my safety partner won’t accompany me when he’s supposed to, what am I allowed to do on sick leave, and more

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

1. My safety partner won’t accompany me when he’s supposed to

I work for a very large (think global) conservation-based nonprofit, but the actual team I am a part of only consists of four people. I’m the only person on my team who does regular on-site fieldwork. Our field sites are not in reputable places; they are in crime and drug heavy towns. Although our work takes place in the nature areas around the towns, running into people or evidence of people is not uncommon. I just started this job last year, and the woman who had the position before me was threatened with a gun while alone on site. When that happened, the team instituted a buddy-system policy. Up until this point, I had a summer hire as my buddy, but now they’ve left and my boss has told my colleague Zack to accompany me.

Zack is my age (mid-twenties) and at my same level. We are friends and get along well, but he’s expressed that he doesn’t think it’s necessary for him to be present. His grandboss is my boss (he is part of a larger team that has an intermediary boss) and both bosses have “left it up to us” to schedule the fieldwork. Now I’m in this weird position where I know he doesn’t want to do the work, and I don’t have the authority to make him. In some parts, Zack is correct. I’ve been at the sites without a buddy once before when there was no other choice and sometimes if someone has the day scheduled off, only one person goes. However, I don’t like going alone, not only for safety reasons but also because it’s four hours of driving in heavy traffic. I also feel guilty trying to enforce him accompanying me when I know he’s going to go alone to cover for me this winter holiday. How do I navigate this situation?

If it’s important: Zack’s field sites are in much safer areas and are very locked away from the public. He goes alone to his sites almost 100% of the time.

If you haven’t just laid it out very directly for him, start there: “I know you’ve said you don’t think it’s necessary for you to go, but I don’t feel safe going on my own to these areas. What dates can we plan on that you can join me?”

If you do that and he still resists, then you need to talk to your boss. “Leaving it up to you” to schedule the fieldwork generally means “pick the dates and schedule that work best for the two of you,” not “it’s okay to let one person veto the buddy system that we put in place for your safety.” You boss would almost definitely want to know that Zack isn’t doing what he’s been asked to do.

If you feel awkward about that because Zack’s your friend, you can frame it as simply asking your boss if there’s someone else who can accompany you. She’ll likely ask why and you’d end up needing to tell her anyway, but sometimes starting off that way can get people over the initial mental hump of “it feels weird to tell my boss this thing about a friend.” However, it really is something your boss needs to know about — both because of your safety and because Zack could be assigned as someone else’s buddy in the future and cause the same problem there. Your boss needs to know what’s happening so she can explain to him that it’s not optional.

Read an update to this letter here

2. What am I allowed to do on sick leave?

I recently suffered a serious breakdown while travelling for a family holiday. It forced me to confront the fact that Covid has left me terrified of going out and doing, well, anything.

I’m signed off work on sick leave for a month to get on top of my severe anxiety, but I don’t know what is appropriate to do in that time. Given how anxious leaving my own neighborhood makes me, I know the best thing to do is to gradually go out and do more things: day trips, cafes in the city … even weekend trips to prove to myself I can survive outside of my own home. I want to build up the range of things I can do and challenge that anxiety.

But is that appropriate on sick leave? I’m not posting on social media but I can’t shake the worry that my boss would be angry that I’m “enjoying myself” while sick. If I can go to a museum or a restaurant, should I be trying to go back to work early? I don’t want to give the impression that I’m milking my leave or lying about my condition, but staying at home on the sofa as if I’m physically ill will only make things worse.

It’s appropriate on this sick leave, because of what you’re out sick for! This is part of your treatment. It’s the same way it would be appropriate for someone with a condition that benefited from walking to be out walking, or someone with an injury to be at physical therapy.

If someone happens to see you and you’re asked about it, you can explain your doctor has encouraged those activities and you can offer to provide documentation of that if your employer wants it. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what you’re most worried about — it sounds like you’re worried about whether the activities are appropriate regardless of whether anyone knows about them, and the answer to that is an absolute yes.

Read an update to this letter

3. Hiring manager sits in on every interview round and I can’t get anyone else alone

I am in the final stages of interviewing with a great company. I have had a positive impression of the people I’ve spoken with so far and the company benefits/culture. One thing that stuck out to me as odd is that the hiring manager is on every interview round. When I asked the HR recruiter to speak with another person on the team to get a better idea of how we might work together, the hiring manager reached out to me and scheduled a meeting for the three of us. This person’s demeanor overall is friendly and nice, but I can’t help wondering why she is sitting in on all the interviews. She doesn’t necessarily dominate the interview conversation or anything like that, but is there a polite way to try to speak to someone on the team one-on-one because I’m really curious about asking about her management style without her being in the interview? Or is this more normal than not and I’m overthinking?

Yeah, that would concern me — not necessarily a red flag, but a yellow one. Has that meeting you asked for with the would-be peer already happened? If not, it’s not too late to say, “Would it be possible for me to speak with Jane one-on-one? I know sometimes having a manager present can change the dynamic!” If the meeting has already happened, requesting another might be asking for a lot at this stage … but if they schedule another interview, you can ask about doing it connection with that … or if they make you an offer, you can ask about speaking with a couple of team members one-on-one at that point.

4. Is there any evidence that standing employees leave customers more satisfied?

My partner is in a role where he is asked by his manager to stand for hours at a time. He could physically do the job while sitting, but he is asked to stand because of “customer satisfaction.” I tried finding research studies that looked at whether or not customers care about employees sitting or standing, whether they feel more or less satisfied, or whether they’re more or less likely to continue patronizing the business if employees sit or stand, but I couldn’t find anything (there are, however, plenty of studies about the health consequences of standing for long periods of time every day). Do you know of any evidence that drives employers to ask their employees to stand, or is this just a convention of customer service?

Totally outside my expertise, but I’m happy to throw it out to readers to see if anyone knows. My hunch, though, is that it’s just grown to be the convention in jobs like retail — since there are plenty of other customer service jobs where employees sit (some bank functions, for example) — and as a result, managers for those jobs have started mentally (and wrongly) equating standing with “engaged and ready to serve customers.”

{ 592 comments… read them below }

  1. Sami*

    OP #2: I’ve been out for extended leave for anxiety and panic attacks. This was a long time before things like Grubhub/DoorDash and grocery store delivery. So I HAD to make short trips out – to get takeout, the grocery store (I found it easier to go later at night, like 9pm+), the bank when I had to go in. These short trips eventually made things easier and easier. Wishing you well!

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I was off sick for several months when my employer tried to make me move to another office in a place I could only get to on public transport, and it would take me at least an hour and a half to get there. Given that I used to go to work by bike (a glorious ride along the river Seine past Notre Dame) and I’m also prone to claustrophobia, I felt sick at the prospect.
      So I went to see a psychiatrist who put me on sick leave and wrote a note (once she was convinced I was genuinely tied up in knots over it) to say I couldn’t work there.

      Usually when you’re on sick leave in France, you have to stay at home and are only allowed out for a couple of hours morning and afternoon – so you could take your kids to school and fetch them home, but you couldn’t take advantage of your sick leave to work somewhere else.

      But the psychiatrist crossed that out on the sick note and wrote that I was to go out as much as possible. She explained that depressed people needed to be exposed to more sunlight, and get a chance to do more exercise, and in my case if I could entertain the thought of taking public transport, or practise going places with a friend, that too would be great.

      My boss pretended that I must be gaming the system because I was allowed out all hours, and I was actually summoned to an inspector’s office where I had to explain why I was allowed out, so it’s a good idea to have an answer ready if anyone accuses you of “having fun” while off sick.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Yeah, I have OCD and the standard treatment includes not catering to the Obsession. Going out and doing Stuff is treatment. The more you like the Stuff, the more effective the treatment will be. My understanding is that doing Stuff with another person makes it even more effective, so a lunch out with a friend is probably one of the best Stuffs you can do for this.

      Best of luck to you!

      1. Chris too*

        OP 2 – I’m sorry you’re suffering from anxiety but I am wondering if the root cause is just that you’re actually just more sensible and realistic than the people around you. I’m amazed at how many people have just decided the pandemic is over and we can get back to “normal.”

        I have worked in person all through this and don’t consider myself particularly afraid now I’m vaccinated, but it will be a long time before I’m willing to eat in a restaurant or travel except for driving and camping. I still wear a mask at work and tell my coworkers I’ll be running the place while they are quarantining.

        Can you maybe try things like driving outside of your neighbourhood in order to go for a walk? Get out of your comfort zone without placing yourself in any actual danger? As long as people are obeying mask mandates where you are, maybe some museums would be ok too, as they generally aren’t crowded and have high ceilings.

        I hope you can find an equilibrium so you can enjoy life, but please don’t feel you’re all alone in thinking that going back to normal isn’t safe yet.

        1. NancyDrew*

          I think there’s a very statistically safe middle of the road approach that is perfectly reasonable to take, though. I say this as someone who never went anywhere, and yet somehow my whole family managed to contract covid (despite vaccinations! and despite, as noted, going NOWHERE EVER).

          I just sense a lot of judgment in your post here about people doing things you (or OP) feel comfortable with, but the truth is, COVID safety is quite nuanced and very location-dependent. Where I live, we have a 90% vax rate! Numbers are very low. It is as safe as it’s going to get to eat in a restaurant here, considering scientific assumptions are now that COVID will remain with us forever.

          Best of luck to you, OP, and please take care of yourself.

          1. Mannequin*

            “ considering scientific assumptions are now that COVID will remain with us forever.”

            Which means us high risk people may NEVER be able to get back to a normal life.

            1. NancyDrew*

              Not likely — the vax will continue to evolve and preventative drugs (like the new Pfizer one) will likely be successful. (Also, if it eases your concerns at all, I’m high-risk myself, as is one of my young non-vaxxed kids, and our symptoms were extremely mild.) It might be longer for those of us with significant risks, but things will return to normal eventually.

          2. Chris too*

            Nancy Drew, you’re right, I am judging, but I hope it’s only apparent with the anonymity of the internet, and not in real life. I’m trying to keep it to my internal voice, and be pleasant and accepting IRL with anybody reasonable, like you. (people who are anti-vax just for the principle of it? Something else. ) I’m sorry you went through covid.

            We’re all a mix of our past experiences. My dad survived WWII in occupied Europe while working for the Allies, and would have been tortured and killed had he been caught. He always said, “DISCIPLINE. When things tough you be 100% SELF-DISCIPLINED.” As teenagers my brother and I rolled our eyes at this but since the pandemic started, every time we see each other ( frequently, usually outside ) we laugh and say “Dad say DISCIPLINE!” I guess I feel that self-discipline is getting thrown to the wind by some people once they get vaxxed.

            I do think this too shall pass, and even the immune-compromised amongst us will be able to resume a more normal life, eventually. I hope everybody stays safe and well until then.

            1. RagingADHD*

              No, people who are vaxxed and decide to be less restrictive in certain situations are NOT throwing self-discipline to the wind. They are making a new risk calculation based on new information and new circumstances, which is what rational people do in a changing situation.

              Risk assessment and self-discipline are not contradictory. If your Dad never took calculated risks he would have been useless in a war, and probably would not have survived.

            2. Librarian1*

              Vaccination greatly decreases the chance that you’ll end up hospitalized or die from COVID. It also reduces the chance you’ll catch covid or be symptomatic if you do catch it. So, no, we’re not throwing self-discipline to the wind. We are recalibrating our risk assessment based on the fact that we are not vaccinated.

              COVID is endemic, it is never going away, we can keep it at bay with vaccines and medications. Hopefully it will eventually evovle into just another virus that causes the common cold like the other human coroniviruses have.

              It’s weird to me that some people won’t reassess the risks after their cirucmstances change (aka after they get vaccinated.

        2. Neptune*

          I think this is quite unhelpful, to be honest. This is something that the OP characterises as severe anxiety, has caused a breakdown and has had her signed off work by a doctor for a *month*. No doctor is signing people off for a month for being sensibly cautious; I think we can assume that her anxiety goes beyond normal levels and is in fact a clinical issue. Feeding into the OP’s anxiety in this way is just going to reinforce it.

    3. Jay*

      I took a month of FMLA leave in the fall of 2020 for stress-related symptoms that were only marginally related to the pandemic and mostly related to some serious issues in my marriage. The most therapeutic thing I did during that four weeks was go away for three days with my spouse. I also read a lot, walked a lot, had lunch with friends when I could do so safely, and took care of some long-delayed stuff at home that had been contributing to my anxiety. For a while I felt very squirmy about it – “I’m treating this like a long vacation” – and then my therapist reminded me that I was doing exactly what I needed to do to feel better. She was right.

      Do what you need to do for you.

    4. toomanybooks*

      I was wondering if other people had this sort of effect from isolating, so I perked up to see this experience here! Not sure if going into details would be too off-topic but this was definitely interesting to read about. Luckily I have medication for my anxiety and my work is done from home with fairly flexible hours.

    5. singlemaltgirl*

      is OP getting paid by the employer for the month off? if so, i would expect there would be a doctor’s note of some kind and some sense of what OP is able to do or engage in to support their health and well being. i didn’t see this in the letter so not sure.

      if the OP is doing a self directed/self diagnosed approach, i could see they would may have to explain to an employer if doing stuff and seen by a colleague or something. if it’s an unpaid leave of absence, what are the terms of this?

      i don’t agree with alison’s advice based on what little we know. it doesn’t say it’s doc prescribed or a recognized treatment to be dealing with this issue. if the OP was also using therapy to support them, i may think differently. but as an employer, i would question this. treatment prescribed by a health pro? no problem. self diagnosing and self treating with no health pro supervision? not so much.

      1. Machine Ghost*

        I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world where you can just tell your employer that you’ll be out on paid sick leave for a month without any medical documentation at all. And the employer does not need to know LW’s diagnosis or prescribed treatment. Your what-if scenario is unrealistic and only serves to marginalise people with mental health issues. If LW had written that she had suffered some injury and needed to walk for several hours every day to recuperate, would your answer be the same?

      2. Formerly in HR*

        FMLA requires a doctor to certify that the employee is unable to work due to a serious health condition and is under the care of a health care practitioner as specified in the law. FMLA is not granted for self-directed diagnosis.

  2. Beth*

    OP4: When I’m in a retail store, I notice in a positive way if employees have seats and are able to sit. As a customer, I really don’t want anyone being asked to stand all day on my behalf! I’d much rather interact with people who are being treated well and not worn down and made uncomfortable by nonsensical requirements.

    1. banoffee pie*

      Agree. I’d much rather employees were allowed to sit. I don’t know where bosses are getting this idea that customers prefer employees to be standing. Sounds like something no one has ever bothered to check.

      1. Dragon_Dreamer*

        “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” “Sitting down looks unprofessional!” “I don’t care if all the chores are done and there are absolutely no customers! Look. Busy!” “It’s called a walking boot, isn’t it? No sitting! You look lazy!”

        Honestly, being discouraged from sitting is partly what has contributed to the breakdown of my joints. So very glad I’m out of retail, I doubt I could still physically do the job. Now I sit at a computer most of the day, working on a database I designed from scratch, working with a professor who appreciates me SO MUCH more than any retail manager I ever had.

        1. Bamcheeks*

          Personally, when I was doing retail jobs I didn’t mind cleaning so much both it was moving, and there’s a point to it. (Not speaking for all retail employees, just how I felt!) It’s standing behind a counter or at a till where there’s literally no benefit that makes me furious — it just feels like a powerplay, like there’s literally no other point than to prove that workers’ health and comfort doesn’t matter.

          1. JB*

            And moving around (ex. to clean) doesn’t have the same health risks as being forced to stand in one place for hours at a time does.

            There’s really no excuse for standing to be a requirement in cashiering etc.

          2. Rachel Greep*

            When I worked retail, sometimes I would take unnecessary bathroom breaks just to sit down for a few minutes.

          3. Perfectly Particular*

            I didn’t mind cleaning when I worked retail, but when I was a server, it just added insult to injury! Already I’m not making money due to no customers, and then you want me to clean for you at $2.13 an hour? I was very salty those days.

              1. Never Boring*

                It’s also often illegal. Tipped employees are supposed to have their wages topped up if tips don’t bring them up to the regular minimum wage.

          4. peachy*

            “Time to lean, time to clean” isn’t actually about cleaning, though. It’s about bosses making sure that you are busy 100% of the time so that they’re getting their full $10/hr worth of labor out of you (because they don’t think that the emotional labor of customer service is an actual skill). It’s more like, if there’s time to lean there’s time to: colorize all of the shirts, redress the mannequins, go back to the hot, dusty stockroom to count old sweatshirts that no one cares about, face the merchandise, restock the cups, order more paper towels, etc. So it’s always a power play, unfortunately.

            1. quill*

              I used to straighten the protein bars, making sure that every. single. bar. was facing the same way.
              Solely because it meant I had an excuse to kneel in front of my display and be off my feet for a moment.

          5. Anonny*

            I live in a country where the convention is that the cashier sits, at least in larger shops with dedicated cashiers, and if I saw a cashier in that kind of set-up standing, I’d think they were about to go on break or something.

          6. Dr Sarah*

            ‘it just feels like a powerplay’

            100% agree. The reason it feels like a power play is because it is, in fact, a power play.

        2. münchner kindl*

          Which all show managements’ obsession with appearance over substance: making employees look busy instead of doing actual good work.

          Which might be connected to clueless people with a fancy business degree being put into management who actually have no clue at all, and no real interest, in doing the hard work of good managing, just looking at numbers easily collected but without useful connection to actual customer satisfaction/ job well done.

          1. The OTHER Other*

            I’m going to push back on this a bit, yes there are terrible retail managers, as there are in any industry, but staying on top of a busy store is a constant battle, as it is with cleaning the kitchen in a restaurant. I’ve been that manager assigning those tasks and while it’s no fun, it’s essential, not busywork. Taking inventory and refolding/re-aligning merchandise are very necessary for a store to be successful.

            I definitely notice when stores are dirty, disheveled, or disorganized. If retail is to survive against online shopping it’s not going to do it with dusty shelves and lost inventory.

        3. Stina*

          In Britain, cashiers almost always have a chair or stool at their register. Aldis in the US do too. It does not, generally impact their ability to be effective and a good corporate optic. Food service staff often sit if doing piece-work prep like rolling napkins. If anything, it says the company cares about their employees’ welfare. Let front line staff sit if needed while working.

          1. Mannequin*

            Personally, I love that Aldi let’s their cashiers sit. Absolutely NO business need for someone behind a register to be on their feet all day!

          2. yar*

            I believe Aldi even did a study and found seated cashiers were faster over the course of the day than standing ones, so it ended up being a win for achieving metrics for faster checkout times as well as for employees.

          3. kay sosa*

            the Aldi cashiers are faster and more efficient than any store I have ever (in 50 years) shopped. They know their store, their merchandise, and are consistently friendly. Maybe because they can sit down.

        4. Pikachu*

          “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean”

          This was my manager’s favorite line when I was waiting tables. He never seemed to use it on smokers though. Leaning out back to smoke a cig while the non-smokers pick up after you is totally fine, of course.

          1. Anon4This*

            Simple. Smokers are drug addicts (nicotine is POWERFULLY addictive), and as such become irrational, selfish, and self centered when they are jonesing for a high. Since cigarettes are legal and still semi-socially acceptable, they feel entitled to act boorishly about it, too.

            I’ve actually seen nicotine addicts behave WORSE than hardcore addicts of alcohol, opioids, crack/cocaine, meth, and other drugs (both legal and street) when they can’t indulge their habit right at the moment they want it. I find it pretty disgusting.

          2. The OTHER Other*

            I know people who actually took up smoking in order to get the extra smokers’ breaks at jobs. Crazy.

            1. Catherine*

              I used to take “nonsmoking breaks” once or twice a week when I worked a desk job for the federal government. My boss really didn’t track us as long as our work was getting done so it was mostly a joke.

          3. HoHumDrum*

            That’s why I would take fresh air breaks outside regularly =)

            I figure I’m entitled to the same breaks as everyone else, so why not take them.

        5. AKchic*

          “If you need to sit, you obviously aren’t fit for duty and need to go on maternity leave!” Gee, thanks, I’m working a double shift for you at a fast food restaurant 3 days after my due date on a military installation right after 9/11, during an air show (extremely busy). I swear, the misogyny came from the female managers way more than the male managers. And the female managers acted as if you were gender traitors for leaving for a better job, when they were the very reason you were leaving.

          I learned my lesson on fast food and retail before I hit 20: never again. There is this weird idea that any semblance of idleness is laziness and costing the company millions. As if one iota of inactivity will bankrupt the entire industry. You are a cog in the machine, you are replaceable, and you will be used, abused and worked nonstop until you fall apart and then you will be replaced as they have threatened to do since the moment they first taught you how to clock in. Your sole aim is to be busy for the company and idleness will not be tolerated, not even for a second.

          1. Anon4This*

            I worked food service once when I was 19- ONCE. Never again and I mean NEVER. I’d rather shovel manure or clean toilets.

            I worked at a small mom & pop restaurant, not corporate hell, and it was still awful. I still remember not being allowed ANYTHING free, and our employee discount on food was SO abysmal that eating on your shift made a good chunk of your earnings for that day evaporate. And basically, unless you wanted to bring a cold lunch from home, buying the expensive food was the only way you eat on shift.

            I quit with no notice less than a month in.

            1. I take tea*

              I worked in a fast food restaurant when I studied. It kept me immensly motivated, because I really wanted to get out of having to that kind of a job for a living. (Now I can see that it’s a privilege to get to study, but I didn’t know it then.)

            2. Wired Wolf*

              Our employee discount is a joke…it basically covers the deposit on a bottle of soda. On top of that, I found out that there is an annual limit. With food prices going up the way they are, one could hit that limit very quickly.

      2. Mockingjay*

        I’d love to see supermarkets put tall stools/drafting-type chairs at every register.

        Why is it office workers can use ergonomic equipment as a respite but other workers can’t?

        1. Tallyho*

          Isn’t it amazing Aldi seems to have survived – even flourished – with their cashiers sitting? It kind of shows standing is not required for any specific purpose.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yes, and their cashiers are highly efficient and FAST. I know they get up and do other things in the store, but maybe it’s because they’re not exhausted! Standing in one place for a long time will wear you out.

            1. Onthetrain*

              That’s not necessarily a good thing; in UK branches of Aldi, you are measured on the number of items you put through per hour, and the pressure to keep the numbers up is harsh.

            2. PoppySeeds*

              Uhhh … I have one in my town and I have yet to have a good experience in one. They are usually short of staffed (one check out open) and have surly cashiers. Honestly, I have been snapped at by them multiple times. I now actively avoid Aldi.

              1. Red Wine Mom*

                That has not been my experience at all.
                The staff are always polite, helpful and do a great job of quickly checking my grocery items. They also know their products and keep the store neat and tidy. Added benefit for them (as was mentioned before) – they all have tall stools at the check out counter.
                I’m in the US if that matters. And I’ve had that same positive experience at three different locations while shopping in three different states.

                1. Mannequin*

                  I’m in the US and Aldi is now one of my favorite stores. I’ve never had a bad experience in one.

                  Ours usually only have 1 or 2 registers open at a time, but generally there are never more than 3 or 4 people MAX waiting in a single queue, but if it does get busier than that they always open another one.

                  I don’t consider 3-4 people lined up to be abnormal or egregious at ANY retail business during a busy hour/register rush, and certainly not at Aldi, where the cashiers are so fast that a 3-4 person wait is more like 1-2 person wait at other establishments.

                2. Poppyseeds*

                  I am also in the US. Honestly, I go out of my way to be polite because there is way too much nasty. My first experience in one I was snapped at because I didn’t get a cart – didn’t need one- the cashier put the things in one. When I reached in to pick up my items the cashier got huffy and told me not to taste the cart & not in a nice way. My jaw dropped I gave no indication I was going to take it. I didn’t say a word I collected my stuff & left. Subsequent to that trying to get my monies out I have been snapped at that I am too slow. Im not but again I don’t argue. In addition lines have been so long I have put stuff back & left. We have Harris Teeter, Wegmans, Target, Walmart, Giant, Whole Foods etc. I’ll just shop there. Interestingly enough their sister store Trader Joe’s can’t say enough good things because the staff is super nice,

              2. Autumn*

                You should say something on their website, I’m pretty sure it’s a local manager being a dink, maybe a DM praised them for being under budget and it was taken too much to heart. Ive been to several Aldi’s and never had a bad experience with workers.

                Also is service with a snarl common in your community? My parents lived in NC for a few years in the 1990s and so many of the front line retail staff were mean! Didn’t matter the store…

                1. Midwestern Ennui*

                  In my experience, Aldi has insanely low prices, great products and the checkout people are lovely. Ours has been short-staffed due to covid and I still don’t think I’ve ever spent more than five minutes total in a checkout line. No one has ever snapped at me, but if they did? I’d understand, we are still in a pandemic and people are stressed. I don’t really need people checking me out at any business to be overly polite to me. Who knows what kind of bs they’re putting up with from other customers, managers and…you know, being a person.

                2. Poppyseeds*

                  No, I give good polite vibes and get them back. I understand how hard the service industry workers work an try to make the job easier. They also have a LOT of competition here.

              3. New But Not New*

                Not my experience at all. I frequent Aldi (and it is Aldi not Aldis) and the cashiers are fast and pleasant. If a line forms another register is opened right away. Note that Aldi store employees are trained on all jobs, allowing for flexibility in performing tasks. Few are on the register all the time. I love Aldi, especially since many stores in m area have been enlarged and modernized and look like regular grocery stores instead of warehouses. They also have good selections of general merchandise.

          2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

            Aldi actually did a study and found cashiers preformed faster while setting. So all cashiers got ergonomically correct chairs. (not an employee but shop there and have talked to the employees) I’ve also seen management make sure cashiers all had water bottles during busy times in the summer. They are required to keep up a certain “pace” as a cashier or for unloading trucks but in the USA at least Aldi pays their employees far better then other grocery chains.

            1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

              Aldi has had chairs for their cashiers as long as I can remember noticing such things, at least 40 years – that was long before they expanded internationally. They had the fastest cashiers before scanners became common; all products had a 3 to 4 digit code the cashiers memorized. For a number of years, that method was still faster than the scanners of the time.
              When Aldi finally did expand beyond their German home market, they basically copied what worked, with minimal adaptation to the target market. Their main local competitor, Lidl, did the same.
              This formula does not always works, though: When Walmart expanded into the German grocery store market, they cut their losses after a few years and retreated. They could not compete with the local prices (grocery prices in Germany are among the lowest between major industrialized nations compared to the salary level).

        2. Canadian Valkyrie.*

          Right?! It would make me so happy to see retail workers get things like chairs.

          The draw back is that not every position would allow this easily – I used to work in a deli and because we were using meat slicing machines, and constantly grabbing different deli meats, prepping for lunch (we made sandwiches), or cleaning following lunch, we didn’t realistically have much opportunity to sit. But I’m also a big fan of acknowledging that peoples jobs are different – a job with a lot of standing but where you are mobile is much easier to tolerate than a job (eg cashier) where you are largely stationary. In dact, I feel like the science shows this too – standing + mobile = can be/might be good (or at least ok). Long time stationary standing = bad.

      3. JB*

        Frankly, I think it’s about two things:

        1. Impressing upper management (rather than customers). They want everyone to ‘look busy’ so the company feels like it’s getting its moneys worth out of these employees (most of whom are working near minimum wage…)
        2. Not wanting to pay for chairs.

        1. Web of Pies*

          I agree. My only experience with this was a high school fast food job, and the standing requirement felt like a control/power move thing to me. There’s no reason why a person parked behind a register and just occasionally fetching drinks would be less effective if they were sitting or even leaning on a stool. Honestly I probably would have been more efficient if 25% of my brain wasn’t constantly screaming about how much my lower back hurt.

      4. RabidChild*

        I wish more workplaces in the US would allow this. When I have traveled in the UK and Europe, all retail workers are allowed to sit as they do their jobs.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I think this is where the proof comes that it’s cultural, not scientific.

          That said, I’ve worked retail jobs in the UK where we didn’t have chairs – for example, working behind a counter in a chocolate shop, which involved moving between different chilled counters, the register, and the box/wrapping area. But I would absolutely expect any supermarket checkout to have a chair for the person operating the register, typically an adjustable-height “office chair” that permits rotation.

          Do other static jobs have to be done standing all day? I’m thinking of things like selling/checking tickets at an entrance kiosk, or a dentist’s receptionist. I can see why a manager might not like the optics of “sitting doing nothing”, but someone actively working in one place can rest their feet and back!

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            In the US, stationary jobs like ticket checkers/sales, vendors at small booths, checkout clerks, assembly line workers, and bank tellers are often expected to stand all day. Receptionists sometimes are, but it depends on the type of establishment – I would be surprised to see a receptionist without a chair in a doctor’s office, but it’s not unusual to see that at a hotel.

            I don’t object to jobs that don’t provide chairs when employees are able to move around freely throughout the workday – only the ones where people are expected to stand up straight in one spot for long periods. Being able to move/walk/shift position at will is critical for comfort and health.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Thanks for clarifying. It does sound like engrained culture rather than logic. What a shame.

            2. Mannequin*

              Much of US culture was established by people who, in a nutshell, believed that excessive/unnecessary suffering and/or personal deprivation of pleasure was virtuous/godly and the repercussions of that are still being felt to this day.

            3. epithemeus*

              Exactly this. It’s not just retail. I have family in hospitality that are required to stand at the desk for 8 solid hours (no meal breaks). A kid in pharmacy required to stand to count pills up to 12 hours a day (also no meal breaks). The bottom line seems to be that US culture, especially management, view suffering as virtuous. If you aren’t suffering for you job, are you really working?

      5. Anonym*

        Probably one of those things where it’s easier to tell people not to sit than to say “appear friendly and ready to assist.” Except it’s very easy to say,”greet customers when you see them, ask if they need help, make brief eye contact and smile.” All of which communicate that you’re available to help them without torturing your feet and joints for no reason. (I’m thinking mostly of a mid-level American retail environment – my own experience – and these would all be perfectly effective. I may be bitterly sending a certain clothing company my orthopedist bills in about 10 years…)

      6. Alice*

        Grocery checkout clerks in Europe sit on chairs at their registers, and I don’t think it’s taking anyone an hour to check out of the grocery store because of how inefficient that is (and, they are even paid a decent wage for the work, something managers in stores here are also generally against, hmmm…)

    2. Aphrodite*

      I also agree. People who are comfortable at their jobs–temperatures are in a decent range, there are options for sitting and/or standing as per individual preferences, no uncomfortable uniforms–are naturally more relaxed and happy which, of course, comes across to customers. I would like to see people in retail and elsewhere have option to sit in comfortable chairs and get up when needed. (And by comfortable I mean soft seats and supportive backs. If height is needed, perhaps those cafe chairs that are higher than normal.) I would prefer it too if someone takes a few seconds to get up from a seated position rather than be shifting around on miserable feet.

      1. doreen*

        It’s a little funny that you mention those high cafe chairs , because I was just coming in to say that as a customer it doesn’t matter to whether employees sit or stand – but when I was a bank teller and I had to sit on one of those cafe chairs ( and I really had to, because I was too short to stand and see over the counter) I worked much more slowly than I would have if I was able to stand. Because it’s such a production for me to climb on and off those chairs to reach a lower drawer or leave my window most transactions took a bit longer than if I was standing – and because of the counter height I couldn’t just get up once , help all the customers and climb back up on my chair once. Of course, that could have been solved by having the desk height counters that some banks have.

        1. Lynn*

          The banks that I worked at all required that teller line folks be standing. All the time. They bought into the “it looks better to customers if you are standing” line. In many other ways, the ones I worked at were pretty good-but they never got out of that mindset while I was working there.

          When my boss and I hired a teller who was too short to see over the counter, we couldn’t get permission for a seat for her. We ended up getting permission to have a step built for her to put in her space on the teller line-even though a cafe chair would have been both an easier and cheaper solution.

          1. Mannequin*

            It only “looks better to customers if you are standing” to people who think that retail & service employees are “less than” and don’t deserve human comfort, or who need to endure discomfort as a show of deference to their “betters”, or simply need to stand to reinforce their roles as mere peons/serfs who only exist to serve the customer.

            I am a former manager and at my retail store, we (management) worked really hard to protect our employees from these kinds of entitled jerks and I am sup not OK with people who have this kind of attitude.

      2. Noblepower*

        I was allowed to purchase a chair that is more for leaning than sitting for when I’m in the lab at the bench. I’m sure it has a name, but basically it’s easily adjustable to a variety of heights, and leans in 360 directions. It’s not the most comfortable thing for just sitting, but for up and down with periods of sitting at bench (which is high counter height) it’s actually really a nice design. You can add a foot rest to take more pressure off your smaller leg muscles. I like that it’s easier to get up and down than a tall stool, and takes the pressure off my feet and low back. It was crazy expensive, but would be great for folks at a register, I think.

    3. The OTHER other*

      I disagree. And I say this as someone who worked retail for years. If you come into a store and the staff is sitting, they are at rest and you feel like a jerk (and they will likely feel like you are a jerk) for making them get up and help you.

      If you like sighs, eye rolls, etc and feeling as though you are imposing on the staff for inconveniencing them, then yeah, go with chairs, or hell, why not couches or beds? The resulting bad experience will just propel more consumers to shop online where they don’t have to feel like a jerk for asking someone to help the,.

      1. Jackalope*

        That certainly could happen, but it hasn’t been my personal experience when going places that are retail but let employees sit. They’ve been ready to help when needed and I haven’t gotten anything like eye rolls.

      2. Lunita*

        I wouldn’t feel like I was imposing just because employees are sitting. Your comment equates employees who would be bad in any situation with the act of sitting. People who are good at their job/customer service aren’t going to be rolling eyes, etc and will make it known they are available to assist. Unhelpful staff will do sighs and eye rolls regardless of whether they are standing or sitting.

        1. R*

          You get paid the same whether you’re doing nothing or whether you’re taking customer abuse when you work retail — believe me, I can roll my eyes at an awful customer buying unnecessary things and being nasty from whatever position I happen to be in.

        2. Anonym*

          Yeah, physical position has no relation to giving good customer service whatsoever. False equivalence here.

      3. Actually What*

        If employees are sighing and rolling their eyes at customers asking them for help with something that is reasonably their responsibility, making them stand isn’t going to improve their behavior. That’s an attitude issue caused by the person either being a jerk or being unsatisfied with the job for other reasons.

        1. Mannequin*

          Considering that even really nice, pleasant people can get become cranky & irritable due to the discomfort, fatigue, pain, etc of standing on their feet all day, forcing an employee who already has an attitude problem to stand is arguably going to make their attitude worse. There’s literally no logic or reasoning here.

      4. Magenta Sky*

        Depends a lot of the nature of retail. There’s a bid difference between, say, the corner convenience store and a high end jewelry store.

        And if the employees are sighing and eye rolling at having to actually do their job, the chair isn’t the problem, the employee is.

        1. Mannequin*

          I’m not sure why it would make any difference whether the employee sitting behind the counter was working at 7-11 or Tiffany. I don’t want employees working at either one to be forced into performative standing simply to appease some false notion of what “looks appropriate” for workers at retail/service level.

          I speak from IRL experience! I’m someone with eclectic tastes who buys a substantial portion of my eclectic wardrobe at thrift & vintage stores, garage sales, flea markets & swap meets etc, but also buys certain items from very pricy niche designers. Whether I am walking into the grungiest hole in the wall rag house or a chichi & exclu$ive Los Angeles boutique, it’s not going to bother me if the employees are able to sit and be comfortable between their standing tasks.

          Then again, I don’t think retail and service employees are beneath me, so I don’t need them to show me ‘deference’ by being forcibly discomforted either.

      5. Sakuko*

        In Germany, most people who work supermarket registers sit down for that. It’s a little different in more department store like setups, because the registers there are not build on a pedestal like retail registers, and the workers switch between other duties and checking people out more fluidly, but I find most of them still have a high stool behind it, so they can rest their butt if needed.
        Maybe we Germans are just ruder in general, because it never occurred to me that I might be rude for asking a sitting worker for help, when they are not obviously on their break.
        It’s similar for banks and other service desk type positions, where the service workers also use high stools to be on eye level with the standing customers, without having to stand all day.

        1. banoffee pie*

          Yes cashiers often have stools at the big supermarkets in the UK too. I’m not sure about ruder. It probably doesn’t count as rudeness in Germany to expect them to get up. I wouldn’t consider it rude either, I assume they’re just sitting until another customer comes along

          1. Sakuko*

            I was just joking about that. The German stereotype is being direct to the point of rudeness, isn’t it. ^^

            1. banoffee pie*

              Yeah thought you were joking ;) I did German at uni so I got used to it. It’s just a different culture I guess. I actually enjoyed being able to be more direct myself, for once. Germans are certainly more direct than us Irish, but people here are rude in other annoying ways. :)

            2. Mannequin*

              If being direct is “rude”, the US could do with a lot more rudeness. As a neurodivergent person, I find “guess culture” infuriating.

              Being honest, direct, using your words, saying what you mean, and not having hidden meanings behind the face value of your words IS polite.

              What’s rude AF is hinting, saying one thing while meaning another, playing mind games, expecting people to guess the ‘real’ or hidden meanings behind your words, and all the other BS that goes with “guess culture”- and then people have the gall to get angry at the person who can’t read their flipping mind and takes what they say at face value/as the truth.

              Before someone jumps in with “cultural differences!” I’m going to reference the “stepping on my foot” meme where it says “if your culture advocates stepping on feet, your culture sucks and you still need to get off my foot”

              If your culture advocates communication through obfuscation and guessing games, your culture sucks and you still need to learn how to use your words & communicate clearly with others.

        2. Violet Rose*

          I was about to say this – I moved to Germany from the States, and it took me a while to really notice that the supermarket cashiers tend to be sitting down; it seems very natural.

          I did notice that other retail employees are less likely to have chairs, and I’m not sure why; my theory is that in smaller shops, the queue empties more often, leaving the employee free to do something else (or at least stretch their legs), whereas in a supermarket the cashier can be effectively pinned to a till for a longer period of time, so having at least the option to sit is extra useful.

          1. M*

            I really had to think what you’re talking about, but true, I think you usually see this when the store design is focused around having employees be part of all parts of the shopping – consultation and working the till. Then they often help you find the items you’re looking for, walk you to the tills, and then do cashier work until you are done (and a following chain if there is anyone else).

            The more the store is designed to have those customer touchpoints done by different people, and employees more focused on one task (say: being a cashier for a dedicated time), the more they get to be seated. In a supermarket, I generally do not need help, so my biggest touchpoint with an employee is the till – and they’ll sit for however long they work the till. But if you’re buying clothes from a smaller shop, then most employees walk around, asking you whether you need help, and they’d help you and then handle payment as well.

            1. UKDancer*

              This is my experience also. Supermarket staff sit down mostly (at least they do in the ones I go to) because they’re mostly at the checkout. If they’re up they’re doing things like stacking shelves. In department stores they wander around and try and help you with things more (trying stuff on, finding new sizes). I think in the UK you expect more engagement with department store people.

              I went to a small jewellery shop and a small clothes shop last week and both of them had the “sit down until the customer arrives and then stand up” model. The jeweller actually had to buzz you in so I think they sat out back behind the counter rather than on the shop floor.

              1. Sasha*

                I also think there is a big difference between perching on a stool to rest your feet, and snuggling into an armchair.

                I might feel a little guilty about making an employee get up if they were flopped in a recliner chair with their feet up, but if somebody is resting their bum on a high stool to take the weight off their feet, I’d assume they were just waiting for something to do and would happily approach them.

              2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                It’s definitely a reason why I can’t work retail. Disability means I can’t stand for longer than a few minutes.

                If I see a store worker sitting down my first thought is ‘good for you!’ and also ‘wonder if they allow that because they’re disabled or because the company aren’t heartless’.

                Biased view though: I hate standing. It’s not good for my health.

                1. New Job So Much Better*

                  Reminds me of working retail shoes in high school, located in a mall. We had to stand all day, kneel to help fit shoes and climb the ladder in the storage room to reach the various boxes. We often worked 10 hour days — 12-10. I don’t know how I did it!

                2. Whimsical Gadfly*

                  Same here. Lots of those jobs that “nobody wants to work any more” that I simply can’t consider due to completely unnecessary to the job itself stuff like this.

          2. Cambridge Comma*

            Think of the weight a supermarket till worker moves with their hands each hour versus someone ringing up clothes or small items without a constant queue of customers. The supermarket is a physically harder job.

          3. Myrin*

            As someone with a part-time job in the field, a sister who’s a retail professional, and a grandma who owned a store, I can confirm that your theory is correct. Also, smaller shops usually have chairs somewhere, they might just not be immediately visible to a customer. Where I live, small shops normally have “the back” basicallly directly behind the register and a worker will come out a little backdoor as soon as they hear a customer enter; I know for a fact that it’s very normal for the employees to sit down in the back when a shop is empty and they don’t immediately have something else to do up front.

          4. Bagpuss*

            I’d say this is the case here in the UK, too. Supermarket cashiers generally sit. I think it is mostly about the size of the store, and about throughput of customers. For instance, in my local co-op in the village, the staff stand at the tills, but it’s a small shop, and they move around a lot to do other things. In the larger co-op (run by the same group) in town, the staff working the tills sit, but they don’t move around to do other things, there are different people filling/tidying the shelves, helping customers who need to find things etc.
            In clothes shops where people tend to spend more time looking and trying things on, and there isn’t usually such a constant stream of people checking out, they are more likely to stand, or to stand but have a stool they can rest on as needed.

            1. UKDancer*

              Definitely. There’s a difference between supermarkets (lots of customers but mostly not requiring much individual attention) and small shops selling high value goods (fewer customers but each one needs more individual attention).

              I bought some clothes at a small independent clothes shop last week. The owner got up from her chair by the window when I came in and went over to me to check what I wanted. She was standing while I looked at things and came over to help me find other items that went with the trousers I wanted to try. So when I was in the changing cubicle she was standing in the vicinity and passed me over other things she thought I might want, got me one top in a different colour etc, stopping to deal with another customer at the same time and helping her in a similar way.

              I would imagine once we were both done and checked out she’d go back to her chair and sit down again until another customer arrived.

        3. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

          Same in Norway and Italy, where I live and lived. Even in tiny stores where the employee is supposed to show you around and do the shelves there is always a chair behind the counter. And no, our stores are not full of sleeping employees. The very few times a clerk rolled their eyes for being interrupted I always assumed it was a rude employee, not the chair’s fault. I would have never even thought about chairs, because it’s just so normal to have them!
          Frankly, I find this attitude of “let’s not give our employees even a fingernail, or they’ll take the whole arm and shoulder and then society will collapse” a bit problematic.

          1. Mannequin*

            If society would collapse because wage workers are being treated like human beings, the
            problem is with how our society has been formed, not treating workers decently. I don’t know why people find this a difficult concept.
            Any system that only works when people are being exploited isn’t actually working.

        4. Rock Prof*

          When I lived in Germany, I noticed this right away too. Sitting definitely didn’t slow the speed with which they could check me out, though! German grocery store checkouts were one of the stressful parts of my day for a while!

        5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          No, I’m pretty sure customers are more polite in Germany. Go and read the “not always right” website for an eyeopener into how rude customers can be in the US!

          1. Whimsical Gadfly*

            Did you see the one recently where a cashier stationed at the self-checkout had a stool as an accommodation and a customer took it from them to sit on herself while yelling at the cashier for being lazy and expecting them to scan everything, check her out and bag?

      6. Pesliai*

        This … isn’t a reaction that would have ever occurred to me, honestly. If someone’s job is to help me, I’m not going to feel like a jerk for asking them to stand up and do it (unless they’re clearly injured or mobility-challenged or something). If I notice their seating situation at all, I’ll be passively glad that they don’t have to stand all day and they get to relax a little after helping me.

        As a customer, if I somehow found out that a manager at a business that I frequented had this attitude, I wouldn’t think well of them, or of the business. I also used to work retail, and I know it can be challenging at the best of times. I wouldn’t have reacted well to being treated as though I had an attitude problem until and unless I demonstrated one, and I wouldn’t be happy if I found out that any of the people helping me today were being treated that way.

        And as a manager, if any of my reports were rolling their eyes and sighing because I allowed them the incredible luxury of a chair, then the problem would be that report—not the chair.

        1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

          Former Retail worker. I’ve had people apologize for disturbing me on my break. But I’ve always assured them I didn’t mind.
          If I’ve gotten upset about my break being interpreted. Well I’ve never blamed the customers. Employer for short staffing the place? Coworker for not being willing to cover the till for 30 minutes? Absolutely.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              In very small shops/eateries, a dedicated break room out of sight is not feasible. That’s fine – I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault, and I certainly don’t blame the employer.

              I have gotten irritated at customers for disturbing me on my break. I can understand thinking someone in full uniform is just sitting down for a moment but still on the job. What bothered me was when I was sitting down at a table eating lunch on an unpaid meal break, with my apron and hat off, and someone else behind the counter… but a customer would approach me anyways.

              1. Mannequin*

                As a manager, *I* would be annoyed that customers were bothering my employees on their legally mandated breaks. I would definitely step in and assist the customer myself or send an employee who was not on break over if I was unable to do it myself.

                My staff were human beings simply trying to fund their existence, not corporate automatons or serfs at the beck and call of any/every customer and we did not let customers abuse them.

                1. Ace in the Hole*

                  Oh, just to be clear no manager has ever expected me to help customers while I was on break! If a customer was abusive or obtuse I’m sure they would have stepped in – fortunately all the times I’ve dealt with this a simply “Sorry, I’m on break – they’ll help you at the counter.” But being interrupted by a question is still irritating when you’re trying to relax!

              2. Denver Gutierrez*

                Ugh, why do people do that? Once I was outside across the parking lot, at a picnic table, with food in front of me, and reading a book, obviously on break. And someone still got out of their car and came over to me to say they had donations they needed help unloading. I politely told them to go inside to the front desk and they would page someone to assist.

                The person did seem a bit miffed but oh well. If I was on the clock I’d be happy to help but I was obviously on break. Lunch was only 30 minutes and I am not going to spend it doing unpaid labor. The kicker is the front door was much closer to where the car had parked than the picnic table was. Some people……

        2. Temperance*

          So you’ve never gone into a shop or food place and saw a person behind the counter on an obviously personal call, who then acted like you were SUCH an inconvenience to them? Or even said something like “ugh gotta go, customer’s here”?

            1. Mannequin*

              There is nothing rude at all about an employee who is on a call saying “gotta go, customer’s here” and I’m seriously side eyeing that there have been multiple employees actually making disgruntled “ugh” type noises before they do so.
              This feels very much like OP feels it’s a rude thing to say so the “ugh” is just automatically implied in their mind every time they hear it. (Yes, I’ve met people who think this way.)

          1. Koalafied*

            But what does that have to do with sitting? Someone taking personal calls while clocked in and someone giving attitude to customers are two different issues that someone merely being in a seated position.

            1. KittyCardigans*

              Yes, this! They are being bad employees, but it’s because they’re being rude and not prioritizing correctly, not because they’re not on their feet.

              As someone who has worked in small bookstores and various libraries my entire adult life (always with a chair!), sitting is not an impediment to good customer service. Decent employees are usually approachable, happy to get up when a patron needs something, and willing to do tasks that require being on their feet as long as they are physically capable of doing that.

              My mom’s place of work (retail) forbids sitting down the entire day except during mandated lunch/breaks. Almost all the employees are 50+, and the days are often 10+ hours long. I think that’s cruel.

              1. Mannequin*

                I’ve worked places that had regular slow periods where there were no customers and all the tasks that non-management/owner employees were capable of doing were done. In none of these places was it forbidden to get coffee/snack, read, chat, make a call, surf the web etc during these times when there wasn’t anything productive they could do. There wasn’t an issue with people putting down their whatever and doing a task/helping a customer when it came up because they were hiring good employees, not people with attitude problems.

              2. blerpblorp*

                While I was in library school I worked briefly at a Barnes and Noble (after years of working other retail jobs where sitting was also very frowned upon while on the sales floor) and then I got a part time job at a library and was like why do I have to stand to look up where a book is located in a retail store but I get to sit to look up where a book is located in a library? It seemed quite silly!

          2. lunchtime caller*

            My bodega guy is the only service worker I have ever seen on a phone call while working, and frankly he checks out my soda and chips just fine while doing it, so I could not care even a little bit. I don’t expect high touch service on my chip run though!

          3. marvin the paranoid android*

            I have experienced this before. On the flip side, when I worked retail, I had to deal with a ton of rude and demanding customers who liked to berate us and keep the store open late on purpose. Some people are just rude, although I’d say that’s heavily tilted to the customer side. I think even rude employees deserve not to be in physical pain by the end of a shift.

          4. Mannequin*

            I actually HATE being approached by clerks or salespeople and would prefer that they completely ignore me unless and until I request their help. I do not actually give a flying fart at a rolling donut if an employee is on a call and says “gotta go, customer’s here” and honestly wouldn’t care if they kept talking until I needed them. Why should they interrupt what they are doing simply to perform deference to me?

            And here’s a thing. When you walk in and an employee is on the phone, it’s all on YOU if you make the assumption that they MUST be on a personal call. There’s absolutely no guarantee that it’s not a work related call just because they end it quickly and informally, and I think it says something about how you view retail & service employees if you jump immediately to IMPUDENT SLACKERS because minimum wage service & retail workers aren’t already at eager attention to serve you even BEFORE you walk into the establishment. YUCK.

        3. Ann Nonymous*

          I worked at Brighton one Christmas season and we were required to stand and could not “lean” – even resting your arm on the edge of a counter was forbidden. Ridiculous. Between that and the stupid schedules confirmed that retail is not for me.

      7. Davida*

        As a customer who lives somewhere it’s normal for retail staff to have seats, this is simply ridiculous.

        If you feel that way about it, that says something about your attitude, but it is absolutely not a universal truth. And I’m confident that with a little effort you could overcome this bias and learn to treat people as human beings with needs, too.

      8. Batgirl*

        I say this as someone who is very annoyed by poor service; I don’t think such bizarre and rude behaviour as eye rolling and sighing are caused by seating the staff! I think that’s got to be a personality and possibly training problem. I do know that when we were seated at my old retail job, we welcomed customers, smiled and made eye contact with them just as we would have done if they’d come in as we were standing. Just like the seated hotel receptionist does, or the nurse seated between duties at a station. We often stood if it looked like the customer needed assistance, or to position ourselves within earshot. If anything, the most annoying type of retail environment is the “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean”, which leads staff to constantly ignore customers while they straighten up and stack shelves. The motto is “stop, drop and serve”, not “stand, stop, drop and serve”. Too many employers try to game and puppet their employees’ every mood and stance instead of just giving them clear instructions and training on what to do around customers.

      9. Grumpy Old Sailor*

        I’m going to disagree with your disagreement. As a customer, my experience has been that in work environments where sitting while serving customers is the norm – e.g., bank telllers, as our host alluded to in response to LW#4 – a cheerful response is usual. I can’t personally think of any instance myself where I’ve gotten eyerolls or sighs from a bank teller, but that is, I admit, one datum point. My gut feeling, supported by a number of stories I’ve seen recounted on Not Always Right, is that if anyone is going to eyeroll, sigh, or otherwise carry on, it’s more likely to be the Entitled Customer From Hell than the staff member serving them.

      10. Musereader*

        In the UK all supermarkets have chairs at the checkouts (they are usually pretty tall bar stool types, but they get to sit) . Other reatil places don’t usually but supermarkets in general do. Never felt like a jerk for asking them to do their job while sitting.

      11. PollyQ*

        You feel this way, at least in part, because the US cultural norm is “sitting = resting.” But if we changed the standard for retail workers to match that of, say, receptionists, I think you’d get pretty used to “sitting = working and available to help customers” pretty quickly.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This one is very odd to me–the person available to help customers at the doctor, the vet, the library, the office building, etc, is normally seated.

          At the mechanic there’s a standing counter which is just used when people are checking out–the staff sit when they are, for example, calling to ask about a part.

          1. OhNo*

            Agreed, the default in many environments is that the person helping you is sitting, and no one seems to have much worry about going up to the receptionist to ask for help.

            I can also say that 99% of the potential issues that might make customers feel unwelcome can be trained out of employees. Most of my first week working in a library was all about how to appear welcoming and inviting, to reduce anxiety for anyone who is new or not used to libraries. It’s not hard to learn, and it’s not hard to teach. Most retail managers just want a shortcut so they don’t have to do their jobs and actually, you know, manage.

        2. Admin 4 life*

          Yes! The comment I was looking for. I left retail for reception work because the 8+ hours of standing every day was damaging my spine. Moving and walking was no problem. I could stock shelves for hours but being confined to a 3 foot by 3 foot space was agonizing.

          I also saw a lot of disability discrimination directed at workers who required accessibility aids like wheelchairs. The number of times I’d hear “it must be so nice to get to sit all day” was infuriating. And I had to provide written statements about management treating them as if they were lazy simply because they have a physical disability and couldn’t stand at attention at the registers.

          I find forced standing only serves to discriminate and dictate a hierarchy.

          1. k bee*

            Yeah, the way sitting is looked down on in some workplaces and not others tracks with classism & ableism & that definitely shouldn’t be left out of the conversation

          2. Mannequin*

            I can no longer stand for long periods of time and the last time we went to Disneyland (pre-covid), we rented a wheelchair. I was medicated for pain, had a backpack full of energy replenishing snacks, and got to sit all day while being pushed around by my spouse.

            It wasn’t a luxury, it was a necessity, I wouldn’t have lasted long enough to make it onto a single ride without it. And I was still exhausted, sick, and in considerable pain at the end of our day- far more than I had been in the past, when youth, strength, and better health allowed me to actually attend an entire day there on my feet!

            It wasn’t “nice”, it was the only thing that allowed me to participate in something I’ve loved my entire life *at all* and I am sick of people acting like people with illness & disability are asking for obscene levels of unbelievable pampering when all we want is a chance to participate in the life those same people take for granted every single flipping day.

          3. Anonymous Today*

            This is so much like those people who decide that someone doesn’t “deserve” to park in the handicapped spaces because they don’t look handicapped.

            There are many medical conditions that don’t always make the person who has it look ill. Heart problems, MS, Lupus, etc. are all conditions that can be invisible at least some of the time.

            I’m afraid there are a lot more bullies among us than we’d like to acknowledge.

      12. Medusa*

        What? There’s no correlation between sitting and rolling one’s eyes and sighing. I have no idea how you managed to put those two things together but I hope you stretched first.

      13. Beth*

        1) I mostly don’t want people to jump up to help me the moment I walk into a store. In fact, I find that stores that insist on this are often really off-putting–if I’m trying to browse and someone keeps asking if I need help every few minutes, I’m going to leave without buying anything. I’ll ask for help if I need it.

        2) Why are you assuming that employees will roll their eyes, give big sighs, or act like you’re being a jerk if you ask for help and they happened to be sitting down? That seems like an odd assumption to me. I won’t say I’ve never seen workers act like that, but if anything, I’ve seen it more often when people are exhausted and achy from being on their feet for hours on end.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Point#1 is also my attitude. I’ve taken to telling sales staff preemptively that I’m someone who prefers to shop alone. Sometimes it works…

          1. Spotted Kitty*

            When I worked at a large bookstore chain in the music department, I was told to walk around keeping my eyes on everyone and asking if they needed help every couple of minutes. In my case it was supposedly to deter shoplifting.

        2. londonedit*

          You should come to Britain; we have a deep-seated mistrust of that sort of customer service style. I expect a lot of Americans think our retail and waiting staff are incredibly rude, but as a nation we tend to find OTT customer service very disingenuous and off-putting.

          1. banoffee pie*

            I hate it when the staff jump on you as soon as you get into the shop. Then I pull out the old favourite ‘I’m just looking’. ;)

          2. Ann O'Nemity*

            As an American, I LOVED shopping in the U.K. No pushy sales people but the staff was always helpful when asked. It kind of reminded me of the aloofness of retail workers in Seattle.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          For #1, I saw a photo of a store (Sephora?) that had two different colored baskets for shoppers – one meant “I want assistance” and one meant “please don’t bother me.”

        4. HoHumDrum*

          Yes to point number one! When I enter a store I want to know where to go to ask for help if I need it, and otherwise I want to be left alone. I like to listen to headphones while I shop solo, or focus on the person I’m with. I’ve been to so many stores where the staff was forced to follow me around and make perky asides constantly and it’s not their fault but it does make me leave a store faster than I planned. I especially notice it when I go back to the midwest from NYC, as in New York a less intense customer service experience is the norm.

          That’s my feeling as the customer, but I can also speak from the worker’s view too. When I did work retail in the Midwest it was exhausting- being that perky and attentive all day drained me so much faster than if I could just be my most pleasant self. The first time I worked retail in a city where that was less expected I couldn’t believe how much easier my day was. It also made it easier to fire up the extra charm when actually needed/desired by a customer.

          I feel like bosses and CEOs are so misguided on this. I remember being in a meeting at my retail job where our boss was hammering home that we needed to have that level of constant interaction and friendliness, and he cited a specific store as being the gold standard for making customers feel attended to. I had been in that exact store the day before and literally ran out of it in under 10 minutes because a staff member was so friendly he kept following me and enthusiastically gushing over any item I touched or looked at too long, and at one point tried to get me to high five him over a rain jacket. When my boss said that’s how customers wanted to feel I knew he was operating from a very different worldview than me. I’m sure some customers do like that, but the skill of customer service is reading people and adjusting to what they want. If people want to be left alone good customer service is leaving them alone!

          And as far as sitting- I want people to be comfortable! It makes me uncomfortable to feel like some feudal noble lording over a servant running back and forth on my whims. I would much prefer the worker is comfortable and relaxed, it makes me feel less awkward as a customer. When workers are forced to stand at attention and hop to and gush over me I feel like I’m in Downton Abbey and not in a good way.

        5. Lenora Rose*

          I want the happy medium in your standard retail store (This is not applicable to grocers). I usually hate being jumped on the moment I arrive, and being followed around, prattled at, or having items shown to me will get me out of that store with impressive speed.

          I do however, like it if, after I’ve had a bit of time to orient myself and look around, a staff person approaches me to see if I need help or have questions, and backs off if I don’t, or leap into full service mode if I do.

          And in fact stores where I have to go find the staff for help have lost sales for it unless they were obviously busy/with another person.

      14. Mameshiba*

        To compare a stool to a couch or bed is very disingenuous. When I visited Vietnam I saw almost every retail shop worker sitting on a stool looking at their phone, until a customer came into the store and then they were helpful or even sometimes aggressive in pursuing the sale! And in some retail stores in Japan it is common to call out to the customer or to passersby to lure them in, and you can hear the toll it takes on their voice at the end of the day. Does that mean workers who don’t shout are lazy and might as well be in their PJs at home?

        What is “appropriate salesmanship” is very culture- and region- and industry-/brand-dependent and does not necessarily indicate anything about the work ethic of the worker in question!

        1. Koalafied*

          And in some retail stores in Japan it is common to call out to the customer or to passersby to lure them in

          Wow, I just realized that’s probably why all of the shops in Zelda Breath of the Wild have a “barker” like that. It’s a mildly annoying sound effect (they don’t have actual voice acting dialogue, but do have real voices just making a single or two-syllable word/sound) that is triggered by Link passing near a shop, so I’m always trying to like glide down from the roof on my paraglider to land behind the barker and enter the shop before they see me so I don’t have to hear, “HE-EY!” for the 1,000th time, lol.

          1. pancakes*

            This sounds like it’s meant to be the greeting irasshaimase (いらっしゃいませ). It means welcome, come in. I heard it for years at Japanese restaurants and grocery stores before seeing it in print and learning the meaning.

      15. Paul Pearson*

        In the UK it’s normal for staff to sit at tills and other places where they can while doing their jobs. I have never felt like I’m imposing on them. And, frankly, if you’re staff are going to eye roll when asked to do something, they’re going to do that whether they’re sat, stood, or lying supine on a chaise longue being fed grapes and fanned by toga-clad slaves. You’re issue there has nothing to do with not being able to make someone stand on sore feet for 4 hours at a time.

      16. Jennifleurs*

        Someone drank the koolaid
        Maybe this is a culture thing though. I’m British and I’m regularly served by seated cashiers. I guess if sitting down is something you NEVER see workers do, then probably you will associate it with resting. But like… Some people work sitting down and they are just as much at work and ready to serve you.

      17. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m an American who thinks chairs should be available. If I walked into a store and people were sitting down, I’d just think they were having a slow day. A car dealership’s sales staff all have desks or tables, and that’s seen as normal. I’d bet someone who’s not tired is more ready for a customer than someone whose feet hurt.
        Come to think of it my college retail job WAS sitting. The sales window was too low for me to stand.

      18. paxfelis*

        Do you feel like a jerk for disturbing sitting employees, or do you want people to feel like a jerk for disturbing you when you’re a sitting employee?

        1. paxfelis*

          Sorry, after posting this is occurred to me that perhaps you aren’t allowed to sit at work. In which case, the question is rephrased as “Do you want people to feel like a jerk for disturbing you at work?”

      19. ecnaseener*

        Taking it out of the retail context – if I walk up to the front desk in an office building and make a request that requires the receptionist to stand up (eg to go get somebody) I don’t feel guilty and the receptionist doesn’t look annoyed.

      20. The Other Dawn*

        I worked retail for seven years and if an employee is sighing and rolling their eyes when someone simply asks for help or enters the store, the problem is the employee, not the chair. And if a customer feels like a jerk for asking a seated employee for help or to ring up their groceries, which is part of their job, that’s on the customer.

      21. Falling Diphthong*

        The one time I called and complained about bad service that made me feel like I was really imposing on the new employee at a store where I shop frequently, she was standing throughout the interaction.

        For the counter example: At my farm stand, I recall once going in and the experienced hands were modeling for the summer teenagers how you can chat when things are slow without suggesting that a customer is “interrupting” you by attempting to purchase items. It’s about how you direct your attention, not that people who are sitting (like the staff at every doctor or vet reception?) are naturally rude and people are standing are naturally gracious.

      22. hbc*

        I know you’re getting hammered, and I disagree with your take on the situation, but I know a few people who share your view. There *are* people who think it’s rude to ask a sitting person to get up even if that person is clearly there to help the public, and then they blame the seated person for making them choose between receiving help and “imposing.” I think that’s who owners are thinking of in these cases. But there are also customers who are upset if you don’t flirt back at them, and in both situations, unreasonable customers should not be catered to at the expense of your employees.

        (The person who immediately came to mind is a relative who bitterly complained about not even being offered a drink at a relative’s house, and when we suggested that she could have asked for a glass of water, she dismissed it without consideration.)

        1. HoHumDrum*

          This feels like a subset of ask vs guess culture somehow- sitting requires me to ask directly for your service, vs standing and hovering means you’re already doing it.

          I wonder if the poster is perhaps projecting a bit- if you feel awkward about an interaction you are more likely to attach negativity to otherwise banal or neutral actions & tones. A deep breath of exertion as one stands becomes a sigh, a glance around the store becomes rolled eyes. If you already feel like you’re doing something wrong by asking for something it’s very easy for your brain to jump to the conclusion that anything less than uber positive body language is directed *at* you as a reaction to your faux pas.

          Which is to say, I share sympathies, but also to gently suggest the poster do a little internal digging to root out. You want folks to stand so you don’t have to feel awkward, but perhaps you can work on maybe feeling less awkward about it.

          Also, if the employee is doing what you asked, is it really necessary for you to also feel they were happy to do it? I’m not saying that being rude or unhelpful is ok, but I just mean…if the worker gets you the item you want swiftly but you just have the nagging feeling they’re not thrilled about it…is it really necessary for them to feign joy and enthusiasm? Because to be honest while I am very good at faking enthusiasm I have never actually felt genuine emotional pleasure out of ringing people up at a cash register and all that enthusiasm was an exhausting show I put on. Asking people to be friendly and polite is very reasonable, but I feel like in a lot of America we expect customer service workers to express actual joy at the thought of serving people and it’s weird and unnecessary.

          1. Mannequin*

            Needing them to express joy at the thought of serving people also meshes well with classist/racist/sexist ideas of people “being in their proper place”.
            You see, if someone’s race/sex/class makes them ‘naturally suited’ for X then they obviously LOVE doing X, and since they LOVE doing X, that’s reward in itself and we don’t need to give them any kind of respect, recognition, or compensation for doing it!

      23. Well...*


        The way some people treat retail workers. Don’t want them to have to get up so NEVER LET THEM SIT. Maybe you just want robot workers? In which case, yes, go shop online. If the industry has to abuse workers to exist then… Maybe it shouldn’t exist.

        1. Koalafied*

          Don’t want them to have to get up so NEVER LET THEM SIT.

          This would actually be hilarious if it wasn’t so accurate and sad. “If I have to ask them to their face to stand, I feel bad, but not because of the making them stand part, more the asking to their face part, so if someone who isn’t me could just make them stand for their entire shift that would be better for me.”

          1. JM60*

            “I don’t want to feel like I’m imposing on the store employee, so I want the store impose that they stand all the time.”

        2. Denver Gutierrez*

          I know, it’s crazy. It is not unreasonable to expect someone to do the job they are being paid to do. If that means the person has to get up or stop chatting with coworkers, so be it. They are being paid to assist people, so unless they are on break, you shouldn’t feel guilty for asking them to do their jobs. If they get an attitude about it, that is on them, not you.

          Expecting them to stand all day to absolve you of your own guilt is pretty self-centered.

        3. Mannequin*

          “If the industry has to abuse workers to exist then… Maybe it shouldn’t exist.”

          Not maybe, definitely.

          If a system doesn’t work without exploiting people, it’s not actually working.

      24. tinybutfierce*

        If employees are sighing and rolling their eyes because they’ve been asked to help a customer, that’s an employee-specific problem, not a problem with the entire concept of letting employees sit.

      25. Who Am I*

        Apparently you’ve never shopped at Aldi. Its a German-owned grocery chain and the cashiers there sit, the same as if they were in Germany. Their cashiers are as ready to ring up groceries in a helpful and pleasant manner as any cashier in any other grocery store – chain or independent – I’ve ever been to. (Maybe moreso since they’re not aching and fatigued.) I’ve been told that cashiers are required to have seating in most places in Europe though I don’t know if that’s actually true. If it is – do you really think an entire continent if full of lazy, rude retail workers?

        1. londonedit*

          The vast majority of supermarket cashiers in the UK sit down while they’re working. No one would ever think to question it or to call them lazy – if you’re working for a few hours at a stretch, you need to sit down! Of course other shop staff would stand up, ones that need to move around more like if you’re stacking shelves or you’re on the shop floor in a department store or a clothes shop, but they’d get regular breaks and there are usually stools or chairs around in case people need to use them.

        2. SushiRoll*

          Aldi was the first thing I thought of – they all sit and the cashiers there are usually the FASTEST at ringing up than any other store around!

      26. pancakes*

        What? No. What you are describing is two separate issues — feeling guilty for asking people to do work at work, and them being surly about it — and neither is common in my experience. If you choose to take the surliness you are encountering to heart, that’s your choice, but it isn’t mandatory. The type of encounter you are describing is with someone who is unambiguously lousy at their job, and at best careless about wearing their sour feelings on their face. You needn’t take it as some sort of proof that their outlook on the world is correct, or more correct than yours, because that isn’t what it is.

      27. Susie*

        If employees are sighing & rolling their eyes when waiting on customers, the problem is not whether they are sitting or standing.

      28. JB*

        If your staff are sighing and eye rolling at customers, the issue is not chairs. The issue is your staff. If you feel bad when someone working in a store stands up to greet you cheerfully and assist you, then again, the issue is not the chair – it’s with you. Don’t assume your bizarre hang-ups about ‘interrupting’ people are somehow universal.

      29. Sapphire (they/them)*

        I think we’re talking specifically about cashiers here. There’s no need to make them stand at a register, a chair can very easily be provided and they can still do their job while sitting comfortably.

      30. AuroraPickle*

        I don’t think chairs have anything to do with eye rolling. That’s on the employee and as a former retail worker myself, I don’t get upset about it. The whole fake customer service persona is exhausting and I’m okay if someone else is over it that day.

        I wish customer service people were allowed to be themselves a bit more. Don’t feel like smiling because I’m placing an order? That’s fair. It isn’t as if this task of going into your retail store is exciting to me either.

        I’d much rather suffer an eye roll or ask someone to stand up than make them suffer a forced “friendly conversation” and smile. It’s as if you don’t know that we customers know the whole customer service thing is a drama.

        1. AuroraPickle*

          I should add even if it was exciting to me to be at a store, that’s my excitement. I don’t expect some random stranger to share in that. I’m not that selfish.

      31. Lenora Rose*

        Where is your evidence that sighs and eyerolls happen more if the staff can sit down? Where is your evidence that the staff whose job it is to walk over anc check on you (rather than to sit behind a cash register, which is 90% of what we’re talking about) will suddenly walk over and speak with customers *less* because there happens to be a chair in the store?

      32. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        If they’re working the till, they can absolutely do their job sitting down. Here in France everyone is sitting at the till!
        The only place down town where worker are standing is at the Post Office, at the counter you go to when you need to pick up or drop off a parcel. Since they’re always fetching and carrying parcels, it makes sense for them to be on their feet. Previously, you could do all things at all counters (cashing cheques, dropping off parcels, buying stamps etc). The workers were all sitting down, and for some it was a huge effort and haul themselves out of their chair and into the back room where the parcels were stored. Now that there are separate parcel and banking counters, and machines to buy stamps from, I feel that the workers are indeed more dynamic. Partly because they’re on their feet, but also I think because they have specialised and are not changing tasks with each customer. This is a case where standing is logical and desirable, but in shops and banks, anyone in the same position for more than 15 minutes should have a chair or stool to sit on.

      33. Mannequin*

        @the OTHER other

        “If you come into a store and the staff is sitting, they are at rest and you feel like a jerk for making them get up and help you.”

        This problem only exists in your head, and as such, it’s entirely your issue to deal with. Retail and service employees don’t need to suffer because YOU have a complex about it.

      34. Paris Geller*

        Not retail but I work in a public library and we sit at the public desk–it’s never been an issue. This is completely anecodotal, but at my last library our public services desk were standing height, and I feel like I get treated much better by patrons at my current library!

      35. Mental Lentil*

        Wow. If you are getting sighs and eye rolls from workers everywhere you go, it seems that you are the problem.

      36. Mannequin*

        Wait wait wait. I’m another comment you mention you’ve been a retail manager, assigning busywork tasks to people.

        You’ve literally been behind the scenes AND controlling the shots in the industry but you’d feel guilty asking a sitting retail person to stand up and help you? This makes no sense whatsoever. None. Nada. Zilch. Zero. It makes even less sense than just being some random customer with a weird issue.

        A little introspection wouldn’t be amiss here.

    4. allathian*

      Yeah, it’s weird. In my first retail job, I was allowed to sit when I was working the checkout. But the job involved some physical labor for everyone because it was a small store, and everyone had to do pretty much everything. When I started, we still used a sticker gun to put price tags on some items, or just colored stickers when they were about to reach their sell-by dates. Everyone filled shelves, and employees with some tenure faxed in orders, took deliveries, etc.

    5. Princess Hylia*

      I worked at a store where seats were allowed for me and one other employee as a disability accommodation, but disallowed for our other staff. I can say with a good deal of certainty that neither Disabled Coworker or I came across as less willing to work than our fully able coworkers — we were just less able to stand on our bum legs for 10 straight hours when we were at the checkout counter, and on bad days less able to do things like walk with the customer to show them exactly where things were on the shelf. When I was sitting, I was also more likely to be approached in a lot of cases — I didn’t seem busy stocking and cleaning, so customers didn’t feel like they were interrupting me!

      1. Klio*

        Yeah, as a customer it is more pleasant to ask an employee who looks comfortably like “ready to help you” located in an “here be employees ready help you” place than having to approach someone busy you have to hunt down in an aisles somewhere and then avoid stepping in their cleaning stuff or whatever. Not least of all because you expect that former will have time and leisure to give you the best help instead of the later who presumably just wants you gone so they can go back to their current duty.

    6. Linda*

      I live in Europe where it’s the norm for employees to be sitting. Cashiers, sales clerks, toll booth attendants – all have a stool or chair to sit on. The US is so whacked on these topics.

    7. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Honestly it always confused me that standing up at registers seems to ubiquitous in the US (not trying to be all “US sucks!” here, just making an observation). I can only think of one chain of supermarkets that has their cashiers stand up, and that’s because they have an unusual checkout system. I never really considered whether or not cashiers standing up makes them look lazy or not – I just want to pay for my stuff and go on my way.

      1. Autumn*

        It may have come too from the “science of motion study” in the early 20th century. They would look at nearly every process in work or daily life and figure out how to do so with the least motions possible, in order for it to go faster or tire the worker less. In the process they may have gotten the idea that a standing worker can work faster just because they are not sitting or standing. Everything, for a while was designed around these principals, when you look at a check out stand in a grocery store, notice that when the cashier had to pick everything up and look at a price tag, then enter it into a cash register, they were pulling things across with their left hand, and running the register with their right hand. This positioning held firm until scanners became ubiquitous, now the register keyboard has moved so the cashier can pull things across, right to left, if it’s something that must be weighed, often the scanner is a scale, and the cashier pulls the item onto the scanner, enters a code, then moves the item along. This arrangement is very fast and does not presume the cashier is right handed. It has a huge flaw, depending the angle the keyboard is mounted at, it’s very hard on the cashier’s wrist.

        Motion study was pioneered by the same guy who’s family was featured in the book “Cheaper by the Dozen” after he died his wife continued the work and brought many efficiencies to how kitchens were set up. They also had a role in designing how stations on assembly lines were set up.

        I think though the worst thing they inadvertently fostered, was treating humans like machines…it’s been hard or impossible to shake that thinking, even though it’s killing us slowly.

    8. BritChicka*

      In the UK and in many other countries it’s the norm to sit. America is just messed up: example 547479.

      1. Working-Class Prof*

        Someone may have addresses this already, but the standing thing is probably at least in part a Carey-over from the days of household servants. It was considered completely inappropriate for housebound staff to sit down (or remain sitting) in the presence of their employers. I suspect that expecting service workers to stand at all tones is in part a legacy of this pernicious classism.

        1. Working-Class Prof*

          Sorry, forgot to proof and it doesn’t let you edit.

          Sigh. And I actually teach writing.

          1. AKchic*

            The bane of an autocorrect that thinks it knows what we want, and it guesses hilariously wrong every time. But at least it’s spelled correctly! It makes me think of Anna and Hans singing together, though. Autocorrect truly is finishing our sandwiches.

        2. banoffee pie*

          That’s interesting. I wasn’t sure where the ‘standing-up is good’ thing was coming from. Downton Abbey, apparently!

            1. AKchic*

              Considering we’re discussing the US, and this is “the help”… yeah, my vast quantities of tarnished pennies are betting on plantations too.

    9. mreasy*

      I have noticed on my (admittedly brief) travels that retail workers in Europe/UK seem to be sitting between customers more often than in the US, which makes me think it’s just a misguided cultural norm.

    10. Nuke*

      When I worked at a combo medical/retail place, we were told we have to stand at the front desk… despite having very comfortable chairs AT THE DESK. We had to work AROUND the large, squishy office chairs, literally reaching around them to get to desk space and computers. We were not allowed to put them in another room, or sit in them, ever. Customers would in fact ask about them frequently and wonder why we weren’t ever sitting in them. I would tell them “we’re not allowed” with a big smile, and we’d get terrified looks. I know I’m always happy to see people, especially in medical offices, sitting. It makes no sense to force people to stand all day if their job can be done (sometimes even more easily!) sitting down.

      1. banoffee pie*

        That’s a bit messed-up. Like Tantalus or something. Was anyone allowed to sit in them, or if not, what were they for?

    11. CupcakeCounter*

      Yup! My favorite place to shop in Aldi and part of that is the speed and efficiency of the employees at the checkout. I’m sure it isn’t BECAUSE of the chair, but just knowing that have that option changes some perception in my eyes. Plus I have horrible foot problems so seeing them just standing all the time makes MY feet hurt.

      1. Windchime*

        It actually could be partially because of the chair! My son works in a grocery store and he has a congenital hip condition that causes his hips and legs to ache and burn after a few hours of standing. He is given a cushioned mat to stand on but, of course, no stool/chair since we are in the US. I’m sure he could work more efficiently if every moment of work wasn’t affected by his distraction of being in pain.

    12. Don't Be Long Suffering*

      In my late thirties I worked for a hardware store. The owner had a window cut into his office wall so that he could be at his desk, on the phone or doing paperwork, and look down onto the floor of the store. I was a cashier. In the “cage”, as it’s called. We were not allowed to sit, although the (bar-type) stools in the store were the perfect height for the cash registers. I didn’t know the rule at first. I found an unused stool and took it into the cage. The next day it was gone. I found another. The owner came down and told me I could not have a stool. All the cashiers were to stand. For eight hours. I told him I had a long-standing injury that makes it painful to stand. He told me he did too, and we don’t see him sitting when he’s on the floor. I stared right at him, my mouth open. He looked away first. My next try was moving about. I would take returns and put them back in inventory. No! Cashiers are not to leave the cage in case someone needs to cash out. Give the items to one of the workers on the floor. Dude! There is not a single customer in the store, there is another cashier in the cage, and there are no workers on the floor. They are in the back room, SITTING DOWN, to take a load off. You just don’t have a peep hole for the back room and they know it.
      I would go to my car for my one hour lunch break, recline my seat and sleep. Hard. At the end of the day I had to pick up food on the way home because I couldn’t stand up long enough to cook. I slept while my children ate.
      I lasted one month. When I quit, he told me he just doesn’t understand why his cashiers keep quitting. I have a long-standing tradition of using my privilege as a married person (I need a job, but I don’t need this one) to speak up for others. “Dude, it is not feasible for people to stand in one place for 8 hours a day. You say you don’t sit when you’re on the floor, but you sit most of the day at your desk. You need to stand for a full eight hours before you tell others they must stand. There’s no reason to stand. There’s no advantage to standing. You just think people are not working if they are sitting. You are only right if you aren’t working while sitting at this desk. You believe you work hard. We also work hard, for a lot less per hour. Rethink this.” He considered this for a moment and then gave me some version of “Naw, that’s not it.” I stood up and walked out. Previously a good customer, I never patronized that store again. When anyone asked me about the place I told them the employees were not treated well.
      Two years later, he up and died suddenly. His family ran “his baby” into the ground in less than a year. It’s. Not. Worth. It. Not for the employees, not even for the owners. Treat people well and relax, cuz we’re all just gonna die. Go with peace on your face and love in your heart.

    13. nuqotw*

      I once went to get my computer repaired at a place that had a bunch of seats for employees and an enormous fluffy cat who clearly had no plans to stand up for customers, store closure in the evening, or the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

      1. Not a cat*

        I used to take my Aunt’s dogs to a groomer who had two shop cats. The big floofy one would try to bat the pen out of your hand if you were signing to authorize the charge. His customer service skills were excellent.

    14. Little My*

      I feel really strongly that cashiers should be able to sit! I worked a standing-all-the-time cashier job for two weeks three years ago and I am long-term disabled from it. I have spent thousands of dollars on medical treatment and I still can’t stand or walk without pain. It’s so unnecessary that this happened to me.

    15. DW*

      I worked at a farmers’ market in college and my boss would get on me for sitting down whenever he was around (not often). Really what he cared about was that I was making eye contact with people to draw them to the stall. But he’d equated sitting down with not engaging which isn’t necessarily true. Ironically enough, on the days he was there I stood at all times except for breaks, when I was both sitting down and not engaging. So it was a self-perpetuating misunderstanding. But on the days he wasn’t there and I worked with someone else, we’d sit and engage all the time, because we could sit down outside breaks. There was some truth to the idea that if we were sitting then we would be less proactive to stand up and attend to customers – but again, this was only when we were standing up so often that we’d be exhausted by the time we got to sit down.

      1. Chris too*

        I have my own stall at the farmers markets and I seldom sit, and don’t usually bring a chair for myself. I don’t care if my helper sits for a while though, as long as he stands when it’s necessary to help customers. I do think if nobody is standing it affects sales negatively.

        1. Mannequin*

          Not a farmers market, but I ran a vintage clothing booth at flea markets for several years and made tons of money while sitting on my ass all day.

    16. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, I would prefer to patronize a store that treats its employees well! I always wish it were normal to let people sit in any job that requires you to be in one place for a long time. It’s not like you need to stick a barcalounger behind the register, but at least some kind of stool that lets them take the weight off their feet would be nice!

      I was a teller briefly in my early twenties and had to stand. And I also had to wear heels! That’s so ridiculous. I was able to do that without issue then, but I would not be able to do it now a decade later.

      1. Spotted Kitty*

        When I worked retail, we had to stand all day and wear dress shoes (didn’t have to be heels, thank god). Foot issues were not covered by the insurance. I knew at least three people during my time there that had to get foot surgery. I was heading that way if I hadn’t left when I did.

      2. Mannequin*

        When I worked retail or other standing jobs I wore athletic shoes or combat boots/dr Martens. I’ve had lifelong issues with foot and leg pain and anyplace that thinks I’m going to subject myself to even more pain by wearing improper shoes can bite me.

    17. Meg*

      Same! I notice and it makes me grin. (And jealous, but in a good way! From when I worked retail.) But also if they’re sitting they can focus on being pleasant and doing their job when people are shopping at 8:30 pm instead of the throbbing pain in their feet and getting through the last half hour of the night without screaming. Requiring standing is gross and antiquated.

    18. Still Queer, Still Here*

      Agreed. My spouse has just been offered a job that will get them out of the retail grind finally. We started looking into getting something different for them because of the toll it has taken on their body. They’re under 30, and in the last 5 years working for Big Coffee Company (yes, that one), they have suffered a lot of injuries, including: tendonitis in the feet, broken metatarsals (feet bones, not from trauma but from extended pressure), bone contusions, and knee cartilage breakdown. Their manager is actually pretty cool, so they’ve been allowed to sit on a stool when one or both legs have been out of commission.

      But the number of times customers have come in and seen them sitting behind the register instead of standing and taken that opportunity to be utter JERKS because they think my spouse is just being lazy… Spouse has a temper and has occasionally stepped out from behind the counter and heaved their cast or brace up on the counter in a fit of peak to shut the customers down. It’s ridiculous how many people think sitting while doing a customer-facing job makes you lazy, managers and customers alike.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        The wasp peeked out at the barbecue. The wasp’s interest was piqued by the miniature sausages. The wasps maternal instincts peaked when she brought an entire mini sausage back to her larvae.

        Apologies for being a bastard in the comment section.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            That’s true, but if I spend more than five minutes on my wasp analogy I turn into mojo jojo.

            The wasp’s interest was piqued by the miniature sausages. The stinging insect’s interest was roused by smaller versions of meat products. The wasp took a miniature sausage in a fit of pique. The stinging insect absconded with a small meat product due to intense emotion.

            1. quill*

              The stinging insect devoured the sausage and then hid in an open soda can, peeking its beady little eyes out

              1. KoiFeeder*

                Actually, the vast majority of meat consumption in a paper wasp hive is the larvae. The adults can eat meat, but they prefer high-sugar foods like fruits, honey, and your soda. So the one in the soda can is a different stinging insect, just waiting for the right moment to get into the fresh soda. :)

    19. bbbbb*

      Doctors who sit down for the consultation are perceived more positively even if the consult is the same duration as their standing ones. IDK where this “standing” for work that can be performed sitting came from. We see it on some TV stations as well.

    20. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

      Once in a retail job I got chewed out for sitting in front of a computer station…ordering something online to be delivered to the store. When the computer was at an appropriate level for a seated user, not one who was standing. Apparently I was supposed to bend over or crouch or something. Anything to avoid the shocking connection of my behind and a horizontal surface. Because it looks bad for customers. Ugh.

      Retail jobs don’t usually pay well enough for good shoes, either, the kind that makes being on your feet for hours on end marginally less terrible.

    21. Mitsuko*

      Definitely a strong cultural element. In Japan where I’m from, sitting when the customer is standing is, kind of, rude. When you go to high-end restaurants in Europe and America, the waiting staff are often standing, again I think a cultural thing from when there were aristocrats and servants maybe? But I have to agree that just standing serves little purpose. Walking around, making sure the customer is satisfied or trying to do something helpful, maybe (though I personally hate it when shopkeepers follow me around). In Japan I noticed often staff are doing kind of ‘busy-work’ (folding clothes, rearranging display items), so not just standing still, maybe to strike a balance between being polite but not looking too artificial (and it didn’t occur to me, but maybe it’s also more comfortable). Interesting question.

    22. KoiFeeder*

      Agreed, I am more satisfied if I see evidence that employees are being treated humanely, and will shop preferentially at places that do so.

    23. L'étrangere*

      Completely agree with Beth. I notice if employees are forced to stand, take it as a visible symptom of general mistreatment, and am more likely to take my business elsewhere

    24. Sb78*

      I would also add that I think “does employees standing improve customer satisfaction” is the wrong question. The correct question should be “does employees standing materially improve customer satisfaction such that it justifies requiring staff to stand”. Improving customer satisfaction alone isn’t justification for placing physical stress on your staff. The bar should be much higher than that. If there truly is a difference between how much a customer spends and their likeliness to give repeat custom, that *might* be enough, but customers saying they like it but with no impact on their behaviour is not a reason to do that to your staff.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I’m not going to switch to a different grocery store because the clerks are sitting.
        Nor will I stop buying stuff at Home Depot because the associate sits down in a chair at the computer to make the order. (I might like it if I could sit too, but I’m not going to decide not to buy it, and I’m not going to switch stores.)

        I go to stores based on
        1) their location
        2) the selection
        3) the prices
        4) the overall experience–and staffers sitting is not going to be negative enough to ruin that; them being hard to find might be; or them being crabby and unhelpful might be.

        I went to a drug store this week, and the woman who was checking people/prescriptions in and out was just sort of blank; she seemed to not know what was going on. She was standing, and I wonder if she’d have had more mental energy if she’d been sitting all day instead of standing.

    25. morethanbeingtired*

      I just find it interesting that as the research comes out about how bad sitting for long periods is for employees, more office jobs are trying to get people to stand more – while the changing attitudes about workers rights means people are pushing for retail workers to be able to sit. It’s a strange evolution. I worked at a company where every desk was adjustable to be a standing desk and I was one of the very few who never stood because I also was one of the very few who had worked retail full time and hated standing for hours! I understand both sides but I think it’s funny that now the sitters want to stand and the standers want to sit- seems like whichever you’ve been forced to do is less desirable.

      1. Former service worker*

        Having worked several stand-for-hours jobs myself AND several where I felt confined to my chair, it’s been about variability more than anything. Staying in one position for too long (except lying down to sleep, I guess) is bad in general, and I think we lose sight of that when the discussion moves to whether standing or sitting is better. The point is we need to be changing positions every so often, which is why I appreciate my standing desk converter so much.

        1. Windchime*

          This, exactly. It’s more about being forced into one position for hours on end. Sitting for 8-9 hours a day can also be very painful. I had a standing desk converter thing at my old office and I loved it. I could sit for 30-40 minutes and then stand up for awhile. I alternated between sitting and standing most of my work day and it made a big difference in how I felt.

        2. Gothic Bee*

          I sometimes miss the setup at one of my previous customer service jobs. I staffed a service desk that was at standing height, but we got tall chairs to use if we wanted (not to mention they had a thick rubber mat to give you something soft to stand on). Plus we could walk around our area. It was great because you could be standing, sitting, or walking at any point depending on what was needed or what you felt like doing if you weren’t busy. Definitely felt the best compared to jobs were I was forced to stand all the time or my office job now where I have to sit all the time.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        Like so many things, I think it’s the having both options that is optimal. Both standing in one place and sitting in one place without changing it up are actively bad for you.

    26. LCH*

      ugh, retail. at the very least, be able to sit when there aren’t any customers around. having to stand for hours on end without doing anything (my experience when working retail) makes no sense.

    27. curiousLemur*

      “When I’m in a retail store, I notice in a positive way if employees have seats and are able to sit.” Yes.

    28. Agile Phalanges*

      Same! There are some places, like behind the counter at a Starbucks, where not only do the employees need to be able to move around, even if there WERE one person who stays pretty stationary (like the cashier who doesn’t make any drinks during busy times), having a chair there might be a hazard to the rest who do have to move around. But in jobs like grocery store cashier or bank teller? I think employees should be able to choose whether they sit, stand, or lean, and love it when I see evidence that they do have the option.

    29. singlemaltgirl*

      having been a cashier in my uni days and my legs and feet aching at the end of the day, i greatly appreciate it when i see cashiers having height adjustable stools! i think it’s such an improvement and long overdue. and if you’re seated, i think you’re much more likely to be able to bend over and do the little ‘cleaning/tidying’ jobs in between customers. i don’t understand why there is such animosity around letting cashiers sit to do their work. for health and wellness, it’s such an easy accommodation to make.

    30. Software Engineer*

      I moved to Europe and realized wow, it had never occurred to me that you don’t need to stand to scan groceries. Sometimes convention makes us do things that are just weird. Since the invention of conveyor belts at grocery stores to bring the items within easy reach, being able to stand is not really necessary anymore. But getting anyone to change is probably tough when it’s “how we’ve always done it” even if nobody has a really good reason for it

  3. Omnivalent*

    OP #4, it’s just a convention that makes employers feel better, like butts in seats at jobs that don’t really need people to be present at fixed times. More states are moving to “suitable seating” laws which require employers to provide seats for employees when the nature of their work permits it. Maybe your partner could check to see if he’s in one of them.

    1. SlimeKnight*

      During the recession I worked retail in several different positions. I had a role where I was walking around all day, sometimes 15+ miles per day back and forth a large store. That was doable! Being a cashier and standing in the same place for 8 hours was torture, though.

      1. generic_username*

        Yeah, standing in one spot is much harder on your body than walking. When I was a cashier I used to walk slowly up and down the aisles of our store “straightening merchandise” so I didn’t have to stand in one spot (I just made sure to have a vague idea of where the customers were so I could get to the register when they were ready, and I kept the front door in my eyeline so I could greet people as they came in).

    2. Lord Peter Wimsey*

      The state of Tamil Nadu in India recently passed a “right to sit” law for retail workers as well.

    3. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Here in Germany, even the cashiers sit and damn if they aren’t the fastest on earth. Trust Germans to find the most practical and efficient way to get a job done to bring the greatest profits. It works!

    4. marvin the paranoid android*

      My experience in retail taught me that a lot of retail managers are just on a massive power trip and enjoy making their underlings suffer for no reason. I had one who would take a giant stack of clean dishes and dump them in filthy used dishwashing water so I that I had to spend half my shift re-washing them. I had another who literally made me shine his shoes and iron his shirts.

  4. august*

    If Zack is gonna cover for you alone during the holidays, isn’t it better for the both of you if he comes with you as early as now so he’ll know the logistics of the area better by the time he goes alone?

    Idk but if it were me knowing I’d be going alone to a nonreputable area, I’d want to be familiar with it first and possibly be with someone who knows their way around.

    But if Zack doesn’t feel that way, it’s still part of your policy to go with someone, be it Zack or anyone else.

    1. AnonAnon*

      Honestly, it doesn’t seem like this buddy system is a good solution. If people running the organization really don’t think it’s safe for staff to go alone to the non-reputable areas, then they need to provide reliable ways to ensure their employees safety on a consistent basis, like providing a security guard. Some home care agencies provide body guards for nurses visiting patients’ homes in unsafe areas. Perhaps OP1’s employer need to consider doing something similar. It also doesn’t seem to be good use of staff time if one of them have to lose hours, unable to cover their own site, in order to accompany another staff member just for safety.

      1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

        The use of security personnel for a task like this can be quite fraught – depending on the population your sites are located near, and the security services you employ, this can lead to a host of undesirable outcomes, ranging from increases in site vandalism to actually increased likelihood of escalated violent encounters.

        That’s not to say it might not be a viable solution – just to point out that we would have to know a lot more about this organization and the populations they have had these interactions with, to evaluate if formal security personnel were the right choice. If they haven’t decided to use them, it may be an oversight, but it may also be deliberate, and done with good cause.

        1. Takki*

          It’s not Zack’s job to provide safety/security for OP. OP is absolutely fine speaking up because she feels unsafe, but the answer is not a guy that doesn’t want to be there and has no obligation to help in the event of something happening. Say someone pulls a gun on OP, Zack has no obligation to do a thing… how is that really going to make her safer? Honestly, I’d rather have a dog with me than a person that’s not vested in my safety. Any chance OP has a dog and can bring it to work to these sites?

      2. James*

        “If people running the organization really don’t think it’s safe for staff to go alone to the non-reputable areas, then they need to provide reliable ways to ensure their employees safety on a consistent basis, like providing a security guard.”

        The reality is, this rarely happens. Security guards are expensive, often ineffectual, an generally aren’t trained for the other hazards involved. I’ve never met a 40-hour HAZWOPER or 30-hour construction trained security guard, for example, which would immediately exclude them from our jobsites regardless of any other consideration.

        The one case I have heard of where this wasn’t true was when my wife worked in Alaska. As a non-native she was not allowed to hurt a polar bear even if it was attacking her (the law reads it needs to be in self-defense, but de facto white girl can’t touch polar bear). So they hired a native guard. Hunting polar bears is part of their culture and protected by treaties between the various nations and the United States, so he was allowed to shoot a bear. He spent several weeks tagging along, waiting to shoot something, and never got to. Got paid pretty well for it, too–they had a regional monopoly on bear hunting.

        On the flip side, I once worked in an area where we negotiated with the local gangs. We had a uniform we had to wear (and thus I got my first piece of company swag!): grey t-shirts, yellow safety vests (NOT orange), dark blue jeans (NOT light blue), white hard hats. We were non-combatants and should be left alone; the gangs realized that we were helping their people, so were willing to work with us. That said, what the gang leaders think and what the guys at the bottom of the pyramid think are not always identical, and there were some fairly tense moments. Some stuff got stolen, too–drill rods and things that could be sold for scrap. All a guard would do here is increase tension. Our plan to keep everyone safe was to make it very clear that we were here to do a job, we were willing to play by the rules, and we were totally ambivalent towards what the gangs did.

        The reality is, a buddy system is routine in field work. There have been a lot of times where I spent a week with someone who’s only job was to call 911 and have them retrieve my body should something happen–they weren’t trained in the work, the work was too technical to train them on in the time available. There’s usually SOMETHING you can have the other person do, though. Field notes, make phone calls, check equipment, that sort of thing. Even just having a second set of eyes to make sure you don’t miss something can help.

        “It also doesn’t seem to be good use of staff time if one of them have to lose hours, unable to cover their own site, in order to accompany another staff member just for safety.”

        This is a common argument against the buddy system. I used to make it myself, and still feel it has validity in some cases. Where I usually work is a fairly industrialized area, with lots of people around–think parking lots and lawns near factories, that sort of thing. I don’t consider that to be a lone worker situation; I’m not alone. If I’m fifty miles from civilization, on the other hand (which has happened fairly often), that’s different. Trust me, when things go sideways you want someone there with you. Even something as simple as handing them the spare keys to the rental can be the difference between life and death. And the instance I’m thinking of also involved “The person before you was threatened with a gun”. It’s field work; this sort of thing happens.

        Ultimately, though, from a company standpoint it’s not really relevant what you or I think. OSHA requires either a buddy system or (under 1915.84) a lone worker protocol. Compliance is obnoxious for everyone involved–hourly check-ins, with emergency responders called if you’re late or don’t answer the phone within a certain period of time. If you think having an extra person on the job is expensive, just wait until you see what happens when you call 911 and the person just forgot their cell phone in the car! So while there’s an argument to be made here, it’s not a very good one. At the end of the day it’s cheaper and better for everyone to simply have two people on the site.

        1. Trillian Astra*

          yes, all of this! i am in the same field of work and could have written an extremely similar comment. the only item to add is that the buddy system is becoming more the norm at my work, we even have clients to require that we have a second person at a project site at any time – a zero lone work policy. If one has to leave the site to go to the bathroom at micky-d’s, both go! it’s annoying but nothing bad comes from having that second person there (where MANY things can go bad without the second person)

        2. TootsNYC*

          but in the buddy system, do you need the same sort of training? If Zack is a skilled researcher, maybe it’s a waste of resources to send him as the buddy, and instead you should get someone with no particular skill set at all.

        3. tamarack and fireweed*

          You’re saying a lot of very useful and reasonable things, but I have to push back on one specific point, the whole “but de facto white girl can’t touch polar bear” thing, and your suggestion that the Native guard would have been ok shooting the bear when she wasn’t.

          I’m a white woman in Alaska myself, and my first job (which I started 10 years ago, and I’m confident my knowledge is up to date) was to provide support to the operations of a scientific station near Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow). The rules of the funding agency (DoE) applied, and all of us had to be trained in defense against bears – and up there, that meant polar bears – with shotguns (12 gauge loaded with slugs). The team that received these trainings included our on-site operators, who are hired through the local Native Corporation’s scientific services company, and were all AK Native (Inupiaq) themselves, two full-time and one part-time. Our team also included another white woman, who lived in Utqiaġvik, worked for the Native Corporation part-time on our project and part-time in her main role, as an archaeologist. She had special side conversations with our trainer about how in her archaeology tasks (bending over, looking down) a shotgun was not an ideal tool, and she was exploring which handgun options there might be.

          You are absolutely right that legal *hunting* for polar bears in the US only is allowed to coastal-dwelling AK Native people, for subsistence and cultural practices. One of my local co-workers had indeed himself once successfully hunted a polar bear, and I have had a chance to see the parka that his seamstress relatives made from him from it. But we’re not talking about hunting. We’re talking about self-defense, “in defense of life”. There never was a suggestion that I or my archaeologist co-worker would be less allowed to use self-defense. In fact, all self-defense bear killings, and especially polar bear killings (marine mammals) are investigated by US federal authorities. The last case I’m aware of the defense-of-life killing happened (more than 10 years ago) in a village far off the coast, and the fact that the person who shot the bear was AK Native had no bearing on the fact that he was investigated. In a more recent case, an coastal-dwelling AK Native man who hunted a polar bear was actually sentenced to prison (though this may be revised) because he wasted the meat.

          Actually having to use a firearm to defend yourself from a polar bear is almost vanishingly rare, though, because you normally can avoid them very easily. My archaeologist co-worker is probably the most apt to get into trouble that way. One person who took the same course as I did ended up defending himself against a polar bear that was trying to get into their cabin through the window. This was in Svalbard, though, so US law doesn’t apply. The incident was investigated – as is just right – and the young man was cleared – as is just right.

          Saying things like “white girls can’t touch bears” while giving the impression that Indigenous people can contributes to a lot of the racist stereotyping. That would be bad enough if it was true, but it really isn’t.

          Field safety is a topic that – thankfully – is getting more attention. I’d suggest the LW finds some good texts from scientific or related societies on it and sends them to their boss. Whether it’s a buddy system or a hired field assistant, these things need to be done by the book, and then everyone needs to stick to the rules.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            A few minor corrections: Non-polar bear self-defense killings in AK are only investigated by the state. It’s the polar bears, under the marine mammal protection laws, that are federally investigated.

            Our team that was trained also included about half a dozen of white men, including my boss. My boss did indeed think that the one time I was up there alone, while there happened to be polar bear activity nearby (most of the time there isn’t!) I should have been fine checking out a gun and a four-wheeler for my job. I preferred to only go to the one really far-out spot with one of our local co-workers. (Who also subsistence hunt and are about 10,000 times more skilled with the firearm than me, training or not.)

            When I said “apt to get in trouble” I meant likely to be surprised by a polar bear. Me, I worked on the open tundra and am standing up. Not much chances for a bear to sneak up on me.

    2. Becky*

      I was thinking that if Zack’s site visits are “safe” and yours are not, then switch! He said he is comfortable with yours alone and you are not.

      1. Loulou*

        It doesn’t just matter what Zack personally considers “safe” though! The company has an obligation to its workers, and if it’s not safe for one person to work that site then that’s that. If I felt safe wearing flip flops on the factory floor my company couldn’t say “no problem, as long as you don’t mind!”

        1. Willis*

          This!! Is the policy that all site visits now need to be done using the buddy system? If so, OP needs to bring that up with Zach and schedule their visits together – him going with her and her going with him. If he balks at either part of that, OP should let her manager know. If I was the manager, I sure as hell would want to know if some person on my team was overriding policies put in place for safety based on their own assessment of risk. It’s of course a safety issue, but also, what other policies is Zach not following cause they’re not to his liking? Also, if I was the OP, I’d want to my manager to know I wasn’t accompanying Zach as a CYA…both for the safety aspect and to let them know I’m unable to do part of my job assignments.

          Alternately, if the policy is a buddy is only needed at high-risk sites (which happen to be the OPs) then I think Alison’s advice of asking Zach again and then asking her manager for a new buddy without mentioning Zach makes sense.

          1. Willis*

            On re-reading, I guess maybe it’s only OP’s small team that has the buddy system policy and not Zach’s adjacent team. But I would still want to know about his attempts to override the safety protocol, if I were Zach or OP’s manager. Also, I’d want him to have a buddy when he went to these more dangerous sites while OP is out, if that’s the policy.

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Oh, I think this is a swipe at Zack, who, is pushing this back on OP.
          It’s not just about what he considers safe. It’s about what he is willing to do – which is nothing.
          This leaves it up to OP to go back to management because
          they think they solved the issue. Zach will accompany OP.
          Zack could tell them no, but why rock the boat and risk his current, “I prefer not to” success?
          Zack doesn’t want to go in the unsafe area. He tells OP he prefers not to.
          OP can’t make him go.
          Zack gets his way.
          Zack is not being a jerk by saying he doesn’t want to do it. Zack is being a jerk by refusing to follow management instructions, but not speaking up about them, leaving this all to OP to deal with.

    3. Dona Florinda*

      If OP is a woman, it’s also a point to consider when asking for a new buddy: often men have no idea how unsafe some places can be for women.

      1. Anonasourus Rex*

        I work in EHS and my section company has people who go out and do surveying in the field. Mostly environmental and sometimes in Sketchy urban and rural areas and sometimes in incredibly safe environment.

        We always send two. The only time we don’t send two is if the person is going to something like an active construction site with a safety officer. We never send ‘security’ – it’s about safety: OSHA as cited above, the need for two people if one is threatened and just, honestly people are less likely to bother two people than one. Also as above backup if something does happen.

  5. Jessica*

    LW4, long ago when I was young and healthy, I had a job as a bank teller, and the first fortnight my legs hurt so much I could barely climb out of bed in the morning. One gets used to it, but standing all day can be rough. We had barstool-height stools so that we could sit down, but there was a lot of moving around needed and you could work faster standing, so the stools were more good for resting briefly between customers. When it was busy though, even being able to lean or put one foot up on a rung for a bit provided some physical comfort.

    One random day our supervisor (who, let us note, had a desk and chair) decided we’d all be more efficient if we never sat down, and she made us pull all the stools off the teller line and stick them in a back room. Morale immediately plummeted to zero and it was probably the least productive day in banking history since the 1930s, since all we did every spare minute was complain bitterly to each other about this move. The next day the stools came back.

    1. allathian*

      Ouch… At least your supervisor was smart enough to realize she’d been mistaken and wise enough to do something about it.

    2. Maggie*

      My first thought was also of banking and the furniture. If it’s a place where the customer walks in and doesn’t stay, usually the furniture reflects that. Coffee shops, banks, the checkout desk at the library–they’re all counter height. If the customer IS going to stay awhile, usually there are chairs/seating for both the customer and the employee (diamond jewelry store, shoe store, the bank cubicles where paperwork is signed). So my feeling is, if there’s a counter to transact business at and no place for the customer to sit, the employee should also be be standing or sitting on a high stool to be at eye level with the customer. If it’s possible to change that, or if there is already seating provided for the customer, it’s ridiculous to ask the employee to stand at attention all day when the furniture arrangement already sets the tone for the welcoming, stay-a-while atmosphere.

      1. Clorinda*

        If the customer is standing, though, the cashier DEFINITELY needs a stool. There’s a big difference between walking in, conducting your business, and walking out or standing in one place all day. Customer has to stand=/= cashier has to stand.

    3. former teller*

      Same thing happened to me when I was a bank teller, except Corporate sent a truck around to all the branches to collect everyone’s chairs and we never saw them again.

  6. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – You’re going to need to be more assertive about this, since your managers and co-worker don’t seem to get it. (Why, I can’t figure out – I mean, your predecessor was threatened by someone with a gun!) Personally, I would be refusing to go to these locations without backup – it’s an unsafe work environment. Having a buddy system is a Health & Safety issue, not a preference.

    OP#3 – It does seem a little odd that the hiring manager is in on every interview. That said, I’m not sure you’re going to get better information at this point even if you get the co-worker alone in a conversation. I mean, if you ask HR to set up a phone call, presumably the manager is going to find out about it, and if there were something really wrong, it’s unlikely that the coworker would stick their neck out to tell you.

    I think you need to cast your mind back to the interview and think about how the employee and the manager interacted, what the employee’s comfort level was, did you notice any odd behaviours that indicated the employee was editing their words to not upset the manager, etc. etc.

    1. After 33 years ...*

      At our place, an HR person (aka hiring manager) must be present at every interview for staff positions. This is one component of our set interview procedure. A one-on-one meeting with anyone would disqualify the candidate. Candidates are informed in advance who will be present at interviews.

      1. BubbleTea*

        The hiring manager isn’t the manager of hiring, she is the manager who is hiring – as in, the person who will manage the new employee.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        HR is not the hiring manager — it is the manager whose department is hiring. The distinction wasn’t clear to me at first either.
        So your co could have OP and a potential peer meet with HR there, just not with the person OP would report to.
        Still not completely open for OP but one stage less impossible for the future co-worker.

        1. FashionablyEvil*

          I am also very curious! Depending on how many people the company hires, this seems like it would be an ordeal for the HR reps, so I feel like something must have gone very wrong at After 33 Years’ company.

        2. After 33 years ...*

          Academic procedures differ…
          At our university, departments do not have their own hiring managers. As Department Head, I would make a recommendation based on the interview, but although the person would report directly to me, I would not have an overriding decision on hiring (although Heads’ recommendations are generally accepted). I could never meet one-on-one with a candidate for a staff position before hiring.

          This requirement for attendance by someone outside the department, either HR or someone in the Dean’s office responsible for HR matters, as with the requirement for asking all candidates the same scripted questions in the same order, is intended to ensure equal treatment of all candidates.

          Procedures for faculty hires differ from staff hires, but even there a one-on-one meeting with an individual Search / hiring committee member would be discouraged. As Head, I would have met one-on-one with each candidate for a faculty position, but I would not be permitted to serve on the Search Committee (collective agreement provision). After all the faculty members meet, and the Search Committee makes a recommendation which is voted on by the faculty (not including the Head), I would report the results of the deliberation to my Dean. The Dean then makes a recommendation to higher admin, and eventually a decision is made. At no time can the Head or Search Committee negotiate directly with any candidate.

          1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

            Okay, but what about non-hiring staff meeting directly with the candidate? Ie the candidate says “I’m being hired to teach and also work in your research lab, and I’d like to talk with some of your current lab workers to find out what their experience doing research is like”?

            1. After 33 years ...*

              If hiring is connected with a research grant not administered directly by the university, and if it involves a grad student, then direct meetings are fine. However, if you wanted to hire a lab technician, the above procedure applies.
              All teaching is governed by collective agreements (3, based on category of applicant), so meetings with non-hiring staff don’t happen. We don’t hire anyone to teach anything without due process!

          2. Pippa K*

            This sounds a little different to how my institution does faculty hiring – there’s a strong expectation here that every voting member of the faculty will meet one-on-one with each candidate. Among other things, it gives the candidates a chance to ask questions they might not ask of the chair or dean. (It also means hiring is a huge time investment by everyone, as we all also attend each candidate’s job talk and often teaching demonstrations and review all the files. But the stakes are high – I might work with this person for the rest of my career, so we want to get it right.)

            1. After 33 years ...*

              We all can review the files and express opinions – and we do!! – including our per-course instructors, staff, and grad and undergrad student reps. (We let full-time staff and student reps vote as well, although they often choose not to …). Although individual faculty members who are not on the Search Committee can meet with the candidates one-on-one, Search Committee members can’t meet candidates individually – all those meetings have to involve either the entire committee, or designated subgroups (in pre-COVID times, lunch or dinner). Sorry if I was unclear.
              We aren’t easily intimidated, so negative or unfavourable information is readily expressed, regardless of who is in the meeting!

        3. Artemesia*

          The only reason for this policy is to prevent accurate negative information being provided to the applicant. It is like having the KGB accompany a reporter to ever interview.

          1. Loulou*

            I mean…no, that’s not the only reason. It may end up having that effect, but there are definitely other reasons companies do this.

      3. I should really pick a name*

        That seems very odd.
        The applicant has no control over whether the interview is one on one or not, so why would they be disqualified for it?

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          This isn’t about punishing the applicant. It sounds like it’s about enforcing procedures to prevent discriminatory, nepotistic, or otherwise illegal/unethical hiring practices. By disqualifying any applicant who meets one-on-one, you remove any potential incentive for the hiring team to schedule such meetings in the first place.

      4. Jean Pargetter Hardcastle*

        We have someone from HR as well as the hiring manager in all interviews. HR is not standard in our industry, but having the hiring manager on the panel definitely is. I am so flummoxed by both the question and answer to #3 – I’ve never heard of an interview without the hiring manager present! If someone asked me whether they could speak to a potential peer without me present, I would have no idea how to answer that question. That request would be so outside the norm. (Though I love the idea – more power to the applicant.) In fact, I wondered if OP #3 is interviewing in a different industry with different interview norms than they’re accustomed to?

        1. I should really pick a name*

          I had an interview where an official part of the interview was “Go to the coffee shop across the street with the team you’d be working with. No managers allowed”

          (for context, I’m Canadian. Only one company I’ve ever interviewed for has done this)

        2. Anne of Green Gables*

          Our interviews last several hours and have multiple components to them. The first part is always the actual, formal interview with the hiring committee which includes the hiring manager/future manager. Other sessions are with other staff, and when I’m the hiring manager, I make sure the candidates get a session with my team without me present. It’s useful for the candidate, of course, to be able to ask about my management style and such, but I also really value the feedback I get from my team on those sessions.

        3. Malarkey01*

          Same! And I wondered just how many interviews are going on here that it’s weird she’s at each one. We typically have a quick 5 minute phone screen with hiring manager and a panel interview with the hiring manager part of the panel, if it’s for a senior role and we’re a little on the fence we would have a second interview with just the hiring manager.

          While I wouldn’t say no to someone setting up time to talk to a team member they are already stretched thin time wise and are part of the panel so we’d leave that until we knew whether this was going to be our top applicant.

      5. Momma Bear*

        All our interviews are group interviews of 2-3 people. It is typical that we have the hiring manager + several other people. I agree with the above that in this situation, ask direct questions of the manager (if they would be your supervisor) and/or see how they interact with others. You can often tell if someone is holding back or deferring to another person. Even if I had a one-0n-one with someone and they asked about our joint manager, I would tread very carefully, so I’m not sure OP would get what they wanted.

      6. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        This sounds Orwellian.
        I’m picturing:
        ” I connected with the person who is leaving on LinkedIn because she was in the community college certification course I’ve been teaching for five years. We met for coffee and she told me that she uses the X, Y, Z features. I’m really interested in doing more of that.”
        Whoosh. A trap door opens and the candidate is sent down a slide to back parking lot next to a dumpster. As he slides awkwardly onto the blacktop, a quick photo is taken and uploaded to the company intranet with the caption #CHEATERPANTS.


    2. Brightwanderer*

      I’m not sure it’s fair to say that the managers don’t get it – it doesn’t sound like they know this is a problem yet. I take the “leaving it up to LW and Zack to schedule the work” to be a general time management policy that LW is perhaps taking too literally as “I can’t ask for help with this”.

      1. another Hero*

        Yeah, re: scheduling, I assume this isn’t an issue with whatever their work looks like or it wouldn’t be the solution they’d landed on, but I was kind of stuck on the impression that Zack is supposed to spend twice as much time at field sites? Any chance his schedule makes that difficult alongside his regular work? (I’m not trying to be too fanfictiony here, but it seems straightforward that accompanying OP would take a chunk of time.) But if that were the issue (or part of the issue), he should say so directly.

    1. Jackalope*

      I really feel like gender is a part of this, at least for Zach. We don’t know what gender the OP is, but many young twenty-something men believe they are invincible and don’t get that for some of us (more often, but not exclusively, women) that’s not the way it works. Letting him go to the dangerous sites would help him figure that out for himself.

      1. allathian*

        I get the feeling the LW is a woman as well. Statistically, men are far more likely than women to be victims of random violence, whereas the most dangerous thing an average woman can do is to allow a man to get close to her. Most violent acts against women are perpetrated by men they know.

        1. MK*

          And I do wonder if that statistic is due to women being taught to be more careful to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

          1. Bagpuss*

            I think there may be an element of that. Years ago, when I was at University, I shared a house with 5 men. Over the course of the year, I was the only one of us who *wasn’t* mugged/ assaulted.
            I think part of the reason was that I consciously thought about the risks; I didn’t use the cash machine at night after the shop nearby were closed, I planned ahead so I wouldn’t have to walk home alone via any dodgy areas, etc. And we (women) were all given information and advice, about safety, a free rape alarm, and details for the Women’s minibus – I don’t think there was any similar advice for male students. My housemates were all good guys and would offer to meet me / walk with me for *my* safety but I don’t think they felt the need for themselves.

            1. Mannequin*

              I don’t think so.

              I’m a woman who lived what many people would think was a “wild” life. I regularly did many of the things that women are told not to do to “avoid assault” – went out by myself at all hours of the night, got intoxicated, went home with strangers. I hung around a large crowd of women who lived similar lives.

              We should all have had a larger than average number of terrible experiences at the hands of predatory strangers, right?


              Our experiences of physical and sexual violence are still OVERWHELMINGLY at the hands of men we already know.

              The women I know who *have* experienced stranger violence? Still experienced more/worse from men they already knew.

              My parents were born in the 1920s and every relative I grew up around was born pre WWI or WWII. The casual, socially acceptable misogyny of the times all of my female relatives lived through was shocking to me even as a child in the early 70s. I come from a long line of unconventional, fiercely independent, feminist AF women, who were often targets of this misogyny for their attitudes. And the pattern still holds true. While some of the things they experienced from strangers in their eras were horrifying, the worst experiences they ever had were again, at the hands of men they knew.

              1. Ace in the Hole*

                I think a lot of this has to do with the way men are perceived by others regardless of how situationally aware the man is.

                I’m a woman, I’ve lived in some rough areas and I work in a job where I routinely encounter aggressive/angry/desperate/mentally altered people. I tend to have a much easier time de-escalating tense situations compared to my male colleagues even when we’re using the same techniques, and people are less likely to get aggressive with me in the first place.

                I think there’s a couple of things going on. For starters, people (including men) tend to see a man as more of a threat than a woman – and people often initiate an attack because they feel threatened, whether or not their feelings were reasonable. For seconds, I think a lot of men are socialized to think of women as unacceptable targets… kind of like children or elders. We’re seen as vulnerable and weak. To a lot of people, mugging or beating up a female stranger is dishonorable and cowardly but attacking a man is a show of guts/power.

          2. Myrin*

            I’m quite sure I’ve read a study about this exact topic.
            It was in regards to children – as in, how girls are told what’s safe vs. what boys are told is safe – and how as a result boys are much more likely to get injured (even just while playing) because they’re told to just deal with it whereas girls are told to be more careful. I honestly can’t remember if the result was that girls end up being needlessly afraid of everything or if it was that boys take unnecessary risks and are more likely to get seriously hurt before they talk to someone (I’ve read several studies in that vein an am possibly mixing them together in my head).
            With a quick google I couldn’t immediately find the study I’m thinking of but yeah, I’m pretty sure there’s at least a component of that in a lot of cases (although we of course don’t know if this particular OP is female; if they’re male, that might actually be another reason for Zack to think that their brining a buddy is not needed).

            1. Mannequin*

              “ I honestly can’t remember if the result was that girls end up being needlessly afraid of everything or if it was that boys take unnecessary risks and are more likely to get seriously hurt before they talk to someone ”

              If I’m remembering what *I’ve* read correctly, the answer is some of both. We teach girls/women to be needlessly afraid of far too many things, AND boys/men think they are invincible + take far too many needless risks.

              Boys are told to ‘deal with it’ to be tough or ‘a man’, so part of taking needless risks is also to prove how masculine they are. It’s just so frustrating.

          3. Criminologist*

            It is very much related to risky lifestyles or avoidance of risky lifestyles! There are other reasons too; for example, men are thought of as better targets for robbery because they’re believed to be more likely to carry a lot of cash.

          4. HitchHikersGuideResearcher*

            While it’s likely that is a massive part of it, at least some people who commit violent crimes do (in my experience) have some sort of honour code which involves not hurting women.

            I remember a situation 15 years ago where I was walking home in a small group – six of us in all, four men and two women. We were accosted by a large group (15-20 or so) who were out looking for trouble. Out of the six of us:

            – One of us was beaten badly enough to need stitches
            – One of us was punched to point of losing consciousness
            – Another of us was punched unconscious and then kicked on the ground, needing stitches as well as a result
            – One of us managed to break free and sprint away to call the police.

            The gang were, by all accounts, very apologetic and polite about the whole thing to the two women with us (who were petrified the entire time, very understandably) but were left untouched.

            My most vivid memory of it was thinking it was very surreal to see someone say “really sorry you have to see this – you’ll be okay, we respect women” to my friend’s girlfriend, and just before throwing a punch at me. I avoided it, but someone I couldn’t see to my left hit the left side of my head staggering me, and then a hit in the right side of my head made my lose my vision and balance for a few minutes by which time police arrived.

        2. RAD*

          I once had a conversation with a police officer that was running a RAD class. He said that for their police recruits, they had to teach the male recruits situational awareness when entering a room. Female recruits had been doing it all their lives, assessing the dangers of who was in the room, their numbers and their relative distance. Sad commentary, but supports your point.

      2. Mameshiba*

        I thought this as well. And since Zach is a friend, why not just say to him that your area is more unsafe than his, so can he just come with? That seems like a reasonable ask for a friend/coworker. If he won’t do this to help keep you safe, I don’t think he’s that good of a friend!

        1. Esmeralda*

          Not CAN he come with or WOULD he come with, but… he NEEDS TO come with.

          It’s not a favor. It’s a work duty that he has been assigned and that he’s refusing to do.

          1. Mameshiba*

            Yes of course, but personally I would expect a friend to respond to “I feel unsafe, can you come with me.” And if they didn’t, then escalate from there, and also cross them off my list of friends!

        2. curiousLemur*

          “If he won’t do this to help keep you safe, I don’t think he’s that good of a friend!” Exactly.

      3. German Girl*

        It doesn’t have to be gender.

        Story time: Just yesterday I was inviting an acquaintance to tag along to one of my dance classes and she expressed concern over there not being any parking lots nearby. I usually just get there by bike but I sometimes use a parking lot two blocks away to which she said she’d feel unsafe using that one at night … we’re both white women in our mid thirties and if anything I’d have said she has the more selfconfident outward appearance, so I’d never have thought she’d be worried about walking through the city alone at night.

        But I grew up in a village that just didn’t have unsafe areas and thank god nothing ever happened to me anywhere else either, so feeling unsafe just because of the location or even the people hanging out there is a foreign feeling to me.

        And I totally didn’t get it when my host family in the US warned me to not walk through certain areas of town because they were deemed unsafe – I’m kinda glad they didn’t manage to teach me this fear, because life is so much easier when you can just walk anywhere anytime without worrying about it. But then Europe is a lot safer than the US, too, so they were probably right to worry.

        Yeah, I know I’m privileged. I have experienced feeling unsafe when walking alone and there was a creepy person about (to be clear, they’d have to say or do something creepy for me to react at all – if they’re just hanging out smoking whatever, I’d simply ignore them and move on), but I’ve always managed to extract myself from creepy situations easily enough so it never translated to feeling unsafe in general.

        Long story short: I totally get why some people just don’t feel unsafe and others do, but then you should try to find a solution for the person who doesn’t feel safe, which the company has already done, and Zach should stick to the agreement.

        1. Serial City Dweller*

          I see other replies that cite anecdotal evidence to “prove” that Europe isn’t safer, but I disagree. After a lifetime in the States, I am happy to live in Europe, in large part because I feel much safer. One friend: “I relax at outdoor cafes and never think about whether a shooter is going to appear and spray us all with death.” (Don’t think that’s real? The USA averages more than one mass shooting* a day? *Defined as 4 or more people injured or dead.)
          In Spain the language meet-up ended at 11 pm. A male and female high school students attended and walked several kilometers home (separately) through the city. I asked if their parents knew and they said “of course” with the most quizzical look.
          Before I lived in Europe I asked someone who had lived here if us two old people should walk to the train station. “In Europe you two are too much trouble, in the US you’re easy pickin’s.”
          A woman in Lithuania walked to work every day long before the sun came up. “Aren’t you afraid of being attacked?” I had to explain this question to her. She showed me her janitor’s uniform. “See? They would know I don’t have money. Why would they attack me?” I had to explain that, in the States, poor people attacking other poor people for the paltry sum they do have is a thing.
          Croatian friend: “yes, we watch violent Hollywood movies, but they don’t make us violent because we don’t want to be violent. We want to be a peaceful nation.”
          Yes, these are also anecdotes. Anecdotes that speak to the differences in thought and daily actions.
          I’ve lived exclusively in big cities spanning nearly the breadth of the continent and I’ve never felt unsafe at any time of day. Weirdos have approached me on rare occasions, but a stern word is all it takes for them to leave.
          BTW, there are anti-maskers here in Europe also. The gov’ts say they must wear masks in all buildings. They grumble about this and occasionally there’s a protest (followed the next week by an outbreak). But they wear the damn masks in all buildings because that’s the rule and they aren’t anarchists. Or violent. People who live here, as opposed to visiting agree the feeling is much calmer and safer.

          1. Mannequin*

            I don’t think anyone can effectively talk about crime in the IS without mentioning how skewed many people’s perception of it is because of racism.

            There are FAR too many people here with irrational fears of BIPOC who perceive their risk of crime & violence to be far higher than it is in reality simply because brown & black people exist around them.

      4. Ana Gram*

        I think that’s definitely a factor. I mentioned to my husband once that I wasn’t comfortable going to the community mailbox at the end of the road after dark because one of the nearby neighbors was a convicted rapist. He was surprised and said he didn’t worry about that. Yeah, because he’s a 6’4” Marine and I…am not. It was an eye opening conversation for both of us.

    2. DrRat*

      You posted it before I could! Let good old Zack get mugged while the LW gets to go to the safer areas.

      But seriously, your non profit needs to be providing actual useful self defense classes or help keep you safe in some way. Honestly, Zack sounds like he would be as much use as a wet paper bag even if he was with you. Two people with no weapons and no fighting skills are basically no more useful than one person with the same. Your non profit should be sending a security guard, not a clueless coworker, unless and until you decide to learn some serious self defense. (Krav Maga would be highly recommended.)

      1. AcademiaNut*

        If the standard is “has to be able to defend themselves against armed attackers” the company needs to hire professional bodyguards – a self defence course isn’t going to do that (although it might help with avoiding being targeted in the first place). I suspect it’s simply that two people walking together are less likely to be targeted for random crimes than one person alone, and potentially that a young woman is seen as a better target than a young man.

        But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Zach’s reading of safe vs unsafe is radically different. If I need to ask about the safety of walking somewhere alone, I ask another woman, because the men might answer accurately for themselves, but have a very different experience than I would.

        1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

          Most professional bodyguards aren’t going to meet that standard either (the field is much more about trained situational awareness, intimidating would be threats into not acting, and removing your principal from danger, than it is about wrestling for a knife/gun), unless they are armed and in a team. At which point, you’re effectively deploying private military into an already volatile situation, which may greatly escalate it, depending on what sort of interactions the organization already has with these communities, and the communities’ own history.

          1. hamsterpants*

            Do you have advice that would work for safely traveling into an area where there can be armed and unfriendly people?

            1. Hlao-roo*

              Commenter James (upthread) has a fairly comprehensive comment. His job involves fieldwork, so he has direct experience with some of these situations.

            2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

              I don’t think there really is a one-size fits all answer, because it is highly dependent on the reasons why the area is unsafe/the people are unfriendly.

              Gang violence? James (upthread) laid out a lot of the typical precautions (meet with higher ups, get their sign off, don’t wear opposing colors, don’t overreact to the minor issues).

              First Nations/Indigineous Peoples territory? Talk with the elders and neighbors before hand, hire local guides (and listen to them), be respectful in every interaction.

              But those same policies aren’t going to work in a place where piracy and/or kidnapping are local industries, or in secluded rural areas near a methamphetimine manufacturing site. There is a lot that goes into developing a plan to be in a space safely, and it is massively about understanding the local situation and culture, and what makes that space unsafe.

          2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            They had security staff at my last job. A middle aged man who had to breath hard if he walked fast. A small young woman with lovely makeup. A late middle aged woman who was that frail slim some women get at that age. Sure, they could have all been secret ninjas, but I seriously doubt it.

            If I had felt in need of protection, I would have asked one of my coworkers instead. Some of them had done street fighting, so they would have been far more useful. Or at least big and muscular enough look dangerous.

            1. MoreFriesPlz*

              Well, if a woman is good at makeup, we all know she’s useless with sports, cars, and math and couldn’t possibly be a good security guard!

              1. James*

                If I saw a woman in makeup in any role on a jobsite other than onsite admin assistant I’d wonder about her competence as well. Not because “Pretty girls shouldn’t be doing a MAN’S job” or any crap like that, but because it indicates a potentially skewed expectation about the job, the same way that showing up for an office job in jeans and a t-shirt does. Field work is long hours in uncomfortable if not outright dangerous situations, early mornings and late nights, bugs, dirt, and all that good stuff. And that’s when it doesn’t also include full-face respirators, hard hats, and other PPE that would damage makeup. Maybe if the woman is an onsite security guard that doesn’t need to deal with those situations (which I’ve seen) it would be different, but if you wear makeup and are following me on a jobsite I’m going to be keeping an eye on you because I doubt you’re prepared for what you’ve gotten yourself into.

                I will admit I’ve been wrong. I can think of two women and one man who were fantastic field geologists who also were very careful about their makeup. They were willing to wake up early (read, 4 am or so) to get ready, and re-apply at lunch time (which is about the only chance we had to rest). I worked hard to have one work on my projects, because she was just that good–I still use her field notes as the gold standard. Another guy came in wearing designer jeans and a $50 shirt, and turned out to be one of the best new hires in the region that year. But most of the time the people who come to field sites with makeup, or fancy cloths, or fancy jewelry, or the like last about a month. What they want out of life, and the reality of field work, are simply too different.

                There’s a reason that fieldworkers have a particular look–it’s what works for the job. I’ve fallen down mountainsides, torn my cloths on every type of plant imaginable, left a few articles of clothing in the woods due to insects (tick nets and fire ants suck), burned a few on hot equipment (cloths are replaceable, coworkers aren’t), and have lost at least three pairs of pants to acids used to preserve groundwater samples (usually on the seat of the pants–you put the bottle on the cooler, than sit on the cooler not realizing it leaked). When that’s your day-t0-day lifestyle, you don’t spend a lot of time trying to look your best; it’s just not worth the effort. Again, most of the time; you always have to allow for exceptions.

                Please understand, that’s not saying that we don’t try to look professional. It’s just that “professional” means something different in our world. Like any other job there are unique norms and expectations and requirements for this job, and anyone with enough knowledge to hire me also knows enough to know what “professional” means with regard to field work.

                1. ThatGirl*

                  I think some men have a warped idea of what constitutes makeup. I wear a little makeup almost every day – powdered foundation and concealer to even out my skintone and hide blemishes. It makes me feel more confident and less self-conscious and it helps keep my face/forehead from getting too sweaty too quickly. But I think men hear “makeup” and think eyeshadow/eyeliner/mascara, lipstick, maybe visible blush or heavy foundation. That’s not always the case. Also, you note that you’ve been wrong before – maybe skip the pre-judgment next time.

                2. James*

                  “I think some men have a warped idea of what constitutes makeup.”

                  I grew up with four sisters and no brothers. I’ve got a pretty good handle on it. Frankly no one cares about skin tone or blemishes after the second day, and you’re going to sweat regardless. For a field worker the time spent dealing with makeup is usually better spent sleeping, eating, or doing the paperwork. That’s what I’ve been told by the women I’ve worked with, not my personal view–for me, I work to maintain a trim appearance as an indicator that I DON’T spend my time in the field anymore. I have energy and spare time to worry about the length of my beard. When I was a grunt I simply didn’t care.

                  I once knew a paleontologist that did what she could to make herself look UNattractive in the field. She was good looking, and some construction workers are….well, morons, to be blunt. She had to file a few sexual harassment lawsuits. But she found that if she was aggressively indifferent to her appearance it helped cut down on the crap she had to deal with.

                  “Also, you note that you’ve been wrong before – maybe skip the pre-judgment next time.”

                  I was sort of waiting for this comment.

                  I’ve worked with a few thousand field staff in my career, all over the country. I’ve been wrong four times. I’m right FAR more often than I’m wrong. Again, it’s not about prejudice; how one dresses can be an indicator of whether one understands the realities of the job. Fieldwork isn’t a situation where you care about blemishes or about getting sweaty too quickly–it’s a situation where you worry about being eaten by alligators, or blown up by UXO, or burned by caustic soils. Someone who doesn’t understand that is unlikely to be mentally prepared for life in the field. And that’s dangerous, for you and for the people you’re working with.

                  Second, I never judge someone solely on their looks. (I’m a manager, it’s part of my job to judge whether someone is capable of doing the work or not, so “Don’t judge” isn’t an option). I take the view that if you show up to my site you’re saying you can handle it, so I assign the tasks that need done. I’ll watch certain folks a little extra for the first day or two, and if they prove me wrong I’ll base my future assessments on their performance. I’ve never turned someone away for dressing too fancy or for wearing makeup or whatever (dangly jewelry is different, it’s a safety hazard, especially with drill rigs); it’s only when they’ve demonstrated that they can’t handle the work that I turn them away. I’ve found that appearance is a somewhat reliable indicator, though. It has a certain failure rate, like any other indicator, but it’s pretty low in my experience.

                  Bear in mind, I’m not saying this about any sex or gender. I do this for both. It’s the field worker issue, not secondary sexual characteristics, that matters here.

                3. pancakes*

                  It’s weird that you started off talking about makeup but most of your comment is about clothes. Whether someone feels putting on concealer or mascara is or isn’t “worth the effort” is a stylistic choice and by your own description doesn’t seem to have any bearing on your work – damage to the seat of your pants and damage to your eyes, for example, are two different things. You seem to have a lot of ideas about makeup and little to no experience wearing it. Guessing and assuming generally aren’t the best ways to learn.

                4. Yorick*

                  You should really rethink this. You’ve been wrong a couple of times that you know of, and are probably wrong more often than you know. This mindset is going to negatively affect women in (I’m assuming) a male-dominated field, at least some of whom will be extremely competent and perfectly aware of what they’re going to be doing on the jobsite.

                  Despite your response to ThatGirl, I’m almost positive that you have assumed some colleagues were not wearing makeup when in fact they were. This is super common in men – yes, even men who have sisters!

                  And the idea that wearing makeup is taking time away from sleeping, eating, or paperwork is laughable – even my most extensive makeup routine takes less than 5 minutes. On my wedding day, I may have spent more than 5 minutes putting on my makeup, but I seriously doubt it took 10.

                  There are many different reasons to wear makeup. Some people use it for expression, which they might even want to do while working. I often choose a full face of makeup rather than my everyday routine if I’m going to be outside because I’ve found it makes my face more comfortable in the wind and cold (especially when it’s not cold enough to cover my face with a scarf or something).

                5. New Jack Karyn*

                  Dude, you are misreading MoreFriesPlz’s comment. It wasn’t about people in the field; it was about security guards. Your rant about makeup and clothes is entirely misplaced.

              2. pancakes*

                “But she found that if she was aggressively indifferent to her appearance it helped cut down on the crap she had to deal with.”

                Oh, I see – you don’t care so much about the practical reality of what wearing makeup does or does not impede, but the signals it sends to meatheads who don’t understand consent. Yikes.

              3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

                Dunno if she was into sports, cars or math. I do know that if I have to have somebody standing between me and trouble, I want someone more on the “hunk of muscle” end than “tiny person with gorgeous eyeshadow” end. And this security company had not made physical fitness a noticeable requirement for their staff.

                1. Ace in the Hole*

                  And I would much rather have someone more on the “great a de-escalation and situational awareness” end than the “muscle solves problems” end.

      2. Despachito*

        “Let good old Zack get mugged while the LW gets to go to the safer areas”

        It occurred to me, too, and while OP has every right to feel safe, so has Zack. And he can have legitimate concerns about that, or any other reservations (perhaps losing too much time he needs for his own work)

        But he was wrong to tell OP he would not go, he should absolutely turn to the management and tell THEM his reasons (which may or may not be valid) and let THEM decide.

        1. awesome3*

          Zach does have every right to feel safe, but right now is trying to tell OP that they don’t need a buddy to go to location 1. If Zach was assigned to that location, would he realize the importance of the buddy system, or still feel comfortable going alone? Either way, OP wouldn’t be going alone anymore, even if they did become Zach’s buddy for this.

          1. James*

            “Zach does have every right to feel safe…”

            He can feel whatever he wants, but if the company policy is to follow the buddy system he is obliged to follow the buddy system. I feel perfectly safe sending one person out to do hand augering and soil sampling, but am obliged to send two because that’s what our policy is. Unless Zach is in a position to unilaterally change policy, his opinion doesn’t matter.

            Reminds me of the best safety advice I ever got: “If you feel safe, look around and try to figure out what you’re missing. They do not send us to safe places.” The term for feeling safe in field work is “complacency”, one of the four trigger states. That’s a bad thing.

          2. Despachito*

            I think that it is not up to Zack to DECIDE on his own that he is not going. He was told to do so by his manager and if he says nothing and just disobeys, I’d qualify it as insubordination.

            However, he is fully within his rights to push back WITH THE MANAGER, if, for example,
            – he himself feels unsafe to go (which possibly is not be the case, given he said that OP does not need a buddy)
            – he feels it takes a toll in his own work (in such a case I’d ask the manager how he wants me to prioritize because I have to spend one whole day on “buddying” and when do I get at about my own work )

      3. Anon for this one*

        Eh. Not everyone can learn fight skills well enough that they’d be able to defend themselves effectively against their most likely threats. Everyone can benefit from self-defense training (especially as any decent self-defense training includes elements like situational awareness and how to take a fall safely, not just fight skills), but whether the benefit will be enough to deal with the likely threats in their threat model, is a different question. This is something that I’ve personally run into, in non-work contexts, for disability-related reasons (and yes I have attempted serious self-defense training, and yes I’ve benefited from it, but not “enough”).

        Also, two people rather than one isn’t going to deal with all threats, but depending on the threat model it could definitely deal with some. Sometimes a witness, or a lone assailant not wanting to have to keep control over two potential victims rather than one, is enough deterrent. Fight skills aren’t the only things that matter. I’ve done a lot of progressive activist event/demonstration security in my non-work life, in spite of my disabilities and unthreatening appearance, which is where I’m coming from on this (and yes that does involve dealing with real threats sometimes and not just petty hecklers).

    3. EPLawyer*

      IF OP is a woman, I can see this playing out as “oh we can’t send the little women off to big bad location” and then all kinds of things flow frm that. Maybe the location is less safe, but the work there is considered more when promotion time comes. Or anything really. We don’t want to make work assignments based on gender.

      BUT, they need a better system than “take coworker with you.” What if Zach ever leaves the job? Or is out sick and OP HAS to go to that location. Or zach leaves and new male coworker is the stereotypical 98 pound weakling? Automatically having a guy with you willl not make it safer. the organization really needs to think through safety procedures and make concrete long term plans.

      1. MoreFriesPlz*

        It’s not a gendered thing about sending out little women to scary areas – they instituted a buddy system. It doesn’t matter if the next person is 98 pounds.

        I’ve done a lot of field work, often in high crime areas, and having a buddy system isn’t uncommon and is perfectly practical. If someone leaves the job, you pair up with someone else, like with any other two person professional project. If they’re out sick that day, you either do desk work that or, if you NEED to be in the field (it’s rarely that urgent, and people call out sick like with any job), someone else goes with you. A lot of jobs where safety is at play have buddy systems (I.e. police, EMTs).

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          My fieldwork has been in remote areas, but those are not exactly “safe” either, so we always had to pair up. They started doing it after an employee broke an ankle in a backcountry area and was missing for 12 days (luckily they had food, water, emergency kit)

        2. doreen*

          I am in a job where we often have to mandate that people do their field work in pairs ( even though they are armed and trained in self defense, etc). They are always permitted to work in pairs if they want to , and many do. The issue is not that we think two people will be better able to fight someone off than one- although that might be true in some instances. It’s that two people are a less attractive target than one person is, and that the extra person provides more situational awareness – when the LW is doing whatever she does at the field site, she is going to be less aware of what is going on around her. Staff frequently complain about this mandate and try to get it removed because doubling up requires them to spend more time in the field. We don’t assign partners or do the scheduling unless there is some problem with staff working it out on their own and as a manager, I absolutely want to know if there is a problem with them working it out on their own because no matter what the reason is, it is something I will need to address.

          And it has nothing to do with sending “little women” out to dangerous areas without a man – if my agency is mandating that field work be done in pairs, it doesn’t matter whether two women go together or whether one person is a 98 lb man. Because again, the reason is to have an extra person, not because a man is going to physically overpower someone ( and BTW, there are two women in my office who I’d bet on in a fight over almost every man in the office.)

        3. Criminologist*

          Simply not being alone is often enough to prevent crime. And it will certainly make employees feel more comfortable about doing their work, which is important even beyond the actual safety risks.

    4. sam_i_am*

      I don’t think there are sites to switch. OP says they’re the only person doing on-site fieldwork, which would mean Zach doesn’t have any sites.

      1. Reba*

        OP also describes Zack’s sites, so I think the situation is more complicated than easily summed up in the letter. Or maybe they are his sites from a previous position?

      2. sam_i_am*

        Wait, no, OP says they’re the only one doing that but also that Zach has field sites, which is confusing to me? Or I can’t read lol

    5. MoreFriesPlz*


      One, OP is the only one who does regular field work.

      Two, field work locations usually correlate with specific expertise. If Zach is studying bees and OP is studying plant life, they can’t sit switch sites – they’d have to totally switch projects. Unless they’re doing the exact same work and for some reason OP gets all the dangerous sites and Zack gets all the safe ones, which feels unlikely, it’s likely one or both of them wouldn’t want to switch.

      If they’re doing the exact same stuff and one person just gets all the dangerous sites, that should be addressed ASAP.

    6. Momma Bear*

      I had that thought, too. And frankly OP should be way more worried about her safety than what Zack thinks or wants.

    7. learnedthehardway*

      I don’t like this idea because the reality is that the area is unsafe for anyone, whether they realize it or not.

      Zack might be more comfortable in the area wrt his personal perception of danger (or rather, his inability to perceive that there is a danger), but he’s at a certain level of risk as well.

      In addition, I feel like simply switching the areas makes this into an issue of where women should/shouldn’t be employed, vs what it really is, which is a less safe area generally for any employee.

  7. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    The only time I can think it would be “appropriate” for someone to not be able to sit for large chunks of their shift is if the work itself required standing/walking. For example, if someone is taking me on a walking tour around a tourist location. They likely won’t be able to sit much because of the nature of the job. But even then, if they needed to, say have an electric wheelchair to get around or maybe they want us to gather and sit on the steps of a building for the next part, that would be fine too.

    1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

      For any retail job I’ve had? Managers hated you even taking time for your breaks. Sitting down at all? Well there’s a reason I’m familiar with the phrase “you have better things to do than hold up the counter”. There’s always things to do at gas station retail. Same with box store retail. At least if you are properly trained. (to be clear, I think they generally think there’s too much expected of the employees)

  8. PollyQ*

    #1 — Does Zack think you’re friends? Because that friendship should more reason for him to want to make sure you’re safe, not less. I suggest you stop caring whether he wants to do a task that is an expected part of his job — not any kind of personal favor — and plainly tell him, “We need to go to site [X] this week, so what day works best for you?” Definitely don’t feel guilty! As others have pointed out, this is a straight-up safety issue, so if he keeps dragging his feet or is actually trying to make you feel guilty, go ahead & escalate.

    1. banoffee pie*

      ‘Does Zack think you’re friends? Because that friendship should more reason for him to want to make sure you’re safe, not less.’

      IKR? But OP seems to be letting it make her feel guilty for imposing unfortunately. It can be hard not to feel that, especially if Zack is moaning, but she should remember his sites are safer. No wonder he doesn’t mind going alone.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      I’m having a hard time imagining where Zack is coming from other than “I don’t believe these sites are unsafe – somebody is lying” or “I don’t care about your safety.”

      Either way, doesn’t seem like much of a friend.

      1. H2*

        I don’t know… Look at this from Zach’s point of view and imagine the letter he would write here. It’s entirely possible that he doesn’t think that he should have to be the one to give up an entire day’s work on a regular basis to go essentially be someone’s bodyguard. And if OP is a woman, it might seem weird to have the feeling that he’s just having to do it because he’s a man, like that gives him special powers. (To be clear, I think that OP needs some protection! And the employer should absolutely be responsible for providing it)

        I’m a woman, but i do some fieldwork and if my boss told me that I needed to take very significant chunks of time to essentially provide muscle for another colleague, I would think that would be more appropriately done by someone hired and trained for that purpose.

        I also think it’s crappy to say that Zach should take it over and see how it goes for him, as some posters have said. I’m assuming that these people are scientists, and its the employer’s responsibility to ensure safety (and as several people here have pointed out, zach’s being a man doesn’t automatically qualify him as protection).

        1. Despachito*


          I do not think Zach is automatically equipped for handling dangerous people just because he is a man. And it should be up to the management to protect their employees, not assigning one (untrained) employee to protect another (untrained) employee.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Unless this organization is especially clueless, I doubt they mean for Zach to act as a bodyguard. I suspect they’re thinking more “safety in numbers” in the sense that someone is less likely to go after two people than one person by him- or herself.

          But Zach needs to use actual words to articulate what is issue is with this: If it’s too much time out of his regular work, if he doesn’t understand the intent, whatever. It’s not the LW’s job to do that for him.

        3. darlingpants*

          “ Look at this from Zach’s point of view and imagine the letter he would write here.”

          Exactly! The letter I would write in Zach’s place is something like “I’m being told I need to accompany my coworker to her field site, through unpleasant traffic and a sketchy site with potential danger that I am not trained to deal with (presumably just because I am a man). No one is accompanying me to my sites, so there’s no reciprocity. When I signed up for this job, it was to do science at [more pleasant field site], not to spend entire days hanging out in the car and as an untrained bodyguard for my colleague.”

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I suspect that Zack is at least supposed to have someone accompany him and is simply choosing not to do so, in which case there is reciprocity, he’s just choosing not to make use of it. In this case it seems more like he either doesn’t believe the sites are unsafe or is choosing not to believe LW when she says that she feels unsafe, which as others commented doesn’t make him seem like a very good friend.

            That said, it sure sounds like the org needs to rethink its safety protocols. Unless the buddies are both actually working at the sites, it does seem rather wasteful to have one person there who’s only around to provide a modicum of safety.

            1. darlingpants*

              Given that the LW says Zach’s sites are locked away from the public, it seems like they’re implying it’s therefore safer and he can go alone just fine. Plus he’s going to go to her site alone over the holiday break when she’s on vacation.

              It does seem like the actual issue is the company needs a better, more comprehensive safety protocol that everyone follows. Either its safe for people to go to the LW’s site alone, in which case I’d also be annoyed in Zach’s case that I’m expected to go alone when I cover, but also expected to accompany the LW, or it’s not safe for people to go to field sites alone, which means Zach can’t cover when LW is on vacation and LW needs to be accompanying him to his sites.

        4. HannahS*

          Yeah, I strongly agree. I’d be pretty furious if someone was like, “Hey, people who’ve worked in this area have been threatened by people with guns. We’re sending you along with the OP to help.” To help…how?

          My field is different from the OP, but I sometimes work in situations with people who might assault me and other employees (an emergency room and other healthcare settings, working in a troubled area). If I feel a situation is unsafe, I absolutely don’t ask someone with the same training and same amount of experience as me to go with me. I either ask someone with more experience, or if I feel there’s an immediate risk of violence, I call security, who have training that I don’t. What exactly is Zach going to do? It’s not the OP’s job to figure it out, but she should re-approach management, because this isn’t a good solution.

          1. learnedthehardway*

            Yeah – this is a good point. The reality is that the OP or anyone else sent into the area should be sent with a qualified security guard.

        5. MCMonkeyBean*

          It does sound like an odd system for someone to go out on the field for that many hours for buddy purposes–what happens with their usual job that day and what do they do with themselves for all the time they are out there? I can’t tell how often this is though. It it’s like once a quarter then I guess whatever. If it’s more like once a week that’s a lot of time to be pulled away from your regular duties!

          But, it’s the system the boss has put in place so if it’s something that has been explicitly assigned to Zach then he can’t really just be like “nah.”

          Also, I see a lot of discussion about “man protecting woman” but I don’t think there is anything in the letter that indicates that is the reasoning. OP may be a woman and Zach may be a man but that doesn’t mean that’s the reason he’s her buddy. A buddy system setup is not usually done thinking one person can actively fight off danger! It’s just so if something happens to one person, the other person knows where they are and what happened and can hopefully get help. “Safety in numbers.” When young campers use the buddy system in the woods it’s not because counselors think “oh well Bobby and Joy will go to the woods together because Bobby can fight off any bears!!” That’s not the point of the buddy system. I still don’t necessarily think this system necessarily makes sense here, but I don’t know why so many people are jumping straight to sexism.

          1. PT*

            Yes and whenever we used the buddy system with campers in the pool, it certainly wasn’t because one could rescue the other, it was so one would yell “Help!” when the other was too busy drowning to do so.

        6. Mannequin*

          Nobody is saying Zack needs to go along because he’s “a man”. The boss has implemented a buddy system, which requires two people for “safety in numbers” not “big strong man protects poor defenseless woman”

          And again, management implemented this, so if Zack has objections, he needs to take them up with MANAGEMENT, not OP. He can’t just shirk a duty he’s been given because he, personally, does not deem it as necessary.

    3. The OTHER other*

      #1 Your colleague doesn’t seem to appreciate that the sites he works are safer than yours. You don’t mention your gender, but sadly there is a major gender component to basic safety in many places, this might well be something he is unaware of. This doesn’t excuse him dismissing either his responsibilities or your concerns.

      You need to be assertive about your safety! This should not be negotiable or dismissed, especially given the shocking examples you gave of the dangers your coworkers have faced.

      If he thinks these areas/jobs are no big deal, maybe offer to switch with him and take over the nursing homes while he deals with the Hell’s Angels? I suspect his attitude would change quickly if he were actually confronted with the same danger you face so frequently.

    4. Myrin*

      Yeah, I’m wondering about Zack’s thought process here – OP says “my boss has told my colleague Zack to accompany me.” but at the same time “[Zack] doesn’t think it’s necessary for him to be present”. Is that not pretty plain insubordination?
      (In fairness, though, I’m not sure Zack has actually refused to accompany OP. If that’s really all he’s said on the matter, it might just have been a throwaway line he said in the moment but he would still be fine actually going with OP. I can understand her feeling weird about it if he’s moaning and groaning and being all “is this really necessary…?” but as long as he’s actually doing it…)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I could see this being something he thinks is unneeded and he assumes OP agrees that it’s the official rule but ignorable for staff in the field. Can be true of all sorts of workplace requirements, from the crucial to the inane.

      2. Reba*

        Right, my read on the letter, though it’s not clear, is not that he has out and out refused to go, but he has made this little comments, possibly rolled some eyes. And now OP feels weird about insisting, with the friendship dynamic increasing the weirdness because we usually don’t “make” our friends do things they don’t want to do.

        I also think Zack is probably just assuming all sites are like his and all fieldworker experiences are like his (despite the existence of the policy indicating that’s not true, but definitely a common bias). I hope our OP can have a frank conversation with him about their experiences. Maybe even throw in “I really appreciate you doing this, the buddy system is important and I’m glad I can do it with a friend!” so maybe he’ll try to live up to it :) It’s actually pretty unfair of him to complain about the policy *to OP*, though maybe he was trying for bonding through mutual complaining about tedious rules, and he expected OP to agree. So I hope that talking about it together gets him to quit.

        But my advice is to just schedule the dang trips and not let his aimless complaining about the assignment stop you from doing your job. And if he is obstructive, don’t just go without him! It’s a big deal. Your safety and comfort is important! It’s much more important than Zack’s very special opinion!

        1. Mannequin*

          The thing is, even if all the sites were perfectly safe, and it was known by all, if management has told him he needs to be part of a buddy system for field work, he doesn’t get to unilaterally decide it’s something he doesn’t have to do.

    5. Attractive Nuisance*

      I don’t really see how Zach can make sure LW is safe, regardless of whether he wants to or not. It doesn’t sound like he has received any training. I’m surprised that management hasn’t offered any safety options besides pairing up two equally vulnerable workers.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I think it’s more just that someone would be less likely to approach two people than one (especially if the one was a woman). I didn’t interpret this so much as “Zach as bodyguard” as “safety-ish in numbers”.

        1. Attractive Nuisance*

          I mean, sure. I agree that in general, a buddy system is a good baseline policy to have. But when someone has already been threatened with a gun, there needs to be a more robust system in place.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      This is what I came here to say. OP, Zack is not your friend. Please proceed with that in mind.

    7. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yeah, I wonder how Zack would feel if he were supposed to be with LW at a site and something (god forbid and I’m *definitely* not wishing this on LW) actually did happen. I suppose LW could ask him that but I don’t think I’d be able to if I were in this situation.

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

    OP1: I wonder if it’s a workload issue for Zack? Accompanying OP sounds like it is a whole day’s job in itself (as the fieldwork area is a 4 hour drive) which means ‘losing’ that day when he could have been doing other stuff. If Zack’s workload is the same but now he essentially loses a day every time he has to be the ‘buddy’ I could see trying to get out of it. It doesn’t really change the advice as it would still need to go up the chain at that point, but I wonder if that’s the real reason especially since OP and Zack are friends so you’d think Zack might appreciate some time to hang out with a friend when they go on these trips?

    1. WellRed*

      Yes, what is Zacks actual role and how does this impact it? And does he regularly have 4 hours of heavy traffic to drive in or only when he does the buddy thing. The company’s so called solution isn’t great.

    2. Boof*

      Good point, I was also wondering how accompanying OP impacts Zack’s workload; if that’s not accounted for then the company REALLY needs to change something.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Excellent point. LW, is there any way you could offer to take on some of Zack’s work on weeks you have him come with you? Or, ideally, your organization should hire a 2nd person to do fieldwork with you so when you visit those sites it isn’t 1 person working and 1 person standing there are supposed security

    4. Esmeralda*

      That’s not the OP’s problem, it’s Zach’s. If that’s his reason, then he needs to use his words and talk to the boss about it.

      I mean, sure, OP can be sympathetic to his situation, but it comes down to Zach has been assigned this job duty and he needs to do it.

    5. another Hero*

      this was my thought. Zack needs to address it with the bosses, not OP, but it’s not an unreasonable thing to take issue with, especially if OP doesn’t lose the same time (since she doesn’t accompany Zack) and his workload isn’t lowered to compensate.

    6. I'm just here for the cats!*

      The only thing i could think of that would help with this would be if Zach and the OP both did tasks at OP’s field location and then the next day the OP helped Zack with the tasks at his location. As long as they both are able to complete the same tasks I think that would be the most beneficial because then Zach wont get behind.

  10. Ori*

    LW2 – if it helps, I had a similar thing and these sorts of ‘trips’ were what I was assigned to do by my CBT therapist. It started off as ‘go and buy coffee and sit in the cafe’ (I spilled it lol). And worked up to going into town, going for food with friends, and eventually a solo day trip. I get your anxieties about your boss but this is literally exposure therapy.

    1. Malika*

      When i am on sick leave i can feel guilty if i go to the supermarket to do my weekly round of grocery shopping, so i get the sentiment of LW2. Rule of thumb is that any activities that are necessary and/or will help you to get better are totally ok. If someone is out on sick leave due to injury and part of the recovery is walking around a park on a daily outing then i see it as part of recuperation. A friend of mine has been out on sick leave for more than a year due to long Covid and she takes a daily walk in the nearby woods. This has been more healing for her than any amount of physiotherapy and can only be encouraged. The other extreme is a former colleague who was out on sick leave and posted Facebook posts on how off their tits they were at a rave. The medicinal aspects of visiting a rave and taking illegal substances are doubtful to say the least.

      1. Mannequin*

        Just a reminder that the legal status of a drug (at least in the US) does not in any way reflect whether that drug is safe, useful, helpful, harmful, and does not attach any moral value to the use of that drug.

        Alcohol & nicotine needed special exceptions not to be classified as Schedule 1 drugs, because they meet all the criteria- widely used recreationally, addictive, detrimental to one’s health and society, and deadly.
        Marijuana & psychedelics only meet ONE of those criteria- widely used recreationally. Yet they are classified as the worst of all drugs that exist. It’s ridiculous.

  11. John Smith*

    #1, has your organisation done any risk assessments? They really ought to have done and these should be referred to. I’m wondering whether the buddy system has been imposed on people who may not be willing to do it which may explain Zach’s reluctance possibly?

    When we have to do field work in disreputable areas, our risk assessment states that the presence of the police can be requested before attending site, and where there is a genuine concern for personal safety, we can refuse to attend if some kind of assistance is unavailable.

    We also have small, discreet audio devices which can be activated if we feel in danger. These have GPS built in and when activated, our location is sent to a call centre along with live audio from the built in microphone. This allows for the police to be called if the need is felt. May be worth suggesting something similar to your organisation.

    1. Squidhead*

      My thinking was similar…has Zack (or the OP) been trained in what to do if a concerning–>threatening–>dangerous situation arises? If neither buddy has any type of training for these situations then the organization is simply hoping that the power of numbers (and/or Zack presumably presenting as male) will protect the OP and Zack. That’s not really fair or sensible for Zack or the OP.

      Personally if I had to drive 4 hours away and then be in an isolated area I would want a buddy for even a “safe” area. It’s like why employees shouldn’t work in the walk-in freezer alone…what if something happens? So a buddy seems to me like a minimum level of precaution, which should be further escalated when a situation is known to be tenuous or dangerous.

      1. H2*

        Totally agree. I am a female scientist who does occasional fieldwork, so I’m approaching it from that POV. But if I were going to a place where someone had been threatened with a gun, and my employer’s response was to send a male scientist with me…that doesn’t really solve the problem (and now two people are unsafe) and it potentially creates workflow problems for Zach. I think the employer needs to work on meaningfully solving the problem.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yep. There are situations where a buddy makes it safer. Being threatened with a gun is not one of those situations.

          1. SnappinTerrapin*

            Sometimes, the presence of a second person makes it less likely that a threat will be made.

            Crimes against strangers tend to be crimes of opportunity. The offenders are looking for a vulnerable target. Two people who are paying attention to the environment where they are working are significantly less tempting as a target than a person alone, who must necessarily focus much of her attention on the tasks she is there to perform.

            There aren’t any guarantees in life, but the buddy system is a rational plan to reduce the risk of violent crime.

  12. John Smith*

    #2, do whatever it is that will help you get better. Being off sick doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else.

    If you went off sick with say, broken limbs and were seen next day pumping at the gym, then questions may be asked. But being off sick from work isn’t a prison sentence.

    When I was off with work related stress, I bumped into a manager in a cafe who’s first response was “I thought you were supposed to be sick?”. That type of thinking needs to disappear. My therapist encouraged me to go out and socialise, relax and being in a social setting was part of my treatment. When this manager started what I can only call snitching, my therapist was happy to email a piece of their mind to this manager as well as my own.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery.

  13. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP2: veteran of breakdowns here. Spent time in a psych ward in 2020 because of one.

    What you can do while off work recovering is entirely down to what you, and any medical professionals you’re seeing, deem ok.

    People might not understand this, both at work and elsewhere, but recovering from a mental problem is different to a physical one. I found the phrase ‘this is what my doctors said to do’ helpful. People can generally understand what it’s like to be off with a broken leg but not a mind that thrown a few system errors.

    Much love and support to you. It isn’t easy but I believe you’ll get through this. Be gentle to yourself.

    1. Eleanor Shellstrop*

      As always, Keymaster is bang on the money. I also spent some time in hospital (this year) for my mental health, and have had a few periods of time away from work. I spent those doing whatever I needed to do improve my well-being, sometimes that was sit in bed and cry, sometimes that was going for a run, and sometimes, yes it was having fun! going to the cinema in the middle of the day! Please don’t feel guilty for doing what you need to to recover.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Yup. Films and TV promote the idea of a mental health breakdown as something that causes you to cry uncontrollably for a day or so, hide indoors, then you get over it and come out a stronger person.

        The reality is far different.

        I played a lot of video games when I got out the hospital (no gaming or internet on the ward), did a lot of playing with the cat, went out in my car almost every day for a drive round the countryside, went outside to just have a coffee and read a book – things that might seem to others like I was just lazing about. But it’s what I needed.

        1. Atalanta0jess*

          Isn’t it amazing that folks might look down on “lazing about” when you’re healing…as if rest and relaxation aren’t key for healing (some things.) Or for engaging in healthy activity, when healthy activity is key to healing (some things).

          OP, people will judge, no matter what you do. Your sick leave is time for you to get well – so do the things that will help you get well. I hope it’s a helpful time for you.

  14. nnn*

    #2: I absolutely agree that it is appropriate because it’s part of the treatment. But, if you are concerned about the optics, would it feel better to do these things outside of work hours? You can go to a restaurant for dinner, museums might be open evenings or weekends, etc.

    1. Zoey*

      Not sure that’s the best advice. You’re more likely to bump into colleagues outside work hours which might feel awkward.

    2. Presea*

      I am not a psychologist but I am someone who has similar issues. Adding any unnecessary/arbitrary restrictions to when OP2 is ‘allowed’ to go out or where it’s ‘better/safer’ to go out could possibly backfire big time in terms of treatment. It’s ultimately between themselves and their doctor, but still.

  15. Anna Badger*

    LW2 my heart goes out to you because I remember this feeling, and I disagree with the implication of Alison’s response that the reason it’s ok to go out is that going out is part of your treatment.

    You’ve been signed off sick because your doctor has assessed your health situation, considers it at a crisis point, and considers either your work duties or your workplace itself a barrier to your recovery. That’s it. This assessment does not require you to strip all pleasure or indulgence from your life, it just requires you not to go to work. You’re still a human being who is allowed nice things.

    1. SparkleConsultant*

      Yes. I wanted to chime in to let OP know that they’re not alone, and that it’s ok to give yourself nice things. I’ve struggled during plague times with anxiety and realized (with therapy) that I was having trouble giving permission to myself to celebrate or feel joy during an overall shitty/stressful time. I’ve just started making some serious progress on the worst of my coping mechanisms by finally working up to going to a friend’s wedding and dancing. It took months of practice going out doing little things, and I still get anxious, but feel way better when I let myself savor the nice things.
      Tl;DR You can give yourself permission to take care of yourself. You’re not alone, and I’m glad that you’re doing what you need! Wishing you strength

    2. doreen*

      I don’t think that was the distinction Alison was making, that this is actually treatment rather than just living your normal life when it’s your work/workplace itself that’s causing the problem. I think that the distinction was that this is different from a situation where my doctor tells me to stay home from work for two weeks not because the work/workplace itself is the issue, but because I should stay off my feet – and I then proceed to walk around a museum all day.

  16. Lyra Silvertongue*

    LW4, I live in the UK and over here it’s the norm for retail employees to sit behind counters etc when they’re not actively restocking or doing other work where standing would be essential. No one blinks twice at it! I honestly think it’s a cultural thing in the US (I’m assuming you’re in the US!) because I genuinely don’t think I would really notice either way. The one exception was when I used to work at a beauty counter in a department store and we had to stand all day because we were expected to aggressively court any passers-by – I was 19 and miserable and lasted about six months! Never worked a commission-based job again, but that probably says more about me. Anyway, the point being that that felt really unusual at the time.

    1. OP 4*

      Yes, I am in the US! I heard that other countries have different norms around standing/sitting at customer service oriented jobs, but it’s still shocking to hear the contrast. I hope that norms in the US change, it’s really upsetting that so many workers here put themselves in pain just because of a cultural norm,

      1. Reba*

        You might be interested in an article by Atlantic writer Amanda Mull, “American Shoppers Are a Nightmare.” Tressie McMillan Cottom’s essay “The Meltdown Crisis” (on medium) observes that Americans really feel our class position in the practice of shopping and she connects this to a number of other societal weaknesses.

        I hope that as part of this “Great Resignation” business that workers are more empowered to ask for these kinds of changes!

        1. pancakes*

          There’s also a book by Ethan Porter, “The Consumer Citizen.” I haven’t read it yet but it looks interesting, though it seems he’s more optimistic about harnessing this mindset for good than I am.

          1. pancakes*

            You’re welcome. I want to put in a word for the Tressie McMillan Cottom essay too, because I think it’s really on point.

  17. Mary*

    Op#3, I’m so weirded out by this hiring manager. Did anyone else interview you who was on your team? Did the hiring manager answer all your questions about roles and responsibilities clearly or were their answers actually vague?

    At worst this manager is extremely controlling and a micromanager. But I also wonder if this company has overlap and unclarity in people’s roles, so the manager feels they need to be involved in everything.

    1. RJ*

      I don’t think the manager is necessarily controlling or a micromanager – it could simply be that it hasn’t occurred to her that it is her that OP wants to ask about (e.g. if she is a new manager, or there really is a great culture where everyone is open and honest, etc.).

      Either way, I think we need to normalize asking companies for references. Interviews are supposed to be about both sides finding fit, so candidates should have the opportunity to speak to the hiring manager’s colleagues/reports just like employers speak to a candidate’s current and/or former supervisors.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      It’s also not always the hiring manager’s choice. I have only within the past few years worked under an HR head that had no issues with peer interviews without supervision. In some cases, I understood it for relatively junior employees who’d not interviewed before, but I think it’s valuable for people to have an unfiltered conversation with their peers and was still not able to make it happen. My current HR head allows peer interviewing and simply provides interviewing guidelines before hand, and management also has a short meeting to give tips on how to ask the most useful questions (and not to ask things like what kind of tree or animal someone would be).

      I have also found that many candidates today are reaching out to current employees, usually via LinkedIn, to talk about their experiences pre-interview. I think that’s fine, but I also want part of their formal process to be with as close a peer as possible so they know we support it and want them to get candid answers to their questions to assess the fit on their end.

  18. McThrill*

    LW #4 – I moved to Germany about 7 years ago, and all retail staff have chairs to sit here. “Employees being uncomfortable makes the customer feel better” seems to be a mostly American idea that (at least for this customer) doesn’t really ring true at all.

  19. Paperdill*

    It seems clear to me that the issue of employees sitting is a matter of cultural differences. In which case employees may well be banging their head against a brick wall in trying to change the bosses mind (because many people are like that when it comes to cultural change) BUT it may do well to take these examples of different cultural “sitting down” norms and associated customer satisfactions (not related to the sitting down, just satisfaction in general) to the boss and and demonstrate how satisfaction seems to remain unchanged whether sitting or not?
    The boss sounds a little bit of a twit, so I’m not sure how much luck they’d have with the second options but it’s worth a try, surely?

  20. Mameshiba*

    OP #2, I wonder if anxiety about what others will think if they see you outside is part of/contributing to the general anxiety you have about going outside. I know we have all become much more aware of what others do, and what we think others do, and what others think of us! Maybe reflecting on this will help you bring this aspect of the anxiety into your practice. If anyone sees you out and says anything you can say “This is part of my treatment.”

  21. Myrin*

    #4, while most comments so far are (quite naturally/instinctively, I’d say) about retail, your question didn’t read to me like your partner is in a typical retail environment, so I’ll try to be a bit broader in my two cents. Let it be said that I’m from Germany where – as other comments have already detailed above – it’s normal for worker at cash registers at least to sit down. So, that’s my background.

    The thing is, though, that with cashiers, I’m simply used to them sitting down so there’s nothing weird about it. Interestingly, when I thought about your question a bit more just now, I realised that I would feel strange if I came into my bank, for example, and started detailing a problem with my account to a clerk who’s sitting down while I’m standing. In thinking even more why that is, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the literal “not seeing eye to eye” to someone that makes me feel weird about it.

    I’m assuming most people where I live feel that way because here’s what the norm is when you go somewhere where you need a service which will result in a longer stationary talk: either the employee, who gets to sit as long as they don’t have to deal with a customer, stands up to interact with the standing customer OR the customer actually gets to sit down, too.

    I’m also reminded of how, pre-corona times, when I had to visit any random person in an office environment, they’d usually stand up to greet me (so we’re at eye level) and then ask me to sit down across from/next to them (also at eye level). I don’t know if there are/were similar unwritten rules in other countries or if that’s really specifically a German thing, and if that tradition came from a metaphorical convention of not wanting either side to feel like they’re literally “below” the other or if there’s another reason entirely for it, but in general the symmetry seems like a pretty good rule to me.

    1. Klio*

      At a bank I actually prefer for both of us to be seated (in separate room) unless it’s something quick at an info desk, in that case me standing, them sitting is rather normal. Occasionally they have these bar chair things which make them sit at about standing eye height.

    2. münchner kindl*

      But that’s not the case in normal banks: the teller is usually a desk at standing height for short interactions, but with a tall stool behind it; if as a customer I make an appointment for 30-60 minutes, I’m led into a closed office, and we both sit down on chairs to talk in details.

      And employees standing up when dealing with a customer doesn’t exclude the employee sitting down (even on a tall stool) when there are no customers around.

      1. Myrin*

        That’s why I used the conjunctive (I said I WOULD feel strange about it – in reality, I don’t, because like you said, it doesn’t happen) – I just used “bank” as the first thing that came to my mind when I thought of a not-store situation where I might approach someone where I’m a customer and they’re at work.

        I also mentioned your second point in my comment: “either the employee, who gets to sit as long as they don’t have to deal with a customer stands up”.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      I’m in the US, and I agree that I would feel a bit weird in a retail environment if I wasn’t “seeing eye-to-eye” or roughly on the same level as the cashier. But same as Myrin, this has never been an actual issue for me.

      I’ve been to banks where the tellers were sitting on high chairs, so I wasn’t looking down at them while they made my deposit/withdrawal. I’ve been to banks where I sat across the desk from a banker for opening/closing accounts. I’ve been to a local bookstore where the cashier was sitting to do some work at a computer, and stood to ring up my purchase.

      As a customer in the US, I would like to see retail employees have chairs (high or low) or stools available, whatever works for that context.

  22. Speaks to Dragonflies*

    #4- I haven’t thought about how I would feel if folks were sitting, standing, or whatever, but I do think they should be given the choice. I’ve had jobs where I stood in one spot the whole shift. Seventeen years worth…My back, knees, and feet are worse off for it. So yeah, folks should be able to sit, lean, whatever they need.

  23. The Other Katie*

    Re Letter #4: All across the UK and Europe, cashiers and other service people sit while working. It’s considered weird that Americans are forced to stand up all day, even though it’s perfectly possible to do the job seated. There’s no real reason for it.

      1. LizABit*

        As an American, this comment is unkind and the slavery reference is unfair.

        My first job was a cashier, and standing showed respect for/to the customers who are also STANDING in front of you. Sitting at a job like that just screams casual/disrespectful toward customers. I don’t oppose sitting when you’re not serving customers, but usually there’s something job-related that can be done in downtime.

        1. anymouse*

          I shop at Aldi and the cashiers sit there and I don’t feel disrespected. Nor do I feel disrespected when I go to a doctors office and the reception staff are sitting.

          Customers stand in retail or at the bank teller line because that makes more sense. Versus trying to have enough chairs and keeping them straightened out and everyone getting up and moving.

        2. Colette*

          Why do you think sitting is disrespectful?

          I understand that it’s awkward to sit while talking to someone who is standing if there’s a significant height difference, but if you’re sitting on a chair that makes you a similar height, why is it an issue?

          Do you also think people in wheelchairs are disrespectful? Are people significantly shorter than you disrespectful?

          1. Kelly L.*

            It’s a subconscious power thing.

            Some people like to think that the retail worker is their servant. Servants stand up, equals sit. In olden tymes the king would sit, and everyone else would have differing degrees of being able to sit based on how important they were–if you were a lord, you might get a stool or a bench! If you were a servant, you stood. And in the US, where the president is considered a public servant, he stands when he addresses us.

            So, people who want cashiers to be their servant will get offended by them sitting.

            1. Don't Be Long Suffering*

              I get what you’re saying but when the Prez addresses the nation from the oval office, all them in my considerably long memory have been sitting at the desk. So even that convention doesn’t apply anymore.

        3. Nope.*

          Yeah, no. I do not feel more respected by the cashier vs a receptionist just because one is standing and the other isn’t. That’s not a thing.

        4. mlem*

          As an American, I don’t feel disrespected by a worker who sits while doing their job. That’s such a weird take of my countryfolk.

        5. Jennifer Strange*

          My first job was a cashier, and standing showed respect for/to the customers who are also STANDING in front of you. Sitting at a job like that just screams casual/disrespectful toward customers.

          How is it disrespectful in that job, but not in a position like receptionist/administrative assistant? I worked at a theatre box office where we sat and the customers stood, and never once did anyone seem to think we were being disrespectful. Standing is no more respectful than sitting, you’ve just been conditioned to believe that because it’s been hammered into us for so long.

        6. Zoey*

          Uh what? How is standing for hours and hours while working the same as me standing briefly on a shopping trip?


        7. Metadata minion*

          As a customer, I would not feel disrespected to have an employee seated while I’m standing. That’s what usually happens at, say, the reception desk at my doctor’s office. Are they disrespecting me?

          I actually feel way weirder having an employee turn away from their mandated Looking! Busy! task to come help me at the cash register.

        8. pancakes*

          “Unkind” isn’t synonymous with “inaccurate,” and the idea that it’s somehow unfair to think that US history regarding slavery shaped our cultural in numerous very significant ways is risible. The irony is that your comment embodies the US model of consumerism in same ways you deny: The mindset on display here is, “I have a right to avoid anything that makes me uncomfortable for even a moment, no matter how silly.” The idea that someone is being disrespectful to you by sitting in your presence, for example. Good grief.

          1. Curious*

            While it would be “risible” to deny the impact of the history of slavery on American culture, it would be equally risible to ignore the effects of slavery and serfdom on European culture, or to treat slavery as a *uniquely* U. S. evil.

            1. pancakes*

              Fortunately no one here has suggested doing either of those things. It’s classic whataboutery to suggest these ideas are on the table.

              1. Curious*

                Folks here are comparing US vs European approaches to whether employees get to sit. You seemed to say that slavery helped shape the US model of consumerism. I am challenging that logic of causation by noting that Europeans also have a history including slavery (and, a related institution, serfdom).

                1. pancakes*

                  I really dislike this overly-personal and willfully myopic approach to history. Slavery didn’t shape the US model of consumerism because *I* say I think it did, but because it was an enduring institution that played an enormous role in shaping our model of governance, our economy, our wars, our culture, etc. I’m not going to try to go into more depth than that because this isn’t the time or place and because comments tend to get removed here. You aren’t challenging the ideas and history underlying that view by trying to change the subject to Europe; you’re doing whataboutery.

        9. kiki*

          I guess as a customer, I’ve never thought it was disrespectful of employees to sit while they interacted with me. I feel like it’s obvious that I’m a customer just passing through and the employee likely has to stay in the store for 6-10 hours, a long time to stand. My first job was also as a cashier and I wasn’t bothered by standing for hours on end because I was an able-bodied teenager with the miraculous joints associated with that age. Later in life, I worked part-time at a retailer and standing for that long really did a number on my knees. It’s just not sustainable for most people to stand for that long. It’s associated with all sorts of health issues. I’d rather have a comfortable cashier than one needlessly causing pain in their lower back for my benefit.

        10. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          We’re talking about regions of roughly 10MM sq km (~10,000,000 sq km, ~4MM sq mi) each and a combined 1.1 Billion people. Accuracy and Fairness being fantasies is probably generous.

        11. alienor*

          An individual customer is standing in front of the cashier for a minute or two, maybe ten minutes tops if they have a large or complex order. The cashier is there all day, long after Joe Customer has left and is sitting in his car/at his desk/on his couch at home. Having the cashier sit isn’t disrespectful, it’s practical.

        1. James*

          I agree with all of this. People have very weird views of the USA, most of which don’t hold up once you actually deal with the people in question. It’s only gotten worse, too. Anyone you don’t like is now a Communist or Neo-nazi, and therefore to be ignored because they’re a murderer at heart and only do what they do because they’re mustache-twirling cartoon villains. Then you meet the person and realize no, they just have a very slightly different take on things than you do, and you in fact agree on 99.99% of the issues involved.

          I worked retail, as a cashier. The issue with standing vs sitting isn’t bullying, it’s productivity. I was told that if there were slow periods, I should look for things to do–organize my aisle, or offer to help others, that sort of thing. The idea was, they’re paying me for 8 hours so in justice I need to provide 8 hours of work for them (minus breaks, which were paid). Given the ergonomics of the works tation standing was better, and since I was supposed to be doing other stuff when things were slow being allowed to sit simply didn’t make sense. When I worked third shift I did a lot of sweeping, or picking up carts from the parking lot (seriously people, how hard is it to put the carts in the corrals?!), or organizing the magazines (REALLY easy to look like you’re working while in fact you’re reading), etc. To be clear, there was no expectation that I’d spend all my time ringing up groceries–I came in knowing that I’d have other responsibilities, based on the fact that I was hired for third shift.

          Also, quite honestly, I stood more per day when I was doing environmental compliance than I did as a cashier. In worse conditions, too–at least as a cashier I had a mat designed to make standing easier. As a geologist the best I could hope for was soft sediment. Basalt is the worst to stand on for 8 hours a day, especially when it’s 0 degrees F, cloudy, you’re 10,000 feet up, and the wind is howling. (Worst part was I was just a check in the box that job; we all knew what I was there to deal with wasn’t going to happen. So I was cold, tired, wet, and bored out of my mind.)

          For my part I didn’t find standing to be a problem. The ergonomics of my work station were built around standing, and sitting would honestly have made the work harder, especially with heavier objects. This is a solvable problem, sure–just design the work station around sitting–but of all the problems I had with that workplace being expected to stand wasn’t one of them. The mandatory union membership where the union and the company BOD traded people annually, the fact that we were in an area where the police didn’t know who had jurisdiction (and thus people were routinely robbed), the fact that they messed with my schedule in ways that destroyed my sleep cycle for a few years and I occasionally hallucinated from fatigue–those things were SLIGHTLY bigger issues than my legs being kinda tired after my shift. To be clear, I make no claims about whether others should view this as a problem! I’m merely giving my perspective. Obviously others–particularly those with medical issues–will view things differently.

        2. Jennifer Strange*

          We’re generally sympathetic to the employees in stores unless they’re actively being awful.

          That is demonstrably untrue. Retail/food service employees tend to be treated like crap.

          1. Lacey*

            I’m not saying retail employees don’t deal with awful people. I’ve worked retail. They do. That’s part of why I’m sympathetic to retail employees.

            I just don’t think they deal with those awful people because most Americans think retail workers are beneath them.

            They deal with them because they deal with all of the people.
            So unlike me – I deal with an average of 5-10 people in any given day – they’re way more likely to have to deal with a jerk or 10.

            And when I worked retail that was true too. I ran into WAY more awful people when I worked in a busy mall clothing store than when I worked in a tiny specialty shop in a sparsely traveled plaza.
            Because the clothing store had way more customers.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              Except that the very fact that they are being awful to them is a sign that they think retail workers are beneath them. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t treat them like garbage. Just look at how many folks are against raising the minimum wage because, in their mind, the work being done doesn’t merit being able to live even a halfway comfortable life.

  24. Nupalie*

    OP #1…first let me say: 25 years ago I was the first female employee in an environmental supervision position. I brought up a risky practice, was told I was being too anxious “the men never had a problem with it”…continued on with the risky practice and got seriously hurt. Please do not ignore your gut on this issue…insist on safety.

    Given that your predecessor was threatened with harm, the company is on notice of the risks of these field inspections. The buddy system was put in place for both safety and legal liability reasons. I suspect HR, Legal, Risk Mgmt, and/or the company’s insurer would have a cow if they realized you or Zach or anyone else planned to do the field inspections alone. Side issue: If Zach thinks he doesn’t need a buddy…is he concealed carrying on the job? Or carrying a taser or mace? Any of those are another liability issue for the company.

    1. JSPA*

      This. OP#1, this isn’t Zach’s call, and it also isn’t your call. Your COMPANY is doing it based on risk-assessment. If this were about hairnets around food, or about not sticking your hand in the mixer, you would not be wondering if you should tweak the requirements, if they “only” felt less-than-100%-all-the-time necessary for your safety.

      Leaving aside that you SHOULD not feel like one team member’s inconvenience outweighs another team member’s safety, just because member #1 is a friend, and member #2 is you…you in fact CANNOT make that call.

      If you would actually feel more comfortable or be literally safer with some alternative solution, by all means propose that alternative; but “we have decided to forego the official safety procedure” should be a complete non-starter.

      That said: of course Zach is allowed to hate the long drive in traffic as much as you do. Or dislike the area. Or dislike being used as a bodyguard if he signed up to be a researcher. You can grow a thicker skin (or enjoy sharing feeling jointly irked) for the first two. He can take it up with the boss, for the last. None of that is yours to “fix” or to “solve.”

  25. rudster*

    LW1, I’m a bit confused about what Zack actually does when he accompanies you to your sites, if his sites are all different ones. Is he simply your escort/buddy/(part-time driver?) and just hangs back when he is at your site? Unless the overall workload is so low that he’d just be sitting around the office doing nothing, and/or the site visit actually requires two people (e.g., you could split up – but within sight of each other) and do two interviews or inspections or whatever you do there at the same time and get the visit done more quickly, this buddy system sounds terribly inefficient. Of course the company should ensure that employees feel save, but it seems like they need to figure something else out – formalize the buddy duties in job descriptions or policies so that you recourse if someone flat out refuses to do it, hire professionals to buddy full-time, whatever. BTW, out of curiosity, do only women get buddies? Are all the buddies male?

    1. Ori*

      I don’t know about America, but in the UK we have pretty strict policies on lone working. Companies are obliged to conduct risk assessments, and in roles with a risk of ‘reasonably foreseeable’ workplace violence, the rules are stricter. Mitigation can include personal alarms, phone alert apps, regular online check ins, and a buddy system. It’s not a gender thing.

  26. Paul Pearson*

    In Britain it is normal for, say retail staff, to be sat for their shift. I can’t imagine being unsatisfied because the poor ALDI cashier has to stand up for 8 hours at a time while throwing my shopping at me at me faster than the human eye can track.

    Apart from anything else, just allowing employees to sit makes it far easier to be compliant for a number of health complaints and disabilities.

    1. Former call centre worker*

      I didn’t see this before writing my comment a few below yours – from a health and safety perspective, only certain styles of checkout are safe to sit at when lifting heavy items. So if a store allows employees to sit at a checkout designed for standing (eg. the compact ‘basket only’ type), it might exacerbate or cause injuries, so depending on the checkout design and nature of the job, letting someone sit is not necessarily a compliant way to deal with employees’ health concerns.

      1. münchner kindl*

        I’ve never seen a checkout that wouldn’t be safe for sitting, even when I worked at a DIY store with heavy items – left on the trolley, cashiers had a long cord for the scan gun – or even at IKEA (dito).

        IKEA self-checkouts, where one cashier monitors and helps 4 self-service cashiers, still has a foldable stool to sit on.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Bonus for owner of setting up for people sitting down will be accessing a new range of employees— a person in a wheelchair can do the job.

      1. Temperance*

        That would actually require stores to redo their entire belt setup and register structure. Wheelchairs are lower than the high stools typically used for that purpose.

        It would also require customers to bend down to put their items on the belt, which I don’t think would work very well.

    3. JSPA*

      A middle-aged friend with a number of health issues was written up and then fired for sitting down for a few minutes at a time, during her shift at a local convenience store chain. I have not shopped at a CoGo’s since. I do see they were bought out since then; maybe the policy has changed.

      Naming names because a) it’s no longer same corporate ownership b) I can’t see that this “outs” anyone or violates any policy on the blog c) only once we name some names is there pressure to change.

  27. Klio*

    As a customer I prefer employees that serve me while being somewhat comfortable and uselessly standing around all day.

  28. capedaisy127*

    #1. We have team members who work remotely. We have safeguarding in place for them. Personal alarm, first aid kit and a app they use, designed for remote workers. We have insurance and guidelines in our company handbook, for off-site work.
    Your employers need to do more to safeguard you, with processes like checking in and out of a site, what to do in dangerous situations, extra equipment etc. If there is a buddy system, what does that mean and how would they work?
    Do they have individual site guidelines and health and safety procedures?
    Your employer needs to take your concerns and safety more seriously, rather then leaving it for you to vaguely sort out with an uninterested co-worker.

  29. Former call centre worker*

    #4, I work in retail and my organisation has 2 types of staffed checkout, large ones with a belt for the customer to put their items on, where the employees sit down, and small ‘basket only’ ones with no belt where the employees stand. The reason employees have to stand at the latter is due to the type of lifting in both cases – on the checkouts with a belt, if an item is heavy it can be dragged from the belt over the scanner, which is safe to do sitting down, but on a basket only checkout the cashier needs to lift the item out of the basket in a way that is only safe to do while standing. I might not have got the details 100% right here as it’s not my area of expertise, but this is roughly the explanation I was given by someone in Health & Safety about why standing cashiers can’t be given seats.

    So if his job involves lifting heavy products at all, it may be a safety measure rather than customer perception.

      1. Former call centre worker*

        Yeah, my thinking was that the local management might not know and could have made up an answer. From OP’s post below it sounds like this wasn’t the case

    1. OP 4*

      Thank you for your perspective! My partner is not in retail, and he doesn’t have to lift heavy things for his job. When he asked his manager why he wasn’t allowed to sit, she didn’t give any health or safety reason.

      1. Former call centre worker*

        Interesting! It was just a guess as I was seeing a lot of commenters talking about checkout assistants being able or not being able to sit who seemed unaware that there can be a safety implication. I doubt that most retail managers are aware of the safety reason either, that’s why I thought your partner’s boss could have been guessing. But if he’s not lifting anything and is just standing there all day, then I don’t know of any safety reason for that and maybe it’s just to be face to face with customers.

      2. Former call centre worker*

        Just to add, perhaps your partner could request an anti-fatigue mat to stand on if he has to stand in a fixed place behind a desk, for example, if he doesn’t have one already. This is what may be used behind checkouts to make it easker on cashiers’ feet if they’re standing for long periods.

    2. Colette*

      I agree that if you’re lifting stuff, standing is safer – but presumably people can stand to lift whatever it is, then sit back down.

      1. Former call centre worker*

        In theory yes, but i imagine that in practice that would be difficult to enforce, especially as the cashier wouldn’t necessarily be able to judge what weight of item to stand for to avoid injuring themselves over the repeated action of lifting many objects each day. You’d probably end up passing the problem onto employees to use their judgement, resulting in injuries when they got it wrong.

  30. Bookworm*

    #4: I don’t have extensive experience in retail (US) but my one experience was that management did not want us to sit and would take chairs away from the computer/customer service area because we were perceived to be lazy and could only get chairs if we were doing computer work. (It also didn’t help that we had a manager who took every opportunity to sit *because* he was genuinely lazy).

    I can’t say I would know anything about linking that to customer satisfaction but rather this is an issue of managers trying to find something, anything, to control.

  31. I should really pick a name*

    It’s not clear from your letter if you’re actually seeing someone about your anxiety.
    If not, you should if possible.
    It sounds like you’re trying exposure therapy, but that’s something that should be done under the direction of a professional.

  32. Deep thoughts*

    OP1 – if someone was held up at gunpoint last year, I am not a buddy system is actually the answer. I think I would push back for a more safe and sustainable solution. I just imagine that this year, there will just be 2 people held up at gun point (and while security guards seem an obvious solution, they should actually consider discussing with the local community).

    OP2 – I think with this kind of anxiety, it’s probably best to consult a therapist and get a treatment plan. That way you know what to do and how to self-assess what is working and not. And if you need to document in some way for your work, you have that.

    OP3 – is there not a round of interviews at the end where others can give their assessment? At my org the hiring manager is in on the interviews, but at the very last round (down to 1-2 candidates), there are brief and less formal interviews with various people across the org. It’s actually not common for us to meet others on the team (maybe 1-2 people) but certainly to meet others the candidate might work with.

    OP4 – I feel like this is some American approach to customer service whereby the CSR has to be subservient to the customer. Blech.

  33. Orange Line Appreciator*

    LW #1: Has Zach refused to accompany you on fieldwork or outright said that he won’t do it? Or has he just said that he doesn’t think it’s necessary? I wasn’t sure from your letter how new this arrangement is and if he’s refusing to do the task.

    I think there’s a good chance he’s just grumbling/hoping that you agree it’s unnecessary. If he hasn’t actually pushed back outside of complaining, you can probably just move forward with scheduling. Alison’s advice would be better if he’d been actively refusing to go with you, but I think it’d be too much if he was just complaining about a new job duty

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes. I think just schedule it on the assumption that it’s just him moaning a bit. If he pushes back and won’t do it then escalate through your management chain as appropriate.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      To be clear, my advice is that she speak with Zack first and be direct that she needs him to go with her and then loop in the manager only if that doesn’t work.

  34. Vermont Green*

    In Switzerland, anyway, the grocery clerks sit by their register, and run the items past on the scanners. It makes such good sense, and would allow people with certain physical challenges to do the job.

    1. Clisby*

      Are these set up so the customer empties the cart and places the items on the scanner belt? If so, I don’t see any reason the cashiers couldn’t do the job seated. I regularly go to two grocery stores – one is like this; in the other the cashier empties the cart and puts the items on the belt? I don’t think a person could do that from a seated position.

  35. Falling Diphthong*

    OP2, continue to stay off social media. Whatever one’s counter-productive brain weasels, social media is usually a good way to feed them.

  36. Rebecca*

    Re: OP4. In other countries, grocery store cashiers (for example) frequently sit and it makes much more sense to me. I can’t think anyone believes it makes a service difference!

  37. Jay*

    To LW#1:
    I don’t think anyone has asked this yet, but, are there any consequences to Zach when he accompanies you to the field?
    With an eight hour round trip commute and then a days’ work on top of it, it sounds like a very serious time commitment.
    And if your superiors are not taking this seriously it could mean some very, very unpleasant things for him.
    Either he makes up the time, meaning he works at least an extra 12, if not 16, hours every time he does this, or his own work does not get done. If you go on more than one of these a week, that’s over half his work week.
    If, again, management is NOT taking this as seriously as you are that could mean that he faces a manager who now considers him either trying to get paid for spending half his time “hanging out with his friend” (a situation that could very negatively effect his future prospects with the company and poison any future references) or who flat out thinks he is not doing most of his work in order to “hang out with said friend”, which will always be a strait-up career disaster for just about anyone.

    1. Attractive Nuisance*

      Not to mention, does Zach even feel comfortable with this arrangement? I work in isolated areas sometimes and generally feel safe, but if I was assigned to accompany a coworker for the specific purpose of protecting them from potential violence, I’d definitely think that was above my pay grade. There’s a difference between the risks I will take by myself and the risks I will take on behalf of someone else.

      1. Attractive Nuisance*

        (And, there’s a big difference between “I’ll accompany my coworker in case she sprains her ankle” and “I’ll accompany my coworker in case she gets shot.”)

      2. OftenOblivious*

        I view this as a general strength in numbers sort of assignment — versus actively acting as a security/body guard. If Zech doesn’t feel safe going as a second person, then OP definitely shouldn’t be going alone at all.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Then Zach needs to SAY SOMETHING instead of just balking at doing this part of the job. It’s not the LW’s job to mind-read and take into consideration all the possibilities that Zach hasn’t taken the initiative to bring up on his own.

  38. Daniel*

    The timing of letter #4 is uncanny, since the English Wikipedia has a link to its right-to-sit article on the front page today (in the Did-You-Know section). Unless Alison saw that and timing the answer was intentional on her part!

  39. James*

    #1: I do a lot of field work as well, and safety is critical. People die with alarming regularity doing field work. Fatigue management alone is a serious risk–most of sites I’ve been to where someone has died, it’s been in a vehicle. Plus, many companies are mandating two people as policy regardless. Ten years ago it was nothing to go out to a jobsite three hours away and grab soil samples with a hand auger solo for a week; now you need a minimum of two people, or to have a fairly rigorous lone worker protocol.

    I’ll second Allyson’s statement that “leave it up to the team to schedule field work” refers to the schedule, not to who needs to be there. I have a lot of latitude in scheduling field work–but not in whether to apply company policy or not! If we need two people and I go out solo, I’m going to have a LOT of questions coming my way. ESPECIALLY if it’s in an area with known hazards, such as crazy people with guns (it comes up more than people think in this line of work).

    If you’re uncomfortable asking your boss to have Zach accompany you, you can ask what your lone worker protocols are. Use that term, as it references OSHA standard 1915.84. This makes it not about what you want, but rather about what the regulations demand. It also gives you an out for the holidays–“Okay, thanks, I’ll let Zack know as well before he goes out!” And if the boss says that you can’t work alone, you can pull them and Zack into a discussion about what to do when one of you isn’t available. You need a deeper bench.

  40. Hiring Mgr*

    On #1, if the company is serious about the buddy-safety team system, they need to take control of it and institute a more formal scheduling process . I don’t think leaving it to the people on the ground to arrange is working (at least in this case)

  41. Dust Bunny*

    LW1 Zack and your manager are both asses.

    Your predecessor was threatened with a gun. Your company has a buddy-system policy. That should be more than enough.

    Zack is either lazy or a coward (I would not be surprised if he were afraid of these places but too chicken to say so). And “schedule” means, or should mean, that you two decide when you go, not that you decide who goes. You both go, on a mutually-agreed-upon basis.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      It’s not actually clear that Zack has rejected any requests to be a buddy.
      The LW says that they know that he doesn’t want to, but doesn’t say whether they’ve actually asked him to do it or not.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      that seems harsh – i’m not sure it’s cowardice to want to avoid being shot! IMO the bigger thing is that while the company has a buddy system on paper it sounds like they’re leaving it up to the individual employees to manage it.

      That might work in other circumstances but when there’s already a history of violence I’d think the company would take more of an active role in this

    3. Simply the best*

      Totally disagree. Even taking safety out of the equation I would be pissed off if I was Zach. I wouldn’t want to spend my day hanging out at somebody else’s job site, especially if that meant I was going to have to make up my own work later. And I certainly wouldn’t want to sit in a traffic for 4 or 8 hours (unclear if the four hours mentioned was a round trip or one way) to accompany someone to said job site. And then when you add the safety element back in, I would be especially pissed that I have to accompany someone else to this site but it’s perfectly okay for me to go by myself when I cover for that person over the holidays.

      1. Willis*

        Then Zach needs to talk to his own manager about his workload and safety. He can tell OP: “I don’t think this area is safe, even with 2 of us, so we need to talk to management about a different process before we go.” But trying to refuse the company’s buddy system policy by going by himself or not working with the OP shouldn’t be an option. I do agree that OP needs to actually try and schedule these visits with Zach, if she hasn’t yet done that because he’s grumbled about it. You can’t just refuse safety protocols – on your own behalf or others -because you’re pissed off. I do agree that OP needs to actually try and schedule these visits with Zach, if she hasn’t yet done that because he’s grumbled about it.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        Then Zach should talk to management, not just say “oh, you don’t need anyone with you for safety. Hardly anyone there has guns.” to the OP and leave it there.

  42. JSPA*

    If your worries are growing worries, start with tasks that feel most necessary and excusable (even though the others also need no excusing). Shop hardware stores for masks. Go to a pharmacy for your booster shot, if you’re due. Take care of overdue doctor’s visits, optical, dental. Buy an item in person that you really can’t adequately manage online.

    Separately, set up slightly more distant trips that are not challenging except for the distance, and still fall under the heading of “essential health activities and food procurement.” Apple picking? Outdoor farmer’s market in the next county? Hiking, biking?

    Finally, if being inside, in badly ventilated areas, with too many people makes you anxious–that’s a feature, not a bug. Six feet of distance or a plexiglass partial screen isn’t adequate with delta, certainly not for extended periods, especially when surrounded with people who are unmasked / nose-non-compliant, and potentially unvaccinated (or post-full-vaccine-efficacy).

    Learn to notice the distress before it becomes disabling, and commit to acting on it–whether by GTFO or by engaging with it, cognitively–instead of trying to stuff that sensation down out of awareness until it becomes a roaring desperation.

  43. TotesMaGoats*

    #4-I wish I had a handy link to send you but I don’t. I can’t think of any job where I’d be less satisfied if the employee was sitting instead of standing. It just doesn’t make sense. You can ring my order just as efficiently from a stool as from your feet. I feel the same way about mattress salespeople wearing a suit to sell me a mattress. I doubt your next customer is going to appreciate you sweaty and smelly after loading my mattress into my truck in 90 degree summer heat.

  44. Lacey*

    OP4 – If I notice a retail employee having the option of sitting I am only ever pleased for them. I worked briefly in retail and spending all day on my feet made me want to die. Plus, when I was unemployed briefly it was clear to me at the unemployment office that it was really hard for them to get jobs where people could sit for people who needed it – and lots of people need it.

  45. Long Time Lurker*

    I like shopping at stores where cashiers can sit and have had no problems with service there vs stores where they stand. One store I shop at regularly has a very inclusive hiring protocol and that includes providing stools with backs for cashiers that want or need them. A lot of their staff are older folks who are friendly and nice and helpful, as well as employees who may have disabilities (visible or not). Unlike a lot of stores around here they don’t seem to have staffing problems and I suspect the chairs (and what they signify in terms of respect for employees) go a long way.

  46. BlackBellamy*

    #4 I worked in a hotel front desk where management was just as stupid. I was told it was professional to stand and so I had to. Literally some jackass opinion from some insecure management loser with nothing to back it up. I know my customers didn’t give a crap whether I sat or stood, because when I worked the night shift and the manager wasn’t there I grabbed myself a stool and it didn’t matter because no one could see me from the waist down anyway. But during the day you had to stand for 7 hours in one place because some idiot demanded it.

    1. CouldntPickAUsername*

      lord, over the last couple years I’ve really come to hate the word ‘professional’, there are norms we should follow but it’s been taken to a place where it just creates needless complications and suffering like in this case.

      1. Eliza*

        Yep. To me being professional means doing my job well, meeting deadlines, and not making coworkers’ lives unnecessarily harder in the process.

  47. in the service industry*

    For LW 4- I have worked in the service industry on and off for a number of years, both in retail and now at a restaurant. Just from my experience, I have noticed a difference in how customers act when they come into the business and are greeted by someone who is sitting down. Many people will act sort of uncomfortable and confused because they aren’t sure if they are inconveniencing the employee.
    People are used to going into a business and seeing the workers standing up (unless they are doing something that requires sitting) so I think that’s why they act caught off guard.

    I think a solution to this dynamic would be for employees to be allowed to sit during slower times and maybe take turns so not everyone is sitting at once (unless the business is completely dead). Then, when a customer comes in, the designated greeter or host should stand up and greet them. For people who are unable to stand for long periods of time, they should of course be accommodated- my suggestion applies to people who don’t need that type of accommodation. I had a coworker whose position involved standing behind a desk all day but due to knee issues, he was able to sit whenever he was behind the desk.

    I do not agree with the convention that customer service workers must always be standing when they are in view of customers. That being said, it is an expectation/norm in the industry and it would probably be difficult to push back on. I have bad ankles and I’ve coped by getting good, sturdy shoes.

    1. Colette*

      That’s a physical setup issue, which can be resolved by making changes to the space. No one would be surprised to see someone sitting at a desk or table, for example, but they might be surprised to see an employee sitting in a chair by the wall.

    2. Evergreen*

      Yes, I second this, depending on the circumstance. In retail I’d be quite uncomfortable needing to walk over to a salesperson to ask for help if they were seated; in a hotel context I typically have trouble hearing the concierge if they’re at seating height while I stand.

      Which is not to say no one should ever sit, but the gesture of coming forward to meet me to provide assistance (when it’s clear that’s what I’m looking for) does make for a significantly more pleasant interaction.

      1. GreenDoor*

        I don’t mind approaching a desk, but the height of the chair does make a difference. At a hotel, talking to the concierge, I felt weird because I was towering over them – it felt like I was talking down to them like they were supposed to be viewed as a servant, which I didn’t want at all! It was uncomfortable for me! But at my bank, the tellers sit on stools that put them at average eye level with a standing customer. I love that – I feel like the body language all around is respectful, yet they dont’ have to stand for 8 hours or more a day.

  48. Bossy Magoo*

    #4: one of the things I love about grocery shopping at Aldi is that they allow their cashiers to sit. This customer (points at self) would be more satisfied knowing that an employee is not forced to stand all day, but has the option to sit if it’s more comfortable.

  49. Dr. Cubicle Farm*

    LW 2: Good for you for taking time off! I hope you’re connected with a professional who can help. If not, look for therapists with training in Exposure Response Prevention therapy (which is for OCD, my particular flavor of brain weasel, but is useful in other contexts). They can help you design exposures and help you with coping and defusion skills. Good luck from someone who has been/is there!

  50. EngineerMom*

    OP4: Aldi is an incredibly successful grocery store chain, both in Europe and the US, and they provide seats at their check-out counters.

    So, unless all your customers are masochists who enjoy seeing other people suffer… yeah, no – there’s no “customer satisfaction” reason to force employees to stand for hours on end when adding a seat is simple.

    (Obviously, for jobs where you’re not just standing, but also walking around a lot, this may not be practical, but the US-grocery-store-chain insistence on not giving cashiers chairs has always baffled me, after I saw that the Aldi ones had them, especially given that Aldi employees work all the different positions as needed, so it’s not like sitting down as a cashier is slowing them down if they’re needed elsewhere!)

  51. CouldntPickAUsername*

    Last Tuesday I worked my last ever retail shift after being with an office supply company for 11 years and standing all day is reason number 1. I never really thought about how ablist the whole thing is, I just reached a point where I couldn’t do it anymore. A while back I started using a stool to reach lower shelves because I don’t bend so well, I never heard a customer complain once, I frankly just didn’t give the managers a choice. I started doing it more when I was suddenly slammed with hours because a couple full timers quit, that was when I realized I couldn’t do the job anymore, especially as we had a management changeover and the new ones were a lot more by the book.

    There are definitely customers out there that will complain though, my sister worked at a pool supply store and a coworker had a broken leg and sat down and a customer complained.

    I think it depends on local culture, the type of store and what you’re doing. When you see someone sitting on a stool working on a low shelf it’s pretty obvious why, if you see a guy just sitting in the middle of the aisle that’s different. However stationary jobs like cashiers or costco sample people should totally be allowed to sit.

    1. alienor*

      I was a retail cashier when I was in college, and even then it was hard and exhausting to stand up for an entire 8-hour shift. I don’t know what I would do now, at age 49, if I were in a situation where I had to work retail again for some reason. I’m in decent shape, but there’s no way my back and hips could take more than a couple hours of standing at a stretch.

  52. EngineerMom*

    Also: There are ways to provide seats for employees that still keep their heads at approximately standing height (like a bar stool), so the idea that “customers feel weird about an employee in a chair” – there’s nothing saying that “seated” is literally sitting in a dining-table-height chair.

  53. lost academic*

    OP#1, in the last two environmental consulting firms I worked for, the kind of attitude your coworker is demonstrating would have been grounds for termination. I have seen others where it was not and there’s a reason my companies had the clients they did around the world and smaller firms couldn’t crack them – safety really matters. Hard stop. It’s his job to do this. You must insist and elevate the problem up the chain. If your company is only doing this as lip service, find a new place to work. I assure you, your skills are in high demand right now.

  54. Hiring Mgr*

    I don’t think many customers anywhere really care if an employee is sitting or standing – it’s just that in retail that’s how it’s always been. Doesn’t make it logical or correct of course

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      your right. If you go to your doctor’s office the receptionist is most likely going to be sitting. And usually, you’re not at the same eye level. I could see if it was working with someone for a long time, Like at a bank setting up an account or something. But if it’s retail there is no reason why a stool could not be provided, at least for part of the day

  55. Nick*

    I have noticed that many jobs are now letting employees sit that have traditionally stood. Most noticeably at fast food drive throughs. I had one cashier try to apologize to me about! I told them not to worry, that I actually appreciated that she was making the job more comfortable for herself. Personally, it makes me feel like patronizing the business more when I see an employer taking care of their employees.

  56. Essess*

    You don’t owe loyalty to Zach. He’s not a ‘friend’ since he honestly doesn’t care about your safety. There is a track record of a previous employee’s safety being endangered and he doesn’t care if that happens to you. This is part of his job duties and he’s refusing and he’s perfectly willing to have your safety at risk. This needs to be reported that the safety rules aren’t being followed. It also sounds like you aren’t really following through on scheduling the visits with him. It doesn’t matter whether he ‘wants to’ or not. It’s his job duty. “Leaving it up to you” means for you to work out when the visits will occur, not whether to do the job or not. You simply treat is as another matter-of-fact duty for him. Notify him that you will need his presence on a visit to X site and ask him which of the following days/times will work for him and that you will need his confirmation by Y date so that you can schedule the visit. Don’t treat it as an imposition…. it’s the same as any normal work duty request.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Yes but what is Zack supposed to do if they get mugged at gun point? Break out some sort of ninja skills. I think some of this is that the boss is thinking 2 people are less likely to be robbed than one Which may or may not be true. And also I think there may be some gendered stuff going on, especially if OP is female/fem presenting.

      I think they should hire a security guard or something.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        There are a few reasons why having a buddy could help:

        1. It’s possible that two people could be more a deterrent to starting trouble than one person.
        2. Depending on the situation, if one person is in some sort of trouble, the other can call for help.
        3. Moral support. Even if (for example), both OP and Zach are mugged while at one of the worksites, they can help each other through the aftermath. Which authorities do we need to notify? Do either of us still have our phones? Where’s the nearest place we can get a phone? that sort of thing.

        I agree there may be some gendered stuff going on, and I also think that buddy systems are generally a good idea (regardless of gender). No ninja skills required.

  57. SleepyKitten*

    OP #4: it’s possible there’s been feedback from customers that they think sitting workers are less engaged, or it could be the boss’s personal preference. But there’s still definitely compromise solutions between sitting and standing all day! A bar stool or other tall chair would keep him at eye level and be easy to hop off if he needed to walk anywhere, which eliminates the two functional objections I can think of. He could even try and sell it to his manager as potentially reducing sick days if people can rest their feet more.

    FWIW, cashiers in the UK sit down in at least half the shops, even when there’s merchandise behind the counter. Less common for food service but not unheard of, and personally I wouldn’t blink if the barista on the till was on a bar stool. But we also don’t have grocery baggers or greeters so maybe we just expect a lot less human contact during the retail process in general.

  58. CCC*

    I went to Iceland once, and noticed that behind every cash register I saw there was a chair, and usually there was plenty of space for employees to either use the chair or stand as they preferred. I really doubt that there is any evidence that sitting in and of itself has any effect on customer satisfaction.

  59. I'm just here for the cats!*

    When i first read the headline of LW 1 and started reading the letter I thought it was going to be like, the area is physically demanding and they want 2 people together in case someone gets hurt. Like they fall in a ditch and break their leg, not that there are people threatening the workers with guns.

    My first reaction was, well Zack is kinda being a jerk and being insubordinate. But after reading the letter again, and some amazing points in other threads, I don’t think Zack is being super unreasonable for not wanting to take time away from his work to be a buddy. I think if he has concerns about both their safety then he should be explaining that to the OP and they should go to their bosses together.

    Maybe the company needs to hire a security person who can accompany people to these types of areas. I think that would be the best option. That and making sure that OP has ways to protect herself. Maybe an extra phone in the car in case she gets mugged and they take her phone. Pepper spray and maybe self defence classes paid for by the company.
    *I realize I’m using she/her pronouns and we don’t know the OP’s gender, and I’m just speculating based on the letter that the person is femalie/ fem presenting. If I’m wrong I apologize.

    1. James*

      All those options open the company up to extreme liability, though. The LW says they’re from a big company. Folks file frivolous lawsuits against big companies all the time. And how do you prove, in the absence of witnesses, or when the witnesses stand to gain from you being at fault, that you tazed that man in self-defense? You need a witness that’s on your side–which means, you need a buddy.

      Plus, self-defense classes are a good way to get killed. They create a false sense of one’s own competence. The reality is the one with the gun is going to win, and if you start doing karate or judo or whatever you’re just going to get shot. The best way to avoid trouble is to not be a target–walk confidently, don’t have anything flashy on you, and always ALWAYS work in teams. You want to make it so that people avoid confrontation, or at least look elsewhere (don’t be the soft target). Once confrontation has started, someone’s almost certainly going to get hurt.

      I want to make sure this is clear here: Unless you are willing, and have a demonstrated track record of being able, to kill the other person during an armed conflict you want to do everything in your power to prevent conflict. If conflict occurs, especially if guns are involved, assume you’re already dead.

      (This is known as the “Left of Boom” mentality, coined in the second Iraq war for dealing with IEDs. It seeped into the safety industry when folks from that war left the military. It’s actually a really good framework for thinking about incidents in general, as it encourages a proactive, rather than reactive, safety mindset.)

      As for security officers, most aren’t worth their pay–they’re theater. And that’s assuming they can even join you. In many cases security guards are forbidden by law from working on the site. When I’ve worked in situations made dangerous by potential gun violence the security guards would have had to be 40-hour HAZWOPER trained, which none are.

      A better option would be to contact the local police department and ask them what to do. Sometimes you can have them increase patrols in certain areas; other times they can advise where to avoid and what to look out for.

      1. SpookyScarySkeleton*

        Right there with you, James. I have 11 years of martial arts experience and I still wouldn’t be comfortable depending on it during field assignments. A self defense class is borderline useless – you can throw a punch, but you don’t know you won’t freeze or panic instead. De-escalation is first, running like heck is second.

        Self defense training is a form of PPE – if you’re depending on it for safety, you’re doing it wrong and need at least four more levels of hazard reduction in place.

        1. Willis*

          IME self-defense class was a lot more of what you and James describe – looking for signals that you might be in danger, being comfortable getting away from someone even if it might seem “rude,” avoiding confrontation, looking for ways to run/escape, trying to get in a headspace where you wouldn’t freeze up, etc. – than actually punching. So, while they’re probably not going to provide a lot of added value in the face of an armed robber, I wouldn’t say they’re useless overall.

    2. Colette*

      It sounds like accompanying the OP is part of Zack’s job, so he’d be doing his job, not taking time away from it.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        So I understood the letter writer that Zack and them are at the same level and so they do similar work. The buddy system is something that recently started after the last person was attacked. The LW had someone else, a summer hire. But now the bosses have left it up to them to schedule with Zack. That to me sounds like they are adding more work on top of Zack’s schedule. If he has to go 4 hours away with the LW that’s taking time away from his work (field work that he does elsewhere or whatever else).
        Also, what is Zack supposed to do if they are attacked? Just having another coworker doesn’t mean that you are safe.

        1. Willis*

          But that’s not how work works. If your job institutes a new safety procedure that adds time to your day, you can’t just say “ah well, I’m not gonna do that! It’s not part of my original tasks and it takes 2 hours!” You’d ask a manager how to prioritize your work in whatever amount of hours you have for it.

          1. Jay*

            No, that’s not how work is SUPPOSED to work.
            In reality it often does.
            Nearly every single job I’ve ever had I’ve eventually been shoehorned into the position of Office Guy. That is, I had to do all the stereotypical ‘guy’ things. Package over 5 pounds? Call Jay. Clogged toilet? Call Jay. Anything to do with tools? Call Jay. Anything gross or messy need cleaning up? Call Jay. Anybody female or female presenting feel uncomfortable walking to their car at night? Call Jay. I was always happy to do that last one. I really was a deterrent to some of the creepy weirdos around. But with the others, I was usually expected to finish my other “real” duties by managers who considered all this to be just “helping out” and did not know (and usually could not be convinced) about how much of my time this really took.
            Which is why my first question was if Zach was in some way being punished by this policy. Because it does happen, and more frequently than people think. I can absolutely see a scenario where he doesn’t have the option of doing only half of the work assigned to him OR of asking the company to pay him twice as much so he can handle the rest as overtime. In a whole lot of jobs doing either one of those things would pretty much be cause for immediate termination.

            1. Jay*

              Edit: I’m more or less out of that cycle these days (if nothing else I’ve gotten too old for a lot of the stuff I used to do) and my current management could not be more supportive. I still help out a LOT, but I’m lauded for it, not punished. It’s a rare and wonderful change.

  60. MCMonkeyBean*

    LW2–it seems like you feel like that person who calls in sick for a day just to be “caught” at a concert. That’s so not what is happening! First of all if you have taken a whole month off, I doubt anyone expects you to just not to anything at all for that whole month! And also, it sounds like you explicitly took the time to deal more with mental health than physical health and I think most of us have learned in the last couple of years how much sitting stuck in your house for a month can be bad for your mental health.

  61. Nethwen*

    #4: My workplace has seats for customer service/front desk people. The key is, some staff understand that one should engage with customers (eye to face contact, etc.) even when seated. Others don’t comprehend why, when a customer comes to the desk, certain postures that come from sitting come across as “I am in charge and you, lowly customer, must bow to my dominance and whims.” It’s possible to train people to sit and be engaged with customers, but it’s a lot harder when people don’t intuitively understand the messages posture is likely to convey, so I believe many places take the short cut and say “no sitting.” It’s not a good policy, but it is easier to implement.

  62. agnes*

    The standing thing is ridiculous. I wish I had questioned that rationale more when I was a retail employee. I stood for hours on end and I am convinced it’s why I have hip and knee problems now later in life.

  63. Female Engineer*

    #3 – We are recently doing interviews. Someone who I know from undergrad applied and texted me a few questions about company culture. He noted I liked my job and I truthfully did other than the hiring manager.

    She sat in on all the interviews and was overtly friendly it was uncomfortable. She didn’t say much but she always inserted herself whenever I mentioned what I worked on to make it clear she had a part in it. The former colleague totally noticed and kept looking between us.

    I definitely agree it is a yellow flag that can turn orange depending on how she responds.

  64. Oh No She Di'int*

    #4 Did anyone else think of the Seinfeld episode where George gets a rocking chair for the security guard? Who then promptly falls asleep when someone comes in to rob the store?

    No? Just me? Ok.

  65. German Girl*

    Thank you, yes, this was the point I was trying to make. Perception of safety depends on a lot of things including your background, but if you don’t feel safe (and it’s not totally irrational) then a solution needs to be found to make you feel safe again.

  66. OftenOblivious*

    On OP1 — you might need to give Zack a reality check on why women have different safety needs (and often persons of color — see the recent “call the police on the birder minding his own business” — it also a real issue for field researchers). What he experiences in the field alone or with you is not what you experience alone.

    I once made an offhand joke about evaluating my water bottle versus my keys as a weapon when walking out to my car after a string of late work nights to my Ex and he was utterly baffled by the idea that I was preparing to defend myself every time I walked to my car on late work nights. We had to essentially have the “men are afraid of women laughing at them, women are afraid of men killing them” conversation. He was an average “nice guy” and in his 30s. Unsure how he made it that far oblivious, but there you go.

    I would try to reframe the buddy system not as a nice to have, but as a non-negotiable essential. Like you don’t have 1 person count the money tray at the end of the night. You fly with a pilot and a co-pilot. You don’t go into the field alone.

    1. OftenOblivious*

      And if things aren’t set up for the workload to deal with a buddy system, that needs to be addressed too. If Zack needs to work a bunch of extra hours to make up for field work, that’s not cool either. A resentful buddy system isn’t useful.

  67. Budgie Buddy*

    For OP 4, I think there are other cues that help me as a customer to know that service people are engaged and willing to help. For example, if they make quick eye contact with me when I’m coming toward them or looking at them. I might not need help at the moment – in that case I would just nod back and keep shopping – but if I’m wondering whether or not to ask a question, the acknowledgement encourages me to come over.

    At least if an employee is sitting down, I don’t have to chase them across the store! XD Nothing worse than wandering around in search of someone to help me, only to spot an employee zooming off down the aisle completely intent on what they are doing. (I know they’re sending out “Don’t Talk to Me” vibes, but I don’t know who else I’m supposed to ask… )And then chasing them weighed down with a heavy basket… :P

  68. Mangofan*

    I haven’t read through the whole thread, so may have been mentioned, but one way to ease the awkwardness of going to your manager if Zack still refuses to accompany you is to say to Zack when he refuses, “ok, in that case I’m going to talk to my manager to see if there’s someone else who can come with me, as I do need someone to come with me.” At that point he can acquiesce, or let you have that conversation if he prefers – it won’t feel as much like you’re going behind his back.

  69. LondonLady*

    #LW4 – it can be good manners to stand when a customer (who is already standing) approaches you, partiularly if you are in a customer service role, but not always – it would be odd if an office receptionist stood up but it’s more normal for a hotel receiptionist. Even then there should be no harm sitting down when there are no customers to serve.

    In the UK at least, you have the right to sit for at least some of the working day.

  70. Mim*

    LW4 — I can say that I have and will continue to make decisions about where to shop based in part on whether it feels like a positive environment, and that includes how it appears the staff are being treated. One reason I’m loyal to my grocery store is that the staff are obviously treated with respect and allowed to be humans with human needs. They usually seem genuinely happy and positive in their interactions with customers and, from what I’ve observed, each other. They seem to have flexibility in what they wear (loose uniform of certain colors, but they clearly can deviate somewhat, are allowed to have piercings and all sorts of fun hair styles and colors, etc), and cashiers are allowed to sit. It’s also easy to tell that they treat their staff relatively well, because I’ve been shopping there for over 15 years and they have staff members who have been working there ever since I moved to this town. Customers notice this stuff. At least I do, as a customer. That’s the kind of business I want to support.

    In addition to the moral component of wanting to support a business that treats its employees ethically, it just plain makes me uncomfortable and sad to go to a store and have an interaction with an employee who is clearly miserable and needs a hug. If I didn’t live in a relatively rural area and had more choices of where to buy certain things, I’d probably stop ever going to our local [Big Box Store]. If you have cashiers who look like they are miserable or on the verge of tears, something is really freaking wrong. And it is not hard to tell when an employee is being fake nice/chipper vs. when they are actually happy and doing okay.

    I hope employers also think about how many of you are dealing with a shortage of employees. Folks looking for jobs and/or deciding whether to apply to work in your store also shop, sometimes in your store. They will notice where staff look miserable vs. where they are treated well. If I had to return to working retail, I absolutely know where I would and wouldn’t apply in my town just based on what I’ve observed as a customer.

  71. Janeric*

    Tell your boss now, make sure you understand the situation, and then say you’ll follow up with Zach yourself. This is important because eventually you’re gonna get a flat tire or someone’s gonna steal your cat and then it’ll be “why weren’t you following policy” and because you WANT to follow policy, making your life hell about it is the quickest way for your company to solve their liability issue.

    Also like, find out the context of your coworker getting threatened with a gun — did the person who threatened them think they were with your organization? With the city? A concerned neighbor? Get that context and then dress like someone who doesn’t fit that description. (This is probably going to mean a safety vest, because no one wearing a safety vest is trying to be secret.)

    Be polite and respectful with people who are sleeping rough, and prepare to act REALLY STUPID, lost, and interested in birds if people are growing/manufacturing drugs. Make sure Zak knows plan “act confused and lost” so he doesn’t make things worse. Keep this plan up if you’re threatened with a weapon — “oh no I’ve made a mistake and now someone is justifiably mad at me I should leave” gets you to safety with minimum fuss.

    Good luck! Conservation/environmental justice in underserved areas is an extremely important field, you’re doing great work!

    1. amy*

      This is all good advice, and one thing I would add that I learned working the census:
      *Never promise you’ll be the last person from your organization to visit.*
      You don’t have that authority and it puts anyone who might come out later at risk.

  72. Roscoe*

    #3 is interesting to me. I’ve never really asked to speak to a colleague one on one in an interview. I guess my thought is, I still won’t get “real” info. If the hiring manager, HR, whoever, is picking the person to speak, its likely going to be the most “company man” on the team, you know. Like you aren’t getting random team member #3, you are getting the person the manager wants speaking on behalf of the team. You aren’t likely to get the person who is questioning a lot of management decisions (even if they are valid questions), or someone who does good work but isn’t engaged in the company. So really, Im’ not sure how valid this would be. Just my thoughts.

  73. Sun in an Empty Room*

    LW #1 I have worked in very similar situations to what you describe. Some of our sites required police escorts and others were buddy system site visits. For the same company I would spend days at a time doing solo field work on other sites where I felt absolutely safe. I had to push back and have some sites get reclassified to requiring more security. It was hard and I was made to feel that I was inconveniencing people but I don’t regret it.

    There can be a lot of pressure in the competitive conservation field to show that you’re “tough.” As a female in the field (especially when I was in my mid-20s) I often felt that I had more to prove but the status-quo of our field wasn’t designed for a very broad range of people. Challenging that status-quo by insisting on implementing policies that were put in place because of dangerous situations that weren’t anticipated will make this a more welcoming field for others in the long run. (If you’re having a hard time of insisting on this for yourself, insist on it for others who may follow you). Please don’t let yourself think that potentially putting yourself in danger proves dedication to the field, it’s unnecessary and you should not do it. Ever.

    I think of having another person on site visits where it’s necessary as the same as having the right equipment. I couldn’t do a survey without my surveying equipment or an inventory without the right data collector just like I can’t do some site visits without another person there.

    I 100% understand the pressure to get as much work as physically possible done in the underfunded field of conservation. That is not a situation you caused and you not getting the protection you need is not saving the world. Matter of factly make sure you get the support you need in a tone that makes it clear there’s not another option.

  74. okaythen*

    To the person taking sick leave – get therapy! If your company has an EAP, that’s a good place to start. If you can’t find anyone local to you, try Better Help or Talk Space until you can find someone local.

  75. Throwaway123*

    I found one study on sitting vs standing: Effect of sitting vs. standing on perception of provider time at bedside: a pilot
    study Abstract
    Objective: Patients commonly perceive that a provider has spent more time at their bedside when the provider sits rather than stands. This study provides empirical evidence for this perception.

    Methods: We conducted a prospective, randomized, controlled study with 120 adult post-operative inpatients admitted for elective spine surgery. The actual lengths of the interactions were compared to patients’ estimations of the time of those interactions.

    Results: Patients perceived the provider as present at their bedside longer when he sat, even though the actual time the physician spent at the bedside did not change significantly whether he sat or stood. Patients with whom the physician sat reported a more positive interaction and a better understanding of their condition.

    Conclusion: Simply sitting instead of standing at a patient’s bedside can have a significant impact on patient satisfaction, patient compliance, and provider-patient rapport, all of which are known factors in decreased litigation, decreased lengths of stay, decreased costs, and improved clinical outcomes.

    Practice implications: Any healthcare provider may have a positive effect on doctor-patient interaction by sitting as opposed to standing during a hospital follow-up visit.

  76. Marthooh*

    For OP4, the problem with looking at “customer satisfaction” is that probably no-one is going to say they prefer employees to sit, but a few very vocal people are going to say service people should stand to show respect. That means surveys are going to skew towards “stay standing” even if the vast majority of customers don’t care, and the harm done to employee health and morale outweighs the satisfaction taken by a few snobs.

    I hope the current labor market gives the service sector the necessary push to start treating employees better, but I don’t think that will happen as long as owners and managers stay eager to cater to their most demanding customers.

  77. Anony4839*

    Op, I would bring it up to your boss and phrase it as “Zach is tied up with something else. Can you have someone else accompany me?” It will be obvious that obviously Zach isn’t tied up and that there’s something else going on, but if boss doesn’t get the clue, then you be more direct and tell him issue that Zach doesn’t think it’s necessary to accompany you and add that you think it’s fine and don’t have a problem with Zach thinking that (to salvage your friendship and not get him in trouble for not doing as asked) and ask for someone else.

  78. Candi*

    #4, this comes up in the Not Always Right and sister sites comments A LOT. (That site seems to have a higher retail presence, although there is some reader overlap -the original FB comment system was how I found out about AAM.)

    Thing is, a lot of the European, New Zealand, Aussie, etc., commentators on that site will say that their public-facing CSRs do get to sit -and customer service isn’t seen as any less. So it seems to be a cultural thing for US management and maybe customers, not a hard and fast, this is how it has to work, thing.

    Of the many (many many many) discussions, one point stands out at the moment: In the US, too many managers and too much of corporate, almost always the ones that are examples of poor management, see sitting while on shift as lazy. They will actually call someone lazy for taking a moment to “lean”, even if they’ve been going at 60 since they clocked in. It’s a dangerous mindset, since standing too long isn’t good for the body, especially for the situations where management also doesn’t allow padding between the foot and the hard floor.

    Me, I worked for a small retail business back when, and I was allowed to sit as long as I was ready for customers when they needed help or to be checked out. Didn’t seem to hurt business any -the chain store that eventually opened down the block did that.

  79. Amethystmoon*

    #2 I would say it’s your sick leave. I would maybe avoid posting about it on social media, though, especially if you have anyone from your current job on your friends list, or people who might be friends with them.

  80. Anya*

    LW1, you’re not wrong to not want to be onsite alone, but your company should be supplying you with adequate security – some 20 something office guy that doesn’t want to be there should not be the defacto solution to protect your safety. He has no obligation to help or protect you if confronted by some rando with a gun, just like you have no obligation to him. He’s useless, you need to talk to the company about a better solution.

  81. SnappyLT*

    (Re #3) A co-worker once told me about her oddest job hunting experience. She was interviewing for a full day with a non-profit. She noticed that the division director or his administrative assistant sat in on every single interview and escorted her from one interview to the next. She _never_ had an opportunity to chat with _anyone_ out of earshot of the director or his assistant.

    This was back in the days of landline telephones. When my co-worker got back to her hotel room, she used the phone book to look up the home phone numbers of two of the people she had interviewed with. When she called them at their homes, both of the interviewers told her how very dysfunctional the organization was. Both of them were interviewing elsewhere, hoping to escape.

    She decided she didn’t want to work there and withdrew her application.

  82. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    LW2: If there is private/employer disability benefits involved then you want to bear in mind they may be following you around and photographing you then will cancel your benefits.

    If you are unpaid then you are under no obligations.

  83. The Last to Know*

    #4: It depends on HOW you are sitting. There is a big difference between sitting in a chair slouched over a cell phone and someone sitting in a chair still being attentive and friendly, and that’s where many mangers struggle. I had an acting teacher that once told me, “Never sit down on stage if you can help it. Your energy just goes right out your butt.” and sadly, I’ve seen that happen many times where when chairs come out, productivity goes down. With that being said, I’m happy to give a chair for reasonable accommodations.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      I’ve seen that happen many times where when chairs come out, productivity goes down

      That’s interesting considering most non-minimum wage jobs allow folks to sit and there never seems to be an issue with productivity there. Perhaps you’re seeing what you want to see?

  84. boop the first*

    4. Customer nature is strange. The store I worked at technically allowed us to have a bottle of water, but we weren’t allowed to drink from it in a way that’s visible (meaning, if the store was empty, we could squat behind the counter and take a drink). Their story is it makes customers angry to see us drinking water. And considering it made customers angry to do or say literally anything else, I have to believe it.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      The sooner they get robots working in retail the better it seems!

      I dunno, I was at a trade fair yesterday and ended up buying all sorts of stuff at a stand run by a guy and his daughter. The daughter disappeared at one point, then came back and took over from her father who said, OK now you’re back I’m going to the loo before anybody else stops by. I was given flawless service throughout, they were both very friendly, and they were also human beings working in a high-pressure environment. The mention of the loo might have been considered TMI by some, I just found the pair very human.

  85. OTofalltrades*

    Occupational therapist here! Half my job is seeing first responders and others who are off work on PTSD — I literally spend time taking people to grocery stores, coffee shops, and work- and trauma-related environments because that’s what they need to get better. We practice anxiety management strategies where it matters and it works. We set goals to spend time doing previously enjoyed activities that haven’t been so fun lately until they’re fun again. You don’t recover from mental health issues by sitting around—COVID restrictions made life feel easier in the short term to lots of people with PTSD but made it harder in the long run to get back to healthier habits.

  86. raida7*

    #1 “I know you’ve said you don’t think it’s necessary for you to go, but I don’t feel safe going on my own to these areas. What dates can we plan on that you can join me?”

    I wouldn’t even start with “I know you’ve said…”
    I would just lay out the sites that need visiting in order to schedule it. Because that is what the two of you will be doing. Don’t approach it like you’re asking – you’re not. It is company policy and his job to do this, and he doesn’t need to agree it’s necessary. So it’s simply a task you are going to arrange like you would any other.
    If he says he thinks it’s not necessary again you just respond with “That’s okay Zack, we don’t need to agree on how important something is to do the job, right.” with a smile.
    If he actually pushes back on doing it then just “Zack, I think this is something you need to talk to Boss about, I didn’t make this policy and I’m not going to attempt to give you orders and I’m not going to just drop the buddy system. Do you want me to arrange that meeting with Boss?”

    Because your’e right – you’re not his boss, and if he’s genuinely not going to do a task that’s a conversation with his boss. But also you’re assuming he’s going to refuse – so move forward without that assumption and without reading into his actions based on that. And find out. Don’t pussyfoot around because ‘oh gosh I think he will refuse what will I do then?’

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