exec keeps asking what we’ve learned today, coworker wants too much help, and more

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

1. New exec keeps asking, “What have you learned today?”

I work for a small company, which is going through changes and the CEO has brought in additional executives. They seem nice, and there’s one who is very personable, but she likes to ask probing questions like, “What have you learned today?” or “How have you grown?” I’m getting the impression that this might be a regular question.

As stupid as this sounds, how do I answer this? When I first started, of course I learned things every day and grew in my job. But now, the work I do is fairly routine and it doesn’t usually change. There’s always been a small level of toxic positivity here, so I don’t want to come across as being negative or not a team player, but I feel at a loss in how to answer those questions, especially if they’re asked on a regular basis where giving the same answer over and over will be seen as being negative/not a team player.

What an obnoxious question to ask regularly, especially of someone she doesn’t manage. There are many jobs where you’re not learning something new every single day.

It’s hard to give suggestions without knowing what kind of work you do, but ideally you’d try to come up with something related to your job, even if it’s small. For example, even if you did very routine data entry, you might be able to say, “I’m looking for a faster way to manage X in the database” or “I tracked down an error that had been throwing off our reports all month.” These aren’t exactly “things you learned today” but answering with something you achieved or are working on will probably satisfy her. If you really run out of responses, though, I don’t think it’s out of bounds to say, “This was a productivity day more than a learning day” or even (as long as you say it cheerfully) “I’ll have to think about that and get back to you.”

Hopefully one day her learning will be that she should stop repeating that question.

2. My coworker leans on me for too much help

My coworker, Meg, was hired two months after I started at a company in an equal role to me. I trained her, but it has now been eight months and she still needs a lot of help. It can get frustrating because she’s been there quite a bit longer now than I was when I started training her. (I do have more direct experience in this field, but she says she has education/experience in a related field.) She has difficulty problem solving and will immediately ask me for help before trying to solve something herself. I don’t want her to be afraid to ask me questions but I also don’t want to solve every problem she has for her. For example, she might ask me what someone else means in an email and I will say, “I’m not sure, you’ll have to ask person who’s sending you email to be more clear.” I’ve also said things like, “When I’m learning something, I try to figure it out myself before I ask for help because that helps me remember it next time” (which is true). She also has trouble understanding and remembering a lot of industry lingo and has poor attention to detail and presentation skills. Along with solving her problems, I also don’t want to be editing or redoing her work. I have pointed out errors to her in things we we’re working on together, but sometimes I find it easier just to fix it myself.

I think Meg is aware of how she’s doing and notices me getting more responsibility and important tasks. She’s mentioned that she thinks our boss doesn’t like her and she is fairly insecure. If I do point out an error she’s made, she’ll ask if I’m mad at her when I’m not, but it needs to be fixed. I have no idea what to do. She’s always well intentioned and is a nice person but I find her exhausting to be around (both professionally and personally, but that is a tale for another day). Any advice for me?

It’s time for a more direct conversation about what kind of support you can and can’t provide. So far you’ve been taking a pretty light touch and Meg isn’t hearing the message, so you’ll need to get more straightforward about it. For example, “when I’m learning something, I try to figure it out myself before I ask for help because that helps me remember it next time” is a very indirect hint. Should she have picked up the message there? Sure! But she didn’t. So instead you’ll need to tell her directly what you want her to change.

For example: “I was available to help train you when you first started, but now that we’re eight months in I’m not going to be available to continue helping. If you run into questions or need help, you should talk with (boss).” And then you have to reinforce that by not being available if she continues to come to you for help and repeating, “I’m not sure, you should talk to (boss)” or “I can’t help right now, you should talk to (boss)” or “Sorry, I can’t help — I’m swamped today.”

It sounds like you should talk to your boss yourself, too, and explain how often you’ve been editing or redoing Meg’s work. Your boss should want to know that’s happening! In fact, she can’t manage her effectively if she doesn’t know — and by stepping in to fix Meg’s work, you might actually be hiding the problem from your boss and preventing her from knowing about the work she needs to do as Meg’s manager.

3. Four hours notice required when calling in sick

My wife works in a health care setting. The operation runs 24 hours but her position is administrative and works the traditional 9 to 5. In order to meet state safety standards, a certain number of employees must be present on each of the wards (think: nurses, health care professionals). My wife does not fall into this count as her work is with insurance agencies.

My wife is also a long-time sufferer of migraines. While this is generally well-managed with medications, she occasionally will wake up incapacitated and cannot work.

In the past year, she’s been spoken to twice by her manager, Amy, about the company’s call-in policy. Apparently, they require four hours notice anytime an employee cannot make it to work. In the case of my wife, she’d need to know by 5 am each day that she can’t work. That’s nearly impossible because she’s fast asleep.

I assume that this policy is in place because for some of the positions in the organization a replacement must be obtained for that day’s operation, and that could possibly take some time. My wife’s work doesn’t fall into this category, as it’s behind-the-scenes and not patron facing. She’s now been spoken to twice about the policy and cannot see how she can reasonably know when she’s asleep that she’s going to wake up with a migraine. On at least one occasion, my wife went into the office and left almost immediately as this seemed to circumvent the notice issue.

Does this seem reasonable to you? Conversations with her manager don’t seem to yield any change, but my sense is that Amy is just following company policy and that her hands are tied.

No, it’s not reasonable. I’m not sure how it’s reasonable even for people whose presence does count toward state safety standards since they’re essentially requiring that you wake up at least four hours before any shift. I’m sure they’d like four hours notice for those shifts, but that doesn’t mean it’s reasonable to require it.

In your wife’s case, it makes even less sense. Are there consequences to getting spoken to for violating the policy — a certain number of strikes or anything like that? If not, she might need to accept Amy is just going through the motions as required when she reminds her of the policy. But if there are any real repercussions, she might try rounding up some coworkers who feel similarly and all pushing back on it as a group, asking precisely how the organization expects them to comply for morning hours.

4. Leg-shaking coworker

I work in an earthquake-safe building which means that the floor shakes anytime someone walks by.

I have a coworker who sits on the other side of my cubicle who shakes his leg while he’s working, which shakes the floor. It’s making me nuts! Do you have a way for me to ask him to stop? Or do I need to grin and bear it?

You can try! Sometimes that kind of movement is unconscious and hard to control, but it’s reasonable to ask. You could say, “You probably aren’t aware of it, but when you shake your leg the floor vibrates and it’s pretty distracting! I’d be grateful if you could stop.”

5. How long should I wait to befriend someone I manage once I’m no longer her supervisor?

Sometime in the next month or so, a person I supervise will be moved into a new org chart and have a new supervisor, as our company undergoes a restructure. The person I supervise, “Susan,” and I have maintained professional boundaries throughout the three years I’ve been her supervisor. We both are on board with the changes as our employer is embarking on, they are much needed and overdue changes. We are fortunate in that we truly love the overall department we work in and want it to succeed.

Now Susan has expressed a desire to begin a friendship after I am no longer her supervisor. I support trading the supervisor work boundaries for friendship boundaries. We get along great, live less than five miles from each other, and share a similar sense of humor. Is there a period of time I should wait before becoming Susan’s friend and getting coffee with her on the weekend?

Wait a few weeks to give her some space to settle into her new job, but after that there’s no reason not to get coffee or otherwise socialize! Assume, though, that it’s most likely to be a gradual transition to friendship boundaries, rather than an instant switch. It would probably be a little weird to go from evaluating her work one day to sharing marital problems the next.

{ 514 comments… read them below }

  1. Pickle Pizza*

    LW 1: I would start responding with, “Why do you ask?”. She’s not even your supervisor, so really, why IS she asking?

    1. A Person*

      I’ve seen advice for supervisors that asking “what have you learned today/this week/this month” regularly can be a way to encourage employees to reflect on how they’re developing their skills, or get them to focus more on learning new things, etc. However, it’s usually in the context of 1-on-1s with someone who directly reports to you.

      My guess is that the executive may have seen a similar tip and is now deploying it a bit too enthusiastically…

      1. Resolutely Rach*

        I would be tempted to reply with an example as Alison gave, then say -And were you looking to share your learning, also?

        To put them on the spot gently.

        1. Claire*

          I would definitely be tempted to end my reply with “And what about you? What did you learn today?”

          1. Ross*

            After a few times, it would be difficult for me not to answer, “that I’m going to have to come up with an answer to this question regularly.”

            1. Petty Betty*

              Yeah, I’d be extremely snarky about this after the second day in a row. It feels so… condescendingly patronizing. I am not a child. I don’t need to be coached or prompted into learning exercises at work in order to teach *you* your new position. If you want to learn, ask better questions.

              1. Clorinda*

                It’s fairly standard for an exit ticket or reflection at the end of a class period in a teaching/learning situation. I wonder if this supervisor has a background in education and is inappropriately using teacher techniques on people who are not, at the moment, students.

      2. Vio*

        I learned that if you have a bad memory you can learn the same new thing every day! Wait, did I tell you I have a bad memory? I can’t remember

    2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      I’d be so tempted to say, “To play well with others, Miss Jones” in a childlike voice. And I’d have to try really hard not to ask for a graham cracker.

      1. Koalafied*

        Thank you! My exact reaction to that question was, “That’s what my parents used to ask me when I got home from elementary school.”

        By the time I was in high school even they understood I wasn’t learning something new every single school day.

        1. Petty Betty*

          “I must always check my shoes when leaving the restroom. And always make sure my clothes aren’t tucked into my underpants!”

          Oh, wait. I learned that when I was 4. Never mind.

        2. JustaTech*

          My grandfather’s version was “what have you accomplished today?” which is even harder than “what did you learn” or “what did you do”.
          It’s not remembered super fondly by my aunts and uncles.

          (As an occasional question, sure, but every day? “I accomplished homeostasis” – ie, I’m not dead yet.)

        3. Books and Cooks*

          I asked my daughters that question pretty much every school day until they hit high school, whereupon it morphed into, basically, “Did you do anything interesting today, or learn anything interesting?” I think I can count on one hand the number of times I got a decent answer from it, sigh, but I kept (keep–my youngest is about to start her senior year in high school) hoping.

          The sad part is that I originally thought it was a great question to ask, reinforcing their learning, keeping track of where they were, showing the interest in them and their education that my parents never showed…I gave up on that after a few years, but kept asking because they expected it (and it was just a way to start a conversation about their day[s] in general).

    3. Indigo Five Alpha*

      Honestly, I’d share something minor and then say and what about you? Every single time.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        There are “Today I Learned” threads on the internet that seem made for this question.

        Today I Learned bubble wrap was originally designed to be wallpaper.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          My love of reading & trivia would make my answers… very interesting. You have no idea how excited I was to learn that the hippopotamus’ most closely related living relative is probably the whale.

          1. Anon all day*

            In the before times, when we were still in-person, I totally had the reputation of letting people know random trivia every now and then. It’s just interesting! The other day, I learned that Eeyore, the name for the donkey in Winnie the Pooh, fits in with all of the other animal names because with some English accents, it’s the sound a donkey makes (like hee haw is in American English). The “r” isn’t pronounced, so it’s more like ee-aw. I told like five people that day.

          2. Lucy Skywalker*

            I never knew that!
            Currently, my favorite trivia bits are:

            Queen Anne’s Lace is a wild carrot. If you grow carrots and let them flower, they will look just like Queen Anne’s Lace! (Be careful, though: don’t just eat any Queen Anne’s lace you see in the woods or park, because there’s some wild plants that look like carrots but are poisonous. Carrots have fuzzy stems and the poisonous plant has a smooth stem.)

            By now, most people know that birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs. But did you know that dinosaurs had feathers, too? The “terrible lizards” in the Jurassic Park movies never really existed. They were actually less like giant iguanas and more like giant eagles.

            The city of Boston was once a peninsula connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land. The peninsula used to have several hills that were dug up in the 19th century and used to fill in the water along the shore line. The wharf where the Boston Tea Party occurred is now a city street, with nothing but a metal sign on a building acknowledging that it is the location of the historical event.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              I have never been to Boston. My knowledge of its geography comes mostly from reading Revolutionary War histories. I once looked at a modern map and wondered where the peninsula was.

              1. The OTHER Other*

                Almost 20% of Boston (more, if you count immediate suburbs) was made by landfill. In the Prudential building (or it might have been the Hancock tower, it’s been a long time since I’ve done tourist attractions) there’s a map showing the gradual growth of the peninsula/city superimposed over the old harbor and surrounding marshland. The observation area also has maps showing you what the view from the various angles looked like many years ago. Back Bay was mostly swamp until they filled it in after the Civil War. It went from swampy to swanky pretty quickly.

            2. Claire*

              Well, we do have a whole Tea Party museum and a replica of the ship right down the street.

              1. Books and Cooks*

                I’m so glad to hear this, because the idea that nothing commemorated the BTP except a plaque on some office building really depressed me!

            3. My Useless 2 Cents*

              Random trivia is where my mind went too as answer for this question. My brain is filled with random bits of trivia and I don’t know where I learned half of it. I always say “If it’s useless, it sticks. If if becomes useful, it disappears.”

              *Technically, both STAIR and YOU are plural (singular is step and thou)
              *Flamingos are pink because of their diet
              *People used to think tomatoes were poisonous because the acid content would leach lead from their dishes

              1. Former Gifted Kid*

                Interesting about the last one. I always heard that Europeans were suspicious of tomatoes because they could tell tomatoes are in the nightshade family and deadly nightshade (also called belladonna) is quite poisonous. BUT I just looked it up and apparently it is a little of both. People were concerned because it looked like nightshade and then a couple people died (from lead poisoning) after eating them off of pewter plates and so they came to the conclusion that tomatoes were poisonous.

              2. Elizabeth I*

                My understanding is that “You” and “Thou” are actually different second person pronouns, with “Thou” being the informal and “You” being the formal (just like “tu” vs. “usted” in Spanish). Over time, the formal version (“you”) became the standard in English and the informal “thou” fell away.

                Both could be used in either singular or plural (again, just like in Spanish – “usted” becomes “ustedes” when pluralized), though I believed “you” is used for both singular and plural. I think “thou” might have more forms for plural vs. singular.

                1. Migraine Month*

                  It’s really interesting to me that the King James Bible uses “thou” for the Lord, and I wonder if that is why so many people now think that “thou” was the formal tense.

                  (I’m a Quaker, and we used to piss people off by saying “thee” and “thou” to everyone, even lords and kings. Also refusing to pay taxes, after which the community became *very interested* in prison conditions. Coincidence, I’m sure.)

              3. Lenora Rose*

                That’s why a bunch of stairs* is a staircase (like a bookcase, but for stairs).

                * Which despite its plural origin is the modern plural for stair, because regularization of irregulars is a common thing. The original plural for shoes was shoen (Shoe-un or Shoon depending on era and person), but outside of a select few friends if I say shoen, people just look confused.

            4. Scarlet Magnolias*

              Spoiler!
              Dinosaurs and feathers! Like the creature that eats Meryl Streep’s head in Don’t Look UP

            5. IndoorKitty*

              More fun facts to deploy:
              At the time the great pyramids were being built, there were still wooly mammoths in some parts of the world.

              When our fingers get wrinkly in water, it’s not because our skin has absorbed water, it’s a nerve function. We know this because people with nerve damage in their hands do not get wrinkly fingers in water. It’s probably an evolution thing to give us better gripping power on wet surfaces.

              1. Pomegranate*

                The wet fingers fact just blew my mind! thanks for sharing. Now I have a good answer if someone asks me what I learned today.

                1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  I’m just gonna be hoping someone asks me that question before I forget about wrinkles giving gripping power!

            6. quill*

              Also carrots are related to wild parsnips/hog parsnips, which can give you chemical burns! Don’t pick the umbellifers, people.

          3. Richard Hershberger*

            My interest in early baseball makes this easily weaponized. I work to avoid boring people with this stuff, but I would make an exception in this case.

          4. LunaLena*

            Ooooh I’m a huge trivia geek so I love this idea! One I learned recently is that the word avocado derives from the Spanish word “aguacate,” and a mispronunciation of that is why some people call them alligator pears. “Aguacate” itself is a corruption of the Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs) word “āhuacatl,” which means “testicle,” which is what they called avocados because… well, look at them.

          5. allathian*

            I often say that my mind is like flypaper, you never know what crap’ll stick to it.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I’d go for the trivia in John Oliver’s rants.
        For example in his sequence on GHG emissions, he reiterates the well-known fact that cows produce a lot of methane when they fart.
        However, he then points out, they actually produce far more when they belch.
        He then pleads with the audience, that if they take one fact away from that sequence, please don’t let it be that silly fact…

        (My excuse is that, as a paid-up member of Greenpeace since the 70s, I did already know the other facts he imparted)

    4. Airy*

      Hit her with a random piece of trivia each time. She didn’t say it had to be about your job.

      1. Gingerblue*

        “Do you know about the Wrangel Island mammoths?!? Well buckle up, Irene, because you’re one of today’s lucky ten thousand!!!”

        1. ceiswyn*

          Ooh, ooh, I did, I did!

          I like to hit people with the salt deposits under the Mediterranean.

        2. A Simple Narwhal*

          Well this inspired me to google Wrangel Island Mammoths and dang, that’s fascinating!

        3. Beebis*

          I learned about the mammoths after finding out that an indigenous Alaskan woman named Ada Blackjack survived for 2 years there alone after she took a job as a ship cook on a poorly planned expedition that didn’t pan out. she was the only one that survived the ship getting stranded on the island

      2. Mimi*

        That was my first thought as well. There’s got to be a webpage or app which sends you a tidbit of trivia each day.

          1. Jora Malli*

            Get a dictionary app that does word of the day. Bonus points if the dictionary is for a different language.

      3. SunriseRuby*

        I’d be tempted to shrug my shoulders, sigh, and quote from Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming”: “The best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

        I guess I wouldn’t recommend doing that, but I’d sure long to do it if I were confronted with the question.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Poetry provides endless possibilities. What did I learn today? That Chicago is Hog Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler; Stormy, husky, brawling, What about you? What did you learn today?

        2. Scarlet Magnolias*

          Put an otherworldly look on my face and quote
          “The moon was a ghostly galleon
          tossed upon a stormy sea
          And the Highwayman came riding, riding
          up to the old Inn door”
          Quite a bit shortened

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            There is an inn, a merry old inn
            beneath an old grey hill,
            And there they brew a beer so brown
            That the Man in the Moon himself came down
            One night to drink his fill.

            1. wendelenn*

              The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
              Of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee
              The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
              When the skies of November turn gloomy

          2. Lenora Rose*

            The wind was a torrent of darkness
            among the gusty trees*
            and the moon was a ghostly galleon,
            tossed upon a cloudy sea
            The road was a ribbon of moonlight
            over the purple moor,
            And the highwayman came riding, riding, riding,
            the highwayman came riding,
            up to the old inn door.

            (*Trees was the only word I had to look up, because my mind blanked on a useful terrain feature that could rhyme with sea. And I could keep going, likely with no other blanks once the story gets rolling along, though only because Loreena McKennitt put it to music. I memorize lyrics faster than poetry, though I memorize poetry faster if there’s a storyline.)

        3. JustaTech*

          In a solitude of sea,
          Deep from human vanity
          and the pride of life that planned her
          stilly couches she.

          Steel chambers late the pyres
          of her salamadrine fires,
          cold currents thrid
          and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.

          (Convergence of the Twain, lines on the loss of the Titanic)

          1. Lenora Rose*

            I thought memorizing a poem with “helically” in the first line was getting into geeky language. “Salamandrine” beats that out entirely for really cool word I hadn’t heard (well, read) before.

            (The worm drives helically through the wood
            and does not know the sudt left in the bore
            once made the table integral and good
            and suddenly, the crystal hits the floor.

            Electrons make their paths in subtle ways
            A massless eddy in a veil of smoke
            The names of lovers, light of other days
            Perhaps you will not miss them. That’s the joke.

            The universe winds down. That’s how it’s made.
            But memory is everything to lose
            And although the colours have to fade
            Do not believe you’ll get the chance to choose.

            Regret, by definition, comes too late.
            Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.

            – John M. Ford, “Against Entropy”)

      4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Honestly, that might work really well. It could be that said exec is just a little awkward and doesn’t really understand/know how to bond with colleagues; she might have heard someone else use this and think that its clever.

    5. Allonge*

      That might be a bit too blunt for a high-level exec, but I would recommend that once this has been going on for at least a month, OP asks something like ‘I was wondering what you get out of this / what kind of answers you expect – I do feel puzzled by the question sometimes as I am familiar with my job and don’t necessarily learn something new every day’.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I like this. It feels like an attempt to bring this practice of hers to a close. While I get it- that there can be a desire to say something funny/snarky, I don’t think that will get her to stop. To me, the goal would be to get her to stop.

        The longer a person is at a job the longer it takes to find something new to conquer. I think I would point this out. And ask her what her goal is with the question. If she seems persistent, I might conclude with the fact that I won’t have something every day or even every week and would she please stop asking me this.

        If that doesn’t work, then I think I would mention it to my boss and ask their help.

        1. Agnes*

          I agree. I think the level of vitriol in the comments in response to a question which is often appropriate and seems to be well-meaning is not good. Presumably it would also be offensive if she assumed that only people above x level in a company learned something new regularly.

          1. ecnaseener*

            I don’t understand the comparison you’re trying to make. No one’s saying she should only ask people above a certain level this question, they’re saying she should stop asking it to everyone at random times and putting them on the spot.

          2. somanyquestions*

            This isn’t an appropriate daily question at all to someone who is out of training. As part of a yearly review, sure, but as a daily question to everyone it is pandering and just weird.

            1. Observer*

              Yes, but Agnes is not saying that it makes sense to ask this every day. But the fact is that the question sometimes does make sense, so it’s sensible to start with an assumption of good intent and just ASK about it – and do so in a reasonable, non-snarky fashion.

          3. River Otter*

            And directing that vitriol at an executive? That’s what I like to call a career-limiting strategy.

            1. Yoyoyo*

              Yeah, there’s a tendency for commenters to write “well I would (insert snarky/rude thing here),” but that’s not really helpful for letter writers who are living in the real world with real consequences and not a fantasy. It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine. Like really, would you actually just say “NO.” to a higher up?

              1. Books and Cooks*

                I will never forget posting a chapter of a then-WIP on my blog, which involved a boss telling the MC (not unkindly) that although doing X task was not MC’s favorite thing, it was part of her job so she needed to do it, and having someone comment that they would have told said boss to “F off,” and the MC was a wimp for not doing so.

                I was like, seriously, you would do that? Because my character wanted to keep her job (and the plot revolved around said job to some degree), and afaik telling your boss to eff off is…kind of not how you keep a job. Have you really done that with your own boss, and if so, are you still employed? Are we really at a point where it’s “wimpy” to do the thing you agreed to do and are well-paid for doing, instead of refusing and cussing at your boss when s/he reminds you that it’s required? This is supposed to be the real world here, and last time I checked, being “strong” enough to profanely insult one’s boss when asked to do the TPS reports is a good way to find oneself submitting reports to the Unemployment Agency instead.

                (I didn’t reply to the comment, but I made a mental note to grain-of-salt that person’s feedback/comments in future, because either they wanted to read the kinds of characters and stories I don’t write, or their idea of appropriate behavior for adults living in society was just too far from mine to be useful.)

      2. Observer*

        ibut I would recommend that once this has been going on for at least a month, OP asks something like ‘I was wondering what you get out of this / what kind of answers you expect – I do feel puzzled by the question sometimes as I am familiar with my job and don’t necessarily learn something new every day’.

        If the exec is a decent person, this is a good question and should be asked in a genuine fashion. Because it really does matter.

    6. Archangelsgirl (FKA)*

      I learned that the sunrise over the field across from my house is slightly tinged with orange after the rain
      I learned that my puppy cuddles with me longer if I sit at the other end of the couch
      I learned that my grown up son is good at renovating and generous with his time in helping me.
      I learned that the burning feeling from stinging nettles takes 24 hours to dissipate

      These are all real things I learned yesterday.

      1. Beancat*

        This is such a pure and wholesome comment – it really makes me consider what I’m learning while not at work, too :)

          1. Hannah Lee*

            It IS poetry!

            Beautifully written and speaking to larger truths in life – the astounding beauty of every sunrise, that sometimes you have and give more joy, comfort by just shifting slightly, that people can be generous and capable of surprising things, and even stinging pain can pass in time you can measure.

      2. ceiswyn*

        I learned that I have one more insect bite than I knew about.
        I learned that the office doesn’t clean out the bins in the ladies’ often enough.
        I learned that it’s gonna be HOT next week.
        I learned how to distract my cat while I hide kibble to entertain him later.

      3. WillowSunstar*

        I learned this week that oil of oregano works really well for fungal overgrowth. But hey, the exec didn’t say it had to be job-specific. ;)

    7. Purple Cat*

      That’s a bit of an aggressive response to a C-Suite. Sounds like it’s in her scope to understand how the WHOLE organization is doing. I definitely think it’s an annoying question and would probably say cheerfully “nothing new today!”

      1. anonymous73*

        I don’t find it aggressive at all and I had the same thought. It’s not just annoying, it’s unreasonable to have to answer this type of question on a regular basis. During a review with your manager, sure. But this isn’t a classroom.

    8. Grey*

      Since she’s fairly new, I might just say, “Oh, I’m pretty well settled in at this point. Thanks for asking though”.

    9. El*

      If you can muster it, what about an extremely long-winded explanation of some obscure mundane process or software detail (as boring as possible) every single time. At least 10 minutes for each explanation during which it’s impossible for her to politely escape.

    10. Waterbird*

      I’d love to do this in theory, but would never recommend doing this with an executive. Even if she’s not your supervisor, she’s still a leader in your company and likely has some influence over your career. I’d just try to write it off as a weird thing that happens and ignore it as much as possible (other than giving a general answer, obviously).

    11. BEC*

      “I’m learning and growing every day, and I love being in this job because it allows me to do that. How about you?”

    12. Free Meerkats*

      Honestly, after about the third time, my response would be, “I’ve learned I really dread that question from you.”

      Don’t do this, but…

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, it would be hard not to snark after the fourth or fifth time.

        “I’ve learned that repetitive questions get irritating after the fourth time.”

        or

        “I’ve learned that I don’t remember exactly what I’ve learned in a day, since I have a hard time remembering what I had for breakfast when asked on the spur of the moment.”

        But then again constant cheeriness and patronization makes my teeth itch, so I tend to snark about it.

    13. GreenDoor*

      I work in public education on the administrative side with plenty of people who are or who have been actual teachers. None of them ask this question of their subordinates. This is so bizarre and if I was on the receiving end of it, I’d feel very condescended to. I like the idea of throwing it back with, “Why do you ask?” Maybe the more people who ask her this will help her get it that it’s a weird question to ask.

      1. Pickle Pizza*

        Thank you. My suggestion completely comes down to tone. Obviously I’m not suggesting for OP to ask it in a snarky way with an attitude. Rather, if it comes across with a genuinely inquisitive tone, it may prompt the exec to think about why they continue to ask the same thing every day. They might not even realize they’re doing it so frequently, and some people are just not good at reading between the lines. Anyway, it’s just an idea, if it doesn’t sit well with you then don’t use it. ‍♀️

  2. Zan+Shin*

    Re number 3: I had to resign from an acute care bedside nursing job in a specialty I LOVED because of punitive “unscheduled time off” policies. If within a certain large number of months (more than 6, less than 12…this was 40 years ago) there were three of these “unexcused” absences you were “counseled” and could be formally penalized on the next one. Any time you called in sick it counted. Two co-workers had bereavement days counted against them. I tried to preschedule around my debilitating menstruation but you know how THAT goes. I declined to cosign my “counseling” and left to work for a registry. The kicker? A Catholic hospital that was just plain the meanest hospital I ever worked at in terms of its employees. Plus ça change….

    1. Jackalope*

      I’m not quite following. Was the Catholic hospital with a history of meanness the nursing job you loved or the registry job you worked for after you left the first job?

      1. Ariaflame*

        I suspect they were in the Catholic hospital where the policy was, because a registry isn’t the hospital. The plus ça change may refer to how those hospitals haven’t changed much in meanness over the last 40 years.

    2. Snow Globe*

      For the LW, I would suggest requesting accommodation under ADA. (To qualify as a disability, the migraines would have to limit one or more life activities, which is likely with severe migraines.)

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        Yes, I’ve had coworkers successfully obtain the accommodation under the ADA at an employer with punitive unplanned time off policies. This was in a state which had no protections beyond those required at the federal level. HE once told us in a company-wide meeting that technically, since the state we were in didn’t have any break laws, we could be required to work 12 hours straight without so much as a 15 minute break. They were wrong, of course, but even that woefully inept HR department allowed for ADA absences to not be counted against the overall 3 strike policy.

      2. sam_i_am*

        I was surprised this wasn’t mentioned in the answer! Even if the policy isn’t a good one, OP needs to consider their own situation and how to keep from getting in trouble. Pushback or no, I’d imagine the policy is unlikely to change.

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yes! I was wondering if this would be the way to go here. Seems like migraines would definitely qualify. I am also surprised Alison didn’t mention it in her answer.

      4. Observer*

        That was going to be my suggestion. In your case, what you are asking for is not really something that they can claim is a real burden.

      5. I haven't thought of a name yet*

        I think this illness would also be a good candidate for coverage under intermittent FMLA.

        1. CorruptedbyCoffee*

          When I filed for FMLA they absolutely required an end date. I told them it was a chronic illness that may or may not get better/have flare ups/require surgery and they didn’t care. Required a doctor to formally specify an end date.

          1. Observer*

            All the end date means is that you re-certify.

            Not that it’s a reasonable way to handle it, but that’s what it comes down to.

            1. NP_Yay_Forms*

              as someone who regularly fills out FMLA paperwork for patients, yes this is a great example of an illness that could be handled this way. Easiest if you’ve talked to your doctor about them at some point, but workable either way. And yes also, the end date just means you need to do the same paperwork again in a year (usually).

    3. PSU RN*

      Someday Alison should feature a healthcare worker in her column-there are years of material for this column from any bedside nurse. Ask anyone who works in a hospital for their own or coworker horror stories-patient assault, sexual harassment, management with ridiculous expectations, no breaks in a 12 hour shift. It’s like an alternate reality. Good times!

      1. The Original K.*

        It would be particularly interesting in the age of COVID because so many nurses are leaving. Hearing the ways in which nursing has changed during COVID, why a nurse decided to leave the bedside, and where they went could be really interesting.

      2. Lola*

        Having worked in hospitals for most of my career, I concur. They have some of the most antiquated, most resistant to change systems I’ve ever enountered. Often lacking in logic and common sense.

        The example given in the letter is one of those: completely missing the plot. They’d rather have someone in a healthcare facility come in SICK and put patients at risk than having them call out sick 1 or 2 hours before? So backwards. And applying the same rules to shift workers as 9 to 5 office workers? I deal with this all the time. Me having to take an annual test on patient lifting techniques when my job primarily involves sitting at my computer and having meetings via Zoom? Silly.

      3. Lily*

        I would love to be on the comment thread for that! It baffles me, the amount of disrepect and outright abuse some of my fellow nurses are still willing to endure, especially now, as our skills are in such high demand.
        (I work someplace amazing now!)

      4. Nameless in Customer Service*

        That might be a good idea (you’re totally right about all the horror stories) but I dread the comments section. A few months ago a LW managing a medical office wrote in asking for advice for ways to keep patients from abusing the staff and not a few commenters basically pushed back on the idea that patients shouldn’t scream at, threaten, or hit the staff because “being a patient is stressful”.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          … not a few commenters basically pushed back on the idea that patients shouldn’t scream at, threaten, or hit the staff because “being a patient is stressful”.

          Aaaaargh! I mean, I get it, I can be a 14K b*tch if I’m in pain. But I really try not to take it out on the people trying to help me. Sometimes I fail, and they rightly call me on it because I don’t realize I’m doing it.

          But hitting people? No. (Unless they are literally causing me sudden, unexpected pain, then my reflexes take over. Warning me lets me control that, and most medical professionals know to do that.)

          Threatening is just nasty.

        2. CorruptedbyCoffee*

          Believe it or not, I’ve seen that justification used for a lot of service worker abuse. There seems to be a segment of the population out there that genuinely believes it’s okay to scream at/abuse service workers because they are having a bad day and “it’s their job.”

          It’s even prevelent in the industry. Someone might come in and scream death threats and management or a coworker will inevitably chime in with “we don’t know what they’re going through. They’re probably very stressed right now.” Which is true, but never seems to be a good enough excuse for a worker to even be rude, let alone scream threats.

    4. Jay*

      35 years ago I was the PCP for a night shift nursing supervisor who had the misfortune of having a heart attack in January and being diagnosed with colon cancer the following year. She was treated for both in the hospital where she worked and took, in my opinion, far too little time off during cancer treatment. Didn’t matter. She was “counseled” about her “excess absenteeism” and told it would reduce her chances for promotion.

      It was my first experience with this kind of crap and it was horrifying.

      1. Yoyoyo*

        That’s another weird thing about healthcare, that we often have to get our care from the same system in which we work (if we don’t get our health insurance from a spouse). It makes things very uncomfortable and while I like to think we are all professionals, I’m sure there are people out there who gossip about their coworker/patients’ health to other coworkers.

        1. UrsulaD*

          My grandboss was told I had COVID before the I was. I found out from my boss, who told me as soon as she found out, I got a call *hours* later from my provider.

      2. Nightengale*

        Maybe things have gotten a little better – I started med school 20 years ago – but medical education really emphasizes the us/them dichotomy. It’s in the hidden curriculum. Over and over in lecture I got things like “here is a scale of physical functioning. You students are all at a 0, no limitations” and “everyone here has a normal neurological exam.” So the us/them gets internalized and built into the system. I was a chronically ill/multiply disabled medical student, with a pretty strong disability identity, and so I just got more and more alienated from my supposed “peers the doctors” and identified increasingly with my “peers the patients.” But it didn’t have to be that way. I can play for both teams. Or as an acquaintance once suggested, have a double sided white coat.

    5. GTT It Like It’s Hot*

      This was one of the (many) reasons I left my bedside med surg job for a home hospice gig last year. I was written up for having 2 sick days in 6 months, and told that any more than 3 call-offs in 12 months was grounds for disciplinary action. I think half the unit was l written up. Unsurprisingly, these write-ups didn’t do a whole lot to boost staff morale.

      1. Lily*

        I had an RN co-worker who was threatened with violence after she found a CNA in a storage room smoking weed. She was counseled by management to “work it out amongst themselves.”
        She left, CNA is still there.

      2. MK*

        Yep. We are exposed to everything under the sun but had better not call in, but don’t work sick. I believe we are in for a reckoning in our health care system. I have been a nurse for almost twenty years and will leave the profession as soon as I can afford to do so.

        I would also love a thread about how to translate specific skills like in health care to the broader business world!

    6. Lana Kane*

      Healthcare is infamous for punitive sick time discipline. Leaders will tell you to not show up sick to protect patients and staff, and then will make it horribly difficult to actually take that time off.

    7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Suppose you get in an accident on your way to work… what happens then? This kind of policy is just crazy.

    8. AntsOnMyTable*

      My state passed requirement that all jobs accrue 1 hr of sick leave for every 30 hrs worked. Which, as a full time nurse, comes to 30 hrs. So I can call out 3 days a year and one more unexcused day. At the second unexcused you get verbally talked to and then on the 3rd written up. Which, for me is doable because I don’t get sick often and have no kids but not sure how others manage it. 4 days off a year isn’t a lot. What is frustrating though is how strictly the policy is adhered depends on the unit which isn’t really fair.

    1. LBD*

      OP#1, perhaps if enough people ask the new exec these questions, and follow up with probing questions that insist on well-phrased, carefully thought out answers, she may come to understand that the questions aren’t as inspiring as she seems to think they are.

    2. BRR*

      Ooh. I kind of like the concept of asking the exec back every time. In a “how are you today?” “I’m fine and how about yourself? way.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      I had a coworker who would always ask what I was working on, which rubbed me the wrong way until I realized she’s just nosy, not trying to supervise me. So yeah, I just asked her back!

  3. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #4: the coworker may not even be aware he’s doing it, so it might take multiple reminders for him to stop completely. if it sticks at all.

    i’m autistic and do a lot of body rocking and hand flapping when i’m out and about. i’m not even aware i’m doing it.

    at work i have fidget tools that i can fiddle with in my trouser pocket.

    also, if he *always* does it, at all times, it could be a neurological issue as well.

    it’s an annoying thing for sure. and i hope your coworker can stop it!

    1. Queer Anon*

      I’m also autistic, and shaking my leg is something I do pretty often when I’m sitting (assuming LW4 and I are describing the same thing). For me, this is a physical and psychological *need* and having people in the past tell me I had to stop it (before I had any idea I was autistic, let alone what stimming was and that this was a “real” need) was intensely distressing, and trying to stop it was very taxing and absolutely fruitless.

      Having the floor shake does sound annoying, so are there any other solutions that will let your coworker do this in peace? Vibration-absorbing mat? Changing up who’s sitting where? Regardless of why he’s doing it, that sounds like an easier route to the floor not shaking for you than getting him to never do it again.

      1. Minnesotan*

        I had a coworker I shared a cube wall with who bounced his knee a lot and it shook our desks. We solved it by putting a pillow under his desk. Worked great! He was able to continue the knee bouncing that he clearly didn’t notice he had been doing until we brought it up and our desks stopped shaking.

      2. Wenike*

        I have vertigo, which for my IT job is rarely a problem. However, I’ve definitely had to mention to people with the shaking that it quite literally makes me sea sick and have worked with them to either figure out something else they could do or even asked to be sat in a different cube where I could be over a beam and not where the floor was quite so flexible.

      3. LittleMarshmallow*

        I have had similar experience. For me, when I have to stop because it’s annoying someone (when I was young it was usually parents) that leads to other more destructive tics to surface like skin picking and hair pulling (which I also don’t always realize I’m doing – and fidget toys only work for so long for me). It’s a need for me also and is incredibly stressful when people assume you can just stop doing it because it’s annoying to them. I hope LW is gentle when they approach the person and understanding if it’s not stoppable.

        Other options may be possible like relocating work stations so they don’t have to sit near each other.

        1. BabyElephantWalk*

          Yeah, this is my take too. Some people can easily stop these things. For others, asking them to stop is actually interfering with a neurological/physical need that can’t easily be suppressed. Doesn’t mean don’t ask, but don’t expect it will automatically get the result you want.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yes, I relate to the colleague here. Definitely ask, but do be aware that thsoe sorts of actions are very often unconscious and he likely doesn’t realise he’s doing it.

      If he’s amenable, you can also ask him if he’d be open to being reminded or how he’d like to be reminded if he continues to do it.

      1. BookishMiss*

        Yeah, neurological issues was what first came to my mind. My spouse has Parkinson’s, so I’ve mostly had to adapt to the tremors/ leg shaking. It annoys me sometimes, but the amount of effort and pain it takes for them to stop is waaaaay more than reducing my annoyance is worth.

        It’s worth asking gently, once, AMF seeing if maybe a shock- absorbing mat under the desk would help. If it’s something the coworker can’t help, though… see if you can change desks.

    3. Bagpuss*

      If he can’t or won’t stop, I wonder whether an anti-vibration / shock absorbing mat might help?

      They are normally sold to put under washing machines or other applicances to reduce noise and vibration, and I think you can buy them by the yard as well. (standard sizes you get get via amazon, larger ones or made to measure you might need somewhere that sells building / soundproofing supplies, but ggogling anti-vibration matting should throw up options )

      If he had one under his chair and desk it might help reduce the amount of vibration that’s transmitted into the floor. They are not particularly expensive, so it might be worth asking you manager if that could be tried.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Or… Just asking if you can change desks? If there’s enough room, the LW should be able to be moved somewhere that they don’t feel the floor shake on a regular basis.

      2. Aerin*

        Was going to suggest something like this as well. You can certainly ask them to stop but if it’s an unconscious thing than trying to stop doing it will require a significant conscious effort on their part that might make it harder for them to do anything else. You’re better off focusing on ways you can limit the impact on you.

    4. AnonToday*

      I wonder if it would work for him to have an anti-vibration pad under his foot/feet?

      1. bamcheeks*

        Yes, I was wondering this. If it’s amplified by the design of the building, then it makes sense to explore an environmental fix .

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        If I ever work in an office again I need to invest in one of these. I’m a leg fidgeter/bouncer and working from home has actually shown me that I think more clearly when I can fidget at will, so I don’t actually want to stop doing it, but don’t want to annoy anyone

        1. coffee*

          I didn’t realise how much I bounce my leg until I went back to the office after working from home and suddenly had to suppress it again. Alas!

          For the LW, I am quite fine with people using a script like Alison suggested. It can sting when someone is clearly annoyed with me for something I didn’t realise I was doing, so I prefer when someone speaks up early rather than snapping and chewing me out.

    5. Former call centre worker*

      I have worked with a chronic leg shaker as well and just had to ask him to stop every time, because he would always start up again another time. No judgement, no apology needed. He obviously wasn’t aware when he started doing it, but it was still fair for me to ask him to stop.

      I actually do the same thing (I just realised that I’m doing it as I write this) and sometimes get asked to stop so I get how automatic it can be.

      1. Seabunnyslugg*

        That’s a great way to manage the issue. I have ADHD and leg shaking has been pervasive for me since I was a kid. My family and friends frequently have to ask me to stop and I do, I’m just not conscious of it when I am doing it. I would have absolutely no issue if a co-worker was bothered by it and asked me to stop – I get it can definitely be annoying. I always feel bad for being annoying in the first place.

      2. Paris Geller*

        Yeah, I think this is one of those situations in which if both parties are reasonable and gracious people, it shouldn’t be a big deal, but just know it’s something you might have to remind him of somewhat frequently since he’s probably doing it without even realizing it. I’ve been both the sitting next to someone shaking their legs and been the unconscious leg-shaker!

    6. Working Mom Too*

      Yeah. My husband is a foot tapper. We have hardwood floors. The kids take after him. During COVID I sometimes felt like the starring character in an Edgar Allen Poe story because the tapping noise was driving me up the walls. Not only did none of them ever notice the noise, none of them have ever been aware they are tapping. I wore noise canceling headphones a lot.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Area rugs. A set of washable throw rugs under their seating areas can mute the tapping. (I have hardwood floors as well, and lots of rugs.)

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      I’ve read that it is a great way to up your calories burned, but as it is unconscious regular people looking to knock off a few calories while they work don’t succeed in constantly jiggling a leg.

    8. The answer is (probably) 42*

      Yeah, for me I have Restless Leg Syndrome, which isn’t the kind of disorder one would typically describe as “debilitating” but in my case it actually can be. I have been treating it so I typically don’t need to bounce my legs during the day, but if I feel the need to bounce my legs and I can’t, that can be excruciating.

      Still, I’d be really frustrated if a coworker were shaking the ground next to my desk constantly as well, so I am equally sympathetic to both parties. I hope they manage to come up with a solution that works for everyone!

      1. Lauren*

        This is likely the case. RLS is a thing that doesn’t need medication, but can easily regulated with movement. OP should ask for them to put a cushion or something under there feet to stop the trembling or ask to be moved if that doesn’t work.

        1. Grilledcheeser*

          RLS does indeed need medication in some cases. Signed, “oh my god will my legs just STOP IT ALREADY i want a life!”.

    9. Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein*

      Yup. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to request, but it’s also very possible that the best answer he can give is “I’ll try, but I can’t always notice that I’m doing it so I may still slip up.”

    10. DataGirl*

      My adult kids have ADHD and cannot be still without a major conscious effort, so they often did the leg shaking thing. I would notice it when we were in the car, stopped at a red light and the car would be shaking- their leg would be knocking against the side/door. It is annoying, but it’s not necessarily something they can stop either. It’s worth asking the co-worker about but it might not go anywhere.

      1. AnOh*

        This is me! I sometimes shake a stopped car with my unintentional leg shaking, it’s completely unconscious and my friends and family will occasionally ask me to stop (it’s hard) but I understand how annoying it is for them. If anything, I’ve learned I should never work in an earthquake safe building for my coworkers sanity…

    11. Mockingjay*

      I also shake my legs. Sometimes it’s to loosen my aging lower back muscles (seems to work for me); other times it’s to dissipate tension when working on a frustrating task.

      Never worked in an earthquake-resistant building like OP4 describes. It’s likely her coworker doesn’t realize the leg shaking causes the floor to shake as well. (That’s awesome sensitivity.) OP4, use Alison’s script in a matter-of-fact tone. You can even make a joke about it – “wonder what would happen if they announce donuts in the break room and everyone thunders to the break room at once? Would it register on a seismic counter?”

      1. Cohort 1*

        I live in earthquake country, have been in many earthquake-safe buildings, and have never noticed bouncy floors. Maybe the floor problem is just that someone cheaped out on floor joist spacing when the floor was built?

    12. smeep248*

      I can’t even count the number of times a coworker (good naturedly) yanked a pen out of my hand which I had been mindlessly clicking over and over and over and over and over and over and over and……

    13. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I sat next to a leg-shaking coworker. After he left for another job, the IT support came in to clear his cubicle of equipment, cables etc. and found out he’d put a large dent in the cubicle wall separating us, from kicking it all day every day over the years. It really was annoying! but I don’t think there was anything he could do about it. Also, this coworker was a nervous guy, and I would worry that, if he’d been spoken to sternly and forced to watch his leg-shaking at all times, his being nervous would’ve come out in other ways, possibly worse than the leg-shaking.

    14. Lucy Skywalker*

      I used to have a coworker with ADHD and she also shook and rocked her chair whenever she sat down. I have ADHD myself, but I never did this

    15. Lucy P*

      I was wondering if it was caused by some other stimulus that coworker wasn’t aware of.

      One of my coworkers used to loudly tap their foot on the floor if they were nervous or had too much sugar or caffeine. I would occasionally pick up coffee in the morning for myself and for them too. I stopped doing it because although they enjoyed the coffee, the foot tapping became too much to take.

    16. Student*

      I’m a leg-shaker. Ask them to get a thick mat or carpet square or similar to put under their feet when they’re shaking. It’ll help dull the vibrations a lot before they get to you. Ask them to be mindful of shaking against furniture. My leg-shaking annoys my spouse, but carpet or similar padding does a lot to make it less noticeable/more bearable. Sometimes, taking off shoes can help dull the noise & vibrations too, depending on the environment.

      I have to actively think about it or sit in a weird posture to keep from leg-shaking when my leg wants to shake. It’s unconscious for me, and I often don’t notice when it starts.

    17. Faith the twilight slayer*

      Yeah, I’m a leg bouncer and it’s partly nervous tic, but most of it I attribute to my meds. I have a ton of nervous energy, and I sit at a desk. It’s something I’m not even consciously aware of. I’ve spent years with various prescribers trying to find a way around it, but to no avail.

    18. Julia*

      I wonder if there are ways to mitigate the leg shaking effects? Foot fidgets exist meant to go under desks. They’re usually marketed towards people in school but they work great for adults. There are cushioned foot steppers, rollers, and “bouncy bands.” Some of them are basically cushions to muffle sound and movement. I think they could help.

  4. SMH RN*

    LW 1: I work with someone who asks similar questions (sometimes several times a day). I love random trivia so started responding with stuff like “well I recently found out ketchup is a non-Newtonian fluid!” It hasn’t stopped the questions but I’m having much more fun. Tbf he also seems to find it entertaining and sometimes comes up with his own trivia instead of asking me questions now so…win?
    Obviously this might not be appropriate in all work environments:)

    1. nnn*

      Building on this, you could combine random trivia with the kind of work-related things she’s expecting, things you’ve learned in real life (“The pizza place down the street has a dozen vegetarian options on the menu!”) random tech tips (“If you press Ctrl+F in an MS Teams chat you can search the chat!”), etc. to come across as an earnest and engaged answer to the question being asked, even if you can’t think of something work-related to say every day.

      “How have you grown?” type questions can sometimes be answered by saying you’re thinking about something, without yet arriving at any conclusions. “The new space telescope pictures reminded me of how terrifyingly large the universe is. It really makes you think.”

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Ctrl+F can be used to search all kinds of things. One of my top keyboard shortcuts after Ctrl+A.

          1. Koalafied*

            Here are a few more I’ve noticed surprisingly a lot of people aren’t aware of –

            – Home key goes to the end of the current line in a text entry field, and auto-scrolls to the top of a website if your cursor hasn’t been clicked into a field.
            – End key goes to the end of the current line in text entry, and auto-scrolls to the bottom of a website if your cursor hasn’t been clicked into a field.
            – Ctrl+ arrow keys jumps the cursor through a block of text one word at a time, stopping at spaces in regular text, as well as things like slashes, underscores, and hyphens in URLs.
            – Holding down Shift while moving the cursor with the arrows, home/end keys, page up/down keys, etc selects text.
            – Clicking the mouse just to the left of the start of a line, where the cursor is still an arrow instead of the little I-shaped prompt you get over the text itself, will select the entire line.

            It can be painful sometimes watching people try to select text without using these tricks!

            Related tips:
            – You probably know Tab can move the cursor from one field or website element to the next, but did you know that Shift + Tab will move through them in the reverse order?
            – Likewise, Ctrl + Tab will advance you through one browser tab at a time and Ctrl + Shift + Tab will do the same thing in the reverse order.

            1. Solstice*

              – In Excel or Google Sheets, you can quickly select everything below or to the right of a certain cell/row/column by selecting it and hitting Ctrl+Shift+Right/Down
              – If you’re typing in a spreadsheet and you need to make a line break, you hit Alt+Enter
              – To pipe the contents from a cell on one sheet to another, you can use the formula “=TABNAME!CELL”

          2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Ctrl-Y has been my saviour more than once. It’s the keyboard equivalent of the editorial favourite, stet.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Oooooh, I didn’t know this! Now that I have to deal with Windows and Office again, that’s useful.

            2. Very Social*

              I love Ctrl+Y (redo) but I’m not grasping the equivalent to stet… maybe Ctrl+Z (undo).

          3. My Useless 2 Cents*

            My favorites
            F12 will open the “Save As” window in Excel and Word
            Ctrl+; in Excel will enter today’s date
            Ctrl+’ in Excel will copy the cell above

            1. Koalafied*

              Can’t believe there was an Excel shortcut I didn’t already know – Ctrl+; is new to me! I’ve been typing out =TODAY() like a chump!

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              Okay, obviously I’ve been out of Excel too long, I did not know that one. Thank you.

    2. Tiger Snake*

      It might be because we’re hearing it out of context but that’s actually exactly how I read the question; how are you going in life, what’s new in it, what have you learned in general recently.
      So I was going to tongue-in-cheek suggest the OP pick her current special interest and spend the next five minutes info-dumping.

      1. Indigo Five Alpha*

        Ctrl+z for undo. I think I learned that here. GAME CHANGER.

        Oooh also ctrl+L to lock your computer instead of ctrl-alt-del then return

        1. Koalafied*

          One thing that gobsmacked me was thinking about how much I used to use Alt+Tab and how little I use it now, and realizing that the reason why is because just 10 short years ago I probably had no more than 6-8 application windows open 90% of the time, so there was a certain efficiency to just being able to flip through them with a few keystrokes rather than use the mouse and start bar/application tray. I just checked, and I currently have 13 application windows open, and that’s at the low end of what’s typical for me nowadays! These days it is almost never faster to flip through them than to just find the window I need in the start bar.

    3. Madame Arcati*

      What have you learned today?
      That there is a great stall down by [place near office] that sells fantastic kebabs!
      How have you grown today?
      Outwards, around the waistline, after eating a chicken shish as big as my head! Tell me, have I got chilli sauce on my face?

    4. WFH with Cat*

      I love this — but I’d bet dollars to donuts* that the exec wants a work-related answer and will think any non-work trivia to be a sign that the employee is wasting time and/or insubordinate, or, as the OP mentioned, showing negativity about the exec and her (idiotic, time-wasting) question.

      * I learned today that the phrase “dollars to donuts” first appeared in a Nevada newspaper in 1876, and “was used matter-of-factly and without definition, suggesting it was a common saying of the day.” Alrighty, then!

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Etymology nerd here: This is not quite right. The “dollars to doughnuts” form is found in print in 1871, and there are various older forms such as “dollars to buttons” and “dollars to dimes.” Avoiding posting a link to save Alison moderation hassle, but look up Barry Popik’s site. He has a page on this expression with more information than anyone would reasonably desire.

        1. WFH with Cat*

          Well, that’s what I get for going with the first result in Google, haha. I will check that site … and thanks for the info!

      2. My Useless 2 Cents*

        I don’t think that the exec is intentionally trying to pop-quiz her employees about work related matters. It sounds like something out of a management seminar or book. Something like “The most successful people learn something new every day, so instead of asking how people are, ask them what they’ve learned!”

        1. WFH with Cat*

          Could be … but I still think responding with off-the-wall trivia-question types of answers might not go over particularly well. One way or the other, I suspect she wants a more thoughtful responses focused on workplace matters, personal growth, working relationships, etc.

          I rather hope for an update to this one.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Yeah maybe but the whole point is that OP is not learning something new every day in her job. Personal growth is none of her business, btw.
            It’s beyond ridiculous to ask what someone has learned every single day, and she needs to be told that.
            It would be a great question for an annual review, or even for touching base meetings every few months.

        2. Pomegranate*

          I thoroughly enjoyed all the trivia suggestions to unload on the CEO. But I also agree with a few that say it might not be the best way to approach this.
          One approach would be to use this question to get CEO to know your work better, so she can feel more invested in you.
          What have you learned today?:
          -Client X’s biggest problem is actually Y
          -It will take over 20 figures to properly illustrate our approach on project Z
          -I was pleasantly surprised that it was possible to arrange a last minute meeting with 5 different people on important topic. People on our teams are so collaborative!
          -So-and-so is going on vacation next week, so we are working on how to ensure coverage
          -I realized I didn’t know how our short term disability policy works, do you happen to know who’s the right person to ask for more details?
          -Turns out that Shop B is swamped right now and won’t be able to review and approve the report until 2 weeks from now at least.

  5. Scribbler*

    LW4: I have the same issue at my job, only the co-worker hums, sings, drums his fingers, and taps his feet, sometime 2 or 3 at the same time. I casually brought it up saying the same thing about it being distracting. He decided to get upset about it and play the age card (he’s in his early 60s and the other 5 of us are in our 40s). We told our supervisor about this and he had the closed door conversation with our co-worker. Apparently went about as well, since then we all got our own private HR meetings. Still waiting to see how this all plays out.

    1. Xaraja*

      #3 When I was first getting treatment for migraines, I worked with my doctor and my HR department to obtain an intermittent FMLA leave that allowed me to call out without notice and without it hurting my attendance as it otherwise would. I could be late, take time in the middle of the day, or leave early, because I didn’t have to take the whole day off for it to count. It might be worth checking on this possibility, because jobs where they are very strict on attendance (mine certainly was) can still be very cooperative with this type of FMLA leave (mine gave me no difficulty in getting or using it). I would also mention that if she’s not seeing a neurologist, or hasn’t seen one within the past few years, you might want to consider it. There’s some new rescue meds that have come out that have completely new methods of working which at least for me is a complete phase change from the last generation of rescue meds. I’ve gone from feeling terrible for a whole day to feeling completely fine within 20 minutes.

      1. Twix*

        I had the same thought. I have a very different chronic condition, but one that similarly impacted my attendance, and my company was more than willing to work with me once I got HR the necessary documentation. LW’s wife could also try requesting an ADA accommodation. Chronic migraines can be considered a disability under the ADA if they’re frequent and/or severe enough to limit one’s ability to complete at least one major life activity. Based on the letter it sounds like hers may be a borderline case, but a lot of companies tend toward granting accommodations over risking litigation in borderline cases, especially if the requested accommodation has little to no impact on the organization.

    2. AG*

      LW1 is a common type of question in management consulting, investment banking, and similar roles where you have intense project engagements across diverse industries. It’s usually asked by seniors to juniors at the end of the day to help them learn to synthesize the key findings of the day, and/or help them identify their own internal development needs (think seeing the forest through the trees). When done well, it’s an on the spot mentoring moment where the senior can help the junior make sense of a complicated work environment to help them move quickly down the learning curve. After a week or two these questions go away and get replaced with more direction from the junior as they are now in a better position to lead based on identifying their own needs. It’s not for every job but myself and colleagues found it enormously helpful when in these roles the first time. Also felt good to see a senior dedicating their time and attention to our needs.

      1. Allonge*

        Sure, but OP is neither new nor working in a – to them – complex and ever changing job. What you desccribe might make sense for that context, but not to all management situations!

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          I think this is the real issue. I think this is executive picked up this tidbit from a session or an event where she found it inspiring and wonderful **in that context**, and is mis-applying it to day-to-day work.

          I honestly would do what others have suggested and supply a random bit of trivia if I don’t have anything meaningful to say.

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            Ha, this reminds me of the scene in the movie Clueless where Cher’s father asked her what she did in school today, and she says, “…Well, I broke in my purple clogs.”

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Wonderful movie. My favorite bit is where the father learns that Cher negotiated a higher grade without any additional effort. He was delighted.

      2. Despachito*

        But when it is NOT coming from a senior to a junior, it sounds pretty condescending.

        1. AG*

          Totally agree both comments. Pointing out there is a good practice around this idea. In this scenario the exec clearly did not understand the right way to use it

      3. Alternative Person*

        Yeah, I was going to say this is the kind question I ask my students during week long study camps to get students to reflect on their learning for the day. Like you say, it’s very useful in certain scenarios, but in the context the OP describes, it’s completely the wrong approach.

    3. Purple Cat*

      WHAT?!? This is wild. Did you already have your HR meeting? What the heck did they say?

    4. Tea and Symathy*

      Please give us an update on this in the Friday thread. I’m very curious to know what HR says. It’s too bad your coworker wasn’t just reasonable.

  6. Goldie*

    LW #3 I too suffered from migraines for years, I’m so sorry for you wife.
    Can she get a note from her doctor stating that the migraines are disabling and she may wake up with them? She could request an accommodation on the notice required.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      As a fellow migraine sufferer who also has been known to wake up with the blasted things, this is probably a suggestion worth looking into. Seems like a reasonable enough accommodation anyways.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Ditto. Most of my on site jobs have been very good about me taking a powder when I wake up with a migraine. I just needed to be able to text/slack my boss. (Some managers get so much email that your message can get lost.) I usually take my meds and go to sleep for about 4 hours, then log on from home for the rest of the day.

        Curiously, now that I work remotely I have fewer migraines – the stress of commuting and working in an open plan was part of the cause! Of course, if I get the wrong trigger foods or a radical weather shift I still get them, but working remotely gives me better control over my diet for the food issue. YMMV, of course – brains are weird.

    2. CrankyLady*

      People often don’t realize that flexibility on a policy can be an ADA accommodation. The example I’ve heard is that a company with a policy that cashiers who are not allowed to have water at their stations, can grant someone permission to have water at their station if they have a medical condition that requires it. Someone that has a sudden onset of a condition (like a migraine) could potentially request a waiver of the 4 hour notice if it was reasonable for their position.

      1. Koalafied*

        grant someone permission to have water at their station if they have a medical condition that requires it.

        I always carry a water bottle, and sometimes drank it on the DC Metro even though technically food and beverages aren’t allowed and there’s no specific exception for water (or at least, there wasn’t at the time, I haven’t ridden in ages). I used to say that if any employee ever tried to confront me about it I would inform them I have a medical condition that means I need access to water – the condition is called “being a live human.”

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I think this is a great idea. It also might be worth checking in with HR, basically explaining the problem and asking how they can accomodate. It wouldn’t surprise me if: a) this policy isn’t really thought through and they’re going to buckle with some push-back….or b) it’s more Amy’s policy than the company’s (or she’s interpreting a policy in place for medical staff as relevant to her admin staff).

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yes, excellent point. I commented on another thread re: accommodation but checking in with HR seems like a good idea too. Sounds like OP’s wife only spoke to Amy about it. Might be worth asking Amy about accommodations first (which may be what that conversation was about, I don’t know) but if OP’s wife doesn’t get anywhere with that, HR would be a good idea.

    4. Kate, short for Bob*

      I was coming in to say that – disability accommodations should be looked into for this, because intermittent disabilities are unplannable

    5. Avril Ludgateau*

      100% this! Migraines are considered disabling under the ADA, and “a shorter window to call out when experiencing a sudden attack” would very likely be considered a reasonable accommodation.

      I still like Alison’s advice about pushing back as a team, though, because this is a bad policy in general and you shouldn’t have to disclose a disability just to be treated as a human being. Even abled people get hit with unexpected and sudden illness, e.g., something like vomiting or diarrhea or even an extraordinary migraine as they are leaving the house to get to work. And personally, even when I was commuting to the office, I never woke up 4 hours before my start time. I would have been falling asleep at my desk by lunch! Frankly, that’s a bit of a dangerous ask for healthcare workers in a medical facility, who likely are already overworked and underslept in the first place. Yet another problem that would be solved by adequate staffing.

    6. Jules*

      Migraines can be a disability under the ADA that must be accommodated. In addition, they certainly are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act.

      Excerpts from the Department of Labor Regulations for the FMLA, in the Code of Federal Regulations:

      29 C.F.R. § 825.303 Employee notice requirements for unforeseeable FMLA leave.
      “(a) Timing of notice. When the approximate timing of the need for leave is not foreseeable, an employee must provide notice to the employer as soon as practicable under the facts and circumstances of the particular case. It generally should be practicable for the employee to provide notice of leave that is unforeseeable within the time prescribed by the employer’s usual and customary notice requirements applicable to such leave. See § 825.303(c). Notice may be given by the employee’s spokesperson (e.g., spouse, adult family member, or other responsible party) if the employee is unable to do so personally. For example, if an employee’s child has a severe asthma attack and the employee takes the child to the emergency room, the employee would not be required to leave his or her child in order to report the absence while the child is receiving emergency treatment. However, if the child’s asthma attack required only the use of an inhaler at home followed by a period of rest, the employee would be expected to call the employer promptly after ensuring the child has used the inhaler.
      . . .
      (c) Complying with employer policy. When the need for leave is not foreseeable, an employee must comply with the employer’s usual and customary notice and procedural requirements for requesting leave, absent unusual circumstances. For example, an employer may require employees to call a designated number or a specific individual to request leave. However, if an employee requires emergency medical treatment, he or she would not be required to follow the call-in procedure until his or her condition is stabilized and he or she has access to, and is able to use, a phone. Similarly, in the case of an emergency requiring leave because of a FMLA-qualifying reason, written advance notice pursuant to an employer’s internal rules and procedures may not be required when FMLA leave is involved. If an employee does not comply with the employer’s usual notice and procedural requirements, and no unusual circumstances justify the failure to comply, FMLA-protected leave may be delayed or denied.”

      “Unusual circumstances” can include being unable to give the required notice, in this casefour hours in advance, becuase of being physically incapacitated or simply not knowing about the need for leave in the specified time. Waking up with a migraine, or having an asthma attack, or some other unpredictable flare-up of an FMLA-covered condition would meet that definition. Tell HR you need the paperwork for FMLA leave.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, I’ve had to call out suddenly because my guts turned to liquid and I needed to stay in the bathroom for a few hours, or when I haven’t been able to sleep and was not safe to drive (I have chronic insomnia, and I have tried dozens of things to address it. Sometimes nothing works.) Working remotely has done wonders for my not having to miss work for these issues.

    7. Burger Bob*

      Also a fellow migraine sufferer (they are blessedly infrequent for me). I have been very fortunate health-wise for the last three years that I have been in my job, only having to call out sick twice. Both times were for migraines that I woke up with. Thank goodness for my partner who was willing and able to cover for me on very short notice both times! Migraines are such a weird chronic health problem because they are absolutely debilitating when they happen but can also be totally unpredictable in their timing. It’s impossible to give adequate notice if they strike at the wrong time. But plenty of other health conditions are the same way. You can’t always know four or more hours in advance that you’re going to be too sick to work. I understand maybe wanting some sort of documentation if you suspect an employee is just malingering on a regular basis. But some employers seem to want to basically just punish people for having human bodies.

  7. Percysowner*

    LW1 I would be so tempted to find factoids and throw them out when asked what did I learn today. “I learned that there is a YouTube channel showing insects flying in slow motion” (There is such a channel and it’s really neat.) As to how I have grown, I’d probably say, I’m no longer growing up, now I’m growing out or my feet are getting bigger. I’d make it a game, at least it would be fun.

  8. annabel*

    the answer to “what did you learn today?” wouldn’t necessarily have to be something work-related. today I learned that X will be starring in the new Y movie. today I learned that tonight there will be a super moon. etc. etc

    1. LittleMarshmallow*

      Get a “fact a day” calendar or something and just give her the page every day when she asks.

    1. EPLawyer*

      I don’t get this at all. I mean we want earthquake resistant buildings and so they should have some flex in them. But a floor that shakes from someone merely walking? That would get annoying real fast. Your desk shaking from someone walking by or someone just tapping their leg is not something you can tune out.

      I second the anti-shock cushions because chances are the person can’t stop shaking their leg. It is also not their fault this is a poorly designed building.

      1. Alan*

        This is bizarre. I work in a new earthquake-safe building. I live in L.A. where many buildings have been retrofitted. I don’t see how weak floors translate to earthquake safety. I certainly have never experienced feeling the floor give because someone next to me is walking, let alone tapping their foot! I think this is just poor construction (which I *have* experienced).

        1. Observer*

          The issue is not necessarily weakness but flexibility.

          But it sounds like something is wrong here – it shouldn’t be THIS flexible, I think.

      2. No longer working*

        I’m in NYS, and whenever I’m on line in Kohls I feel the floor shake from people walking. It gets me very nervous. This is on the main floor! I worry that it will collapse while I’m standing there. I can’t imagine that a department store in this location would be earthquake resistant, but I sure would prefer that as a reason for the shaking.

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        Yeah, I grew up in California, where even back in that day they put a lot of thought into how to build in earthquake country. The description in the letter does not match my experience.

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

      I do not live in an area known for earthquakes but I do know how annoying it is when it feels like the building is moving. An old office was on the 7th floor. floors 1-4 were a parking garage. I don’t know why but you could feel movement through the floors. It was fine if you were more on the side of the building, but when I moved desks I was away from the outer walls, and I could constantly feel movement. It wasn’t like it was a medical thing, because it didn’t happen at home or other places.

      1. quill*

        Any place that has escalators tends to get me – more so if it’s, say, a mall and the escalator is shaking a broad deck supported only at the edges…

    3. wibbly-wobbly but not like that*

      I live in San Francisco. 99% of the buildings in which I spend my life are earthquake-proof. This isn’t a thing, our floors are like everyone else’s. Sounds like LW just works in a poorly constructed office, unfortunately.

      That said, my boyfriend is a foot-tapper and when he uses anti-fatigue floor mats, I can’t perceive anything even if I’m a few feet away. It’s a cheap place to start.

  9. Dennis Feinstein*

    Ugh #3
    How can these people work in HEALTH CARE and not understand that illness can come on suddenly, without 4 hours’ notice? Have none of them ever woken up feeling sick? Or been on the way to work & felt sick? Or been AT WORK & felt sick? That’s just how human bodies work & they need to deal with it.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      As somebody with a very sane manager in a Health System Job, to paraphrase Yoda – “the denial is strong in that field.”

      As I said though – my department is at least run by a manager who acknowledges that we are humans, with bodies that will do weird things, and have responsibilities outside of our job as well. It’s incredibly refreshing to have this manager.

    2. Ayla*

      Or how about injuries? I once got written up for giving insufficient notice because I slipped on ice on my way to work and got a concussion. One of the populations we served was clients with TBIs. It felt pretty ironic.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Because health is something out there, that happens to Other People. And of course as a patient I would value a sick employee showing up for work in spite of their discomfort. (NOT!!!)
      Right now I am watching a person in health care slowly fizzle away because of 12 hour shifts. They are clearly NOT happy and they look like heck. Something is very wrong with how employees are treated.

    4. Daisy-dog*

      I sometimes wake up feeling gross and then feel better. Sometimes it’s because I take some medication and it works (allergy meds, pain meds for a headache, etc.). Sometimes it just clears up on its own just because I’m up (stomachache, congestion). So I don’t like to call in until right before I’d leave for work in case I do feel better. I know that doesn’t work for coverage jobs, but there should be some other type of contingency plan in place to ensure they meet the legal requirements.

    5. Nameless in Customer Service*

      You’d think so, wouldn’t you, that health care would have the best understanding of employee health. But in practice it’s absolutely the opposite.

    6. Seashell*

      I would ask if they would like me to come into work if I vomited a half-hour before my shift.

    7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      People in healthcare do not extend the same empathy to their staff as their patients.
      Doctors are notorious for downplaying their own children’s symptoms, hence the rule that you don’t treat your own family.

  10. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    OP 3, I’m in a very similar type of position to your wife, but I hang out in Medical Records instead. Policy in our hospital system is to call out as soon as you realize you will not be able to make your shift (but before it actually starts…..*yes, sadly one of my current coworkers got that little addendum made to the official policy…..). When you call out they require the following information:
    -Name
    -Phone Number
    -Type of leave being requested (Sick, Annual, FMLA)
    -Supervisor’s Name
    -Shift Worked

    They want some of that information because it’s a group monitored line, and they need to get your call in to your department, and if say it’s last day of the pay period HR may have to put in the sick leave for you right away. The only time I know of anybody being talked to was my one current coworker who developed a habit of calling in sick AFTER the shift had already begun.

    *They now call in just barely before the shift starts – by like a minute or so. Why yes – they aren’t my favorite co-worker, because I frequently have to pick up a bunch of their work on days when they call off at the last second…..because of access issues, not because my boss wants to overload me. He is working on trying to get another person access to that system, but it’s been slow going.

    1. SMH RN*

      Yeah what you’re describing matches with all my experience working in health care. I’ve had people call in sick just before the day shift starts because they were hoping meds would kick in, they didn’t realize how bad they felt etc. And I’ve had them show up, puke because of a migraine and go right home which is worse cause now my options for ppl picking up ot to cover are more limited. 4 hours notice for a sick day is nice if it’s possible but a ridiculous requirement.

  11. Hadespuppy*

    I would be very careful with #4. Shaking your leg is a pretty common stimming activity, it may not be something that your coworker can help doing, even if they wanted to.

    1. ND and awkward*

      Even if they have to stim that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be that stim. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask if they can do something else that could be less distracting.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, the possibility that it’s a stim is there but OP can – and should – still ask their colleague to stop. People who need to stim are capable of communicating that need, assuming it and discarding any chance of a discussion is not a good idea.

      2. metadata minion*

        Yup, agree. There are plenty of things I do unconsciously, and it would take a lot of effort to change, but if I knew it was bothering a coworker I’d put in the effort to find a different fidget.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Whether the coworker can help it or not, it is reasonable to ask someone to attempt to stop or adjust an unconcscious activity that’s annoying to others. In this case LadyEnginerd‘s comment below has some good suggestions. I simply thought he could rest his foot on a towel or mat that may prevent the shaking being transfered through the floor.

    3. anonymous73*

      I don’t know what stimming means, but anything that is distracting OP from being able to do their job should be addressed. Even if it’s something they truly can’t stop, it doesn’t mean OP shouldn’t say something.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Stimming is short for self-stimulating behaviors. While many people have a stim, the behavior has become associated with autism. So HadesPuppy is saying be careful, the coworker may have autism and this action can be fairly uncontrollable. But I don’t agree that just because the coworker does something that can be a sign of autism, you can’t ask them to stop or control or adjust their behavior.

        Stimming is characterized as repetitive motions that anyone may use to help cope with emotions. Examples of stimming include:
        – Biting your nails when you feel anxious
        – Twirling your hair when you feel bored
        – Flapping your hands when something excites you‌
        – Jiggling your foot when you are concentrating

    4. Observer*

      it may not be something that your coworker can help doing, even if they wanted to.

      I don’t care if they “want to” – it’s distracting enough that what they *want* is not the key thing here.

      The relevant question is not what they want, but if they CAN. And, just because it’s stimming doesn’t mean that they can’t stop. Now, as others have noted, it is actually possible that he either can’t or it would be difficult / painful enough that it’s functionally the same thing. So, the OP does need to be careful how they approach it. But it is absolutely a reasonable thing to raise, that the coworker really needs to stop if they can.

  12. SlothLover*

    Letter number 1 made me think of Veggie Tales… “Let’s see how what we have learned applies to our lives today, God has a lot to say in His book!”

    1. Elmost*

      YES, my first thought was to start singing that song at her and see how many times it takes before she gets as fed up with it as Bob the Tomato was. (Do not actually do this.)

    2. Koalafied*

      Lmao, just last week I was telling a friend how when I get swamped at work and people try to want things from me I want to break into song, “I’m busy, busy, dreadfully busy, you’ve no idea what I have to do! I’m busy, busy, shockingly busy, much much too busy for you!”

        1. wendelenn*

          Sometimes in the morning I can be heard singing “Oh where. . . . is my hairbrush?”

          1. yala*

            I had a book come across my desk just now about Sebou (the place), so now I’ve got the Cebu song rolling around in my noggin. Along with the “What we have learned” ditty

    3. yala*

      Oh man, I’m so glad it wasn’t just me.

      Now it’s gonna be stuck in my head all day.

    4. SlothLover*

      Oh my goodness. Thanks for the laughs and memories with these replies. This was a great trip through the 1990s and 2000s. :)

  13. Invisible fish*

    I am pleased to have learned today that I can never, ever, ever go to where earthquakes are a known issue, because I might end up in an earthquake resistant building, and then I would be BOTH the person creating the distracting movement for others because of my fidgeting AND the person complaining about others making distracting movements when they fidget . . . Yes, I know how awful of me that would be. I’ll just spare us all.

    1. Raboot*

      I’ve worked in highrises in downtown seattle, a very earthquake-aware city, and never experienced anything like this. At most the high floors sway in high winds.

      1. NotARacoonKeeper*

        You say this (buildings swaying in high winds) as if it isn’t alarming in itself!

        1. Bagpuss*

          Well, bend rather than break is a good thing :) Although maybe a bit unsettling if you are not expecting it!

          One of my hobbies used to be church bell ringing and a lot of towers sway due to the movement of the bells , specially where the bells are heavy and/or it’s a tall tower.

          1. Lady_Lessa*

            I worship at a church that is right on Lake Erie, and we had to remove our bell tower because it deteriorated (to the point of being unsafe) because the waves were behaving like minor earthquakes and weakening the structure.

            I lived in Southern California and felt a number of earthquakes. So I moved to the mid west and was at the altar at church, the heat went on and the floor felt like a minor temblor. (wooden boxes on top of concrete seem to magnify any shaking. )

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Bridges also sway. And they expand and contract which is why there are expansion panels built in.

          I do agree some of this stuff is scary if you think about it for a moment.

        3. Raboot*

          It can be scary at first, sure, but it’s explicitly a safety feature, which people around will explain to anyone who got scared.
          But my point is it takes a force of nature like high wind, a coworker’s actions will not do anything.

        4. AcademiaNut*

          Unsettling, but they’re designed to do that – the energy from the earthquake dissipates via swaying that the building is designed to handle, rather than by shaking violently or falling over.

    2. Allonge*

      I doubt that this is a universal feature in all buildings even in earthquake-prone areas.

    3. Critical Rolls*

      You’re at least as likely to end up with this problem in old wooden buildings. I’ve lived all over California and the Seattle area and never run across this as a result of earthquake safe design.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I usually encounter it in tilt-ups that are only supported by the side walls and maybe an elevator core. It’s disconcerting…

    4. wibbly-wobbly but not like that*

      It’s not a thing. LW works in a poorly constructed office, that’s all. Earthquake-proof buildings have added resilience and flexibility at the bedrock level, I promise we’re not all slack-lining our way across the room!

  14. Little Mermaid*

    LW 2: Obviously I don’t know if this will apply to you, but I was in an extremely similar situation last year. Started a new job, and my colleague, who started 1.5 months later started to lean on me heavily. I was doing so much hand-holding. She was struggling a lot. But somehow, after New Year’s Eve, she changed a lot and now she’s really great. We’re still a personality clash, but she’s doing well in her role and is great to work with, actually. Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

    1. Kiitemso*

      I also had a similar experience but unfortunately my colleague did not change. She changed jobs within the organization and couldn’t hack the other job, either, and left. It really did seem like she wasn’t just insecure but the job also wasn’t a good fit for her.

    2. Alan*

      My supervisor came into my office one day to announce that I had a new officemate, a woman who was driving her current partner crazy by asking questions. The ironic thing was that she had a PhD and seemed very confident, overly confident even, but there we were. She was actually a pretty nice person and eventually we developed a good relationship, but in the beginning for the first few days I just needed to say “I’m not sure”, or “It’s on the web”, or simply excuse myself. In a few days she was cured. I think maybe she was just nervous.

    3. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      I had a coworker like that, I had to train myself to take a step back and start each time with, “what steps did you take to find the answer yourself?” and “what checks have you built in to this spreadsheet to catch errors?” Even when I knew the answer, I realized I had become her crutch.

    4. SailorMoon*

      Thanks! I do try to redirect her questions to more appropriate people and sometimes to boss as mentioned by advice columnist, but I think she is sometimes afraid to ask boss and it’s easiest to ask me because we share a desk space. (I will admit I’m pretty non-confrontational and Meg doesn’t get social cues easily, not an ideal mix). I am taking a few week medical leave very soon and really hope that when she has no choice but to be more independent she will gain a little more confidence. -OP

    5. Captain Safety Pants*

      LW2, I used to be this person at one of my former jobs. I would always ask my senior colleague, Hermione, what was the best course of action in situations where there could be several possible paths. It was a combination of sometimes not stopping to think the situation through, fear of being wrong, and the fact that it was simply easier to ask someone who would know immediately off the top of her head then go digging for the answer. I also had a bad habit of forgetting to follow through on finishing up certain tasks after the majority of the process was done. Luckily, I picked up on her subtle hints before she had to say anything directly, I hope before she got too terribly frustrated. I felt dumb and bad when I realized what I had been doing, and I realized that a majority of the time the answers were one of three or four main things. So to try to remind myself to put on my big kid pants, I wrote myself a sign and posted it on my cubicle wall, right where my eyes would encounter it when I was thinking about a problem. I copied that froo-froo scripty font like they use on motivational posters, and it said, “Before you ask , did you….
      …check the relevant chapter of ?
      …check the documented information from the ?
      …ask the whom to connect with?
      …check with the ?
      Also, do you need to…
      Update the written procedure?
      Update, save and officially submit the document?
      Assign anyone any new training?

      (Sorry, ran out of HP references there at the end.) It worked. It reminded me to stop and actually work out the answer I probably already knew before bothering Hermione on autopilot. It didn’t mean I never had to ask for advice again (she had ten years on me in the department; that’s a lot of institutional knowledge), but it cut those requests down by about 80%. A couple of months later she saw the sign in my cube and was like, “ummmm…. What?” I explained, we both laughed, she said it was a good idea, and we went to lunch.

      1. Captain Safety Pants*

        Oh no I formatted all my parentheses wrong and it erased everything in them!
        It was meant to say,

        “Before you ask , did you….
        …check the relevant chapter of “hogwarts, a history”?
        …check the documented information from the “Ministry of Magic” ?
        …ask the “Department Minister” whom to connect with?
        …check with the “Groundskeeper or Caretaker” ?”

        1. SailorMoon*

          I truly appreciate the HP references and love how aware of it you were and how you tried to improve. I hope Meg will start to do the same as it’s a bit tricky for me to want to be helpful but not want to do her work. I’ve written a ton of notes on the job (I mentioned to her a few times before where she could find them), but I recently took some free time to add to/edit them. I really reinforced to her that they were there, printed them out, and scheduled a meeting to go over them before I’m away for a few weeks. I hope having something tangible and having checklists like you said helps. -OP

        2. Very Social*

          And Hermione never had to ask you whether you were going to read Hogwarts, A History!

  15. Beth*

    LW1: Throughout my childhood, my dad asked this every evening when he came home from work. It’s less inappropriate coming from a parent than a random exec in your company, but still pretty annoying to be asked every day! Talking about school (which is what he was trying to get at) didn’t work; school often felt very routine and uninteresting, and I definitely didn’t want to have conversations about schoolwork after already being there all day and doing homework. Trying to ignore or deflect the question also didn’t work; I’d get treated like a moody, sulky teenager who was refusing to engage with my parent.

    What did work was picking some random tiny trivia and throwing it his way. If I told him something like “I learned how to beat the water temple boss in my ocarina of time game,” then I was cooperating with his desire to connect, I was introducing a conversation topic that I was ok with talking about, and (given that he didn’t know or care much about video games) I was also pretty much ensuring that the conversation would be short (so I could go back to reading my book in peace).

    You might be able to use a similar strategy here. Throw something out there that you heard on a podcast while commuting, or in an article you read over lunch, or whatever; voila, you’re being a good sport. Yes, it’s not a work-related thing like was probably expected. But your exec will probably take the team-player energy that you offered and feel like they’ve successfully connected and created positive energy in the workplace. I’m betting that’s enough to satisfy them.

    1. Drifter*

      LW1: My Uncle’s go to phrase for greeting people in person, or on the phone, was ‘so what do you know?’ It completely threw me as a teen and took me a long time as an adult to accept that this was his version of ‘how are you’. It was always annoying.

      Is it possible this is just a verbal tic rather than an important question?

      1. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

        That’s a standard Minnesota greeting – the correct response is “Not much, you?”

        1. Meowsy*

          Iowa, too! Drives me nuts, actually. It’s worse when asked in third person: “and what does Meowsy know today?” I…don’t… is there another Meowsy here?

    2. Triviamania*

      When I was a teenager, my dad would also ask me the same question every day after work. Instead of being one-sided or particularly school-focused though, he would answer it too and it was a fun way for us to connect. We almost always would trade minor bits of trivia or new things about each of our current interests.

      Obviously much different than being asked by an executive at work, but I would second the recommendation to see if she’ll accept non-work related answers.

    3. CM*

      I love Beth’s answer here — I’m sure the exec is not trying to make you uncomfortable. So what’s her motivation for asking? My guess is that she’s hoping to connect with colleagues and also maybe get some insight into what’s happening in the office. You could answer something that’s not directly responsive, like “I’m working on ___” or even deflect entirely, like, “Oh, have you heard about [upcoming work event]?”

    4. fhqwhgads*

      I definitely associate this question with Thing a Parent Who is a Teacher Asks the Kids at Dinner After School.

  16. Beth*

    #4: You can try asking your coworker and see if that decreases the frequency, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to actually expect this to stop. People fidget. If not a shaking leg, then it’s pacing during a phone call, or clicking a pen repeatedly, or some other annoying habit. It’s unfortunate that the construction of your building is amplifying this, but it’s also a pretty standard problem for shared spaces like open offices; everyone is annoying sometimes, you can’t reasonably expect your coworkers to somehow be the exception to that rule, so the best solution is usually to figure out a way to ignore it.

    1. anonymous73*

      Nope. I realize some may be more sensitive to noise than others, but if I have a colleague who is so distracting that I can’t concentrate I CAN expect them to stop the distracting behavior so that I can do my work.

      1. Beth*

        There have been tons of cases even just in letters here where person A is doing a reasonably normal thing, and person B finds that thing really distracting and can’t work well around it. That’s a normal workplace conflict, especially in open offices, and there are lots of ways to address it. Maybe person B asks person A to be mindful of it and the frequency decreases (but person B needs to figure out how to tolerate it sometimes), maybe person B moves to different cubicle further from A (hoping that their new cubicle mates have different habits that don’t bother B so much), maybe person B talks to their manager about needing a distraction-free environment for their role and is able to wrangle an office instead of a cubicle, maybe a combination of several options gets used.

        What isn’t useful is telling person B that they can tell A to stop and expect that to actually be the end of it. Even if A hears that this thing is annoying to B and genuinely tries to stop doing it, it’s unrealistic to expect them to never do it again. It’s fine to make the request, and fair to expect A to try to be more conscious of it, but B needs to expect that it will happen sometimes without A noticing. They should expect to remind A if it comes up in moments when they really need deep focus, and they also need to figure out how to let it go in moments when it’s just not that big a deal, or they’re going to become the unreasonable one.

      2. Dahlia*

        When you’re not neurotypical it’s not always a thing you can stop.

        Better accomodations like cusions and mats are mentioned upthread, verus asking people to willpower out of disabilities.

        1. anonymous73*

          Sure and it’s up to that person to find a solution that doesn’t disturb their colleagues. It’s not about willpower. It’s about being respectful of those around you and doing what you can to figure out how best to do that.

          1. Coconutty*

            Just because you’re the one being disturbed does not necessarily mean that you’re behaving reasonably. Sometimes you ARE just going to have to find a way to deal with it, because your request just might not be reasonable or realistic.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              If you have a condition that means you have annoying habits, you’re likely to have to find ways of not annoying people, not just at the office but in bars and restaurants, public and even private transport, at home, when visiting people. So it’s not unreasonable to expect the ND person to bring in a cushion to make the tapping less annoying.

              Of course there are unreasonable requests, like my Dad moaning about the neighbour’s music when others could barely hear it, or moaning about the dog barking way down the street. But the case in hand definitely is not unreasonable, so maybe this argument could be gently dropped?

          2. Wisteria*

            I think it’s up to the colleague to learn better emotional regulation and less distractability.

    2. Observer*

      People fidget.

      True. But when you are literally shaking other people, you need to stop whatever it is that you are doing if you can (and find a different way to fidget.)

      1. Flawed by Design*

        I’m a chronic leg shaker thanks to ADHD. My mother has been telling me to stop shaking my leg my entire life. I’ve tried desperately to break the “habit” for nearly 30 years but as soon as I stop consciously focusing on not shaking my leg, it starts again. If I try to “find a different way to fidget”, I just end up fidgeting AND shaking my leg. The only thing that actually makes it stop is ADHD meds, which are more effective some days than others. Telling me I “need” to stop shaking my leg would be the same as telling me I just need to learn to focus better.

        1. Observer*

          I did say “if you can”. My point being that the “people fidget” is not by itself a reason to not try or bring it up. It’s a reason to have a conversation about possible solutions.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          But would you be adverse to placing a cushion so that your tapping doesn’t make too much noise?

  17. Ginger ale for all*

    I used to live in an apartment that had an upstairs neighbor who would crate their dog when they left. This dog would rock their crate back and forth constantly on a carpeted floor. The sound it made drove me nuts. I bought them a small kind of floor mat that was thick and said it was anti fatigue. I got it at a kitchen section of a home goods store. Once it was under the crate, I couldn’t hear the crate rocking any more. See if your coworker will try one.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        People are more accepting of solutions if someone else has picked up the bill for the solution.

        1. Purple Cat*

          I would say not even that someone else “Picked up the bill” but more that someone identified a possible solution and put it in motion. I mean if someone asked me to “Look into anti-fatigue mats” it might take a while to execute. If someone sends me a link to one the likelihood of buying it right away goes much higher, if someone shows up at my door with a mat, well, I’d be an ass not to use it then.

  18. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    #5 – I am friends with my previous supervisor! It def took a little while for the relationship to shift; at first it was just coffee and chats about work, but over time it morphed into a proper friendship, especially as I ended up changing industries.

    1. OP#5 on July 14th*

      I will take my time. It will be awkward at first. I was just curious if there was a standard waiting period.

  19. DyneinWalking*

    LW3: The wife should just set her alarm early to accommodate the policy…

    …then, after a while, call in sick for sleep deprivation. God, what an unrealistic expectation.
    (Yeah, I know that plenty of workers in health care are regularly sleep deprived, but that’s not a good standard to start with)

    1. Mel*

      For #3- I’ve been in healthcare over 20 years now across multiple states. The policy of calling in min 3-4 hours prior to shift is 100% standard. There’s no “pushing back as a group”. Yes, it’s unreasonable if you’re expected to be there at 7am, nobody is waking up at 3am to ensure they feel fine. It’s incredibly difficult to staff- it’s not like many jobs where you can call out and other people pick up the slack and things just suck. It becomes dangerous and/or against some regulation (depending on the situation) if you aren’t properly staffed. And staffing is getting worse every week in healthcare. It’s just awful.
      However…this is why we have float pools. You call in as soon as you can, and hopefully somebody can be pulled into your shift.
      I hope there is some accommodation that can be made for the migraines. I wouldn’t wish those on anybody. Good luck.

      1. Observer*

        The policy of calling in min 3-4 hours prior to shift is 100% standard.

        In admin roles?

        It’s incredibly difficult to staff-

        And one of the reasons is stupid an abusive policies like this. Just because it’s “standard” doesn’t make it right, reasonable, realistic or useful. Just like it used to be “standard” to lock people into their work building – and that is not illegal, because it never was a “reasonable” thing to do.

        I hope there is some accommodation that can be made for the migraines.

        No need to “hope”. The accommodation here is stupid simple. This not a patient care role, so the excuse of coverage doesn’t work.

        1. Nameless in Customer Service*

          Even in admin roles — the rules are the same, even though that makes no sense at all. (I spent 6 years total at 2 hospital desk secretary jobs). It’s exhausting and it’s the culture.

        2. Lana Kane*

          In my admin roles in healthcare it’s been 1 hour, however we are unionized. I know there are many healthcare institutions who require a few hours even for admin.

          Also, understand that these policies aren’t always applied uniformly, because it can be an easy way to fire employees managers want to get rid of. In a non-unionized environment, there’s usually no mechanism to ensure that these policies are applied fairly. (Hell, even in my unionized workplace, managers have been caught not applying these rules uniformly, and then they get grieved when they try to discipline).

          1. Nursebymarriage*

            “Also, understand that these policies aren’t always applied uniformly, because it can be an easy way to fire employees managers want to get rid of.”

            This is 100% what my ER nurse husband talks about. He will not call in regardless of his situation because of the grief he’ll get for it. Just two months ago he went to a shift with full-on wobbly vertigo which is not safe for him driving or treating anyone else, but not going for his shift would just be another “mark” against you that they might use someday.
            The ironic thing in his case is that he’s one of the ones they’d probably make an exception for if he exceeded the 3 call offs per year limit, but his anxiety and work ethic make him paranoid that they’ll bring down the hammer. God forbid he have vertigo less than 3 months after he had to call out for our toddler being in the hospital!
            When he called in for the hospitalization of our three year old on a random Monday, his supervisor asked if he’d be in for his Wednesday shift BEFORE they asked if his daughter was ok. It is a screwed up industry. (She’s fine now, but she was in the hospital for a full week…I guess they thought I’d just handle that solo. Ridiculous.)
            End of rant. Sorry.

  20. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    #3 – what are you supposed to do if you come down with e.g a stomach bug 30 mins before you are due to leave? I mean, I understand why as much notice as possible that someone is not coming would be helpful, but sometimes life happens.

    1. londonedit*

      And even on the offchance that you do wake up ill at 4am, what are you meant to do? Send an email with a 4am timestamp? Ring your manager in the middle of the night? I start work at 8.30 and my manager doesn’t start until 9 – I’m sure they would not want me to send them a message at 4.30am saying I was ill. The usual form wherever I’ve worked is that if you wake up and realise you’re not well enough to make it in, you send a message or ring in before you’re due to start work or as soon as you can realistically get in touch with someone (i.e. if the office doesn’t open until 8.30, you ring at 8.30).

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        In a hospital setting, there’s definitely someone there 24/7 who will start calling medical staff if they can pick up an overtime shift.

        1. GN RN*

          Yup. Typically, the staff calling in would not be calling their manager. Instead, there’s a dedicated sick-call line. Someone is there to answer that line 24/7. The calls are time-stamped, and relayed to the managers.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        For a job that needs coverage, the manager probably welcome the early call which allows more time to get your replacement lined up and in the office for the start of the shift.

        However there is a big difference between jobs needing coverage and jobs not needing coverage. The same policy should not be applied to the different categories of people.

    2. Nameless in Customer Service*

      In my first month at my second desk secretary job I caught norovirus. I put on gloves and swathed myself in my biggest coat, zipped it up till only my eyes showed, sucked on candied ginger the entire public transit trip to work, went to the charge nurse and explained, and she sent me home. Because I knew if I called out I’d get in trouble, especially since I was still on probation. It was ridiculous but I got brownie points for it.

  21. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    #1… “There’s always been a small level of toxic positivity here….”

    Maybe answer with that. “I learned just how toxic an office really can be.”

  22. GythaOgden*

    Calling in sick for us in a healthcare admin job is two hours’ notice. Four hours seems excessive, but we don’t know the circumstances WRT the actual mechanism that triggers the search for cover, so the first instinct for me would be to seek a rational explanation and then evaluate whether it seemed reasonable knowing all the facts. And even then…even if it is unreasonable, what’s actually actionable?

    While my office is non-clinical, the company we work for ultimately has people in clinical settings and maintenance workers, for whom it probably would be important for management to find cover for and deal with. For me it’s NBD, because my hours start at 11, so 9am is when my colleague opens the phones. We have mobile phones with Teams on them to keep in touch although the initial message has to be voice. It’s crappy to wake up early when you’ve also been up all night with a migraine, and my bosses tend to only start at 8 so it’s always a toss-up between leaving a message and worrying they won’t get it and having to stay awake long enough to catch someone’s attention. But the trade-off after that is a day in bed.

    In these kinds of settings, it’s unrealistic not to give someone a decent amount of notice. They can’t know you’re going to be out, they need someone there to do the maintenance, cover the phones etc, and it’s not too onerous to leave a voice message where someone can pick it up on time. In the white collar world, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that strict, but for the people who don’t work straight 9-5 jobs, there needs to be some time that is allowed to arrange coverage. It’s the nature of the job in this 24/7 society of ours, and if you want us to be available for your health emergency or late night kebab, then understanding the way this works would help give more accurate advice.

    1. metadata minion*

      I realize this isn’t a solution one can just implement, but this seems like yet another way staffing for these jobs is messed up and unsustainable. If your workplace can’t function if one employee wakes up with a migraine or get food poisoning after lunch, your staffing plan is ignoring the fact that people are human and can’t schedule illnesses in advance.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        It depends on the situation. If the office has early and late coverage of one person, yes, there cannot be one person only scheduled for that ever because they get vacations, days off, and sick days, but there can be only one person scheduled at a time and that person being unexpectedly out can cause a scramble. Maybe the solution is have a designated back up. But if the one person staffing the office from 7 – 8 realized they’re sick when they’re leaving the house, it will be really hard for anyone else to get into the office by 7. The solution is not necessarily to schedule 2 people at all times (or most of the time) if there’s really only work for 1 person.

        It’s very situational.

        1. aebhel*

          Right, but *coverage* is part of work needs. If you need someone there for coverage regardless of whether all the duties are finished, then you need to build in more redundancy than ‘we can accommodate time off scheduled in advance’ to keep from off-loading your staffing issues onto sick employees.

          Naturally the latter option is cheaper, which is why it’s so common, but that doesn’t make it the only feasible one.

          1. Me ... Just Me*

            There are coverage redundancies built into healthcare — but you realistically can’t have people sitting by their phone, ready for the day, just in case one of their co-workers calls in at the last minute. The replacement needs to have a heads-up so that they can get up and get to work on time when their co-worker calls in. And asking someone to stay late isn’t always feasible, either — those who are working have every right to expect that their replacement on the oncoming shift will show up on time. You can’t get that arranged with no prior notice. In a hospital, there are multiple call-ins every shift from multiple departments and 1-2 people covering staffing decisions/placement for the hospital. They have to find coverage for all the call-ins that shift; move staff around and, if the redundancies that are already built-in are exceeded, begin calling staff at home to see if they can pick up a shift that day. Four hours notice isn’t always realistic from an “I’m sick” point of view, but neither is a “everybody rolls out of bed and calls in a half-hour before their work day starts” either. If you work in healthcare, than you know that there are added responsibilities surrounding the work environment and absences. It’s part and parcel of choosing to work in that environment.

            1. Not a mouse*

              So… is every healthcare worker meant to wake up four hours early, every day, just to see if they’re sick and need to call in?

              1. GythaOgden*

                I think that’s a bit tendentious, because these systems work far better in practice than they do in theory.

                In my case, a migraine that’s going to cause me to call out starts in the small hours anyway, and I’m usually awake at the sort of times I’d need to phone in.

        2. GythaOgden*

          We do manage when people are off sick and there’s no-one else who can cover. I ended up in a dodged-bullet situation – I took AL over a long weekend (Thursday to Monday inclusive) and actually missed getting Covid. Both of my colleagues were floored by it, but the only thing I heard was my colleague ringing me on the Sunday night asking if I knew someone’s work mobile number so she could call in herself. I was able to come in at normal time on Tuesday — they didn’t make me work the Monday, and anyway I had a load of food shopping being delivered that afternoon that I didn’t want to have to cancel. I came in on Tuesday and worked single-handed for the week that my colleagues were out.

          But I’ve definitely been on the other end of a phone a few times when my boss has asked me to come in early to cover sickness. They’re very good about booked AL and not expecting me to have a Star Trek style transporter (I used to have to ring someone in another building to ask them to let people in and desperately wanted to say ‘two to beam up!’), but in practice this is just how it works and it’s probably reasonable to expect it with any kind of shift work or coverage work that needs a butt in a seat.

    2. Jackalope*

      It’s not feasible or reasonable however to expect everyone to wake up 4 hours before their shift, do a quick check to see if they’re feeling well enough to go to work, then go back to sleep. In this case specifically a migraine could hit at any point and you don’t necessarily have advanced warning. Sure, that’s lousy for the people who have to find a replacement, but the fact remains that it isn’t possible for humans to always know 4 hours before their work shift starts (which again may be 2+ hours before they actually wake up) if they will be sick. And I’m not sure about the OP’s wife, but I find that I’m more likely to get headaches if I wake up in the middle of the night. So this would actually make things worse for her health.

  23. SheriffFatman*

    LW #4: involuntary leg movement is a common side-effect of some medications.

    Not saying this is definitely, or even probably, the case here, but go sensitively.

  24. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Some people are bad at conversations. This boss might be one of them and has found this ham-fisted way to start a conversation. The choice is to grin and say something and move along with your day, or make it oddly confrontational. Is this a hill to die on? Probably not.

    1. Alan*

      I had the same thought, because I work with some socially-awkward people. It’s easy enough to determine if that’s the issue: turn it around. If the OP asks the same question of the executive and the executive bristles, it was a power play. If the executive starts talking about their dog, they were just making conversation.

  25. EllenD*

    LW#2 – I think your approach – to think about a problem before approaching others – is absolutely the right one and should be encouraged. I wonder if your colleague has had a bad experience in the past which has led her to never trust her own judgement and has been told off for not asking questions straightaway.

    When I was managing people, I told them I had two rules – no surprises up, down & sideways; and secondly I was happy to answer questions but I preferred the question to be along the lines of ‘not sure what to do I could either do ‘a’ or ‘b’ but there’s pros and cons for both’, or ‘I’ve looked at the issue and I’m not sure what the best next step would be because …..’. While managers like problem solvers, sometimes they need to be a sounding board to help people learn and develop and work out the right solution. I also didn’t always insist my way was the only way, if their way would achieve the right outcome and had no downsides.

  26. Blarg*

    Both my boss and grandboss are enrolled in (different) executive type doctoral programs and driving me nuts with things like #1. Every time they learn a new tool with an acronym or supposed magic question that will glean all the answers, we hear about it. And nothing else til the next pearl of wisdom from a professor.

    My sympathy on leadership who thinks “helping you grow in your career” means like, every single day with the same mundanity.

    It’s … fun.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “I am learning how to do the same thing day in, day out, year after year and yet not allow the joy to drain out of my life.”

  27. WillowSunstar*

    #2 Be aware that if you have a bad boss, nothing may be done about your coworker. I had one like that and I told our boss. Coworker was still asking me newbie questions 3 years into the job, even ones that were well documented! He was a huge part of why I started looking for a new job once I hit a year and a half into it. For managers reading this, experienced people don’t like fixing their screw up coworker’s mistakes forever. If you do nothing about it, people will leave jobs over it.

    1. SMH*

      What would have happened if you had stopped answering his questions and said ask the manager? Always curious how this type of scenario plays out. I’ve seen others experience it and one coworker had comments in her review that she was not a team player because she had stopped answering the same questions over and over for an employee that wouldn’t learn.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Not the original commenter but I had that experience. Our manager at the time was so hands off she had no clue what went on in a day to day basis so co-worker might as well have asked the big toy grey rabbit which had been abandoned in the office by someone who had long since left. I can see her saying that same thing about me – that manager tended to form her own conclusions about what was going on and didn’t investigate properly, and would then turn out to be wrong. She was known as Cornelius Fudge.

      2. WillowSunstar*

        I would have been chastised as a woman for not helping the man, even if he was 20 years younger than me. Possibly, I would have been accused of being mean and then sternly talked to by the manager. We always have to be helpful where I work and “nice.”

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          $job-2 had a “go along to get along” culture, explicitly. So someone who was a bully could, and did, easily run roughshod over people. My resistance to patent BS from someone like that is probably why I was on the Covid layoff list. Not being able to push back logically on patently ridiculous stuff because it was seen as not “going along to get along” drove me up a wall.

      3. Cat Tree*

        I think it can work out, if you already have established a helpful reputation. At one job I was the go-to person for various mid-level computer questions. I generally liked helping because most questions took less than 30 minutes of googling, I liked solving a problem, and I often learned something useful to myself along the way.

        But we got one who was just totally clueless and didn’t retain any previous info. I genuinely felt bad for the guy being in over his head, but I just didn’t have the capacity to properly him up. So I started just saying “I don’t know” or “seems like you need to submit a help desk ticket” until he stopped asking.

        But I think that’s the only case where it’s likely to go well if you already have a mediocre manager.

    2. anonymous73*

      Sure, but were you helping him or telling him he needed to help himself? Yes your manager should have your back but if they don’t, you can put a stop to the questions yourself. I worked in app support a while ago and created all of the knowledge base articles. The team leads would continually come to me with questions. My first response was always “what does the KBA say?” and eventually they stopped asking. I was more than willing to help if something was not documented, but don’t come to me when the answer is easily found and right in front of your face.

      1. WillowSunstar*

        I was doing both. Had a 20+ page document written up in detail of instructions and also his FAQ. Sent it to him every time. He did not want to read.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          When I changed departments at one place I had people complain that I “didn’t train my replacement”. It was BS. I not only wrote up the process, but I showed the person who was supposed to replace me, and tried to have them do it, but they didn’t want to. Turns out that he (younger, male, overconfident) didn’t read the docs and didn’t pay attention to what I showed him, then threw me under the bus. It ended up costing me the job when layoffs came. (Yes, I’m still bitter about a lot of stuff at that place, and it’s been almost nine years.)

  28. JG*

    For the wife with migraines – you may be missing an important option. If you have an unpredictable medical condition, you can get a type of intermittent leave from a doctor that gives you an verified excuse to call out that doesn’t fall into progressive discipline for attendance. For example – Jane suffers from Migraines that may cause her to miss work once a month. This will protect her from progressive discipline as long as the company is large enough to fall under FMLA guidelines. My partner has this at his job for Vertigo

  29. Hiring Mgr*

    Sorry if this is too basic of a comment but I don’t live in an earthquake area or know anything about these type of buildings… Someone moving their leg can cause the whole building to shake?? It just sounds like there would be hundreds of similar movements every day all the time.

    1. Sylvan*

      I shake my leg (ADHD, doing it right now) and I’m also wondering about that. Maybe if you’re tapping the bottom of your desk or a desk leg, you can rattle something close to you? What is the building made of?

    2. Critical Rolls*

      It’s not at all typical. I posted upthread that I’ve lived in a number of earthquake-aware areas and never run into this. I’ve only had that type of problem working in older wooden buildings.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      The idea is that a building in earthquake country should have some flex. This is why you don’t see masonry buildings in these areas. Masonry is strong, until it isn’t and the whole thing comes down, or at least you get very very expensive cracks. The classic single family house in California is wood frame on top of a concrete slab. That slab cracking is a problem, but while I am sure you could use some other sort of foundation such as sinking posts, it would be enough more expensive that people instead just take their luck. Skyscrapers are somewhat flexible already, what with being build of steel beams. In earthquake country they take this a step further, with shock absorbers between the building and the foundation. The outcome can be quite exciting, especially in the upper floors, but it works quite well, unless the ground underneath all that is of the sort that acts as a liquid when you shake it enough. You can’t earthquake-proof that. How does this relate to the floor shaking from someone shaking his leg at his desk? Poorly. I suspect that this is just a very flimsy floor, buttressed by an equally flimsy excuse.

      1. Alan*

        I think building on slabs, at least for residential, isn’t really “traditional”. It’s anecdotal, but our CA neighborhood is all raised foundation (pier and beam), built in the 1930s. It’s the newer developments that seem to be slab because it’s cheaper. “Pier and beam” is great in an earthquake.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Traditional in the post-WWII sense. I had a friend who owned a pre-war house with an actual basement. Visitors would want to see it, as something they had only read about in books.

    4. Alan*

      No, that’s a crock (IMO). I live in CA, and work in a new office building, and no, people tapping their feet, or even walking, doesn’t do that. Earthquake mitigations are really structural, to combat the whole building moving. Local effects (feeling someone’s foot tapping) are just bad construction.

  30. Sassenach*

    LW4:
    I am a leg shaker. While I have never been officially diagnosed with RLS I suspect that might be it. It is HARD to explain the sensation of needed to bounce, tap or shake my leg and how it feels when I can’t or have to suppress it. It can be agonizing. The bouncing is a tremendous relief and I often do not realize I am doing it. I get it is annoying to you but I would proceed with grace and caution. Recognize too that one polite request will not “solve” the problem for good. True story: I was in a movie theater with my boyfriend and there was some trembling. He thought it was me bouncing my leg as usual. Turns out it was an actual (minor) earthquake!
    Good luck!

    1. Julia*

      Have you ever tried a foot fidget toy? They include cushions to bounce your feet/leg on. It absorbs some of the trembling of the floor.

  31. Rusted Yellow Bird*

    #4 Look up Essential Tremor.

    People with ET can’t hold the affected body part still even if they wanted to. In most people it’s mild but it can be more extreme. Your coworker’s constantly shaking leg does fit the condition.

    It’s also a handicap covered under the ADA.

    You may want to verify your coworker doesn’t have a handicap before you tell him to stop doing whatever it is he physically can’t stop doing.

    1. Purple Cat*

      I disagree a little with your last sentence. The coworker may have absolutely no idea that what he’s doing is impacting other people. And once that information is “known” it is up to the employer to help come up with an accommodation to minimize the impact on other employees – ie the mats other people have mentioned. Nobody is suggesting OP “TELL HIM TO STOP!” But she absolutely has standing to ASK. And needs to be understanding about what the response might be. Heck, maybe it’s just OP’s desk gets moved so she’s further away (admittedly not feasible in a lot of situations, but not necessarily impossible)

    2. ThatGirl*

      There are about 500 reasons why he may be shaking his leg. My husband used to do it as an expression of anxiety; he didn’t generally realize he was doing it but he could stop, and did, and thankfully it’s less common now.

      Point being, it can’t hurt to ASK – if he says “sorry, it’s an essential tremor and I can’t control it” then you drop it. But that may not be the case! And frankly, I think it would be more offensive to start off with “do you have a disability or something???”

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah…I’m not sure all this ‘it could be XYZ condition/medication/whatever’ is particularly helpful. The OP is already asking for a non-confrontational way to address this. If they just use a version of Alison’s wording, like ‘Fergus, I’m sure you don’t realise but when you jiggle your leg it sends vibrations through the whole floor, and it’s quite distracting – could you try to tone it down a bit?’ then that gives Fergus an opening to say ‘I’m so sorry, it’s a medical condition/the medication I’m on/my wife keeps on at me about this and I don’t even realise I’m doing it’. And then with any luck Fergus will try to stop jiggling (and if he does it, the OP then has an opening to say ‘Sorry, Fergus – I know you can’t help it but you’re jiggling again!’) and even if he can’t, the OP will be able to reframe it in their head as ‘OK this is annoying but Fergus can’t help it’ rather than ‘FFS Fergus is the worst human being in the world’.

      1. Raboot*

        Exactly, what would this even look like? You don’t need to anticipate any possible explanation for your problem. It’s not rude or hostile to politely ask someone to stop doing something causing you issues.

      2. Lana Kane*

        Right? “You might want to verify…” has become pretty overused when it comes to questions about interacting with other people. Some things you just can’t verify (at least not without significant sleuthing and privacy breaches). I get not wanting to cause offense, but I feel this causes people to believe they need to verify every possible reason prior to talking to someone – and when there’s no way to verify, then they freeze. If the question is worded kindly then that sets you up for a better outcome.

    3. Observer*

      You may want to verify your coworker doesn’t have a handicap before you tell him to stop doing whatever it is he physically can’t stop doing.

      I can’t think of a worse idea. Having a polite conversation with their coworker is a LOT better than gossiping with people about the guy. (HR sure is not telling them if they are even minimally competent!) And even after all the nosing around and gossip, the OP might not even find anything out.

      Just have a conversation! Yes, be polite, and understand that you might get a reasonable answer that you don’t like. But be direct. And maybe you can do some cooperative problem solving. Like would it be practical for one of you to move, the mats that others have mentioned, etc.

      1. Wisteria*

        Well, one way to verify your coworker doesn’t have a handicap is to have a polite conversation with him.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      People aren’t saying “Tell him to stop”. They are saying “ask him to stop, or work with him on mitigating the effect on you.”

  32. Been There*

    LW#3 – My hospital required a 3 hour notice or lose one of a small number of allowed absences against a rolling 12 month limit. Get close to the limit and it effected your merit review. Hit the limit and you’re terminated. In a nursing shortage.
    A few years back just our unit added an additional hour to the requirement – 4 hour notice, and made it a double penalty. I pointed out to the leadership team all the reasons why this was a REALLY BAD IDEA, primarily that most people are still asleep 4 hours before their shift and will now just come in sick and then leave very soon into the day/night. That would not incur the extra penalty and would leave us scrambling to find help instead of giving us more time as they hoped. My concerns were dismissed, the policy was implemented, and callouts did not improve. Many did exactly as I predicted. And this toxic practice was so popular in the higher management levels that several more departments implemented it and still use it to this day.
    The most frustrating part for me was that one of my “shared leadership” duties was scheduling in my unit and I’m a data nerd hobbyist. So I had all the data to show THIS ISN’T HELPING. But you know, who wants facts?

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Ugh. Genuine question, was there ever any explanation for why they were so attached to this policy? I just truly cannot see a single upside to it. If it was actually reducing call-outs, even by basically forcing people to work while sick, I could understand a toxic management team liking it. But if call-outs didn’t improve and people were coming in sick then leaving, and presumably others were breaking the policy and getting marked down/fired, what is even the point? Just a “well we feel like this OUGHT to work even though it blatantly doesn’t so we’ll keep doing it”?

      1. Been There*

        In theory it gives more time to replace the sick employee with a float/agency/pool staff. Crucial in 24/7 bedside high volume environments. In reality we were always still short and scrambling for help. Reading others replies it seems this is not an uncommon requirement in the hospital setting.

      2. Other Alice*

        It’s amazing how often people’s feeling that a policy OUGHT TO work trumps data showing it DOES NOT work.

        1. Me ... Just Me*

          … but, it actually does work. The idea isn’t to make things convenient for the person calling in sick, it’s to be able to have a functioning hospital, so the care given to ill patients can continue uninterrupted. And, as far as employee satisfaction is concerned — I’d much rather have 2-3 hours notice that I need to come into work because my co-worker called in vs getting the call as the scheduled shift is already starting and coming in late and being terribly behind and stressed. That’s a recipe for poor care, as well. Everyone is trying to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation, because there are always trade-offs.

          1. GTT It Like It’s Hot*

            I would disagree that it works in the long run, since strict and inflexible policies like this are a large reason why nurses and other care staff ultimately leave the bedside, thereby creating bigger staffing holes. A functioning hospital should have a robust float pool, since occasional call-offs and sick days from employees should be expected by a company. Staffing issues are a management problem, but hospitals try to shift the onus onto their frontline employees.

            1. Me ... Just Me*

              Hospitals obviously have float pools — but even the most robust float pool isn’t going to be effective if the employees call in sick at the last minute. Sure, occasionally. But, the truth about human nature is that people try to get away with what they can. Obviously, this can be a failure of management not to address, but it’s been a widespread problem in most institutions, thus the policies surrounding the 2-4 hr notice at virtually every hospital. Widespread late call-ins compromise care. That’s the thing. And hospitals really can’t allow that kind of lapse or what??? have people sleeping in cots waiting to jump into work if their coworkers call in last minute?? Have a culture where regular late call-ins are a thing and nobody gets off work on-time??– that’s going to really irritate and you’ll lose employees over it. I’ve been a house supervisor (that’s the person who’s job is to arrange staffing and to assign patient’s to beds) and it’s very very difficult to fill last minute call ins. It compromises care. It leads to census caps and diversion to other hospitals. It increases wait times in Emergency Departments. It delays surgeries. In smaller hospitals, it can mean that tests are rescheduled for different days.

          2. Been There*

            In our facility our staffing needs were still not met, even with more advanced notice. People can’t always comply with the 4 hour requirement and will find workarounds to avoid the double disciplinary hit. I do believe it goes beyond the inconvenient and into the unsafe realm to think I’m going to set my alarm for 2:45 each day to see if I might be sick then try to go back to sleep for 2 more hours and come to work. There’s only so far one can go for the team.
            Industry wide there is very high turnover. My facility is no exception. These “beatings will continue until morale improves” policies are certainly not helping. Neither is the constant emphasis on resilience and taking care of yourself. Nurses and other health professionals are masters of processing the horrific things they deal with daily. But the constant institutional message lately of caring for the caregiver only shifts more blame onto the overworked. Meanwhile the organization brags on all the offerings and perks that frontline staff can’t possibly take advantage.
            I haven’t had a vacation request approved in 6 years except for a child’s wedding. And that was under last minute duress. The only ones satisfied are those who are still doe-eyed new grads. Those of us here a long time are stuck not because of great pay, but seniority won’t transfer and I’m too old to go back to nights. Not to mention they have an effective monopoly on my specialty in the state. So, yes. A lot of people leave. Go to other specialties, states, careers. But a lot of us a stuck, pushing back to no avail. Sorry off on a rant. But I was a manager when we implemented this ridiculousness. I do know it definitely wasn’t working.

          3. biobotb*

            But Been There said it didn’t work — people did the thing you say would make you terribly behind and stressed.

  33. Jam Today*

    “How have you grown?”

    “Well, I’m busy and stressed and I’m self-medicating by eating salty food, so I’ll let you know by the end of the week but I’ll guess…a pound and a half, outward?”

    1. Purple Cat*

      This made me chuckle.

      But your username doesn’t check out. If you’ve watched Alice in Wonderland, you know it’s “Jam yesterday, Jam tomorrow, but NEVER jam today” :)

  34. just another queer reader*

    #3: yes, this is a dumb policy!

    My housemate works at a hospital, where they have a similar “2 hours notice preferred” policy.

    A couple weeks ago my housemate was about to leave for work when they suddenly vomited. So they called in about 20 minutes before their shift started. Their colleagues dealt with it, bc… that’s how it goes sometimes.

    (Ideally they would have… thrown up earlier in the day? Idk.)

    1. Trek*

      We had a coworker that woke up feeling ‘off’ but showered and dressed and was feeling fine when she left her home. She was half way to work when she started throwing up in her car. So lucky her she got to go home and be sick and clean up her car. Sometimes there is no warning.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      My mom is a nurse and she was at work one morning when all of a sudden she started feeling sick and ended up having to go home. Her boss was frustrated and asked her why she even bothered coming in that day if she was just going to leave early and my mom was like “…because I didn’t feel sick when I came in? And I can’t predict the future??”.

      From what I’ve heard this is not the only instance of her boss being unreasonable, some people are just going to be mad at being inconvenienced no matter what.

  35. LadyEnginerd*

    LW #4- I’m a structural engineer and I’ve studied floor vibrations quite a bit, so here are my thoughts on the building side of it – although you’ll probably need to talk to you coworker/boss to get there.
    Floor vibrations are a common serviceability complaint in office buildings, hotels, and pretty much any other multi story construction. (Serviceability means it’s only an issue with the end use, it’s not an issue of structural integrity) The less the floor and it’s components weigh, the more likely vibrations will be noticeable. It’s not directly related to be earthquake resistant design, more just modern design and technology that make building more efficient and light weight. There are plenty of structures designed to meet earthquake provisions that don’t have vibration issues like this.

    Do you have the options to rearrange the space a bit? There are a few things you could try to make you both happy:
    1. Rearrange the weight distribution. Is there a heavy bookcase or other equipment you can move around? It may take some trial and error, and it might not do any good, but it could solve the problem easily. (It’d need to weigh more than the people creating the vibration!)
    2. Move your desk (or coworkers desk) directly over a floor beam. If you can see the columns in your office, try to line the desk up with that. The beams that attach to the columns will bounce a lot less than the open floor slab, so that might cut down on the vibration you notice.

    1. Purple Cat*

      This is why this site is the best. On pretty much every topic a SME weighs in. Awesome.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      This is an informative and interesting answer. I learned something new today. LOL!

      I honestly I did wonder why an earthquake-safe building was relevent to the situation so I appreciate your answer saying that that has nothing to do with it and the modern lightweight materials are most likely the cause of the traveling vibrations.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I am not a structural engineer but my understanding is some buildings in earthquake prone areas have large floor-size pads that can shift back and forth in an earthquake instead of transferring that motion to the building as a whole. But that would be a different sensation than the floor vibrating when someone walked by, for sure.

        1. LadyEnginerd*

          Some larger buildings have mass dampers that do similar to what you’re describing. It’s essentially a large piece of equipment that’d be contained in an area like a hearing/cooling equipment or other mechanical equipment. But those are very expensive and typically only used in large high rises, and they address the side to side movement from an earthquake, not the up and down vibration from someone walking or bouncing.

        2. wibbly-wobbly but not like that*

          I live in SF and used to work in a fine art museum which houses a large number of ancient, fragile pieces on loan from other country’s governments – our earthquake retrofitting was suuuuuuper over the top to satisfy the requirements of the lending governments. Oh, and the building itself was historic and fragile, too. Oof!

          At the very bottom, the building had base isolation systems that act to damp most of the movement from an earthquake. Here’s a short YouTube video: https://teara.govt.nz/en/video/4429/fitting-base-isolation-bearings

          Because the *foundation* of the building could sway and absorb seismic movements, there was no need for the *walls* of the building or the individual *floors* to do so. The engineers reinforced the museum walls with concrete. In other words, you had a very, very stable building set on top of an enormous waterbed. Within the building, the galleries and collection could be secured and displayed just like any other museum because the whole thing is able to sort of float in the case of a major earthquake.

          In other words, the retrofitting achieved the exact opposite of what LW describes – absolutely no shaking of any kind on the floors! The building can now withstand an earthquake equivalent to the 1906 tremor without damaging more than 1% of the building’s collection – let alone Greg The Software Engineer wobbling his knee up and down!

        1. Alan*

          Thank you so much for commenting! That was super helpful. When we remodeled our home we hired our own structural engineer to do periodic assessments of the plans and the ongoing work, and it was so helpful. Our general contractor wasn’t very experienced, so having a third party there to inspect and explain stuff to us was well worth the cost.

    3. Generic Name*

      I love this answer! The floor shaking thing is so unnerving. My husband is a carpenter, and he builds houses. He says that most flooring materials are actually thicker/sturdier than us strictly necessary because people don’t like walking in floors that move or give, even a tiny bit. Even if the moving doesn’t affect the structural integrity of the building, like LadyEnginerd mentioned.

    4. Nameless in Customer Service*

      Thank you a lot for this edifying and fascinating answer! Not only does this help LW #4 and educate all of us, LW#1 can cite it for a Daily Fact. (I mean this enthusiastically, not mockingly.)

  36. EPLawyer*

    #1 and #3 are examples of the same thing — a blanket policy applied across the entire organization without thought.

    #1 — Exec asks everyone what they learned to do without realizing that some jobs are pretty routine without a lot of variation.

    #3 – 4 hours required for shift coverage — even when coverage is not essential to the job.

    Education is key in both. For #1, if Exec really is well meaning and not just stuck in toxic positivity land, explain what your job really is. Then explain that while you want to grow in your career, its not a “learn something new everyday” kinda job. For #3 – involve HR and use the magic words – ADA Accomodation. Let that educate the supervisor that not everything is coverage based and requires a requisite number of butts in seats every day. I would say its a staffing issue but healthcare is having HUGE issues with staffing right now, even in non patient care areas. Just suggesting hiring enough people that coverage isn’t a problem isn’t a viable solution right no.

    1. Me ... Just Me*

      Are migraines considered disabilities? — That’s interesting to know. Though, I suppose one would have to let the employer know of the disability and work toward an accommodation.

  37. Riot Grrrl*

    #4: I don’t know if this is going to be a controversial thing to say, but sometimes when someone in my space has an annoying habit, I am able to catch myself and basically choose not to be bothered by it. I don’t know if it’s just me or what. I’ve shared space with pen clackers, snifflers, and kids kicking the back of the airplane seat. Often in such cases, I’ve been able to kind of breathe and decide it doesn’t bother me. And then it just sort of goes away. Maybe a thought to consider.

    1. Loulou*

      I mean, good for you, but you actually CAN ask people not to do those things and then move to the “try to decide it doesn’t bother you” stage only if they refuse. I basically agree with the idea that you can only control yourself, but offering someone a tissue or pointing out that they’re kicking your seat or whatever does work a lot of the time.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      But everyone has different tolerances for different things. Yes, the OP can probably decide to be bothered less by it . . . but it’s very possible that the coworker could also learn to do it less. In a shared space it’s better if people try to meet each other partway than to expect compromise to be one-sided unless it’s absolutely necessary.

    3. Observer*

      Often in such cases, I’ve been able to kind of breathe and decide it doesn’t bother me. And then it just sort of goes away. Maybe a thought to consider.

      That’s nice for you, but beyond unreasonable to suggest to others. Yes, SOME things you can suggest that people “decide to ignore”. But, there is a limit to that. And your suggestion crosses that limit pretty significantly.

    4. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      For that last one (kids kicking the back of the airplane seat) I’ve had great luck talking directly to the kid. I explain that what they are kicking is attached to my seat, and when they kick, “I can feel that in my back”. Parents will often tell a kid to stop doing something without ever explaining why, and I have found that making the clear explanation to the kid, in words that make sense to them, can make a huge difference.

      Adult snifflers and pen clickers are a very different category, of course.

  38. TyphoidMary*

    LW1, you could use this quote from the book “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E.L. Konigsbury:

    “I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside of you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It’s hollow.”

    1. quill*

      Love that book, have occasionally been tempted by it to go camping in a museum though…

  39. Jess*

    #3: Migraines fall under the ADA and FMLA, so I’d just request the FMLA certification forms and have her PCP complete it. Waiving having to follow the call-out policy should be an easy accommodation for most employers.

  40. Narise*

    OP2 I would have the conversation with your coworker that you don’t see her remembering a lot of what she has been trained on and she needs to take notes or review training materials before asking questions. You could try for a few days pushing back on her questions with questions of your own: ‘What have you tried? What do you think it means? Where have you looked to find the answers?’ You can point out nicely that this has come up before and she should have examples of it and/or recognize it.

    I understand if you don’t want to spend the time trying a new approach and sending her to the manager may be the only option. Hopefully she took some notes while she was being trained. After two or three days tops I would direct her to the manager for most things. Loop in your manager that this is how you are approaching it and that you will be sending her to her going forward. Hopefully coworker will finally learn and improve but my guess is once you take this approach she will end up leaving.

    If you train someone else after 30 days try asking questions and allow them to explain the process to you. ‘We received this request. Can you tell me what we need to do?’ This will help solidify the training but also identify any gaps earlier.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      If you have the energy for this it could be a short term push that creates some long term solutions. Sort of a “teach a man to fish” philosophy – give her an opportunity to learn HOW to solve herself, and that she can, and that might make her more confident in her own abilities.

  41. A Pound of Obscure*

    #1. BLECH. Even if I thought it could harm my standing with these people, I can guarantee you that after a week of this, my answer would be, “I learned that it’s demeaning to be treated like a kindergartner.”

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      I don’t understand why one wouldn’t just ask her to please stop asking. I’d ask her to stop the very first time by saying, “that question made me feel quite infantilized” and then just stop and look at her.

  42. Pizza party*

    LW3
    I really hate to go against the grain here but this 4 hour rule is very common in healthcare. I’ve been in healthcare for over 10 years. Most facilities have this rule and they are usually long established policies that have been in place. I just don’t think pushing back as a group is going to work. I would honestly bypass this and go straight in to getting intermittent FMLA.

    1. kiki*

      It’s interesting that this is so common in healthcare when this policy seems to fundamentally misunderstand health. I’ve noticed that with a lot of my friends in the healthcare field, they know that certain behaviors are essential to maintaining health and wellness (getting enough sleep, resting when sick, avoiding others while contagious, etc.), but the norms of the healthcare field mean they don’t actually get to do those things. I don’t know exactly why that’s the case and how it keeps getting perpetuated, but I’ve noticed it with so many friends in different realms of healthcare. It would be cool to get more perspectives from inside the field on that.

    2. Observer*

      I really hate to go against the grain here but this 4 hour rule is very common in healthcare.

      I don’t understand why that makes it OK, *especially* in a context that is not coverage based – no patient care of public facing interaction involved.

      There is all this conversation about how healthcare is suffering staff shortages and people are dropping out, etc. And healthcare execs wring their hands and moan “what can we doooooo?” Well on of the things they can do is reconsider these “standard” – and frankly stupid and abusive practices.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Don’t you know, it’s because “No one wants to work anymore!” /s

        A lot of the “great resignation” is being driven by clueless managers stuck in the 1980s mindset. People really don’t like being treated like replaceable, undifferentiated cogs in an antiquated machine. Healthcare and academentia are among the worst.

    3. KatieP*

      Yes, it’s common in healthcare, and the best result for LW3 would probably be the ADA or FMLA route.

      It sounds like the industry as a whole needs a culture change. Those have to start somewhere. If LW3’s wife has the energy for it, she could give it the first push to get the ball rolling.

      1. Old and Grumpy*

        This. As an attorney for employers, this is the classic situation for the ADA to kick in, and I would advise my clients to engage in the interactive process. LW3’s wife should ask for an accommodation based on her migraines and work with her physician. Altering the call-in expectations, particularly if they are not relevant to coverage for her position, is a reasonable accommodation.

  43. Jean*

    LW2, start pushing back on her requests with “Did you search your email archives?” or “What do your training notes say on that topic?” If you keep answering her questions, she will keep coming to you. She needs to be made aware that you are no longer the “first responder,” so to speak, whenever she runs into trouble. I have mentored many new hires in my time at my company, and sometimes it just becomes a habit to come back to me whenever a question comes up. In that case, it’s just a matter of fostering a new, better habit – i.e. check your own resources first.

    LW1, ugh. You have my sympathy. I’m sure this person either doesn’t know or doesn’t care how smug and irritating this habit of theirs is.

    1. cloudy.days*

      LW #2 – I used to work in a position where I had specialized knowledge about a certain topic, but also more or less supported clients in the same way as my colleagues. Any time something came up with a client that even slightly drifted into my realm, my colleagues would have a tendency to try to offload that client onto me. Not in a “this requires your specialized knowledge” way but “they mentioned something that tangentially involves your area of expertise, so can you take care of this for me?”

      Anyways, the best and most reliable way I came up with to address this was, “I’m super happy to help – can you let me know what you’ve already tried/searched/suggested so that I’m not just recommending things you’ve already done?” Say it in a blithe, matter-of-fact way like of COURSE they’ve already explored a number of options before approaching you to solve it

      If they come back with, “oh I haven’t tried anything yet”, I would then say something like, “Okay, I can help troubleshoot that. I’m pretty slammed for the next few hours, so why don’t you plug away at it for now and then I can help to review what you’ve come up with?”

      To be totally honest, I don’t know that this made me the most popular person ever, but if their complaint is “She didn’t do my work for me when I asked”, that’s a frustration that I’m totally fine with people having towards me lol

  44. ABCYaBye*

    #3 – in addition to the suggestions that have been made for ADA/FMLA accommodations for your wife (GREAT SUGGESTIONS BTW) I would suggest your wife approach her boss to just ask what her thought is on the situation. If, as Alison suggested might be the case, the boss is understanding but having to pass along the policy statements, then that might give your wife some peace of mind that there’s no actual problem with the situation. If I had to put myself in the boss’s shoes, I’d probably parrot the policy and give a little eye roll as I did to ensure your wife got the message that I was just parroting the policy because I had to, not because I felt it was correct.

  45. She of Many Hats*

    I would be so tempted to intersperse my professional new knowledge with arcane useless trivia like how many toenails elephant have (18) or the latest tidbit from NPR. So what did *you* learn today?

  46. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Everyone’s been coming down hard on the exec in #1, but I read it from a perspective of someone who: 1) has my career essentially dependent on me being able to learn new things constantly, 2) had managers in the past who actively discouraged, if not banned, learning and training during work hours; because it didn’t give them the short-term results of tickets being closed, employees looking busy banging on their keyboards and so on.

    Last manager I had that was like this, told us to create new tickets during our downtime, instead of taking training classes. I complied and opened a bunch of bogus “tech debt” tickets, am now no longer on that team, and am getting notifications about the tasks I’d created now being worked by people who still are on the team (undoubtedly because it is a better use of their time than training and improving their skills related to their job /s) and I feel kind of bad.

    If it were me, I would totally lean into the new exec’s being supportive of learning new things, and try to see if it can be evolved into “management encouraging continuous learning”. Depends on OP1’s work and on the field they are in, of course. It’s what I would do for mine.

    1. anonymous73*

      During an annual review it makes sense to ask these questions. But on a regular basis it’s obnoxious. And OP mentions toxic positivity at the company, so to me it reads as someone trying to spread sunshine all over the place and ignore any underlying problems.

    2. Observer*

      Sorry, just because one extreme is bad, does not make the other extreme good.

      What this exec is doing does absolutely nothing to “encourage” learning. What WOULD encourage learning would be things like making classes available, do (real) staff development, help cover the cost of continuing ed, etc.

      What the exec is doing is, at best performative nonsense.

      1. I Wrote This in The Bathroom*

        To me, what this exec is doing is opening themselves (and the rest of the leadership) up to requests for things like making classes available, do (real) staff development, help cover the cost of continuing ed, etc.

        I would 100% respond to their “what have we learned today?” with a list of classes I need to take etc. And if they would then tell me that they didn’t mean it in that way, then I’d feel free to ignore their questions going forward.

        1. Observer*

          You may be right the the exec is opening herself to that. But I would be extremely surprised if that is what she is trying to do. Because it’s a lot easier to ask people “Hey, what things would help you improve your education and skill?” than to figure it out by asking a context free question that doesn’t actually relate to what people would find helpful.

  47. Generic Name*

    #3 I’m torn as to whether or not doing this is a good idea, but I’ll mention it anyway. It’s inspired by the “malicious compliance” subreddit. Maybe set an email to auto-send every single day at 5am saying you are too ill to come in. Then, come in as normal on days you are well. When your boss is surprised you are there and asks about your email, explain you didn’t want to run afoul of the sick time notification policy. Bonus points of you can sincerely say, “You’ll know when I’m actually sick when I don’t arrive at my normal time, so don’t worry!” Typing this out, it sounds really stupid, but it’s a stupid policy for your role.

  48. Former Recruiter, Current HR Generalist*

    For #1 – LW says that the CEO has brought on additional executives, so I am interpreting this exec to be new to the organization. To provide context, they are probably asking to try to get a feel for the culture, explore employee sentiment, and see if employees are advancing within their roles (what have you learned?. They’re probably asking these questions to all levels of employees, even those who don’t directly report to them. The LW doesn’t mention *how* often they’re asking this so I’m assuming it’s not every day.

  49. parsley*

    LW2, I’m in a similar situation right now, my coworker started about two weeks after I did. She’s very lovely, but she struggles a lot to pick up processes and systems, and despite having been in the workforce for a while, lacks skills/familiarity with what I would consider essential MS Office programs like Excel and Outlook. She also has a tendency to mutter constantly, which extremely distracting, and 90% of it seems to be her struggling with software. I feel bad because she really is lovely, but every time I get interrupted during work to talk her through a process I’ve already gone over with her, I’m tempted to just walk into the nearest body of water.

    1. anonymous73*

      Stop helping her. Make her use Google or the help functions within the software. You’re enabling her to continue coming to you for help. The only way to make it stop is to say no. It may sound harsh, but it’s what’s best for both of you. If she can’t hack it, then management needs to be made aware (not by you mentioning it, although at this point I would because she’s interrupting you with the same questions over and over, but by her lack of productivity).

    2. Observer*

      Stop helping her.

      Do it politely but firmly. And if you think that she’s going to complain to a shared manager, estimate how much time it’s costing you and then loop in your manager BEFORE you start.

      Like “I’ve realized that I’m spending approximately x hours a week talking Lucinda through her processes and then getting back to what I’m doing. That’s obviously a significant productivity hit, so I’m going to stop helping her so much.”

    3. SailorMoon*

      Ah Meg talks to herself too. She says everything she thinks out loud and about every hour or two she’ll say something like “wow it’s noon/1/2 already, this day’s going by so fast”. Is it, cause you say that every day? -OP

  50. Hiring Mgr*

    on #3 when you say something like “How can I call in four hours ahead of time when I wasn’t sick until I woke up?”…. what is the response? I mean this must happen all the time?

    1. Jean*

      It’s pretty clear to me that this policy is designed to make it difficult/impossible for anyone to take sick time without being disciplined for it. It’s a shitty policy, and I bet it’s not the only shitty policy this place has.

    2. anonymous73*

      It’s a typical unreasonable policy with zero exceptions. If your place of business relies on specific numbers of people working for safety reasons and regulations, then a back up plan needs to be in place. When people get sick, they don’t get a 4 hour warning based on their work schedule. It’s ridiculous.

  51. WantonSeedStitch*

    Or even if it’s a question you ask of the group at a weekly or bi-weekly team meeting: “has anyone learned anything cool lately that you want to share with the team?” It’s a great way to encourage people to share tips and tricks and interesting facts that are relevant to the job. But yeah, asking an individual every day, when they aren’t in the initial training phase…not really helpful.

  52. Eldritch Office Worker*

    #1 do you have any personal journies that you could give daily updates on? For example mine is currently “trying to figure out how to make a protein powder smoothie that isn’t clumpy”. I could have killed at least a week of updates at this point.

    1. quill*

      I learned that turtle shells have a hinge in front, so they can close up to protect their heads easier, but no hinge in back. Because nobody needed that turtle tail anyway.

  53. Critical Rolls*

    LW2, you know your coworker and your boss, so you probably have a good idea who to start with. But your boss definitely needs to know! And if they’re a good boss, they will support you in getting your coworker to a more independent status, or moving her along if needed. And I know this part is probably too late, but if you have concerns about a new coworker, please please please raise concerns before the end of any probationary period!

  54. Ms Negativity*

    1. What have you learned today?
    Gosh I must be having a bad day.
    Sample responses that come to mind…
    Jennifer is pregnant and I am the only one who knows. oops.
    Bill W. started drinking again.
    One of my oldest friends died suddenly two nights ago.
    I learned that you really don’t need a response to that question.
    That G-d is present whether invited or not.

    That taking a deep breath and counting to ten is a good idea before I open my mouth.

      1. Alpaca Bag*

        It’s no wonder Bill W. started drinking again – he’s been dating Jennifer, and she must have told him her news, too.

  55. Anon4This*

    #2 – OP are you me? It sounds like you work with my former co-worker. Really sweet person, but anytime she was faced with a task she would immediately turn to me and ask what she should do (which was fine in the beginning, but less so after she’d been there for 6 months). She was fine if she was working on a task that was exactly the same from start to finish each time, but if there was even a slight variation on it she was absolutely lost. I would also find myself using the “When I’m learning something, I try to figure it out myself before I ask for help because that helps me remember it next time” line, but to no avail (and when she did try to do something for herself she usually ended up causing problems that I’m still finding and fixing four years later!) Like you, I also found her exhausting to be around both professionally and personally.

    After trying on my own to push her to do things for herself I did have a talk with our manager. It sucked because I felt like I was being snide/shady, but she really was relying on me WAY to much, and it was starting to affect my work. She ended up being let go during the pandemic (and I’m a little guilty to admit I was relieved).

    1. quill*

      I think I am this coworker lately: long term pandemic burnout and a bunch of undocumented changes to procedures have left me with zero working memory of how to do tasks.

    2. SailorMoon*

      That sounds exactly like me and my coworker lol. I think my manager definitely sees it on some level, at least that I’m more confident in the work and that Meg struggles in some areas but I’m sure everyone’s right that actually talking to boss about it might be the best thing. Ugh confrontation…-OP

  56. IndoorKitty*

    1: That is too funny. Just yesterday I had a direct report mention to me that due to stress and ya know, the global pandemic, she finds the common social nicety of asking people “How are you?” to which the response is supposed to be “Fine, how are you?” just a little much.

    So, as an empathetic manager, I took to the interwebs to see if there were any good alternatives. All I could find were questions like, “What did you learn today?” and “What was the best part of your day?” which I thought would be weird an obnoxious, just like OP1 feels.

    I pictured myself greeting a team member in the morning, in response to “Good morning, how are you?” saying (my favourite) “How is your heart today?”

    I wonder if this CEO did the same search, but for some reason thought it would be a good idea to deploy the obnoxious questions?

    1. kiki*

      I kind of feel like all small talk is (or will become) annoying to somebody. I’ve felt the same as your report in the last few years with “How are you?” but then, yeah, all the alternatives are imperfect, weird, or not right for all situations.

      1. Jean*

        Reminds me of that meme where the woman had someone respond to “how are you” at Whole Foods with “It is beautiful in my soul today” and that’s why she never shops at Whole Foods

    2. Elenna*

      LMAO

      “How is your heart today?” would just make me wonder if the asker was confusing me with someone who had cardiovascular issues…

    3. anonymous73*

      LOL Honestly a simple greeting is enough. I don’t know why we feel the need to ask how someone is doing all of the time.

  57. The Original K.*

    There was a tweet the other day that asked “how have you added to your legacy today?” and people responded with really mundane things: “did my job, walked the dog, watched a show with my wife.” “Ate a sleeve of crackers standing over the sink.” That’s what #1 makes me think of. We can just be, sometimes – we don’t have to be constantly grinding.

  58. Essess*

    For the migraine sufferer, if you have doctor’s documentation you may be able to file it as a medical condition for FMLA then the absences would fall under the FMLA protection. A recurring chronic medical condition usually qualifies as an FMLA condition if you have to be out intermittently. They would not be able to punish you for your absences when you are out for an FMLA reason.

  59. Chicken Situation*

    I was sitting here bouncing my leg when I read number 4. (Thankfully, I work from home.) I will say that there is no harm in asking them to stop, but please be aware that, for me at least, I don’t even always realize I’m doing it. I would try to reign it in but would hope for a bit of grace when I forgot; it’s a hard habit to break.

    1. therealnojo*

      Very much agree! I used to be that leg-shaking co-worker at my office. Most of the time, I didn’t even realize I was doing it; I’m guessing it’s the same with your colleague. My coworker in the neighboring cube brought it up with me in a similar way. We got a good system down, where if I forgot and was shaking the floor, she’d gently say “Hey [name], I’m bouncing over here…”

    2. therealnojo*

      Very much agree! I used to be that leg-shaking co-worker at my office. Most of the time, I didn’t even realize I was doing it; I’m guessing it’s the same with your colleague. My coworker in the neighboring cube brought it up with me in a similar way. We got a good system down, where if I forgot and was shaking the floor, she’d gently say “Hey [name], I’m bouncing over here…” It became kind of a running joke between us.

  60. Lizard*

    #2. I feel your pain & have been there with some co-workers. I agree with advice given by others (gentle push back, talk to their manager about this). There is one big caveat though, and it is highly dependent on what you know of your workplace. If you stop correcting or answering the questions, it might really bite you at performance review time.

    That happened to me – apparently, while management conceded that person x was too needy post-training, it was still an unstated expectation that I’d clean everything up while management gave her “direct coaching”. I was labelled as not being a team player, which was a first for me (ditto on the negative leaning performance review). After enduring a few smug comments from management about how well x is doing with the tasking after some coaching (it was over a year of coaching), I finally had to leave. Maybe that org felt it was worth it to put that much effort into coaching others on basic data entry work, but I still think that was a real waste of time. Some people are just not suited to certain types of work, and that’s usually real clear after a few months of trying.

  61. Waterbird*

    LW 1: We had a VP in my organization who was exactly like this and it drove me nuts. Interestingly, her role was eliminated earlier this year; turns out she wasn’t actually doing much work other than asking people weird questions and pretending it was to promote career growth (or whatever). My coworkers and I found solace in realizing we were all being asked strange questions and having to come up with equally strange answers, but I feel your pain!

  62. LilPinkSock*

    #3 – I also suffer from migraines, and was able to work with my HR department for accommodations under the ADA to allow more flexibility in taking sick time. Your wife’s company should really re-think their policy, but in the meantime getting an accommodation could be much easier.

  63. Meow*

    #1 – if it were me, I’d buy a trivia book – or better yet, a day-to-day calendar of daily fun facts – and recite those when asked. Or pull something from the Today I Learned subreddit. No one said it has to be all work related, right?

    To be honest, I wonder if that CEO actually expects people to answer with work-related answers every time. “Think of something new you learned today day” sounds like something straight out of a self-help book on positivity, especially since OP says they already kind of have a culture of toxic positivity.

  64. Michelle Smith*

    OP3: I would handle this by requesting a disability accommodation and I’m surprised it wasn’t suggested in the response to your letter. This is usually a very formalized process in most orgs where you fill out paperwork and get documentation from your doctor and submit it to an HR person who is required to keep the information confidential. She should get a letter from her doctor explaining that migraines are rapid onset and that she is only going to have x amount of minutes/hours notice that she won’t be able to work. Her accommodation request should be that she is exempt from the sick policy if she is calling out sick because of her migraines and that she will give notice as soon as reasonably possible. This costs the company $0 to implement and it would shield her from any adverse repercussions for not following policy. Make sure the letter indicates that the condition is lifelong and her prognosis is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. HR will be required to notify her manager of the accommodation request and speak to them about feasibility, but this shouldn’t be a problem since manager already knows she’s calling out sick “late.” Hope this helps!

  65. Observer*

    #4 I work in an earthquake-safe building which means that the floor shakes anytime someone walks by.

    Nope. As others have mentioned, it doesn’t – or at least shouldn’t work that way. I believe that the shaking happens! But whoever told you that it’s because it’s an earthquake-safe building gave you incorrect information.

    I doubt that you can do anything about that, but I think it’s useful to be aware of this. As a practical matter, I think you’ve gotten some good suggestions on dealing with the situation as it stands. Because ultimately it doesn’t really matter why the floor shakes like that – you’re not likely to get the underlying problem fixed, so you need some realistic options.

  66. catsoverpeople*

    LW#2 – I have been on the other side of this, and as frustrating as it is for you, I have to add my perspective and hope it helps with empathy.

    Several years ago, I was let go from a job after struggling through 2/3 of the probationary period. I will say it was about 50% my fault — I was making mistakes, yes, and overwhelmed by the high level of detail I was expected to know/remember. I can see why my coworkers got tired of helping me, as I didn’t fit in there and I couldn’t have known that ahead of time.

    It was about 30% “their” fault in the sense that the training manuals they bragged about (two binders, two inches thick each) were not updated frequently enough to be reliable. I started writing updates and notes for myself, yes, but this was after the fact of many mistakes so it was too late. By the time I realized how much this was happening, their opinions had been turned against me as an employee and they were indifferent when I pointed out the flaws in the manuals.

    It was about 20% just expectations that were too high, in general. I’d be responsible for catching mistakes made by people way higher than me in their roles and experience level, and if I didn’t catch the mistakes THEY made, it was a strike against ME, not against them for making the mistake in the first place. Oddly, my counterpoint in another city routinely refused to complete tasks that she didn’t understand, but no one else was allowed to pick and choose their work. So I think there were some serious problems that weren’t about me, and your managers may be blind to this sort of issue as well.

    And, in spite of my username, I did report to work on time mere hours after my kitty had to be gently laid to rest at the vet’s office. I tried everything in my ability to be the right person for that job, but I just wasn’t.

    1. quill*

      Oh hi, I have several of these problems at work: not enough documentation, me without enough background knowledge to create docs effectively.

      That and the family brainweird / ex gifted kid trauma where there is no scale between how mad I think people are at me if I ask questions about what I “should” know or don’t ask questions and get something wrong. And one serious organizational problem in the level of precision expected before another person ever sees your work.

      1. catsoverpeople*

        It’s maddening, isn’t it? My favorite was when they’d trot out the old chestnut, “you should have known by looking at it”. If I had that level of insight, would I be asking you for assistance?!

        Funny you mention the ex-gifted kid thing….I know this is drifting off-topic, but I didn’t realize until recently (late 30s) that I still believed my mom’s misguidance about homeschooled kids’ higher academic prowess and its effect on success as an adult. If I was reading at a 9th grade level when I was in 3rd grade, why can’t I get better at this? That internalized sense of superiority, which was false because I was NOT actually gifted, has finally faded and I can accept myself as mediocre. I hope you find some peace with yourself and/or a better job scenario as well.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I grok the ex-gifted kid thing, coupled with ADHD made me have really bad issues with homework, expectations, and willingness to ask questions. Even if it’s just finding a clerk to ask where the bathroom is, I was supposed to be smart enough to figure it out for myself, because gifted, blah, blah.

          Someone in a reference fort me actually said “Curmudgeon has actually learned that not everyone is as smart as they are.” I had a boss with a masters in math tell me to “Slow down, not everyone is as smart as you are.” It was a bit humbling. But man, when I don’t know something I can be a total idiot, so I just learn to shut up and look it up first before I start with the questions.

          1. catsoverpeople*

            Hey, at least you’ve got the goods to back it up! It’s pretty humbling to realize you don’t!

            Seriously, though, good for you that you’re able to realize what your limits/areas of ignorance are and find ways to work around that. I’m sure your coworkers appreciate your efforts.

      2. catsoverpeople*

        (sorry if this is a double-post)

        It’s maddening, isn’t it? I love when they trot out the old chestnut “you should have known just by looking at it”. If I had that kind of insight, why would I be asking you for assistance?!

        Funny you should mention the ex-gifted kid thing….I was never actually gifted, but bought into my mom’s message that homeschooled kids would have better successes in college and general adult life. If I tested at a 9th grade reading level in 3rd grade, why wasn’t I getting better at this job? That attitude followed me for years before I realized I am mediocre, and that’s okay, and I can still be useful.

        Hope you find peace if that’s what you’re dealing with, and/or a more reasonable job situation.

  67. miss chevious*

    LW2, as someone who managed a Meg, I’m imploring you to please tell your manager how much you are helping her and get their support to stop helping with the stuff she should already know. My Meg was a dude who successfully cajoled others on his team into so much of his work that I didn’t realize how far behind he was until one of his coworkers resigned (for unrelated reasons) and Mr. Meg’s work quality dropped off a cliff.

    If your boss is a good one, they will get Meg the help she needs to be successful or get her on a track to be removed, and they will support you in setting your own limits. Mr. Meg was ultimately terminated, but if I hadn’t been told by his coworkers how much they were doing, I would never have known about the seriousness of the problem.

  68. CW*

    #4 – My boss also suffers from migraines, and four times this year since I started this job in February he had to get off work early or call out. And there was no way he could have given 4 hours notice. It just comes in suddenly, without warning. I am so sorry for your wife, and I don’t know how most can tolerate that policy. People get sick, and a lot of time suddenly. It is not like anyone plans to get sick. Or chooses to, for that matter.

  69. kittybutton*

    For the migraine sufferer, could she request exemption from the 4 hour notice as reasonable accommodation of her condition?

  70. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    LW 4, could your wife request an ADA accommodation as a migraine sufferer to be exempted from the four hour requirement, because her condition does not allow for her to know that far in advance of her illness coming on and because the accommodation is reasonable since her job does not require coverage when she is out sick?

    Of course, I think the whole policy is absurd and they need to substitute it with having people on call to come in when someone is sick. If a healthcare professional working directly with patients starts throwing up only a half hour before work due to a stomach flu, it is not safe for them to be working with the patients regardless of the four hour rule!

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I meant LW 3 … but at least I can see I am not the only one who made that mistake!

  71. KatieP*

    One of the best situations I’ve seen, similar to LW4’s issue with the leg shaking, was a colleague of mine who told me up-front that she had that same behavior and explained the root cause of it. Knowing that up front really helped us navigate any issues when her leg shaking might have otherwise been a huge distraction. Fortunately the floors didn’t shake. I like the suggestions from the structural engineer in a previous comment – those were some good ideas for dealing with the floor shaking.

  72. Pikachu*

    #2 – I once had a trainee that didn’t want to leave the nest. One day I got hit by the flu. My coffee tasted funny on my drive in… I got to the office, vomited, and went home. We had a significant thing happening this day, and had he not been absolutely required to handle it himself, I’m not sure how much longer it would have taken. And he did great! It was a confidence issue more than anything and I think he just needed to be thrown into the deep end.

    This isn’t really applicable to the Meg situation but it’s worth thinking about for reluctant trainees.

    1. SailorMoon*

      Thanks! I think it’s a mix of confidence/maybe not being suited to the job. I am taking some time off soon so I hope that will help get her out of her shell. -OP

  73. Sara N Vallerie*

    #1: Today I learned about toxic positivity!

    #3: I’m also surprised Alison did bring up an ADA accommodation. But seriously, what healthcare company requires staff to show up sick. I would report them to a state agency.

  74. Lizzybee*

    As a leg shaker myself, I can positively assure you that he is unaware when he’s doing it and as SOON as he realizes he’s doing it, he stops. For me, it’s an ADHD/anxiety stimming thing, I don’t do it on purpose, but if I’m concentrating hard on something, I do it unconsciously. More than one exam invigilator has had to ask me to stop because it’s driving people nuts.

    I 100% recognize how annoying, frustrating and distracting it is and I can pretty much guarantee that this person does as well – just say something nicely and hopefully he’ll try to be more aware of it.

  75. Emplo-yeet*

    LW 1: I think one way to answer this question is to focus on the skill you used or developed that day. For example if you work in customer service, “today was a lesson in patience since X,Y, and Z happened” or “today I got better at streamlining X process” – it doesn’t imply that you don’t already know how to do that thing, but it’s a good way to share about the growth points of your day when you already know how to do your job.

  76. What a way to make a living*

    That’s so condescending! It is the kind of things a primary school teacher asks a child at the end of the day.

  77. Persephone*

    LW4: As a leg shaker (ADHD tic), I am constantly worried that I’m disturbing someone with it—your coworker will probably want to know it’s bothering you. However, there’s a possibility that even if they try really hard, they won’t be able to stop. You should definitely decide before hand how much this interferes with your focus + productivity, as the only solution may be to move desks.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      My mother had the shakes with her Parkinson’s. She stopped crossing her legs and planted both feet firmly on the floor, which helped a fair bit.

  78. Krista*

    For the migraine sufferer-this is a perfect situation for a Reasonable Accommodation. It would allow the flexibility she needs due to herdisability.

  79. bopper*

    What did you learn today?

    Time for malicious Compliance.
    “I’m glad you asked! As you know, I work on llama teapots, specifically on the spouts. Now currently the spouts are 3 mm in thickness near the base goign to 2.5 mm thickness near the opening. Of course here at TeapotsRUs we are always looking to be efficient in productions. So I asked how thin the teapot could be? 2.9? 2.8? 2.7? 2.6 or gasp..even 2.5? And then what would happen to the top of the spout? How low could it go? 2.4? 2.3? 2.2?2.1 or even 2.0mm? So we have started a run with all the combinations….2.9 and 2.4, 2.8 and 2.3, 2.7 and 2.2, etc. So the first combination, 2.9 and 2.4 came out okay. So now we test it with the strengthometer, you know, the one from Teapot Instruments? Model 72A? Anyway…..”

    Keep talking until they walk away

  80. bopper*

    What did you learn today
    “Oh, that’s an interesting question. Did you learn it from your MBA program?”

  81. blood orange*

    OP #4 – I once had a co-worker in an open plan office space who would sing aloud to the music in her headphones. She had *no idea* she was doing this! It was very endearing as she was a really well-liked person, but it was also distracting for those around her. Our supervisor had developed a great rapport with her, and he would just get her attention, then say “Jane, you’re doing that thing again” in a light-hearted way. She would laugh, look completely surprised with herself, and we’d all get back to work.

    I’m not sure if you have, or feel you can develop, that kind of rapport, but generally just treating it as a funny habit as Alison said will hopefully do the trick.

  82. ENFP in Texas*

    LW#1 – I’d be so tempted to show up at work wearing a South Park shirt with Kyle on it that says “You know, I learned something today”…

  83. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP 1 I think you could reasonably and truthfully say “Nothing.”
    Then follow up with “which means it’s probably time for you to promote me into a new challenging role that pays me twice as much in order to motivate me into learning how to actually do it”.

  84. Guesstimate*

    oh the 4 hour window for calling off sick, my beloathed.

    when I was young my first job was at a particular bakery-salad-sandwich chain opening the store at 6am. I too suffer from debilitating migraines (and a slew of other issues that could flare up without notice) and had the same rule.

    “you must call in and speak to a manager on the phone (no leaving a message) 4 hours before missing a shift.” except the managers lefr at 10pm with the rest of staff and even the overnight bakers were gone by 1am. what’s worse is being super sick “wasn’t an excuse” to not come in, even as you were actively throwing up and sobbing while trying to call in.

    same place the GM screamed at me (like 17 at the time and so timidly nonconfrontational) because i had literally Every. Single. Symptom. of a heart attack and tried asking to clock out to go to the ER during breakfast rush one day. nope, i was “abandoning” him to have to work the line and had to cough up a 300$ note from a doctor i wasn’t faking it. :)))))

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