my boss is lying about having a PhD, companies that say you can’t ask coworkers to wear a mask, and more

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

1. I think our boss is lying about having a PhD

We have a new boss. She is textbook terrible: critical, micromanaging, creates make-work, and sets priorities that actively harm the company/brand in ways that make us miss our targets. She also recently asked us to attend a scientific conference that a Google search revealed to be a predatory scam with no peer-review that defrauds people in developing countries.

She claims to have a fancy PhD in a very abstruse topic (think, super fancy math/physics topic) and insists on everyone calling her “Dr.” However, her Wiki entry shows only a master’s, and it’s really hard to believe someone who is so incompetent could hack it in a PhD program in this field. When we google her research record, we find no published research papers, which is very unusual (her supposed field is so collaborative that any grad student who does even the barest amount of work will get their name on at least one paper with dozens of co-authors.) I really suspect she is lying about her degree.

We spend hours of our day working around her/pushing back on the most egregious things so we can meet our targets despite her and life would be so much easier if we were not reporting to her. Is there any way to discreetly ask the company to check on her credentials without blowing everything up? For reference, our grandboss is bad, our head of HR left, and tons of senior management are leaving, which means our company is generally a hot mess. And if we did ask them to investigate, would lying about her degree even matter? It’s not technically needed for her position and she was taken on as part of an acquisition, so I’m not sure if they ever interviewed her or vetted her resume, meaning she may not technically have “lied” in an interview.

I wouldn’t count on her Wiki being an accurate source, although you could still be right. Ultimately, though, your problem isn’t what degrees your boss does or doesn’t have, but that she’s a terrible manager. I realize you’re seeing the degree as potentially an easy, clear-cut way to get rid of her but, as you note, you have no way of knowing what she put on her resume or whether your company would care … plus her boss is bad and your HR person is gone. It’s just not sounding like a way out of the problem.

I’d focus instead on how you want to respond to the bigger problem that she sucks as a manager. Are there parts of that which her boss might care about, despite not being a great manager themselves? Do you want wait for a new HR person to be hired and see if they might be more helpful? (Don’t put a ton of stock in that option though; HR can coach and flag problems and provide support but generally can’t just get rid of a bad manager on their own.)

Maybe more to the point, if you knew your boss would still be there in a year, more or less unchanged, would you want to stay in your job? That’s likely the most relevant question, unfortunately.

Read an update to this letter

2. Companies that say employees cannot ask others to wear masks

I am seeing some organizations establish policies saying “individuals may not request or require that others wear masks” (quote from the MIT Vice Chancellor but I think this is a wider issue). I have questions about forbidding even a request of this nature. Is this legal? Is this reasonable? How should employees handle such policies? How should low- and mid-managers at organizations implementing such policies handle employees who are not happy about it? How should people considering a new job find out about the potential new organization’s approach?

Even in states that have banned mask mandates, those bans generally apply to local government, not to private employers. Private employers are free to implement mask requirements and other Covid precautions. So employers that tell employees they can’t ask others to wear mask have either (a) made an internal decision to make that their policy or (b) profoundly misunderstood how the law applies to them and probably haven’t bothered to seek competent legal guidance.

And no, given that masks remain one of the most effective ways we have to curtail the spread of Covid, these policies aren’t smart or reasonable. Employees who are concerned about this type of guidance from an employer should band together and push back (and in particular, push the employer to explain the legal foundation of their reasoning, since they likely won’t be able to provide one).

As for finding out about masking policies when interviewing for a new job, it’s very reasonable to say, “Can you tell me how you’ve been handling Covid and what precautions you have in place for employees?” If masks aren’t addressed, ask, “Are you still requiring masking?” (However, keep in mind that policies on this stuff are changing very quickly right now, and what’s true right now may not be true in a month.) And if you’re high-risk or live with someone who is, once you have an offer you can try negotiating for specific accommodations, which could include, for example, the ability to ask people to wear masks when meeting with you. (The Americans with Disabilities Act will cover you but not a high-risk loved one. But not all negotiations need to be restricted to what’s protected by law, although having that legal protection does make it easier to ensure accommodations are honored.)

3. How can I get out of helping with an office move?

I work for a division of state government as a lawyer. We are in the process of moving to a new building, which is great, but we have all been asked to help with the move, which is not so great. I really enjoy my coworkers and am happy to assist in any way needed, but obviously, being a mover is not in my job description.

We’ve been able to work almost exclusively at home through the pandemic which has been amazing. Our office move is being coordinated by a lovely lady, but organizing and coordinating the move is not her forte. A month ago, she issued a general plea for help, asking everyone to come in one day a week to help with the move. I have done so for the past five weeks and I would like to find a way to politely ask to not come in any more.

During my days in the office the past few weeks, I’ve done what was asked — boxed up 50-year-old files (my fingers were black with dust — thank goodness for masks), catalogued other ancient records, and built countless bankers boxes. I consider what I’ve done to be the bare minimum of what should have been done months, if not years ago to properly retain records and generally keep up with the times. At the end of each day I’ve been in to help, my coworkers are amazed at what I’ve accomplished and can’t believe how much I’ve completed. Bless their hearts, but it really is not impressive.

At any rate, other coworkers seem not to be putting in the same level of help, so I’d love to stop. How can I nicely beg off?

“I’ve done more than my share over the past five weeks and I can’t keep neglecting the rest of my work, so others will need to step up.” And then just … stop coming in to do it. It sounds like you’ve done plenty; decide it’s no longer in your hands.

But also, why isn’t your office hiring professional packers and movers? It’s one thing to be asked to box up some files in your own office, but relying on staff for this amount of moving work is ridiculous. (I’m assuming there’s no point in suggesting it or it already would be happening … but if that assumption might be flawed, please do consider it.)

Read an update to this letter

4. My boss talks about “femtors” and “herstory”

My boss is very enthusiastic about women’s issues, which is great! But she insists on using phrases like “femtor” (for female mentor) and “herstory” instead of “history,” and these drive me nuts. Part of the reason is that the “men” in “mentor” and the “his” in “history” have nothing to do with gender, but it’s also because it seems patronizing in the same way that “girl boss” does. Is there a way I can bring this up?

That would be annoying as hell, and it’s also a quirk of your boss that you probably just need to accept. The exception would be if you have excellent rapport with her and she’s open to pushback in general, in which case you could maybe raise it … but I’m skeptical it’ll have much impact, and you’re almost certainly better off saving your capital for other things.

5. Are you supposed to base your notice period on how much vacation time you get?

I’m on my way out from an organization, and I was talking to my mother about it. I’m biased, but she’s pretty awesome and done some really cool things career-wise, and she’s a great source of career advice 99% of the time. She surprised me by saying that the amount of notice you’re supposed to give is equivalent to the amount of vacation you accrue in a year — so for example a temp employee with no vacation benefit would be obligated to give no notice, someone getting three weeks vacation would need to give three weeks notice, etc. She claims she learned this back when she was starting out (so probably the early 1980’s in the U.S.?) but I can’t find even a smidgen of evidence this exists. Is this a thing, or was it ever? I was completely thrown for a loop. And for what it’s worth, I’m sticking to two weeks notice regardless of my vacation accruals!

I can’t say whether it was ever a thing (although I’ve never heard of it), but it’s definitely not a thing now. It’s true that you don’t always need to give notice at some types of temp jobs, but that’s because it’s a temp job and not because they’re not giving you vacation time. Outside of unusual situations like that, standard notice is two weeks. In cases where more is expected (in some jobs, three or four is the convention), it’s just about conventions of the field, not about how much vacation time you receive.

{ 816 comments… read them below }

  1. prof*

    I was told by my college that their lawyers had determined that I couldn’t require anyone else around me to mask as it wasn’t a reasonable accommodation so…make of that what you will…

    1. Loulou*

      We commented at exactly the same time, but my comment was that I doubted Abt companies with this policy thought that they were legally mandated to have it…apparently I was mistaken!

      1. prof*

        Yeah…requiring vs asking…but, quite a few places have no interest in letting you even possibly impose on someone (in my case, they want to please their customers, I mean students…who knows if the legality was real)…

        1. anonymit*

          Students are definitely not universally in favor of the “no requesting masks” policy. A bunch of students I know are pretty upset about the MIT policy. (Of course, I suspect other students are glad they can’t be required to mask.)

          1. Miss Betty*

            No. 5, I also started working in the early 80s and that was never a thing, anywhere I worked. It was always 2 weeks. (Of course, back then I never got more than 1 week of vacation a year and at least one employer didn’t even give us that.)

            1. L'étrangere*

              Also alive and working in the 80s, never heard of such a thing. Two weeks, that’s it. Unless you’ve caught at some egregious thing and escorted out the door, but that’s not under your control

    2. Snow Globe*

      I’d argue there is a difference between “requiring” someone else to wear a mask, and just asking if they would consider wearing a mask. But, IANAL

    3. Just me, The OG*

      If it’s a public college or university it’s under state rules, so therefore government.

    4. Moonlight*

      How would that not be a reasonable accommodation? I get it if you work in retail or something and can’t require clients/customers to mask and thus it makes it useless for coworkers too… maybe if everyone wears cubicles and it wouldn’t be “reasonable” to expect everyone in your area to mask all day. but I can think of a lot of reasons why this would still work.

    5. HigherEdAdminista*

      We were also told we can’t require masking in our individual offices. Because I’m on the staff side, I have taken the position of I cannot also be required to meet with maskless people and have stuck to Zoom or offered outdoor meetings for those who don’t want to wear a mask. For professors though, that is a much tougher position to be in and I am sympathetic.

      It is despicable that so many universities started the semester with one policy and then abandoned it, almost universally without consultation, mid-stream. I was in our universities testing center last week and they didn’t even require masks there! Most people had them on, but I just kept thinking… someone could be in here with an active infection, coming to confirm it, and they are free to spread COVID around the room.

    6. chidi*

      this seems to be the line that most of higher ed is using. we received the same guidance at my university (private R1). which makes me wonder how much of this is based on actual legality and how much is just the “keeping up with the joneses” mentality of doing whatever your peer institutions are doing.

      1. Philosophia*

        That sounds about right. The president of our flagship public university states that they’re relying on the state health department and the CDC. The state health department in turn relies on the CDC, and we all know how well-founded the CDC’s advice has been during this pandemic.

    7. anon-beaver*

      I’m in the MIT community and feel a bit compelled to defend them – they’ve had phenomenal testing requirements and published statistics. To be honest, I haven’t heard anything about enforced(?!) maskless areas. Rather, the guidance I’ve seen is that masks are no longer required in certain spaces, but:

      “We ask everyone to respect others’ choices on masking: Many members of our community will choose to continue wearing masks. Public health experts have consistently emphasized their protective value, especially for those who are immunocompromised or medically vulnerable; those who have loved ones in these categories; and family members of children who are not yet vaccinated. We will continue to make high-quality masks available on campus.”

      1. anon-beaver*

        Ah, I tracked down the specific verbiage that LW1 referenced. I agree that it seems to be about preventing individual conflict, and also that it is a weird policy:

        “Departments, labs, and centers (DLCs) may not establish their own policies or requirements related to face coverings. The current policy applies to the entire Institute community and may not be modified at the local level. DLCs may post Institute-approved signage about mask wearing but may not create or post local, space-specific signage. Individuals may not request or require that others wear masks.

        Please be respectful of other people’s choices about masks, regardless of whether you choose to wear a mask or not, and please be kind and understanding with people who make a choice different from yours.”

        1. Anon this time*

          Looking at all the wording together, it seems like the intent was to stop people from saying “put on a mask please” knowing that students or others would interpret it as a requirement, even if it teeeccchnically isn’t. When someone’s in a position of real or perceived power, students may not think they can say no to a direct request. The wording isn’t perfect, but the additional context makes it more understandable.

        2. No Longer Looking*

          That’s akin to “please be kind to those who choose to fire their handguns into the air on holidays.” It’s just not ok on the face of it.

        3. Polecat*

          Yes this was a rather big story last week about MIT telling people they couldn’t even ask someone to wear a mask. It’s a kick in the teeth to people who are immunocompromised, have severe health risks or live with people who do. It’s frankly appalling.

    8. Wisteria*

      Just to confirm, you are using reasonable accommodation in the legal, ADA sense for a condition that you have?

      I feel like the lawyers are being quite reasonable (in the colloquial sense) here. You can’t *require* someone else to wear a mask if there is no mask policy in place (and even if there is, there may be people whose own legal accommodations exempt them from mask use). And I think the MIT policy is quite reasonable (in the colloquial sense) in that regard as well.

      On to your legal accommodation: one is never guaranteed to get the specific accommodation that they ask for. The accommodation process is a collaborative one where your employer can suggest other accommodations that give the same end result. Your employer should have suggested other things that accomplish what I assume is the goal of not being in the presence of unmasked people.

      1. Katara's side braids*

        The MIT language (according to anon-beaver’s reply to their own comment above) prohibits both “requesting” and “requiring.” I can understand (to an extent) the “requiring” issue, but “requesting”? I just don’t see how that’s reasonable, even in the colloquial sense.

        1. Boof*

          I’m guessing they just want to avoid a bunch of conflict over masks, like “i asked them and they didn’t!!” or “I’m tired of being asked all the time [insert some reason like asthma, bad breath, lip reading, etc if it helps make this more sympathetic]” etc

          1. Katara's side braids*

            That’s my thinking too, but I still don’t see that reasoning as colloquially-reasonable justification for prohibiting requests.

          2. Kendall^2*

            I also work here, and have continued to mask. I haven’t asked anyone to mask since the policy changed, but I have had multiple people ask if I wanted them to mask just because they saw me masked.

            1. tamarack and fireweed*

              This is my experience at our workplace, too. I am not masking at my desk, but often do while circulating in the hallways. I’ve both asked and been asked this very question. Everyone seems to be behaving like considerate adults around here.

          3. tamarack and fireweed*

            I’m at a US public higher education institution, and we can request, though the choice is up to everyone whether they comply (while masking is optional).

    9. tamarack and fireweed*

      I’m VERY glad that my employer stresses that even now while masking has become optional people have different comfort levels, and to be accommodating around people who chose to wear masks. We are allowed to ask, though of course no one is required to comply just for being asked. (Green status currently, but even when we go to yellow I wouldn’t have to mask at my desk though I would have to in a classroom.)

      It was my hope we would just get used to masks as a tool to manage day-to-day infection risk from COVID or otherwise. (I also find myself wearing a mask in grocery stores when hardly anyone does any more [for the time being – this could change again] just to make the few shoppers and employees who do more comfortable.

      1. Oona*

        I am constantly relieved to be living in China during these times. I haven’t left my door without a mask on in over two years and it is just a normal part of life. When we had no cases for about six months people would wear masks during their commute, and then would take them off in offices, but when going out to lunch or leaving the office at all masks just go back on. I can’t imagine getting on an elevator and seeing someone without a mask anymore

    10. Yep*

      This is certainly a situation where you want to reach out and get your own legal advice. Masking doesn’t place undue hardship on the school by any means. It sounds like this was an excuse.

      I had a similar problem in college – a TA refused to provide transcripts because “it was unreasonable accommodation” Why you ask? “Because it had never been necessary for anyone else in the 8 semesters she’d been TAing”

      Thankfully someone explained to her that “unreasonable” wasn’t just something you don’t feel like doing.

  2. Loulou*

    Could be wrong, but I doubt any company wjo recently clarified/implemented a policy like OP #2 described is doing it because they think they are legally mandated to. When OP said legal I think they meant, is it legal for the company to say that employees cannot ask people to put on a mask (I assume yes).

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      Agreed. What the rule is essentially saying is: “Rank and file employees don’t get to set policy for their peers”.

      1. Forrest*

        It’s ridiculous that this is so polarised that saying, “Sorry, would you mind wearing a mask for this meeting?” is being treated as “setting policy for their peers”, though. This should be as simple as asking your colleague if they mind having a window open or the radio on– fine to ask, fine to say yes or no, fine for the asker to make a decision about what they do next based on the answer.

        1. How About That*

          Yep, making a request is not the same of forcing somebody to do something. People can say no. Ridiculous. Nobody is setting policy. I’ll just keep staying in my house because there is no concern for my health or public health out here, and therefore the pandemic will never end.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Yes– generally professionally respectful.
          It is reasonable for an employee to ask a visitor to put on a mask before entering their office. Just like it would be unreasonable for a visitor to scold someone who is maskless in their closed door office.

        3. Antilles*

          Honestly, that’s probably how I’d treat it if I worked at an org like this – until someone directly corrected me otherwise, I’d just pretend that the policy is intended to block Formal Written Mask Required Policies and *not* about informal polite requests of “hey, would you mind…”.

        4. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          I feel like I both agree and disagree. On the face of it these two situations are analogous, and should be treated the same. In practice masking is (though I agree it shouldn’t be) a hot button issue. These companies are probably thinking on two different but parallel courses:

          1) Some people *really* want everyone to remain masked in public. Some people *really* hate masks. If a person in the first groups works closely with a person in the second group it’s sure to create a conflict unless the company gets ahead of the situation by having a formal policy one way or the other. Up until recently those policies have favored toward “everyone wears a mask”, now they’re moving toward “no one can be required or asked to wear a mask”. Is it stupid that simply asking someone to wear a mask would create a conflict? Absolutely. Is it also true that simply asking someone to wear a mask could create a conflict? Also absolutely.

          2) Let’s face it, individual managers at all levels have power over areas where there’s no policy. And even in areas where there is policy, they have the perception of power. If a coworker asks you to wear a mask, it’s a request. What if your line manager does? Well policy may say it’s still a request and they can’t enforce a “departmental mandate”, but they have power to make your life miserable in other ways if you refuse their “request”. What if a middle manager two or three levels above that makes the “request”. Suddenly all of accounts receivable has an unofficial mask policy and three or four people are really upset about it. Or complaining that they’re being targeted because they refused the boss’ “request”

          Now obviously the answer to this is for everyone to act like civilized human beings and treat polite requests as polite requests, not orders or passive-aggressive attacks. And others to accept when their requests have been declined and not take *that* as an attack or a challenge to authority. Reality has proven on numerous occasions recently that when it comes to masks and mask mandates such civility cannot be counted on.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            100% agree with you.

            I posted below about a situation we had that was exactly like your #2 scenario, except with gloves. And gloves aren’t even an emotionally/politically charged issue the way masks are.

        5. Ace in the Hole*

          Normally I’d agree that it’s ridiculous to treat it this way. The question is what happens if you say “Would you mind wearing a mask for this meeting?” and the person says “I’d rather not, sorry.”

          If that’s actually an okay answer and you can proceed without fuss, fine. But look at the number of people commenting here who think it’s totally reasonable to refuse to engage in work activities with someone who chooses not to wear a mask, even if masks are not required by law or the employer. In many cases, the “request” is actually a demand in disguise. There’s also the question of power dynamics… if your boss requests that you put on a mask (or open the window, or turn on the radio), are you really free to say no? I think because it is such a loaded topic for so many people, it’s not unreasonable to be extra careful around people pressuring their coworkers about their choice to wear or not wear a mask when it is supposed to be optional.

          We actually had issues with this earlier in the pandemic with a manager who went off-script and started telling people in his department to wear nitrile gloves for everything. Our safety policy said gloves were optional, a lot of people found them uncomfortable or cumbersome, and he didn’t have the authority to unilaterally impose that kind of requirement. Plus there’s always a delicate balance in EHS between protective measures and compliance… pressuring/requiring someone to follow a safety measure that is supposed to be optional often reduces compliance with safety rules and procedures that are actually required. For example, hand hygiene in his department got worse because people don’t wash their hands as often when they’re wearing gloves. We had to tell Mr. Gloves to knock it off. In a larger organization, I can see having to make an official rule about it.

          My baseline assumption is that a “you can’t request or require other people wear masks” rule exists to prevent people – especially supervisors – from pressuring people to wear masks when official policy says they get to choose for themselves. Not to prevent people from letting their coworkers know their preferences. Of course I’m sure it can be enforced in really stupid ways, but that doesn’t mean it’s an inherently stupid rule.

          1. Katara's side braids*

            Genuine question: Do you consider it “pressuring” or “treating differently” if someone opts to participate in an originally in-person meeting via Zoom or Teams if the answer to the mask request is “no?” That could happen even in an unequal power situation – managers and bosses can be immunocompromised just as the rest of us can.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              That’s hard for me to answer, since I’m in a field where remote work is impossible.

              It doesn’t sound like it would be pressuring or treating someone differently (in a meaningful way), as long as you were set up so you could do remote meetings effectively. Some considerations: Is the network connection good? Does the person you’re meeting with have an appropriate workspace with the equipment and privacy to comfortably participate?

              If you have zoom meetings on a regular basis anyways then it’s definitely fine. If this means an employee now has to have their weekly 1-on-1 while standing on the shop floor squinting at a laggy smartphone with their peers able to hear everything, I think it would not be okay. Many situations fall somewhere between the two, and would depend a lot on context.

              1. Katara's side braids*

                Thanks for answering. In a situation like yours, then (or the factory floor example you mentioned) how do you balance people’s mask preferences with the safety of vulnerable people (assuming they do not have access to proper fit-tested N95s, which makes two-way masking much more important)?

                1. Ace in the Hole*

                  It varies a lot depending on the situation. Generally, I think these are good steps to take in order of importance:

                  1. Base masking policy off of actual local risks and safety guidelines. The decision to make masks optional should consider factors like vaccination rate (employees and community), how many people share workspaces, ventilation capability, and community transmission levels. Only remove mask requirements if community risk is low and the workplace doesn’t significantly increase risk.

                  2. If it hasn’t been done already, implement all non-mask safety measures that are feasible. Improve ventilation, make sure people can keep physical distance, encourage vaccination, and most importantly… create a really strong culture of staying home when sick! These things should already have been done, since masks have limited effectiveness, but if they haven’t then do them first.

                  3. Make N95’s and instructions freely available to employees – as long as there’s no legal or safety reason you can’t. Make sure instructions include information on performing seal checks, safety warnings about respirators, and information about how to wear correctly.

                  4. Individual accommodations, where possible… like you would for any medical concern. Can the employee be moved to a different work area with fewer people/better airflow? Are there outdoor tasks they could do instead of indoors? Can they do their work at a different time when fewer people will be around? Etc.

                  5. Consider whether it’s appropriate to ask others to mask, given the circumstances. How would you handle this if a worker had health concerns about a different widespread disease – for example, the flu? I’m not trying to say “covid is just like the flu,” but I think the comparison is useful since influenza is a common disease that can be very dangerous for certain vulnerable people and not for others. If one person in the workplace was immunocompromised and worried about catching the flu, would it make sense to require their coworkers to wear masks? Why or why not?

                2. Katara's side braids*

                  Wow, thank you! It seems like we agree on pretty much everything except (probably) the answer to point 5, which is where the whole conversation started anyway. My take is that in a community (like mine) where points 2-4 are not taken nearly seriously enough, it becomes more reasonable to ask one’s coworkers to pick up the slack, even if it should reasonably be the company’s responsibility to ensure that that’s not necessary in the first place. But I do get why that would be frustrating.

                3. Ace in the Hole*

                  I think we probably agree more than not, even on point 5. I write the safety policy at my org and we are still requiring masks for all indoor spaces, even though it’s not legally mandated.

                  The big difference is I think if the risk is high enough that people are justified in telling coworkers to put a mask on, it means the risk is high enough that the employer should be requiring masks. Obviously we see a lot of variation in people’s risk tolerance, especially around covid, but organizations need to be able to set consistent standards around safety issues. I think it’s reasonable at a certain point to say “this is our policy, we understand if you’re not comfortable with it but if you can’t follow the policy you need to find a different job.”

                1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

                  I don’t think you do. Or at least not in the way you’d prefer. In a world where a subset of people refuse to wear masks unless forced and another subset of people refuse to engage with anyone not wearing a mask unless forced, companies are having to come down on one side or the other. They have no choice. When Bob and Sue have diametrically opposed positions on mask wearing, and they have to work in the same place, the company is going to have to chose for them.

                  Up until now, most companies have come down on the side of requiring masks. Now that the risks seem lower, some companies are changing to the side of “you can’t ask people to mask”. A “mask optional” policy isn’t really “mask optional” if everyone in Sue’s department has been discretely informed that their mask choices will affect their performance review, or everyone who gets within twenty feet of Jim without a mask gets treated to a half hour diatribe about his elderly grandmother.

                  In a perfect world people would just wear masks when someone asks them to. This is not a perfect world, and most places can’t afford to just fire everyone who is being unreasonable.

                2. Katara's side braids*

                  I really don’t see “mask optional” as equivalent to “you can’t ask people to mask,” though. I get what you’re saying, and I definitely am against those decisions being factored into performance reviews on an arbitrary, “on-principle” basis. The problem is that the consequences of people feeling pressured to mask tend to (not always, I know) max out at physical and mental discomfort, but the consequences of people feeling pressured to share air with unmasked people – especially with variants that are better at evading vaccines – max out at death, loss of loved ones, and/or long-term disability. That’s where I get stuck.

          2. JamminOnMyPlanner*

            I agree. I’ve seen enough of humans during this pandemic to know that Person A might respond angrily to Person B requesting they wear a mask. On the other hand, I could see Person B politely declining to wear a mask, and Person A throwing a fit.

            Personally, I don’t mind wearing a mask during meetings. It’s helped me stay healthy from things other than Covid, and I respect others’ health. That said, I wouldn’t want to have to wear a mask all day if it were a cubicle situation, for example, and my neighbor wanted me to wear it all day.

          3. Polecat*

            If I ask someone to put on a mask because I have cancer, and they say no thanks I’d rather not, then the meeting is not going to happen. It’s not my business to worry about the ramifications of that. That is a concern for management.
            On behalf of all people who need to take extra care not to get ill, let me just tell you that you’re not even mentioning us in your answer is a problem. Some of us don’t have the option to proceed without a fuss.
            If you’re talking about masking, and your lengthy take on it doesn’t include immunocompromised people and people at greater risk, you’re doing it wrong. You’re being ableist. If you’re comparing it to turning on a radio, you’re doing it wrong.
            Use this as an opportunity to open your mind and understand that this isn’t a whim for some people. Stop treating it as such.

            1. Katara's side braids*

              Reminds me of how the School Discourse(TM) always seemed to revolve around children being very low-risk, and magically forget that teachers and school employees exist – many of whom, especially the most experienced, are older and have other vulnerabilities.

        6. tamarack and fireweed*

          Agreed. It’s on the level of “would you mind taking your dripping raincoat out to the hall” or “would you mind eating this rather fragrant lunch away from the desk area”. People request things from other people and I consider it an overstep to be forbidden to do so!

      2. JSPA*

        “I and my spouse are high risk, so please wear a (provided) mask to meet with me in my private office” is not allowed. “No shorts in lab, even if we’re not working with anything remotely dangerous” is, in contrast, an absolute requirement. Higher ed is broken.

        1. Clisby*

          Judging by AAM, they don’t seem to mind hosting the kitchen wars, the microwaved food wars, and the thermostat wars. Why draw the line at masks?

          1. smirkette*

            And it’s even more disheartening because I have never heard of a fatal casualty in the Kitchen Wars et al, but Covid can actually kill or permanently disable.

    2. ecnaseener*

      MIT certainly isn’t under that impression, since Massachusetts hasn’t banned mask mandates.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Massachusetts-ian (I realize I only know/identify with the unpolite term hahaha) here and I swear the whole MIT thing has me seeing red. From what I’ve heard they’re really enforcing this and you also can’t like…set different rules for your study group or whatever it is. Of course you can still mask you just can’t say “our group has decided to mask” or anything else that makes it seem like there’s some pressure or standard exerted by another person. It’s ludicrous.

        1. SometimesALurker*

          (Off-topic, but I have lived in Massachsuetts for 15 years and your comment just had me googling “demonym for Massachusetts,” because I also only know the informal one! Apparently the “recommended” word is Massachusettsan, so you were close.

          1. SometimesALurker*

            Argh, here’s the close paranenthesis for that last comment. )

            (New one, to balance out my record — for those who are confused, the term in common usage is Masshole — not to be confused with maskhole, except perhaps in MIT’s case!)

        2. UpperLearning*

          Also in higher ed here, and my university has the same policy. Our campus mask mandate has ended, we’re not in a state that bans mask mandates, but university policy is that no one can ask anyone else to wear a mask. That was made extremely clear in the announcement of the end to the mandate, although there was no specific discussion of legality. This university is extremely risk-averse though (from a legal standpoint, extreme even for higher ed) and they’d be extremely reluctant to do anything that could ever possibly get them into a lawsuit.
          So far, people have been defaulting to stating their own masking status up front and proactively offering alternatives “I will be wearing a mask for this meeting and will make Teams available for those who would prefer to attend remotely.” However, that doesn’t help in classroom or service desk situations. That said, those of us who work service desks are actually slightly relieved the mandate has gone away since compliance has been low and we’ve been forced to be the mask police, which is a miserable position to be in.

          1. Jora Malli*

            I’m customer facing, and yeah. I’d feel safer if people were wearing masks, but enforcing the requirements has been so hard.

      2. anon-beaver*

        Hi! I’m in the MIT community and I feel a bit compelled to defend them – they’ve had strict semiweekly testing requirements and publish detailed statistics. I really haven’t heard of maskless spaces being enforced(?!).

        “We ask everyone to respect others’ choices on masking: Many members of our community will choose to continue wearing masks. Public health experts have consistently emphasized their protective value, especially for those who are immunocompromised or medically vulnerable; those who have loved ones in these categories; and family members of children who are not yet vaccinated. We will continue to make high-quality masks available on campus.”

        1. Tim*

          Maskless spaces aren’t enforced, but masked spaces aren’t enforced either. What’s being enforced is that everyone can choose whether to wear a mask or not, and no one else can tell them or ask them to do otherwise. Also, the testing and attestation requirements are being eased, so no more rigid and regular testing.

        2. Anon for This*

          That seems pretty disrespectful to people who aren’t comfortable being around unmasked people yet.

        3. ecnaseener*

          I think you misread the original letter. It didn’t say anything about maskless spaces being enforced, it’s about the (now widely publicized) statement that people can’t even request other people put on a mask.

          Testing is great, the quote you pulled is very nice, but it’s not a defense against what’s being discussed here.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I read it as saying you can’t REQUIRE them to mask. Not that you can’t REQUEST them to mask. I might need to reread.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              No it’s pretty specifically request or require. Your reading is generous. I envy your optimism. That would be the more logical approach.

        4. MeepMeep02*

          Meaning that those who are immunocompromised or medically vulnerable, those who have loved ones in these categories, and family members of children who are not yet vaccinated, are basically screwed, because everyone else will gleefully take off their masks and refuse any requests to put them on even for a minute. And the people who are gleefully taking off their masks are the same people who are engaging in other COVID-risky behavior, so they will be spreading disease.

          And this is how those of us with immunocompromised family members end up on permanent house arrest.

          1. Chris too*

            Or, if we’re working in person, wind up flatly refusing to do some things. You wanna fire me? And the other people who think as I do? Go ahead, but you might find yourself even shorter staffed than you are right now.

            I work in an obscure job that’s hard to fill, though.

  3. TransmascJourno*

    LW1: Alison’s advice is spot-on and the PhD issue is a red herring—but it’s also very possible that she has published work that isn’t under the name you know her by. Granted, I’m only offering one point of anecdata in a grad field that’s humanities-based, but all of my work published back when I was an academic wasn’t under my name. (To be fair, it was published under “FirstInitials LastName,” but at any rate, it was generally easy for me to have that be a thing.)

    1. Nina*

      I changed my entire name during grad school (the original sucked and wasn’t what people knew me as anyway, this is not a transition thing, my name just sucked), and I’m thankful as hell I had the presence of mind to get it done before I had fancy degree paperwork with my name on it.

      1. Darsynia*

        As someone who hates their name and wants to change it ASAP I am glad to read this! There’s no fundamental reason I want to change it other than complete and utter loathing of my first name, lmao. The pandemic threw a wrench into the plan but soooooon.

        1. EPLawyer*

          This is not legal advice. But, in GENERAL, in the US as long as you are not changing your name for any illegal, immoral (no I don’t know what that means its just something we have to ask in a name change where I am) or fraudulent reason, you do not need a “good” reason to change your name. You can change it because you just don’t like it. It’s actually a pretty easy process for adults. Your local courthouse should have the forms and can tell you the procedure.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Yeah, when I changed my name (20 years ago), the court offered sample motions and proposed orders, charged a $30 filing fee, and only required me to swear under oath that I not changing my name with the intent to defraud or avoid prosecution (including that there were no pending charges against me). The process of changing my name on all my paperwork (and in my early 20s, when the paperwork was far less than it would be now), was much, much worse than the actual court filing. The second most annoying is nosy people who feel entitled to an explanation on why I changed it and why I didn’t changed it again to my husband’s several years later. I only wish I’d done it sooner because my undergraduate degrees were issued under my former name.

            The one thing I do recommend, if you are in the US, is the see if the state in which you were born will amend your birth certificate. It took five phone calls and two tries to get mine right, but I now have a birth certificate that shows my original and the amendment. I also keep a copy of my certified court order handy because sometimes I need it.

            1. It's Growing!*

              The second most annoying is nosy people who feel entitled to an explanation

              You could have fun with this. My MIL lost the use of one arm due to polio and wore it in a prosthetic sling. People asked. She sometimes claimed she fell out of a tree or off a cliff or it was a skydiving accident. For a name change you could offer that the name “Fancypants Poledancer” just didn’t suit your profession as a neurosurgeon. The trick is to say it with a straight face and watch them wonder.

            2. Skittles*

              My most annoying thing about having changed my first name is people repeatedly asking me what my birth name was, trying to guess what it was or trying to trick me into telling them what it was.
              I changed it 20 years ago people, it’s old news and a boring story anyway – it was a normal, common name and I just didn’t like it. I’m not going to tell them what it was because there’s always that one person that thinks it’s funny to use your dead name.

      2. knitcrazybooknut*

        I changed my name later in life, with two degrees. Both institutions issued new certificates with my new name for a reasonable cost. It was painless.

    2. Well...*

      Also there are PhD students who make it through without publishing. Dissertations don’t always show up in literature search engines. It would just mean she was a particularly weak student who managed to skim through by checking all the boxes, which tracks with the rest of what you describe of her.

      1. Bridget the Elephant*

        I was actively discouraged from publishing during my PhD (UK institution) because “there’ll be plenty of time to do that later” – read “we want to be able to boast about getting everyone through within four years”. It really killed my chances of getting an academic job, but the university got their metrics.

      2. Melissa*

        I had an awful time during my PhD, didn’t have anything published as nothing worked the way it was expected too. Still I earned my PhD but other than searching my awarding institutions library, I don’t think my thesis would appear anywhere either.

      3. fueled by coffee*

        Even if she wasn’t a weak student, if she decided fairly early on that she wasn’t interested in pursuing a research career she may have focused her attention on finishing her coursework and dissertation without working on side projects for publication.

      4. Tau*

        This is fairly common in the my field my PhD was in, which was also maths/physics although I admit I never tried to estimate the degree of fanciness ;). I didn’t publish anything during my PhD, and I’m not the only one who didn’t, especially if it became clear we weren’t going to be continuing in academia.

        That said, OP said it was uncommon in the field the PhD was supposed to be in, and I know on the applied side frequent papers with dozens of coauthors are common. In that sort of environment, I could see how it would be a red flag.

      5. A guy*

        This is interesting to me since in my field publishing a first author research paper is a requirement to get a PhD and I didn’t realize that wasn’t the case in other fields! So I would definitely have seen it as a red flag but agree the PhD issue is not worth trying to get to the bottom of and not LWs real problem.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Especially if she is from a culture that doesn’t have the name structure westerners are accustomed to (given name then middle name then family name) – she might have published under a different configuration of her name than how LW knows her

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      This! Before anybody objects because OP found her masters, Think about someone who married during the PhD program comma and then divorced. One lost dissertation, right there.
      That’s not to say she couldn’t be lying of course. But if it’s the same industry, wouldn’t it be reasonable conversation topic to ask her about her PhD research topic & project? If she is a PhD, this could improve your working relationship. If it’s not, I’m betting you’ll be able to tell by the deflection.

      1. Squirrel Nutkin*

        That’s kind of a brilliant way to get the info — showing genuine interest might indeed be a way to bond.

    5. Book the Wink*

      For anyone wanting to keep their research on a through line for searching, even after a name change, PLEASE sign up for ORCID. It is basically an ISBN for researchers and authors.

      It makes librarians’ lives infinitely easier and I KNOW y’all want to do that.

    6. Meagain*

      All phd dissertations in the US are deposited at the university of Michigan and should be searchable through ProQuest, even if they are embargoed.

      1. Mickey Q*

        The easiest thing to do is if you know the university call them and ask if she has a degree.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          Privacy legislation is a thing, at least in Canada. Universities normally won’t provide that information unless you have a release from the person agreeing to the search.

        2. Velociraptor Attack*

          Yeah, no university is just going to provide that information to someone who calls the front desk.

          1. CCC*

            They might not provide it via a front desk phone call, but it usually is easy to verify. Degree attainment and dates of attendance are considered directory information and are not subject to FERPA and so do not require the student’s/alum’s permission. Colleges don’t have to give that info out all willy nilly, and have a process that may not, say, give the info to a begrudged employee, but it’s not confidential.
            A lot of colleges use the National Student Clearinghouse DegreeVerify system; it’s a pretty simple process to release that record.

            1. Velociraptor Attack*

              I understand that particular information is not covered by FERPA but I’ve also worked in higher education and neither school I worked at would have done a random degree verification like that.

              I’m just saying that simply calling the university and asking isn’t likely to work out.

    7. Selina Luna*

      I’m unusual in that I go both personally and professionally by my given name, rather than my married name. If I publish anything, this will also be under my given name. However, my husband and I have discussed me changing to Mrs. Hisname when our son enters elementary school. We haven’t decided yet. If that does happen, then students who try to find my publications won’t be able to do so as easily. Not that they’ll want to-what high school student wants to read an academic publication on writing instruction?

    8. Dotty*

      If you’re really going to take your degree doubts to anyone in your company, just make sure you’ve got strong confirmation – i.e. not just numerous coworkers’ Google searches – before you make yourself look like the problem (and even then, there’s high likelihood you’re still going to look like the problem.)

      I have a coworker who raised suspicions about my degrees. First I heard thru the grapevine she’d questioned whether we should be listing my credentials in our marketing material without “3rd party verification.” I told the marketing people I’d be happy to send copies of my diplomas, or authorize an academic background check, but they said it wasn’t them doubting me. I thought that was the end of it.

      … but no, eventually she couldn’t help herself from confronting me. Turns out her child recently applied to the same university so she “knows all about it.” The way I list my major and degree and the version of the school name I use (which are all as they appear on my diploma) are subtly different than the university’s 30-years-later rebranding/department shuffling/current degree offerings, so… she asserted I don’t really know anything about the program from which I “claimed” to have graduated.
      So… diploma, graduation photos, picture of me in the 1990-something university catalog standing under the department’s sign with its then-name…. all PhotoShopped? Just so I could get this job decades later, and work with this clown?

      1. learnedthehardway*

        I hope you complained to HR and your manager about that. That sort of thing needs to be shut down, for your own sake, and busybodies shouldn’t be allowed to run amok.

      2. Observer*

        So… diploma, graduation photos, picture of me in the 1990-something university catalog standing under the department’s sign with its then-name…. all PhotoShopped? Just so I could get this job decades later, and work with this clown?

        Nah, you just time traveled to get those pictures done.

        And, in case anyone wonders if I really believe in time travel, the answer is NO, that was sarcasm… Which I unfortunately have to say, since some people really do seem to think that time traveling for the purpose of creating fake documents is possible…

      3. Gumby*

        There was an alum from my school who became famous in a field unrelated to her studies. Apparently people questioned whether she had actually attended the university and as “proof” they pointed out that her reminiscences about a particular statue being in a particular place on campus were clearly wrong so, ergo, she made it all up. I even read someone defending her by saying memories can be inexact, etc. Except – my tenure there overlapped with hers and the statue *did* used to reside where she said it did but it was moved. Her memory was fine! (These days the area where said statue used to live is nearly unrecognizable because an entire building was removed.) It was all so much stupidity because the thing she was famous for was completely unrelated to her field of study and didn’t require a degree so even if she hadn’t been a student it wouldn’t have mattered.

    9. planetmort*

      I once worked with a woman who was SO incompetent it boggled my mind, and she had a Ph.D from one of the most prestigious schools in her field in the world. I was her immediate manager I actually took the time to track down her dissertation, because I could not believe she had managed to write one, given the lazy-8th-grader quality of her written work (my own boss called it “embarrassing to our team”). Turns out, she did have a dissertation, and it was actually comprehensibly written. It was the start of my finding out that her program was indeed quite prestigious, but once you were in, it was very hard to fail. Basically it would appear they offered incredible support to their students, to the point of ghostwriting their papers and dissertations, effectively. Support of students is good, but in this case, the lady basically coasted through and obtained no real skills. My point? You can be utterly incompetent and still have a legitimate Ph.D.

      1. Hermione Granger's muggle cousin*

        “You can be utterly incompetent and still have a legitimate Ph.D.”

        Yep! I currently work with someone who is just generally unimpressive and unpolished to the point where I did wonder about whether or not they actually have a PhD, but then I learned their PhD is not in the field they’re currently working in, it made some sense…

        1. Nesprin*

          Oh yes. The worst coworker I’ve ever had had a PhD from MIT. One feature of fancier institutions is there’s a lot of support and a lot of resources- truly crappy folk can lean on tech/resources to avoid doing work.

    10. SSG*

      This kinda thing makes me mildly paranoid, because I won’t have a PhD but I do the sort of work where most people have one, so quite often it’s assumed and people just put Dr MyName. I hope no one thinks I’m the one pretending to have one!

      Funnily enough, I don’t publish under my legal name either, just a preferred name.

    1. Baroness Schraeder*

      Urgh. I’m afraid I couldn’t not say something in that situation.

      We have a guy at work who keeps trying to make “frolleagues” happen but given that he has to explain it every time by adding (friends/colleagues) afterwards, you have to wonder if at some point he hasn’t questioned whether or not it’s really worth the effort?

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I kind of genuinely love “frolleagues” now that you’ve explained it, but I think you’re right that no one would ever guess what it stands for and is probably not worth the effort.

              1. jarofbluefire*

                This just made me so happy. Heard it in his voice, and will be grinning the rest of the day. Thanks.

              2. Not a mouse*

                Thank you for explaining how my brain went straight to “Muppets.” Couldn’t quite see the chain until you said it

          1. Fluffy Fish*

            My brain went to Fraggles. Every time he said that the Fraggle Rock theme song would be playing in my head.

        1. Artemesia*

          That was all I could see too. AS an Old who has to put up with Golden Agers, and X years young, yadda yadda, words like this make my skin crawl.

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          That’s where my mind went too. “Most of us are on board with the company’s anti-fraternization policy, but then there’s Fergus…”

      2. That One Person*

        Kind of fun to say, but admittedly my mind would veer towards “frog colleagues” and would have to ask what it meant. There might even be some disappointment at finding out it simply meant “friend colleagues”!

      3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I was thinking that my lack of poker face would show what I thought of that term whether I wanted to or not.

      4. Emi*

        To me this sounds like an athletic league comprised of frogs and overseen by the mean priest from the Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame.

      5. Corrvin (they/them)*

        I love “frolleagues” and use it probably three times a week. However, I work in a place where we use a lot of playful language like that, and in a profession where we wordplay a lot, so it fits in.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I definitely pictured a shiny giant robot about to lay waste to the landscape.

            Albeit a female one.

            1. Umiel12*

              It made me think of the Futurama episode in which Bea Arthur played a female computer named Femputer. She did a great job.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            My mind jumped to dementor so apparently my reading history is showing.

      1. KateM*

        For me it was “herstory” – I thought it was another way for “that’s what she said”. Besides, the word is “history” not “hisstory”, so shouldn’t it be “hertory” then?

        1. That One Person*

          By looking at the word that way and the fact it’d be “hi story” I couldn’t help thinking of calling it “hellostory” instead. I imagine it’d confuse the “herstory” lady, but it’d entertain me to explain it as an alternate interpretation. If nothing else maybe it’d stump her for a bit.

          1. KateM*

            Yes, I was thinking, too, it’s like “Hi, want to hear a story? Because what else is hostory than a bunch of stories…”

        2. Nancy*

          I heard ‘herstory’ all the time at my women’s college, but it was used specifically to refer to talking about the past in a women-centered way. It didn’t just replace the word ‘history’ in all contexts.

          Never heard ‘femtor’ and think it’s dumb.

          1. Selina Luna*

            I wasn’t at a women’s college, but I saw something similar when I was taking classes on literary analysis.

          2. Some dude*

            I’m very familiar with herstory, but it always drives me nuts. It just seems…petty and kind of patronizing. I also deeply dislike “womxn” because it is unpronounceable and the “men” in “women” seems like the least of any woman’s problems. But I tend to get frustrated by jargon to begin with, and I’m a dude, so ymmv.

            1. learnedthehardway*

              Considering that women were generally written OUT of history even when they should have been recognized for their accomplishments, academics were making a real point when they started talking about “Herstory”. It was a point that needed (and still needs) to be made.

            2. Distracted Librarian*

              I’m a woman, and I agree with you. It feels like patronizing, feel-good nonsense.

              1. Umiel12*

                I would be compelled to ask her what she meant every single time she said one of this words.

      2. Myrin*

        Yeah, I can’t in any way explain why but it immediately got my hackles up (which makes no sense as it doesn’t mean anything but brrr).

        1. Audrey Puffins*

          Yeah, I understood immediately what it was a portmanteau of, but it also hits the same nerve in my brain as “femoid”

      1. Pennyworth*

        I’d take her so seriously that I would set Word to replace every occurrence of ‘men/man’ and ‘his’ with fem and her. If she wants to be a femager let her femage that.

        1. Expiring Cat Memes*

          And while she’s at it, why not reclaim femstruation and femopause? All workplaces need a femacing femtoring femanger to advocate all things femtal health.

    2. Mangled metaphor*

      It just brings to mind the Waterfall family from Futurama. If you take something that is already satire and decide to use it unironically, don’t be surprised when people write in to an advice blog and commenters derive amusement from it.

      1. Agnes*

        The whole mentor/mentee is annoying enough. (Mentor is someone’s name, not someone who ments.)

            1. tamarack and fireweed*

              Frankly, I use mentee over telemachos. I understand that mentor derives from the name, but mentee is just useful.

              1. Umiel12*

                I prefer protégé. I told my boss that if he didn’t want to say protégé that it was better to say mentoree than mentee.

                1. tamarack and fireweed*

                  Protégé sounds too much like nepotism where I sit – maybe it works better for you! And frankly, would typically use advisee rather than mentee anyway.

    3. Sis Boom Bah*

      Right? I thought maybe it was for “Female Dementor.” Which I guess I could get behind.

    4. PeanutButter*

      The first time I heard it I would have spent the entire rest of the meeting wracking my brains for what we could possibly be doing in the labs that required units of one quadrillionth of 1/760th STP atmospheres. (Femto-Torr)

      1. PostalMixup*

        I went right to femto, too! Like, implying that something is incredibly tiny is probably not what she was going for.

    5. Lacey*

      Oh I know, I needed the explanation because I could not figure out what-on-earth that would be. I’m dying from laughter and cringe in equal measure.

    6. mreasy*

      Reminded me of the early days of women in hip hop when people were calling women rappers “femcees” – thankfully it didn’t stick.

    7. Hermione*

      What I don’t get is why it’s not ‘womentor’? Like…why chop female in half when women is right there??

      1. Student*

        I know, right? “Female” is a lot more… clinical than “women” in general, too. “Women” parallels “men”, whereas “female” parallels “male”. There’s just so much wrong with femtor that I just can’t. Portmanteaus ought to have flow, and this does not flow!

        I feel like labeling a role or job that is already neutral with a gender tag is also a step backwards. It’s like this word is saying “look, a girl mentor, look at her being a girl and managing to also mentor someone, clap for her to give her some girl power” in a way that I hate.

        1. Ozzac*

          Yes, it feels like what some “men’s right” activist would say to make legitimate issues look stupid.

      2. Not a mouse*

        Because “women” has got “men” in it, and we can’t have that. Also (and I didn’t come you with this, it’s an observation at least 30 years old): “person” is no good either, because “son” is clearly sexist. Solution? Meet your committee’s new chairperchild!

    8. straws*

      This was reminiscent to me of Victor Borge’s inflationary language bit. It’s every bit as ridiculous, but not nearly as amusing since she’s using it in everyday life and not a comedy bit…

    9. Beth*

      I once attempted to read a bogglingly terrible book titled “Another Mother Tongue”, packed with terrible pseudo-history and pseudo-linguistics. I’m pretty sure it shortened my lifespan to a measurable degree. It was a very herstrionic attempt at herstory.

    10. MechanicalPencil*

      My company’s done something similar to create a woman’s group. Company name is something like Hackman and the group’s name is HackWoman. My eye twitches a little every time I see it.

        1. Rosalind Franklin*

          Have you any idea how it feels to be a Fembot living in a Manbot’s Manputer’s world?

    11. This is a name, I guess*

      Femtor just makes think of Fembot or something. Do we really want to relive Austin Powers?

  4. Sherry*

    History is gendered but switching the gender instead of making it more neutral just sticks to the same binary. I wish language was more gender neutral (so many languages gender everything and it’s weird and colors how we see the world). Language matters and it’s how we frame the world but switching the genders doesn’t fix anything, it’s just more of the same.

    1. Not A Manager*

      “History” is not gendered if you mean that it has a male pronoun in it. It comes from French (estoire, story) and if you work back far enough you get to an Ancient Greek root that means “wise one” (histor).

      1. Observer*

        It’s gendered, most of the time, if you look at how it’s told and framed. And that’s why most people don’t like the use if “herstory” outside of some fairly specific contexts. The word is totally not the issue that Sherry is addressing.

        1. Not A Manager*

          I agree that the process of discussing history is highly gendered. But Sherry is opposed to “switching the gender instead of making it more neutral” which sounds like she is addressing literally the syllable “his” in the word.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          Well. I’m not gonna argue against the idea that history is structurally misogynistic and sexist. But the “his-” part of history is still etymologically and semantically unrelated to the masculine possessive personal pronoun.

    2. Rara Avis*

      “History” is not at all related to the word “his”:

      late 14c., “relation of incidents” (true or false), from Old French estoire, estorie “story; chronicle, history” (12c., Modern French histoire), from Latin historia “narrative of past events, account, tale, story,” from Greek historia “a learning or knowing by inquiry; an account of one’s inquiries; knowledge, account, historical account, record, narrative,” from historein “be witness or expert; give testimony, recount; find out, search, inquire,” and histōr “knowing, expert; witness,” both ultimately from PIE *wid-tor-, from root *weid- “to see,” hence “to know.” (From etymonline)

      1. Machine Ghost*

        Sherry wasn’t talking about etymology, but about the fact that for the most part history was written by men about men. Women have traditionally been ignored, erased and belittled by historians. The use of “herstory” is supposed to shine a light on that in a humorous way.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          The problem is that even if the person using it knows the etymology, “herstory” looks exactly like a bad etymological analysis.

          1. Forrest*

            Really? It just looks like a pun to me.

            I personally find it quite funny when people think that “herstory”, “femtor”, “mistress key” etc are meant deadly seriously and based on misconceptions about etymology. They’re so obviously jokes to me. It’s completely legitimate to find a joke annoying, of course, but if your objection is based on “these humourless feminists don’t understand language!!!!”, consider that it may just be that you’re not in on the joke.

            1. ecnaseener*

              The manager in the letter insists on using these terms all the time…if she’s doing it ironically, she’s way overdone the joke.

              1. Forrest*

                Sure, and I would also find it annoying if someone was making that kind of pun all the time! I think any kind of pun is going to be irritating if someone’s overusing it.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Funny once over drinks at a cocktail hour sure, but not office material.

            3. Spencer Hastings*

              Even if this particular person doesn’t take it seriously, there are people who do — I would put this in the same category as the misconceptions about “rule of thumb” (, “picnic” (, and the other usual suspects.

              And there’s no shortage of people who will take even really obvious jokes seriously:

          2. Darsynia*

            Commenting to agree that ‘herstory,’ even if meant to be well-meaning, will always appear to be playing on the fact that the letters ‘his’ appear in the word. It ends up perpetuating the idea that ‘his’tory and ‘man’ager are rooted in maleness down to the language itself, and that’s just not true.

            1. JamminOnMyPlanner*

              I also think it sounds condescending, like… we have to have a special kind of history (herstory? lol) for women because REAL history is about men.

              Kind of like how there’s basketball and “women’s basketball.”

          3. tamarack and fireweed*

            Otherwise known as a pun. (I find it annoying too – but it’s wordplay. Some wordplay is annoying, but that doesn’t mean I need to go on an eradication campaign. A mildly tortured looking smile is for me the right level of response.)

    3. Emma*

      “Herstory” is the name of a real feminist method in historical analysis, but it means something specific, and is not interchangeable with the word history.

      1. ---*

        Trained academic historian here and no, “herstory”is not a historical method. It is, at best, a movement from the 1970s to reclaim historical narratives by looking at women and gave rise to women’s history, now discredited — or overtaken — by gender analysis.

        No historian gets trained in herstory in PhD programs. It is not a thing.

    4. Well...*

      Idk if switching the connotation of words like history from masculine to feminine does *nothing.* (I guess history isn’t actually his story but for other serious+masculine words). It’s still problematic to keep the binary, but it’s obviously better if the feminine words aren’t all tied to stereotypical women’s roles and vice versa. Like cat being masculine in Spanish doesn’t seem sexist to me, just binary-focused.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Also dumb. Why do I have to use male pronouns to talk about my female dog in French, just because in French the noun “le chien” is a male-gendered noun?

        1. A.N. O'Nyme*

          A female dog would be une chienne, though. Or you could establish she’s a female dog and then use female pronouns for her. There is no reason to stick to male pronouns for a female dog and you’d probably just confuse people.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I didn’t know the French, but it works that way in Spanish. From the Mecano song Laika “Ella era una perra muy normal.” (She was a very normal dog… until the Russians sent her into space)

          2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            From your fingers to my French instructor’s eyeballs. (Possibly just because it was French 101, but he definitely dinged me for referring to my dog with female terminology even after identifying that she was a female dog.)

            1. Alice*

              Yeah, I’ve had many teachers of foreign languages mark correct sentences as wrong because it wasn’t the precise construction they were looking for, or because they weren’t very fluent in that language. Very frustrating.

            2. A.N. O'Nyme*

              Yeah that is…very very wrong of your instructor – it’s such a basic thing that I’m genuinely wondering what was up there. Basically in the case of any nouns for animate beings you can make it match the sex of the being you’re referring to (which brings up interesting implications involving gender, but that is going way off-topic).

        2. Nancy*

          You don’t. Animals are given the pronoun that matches them when you know it. Your French instructor was wrong.

        1. Anon French Major*

          Because the Latin root word, for a sheath or scabbard, was neuter in gender and most Latin neuter nouns have ended up masculine in French.

          Source: this was my B.A.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            Um, what? I understand that your B.A. trumps my five years of school Latin, but the dictionaries I consulted do say that as I expected, vagina, -ae “sheath” is in fact a noun of feminine gender.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Red Reader & Saraquill, grammatical gender was never supposed to map onto real-world gender – you could think of it as Type 1 and Type 2 of grammatical conjugation, where Type 1 happens to include male humans and Type 2 happens to include female humans.

        But let’s not digress any further on this since it’s not really relevant to the letter at all.

        1. Zephy*

          This whole comment thread really makes me wish I had a more readable copy of Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things, so I could actually, yanno, read it. The one I have looks like a print-on-demand job made from jpegs of the actual book pages, there’s halftone dots all over every single page.

    5. Delphine*

      I think “herstory” and similar terms are ridiculous, but framing things in terms of women or centering women is really not more of the same.

      1. Cheap Ass Rolex*

        But it helps those efforts to be taken seriously if they’re not framed in cutesy/cringey ways.

        1. Starbuck*

          Or maybe people need to work on not taking “cutesy/cringe” things seriously, and question why they perceive certain things to be unworthy of serious attention…

  5. Wendy*

    I can’t imagine that paying lawyer prices per hour is cheaper than hiring a mover!… unless they’re asking you to volunteer your (unbillable?) time, in which case I’d politely tell them to go jump in a lake.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      I read it as OP being in-house, so they’ll get paid the same salary regardless of what they are doing. Still a terrible use of resources – people sometimes seem to forget that employee’s time does cost money too.

      1. KateM*

        That still means that they are being paid salary for packing and unpacking, instead of doing stuff that earns money for the employer.

        1. Alice*

          That wouldn’t surprise me. I’ve been in many orgs where it was impossible to hire a 3rd party because of lack of budget, but nobody would check how employees’ time was used. Would it have been more rational to ask for 1k to contract someone to do Task X rather than have a bunch of engineers spend a week on it? Yes. Did they? Never.

          1. Lacey*

            Yup. This is almost every organization I’ve ever worked for. Hiring outside help? Impossible.
            Wasting the staff’s time on things that aren’t billable? Completely practical in every way.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          Oh yes, that’s why it’s a terrible use of resources. It’s generally most efficient to use people to do the work they are trained to do (so lawyers for the legal stuff, movers for packing…), plus the fact that using a higher-paid employee to do something a lower-paid employee could do equally well or better costs more money.

          But the cost is hidden, so it’s unfortunately often ignored. No-one would ask a lawyer that bills them $400/hour to pack their boxes… but when the same lawyer is in-house, their work is free (hint: it’s not).

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I even see this attitude with salaried lawyers doing lawyer stuff. Some auto insurance carriers are notorious for refusing to make a serious offer before a lawsuit is filed, and sometimes not until the day before trial. This means that a lawyer has to undertake the negotiations that a lower-paid adjuster could be doing, and has to put in the hours preparing for trial. The insurance companies would never dream of doing this with outside counsel billing by the hour, but it is salaried staff counsel putting in this pointless work.

          2. TechWorker*

            I find this interesting because whilst it’s definitely true that for something like this you should outsource, having come from a small company that is now acquired.. I have seen how much it costs to outsource the odd jobs and there’s soo many layers of middle management taking a cut that I’m not actually convinced it’s cheaper than getting a junior engineer to change a lightbulb. (As a small company we had a small team of ‘maintenance’ people who were all well paid software engineers, volunteered for the job and called in an electrician/plumber etc directly for anything too difficult or that would take up too much of their day. It doesn’t scale, but it did work).

            1. Emmy Noether*

              I agree that the opposite can also be a problem… I know people who will email their assistant to print their documents – because apparently it’s more efficient to write a whole email and attach a file than clicking print once? Generally, when explaining what I need done takes longer than doing it… yeah, I’ll do it myself. I also get my own coffee and wash my own cup, because I need a break anyway.

              For tasks that take days, such as packing boxes, I haven’t found that to apply often though.

              1. Chas*

                I wonder if that’s a case of those people not knowing how to print the documents by themsleves? (Or being anxious about somehow managing to screw it up and causing a major problem if they do it wrong, which is why I find a lot of less tech-confident people will want others to do simple things for them). My boss has recently started asking me to print stuff for him, but it’s specifically because our University switched to a new online printing system that you have to set up in advance, and he’s not in lab often enough to remember to do it, so then when he does need to print something, it’s always a case of “I need to print this… oh, wait there’s that new system and my old printer doesn’t work anymore! Argh, I don’t have time to work this out now, I’ll go ask Chas if they can do it…”

              2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

                I used to work for a small nonprofit that was affiliated with a state university. I was effectively the “director of IT” for the nonprofit (read: I was the only IT person), and in that capacity I occasionally had to deal with the director of IT for the university. Obviously he had a *much* bigger organization than I did, and he had an assistant.

                For reasons I could never figure out, the man would never call me. He’d have his assistant call me. I don’t mean she’d call and relay messages back and forth, that would make some sense if he was too busy to talk but needed some info. No, she’d call me and be like, “Hi LinuxGuy, this is Sue, in Gary’s office. I have Gary on the line for you, can you take the call?”

                It was so weird and inefficient. I mean Gary had to be sitting there next to his phone waiting to hear if I could talk or not. The most it could save him was the ten seconds to leave a voicemail if I wasn’t at my desk when the call came in. It might have made a little sense if *I* had an assistant that took my calls and only forwarded stuff they couldn’t handle themselves, but I didn’t. Even if I did, it would again only save a few seconds. I honestly think it just made him feel important.

        3. Darsynia*

          Makes me wonder if later on down the line at a review they’ll get called to task for billable hours vs. work done! If you make the same no matter what you’re working on, but billable hours is used as a metric, it would be reasonable to ask whether helping pack will end up lowering your percentage.

          1. Corporate Lawyer*

            Except that in-house lawyers (which this OP appears to be) don’t bill time at all, and we don’t have billable hours and non-billable hours. Other than in unusual circumstances, no one tracks in-house lawyers’ time.

        4. Fluffy Fish*

          They’re state government – not in the business of making money except in certain cases.

          Government is a different beast – other duties as assigned is very much a thing and often you very much cannot just say nope. You are paid to do what the boss thinks is most important at the time.

          Since they are asking for volunteers – Alison’s advice is spot on.

      2. Delta Delta*

        OP is a government lawyer. So, paid regular government lawyer salary while not doing government lawyer work. “No, I couldn’t review those [road permits, business applications, extradition warrant documents, etc] for two weeks to make sure they comply with applicable law because I was too busy packing moving boxes. Sorry bout your deadline!” Not better.

        1. Grits McGee*

          Yeah, I the government part is pretty important here- there’s a good chance that if they haven’t hired movers yet, they’re not going to get hired, because that’s an entirely new funding line and god help you if you need to contract with an outside company.
          The exact thing happened at my federal institution, except we regularly ship in/ship out 10,000+ boxes a year. The higher ups cancelled the contract for outside professional movers, and instead we have GS-12/13 analysts move boxes (on top of their regular workload). They have to stay on the payroll anyway, so why not get some extra work out of them?

          1. Lulu*

            Exactly. Fellow fed, currently watching a GS12 scientist vacuum our public lobby because we can’t contract out custodial work for lack of budget lines and the epic amount of contracting paperwork it takes to do so.

            1. Adultiest Adult*

              This reminds me of the year they updated the employee handbook to specifically disclaim themselves from liability if we were injured performing tasks outside our job description, “such as shoveling snow and moving furniture.” Great, does this mean you’re actually going to get someone else to shovel snow and move furniture for us? No? (Or at least not in a timely fashion or for anything less than a whole-office move.) Okay, I’ll just try not to get hurt then!

    2. Elder millennial*

      I will never understand the idea that it’s cheaper to have your employees move than to just hire movers. Especially if said employees could easily work from on the moving days.

      One time I worked for a company that decided the cheapest option was to have all employees do all the (un)packing and (un)assembling of furniture and rent three men with a van to do the actual moving of the stuff. In practice this meant that the whole company (including the CEO) spent 2 full days packing, a whole day waiting and doing nothing (because the movers didn’t show up at 8 AM but at 2 PM) and then 2 full days unpacking. Several employees spent even more time before and after the move doing more (un)packing and cleaning.

      I just cannot imagine that this was actually cheaper than hiring people to do this while we worked at home, which we could have done perfectly well for a few days or even a week. And I am not even talking about the risks involved in your office workers suddenly having to lift heavy things or potentially having to disclose disabilities that would prevent them from doing so.

      1. just a random teacher*

        In a school district that I worked in for only one year, they made all of us teachers come in on a snow day just because they could. They decided that, since it was a teacher work day with no students, it was the perfect day to make me move my stuff out to the portable they’d just had moved onsite over winter break. In my school clothes, including dress shoes, on a snow day, with ice on the ground and no salt since it was a snow day without students.

        That’s the only time I’ve had to fill out an accident report for myself at work, and they’re lucky I took all of those years of gymnastics and knew how to fall well.

        1. BlueSwimmer*

          Did you work at my school? We had the same exact situation! We were told about the move out of the portables and into the new classrooms over a break, then told we could come in on winter break to unpack, set up our classrooms, and get keys to our new rooms, or just come in on the first day back from break and teach in rooms that weren’t set up, nothing unpacked, maybe you would have desks and chairs… Oh and the day over break that they picked was frigid and snowy. The portables were a 10 minute walk from the school and we had no help with packing or unpacking (although they did hire professionals for the actual moving of the boxes and furniture.) It was a two-year nightmare for everyone at the school, with many teachers moving multiple times (I moved to three different rooms during renovation.)

      2. Despachito*

        I can imagine that I would prefer to pack/unpack my own things as opposed to having this done by professional packers (I’d rather organize it my way and avoid confusion and potential loss), but absolutely NOT haul them around (I have had my share of disc hernia problems from lugging heavy things, which had me bedridden for a month, almost unable to walk and sleep, and not again, thankyouverymuch)

        1. AcademiaNut*

          My last office move provided boxes and had us pack up and label our personal possessions, which included personal books, office decorations, files, stacks of printouts, plus more portable electronics, and they had movers handle the packed boxes, furniture, computers, and things like the library and kitchen.

        2. Alternative Person*

          Yeah, I’m happy to pack/unpack my own things, and I could understand if they need someone to tag/log the company files for legal reasons and they don’t want movers to do that for confidentiality reasons, but packing it all up seems beyond reasonable.

        3. Bagpuss*

          Yes, when we closed a building we had people do this as most people would prefer to pack up their own stuff and label and organise it in a way which makes sense to them. But this meant that each person had x number of boxed marked with their name on which were then taken by the movers from old office to new office, for the individual to unpack. All the actual moving was done by professional movers.
          And I don’t know how the movers moved things like the file cabinets, whether they moved them full, or removed, boxed and then unboxed all the files – but from the perspective of our employees, they left one office on Friday and returned to a different one on Monday, and all the furniture and other stuff, other than personal possessions, was in place for Monday morning, and the personal possessions were all in boxes, in the correct rooms, for unpacking.

          We did have staff help with clearing out the attic rooms when ew sold the building we had occupied for 130 years, because we needed it done by people who knew enough to be able to discriminate between deeds / documents which ought to be retained, documents which needed to be disposed of as confidential waste, and actual rubbish, so it was more efficient to have it done by people who could do that, but even then, it was sorted into boxes and bags on site with others actually doing the heavy lifitng
          (i) it was voluntary
          (ii) it was paid (we paid a flat hourly rate which was the same for everyone who showed up. we don’t have any hourly staff but it was equivalent between 1.5 and 2 x what the average amount earned per hour would be for most of the support staff, and we were upfront about how much it would be when we asked for volunteers)

          I mean, we might well have been able to just ditch a lot of it – Mr. Smith who left his deeds with us in 1890 probably isn’t coming back for them, but still. and the 1632 deed we found is now framed on my office wall just because it’s a nice document.

        4. Covered in Bees*

          I also think it is reasonable to ask employees pack their own stuff. Maybe physical files too. The type of packing that would take an able bodied person up to 4 hours.

          I worked at non profit that managed to get (and pay full price for) professional movers. So, I side eye a for profit that is using their employees this way.

          Our IT guy was a control freak, so he insisted on moving a lot of the IT infrastructure himself. He then spent a three day weekend setting up everyone’s computers/phones/etc despite being told he could do this during regular work hours.

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah, when I’ve worked for companies that have moved buildings, we’ve packed up our own desks (into named/numbered boxes that appeared on our new desks after the move) and we’ve also been in charge of packing up books to go to the new office and books to go to charity/back to the warehouse etc, because obviously we know which go into which category and a moving company wouldn’t know that. There was also one time where we were paid overtime (not a usual thing, we were salaried) to come in on a Saturday and help to clear a ton of old files and books and equipment out of an office building that we were moving out of – again, it was important for staff to do it because we knew which books could be chucked and which had to come with us, but it was definitely presented as a ‘we need volunteers to come in on the next two Saturdays, you’ll be paid X amount and food will be provided’ rather than something we had to do as part of our jobs.

            1. Lacey*

              That sounds like a much better way of handling it. I’ve done two moves with one company and both times they made the employees do all of it. Many of my coworkers were in their 50s & 60s with various health issues too, so it was really a rough situation.

                1. Lacey*

                  Because when you say that your boss says, “That’s part of your job today” and you can either quit or you move the furniture.

                2. Imtheone*

                  You say, “I don’t move furniture because of the risk of injury.” Maybe get a doctor’s note and mention ADA compliance.

      3. Mongrel*

        “I will never understand the idea that it’s cheaper to have your employees move than to just hire movers. Especially if said employees could easily work from on the moving days.”
        It’s mostly about budgets and how they’re used. The manager in charge of the move has a budget, movers & packers are taken out of that budget and staff wages aren’t. Sometimes it’s because they had no budget to begin with and sometimes they’re trying to ban the guac to show what a ‘good’ manager they are

      4. NoviceManagerGuy*

        And movers are significantly faster and better at moving things than lawyers are! Watching skilled movers is very impressive.

        1. BlueSwimmer*

          And movers aren’t going to miss work time at your company or file a workman’s comp claim because they pulled their back out moving boxes, or tried to move a full file cabinet and it fell on them, breaking their arm (this happened at my workplace).

        2. Metadata minion*

          Yes! Though I felt very accomplished a few years back when I proved that I could move books as fast as the professional book-moving people ;-) (Nutshell: we had to move things Extremely Quickly, so we hired professional library movers *and* had the library staff help.)

        3. Lacey*

          Yes! I hired movers for the first time (instead of bribing friends with pizza) and it was AMAZING. So quick, so easy. Yeah, a bit pricey, but worth it.

      5. Antilles*

        The explanation is very simple:
        The cost of hiring movers is a clear and visible cost, straight to the bottom line. The department head or office manager or CFO or whoever has to directly approve the costs and gets an estimate in black ink indicating that it would cost $X,000 for full-service movers.
        By comparison, for salaried employees, the biggest costs are indirect (e.g., missing out on contracts) so it looks basically free except for minor trivial costs like a few bucks for boxes or packing tape.
        So from a cash flow perspective, it looks like we’re talking about several thousand for movers versus a hundred bucks done in-house. Obviously it’s more complex than that, but plenty of companies would stop right there on the balance sheet and not think through all the subtler indirect costs to doing it in-house.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          This right here. I worked in BigLaw for years, and we ran into this all the time – they’d rather sit some poor paralegal, whose bill rate was $200/hour, at a copier rather than pay $0.10/page for someone to make stupid amounts of copies because the paralegal didn’t generate a hard-cost invoice. (The outside vendors are faster, cheaper, and, frankly, often do a better job because they are set up for volume copying and have QC procedures.) There was a lot lost in putting them on work that couldn’t be billed out (at least at their regular rate), but that could be written down/off.

          I was also frequently hassled about not having the skills to do infrequent and highly specialized work in house because they could write off my team’s time but not the $1,000 vendor invoice to have someone qualified to the work once a quarter.

    3. Cat Tree*

      I once worked at a terrible place where everyone except the owner had to clean the office once a week (although the bathrooms were cleaned by a professional service). I’m certain it was just a power trip. It certainly wasn’t cost effective to pay the 6-figure PhD scientist to clean instead of doing his regular work. But Even for those of us making much less it didn’t really make sense.

    4. doreen*

      In government, I can imagine it being less expensive for the packing to be done by the employees and definitely faster if it avoids a whole process with a “request for proposal” and biding conferences and so on. ( because that process also has a cost ). I worked for two government agencies , and moved three or four times between them and what strikes me as strange about this letter is that the LW did not just pack up their own office and files. My agencies didn’t hire movers to pack up – professional staff packed up their own offices and support staff (file clerks, mail clerks etc) packed up the files, supply cabinets etc.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      The LW work for a division of state government. Making money is NOT a goal of this organization.

      They’re salaried; they’re pay is a fixed cost for the state. Hiring movers requires money to come out of a different bucket that requires approvals. But also as salaried employee there is (might be) downtime, training time, leave and sick time that part of the overhead of an employee and they’re asking them to use that and not lawyering hours to help with the move.

      Sidenote: move plan should have included hiring movers. Move plan should have included disposing of old records instead of moving them. If they had to be retained (at 50 years old) an archivist should have packaged them up safely in the months/year before the move. Which costs money but the bosses should have planned for it and found a convincing argument.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Sounds like they need a records retention plan! Anything not actively needed should probably be stored offsite, maybe even at a third-party archive, IIRC they are actually cheaper than renting and staffing your own dedicated warehouse space. And you’re spot on about the salary, it’s already obligated, so it’s a sunk cost, and depending on the government and the agency, productivity metrics may be very low or nonexistent, but if they exist, they’re probably more flexible than the discretionary budget, if there is any at all. As we sometimes say (and I’ve worked for diligent and productive agencies), we don’t have to make sense, we’re the government!

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Once my state gov office moved from a building they had been in since 1964. We had ALL the records from 1964-2007. Were I an archivist or perhaps a historian of information storage it might have been fascinating seeing the evolution from typing pool memos to printed out emails (don’t ask why), hand written ledgers to punchcards to printed out code (also don’t ask why), and some interesting documents on HIV/AIDS when it was still called “Gay Related Immune Disorder” it might have been interesting. As someone who had to sort out what was worth keeping vs shredding, though, it was a nightmare. Then we discovered the room where the records from 1932-1964 had been stored and completely forgotten after that move….

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            In my old job, we had a main office and three satellite offices, and it was decided to move the whole team into one of the satellites. This one guy, “Fergus”, who’d been based out of one of the other satellites, thought he’d got his stuff all sorted, but while talking to his manager in the main office, she mentioned something about the stuff in the cellar (this had been put there by his predecessor long since and Fergus didn’t know it was there). So when he got back to the satellite office he went to see what exactly was there, realised there was loads of old files, and there was something like just over a week to go until the big move and he thought he would struggle to get it done in time, so he took the decision to just leave it all in there and say nothing.

            Three years later, that building was sold (it was a local government building which Fergus had shared with some other departments, who had carried on using it for the three years after he moved). While clearing the building out, someone in another department found all these old files and called Fergus about reclaiming them, and it was arranged for them to be dropped off to him by courier. When they turned up, he happened to be out, and his manager was not happy to be presented with several big boxes of files she had been told had been long since sorted.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          My office moved from its location of three decades last year, and we had to update and recirculate the records retention policy for the packing portion of the event. People found amazing things that should have been disposed of years ago. It’s worse than cleaning out your grandparents’ attic because employees leave and leave their unlabeled, unorganized, and certainly not-in-the-records-management-system crap behind.

          We were all asked to pack our offices (the c-suite was offered packing services, but only about half used it) and to vet any records related to our projects per the retention policy. Each department was assigned a “move liaison” who answered questions, poked at people who hadn’t dealt with their crap on deadline, and even helped some of them pack. The move liaisons were mostly volunteers and received a special bonus for helping. There was a team from the records department tasked with identifying and vetting any unclaimed materials left after that. The actual moving of office contents, IT equipment, etc. was handled entirely by a professional office moving company.

          I loathe moving, and there is no way I’d volunteer my own personal time to do far more than my share of an office move. I did help pack up the office of a colleague who was on parental leave, but that was more of a personal favor to her to make sure her stuff was packed carefully and securely.

          1. Rolly*

            “The move liaisons were mostly volunteers and received a special bonus for helping. There was a team from the records department tasked with identifying and vetting any unclaimed materials left after that. The actual moving of office contents, IT equipment, etc. was handled entirely by a professional office moving company.”

            This is cool.

    6. J.B.*

      It’s government though. The same thing happened at my agency, including the incompetent organizer and adding mandates from on high that kept changing. We did have movers for the carting of blue containers and furnishing to the new place but had to measure, remeasure, replan and pack first.

      In government it is often easier to use staff even if extremely inefficient than it is to get a contract through.

      1. How About That*

        I’m US Federal. Moved office several times. Only had to pack up my desk and personal belongings. Unable to physically do more.

        Large-scale moving is a professional endeavor. Employers expose themselves to all kinds of risk by having regular employees take this on. Could be a penny wise and pound foolish decision. They should at least consult with their safety and health department, and/or risk management.

        Oh, I’m in contracting and a simple service such as moving would not be difficult to procure at all.

    7. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Welcome to government jobs! I’ve had 2 office moves when working for state and county governments and Mr. Gumption just had a federal government move, in all cases movers are hired only to move all the boxes from A to B. The packing is all on the employees. Is it cost or time effective to have MDs, JDs, PhDs, and sundry other specialties or highly paid people packing? Of course not. But it is considered a waste of taxpayer money to hire movers while the employees just “sit around doing nothing”

    8. calonkat*

      “I work for a division of state government”
      “But also, why isn’t your office hiring professional packers and movers?”

      Answered in the first sentence I’m afraid. The movers would have to have a contract with the state to be able to be hired. [long rant about legislators deleted] And possibly some other department would have to approve the request to hire movers even on a state contract, so if that was denied for some reason, or the agency didn’t have the extra money, then there you are.

      But as mentioned downthread, it’s a shame that part of the move preparation wasn’t archiving/discarding old records. Our agency got rid of SO MUCH STUFF when we moved. And a lot of what people “really needed”, they realized they didn’t really after we got here. We’ve still a lot to get rid of, but as people retire, their replacements usually just ship old stuff to the state archive (or dispose of it properly if allowed by law).

    9. pieforbreakfast*

      I worked in a state hospital campus that was closing and moving everything to a different campus. I was a night shift RN, I usually had a staff of six 0thers on my unit on my shift. Night shift was responsible for packing up the unit since it was generally quieter and less patient care was expected. We then had to unpack everything when we got to the new location. I never understood they’d pay me $39/hr to pack boxes and ignore my duties instead of hiring someone for $20/hr. We kept getting told since we were state funded and HIPAA was involved we could not hire contractors to do so. It was such b.s.

    10. Anon4Now*

      Because as soon as the government hires some movers, they’re wasting taxpayer funds and “I don’t pay for the folks there to sit around while someone else packs for them.” And that’s not even getting into the question of whether the state has a contract with movers or can get a contract approved and funded properly. I doubt at least they had to worry about vetting all of the movers to make sure they’re allowed to be in the space/handling the documentation being moved (fed here, and all our contractors have to pass a background check to get in the space, which has caused problems getting repairs done after moving into a new facility, as an example).

      It’s always more complicated when it’s government. And if it’s an office where the top of the food chain is an appointee who’s liable to be swapped out based on elections, it can be really hard to maintain continuity or do the pre-planning. Get an appointee who wants to be able to write on their resume that they reduced government spending by $X, and you just might find that those cuts are the movers.

  6. Barney's Suit*

    In my university setting, once the mask mandate ends, we can request masks and campus will continue recommending mask wearing, but cannot deny entrance/services to anyone who opts out of a wearing mask. This is to align with current county/city public health guidelines and no longer confuse (!?) people.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      My Uni is similar. Our numbers have dropped in the area, so the current policy is that masking requests have to be consistent and we can’t refuse services to the public or staff, if they refuse to mask.

      If you have a public area in the department, then you can ask people to mask as long as you ask everyone to do so. The same for a private office. The purpose, as I understand it, is to avoid a discrimination lawsuit. So, Fergus can’t just decide to ask people to mask in the Public Art Gallery when Lucy doesn’t require it. Nor can Fergus only ask certain people to mask- either everyone gets asked or no one can be asked. It is an all of nothing sort of thing, which most departments are solving by having very clear signage. Perfect solution? Not really, but so far it hasn’t caused any issues.

    2. Zorro*

      Not in USA but where I work we have to respect people’s mask choices so long as they are consistent with govt rules. There is currently no mask mandate. I can’t ask or tell someone to wear a mask. I can’t ask or tell someone to remove one.

      1. londonedit*

        Yes, and even when there were mask mandates in the UK (where I am), the signs all over public transport etc were all along the lines of ‘You must wear a face covering if you can, but please remember some people are exempt and some exemptions may not be visible’. Basically to try to ward off any passenger anger towards people who weren’t wearing masks. On the London transport network you could get a badge that said ‘I am exempt from wearing a mask’ but the general rule was that although masks were ‘mandated’ and you were meant to be fined for not wearing one, in reality no one could really do anything if someone wasn’t wearing one, because they might be exempt.

    3. JamminOnMyPlanner*

      My state (Tennessee) does not allow schools, including the university, to require masking. The governor threatened to cut funding to the already-impoverished schools in my city (Memphis) if they required masks. It’s ridiculous.

  7. Yllis*

    In my state office, we would get smacked down for moving. That’s a union thing. We arent allowed to do it

    1. GrilledCheezer*

      All private companies I’ve worked for considered “having employees do the moving” as a liability, a potential worker’s comp nightmare, and we were only allowed to box up our personal belongings. We couldn’t touch anything else.

      All government entities I have worked for considered it same as above, plus the unions!

      1. Lab Boss*

        The liability is the thing I went to straightaway. I’m a pretty big/strong guy and attempted to help our facilities team move some large incubators once, only to get chewed out and chased away. My boss later explained to me that if I’d been hurt in any way, it would have been a huge liability to the company that I’d been doing something totally unrelated to my job description with an obvious injury risk (and to the facilities lead for “letting” me do it).

        1. After 33 years ...*

          As an undergrad research intern in a govt facility, I got into trouble for changing a lightbulb on my desk lamp without going through the appropriate channel.

        2. WellRed*

          The liability is something people should lean on. “What happens if I get injured moving the desk?”

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Just went through this, and we were told the same. We were explicitly told not to lift anything, stack our moving boxes after they were stacked, etc. We got very detailed instructions on how to use the provided packing boxes/materials and how to get a hold of the team who was onsite to deal with stacking/heavy items.

      3. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yes. I was moved to an office six doors down on the same floor and I was required to box everything for the facilities people.

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      At my current company I had to move offices within the same building and wasn’t allowed to pack or carry anything other than my personal belongings. Part of our lease agreement is that the maintenance team for the building management are the only ones who can do things like that (and of course our company is billed for their work). My move was completed after hours…I left with my potted plants one day and strolled into my new office with them the next morning. Maintenance had put everything back just as it had been in my old office, except that the stapler was on the wrong side of the desk. After fretting about what would get lost or damaged, I was thrilled with the result. All office moves should happen like that.

    3. Mockingjay*

      Most government offices and agencies have at bare minimum a facilities manager. Call them and see if they are coordinating the move with your office lady. They know how it should be done.

      I’ve done government moves and normally you are asked to box all files and label for the new location – office or cubicle location – and leave them for the moving crew to pick up and transport.

      Regarding the 50-year old files, what’s the required retention period? Take only what’s legally required. Has proper storage been allocated in the new space for these?

      1. Emi*

        Interesting, in my experience office workers have to move their own files and stuff, but heaven help you if you pick up the phone that some IT contractor is supposed to get $150 to unplug and re-plug somewhere else.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Government does everything by labor category/job description. Most office workers have jobs that with minimal or no lift requirement in the description – “must be able to lift X pounds.” To avoid complications, only facilities or contracted moving companies move stuff, because heavy lifting is in their job description and the contract usually calls out moving equipment – forklift, dollies, etc.

          You can move personal desk items and sometimes computer equipment – I’ve carried my laptop and my monitors but only when directed to do so.

    4. MsClaw*

      I work in the private sector, but we absolutely can’t move furniture either. In addition to not wanting to pay higher-priced people to schlep shelves instead of whatever they normally do, there’s also the issue of whether or not those higher-priced employees are covered when they throw out their backs heaving desks around.

  8. Two Chairs, One to Go*

    LW4 – sympathies. My company is also celebrating women’s herstory month and I roll my eyes when I see it and move on.

    It makes me think of the Daily Show’s version hist-HER-y.

  9. Less Bread More Taxes*

    OP1 – while I acknowledge that Alison’s advice is correct, I would NOT be happy about calling someone “Dr” when they haven’t earned the degree. I do think it’s fair to ask her about her publication record. You could also contact her university directly (or her supervisor or her peers there) and say that you are having trouble following Dr. X’s research during her time at the university and you’re interested in seeing what she has contributed to the field. I have sympathy for people who fake Bachelor’s degrees, but I have no tolerance for people who fake PhDs.

    1. Jolene*

      Personally, I find it super annoying for a non-medical “doctor” to want to be called Dr. So-And-So.
      A Non-Medical Doctor

      1. Emmy Noether*

        This *really* depends on culture. I’m in a place where titles traditionally really matter, so it’s usual to do it when formally adressing someone. In my current place of work, we’re all just on a first-name basis, no titles, which I actually prefer for day-to-day, but I’ve strategically deployed my title in the past to establish my credentials (especially as a young woman, it does help!). In more conservative fields, such as my last job, it does matter.

        And I don’t see why medical doctors get to be different: either titles matter, or they don’t (AND not all physicians actually have a doctorate!).

        1. Lab Boss*

          Agree on the culture thing. When I was an undergrad I worked with a brand-new PhD who encouraged everyone to just call him by his first name- the only one who refused was one of our postdocs, who was from India. He called the boss “Professor” and said he just couldn’t bring himself to use a PhD’s first name because it seemed so disrespectful.

          I think Medical doctors get to be different mostly because, as a PhD friend of mine puts it, “when somebody yells that they need a Doctor, they never mean me.” A PhD in history is a “historian,” a PhD in business is a “professor,” but the job title for an MD is usually just a “doctor.”

          1. Ellen*

            When somebody yells that they need a doctor, they never mean me either, so I just don’t volunteer. A lot of words have multiple meanings and people are capable of understanding that some words can have a colloquial meaning and an official meaning. Doctor is regularly used colloquially to mean medical doctor, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t also use it the official way to mean person with a doctorate.

            In my experience, the job title for someone with an MD is usually physician, not doctor.

            1. Anonanon*

              “In my experience, the job title for someone with an MD is usually physician, not doctor”

              Right. ” Doctor” is usually the lay term for physician. That’s why the lay person yelling for a “doctor” means they need someone with medical/healthcare training. Additionally, physicians are referred to by their specialty in medicine: “emergency medicine physician,” “internist,” “radiologist,” etc. But thats not even their job title. Their “job title” might be for example, staff physician, medical director, associate professsor of gastroenterology, etc. It is never “staff doctor.”
              Source: nurse with a PhD, with many years experience being employed in a school of medicine in the US.

              1. Anonanon*

                Oh and forgot to say: none of the physicians I’ve worked with had ever NOT referred to me as Dr. Anonanon (or any other non-physician PhD colleagues) in formal situations where we use our titles.

        2. Tau*

          First off, I want to say that you have excellent taste in usernames.

          And agreed – idk if we’re in the same country, but over here the title Matters and, as a young-looking woman with a speech disorder, I deploy it strategically when I need to deal with bureaucracy or otherwise suspect I’m going to have trouble being taken seriously. I’m in a US-style flat-hierarchy job now too (and also prefer it!) but a coworker has suggested I join in on some meetings with some external project partners where there’s apparently a history of one guy condescending to us, because he thinks me joining with a Dr. in front of my name could help a lot.

            1. Tau*

              Sorry – I meant that my country (Germany) is typically very hierarchical, and last names and titles are the order of the day. However, especially in industries that are more influenced by US working culture (ex: anything startup), it’s often fashionable to have – or pretend to have – a flatter hierarchy and go with first names. I like it, I’m not a fan of the traditional hierarchical system where you ought to ask your boss’s permission before speaking to your grandboss and the like, but at the same time I can’t help but think the companies are sometimes doing a “look how cool and modern and like Americans we are!” with it. (And I’m not sure if the level of organizational bloat I’ve dealt with is just a normal problem or if the German hierarchies don’t often end up sneaking their way in anyway in disguise.)

              1. Puffer Fish*

                This is interesting. I didn’t realize that German work culture is so old fashioned. Most European commenters are so eager to tell Americans how much our work culture sucks and how superior their country is. It’s actually interesting to hear about an example of US work culture positively influencing a European country.

                1. Emmy Noether*

                  Oh, it depends a lot on the field and is also generational. My last job was in a conservative department in huge company. It was a bit… stuffy (my grandboss always called me “Frau Doktor Noether”, my other boss generously offered we could drop the “Doktor” since we both had them), though it was much more relaxed among the younger staff. My current job is more research-adjacent and much more informal, though I don’t know if it’s american influence or just research.

                  Formality has it’s uses though, I don’t really mind it.

                2. tamarack and fireweed*

                  I think this is somewhat simplified what you’re saying here. If you look in informed from the American (corporate middle-class workplace) perspective you’ll easily identify things that suck about German workplaces, and if you look in from the German perspective you’ll easily identify things that suck about US workplaces.

                  But that doesn’t have to mean it’s all equivalent – people can discuss by identifying criteria and metrics that they find particularly important. As for example the range between the top and bottom 5% of employees, work loads, health etc. The Germany won’t come out of this comparison better on all accounts, but on a few key ones it will. Given that there’s a very powerful movement to make the German workplace more like the US one, and pretty much very little danger that widespread practices get imported to the US from Europe, it is understandable that European defensiveness can come over as a bit combative sometimes. (And of course there are also just as many condescending German assholes as there are American ones.)

                3. Puffer Fish*

                  I actually don’t think its understandable for Europeans to be defensive and combative towards the regular American people who hang out here. If you have a problem with your workplace becoming too much like the US, take it out on your employer, not us.

              2. Ace in the Hole*

                That’s interesting… I’m in the US, and the super casual flat workplace has always seemed like a weird tech industry startup thing to me.

                I think for most jobs in the US, you’d find it much more moderate. Normal to address people by their first name, but also normal to have a hierarchy with supervisors, middle management, and upper management (depending on company size). You don’t necessarily need your boss’s permission to speak to the grandboss, but a lot of the time if you go straight to grandboss with a problem before talking to your boss it will cause some friction. Etc.

                Most of us take one look at startups and see a whole parade of red flags.

              3. Skittles*

                I’m sure it will surprise no one to hear that Australian working culture is generally also much less hierarchical and tends to be very casual in this sense. There’s exceptions for different industries of course but I work in finance and call my bosses boss by his nickname ‘Baggsy’.

              4. cncx*

                yes i wanted to mention germany and austria where academic titles are a Big Deal i have a friend who does like you, she throws around her frau dr when people are not taking her seriously

        3. This is a name, I guess*

          I think in Germany you are legally required to use your title in professional context. But, don’t hold me to the specifics. I’m too lazy to google.

        4. tangerineRose*

          I wish we used different words for PHDs and medical doctors. It’s confusing to have them both referred to as doctor.

      2. Well...*

        Yea, it’s kind of a “new money” thing to do. The real academics are too cool to underline their PhD all the time.

        It is nice to have a gender neutral title for some things though.

          1. Julia*

            I might be misinterpreting, but I think that commenter was using “new money” to mean “people who are new to having PhDs” – so just the “new” part, not the money part. A bit less snobby.

              1. MK*

                I understand it to mean that a person has money, but gas only aquired it recently, so they lack others markers of class (education, refinement, sophistication, pedigree etc). An elitist insult, sure. But “bigoted slur”?

                1. Lacey*

                  Yeah, it’s definitely a way for the Old Money people to feel better about themselves, but that’s as far as it goes. I’m not going to cry super hard for the people who are being insulted with, “But it’s NEW riches!”

                2. Quite*

                  You don’t think that insulting people for having earned their wealth instead of inheriting it is bigoted? That’s…interesting.

                3. MK*

                  Eh, you thinking that it’s appropriate to equate hate from people who think others’ worth depends on their identity towards people who have that identity and snobbery from people who got rich because of an accident of birth towards people who got rich by work (realistically a combination of work, privilege, luck and exploiting others) is also very interesting.

              2. Well...*

                Whoa if that’s the case it’s definitely not what I intended. My tone was really lost in this comment.

                Being a “too cool” academic isn’t supposed to be a good thing!

              3. ThatGirl*

                I can see “new money” being used as an insult.

                But bigoted slur?? That’s a touch overdramatic, I think.

              4. A*

                Wow, that’s an extreme. Only time I’ve heard it in that manner is maybe in the movie Titanic? In my line of work it’s sometimes used to refer to the younger generation of employees from an experience stand point (since new-to-the-field doesn’t necessarily mean new-to-workforce / ‘young’ from an age perspective). I avoid it altogether because it’s always struck me as old fashioned.

          2. Well...*

            I was trying to say that looking down on people who go by Dr is as elitist and snobby as caring about “new money”

        1. Well...*

          Okay so to clarify, I mean that overly using your own Dr title will, in elitist academic circles, be looked down on in much the same way “new money” is looked down on in rich circles. I’m not saying the world should work that way (in fact, it’s a clear way to keep academia from being more diverse). But using that title too much comes with the risk of being identified as not being “cool” in academia.

          That’s why my hackles get raised when people try to encourage women or minorities to own their doctorates in this way… It might not be in their own best interest and the burden of shifting the culture away from this kind of thinking isn’t on them.

            1. liz*

              Right and, as in other contexts, it only really works if you belong to a group that people think should have “been there before”. White men don’t have to insist on their credentials, women and POCs often do have to in order to be taken seriously, and describing it as an aesthetic preference (“not cool”) is a flimsy cover to reinforce those power dynamics and continue to exclude people. We might consider not perpetuating it.

          1. RPM*

            That’s not what they mean when they suggest underrepresented groups own their doctorates, though. I am a woman with a STEM PhD. In social situations I never ask people to call me Doctor. Amongst my peers I never ask people to call me Dr. But when I used to teach, I 100% made my students call me Dr/Professor. Why? Because that’s what they defaulted to for my male colleagues, whereas they defaulted to my first name for me. And even after I explicitly put it into my syllabus, some of them would still use my first name. And that’s not acceptable.

            (I will also note that my parents, who are both MDs, came to a public talk in my field with me. The moderator introduced the speaker without her title, and my parents were shocked, because medicine is significantly more formal.)

            1. Well...*

              I’m also a woman with a STEM PhD. I guess it’s highly field-dependent, but it’s hard to imagine a situation in my field where it couldn’t come off as outside the norm. I don’t know any men who go by Dr. or get addressed that way. Professor, yes, but Dr., no.

              1. Rosie*

                yeah I work with a lot of PhDs and most of them only deploy the Doctor strategically (or when they’re joking around with each other) and almost always with clients. Asking people internally to call you doctor is so…gauche

              2. Rolly*

                ” I don’t know any men ”

                They have less need to. They are taken more seriously anyway. That’s the problem. The norms are designed to perpetuate assumptions such as that the woman in the room is a grad student or secretary.

                Yes, there is a chicken-and-egg thing about women/minorities because urged to change that. Yes there are risks. But the norms are there for reasons and one of them is perpetuating the status quo.

      3. Firstname*

        I work on the it’s polite to get other people’s names correct theory. In the overwhelming majority of cases I’m happy and prefer to be addressed as Firstname. But if you want to (or it’s situationally appropriate to) use a title it’s Dr Lastname. It’s common courtesy to get my name right, and my title is Dr. Anything else is factually incorrect. If you can’t stand using my title don’t ask for it.

        I work surrounded by Dr titled people and they all use their titles. No doubt different places different cultures, but here replacing a woman’s Dr title with something else is usually a passive aggressive way of people to refuse to recognise a woman’s qualifications. I really don’t recommend it.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Cross posted with you – the context matters, exactly.

          I suspect Jolene means it’s gauche to assert your doctorate in unrelated situations (eg someone in the supermarket says “please could you pass me a basket” and you say “it’s doctor, actually”) but when it’s relevant (at an industry conference, for example) then it’s relevant.

          1. Firstname*

            Oh yes 100% agree.

            I use Dr in the same way that other people in my culture use Mr or Ms. But I absolutely use it.

            1. Fieldpoppy*

              Me too. I never introduce myself as Dr but I use it when titles are being used, especially since I use she/they pronouns and ms/miss/madame grate on me, and I work with a lot of work physicians and it annoys me when they all get called Dr last name and I get Fieldpoppy. But most of the time I just prefer Fieldpoppy.

              But I also don’t care if people from cultures where this is typical make their kids call me Miss Fieldpoppy.

          2. Covered in Bees*

            I also internally roll my eyes who insist on using academic titles in unrelated work. For example, I am an attorney but don’t work in a legal field anymore. I don’t sign my name with Esq not only to avoid any professional liability but also I think it makes me look silly. Someone with an EdD and is a school principal? I’ll call them Dr no question. If they’re an accountant with an EdD? Please, no.

            I know from experience that this can work differently in other countries, but this is for when I’m in the US.

          3. Rolly*

            “The now-infamous Wall Street Journal op-ed giving Dr. Jill Biden the uninvited “advice” to shed her earned title of “Dr.” is yet another drop in the ocean that exemplifies patriarchy and white privilege.

            The suggestion that “Dr.” is not significant or appropriate for those who earned a doctorate is yet another way to continue academic gatekeeping and further perpetuates inequitable stratified systems of power. Additionally, it is often marginalized communities that bear the amplified brunt of stress caused by this disempowerment. ”


            1. Nameless in Customer Service*

              I was just looking for that link for this discussion. Thank you for posting it. My experience is influenced by my demographics, of course, but I’ve seen a lot more people react unfavorably at hearing that a woman or a person of color has earned the title “Dr.” than hearing so about a White man. This includes several years working as a school receptionist telling people the names of their children’s teachers, many of whom had doctorates.

        2. Lab Boss*

          I’ve only had one non-medical Dr. correct me, and that’s because his last name was very similar to “Anderson.” I usually called him by his first name anyway, but when I tried to poke fun at him by doing an impression of Hugo Weaving’s line “Mr. Anderson” from The Matrix he told me it’s actually Doctor- but I think that was more about hating my movie impressions :D

      4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        In my country the media have a nasty habit of inequality in this area. So say the newsreader is interviewing Prof John Smith and Prof Jane Anderson: it’s common for them to say “So Jane what do you think of Professor Smith’s assertion?”

        As a result, women in academia are encouraged to assert their qualifications (and in particular to affirm each other’s) to counter this particular facet of sexism. The higher the qualification, the more important. I presented a balanced pair above, but it also happens when it’s Dr John Smith and Professor Dame Jane Anderson.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes definitely. My godmother and her partner were both academics and they were quite happy to use their first names with their students and informally but when either of them were on a panel they wanted to be Dr Jones and Dr Parker because otherwise people would use a first name for them and a title for the men on the panel. They had fought quite hard to get their titles in a time when it was a lot harder for women in the workplace and so in professional settings preferred to use them.

          Interestingly when my godmother died we used Dr Jones in her obituary because again we knew how hard she’d fought to make herself into a successful academic despite a lot of obstacles.

        2. Ruth*

          I think this is especially true for women of color. I work with a lot of academics, though I’m not one myself, and I’ve noticed that many of the Black women I work with always go by Doctor. So that is what I call them! As the quote goes, they had to “work twice as hard” so I get why they insist on the honorific that they earned.

          1. Katara's side braids*

            Yep. One of my favorite professors in grad school was a black woman, who described being undermined in academic settings that were otherwise all-white and all-male – it would be “Mr. X, Mr. Y, Mr. Z, and [professor’s first name]”. She basically got through her PhD program on pure spite, so she could demand a certain level of respect. A true role model.

            1. Ali + Nino*

              Mad respect – she sure earned it. Funnily enough, a family friend who has a PhD prefers to be called “Professor” versus “Dr.” – because he considers teaching college students more difficult than getting a PhD, lol.

              1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

                Honestly, in my experience and in the field where I originally trained, getting a professorship is a hell of a lot tougher than getting a doctorate. You can finish a PhD out of sheer cussedness–that’s the only way I got through–but getting a halfway decent academic job in the humanities market? Good luck with that.

        3. Emmy Noether*

          Ugh, I think I’d hit the forking roof if that happened to me. And probably be called hysterical for it, but I Would. Not. Care.

        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          It makes perfect sense to assert one’s title in this particular situation, and using a title for men but not women in that way infuriates me. It doesn’t not necessarily make sense to do so in all situations and would be horribly out of place in a workplace where it’s common to call people by their first names. Insisting on a title in the latter makes one seem insecure or wanting to assert superiority over the others.

      5. Ellen*

        Why is it annoying? It’s not like they are misusing the term or misrepresenting themselves. Anyone who holds a doctorate is, in fact, a doctor.

        It’s fine if you don’t want to be called doctor, but it comes off as a little snobby to be annoyed by people who choose to use it, especially if those people are women and minorities who have historically encountered a lot of obstacles to obtaining that level of academic achievement.

      6. Katara's side braids*

        I’ve noticed that people who assert this usually (and rightly!!) don’t have a problem with certain specific examples – Dr. King for Martin Luther King Jr. is what immediately comes to mind. I think it’s pretty undisputed that he deserves to have his title recognized, even though he’s not a medical doctor. I guess you could argue that norms change once a given non-medical doctor reaches a certain level of historical and cultural impact, but I don’t really buy that.

        1. Porcupine*

          Why does he deserve to have his title recognized? He committed plagiarism in his doctoral dissertation.

      7. Zephy*

        I’m not “in academia,” just work at a higher-ed institution, but this place is just lousy with non-medical doctors and it would feel, just, incredibly rude to call them Mr/Ms.

        You know what’s even worse is medical doctors wanting/expecting to be called Dr. So-and-so while just out and about, having a meal or buying groceries.
        My inlaws are medical doctors and introduce themselves as such in non-medical/non-professional settings, it’s cringe af

      8. Xantar*

        A little history lesson:

        The title “doctor” comes from the Latin word “doceo, docere, doci, doctus” which means “to teach.” It used to be that the only people entitled to be called “Doctor” were academics who had attained a certain level of study. Makes sense since they were teachers after all.

        A few hundred years ago, physicians started calling themselves doctors even though they didn’t usually teach anybody. At that time, the medical doctors were seen as being pretentious and trying to borrow the prestige of “real doctors” (ie academics). You have to also keep in mind that at this time, physicians were not well regarded because they were frankly just not very good at their job. Their practice was not standardized, they didn’t incorporate the scientific method, and some of their treatments were just plain harmful. They really were trying to elevate themselves by calling themselves doctors.

        I’m not reciting all this to say anybody today is right or wrong to use the title or Doctor. Cultures change. I’m just pointing out that it’s interesting how these things can completely reverse over time.

        Source: I’ve studied Latin, I read about this, and I have both kinds of doctors in my family.

        1. Captain Raymond Holt*

          “A PhD is a doctorate. It’s literally describing a doctor. … No! The problem here is that medical practitioners have co-opted the word “doctor”… I know we live in a world where anything can mean anything, and nobody even cares about etymolo- … Apparently that’s a trigger for me.”

      9. Very anonymous*

        Then you’re unfamiliar with the history. “Doctor” is a level of education obtained, “physician” is the profession.

      10. Minimal Pear*

        I’m planning to get a PhD (eventually…) and ideally would go by Dr. Pear afterwards because I’m nonbinary and it’s gender neutral. (I promise that’s not the only reason I want to go to grad school!)

      11. Iris Eyes*

        Which is such a bizarre thing because doctor was appropriated by medical doctors to legitimize themselves.

        But also yeah weird for anyone to insist, I interact with multiple doctorate holding folks of various types (PhD, DMin, MD, DPT, DC) none of whom go by doctor in work or personal conversation except for the first month or so after they get their degree as a mark of celebration and respect for their hard work.

      12. This is a name, I guess*

        I don’t like calling my medical doctors “Dr.” I prefer to use their first names when being treated, because I don’t want my doctors to see themselves as having authority over me. That’s how I (as a neurodivergent, queer, fat woman) get shittier care. I will use Dr. titles in public when surrounded by stakeholders.

        However, the inverse of that that also means I think it’s equally fine for people with PhDs to also go by Dr. What’s the difference? Both are correct and both worked equally hard. If anything, the PhD doesn’t often receive the same societal status or compensation for their work, so I’m fine calling someone that.

      13. JamminOnMyPlanner*

        I don’t even have a doctorate, but if I ever get one, I definitely want to use the doctor title.

        The main reason is I hate the miss/mrs./ms. thing. I use Ms. LastName because my marital status is no-one’s business, but I’m still presumed single. (Which, I am, to be fair, but I hate that I have to broadcast that… the same as if I were married… My marital status has no bearing on who I am).

        But also because, if I’m in school for 11-12 years, I deserve to be called by my title, dang it!

        1. JamminOnMyPlanner*

          Although, I do want to say, I’d be fine with being called by my first name amongst colleagues, depending on the culture. But if I teach in the university setting, I’d expect my students to call me Dr. LastName. Or even Dr. FirstName. And I’d want my mail addressed to Dr. LastName, thank you very much!

          Although there was a troubling trend at my university where all the women were called by their first names, and the men were called Dr. So and So….

    2. OperaArt*

      Of the hundreds of colleagues I’ve interacted with over the years at my workplace, probably 90% of them have math, science, or engineering PhDs. And not one of them goes by “Dr.”

      1. Jam on Toast*

        I earned my PhD. I am immensely proud of the work it took to achieve it. But in my day to day life, it has zero impact on my professional identity. The only time I ever insist on being referred to only and exclusively as Dr. J. I. Toast is when I’m being talked down to by condescending mansplainers. Then I am willing to haul out the regalia if need be.

        1. A mathematician*

          A former colleague had a policy that amused me – if the automatic title they assigned her was “Ms”, she’d keep that one. If she got any letters etc. addressed to “Miss”, she’d insist on being “Dr” (she definitely had a PhD, unlike the boss in this story, an a proper publication record to go with it :D).

          I work at a university, so “Dr” does appear on my door, though we all use first names generally. In other situations it rarely comes up – I think my GP records have it, because they’re part of the university I work for, so anyone I get referred to for medical stuff uses Dr for me. Then the university that awarded my PhD uses it when they send me stuff (usually to ask me for money…), and the university I went to before has found out from someone (I believe I know the source…) and they use Dr when they send me stuff (also usually asking for money…). Other than that, it doesn’t come up.

          1. WS*

            A colleague of mine had the same policy – if she was called “Ms” or everyone was using first names, that was fine, but “Miss” or “Mrs” meant that she would instead require “Dr” (and later “Professor”) instead. Very reasonable, I think!

            1. Lab Boss*

              I think that’s the biggest rub with people disagreeing over it seeming pretentious or not – if going by Mr./Ms./Miss is the norm then going by Dr. makes perfect sense. If everyone else is going by first names then insisting on Dr. seems out of place (like a former letter writer who asked about someone wanting to go by “Mrs.” when everyone used first names). The honorific may be earned, but if nobody else is using honorifics it’s still a poor match with company culture to insist on yours.

    3. MK*

      The OP doesn’t know that her boss hasn’t earned the degree. And it’s not about being fair, it’s about whether it’s a good use of the OP’s time to play detective about her boss’s credentials; it sounds to me as if she has more important problems.

      1. EPLawyer*

        THIS. The Ph.D is a red herring. Or the BEC stage with this boss.

        The bigger problem is the grandboss is terrible, HR is non-existent AND Senior Staff have left in droves. This place is holding up a big flashing neon sign “You in Danger Girl, RUN.” OP is looking behind the sign to figure out how it works.

        This place sucks and is not going to change. Time to go.

        1. Smithy*


          This also reminds me of letters here or to any advice column where someone has a really complex interpersonal relationship and is looking of a magic sentence to “fix” the dynamic. The magic sentence to say when breaking up so no one’s feelings are hurt. That suddenly personal boundaries are enthusiastically respected.

          The OP has identified a potential fix to some significant problems – getting their boss fired due to essentially a credentials audit. Even if the OP’s suspicions are true, and even if there’s a mechanism where that would result in this boss getting fired….if the grandboss is terrible, then it’s very possible that what would come next would be still be bad. Or maybe even worse. Maybe you’d now all report to the grandboss who’d prefer to micromanage you but doesn’t have the time, so does so in a place where you are perpetually in the wrong for including them on stuff they don’t care about or excluding them on stuff they want to be across. Or 101 other ways bad employers repeat bad patterns with new bad decisions.

          When you’re in a very bad workplace, it can be really easy to focus on as small a piece of the pie as possible because acknowledging how bad everything is can feel overwhelmingly hopeless. So thinking a lot about how if one bad thing (coworker, boss, piece of equipment, etc) was different, that can be more optimistic. In our position, we may be able to change one thing and it can be easy to focus on how that one thing being different would lead to quick positive change.

          OP – you may have decided that for personal or professional reasons you really need to keep this job for X time. And therefore, focusing on positive coping mechanisms are really important for surviving what does sound like an incredibly difficult boss and workplace. But I think having some healthy realism and skepticism about those approaches being coping mechanisms is important.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        That was my first thought as well. I cannot imagine spending the amount of time OP already has on researching the boss rather than looking for a new job. Frankly, their credentials have nothing to do with OP and their problems with the boss. Having a Ph.D or not having a Ph.D has little to do with being a shitty manager. You can be a shitty manager without any degree at all, and you can get all the schooling in the world and still be a shitty manager.

      3. Observer*

        The OP doesn’t know that her boss hasn’t earned the degree. And it’s not about being fair, it’s about whether it’s a good use of the OP’s time to play detective about her boss’s credentials; it sounds to me as if she has more important problems.

        Very much this. I totally don’t understand why the OP is so hung up on the degree thing.

    4. ecnaseener*

      I don’t mind* PhDs asking more distant colleagues to use their title – but direct reports not allowed to use the boss’s first name? Yikes.

      *I don’t mind as long as they’re consistent about it. I work with researchers and default to calling them Dr until they indicate otherwise. What gets my goat is the ones who indicate I should use their first names and then get mad when I do it in what was apparently the wrong context. Sorry for following your stated preference!

    5. Observer*

      I do think it’s fair to ask her about her publication record.

      Why would you do that? If you think she’s lying, what’s to keep her from lying about this? And, if you think she’s a liar why would you believe anything she says? Which means that whether she lies or tells the truth, you won;t find out anything anyway.

  10. ES*

    Re: LW2 –

    My employer has made clear that masks are welcome but not required. We have a diversity of views in our organization and probably a quarter of staff are masked in the office at any given time. We’ve been firmly reminded that people should not be criticized or remarked upon for choosing to mask, and we’ve been just as firmly reminded that employees cannot require anyone they are interacting with to mask. Veering too far either way allows employees to dictate or unduly influence other employees’ personal health choices.

    I do think that a ban on asking would be in that same vein, especially if the “ask” comes from someone senior to someone junior — it could easily be interpreted as not-really-optional for the junior person. If an employer isn’t putting a requirement to mask in place, it shouldn’t wink at de facto mask requirements imposed by office power dynamics.

    1. Not A Manager*

      “Veering too far either way allows employees to dictate or unduly influence other employees’ personal health choices.”

      You forgot to add /irony.

      1. Claire W*

        Right?! As an immunocompromised person (who has ended up in hospital with covid despite being fully vaccinated), I’m “unduly influencing other employees health choices” by asking that they considering not making ME severely ill for a second time?!

        1. Leela*

          Also immunocompromised (with a cancer that causes blood clots/strokes/heart attacks, even without COVID) it’s unreal. People are literally asking “but do I have to mask up and be uncomfortable to stop people from dying…indefinitely?”

          YES YOU DO.

          I can’t believe these conversations are even being had! Yes of course you will have to mask indefinitely if it stops people from dying, what the hell?? But the government really isn’t protecting us and never has so screw us and our right to stay alive I guess?

          1. Jen*

            But…they don’t. Masks are no longer required virtually anywhere. More to the point, with omicron, the types of masks people generally DO wear are not effective. I am more than happy to make an accommodation if it actually HELPS. I am not happy to wear a mask as part of Covid theater.

            The best protection for people concerned about contracting Covid is to wear a properly fitted N95 mask (and, yes, it’s a problem that they’re not free and accessible.)

            The burden of protecting people who are immunocompromised will always fall on the people closest to them, just as it was pre-Covid. There are all kinds of pathogens just as deadly as Covid to many people who are undergoing chemo or have serious health conditions and we never would have dreamed to ask the general public to wear masks to protect the vulnerable from them.

            Finally, as much as people seem to like to pretend that masking is a minor inconvenience equivalent to being asked to wear close toed shoes instead of sandals, it isn’t. We’re seeing studies demonstrating the significant effects on childhood learning and speech development caused by prolonged mask wearing. It is also obviously challenging for those who have hearing loss or other disabilities that make lip reading (or expressions) more important.

            I find it really frustrating that some people dismiss those of us no longer choosing to mask as monsters who don’t care about people when this is a very nuanced issue.

            1. Leela*

              You are putting things like speech and learning development up against literal death and….you think literal death doesn’t trump it? Challenging for those who have hearing loss, should be put up against my death?

              And you’re right, we DIDN’T ask people to mask like this before then because what was happening wasn’t a global pandemic like this that kept evolving while doctors actually know very little about how to help someone like me. People like me weren’t even in the test groups for vaccines. Do you think the average overextended COVID nurse knows how treating me would and should be different from treating anyone else with COVID, because my oncologist has told me they definitely won’t, and not all of us are on disability or even could be if we wanted. We have no choice but to expose ourselves to people who are choosing reasons that they can put up against “do not kill me” like they’ve actually entered something into the chat.

              You’re not supposed to do things that will kill other people, even if the government said you get to. I don’t know how else to explain that to you. You don’t have to choose a dangerous and irresponsible option just because you can.

              1. Jen*

                But it’s not “dangerous and irresponsible.” Wearing a non-N95 mask isn’t helpful to you. They just don’t work against the current variant. It’s playing Covid theater.

                If you’re wearing a properly fitted N95 mask, your chances of catching Covid are extremely low (and, again, my wearing a surgical mask won’t help you.) So in that context, yes, I will consider the harms that masking causes for some people.

              2. Shira*

                We all do things that have a chance of causing death to ourselves and other people, every day. We all make calculations that balance that risk with our quality of life. And reasonable people can disagree on these tradeoffs.
                But to argue that the only reasonable position is to reduce the risk of death to everyone as much as possible, no matter the magnitude of the risk, no matter the cost, by any possible means….I mean, it doesn’t take much imagination to see any number of ways that that would not end well.

            2. Shira*

              @Jen I was trying to figure out how to express basically this, and you said it better than I could. Thank you.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      The thing about masks is that they are most effective when the infected person wears one. That means that if someone is, say, immunocompromised and afraid of getting COVID, that person wearing a mask isn’t even half the battle. For that person to be protected, really the people around them should be wearing masks.

      1. Spearmint*

        Actually, a well fitted N-95 does a great job protecting the individual from others, regardless of whether the others are masked or not.

        1. Katara's side braids*

          That’s assuming a perfect fit and seal. Wearing an imperfectly fitted N95 (or equivalent) still offers FAR better protection than cloth masks, but it’s incorrect to say that it offers enough protection to make it unreasonable to worry about sharing airspace with unmasked people.

    3. allathian*

      We have a similar policy, in that we can’t *require* any other employees to mask up around us when we’re at the office. We can ask, though. And because my org is big on psychological safety, if someone’s really uncomfortable about meeting in person unless both wear masks, and the other person utterly refuses, they can insist on a Teams meeting instead. The ban on commenting on a coworker’s preference to mask up also includes commenting on their refusal to meet in person unless everyone wears a mask.

      I don’t want to mask up all the time at the office, mainly because my glasses fog up so badly that I can’t see anything, and while I can walk around without my glasses on, I’ll get a headache from squinting if I try to look at a screen without glasses. I have a phobia about things in my eyes, just the idea of putting contacts in gives me nausea. This doesn’t mean that I’d refuse to wear a mask for a while if a coworker asked me to. I still mask up in stores and on public transit.

      1. Loredena*

        For what it’s worth, if you haven’t switched to k95s give them a try. I rarely have an issue with my glasses fogging since switching!

      2. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

        If a mask is allowing the wearer’s glasses to fog up, the mask is not fitted correctly or snugly enough: air is passing around the edges of the mask unfiltered, rather than being unable to pass around so obliged to go *through* the filtration material, allowing it to do its filtration job. A mask fitted too loosely is still a little more effective than no mask at all, but it may not be better than one worn obviously-incorrectly (e.g below the nose). At least one worn obviously incorrectly does not give a false sense of security to observers trying to judge risk level. Glasses fogging is an inconvenient but useful test for whether a mask is fitted and filtering effectively in situations where it’s really important that it do so, versus when it is being worn as a proforma token and doesn’t matter if it’s minimally or non effective.

        I have health conditions that put me at higher risk for complications from communicable illness and some environmental factors — but I don’t look sick usually. I work with people who don’t follow public-health expectations even when they’re requirements, whether that’s “no smoking” or “don’t come in if you’re contagious or at least wear a mask properly.” I’m not going to make my health dependent on them doing the right thing, even if I were allowed to ask them to. So, it doesn’t matter if I’m claustropobic about my face. I wear a snugly fitted high-filtration mask whenever I’m going to be sharing enclosed airspace with those coworkers, which is most of the time, while doing both desk-based work and more sweaty physical labor. And I wear glasses even when I don’t necessarily need to see detail, because if they start to fog up, I know my mask is loosening up or getting displaced and I can adjust it before I’m exposed to much air shared with Mr. Covid Is A Hoax The Righteous Don’t Get Ill or Ms. I Reapply Perfume After Every Cigarette Break.

        1. This is a name, I guess*

          I have an N95 with a great fit that *still* fogs my glasses from the hot air escaping through the filter, not leaking out. I have a huge schnozzz, so I wear the respirator close to the bridge of my nose. And, I have huge hipster glasses, so the air I breathe out of the respirator fogs my glasses.

          I know it has an excellent seal because my partner used to fit respirators in the military, and she has done 24363 OSHA trainings on them.

          It’s not just about fit, unfortunately.

    4. Katara's side braids*

      I really don’t understand the argument that masking and not masking are both equally valid “personal health choices,” though. To me it screams false equivalence. This is an airborne virus. It’s pretty easy to draw a direct line between the “personal decision” not to mask and putting others, especially vulnerable people, at risk.

      I’m NOT saying masks should be mandated if reasonable accommodations can be made for vulnerable people (although that puts the onus on the vulnerable to disclose medical information, in a culture quite hostile to disability), but framing a vulnerable person asking someone in their space to mask as “dictating personal health choices” feels like a bad-faith argument.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t know whether it’s in bad faith or not, but it’s not realistic to depict people as sovereign islands whose decisions somehow don’t (or shouldn’t) affect one another. I don’t know how to make sense of the idea that it’s “undue influence” for people to think about anyone’s health or well-being besides there own without seeing it as the Margaret Thatcher mindset, “there is no such thing as society.”

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        I always like to use the smoking analogy. We (finally) recognized that second hand smoke is dangerous so someone’s desire to light up in most enclosed spaces is no longer OK. Yes, choosing to smoke is that person’s personal health choice, but they don’t get to make that choice for me by blowing smoke in my face.

      3. Starbuck*

        Right, it’s like saying the decision to smoke indoors or not is a “personal health decision.” No, it isn’t – not when your air (second hand smoke) affect the air that I’m also breathing. That’s why it’s banned in most places. Sigh.

    5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Would you office have the same policy for, say, allergens in the workplace? Or other health and safety issues that impact one employee more than another based on their health status? Not snarking, just curious, because it seems like masks have been blown up into “A THING” to an unreasonable degree. However, I am in a field where if someone immunocompromised requested that folks mask during flu season or if someone in their household was sick with a respiratory ailment we accommodated them prior to 2020, so maybe I just can’t get the drama. As a public health adjacent field it just made sense to limit harm to others in the same way you’d ban nuts of scents if someone was allergic.

      1. Spearmint*

        But wearing masks is a huge burden on others. I know it’s not popular to say that, but it’s true. I find that if I have to wear one for more than an hour or two, the air I breathe starts to seem really stale and it makes me feel tired. The straps hurt my ears. And I can’t see other people’s faces (and they can’t see mine), which hinders nonverbal communication and connection. This is all obvious, and it irritates me they people act like it’s not true.

        I was happy to wear a mask before vaccines, but now that everyone can be vaccinated, cases are down, and the dominant strain is more mild, I think requiring masks is an unreasonable burden.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Eliminating scented products can also be a huge burden on others in cost, comfort (what if the best product for your dry skin only comes in a scent and you can no longer use it? Or it is a medicated product and there are conflicting accommodations?). Personally, I find eliminating scents more of a PITA (I had to stop hugging my husband in the morning in one case because his cologne set of a coworker’s allergy) than wearing a mask, but will happily do it to help out a coworker and make our workplace disability friendly. Obviously you find the mask a bigger burden, but what is the fundamental difference? Is it the action vs inaction (e.g. actively wearing something vs eliminating something)? I don’t have the answer, but am finding the differences in opinions/attitudes between masking and other disability accommodations both confusing and interesting.

          1. Emi*

            I mean, we’ve had plenty of discussions here about what degree of scent-elimination is reasonable to ask and/or require of others. I would not happily stop hugging my husband in the morning, for instance.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Before we figured out that it was his cologne my coworker had an asthma attack that sent her to the ER. I was mostly happy that we figured out what it was on me that kept triggering her allergies and I was able to convince her I wasn’t a complete asshole who was wearing scents on purpose. Switching to Jedi hugs in the AM with Mr. Gumption seemed a small price to pay after I basically almost unintentionally killed her!

              1. Nameless in Customer Service*

                I think it’s commendable that you care about not killing your coworker. (No sarcasm — there are not a few stories in the archives about people who come off as if they’d just put a notch on their belt.)

            2. Marie*

              Yeah, this is wild to me. I would not stop hugging my husband (or my cat, which might also trigger allergies) because my coworker asked me to. That’s way outside of the realm of normal for me. The company can figure out some other accomodation. It’s unreasonable to look negatively on someone who refused to stop hugging their spouse because of a coworker.

              1. Katara's side braids*

                If you read Danger’s replies, they made it clear that the cologne caused a life-threatening asthma attack. They didn’t stop because they were “asked to,” as you suggest, but because they drew a direct cause-and-effect inference between the hugs and the potential death of a coworker and made a logical change. Not to say there weren’t other accommodations available – the spouse could have put the cologne on after the morning hug, maybe, but changing an employee’s spouse’s morning grooming routine feels far more invasive and disruptive than Danger *willingly* opting to avoid getting the cologne on them.

                1. Nameless in Customer Service*

                  1) I love your username
                  2) Word. I’m kind of impressed and dismayed at the same time to find an example of the callousness I just mentioned in this very thread.

        2. Katara's side braids*

          Maybe we’re just hearing from different subsets of people, but pretty much everyone I’ve seen advocating for masks (or at least the right to request someone wear a mask in one’s presence) has acknowledged that they are uncomfortable and can hinder communication. It’s possible to acknowledge that, to be encouraged by the effectiveness of vaccines, AND still decide that it’s important to err on the side of caution to protect others. We disagree on the “unreasonable burden” piece (“more mild” combined with “more contagious” does not automatically mean “less dangerous”, for one thing), but either way, the original letter was about *requesting* that someone else put on a mask before sharing airspace. It wasn’t about requirements at all.

          1. This is a name, I guess*

            “pretty much everyone I’ve seen advocating for masks”…

            This is partially true. On this site, people are pretty good about acknowledging that, but in other facets of my life, people who are *very* pro-mask often say things like, “It’s not that big of a deal! It’s not that bad! It’s easy! Very little difference!”

            It almost feels like gaslighting to me when people say stuff like this. Like, I still wear a mask in many settings, but it’s not “easy” nor is they “little difference” between going unmasked in a lot of settings.

            Wearing a mask at a concert? Easy! Wearing a mask at Costco? The exact same amount of horrible as not wearing a mask at Costco, lol.

            Wearing masks in 3 hour seminars at school? A PITA, but do-able.

            Wearing a mask at the gym? Awful, so please stop pretending that it’s barely noticeable.

            1. Katara's side braids*

              Oof, agreed on masking at the gym. I’ve been wearing my KF94s and have pretty much had to swear off cardio for the time being.

              In more general terms, I’m sorry so many people have not been engaging in good faith. I’ve found that I (as a *very* pro-mask person) have more fruitful, less-frustrating conversations when I acknowledge the parts of it that suck, and I guess my social group has mainly felt the same way.

              1. This is a name, I guess*

                The owner of my gym legit was like, “working out in a mask isn’t bad at all.” I was like PLEASE. STOP. SAYING. THAT. Yes, I’m going to wear a mask. but also, yes, HIIT suuuucksssssss in a mask.”

                1. Nameless in Customer Service*

                  But then imagine how much more unpleasant it is to have a respirator forcing air in and out of one’s lungs, because one is immunocompromised and came down with COVID and is now hospitalized…

                2. EchoGirl*

                  @Nameless in Customer Service — Except no one is saying that they’re not going to mask or don’t understand why it’s important; all they’re asking is that people acknowledge that it CAN be unpleasant. The problem isn’t with the request to mask, the problem is the insistence that masking is a tiny, insignificant, barely-there inconvenience (which, if it’s that for you (general-you), that’s great, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same for every other person). It’s possible to validate people’s experiences while also asking them to mask for the greater good, if you will.

                3. Nameless in Customer Service*

                  EchoGirl — look through the comments and you’ll find plenty of people saying ” they’re not going to mask or don’t understand why it’s important”. Spearmint, Marie, UkGreen, ES, and that’s just on a cursory runthrough. Multiply them by millions of Americans and divide by how little they value the lives of our immunocompromised friends and family.

                  Masks are uncomfortable, especially when crying into them at a funeral.

                4. EchoGirl*

                  Nameless in Customer Service — But you made this post in response to a comment that literally said “Yes, I’m going to wear a mask.” Your comment would make sense if it was in response to someone *refusing* to mask because it was uncomfortable, but that’s the exact opposite of the comment you replied to.

            2. EchoGirl*

              I agree with this. I have sensory issues that make it really hard and unpleasant to wear a mask for a significant length of time (basically it feels like something is attacking my face). I’ve been willing to do it despite this because I understand that the public health matter is a more urgent concern right now, but I’ve gotten really fed up with the sentiment of, in essence, “it’s an eensy-weensy insignificant inconvenience and anyone who thinks otherwise is just an evil anti-masker who doesn’t care if people die” — not only is it dismissive, but it really sucks to take on a burden for the benefit of others and have everyone refuse to acknowledge that it even IS a burden and even get upset at you for saying it is.

              A comparison I think helps to illustrate this is, when people began complaining that mask ear loops were causing them pain, we didn’t immediately say “okay, you can stop masking”, but we also didn’t claim they were exaggerating/making it up and label them “anti-mask” — people recognized the issues as legitimate, reacted with sympathy, and took a solution-focused approach. But when it’s a less-common issue, people immediately react like you’re being a whiny baby who’s overreacting to a minor thing and needs to “suck it up”. It actually is possible to recognize the importance of masks while also recognizing that people will legitimately struggle with wearing them, especially for long periods of time.

              1. JamminOnMyPlanner*

                I have sensory issues, too, and wearing a mask really is difficult! Sometimes, I feel like I’m suffocating. I still do it, but it’s not *easy*.

                I also have auditory processing difficulties as part of my ADHD, and it’s harder to hear through masks and without being able to read lips/facial expressions.

            3. Rolly*

              “It’s not that big of a deal! It’s not that bad!”

              I believe this. Unless someone has a specific medical condition, it’s not that bad. Like neckties: I know some people don’t like neckties but they’re all not *that* bad.

              Not completely not bad, but not *that* bad. A little deal. Maybe a medium deal. Not a big deal. And it’s worth working on – finding a mask that fits and straps that work for you.

              1. Rolly*

                Oh, I see this note below, which I agree with:

                “I have a job where I am required to mask for my entire shift. The stale air, sore ears and foggy glasses are a reality but I don’t consider them a massive imposition. They are a small price to pay”

                A small price to pay is right. Not “no price” but a small price. I wear glasses, so it’s a chore using masks for me since they tend to fog up.

        3. Speaking for the first time*

          I have a job where I am required to mask for my entire shift. The stale air, sore ears and foggy glasses are a reality but I don’t consider them a massive imposition. They are a small price to pay to keep myself and others safe.

          1. Jora Malli*

            I was going to make almost this exact comment. I’ve been required to wear a mask for most of not all of my work day since May of 2020. The mask requirement has recently been lifted, but I’m still wearing mine because I live with an immunosuppressed person.

            Yes. Masks are uncomfortable and inconvenient. But they’re not as uncomfortable or inconvenient as the deaths of my loved ones, so I’m keeping this mask on until I can be certain another big wave isn’t going to come through and threaten my family’s safety. And I’m probably going to continue to think a certain kind of way about people who aren’t willing to mildly inconvenience themselves to keep my family alive.

            1. This is a name, I guess*

              My partner has a disability, and wearing a mask for long periods of time – especially serious masks – requires a TON planning on our part because of her sensory sensitivities. She has a really hard time with the sensation of tugging on her ears. If we fly on a plane or when she takes day-long credentialing exams, I have to tie back straps, change out elastic to be longer, etc. I always carry elastic when traveling.

              It’s a little better now that N95s are readily available, but even they still pose problems.

              The intersection of disability and masking is really complex.

              1. Nameless in Customer Service*

                The intersection of disability and masking is really complex.

                Yes, it definitely is. But I remain unconvinced that writing off the lives of immunocompromised people is the way to go regardless of whether it simplifies the situation.

        4. Yorick*

          Then you can attend a long meeting virtually if someone there wants everyone to be masked. Most in-person meetings will be under 1-2 hours.

          Ultimately, refusing to wear a mask puts others at risk while wearing one is just sorta uncomfortable for you.

        5. pancakes*

          No, it isn’t obvious that surgeons and others in the medical field who routinely wore them for hours at a time well before the pandemic have some sort of special body or way of breathing that’s different than yours. They’re just regular people too, not some sort of other creature. Clearly masks are uncomfortable for you, and that is what it is, but for many others they aren’t more than a minor inconvenience. It also sounds like you haven’t found a style that fits you well yet if the straps are hurting your ears. There are so many options for adjustable straps.

          1. JamminOnMyPlanner*

            I have ADHD, which means sensory issues and auditory processing problems. No matter how well a mask fits, it’s always going to bother me and make me feel like I can’t breathe. Not being able to see half of someone’s face or their lips moving or being able to hear through cloth is not going to magically get better for me. I still wear a mask because I have to, but it’s more than a minor inconvenience. It’s actively impeding my life and my ability to socialize normally and do my job, which requires listening and hearing.

            I doubt many surgeons have ADHD due to the focused nature of their job, so actually, yes, my needs ARE different from a surgeon’s.

            1. Katara's side braids*

              I also have ADHD. Some mornings when I put my mask on I literally start gagging for air. My work is primarily in my second language, so lack of visual input has been excruciating. All of which to say: I get it. I know ADHD affects everyone differently, and this is not an “I handle it, so what’s your excuse” callout or anything like that. It SUCKS, and I’m sorry that people dismiss your experience as a “minor inconvenience.”

              That being said, my ADHD wouldn’t make me transmit COVID any less efficiently if I were to unmask while presymptomatic or asymptomatic. And as has been said many times on this thread: if at any point I felt that my ADHD access needs were in conflict with the access needs of vulnerable people whose safety requires two-way masking (which it sounds like yours might be), the equitable solution would be to not require those people to be in the same room as me. In situations where that wasn’t possible, I’d have trouble justifying why my needs – whose consequences are NOT minor, but still mostly related to comfort and social/professional effectiveness – should trump those of the person who might actually die or lose a loved one.

              Also, this is neither here nor there as it doesn’t really affect what you were trying to say, but people with ADHD can and do thrive professionally in all manner of jobs, including surgery! For those of us whose hyperfocus tends to kick in in high-stakes situations (which surgery most definitely is) it can be a really awesome fit.

            2. pancakes*

              That’s pretty much why I made a point of saying, “Clearly masks are uncomfortable for you, and that is what it is . . .” I didn’t say or suggest that I expect people with sensory issues (let alone auditory processing issues) to somehow magically just stop having those issues.

        6. Nameless in Customer Service*

          The lives and health of the immunocompromised are not an unreasonable burden, to name just one group that counts in “everyone” and yet can’t be vaccinated or effectively vaccinated.

          (Also the framing of masks’ discomfort as some kind of suppressed knowledge that it takes great courage to state was excellently written if completely untrue.)

        7. Critical Rolls*

          You have a low bar for “huge burden.” It’s an annoyance or inconvenience. Having to quarantine is a huge burden; a hospital stay is a huge burden; long covid is a huge burden.

        8. Claire W*

          Would you say keeping a friend or coworker out of hospital by say, not drink-driving, not smoking into their face, not serving them food they’re severly allergic to even though you really really want that food, etc is an ‘unreaasonable burden’?

          I was hospitalised depite being fully vaccinated and I don’t know why I’m supposed to be fine with a coworker thinking that mild discomfort of wearing a mask should take priority over me and others like me staying alive?

        9. Not Sure*

          I’m not sure that (most) people act like the inconveniences and difficulties of masking are “not true” – just that they shouldn’t trump others’ lives.

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I agree it should be a no-brainer to ban nuts or scents, but a lot of people get really salty about that kind of thing.

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

          Yeah, it stinks when that kind of conflict happens.

    6. mlem*

      Yeah, it’s just like smoking — no one can be required to smoke indoors, but no one can be required to *not* smoke indoors, either, because dictating the personal health choices of others would be unforgivable!

      Oh, wait, no, that’s not how any of this works.

      1. ES*

        Right, because the unmasked breath of a fully vaccinated person in a community with extremely low numbers of COVID transmission and “low” risk on the CDC Community Levels is *the same kind of harmful* as secondhand smoke. /sarcasm.

        This is the kind of “respect” that will really make our workplaces successful.

        1. MeepMeep02*

          Hey, if you’re the one who gives me Long COVID, it will be way more harmful than second hand smoke. And you don’t know if you’ll be the one who gives me Long COVID.

    7. Texan In Exile*

      My dentist of 14 years is not requiring the front office staff to mask.

      “Dr X says masking is a personal choice,” the office manager told me.

      He is now my former dentist.

      1. Leela*

        The front desk people at my dentist *know* I have cancer because I called and went through everything with them – do they mask (yes), do they require others to mask (yes, and not come in until right before their appointment) and all sorts of things.

        When I got there? The people at the front all had their masks down and had to scramble to pull them up over their mouths and noses (useless – they’d already been breathing without them!) and let someone in with no mask to sit in the waiting room unmasked because “oh some people just want to”. None of that came up on the phone call with me of course.

    8. Wings*

      My employer has made the mask use voluntary in our closed-to-public offices (at most of our public facing interactions masks are still required from our employees as well as the members of the public) but with the caveat that in any gathering anyone can ask everyone to mask and they will have to do it. I personally think that’s the only courteous way right now but this is in Europe, not in the US. After all, the masks first and foremost protect the people around you from you and not the other way round.

  11. nnn*

    I’m idly wondering how the “you aren’t allowed to request or require people to wear masks” compares with requesting or requiring people to do other health and safety things.

    For example, are you allowed to request or require no peanuts if someone is allergic? Put up a “don’t sit in this chair, it’s broken” sign? Make a “no raw meat in the office fridge” rule?

    Also, I’m wondering if employers would be allowed to require employees to cover their face as part of a dress code. (Not saying this is a good approach for masks, just wondering if it’s allowed.) It seems like there’s nothing stopping employers from making a dress code requiring people to cover, like, their kneecaps, and covering your face is no less arbitrary

    1. ecnaseener*

      The allergy example is great. You might not be allowed to designate a peanut-free space, but it would be patently absurd to not even be allowed to ASK “if you’ve got peanuts could you not bring them near me?” And equally absurd for the person to respond, “well I’M not afraid of peanuts so you shouldn’t be either!”

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Oh, I can tell you how the allergy conversation is going to go…in most cases, it isn’t going to go well. At all. Lets just say that between dealing with my own, and those of my child, and trying to keep said child safe in a public school…I was not shocked at all at the overall public sentiment (okay, at least those being the loudest) about most Covid public health matters and doing anything to protect the vulnerable.

        1. Lusara*

          You’re really having a lot of issues with it? At my kids grade school and middle school, they had a hard “no peanuts allowed” rule, and our friends in other areas said the same thing. One of them went so far as to disallow sunbutter and such as well, because they were afraid kids would bring PB and say it was something else. I’m surprised when I hear of schools actually allowing peanuts or PB.

          1. Nameless in Customer Service*

            In the experiences of people whose lives mine is entwined with:

            1) the school can ban something on paper, but actually enforcing the rule may or may not happen.

            2) parents may complain endlessly, even to school administrators, teachers, and allergic students about food bans aimed at avoiding allergies.

            2a) parents may also encourage their children to “test out” allergic students’ allergies by giving them adulterated food.

            1. Starbuck*

              Yeah there’s this super weird but pervasive strain of people who seem determined to be skeptical of allergies to the point of vocally disbelieving them about it and I just cannot fathom it. Especially with food and scent allergies, those seem to be the biggest targets of the “they’re just making it up” camp. Even *if* someone is wrong, or even lying about it, what could they possibly be gaining by it? What motivates you in this belief so strongly that you’re moved to attempt essentially poisoning someone to “catch” them on it?? It’s mind boggling.

    2. K*

      I’d liken it to something more like washing one’s hands. I’ve never heard of anyone asking colleagues to wash their hands, even though if everyone did so it would certainly decrease the spread of disease.

      1. Katara's side braids*

        If it were more commonplace to observe whether our coworkers wash their hands, then the analogy would make more sense. And even in places where that *does* happen and people still don’t ask, many of them would still try to avoid shaking hands or sharing food with that person. And honestly, it probably *should* be more normalized to ask people to wash their hands when we can see that they haven’t.

        Either way, I think the allergy analogy is a far better one for vulnerable people worried about sharing airspace with people during a respiratory pandemic.

      2. penny dreadful analyzer*

        Every restaurant bathroom I’ve ever been in has a clearly stated policy that their employees must wash their hands, usually posted at eye level.

        1. Raboot*

          That’s a restaurant policy (based on a legal requirement), not employee-to-employee preference. The whole point is that masks are NOT mandated by employer or byblaw in the workplace. Whether or not we think that’s a wise idea, that’s the reality and false equivalences don’t prove anything.

          1. pancakes*

            Maybe. It’s definitely false equivalence to depict workplace rules as the be-all and end-all of ethical behavior or best practices for public health.

    3. Yorick*

      It’s like how schools can’t force people to wear masks but can send girls home if their skirts are 3.1 inches above the knee instead of 3 or less, or if their shirt strap is 1.9 inches instead of 2, or the outline of their white bra can be slightly seen through their cream colored sweater.

    4. Boof*

      I would perhaps compare it to employees / coworkers washing their hands after using the bathroom (or whenever)

    5. Ace in the Hole*

      “Also, I’m wondering if employers would be allowed to require employees to cover their face as part of a dress code.”

      This question isn’t about laws preventing employers from requiring/requesting masks. The question is, if an employer has voluntarily chosen to make masks optional, is it legal for them to make a rule against individual employees asking others to wear masks. There’s nothing stopping the employer from making a rule to wear masks – but they’ve chosen not to. Now they’re saying employees can’t try to enforce a different standard.

      I’m in EHS. A rule against asking others to mask up in an officially masks-optional space seems very reasonable to me. Mind you, my workplace does still require masks… we’re waiting for community transmission rates to fall a bit more before lifting the requirement. But we have had to tell people to stop making up their own safety “rules” that contradicted official policy. For example, we had one manager who started pressuring everyone in his division to wear gloves all the time. Safety policy explicitly said gloves were optional for those positions. Many people found gloves uncomfortable/irritating/cumbersome, without much safety benefit. And making people wear gloves actually made the environment less safe because it reduced compliance with important safety procedures like handwashing. We had to tell him to cut it out and stop interfering with official safety policy.

      This is not equivalent to saying someone isn’t allowed to make a “no raw meat in the office fridge” rule. This is more like management deciding that raw meat is OK in the office fridge, making an official policy saying people are allowed to put raw meat in the fridge, but Bob in accounting decides it’s not okay and goes around telling people they can’t have their meat in the fridge after all. Or like if there’s a creaky chair that maintenance inspected and said it’s safe to use, but one person in the office keeps putting a sign up saying it’s broken.

    6. JamminOnMyPlanner*

      Mask mandates are banned in my state, but I don’t know if that includes employers…. It was originally intended to ban all mask mandates except for healthcare facilities, including private businesses, but I believe they could only legally make it apply to schools and universities.

  12. Taylor*

    Okay, now I want LW #4 as my boss. I can say is either learn your herstory or sashay away.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I can say is either learn your herstory or sashay away.

      I’d lean towards sashay away. This could be the boss’ only quirk, but I’d be quietly concerned how else she’s trying to redefine reality to fit her world view that isn’t so outwardly visible and try to distance myself from the disconnect before the two collide.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Agreed. This would be yellow-orange flag to me. For instance, do they do performative lip service to management issues instead of really solving problems? Do they understand how to navigate cultural conflicts? This is both grating and kind of alarming when it’s someone who has power over you.

      2. JamminOnMyPlanner*

        It seems condescending to me, like we need a special type of “herstory” to talk about women’s stuff. As though “real history” is only about men, so we had to make another one.

    2. Pickwick Picnic*

      Yeah, I can only ever think of “Herstory” in a drag race context. It’s an amusing pun!

      It also reminds me of the scene in Legally Blonde about trying to get “semester” changed to “ovester”

  13. Tiger Snake*

    #2 – This line of questioning hits very close to asking people about medical questions at work.

    Here’s a personal example: I have neuralgia, in the trigeminal. Aka, I have nerve damage that causes pain, across my face – from forehead, across the cheeks, down the jaw and under the neck. I cannot – Can. Not. – wear a mask at certain times. It puts pressure on all the parts of those nerves that cannot be completely dulled with painkillers. It is an agony that burns like lightning. Other times I can wear a mask for a little while, because nerve pain is intermittent.

    So I randomly do not wear a mask for no visible reason. It is a medical issue, it is documented and on record with the people who need to be aware of it.
    Not having a ‘visible’ reason is not ‘no’ reason – and what my reason is, is none of that is a co-worker’s business. It is not anyone else’s business to question.

    1. Not A Manager*

      Just because a question might have a medical answer doesn’t make it a medical question. If I say, “can you please type this up for me,” and you can’t because you broke your arm recently, that doesn’t make my request a medical question. You get to say, “no, I can’t type that up for you because I have a medical issue.” End of story. If I then asked what your medical issue was, *that* would be a medical question.

      Someone saying, “can you please put on a mask” isn’t a medical question either. If you have a medical reason that you can’t, you can say that without saying what your medical issue is.

      1. Tiger Snake*

        No one have ever let “No, I have a medical issue” stand as is for masking. The statement apparently tells everyone that your entire medical history is now up for welcome discussion… and if you don’t, you’re just an unreasonable anti-masker, and it gets around the entire office at the speed of light.

        1. Midwestern Scientist*

          Because a lot of unreasonable anti maskers used that as an excuse. And particularly when transmission was high/before vaccines were available a reasonable accommodation wasn’t not wearing a mask whenever you want and potentially affecting everyone around you but instead was perhaps having an office/conference room to work out of, working from home, purchasing different masks/face shields, etc

    2. Dina*

      This is one of those scenarios that shows how access requirements can sometimes be incompatible. For my immunocompromised best friend, being around an unmasked person is an absolute no! She picked up a cold on the train the other day and was out of commission for two whole days ☹️

      So in a case like that, where she’d say “can you wear a mask?” and you’d say “no, actually,” you’d work together to find a different solution (like going to the office on different days, meeting via Zoom, etc.)

    3. UKgreen*

      I cannot wear a mask. I’m not sharing why as it’s related to trauma, but if I’m asked to wear a mask – however vehemently or nicely you ask – the answer is no. Fortunately here in the UK most companies and employers have been reasonably sensible about masks and exemptions were written into the English law around face coverings.

      I know people are scared of people without masks. But please accept that not everyone will be wearing a mask.

          1. Katara's side braids*

            If this were still February 2020 and we didn’t know about incubation periods and asymptomatic infections, this comment might make more sense. Please share your time machine.

          2. Nameless in Customer Service*

            If you can duplicate your magic glasses which tell you who does and who doesn’t have COVID you’ll make a fortune. All the rest of us currently have to work with are the odds.

            1. Sal*

              Don’t forget that we can’t even calculate the odds appropriately because case counts/incidence rates are artificially lowered by the fact that positive rapid test results are not reported to any data gathering body [insert upside-down smiley face emoji here].

              1. This is a name, I guess*

                Do you have poop data where you live? LOLOLOL but also I’m serious :)

                It’s been a lifesaver for us in making decisions about case counts because, as the children’s books says, “everybody poops!” so there isn’t an undercount in viral loads in sewage.

                This is, perhaps, more useful for people who live in, say, big states and for people without transient populations – which is us! We live in a large state where 50% of the population lives in one major metro with reasonable people, and the other 50% (minus a few places and small cities) live in a rural covid-denying cesspool, often 3-4 hours away.

                Last year, our Dept of Health changed how it reported positive tests, and it’s now more difficult to assess case data between the city and the rest of the state. And, the state now runs on an average of numbers across the state. However, it’s a multimodal average, with city rates being nearly 1/2 to 1/3 the rate of the rural areas, meaning the statewide average does not reflect the reality of the city. It’s been soooo frustrating making decisions based on the choices of people who live 5 hours away.

                However, poop data only covers the urban core and it’s not skewed by testing or the rural areas, which helps us even more because we never go to the far flung suburbs that are included in our metro area. And, they’ve been collecting it since late in 2020, so we can make comparisons!

      1. lizesq*

        Yep and that’s your health prerogative. My health prerogative is I refuse to be near you in an indoor space. Both of those can be ok at the same time.

        1. Katara's side braids*

          Yes. This part is key, but strangely, I rarely see it acknowledged by the “but I CAN’T wear a mask” folks. To be clear, I’m not doubting that people’s reasons for not being able to mask are real – but in that case, you have to accept that many people will not want to be in the same space as you, which is equally valid.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Yep, absolutely. When needs are incompatible sometimes the best solution is space so those needs don’t compete. That’s okay. I’ve dealt with someone taking this weirdly personally in my job and I have really struggled to explain why it’s not. It just lands a certain way when people don’t want to be around you, and I get that, but that’s a personal thing to work out not a business issue.

        2. Aqua409*

          Then you can discuss alternative ways around that; like going on Zoom/Teams or meeting over the phone. That way everyone is comfortable.

        3. This is a name, I guess*

          Honest, good faith question: when will you be comfortable being in person with someone without a mask? Case counts? Death rates from Covid? Never?

          We have divergent opinions (but not ridiculously so – I still mask a lot!), and I want to understand better.

          1. lizesq*

            Honestly, when people first used to ask me this question, I would tell them I would stop being so concerned when my immunocompromised father died, but he died in November and I still don’t feel comfortable. So I’m not really sure. If people generally handled this pandemic reasonably, it would be a different calculus, but I really don’t trust anyone in regards to my health and safety, and some of the comments here defending LW2’s employer are a good example why.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              “If people generally handled this pandemic reasonably, it would be a different calculus”

              Yeah. I trust people so much less now than I did in 2019. And that was after a man at A Christmas Carol coughed directly on my husband and gave us a horrible not-COVID flu. I don’t know if I’ll ever take public transit again without a mask, or be in a theater.

          2. Sal*

            “When case counts are below March 2020” is my personal pie-in-the-sky request. In a world where we have no idea what the long-term sequelae of covid would be, and I’m responsible for safeguarding the long-term health and well-being of my kids, I would really like to avoid them getting covid so as to save me or some other grown adult discomfort or inconvenience. So for me, that’s infection and case counts. (I also had an immunocompromised dad at the start of the pandemic. He died in May 2020, though. So now my anxiety is basically just for my kids (and minorly re: long covid for myself/my spouse).)

            That said, we had a guest for dinner last night. Case counts in our area are low (although they probably are artificially low since they don’t take into account rapid-test results…), she tests frequently for school, and even I am losing my capacity to say no to absolutely everything.

          3. Not Sure*

            In my area, last June was the lowest we’ve had in terms of case count, around 5 daily new cases per 100,000 people, and the hospitalization rate was actually about the same. That didn’t last long, but while it did, I relaxed many of my personal precautions (although still avoided crowded indoor spaces/events/etc.) and felt reasonably comfortable. If/when we get that low again, I think I’ll be comfortable being around the public unmasked (knowing that the actual case count is probably much higher than we know due to at-home testing, but knowing that current variants seem to be far less damaging, at least for the vaccinated).

      2. Jora Malli*

        If I were to ask you to wear a mask and you respond “I’m sorry, I’m not able to wear masks, but we can hold this meeting virtually if that works for you” that would feel a lot different to me than just a flat refusal. If you act like you understand why masking is important for me and try to come up with an alternative that can work for both of us, that’s great. I can work with that. If you just say “no, I don’t wear masks,” you’re giving me a very different impression of your situation and I won’t be able to adequately assess my safety with you.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Additionally, absent information to assess my safety I will assume the worst.

      3. Nameless in Customer Service*

        Being immunocompromised is not being “scared”. Also, viewing such a situation as a matter of conflicting access needs is a better way to facilitate a solution that works for everyone involved than describing it as actual trauma vs irrational fear.

        1. Jora Malli*

          And honestly, many immunocompromised people ARE scared, and they have good reason to be. There’s a virus going around that could kill them, that keeps mutating to become more and more contagious, their bodies don’t have the necessary tools to fight off the infection, and the people around them are loudly announcing to the whole world that their tired of trying to keep people safe.

          I live with an immunosuppressed person. The lengths we have had to go to over the last two years to keep my family member alive are harrowing, so hearing people say they’re just so tired of wearing masks feels dismissive. We’re being left to fend for ourselves and nobody seems to care about the fact that people are still dying from this virus EVERY DAY. All the tools and protections I had that helped me keep my family safe are being peeled away one by one and yes, I’m afraid. Someone I love is vulnerable and I can’t protect them, and it feels like the whole country has decided they don’t care.

          1. Nameless in Customer Service*

            As someone else who’s scared for the immunocompromised people in my life, and just a little annoyed at the commenters here who’d gleefully see them die, I agree thoroughly with you and send you and your household-mate strength.

          2. Leela*

            Lots of love your way. I’m immunocompromised and I’m reminded every day that my actual life, like whether I get to live or not, is going to be used as a gambling chip for other people and there are so many bad faith arguments about why they shouldn’t have to, as I’m sure you can see just by reading the comments here. People put things like “but it IS uncomfortable” up against “we will literally die if you don’t” and that’s somehow just…not the end of the conversation? Like they think I should be debating this??

            This has been horrible the whole way through and any faith I had in humanity is gone, gone, gone, after seeing how little it takes for someone to risk another person’s life without their consent.

      4. Critical Rolls*

        Characterizing folks as “scared of people without masks” is a refusal to recognize that there are legitimate reasons to want others to mask. If you don’t like having your refusal to mask mischaracterized as political or whatever, perhaps you could do others the courtesy of not dismissing them as irrational.

      5. Not Sure*

        “Scared” in the same way that people are sacred of reckless drivers or cooks who don’t wash their hands.

    4. Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?*

      I have a facial difference, and while I have worn a mask, pressure on my nose often compromises my air way, and then I get dizzy and faint, so I have to be selective. I also read lips for hearing comprehension, and it’s so hard when people wear masks. I understand why people keep their distance to keep themselves safe, but it’s another way to feel ‘other-ed’ in a whole lifetime of being different.

      Pandemics suck.

      1. Nameless in Customer Service*

        That sounds painful and awful, and you have all my sympathies (as a random person on the internet, I know). I can definitely envision that having to deal with people remotely due to being unable to mask continues a dreadful pattern of othering and isolation, and I really appreciate that you have explicitly rejected the solution others have implied, that the immunocompromised and others should just die already.

        In conclusion, yeah, pandemics suck.

  14. June*

    I’ll pack my own stuff in boxes to move and I have. HARD no on being a mover. Why is your employer so cheap?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’m not even sure you can classify this as jargon. Jargon typically has a professional utility.

  15. Bex*

    LW5 – my mom gave me similar general advice waaaay back when I was first starting out. But from what I understood, she just used it as an estimate of level/involvement

    1. Bex*

      Sorry; didn’t finish sentence (gah). When she gave this advice folks got fixed vacation, with more going to those higher up the chain. So she always said if in doubt, look at yearly allotment for an idea of notice period to give.

    2. WS*

      Yes, my dad told me the same back in the early 90s, as a general rule of thumb for this situation.

    3. Karstmama*

      Yes, I’ve always heard this guideline, too. Southeastern US and I’m 53, if it matters.

    4. Perfectly Particular*

      In 80’s -90’s US context, it makes a ton of sense. Contractors weren’t as prevalent as they are now, and were more likely to be considered temporary, so no big loss if they left without notice. Entry level to mid level employees would have 2 weeks vacation, so two weeks notice. Managers and higher ups would have more to hand off, so 3-4 weeks might make sense for their notice period, and would likely align with their allotted vacation.

      Now, with contractors being used in critical roles, and entry level employees often starting with 3 weeks vacation, I don’t think the vacation/notice period alignment makes as much sense.

      1. anonymous73*

        I still don’t think it makes sense. You could give more notice if you’re at a higher level at the company, but vacation accrued doesn’t always equate to higher level. At every job I’ve had you accrue more vacation the longer you’ve been there. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been promoted.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yep. At my workplace there are entry-level staff who accrue more vacation than C-level staff.

    5. Snow Globe*

      I’ve never heard the “rule”, but that was my thought on the reasoning. When I started out around 1990, the more senior you were in the organization, the more vacation you got. But later on that did change to vacation being based solely on years worked with the organization, regardless of hierarchy, so that “rule” (if it existed) wouldn’t make sense today.

    6. doreen*

      I heard this way back , too and it was just a general idea of how much notice to give. It wasn’t meant to be so specific that you would give eight workdays notice if you got eight days vacation and seven if you got seven. It also to some extent was based on class – the people I heard this advice from lived in a world where there were of course, full-time jobs with no real paid vacation (for the purpose of this advice, being paid for the two weeks your employer closed didn’t count) , there really weren’t any jobs with more than three weeks vacation – and possibly most importantly, it was almost unheard of to voluntarily leave a job and certainly not more than once. So leaving with no notice from a job with no vacation wouldn’t be likely to cause problems later on.

    7. Nonprofit writer*

      I feel like this was in my employee handbook at my last employer (left in 2016). I don’t think they could hold you to it but it’s what they asked for.

      By the time I left I had 4 weeks vacation & I did give that much notice, but not so much because I thought I had to. I was leaving to become a freelance consultant so I wasn’t in a rush, I had enormous loyalty & love for my org & knew more time would be helpful to them, and I did want to keep getting paid for that month while getting my ducks in a row to launch my business. I also wanted to engender a lot of good will because I figured many of my colleagues could be good referrals for freelance work in the future (which turned out to be correct, fortunately!)

      But I think it would also have been fine if I’d given them 2 weeks notice—what could they do, after all?

    8. Let me clear my schedule for you*

      I think it would depend on your job. I’m only a pricing analyst, no manager duties, but my work is cyclical and repeats every month. I’d need that month to make sure someone could take over the entire job. My manager has no idea what I do.

    9. NYCRedhead*

      A colleague told me this (NYC, early 2000s, although she was from the South). I agree it makes sense but is not done in reality.

    10. Wonderer*

      Like many people have mentioned, this seems to have been a vague guideline back in the 80s and 90s. Since vacation days was related to seniority, I think it was a way to get across the idea that the longer you’ve been at a company, the more notice you should give them before leaving. You are likely to be less replaceable and more a core part of business plans, if you’ve been there for 20 years.

      The world has changed, though. Companies are only standing by their legal obligations, so employees are doing the same.

  16. AnotherLibrarian*

    #4: As someone who minored in historical linguistics in college, this would annoy me so much. False etymology drives me bonkers! And I think this sort of jargon distracts from actual changes that need to happen in society, but I agree with Alison that this isn’t worth wasting political capital on.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      How do you feel about the /s/ in “island”?

      But seriously, the problem with “herstory” even when used to make a point is that the implied false etymology jumps out. Anyone with a bit of French will spot it immediately. This in turn makes the word a distraction rather than pointed commentary.

      1. Raboot*

        > the implied false etymology jumps out.

        It’s literally just a portmanteau. Weird how other portmanteaus are not accused of misunderstanding etymologies.

        1. AnotherLibrarian*

          Yes, it is a portmanteau, but every time I’ve ever objected to it (largely because, as I said above I think it distracts from the actual issues) people argue History is sexist, because the word “history” comes from the same origins as “his”. I’ve been told that many times.

    2. Loulou*

      Wait, do you think the boss actually thinks the “his” in “history” comes from “his”? I see no reason to think that…boss sounds very silly, but she did not make up “herstory,” which has been a thing for like 50 years.

      1. Observer*

        She didn’t make it up, but I do think she probably misunderstands it. Because Femtor is just bonkers. If the OP hadn’t translated that one, I don’t think I would have understood what it meant. The people who joked about Female Dementors really resonated. That’s what it sounds like to me.

    3. Raboot*

      It’s not the case that the argument is “history contains his, etymologically”. It’s more along the lines of “history is male focused, let’s inject some female focus”. You don’t have to use it but it is a little tiring that folks keep objecting to etymological claims that aren’t there.

  17. Lobsterman*

    LW1: This can’t be the first sign that your employer has committed to a death spiral. It’s fine to tell them, “It’s her or me, make the call,” but then they’re gonna pick her.
    Update your resume, get out, pop popcorn, and watch from a safe distance.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      The boss’s PhD or lack of one is not the problem here. OP #1 worrying about this is like being on the sinking Titanic and worrying about your new evening gown getting wet. The actual problem is that the ship is sinking.

    2. the cat's ass*

      This entire job sounds full of bees. Time to update the resume, job hunt and BAIL!

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      The PhD or lack thereof has nothing to do with any of this. The problem is that your workplace is a mess, and you need to decide if you can stay or if you need to leave. You can control what you do; not what your boss (or the company) does. The company is a mess. It’s a mess because no one will address important issues…so they’re not going to address this either.

    4. Sara without an H*

      “…our grandboss is bad, our head of HR left, and tons of senior management are leaving, which means our company is generally a hot mess.

      OP#1, why are you still there? Whether or not your boss has an earned Ph.D. is irrelevant. What’s relevant is that she’s a bad manager in a badly managed organization. Update your resume (lots of good advice in the AAM archives), make sure your LinkedIn entry is current, and start working your network. The only solution to this mess is distance.

  18. Emmy Noether*

    My work moved once and we weren’t allowed to do anything! Apparently insurance wouldn’t cover us if we hurt ourselves doing things not in our job description.

    It was awesome! Left the office one evening and came back to the same office in a different building two days later. They even plugged the mouse back in, everything was ready to go! Magical.

    1. allathian*

      I’ve switched offices about 5 times during my 15 years at my current job. Each time, we were expected to pack and unpack the boxes, but a moving company moved the boxes from one office to another. Our office building is from the early 1980s, so long corridors and small rooms. Most rooms have 2 or 3 desks.

      1. UKDancer*

        I’ve moved offices twice in different companies and each time we were each given a small box for our personal items (things like pens and mugs and photos) and asked to pack it and leave it on our desk with a label bearing our name. It would then magically appear in the new location and we could unpack it. It was made clear we were not to pack or lift office equipment because that was something that they were paying professionals for.

        I thought this was very sensible.

      2. KRM*

        Yep, we packed our own stuff in crates, and put labels on everything (equipment, the crates, chairs) indicating where they needed to end up, and done and done. Came in Friday to make sure everything was ready to go, ate company provided pizza, then everyone showed up Monday at the new place with stuff ready to unpack in place.

    2. Bronze Betty*

      A friend (a 6′ 5″ strapping guy, then in his 30’s) got a minor scolding for carrying his boxed-up personal items (I think 1-2 boxes) from his desk when moving to a new office in the same building. Similar office policy–it wasn’t in his job description and was to be handled by those who did have that job description (maintenance staff, or whatever they were called).

      1. ecnaseener*

        Interesting! That must have been before the trend of including “carry up to 50 lbs” in every random job description.

    3. mreasy*

      Unfortunately I have moved offices with 3 companies that required me to help – and I mean, rolling up dusty cords and packing and moving heavy boxes and everything in between. And in fact I quit my last job before a big move for this reason. Thankfully I now work for companies who can afford movers. But it is truly awful.

      1. Raine*

        Yeah. I had to put a hard stop on my bosses when they wanted to have my coworkers pack more than their cubicles because I’ve seen what happens if someone has a workers’ compensation claim related to moving, and I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. So glad that my bosses listened and let me hire professional movers to pack our stuff. Not only did they get it done over a weekend, but they moved two large conference room tables and countless boxes of heavy books.
        People who think, “oh, it’s just a few boxes of stuff; it’s not furniture” aren’t thinking of repetitive motion or back injuries, employee morale, or what the real cost of not using professional movers is. They tend to be people, too, who don’t know you can hire a mover to pack your stuff and assume it’s just the *moving* piece that they should pay for.

  19. Despachito*

    The boss without a PhD – I second the opinion that it is a red herring, and that the real problem is that she is a nightmare manager. (And, as someone pointed out, there is still a possibility that she did publish things under a different name).

    (Makes me think about Mike Ross from the Suits – if she was otherwise brilliant, no one would probably care/investigate in such a depth.

    1. CatBookMom*

      May I just say, as having suffered 3-4yrs under a new manager who was an actual Big Deal LAWYER, and actually not all that bad in his technical field, but knew nothing about managing people or a dept, it’s not just the possible lack of academic or technical expertise, but the lack of managerial expertise which may be the bigger problem, as the LW has pointed out. We had a smoothly operating department, but when Lawyer came into the chief post, he figured all of the department staff were each able/willing to manage all the deadlines, monitor their own deliverables, yada, so wanted to unwind the working structure. Because he couldn’t be arsed to follow up as needed. I left before it got wholly out of control.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t think this is just a lack of managerial expertise. Wanting people to attend a scammy, predatory conference, for example – that is simply poor judgment, and would be poor judgment even if the boss planned to attend herself rather than ask her reports to. It would be poor judgment even if she had no reports at all.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      To be clear, I don’t think the LW thinks the degree is itself a big problem. She’s wondering if she can use it as a way to get the manager removed, because she knows there are bigger problems.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I think my concern about going that route (especially with someone new to the organization) is that it’s going to come across as petty or personal versus an actual work-related problem. Like you said in your response, the real problem is the horrible management, and I think if OP1 comes at that from the credentials angle, it’s going to make them look bad (or at least not great) right off the bat and like they are focused on the wrong things at work. This place sounds full of bees, and I’d rather invest my energy in a job search rather than a background check on Bad Boss’s PhD.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          I think this sort of gambit has worked historically if a) the lying on the CV is obvious and b) it’s about someone with a public persona, big enough to get a journalist interested. I remember the case of a medical researcher who was running statistically dodgy and therefore medically unjustifiable clinical trials, but the statisticians who pointed it out publicly were ignored… until someone dug around his CV and found he had claimed to have received a prestigious fellowship that he definitely hadn’t. That’s when the hammer actually fell. (And the statisticians were a bit miffed about it – after all, it wasn’t the lying on the CV that put patients at peril…)

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            I meant to add: in the case at hand, it’s all too murky. I agree with Alison that the more promising line is to focus on her being a bad manager.

  20. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP4: my boss absolutely refuses to use my title of ‘Mrs’ and will call me ‘Ms’ on anything that requires my full name, or in speech. It’s her own belief that ‘Mrs’ is outdated and unfeminist and it does irk me.

    I am a feminist, just one who prefers being called Mrs.

    She won’t stop, I can’t change her, it’s too minor to go complain about. I kinda just internally sigh a bit now.

    1. Julia*

      Out of curiosity, when is there ever occasion to use your title in speech? Do people in your office call each other by their last names?

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Quite often, but it’s done in a light hearted manner, kinda jokingly. ‘Mr Gatekeeper raises a good point’ etc. it’s just the culture here.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      That’s so presumptuous of her. Does it happen a lot? I’ve never worked anywhere where people go around calling their peers Mrs/Ms/Mr at all, let alone randomly re-titling them!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Probably should’ve mentioned that the general joking around culture here is to call people by their title and last name. It’s meant friendly, she’s not actually being insulting by doing it. Just I don’t want to be called ‘Ms’.

        Although fair play I use words you won’t find in a dictionary a lot as well. Creative swearing – invent your own language.

        1. ecnaseener*

          In a way, that makes it even weirder – it’s meant to be friendly and semi-ironic, but she still can’t bring herself to use your preference for your own name?

          1. pancakes*

            Yeah – she’s using ostensibly friendly conversation as a chance to get in a little dig. It’s weird and would annoy me.

            1. NotRealAnonForThis*

              Agreed. That turns what should be a light-hearted joke into a backhanded insult, doesn’t it?

    3. Bagpuss*

      That’s really obnoxious. I default to using ‘Ms’ if I don’t know someone female presenting’s preferred title, but once I know a person’s preference that’s what I use – I’m not a fan of either Miss or Mrs, but I don’t get to decide anyone’s name but my own.

      Same with using first name or a more formal form of address. I will do either – You can call me Bagpuss or Ms. Lastname, but if you want me to address you as Mr/Ms Smith, then you can address me as Ms Lastname.

      I did make an issue of it when our accountants produced our partnership accounts – all the men were listed just as J Smith / R Jones etc. I was Miss B. Lastname.

      I’m not a Miss. And it’s irrelevant to the accounts what gender any of us are.

      My (then) senior partner huffed a bit and didn’t want to say anything to them, and pulled the ‘but the other women don’t mind’ and I was annoyed enough to point out that it was both sexist and inaccurate and *I* wasn’t comfortable signing off on the accounts when it was incorrect, and that I was happy to have that conversation with the accountant myself if he didn’t want to, and if the other women were happy with it as it was they were free to appear with a title of they wanted. (It also pissed me off as I raised it when we got the draft accounts, there were some amendments and corrections needed in any event so they were always going to need to update the draft, it wasn’t that everything else was perfect and I was causing a delay.

      He backed down and we were all shown simply with our initials and surnames after that.

    4. Brightwanderer*

      Gah, I hate this. Feminism means giving women the right to choose and respecting their choices, FFS.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      I get the opposite. I hate Mrs. with the fire of a thousand suns, and getting mail addressed to Mrs. John Jones (my mother and MIL are the worst offenders on this) will send me into full-on flames-on-my-face mode.

      One of my kids’ teachers told them it was “disrespectful to a woman’s husband” to call her Ms. I told them it was disrespectful to not abide by someone’s preference and that they should call the teacher Mrs. Teacher, but listen to how people introduce themselves and take the cue from that.

      Honestly, my kids’ schools are the only places I hear a lot of Mrs. any more. I live in a Miss/Mr. FirstName for kids culture, and nearly everyone I work with professionally is either FirstName or Mr./Ms. I think it’s only in the past five years or so the schools went from Miss to Ms. for the unmarried teachers.

    6. Ali + Nino*

      That would annoy me too. I’m also a feminist – who chose to take my husband’s last name. Deal!

    7. JamminOnMyPlanner*

      I don’t know if it’s a southern thing? But when I say it out loud, ever since childhood, I always say it like “miss.” Never “missus.” I hope I haven’t been offending people this whole time!

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        I’m getting pretty old. I was raised as a Southerner. Before I ever heard of feminism, I learned that calling an adult woman “Mzz. Lastname” tended to satisfy both married and single women. Their minds filled in the blanks to their preferred title. If they thought of it at all, they probably assumed I was just one of those lazy hicks who couldn’t be bothered with the difference in pronunciation between “Miss” and “Mrs.”

        Even so, I would make the extra effort to address Keymaster as “Mrs,” because I respect her.

        1. SnappinTerrapin*

          By the way, I have heard schoolteachers pronounce “Mrs.” as “Missus,” “Mizriz” and “Mizziz.”

          I noticed, as a child, that Jed Clampett addressed the wife of his banker/neighbor as “Mzz. Drysdale.” That was what I heard my family saying as well.Certainly not a universal practice in the South, but pretty widespread.

          I also grew up referring to the person who delivered the mail as a “letter carrier,” rather than a “mailman” or “postman.” Reckon my grandparents were ahead of their time.

    8. tamarack and fireweed*

      Hum, I don’t know… I understand that you prefer Mrs if given a choice, but at the same time a more inclusive choice shouldn’t be discouraged. It’s like I go by she/her pronouns, but obviously they is fine, whereas for someone whose pronouns are they/them she would *not* be fine. Putting the onus on women to keep Misses and Mrses sorted when there is Ms available, and for men Mr is always ok … plus Mx for NB/genderqueer folks seems a bit much to me.

  21. TechWorker*

    #1 – I really question the assumption that obtaining a PhD in maths/physics (or, in anything tbh) would make someone a better manager or generally ‘more competent’ than someone without. Yes, it’s a big achievement, but unless the job is extremely technical, the skill set required to succeed at work is generally different.

    I work with people where maybe 50% have a bachelors, 25% a masters and 25% a PhD. The PhD ones are slightly older and more mature when they start, so sometimes do well but long term you can’t really tell the difference, and I’ve also met some pretty intelligent people with impressive PhDs who weren’t very competent at all :p

    1. Green great dragon*

      I don’t think that is the assumption – I think LW just sees it as a possible lever with which to evict their boss, who is terrible for other reasons.

    2. JM in England*

      My field is scientific and one of the earliest unwritten rules I learned when starting is that people with PhDs automatically make better managers. In all my jobs to date, department directors and other high level roles tended to be filled with PhDs

      1. Firstname*

        I suspect that a deep understanding of a field and of the priorities of staff helps to make a better manager in that field. In technical fields a PhD from that area is usually a good indication of that level of field specific expertise. There’s also the fact that once something becomes a norm it can quickly become a requirement even if that doesn’t make sense. So there’s an expectation for a PhD even I’d it actually isn’t that important for that role. My personal experience doesn’t match PhD = good manager.

        It’s entirely possible that PhDs are over-represented in the good manager books, but I can’t imagine the numbers are so high that bad manager would call into question the legitimacy of your PhD.

        1. TechWorker*

          Yeah it probably does vary by field; but I agree with Firstname – that has absolutely not been my experience! There might be some correlation between ‘really good technical people’ and ‘PhDs’ (even then I’m not sure I see that in my little corner of the org); but I definitely see no correlation between PhDs and good management…

      2. Blue Horizon*

        It’s unwritten for a reason. “Men make better managers” is also a fairly strong unwritten rule in a lot of fields. Just because (almost) everybody in the field believes it doesn’t make it true.

        It is true that being a manager in that field requires you to know how to manage scientists (who can be rather… unique at times) and being one yourself or having a Ph.D. may help with that. On the other hand, a lot of skills that are important for managers aren’t all that highly valued by scientists. Sometimes a non-scientist with the right skills and ability to work well with people can do very well in scientific management – if they can manage to get the role in the first place.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      I used to know a person with a Ph.D. in mathematics: not merely in math, but in a particularly abstruse corner of top0logy, of the sort that makes eyes glaze over even among Ph.D. mathematicians. She was brilliant. She also was a walking disaster area, combining terrible social skills with a complete lack of common sense. I knew her in the context of a group where eccentricity was pretty normal, but she was a far outlier. I remember in particular an event where it came out that she had made no provisions for getting home. The rest of us put our heads together and figured it out. She was regarded as a Holy Fool, and more to the point, Our Holy Fool, so we took care of her. She went through a series of academic jobs where she was hired because she was brilliant and then fired because putting her in front of students was completely untenable. In at least one case the school bought her contract out.

      So yeah, the idea that a Ph.D. makes someone in any way competent in any broad sense doesn’t fly. It is patently absurd.

      1. Metadata minion*

        Yep, cosigned. Having a PhD makes you competent in *very specific* fields, and also gives you a good chance of being competent in the arena of academic politics once you’ve been there for a while. I work in an academic library and all my best terrible/hapless patron stories are about tenured professors, not students. And some of them are reputedly *excellent* teachers, just apparently not good at anything else.

      2. Blue Horizon*

        Agreed. I think it’s actually negatively correlated with management ability, because the kind of people you describe are often over-represented in Ph.D. programs. (I was actually reading through all the descriptions of her terrible management and thinking “Yep, sounds like a lot of Ph.Ds. I’ve known”).

        There is also a tendency for some the private sector to treat Ph.Ds. with undue reverence, as though they are a proven genius in every field rather than a specialist in (typically) incredibly narrow and specific field of no relevance to almost anything. Some Ph.Ds. are also predisposed to believe this themselves, and it can result in a kind of unhealthy co-dependence. PhDs. with no real clue about their subject matter who were nonetheless revered by their team used to be some of the most challenging clients for me.

        Of course there are plenty of exceptions (I’d like to think I am one) but I’m inclined to agree that the Ph.D. is a red herring in this case.