outside of the airs of petty bullies who perceive a power differential and want to use it for their benefit — if you outrank the cleaner, that means that you have an obligation to put their welfare and comfort above your own. If the temperature that’s comfortable for the cleaner isn’t comfortable for you, heavy is the head that wears the crown.

    1. Batgirl*

      Ooh I like this. So many people don’t understand leadership is a responsibility, not a perk.

  55. Not your sweetheart*

    Op 4: Have you tried contacting the manager? At my previous job, laid off employees had to formally reapply. My manager was told he was not allowed to reach out to them, they had to make first contact. (Just one of many reasons I left that job)

  56. Arty Blanket*

    LW4: Its possible the boss was also laid off or reshuffled shortly after you, and may not even be the hiring manager anymore. Reaching out to them should clarify that for you, too!

  57. often trapped under a cat*

    wrt letter #1: I would be so cold that I would be shaking if I worked for more than an hour in a space that was cooled to 68F, even if I was wearing a sweater or–as I have done at times in my own workplace–my coat. My hands would not work.

    iow, putting on another layer, or even two, isn’t always the answer.

    Also, in summer/hot weather, having to dress as if it was winter, or bring extra jackets, sweaters, and knitted mitts to the office, is both not fun and really aggravating. It doesn’t make for a pleasant work experience or environment.

    1. often trapped under a cat*

      which is to say, I would be arguing for some level of compromise wrt to the thermostat. 72?

    2. Dahlia*

      In the nicest way, maybe a job working in a basement wouldn’t be for you then? OP says the AC barely runs.

      1. often trapped under a cat*

        I don’t work in a basement. Until 2019, I worked in an office tower where the AC was set to freezing all summer. So I wore long sleeves and sweltered on the subway, and wrapped myself in a blanket at my desk.

        In 2019 my employer moved to a different office tower where my office was in an HVAC dead zone. In the summer, it was hot; in the winter, it was freezing. I could get it to be a little warmer in winter if I kept the door shut, because it was a small enough space that my body heat made a difference. But I literally would wear my winter coat and hat at my desk. The higher-ups found this amusing and assumed I was just a sensitive little flower.

        Now I work remotely and am happier.

  58. agnes*

    LW #2 All you can do is assure the caller that you are delivering their messages in a timely manner to your boss. It is incredibly frustrating I know.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Boss knows they get dumped on too, which is so jerky.
      Personally, I’d start looking to get out of that company because if the boss/owner is refusing to take those calls, and the callers are irate, it usually means the boss owes them money and/or isn’t paying, or has ripped them off in some fashion. It’s usually bad news!

      1. Heffalump*

        My understanding is that they aren’t angry at the outset, but they get angry when they don’t get a response.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Actually you can tell them to call the company main line and not offer email addresses and phone numbers.

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

    Thermostat: you need to do better to keep BOTH groups happy and healthy. I don’t believe in dismissing the real possibility that the temperature for the offices isn’t the same temperature for the laundry. I’m assuming the laundry isn’t in the same room, so close off or restrict some of the vents in the offices; this will help direct the airflow to the laundry. Spend the money to call in an HVAC specialist to do a ventilation audit — they put a meter over each vent to get an airflow and temperature reading. I’ve been the worker in the 62F windowless interior room wearing a hoodie and using a space heater, while being gaslighted by the facilities department about it not being “that” cold, while the offices with windows were comfortable at 70F. They finally called in an audit after YEARS of me and my coworkers complaining, and low and behold, it really is 10 degrees colder in our space.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I keep a thermometer in my desk for this reason. I can report that “my desk is X degrees” and not have to fight with people who are saying “it’s fine.”

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

        For people who are absolutely convinced of their own right-ness, even standing in the room doesn’t convince them it’s cold.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Just like for other people who are absolutely convinced of their own right-ness, even standing in the room doesn’t convince them it’s hot.

  60. Caboose*

    #1: If the workers who want it warmer are in the basement, and the cleaning lady is moving around the entire building (so not only moving around and doing physical work, but also Not In The Basement), then…yeah, those are very different temperatures. Thermostats are really bad at handling a large building, and in my experience, a basement will be absolutely frigid when the air conditioning is on, even if it’s relatively warm on higher floors.

  61. Mobius 1*

    LW4: No advice, only commiseration. I was furloughed in mid March last year, and in June was told they couldn’t afford to rehire any of us. Then later last year I saw my old job go up on Indeed at the same pay I had, and early this year I happened to be driving by and noticed that despite not being able to afford to rehire any of us (or indeed reach out past that at all, at least to me), it appeared they were able to expand into much of the entire floor they were on. That stung, and I continue to give them a double bird whenever I drive by.

  62. Van Wilder*

    #5 – echoing the general sentiment that the referral really depends on the type of referral.

    Highest weighting: a current employee has worked with them in a similar role and knows them to be amazing.
    Lowest weighting (bordering on actively harming them): they’re the family friend of an executive or client and probably wouldn’t have received an interview without the referral. (Some of the worst employees I’ve been stuck with – I did not interview them – was because they were a friends/family referral.)

  63. Stina*

    Re: Thermostat Wars
    Please stand up for the cleaning lady. Those who do this sort of grunt work get dumped on literally and figuratively because they’re not seen as valuable employees or support team members. A good remark to ‘But she’s just the cleaning lady’ is “Gee, that sounded really snobby and bigoted.” and if desired, continue disappointedly with “I thought better of you.”

  64. HereKittyKitty*

    If you like temperature war stories my amusing one is that a team I was on moved into an office space that had just opened and it was hideously cold. I live in ARIZONA, so usually cooler temperatures are great relief to the heat outside, but it was SO COLD. And we had weekly battles with the office building to figure out why our office was so freezing to the point where a member of the team brought in a literal temperature gun. It would run below 65 often to the point where everyone, men and women alike, came into the office with blankets, jackets, sweaters, gloves and personal heaters just to keep warm. These are things we don’t typically have a lot of since it’s routinely 110 in the summer! I had to periodically leave the office and work in a communal space downstairs just to warm up. It went on for weeks before it was finally solved (somehow) but when you look up office reviews on Google you’ll see a ton of other ppl in the office building telling tales of the very cold month in the office.

  65. Mayflower*

    OP #1, Thermostat wars with a classist twist:

    Please google “office temperature sexist” to gain a broader understanding of the issue. Even though the cleaning person happens to be a woman, that temperature is, in fact, sexist. The OSHA recommendation is based not on safety but on the comfort level of men, to the exclusion of women who both prefer, and perform better, at higher temperatures. Please do not throw ALL women in your office under the bus just because there is ONE woman that likes it freezing.

    1. Mayflower*

      Just wanted to add more specifics because I hate to see that OSHA recommendation thrown around without its historical context: the recommended office temperature range is based on a 40-year-old man wearing a long-sleeve shirt and a wool suit.

      1. Roscoe*

        Fair point. But I will say, even in relaxed offices, men typically have to wear more clothing. Like I’ve seen plenty of women wear sleeveless shirts, skirts, “nice” sandals, in offices wear men are at least expected to wear polos and long pants. So you can’t really ignore what people are wearing either. Yes, a guy may get hot because the dress code in the office requires him to be more covered up.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          This. Also, I’m a woman who prefers a colder temperature in the office, and I know many women who are the same. Obviously I am not going to speak for all women, but this isn’t a clear cut men vs. women issue, even if the recommendation favors men.

  66. Wisteria*

    LW 5:

    I’m pretty sure I just got an offer based on the strength of recommendations. However, it’s not worth angsting over. I have also gotten offers based on the strength of the being interested in and familiar with the work that the group does. People get offers or do not get offers based on all sorts of considerations that you will never have any insight into.

  67. yala*

    The LOOK I would give someone if they told me they “outrank” a cleaning person.


    1. yala*

      Also, I initially read it as “with a classist twit” and, y’know, I stand by that reading.

  68. Koala dreams*

    When you come in from the heat to a cold AC, the combination of sweat and windchill make it extra cold in a way you don’t feel if you stay inside all day. And it’s tiring to carry around a warm jacket in the heat. It’s much easier to carry extra clothes when it’s cold outside. That being said, you’re arguments about the cleaning lady makes sense. If you are sitting still, it’s easy to adjust to higher temperatures with a wet towel, a fan and so on. That doesn’t work when cleaning. You can’t please everyone.

  69. Medical Librarian*

    I haven’t read through all of the comments, so sorry if I’m repeating. Where I work, there’s a clause that you can’t apply for any position for at least a year if you accept the severance. Maybe there’s a clause of that sort in place making OP4 ineligible to apply for now.

  70. Person from the Resume*

    LW5, my take is that you and the other candidate probably interviewed about equally well and were equally qualified so then the referral pushed the other candidate a bit higher than you because someone personally vouched for him making him more of a known quantity because you could just be a good interviewer and could have lied about your experience.

    My take is if you had been significantly better, the reference would not have been a factor. Lots of people who have great interview experience and get feedback that make them think they will be hired and aren’t so don’t read too much into their enthusiasm at the interview.

  71. MissDisplaced*

    2. Clients are angry that my boss won’t return calls
    Sorry but your boss is a jerk.
    It reminds me of the owner of a small startup I worked at. He didn’t want to take calls like that either, but would still force us “girls” in the office to take them and deal with the angry people he ripped off. Eventually, I just forwarded the calls to his phone or better, his mobile number HA!

    1. Pennyworth*

      In my first job a million years ago our (male) bosses used to play cards at lunchtime and hated to be disturbed, even though that was when important calls used to come in for them from a very remote part of the company in a different time zone. Taking messages could result in delays of 24 hours for important issues to be addressed. Eventually one of my co-workers got tired of pretending that someone playing cards 15 feet away was ‘unavailable’ so she marched in to the card room and announced ”Do you want to take this urgent phone call or shall I just tell them you are playing cards?” They started taking the calls.

  72. SomeoneWhoIsAlwaysWillingToPutOnASweaterAndSlippers*

    RE: Allison’s response to LW#1 – “I’d also argue you should give extra consideration to people who can’t take off any more clothes to get cooler versus those who could at least try adding another layer to be warmer, but that’s not a universal viewpoint.” that is certainly my viewpoint! I also believe the person/people there all day vs. just for a short time should make the call.

  73. Eclecticism is a Virtue*

    LW #4, another possibility is they decided to not rehire anyone they laid off. And there are lots of reasons they could make that decision. If any of these apply to at least half, or a large number, of the people laid off, I could see an employer skipping the entire group:
    1. There were issues with the culture and this is a chance to reset it (and lots of variations of this – office politics, cliques, etc.)
    2. Rehiring would mean going back to old salaries but hiring new people can reset the salaries and save money
    3. There is a shift in what the company does and the potential rehires do not fit the new work (related, it’s not unusual that those who have a higher number of (varied) skills or are more adaptable to different work are not laid off, and those qualities could help the same people pivot to the new work)
    4. There is a new higher up boss who wants a clean slate of employees
    5. The nature of the work didn’t change but the requirements did (maybe a new certification) and they want to hire people who already have it instead of having all the rehires go through the process
    6. There were bad habits in place (either culture or business practice) and this can let them start over with better habits

    Or maybe it’s none of these! It may seem, or be, unfair to not rehire anyone, but an employer is allowed to make this kind of decision. As Alison said, you can only contact your old boss and ask what the situation is.

    And no, not reaching out to you is not reason to think the reference has changed. That part strikes me as taking not being rehired (or contacted about it) too personally. Unless you were bad at your job, and it sounds like you were actually very good, it’s 99% likely that not contacting you was for business reasons, and it would be best to look at it that way. Most decisions by businesses are, well, business decisions. Managers really don’t sit around and think “How can I make LW4’s life more difficult?”

  74. JustAnotherAnalyst*

    #LW1: I would be miserable at 68F. In fact, when I started my job and I was most newest, most junior and lowest paid team member, my desk was also in the coldest and draftiest spot on the whole floor. I was so cold that I could not work. Well, I wasn’t doing physical work, but I was physically barely able to think, even with multiple sweaters and scarfs. My wool hat did not look professional. Being cold also aggravated my carpal tunnel syndrome . Sitting in cold draft for hours was so, so bad. A lot of the answers have an undercurrent if punishing the contractors for mentioning the rank thing. Basically retaliating by keeping it too cold for them. If you think the cleaner’s request outweighs theirs and you are not willing to compromise at all, you could disregard health implications for them. In the situation that you described, I would feel very uncomfortable requesting to increase the temperature. I would feel shamed for disrespecting the cleaner and the boss (you). My own story had a happy ending because we were moved out of the cold draft to a really nice workspace, and I stayed with the company for several years.

  75. Sandy Beach*

    LW #4, Is the salary on your old job posted? I’m guessing that the reason you weren’t considered for re-hire is that they decided to see if they could pay significantly less for the same work.

  76. Raida*

    #2 I got around my old boss, the owner of a 5-person company, not returning calls:
    When he was free I dialed the person who needed a callback, said “Hey Richard it’s for you” and handed him the phone.
    “Who is it?”
    “Jane Doe, you’re calling her back about the photocopier repair.”
    He looked like a deer in the headlights, and after a few times when I marked out time in his calendar TO RETURN CALLS he bloody well did it.

  77. Raida*

    Create a social media policy.
    Talk to this particular employee now. Particularly about complaining *in work hours at meetings*, that you absolutely have control over. Don’t let her build up steam if it happens again.

    Suggest/Train her that when she wants to write an angry post that she smashes it all out, leave it an hour, come back and re-write it – often the first draft is the most outrageous when we’re angry, this is a useful skill for anyone and could well be of value for the entire org to have access to a simple online how-to session on it.
    Removing inflammatory language, being balanced in judgements, deciding what specifically the core message is you want to get across: all of this could be used to criticize these companies on social media without “need to get their sh*t together”

  78. SleepyKitten*

    Official thermostat reason rankings:

    My fingers are turning blue > I can’t take off any more clothes > I need to put on another layer

    You can’t always win: at one point I had a fan running while someone else was wearing gloves. But I think this is the fairest way to manage it.

  79. Pam*

    I was always happy I didn’t need shawls, since that would be one more thing to handle. But as I’ve aged, I now find that my shoulders/upper arms do get cold. As to the question of too-hot environments, people have talked about feeling nauseous, but I don’t think feeling headache-y has been mentioned.

  80. Pam Poovey*

    Team Cleaning Lady

    Anything above 68 is too warm for me, and I can only strip down so far. Suggest these classist people bring in sweaters.

  81. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    The worst thing – I had to go through this once – a company I worked for was trying to impress upon us that “the sky is falling”. So they reduced drinking water, stopped putting paper towels in the galleys, when the coffee brewer broke down they wouldn’t fix it (and a sign that said “no funds”) and expected us to work with the lights out and the heat cranked down.

    And the company was making money hand over fist. They had set an arbitrary growth (financial) goal – extremely high – and they were missing it slightly – so they started the “sky is falling” philosophy.

    Weird. Some people actually believed the company was in trouble!

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