stopping comments on weight loss before they start, angry rejected candidate, and more

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

1. Can I stop comments on my weight loss before they start?

I work for a nonprofit with about 100 staff, I am a slightly obese woman, and I’m taking a multi-week hiking trip this summer. Our latest anti-harassment training did include a “don’t talk about other people’s bodies” section, but I fear that I will have to deal with lots of triggering body talk when I return from my trip.

In the past I’ve had several run-ins with coworkers commenting on my body, particularly when I visibly lost weight due to severe, acute anxiety (read: they thought I looked great, I thought it was a sign to get help). One coworker in particular has commented multiple times on my weight, and once disagreed with me about whether or not I had a sunburn (I did not, but I was blushing by the end of the conversation). She is many rungs above me in a different department, but I see her in the hallway.

Is there anything I can do to stop the comments before they happen without coming off as a self-obsessed jerk?

I wish! You can do a lot to stop the comments as soon as they start (“Oh, I’d rather not discuss my weight” / “Oh, I’m trying to cut out weight talk” / etc.) but stopping it before it starts requires either (a) living in a different society where people don’t assume remarking on weight loss is always a welcome compliment or (b) sending out a message to your colleagues ahead of time asking them not to comment on it … which you theoretically could do but would be seen as pretty unusual and would make it a big deal in a way you probably don’t want.

That one coworker will probably require a firmer response, though, and with her I’d advise saying something like, “You’ve commented on my body a lot and I’m really not comfortable with it” or “Wow, you’ve commented on my body a lot! I’m invoking the don’t-talk-about-other-people’s-body section of our harassment training and would appreciate you respecting that.” (These are both a little softer than what’s warranted, but I’m assuming you’ll be more comfortable with these formulations than what she actually deserves to hear, particularly given the power difference.)

2. A candidate I rejected is making threats

I run a nonprofit in the urban core of the city where I live. I posted a job opening for a position that requires listening to our clients, making connections with them, and offering help by referring them to the resources they need. These resources often include mental health treatment, shelter and housing, helping them find treatment for substance use disorder, etc.

One candidate didn’t have experience doing this type of work but had volunteered with a similar population to those we serve. Because I know that degrees and certain qualifications aren’t always the best measure of a candidate, I invited him to a phone interview to discuss his interest and get a feel for any additional experiences he may have in working with this population. While he was very enthusiastic about our work, he was very salesman-like and I felt that he might not be the best fit working with people who need a patient listener. I told him I would be getting back to him in about 1-2 weeks as I had other candidates to speak with before scheduling face-to-face interviews later that month.

After one week, he sent me the following in an email: “I surmise that my degree, experience, and enthusiasm are no longer needed.” I waited an hour or so before responding to him, saying that I apologized for not meeting his timeline expectations and that his application would not be moving forward at this time. (Because cheese on crackers — who needs that kind of passive-aggressive drama in the workplace!!??) Later that night, I received another email from him saying that he would make sure to tell my nonprofit’s founding affiliated organization how disappointed he was with my handling of this.

Needless to say, I dodged a bullet and I’m glad to see that my gut was right in focusing on other candidates before deciding whether or not to invite this candidate for an in-person interview. That resume went straight from the “maybe” folder to the garbage can after this interaction. Now I’m left wondering if this is something I need to act on before rumors get to my board and possibly a supporting organization of ours if he goes to badmouth me. Do I even respond to this pushy candidate? Do I notify my board that there’s an unhappy candidate who might be badmouthing our org to other supporters?

His story of mistreatment is … what, that you didn’t get back to him after one week and then rejected him? It’s not going to sound like mistreatment to anyone who hears it!

Of course, the bigger concern is that he’ll tell the story differently — that you were rude to him, ghosted him unkindly, etc. But even then, I wouldn’t be terribly worried. Any candidate bitter at being rejected can do that without warning you first, and generally most people can tell that the level of vitriol people like this tend to use isn’t warranted by the circumstances. Moreover, your board and founding organization probably already know that dealing with the occasional unhinged candidate is a routine part of hiring and are unlikely to be alarmed. I don’t think you need to notify anyone about him proactively.

You don’t need to respond to him either, although if you want to there’s no harm in replying, “I apologize if we miscommunicated; my notes indicate that I told you I would be getting back to you in 1-2 weeks, so by March 1. Best of luck in your search.”

3. Can I ask the person who used to have the job I’ve been offered why they left?

I’ve been at my job for barely a month and a half, and I was just offered a promotion to a management-level position to replace an employee who just left. I’m fairly qualified but still feel weird about it since many other people have been in this position longer and probably deserve the job more. Because I’ve been here for such a short amount of time, I have no idea what this position is like, and I have no idea if she left for personal reasons or because the department is a shit-show. I’m hesitant to ask around since many of my coworkers have seniority and might be resentful that I got promoted so quickly. Would it be weird to email this former coworker and ask her what the position is like, since she no longer works for the department?

Nope, not weird at all! But in your email, ask for a phone call. Explain you’ve been offered the job and would be grateful to hear her experience with it, in confidence. Many people are willing say things on the phone that they wouldn’t be willing to put in an email.

You also can (and should) ask the person offering you the job about why they’re offering it to you rather than others in your position who have been there longer, what they think the dynamics are likely to be with the team, and why the previous person left.

4. How to accept an offer after a failed attempt to negotiate

I have a question about negotiating. If you get a job offer and try to negotiate the salary but are told that they can’t go any higher, and you want to accept the original offer, how do you say that without sounding like you were bluffing with your original negotiation attempt or that you’re “settling” for a salary you won’t be happy with? I’ve sometimes held off on asking for more money when I was happy with the original offer, mostly because I expected they might say the offer was firm and I wasn’t sure what I’d say at that point.

People accept offers all the time after being told the company can’t meet their request for a higher salary. It won’t look like you were bluffing, and as long as you don’t sound deeply disappointed you won’t sound like you’re reluctantly settling. I’d say it this way: “Thanks so much for considering it. I’m excited enough about the job that I’ll be happy to accept regardless.”

5. How do I tell interviewers I’ve quit the job I had when I applied?

I did the Thing You’re Not Supposed To Do and resigned without another job lined up. I was the sixth person on a team of eight to leave within 18 months and the third person to leave without another job lined up. It was affecting my health and I exercised enormous privilege and turned in my two weeks after reaching a breaking point last week.

I was interviewing with two companies when this happened, with follow-up interviews scheduled. When should I disclose the change in my status? I know this will be a huge red flag and I hope I’ll be able to talk about it productively. Should I send an email to the recruiter, bring it up in the second interview, or wait until I have an offer?

I received advice not to disclose at all, but that feels disingenuous to me and I worry what could happen if they found out later.

You don’t need to proactively announce it; you just need to not lie or be misleading if it comes up. So if you’re asked a question that leads to you talking about this most recent job, you shouldn’t talk about it in the present tense as if you’re still working there … which means that at that point you presumably would need to say something like, “I should mention that I recently decided to move on from that role and my last day there was a few weeks ago.” But say it matter-of-factly; don’t treat it like it will be a big red flag requiring much discussion, because it’s not.

Leaving a job without another lined up isn’t a Thing You’re Not Supposed To Do for any reason other than that in previous economies it was hard to know how long it would take to find another, and so interviewers were more likely to assume that people don’t quit jobs without another in place unless (a) they are about to be fired, (b) they were fired, or (c) they’re someone who overreacts when things are frustrating. But this is a different economy with different assumptions in play, and the pandemic itself has changed things too. You should expect to be asked why you decided to leave, but there are loads of people leaving their jobs right now, not always with the next thing lined up, and it’s not going to require the same amount of explanation as it might have previously.

{ 280 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric*

    #4, to make me feel more comfortable, I’ve done it so that I say something that is implicit accepting, without needing to use those words. Something like “when can I start”or something else that makes it clear I’m still willing to move forward.

    1. Laure001*

      I would make a joke about it, I think. “Aw, doesn’t matter, I’ll become a millionaire next time! Well, anyway, I am very excited about the job and … (etc)”

      1. Anon all day*

        I don’t think this is a good idea. I’d be pretty uncomfortable with that response and unsure of how to respond. It sounds like you weren’t negotiating in good faith and throwing out random high numbers, hoping to get a windfall.

        1. PB Bunny Watson*

          Eh, I think it depends on the person, the personality, and the job. Some people can get away with a joke like that, while others just simply cannot.

          1. Anon all day*

            Eh. I have a good sense of humor, and I’m good at making people laugh. I would never try this joke with my new employers who I’ve only met several times. It just seems like way too much of a risk to start the relationship this way.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      I have suggested to friends that a good way to start is to ask, “Is the salary negotiable?” That way, if they say that it’s not, you have not declared that you absolutely have to have $500,000 a year or you are storming out. You just asked a question. You then can move on to say something like, “thank you for letting me know. I will consider this offer and get back with you.”

      1. Mami21*

        I think that wording might make it a little too easy on the employer to just state no and end all hope of negotiations right there. I’d consider saying something more open ended, like that you were looking for something more in the range of x, and wait for the employer to come back with a reply.

        1. Snow Globe*

          As a hiring manager, if I heard that I wouldn’t just say no. I would interpret the question as the candidate was hoping for a higher offer, and if I had room to negotiate, I’d ask what they were hoping for. Saying ‘no’ when there is actually room for negotiation could end up with the candidate leaving, which you don’t want if you’ve decided to make an offer.

      2. BRR*

        I think that’s a bit too timid of an approach and feels kind of awkward. I think it would be better to just ask and if they say no and the salary is acceptable, accept and relay your enthusiasm for the position.

      3. Esmeralda*

        I’d be careful about that. Our salary offers have very little wiggle — if a candidate is offered the top of what we can offer, then the answer would be “no.”

        However. In January 2020 we offered the top to a candidate we wanted, and they asked for a chunk more. Not a huge amount, but above our max for that search. Well, the search had dragged on, we were going to have to hire anohter person at a lower level as well (= we were very understaffed and people were job searching), and we needed to hire someone yesterday. Hiring officer worked some sort of magic and got the money.

        So it’s worth asking for the salary boost. I wouldn’t even ask if it was negotiable. I would always assume you can ask for more.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, in my experience as the hiring manager making an offer and as a candidate receiving one, negotiating is not a big deal regardless of the outcome. The last time I was the candidate, it was kind of hilariously perfunctory on both sides — the person making the offer said “We’d like to offer you $X,” I said I was super excited about the job, but hoping for more like $X+15, they said, “How about $X+2?” I said great! This was all in one phone call.

          1. lb*

            i was taught to say something along the lines of “I was looking for X in terms of compensation. How can we bridge the gap?” in negotiations & it’s served me well multiple times.

          2. Cherith Ponsonby*

            That reminds me of a previous job where I went through a recruiter (who was lovely). I aced the interviews and the skill test, and the recruiter called me to say “Company wants to make you an offer of $X. I’m going to ask for $X+10 and they will come back with $X+5. How does that sound?”

            As it happens $X was a massive step up from my previous job, where they’d given me a five-figure raise during a salary freeze because I’d come in on a very low salary, so I was like “…sounds great!”

    3. After 33 years ...*

      In our place, salaries are entirely non-negotiable, set by union contracts. Most people do try to negotiate at first, but no-one holds an attempt against them (unless they persist). If you still want the position, make that clear, and the conversation should progress.

      1. tamarack & fireweed*

        +1 as well. It’s really not that awkward. And especially if the answer to asking for more implies that there is attention being paid to salary equity, it’s not hard to accept a “no” (if the salary is otherwise within the market range for the position and location, and acceptable to the candidate!).

        My negotiations (if unsuccessful in getting a higher salary) usually went like:

        – We’d like to offer you $X. (Which was 20% more than I’d earned before.)
        – Would your budget stretch to $X+5K?
        – ‘Fraid not – we looked into the maximum band we could start you on, and we really want you so this what we’d like to offer you.
        – OK, that makes sense. Can I get back to you by EOD today with my answer? I like to take a moment with big decisions such as these.

    4. Koalafied*

      Something probably worth saying: There’s nothing wrong with asking for more than your minimum acceptable offer! If they won’t budge on salary and you’re willing to take the original offer anyway, I know it can feel like your bluff was called and you will now look like you weren’t being honest before, but this is such a normal and routine part of negotiation. Unless you literally said, “I can’t take this job for a penny less than $X,” there was nothing dishonest or any reason to be ashamed that you didn’t low-ball yourself when you made a counteroffer. Reasonable employers have no expectation that candidates will only ever counter with their absolute minimum acceptable salary.

  2. Dark Macadamia*

    LW1, would it help to mentally prepare some responses where you basically pretend they said something appropriate instead? Answer as if they asked about your trip instead of your body, like: “Wow, did you lose some weight?” “I hiked (trail) this summer, the (landmark) was incredible! What did I miss around here?”

    1. Jolene*

      But this is just going to circle right back to weight “oh, so you lost the weight hiking! That’s so great! [details, details]”
      You have to be direct.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I agree. In this case, referencing the anti-harassment training might be the way to go.

        I wish people’d just stop commenting on other people’s bodies.

        1. Batgirl*

          I keep thinking this is the ideal opportunity to reference the training and reinforce that it’s the company line, because this person keeps bringing up the subject! Also, so many people leave training sessions thinking: “Oh what a waste of time, nobody cares about that”. It’s an opportunity to make it clear the OP both valued it and expected change. If this person references the OPs body, the OP can choose to go in softly: “I know lots of women bond over body talk, but I loved that training suggestion that we don’t do that any more.” Or she can go firmer, with an exasperated expression: “I really thought after the recent training that I wouldn’t have my body surveyed in the hallways any more.” Or she can pivot to it as though it’s a subject change: “Hm, yes this is my body…..uh, not sure… I don’t do weigh-ins and I couldn’t say if this counts as sunburn…. Hey, can I ask you what you thought about x training? I loved it because..”

        2. Triplestep*

          Yes, people mentioning a weight loss are in violation of the anti-harassment rules as much as people “complimenting” anything about anyone’s appearance. I wouldn’t jump right to the training, however.

          In the past I have shut down weight loss talk by just saying firmly “I really do not like to discuss my weight”, and then say nothing though the awkward moment that follows. If they continue or try to explain away their first comment with more of the same, I just say “Yes, you would be surprised how many people really do not like having their weight commented on.” (Might as well make it a teachable moment for oblivious.) If it continued then, I’d mention the training.

            1. Triplestep*

              Sure, you can give a terse reply to people who genuinely think they are encouraging you and can’t imagine it would be unwelcome. And then you can deal with the consequences of being thought of as off-putting (by them, and anyone else they tell about the encounter.) In my experience, not caring about how people perceive you at work is career-limiting, no matter how right you are and how wrong they are.

              1. Sloan Kittering*

                Yeah, this is the issue. Sadly, in our crappy culture, women especially are socialized to think Diet Talk is a normal bonding thing, so some (not all) people bringing this topic up are doing it in an overture of warmth and connection; if you’re really cutting in response, they’re not going to learn anything other than that you don’t want to be friendly. I think, “thanks, but I don’t really like to discuss my weight – thanks for understanding,” and then a subject change such as an account of your trip is the way to go. Now sometimes it is a mean girls powerplay in which case the terse responses are more appropriate.

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  I think that’s fair – a reading the room sort of response. I’ve never dealt with the weight issues comments, so those haven’t ever been things I’ve needed to respond to. Most of the appearance related comments I’ve gotten have been related to things like glasses, hair color, and height. And honestly, I can only control one of those things (hair color) without going to ridiculous expense.

                2. Brett*

                  You just solved something for me. Thank you!
                  I’ve also had significant weight loss and just now realized the pattern that the most invasive discussions of my weight loss have all come from women (I’m a man). Viewing these inquiries as bonding talk makes a lot more sense than some sort of obsession with body image, which is what I was viewing it as. I’ve been accidentally deflecting these discussion from weight loss to exercise, which also serves as bonding talk. (And, for me, is less body image obsessed because my exercise is for the purpose of athletic competition, not weight loss.) I can probably think of some strategies to deflect to different types of bonding talk based on that.

              2. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

                Or, if they are normal people, they will possibly feel embarrassment in the moment, but will make a mental note to not talk about your body (and might also just stop talking to people about their bodies so much in general). Especially if they already interact with you regularly at work and know you. If simply saying “I don’t discuss my weight” is a career limiting move, that company has much, MUCH deeper problems.

                1. Triplestep*

                  Shutting down a colleague who believes they are offering kind words of encouragement with a terse, five-word sentence will be perceived as rude. Being rude to co-workers is career-limiting everywhere.

                2. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

                  To Triplestep: “I don’t discuss my weight,” isn’t rude, and 5 words is a fine length for a sentence, though. And it isn’t being said in some weird work vacuum where you don’t have a plethora of other conversations and interaction history with your coworkers.

                  Honestly, is the problem the sentence itself, which is straightforward and neutral, or that you personally would be affronted to have someone say it to you? If it is the latter, maybe you need to sit with it and consider WHY you read so much into it?

                3. Triplestep*

                  Yes, it’s not a conversational vacuum, so if someone says something to you that they clearly mean to be encouraging and “nice” (as misguided as that may be) shutting them down with a terse response will be perceived as rude. You’re free to disagree of course. Is shutting people down with clipped sentences working for you so far?

                  Would I be affronted to have someone say it to me? No, but then again I don’t talk about weight. I forget that people don’t read previous comments before replying, but if you’re so inclined to read up a few, you’ll see mine and get why telling me to “sit with myself” is pretty silly. Nice try, though.

                4. Librarian of SHIELD*


                  I agree with you that it’s not a rude sentence in and of itself. I think what Triplestep is trying to get at is how it may appear to the person on the receiving end. Sometimes we have to use language that greases the gears for future interactions with our coworkers. I don’t think either approach is the right one or the wrong one, each individual person has to decide which approach will work best for their situation.

                  I do want to point out that OP hasn’t actually told their coworker to stop commenting on her body yet. The coworker may be taken aback by such a strong opening statement and it might affect the way their professional relationship works after that. That’s worthy of taking into consideration here, and it may be a point in favor of using a softer statement for their first conversation.

                5. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

                  @Tripplestep: I mean, I… don’t think it’s silly? The only difference between “I don’t discuss my weight” and “I really do not like to discuss my weight” is three words and an apostrophe. One is active and one is passive. Neither is rude. If you think a direct statement–one that can easily be delivered in a warm tone and/or followed up with a subject change but also is not up for debate and delineates a clear boundary–is rude and career limiting, you do maybe need to sit with it and figure out why you think it is so terse and offensive. Do you have problems with drawing boundaries in general? If so, why does drawing boundaries make you uncomfortable? Why is your reaction defensive and dismissive? Sincerely not trying to gotcha you, I honestly think you could probably reflect on this because there’s honestly nothing inherently rude or offputting about being direct and matter of fact. Saying “I don’t talk about weight” isn’t insulting a coworker.

                  And yes, being direct has worked out great for me. It worked out well for me at former jobs and I have been doing very well at my current job and am up for advancement in my position progression next month. I have warm and congenial relationships with my current and past coworkers and I actually HAVE said “Oh, I don’t talk about weight” at least twice since I began working at my present position a year ago. It wasn’t even awkward, and neither person was particularly wrong footed about it, we just… continued our conversations.

                  You keep bringing up the intent of the coworker, but 1) it is a kindness to let your kind and well meaning coworkers know that you don’t talk about weight because, as kind and well meaning people they would clearly want to know, and 2) saying “I don’t talk about weight” is not unkind, evidence of ill intent, or inherently rude.

                6. Triplestep*

                  @hellmouth. I didn’t read all of what you wrote, but I get it. You think shutting someone down with five words is fine, and could never come across as rude or hostile as a response to someone who thinks they just told you something encouraging and complimentary. I think my extra few words and additional sentence soften the message which can go a long way at work.

                  We disagree.

                7. Lenora Rose*

                  @ triplestep: If I am terse to my coworker once, about a sensitive topic, but am not habitually terse, or rude, behave normally at all other times, and that coworker forms their entire opinion of my personality on that single interaction, then that coworker is an extreme outlier if their takeaway is that I am a rude person and not “oops, I touched a sore point I should not discuss again.”

              3. Not A Manager*

                I really don’t see a difference in tone or aggressiveness between “I really do not like to discuss my weight” and “I don’t discuss my weight” – especially if the first comment is followed by ~saying nothing though the awkward moment that follows~

                1. Camellia*

                  I’ve found that “I really don’t like to [fill in the blank] is often met with reasons why I SHOULD do something, why I shouldn’t ‘feel bad’ about doing something, and so forth. Removing that qualifier removes the ability to try to counter-argue.

                2. anon on the way past*

                  Having spent a little time in the realm of conversation analysis (which looks at how people *do* talk, at a granular, structural level, based on detailed analysis of interaction), I’d say there’s a difference.

                  It is unusual – in that it is not often seen in examples of real talk – to shut people down without things that serve as softeners. Chances are probably high the person you’re talking to will orient to it as rude, or at least not typical. They might not. Rejecting a conversational opener is more like a kind of refusal, and those almost invariably come with things that tone them down (but are still understood as refusals, it’s not something that confuses the majority of people). It’s why you see a lot of “I would, but”, or “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t,” instead of just “no” even if it’s something someone might prefer walking on Lego to doing. A flat shutdown might risk some social currency – and there are times when that’s totally fine, but there are times when it might not be worth it, and it’s useful to consider that alongside whether the response itself justified or not.

                1. Broadway Duchess*

                  I agree with you and I wish I’d said that. I lost a lot of weight following a post-surgery infection and a concurrent depressive episode. People kept telling me how great I looked and it made me feel worse! Just because it was meant as a compliment doesn’t mean it is.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I like a semi-blunt “this concerns you how?” and then just staring at the offender. It works great for a variety of harassing inquiries as well.

            I will caveat though that I’ve never given that response to someone who outranks me at a job. But then I’ve been fortunate in that none of my managers have ever been petty and harassing in their comments.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        Sure, but it sounds like her goal is to head off the body talk before it starts and for normal, polite people this might derail them enough that it doesn’t become a thing. Just a different idea for a “breezy move-it-along” type script before getting into the more direct language (but definitely not something I’d suggest for the extra rude coworker, who should get a cold response the first time rather than a soft or firm-but-warm one)

        1. Despachito*

          I think the problem is (at least where I am), that many people genuinely think that “wow, you lost weight, didn’t you? You look great” is a compliment, and many take it as a compliment. Some time ago, I lost a significant amount of weight (planned, in a program similar to Weightwatchers) and if people briefly commented on it, it felt nice, I considered it a recognition of the effort I made and that the results were visible, not as an inappropriate thing related to my body.

          1. Despachito*

            So given this, I’d think that for normal people, any form of firm and polite “Thanks but I do not want to talk about my body” should work. A well-meaning, polite person (who meant it as a compliment and did not realize it may not come across as such) will stop after that, and probably remember it for the future. I’d reserve a harsher approach for those who don’t.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Oddly, my experience of asserting this kind of boundary is that people pivot to a conversation about “why we shouldn’t comment on weight loss” instead, which is well meaning and earnest … and also incredibly unhelpful to me.

              So it looks like

              A: Hey, you look great, have you lost weight?

              B: I prefer not to talk about it, thanks.

              A: Oh yeah, modern society is way too fixated on body image, I was just reading an article on anorexia yesterday (etc and on for ten minutes).

              So now I just take the first hit and don’t try to change behaviour, so B’s response looks more like, “Thanks. Now how about this TPS report/ the Winter Games / the weather?”

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I agree with the thanks then subject change format. It’s the simplest and quickest way out.

                There are plenty of people who want to have a longer conversation less words gives them less to work with and less words can help nip that longer conversation.

                I also think that OP needs to reset the thought of “preventing people from mentioning”. Alison gets a lot of questions, “How do I prevent people from doing X?” It does not really matter what X is, the answer is the same always, “You can’t.”. All we can do is decide how to manage our own response to it.

                1. Aarti*

                  I lost a lot of weight in the last 18 months, like 80 pounds. I sure am proud of my achievement but I don’t want to talk about it. This is the best way. “Thanks! Let’s figure out how to fix your problem.” This has worked every single time.

              2. Dark Macadamia*

                This reminds me of Michael from The Office saying he doesn’t consider himself to be part of society lol. Engaging in the problematic behavior and then launching into a whole rant against it as if they weren’t just contributing to the problem!

                1. Victoria, Please*

                  Responding to Aarti (nesting limit reached), I like that sentence. And I wonder if maybe replacing “thanks, now let’s” with “right, now let’s” might chip just a bit at the general tendency to assume that comments on weight loss are compliments. /just noodling thoughts here

      3. FrenchCusser*

        Even direct doesn’t always help.

        A couple of years ago I fell grievously ill and lost 75 lbs. When I went back to work, SO MANY PEOPLE told me how great I looked. I told them point blank not to say that, and several of them followed up with, ‘But you do!’

        I wanted to knock heads together, let me tell you.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          Same. I had hyperemesis with my pregnancies, and lost a ton of weight. Which is, generally, the opposite of what you want in pregnancy. I came back and heard “You look so good!”

          Um, I puked myself half to death for nine months. I’d rather not discuss it. I ‘look good’ but I took a dangerous, disgusting path to get here. And it didn’t stick.

    2. Beth*

      I don’t think this would work for weight loss. It would for a lot of topics! But even though many people are aware that body talk can be fraught, a surprising number still assume that commenting on weight loss is 1) always received as a compliment, and 2) always welcome. We have a culture that assumes becoming less fat is always a good and desired thing. A gentle redirect like this often doesn’t work in the face of that.

      OP1, I think you have two realistic options here. The first option is to simply say “Yes, thank you” when someone comments on your weight loss and change the topic. This is the expected answer, so it’s likely to be the fastest way to end conversation. The other is to tell people “I don’t like to talk about my body at work,” or another of Alison’s responses. This is closer to the truth, and might minimize the odds of them bringing weight up again in the future–but it might also draw out conversation in the moment, as people process an unexpectedly negative response to what they perceived as a good thing. (I’d expect a lot of “I only meant that you look good” and “It’s a compliment, what’s the big deal?” etc. type confused responses, at first.) I know neither is what you really want. I wish our society wasn’t like this too.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I like this, but I think I’d change it to, “I don’t like discussing anyone’s body, my own included.” This gives a broader basis to work from, it’s no longer about YOU, OP, there’s less room for speculation such as, “OP is secretive about their weight loss, blah, blah, blah.”
        The sooner you can move the topic out to a general approach, you move the topic off of you.

      2. Triplestep*

        I realize that it is not our responsibility to handle or educate people who say things that make us uncomfortable or violate policies, but as someone who does not like talking about my weight loss, I suggest making it specifically about weight- not just bodies in general. Using the terms “my body” or “anyone’s body” – while technically true – is going to blindside a person who thought they were merely giving you encouragement. They are going to jump into defense thinking “But I didn’t mean it sexually!” which, of course, is not the point. But people are less open-minded when on the defense.

        This is why I typically respond “I do not like to talk about my weight” when people comment on my weight loss, and then “Yes, you’d be surprised by how many people do not like to talk about their weight at all” so they think twice about doing it to someone else.

        1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

          Wait, I am very confused–in a comment above you said “Shutting down a colleague who believes they are offering kind words of encouragement with a terse, five-word sentence will be perceived as rude. Being rude to co-workers is career-limiting everywhere” in regards to saying “I don’t discuss my weight.” That seems… conflicting.

          1. Triplestep*

            There is a difference between a clipped “I don’t discuss my weight” and “I really don’t like to talk about my weight; you’d be surprised how many people feel that way”. The first is blunt and might as well be followed with “Period! End of discussion!” There is nowhere to go from there, not even a segue into something off topic. My suggestion is softer and allows the person who thinks they’ve just complimented me to feel like they’re part of a group of people who routinely make this mistake. If you think they sound the same, it would explain why you think you would not be perceived as rude or hostile by issuing a curt 5 words when someone thinks they are offering you words of encouragement.

            But thanks for confirming you did not read what I’d written previous to your last response to “sit with myself” about why I would have an issue being told “I don’t discuss weight”. Because I posted the same suggestion for a response in that thread as well.

        2. Broadway Duchess*

          I think it’s okay to push back on the idea that all weight loss is complimentary. The intention does not matter more than the impact.

      3. njn*

        I once overheard in the office a coworker questioning (don’t remember whether it was congratulatory or commiserating) another coworker about her weight. The response was “You know, my weight is the least interesting thing about me,” delivered in a measured, serious tone. While perfectly polite, it was verbal equivalent of being slapped. I’ve used it a couple of times myself to shut down weight talk, whether about me or about another person.

        1. Elle by the sea*

          Alison, I am genuinely baffled as to why you have removed my comment. I don’t think my comment violated any of the community guidelines.

          I shared a personal story about my mother who has been going through body shaming, having to tolerate a continuous avalanche of malicious comments on her weight. I said this in the context of someone saying that people tend to perceive comments on weight loss as a compliment. Yes, I also said that despite her always being polite and gentle, which is part of the reason why people have the nerve to make such comments to her, my mother replied with a mirror image of this insult. I didn’t in any way, shape or form suggest that OP should react in this way to the comments on her weight. Her situation is different.

          I do not believe that there is any difference between fat shaming and skinny shaming – both are equally harmful. Many of my family members and friends have been experiencing skinny shaming. Most of them don’t want to be skinny and would never think of it as a compliment. I can state this with certainty: I have been both skinny and fat shamed at different stages of my life, in fact, in my formative years when building a healthy level of self-confidence is of the utmost importance. Both types of body shaming have done considerable damage to my body image. I tried all the so called elegant and pointed responses you have suggested here and so did my mother. Those didn’t stop anyone from continuing with their insults. There are certain people who are only receptive to being held a mirror to their own behaviour.

          It’s fair to point out if you didn’t agree with my options. In fact, I didn’t really express any opinions. I merely described someone’s personal story who is close to me. However, I don’t find it acceptable that you – without a note or any sort of commentary – removed my comments that I put energy to and was brave enough to share and preventing those from seeing it who this personal story might resonate with.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Body shaming certainly happens across a whole wide spectrum of body types, but you can’t compare the discrimination overweight people face in the workplace, by doctors, and by society in general to what skinny people face. Fat people face systemic bias where thin people do not not. Thin people are privileged in our society; fat people are not. Comparing them derails the conversation the same way it would derail a discussion of racism if a white person complained about getting teased for being pale, and I removed it for that reason.

            1. Elle by the sea*

              Removed — as I said, this is derailing and off-topic. I replied to your inquiry about why I removed your original comment but I don’t want to host a debate on this here. Please leave it here.

    3. BethDH*

      I have found that with people who clearly intend it as a compliment but that I want to get a point across, something that helps them recategorize the topic can help. “Let’s not talk about my body, thanks!”
      (I did this with pregnancy — people asking about “the baby” before it was born often realized that right now that they were talking about my body/pregnancy, a no-go topic, instead of asking about family, which is more generally acceptable at work. )
      Depending on the person you could vary the tone or skip the “thanks.” Then change topics before they get to the “I was just ….” part where they defend themselves.

      1. Blue*

        I was quite private about my first pregnancy and when people I didn’t want to share with would ask to see sonograms or things like that, I would say, “Oh, I don’t share pictures of my insides at work. I like to keep my organs to myself!”

    4. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Also, I think there’s a profound difference between “You’ve lost weight!” and “You look great!” I’m always open to hearing I look good, but not at all open to comments on my size/weight.

      1. A New CV*

        I like to reply to “you’ve lost weight” comments with a breezy “maybe? I don’t really pay attention to that stuff but I do love this cute new top I’m wearing” both to express that I’m not interested in weight loss as a topic because I’m happy as I am and to redirect future “compliments”. People like to be nice and they think weight loss talk is a means to that end. I’m a cute plus sized person; I don’t need to lose weight but I welcome your (appropriate) compliments!

      2. Despachito*

        I am a bit confused – is the comment “You look great” acceptable or not? Historically, I reckon it was OK, but times are changing, and after all, this is a comment about one’s body?

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I think it can be OK if tied to something specific. Like if the LW came back from her hiking trip and someone said, “You look great! All that fresh air/time outdoors really suits you!” or “You look great! Love your outfit/hair/glasses/shoes/whatever” comes off better than “You look great!” on its own

        2. Nesprin*

          There’s a couple failure modes for “you look great” as well- sure I lost weight, but not eating after my mother’s death isn’t something to celebrate. There’s a really horrible strain of thinner is always more attractive that shouldn’t be part of society.

          I do like the rule that complimenting someone’s choices (i.e. that’s a great shirt) is acceptable whereas complimenting someone’s body is much less so.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This is where I fall. If a coworker is wearing an ensemble they look amazing in and if I’m inclined to mention it at all, I just say I like the outfit or the color. It’s so much more neutral than saying “You look good in that,” as it leaves out their body altogether. I could say the same thing about a shirt hanging on the rack at the store.

            1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

              I had a boss years ago who was great at saying the brief right thing and then moving on. I remember he’d occasionally say to somebody, “Sharp outfit!” or “Nice tie!” and then talk or ask about something else. Having run into him several times over the decades, I’ve noticed it’s a knack (whether cultivated or natural, I do not know) he has no matter what the topic is.

          2. DJ Abbott*

            OMG yes! I’m so tired of well-meaning men saying I’m beautiful. It’s an empty compliment because I didn’t choose the way I look. I would respond much better to compliments on my behavior or style choices, which I can control.

        3. Littorally*

          ‘You look great’ is a lot more general; depending on the context/followup, it can be something entirely unrelated to one’s weight or other generally touchy topics. It can mean a wardrobe upgrade, a new haircut, a tan after vacation, or just a generally sunnier affect.

          That being said, the context and followup do matter. ‘You look great’ when the only change is weight loss becomes, in context, a comment about weight.

          1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

            I think “You look great” is OK, provided you stop there or pivot to another topic. “You look great, I’m so glad you’re back!” for example. Or “You look great — did you hear we won the Ferguson account?”

      3. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        A security guard at an old job of mine (a man about the same size as me) asked me what my secret for an apparent sudden and flattering weight loss was.

        It was a new bra. Which I told him in an extremely quelling tone. He did not ask me again.

      4. Vicky Austin*

        Also, the problem with saying “You look great with all the weight you lost” is that it’s implying that they weren’t attractive before they lost weight.

    5. PB Bunny Watson*

      Depending on the situation, that’s actually a good approach. It gives the person a chance to self-correct without being embarrassed. If they persist, then I would say something like, “you know, I did it for the experience. I really gained a lot from that training about commenting on people’s bodies. So I’m working hard to adhere to that, and I figure that starts with not discussing my own body. I appreciate you understanding.” Some people may find that too “weak,” but it depends on the people involved. I’m usually very good at getting people off a subject I don’t want to discuss with these tactics. I almost never have to tell a patron flat out, “we don’t talk about politics” because of that.

    6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I’d just say “No” if asked about weight loss and then follow-up with, “And talking about bodies at work isn’t appropriate. So how are the TPS reports coming along since I was gone?”

    7. LMB*

      This just attempts to skirt around the issue that is not appropriate and can be very damaging to comment on someone else’s body. It’s better to be direct and de-normalize this.

    8. tamarack & fireweed*

      Yeah, no, not for me.

      In reality I’d probably be visibly uncomfortable and answer with mumble-mumble.

      Ideally I’d like to be able to say with a straight face “You know, this, too is not the kind of remark about people’s bodies that’s likely to land well. Even if you mean it as a compliment – please don’t presume you understand what is going on.”

  3. lyonite*

    OP 5: Definitely, this isn’t a thing to be worried about. Particularly since you quit and weren’t fired, you can still go with the standard “I was interested in looking for new opportunities” type of line, if anyone even asks. (They may not! I was laid off from my last job, along with about 70% of the company, after only working there for 8 months, and I was all ready to explain it in interviews, only to have no one even ask.)

    1. Wendy*

      Absolutely! I think everyone would understand that sometimes, the right time to leave is the right time to leave. For all they know, you just finished up a big project and didn’t want to get two weeks into a new one, or your boss also left and the team was being shuffled, or your replacement was ready to start right away and there was no reason to stick around longer. “The environment was so toxic I needed to get out of there ASAP” is a possibility for any candidate, of course, but it’s not necessarily more likely than any other :-)

    2. MrsPitts*

      LW5-Also in this economy, you could very reasonably have a side job to tide you over. This allowing you to be in a better place mentally when starting a new job, freedom to go on interviews, etc.

      1. Hippo-nony-potomus*

        This is a great point. A lot of people want to decompress before starting a new job, and that either means leaving the old job without notice (bad) or asking the new job to hold off on your start date (not ideal). So “I already put in my notice; I’m interviewing with three companies right now; I didn’t want to start burned out” is perfectly reasonable.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I feel like the present conditions have ticked up the number of “sixth on my team of eight to quit, three of us with nothing lined up” stories–but they were far from unheard of before. Not quitting without something else lined up is a practical consideration of people with bills to pay, and it has never been unusual for people with some resources–savings, side gig, family willing to help–to go ahead and quit for their mental health.

      Also, while it is a privilege to be in this position–it’s not particularly unusual. Half of the people who quit this particular job were in it, and the ones with something lined up may have just been fortunate in how quickly they found the new job after they decided to start looking. (There was no inciting “Forget it, I quit” incident in the weeks between deciding to look and getting an offer.)

    4. MissBaudelaire*

      Yeah, my husband has gaps in his resume. He’s been asked about the eight month long one once. All he said was “I was taking care of my infant.” And no more questions were asked. He’s never been asked about it since.

    5. calonkat*

      I have a family member also looking to quit for a variety of reasons. I’ve told her that a single short gap on a resume (she’s been with this company for 10+ years and was employed previously while in college) is not anything to worry about. And referred her to Alison’s excellent advice on the subject!

      Having a short break between jobs shouldn’t throw any potential employer off and might even encourage them that you won’t be bringing previous work habits directly to them!

    6. tamarack & fireweed*

      Yup. From my experience, I’ve had interviewers several times not assume that I was still in the latest job that was listed as current on my resumé. There were usually weeks (sometimes months, at least days) between when I sent the resumé and when I had the interview.

      In one case I knew I was in the process of being laid off (UK – they had to notify me and go through a multi-month process, so I knew it was coming). I don’t remember whether it was on the phone or in person, or whether I *did* update the resumé prior to my interview that got my my next job, but at one point I said “X are eliminating the technical positions in their London office, and that’s why I’m on the market.”

      And had I quit on my own it would have been completely natural to say “since I started interviewing I realized that I was on the way out so I gave my notice then to focus on the job search and take a break between position”.

  4. Scarlett Johnson*

    LW#1 – Boy have I been in your shoes. I have lost a total of 155 pounds (50-60 by myself and then 100 or so with bariatric surgery). Half my weight! The majority came off FAST. I got/get comments all the time and I really don’t like talking about my body with just anyone. I usually just said “thanks, I am working hard!” And moved on. I agree that you will need to anticipate the comments and come back with a standard response. If people keep pushing (which is rude), I would say something like “I’ve said I don’t want to talk about my body/weight but you keep bringing it up. Why does that keep happening? I need you to stop.” I think only serious direct conversation will stop it. Good luck on your journey!

    1. Jillian*

      I lost 50 lbs quickly and kept being told how great I looked. I did not look great, I look smaller. I had cancer and felt terrible. Why do people continue to think thinner is always better?

      1. Amethystmoon*

        Because most people have been essentially brainwashed by popular media/the news/etc. that thinner is always better. COVUD hasn’t helped.

      2. Wants Green Things*

        I’m so sorry you had to deal with that, and I hope you’ve be able to recover.

        I had a coworker nearly a decade ago who went through something similar, and went off on someone in the breakroom finally. “Yeah it’s great that I have cancer and that chemo has ruined my appetite! I can barely keep down water but hey, at least I meet your effed up standards!” There was a very quick change in people’s talk after that.

      3. Ladybird*

        Ugh, I’m sorry you had to deal with that. I had some medical issues last summer and lost ~15 lbs fairly quickly. I got so many comments about how “great” I looked and what my secret was. It was just so absurd to deal with.

        1. Anon For This*

          I’ve lost 20 pounds since January- it’s called, “Medically restricted diet and many days when I cannot even keep water down.” My clothes are hanging on me, even my underwear doesn’t fit right. It’s frankly miserable, and if anyone congratulated me I’d probably bite them- even if they don’t fit into my diet. It’s protein, right?

      4. Huttj*

        Yeah, times I know I’ve lost a lot of weight.

        40 lbs in a month and a half: Fungal infection in my lung (cleared up now)

        20+ lbs in a couple months: My dad died (and that did have a friend at new years congratulating me on losing weight)

      5. Hippo-nony-potomus*

        1. The media.
        2. The media.
        3. The people who don’t want to talk about their weight are, by definition, not talking about their weight. The people who want attention for their weight loss are, by definition, talking a lot about their weight and are all smiles when someone comments on it. So there’s a perception – wrongly – that people who lose weight want others to notice and fuss over them.

      6. Cat Tree*

        I also lost a ton of weight due to a health issue and got so many compliments. Most people had the decency to look chagrined and apologize after I told them. But one woman in an adjacent department just went on and on. Even after I told her about my health she just said, “yeah, but you look good!” I don’t know if she thought I was just being modest or she really thought being sick was worth it to be skinny. Eventually my health issue was diagnosed and treated and I gained back a lot of the weight. Then she finally stopped.

    2. Lynca*

      I’ve been there too. I lost over 150 pounds due to grief, anxiety, and disordered eating. People thought I looked great but I had serious issues going on. Thankfully I’m in a much better place and losing my re-gained weight in a healthy manner (with my doctor’s help and properly treating my mental health).

      I had to deal with so many comments and I really hate talking about my body. I even learned after the fact (i.e. after I put weight back on) people were speculating I had cancer! Generally if it’s a one off comment I’ve learned to let it go. But if people push and want to know more about how I’m losing weight/why I default to “I don’t like talking about my body. It’s a sensitive topic for me.”

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I once told a woman in detail how I lost weight from PTSD caused by abusive parents. :D She was not a coworker though.

    3. Zephy*

      “Yes, I have, thank you” has become my go-to response when people tell me I look like I’ve lost weight. Most folks take my lead and don’t ask any followup questions when I don’t launch into details about how I did it or how much I’ve lost or any of the other juicy details (they aren’t that juicy, nobody wants to hear eat right and exercise and I don’t particularly want to talk about it, even though I am doing it on purpose).

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I’ve seen many comments like this, and I get it, you gotta do what you gotta do. At the same time, I feel like the “thank you” reinforces the messed up priorities that this society has around weight.

        1. Aarti*

          But I did work hard at my weight loss. I don’t have any problems with accepting a thank you. I understand it is more fraught for other people, but for me it was an achievement. I never engage in diet talk. People say it, I say, thank you! and move on.

      2. Joielle*

        This is my issue too and I like your wording! I’ll take a polite compliment on my weight loss, but I hate when people ask what the “secret” is. Idk, for me it’s eat more vegetables and lift more weights, for you it might be something a bit different, but there’s nothing magical about it. Nobody ever seems happy with that answer and it’s always an awkward conversation.

        1. Vicky Austin*

          My “secret” is that I cracked my tooth, and due to COVID and other things, I wasn’t able to get a dental appointment to remove what’s left of the tooth for two and a half months! So, I’ve been eating nothing but oatmeal, smoothies, soup, and pudding. Certainly not a weight loss plan I would recommend to anyone!

    4. MigraineMonth*

      Is it awful if I kind of want someone to comment on my “baby bump”/probable rapid future weight loss because I’ve been coming up with TMI zingers?

      “How far along are you?” “Two years!”
      “When are you due?” “It’s going to be removed and disposed of on March 22nd.”
      “Is it a boy or a girl?” “I don’t really care about that, I just want to know if it’s malignant!”
      “Do you have a name picked out?” “I’ve decided on Ellie, short for Eldritch Abomination. Did you know this type of ovarian tumor can grow hair and entire teeth?”

      “You’ve lost a lot of weight!” “That’s what happens when they remove a tumor the size of a cantaloupe.”
      “New diet?” “Yes! Hospital food. I’m also excited to start eating fiber again, now that I’m not constipated all the time.”
      “Wow, you look great!” “Thanks, it’s good to know that exploratory surgery/cancer* makes me look my best.” (*Depending on the biopsy results)

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        These replies are great! I am wishing all the best outcomes for you and hope you never have to use them.

      2. Vicky Austin*

        I’d avoid the second one because it could sound like you’re talking about abortion, which is a sensitive topic for many.

  5. Heidi*

    LW2 probably has nothing to worry about. This candidate already sounds like a jerk to a stranger on the internet – the board is probably also going to perceive that. But make sure you keep all the correspondence, including any notes you took about the phone interactions. Document that you said 1-2 weeks and not 1 week. In responding, I probably would have said, “The interview process is taking closer to the 2-week end of the 1-2 week timeframe I thought I would need at the time of our interview, but you have surmised correctly that we will not be able to move forward with your application.” I don’t think you need to apologize for something you did not do. I understand why you did it, though.

    1. T2*

      I would just reply like this “I am sorry that you misunderstood my clearly stated intent to get back to you in 1-2 weeks.

      Pursuant to this intent, this is notice that we will not be moving forward with your candidacy.

      Best regards”

      Goodness. Don’t feel bad. Any reasonable person would reject him as well.

      I have found that expressing timelines in “1-2 weeks” May be a little nebulous for some people. In the point that you kinda mean 2 and they kind of hear 1. I just say the tentative plan is to decide by March 1. By that date we will either have a decision or We will let you know we are postponing.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        I probably wouldn’t reply at all. People looking for confrontations can thrive on any reply, and use it to prolong the discussion with the board. From my experience in saying no to potential grad students, sessional and faculty instructors, and prospective academic authors, responding may only stoke their fire.

        1. the cat's ass*

          Came here to say exactly that. This guy is someone you should NOT engage again. You dodged a bullet in terms of hiring him.

        2. Aitch Arr*


          I had a similar encounter recently with a candidate on Rhymes-With-Sinked-Win who was huffy that it was I, a lowly HR peon, who reached out to him about interviewing for an opening we have and not a Director or VP of Sales.*

          * – I’m a Global HR Director and this was for an entry level Sales role.

    2. Snow Globe*

      Even if the LW had said 1 week, they didn’t do anything wrong. Hiring decisions frequently take longer than expected; no reasonable candidate would fire off an angry letter a day after they thought they would hear something. No one hearing about that from the angry candidate would think they were justified in being angry.

      1. Candi*

        I’d saya reasonable candidate wouldn’t fire off an angry letter at all. We’ve seen lots of posts and comments on here about polite inquiries and follow-up, then letting the thing rest if they didn’t hear back.

        If #2’s candidate had been reasonable, their resume might have been kicked over to the fundraising arm of the org. As it is, they’re probably at least locally blacklisted.

    3. Ama*

      The only thing I might do is let my direct boss and anyone who monitors a general phone line/email address for the org know there was a candidate who took his rejection poorly and if they see any messages from him they should let me know, but they don’t need to respond. (That last bit would be mostly for coworkers monitoring phone/email, not my boss.)

      We had someone harrassing staff over some perceived mistreatment last summer (wasn’t exactly a rejected job applicant, but it was a similar issue where my colleague who initially spoke with him thought they had a normal, professional interaction but it turned out his expectations of the outcome of the discussion were very skewed). I never actually had to speak with him, but I was given a heads up just in case he decided to work his way down the phone menu, since my phone is the main contact for our department.

    4. Artemesia*

      It is astounding that this doofus and his ilk don’t realize they just put themselves on the do not hire list when they behave like this. I had candidate who was in our top ten before doing the phone screen so harass our admin that we did some further digging (he had worked in another division in our organization once) and found that his former manager was not impressed. When we rejected him we got a huge outpouring of anger and justification including a threat to call the President of the org and to sue for age discrimination. He did call and the President laughed and told us ‘good call.’ We tended to hire older people looking for second careers for the positions like this and we in fact hired two people — a woman in her 60s and a man in his late 50s for the open positions. This response just underscores how wise the rejection was and it is amazing that the applicant can’t see that.

  6. PollyQ*

    “I surmise that my degree, experience, and enthusiasm are no longer needed.”

    Me: “Not after that email they’re not.”

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yeah, if you ever want to take yourself out of the running fast, send an email like that one!

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        He definitely doesn’t read AAM.

        Even if he *meant* that, he’d have learned to write something like: “I enjoyed meeting you on (date) to discuss the (position vacancy). Do you have a clear time frame for when you will be making your decision? I would love the opportunity to discuss it again” – better than that, obviously, but polite and enthusiastic rather than, I don’t know, sneering and scolding.

        Because now not only is he out of the running for this vacancy, this might have marked his card for future vacancies as well.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Exactly – if I got an email like that, I’d immediately think “what a pompous arse, I will never want to work with this person.”
          It’s always a terrible idea to send an email to a hiring manager that makes it sound like you want to challenge them to a duel.

        2. Baffled Burra*

          LW here:
          I didn’t respond and don’t plan to. But I didn’t delete the emails either just in case….
          I don’t owe an explanation for the safety crisis on our block that added 3 extra hours of meetings with our neighbors and police department into my schedule on top of everything else I do to keep the place running, take care of the people who need our services, and make sure employees get their paychecks (I hear people like that kind of thing…)

          1. Artemesia*

            Hope you have a ‘do not hire’ list and that his response is forwarded and saved by HR in case there is a future hiring situation elsewhere in the organization.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      “Your experience is obviously not that great if you think sending an email like that is a good idea.”

    3. Zephy*


      “I surmise that my degree, experience, and enthusiasm are no longer needed.”
      “Correct.” hang up, block number, filter emails, block on all social media, big red X on his file with HR

        1. Candi*

          Can I say how much I snickered at “cheese on crackers”?

          More seriously, someone “salesy” might have been good for fundraising, if your org leans that way. But someone like this isn’t good for any job where they’re representing the company or org.

    4. irene adler*

      When I read these types of emails, I wonder to myself: what do the authors of such snarky comments envision the response to be? Contriteness? A begging for forgiveness? Do they actually believe their words will result in getting what they want?

      General von Klinkerhoffen has it right; try a little kindness. Does that even occur to such people?

      1. JustaTech*

        I have to wonder if this kind of email has ever worked. Sort of like people on dating apps who send questionable pictures – does it ever work? Because I could see if a conversation or email like this worked once (even if it was years ago and in a difference context) that the applicant would think that it would always work and just keep trying.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          When I was on a dating app, it was clearly a numbers game for the men who wanted to date women; every day I would get multiple “What’s up?” “You’re pretty” and “Wouldn’t you like to date me, a real salt-of-the-Earth guy who will always pull your chair out and who will make sure you never need to work again.” I imagine a 1% success rate was sufficient to encourage the behavior.

          I suspect the men who sent d*ck pics had a 0% success rate in getting dates, but still considered it a 100% success because all they wanted to do was send the pic.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I think it must be an entitlement thing, with a dollop of protagonist syndrome. Like the guy who furiously insisted that a hiring manager was making a huge mistake not choosing him from a previous letter (I can’t summon unique search terms or I’d have linked).

      3. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        I have known more people than I care to who are like this, and as far as I can tell the answer is that they already know they’re not getting what they want and they are willing to take ‘at least I’m not the only one who suffered in this interaction’ as second prize.

        Caveat: this is for people who respond once in a snarky-to-aggressive manner. If this candidate follows through on their threats and becomes stalkery, that’s a different ball game and happily I don’t know anyone like that well enough to follow their thought process!

  7. my 8th name*

    #2. I don’t think you need to worry about the board, but keep an eye on your Glassdoor and Google reviews. If he says anything to anyone, which I doubt he will, he will probably describe it as “unorganized” or “forgetful”, maybe “inconsiderate”. Not “rude”.

    The candidate is by no means warranted in his empty threats, but his prospective is likely that he felt there was information on his candidacy that had not been relayed to him. And you sort of confirmed that for him by providing the update only once prompted. Albeit within the original time!

    You didn’t do anything wrong though and it wouldn’t have been better to string him on, but I can get why he might feel jaded.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > information on his candidacy that had not been relayed to him. And you sort of confirmed that for him by providing the update only once prompted

      But it was the email interaction that caused OP to make the decision – she says it was that that took it from ‘maybe’ to the garbage pile.

      It’s a sort of observer paradox where he’s brought the outcome into being by asking about it…

      1. Snow Globe*

        To those of us reading LW’s letter, clearly the email caused the rejection. But from the candidate’s point of view, the fact that they were rejected after sending the email will be interpreted as if they were already meant to be rejected, but the LW didn’t tell them until prompted.

        1. PB Bunny Watson*

          That’s a good point. And someone who would send an email like that first one (not to mention the second one) isn’t likely to have the self-awareness to realize that. But maybe they will… and maybe we’ll see a letter in the future about how they overreacted and how can they fix it now?

        2. Commenter*

          Yes, I’m guessing that’s what the ‘compliant’ will be – something like ‘I was turned down for the role, and they would NEVER HAVE TOLD ME if I didn’t reach out!’

        3. Baffled Burra*

          Good point actually. This was an initial phone interview and I was clear that I had several more phone interviews before I even narrowed it down further to invite to in-person interviews. He was in the maybe (bordering on no) pile and I actually was considering offering to keep him in mind for a position that will most likely be created in the future if would have been interested. This other thing would have been a better fit for the personality and experience.
          But after that email I knew there was no way he would be a good rep of the org.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Well, that might be his perspective but it’s inaccurate. He was told tit would be 1-2 weeks, and he clearly didn’t pay attention to that.
      He was rude and inappropriate in following up – even if he had mid-heard or misremembered the ‘one to two weeks’ which LW#2 told him, he could have followed up in a professional way.
      The fact that he may lack the insight to understand that sending a rude and demanding message is what took him out of consideration isn’t LW’s fault.
      It would also not be reasonable for him to feel ‘jaded’. I mean, people are unreasonable a lot of the time, but this is on him for not paying attention when he was told the timeframe. And it doesn’t appear that LW did strong him along. Until he showed how unprofessional he was, she hadn’t excluded him and he might have still mae it to the second round.

      And yes, it’s probably worth keeping an eye on Glassdoor etc. – just to keep yourself informed and to respond if he makes any false allegations.

      1. Jerks need not apply*

        Even if LW had meant 1 week, she wouldn’t have meant LESS than one week, so flipping tables exact one week later on the dot was never in order. He had one phone screen and was waiting on the next round; he didn’t fly out for a third round interview and pay for his own plane tickets.

    3. Squidlet*

      “you sort of confirmed that for him by providing the update only once prompted” … no, there was no concrete information to relay, until he sent that rude email, which prompted the decision to take him off the list.

      Someone who thinks “1-2 weeks” means “wait 1 week and then get aggressive and snarky” is not someone I’d want to work with, even in a non-client facing role.

      1. my 8th name*

        I didn’t say he drew the correction conclusion, I’m just stating the conclusion he likely drew! Unless the LW was explicit in the rejection about the reasoning, we can’t expect him to know what we know from the letter.

    4. hbc*

      It’s a bit nitpicky, but I agree that there could be some tweaking that would make it less likely for this situation to go bad. He got an answer one hour after inquiring and wasn’t told that the way he affected the outcome by measuring it, so it was pretty reasonable to conclude that either they hadn’t bothered to tell him what they already knew or that they hadn’t bothered to do 15 minutes worth of work to finish the process.

      I’d go for either ignoring him, or writing back, “We are not done with our selection process, which I mentioned in our interview would take up to two weeks. If this timeline no longer works for you, let me know and we can remove you from consideration.” Either way, he later gets contacted at the same time as any other eliminated candidate.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        I was considering the same thing, but wait for, like, 5 minutes after that first email to him to send him the second email that rejects him to drive the point home.

      2. Observer*

        If this timeline no longer works for you, let me know and we can remove you from consideration.

        I would say absolutely NOT. At this point the OP needed to remove him from the pool, regardless of how he responded.

        I might change it to “Since this timeline no longer works for you, we have removed you from consideration.” and send that.

        1. Artemesia*

          Nah. She is done. Maybe that would have been the way to go initially but it is done now. If a Board member inquires tell them that he was in the running but near the bottom and his rude email lead you to move him to the reject pile.’

    5. Observer*

      but his prospective is likely that he felt there was information on his candidacy that had not been relayed to him. And you sort of confirmed that for him by providing the update only once prompted. Albeit within the original time!

      The bold piece is key. The OP said they would get back to him within a certain tie frame. He got rude while still within that time frame. It’s not the case that this rudeness prompted the OP to keep their commitment, it prompted the OP to respond sooner than they had said they would.

    6. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I have a friend who pulled stuff like this out of frustration with a long job hunt. I suspect this guy got ghosted by every other company he applied to, and you just happened to be the one he finally lashed out at.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t care how many employers ghosted him. His initial reaction was out of line. The second email confirmed that that the OP dodged a bullet.

        I get the frustration. But acting like a jerk to people who didn’t do anything wrong because you are frustrated at a bigger picture doesn’t make the behavior any better.

  8. Pennyworth*

    LW #1 – if there has already been training about not commenting on peoples bodies, could you tell HR you have been getting unwelcome comments about your weight and ask them to reiterate the policy in a general email?

  9. WS*

    #1 – I’m fat and lost a lot of weight quickly while ill (before being diagnosed with Crohn’s). Despite most of the staff having seen me pass out on the floor and be taken off in an ambulance, they kept wanting to talk about the weight loss as a positive thing. This was a real mental trigger for me because I’d previously gained a lot of weight before being diagnosed with cancer, and nobody believed I was really sick then either. So I decided to go minimal: “I don’t want to talk about weight, thanks.” “I don’t want to talk about my body, thanks.” No detail, no information, no conversational hook, walk away if possible, turn slightly away if not. It worked.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Good strategy. Behavior that isn’t reinforced eventually tapers off.

      Hope you’re better now — and working with nicer people.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      Ugh, that’s the worst. I lose weight during times of extreme stress (too nauseated to eat), and I wanted to punch every person who “complimented” me on it while I was struggling to keep toast down. Like, “I’m so glad my grief and pain is making me more aesthetically pleasing to you.”

  10. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: am obese, also have a long history of struggle with anorexia which means when I’m under stress I’ll stop eating entirely for days. I wish people would realise that on the rare occasions my weight suddenly drops that it is not a positive thing.

    Long experience of dealing with people commenting on my body at work (am also disabled). Depending on the personality involved I range from ‘nah, I don’t talk about peoples bodies’ to ‘wrong audience, I’m really not going to talk about this’. Occasionally with a ‘don’t talk about weight, you have no idea if those comments are welcome or harmful’.

    If there was a way to stop people thinking that they have a right to comment on fat people’s bodies…oh I wish.

    1. I need tea*

      I’m also obese and have atypical anorexia. Even people who know I’m in recovery from a restrictive eating disorder will say “oh, you’ve lost weight, you look good!”. Close friends and family mostly don’t do this any more, but I’ve had to have a lot of uncomfortable conversations and set a lot of conversational boundaries, and it comes up again every time I make a new friend who gets close enough to need to know.

      I generally do the “I know you mean well, but please don’t comment on my body. Thanks for understanding, so about this other topic” thing with people I haven’t had the ED recovery conversation with, or in the first instance. With people I have had the ED conversation with, it’s “remember that talk we had? Something you could do to help would be to not comment on my body.” Or “[name], come on, you know not to do that” and they remember and stop. With people I’ve asked not to comment on my body but don’t want to have the ED conversation with, I just get increasingly blunt and drop the “please” and the “thanks for understanding”.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Yeah, there’s a few members of my family who forget that weight is a very sensitive subject with me (they’re all in the ‘normal’ weight ranges, I’m never gonna be) and I’ve used the ‘no. That’s not a subject to discuss with me’.

        When they (often) retaliate with ‘but I’m giving you a compliment!’ it’s really uncomfortable to say that actually no, it’s not a compliment but I still have to repeat it.

        (Did remind boss the other day that commenting how much ‘healthier’ I look while the doctors are trying to find out why my weight is dropping, my hair is falling out etc isn’t really a good idea…)

        1. Daisy Gamgee*

          Ugh, “compliments”. People think any stupid thing they want to say can be excused as a compliment.

          Good luck and may your health improve soon and as much as possible.

  11. June*

    OP 2: your instincts were spot on and you dodged unhinged. This guy will look like a nutcase complaining about you to any of your superiors. They will see right through it. I also would not respond to him as it may provoke another missive. Best of luck.

  12. RG*

    Did I misread Letter 1 – I didn’t think LW said they expected to have lost weight hiking and expected comments about that? I read this as they thought people would make inappropriate comments about the LW hiking as a slightly obese person.

    There’s a great social media group, Unlikely Hikers, which offers a lot of fat positivity and body positivity around hiking, if this is of interest. They also includes hikers of colour and hikers with visible disabilities.

    1. Myrin*

      I don’t think you misread – or at least I read it the same way – but with the exception of the letter’s headline I think Alison’s answer is so neutral/broad that it works either way.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      In my experience whatever you do as a fat person someone will feel obliged to make a comment about.

      Do a physical activity? ‘Good for you trying to lose weight!’
      Eat food? ‘Oh you know that won’t help you lose weight’
      Lose a bit of weight? Comments about how great that is and how you should ‘keep going’ (I had this argument with my GP a few weeks back. No, my weight dropping despite me doing nothing new is NoT a good thing)
      Exist in plain sight of others? Get comments ranging from disapproval to the fake ‘I’m concerned about your health’.

      There’s so much prejudice.

      1. Gracely*

        I swapped doctors last year after my GP kept bringing up my weight when it wasn’t relevant (I literally had bariatric surgery 3 years ago, she knew this, yet was still going on about weight loss when I was there for a strep test). It was such a great change that has made going to the doctor much less dread-inducing.

      2. Parakeet*

        Occasionally when I run I will get comments that are meant to be encouraging from bystanders who very clearly think I’m starting to try to “get healthy.” I know they mean well (and I’ll take them over catcallers, people who are fatphobic in a hostile way, etc), but I’ve been running since I was in middle school! So I always feel a little awkward about it.

      3. frystavirki*

        Yup, when I was younger I dropped a doctor because I came to him worried about having no appetite and not being able to eat much some days and he said something like “Good on you for losing weight!” Like, what? “I’m worried about not being able to do this basic human thing that is essential for survival!” “It’s not essential for you because you’re fat!” Went home and got my parents to help me with finding a new endocrinologist.

      4. pcake*

        There is SO much prejudice about weight. It’s awful, and it’s not uncommon for doctors – and almost everyone else – to do that.

    3. Observer*

      I red it the way you did, but I also think that the other issue is highly likely. Which is why Alison’s advice is so good – it works for both problems.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I read it the same way Alison did–they indicated they were mostly concerned about comments *after* the trip, and referenced a time when they got a lot of unwanted comments about weight loss in the past.

      It’s certainly possible OP works with a bunch of jerks who would be rude enough to indicate she didn’t look in shape enough to go hiking, but I think it’s far more likely she is surrounded by people who, like an unfortunately large percentage of the population, seem to mistakenly think that commenting on someone’s weight loss is always a compliment.

      1. Boss’s Fave*

        Jenny Bruso, the founder of Unlikely Hikers, has said that people she meets on trails will often compliment her or congratulate her for hiking on the assumption that since she’s fat she must be new here. LW might be worried she’ll get that kind of “compliment” from her coworkers.

  13. Kate, short for Bob*

    OP3 *please* don’t stay in the mindset of ‘I don’t deserve this promotion’. You’ve said yourself you have the experience for it – you haven’t said if there’s any money attached so to be honest they’re probably getting a bargain.

    But ‘deserving’ doesn’t really have a place in the world of work. If it did, so many more bad bosses would be reassigned to dung shoveling, and lovely boss from yesterday’s pronouns letter would be tripping over angels whenever they turned around.

    Don’t let deserve-or-not constrain your career – if you can do the work, do that work. And get paid for it.

    1. anonymous73*

      True, but I’d be skeptical of the offer too. OP has been there for 6 WEEKS. I would 100% want to find out if they’re trying to hide something from me.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Not necessarily, I often hire with an eye to someone who is a good promotion candidate. Especially if I have a team without a deep bench. You know all those comments and letters from people who don’t want to be promoted, like the jobs they are in, and don’t want to manage? That’s great right up until you have a full team of them :) Then you need to hire in promotable talent every chance you get otherwise when the manager moves you are stuck.

        This would be something that would be a bit unusual (the OP’s promotion after 6 weeks) but not unheard of, they’ve had 6 weeks to become a known entity to the hiring manager and is less risk than an outside hire.

      2. Clisby*

        Yeah, she’s barely had time to get started.

        My first thought was that they had already checked with those other co-workers with more seniority and got a big fat NO from them.

    2. Sara without an H*

      True, but I can understand why alarms might be going off in OP3’s mind. Not because she can’t do the work, but because she was hired so recently for another position.

      Yes, a discreet phone conversation with the previous incumbent is a good idea. And OP3 really needs to ask a lot of probing questions of the hiring manager.

  14. FrogGirl*

    Regarding LW5 it’s funny how cultural norms can be different between Europe and the US. Quitting jobs without having something lined up isn’t the end of the world here. Maybe because we have more robust unemployment benefits.

    I left my job and spent the next 9 months traveling and interviewing (multi-tiers interview processes). The fact that I left my job was never a big deal, or even mentionned at all, even with the gap in my resume widening.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I suspect it depends on a range of things. I am in the UK – I think that it can be a small yellow flag here here someone has an unexplained gap in their cv and that it is usually easier to get a job when you are in work.

      it’s not something that is a red flag, and someone like you who has an explanation such as travelling is likely to be seen differently than someone who just has a gap. I think also that, as Alison flags up, it’s also dependent on the job market. Right now, in many fields demand is high and it’s not unreasonable for someone to quit feeling pretty confident that they will be able to find a new job pretty quickly, so choosing not to stay somewhere they are no longer happy, and perhaps allowing themselves a t of a breathing space between jobs, is a fairly low risk choice.

      In situations where the job market is less favourable to employees, then quitting with no job to go to is a much bigger risk, so it’s more likely that employers may see it as more of a potential problem.

      1. FrogGirl*

        I would say that it can also depend of the number/length of experience in your CV. Multiple short stints with months-long gaps can be seen as a yellow flag indeed. I have a friends who was laid off multiple times after 3/4 months, with 6 months gaps in between, and it was harder to even get interviews afterward.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’m convinced the gap is what’s killing me. It’s really frustrating; the longer the gap goes on, the harder it is. But if we can’t get a job unless we have a job, how are we supposed to get a job? It makes no sense to me that employers can’t see that. Rawrrrr!

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Re: more robust benefits
      You got it in one. Even with the ACA, most peopke’s health insurance is still employer-provided. And COBRA (the legally mandated option for coverage after a job loss) is often too expensive to use.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      Interesting – I’m also in Europe and it seems to be highly dependent on social group. I’ve always been taught to avoid gaps at all cost, but I also know people who quit and then purposely took some time for themselves before searching again.

      There’s also the aspect that timelines are longer here. Notice periods are usually 3 months where I am. So being unemployed has the advantage of being available much more quickly and could actually play in someone’s favor.

    4. Tango*

      In my experience in the UK, the questions ‘why are you leaving your current job’ and ‘what is your notice period’ are very common in interviews. I once gave (2 month) notice without a new job in hand, and the interviews afterwards were awkward. One place assumed I was desperate and would take a lower salary than what I was on. It really isn’t the done thing as an accountant!

  15. Roeslein*

    One of my senior US colleagues keeps complaining that her male employees didn’t congratulate her on her weight loss. Then again, she also drones on and on about her diet which is odd to me – I’m European so assumed it’s a cultural thing, but I was very confused that she was complaining about male colleagues junior to her *not* actively commenting about her body. I remember random people I barely knew commenting on how I had lost the baby weight when coming back from maternity leave and I *hated* it, so I would never do that to someone else.

    She went on a diet-related monologue during a dinner with my EU colleagues and it was very awkward as nobody wanted to engage in the discussion (where I’m from nobody likes to admit to being on a diet, and it’s not really an appropriate topic to discuss at a business dinner – also at least one person there has a child with an eating disorder and the whole rant just felt unhealthy.) Of course it eventually shifted to “you guys are all thin you must be doing something” at which point we all shifted uncomfortably in our seats and muttered something about “everything in moderation”.

    1. Popinki*

      I promise you, that’s a self-absorbed monomaniac thing, not an American thing :) Some people just need to be the center of the room, and railing on about her weight ad infinitum is just an excuse to get all eyes on her.

      1. Observer*

        Agreed. Sure, people are much more likely to mention that they are on a diet, but this kind of going on and on and on and…. Is not typical American culture.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Trust me, Roeslein — a lot of Americans would also be made uncomfortable by a “diet-related monologue” during dinner. Your colleague sounds like a self-absorbed bore.

    3. Callum*

      Why do Europeans always assume that because one American does something, it must be any American thing? Sometimes people are just weird regardless of their culture. If Americans make those types of assumptions about Europeans, we get torn apart for being culturally ignorant.

  16. Al who is that Al*

    #5 I’ve always diagreed with the “you must have another job before you quit” being used as an absolute rule. OK, there is the financial side of things to consider but what damage are you doing to yourself by staying in a highly toxic environment? The verbal abuse, the yelling, the gaslighting – we’ve all read them here on AAM. I believe you have to think of it as “how am I affecting my job chances by staying?”
    You’re trying to job hunt while emotionally and physically compromised, the chances of you sounding happy, confident and suchlike in Job Interviews\Covering Letters etc. is much less. When you are released from that toxicity you have hours and hours every day to hunt properly through the Internet, local papers, build up contacts, do that training you need.
    I speak from experience, I have quit 2 jobs this way, both were horrible gaslighting lying (I could go on). The first one I knew was coming so I was job hunting previously and gave notice without a job. Next day sat at home in front of PC for 8 hours job-hunting (using AAM’s advice of course) and continued until a job came up. Second one was worse, ended up with being stood over intimidatingly and screamed at (over leaving a dirty plate in a sink), didn’t go to prison because I smashed the laptop to pieces on the desk rather than his face. trwo days later when finally calm, re-evaluated my life and after a few weeks took a £10k pay cut to work in a job I loved.
    Best thing I ever did.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yeah the “Don’t Quit Your Job Until You Have Another One Lined Up” Rule is really more financial than how you are seen by employers. In the Before Times, it was really more a matter of could you go six months to a year without a regular paycheck? It took that long to find a job.

      Hubby moved in with me in 2017. He moved states and was changing fields. Took him 3 months to find a job. he thought that was a really long time to be unemployed. he could not figure out why everyone he said that to — including me — just laughed and said not really.

    2. the cat's ass*

      I’ve only quit one job without something else lined up, and am still grateful i was able to do so. I had a lovely quiet holiday season where i didn’t get press-ganged into working every holiday from Thanksgiving to New Years (because that was the plan, in retaliation for me taking FMLA time earlier in the year to take care of my dad, who was dying) and then got a lovely job/promotion elsewhere in late January. Have NEVER regretted it.

    3. Just Me*

      Adding to this–I quit my job super toxic job in July and had to disclose during the interview for my current job that I had already given notice. I didn’t want to badmouth my employer, but I had two references from OldJob who were very frank speaking to the new employer saying, “We’re severely understaffed and Just Me is working 15+ hour days, answers hundreds of emails a day, etc.” Interviewer mentioned this and said, “I see why you gave notice–they clearly have issues.”

      My takeaway is that you can do this, but it helps to have very, very good references.

    4. Gracely*

      I’ve only quit a job once without having something else lined up, and it was absolutely the right choice. I was ready to move back in with my parents if I had to until I found something else–but I landed something almost immediately. New job opened up career paths I’d never have considered if I’d stayed at the old toxic job.

  17. Lady Danbury*

    OP #4, depending on your board and your relationship with them, you might want to give at least the Chair a heads up about your interaction with this person. A reasonable, healthy person would be able to see that he’s completely unreasonable, but I can think of at least one board that I’ve worked with where this likely would have become a storm in a teacup until the ED explained and diffused the situation. You don’t have to go into detail or provide his emails, just give a brief summary of the interaction.

    Hopefully your board is reasonable enough that this isn’t necessary, but obviously you know them better than us internet strangers.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I’d give the heads up also. I guess this is a know your workplace thing. A threat like this should be passed along in some places.

      I do have that evil side of me that would want to email back, “Okay thank you for the heads up. I will be sure to let TPTB know!” (Do NOT do this, just to be very clear.)

  18. Caroline Bowman*

    OP5, as Alison says, be absolutely truthful re your current situation and if / when they ask what made you decide to leave, it’s okay to say that there had been huge turnover in colleagues and the role was changing substantially and moving away from your strengths and goals. These things are true, because your goals are not to have a nervous breakdown and your strength is not having a nervous breakdown.

  19. JBFletcher*

    #3 follow-up question: if the prior person left the company completely, best to find them and reach out… cold message on LinkedIn? Or ask the company to do the introduction? I’m concerned the prior person will tell their old company that I’m digging around and it’ll come off as aggressive/strange/dramatic if the company gets wind of my “research.”

    1. ecnaseener*

      Some people share their personal email when leaving a job so that people can stay in touch, and that’s all this is. Even if LW messaged them on LinkedIn instead, I really don’t think it would come off strangely at all. There’s nothing inherently dramatic about using your network to ask your predecessor about the job.

  20. Alice*

    LW1, I’m absolutely certain that most people take “don’t comment on people’s bodies” to mean “do not tell Anne she is fat but it’s fine to tell Bob how great he looks since he lost weight”. Would it help to have HR reiterate their policy with more straightforward phrasing? Maybe even adding “do not comment on people’s weight loss or gain since you don’t know what’s going on in their lives”?

    As an aside, a multi week hike sounds amazing!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It might be worthwhile to mention that to HR. It wasn’t until I got older that I finally understood weight loss is not always good. But this is not a young person knowledge gap. Plenty of people do not understand that weight loss can be a problem.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        Yeah, I agree on mentioning that to HR. It would help them revise their training and make it more relevant. Saying mean things about someone’s body is nut the only way comments about size are hurtful.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Remember that this was presented in the context of harassment training though — a major point in any decent harassment training is going to be “yes, even if you mean it as a compliment.”

    3. mlem*

      I very strongly suspect that “don’t comment on bodies” in a harassment training is assumed to have an unspoken “in a sexual manner” by most attendees, and that many of LW1’s coworkers would be shocked (if not disapproving) to hear it applied as a more general topic.

      To be entirely clear, it SHOULD be a general ban on talking about bodies (other than something obviously innocent like “you have spinach in your teeth”)! But I doubt most people would hear that statement in a harassment training and correlate it to talking about weight loss/gain, unless that angle was specifically called out … and honestly, possibly EVEN IF that angle was specifically called out, sadly.

    4. Sara without an H*

      These are all good points. I, too, would bet dollars to donuts that most of the people who went through this training assumed that it was acceptable to make remarks about people’s bodies, as long as the language was non-sexual and “complimentary.” I hope LW1 will have a talk with HR to make sure that this is still going on and to give them an opportunity to fine-tune their training.

  21. I don’t post often*

    OP 1- Good luck on your hike! It sounds like a lot of fun.
    Thank you for writing in. I very much hate that we live in a society that thinks that thin= healthy and weight loss automatically is good thing. You are not alone in this problem.

  22. Camellia*

    I prefer to be succinct and direct: “I don’t discuss my weight at work.”

    This works for anything – weight, body, diet, tattoos, hobby…

    1. anonymous73*

      Yup. This works for questions, but OP also needs to adopt the phrase “You need to stop commenting on my weight” for the others.

    2. Camellia*

      I’ve found that “I really don’t like to [fill in the blank] is often met with reasons why I SHOULD do something, why I shouldn’t ‘feel bad’ about doing something, and so forth. Removing that qualifier removes the ability to try to counter-argue.

  23. Popinki*

    I wish our society would get over the whole thin=attractive, good, praiseworthy and fat=ugly, bad, shameworthy deal. Not all thin people are healthy, physically or mentally. Fat people aren’t automatically lazy and in poor health.

    I wish people would get it through their heads that you shouldn’t comment on someone’s body, no matter what size or shape it is.

    I also wish for a billion dollars and a flying sky-blue unicorn, because I’m more likely to get that than the first two :P

    1. Workerbee*

      Per your latter wish, this is just one reason why I still have a small herd of vintage My Little Ponies. ;)

    2. old biddy*

      This. There is a large continent of people who think it’s rude not to comment on weight loss, like the person would be upset if no one said anything. I had chickenpox as an adult and lost a lot of weight very fast. Everyone was complimenting me on my weight loss. Even though I would normally be happy about losing weight, and at the time was one of the people who wouldn’t mind discussing it, it really pissed me off. Being told over and over how great I looked when in fact I did not look great due to chickenpox scars and muscle loss really drove home the point that one’s weight overrides everything else.
      I’ve told people that if someone is talking about their diet and workout plan, feel free to compliment them but don’t say anything otherwise.

  24. Catalyst*

    OP #3 – As someone who recently left a position because of an extremely toxic environment, illegal activity by ownership, etc I would say definitely ask this person for a phone call. Someone reached out to me over LinkedIn about my experience there because he was up for the position (it was under 9 months so was probably a flag for him) I was not ok with being honest in writing. I gave a very bland ‘wasn’t the place for me’ kind of response but would have been more willing to give some more info over the phone. I also suggest reaching out via Linkedin if you can because asking the company to introduce you might put them off if they know they have something to hide. I can admit I’m a bit jaded because of my experience. The owner of the company I left has been very vindictive with other employees and so I don’t want to rock the boat.

  25. Workerbee*

    #2 What’s with all the apologizing? Since you already apologized for something that wasn’t your fault, if you DO decide to reach out to this entitled being again, let that previous apology stand for any others you are (errantly) urged to make. This is a time to get rightfully annoyed, not fearful.

    1. anonymous73*

      I agree about the apologizing, but I would also be concerned that he followed through on his threat. OP said he was very salesman-like, which means he’s good at the BS. I wouldn’t make a big deal about it, but would just give someone a heads up about it for CYA purposes.

      1. Baffled Burra*

        This is my take, too. Since there is more than one member of our board that frequents the founding org and has connections there, I wondered about making them aware of the situation in case they hear something “off”
        But in the end, I just left it at the original email and ignored the second one

  26. SaffyTaffy*

    OP1, I FEEL YOU with the weight thing. You can get through it.
    But I’m comforted to hear about the sunburn thing, too! I’m very pale and flush easily on my chest for no reason- like drinking hot tea. And people will walk up to me to tell me I have a sunburn. Strangers! One former boss mentioned it so often that I started pre-emptively sighing, “it’s not a sunburn…” when I came back in from lunch.

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

    Every time I read a letter regarding weight loss, I always wonder where OP works. I’m in IT, a field full of people with weight and eating disorders and struggles, and we have a tacit “no health talk” apart of the “no politics or religion” rule.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      In all the IT departments I’ve worked in here in the UK I’ve never found one where I haven’t got comments about me being obese.

  28. Typing All The Time*

    #2 – Maybe share your experience/email from the candidate with your supervisor, just to keep them in the loop and so they have your side of the story.

    1. Observer*

      It’s probably a good idea to share the information. Not so much to protect the OP, but to keep their boss from being blindsided if this person decides to kick up a fuss.

  29. A Simple Narwhal*

    #5 I had something similar happen to me! I was in the middle of interviewing for a new job when I got laid off from my current job. I was anxious that they were going to think I lied on my resume, or lied in the initial interview, or that they’d think I’d suddenly been tainted. But nope! It was never even a thing. Alison is 1000% right, as long as you don’t lie and pretend you still work there, there’s no reason to announce it proactively.

    As for quitting with nothing lined up, I am a big proponent of doing it if you have the option to do so. I stayed at a job that was making me miserable and physically sick for way too long, all because I thought I had to have a new job first. Well, working 14+ hour days doesn’t really leave you the time, energy, or mental space to successfully job hunt, so I’m not sure how I thought that would work out. But quitting was absolutely the best thing I could have done, and I’m grateful that I had a spouse who not only encouraged it but was willing/able to support the household without my full income. And when I did start going on interviews, not having a job wasn’t ever really a thing. They asked why I left my last job, I gave a sanitized abridged answer, they would nod knowingly, and then move right on with the interview. Most people understand that some jobs just go south due to no fault of your own, and if they see it as a red flag that you were willing and able to walk away from a bad situation, well that’s probably someone you don’t want to work for anyway.

    Good luck! And congrats on quitting!

  30. Mary Smith*

    OP 3
    I worked for a really toxic boss once and saved many a people from working for her when they contacted me as the previous person who held the position. I was really impressed people thought to do so!

  31. ResuMAYDAY*

    Stopping the comments before they happen without coming off like a jerk could only happen in a world where the comments don’t happen int he first place. :-(

  32. I just work here*

    I don’t think I have ever seen a letter from a man in any forum stating that he is getting comments about his weight or appearance from his workplace colleagues.

    1. Brett*

      As a man who recently lost quite a bit of weight, I get plenty of comments. It got so bad and so invasive that I stopped using video on work calls and had my profile picture removed completely. I’ve been at my stable weight for over 5 months, and I still get inquires and comments about it easily 10-20 times a week. The number one question is always if I am going to get surgery to deal with loose skin, which I really don’t like talking about, followed by how I did it, which I am much more open to but still gets tiring.
      Your comment I think is implying that this doesn’t happen to men? I think it is just that men are not writing as many letters about it so it is easy to miss.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        I’m also male and I lost ~70-75 pounds (depending on the day) and have kept it off now for almost 10 years. I still occasionally get the, “Have you lost weight?” question from people I don’t see often. So their internal image of me is from at least 10 years ago, back when I had more hair, too. :)

        I tend to look at them quizzically and reply, “Umm, no?” If they persist with something about how fat I was (it happens) and I’m feeling salty, I’ll ask them when they got their nose job.

      2. I just work here*

        I think that was my point-it happens much more to women than to men–but you might be right–it’s just that men don’t discuss it or share about it as much. I don’t get comments about my weight but it’s amazing how many people tell me “how much better” I look with makeup on and how I should wear it more often.

  33. Limdood*

    Honestly, I disagree with AAM’s take on LW2. The “very salesman-like” demeanor, the passive aggressiveness, and the jumping straight to threats has all my alarm bells ringing for manipulative abuser. Salesmanship is their biggest strength, followed closely by petty abuse for perceived slights.

    I would absolutely warn SOMEONE higher up – in writing – and backed up safely. Even if you had to word it as “just wanted to make you aware, a potential candidate, dissatisfied with the result of his interview, has been making threats to take it to a higher level, and his pattern so far suggests that if he’s dissatisfied with those results, he may continue escalation and retaliation.”

    That way your superiors are aware of any possible retaliation against you in particular, and they’ve been given a heads up in case of any escalation up the chain.

    Sure, I may be blowing it out of proportion or completely misreading it, but that description of the situation had ALL my red flags waving, and people like that are an infection…. Way harder to root their influence out of your life/organization than to block them ever getting any sort of foothold in the first place.

    1. Baffled Burra*

      Thank you. I saw all those red flags of manipulation. Maybe my radar’s just up because of previous personal experiences and the fact that our building is a public place where anyone could waltz right in. That combo alone had me a little on edge.

  34. Cardboard*

    I dated someone like the applicant in #2. Best thing is to stop engaging entirely. Most likely his threat is a bluff, he thinks it will work to bait you into giving him a response or even the job. Completely ignore it.

    If by some chance he does send something to the board, they most likely 1) will not care about one rejected applicant 2) will gather from his wording that you dodged a bullet 3) if they were to ask for details you will be able to show that you didn’t do anything wrong.

  35. Bless(my?)Heart*

    Something I struggle with related to LW #1 but different scenario…

    I have devoted a lot of time to self-care over the past two years and have lost 60+ pounds, putting me near my college weight but still not skinny/thin. Of course as we see in the comments to this thread and in others, people comment. I generally assume people mean it in a positive way, but either way comments received are not a big deal to me.

    However, social custom is to return a compliment with a compliment…but I very much want to steer clear of “and you look great too” or similar comments about bodies – for all the reasons this thread and others mention is not something you do.

    So, what is an acceptable response when you do not have feelings about the comments received, but do not know the appropriate return compliment? Thanking and/or changing the subject is often seen as a slight against them such as I did not notice anything to compliment them on, or am too self-absorbed to return a compliment, etc.

    (For additional context, I am a cis, white, man in the South in the US – and it is usually women I work with or am professionally connected to that comment, not outside of work friends)

    1. Esmeralda*

      “Why, thank you! What a nice thing to say!” (that doesn’t stop further comments, but it gives a compliment that is not body-related)

      Be careful not to make it sound like “Aren’t you sweeeet?” which of course is NOT a compliment.

    2. NothingToSeeHere*

      I wonder if this is a regional thing, b/c although I do sometimes hear people reply to a compliment with a compliment, it’s not obligatory, and just thanking them is enough. (I’m a midwesterner.)
      However if this is a must for you, complimenting them on something they’re wearing is maybe your safest bet- “I like your earrings/shoes” or “that color top looks good on you”. I’m thinking really hard about how you make sure it’s not creepy…. If you do the first one you actually need to make sure they’re not wearing the smallest, plainest earrings ever or very plain black shoes, or it’s gonna be weird.

      1. JustaTech*

        Slight suggestion to your suggestion: “That’s a great color top” is a better/safer bet because it is 100% about the clothing and the person’s choice to wear the clothing and not about their body. I think you’re right that accessories are safer.

        Or you could chose a compliment that’s not about appearance at all but about work (this is of course harder to come up with on the fly, but if you know which people are most likely to compliment you and want a compliment in return you could think up something in advance) like “you did a great job on the TPS reports/handling that customer”.

    3. Observer*

      So, what is an acceptable response when you do not have feelings about the comments received, but do not know the appropriate return compliment? Thanking and/or changing the subject is often seen as a slight against them such as I did not notice anything to compliment them on, or am too self-absorbed to return a compliment, etc.

      If someone sees it as a slight, your real problem is that you are dealing with someone who is waaaay too thin skinned. I wish I had a good way of handling that.

      It’s fine to politely move forward as long as you don’t make a Big Deal of it. You’re doing a good thing in contributing to making comments on people’s weight not being seen as a universal compliment.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Just say thanks. Reciprocating a compliment is not a social obligation in the way that “how are you, I’m fine how about you, fine” is. There’s no loop to close here and if someone is only paying a compliment to get one in return that’s so insincere I wouldn’t want to reinforce the expectation.

  36. L*

    #1 redirect the conversation to pack weight or the trip details! GF here to a triple crowner who lost 80 lbs on his first one. You’d be surprised how easy it is to get people to obsess about a different thing on the trip – ice axe training ?? Gather round peeps – we are watching some YouTube videos now. Also, if you choose to take a spot device or use an app – let people follow you! You start the conversation upfront about planning. If anyone comments on your body weight, you need to be direct – “I know you think you are being nice by telling me I look great now, but it is hurtful because you are implying I looked bad before. Can we please just talk about my awesome hiking trip and not about my body weight?” Shut it down. It also helps to give instagram access for public photos or send a few to one coworker who distributes it while you are not there. Everyone has seen you before you come home then. Seriously though. I wasn’t the one hiking and no one at my work had met my bf at all – yet they were weirdly obsessed with the process and the details and it was fun to talk about it. Everyone loved tracking him and seeing his instagram pics. Still hasn’t met any of them yet.

  37. Catlady*

    #5 I recently left my job without another lined up. I have been ready to try to explain the gap in my resume, Dec-now, in interviews. So far I have had three and no one has even mentioned it. I have proactively explained it when mentioning my job history and then they don’t even blink an eye. I think with the pandemic interviewers are not surprised at all to see some gaps on resumes.

  38. LW #3*

    LW #3 here. Thanks for the great advice! I’m glad to hear it’s acceptable to reach out to former coworkers about jobs you might be filling.

    I did reach out to the former worker, and she was completely willing to talk to me, which was great! Unfortunately the first thing she said was “I told all of the department heads not to take this job before I left.” it sounds like the place was a real shitshow when she left and made her completely burnt out. So unfortunately even though it would be a big pay bump, and I do think I would be suited for the position, I’m not going to take it.

  39. Khatul Madame*

    LW5 – in a similar situation I disclosed after receiving an offer in the context of discussing my start date. This was pre-Covid.

  40. Calories can go screw*


    This might be a bad thing to do, but I had a coworker at a previous position who always commented on what everyone was having for lunch and talking about weight loss. It spread to other coworkers and the women were just constantly talking about diets (so toxic and not work appropriate).

    I got really fed up with it. At one group lunch, when she commented on my food, I casually commented that I don’t like to talk about calories, since I used to have an eating disorder (truth). That shut her (and everyone else) up about calories. People need to STOP commenting on this shit, it’s not ok.

  41. Didi*

    OP1: I am so sorry you are dealing with this – been there! I lost 70 pounds several years ago. This was intentional and gradual.

    My great-grandboss who was overweight freaked out when she saw me (he worked in a different office and was visiting). She pulled me into a conference room and demanded to know how much I had lost and how. It was the most awkward and inappropriate grilling I had ever had.

    She: How much weight have you lost? Me: (lying) I don’t know. I don’t have a scale.
    She: You must have some idea. Me: (Lying) Nope.
    She: Well you’ve gone down several sizes in clothes, right? Me: You think so? I guess I should get new clothes then.
    She: You can’t be wearing the same clothes as before. Me: As before when?
    She: You know. Me: ….
    She: You used to be heavier. Me: ….
    She: How are doing it? Me: Doing what?
    She: Losing weight? Me: I don’t know what you mean.

    She eventually gave up and I heard later she was PISSED at me for not telling her “my secret”.
    Playing dumb is a sucky way to deal with such people but it often works.

  42. LW #5*

    Just wanted to say thank you for all of the support. I never imagined quitting without another job lined up. I know it was the right choice for my health and am thankfully in an okay position financially (I am in the US so I get zero benefits), but I am frankly very terrified. I am very hopeful to find the right team/company very soon and encouraged they won’t be put off by me resigning from my prior position.

    1. Imaginary Friend*

      > I am in the US so I get zero benefits

      It might not be quite so bad as this. If you had health insurance thru your employer, they are required to give you information on COBRA, which is a way of staying with the same insurance company, only you have to pay the entire premium. Which might not be affordable, but it’s still a thing that exists. Also, the ACA (“Obamacare”) means that health coverage should be available to you regardless of employment. I know it’s not perfect, and it varies between states, but again, it’s a thing that exists.

      As for money to live on, it is totally worth checking — apply for unemployment and let them turn you down if you don’t qualify. Again, it varies by state but just applying shouldn’t cost you anything but time.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I’ve actually *never* had another job lined up when I left; fortunately, it hasn’t been a problem for me yet. A couple of quick tips:

      –If you get health insurance through your current job, they are required to offer you COBRA when you leave. The premiums are often quite expensive, but you can get its benefits *retroactively* if you opt in within the enrollment period (90 days, IIRC). So if you get into a serious accident 45 days after quitting and get huge bills, you can decide then to enroll and have the treatment covered by your previous health insurance.

      –Look into public assistance. In my state, you are able to get Medicaid and Food Assistance even if you have significant savings, as long as your current income is $0. A lot of people on government assistance are on it briefly between jobs, because of the weird way our health insurance is tied up with employment. Accept the assistance proudly, as long as you plan to vote to protect it in the future.

      –If you apply for Medicaid and are rejected, then you can try the health insurance marketplace. A lot of the subsidies require a rejection from Medicaid.

      –Apply for unemployment benefits. Some companies I worked for were so notorious for pushing people out the door without explicitly firing them that the unemployment office just granted benefits to anyone who quit. Be warned that staying on unemployment may involve a weird number of hoops, though, such as having to take certain classes at the job center or demonstrating that you applied to X jobs this week.

      Good luck, and I hope to hear from you in an upcoming Good News Friday post.

  43. Velawciraptor*

    #4 hit home today because I just had this exact situation (from the employer’s perspective) at work today. Candidate countered, we don’t really have much room for negotiation in state government, HR said no….

    Candidate accepted anyway and was essentially out of Alison’s play book. We’re happy to have them coming aboard and I absolutely understand why they attempted to negotiate. I have no thought that they were settling or bluffing–just that they were doing their due diligence.

    Hopefully that makes OP4 feel a little better.

  44. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

    Definitely be honest and very clear about it. From the hiring side I have seen at least one offer get rescinded just for allowing us to believe he was still at his old job, when it turned out he had left a month earlier. Same employer, I saw multiple people hired with gaps as much as a year, but straightforward about it.

  45. The Rafters*

    #3, I wouldn’t reply to this guy. It will just open the door for him to carry on even more. BTW – I never worry about a candidate like this, because every time they go higher up the food chain, they look more like a fool. If they have even 1/2 a brain between them all, your Board of Directors will realize you made the right call.

  46. RagingADHD*

    One of the frustrating things about #1 is that is so, so easy for well-intentioned people to avoid putting their foot in it. If someone is proud of the lifestyle changes they’ve made and would welcome compliments about it, they will say something to someone, sooner or later. Whether that’s idle chat about their lunch choices, or showing off a new outfit, or mentioning new activities. There are all kinds of ways people signal “I am happy about these changes and would be okay with you mentioning it.”

    And if they don’t, you don’t.

    At my last day job, it so happened that I hadn’t seen the head of another department in a few months (not unusual, he worked on a different floor and hadn’t had occasion to pass by). The next time he did, it was obvious that he’d lost a tremendous amount of weight, was wearing a different size suit, had a different haircut, etc.

    However, I wasn’t sure whether he was hitting the gym or covering up an illness. So I asked my boss–his peer and casual work buddy–whether he’d heard anything about it. He had not.

    So I didn’t say anything. It’s not as if un-given compliments burn a hole in your mouth.

  47. Despachito*

    As I understand it, the problem is that the comment shouldn’t be sexually laden. Complimenting someone on a great haircut/nice shirt color/nice pendant should be OK, although I’d be much more wary of it if directed to the opposite sex (for fear that it might be understood the wrong way).

    And I am thinking that all of us will probably consider it inappropriate to make this comment towards someone higher up in the food chain…

  48. Michelle*

    Re #1 (people commenting on weight): I wonder if a (campaign-type) pin/button/badge that says e.g. “Please don’t comment on my weight” would be effective. It would probably be perceived as odd but at least slightly less aggressive than actually saying something or emailing. (I know in some situations they’re now worn by people to indicate their pronouns.)

    The thought occurred to me because I used to make those for a political campaign. I do still have the equipment and some leftover supplies to make standard 2-1/4″ pinback buttons, so if OP or anyone finds the idea intriguing, I’d be happy to make you a couple to see what responses you get. (I’m curious & would happily do some for free, at least while my leftover supplies last, if anyone else was curious enough to cover the postage to mail them to you.)

    Alternately there are places online, probably just Googling “custom buttons,” that undoubtedly offer a much wider range of sizes (and for this purpose you might want an oversized one, which I no longer have the equipment to make) . Those same places can usually do you a big custom button-type fridge magnet if you wanted to go a more anonymous route.

  49. Evvie*

    I have had people comment on my weight in all directions. I got in trouble for my shirt going up about a half inch after some weight gain (and then only if I was reaching up high), and the gain was caused by a medical condition I couldn’t keep up with wardrobe wise. I was humiliated.

    The worst, though, is I finally answered a repeat commenter with “I have anorexia.” Which is true (and not the same medical condition above). I was literally told “keep it up; you look great.” This wasn’t at work, which meant I had zero recourse, but damn.

    Honestly, I’ve found the best recourse overall is to give zero response. Act like you didn’t hear them or respond with something totally unrelated. Them: “Wow, you’ve lost so much weight!” Me: “How are the kids?”

    Unless they’re being assholes. Then they get told that. I’m just so beyond done!

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