taking time off to let a new tattoo heal, boss insults at us the Christmas party, and more

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. Can I take several weeks off from my new job to let a new tattoo heal?

I was hired for a full-time, post-university job and I start in two weeks. When I start the job, I won’t have any vacation or time off for the first five months. I would like to ask for two or three weeks off at the end of September and beginning of October. I am planning on getting my first tattoo, and it is extensive and intricate and not small. I have to wear a suit to work and there’s no way I can wear one while the tattoo is healing without damaging it. I can’t not wear a suit or have a visible tattoo where I work. Is there a way I can ask for time off while I am on my probationary period before I start accruing vacation time?

I have been planning this with my friends for a long time. If we don’t do it now, we won’t be able to do it until January of 2020 when we can all get together again. Is it too much to ask if we have been planning this for over a year? Or is it too much to ask at a new job?

I am sorry to tell you that you absolutely cannot ask for two to three weeks off from a new job to let a tattoo heal. It will go over very, very poorly — not because of any anti-tattoo bias, but because you do not ask for that much time off when you’re brand new for anything short of a serious health emergency. (Plus, that’s likely to be your entire vacation allotment for the next year or possibly even over it.)

It will not make a difference to your employer that you’ve been planning this for over a year, and raising that will seem like your priorities and understanding of workplace norms are really out of whack. (That said, if this is your first job out of college, it’s not surprising that your understanding of workplace norms isn’t well developed yet. How could it be otherwise? But don’t ask.) They want you at work so you can learn the job, and taking several weeks off while you’re still new would be a big deal.

The good news, though, is that you don’t need to take two to three weeks off to let your tattoo heal. People get tattoos all the time, all over their bodies, and don’t take time off work (or go around naked). They just wear bandages over the fresh tattoo. I verified this with my semi-heavily tattooed husband, who says, “If you’re unsure, talk to your tattoo artist and say, ‘After I get this done, I need to wear a suit. What’s the best way to protect it?’”


2. My family business is a mess, but my mom won’t listen to me

I work for my family’s business. For a long time, it was a small mom and pop operation and my parents were easily able to manage the administrative and operational aspects on their own. However, in the past three years, our company has grown at a rapid rate. We went from a handful of clients in one state to around 25 clients spread across eight states. Our employee headcount has quadrupled.

The anticipated bumps in the road from such rapid growth are more along the lines of massive potholes. My mother (the CEO) insists that we are able to manage all aspects of the business with six dedicated administrative employees, including me. However, I don’t think you need to be a business consultant to know that six people are not enough to manage nearly 200 employees. As a result, everyone around here wears many hats. Even though I know nothing about HR, health insurance, 401K administration, payroll deductions, and a myriad of other issues, those are all items that I have to manage day to day. I’ve tried to teach myself to the best of my abilities, but I have reached the limits of what I can learn on my own. Our struggles are not only limited to staffing, but processes and procedures. The things we had in place when we were a company of 40 people no longer work for us. No one here has clearly defined job descriptions and there are relatively few procedures in place, so fire drills are an everyday occurrence for us.

To make matters worse, my mother takes a hybrid micromanaging/hands-off approach to the administrative staff. She refuses to give directions beyond a simple sentence of what she wants done (she defines anything beyond that as “hand-holding”), yet she insists on approving every little thing that we do. She invests all of her time in the company’s finances, and I often find myself at an impasse over my own responsibilities.

I’ve given you all of this background because I clearly see the problems within our organization, and I have developed solutions and given recommendations to my mother. The problem is, she does not share my concerns. Every time I highlight a problem, she says that it isn’t a priority, doesn’t have the budget to fix it, will address it later, or even says that I am just creating problems. But from my perspective, I see an overwhelmed and understaffed administration, high employee turnover, and no attempt to fix any of it. Because it is my family’s company, I cannot be dispassionate or simply find a new job. This company is just as much mine and I want it to thrive. How can I institute change within this company when I have no support from my boss?

You probably can’t, just like working at any other business run by a terrible manager who refuses to change things. Because the CEO is your mom, you have more leeway to have a blunt conversation with her about the problems you see — but ultimately if she’s not open to change, you can’t force it (assuming that you and other family members don’t own a controlling stake in the business where you could overrule her). Do other members of the management team agree with you? If so, you can try approaching her as a group to propose putting someone else in charge of managing the day-to-day operations, or you can try proposing that on your own … but if she won’t budge and you don’t have the authority to make her budge, then you don’t really have other options here.

In that case, you’d be better off going elsewhere and working in a context where you’ll actually be able to thrive. This doesn’t sound like that context. (And while there can be benefits to being thrown in the deep end and learning as you go, there are huge disadvantages to that too — especially that you don’t know what you don’t know, and you can end up making serious mistakes. Professionally speaking, you’re better off working in a well managed company and developing your skills there. And who knows, maybe there will be a way for you to bring those skills back to your family company at some point in the future, if it’s being run differently. You might find the “I’m the Boss’s Daughter” episode of the AAM podcast interesting.)


3. My coworker is taking over my outside-of-work social life!

I have a great coworker who I began inviting to casual get-togethers with friends a while ago. For what it’s worth, he’s very smart and nice and my friends and I do like seeing him. However, he quickly got my friends’ contact information and is becoming a pretty constant presence in my social life, whereas I prefer to have more separation between work and home. Also, now he has started to see my friends without me, to the point that he is sometimes evasive when he tells me his plans so as to intentionally exclude me from social events. I feel like I have lost control over my personal space and also my enjoyment of what was previously a good working relationship. Short of going back in time, how do I put these boundaries back in place?

I don’t think that you can. I totally understand why you want to, but you can’t really control this kind of thing, at least not without coming out of it looking pretty bad. You introduced him to people who it sounds like he clicked with, and now they’re forming their own relationships with him. The very most you could do is discreetly mention to one or two of your closest friends that you sometimes want to hang out without having someone from work there, or arrange plans yourself and say something like “let’s keep it just you and me.” But beyond that, all you can really do is chalk it up to a lesson learned.


4. My coworker told me I’m too loud

I work in a cubicle farm in sales. Today as I was on the phone with a client and closing a sale, a coworker comes up to me, waits for me to finish on the phone, and then in a rather back handed fashion says, “You are very good but you are also very loud. I’ll appreciate it if you would quiet down.”

I was incensed. I make my bread through closing deals and am a gregarious, enthusiastic person. This is a large part of what makes me successful. I’m not quiet as a mouse, but I am not brutishallly loud.

I only started at this new company 6 workdays ago and have had two interactions with this woman, who I think works in HR. Is what she did okay? Should I take her comment as a put-down? It sure felt that way in the moment. The icing on the cake is that I have received nothing but friendly and positive feedback from my boss and co-salesmen.

Without knowing exactly how loud you are or how much your voice might carry, it’s hard to say. But asking a coworker to try to keep their volume down isn’t an inherently rude request; in fact, I often advise people here to be direct with coworkers when they’re particularly loud and making it hard for others to focus. That said, I can see why her wording rubbed you the wrong way; I suspect you would have taken if differently if she’d said, “I’m so sorry about this, but I wonder if you could lower your voice just a little on the phone? I can hear how gregarious you are with clients and I bet it makes you great at your job — but unfortunately sound really carries in this office, and the volume is making it tough for me to focus.”

In any case, I wouldn’t take it as a put-down. I’d take it at face value — as a direct request for you to lower your volume if you can. If you can’t feasibly do that, you can tell her nicely that you’re sorry but you don’t have a way to do your job any more quietly than what you’re already doing.


5. My boss insults us at the Christmas party every year

Every year, my company (150-200 people) has a company-wide Christmas party. I dread going because the president of my company has the same speech every year, which is basically a 20-minute tirade telling us we don’t work hard enough, we take too long breaks, and “some of you are winners, some of you are losers.”

I take offense to this because I believe we all work very hard and many people here have dedicated their lives to the company, working here for 40+ years.

Most people dread the party solely for the speech but it is rare for anyone to skip the party as he takes this personally and has, in the past, threatened to withhold compensation to those who don’t attend (at the party he hands out awards for those with no sick days, etc).

Is there any way to let him know how offensive we find the speech without losing my job? I’ve thought about sending an anonymous email. I don’t want to sound ungrateful for the Christmas party, I know many companies don’t have these, but I feel as though I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place: spend an evening being lectured or spend Monday being reprimanded for skipping?

You’re allowed not to feel grateful for an event where every year you’re subjected to an insulting rant!

Although if you’re going to be lectured at the party or lectured if you don’t go to the party, you might as well take the lecture that comes with monetary awards.

But is there any way you can see your boss as the ridiculous, over-the-top cartoon villain he is and find this at least mildly entertaining? He sounds like such an ass that there’s no reason to take him seriously, and ideally you’d derive some amusement from his tirades.

Also, is there any chance he is Tiger Mike?


{ 112 comments… read them below }

  1. NCKat*

    I wish we could have an update from OP1! Did they get the tat? How much time did they take off? Did they wait a year? Details!

    1. AcademiaNut*

      There was a lot of useful advice from tattooed people in the comments, which boiled down to 1) wearing clothes over new tattoos is totally standard and doable (plus advice on how to do so) and 2) large, intricate tattoos take multiple sessions, spread out over time, so they wouldn’t be getting it all in one shot in the first place. Hopefully they talked to a reputable tattoo artist, and worked out the details of how to get it done, although they may have had to forgo the group tattoo idea.

      1. Airy*

        Yeah, it was all a bit mysterious from their letter whether they’d done any research about what a tattoo like that would entail. Were they and their friends even going to book ahead and discuss the design with an artist, or just rock up to the studio in a group and expect to be done all in a row? Because that is the way to get yourself either turned away, or given a rushed tattoo with wobbly lines and bruising.
        What I always like to do for my tattoos is make my appointment for Friday or Saturday and then book Friday or the following Monday as a day off, giving myself a long weekend and two full days to relax while the tattoo is most tender. The whole thing feels like a treat. I’ve never had any difficulty returning to work after that.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Yeah it was weird it said “planning for over a year” and yet the most obvious planning steps beyond “deciding to do it” didn’t seem to have happened in that year…although the “won’t be able to be together until 20202” detail has not aged well…

          1. Melly Melz*

            I’m guessing that meant a) saving money, b) talking about it, and c) looking at possible tattoo designs.

          2. Allura Vysoren*

            I want an update specifically because of the “January 2020” part. I remember reading this letter back in 2018 and revisiting it now is WILD.

              1. Anonymous Luddite*

                That’s the point. In 2018, January 2020 just seemed like a normal thing. Now looking back, it’s like the slow motion “noooooooooooo”

        2. Observer*

          Yeah, I’m not a tattoo person, but it did seem to me that the OP hadn’t really done their homework.

          Maybe I’m being cynical, but the whole “group tattoo” thing had a bit of an odd vibe. And that vibe very much aligns with not doing your homework.

            1. Sashasoo*

              I don’t think OP meant they needed support from their friends in order to get the tattoo, it sounded more like they are all getting a matching tattoo or something similar and so they want to get it together.

              If it’s a large, detailed piece though I have a hard time imagining how a group of friends would all get that at the same time; and as others have mentioned it would likely take multiple sessions over a longer period of time so I wonder if OP even ended up being able to do this.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I am trying to picture how this would work. So let’s say there’s just a few people in the group, maybe four people. Are they going to see one artist? Or are there several people at the shop? Do they sit and wait for each other and how long a wait is that? What if the tattoo artist does not want to do four people in one day- as in it’s too long a day for the artist?
            I’d probably need 2-3 weeks off from work just to recuperate from planning the logistics on this one, skip the part about actually getting a tattoo. I am not surprised it’s been a year in the planning because the lead time necessary here to set this up would be a bit of time.

            I think this is one of those situations where the ideal (group tattoo day) is just not practical and may not work IRL.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              Having done it with a group of 4 people (they were getting one each, I was getting three and having a fourth touched up a skitch) — we planned it with the artist three months ahead, worked out our designs with him, and basically booked him for the full day. It wasn’t actually complicated at all, beyond needing to plan the day and book it with the artist with plenty of notice so he didn’t already have other appointments that day. On his end, he said it was way easier to have, functionally, one long appointment booked than a couple of smaller ones that he’d have to judge if he could book other appointments or handle walk-ins in between them.

              1. Observer*

                According to the OP, though, the tattoos they are expecting to get are large and complex. Which means that there is a good chance that it would not work out the way your group’s did. And based on what the OP was saying, it seemed pretty likely that they had not done the planning and discussion with the tattoo artist.

          2. English Teacher*

            Right? It made me think of situations where the tattoo has a religious meaning, or is memorializing someone who passed away. But I feel like OP would have mentioned that if it were the case.

          3. Lacey*

            Yeah, I don’t have any tattoos, but I know several people who do and none of them have had to forgo clothing. They just wrap it up.

          4. chewingle*

            It was like they had never met someone with a tattoo before. I work in a pretty pro-tattoo environment and no one takes time off for it to heal. They just come in and say, “Look what I did last night!” and rip off their cardigan.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      I’d love to know if they went through with it – I’d bet money that they didn’t, or maybe ended up with something much smaller or incomplete. A big, intricate piece for their very first tattoo, with what sounds like not very much research? It sounds like one of those stories that ends “and then I passed out and that’s why I have half of an anchor on my shoulder”. I hope they managed to talk to a tattoo artist ahead of time.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        I suspect you’re right. Granted, I had a big, complex tattoo for my first (and only so far), but I had a specific reason for that: there was a two-foot surgical scar down my abdomen that I wanted to cover. And from that experience, I can’t imagine a decent tattoo artist just doing a tattoo of that size on a neophyte without talking to them first about what to expect, how to let it heal, etc. They certainly did with me.

        Oh yeah, and with that two-foot long abdominal tattoo, I ended up taking exactly *one day* off work, and only that because I work at a pretty physical job. I couldn’t bend comfortably the day after the outline was done, because bending forward folded the skin of my abdomen over on itself and that hurt too much. But basically, I wore saran wrap over the wound for two days and rested it for that first day, and then it was pretty much fine. During the coloring phase, which was lighter work, it was only a bit sore. I still had to wear the saran wrap the first two days to protect it and keep my clothes from getting stained, but I could work… even though I work with my body.

    3. Stitch*

      Yeah there are a couple red flags here. You definitely 100% don’t do something big and intricate for your first tattoo. And yes, big intricate tattoos should take many sessions. Any tattoo artist who does that all at once, and does a huge tattoo on a newbie, 100% has no idea what they’re doing. It can result in a bad tattoo and actually make you quite sick.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Maybe you 99% don’t do something big and intricate for your first tattoo? I did it. So it’s not like it *never* happens, but it’s pretty rare.

        1. Stitch*

          I mean, a tattoo artist who did a big tattoo on a newbie should plan out the tattoo then to start off with something that would look okay unfinished. It’s extremely common for first timers to bail or not go to their second session. They don’t know how they’ll tolerate it.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            My artist did the entire outline on the first day. So if I didn’t go back, all it would mean was that I had a flowering vine in black outline on my abdomen instead of colored in. The coloring took two more sessions.

            I admit that I do have an unfinished tattoo, however, so I get why they would try to avoid leaving them looking that way! I extended the vine out to the sides across my chest, but I only got as far as the outline on one side before the pandemic. I’m hoping to get the rest done when I feel safe sitting that close to another human in indoor space for a longish while.

        2. Womanaroundtown*

          I got a big, intricate tattoo for my first! It took two sessions, 7 hours. It was fine, no issues with taking time off. I now have 8, all of which are pretty big, one of which was way more intricate, no need for time off for after care. Because that is a bonkers request.

          1. Joielle*

            Same here! My first tattoo was big and intricate, but it was done in two sessions a few weeks apart (outline and then color – probably about 7 hours total as well). I did a lot of research on the process and artist and felt very comfortable that it was going to turn out beautifully. And I did not take any time off afterwards.

        3. Jackalope*

          Also, it depends on what you mean by big and intricate? My first (and thanks to COVID, only so far) tattoo was what most people describe as large and intricate (especially for a first time), and while it’s not fine lacework it does have a certain amount of detail. For comparison, it’s roughly the size of my hand with all fingers splayed. But they were able to do it in one day (the tattoo artist said it was bumping up against the limits of what they’d do in a day), and everything was finished except for the touch ups they did a month or so later. So when the LW said big and intricate, they may not have been referring to, say, a full back piece. It might have been something more along the lines of mine.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Yeah, that sounds about how big mine would be if it were roundish instead of long and thin. And they did call that a big one when I was talking to the artist.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I recall this from the first thread–that a tattoo shop that would have no trouble banging out a large, intricate tattoo on four people was a red flag.

      3. wittyrepartee*

        Depending on the definition of intricate- I got a bit intricate tattoo as my first tattoo. Go big or go home! I’d been wanting it forever. It didn’t involve color though, and a lot of it is just outlined, intentionally. Second tattoo was similarly big and intricate.

      1. Percysowner*

        I know. I was thinking January of 2020 would have gotten them in under the wire before COVID, but if they needed multiple sessions, they well could have ended up with amusing stories about why they only have half a tattoo because of COVID.

    4. Chris*

      I did not read the original post, but I wanted an update too. I have several large, intricate tattoos and I have never taken any time off. Further, depending on the field, I would want OP to know that it isn’t uncommon for people to negotiate time off before they start. Almost every time I’ve job switched, I’ve had a vacation planned and simply was transparent with HR and my hiring manager that I wanted time off and was willing to take it unpaid if needed. That said, I would not tell them it was for a tattoo, in my mind that’s different than an already scheduled vacation where you might be committed to family, friends or have already incurred expenses.

    5. Whatchamacallit*

      I would love an update. I was very confused by the needing 3 weeks to heal and not being able to wear a suit. I have a casual workplace and a tattoo that is not very large or intricate, so I’m sure it is a different experience, but I had no problem immediately wearing long sleeves over it the next day, and the artist didn’t say anything indicating otherwise. My brother has a significantly larger and more intricate one that took several hours to complete and I don’t believe he had to avoid clothing over it either.

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah, I want to know who told them they can’t wear clothes over a new tattoo without damaging it! Or did they think a suit would be worse than other clothes for some reason? I was so confused about that detail in the original letter. Like, that’s the OP’s central problem, just being presented as an obvious fact when it is not a fact at all and therefore there is no problem??

    1. NYWeasel*

      During the first season of The Office, I was in a highly dysfunctional workplace, and hated the show bc it was “completely unfunny”. As soon as I got a different job, I could finally relax and see the humor in it. So yep! Totally the Dundies, and yet also totally dreadful for the OP to attend!

    2. Expelliarmus*

      Really? I know the Dundies were cringe, but I was not aware that they involved being berated; OP5’s situation sounds even worse than the Dundies.

  2. Anononon*

    I, literally, feel OP1’s pain. I got my latest tattoo several months ago, and being remote has made it so much better – zero worry about what to wear.

    Also, saniderm is a godsend. For those unaware, it’s a large sticky sheet/bandage that looks like plastic wrap but is much stronger and sticks entirely to the tattoo. It keeps things so much cleaner, and it also speeds up the healing process.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      I just got told to wrap plastic wrap around my body for the first couple days. This stuff sounds much better. :)

  3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: probably no surprise to anyone here that I’m heavily tattooed (including a massive back piece that covers over my spinal injury scars) but only in places I can cover with a suit.

    The largest piece I ever got done in one sitting (a 6 hour job) required me to slather benpanthen (I think it’s a nappy rash cream) all over it the next day and put up with my clothes sticking to it. That’s it.

    However the real fun was a few days later when the itching started. That was uncomfortable as heck but still nothing I needed to call off work for. Every time I really felt the need to scratch (don’t scratch healing tattoos) I’d go apply more cream. The shirt I wore those first few days couldn’t be saved unfortunately- turns out some dye got on it – so try to wear stuff you don’t mind losing.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      (Btw the back piece was a 4 separate sittings job – like any massive piece should be. It’s a 70s prog rock album cover)

          1. Caaan Do!*

            Had to google that, but what an awesome tattoo design!

            My first was a large and fairly intricate design (a woman’s face loosely based on a Lichtenstein, with little butterflies coming out the corner of her eye becoming a large blue morpho). I took a risk going that big for a first one but aside from the shading it didn’t hurt too badly. Bepanthen was amazing for post tattoo itching and yep, it’s a nappy rash cream.

    2. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      I can understand burning a few days if you get a large piece done. The itching and general soreness can be cumbersome. I wish someone had told be how sore piercings can be for a while. I got my p.a. then went to work that afternoon in a machine shop. Walking was not fun.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I don’t have any piercings myself, but a member of my staff really was suffering from having a piercing done at lunchtime.

        (She told me it was boobage area and I winced and offered her paracetamol from my drawer!)

        1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

          ARRRGGGGHHHHHH….Yeah, just thinking about getting something in the chesticle area or a nasal septum pierced is just a nopity nope nope, watch my skin crawl right off my bones nope. Any thing else, cool, no problems. Just chesticles and septum seem so…dang… painful.

    3. Anonymous Luddite*

      Please accept this in the most sincere and least creepy way: Yet another reason I enjoy reading your replies.

  4. Jessica*

    Mildly surprised Alison’s reply to #5 didn’t also call out the “awards for not using any sick days” thing. That’s another point that sure hasn’t aged well, not that it wasn’t already terrible in 2019.

    1. Stitch*

      I really really hope that schools now cancel perfect attendance awards. I know as a kid I went in sick and in hindsight it’s deeply messed up for quite a few reasons.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I was constantly sick as a kid and I never had to worry about getting a perfect attendance award.
        But you’re right, it sends a message to kids who Just. Can’t. Do. It.

        In an odd way, this boomeranged with me. I started realizing that perfect attendance is not everything, then after a bit I went one step farther and realized perfect attendance is just fluff. I realized the school was putting focus on something that really did not prove anything as even a lousy student could at least show up everyday.

        Fast forward decades later, my husband got a perfect attendance award at work. It felt insulting. He was a go-to person for the difficult stuff that came up and that part got ignored. It felt like the award it minimized/overlooked the extreme effort on his part.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          It sends a message to kids who Just Can’t Do It, but it also sends a message to the kids who can. And that’s just as bad in its own way. Anything you gamify, people will be trying to win at… it’s what humans do. (Yes, there’s going to be some who don’t care or aren’t interested, but a lot will be trying to win.) And if you encourage kids to try and “win the perfect attendance game,” then you’re encouraging them to come in when they’re infectious and could make the whole school sick, and/or when they’re in bad enough shape that it would be genuinely harmful for them. A lot of the kids who are the ones tempted to go for those awards in the first place have parents who aren’t much involved in their schoolwork; they’re trying to do well on their own without guidance. If they drag themselves in with bronchitis that turns into pneumonia from being pushed too far, nobody’s necessarily going to spot it and stop them. And if they go in with Covid and start a school superspreader event, nobody’s necessarily going to step in and prevent that either.

          Most business managers (though perhaps not enough school principals) know the quote “if you don’t measure it you can’t improve it,” but it goes the other way, too. Behavior you measure is behavior you incentivize, even when all they get for meeting the high end of the metric is social recognition (i.e. an award with no prize attached). If you *shouldn’t* be incentivizing it, then you’d better not measure it, in school or at work.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            And those of us who were desperate to win at perfect attendance when we were kids never had the opportunity to learn that taking days off is healthy and good. I still to this day feel guilty if I’m too sick to go to work. That’s a habit I wish school hadn’t taught me.

          2. Observer*

            A lot of the kids who are the ones tempted to go for those awards in the first place have parents who aren’t much involved in their schoolwork; they’re trying to do well on their own without guidance.

            Don’t kid yourself. There plenty of other reasons why parents will allow – or even CAUSE this kind of behavior. The parents who think that if there is an award to be had you have to try for it. The ones who think that “kids need to learn how to be tough”. The ones who think that’s it’s reasonable to graft bad workplace policies (like no paid sick leave) onto school kids. The ones who always assume that when a kid says that they are not feeling well they are faking it, it’s in their head, it’s not serious enough to stay home, etc. unless the kid can “prove” that they are “REALLY” sick enough.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              That’s fair. I didn’t see as many of those when I was in school, but I’m sure they existed. They just weren’t as much in my crowd. We tended to be the bewildered ones trying to raise ourselves.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        One of the overlooked reasons is that if the only reward is for 100%, missing one day means you might as well miss ten. Why would a teenager who unavoidably missed a day of school at the beginning of the year (say because he broke his wrist and was getting it plastered) be even slightly motivated by the scheme for the following months?

        1. turquoisecow*

          My mom’s job used to give a $200 bonus for perfect attendance. At the beginning of the year she’d be super diligent and not take off sick, but halfway through the year she’d often get sick, and then, knowing she was out the $200 anyway, would take more sick time when she might have otherwise gone in. Mild headache, might have pushed through it, but since she’s not going to get the bonus anyway, well, let’s call out. I know her coworkers felt the same. And for some of them the extra $200 wasn’t a big enough incentive anyway.

      3. Expelliarmus*

        My old high school used to make finals for a class optional if you missed less than 2 days of said class. This, of course, excluded school-related absences like field trips, going to state for a sport, or AP tests off campus. When things went remote, they made finals optional based on grades, and I sure hope they’re still doing that.

      4. Paperdill*

        I have never heard of schools having these awards in Australia. What even is the point? Like what do they want to encourage? Even if a kids not infectious but still sick I find it abhorrent that a school system wants a *child* to just “power through” rather than rest and be I’ll when they need to.

    2. English Teacher*

      Definitely agree. As a middle school teacher now, we do look at attendance, but it’s more in the context of, “how far behind is this child? Is there absence from class becoming a problem? How can we compensate?” And it’s only brought up in conversations with other teachers or parents. Attendance IS important, as the more a kid is out of class the worse they do, the less connected to their classmates they feel, and the more time they have to get into trouble. But it’s often something out of their control, especially now.

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Same here. We do like to know why they are absent and when they think they might be back At middle school pace, a quick five-minute check-in is usually enough to get up to speed if a kid is out for a day or two, whereas if it’s a week or more we need to think about what, if anything, (in the languages it’s rare that one week is the only time you will learn or practice skill x) needs to be done to catch-up. We also need to know whether absenteeism is being caused by mental health issues (anxiety around coming to school is pretty huge right now) or family instability because we have folks on staff that can help the family access support to get their child back to school. But attendance for the sake of attendance isn’t a thing at my level, thank goodness.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          “anxiety around coming to school is pretty huge right now…”

          That’s not necessarily a mental health issue, though it certainly can be. We’ve just decided reluctantly that we’ll have to keep my son home from school after the winter break is over, until either his sixteenth birthday (in March) or as soon as they will let 15 year olds have the booster shot, whichever comes first. I’ve seen the statistics about how much a two-shot vaccine sequence protects against symptomatic Omicron — somewhere from zero to twenty percent — and I’m not going to send him in there with nothing at all but his mask to keep him safe.

    3. Observer*

      Mildly surprised Alison’s reply to #5 didn’t also call out the “awards for not using any sick days” thing. That’s another point that sure hasn’t aged well, not that it wasn’t already terrible in 2019.

      Eh. Alison has called this kind of thing out on more than one occasion. But to be honest, the rest is so bad this barely ping my attention.

    4. Ma'am*

      Yeah. Toxic Old Job incentivized not using sick days and had strict and punitive rules about taking time in other ways. It was so unhealthy. I remember going in with a cold so bad I eventually had to be be tested for walking pneumonia when I finally went to the doctor. I probably could have rested for 2-3 days and been fine, but they acted like that was high treason. What they really needed to do was get a solid plan for coverage in place. This was a school so it definitely sent terrible messages (and germs) to children.

  5. Mannheim Steamroller*

    #5… [“…has, in the past, threatened to withhold compensation to those who don’t attend ….”]

    I’m still wondering if the boss has ever actually stated in writing that attendance is mandatory or docked pay from anyone who skipped the party. If so, then the party immediately becomes WORK for everybody — and any non-exempt employees MUST be paid (possibly at time-and-a-half) for their attendance.

    Maybe a whisper to HR would be in order.

  6. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP4 had been there *six days* when someone approached him about his volume?! When you’re that new you’ve got to just roll with it and adjust to the new office’s environment. Especially when the person coming to you is in HR. She may be the voice of a dozen different complaints!
    I wonder how this turned out. Hopefully he took Alison’s advice seriously and learned the fine art of being intense not loud.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yeah. 6 days and his attitude is “hey I’m in sales what do you want?” I am pretty sure a deal can be closed without a lot of shouting. Show me the Money is in the movies, not real life. I would hate to be in the cube next to this guy, or even apparently across the room.

      If you are the new person, do not expect everyone to adapt to your style.

      1. Roscoe*

        I get what you are saying, but really, I’m someone who just has a voice that carries. People call me “loud” when that isn’t really the case. He may really not be shouting.

        That said, I agree that as the new guy, he does need to adapt unfortuantely.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      To me it was an example of how if your job involves being on the phone all day, especially being charismatic and enthusiastic on the phone, a cube farm is a bad choice of office design.

      1. Cassie*

        It’s super common for sales floors to be open plan (and in some ways can be helpful). However the OP is bullshitting themselves if they think they need to act this way to get a deal done every single time. If OP is easily offended then they got off lightly, I know several salespeople who would have been much more blunt if someone needed taking down a peg.

    3. mreasy*

      In a cube farm though…I have a voice that carries anytime I speak loudly enough for someone on the other side of a phone to hear. With an office or a phone room, it’s fine. But in a cube farm I’m not sure what someone would do. I agree though that OP’s vibe was overly antagonistic!

    4. Emotional Support Care’n*

      I loathe cube farms. I am an outdoor actor. Thanks to genetics and training, my voice is naturally loud and it carries. I can think I’m being quiet, but people swear they can hear me three offices down (sorry, really I am!). I come from a long line of loud talkers, too (most of ‘em are deaf as posts and refuse to admit it; I on the other hand can hear great, sometimes).

      I warn people ahead of time and apologize in advance. No amount of retraining has been able to make me quieter (I’ve tried) in the long term. I can do it for short periods with extreme concentration, but my natural volume is louder. I was born to be a field wench screaming after animals or a bar doxy yelling at drunken patrons. Maybe had I been born a boy, I’d have made a lovely town crier.

  7. MonkeyPrincess*

    I’m surprised Alison didn’t point out that if #4’s anger was indeed that she just didn’t say it NICELY enough, that rings of some pretty gross sexism, assuming the letter writer is a guy (which he reads as). Women who speak directly are seen as b****y, while women who couch their thoughts in dulcet tones and convoluted phrases to soften them are seen as weak. We can’t win.

    Also, if this woman is from HR, she may be relaying a complaint from more direct coworkers. Ignoring that would be a bad idea, and it’s worth talking with his manager about that.

    Either way, 6 days into the job is too early to be bragging about his success rate there.

    1. Ana Gram*

      I was also surprised the LW found it to be a backhanded statement. It seemed pretty straightforward to me. I’d feel a little awkward if someone told me that but I’d appreciate the feedback.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Yeah, this. She A) complimented him by saying she had observed that he’s a very good sales person and B) asked him not to speak so loudly. And his response was to feel insulted? By a compliment and a request not to disrupt the rest of the office?

        I really hope this LW has learned a lot since the letter was written.

    2. English Teacher*

      Yeah, it definitely sounds like his feelings just got hurt. And I get it, I’m sensitive too; any criticism makes me feel bad and defensive. But I’ve had to learn that that’s on me to manage, not on other people.

    3. Loulou*

      I mean, we can quibble about if what OP’s coworker said was rude or not (I found the phrasing more odd than rude, but I can imagine some people would find it rude). It’s not sexist to be offended that someone didn’t choose a nicer way of saying something! People of all genders can and should choose their words carefully.

      1. ceiswyn*

        It’s sexist if one gender is required to be nicer than the other, and judged more harshly for the same level of politeness.

        Whether that is one of the things at play in the OP, who knows.

    4. Expelliarmus*

      Interestingly enough, my initial read was that OP was a woman who felt like her coworker was tone policing her due to internalized sexism. I think on this site, I just tend to assume that the OP is a woman unless clearly told otherwise. Looking back, though, I can see how you concluded what you did.

    5. English Teacher*

      I think the most gendered aspect of this question is that the woman felt she needed to compliment her co-workers performance before voicing the very reasonable and straightforward request to be a little quieter. No matter what OP’s gender is, the fact that they took this COMPLIMENT + request as offensive should make them think about the way they communicate with women.

    1. English Teacher*

      Same! I feel like it could go either way with this friend. I can really relate, having a best friend who often takes over my new friendships without meaning to. In her case she’s also likely to END the friendship while I’m still friends with the person. We’ve both recognized this issue and realize that the solution is to just draw really clear boundaries. Any issue your friends are having with each other, any social functions that they go to with each other, doesn’t have to affect your relationship with each of them.

  8. Richard Hershberger*

    Those Tiger Mike memos are awesome! Even if they are fake, this is an excellent exercise in creative writing. But I find them believable from an oil guy in the 1970s. A big part of this is that the 70s was a really bad decade. The economy was bad enough that the boss could act like this and reasonably expect his employees to put up with it. Nowadays he w0uld be that boss complaining that no one wants to work anymore. This is just one of many examples of today’s pathologies stemming from people thinking it is still 1978.

    1. Heffalump*

      I see that one of his directives was, “Do not speak to me when you see me. If I want to to speak to you, I will do so. I want to save my throat. I don’t want to ruin it by saying hello to all of you sons-of-bitches.”

      If I worked for him, the feeling would be mutual.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        A month later he issues this addendum:

        “This memorandum is intended as an addendum to a memo I wrote on January 12, 1978 about people speaking to me. Any supervisor who has anything to say to me, day or night, the fastest way he can say it to me is too slow. The terms about not talking to me meant I do not have time to stop and talk to everyone — saying hello, goodbye, goodnight, etc. — that is what I was talking about. If you have business with me, the fastest way is too slow — day or night.”

        The potential in these memos for malicious compliance is vast. I totally hope people were calling him at three in the morning about trivial but business-related matters.

  9. Dwight Schrute*

    The tattoo one still makes me scratch my head. Do they think people go around naked after getting large pieces done? Just put some saniderm on that baby and you’re good to go

  10. Dee Dee*

    I would love to hear an update from OP #2. Did they stay with the family business? How are things going?

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed, I really wonder what happened there. It sounded like maybe OP couldn’t leave from a “family will judge and never accept that I did the right thing for me” standpoint, not that they were unable to get another job. And if they did try getting another job the convoluted job descriptions and lack of a non-family member boss would probably hurt them a bit.

    2. Dancing Otter*

      The bit about administering the 401K without training made my blood run cold. The rules on those things are so d—- complicated, with stiff penalties.

  11. Roscoe*

    #3. Alison is right. As they say, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Once you introduce people, you no longer have any standing on how their relationship develops. And while not trying to sound mean, its also possible your initial friends are the ones looking to keep you from the events, not the coworker who you say is being evasive. The problem is, you see the coworker more, so your initial thought is he is “stealing” your friends. But it happens.

    I still have some bitterness about this from childhood. My mom got remarried when I was around 9. The guy had a kid a couple of years older than me. My mom told/forced me to bring him around my friends, since they moved in with us. Well he was older, and we were in the burbs and he was a “city kid”, and they found him far cooler than me. And eventually, he started hanging with them without me. And it sucked. To this day, my relationship with him isn’t as good as it could be, and that is definitely part of it.

    But, you are an adult, so you should understand this a bit better than a 9 year old. You can definitely make more small group plans with just a couple of friends, but you can’t try to dictate the plans he and your other friends can make with each other. If you try that, you come off looking awful.

    #4. As a person who doesn’t think they are loud, but has been told many times that my voice carries, and who is also in sales, I can tell you, this sucks. If. you weren’t so new, I’d definitely just say push back, or ignore her, or whatever. But you are the new guy coming into an established space, so unfortunately for now, you probably need to play ball. Now once you have been there a while, and if you are bringing in some good money for the company, you may be able to be your normal self again. But yeah, some people I’ve noticed are a lot more sensitive to that. And I’m guessing you are in a cubicle farm too? One thing I’d suggest, if possible, if you have scheduled calls that you know will go a while, if you can find a room to go to in order to take it, that may help. Of course if someone calls you, you don’t necesarily need to do that all the time, but even that bit of compromise may help.

  12. June*

    Incensed because a coworker said they were too loud. Somehow I think this person IS very loud. And quick to anger.

    I had hospital grade pneumonia and didn’t get two weeks off work. Let alone three.

  13. Lenora Rose*

    For #5 I thought less about Tiger Mike and waaaay more Peter Nygard. Of course, his notorious employee speeches also included gems like “a cold climate e produces a superior people” (to a floor staff that is heavily Filipino)…

  14. the cat's ass*

    I have a shouty colleague in the office. She’s really good at her job and is generally likeable, but took serious umbrage when our office manager asked her to dial down the volume. She came to me to complain, and i said, “Look, I’m deaf and wear hearing aids, and, yes, I think you’re loud. ” When the person with hearing aids thinks you’re loud, you’re LOUD! She did get over the butt hurt and she did modulate the volume.

  15. Sweet & Low*

    I’m so curious where OP1 got the info that they couldn’t wear a suit for weeks (!) while their tattoo was healing. Friends? The internet? A clueless tattoo artist? I got a somewhat large tattoo (elbow to shoulder, but not a half-sleeve) for my first and I had no problem going back to playing my sport the next day (fencing), which requires a thick, tight-fighting, full-sleve jacket. I just had to put something protective in between the tattoo and the jacket as per the advice of my tattoo artist.

  16. boop the first*

    4. I’m a little concerned about why this would make you *incensed*. Maybe the coworkers are incensed by having to tune it out all the time? It takes a lot to make someone confrontational (okay, maybe not some people, heh).

    I’m not sure I agree that making a request more long-winded makes it better or more polite. It just sounds like trying to shut out potential responses from the recipient by trying to predict what they are going to say/ask, which is risky and likely to be based on false assumptions. She even started with “You are very good at this, but…”

    “It’s hard to work with the loud conversations,” would make it sound less accusatory, sure, but I don’t know if I would go as far as making up assumptions about their work style or intentions.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Yeah, I understand the thinking behind Alison’s phrasing but it just strikes me as more of the beating around the bush women are expected to do to avoid the tiniest possibility of hurting someone’s feelings. It would honestly strike me as odder for someone I didn’t even know to launch into this whole apologetic self-deprecating spiel than for someone to just be like “hey, can you keep it down?”

      I mean, honestly, if this person is in sales it’s insane to me that they took a request to tone it down this personally. My office is FULL of sales-y gregarious chatterboxes, that’s literally what we’re paid to do, and it usually gets louder and louder until someone covers their headset and goes “GUYS!!”, everyone looks shamefaced and resets to normal volumes and then the process repeats over and over again, forever. What this lady said is so much politer than anything we would say. Had this seriously never happened to them before for it to make them that mad?

  17. Jessica*

    Regarding the family business, what would you advice this person to say when answering the interview question, “why do you want to leave your current role?” Also- what if their field would mean having to compete with the family business if working elsewhere?

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Maybe “It’s a family business. I grew up with it and that was great; I learned a lot, but I’m excited about testing myself in a less sheltered setting?”

  18. Aquawoman*

    Re #2, people really ought to know that managing a 401(k) plan (or other kind of retirement or benefit plan) can easily make them a fiduciary, which means they are subject to personal liability if they do it imprudently. That’s not a job for a generalist.

  19. sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Being too loud: Sometimes that person is loud. Sometimes it’s really subjective.

    I have friend who gets louder the more excited she gets. Being also 5’11” she looms over people and then gets louder, it’s quite offputting for her male coworkers who may be used to more “petite” and quieter female programmers/ computer scientists. She’s been accused of yelling at people. Having been on the receiving end of the “yelling” I’m thinking this was just her getting excited about something at work. Constant reminding is the only way to go as she never remembers how loud she is (imagine in a car where the space is very small). She truly can be loud.

    Thing is, she also received a complaint from a coworker that her use of her computer mouse was too loud. I’m still having a hard time figuring out how clicking and scrolling could be so loud to trigger a complaint. I’ve more than once clicked with force out of frustration because the computer was not responding but I don’t do that all day! That kind of “too loud” complaint borders on unreasonable. Or so I assume, since I’ve never seen or heard my friend use a mouse.

    (Keyboards on poorly installed trays – yes. Dude who manages the website at my current place, his banging away at the keyboard can be heard five doors down and around the corner.)

  20. s0nicfreak*

    Certainly, you don’t need to take time off to get a tattoo, and you can wear clothes over new tattoos (in fact it’s BEST to wear clothes over new tattoos if you’re going to be exposed to the sun at all).

    But… a person can do whatever they want during time off. They don’t have to tell their employer what they’re doing!

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