shower thoughts, managing without a private office, and more

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

1. Saying you had an idea in the shower

I’m an engineer. We often have tricky problems to solve. Sometimes we work out the solution collaboratively at work. And sometimes, someone will have a great idea on their own, outside of a work setting. More than once, I’ve had coworkers say “I had this great idea in the shower this morning…” And if I’m honest, I also sometimes have great ideas about work in the shower. But, if you think about it, saying “when I was in the shower” is basically saying “when I was wet and naked” and it feels just a little too personal for work. Can’t we just say “I had a great idea at home this morning” instead of referencing the shower? Am I being to sensitive? Weird or not — telling coworkers your brilliant idea happened “in the shower”?

I say not weird. Maybe it should be weird, but it’s become such a common thing for people to say that convention moves it to the “not weird” category. And I think we’re just counting on people not to sexualize a routine hygiene function.

On the other hand, “I had a great idea while I was sitting on the toilet this morning” would be weird.

2. My coworker asked if I changed teams because of the people

I work for a small company of about 20 people. I started last summer in an entry-level sales role. After a few months, I felt like I wasn’t particularly well suited to sales and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped. After talking to my manager, I transitioned into a new role in a different department helping to manage the production of our products, which I’ve been doing for about a month now and I’m really enjoying it! I’m much better suited to this job and everyone I spoke to about it, including my old manager, was really supportive in helping me find the right role.

Since then, the sales department has hired a new person, Jane, who started recently. A question she asked me made me a bit worried. Near the end of her first week, we were talking on our lunch break and she asked, “Did you move teams because of the people?”

I was surprised by this but explained why I’d struggled in that role and how I’d decided that it wasn’t for me. The people in that team are more extroverted than I am but they were always really nice. I asked if the reason why I might have moved teams had worried her and she said yes, but before I could ask anything else some other colleagues walked in and we changed the subject.

I’m now worried that either she’s not getting on with her team and thought maybe I’d transferred because I also didn’t get on with them, or that others in the company think that’s why I transferred and mentioned it to her. I don’t want anyone to think I moved teams because of the people in the sales department, and I still need to work closely with them in my current role. But I’m not sure how I can ask anyone about it without revealing what Jane asked me, which she may not want people to know.

I’ve thought about inviting her to get a coffee outside of the office and then I could ask about how things are going generally, then she could mention it if she wants to. And this might be a nice thing to do anyway? I could ask her about it directly but I don’t know her very well and feel like that might be overstepping. Also, if she’s having issues with that department, I can’t actually do anything except listen and maybe offer some advice. I noticed today that some of that team ate their lunch together and Jane didn’t join them and stayed at her desk, but maybe I’m reading too much into that. Is there anything I should do? Should I try and find out if people think I changed roles because I didn’t get on with the sales department and make it clear that isn’t the case? Should I just let it go?

I vote for asking Jane for coffee outside the office to talk about how things are going. That’s a nice thing to do anyway for someone who’s in the job you used to have, and she’ll probably appreciate it. And then as you’re talking, you can ask her straight-out what made her worry that you left because of the people.

But unless you hear “Oh, everyone says that,” I wouldn’t assume other people in your company believe that! People change roles all the time (and discovering that sales isn’t for you is especially common) and it’s far more often about the work than your team members. It can be about your team members, of course, but people aren’t likely to assume that unless your team mates are notoriously horrible or you seemed really ill at ease with them.

3. Managing a team when you don’t have a private office

I’m a line manager level supervisor at a public library. Each manager currently has their own office. Administration is considering getting rid of offices for all managers at my level and giving us cubicles instead. I’ve been selected as the first. I’m concerned about maintaining privacy for my employees, as I don’t really have a space other than my office for private conversations. Are my concerns valid? I’ve never considered doing my job without a private space.

Yes, very valid! As a manager, you need privacy for all sorts of conversations — giving feedback, addressing problems in people’s work, discussing problems with another team, hearing people’s concerns, strategizing tricky situations, receiving personal announcements (whether it’s health/baby/divorce/whatever) … and on and on. Without an office, you’ll need to use a private conference room for all of those discussions, which is presumably doable but can mean you end up having less of them because it can be such an inconvenience to need to relocate every time. People can and do manage with this arrangement, but it’s definitely far from ideal.

4. Should I tell interviewers that I’m leaving my old job due to poor pandemic precautions?

I’m looking to leave my current office job because our department has handled the pandemic irresponsibly. When I first arrived, we were telecommuting half of the week, but last summer the administration demanded that we all return to in-office work full-time, regardless of risk factors like disability or immune system disorders.

As infection rates rose, our administrators made increasingly poor decisions. They moved our work stations closer together during the Delta surge so that social distancing is now impossible, even though there are enough empty desks in the office to permit us to spread out a little better to reduce transmission. Employees have not been permitted to quarantine themselves and work from home even after coworkers in neighboring cubicles tested positive for Covid. We’ve had four confirmed cases on our floor in the past month — that’s out of 20 employees! There is a loosely-enforced mask requirement, but no vaccine mandate.

We’ve made numerous complaints to HR and health and safety, with no results. So I’m looking for another, safer job. The trouble is that I’ve been here less than a year, and I know it looks bad to leave a position so quickly. I also know it’s considered bad form to criticize your previous employer in a job interview. How should I explain my plague-induced job-hopping to the hiring committee?

It’s okay to be direct when it’s something like this! “Unfortunately, they’re not adhering to safety protocols like masking and social distancing, and I’m looking for a company that has been more careful about safety during the pandemic.” This is just a factual answer about why you’re leaving; it’s not badmouthing. If a company bristles at it, that’s a sign that you’re likely to run into similar issues there; you want to screen out the bristlers.

(Also, leaving one job after less than a year isn’t job-hopping. Job-hopping is a pattern of short-term stays.)

{ 341 comments… read them below }

  1. Viki*

    #1, I usually say “I had this idea last night/this morning” because it’s true, just misses the shower/laundry/something else I was doing that I wasn’t really thinking about.

    But have heard people say “thought of this when I was in the shower” all the time.

    Also have heard my spouse say “it worked in my dream, so let’s see if it works in real life.”…which sure, okay. He does stuff with numbers/math so I guess that might be normal?

    1. Heffalump*

      I think it really emphasizes, with a touch of humor, that inspiration can strike anywhere, anytime. I work in a technical field, and I once had a brainstorm late at night in bed.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Coming up with brilliant ideas while bathing is also a very ancient tradition. Just don’t follow Archimedes completely, and put on pants before sharing your insight.

        1. JM in England*


          Whilst Archimedes ran through the streets shouting “Eureka!”, everyone else shouted back to him “You streaker!”

        2. Asenath*

          My first thought was also that if it worked for Archimedes, why wouldn’t it be acceptable today, minus the bit about running through the streets naked and shouting?

        3. Lacey*

          Yup. I’ve read articles that say being in water helps us be more creative. I’ve also read that it’s because we finally let our brain relax. Either way, it’s helped me multiple times and it’s so common I wouldn’t expect anyone to be offended by it.

        4. Candi*

          Ctrl-F’d for Archimedes, was not disappointed.

          And I think work and society in general could do with disassociating “unclothed” from “bedroom activities”.

      2. allathian*

        “Sleep on it” is often useful advice. Sometimes you just have to let your subconscious do the work. One of my coworkers gets lots of ideas on his walks. So he uses the recording function on his phone to take notes. I get ideas on my walks, too, but because I’m an extremely visual processor, it wouldn’t even occur to me to record them in any other way except in writing, which is too awkward to do on the move. So I usually forget my ideas, at least temporarily. If they’re any good, experience has shown that they’ll come back to me later.

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          I’m a walk/run ideas person as well. I think something about being away from the work environment and focusing on ‘one foot in front of the other’ helps make things clearer somehow.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, I agree. I’m also lucky enough to take most of my walks in a green zone, especially now that I’m mostly WFH. I can’t avoid the noise from traffic, but at least I’ll also hear birdsong and see some growing things, even if they’re dormant in winter.

          2. Kaiko*

            Yea, they’ve done studies that show that getting R&R away from working gives your brain a chance to thinking about and work through problems differently, sometimes leading to breakthroughs. It makes me think of those folks who write in about their totally normal 60-80 workweek and it’s yet another way they’re short-changing themselves.

          3. Oranges*

            My old boss was a “had this idea while walking the dog last night” guy. Personally I find “in the shower” weird and uncomfortable just like OP, so whether he was actually walking the dog when the idea struck, I appreciate that his process is always rated G.

          4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Same. To such a degree that if I say, “Hey, I though of something we can do for X” my boss will reply, “Good run this morning?”. I think my favorite discovery since I have been WFH is that I really, really focus and process better if I am moving, so now I pace, sweep, etc. during every meeting where I don’t have to use my keyboard. Next place we live, I am absolutely getting a treadmill or bike desk

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Walking the dogs and swimming are my two spots. To the extent that I now deliberately build those in as breaks after working on something for a while.

          And I would take “in the shower” as similar to those–you step away from the problem and let your back brain work on it, and at either a random point, or your particular body’s specific backbrain-idea-generating point, the idea pops out. “In the shower” in this context just means “while doing my routine morning stuff.”

            1. Anonymous4*

              “Oh, yeah, I came up with that while I was trimming my –”
              “NO DETAILS, THANKS!”

              I love my coworkers, but there are certain things I don’t want to know.

        3. Unicorn Parade*

          I do creative work (writing and graphic design primarily) and on almost every project, I “finish” early so I can sleep on it. It really works! Working from home, I’ve also found that when I’m stuck on something, if I put on some music and wash my dishes, I can almost always figure out a solution in the 15 minutes it takes me. I’m pretty sure my executive management team would frown on that but something about a mindless, repetitive task just sparks my creativity.

        4. EPLawyer*

          I have most of my great ideas in the car while driving. Then wouldn’t you know it, never a red light when you need them. I use Keep on my phone to type in my thoughts when its safe to do so. Even if its just a word that will remind me.

          Using Keep for all kinds of things has really helped. I don’t have to try to remember anytihng more than “check Keep” and I don’t have to organize all the scraps of paper I used to jot down my ideas.

        5. Llama Llama*

          I record ideas on walks in the notes app on my phone or in emails to myself. It’s super helpful and not that awkward.

        6. chilledcoyote*

          I used to have a long commute during grad school, and I would brainstorm out whole academic papers on a voice recorder while I was driving a long, boring route home. I’m visual, so it was harder than writing it out and not my idea, but it ended up working out really well to not waste time I had to think!

      3. Reality.Bites*

        I was lying in bed last night and had a wonderful idea, so I rushed home and wrote it down. – Betty White as Sue Ann Nivens

    2. Loulou*

      I don’t say “shower thought” at work only because I feel like a complete scrub admitting I think about work in the shower.

      1. ecnaseener*

        This is probably a team culture thing. I’m with you – I actively try to avoid thinking about work outside of work hours, and if I did happen to think of an idea on personal time I would try not to announce that because I want to model solid work/life boundaries. But on the LW’s team (and I imagine most teams of creative thinkers like engineers) it’s clearly normal to keep thinking about work problems when you’re not working.

        1. Sandi*

          In my experience it is typical for nerds to not constantly think about work, but if there is a stubborn problem then it stays in the brain until it’s solved. So every shower and walk isn’t an analytical marathon, just occasional ones. In bed and the shower are two locations where the brain tends to be more quiet, and therefore is more likely to completely focus on the problem. Walking can work well, but when I walk I have to be at least vaguely aware of my surroundings, so the focus isn’t as complete.

      2. Rav*

        I don’t feel weird saying it. Those are the times I let my brain wander. Talking about the 99.3% of the other thoughts my brain drunkenly fired is quite weird.

      3. braaaaaains*

        I’m banking up all those advertised shower thoughts (and yesterday’s while-making-a-sandwich revelation) in order to balance the times someone notices me browsing FB (and, um, this site) during work hours. My brain’s gonna brain when it wants to!

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I wouldn’t mind admitting it. Because it’s not actually “ok let’s think through that issue with the teapot paint while I shower”. It’s more like, you’re scrubbing your body to rid it of those dead cells and it suddenly occurs to you that the teapots need be polished for longer, to get them properly smooth before painting them.
        I mean, I once woke up at 3 am for the perfect word that had been eluding me. I had delivered the job anyway, and the boss came back to me saying that wasn’t the right word. I cast around and found something that would do, and he was satisfied. Then the next night I woke up saying the right word. I wouldn’t say I had much agency in that, and it’s the same for when ideas come in the shower.
        It’s the mark of a true creative!

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      I’ve never had a work idea in the shower, but in the Before Times I was a lap swimmer and used to have work ideas all the time while swimming. However, I’d usually just say “It occurred to me that…” or “I had an idea yesterday evening…”, since I didn’t want my colleagues to think of me wearing a swimsuit.

      1. sunglass*

        Yeah, I’ve often found that I’ve worked out problems or come up with new ideas while out for a run. There’s something meditative about the repetitive movement that can put you in the right frame of mind, I find.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Oh, they are open, I just switched to doing dance classes at home during lockdown #1 and didn’t go back to swimming. I may go back to it when my knees finally give out, but hopefully that won’t be for a few more years yet.

      2. Coenobita*

        When I took literature classes in college, I would swim laps and write papers in my head! I think swimming is particularly effective because it’s pretty much the only place where there is not even the possibility of a phone/computer/whatever distracting me.

      3. OyHiOh*

        As a student, piano was my go-to. Completely stuck in the middle of a paper and no idea how to unstick? Go play piano pieces I learned years ago and can play from memory, on autopilot. Half hour later, back to the paper with my brain thoroughly unstuck.

    4. Underrated Pear*

      Fun fact: there’s a reason lots of people get good ideas in the shower! It has to do with the fact that your mind is in an unengaged-but-not-completely-0ff state that is ideal for “mind wandering.” I know it actually exists in psych literature, although it’s not my field, so I couldn’t really tell you much more about it. But yes, totally a thing, and maybe that’s one reason why I don’t feel most people would think it was a strange thing to bring up.

      1. Bamcheeks*

        I always think for me it’s one of the few times when I absolutely can’t distract myself with my phone, and whilst my children will wander in and out, sometimes they leave me alone for a whole ten minutes at time. No wonder I get Real Thinking done!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think you’re really onto something, in the modern era, with this sort of insight happening in phone-free spots.

          1. Delta Delta*

            My husband takes his phone into the shower. He’s got a handful of shows he’s bingewatching without me, and likes to watch them when he’s alone. Like on a machine at the gym. Or in the shower. I chalk that up to harmless husband behavior.

            1. Rainy*

              Mine too, although for him it’s usually music theory videos, which he knows I have a limited tolerance for.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        A relaxed mind vs a tense mind. This is why incubation time is so important. Time away is as valuable as time engaged.

      3. Miss V*

        For me my best Eureka! moments are while I’m knitting. Something about the fact that I’m engaged but it’s still repetitive enough it doesn’t require my full attention, but I also can’t be distracted by my phone/computer/whatever.

        It’s become enough of a running joke that this is when I get my best ideas that if my supervisor gives me a tricky problem to solve she’ll even ask if I want to ‘go knit about it’ before I get back to her.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        The bath is even better in that you can stay in it for far longer! I get lots of thinking done during my Sunday bath (I shower the rest of the time because that hot water is not too good for my circulation).

    5. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

      I work on a team of 4 that is responsible for a lot of creative idea-generating (we work in the arts, and are literally creating shows). Every summer, we have a 2-week really intensive work session, so our brains are working through it all when we leave every day, and we often come back with new takes on ideas in the morning. One of my colleagues always says her best ideas come while she’s washing her hair; the scalp massage must be increasing blood flow to the brain. We’re a very close team, so when we leave for the night stalled or at a tricky point, we’ll tell her to take an extra long shower and lather, rinse, repeat before coming in the next day.

      I think that mostly, being in the shower is just kind of accepted shorthand for being in a situation without distractions where your mind can wander. That’s where my best shower thoughts come from. Nothing weird about it, I don’t think.

      1. Rainy*

        Yeah, I don’t find it odd, and in fact think it’s kind of weird if saying “shower” makes someone immediately think of me naked. I certainly don’t immediately imagine a coworker naked if they say they had an idea in the shower!

    6. Keyboard Cowboy*

      Ah, I work in engineering too – we say “shower thought” all the time, but it’s often enough a euphemism for “weird thought I had out of nowhere” that I don’t think anybody associates it with the act of showering anymore.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I agree – and that’s why “on the toilet” or “while I was swimming” or “while I was making lunch” or whatever don’t work in the same way. Shower thought is such an established concept that it’s lost its literal connotations.

        1. Tali*

          Agreed. It has nothing to do with “sexualizing a routine function” or whatever. It’s purely because it’s a common trope now.

      2. Coenobita*

        Shower thoughts are 100% a thing in my field, too. I used to work at a consulting firm and whenever a question about billable hours came up my mentor liked to joke (?) that “if a lawyer gets an idea in the shower, they’ll not only bill you for the time but also for the soap!”

    7. tamarack & fireweed*

      My partner, who is an engineer, particularly likes to think in the shower, and I, too have had good ideas there.

      However, I think there’s something else going on: the “idea in the shower” trop has become part of the culture of tech and science, so that even if people had the idea over breakfast or while commuting to work they might *say* they had the idea in the shower. Because it signals two things: a) the idea came while thinking unstructured out of the box, in a physically relaxed context – creativity; and b) while you had the idea you weren’t at your usual workplace with access to, say, testing frameworks, statistical tables, policy manuals etc. etc, so the idea is untested and may very well fall flat on its nose.

      (Many years ago, as a student in Germany, my friend group liked to go into a student union run café after taking lunch in the dining hall. There was a ritual where one would ask “should we go for a coffee?” and then invariably D, one of the group, pointed out that he doesn’t drink coffee. Whereupon someone else (sometimes me) would point out to D that “going for a coffee” was a label for a particular activity and didn’t actually constrain the beverage that D could ingest. And then we went and I had a cappuccino with whipped cream on top. It cost DM 1.50.)

      1. London Lass*

        Indeed – “going for a coffee” has become such common currency that I use it myself and I don’t even drink it. But people immediately know what I mean even if I will be ordering a hot chocolate or a cup of tea.

      2. 3co*

        I think you make a good point about how “shower thought” signals that it’s a less thoroughly tested/researched idea than what you might usually bring to the table.

        Especially if you work with tech nerds who like to pick at every logical flaw in something, saying that your thought of it in the shower is way to set different expectations, to say “hey, I’m sharing this idea because it seemed interesting and there might be something useful in it, but I’m not 100% committed to defending it”

      3. Smithy*

        This is a really good way to contextualize the idea of an “idea in the shower” being its own shorthand when the actual activity in fact might be something far more offbeat or personal. And thus weird. I know Allison mentions not to say ‘on the toilet’, but if someone replied that they had an idea while they were waxing their chin or trimming their nose hair – while nudity isn’t necessarily involved it also seems far more personal and therefore odd.

        If you’re in a situation where the gender or power dynamics don’t feel amazing to drop the “in the shower” – I do think that “brushing my teeth” is a quality substitute. And again can also stand in for other bathroom thinking time that maybe you don’t want to reference in specificity at work.

    8. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I’ve said in the shower/on a run/while walking the dogs/cleaning the litterbox and only the litterbox one elicited any shock/disgust. So I’m thinking as long as you stay away from talking about kitty litter you should be OK saying shower

    9. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      #1, I usually say “I had this idea last night/this morning” because it’s true, just misses the shower/laundry/something else I was doing that I wasn’t really thinking about.

      But have heard people say “thought of this when I was in the shower” all the time.

      Also have heard my spouse say “it worked in my dream, so let’s see if it works in real life.”…which sure, okay. He does stuff with numbers/math so I guess that might be normal?

      That’s along the lines I would suggest, too; “It came to me first thing this morning” if mentioning the shower feels weird or you think someone’s going to imagine you in the shower.

    10. OyHiOh*

      My boss has an uncomfortable habit of doing the shower/bath tub thing to me, generally along the lines of “email I was answering in the bathtub this morning and here’s the fallout you need to know about.” Since he shows up clean and presentable, just let me bask in the illusion that hygiene happens by magic!

      My partner is someone who regularly solves problems in his dreams. He’ll be stuck on a problem for days then pop up for breakfast one morning going “I had a dream about it last night and figured it out!” I remember perhaps a dream every week or so, so the ability to retain information from dreams is a mystery to me, but I’ve seen it work in real time for others.

      1. bewilderd*

        Oh, I’ve totally solved thorny coding problems in my dreams! I’ll wake up at 3am with a “Eureka!” and jump out of bed. Unfortunately, by the time my feet hit the floor, I realize the whole thing is incoherent gibberish that only makes sense in dreams. Oh well…

    11. Sparrow*

      I also say, “I had an idea this morning,” but people having random inspired ideas in the shower is such a common thing that I really don’t think it’s at all weird if someone specifically says where they were when they had the thought. If they continued to talk about their shower, that would probably be weird, but as a brief aside, I don’t think it’s oversharing.

    12. T2*

      I am just going to say don’t knock getting really good ideas on the can. There is a reason it is called the thinking chair.

      Beyond that, as much as I don’t like to consider it. People are people. They have all the bodily functions you do. It is only weird if you make it weird.

    13. Nicki Name*

      I’m in a technical field, and I would approach it mostly the same way as you– just say an idea struck me outside of work hours and not give details about what I was doing at the time.

      The example with your spouse seems worth an exception, though! That made me chuckle, and it doesn’t have the same connotations as “I thought of this in bed” because I’m visualizing the person in their dreamscape instead.

    14. EngineeringFun*

      I am an engineer and have a lot of good ideas ” at 2 am” and “while blow drying my hair.” Those seem to be pretty safe.

    15. lunchtime caller*

      Yeah I don’t usually specify where the idea happened either, but wouldn’t think twice if someone mentioned a shower thought. In fact, it would be the person who went “you mean while you were WET and NAKED???” that would make me really feel uncomfortable!

    16. Ingrid*

      Saying “I had this idea in the shower” is totally fine and normal. HOWEVER, don’t be like my very first boss out of college (a middle-aged man), who said to a room full of young women in their 20’s: “I had this great idea in the shower! My best ideas always come in the shower. I wish you could all shower with me every morning!” Cue stunned silence and awkward laughter….

    17. CoHikerGirl*

      In one of my high school English classes, shower ideas was a running joke (over multiple years, because we kept the same teacher). Our teacher decided to write an example essay for us for an assignment because he had the idea in the shower. (It was an entire essay based on the sentence “Nick liked to open cans.” from a Hemingway piece.) Anytime we had a brilliant sentence, it was a “shower thought”.

    18. Nina*

      “it worked in my dream, so let’s see if it works in real life.”
      Totally. I’m a scientist and I’ve had this work for me a lot. I’ll work through all the information I have about a difficult problem as I’m falling asleep, and more often than not wake up in the middle of a vivid dream about what I do next. The dream’s right about half the time, and wildly off-base or requiring non-existent equipment the other half.

    19. Ann Onimous*

      On the one hand, this idea of dreaming of solutions, having them occur to you in the shower is cute.

      On the other hand, I was once part of a team that would constantly start the weekly status meetings with: “I dreamt of a solution to so and so…”. Every single time without exception. Which ended up creeping me out after a few months. I mean, I started feeling marginalized for being the only one NOT dreaming about work. :((

      IMHO, this is cute if it happens rarely, but people don’t normalize this behavior.

  2. Loulou*

    Ugh, OP#3’s concerns are 100% valid and something many of us in libraries can probably relate to. I will say, though, before I worked someplace like this I would read AAM letters about private meetings in cubicles and think “what? That’s insane!” And maybe my sense of norms has been warped by library austerity, but it’s been sort of…fine? I’ve had sensitive conversations with my boss in his cubicle and felt fairly confident nobody was listening in. We talked in low voices, people saw he was busy and didn’t interrupt, plus our work area was pretty loud and a lot of people wore headphones. I might see my boss meeting with someone and surmise from body language that it’s not a “hey, what does Loulou think since she’s walking by?” type of chat, but I have no idea what they’re talking about. I’d sort of compare it to the illusion of privacy or personal space that exists on crowded public transit or an apartment building with thin walls.

    Is it great? No. Is it the way it is and probably not going to change? Yes. I fully expect to retire never having my own ceiling or door.

    1. Rebeck*

      Yeah… I had to think hard to when my manager last had an actual office and it was… before I started working in libraries. I think the University Librarian has an office and maybe the next level down, but the other 85 of us? It’s booking conference rooms for sensitive conversations all the way. (There aren’t even cubicles anymore.)

      1. Perfectly Particular*

        I’ve never had a boss with an office, so I don’t know if them asking you to stop by has the same effect, but I feel so much dread when my manager asks if I have a minute to chat, and then says “let’s grab a room real quick”. You know nothing good is coming from that convo. I’m in my 40’s (and a high performer) and it still feels like I’m being sent to the principal’s office. So OP3, see if you can find a way to make those sensitive conversations a little more organic – maybe take a walk if the weather’s nice?

        1. DaisyGrrl*

          Wondering if you would have found it better if your boss had all one-on-one convos in a room? When I managed a team on-site, I would hold weekly check-ins in conference rooms. My hope was that it would be viewed as a safer space to discuss items both sensitive and mundane, and remove that uh-oh feeling that comes when the boss only closes the door for bad news.

          I like to think it worked well enough, but recognize that as the manager I couldn’t expect my direct reports to provide negative upward feedback.

          1. Xarcady*

            When we moved to a new office space I lost my office. Because all the managers complained, in addition to the conference room, they added three tiny meeting rooms, for 2-4 people.

            But it pretty quickly became obvious when a manager was walking someone to one of the little rooms—hey! It’s an open plan office!

            So I started having one-on-ones weekly with all my people, which I hadn’t done before. And that eliminated the “Oooh, wonder what Ned did to get a talking to,” gossip.

            But it did not solve the problem of conversations that started in my cubicle and ended up needing a private room.

            So glad to leave that job. It was a hotbed of gossip and backstabbing and outright undermining of other employees.

        2. Cold Fish*

          I, too, can’t help but feel like I’m being told to go to the principal’s office whenever I have a meeting in the Big Boss’s office.

        3. Momma Bear*

          Old boss apparently used to invite people out for coffee for difficult conversations and after a while no one wanted to grab coffee with them.

          When I’ve worked in a cube farm, we either got a conference room, or we picked a time people were not nearby, like lunchtime or extra early. I’d say it’s been 50/50 if I had a boss with an office.

        4. SpaceySteph*

          I’ve always had a boss with an office. And I’ve never gotten in trouble at work. Yet I, too, am filled with dread when my boss asks to chat.

    2. Open planner*

      No manager at any (tech) company I’ve worked at in the last 20 years in 3 countries has had their own permanent office, except senior execs, finance and HR. It’s just not a thing for regular people managers. You reserve a small meeting room for 1:1 conversations. Though post-covid, with professionals moving to hybrid or remote there may be more spare space around; maybe private offices will finally catch on!

      1. Gumby*

        I was working at internet companies – home of the open office and cubicles *if you are lucky* (though my managers there still had offices mostly). When trying to switch job roles, the first reasonable job I found was in a completely different industry. Liked the people, liked the company, decided to give it a whirl. Still like the people and the company but one of the top reasons I have not tried to switch back into my original industry now that I have my desired job title on my resume? Private offices. With doors that close. Not only do managers have them, but almost everyone does. There are currently 4 people at my office who are in cubicles because we ran out of offices and we removed dividers to give them double or triple sized spaces.

        In the before-times I occasionally attended networking events that were held in different company offices and when I walked into the well-designed but open workspaces I mentally noped out of even applying. It’s like the LW from earlier whose company wanted to attract young people with candy and games. “Here, see our modern industrial-chic workplace with designer furniture and an open kitchen that is always stocked with free snacks. Wouldn’t you like to work here?” “Show me your walls and doors. I can live with beige carpeting and bland particleboard office furniture. Give me a door!”

    3. turquoisecow*

      I don’t think I’ve ever had a direct boss who had their own office. Oh no wait, one. With the others, we met usually in conference rooms or occasionally empty offices that became makeshift conference rooms when we had something to talk about privately. I think I once did a performance review with my boss in the on-site cafeteria during mid-morning. A few other people without offices were also having meetings, but on the other side of the room, and it was a large space.

      I think as long as you do have a private area available to have these chats it’s fine that you don’t have a private area at all. If your office doesn’t have enough conference rooms or doesn’t have any at all I can see that being a bigger problem, but at my last job I reported to a manager and only directors (the level above him) and above got private offices.

      My current boss and I are both remote – I haven’t seen him in two years – and I didn’t even have a permanent desk when I went to the office – when we were both in the office and needed to talk privately we’d find a quiet corner where we weren’t likely to be overheard and talk in low voices.

      1. okintheuk*

        Yeah, when our office remodelled, all the personal offices were removed, but there are lots of rooms if you need privacy (from 2 people upwards). If you need to have a private conversation, it’s not hard

        1. Cold Fish*

          We had a sort of mini-remodel a few years ago. Big Boss wanted to give Office Manager (actual manager to 95% of the office staff) her own office. She wouldn’t hear of it; she wanted to be in the center of things, not isolated in an office. My manager (who manages the other 5% of the office staff) ended up with the office; I’m fairly certain she sees it as a sign of authority and respect to have her own office. Different personalities but it worked out well in this situation.

      2. londonedit*

        Yeah, most of my direct bosses have just sat with the rest of us – I’ve never worked anywhere with cubicles, just banks of desks with anything from 2-8 people sitting along either side with a desk space each. Often the big bosses will have a private office, but nothing below a sort of head of department level. It’s perfectly fine – the culture is that if you’re having a private meeting with your boss, you use a meeting room or you go out for a coffee. Otherwise if it’s just an organic chat about something you’re working on, you’d just do that at your/their desk.

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          In my current place, the only person who has their own office is our chief exec. Everyone else, including all the other directors, sits on banks of desks together (in alphabetical order these days due to Covid precautions). Like you say, if you want to have a private meeting you book a room or go somewhere off site.

          However I will say that this is one time when WFH can be an advantage – it does bring in that degree of separation that you don’t get in person, yes, but also if you can both find a relatively private space at home for a Teams/Zoom call then it helps avoid being overheard.

      3. BethDH*

        I honestly would prefer that my boss have a private office and I don’t care whether I do. Most of the things I want to talk to my boss about privately are pretty short and I prefer that I can just bring them up in a normal 1:1 and not have a whole meeting in a conference room for a three minute conversation.
        I’m also way less stressed if they can do the same and keep corrections private but part of normal coaching.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          Yeah there’s so many little things like this. Booking a whole conference room to tell your boss you’re pregnant or having knee surgery or your mom is ill and need to plan leave dates? Way overkill for a short conversation that just isn’t the whole office’s business.

      4. Rolly*

        This is common. Unless the job requires frequent confidential discussion, having an office for privacy for a regular manager just doesn’t seem important to me.

    4. anonymous73*

      My husband is a manager and sits in a cube farm. A few companies ago our team leads sat in cubes with high walls and sliding doors, but the tops were open. Just because it may be the norm doesn’t make it okay. If you manage a team of people, you need a space to have private conversations. You shouldn’t have speak quietly.

      1. Random Bystander*

        Agreed on the speaking quietly being a potential issue. I’m noticing that I am having increasing difficulty with hearing (I’m in my 50s), not enough to justify the expense of a hearing aid yet (my dad has them, so I know it’s likely in my future). If I had to talk to my supervisor and she had to near-whisper talk to me, I would have a lot of difficulty. I’m probably not the only person in this particular boat with respect to hearing.

        1. Cold Fish*

          I’ve always had difficulty understanding people when they whisper. I think it might be a processing thing over a hearing thing because it just sounds like Charlie Brown’s Teacher talking. (I HATED that stupid telephone game as a kid.) However, I’ve never found it difficult to have a private conversation in a cubicle. Sitting face to face helps a lot. Waiting for the heater or air conditioner to kick on can help to provide white noise in the background to prevent being overheard. But, yeah, to have a 100% private conversation you need a room with a door.

          1. anonymous73*

            You CAN have a private conversation in a cubicle, but there’s always the potential that someone is listening. Even when speaking quietly, you’re always going to run the risk of Nosey Nelly listening intently, hearing only part of the conversation, and spreading gossip about you (or hearing everything and telling others something that is nobody else’s business). And if conference rooms are hard to come by, you have no way to have an important conversation. That’s a big problem.

            1. Loulou*

              I hear that, but if that’s truly a realistic concern for a workplace it speaks to much, much bigger problems than can be fixed with a door.

              1. Anonymous4*

                If you’re trying to have a private conversation in a cubicle, you’re always going to run the risk of having eavesdroppers, whether deliberate or accidental; and gossip is a common thing; so the much-much bigger problems to which you’re referring are, “hiring flawed human beings as employees.”

                Only problem is, that’s the only kind we got.

                Luckily, the problems that anonymous73 describes can be fixed with a door.

          2. Random Bystander*

            For me, this is a change that I have been noticing in the last few years, so more of a hearing issue for me. White noise actually makes it *harder* for me to hear when someone is speaking especially quietly (that is, I can hear that someone is talking, but I have more difficulty with distinguishing the words that are being said).

            I know I’d be getting really frustrated if I were trying to communicate with my supervisor in near-whisper to avoid being overheard by others (especially as higher pitched voices are harder than lower-pitched), and I doubt that I’m the only one who is experiencing low-grade hearing (possibly age-related) issues. I know I’ve also heard a number of people complaining about not being able to follow conversations as well when the person they’re speaking with is wearing a mask (unconsciously lip reading to fill in gaps).

        2. Michaela T*

          Yup – I have a profound hearing loss and one of the things that let me know a management role wasn’t going to work out is the amount of time people spent walking into my cubicle and whispering/muttering.

      2. Loulou*

        This might be a time when my library-specific situation really does not apply to everyone, but in my library we always have to speak quietly, private conversation or not, because most of our offices are adjacent to public areas where patrons are reading. In a previous job a lot of offices were in the stacks, basically among private study carrels. It is EXTREMELY annoying and problematic not being able to talk to coworkers at a normal volume day-to-day, but because we’re all used to it I guess I don’t register it as a problem with manager meetings specifically.

    5. Hannah Lee*

      I’ve worked in environments like that before and it was … okay, but not great. I found myself weighing “is this okay to get into here?” and being less focused on the person I’m meeting with because I’m constantly scanning the environment to make sure no one else is close enough to tune in.

      If I were to advise LW and this plan goes forward, I’d suggest making “meet in the private conference room” the default for most or all meetings with their employees, even if it’s not as convenient. That way you don’t set up the impression that meeting in the conference room means something unusual, difficult, super private is going on, not just for the employee themselves, but for all your reports who would see you heading to the conference and start wondering “oooh what’s up? Anyone know what’s up?”

      Instead it’s just “oP 3 is having her weekly 1 on 1s, or project updates or whatever” It lowers the bar for your employees when they DO have sensitive things to bring up, because they either can bring it up in an existing meeting or easily say “hey can we catch up” and you both automatically head to the normal (and private) catching up space without it causing a stir.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        My company went to an open office concept about 5 years ago, and thiiiiiiiis. All but one of my managers just default moved meetings into a conference room (except for the jerk we had for a while that thought if he turned his back to us we wouldn’t hear him talking…that was when we didn’t even have cubicle walls).

      2. Lily Rowan*

        I would add, if you’re the manager, it also depends on the people you are managing. I had a job move to totally open bench seating, and I had one person on my team who really freaked out when I strolled over to her desk to give her some feedback on a task she was working on. Not especially good or bad feedback! Just a couple of thoughts! But she really REALLY didn’t want to be in “public” when she got any feedback at all.

      3. Momma Bear*

        I like normalizing use of the space so it’s not just when someone is “in trouble”.

        I also strongly dislike fishbowl conference rooms, so if OP has any input on that design, I’d ask for at least one without glass.

    6. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I work in an open office where even managers have cubes, and really not even cubes, just a desk. I have found that social convention adapted somewhat and people just don’t listen as much. It’s like in a public bathroom where you *could* look in a stall through the cracks but you just don’t.

      We still have especially sensitive meetings in conference rooms, such as performance reviews. I’ll never be fully on-board with open offices, but we have largely adapted.

      1. BookishMiss*

        Same here. We just dial up the “nothing outside of my cube walls exists” mindset and make a concerted effort to forget things we happen to overhear.

    7. Ezri Dax*

      This thread about who gets private offices is really fascinating to me, as someone who works in a non-profit. I’m the equivalent of a line manager, and I have my own office. When I was in direct service, all of my supervisors had their own offices as well, as did many of the more senior individual contributor roles. I didn’t think the non-profit world, or at least the parts of it I’ve seen, would have a perk like this over the corporate world!

      1. no sleep for the wicked*

        Finally got an office after 4 decades of working life. It’s lovely, NW corner of the building with big windows for plants and a view of mountains and water. I’m a senior staffer but an independent contributor overseeing a niche process not any kind of people manager or bigwig. We had a big reorg during covid lockdown, a lot of people left freeing up space and my health concerns are much easier to manage when I can ‘hole up’ away from patrons etc. Still, I am gobsmacked and keep waiting to be relocated or forced to sharethe space. I think managment is just glad I can work onsite more this way and gets feel good points for accommodating my situation.

      2. JustaTech*

        When my company first moved into our building there was no room, so my boss had a cube while my coworker and I shared an office. For our weekly one-on-ones with our boss one of us would just leave and go do stuff in the lab (or go make a cup of coffee) until it was time for the next person’s meeting.
        Eventually my boss got an office and we got moved out to the cubes, so it wasn’t an issue until we did a renovation and everyone got stuffed into tiny cubes all on top of each other with only one conference room for 5 groups. So I ended up having meetings with my boss in some creepy abandoned lab spaces until the renovation was over.

        Now my coworkers aren’t the listening types (though some in the past have been), and there are fewer of us, so it’s possible if not super comfortable to have semi-private conversations in the open office.

    8. Librarian of SHIELD*

      And with libraries, I feel like it’s important to note that most don’t have a “conference room” like you envision offices having. Staff meetings at most of the libraries where I’ve worked have taken place in the storytime room and have to be planned around the library’s program schedule.

      All of my branch/building managers have had offices, but not all the supervisors. At a past job where I supervised a team, my cubicle was with my teams’ cubicles. So anytime an employee needed to speak with me privately we either had to wait for the public program going on to end or ask my boss to borrow her office, and it was such a pain.

      1. Another Librarian*

        Yeah all these “just grab a conference room” are getting to me. Like ha! a private conference room when they’re already taking about taking away LW’s office? Unless they’re taking away offices to make staff conferences rooms??
        In my branch’s case, if we had money for a remodel I’d rather that money went to make the HVAC system actually work effectively….
        But agree supervisors who manage people really should have an office. One of our newer(!!) branches has such a tiny back room the supervisor barely even works back there and anytime staff needs a private talk with her or a union rep they have to use the furnace room.

      2. Me*

        At the library I work at, we do have one conference room.

        However, it is most commonly used for, in no particular order:
        1) Storing/dealing with books that are being weeded/organized
        2) Storing/packing up boxes of books that are being shipped to Better World Books
        3) Storing office supplies
        4) Passport acceptance appointments
        5) Lunch breaks
        6) Organizing book shipments for processing
        7) Someone brought in food for the staff and needed somewhere to put it where it was easily accessible to staff but not the public
        8) Actual programming (especially if we have a program already happening in our one community room at the same time)
        9) Staff meetings
        10) Interviewing new potential employees for jobs
        11) Proctoring exams
        12) One-on-one computer lessons

        Private meetings between two employees are way down the list, and would have to be scheduled around most of those things.

        Luckily, our library director has her own office (admittedly the only decent office in the building — the children’s librarian’s office is also the children’s room reference desk and has constantly open windows to the children’s room plus two glass walls, the reference librarian’s office has no windows and is always either over air conditioned or under air conditioned, and the assistant director just has a desk behind the circulation desk). So she can meet with people privately.

    9. Guacamole Bob*

      Cube farm actually sounds better than our setup, which is that we all have shared offices. Having one person sitting there 5 feet away and obviously able to hear any conversation is just awkward, even for non-private stuff.

    10. Jennifer*

      I’ve totally muted whatever I was listening to when wearing headphones to hear what someone in another cubicle was talking about, and I know I’m not the only one. It’s usually because I’m insanely paranoid about things like layoffs. But usually once I figure out they aren’t talking about me I turn the volume back up.

    11. Critical Rolls*

      There’s a lot of variation across libraries. Is the building older? Newer? How big is the branch? Has it been renovated? When, and who had input?

    12. SuperLibrarian*

      Ugh, my library has a mostly open office. My boss has an office and the children’s librarian has one, but it sucks because it’s hard for me to concentrate in that kind of environment.

    1. Jennifer*

      I think the only time it would cause me to bat an eye would be if it was the person who is always being gross or inappropriate around the office. Then I might think they were trying to be harass-y. Other than that, I think it’s fairly normal. But I’d avoid it just because I want to avoid the appearance of anything inappropriate.

  3. LondonLights*

    #2 – you mentioned it is a small company and you still have to work with your former team, so if you really wanted to get away from them you would have had to move to a new company. The fact that you didn’t is a sign in itself that it was the sales aspect of the job that was not a good fit for you, not the people.

    1. Beeker*

      This was definitely my thought. Only 20 people and you’re close enough to your old team to see who’s eating lunch with who? I think you’d have gotten a vibe by now if people thought you didn’t like them/didn’t like you/other social weirdness. I think coffee is a great idea. Maybe her last employer had a toxic social culture and she’s just still feeling twitchy and on high-alert. A genuinely friendly coworker can help her recalibrate.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      This. Sales is hard, and not everyone is cut out for it. Just be honest about that part, and keep being friendly and helpful to all. Sounds like the managers involved agreed you were a good employee bad fit with the sales team and helped you transition to a better fit – which saves everyone money in the long run.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Yep. I was in a commissioned retail role once, so not quite a full on sales job and I was terrible. I’m just not cut out to upsell and if I explain the features of something and the person doesn’t want to buy it right then, I just assume they don’t need it and move on. My dad, on the other hand, left engineering for sales and was good enough that he started his own company (which is still trucking along after his retirement 10 yrs ago) selling stuff. I think it is one of those rare talents that people are born with. You can learn some of it, but to really thrive you need that extra something.

    3. laowai_gaijin*

      Anybody else think that Jane is finding it hard to mesh with the people on the team and that’s why she was feeling the LW out?

      1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        That was generally my thought. I’ve joined teams full of Big Personalities and the first few weeks I had a hard time figuring out if we’d all eventually get used to each other’s quirks, or if the “quirks” weren’t in fact quirky and were actually harmful behaviors.

        Eg: to quote a line from Ted Lasso, one of my current Big Bosses “isn’t rude, just Dutch!” I’ve had several new people join our group in the last couple years have candid conversations with me about how that person intimidates the heck out of them, and I get to be like “aw, nah! She’s actually super funny and a great mentor, she’s just Dutch and super blunt.”

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

      I don’t necessarily think that could be the case. It could be one member on the team or the manager that you move to a different area in the company.

  4. Developer Number 10*

    #2 – I wonder if “the people” are necessarily the same individuals as “the team”? Obviously, there was a lot more conversation and detail that we as readers are not privy to, but if the initial question was “Did you move roles because of the people?”, it’s possible that the intent was actually to complain about the customers.

    I’ve never worked in Sales, but my wife has. From what she says, customers are the worst – they want what they can’t have, they all expect to be treated as your number 1 priority, and they’ll never understand why you can’t just bend the rules a little bit, just for them, just this once…

    My deepest respect to anyone who can deal with sales (and customers in general) on a daily basis.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      As a person who sometimes works with salesmen to try to either develop something that will work for the customer and/or provide information to help get the sale, they can be challenging as well.

      I appreciate good sales people and recognize that it isn’t for everyone.

    2. Shiba Dad*

      I wonder if “the people” are necessarily the same individuals as “the team”?

      I used to work in sales, and I had the same thought. Back when I was in sales, I really started to hate the general public.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Yeah, I love the team I currently work with, they’re absolutely amazing. But I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing customer service so at some point I’m going to have to leave this job.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I feel that. After far too many years working in customer facing roles when I was young, I developed a hearty dislike of customers

    3. Raven*

      This is very possible. I’m in sales. I curse under my breath after calls multiple times a day because of some ridiculous customers.

      1. Eden*

        My goodness, thank you. I understand having weird feelings about innocent things, we’ve al been there! But in both these questions the OPs seemed to actively be assigning the worst interpretations and asking the weird/not weird based on that. If the questions was “is it weird to talk about shower thoughts? It could make people think about you naked” I’d be more sympathetic than what the question is which is “isn’t it weird to purposefully make your coworkers to picture you wet and naked? That’s weird right?” The assumption that shower thoughts = “announcing you were wet and naked” is the problem here.

    4. Smithy*

      The more I think about it….this actually seems far more likely.

      For these types of external roles, a lot of people just don’t like the job and don’t want to do it – but not necessarily because they’re bad at it. And I do think in those cases, there can be a desire to either find out why or seek a point of bonding “i.e. ABC is the worst, isn’t it”.

  5. Expiring Cat Memes*

    Hygiene schmygiene. I thought The Shower was universally known as the magical place where the ideas are born? Also occasionally known as the Hypothetical Argument Simulator. But never the place of wet and naked.

    1. Allonge*

      Apparently there is science here – showering is just enough of an activity that it allows brains to roam free somehow?

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I think it’s the ritual aspect. When your body is on autopilot, your mind is free to wander.

      2. Expiring Cat Memes*

        I always wondered if it was a weird half-asleep thing combined with a hypnotic, womb-like, water-on-head thing? Any actual science on it would be appreciatively devoured!

    2. Dr. Tea Blender, PhD*

      When I was writing my master’s thesis and I was stuck, I would shower. I was never cleaner in my life than that six months, because sometime I would shower three times a day (before anyone asks: in hindsight, I am ashamed of the environmental implications, and the landlord paid the water bill and never complained about surge in usage, also, I did not use this approach for my PhD dissertation because of those two stated reasons).

      1. Attractive Nuisance*

        Hey, at least that’s better than my former roommate. I don’t think she showered at all while she was writing her master’s thesis…

    3. Nanani*

      I have a semi-serious theory that the old-school “meditate under a waterfall” approach to seeking enlightenment works the same way.

  6. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    #3, just don’t do what my ex did and comandeer a lesser used room for your personal office. I doubt it was the only reason for his firing, but I suspect it was the last straw.

    1. JSPA*

      Are you the ex of the intern from back when, who commandeered an office? Can’t find the reference…

        1. Hlao-roo*

          This story showed up in Mortification Week! It’s the first story of “the intern who took over an office, the dragon pajamas, and other stories to cringe over/revel in” posted on August 9, 2021.

      1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

        Nope! As always, there is more than one person who latches on to a really rather bad idea.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’m reminded that I briefly passive-aggressively commandeered an office.

      Context: I was returning from maternity leave and they were only just legal on how to handle that. I got back to the office and was told I wouldn’t have a desk, computer or phone for about a month. So in order to deal with literally thousands of unread emails I took matters into my own hands.

      (I was eventually offered someone else’s office to pump in but had to paper over the glass door)

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Completely commandeered the conference room for almost six weeks. I was on crutches after surgery, literally could NOT put weight on the injury (or risk further damage and further surgery), and my desk was upstairs. Somehow using the main teapot proposal review office for six weeks was unacceptable (I was lead teapot proposal specialist…) as was WFH, and I was to just hop up the stairs and slide down multiple times a day to use the restroom/kitchen/printer/fax? So I took over the main conference room.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Reading things like this makes me really appreciate all the offices I have worked in. We are a female dominated field and do a lot around maternal-child health, so always have super swanky breatfeeding rooms. Locking door, lounge chair, dedicated mini-fridge, a sink, and a drying rack at minimum. Sometimes they have a TV with company streaming services or docking station+speakers. I have never had and will never have kids, but I really appreciated the thought that went into kitting the rooms out. You can tell people who had experience breastfeeding were involved with it.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          Wow thats amazing! Our room was a very bland room, which was fine… The only thing I ever asked for was a phone because our pump room had zero cell service and sometimes I didn’t have enough break in my schedule to pump and needed to dial into meetings while pumping. They said no.

    3. TiredEmployee*

      I’ve never comandeered an office, but when I realised I could book a 2-person meeting room for a whole afternoon to hide from people asking me to be IT support (we’re in the same team, but I have a completely different job) it felt like a revelation. IT folks hiding in the server room? Two can play at that game! No one ever needs these meeting rooms!
      I’ve really missed being able to hide like that during pandemic WFH.

      1. The Original K.*

        I’ve booked 2-person meeting rooms before just to have a door to close to get stuff done. My then-boss also let us use his office if he was out, because the area the rest of the team sat in was really loud (the loud employees who also sat there were often chastised for making too much noise).

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I used to do this during grant writing. I’d book the smallest conference room for 2-3 days just to have a door so people wouldn’t interrupt me. No one else ever wanted the room because it didn’t have a phone, screen, or projector, so I wasn’t even inconveniencing folks much.

    4. window office squatter*

      I had an office commandeered *for* me once. I was in a short-term, intern-type role in a setting where most people had offices but interns typically didn’t. The institution had formerly worked with someone who was a big name in the field, to the point where even though they didn’t actually work there full-time, they had a nice office set aside for them to use when they visited. BUT… right before I started my role, the big-name person had become the center of a huge scandal, and the institution was trying to memory-hole their association with him. So they took his name off that nice office… and stuck the summer intern in it.

      It was really nice and has spoiled me for all other office situations.

  7. Papillon Celeste*

    #2 in general I think leaving because of the team isn’t always a bad sign either.
    We spent a significant time with our colleagues and we need a base level of culture fit. And not having the right fit doesn’t necessarily mean that the team is bad.

  8. Speaks to Dragonflies*

    Op 1- It’s a shower thought…some of the greatest philosophical ideas and inventions have been thought up while in the shower. Don’t worry about it.

      1. Beany*

        But that was a bath, not a shower. It wouldn’t have worked in a shower, because you’re never immersed fully in water and able to note a change in water level on the side.

        //Friday pedantry

  9. EventPlannerGal*

    What is it with people sexualising the most basic things? That poor guy last week couldn’t undo his shirt to get his covid vaccine without being compared to Magic Mike, now OP’s colleague’s can’t talk about a shower thought because OP might think about them wet and naked? Sorry if I sound irritable today but just let people live.

    1. Xavier Desmond*

      I had exactly the same thought. If you are uncomfortable with someone saying they had an idea in the shower it says a lot more about you than it does about them.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Absolutely. And I don’t know if the OP was just looking for a weird/not weird verdict or if they think there’s some action they could take here, but even if this very common trope/idiom does make them uncomfortable then it would be significantly weirder for them to actually try and stop people saying it. And INFINITELY weirder if the words “wet and naked” entered the discussion at any point.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      Agreed! I’m aware in general that my colleagues presumably take showers (and I’m generally happy they are), so a general reference to it is not new info to me and not sexual. Now, if someone told me they had the idea while scrubbing their bellybutton real good with their pink loofa and rose-scented soap, that would be TMI.

      But I was also surprised to learn some people are ashamed of buying toilet paper, so… I dunno. People’s minds are weird.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        A lot of it is dependent on context as well, like the example you gave. Personally, I never ever want to see any of my male colleagues shirtless (even briefly), unless I somehow manage to get a job at a swimming pool. But that’s because I’ve sometimes had weird, random crushes on male colleagues and I don’t want my brain to distract me even more!

          1. Oakenfield*

            Random crushes that aren’t acted on from any gender won’t unmake the world. You can let this one go.

          2. The Prettiest Curse*

            I would never act on any crush that I had on a male colleague (and would never treat them differently in any way because of it), both because it would be completely unprofessional and also because I’m happily married.
            If you have a crush on someone and never act on it and it has zero effect on how you interact with them in the workplace, I fail to see how this could cause the object of the crush any harm. If I get a crush on someone at work, the absolute LAST thing I want to happen is for them to find out about it and I would be mortified if they did! So I pretty much control it to the point where they will never know about it, and it hasn’t happened for a while. People can have crushes on colleagues and act in an entirely professional way towards them. If that hasn’t been your experience, then I’m sorry
            But to answer your question – if the genders were flipped, just how many work environments are there other than the fashion industry, porn or theatre where you will constantly female colleagues topless, either in person or in photos? The lack of clothing was the issue I mentioned in my original comment, and given that people have crushes on their colleagues, I do think it’s better that everyone remain fully clothed at work unless it’s an inherent feature of the work environment to do otherwise.

      2. Anonymous Luddite*

        Sorry. If everyone else is making archimedes jokes, I have to throw in a Stripes “I wish I was a loofah” reference.

    3. Mockingjay*


      To me, “I had a thought in the shower” is a colloquialism that you have an inspiration, not an indication of where the inspiration struck you.

    4. Raven*

      It really is ridiculous. I didn’t find the shirt thing with the Covid shot that wierd, but I didn’t want to argue about it with some people. I also remember one not long ago about a guy who had a competitive swimming picture up on his INTERNAL site as a picture, and people acted like he was doing a strip tease because “oh no, bare chest”.

      1. RagingADHD*


        And meanwhile, I recall a letter a while back where a LW could frequently hear a coworker pleasuring himself in the bathroom stall, and very reasonably didn’t want to hear that. And there was a significant contingent of commenters falling all over themselves to explain it away, or tell the LW to get their mind out of gutter because it was just IBS, etc.

        The wierd-ometer is frankly upside down for a lot of people.

    5. shaw of dorset*

      Right?? If “shower” causes you to picture your colleagues naked… that may be a you problem!

      1. Anonymous Luddite*

        Man goes to a psychiatrist. Doctor says, “I’m going to show you some drawings, you tell me what you see.”
        Doctor draws | and the man says “I see a naked lady standing up.”
        Doctor draws _ and the man says “I see a naked lady laying down.”
        Doctor draws ~ and the man says “I see a naked lady sitting in a beanbag chair.”
        Doctor says, “Clearly, you have sex on your mind.”
        Man says, “What do you mean, doc? You’re the one drawing the dirty pictures.”

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

      Some people were never exposed (ha) to casual nudity and it shows. What’s next, sexualising washing your feet after a day at the beach?

      1. Loulou*

        Casual nudity?? I don’t think most people think about nudity at all when a coworker says something as mundane as “I took a shower,” isn’t that the point people are making here??

    7. JB*

      Eh, nudity doesn’t have to = sex, so not wanting to picture a coworker naked isn’t necessarily sexualizing them. I don’t have the problem with the expression that the OP does, but in general I also doesn’t want to see or picture my coworkers naked, and it has nothing to do with thinking about them as sexual beings. That just feels more personal than I want to be with my coworkers.

      1. Gray Lady*

        Maybe it’s not a sign of internal mental workings, but I think when someone people (self included) hear “shower,” we just think “that thing that people do to get clean.” But other people, for whatever reason, think “that thing that people do to get clean and they’re naked when they’re doing it.” I’m not saying the latter group is more sexualizing or anything like that, but I think that some of us just think of showers in a more detached way and others think of them more visually, maybe? So when I hear someone say “in the shower” I don’t think “they’re talking about being naked,” but it’s understandable that others do. Still I think the wiser course for LW1 is to assume that the person who says it isn’t thinking about being naked and isn’t intending to communicate that idea at all, they’re just thinking about an aspect of their routine that allows for some thinking space.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        …. if someone says “shower thought” to me, I do not immediately *picture them naked*. Is this something people do??

        This is a legit question. If someone also says “I went swimming” does that also result in a mental image? Playing tennis?

        Brains are weird, weird things.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I might picture their head above a vague cloud of soap bubbles. It truly reads as giving the mental image “not even thinking about this problem, thinking about something else” and not “naked.”

          I think this might overlap with the commenters who hear massage and think “oh no naked touching!” vs those who hear massage and think “medical treatment that helps correct my stiff hip muscles.”

          1. Trilo*

            Just realized I associate showers with fogged spectacles and myopic blur when I remove them. Also belts of scalding and frigid water because I can’t see the controls properly. Can’t even visualize myself in the nudd.

        2. hamsterpants*

          It is funny, isn’t it? Someone telling me they needed to start our meeting five minutes late so they could “take a piss” would give me an unwanted mental image, whereas “visit the men’s room” would not even though I know that they both have the same denotation in this context.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            I guess I just don’t…mentally picture any of those? Like where does your brain even start? There’s so many details that I wouldn’t know how to picture!

            This is fascinating to me, because I have never really thought about how many phrases we have as a general population that people could have mental images from like that. And now I am. “Shower thoughts” is definitely a colloquial saying that doesn’t mean they were even in the shower, so it wouldn’t have even crossed my mind, and I’m sure there’s other such sayings that may be similar for people. The posting previously – when the OP was describing someone as “nips to the wind” – I pictured absolutely nothing with that phrase. But now I’m guessing others do!

            (FWIW, I’m still of the opinion that kind of intrusive thoughts do lie with the thinker to handle when it’s a general, common, banal saying and not an actual TMI description/narrative. No one in this example was showering *at* someone.)

            1. pancakes*

              To clarify, I agree with your last paragraph. I wasn’t trying to suggest that those would be a community problem to resolve.

            2. Queen of the File*

              Count me among people that automatically see a picture a lot of the time, whether I try to or not (including that “nips in the wind” thing you just wrote).

              But I also agree with your last paragraph that this is just my brain and doesn’t mean I need anyone to change anything. I just do I what I can to dismiss the image asap and move on.

      3. pancakes*

        Picturing a coworker naked if they mention showering and sexualizing a coworker if they mention showering both seem like intrusive thoughts. I don’t know how common it is for people to struggle with those, but I don’t think it’s quite such a common issue that referring to showering should be verboten.

      4. Attractive Nuisance*

        I had a whole conversation yesterday with a male coworker about showering. I never pictured him naked once. And I think (hope!) he didn’t picture me naked either.

      5. Daisy Gamgee*

        So…. don’t think of them naked? Think of something else?

        The weird idea I see being assumed here is that mentioning that one was in the shower, like being briefly undressed for a medical procedure, is described as forcing another person to have sexual thoughts. This reminds me of times when I was younger and I was scolded, and saw other young women scolded, for basically existing in the world and having visible breasts and so on, because we were “making” people have sexual thoughts and thus other people’s thoughts were our responsibility. I think this is a case where someone’s thoughts are their own responsibility.

    8. Myrin*

      Although not 100% equivalent, it’s similar to why I have a problem with the advice to clap back at people being intrusive about pregnancy by saying “Why are you asking about my sex life?!”. Of course the implication behind a pregnancy is that someone had intercourse, just like the implication behind someone being in the shower is that they were (probably) wet and naked, but that doesn’t mean my mind has to go there.

      (And just to be clear: I’m not justifying nosy busybodies nosy-busybodying about others’ pregnancies, especially seeing how it can be anything from uncomfortable to downright painful to talk about; I’m talking specifically about this rhetoric I see used around it quite often.)

      1. justabot*

        I agree with you and your disclaimer. I would personally never clap back with that response. But I think because it can be such an uncomfortable or even painful topic, with no boundaries around asking, people might have different go to scripts they reach for to try to shut down the conversation or try to make the person asking feel uncomfortable for prying about something intrusive. Like wtf do you know about my reproductive efforts or plans. Sometimes that might feel like a better way to call out the person in the moment for being intrusive than to be vulnerable or authentic or come up with a vague deflection. It’s more of a shaming/passive aggressive way to shut down unwanted questions on a private topic. I do understand the point you are making though.

    9. BigHairNoHeart*

      I knew there would be a comment like this, lol. Just so you know, I don’t disagree with you exactly, but I think it’s actually fascinating that both the vaccine/shirt removal question AND this one are just asking “is this weird?” which suggests they know on some level that it’s not a big deal, but are likely overthinking it and want reassurance. and yet there were a lot of comments in the last one calling op a prude (ick, even if you had issues with the way she framed the situation, can we not jump to that?) and some similar ones here. I don’t know, the view points described in both letters aren’t where my mind first goes, but I sympathize with people who don’t know how to navigate issues where professional norms are in potential conflict normal human bodily functions.

    10. Anonymous Luddite*

      Came here to say exactly this. We all have bodies. We clean them when they get dirty. Every single one of us… except my old college roommate.

    11. Eden*

      My goodness, thank you. I understand having weird feelings about innocent things, we’ve al been there! But in both these questions the OPs seemed to actively be assigning the worst interpretations and asking the weird/not weird based on that. If the questions was “is it weird to talk about shower thoughts? It could make people think about you naked” I’d be more sympathetic than what the question is which is “isn’t it weird to purposefully make your coworkers to picture you wet and naked? That’s weird right?” The assumption that shower thoughts = “announcing you were wet and naked” is the problem here.

      1. Daisy Gamgee*

        The assumption that shower thoughts = “announcing you were wet and naked” is the problem here.


    12. River Otter*

      When someone introduces me to their spouse or partner, I don’t jump to, “ah, this is the person you have sex with.” Just bc something is part of the package doesn’t mean you have to focus on that part of the package.

      1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        Exactly! And I personally know at least several married couples who have mentioned that sex is not part of their marriage, so really it’s none of a co-worker’s business.

        Though I have realized that you may say *one* of:
        “I was talking it over with my partner this morning”
        “I was thinking about it in the shower”

        but “I was talking it over with my partner this morning in the shower” gets right back into the arena of phrases you shouldn’t say at work, even if it was a routine shower with nothing that couldn’t be shown in an afternoon sitcom with a cloud of bubbles hiding the private bits.

    13. kiki*

      It’s interesting because as a relatively young female software engineer in a male-dominated field, I do actually refrain from saying that I had a thought in the shower, not because I think it’s weird, but because enough of my colleagues have been weird about it. I guess my brain doesn’t really work like that? I don’t hear a coworker mention showering and feel like they’ve forced me to contemplate their nude form.

    14. PT*

      Yes, this. The Puritanical thinking here is getting ridiculous.

      I’m also against the hypersexualizing of swimsuits I’ve seen here. This is one of the barriers to participation in aquatic recreation/fitness/rehab: everyone thinks they will be sexualized in their perfectly modest trunks or one piece.

    15. Cheap Ass Rolex*

      I will say, I think the “Magic Mike” comment in last week’s letter was lighthearted and facetious hyperbole, and I do think it can be a damper on people’s interest in writing in when they have to scrutinize their writing from the viewpoint of ungenerous / humorless takes.

      Yes, that question and this one both imply that some people are too scandalized by very nonsexual bodily situations, but I think the hammering that minor joke got in the comments isn’t the best precedent. We do want people to feel like they can be creative and show some personality when they write in, at least in my opinion.

      1. Rocket*

        Okay, but I can be creative and show off my personality without sexualizing my coworkers or calling them strippers.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        I think that regardless of whether that OP had used the words “Magic Mike” or not, the point of the letter would still have been the same; that they felt that their coworker was doing something weird/inappropriate/in some way sexual by removing his shirt for a medical procedure. I honestly don’t care if I come across as humourless on the subject of not sexualising your coworkers.

  10. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW3 – I have a vague idea there’s an old letter about lacking a private office for management: the identified benefit of a private office is that serious conversations are indistinguishable from casual drop-ins. That is, if you have to use a meeting room for anything remotely sensitive, then calling someone to a meeting room immediately puts them on edge and gets the rest of the office meerkat-ing over the partitions to wonder what’s going on.

    If I can work out my search terms appropriately I’ll link as a reply. But I have a feeling the office itself wasn’t the main focus of the letter so I am expecting to fail.

    1. allathian*

      I think you’re right. But “meerkat-ing over the partitions” is perfection! *chef’s kiss* I can see this so clearly with my mind’s eye.

      1. Anonymous4*

        A friend called it “prairie-dogging,” when people pop their heads up over their cubicle walls.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A former manager did not have an office, and had what in retrospect was a brilliant idea. She blocked out 1/2 hour every morning everyday in the conference room. She had a one-on-one with each of us today. After the umpteenth time that our VP had to schedule a meeting around her, he got her an office with a door.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Voice to text error: She had a one-on-one with each of us each day. (5 employees, 5 days)

    3. Polly Hedron*

      In my former open-plan workplace, ushering you into a conference room meant you were getting laid off.

      1. TiredEmployee*

        In every place I’ve worked (all open-plan, all with managers sat among their reports) it’s meant you were going to have a longer conversation that needed either confidentiality (usually organisational plans) or a nice big board to draw process diagrams on.

  11. Watch for vortexes of chaos*

    #2 – If I were in your shoes then I wouldn’t go for coffee with her. It may all be innocent but it’s also a little worrying that she was trying to get you to say you don’t like your old team, particularly as a new member of staff who doesn’t yet have those relationships. I would worry that she was going to try and involve me in some office drama. Being polite and helpful in the office is all that’s required of you here. If you do really want to help then tread with caution to make sure this isn’t someone who wants to stir things up.

    1. Helping others should be the norm*

      Or it’s someone who’s struggling and could use a friendly colleague to lend a hand? Especially if it’s someone new.

      “Stay away from unhappy people in case their unhappiness rubs off on you” is not a good way to live. If this coworker is trying to start drama, you can extricate yourself if and when that becomes clear. If we had fewer people saying “none of my business, can’t take the risk of helping in case I become inconvenienced” maybe we wouldn’t be living in a dumpster fire

      1. Watch for vortexes of chaos*

        I appreciate you attempting to place the entire downfall of humanity on my shoulders. Perhaps if we could have different opinions without mud-slinging then we might be in a better place. I wrote my comment to be helpful and I respect that you don’t agree with me but you’ve taken my warning over what I consider potentially risky for LW because she’s already had some potentially risky conversations at work and keeping your head down and doing a good job is probably in order for a bit after that. Other opinions exist but I think your response is over the top to someone else. The entire format of a comment section breaks down if you can’t have a differing opinion respectfully presented.

          1. Oakenfield*

            Labeling someone dramatic who is clarifying their point and asking to be treated respectfully is the kind of thing that makes a comment section really unwelcome. WfVoChaos has a good point. Treading lightly with new people you don’t know is a conservative approach that could be useful to the OP here.

            1. pancakes*

              It is overly dramatic, not merely conservative, to suppose that anyone who asks for background information at work is trying to entrap the coworker they’re asking into saying something harmful. There is a simple solution, as well, besides worrying about this: Don’t tell them anything very personal, or likely to be misconstrued, or otherwise potentially harmful.

              1. Galadriel's Garden*

                Right? “I found that I wasn’t cut out for sales, so the role ended up not being a great fit for me. But, the team and company are great, which is why I stayed on and moved to role x.” Bam, done.

            2. biobotb*

              Did you skip over “I appreciate you attempting to place the entire downfall of humanity on my shoulders.” in response to a mild comment?

        1. Oakenfield*

          I agree with you, and don’t think you’re being dramatic.
          Unfortunately this comment section can become pretty rabid.

          1. WfVoChaos*

            Thanks; I really appreciate it. There’s a certain irony in saying that you should be nice to everyone unless you don’t like their opinion.

    2. anonymous73*

      That’s a stretch, and for someone who is already overthinking this situation, not helpful in the slightest.

    3. Raven*

      In a company of 20 people, I don’t know that I’d assume that. Sometimes people just don’t immediately bond with their team, but can bond with others easier. Maybe she is having a hard time in the role, and wants an easy way to ask why OP left.

      If this was a big company and this person sought OP out over slack about it, that would be different.

    4. ecnaseener*

      If the new coworker is just stirring up drama, then LW’s honest answer will give her no drama and she’ll give up. Of course LW should be careful not to get dragged into a gossip-fest regardless – but I don’t see that as a reason to avoid everyone who hints at being less than happy.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah. I remember once a PM got fired unexpectedly. She just mentioned it on the phone to me as she was winding up her duties and I reacted with empathy. I didn’t particularly like her, but she was audibly upset and I didn’t mind listening to her for ten minutes.

        A few years later, I started freelancing and sent out messages to my useful contacts on LinkedIn. She wrote back immediately offering me work. When I thanked her, she said she was so happy to return the favour. I’d totally forgotten that short convo, but it had meant a lot to her, apparently I was the only person at that toxic place to show her any compassion. Her agency has been giving me very regular work ever since.

        Not that you should be nice to people only in case you might get work out of them. It’s just to show that being nice can have a positive outcome where you were least expecting it. Even if it doesn’t give you a positive outcome elsewhere, you can feel good that you were nice to someone.

    5. urguncle*

      I will offer a stark counterpoint to this. My most recent past position I spent 18 months feeling like I was consistently underperforming in every aspect. It wrecked my mental and physical health. I was so stressed out that I was getting vertigo every time my boss sent me a Slack message, culminating in her actually yelling at me on a Zoom call in front of a colleague for reasons that she had made up. She greatly benefitted from the culture that she had created where none of us were friendly or spoke to each other more than necessary.

      I would have saved myself so much grief and frustration if I had simply had the gall to ask coworkers if they were also being mistreated by her. I would have found out months earlier that she had a history of lying about direct reports and creating PIPs without HR involvement. Struggling employees talking to each other is not “drama,” it’s self-preservation.

      1. PT*

        I have worked in toxic/problematic work environments, and bosses in those situations deliberately make their employees afraid to talk to each other or collaborate. It’s a form of control.

    6. River Otter*

      Why are you jumping to the new person trying to get LW to say anything one way or another? She asked a question. That’s all. We don’t have any report of her following up with more leading questions. I think you’re concerned about drama stems more from your own beliefs about why people ask the questions that they do and less from the actual questions.

    7. Nancy*

      It’s natural for a new employee to ask the person who used to have her job questions if she is lucky enough to have contact with that person. There was wrong with the question. The LW seems to be overthinking it.

    8. Oakenfield*

      Everyone is rabidly jumping down this commenter’s throat over their advice however it’s never a bad idea to tread lightly with new coworkers, which is all they’re saying.

      1. Eden*

        Comment disagreeing with Alison = cool and good but comments disagreeing with that comment = “jumping down their throat”? I thought this was supposed to be a discussion comment section?

        1. SnappinTerrapin*

          It’s easy to misread tone in written communications, but it’s obvious that some people are reading a harsh tone in some of the comments.

          Alison offered sound advice. A valid counterpoint was raised, that there is a nonzero risk of getting entangled in someone else’s drama. Valid rebuttals have been offered that the LW can manage those risks by being circumspect in what she says and how she says it.

          We all overthink at times, and underthink at others. It comes back to trying to read each others’ comments in the most generous light, rather than reading in the harshest light possible.

  12. Wintermute*

    #3– The biggest thing I would point out is that if you need to use a private conference room for anything “serious” then very rapidly going into a conference room with you will take on a very severe “being taken behind the woodshed” appearance and perception, it’s just human nature. Even though there’s a lot of innocent reasons someone could need to speak to a manager privately, it’s going to become *a thing*.

    People will freak out when asked into a conference room (at one prior job with such a setup the conference room itself developed the nickname “firing chamber”), people will gossip about other people being asked to accompany you to a conference room, and that walk from your desk to the conference room can become incredibly stressful, stigmatizing and a visible symbol someone is being “talked to” WHETHER OR NOT THAT’S TRUE.

    People might also choose to air things they might rather not for fear of other people gossiping about them “being taken out back” by the boss, OR for fear that asking you to meet them in a conference room is a hassle (especially if that requires booking a room and there isn’t a place you can go whenever you want), deciding that despite their discomfort they’re going to make an ADA request, or ask for FMLA or announce a change of life status more publicly than they want.

    This is all the exact opposite of how a good business operates, which is to normalize feedback, even difficult feedback, as perfectly common, routine and not cause for concern or gossip, and to allow people to bring sensitive things to you immediately and comfortably.

    1. tamarack & fireweed*

      Well maybe. Or of course you have an office culture where employees make ample use of small conf rooms for collaboration meetings in pairs and groups of 3-4, and it’s where you have weekly 1:1 meetings and bi-weekly reporting meetings etc. Conversely, if the manager does have their own private office, then being called in to meet there may signal the same ominous portents to the co-workers. It really depends.

      This is not to say that I don’t think private offices are important! I’m a big fan, and just moved myself *out* of an office shared only with one other into a cubicle, with mild regrets even though the cubicle is VERY large and airy, and has great equipment AND a huge window with a beautiful view, while the office was stuffed with the computer detritus of previous generations of researchers. But the privacy was nice (as was the permission to work with no mask in the private office, but not in the cube.) Also, in academia at least instructors/professors normally get private offices to help maintain their student’s privacy.

      But the confidentiality of the manager-report relationship can be mitigated by fostering a collaborative culture and offering bookable, temporary private space.

      1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        This! It’s been awhile since I’ve physically gone to work, but back in the Before Time any confidential meeting with my boss was held in one of several small conference rooms, and it really wasn’t stigmatized at all. Those conference rooms were used for 1:1s, for discussing raises and bonuses, for priority syncing, for project planning, and anything else you might want a quiet space for 15 minutes to talk about.

        My grandboss had an actual office, and his door was open unless he was having a private conversation. Being called to his office was nervewracking, because it was out of the norm and implied Something Is Wrong. Watching a coworker get called to his office and the door closing behind them… yikes!

        (Side note – two serious advantages of WFH for our team have been that communication with my grandboss has been normalized, and that I have *no idea* what private conversations are happening unless I’m in them)

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes. My company has an open plan office and a lot of meeting spaces of various sizes. It’s very normal (or it was pre-Covid) to go into a meeting room for a 1:1 or a chat or a larger meeting. So there’s no particular portent from having a meeting in a meeting room. It’s just what you do to avoid disrupting everyone else in the open plan space.

    2. allathian*

      That may be true. Another option is to do everything in writing that you possibly can. In such an environment I wouldn’t hesitate to send my resignation email without talking to my manager first in person, for example.

      Some things are better when you can talk face to face, but I vastly prefer receiving feedback, at least critical feedback, in writing, because then I’m able to react to it without any pressure to school my expression or manage the other person’s feelings.

      I’m also far more likely to run at the mouth if I’m talking to someone, and there’s a real risk of escalating things unnecessarily. Luckily my position’s adjacent to mainly written communications, so all my coworkers, and my manager, are good or great writers.

    3. Triplestep*

      I could not disagree more. When it becomes the norm to go to collaboration spaces for ANY conversation more than a few back and forth comments, closed door meetings take on less meaning. Instead plenty of closed door conversations held in a mangers office can easily imply someone is getting reprimanded.

  13. tamarack & fireweed*

    #4 is a really good example to illustrate the difference between (inappropriately) criticizing (or worse, badmouthing, slagging off) your previous employer and management, and stating matter-of-factly what the problem was that prompted you to look elsewhere.

    No: “I could not believe how lax they were about COVID-19 precautions, and they were blatantly flouting CDC advice. Worst of all, my manager, who I had respected, turned out to be a militant anti-vaxxer””
    Yes: [what Alison suggested

    No: “My previous employer was extremely stingy and is underpaying the whole office. My manager was no help at all.”
    Yes: “Compensation was just too far from the industry norm. I brought it up with my management chain but unfortunately got nowhere.”

    No: “The place was a pigsty, we had to endure street noise and heat waves, and the toilets were always disgusting and dirty”
    Yes: “One slightly surprising thing that in the long run really drained my confidence in them was that they kept having trouble meeting the minimum standards for a safe and comfortable work environment. I’m not expecting a palace, mind you! But that there were perennial problem with basic hygiene, noise, HVAC … ::sigh:: it really brought down morale.”

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed – there’s a huge difference between being matter of fact about difficulties and bashing the former job.

      With one former job my answer is that “we found through experience that they really needed a specialist in Process X and Software Y, while I am more of a Process Z specialist who has some experience with Process X and Software Y.”

      In reality the job was a total bait and switch, they advertised for a general admin support for a school, with light occasional student supervision responsibilities – and I ended up being thrown into running their before and after school programs, doing homework help, and expected to also tutor students and give tours to prospective parents. I made it work for about 18 months before leaving.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Yeah, I’d replace that with something like “the office environment wasn’t kept to OSHA’s safety and cleanliness standards and it made focusing on work difficult.”

      2. BigHairNoHeart*

        I’d probably do some word-smithing to that “yes” example I think, but I wouldn’t say it’s insanely unprofessional as is. I’m also imagining the sigh as very small, almost more of a pause (maybe that’s just because that’s the way I sigh?) so that might be why we’re interpreting it differently.

      3. tamarack & fireweed*

        I’m sure my examples aren’t perfectly calibrated for every imaginable interview situation. That’s why I’m not Alison.

        But I was imagining myself in the kind of (tech or STEM academia) interview I’ve had, and what I meant to convey with the ::sigh:: was a short pause, eye-contact, and a facial expression that conveys “I really am not intending to make a negative judgement here, but it’s pretty much impossible not to, sorry”. And it would certainly not have been “insanely” unprofessional in any of my interviews.

        The key difference is between charging headlong into a negative value judgement (don’t do that) and showing you’re aware that negative value judgements aren’t what the interviewer is seeking, but some things are hard to talk about without making one, and you’re aware of it (sometimes you have to do that).

  14. Squidlet*


    Maybe this is a cultural or regional thing. I’ve been working for 30 years and for the last 20, my workplace has had no offices OR cubicles except for extremely senior people. So people with line management and supervisory roles are sitting out in the open plan office with everyone else. In my last job, even the exec level leader of our area sat in the open plan space (although maybe he had a secret office somewhere else).

    Perhaps the reason this hasn’t caused a problem is that you can’t have any type of meeting or conversation (whether casual chat, one on one, workshop, performance appraisal, etc) at your desk. So going into a meeting room doesn’t signify anything serious or problematic.

    1. Triplestep*

      I work in office design and planning and just added a long comment below, but I wish I had remembered to address this. In open space offices that have been designed well with plenty of collaboration spaces of different sizes, it is no big deal to see people walk in and out of them together. It becomes the norm. Very different than, say, knowing a colleague is behind closed doors in the manager’s office (which often implies some serious conversation is happening.)

      US office workers love to hate on the open space plan, but the answer to this question depends on the planning and design of the office, and how well the change management is carried out.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        This is a public library, though. I’ve worked in 2, & in both meeting space was at a premium for staff. (The best spaces are reserved for the public.)

        Unless the plan is to convert the offices into conference rooms, there could be difficulty with the plan.

    2. Biscotti*

      agree, we have operated this way for 10+ years. Having supervisors and management give up their (my) offices to use for meeting spaces and phone call rooms has helped our finance/insurance company. Its nice to always have a private office to go to when you are not management but have a client that needs some privacy to speak to.

      1. Triplestep*

        Kudos to your company! I have planned and designed offices off and on for thirty years and Law, Finance and Insurance have typically been the slowest to change. Many are still using the “office on the window/staff get no natural light” model. I’m glad there’s more proof out there that providing more and better meeting spaces works.

  15. Ashkela*

    Considering that ‘just shower thoughts’ has been a popular Tumblr and other social media account for many years now, it’s become pretty common in my experience. Honestly, I’ve seen things attributed to that without the idea having occurred in the actual shower, but using that as the generic ‘at home/while not working’, though that was a rarity as far as I know.

  16. Rainy Cumbria*

    OP1 – When I was much younger and fairly new to the workplace, I said to a customer on the phone “Hi Mr Beeblebrox. I’m glad you called, I was thinking about you in the shower this morning…” I realised as I was saying it how wrong it sounded – I’d been thinking about a problem he was having with his account and had an idea for how to resolve it. Luckily I was able to move the conversation really fast and things weren’t awkward, but it could have been so much worse.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      HAHA okay I agree “thinking about you in the shower” is somehow a bridge too far, compared to “had an idea in the shower.”

  17. Keep it real*

    #1 – if you can buy novelty waterproof notebooks to write down your brilliant shower thoughts, I think it’s safe to say it’s moved into the mainstream.

    Seriously though, there are plenty of things it would be weird to have your coworkers accompany you on, but not weird to discuss. “I dreamt last night that I rode a unicorn to work!” is innocuous, even though it would be weird to have your coworker snuggled up in bed with you.

    Equating “shower” with “wet and naked!!!” is a little like equating “my kid just turned six” to “6.75 years ago I had sex!!!!!!” The comments section on this website can be a little precious sometimes. If you’re a regular reader, just be careful that you don’t reset your weirdness barometer from “regular world” to “internet comments section”.

    1. River Otter*

      “If you’re a regular reader, just be careful that you don’t reset your weirdness barometer from “regular world” to “internet comments section”.

      I have observed this, as well

    2. Oakenfield*

      “Can be a little precious”…. that’s putting it lightly. I love Alison’s advice and hearing differing opinions, but this commentariat gets so rabid so quickly that I will go for months without reading comments because the constant “Well actually”s and corrections leave such a bad taste in my mouth, and quite often both sides have a valid point but the correctors are unwilling to listen. It’s really become a problem especially over the last couple of years.

      1. pancakes*

        I would not characterize the disagreements I see here as rabid, and would be very surprised to see comments that fit that description not be moderated. Disagreeing isn’t a form of correction, either. Any disagreement, even the politest, is going to feel fraught if you frame it that way.

      2. Beany*

        I don’t think individual comments here are overly rabid. I’ve found them to be, on the whole, calm, considered, and kind.

        The problem is that people are very quick to add their two cents, even when they’re the same two cents contributed by 90% or the commenters before. And on the rare occasions when a letter is chastised, they’re chastised dozens or hundreds of times over in the comments. Even if each individual comment is pretty mild, the cumulative effect can be overwhelming.

  18. Morning reader*

    I worked in a library office for years with no separation from coworkers. Eventually, in a new building, I got an office with a door, but even then, it was largely separated by glass, so coworkers would still have been able to observe a private meeting. What finally changed was not the need for management privacy, but the need to be able to lock the door and remain out of sight for active shooter situations. In lockdown drills, we got shades for office windows and instructions on how to remain hidden if we had a shooter emergency. So my take on library offices is that there needs to be a door, preferably a solid door, that can be secured between you and the public. Between you and colleagues? Nice to have but not as essential. Don’t let an architect, during new building design or renovation, take away all your doors in the name of some flowy design idea.

  19. Workerbee*

    #3 The number of times administration at OldJob “played house” by moving entire departments one row over, deciding which level of employee gets to have an office, and then redeciding less than a year later, switching to open office for the peons (which also meant less desk space at an inverse ratio to the amount of paperwork they handled) and stuffing director level in glass offices in the center of the space…

    My sympathies, OP. Perhaps you can divert them by suggesting an actual issue for them to tackle.

  20. vantablack*

    Re LW3, completely valid.

    It’s a particularly ridiculous issue that I face, as a government employee in a country that was very late to the ‘open plan’ hype party. A few years ago, my agency decided to go office free for everyone but the most senior level of executive (so all but around 8 employees out of roughly 2000). The result was that the next executive level down started sitting in the meeting rooms and refused to leave. These people manage entire functions of the agency, overseeing numerous teams while handling very high level stakeholders and sensitive information. The offices have slowly returned in subsequent building updates, but there still aren’t enough and some meeting rooms contain officeless executives to this day. It’s caused a years long meeting room drought.

    Meanwhile, many sensitive conversations between lower level managers and their team members take place in coffee shops or walks in the park.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah, one of the reasons I’m always suspicious of the open office hype is that the person on top rarely loses *their* office. They clearly value privacy and quiet for their own work. They also tend to feel everything is going very well a year in because they’re not the one in the trenches, listening to their coworkers slurp soup or yak away on a conference call. Just admit it’s a cost-saving measure that’s going to suck for employees.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I’m so glad I’m full time WFH, because I absolutely hated trying to do focused work in an open plan noise pit. Upper management always had offices, but us worthless peons didn’t. Yet it was the managers that spent most of their time away from their offices/desks sitting in meetings. Productivity always dropped like a rock when we got moved out of cubicles/offices, but management pretended not to notice because of “collaboration” (really, saving $$$ on real estate costs.)

        Sure, I’ve been in open plans that theoretically had “plenty” of phone booths and small conference rooms. It still sucked trying to get anything done at my desk, and I ergonomically couldn’t just grab a laptop and do work in a phone booth.

  21. I should really pick a name*

    LW #4
    It’s a good idea to mention why you left in this case. It will filter out companies that have the same problem.

  22. Not today*

    LW #3 The company I work for is one of many that took advantage of the extended pandemic WFH time to remodel offices for “smart working” as leases come up. No one has an office or even an assigned desk anymore. That includes executives, although the one exec that has come in just used one of the many collaboration spaces for the day. Only legal has a separate area that can be locked, but even they’re using lockers and reserving desk space within that area. I’m in the US but the decision-makers are not and offices in the UK and France were remodeled before ours, so it’s not just a US trend. Offices are going away, at least for now.

  23. UKgreen*

    I taught a student a few years back who constantly had both hands (and sometimes a large part of her lower left arm) covered in notes that she would scribble there. She also kept a set of kids bath crayons on the shower because things would pop into her head that she needed to write in her essay or revise for her exams while she was in there but she couldn’t (obviously) write on her hands while she was also washing. It seemed to work well.

  24. anonymous73*

    #2 You’re overthinking the situation. If people think you left because of the team, and your actions don’t support that, there’s not a whole lot you can do to change people’s way of thinking. Be kind (or at the very least respectful to the difficult people) and go about your business. It sounds like you’re thriving in your new role. Let it go and stop letting a “maybe” rumor live in your head rent free.

  25. Triplestep*

    #3, my work involves office design and planning and there is no single one right answer to your question. We can’t really make broad statements like “this is less than ideal” when we don’t know what your current set up is like, and what your organization is planning. For example, do your team members currently feel comfortable making their way to your office or is it a long circuitous route to get there? Are closed door meetings obvious to the rest of the team and therefore uncomfortable? Or do they feel private and safe? Is your organization planning to add new, better and different kinds of meeting spaces when they eliminate offices? Or just eliminate offices and hope for the best?

    Having a supervisor and/or manger out amount the open workstations can go a long way to changing the working dynamic in a positive way which really should be a factor in answering your question. Additionally, not every space plan is created equal. A lot will depend on the strategy and planning that your organization is undertaking prior to changing to open space plan. The office design industry has long held that the correct ratio of work seats to collaboration seats (focus rooms, phone rooms, meeting rooms, conference rooms) is more than a 1:1 ratio. This means for every desk seat there is more than one seat in a meeting or conference room somewhere giving people plenty of choices for how and where to work and collaborate. So if your office has a plan that does not just eliminate offices but actually plans in a variety of types and sizes of collaboration rooms, you may find this an improvement. Over the years I have had plenty of people in leadership roles adapt to life without an office and end up saying “This is really better than I thought it would be”.

    Not every leader takes the advice of their planner/designer when it comes to the need for a number and variety of collaboration spaces, and yes – it can be less than ideal when offices give way to open space plan that has not factored in this need. Hopefully this will not be the case for you, but if you’re concerned perhaps you can ask about it. Change management is key for offices that are undergoing a change like this so hopefully they are giving it the thought it deserves, and whoever is in charge of this effort should be communicating about it to everyone impacted. But if you want to do some “managing up” here, there are no shortage of studies that have been done on open space plans out there. If you cite any to your management, make sure you give examples where collaboration spaces were added – not just offices eliminated (as was the case with the Harvard study from a few years ago that everyone loves to cite. It basically said if you remove all offices and don’t add any collaboration rooms, people will hate it and be less productive. Duh. Thanks Harvard.) You can start by searching the major office furniture manufacturers who constantly research office design trends and their effectiveness and impact on people. Good luck!

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Even if you add lots and lots of “collaboration spaces” open plans still suck for people who have to do focused concentration work. I spent many years in those type of pits, and even with loads of small conference rooms and phone booths I couldn’t get anything done!!! Why? Because if I sat at my desk that was ergonomically correct, I couldn’t even hear myself think for the level of distraction I endured. If I had to go into a “focus room”, all I had was my dinky laptop, and my hands, back, and eyes suffered (Start with carpal tunnel, back strain, eyes strain, and figure the rest.) So my choice was “don’t do work but don’t trash my body” or “be able to concentrate but trash my body.” What a goddamn ableist nightmare.

      I don’t know why office designers think that people want to work hunched over a laptop with a chicklet keyboard and inadequate pointing devices just to do work that requires focus. We’re not all 20 and able bodied. People with various physical, mental and cognitive disabilities suffer in the open plan fad. ADHD, Autism spectrum, misophonia, hard of hearing, and other things make working in an open office nearly impossible. Having to use physically damaging set-ups just to be able to concentrate isn’t the “solution” that people claim it to be.

      Oh, and “collaboration”? Studies have shown that it is *less* in an open plan. I am on the wrong computer to dump my links, but one specifically assessed the physical proximity and communication with actual physical devices before and after.

      1. Rainy*

        Another limiting factor: professions that involve having private conversations with clients. Maybe office designers want their personal business broadcast all over a giant room but everyone else I’ve ever met emphatically does not.

        1. Triplestep*

          No. We do not want our personal business broadcast which is why we design offices with plenty of closed door collaboration and focus spaces. It’s not the designer you want to blame if you don’t have enough of these. We can’t force your leadership to take our professional advice.

          1. Casper Lives*

            I think you’re missing the points they were making. You’ve got a 1-to-1 SEAT ratio. If everyone needs to do focused work that requires privacy, then they all need an office. Either you have a room for every employee (aka private offices!) or you don’t have enough spaces.

            Do you work in an open office plan?

            1. Triplestep*

              In which answer am I missing the point? I am not advocating for poorly designed open space offices. I’m actually suggesting the opposite. And I’m saying not all open offices are created equal.

              The OP wrote about going to open space plan from current open office. Alison’s advice: “This is less than ideal”. My advice: “Well, we don’t know enough about the current plan, the new plan, OP’s work style or needs to make that broad sweeping statement.”

              Yes, the offices I work in are open plan. Come on.

      2. Triplestep*

        That’s OK I don’t need your links. I am quite sure one of them will be the Harvard “study” that I mentioned in my advice to OP#3 (which it seems like you didn’t get all the way through here.) No one needed Harvard to spend time and money telling us that if you force everyone into open space without enough alternate workspaces that they’d all use headphones and ear buds and not collaborate.

        Plus I can cite plenty of studies that indicate well planned, well designed offices which include a mix of workspaces (but no private offices) will in fact, increase collaboration. In general, it’s usually better not to use the term “Studies have shown …” when discussing anything with a professional in that field.

        I don’t know any office designers who think that “people want to work hunched over a laptop with a chicklet keyboard and inadequate pointing devices just to do work that requires focus.” This is why we design focus rooms and specify full docking station setups, dual monitors on adjustable arms and pneumatic height adjustable desks and chairs. We suggest technology that allow people to reserve them from their phones, so people can see in advance which are open and at what time. I’m sorry your leadership didn’t take the advice of their planner, or just didn’t use one at all. That happens, too.

        You approached me in your comments as if I am advocating for poor office planning and design which is why I suggested you might not have actually read all the way through. Poor design hurts us all. The open office and flexible working are here to stay, so companies need to devote resources to the right things; the money they save on Real Estate needs to be spent on planning, design, technology and change management. And the change management needs to include new policies that allow people to work from home a certain percentage of the time. Because if you come to the office so that you can sit in your closed door office all day (for the need to concentrate, physical or cognitive reasons) then there’s really no reason to be there.

  26. bee*

    Questions like #3 make me weirdly appreciative of my old, stodgy workplace. We don’t have free coffee or a ping pong table but almost everyone has an office! I genuinely don’t know if I could go back — I have ADHD and my time in open plan offices was a sensory nightmare.

    1. Karia*

      I don’t have a DX but I found WFH halved my stress levels. Old Job was open plan + no headphones and I was usually exhausted by the time I got home.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      My career took a tailspin when my workplace switched to open office and my goal for the next several years was to find any job that took me out of that rat cage. At first I switched to a job in an adjacent, less desirable field that had offices when I started, but then they hired a bunch more people and crammed everybody onto – I kid you not – shared benches, which was worse than the cube farm I had fled originally (my seatmates very strong cigarette smell literally gave me migraines – the office manager *played music* at barely audible levels that drove me insane). So I switched again, this time to a place that had work from home, but the work is less interesting than what I used to do two jobs ago. On a day to day basis, it’s still worth it. I used to come home so demoralized and exhausted and angry at my coworkers over stupid things.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        ironically, I read Alison’s linked blog on job-hopping and cringed, as each of my stays was over a year, but not *three years* so I guess I just look like a crappy job hopper now.

  27. Hailrobonia*

    I was once working at an office that was set up with a large room of cubicles surrounded by offices. The office was relatively new and most of the cubes were vacant, and the walls were high enough that you couldn’t see if they were occupied. One time I was doing my work when I overhear a supervisor giving very candid and somewhat punitive feedback to another employee right out in the open. She obviously thought nobody else was around. Since this was just a temporary assignment (I was “on loan” to this other office for a task) I just kept quiet but in hindsight I should have said something… maybe I should have gotten on the phone and called someone (or just pretended to) so they would be alerted to my presence but the call would have been a pretext of “maybe Hailrobonia was busy with the call and didn’t hear us?”

  28. Karia*

    LW3 – your concerns are incredibly valid! We had this at OldJob. Good Manager had to take people out for coffee or book a meeting room (a PITA) while Bad Manager just used to yell at people in front of the whole office. It’s a nightmare scenario.

  29. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Zero problem with the concept of a “shower thought.” Because (wait for it…) most people take showers. It’s a common experience, and if someone were to say they had a thought in the shower, likely everyone would understand that a) the person takes showers (See point above) and b) that the shower is a time when someone isn’t normally working. This isn’t “Wakeen in R&D wants me to think of his glistening, soapy body” and instead is “Wakeen had an idea in an off moment.”

    1. Daisy Gamgee*

      This isn’t “Wakeen in R&D wants me to think of his glistening, soapy body” and instead is “Wakeen had an idea in an off moment.”

      This made me LOL and then the teenager demanded to know why. Which led to an interesting discussion of owning one’s thoughts!

  30. Sloan Kittering*

    I wonder if Alison still feels that any stay less than three years is a “hop.” I feel like the economy has shifted around a little more but I may be biased by my own track record.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You’re misreading the linked post! It says “multiple stays of under two or three years (whether it’s two or three depends on your field).” Two two-year stays aren’t a big deal. Four 18-month stays in, say, your last four jobs will indeed make the hiring manager assume you’ll leave the new job in under two years as well. If that’s not a big deal in your field, then this doesn’t apply to you. It’s not universal. But the idea that reaching one-year is a magical mark is what I was pushing against there — it gets repeated a lot and it’s not true.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Totally appreciate that hanging on for a year isn’t a magic bullet. Having now had two two-year stays in a row, I was paranoid by the “under three years” language. Three years seems like a long time to me to stick it out, having not been treated very well by my last few jobs.

        1. River Otter*

          Eh, my current team is composed almost entirely of pretty senior people, and many of them have several short tenures on their resumes. Some people would see it as job hopping while evidently my current manager sees it as accumulating good experience. Most of these rules reflect Alison’s beliefs rather than cross-industry standards

      2. Tired Too…*

        I also think the stage of your career also matters.

        Changing jobs/organizations every year or two at the start of your career is very common. No matter the profession (although definitely more common in some than others). Changing jobs/organizations every year or two without any jobs/organizations with longer term tenures to me becomes more of a red flag when you are 10-20 years into your career.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          That’s still hugely dependent on industry. For a lot of graduate scheme/programmes leaving within a year early career means you haven’t even finished your rotations or put into a permanent team.

  31. RagingADHD*

    LW1, better steer clear of all memes labelled “showerthoughts.”

    Who would have thought that in the Year of Good Grief 2022, resurrecting the most exaggerated caricature of the prudishness of the Victorian era would actually be seriously considered as a social or workplace goal?

    Better not refer to the “leg” of the table – it might make people think about your legs! Better not say you couldn’t “stomach” a situation- it might make people think about the internal organs in your abdomen – which are sort of next to your *other* internal organs, which are, you know, connected to your (ahem, ahem) naughty bits! For shame, for shame!


    1. B*

      Apparently the French have a similar saying, ” “l’esprit de l’escalier“ — “the wit of the stairs.” It refers to a brilliant idea or comeback you have long after it would have been useful (eg. while leaving the party or workplace).

      1. RagingADHD*

        Oh, better not mention stairs! You walk on stairs with your legs, and we all know what legs lead to!

  32. B*

    #1 – “Shower thoughts” have become cultural shorthand for “a random, possibly non-sequitur idea that you had.” Reddit has a whole forum titled “Shower Thoughts” which is intended for discussing weird and random notions. I’ve also heard some people call it “Fridge Logic,” in the sense that this is the sort of idea you have while you are getting ready for dinner, rather than at the moment the idea would have actually been useful.

    For example: You watch a movie, and thirty minutes later you are in the middle of preparing a sandwich and you suddenly think, “Why can’t the eagles fly them to Mordor?”

    Not sure I would interpret it as your co-worker *literally* talking about their morning hygiene experience.

  33. ButtonPusher*

    I think there’s something ‘romanticized’ about coming up with ideas during morning routines (isn’t the old story that Einstein came up with some great idea in the bathroom). I would venture to say people bring up the ideas in the bathroom as an idiom of sorts rather than making being in the bathroom the point of the story.

  34. AsherCat*

    #4 – No private office

    I’m a manager and I don’t have a private office. I started in this role last summer. It’s definitely not ideal, but helps me is that most of the people in my department work from home most of the time. We have the top floor of a new building on campus, and only directors got offices, so there’s quite a few managers who need spaces for private conversations. So I try to save most of the conversations for days when me and the other person are working from home. However if it’s something like a performance review, or a sensitive topic, I try to do it in person in one of the conference rooms. I have to book the room, but we have several rooms and most people respect the calendar booking system, so it’s not too bad. I would definitely prefer my own office, but this is what we got.

  35. awesome3*

    #1 Yay! It’s another weird or not weird question! Would love to see these verdicts get their own day/week/post.

    I do think if you said you had the idea while taking a bath it would be seen as more weird than shower, even though you’re there for the same reason.

    1. Marion Ravenwood*

      I like how ‘weird/not weird’ is gradually becoming an AAM thing.

      And yes, would love a whole week of ‘weird/not weird’ – maybe one for when Alison is on holiday? Or as an ‘ask the readers’?

  36. Hippo-nony-potomus*

    Eh, the shower is a really good place for mulling things over. You’re on autopilot; the water is soothing; and your brain is relaxed. It also conveys information about how they think – you can’t just sit them down in front of their desks and demand they get creative. Now, I would usually just say that I had a really good idea the other night/morning, but wouldn’t be weirded out by people who say that they have good ideas in the shower.

  37. Purple Cat*

    LW3 – I’m kind of shocked and horrified that your library decided to move to an open concept by taking away only ONE manager’s office. That’s terrible and guarantees poor execution. I work in an open concept, not even the CEO has an office. He, of course, has his own personal conference room, but the key is that there are a LOT of conference rooms available as well as nooks around the office for more casual 1:1 conversations. You can’t just take away walls without putting up new ones somewhere else.

    Otherwise, you do learn to talk quieter for more sensitive conversations and it keeps people highly focused on very professional conversations – less emotional outbursts when *everybody* could hear you.

  38. Sharon*

    #2 – Any chance you are a guy and experienced the team differently than Jane does? My thought immediately went to “new female employee feels uncomfortable in small company sales team bro culture.”

  39. River Otter*

    When he comes back, does he make an announcement that he had an idea while he was “petting the dog”?

  40. Springtime*

    #3, I’m also a manager at a public library, and I work from a cubicle in a shared office with the rest of my department, as do most of the managers here. The disadvantages Alison names are all correct, but there are also some advantages–I don’t have to make much special effort to “circulate” to get to know what day-to-day problems are cropping up or to know how staff are handling them. I can passively do a lot of observation to make sure that policies are uniformly being applied. Another manager who moved to a temporarily-available office for pandemic distancing was glad when she moved back. And as a public library, we do already have a range of reservable meeting rooms, which is very helpful.

  41. Meow*

    #1 – Funny story, but I distinctly remember a sexual harassment training video I watched used this exact situation for one of its examples. The examples they gave were something like:
    “I was rehearsing this presentation in the shower this morning…” – OK, but probably better to just omit the part about being in the shower if you can
    “I was thinking about our meeting together, Jane, while I was in the shower this morning…” – Kinda creepy and probably not OK

  42. generic_username*

    Businesses like the one is #4 baffle me. If you’re in an office where people are able to WFH, why would you want to increase the chances of sudden illness of staff. Seems really short-sighted, considering the disruption staff absences can cause. If the nature of work doesn’t tend to work in a remote setting, I get it, but then the business should be doing everything possible to keep staff safe (distancing, staggering schedules, providing N95s, requiring vaccines and masks, etc…).

    1. Meep*

      The person who is in charge of safety protocols is the same person who refused to let me work from home while our AC was gushing dirty water for two weeks because “clients might come in.” Said with a straight face as she worked from home (I was the only one in the office). Our clients aren’t the people who walk in off the street and even if they were, having water pour from your lobby ceiling sends the wrong message. So I was not surprised when she decided after quarantining from March 2020 to June 2020 that she thought it was enough. She, of course, was the only one who continued to work from home because HER life mattered. (She told me such repeatedly. That I shouldn’t worry because I am young, while she isn’t. Pointing out I didn’t want to spread it to OTHER PEOPLE was futile. They weren’t her.)

      We still do not have any safety protocols two years later despite sending out a survey where everyone but one person (I can guess who) thought we were doing a crap job about caring about COVID two weeks ago. Literally every single employee wanted at the very least a mask policy. Still, she continued to make excuses of it “being out of her hands” and “not her decision”. Who is it though when you claim to be HR, ma’am? It wasn’t out of her hands when I put an obnoxious sign on the front door to be masked. It took a week, but it was replaced with an ACTUAL “please mask sign”. Still no official word on the covid protocol. That is still where it was in April 2020 – “99% done”.

      She has caught COVID at least twice and is not vaccinated, btw. I almost quit if the owner didn’t back me up with my unofficial COVID protocols.

    2. OP #4 (working in a petri dish)*

      I’m as baffled as you are. I will point out that the administrators making the decisions have private offices where they can shut the doors and work comfortably without masks on all day while the rest of us have cubicles, so their safety is not at risk. Maybe they’re worried we’ll be less productive if we work from home (and we absolutely can work from home–we did it previously during the pandemic and it worked fine), but I imagine that *catching a deadly plague and ending up in the ICU* is probably a lot worse for productivity. At any rate, the mass exodus that’s about to happen as employees flee this super spreader event is going to hurt their productivity pretty badly, too. I know I’m not the only person sending out resumes right now!

  43. LITJess*

    LW3 – I’m a manager at a public library who’s never had a private office – I hate it. For personal reasons, I have a hard time concentrating with background noise and my staff are very chatty. I love that they collaborate, but it makes me focusing on the budget spreadsheet or stats so much harder.

    And for professional reasons, I never get to have a private conversation. Even totally benign things when said in a group office invite group feedback. Another manager giving me a heads up on a project will get input from my staff (and vice versa when I go to talk to them).

    I have to do one-on-one meetings in our study rooms but since the builders appear to have put nothing in the walls, other staff can overhear those conversations too. At least when they happen in a separate room there’s the expectation of privacy.
    All this to say, fight! Fight hard for your office space!

  44. MissM*

    LW#1, i think most of us have great ideas while in the shower because it’s a time that you’re generally not thinking about anything in particular (including the fact that you’re wet and naked) which lets ideas pop in or things that were on the tip of your tongue, and that most people recognize it as such.
    If saying you were in the shower makes you uncomfortable, say that you were walking the dog or drying your hair when you had your epiphany. But most people treat it as the innocent statement that it is.

  45. Scott Molony*

    OP #1, this reminds me a lot of a mentor I had, who was a (slightly eccentric) economist.

    He, like you, got some of his best ideas in the shower – so much so that he took a *grease pencil* into the shower, and wrote graphs and equations on the shower tile like a white board. When he was stuck during his dissertation, he would periodically say, “I guess I have to go take another shower”

    All of this is to say – you are /far/ from the first person to work like this. You’re not weird!

  46. N.S.S.*

    3. Managing a team when you don’t have a private office
    Use the private conference room A LOT. Use it for about any one-on-one conversation to ward off speculation as to why you are in there with anyone. Make it a normal, mundane thing and shut down office gossip/speculation.
    Having your whole office drastically remodeled so there is a lack of ANY private space??? You can always have a one-on-one in the unisex restroom, or in your car. (Ask me how I know! )

  47. Anonymous4*

    OP-4 — dear heavens! Do the managers also encourage the workers to cough on each other? Penalize people who use sick leave and stay home when they don’t feel well? Encourage group meals and get-togethers?

    You’ve lasted a lot longer than I would have — when everyone was tightly clumped together for no good reason was when I would have gone out. Oh, my gosh! That is just The Crazy. I hope you find something quickly, and best of luck to you for your health and safety.

    1. OP #4 (working in a petri dish)*

      My manager did in fact get on my case for taking too many sick days off when I had a bad cough, and for quarantining myself and working from home while I waited for my symptoms to fully fade. She did eventually let me move my desk to a slightly more isolated area after my week of sick days, at least.

      The office didn’t even issue masks to employees until the union embarrassed them by distributing cloth masks with the words I SHOULD BE TELECOMMUTING printed across the front in massive letters. I wear mine during every Zoom meeting. ^_^ (And, yes, the union is pushing to let us work remotely again, but they’ve met nothing but resistance. I guess the admins’ plan to wait til a bunch of us die?)

  48. Alice Watson*

    A problem I found during my all cubicle days was the gossip mill. If you call someone and ask them to your office or if they drop by on their own it could be about anything. But if you and an employee you manage are seen going into a conference room and closing the door imaginations run wild. Get a few gossip prone workers or interpersonal conflicts like worker B who doesn’t like worker A but sees worker A go into the room …. And the problems start. I had to work hard to squash those rumors and keep them squashed (some people just will not believe you were only discussing the upcoming find raiser and needed a quiet space) but to also keep them from starting in the first place. Work personalities vary but it can be a real problem and being aware and having a plan in advance can go a long way towards avoiding bad feelings or making existing conflicts worse

  49. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    Re OP#3: As a former manager and now director, it has been over a decade since I had an office. I have been sitting in cubes or even desks in open floor plans. Leased real estate has become so expensive in my area that my industry moved to open floor plans and small cubes in order to squeeze as many people as possible into smaller rented spaces, to save money on leased square footage and construction costs. At my prior job, no one had a private office, not even the CEO. At my current job, only the CEO has a private office. This industry trend was created because of the high real estate costs – open seating is impractical and hated by most. Imagine a Senior Vice President sitting in a little 4 foot low-walled cube with no privacy. LOL.

    Enter COVID-19. All those people crammed shoulder to shoulder in open office floor plans and little cubes to save money. No way to socially distance 6 feet! So to comply with state law, those businesses had to let everyone work from home initially because of those stupid seating plans. Hoisted by their own petard.

  50. Skytext*

    Re: LW1, OP you are extrapolating too much and MAKING it weird. It’s like saying that someone announcing “I’m pregnant” is the same as them saying “my partner and I had sex”! Or saying “I had a colonoscopy” versus “I just had a stranger shove something up my butt”. One is fine, the other is not.

  51. Matt*

    My coworkers know about my shower as well as my toilet ideas. No one finds the slightest trace of awkward.

  52. Liu1845*

    #1 – A more general comment is “When I was getting ready this morning…….”. I’ve used this many times. My supervisor liked it because he said it showed I was already thinking of and planning for my work day. I laughed internally. It just popped into my head. I was actually planning and thinking about a day trip coming up on the weekend.
    #2 – Invite her for coffee and ask how it’s going. Tell her how helpful your supervisor was in finding a role you were better suited for when you figured out that Sales was not for you. Maybe she also is not suited for it. It would be reassuring for her if she could hear this. Maybe you can help her. Maybe she needs to be pointed to someone else that could help her.

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