can I work a gig job at lunch, coworker uses slurs, and more

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

1. Can I work a gig job at lunch?

I am currently employed full-time. I work from home. I’m a busy-body by nature, so am always looking for something a little extra to keep me busy. I recently decided to set myself up as a dog walker and house sitter on a website that connects pet parents with people looking to provide this service. It seems perfect because I love to get out and walk in the middle of the day, I love dogs, and making a few extra dollars doesn’t hurt.

House sitting hasn’t been an issue so far. But walking has been a bit of one. I will take a job if my calendar is free over lunch break, and then I put a private appointment on my calendar to block that time from appearing available to anyone looking to schedule a meeting with me. As a salaried employee, there are times when I take meetings over lunch, but generally I have time free over the lunch period. The walks do not extend past the edges of what a normal lunch break would be. My work is of good quality and I get it done on time.

The problem comes in with my company’s lackadaisical attitude about meeting stop and end times. My boss is regularly 10 or so minutes late to meetings and meetings regularly run over scheduled end times (most commonly by 15-20 minutes but occasionally up to an hour). These meetings running late don’t seem to bother anyone else, but they drive me nuts because I am a punctual, if slightly type A personality, who takes seriously the promise of a timely start and end time that a calendar item implies.

Am I out of line with my expectations for meetings to start and end on time, and thus that I should be able to take these walks when I’m technically free on my calendar? Or am I supposed to be endlessly flexible throughout my day for whenever someone decides to run straight through a scheduled end time? Assuming I should be able to plan on meeting starting and ending on time, any advice for respectfully advocating for myself in these situations?

In theory, yes, meetings should start and end on time. But you’re in an office where that’s not the culture and no one else seems bothered by it, which means your options for changing it might be limited.

You can try asking for the group to be more disciplined about ending times so that you can plan your calendar with more confidence — especially if it’s causing work problems for you. And you presumably aren’t the only one who might have something else on your calendar that you need to get to.

The issue, though, is that you’d be trying to change your meeting culture, possibly daily, so that you could work another job in the middle of the current one. It’s not ideal to be saying, essentially, “I know that there’s more to discuss, but I need to leave to go make money doing something else.” Of course, it’s possible to be vague about why you need to leave at exactly a certain a time, but it’s trickier when it’s daily than when it’s occasional.

So the answer is: maybe. Maybe you have a boss who would be fine with hearing, “I’m going to have a standing appointment at lunch each day this week and will need to leave exactly at 12:30, which will mean I’ll need to duck out of meetings if they go longer than planned.” But if you have a boss who questions that, or if it means missing things in those meetings that you actually need to be there for, it might be that this isn’t a job that’s compatible with scheduled gig work at lunch.

2. My coworker uses slurs and talks about maiming people

I share a workspace with a generally friendly woman who has the unfortunate habit of moving conversations towards inappropriate topics and using words that most people would find offensive.

We share an open cubicle farm space in an open office, meaning our “conversations” can be heard by the whole office. She loves to talk, and will often continue talking even when everyone else mentions they need to focus or offers one-word answers. These are usually conversations about how much she hates members of her family, neighbors, or boss, sometimes moving to maiming or murder plans. She also peppers her sentences with inappropriate words, think derogatory terms for mental disabilities and LGBTQ folks. Today, a tour was being given of our facility and right as the new hire was walking by, the loud coworker repeatedly said how “r-word” her boss was. I was deeply embarrassed that the new hire could have the impression that we all behave that way.

I try to redirect the conversation or not engage at all, as I need to maintain a friendly work relationship with her, but I really don’t want to be tied to any conversation where she complains loudly about her job and uses offensive terms. I’ve brought it to my boss, who is not her supervisor, and he is thinking about how to address it, but in the meantime I need a strategy to redirect conversations to a more workplace-friendly topic. She unfortunately has a revenge streak and is not above quitting if I offend her. She has threatened it before and she is desperately needed at the time as she is the only person in a critical role.

You can’t allow someone to use offensive slurs because you’re afraid they’ll quit if you don’t! Please, please call out the language politely but directly. Ways to do it in the moment:
* “Please don’t use that word around me.”
* “It sounds like you don’t realize, but that word is very offensive.”
* “I don’t know if you know, but that’s considered a slur. Please don’t use it at work … or at all, for that matter!”
* “I find that word really upsetting. Please don’t use it around me.”

You can also try approaching her privately later and saying something like, “You used the word ___ earlier, and I thought you must not realize how offensive it’s considered now. I know you’d never want to embarrass yourself, so I wanted to give you a heads-up so you don’t accidentally say it again.” Say it like of course she’d want to know and won’t say it again, and maybe she’ll feel obligated to live up to that. (That works a surprising amount of the time! Or it could just inflame her, but it’s a reasonable approach to try.)

You can shut down the talk about murder and maiming too — “That’s way too graphic for me. Please stop saying that stuff.” … “If you say something like that again, I would feel obligated to report it so please don’t.” … etc.

3. Interviewing while Asian with blonde hair

I’m of Korean descent and have bleached blonde hair. It’s been part of my personal style throughout college, and it’s something that I get a lot of compliments on. However, now that I’ve graduated and started looking for more professional roles, I’m concerned that it might come off as a little too “counter-cultural.” (For context, my degree is in Economics and I’m applying mainly for consulting opportunities.)

Part of me thinks, “If it’s okay for white people to dye their hair any naturally-occurring color they want, why not me? Plus, I know plenty of other east Asian women in professional roles with dyed brown/brunette hair, so why is being blonde a stretch?” Another part of me says that this is a very stupid battle to be fighting, especially when other people have to deal with their natural hair being seen as unprofessional, and that I should just go back to black for the time being.

I’ve received conflicting advice so far. My department’s career counselor thinks my resume’s strong enough that I can get away with it, and that it might even make me more memorable and lower my chances of getting mixed up with another east Asian candidate (which has unfortunately occurred to me before). My friends say that I should consider whether I’d be happy at a company that would consider this a flaw — after all, what other expectations could they have about what’s “normal” relative to race? And my parents say (somewhat predictably), “Are you crazy? Dye your hair back and focus on getting the job.” What do you think?

I think you’re fine keeping your hair blonde! It’s not a particularly out-there choice as far as hair colors go, even in more conservative fields, and norms are changing quickly around hair color. If it were blue or green, I’d be more concerned. Blonde, even though it’s unnatural on you, isn’t likely to be a big issue, especially if it’s well maintained.

4. Employee left, now wants to come back

We had an employee work for us for 11 years and she decided to get a new job. She was going to get better pay and other perks. She gave her two-week notice and we gave her a goodbye party. Our other part-time employee filled her position.

Now after five days, the employee wants to come back to her regular schedule. She wants to quit her new job. I feel horrible because the other part-timer is very happy with working more hours. What is the best option here? I am the assistant manager but my manager has the final say. Isn’t it wrong to tell the part-timer that she will go back to her old schedule because the previous employee wants to come back to her old schedule? What are the rules? I have not gone through this before. I have worked with the company for 19 years. How do I know the previous employee will not quit again? This has been so stressful for me. What do I do?

Assuming you’re happy with the part-timer’s work so far, don’t kick them out of their position! It’s the same as you’d hired someone new from the outside when your employee resigned; you wouldn’t fire a new hire if an old employee decided she wanted to come back. If you have work for the former employee and would be excited to re-hire her, great — but it would need to be in addition to what you’ve already hired the replacement to do. If the former employee is significantly better at the job, that complicates things — but if you let them take the other person’s hours, be prepared to lose that other person, who will rightly be upset with that treatment.

Before you do anything, though, make sure you understand why the employee left in the first place. If there was something about the job making her fundamentally unhappy and those issues remain, there’s a decent chance she’ll end up moving on again relatively soon … and you definitely don’t want to sow chaos on your staff to accommodate her return if it’s going to be short-term.

I hope you didn’t give her a handbag when she left.

5. How do you personalize a cover letter when you don’t know the company?

I would like to be able to follow your great cover letter advice, but how do you tailor a cover letter when the job posting only gives you an industry and an area? Aside from the job duties and a mention that the company is growing fast, there is nothing that identifies it and I’m finding it hard to get my cover letter to the caliber of ones you have shared.

Most of the personalizing you do in a cover letter should be tailoring it to the job more than the company. The employer is looking for someone who’s a great fit for this specific role, and you want to illustrate the ways that’s you. So if there’s no info about the company, that’s okay — focus on the job itself and what evidence you can point to in your skills, traits, and accomplishments to show you’d excel at the position they’ve described.

{ 435 comments… read them below }

  1. Elizabeth*

    Great advice for LW 2, especially if you and the offender both have some privileged identities. Use your privilege for good and help people to understand when they’re saying inappropriate and harmful things! Also, Google the “5 Ds of Bystander Intervention” to get some more ideas of how to address the issue in a way that’s comfortable for you. Intervening doesn’t always mean speaking up (in the moment or after the fact). That would be a Direct intervention, but you can also Delegate (tell someone with more authority, like her/your boss), Distract (change the subject immediately anytime she makes a comment), Document (keep a log so that if you decide to do something later, or someone else does something, you can back it up), or Delay (connect with other people in the office and figure out together what action to take).

    1. Big Rich*

      #3 I interview and hire for a prominent Econ consulting firm regularly. As long as you’re qualified and I’m confident you would succeed in the role, I can’t imagine blonde hair being an issue, or even notable frankly. Purple hair might be a lift, but blonde? Nah. Interview confidently with your own personal style. A trademark for memorability is a bonus if anything.

    2. Just Me*

      Yeah, that’s just not appropriate in the workplace and she needs to be told that. Hard stop. Even if she doesn’t personally find it offensive, she’s making herself look so out of touch with current workplace norms.

      Side note, my fiancée had a job interview a few weeks ago where the interviewer said, “So, how would you react if someone at work said something was [r-word]? Would you, say immediately run to HR?” My fiancée, shocked, said, “Well, I would be very upset and offended, especially because my mom is a special education teacher.” The interviewer said something like “…oh” and was deeply embarrassed. Just calmly saying, “That’s not appropriate” can do wonders.

      1. EBStarr*

        I’m so curious. What in the world was the interviewer hoping to hear? “Don’t worry, I’m not like the other employees, I’m a COOL employee! I’d never run to HR like a great big baby just because you said something incredibly offensive in the workplace. Being respectful is for squares!”

        1. whingedrinking*

          I was once asked in an interview for a customer-facing position, “You’re not easily offended, are you?” to which I said, “Well, that depends on what you mean. I’m not okay with my coworkers casually hurling racial slurs or something like that. However, what I think you mean is, will I have a mental breakdown if a customer starts yelling at me, and for that I’d say no.”

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I got this same question in regards to field personnel potentially using profanities. I was tempted to say, “I don’t give a sh*t,” but instead I just said cursing didn’t bother me as long as it wasn’t racist or sexist. Of course, it turned out the hiring manager was the prime curser in question.

        2. TrixM*

          Sometimes it’s indeed code for something just like that. In fact, at my current job, one of my colleagues-to-be asked if I would be bothered by “unPC” jokes. It certainly raised an alert flag for me, especially since – this is my own bias in action! – he was a white ex-pat Brit who’d already asked me what Premier League team I supported (I’d lived in the UK, so it wasn’t totally out of left field, if you cared about football – I didn’t).

          I said something in the moment that I don’t mind a laugh, and that I can certainly laugh at myself when I deserve it. It helped that I noticed a slight side-eye from one of the bosses, and that it is a public sector job in a place that’s the definition of “PC”. I’m also visibly queer and wasn’t getting any negative vibes on that basis (I am white, however).

          As it turned out, my impressions were correct. White Brit was indeed fond of making racist jokes in the vein of “some of my best friends are black, but look at this funny thing about gollywogs and Megan and Harry”. On that occasion, I yelled, quite loudly, within earshot of the entire team plus senior manager, “Where do you get this shit and why are you showing it to me?!”

          But that was after I had found that he was the only obvious bigot on the team, everyone else ranging from “liberal” to “extremely liberal”, and that there definite times where everyone else pointedly ignored his more mildly-provocative statements. To his credit (kind of) after my outburst, he never shared anything of that nature again. It probably helped that I genuinely did laugh at his actually-funny jokes.

          He eventually departed for other reasons, and I found that certain members of the team were notably more chatty after he’d gone. So while there can be red flags, it may or may not indicate an organisational culture. Given it was a large public sector org with a very “PC” rep, I felt pretty confident that it wouldn’t be. If there was any hassle, and it was due to a one or two people at my level (not bosses), I was perfectly confident about taking complaints as high as I needed to. Otherwise, I’m in a fairly in-demand career and would have no qualms about moving on.

    3. TinaTurner*

      #2 reminds me of the classic quote: “When someone tells you who she is, believe her.” Yet people want not to believe someone when they’re incredibly inappropriate at work. “Free speech” doesn’t mean talking like this at work.

      If she’s really this bad I’d be tempted to audiotape her and save it in case she DOES “maim” someone.
      Sometimes a client or visitor or boss walks through an office, what do they think about this stream of consciousness?

      1. JS*

        Yes, exactly. This is not the behavior of a “generally friendly person.” This coworker has shown you who she is and holds the office hostage by threatening to quit when anybody hints at her for being the bigot she is. Take her actions and what she says at face value. And don’t be surprised is there’s some lawsuit in the future on a hostile workplace.

        1. tinybutfierce*

          Yup. This is a generally awful person being occasionally friendly when it serves her.

        2. quill*

          Also, if OP’s experience is that she’s “generally friendly” to OP, that may dovetail with “reasons she feels comfortable hurling slurs around OP” in that they share some demographic and/or she treats OP better than the rest of the office.

          Still an awful person! But many of those can hide it, for the people they deem worth their while.

      2. Lucy Skywalker*

        So many people think that “free speech” means no consequences, when it really just means that the government authorities can’t arrest you for what you say.

  2. Marnix*

    OP 2: Go forth with all of Alison’s suggestions. But please don’t be tied to the idea that she can’t quit (or to be, honest, fired). She is an enormous toxic presence in your office, not only is her very disturbing speech heard by you, other employees, a (wimpy) manager, but new people and the public.

    1. Rolly*

      Also (if this is in the US) about the OP’s and the manager who is “thinking about how to address it” : you immediately tell HR and/or this person’s boss. Or if you’re worried about not being believed, document a few instance then report it. Do not wait. There may be LGBT people in the organization who are suffering from this. This is not acceptable. It is not a gray area. Your company needs to have some sort of policy or training on bigotry/sexual harassment and threats of violence.

      She may be critical to work at this moment, but this must be escalated. If the company wants to keep a bigot who threatens violence on-board, that has to be an explicit decision.

      1. Rolly*

        The hesitation by the OP’s boss is terrible:

        “I’ve brought it to my boss, who is not her supervisor, and he is thinking about how to address it, ”

        This is actually easy for that person – they don’t have to solve it because they are the bigot’s manager. They just have to report it/pass the info on. It’s a no-brainer, unless this person sort of thinks it’s not a big deal or worth tolerating. Which is a problem.

        1. geek5508*

          +1! I am giving serious side-eye to the boss that has not addressed this NOW.
          In any normal office, the coworker’s language would be grounds for a PIP, if not outright dismissal.

          Were I a coworker who overheard that, I would begin looking for another job. If I were a customer, I would take my business elsewhere.

          This is BAD, OP2, very bad!

          1. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

            Yeah, as a queer neurodivergent person, I wouldn’t want to work for a boss who knows about this issue and has done nothing to shut it down.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, this is not inspiring. This guy should not be waffling on how to handle a bigot.

        3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Exactly. That manager should have already gone to the offender’s manager and HR because this is egregiously not ok. LW2, you can still report this to HR independent of you boss. Outline your concerns and the impact this behavior could have on the business – these slurs can drive away customers and clients. And who wants to work with or for a company where threatening to maim others is A-OK. I’d go to them in advice seeking mode (e.g. “I have had this situation occur A-Z times and want to know hoe to handle it best) but it will still be considered reporting because any semi-competent HR professional who hears this will think “Oh crap!” and deal with it

        4. GreenDoor*

          “I’ve brought it to my boss, who is not her supervisor, and he is thinking about how to address it, ”
          This is a sign to go above your bosses head. I mean, the co-worker is crude, derogatory, offensive to entire demographic groups, and talks about murder and maiming – and does this in front of new hires/visitors! What on earth is there for the boss to have to think about???

          Go above boss and don’t be afraid to point out that the lack of attention to this problem, in addition to being offensive and stressful, may open the company up to litigation. And don’t worry about if she quits. No one is irreplaceable.

      2. Pants*

        Could the woman throwing the slurs open the company to a discrimination lawsuit, should anyone in the office take offense? I vote for HR.

        Though part of me wants OP to shoot rubber bands at her face.

        Why not both?

        1. Myrna*

          I don’t think we’re a protected class, although there is court precedent for employers not being able to fire us outright.

          1. Elle*

            I think pants means continually employing this person while they make these comments could open the door to a hostile workplace lawsuit, given the hostility this coworker is spewing about LGBTQ+ and disabled people.

      3. LCH*

        i sort of question that anyone this immature can’t be replaced. yes, the company would have to go through the hiring process, but there are other workers out there.

    2. Airy*

      Yeah, honestly it sounds like her quitting would mean temporary pain while finding someone else to take up the job followed by tremendous relief at working with (hopefully! Surely more likely!) a reasonable person who isn’t full of murder plans and offensive epithets. She sounds dreadful and I think LW may have got the difficulty of a situation that doesn’t yet exist out of proportion with the difficulty of the situation they’re currently in, just because it’s the status quo and not a change.

      1. MEH Squared*

        Agreed. It’s similar to when Alison says that a toxic workplace can really mess with your idea of normal. This woman is talking about maiming and murdering her family members while also being incredibly insulting in her language. And would quit out of spite. That is not a generally friendly woman nor a good colleague. Losing her may hurt in the short run, but it would probably be better for everyone overall.

        OP, it’s obviously not your job to discipline this woman, but I would follow Alison’s scripts to make it crystal clear that your colleague’s comments are not acceptable.

      2. Bilateralrope*

        Agreed. Having her employment end, even if she thinks she’s taking revenge, is a major victory here. Probably the biggest victory the letter writer can hope for because it immediately ends one problem.

      3. Ariaflame*

        We are living in a world (always, but now more than ever) where people can suddenly no longer be available, because they quit, got sick, got in an accident or just are no longer available for some reason. A particular person should not be so critical that everything falls down if they are no longer there.

      4. Ariaflame*

        We are living in a world (always, but now more than ever) where people can suddenly no longer be available, because they quit, got sick, got in an accident or just are no longer available for some reason. A particular person should not be so critical that everything falls down if they are no longer there.

        1. Selina Luna*

          I agree. If one person is so crucial to a business that (on one end of the spectrum) they get to be complete jerks, or (on the other end of the spectrum) they can never take time off, the business’s managers and supervisors are behaving stupidly. You should never have so few people that the departure of one would destroy everything.

      5. Forrest*

        Was genuinely so confused when I got to the end of that sentence and realised OP thought that her “quitting in spite” would be a BAD thing. Sounds like the ideal outcome to me!

        1. Observer*


          And if she tries to collect unemployment because the employer had the AUDACITY to forbid her from using slurs all over the place, she’s not getting unemployment either. So there isn’t even that minimal cost for them.

        2. OP#2-I promise*

          Unfortunately, she single handedly runs our inventory and is the only person who knows the system since her boss and coworkers all quit. We’re also a highly regulated industry so if something that should happen does not, we could face closure and lawsuits. I’ve been trying to learn her tasks so I can step in and keep us going until we find a replacement when things escalate.
          This has all been great advice, besides just getting a script it reinforces that I’ve been far to passive to what has been going on. I appreciate everyone’s more clear outlook.

          1. Loosey Goosey*

            I wonder why her boss and coworkers all quit…yikes. OP, I really sympathize because this sounds so stressful and awful for you! Where is management in this company? Someone with authority needs to step in and put a stop to her behavior, or fire her. It’s not your responsibility to change her, or proactively train yourself on her tasks to protect the company. Why isn’t the company doing the work to protect itself? Management has made decisions that allowed her to become indispensable, and now management is allowing her bad behavior to go unchecked. These are all affirmative choices; it didn’t just happen. Don’t make yourself responsible for covering for the bad decisions of your employer.

            1. OP#2-I promise*

              The company has a notorious leadership issue, with a lot of passivity and blame passing and our geographical location has an extreme staffing shortage. She’s kind of the last hold out in a chain of people leaving because of poor leadership, and now I’m wondering if she only stayed because the company allows her language and behavior without pushback. My department has two new bosses though who actively push for change, so from these comments opening my eyes, I’ll push more. I really appreciate all the help and suggestions!

              1. pancakes*

                I was wondering if there was a “geographical location” factor here. It often seems that people in remote or under-populated areas put up with an extraordinary amount of nonsense due to feeling like they’re more or less stuck with one another. It also often seems that people sometimes have warped norms after spending a lot of time in that sort of environment. You’re wondering why she stays but I’m wondering why you stay, too. I’m also wondering how many other options people have for work if there’s a location issue.

                1. OP#2-I promise*

                  The company is in both a remote and under-populated area. Paired with a huge cost of living and most folks having to commute at least 40 minutes with no public transport, the staffing shortage is hitting this area hard. Most of us here at Company X love our job and are working here not only because it’s very niche and one of two places in the state that does what we do, but also because the perks and pay are pretty good for the area.

                2. New Jack Karyn*

                  LCH: Might be Alaska. Not my cup of tea (I’m a weakling about the cold), but lots of folks love it.

          2. EPLawyer*

            WHY are you stepping in? You cannot care more about the company than the people who actually run it do.

            You have talked yourself into a trap here. Oh no, we will close if she goes, I have to fix it.

            Not your job to fix. If the boss and EVERYONE ELSE quit, there might be a really good reason. Rather than trying to fix the company, you should be working on your resume and getting the hell out of this insane place.

          3. Observer*

            Her boss and her coworkers all quit? And they haven’t been replaced?

            If I’m reading that correctly, you should start looking for a new job. Because your current workplace sounds like it’s extraordinarily poorly run – which means you could find yourself without a job without much warning. So, try to get yourself into a better place.

            Also, has it occurred to anyone that perhaps her coworkers quit at leas in part because she’s toxic. And if potential hires are hearing her, then that’s going to weigh against taking a job working with her, if they have any options. So it’s highly probable that getting her under control is going to be good for the organization as a whole.

            Think about this – she’s in a critical, heavily regulated role and she’s the only one doing it. The company NEEDS backup for her, but they are not going to be able to get it unless they do something about her.

          4. pancakes*

            Every highly regulated profession I’m aware of has protections for employers who have lost key personnel for some reason or other before fines kick in. You’re talking about someone who does inventory, not someone who is a wildly niche specialist in, say, neurosurgery or particle physics, but the idea that your company would be in danger of being run into the ground by losing this woman seems absurd to me. It’s been in the news this week that a few Amazon warehouses in Washington state are being fined for willfully disregarding safety regulations, and they’re being fined . . . $60,000. Peanuts. And they have 60 days to present a written plan to get into compliance before higher fines become a possibility. It seems like your employer is exaggerating the likelihood that it would be run into the ground if it was short an inventory person for a little while.

            It also seems way off to me that people are at ease working with someone who likes to talk about murdering and maiming people. I realize some people are really blasé about that sort of thing or even find it funny, but between that and the bigotry it seems pretty clear that this person has a lot of genuine anger and contempt. A lot.

          5. Evelyn Carnahan*

            Oof that sounds difficult to navigate. But the management left should be forcing some cross-training if her role is so important to the company’s business. From what you’ve said I imagine she would push back but if she were abducted by aliens tomorrow, someone would need to be able to step in.

          6. PattM*

            What if she were in a car accident or hospitalized for some reason? Does everything grid to a halt? If something unfortunate happened to her, the process of work would still have to move forward. It may be painful to fill that gap and try to run inventory without her or access to her knowledge, but she won’t always be there…..we are all mortal.
            I’ve been through this at work before and it is stressful but you get through to the other side.

          7. MsSolo UK*

            Is she someone who also doesn’t take holidays? Because “only person who can do heavily regulated job” and “we can’t fire her no matter how egregious her behaviour is” is a great starting point for “committing large amounts of illegal activity”. Which is to say as long as people keep talking about what she says and don’t look at what she does, she may have found the perfect (terrible, nasty, awful) smokescreen.

            1. iantrovert*

              This. There’s a reason my employer has mandatory vacation for those in accounting–if someone doing sketchy stuff is gone a week or more, it’s more likely to be discovered.

      6. WellRed*

        Honestly, She’s not gonna quit. In addition to her racism and ableism, she’s a drama llama. If she were to quit, it’s neither OPs fault nor her problem.

        1. Loulou*

          Didn’t see anything in the letter about racism — you may have accidentally inserted that yourself.

            1. Bob-White of the Glen*

              Agreed. I doubts she’s derogatory towards those two groups, but completely enlightened on race-appropriate attitudes and terminology. But she may be. People can be completely homophobic in certain states, i.e. KS made it legal to fire someone in the 2010s while I was living there, for no reason other than being gay. You could literally walk up to an employee, say “you’re a %$& and you are fired.” Sickening. Fortunately, my university sent out a notice that that would never happen on campus. But if they say something racist there’s a different standard, so if in the USA, maybe she’s just very knowledgeable about what she can get away with? Either way, not a person who is professional or concerned with others feelings/safety, and she needs to go.

              OP this is not all on your back! If she leaves the company will find a way to survive, like they would have to if one of her family members “maims” or “murders” her (hey, maybe the tendencies run in the family!), and the company suddenly did not have her. But they are setting themselves up for a hostile workplace or medical discrimination lawsuit (again, USA biased), and the company should worry about that first. Good luck and please keep us updated!

              1. pancakes*

                Not the main point, but Kansas is not exempt from the Supreme Court’s Bostock v. Clayton County ruling that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination against gay or trans people.

      7. Jaydee*

        In the broken/missing stair analogy, I think this is like refusing to fix the broken/missing stair because having it fixed will mean the stairs can’t be used for a few hours or a day while they’re being fixed.

        Fix the stair!

    3. WS*

      Yes, and this is the cue to train someone else to handle those critical duties since she’s someone who threatens quitting anyway. Stop treating on eggshells and make a plan instead. Then you’ll be able to treat her like any employee should be treated if they behave this way.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This, and you could frame it as backup due to the pandemic, the staffing shortage, etc. Even if the situation were just that Bigot wants to take a vacation, someone should be able to cover her. If it’s put out there as a company-wide cross-training policy, that also gives her an option to quit if she doesn’t want to comply (you can hope).

    4. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Exactly – for all you know she could get hit by a proverbial bus or have a piano fall on her head tomorrow and you’d be in the same situation as if she quit. Your company would have to figure something out in that situation too. Frankly, revenge quitting is one of the better outcomes here. (Ideally she’d become a better person and I don’t discount the possibility entirely but…I don’t have too much hope)

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        And now that I think of it, how does your workplace handle this person taking time off? Does she just…not take holidays?

        1. OP#2-I promise*

          She does not take holidays right now. When she had to take leave, she was working remote and I filled in at the workplace despite not having any relation to her department. She has horrible workplace behavior, but she is dedicated to her job. They keep saying they’ll hire help but that has been a promise for quite a while.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            As someone said elsewhere, this workplace is full of bees! If she’s not going anywhere, and management isn’t helping…can you be job hunting? I know that might feel like a nuclear option but you don’t need to stay somewhere that operates like this.

            1. OP#2-I promise*

              I am sort of looking, my feelers are out, but this is an extremely niche industry that I absolutely adore and has a real impact on the world. I may have to leave the industry but I’d definitely prefer not to.
              There have been some pretty serious leadership changes in the last 2 months for the better including a new CEO and board, with people getting fired and people who quit due to the toxicity coming back and taking the empty places so I have hope that things will get better. Her current boss was thrown in to the role and works in another state, so he can’t really supervise, and with our current state in an extreme staffing shortage getting people in to new roles has been hard. That is no excuse for her retention however, and management needs to strongly address it.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                You seem to have a clear head about the situation. Good luck, you’re in a tough spot.

              2. Starbuck*

                Yes – her being there is only going to make hiring and retaining new people harder! Her language is SO far out of the norm of what is acceptable in any context (professional, social, whatever) that pretty much anyone is going to be shocked to hear it and have serious concerns about what the heck is wrong with your company that it’s allowed to continue without even a comment.

          2. Jora Malli*

            OP, it sounds like you’ve allowed yourself to be more concerned with the success of this company that the people who own and operate it are. Everything you’ve described in your letter and your comments paints a picture of poor company leadership, and it’s much, much worse than one bad coworker. Almost a whole department has quit and they’re dragging their feet about hiring for those positions and leaving all the work for a single person to do. That’s not an indicator of a healthy organization.

            I say, keep checking back in with your boss about this problem coworker, talk to the HR department if you have one, and start searching for possible new jobs.

          3. Observer*

            They keep saying they’ll hire help but that has been a promise for quite a while

            That tells me that maybe the positive changes you are seeing are only skin deep. I understand that you love your industry. But if this does not change, you really, really need to start looking. Because, in addition to the problem that she herself poses, her retention is a sign of deeper problem in your company. Problems that could leave you with no choice but to move anyway. You will be MUCH better off if you can manage the move on your own terms.

          4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            I was wondering if she’s like this because the stress of this situation is getting to her (which doesn’t excuse it, but does potentially explain it).

            This struck me: she’s overworked, can’t take time off, had to take leave at one point and someone filled in for her in a pinch, but presumably most of the time she isn’t able to have any backup like that.

            And then…

            a tour was being given of our facility and right as the new hire was walking by

            Wait, what? So they are able to hire new people, but no one to help her. No wonder she feels that way.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Does that in any way excuse using the r-word or LGBTQIA+ bigotry? I can see calling the boss an a**hole if you are stressed, but the slurs she uses are inexcusable

            2. Observer*

              I was wondering if she’s like this because the stress of this situation is getting to her (which doesn’t excuse it, but does potentially explain it).

              I’m HIGHLY skeptical of that. I don’t care how stressed she is – talking about murder plans and using that kind of language to and about people is not “explained” by a terrible job.

    5. Well...*

      I sense bees in this office. The continued tolerance of this person + sparse enough staffing to be in trouble if any one person leaves raises some flags.

      1. WellRed*

        Don’t forget the boss who is “gonna think about what to do.” Translation: nothing.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yeah my hackles go up when I hear that everyone else left, can’t help wondering why!

        This awful woman could have been the one writing in “I’m left tackling the work of five people including my former manager, by myself and literally nobody’s qualified to help me, they’ve promised backup but it hasn’t come, just one youngster with no experience in my line of business has stepped up (but messed up too), it brings the very worst out in me, I even start wanting to kill people and I hate myself when I’m stressed out, I even used a very derogatory word complaining about my boss just as a visitor swung by yesterday, but I can’t quit, the firm would literally flounder.”

    6. Nanani*

      Yes! And #2, your reputation/work comfort is not the only thing at risk here.
      What about people who have the marginalized identities your toxic person is using slurs against? Keep in mind that for a lot of these, particularly gender and disability, you don’t actually KNOW no one at the office is in a given group. There may be people being harmed a lot more than you!
      You have the power to shut it down, they don’t. Please try.

    7. Polar Vortex*

      I think a lot of great points are made in this thread but I might be a little harsh here OP.

      Why are you okay protecting a bigot? I would rather do the work of 3 people than work with someone who is okay sharing this kind of Not Okay language. Think of the person who you love most in this world, imagine them walking by your desk in place of that new hire. Would they want to be around you knowing you were complicit in that bigotry? (And you are being complicit every day you don’t call her out, every day you don’t voice these problems to your manager, your director, HR.)

      I get the Freeze reaction, it’s hard sometimes to call something out in the moment. But you’re far beyond that now. Letting Hate like this flourish is the first step towards a darker future.

      And maybe I’m being extra hard on you. But right now LGBTQ people are seeing a lot of laws passed that happened to because people don’t have zero tolerance for bigotry. I’d rather do her dang critical role than have one more LGBTQ person kill themselves because bigotry like this thrives in silence of others.

      1. OP#2-I promise*

        I fully agree that I need to step up. I am extremely conflict averse and she is significantly older and more experienced than myself, but I see that I am letting hate be accepted in the workplace. I suppose I figured someone else would step in as we are a very small office – less than 20 people. Be the change you want to see and all that. I appreciate all the comments pulling the veil back.

        1. Emily*

          Good luck! I’m also very conflict-averse, so I see you. Hopefully this will be one of those times where her response is way less of a big deal than you fear.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I’m conflict-averse too. I suggest you practise in front of a mirror, saying “Jane, you can’t talk like that, it’s derogatory and visitors will be put off”.
          Maybe enlist the help of someone else who’ll step up to back you up – that’s always a good confidence-booster and Jane won’t know you arranged it beforehand.

        3. Polar Vortex*

          You are a good person to read the comments and listen, it’s not easy to hear things like what I said and what others have said.

          It’s hard to be the voice of change, but I suspect you’ll have others step up behind you to support you. And if you don’t, in my own experience it feels better to do the right thing and have everything fall to pieces than it did to sit there and listen to what people said.

          Good luck, I hope to hear an update from you one day. And thank you for caring, you wouldn’t have been asking for help if you didn’t care.

      2. Mr. Shark*

        I completely agree that this person’s language is not acceptable, and honestly, a person shouldn’t have to be told that it’s not acceptable.
        But at this point, the first action taken should be to tell the person that it’s unacceptable, whether the LW or the manager of the person, should make it clear that it’s unacceptable and needs to stop immediately.
        Maybe the person will fall into line and realize how inappropriate they have been, and become a good employee, despite being a bigot underneath (or maybe just ignorant).

  3. Felis alwayshungryis*

    #3 – I had to Google to find pics of blonde hair on a person of Asian descent! I think it looks great. Obviously as long as yours is well done and well maintained, and you’re otherwise well groomed, I can’t see why anyone would have a problem with it. I was imagining what Asian girls at my school did in the 90s, where they tried to go lighter and ended up with that brassy shade we called ‘Asian Orange’ (I cringe to admit that now), but what I’m seeing is nothing like that.

    1. Nodramalama*

      I don’t think having a hairstyle or colour you don’t like is it not being “well groomed”. Even if her hair is more orange.

      1. Felis alwayshungryis*

        I mean as long as you’re doing it in an appropriate style and wearing clothes appropriate for that particular workplace. Personally, I don’t think it’s anybody’s business what anyone does with their hair (or indeed what they wear within reason), but if you’re in any doubt you’re way more likely to get away with it being a little different if you’re otherwise in line with professional norms. I really wish society would move on from it though.

      2. MK*

        I have seen people with orangey hues on their hair that were going for that effect, a.k.a. a styling choice, and I have seen people that were going gor blonde and ended up with orange (which is a failed dye job). There is a difference and the second looks definitely like bad grooming. It’s not about someone having a hairstyle you don’t like, it’s an obvious styling mistake, like wearing ill-fitting clothes. I wouldn’t reject a candidate based on their hairdresser not doing the best job, but it does look off.

        1. anne of mean gables*

          It seems to me that one would be going out on a pretty precarious limb trying to decide what is “intentional styling choice” and what is “bad grooming” or a “styling mistake” – especially if you are in a position of rejecting or hiring job candidates, and especially-especially if you are white, or representing a majority-white organization, and you are interviewing non-white candidates. And it’s just fully not necessary to even attempt to make that distinction – whether someone’s hair is “accidentally brassy orange” or “hip I-meant-to-do-this orange” does not impact their job performance in the least.

        2. i'm so sick of "professional norms"*

          I mean, some of us have “ill-fitting clothes” not because we’re making styling mistakes but because our bodies don’t look like “stylish” people’s bodies. Or because we can’t afford to buy new clothes every time our body shape changes. I hope our colleagues don’t decide we’re unprofessional because of it.

        3. quill*

          People also color their own hair, and/or discover halfway through a dye job that their hair structure and pigmentation actually does not work with the type of dye or bleach being used. If I were you I’d settle the hair color ideas about what is “off” even more firmly into the “none of my business” box.

        4. Anon4this*

          “I have seen people that were going gor blonde and ended up with orange (which is a failed dye job). There is a difference and the second looks definitely like bad grooming”

          LOL I got more compliments on the weird brassy marigold orange color I accidentally ended up with after a failed dye job than I could even process. I hated it and it made me want to cry but I was INUNDATED with people telling me how fabulous it looked & wanting to know the secret of how I’d achieved such a color.

      3. Batgirl*

        I mean hair colouring is a more than a preference; it’s some people’s job and a legitimate skill, so describing a DIY attempt that ended up being different colour than intended seems fairly in the box of something going “not well”.

      4. Wants Green Things*

        It’s not the orange so much as the obvious failed attempt. The orange that results from a bad dye job is really, really obviously bad, usually because the hair is fried from the bleach. Even hair that has turned blonde looks awful once the hair is fried.

        1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          This introduces some classism, though, because the difference there is often about money (i.e. expensive professional, cheap professional, DIY).

          1. Elysian*

            You know, I’m not bothered by someone being “classist” about a bad dye job. No one has to dye their hair, it is a choice and a personal preference. It isn’t the same as being classist about something everyone has to do, like eat – so what if someone always packs a modest lunch instead of going out with coworkers, if that is what they can afford. But no one HAS to dye their hair; if you can’t afford to do it well you can just not do it, or chose a different color, or whatever. I’m ok with calling it unprofessional if someone tries to DIY something that is costly to do right, and does a bad job.

            1. anonks*

              I would agree with you here. I think you could liken it to acrylic nails. If you choose to get acrylic nails, they need to still look neat. If you let them grow way out until they’re mostly off your nail or you’ve lost half of them, they aren’t going to look professional. If you can’t afford to get regular fills/go to someone who can make them look nice and not oddly misshapen, then you can opt to just have clean, natural nails- bare or painted. Yes, it’s costly, but not taking care of them does look unkept and I don’t think that’s classist. Some choices do require maintenance.

            2. EBStarr*

              All you’re saying is that you’re OK with a certain amount of classism (you argue that it’s all right to judge someone for doing something cheaply if it is not a life-sustaining activity essentially). I think it’s worth striving *not* to be OK with even that amount of classism.

              1. Elysian*

                I’m also OK with my feelings surrounding people who go to a restaurant to eat and then say they “can’t afford” to tip. Don’t buy half of something you can’t afford all of. If you voluntarily undertake something unnecessary, it is preferable to do it with the full cost in mind. A bad dye job is – by definition – done incorrectly and wrong. We can argue about what is actually “bad” but if you can only afford DIY dye for half your head or something, yes that is going to look unprofessional.

                This all seems beside the point, though, because there’s no reason to assume the OP’s dye job is bad and it doesn’t sound like money factors into her own concerns with hair upkeep, just the color and her race.

                1. EBStarr*

                  Those are two utterly different things. Tipping affects others. But one’s hair affects only oneself. There’s no justifiable way to argue that not tipping is similar to having visible roots. (You could argue that someone who can’t afford to tip their *hairdresser* should not get their hair professionally dyed and I agree with that! But it makes absolutely no sense to equate the *quality* of one’s hairdo with the way one treats people who work in customer service.)

                  But I highly agree with you on that last point. There’s no reason to assume the OP’s dye job is bad except that the person who started this thread once knew some Asian women (girls, in fact) thirty years ago whose hair color they didn’t like.

          2. Batgirl*

            This reads really oddly to me as a working class woman. The women in my neighbourhoods have always known good hairstyling techniques for when they’re skint and have to DIY, and they always know good hairdressers (often working class themselves) who will do you a good price in your home off the books. If you don’t know how to do hair, or where to go for good hair, it isn’t a class issue, like say getting into a good college! A teenager of any class can be clueless in this way.

            1. Anon4this*


              I have always been around people who could do their own & others hair, my whole life. The idea that home hair will always look bad is a pretty privileged one.

              1. Splendid Colors*

                I got the worst bleach job of my life at the top salon in town about 15 years ago.

                I’d been doing a pretty good job with my DIY bleach (for doing unnatural colors during college) but one time, I missed some of it rinsing out around my ears. I lost a few chunks of hair and had some very weak places that didn’t quite break. So I decided I’d better get a professional to do my roots the next time so she could make sure not to overlap the bleach over the damaged parts.

                I didn’t realize the new trainee wasn’t even as competent as I was; she bleached over the weak parts and combed it roughly, so I lost more hair. AND she left big calico blotches of orange and dark brown in other places.

                They had a more experienced tech touch it up, but I was furious.

      5. Canadian Librarian #72*

        Yeah, I think the key is if you’re able to tell someone is doing their best to appear professional (whatever that means in the given environment – it depends on the type of workplace and the region, often). If they’ve clearly put effort into achieving and maintaining a put-together-enough appearance, their sub-par dye job shouldn’t matter.

        Green or purple hair in a corporate law firm might not fly, but a mediocre bleach job that turned out too brassy should not be an issue in and of itself. Not everyone has the money to get a high-quality colourist, and sometimes mistakes are made and can’t be fixed right away. This shouldn’t impact someone’s livelihood.

        (Also, sometimes it’s a matter of taste – you might not like it, but the person whose hair it is might like it a lot, and others might not even notice what you think of as “bad” hair.)

    2. TPS reporter*

      OP3 you are so right that it seems to be much more okay for white people to dye their hair- hence this comment. clearly when non white people do it they get all kinds of judgments. There should be no fixation on different cuts, colors and styles regardless of race but the reality is that you still have to think in these terms and you have to be “well maintained” if you don’t have “natural” hair. How many white people do we know at work with tragically bad hair and are scrutinized as much?

      1. Rose*

        No one should interview with bad roots or badly in need of toner. People shouldn’t judged on outwards appearances, but they do. It looks sloppy. What you notice about coworkers who you know personally and professionally is going to be different than what you notice about someone you spend 40 minutes with.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Yikessssss, so if your roots are due for a touch-up and you get invited to an interview, you’re supposed to delay the interview until after you can get to a salon? Or maybe you shouldn’t dye your hair unless you can afford touch-ups often enough to never be caught with bad roots?

          1. anonks*

            I think there’s a difference between some root growth showing vs. 3 inches of black roots ending in an abrupt line around someone’s head. If you commit to a high-maintenance style, you do need a plan for upkeep. It would be like choosing to purchase clothes that need ironed, and then not ironing them. It runs the risk of looking unprofessional. Should it? Probably not, but it does.

          2. Gothic Bee*

            Right? I’m side-eying a lot of these comments because they are so classist. If you’re poor you just shouldn’t get to dye your hair or do your nails or you know have any fun because those are only things you should be able to do if you have $$$.

            And roots are going to show! That’s a normal part of dyeing your hair. And honestly complaining about showing roots isn’t just classist it’s racist too. Because as a white person who used to dye my hair blonde, people complimented me on my hair even after I quit dyeing it and had like 4+ inches of light brown roots!! No one ever had an issue with it. But of course having dark black roots would be bad /s.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              I was browsing some hairstyle websites recently, and most of the styles had dark roots advertised as “dimensional” coloring. Granted, it wasn’t an abrupt line, but it was a deliberate feature.

              My natural color is dark brown but I dyed it purple for over a decade. Finally gave up at my current apartment because I’m the first tenant and I’m terrified I’ll get dye on something and lose my deposit. Even if I get it done at a salon, it bleeds like a red shirt in a load of white socks all over the tub the first few washes. And I don’t have $200 or whatever to do my hair every 6 weeks, so I’m not going to a salon for purple hair.

        2. Starbuck*

          “No one should interview with bad roots or badly in need of toner. ”

          Haha no, just no. How about, No one should judge an interviewee by the color of their hair? I like that better.

          1. quill*

            Not to mention the problem with throwing sex, class, and race into this pot of “unprofessionalism” because let’s be honest: Women and those percieved as such are expected to do much more expensive and obvious styling to perform ‘professional’ or ‘well kept’ femininity (hair, nails, a ‘flattering’ fit of clothing,) and people of color are both expected to do MORE to fit that style, and spend more on it because it’s further from their natural look, due to eurocentric beauty standards.

            Don’t judge an interviewee’s hair unless they’re interviewing to be a hairdresser, point blank.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              I had a neurodiversity counselor lecture me about looking “unstable” because “you keep changing the color of your hair and people expect you to look consistent at work.” She saw me with freshly-dyed deep purple hair one month, the same dye faded to lavender before I redid my color, and then new dye that didn’t quite take and came out mauve. The folks in the Biology department saw the in-between days when the hair was fading from deep purple to gradually lighter shades. If I’d known I was being evaluated on my DIY grad student hair shenanigans, I would’ve made sure it was always freshened up before I saw her.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            Apparently it’s even considered passé to have roots as light as the ends these days. At least if the stylist graduates the color from dark to light, the new growth won’t be as abrupt as it would be otherwise.

      2. Yorick*

        I agree the comment sounds bad, but I’ve seen that going-for-blonde-but-got-orange more on White women with brown hair than any minority group, and I think it looks bad and poorly groomed on us too.

    3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I do understand an Asian person with blonde bleached hair goes over very differently and is much more counter cultural in actual Asia, so if #3 is job searching there, she should take that into account. But in the US we’re used to a lot weirder hair colors. Maybe in an area with a lot of recent immigration it might be more of a problem? But that still seems like a stretch.

      Honestly, if I met a blonde Asian woman, I’m not sure if it would occur to me that the hair must be bleached. If I thought about it, sure, but “woman with with blonde hair” is so normal that I probably wouldn’t think about it enough to go “but Asians usually have dark natural hair”.

      1. Sasha*

        Um, I hate to break this to you, but white people with blonde hair usually have dark natural hair too! Unless you live in Scandinavia, most blonde adults are not natural blondes.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Depends on what you categorize as blonde. Natural light blonde is rare, yes, but medium blonde and dark blonde are fairly common. My impression is that a lot of white people with light blonde hair are natural medium or dark blondes that artificially lighten by just a few shades. Much easier to do and to maintain the closer it is to the natural hair color.

          That said, the whole concept of hair colors only being ok if they could be plausibly natural is of course B.S.. Are we really pretending no-one colors their hair and thus requiring plausible deniability? Because that ship has indeed sailed.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            As someone whose natural hair color (streaky red-blond) looks unnatural to many people, I say you can’t assume about many hair colors.

            I say OP should keep her blond hair. (In my mind I imagine a Korean-Ameeican girl I knew in high school. She bleached her waist-length hair blond in what we would now call ombre. It looked great on her. I always thought she must have had something to do with the ombre craze of a few years ago.)

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Or end up with lighter hair seasonally. Mine goes straight up gold from dark brown/blonde when I am in the sun a lot

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              Until the last few years, mine grew in with darker roots but lightened after about 3 inches to a medium honey-blonde. It’s just how it grew.

          3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Both me and my sister are WOC. My hair is naturally black (okay, dyed now because wow I gotta lot of grey), my sister is naturally blonde. Light blonde too! With blue eyes and a different blood group to me and my parents.

            She does get occasional comments about why does she dye it (she doesn’t) but I think people just accept quite quickly that anyone of any skin colour can have any hair colour.

          4. Yorick*

            Many (most?) of the blonde-presenting people I know definitely have brown hair and bleach it blonde. They are not all or even mostly people who went just a few shades lighter.

          5. Anon4this*

            I’m someone with natural medium ash blonde hair and when I bleach my hair light, my roots look dark AF just like everyone else’s.
            When I dye my hair raven black, my looks looks light blonde.
            On it’s own, it is a bland dish watery shade that looks far closer to a dirty brown than blonde.

            I have known myriads of people with bleached blonde hair & while people with all kinds of natural hair do it, the majority that I know are natural dirty ash blondes, mousey browns, and very dark shades, not people with just a few shade differences that don’t need much touch up.

        2. Person from the Resume*

          Ha ha ha!

          Yes. I wanted to say this too after reading the letter. We / Americans / anyone who watches western film or tv is used to it and acclimatized to it and doesn’t think of it as a wild color choice but many “blondes” are coloring their hair because of whatever weird beauty standards that created the phrase “blondes have more fun” years and years ago.

          1. Heather*

            Or because they like having blonde hair? Not everything women do is to fit into beauty standards.

      2. Another Blonde Asian*

        Blonde Asians are very common in both America and Asia- nothing counter culture to it! OP #3, as an East Asian American with balayaged blonde/ABG hair, I can tell you that in my field (tech) and my friends’ fields (business, consulting, econ, architecture, design) no one has batted an eye at it. I’m sure it depends on how not-Asian your field/location is, but overall going blonde is a common fashion style.

        OP #3, I know for me internalized racism can come up in weird ways. I’m wondering what your college’s racial breakdown is? It is odd advice that your counselor told you that being blonde would make you a “memorable” Asian, and makes me wonder if you have a low Asian or Asian American population. That can mess with your head and I hope that you have other Asian American to support you on your identity journey.

        Good luck!

        1. LunaLena*

          Yeah, this is what I was thinking! I spent part of my teens in Korea, and while the great majority of Asians have dark brown/black hair, the natural hair spectrum is actually surprisingly large. I knew a girl in middle school who had naturally red hair. She was constantly asked if she had any Western ancestry, but no, she just had an unusual hair color. Lighter shades (ranging from medium browns to dirty blonde) were not extremely common, but there were usually a few in each class.

          Also I am Korean-American if that’s not obvious, and depending on the industry you go into most people won’t bat an eye at dyed hair. When I was younger I used to get red-purple highlights, and a few months ago I got a purple balayage and there were zero issues at work. In fact I got many compliments! But I am also a graphic designer and mostly worked in design and marketing related fields, and currently work in higher ed, so your mileage may vary if you go into a more conservative field. But blonde in and of itself is not a wildly odd hair color even for Asians, and I doubt most people would question it or see it as unprofessional even in more conservative fields.

          1. LunaLena*

            Also want to add, I wonder if blonde Asians are seen as counter culture where OP3 is because, in general, the only blonde Asians most people see are pop stars, cosplayers, and anime characters. I found it rather amusing/infuriating during the whole live-action Ghost in the Shell casting debacle that many people claimed anime characters aren’t Asian, because why else would they have yellow or orange hair? When in reality, those are unusual but not impossible natural hair colors for Asians. I’ve certainly never thought that blonde hair on Asians was counter culture!

            Same goes for eye color; while dark eyes are most common I certainly knew a lot of people who had light or medium brown eyes too.

    4. Barbara Eyiuche*

      #3 I think your blonde hair should be fine. I thought back to previous jobs I had where there were a lot of East Asian coworkers, and actually, all the women under the age of about 45 had dyed hair. Most of the young men did too.

    5. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      Doesn’t anyone follow winter sports? Chloe Kim has blond hair and she looks awesome! Plus she’s a bad-ass superstar. I honestly thought blond hair on anyone of Asian descent (or any ethnicity) had been around for a while and isn’t anything shocking.

      1. Shhh*

        Right? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen people of a very wide range of ethnicities rocking blonde hair. LW3 is fine and should keep the blonde as long as they like.

      2. Bee*

        Hah, I’m not sure a professional snowboarder is a great supporting argument that it’s not “counter-cultural.” But she does look great and I also wouldn’t bat an eye at this!

    6. EBStarr*

      I don’t think the OP needed you to see and approve other people who aren’t her but are the same race as she is, in order to know that her hair color is an acceptable life choice. Maybe it would help to ask yourself, was there a possible outcome where you googled “Asian women with blond hair” (I honestly cringe just thinking of someone actually googling this), didn’t like the results, and that actually mattered? Hopefully you’d agree the answer is no. You don’t have to think something is aesthetically pleasing on other Asian women (who again, aren’t the OP!!), because it’s not about you.

      1. Chili pepper Attitude*

        I cringed at the google part too. Also, “Asian Orange.” I feel like Alison’s point that being around racist or other toxic spaces can warp your sense of normal is in play here.

        By the way, My son has very dark hair and wound up with a “bad” home dye job that was orange and he liked it a lot so he stopped the process instead of lightening more.

        1. pancakes*

          Same. And I think the “bad” orange tone looks cool sometimes. I can totally see why your son would keep it.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            There were two girls in my graduating class in high school whose hair was naturally bright orange. Not copper, not strawberry—orange. Both of them also had extensive freckles. They weren’t related, either.

            It was pretty. Nobody cared. It was just their hair.

            1. quill*

              Knew a girl in elementary who had what we called “tomato soup hair” because it was naturally just dark orange.

              Fortunately we all managed to communicate that it was a compliment!

      2. Felis alwayshungryis*

        Um, I was just curious. I’m from a generation where girls dunked their heads in Janola to get it blonde. It was pretty bad on us white girls, too.

        I don’t live and breathe beauty stuff and was having a hard time imagining what it would look like, apart from fried Janola jobs. (Moreover, I saw some amazing intentionally orange dye jobs. I already said that I cringed at what we used to call it.) I didn’t mean for it to become a thing and piss people off.

        I still maintain that good grooming matter, which sucks, but if you’re going for the kinds of jobs where you’re worried about having a non-traditional hair colour, it’s clearly a consideration.

        1. Batgirl*

          People’s responses to “there are better dye jobs than others, and going by Google images it can look amazing; really sharp enough for the most conventional fields” were just needlessly nasty to you. I’m sorry to paraphrase you and put words in your mouth! I just wanted to show a more realistic and kind translation than “ugh, as long as you don’t look like poor people, here is some approval from a white person”.

    7. Policy Wonk*

      Olympic gold medal athlete Chloe Kim is blonde and has been on several magazine covers – I think OP3 is fine!

    8. Jolene*

      #3 – I work in a fairly conservative field (lawyer who meets with wealthy clients in conservative/non-urban area), and after years of hesitation, I finally decided last year to get the “asymmetrical lesbian undercut” of my dreams.

      No one cared.

    9. NaClO*

      Reconsider the blonde. Living in Hong Kong, I see plenty of Chinese people with blonde hair and it kills the condition, as it has to be bleached first. Doing it once is fine, doing it again and again… your hair is ruined. (And please then don’t blame white people who can have blonde hair without the bleaching – as I have witnessed. Sure it’s “not fair” (/s) but just consider what is best for your hair.)

      1. Splendid Colors*

        White person with dark brown hair here: I definitely wrecked my hair bleaching it back in the day to get it light enough to get a nice purple, blue, or green. Some white people with light brown hair don’t need to bleach it much to go blonde, but there are plenty of white people in America and Europe whose hair is almost as dark as typical Asian hair. Even Lady Gaga is naturally brunette.

  4. Waving not Drowning*

    OP2 – I sent this to a manager when they continually used the “r” word. At that point, she was a former manager – I was fighting so many many MANY battles with her while she was my manager I let this one slide for longer than I should have – and I’m not proud of that, however, I had been driven to a breakdown over their management style, so I needed to pick my battles. Re-reading it now, I’m surprised as to how blunt I was. There was a first introductory paragraph, and a personal paragraph at the end, but I didn’t include as it would be potentially identifying my then workplace, so it does seem to come straight to the point, and abruptly end in this context.


    There are many words that were formerly commonplace that have now quite rightly been withdrawn from common use as they cause offense. The word retard is one that is now considered by all as offensive, and there is a worldwide campaign to educate people to stop using the word. There have been many instances where you use the word “Retard/Retarded” to describe a process that you feel is outdated, you don’t like, or you feel is not needed. As a person active within the special needs community, as well as having a special needs child with an intellectual disability, I find the word particularly grating, and offensive when used in a derogatory way (such as calling a process that you don’t like retarded). You are, in effect, likening a useless item to someone with an intellectual disability.

    I’ve attached links to The R Word campaign website and other similar articles, plus a link to words that can be used in its place for further information/reference.

    I know that you don’t mean to cause offense when you use the term, however, now that you are aware of how offensive the term can be, I hope you are able to find alternate words to use in its place.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Bravo, this is fantastic. And a great template for communicating about any word that is widely considered offensive.

      1. Waving not Drowning*

        thanks – it took me several days to get the words right. One of this managers complaints about me was that I was a control freak (and they called me that – initally behind my back, then to me – and then did the good old “only joking” bit), so they had me so tied in knots when communicating with them. I’m glad/relieved to know others like the wording.

      1. Waving not Drowning*

        at that point they were my former manager as I’d moved into another department – to get away from them – they were a pretty toxic manager. They acknowledged receipt of the email, and then added that they never use words like that, which was pretty par for the course for them (deny everything). I no longer have day to day dealings with them, so not sure if they have changed.

      1. Waving not Drowning*

        its based on a poem by Stevie Smith – Not Waving but Drowning – I used a variation on this as my original name (Drowning not Waving) here as I was struggling under a toxic manager (nepotism, gaslighting, playing favourites, micromanaging, indiscreet etc), when I changed departments (and was promoted :-) ) I changed it to Waving not Drowning as I’m back being happy at work again.

    2. OP#2-I promise*

      Thank you! If I can borrow this it would be greatly appreciated. Rather than being blunt, it comes across straightforward, like there is no room for misunderstanding or negotiation.

      1. Waving not Drowning*

        go for it, and hoping it helps. Just check the links work, as they are a few years old. I didn’t go through HR with this as they had been useless with any other issues I’d raised, and everyone else I spoke to had similar stories about them (they told a (female) VP who wanted to lodge a bullying complaint against a (male) she managed that she just “needed to be the bigger person and turn the other cheek”. VP went over their head, lodged the complaint, it was upheld and there were ramifications).

    3. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

      As an autistic who had to deal with ‘I know you didn’t use that slur AT ME, but it is a slur towards people like me and I have been insulted using similar words before’ in college, I appreciate that letter! Sums up the issue well without being overly harsh OR overly conciliatory.

  5. Nodramalama*

    #3 please don’t change your hair for job interviews! Bleaching your hair is super normal, and even if it was a crazy colour I think, if you can afford to be picky with work, you shouldnt have to change it. In my experience, those kinds of workplaces will put all kinds of expectations on your appearance that often seem to apply mainly to women.

    I used to try make sure that my tattoos were covered when I went to job interviews and then I thought… Well I don’t think I want to work somewhere that will shame me for my tattoos! And I don’t want to live my whole life covering them up.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Tattoos wouldn’t be an issue for my employer directly but our patron base–doctors, so lots of older white men–hasn’t gotten on that bandwagon yet. It’s not against our rules but culturally it’s advisable to keep them mostly-covered. We can’t do anything about our patrons’ taste, I’m afraid, except wait for it to change as younger and more diverse patrons move in. And I know you’re thinking our bosses should defend us, and they do/would if needed, but it’s also not their job to campaign for personal style equality. I don’t need to be All Of Me at work.

      Bleached hair, though, would be a non-issue. It’s normal enough now that all but the most crotchety patrons won’t care.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I have a pierced nasal septum but don’t wear a ring at work because, while it’s not that weird, it’s distracting enough that I think it’s a bad idea. (Hilariously, this is another problem solved by face masks!) But it’s not like I’m so attached to it that I resent not wearing it at work.

    2. Lacey*

      Yes, plus, norms are changing a lot around this kind of thing. I worked for a pretty conservative company that people might assume would have an issue with wild hair and tattoos. But, they didn’t bat an eye when one of my coworkers got a massive tattoo on her arm. Other coworkers sometimes dyed their hair with streaks of pink. Nothing.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I know I have lived a very privileged life but Letter 3 is really hitting me and I’m surprised at how surprised I am. I’ve seen discussion before around discriminations against natural black hairstyles (especially recently re: the crown act) but I have not seen discussion around hair color being limited by race.

      FWIW LW3–I that in general attitudes around hair color are a lot different than they used to be, but even the more conservative places I’ve seen usually the rule is something like “your hair must be *A* natural haircolor” rather than “your hair must be *YOUR* natural haircolor.” I guess I can’t guarantee no one would have a subconscious bias, I really can’t imagine any company openly saying “Sandra can dye her hair blonde because she is white but you are not allowed to.”

    4. Umiel12*

      I know it’s not the same thing, but I had shoulder-length hair (I’m male) when I finished graduate school in the early 90s and started looking for a job. I have a masters in counseling psychology, so I was looking for positions in a professional office setting. All of my peers, mentors, and colleagues told me I should cut my hair if wanted to get a job. I really thought about it, but I decided to keep it long. I wound up getting the second job I interviewed for. LW3, if you like your hair, please keep it.

      PS: The job I got was as a counselor in a prison, and although my supervisor didn’t mind my hair, the warden did. He asked me politely to cut my hair, and I did, but I slowly let it grow back out. No one ever said anything about it again.

    5. Some dude*

      I work in a city where a significant percentage of professionals are asian, and blonde hair on asian women is so common I don’t even clock it. You’re fine, OP Doubtful anyone will notice.

    6. Evelyn Carnahan*

      Yes! I haven’t dyed my hair in years, but I was coloring my bleached hair pink and blue when I was applying for jobs during grad school. My mom also told me I should dye my hair back to my natural color to get a job, but I didn’t. If you’re not planning on keeping your hair that “natural” color or covering tattoos every day you might as well go into the interview in YOUR natural state. If they don’t want someone with dyed hair, tattoos, piercings, etc., if will save everyone a lot of time and energy in the long run.

  6. Anonymous Koala*

    OP3: I’m with your friends – do you want to work at a company where a qualified candidate’s (fairly innocuous) personal style is a reason not to hire her? Personally I think this is a great way to test for cultural fit. I know finance is a generally conservative field, but it’s a job seekers’ market out there – I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding open minded employers who don’t care about your hair color.

    1. Snow Globe*

      I’ve worked in finance for 30+ years, and this wouldn’t cause the slightest of raised eyebrows.

    2. Margaery Tyrell*

      OP3, +1 to all of this!

      I’m an Asian woman with dyed hair, and it has not harmed my career. (In fact, I dye it much more vibrant colors — teal, pink, and purple — and it’s been fine.) I do have the benefit of working in a creative tech job, where these things are generally more accepted, but don’t let your parents’ (tbqh) likely outdated understanding of acceptable workplace behavior stop you from living your life!

    3. Smithy*

      100% this.

      I will also say that as a white woman, who was essentially the first person in my family to at all dye my hair anything other than 1000% natural and/or covering up grays….I grew up with a lot of conservative panic around what my hair would mean during job interviews. Fretting over having roots during a job interview or any shade of blonde or red that wasn’t 100% perfectly color matched my skin and truly found in nature.

      Being new to the work world can produce a lot of very normal anxiety and nerves about getting hired. And I do think that nervousness can result to wanting to default to the most mainstream presentation. Particularly when you have your parents bringing up the issue. Hopefully the comments here reassure you that this hair color choice is far more within the mainstream, even if that shade of blonde isn’t always 100% professionally maintained and polished…..

  7. Iceberg*

    Asian blonde –
    To be honest – Korean ethnicity as a blonde isn’t crazy or anything unprofessional – so I would say if they don’t hire because you’re of Korean decent with blonde hair – it’s probably the ancestry and not the hair color.

  8. HA2HA2*

    LW1 – you’ve precisely identified the problem with working a second job during off hours of the first one. Your job really has no obligation for meetings to always end on time. It could certainly be more efficient use of time if meetings always ended on time; and perhaps it would be convenient. But you can certainly have a culture where meetings run over if there’s a good reason for them to. This is especially the case for more junior members of the team – if a senior person decides that this particular topic is important enough to spend more time on it than scheduled, it would really not be a good look if the junior person goes “yeah, I know you think this is important, but I’ve got to go walk a dog.”

    Now, in a healthy office, you could probably get away with skipping out of meetings running late; if you say “I have an appointment and have a hard stop” people might not give you a hard time, probably because they might guess it’s a medical appointment, or legal appointment, or another work meeting. And in a healthy office, meetings running over all the time PROBABLY isn’t too efficient.

    But at the end of the day, if the question is “should I cut corners on my salaried job to make a few extra bucks in my gig job”, the answer’s probably no.

    1. Wildcat*

      I agree with this 100%. Meetings run over. Having to leave to go to the dentist or a medical appointment is one thing, but scheduling gig work and then putting pressure on your salaried job to accommodate gig work is another entirely, especially if this is a regular occurrence.

    2. Doctor What*

      Op #1 might also need to check out the employee manual/contract. The office I work for explicitly says we are not allowed to work a side-gig, or we could lose our job. I’m assuming that problems with prioritizing the full-time job and schedule is a large part of this.

      You don’t have to tell them why you need out of meetings around lunch early, but if they did find out, you could lose your job.(?)

      1. Umiel12*

        I wanted to say the same thing. At my job, it is made very clear that we must have permission to “moonlight” in any way. I could definitely lose my job if it came out (which is why I was very careful the one time I did it.)

      2. Jora Malli*

        Where I work, we have to file official paperwork if we have any secondary employment. I even had to file when I was self employed as a piano teacher. Leadership want to make sure that if someone has another job, it won’t be a conflict of interest and won’t interfere with work at the primary job. It’s definitely a good idea for OP to check if their job has any policies around this.

      3. wordle clone of the day*

        I could have a second job, but I absolutely cannot do it WHILE ON COMPANY TIME.

        Which this would be, if you’re skipping off on meetings to do it.

    3. KateM*

      How about if it was your own dog? Would it be fine to say “sorry, but my dog is about to pee on carepet (and that would be at least as disruptive as taking it to a walk)”?

      1. CrazyPlantLady*

        That is so different, on so many levels. You can take your dog out pretty much whenever you have free time during the day, it’s not a scheduled time. And you’re also not leaving the house to drive to walk a dog then drive home.

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          Perhaps OP should look for a single, regular customer where the dog stays at her place all day and gets walked whenever she takes her lunch. That would be easier to coordinate.

          1. Marion Ravenwood*

            I agree with this. I know that sites like BorrowMyDoggy will give you the option to say if you will go to the other person’s house or if the dog can come to you – the latter option might work better for OP if that’s available (although it goes without saying that obviously the welfare of the dogs comes first).

          2. WellRed*

            Yes good idea. I was a little surprised by the notion you could just sign up randomly. I thought most dog owners that use dog walkers had regular ones.

            1. doreen*

              I have a friend who walks dogs. She doesn’t want regular clients , so she takes jobs where someone needs a dog walker for a day because of an appointment or for a week while the regular dog walker is on vacation etc.

          3. Office Lobster DJ*

            I wondered if OP can be up front with the owner and say that they’ll come walk Fluffy at some point between 12 and 2. Maybe one of the established clients who already knows OP to be reliable? Not all owners would go for this arrangement, but I bet there’s enough.

            1. RecoveringSWO*

              Yeah, like you and Marion Ravenwood said, I think OP might be using an app/service that provides less flexibility than she needs. I don’t remember if Wag! has a strict time window, but I remember Rover providing for more flexibility and upfront planning between the client and walker (meet ‘n greet & exchange of keys vs. house access through the app). As a previous client, I would have no problem with a 2-4 hour time window for my walker, especially if it was to accommodate a WFH professional who is otherwise mature and reliable.

              If OP can keep a free window on the backside of her scheduled lunch breaks for potential delays, I think she could solve this issue by either using a different gig app or branching out on her own.

          4. Daisy-dog*

            It sounds like OP doesn’t get to take lunch. Meeting at 11 is supposed to end at 12, but actually ends at 1. She has another meeting at 1. Or may have tasks to complete that were assigned during the meeting.

            And it certainly depends on the dog, but some dogs need to be walked not for potty breaks but to burn some energy so that dog mama/papa doesn’t come home to an overactive dog.

          5. Office Lobster DJ*

            Regarding OP#2, those are excellent scripts for the moment. Does anyone have any thoughts on successfully handling what comes next? I would bet anything the co-worker will want to argue about how she wasn’t being offensive, because [five minute tirade] or demand an explanation of exactly why what she was saying is offensive, trying to draw OP into a prolonged debate.

            Broken record? Explain once? Just walk away? Another strategy?

            1. Humble Schoolmarm*

              This may be a strategy that only works with middle schoolers but here’s the script I usually use.
              1- Repeat a brief summary of your original statement. “As I’ve said, I think that language isn’t appropriate” (or stronger variation)
              2- Walk away and ignore Betty Bigot.
              3- If Betty Bigot persists, go into parrot mode. “No, that language isn’t acceptable”.
              All of this should be said calmly and matter of factly.
              4- If Betty really won’t back down. “Would you prefer to discuss this with (Manager)?” get up and start walking in that direction.
              Caveat: The last one may work better when you can replace (Manager) with (Principal).

              I usually pepper this with “I’m sorry”s (Ie “I’m sorry, that language isn’t acceptable), but I’m Canadian, so sorry is used differently than some other places (sorry about that!).

      2. MK*

        This is unlikely to happen regularly though. The OP talks of daily appointments. It’s one thing to leave a meeting early at some point or another to deal with an unexpected issue, and another to intentionally block of time in the middle of your workday and then not be flexible about it.

        1. KateM*

          So if OP would just say when the meeting is over “so I’ll take my lunch now” it would be all right?

          1. Laure001*

            It would be all right a few times, but it would sound really strange if she said that each time.

          2. Kafka Memory*

            If OP could stop whenever the meeting came to an end, it wouldn’t matter whether they walked their own dog or someone else’s. The issue is that you really can’t ask your company culture to change so that you can work a side gig. Most people expect priorities to go: emergencies> health> important work/family/other> regular work/family other> optional things. Salaried work meetings are important/regular, and having a second job for OP is optional, that’s how I would expect that decision to be made.

            1. KateM*

              Yep, so if OP would be fine to walk those dogs if they just dropped the notion that they must be able to do it RIGHT then, right?

              1. MK*

                You mean is it OK in general to walk dogs on your lunch break? If the company has no rule against it, I suppose so. It’s when you try to limit your availability to your main job to accommodate the side gig that you run into problems.

                1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  That’s my thought process, too. I know people with side gigs, they work them before/after their regular job, or on the weekends. Their main gig – their full-time employment – gets their main focus.

                  Also, while I think the act of walking a dog can be relaxing, I wonder about the OP’s stress levels. They’re not using their lunch break to eat, unwind, decompress, and occasionally walk a dog – they’re actually working against the clock! Short term, working during their lunch break might not be too stressful but, eventually, this side gig might cause more stress than expected.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                It sounds like OP usually has a predictable hour for lunch, but sometimes it’s shortened by meetings running over. That means her window to work the sidegig is unpredictable in both timing and length–if an ideal day is “drive 15 min, walk 30, drive 15” and then the Cutler meeting ran over 20 minutes, her contracted 30 min dog walk is now 10 min.

                This is not a job that lends itself to a standing midday commitment. OP could probably work an evening or weekend side gig with no complications–but not a midday midweek one.

                1. WellRed*

                  Yes it does sound stressful trying to accommodate a paid pet gig in a way that pushing your own pooch’s walkers back by half an hour does not.

                2. Antilles*

                  I don’t know if the lunch hour really gets “shortened” per se.
                  The very usual standard is that if your lunch gets delayed, you still take the full amount of time, just offset – if your normal lunch is an hour long but a meeting runs till 12:30, you take an hour lunch till 1:30, not that you cut your lunch time in half.
                  Maybe OP is treating it as “my lunch hour ends at 1:00 on the dot regardless of whether “, but given the company’s generally lackadaisical attitude towards starting meetings on time, I’m guessing that’s not the reality. I’d bet that OP could unilaterally decide to just extend her lunch hour accordingly to still get the full time without anybody even noticing, much less caring.
                  Not sure if that’s a viable solution for the dog walking or not though; I’m guessing the app works in specific timeslots of “Lassie must be walked between 12:15 and 12:45” rather than simply “walk Lassie for 30 minutes around mid-day” like you’d do for your own dog.

                3. Colette*

                  @Antiles – that really depends. If I had a meeting cut into my lunch time, I could take my full lunch after the meeting ended – unless I had a meeting immediately following my normal lunch time. In that case, I’d get a short lunch.

                4. AcademiaNut*

                  It’s really common to need to be somewhat flexible with breaks in a salaried, meeting heavy job. You’re dealing with balancing schedules of multiple people with different meetings, sometimes across multiple timezones. Sometimes I take my lunch earlier or later than normal, sometimes I take a shorter lunch, sometimes a bit longer, some days I have working lunches and then take a short walk afterwards to clear my head. Trying to work a second job at the same break every day would be unrealistic.

                  Your last paragraph says it nicely. This isn’t something that works with the OP’s job, and expecting everyone else involved in the meetings to accommodate her lunch gig schedule is unrealistic.

              3. Kafka Memory*

                Yes, but if OP could work the side gig whenever they were available, they wouldn’t need to write in for advice…

          3. MK*

            When the meeting is over, she doesn’t have to say anything, she can just take her break. But in most workplaces a meeting running a bit late is normal, and it would come across oddly if you tried to cut it short all the time. Occasionally you will have to do it, if you have another obligation immediately afterwards or if there is an emergency. But not all the time, and not for a side gig.

            1. Lacey*

              Yeah, I think it’s one thing for someone who is always in a ton of meetings to be always cutting it short. I’ve noticed that high level people do this a lot. They have a bunch of people to meet with and they’re all important.

              But for me to do it it would need to be another meeting with people not already in the first meeting (rarely happens) or a big deadline looming (occasionally happens, but not often).

              If I started doing it all the time people would wonder what the heck was wrong with me.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              yeah it’s ok for a medical appointment but not for a side gig.
              then again, OP doesn’t have to say why she needs to leave.

        2. JamminOnMyPlanner*

          I have mixed feelings about this… One the one hand, I am very stubborn about my lunch because I have PCOS and I need to eat at the same time every day to regulate my blood sugar.

          On the other hand, I’m stubborn about this because of my health, not because I want to go make extra money at a side gig. I do have a second job, and I’ve worked on it over lunch before after I’m finished eating but before my lunch hour is up, but my day job always comes first. It doesn’t sit right with me that LW3 is inconveniencing others to work another job.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I wouldn’t end a meeting that way, and I freelance and set my own times and can say “Hard stop at 12:30 for me” without further details. Don’t talk about pee; don’t suggest that your personal non-work life is why what to do on the Morris account will not be resolved after all.

        I walk my own dogs during lunch. That’s very different from if someone else were relying on me to do it, and paying me so that they now have a reasonable expectation of my time and full attention between 12 and 1 every day. (Which is right when the job that pays my mortgage and health insurance ALSO expects my time and attention if something comes up–in some jobs this never happens, and in some it’s routine, and OP1 seems to be in the latter group.) Sometimes our walks are short because I’ve got a lot of work, and sometimes they’re short because it’s icy; sometimes they’re late because I had a long meeting in the morning, and sometimes they’re late because it was rainy in the morning. It’s just on me to work out, with no other person’s financially invested in how I am managing that time.

    4. K*

      I was confused reading OP1’s letter. I work in a flexible salaried field where no one bats an eye if you block off time for personal business, but it can’t be a regular thing. We do have unexpected lunchtime meetings, and eat at our desks, or at other times.

      A loosely related anecdote: I nursed my child aged 1-2 for naps because she was at home with a nanny while I WFH. (Before that, I was in the office and pumped, but naturally didn’t want to keep doing that for a toddler.) I had a block for 30 min on my calendar at that time, but it said to “ask before booking.” Meetings did occasionally pop up or run over and I adjusted, but it was usually respected. I think the law for allowing for lactation breaks applied for infants only, so I didn’t want to ask for accommodations especially because it was working out. So I think it’s not out of line to have a recurring block as long as you’re sometimes flexible about it. OP, if meetings are often running into lunch, can you find another time where you tend to be free?

      1. Vallerina*

        Agree. I’m surprised to see so many people saying the OP just has to accept whatever comes to them in terms of meeting end times. Maybe it’s the nature of our industry, but at my office, anyone, at any time and for any reason, can say “I have to jump off. I’ll follow up with Susie to coordinate next steps this afternoon.” and no one bats an eye. And it would be totally fine for anyone to say “I have another commitment around lunch time- can we start the weekly account meetings a little earlier so we can be done at 12:00?”

        From an office perspective, it’s just not great management practice to schedule meetings like this, especially considering that meetings regularly run over by a full hour(!). Anyone on the team could have a medical condition that requires them to eat regularly, a standing weekly doctor’s appointment, a baby to nurse on their lunch break- whatever- that they shouldn’t have to disclose to everyone in order to be able to keep a regular schedule. Running over every once in a while is one thing, but this situation indicates that whoever is running these meetings isn’t making good judgments about how much time to block off, and is not being considerate of the other needs and obligations that their colleagues might have.

        Agree that the OP shouldn’t neglect their work responsibilities in favor of dog walking (and I’d drop that if it requires a prompt arrival at a specific time), but when applied to broader circumstances, I don’t think “Oh well, meetings are the most important thing, what can you do” is the only possible answer here.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          yeah, especially if the boss letting the meeting run over is simply out of inefficiency (spending 15 minutes discussing stuff not on the agenda because it suddenly occurred to him, or waiting for someone to finally turn up) or for a power move: “OP has blocked her lunch hour but I am more important than whatever she’s doing”.
          I mean, whatever happened to common courtesy?
          When I was working as a young mother, pregnant with No. 2, my boss had no respect whatsoever for my working hours. My opposite number worked systematically several hours unpaid overtime every week (and ended up taking the boss to court to get paid for those hours) and the boss wanted me to do the same. However, my son was in day-care that closed a mere half an hour after I knocked off, so I had 30 minutes to rush across town to pick him up. Hiring someone else to pick him up would have eaten away at the small amount of money left over after paying for day-care. The boss tried very hard to make me stay late once and I told her no way, I had already been late picking my son up that week because of transport problems, and was in danger of losing my slot at the day-care. And before she could even suggest getting a nanny, I added that any other solutions to mind my child would be so expensive I’d need my salary to be doubled to make it worthwhile.
          I used to take my full hour for lunch, and went out even in the rain just to avoid being given extra work to do. It was the only time I could ever browse in a bookshop which was just pure heaven.

          1. RosaRacket*

            LW1 here…After thinking about this, reading responses, etc, I’ve come to the realization that the issue isn’t specifically my dog walking gig, but rather that my company has no respect for the calendar. This culture does not square particularly well with my slightly type A self and my previous experience (this job is about 7 months old for me).

            People regularly show up to meetings late, unprepared, we don’t have the right people in the meeting. I regularly have another meeting after a free period so my free time gets compressed down, sometimes to nothing. I have, on a few occasions, done stuff like eat candy for lunch because I was STARVING, it was the only thing in reach and people just blow through meeting times.

            The dog walking thing is a bright spot in my day that gets me away from this stuff and honestly makes me a better overall employee because I can get a mental break and make sure *I’m* prepared for the rest of my day or week.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I agree. Whenever second jobs come up here it seems like the core point most people agree on is if you manage to do it, you have to be available for your main job when they need you during normal business hours. Assuming you are salaried and don’t have a specific scheduled lunch break, then if your boss wants to talk to you for an extra 20 minutes that’s something they are paying you to be available for. I don’t think it’s reasonable to cut that short so you can go work a different job.

      1. StressedButOkay*

        Agreed – if you can have a side gig, it’s best that it not be during main job’s business hours. Before/after work or on the weekends are best or something during your lunch that you can do from a personal laptop, such as editing, etc., as long as it’s not against work policy about having a second job.

        1. Jaydee*

          Yeah, it’s one thing to plan on using your lunch break to edit a document or run to the post office and mail some Etsy orders or something (you can do that an hour late or after work or tomorrow if a meeting interferes with your lunch break). It’s another thing to plan to do something that has a set time to do it when you can’t guarantee that you’ll be available at that set time.

  9. indubitably*

    #2, that is awful — both the slurs and the violent language. I would be dreading every day I had to work with someone like that.

    You mention that she is the only person in a critical role, and that she has threatened to quit before. I think that’s a good reason why your company should be cross-training some other staff member to do that task (or hiring part-time help to assist with the task). That way, if she quit over this (or over something else) or gets fired, your company isn’t up a creek without a paddle.

    But it sounds like hiring/cross-training plans are outside your purview, so I think Alison’s advice to respond to the slurs/violent language is all *you* can do, now that you’ve raised the issue with your boss. “I statements” can be a good way to handle this kind of conversation. “I find it upsetting when you say things like that.”

    1. Mary Connell*

      Not sure about using “I statements” in this case. Not attempting to diagnose anyone, but perhaps someone with experience working with people with antisocial personality disorder could weigh in about strategies.

      The person described in the letter is acting in antisocial ways—is it really possible not to know in 2022 that this is a violation of the social order?—so perhaps best not to inadvertently encourage the bad behavior by portraying an emotional reaction?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Adding in that she keeps talking when people indicate that they are not really available for conversation. I dunno, she is sounding like a workplace bully to me.

        If she is hard to replace that means one thing, start earlier.

        I think that OP can explain to her boss that if Coworker is overheard using this language and discussing mayhem, it could cause a media or legal problem that would undermine the company. It’s in the company’s best interest to fix this situation.

        Meanwhile, for OP, I’d seriously think about her use of language around you. If she continues to do so that could read that it’s okay by you. I think that if pushed, I would say to her, “You continue to use that language around me and others think that I am okay with it because you keep doing it. I am not okay with that type of talk and you need to refrain from it around me.” In front of others you can say something as simple as, “That’s not cool.” Sometimes people find that jarring enough that they stop.

        You might be able to push your boss’ hand a little bit by telling him that you are going to tell her not to use that language around you. Maybe that will cause the boss to take action.

        1. OP#2-I promise*

          Great idea to phrase it like the media and legal shitstorm it really would cause if someone rightfully escalated it. Unfortunately, that would probably cause more action than “hey, this is wildly inappropriate and offensive”.

      2. NotRealAnonForThis*

        **is it really possible not to know in 2022 that this is a violation of the social order?**

        I’ve found its not so much that they don’t know, more a case that they just don’t care and think that it’s their freedom of speech or some such thing. I’m not sure that there’s any correcting of this.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          This. We’ve all known for decades, but some people don’t care or actively enjoy pushing those buttons.

        2. ellex42*

          Or they think that others secretly agree with them, but aren’t “brave” enough to speak up.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah, online arguments are a different beast but I think when people regularly talk like this woman *in person* it is because they think everyone around them agrees. And if you don’t shut it down, people who overhear may think you agree too!

            Not quite the same but I am sort of reminded of one time an actor said some really racist shit and Gary Oldman came to their defense basically saying “everybody says that stuff.” Funnily enough, I don’t even remember who it was that said the racist things to begin with but I very strongly remember Gary Oldman saying that he apparently thinks that way too even if he doesn’t usually say it so openly.

            1. Starbuck*

              Wow, I didn’t know that about him – and dang, he is really telling on himself there! Yikes.

        3. pancakes*

          Right. It didn’t register as a violation of the social order for the mother of the last Michigan school shooter to learn that her son was shopping for ammo in class; she laughed it off and told him he needed to learn not to get caught. I’m not sure what social order some commenters are accustomed to but the one I’m familiar with in the US is that a lot of people are weirdly at ease with violence and fantasies of violence.

      3. anonymous73*

        I agree about the “I” statements but but not with such soft language. Saying “I find it upsetting” assumes the person you’re speaking to cares that it upsets you. I prefer “I need” statements with a reason, like “I need you to stop using that word. It’s offensive.” “I need to stop you – I have to get back to work.” With someone like this who has no filter and no boundaries, telling vs asking is my go to.

        1. Lemons*

          I disagree that “I need” statements are ‘telling’. If they don’t care about what upsets you, why would they care about what you ‘need’? It still focuses on how you feel about the situation.
          I dislike the “I need…” construction in general because I find it’s overused and, to me, it registers as passive and wheedling.
          I can see it getting a reaction like ‘do you, though?’ followed by continuing.
          Telling would be something more like “Stop using that word.” Take all the extraneous fluff out, and actually *tell them*.

      4. MeepMeep02*

        Yeah, exactly. I’d react the way that one would react to someone pulling down their pants and defecating on the floor – some form of polite but clearly expressed disgust at their lack of manners. When someone violates basic manners to this extent, the problem isn’t that it “upsets” anyone – the problem is that this person was apparently raised by wolves and needs some remedial instruction in manners before being allowed out in public.

    2. JelloStapler*

      Exactly, take the power away from her and let her quit if she is hurt by being asked to act in a professional (and frankly, mature adult) manner.

  10. Artemesia*

    #4 — it would be monstrous to disadvantage your new hire who has stepped up from her part time position in order to let the person who resigned take her job. That ship has sailed. Someone else has her old job; it is not her job anymore. I would probably not take her back at all because she will probably make life unpleasant for the newly promoted hire BUT if you do, she should not be allowed to crowd the person doing her old job. ‘I’m sorry but we have filled your old position’ is the way I’d go with this. Let her bounce back and you are very likely to have both. positions to fill. I would hope the person you promoted to full time would find something else if treated this shabbily.

    1. KateM*

      I was thinking that if the part-time person is now doing part-time plus full-time job, OP could probably extract a part-time position from that so that there will be a part-time job for the employee who wants to return. Something like new hire doing their previous job and part of old employee’s job (so that it ends up a full-time job) and employee doing part of their old job.
      (Sorry if I’m not very coherent – early morning.)

      1. Lab Boss*

        No, that makes sense- it sounds like the previous arrangement was one full time and one part time worker. After the job shuffling there is now one full time worker, no part time worker, and one person who wants a job. In theory they should have room to bring the former employee back in part time, essentially returning to the status quo before they left, although with a bit of rearranging.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          I assumed once she left they revisited the workload / arrangements and found that the previous “1.5 FTE” could be covered by the (now) full-time person. As such the vacancy for a part-time person probably doesn’t exist any more (OP didn’t make any mention of them attempting to recruit for it, for example).

        2. doreen*

          The OP refers to “Our other part-time employee filled her position” so it seems to me that both employees were originally part-time and when Employee 1 left, Employee 2 took over the hours. Which would also explain why the employer never filled Employee 1’s position – if Employee 1 worked MWF and Employee 2 worked T, Th then Employee 2 can work all five days without leaving a part-time position open. So there may not be room to bring Employee 1 back without cutting Employee 2’s hours – and the LW should absolutely not do that. It’s not fair to Employee 2

          1. Op4*

            Thank you all for your comments and advice. Yes both employees were part time. Employee 1 worked from 9-3 and employee 2 worked from 3-6. As soon as Employee 1 gave her 2 week notice, we started looking for part timer that could work 3-6. Employee 2 is working 9-5 until we hire another part timer. Employee 1 decided to stay at the new job because she couldn’t get her regular hours with us. It has been difficult because she was a friend and now I feel like she’s mad at me. She was looking for a new job since Jan. of this year. I can understand her reasons for leaving. She wanted more money so she decided to look for a different career. When she quit, she asked my boss to keep her seat warm in case the new job didn’t work out. Have any of you experienced this? I am just hoping that Employee 2 is reliable and dependable. Also, hoping that we find another ideal part time employee.

      2. anonymous73*

        So are you saying that maybe they could offer former employee the part time position that the employee had that is now in her previous role? I think offering for her to come back in any capacity other than her old job would result in disaster, especially if it was a part time role.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I agree. Especially if that role interacts with or reports to the full time role in any manner. You’re asking for trouble.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I agree.
      I think that if you gave the other person more / different hours then they get to keep them. If that means that there are still some hours that need to be filled then you can offer those to the former employee, but – she left. Her job has been filled. If there’s a vacancy that she is suitable for then you offer her that vacancy, which may well be different hours / a different schedule than what she had formerly.
      Also, I think you give priority to the current employee – i.e. if there are different parts of the role then even if old employee comes back, you should make sure that you don’t wind up giving them the parts of the job they like and leaving the newer person with the less popular / appealing bits (may not be an issue, but something to be aware of, particularly if the person who left comes back with the assumption that they will be doing their old job, rather than coming in to do a slightly different job .

    3. Dust Bunny*


      She left. The position was filled. There is no vacancy, unless it turns out you actually do need another person somewhere. But don’t penalize the former part-timer by yanking the job away from her.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I have seen going back on a resignation a few times – but as Alison mentions, it has only gone well when the position hadn’t already been filled and the person was leaving for reasons completely unrelated to their job (having to move because spouse’s job is transferring you to a new state).

      In this case, employee left for reasons related to their job, and their former job has already been filled. I’d tell the actual decision maker that I don’t think we should bring the former employee back because the job is already filled, and how badly will we affect team morale if we take the job away from the employee we promoted to fill the slot and give it back to former employee? What impact will that have on our ability to attract and retain good employees if we’re seen as a place that goes back on their word?

  11. anone*

    This is not exactly on topic, but in the interest of people not accidentally referring to themselves in negative terms, “busy-body” doesn’t mean a person who likes to be busy. It means someone who is nosy, meddling, and gets into other people’s business. LW1, you don’t sound like a busy-body, you sound lovely!

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I noticed that too! OP, unless your dog-walking is motivated by a desire to snoop in the owner’s homes, busy-body isn’t the word you’re looking for.

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          Perfect set-up for a buddy comedy with a great dane….OP stumbles upon evidence of crime and a mafia boss on the run. Hijinks ensue.

        2. KayDeeAye*

          I am so glad you pointed this out, because I really kind of wanted to. Don’t insult yourself, OP! You’re not a busy-body – you’re someone who likes to keep busy!

    2. Well...*

      I love it when terms are used creatively like this in a way that makes logical sense but isn’t the “proper” meaning. My sister used to say “toe the line” to mean allllmost breaking the rules and the imagine of running up to a boundary and putting a toe on a line makes me smile.

        1. All the words*

          Just to muddy the waters a bit more “towing the line” is now in common use. Think barge tow-lines.

          1. Pounce de Leon*

            Wouldn’t that be “tow the barge”? Why would someone tow a tow-line? How do listeners know someone is saying “tow” vs “toe” anyway?

          2. biobotb*

            I think that’s just because people had heard the phrase but didn’t know which toe/tow was correct.

        2. Lab Boss*

          Interesting- I’ve only ever heard “toe the line” in the sense of conforming, following the rules, not standing out. As in “After missing that major deadline you’d really better toe the line or your might risk getting fired.”

        3. Chili pepper Attitude*

          I learned from Wikipedia that toe the line used to be called toe the plank. That amused me!

          It does mean to follow the rules but Well’s sister is using it to mean try to almost break the rules and I like that meaning!

          “‘Toe the line’ is an idiomatic expression meaning either to conform to a rule or standard, or to stand poised at the starting line in a footrace. Other phrases which were once used in the early 1800s and have the same meaning were “toe the mark” and “toe the plank”.“

      1. time for lunch*

        Ha! I can’t say I do. Gives me a feeling in the pit of my stomach. (Not “a pit in my stomach.”)

    3. theletter*

      +1 a busy body is someone who is into other people’s business. Announcing that you are taking neighbor’s dogs for walks because you’re a busy body would be interpretted as spying on your neighbors and their dog caring abilities.

      I do like the idea of keeping active over the lunch break!

    4. time for lunch*

      Came here to say this! I often have to hold my comment when it’s usage related, but in this case I think OP could really be shooting themselves in the foot if they use busy-body (meaning someone extremely nosy who is always butting into things that aren’t their business) to mean “I love to keep busy.” “Busy-body” has no positive connotations at all.

    5. Ana Gram*

      Yes, this! As an aside, I have. A coworker who described someone as a homeboy the other day which was puzzling because it was irrelevant to what he was saying. After thinking about it, I realized he meant homebody and now it’s just the funniest thing ever!

        1. wendelenn*

          That tripped me up with the description of Elrond’s abode as “The Last Homely House East of the Sea”! It was so gorgeously described, and especially so beautiful in the movies, I was like, “homely?!”

  12. MK*

    Honestly OP1, yes, it is very normal for meetings to run over by about 10 minutes, because people aren’t machines. Most people aren’t punctual by nature, it’s a societal expectation that has been forced on us. And the productivity loss by having meetings a few minutes late is frankly negligible, especially taking into account the gain of not having a workplace that feels too regimented.

    Also, while I don’t doubt you are a punctual person, you don’t actually object to meetings running over for thar reason, you have an issue because it interferes with your side job.

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      How normal it is for meetings to run over varies widely by workplace, and particularly by how many scheduled things most employees are trying to fit into their day. If that meeting is the one tentpole thing that needs to be at a specific time and most other work is asynchronous and independent, it can run however long it needs to, whereas if everyone is in meetings or appointments most of their day then meetings need to be slotted in around those other scheduled things.

      My Day Job is of a type where at least one person in a given meeting probably had one scheduled right before it and another has a different meeting right after it, so the culture is very much that you just post in the chat to warn everyone that you have another meeting immediately after and will be leaving at that specific time, and if anyone tried to make a meeting go long they could certainly try but they’d be missing key people. These meetings also tend to be an hour long each and you might have multiple hour long meetings with different subsets of people for different topics, so these aren’t 4+ hour “strategize how to land the big account” type meetings but rather “meet with x, y, and z to go over specific document a” type meetings.

      However, one of my hobbies very much has organizational meetings that will start, say, Saturday at 1pm and go until we’ve dealt with everything that’s come up that month or two-month period since the last meeting, whether that takes until 2pm or 5pm. We adjust the agenda if someone needs to come late or leave early, but it’s one of those big, amorphous “this is the synchronous time to do all tasks that need doing as a group until we meet again” meetings. (This worked better pre-COVID, since the meetings would generally be a mix of whole-group time and breakout side conversations, and Zoom breakout rooms aren’t quite as flexible for that as a big physical room where you can quickly see who is free and pull people into short conversations as needed.) It’s difference in both culture and in meeting type.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I work at a place where the culture is to nearly always end meetings on time. People have other obligations and it’s considered rude to disregard everyone’s time. There are plenty of strategies to end meetings on time: have a clear purpose for the meeting so you can schedule it long enough in the first place, keep the meeting on track by taking side conversations offline at a later time, and if the purpose of the meeting truly can’t be in finished in time you can reschedule another meeting to finish it up.

      I used to go to the on site daycare to nurse my baby over lunch and would be really bothered if someone prevented me from doing that because of poor meeting management. But it’s my personal business that I don’t have to tell anyone. Fortunately we have a good culture where the really high up people can stick to a schedule. And if I had a meeting with our VP that somehow ran late, I could say that I need to end on time and he would understand.

      1. Cera*

        I have done the daycare nursing thing as well. But our pumping breaks were also on a strict schedule due to room availability.
        I also had a year where I needed to pickup a child at lunch time everyday.

        It’s common practice just to say sorry got to drop at the end of the meeting time. Or no that conflict cannot be moved. It was very rare that I elaborated on why and when I did it was just personal conversation rather than justification.

    3. Nikki*

      Most places I’ve worked, the culture is very much to start and end meetings on time. People often have meetings back to back so if a meeting runs over, it affects their ability to join the next meeting. That means they’re either making everyone wait or they’re missing part of the next meeting. When we were still in office, conference rooms were at a premium so if your meeting ran over, the people in the meeting after yours would be waiting outside for you to finish. If a meeting is in danger of going over time, rather than continuing on we usually either agree on action items that can be handled offline or if there’s still a lot to discuss as a group, we’ll reschedule another time to meet. It’s seen as very rude to ignore set meeting times. If you’re late to a meeting, it’s most likely going to start without you and if your meeting runs over time, some people will most likely to drop off to get to their next meeting.

    4. anonymous73*

      Being punctual is “a societal expectation that’s forced upon us”??? No it’s called having respect for others time.

      Yes being late to meetings happens. But if your presence is critical to the meeting agenda and you’re holding everyone else hostage waiting for you all the time when they could be working, that’s not okay.

      1. Loulou*

        LMAO thank you, no offense to comrade MK but no punctuality and ending on time is not just the man forcing his expectations of productivity into us??? I hate when meetings end late because I very often have planned to get lunch or use the bathroom immediately after the meeting, which is ALSO being human.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          In terms of getting to work at 9 am on the dot, yes. In terms of being on time for appointments (be those social, work meetings, or other) without communicating that? no, it’s respect for other people’s time.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Which is to say I agree with you and there’s probably also some nuance for things like not answering an email while you’re stuck in traffic

    5. Observer*

      Most people aren’t punctual by nature, it’s a societal expectation that has been forced on us.

      If you mean “forced on us by the need to actually be able to function effectively and peacefully in groups”, that’s probably true. Just like filtering what comes out of your mouth is “forced on us” by the same need, or the ability to take one’s turn, or be respectful or keep our hands to ourselves.

      If you’ve ever spent time with a bunch of unsupervised toddlers, you know what happens when those “societal expectations” are NOT “forced on us”. It’s not a good look. It’s not good for the toddlers, and society wouldn’t be able to survive.

    6. Curiouser and Curiouser*

      As others have said, this is very much company dependent. I regularly have 5-10 meetings per day, often back to back, and most people in my department do as well. It would be considered quite rude in my company for a meeting to go over by 5 minutes or to be 5 minutes late…10-15 would be absolutely unheard of. People just have too much else to get to!

      I agree that “I have to work my side gig” isn’t a good enough reason for a hard out, but I don’t think of meetings starting 10 minutes late and running 10 minutes over as a normal occurrence.

      1. AD*

        Isn’t it meeting and context dependent, maybe even more so?

        The organizations I’ve worked have had meetings at which attendance is required, senior leaders are in attendance or running the meeting, and start and end times are very punctual. Also, cross-department or standing meetings where attendees sometimes hop on or hop off for other meetings and sometimes the meetings run over a bit. I have not seen a company or organization that has absolutely uniform, universal meeting attendance or meeting protocol straight down the line. So I don’t think it’s an “either your company is undisciplined about meetings or they 100% start or end on time always and forever”.

        But I agree, this isn’t all relevant as the OP is asking because they have a side gig.

        1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

          Eh, not where I am, at least with start and end times. Attendance (such as jumping off of a larger meeting) and agenda protocol definitely varies, but because we have such meeting-heavy schedules the start/end punctuality piece really is pretty much all the time and meetings that start late or go over are really an anomaly.

          But as far as I know no one would call a side gig a hard out where I work…but also we don’t have very steady lunch breaks because offices are all over the country, so I would understand better if the 12-1 time (or whatever lunch) was sacrosanct at OP’s office. But it doesn’t seem to be, so she should definitely alter her expectations a bit.

    7. North Wind*

      I work for a lot of different clients so dip my toe into lots of different cultures. Nearly everyone I’ve worked with – when we’re coming up to the end of the meeting time and are still in the middle of a discussion – will ask if the folks in the meeting have time to continue past the meeting end time or if another meeting should be set up.

      And if I’m the one to ask – or mention at the beginning of the meeting that I have a hard stop at the end, it’s very natural and comfortable; I don’t ever really get pushback or folks trying to push the boundary.

      But it probably doesn’t matter if this is normal in a lot of other places if you work in one place where this definitely isn’t the culture. I’d sure give it a try though, just matter-of-factly let folks know I have a hard stop at the end.

      I do also agree with the other commenters, though, that OP should check the employee handbook RE rules for moonlighting.

    8. RosaRacket*

      I assure, 100%, that meetings running over bothers me on its own. It’s this company’s completely ineffective use of meetings that makes me crazy. It’s a culture thing and I’m realizing that I don’t mesh well with this part of the company’s culture.

  13. Observer*

    #2 – Alison talks a lot about how you cannot be held hostage by a bad employee. This is true even for a boss, who has a responsibility to retain good employees. It’s even more true for you. Employee retention is not your responsibility, and it’s not something you need to worry about. Obviously I’m not suggesting that you engage in behavior that would be likely to drive out a reasonable person. But you really, really don’t need to coddle someone who is acting rude and bigoted in the name of retention, even for a really important job.

    1. Popinki*

      And she also mentions a lot that if the coworker suddenly died or hit the lottery and quit the next day, the company would find a way to adapt, so they can darn well do those same things when a nasty coworker quits or gets fired.

      Besides, if she’s allowed to keep doing this, how many other employees are going to quit because the company won’t do anything about a toxic employee? Maybe some have already?

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        “ Besides, if she’s allowed to keep doing this, how many other employees are going to quit because the company won’t do anything about a toxic employee? Maybe some have already?”

        You create the office based on how you respond to toxic employees in the office. If you don’t shut down the toxic, the “normal” employees will vote with their feet and leave. Is an office full of toxic what you really want?

  14. Erin*

    All of this. Seriously. I’ve been around people who are a little too forthcoming about their maiming and murder fantasies and it makes me instantly, permanently afraid of them – something that would be especially be the case if I was a new hire! I’m sure there would be costs to her leaving if she decides to revenge-quit in the middle of something critical, but right now, OP’s workplace is actively incurring costs by not saying anything in order to keep her happy, at the expense of everyone else who can hear the disturbing things she says.

    1. Observer*

      And they are also taking a pair of significant liability risks.

      If this woman actually snaps and hurts someone in the workplace, they could easily get sued and spend a mint on defending the suit because it’s going to be hard to argue that the company was unaware that this person MIGHT be an issue. I doubt that they would actually LOSE in court, but the cost to defend and the PR hit could be significant.

      A bigger, and I would say more likely, risk is if they ever get sued over any sort of bigotry related issues, the fact that this person was allowed to spout this kind of stuff will almost certainly be used against the company. Because when people are allowed to spout bigoted stuff with no repercussions, it is used to show that there is a pattern of misbehavior being permitted.

      1. pancakes*

        It’s not my field, but I’m not sure I share your skepticism that civil liability for negligence on the employer’s part wouldn’t be likely if this woman did hurt someone. It sounds like there are many people who’ve heard her talk about wanting to be violent on numerous occasions, including supervisors, and no one appears to have done a thing about it. There are lots of recommendations lawyers & HR people make about best practices in this area and little to none of them seem to be in place here. Quoting from a law firm that handles cases in this area,

        “It is critical for employers to implement a basic disciplinary system that includes the following:

        – Identify what is expected of employees and what behavior will not be tolerated.
        – Use verbal counseling and written warnings first unless the behavior is especially egregious. Be sure to document.
        – Where serious allegations or incidents have arisen: Investigate, document, confront, counsel, discipline, call your attorney, discharge if necessary.
        – Mandate the reporting of harassment or other unacceptable behavior. Have an annual statement signed by all employees as to whether he or she is aware of any harassment or bullying in the workplace.
        – Mandate the ongoing reporting of any criminal or driving convictions, as may be applicable to the job or to preventing workplace violence.

        Other polices include ones that address: threats against employees, building security, no weapons on the premises. addressing visitors in the workplace, ensuring a drug and alcohol free workplace, and an enacting a clear anti-harassment, discrimination and retaliation policy.”

        The letter writer’s supervisor, meanwhile, doesn’t seem sure that this is even worth a conversation with the woman’s own supervisor.

    2. quill*

      Honestly? I would be gone. It may not be the rational response, or proportionate, but were I a customer or a prospective hire I would leave a me-shaped cloud of dust behind.

  15. Mameshiba*

    OP3–chiming in from Asia–honestly the advice you’re getting sounds like advice for new graduates here in East Asia, which is much more conservative about dyed hair/black hair (as I’m sure you know)! Anyone giving that advice from an East Asian standpoint (possibly your parents?) really needs to reevaluate their norms for how common it is to have colored hair in professional roles in the West. Having natural black hair and a black “job searching suit” will come across as conservative and professional, but wearing a suit in gray or blue doesn’t indicate the same level of “counter-culture” as over here. So unless you’re job hunting in Korea I think those norms don’t apply to you.

    And if someone is advising you from a Western standpoint to change your hair because the shade is “unnatural” on someone of Korean descent, (1) see above, nobody cares in the West and (2) why do YOU have to fit into a certain image of what “Korean” looks like, when plenty of people go blonde despite it being “unnatural” for their heritage? I think your friends are right that a company that determines who can be blonde based on race would be pretty frigging awful to work at!

    Lastly, I encourage you to rethink this: “Another part of me says that this is a very stupid battle to be fighting, especially when other people have to deal with their natural hair being seen as unprofessional, and that I should just go back to black for the time being.”
    The discussion about “professional hair” is not counter to your experience, it’s in the same direction: widening the definition of what is “professional” so that all people can comfortably achieve it. The Black hair/curly hair vs. straight and sleek debate doesn’t mean that you have to shut up and fit into your assigned hair box; you are also allowed to push back on how limiting hair rules affect you, and it doesn’t take away from anyone else’s fight. We can fight for all of these changes together!

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Academic library in the US South here: A young person interviewing in a black suit would be perfectly acceptable but unnecessarily severe here. It wouldn’t hurt you but it wouldn’t help, either, and it would definitely not be a “must”–an other-colored suit or nice slacks/skirt and an upscale blouse or sweater would be absolutely fine. I think I wore a plain skirt and secondhand cashmere turtleneck when I interviewed. It might depend somewhat on the “pay grade”–I’m sub-professional–but definitely not to the degree that you’d need to re-dye your hair.

      1. AnonymooseToday*

        Huh I’ve never gotten the impression it would be severe.

        I’m in US South and have been interviewing on and off for academic library jobs for 4 years, I wear all black in the summer (yes I know white is cooler but those can be harder to find for me plus the appropriate under garments and I look pretty bad in white, it washes me out) and I’m also plus size. The one time I wore a colored interview shirt within five minutes it was completely soaked through under my arms all the way down to my waist, and my entire back. Everyone kept saying I could take my coat off, I literally couldn’t unless I wanted to look completely gross cause half the shirt was darker now. So if someone judged me for wearing all black, definitely wouldn’t want that job.

        1. Loulou*

          Yeah, I think severe is a strange generalization! There are black suits that look stylish and cute and there are gray suits that look grumpy or dated…it’s really all about the styling and wearer.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          As I said, it would not be a big deal, but a black *suit* specifically would be conservative even for my workplace. All-black but not a suit? Less severe. Suit but not black? Less severe. Black suit but I’m 60 and admin to the ED? Not surprising. I cannot picture any of our younger staff in a black suit, though, unless it were an uncommonly formal occasion (which we do have, but they’re rare).

    2. PeanutButter*

      I actually had to do a GIS for women of Asian descent with blonde hair because it’s SO normal here in the Mid-West US my pre-coffee brain couldn’t bring up a mental image of someone fitting that description who stood out/looked unprofessional.

      1. Sylvan*

        I’m in the Southern US and I have plenty of coworkers with a wide range of hair colors, including Asian coworkers with platinum blonde hair. I’m not a hiring manager, so take this with a grain of salt, but it doesn’t seem to be an issue.

        1. PeanutButter*

          Yeah, even like hair that’s not *quite* naturally colored (say, a dark brown that’s got maroon/burgundy overtones) I have seen on women (and men, but usually younger men, my hunch is as those younger men get more senior they’ll diffuse their non-issue with it through the hierarchies) in professional roles here, at all levels of seniority/formality, of a wide range of ethnicities. My job is in academia/non profit life sciences research but we interact quite a bit with senior scientists and business roles in industry.

          I’m wearing a bright purple blazer in my professional headshot, I’m sure that would be an issue for more people than “unnaturally” blonde hair.

    3. Nameless in Customer Service*

      The Black hair/curly hair vs. straight and sleek debate doesn’t mean that you have to shut up and fit into your assigned hair box; you are also allowed to push back on how limiting hair rules affect you, and it doesn’t take away from anyone else’s fight.

      I was just about to write a comment along these lines so I will just enthusiastically and wholly agree.

    1. ecnaseener*

      It doesn’t sound like any of the vitriol is directed toward LW or anyone else this woman is talking to, only to people who aren’t there. “Friendly” doesn’t mean “good” or “moral.”

    2. EPLawyer*

      Nor does having a petty streak and threatening to quit if she isn’t allowed to behave exactly how she wants. This is not friendly, this is a bully.

      Time to go to HR. If she quits, she quits. The company will survive without her. If it can’t, well it was a sinking ship anyway.

  16. Kim*

    LW#4: there’s a Dutch saying that translates to “stood up means seat has been vacated” [i](opgestaan, plaats vergaan)[/i].
    Just because your old employee changed her mind does not mean that they can just expect everything to go back as it was.

    1. pugsnbourbon*

      There are several variations on this in the US – “shuffle your feet, lose your seat” is the one I grew up hearing.

    2. Kim*

      Oh no, I thought HTML tags would work. I’m sure LW#2’s coworker would have some choice words for me…

          1. Alice*

            To be extremely pedantic, you used bbcode which is used in some forums or message boards and has square brackets. AAM uses html which has pointy brackets. Other websites can use either of those, or another way of formatting (like markup/asterisks) or no way of formatting at all! This in case you find yourself commenting on another website which does use square brackets :) I’ve used the wrong formatting myself many times so I hope this helps!

  17. MistOrMister*

    OP3 – not sure what lart of the country you’re in, but I have found bleached blonde hair on those of Asian decent to be hugely popular in the northern VA area. To the point where I don’t bat an eye over it at all. My feeling has always been that if your hair is a natural color, you are free to wear that color and still look professional, even if said color is bot natural to you. My mom (African American) worked for the government in a fairly buttoned down section and for a a long time she dyed her hair a light brown/blonde. I don’t think therr was ever an issue of it seeming unprofessional. With the natural colors, as long as the bleaching/dyeing is done well and the hair is styled well, you don’t have to worry so much about the professional aspect.

    Unnatural colors are a whole other ball of wax. I go back and forth between having hair I don’t dye at all to bleaching and dyeing various unnatural colors. Personally, when I interview while my hair is, say bright blue, I wear a wig. Even though people are more accepting of those sorts of colors now, I see no point to risk not getting hired over hair color.

  18. Tuppence*

    I mean, if LW1 had their own dog and needed free time over lunch to walk it, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed to, and I don’t feel like that changes just because the dog isn’t her own and she’s being paid for the walking – it could be a friend’s dog, or an elderly neighbour’s dog, or whatever.

    However, it’s not outrageous for a meeting to overrun 10 minutes, and she should be prepared for that eventuality (particularly as it happens frequently). Maybe make it clear you have a hard stop at the beginning of the meeting, with language like “I need to finish by X o’clock because I need to take the dog out and be back for my afternoon meeting at Y o’clock”. (of course that only works if you have another meeting to be back for).

    1. TimeTravlR*

      Or make it clear with the dog’s owners that you will walk the dog at 1:20-ish. Most dogs are pretty understanding and are happy to see you no matter what time you take them out!

      1. Reba*

        Right, professional dog walkers I’ve looked into seem to promise the walk will occur within a certain window of a few hours, so that part seems totally ok.

        I think the issue here is more that the OP doesn’t have as much flexibility in her day as the dogs do! Following your example, say her noon meeting goes over by 20 minutes, but her 2 pm meeting is still going to start on time — it’s not just a late walk, but the total break time is getting reduced.

    2. Yikez*

      It’s the difference between making yourself lunch in your home vs traveling to someone’s home to make them lunch as a personal chef.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      Plus if it’s your own dog, you can go for a shorter walk at lunch if there isn’t time and go for a longer walk after work. With other peoples dogs, there might be issues with bladder control, etc — arriving at 1:30 instead of 12:00 could be a big deal! And if I was paying for a 30 minute walk but the walker only had time for 10, I’d be pretty annoyed. Sorry, OP, but unless you know your client has that flexibility, dogsakking doesn’t seem like a good gig for you.

    4. anonymous73*

      Walking your own dog is not the same. You don’t need to make a scheduled appointment to walk your own dog.

    5. Wildcat*

      I have to disagree. For instance, my employer is okay with me working flexible days when my kid is home sick from preschool, but they absolutely wouldn’t be okay with me having to work a weird day in order to take a paid babysitting gig.

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      Taking care of your own needs during work is different than being paid to take care of someone else’s needs. The order or priorities between those things should be: You > Your main job > A side job. Putting yourself above your job is fine and honestly more people should do it. Putting a side job above your main job is not fine.

  19. TimeTravlR*

    LW 5 – almost every time I changed jobs, I regretted it at the beginning. Not saying that is the employee’s situation, but you might just hold off. As Alison said, especially if there is a reason she left that hasn’t changed. But definitely don’t push out the other person (or reduce their hours) just to bring this person back.

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      There could be some exceptions, say moving/not moving or school, or schedule or things not related to the job or money. But otherwise I agree, they left for reasons and those reasons probably still exist.

      Plus, you’ve filled the position and that would be unfair.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This – the only times I’ve seen pulling back a resignation work it’s been because you left a job that is still open because you were moving but it just fell through for whatever reason.

        But in OP4’s letter they left for job related reasons and have already filled the slot with another person. The former job doesn’t exist anymore, and how much damage will you do to office morale if you tell the new person, “oops, never mind Jane is coming back so we need to take the job away from you now.” I don’t have all the answers, but I doubt it would be good.

  20. FashionablyEvil*

    #3–leaving aside all the “shoulds,” questions of perception, etc. I’ll just say that my company hires a lot of (mostly health care) economists and oooh boy is it is a tight job market. Candidates definitely have the upper hand right now.

  21. DrMrsC*

    OP2 -I had a loudly unprofessional coworker a while back too and she just tainted the entire office with the vulgar, humiliating language. I actually had to go to the Thesaurus and start using words other than “offensive” when I shut her down directly or complained to my director because “Maybe you are just too easily offended” was the response. This woman literally addressed coworkers as “F#$%-tard” and “Hey A$$hole” on a daily basis, but she was “just joking.” Derogatory became my go to substitute word.

    1. Yikez*

      Ha, jinx, I just commented below that I had a coworker like this. They really destroy the entire office. OP will be lucky if the jerk quits.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Inflammatory and inciteful hit me- as I am thinking of how angry people could become over such disrespect.

      1. wendelenn*

        Though I think you’d have to be careful verbally telling someone their comment was “inciteful”. I don’t think that’s too commonly used and they might hear that their comment showed a lot of insight!

    3. WellRed*

      Good for you. There’s no real way for a manager to soft pedal derogatory. I mean they caaaaan, but it becomes harder.

    4. EPLawyer*

      Being cursed at on a regular basis is okay as long as someone is just “joking?” Yeah that place had more problems than one jerk employee.

    5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      OP2 -I had a loudly unprofessional coworker a while back too and she just tainted the entire office with the vulgar, humiliating language. I actually had to go to the Thesaurus and start using words other than “offensive” when I shut her down directly or complained to my director because “Maybe you are just too easily offended” was the response. This woman literally addressed coworkers as “F#$%-tard” and “Hey A$$hole” on a daily basis, but she was “just joking.” Derogatory became my go to substitute word.

      Our workplace had one of those who was dismissed about 6 months ago. I simply stopped responding when I was addressed that way.

  22. Yikez*

    LW 2, I had a coworker like yours. She needs to be fired YESTERDAY. Your coworker is making the environment toxic and uncomfortable and I guarantee you people are looking for a way out just to get away from her. Go ahead and offend her, no one is irreplaceable and her quitting will save all of you a headache.

    1. Sylvan*


      There are people at my job eyeing the exits because a coworker is simply inept. Professional, polite, easy to be around, just terrible at their job and making everyone else’s job more difficult. I’m certain that some people must be eager to get away from someone THIS unpleasant.

  23. DJ Abbott*

    #1, FYI the term “busybody” originally meant a person who was nosy and gossipy. :)

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I think that’s likely. I heard ‘busy beaver’ growing up, but I guess that can have a sexual connotation.

  24. Turtle Duck*

    The blonde question is so strange to me, though admitedly I am not Asian (or American for that matter). Is this something that is commented on or thought about in any way? Is there a cultural context I am missing? I have never heard of dyed blonde hair being looked askew in any context ever.

    1. Nanani*

      Yes. In Korea, as well as Japan and possibly other places, common (old-fashioned and stuffy, but common) advice to new grads is to keep their hair “natural” – meaning black and straight (even if the individual in question doesn’t have that kind of hair, yes it is tough on, for example, mixed-descent people).
      It is not likely to cross the mind of anyone outside that part of the world, so if that LW is not job hunting in Korea they shouldn’t really worry.

      1. Turtle Duck*

        Ok, I see, thank you for the clarification! I didn’t get the feeling that the LW is looking for a job in Korea though…

        1. Turtle Duck*

          Also I would be interested to know how that really works in the professional world in Asia. Coloring hair is so widespread and normalized in a lot of places…Is it less common? Is it just an entry-level thing? Or is it old-fashioned advice that actually doesn’t have any validity? So fascinating.

          1. Fushi*

            Generally in Japan you are very much expected to have a black suit with white shirt and black hair in a common style when interviewing. It’s a pretty specific look. Office dress codes tend to be strict as well (thus the “salaryman” look). I’m not sure how much someone who’s not a new grad could get away with, since it’s the roving packs of new grads that are most immediately obvious, but I think exceptions to the standard would probably still be based more on the industry than anything (entertainment, fashion, etc.). Things are changing a little bit, and there’s a reasonable amount of people with dyed hair in Tokyo (as opposed to where is used to live, where I dyed my hair darker to not stand out as much from a distance…) but I don’t think advice not to obviously dye your hair would be outdated here. Come to think of it, plenty of schools still ban dyed hair, too.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I am American, and it also seemed like a non-issue, but perhaps I’m just oblivious. If I see people with black hair, blond, pink, fluorescent rainbow — it doesn’t matter. You are who you are, and your hair helps me identify you.

    3. MsSolo UK*

      In addition to what others have said, there’s also some counter-cultures where bleaching your hair is an indicator of belonging to them – it’s like if you’re white in the west there’s a lot of people who dye their hair black, but there’s also goths, a subculture where dying your hair black can be part of identifying yourself as part of the subculture.

  25. Ol Pammy Getting What She Wants*

    #2 – “please dont use that word” will suffice. adding “around me” lends an extra layer of “it’s a me problem”, not “it’s a problem”

    1. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      Off topic – Is your username referring to Pam from The US Office. “And don’t call me Pammy!” Great username!

  26. Rufus Bumblesplat*

    OP3 – I’m of Chinese descent, living in the UK.
    When I interviewed for my first post-university job 10+ years ago I had electric blue streaks in my hair. I got the job with the caveat that I wouldn’t be able to keep the blue as it was a public facing role, however if I chose to bleach/dye my hair a natural colour that would be fine. I’ve found attitudes have started to relax somewhat, and I’ve since held other public facing roles with pink/purple/green/etc streaks in my hair without incident or objection.
    I think you should be absolutely fine with blonde hair and will look perfectly professional.

  27. Alice*

    #2, quite aside from your other problems you have a single person in a critical role. What are your org’s plans if she decides to quit tomorrow? How do you cover when she takes time off? This is an excellent example of why you should not let an employee become so necessary that you tolerate otherwise unacceptable behaviour.

    Another issue is that she might end up pushing away other good employees, and the ones who remain will be the ones who are happy to use slurs. Consider if this is the culture you want to promote.

    1. OP#2-I promise*

      That’s a really strong point, that our wonderful, good employees will leave and ones who agree with her behavior will come in their stead. One of her is too much, a workplace full would be hell.

  28. Ross*

    Regarding #1, you may also want to see what your employer’s policies say about the matter. Where I work we have very clear policies on outside employment, which essentially says that as long as there is not a conflict of interest, outside employment is fine provided it does not interfere with your job duties, create the appearance of doing so, and you are not using company resources in whatever you are doing. I think there would be an argument that not being available for company meetings would indicate the dog-walking gig is a potential conflict with your day job – but look and see what your organization’s policies say. If they are more liberal then you might have some cover.

    A more practical suggestion – are you on video for these meetings? If not, could you transfer them to a headset and a phone for the last 10 minutes? One thing I’ve gotten in the practice of is taking work meeting from my phone (we’re a big Teams company, so I have the app on my phone) and using a headset. I’ll run down the street to pick up lunch, drop something at the post office, etc, during a call I don’t have to participate much in. If you needed to drive, though, that’s probably not a good idea. At the very least you could use the time to get ready to leave and be sitting in the car when the meeting wraps up.

    1. Incognitto*

      Regardless of a company’s formal policies on outside work, it’s wise to eliminate ALL of the digital overlap you can between your salaried job and your side gig. Do not put “dog walking” on the your calendar if you’re using company software, even you mark it as a private appointment. Do not use a company paid cell phone to take phone calls from dog clients. Do not use a company email for dog clients to contact you. Do not use a company laptop for anything dog walking related. Your side gig may in no way compromise your salaried job, but you don’t want to leave any digital footprint of it. You may get a boss down the road that wants you gone and a digital footprint showing a side gig may come back to haunt you.

  29. Katie*

    There are two types of meetings at my work. Ones that actually contribute to fixing problems and are productive. Then there are the one that don’t contribute anything.

    I have no issue leaving unproductive ones if they are going over even for personal reasons. The ones where stuff is happening though, I stay to get things done (unless there is something else I have to go to and I am not sure another side gig counts).

  30. I should really pick a name*

    LW2, you say you need to maintain a friendly work relationship with her. Doesn’t she need to maintain a friendly work relationship with you? It doesn’t sound like she’s holding up her end.

    Regarding the new hire: If your coworker used offensive language and no one said anything about it, you have just told the new coworker that that kind of language is acceptable in your office. The way to prevent that impression is to say something in the moment. It may not be easy, but given the choice between making a new hire comfortable, and trying to placate an unpleasant coworker, I know what I’d pick.

    1. anonymous73*

      That’s just the thing. OP doesn’t need to maintain a “friendly” work relationship with her. The only thing you need to be to an colleague is civil and respectful. Someone like this doesn’t deserve “friendly”.

      1. Observer*

        The issue is not what she deserves (what she DESERVES is to be fired), but what the OP needs in order to function.

        1. anonymous73*

          Yes and what the OP needs to function is to call her out on her BS. A friendly work relationship is not required.

          1. Observer*

            That’s a judgement call that the OP is better situated to make. I also think that if the OP is correct that they need to preserve a friendly appearing relationship, that’s a sign that they really need to do whatever they can to find a new job, because this one is toxic.

            Which is a different discussion that whether someone like the CW “deserves” a friendly relationship.

            1. anonymous73*

              Sorry but I just don’t agree about fake friendly behavior. It goes back to my original comment. Nobody should feel the need to force a friendly relationship at work.

              1. Rocket*

                Okay, but there’s what people “should” have and then there’s the world we currently live in. Advice based on an ideal and not reality isn’t exactly helpful.

  31. Be kind, rewind*

    I’ve been at a job where the meeting culture is “this meeting will last as long as we need to discuss this” (though they were trying to change that culture over the pandemic to help with burnout), but… personally, if OP has lunch scheduled on their calendar for 1230, and a 11-12 meeting runs over by a half hour, I don’t see anything wrong with enforcing that lunch appointment time.

    I don’t think the fact that they’re using that time to walk somebody else’s dog matters. This is the way OP likes to recharge and even said themselves they’d probably take a walk anyway.

  32. Dust Bunny*

    OP3 Nobody would bat an eye at this where I work, and we lean conservative but not formal because out patron base expects it. So strongly-colored hair probably wouldn’t fly but a color that is not natural to you but approximates nature in general wouldn’t be an issue, if that makes sense.

  33. CCC*

    I’d place a 30 minute transition hold before your lunch hour, if you can. I do that all the time, and if someone asks I say “I have another meeting that starts at 12:00 sharp, and I’d hate to be late to it, so I thought I’d give myself some a little wiggle room and catch up on X during that time.” Since I started doing that, others in my department have, too.

  34. anonymous73*

    #1 yes, meetings should start and end on time and you can try to address it with your manager. But are they late because they’re in back to back meetings all day, or are they just bad with time management? Regardless, you can’t tell them you have a hard stop because of a second job. If you had a doctor’s appointment or some other important appointment that would be different. But you can’t prioritize a second job over your primary one. This is a clear example of why you can’t work 2 jobs at the same time.
    #2 OMG speak up! You don’t need to maintain a friendly relationship with her and you don’t need to make her happy to keep her from quitting! If she’s interrupting your work or using racial slurs she needs to be stopped. Don’t use a lot of words. Just be direct and to the point. “I need you to stop using that word. It’s offensive.” “I’m going to have to stop you, I need to get back to work.” “I need you to stop talking about (subject).”
    #4 you’ve filled the position, period. It would be one thing if the position was still open and the former employee left on good terms, but the position is no longer available. You can’t quit and turn around a week later and say “just kidding, I want my job back.” It doesn’t matter how long she worked there or how well she did her job. She left on her own and now she’s regretting her decision – that’s her problem now, not yours.

  35. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    4. Employee left, now wants to come back

    It’s generally not a good idea for either party to go back. The employee left for a reason and those reasons probably still exist. It might be different if you hadn’t filled the role already, or if the employee had a unique or difficult to acquire skillset, but generally I would say don’t rush bring them back so quickly.

    If you have openings in a few months you could revisit their rehire if other roles become available.

    I know that kind of sucks, but it’s a chance you take when changing jobs. Sometimes you jump to something worse, or it’s not what you thought. But going back to old job isn’t always the right move either unless there is a really good reason for it (certainly moving or something could be that).

    1. minkysmom282*

      I left my department then realized I wanted to come back. it was very hard for me to leave in the first place but I wanted to try something new. New job was ok, met some great people but I missed old job so much I couldn’t take it anymore. I never expected to have my exact old job back and that was fine. I applied for a job in another department and I’m satisfied.

  36. Judge Judy and Executioner*

    LW3 – I recently hired for a role where individuals with economics degrees applied because it’s somewhat related. Hair color did not even come into a factor in the decision. Rock whatever hair color you choose!

  37. Cruciatus*

    Might be an influx of new readers/commenters today–the Ask A Manager article where the supervisor did not let their employee go to their own graduation hit the God (parody/satire) account on Facebook an hour or two ago. Commenters also have the same feelings we did!

    1. Prefer my pets*

      I saw that too and had a flash of hope the graduate would see it and report back to us!

      1. Slinky*

        The graduate did post an update about a month ago. I’ll link it in a follow-up comment.

  38. PieAdmin*

    LW 1: I understand that you like to be punctual – that’s great! But assuming you are using Rover or a similar app, all you really need to do is explain to the owner that you may sometimes be starting walks 15-20 mins after the scheduled start time due to your job. If you are reliable and have good reviews, they won’t care. Even the occasional 1 hour won’t matter to most people. Dogs with working parents are usually not on that strict of a pee schedule.

    1. RosaRacket*

      what didn’t come across correctly is that my time just gets mercilessly squished away from me by all these overruns of end times.

  39. How About That*

    RE:#2 Sorry, I think Alison’s advice is a bit weak, because of the violent references made by this person. I presume it’s because the offender is a woman, because these remarks made by a man would likely not be taken so lightly. Nor should they be. They are scary.

    There is never anyone so essential that bad behavior must be tolerated, folks quit, leave, or die. Especially this type of behavior in a new hire! If there is a probationary period, get rid of them while they are in it.

    There was a discussion not too long ago about feeling “safe” in the workplace. This is an example where I would not feel safe, literally.

    1. Esmeralda*

      I agree. This person’s language is so far out of bounds!

      I would not engage with her at all. I would request being moved away from her. And if my boss were not actively managing her and her behavior, I’d go to HR.

      If you don’t want to do those things, OP, I would not even use Alison’s polite scripts. Take out the please and you might not realize. This is not just a not-nice person. This is a scary person. (Speaking as someone who had a student cheerfully tell me about how he wanted to shoot his neighbor, a [slur] who was bringing down property values. And I didn’t have to see or listen to him every day the way you do, OP. Get away from this person now.)

    2. Ok to be paranoid sometimes*

      I was thinking the same thing re: her being a woman changing the perception. It’s true that the majority of workplace violence is committed by men, but that doesn’t mean that warning signs should be ignored just because the person is female. Google “warning signs for workplace violence” and pretty much every result will include things like inability to take criticism/feeling victimized (i.e. the threatening to quit thing), antisocial behaviors (using slurs, not taking cues that other people don’t want to talk/listen to her, preoccupation with violence) and especially making threats of violence against others.

      The slurs are bad enough on their own to warrant serious action but this is also a situation where workplace safety is very much in question. Please talk to HR!

      1. OP#2-I promise*

        I honestly thought I was working in a chill, progressive company as most of us in the building are under 30 besides the offender and a few other people and tend to socialize outside of work and share a lot of hobbies/interests. The offender and HR are friends. Management puts a lean on a friendly work environment, and as such there is a relaxed atmosphere around language to an extent. I’m seeing now that the relaxed atmosphere is probably allowing the toxicity to bloom and I should stop that talk.

        1. Observer*

          I honestly thought I was working in a chill, progressive company as most of us in the building are under 30 besides the offender

          That’s your first mistake. This has nothing to do with age. At. All. A lot of us pushing you on this are well over 30. Any company that allows this kind of thing is not “chill” or “progressive.”

          Management puts a lean on a friendly work environment, and as such there is a relaxed atmosphere around language to an extent.

          A “friendly work environment” does not necessarily require a “relaxed atmosphere around language”, but that is also largely besides the point. Because what you are describing is NOT a “relaxed atmosphere” but permission to insult and intimidate people. That’s a VERY different thing than not getting bent out of shape over the occasional use of an f-bomb or the like.

          1. Lisanthus*

            Thank you, Observer. I am well over 30, I have a relative with significant developmental delays, and as I said below, I’ve been fighting this battle with the r-word since I was a child. This is NOT ABOUT AGE.

            Allowing offensive slurs is not “chill” or “progressive” or a “relaxed atmosphere around language.” It’s vile. And if I were a customer who heard those slurs, I would have some things to say to your CEO — and media if I didn’t get the desired consequence, as in that woman being fired — about your company’s so-called “chill” and “progressive” environment involving permission to use the r-word and other hostile language. “Hypocritical” would be the mildest word I’d use.

            Plus I would warn off everyone I knew who might have an interest in dealing with your company. Even if you or your boss don’t use that language, I will not spend my hard-earned money at a company that tolerates this garbage.

            OP, you may think this is hard-edged or unfair of me. But I have been dealing with this bigotry and deliberate infliction of pain since I was a child and I am tired of being “nice” about dealing with people like your co-worker.

        2. Dinwar*

          “Management puts a lean on a friendly work environment, and as such there is a relaxed atmosphere around language to an extent.”

          I work in a group within my company with a relaxed atmosphere around language. A guy has a literal F-Bomb Jar, with pictures of bombs with the letter F on it; our client thought it was hilarious and asked for one. If someone used a racial, developmental, or other slur they’d be put on notice and the second time they’d be out.

          There’s a difference. Most swear words aren’t slurs–etymologically they refer to body parts or bodily functions (this is a deep and fascinating rabbit hole, involving the Norman Invasion among other things). And there’s swearing a part of general speech vs being cussed at. If someone uses a swear word to describe a situation it’s a non-issue. If they use it to address a person, it’s safe to assume it is; if you’re wrong and the person isn’t offended, they’ll know you’re looking out for them.

          The other thing to remember is that whether something is a joke or not depends on the person on the receiving end. This is true ethically (YOU don’t get to decide how THEY feel about, well, anything) and legally (in fact, legally it’s more strict–no one actually has to be offended for it to be a hostile work place). In practice, what this means is that “I was only joking” isn’t an excuse. Even if it’s true–and let’s face it, it’s not–it’s irrelevant. It’s offensive, it’s offending people, it needs to stop.

          The bigger issue is that the offender and HR are friends. It means that HR has a clear conflict of interest. If they’re good at their job it won’t matter–but they aren’t good at their job, or they wouldn’t allow this behavior. So you need to deal with this some other way.

          1. pancakes*

            Yes. It seems like a big, additional problem that the letter writer’s HR person is friends with someone who behaves this way. Even if this woman is good at her job, there’s a huge difference between being chill in a good way and being chill with bigotry and threats.

  40. NJAnonymous*

    OP #3 – I work in consulting at a Big4 firm (advisory/management consulting) and hire experienced folks as well as college grads. My particular practice works with financial services clients, historically one of the more conservative client sets. Not once has hair color been part of the hiring consideration, and in fact I was hired with rose colored hair. You’re good to go.

    1. PeanutButter*

      Another anecdote from a conservative business environment – A good friend of mine worked as an agent for a very prestigious and well known auction house helping very wealthy old people buy and sell very valuable old things when the gray hair trend was in fashion. It was obviously not her real hair color at 22 y/o, but no one ever batted an eye at it, nor did it hinder her being hired/specifically requested by clients who probably thought the downfall of society started when men stopped wearing tuxes to dinner at home.

  41. The Assistant*

    For number one, I think your lunch is your lunch and I don’t think it should be consistently be cut into. What if your meeting before lunch runs over and you have another meeting an hour later? You could also potentially miss lunch, depending on the time you have left.

    I think the dog owners wouldn’t mind if you were late as long as the dog gets out in the middle of the day. (But dog owners please weigh in if I’m incorrect.)

    That said, you are a punctual person and this letter seems more about that. Even if you gave up dog walking this would still bother you. You can’t change an entire culture, but you could try to ask for consistency so you have your full lunch.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      “What if your meeting before lunch runs over and you have another meeting an hour later? You could also potentially miss lunch, depending on the time you have left.”

      I mean I think that happens literally all the time at many jobs and is something salary people would usually be expected to accommodate, especially if not everyone takes lunch at the same time. My company is extremely flexible and I still run into that on occasion. They have a policy to try to avoid having meetings at lunch but when some people take lunch at like 11 and some people take it at like 1:30 it just can’t be avoided 100% of the time.

      For me when that happens I take like 10 minutes to eat some food real quick and then take a longer break later in the afternoon. Assuming this is an office where lunch is just a break you take at some point in the middle of the day rather than a scheduled “Jane is on lunch from 12-1 and Bob is on lunch from 1-2” or whatever then I think people would generally expect you to be flexible if something important is being discussed. Especially in a meeting with your boss where their time is literally more valuable than yours to the company and they may have more meetings to schedule around.

      I’m sure that last part varies widely by company but I know for me my boss’ calendar is packed while mine is usually pretty open, so if our meeting runs over and she wants to keep discussing things I should be available for that if I can. She is accommodating and if I have something I really have to leave for something she would certainly understand, but getting paid to do another job should really not be a thing I have to leave her meeting for.

    2. CrazyPlantLady*

      This concept does not exist in a lot of jobs. Sure, it’s great to take a lunch, but a lot of people have meetings scheduled all through lunch. There is no “lunch” to take, and people take breaks to eat or run an errand whenever they can (especially salaried people).

    3. JamminOnMyPlanner*

      At my job, it’s normal to just fit in lunch where you can. I take lunch at the same time every day, and I’m very stubborn about it, because I have health issues due to blood sugar regulation. But that’s for a health reason, not so I can go make money at a second job…. It really doesn’t look good for LW3 to try to change company culture so she can go make extra money.

    4. Adultiest Adult*

      Then you don’t get lunch. Which happened to me today, almost happened to me yesterday, and will likely happen to me tomorrow. If you are working a salaried job, you are not technically guaranteed a lunch break–that privilege belongs strictly to hourly workers in the US. The rest of us eat when we have time, more or less, or keep a lot of snacks in our desk. I think the dog walker OP needs to be very careful of office culture on this one, because in many offices, having a daily hard stop on a meeting that wasn’t specifically related to medical or nursing requirements would be a no-go. (Or, I suppose, end-of-day daycare pickup).

      And I don’t imagine that my office is the only one which has a trickle-down meeting effect… The higher someone is in the heirarchy, the more they are likely to be late to a meeting or dictate that one run over, and the expectation is that anyone below them accommodates them. In an ideal world, I would love to never be late to a meeting with someone I supervise, but if I’ve been in a meeting with my boss directly beforehand, we meet until she’s finished, and that’s just how it goes. Anyone junior trying to change that culture would not be successful, especially not for a side gig.

  42. Esmeralda*

    OP #4. This is why Alison is the advice blogger and I am not. But:

    Too bad so sad for the employee who left. You can’t offer her old job to her because it’s NOT OPEN. Someone else is in that job. If you want her back, then she needs a different position. Maybe the part time job that’s now presumably empty?

    If you yank the job from the part timer who moved into it, that’s an extremely bad look — everyone is going to know and you and your manager will be seen as people who go back on their word and who actively harm some employees in order to favor others. (Because that’s what you/your manager would be doing.)

    We had something similar happen some years ago — employee went to another, better paying job, figured out it was not for them, wanted to come back within a couple of months. They were rehired into our dept, but not into their same position. They wanted to get their plum projects back, but our boss was wise and said nope, they’re already reassigned to these other folks who are excited about the opportunity to work on them, you can have these not-so-plummy projects. They left again after another year and a half — didn’t like those not so plummy projects. Plus, they still wanted more pay — reasonable, but not going to happen in our dept.

  43. Jennifer Strange*

    She unfortunately has a revenge streak and is not above quitting if I offend her.

    I mean, that sounds like a win-win to me. (Yes, I know she’s the only person in a critical role, but I’d rather have to take on the burden of extra work than be around that vitriol all day)

  44. GelieFish*

    #5 Is anyone else concerned that she is applying for a job and the company isn’t listed? I always assume the are scams or at least pyramid…commission only or some other less than healthy job.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It might be more common in some industries, but I would personally be uncomfortable applying without knowing the company.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think it’s fairly common if the posting is through a recruiter because they don’t want you to go apply to the company directly and cut them out of getting their fee. I personally would feel weird about it, but I assume once you get to the interview stage at least you would learn what the company is and could decide from there whether you are still interested.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        This has been my experience also. The posting will be really vague, but once the recruiter has your CV, they’ll tell you, because they can prove the contact came through them. I definitely wouldn’t do an interview without knowing the company, that would indicate a scam.

    3. LW #5*

      Hi – The job posting is coming through a recruiting agency, which I find is quite common for positions in my field. Many times I don’t know who it is until (if) I hear from the recruiter. This is just the first time I’ve ever tried to write a really good (hopefully!) cover letter and I was feeling a little lost. I had read through many of Alison’s archives and was concerned I didn’t have enough info to write the letter I wanted to. I did do what I think is an acceptable job, and now I wait and see!

  45. Spacey O*

    OP #2 – for the “r-word”, my partner got a huge, embarrassed apology when she stood up and loudly declared “you know, my sister’s mentally challenged, and that word is offensive AF”. It’s not true, ofc, but the point that you never know was taken to heart.

  46. Office Lobster DJ*

    Reposted nesting fail from above:

    Regarding OP#2, those are excellent scripts for the moment. Does anyone have any thoughts on successfully handling what comes next? I would bet anything the co-worker will want to argue about how she wasn’t being offensive, because [five minute tirade] or demand an explanation of exactly why what she was saying is offensive, trying to draw OP into a prolonged debate.

    Broken record? Explain once? Just walk away? Another strategy?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “Please don’t use that word (phrase, language, ‘talk about that’, whatever’s appropriate) around me” repeat ad nauseum.

      1. MeepMeep02*

        I’d skip the “around me”. This sort of language / conversation isn’t appropriate around anyone in a workplace environment.

    2. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

      In my experience people get embarrassed, try to justify how they didn’t mean anything, they have a nephew with autism etc etc. I say “I know you didn’t mean it that way. But that word offends me, so please pick a different one.” calm and neutral.

    3. Observer*

      Broken record?

      Yes. Sometimes it’s really the only viable approach. I think that this is one of those situations.

    4. TyphoidMary*

      Any of those strategies can work, but the most important thing: Tolerate your own discomfort.

      It will suck! You will probably get pushback! The person may quit! Your boss may think you’re being uptight or unreasonably “woke”!

      Maybe that makes you not want to confront them. Do it anyway.

      I will add only this: when I am evaluating the safety (yes, SAFETY) of a workplace, I am looking equally at how others respond to slurs as I am to who says the slurs in the first place.

    5. MeepMeep02*

      “Sorry, this is not up for debate. This is a workplace where people are expected to act according to professional norms and display appropriate social manners. Using language like that is unprofessional. Please stop.”

  47. Wing N Wing*

    OP2, I have nothing to add except seeing the grace you’re displaying here in the comments, I strongly suspect you are a good human who deserves better than the workplace you are currently in. Whether you cause change to happen to improve where you are, or job hunt to go to a better company, wishing you the best.

  48. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

    Very disturbed that the boss in #2 is “thinking about” how to address an employee’s loud use of slurs. Tell her to STOP. and yes, sorry LW, this is on you too. This is a practice we all need to get into in our daily lives. There is no excuse for someone to be using the r-slur or other slurs in 2022. Get into the habit of immediately responding with “Please don’t use that word.” They usually will try to explain they didn’t mean anything by it etc etc. “I know you didn’t. But the word offends me, so please use a different word.” They’ll stop, at least around you. I speak from experience.

  49. Lisanthus*

    OP#2: I have a relative with significant developmental delays. I have been fighting this battle with the r-word since I was a child, no lie. I’m not nice about it anymore. Nor am I nice about other slurs. This woman is old enough to have learned better and needs to learn the FAFO lesson, big-time.

    If I were a customer and heard your co-worker, I’d be calling your CEO. Not your manager, not your manager’s manager, but the CEO. I would use whatever clout I had as a customer to get this woman disciplined and/or fired and I would not care if your company got into regulatory trouble over it.

    If I were a co-worker, I’d be calling HR and Legal and making appropriate plans to protect myself against violent retaliation. This woman is regularly indulging in loud violent fantasies against others (“murder plans,” as you call them, are beyond inappropriate) so I would feel threatened and tell HR and Legal that in no uncertain terms.

    Quite frankly, if I were a customer, I would also strongly consider escalating to the media if I didn’t get the desired outcome. If that got to your regulators and you faced not only a PR shitstorm, but closure and lawsuits because your company *chose* to employ this woman as the sole person doing her job, I wouldn’t give a damn.

    Because I’m tired of being “nice” to repugnant slur-users like your co-worker and if your boss doesn’t choose to act/your HR doesn’t choose to act, then your company deserves whatever it gets for tolerating this crap.

  50. Former call centre worker*

    I’m not sure what the legalities here are of working a freelance job in your lunch break, but in many countries it’s a legal requirement to get a break of a certain length if working a day over a certain length (I think it’s something like min 20 mins for over 6 hours here). Idk how freelance work factors in legally, but a good employer would want you to have an actual break that you don’t work through so that you can be well rested and healthy. You might feel you’re killing two birds with one stone but professional dog walking is work even if you like it. So I hope you aren’t using all of your day’s break time for it.

  51. Natural Black Hair*

    Can anyone comment on the legality behind HR policies that require employees to only have “natural” hair colors? Does that mean any natural hair color for a human is fine, even if it’s not natural for the specific individual, or does it have to be plausibly natural for the specific individual? If it’s the latter, I’d that legal in the US since it’s clearly disparate treatment based on race/ethnicity?

    For context, I’m American and a woman of color. This was a policy at my small (American, non-religious) graduate/professional school and at many employers in my industry.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      How does one even tell what is natural for a specific individual? Not all Asians and POC have black or dark hair. That sounds discriminatory to me: assuming that someone has a certain hair color because of their race.

      1. pancakes*

        There are a lot of white people who have no idea how little they know about people who aren’t white, or who don’t come from the same background they do. I’m a white woman living in NYC and couldn’t count the number of times I’ve seen white tourists who have no idea who or what they’re encountering. I’ve seen people trying to be anti-Semitic toward a Muslim woman working in a bagel shop, for example. Did you not notice how much violence after 9/11 was targeted at Sikhs by white people who thought they were targeting Muslims?

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          I’m white too, and remember reading about that violence against Sikhs after 9/11. It made no sense to me, but a lot of other people’s behavior makes no sense. My goal is recognizing my own behavior that makes sense to me but isn’t actually appropriate towards others – that’s what’s hard to see.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        It quickly gets absurd, because the only true natural haircolor for a specific individual is… their natural haircolor! Otherwise, there would have to be discussions about how many shades lighter or darker are ok? Do the eyebrows and lashes have to be dyed to match? And then there are the people with rare/unusual natural colors for their skin tone or hair structure that could be accused of having an unnatural color… we should really not want to go down that rabbit hole.

  52. Zee*

    LW1 – Just tell the dog owners you sometimes have meetings before lunch that might run 15 minutes over. The majority of dogs aren’t on an exact-to-the-minute schedule where that’d be an issue. If it is – those owners will just choose to go with someone else.

  53. fhqwhgads*

    OP2, reading your letter I kept wondering how this person had not been fired yet. When you got the part about wanting her NOT to quit, I was puzzled. Tell her stop, politely and professionally. If she quits, it’s a good thing for your whole office, regardless of how hard her skills are to replace. Bigots don’t get a pass because they’re skilled.

  54. Coco*

    I really don’t like when companies have a 100% ban on moonlighting. I absolutely understand forbidding side jobs with a conflict of interest. But banning all moonlighting is just absurd to me. Unfortunately we live in a time where many people have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet. I know someone who works in a medical lab setting making close to six figures. Due to massive student loan and accumulated medical debt they had to go and get a second job working part time job at a hardware store. If there is no conflict of interest (including conflicts of time), let people do whatever they please.

    1. MeepMeep02*

      Yeah, seriously. You’re paying an employee for their work time, not buying their whole life outright. People have the right to do whatever they want to do with their spare time, including earning extra money with it. A lot of companies appear to take the “we own you now” stance without actually paying employees enough to compensate for that.

  55. Canadian Librarian #72*

    LW 3, I used to work in corporate law and there were many female Asian lawyers in our firm. More than a few had dyed hair, sometimes subtle brown highlights but a few did actually go blonde, mostly a dark honey blonde but I think one or two a pretty light blonde. All of them looked totally fine and very professional.

    Unless you go for a white-blonde high fashion look and are interviewing at a very conservative type of organization it’s unlikely to be an issue, provided you’re well-groomed and put together.

    1. Canadian Librarian #72*

      I meant “white blonde” as in a very very light bleached blonde, not as in, like, a white person with blonde hair, to be clear.

  56. fifteen minutes of indiscriminate screeching*

    Hey LW3 – I’m in a really similar boat! I’m a Chinese woman and I’ve been dying my hair silver for about two and a half years now. I first started dying it in grad school – I figured I’d “get it out of my system” and go back to my natural black once I started applying for medical school (I was planning on getting an MD after my MSPH).

    Well. I ended up in a completely different industry, and ended up keeping the silver hair. My current industry isn’t necessarily a conservative industry (there’s a joke about a logo polo and khakis being the industry uniform to be made), but it is very white and male, with some sections of it definitely skewing older.

    When I interviewed for my first job in this industry, I did that with silver hair. When my then-boss called to offer me the job I asked if my hair colour would be a problem – I wanted this job enough that I wouldn’t have minded dying my hair a “natural” colour. He asked, with all sincerity, “wait – what colour was your hair again?”. This was after spending eight+ hours interviewing with the entire office while having waist-length silver hair (lol).

    I think you and I are in the same boat in that we have a little more leeway because it is a “natural” colour; I definitely don’t think I’d have had exactly the same reaction if my hair had been, say, pink. (Which I have also done… in college…). But in all honesty, I was definitely more afraid about how my hair would come off than people actually cared about it; in part this is also because my mother HATES my hair (she refused to be in family photos with me when I first started doing it) and keeps saying I should “go back to black” in case I “still want to go to med school”. I definitely internalized a lot of that “you are UNHIREABLE unless your hair is its NATURAL COLOUR” – only now that I have gotten hired in multiple jobs with it have I been able to push back.

  57. KatieP*

    LW2 – If you want to address the behavior without sounding like you’re attacking the offender, or giving her a reason to label you as, “easily-offended,” I would avoid using I/me or you/your. Maybe, “That word is demeaning and shouldn’t be used anywhere.”

    That would take the focus off your reaction, without targeting her, while still getting the point across.

  58. H.C.*

    #3 – I wouldn’t worry about it too much nowadays unless the field/employer is extremely conservative; over a decade ago I was interviewing for jobs while growing out my bleached hair with obvious roots and I still got offers from fairly traditional industries (healthcare, nonprofit) – also got some kudos on my bleached tips by the time I started the job too!

  59. Diane*

    #3 – so I’m a black woman working in education and my current hair is black to dark blue to turquoise (just actually discovered that my local store that sells Black hair extensions has some truly spectacular ombré extensions for sale). In my previous role (finance IT) I didn’t go more adventurous than deep purple and brown, but my lawyer sister often wears dark blue braids. I know that management consulting is a more traditional field, but I think blonde hair on an Asian isn’t any more outrageous than a Caucasian with obviously dyed red hair. In fact, blonde and light brown extensions are super popular with black women too. It doesn’t have to be “plausible” for your ethnicity to be considered professional.

  60. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

    #2 – Ugh. Hate hate HATE the R word. As such, I tend to come down on it hard.
    Problem is, I work in a conservative engineering company. I mention the engineering because once upon a time the verb form of that word meant to delay or inhibit something. I mention conservative because there are plenty of people here who complain about what they are and are not “allowed to say” anymore.
    Every single time I hear someone talk about that phrase, I rattle off my litany: “Behind, braked, decelerated, delayed, hampered, held back, held up, hindered, hobbled, impeded, inhibited, late, obstructed, set back, slackened or slowed. Take your pick.” But then again, I am a middle aged, middle class, cis-, het-, white dude. My voice tends to carry a little further.

  61. Minimal Pear*

    I gotta be honest if I was a new hire and I walked past someone using the r slur with no one reacting poorly or calling the person out… I would be job searching the second I got home from my first day of work.

  62. PinkHairFan*

    To LW#3 – I’m also an Asian woman ~20s with dyed hair! I work mostly in scientific and/or customer facing roles, but I got my first job with bleached blonde and pink hair! In my current role, I’ve had pink hair, my co-worker has blue hair, and another one has purple hair. Don’t be afraid to look the way you want! As long as you look professional and keep your hair maintained, it should be fine!

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