do I have to wear makeup to look professional, my boss wants “fun” but pointless perks, and more

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

1. Do I have to wear makeup to look professional?

I am a woman in my mid-twenties. Over the last year, I have grown more comfortable than I was before about going out without makeup. I never worked from home, as my role as a receptionist/administrative assistant isn’t conducive to that. But we have a laidback dress code and are located in a more rural area.

Several times recently, I’ve gone in to work dressed fairly casually (company hoodie, jeans, and sneakers) but the reactions I get when I have makeup done vs. not are startling. I am aware that makeup is a cultural norm but when did we start treating women who don’t wear makeup like they’re not fully dressed? I am clean, perfumed, hair brushed, and dressed like everyone else here. But if I’m not wearing makeup, I get treated differently. Aside from the usual “are you feeling okay?”comments, a few people treat me like I had the nerve to just roll out of bed and come in to the office. I get judgmental looks anytime I pass their work stations and have caught a few “facial expression conversations” between them.

I just recently got a decent raise and haven’t ever been spoken to about this by my supervisor, but our company president visits frequently enough that I’m nervous about it. I prefer not wearing makeup but am afraid I’m breaking some unspoken rule. If it matters, I am one of two women in an office of 20, in a male dominated field. So am I being considered “unprofessional” if I decide I don’t want to wear makeup on a given day?

You don’t need to wear makeup to be professional. There are some fields where a higher level of polish is expected, and makeup is often — although not always — part of that look, but if hoodies and sneakers are fine in your office, it doesn’t sound like you’re in one of those fields.

I suspect what’s happening is actually about the contrast; if you normally wear makeup and occasionally you don’t, people are responding to the difference in your appearance. Most likely, on the days without makeup, you look less “done” than how they’re used to seeing you. That doesn’t mean you’re less professional on those days; it just means that you look different than what they’re used to. If you stopped wearing makeup entirely, or hardly ever wore it, the contrast would disappear and the comments might stop.

That said, if hoodies and sneakers are pretty casual compared to what most people in your office wear, it might be the combination of super casual dress and no makeup. If that’s the case, you could try dressing up slightly more and see if no makeup registers differently when you do.

Regardless, though, anyone exchanging looks with someone else over your lack of makeup is an ass.

2. My office want to to offer “fun” but pointless perks

I work at a mid-size nonprofit that has a large budget and endowment. C-suite execs here make six figures. About 50% of our staff was remote before the pandemic, living around the country. The average age of our staff is mid-40s, and I’m one of the youngest.

Even as Covid continues, the board is pressuring the CEO to get the non-remote people back to the office. The CEO has also been concerned in the past about getting younger people to apply to work here. With that in mind, I’ve been asked by the CEO about what “fun” things we could get. Someone suggested a gaming system once Covid eases up. I found this idea ridiculous. We don’t even play regular games now.

Moreover, my manager is now tasked with getting our department something “fun.” Ideas include a coffee station (we only have generic nasty coffee that I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole), popcorn machine, candy dispensers, healthy snacks, mini fridge, etc. I would love any of these. I asked if there would be a restocking budget and was told no. If we must bring in our own supplies, what’s the point? It’s just one more thing to clean and pay for. We got a coffee pod machine at my last organization. We had to bring in our own pods for and it was a mess, so experience tells me this will get old fast.

This is on the heels of the office cleaning schedule being reduced to once a week, the A/C and heating system not working for the past six months, and the parking lot completely covered in ice whenever the temperature drops below freezing. We are not lacking funds. We seem to be lacking common sense and safe and comfortable working conditions though. And it’s making people angry.

Should I say anything to my manager and/or the CEO about how tone deaf these “perks” sound? I have a good rapport with both of them, and they’ve appreciated my honesty in the past. When I asked to go back home last summer because of delta, they took notice of that and began offering it to other people as well.

Yes, tell them! Explain that perks that employees need to pay to stock won’t be seen as perks, and buying things like candy dispensers when the AC and heat still aren’t working will make morale worse rather than increasing it. You also should explain that “fun” won’t get people back to the office, and won’t generally attract younger employees either — to do the latter you need to look at bigger things like generous time off, flexible schedules, and, yes, remote work when roles allow for it. If you have the kind of rapport that let you be very blunt, you could also point out that this overall focus on “fun” risks causing real cynicism because (a) people will rightly question why that’s being prioritized when more pressing needs are ignored, and (b) it will make the org’s management seem out-of-touch with what people really care about.

(I can’t tell if the gaming system is still under consideration, but if it is, point out that few people want to play video games at work if it means staying at the office longer — which it does — and it’s likely to seem like pandering to someone’s idea of what young people want, rather than responding what they actually want.)

Read an update to this letter

3. Do I need an official paycheck to put a job on my resume?

My husband and I have a family business (e-commerce). For various reasons that made sense at the time, we decided to have my husband’s name on the paychecks and W2s. When our first child was a baby, I quit my regular job to work our family business. That was nine years ago.

I do the bulk of the work for our business. (He has a different full-time job). My husband and I make larger decisions together, but the day to day running of it, the customer service, the accounting, the IT support, etc. — that’s all me. He takes a phone call here or there, but it’s basically my job. Paychecks still happen to have his name on them. We do all our finances together anyway, so personally it makes no difference and switching everything would be a hassle.

When I someday rejoin the workforce and need a resume, is there any reason this job can’t be listed? I honestly did the work, and paychecks were deposited to our (joint) account. I could demonstrate the skills and experience in an interview, but I don’t have any paper trail in my name to prove it.

You can still list the job; it’s your job, after all. But you should switch the paychecks over to your name now, for a whole bunch of reasons. One, it’s possible that some future employer will ask for W2s (it’s not super common but it happens) and it could be a problem if you don’t have them. Two, by reporting all your pay in your husband’s name, it’s counting toward his Social Security earnings and not yours. Three, you can’t predict the future and it’s possible that at some point you’ll want to rent an apartment, apply for a mortgage, or otherwise do things in your own name, without your husband, that require proving your employment. Whatever hassle it would be to correct the name on payroll (and it really shouldn’t take long) is dwarfed by any of those risks.

4. Another department keeps trying to poach me and I don’t want to be insulting

I work at a R1 school as a post award administrator. My department is one of the larger ones on campus with lots of grants so I have experience working with a lot of different funding sources.

Three times now, the head of sponsored research has sought me out to tell me about job postings in his department. It’s more money, he says. I’d be a great fit. Except I have zero interest in working there. They have a high turnover rate, it’s super stressful, they are not flexible about working from home or family situations. Also I know from former colleagues that work there that the office culture is awful.

I’ve said I’ll look at postings, but I’m happy where I am. And still he keeps asking. Normally I’d just be direct and say I’m not interested, but he’s a big up in the administration here and I really don’t want to piss him off and then it come back to bite me later.

Next time he asks, say this: “I’m flattered that you’ve encouraged me to apply, but I’m happy where I am right now and I don’t want to make a move for now. I’ll let you know if that changes at some point!”

That way you’re making it about being happy where you are (a positive) rather than not wanting to work in his department (a negative).

5. My employer won’t adjust time clock mistakes

My boss recently sent an office-wide email announcing that HR would no longer be adjusting time clock punches for people who don’t clock in or out correctly. She said that since the system is easy to use, no one should have any issues.

I’m not one to forget to clock in, and I feel like this is probably in response to a few chronic mis-punchers, but can they legally do this? What would enforcing this policy even look like? I’ve never known management here to be unfair or punitive so this move just seems really weird to me.

Nope, they cannot. Assuming we’re talking about non-exempt staff, employers are required by law to pay people for all the time they actually worked, even if they didn’t log it correctly because they forgot to clock in or out. They can discipline people for not clocking in or out correctly — hell, they can even fire them for it if they want — but they are legally required to pay for the time worked anyway.

{ 694 comments… read them below }

  1. Goose*

    OP 1, I stopped wearing most makeup since quarantine and have found that clothes really do make a difference. You can be casual if that fits your office, but make sure you have the proper fit (tailor if need be), no wrinkles or stains, etc. I’ve also noticed that a bad hair day is more noticeable, so if you’re not opposed to using product (I use a gender neutral serum to style) that can help as well

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      It’s also worth remembering that there are often a lot of unspoken rules when it comes to casual. For example, some offices may be “casual” in theory but “on trend” in practice. Sneakers in particular are an item of clothing that can read as hyper-casual or pretty dressy, depending on the brand.

      A lot of those unspoken rules are unfair and discrimintory, so I’m not advocating for them necessarily, but if they are there, it’s good to know.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        And a hoodie – even if that-company-branded – kind of gives off “rolled out of bed” vibes. I suspect doing makeup makes the LW look to the judgemental people like she at least intends to look this way, while no makeup + hoodie + jeans + sneakers makes them think she throws on clothes and barely manages to make it to work on time.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Also a baggy hoodie is gonna read as way more causal than something that fits you well. It just looks a lot more like sleeping/sick clothes than something fitted.

        2. Bee*

          Yeah, this was my take too – the makeup is elevating the hoodie, rather than being inherently more professional than a bare face. If she switches to like, a casual sweater that is equally cozy but more polished in appearance, her coworkers will probably stop noticing. (I used to wear makeup to work everyday but have stopped since the pandemic, especially since I’m usually wearing a mask all the time anyway.)

          1. Rainy*

            I also used to wear makeup every day and have stopped, partly because of the mask and partly because I now walk instead of bussing and it’s more comfortable to walk with a bare face. I don’t think anyone has mentioned it, certainly not how they used to when I wore makeup every day and then couldn’t for a day due to illness or allergies, when everyone said I looked “pale and flushed” and asked if I was okay.

        3. Gothic Bee*

          Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but I thought the hoodie example was an outlier example meant to show that when she dresses super casual no one makes any comments (presumably bc she’s wearing makeup?) whereas if she’s not wearing makeup people do make the comments. But if that’s more like what she wears every day, I agree that the comments could be from the difference in perceived intentionality on makeup days vs. no makeup.

          That said, I nearly never wear makeup and I do feel like there’s still a difference in how I’m treated when I do wear (very minimal) makeup. It is what it is, but I feel like wearing makeup or not wearing makeup shouldn’t make a difference in how people treat you.

        4. NA*

          Yes, I had a similar experience with not wearing makeup. It really broke me professionally and I wound up leaving the job. But I do think it depends on the position. In a front office job, wearing makeup helps but is not a requirement. I am so sorry to hear this. I think it is the old double standard rearing it’s head again!

      2. birch*

        Yeah this is what I’m thinking, too. Don’t we always see those articles about “why do celebs look put together in a white t-shirt and jeans while the average person looks like a slob?” It’s because their clothes are high quality, fit well, and in trendy cuts. Especially for clothing like hoodies and jeans, the quality and style makes a huge difference in how put-together the outfit looks. And sometimes makeup and hairstyling plays into that, shifting the interpretation to more intentional, which reads as more fashionable. I also kind of wonder what function the makeup has for OP. I think it’s weird that we talk about “makeup” as if it means the same thing for everyone! Some people use it to make natural looking enhancements, some people use it to cover up blemishes and perceived imperfections, and some people use it to make a dramatic statement. It’s not *nice* exactly but understandable for someone to notice a sharp contrast from day to day, even if it’s just the contrast between covering up red spots and not covering them, considering that society still doesn’t consider it appropriate to show imperfect skin in public (speaking as someone who uses makeup for this purpose!). The coworkers are still jerks for their behaviour though. I don’t have advice unless OP wants to change her own behavior by changing up the proportion of days wearing makeup, or adding some nicer-than-hoodies shirts to the wardrobe rotation, or confronting the jerks. Sometimes people will be jerks for petty reasons and you just have to decide whether to put the energy into confronting them–it’s unlikely to have a satisfying resolution either way.

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          Yeah. Agree coworkers sound like they’re being jerky.

          Fatphobia and ageism can also play roles here, with certain elements of casual/minimalism labeled as “trendy” on some bodies but “lazy” on others.

          1. Katie kaboom*

            Yes, I was going to add that. To some people, a hoodie and jeans on a thin person can be “cute”, but the same outfit on a large person and it looks “sloppy”. I say this as a fat person who has had my outfit critiqued by a boss, when my thin coworker had the identical outfit on (slacks and a plain colored v neck t-shirt).

              1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

                Katie kaboom I’m seconding what Whynot said. Sorry that happened to you. That was not ok. Workplace has a rule about leggings must be paired with shirts that go halfway down to your knees. Certain departments enforce this across the board, certain departments enforce this only on certain people. Other departments let anything go or only enforce it if someone complains.

            1. Aunty Fox*

              As a fellow fat person, your boss is the worst, but also yes, it’s hard to get that really put together slick look in large sized clothes without spending obscene amounts (not doing it). they just don’t fit as well as thinner people’s clothes because so many places just scale up without thinking about shape.. and that’s a whole other soapbox.

              1. Random Biter*

                “As a fellow fat person, your boss is the worst, but also yes, it’s hard to get that really put together slick look in large sized clothes without spending obscene amounts (not doing it). they just don’t fit as well as thinner people’s clothes because so many places just scale up without thinking about shape.. and that’s a whole other soapbox.”

                +1 kajillion

                I give thanks everyday for an owner who doesn’t gaf what you wear so long as it’s not pj’s. Harley tshirt? Fine. sneaks and sweats? Also fine. Even encourages you to bring slippers to wear in the office so as to not track in road salt. Given, our work is in the trades which is usually more laid back anyway….clothes, language, whatever…but it’s such a nice change from the buttoned up world especially if you’re not the fashionably thin fashion maven with skads of money.

          2. generic_username*

            100%. I’m noticing that particularly with the new trend to wear sweatpants and those clunky sneakers. When I see a model wearing those clothes, it’s described as chic and trendy. But you can bet that if I went to the store in sweatpants and clunky white sneakers, I’d just look like an obese 30-year-old slob. (Although I also own “nice” sweatpants that have a better fit and overall appearance vs normal sweatpants that I won’t wear outside of the house unless you count taking the trash out)

            1. Mannequin*

              I don’t actually have a problem with some rando at the store thinking I look like an obese 55 year old slob, as long as I myself am comfortable in my clothing and content with my appearance.

          3. Trawna*

            Well… the way to appear put-together IS to know what suits you no matter your age, body type or sex/gender.

            That just is the way it is.

            RIP, Andre Leon Talley.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              But who gets to be the judge of what “suits you”?

              Why are some clothes considered suitable for some bodies more than others? If they fit and are clean and to the wearer’s preference, they should “suit” that person. But there ARE people who want to police what other people wear, and particularly what people of certain body types wear and declare that THIS person here can wear an off the shoulder top, but this other person over there ‘cannot’.

              1. AskAManager*

                Seconding Hannah Lee’s comment.
                I think that for some styles, it’s easy to think of something “suiting” someone as a neutral thing, but it’s usually still rooted in societal beauty standards and norms. I’m a curvy and somewhat fat woman in my 30s with big breasts and a mostly hourglass shape. Clothes that “flatter” my body, by societal standards, are things that emphasize the hourglass — nothing boxy! — but don’t make my breasts look any bigger than they are. I’m white with moderately fair skin and wearing certain colors gives my face a yellowish look compared with how my skin normally looks, so people would say that those colors don’t suit me, but that same color is the actual shade of some other people’s skin.

              2. Anonymous4*

                Why are some clothes considered suitable for some bodies more than others?

                It has to do with proportions. For instance, I have a long face and a long neck, and if I wear a low V-neck, I look like a giraffe. A jewel-neck, a scoop-neck, a boat-neck — these are fine because they don’t visually elongate my face/neck. Someone with a short neck, though, would probably do very well with a low V-neck.

                You mentioned off-the-shoulder tops, and yes, there are those who would do better in something else. For instance, someone who has broad, squared-off shoulders would be well-advised to avoid off-the-shoulder tops because they’d look like a football player, and someone who’s really busty is going to need support that a strapless just can’t give her.

                You have to think about the visual effect. If Joan who has a bulky torso wears a bright white blouse and tucks it into a solid tubular skirt that ends at her knees, she’s going to look wider than God designed her because she has two broad bands of color going sideways, emphasizing her bust and her hips. But if Joan wears a body-skimming (but not tight) sweater or jacket that goes to her hips, the eye will follow that length, visually elongating her body and making her look more in proportion to herself.

                . . . It’s a big topic. There’s a lot of details.

                1. Chirpy*

                  This, if I tuck in a shirt (“French tuck” or otherwise) it just makes me look like a giant blob on top of a gut, because it removes all definition between my bust and waist, and highlights how visually small that torso space is. If I wear something a bit more skimming that shows off the hourglass, or a longer top that hits low on the hip, it makes me look more proportional and redirects the visual weight away from just my chest.

                  Same thing with v-necks. I can wear a very small V, but since most companies just scale the whole shirt up for larger sizes instead of re-shaping, what would be considered a decent V on a smaller chested person is massive cleavage and therefore practically obscene on me.

                2. valprehension*

                  …ok, but, what if a person with a long neck likes looking “like a giraffe”? All of these ‘rules’ ultimately assume that there’s a right way for your body to look, and it’s usually about minimizing the things that make your body differ from the ideal/normal body. People aren’t obliagated to want to do that, and deciding not to try to normalize their bodies doens’t mean their clothes don’t ‘suit’ them.

        2. Librar**

          I was also wondering about the type and style of makeup OP uses when they wear it. If you’re switching between totally bare and a really dramatic full face, it’s understandable why people would find the contrast jarring, even though they’re absolutely jerks for the way they’re behaving about it.
          If you’re switching between light concealer/natural makeup and nothing at all, well, people are even bigger jerks because they don’t have the surprise of a huge contrast to fall back on.
          I’ve gradually diminished the amount of makeup I wear to work over the past few years and notice fewer double-takes now when I wear extremely light/no makeup than in past years when I was doing a full face daily and would occasionally go barefaced. For the record, I now find it almost unthinkable that I used to do a full face of makeup every single day and I’m much happier with a lighter look.
          But OP, you might want to consider all of the factors as to why the jerks are being jerks and try a more gradual approach to transitioning out of wearing makeup if you’re up for it.

          1. Cascadia*

            I never wear make-up and never have, and no one could care less. Many people at my organization don’t wear make-up either, so it’s really not a big deal. One of my close co-workers does a full face every day – we’re talking heavy foundation, some contouring, noticeable eye shadow, eye liner, mascara, etc. It’s not an inappropriate look for work, but it is definitely a full face. On the rare occasion she comes to work with no make-up on, think once every few months, it is shocking and jarring. We are good friends and I’ve found myself reflexively asking her “Oh no, are you ok?” I don’t mean anything by it, and I’m trying to control my reactions, but honestly the difference is so extreme and noticeable it’s hard to not default comment on it. We work with high school students who are known for their blunt-ness and lack of tact. They will 100% call this out when it happens – “OMG are you sick?!?!” To be fair to them, they also call me out on the reverse! I wear make-up once in a bluemoon when I have special occasions to go to. I work some eye make-up to work one day as I had a very special event after work. My students stared at me and one said bluntly “Wow Ms. Cascadia. Are you wearing mascara???? WHY????” This is all to say, people get used to your face looking a certain way. When you change it suddenly in either direction, people may be surprised. They should keep it to themselves, but it can be hard for even well-meaning colleagues when they are caught unawares.

            1. We are better than our reactions*

              It can be hard, I agree, but it’s worth it to keep working on one’s “surprised reactions” especially when modeling for those called out for inherent lack of tact. Why should they learn any better when those in positions of authority don’t bother to?

            2. Hannah Lee*

              This is making me think of that letter from the person whose employee would change their look: hair color and style, makeup, style very very frequently. Unless it’s a situation where the dramatic change is impeding the person’s ability to do their job well*, it’s really up to the other people to control their reactions.

              * IIRC there was some issue in that original one where the person sometimes was in client meetings/conference sessions, so changing up their looks drastically mid-conference was disorienting to attendees who might have registered their contact as Anne with the shorty spiky blond hair, bold lipstick in grey co-ordinates, and didn’t recognize her after lunch when she appeared with long straight auburn hair, pale lipstick and a brightly colored patterned dress.

            3. i choose sleep over makeup*

              Yes! I’m a high school teacher, and those teenagers notice everything. I quit wearing makeup a few years ago (pre-pandemic). Back when I would just occasionally come to work with a bare face I got all the “are you ok?” questions. Once it became normal, the questions stopped. I am confident that if I walked into school with makeup on tomorrow I would spend all day fielding questions and comments, even with a mask covering half my face!

            4. Filicophyta*

              Yes, the same thing has happened to me. I wear as little make-up as possible for what ever situation I’m in. I used to teach high school and when I wore more for some reason, all the kids commented. It was all compliments, but definitely noticing. (Most of the schools I taught at had strict no make-up rules for students, so they were especially attentive because they would try get away with small stuff themselves.)

          2. sb51*

            But if she’s switching between concealer/natural style and nothing, especially in a mostly-male office, the difference may be between people *not noticing she has makeup on* and *noticing the bags under her eyes* rather than seeing makeup vs no makeup, because they’re not familiar enough with what “natural-style” makeup does. So on no-makeup days she might look tired to them, without them realizing why.

            That’s not a solution, mind, but people aren’t necessarily being jerks if they don’t know what they’re reacting to.

            1. generic_username*

              This was my thought. Most men can’t really tell when women are wearing makeup so they might think she’s just extra tired, which could read as partying all night or something like that.

              Still jerky to make someone feel bad/self-conscious for looking extra tired. Like, don’t tell someone they look sick ever…

              1. quill*

                We did an experiment in my high school sociology class where the teacher surveyed the class to see if boys found makeup attractive and concluded that they do not. I challenged the male population to figure out which girls in the class were wearing makeup.

                They missed both purple and orange eye shadow. They truly had no idea what makeup even was.

                1. Rainy*

                  One of my favourite things ever is hearing a dude go on and on about how he hates makeup on women and women who wear makeup are inherently deceptive blah blah…while standing next to his girlfriend/spouse, who is *wearing makeup right that minute* and often not even natural-look makeup!

                  What I want to know is, how do you miss gigantic falsies? Normal eyelashes are NOT an inch long!

                2. Salymander*

                  There was a group of boys in my high school that all attended the same super conservative church youth group. They had talked in the group about how it is important to dress modestly, and that makeup and revealing clothing is bad. So these boys came to school and started critiquing various girls. The got right up in the faces of several girls, including me, and couldn’t tell that several of us were wearing makeup. The only girl they could see definitely had makeup on was my friend who was fond of thick, black eyeliner and dark jewel tone eyeshadows and lipsticks. Anything less dramatic and they couldn’t really tell. They thought we looked “clean and healthy.”

                  I think the contrast of full makeup one day and no makeup the next might be somewhat noticeable, but giving someone the side eye over it is very rude and judgmental. It seems a bit too high school to be acceptable among adult coworkers.

              2. Esmae*

                So true. I had a male coworker comment on my bright eyeliner one day, sounding disappointed because I “didn’t usually wear makeup.” He’d never seen me without full makeup, frequently including eye shadow and always including lipstick. We’d been working together for over a year.

            2. A*

              Agreed. I used to wear a full face of makeup but stopped a few years back – got several comments at first, but IMO they were understandable and well intended (even though misguided). In my case it was in part due to the appearance of eye bags etc. previously covered up, but also I’m extremely fair skinned with obnoxiously vibrant pink undertones. So once I stopped wearing concealer/powder my natural skin tone, by contrast, appeared to them to be a flush.

              So while it was a little frustrating, the only comments I got were from colleagues I was close with socially asking if I felt alright as I looked like I had a rash or was coming down with something. People adjusted within a few weeks. I don’t think they were jerks, just a bit naïve.

          3. PT*

            Makeup/no makeup is more drastic on some people than others. For example, someone with blonde eyelashes and eyebrows who wears mascara and eyebrow pencil, it will be very obvious if they are not wearing any. If you have anything makeup is generally obscuring, it will jump right out at people when you’re not wearing any.

        3. Smithy*

          I completely agree that when make is used to “cover perceived faults” the marker between wearing it and not wearing it gets noticed far more as a maker of “are you ok”.

          I have rosacea, and while I’ve never covered it with make-up in my regular life – whenever I’ve gotten wedding make up and they cover it up, I end up looking noticeably different. Similarly had a pale friend who normally would wear bronzer to work, so on the few days she didn’t – her skin tone was noticeably different. Another one is for people with pale eye lashes who usually wear darker mascara – to then see them without mascara can again be ‘wait, something is different’.

          I want to emphasize that I am in no way calling rosacea, pale eye lashes, pale skin faults. And as a make-up free bright red cheeks and nose woman, you can make a professional career for yourself with your face. But outside of trendier industries, significant changes in appearance often get noticed and for more fraught issues that can come with increasing levels of legitimate second guessing. I wear my hair up to work a lot, every now and then when I do wear it down – you’d think I was getting ready to go to a black tie event. As a white woman with straight hair, I don’t find those comments about my appearance as loaded – but with make-up, my uniform is none. Even though in my private life I do enjoy wearing some on occasion, it’s not attention I ever want to draw at work.

        4. EmmaPoet*

          Celebrities also have their clothing tailored to fit perfectly. Add in the Birkin bag, Jimmy Choo heels, and a $5000 pair of diamond earrings, and most of us can’t pull that off

      1. Ally McBeal*

        Ha! Same. If I woke up with a headache that could go either way (fade or escalate), I’d skip the makeup and wear my glare-reducing glasses, which immediately put all my coworkers on notice that I might need to leave early.

      2. Nanani*

        The fact that this works, that is, the fact that women without makeup are perceived as looking sick, tells a LOT about how women are still viewed: Decorations first and professionals second.

        LW1 is not imagining things and is right to be angry and pretending its an innocent coincidence or about contrast or something does no one any favours.

        1. Smithy*

          I will say that this largely goes to what kind of make up is being talked about. If you’re wearing make up to cover regular dark rings or puffiness under your eyes normally and then one day don’t – that’s not exactly the same as not wearing lipstick. I have rosacea, and thus normally have a nose/cheeks redder than the average bear. When you see it covered by foundation vs uncovered – one version looks far more flushed or potentially feverish than the other.

          On the flipside, if your coworkers regularly see you with puffiness or rings under your eyes and highly flushed all over – then that’s just how you look, people get used to it, and it’s never gotten me comments about being unprofessional. I think it’s very legitimate to get irritated that women do have an internal/external expectation of appearance devoid of eye rings, puffiness, blemishes, being too pale, blotchiness, being too red, etc etc. But these are also contrasts that can correlate with someone not being well. Particularly when they appear to happen suddenly.

          1. Mannequin*

            I have pale skin but wear makeup to look PALER, not tan or bronzed, do I actually look ‘healthier’ with none on.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          For me at least, I honestly have pretty intense undereye circles that I inherited from my mom. If I’m going to do just one thing makeup-wise in the morning, it’s a bit of concealer under my eyes. I honestly don’t blame anyone for thinking I look ill when I suddenly skip that step.

          As Alison says, a lot of it comes down to the contrast. If I show up 99% of the time with my dark circles concealed and then suddenly just let them show in their natural glory–people will reasonably think I look more tired than I usually do. They have no way of knowing that’s just what my eyes usually look like.

    2. anonymous73*

      You’re still saying her appearance matters, even without makeup. Casual offices are casual offices. What matters is her work. Unless she’s customer facing, or she’s breaking a written rule, none of that matters. ESPECIALLY if it’s a double standard. I’d love to know what the men in the office wear. Is their face always shaved? Their hair always combed perfectly?

      1. MK*

        The OP actually is in a very visible role, she is the receptionist. And while I can’t speak for her male coworkers, mine have never come to work unshaved or without comping their hair.

        And yes, in the real world appearance does matter. For everyone.

      2. JelloStapler*

        But are they in a hoodie and jeans with their hair all messed up? I would bet they are at least kempt.

        A former male colleague of mine was called out for wearing sneakers and a wrinkled untucked shirt; in this case, he also had other job-related concerns but his appearance did not help. Makeup does not matter here but you have to at least look put together and professional (doesn’t even have to be a suit- business casual and jeans Fridays).

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        She is literally the receptionist, the first person that anyone will see upon visiting the office. It is the definition of a public-facing role and it is very normal for personal presentation to be part of the job expectations in some form. I honestly don’t know why so many people on here seem to believe that this is not the case.

        1. anonymous73*

          Who says they have visitors? Not all companies will have outside people coming in…I’ve worked in places with a receptionist and no outside visitors.

          1. MK*

            So they were paying this person to do what? Sit in the front office to monitor the employees coming and going and maybe accept deliveries? Also, very few workplaces have zero visitors. You don’t need to have a constant stream of clients/customers to expect some grooming from your employees.

        2. KaciHall*

          I worked at a factory and was at the ‘reception’ desk but 99% off the visitors we had were parole officers visiting our employees. (Or in one memorable case, US Marshals trying to arrest one of our employees. FYI, hiding in your trunk while wearing a GPS anklet is not an effective way of avoiding arrest. )

          I think we had 3 or 4 salesmen or visitors on the year I worked there. The visitors were always higher ups who gave is plenty of warning to get the good bottled water and coffee out, and the salesmen were literally in the wrong building.

      4. Observer*

        You’re still saying her appearance matters, even without makeup.

        And, in most cases, that’s true for a number of reasons. Like it or not, that’s a reality. And, to be honest, if someone really is just “rolling out of bed and into work”, that actually does present a bit of a legitimate issue. Would I fire someone over it? No, but it would definitely hold them back.

        You’re still saying her appearance matters, even without makeup.

        Well, fan fic doesn’t really help anything. @Goose is not talking about anything that could be considered a double standard in the least bit.

        1. Nanani*

          It’s a reality worth pushing back on. Acknowledging it is good. Pretending it’s okay because “thats just how it is” is not.

          1. Loulou*

            Of all the actual problems in the world, I absolutely do not GAF about pushing back on the expectation that people in public facing roles look like they did not just roll out of bed.

          2. MK*

            That’s a matter of opinion; while most grooming expectations are sexist and arbitrary and it would be good to get rid of them, a world where everyone just rolls out of bed and into work sounds depressing to me, and I don’t think being able to live in sweatpants should be a constitutional right.

            Also, even in such a world appearance would still matter, because people who like looking more formal would be judged. See the letters Alison has answered over the years from people who dressed more formally in their casual workplaces.

          3. GreenDoor*

            Acknowledging…pushing back…pretending…OK, but one thing is missing: asking your supervisor for clarity. It sounds like OP is assuming the *whole* office has a “laid back” dress code. But has OP actually gone to the boss and asked, “Can I clarify the dress code expectation for my role”. I know where I work, the tech and mail room people are good to go in jeans and company polo any day. But other people must be business casual. I am expected to be in formal business attire. I suspect OPs situation may have less to do with make up and more to do with the fact that OP is in jeans. Even on days where I can where a company polo, I need to have on dress slacks or nice chinos/khackis or a skirt (weird, but company polo does not automatically mean jeans/joggers are OK. Perhaps it’s the same where OP works?

        2. Professional, not decoration*

          Why, exactly, does it matter when someone got out of bed in relation to when they go to work? Is a marketer’s press release more poorly written because they have frizzy hair? Is a doctor’s diagnosis less accurate because they have bags under their eyes? Is a machinist’s cut less precise because they have a visible zit on their cheek? Does the receptionist file documents more accurately if they’re wearing a collared shirt instead of a comfy hoodie?

          Focus on what really matters – the work being done. The rest is all interpretation happening in your head and there’s no reason that it can’t be changed.

          1. Loulou*

            None of these things are what people are referring to when they say someone “looks like they just rolled out of bed.” I’m not sure if you realize that but are trying to make a point, or think the standard is much more stringent than it really is.

            1. Mannequin*

              I literally wouldn’t GAF if someone looked like they actually just rolled out of bed and got to work, if they did the job the way it was supposed to be done and we’re meeting all the metrics. Why would I? Their appearance is 100% irrelevant.

              1. Lesseen*

                I mean, I guess it would be nice if this were true (maybe?) but it just isn’t true. Appearance does matter. It matters psychologically, it matters bio-evolutionarily, it matters sociologically. Appearance norms and preferences change, but animals with eyes care about appearance.

      5. Goose*

        Of course appearance mattes? Even in a casual office, no one is showing up in their laundry day look. Plus, OP is public facing so being “put together” is important. OP has a stronger case for pushing back against a double standard by making sure they are putting forth professionalism in every other way

      6. Tali*

        One’s appearance always matters. It is always communicating something to one’s fellow primates, whether that is “I am buttoned up and going to work” or “I’m terribly cold right now” or “I don’t care about how I look and want you to know that” or “I identify as a member of XYZ subculture.”

        1. Lesseen*

          Yes, it’s a big part of non-verbal communication, and the fact that so many people here think they have conscious control over their reactions to NVC is frankly hilarious.

      7. MCMonkeyBean*

        You’re making a pretty big jump away from what is pretty standard there, honestly. Sure, it would be cool if no one cared about appearance at all at work ever, but that’s just not reality nor I think has this blog particularly advocated that *nothing* about appearance should matter ever.

        Expecting someone to “look professional,” especially in a customer-facing role is not inherently a problem IMO. What’s usually up for debate is what “professional” should entail. It used to include makeup, but has shifted such that many places that is really no longer expected. But expecting certain levels of professional in clothing is still pretty normal, though it sounds like OP’s office is generally pretty casual there as well.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I also think Alison is right that the “Are you okay?” queries are due to the contrast with her usual look. If people had instead got accustomed to her without makeup, suddenly having a fully done face could land as too much just because it’s a contrast.

      Our ape brains like everything to be predictable.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I have rosacea or something similar (I’ve never been diagnosed, but I have very red, blotchy cheeks) and when I don’t wear makeup, the difference is so startling that people ask if I feel okay. I’m pale, so I wear pale foundation, and when I don’t wear it I look feverish. Or think of dark undereye circles. If you normally cover them up, and some days you don’t, then you may look unwell to people who aren’t used to seeing your natural face. So there could definitely be some of that going on.

    4. Gladtoberetired*

      I totally agree.

      I worked in a male dominated field for 38 years. You might be surprised that some of the men don’t even realize that makeup/no makeup is the difference. They just notice something is different. Once I got frosted tips (don’t judge it was the 80’s) and my boss asked if I got new glasses.

      1. Christmas Carol*

        2nd the they just notice something is different. My boyfriend asked me once if I had gotten new glasses. Well, I guess so, since they were my first ever pair, they were “new”

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I had that exact conversation with a coworker. “Are those new glasses?” Well, yes, because I’ve never worn glasses before.

      2. Zephy*

        The only makeup men can see is red lipstick. Five minutes in the comments under a picture of a female celebrity wearing a nude lip (whether accompanied by no-makeup makeup or full-on, contoured-within-an-inch-of-her-life Glamazon makeup) should tell you that – they don’t know jack about makeup. “I like NATURAL girls like this” – there’s fifty bucks’ worth of product just on her eyes, but go off, I guess.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          This is SO true. See also those so-called “no makeup selfies.” I’m surprised at easily people believe a celeb or “influencer” isn’t wearing makeup just because the copy says so. “She looks beautiful without makeup!” No, sweetie. She looks beautiful with a lot of carefully applied “natural look” makeup.

        2. Jax*

          Lipstick and eyeliner are the most noticeable products. Lipstick when it’s on–eyeliner when it’s not.

          Most people can bridge the gap between their normal look and no makeup by just lining their eyes per usual. As someone who wears makeup, I recommend coming up with an “I Just Can’t Today” version that takes less than 2 minutes to slap on. For me, that’s concealer/eyeliner/mascara, and I keep these products in my desk drawer.

          1. Galadriel's Garden*

            Ha yup my “just can’t” is brow pencil and mascara, concealer if I’m breaking out. My “normal work” look is usually tinted moisturizer or bb cream, eyeliner, brow pencil, and mascara…so while a minimal difference, is still *different*.

      3. Lora*

        A year pre-pandemic, I decided to put dark blue dye in my hair, just for fun, with color that would wash out in a couple of months or could be easily dyed over. Think a mix of navy blue/black and royal blue (royal blue on the natural gray, dark blue over the natural brown), done in a salon so it looked pretty slick. It took two weeks for my male colleagues to notice, in a 90% male field.

        1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

          Once in grad school I dyed my hair black with green streaks and waited to see if my extremely uptight male advisor would notice.
          He never did. Noticed right away when I gained weight in my bust, though.

      4. Hippo-nony-potomus*

        This is so true. My husband likes the way I look with makeup but, unless I’m putting it on in front of him, has no real idea when I’m wearing it and when I’m not. They also can read jeans as “casual,” even in a very nice cut, and will read a skirt or a dress as more formal, even if very casual.

        1. Yorick*

          This is so true about dresses and skirts. People think they are so much more put together, even though you only put on one garment instead of two. Even women do this a lot of the time.

      5. Environmental Compliance*

        I went from mid upper arm length hair to a short pixie cut. I legit had one (male) coworker who took two days to figure it out, while giving me confused looks constantly, and triumphantly telling me that my glasses were different. It was hilarious.

    5. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I can confirm that clothing makes a big difference. I almost never wear makeup*, and my knowledge of current fashion is basically “Do this year’s trendy colors look good on me?” But wearing well fitted clothing in colors and styles that flatter me has gotten me a lot of compliments. Dressing one step up from the usual office dress code helps too – so if everyone else is wearing jeans and t-shirts, and I’m in a dress, or a button down shirt with slacks then that contrast generally reads as “well dressed”.

      *I will wear light makeup when I’m presenting at conferences. I have pale skin and I know that without a little blush and lipstick I look like a pale blob with glasses and eyelashes when I’m filmed from the back of the room.

    6. Mynona*

      It’s true that “a woman’s face is not unprofessional,” but OP feels judged when she goes to work without makeup–right or wrong, that must feel terrible. And she’s already transitioning how she presents herself and may feel some insecurity. Temporarily wearing light makeup to acclimate the office to her new look might help. Or just cold turkey it but wear more formal clothes.

      FWIW, I’ve always worked in big city/creative industry/women-dominated offices and never worn makeup and it has never been an issue. This sounds like small town/conservative industry/male-dominated office, and that world has different expectations of women. So, it’s not you OP.

      1. Pony Puff*

        I try to give OPs the benefit of the doubt that they’re reading the situation correctly but I don’t feel like there’s anything concrete that proves makeup is the issue:

        “a few people treat me like I had the nerve to just roll out of bed and come in to the office. I get judgmental looks anytime I pass their work stations and have caught a few “facial expression conversations” between them.

        I just recently got a decent raise and haven’t ever been spoken to about this by my supervisor”

        We really have no idea what her coworkers are thinking. Maybe it’s about makeup, maybe it’s about clothes, maybe it’s about something else entirely.

        1. Loulou*

          Yes, I was confused about this too. I know we’re supposed to take OPs at their word, but it was really not clear to me how or why OP concluded people were whispering about their makeup or lack thereof.

    7. Holey Hobby*

      Tangent: Anyone else a fan of Black Lady Sketch Show? They have like, two amazing sketches on this.

    8. Sara without an H*

      Hi, OP#1 — I suspect that the issue here is one of consistency. When you do makeup on some days and not others, people will notice a difference and (may) comment about it. (And yes, at least some of your coworkers are gossipy and don’t have enough to do.)

      Since yours is a public facing role, I’d recommend making sure your work clothes are clean, pressed, well-fitted, and stylistically consistent from day to day. (I don’t know what “business casual” means at your particular office, but if what you’re wearing is neither more nor less casual than what others in the office are wearing, you should be fine.)

      Then make a firm decision about makeup and stick to it. If you want to give it up completely, do it and don’t look back. If you don’t want to go that far, could you simplify what you use? Say, switch from full makeup to just eye liner and lip gloss (or something like that)? But I think Alison is right that the comments will taper off if you pick a look and stick with it.

      You say you just got a raise and your manager has ever spoken to you about your appearance at work. That’s the important part, not snippy comments from coworkers.

      1. Cascadia*

        Yes I agree – wear make-up or don’t – it seems what coworkers are reacting to is the difference. If you were wearing a full face of make-up too, please note that that’s a big change from a completely bare face. You can either subtly transition to no make-up or go cold turkey. Eventually people will just get used to your new look. But if you’re going to switch back and forth on a regular basis, I’d expect some reactions, just because it is noticeable. In the same way that if you switched your hair color or cut on a daily basis people would notice. It’s the change they are likely noticing, not the make-up. – From a person who never wears make-up and loves it.

        1. Unicorn Parade*

          It seems so ridiculous to expect a grown woman to fully commit to either never wearing makeup or always wearing makeup when the real issue is how comfortable people feel negatively commenting on a woman’s appearance, particularly in a professional work environment. It’s wild to me that in 2022 people still think it’s okay to say something like “wow you look sick, are you feeling okay?” because someone didn’t feel like wearing mascara that day. Generally when it comes to how people look, I was raised to not say anything at all if I didn’t have something nice to say.
          I mean obviously that’s the reality we live in, but goodness, what if we just stopped normalizing telling people they look like shit?

      2. Aerin*

        I find that under-eye concealer and maybe a bit of eyeliner goes a long way to staving off the “you look sick” remarks.

        The contrast is definitely a thing. My baseline is no makeup, so if I’m feeling fancy I’ll do foundation, eyeliner, maybe eyeshadow and lipstick, and people who know me tend to respond as if it’s a “full face” of makeup. (I think the only time in my life I’ve ever done a “full face” was for my wedding, because I don’t own all that extra crap. Even when I was working at the Mouse and aware I was going to be photographed a lot, it was really just concealer, powder, and eyeliner.)

        And I agree with others that your clothes may be a bit too far on the casual side. You could try swapping the hoodie for a cardigan and the sneakers for some basic flats, see if that makes a difference.

    9. Amethystmoon*

      I only wear makeup on days with scheduled video meetings. Even then, I’ve always been a makeup minimalist and wear neutral colors.

    10. Bookwormgrl*

      A few years back when I interviewed for a manager-in-training position for a high-end clothing store in an outlet mall, the store manager said to me. “At (retail store), you’re required to wear makeup.”
      I asked if makeup was part of the dress code, and the SM said no. I said yes, I would wear makeup (I would only wear mascara and foundation because this position only paid at that time $15 an hour for full-time work. Also, I was desperate at the time, so I would’ve taken the job). I’m not spending $100+ every month for a full face of makeup when I’m not making a ton of money (31,200 before taxes), and also, I’m a miser with money.
      Out of curiosity, I checked the SM’s profile on LinkedIn, and lo and behold, she’s currently a manager at a cosmetics store.
      I never got the job and checked the SM’s profile. She left the job at that outlet store and got promoted to store manager at the cosmetics store she works at.
      I guess since she works at a cosmetics company, she’s used to pressuring her employees to wear makeup.

    11. LittleMarshmallow*

      I’m 37 and I stopped wearing make up years ago so I say do what you want! For me makeup is not worth the itchy face and eyes and smeared up glasses or contacts that make it even harder to see (I have very bad vision anyway). I will say that I’m not able to speak to fancy office culture because… well, I wear a hard hat for much of my day and my attire is appropriate for manual labor (work pants and hoodies or tshirts usually plus steel toed boots… sometimes my bibs if it’s super cold outside). Occasionally I have to go to one of our office buildings for a meeting or training or something. Our policy is “dress for your day” which means if I’m only at the fancy place part of the day I will wear plant clothes with zero shame to the office building. If I’m only going to be at the office building I’m more likely to dress like I would on a weekend (comfy dress , leggings, and knee high dressy boots)… but I will NEVER wear make up!

  2. LJ*

    #3 sounds like a tax dodge… (The thing where one high income partner and one no income partner pays less taxes compared to if the same income was spread across both evenly)

    1. Scooter*

      Not doubting this at all (I know every country is different) but how would this work as a tax dodge? In my country the marginal tax rate increases as your income increases, so having the income spread evenly would result in a lower tax liability as opposed to one partner on a high income.

      1. WS*

        In some countries, the tax laws are tilted towards having a high-earning partner and a non-earning partner (meant to “help” “parents” “choose” rather than make it economically unviable for one parent to return to the workforce and you can guess which gender that usually is) so one high-earner and one non-earner can pay less tax than two moderate earners. Additionally, even when this isn’t the case, there’s often grey areas around the edges of tax brackets where it works out better overall to divide income this way, which will change if the tax brackets or income change and is a temporary (but still real!) thing.

      2. LDN Layabout*

        Does it matter? People tend not to commit fraud unless there’s some sort of advantage for them. In this case, why lie to the IRS if there’s no benefit attached to it.

        1. Esmeralda*

          It’s not a fraud.

          It’s a long-standing tax advantage — my parents, now in their 80s, used this for decades as my dad was the sole income-earner. I believe it was originally devised as a way to support marriage (or, a certain kind of marriage, where a husband earns income and the wife does not).

          That’s why in the US married couples choose between filing married-jointly and married-separately. Even when both spouses make fairly similar incomes, it’s usually advantageous to file jointly. (I’m not an accountant, just someone who’s been filing taxes for close to 50 years)

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            But presumably your Mom wasn’t working a job where the paychecks arrived in your father’s name?

          2. LDN Layabout*

            It’s absolutely fraud for the OP to be doing the work but the husband is being paid for it.

            1. Esmeralda*

              Hmm, I wonder if legally it is fraud?

              For sure, it’s not smart on the OP’s part (for all the reasons already discussed). I don’t know that it’s illegal, however — IANAL

              1. LDN Layabout*

                I don’t see how lying to a government agency about employee status, especially considering they’re the business owners themselves, isn’t fraud.

      3. Claire*

        Depending on how high the income is, the Social Security wage cap is $147,000 and workers don’t have to pay SS tax on income over that. So if you had two people with eligible wages of $75,000 their combined annual SS tax would be $9,300, but if only one of them made $150,000 it would be $9,114.

      4. Hlao-roo*

        The short version is, in the US when people with unequal incomes marry (one person earns significantly more than the other), their total taxes fall compared to what they paid individually. When two people with roughly equal incomes marry, their total taxes increase compared to what they paid individually. I’ll link in a follow up comment if you want more info on how and why US taxes work this way.

        1. Holey Hobby*

          I know this from personal experience, but I actually would love to know the why. I don’t know if you can post links. I have not seen one yet, but a brief explainer would be kind of cool!

        2. Cj*

          Since they are already married, this doesn’t apply to them. And they are much better off filing jointly if only one of them has high wages, no matter which one it is. If they file married filing separately, the one with no income (currently the OP) doesn’t need her standard deduction if she has no income anyway. Her husband would only get half the amount of the standard deduction if they file MFS, and the increase in the tax bracket is also have the amount of MFJ, so they would pay way more tax.

          If the wages are split about evenly, it doesn’t matter for income tax purposes (or not by much, anyway) if they file MFJ or MFS. The only exception would be if one of them has very high medical expenses and they itemize their deductions, since only medical expenses that are in excess of 7.5% of your AGI are deductible, so the MFS lower AGI would increase the deduction. However, then the spouse is also forced to itemize, and they still might be better off filing jointly.

          As someone mentioned above, if you hit the max SS limit, you would save some taxes there by having only one spouse get the wages. However, since the OP says she does most of the work, she should be getting most of the wages, and if he is hitting the limit now, she might be instead.

          As Alison mentioned, she isn’t getting credit for wages with SS for retirement benefits. I’d be just as concerned, if not more so, that she isn’t earning credit with SS for disability.

        3. L.H. Puttgrass*

          It’s my understanding that the “marriage penalty” is much less of an issue since the 2017 tax changes. There are still some situations where married couples pay more, but those situations are a lot rarer than they used to be.

      5. RandomExpat*

        American expat in the UK here. I am American, my husband is British. I have to file US taxes on everything in my name forever unless I give up my citizenship. This impacts every financial decision we make – I can’t have my name on the house, because if I did, we’d have to pay capital gains tax on it in the US, even though he bought it 15 years before we were married. My accountant actually suggested we put my paycheck in his name, but I decided that was too much tax-dodging for my personal limits.

        But anyway – for a citizenship-divergent couple, it can have huge tax implications.

        1. I'm Done*

          But you do get a foreign tax exemption. So unless the OP would earn above and beyond that amount, she wouldn’t have a US tax liability.

    2. Asenath*

      I immediately thought about under the table pay for people like baby-sitters – it saves money and trouble for the employer, and also saved money for the worker, which is why some prefer it. But long-term, it’s a really bad idea for the worker if you live in a country like Canada, because you and your employer aren’t paying into things like government pension plans, unemployment insurance, and workers’ comp. The pension plan one is often overlooked because the worker, especially if she has a husband who is the major breadwinner, but over time the money builds up and in old age, even a tiny pension can make a difference. I really think it is a bad idea to have all the family income in one name, especially when both, or in this case, the other spouse – earns it.

      1. Lizcase*

        This! I had not realized how much difference it made until I went through finances with my mom (mostly SAHM with seasonal and part-time work) to see how things worked without counting on my dad’s CPP (answer: not good. )

      2. WellRed2020*

        Two sentences into this letter and I thought, “yikes, what about the social security?” Let alone all the other questions I have.

    3. anonymous73*

      How is it a tax dodge? If you’re filing taxes as a married couple, you’re earning the same total amount. And it’s not helpful and pretty rude to assume that’s what’s happening here. Be kind.

      1. Mary Connell*

        Whether or not it’s a tax dodge, a situation like this can leave a woman under the financial control of her husband. A classic move by an abuser. Huge red flag.

        1. JelloStapler*

          I would be curious as to how the OP’s husband would react to her suggesting a change- if he’s okay with it, not realizing how it impacted all of those other things, then not a red flag. he just didn’t think about it. If he freaks out – red flags everywhere.

          1. Siege*

            Same. OP, with all the love in the world, please change this situation, and maybe talk to an accountant to see if there’s a way to retroactively address the Social Security issue. Women, and especially women of color, reach retirement age with much less invested in their SS benefits on average because of caregiving work. Continuing that inequity now that you are being paid for your work is something you would benefit from changing.

        2. AndersonDarling*

          I came here to say this. I knew a woman whose husband had a construction company and all income was funneled to him. When he cheated, she wanted to leave but had zero means to do it. She had no credit so she couldn’t get an apartment or loan. She had a hard time finding work with no references or paper trail of previous work. All accounts were in his name.
          But even if we don’t look at the divorce scenario, what happens if the husband suddenly dies or can no longer work? The wife will still have no paper trail of a job or income which will make job seeking challenging.

          1. Harvey 6 3.5*

            Exactly. If the husband is disabled, the wife may well need credit to move to a more appropriate location (like a one story house or an accessible apartment). And even if everyone is ok, credit is nice to have. When my son wanted to buy a house to live in at grad school, he needed a cosigner. Either me or my wife could have cosigned, but she was in an office and I teleworked, so I just did it (with her agreement). But if it had been more convenient for her to do so, she could have.

          2. Scarrlet*

            Yes, I had a friend whose husband got in a major car accident with a guy who was high and driving the wrong way on the freeway. No fault of his, but he was in the hospital for months, doing physical therapy afterwards, and ultimately has enough lasting damage to his body that he will never be able to work in the highly paid trade he was apprenticing for at the time. Suddenly she was trying to support their two young kids on her part time retail salary with no other real work history because he had always wanted to be the breadwinner. It was hard on both of them.

        3. Hippo-nony-potomus*

          Classic move by an abuser – she has very little ability to qualify for anything in her own name. In divorce proceedings, it would be extremely difficult to prove that she was the one doing the work on the business and earning the income.

        4. anonymous73*

          And you’re making more assumptions that are not presented in the letter. Not everything is an abusive situation.

          1. Nope, not today*

            No, but it has the same potential for harm whether it was abusive or merely an oversight by them both. If something happens to the marriage or the husband then the wife would be in a very difficult position having no formal work history, no social security earnings, no credit to secure housing or other necessities that may require a loan, etc. Its a huge power imbalance even if its was wholly unintentional.

        5. Your Local Password Resetter*

          I wouldn’t jump right to that. It’s not like OP realized the pitfalls either, so it’s quite probable they never saw a reason to switch back.
          They should still switch it back of course. And if he doesn’t take it seriously after OP laid out all the problems with it, then that’s a cause for concern.

      2. River Otter*

        The income is the same, but in the US, and this is a US-based blog so people will be predominantly responding based on how things work in the US, the taxes on that income will be different for a married couple with only one earner versus a married couple with two earners.
        If the OP is in the US, what they are doing is a tax dodge whether they intended it to be so or not. There is nothing unkind about acknowledging that factual situation.

    4. Anon all day*

      It sounds a lot like two of my family members, including the tax sketchiness you mention. She never paid towards social security, and unfortunately there was a medical catastrophe with her husband, and it’s been extremely difficult for her.

    5. OP3*

      If it is a tax dodge, it’s been an entirely accidental one! I suppose I should check with my accountant on that. Since we file married jointly and the total income from both jobs isn’t ridiculous high, I’d always thought taxes were the same either way. Also, it WAS initially his work so that started off in good faith too. Not that the IRS cares about good faith…

      Thanks for all the comments. We probably will be switching it over to my name this year. I just wasn’t sure how the odd situation would work with a resume and I’ll likely be looking for part time work outside the home in the near future.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        You know, while yes- have the paychecks in your name… things are so weird and changey right now that I think a lot of businesses are just going to be like “whelp, that’s the second weirdest thing I’ve heard today.”

      2. Person from the Resume*

        It is a huge problem for you because your unpaid labor hasn’t been paying into social security.

        It also puts you in a bad place in the event that you lose your husband unexpectedly; the devastating loss would be even more financially devastating if you have no proof of having been an earner. You don’t have a history of income for credit cards, loans, rental agreements, etc.

        But also I do think a fair number of companies ask for past pay stub for some mysterious reason. If you don’t have one, they are likely to assume you lied about your experience, not that you’ve been an unpaid employee for years because that’s extremely unusual.

        1. PT*

          This is a huge misnomer, though. Women who are married- or were married, they are widowed or divorced from a marriage that lasted 10 years- can collect social security under their husband’s name.

        2. Martha*

          My husband and I own a business and don’t pay ourselves on payroll – we report the total profit at the end of the year and pay self-employment tax then. So instead of being a bookkeeper with a W2, I’m an owner with a tax filing. Same tax, different reporting.

      3. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

        That’s okay. And in my opinion, it’s not the taxes you should be worried about. It’s social security and your credit history. If your husband should dievor become disabled, you don’t want to have no work history at all. And if you become disabled, you have to have contributed to social security to be eligible for social security disability (SSDI). The only alternative is SSI, which is income-based and you wouldn’t get it because your husband works. Believe me, I went through all this with my husband.

      4. River Otter*

        You could always switch over so that all of the paychecks are in your name! Sort of even out the skills that way…
        I am being tongue-in-cheek there. You really want to make sure that the paychecks are distributed in a way that complies with whatever the labor laws are in your area. But you can probably comply with the labor laws while also setting pay rates in a way that helps you catch up with your Social Security or equivalent earnings.

      5. I'm Done*

        Please change it asap. Tax issue, if any, aside, you’re putting yourself in a precarious situation. You’re not contributing into social security nor unemployment benefits. You are putting yourself at the mercy, financially, of another person. Granted, he might be a lovely person but things can change. For reasons of your own you might decide to leave. Or your husband could pass away. You need to take care of yourself and establish credit and an employment history in your own name.

      6. Hillary*

        It’s not a tax dodge – that implies something nefarious. It’s a legitimate and legal way to transfer funds from an entity that you (presumably) own together. Still a good idea to get it in your name for all the other reasons listed. :-)

  3. I miss Sami*

    OP-1 What about just popping on lipgloss, tinted lip balm, or mascara? Any would show a bit more put together on the days you don’t want to wear any other makeup.
    It is ridiculous that people expect women seem to have to wear it, but it’s maybe a tiny bit will make a big difference.

      1. Asenath*

        A lot depends on cultural context. Make-up seems to work like clothing sometimes – in some places, it’s the norm, and if you don’t like the norm, fiddling with it or faking it a bit can get most of what you want without kickback. In other places, make-up seems to be mentally classified as optional, unlike clothing, and not using it is no big deal. I haven’t worn make-up since I lost interest in it after my teenaged experiments with it, and had no problem. If I’d worked in a profession where it was expected, or lived in a part of North America or in a social group where it was treated like clothing, I’d have gotten more kickback. I’d also probably have learned to use it properly. This isn’t just a case of whether or not a woman’s face is unprofessional.

        1. PuckDrop*

          “This isn’t just a case of whether or not a woman’s face is unprofessional.”

          This. It’s about whether OP has enough polish for her office norms.

          I work with a guy who has long hair that doesn’t appear to have been groomed in years. He’s constantly covered in what looks like food stains and wears the same spotted, ancient puffer jacket every day. He does not fit office norms where I work. It’s noticeable. I would not recognize him groomed and dressed in a suit. He does not wear makeup.

          Makeup has nothing to do with polish.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Seconding this.

            My workplace [academic library] definitely does not require makeup (and I work with rare books and manuscripts so I assume makeup would be actively discouraged, but it’s never come up because nobody in my department wears it, anyway) and clean, in-good-repair sneakers would be fine, but a hoodie would be . . . it wouldn’t get you in trouble, necessarily, but nobody wears them and overall the vibe here is that your insulation should be a little less casual. Not fancy–a soft jacket or nice-looking, correctly-sized flannel overshirt would be fine–but not something as slouchy as a hoodie. There are enough other ways to stay warm that are still comfortable and can be inexpensively obtained (I’ve found tons of appropriate jackets at thrift stores) that there is really no reason not to do just a little better.

            I love a big, schlubby flannel as much as anyone but I don’t wear mine to work. And I only wear makeup to other peoples’ weddings so I don’t look like a corpse if I accidentally end up in the photos.

            1. Loulou*

              Why would makeup be actively discouraged? I worked in special collections for awhile and have never heard anything like that.

              1. Spero*

                Not OP, but daughter of a rare books librarian….glittery eyeshadow having fallout onto the books throughout the day? Foundation smearing on phone and then transfer to fingers and documents? Someone reapplying spray hair product at a desk and it drifting to unwanted places? (all of those are more an issue of application style/type of product, but after a few bad experiences I could see an organization choosing to ban rather than haggle over details)

          2. CoveredinBees*

            But she has also described what the norms are for her office and that she is within them. It doesn’t help that she’s one of two women there. I don’t know why you’re jumping to describing a lack of basic hygiene unless you feel makeup is basic hygiene.

            1. PuckDrop*

              Alison in her response as well as other commenters have pointed out that it could be the combination of hoodie + no makeup = lack of polish. Even a company hoodie might not have been intended for work wear.

              No one said makeup is basic hygiene. I don’t think anyone intended to imply it. I provided an example that involved what appears to be a hygiene-related issue because it was a non-makeup, male example about polish. It’s not perfect.

              Currently zero makeup and resembling the corpse Dust Bunny cited, but also wearing a skirt suit and not the leather jacket, skull t-shirt, and combat boots that I’d much prefer

      2. Hippo-nony-potomus*

        A woman’s face is not unprofessional, but there are cultural norms surrounding clothing and appearance. Whether or not there “should” be, there ARE. The OP can play along with those norms, or she can flout them. The latter requires either a lot of capital at the office, or it requires being otherwise quite polished (well-fitting clothes in flattering cuts, styled hair, sharp shoes).

        1. pancakes*

          The letter writer says her workplace “[has] a laidback dress code and [is] located in a more rural area.” Would you have us believe that every woman in rural areas, whether their workplace is laid-back or not, is as polished in their self-presentation as you describe or finds themselves unable to find work? That is not what I’ve encountered when I’ve ventured into rural areas. It’s not what I invariably encounter in the city of 8+ million people I live in, either. There are cultural norms, yes, but you are exaggerating how demanding and restrictive they are.

          1. generic_username*

            Agreed. I live in a fairly urban area and work in a professional role, and I don’t style my hair or wear makeup and it’s never been an issue. My clothes are always clean and not wrinkly, and my hair and body are always clean (tbh, my hair isn’t always brushed because the natural wave looks better pre-brush). I agree with the other commenters – the issue LW1 is running into is that it’s changing so people are noticing the difference and unfortunately it’s reading as “she looks more tired than normal” or “she looks less polished than normal.”

            1. Kit*

              I think there’s also a significant subset of (mostly) men who don’t notice makeup, especially relatively subtle, natural-look makeup, and who don’t comprehend the difference between “this is normal for LW1’s face without makeup” and “LW1 looks different and so must be ill.” In a very male-dominated office, that honestly seems likelier to me than otherwise.

              I’m not a makeup-wearer myself, but I got similar ‘oh the norm has changed’ reactions when I showed up at my business-casual workplace in a skirt and blouse rather than my usual khakis and polo. (The fact that someone asked “who died?” and I got to reply, “my grandmother…” did bring me a fair bit of schadenfreude, though. She’d been ill, it wasn’t a shock, but oh my goodness the looks on their faces.)

          2. Kate 2*

            My office has a very relaxed dress code and we are in a very rural area. People wear flannel shirts and sweaters to work, almost no one wears makeup. But NO ONE comes to work in jeans, hoodies, or sweatpants either.

      3. River Otter*

        Sometimes you have to distinguish between what is true and what is helpful. It is true that a woman’s face is not unprofessional. But while true, it does not help the OP navigate her situation. Wearing lipgloss is a way lesser burden than changing her coworkers attitudes.

        1. Olivia Oil*

          Of course the OP herself should do what it takes to keep her job, but that doesn’t mean the norm shouldn’t be challenged in these comments and elsewhere. Requiring women to wear women is stupid, period.

          1. Olivia Oil*

            Lmao – requiring women to wear *makeup*. Though requiring women to wear women would also be stupid.

    1. Not Australian*

      Any requirement for makeup in the workplace is inherently sexist unless you’re going to require it of the male staff as well.

      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        Now that’s a discussion I’d love to hear. “Joe, better cover those acne marks with base or BB cream, they’re unprofessional”

      2. Gothic Bee*

        This exactly! There’s nothing specific to a woman’s face that requires makeup. Acne, blemishes, bags under your eyes, etc. are all things that literally everyone experiences (I mean, some people don’t but that’s based on genetics not gender), so either require makeup of everyone or don’t require it of anyone.

        1. Olivia Oil*

          I think I mentioned this on another thread, but I once mentioned to a male friend of mine that I only wore makeup for formal professional circumstances (like an interview or conference) to cover up my acne marks. He looked genuinely surprised. He also has visible acne and acne marks and was like, “It never occurred to me to cover up my acne for work or anything else”. He is a VP of his department. And that is what double standards look like.

          For what it’s worth, I don’t necessarily think makeup would disappear in a post-feminist world. It would just be an option for all genders and not weaponized against any specific group to control their behavior.

    2. Violet Fox*

      That’s still wearing makeup and to quote someone else here “A woman’s face is not unprofessional”.

    3. londonedit*

      Yeah, this tends to come up whenever someone mentions not wanting to wear make-up to work. People respond with ‘But you could just wear a bit of make-up? Just some lipgloss and mascara?’. It’s not really the point. If the OP doesn’t want to wear make-up every day, they shouldn’t have to just to appease some people who have nothing better to do with their time than judge what their colleagues’ faces look like. I’d suggest the OP responds to any ‘facial expressions’ with a cheery ‘Hello, can I help with something?’ and any comments about ‘looking tired’ with ‘Nope, just my normal face! This is what I look like without make-up’ and then just move on with work or a different subject. It’s on their work colleagues to stop policing what female-presenting people look like, not on the OP to conform to their arbitrary standards. As long as the OP is wearing clean clothes that aren’t too casual for the office, and they’re generally clean and well presented, then it doesn’t matter at all whether they’re wearing make-up or not.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Eh, what is the point of “not wearing make-up” if you have to put on mascara? lol. Just my thought that mascara seems to be one of the more labor intensive make-ups to apply.

        I’d LOOOVE for no make-up to become the norm.

        1. hamsterpants*

          Mascara is the one I like the least. Not being able to rub my eyes all day and ending up with sweat and mascara in my eyes by 3 pm anywayis really not great. (Not looking for product recommendations btw.)

          1. Metadata minion*

            Same here, and it always ends up on my glasses anyway. People who wear makeup every day don’t seem to realize that “just swipe on some eyeliner” or “just a light foundation” or whatever is not actually easy if you’re not someone who wears makeup. Great, let me just go out and learn a skillset entirely unrelated to my job so that I can be “polished”. And I’m not even allowed to do *fun* makeup and have sparkly purple eyeliner or that’s unprofessional in a different way.

            1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

              Ah, good point! Sort of like how my easy 20-minute dinner is my husband’s 45-minute project.

              1. hamsterpants*

                I just realized why people get so bothered having to cook for a company potluck. I love cooking and do it for fun and consider myself pretty good at it, so one extra dish per month is a non-issue. But there are lots of people who don’t like cooking or don’t know how. So there is a much larger barrier for those people!

            2. Siege*

              My glasses prescription is so strong the segment of my head behind them is about the size of an orange. I never bothered to learn how to apply makeup and that was definitely part of it – why bother when you can’t see the effect? At this point, I have no interest in learning how to wear it; it’s an uncomfortable mess that’s going to get on things and feel weird and not even be visible.

              1. SarahKay*

                As a similarly very short-sighted person, in my mid-twenties I switched to contact lenses, put on my normal make-up, looked at the overall effect in the mirror and went “Blimey, that’s a lot of eye make-up!”. Like you, my glasses had been hiding most of it from view.
                On the rare occasion now when I bother with make-up I have to make sure I think about whether I’m applying ‘glasses make-up’ or ‘lenses make-up’ and apply with a trowel or feather-light touch accordingly.

            3. hamsterpants*

              You make a really great point that wearing makeup so that it looks good and is reasonably comfortable is a skill that must be learned and practiced. I’m 34 years old and only recently figured out a way to apply eye liner that looks somewhat OK with my tiny eyes and blonde lashes. Finding foundation that matches my skin tone is an ordeal, and of course each time I find one they stop selling it soon thereafter.

              If you already have good makeup and are practiced at applying it, then sure it’s not a big deal. But there is a real amount of work getting to that state!

              1. hamsterpants*

                Not to mention cost! If you ever go to any of the Reddit makeup subs you’ll see posts of people’s “easy lazy Sunday makeup routine” and it’s still like five steps and uses products that would cost $200 to buy for the first time.

                1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

                  I’m not financially strapped at the moment, but I have been, and here’s the problem/cycle I always end up in with makeup:
                  1. realize “oh hey, I could be wearing makeup, that could look fancy”
                  2. buy mascara, lipstick, foundation, eyeshadow, etc. at drugstore
                  3. put it on, like twice, before losing interest
                  4. six months later, repeat cycle, knowing that all that makeup is now expired and if I want to be ~fancy~ again, I’m going to have to go buy more or risk getting, like, eyebrow gangrene or something

                  So I just gave up on it altogether a while back. Easier/cheaper this way.

                2. Salymander*

                  Right. It is a big deal for many people to spend money on makeup. I was talking to my husband about it, because he saw me dispose of mascara that was not totally used up. He was annoyed because it seems wasteful. He grew up really really poor and he has anxiety about spending so I didn’t just automatically tell him to mind his own business like I normally would. I explained the reasons why putting old mascara On My Eyes is a really bad idea. Of course, now he worries that any mascara will hurt my eyes, but that is less annoying because I hardly ever wear makeup.

            4. Esmae*

              This. I wear makeup just about every day, and it takes me 5-10 minutes max. I’ve also been wearing makeup for a good 25 years now (thank you, teenage cystic acne). For someone who hasn’t had 25 years of practice, my 5-minute makeup routine would probably take a lot more time and effort. “Just a little” makeup is not an easy answer for someone who never wears it.

          2. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

            People usually think I am crazy when I say that I hate wearing mascara because it makes me feel (and probably look) tired. I think because it weighs my eyelids down, they’re just droopy all day. Not a good look. I don’t wear it, ever.

            1. Kat in VA*

              Not offering any makeup suggestions (because you didn’t ask) but I have definitely noticed this between different brands. Being a child who thought it was a good idea to pull out all of my lashes and eyebrow hairs in grade school, mascara (at a minimum) for the office is important to me.

              With that in mind, I’m a bit of a mascara super-consumer because while *this* mascara is lightweight and lengthening, it smudges under my eyes and *that* mascara doesn’t smudge but my god does it feel like a tiny person is standing on my lashes all day long and…yeah. Solidarity.

              I’m still in search of the holy grail that doesn’t smudge, flake, “chip” (little balled up bits on the ends if you apply more than one coat), look like spider leg clumps, or… the list goes on. Someday I shall find it. (And yes, if you make a suggestion, I’ve promise I’ve already bought it and tried it and judged it lacking. I have…a lot of mascara.)

        2. TechWorker*

          I don’t find it that bad but then also realised once (can’t remember how, maybe a mirror angle or photo) that I end up with it only on the bottom half of my eyelashes so maybe I do it badly. I rarely wear make up anyway but agree it’s not the easiest – also a massive pain to take off (and more likely that I’ll look bad the next day from having to scrub around my eyes/ feel like I should cover that a bit… it’s a vicious circle :p)

        3. Koala dreams*

          Mascara is perhaps more complicated than lip balm (which I don’t consider make up personally), but it’s a lot easier than rouge, eye shadow and so on.

          That being said, there are many different ways to look more polished without make up. Accessories, neutral (and matching) clothes, classic shoes… The capsule wardrobe is very trendy, for example, and the whole point of that is to make dressing for work easier.

        4. Falling Diphthong*

          This right here.

          Giant eyelashes are the thing I like least in current makeup trends. “Just do eyelash stuff” would defeat the purpose of being makeupless.

          1. Salymander*

            I can do mascara or eyeliner/eyeshadow if I really want to (hardly ever), but false eyelashes seem like a huge pain. My kid really wanted some, and kept bugging me about it. When they finally bought some, they wore them once and never did again. Too much work, and they took a long time to take off. If kid was more practiced, maybe it wouldn’t take 30 minutes to take them off, but after that kid was not interested in learning. Said they felt like they were wearing butterflies on their eyelids. That sounds pretty, but seems like it wouldn’t feel very nice.

            1. Mannequin*

              30 minutes to them off? I can’t even keep them ON for that long. I’ve used professional glue/techniques, it’s just that any fun occasion where I’d wanna get dressed up in swanky lashes is someplace I’m gonna end up sweaty, and 10 minutes later, lashes are fluttering off my face, LOL.

        5. ThatGirl*

          In my experience, one individual makeup item doesn’t generally take a lot of time and effort, except maybe perfect eyeliner. Mascara takes me the same amount of time as swiping on lipgloss, less time than concealer, etc. But that’s really not the point – if the OP doesn’t want to wear any makeup on a given day, for whatever reason, then “just put on x,y or z” isn’t really an answer.

        6. Ally McBeal*

          It’s not particularly labor intensive to put on, but taking it off is a pain in the butt – especially the waterproof variety.

          1. Observer*

            The thing is that relatively speaking, eye makeup IS labor-intensive, even if it doesn’t take up a huge amount of time. Unless you like taking risks, you need to be stationary. And you pretty much do need a mirror and decent light.

            It’s not an enormous burden, sure. But for someone who doesn’t want to be bothered at all (and who can blame them!) that’s the one item that’s highest on the “be bothered” scale.

        7. Nanani*

          I don’t wear makeup. I am not going to go out and buy “just a little” or learn a skill I never wanted to pick up or spend time every day on something I don’t want to do – not even “just a little”

          In my ideal world, if makeup is required there is a makeup artist on staff. That is, if you’re on camera/on stage or something, there is a professional to do your makeup because you actually do need it.
          If it would be ridiculous to have a makeup department at the job, then makeup isn’t really required is it?

        8. Paris Geller*

          I do wear makeup almost every day by choice (definitely not expected in my job–most of my coworkers don’t) but I hate mascara! I’ve never understood how mascara became the go-to product for looking “a little more put together”–it’s recommended for people who don’t normally wear makeup all the time for job interviews, weddings, etc. in fashion articles and forums. I’ll sometimes wear a tubing mascara but for the most part I don’t think mascara is the quick and easy solution people present it as.

        9. Gracely*

          For real. Mascara is the absolute last makeup I will put on, because no matter what kind (and I have tried everything from drugstore to $$$$ brand given to me by a friend), it creases under my eyes and flakes or rubs into my contact lenses. Even with an eyelash primer, it does that. I reserve it for short events where I know I’ll be photographed. Otherwise, I always, always skip mascara because it is the worst.

          If you want low maintenance make up, concealer (if needed) plus a foundation powder can be done in under two minutes, and that’ll last all day, unlike mascara and lip gloss. Add a lip stain (much longer lasting and just as easy to apply) or eyeliner if you want your lips or eyes to stand out.

          But again, it’s so much easier to just go without any of the above if that’s what you prefer. I suspect LW might need to consistently pick between casual clothes or no make up, since it sounds like they can’t get away with both.

      2. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

        This exactly. I know people are trying to say ‘there are less intensive ways to wear makeup’ because they think of that as a compromise, but it still reinforces the notion that wearing makeup is necessary and wearing no makeup is abnormal.

      3. Gothic Bee*

        So fully agree. I’m tired of “I don’t want to wear makeup” being met with “but what if you did though?”. And I don’t understand why it’s so hard for some people to just not comment anything that isn’t positive about someone else’s face. I mean, unless the person literally looks like they’re about to keel over and you’re trying figure out if you should call emergency services, maybe avoid saying “You look tired” or “Are you sick?”. If someone wants to let you know they’re not feeling well, they’ll tell you.

        1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

          Absolutely, it’s so unhelpful to hear, “You look tired!” Especially when you’re hourly and/or so pressed for time that doing something about being tired isn’t possible. Like, yes, I know I’m tired; however, if I want to get paid this week/if the Thing That Needs Done Now is going to get done, I’m going to need to do my job, even if there are giant purple bags under my eyes and I’d give anything to go home and take a nap right now.

      4. nonegiven*

        Instead of ‘This is what I look like without make-up’ how about, ‘This is what I look like when I wash my face.’

        1. Kat in VA*

          Or even…”This is my face…?” in an inquiring tone, as if you (a) can’t believe you just heard those words fall out of their mouths and (b) what you’re hearing is so outlandish that of course you’re giving the speaker a chance to retract and correct their statement.

    4. The Face*

      that is my full face of makeup and these days only for super-polished occasions. Certainly not something as mundane as a normal work day.

      1. generic_username*

        Haha, same. I put on mascara when I go to weddings or if my husband and I do date-night. Otherwise…. I guess I sometimes put on face lotion.

    5. EPLawyer*

      Nope. I’m a lawyer, where looking polished is kinda expected and other than the first year I have NEVER worn make up. Never got a comment.

      I think Alison is right. If you go back and forth people get confused about the non-make up and think something is wrong. If you really don’t want to wear make up, just … Don’t. But make sure everything else looks clean and neat.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I stopped wearing makeup and styling my hair early on in my current job (the mid-2010s), never got a comment about it. I am in IT though, which certainly helps.

        I used to spend ridiculous amounts of time every morning on my makeup and hair, because I thought I had to do it for work. Nothing like running into a morning standup meeting a minute late because you’d spend all that time doing hair and makeup, and have a team of bald-headed guys scold you for being late again. I used to envy them so much. Turned out, I never had to waste my time on makeup and hair to begin with.

      2. Siege*

        I know my mother intentionally wears a shade of foundation slightly darker than her skin because she is a Scottish-Norwegian creature of the night and her ideal day involves never seeing sunlight, so she’s pretty pale. When she doesn’t wear makeup she looks ill compared to her usual, and it’s so natural people (men) don’t realize she’s wearing it. I suspect Alison is right and it is the contrast. Or the coworkers are judgy jerks, that’s also possible.

        1. Smithy*

          I’m a woman and for me the “omg, are you ok” issue has more often been with women who have pale/blond eye lashes and normally regularly use mascara.

          When I was younger and in an incredibly tiny “the world stops at the end of my nose” way, the idea that there were women out there who wanted to change the color of their eyelashes dramatically never occurred to me. I have one friend in particular where as I’ve known her for years, traveled with her, seen her both with/without makeup a lot more – now I don’t really notice as much of a difference between her with or without mascara. But at first those were changes that were instantly striking to me in a noticeable way.

        2. JustA___*

          OP is lucky that she works mostly with men. As a 20something working almost exclusively with women, when I was swapping between makeup and none (or when I had a migraine coming on, or mentioned feeling not great when I woke up, etc) I got a lot of “it might be morning sickness, haha!” type comments.

    6. wittyrepartee*

      What if she were to like- step down the makeup? Like, remove one item a week for a while until she’s walking around with her nekkid face? Tinted balm is the step right before barefaced. I bet people will comment less, since the transition is gradual.

      1. Broadway Duchess*

        I did this without thinking because I was cutting things from my morning routine and my everyday makeup is fairly natural. No one commented at all until I mentioned it a couple of years later. It was like, “Oh yeah, you did wear makeup when you first started!” Now I do tinted gloss and eyebrows if I have to go into the office. And I love makeup — I’m just lazy!

        I don’t think OP should feel required to wear makeup but I do think the back and forth is what’s driving this. If I was business casual most of the time, then rolled in with a hoodie and jeans, it would be jarring and my colleagues would wonder if everything was okay. If I was in hoodies and jeans all the time, I don’t think they would. And on certain floors/departments in my office, some teams are suuuuuper casual and some are generally business casual, so the mix isn’t unusual there.

      2. JustaTech*

        That’s what I thought Sami was getting at: if the issues is the coworkers reacting to the difference between makeup and no makeup and the LW wants to transition to full-time no makeup without their coworkers being weird (which they shouldn’t be, but people often don’t behave the way we’d like), then stepping down from “makeup” to “tinted lip balm” to “nothing” might ease the transition.

        Of course the LW shouldn’t *have* to do that, but again, there are a lot of things that we do in life that we shouldn’t have to just to make things easier.

    7. Butterfly Counter*

      While I don’t think “wear just a little make up” is a good solution for someone who doesn’t want to wear ANY, has the OP thought about a skin care routine (if they don’t already have one)?

      The one thing I started to do this pandemic was to start making sure my skin was taken care of and well-moisturized. This has resulted in a lot fewer blemishes and a more even complexion, which was usually what I was going for with my make up routine anyway. For me, in the winter, it keeps the acne away and in the summer, it can give me a bit of a glow, even without make up.

      I also personally like the bit of pampering I give myself every day. It’s my 60 second self-care.

      1. Happy*

        OP didn’t ask for skincare recommendations and no one would tell a man he needs to make sure his face is moisturized.

        It’s exhausting the way that when a letter writer brings up not wanting to wear makeup there are always a bunch of other time- and money- consuming alternatives that are brought up in the comments under the guise of helpfulness.

        1. Alpacas are not a Dairy Animal*

          The dudes and dude-adjacent people I know who have gotten into moisturizing are so much happier though. Especially in winter. Maybe we should be telling them!

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          I tell my husband that he needs to make sure his face is moisturized and that he’s wearing SPF all the time, so it does happen. I also didn’t tell OP that this is something that they NEED to do, either, but something to consider since I’ve found a lot of benefit to it and it has the side effect of making it look like I might have put on some makeup, so it might get their coworkers off their back.

          OP can take or leave my free advice for what it’s worth. Skin care to me is gender-neutral.

        3. Tali*

          Because makeup is a range, and if 0 is causing OP problems and she doesn’t want to do 10, maybe she would feel ok with 7, or a 5, or a 3, or a 1.

          And because OP wrote in asking for help. We can’t advise her coworkers to stop being weird, we can only give solutions for her to get what she wants.

          If her office doesn’t require a professional look, she could certainly stop wearing makeup and level up her wardrobe instead from hoodies.

          1. Happy*

            OP is asking whether she needs to wear makeup to be professional. The answer is no!

            She specifically says she prefers not to wear makeup, so saying “maybe just wear a little make up” is disregarding her already clearly stated preference.

            Subtle nudges encouraging people to conform to sexist expectations can add up and they are harmful.

    8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      “popping on lipgloss, tinted lip balm, or mascara” is literally what I wear on the nights I go out. It is far from “no makeup”, mascara is a pain to put on and a bigger pain to remove.

      I also suspect that at OP’s job, a man who’d come into work wearing lipgloss, tinted lip balm, or mascara would be frowned upon, and possibly told to remove all of that. Meaning, this is not about a dress code or professionalism.

    9. Nanani*

      How about she gets to wear no makeup (and not spend money and time on “just a little”) when she wants because its her face?

    10. Katie*

      Two of those (lip gloss, lip balm) are negated if OP is still masking. My new slogan: Masks, not mascara!

    11. Observer*

      OP-1 What about just popping on lipgloss, tinted lip balm, or mascara? Any would show a bit more put together on the days you don’t want to wear any other makeup.

      So basically your “solution” to not wanting to wear makeup is to . . . just wear makeup?

      If you had stuck to tinted lip balm or lip gloss, that would have been one thing. Lip balm is something that a lot of people wear even if they have no interest in makeup per se and it just bout the only item that can be applied without even dealing with a mirror. And for the vast majority of people, lip balm can be inexpensive and has little downside.

      Mascara, on the other hand, is one of the most difficult items of makeup to put on. It’s annoying or actually causes irritation for a lot of people. And it tends to be expensive. There is no “just” about mascara (or most eye makeup, to be honest.)

    12. Eden*

      I think a lot of people are being pretty unfair towards this comment. It seems pretty clear that I miss Sami doesn’t think women are inherently unprofessional for not wearing makeup! I read it as “if you are unhappy with your current situation here is one thing you can try, given our society’s expectations”, but a lot of responses seem to have read it as “if you don’t wear makeup you are unprofessional so git gud” or something.

  4. ala*

    #5 So if I forget to clock out then you just get paid for whatever hours until someone notices? It’s certainly not legal to only adjust down

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      I was thinking the same thing… If I’m supposed to clock out at 5pm, and leave myself clocked in for 15 extra hours while I go home, sleep, and then realize it the next morning, I’m pretty sure any employer won’t pay for that time…

      The only way I can think this would be legal is if they give you a method to fix your own punches, and they’re just saying “You don’t need to go to Lucinda anymore. Just log-in to XYZ system to make your corrections”

      1. I take tea*

        Yes, there needs to be some kind of system to correct occasional mistakes. Our system is really easy to use, but sometimes I hop onto a meeting immediately or have to leave quickly and forget to clock in or out. Or click the wrong button, or something. It’s not because I don’t know how to use it. Users are human, and mistakes happen.

        We can correct things up to a month later ourselves, and our manager will get a notice about it. After that we need to contact a system administrator, but it’s still possible! If someone is using the system wrong, it needs to be addressed with that person, not punishing everybody. If people generally are careless, it can be addressed as “please, be more careful about this, HR has more important work to do”.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          Yeah, I manage at my job and we can adjust timecards for two weeks, and after that, we have to fill out a special paper admitting that we’re monsters who don’t pay attention, but it is totally still doable.

          At ExJob, my boss would put on the door of the break room a list of people weekly that had a missed punch to shame them all.

            1. PT*

              It’s not always a small mistake. I worked several places where we had a LOT of young employees and they would just not punch in or out at all. Or they’d forget to punch in and then punch out, but their out punch registered as an in-punch, so now instead of working 2- 4 hour shifts they’ve worked a 46 hour shift overnight when we were closed. Or they were running late and didn’t want to get caught showing up 45 minutes late to work, so they wouldn’t punch in or out, hoping the boss would just clock them in at their assigned shift time and not the hours worked and not ask the people who were working with them what time they arrived so they wouldn’t lose 45 minutes pay.

              Doing payroll at those places was a NIGHTMARE. Easily 2/3 of the payroll had to be manually corrected by the boss, even before you start including all of the incidents where the app/webapp/software crashed and wouldn’t allow someone to clock in/out if they wanted to. A supervisor could easily spend 90 minutes a day fixing clock in/out issues, and finalizing timesheets to approve it usually took a full workday.

          1. All Het Up About It*

            we have to fill out a special paper admitting that we’re monsters who don’t pay attention, but it is totally still doable.

            This made me laugh! Probably because that’s exactly how I feel whenever we have to do physical paper corrections for time at my office. Even though the system is poorly designed, and doesn’t notify the supervisors of time requests until mid-night each night. So if someone forgets they didn’t put in their time for that Drs. appointment, and does so the day payroll closes, without also emailing their supervisor separately – payroll closes and then we have to fill out the monster forms – because it’s 100% our fault.

        2. Aviation Adjacent Anon*

          This – we are human, the systems we use for tracking are only as perfect as we are. This means that you need some sort of system to fix the inevitable mistakes that will happen.

          Now if the policy is aimed at a handful of chronically unwilling to follow the punch in and out rules, well it’s time to discipline them with consequences, not to set the company up for legal trouble through rules like this.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And as well as any system works, some days s!!! happens. Power goes out, no one can clock out. Someone walks in and sees a major safety hazard, don’t you want them to fix it as soon as possible? If yes, let them fix their clock in time. Someone gets to work 20 minutes early because the option is to be 20 minutes late due to traffic, and is reading the news when the phone rings and it’s a major customer? Is she supposed to go walk to the time clock before logging in?

        1. EPLawyer*

          Yeah stuff happens. Prior to Covid, hubby’s plant used a finger print system to clock in and out. The days that darn thing did not read right was pretty often. So everyone loses out if the system malfunctions?

          1. Where the Orchestra?*

            The younger orchestras once went to a summer camp program that had a similar clock in and out system – and yeah, it failed just as frequently. They kept full paper copies as backup for failed punches.

        2. Noblepower*

          this happens to my department constantly – traffic is so bad here that most of us try to arrive early and then hang out until it’s time to punch in, but then a customer comes in with an emergency right a minute before we can clock in and we jump to it, it can be 2 hours later before we can clock in. Or we bang our heads against a laundry list of quirks and ticks of the system and are unable to clock in or out at the right time. I’m sure this system must make life easier for someone, but it sure isn’t for the bulk of the employees that use it. I’m no Luddite, but I miss the days where I could just put in the time I worked manually…

    2. Your local password resetter*

      I’d assume they would start reprimanding people in that case. This does not sound like a reasonable boss.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      I’m betting what would happen is that HR will correct that to 5pm without being asked by the employee because they don’t want to pay extra. I’m not sure how accurate it would be. It could be fairly accurate at some places where everyone walks out the moment shift ends. Possibly illegal if for example the employee worked longer.

    4. Lucy P*

      I’ve always wondered about this. I have a friend that worked in the hospitality industry for years. They swore that pay was always based on the time clock punches, at one business they worked for. I questioned the legality of it. The business supposedly thought it was fair because everyone was made aware of the policy before the first day of work.

    5. Clefairy*

      Lol I was thinking the same thing- if my job made this rule and I had to stop correcting my employee’s punches, many of my part timers would be getting paid for 50+ hour stretches between their shifts hahaha.

    6. Big Boy Joy*

      I am curious if there’s a chance the communication was only saying the HR partners are not responsible for correcting, but rather the supervisors and managers?

      I work with a large number of non exempt. During our Peak season, I am 1 of 2 HR partners supporting 1000+ non exempt associates. HR is not responsible for correcting missed punches and would only do that in a last resort type situation (sups out of office and HR intervention is only way to get associate paid in time). Sups and managers rely too often on HR for administrative help in my experience, so we have had communications (not to the non exempt workforce, but rather to their exempt leaders) that effectively say “HR is not responsible for time card corrections. You are. If you miss correcting a time card in time it is your responsibility to call payroll to set up a retro payment case”. If non exempt associates come to HR with time card issues we will tell them that their leader is the one to help them, not us.

  5. Magenta Sky*

    OP #5: They may be concerned about audits by the labor board. An excessive number of corrections can easily look like payroll fraud (and such things are pretty common with electronic timeclocks – there have been many lawsuits). Is it possible there’s *been* an audit and they had issues with that?

    Or maybe they’re just not very competent. It can be hard to tell the difference.

    1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      At a past job, they would change time cards (and dock pay) to make it appear that they were following state law for unpaid breaks. It didn’t matter if you worked through the time you were supposed to be on a break, they weren’t going to pay you for it.

      1. Vanilla Bean*

        My employer recently switched to a system that automatically deducts unpaid breaks if the employee doesn’t clock out for one. I live in one of the states where the law is silent on breaks for adults, so the change was not a compliance thing. They claimed so many people were forgetting to clock out for lunch that they added the “feature” to be “helpful”. A manager can override the deduction but it’s a pain. I had employees who would work through lunch by choice, and I refused to require them to take a break they didn’t want, so I had to remember to review their punches every pay period and override any incorrect deductions.

        1. Someone*

          My last job had this feature and it was almost always helpful. Only 2 punches to mess up each day instead of 4.

      2. Cj*

        I was just reading yesterday about nurses at a number of hospitals that have won or settled lawsuits in their favor because their employers were deducting a half hour for lunch even though they weren’t allowed to leave the premises, were required to carry and answer pagers, and were otherwise often interrupted during this time.

    2. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      As an auditor (not for a labor board) it is incredibly simple to put a control in place like: “submit an email to x with your managers approval for any punch changes”. That is helpful if they are concerned about the labor board coming in – they have a trail to follow through technology (or a signed form if the employees don’t have their own email), and the other upside of that is that there is formal tracking of who is requiring fixes and if it is a pattern that should be addressed.

      Whatever the case is, the business has to pay for hours worked.

    3. hbc*

      Yeah, but that’s a reason to get people to make fewer mistakes that need correction, not let errors go uncorrected. Which might mean firing employees who make tons of mistakes*, or finding a way to make them make fewer mistakes, or putting in more work so the audit trail for the fixes is more solid. Threatening them with wage theft (or…to pay them for working all night because they forgot to clock out?) isn’t really a fix.

      *My experience is that the frequent offenders are making “mistakes” when the time they would actually punch in/out would look bad. Better to claim to have forgotten to punch in at 8:00 than actually punch in at 8:21. This is probably what management thinks is happening, which is why they think it’s not so bad to threaten that guy with a later-than-8:00 start time.

      1. NewYork*

        Very good comment. It is always a few people who ruin things for everyone else. I know a company that said after 3 fails to clock in, you would no longer be entitled to a direct deposit, you would get a paper check. The fails to clock in stopped

        1. AnonInCanada*

          Now that’s forward thinking! You want to keep “forgetting” to punch in and cause more work for payroll, HR and your manager(s)? Have fun having to wait for your cheque at the end of the day on payday rather than have your pay direct deposited first thing in the morning. And the inevitable 5-day hold on your cheque the bank will put on it.

        2. Your Local Password Resetter*

          Hm. I’m not a fan of messing with people’s paycheck as punishment. That feels more like petty retaliation than actually handling the problem (and punishes people who make honest mistakes or can’t do it due to circumstances).

          1. Gumby*

            It seems reasonable to me. They are still getting paid, on the right day, and the right amount. It’s just a little inconvenient.

            Plus, it completely makes sense that when you clock in and out correctly, that information is readily and easily sent to whoever handles direct deposit – which has to be done several days in advance. If your mistakes have to be fixed that causes a delay – said delay means your info misses the deadline for submitting direct deposit info and instead have to go with a paper check. This is natural consequences for your actions. Instead of making the payroll team work overtime to chase down errors in time to make the deadline, the actual people who cause the problem get a minor inconvenience. Honest mistakes are accommodated in the fact that you get 3 ‘failure to clock ins’ before the consequence kicks in. I suspect that there was also some sort of time limit, so if you worked there 5 years and had a fourth they wouldn’t necessarily switch you to paper checks. The fact that having to deal with the consequences all of a sudden made the “mistakes” disappear is also a clear indication that these were less “mistakes” and more “can’t be bothereds” or “trying to hide things.”

        3. Observer*

          It is always a few people who ruin things for everyone else.

          No, that’s not applicable here. Even if there are a few people abusing the system, which may or may not be the case, this is a bad and illegal way to handle the problem.

          I know a company that said after 3 fails to clock in, you would no longer be entitled to a direct deposit, you would get a paper check

          This is an excellent idea.

      2. Stigma-sucks*

        I could see a situation where someone with ADHD would have an issue remembering to clock in or out every day and NOT because they were fudging hours. Seems a bit discriminatory to penalize or fire a nerodivergebt person over it, especially considering the huge number of undiagnosed people are struggling with ADHD and dine even realise. Just something to be aware of.

        1. Vanilla Bean*

          You can absolutely discipline someone with ADHD if their disorder affects their work. Accurate timekeeping is important and there are tools and coping mechanisms a person with a ADHD brain can use to help them remember to clock in and out when they’re supposed to.

        2. Amethystmoon*

          I’ve had coworkers who set an alarm on their cell phones for ending time so they remembered to punch out. It may be a tip for people who have trouble remembering. Or just set it in Outlook.

    4. Purple Cat*

      I work for a fairly large org and HR doesn’t do the timecard corrections except for exceptional instances. The supervisors can make corrections when they approve the timesheets. Maybe LW5 just skipped to the nuclear option of no corrections without thinking of an interim step. You don’t want one person in payroll spending their whole time fixing timesheets.

      1. Mimi*

        When I was hourly, HR never fixed my timesheet, except maybe once when some leave got miscategorized. I fixed it, or my supervisor did. (I didn’t have to clock in and out, just submit my hours, but I’m pretty sure the managers of part-time workers who did have to clock in and out could also adjust their timesheets as need be.)

    5. generic_username*

      Yeah, this looks to me like a company that is making a baseless threat, and will make an “exception” for people when it happens.

    6. Observer*

      Or maybe they’re just not very competent.

      That’s for sure – even if there had been an audit with problems, this is still the absolutely worst way to manage it.

    7. Oakenfield*

      If you have record of the reason for the adjustments, there is no concern for the audit. Time card adjustments on punch clocks are extremely common. People just can’t manage punch clocks.

  6. RedinSC*

    LW1, I ask as a person who really has terrible allergies to perfumes to go lightly on the perfume at work. I don’t think scent makes one more professional, just like makeup doesn’t. It’s not necessary and can actually be problematic for people.

    Plea done, agree that it’s probably the contrast that people are noticing. Not that you’re looking unprofessional. Go a week with no makeup and people will probably stop commenting on the difference all together.

    1. Pennyworth*

      There is an old saying that your perfume should be so sparingly applied that only someone kissing you can notice it.

      1. I take tea*

        Oh, yes please! Perfume certainly shouldn’t be noticed outside of your personal sphere. And it goes for every scent, I have neighbors whose detergent/rinse is so perfumed that I can notice it in the elevator long after them. In person it’s unbearable.

  7. Gingerbread Gnome*

    Official paycheck – Yes, you should really be getting a paycheck in your name. Also, both of you should be listed as owners on the business, taxes, and bank account. It may be a little bit of effort now, but if one of you is ever incapacitated the headaches can be huge.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. All marriages end eventually, either by one spouse’s death, or in divorce. It’s much harder to separate your finances when the other party doesn’t want to do it. It’s not safe to assume your marriage can’t end, and it’s always the person who’s financially in a weaker position who loses out on having joint finances.

      I’m cynical on this, though, and would never agree to joint finances with anyone in the first place, so I guess YMMV. (My husband and I pay our bills from a joint account, and we have power of attorney to handle each other’s affairs if we get incapacitated, but other than that, our finances are separate.)

      1. Harper the Other One*

        My husband and I do have joint finances, but I still think this seems like a really dangerous position for the LW to be in. It appears that she has no claim on the business, no official paycheque, no record that she’s a part of the business at all.

        They should think about getting her name on these things the same way we think about life insurance: you’re not assuming a tragedy will occur, but ensuring that in the case of one, everyone is protected.

        1. WellRed2020*

          Joint finances, sure, but this is putting all the finances in one person’s name. Not. Good.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            Oh, absolutely not. I just wanted to say that even for someone who trusts their partner enough to have ALL the money in one pot, this strikes me as a dangerous plan.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              Even when the trust is justified – people die. If the survivor has no financial records in their name, it can be difficult to establish credit on their own, even if they were the person who did all the financial management in the marriage.

              Back when my parents married, my mom wasn’t allowed to keep a credit card in her own name. She had to go as a secondary account on my dad’s card. (By not allowed, I mean when she went to change her name on the card after marriage, the bank revoked it and made her switch). She was a stay-at-home mother, and the one who managed the family’s budget and financial paperwork. 35 years later, when he died suddenly, she was lucky to have an excellent financial manager who was able to get her a credit card in her own name with a reasonable limit. A lifetime of responsible financial behaviour didn’t count, because it wasn’t in her name.

              1. Esmeralda*

                I remember when my mom was finally able to get a credit card in her own name — it was a big deal. I was in junior high, early 1970s.

              2. PT*

                Authorized users (a credit card on someone else’s account) now count towards someone’s credit history.

            2. pancakes*

              Trust is beside the point, or should be. None of us can reasonably trust that we will never be in an accident or develop an illness or disability severe enough to keep us from working.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah, I initially read it as the checks they issue were all in spouse’s name, which seemed not a biggie. But the checks they receive? Change those to be correct asap.

          And OP, I have been married a long time and completely get how you set something up and it’s working fine so there is never the impetus to change it, and you can intend to do so but be busy with Little League stuff and Nana’s illness and tell yourself in a few months you’ll look at it… But this is something you should make the effort to change.

      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Paradoxically, I also think it’s one of those things that’s an indicator of a healthy relationship. In my experience, relationships where each partner has a degree of financial indepedence (and this can be organised even in a partneship where one is a stay-at-home parent or similar) tend to be healthy and grounded.

        And if one party balks at the idea of financial indepedence, that’s a red flag for sure.

        1. Gingerbread Gnome*

          Oh, yuppity, yup, yup, yup. This is a case of if you have it you likely won’t need it, but if you don’t something will go really wrong and you sunk.

      3. alienor*

        It’s a terrible idea for any adult to be financially dependent on another adult, at least past student age. I saw it go spectacularly wrong in my parents’ marriage, so when I got married myself, it was separate bank accounts and credit cards all the way (we also had a joint bank account for bills). Somehow my mother came out of a disastrous situation and went straight into another marriage where she relied on her husband to support her, but it’s lasted 35 years, so I guess she lucked out the second time. I’d never have been that trusting, though.

    2. Thistle Whistle*

      You need to think of what not having paid tax will impact. Do payroll contributions impact prnsions/benefits/other entitlements where you stay?

      In the UK, your state pension is tied to payroll contributions. Here people (mainly women) who unofficially helped out with family businesses lost out because they never made contributions so didn’t get a pension. Often they never thought about their own earning records or making voluntary contributions.

      Never assume someone else will look after you out of the goodness of their heart.

      1. MK*

        A spouse assuring the financial security of their stay-at-home partner isn’t doing it out if the goodness of their heart. They are full filling their part of the bargain.

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          I think what Thistle Whistle means by that phrase is: “make sure you have the rules on your side and not just the good faith of another party”.

          Also a woman helping out with a family buisness isn’t a stay-at-home partner; they’re a working partner and the financials should indicate that.

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah, the point (from a UK perspective anyway) is that if the OP isn’t officially working then they’re not making National Insurance contributions and that will mean they’re also not entitled to a full state pension when they’re older. So it’s not just a case of ‘does it really matter if all the money goes into our joint account anyway’, it’s a case of ‘if she’s working then she needs to be on the payroll and paying tax and NI so that she’s entitled to a proper pension’.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes. I’ve known a couple of older women who worked in a family business but didn’t formalise things so they made no NICs and then suffered for it as pensioners. It’s much better to make sure things are properly recorded.

            2. Nancy in Scotland*

              Well, I think that – in the UK – if she’s claiming child benefit (or has signed up to the child benefit website but isn’t claiming because her partner earns over £50,000), that counts as contributing to NI, as long as she has a child under 12. It’s something that I looked at for myself fairly recently. But I agree, in general if you’re not working, you’re not contributing to NI.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I was struck by the phrase “sometime when I rejoin the workforce.” You’re in the workforce now, OP!

            1. EPLawyer*

              Oh THANK YOU.

              If you are doing all the work of the business, you ARE working. get those checks in YOUR name for the work YOU do. Your husband is getting paid for YOUR work.

              I know it made sense at the time, but based on what is actually happening, it doesn’t make sense any more.

        2. Hekko*

          The spouse may die at any moment, leaving the stay-at-home partner to fend for themselves.

          If that is at the moment that they are both elderly and living off of savings and the income-spouse’s pension, the other one is thoroughly screwed – they may not have an immediate access to the savings, the pension stops, and they are old now (not to mention don’t have a work history to help with a job search). And women statistically live longer than men.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            Don’t most pensions and Social Security have survivor benefits as well? Like… my abuelo was Colombian military, and my abuela was going to the embassy to prove she was still alive to get that pension 20 years after he died. I mean, I think we’re talking like- $100 a month or something, but they paid up.

            1. Gracely*

              SS survivor benefits for spouses are usually smaller than the ones you earn yourself, at least in the US. And unless you are 60 (50 with a disability), spouses only get a lump sum of $255 unless they’re also caring for the deceased’s kid.

              No kids, under 60 (or 50)? You’re screwed.


              1. Cj*

                SS survivor benefits aren’t meant for a surviving spouse that doesn’t have dependents until they retire themselves. Since SS is meant for retirement, I’m not sure why you say you are screwed if you are under 60, as that is not who SS is meant for.

                When they do retire, they will be able to collect what the deceased would have if they were the higher earner. But even if the deceased earned more while they were alive, if they died relatively young, your own benefit may be higher. If you are already collecting SS when your spouse dies, you benefits will be bumped up to what your spouse’s was if it was higher.

      2. Asenath*

        Yes, that’s also the case in Canada. Always make sure you’re on the books, and that you and your employer (even, or especially if it’s a family business) is paying into the appropriate programs.

        Well, unless it’s actually a criminal enterprise, I suppose. But mostly this unofficial job thing is women who think of what they’re doing as helping out their family and not as a way to protect themselves in the future by paying into a pension plan, unemployment insurance, and worker’s comp.

      3. Hannah Lee*

        In my state, many benefits, eligibility for certain programs are all tied to earnings records.

        Can’t work because you’re sick? Paid medical leave eligibility is based on whether you earned income in the prior period, and the amount paid per week is calculated based on what your standard rate of pay is.
        Same with unemployment benefits or COVID leave because you’re sick, or you’re caring for someone who’s sick, or have to stay at home with your kid because their school shut down.

        Do you or your husband have short-term or long-term disability insurance? If so, take a look at the policies … the benefits paid in the event of a disability (including a permanent one) are often based on your standard pay rate. No income means no benefit, or a minimal, rock bottom one. If you were to become disabled, would that money be enough to support you? Or at least enough between you and your husband could afford to keep the business that supports you both open (ie to pay someone else to do all the work you’re currently doing?)

        As a business owner*, you don’t have to pay yourself if you don’t want … you’re not subject to paying yourself a minimum wage for hours worked. But you not drawing any pay can have consequences you haven’t considered. (others have pointed out the absence of contributions in your name into the SS system or income into any credit reporting)

        * I’m assuming you’re legally named as one of the business owners. If not, address that too, without delay.

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      It may be a little bit of effort now, but if one of you is ever incapacitated the headaches can be huge.

      Yes. This is one of those things that doesn’t matter unless it does — and then it really, really matters.

    4. Love WFH*

      There are _very_ different norms about makeup. For me and many of my friends, putting on mascara would be a big deal. I don’t think I’ve worn it in decades, and the last time that I did, I found it quite uncomfortable.

      I’ve never used foundation.

      There are different norms about makeup in different communities. When I was in London 5 years ago, my husband and I noticed how much more makeup women were wearing than we were used to seeing.

      In different parts of the States, you’ll see more or less makeup.

      1. londonedit*

        Interesting – if you think women in London wear a lot of make-up, you should go to some of the cities and towns in the north of England! I know people from Liverpool who are aghast that people in London would go out on a Saturday night wearing casual clothes because up there it isn’t a proper night out unless you’re dressed up to the nines, you’ve had your hair done and you’re wearing full make-up, false lashes, etc etc. There’s also much more of a trend for make-up among younger people in the UK – I’m 40 and most of my friends wear basic/minimal make-up, but it’s more common for people in their teens and twenties who have grown up with the whole YouTube make-up star thing to do all the contouring and have huge eyebrows and wear false lashes and whatnot.

  8. Miss Chanadler Bong*

    OP #2 As a 20 something worker, for the love of god, please tell your bosses that candy dispenser machines aren’t the way to get young people in the office. My company tried out these “fun” things and all us young employees did was complain to each other about how stupid it was.

    In addition to Alison’s points, tuition reimbursement is a huge reason I’m still with my company, as is the fact that I’m 100% remote.

    Also, fix those issues with your building. That’s not a healthy work environment. If you asked me to come into the office for any amount of time, I’d say no if you can’t get your AC working.

    1. Jopestus*

      28y here. I agree. As i read the letter i got that bored “are you serious”-face and slowly fell to complete facepalm. People work for those green(or whatever they are in any location) rectangle pieces of paper that are printed by the government. Everything else is secondary.

      Get pay to be such that the buying power is nice, workload in appropriate scale and management that does not produce a massive amount of bull manure and there will be an influx of workers. If there is no newcomers who want to be there, then one or more of these is not as well done as the leadership thinks.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        “People work for those green(or whatever they are in any location) rectangle pieces of paper that are printed by the government. Everything else is secondary.”

        And OP’s place’s idea of work perks is to put in coffee machines, snack stations, candy machines etc and make it the employees’ job to restock them. The end result of their changes will be fewer of those rectangle pieces of paper to take home, and this is presented as a fun thing meant to attract people to working there. My brain explodes at the irony.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      As an avid gamer geek (though can’t qualify as young) the prospect of sweets and games at the office would…

      …just annoy me really. That kinda stuff is for when I’m at home and not on the clock. It’s how I wind down out of the ‘work mode’. Yes the coffee machine in our office is unbelievably disgusting (heavy engineering gotta love it) but it’s free and the company restocks it.

      They did enforce a lot of safety measures though and that did entice people back. People wanted to be safe, not see some sweets while worrying about coughing up a lung.

      1. Kal*

        As an avid gamer geek who only fairly recently crossed the 30 threshold, the idea of a game console and candy to entice workers makes me wonder if they’re trying to employ 12 year olds. Kids are the ones who flock to whatever house has the cool stuff they don’t have at their house. Adults want money so they can buy the shit they need and also some fun stuff they decide to get, and want to get that money in a place that isn’t hurting them or making them sick from environmental causes and/or stress.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          Right. I’m an avid gamer myself who is just shy of 35, and I love my candy, snacks, and coffee. It’s nice when these things are available, but they are not a replacement for actual benefits, an adequate paycheck, life-work balance, or healthy and safe work environments, among other things.

          1. Mimi*

            My new job does not have soda taps, cold brew coffee, a gaming room, or nearly as many snacks, but it does have professional development, documented processes, a good work-life balance, and a nice team culture. Yes, whenever I go back to the office regularly, I’ll miss the snacks. But I can afford to buy my own fresh fruit, and when leaving my old job, the snacks did not even factor into my decision-making.

          2. JM60*

            And it sounds like the OP’s employer wouldn’t even be providing the candy/snacks/coffee, only the dispensers to hold them and the machine to brew the coffee. That’s not really a perk.

            I too like gaming, but I wouldn’t want to do it at the office for a variety of reasons. I prefer to play when chilling at home, I usually prefer single-player adventures, and I also sometimes like to play with NSFW mods installed (which I obviously can’t do at work).

        2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Yeah, I’m over 40 and any ‘we have gaming consoles!’ as a benefit thing at a company is a red warning flag to me that they don’t have the slightest idea what they’re doing.

          Paid sick leave, decent amount of holiday, actually providing a safe working environment…that I appreciate more.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I am an IT professional who lived through several “tech booms” and to me, “we have (gaming anything/a bar/beer in the fridge/etc)” is code for “you’ll be working ridiculous hours when you work for us, here’s some of what we thought you might miss after you haven’t been home for a week, except to crash for five hours before quickly showering and heading back”.

            1. Siege*

              Yep, this is exactly what I was alluding to in my comment below. Work is a place I go to and from, not the place I live.

            2. OP 2*

              That was my first thought too. And we definitely do not have that culture here. That’s why I thought it was so odd. Are we just supposed to play it during lunch? No thanks!

            3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Agreed. Been in IT nearly 20 years now and anything that even hints of the ‘video game developers office culture’ is something I will run far away from. Because it does mean ‘100 hour work weeks’

          2. Siege*

            Beer Friday is a hard no for me. I’m pretty sure I don’t qualify as young any more, but when I was under 35, there were a lot of jobs trying to emulate tech without considering why tech does what it does (not for the benefit of the employees, spoiler) and I’m hugely jaded about companies that offer sub-par leave and low salaries but have a “fun!” culture, with video games and beer fridges and open-concept offices. I’d rather have more pay and leave and the tools I need to do my job.

            As a general note, as well, I do Toastmasters as a hobby. They recently shifted to an all-digital educational platform because millenniallyallyalls like things that are digital. Surprising no one who knows or is a millennial, the concomitant increased brand strictness and lack of clear messaging mean that it has not rained millennials into Toastmasters just because it’s all digital now. Your leadership would benefit from thinking through better ways to attract younger workers, and those should be substantive. Even if they aren’t direct pay and leave, better benefits, tuition reimbursement, and other changes are going to matter more than video games. (But first make your workplace safe! I would be job-hunting if physical comfort and safety was that low a priority.)

            1. PT*

              I temped at a startup that did a Friday Happy Hour meeting (5-6 or 6-7 pm) and it irritated me to no end that they’d ply people with booze and then a chunk of them would go drive home.

              Also they didn’t bother timing it to the train schedule, so those of us who took commuter rail vs. subway would miss the last express train and get stuck taking a local, which doubled most people’s commute length.

          3. Nessun*

            I’m over 40 and we have gaming consoles in the common area/lunchroom for our company. We never point them out as a benefit – they’re just something that you notice when you’re in the lunchroom and the odd couple of people decides to play. When someone signs on, they get pointed out as part of the uses for the room. What we do note as benefits? Pension, RRSP, sick leave, vacation time, medical/dental/adoption/transition, etc. support. A game console isn’t a benefit; it’s a toy (and I love mine, but I’m not basing my employment choices on one.)

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          Okay, when my son was twelve this would have been on point as a way to entice him and his friends to work for you, so long as you wanted them to do nothing but play car soccer all day.

          They would assume their parents were refilling the candy jars.

        4. EPLawyer*

          It’s an older person’s view of what those “darn millenials” want. Without putting thought into what actual 20 somethings WHO ARE NOT MILLENIALS actually want.

          They are remote now. They WANT TO STAY REMOTE. If that is not possible, all the candy and games in the world is not going to make them happy about coming back to a cold/sweltering building.

          1. Ama*

            This. My father just retired this month, and he noted last fall that his office (which is in an area where people mostly pretend the pandemic isn’t happening) had made their hybrid work schedule permanent as a way to attract new hires and it was working. He’s in an industry where the competition for new college grads can be really fierce and his firm, which is smaller than some of their main competitors, noticed that if they offered a hybrid schedule candidates were more frequently choosing them over competitors that offered higher salaries but were making everyone come back to the office full-time.

          2. L.H. Puttgrass*

            YES. I don’t want to work in an office with all the comforts of home; I want to work at home.

            Besides, unless my cats can go to the office with me (and trust me, they don’t want to make the commute even more than I don’t want to), the office will never have all the comforts of home.

            1. Kyrielle*

              I’m also pretty sure that Facilities would not be pleased if I burned my lovely scented candle in my office. Neither would any coworker also in the office who had a scent sensitivity. At home, however, if I want to flood the room with pseudo-lilac perfume, I can. (Subject to the tolerance of others living in this house, but I’m the only one with allergies, and they’re the ones who got me scented candles for the holidays, so I think we’re good.)

          3. WFH - A Hill to Die On*


            I’m an older person who also agrees with this. I work on a team with a few millenials and mostly older people and with only one exception we ALL want to stay remote forever. So many people enjoy this and I’m amazed that employers don’t get this.

            Years ago I worked for two companies back to back that had fun perks like free food, free beer, yoga classes, bring your dog in days, etc. Even then, the perk that was most appreciated was work from home days.

        5. Phoenix Wright*

          Exactly. I’d rather be paid enough so I can afford the console myself, and have good work-life balance that I can be back home at a reasonable hour to play with it.

          That said, I’m partial to having table football, but that’s because you can play a quick match in a few minutes on a break if you’re not busy, or right before leaving for the day. With video games you’d have to wait for loading screens or patches to download, which seems kinda silly but would end up being a considerable waste of time, so it makes even less sense to have consoles at the office. Not to mention that you’re supposed to actually work while you’re there, so it’s hard to imagine when you’d have the time to read a 60 hours visual novel or complete the Mass Effect remasters at work.

      2. Midwestern Scientist*

        The floor below me bought a ping pong table in the last few months. Some of them seem to enjoy it, but for the rest of us… Lots of eye rolling, conversations about who has time to play games while at work, and it’s pretty annoying to eat lunch with the sound of the ping pong ball in the background (our common areas are open floor plan on each floor centered around an open staircase)

        1. Malarkey01*

          This! Back in my 20s I worked at a place that put in a pool table and gaming system and instead of motivating us, it turned into a huge demotivation for the 95% of us who walked by and saw the other 5% on it all.the.time. I wasn’t old school thinking butt must be in the seat to be working, but seeing people have that much time on their hands was really frustrating. After cracking down on it, we all just walked by the unused stuff and shook our heads at the waste and reminded us that we didn’t have even 15 minutes to take a break.

          Comfortable chairs and adequate supplies including technology was a much bigger perk at my next job.

          1. NotRealAnonForThis*

            I’m mind boggled that “comfortable chairs” and “adequate supplies” were seen as “perks”. Its frustrating because these should be the bare minimum provided!

        2. Lentils*

          I worked at a place where the break room had both a pool table and Rock Band! …and no door. It was the only room in the (open plan) office with no door. I was “lucky” enough to sit right next to it and you’d better believe those got a lot of use on Fridays. I was working as a transcriber at the time so you can imagine how well that went. /s

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I think there’s a segment of the older adult population that has no idea how jaded and cynical people under 40 can be. We’ve been targeted by advertisers all our lives, we know when we’re being bullshat. Most of us are also keenly aware that offices with video game systems and foosball tables and napping stations provide those things because they want to give us reasons not to go home so we can stick around and keep working.

        Things that attract the under 40 crowd? Fairness, transparency, pay that allows us to cover all our expenses, and the knowledge that our concerns will be taken seriously and addressed by management. If I went for an interview at a company where the parking lot was icy and unsafe and all the staff were bundled up because the heat wasn’t working, but they had an x box and a coffee bar, I’d immediately clock that their priorities were in the wrong order and that it’s unlikely I’d be provided with the things I needed to be successful at my job. It would be an automatic no.

        1. JustaTech*

          Exactly. When the head of one lab in my department asked for permission to buy a cot for his lab everyone in his lab (and the rest of the labs in solidarity) cried foul, because it was obvious to everyone that what he wanted was to be able to run giant experiments that took so long that you would have to stay overnight with the instruments, making sure nothing broke.

          Everyone in that group was a millennial or Gen X-er. No one thought it was a “perk”.

          A safe workplace is not a “perk”, it’s a requirement.

        2. pancakes*

          Gen-x here. This isn’t new news to me. For the people my age who don’t seem to get it, you can attribute that to their politics, not their age.

      4. Golden*

        28 year old gamer here. I don’t want to play games at work. I want to play the new Elden Ring on my nice PC at home infinitely more than I want to use the scratched up, greasy Switch lite that only has Mario Kart probably found at those workplaces that offer videogames as a perk.

        A job that pays well and gives me the resources to do a good job at work and be excited to return the next day is a much better perk than videogames, even for an avid player!

        1. Aerin*

          Plus, modern video games aren’t really like arcades where you can just pop on and play for a bit? If I get my job’s blessing to dink around in Animal Crossing in my downtime, I have to do it on my own Switch. Even stuff like Smash Bros that’s meant to be easy to pick up, most of the content has to be unlocked.

          Even if they did have it set up so I could, like, login to my Steam account and have it actually work well, I’m not sure they really want me down there swearing loudly at Hollow Knight because I got squished by the last &#*@#*! piston and have to start over eight rooms back.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            I just imagined how much of IT would actually be at their desks if we had, say, something with Stardew Valley or Skyrim installed on it to use…

            …none. Including me….

        2. Ama*

          You can always tell that the management who thinks of “let’s give employees video games” does not actually know anything about the depth and variety of the current gaming culture. The games I like to play (puzzle games and life sims) are very different from the games my husband plays (RPGs and competitive shooters), and that’s not even getting into PC vs console games (and then which console? some games are only available on one of them).

          Also we’re both in our 40s and have been playing video games all our lives, so management that thinks video games are only for “young” people are already pretty out of touch.

          1. AnonAnonAnon*

            I’m 55, and I know tons of people within 10 years of me in both directions that quietly enjoy playing videogames for fun & relaxation. We’re the generations that grew up with Pong, Atari 2600, & original Nintendo; the first home computers; and pop culture phenomena like Star Wars or D&D.

            And the variety of games available now is ludicrous, LOL. Anyone of any age whose interested in playing a videogame can almost certainly find one to their liking. My husband owns over 1k games through Steam alone, and there is some really weird/niche/hysterically funny stuff out there! LOL

      5. Cheap Ass Rolex*

        Puss in a company that thinks a console will attract the youngs is one that would penalize them for actually using it- they’d get comments about slacking off, I’m sure.

        How would that even work? Am I supposed to stay at work till like 8pm because I decided to play Skyrim after lunch? The whole thing seems completely half baked.

      6. R*

        Yeah I’m generally juggling a few videogames at once, generally epic 100-plus RPGs, the more graph paper and hand drawn maps you need the better. If an employee tried to woo me with a PS4 with a couple of old sports games and a Call of Duty, I’d probably end up laughing at how adorable the sentiment was.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      Things like decent coffee, and a selection of snacks and beverages, would likely be a appreciated (I wouldn’t know – my employer is legally prohibited from providing them). But that would be after things like fixing the heating and A/C, cleaning on a regular basis and making the parking lot safe to park in.

      Other things that might be an incentive for in office work – flex hours, free lunches, private offices, the ability to have packages delivered to the office. Or just offer higher salaries or bonuses for in office work, if it’s more valuable.

      If I see a workplace providing things like gaming systems, beer kegs, free dinner (outside of unusual crunch times), on site laundry or napping pods, my assumption is not that it’s a hip, cool place to work, but that I’m going to be expected to spend all of my waking hours (and some of my sleeping ones) at the office.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Agreed. These “perks” are a small red flag for terrible work-life balance.

        Flexible hybrid working and good PTO are the opposite.

      2. TiredEmployee*

        Pre-pandemic my workplace provided fresh fruit, biscuits, and the usual tea and coffee. I’ve not been back yet, so I’m not sure how much they still are, but I definitely appreciated an apple or a biscuit when I started to get that afternoon slump. There’s also a periodic “breakfast event” in the office kitchen previously including homemade breads with jams, small pastries, muesli bits with small fruits (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries kind of thing) that starts 15min early for the usual workday and runs for 45 minutes. It’s branded as face-time with one of the two top-level people in the company, but it’s very informal and a small company so that branding is mostly for fun. For the people who like it, it definitely feels like a treat.

        The building has also had comically frequent issues with air conditioning, heating, lifts being non-functional, there was a small flood through the ceiling once… I’m friendly with our internal facilities coordinator people so I’m privy to how many external roadblocks there have been to get them fixed (literal years so far), but I think a generally happy staff moaning about the latest building problem is better than a thoroughly demoralised staff seething about the latest out-of-touch move the CEO is trying for the benefit of people who aren’t the existing staff. And for the love of god make sure the carpark is safe!

      3. LifeBeforeCorona*

        My workplace allows for personal deliveries to the office including groceries. It’s a perk that doesn’t cost them anything but one that people really appreciate in this age of package thieves and not wanting to spend time in stores shopping.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Agreed. Although ours just got taken away because someone in another department really took the p*ss and got an entire set of garden furniture delivered to the office…

          1. Texan In Exile*

            Now they have to figure out how to move it from the office to home. Not seeing how having it delivered to work solves any problems.

          2. Mimi*


            That just sounds inconvenient. Dragging the item home is the part I’m trying to avoid by getting it shipped.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              I asked them when they logged a system ticket for an issue unrelated. The ‘logic’ went: “I can’t be at home those days for delivery, therefore I get it delivered to where I am!”. And he completely misread the dimensions of the furniture too – it certainly did not fit in his little 3 door hatchback to take home…

              (Kind of end user who’ll shut down their PC by yanking the plug out of the wall and then logs calls with us when the thing finally falls over. Brilliant at his actual job, but there’s a logic fail somewhere)

      4. birch*

        YEP. This is just a big red flag saying employees are expected to have no life or identity that isn’t connected to their employer.

      5. Guacamole Bob*

        I work in a government office that’s currently in renovations and largely empty due to covid, and I would definitely appreciate an office that had coffee and tea available, decent drinking water on my floor (the “water club” that paid for a water cooler in my part of the office got disbanded during covid and now I have to go downstairs to refill my water bottle), the ability to find a plastic fork anywhere in the building if you forgot to pack one for your lunch, etc.

        But I agree all of that is secondary to paying well, functional HVAC, and flexibility on schedules and work from home, and other fundamentals.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          The topic of government offices not providing good drinking water will never not make me angry.

          But for the rest of the things you mention, I agree those are things that would be nice to have but don’t take precedence over things like a functioning HVAC system and good pay and schedules.

          1. Esmae*

            I have been asking for a water cooler in the staff area at my public library for YEARS. At this point, if they offered me a water cooler in lieu of a pay raise, I wouldn’t accept it but I honestly would think about it for a minute. Just let us have cold water!

        2. CoveredinBees*

          Ahhh, the bizarre restrictions of government work. We can’t look like we’re wasting taxpayer money on basic office things like a $20 coffee maker. A group of us had a “coffee club” at work but could only use a French press because it had to get hidden when not in use. Granted, it probably made better coffee than a cheap machine but the whole thing was ridiculous.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Yeah, there are restrictions on electrical appliances in our office at the moment, so coffee makers and water coolers aren’t allowed and they have cracked down on minifridges and microwaves that individual teams have brought in. Having water, coffee, storing and heating up lunch, and other basic functions be a pain in the neck is not great for my morale and for my desire to go into the office.

        3. Sloan Kittering*

          Yeah, to me something like decent coffee is a reflection of the office culture, but I don’t view it as a “perk” in the way I view, ya know, insurance. Not having a stocked coffee machine sends a signal about management’s opinions toward the comfort of employees (to me) and combined with the stuff OP mentions like the unmanaged parking lot, this is a bad sign; people may leave a job sooner when the culture is one of not caring about employees. But … that’s not a recruitment perk to attract young employees! One of my first jobs had generous 401K contribution – not match – that did not have a vesting period. THAT was a selling point to me at 26 trying to decide what job I wanted to take.

          Sweets in the break room, LMAO. I’m not a six year old.

          1. Siege*

            I pretty much AM a six year old (my office decor is literally Unicorn Art Through The Decades because of a joke with a coworker) and I would still rather have a 401k than candy. I can buy candy, I can’t buy employee contribution or match.

          2. Guacamole Bob*


            Not every company needs to work in Class A luxury office space and have free catered lunch every day. But a culture of basic respect for employee safety and comfort should be a minimum – does management care about things like working HVAC (during an airborne pandemic!) and bathroom access and parking lot safety and emptying the trash regularly? If you aren’t meeting that threshold, all the “hip” add-ons in the world can’t make up for it.

          3. Ama*

            I worked at a university that was pretty consistently below market on salary (we were also in a very high COL area), but one amazing perk they had for younger employees was that, if you were below 35 and enrolled in their 403b, they would “match” 1% of your salary without you having to actually contribute anything. (They badly needed younger people in their retirement plan because they had a surplus of older faculty and staff who would be eligible to withdraw funds in the next decade or so.)

            I was enrolled in the plan from age 28 to 33 and left with about $15,000 in a retirement account that was basically free money.

            1. Sloan Kittering*

              Yes, this was the plan I had to. It was a contribution without a match, and no vesting period. That definitely sent a signal about valuing employees, and was critical for younger people who now get all the benefits of compounding interest without having to squeeze their meager salaries.

      6. Elenna*

        Yes. Like, by itself a candy machine sounds nice enough. (A gaming system, on the other hand… when are you supposed to use it? Presumably not while working? At lunch? I want to actually eat my lunch during lunch, I’m hungry!)

        But the thing is, if my well-run, decent office provided a candy machine (before we were all WFH), I’d be like “cool, that’s nice of them”. But that’s because my office already has the basics of being a decent workplace down. If I worked in OP’s office and they provided a candy machine while having broken heating and an unsafe parking lot and whatever else, I would just be even more pissed because it would be clear that they had no sense of priorities and/or didn’t care about my safety.

    4. Violet Fox*

      Tell them to fix the building, fix the parking lot so it isn’t a constant sheet of ice, have good lighting, good air quality.

      Good benefits, and a stable and functional work environment are all things that go far, as well as competitive wages.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        To be fair, these things aren’t likely to mean you’ll get younger applicants or hire younger employees – they’re just like, the bare minimum of what an office needs to do. If you can’t afford to maintain building space, remote work may be the best alternative.

    5. book of calm*

      +1 tuition reimbursement. If you want to appeal to younger employees specifically, this is the perk you want.

      Otherwise, younger employees want the same things as older employees, like working AC and heat.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        +1 my old job had a loan repayment program *as well* as a tuition program, so folks either paying for past schooling or pursuing additional schooling had an incentive to stick around (and there was a claw-back clause). I was bummed not to have a reason to make use of them, myself.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        My workplace is rewriting the tuition reimbursement policy to include student loan repayment. I’m guessing that will be a pretty good lure for future employees.

        1. Gracely*

          Student loan repayment would’ve been AMAZING as a perk. Holy crap. And it would definitely attract younger people who are fresh out of college.

    6. münchner kindl*

      Offering “fun things” without asking young people first; and without fixing the serious building issues first, to me sends such a giant red flag about “we don’t respect our employees, and we don’t care about them, at all” that I doubt company can attract anybody in a workers’ market.

      1. anne of mean gables*

        Yeah all the beer on tap and candy in the world isn’t going to make up for actively dangerous or uncomfortable working conditions. I’m not really a “young” employee anymore, but I honestly find it really, really demeaning that they think “candy and video games” is a viable recruitment strategy for younger employees. And that’s not to mention that I feel like they’re on the cusp of being actively ageist in the other direction by complaining that all of their current employees are too old…

    7. Mantis Tobaggan, MD*

      Yeah, my first job after grad school had a lot of “perks” (unlimited coffee, craft beer on tap, ping pong table, lavish holiday parties, etc.) and their turnover for 20-somethings was really high. In addition to the obvious things like pay and benefits, people at that stage in their career are often looking for advancement opportunities.

    8. alienor*

      My previous employer moved to new “cool” offices a few years before I left, and they installed a game room with a Ping-Pong table and an XBox. Since I sat near it and all the walls were glass, I could see that it was almost always the same small group of 5-10 dudes who were in there every afternoon playing. I guess it was a good perk for them, but everyone else either didn’t care, or didn’t feel comfortable going in there and infringing on their territory. I’d much rather have functioning HVAC than games I never use.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        You make a good point. Sometimes perks like this kind of get owned by one group of people, for one reason or another. So it isn’t even really for everyone, and it can get messy.

    9. Just an autistic redhead*

      Honestly if I went to interview on a summer day and the AC wasn’t working, I might not be able to breathe properly in the interview. (And I am done forever with tolerating bad work environments like that.)

    10. JelloStapler*

      This is like hospital admin buying pizza for nurses versus paying them well when they are paying travel nurses 3x what staff nurses make.

    11. Missy*

      Yep. I think that bosses see something like “big tech company has an employee ball pit” and think “well then we need a ball pit”. They don’t look at the fact that the company is also paying above market rate or is offering employees stock in what could be the next facebook. Or the ball pit is part of a larger workplace culture of relaxation as an important part of life where they are also offering unlimited vacation days and the ability to work from anywhere and flexible hours.

      1. kiki*

        Right. I feel like somebody should create a diagram of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs but for offices. Fun perks, like ball pits or cold brew on tap, are at the top of the pyramid and should be pursued once you have other things covered at the base of the pyramid, like 401k matching and consistent climate control in the office.

      2. Esmae*

        Not to mention that by the time you downscale to the size of your office, there’s a pretty good chance the ball pit is going to be a splashy pool full of balls.

    12. CoveredinBees*

      The not getting the HVAC system working is also unsafe. Both in cases of weather extremes and an important way to prevent COVID transmission is air flow and filtration.

    13. HigherEdAdminista*

      I often think companies who think of these things have heard about places like Google who have (at least at one point) offered all these comforts of home to keep people in the office working longer, and they don’t realize how large that system was to keep it going. Having a candy machine alone (that no one restocks!) isn’t enough. You need to have a bunch of free food of all types, a comfortable environment, entertainment, private spaces for sleep… if you want people to think of the office as a second home, it can’t just mean you are allowed to bring in your own mini-Snickers for the company candy dish!

      It really seems to me that employers are having a hard time accepting that what people want are higher wages, better working conditions, and time to have a life outside of work. They want to find the one magic perk that will make things go back to the way they used to be, when the reality is every day more and more people seem to realize its all nonsense.

      I’ve been looking at old posts here versus the current ones, and the fact that now, on a site that is all about jobs and employment, there are multiple comments on many posts calling out the current system as extremely flawed says something to me. Not to say there weren’t critiques before, but just the widespread and blunt nature of it really seems to be an evolution in thinking. There really does seem to be a values change happening and it is interesting to see how it goes!

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I worked in a WeWork that had all these kinds of things; a pingpong table, a bar (okay, that was a nice perk I admit). But a) they were on a totally different floor from the offices, and I don’t know why a regular office would have that kind of space b) it took a lot of maintenance! There were full time staff people in charge of restocking the free food, checking ID’s on the booze, etc etc etc. It’s not a free and easy perk to drop in for a company who can’t bother to keep coffee stocked.

      2. Grits McGee*

        This really reminds me of every time someone writes a letter to AAM asking about using gimmicks in job applications. Things that are all flash and no substance- a bar of chocolate, a “shoe in the door”, etc. And I think Alison’s advice applies in both situations; just like how most most employers are not going to be interested in gimmicks (and do you really want to work for someone who falls for flash over substance?), does OP’s job really want to hire new employees for whom free candy and video games are the deciding factors?

      3. PT*

        I’ve worked places that have no comforts at all- no (pay) vending machine, no coffee maker (even one where you have to BYO coffee), no convenience store across the street to duck into when you had 10 minutes- and honestly, you do need to have some of those things accessible to employees.

        It is a HUGE nuisance when you get stuck unexpectedly at work late and can’t even grab a minipack of Oreos to compensate for your late dinner, or a day where you’re exhausted and really need a second coffee but you’re trapped and can’t leave to get one. You either get people functioning terribly, people who won’t alter their schedule to cover emergencies, people sneaking out to go to the store, or people creating a fire hazard/mouse hazard by hiding snacks and appliances in their desk drawer.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I don’t think I have ever worked at an office that doesn’t at least have a microwave. I keep a small stash of soup, essentially a better version of cup-of-soup, that keeps pretty much forever. This works just fine as an emergency backup. Finding an equivalent that doesn’t use a microwave would be tough.

        2. Aerin*

          It was definitely nice when our office upgraded our central break area to have a much better selection of food for purchase (stocked and maintained by an external vendor), especially when I was working weekends and the cafeteria wasn’t open. Before it had just been a couple of vending machines that only took cash and had sketchy selections, so getting basically a mini convenience store where we could pay with our badges was fabulous.

        3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I worked at an office location that was on an out-of-town business park, hugely inconveniently located, with the nearest shop of any kind being a good 15-minute walk away.

          So we had weekly grocery deliveries of things like good coffee and soft drinks (organised by HR and paid for on the company account) that you could make specific requests for; and there were occasional catered lunches; and we had a full protected hour for lunch; and the office was large and plush; and there was heaps of parking; and when the ice cream truck came round in the summer, the boss paid for everyone’s ice cream.

          The cost of that would have been significant, but the total was probably less than one junior person’s salary, and certainly much less than the extra cost of rent on a more central office.

          Cost cutting can end up being really expensive if it means your retention sucks!

    14. Roy G. Biv*

      So according to the CEO, I can stay late, in a hot or cold office, that has not been cleaned, to play some kind of gaming system, as long as I provide my own snacks. And then I can walk out into a slippery, treacherous parking lot, and hope I make it to my car in one piece.

      Is the CEO also the person in charge of vision? Strategy? Because I’m seeing a vision of me sprawled on ice-covered pavement, alone in the dark; first calling an ambulance, and then calling a lawyer. Did he see that coming?

    15. OP 2*

      OP here. We have tuition reimbursement which I thought was great, but it’s such a small amount per year that it wouldn’t cover nearly enough of what I was hoping for.

      The weather here is now freezing, so as unbearable as the heat was, the cold is even worse. They’re still working on fixing it and we’ve been given space heaters in the meantime.

      To answer Alison’s question – yes, they are still considering the game system. *facepalm*

    16. AnonInCanada*


      My reckoning is these C-suite boomers are trying to get “hip” with “what the kids want” and not realizing what millennials/Gen Zers really want is a stable job with a liveable wage/salary, benefits so they don’t have to work until they drop dead, and some form of work-life balance. And if OP’s case, an environment where they won’t freeze their gonads off in winter or swelter in summer.

      Please talk to your bosses, OP. They need a reality check.

    17. Hannah Lee*

      Adding candy dispensers, coffee stations and any other items which might cause people to gather repeatedly in one location *** right at this moment in time in the midst of a pandemic *** seems like a really bone-headed idea.

      Instead, the company should the heating/cooling / ventilation system … for basic employee comfort and yes health! Also, treat the icy parking lot. For the health and safety of the employees, for avoiding the expense and hassle of having to backfill work if one of the employees gets injured and can’t work for a stretch and to avoid financial exposure due to the liability if someone’s injured on company property. (particularly since the failure to maintain safe walkways, lots is a habitual thing, not a one off in a surprise freak storm)

      For example, the company I work for rents our space from another company which owns the building and has offices here. A couple years ago there was a sleet/icy storm in the morning and the company failed to treat the parking lot. One of our employees drove into the lot, his car hit an ice patch and slid across it into another employee’s car. Both their cars were pretty banged up. And their auto insurance companies went after the building owner to get some portion of the accident claims reimbursed.

  9. Gingerbread Gnome*

    No makeup – it sounds as if your company is ultra-casual. Some folks read extremely young with casual clothing and no makeup. For example, my 26-year-old daughter has regularly been mistaken for 14. To prevent this she will often go slightly more formal on hair (fancy braiding) or wear a sweater when going without makeup. But I agree that it is likely the change most coworkers are reacting to, if you never wore makeup they would not have a reaction.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      People do react to changes. My husband had to lose weight when he was diagnosed with diabetes. So he did and his clothes became ill-fitting. Originally they were out of style, but now they were out of style AND ill fitting. We got new clothes for him. His plan was to continue to wear the old clothes until they wore out- why waste them? (sigh) His cohorts “fixed” this problem. He received so many compliments about “looking sharp” that the old clothes drifted to the back of the closet and eventually went out the door. People notice and comment.

  10. Green Beans*

    Makeup (even light makeup) adds a lot of color and contrast to your face. If you regularly wear it and then don’t one day, you look like there is noticeably less color/contrast in your face which people will automatically read as tired or ill, because they are comparing it to your “usual” amount of color.

    I had a coworker who only wore mascara and maybe eyeliner because when she didn’t wear it, people would ask if she looked tired. But people only asked her because they didn’t notice “Mary has blonde eyelashes and less contrast around her eyes today” they would just notice “Mary looks tired because there’s less color/pop around her eyes.”

    If you stop wearing it regularly, they will start seeing your natural face as the default color/contrast and it will stop looking tired/ill/different because the comparison will no longer be there.

    1. John Smith*

      The first time I saw my sister in law without makeup, I was shocked (not in a bad way). I didn’t recognise her – the shape of her face looked different as did many of her features. She honestly looked a completely different person. Makeup can make a profound difference to a person’s appearance and I’m wondering if that’s the case with the OP.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I was looking at pictures of a young Farrah Fawcett. Without the make up and hair do, she looked like a regular person. She was pretty, don’t misunderstand, but not someone who looked like they would be on a poster. We (society) have strange ideas about what real beauty should look like.

      2. Myrin*

        Yeah, I’m definitely one of those people who look like I’m a different person depending on whether I wear makeup or not. And the thing is, I don’t even do any of these fancy things like foundation and blushes and whatnot which would make my face appear a different shape or something, I only use black mascara and coloured eyeshadow with black eyeshadow at the edges. But I’m a redhead with light lashes in exactly the same colour as my skin, making them look nonexistent and my eyes super small and kinda washed out; it’s that contrast that gets people.
        (I have taken to alternating makeup and no makeup when I started my current job so people quickly got used to either of my faces and don’t appear to think anything in particular about one or the other.)

    2. Allonge*

      Sure. Also, if someone’s default was all makeup all the time, they would probably feel self-conscious without for a while – OP could be carrying herself differently, and possibly be more aware of any comments / looks than otherwise.

      LW1, you don’t need to wear makeup to be professional. Once you manage to internalise that, all the comments and looks have a good chance of fading into the background ‘people are weird, what else is new’.

    3. Batgirl*

      I have red eyelashes, tiny eyes, and extremely pale skin, but I have gone makeup free in a variety of workplaces where people told me I looked great and professional. When I was younger I would wear mascara and some tinted foundation on most occasions and go makeup free on rare occasions; that’s when you start to get double takes because on makeup free days it looked like I had much paler skin than usual and was ill, or my eyes were half closed in tiredness. I’ve found if I make makeup the exception (like just for evening events) it was okay. Let people know what your face looks like and they won’t be alarmed or weird about it. However if you’re getting comments that are more about “making an effort” than “are you getting enough sleep” then yeah that person’s a jerk.

      1. WS*

        Yes, I didn’t go from “make-up” to “no make-up” in one day. I slowly reduced it one thing at a time until I wasn’t wearing any and stayed that way ever since.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I was using make up on important days at work. I tapered back and no one said anything.
          Additionally, some folks can’t figure out if I use a tiny bit of make up or none at all because I have been asked by a friend or two if I use any at all.
          It’s kind of amusing to me, as it seems that others accept my face as is and where is, more willingly than I do on some days. This made me realize that I very seldom think about another person’s make up.

    4. ken*

      Agreed. In my 20-year professional career I have never once worn makeup, and have also never once received a comment about it with regards to my professionalism. I can however imagine the double takes and outright staring from my colleagues if I came to work tomorrow fully made up and it wouldn’t be coming from a place of professional vs. not professional concerns. The change would just be so shocking and out of character for me that there would be eyebrows raised.

      1. AGD*

        Same (albeit with a shorter career so far). No one has ever even spontaneously commented on the fact that I don’t wear makeup, which makes me suspect that they are used to my face and can’t automatically tell whether I’ve added anything to it.

        I read the letter and reached the same conclusion as Alison did. The only times anyone in my office has ever said anything about my appearance, as far as I recall, are after haircuts. Reassuring!

      2. HannahS*

        Same (though a shorter working life so far.) I don’t wear makeup, don’t do much with my hair, and wear the same boring outfit to work all the time*. I’ve never heard a peep or had a strange look from anyone. People do notice and comment when I get a haircut that changes my hairstyle (long and in a bun to short and curly,) but I’ve not experienced it as an expectation to look nicer all the time.

        *”boring” in this case means I literally dress in the women’s versions of what the men wear (khakis, dress shirt, sweater) in various drab colours.

    5. Storm in a teacup*

      Agree. Pre-Pando I used to wear light make up to work (tinted moisturiser, blusher, mascara or liner and tinted lip balm) and on days I couldn’t be bothered to I got asked if I was feeling well. In hindsight the days I went make up free I was also more casually dressed, hair less styled and I look so sallow without blush (Simpson like) I can understand the questions! I’ve since found blusher with nothing else means no more questions.
      Worth considering if on non make up days you’re overall more casual or if it’s the contrast.
      But as others have said, any men commenting on your lack of make up equating to lack of professionalism are arseholes not worth your time.

      1. LPUK*

        Stress and fatigue were my two migraine triggers as well. The giveaway for others was that I would start walking around with one hand blocking the light from my left hand eye

    6. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. Sometimes I channel Alison in my opinion but I’m never able to explain as well as her. I thought the same thing. People are responding to the contrast between “making wearing LW” and “clean faced LW.”

      I think the solution is to wear exactly the amount of make up you want (ie none) and just keep doing it. I think people will get used to your new face fast.

      Should you have to do this? No. But it may head off some of the “did you just roll out of bed?” looks if you wore jeans, nicer/dressier sneakers or shoes, and something nicer than a hoody (a comfy sweater) at the start of this transition. I work from home so I wear home casual everyday, but even I yikes at the hoody. To me that does read super casual or trying to stay warm in the cold.

    7. anonymous73*

      None of what you describe makes it okay. People may notice these things, but reacting to it is rude. If I saw a co-worker who usually wears makeup without it one day, I wouldn’t assume she was sick unless she was also sneezing and coughing. And I definitely wouldn’t comment on her appearance.

      1. green beans*

        Yes, but oftentimes people don’t realize the difference is makeup/no makeup – they just think “person looks tired today.”

        1. anonymous73*

          Okay? Why is it okay to comment on it though? Maybe someone is tired. It’s not okay to point it out. If there’s a pattern of something that’s concerning, maybe bring it up in private, but an occasional look of being tired is just life. Why people feel the need to bring it up and think it’s okay to do so is beyond me.

          1. Rocket*

            Because it’s normal to care about people? It’s totally normal when you think somebody looks sick to say “Are you feeling okay? Do you need to go home?”

    8. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      And really, the whole point of the stuff is to make you look better! I don’t wear makeup particularly often, but when I do, I WANT people to tell the difference. I want to look prettier, and have brighter eyes, and better skin, and just generally have a nicer looking face. Otherwise I would be better off splashing water on my face and saving my time and money. So I can’t complain when my bare face (which I wear happily every day to work, mind you) is not prettier, not brighter eyes, not better skin, and just generally not nicer than me with makeup.

  11. Anonariffic*

    #2- unless you’re actually working at a game developer, I can’t think of any reason to have a video game console in the break room unless you’re one of those high-pressure tech startups where the company supplies catered meals and laundry services and so on because the employees are working 20 hours a day and napping under their desks. And a nonprofit too cheap to buy kcups isn’t going to be paying junior staff anywhere near silicon valley salaries.

    Also, if the company isn’t even willing to supply coffee, would they expect staff to bring in all the games for the office console? Would anyone be allowed to take a long break to actually play on the thing or would you only be able to use it if you come in early or stay late?

    1. Jopestus*

      The game console will exist solely as a measuring tool to find those who “are not working hard enough” and brought up in performance evaluations. Just like what happened with pool tables, gyms etc in workplaces.

        1. TechWorker*

          I mean definitely not true everywhere. We have pool/table football/table tennis (lol software) and whilst I’m not into it myself it’s totally fine to use them and people often do on breaks, or whilst waiting for something to build or whatever. Yes, it would be noticed if you were not getting work done and spending half your time playing table tennis, but no more or less if you were constantly going out for coffee & not getting work done :p

      1. Colette*

        I’ve worked places that had all of those things, and that certainly wasn’t the case. (It was also very unusual for them to be used; I’d imagine if someone was known to play video games or pool for an hour or two every day, it might have had an impact.)

    2. Mizzle*

      Is that specific to it being a video game console (which might not appeal to all employees) or does it apply to any kind of toy / leasure item?

      I’ve actually brought my own candy grabber machine to work, at a company which is neither a startup nor dysfunctional. (Tech: yes.) I see it as one of many ways to encourage people to take breaks. Taking breaks is healthy and helps productivity. (This is true in my field and probably in many others, possibly all.)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Encouraging people to take breaks != putting toys in common areas.

        What I appreciate at my current firm is that they do encourage breaks, by reassuring us that we won’t get in any trouble being offline for a while during the day. What we actually do is up to us.

        (At work I generally sew for a bit. At home I do some physio stretches)

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Yup. In my ad agency experience, the game consoles show up during product launches when people are working past midnight for days on end. If I see one, I run away screaming.

    4. AndersonDarling*

      Yeah, gaming systems and candy are stereotyping the employees. It’s not a way to start a professional relationship by labeling staff as children.
      I was shocked when my CEO declared that employees were leaving because business wasn’t “fun” anymore. He pretty much divulged that we were children instead of talented professionals.
      If you want fresh employees, then create an inclusive environment that focuses on learning, respect, and opportunities to grow. That doesn’t wedge a class divide between leadership and “children” employees, it treats all staff as valuable professionals.

    5. OP 2*

      We’re definitely not a gaming company, but it sure sounds like it right?

      I think the idea was that it would be played during breaks, because I know they don’t actually want people here outside of normal working hours.

      But it would be a system that only 1-2 people could use at a time. How does that benefit anyone or any team?

      1. Metadata minion*

        I’m also kind of baffled at the idea of playing video games on breaks just because to me, that’s something you do for a significant amount of time, and I want at least half of my lunch break for actually eating lunch. It’s not really something I’d do for 10 minutes as a brain-refresh.

      2. Jax*

        The console benefits Senior Leadership, because they can tell themselves they made an “innovative” attempt to boost morale with a $500 budget. That’s all.

        I’ve been one of the managers at the table brainstorming free or incredibly low cost Employee Engagement initiatives. Your leadership isn’t stupid. They are out of money.

  12. Anon today*

    #3: Absolutely 100% you need to get the paychecks in your name. I would go further and suggest that you get the earnings from past years split on your earnings record as well. Both of you having a decent retirement check is better than one high earner and a spouse payment. Please get it fixed.

  13. John Smith*

    #2. A call centre I worked in started “fun” things to try and increase morale. One attempt was video quiz games like who wants to be a millionaire. Whole teams would be forced to participate at the same time whilst call queues grew ever larger. We hated it.

    For my part, I deliberately gave the wrong answers to even the most easy questions so I could get back to work. Others cottoned on and soon the games were stopped. They then tried raffles where the “prizes” were corporate stationery that we had access to anyway (the main prize was a “specially commissioned” A1 wall calendar signed by the centre manager that was later found in a bin).

    I think your bosses are treating you and your colleagues with derision.

    1. Mongrel*

      The problem is that too many companies see these reports from industry juggernauts about cereal bars & giant beanbags and get it in their heads that that’s all that’s required to ‘engage’ the younger staff & raise morale.
      What they miss is everything else; pay, management structure, benefits, work\life balance etc. It’s easy for them to focus on one, gimmicky, aspect of other workplaces and declare that as the fix for all their office woes.
      When it inevitably doesn’t work they can then blame it all on the current staff and”Millenials”

      1. bamcheeks*

        What they also miss is that so much of that stuff is marketing— it’s not even about attracting employees so much as it is about establishing the brand as cool, fun, desirable, playful etc FOR CONSUMERS.

        1. Kate in Colorado*

          *mind blown* I’ve never thought about that before, but whoa you’re so right and it’s so…obvious!

    2. Testerbert*

      Having also worked in a call centre, management found the best way to improve morale was to give more time off of the phones (officially deemed ‘training’, but in reality taking a team off the phones when it was quiet to sit down and have a good chat), and having a cabinet full of booze & chocolate to hand out to people for pretty much any reason. Handled a very difficult call well? Pick something! QA team gave you a perfect score on a call? BOOZE! etc

      It helped that we were properly staffed, that the company actively recruited from the call centre (it’s why I’m a Testerbert, not a CallCentreBert) and we were treated like human beings (our phone lines didn’t autoconnect, we had to accept calls etc).

    3. CoveredinBees*

      The only mandatory fun that I have ever enjoyed was the Weird Al album of the same name. If you’re requiring employees to do stuff that is meant to be fun then it isn’t fun and/or there are much bigger problems happening.

      1. WFH - A Hill to Die On*

        I think companies also underestimate game prizes for fun. We had a virtual holiday party one year with games (attendance and participation were optional). The prizes for the game were $5 gift cards to a well known coffee company for which $5 might not even cover a full drink.

  14. M313*

    OP 2, no advice for you, but you have my sympathies for having to deal with that. There are few things more irritating than “perks” that are clearly silly or, even worse, actively obnoxious. An annoyance you have to feign excitement and gratitude for!

    1. MissBaudelaire*

      “Fun” perks that are actually decent;
      Half day Fridays when business is slow/work is done.
      Ample PTO
      Ample sick days that aren’t in the same bucket at the PTO
      Bonuses that are real money, not a coupon for dress down Friday

      “Fun” perks that are not that great:
      Bean bag chairs.
      A pool table.
      Look, free muffins!

    2. OP 2*

      Yes! It’s the pressure to feign gratitude that infuriates me too. I said matter-of-factly, “no one will play those games long term.” And the CEO said, “that’s probably true.” But then had someone look into pricing…

  15. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: I used to wear a bit of make up, hide a few blemishes, try to look less tired, that sorta thing. When I started the whole mask wearing thing I gave up. Too much hassle for stuff that gave me zits and rubbed off on the mask anyway.

    Now I don’t bother. Even threw out the majority of my makeup. Some people made comments about how I looked pale or tired and I’d just laugh a little and say ‘got bored with makeup, I’m actually ok, this is just my real face!’. I did notice on the days that my hair was extra frizzy or being untameable that I got a lot more of those comments.

    Nowadays I try to at least slap some black almond oil onto my hair before finger combing it back into a ponytail. Seems to work.

  16. MistOrMister*

    OP1 – I work in law (albeit a side that has more casual dress) and the majority of my female coworkers over the course of the past 14ish years have not been regular makeup wearers. This includes higher ups as well. For most positions I think it’s more your clothes and overall grooming than your make-up (or lack thereof) that impact the level of professionalism just via looks. That being said, anyone who regularly wears makeup and then goes without is generally going to look different enough that people will notice. Especially if you usually do a more natural look. People might not realize you’re usually wearing makeup, so having a bare face could make them think you’re not feeling well. (I had a friend in middle school who always came in with a full face and the one day she showed up with nothing I was absolutely floored by how pale and washed out she looked). There is definitely nothing wrong with going makeup free, though. It will just take people a little time to get used to the change.

    1. Really?*

      If you’re not a female yourself, I challenge your perception. As many other commenters have noted, many men cannot tell when a woman is wearing makeup.

  17. making-it-up*

    OP#1 – Generally, men have only the vaguest idea of whether any given woman is wearing makeup, so I agree with the rest that it’s about the contrast.

    I used to work with a woman who had learned to use the contrast to her benefit when she wanted something from her male manager. And she was very happy to fill us all in on her ‘life hack’! For example, if she didn’t like the volume of workload scheduled for the next few days, she would arrive at the office in full make-up and later in the afternoon remove it all, feign illness and leave early.

    It was infuriating for the rest of us who had to pick up her slack!

    1. bamcheeks*

      Haha, I’ve joked about this but never actually done it! But I agree that if you regularly wear make-up, that’s what people expect your face to look like, and suddenly appearing without make-up will get you some concerned looks. If your usual make-up is pretty light, they will be genuinely concerned, “You look different but I can’t work out why” looks.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Not knowing that human, I’m still going to go out on a limb and mentioned something from my life. If I have a migraine, washing my face can sometimes relieve symptoms for a while. Serious amounts of stress can trigger my migraines. So with unreasonable deadlines, I can get a migraine that requires me to leave the office, in which case someone might think I’m pulling a fast one. I’m not… push too hard with one of my migraines, and I start barfing. Not what you want at the office.
      Just some food for thought for future readers of this site.

      1. CoveredinBees*

        There is definitely something to this with the water on your face. My friend has a neurological issue and when it flares up suddenly, dunking her face in a bowl of ice water (or splashing it repeatedly depending on what’s available) can alleviate things temporarily until she can get rest/medication/etc.

      2. Esmae*

        Tbh I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with making yourself “look” sicker when you’re dealing with largely invisible symptoms like a migraine. Even if you were just washing your face so that people would see on the outside more of what you were feeling on the inside, that doesn’t feel dishonest to me.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      I worked somewhere that frowned on taking sick days. If I needed a mental health day, then I would come to work the following day without make-up to make it seem like I was still recovering from the “cold” that I had the day before. Even if it wasn’t thought that my natural face looked ill, it was also a clue that I didn’t feel well enough to put it on.

  18. Beth*

    LW1: One of two things is happening here. Either, as many have pointed out here, your coworkers are reacting to the contrast between your makeup face and your no-makeup face; or, you’re in a workplace with some dated and sexist expectations surrounding how women should be.

    If it’s the former, the easiest way to make it stop is simply to pick one–makeup or no makeup–and stick with it as a strong ‘norm’ for yourself. Either one is fine, but it might be easier on you to make no-makeup your new normal. If people are used to seeing you bare-faced 95% of the time and then see you in makeup one day, odds are they’ll perceive you as extra dressed up on that one day; if they’re used to seeing you in makeup, and then you turn up sans lip/cheek color or with visible dark circles or whatever, they may assume you’re ill.

    If it’s the latter, you have to decide how you want to handle it. You would be in the right to refuse to wear makeup; there’s nothing unprofessional about your bare face. But you being in the right wouldn’t necessarily stop you from experiencing judgement and repercussions. To be clear, the root problem in this scenario would be your workplace’s sexist expectations, not your level of dress–but if you decided you just wanted to suck it up and do the makeup so you could focus on your job and not deal with their sexism any more than you have to, that would be understandable.

    1. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

      *If people are used to seeing you bare-faced 95% of the time and then see you in makeup one day, odds are they’ll perceive you as extra dressed up on that one day;*

      This exactly. Sometimes that gets a little awkward too- if it’s not clear why you’re extra sharp sometimes they worry you’ve got an interview or something, and some people will rudely try to say you should do it more often- but overall this strategy has worked well for me.

    2. Employee of the Bearimy*

      Yes to all this but especially #1. I wear light makeup all the time now because I like how I look with it, but at a previous job I used to alternate and got a lot of comments on no-makeup days. Then I just stopped wearing it altogether and the comments stopped pretty quickly. Establishing a baseline will be the easiest way to handle this.

  19. Beth*

    LW2, if your employer is struggling to attract younger employees, one thing to consider is posting your entry-level job openings at local colleges and universities. Most schools have career centers that maintain job boards online. Some students graduate with jobs already lined up from internships or other sources, but plenty of kids get to their senior year and start going “Oh, shit, I have no idea what I want to do for work, I don’t even know what kinds of jobs there are out there.” If you can put postings for your open jobs in the first place they’re being told to look, odds are you’ll get applications. (Of course, retaining the people you hire might still be a problem, if the problems you talk about aren’t fixed!)

    1. Morticia*

      You might also wish to encourage your employer to have real entry level jobs, where no prior experience is required. Having an industry “farm team” is a great way to attract younger applicants, if you can do it.

      1. CoveredinBees*

        Yes. This is something I wondered about. There are so many “entry level” jobs that require years of experience.

  20. Roeslein*

    OP#2 I don’t care about candy and popcorn but good coffee and some basic snacks (e.g. fresh fruit, maybe nuts) does make a difference! If nothing else, people will grab coffee and keep working instead of constantly taking longer breaks to find decent coffee outside. Calculation at my old firm was that even a very fancy coffee machine and expensive coffee ultimately saved the company money because it meant employees spent more time working. Same if people need to stay later, get hungry and can just grab a banana or orange instead of starving and being inefficient or going outside to buy food.

    1. OP 2*

      I agree! Our office is in an expensive area of the state, so not only is it time consuming to grab food nearby, it costs 1.5x than it normally would for me. Which is not idea, given that we’re non-profit employees.

      1. All Het Up About It*

        In this case is there actual perks you could recommend as well, like the company pays for meal delivery on Fridays, if it is expensive and time consuming for employees to go out? Could an actual nice break room with microwave and toaster oven go in and be helpful?

        I’m strongly advocating for the save work conditions and flex/remote schedules to be bulk of your conversation as well, but just if you say it’s expensive/inconvenient for you to eat when you are in the office, that sounds like another possible perk avenue to explore and share.

        1. All Het Up About It*

          Also – having worked some place with a popcorn machine before: No. Just no. They are literally one of the worst things to clean EVER.

          1. OP 2*

            That’s what I was thinking! It’d be a novelty for a couple days and then it would reek and no one would want to clean it.

            Luckily as of now that idea seems to be scraped.

  21. Green great dragon*

    #2 went downhill fast.

    Coffee and snacks sounds good! I would like that!

    You have to bring them yourselves? Oh. That sounds less good.

    The AC and heating are broken, and cleaning reduced? What on earth are they thinking? Don’t even think about anything else until that’s fixed.

    1. londonedit*

      Right? What is the point of bringing in all these bits and bobs to clutter up the place, like a popcorn machine and a mini fridge and a candy dispenser, if people have to fill them up themselves? All that’s going to happen is that they’ll sit around gathering dust, half-filled with the stuff no one actually likes, because no one’s going to take responsibility for cleaning and refilling them. And/or it’ll just cause arguments because so-and-so has been taking drinks from the mini fridge but they never contribute to the kitty, or so-and-so only ever buys the really horrible cheap sweets that no one likes, or whatever.

      The company needs to make sure that the basics are working properly – no ice in the car park, working air con/heating, tea and coffee (come on, that’s the bare minimum any company should provide), and decent pay and working conditions. Then they can start talking about ‘perks’. Trying to paper over the cracks with ‘fun stuff’ that turns out to be another burden on staff is not a ‘perk’.

    2. hamsterpants*

      If I went to an office and the parking lot was icy and the heat didn’t work (!!!) but there were video games and a popcorn machine, I’d honestly think that someone was either mentally ill or embezzling funds. It goes beyond tone deafness and into the realm of negligence.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Heya hamsterpants,
        I get where you’re going here – I’d also assume in that situation that someone was disconnected from reality. But that has nothing to do with mental illness and it’s hurtful to see “mentally ill” used in this way. In the future, could you choose different language?

        1. hamsterpants*

          No because I’m describing behaviors, not someone’s inner thought process. And I don’t just mean “annoying and weird” (which would be an ableist use of “mental illness”) I mean actually pathological. I’m not trying to diagnose anyone here or trying to get anyone fired, just describing how such behaviors would come across.

        2. hamsterpants*

          Reposting since my comment seems to have gotten eaten.

          No, trying to describe someone else’s inner thought process is not what I’m going for, and anyway “detached from reality” is a symptom of plenty of mental illnesses so it’s not like it’s less stigmatizing. I’m not diagnosing anyone, simply describing how I would read such aberrant behavior. (Do you prefer the phrase “aberrant behavior”? how about “abnormal behavior” which is included in the American Psychological Associations dictionary definition of mental illness? Do you see how all these expressions are saying the same thing?)

    3. Khatul Madame*

      Regarding coffee – I know the LW had a bad experience with the pod machine, but I find it very convenient for the office, even if people have to supply their own pods. There are also refillable pods for the eco-conscious crowd. The machine does need to be flushed periodically, which can be done by way of sticky notes “run with water only on X date”. It is much better than nothing and not a huge time suck.
      For many years I worked out of government facilities that provided absolutely nothing in the way of food or drink (there were fridges and microwaves), so people had to bring their own kettles, coffee, tea, you name it – or go out and buy their fix. Availability of food and bev had very little correlation of whether it was a good workplace.
      But this is all moot if some employees cannot make it to the building due to hazardous conditions in the parking lot, and the rest cannot function in the office because their brains are literally frozen.

      1. Observer*

        It is much better than nothing and not a huge time suck.

        Why? Honestly, if you don’t like instant coffee, there are a lot of alternatives that are actually more convenient and less expensive than pods. And then you don’t have to deal with who cleans / flushes the coffee machine.

    4. C in the Hood*

      Totally agree. I’m laughing at the bosses wanting the workers to bring in their own snacks, popcorn, etc….Like, I can have my own snacks, popcorn & video games AT HOME, as well as a nice clean house and AC & heating! Why in the world would I ever want to go into the office?

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        And it’s not like people who want snacks in the office can’t already bring them in! Seems like the options are to buy snacks and either 1. get to eat all of them at my own pace, or 2. eat maybe 5% of my snacks and hope that someone else brought in something that I like.

        Who in their right mind would pick option 2?!

      2. Batgirl*

        That’s a really good and standard reply to have ready for any suggested “perks”, like “We already have those things at home, so we were hoping for work related benefits”. Or “How about the perk of working from home at least until we can afford to heat the office?” The challenge is saying that last line in a non snarky way.

  22. LDN Layabout*

    #LW2, as well as talking to your leadership it might be worth digging out some articles regarding what younger generations see as important at work, for a back-up. There’s been a spate of them in recent years and there’s no harm in backing up your opinion with sources.

  23. Sue*

    “But if I’m not wearing makeup, I get treated differently. Aside from the usual “are you feeling okay?”comments, a few people treat me like I had the nerve to just roll out of bed and come in to the office. I get judgmental looks anytime I pass their work stations and have caught a few “facial expression conversations” between them.”
    “If it matters, I am one of two women in an office of 20, in a male dominated field.”

    So it is the /men/ judging you for not wearing makeup? I thought it was women coworkers which is bad enough but this just makes it extra icky.

    1. londonedit*

      Yeah, it sounds like they think ‘receptionist’ means ‘woman who is paid to sit there and look pretty’, which is extremely icky.

      1. Nanani*

        Ding ding ding.
        Actually a lot of people (of all genders, but especially men) think, on some level, that young women’s job is to loook pretty first, and maybe answer the phone second. It’s gross and needs to be pushed back on. Pretending that’s not a thing will get no one anywhere.

    2. LPUK*

      I used to wear blusher simply to avoid the ‘are you Ok?’ Comments as apparently being very pale = dangerously ill

    3. emmelemm*

      That was my reaction too. Women can get a little clucky about other women not wearing make-up, but men noticing, much less commenting is more unusual and expected (and also they need to shut up).

  24. misspiggy*

    Thinking about OP#1, I realised that if I’m entering a business where I’m a client (as opposed to a free, tax funded service) I expect a female receptionist to be wearing at least tinted lipbalm, and a male receptionist to be wearing a tie, if not a jacket.

    Norms may have changed, but as a 40-something person, that’s what I have ended up with. I agree gendered symbols of formality are oppressive and outdated, but they do still send important signals to a lot of people. I wonder what they should be replaced with?

    1. Scarlet2*

      I don’t know, I’m 48 and I couldn’t care less about any of those things. What I do care about is politeness and efficiency. As long as people wear clean clothes, I can’t imagine paying that much attention to their personal grooming.
      Maybe the problem is with rigid “symbols of formality” themselves?

    2. BubbleTea*

      I don’t think I’ve ever, in my entire life, paid enough attention to the receptionist’s lips to know whether or not they are wearing lip balm. How bizarre. Unless you lip read, stop staring at women’s mouths and expecting them to be decorative.

      1. misspiggy*

        I do lipread, as it happens. I am aware that the norms I have mentioned are outdated. I’m asking about acceptable alternatives to send nonverbal signals to clients that a business operation is professionally run and therefore reasonably safe to engage with.

        1. TechWorker*

          Tbh I think the presence of tinted lip balm (?!) tells you precisely nothing about whether somewhere is professionally run, now or in the past, so using that as an indicator feels very odd (might just indicate the personal preference of the receptionist and nothing more). If you specifically want non verbal cues then the tidiness/cleanliness of a reception area is better than nothing. But otherwise there are plenty of ways to judge a business as a consumer (Google for reviews beforehand, see how the staff actually treat you) so doesn’t really feel like a loss if you no longer base it on make up :p

        2. Lance*

          Is the lobby clean? Is the employee at the front desk well-dressed in general, regardless of any minute details as tie/jacket or lip balm? Do their responses seem organized and amicable?

          That’s the only checklist I would personally care about; even if I did lip read, I don’t know why lip color would make any difference to anything.

        3. Colette*

          Do you often make those decisions after you’re in the business? If I’m in a business, it’s because I’ve already made that determination.

          I’d look for:
          – street address (or at least city) visible on their website
          – email address and website domain include the business name
          – prompt responses to emails, phone calls, and support tickets
          – prompt response to the doorbell (if they have one), or to me walking up to the reception desk
          – polite, professional greeting (i.e. I don’t want to hear about how the receptionist’s brother’s girlfriend has a doctor’s appointment because she has a weird rash, or how the receptionist thinks she’s getting a migraine, or how the boss is late because she has to stop to drop her pet off at daycare – this is all more personal than I want from a business contact)

          1. Batgirl*

            This made me giggle because the alternative is following a random suit person on the street because they have a spiffy clipboard.

        4. EventPlannerGal*

          On top of what everyone else has said, even though I do think presentation can be really important I wouldn’t get hung up on specific details of someone’s makeup – it’s so trend-driven and context dependant. (When I started out working in events for a fairly luxe company I wouldn’t have been seen dead without a full beat, highlighter and lashes because that was the look at the time and how everyone else at that company looked. When I moved over to a more corporate, laid-back company I had to quite consciously tone it down because compared to everyone else I looked like I was ready for a night on the town, and now that the trend is clean beauty/minimal makeup I wear even less than that.) “Does the person seem appropriately dressed for their environment/the business” is probably a more helpful way to think about it, even if it’s vaguer than whether they’ve applied X quantity of makeup,

        5. Allonge*

          A lipbalm or a tie send precisely zero signals about this though. Men and women in ties and lipbalm cheat people out of millions each day, not to mention can be incompetent.

          I would be really curious as to how you ended up with these precise expectations, because they are certainly not universal. Also, if you see any difference for a reception at a gym and a reception at a business hotel, maybe?

          But there are no rules to replace these because these were never rules in the first place, except for you and whoever told you about them. With new businesses, you take a risk.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      I do know what you mean but “at least tinted lip balm” made me chuckle – that’s so oddly specific.

      I would typically expect a receptionist to look clean, neat and appropriately dressed for the setting. They’re the first impression people get of a business so that sometimes does mean being held to a more particular standard than someone working back of house who never sees a client. But there’s no reason that should have to include makeup. (Practically speaking our receptionist sees the most people daily and therefore has her mask on almost all the time, so I’m really not sure if she’s wearing makeup or not – certainly no clue about her lip balm.)

      1. londonedit*

        It depends on the setting, too – if I’m walking into a posh London hotel or the head office of a major bank, then I’d expect the receptionists to be dressed very smartly. OP says they work in a small office in a rural area, and it sounds like what they’re wearing is perfectly within the dress code and that they’re generally wearing clean and presentable clothes and are clean and presentable themselves. If I walked into the office of a small company where everyone was wearing jeans and hoodies, and it was the sort of place where they’d only get the occasional in-person visitor rather than doing a lot of ‘client-facing’ stuff, I wouldn’t expect the receptionist to be wearing a formal suit.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Yes, absolutely! A friend of mine was on reception at a small charity for a while and I remember being really surprised at how casually he was dressed whenever I saw him, until I dropped by his offices one day, met his colleagues and was like oh yeah, this makes perfect sense.

          1. londonedit*

            Yep, receptionists at publishing companies tend to be early/mid-twenties and tend to dress in quite a casual and trendy sort of way rather than conforming to the more traditional idea of what ‘a receptionist’ would wear. Our receptionists (when we were all in-office) frequently wear jeans – maybe not hoodies, but jeans and a smarter sort of jumper, yes, or a casual dress and trainers, that sort of thing. I don’t think I’ve particularly noticed whether someone is or isn’t wearing make-up but it’s not something that would be required or commented on.

    4. Batgirl*

      I wouldn’t expect a tie or products on the face myself (unless someone had cracked lips maybe then it could be professional to get some lipbalm). What I am looking for in a smart front desk person is neat hair and clothing, smart or smart casual clothing which is clean and presentable.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I wonder what they should be replaced with?

      How about … is this person performing the tasks I need them to perform, correctly and in a professional and timely manner?

      1. Daffodilly*

        Nah, that’s too simple. Gotta be something extremely minor and irrelevant. And apparently specific to this commenter, because even the things she expects are not at all universal. I guess businesses are expected to read her mind?

    6. I should really pick a name*

      I’m curious why your expectation for a man is clothing-based, but for a woman is make-up based.
      Would a woman in a nice suit read as informal to you if she wasn’t wearing tinted lipbalm?

    7. anonymous73*

      If that’s what you’re focused on, you really need to change your attitude. As long as they look put together (meaning not like they just rolled out of bed), and they are doing their job well, that’s ALL you should be concerned with, not what’s on their face or around their neck.

    8. Purple Cat*

      So I think it’s a good first step that you’re acknowledging that your expectations are a little bit skewed. For me, the most important thing is how the company presents itself – branding outside, clean well-lit marked entrance, etc. then in terms of the receptionist – how quickly do they great me and are they polite, helpful, etc. frankly it’s the same standards I have for any retail position that I have for front-desk and for a million dollars I couldn’t tell you if any salesperson is wearing makeup or not.

    9. Generic Name*

      For another data point from the 40+ set, I have not once had an expectation of how a male or female receptionist would/should dress. I don’t know that I could accurately tell the difference between tinted lip balm and untainted lip balm on another person (I’m a woman).

      1. Alpacas are not a Dairy Animal*

        That’s pretty nebulous though, and can be interpreted all sorts of sketchy ways (as amply demonstrated in e.g. the natural hair debates).

        I think “prompt and accurate in providing what’s needed” is probably more useful than any particular visual cue.

    10. Pointy's in the North Tower*

      How about my ability to get you what you need in an efficient and timely manner and stop caring about things that have no impact on service?

      I (cis woman) don’t wear any make-up because my skin absolutely hates it. I have a couple of skin conditions that cause blemishes and redness, and covering them up with stuff just makes my skin more angry. Today I’m wearing a man-coded long-sleeve button down shirt, slacks, and sneakers because I’m not always gender-conforming. Some times my hair is purple and is almost always pulled back in a pony tail. None of that affects my ability to provide good service. If someone is deciding on whether my office is professional based on my lack of make up or “woman” clothes instead of my ability to do my job well that’s a them problem.

    11. CoveredinBees*

      This seems to be more about your personal opinion than your age. We’re a similar age and I don’t have any of these expectations. Honestly, I would find it jarring (if I even noticed) that a receptionist was wearing business wear and the rest of the office, including the person I was meeting with, was wearing the sneakers and hoodie the LW described.

    12. Workerbee*

      I’m a 40-something person and what I want is for people to think before reacting. Since you’re asking what gendered symbols should be replaced with, that’s just a bit of what I’d want to replace the expectations that a women must have differently-colored lips than what she was born with and a man must have a piece of cloth tied around his neck to connote “business.” Give me someone who knows what they’re doing, that’s what I want in a business transaction.

      I don’t even interview with makeup on anymore. I used to feel the pressure as well! But I don’t wear it in “real life,” haven’t in several years, and I want to know up front if the people I’ll be working with know how to assess intelligence, knowledge, and skill, and not make decisions based on appearance. My brains are inside my head, not plastered on the outside.

    13. Daffodilly*

      You know, you can drop your expectations if you realize they are outdated and overly gendered. You’re not stuck with them because “that’s what I ended up with”
      Time to stop expecting that.

    14. Cj*

      Good grief. She would spend more time reapplying her lip balm than working if she had to make sure it was visible to clients at all times.

  25. LifeBeforeCorona*

    No5. I see some delicious malicious compliance here. Stay an extra hour and relax. Clock out an hour later because it seems the company believes all the time clock mistakes will be in their favour.

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      I had an HR rep do this very same thing once and someone replied-all a simple, “nice try but very illegal”. It was hard to tell if this was a genuine mistake in replying all like he claimed or if it was a “mistake”. But either way, awesome.

  26. bamcheeks*

    to [attract young people] you need to look at bigger things generous time off, flexible schedules, and, yes, remote work when roles allow for it

    Can I put in a plea for “high quality training and access to clear developmental pathways and mentoring” as well. I work with graduates and it’s amazing how many companies don’t get this.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think this is a key part of attracting and retaining more experienced staff, but specifically around new grads and entry-level staff, they don’t necessarily even know that this is what they want. You often don’t get how important those things are until you’ve worked somewhere without them! Whereas, “You’ll get Y hours of training, qualify for X accreditation / professional qualification and after 24 months in the role our staff often move onto Z” is the kind of structured and managed training pathway that someone who is coming out of college can recognise and appreciate.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Can I put in a plea for “high quality training and access to clear developmental pathways and mentoring” as well.

      Only if you add “relevant” to adjectives on training. I don’t need another two weeks on the Seven Sins of Highly Defective People.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I guess something could technically be high-quality but irrelevant, but I was kind of thinking that “relevant” was a necessarily component of high-quality!

      2. Testerbert*

        But Sola! What about this video on Listening Skills! Ooo, how about one on Effective Time Management! You don’t need to go on that external certified course, here’s a subscription to an e-learning platform which doesn’t give out industry-recognised certifications!

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          But Sola! What about this video on Listening Skills! Ooo, how about one on Effective Time Management! You don’t need to go on that external certified course, here’s a subscription to an e-learning platform which doesn’t give out industry-recognised certifications!

          I’m going to ace the Time Management one by no-call-no-show’ing and doing real work instead.

          Sadly, I’ve been gifted that subscription by management before.

        2. CoveredinBees*

          Oh this brings back bad memories. Instead of hiring a badly needed Head of Department, we’re going to split the former HoD’s jobs between you and get you coaching in the form of “time management” webinars.

    2. Generic Name*

      Yes. Also procedures for regular feedback. And health benefits. Young people are usually/often single and need health benefits.

  27. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Y’all can issue your paychecks to whoever you want, but is it actually permissible for person A’s income to be reported to the IRS, Social Security etc in the name of Person B? Wouldn’t that be fraud, on the Social Security especially, since many of their services are based on an individual’s lifetime reported income?

    1. doreen*

      I’m pretty sure there is an exception to many labor laws that allows certain family members to work for a business without pay under certain circumstances, such as all employees being family members. But regardless of that, how does the IRS or SS or even know that person B is working in the business and not being paid and decide that what really happened is Person A and Person B each made $X rather than Person A earning $2X unless person B complains?

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I mean, just because fraud is hard to identify doesn’t make it suddenly acceptable.

        1. doreen*

          I didn’t mean to imply that fraud is acceptable if it’s hard to identify – I’m not even sure that it is fraud in this situation since there are many exemptions in laws for family members working in the business. And I don’t know how anyone ( you , me or the IRS) can possibly determine from the outside that Person A’s income is being reported as Person B’s income rather than that Person A is working unpaid in the family business. But even if it is fraud, that doesn’t really do the letter writer any good in terms of deciding what to do now – she’s not going to report the business that she co-owns to the IRS or SS and there are plenty of reasons to change the current situation even if it isn’t fraud.

    2. Purple Cat*

      Where are you seeing fraud? I read it as “his money is their money” from a household management perspective. Not that she’s officially claiming the income as hers anywhere.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        If the business is issuing one paycheck for Jane and one paycheck for John, but writing both checks to John, that part is no big deal if that’s what works for John and Jane. But if they’re reporting both Jane’s income AND John’s income under John’s name to gov’t bureaux — which seems to be how Alison read the letter, at least? “Two, by reporting all your pay in your husband’s name, it’s counting toward his Social Security earnings and not yours.” — Then John’s history of earned income, which his eventual Social Security benefit would be based on, is wildly inflated and Jane’s history of earned income is functionally nil. I’m not sure what you would call that wild inflation of John’s social security benefit if not fraudulent.

  28. Bookworm*

    #2: That is positively ridiculous. No amount of “fun” perks mean a thing if the AC/heat don’t work and the c-level executives are making 6 figures. This sounds like a leadership/management that’s out of touch. Good luck.

  29. Spicy Tuna*

    #1 – I personally think makeup looks jarring on someone dressed very casually. I think if hoodie and jeans are fine for work, no makeup is fine also. (Side note – I run marathons and there are always women at the starting line with a full face of makeup and sometimes even dangly earrings. I get that there are photographers along the course, but do these women not expect to sweat??)

    #2 – I am volunteer at a an animal shelter and I’m annoyed when we get deliveries for things like coffee pods and granola bars. I “get” that they are trying to do nice things for the volunteers, but that money could be better spent on animals! I understand that being employed at a non-profit is different than volunteering somewhere, but if I were considering donating time or money to a non-profit, I’d rather management spend money on things like salaries, tuition reimbursement, more robust benefits versus candy, coffee or regular outings. It seems like the former would actually lead to happier, more productive employees and the latter is window dressing.

    1. TechWorker*

      I don’t wear much make up myself but there are some women who feel they cannot leave the house without it, or who just prefer wearing it. I hope they are just as welcome at marathons as anyone else.

      1. Batgirl*

        I don’t judge women in the wild for wearing a lot of makeup in jarring contexts but I would it to disappear from popular culture. I think the limit for me was Princess Cirilla in the Witcher. She lives in a medieval society and is blonde, but she has insanely long and super dark false eyelashes. OK. I can suspend my disbelief – she is a princess, there is magic in the land maybe she figured out a way to buy false eyelashes from an apothecary and no one else thinks they look unusual. Then she starts training in the back of beyond with a group of witchers. She’s in dirty and torn clothing and training from dawn to dusk but the false eyelashes are still in play. I think we are supposed to think they are natural because that’s how every woman’s face is supposed to look.

        1. Amira*

          I have basically convinced myself Ciri isn’t a natural blond due to this. (It feels far more likely she’s bleaching her hair via magic or otherwise, than coloring lashes darker.)

          Though, I’ve also noticed in myself that I’ve made makeup a “tell” in a small way. (I wear it when I’m feeling under the weather, or have something that makes me nervous coming up. …and for fun, which should keep anyone paying too much attention to my face on their toes!)

        2. TechWriter*

          Bahaha I have watched precisely 10 minutes of the first episode of season 2, and I had this same thought. IT IS SO DISTRACTING when a character is otherwise rumpled and filthy but her eye makeup is perfect. COME ON.

    2. WellRed2020*

      Spending a little money in coffee and granola could be reframed a bit as making the environment more pleasant for volunteers and employees (really, it’s a minimal expense in most cases) and therefore indirectly benefits the animals. Don’t fall into some sort of “mission” trap. Frankly, if my office didn’t provide coffee any longer I doubt the pennies saved would improve my paycheck and have no doubt, work would be less pleasant.

      1. CoveredinBees*

        Cosigned and also there’s a possibility those items are donated. “We give part of our profits to help animals!” is a very inexpensive way to purchase consumer goodwill.

    3. Delta Delta*

      I also run in races (half of what you do, but still races), and I’m always amazed at the women who show up in full makeup and jewelry. Not just because of the sweat factor, but also the big races often have people in corrals before the sun comes up so they can start at 6 a.m. or so. I’m usually trying to make sure I remembered both shoes at that hour – makeup would be a whole other level of getting up early for me!

    4. Salty Beef*

      “do these women not expect to sweat??”

      Sure, I expect to sweat! But I also know how to use primer and setting spray, so while I sweat my makeup won’t be going anywhere. So… thank you for your concern, I guess?!

      1. CoveredinBees*

        I’m impressed. Makeup isn’t my thing in part because I wake up very slowly, even with coffee, so trying to do makeup then is a 50/50 shot of looking more like a clown. Doing it even earlier in the morning would not move those odds in my favor. Also impressive is keeping it all in place through heavy exercise.

      2. Spicy Tuna*

        I’m not judging even if my original comment came off that way. I’m just sort of perplexed / impressed that some people go to all that trouble that early in the morning when sweating will be involved!

        1. pancakes*

          “The way this person has styled themself is perplexing” is pretty judge-y. It’s one of those things that’s fine to think to oneself but doesn’t really need to be talked about.

    5. Observer*

      I am volunteer at a an animal shelter and I’m annoyed when we get deliveries for things like coffee pods and granola bars. I “get” that they are trying to do nice things for the volunteers, but that money could be better spent on animals!

      Not really true. For a lot of people gestures like this make a huge difference in whether they stay with the organization or not. Furthermore, depending on the specifics, those coffee pads / snacks may make the volunteer experience a lot better. It’s a very different dynamic that with employees, for whom more substantive issues take precedence.

      Obviously, this doesn’t apply to you, but management needs to think about how most people operate.

      And of course none of this matters if you can’t get the most BAISC of issues – ie a clean, safe and appropriately heated building – taken care of!

  30. LPUK*

    OP1 – if you could also say what you like about your current role- flexibility, good office culture etc, the other dept head may pick up clues about how to make working in their dept more attractive, and perhaps be able to reduce the turnover they have.

  31. Lizcase*

    #1: I usually only wear makeup for formal occasions. On the rare occasions I do wear makeup at work I got a lot of double takes. It is the contrast that gets the reaction.

    1. anonymous73*

      Doesn’t make it okay though. A simple “you look nice” is cool. Acting like you went through a Roxie Hart transformation is not cool.

      1. Critical Rolls*

        Humans are going to react to very noticeable changes in appearance from people they are familiar with. A double take is not an over-the-top response, and it doesn’t have a value judgement attached to it.

        1. pancakes*

          Not quite, no — surely you’ve noticed that not every human wears all their feelings on their face.

  32. Workerbee*

    #1 As amply demonstrated here in the comments, it’s not just your workplace that contains people who opt to stare & whisper over being polite or, you know, thinking just a few moments past their lizard brain reaction. You are doing a good deed for those who have little to nothing else going on!

    Seriously: Don’t wear makeup if you don’t want to or wear it if you want to; people are going to claim their right to react to something no matter what you do.

    For those wondering about the casual attire, I would think that OP is adhering to both the letter and the spirit of the casual dress code, especially since the company has paid for some of the casual attire itself.

  33. drinking Mello Yello*

    OP2: Gaming consoles in the office? Oof… I’m 33, so I don’t know if I fall under that company’s definition of “younger” enough but… As much as I like the Vidya Games, I don’t want to play games at work. I want to Work at work. I didn’t want to play video games at work when I was in my 20s or when I was in high school. And I really don’t want to play video games in a poorly climate controlled office with nasty bathrooms and an ice rink for a parking lot… A whole lot of “putting the cart before the horse” going on here… :U

  34. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    OP #1–this makes me furious! If you don’t want to wear makeup, you shouldn’t have to. I understand the comments suggesting you put on minimal makeup or lipgloss or something similar, but it’s completely unnecessary. You put on your face what you like–even if it’s nothing.

    The fact that you’re a younger woman in a male-dominated field and office is NOT a coincidence to the looks and dress-code double standard you’ve been getting.

  35. WellRed2020*

    Op 1: are you sure you are really getting “looks” and “facial conversations” or are you suddenly self conscious because a few people made comments so now you are “seeing” that everywhere. I also agree with Alison to consider upping the clothes game a bit on casual face day.

  36. Blazer*

    OP 3 – hi from a fellow research grant administrator! I couldn’t help but giggle at your description of OSP knowing our OSP has the same reputation. Maybe it’s just the nature of that work but it’d be a hard sell for me too!

    1. OP4*

      Yea it’s weird as the individual accountants and grant specialists in central are really nice, but their leadership. Whoo. The turnover there is really insane, and although we are meant to ‘follow their lead’ I end up semi-training all those people anyway.

      I ended up using something similar to the script, but then also had to loop in my grandboss as I started to get frozen out of some of the university wide admin meetings. She had a word and then it got sorted.

      1. tamarack & fireweed*

        Good! I was looking for a sub-thread on OP4. As a fully grant-funded academic researcher I consider both pre- and post-award administration people as worth your weight in gold. (And yeah, not the office of sponsored programs so much…)

        Give me a terabyte of data from weird instruments distributed across the Arctic, and I can come up with an analysis that makes some measure of sense. Give me 10 pages of grantese and I lose the will to live. The saddest I’ve seen my current boss was when the main administrator who understands an insanely complicated award that she’s a co-PI on announced she was accepting an offer to be poached to elsewhere in the organization.

        When I started grad school I moved from being staff to being a research assistant (ie. grad student employee). My then-boss wanted to pay me out of the same grant he already was, and that ran into a wall pretty fast, which led to some amount of struggling to cover me for the rest of the semester, and onwards. When I told my other co-advisor, a more experienced PI, one of the key things she taught me was that this situation should never have led to any serious trouble. “If something like this happens again – we can pay for the staff salaries, but not the tuition of the student employee; we can pay for equipment, but not computing infrastructure – so how do we get you a laptop? we can pay for workshops but don’t have a line item for travel… – you say ‘let’s have my fiscal officer talk with your fiscal officer’, and in 90% of the cases the terms can be adjusted, or the right category for an expense found, or the money in some pot redirected to a different pot”. What you don’t do is to have (in my case) a junior scientist talk with a federal agency research manager and scratch their heads…

        Anyhoo, you’re in a strong position, and can with a smile say how flattered you are, and how happy you are in the role you have.

  37. Barry*

    The organization described by the second letter writer is abusive, pure and simple. The elites get lavish pay, while the peons suffer in the cold and the heat, nursing sprained ankles and wrists.

    They clearly want free or employee-paid shiny geegaws to distract people from the truth.

    My advice for the letter writer is to find another job. You never have a good relationship with an abusive person. You just please them for the moment .

  38. anonymous73*

    #1 People who treat you differently, or feel the need to comment on your look when you are/are not wearing makeup are assholes. I had a co-worker a few jobs back that had red hair and pale skin. Most days she wore bronzer but on the days she didn’t, one of our other team members would ask her if she was sick. It’s so rude and uncalled for. If you want to dress casually with no makeup most days, and dress up with makeup on others, that’s nobody’s business but your own. You might even consider commenting back and putting the awkward on them and ~maybe~ it’ll stop.

    “Are you feeling okay today?”
    “I’m fine. What would make you think I’m not okay?”

  39. Butters*

    Ah, the benefits no one wants to avoid actually dealing with issues! At my last toxic job we had a “beatings will continue until morale improves” meeting during which the boss suggested angrily we could have some catered lunches to improve morale. What we actually wanted were more reasonable hours, better pay, the ability to say no to unreasonable client demands and not having our lives expected to completely revolve around work. Unfortunately the boss was a toxic micromanager who would discount a client’s bill by 25% if they complained about ANYTHING (including bills that were less than the original quote). He scheduled ONE catered lunch that was cancelled the day of because the bully of an office manager didn’t want to eat that. I was left without lunch that day. This same boss spent $500k on a ridiculous renovation that didn’t actually address some serious safety concerns we had. After that he started stealing our clients to pay for said renovation while complaining we weren’t making him enough money.

    These bosses don’t change. If they’re so out of touch that they think a popcorn machine that the underpaid employees have to pay to restock is a BENEFIT then I wouldn’t waste my breath. Get out of there if you can.

    1. H*

      THIS: “What we actually wanted were more reasonable hours, better pay, the ability to say no to unreasonable client demands and not having our lives expected to completely revolve around work.” This is what we all want!

  40. anonymous73*

    #2 Yes tell them. And I don’t think you have to be blunt to point out the fact that these “perks” are irrelevant when there are other real issues in the office (the cleaning, HVAC system and parking lot ice). Additional perks are nice if the company is providing the basics to keep their employees happy – great salary, great benefits, flexibility when needed, education and advancement opportunities, management that has your back, etc. If those things don’t exist, focusing on fancy coffee bars and video gaming isn’t going to draw in new employees or retain the ones who are already there.

  41. Raven*

    #1. I really agree with Alison. Its likely about the contrast. I remember a job I was at for a while. Very casual office. There was one woman in our department who NEVER wore makeup, at least in any noticeable way, except for big client meetings or something fancy. Another woman came in fully made up every day. No one cared that the first woman rarely wore makeup. But when the 2nd would come in without makeup, it was VERY noticeable. And people reacted kind of like reacting here, asking if she felt alright. This is how I’d compare it. Say a guy in your office wore a suit and tie everyday. But then randomly showed up in jeans and a t-shirt. Even if it was acceptable to do, you’d probably find it jarring and wonder what was up. Sometimes people set their own appearance standards, and when they don’t meat them, people see them differently.

    1. just another bureaucrat*

      I think your last line is really important. I at one point started to try to wear makeup and a lot of people had the eyebrow-raising what’s up with that but not exactly conversation because of it. I was trying to look more polished and it was me trying to shift my own standard that stood out. I haven’t done that in years and no comments at all, but my overall standard hasn’t changed at all in the last 5 years or so either. The change matters. Once you get through the this is change part of it people adjust and then will get weird if you changed back.

    2. Shan*

      Yes, I agree with the last line. In my friend group, for example, one woman exists solely in loungewear and very little makeup. Another woman, pre-pandemic, was always a total fashionista with a full face of make-up. Then, with WFH, she shifted to a bare face and kind of blah loungewear, and it was jarring! Because with her, it read as abnormal (and therefore possibly concerning) in a way it didn’t with my other friend.

  42. Gnome*

    #1, I don’t wear makeup. Ever. I work in government contracting and our company is 100% business professional (suits and ties, shine your shoes, etc) for all client meetings. I technically own makeup, but it may be older than my learning-to-drive kid. I don’t even know how to apply it.

    It is nothing to do with professional and everything to do with the contrast. Try wearing more subtle makeup when you do wear it… and I’ll bet the reactions are less when you don’t (I have no idea how much/what type of makeup you wear, but I have some coworkers who wear bright lipstick, colored eyeshadow, and are pretty heavy on the eyeliner… and if they didn’t wear makeup, it would be a HUGE difference, compared to the female engineer who would have just a slightly less even complexion that day).

  43. LawBee*

    OP1 I haven’t worn makeup daily in decades – not even to court. I suspect Alison is right, and it’s the contrast between dressier makeup days and more casual makeup free days.

    Nothing against my makeup loving sisters! I wish I enjoyed it, but it’s always felt like more of a hassle than anything else – especially first thing in the morning.

    1. Delta Delta*

      Also a lawyer, and I’m back and forth on makeup. I always wore at least mascara and lipgloss when I was younger and trying to look more grown up. Then I was generally off makeup entirely. Now that court is largely virtual for me, I find I have to wear at least some sort of lip tint, otherwise I fade into my background wall. I happened to get some very good lipstick that I really like, and that helps, too.

  44. Hate HireRight*

    About needing a W2 or 1099 in future to get a job — yes, that can happen.

    I applied for a job where they used a company called HireRight to check candidates after you accepted the offer. HireRight did a criminal background check, but they also checked every job on your application. If they couldn’t reach someone on the phone at that company to verify your employment, they asked you to upload a scan of a W2 or 1099. They had trouble with my university, and required a transcript or diploma.

    They spent over a week futzing around and coming back with more questions. I regretted giving notice before the reference checking was done!

    If you’ve worked at a company that was acquired, merged with another, or went out of business — hang onto your documentation.

  45. Just an autistic redhead*

    OP1, as I got into my teens, I used to get comments from my mom and aunt, worriedly asking whether I was getting enough sleep or something (reasonable my mom asked, since I would read instead of part of my sleep sometimes, but). I have thin skin beneath my eyes and they were reacting to my normal appearance. In one of my part-time jobs in high school, one of the managers (the nice one, to boot) once told me I looked very tired and was I okay. By then, I already knew the problem, and I told him “ah, I’m fine, just had a makeup mishap today” (as I had not been able to use the replacement concealer I had bought due to turning out allergic). Concealer was the only makeup I wore for years. I mean, now I’m back to no makeup unless I feel like it, and no one cares (for a couple years prior to Covid). But it’s probably, as many others have said here, likely to be the difference catching peoples’ eye.

  46. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I’m not going to say OP has to wear makeup – that’s not appropriate or what I think. I do think OP might want to check out what she wears. Jeans/sneakers/company hoodies sound just fine, as long as they’re clean and not wrinkled. As others suggested, it may have the company logo, but if it gives the “I just rolled out of bed” vibe, that doesn’t seem professional.

  47. Falling Diphthong*

    #2, my husband manages and hires young people in their 20s.

    They tell him they want 401K matching.

  48. CatPerson*

    It is my fervent hope that if more women would stop wearing makeup and dying their hair that this will eventually become normal. People don’t demand these things of men.

    1. londonedit*

      Some women enjoy wearing make-up, though. I don’t bother at home, but if I’m going out then I like to put on some make-up, the same as I’d put on nicer clothes than if I was hanging around at home on my own. And I dye my hair not to cover greys but because I think it suits the haircut I have better than my natural hair colour. Plenty of women enjoy dyeing their hair pink or yellow or blue, too. I agree that no one should feel they ‘have to’, for whatever reason, but everyone should feel free to wear make-up and dye their hair if that’s what they want to do.

    2. Pippa K*

      I see what you mean, but for a lot of women it feels like a bit of a trap. “If women didn’t do these things, these things wouldn’t be demanded of them” when much of the time, it’s “if these things weren’t demanded of me, I wouldn’t do them.” Ending sexist societal standards via individual noncompliance is hard going. But I hope we’re moving toward a wider range of “normal appearance” choices where people can wear makeup or not in the same way they can …I don’t know, wear blue shirts or not, depending entirely on personal preference.

      1. CatPerson*

        To me it’s a matter of how much you care about what other people think. In my case, it’s almost zero, but for many others, it’s a lot. I think that women should feel more free to do what they want to instead of what’s expected of them. For many people, possibly LW1, it starts with that first step. She wants to know if this is OK. YES. It is OK.

    3. pancakes*

      The problem isn’t that we’re not all on the same page about wearing makeup, but that some people are busybodies who feel entitled to ask women who aren’t wearing makeup if they’re feeling ok, if they’re tired, etc. Why not hope that they get clued-in or discouraged instead of hoping for widespread conformity?

      1. JelloStapler*

        Exactly, not expecting those who are being judged to change it but the people judging to stop … judging. I think of the example of stop expecting girls/women to dress modestly as to not distract boys/men- teach the boys men they are responsible for their own attention and behavior.

    4. bamcheeks*

      My fervent hope is that people of every gender get to decide whether or not to wear make-up based purely on their own preference, not on expectations, hopes or demands of others!

      1. Nanani*

        This. Makeup isn’t for me but I have friends who enjoy it as a form of self-expression.
        Endless debates about whose face is correct are not the answer.
        Ending the -expectation- of makeup doesn’t have to mean ending the availability of it for those who like it.

    5. Joielle*

      Yeah but I LIKE wearing makeup and dying my hair interesting colors. It’s personal expression. Don’t assume every makeup wearing woman you see is just a sad lady brainwashed by society’s expectations (which is maybe a strawman, but that’s the vibe I get from this type of comment!)

    6. CatPerson*

      Maybe those of you who replied to my post didn’t notice that the LW said that she felt comfortable not wearing makeup now but that her co-workers treated her differently if she didn’t? And that my comment said that I hoped that such women should be viewed as normal, like men who don’t? I don’t think I said anything about people who like wearing makeup, since that was not the point of the question, yet makeup lovers jumped all over me. Why so defensive?

      1. pancakes*

        The way your comment is phrased, you seem to think the letter writer needs other women in the office to stop wearing makeup as well to normalize her own choice to not wear makeup. If it wasn’t your intention to convey that, fine, but it isn’t defensiveness for people to question that rationale. It is already normal for women to wear varying amounts of makeup, from none at all to the works. What needs to be normalized is other people not commenting on it.

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I think if it was phrased “It is my fervent hope that if more women would stop wearing makeup and dying their hair *if they don’t want to do that* that this will die out…” it would have come across differently. The current phrasing can be interpreted as frustration at women who wear makeup and dye their hair making it harder for those who don’t.

        1. CatPerson*

          The LW wanted to know if she could feel free to not wear makeup! You can interpret whatever you want, but please read what I said. I didn’t say “die out,” you said that. I said “become normal”. Which the LW is seeing that it currently is not viewed as normal where she works. And “if they don’t want to do that” goes without saying, since the LW said that she didn’t “want to do that” and asked if this was OK! I am sorry that my comment didn’t address *your* issue, but you’re not the one who wrote in.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Apologies for the misquote. I should have said that if your original comment was phrased “It is my fervent hope that if more woman would stop wearing makeup and dying their hair *if they don’t want to do that* that this will die out…” it would have come across differently.

            Look, you posted words, people interpreted those words a different way than you intended, and you asked *why* people didn’t interpret your words the way you intended. You got two responses that it was the phrasing that led to an interpretation that differed from your intention. What you wrote was read and interpreted — this is how reading works.

            Not that you care, but I actually *don’t* think you were trying to tell me to stop wearing makeup and dying my hair so that it’s as normal for women to be au natural as it is for men. I can just see how the phrasing lends itself to that interpretation because my literal job is to figure out how to write things so that they only allow for narrow interpretation.

            Have a lovely day :)

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              dammit, copy-paste. “It is my fervent hope that if more women would stop wearing makeup and dying their hair *if they don’t want to do that* that it will become normal.”

              No more interneting for me today, I guess.

  49. JelloStapler*

    I have plenty of colleagues who do not wear makeup or very minimal makeup. It may be our industry (higher ed) but it never made a difference in professionalism or how people see them. I do agree with Alison that if it is matched with dressing less professionally and not matching that norm, you may want to up that game.

  50. Barb*

    OP#3: Social Security! Workers Comp!
    If you are injured or become disabled you have nothing!!\

    Unemployment insurance! If the business goes under you have nothing!!

    Also – if you divorce and remarry, I don’t think you have a claim on your current husband’s Social Security when you retire. Thus you would lose all of what were actually your contributions for the past 9 years.

    Please fix the paychecks ASAP.

    1. Delta Delta*

      Worker’s comp doesn’t have anything to do with paychecks. The business would need to have a comp insurance policy to cover any such injuries. It may or may not be required by their state law, depending on the size of the business. If there is a comp policy and if wife is injured, she can make a pretty good case that she is, in fact, an employee (if the employer tries to say she isn’t), which should entitle her to benefits. That’s like employers trying to pay people on a 1099/subcontractor basis and then when they’re injured pretend the person isn’t an employee. That often doesn’t work if it can be shown the person is an employee but just paid in that way.

      1. Shad*

        Any lost wage payments from workers compensation would be based on her wages, though. So if she has none, there’s no payment to make.

      2. Accountant*

        This isn’t a third party’s policy, though – she and her spouse are functionally responsible for any errors or omissions made in their workers comp policy. Fighting the insurance company for coverage isn’t going to be the mic drop moment it sounds like when they end up paying a huge backbill or getting dropped from their coverage entirely.

  51. Purple Cat*

    LW 4. It’s not insulting to be firm. You’ve been dancing around with a softer message and clearly it’s not working and resentment is starting to build. If your feelings keep escalating then your response really might be insulting. Alison’s script is great and if I were you consider talking to your manager to also put a bug in this guy’s ear that you’re not interested in moving. (Although full disclosure I wouldn’t necessarily trust that message from a different manager if I thought they were just trying to not lose a good employee)

  52. After 33 years ...*

    LW #4: A colleague regularly received offers for a similar lateral move. They deflected those by following Alison’s script of emphasizing the positives of the position in our place, coupled with the suggestion that, “If I hear that anyone else is looking for a position, can I refer them to you?’

  53. agnes*

    LW#1 Oh my do I sympathize. I developed an eye problem (not noticeable to others, but which affected my vision)
    which meant I could not wear eye makeup while it was being treated.

    I cannot tell you how many times I heard “oh you look tired (sick, like you’ve been crying, blah blah blah).” It was none of those–I just didn’t have on eye make up. I finally told people that I was fine and that their comments made me uncomfortable and I was sure that was not what they wanted to do.

    I hope I will live to see the day when people stop this nonsense. Nobody asks a guy if he’s been crying.

  54. Koala dreams*

    #3 You might also want to consult an accountant or a lawyer about making sure everything is in order. It’s a small hassle to change things, but can be a big hassle if you run into problems down the road.

  55. AvonLady Barksdale*

    LW #1: I work from home in a video-call heavy job and I wear makeup almost every day; not a ton and it’s not at all elaborate, just foundation and some eyeliner and powder. It’s part of my costume. I also dress casually, but I’ll usually wear earrings, I’ll go for a cute sweater or a scarf, that kind of thing. I feel ready for the day that way.

    But some days, I just cannot bother. Maybe I don’t have client calls, but it’s usually days when I just CANNOT. So no makeup (which means my face is redder and my eyes less defined) and I opt for a sweatshirt. No one says anything to me, but it’s pretty clear that it’s “one of those days”. My co-workers have them too, men and women (when my male boss appears onscreen in a team t-shirt, the vibe is clear).

    All of this to say… maybe that’s what’s coming across, which you want to avoid in your position. If you usually wear makeup and dress “up” a bit more, the days when you don’t stand out. So if I were you, I’d be cognizant of that as the receptionist– if it’s a no makeup day, skip the hoodie. I do a lot of long-sleeved t-shirts with scarves, myself.

  56. Aerwyna*

    #1: I am also a woman in a male dominated field who wears jeans and hoodies everyday and I have never worn makeup to work. As a teenager I had extremely sensitive skin that would break out in a rash if I wore cosmetics, so even though my skin has chilled out over the years I never really learned how to wear makeup and it feels really awkward for me now. None of my coworkers have ever said anything about it and they are the nosiest bunch of gossips I have ever met (I went on a diet a few years back and they all had comments on that, mostly to say I was looking good or ask if I was sick :P). I agree with Allison that your coworkers are either just reacting to the difference in your appearance or are just horrible people.

  57. tg*

    OP#2, if your car park is iced over, and someone has an accident, then is your company liable?

    OP#3, I don’t know if the business is in your husbands family or your own, but if your husband died, would you be frozen out of the business since he was the one “working” there and collecting the paycheck?

    1. OP 2*

      They should be, but I’m not sure. Our HR is a disgrace too so there’s no telling what would happen.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        What would happen is they would be sued or have a workers’ compensation claim filed, depending on who was hurt. This isn’t something the HR department gets to just decide.

      2. tg*

        The more I think about this the more backward the priorities seem. Why isn’t basic maintanence and employee comfort important?

        1. OP 2*

          I get that it isn’t something HR gets to decide, but they’ve messed up parental leave, health insurance, and more. So somehow they would mess it up, I’m sure of it.

          tg – we were just alerted that the new system can’t finish being installed until it gets a little warmer out. Wish I was making this up…

          1. Observer*

            I’m sure they would mess up. But it getting worker comp would not be up to them. Nor would they have the ability to just ignore a law suit. Same if the DOL or OSHA came after them.

  58. Kinsey*

    #1 I am wondering if it’s more about your clothing than your makeup. The nonverbal facial expressions you’re describing don’t make sense if it’s about makeup, unless you’re talking going from FULL CONTOURED CRAYON EYEBROWS FACE to nothing. Admins\receptionists don’t always wear what others are allowed to wear and are usually more business professional than, say, professors, software devs, etc. Are there days where you are more dressed down than usual, and do those days tend to line up with no make up days?

      1. Kinsey*

        Haha, sure. I was envisioning a grad student I had once who fit the description; one day, she came to class with a completely bare face and I nearly kicked her out of the classroom because I didn’t recognize her and figured she was a campus event guest in the wrong room. It was the crayoned eyebrows and countouring that defined her face.

  59. C in the Hood*

    OP1: I’m on Team No-Makeup; haven’t worn any since the pandemic started. I’m just curious if this might be a regional cultural thing? Some friends of mine from the south wouldn’t be caught dead going out without makeup. (Not that you can’t buck that system, though.)

    1. AsherCat*

      I’m from the south (Texas) and haven’t worn makeup in probably 15 years. One reason is that it’s so hot most of the year, and any makeup I put on would just slide off and get gross from all the sweat and humidity. Plus I just don’t like how it feels – it’s not my jam! (hair products, on the other hand, are totally my jam)

    2. Former Llama Herder*

      I think there are absolutely regional differences! I’m from the part of the country where the Midwest and South blur together, and I’ve had to work through the undressed feeling when I don’t wear makeup. Several close friends are from the Mid Atlantic region and see make up as superflous at best. (All this aside, I do enjoy the ritual and sensations I associate with make up. Just actively trying to remember that our faces don’t look like that.)

      All that said, it’s crazy to me that people think it’s appropriate to comment on appearances like this! Wearing make up in the workplace is a purely gendered expectation and the LW shouldn’t have to deal with that.

  60. RetailInducedTrauma*

    You know where I can get good coffee whenever I want it? My house! You know where I can spend all day with my dog/cat/therapy pig? My house! My house even has a functioning HVAC and is always comfortable.

  61. Scott M*

    #1: I would agree that its the contrast. Especially if the reactions are from men. Us men are often clueless about makeup and how it changes a woman’s appearance. But thats our issue, not yours.

  62. The Face*

    I’m a woman in a female-dominated field that tends towards progressive values and tolerance and I used to wear daily makeup. Not much, just a bit of under eye-concealer, mascara, and very understated eyeshadow. I got the ‘are you ok?’ several times from an assortment of folks over the years on days I didn’t wear makeup. It was a bit unpleasant to realise that I looked tired and possibly ill to them with my natural face, but I don’t think they were consciously commenting on my lack of makeup or my appearance specifically. They were genuinely concerned I might be having a hard time because I looked different to how I usually looked.

    I will echo what many many others have said already, and that is that those kind of comments likely come out of a contrast with how you normally look OP, and not that all women without makeup look tired or unprofessional or whatever. I haven’t worn daily makeup in years and those comments literally never happen.

    1. pancakes*

      I can’t really comment on whether people who say things like this are genuinely concerned or not — that’s such an individual thing — but the idea that people who aren’t ok will want to explain how and why they aren’t ok to casual acquaintances simply because they’ve been asked is way, way off. Suspecting that someone isn’t ok and wanting to put them on the spot about it is pretty unthinking.

      1. Rocket*

        I just truly don’t understand this thinking at all. This is not my experience in the working world. First of all, I would never think of my coworkers as casual acquaintances – they’re the people I spend the most time with outside of my family. Second of all, most people ask out of concern, not just for a random answer. The conversation doesn’t just stop after the confirmation that the person is or is not okay. There are natural follow-ups like “do you want someone to drive you home?” “Can I get you some water or some aspirin?” “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to make today easier for you.” I don’t need to wait for someone to collapse in front of me to see if they need some help.

        1. pancakes*

          It sounds like you have mostly worked in smaller companies than I have. I have worked in small places a couple times, but when I’ve worked for multinational law firms that occupy, say, five floors in a high rise, many of my coworkers I don’t work with on a daily basis have been casual acquaintances. It also seems that you think I think it’s wrong to ever ask a coworker how they’re doing, which was not my point. The context here is specially asking people if there’s something wrong on account of them wearing less makeup than usual.

      2. The Face*

        They were my colleagues, not casual acquaintances. It was perfectly in keeping with professional norms in almost any place I’ve worked and I’ve worked in multiple industries and countries for more than two decades.

        1. The Face*

          And also, there are many jobs where ‘are you ok’ might actually be a relevant question to ask professionally, for example if one must sometimes deal with difficult people or situations and might possibly not be okay because of something that happened at work.

  63. Trixie's Mattel*

    OP 1: It’s probably the contrast. I am a huge fan of giving people low expectations of my face. I don’t wear makeup normally, my mom and my grandmas never did, my sister doesn’t, and honestly we never hear anything about it. In fact, the few times my mom was forced to wear makeup, she complains that she looked like a clown or a cupie doll. Liberate your face from the Tyranny of Smear(en)ing!

    OTOH, I absolutely appreciate any person who is able to BEAT their face to the GAWDS, so I am definitely not anti-makeup. I wasn’t really taught that I have to do it every day, and nobody expects anything else from my face.

  64. Becky with the bad hair*

    Regarding use of makeup as a professional requirement, I think there’s a disconnect between what should be and what is here.

    I’ve had female coworkers who were thought of as smart and reliable mostly because they always looked put together (and this means use of makeup, if only to create a no-makeup look). A woman of the same intelligence and ability who chooses not to wear make up will likely come across as homely or frumpy, and therefore all the other negative things people will assume about them.

    Of course women shouldn’t be required to wear makeup and it’s always rude to talk about someone’s appearance, but we can’t solve this problem if we just keep on pretending there isn’t an unspoken requirement that women do need to wear makeup to succeed at work.

    1. Jennifer*

      Yes, it’s true. We have to live in the real world and whether we think it’s fair or not, sometimes women who wear makeup are seen as more competent and professional at work. We can’t fix problems if we pretend those problems don’t exist.

    2. Nanani*

      Well said.
      Even if makeup isn’t literally spelled out in the dress code, there is still a layer of expectation. The “are you feeling okay?” and “you look sick/tired” when its actually just your bare face phenomenon is real. And it sucks.

      Pretending it’s an innocent coincidence helps no one.
      We can’t ignore the giant beauty industry and the sexist swamp we all have to wade through.

      1. pancakes*

        What does help in the meantime, though? Or, more specifically, what is the advice the three of you who are in agreement on this point would give to the letter writer? It isn’t spelled out, but seems to be “Just wear makeup daily even if you don’t want to, because some people will think less of you if you don’t.” I’m not clear on how that is going to change or fix anything with regard to people having rigid and heavily gendered expectations about women wearing makeup.

  65. Jennifer*

    #1 I’m kind of in the reverse situation. I rarely wore makeup before and now I’m getting more into skincare and makeup. I started with just a few products and am slowly turning up the volume, just because I don’t care for the comments. Most people haven’t noticed. Of course, it’s your face, you have the right to wear makeup or not, but if the comments really bother you, maybe a light touch of makeup and then slowly start to turn down the volume until you’re barefaced.

    I honestly don’t think people are being malicious. If we see someone looking drastically different one day, it’s normal to have a reaction.

  66. AsherCat*

    #1 – Like others have said, people are just reacting to the contrast, and not insinuating that you must wear makeup to be professional. Except for the ones that are smirking about it and making faces…but those people are jerks, and should be ignored.

    I encourage you to stop wearing makeup altogether if you want to. After a while, there won’t be any contrast to notice, and no one will even remember a time you did wear makeup. I stopped wearing makeup years ago, and I got a few comments like that at first, but after maybe a month they totally disappeared. No one cared if I had on makeup or not (except maybe my mom!). I have since moved on to other jobs, gotten promoted, and am now a manager – all without makeup. I do look very young, so if I want to present a more “business” look I will wear some more formal clothing or make sure my hair is styled, but even then, I’m still pretty casual (think chinos + sweater + Docs or sneakers instead of jeans+hoodie).

    If makeup is something you like to do and makes you feel good, then wear it because you enjoy it. But if you don’t enjoy it, no need to do it!

  67. Amber Rose*

    OP 1: My guess is those facial expression conversations you see are, at least some of the time, actually “she looks sick but she’s insisting she’s fine again.” Because if there’s one thing people have as much of an opinion on than women’s faces, it’s literally anyone’s personal health management. Either way, it sucks, but it might be less… negative, than you think?

    Keeping in mind that it’s not even necessarily that your un-made-up face looks sick or tired. We’ve basically got it ingrained that ANY change in how your face looks means illness of some sort. More pale or more flushed or any deviation from the norm = illness. Which isn’t totally off base, most people DO reflect health status on their face.

    Clearly the solution here is ski masks, all the time, for everyone. ;)

  68. Nanani*

    1: I hope it really is just the contrast, but you are not imagning things. People (of all genders!) really do treat women’s real faces as ghastly unsightly things sometimes. A lot of the time.

    I don’t have practical advice – if you want to wear makeup sometimes and not other times that should be okay. Just commiseration.

  69. mcfizzle*

    I am a woman, and have never worn makeup. It just never seemed important to me, and I don’t seem to make little kids recoil in horror. No one has ever said anything to me nor hinted (that I can tell) I should do anything.

    1. Jennifer*

      This is probably because people are used to seeing you without makeup. If you decided to wear a full face one day, even if you tried to do a “no makeup” look, you’d get comments from people trying to figure out what was different about you.

      1. mcfizzle*

        I agree – I added my comment before reading through others. (My bad!) I’ve come to the conclusion that because it’s always no makeup, there’s really never a difference to comment on. Thanks!

  70. Observer*

    #2- Perhaps you should point out to your management that their setup is such that the most reasonable people are not going to want to come in to the office, even if COVID disappeared tomorrow.

    Do they REALLY think that they are going to be able to attract good candidates when people are being pressured / forced to work in, at best, substandard conditions? When the best you can say is “it’s not as bad as Amazon’s warehouses” and have people question even that (the warehouses mostly don’t have AC< but I'm pretty sure that they're adequately heated), you know you have a problem.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      For sure. Said this below, but if an organization is pushing people to come back to the office right now, while omicron is still spreading wildly, I’m going to assume that I’d have to deal with all sorts of nonsense if I worked there. Overall, it comes off like the decision-makers are out of touch with reality.

  71. Madtown Maven*

    OP#3: Oh, wow. I am absolutely gobsmacked. You have been working at your family business for NINE YEARS and having all the income that YOU have generated be filed under your husband’s name? That is alarming to me.

    You have done the work, led the business, solved the problems, etc., and he has not. By having his name on the paychecks, you are officially, legally, and financially saying all of that is his.

    Generations of women have fought for financial independence. Please claim your work and your earnings as your own.

  72. Observer*

    #5 – Yes, this is one of the few areas where “is this legal” is actually ABSOLUTELY not.

    PS I wonder how they would react if someone’s mistake wound up netting someone an extra few hundred dollars?

  73. Research Admin*

    OP4- Hi from another research admin! I do pre-award work in a department and am constantly being asked to come work in our central office. I did it for a minute because I needed the pay bump and it was awful. Thankfully I was able to move back to a department pretty quickly for a higher-level position. I think the stress that comes along with central office work can make those offices become toxic very quickly!

    1. OP4*

      Preaward are saints. I could NOT do that job. I had to help with one because our usual preaward person was out and there was a crazy deadline. So stressful.

      Mind you everyone I know in preaward says the same thing about postaward :)

  74. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    Hi OP2,
    I currently work at an organization that has tried several times to bring people back to the office. They keep having to back off the plan when another COVID wave gets going and it becomes obvious that it’s a bad idea. I don’t know what COVID is like where you are, but in my area it’s Pretty Not Great.

    In talking with colleagues, some are excited to go back in, while others (including myself) are not. Personally, I’m furious that my employer wants to risk my health for crappy reasons. Particularly since we’ve proven we’re very productive from home and my work was basically all over conference calls even before the pandemic. It has not been great for my morale. From your letter, it sounds like you are very aware of this issue, but maybe management are not so tapped in. I’m getting the sense that flexibility and the ability to be remote (who wants to have to put on real pants and do a commute to do stuff we could do just as well from home) are extremely appealing. To be honest, I interpret the push to return to the office while the pandemic is still in full swing as an indication that the employer is probably going to do other types of silly nonsense and doesn’t truly have my health and safety as a priority. Maybe that perception isn’t entirely fair, but that’s where I’m at.

    1. OP 2*

      We’re in the “pretty not great” but also “not yet devastating” category. They stopped saying we could go back home once omicron hit though, so that was depressing.

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

    #1 As another possibility, the company hoodie MIGHT be too casual to wear to the office; even though the company gave it to you, they may not intend for it to be worn at work — it might be though of as free walking advertising when you are out on the weekends. Just an idea. I’ve definitely worked places that are Business Casual, but they do give out t-shirts or baseball caps and they are NOT to be worn on the job unless it’s a special event like manning a booth at the fair or community 5k.

  76. Interviewer*

    OP#5 – at my company, HR is not allowed to make edits to timecards. If employees miss a punch or forget to add PTO, they need to contact their supervisors directly to make those edits. This was the advice of our auditors, who said we can’t both (1) adjust timecards and (2) process payroll – we can do only one of those things.

    OP, hopefully this is what your boss intended to convey, and the system is easy to use, but forgot the helpful part about who to contact for edits that are truly needed due to a system glitch or honest oversight. If it was deliberate, I’m sure one pay period of solid pay with no breaks for his entire staff will change his tune – some really serious fodder for Malicious Compliance.

  77. Employee of the Bearimy*

    Two suggestions for OP #1:
    1. If you’re not wearing makeup mainly due to the time investment and not on principle or something, you can probably take care of the comments without adding to your morning routine if you switch to tinted moisturizer and tinted lip balm. Obviously you shouldn’t have to do any of this, but it’s an easy adjustment if you’re looking for the path of least resistance.
    2. On the days you don’t wear makeup, wear a nice pair of earrings. I find this makes me look much more polished from the neck up.

    1. Metadata minion*

      These are all useful suggestions if the LW already wears lip balm, moisturizer, and earrings; otherwise it’s just new ways to have to pretty up their appearance. Plenty of people actually no really do not put stuff on their faces in the morning. Nothing at all wrong with it if you do, but it’s not universal.

      1. Employee of the Bearimy*

        I don’t know many people of any gender who don’t put anything at all on their face ever, but I suppose YMMV on that one. As I stated in the first sentence, I was looking for ways to get around the time investment if that’s the real issue, and what I suggested takes 60 seconds, max. People upthread were suggesting things like mascara, which is much harder to do successfully IME. And the earrings suggestion is in keeping with Allison’s advice to up the “polish” in other, non-makeup ways.

        1. FrozenPeas*

          For what it’s worth I like the tip of wearing earrings to look more polished. I like to look like I’ve made a bit of effort even when working from home and on endless video calls, and earrings are an easy and fun adjustment to make – so, thanks!

  78. Sad Desk Salad*

    #2 – I work in a tech industry in the bay area, the godfather of all “put the fun in dysfunctional” workspaces. My last job was at an onsite-only “fun” workspace with a beautiful, expansive break room with gorgeous views of the bay, and my own office overlooked the hills on the other side, trying to concentrate among the crack of billiard balls and finishing up by 3 on Friday so it wouldn’t look weird that I was still in my office during the weekly happy hour, trying to make friends and play games in the breakroom or leading the book club or joining the weekly Tabata class with people who didn’t want to be friends with the company lawyer.

    My next job offered little in the way of amenities, sparse snacks, no onsite gym, the world’s saddest cafeteria, a dark windowless office, and very few forced-gaiety happy hours, but I got paid more, HR and management is top-notch, my boss is available to me but not a micromanager, I could work remote whenever I wanted (and do so permanently now). Guess which one I prefer?

    “Fun” amenities are so popular because they are cheaper than paying employees more, and more importantly, are much easier to implement than fixing problems at the top. Like clueless management.

  79. Dasein9*

    It seems pretty insulting to presume that what young people want at work is “fun,” instead of meaningful work, opportunities to grow, a supportive team, good pay/benefits, appealing culture, and sufficient vacation time.

    A safe parking lot and heat/ac should not even be on the list of things wanted because they should be givens.

  80. lilsheba*

    On #1 there are several things that are not needed to do your job well
    1. makeup — completely unnecessary
    2. High heels — they are nothing but a torture device
    3. dressing up — clothes don’t make anyone perform better.

    Just be comfortable, that’s the best way to go.

  81. Ashley*

    OP3 one upside to transitioning the business to you more then your husband is getting the listing a woman owned business. If you do anything government related there are definite perks (and paperwork), but generally speaking there is some cultural push to do to more to support black owned and women owned business more so it could be a good marketing point for the company.

  82. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    OP1 My chapstick is the closest I’ve come to owning makeup in years. In a casual office I wouldn’t think makeup would be a big issue. I’d recommend looking objectively at what you are wearing vs what others are. If you catch the facial conversations try this…. directly look them in the eye and in a pleasant tone ask “Is something wrong?” You will enjoy how fast they try to backtrack and if nothing else they will learn to be more discreet for fear of getting caught and embarrassed again. The type of people who gossip (by words or by facial expressions) don’t like getting caught and exposed.

  83. LilPinkSock*

    Why are we assuming that LW #1 looks like a slob? She said in her letter that she’s clean, combed, perfumed, and dressed like everyone else in the office.

  84. H*

    Regarding LW 2: This is what is happening in health care and hospitals and yet admin is confused why clinical and frontline staff are leaving. “But we gave you a pizza party”… “Well we didn’t ask for a pizza party; we asked for better staff-to-patient ratios”.

  85. mkl*

    OP 1, regarding makeup, I’ve worked from the entry level to exectutive level and NEVER wore make up and it was a zero issue in my west coast city. So two possibilities…
    1) I also suspect it’s the contrast between when you do and when you don’t. To avoid comments on my appearance I use the old newscaster trick and phase things in at work. Just dyed my hair? Wear it pulled back for the first few days and it’s remarkable how people just adjust- by the time I wear it down no one says a thing. If you’d like to phase out make up, drop one thing at a time and take a week or two to do it and I suspect you’ll get a lot less commentary. On days you want to do more, go for one or two things not a whole face.
    2) You said you live in a rural area… if most of the women in your area wear a full look it will take a little longer but don’t sweat it. Just keep phasing it down and they’ll eventually adjust. It’s funny how regional this is… go to some rural places in the west and you stand out if you ARE wearing it during the day.

  86. mkl17*

    OP 1, regarding makeup, I’ve worked from the entry level to exectutive level and NEVER wore make up and it was a zero issue in my west coast city. So two possibilities…
    1) I also suspect it’s the contrast between when you do and when you don’t. To avoid comments on my appearance I use the old newscaster trick and phase things in at work. Just dyed my hair? Wear it pulled back for the first few days and it’s remarkable how people just adjust- by the time I wear it down no one says a thing. If you’d like to phase out make up, drop one thing at a time and take a week or two to do it and I suspect you’ll get a lot less commentary. On days you want to do more, go for one or two things not a whole face.
    2) You said you live in a rural area… if most of the women in your area wear a full look it will take a little longer but don’t sweat it. Just keep phasing it down and they’ll eventually adjust. It’s funny how regional this is… go to some rural places in the west and you stand out if you ARE wearing it during the day.

  87. Turtlewings*

    LW #3, you need to get things in your name asap! Virtually no one expects their marriage to go down in flames, and yet plenty of them do. It’s just basic common sense to keep such important paperwork accurate. There could also be major problems if your husband dies, as another commenter pointed out. Your resume might be the least of your worries.

  88. BayCay*

    #1 I’m one of those that just kinda stopped wearing makeup to work after working from home for nearly a year and a half. I work in a professional environment but nobody has said anything, ever. I feel like it’s not as big a deal as we often feel it to be. Totally agree with Alison that if you just gradually cut out makeup, people won’t even notice.

  89. Justin*

    For work history, why can’t you just say that you owned and operated a small business? Why would an employer care about how the earnings were paid to you and your husband? That’s more of a tax question.

  90. Sammy Keyes*

    OP1, I’m curious if you wear face masks in your office? I feel like this throws more variables into the equation here. With some of my coworkers, I’ve literally never seen the lower halves of their faces so am not used to either their with-makeup or no-makeup looks, even if they’ve been here for a while. Also, with masks on, there’s just way less real estate on your face where people can tell whether or not you have any product on.

  91. CoveredinBees*

    I thought of OP2 as I was reading about Hostess’ giving bonuses to all their frontline workers for working during COVID. First of all, yes, CASH. People like money. This was after they did things like upgrade their air filtration system. They apparently have a far better safety record than is standard in their industry due to making sure systems are in place to protect workers.

    This is not a shill for the company (I actually can’t stand their products) but a nice example of a company getting it right. Nothing exciting but the type of things that actually make people want to stay at their jobs and should be the minimum. Not gaming consoles when you need crampons to get to the office and possibly down the hall.

  92. EmmaPoet*

    #2- A useful perk I ran across at a library I visited many years ago was a nap room for staff. They had two employees who had migraines, and this way if one kicked in they could take their meds and go lie down for a bit. Then, they could finish off their day and not have to take sick leave to go home. I worked at a government building that had a small medical unit where you could do the same thing. That said, if I had a nap room, but had to borrow my dad’s Carhart snowsuit to make it through the work day, I’d rather have working heating and AC. I’m not Gen Z, but if I were, I’d want a good 401k and solid health insurance, not a video game console. And working heating and AC, because that’s ridiculous.

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