my longtime job doesn’t know I have 9 kids, long walks to the bathroom, and more

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

1. How do I tell my longtime job I have more kids than they know of?

I want to start off by saying that my current situation has nothing to do with shame, just learning from past work situations. So, long story short, 15 years ago I met a wonderful woman at a previous job and she had six children of her own (at the time I had none). Since then, I have had three more children with her (we’re done lol).

I have also had a couple of jobs before landing my current job. The previous jobs went both ways when I explained my home life: one played a favoritism towards me for trivial things like a car breaking down or being late once or twice, which caused animosity with some fellow employees. The other, which I know is caused by HR issues, would tell me I needed the job and would take advantage of me because they thought I had to be at their beck and call for fear of losing it. So the third time around, I chose not to divulge the complete details of my personal life. I just wanted my employer to judge me based off of me and my work ethic and what I bring to the company and not my personal life.

Now nine years into my career here, and one of my stepsons wants to get an entry-level position at my workplace. The problem is, I’ve gone nine years keeping my personal life pretty hush. Some of my work buddies know my situation but nobody of “importance” at my job knows. I feel like I’ve made a good enough impression at my company that I feel comfortable breaking the news. But I don’t know how to “break the ice” on the situation, other than busting through the door and shouting GUESS WHAT I HAVE NINE KIDS! and watching the looks of confusion and jaws dropping.

I do like the the busting-through-the-door idea! But I don’t think you really need a special announcement at all. You could just … stop keeping it secret. Mention your kids when it happens to be relevant, and let people pick up on the info that way. That doesn’t mean you need to say “my nine kids” right off the bat — you can say “my stepson Jim is applying here” and “I took my daughters to the beach” and “my kids love that game” and just generally drop the same references to them that you would have been dropping all along if you hadn’t been trying to keep it quiet. At some point someone will ask how many kids you have and then you can say “nine” as if it’s been info you’ve been up for sharing all along and not a secret. It’ll be an interesting new detail about you, but it probably won’t be as defining as it was at those earlier two jobs since your colleagues already know you as you.

2. How reasonable is a five-minute walk to the bathroom?

I work in a large and very old building that was converted into offices from some other use (I’m not sure what, but I suspect a factory of some kind). The building is narrow and long, with bathrooms on one end next to the staircases and elevators. I work right at the other end of the building and it’s about a five-minute walk along the floor to the bathroom. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot but it means I lose about an hour of my working day just going to the bathroom (five minutes walking each way, five minutes in the bathroom, about four times a day). If, as often happens, the bathrooms are being cleaned or out of order, I have to go to the floor above, which adds more time waiting for the elevator to take me up and down. I don’t know if there’s anything anyone can actually do about this, but do you think this is reasonable?

Losing an hour of your working day for journeys to and from the bathroom is a lot! ’d be even more concerned about anyone with any kind of bathroom urgency (think Crohn’s, some parts of pregnancy, etc.) and how uncomfortable or even impossible this arrangement could be for them. In theory your office could solve that by giving people with those needs offices much closer to the bathrooms … but not everyone is able to predict when they’ll need that or wants to declare it.

In short: it’s going to be problematic for at least some people, and more bathrooms would be better. Whether or not that’s possible in a very old building is another question.

3. What to do when higher-level managers give me instructions that contradict my boss’s directions

I work in a very large international corporation, and my role touches pretty much all departments. My job title is one near the bottom of the corporate food chain, even though I have freedom to make important decisions and support from my manager to do so. (Discussions about pay increase and title changes to match my functions are in the works.)

My issue is this: I get time-sensitive requests from department managers, directors, and/or VPs from across the company, and they sometimes contradict what my manager has previously directed me to do. And often my manager is unavailable to intervene (scheduling, etc.).

Am I required to just blindly take direction from practically everyone in the company just because they are higher up the ladder than myself? Or is it acceptable to decline and wait for direction from my manager? I don’t want to risk pissing off important people who may impact my ability to climb said ladder.

This is heavily context-dependent and will vary from situation to situation. Sometimes a higher-level manager will have newer info than your manager does, and your manager would agree with the new direction if she were available. Other times the higher-level manager might be missing info that your boss has, and your boss might intervene and have you do things differently. It really depends on the situation.

The thing to do is to talk to your boss about this question. Explain that this happens regularly, give some examples, and talk through how you should plan to proceed when it occurs. She might tell you, for example, that anything from Person A should always trump whatever previous instructions she gave you but with Person B you should wait until you can check with her, or that situations like C or D should be handled in E way, or so forth. But the first step is to flag the problem for her and see how she wants you to handle it.

4. Can I give my employees gifts from my side businesses?

I am an area manager at my job. I also dabble in some direct sales businesses in my spare time, mostly for the fun and friendships. I don’t do my side gigs aggressively; most of my employees don’t even know about them, but a few do.

Is it inappropriate or tacky to give my employees gifts of the products from my direct sales gigs? They are really great products and I have a lot of inventory, but I dont want it to come across like I’m trying to get them to buy stuff from me in the future. I’m even actually thinking about quitting the side gigs because I just don’t have the time to keep up with everything.

I wouldn’t do it! You genuinely might not intend it as a way to lure them into buying products in the future, but MLMs have such a bad rap in this regard that it’s likely to raise that worry for at least some of them, especially if they know you sell the products (and even if your gigs are true direct sales and not MLMs). If you do end up quitting the side gigs, you could give the gifts at that point with a clear statement that it’s leftover inventory and not anything you’re currently selling — but I wouldn’t do it before that.

5. Can I claim an HRA reimbursement for a gift from my company?

To celebrate the successful completion of a big, stressful project, my company’s management team gave everyone on my team a gift card to a local spa, and I booked a massage. My company also offers a company-funded HRA, and massages are considered a reimbursable healthcare expense.

Is it unethical to submit for reimbursement for a massage that my company gifted to me? I feel like it most likely is, since it’s like they’re paying for it twice: once for the gift card and then again for the reimbursement.

Yeah, don’t do it! An HRA (Health Reimbursement Arrangement) is to reimburse you for medical expenses, but there was no expense to you here since the spa service was a gift your company had already paid for.

{ 528 comments… read them below }

    1. My dear Wormwood*

      With impeccable time management and budgeting skills, I imagine!

      I cackled at the bursting through door part. I imagined you kicking in a door to a meeting room, gasping to all the startled attendees, “I can’t hold it in anymore! I’ve got nine kids! NINE KIDS, JERRY!”

      Really, if people ask why you didn’t mention it before now, you can always shrug and say, “My previous jobs got very weird about it, so I wanted to build up my work reputation here first.”

      1. AnotherSarah*

        I like that line. It also might make people with fewer or no children aware of biased treatment they never even knew about–not necessarily towards the OP but maybe towards someone else in the future.

      2. nnn*

        I like that!

        (And, as an added bonus, if they do end up being weird about that, you can point at their weirdness and say “See, that’s why I didn’t mention it earlier!”

      3. Kate*

        I don’t see even see why it’s definitely going to come up now? Maaaaybe saying ‘My stepson Jerry wants a job, can I give you his CV?’ would make someone ask ‘How many children do you have?’, but it doesn’t seem like the obvious next question to me. I’m a bit confused as to why he thinks he definitely has to announce all the other children first.

        1. generic_username*

          Yeah, more likely it’d be “Oh, I didn’t realize you had a son,” which may lead to “yeah, I’ve got nine actually.”

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            If any follow up weirdness happens, you can say “We’re a bit of a Brady Bunch family and I like it.”
            Gray rock from there.
            (When I was a much-youngest last kid, I envied my friends with many brothers and sisters!)

          2. Mom of Many*

            I have 7. The #1 response is “You must be busy!” (or “You must be exhausted!” which I think is rude)

            I wonder if men get that response.

            1. Mannequin*

              Just curious, why is that rude? Being a parent is a hard job, and even parents with 2 or 3 kids can be exhausted. 5, 6, 7 or more? My immediate first thought is going to be empathy for how tiring it must be, regardless of which parent it is.

        2. awesome3*

          Eh, it’s a common small talk question when you find out people have kids. I think it’s likely to come up at some point naturally.

        3. Lynn Whitehat*

          Yeah, you’d be amazed how much attention people don’t pay to the details of your personal life. Especially things like grown step-children.

      4. No Name Today*

        My mom went back to work when I was in 6/7 grade. They asked her (it was a long time ago, not long enough, but still) “will there be a problem with childcare?”
        My mom answered truthfully: my daughter is in jr high and my son is a sr in high school.
        She didnt mention the four older ones.
        About three years into the job, my sister shows up with two year old to take mom to lunch.
        “Was that your um sister?”
        That was my daughter.
        Oh. A few years later, a brother took her to lunch.
        Mom’s policy was name, rank and serial number.
        She was never dishonest. Just matter of fact. People accepted it and moved on.
        And people will be the same with OP. oh, you have a son. Interesting. Back to thinking about myself.

        1. Jaybee*


          Some people may try to make a big deal out of it. I have a coworker who I imagine would (she make a big show of being shocked once when she found out I grew up in Texas – we work in New England – and asked me several times why I had never mentioned it before. We moved up north before I turned ten years old. It was just never relevant). And I think LW is concerned about trying to mitigate the reaction of those kind of people, but the reality is that there’s no real way to do that – they perform these overblown reactions because it’s somehow entertaining or affirming for them. It’s about them, not you, and it’s not something your more reasonable coworkers will pay attention to or care about. Don’t waste your energy worrying about it, just disclose the information however you feel most comfortable.

          1. No Name Today*

            Yes, you can’t adjust your life for THAT person. They will always find something to turn into a “thing.” They are low level drama llamas, but just the same, it’s about them, not you.

          2. JJ Bittenbinder*

            It’s so weird to me that someone thinks they deserved to know where you spent the first 10 years of your life and has tried to make it seem as though it’s unusual that you hadn’t shared it! I thought we New Englanders were supposed to be aloof!

            1. MM*

              Yeah, but a lot of New Englanders (at least in MA) have bought into our ~progressive self-image as something that primarily means being superior to the South and especially Texas. The irony is….thick. (The TX emphasis may have receded since the Bush years, but back then at least it was intense.) It’s a weird regional version of self-definition through the other. When I was in high school a girl at my school was going to move to TX because her dad had gotten a job there, and half the school acted like she had been sentenced to walk off the edge of the earth into the pit of hell. So I suspect this is less about an undisclosed childhood elsewhere and more about where specifically it was.

              1. South by Northeast*

                Yup. Can’t say how many times people in the Northeast started treating me differently when they found out I was from Oklahoma. It was like, “We know you were hired for this job that requires an advanced degree and years of experience in a technical field; surely you didn’t acquire that degree and experience in A RED STATE!” Yes, there are universities in states that overwhelmingly vote Republican. And don’t get me started on how a drawl makes every racist in the room think they can flaunt their racism to you.

      5. It's Growing!*

        I was thinking of him making a dramatic entrance á la Dick VanDyke in Mary Poppins singing and dancing the announcement. Now that would be a fun viral video for the company to post, no pee sticks involved!

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      With Mentat level organization and recall for where everyone’s books, socks, backpacks, shoes, etc. are and where everyone is going to be at what time. I am in awe.

    3. Momma Bear*

      I agree. Just start mentioning them as part of normal conversation. I think it will be less of an issue than you think, OP. If anything, I think most people will simply be curious.

    4. PolarVortex*

      Although a kool-aid man moment would be hilarious to see, you could also just put a photo of your family on your desk (or zoom background) or in a locker or whatever. I have some coworkers who have a lot of kids, most people don’t know until they either mention it off hand or have a photo of their family shared for some reason or another. Nobody has ever taken it badly – although more than a few people have been surprised. (And I come from a very very large family, nobody’s ever been anything but nice when it’s been mentioned offhand.)

    1. ItIsWhatItIs*

      Right?! Big oof, I can’t think of a single reputable “direct sales” company off the top of my head

        1. Texan In Exile*

          Does it count as MLM when the product is actually good?

          (There are very few things I want from my Mom’s house when she dies – her Tupperware is at the top of the list.)

          1. UKDancer*

            Not sure. I got some quite nice skin toner by Arbonne in a beauty box last year. I’d never heard of the company before and googled to find it was an MLM. It was good for my skin but not amazing enough that I’d want to buy it.

          2. Sam Yao*

            Yeah. It’s not about the product, it’s the means of selling it through a pyramid of down- and uplines, Tupperware is a legit good product so it’s a shame they continue to do most if not all of their business this way.

          3. quill*

            I mean yeah, because they’re defined by the structure, not the product.

            Several MLM’s sell relatively decent quality items (Not LuLaRoe, obviously: see the old ones that are combinations of hostess sales and MLM sales structures) but LW’s subordinates are going to be understandably wary that he’s trying to recruit them

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Lularoe? I will admit to liking their tights. Give me all the leftover ugly patterns, because I wear my 3 as long johns all winter long. I just won’t buy any more new since learning about their messy business practices. (One of mine came from a friend’s “get me out of this” closeout sale.)

            2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

              Pampered Chef comes to mind as another MLM that actually sells good stuff. In my (very limited) experience I feel like TW and PC are also less predatory about their MLM stuff? At least the few people I know who sell them seem mostly happy.

            3. Reluctant Mezzo*

              Melaleuca may not have the best rep, but their tub cleaner is the only thing I’m not allergic to which works well on my tub.

          4. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yes. In my opinion it’s even worse when the products are actually good, because then I’m like… why don’t you just sell your products like a regular company and quit taking advantage of people?

        2. tamarack & fireweed*

          The quality doesn’t even matter – MLM products come with strings attached because the fundamental pattern isn’t the standard “X offers, Y buys, and that’s how X makes money” but “X offers, Y buys, then X tries to get Y to become a distributor in X’s down line”.

          Giving gifts from your side business always needs at least some thought. If a semi-pro baker brings in spectacular cheese rolls and marzipan buns for an occasion, that’s usually well received. If an artist or crafter , it *may* be, but the gift giver needs to be aware that a) every gift from someone who also has a side business in the product is to a certain degree a marketing device, and needs to avoid the appearance of promoting their business at their paid job and b) not everyone will appreciate their gifts, and what is a welcome, personal token for some is going to be considered as cringeworthy by others. I have several friends, colleagues and acquaintances that make soap, hand balm, coasters and glass objects that I genuinely cherish (and that I have sometimes bought, sometimes been gifted). But I have no use for another crafter’s crochet Christmas tree ornament or garden gnome. And the next co-worker over will feel exactly the opposite about it.

      1. KaciHall*

        Back when I still wore any makeup, the only eyeliner I could use was from Mary Kay. Everything else I reacted to. (As a high schooler with a minimum wage job, that was pricey so I tried EVERY cheaper option.)

        It was good quality. And if my Mary Kay rep (my best friend’s mom) hadn’t died five years ago, I might still buy it and use it occasionally. I was never unhappy with any of their products, though I really only ever bought the eyeliner and got the rest as samples.

        1. Aitch Arr*

          My mom is an avowed MK fan. She has very sensitive skin and allergies, so MK is really the only makeup she’s comfortable using.

          That stuff costs a fortune now though!

          1. Boof*

            That’s generally the problem… besides the shady structure that usually involves preying on people by making them think they will earn money when most won’t, the products are usually overpriced because of all the people trying to take a cut.

        2. Mannequin*

          When I was in high school I used Mary Kay foundation and face powder, they were the best ones I could find at the time…and my mom was happy to pay for them, since she used a couple of their items too.

          When I had to pay for makeup myself on my limited income, I had to find less pricy alternatives.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      Yeah, even aside from the power dynamic/professional aspect, this type of gift is unlikely to be appreciated… especially when your reason is “I have a lot of inventory.” It’s likely to come across as cheap and thoughtless, like you’re just pawning off stuff that didn’t sell well, rather than choosing something you actually think they’d want.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Yeah…the “I have a lot of inventory” line immediately got turned into “I bought a lot of stuff to remain active and I can’t actually sell it” in my head. Though kudos at least for the LW to consider quitting and not falling into the sunk cost fallacy.

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          If the company has a break room like mine, the LW could get rid of the inventory, just by putting the products there and a sign “help yourself” and not include their name. It would be gone in a few days.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I used to work with somebody whose partner worked for a well known skin and hair care company in the bottling department. When there would be problems with some of the bottles that meant they couldn’t be sold (labeling issues, oddly shaped containers, lids that don’t close completely) staff would be allowed to take some of them home. So a couple times a year my coworker would put a basket of oddly packaged fancy shampoos on the break room table and they’d be gone by the end of the day. It was the best.

            1. TiredEmployee*

              My partner used to work for a subsidiary of a chocolate manufacturer. I do miss the occasional out-of-date chocolate hauls, they were excellent.

              1. La Triviata*

                My father once got a windfall of good wine because the warehouse had flooded and the labels were damaged (not to the extent you couldn’t tell what they were, but were considered unsalable). We enjoyed the wine and actually discovered some good ones we hadn’t been aware of.

          2. UKDancer*

            Usually happens in our company with vegetables. A fair few people have allotments so in summer / autumn there is often a box in the staff room containing carrots, courgettes etc for people to help themselves to because the harvest has been so good. It’s really popular and one of the things I miss about working remotely due to Covid.

            1. Texan In Exile*

              I used to work with not just gardeners but fishers! One guy was a competitive fisher and would leave fish – lake trout, etc, that he had caught in Lake Michigan – in the break room fridge to give away.

            2. quill*

              Peach season! I moved somewhere this year where a bunch of people have backyard peach trees that someone planted in the 70’s… and fifty years later they’re mature to the point that people have to give them away to keep up.

              Where I used to live this was usually just tomatoes, summer squash, and the occasional eggplant.

              1. JustaTech*

                Zucchini. So many zucchini. I once came into work to find the boss of the next lab over had gifted me a zucchini that I kid you not was the size of my calf. So I put it on my shelf in the breakroom. I come out at lunch and there’s *another* calf-sized zucchini with my name on it.
                (I make very good zucchini bread and had asked for *one* over-large zucchini for making bread to share.)

                Some years we also get plums because the city is inexplicable full of Italian plum trees.

                1. SometimesALurker*

                  My mom always says that if you have to buy zucchini in the summer, you don’t have any friends. Of course, this rule stopped holding when I moved to a city where it’s harder to have a garden, but the adage makes me smile.

                2. Reluctant Mezzo*

                  Mangoes are the zucchini of Hawaii–there are literally abandoned orchards full of the stuff (we walked through one on the way to King Kamehameha’s summer palace archeological dig).

              2. Kasia*

                We have strawberries but the picking is enough of a pain that I only give them to coworkers I actually know and like. Normally we let the neighbors pick to get rid of the extras without having to pick ourselves.

            3. yala*

              It’s that time of year here, and I’m shocked there hasn’t been a massive tub of satsumas/oranges sitting on the table in the office.

              Everyone knows at least three people with an orange or satsuma tree. Those suckers produce like mad

          3. There are no good MLMs*

            Depends on the MLM. Someone at an old workplace was in the Paparazzi cult and would leave jewelry in the breakroom with a sign saying “free, take what you like”.

            No one ever took a thing. Because their stuff is terrible.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              In middle school someone’s mom who was in one of those MLM jewelry cults would highjack her daughter’s birthday parties and turn them into sales parties. It was really awful for the girl because instead of buying her a gift we were expected to buy her mom’s jewelry, and the jewelry was genuinely terrible. I don’t think there was a single thing on the table that wasn’t plastic and paste. After the first year my mom just told me to decline the invitations and give her a gift at school so that the poor girl would actually get something that was meant for her.

              The real funny thing is that I switched schools for highschool, and someone ended up stealing the necklace I bought from that first party. Honestly, if they were that desperate for it despite the quality… they could’ve just asked. I would’ve given it to them.

          4. KoiFeeder*

            Honestly, that was what I was thinking too. Just put it in a cardboard box that says free to a good home and make sure it’s not somewhere where people would feel like you’re watching to see who takes what.

    3. Cheap Ass Rolex*

      Yeah, I hate to say it, but letting your coworkers know you’re in a MLM may make them pity you a little (at best), and you don’t want that affecting how you’re perceived.

      1. Juniper*

        Exactly! I automatically associate being in an MLM with those cringey pleas on facebook or IG to please buy my crappy product, that get two or three likes that you know are from their upstream.

      2. Jaybee*

        Is this really your experience with MLMs in the workplace?

        I’m not encouraging anyone to get involved with MLMs, to be clear. But I’ve had several coworkers who were, and they definitely had ‘customers’ who were coworkers. One used to take half her working day the first Friday of every month and go around the various buildings on the company campus bringing her new inventory to all of her customers and taking orders. (Our boss did know about this but she was also the most conflict-adverse person on the planet and never said a thing to anyone.) We still work in the same company and have both been promoted to more specialized roles in different departments, so it doesn’t seem to have harmed her career.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          I’m with Hogwash- good for her that it hasn’t impacted her career, but that seems wildly inappropriate and it would definitely impact how I thought of her as a coworker.

        2. PT*

          When I worked in fitness, we had a fitness instructor at my work who was hawking Amway during classes and trying to recruit the part-time staff into her downline. She got formally disciplined.

          People mostly felt bad for her though, she was a single mom of a special needs child who really struggled with economic security and it was blatantly obvious that Amway had taken advantage of her desperation to achieve stability.

        3. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

          In the 90s-00s, there was at least 1 person who sold Avon at every office where I worked. They weren’t pushy- they’d put a few catalogs in the breakroom (or give you one if you asked), noted with the deadline to order from that catalog. Granted, I think Avon put a lot more emphasis on sales as opposed to recruiting back then.

          1. FlyingAce*

            I’ve had that same experience with Tupperware. Like, there is always someone at every workplace selling it, but not recruiting anyone else.

      3. Allison Wonderland*

        Yeah, I would definitely question my boss’s judgment if I found out she was part of an MLM, and especially if it appeared she was promoting the products at work. I would also wonder if my employer pays so poorly that even the boss has to resort to joining a scam to try to make some extra cash?

      4. Jen Barber, IT*

        Agreed, I would absolutely have doubts about the judgement of anyone in an MLM and especially someone distributing the products at their day job!

    4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Agreed. I have a strict ‘no mlm’ policy in both my personal life and office and that means I don’t want to be given or sold any of it.

      1. Juniper*

        How do you refuse a gift though? I’m adamantly against MLMs and decline any offer to buy or join a “party”, but I have been gifted MLM products that I have appreciated. I hate to say it, but Mary Kay makes a great eye makeup remover, and a friend of mine who is a sales rep will sometimes give them as gifts. I’m happy to be on the receiving end, as long as it entails no further obligation on my end.

        1. SaeniaKite*

          I’ve straight up given it back to the gifter. I know this might not be something that could be done in a work context (mine was my sister) but all my friends and colleagues know I do not support MLMs in any way to the point where I won’t buy anything from Body Shop stores so as not to legitimise their direct sales branch. It’s a hard line to take but one I hold to.

          1. Juniper*

            Fair enough. I generally find that hard lines drawn in one specific area are rarely reflective of an appreciation of cost or damage or risk in others, but I admire people who can apply it consistently.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            I don’t know what model Body Shop uses, but direct sales is/should be single-level, not MLM. The rep is the only person between the buyer and the company, without mooching off of a downline of other reps.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              Unfortunately, after most of the world caught on that most “MLM” businesses are essentially pyramid schemes that are only allowed to continue to exist because of Amway’s extremely powerful lobbying–a lot of them started trying to claim the title of “direct sales” which has pulled that term down in the mud as well.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I’ve straight up said ‘thanks, but I’ve got no use for this’. Never found a single mlm product that’s any use to me at all.

          Also, the people who try to gift me mlm stuff I generally know are selling it on the side and I’ve probably already turned down multiple invites to ‘parties’. One tactic I know some use is to give you a free item from the inventory then ask you later how you liked it and would you be interested in getting more….etc.

          I may be paranoid but I’m also exceptionally good at spotting sales tactics.

        3. Meow*

          I personally would be happy to receive a high quality product (Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Tupperware), as long as there were actually zero strings attached.

          The problem is, newer MLMs are very heavy on brainwashing and getting their own sellers hooked on the products, so I don’t trust most MLM sellers to be able to make good judgement calls on what is or isn’t high quality.

          Then my gut reaction is to think “a gift is a gift”, until I remember the time when I was young and ignorant and a friend regifted me a “health drink” mix from her friend’s MLM… that turned out to be a combination of caffeine and laxatives.

          1. Barefoot Librarian*

            “….I remember the time when I was young and ignorant and a friend regifted me a “health drink” mix from her friend’s MLM… that turned out to be a combination of caffeine and laxatives.”

            The horror! I can’t imagine giving someone something like that without warning lol.

    5. John Smith*

      Not sure of the terminology used by the OP, but has the OP said their side gig is actually MLM? I didn’t read it that way – what if she’s just buying at warehouse prices and selling on for a profit, or they’re made to order gifts, for example?

        1. Nona*

          Sure, but that doesn’t mean it definitely is an MLM in this specific situation. I’m not saying it’s not one, but people are making an assumption here.

          1. Jaybee*

            There are very few ‘side gigs’ that could be described as direct sales that are not based on an MLM structure. The fact that LW has multiple ‘direct sales side gigs’ indicates they’re talking about MLMs with almost 100% certainty.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Direct sales is, or at least should be, different from MLM, though. Direct sales is single-level, with no “downline”. The seller/representative is the only person between the buyer and the company, but she’s not grifting off of a bunch of lower-level sellers.

          1. Meep*

            Yeah but there is a stigma (rightfully so) about MLMs so a lot of people use the term direct sales to cover it up.

      1. Nela*

        “Direct sales businesses” are a synonym for MLM companies. Very few of them don’t have a recruiting component, but nearly all of them have monthly purchase/sales minimums to maintain active status, which is how distributors end up with “a lot of inventory”. It’s all in the letter if you know the lingo.

        Anyway, yes it’s considered tacky among folks who are familiar with how MLMs work to give excess products as gifts to coworkers.
        Since distributors are encouraged to monetize their relationships by any means imaginable (and unfortunately many do), at least some recipients will interpret it as marketing, not as an authentic gift.
        If your coworkers didn’t know you were in these companies before this, this new information may change how they see you.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          See, I’m totally naive when it comes to the lingo (and probably a lot of other things too!), so my first thoughts on reading the letter didn’t go MLM and went to someone with an Etsy/craft business, farmer’s market stall, etc..

          1. Nanani*

            I’m not sure I’ve ever heard an Etsy seller call it “direct sales” as opposed to just like, a store.
            But even if you’re right, LW can look at these replies and realize how they’re coming across.

        2. BatManDan*

          Not every direct-sales business is MLM. Most are, but not all. I made a 15-year, full-time career out of one, that has zero requirements for sales or purchases.

          1. doreen*

            My mother did direct sales for a couple of companies years ago. At the time , they didn’t have any sales or purchase requirements ( I don’t know about now) but my mother always kept an inventory of popular items that she bought when they were on sale. Part of the reason was to be able to fulfill orders quickly, without the two week or so turnaround that was common in pre-internet days but I’m sure that wasn’t the only reason.

          2. generic_username*

            I agree that not all “direst sales” are MLMs, but then LW wouldn’t have a ton of excess inventory because you would buy what you needed and return the rest. One of the scams of MLMs is pushing risk onto the sellers by making them purchase a minimum amount of inventory and also not accepting unsold inventory back, which means the company is guaranteed to make sales numbers even if no one wants the product

            1. quill*

              Yeah, if they were just hawking out of the catalogue… they wouldn’t have a garage full of inventory.

            2. MCMonkeyBean*

              Yes, I suppose it is possible but it seems highly unlikely from the wording of the letter that this isn’t an MLM company.

      2. Queen Esmeralda*

        And the fact that she says she has “a lot of inventory” screams that she has to purchase a certain amount each month to remain “active” but can’t con anyone into buying it.

      3. I should really pick a name*

        While it’s not definitely an MLM, there are a number of flags which suggest it is:

        A direct sales business as a side gig, which results in a fair bit.
        The reference to “not doing side gigs aggressively”
        The term “great products”

        1. EPLawyer*

          “A lot of inventory” is the biggest red flag.

          This is an MLM that the person wants out of, and to unload the stuff piling up on the garage they want to gift it to their coworkers. Which okay, sounds good on one hand. The stuff doesn’t just get dumped in the landfill. But on the other hand, it will come across as trying to hook the employees on the product in order to get them to buy.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Not just *a* direct sales business as a side gig, but *multiple* direct sales businesses as a side gig. MLMs aren’t just makeup, so from my experience (which of course is not universal) it’s not abnormal for someone to be in several MLMs for different things.

        3. Tenebrae*

          Also that she does it for “friendships.” I know MLMs are big on sisterhood and “finding your tribe,” which is not something I tend to associate with other businesses.

      4. pancakes*

        The phrase “direct sales gigs” doesn’t suggest handmade items to me. Neither does the mention of “friendships” as a benefit, as buying supplies and making items yourself wouldn’t necessarily result in those, while joining some sort of MLM or franchise could. MLMs often use that as a selling point – the idea that you won’t just be making money but meeting people.

    6. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I wouldn’t give them as gifts, but if LW brought in a box of stuff and put it in the break room with a sign that said “Help yourselves” or “Free to good homes,” that would look much less sleazy.

    7. Juniper*

      If it’s tupperware, pampered chef, or Mary Kay and I don’t have to pay for it or deal with a pushy sales rep, I’ll take it!

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        You and I would get into a fistfight with the intern who made off with all the extra clothing if it’s a box of Tupperware or Pampered Chef products. I think the key is the product and the quality if it’s leggings no, but good kitchenware yes.

        1. Snow Globe*

          I’ll be in the fight with you! I’ve actually paid for some pampered chef and tupperware and have no regrets.

          1. Carlie*

            I have a 25 year-old pampered chef peeler that is still going strong and I have laid dibs on my mom’s 50 year-old Tupperware. I’ve heard the newer stuff isn’t as durable but I’d take the vintage any day.

            That said, I wouldn’t mind MLM gifts except I’d be worried it would be the “free sample” to get bugged about from then on. “Did you like my gift? Would you like to buy more?”

            1. CupcakeCounter*

              My son broke my Pampered Chef large batter bowl a number of years ago. The tears I shed…

            2. Reluctant Mezzo*

              We still have some of those short-handled vegetable brushes from Fuller Brush–it’s really hard to find them, and I finally broke down and bought some from E-bay. Still have six left, here’s hoping they last longer than I do.

          2. Well...*

            Yes as much as I hate to admit it the products are sometimes nice. The way the companies shift the financial risk onto their rank and file “employees” is not.

        2. DataGirl*

          Yes, while I don’t like the tactics of MLMs and would never sell them, there are some with good products. I used to exclusively use Mary Kay until they changed their formulation on my favorite items. And I’m currently a Colorstreet junkie. If I go to the salon and get a regular manicure it’s chipped in an hour. Gel is chipped in a day. Colorstreet lasts me at least 5-7 days, it’s not the 2 weeks they claim but it’s better than anything else I’ve tried.

            1. JustaTech*

              Oh, have you tried the Nerd Nails from Espionage cosmetics? (They’re a private company, I’m just an enthusiastic customer.) They’re vaguely like Jamberries, but there’s no heat and they genuinely last 2 weeks (and I wear nitrile gloves all day which are murder on your nails).
              And the prints are lots of fun and some glow in the dark. Sadly a lot won’t fly in a conservative office, but they are great and great fun.

          1. HazardousIncident*

            The same manufacturer that makes CS makes Incoco and Coconut nail strips; both available at Walmart (and other retailers) for about half the price.

      2. Stitch*

        If it’s essential oils please keep it as far from work as possible. Heavily scented stuff like that gives me hives.

        1. Nanani*

          Seconded! Never use essential oils without the okay from EVERYONE using the space – it’s a common migraine trigger.

    8. Harper the Other One*

      Yeah, even if you decide to give them up I wouldn’t. MAYBE set up a table with a sign saying “leftover inventory, take if you want some” but don’t do individual gifts with it.

    9. BenAdminGeek*

      I do. I like a number of the Pampered Chef stuff I’ve bought or been gifted in the past. Some very nice products. I still don’t like the model and exploitation, but I do like the products.

      1. pancakes*

        I’m not familiar with these products, but there’s no shortage of reputable, non-MLM cookware shops that sell good, carefully chosen products.

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          That’s true, and I don’t typically buy stuff from Pampered Chef. I was just responding to Daffodilly’s statement that “no one” wants anything from these companies.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          But that doesn’t mean I’m going to sneer if someone offers me some of their Pampered Chef inventory because they’re going to stop selling it.

          1. pancakes*

            Of course not, no, but if you did want to turn them down on account of the sales model, there are plenty of ways to do that without sneering.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              {shrug} If someone is no longer part of that sales model and simply wants to give away their inventory, I wouldn’t turn it down. The sales model is moot at that point, IMHO.

    10. AnonToday*

      Seconding this; please don’t.

      A former good high school friend turned weight loss MLM hun made a long Facebook post about some really heavy life stuff (fertility/loss – I’ve had that too) and as cruel as it sounds, all I could think of was that it was an advertisement for the MLM. It was riddled with emojis and had the classic call to message her if you wanted to ‘talk’ and learn how she got through it…but damn. Those companies are insidious, and I wouldn’t take someone at their word of having too much inventory or other explanations as to why they were giving it to me.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        One of my college friends did this, too, although with a much less serious emotional hook. I ended up unfriending her on everything, which was a bummer since I had previously really liked her and genuinely would have liked to stay in touch.

      2. generic_username*

        One of my old high school friends does this too (not with super heavy life stuff, thank god, but with “finally being able to spend time with my family while paying my bills” sort of posts and the classic before-and-afters that keep going up and down). It’s so cringe… It’s even more cringe to see the comments of “how did you do it?” followed by her response “I’ve DMed you!”

      3. meagain*

        Those extra annoy me because they use a bunch of infertility or #childloss hash tags and actively try to recruit (aka prey on) vulnerable women who are looking for support or connection with their situation or trauma. It’s really gross and icky feeling.

      1. Gel Pen Destroyer*

        MLM pushers are often told to use the term “direct sales” to mask the fact that they’re shilling MLM product. Also, the lobbying arm of the MLM industry is literally called the Direct Sales Association.

    11. Allison*

      Even if it’s a legitimately good product, I’m always worried that if I give any indication that I like the product or find it at all useful, there’s going to be some expectation that I buy more of it, and/or attend sales parties to learn about the rest of the products, and then if I say no they’ll be like “But why? You just said you liked it! Why not buy more and help out my business! These parties are supposed to be fun, we just get together and drink wine, why are you so afraid? You’re just a hater that wants me to fail!”

      I avoid MLMs like the plague (I know that phrase is outdated, but I can’t think of a good alternative) and while I will graciously accept an MLM product as a gift to be polite, I always wonder what strings it may have come with. I’d prefer that the direct sales reps in my life keep their supply far away from me.

    1. StrikingFalcon*

      Also, I’m not sure how the HRA is set up, but usually massages are covered medical expenses only when there is a medical reason for it, i.e., it is to relieve symptoms of a diagnosed medical condition. It’s possible the HRA is set up differently and covers any massage, but really, the point of it is to cover your medical expenses, not to put extra money in your pocket. This is not even an expense, it’s already paid for! In addition to being probably illegal and definitely unethical, many companies would fire you if they realized you did something like that.

    2. I only comment about health care tax rules*

      This is a common misconception about massage and HRAs and HSAs that bothers me so much! It’s actually against the IRS rules in TWO ways- one is that massage is NOT considered medical treatment, unless it has been prescribed to you. If you are getting massages reimbursed by your HRA without a prescription from a doctor, I applaud you and you should know that it may change if your employer gets audited. From IRS Publication 502: “Medical care expenses must be primarily to alleviate or prevent a physical or mental disability or illness. They don’t include expenses that are merely beneficial to general health, such as vitamins or a vacation.” And then, obviously, you can’t get reimbursed for services you didn’t pay for- for instance, if your health insurance covers a service, you can’t get reimbursement from your HRA. From IRS Publication 969: “distributions from an HRA must be paid to reimburse you for qualified medical expenses you have incurred.”

      1. BenAdminGeek*

        I’m also confused- if they have a gift card, there’s no cost to them, so what are they seeking reimbursement for? Unless I guess you’re getting a receipt showing $100 and then using the gift card to pay that off, then submitting for that?

        1. Public Sector Manager*

          The only way they could technically make it work would be to claim the gift from the employer as income on their income taxes. But then the OP isn’t going to have that income listed on their W-2. So the employer’s reported income paid won’t match the OP’s income from that employer. All this is way too much of a headache. Which if the OP gets chronic headaches from bending themselves into a pretzel to avoid taxes, then they could use their HRA for those out of pocket costs …

    3. Cmdrshpard*

      If the gift card covers the entire service I agree.

      I think maybe OP meant the gift card was for $100 and it covered a basic massage, but OP wanted to get a higher level massage that cost $150/200, and could they submit the difference for the portion not covered by the gift card to the HRA. I think I’m that case it would be okay to submit the expense.

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        It still wouldn’t be okay because it needs to be for medical expenses and OP provided no facts that they got the message for medical purposes.

    4. Kippy*

      Yeah, even if somehow this makes it past the initial intake – which is highly unlikely because the claim processor would have been trained to look for stuff like list – it won’t make it past a second round audit. And an adjustor’s not going to be thinking “simple mistake” but “fraud!”

  1. Juli G.*

    OP 1, if I was your coworker and you told me you had 9 kids, honestly I would be internally smacking myself for being so self involved as to never as you about yourself!

    I’m sure some people will say the borderline rude/awkward things people say about big families but I bet no one will even think you were “hiding it” from them.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Agree. At most, I’d say something like, “Huh, I don’t think I knew that!” and LW could make a vague non-committal response like, “Oh, didn’t you?” and that would be it.

      I would absolutely assume that everyone knew but me.

      Also, I’d move on quickly. This would be news for about 3 minutes and then we’d go back to work.

      1. Loulou*

        Ehhh, not sure about “oh, didn’t you?” If OP has truly never mentioned their kids! That would make me feel like I was going insane. Maybe something noncommittal like “I guess it just never came up!” would be better.

        1. Cameron_Counts*

          Yes, if someone tried to throw it back on me like this, I would know they’re playing mind games with me. The first thing people will do is ask other co-workers if they knew and when a few people realized that the number of kids OP had at home was never discussed or outright denied, they would look even worse for trying to pretend everyone should have known.

      2. elle woods*

        I would feel like a shitty coworker for not knowing my coworker of almost a decade didn’t have nine kids and would probably ask my coworkerfriends if they knew either.

    2. Loulou*

      Honestly, I think it’s totally fine and not self-involved not to ask coworkers about their home lives (especially having kids, which can sometimes be a sensitive topic). This question actually made me realize that I don’t know if several of my coworkers have kids or partners — maybe it’s just my workplace culture, but lots of people just don’t talk about it (though others do mention kids/spouses/parents frequently). We still find plenty to talk about!

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, this! I am happy to listen to some kid / pet / hobby stories, but I am just as happy to leave people be private about this and it works just fine. If new info comes up after a longer time, it’s still ok – a huh, never knew that, wow, nine kids?

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        I once had a colleague who thought that I had kids, even though I don’t. We’d been working together for a few years at that point. I’m not sure if she assumed that I had kids, or if she just mis-remembered, but fortunately it only came up in the conversation once. She was pretty apologetic about it, so I wasn’t at all offended.

      3. bowl of petunias*

        Yeah, I know some people who definitely do have kids/partners because they mention them, but I don’t assume that all the others don’t! I just know more about some coworkers’ home lives than I do others.

      4. Pam Poovey*

        Just about everything I know about my coworkers’ home lives is stuff that’s come up naturally in conversation and they’ve volunteered it.

        1. quill*

          Yeah, it’s always something like “my partner and I went skiing this weekend” or “the kids had parent teacher conferences.” You know, small talk.

      5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I just realized there are a number of my coworkers who I know have kids, but I’m not sure how many. Especially folks with older kids. I might know Lazlo has a son graduating HS this year and Nadia has two kids in college, but I have no idea if there are more. I would bet at least some of the LW’s coworkers are the same. They are aware they have kids, but might not be aware of how many.

      6. Momma Bear*

        I had a coworker who made it really clear that he wasn’t talking about his personal life. He could have been in Witness Protection for all we knew. He showed up, did his work, talked only about work, and we all just accepted it. Not everyone details their lives at work. I know some people here have kids, but not always how many. Good thing there’s never a quiz.

    3. Stitch*

      Yes, for most of my immediate coworkers I don’t just know how many kids they have, I know their names and how old they are.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Like Juli G., if I found out you had 9 kids, I’d be so busy scolding myself for being in my own little world that I would not give a second thought to the fact I did not hear you mention it over the last 9 years. I would just assume you did mention it and I missed it. Alison’s advice is spot on just go about your day and life, really. Just focus on talking about your kid wanting to work at your company- no need for longer explanations.

    5. Delta Delta*

      That’s how I think I’d react, too. I’d be sort of wondering if this is a fact everyone knew and somehow I missed it. Because probably people at the office know OP has kids, because that’s a pretty usual fact about a lot of people. I’d be thinking, “how did I not know there are nine kids?” But I wouldn’t say anything, partly out of embarrassment for not knowing and partly because it’s not really my business.

    6. Purple cat*

      I’m pretty sure my reaction be: “NINE kids?! Really? Wow you have your hands full. Now on to that report I need”

      And yes, I know I probably shouldn’t express “shock” at all, but I doubt I’d be able to keep it in.

    7. anonymous73*

      Unless you’ve gotten close to someone at work, it’s not self-involved to not pry into their personal lives. If someone wants to share stuff with me that’s cool, but I’m not going to ask personal questions unless it’s within the context of our conversation.

      1. Big Glasses*

        Yeah, when I was younger I was comfortable asking people whether they had a husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever, if they had kids, if they lived alone/with roommates/with parents, if they rented or owned, etc (not as rapid fire all at once!).

        As I’ve gotten older and had my own experiences and come to realise just how many areas of life are emotionally fraught for people, I’ve generally stopped asking people at work personal questions unless they are talking about that area of their lives themselves. It’s not me being self-involved — often I’m very curious! I’m just not interested in stepping on any toes, so I only talk about what people themselves bring up. If someone never mentions their partner, I don’t know if they are single or private — and that’s fine, I don’t have to know everything.

    8. Esmeralda*

      OP, you will find out who else has a large family! If not their own children, then how many siblings, or aunts and uncles…

      1. Anonymous Hippo*

        Lol, that was my reaction. I would instantly know he had kept it secret on purpose, because I come from a family of 10 kids and I talk about them all the time, and whenever I do people always share the largest family they are connected to.

      2. quill*

        Everyone who has a ludicrous number of aging catholic relatives will instantly bond to LW. (My mom has like, 50 first cousins. It’s insane.)

    9. Essess*

      I really don’t know or care if my coworkers have kids, even for coworkers that I like and get along with. Their personal life is their own business and isn’t my business. I would actually be uncomfortable if a coworker decided they needed to announce their number of kids because it has no relevance to our work and there’s really no reason for me to know.

  2. My dear Wormwood*

    #2 yeah that’s horrifying. I have IBS that was not well controlled for a while and I would have pooped myself for sure at some point. And wasted even more work time rushing to the loo at every little twinge to try to prevent that.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      In cases such as inconstant digestion which can be exacerbated by nerves, I think this kind of situation I’d be spending significantly longer than an hour a day within thirty seconds of a toilet. You don’t always get five minutes’ notice that that vague discomfort is going to turn into something that needs your full attention.

      1. My dear Wormwood*

        Somehow your username made me picture Helga standing to attention in the bathroom. “COME. IN. HERE.”

      2. Fabulous*

        You don’t always get five minutes’ notice


        I will be eternally grateful that I’m working from home where the bathroom is literally 10 steps away from my desk.

        1. UKgreen*

          Now I’m remembering the Simpsons episode wherw Bart wants to wake up early to open his Xmas presents, so he drinks loads of water before bed and wakes up dreaming about ‘WE’RE NUMBER ONE!!’

          As someone who perpetually needs to pee (nothing up with my bladder, I just drink waaaay too much Diet Coke…) I would NOT be coping with being a five minute trek from the loo.

          1. AnonInCanada*

            Stories like OP#2’s make me thankful the washrooms are about 10 steps from my office door. I drink a lot of water to hydrate, and unfortunately that means a few trips to the loo every day. I couldn’t even fathom having to walk five minutes in each direction to answer Nature’s Call Every. Single. Time.

    2. Marion Ravenwood*

      I also have IBS and the thought of dealing with that bathroom walk during a flare-up fills me with horror. Five minutes might not seem a lot, but it’s an eternity when you’re in a ‘need to go NOWNOWNOW’ situation.

      1. AnonEmu*

        Yeah I have celiac and a grumpy lower GI in general and I’ve so far been lucky that in both buildings I’ve worked in on campus here, I’ve been 2 min from the bathroom, at most. 5 minutes sounds YIKES. Especially if it was on a regular basis/at a regular job.

    3. sunglass*

      Yeah, as a currently pregnant person the idea of dragging myself 5+ minutes to the bathroom everytime I need to pee is pretty terrible. I don’t think I can hold it that long any more!

      1. CeeVee*

        Can confirm with personal experience that yes, having bathrooms 5+ minutes walk each way while very pregnant was not fun. (Construction site, non-trades professional licensed role) My two options were the porta-potties that were a 5-7 minute walk depending on what was going on on the jobsite (what path did I have to take to get there to avoid moving equipment for example), or temporary facilities in the building but up six stories of construction stairs.

        The tradesmen I worked with had zero issues scheduling what they needed me to do around my fairly frequent bathroom breaks. They were, on a whole, a bunch of slightly overprotective dorks.

        The silver lining was that my OB never complained about my physical activity level, and I was lucky enough to have a healthy enough pregnancy that this was never an issue. Had I had any issues with scheduling of tasks, or if this had been a slightly more long term (nine months is pretty long when you’re in the middle of it)/permanent condition, I’m not sure I’d have been keen to stay in that role.

        And in case you’re wondering – the porta potties at large were a better and cleaner choice than the temporary toilets in the building and definitely a cleaner choice than the padlocked “Women Only” porta potty.

        1. FridayFriyay*

          I’m trying and failing to imagine fitting myself into a porta potty when I was extremely pregnant. You deserve a medal.

      2. Teacher (of the Math Variety)*

        The worst was being pregnant in a school with no one to cover my class for the inevitable potty emergency. I broke all kinds of rules telling my kids to behave while I went and took care of business.

        And yes, I once pee myself because I was proctoring a state test and my monitor/reliever disappeared and I could not leave the testing materials with the students unattended. (Grounds for termination and loss of certificate)

        Welcome to K12 education. And people wonder why we’re quitting in droves.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          My 7th grade English teacher was pregnant and knowing what I know now about teachers (I’m married to one) and pregnancy (been through 2), I want to go back in time and give her a huge hug, write a letter of effusive praise to the principal and superintendent, and a million dollars.

        2. Humble Schoolmarm*

          The funny thing is that this gets so internalized that even when I’m teaching online from home (so not responsible for safety the same way you are in person) and less than 10 steps from the bathroom, I still find myself holding it until ‘after class’.

      3. Velocipastor*

        This! I’m only in my second trimester but having just one single-stall women’s restroom on my floor of our building is already a problem. If it’s in use, I have to make it down a flight of stairs and then all the way to the other side of the building to find a second one when I already feel like I’m going to wet myself. It is not fun.

    4. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      OP #2 I am so, so sorry! I once worked in a building with 23 other women, four of whom were pregnant, and ONE (1) women’s toilet. I got in the habit of going out at lunchtime just so I could pee!

    5. Colette*

      When I broke my leg, I couldn’t use the closest bathroom, so had to go to the next one (which had buttons to open the doors), and it was exhausting. If I’d been on crutches instead of a knee scooter, I wouldn’t have been able to work.

      So it’s not just chronic conditions that could be an issue – anyone who sprains their ankle or has any sort of mobility issue is going to have problems with a 5 minute trek to the bathroom.

      1. Blomma*

        This is what I thought of. I have chronic pain issues and on a bad day, I would struggle to walk that far more than once. However I also broke my ankle and was on a knee scooter for nearly 3 months. The scooter would have been fine, but eventually I reached a point in my recovery when my physical therapist said “you must put weight on this foot and try to walk or you will have permanent nerve issues.” Any walking (with a walker or cane for help) was agony for a while and a full 10 minute round trip journey to the bathroom would have been horrific!

    6. Khatul Madame*

      I’d like to mention another group impacted by the distance to the toilets – men suffering from prostate problems, which are very common in middle age.
      I gather there are none of these in OP’s office, or else the problem would be noticed and addressed by now… because the above-mentioned group is prevalent among management.

      1. BethDH*

        It sounds like the OP is in the furthest office area from the bathrooms. What do you want to bet that the higher ups are all in a more convenient area where they don’t have to go all the way down that long hallway for everything?

  3. AnotherSarah*

    For OP1, I also don’t think this is going to be a huge deal. I have a few friends and people I know only somewhat who have multiple children from different marriages–for example someone I know has two kids she is a stepmom to (they refer to each other as mom/children, not stepmom/stepchildren), but she and their father divorced quite a while ago, and two biological kids from a different partner, and is now married to someone with whom she has no children. For a long time I thought of her as a person with no kids, because I’m closer with her current partner than with her, and then thought she had one, then three, then two…it took a minute to figure out where they all came from and how many there were. But ultimately it wasn’t a big deal and it never crossed my mind that it was weird that I didn’t know from the get-go–I just figured I missed something along the way.

    1. Bamcheeks*

      Yes, and “stepson” can cover a whole gamut of relationships with extremely varying amounts of emotional, financial, domestic responsibilities. I don’t expect my colleagues to give me a full accounting of their family life, and precisely what role they’ve played in each child’s life! That kind of stuff can be very personal and sometimes emotionally complicated— that doesn’t mean it HAS to be complicated, lots of blended families are extremely happy and harmonious, but the general work rule is that you don’t ask about stuff that *might* be fraught and complicated just in case. If I heard about a long term colleague’s stepson for the first time, there’s a whole raft of reasons why that might be, and it’s so not my business to investigate them!

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Exactly, I’ve taught some pairs of step-siblings who are very close and very open about their relationship and some where you don’t realize until parent-teacher that you’ve already seen one of these parents today and the child is not a twin. ‘Just go with it’ is my motto for most things shared about identity and family.

    2. hbc*

      Yeah, I have an actual *friend* (not super close, but hanging out once a month) who had a complicated situation where it took me a couple of years to figure out exactly how many kids he had. These things tend to come out more organically and piecemeal than “I have two kids with my current wife and four much older kids with my ex, two of them being adults who live out of state.”

      If I worked with OP, I might have heard individual remarks and thought something like, “Huh, I thought his kids were in grade school, I must have missed something if one is graduating college.”

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        With one of my university friends, it was siblings and stepsiblings where it took me a while to know how many he had – say he was Fred, he had full siblings Percy and George, half sibling Bill from his dad’s second marriage, stepsiblings Ron and Ginny through his dad’s second marriage, stepsibling Fleur from his mum’s second marriage.

        I think part of the confusion came in through the fact that I was friends with Percy first through my ex, and for whatever reason Percy only ever talked about the full siblings and half sibling, never the stepsiblings, and as time went on and I ended up becoming better friends with Fred, sometimes Fred would mention a name as though I knew who that was but I wouldn’t have a clue who he meant.

      1. Imtheone*

        My sister-in-law had a grade school friend who asked for some paper so she could answer the question of how many siblings she had. Similar situation with steps, half’s, and full siblings from several marriages of each parent and step-parent.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I, too, had coworkers who had blended families. (six kids total, a guy becoming a grandfather in his late 30s because he had an adult stepchild, a coworker who had two sets of children far apart in ages, the first three with her first husband and the next two that she had with her second and current one, etc.) No one batted an eye. They would mention it in passing – not as in “here are the TPS reports you asked for, and by the way, I HAVE NINE CHILDREN”, but more in terms of talking about a weekend or a vacation, or holidays with their large family. Obviously I don’t know if that reflected in how our employers treated them, but I never heard anything, and was close enough with at least one that I would’ve heard it if something bad was afoot.

      It is terrible that OP’s past jobs had treated them the way they did. But now that (I’m assuming) most of the 9 kids are adults, even in the worst case scenario, what is an employer going to do? “Oh you neeeed us, because you need to provide for your 25-year old and your 28-year-old and your 30-year-old” haha right.

    4. Michelle*

      I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a deal either. I have 8 kids, and while I get the occasional *WOW* reaction, nobody has ever actually treated me differently because of it. My husband is a pretty open guy, and having a large family has never been a big deal at work. Now and then when we tell someone, they will mention that they also have a large family (and we don’t live in a place where it’s common).

      I’m thinking the reactions OP1 got at his previous two jobs said more about THEM than him. Especially the second one — they probably would have found some other excuse to act like OP1 owed them a huge debt just for giving him a job. Don’t make a big deal out of it, and other people likely won’t either.

    5. Calliope*

      Yeah if I found a coworker of a decade had a whole passel of step kids they had never mentioned, I would guess they hadn’t had primary custody, that it might be a sad story, and that I shouldn’t pry further.

  4. nnn*

    #1: If someone asks you specifically why you didn’t mention your stepkids earlier, you could say something like “It must not have come up – my stepkids are older.”

    That suggests (but doesn’t outright say) that they might have been off at college or adults or otherwise not living in your house, and therefore not coming up in conversation as much as the kid who did something adorable at the dinner table last night.

    1. anonymous73*

      I would just be honest.

      “In my experience, people have judged me or taken advantage of my situation when I’ve told them, so I’ve chosen not to make it well known.”

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I’d probably just say something like “I don’t tend to talk about my personal life at work much.”

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Like it’s not necessarily *secret,* but I don’t think it’s super unusual for some people to have stronger boundaries there and keep a bit more private at work, which it sounds like is basically where OP has been though maybe for different reasons than some other people might.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              Okay, and it sounds like it is true here? OP says “I’ve gone nine years keeping my personal life pretty hush.”

      1. pugsnbourbon*

        I don’t think it would make it weird, it’s very accurate. I’m sure OP knows this already, but people say really weird stuff to big families. I’m one of five, and my mom is one of nine. Some hall-of-famers:
        “You certainly have your hands full!”
        “Are they ALL yours?!?!?!”
        “If I had that many kids I’d kill myself” (I was too young to understand this but it really hurt my mom)
        Questions about how we came about /if we were adopted
        And of course, the varied looks of fear/eyerolls from restaurant hosts/hostesses when you ask for a table for 7 at 5pm on a Saturday (no blame here, I get it)
        So, if someone told me they had nine kids and explained why they weren’t super open about it, I’d understand.

        1. MicroManagered*

          I don’t really care how many kids someone has or why they didn’t tell me about them. It would definitely make it weird to have all that explanation. “It must not have come up” is more than enough.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Saying some variation on “people have judged me or taken advantage in the past when I told them this, but I feel safe telling you” makes this more intense than I think anyone is going for.

          1. I Am Not a Lawyer*

            I think it depends on the history/context. If people have asked the LW about his home life and he’s fudged the truth or outright lied (for example, if he’s deliberately led them to believe he has no kids, or if he’s answered the “how many kids do you have?” question with a number less than 9), then a truthful explanation would be good.

            If it just hasn’t come up, then I agree that an explanation isn’t necessary.

        3. Ann Perkins*

          I agree, if it’s not said in a way as to imply that the asker is the one offending, I think it’s an appropriate response. I’m the youngest of 5 but am five years younger than my closest in age sibling and I got A LOT of “Oh, so you’re the accident” growing up. It was always hurtful for people to suggest that I’m somehow less wanted than my siblings (and wasn’t even true!). People say such rude things when it comes to family size choices.

        4. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          I’m afraid I don’t get what’s wrong with saying “you certainly have your hands full”? I’m the oldest of seven, and my parents did have their hands full, all the time. It was a dominant feature of our life as a family and something they frequently remarked on themselves.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I have two, and got that on a daily basis when they were young.

            I did, in fact, have my hands full! They were a lot when they were young kids. So I would respond with a “thank you, yes I do”.

          2. Gray Lady*

            There’s nothing offensive about it, but as a mom of 5, these sayings get old with endless repetition, just like other people’s hackneyed remarks about people’s life circumstances. If you’re tempted to say something that sounds like a stock phrase that people say in a situation, stop and think about whether the other person might be a bit tired of hearing it, even if there’s actually nothing “wrong” with it.

            1. Boof*

              Meh, I understand what you’re saying but to me it’s like chatting about the weather – people gotta have their polite go to phrases

          3. Michelle*

            It’s not that the comment itself is awful, it’s that it’s part of a never-ending parade of exhausting, othering one-off comments that paint having more-than-the-usual-number of kids as some incredible, Herculean task, and myself as either super-human or crazy for undertaking it. Nobody wants to hear the three-millionth comment on their family size, just like nobody wants yet another comment on the unusual texture of their hair or the uniqueness of their last name.

        5. Boof*

          I mean, people tell me I have my hands full just because I work and have two young kids, that one seems a pretty common attempt to honor the responsibility / investment kids bring.
          … “If I had that many kids I’d kill myself” though, WTF

      2. Artemesia*

        Any defensive explanations make it weird and it would be the OP making it weird. You just act as if you assumed everyone knew and/ or. it just never came up. You can have some silly comment like ‘we’ve always loved baseball.’ or just put up with whatever stupid comment people make with grace. You don’t have to explain your life to other people.

      3. Critical Roll*

        This phrasing could easily come across badly. It reads cold and accusatory. The phrasing upthread “my last job got very weird about it so I wanted to get established here first” has less of a flavor that LW has worked with these people for NINE YEARS and never developed enough trust in them to stop hiding this. I really, really don’t think that’s the message LW wants to send.

      4. TribeOfMany*

        That is exactly what happens when you tell people you have more than 2-3 kids…..they judge. I have 6 kids and whenever I tell people how many kids I have, they usually say something ridiculous and judgey. They say things such as “wow, that’s a lot of kids” or “I hope you’re done having kids” or “do you and your husband have time for anything else (besides sex)”. Or they’ll say “you don’t look like you have 6 kids”. These comments have all been at work and then I’m the bad person for letting them know how rude and inappropriate their comments were.

        OP1, you don’t need to mention how many kids you have unless you want to. No one at work is entitled to know anything about your personal life unless you choose to tell them. But if you do, be prepared for nonsense comments (or maybe people wouldn’t say that to a man, who knows). Just have your stepson apply, and if anyone asks, just say he’s your child, no need to give them any other info. It is my belief that most coworkers don’t really care how many kids you have, they just want to judge and be nosy about something.

    2. Anne of Green Gables*

      I agree with this more casual approach. It also don’t have to be a “I have nine kids” announcement or even mentioned, you can just start referring to them. It’s possible that if you just start brining them up, someone will ask you more detailed questions and may even ask how many kids you have outright, but it’s also possible that that level of detail won’t ever come up if you don’t bring it up, and you don’t have to bring it up.

    3. Artemesia*

      I laughed at this question. When I lost my job in a merger and then was hired by a research institute at the same university, I was working with new people. I had a baby and a 5 year old but I had this idea that discussing personal life in a professional setting was in appropriate and I strove to be a serious researcher and to be taken seriously. (I know, I know). A few months in I was at a party for the institute and in a conversation group where people were talking about their kids and someone said ‘this must be boring since you don’t have kids’ — to which I responded ‘oh I have a 7 mos old baby and my son is 5’. They were gobsmacked and the next day every conversation on the job started with ‘I heard this amazing thing about you.’

      I would think the OP would not need to announce ‘9 kids’ but just let it emerge naturally that there are ‘lots of kids.’ Not sure why having 9 would matter to anyone but those in charge of the health insurance –

  5. Fikly*

    #5: Not only unethical, but illegal: what these funds can be used for is regulated by the government before your company can narrow it further, and it must be something you have paid for with your own money. A gift card is not money.

    1. InsertNameHere*

      I agree with it’s unethical and possibly illegal, but geeky accounting hat on…(note not in US but would expect it to be similar) a gift card (GC) is considered “near cash “which means it’s considered money in many / most circumstances. The GC to the OP may have incurred a taxable benefit for them (OP wouldn’t necessarily know if the company also paid the taxes or are playing a little fast and loose). Most companies / health plans, you must be out of pocket to be reimbursed through benefits which means even if the GC wasn’t from their work they still wouldn’t ethically be able to claim the expense. If OP had booked a facial and a massage and used the GC for the facial and paid for the massage it would have been fine but booking a massage and claiming it is 100% not ok.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Okay, but if someone gives me a GC and it’s considered “near cash,” doesn’t that mean it’s like I’m spending cash? Let’s say I received a Walmart GC for Christmas, and spent it on prescriptions at their pharmacy rather than groceries. Shouldn’t I be able to file for reimbursement, since it was a legit medical expense and I paid for it with something that was “considered money?” If that person had given me cash instead of a GC, I could spend it on prescriptions and file for reimbursement, so what’s the legal difference? I’m still out of pocket, because I still paid for it with *my* funds. (I realize this is veering away from the original question re: the massage, but I’m just asking about this part.)

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      Yes. Plus dont you need to keep receipts for those types of things? You can’t just say I spend $50 for a massage and expect to be reimbursed without a receipt. The receipt would show Gift Card info.

  6. Rory*

    LW 3: I kept ending up in this situation with items that were highly flexible and could go either way and my direct boss and executive had a tendency to go in different directions. My solution was to put them in a room together and let them duke it out and then check in to see who won, though sometimes I’d add my vote to one side or the other. It helped that we all got along.

    1. Momma Bear*

      I actually did have that conversation with my boss and we laid out a loose hierarchy. If there is a serious conflict and it can wait, I’ll tell the VP I need to run it through my Director and I’ll get back to them.

    2. LKW*

      When I was dealing with multiple “urgent” and “time sensitive” issues I’d send everyone back an email saying “Person A wants this, Person B wants that – you tell me who goes first.” or some other transparent – make-the-decisions-yourselves-because-you-get-paid-to-make-those-decisions-approach.

    3. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      This is absolutely a “talk to your boss” situation. Basically she’s taking *all* the heat. She set your initial priorities, and she’s the one that senior management is going to yell at if *their* priorities aren’t accommodated. If she says, follow the priorities I’ve outlined, and ignore Person X, then your response to Person X should be along the lines of “Hi, Manager has told me that this should be handled in a different way. Can you speak to her so we we can make sure we’re all on the same page?”

      End of the day it’s your manager’s problem, and you should get yourself out of the middle of it.

  7. Nellie Olsen*

    #2 When I first started at my job, the women’s employee restroom had 1 toilet stall and 2 showers. No one could explain why. There are other restrooms for clientele use but of course women employees used those as well. One day, we started getting all these memos from HR (a woman) about employees being seen entering and exiting client bathrooms and how they were not for employee use, blah, blah, blah. I went straight to the GM and asked if there was any way that the showers could be turned into toilet stalls. I reminded him that the majority of the staff were women and if we all only used the employee bathroom, it would be the only thing we did all day. And then I got other employees to start having these discussions with the GM. It took about a year but they eventually removed the 2 showers and put in 2 more toilets. The GM also let employees know that we were more than welcome to use the bathroom in the accounting/HR office area because in these discussions it came out that HR had informed employees not to use that bathroom. The building we are in is an old building, so it can be done. If it’s a problem for people other than you, and I’m sure it is, you should try to rally everyone to ask, can we get another bathroom that we don’t lose an hour of the day maneuvering to.

    1. TechWorker*

      From a practical point of view, converting a shower to a toilet – especially if it’s right next to an existing toilet is much cheaper/easier than adding a new toilet somewhere there is currently no plumbing! Worth asking but depending on the building layout it may not actually be that feasible. (Also depends how big the company is and how deep their pockets are ofc)

    2. Bagpuss*

      Glad yours got fixed, but converting a shower next to a toilet, to a toilet, is a MUCH smaller and easier change than adding an extra bathroom in a different location.

      Installing connections to water lines and sewage pipes could potentially be a very big project, depending on the layout of the building and immediate surroundings. And of course there may be added complications depending on whether the company owns or leases the building, and the terms of the lese, and local planning rules.

      Totally legitimate for OP to raise the issue and to ask about whether things can be improved, but as Alison pointed out, it may not be practical for the company to install additional bathrooms, in which cae asking about moving offices may be the better option.

      1. CeeVee*

        I’m envisioning a couple hundred, if not more, feet of additional underground plumbing (or plumbing hung through an existing ceiling) for sewers, plus more for the water lines and vent. And you’ve got either cutting/removal/putback of concrete and flooring if it’s underground, or making sure that existing structure can support the lines if its hung because sometimes that is a thing in old buildings. We might be approaching 6 figures if it’s a sufficiently long distance, and I have to imagine an actual 5 minute walk would easily cover around a thousand feet or more.

        Heh. Guess what I do for a living?

        1. Nellie Olsen*

          So that was always my point, that I didn’t make clear above. Our situation was EASILY fixable. My bigger question was always “Who, when building an employee bathroom, decided 2 showers and 1 toilet is a great idea?” Even more so because the men’s room next to it had 2 stalls, 3 urinals, and no showers.
          I still think the letter writer should ask. It’s clearly an annoyance, problem, etc. for them and others.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            It should be a writing prompt. “What led Acme Umbrella Corp to build a women’s restroom with 1 toilet and 2 showers, and a men’s room with 2 toilets and 0 showers?”

            1. canyonlands*

              I’m imagining an old building that initially had a restroom and a shower room! Built with no sense that women would ever be in a workplace, and a clumsy retrofit for the “secretaries”/”typing pool girls” in ca. 1955

            2. Ginger Baker*

              I think it’s an easy answer: it was originally one bathroom for men only and women weren’t even considered; this was their modification to “include” women.

            3. anonkingkong*

              I know someone who purchased a house that had one guest bathroom with a sink and shower only. When they brought in a contractor to see about adding a toilet, they discovered that used to be a bathroom with only sink and toilet, and some previous owner had done some weird DIY to convert the toilet to a shower. The contractor for some reason was convinced whoever had done it must’ve had a grow op? I don’t quite understand how that’s implied, but I thought of it right away when I read about this setup. So….I guess showers where you’d expect toilets implies grow op?

          2. Jaydee*

            If it was an old enough building, those may have both been men’s restrooms originally. Or, more likely, there was a single men’s restroom (3 urinals, 3 toilets, 2 showers) and a wall got put up at some point when women started working there and thought they should have a restroom too.

          3. doreen*

            Was the building or the space originally used for another purpose? I used to work in a prison that had originally been built as a hospital and was later used as an in-patient substance abuse treatment facility before becoming a prison. Some of the staff restrooms had showers – but that was clearly because some of the office space had originally been living space.

      2. Smithy*

        When I worked in New York City, our office was rented in a building that was originally constructed in the the 1920’s and all toilets were in one area. If your office happened to be in the furthest corners from that area, I don’t know if the walk was 5 minutes but definitely at least 3. At least the length of a short city block accounting for the diagonal layout (yes I thought about this a lot). Had that distance to reach the toilets posed a serious challenge, the option for another desk would have meant a desk with a different team though I’m sure that accommodation would have been made.

        I left that job during COVID and knew that they were going to renovate the space – but again, with an older NYC building that you’re leasing space, I’m not sure if that would ever present opportunities for more toilets.

    3. Mockingjay*

      This is why companies should offer serious candidates a tour of the workspace, if feasible. (By that I mean within safety or security rules.) If you can’t tour, ask about it.

      Unfortunately OSHA regs for bathrooms mostly cover number of bathrooms/stalls per number of employees. Check local and state building codes for facility requirements. Older buildings can have exemptions for remodeling due to historical status or excessive cost. Even if a newer building can be modified at reasonable cost, companies or building owners may refuse to do it because the structure complies. This was the case at a previous job that needed more men’s bathrooms.

      Overall, if OP #2 is getting their work done and management is happy with their performance, I wouldn’t worry about the time away from their desk. OP is not the only one making the trek.

      1. Esmeralda*

        A good idea.

        Some years ago I had a multi-day workshop that met at the fabulous new library on campus. Bathrooms all clustered together towards one end on every floor. Meeting rooms at the other end. It was impossible to travel from one end to the other in a straight line, due to the fabulous, very large atrium, the pods of sofas and comfy chairs, and catalog kiosks. At the time I was on crutches. I had to ask the presenters to please record everything because I was missing a lot just going to and from the bathroom (once in the am and once in the pm). It was exhausting. Technically those bathrooms were accessible but practically, they were not.

        1. Critical Rolls*

          Libraries are notorious for being designed without consulting front-line librarians.
          “Soaring architecture! Civic pride!”
          “Where shall we put the books?”
          “Who let that person in here?”

      2. PT*

        When I was looking up OSHA regulations on bathroom breaks at my job that wasn’t providing bathroom breaks (spoiler: there really aren’t any, we just had to have bathrooms and pretend like the staff were allowed to use them) the only one I could find was one for agricultural workers who had to have a bathroom within a quarter mile of where they were working. So OP’s five minute walk is within that range.

    4. Texan In Exile*

      I worked in an office with 250. Only 17 of us were women.

      The day the men’s room was out of commission, they converted the women’s locker room (onsite gym) to a temporary men’s room so the men would not have to wait for the toilets in the men’s locker room. Not that there were not toilets available – but the men should not have to wait.

      Who cared that women might have wanted to change clothes to use the gym?

      (Yeah, I’m still a bit ticked off about this.)

  8. Allonge*

    LW2, do address it! It’s a totally reasonable question / request.

    One thing though: I would not explain it how you did here (5 minutes walking time each way and 5 minutes in the bathroom).

    It’s way too easy for someone who does not want to / cannot do anything about it to fixate on the part on ‘why are you spending five minutes in the bathroom then’ which is realy not the issue here (or, at all).

    Plus, that part is just not going to disappear if there is a closer toilet. Losing 40 minutes / day on the walk is the main thing.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yeah, 40 mins or an hour each day is a lot. If OP is hourly I think she needs to tread carefully, as the employer could start requiring them to clock out for bathroom breaks…

      1. Juniper*

        Very good point! This could go in a very different direction than the one intended. I would approach it from an accommodation perspective. I’m 8 months pregnant and this walk would murder me, to the point that I would probably stay home. As Alison mentioned, there may very well be other employees that struggle with less visible conditions that make this an untenable situation.

      2. maritime*

        (LW#2 here.) It’s a good point, thank you for raising it, but I don’t think that’s likely – I don’t clock on and off and it would be very inconsistent with our workplace culture.

        (also, just fyi, I’m not a woman! :))

        1. Sara F*

          Couldn’t you just… consider this a nice exercise break from your sedentary job? I think walking around about 5 min every 1h was actually recommended by our ergonomics consultant. Or is that too glib?

    2. John Smith*

      In the UK, employers must provide X amount of toilets depending on the number of staff. A British Standard also recommends that people should not have to walk more than 100 meters or more than one floor to access a toilet. I believe US laws require “prompt access” which I think is defined as ten minutes – not very prompt! And please don’t ask me how I know all this….

      Employer in OPs case knows the layout of the building and – imho – must accept that a lot of work time is going to be lost due to the three day camel ride it takes to get to a toilet. At least you’re getting an adequate number of daily exercise steps if nothing else.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Unless it’s someone who has a bad back or knees and would be screaming in agony at that long a walk multiple times a day.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Oh, there is an exception to the rule as I’ve found out here – disabled toilets are not held to the same level of accessibility.

        This office has one disabled loo. On the ground floor. I work on the 4th. The amount of time I’ve spent in the lifts going to/from the bog is shocking – but I don’t have any other option.

    3. The OG Sleepless*

      I’m reminded of the bathroom situation in Hidden Figures, which ended with Kevin Costner telling everyone “at NASA, we all pee the same color.”

    4. Wisteria*

      “It’s a totally reasonable question / request.”

      Not for OP it’s not. They don’t mention any medical reason to be closer to the bathroom. If they were moved, it just means whoever gives up their desk to let OP have it is going to have a 5 min walk either way.

    5. mreasy*

      Even just a 10 minute round trip would be significant though – I am super hydrated and would still lose 40+ min a day!

    6. Bee Eye Ill*

      This might actually be a building code thing that could be looked at. Depends on the local laws but I think there is actually defined requirements for bathroom locations, numbers, etc.

      1. Sova*

        They did say the building is old. It probably depends on how old, but a lot of building codes include grandfather clauses or other language that indicate the new code does not require retrofitting every building built before the code was enacted or a specific date. I went to college at a large flagship university with a giant endowment that started around 1890ish and it was a general rule that the older the building, the more horrific the bathroom situation was. You can have your fancy university feeling with historic buildings or you could have an ultramodern replacement and there was not much at all in between the two extremes.

  9. Azure Jane Lunatic*

    My favorite manager addressed situation #3 with me as her first instruction on my job. She said that in our particular case, my grandmanager was the sort of person who would tell people to do things, but a lot of that was really throwing ideas at the wall to see what would stick, and he would likely forget that he’d ever instructed me to do it. And if I was ever in doubt about whether or not I should do something, I should ask her or one of the other managers at her level to clarify.

    It is an extremely good idea to have that kind of proactive discussion with your crew if there are higher-ups who have those habits. In our specific case, my grandmanager was genial and always had the best intentions, but it had the potential to be extremely disruptive.

  10. shiv*

    Is that last question for real?? If you’re not paying for it, what is there to submit for reimbursement. Clearly illegal.

    1. Green great dragon*

      While I agree they shouldn’t claim, I don’t think it’s totally obvious. The gift card is now LWs ‘money’, so there’s a logic to saying they should be reimbursed just as if it was cash money. But in real life, where we are not all Vulcans or economists, most people will side-eye it, so either spend it on the massage and take the ‘gift’ as being the gift of not having to go through the claim process, or spend it on something else.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I agree. If the GC could have been used for any number of things (manicure, facial, etc.) and the LW chose to use it for a medically prescribed massage*, they still exchanged something of value for the procedure and it could still logically be eligible for reimbursement. Like, if my father gives me $20 for my birthday and I use it for a prescription copay, do I not get to claim that since the $20 was a gift?

        1. doreen*

          I think this is a little different , only because the gift card came from the company and the company funds the HSA. It would be like my father gave me $20, and I spent it on something that I then asked my father to reimburse me for. Logically, it really doesn’t matter whether the OP paid with the gift card or with cash – but people aren’t always logical and it wasn’t cash or even the sort of gift card that can be used anywhere.

          1. Nina*

            yeah, but if your father gives you $20, say, as a birthday gift, and you then go and do your parents’ grocery shopping for them, is it fair for your father to reimburse you $20 less for the grocery shopping?

  11. Juniper*

    How do you refuse a gift though? I’m adamantly against MLMs and decline any offer to buy or join a “party”, but I have been gifted MLM products that I have appreciated. I hate to say it, but Mary Kay makes a great eye makeup remover, and a friend of mine who is a sales rep will sometimes give them as gifts. I’m happy to be on the receiving end, as long as it entails no further obligation on my end.

    1. Me*

      ” Thanks for thinking of me but I really can’t use it, thanks!”

      I didn’t get the vibe OP meant giving as a gift like for birthdays or a holiday. But rather gifting people products she doesn’t need in a less formal gifting situation.

  12. Cambridge Comma*

    If it fits in with their office norms, OP1 could put a family photo on their desk and wait for people to ask.

      1. metadata minion*

        Why would that be a big thing? “Yeah, I’ve been switching up my desk decor a bit and decided I should finally get a picture of the whole family”.

        1. Cameron_Counts*

          It’s not believable. It might work but it everyone will realize it’s an intentional way of coming out with the kid info. That’s fine but I wouldn’t expect it will just sit there and people will see it and silently nod and think, “Oh, interesting – OP has nine kids.” It will be a topic of conversation- which, again, is fine.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            How about, “We finally printed off/got everyone together for/decided to do the family portrait” if anyone asks?

          2. Marillenbaum*

            I don’t know about that–so many people have photos primarily on their phones or in the cloud, and printing them out/getting them framed just…never happens.

          3. BethDH*

            I would totally believe they just got around to getting a framed picture. Especially if it shows up shortly after a holiday. This is exactly the kind of thing older kids often get their parents as a Christmas present, for example.

        2. Artemesia*

          never defensively explain things like this. putting a family picture on a desk does not require an explanation.

      2. Delta Delta*

        Coworkers are more likely to silently wonder if they’ve somehow missed that photo there for all these years.

      3. Jaybee*

        Would that really be strange and worthy of commentary to you?

        Your coworkers never change what’s on their desks? Never bring in a new photo? I’m pretty sure some of mine add a new family photo every year.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Why not? “We had a professional photo taken last month and it came out really great”. It is not a big stretch for a family of 11 to not have a professional photo of the whole family readily on hand at all times.

    1. SAS*

      Do people have conversations about people’s desk photos? I have supervision with my boss every fortnight and they have pictures of their kids with other adults (not him or his wife), so I’m just assuming it’s his parent or a family friend. It would be odd to ask.

      If I saw a pic of a co-worker in a group of 11, I would assume it was a sports team or something! Or an extended family photo. And as with my boss, I’d never ask, mostly because it doesn’t matter to me. If the LW wants to start taking about his family it’s on him to bring it up, not to drop clues for co-workers to follow up on after 10 years.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, with the age range of the kids I wouldn’t necessarily assume that it was parents and kids – I’d probably assume it was an important family group, but wouldn’t assume the relationships.

        1. pancakes*


          I don’t see why it would be necessary to bring up the number of kids while trying to get one stepson a job unless the letter writer wants to. Giving an overview of your family is not typically part of the job application process. Is the letter writer thinking they’re eventually going to get jobs for all the kids?

          1. Artemesia*

            THIS There is no need to get all defensive about size of family because stepson is applying for a job. No one asks you how many sibs you have when you apply for a job.

            1. SimplytheBest*

              Not during the application, but if he started working there it’s not out of the realm of possibility that it comes up in conversation.

              1. pancakes*

                It would be very odd and pushy if “I guess it’s never come up before,” “I suppose I’m pretty private,” “my dad is pretty private about stuff,” etc., wasn’t enough of an explanation for someone if it did, though.

      2. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

        My grandmother was one of 19 children. She had a portrait of her family from the 1920’s and I am having trouble finding the right words to describe it. Family photo? Not so much.

      3. GreyjoyGardens*

        I don’t comment on kids so much, but I love animals, so if I see a picture of a cute puppy or adorable kitty or sleek snake I will ooh and aah. Travel pictures are conversation-sparkers, too. It’s odd for someone to have a picture on their desk of them posing with Big Ben in the background or their adorable Siamese and then not expect some comments.

        Though I will say I’ve never said “wow what a big family” or anything like that with family photos, that would be kind of tacky.

    2. Purple cat*

      3 coworkers super-imposed their faces over our boss’s picture of his kids. It took weeks for him (or anyone else talking to him) to notice.

      So I’m not sure people would actually notice a new pic. Or at least not enough to realize the significance of it.

      1. Aarti*

        I just put a picture up of me and my husband. I have been here four years. I put it up for two reasons: I look really, stupidly happy in that picture and it makes me happy to look at myself and remember how happy I was that day, and I lost a lot of weight so I look good too.

        I am sure people wonder why suddenly pictures went up of me. But honestly who cares?

  13. Spoo*

    Could someone clarify #5 for me? I thought medical massages are different from spa massages and in order to be reimbursed it needs to be to treat a medical condition. Just curious if I’m misunderstanding

    1. mreasy*

      Depending on the policy, general wellness can be reimbursed. I have had yoga classes & massages allowable in the past.

  14. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    I think LW1 should brace for people to ask more questions when he says nine, because nine is an unusual number of children.

    If he doesn’t want to get into it, he could use phrasing such as “nine between us” or “blended family” which would make the number sound less unusual and therefore less interesting or subject to gossip.

      1. anonymous73*

        So you would find it “strange” if they had 9 children together?

        This is why he doesn’t tell people.

        1. Juniper*

          Yes, I would find 9 biological kids strange, as in, it’s so far out of the ordinary that I have never encountered it before. Doesn’t mean that I think it’s any of my business though.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*


            The number of families in the US with 3+ children hovers around 7 million, and since the 1980s it has been more common to have 1-2 children than 3+. In particular, there has been a major drop in the number of families having 4+ children, and a major increase in the number of families stopping at 2 (now around 50%).

            In that context, having nine children is an anomaly like being over 6’6″. There are still a lot of examples, and there’s nothing wrong, but it’s sufficiently unusual that someone will notice.

            I absolutely sympathise that LW didn’t want to label himself “the guy with all the kids”. But noting that 9 is a lot of kids is not the same as being an asshole about it.

            1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

              Yeah, as I mentioned above I’m one of seven kids and it’s sufficiently uncommon that I often use it as part of Two Truths And A Lie type icebreakers. There’s nothing offensive about being mildly surprised when you encounter something you don’t normally encounter.

              Of course, my family is big because of my parents’ weird personalities and not for religious or cultural reasons that might make people more touchy.

            2. JustaTech*

              One of my new coworkers has 6 kids and the only reason it’s remarkable (and she talks about it) is that her previous career involved a lot of travel to some unusual/medium unsafe places for extended periods (government work). Even so everyone’s comments are “that’s impressive!” and not “you weirdo”.

              My dad is one of nine and while it was less unusual when he was a kid, they all acknowledge that it would be surprising to see a family that large now.

          2. Nanani*

            My mom was one of 8 and my grandmother was one of 12. 9 was a perfectly likely number of kids just one generation ago among certain demographics.
            Not knowing LW1s age, they might well be in that generation.

            How likely is it you’ve never encountered it before vs just, not having had it come up?
            Big families are a thing some people have but if you’re not going to their family reunions, you dont necessarily know.

          3. anonymous73*

            Strange implies a negative connotation. That’s the problem here and the negativity is why he chooses not to tell people.

            1. Well...*

              I don’t think that’s the way strange is being used in the original comment you are replying to. Strange could mean unfamiliar, foreign, or rare without any negative connotation.

            2. Myrin*

              I reckon Juniper used “strange” not in the sense of “weird” but of “unusual”, in the same way a stranger is not (necessarily) a weirdo but someone who is foreign/unknown to you; as far as I’m aware, that’s actually the original meaning of “strange” and the more-common-nowadays one of “weird” developed from that.

            3. SnappinTerrapin*

              Some people infer a negative connotation, but the word “strange” has a factual meaning of “unusua;” or “different from expected.”

              Something outside the norm may be strange, without necessarily being “abnormal.”

      2. Artemesia*

        My grandboss had 7 kids. She was a fairly young woman at the top of her field in a now commanding role and I just assumed it was a blended family as she was in a second marriage. But no — she had 7 biological kids. I was in awe.

  15. Princess Deviant*

    I absolutely want OP1 to dramatically enter into the room and declare GUESS WHAT! I HAVE 9 KIDS! That would be so great.

  16. Squidlet*

    OP1, your step-son is applying for a job isn’t really a situation that requires you to mention ALL your other kids, right? You could just say “My step-son Rodney is thinking of applying for a marketing position” and leave it at that.

    On the other hand, it could be a nice conversation starter to talk about your family:
    “My step-son Rodney is thinking of applying for a marketing position.”
    “I didn’t know you had a step-son?”
    “Oh yeah my partner and I have a pretty big family actually, 9 kids between us!”

    And yeah you have an unusually big family, but there’s nothing weird about it, and anyone who makes a snarky comment should just get a raised eyebrow and an “excuse me?”

    Congrats on raising 9 kids, anyway. That sounds both terrifying qnd awesome.

    1. Cameron_Counts*

      Since they’ve never mentioned having any kids in 9 years, OP should be prepared that mentioning having any kids is going to bring about many more questions. The most prominent being “why didn’t you ever say you had kids?!”.

      1. Well...*

        Yea, though I think people pry less if you say something like “stepson.” Maybe OP prefers not using the “step” prefix though. Being from a blended family myself, it’s a meaningful choice whether to add it or not for a lot of people.

    2. Myrin*

      You could just say “My step-son Rodney is thinking of applying for a marketing position” and leave it at that.

      Yeah, I have to admit that my very first thought upon reading this letter was to wonder why the mention of a step-son would necessitate talking about the other eight. Of course it’s possible that this situation made OP realise that he wants to “”come clean”” about his family but if it’s more like he feels like the appearance of the one step-son would open the floodgates to being asked about every intimate detail of his personal life… well, it’s possible, sure, but if he acts like it’s not big deal, I don’t think this will be quite as dire as he might imagine.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        I would imagine OP’s concern is partly that if his stepson is hired, *he* will likely talk about his family at some point unless he has some reason not to. The thought journey from “oh interesting, Rodney the marketing assistant is OP’s kid, I didn’t know he had any” to “oh wow, Rodney has eight siblings” to “OP has nine kids?????” is quite short. If it’s a really big company then maybe nobody will notice but otherwise I think it’s quite likely someone would join those dots, so OP probably wants to get ahead of that.

        1. Carlie*

          That makes more sense than what I was thinking, which was maybe he brings in a new child for a job every year and eventually they get suspicious. :) “Oh, another “child” of yours, you say?”

        2. S*

          If Rodney is a stepson, people are not going to assume that Rodney’s siblings = OP’s kids. I’d just assume his father had remarried and he had step-siblings or half-siblings on that side.

      2. Delta Delta*

        If Rodney is hired, he’ll form work relationships with his coworkers and it’s possible he may mention his big family. People might wonder why OP didn’t mention it before. And honestly, if Rodney finds out about it that way he might be hurt. I suppose if OP wants to continue to keep things quiet (if he chooses) he could tell Rodney about his choices so it’s not a surprise to him.

  17. Old cynic*

    #5 reminds me of a colleague that expensed business mileage and still tried to seek reimbursement for gasoline used on those trips.

    Can’t double dip!

    1. anonymous73*

      I would actually consider this theft. They’re asking if they can get reimbursed for something they never paid for in the first place.

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

    I can’t imagine how uncomfortable I would feel if I had to walk five minutes to go to the toilet during my period, it would be a nightmare.

    1. Incoming Principal*

      You know when you’ve been sitting for a while and feel you need to change the fem hygiene item but the physical action of standing up causes an “outflux”? That happened to me so many times… in a few of them I had blood dripping down my thigh within seconds… There is no way I’d be able to walk 5 min to a bathroom… luckily I addressed the medical issue since then but I wouldn’t have lasted in that workplace

    2. quill*

      The period: when you either haven’t pooped in three days or you need to poop every hour on the hour.

  19. Cameron_Counts*

    OP1, since six of these kids are your step children, you’re not going to get the same reaction as someone who has created nine children. I get that they are still “yours” since you were a parental figure to them for 15 years, but any bias people will have against large families (and that does exist) won’t be the same as someone in your situation since you didn’t create all nine, which is what tends to bug people. After a decade and a half I’m assuming that many of them have moved out of the house anyway.

    But more importantly – you say you managed to keep your personal life pretty hush except for a few work buddies. Does that mean you outright lied about your family situation? I’m guessing you did, because even in large companies and places where people don’t talk much about their personal lives, the number of children one has at home is going to come up fairly soon after you start working. You can’t avoid the question and you can’t reasonably avoid answering.

    So if you told untruths about your family, and I’m pretty sure you did, I would not reveal them for the sake of one of your stepsons wanting to apply at your company. Your managers and co-workers will feel betrayed and that will hurt you more than your previous job worked against you for this reason.

    Let your stepson apply somewhere else. And more importantly, when you leave this job and move somewhere else (hopefully soon), do not deceive your co-workers like this, or you’ll find yourself in a similar predicament.

    1. Mary Connell*

      What an odd reaction. Why should having multiple children “bug” other people? Kind of not their business. And why would you assume he was lying rather than just not mentioning it? Who would be asking and why? It wouldn’t even necessarily come up in the context of health insurance.

      But thank you — perhaps — for demonstrating why the LW found it necessary to do this.

      1. Cameron_Counts*

        You can’t go nine years without mentioning your kids. And if you do it’s a lie by omission. People don’t like being lied to. Why else do you think OP is struggling with this and has written in for advice? They realize coming out with that information now will be problematic.

        I couldn’t care less how many kids my co-workers have. It’s not my business or anyone else’s but it can’t not come up in almost a decade of working with someone. But if I found out a co-worker had nine kids and went nine years pretending they had zero kids, I wouldn’t think of them the same way. Because the lied, not because they had a lot of kids.

        1. metadata minion*

          Wow, that’s a really judgy way to think of people. You are not entitled to information about your coworkers’ personal life! What other information do you expect to know? Especially if a coworker had an unusually big family, I would assume they hadn’t told me because….people are weird and judgy about it!

            1. Oryx*

              If you feel lied to because someone didn’t mention their kids to you, then yeah it comes across that you feel entitled to that information. Because if you didn’t feel entitled then what would it matter if that person never told you?

              1. Lala*

                Agreed. Even if it is a lie by omission, it’s just weird to take it personally and be upset about it.

                1. Salyan*

                  I would contend that a lie by omission is something that you SHOULD have told someone and SHOULDN’T. To simply not share something that isn’t any of their business isn’t lying. Otherwise we’d all be walking around telling our life story to every. random. person. we meet.

        2. I should really pick a name*

          It’s not that hard actually.
          I’ve had co-workers where I’ve first learned about their kids after working with them for 4 years.
          There are others where I have no idea if they have kids or not. It just hasn’t come up in conversation.

          1. reject187*

            My husband is one of those people. He didn’t tell his coworkers that we got married for at least two months after the ceremony. He’s just not the type to talk about himself – and if you’re in certain fields, people generally stay on work talk instead of small talk.

        3. Me*

          What an odd thing to say. Not mentioning something about your personal life whether it’s how many kids you have or whether you own a house or live in a shoe is not lying by omission. Absolutely not. There is no one you work with that is owed any information about your personal life. If someone doesn’t talk about their kids or their spouse or their dog, I don’t assume they either have them or don’t have them. I don’t think about it at all. It’s strictly none of my business.

        4. Littorally*

          Sure you can.

          Some people don’t talk much about their families, shocker! Not mentioning something to coworkers is not the same as lying to them. There are many things about my family life I do not mention to my coworkers because it’s none of their business and I don’t want to risk them being weird.

          You’re acting very odd about this.

        5. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Have I also lied by omission to my coworkers because I didn’t tell them I play the piano?

          Sometimes personal life stuff doesn’t come up in work conversations. That doesn’t mean anybody’s lying by omission. They just didn’t happen to mention it.

        6. GreyjoyGardens*

          I don’t think it’s odd to not mention your personal life, UNLESS you are deliberately trying to hide something. Back in the pre-social-media days, I remember a few male coworkers from some jobs who would hide the fact they had girlfriends or even wives so they could, at minimum, flirt up a storm with unsuspecting coworkers.

          Now, THAT is immoral and THAT is a deliberate deception. But I don’t really care about a coworker’s kids or other family.

      2. Anononon*

        I’ve seen this attitude before, where people choose not to share personal details, some see them as lying by omission. And it’s such a strange position, and so unpleasant. If I’m remembering correctly, I’ve seen in prior comment sections on AAM, some comments claiming that people who choose not to come out are lying, and thus when they ultimately do, others have the right to feel betrayed by this. I’ve definitely seen this position on Reddit. (And I’m not saying the to scenarios are directly the same, just that it’s the same underlying sort of logic, of lack thereof.)

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Yes, there has definitely been a long discussion on a thread at AAM about it — though the one I remember was about saying “no” to an invitation without giving a reason, I think. It was…enlightening.

        2. GreyjoyGardens*

          The only real “lie of omission” I can think of that is significant is pretending to be single when you’re not. I mean to coworkers, not HR or your boss (you obviously don’t want to lie about family size to HR when it comes to insurance or whatever).

      3. Cheap Ass Rolex*

        My aunt & uncle have five kids and they got strangers being mean to them and grocery stores for years. It pretty much only subsided when the kids were old enough that they didn’t all have to come along on shopping trips. It’s definitely a thing people feel entitled to be s**tty about.

    2. Myrin*

      I really don’t understand how you get from “keeping hush about my personal life” to “lying about my personal life” – that’s not a given at all, and unless I missed something in the letter, it’s entirely possible OP did talk about his children at work, just not how many there are and the concrete age-and-blood-relation configurations.

      I also can’t agree with “the number of children one has at home is going to come up fairly soon after you start working” – that is a very specific thing to state so confidently and not at all how I’ve experienced it so far! I have good relationships with basically all of my coworkers but while I know exactly how many children some of them have, with others, I only know that they do have children but I couldn’t tell you if it’s two or three (that happens especially often with people who sometimes mention “my son” and “my daughter”, so I think they have two children, but then it turns out there’s actually two of each and there just wasn’t ever any need to differentiate!).

      1. Cameron_Counts*

        “Do you have kids?” is absolutely going to come up when you start a new job. I started a new job in 2020, fully remote, and had literally dozens of people ask me. It is the #2 question people ask of a new employee, even beyond whether or not they’re married.

        And you’re not going to mention having some kids and not others. Clearly based on OP’s letter and concerns, they have said or implied that they have zero kids. They wouldn’t mention one without mentioning having “kids”, plural.

        1. dontusuallypost*

          I work in a team of 13 people and have no idea if any of them have kids, or even if they have a partner. It’s definitely not something that *has* to come up… I also find it kind of weird that you think not mentioning their kids is going to make their colleagues feel ‘betrayed’. If that’s the case, the office is reaaaaaally dysfunctional.

        2. Omnivalent*

          That lots of people at your job asked you that question doesn’t make it the #2 question asked of new employees at workplaces everywhere. Nor does it mean that anyone is going to take it as a personal betrayal. How strange.

        3. Be kind, rewind*

          Just started a new job, have had dozens of “meet and greet” meetings, and not one person has asked if I have kids. (30s F, FWIW)

        4. bamcheeks*

          I would strongly disagree with two parts of this! Firstly, “do you have kids” may be a common question, and may be a simple one for nine tenths of the population, but there is a sizeable minority for whom it’s complicated. There are all sorts of reasons why the answer might be “yes, but–” or “no, but–“– some of which might be difficult or upsetting, and others of which might be emotionally fine but just excessively complicated– which people might not want to explain at work. I don’t think it’s wrong to ask it in a work setting, but you aren’t owed a full and honest answer and you absolutely cannot hold it against people if they don’t give you one.

          Secondly, it is actually completely normal for people to mention some of their children and not others, especially if not all of them live at home. It’s normal to say stuff like “my kid really liked that film” and not specify that you mean kid #2 of three. It’s normal to say, “sorry, had to drop the kids off at school” and not specify that there is another child who goes to secondary school and takes the bus.

          In fact, somebody mentioned to me today that my manager has an older, already-left-home child from a previous relationship as well as the two that we’ve chatted about because they’re the same age as mine and they’re a big factor in covid-working-from-home discussions. That’s quite normal! He didn’t lie by omission by not informing me of her existence!

          1. Well...*

            Yea, I was listening to a podcast interview with a woman who had lost both of her children when they were young. She struggled with that question (or equivalently, “are you a mom?”) as a common nicety, like, her children’s existence hadn’t been erased and she is a mom, but also her children were dead. Even when the grief wasn’t fresh she didn’t want to have to say that in casual chit chat.

          2. Artemesia*

            I learned how important it is to tread carefully on personal information years ago when a colleague mentioned something about her sons — I had known her for years and thought she only had her little daughter. And so I said ‘oh I didn’t know you. had boys beside Alice.’ Her response was to tell me that the boys and her first husband had died in a crash with a drunk driver years before. Try coming back from that in a conversation. She had never mentioned the boys before and I didn’t feel my comment was inappropriate in the conversation — but boy was it painful all around. I think others who had worked with her longer knew — but I didn’t.

        5. mcl*

          Sure, that might be your experience. But it’s not universal. Many of my coworkers do have children, some regularly bring them up and others don’t. I don’t know what everyone’s kid situation is.. Unless the OP was directly asked “do you have kids?” And they said “no,” or have been consistently saying something like “thank goodness I don’t have kids,” then they’re not lying. Coworkers are not entitled to know this level of detail about their colleagues’ home lives. It literally is none of anyone’s business.

        6. Wants Green Things*

          No, actually, it doesn’t “absolutely” come up. No one ever asked me if I had kids when I started my job. Or asked if I had a partner. Or even asked which part of the city I was living in.

          And it’s perfectly reasonable to stay vague about the age and number of kids if someone does ask. I’ve know my supervisor 3 years and I know he has more than one child, but I don’t know how many, how old, or their genders beyond the one. It’s not a lie or an untruth. It’s merely something he doesn’t like to discuss in the office.

        7. Colette*

          It’s really not universal, and if someone asks, they’re likely not running a survey of names and ages. “Yeah, they sure keep me busy!” would be an acceptable answer.

        8. Me*

          Nope. No one has ever asked if I had kids.

          I never ask if people have kids because it’s an extremely sensitive topic for many people.

        9. HannahS*

          I think you’re forgetting that the OP could be a man, in which case there’s a very good chance that no one has ever asked him.

          1. Purple Cat*

            Gotta love our ingrained bias. I was going to say that we KNOW OP is a man, but I reread the letter and we actually don’t. We only know they’re married to a woman.
            Totally agree that men aren’t asked about kids the same way women are, AND Cameron is deliberately missing the point that OPs “work buddies” know. It’s just management that doesn’t know.

        10. Littorally*

          Literally no one at work has ever asked me if I have children. Your experiences are not universal.

        11. Parakeet*

          I also started a new job in 2020, a few days onsite before we went remote, and zero people ever asked me this question. Also zero people ever asked me if I was married. Even with it being a somewhat overshare-y field (perhaps they figured that I’d share what I felt like sharing, which is true). I’m not going to claim that my anecdote is representative, but neither is yours.

        12. OyHiOh*

          I brought up my kids to my boss when I started this job, because I’m widowed and there were/are some logistics that needed to be managed. At the time, my boss was also concerned about the pay rate and hours being livable, and I explained in general terms how the children receive dependent survivor benefits and therefore, the 16 hours a week he was offering at the time, was ok. Anyway, my boss knew from the start.

          ONE other new hire asked me about kids when we were all doing orientation. Nobody else has – and our staff is now a mix of ages and gender presentations so in my neck of the woods, no, it’s not a common getting to know you question either by age or by gender.

        13. pancakes*

          No, I’ve done lots of freelance work on a contract basis over the years, starting with a small group of coworkers who will be working together for periods of 1-4 years, and people don’t invariably ask one another that. It isn’t odd if and when they do, but there are countless times I haven’t heard about someone’s kids until they mention a particular occasion months later – going to a baseball game with their kid or whatnot. You have some very rigid expectations, and many, many people have other things to talk about besides their children.

        14. Loulou*

          This is such a huge generalization!! I fully believe “do you have kids?” is the #2 question people ask in SOME workplaces (just like “which church do you go to?” might be in others) but that’s not universal in the least. Also, OP would probably have mentioned if people frequently asked if they had kids and they lied about it.

        15. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          I started a new job last year and zero people asked if I have kids. Nor do I ever ask anyone. If someone mentions kids as part of intros or posting pictures on Slack or whatever I know, and if not, not. No one is lying.

        16. Ginger Baker*

          You work in a weird place that is clearly warping your norms. I have worked in a number of places and never been asked directly about being married (wtf why would someone ask this at work? I would immediately conclude they were trying to hit on me and that would be realllllll uncomfortable) or about how many kids I have. It has come up in conversation sometimes if there was an opening and I volunteered that information (for example “oh, I have the house to myself this weekend, my ex has the kids”) but there are many many people I work with who don’t know anything about my home life because I generally keep my small talk focused on work and the wider world and not on my personal life as I prefer not to focus on that at work, and it’s not an issue.

          Just yesterday I found out that someone I work pretty closely with is on maternity leave and I had no idea whatsoever that she was pregnant. I was slightly surprised she hadn’t mentioned anything about being out soon, but it’s also no big deal. Her work will be covered while she is out and I was definitely happy to hear her leave wasn’t a serious medical issue.

        17. Loredena Frisealach*

          Really? Because that’s not been my experience, and I just changed jobs this summer! Also fully remote. I know two of my coworkers have kids because they’ve mentioned them, and one just came back from maternity leave, but the rest? I have no idea. I’m 55 for the record, and I can’t think of any job in the past 2 decades where marital status even came up, never mind kids!

        18. Myrin*

          And again, I disagree with the “clearly” part. OP says “I chose not to divulge the complete details of my personal life” and “I’ve gone nine years keeping my personal life pretty hush”. That could mean that to those who aren’t in the know – because keep in mind, he does have work friends who know exactly what his family situation is! – indeed don’t know anything at all and think he has a total amount of zero kids, but it could just as well mean that people are generally aware that he’s a father but not to what extent.

          And of course you can mention “having some kids and not others”! You can, in normal small talk, mention a daughter’s birthday party or and later a daughter’s favourite book but unless there’s a reason to do so, people are rarely going to ask “Oh, is that the same daughter with the birthday party?”, they are either going to think “Ah yes, I remember OP mentioned a daughter” or “That sounds like an older child, OP probably has two daugthers”.

        19. EW the Return*

          Not only that, but on Mondays (or whenever your work week starts) people often talk about what they did over the weekend, “Took the kids to the park”, “Basketball championships for son”… Or even in normal meetings there is chit chat about family. I don’t have kids, but I know who amongst those I work with does because it comes up – even if just in “gotta go, kids got a fever and I need to pick them up”. No, the company does not care if you need time off, we’re pretty good about just letting people take what they need, but people do tend to share this stuff. So this kind of thing does come up often – everywhere I’ve worked from retail to banking.

        20. MCMonkeyBean*

          I’ve never had anyone at work ask me outright if I have kids. I think you are believing your own experience to be more universal than it is. It’s certainly not an outrageous small-talk question when meeting someone knew. But it is certainly not true that anyone will “absolutely” be asked that.

          And if someone does ask that, there are TONS of people who would prefer to dodge that question for endless possible reasons. What if someone just had a miscarriage? What if someone had a son, but they died a few years ago and they don’t want to bring that up right now. Choosing not to spill your whole life story to someone you are just meeting is not the same thing as lying.

        21. RussianInTexas*

          In my almost 5 years in this company, not ONE person asked me this. I have never asked any of my coworkers this.
          Nor have anyone asked about being married, and it’s not something I would never ask. If people want me to know, people will tell me.
          I personally, do not want to know these things about my coworkers.
          I am a middle aged woman, if that matters, so you know, of the marriageable and child-having age.

        22. Very Social*

          I started a new job about six months ago. I don’t think I got asked either of those questions more than maybe once. My spouse and child have come up in conversation, but no one directly asked me!

          I don’t see anything in the letter to indicate that the LW caused people to think they had zero kids, either; it sounds like they just don’t talk much about their family.

        23. Anon for this one*

          It shouldn’t be. There was a time in my life when “do you have kids” would have messed me up for the rest of the day, and there are lots of other people for whom it’s a fraught question. Infertility, pregnancy loss, and God forbid the loss of a child. Imagine idly asking “So do you have kids” of someone who yesterday learned that that their fetus no longer had a heartbeat. And then maybe STOP ASKING THAT QUESTION as idle small talk. If someone has kids, it’ll probably come up.

        24. fhqwhgads*

          The only time a colleague has ever asked me if I have kids was when they were mid-anecdote about their own and were asking “if” before asking “are yours obsessed with this new-kid-fad-thing too?”
          The only time a colleague ever asked me if I were married was after knowing me and my spouse for a few years, and then they were asking in a “can’t remember if you’re married or just been together for decades” kind of way.
          Sorry you got asked dozens of times but this seems to be a Culture of Your Current Workplace thing, not an absolute.

      2. SAS*

        I have the same very general and not always exact knowledge about co-workers kids. I work in a team of 25 and our second branch has about 40 workers. Obviously you don’t hold that information in your head about everyone, because who cares, but I think Cameron_Counts is correct that there has to have been some omission over the years for it to have NEVER come up.

        If I think about any of the 8-year or more workers at either of our branches coming out with that after countless back-to-school conversations, vacation talk, Christmas talk, it would be strange.

        1. Cameron_Counts*

          Thank you. To be more detailed, my 20 year old coworkers, who I have worked with for two years and only met on zoom, I assume since none of them mentioned kids that they don’t have kids. It doesn’t need to be asked. It would come up if they had them but most of them are single or dating.

          Anyone else on my team who has kids has mentioned it. Mentioned it many, many times because it’s the most natural thing to come up when you’re talking to someone and making small talk, asking about the weekend or holiday break. If someone has kids, they will mention them. Maybe that is a better way to put it. You don’t really have to ask.

          And yes, you cannot go eight or nine years “accidentally“ not mentioning your kids. You do it on purpose. It’s a lie by omission, which is still a lie.

          Enough with the “you are not owed this information” comments by everyone. I can’t say it any plainer than this. I don’t feel I am owed this information. But I do know that if years pass and someone hasn’t mentioned having kids after hours and hours of casual conversation, they have done so on purpose, in their mind skillfully avoiding mentioning them or giving deceptive answers, and that is deception.

          If person A is dating person B for years and suddenly person a realizes that person B is married, but person being ever said they were not – because they methodically ducked the question or gave deceptive answers without outright saying “I’m not married” – then person B lied. And no one would side with person B.

          But on this forum, people get so focused on “you have no right to know that!” That they overlook it’s not about the right, it’s about the deception that took place.

          1. Oryx*

            Okay, for the sake of this conversation let’s say that they did lie. So what? I’m asking this sincerely: so what if they purposely and with intent failed to mention they had children. Why is this an issue for you, or for anyone at the company, to not know? Are you worried that if they are capable of deception when it comes to their personal life that will somehow translate to their professional life? My company has been WFH for almost two years — I have had coworkers go through entire pregnancies and birth children in this time that I know absolutely nothing about or I only find out about much later. I do not, in anyway, feel they lied to be my not mentioning they’d given birth a year ago nor does this impact my view of them as a colleague.

            Why are you immediately leaping to “this person is lying” and not “this person is private about their personal life”? And why are you taking it so personally?

            Beyond that, where is the line? I’m a queer woman married to a man. Is it a “lie of omission” to not wear rainbow clothing every day to make sure coworkers know I’m queer? Am I deceptive if I don’t clarify “I’m married to a man, but even though our relationship appears heterosexual I’m queer” whenever talking about him?

          2. Loredena Frisealach*

            But it’s not a deception. It’s simply something that doesn’t universally come up and there’s no reason to assume it would! The OP even said that there are a few coworkers who know – but why would everyone? It’s just not a given that everyone talks about their families.

            Deception is purposefully hiding something to gain a benefit. And it’s simply not relevant in this work context, nor something you can justify taking offense at. In other words – this is a you problem.

            1. quill*

              Yes. Your acquaintances aren’t owed your biography. And just because many people will talk about their partners or kids doesn’t mean that everyone does.

          3. Software Dev*

            I mean people you are dating generally have both a vested interest and an expectation that you are not married to someone else. There are all kinds of ways it would change the relationship if they did have that knowledge.

            The idea that that is equivalent to knowing how many kids/spouses/etc your coworkers have is absurd, since the kind of relationship you have with them does not need that information. The LW gave two very concrete examples of how sharing that information had hurt them in the past. There are many many reasons someone might not want to share any family situation outside the norm. Hearing it for the first time, you might think “huh, never knew Bob had nine kids” but the idea that you would be offended that Bob lied to you is wild to me.

          4. Tupac Coachella*

            If you’re not owed the information, which you indicate that you don’t think that you (as the proxy for OP’s coworkers) are, then there is no deception. A lie is by definition an attempt to deceive. Deception implies that information is owed-the person with the information reasonably infers that it’s relevant to the other person and withholds or distorts it for their own purposes. Withholding irrelevant information for personal reasons, information that it’s likely no one asked for, is not a deception because there’s no expectation of providing it, so no lie by omission has occurred. OP never indicated they they intentionally led people to believe they had no children; in fact, it has come up with work friends, so I would guess that OP HAS mentioned it when it was relevant and they felt comfortable. No deception indicated.

            Numerous people have phrased this numerous ways, so I’m not sure you’ll be swayed, but I do think it’s useful for OP to know that while it’s not impossible that some people would feel slighted (I’m sure you’re not the only person ever to have this type of reaction), the majority will see it as no big deal to find out that their coworker has children they never mentioned until it became relevant since it wasn’t anyone’s business until then.

          5. pancakes*

            Single people with kids date, too. My mom was 21 when she had me and she dated a couple people before she married when I was 5 or 6. I wouldn’t assume that she mentioned me to every coworker she ever had, though of course I met the ones she was friends with on numerous occasions. You seem to have a lot of assumptions about your coworkers, and about topics of conversation among people who live different lifestyles, in different areas, work in different professions, etc., than you do. It’s a big world out there and your experiences are not universal, even if they’re super common among the people in your life. There are countless reasons other than deception for people not to talk about the number of children they have at work.

          6. Allegra*

            No deception has taken place. You said above “Clearly based on OP’s letter and concerns, they have said or implied that they have zero kids.” That is not clear at all, and two specific statements actually contradict this impression you got: “I chose not to divulge the complete details of my personal life” and “Some of my work buddies know my situation”.

            They have told some people, and to others have not “divulged complete details”–which I assume means OP has said “my kids” and just let people assume the standard 2-4 range. Confirmation bias does a lot! You can talk about your children without saying how many you have or giving names; I know some of my coworkers have kids but don’t know how many or how old. Would you also say a queer person who said “my partner” was lying by omission if they don’t indicate the gender of their partner? You’re very focused on this apparent deception that by the letter did not in fact happen.

    3. Purple cat*

      Rodney can’t apply and OP should quit their job?!?
      What an extreme reaction. There’s no rules that OP must share all of this information about their personal life and certainly no indication that they actively lied about it.

    4. anonymous73*

      Your judgmental comment is an example of why he hasn’t told many people at his company about his family.

    5. HahaLala*

      “any bias people will have against large families (and that does exist) won’t be the same as someone in your situation”

      OP literally stated he was treated differently at 2 previous jobs. Take him at his word, the bias does exist.

    6. Cameron has a point*

      Setting aside for a moment other considerations, the issue arises because the OP’s stepson wants to apply for a job at his parent’s employer. This is unnecessarily complicated, other issues aside. We’ve all read examples of drama that result from having family members working at the same place.

      An example from my life: My wife has, from time to time, considered getting a job at the place where I work. We talked it over and couldn’t think of any upside. There are so many other places where I don’t work that would be better, just because it avoids any possibility of complications at the workplace arising from our relationship.

      So have the stepson apply at one of the many other places in town that are hiring, not the only one where the potential problem could surface.

      And I think some of you are being too hard on Cameron, accusing him of being weird and judgy. I don’t read his comments that way. He is describing exactly the same thing that the OP is writing in about.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I am 100% reading Cameron’s comments as Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off saying those things. Which, to me, makes perfect sense.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Let my Cameron go.

          (Or read them as coming from Connor Roy, for additional entertainment value.)

      2. Cameron_Counts*

        Thank you. Alison will delete my comment without posting it but i’ll say it anyway (hi Alison!), as I already have. I don’t care how many kids someone has. And I don’t feel I am owed that information. But when they lie about it, intentionally or by omission, that’s what I have a problem with it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Sorry, what’s this a reference to? From what I can see, all your comments have gone through (there are a bunch on this post and previous ones). If you email me, I can try to troubleshoot it.

        2. Me*

          I’m really struggling to understand you. You say you’re not owed the information but calling the OP a liar because they haven’t told people explicitly that they have 9 children.

          1. quill*

            As a queer person I’m about out of patience for people who think that anything about your life that they are interested in knowing is a “lie by omission” if you haven’t told them within X amount of time. It’s not. And it’s not your business. And it’s often applied with a definite slant towards anyone who is considered unusual, which is always going to disproportionately impact minorities.

            1. Bamcheeks*

              Loved the comment on last week’s Queer Eye: “we don’t come out, we choose to let people in when we decide we can trust them”.

        3. Colette*

          It sounds like you do think you’re owed that information.

          Not mentioning things isn’t lying, unless it is done with the intent to deceive. If you ask who knocked over the vase and I say “I don’t know” when I’m the one that did it, that’s a lie. If you ask what I did on the weekend and I say “watched a movie”, you don’t get to be upset if it turned out I also ate dinner, did laundry, or overthrew a government. The answer was true; it wasn’t a complete accounting of everything, nor are you entitled to have one.

        4. dontusuallypost*

          That doesn’t make any sense. You can’t:

          1) Think you’re not owed the information, AND
          2) If you ask if they have kids and they don’t tell you they do, think that they’re lying by omission and have a problem with it.

          That’s literally the definition of thinking you’re owed the information.

        5. Really?*

          I’m curious what the deadline is, timing-wise, for this to become a lie. How soon after starting a job does someone need to inform all of their colleagues about their marriage and parenthood status? By the end of the 90-day introductory period? Does it go in their annual review? When exactly do I become a liar because I haven’t told everyone I work with that I have children and confirmed they know the exact number?

        6. MCMonkeyBean*

          I don’t know how you can’t see the inherently opposed ideas of “I am not owed this information” and “if they don’t tell me they are a liar and I have a problem with it.”

          You are indeed not owed this information. This means it is not in any way, shape, or form reasonable to have a problem with them not giving you this information. Your coworkers do not need to tell you *anything* about their family if they don’t want to. And given your reaction here I would personally want to tell you as little as possible.

      3. Me*

        Calling the OP a liar because they haven’t brought up their children at work is weird and judgy not to mention unkind and unhelpful.

    7. Anna*

      The LW says that they have told some of their work buddies about the situation- it seems entirely reasonable to me that the people he works closely with do in fact know at least some of the details, but other people in the company do not. In that case, it would be very easy to just not mention how many kids he has. I cannot see how anyone would think he’s been blatantly lying. And if he was, who cares really? This is apparently not a piece of information that really affects his work.

    8. I'm just here for the cats*

      I think this is a really odd reaction. For one, the OP says “The problem is, I’ve gone nine years keeping my personal life pretty hush. Some of my work buddies know my situation but nobody of “importance” at my job knows.” So some people, Probably those on his immediate team, know he has a lot of kids but none of the higher ups know that he has 9 kids. Also the title of the letter is How do I tell my longtime job I have more kids than they know of? Which I take that they know that he has some kids but maybe not 9 kids.

      Upper management, or anyone really, Shouldnt see this as “he lied by omission” but will probably be “Oh I didn’t realize you had THAT many kids.”

      And there are certainly work cultures where you don’t get asked if you have kids. Heck even if he did get asked he might have said that he has 3 becuase he has 3 bio kids. Or he could have said he’s got 5 meaning his 3 bio kids and 2 of the 6 because the rest are older or live with their dad or whatever.

      Your reaction is why he didn’t want to tell anyone at work

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      They would feel betrayed? to the point where it’d hurt OP professionally?? I certainly hope not. OP never owed them the full details of their personal life to begin with. That’s an overly dramatic reaction and not one I’d expect most of adult professionals to have.

    10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Also, I’m assuming the HR knew that OP had this many dependents, or this many beneficiaries on their 401K or work-provided life insurance policy. They just didn’t go around telling everyone. That’s not the same as lying.

  20. Maltypass*

    #1 at Christmas my Mum had some extra presents for my family and she gave them to us in the evening by walking into the room and loudly saying, ‘Announcement! I have more presents!’ and ever since I’ve been using it in mundane situations like ‘Announcement! I’m having a hot drink!’ so if you want to embrace the busting through the door idea I highly recommend waiting for a quiet moment in the work day and announcing your parent status then going back to work like nothing happened. If you can stand on a desk all the better

      1. Virginia Plain*

        Me too; I think he should burst through the wall leaving an LW-shaped hole in the wall. And leave via the door.

        I also think once LW has sorted this out so he feels comfortable, it could provide him with great joke opportunities. “You’ve got nine kids?” “Yeah, turns out eight isn’t actually enough!” or “Oh the new guy in the otter department? Yes it’s my stepson Jeff, or Two Of Nine as I like to call him!”

        1. Virginia Plain*

          Sorry that was supposed to be a reply to Princess Deviant!

          But I agree with this idea heartily. Perhaps you could herald the announcement by tinkling a pen on a coffee mug like they do with glasses for the speeches at a wedding reception.

  21. EventPlannerGal*

    OP1 – Simply hire all of your kids. Not only will word spread quickly, saving you the effort of informing people, but you may have sufficient numbers to stage a coup.

    1. comityoferrors*

      I’m hearing this in my head as “The Solution” segment of What a Day and it’s delightful.

  22. Lab Boss*

    LW3: Are they giving you different directions in the sense that they’re telling you to work on two different things, or that they’re telling you different ways that a single thing should be handled? We have a master project priority list that’s periodically updated with consent from all the various layers of management and stakeholders. If I’m doing a task from my boss and then a random VIP tries to give me some other job I can check the list. I’m cleared to switch to the new thing if it’s higher priority, or tell the VIP that I can’t take their task if it’s too low. If they really want me to switch it’s established that it’s on THEM to get approval to switch me to something that’s theoretically low-priority.

  23. Saraquill*

    I’m in a similar boat to OP #3, though I’m in a much smaller company with looser hierarchy. I’ve been caught between instructions from Boss and Manager for a while now. Sometimes I can satisfy what they both want. More often it ends with Manager inserting herself into my assignment, yelling at me for following Boss’ lead, or both.

    1. anonymous73*

      In that case I would schedule a meeting with both of them and force them to come up with a way to handle the situation. It’s not your responsibility to figure out who to listen to when they’re giving you conflicting information.

      1. Saraquill*

        I hesitate as they’re a married couple. I have no idea how much it influences their management dynamic, though I sense it’s by a lot.

  24. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

    I feel for the guy with lots of kids because I bought a car once at a dealership from a guy who had 7 kids I think. Near the end of the sale I think he mentioned it. When I was wrapping up with the finance manager he kept mentioning it. And mentioning how I needed to be sure to leave the sales guy a 5 star review because he has so many kids to support. It was all so….gross. The dealership is one I have used several times and I have actually complained about their pushing as about reviews – I get multiple emails- but they have a fantastic service department. But the idea that this guy needed a good review because of his personal life situation as opposed to his work was just so distasteful and made me cringe.

    For the record I have 4 sisters, 5 kids in the house growing up with two social worker parents not making much money.

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      Without trying to get too deep into the weeds, I, too, hate the push for reviews that car dealerships have implemented. I think this mandate comes from the corporate overlords and they use the reviews in a really punitive nature (like a 9/10 is considered bad) for bonuses and things along those lines.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        In my experience, it’s a manufacturer program to implement the customer satisfaction surveys. The manufacturer supplements the sales associate’s pay for “exceptional” reviews, and probably supplements the dealer as well.

        Ironically, the manufacturers also punish the dealer and sales associate if they are “caught” asking for the higher score.

        If the customer doesn’t play the game, the manufacturer keeps the money. There is no benefit to anybody but the manufacturer to give a sales associate less than a glowing review. If there is something the salesperson or dealership could or should do differently to improve customer service, please tell them directly (e.g., when they ask “What can we do to earn your business?”) rather than in the manufacturers’ satisfaction survey.

    2. Mare*

      Lots of companies have this system, where anything less than a perfect score is considered a failure. That is why there is so much pressure from sales and service people to leave good reviews. The system is deeply flawed through no fault of the employee asking for a good review. I have left scathing comments regarding this practice when asked to leave a review. I also always give perfect scores when there is a system like this in place. But I leave comments directed toward the corporation for having such a flawed system. Someone’s livelihood and income should not be dependent on me leaving perfect scores. What if there is a small area for improvement? What if, at the time I leave a review, my perception is warped by factors outside of the employee’s control? Reviews are only as good as the moment they are written and any number of factors can influence the review. When employees mention they need a perfect score, I hear the corporation talking, not the employee themselves. I do not want anyone losing out on compensation because of my review. The burden should not be on me either. Just like I should not have the burden of supplementing servers income with tips so that they make a living wage. I sometimes have bad days at work. It does not mean I lose compensation because I was off my game that day. It should not be that way in any industry. Customers’ opinions regarding an employee are imperfect, often flawed, often short sighted and very subjective. An employee’s compensation should not be influenced by that narrow point of view.

      1. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

        I completely agree – I think my return business is a better indication of the dealerships work than forcing perfect reviews. It is a terrible business practice. And I get that it comes from the corporate company- but nothing is more likely to make me not leave a review, than asking me to complete a perfect reviews 4 times in the 24 hours following my service or purchase.

      2. Lab Boss*

        Agree! I actually have started blatantly asking employees how their company handles reviews. If it’s an honest system I can give my happy and satisfied 4/5 star while mentioning a few areas things could be polished. If it’s the “99% is a failure” system then the poor sap who had to deal with me gets 5/5 and the comment section is a nastygram about how useless the system is.

      3. I'm just here for the cats*

        I completly agree. Was in a call center for a cell phone company and sometimes I would get reviews that were not for me. Like the person had called several times and he reviewed the last person he spoke with but it went to me. How the review system worked when I was there was that it wasn’t directly after the call. The customer could get a phone call review up to 48 hours after you spoke with them. So if they called in on Monday at 2 spoke with me and had a fine experience, then they had to call back on Tuesday at 9 am and had a horrible experience and then got a review call at noon that was for me they would be ticked off about the last person they spoke with. Same concept if I had to transfer someone. In fact my resignation was accepted early because I had a “bad” review during my last week.

        Also I wish systems would not do the 1-10 thing and do 1-5. So many times I had bad reviews that counted against me because the person typed 1 or 0 when they were trying to type 10. Even if they had comments like She was great I want to give her 10/10 It still counted as a 1. AND MANAGEMENT COULDNT DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.
        So basically I say if the rep was great or even just good give them 10/10 if you had any issues (especially if it was outside of their control, like the price, Shipping delay etc) just don’t do a review.

      4. Le Sigh*

        Oh, I really hate this trend and I agree. And not just with car dealerships — whenever I order food or deal with customer service, unless something really, really went sideways I just give 5 stars. Even if there were small things that happened, it’s just not worth screwing with someone’s livelihood because they’re working for a company with a really screwed up, arbitrary, and crappy system. Which makes the whole system useless — you don’t provide any useful feedback to improve because you know anything short of perfection might just get someone fired. So what do these nonsense ratings mean, anyway, besides a marketing and pressure tactic?

  25. Biscotti*

    #1 I think it depends on what you have previously said about your family, if you have said in the past I have 1 kid Mason and only talk about him then it will be odd. But if you have said “the kids” and not given specifics then it should be no big deal. I would just mention my son is wanting the job, and if it comes up be surprised that they didn’t know or you haven’t said how many kids. Humor goes a long way here too a girl I knew in high school, she started having kids in high school and we met a few years ago when she started at my company she tells people jokingly not to ask about her kids and to never name all of your kids with the same first letter.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I agree – I don’t see any reason why the number of kids needs to come up at all, even with the one son joining the company. There’s no reason to feel like the number needs to be disclosed, or that it will even come up with the son joining.

      The OP has valid concerns from previous jobs about either being unfairly privileged or exploited. But he’s been in his current company long enough that it likely won’t be an issue. If he’s really concerned about it, though, I would think that a chat with the son would be a good idea, rather than a big announcement at work. Surely the OP can tell the son that the company isn’t broadly aware of how big their family is, why he hasn’t made it widely known (based on his previous experiences), and he can request that the son not make a big deal about it. The son is old enough to work, so he’s old enough to learn that people sometimes have to manage the information they disclose about themselves. The OP doesn’t have to even tell the son not to mention the size of their family – all he has to do is tell the son that he himself hasn’t publicized the size of their family, and the reasons why.

      If the OP decides he really does need to inform his colleagues, I’d go with something subtle – eg. a nice family photo with all the kids and parents. Just put that up on the desk or the wall, and leave it to people to bring up.

      Don’t make a big deal about something, and most people will respond in kind.

  26. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    LW4’s situation is interesting to me because I feel like it is very, very, very context dependent, but this might just be because I have worked with a lot of artists/crafters. For example, one of my old co-workers is Hopi and made pottery he sold at Native arts fairs and a few select stores. He’s also gift coworkers pottery and, occasionally, let us know he had some extras for sale if anyone was interested via e-mail. I’ve also worked with weavers, metal artists, glassblowers, etc. who had similar side hustles. Or, around certain holidays, people would sell tamales, empanadas, etc.. For some reason, it feels OK to me for these folks to do what they did, but it doesn’t feel right in the LW’s case, and I’m not sure why. Is it because they made their wares and the LW didn’t? Is it the MLM thing?

    Sorry, LW, no advice, this just hit me in a weird place.

    1. Purple cat*

      Definitely a difference between a craftsperson gifting something and an MLM rep pawning off old inventory. The biggest difference is that part of the MLM marketing scheme is that you have to recruit new salespeople and you make money off of them. And giving away product is one tactic to lure people in.

      Although a potter would be thrilled to have more potters around, they’re (presumably) not into heavy-handed recruiting.

      1. quill*

        Just imagining a potter with big meaty hands clapping someone on the shoulder and saying “We want YOU for traditional crafts!”

    2. anonymous73*

      To me, yes is it the MLM thing. If someone is giving me free product from an MLM, it sends a message that they expect me to buy things from them in the future even if that’s not their intention.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        I don’t know that it would cross my mind, if they hadn’t already mentioned being in the MLM.

        I’d probably assume they supported a friend’s MLM business while shopping for gifts.

        If they solicited me to join, we’d have a polite conversation in which I expressed my appreciation for thinking of me, but that I really don’t have the bandwidth to take on something that clearly requires a level of commitment. Been there, done that, too.

    3. Koala dreams*

      A lot of people don’t like craft and art things, but people who do often like them even better when it’s an artist they know a little of. With mass-produced products, it’s not the same.

    4. Emi*

      I think it’s different because MLMs are so strongly associated with high-pressure sales, and there’s less of a personal element to those products when given as a gift. Artists and artisans tend to be less pushy because they know their work is (justifiably!) expensive and lots of people just aren’t going to buy it, and when they give them away it’s more a labor of love. I know people with MLMs and artists, and none of the artists are going around complaining about how any decent person would simply support their friends by spending $50 on hand-beaded earrings.

    5. Me*

      Very much the MLM thing. They have terrible reputations for high pressure tactics, recruitment (which is the only way to make any kind of money) and most of them have cruddy products (a hair product one has horror stories about lost hair and damage, and a jewelry one just got blasted for have dangerous metals in their products) OR they products are fine but extremely overpriced for what you can get at a regular store. They are extremely predatory especially to women and most people in them lose money.

      So for me I don’t want the product and I don’t want to give of ANY vibe that I support MLM’s.

      1. Cheap Ass Rolex*

        Plus it’s well known enough now due to multiple documentaries, etc. that any friends you make who are also in the MLM are encouraged to drop you cold if you ever try to leave. It can be very culty and result in people who recognize that they are hemorrhaging money staying on long after they should have. Which all means that even letting coworkers know that you’re part of one may engender pity, loss of respect, or people may distance themselves because they anticipate frequent sales pushes in the future. So it can definitely affect your relationships with people in ways that are specific to only MLMs.

    6. HannahS*

      It’s different because one is a gift of a thing a person made that’s good enough to sell–but they gave it to you as a gift, how lovely! And the other is, this person runs a business and pulled out some inventory that they could spare. Oh, how impersonal. Even if the OP genuinely likes the product, it’s not going to make employees feel cared for to be given gifts in that way.

      I mean, to be honest, there’s are certain products I’d be happy to get for free. But if someone gave me and all my colleagues essential oils and diffusers as a gift, it would be pretty obvious that they put no thought into what we’d like, because that gift is based on that person’s own love of essential oils, not…anything that I’ve ever said, ever. Same goes for giving everyone a really great loaf pan. Fine for me, because I bake bread, but really thoughtless for a lot of people.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I feel like the handmade aspect is the biggest difference in my head. For example, the potter and the metalwork artists I mentioned would sometimes bring whatever they didn’t sell at different markets and galleries to the office to sell because they didn’t have storage space at home to keep it. Since every item was unique, it wasn’t a frequent thing (maybe 1-2x/year max), and it was a chance to get something that you wouldn’t get unless you traveled to their shows/galleries, it felt like a really cool opportunity.

    7. EventPlannerGal*

      I’m aware this is partly just an issue of personal taste but to me some of the difference is that I strongly associate MLMs and similar schemes with naff, unpleasant products. I know there are some higher-quality ones out there, but they seem pretty few and far between. With the kind of handmade stuff you’re talking about there’s at least an element of skill/effort that you can appreciate even if the item isn’t to your taste. But if my boss tried to offload her unwanted stash of tacky jewellery and stick-on nails on us as a “gift”… I’d probably still say thanks, but I wouldn’t think much of her for it.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, it is the 100% because of MLM thing because even if OP truly just means it as a gift with no strings attached–the recipient has no way to know how true that is. With MLM products, giving a “gift” is often a way to try to get people to purchase more from you in the future or even worse to recruit them to join your downline.

      These things are mildly annoying in most contexts. But in the context of being from your boss it becomes much more problematic.

  27. Panda*

    I have 7 kids, all between my husband and myself. I don’t always tell people because they make a big deal about it like I’m a supermom or something. My closest coworkers know and we talk about all our families. I don’t expect them to remember my kids’ names, ages, etc.

  28. Very anon*

    #3: I’m in a similar boat, but my position includes actual authority in that everyone I report to, up to the CEO, is okay with me making judgement calls if I get more things to do than I can do in one day.

    Important things to consider are not just the urgency with which the higher ups are bringing you requests, but also when their requests actually HAVE to be done. Is he anxious that his request be completed by Monday morning, and it’s Thursday now, and you’re rushing together a presentation that’s due in an hour? Are there any tasks that absolutely will take multiple days to complete? Is the VP insistent that their request be completed “now” but isn’t actually giving you any information on what the request IS? You’re only human, not a machine. Sometimes I even ask a requestor “is this more or less important than .” They often say “…”.

    1. anonymous73*

      The difference with your situation though is that the expectations are clear. “my position includes actual authority in that everyone I report to, up to the CEO, is okay with me making judgement calls”

      OP needs to sit down with her boss and define those expectations.

  29. Workerbee*

    #2 Oof. OP, I have worked in those long, ancient, often-crumbling buildings where the bathrooms were located for imaginary people’s convenience and no one else’s. And the owners had no interest in changing that. So you have my commiseration, and my thought that if your management can’t or won’t do anything, then let them pay you for your bathroom breaks.

    Though having a couple issues that make a nearby bathroom of immense importance, I would be hoping to get out of that situation myself.

    Currently I am glad to work from home because otherwise the building I’d be stuffed in just has one single bathroom, no provision made for period product disposal, woe betide if you have digestive issues, etc.

    1. Workerbee*

      ETA: When I did work in-office, I gave a discreet word to the office manager to add at least a lidded receptacle for period products. One was duly placed. Since I’ve been (one of the only people on the team) working from home, I noticed last time I had to come into the office that the lidded receptacle was gone. Guess the others don’t care…

  30. Essess*

    For #3, I always respected hierarchy. Bosses of my boss outrank my boss and so their directions are of higher importance. However, any time it happened that a higher rank changed my job duties, I would immediately email my boss with an update that said something like “Hey [boss], I want to update you to let you know that your assignment X will be delayed because [upper boss] has assigned me to do Y for now.”
    If my boss changes my assignment, I email upper boss with similar message “Hey [upper boss], I want to update you to let you know that assignment Y will be delayed due to [my boss] prioritizing assignment X”.
    It is their job to determine whose work is priority. You just need to keep them informed.

  31. Mannheim Steamroller*

    If OP signed up for health insurance through the job while all nine kids were still minors, then the employer already knows.

      1. Jaybee*

        And what HR knows is different from what everyone at the company knows. Some HRs may gossip about that kind of thing but they’re certainly not supposed to, and many do not.

    1. Purple Cat*

      While in this scenario the the HR Benefits Administer would know, that doesn’t mean anyone else would know. That information is confidential.

  32. EPLawyer*

    #1, I agree with Alison, just let it happen organically. People will figure it out, or not. Although I kinda like Event Planner Girl’s idea of hiring them all and staging a coup.

    I’m more concerned that at your previous job it was seen as favoritism because you got a break when things like your car broke down or you were ocassionaly late. That’s like NORMAL. Everyone’s car breaks down, everyone is late sometimes. All your coworkers should have gotten a break over these things. So if it was “favoritism” to you to cut you some slack when this happened, you worked at a really weird place.

    The other place wasn’t much better. Any place that tries to hold you hostage over your personal life is toxic.

    I think those outlier experiences are coloring your view on what may happen when people find out you have nine kids. When the more normal reaction would be oh okay, I never pieced it together. Okay. I mean you might get SOME curious questions like, how do you keep all that organized when they were all in activities? it’s up to you how much information you want to share at that point.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’m more concerned that at your previous job it was seen as favoritism because you got a break when things like your car broke down or you were ocassionaly late. That’s like NORMAL. Everyone’s car breaks down, everyone is late sometimes. All your coworkers should have gotten a break over these things. So if it was “favoritism” to you to cut you some slack when this happened, you worked at a really weird place.

      It’s common for parents to get breaks/slack that non-parents don’t get. It’s not good, but it’s common.

      1. SimplytheBest*

        Not only that, it’s common for men with kids to be cut more slack than women. A good family man shows responsibility and leadership and good morals, all qualities an employer likes! Women with kids are not prioritizing work and don’t have loyalty and are not team players. So if OP is a man (not clear from the letter) there’s possibly some added sexism in play with regards to how they were treated.

  33. Erica*

    I have a nerve pain disorder that can make walking/going to the bathroom very difficult, during flare ups. I was in this position where the bathroom was a long walk; plus stairs. and it was absolutely terrible. I have “rescue” meds – but it required me to go to the bathroom. And walk several minutes. And walk up/down stairs. This is assuming someone doesn’t stop and chat with me on the way there.

    There were days where I had to call in sick, specifically because I knew I wouldn’t have easy access to the bathroom, and it would be more hassle than it was worth.

  34. Another Michael*

    OP1 couldn’t help but remind me of Paget Brewster’s character on Community responding to the question “What have you been up to?” with “I have been working, and…tending to my personal affairs.”

  35. Dust Bunny*

    I have no idea how many kids most of my coworkers have, or if they have kids at all, unless they’re in my immediate department (and even then I’m a bit unclear if the new guy has one or two. I think it’s two?). It’s just not something that comes up a lot. And I know a lot of people who have or came from blended families/second families/etc. and have either a bunch of kids/stepkids/niblings and friends who are practically their kids or a bunch of siblings/stepsiblings/half-siblings/cousins and friends who are practically siblings/etc. This just doesn’t seem like it should be that big a deal.

  36. animaniactoo*

    OP3 – Is it not possible to notify the higher up of the schedule conflict and ask them what the priority is in the moment? Because that is the route that I would go.

  37. Happier Now*

    #1 – I agree just start mentioning them as needed. And if you do ever say “I have 9 kids” be prepared for the follow up question: Mormon or Catholic? As the youngest of seven kids, I have been asked this numerous times. (Catholic btw, lol). Your situation probably doesn’t apply, but it’s amazing how often will people ask.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      Or LW could say “Between wife and I, we have 9 kids.” That would make it more clear that there’s going to be some step kids in there.

  38. Spicy Tuna*

    OP3, your situation is definitely context dependent, but I have found in cases of conflicting direction that communicating usually clears things up. At my last job, my boss, a VP, reported to the CFO. They did not like each other. If I received conflicting direction, I would just loop both of them into an email and ask what direction they would prefer for me to take. Did it cause some tension? Of course it did, but since both of them were way above my pay grade (I was manager-level), I let them duke it out. Eventually my boss resigned and I just reported directly to the CFO. YMMV.

  39. C in the Hood*

    OP3: I can’t tell if what you’re being asked to do is some new task to supplant what you’re working on for your immediate boss (which many commenters have addressed well here), or if it’s a single task that the higher-ups are giving you conflicting information on.

    If it is the second case, I would say to the higher up: “Immediate Boss has instructed me to do task in this manner. Can you let me know why I need to do it differently now?” Not in an argumentative way, but just to get a better feel for the end-result. That way, if Immediate Boss asks why you’re not doing it her way, you’ll at least have a good reason to tell her. Of course, this all depends on your company dynamics too.

  40. Aarti*

    So I got married over a weekend, Justice of the Peace. Asked for the day off (it was Memorial Day Weekend) and didn’t tell a soul at work. Why should I, it’s none of their business, and I didn’t want any fuss.
    Anyway that Tuesday I did wait until everyone was in the office and kind of burst in saying “Guess what? I got married on Friday!”
    It went over mostly great! People were a little confused as to why I hadn’t mentioned it, but they know I am very private person to start with. (they would have thrown me a shower and done all of the things I didn’t want to do. They even complained I didn’t have a registry. I wasn’t asking for gifts from ANYONE.)

    So throw open the door and announce it! It’s no one’s business about your personal life!

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Congrats on getting married!

      Years ago in my previous job, I did have a few coworkers act offended that I hadn’t told them about my divorce before it was final; and only mentioned it in passing after it was. But that’s on them. I didn’t feel like talking about my divorce proceedings to anyone at work (other than two very close friends) and did not feel like I owed anyone an explanation why.

      1. Aarti*

        Thanks! It was some years ago now. But in reference to your divorce, yes, some people feel they are ENTITLED to the deets. Marriages are so bad, everyone expects you to have this giant-ass marriage and invite everyone and their mother. I just didn’t want the judgement. I spent less than $1000 on my wedding and like $600 was on the photos because my dad and inlaws were getting old and I wanted photos. And oyu know, I don’t think that was worth it either! We could have just taken photos at home. :)
        Congrats on your divorce! I hope you got through it ok.

  41. Hiring Mgr*

    Personally, unless the packaging said Amway or something all over it, I wouldn’t even know a product is part of an MLM set up. As far as I know pretty much evewryone uses Tupperware so it wouldn’t really occur to me.

    I still probably wouldn’t do it, but just to say not everyone would associate these products with a scam or something..

  42. monogodo*

    #2 – The men’s room door is 16 feet from my desk, as the crow flies (I can see it as I type this). But to get to it, I have to walk at least 100 feet. There’s one door to my work area, in the far back corner of the room. I have a counter window where my desk is so that I can interact with customers, and the restrooms are across the hall from me. It’s not that big of a deal, except I’m on medication for high blood pressure, and it has a diuretic in it. I’ll be totally fine one moment, then the next my bladder will say, “I need to be emptied NOW!” It makes for a very uncomfortable rush to the restroom. I can’t imagine having to walk for 5 minutes to get to the restroom. I’d never make it.

  43. Pobody's Nerfect*

    OP2 – Yes I’d be careful how I broached this with management, I used to have a job that was so focused on task time that they started making us notate on our time clock page when we’d leave our desks for bathroom breaks and then make another note when we got back to our desks; it was horrible and inhumane. The restrooms were fairly close, within a minute walk, but if we were gone over five minutes total, we’d get asked about it by the line manager that week. “I had a bean burrito for lunch” became a very common line on the floor during these sessions. On the other end of the scale, I had another job where a coworker used to spend hours in the bathroom every day, on their phone watching sports and gaming. There was no consequence from mgmt whatsoever so of course it caused bad morale for all those that were working hard at their jobs and didn’t timesteal from the company for personal slacking reasons. Bathroom issues at work are just tricky.

  44. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    OP1: are you Quiverfull or similar?
    But I’m a fundie snarker and knew of a forum member with 28 kids! You’re not the biggest family I know. That person had 9 kids, husband had 10 from previous marriage. Then they had two more together. Finally, one of their sisters had seven kids and both parents were killed in an accident (kids all OK, oldest two were at home with the younger ones at the time).

    Comes to 28 kids, most of whom still lived at home at once. They bought a big farm in rural California and gardened, had chickens/cows. Kids were kind of in dorm like rooms by age.

  45. Former Retail Lifer*

    #2: I get it. I manage an apartment building and there’s not a bathroom in my office. My walk is only about a minute, but I have to get my coat, lock the door, and walk across the parking lot to the rec center bathrooms. My office is in a retrofitted garage and there’s no way to add plumbing in here. It was really fun when the management company who runs the rec center closed it down in the early days of covid. I always had to make sure I had an unrented apartment at all times so I could use the bathroom there.

  46. Dezzi*

    OP#4: Don’t do it! Seriously, please, DON’T. Your employees aren’t going to perceive this as a “gift,” they’re going to see it as their manager giving them a sample of a product she sells, and (fairly or not), they’re going to assume you’re trying to recruit them as customers and it’s going to make them really uncomfortable. That’s not any kind of criticism of you personally–it’s just how these companies work.

  47. RagingADHD*

    #5, I’m not even sure how you envision making this work. Don’t you have to submit receipts for reimbursement? The receipt…that shows you paid with a gift card. I’m not aware of any type of reimbursement plan that will reimburse things *you obviously did not pay for.*

    Would you try and submit travel expense reimbursement if someone else took you on a trip and paid for everything? What kind of shenanigans would you have to pull with the receipts to try and finagle that? And would the finagling itself not tip you off that what you were trying to do was not okay?

    Of course it’s unethical. But also nonsensical.

  48. Cartographical*

    I would like to commend #1 for managing to go nearly a decade without inundating their co-workers with endless updates on the ins and outs of life with nine children. The level of self-control and compartmentalization is legendary.

    I wouldn’t worry about announcing anything, I’d just mention “my oldest is applying to work here/working here now” as appropriate. If your son gets a job there, I’m sure he will do whatever informing he desires as to his number of siblings.

    My daughter now works at my husband’s place of employment and I’d think it’s a good chance for you to discuss with your son why you made the choices you did around disclosing your family situation. That’s a great lesson for young people to learn, that they don’t owe anyone the details of their personal lives and that they’re allowed to set their own boundaries between work and the rest of their life. You can also discuss how he’d like to handle your relationship in the context of work. Our daughter had concerns that her hiring would be affected by her father being a long-term, well-loved employee and so asked her dad to mind his business, which he did and continues to do unless she contacts him for advice. Having that conversation in advance was very good for both of them transitioning from parent-child to somewhat-distant colleagues.

  49. Sad Desk Salad*

    If you make candles or chocolates or mittens as a side gig, hell yes, bring ’em on. I love that stuff, even if it’s not my particular style, I’ll find some use for it and appreciate it greatly.

    But if you so much as bring ugly leggings or “keto” milkshakes or pink drinks in my vicinity, just don’t bother. I’d rather receive nothing.

  50. EnginerdGal*

    Nothing deep to add, just that I amused myself because when I read the headline, I read it as all one story, “I have 9 kids, a long walk to the bathroom and more.”

  51. Emotional Support Care’n*

    LW1: I understand your reluctance. I’ve been married 3x. What comes with that is kids, step kids, half sibs, what I dub step-halves or half-steps (siblings of the stepkids, or stepsiblings of the half-sibs), not to mention our fauxdopteds (all the kids we’ve picked up along the way thanks to our teens bringing home friends in bad situations, or my volunteer work that had teens or young adults that latched on to the family). I may only have 4 biological children, but with the steps, halves, etc. it’s roughly 30. Add in the fauxdopteds and we’re pushing 50, plus grandkids. I’m not quite 40 yet (and three of my biological children are legally adults now).

    I generally don’t discuss my personal life. I don’t have a criminal record. I am pretty active in the volunteering community and in some political, human rights, and activism spheres (which does cause problems with job hunting). My kids? They don’t get discussed. They have a right to live their lives free of my influence/potential BS (depending on the employer’s opinion).

  52. Save Bandit*

    #5 – First must echo all other comments calling this out as morally grey at best, illegal at worst.

    Second, my insurance used to cover massages, but the caveat was that it had to be done in conjunction with the also-covered chiropractic care. The chiropractor had to prescribe massage, and my insurance would only cover it if I was also seeing the chiropractor for an adjustment. I ended up spending double the time and almost as much money (co-pay, deductible) as I would have done if I’d just booked a massage. Not nearly worth it.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I had a similar experience. My insurance covered massages that were performed by a physical therapist while I was there getting PT. In my case, I really needed the PT so the massages felt like a bonus. I don’t think I would have gone through the rigamarole of getting the PT just to finagle a massage covered by insurance, even though my copay was slightly cheaper than booking a massage.

  53. anonymouse*

    #4- If this is an MLM or really any type of business where you are getting the inventory from elsewhere, I would not do it. I agree with the other comments about how gifting people items you’ve made yourself that you would otherwise sell is different. My boss has a side business making candles, but it’s mostly a hobby at this point in time. For the holidays, she gave every person who worked at the business a candle which she had made herself, which was really generous. There was no undertone of her expecting us to buy more, since it is more of a hobby that she has monetized than something she is spending a lot of time marketing. It was also for a special occasion. The other thing is that she gave them to every single person we work with so there wasn’t any favoritism involved. In the case of unloading inventory from an MLM, people might assume that you are trying to get them to purchase more in the future. If you were to give it to a select few people, other coworkers might feel slighted if they didn’t receive a gift. MLM stuff never mixes well in the workplace but especially if you are a manager or more senior role.

  54. raida7*

    4. Can I give my employees gifts from my side businesses?
    If it identifiable as an MLM structure, and if you know anyone specifically already likes and uses the products – then yes and only for them.

    If it is not that structure and is simply drop-shipping or you are a salesperson as a second job for a brand, then again if they’d like the products, yes.

    Generally, you won’t be selling something everyone wants, and when it’s something you sell those gifts come across as thoughtless (or with MLM ones, pushy). I’d say that a basket of freebies along with a small morning tea spread would be a good way to give it as a gift without just sucking at gift-giving. Maybe sprinkle through a few items from other brands as well if you want to avoid it looking very heavily and specifically branded.

  55. Dahlia*

    OP1: Have you ever seen that column where the writer had a whole secret baby and the columnist basically advised them to lightly gaslight their coworkers?

    This is the only way. You must act act though OF COURSE you told everyone about your secret 9 kids. It’s not a secret!! You’ve always had 9 kids! Haven’t they been paying attention?

    It’ll be too awkward for them to say anything.

  56. Patty Squarepants*

    Re #2: Can the ADA be involved at all with this situation? I have Crohn’s/Ulcerative Colitis and just reading the description of the building layout nearly gave me a panic attack. I can’t imagine someone with a similar condition having to put up with this.

  57. LGC*

    For #4: God bless, but LuLaRich was an entire thing last fall. (Not quite as major as Tiger King, but still – a thing!)

    Putting aside my own feelings about MLMs and home-based sales in general (for the record: not a fan), I know what your intention is, but there’s a huge chance that people will assume that it is a sales pitch regardless. Or that you’re offloading product onto them. Even if there isn’t a multi-level element to it. For better or for worse, direct selling has been in the spotlight lately.

    Wishing you the best of luck!

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