updates: not having to work, employer doesn’t understand I’m in high school, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are five updates from past letter-writers.

1. Should I leave my job if I don’t have to work for money?

I want to thank everyone for their thoughtful comments! I wasn’t able to respond to comments until the next day, so I wanted to clarify a few things:

– I should have been clearer that this was (essentially) a “should I retire” question vs. a “should I depend on my spouse’s income” question! We already have enough money to retire, and 50% of the assets are in my name (done by lawyers/accountants). I’m not in any way depending on my spouse’s future earnings because I could easily live on the 50% I already have if I needed to. My husband is only continuing to work because he genuinely loves his job. The question I’m working through is what would make me happiest/be the most meaningful – my current job/career that I’m “meh” about but gives me some sense of accomplishment? Or pursuing creative passion projects?

– I definitely appreciated the comments about the mental health concerns of leaving my job! Those are definitely the biggest worries I had – that while I don’t love my job, losing the structure would be really hard. I also really appreciated all the comments about exploring why I associate success with monetization and external achievement (and thank you to those who suggested a career coach, I’m going to do that!)

– My company doesn’t offer sabbaticals/unpaid leave/part-time work, and my career unfortunately doesn’t lend itself to being part-time. I manage a team, and the work I do ebbs and flows and needs to be “all hands on deck” around major deadlines (65+ hours/week during busy periods).

Again – the comments prompted a lot of questions for me to think through so thank you again to everyone who responded!

2. Can I ask for a later start date so I have time off after graduation? (#4 at the link)

You answered my fairly small question earlier this year on what start date would be reasonable to ask for when going full time for the company I had been interning for. I ended up posting a fairly small update in the comments, but decided since everyone loves updates it would be worth writing in with an actual update!

So things ended up moving a quicker than I thought they would and a few days before you posted your answer, my manager gave me a verbal offer. I decided to shoot my shot and ask about taking some time off after graduation – and he was totally open to it! In addition to being offered a MUCH higher salary than I had planned to negotiate for, I asked for and got a full month off between graduating and starting full time.

There were a lot of things I wanted to do in that month, and to be honest, I hardly did any of them. I did take a vacation for a bit right after graduating, but then some personal things happened that I had to deal with that unfortunately took a lot of my attention. But also, after working nonstop for four years straight, I really didn’t realize how much time I needed to just…do nothing. I spent a lot of time sitting around and not really getting much done, but I think I needed it. I really needed to reset my routine and recalibrate myself from constantly being in work mode and crunching to meet homework deadlines, and to learn to finally have time for myself again.

Now, I’ve managed to settle into a new routine. I’m enjoying my job and my company has excellent work/life balance and flexibility, so I have time outside of work to take care of chores, relax, and enjoy my hobbies again. I’ve been binge-reading your blog since I discovered it and it has been an immense help as I’m learning to navigate the professional world. Thank you so much again for your answer!

3. My employer doesn’t understand I’m in high school (#4 at the link)

I did end up changing my voicemail to indicate I wouldn’t accept calls until after school as some commenters suggested, which didn’t end up being needed, as the issue was sorted until I graduated. It did get a kick out of my family calling me though. When I was able to talk to my manager about my schedule, the explanation given was that when I submitted my availability upon being hired, the computer lost it, and I was put as being available all day every day. I resubmitted my schedule, and then repeated this incident 2 months ago, when I asked to not work night shifts, as the public transit I rely on in my town only runs until 6 PM (I had had rides from parents, or warm enough weather to walk up until this point). I was then immediately scheduled for all night shifts, as my manager had been ignoring schedule change requests for months, and has been forced to quit. I have fixed my schedule, let’s hope it stays intact this time.

4. My coworker thinks I’m being abused and won’t let it go

First off, thanks to you and your readers for the insights and assistance you gave me on the original letter.

I had my meeting with my boss and HR the week you published my letter. I explained everything that was going on with Elsa and how she wouldn’t leave me alone after making a terrible assumption about my personal life. The HR rep was very easy to talk to, and I appreciated and I felt listened to. HR and my boss told me that I have handled the situation as best as I possibly could and that they would be taking over from here on out.

Then, the day after my meeting with my boss and HR, Elsa was out of the office, with no coverage or notes on our shared calendar, so we all assumed she was suspended. During that time, there was some kind of investigation that was done where my coworkers and I all had to give statements about the incident and we were also questioned about earlier instances (the Star Wars stuff with John, etc).

Two weeks later, I came in to find her cube had been cleaned out over the weekend. I assumed she had been terminated. I did not wish that on her, especially in the pandemic.

Unfortunately, my personal life has not become Elsa Free. She’s now stalking both myself and my partner. She parks in the lot of his work (where she has no business being) a few times a week. She sits at the local coffee shop near our home (considerably out of her way) every weekend, so we stopped going there. She drives by our house, which is on a dead end street of a neighborhood; it’s nowhere you would go to just “cut through.” I get strange calls from strange numbers (though this could be the usual robocalls; maybe I’m reading too much into that). My partner received some hateful email at his work and snail mail at our home, all unsigned or from a throwaway email account, of course. And, Elsa, who never in her life was ever part of a gym, suddenly joined our gym (which is over an hour from where she lives). We’re trying to navigate that because we can’t get out of our gym contract and I just don’t want to see her there. That was the proverbial straw; we are now working with an attorney to try and file a restraining order.

5. Letting a new manager know I cover my hair (#3 at the link)

To answer a few questions I remember people having in the comments: I’m non-binary and woman-aligned (they/them), and most people do initially perceive me as a woman anyway. I go to a Conservative synagogue, so it’s not typical, but it is something that I discussed with my rabbi beforehand, and she encouraged me to go ahead with it. I prefer doing it because it gives me a feeling of privacy and autonomy through a specifically Jewish lens.

As for the impact the advice had, I mentioned it to my manager before my first visit, and she confirmed it would be fine. Her only caveat was that my covers should be simple/low-key, along the lines of how our dress code allows for t-shirts, but not graphic tees. Honestly, I probably could have just done it and not said anything, as even now I rarely run into anyone else at the office and none of them have ever commented on my bandanas, but it does give me peace of mind knowing that it’s been okayed and is all aboveboard.

{ 26 comments… read them below }

  1. Persephone Mulberry*

    Her only caveat was that my covers should be simple/low-key, along the lines of how our dress code allows for t-shirts, but not graphic tees.

    This seems like a weird distinction to make, like “Okay, I’ll allow it [because I have to], but don’t…y’know…/stage whisper/ flaunt it.”

    Forgive me if the dress code also disallows, say, bold floral prints or madras plaid, but…come on.

    1. wordswords*

      I mean, maybe, but it also seems like it might very likely be “sure, of course; our dress code doesn’t specify anything about head coverings, but obviously please stick to the general spirit of its stipulations for other apparel,” as a probably obvious thing a manager might nonetheless feel obliged to make sure you’re both on the same page about. I don’t know that there’s reason to assume bad faith if OP5 isn’t doing so.

    2. Observer*

      Forgive me if the dress code also disallows, say, bold floral prints or madras plaid, but…come on.

      Actually, I think that that’s the kind of thing that the OP’s manager may have had in mind. I think it’s kind of silly – clearly the OP is not someone who is likely to wear clothes (hair covering or otherwise) that are intended to set people buzzing or that read as ULTRA casual. But there is probably a bit of availability bias playing into this – the manager probably remembers the two people she was who had headgear that was just in your face, and forgot about the dozens of people with head covers of all sorts that are just totally unremarkable. And since she remembers the flamboyant ones most clearly, she’s worried that that is what is “typical” and wants to head it off.

      1. Elizabeth I*

        Hmmm, interesting, I hadn’t considered that.

        I read it more as treating the head covering as completely ordinary (a non-event) and therefore subject to the same general dress code principles – aka no big deal, same rules apply.

    3. Smithy*

      The line about graphic tee’s, personally brings to mind head coverings that would have the Wonder Woman logo on it as opposed to florals or other more traditional patterns.

      I used to live in Jerusalem, which gave me the privilege of seeing many a head covering -and while I never saw any comic book themed ones, it wasn’t unheard of to see some women wear luxury logo printed scarves (i.e Chanel, Louis Vuitton – be they real or knock offs).

      Ultimately dress codes are often good for the letter of the law but rarely the spirit. And even in the space of graphic tee’s, does that also apply to luxury logo printed fabric……debatable I’m sure. But for managers who do cling to dress codes, I do get it.

      1. Cheap Ass Rolls*

        I have a Jewish friend who wears head coverings and can confirm, she has some comic book ones and other fan apparel-based ones. Based on observation, it’s usually the kind of thing she wears in a casual situation – she wouldn’t, say, wear a Rainbow Brite head covering to a fancy wedding, the way you probably wouldn’t wear a graphic tee to a fancy wedding. But in a work situation, I think it would be fine to give that kind of guidance when asked about the parameters around apparel.

      2. Jessica Ganschen (OP 5)*

        You’ve got it in one! Basically, a plain blue or red or etc would be fine, and so would florals or stripes, but not neon orange or a comic book theme. (Amusingly, I do actually have a comic book themed bandana, which I got at a Purim carnival a few years ago.)

    4. Chria*

      I’m going to give the manager the benefit of the doubt and assume she just wanted to clarify that OP should follow the spirit of the dress code and not the letter. We all know the one person who’s tried to insist their dark wash jeans are not “blue jeans” and so should be allowed. Given that the manager gave a clear example of t-shirts vs graphic tees I can see manager imagining that her statement is like saying a plaid or floral print would be fine while cartoon prints wouldn’t.

    5. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      I assumed it was meant in a “Your coworkers can’t wear t-shirts with the Simpsons characters on them, please don’t wear a head covering with a Marge Simpson pattern”, not a “please wear a head covering in white, taupe, gray, or navy, if you must.”

      1. mlem*

        Yeah, especially when you’re talking about a head covering that can be described as a bandana. There are any number of patterns those come in, some *quite* inappropriate for most workplaces! And others are entirely bland. Doesn’t seem terrible to cover that base.

    6. JSPA*

      Statement kerchiefs are a thing, in much the same way that statement T-shirts are a thing. I can think of a lot of people who go “plain black” for shirt and pants, then wear political-and-social-commentary neckerchiefs, head kerchiefs, kerchief pocket-flags, etc.

      Applying “same as shirt limits” rules to the kerchief seems completely normal to me, in terms of stating a work-appropriate dress code, in places that have a defined work-appropriate dress code.

    7. Sea Anemone*

      I doubt that the dress code is quite that specific. However, there are obviously boundaries around what can be worn on a tee-shirt, so why assume bad faith when setting boundaries around what can be worn on a bandana?

      I frequently wear bandanas to keep my hair back. I wear the kind with the typical bandana pattern, I wear the one from Calamity Wear with the alien snakes, and I wear the Doctor Who themed one with the Don’t Blink angel. I DO NOT wear the one with martinis on it to work bc I understand that while graphics are allowed at my workplace, that doesn’t mean alcohol-themed graphics are appropriate. It’s not about flaunting my bandanas, it’s about applying the same standard to my bandana that I to my t-shirts. I take the restrictions at OPs workplace to be similar in nature-if you wouldn’t wear it on a t-shirt, don’t wear it on a bandana.

  2. Duck in Suit*

    I’m glad LW5 was able to keep their hair covered, but also TIL women can be rabbis.

    Also holy Moby LW4, I hope you get your restraining order soon. Elsa needs some sort of intervention. Stay safe!

    1. bratschegirl*

      It’s been very common in the Reform and Conservative movements of Judaism for many years. Orthodox, still no; there are some relatively new titles like “maharat” which involve some level of recognition of expertise in certain aspects of Jewish law, especially those like kashrut and “family purity” which are seen as more legitimately women’s domain, but full ordination as rabbis hasn’t happened yet.

      1. fueled by coffee*

        Just clarifying on the “maharat” title that within Orthodox circles, where it’s common to ask rabbis for guidance on matters of religious laws/traditions, there’s been growing recognition that women might feel uncomfortable asking a male rabbi about personal issues; it’s not just about thinking that domestic tasks fall under “women’s domain.”

        “Family purity” here (and I’m not a huge fan of translating tamei/tahor as being about ‘purity’ in the first place since that carries a lot of connotations) relates to questions that might come up surrounding traditions around menstrual cycles, sex, etc., where cis women might feel more comfortable talking to another woman.

    2. Whale I Never*

      Since 1972, as a matter of fact. (Actually the first female rabbi was ordained in 1935 in Germany, but it was a private ordination rather than through a school, and it wasn’t until the 70s that women started becoming rabbis in greater numbers.)

  3. Jay*

    The first woman was ordained in the Reform movement in the 1970s. Woman have always been ordained in the Reconstructionist movement (which opened its rabbinical school after the first Reform woman was ordained) and women have been ordained in the Conservative movement for over 20 years.

    1. LadyAmalthea*

      I think the first woman was ordained in the Conservative movement in 1984. The rabbi for my Bat Mitzvah was a woman, and that was in 1994.

    2. TransmascJourno*

      The first woman to be ordained as a rabbi was Amy Eilberg—fun fact, she was my mom’s USY counselor on a summer program my mom attended as a teen during the late 70s, and was absolutely awesome the few times I met her as a kid. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself here.)

      1. PollyQ*

        Rabbi Eilberg was the first Conservative woman rabbi. In the US, the first formally ordained woman rabbi was Sally Priesland in 1972, and wikipedia has a list of other women who were also considered rabbis (with more or less formality) earlier than that.

  4. Chria*

    Elsa has dominated the comment section (I’m sure she’d be thrilled) but I also want to spread some love to the other OPs.

    1 – glad to see you’re looking into a career counsellor! I am a little worried that you’re closing off options for yourself preemptively. Your work may not lend itself to part time or paid sabbaticals… but if the option was losing a valued employee altogether they could be willing to try it! If you had a baby they’d have to figure things out for at least 3 months, wouldn’t they? You may not want to cash in your political capital on that, but it’s worth thinking about. Your first post also mentioned that you’re pretty confident you could get another job if you left this one. So you could leave it, give yourself a deadline of 1 year to begin looking for another job, and work on personal projects in that time. There’s also nonprofit and/or advocacy work, though that’s highly demanding and not necessarily something you could “dabble” in. Your life’s purpose doesn’t have to mean making money for a corporate entity.

    #2 – irrelevant for you now, but I highly regret is not pushing back the start date on my new job. I was in another town for university and moving back home, and my employer asked what I thought a good date was. I said something like “I graduate at the end of May, so the first week of June would be fine.” What that actually meant was I was stressed trying to clear my apartment in April, went home for a couple weeks in May, then flew back with my family at the end of May and had a hectic weekend trying to cram all my clothes into their suitcases. I absolutely could have taken a month or 2 off to start, but it never even crossed my mind as an option. I’m glad you were able to take the time you needed to just decompress. I’m better at doing that now.

    OP3 – glad you were able to figure out something that works, and that hopefully the issue is fixed going forward! I’m somehow not surprised that the supposed schedule/computer issues was just a manager not doing their job well. It’s sadly common in retail.

    1. Chria*

      And wow, all of my numbers are in different formats. That’s what I get for typing out this essay on mobile.

  5. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’ve nuked all the comments on #4 because of too much problematic and in some cases outright dangerous advice and am closing comments on this post.

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