naked saunas with colleagues, avoiding eating lunch with a boss, and more

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

1. Naked saunas with colleagues

I work in the international affairs arena, although based in the U.S. Some of my Finnish colleagues have invited me to a private sauna event, with the invitees limited but not provided to other invitees. The FAQ notes that sauna events are single sex but expected to be naked, although remaining in swimsuit/robe is acceptable. I know naked sauna is normal in Finland, but I have a hard time imagining being comfortable naked even among other us and Finnish female colleagues I need to work with in other contexts. If I refuse to go, I am concerned about cultural faux pas or missing out on networking opportunities that would be beneficial professionally. I was out of town for the first invite but expect future invites as long as I have this role. How should I address this issue? My boss is male and unlikely to give me direction one way or another due to gender awkwardness and general non-confrontation.

It’s 100% up to what you’re comfortable with, and if you’re uneasy being naked around colleagues (an entirely understandable way to feel!) it’s fully reasonable to bow out. It’s not a cultural faux pas to be from a country with different norms; just as you know that Finnish culture is more relaxed about nudity, your Finnish colleagues will be aware that many other cultures are less so. (And from Nordic readers’ responses when this has come up here before, they won’t want you doing something that makes you uncomfortable.) A cheerful “the sauna isn’t for me, but have a great time” is all you should need to say.

2. How can I get out of eating lunch with my boss?

My boss asks me to eat lunch with her every day. I understand that she is trying to include me, but the truth is I like to eat my lunch alone and read my book or call my sister. She tends to talk nonstop and we don’t have anything in common besides work. Notably, the job is not in my first language, and having to speak my non-native language during lunch doesn’t allow me to recharge. Having lunch with her essentially requires me to be double-“on.”

I had avoided lunch with her before, but she noticed me pivot when headed to an outdoor area where she and a coworker were sitting, and somehow took it as an indication that I felt left out. What should I do? My lunch break is only 30 minutes, so I can’t really use appointments as an excuse.

Assuming you can’t just take lunch at a different time than her, be straightforward! “Thanks for inviting me, but I’ve got a book I’ve got to get through / it’s the only time I can call my sister today.” Or, if you want an answer that will serve you longer-term: “Thanks for inviting me. I usually try to read or call my family during lunch but I appreciate the invitation!”

That said, if you’re up for doing lunch with her occasionally (meaning like once every month or two), it could be a useful investment in the relationship.

3. How should I disclose at my new job that I have kids?

Today I accepted an offer for a fantastic job with a wonderful organization. (I’m so excited!) For various reasons, the hiring process was unusually long and involved multiple interviews with largely the same group of people.

During the entire process, I never disclosed that I have two children. Discrimination against single moms is real—even if subconscious—and I simply didn’t want that to be a factor in my candidacy. I never had to lie … but there were three or four moments that would have been obvious times to share (such as when they asked how I like to spend my free time outside of work).

Now that I’ve gotten the job, how should I reveal the fact that I have kids? Believe me when I say they will be *very* surprised. It’s a small staff made up of lovely, supportive people; I won’t be able to hide my family’s details, nor do I want to. But I also don’t want any of them, especially my new manager, to feel like we started off with a lie. How should I spill the beans?

They might be less shocked than you’re fearing! Not mentioning your kids in response to questions about how you like to spend your time isn’t that weird, especially in an interview (where lots of people have been trained not to mention kids at all). And frankly, they may not even have clear memories of those sorts of small-talk questions and answers. But even if they’re surprised when they hear you have kids, that’s okay!

Let it come up organically — mention your kids the same way you would at any other job, like in response to a question about your plans for the weekend or needing to leave on time to get to your daughter’s piano recital or however else it comes up. Even if they’re momentarily surprised, it won’t be a big deal and — unless you literally said the words “I do not have children” — no one is likely to feel you started off with a lie since it’s not info that you were ever obligated to share. It’ll just be new information about you that they’ll process quickly.

4. My boss won’t talk to me about raises or promotions

My boss and I discussed letting them know if I was interested in any internal postings/promotion opportunities when we had discussed my desire to grow and if the org could be a space for it. When we discuss it in theory, it goes well. However, when I have sent them internal postings I get literally no response, and attempts to discuss them are deflected or ignored. Do I apply anyhow (even though my supervisor would be notified as a part of the process), do I look elsewhere though I don’t want to have to leave the org to grow, or something else? When asking about role growth or raises, I get similar non-responses or comments that it isn’t in their “area” or they don’t have the authority to discuss raises, etc.

From your boss’s actions, I would assume they aren’t likely to take any action to help you grow in the company. I don’t know if that’s because they’re lazy, have concerns about your work that they haven’t been up-front about, are subject to internal pressures you don’t know about, or something else, but their actions say pretty clearly not to look to them for help. If you want, you could try asking why that is — as in, “You encouraged me to talk to you about promotion opportunities that I’m interested in, but when I’ve suggested specific roles, you haven’t been responsive. Is it something about the roles I’m interested in, or is there a different way I should approach this?” If they tell you a raise or promotion is outside of their authority, you could say, “Who should I speak with about it? It’s increasingly important to me to address.”

But yeah, I’d assume you’re going to have to look outside the organization if you want to move up. You can definitely keep applying to internal openings and don’t need your boss’s sign-off to do that, but based on your boss’s action/non-action so far, make sure those aren’t the only options you’re giving yourself.

5. Employer requests four weeks of notice

I am in the process of job hunting and have had a lot of great responses to my resume and cover letters (thanks to all your advice – I hope I’ll be writing in with some Friday Good News soon!). One of my colleagues gave her notice recently and when I was talking to her about her new position, she mentioned that our employee handbook stipulates that exempt employees should give four weeks notice. I live in an at-will state. I’ll give as much notice as I can, but I also want to take some time between positions and I don’t think it’s fair to ask a new employer to wait five weeks! Do they have any way to enforce this or would it just leave a negative impression? Looking at the handbook, it also specifically references that employment can be terminated at any time and is at-will. Seems like they’re trying to get the best of both worlds!

They can’t legally bind you into giving any notice at all (unless you have a contract, which most U.S. workers don’t). Giving notice is a professional courtesy but not a legal requirement.

That said, sometimes employers have policies that they won’t pay out accrued vacation unless you give X amount of notice, so you’d want to be aware of that. (That’s legal in states that leave vacation pay-out policies up to employers; some states do and some don’t.) Beyond that, though, it’s just about the relationship and reputation you want to preserve with them. Giving no notice is likely to be a big deal (unless it’s because of a health emergency or so forth), but even companies that ask for four weeks often don’t react badly to two weeks. I’d simply say your last day will be (date) and then if you’re pushed to give more say, “I’m sorry, because of the start date at the new job, I need to give a standard two weeks.” Make sure you slip the word “standard” in there to underscore that it is, in fact, standard.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 304 comments… read them below }

  1. Sue*

    #3 Will you have a desk? Some family pictures would give a pretty good hint and people like to see the fam and ask questions.

    1. Amaranth*

      I think its key not to imply that there was a concern about discrimination, so it doesn’t come across as accusatory, or gets cemented in their heads as very deliberate. That just doesn’t serve LW well starting out.
      I’d just stick with an attitude of family didn’t come up during the interview — ‘oh, sure, I’ve got kids…do you want to see photos?’

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yep, as long as you’re not all “Oh, now that you guys can’t refuse to hire me because I have children, because I’m sure you would have done, I can tell you about them!!” you should be fine.

    2. turquoisecow*

      I’ve been asked or seen other people be asked directly if they have kids at work during more social times, like lunch or when you’re just chatting in the getting to know you period when you first start. It’s part of a back and forth kind of sharing information: “where do you live? Oh, I live in X town, not far, my brother lives near you,” kind of thing.

      Even if that doesn’t happen because people are less direct, they might say something about their kids or parents, like “oh my son did x last week,” and then you can share an anecdote about your kid “oh yes my daughter did that when she was younger,” or whatever. It doesn’t have to be a huge reveal or secret.

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      Also, any given person is unlikely to be the only parent in any given place. When someone else mentions their family / kids is a prime opportunity for Letter Writer to drop hers into the conversation.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes! And even if in a small place this would be the case, people are familiar with the concept!

        OP does not have to treat this as a big reveal moment; it’s perfectly natural that it has not come up yet, and will soon. It’s probably just that so far it was a piece of information that was on the spectrum of ‘irrelevant’ to ‘unfortunately could impact the hiring process’, so it’s difficult to treat it as the neutral info it is.

      2. kittymommy*

        Yeah, it’s been my experience as a mid-40’s childless person, we are the outlier in many places.

    4. RabbitRabbit*

      I’ll add that mentioning child-related activities in response to a question about “free time” is (in my mind) absolutely not the expected place to bring it up. That’s not “free time!”

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Huh. I disagree. In the context of a job interview, non-work time is free time, and that includes time you spend with your kids. Unless you consider spending time with your kids a chore like errands or housecleaning and not something you do because you enjoy it.

        1. Coder von Frankenstein*

          Free time is time that you can use for activities of your choice. Time required to take care of your children is not available for use in activities of your choice. You don’t get to decide, “Eh, I don’t really feel like feeding the kids this week.”

          Whether you enjoy it or not is irrelevant. I may enjoy my job, but time at work still ain’t free time.

          1. Kal*

            I think their point is that time with children isn’t exclusively just taking care of their basic needs. Sometimes the answer to what you enjoy doing in your free time is “playing board games with my daughter” or “helping my son build sand castles in the backyard” and classifying those activities as not free time and as not something you do by choice would be very strange.

        2. RabbitRabbit*

          I personally define it as time spent for me, not non-work time. Everyone deserves actual free time, and LW shouldn’t feel bad regardless at not saying anything about kids.

          Otherwise percentage-wise, my breakdown on not-work time would be sleeping, then (pre-COVID) commuting, then household-related duties would probably be next.

          I suspect this is what a previous job interview that had several pre-defined questions with different variations on not-work time was aiming at. What do you do for fun, what do you do to relax, what do you do for hobbies, what do you do for… etc. Trying to trip you up and get you to admit you have kids. Same with the jobs that ask you if you have any barriers to travel. Their primary concern isn’t actually if you have a fear of flying.

        3. Daisy Gamgee*

          Unless you consider spending time with your kids a chore like errands or housecleaning and not something you do because you enjoy it.

          This reminds me of when a friend called me in tears because she had complained about cleaning up puke and being sneezed upon in the hearing of her local Lady Catherine De Bourgh, and received a massive scolding about how obviously she didn’t love her child if she didn’t enjoy every moment of childrearing.

          Childrearing is complicated. Some of it is doing chores. Some of it is people wrangling. Some of it is the best thing in the world (personal, not global). Some of it is inbetween. But I don’t think it counts as “free time” the way that time to draw or read or watch TV does.

        4. Rusty Shackelford*

          Removed this and the thread that followed because it ended up in an off-topic argument.

    5. Mockingjay*

      I’ve never mentioned my family in interviews. Usually it comes up naturally after hire in casual conversations with new coworkers, the same as meeting new neighbors. I wouldn’t worry about it.

      1. Kathy*

        Yeah, it also would be very normal not to be talking about marital or relationship status in the interview. So even if your coworkers knew you had kids, how would they know that you are a single parent?
        Besides the fact that should not matter at all!

        1. Observer*

          Of course it shouldn’t matter! That doesn’t really help the OP. She’s legitimately concerned that it could trigger some bias at the interview stage.

          But the reality is that it’s SO normal not to mention this stuff in the interview stage, that no matter how surprised people may be it would be highly, highly unusual for anyone to actually be surprised that she didn’t tell anyone during the interview stage.

    6. MsClaw*

      Yeah, it’s not at all uncommon to avoid mentioning your children in interviews. In fact, it’s highly encouraged to not discuss your kids in interviews. LW seems to be worried people will feel shocked or hoodwinked, but really no one is going to care. Your kids will come up naturally as your colleagues get to know you.

      1. KaciHall*

        Let’s be fair, it’s generally okay for men to discuss their kids; it’s women that are unfairly penalized for having kids.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          And women who didn’t go the traditional marriage/long-term partner route to having kids definitely get penalized for having them, sometimes with a little dose of slut shaming added

        2. MsClaw*

          100% agree! It’s unfair but it’s real. I’m always gobsmacked when I’m involved in an interview with a dude who will just openly say ‘my wife and I are thinking about having kids soon’ because I would never, ever have done that in my child-bearing years.

    7. BethDH*

      A new employee started at my small org last month. I work reasonably closely with her, and was involved in the interview process. She told me she had a kid last week. It seemed totally normal that I hadn’t known before.
      Now I’m hoping she didn’t think I thought it was weird because I think I said something like, “I didn’t know you had a kid, how old are they?”

  2. Liparis Liparis*

    Finnish reader here, seconding what Alison wrote: sauna participation absolutely is optional! I hope no one is making you feel weird about it, and if that happens, it’s totally out of line and *they’re* committing the cultural faux pas, not you.

    I get your worry about missing out on sauna networking. It is a bit of a thing of the past – political & business decisions used to be made in all-male saunas, which is now seen as super cringey. I hope your coworkers make sure socializing is not always about sitting butt naked in the sauna! If the event has other activities (dinner, pub?) then you might want to join those and skip the sauna?

    1. allathian*

      Yes, as another Finn I can cosign this. I’ve never been to the sauna with any of my coworkers at any job. With a previous manager we went to a spa hotel for an off-site development event, and I suppose some of my coworkers went to the sauna, but I skipped the spa part altogether because I’m so allergic to chlorine that I get a reaction if I walk downwind past an outdoor pool. I got a manicure instead and went for a walk in the lovely grounds. There was plenty of time for networking and discussions with my teammates, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out.

      In college, I did go to the sauna with other students. When only Finns were present, we were naked, regardless of whether it was women only or mixed gender, with international students we’d usually wear bikini bottoms/swimming trunks, unless they were comfortable with nudity.

    2. Jopestus*

      Backing a fellow finn up in here. Bathing is absolutely voluntary and nobody will think twice if someone opts out. I mean, there has to be something wrong with a person who skips sauna in the molecular level, but they cannot help it(/joking).

      I can assure you all that the times when our president sat down in sauna with the Russian ruler and got drunk in royal level while discussing the matters of state are in the past.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        As an American I completely agree about something being wrong with people who don’t like the sauna. Take my husband for instance, he becomes almost physically ill after a few minutes. I can’t figure it out but after seeing it once I’m not going to judge him for skipping.
        I love being wrapped in that warmth and think that the sauna is an amazing contribution to civilization

        1. PT*

          I worked in fitness (my facilities have had a steamroom, a sauna, and a spa) and all three have a list of medical contraindications on the door. They include a handful of medical conditions and a whole bunch of medications. There are a LOT of people who medically should not be in a steamroom/sauna/spa.

          And anecdotally, one of our locations said its #1 source of 911 calls was the men’s steamroom, fainting and heart attacks.

    3. WS*

      I’ve been in the same situation in Japan, and it was optional but fun! And I say that as by far the fattest person there.

    4. Sam*

      I feel compelled to comment because I, too, am Finnish. :D

      Yeah, don’t worry about skipping the sauna. If you want to give it a go, wearing a swimsuit is totally fine.

    5. TechWorker*

      I was wondering about the gendered element this as I read the letter – I feel like split gender work socials (or any social that’s aimed squarely at one gender and treats others wanting to join in as weird) are generally not a good idea. How does sauna fit in with that?

      1. allathian*

        That’s a good question, and it could certainly be problematic in an environment that is very dominated by one gender. Even if the organization as a whole has a reasonably even gender distribution, if most managers and executives are men, but the majority of ICs are women, I’d imagine that a woman manager who didn’t have any peers to go to the sauna with might feel a bit excluded.

        That said, before the pandemic my employer used to organize networking days that were open to all employees, travel and living expenses paid by the employer. I’ve never attended these, because just the idea of spending two days with my coworkers doing non-work things, and being forced to share a hotel room for lack of space, doesn’t appeal to me at all. They’re mainly focused on some form of exercise, with an interoffice tournament (basketball, volleyball, futsal/5-on-a-side soccer, boules…), although there are less strenuous and more culturally oriented activities available. According to my coworker, who loves these and has attended every event since he started working for us, these days usually involve going to the sauna, naked but split gender. Depending on the venue, sometimes they have separate hot rooms, shower rooms, and changing rooms, but a joint foyer/bar/restaurant where everyone gets together when they’re finished bathing. If there’s only one hot room etc., women usually go first, and then the men. This is done for practical reasons, because women usually spend more time after going to the sauna doing their makeup and hair than most men do.

        That said, all this is very cisnormative. I have no idea how trans men and trans women would fit into all this.

          1. allathian*

            Yes. I guess I meant non-management employees in general, though.

            That said, hierarchies in Finnish organizations tend to be pretty flat in comparison to US ones, although I guess mine’s fairly extreme; I’m a senior IC, with no juniors or interns currently on our team. My manager is the head of our area of responsibility, my grandboss is the head of our department, and above him there’s only the director general of the whole agency of around 2,000 employees. Employees in management only manage, they aren’t supposed to do operational tasks, unless there’s an emergency that means it can’t be avoided. My manager has about 20 reports, some have up to twice that number, so there’s really not much time for anything else.

      2. Liparis Liparis*

        Saunas at work events are often mixed and with swimsuits on because that’s the least awkward option: no need to segregate by gender, no need to gauge everyone’s feelings about nudity. But split gender saunas at work events definitely do happen and I always find them a bit weird. Why introduce a gender split into a workplace where that kind of a dynamic might otherwise not exist?

        The LW’s situation sounds more like an informal thing, like going out for drinks with just a few close colleagues. Which should definitely be optional and about friendhip, not about networking or team bonding.

        Groups of expat Finns do sometimes go into hyper Finnish mode, which can be a bit intense for an outsider who gets pulled in to witness ALL THE FUN FINNISH THINGS WE DO. It might be happening here? In that case the LW will definitely not be missing anything important if they decide to skip the sauna. The Finns will be talking about Moomins and old TV shows and the ice hockey world championships of ’95.

        1. Alex*

          Just as an Anecdote, I actually discovered my love for Sauna when working in our Finnish office as a holiday stand-in for their IT guy – I was invited to a private Sauna, have no qualms about nudity so I went – and this opened up a whole new world to me.

          As an aside, it really puts a totally different perspective on you and your colleagues the moment you start getting “beaten” / start “beating” a colleague with a dripping wet birch branch.

          Fun times!

          1. allathian*

            More like a bunch of birch twigs, it looks rather like the working part of a broomstick, but with leaves on. For those who’ve never experienced it, it’s actually quite pleasant. The birch leaves act as an exfoliant, so the skin on your back is very smooth afterwards.

        2. Foila*

          I had a colleague who said that if saunas were to be gender segregated there needed to be three groups: men, women, and bosses. Which isn’t perfect but it does help with some of the power dynamics.

      3. Liparis Liparis*

        Saunas at work events are often mixed and with swimsuits on because that’s the least awkward option: no need to segregate by gender, no need to gauge everyone’s feelings about nudity. But split gender saunas at work events definitely do happen and I always find them a bit weird. Why introduce a gender split into a workplace where that kind of a dynamic might otherwise not exist?

        The LW’s situation sounds more like an informal thing, like going out for drinks with just a few close colleagues. Which should definitely be optional and about friendhip, not about networking or team bonding.

        Groups of expat Finns do sometimes go into hyper Finnish mode, which can be a bit intense for an outsider who gets pulled in to witness ALL THE FUN FINNISH THINGS WE DO. It might be happening here? In that case the LW will definitely not be missing anything important if they decide to skip the sauna. The Finns will be talking about Moomins and old TV shows and the ice hockey world championships of ’95.

        1. UKDancer*

          I can’t do high levels of heat so would probably skip the sauna on that basis. I’d be completely up for talking about Moomins during discussions with Finnish people as I think Tove Jansson is brilliant.

      4. marvin*

        As a nonbinary person, even if I were comfortable getting naked with coworkers (not the case!) I would definitely feel stressed about trying to decide which group was the least bad option to join.

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          I really appreciate hearing that perspective. Single-sex work activities have lots of potential pitfalls, but forcing NB and trans people to pick a least-bad option is a giant one that should get more airtime.

      5. Ed123*

        Based on my experience the networking doesn’t happen in the actual steam room. I mean of course any communication with someone is networking but that is more generic discussion and the post sauna lounging in your robe is where the things get more interesting and that’s mixed.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      Saunas in US media are often introduced for cringe comedy due to being around towel-clad people who are naked under their towels. I think it can lead to a feeling that saunas would be introduced as a scary social gauntlet, rather than an optional thing some people are into and some people are not, more akin to tournament bridge.

      1. Norra*

        I think you need to be quite in the sauna. There is no talking in the sauna, the talk happens outside, when you are cooling off.

        And I’m a Finnish female who had a sauna battle with my male boss. He won round number one by two seconds.

    7. Pyykakkaus*

      A Finn here also! What has not been said, is that usually these kind of events take place in some sort of lounge with separate sauna + dressing rooms. You will most likely be able to just hang out at the lounge, and not go to the sauna. If the event is not specifically only for the women, the genders are likely take turns, so you can network with the men who are waiting for their turn.

      The saunas are pretty omnipresent in the Finnish culture, and lot of leisure activities are placed around them. Something like boy’s night out is often called sauna night. Companies etc. usually also have their own lounges with saunas, where they can host visitors etc. The actual sitting naked in the heat part might actually be pretty small part of the whole event. You should be able to participate these kinds of things without getting naked with no problems

  3. nnn*

    A thought experiment for #3: how do you normally disclose you have siblings?

    You probably don’t, really. It just randomly comes up in conversation at some point. Simply do the same with your kids.

    Also, are you sure your new co-workers don’t have kids? Or has it just not come up in conversation yet?

    1. Cinderella Sparklepants*

      I remember applying for (and getting!) a job back when I was a single parent with two young kids. I was careful not to disclose anything for the same reasons you were, but I t came up organically on the first day of work, everyone expressed some mild surprise (I was young, and looked much younger than I actually was), and that was it. Not a big deal at all, though I was a little worried too.

    2. Atx*

      I feel like OP is thinking about this a bit too much! Family details don’t come out in the interview process, and no one is going to be shocked that someone has kids.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        They can be shocked or judgmental that people have kids without having been married because it is “wrong”. It isn’t wrong, of course, but people can be jerks about this

      2. Rose*

        I agree. I don’t believe they’ll be *very* surprised to hear a woman of child bearing age or older has two children. I think it’s actually pretty weird to assume someone you’ve met maybe ~5 times in a business context would be surprised by the fact you have a family. Tons of people will omit their kids when asked about what they do in their free time either to avoid being pigeonholed or because of because childcare duties are not really free time by most peoples definitions.

        I mean this in the nicest way possible but… other people truly are not thinking about you that much. Learning a new, unsurprising fact about someone a handful of times into meeting them will not blow peoples minds. The few/rare people who will think it’s unusual that it wouldn’t have been mentioned before will be more likely to think they forgot and make a note to self so they remember to ask you a polite question later. A couple of people may pick up on it and if they do they’ll likely assume you’re either very private or didn’t want to be “mommy tracked” before you even started. The number of people who are truly suprised they don’t know about a candidate’s family life after the interview stage will be low.

  4. L'étrangere*

    #1 do you ever run into colleagues at the gym? Many companies have deals with gyms that means that you might find yourself in that situation. Frankly, I’d much rather be in a sauna with a bunch of happily naked Finns

    1. John Smith*

      But in a gym, people aren’t generally doing squats in their birthday suit and in gym saunas (which you don’t have to use when in the gym or can escape from to another part of the gym if an awkward situation arises), people usually wear towels.

      1. Nanani*

        No but they are changing, especially if the gym has a pool or similar and they need to strip out of a bathing suit at some point.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Do people do squats at sauna socials? I thought they were mostly sitting around chatting and drinking.

    2. allathian*

      I’m a Finn, and I agree. Because we’re supposed to be so comfortable with nudity, it’s fairly unlikely to find locker rooms, never mind showers in gyms where you have any privacy at all. The risk of running into any of my coworkers, or worse, management, in any other state than fully clothed has certainly prevented me from ever taking advantage of any such deals.

      I’m fat and have body image issues related to that. When I was younger and slimmer, getting naked in front of strangers or people I didn’t know all that well was not an issue for me, but I’m simply not willing to be that vulnerable in front of my coworkers, even if they’re lovely people and I seriously doubt they’d judge me.

      1. Hazel*

        I feel exactly the same as your 2nd paragraph, allathian, including the lovely coworkers who probably won’t judge.

        Before the pandemic, when I was going to the gym in the same building as our offices, I did run into colleagues, and if one of us was changing, the other pretended they didn’t see and kept walking to the next bank of lockers. If we were both clothed, we might chat for a few minutes, and I actually got to know a couple of colleagues better from those chats, which I really appreciated because I’m shy, so I wasn’t making a lot of progress otherwise in getting to know folks outside my team.

        A few times, the person I was chatting with was changing, and I just didn’t look. I kept talking with them, but I’d turn to face my locker and rummage. Also, I’m gay, and my internalized homophobia tells me that all women will assume the worse and be upset if they think I’m looking at them while they’re changing.

    3. Esmeralda*

      Not really. People work out in their clothes at the gym, and unless it’s high school open showers style, they don’t see you nekkid when you wash up.

      1. allathian*

        It’s probably different at high end gyms, but the ones I went to in college and early in my career were just like this. If you were lucky, they had translucent dividers between showers, but no door or curtain you could close.

      2. sb51*

        Eh, even with closed showers, you still change in an open locker room, usually. (Especially before your workout, when you’re not showering.) I’ve run into my boss (when I had a same-gender boss) in the locker room while only partially clothed; we did each other the courtesy of not conversing when anyone was naked but chatting sociably after we’d gotten reasonably clothed (butwere still in the locker room doing something like blow-drying hair while barefoot).

        1. Hazel*

          I think we have to ignore the awkward and pretend nothing is weird in the situation. Like pretending you didn’t hear the personal conversation that someone just had on their phone.

    4. Thistle whistle*

      I worked somewhere where it was quite common to see your coworkers in the local gym. Noone batted an eyelid (once they got used to the fact that I turned bright red as soon as I started working our and so they didnt need to panic that I was ill). You would nod to each other but everyone concentrated on their own workouts. Only once did the big boss try and start a conversation and he soon realised I wasn’t able to discuss work and run on a treadmill at the same time so he gave up and left.

  5. Willis*

    It doesn’t sound like OP#4 has been applying for internal positions because their boss has been non-responsive about it; they’re asking if they should apply anyhow. If I were the OP, the next time I saw an internal posting that interested me, I’d forward to my boss with a note along the lines of “I’m planning to submit an application for this position. Please let me know if you have any insight into it or would like to talk about it,” and leave it at that. If they reply with something helpful, great. If they ignore the request or put off the conversation, I’d apply anyway knowing I gave them a heads up about it. Looking at outside opportunities is a good idea too, but if they OP hasn’t even tried to apply for anything internally I wouldn’t give up on it yet.

    1. Can Can Cannot*

      Exactly, LW4 should let their boss know, and then go ahead an apply for the internal position. The boss isn’t going to apply for them.

      1. Lasslisa*

        I did wonder if the LW brings up the positions in 1:1s or otherwise asks any questions, or if they’re just sending them to the boss and expecting something to happen. I can imagine someone unfamiliar with management structure assuming your manager would be “in charge” of promoting you or transferring you, but if it’s into another team, your manager doesn’t actually have anything to do but maybe be a reference. It’s up to the other team to decide first if they want you or not, and then any negotiations go from there. So if you’re just sending these to your boss they may be not sure what your expecting and wondering why you haven’t applied. There are some things they could be doing, like trying to find elements of those fields that you could apply in your current role, so laziness is still a real consideration but you should not wait for them to apply.

        1. FashionablyEvil*

          I think that’s possible, but the manager has clearly washed their hands of actual management responsibility—they won’t even discuss raises or role growth. Even if they truly don’t have authority in that area they almost certainly know what the process is and how to influence it. Regardless of what the underlying cause is, the manager clearly sucks/is not managing.

        2. Snow Globe*

          I was having the same thought – what does the LW expect the boss to *do*? It doesn’t seem like there is a clear action here, other than maybe the boss responding that it sounds like a good fit?

        3. ecnaseener*

          I was thinking the same thing. The boss is clearly pretty bad at communication, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they see the situation as “LW will just give me a heads up when they’re thinking of applying for a transfer so I’m not blindsided. Why is LW trying to get me to talk about the transfer? I don’t want to give them false hope, I have no control over whether they’ll get it.” …and just completely neglecting to make any of that clear.

    2. Mockingjay*

      Don’t ask your boss about internal transfers. Instead, reach out to the other manager or someone in that department informally and get a few details or just go ahead and apply. Many places only notify current managers if the transfer applicant is accepted.

      1. anonymous73*

        She should still let her boss know that she applied. With internal positions, bosses tend to find out regardless of position acceptance.

      2. BluntBunny*

        I would do both reach out to the hiring manager to hear more about the role. Also tell your manager you have applied or are going to. If they are unsure about norms in the workplace they could speak to the other members of the team or people that are doing the role they would like.
        For raises they may be only annually after the end of year review do there may not be much your boss can do about it, they should explain that though.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I don’t think I’d bother with the “fyi to the boss” step. Boss has made it clear they’re not interested so I’d just go ahead and apply directly.

      1. anonymous73*

        It’s a courtesy. Yes they’ve been less than helpful when OP has approached them about specific positions, but it’s best to let them know so they don’t get pissed because they were left out of the loop and hurt the OP’s chances of moving forward.

        1. Office Lobster DJ*

          This. For an internal position, there’s a chance the boss will find out anyway. Even if the boss takes that piece in stride, I can’t imagine that they’d be thrilled with OP explaining “Oh, um, I didn’t tell you because you never seemed interested before.”

          Even if it’s a post-submission heads up that OP applied for X position, I’d let the boss know.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            I’d be comfortable to state the “you never seemed interested before” part outright! Most likely in the sense of: I’ve brought up internal advancement opportunities before and got the impression they were ignored or deflected, so I took the decision to apply directly this time.

    4. SomebodyElse*

      This was my first thought too, when reading this. It’s a little weird that the OP doesn’t get any response, but their manager likely sees it and says ‘huh, ok’ and moves on.

      As a manager I would see it as a heads up of their intent, but with no specific questions or requests I’m not sure I would do much more than wait and see. At my company there is no policy to inform the current manager of an intent to apply to another role, only notification if they’ve been offered an interview.

      I have had specific conversations when notified that a team member is applying to an internal position, but in those cases there has been a specific question or in once case I had knowledge that I thought was relevant to the team member to make an informed decision (leadership w/in the team they were applying to had an impending change that wasn’t public).

      I can also understand the non-willingness to discuss pay in other departments. I have no idea what other jobs/departments in my company are paying outside of a few distinct roles. I could speculate, but that’s not going to help the employee, unfortunately they’ll need to speak to the hiring manager or HR to get that information.

      It could be that OP’s boss is just unhelpful, but it could just as easily be they are waiting until the OP has a specific request or gets further along in the process to support. At any rate, good luck OP, don’t let this deter you from internal postings.

  6. ..Kat..*

    LW 3 says that it is illegal to ask whether a job seeker has children. Is it illegal to ask? Or is it illegal to use information about children when making hiring decisions?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      With most of the interview questions that people think are illegal, the act of asking the question isn’t illegal; using the answer in a hiring decision is, so smart interviewers don’t ask at all. (The exception is disability, where it’s illegal to ask.) Interesting, parental status isn’t a protected class at the federal level at all, so technically none of that applies — except when you can show that it’s used to disproportionately impact women. Some state and local jurisdictions also include it as a protected status. More here.

      I’m going to edit the wording in that letter that it doesn’t inadvertently reinforce misinformation about this.

      1. Rage against the copy machine*

        I’m curious if it’s illegal to ask about disabilities, why does every application have a section now asking if I have a disability?

        1. ecnaseener*

          Companies are supposed to report how many disabled people they hire. It’s not supposed to be shown to the hiring manager or anything. It should be labeled something like “voluntary disclosure.”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes — companies with more than 100 employees and companies with government contracts over a certain dollar amount are required by law to report the demographic makeup of their applicants and employees to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (in aggregate, not individually).

            However, answering is voluntary, and you can’t be penalized for not answering. Also, it’s illegal to use the information in a hiring decision (except for the part where they asked about veteran status; it’s legal to give veterans a preference in hiring), and that information is usually separated from the rest of your application in order to avoid the risk or the appearance of it entering into decisions.

        2. Captain Swan*

          Assuming you are in the US, that section should read something like Do you have a disability you wish to disclose. Usually the answer choices are: yes, I would like to disclose; no I do not wish to disclose; or something about not disclosing at this time. Basically, the choices give enough wiggle room to allow the employee/employer to start the conversation about accommodations if necessary. I have seen the question asked during application sometimes but mainly during onboarding paperwork. My daughter has a disclosable disability and was applying for jobs recently so we have looked at alot of applications.

        3. fhqwhgads*

          I believe certain federal funding has to report statistics about how many people with disabilities were there. When this is asked it should be stored/transmitted as disconnected from you personally and used only in the aggregate.

  7. Thornus*

    #5, I worked for a firm where an associate gave about four weeks notice and waited until after a big arbitration was over. There was always work, but he was done with active litigation at that point (and stayed on after he left in a contractor role for the one or two big cases going). Boss man said “in our line of work, you really have to give 6 months notice. If anyone asks for a reference, I’ll say he’s a good worker but that I don’t like how little notice he gave to leave.” The next associate to quit gave 6 months notice.

    Some places just have warped expectations. I knew about three months before I quit that I was quitting and when, but I gave them only two weeks notice because bridges had been burned already.

    1. MK*

      Even in Europe, where most countries have labor contracts and notice is required by law, six months in excessive.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        6 months is the UK is executive/leadership team amounts of notice. And in a lot of those situations people won’t actually serve out their notice, they’ll be put on gardening leave (unless you’re going to a mission aligned org/just retiring).

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Agreed. I’ve even known C-level positions that required twelve months’ notice (in my field project life cycles are measured in months or years, not weeks, so even when relatively junior staff give a month’s notice that feels like nothing).

          Whether gardening leave applies seems to depend far more on internal politics than anything quantifiable…

          1. londonedit*

            Not to play notice period top trumps but my dad had two years’ notice written into his contract. But then a) he was a company director and b) the area of the business that he was heading up originated from a separate company that he founded and then sold to a bigger company. So he basically had all the knowledge going back about 25 years, and in order to replace him the company had to hire three separate people to be in charge of different regions of the world, whereas my dad had been in charge of the lot.

            Where I work the standard notice period for everyone used to be three months, but a couple of years ago they realised they were getting a lot of pushback from junior staff who were pointing out that it was out of step with the rest of the industry and it was hampering their career progression because the vast majority of other companies would expect them to be able to start with a month’s notice and wouldn’t want to wait for three months. So now only senior staff have three-month notice periods (which is also fairly standard for the industry).

      2. Alex*

        My wife has 3 months to quarter end in her contract (so if she says she decides to quit in April, her notice of three months actually starts on July 1st, meaning she would be available to her new job on 1st of September).

        Excessive? Yes, but she works in a hospital, where making sure you have adequate staffing is very important, so that notice is generally accepted across the profession.

        1. Jay*

          Yup. I’m a doc. 90 days is standard (and is written in to our contract). When I retired, I gave six months’ notice but of course didn’t have another job lined up. The long notice gives time for hiring or reassigning of patients/shifts and also gives me time to close out relationships with patients.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            In that field, does hiring also take that long? I wouldn’t object to giving a longer leave than 2 weeks, but so many new jobs want you to start TODAY and you almost have to fight for a 2- or ideally 3- week delayed start date. I’m definitely not going to be able to provide months.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Not in that field, but in France where anything from one to three months is expected, one being for entry-level employees, two for higher-level employees, and three for executives. Yes, it goes without saying that if you want someone to start right away, you look for someone who is currently unemployed. And if you want someone who has a job, you simply wait until they are available.
              The notice period is supposed to give the employer time to turn around and find a replacement, but since the replacement will often have to work through their own notice period, there’s often a spell with the position remaining empty anyway.
              When there’s bad blood, or when the job involves long-term stuff that the employee will obviously not be interested in, the employer will often tell the employee not to bother coming in, so that can be helpful for starting a new job.

      3. Bagpuss*

        It varies a lot dependent on job and level of seniority.
        In my field, 3 months is standard but 6 months is normal for more senior roles- and my personal experience is that people do normally work their notice, including those long periods.

        Gardening leaves isn’t usual in my field. We had one person where we were planning it because the individual was problematic in a lot of ways, (had they not resigned, it’s likely that they would have been dismissed) but happily they asked us to agree to a shortened notice period so we did that instead, which had the added advantage that it was at their request!

    2. OP5*

      I work in the nonprofit world, so definitely not the norm here! In fact, they seemed a little annoyed when I said I would need to give my current job 3 weeks notice to finish out a project!

      1. AthenaC*

        Oh okay so you don’t have any in-process projects that would realistically take more than two weeks to wrap up. That was really my only question regarding whether a longer notice made sense.

        1. Zelda*

          So, they can dish it out, but they can’t take it. Yep, Alison’s wording that reminds them that two weeks is standard is the way to go.

      2. Smithy*

        I’ve worked for US HQed international nonprofits for the past few years, and I will say that 3-4 weeks has been the average notice I’ve seen. Some more junior colleagues have given two weeks, some more senior colleagues have given up to two months. There’s been no hard requirement on notice, but that’s how it’s some how managed to play out.

        When I worked out for a nonprofit outside the US, one month was the minimum notice and they really expected you to give two months notice. So that may be where some of that standardized notice extension has come from?

      3. PT*

        Oooh I wonder if you work for my old employer. They were also a nonprofit that required f/t staff to give four weeks’ notice.

        They liked to mark people as “do not rehire” if they didn’t give the four weeks. But they also would mark people as “do not rehire” for petty things like “daring to get another job.” I have no idea what they’re telling my reference checks.

      4. Zee*

        Every non-profit I’ve I’ve for has asked for 4 weeks’ notice… but they’ve also all wanted me to start the week after getting the job offer (so not respecting the previous org’s notice period even though they have the same expectation).

    3. Nikki*

      Ugh, it annoys me when employers do this. If they want longer notice than two weeks, the way to do that is to write it into an employment contract. Otherwise it’s an unfair burden on employees, obviously.

      1. Bluesboy*

        Agreed, and the burden should run both ways – if I have to give you three months notice, you should have to give me three months’ pay/notice if you make me redundant.

        Where I am now, I have one month notice in my contract (I’m in Europe) and that one month goes both ways. If they let me go for any reason they have to pay me for that month. That seems fair.

      2. Unicorn Parade*

        In college many years ago I had a PT retail job at a home goods-type store. I found a much better-paying office job with better hours and better benefits, so I gave my two weeks notice. My manager said, “it’s customary in retail work for you to give four weeks notice.” Um, no it’s not? I was a sales person and a cashier, not running the store, and it wasn’t my first rodeo – in retail, most people at my level just stopped showing up. Apparently she said that to everyone who resigned, and because it was a lot of college kids and people without extensive work history, they thought they had to work out the whole four weeks. I just told her, “actually, according to law I don’t have to give you any notice, so it’s two weeks or I’ll be done today.”

    4. Antilles*

      Six months???
      How long does your company take to hire? Because that seems way longer than any private-company hiring cycle I’ve encountered . Usually if people are hiring for a position, their immediate question after offering will be when you can start and they’re expecting to hear a couple weeks, maybe a month or two at the outside in ordinary circumstances. Frankly, I’d bet if you said you can’t swap for six months, a lot of companies would tell you they don’t hire six months out and tell you to apply again closer to when you’re available.

    5. Generic Name*

      6 months??? Are people not leaving for other jobs? I can’t imagine a job that isn’t top level management would accept a 5 1/2 lead time for a new employee to start. Unless an employer wants to have en employment contract, they have to pull to demand this.

    6. kiki*

      Did you feel that it was accurate that in your line of work you should give six months notice? Because if everyone in a field is on a similar page, I can see how it could work out (e.g. companies would be okay waiting several months for a new employee to start), but otherwise it would mean employees risk taking unwanted, unpaid time not working.

      1. Thornus*

        I didn’t feel it was in line at all, no. It’s law, and there will always be another Important Case that We Just Can’t Lose You Yet. Honestly, the senior associate waiting for an arbitration to end then giving four weeks notice felt more than adequate to me. Especially since his leaving allowed him still gave him the opportunity to first chair the one or two Important Cases that were in down periods at the time. It wasn’t even a litigation focused firm, so it’s not like there was always active litigation.

  8. Sleeping Late Every Day*

    #3, is that kind of discrimination actually prevalent, or is it an assumption? In every job I had as an adult (which goes back to the early 70s, in a wide variety of work environments) I had co-workers who were single mothers. I don’t remember anyone, from top management down, batting an eye over it.

    1. John Smith*

      It’s prevelant I think. In the 00s, I came across a piece of paper in a senior managers drawer that had a list of candidates for a supervisor role with pros and cons for each person. “Has 4 kids” was one con, as was being pregnant for another (illegal in the UK). As an aside, my name was there with “extremely knowledgeable” as a pro (the only one) and a whole list of cons including “questionable personal lifestyle” which I later found was a supposed euphemism for “gay”.

      1. tamarack & fireweed*

        And did you do anything about this, and what was the outcome? There’s a whole host of things there that were illegal in the 00s in the UK. (Where I worked, gay and all, in the 00s.)

        1. John Smith*

          I took a copy of the document and handed my notice in, along with the document copy. It was swept under the carpet as they did with any complaint. They were more concerned about how I came across it than its content, which told me nothing I didn’t already know.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        I remember at an interview about 15 years ago (also UK), the guy interviewing me made a big point of asking if I was married and had any kids, and then made a big point of writing “single” on the copy he had of my CV. I was confused at the time because I didn’t think they were supposed to ask that, but when I asked around at the time I got so many different answers that I never did feel any the wiser. (The recruiter who had put me up for that job actually said at the time “They have to ask, it’s a legal requirement, the next question would have been how would you handle childcare in the event of sick kids.” Yeah…okay. Let’s just say that’s the only interview where I have ever been asked that.)

        1. Batgirl*

          Yeah, right because the answer of how to deal with sick kids isn’t inherently obvious? Like does he think parents have a whole host of facilities to choose from who can take on unwell children no problem?

          1. anne of mean gables*

            “oh, no worries, boss – when my kids are sick, I chain them their beds with an IV drip and catheter, set up Disney+, and then get right in to work. I might be 5-7 minutes late getting out the door if they fight the restraints, but I can usually make that up by speeding on the way in.”

    2. WS*

      It absolutely is, especially for full-time roles where the assumption is that a mother (especially a single mother) will be unreliable because they’ll have to take time off when the kids get sick, time off for other kid stuff and won’t be “fully dedicated” to the job. (My brother, a lawyer, asked for minor accommodations when his first child was born, namely that he would basically know his schedule a week in advance, even if it was for very long days and weird hours, and that got him put on the “mummy track” along with a whole bunch of hard-working, resentful women.)

      1. Unicorn Parade*

        On the flip side, if you are single and childless, they assume you are always available because the only important thing women do outside of work is raise children. In my experience, the child-free workers are the default when it comes to staying late, working weekends, coming in early, covering for staff that has childcare issues, etc. I’ve learned to push back on it but it took me two decades in the workforce before I felt comfortable saying, “No, I have to leave by 5pm, sorry.” Parents aren’t asked, or if they are, they have an automatic out: picking up the kids / childcare issues. Also, if you’re child-free, you are expected to be fully dedicated to advancing your career, even if you aren’t, because why else would a woman choose not to have children? The bottom line is it’s not easy for any of us.

    3. Mid*

      It absolutely is, as is the assumption that women with kids who aren’t single parents will take more time off/be less dedicated to the job, that younger women will leave the workforce to become mothers, etc. It’s very much something people face.

      1. new*

        I’m 66 and was a single mother. I’ve been in the professional workforce for 42 years. Never had a problem getting hired. The problem came from childless coworkers (usually women) with no empathy who for some reason were overly concerned with my goings and comings, even though our jobs did not overlap in any way. Facetime and rigid hours were a thing back then. I was an a a high performer, all I ever needed was a bit of flexibility, and workplace policies did improve after a while.

        OP, just be careful about coworkers who may hyperfocus on you because of your parental status. Otherwise, don’t expend too much mental energy on it.

        Sometimes when reading this forum it seems like time has stood still for women in the workplace. but many ore women are in decision making positions now.

    4. Bamcheeks*

      The question isn’t “did anyone act like it was a big deal”, it’s “were they getting recognised and promoted at the same rate as fathers or women without kids”.

      1. anne of mean gables*

        Yep. Bless my sweet summer child husband, who said, “I feel like people take me more seriously now that I have a kid.” This man has been sick enough to work from home (half of his job is lab-based, he can sort of work from home, but can’t do his full job duties by any stretch) for weeks (months, maybe?) this fall/winter because of daycare colds + a very Covid-cautious workplace, and has only noticed positive impacts at work from being a new parent (they’re actively working to transition him into a promotion). I had to break it to him that there’s data on this sort of thing, and mothers and fathers do not get treated the same in the workplace.

      2. Daisy Gamgee*

        This indeed. People act as if any kind of discrimination is about perpetrators being “mean” or “making a big deal” but the actual damage happens in the decisions people make about other people’s lives.

    5. Marion Ravenwood*

      I worked in equality, diversity and inclusion consultancy in the UK for six years. Can confirm that (at least up until summer 2019) this was very much still an issue, and I’d be willing to bet not much has changed since.

      1. Alanis*

        It probably has changed for the worse given the disproportionate burden of caring for children during lockdown on women.

    6. Alice*

      Please do not make assumptions that discrimination isn’t happening, just because you have never experienced it or noticed it firsthand. I still remember 10 years ago I was talking with a female coworker about times when we’d been asked if we had or wanted children. That is illegal here BTW, but doesn’t stop interviewers from asking. Male coworker chimed in with “I don’t believe that’s a thing, no interviewer ever asked me”. He was very young so I chalked it to naivete but… Not a good look…

      1. PT*

        I had a boss who notoriously wouldn’t listen to women. We were at a critical point where we needed support from her, I went and asked for it, she ignored me. So my deputy- who was a man in his early 20s- went and said “We need this and we’re doing this,” and she said OK.

        Then he was like, “Why did she listen to me and not you? You’re the boss!”

        Sweet naive baby.

    7. ecnaseener*

      Would you have noticed? I’m sure nobody was brazenly announcing in the break room that the reason Linda wasn’t getting the promotion was because the manager assumed she couldn’t handle it along with child care.

    8. pcake*

      Discrimination against single mothers is still very prevalent, and not just for single mothers, either. In families where the parents are together, there is often an assumption that if kids are sick or need care, that Mom will take time off to deal with it, not Dad.

    9. a nony mouse*

      Removed — off-topic and derailing. We’re not going to do a parents vs. non-parents debate here.

    10. Librarian of SHIEILD*

      No one made a big deal of it in public, but having been on multiple hiring panels, I’m willing to bet people made a big deal of it behind the scenes. I’m in a profession that’s majority women, so if it came up here, there’s no way it didn’t come up in more male dominated fields.

    11. Nanani*

      Your industry or workplace might just be an outlier then.
      Woman with kids = less dedicated to work is still a stereotype that gets used to discriminate.

    12. Rose*

      My VP is Black, and I’ve never, ever seen anyone say anything racist in the work place. I guess it’s safe to assume that racism has been solved and race is no longer a factor at work! Huge relief, great news.

    13. Pippa K*

      At my current employer, I’ve seen the same senior men openly take the positions that
      (1) a man was super-impressive for attending his own child’s birth and thus a shoo-in for hiring
      (2) a woman with school-aged kids “probably isn’t really willing to relocate like she says”
      (3) a woman who took a year’s leave and changed jobs to be able to care for her elderly parent wasn’t dedicated enough to her career
      (4) a married woman without kids was obviously not a normal woman

      All of these men would say they have never engaged in sex discrimination, and most of the people around them would say they’d never seen evidence of sex discrimination from them. If you’re not the target, or inclined to be aware of things like this, it can easily fly under the radar.

    14. BasketcaseNZ*

      I very clearly remember one job interview I went for, the question was phrased “You aren’t planning on having children, are you?”, in a tone of voice dripping with such disgust that made it *very* clear the only acceptable answer was “no, never”.
      That was one of MANY red flags that saw me not pursue that role (and the potentially amazing career change it would have thrown my way).

  9. Viki*

    #3, I’m assuming HR already knows due to benefits enrolment.

    Otherwise it’s just when it comes up, like what you did on the weekend. Or, if there’s an on camera meeting and there’s a kid in your background or could be heard in a call.

  10. Emmy Noether*

    #3: We had a very similar situation at work, the difference being that the candidate asked to change the full-time position to part-time at the offer stage. She did not get the job, because we needed someone full-time. But also, my bosses were sort of put off that she never mentioned the kid at all (I was not – I get why a candidate would want to keep that to themselves, even though I think it was a miscalculation in this particular instance). That said, I think if she had not asked for part-time and accepted the job, everyone would have just taken the eventual “revelation” in stride.

    1. MBK*

      Wow. Even the most inclusive and accommodating workplaces shouldn’t be expected to change the whole structure of the job at the offer stage. Especially considering how hard it often is on the hiring side to get a position’s title, status, grade, responsibilities, requirements, and compensation approved before the job even gets posted.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Interestingly, that wasn’t even the issue in our case. We’re small, and the owner could have just approved the change with very little bureaucracy (if I think about my BigCorp former employer though… yeah, no chance of that happening). It’s just that, well, there’s too much work for part-time!

        For another twist, we are in a place with VERY good worker protections and if she had asked for part time after the 6-month trial period, she almost certainly would have gotten it at that point.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I don’t think the issue here is really the kid: It’s that she tried to change the job halfway through, which wouldn’t be OK for any reason even if it weren’t kid-related.,

      3. BubbleTea*

        Depends on the organisation. I applied for a job advertised as full time, but I could only do four days. The advert made it clear they were very open to requests for flexible working arrangements (which is a legal right once you’ve worked somewhere for 26 weeks anyway). I actually ended up getting a sort of hybrid fusion of that job plus another one they had open at the time, which I job-shared with someone already employed by them. I still work there now, and have gone up to full time and back down to four days depending on my circumstances.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I can understand being put off because a candidate requested that a full time role be made part time for them at the offer stage, because the candidate ought to have been realistic about what they could or couldn’t do. That said, maybe the offer wasn’t high enough for the candidate to afford childcare – that could have been an issue.

      Being put off about not being told the person has children though – that’s inappropriate.

  11. Allonge*

    Hi LW2, if this helps, I would say the odds are pretty good that your boss continues with the invites partially because it feels awkward to ‘disinvite’ you after all this time and/or she thinks it’s a Horrible Thing to have to eat lunch alone.

    Go ahead and let her know you cannot join / would prefer to have a break! It really is ok.

    1. MsClaw*

      As Alison suggested, it might be worth occasionally joining your boss for lunch. Figure out what frequency works for you — weekly? monthly? quarterly? It’s probably a good exchange of 30 minutes of your time once in a while to foster a convivial relationship with your boss.

      I really really don’t like forced socialization and beg off on nearly every party/happy hour/get-together. But even I will put in an appearance at a few lunches per year.

    2. Artemesia*

      yeah problem is how to gracefully end this without making a thing. I would have a bunch of conflicts so you can ease out of it and not be available more than once a week after that. She may be as stuck as you are in this. So – have a family call and then a book to finish etc and make the fait accompli ‘not being available for lunch.’ Then it will be easy to slowly move it to once every week or two or once a month without having to say ‘I don’t want to eat lunch with you.’

  12. VivaVendetta*

    #5: I’m in the UK, one month’s notice is a pretty standard notice period here. For more senior roles, 3 months is the norm. 2 weeks just doesn’t seem long enough to get everything wrapped up!

    1. Sc@rlettNZ*

      Yup, here in NZ one month is common. My partner’s notice period is six months (notice periods, along with a multitude of other conditions are clearly spelt out in employment contracts). It depends on the circumstances but it’s not uncommon for an employer to agree to a shorter notice period.

    2. Marion Ravenwood*

      Also in the UK here. I think it is doable (I know a few people who gave their month’s notice but also had a couple of weeks of holiday to take, so just took the holiday at the end of their notice period and were only actually working for two or three weeks), but depending how much there is going on it can be tricky and might end up working longer hours to finish it all.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      You don’t generally wrap up your work in a two week notice period – it’s more a matter of documentation and handing over what you’re working on.

    4. The Dogman*

      It is not LW#5’s responsibility to “wrap” anything up.

      This is the USA, they owe ZERO loyalty to the company.

      The only thing to consider is how LW has been treated (poorly and inadequately) and if leaving with no notice would harm a reference.

      Seems she won’t want this reference in future (she is not be able to trust her boss, so she should consider this a dead or unhelpful reference anyway I think) so she should just give 2 weeks and if they argue quit on the spot.

      She owes them nothing… Not a single scrap of consideration.

      Odd how we the plebs are supposed to offer 4 weeks, or 6 months notice, when, if the corporation wanted to “downsize” we would be fired immediately, with no notice at all.

      1. allathian*

        In environments where employment contracts are the norm, an employer that wants to downsize is usually required to give at least as much notice as an employee who quits, but in some cases, including mine, the notice period for downsizing is twice as long as for the employee quitting. The employer isn’t required to give work to the employees they’re downsizing, but they are required to pay them their full salary for that period. These rules don’t apply to temporary furloughs, though.

        1. FrozenPeas*

          That’s exactly how it’s set up where I work (in the UK) My notice period is 3 months, but if my role were to be made redundant, they’d be required to give me 6 months’ notice. During those 6 months I’d receive full pay and all benefits I’m entitled to.

          1. new*

            Say it louder for the folks in the back. In 42 years, I’ve never given more than two weeks notice.

        2. The Dogman*

          “In environments where employment contracts are the norm”

          Quite rightly so.

          But the LW is in the USA, which is mostly unprotected, even with contracts, so I recommend zero loyalty and zero consideration when LW’s boss has blocked personal development like this.

          She should job hunt, find a start date that works for her, then tell her current company she is leaving in X days, if they argue she should make it immediate and walk.

      2. OP5*

        Just to clarify, I’ve generally been treated well at the job but I know that doesn’t mean I owe them more than the norm. I mostly want to leave due to a culture misfit.

    5. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I agree that a fortnight is nothing.

      But since LW is working within a culture where two weeks’ notice is standard then she’s right to question whether deviating from that standard is likely to disadvantage her. If she’s a unicorn, they’ll wait – but maybe it’s a competitive field and the runner-up is just as good. The tipping point could just as likely be “can start in two weeks/can’t start until March” rather than “scored 98% on our internal measure/scored 97%”.

    6. MsSolo (UK)*

      My understanding is that the standard notice period in different countries is related to the standard pay period – I assume in the past it was much more complicated to calculate final pay? So in the US it’s more common to be paid fortnightly, so notice is a fortnight, whereas in the UK it’s a month/four weeks.

      (what I’ve always wondered, and is a complete tangent, is whether rent and bills works the same way – rent etc are monthly here, and notice on leaving a house is calculated in months, but I get the impression from US TV that fortnightly is more common for rent as well? Which would track with the pay periods)

      1. Doreen*

        Rent and most other bills are usually monthly in the US as well. There are some situations where rent is paid weekly – it’s sometimes the case when a person is renting a single room rather than an apartment.

      2. Amira*

        Rent is monthly here as well! I’ve never had a fortnightly rent payment in the US.

        Interestingly, the norm is usually a month to three months notice when you intend to end your lease as a renter. And most places, the landlord also has to give you a month or so’s notice if you’re evicted, depending on your local laws. It’s incredibly rare to work under a contract as appears to be the norm in the UK. (Our housing protections are stronger than our worker’s protections, in many places.)

        1. Clisby*

          Where I live, a LOT of rentals are to college students, typically running Aug. 1 – July 1. It’s really common for landlords/property management companies to require students to decide by late January whether to re-sign a lease for the next year. If you don’t, of course you can stay through the end of the current lease period, but the landlord also would start advertising and showing the rental.

        2. Le Sigh*

          The eviction thing really varies by city and sate in the U.S. (and a good reason to check your local laws!). The last few places I’ve lived had laws requiring 90 days notice to evict. But I’ve also lived in cities/states where they only had to give two weeks notice (at least legally, though I’m sure some landlords just use 30 days). Often the places with two-week requirements were also not very friendly or concerned with tenant rights.

      3. goducks*

        Pay periods in the US are commonly weekly, biweekly or monthly. All three are very common and are conpletely based on employer preference.
        Rents in the US are almost always paid monthly.
        There is no relationship between pay cycles and rents, they are two separate things in the US.

        1. LooLoo*

          It’s not entirely based on employer preference. Some states’ laws require employees to be paid at least biweekly.

    7. Batgirl*

      Yes, but our standard notice period usually goes along with a contracted job and firing rules that require three warnings and an opportunity to improve. I think it’s a bit cheeky to ask for so long when you are somewhere that’s at-will employment and where her next job probably has a two week notice culture. Her bosses could get rid of her on a whim, but she has to tip them off a month before? While also finding it a struggle to meet her next job’s start date? I wouldn’t.

    8. Nikki*

      Yes, but in the UK employment contracts are common and include protections for workers, like a notice period before the employer can lay off the employee.

      In the US contracts are very rare and employers can literally lay off employees on any random day. No notice is required. So the cultural norm for employees to give two weeks’ notice before leaving is already skewed in favor of employers. In fact, it’s not uncommon for employees to give notice and then be laid off by the company that same day. They miss out on two weeks’ worth of wages and it can be a hardship for people.

      It’s unreasonable for employers in the US to expect longer notice periods without providing some level of job security for the employee.

  13. Bamcheeks*

    such as when they asked how I like to spend my free time outside of work

    I know it’s more likely to come up in a longer recruitment process that has some informal stages, but OP’s concerns are a great example of why this shouldn’t be asked during hiring. It raises all sorts of equality and diversity issues.

    1. mreasy*

      I agree – it gives the opportunity for the candidate to share class signifiers of being in the “in group” (expensive hobbies like skiiing or equestrian) and is simply not germane to any role.

    2. BethDH*

      I’ve actually seen an increase in candidates asking some of these questions rather than the hiring committees. It started before Covid, though in my highly anecdotal experience that’s accelerated the trend.
      We do specifically try to make space for candidates to ask that, and to give them time just with potential coworkers. When I was interviewing there was also a call with an HR person who was specifically not part of the decision process for hiring in any other way — kind of like a hiring ombudsman — to talk about the standard package in ways that might reveal personal details. They did this before the offer because the final stage of interviews required travel and time (academic-adjacent org) so they didn’t want people to feel like they’d wasted time if the salary or benefits were deal-breakers.

  14. Despachito*

    OP 1, if I was invited to a sauna, I’d have to refuse – I tried several times and always ended with a bad headache (perhaps because of low blood pressure?) So I’d be free of the dilemma because I know I’d just not be able to do it. Same for people with heart problems.

    I think there can be a lot of reasons not to be able to go to sauna, and nothing of them is to be ashamed of. I’d think if you thank for the invitation and say “sauna is not for me but thanks, looking forward to seeing you on …” you’d be fine.

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      I’m with you. Sauna is NOT my thing, for the simple reason that sitting in a hot little enclosed space and sweating like a horse sounds like something akin to tortureto me. The very idea of deliberately making myself get that hot is a huge, gigantic turnoff to me. I know some find it pleasurable, but I honestly can’t imagine how it could be. Different strokes for different folks, obviously!

    2. Alice Watsom*

      I have a similar problem with steam rooms. The dry heat of a sauna is fine for me but with the hot moist air in a steam room I couldn’t breathe and was left gasping after less then 5 minutes. I went back to see if it was a fluke but it happened again so I have them up.
      A simple “no thanks it’s not really my thing” from OP should be fine but if they’re worried begging off for medical/comfort reasons should work too.

  15. JustFinnished*

    #1 As a Finn, it is totally okay to skip if you don’t feel comfortable. If any of your female coworkers gives you grief about it or tries to convince you, you can just allude to being on your period that day. These sauna events usually include a bit of drinking and Finns might think you just need some encouragement.

    Although I am obligated to say sauna is a great experience if you ever find yourself in the right company!

    1. my cat steals socks*

      If someone wants an excuse not to go to a sauna in case of peer pressure – which absolutely shouldn’t happen, and Finns typically understand why other nationalities might not want to participate, but I guess theres potential jerks in every country – and doesn’t want to bring out periods either, sauna can give people headaches likes Despachito says, make people feel dizzy, cause skin reactions, or just generally make you feel tired (most of these are often caused by dehydration – remember to drink water!).

      Also being on your periods doesn’t automatically prevent going to the sauna, so theres a slight chance that a period excuse might start a conversation some might find too intimate/uncomfortable.

      Sauna has a lot of health benefits and personally I love it but rarely go because my dry atopic skin can get irritated and, depending on the sauna, it can be really bad for my asthma even though a well build and ventilated sauna can really help asthma.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        All that heat is very bad for those with poor circulation. I nearly passed out, I felt like my blood had stopped moving and needed help getting up just to get out of there.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Or you could just say no thanks. Why make stuff up at all? You don’t need an excuse note from your mom, it’s not elementary school.

      1. my cat steals socks*

        Some cultures, like mine, find white lies more polite both as the invitee and the inviter than saying only no thanks, that might one reason why others suggest them. Especially if the networking part is something OP wants to participate in, from my perspective white lie might make it less awkward to participate other potential activities – dinner, drinks? – that usually are included in a sauna invite, while skipping the actual bathing in sauna part.

        But I agree, OP can definitely say just no thanks! Everyone should understand sauna is not for all without explanations.

        1. RagingADHD*

          We must have a lot of cultural differences if telling people you’re on your period is LESS awkward than saying no thank you.

          That’s just entirely backwards, to me.

          1. Olivia Oil*

            I mean, cultural differences are a thing. In this specific context, we are talking about a culture where people network without clothes on. Using “I have my period” is probably not as weird here as it would be if she were backing out of happy hour.

            To be clear, it does sound like in this specific context, just saying “no thank you will suffice” since a lot of commenters have chimed in saying so. But there are a lot of cultures/communities (I’m from one) where just saying no without a white lie to soften it up would be considered rude. Not all cultures are the same.

            1. RagingADHD*

              Yes, that’s exactly what I was remarking on. They are very different. Why are repeating what I already said, but scoldy?

              1. Olivia Oil*

                I guess what I mean in my comment is that I disagree that it the cultural difference is “backwards”. I just think it’s different, but not in a backwards way.

  16. Fried Eggs*

    My company just did a ton of hiring. Here’s how I found out about some of my new coworkers’ kids:
    – (On a Zoom call). “One sec, I’m just going to lock my office door so we don’t get interrupted if my five-year-old escapes from the babysitter.”
    – (In a conversation about COVID) “My kids are back at school now, which is both relieving and epidemiologically terrifying.”
    – (After finding a sled remarkably quickly for a team-building scavenger hunt on Zoom) “Haha, I have it hidden in here. It’s a Christmas present for my son.”
    – (New boss introducing herself to the team). “I’m originally from ____, but I’ve been living in ___ now for three years with my husband and two teenage daughters. I’ve been working in ____ for X years, most recently at _____, and before that I was at _____ doing _____ [etc.]… “

    1. damp*

      A customer on a touch-base call last week, responding to a generic how-are-you query: “Good, except my toddler just urinated on me.”

  17. Crystal Blue Persuasion*

    I was taught that the length of notice was related to pay cycle. If you are an hourly employee and get paid every two weeks, give two weeks notice. If you are salaried and paid monthly, give a month.
    When I started at my current company, there was a project wrapping up at my old job that I really wanted to see go live, so I gave 4 weeks notice.
    My new employer didn’t mind, and my old one was grateful! This, obviously, was a situation I was leaving for growth, not because it was a crappy environment.

    1. anonymous73*

      Standard is 2 weeks regardless of pay cycle. There are exceptions in some industries, but the bottom line is that they can’t force you to stay. In fact, you could walk out today. You may burn bridges, but in most cases, it’s not realistic to expect a new job to wait a month or more for you to be able to start.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nope, two weeks notice is standard in the U.S. regardless of pay cycle. There are some jobs/fields where the norm might be to give more but it’s not because of pay cycle. (Also, whether you’re hourly or salaried isn’t usually correlated to pay frequency, except in states with legal requirements that way.)

    3. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      I’ve never heard of this before, at least in Canada. Besides, not all salaried employees are paid monthly, nor are all hourly employees paid bi-weekly.

      If you stop working at an employer mid-way through a pay period, they usually just mail or direct deposit your last few days’ pay or prorated salary whenever the next pay date is.

  18. Nikki*

    I feel like LW3 is really overthinking this. I’ve never mentioned my kids during an interview. I’d rather focus more on my qualifications for the job and less on other things whenever possible. Interviewers are not looking to learn every single piece of information about you during an interview so it’s not weird when they learn additional information as they get to know you once you’ve started the new job. During my most recent job search, I only mentioned my kids during the offer stage because I was still pumping and needed to make sure they could provide me accommodations and time throughout the day to pump. Even then, my new boss didn’t feel betrayed. We talked about what I needed and it was a non issue.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Agreed, as a hiring manager I try to take time out of the first post-start meeting with new employees to ask the more ‘get to know you’ type questions, that aren’t relevant for an interview.

      “Are you from the area originally?”
      “Are you married? Have kids? Have pets?”
      “Involved in any hobbies?”

      I promise I don’t do this in a rapid fire format, but I do like to take a little time to get to know someone, while also giving similar information about myself. It would be similar to the conversation you would have if taking a new employee/being taken by boss first day lunch kind of conversation.

    2. BubbleTea*

      I’m intrigued by the statement that they’d definitely be surprised. I’d love to know why she is so sure!

    3. Gumby*

      Yeah, I think it is one of those people aren’t actually paying as much attention to you as you think they are (see also: no one notices if you wear the same pants twice in a week). LW spent the whole interview process carefully wording things to hide but not lie about her parental status and so it seems like this huge omission. But the interviewers? They weren’t thinking about parental status at all. They have no preconceived ideas about whether LW has kids or not. The carefully vague or misleading answers were just… answers to them.

  19. I should really pick a name*

    LW#1 a few thoughts:

    1. First and foremost, you always have the option to pass on this.
    2. If they tell you that wearing a swimsuit is an option, believe them. You work for an international company. They know that cultural norms about nudity vary.
    3. Consider trying it. You’d be surprised how quickly it starts feeling normal. People who are comfortable with nudity are used to seeing all kinds of body shapes. You might find it feels really nice.

    1. IWantToGoToThere*

      LW1 may not want to participate in a nude sauna even if they can wear a swimsuit/towel. My first thought when reading their letter was, “Well sure, my coworkers wouldn’t have to see me naked if I wear a swimsuit… but I would still have to see them naked!” Some people may be comfortable in that situation, but I would guess the LW doesn’t want to see their coworkers naked. Even if they themselves can be clothed.

  20. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP2: I never eat in front of other people. I prefer to spend my lunch breaks sewing.
    My boss has invited me out to lunch or dinner on a couple of occasions but it’s generally stopped when I told her that I can’t eat at lunchtime (which is true, I rarely eat anything but dinner).
    We’ve arranged an alternative a couple of times – we go out for a cup of tea during Friday afternoons when our workload isn’t as high and it doesn’t count as a lunch break.

  21. Delta Delta*

    #3 – Someone having kids is just another fact about that person. It’ll likely come up organically. Since having kids is a common experience, it seems pretty unlikely that anyone will have a thought other than, “oh, Jane has kids.” Sort of like “Jane is left handed” or “Jane ate a salad for lunch.”

    #5 – Because I can’t stop being a lawyer, I noticed your letter said “should” give 4 weeks’ notice. “Should” doesn’t mean “must.” Seems like the spirit of the long notice period is probably to ensure ongoing coverage or a transition, which are perfectly reasonable things for a business to want when someone leaves. And I suppose while they could fire someone for giving inadequate notice, that seems sort of at odds with a sufficient transition period.

    1. anonymous73*

      I noticed “should” as well, but legally even if the handbook said “must” is it actually enforceable?

      1. Antilles*

        If it was part of a full employment contract, then sure. Such contracts also include clear commitments for them to employ you for that period of time and procedures for ending the contract and etc. So a required notice period fits right in.
        However, if it’s just a single line in the employee handbook for an employee who’s otherwise the usual at-will? Very unlikely. Especially since the employee handbook (and/or other company employment paperwork) also explicitly states that the employment is at-will and can be stopped at any time, so it’d be a clear contradiction.

    2. OP5*

      Verbatim from the handbook:
      If you are an exempt employee and wish to end your employment with Llama Groomers Inc, you are asked to give four weeks advance notice.

      1. Delta Delta*

        Consult with an employment attorney in your jurisdiction about whether this constitutes a contract or not if you are concerned. the language feels vague to me, but you should get actual on-the-ground advice from someone who can give that in your jurisdiction.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No need — that language is not legally binding. Nor would it probably be if it said “should,” unless there were some other binding things in play.

      2. Irish girl*

        you can be “asked” to do things but what is holding you to the 4 weeks if you are no longer an employee? What is the worst that they could do? Ask you to leave the day you give your notice? Not give you a reference? Or do give you a reference and say i didnt like how much notice they gave me?

      3. Generic Name*

        Tell a white lie and say that your new company “asked” you to start sooner. I don’t think an employee handbook is the legal equivalent of an employment contract.

        1. OyHiOh*

          Most employee handbooks that I’ve seen come with a page that uses language to the effect of “the receipt of this handbook does not constitute a contract of employment” and even when they don’t have that language, it’s generally understood that the handbook is for the good order of the workplace, not a contract.

      4. Rusty Shackelford*

        “Asked” means you can say no. And even if they said “required,” it doesn’t sound like a legally binding contract.

  22. Lizy*

    Not to hijack #3, but how would I “introduce” a kid that’s no longer a part of my family? I recently started a new (fully remote) job, and while my coworkers know I have younger kids, I’ve avoided bringing up the oldest because he doesn’t live with us (but should – long story). But I want to feel camaraderie with my new coworkers, and say “oh yeah teenagers are the worst” (or whatever). I suppose I could say “oh yeah my oldest doesn’t live with us” but it just feels so… lame.

    1. Esmeralda*

      “oh yeah my oldest doesn’t live with us” followed by quick change of subject, optimally something you know the other person loves to talk about (how’s house-hunting going? sounds like you’re running a kid chauffeur service! did you get a chance to go hiking this past weekend?)

      Anyone asks further questions: Oh, it’s complicated. [then change the subject]

      Check out captain awkward for good scripts.

      1. AnonMom*

        Yeah, “oldest lives with the other set of parents/at college/studies abroad/with their partner” seems entirely normal and not at all lame.

    2. Me*

      I promise it only feels lame to you. Most people will just assume he lives with another parent. It’s so common with blended families and such, Some might ask out of curiosity, so you may want to have a standard response that you’re comfortable with.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      Since you’re asking, I assume it’s not the extremely common “he lives with his other parent,” but if you don’t act like it’s odd that he doesn’t live with you, the people you’re talking to might not even pick up on it, though they could make the assumption and ask more questions in a small talk kind of way.

      You could also say “he’s moved out” and let the listener assume he’s maybe a bit older than he is in reality and graduated high school and moved out to start his own life.

      I’d recommend that you pick one misdirection, speak about him when it comes naturally, and if anyone asks where he is just lean into that misdirection with vague statements. Depending on what you say, you don’t even have to talk about where he lives. I assume your colleagues don;t get a run down on where everyone is in your family. A teenager would much less likely to disrupt a WFH routine and appear on camera than younger kids.

      IDK. I work from home and we don’t get into extremely personal discussions so for me or my coworkers we could be super vague without drawing any attention.

      TL;DR I think you’re overthinking because on your own embarrassment about the situation. None of your coworkers are giving it a thought.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      People are pretty used to the idea of kids moving out for whatever reason. I think you can just say your oldest is out and on their own–even if the reality is not entirely happy it’s a normal enough concept that people won’t ask (unless they’re absurdly nosy).

    5. Generic Name*

      I know there’s a lot of emotion associated with the situation with your oldest, but it’s common to hear, “I have x kids, the oldest is out of the house” or “I have 2 grown children”, etc. I think it would be rude and invasive to grill you for details, honestly.

    6. I'm just here for the cats*

      You could say “I remember the preteen phase with my oldest.”

      It sounds like it might be a sore subject but if you mention him and someone says that they didn’t know you have an older son you could say something like “He lives with X now.” If they pry you just change the subjects. But a decent person wont pry. Heck, even if it’s not a sore subject this can happen. Like maybe there’s a specialized school for the kid in X city and state and so the kid lives with another parent there.

      I had a coworker and I didn’t know she had 2 teenagers. I had only met her youngest. Turns out their was a custody battle or something for a very long time and so they were with their father (her ex) and it wasn’t until a few years later when they came trick or treating that I realized she had older kids!

  23. fellowfinn*

    hei hei! No need to feel awkward in the sauna. Because everyone is naked noone has any rank either, everyone is equal. Wear a bathing suit if you’d like, no big deal.

    1. Beany*

      I suppose that kind of makes sense if you work in a profession where clothes indicate rank/hierarchy — like the military.

      But in most professions, people’s clothes *don’t* tell you anything about their job rank. And if you already know they’re your manager or subordinate, seeing them naked isn’t going to change that — just add a layer of awkwardness (for me, anyway).

  24. anonymous73*

    #2 – I would keep it vague. “I appreciate the invitation, but I prefer to eat lunch alone and decompress.” You don’t need to mention specific things you like to do. Any reasonable person would not take offense to this request. The last time I worked in a big office, I had several office friends. Most days I did my own thing. Some days I would invite others, but most of the time I was alone. Nobody got bent out of shape because of it.

    1. kiki*

      Yes! I often prefer to eat meals alone and well-meaning, friendly people see me and think, “Oh! She must be lonely! I will join her!” Once I explain I like the time alone to decompress, everyone has always understood and took no issue with it.

  25. AndersonDarling*

    #4 I’ve learned that when managers talk about “Lot’s of opportunities to grow within the company” that it’s just a speech they have been trained to recite. If you’re the manager’s favorite, then you get the one-on-one training, classes, networking, and promotional opportunities. If you don’t catch your manager’s eye, then you are on your own.
    I had a manager tell me “Those opportunities aren’t for people like you.” It was 15 years ago and it still burns. OP, if you want to move up, you will have to advocate for yourself. If you feel you are ready, then apply for transfers. If those transfers don’t materialize, then start looking for opportunities at a company that will appreciate you.
    A manager that doesn’t support you is pretty much holding you back. And that’s not the place for you. You deserve better.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      It sounds like you’ve had some bad experiences, and that’s really too bad. But it’s a little unfair to paint all managers with the same brush. I bet if you’d ask the question here you’d get a lot of positive responses (well as much as one would get on the internet, since usually there’s a bias towards negative experiences) of people who have either supported their employees or employees who have been encouraged and supported by their managers.

      For sure crappy managers exist, as do crappy employees. Most, however fall into the neutral to good category.

      I do agree with your advice to continue to look for opportunities either internal or external, all employees should be doing this

      1. Olivia Oil*

        There are definitely good managers out there. But it’s worth highlighting that managers are structurally incentivized to look out for themselves and the company before they are to help employees. I feel like because of this, managers helping employees is more an exception than the rule. They will do it if they are a sympathetic person and it won’t directly harm their interests.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          I see your point about there not being an incentive, but a good hiring manager will know that there is an incentive to supporting internal transfers and promotions.

          For Example;
          -If I don’t support my team, then it’s unlikely I will be able to attract internal applicants.
          -Turnover on a team is healthy. It’s an opportunity for me to bring in new and different skills and experience.
          -If I have an employee leave my department but stay with the company, I get to have a longer and easier transition
          -My team and the company don’t lose the institutional knowledge

          Now sometimes the stars don’t align and these things don’t work out even with an internal transfer, but for the most part they hold true.

          Now I’ve been blasted in the comments before about my thoughts on supporting employees who leave the company. In that I’ll wish them well as they leave, but under normal circumstances I wouldn’t help an employee leave the company (as in being a reference or help them network). Because, yes, in that case, it significantly reduces any potential upside.

          In other words it’s to my benefit to keep employees in the company vs. losing them. So it makes sense to support them internally.

          1. Olivia Oil*

            Right, but your comment supports what I said that managers will only do it as it benefits *them*, not the employee. Hence, why you wouldn’t help and employee leave the company, because that would only benefit them and not you. Sometimes it works out that the employees professional development interests overlaps with what managers calculate as beneficial to them, but not always.

            Basically, the takeaway message for OP4 is, go after the opportunities you want regardless of whether a manager approves of them (and you can stay employed of course.)

    2. Olivia Oil*

      Yep this. Don’t rely on a manager for professional development. If they support you, great. But you deserve to grow, regardless.

  26. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    LW3, if I was one of the people who interviewed you, I would probably just assume that if you had mentioned children *I* forgot or mixed your backstory/small-talk up with another candidate. Remember, if this was a long drawn out process of an interview, you weren’t the only candidate, so the hiring team had contact with multiple people doing similar/the same things as they did with you. That’s a lot of conversations to sift through/retain.

    1. Olivia Oil*

      Yep – this. A normal company shouldn’t even care whether you have children in the interview process. I’m pretty sure they aren’t supposed to ask and there is no reason it should come up.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yeah, unless you specifically said “That won’t be a problem since I don’t have kids,” or something along those lines, I don’t think anyone is going to be surprised.

    3. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I was just on an interview panel last week and I don’t know if any of the candidates have children — it’s just not a thing that came up. 4 months from now if you asked me if children came up, I’d probably only remember that my *own* kid interrupted an interview at one point (hooray covid exposure and toddlers home from daycare). Learning about a new hire having kids is the same to me as learning that they are really into kayaking or they play the violin — it’s interesting information that may or may not give us something more to chat about.

  27. Not Your Secretary*

    LW #2, I’ll add on to Alison’s recommendations to say I think it would also be fine to say that you use lunch as a brain-break from [second language] and would probably work long term, if your office is the type to treat reading as ‘antisocial’ (like several of mine have been). If you boss has any language training, even very basic, she probably understands the strain that speaking in a second language all day can be!

    1. MissMeghan*

      I agree. I don’t see an issue with politely saying that while you enjoy lunch with your boss, you like having a brain break at lunch by doing something (reading, calling family, or even just thinking) in your native language for a bit. I’ve never had to work all day in a non-native language, but I can imagine how much more “on” you have to be and would understand wanting to use lunch break as a time to relax from that.

  28. Mrs. Peaches*

    LW #5 – Explaining that you want to respect your employer’s policy and make their transition as smooth as possible reflects well on you, especially if the hiring manager has just been burned by an employee who left them in a lurch. Wait to bring it up until you receive an offer though.

  29. low low low blood pressure*

    #1: I have a health condition that means if I get overheated, even a little, I pass out. A sauna would render me quickly unconscious and have repercussions from the stress on my body for several days. If needed you can always trot out the “unnamed health condition” that makes saunas off the table for you, if it helps.

    1. Rolly*

      ‘If needed you can always trot out the “unnamed health condition” that makes saunas off the table for you, if it helps.’

      Please don’t recommend people start playing games like this. The offer seems to be made ii good faith by people who know others may not be comfortable with it. The OP should just decline as AAM recommended, and not make up a fake (for them) health excuse to not participate.

      1. Rolly*

        Also, people making up fake (for them) health conditions undermines the belief/support that people who *actually* have health conditions need. Not good.

        1. kitryan*

          I’m normally very much against the ‘say it’s an allergy’ type approach for this reason, but in this sort of situation, there’s options that are very low key that could be used that I think could be fine. For example, sometimes saunas actually make me a bit queasy and/or dizzy. Sometimes it’s fine. I don’t have any particular condition I’m aware of that causes this for me, but if I were invited and wanted a gentle excuse, I’d probably use that and I don’t think I’d be hurting anyone by doing so and I don’t think anyone who maybe didn’t actually get queasy or dizzy using that excuse would damage me or anyone else.
          Sure, don’t weave a web of lies like in a sitcom plot or anything but saying that saunas seem to make you queasy or the steam makes you cough or something else innocuous seems fine.

      2. Olivia Oil*

        I don’t see what the big deal is unless the person inviting them starts a stealth investigation into whether OP would be lying or not. I agree that most likely, no excuse is needed to turn down the invite. But people have been using the vague “I don’t feel well/I won’t feel well” excuse since the beginning of time.

        1. Rolly*

          Several things:

          1. It might come up again and you have remember lies, like “I have a health condition.”

          “I don’t feel well “is more transitory, so less problematic. But even so, a couple days after the sauna if someone asks the OP “How are you feeling” and they say “Fine, why do you ask?” that’s not good. Lies require remembering.

          2. This sort of faking undermines support/belief for people who actually have health conditions.

          3. It’s lazy – lying about something in which the people asking are being open and understanding about it not being everyone’s cup of tea. Come on. Most people should practice being more frank (especially people here – so much hesitancy about speaking up), and telling the truth for this sauna thing is an easy place to do so.

    2. Dancing Otter*

      It doesn’t have to be a “health condition.” I don’t deal well with extreme temperatures, and I doubt I’d last five minutes in a sauna. Been that way since I was 17, well before any medical issues or medications. There’s no need to embroider the truth.
      Of course, I wouldn’t actually come out and *say* that it seems like a foretaste of hell, even if it does.

  30. Butterfly Counter*


    I think if you’re going to follow Alison’s advice and try to have lunch with her every couple of months, it might make sense for YOU to ask her to have lunch about a week in advance. That way you set the precedent of controlling when it is you feel able to take this lunch and signal that this is something that you like to have planned well in advance and not something spontaneous that she should just keep asking you about daily.

    1. Marion Ravenwood*

      OP booking the lunches in on her and boss’s email calendars might also work for this, as well as adding the aspect of not having to remember to ask – just send, say, a batch of invites for the year in one go and then it’s done.

  31. Spreadsheets and Books*

    #5 – I worked at a job like that, too. And I didn’t find out until *after* I put in my two weeks’ notice because for all the turnover that happened in the 2.5 years I worked there, no one ever gave more than two weeks. And HR never cared. However, since I happened to give notice at the same time as two other people, they decided to make it A THING with me. When I brought it up at my exit interview, they literally said that they usually let it slide but because my giving two weeks was inconvenient, they were going to be mad about it.

    At the end of the day, the whined and yelled at me for a while but still paid out my vacation and I have plenty of references among my old coworkers if needed. With US employment laws as they are, sometimes, you need to do you.

  32. PrairieEffingDawn*

    #3 I completely understand not wanting to be discriminated against because you have kids, but because of that I think it’s actually better to drop a mention of kids in the interview process. If the mention of my family would hurt my chances of getting hired, I would never want to be hired by that company in the first place.

    1. Daisy Gamgee*

      On the one hand I applaud your pushing back against bias in this way. But on the other not everyone can afford to.

      1. PrairieEffingDawn*

        Completely agree that not everyone has the luxury of choice in a job search. Personally though, being at a company that isn’t family first would make it impossible for me to work as the mom of a young, medically complicated child. So it’s not only about pushing back against bias.

  33. Minerva*

    LW 3’s question make me sad. She’s right that discrimination against women with kids is still very much *a thing* but it sucks that for even a second she feels weird about disclosing this after getting the job.

    I hate that any fully grown adult has to somehow feel that speaking about the fact that they have a family is uncomfortable or taboo. I mean…most people have families and work to support them on some level! But I get why she feels that way.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      For single mothers it is even trickier. There is a whole lot of judgement about how one ended up being single with a kid and WAY too much curiosity about the paternity of the kids if the single mother is not white and not middle class, especially if there are multiple children. Single fathers raising their kids alone get accolades, single mothers get condemnation unless they are widows.

  34. RagingADHD*

    #1 An invitation is not a command. You can politely say “no thank you.”

    #2 An invitation is not a command. You can politely say “no thank you.”

    #3 Being a parent is not a shocking revelation. If your coworkers are more than mildly, temporarily surprised, then you have somehow stumbled through a wormhole to bizarro world and should watch for further red flags and plan your exit.

    #4 They asked you to let them know. So let them know, and then go apply anyway. Perhaps they don’t feel there’s anything to discuss (or anything urgent enough to make time for) until you actually take action.

    #5 A request is not a command. The wording you posted in a reply “are asked to give” is not binding language. Binding terms say things like “required,” “must,” “shall,” or “I agree to.” You can politely give whatever notice suits you. People are generally more inclined to go along with things if you use the word “because” and give some kind of reason. Doesn’t have to be a highly detailed argument or contain any new information, just something like “because of timing with the new job.”

    1. Beany*

      #3: yeah, it’s interesting that LW3 said “Believe me when I say they will be *very* surprised.” It makes me wonder whether this is an unusual profession/work environment (um … nuns?), or whether LW3 themselves presents as being unlikely to be a parent somehow.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I’m thinking that maybe the LW may have had kids very young, So it’s unusual to see a 25-year-old with a 10-year-old. Or she may be older and have very young kids (50 with a 3-year-old). Or she is working in a very conservative field/area where being a single mom still raises eyebrows.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        My guess is her accomplishments and education don’t fit with the stereotype of the type of person who becomes a “single mother”. There are some ugly notions around single parenthood outside of being widowed

  35. Olivia Oil*

    #3 – I don’t think this is a big deal? I don’t necessarily expect people/coworkers to disclose kids right away unless it comes up in conversation. The only specific circumstance it might be necessary is disclosing to HR if it makes logistical sense to include it in your paperwork or something (like on tax forms and health insurance documents). You were actually smart to not mention it in the interview process because it’s not relevant to whether or not you can do the job. It might be relevant if you need time off for pediatrician appointments or something but hopefully your work isn’t backwards about that. It is a new decade.

  36. Olivia Oil*

    #4: OMG I and others I know have gotten similar weird reactions regarding internal promotions or transfers in jobs before. I don’t understand the reason for this. If I’m under qualified or if the position is already spoken for, I feel like that information can be communicated in a normal manner without being awkward? But managers who have been communicating nonchalantly suddenly act cagey and upset when you bring up internal role changes. In my current role, I was really nervous to bring up professional development opportunities to my manager because of these experiences. Companies talk a big game about how they “care” about their employee’s growth but they really don’t give a damn.

  37. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    5. Employer requests four weeks of notice
    Sometimes I cannot believe the unmitigated gall of these employers who “demand” a month or more of notice. All the while enjoying the perks of At-Will employment if they want to fire you for no reason.

    In the US, you are not required to give ANY notice period. Period. This is what at-will employment means.
    It doesn’t matter how much employers piss and moan, you’re legally not required to give them any notice at all beyond “I Quit.” And they ought not to be legally able to penalize employees who leave immediately either by giving a bad reference just because someone had the temerity to quit. It pisses me off to no end they try, and still get away with this, and the American workforce puts up with it and doesn’t demand change.

    1. OP5*

      Yeah the fact that they specifically mention our at-will status in the termination section left a bad taste in my mouth.

    2. irene adler*

      If an employee is asked to provide an extended notice, shouldn’t there be some consideration -provided by the company- in exchange for this?

  38. the Viking Diva*

    Alison, you say, “That’s legal in states that leave vacation pay-out policies up to employers; some states do and some don’t.” Where would non-lawyers look to find out if their state has such a law? I’m imagining a state agency of some sort but wouldn’t know where to start.

    1. Texan In Exile*

      I can tell you that Wisconsin does not require employers to pay out unused vacation, no matter what. I have had two jobs, one with a F100 company, that do not pay out unused vacation. It is now a question I ask up front after a job offer: How do you handle unused vacation?

      Personally, I find it close to evil to not pay it out.

  39. Texan In Exile*

    I left a job I hated. HQ was in Australia (I am in the US) and their HR tried to tell me I had to give three months’ notice. It was in the employee handbook! they said.

    I shrugged and gave them two. Nothing happened to me other than I got to leave a toxic situation.

  40. Hot Springs*

    As someone who’s spent a good deal of time in Japan socializing in hot springs, I’d say why not give the sauna a chance. I was extremely hesitant to do hot springs at all in the beginning, but decided to throw myself into it when I was there on an internship, and I’m glad I did. The pools were separated by gender, so there was no awkwardness there. Being able to relax and enjoy a hot soak really changed my attitude about nudity overall – I was much more comfortable in a US gym locker room after that experience, and much less prudish in general. And by my fourth stint in Japan, I was going to the hot springs voluntarily with close friends who were also working as English teachers. At one point, we recognized that this is not something we’d ever be doing in our home countries, but that it was really nice. Japan isn’t free of any issues – they’ve more or less eliminated co-ed hot springs – but as far as workplace issues go, I didn’t encounter any.

    I’d also say feel free to skip, but just don’t make a big deal about it. If asked any questions, just smile and say saunas aren’t your thing. Or go and keep a swimsuit on.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      The pools were separated by gender, so there was no awkwardness there.

      I would feel very awkward around naked coworkers, even if they were my own gender. Also, that statement suggests awkwardness is due to sexual attraction, and ignores that not everyone in the workplace is heterosexual.

      1. Hot Springs*

        Ack, sorry about that poor wording and assumption, and thanks for pointing it out. I was definitely writing from my experience. I didn’t mean to offend.

        I still do think it’s worth thinking why nudity has to be awkward and uncomfortable.

  41. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Similar hat, LW1! I don’t disclose that I have a wife, not a husband, until I’ve been working at a job for a while. That said, I just accepted a federal position, where I can feel quite protected since gender discrimination was ruled to cover sexual orientation.

    For me, I have always let it by organically. Like “my wife and I went out for brunch last weekend, you should try the pancakes there! What did you do?”

  42. Alexis Rosay*

    OP3, the only reason I could think that they would be shocked you have kids would be if you are unusually young. Otherwise, I think people will find it normal–most people have kids at some point in their life, still more care for other family members in some way, and they should not expect you to mention it during a job interview.

  43. Empress Matilda*

    OP3, I’m sorry you feel like you can’t talk about your kids at work! I’m curious why you think your colleagues will be shocked to hear about them, though – it’s such an ordinary thing for people to have children.

    The only reasons I can think of for people to be shocked would be if you’ve been actively denying them (which you haven’t), or maybe if you’re super young. And even if you are super young, the reaction is likely to be “huh, that’s a bit unusual” – and hopefully most people will be professional enough to keep even that much reaction to themselves. I don’t picture anyone going “OMG can you believe OP3 has CHILDREN??!??”

    Of course you know your situation – and your colleagues – better than I do, and you might be absolutely right! But even so, I’d encourage you to gently question your assumption a bit. Why might they be shocked? How likely is it that they will be shocked? If they are shocked, what will they do, and what will be the actual impact of their reaction?

    Good luck, and enjoy your new job!

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I’m thinking it is less the having kids and more the having kids without having a partner. There can be some ugly assumptions made about women who have kids outside of a “normal” relationship, especially if that woman isn’t white, is from a poorer background, is young, or all of the above.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        You know, I didn’t think about that at all – sorry OP, it should have occurred to me! I still hope you’re wrong about your colleagues’ reaction, because in a perfect world we’d all be able to raise our kids the way we want to. In any case, I do hope they’re at least professional enough to keep their shock & awe to themselves when the time comes!

      2. Olivia Oil*

        This is definitely a question where some more context would have been helpful in understanding why it’s being asked and, consequently, how to respond. Single motherhood would not be seen as remotely weird in my workplace or in any of my social circles. A lot of my friends were raised by single moms. But I live in a city area and maybe that’s why? Does OP1 work in a really conservative place where non-traditional families are taboo?

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I’m guessing it might be location specific. I’m in one of the biggest metro areas in the US but the area is very conservative and very religious, despite being a big city. Here I could absolutely see having kids not being the biggest deal, but the assumption that those kids are from a marriage, and there might be some pearl clutching and other grossness once folks knew the LW not only wasn’t married to the father of the child, but never was and never intended to be. Doubly so if the LW isn’t white or had her kid(s) young. I could see it being very different in a less conservative and religious place.

  44. Gingersnap*

    LW #1, if you’re in the DC area and this is the Finnish embassy sauna, I’d definitely suggest going at least once to test your comfort level. I worked in DC for years and the embassy sauna invite was legendary and coveted. Apparently the networking is amazing. I never heard of anyone saying it was weird or awkward, just heard about how people wanted to get an invite.

  45. Observer*

    #3- Why is not divulging that you have kids a “lie”?

    The key here is going to be that you firmly get rid of that thought and treat this as one of the myriad personal items that generally are not brought up in an interview process, even if there are normal places for them to have come up. People don’t mention dietary restrictions even though they are likely to come up when discussing where to get lunch. Lots of people don’t mention relationship status. They might not mention parents or sibling either, especially if there is anything less than 100% typical involved in the relationship.

    The reality is the people are conditioned to NOT share a lot of personal details in the interview process, and this is especially true of whether one has children. The fact that you followed convention is not likely to raise any eyebrows.

  46. Database Developer Dude*

    If this is US based, the employer can request four YEARS of notice, nevermind four months….doesn’t mean two weeks isn’t standard, and if I were leaving an employer, I would (absent any PTO payout policy) ignore any requests for more than 2 weeks notice.

    If they were to fire you, they sure wouldn’t give YOU two weeks notice.

  47. Lobsterman*

    My experience is that the longer a notice period an employer asks for, the more intense the retaliation is. It’s not a 1:1 relationship, but it’s something to keep ears open for as colleagues move on for other opportunities.

  48. Anonymous Hippo*

    On #2, I told my boss, lunch is my break from work, and having it with my boss isn’t exactly a break. But I’m blunt like that. They teased me about it for a while, and we occasionally do have lunch together (or did before the pandemic) but I don’t have the awkwardness of having to turn it down every day.

  49. Armageddon Outta Here*

    I have a similar issue. In my case, my notice period is mandated by company policy, and I was obliged to assent to the policy, so if I leave the company before my notice period is up, I am subject to whatever legal sanction the company cares to bring to bear for a policy violation. Conversely, I consulted a labor lawyer on the grounds that I would like to get out sooner, and the lawyer indicated that as long as you work in an at-will state, the company cannot legally prevent you from quitting, but they can take legal action against you. If the company is motivated to do so, they could cost the resigning employee a lot of time, money, and stress fighting a lawsuit. “But they’d have to be real jerks,” quoth the lawyer.

    1. legal*

      If you didn’t sign a binding agreement, there’s no legal action for the company to take here. I’m guessing you signed something agreeing to be bound by this in exchange for some consideration toward you.

      1. Armageddon Outta Here*

        Hahahaha … no. The consideration is that they graciously allowed me to continue my employment after they unilaterally changed its terms.

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