coworkers keep hugging me, scales in our break room, and more

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

1. Is my workplace toxic or am I just inexperienced?

I came into my first job excited and idealistic, believing everyone wanted to improve the company and work towards the same goal. I was given some warnings prior to starting that my position had high turnover, but I initially couldn’t figure out why. It slowly became clear that my boss only listened to the opinions of one employee. That employee was friends with the boss at a previous job, and is close with the two directors who are directly below the boss. This employee is deemed untrustworthy by her peers, as she tends to monitor our work and report anything she finds disagreeable. This concerns my position because she is my partner in my team and we work closely together as peers. Other employees warned me of the partial treatment and recommended I keep my head down and appease this employee as much as possible. I did this for as long as I could, until she started threatening to tell my boss if I didn’t agree with her or do what she wanted and the work environment started to feel unsafe.

When her treatment finally became abusive and discriminatory (yelling, saying racist things, spreading rumors about me), I reported the treatment to HR. HR performed mediation and approved my request to sit in a separate office, but my relationship to management has not been the same. I was previously viewed positively, but after standing my ground, I could never do right again. My boss started yelling at me, falsely accusing me of things. HR had to get involved, and he was forced to apologize to me. He gave me a written warning which I found unreasonable and I requested a second opinion. That person agreed it was overreactive and could’ve been easily dealt with with some coaching. He wasn’t pleased with that either and recommended I leave my job if I didn’t like the treatment (I’ve had to stay for personal reasons).

Luckily his boss saw how he was treating me and demanded that all his conversations with me be mediated by her. She ultimately stepped in and requested that I nominate a mentor who could advise me and also be present in my meetings with the boss. This was immensely useful, and my boss ultimately ended up hearing my side (albeit begrudgingly when my nominated mentor spoke up for me). My boss abruptly left a few weeks later.

Work has never been the same for me since. I am now scared of punitive treatment every time I am called to a meeting, even though my new boss is reasonable and fair. Is my workplace toxic or am I just inexperienced with how to handle workplace situations? Should I have just put my head down, been agreeable, and kept a low profile?

No! This is about your workplace, not you. It’s not just your ex-boss or that favored coworker; it sounds like everyone there has learned to tolerate a level of dysfunction that they shouldn’t. When an employee is yelling at a colleague and saying racist things to them, HR shouldn’t be mediating; they should be shutting down that behavior firmly and with finality. When your boss’s boss saw how he was treating you, it’s good that she intervened, but that should have involved laying down the law with him immediately, not just having someone sit in all your meetings with him. (That said, if his abrupt departure was the result of her firing him, then she did do the right thing, and the chaperon might have been her mitigating things for you until she could act, if the organization’s processes made a speedier resolution impossible.)

You might be inexperienced, but it sounds like you handled all of this well and your instincts were good. Now you’re dealing with the emotional reverberations of having worked for such an awful manager, which is very normal. This may help with that.

2. I don’t want my coworkers to keep hugging me

I started a new job in hospitality around a month ago. My coworkers (managers included) are all very close (as they have all worked together for at least a year) and often show affection by hugging. I am not comfortable with this but I haven’t said anything because I’m scared about offending them or causing a rift in the workplace.

What can I do to stop this? And how can I make sure I don’t offend them?

The words you want are: “Oh, I’m not a hugger!” You might need to put up a hand as a physical sign as well so they see it before they’ve already gone in for the embrace (not with a fully outstretched arm like you’re stopping traffic, but closer to your body). But even if they’re already hugging you by the time they hear the words, they’ll hopefully remember for next time.

I know it might feel strange to say you’re not a hugger after you’ve been hugging them, but it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Most people will realize that you only just now felt comfortable saying it, not that you suddenly developed a new aversion to them.

This shouldn’t offend anyone or cause a rift! Some people are huggers, and some people are not. Make a point of being warm with them in other ways (greet them warmly, take an interest in them as people, engage where you can) and it should be fine.

3. I’m losing out on money because I got a raise

When I accepted my position over two years ago, I reported to a manager, who reported to our director. After six months, the manager resigned, and the director used that position to fill another role in our group. I ended up being assigned all of the former manager’s responsibilities, which included leading two massive projects with tight deadlines.

My director, to whom I now report, has been promising me a raise the entire time. In August, he finally came through and excitedly told me the merit pay would be retroactive to the beginning of July. Not great considering how long I’d had additional responsibilities, but they usually don’t allow any sort of retroactive pay.

Last week, our CEO announced that everyone would be getting a pretty large one-time bonus. However, anyone who received a raise from January 1 to July 1 is ineligible. That lump sum payment is significantly more than what my raise will yield in a YEAR.

I feel ungrateful for being upset, but I honestly think they granted my retroactive pay as a money-saving tactic. It’s worth noting that this is the only time our company has provided a bonus, and my raise was lower than expected. Should I say anything to my director during our next check-in?

Yes. I wouldn’t even necessarily wait for your next check-in unless it’s in the next few days; if it’s not, schedule a separate meeting (both because it’s time-sensitive and to underscore the importance). Point out that you are losing money through the raise, after already not being paid for the higher level of work for the last … 18 months? Say, “I’m sure the company’s intention is not for me to lose money through this raise, so I’d like to ask that it be corrected.”

4. Someone put scales by our vending machines

I was at our office’s main building today for a multi day training, and noticed these fun additions next to the vending machines!

Gonna go burn it all down. (Figuratively.)

WTF no.

There is zero reason anyone needs to weigh themselves at work (as opposed to at home if they choose to). And if for some reason they did feel the need to do it at work, they could do that privately. Putting two scales next to the vending machine sends a message and that message is a problem.

5. Asking to go part-time as a new employee

I was recently hired into a new full-time role shortly after having a baby. I quickly realized that although I like the team and the work, I want to spend more time with my children. I am considering quitting altogether. However, I’m already getting very positive feedback in my new role, and the company seems to really need people. Is it worth asking to drop to part-time?

Yes! If you’re going to leave otherwise but would be willing to stay part-time — and so their choice is none of your time or some of it — it absolutely makes sense to ask. (That assumes that you’d want to go part-time, of course. If you’d rather just leave entirely, do that instead — don’t give them hours just because they need people.)

Read an update to this letter

{ 521 comments… read them below }

  1. linger*

    OP4 — As the photo also shows the scales have been left next to a rubbish bin, this problem suggests its own solution.

      1. Liz*

        Yup, I’m in the same camp. Leave them with lost property or in an office and send an email round, “somebody left their scales in the corridor” and let the owner collect them. If they want to explain that they did it on purpose, and why, you can respond appropriately. Return awkwardness to sender.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I really want to use them as little podiums. Like a rock-em sock-em robot on each. Or a tiny Lego politician on each.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I’d grab a co-worker who felt as I did about those scales and together we could lift up the vending machine by each corner and slide one the scales under it as if the machine was weighing itself.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I was thinking of putting a note that says “oh is there a new policy we’re supposed to weigh our trash before tossing it?” but this is so much better!

        Other thought was to bring the scales to the shipping department where they obviously belong.

    2. Dragon_Dreamer*

      THIS. Don’t even say anything, just keep tossing them in the garbage until the culprit gets the message. Bonus points is they “accidentally” get drenched in enough soda to render them inoperable.

      1. Despachito*

        It would still constitute damaging other people’s property, and is passive-aggressive, I would not do this.

        Why not address it directly? It is a weird and work-inappropriate thing, and I’d address it as such, same as if somebody put there a large stuffed squid (thanks the commenter from the last week, it was gorgeous) or any else weird thing that does not belong there.

        And personally, if I felt scales were much more emotionally loaded for me than the squid, I’d possibly think about why it is and what can I do about it (for my own peace of mind, because I want the final result not to feel internally guilty for whatever weight I am carrying, and to be at peace with it so that I do not feel triggered by seeing something like the scales).

        1. ceiswyn*

          Eating disorders are hard to treat and have a low success rate; and that’s if you can get a good therapist to start with.

          For people who have significant issues with weight and eating, the world is a difficult place at the best of times. Yes, we can and should try to ‘do something about it’ – and other people shouldn’t put unnecessary, unprofessional, and shaming messages in inappropriate places. Because that’s not just triggering to struggling people, it’s just plain judgemental and rude.

        2. Snarky McSnarkerson*

          Good points, however, isn’t it also possible that the person who left the scales is being passive -aggressive by placing them beside the vending machines? I mean, it’s great if they are using them as a visual for themselves, but two? Not just one? And why not in their own area? I’m with the trashers, but I’m also the kind of person who would loudly ask WTF to the whole room.

          1. Despachito*

            Yes, it is very likely that the person is being passive-aggressive.

            But I do not think that counter passive-aggressiveness with more passive-aggressiveness is a mature thing to do, and I would most definitely not want such an atmosphere to develop at the workplace and make it toxic.

            Sometimes, passive-aggressiveness is a response to a toxic situation where confronting something openly will result in retaliation, and if this is the case it would mean that the workplace is pretty toxic already.

            1. Astoria*

              Or, it might be a couple of innocuous but clueless colleagues who brought them in as motivation for themselves. No reason to damage the scales.

              1. Despachito*

                One more reason NOT to damage the scales but tell whoever brought them should take them back and keep them for themselves.

                I personally wouldn’t mind if a couple of coworkers challenge each other for loss of weight for their own motivation, but they should not drag other people to it and keep the details private. And I perceive scales as a sort of private device, a bit like a toothbrush or a razor – they belong to our personal bathrooms or bedrooms, not to a public space. I will not be triggered by seeing the scales in a public place any more than by seeing a set of toothbrushes, it would just feel weird and inappropriate.

                1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

                  I don’t think the approach to this should be “would Despachito feel triggered by the scales?” I think the approach would be, would this tend to make people uncomfortable, and the answer to that is yes, even before you get to people with eating disorders, for whom this is likely an ADA violation. I’m pretty much at peace with being a fat person but I don’t like to be reminded that other people view me as lazy and lacking discipline, which having scales next to the vending machine would do. Putting them there is incredibly rude, and the equivalent of standing next to the machine all day and asking people “should you really be eating that?”

                2. Despachito*

                  Just You Everyday Crone,

                  With all due respect, although I agree that this is not the best place for the scales, they do not need to be there and if it makes someone feel uncomfortable, they should be removed, I absolutely cannot agree that placing them there is a personal attack on you and that it means that “other people view you as lazy and lacking discipline,” and that it is “incredibly rude” and equivalent to standing next to the machine all day and asking people “should you really be eating that?”

                  All we know someone placed scales near the vending machine. We do not know why – while it might indeed be the above, it can also be a ton of other reasons, and not all of them are intended against fat people. (See the poster with pre-eclampsia who needed to weigh herself to find out whether she is in a life-threatening situation, or another one with an eating disorder who needed to weigh themselves as a transitory measure to keep peace of mind).

                  I do not think this situation cries “fat shaming”, we have too little information, and OP did not state anything supporting the idea that this is the case.

                  I think among reasonable people, looping in the manager and asking whoever brought the scales please take them out of the room should do it.

                  Frankly, I consider it quite a low-stakes issue, and I am surprised by the amount of drama it creates (including proposals to steal or damage the scales, which I find even more inappropriate than leaving them there )

                3. KayDeeAye*

                  I am pretty sure that Just Your Everyday Crone is right – this is someone’s idea of a rather mean-spirited joke/comment on other people’s food choices. Sure, other explanations are possible, but this seems like by far the most likely explanation to me.

                  At my workplace, somebody put a scale in the restroom. It was there for years. That seemed fine to me – if they want to weigh themselves midday or whatever, that’s their business, and you can’t really keep a scale by your desk. (It’s a pretty big restroom, so the scales weren’t in anybody’s way.) But putting them by the vending machine elevates it to a whole nuther level.

                4. pieces_of_flair*

                  Despachito, it is 100% reasonable to read “scales placed next to the vending machine” as food/weight shaming. Yes, there could be other explanations, but why jump to zebras when horses are far more likely? Those of us who live with anti-fat bias don’t have the privilege of seeing this as a low-stakes issue.

                5. KoiFeeder*

                  I’m with pieces_of_flair on this one. It’s the same tactic I’ve heard of schools using to try and remind students to “eat healthier” (instead of actually offering better school lunches of course, but what do I know).

                  I’d do like those students do and sell ’em on craigslist.

              2. Snow Globe*

                Maybe I’m not cynical enough, but I tend to think it is likely that a couple of individuals brought those in to weigh themselves. And put it there, not because of the vending machine, but because it’s a break room. I know people who were fastidious about following diets that would do that.

                1. Observer*

                  That’s quite possibly true. And that’s a good reason to not be passive aggressive about it, and to not try to damage the scales.

                  However, the issue of impact vs intent rears its head again. The simple fact is that whatever the motivation was, that simply does not negate the negative impact that this has. Those scales need to be somewhere else.

              3. Momma Bear*

                If they brought them in for themselves, then they can keep them in their own space.

                I’d put them next to the trash, visibly up against the wall where they look not useful, maybe even taping a TRASH note on them. No one needs a scale by the food.

              4. Aurora Borealis*

                Exactly. Just ask or leave a note on or near them asking who the owner is. Then if the scales are bother you, tell them. Communication is the easiest way to take care of it without escalating it into an elementary school playground fight. Be grownups about it.

            2. Richard Hershberger*

              Passive-aggressiveness has a bad name. It often is a poor or inappropriate strategy, but it has its place. In this instance, the initial offender has created this situation. If someone wants to respond directly, Go for it! But many would find this an awkward situation and prefer not to do it. And they shouldn’t have to! One person’s jerk move should not obligate anyone to put themselves in an awkward situation. Sometimes there are overriding reasons why this is necessary, but sometimes there are not.

              My personal story: I live in a townhouse. It is built on a slope, such that the front door opens to the main level, while the back door is to the basement. Some owners have added a deck off the back of the main level, i.e. one floor about ground level. This means that the deck overlooks the neighbors’ back yards. This is true of one of the units adjacent to mine. I don’t consider this ideal, but it isn’t a huge deal. At least it wasn’t until the new neighbor moved in and would toss empty beer cans, liquor bottles, and cigarette butts off his deck into my yard. So how to deal with this? I could knock on his door and say “Dear neighbor, please stop throwing trash in my yard.” This might or might not have worked, but it also could escalate, and in any case I didn’t want to do it and didn’t feel I was obligated to. And it isn’t as if he didn’t know he shouldn’t be doing this. So instead I would go out in the morning, collect the latest trash, and toss it over the fence back into his yard. And you know what? It worked beautifully. He soon stopped doing this. We are not close, and are unlikely ever to be, but we have a civil relationship. I cannot help but suspect my taking the passive aggressive approach helped this, avoiding a conversational line in the sand.

              1. Caroline Bowman*

                Agree totally. I would only confront in that scenario if I actually witnessed the action – say, if they chucked a cigarette butt into my yard (but I mean, for real??) , then I’d say, HEY BOB, PLEASE DON’T USE MY YARD FOR YOUR CIGARETTE BUTTS!! This would be because it would be undeniable and in the actual moment. Otherwise, I’d do as you did. It’s better than ”WELL PROVE THEY’RE MINE!!” type arguments of ever-escalating pettiness.

                1. Despachito*

                  I do not like this solution, although it may have worked.

                  Richard assumed it would escalate if he asked the neighbour to stop, so he opted to be passive-aggressive out of the bat.

                2. Richard Hershberger*

                  “Richard assumed it would escalate if he asked the neighbour to stop, so he opted to be passive-aggressive out of the bat.”

                  This interpretation is contradicted by what I actually wrote:

                  “This might or might not have worked, but it also could escalate, and in any case I didn’t want to do it and didn’t feel I was obligated to.”

            3. Fluffyfish*

              I doubt the scale owners are being passive aggressive. The more likely thought process was hey that’s an out of the way corner of the break room thereby the most logical place to put them.

              Not that they should remain there – but an ulterior motive isn’t likely.

          2. Nancy*

            Or maybe they put them there because it is the break room. A group of coworkers may be part of a weight loss/fitness group together.

            LW: Just ask your coworkers, or move them under the table, out of the way.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              This is the most likely explanation. If it bothers OP that much, they can also ask HR or the facilities people to move the scales if the coworkers won’t.

            2. sofar*

              Yes, I’ve worked at a couple places where a group of coworkers started a fitness/weight-loss challenge together and had little weigh-ins and meet-ups in the break room.

              I agree, it’s probably not the best thing to do at work, but this is probably the most likely explanation.

              More than a decade ago, I’d have said try to ignore it. But a lot of workplaces are getting more savvy to hearing their workers when it comes to other coworkers making them feel uncomfortable. Agreed with Dawn below that this is probably something for LW to bring up to HR. The weight-loss group can easily do what they want without visible scales in the common area.

              1. Indubitably Delicious*

                My workplace has a fitness area in an unused room, outfitted mostly with donated equipment. Someone put a scale there. I consider that appropriate, if unnecessary (to me).

                If a fitness/weight-loss challenge were in progress and the only space available for weigh-ins is a breakroom, are there places the scales could be put away when not being used?

                Being left out next to the vending machines as the picture shows is at best a bad decision, and at worst a judgy microaggression.

              2. Mr. Shark*

                Right. If they are weighing themselves in the break room, I think it should be easy to put those scales in a cabinet and out of the way until they need to be used, rather than sitting there by the vending machine.
                It may be their own way of reminding themselves of the consequences if they use the vending machines, rather than any passive-aggressive shot at other people. In any case, it’s still inappropriate to have out in the open.

          3. Koalafied*

            Yes, it was the fact that there are TWO of them that got me the most. Like, does this person think they’d be in such hot demand that people would be lining up to use them and only having one available would make them lines too long? Or is it, more likely, that a scale symbolizes the angry voice in their head shaming them for wanting a snack, and they believe they’re so incorrigible they need two angry voices shaking them to really hammer the point home?

            1. SweetFancyPancakes*

              Unless there really is a contest of some sort going on, and they want two scales to verify the numbers (like you weigh yourself on both of them and then average it out). That was my first guess.

        3. TeaCoziesRUs*

          I can understand your personal aside on one level, and I don’t know your personal history. I would be grinding my teeth seeing it, personally. Why? Because nearly a decade in the military buried this thought so into my subconscious: “You are only valuable while your weight / physical health remains excellent.” I got thrown in the trash as soon as my weight went up… and that was AFTER getting a talking to by some of the other female officers about my uniforms getting a little snug… and AFTER my training school commander asked why my waist had expanded three inches been initial training and tech school. (“Because I had been one of the few who lost an unhealthy amount of weight during the initial training and gained it back in the few month break between one and the other, sir.” went over about a week as you can imagine.)

          Now I struggle with both weight and physical health, which takes a huge toll on my mental health. Teasing apart the poison wrapped in our pro-diet, fat-phobic culture from my VERY real need to lose enough weight to cut inflammation levels and enjoy life is a huge part of my current journey. Guess what I absolutely HATE seeing anywhere except for gyms, a doctors office, and my own bathroom for spouse to use due to its toxicity in MY life?

          Just because I CAN articulate WHY it would trigger the hell of of me for not mean that it won’t be a way for my brain weasels to go to town on my self-esteem. Especially if I saw that when I wanted to enjoy a treat from the vending machine… like a packet of nuts or a protein bar.

          1. Ana Gram*

            I just read about the prevalence of eating disorders in the military and it wasn’t at all surprising. The weight that my husband had to maintain in the Marine Corps was, quite literally, unhealthy for him. He’s still got some really rigid ideas about food even after he’s been out for nearly 2 decades.

            Scales by the vending machines are totally inappropriate. You want one in the gym or the locker room? Fine. The vending machines? That’s just sending a message and that message isn’t kind.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              I would say the message is toxic. It’s essentially saying “If you eat snacks out of the vending machine you’ll get fat and will have to weigh yourself all the time to watch your weight lest you get fatter, you fatso!”

              Scales belong in a doctor’s office, a gym, and maybe in your own bathroom. They don’t belong in an office, period. “Weight loss challenges” in the workplace are toxic too.

              1. Splendid Colors*

                I agree with this whole comment.

                Someone doesn’t have to have a diagnosable eating disorder or need two airline seats for this to make them feel uncomfortable in ways that are totally unnecessary in the workplace. We live in a society that’s ridiculously judgmental about weight and fitness. The only time I weighed what my doctor wanted me to weigh in Southern California, I was freezing cold all the time and bones stuck out that should not stick out on healthy people. I did not float well in the ocean to body surf. Strangers weren’t even sure I was female.

                Just this morning, I read a short book by my UU pastor on anti-racism and his example (he’s Black) for getting over his prejudice was about unlearning his negative ideas about people who aren’t fit enough. He had to do things like cut out pictures of good heavier people to post in his office and remind himself constantly that the way they look doesn’t say anything about their character or their capabilities.

                Even if the people who put scales in the breakroom were only thinking of their own fitness challenge (which could even be gaining muscle), other people in the office are guaranteed to see “vending machine junk food + scales = hey fatso, do you really want to eat those chips?” If the owner of the scales is trying to do that to themselves, their behavior modification doesn’t belong in public. (And there’s lots of science saying it’s going to backfire, but I don’t want to bring that fight to this comment section.)

        4. Green Tea*

          I don’t see how this is at all comparable to a stuffed squid. I weigh myself at home and don’t have emotional issues with scales, but this would piss me off. Because this means I have a coworker who thought it would be appropriate to do this AT their coworkers. It means I likely have a coworker who is fatphobic in other ways and may be discriminating against coworkers who are overweight instead of focusing on the quality of their work.

          If there was a stuffed squid, this means someone forgot their stuffed animal. There is no malice, there is no message being sent, it’s a non-issue. Concluding that people who have a problem with this are dealing with emotional problems that they need to address is a pretty weird overreach. Being pissed about this is the logical, healthy response.

          1. Despachito*

            How do you know the coworker is doing this AT someone?

            We do not even know who it was and why they did it. It may well be someone focused on weighing THEMSELVES with no intentions as to other people.

            To assume that they are doing it AT other coworkers, and are likely to be discriminating instead of focusing on the quality of their work, seems to me VERY far-fetched. (There may be other signs that it is the case, but here we just DO NOT KNOW, yet we assume the worst? Why?)

            1. Green Tea*

              You said yourself in another comment that you agree it was probably a passive aggressive measure, so I think this question was in bad faith. But on the off-chance it was not… because the scales are in public and right next to the vending machine, obviously. I keep my scale at home like 99.999% of other people who use their scale to weigh themselves and not send a passive aggressive message. Just about every other commenter here sees the message loud and clear – and it’s confusing that you evidently do as well but choose to play devil’s advocate.

              You are assuming the worst about the commenters who are bothered by it. You say we must have emotional issues tied to the scale to be bothered by this in your quest to ‘not assume the worst’ about the person who put the scale there. That’s not a kind and generous outlook on life, it does harm.

              1. Despachito*

                At the beginning, I also thought passive-aggressive is the likeliest reason, because I could not imagine why would someone need to weigh themselves at work, but then some comments appeared that made me recalibrate (the eclampsia case, the commenter who had eating disorder and would have felt horrible if they could not weigh themselves).

                It seems to me that you and several other commenters are, on the contrary, assuming the worst about the person who put the scales there. I must remind that WE DO NOT KNOW WHO DID IT AND WHY. We are only speculating.
                You are assuming the person (whom we, for the moment, know nothing about) did it out of malice. I wholeheartedly agree that it may well be the case, but NOT NECESSARILY, as we DO NOT KNOW YET.

                1. Green Tea*

                  I am not assuming, I am concluding from the context of these two scales being in a public space next to the vending machine. They’re not in a bathroom. They’re not in a cubicle or an office. They’re not in a locker room. They’re next to the vending machine.

                  You are causing harm by being one of those people who will defend dog whistles and passive aggressive behavior because ‘we can’t know 100% their intention.’ I hope you change that worldview in the future. Good luck.

            2. nom de plume*

              It’s a little weird that you’re defending this so hard, especially against people who have clearly expressed why they’d find it bothersome. Sure, it wouldn’t bother *you*, but there are plenty of people whom it would bother, and your responses read as invalidating.

              And, bottom line? Unless the workplace is a gym or a doctor’s office, or some other extremely specific site, it’s hard to see how scales have a place at the office.

        5. Observer*

          And personally, if I felt scales were much more emotionally loaded for me than the squid, I’d possibly think about why it is and what can I do about it

          This is not a matter of what is “personally loaded”. It’s about the objective fact that fatphobia, orthorexia, and over-emphasis on weight are all things that exist and are major problems. And the fact that whether or not *I* “personally” feel some particular way about this, in any workplace that has a significant number of people, there *are* going to be people who can’t or won’t speak up about this that will be hurt like that.

          Which is to say that this is NOT the same as “any else weird thing that does not belong there.” Taking that tone is a good way to deal with it on a logistical basis. But it’s just not helpful to pretend that there is no real baggage attached to this.

        6. Curmudgeon in California*

          And personally, if I felt scales were much more emotionally loaded for me than the squid, I’d possibly think about why it is and what can I do about it (for my own peace of mind, because I want the final result not to feel internally guilty for whatever weight I am carrying, and to be at peace with it so that I do not feel triggered by seeing something like the scales).

          Ah, yes, faux concern with a side of blame the victim.

          As someone who has struggled with my weight and disordered eating, do you really think that I haven’t tried to address this? At 61 years old, after being inundated by diet culture and fat shaming my entire life, that trigger is damn near hard wired. You can’t just will it away. I’ve fucking tried.

          That bit of putting the scales next to the vending machine is a passive aggressive deliberate action intended to invoke fat shaming for fucking having a snack!

          It’s intended to invoke shame. It’s intended to trigger feelings of guilt for just eating!

          This kinds of shit is pervasive in American culture. You can’t fix it in your own head if you can’t escape the trigger.


          1. Despachito*

            How can you be so certain?

            I again remind that so far WE DO NOT KNOW whodunit. You may be right. But you may also be wrong.

            1. nom de plume*

              Despachito, really, so what? There’s no police case to be solved here. This isn’t being litigated in a court of law.

              Office spaces should be inclusive; if there really is someone who just can’t stand not to weight themselves *during* the day rather than before and after business hours (which, really?!), they can keep their scale under their desk. Having the scales where they are now comes off as strange. To turn that into a suggestion that those who have issues with that need to work on themselves is a pretty ungenerous framing.

              1. Despachito*

                Nom de plume,

                we should remember that at this phase, the owners of the scales, whoever they may be, DO NOT KNOW that the scales being there bothers other people. Nobody told them.

                There are lot of people who think it is outrageous, but there are also some who would consider having scales in a break room pretty normal. So it seems that opinions on this differ, and we cannot say “it is clear that this is awful”.

                All this would change if someone tells the owner(s) how the scales make them feel and to please remove them. If I know that something I am doing is a trigger for another person, it is not a thing that absolutely must be done and it is within reason, and I am deliberately continuing doing this, only THEN I am the vilain. And it did not happen here. This is what I am trying to convey the whole time.

                1. nom de plume*

                  It’s… really not a point worth conveying. And it’s based on a whole lot of assumptions that you’re bringing to a very narrow reading of the situation.

          2. Splendid Colors*

            I don’t care what the motivation is of the person who placed the scales. It’s like the “standing on my foot” analogy: I don’t care if it’s a compliment in your culture or you didn’t realize my foot was there, just GET OFF MY FOOT.

            Even if the scale-owner is somehow oblivious to American fat-shaming culture, other people will either assume it’s there to remind the heavy people not to eat chips, or they ARE heavy (or are a recovering dieter) and assume it’s there to remind THEM not to eat chips. If we’re lucky, it will merely be insulting and not trigger an ED relapse by someone who has been carefully avoiding thinking about their weight.

        7. You Don't Know Me, But...*

          If you leave something just laying around, you can’t be surprised when things happen to them. They brought them in and left them there. At that point, whatever happens to them is a lesson learned.

        8. Zap R.*

          Even if it was as easy as “doing something about” being triggered, putting scales beside the vending machine is still a pretty garbage thing to do and people with eating disorders shouldn’t have to put up with it. I can have all the self-esteem in the world – it isn’t suddenly going to make it okay for other people to treat me like crap.

          1. Despachito*

            I think you are overreacting.

            IF somebody put the scales there and wrote/said a scathing comment about fat people not eating snacks, THEN it would be treating them like crap.

            But did it happen like that? No, it didn’t. It is even not OP’s habitual break room, so we have NO IDEA why the scales were there.

            If someone steps on your foot, you have all the right in the world to say “step away, you are hurting me”. And the person should do it irrespective of their intent because here it is the impact that matters (they are hurting you and it should stop).

            But what you (and many other commenters) are doing here is not saying “step away, you are hurting me” (and waiting for the person to react), but painting the person off the bat as the worst vilain who must have stepped on your foot on purpose just to hurt you, and how dare he.

      2. Danni new poster*

        This is relevant, I promise!
        Hubby is a carpenter working in renovations. The requirements for things like doors, toilet roll holders, etc. is significantly different for a bathroom in a restaurant or office than a private residence, just because of the sheer volume of use. A door that would be totally fine for 10 uses a day would be falling off the hinges if it got used 10 times an hour. Those scales look like the cheap home-use ones, so if they got used daily by a bunch of people (which is presumably what’s intended by the person who left them?) they’d be broken pretty soon anyway. If you’ve ever been to a gym that has a scale, they’re way more robust than these plastic things. Unless someone brought them because they weren’t using them and were trying to offer them for whoever wants to take them home…
        In any case, I would be putting them in the lost and found if there is one, or tucking them away somewhere out of sight because they’re a total trip hazard where they are. If there’s an office manager or someone who’s in charge of the physical space, I might ask them what’s up and if the scales were up for grabs, because that’s the only reason this makes any sense to me.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Your comment made me think of another “home use is different” thing:
          Those scales on the floor in the break room are a trip hazard… yeah they may not be directly in the main walkway but no one is expecting something low on the ground like that in a break room… depending on the size of the room, placement, they could be an issue for wheelchair use or fire safety and get one person with a new pair of progressive glasses changing their peripheral vision and they could trip over these (I have a friend who had to stop walking on trails for a couple weeks after getting new progressives because he couldn’t see roots or uneven ground at first and kept tripping)

          1. Antilles*

            Based on the photo, I don’t really see “safety hazard” as a realistic issue here.

            The scales are in the corner of the room immediately adjacent to a table with a posterboard over it (given that it’s the break room, very likely the typical “these are your legal rights” poster that people read like once and never again). It’s not part of a walking path and people aren’t going to be commonly just walking over there for it to come into play.

            As for fire safety, I’m not sure where that concern could come from. The fire extinguisher is clearly visible on the right side of the trash can several feet away, so if someone’s grabbing the extinguisher in an emergency, they won’t be walking near the scales. Meanwhile, in an evacuation, again, it’s a corner, so it’s clearly not going to affect any evacuation route.

            Also, in terms of resolution for OP, if you try to argue safety, they will absolutely fixate on that as the only problem to be resolved and go “hey, we’ll just slide them under the tables when not in use, perfect!” and expect that to be good enough.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              It may surprise some, but I’ve seen people trip over stuff you wouldn’t think they’d trip over. At work, we once had someone fall down in the production area because they stepped on a screw. Like walk walk walk walk across the production floor, shoe touched down on a 1/2″ screw that had fallen out of an assembly kit, so their foot was uneven when it hit the ground, ankle turned and BAM! (fortunately, their head missed the freight scale that was in their fall path so the biggest issue was embarrassment)
              In my last apartment’s small kitchen, the geometry between counter – place shoes get kicked off – trash bin was exactly the same as the vending machine – scales – trash bin in the photo. What was behind the shoes was a table and a wall, just like the photo. The number of times one of us tripped over a shoe and pitched into the trash or the wall when throwing stuff away was … maybe not double digits, but was also not zero. Do not underestimate the ability of clumsy or preoccupied people to find a safety hazard LOL!

              Agree it’s like not the best argument against the scales. But I have seen safety/insurance auditors write up stuff like this that might not seem like an issue … the person with the clipboard and tape measure can be very particular.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        We have removed the overly-sugary stuff from the vending machines to reduce the temptation. We do have a full canteen with three meal choices on premise, water, coffee and tea/coffee are free on each floor, and there is one vending machine on the ground floor with granola bars and soda if anyone really wants some – but it’s not in every break room. Our location has multiple restaurants and shops on the next block, so there is plenty of choice as well.
        We used to have more vending machines but a combination of employee voices and too little sales made them disapper at the last office renovation.

        1. SugarLover*

          Who is “we,” and why do “we” think it’s appropriate to police what other people eat? If sugary stuff isn’t selling, that’s one thing–the vending machine companies are in it to make a profit. But if enough employees want sugary stuff, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have access to it. “Temptation” is a weirdly judgemental way to look at what other people eat.

          1. Ana Gram*

            Yeah, our vending machine vendor changes the offerings based on what sells but not on “temptation”. That’s just ick.

            1. Camelid lover*

              At a previous office the vending machines at one end of the building were removed to make room for an ostentatious wall mounted backlit new sign funded by a big program that then fizzled out when the main hire left. The overwhelming voices of the staff were: Bring back our vending machines, we’re tired of having to walk across the building and down 3 floors to get snacks and soda.

              I also found that I could request my favorite treat be stocked in that machine…apparently me buying it once a week was enough to keep it.

            2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Well, technically they do sell based on temptation. They stock with whatever sells the most, which likely is also what tempts people the most.

              The whole guilt/sin/temptation way of thinking about food is wild to me

            3. Splendid Colors*

              Agreed. Some day, a person who took a bit too much insulin might NEED something sugary right away.

              Diet culture needs to go away but it could at least stay out of the workplace.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            Seriously. One reason I’m glad that I now WFH 100% is that is gets me out of the judgey health police blast radius.

            Only “healthy snacks” allowed in the vending machine? Great, now I can’t eat anything because 99 % of that stuff has soy in it, and I’m allergic.

            I have nothing but contempt and fury at the food police. Keep you ideas and “good intentions” off of my body, control freaks.

            1. Despachito*

              The entire notion of “healthy” and “unhealthy” food is skewed. There is no such thing as “healthy/unhealthy” food, and therefore I find it ridiculous when someone asserts that food XY is “healthy” and food YZ is “unhealthy”. There is absolutely nothing wrong in eating sugary stuff. The “healthy” thing – and even this is relative – is more about the overall nutritional balance and the overall amount, and in the long run.

              I hate the concept of “dieting” because I find it terribly wrong and causing problems some people are mentioning.

              Even if we were indeed policing what other people eat (which is a terrible idea and I would not want to do it or recommend it to anyone else), if we see a person buying a snack from a vending machine, we can conclude absolutely NOTHING about how “healthy” the person is eating overall. Maybe their daily intake consists mostly of veggies, lean meat and whole bread, and they are treating themselves to a bag of crisps and are still well within their daily calorie limits (when I was losing weight, I was definitely able to eat a piece of chocolate and an occassional treat AND still lose weight), so in this case the person policing them would be wrong even technically.

              But even if it isn’t, and the person eats nothing but crisps the entire day, is is still none of other people’s business and they should not interfere in this.

        2. Zap R.*

          Sometimes I’m having a crappy day and a Snickers bar would make it mildly better. Why should I miss out based on someone’s puritanical views about food?

    3. Bilateralrope*

      I’d put them under the trash bin. That way we know if the trash is too heavy to lift under our health and safety rules.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      The only time I’ve worked at an office with a scale, it was a very small one that was issued by a postal metering company (this was a machine rented from a company that sealed and stamped letters and other mailers). It went up to two pounds before just reading “null,” and also had most of the standard envelope sizes as well.

      A bathroom scale – well, is there lost and found? Otherwise I would say a manager’s office would be a good repository for the scales.

    5. WillowSunstar*

      As someone over 40 going through perimenopause with hypothyroidism, I would start to look for a new job knowing someone I work with is that fat phobic. I grew up as a normal-looking girl in the 80’s but with a very fat phobic mother. It would be really triggering for me. If it keeps happening, someone needs to get HE involved.

    6. TeaCoziesRUs*

      Right?! I figured they were treating the scales like Frisbees… and missed. I’d simply toss them in the trash for them, since that’s obviously where they needed to go!

    7. Curmudgeon in California*

      I was coming here to say exactly that. If it was me I’d move them to their proper place – the trash.

      Some people might think that is extreme, but that kind of thing is very triggering for me. It tends to trigger binge eating that isn’t good for me. Scales push a button that I don’t want pushed.

    8. Lauren*

      There is probably a reason for this if they are just there. Likely a wellness fall thing and people dropped off scales for use and haven’t announced it yet or these were in an office and are donations to anyone who wants them, but never bothered to write ‘free’.

    9. Hills to Die on*

      10/10 solution can confirm. Bust them up before they go into the trash just to ensure nobody takes them back out. Feel free to write ‘LOL’ in big letters on them as well.

    10. Princesss Sparklepony*

      If you don’t want to go that drastic – someone might complain about “office equipment” going missing – take out the batteries. And keep doing that as needed. You can always find a use for batteries. And without batteries, these types of scales are just paperweights.

  2. ENFP in Texas*

    “My boss abruptly left a few weeks later.”

    It has very likely that he didn’t leave by choice – rather he was fired or there was a “mutual” agreement for him to leave (translated: if you don’t leave voluntarily we are going to fire you).

    What he was doing was NOT normal and NOT acceptable, and hopefully you are able to shake off the aftereffects of having to deal with that really crappy boss, so you can appreciate what having a decent boss is like.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      Yup. It sounds like the mentor/mediator was sitting in on all the conversations with the OP to document what was happening – HR probably needed a paper trail to finally get that guy out of there.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        My thoughts also went straight to witness for purposes of gathering additional data points to get manager (and possibly the buddy) out of the office.

        But if it put something of a damper on the nonsense from manager and the coworker as a mitigation factor while the process was in motion, I’ll take that as well.

    2. Smithy*

      I say this acknowledging extreme “your mileage may vary” – but if the OP has any reasonable access to therapy. Even a limited number of sessions via an EAP – I’d seek that out.

      That degree of dysfunction at the workplace and from your supervisor is incredibly hard to move past. And no matter how much you think you’ve gotten through the bulk of it, something like an annual evaluation can come up and no matter how rationally you explain all of this to your head – your body may still have a deep fight/flight response. We spend many hours a day at work, and if this was going on for months, not being able to just shake it off is actually super normal.

      This isn’t saying that anyone has to – but rather…..if you’re not just moving on, you’re really not alone.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        Yeah, I haven’t worked in an insanely dysfunctional workplace for many years now, and I still work through some of the issues that cropped up for me back then in my current therapy sessions. Anxiety and paranoia are very hard to shake once they take hold of your brain and you don’t always realize when something totally unrelated (or seemingly so) triggers it again.

        1. A CAD Monkey*

          Same, I got called into a meeting with two of the owners at my current firm. My immediate thought was ‘what am i gonna get yelled at for’. it was a “hey we’re giving you a $7.5k pay bump for all the good work you’re doing.” Toxic workplaces stay with you for a long time.

          1. Caroline Bowman*


            It took me years – and I do mean years – to get over a very unpleasant workplace / manager situation. With hindsight, I definitely contributed to the problem, simply by being inexperienced and reluctant to Name the Problem (not anymore!), and by allowing myself to be gaslit and essentially treated quite badly. Took me ages in my next work place to completely get rid of the notion that every meeting request wasn’t going to be me being berated, that what I did was actually quite good work etcetera.

            1. Smithy*

              The years comment rings so true for me at least. My biggest problem was that after being in one problematic/toxic work environment that had problems but wasn’t all bad – the worst part was that it broke my “normal meter”. So then when I started working at a massive “whole place on fire, run to the nearest exit” toxic workplace – it took me a really long time to realize how dysfunctional and unfixable things were. Which then added to my years of working in environments that I had to unlearn.

      2. Miette*

        All of this. Also: OP, I want to acknowledge how brave you have been for reporting to HR in the first place. It doesn’t seem like your predecessors were able to (perhaps because other peers advised it was fruitless?), but you did. You stood up for yourself. Do take a moment and reflect on that, because clearly not a lot of others felt they could withstand that pressure.

    3. RIP Pillow Fort*

      I’m 99.999% certain he didn’t leave by choice based on the timeline.

      It sounds like they needed documentation to act. So the boss’ boss stepped in initially then when they saw the scale of the problem, delegated documentation to the mentor.

      I wouldn’t say this workplace is toxic but OP probably just needs to get some help processing their feelings since the change. It can be hard to shake the mindset. If they have an EAP that’s a good place to start.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Yeah. I think they wanted the mentor to document because that way the boss couldn’t retaliate against the LW during the investigation and it would never be one person’s word against another

    4. Coder von Frankenstein*

      Seconding all this.

      Also, OP2, don’t feel like you have any obligation to stay with the company just because they did the right thing here. Getting rid of EvilBoss was in their best interests as well as yours. If you decide you don’t want to work someplace that reminds you of EvilBoss, there’s nothing wrong with moving on.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Did the right thing EVENTUALLY.

        I’m sorry but the solution to having racist comments made to your face is “you get to sit in a separate office.” Not “Thank you for telling us, we have a zero tolerance policy for racism, they are gone.”

        I’m not so charitable. I think boss quit when he realized he couldn’t play favorites anhmore so he took his ball and went home thinking they would beg him to come back.

        1. Fluffyfish*

          I get it but we also have to remember that personnel actions are not generally made public.

          Based on the things we do know about how HR handled things, I’m willing to assume they were also handling the boss and crappy coworker behind the scenes as well.

          In a perfect world I agree they would have been immediately let go, but most at least larger employers have a process, to include an investigation, they go through to terminate someone.

          I begrudgingly say that as someone who works with (and previously for) a guy that should have been fired about 50 times by now. So maybe I’m just overly wowed that it was handled at all.

          1. The Real Fran Fine*

            This. Like EPLawyer, I would have thought the racist comments alone would have justified an immediate dismissal – but it’s also possible that no one other than OP had ever reported that kind of thing directly to HR. Think about how many times we see commenters here on this very site say, “Don’t go to HR – they work to protect the company, not you.” I’ve even seen that rhetoric quoted almost verbatim in other online spaces I visit that are far outside of workplace advice blogs. That kind of pervasive warning could have circulated around OP’s workplace so much so that people just put their heads down and tried not to become a target.

            When OP finally said something, then grandboss took action and handed the matter over to a mentor that started documenting everything. I would have preferred grandboss to have handled the matter themself, but again, maybe there was something going on behind the scenes that OP isn’t aware of that would have made any action taken by grandboss against jerk boss look less than savory to outsiders. I don’t know.

            1. Random Bystander*

              Could also be that grandboss could anticipate that direct presence would change the boss behavior *while grandboss is present* while not actually changing things outside the sight/hearing of grandboss.

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              Even so, shouting racist vitriol at a coworker isn’t something you need a paper trail to fire someone for. You can just fire them for that. I get that the boss’s harassment was a little more nuanced some of the time and needed a bit more investigation, but the coworker shouting slurs could have been marched out of the office that day if HR had wanted to.

              1. The Real Fran Fine*

                Even so, shouting racist vitriol at a coworker isn’t something you need a paper trail to fire someone for. You can just fire them for that.

                Sure, and many places do just that. But there are also many workplaces where HR is hesitant to act based on hearsay (and unless they were in the room when the racist tirade took place, then yes, it’s hearsay) and they want to have a long, documented paper trail before a firing in the event that the terminated employee decides to spin the narrative that they were the one wrongfully terminated and discriminated against, then attempts to sue. This sounds like one of those places, unfortunately.

                1. Observer*

                  But there are also many workplaces where HR is hesitant to act based on hearsay (and unless they were in the room when the racist tirade took place, then yes, it’s hearsay)

                  No it is NOT. It would be hearsay if they heard it from someone who heard the boss say it to the OP.

                2. The Real Fran Fine*

                  It would be hearsay if they heard it from someone who heard the boss say it to the OP.

                  That’s what I meant by the HR rep not being in the room, Observer. Take it down a notch.

              2. Fluffyfish*

                Yes if there were witnesses.

                It sounds like this was in a private office shared by OP and their coworker.

                I highly doubt you are going to find many workplaces that will immediately fire someone based on one persons report. And it does suck because its crappy that someone needs to prove the shitty things someone else said. But it is the reality.

          2. Observer*

            Based on the things we do know about how HR handled things, I’m willing to assume they were also handling the boss and crappy coworker behind the scenes as well.

            Actually, based on what the OP describes, it sounds like HR is incompetent, and it wasn’t till GrandBoss got involved that things started moving.

            1. Fluffyfish*

              Im curious where you think HR failed to act and should have?

              HR generally does not have direct disciplinary/firing power but rather work with management, where management are the ones who take action.

              1. Observer*

                Because they suggested a mediation, which is never an appropriate response to such allegations. And also, they had enough evidence of what was going on that they actually allowed the OP to sit in another office, but clearly didn’t do anything till things had escalated even more and the OP had to pull them in again.

                They should have proactively pulled in GrandBoss the day that they found out that this stuff was happening and put a leash on the boss.

                1. Splendid Colors*

                  A neighbor of mine was getting harassed about his disability, and his emotional support dogs, by his neighbors. They denied ever talking to him and said he made it all up. Management twisted his arm into going to mediation with them, by phone, from his workplace. The neighbors screamed abuse at him over the phone whenever they had a turn to speak. The useless mediator would not tell them to behave more professionally or terminate the session. I don’t really understand what the point of it was except to tick a box that management had offered mediation. Somehow, having a witness to acts of harassment didn’t support Neighbor’s original harassment complaint but he got in trouble for dropping off the call because it was too upsetting at work.

          3. NotAnotherManager!*

            My take is also that the boss was, at minimum, strongly encourage to leave quietly. My issue with the handling is that, when such serious concerns are raised, you have to get the target of the abuse out of the line of fire completely. They don’t get a witness for their meetings with the abusive boss, they get a new direct report and don’t have to be in the same room with the person until the situation is investigated and resolved. That makes more work for the abusive boss’s boss, but that’s what they get for leaving someone like OP’s boss unchecked until someone filed a formal complaint.

            1. The Real Fran Fine*

              I completely agree – ideally, the manager should have been reassigned pending the results of the investigation or grandboss should have limited contact between OP and jerk boss until then if a reassignment couldn’t happen for logistical reasons.

          4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I also get the impression that OP was the first person to actually complain about what Boss and Buddy were up to. OP mentioned that there had been very high turnover prior to themselves – so I got the feeling that HR knew they had a pair of problem people, but had hands that were tied until somebody was willing to actually complain.
            (Sadly I have seen places where even if HR knows somebody is a total black hole like the pregnant jerk from yesterday, HR can’t do anything because of the way the discipline policy is written. Personally I think a balance between HR being able to just act if they see something really egregious as well as needing to act on things reported to them.)

        2. BluntBunny*

          They haven’t done the right thing their racist coworker has faced no punishment. OP was moved to an office so they didn’t have to be yelled at.
          They can be harassed virtually so that doesn’t solve the problem there is still someone in that organisation that is actively harming them and their career.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Also keep in mind, echoing Alison, HR choosing mediation is a bizarre response to your coworker berating you with racist comments. Would they also try to mediate between a sexual harasser and their target?

        The most obvious issue (EvilBoss) may have been removed, but keep watching for red flags and keep trusting your gut. It’s steered you well so far.

        1. The OTHER other*

          Yes, mediation implies that there is a compromise that can be reached between reasonable parties. What sort of compromise was going to be reached here, the coworker agreeing to only scream racist nonsense at the OP on alternate days?

          While it can be very difficult to prove cases of discrimination, laws are clear about consequences for retaliation against people reporting it. The company had a huge liability here if the didn’t take action against the manager (and we don’t know for sure if they did, he might have just quit on his own).

          OP, I hope you don’t let this warp your idea of what is normal, and take the valuable lesson of making sure to ask about turnover when looking for your next job.

    5. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. I think that OP needs to take a breath and look at what the company did do and trust that corrective action will happen under this leadership. It may take time to feel solid and honestly OP may want to mention in the next one-on-one that the previous situation has them feeling a little edgy. I had a manager who had a reputation for being the guy with bad news and for a while no one wanted to have any kind of one-on-one meeting with him. Once it was pointed out, he shifted to be more transparent so that any kind of PIP or firing was not unexpected. It will take time to adjust but look at the things the new boss IS doing vs comparing. Remind yourself “I had three meetings that were just about work and nothing happened to me.”

  3. Not a mouse*

    #4 – I think the picture contains the answer. “Oh, those? Well, they were on the floor earlier, and there’s no reason for those to be in our break room, so I guess someone [i.e. LW4] thought they were trash. Good, I’m glad people are keeping the place tidy.” I mean, don’t actually do this, because you’ll lose your current moral high ground if you mess with property that isn’t yours, even wrongly placed property. But I’m enjoying thinking about it so maybe you will too.

    1. nnn*

      I mean, if someone were to use a scale, it would be perfectly natural to move it slightly to a position that’s more convenient to step onto. And then it would just be polite to move it back off to the side rather than leaving it in the middle of the room after you’re done using it.

      And, given the configuration of the space, it would be perfectly reasonable if it happened to end up drifting closer and closer to the garbage can…

    2. Terrysg*

      The scales are not your property, but as they are left in a public area, you have the right to move them, or dispose of them.

      1. Anne with an E*

        No, you do not have the right to throw away other people’s property!

        I totally get why people don’t like the scales being there and are fantasizing about throwing them out – but you can’t just throw away other people’s stuff just because you don’t like it.

        We’ve got lots of viable options in this situation: ask around to find who brought them and have a kind but direct conversation asking for them to be removed, put them in lost and found, ask HR to intervene – but if you throw them away, you’re basically stealing and destroying someone else’s property, which comes across as immature, petty, and passive-aggressive – and probably illegal, too.

        Having scales in the break room is obviously not great, but there’s no need to stoop so low when we have lots of reasonable “levers” we can pull in this situation!

        1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          Someone was bringing in air freshener to work and putting it in the bathroom and triggering my migraines. I called our facilities department to ask that they remove/change it, and they said it was not theirs and was not sanctioned and that I could throw it out. I was not throwing it out AT the person who put it there, I was throwing it out because it was making me sick.

          I would suggest calling HR or the facilities folks first, but if the person who put it there wants a scale at work for their personal use, they need to keep it in a personal area. People don’t get to treat common space like it’s their own personal space. Putting stuff in shared space means it’s a shared item; that’s why people know they can eat the stuff on the break room counter.

          1. Anne with an E*

            Yeah, asking facilities is actually another great option for how to handle this situation – if facilities says something is not sanctioned and to please throw it, then you’re not going rogue by doing so, you’re going through the proper channels.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              And then if the person who brought it in gets upset that it was thrown out, the answer is that facilities did not approve the device for the workplace and asked that it be thrown out. It’s a business decision and not passive aggressive moves between coworkers.

      2. Observer*

        but as they are left in a public area, you have the right to move them, or dispose of them.

        That’s not true. This is a shared space, but people do generally have a reasonable expectation that spaces that are only open to a specific group (ie employees of the company in this case) something that is left there will not be taken by someone else, and the same goes for disposing of it.

        See what happens when you take the lunch someone leaves in the break room…

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

          Your lunch in the fridge is a lot different than 2 scales sitting on the floor. I think the best option would be to send an all staff email or ask if anyone knows whose scales it is. After a reasonable amount of time explain they will be disposed of if not claimed.

          I’m really hoping that there is a reasonable explanation, like someone is trying to get rid of them and the free to take note fell off.

          1. ferrina*

            Yeah, agree. There’s a difference between a personal mug in the break room and passive-aggressively leaving scales next to vending machines. If you’re feeling gracious, lost & found would be the right place for them, but otherwise, trash is fine. This is waaaaaay outside the norm

          2. Observer*

            Not true in the least bit.

            The fact that you don’t like something doesn’t change the space from “shared” to “public” or from “someone’s property” to “fair game.”

            True, I agree that it doesn’t belong there, but that doesn’t change the basic reasonable expectation that people have when they leave stuff in a place like this.

            Which is why the much more reasonable suggestions that got made are the way to go.

    3. Frank Doyle*

      The LW was in an office for training, not their regular office. Maybe the workers there are doing one of those events where you compete to lose weight? I agree that an obsession with weight isn’t healthy, but not LW’s circus, not LW’s monkeys.

    4. My Useless 2 Cents*

      My fantasy way of handling it would be to replace with something else and if questioned “Oh, I thought it was a contest to see who could bring in the most offense, work inappropriate item!”
      (I’m thinking sex toys would work well, goes well with my first thought of “What the f*ck!?”)

      My other thought would be to replace them with talking scales (seen advertised, don’t know how they work but hopefully can be set *very loud* and unable to turn off talking option). I mean how else would you get maximum humiliation out of making people weigh themselves before getting something out of the vending machine?

        1. My Useless 2 Cents*

          Hence the 1) “fantasy way of handling” & 2) “offensive and work inappropriate” remark

  4. RedinSC*

    LW 4, if the vending machine is full of candy and sodas, maybe lobby to get other snacks in, but honestly, I’d be thinking about throwing away the scales.

    1. nonee*

      Why should LW4 have to do anything like the lobbying, though? They gave no indication of the contents of the vending machines, or that they have an issue with them. It doesn’t even sound like this is their main place of work. If the person who brought the scales in has an issue with the vending machine options, it’s up to them to address it constructively.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      As a veteran of the “sugar is BAD! So teachers should be able to sell kids granola bars during snack time” wars in elementary school, I would strongly caution against engaging about the good food and the bad food.

      You can ask the appropriate person for what you view as a more appealing option, whether that’s a protein bar or a Snickers.

  5. Lingret*

    Those scales would be mysteriously broken if they showed up in my workplace.

    (Joking? Maybe; maybe not.)

    1. Please Mark This Confidential and Leave It Lying Around*

      I see they’re next to the recycling bin and I would have put them in there first time I saw them.

      1. Recycling PSA-er*

        PSA: batteries and electronics in scales should be disposed properly, not in a regular garbage bin or even blue bin!

    2. Annie*

      OMG, yes. Those scales would be buried in the outside dumpster so fast no one would be able to see me move. And HR would be getting a VERY angry email from me. I will burn every scrap of capital I have to the ground to keep this triggering crap out of the workplace.

  6. Enda*

    I don’t know if it’s naïveté, exhaustion, or just how many cooking shows I’ve been watching, but when I saw “scales” in the headline…I thought someone was prepping fish in the break room

    This makes more sense but is worse

    1. Myrin*

      My immediate thought was “… dragon scales?”.
      I do have the convenient excuse of not being a native speaker and the word for “the thing to step on to weigh people” always escaping me but IDK.

    2. Anima*

      Haha I am a reptile fan and thought “What kind of scales? Which reptile?”, expecting a snake shed or something. This would be weird and funny to some, the scales in the picture are not.

      1. HailRobonia*

        In an alternate universe where humans are replaced by reptiles, AAM would get letters about “my coworkers are leaving their shed skins in the office” instead of nail clipping situations.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      My brain went straight to a postal meter scale – but I’ve worked too many places where I was mailing things like appointment reminder letters in huge batches so yup, we had a postage machine.

      (I’ve worked a lot of places that worked with older demographic groups, so the appointment letters were physically sent, as not everybody had email addresses on file or a mobile phone that could be sent a text message. It is getting better though as the price of the smart phones goes down.)

      1. JustaTech*

        My work is full of scales (but we call them balances, because that’s what you call them in science), but they are in the labs and all but one is far, far too small to stand on. (There is a giant floor scale for weighing very big things, like 1000kg, but it’s only in kilograms, and since we’re mostly Americans the weights it gives for people don’t really mean anything to us.)

        And as a note: scales and balances don’t like getting moved around (it’s not good for their precision or accuracy), so a scale that gets shoved under the table and then pulled back out over and over is not going to work well for very long. Also, some microwave ovens interfere with some digital scales (while the microwave is running). If someone is having a “weigh yourself during the workday” thing the scales should get moved to somewhere out of the way where they won’t need to be moved all the time.

    4. Katelyn Anderson*

      I mean in one of my work fridges there’s minced garlic, gochujang, and some other ingredients. we don’t have a stove, hot plate or anything else of that nature. Just two microwaves and a toaster oven. The level of minced garlic has also never gone down.

      We do have a scale in one break room, but it’s on a counter because it’s for packages (it is a bathroom scale but it’s someone’s old one they brought to work, well it was until someone took it!) Humans are weird

    5. Eater of Hotdish*

      I mean, I live in a place where you can legitimately expect to see “please don’t use this bathroom to clean your fish” posted in a hotel room, so…

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      Given the usual content of AAM, this is a completely reasonable assumption.

      My second thought was that someone had brought in food-measuring scales, but, no, those are clearly people-measuring scales.

  7. Jayess*

    I’d burn the capital. The scales would be gone, and I wouldn’t be putting them in that rubbish bin. They would leave the building entirely. If you leave your property lying around in a public place, without your name on it, you’ve lost the right to be upset when it goes missing.

    That being said, I do purposefully save up capital for times like this.

      1. Despachito*

        If you are serious about it, this would be stealing.

        Which is illegal, passive-aggressive and does not get through the point (that you consider this inappropriate for a workplace).

          1. Despachito*

            I think this is not correct.

            There are many things left in public areas that are definitely not free game. Think about the vending machine, for example. Or a mug somebody leaves behind.

          2. Asenath*

            This isn’t correct. If I drop some money or leave my coat in a public area, taking it is still stealing. There is of course the possibility of taking it, making an honest effort to return it to the legal owner, and keeping it if that fails, but that’s not what’s being suggested here.

          3. Emmy Noether*

            Not true. There are a bunch of conditions before things become “abandoned property” free for the taking or disposing, and leaving or losing them in a public place does not suffice.

            Fun fact: in a lot of places, even taking trash out of a trashcan is still technically stealing.

          4. Pescadero*

            Yes, legally it is.

            States have significant procedures necessary before property can be considered abandoned.

          5. Lindy's Homemade*

            “It’s not stealing if they were left in a public area”

            that’s not at all how that works but have fun alienating your coworkers and possibly getting fired for messing with people’s stuff. I can think of better things to take a stand on but go off, I guess.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              By that logic any car parked anywhere except your private garage is fair game for theft. After all, what is more public than on the street, in a public lot, etc?

              1. Observer*

                I actually once had a conversation with someone who argued that if you leave your car unlocked, you can’t complain when it gets stolen, especially in a high crime neighborhood. Not in a “you’re an idiot for leaving such a tempting target in a place where theft is common.” But – and they were explicit about this – “If you left your car unlocked, you’ve more or less declared it up for grabs”.

                I’m in my 50’s. I’ve heard that argument exactly ONCE.

    1. Anne with an E*

      Two wrongs don’t make a right. We don’t have to resort to stealing to fix this situation!

    2. Observer*

      If you leave your property lying around in a public place, without your name on it, you’ve lost the right to be upset when it goes missing.

      This is not a “public” space, it’s a SHARED space. The difference is pretty stark, and I’d be pretty willing to bet that the same people who are insisting that you can just throw out anything you want to would pitch a fit if someone took their lunch out of the refrigerator.

      The scales don’t belong there. But that doesn’t mean that they have become fair game for anyone to do whatever they want.

    3. Mr. Shark*

      I’d just move them to a cabinet, let them stay there. If they come back out, move them back to the cabinet.

      1. Janeric*

        I might wrap them before putting them in the cabinet so the cabinet is protected from floor schmutz.

  8. Not A Hugger!!!*

    Also not a hugger. Their ‘desire’ to hug does not supersede your need not to be touched.

    A arm in front and the words “not a hugger” should be enough. Should be.

    1. J*

      I’m just curious…what do you do when this happens in a family context? For me personally, There is pressure to hug a family member who has used hugs to violate body autonomy/boundaries, and another family member is forcing/pressuring you to hug them? (And this has been going on for years.) Usually, I just end up caving and hugging them to not cause a scene, but this %(^%# needs to stop. (I’ve even squirmed during “hugs.” I’ve tried slipping past the family member, and I’ve tried to make excuses like “oh, I haven’t taken a shower today” or some other excuse to try to get out of it. Ugh!!!

      1. PollyQ*

        Same script, you just have to use it, which I understand is often easier said than done. “I’m not in a hugging mood today” could be a softer “no” that you’d feel more comfortable giving. You might also check out Captain Awkward #1229, which covers this exact scenario. Ultimately, I hope you can convince yourself that your safety & comfort are more valuable than preventing a “scene,” because that’s the simple truth.

        1. Observer*

          Ultimately, I hope you can convince yourself that your safety & comfort are more valuable than preventing a “scene,” because that’s the simple truth.

          This, 1,000X

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          And while enduring the hub will prevent the “scene,” refusing the hub would not be its proximate cause. In other words, you wouldn’t be the one making it.

      2. Fikly*

        If the response you get from “causing a scene” is so bad that you are forcing yourself to hug when you want that badly not to, then your family dynamics are abusive, both the hugger and the person forcing/pressuring you to hug them. It may be emotional abuse, it may be gaslighting – which is a type of emotional abuse, it may be something else, but it’s abuse.

        What I might suggest, if this feels safe, is to set a boundary outside of the moment, where you sit people down and say, I do not like hugs, I will not be hugging anyone unless I specifically initiate it, from this moment forward. But this may well not feel safe for you, and that’s, well, not ok on a general level, but if you don’t feel safe doing it, then 100% you don’t have to do it.

        But this exact situation is why it’s increasingly recognized that it’s really important to teach kids that they do not have to blindly hug all relatives. Well, that, and it prevents familial sexual abuse, because if they can’t say no to hugs, what else do they think they can’t say no to? Special hugs?

      3. WS*

        You politely refusing a hug shouldn’t be making a scene, and the people doing it are the rude ones. Say no thank you, hold out a hand, keep moving, and don’t hug. There may be a scene, which you can defuse by staying calm and moving away, but I’m willing to bet that you’re not the only uncomfortable huggee there. If people pressure you, repeat your no thank you, never give reasons to be argued with, and don’t be in physical proximity with the hugger.

      4. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I have a similar issue with members of family who are too young to understand that you do not hug Keymaster unless she asks you to And you know which parts of her back you do not touch.

        I bow to them! Seriously it sounds bizarre but it works – even the people who believe I’m being rude refusing hugs from kids chuckle at the sight of the kid giving a little bow back.

        Out of the box thinking, since I don’t like handshakes either.

        1. Observer*

          I love this solution. Of course one of the reasons this works is because the kids aren’t trying to be rude. I suspect that @Not A Hugger’s relatives are not going to be quite so accommodating.

      5. I should really pick a name*

        The same thing as described in the letter. Just learn to be okay with awkwardness.
        Why is the other family pressuring you to accept the hug instead of pressuring them to stop trying to hug you? Probably because you’re seen as the reasonable one.

        Family doesn’t override bodily autonomy.

      6. Observer*

        Usually, I just end up caving and hugging them to not cause a scene, but this %(^%# needs to stop.

        Unfortunately, the only thing you can do is decide that you’re more ok with the scene – WHICH *YOU* ARE NOT CAUSING- than the forced hugging.

        I’m not going to say that you should be ok with the scene, because even though that’s true, it’s also not necessarily a practical suggestion. But deciding that this discomfort is better than the violation of forced hugging is a different thing. In a sense, it’s your declaration of personal autonomy.

        And, I repeat. If there is a scene because you won’t hug YOU ARE NOT CAUSING IT. The hugger and the person pressuring you are causing it.

        Physically block the person, walk out of the group, or whatever it takes to stop it.

        Also, maybe rethink your relationship with some of these family members? And possibly stop going to family get togethers if they keep on making scenes because you won’t hug? I realize that it could have an effect on other family relationships, but once it’s clear what is happening, they SHOULD understand why you are doing that. If they don’t, that’s its own problem.

      7. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Here’s the thing: boundaries are for you. You can’t impose them on other people, but you can decide that if X thing happens, you will do Y. That’s you building a fence around yourself. It could work like this:

        You: “I’m not up for hugging today.”
        Them: “Oh, come on, just one hug won’t hurt.”
        Other them: “What’s wrong with one hug?”
        You: “I’m not up for hugging today.”
        They: Reach out to hug you.
        You: Step back so they can’t, and then maybe go get a glass of water or something.

        And if they keep going with this nonsense:
        You: “Okay, well, I’m really not feeling it, so I’ll just be leaving now.”
        You: WALK OUT THE DOOR (into another room, or out of the house).
        Them: (it doesn’t matter what they say, because you aren’t there to hear it)

        And I really, *really* recommend that you read some Captain Awkward. PollyQ recommended this post specifically, but the Cap writes about boundaries a lot.

    2. The Original K.*

      Ditto. I once countered a man who I’d only met once before (he was our account manager with our agency of record) coming at me, arms outstretched, announcing “I’m a hugger!” by saying “I’m not,” and stepping back. Hugs are reserved for people I’m close to and business contacts almost never fit that description. A handshake is fine. And we’re still in a pandemic.

      (I also don’t ask the kids in my life for hugs and if their parents tell them to hug me, I say “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.” If a kid gives me a hug freely, great! Love it! But I’ll never require it.)

      1. Felis alwayshungryis*

        Haha, it’s like my tactic with poorly controlled dogs running up to me and my reactive dog on-lead:

        “Don’t worry, he’s friendly!”
        “Mine’s not!”
        “Otis, come! COME! COME HERE NOW!”

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Lucky. I go “Mine’s not!” and they start blathering about “No, they’ll be fine, look, yours is smiling!” LADY THAT IS NOT WHAT THIS MOUTHFUL OF SHINY TEETH MEANS LEASH YOUR DAMN DOG.

      2. lilsheba*

        that is what I say…we are STILL in a pandemic, it is far from over, and no one is going to get close to me from here on out because of that. GO AWAY.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        I am a hugger (outside of work), and I always ask my niblings if they want to give me a hug. If they say no, I offer a high-five, which they’re usually up for. If they’re feeling particularly shy and say no to that, I move on.

        If you’re not a hugger, I want you to tell me instead of going along with one! I love hugs, but I have no interest in obligatory or non-consensual hugging.

        1. The Original K.*

          I love hugs too – from people I’m close to. This means basically never at work and not when I first meet people socially (I might hug a first date because dates carry a certain level of intimacy). It feels like hugs have replaced handshakes in some professional settings and I don’t like that.

    3. Momma Bear*

      Lots of people don’t hug. I think simply stating that you’re not a hugger a few times will get the point across. You can even say, “I was new and didn’t want to rock the boat, but I’m honestly not a huggy person. High five?”

      1. UKDancer*

        Same. I hug my family and my close friends and people I love. Doesn’t mean I want to hug my colleagues and suppliers. I mean at work things are different from the way they are at home.

        I will tolerate air kisses from my French suppliers and the fact that we’ve one old Romanian who kisses my hand but that’s as much physical contact as I am willing to put up with in the workplace as a rule.

    4. tjamls*

      I said “I’m not a hugger” and sidestepped this person I’d known for an hour, and she said “but I am” and came at me full force. I thought, generationally speaking, that she’d understand bodily autonomy, but I was wrong. I was happy when the person in my life who was dating her broke up with her. With my in-laws, I tried carrying things and making excuses for a decade, but finally I had to tell them not to hug me ever. I’m happy to be a hugger if I know and like you, but that’s not the in-law situation.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        NGL, I have second-hand embarrassment reading that. No hugging the huggers. They are like some cats and Do Not Enjoy it. ugh.

    5. Lily Rowan*

      Or position yourself behind a chair while you greet people warmly. “So great to see you!” big smiles, no access to my body.

    6. My Useless 2 Cents*

      As a non-hugger who has worked with a LOT of huggers, leaning or stepping away when they’ve gone for hug has always worked well for me. The huggers have always gotten the “hint” quickly and made the effort to not go for the hug again. I’ve never been offended by the gesture and the huggers I’ve known have never seemed to take offense to my “hint”.

    7. Library in the Middle*

      A student (I’m a middle school library teacher) asked to hug me today while I was teaching a full class lesson. I replied “I’m not a hugger” and moved right along. No one even blinked!

      That being said, middle schoolers are not known for their sterling etiquette, so your milage may vary.

    8. Butterfly Counter*

      Yeah. I have found a way to put off a lot of “Do Not Hug Me” vibes, both intentionally and unintentionally. Usually it’s the awkward “Going in for the handshake” when the other person looks like they’re going to start to hug me move.

    9. Hills to Die on*

      I AM a hugger. If you told me you are not a hugger and:
      1. I had already hugged you previously, I would apologize once and never hug you again
      2. I had NOT already hugged you, I would say ok cool, thanks for letting me know. And still never hug you again.

      All done. Anything else and it’s their problem. :)

  9. Siege*

    Op1, seconding Alison’s comment: this is about your workplace, not about you. It can be very changing to get rid of a problem like your boss – you may find that things relax into a better normal (and I will bet money that your coworker follows your hoss). Ultimately, your workplace did not respond well to some wildly problematic stuff and it’s unlikely that taking a couple players off the board will help, so evaluate it with that in mind, but this is not at all about you, it’s about a workplace that is only medium good.

    1. RosyGlasses*

      I had a very good chuckle imagining a lackadaisical hoss clip clopping along with a trail of people following.

  10. Gillian*

    We’ve always had scales in the break room where I work. It’s nothing to do with the vending machines other than they happen to be in the break room too. Different groups are always doing some kind of weight loss challenge (base on %, weigh ins are private and on the honor system). Sometimes it’s individual and sometimes teams but it’s completely voluntary and I’ve never heard anyone complain. It’s honestly never dawned on me that anyone might be offended. The company isn’t involved at all other than allowing the scales.

      1. Despachito*

        I can see a lot of problematic things here (if this is some sort of “official”, employer-induced thing, if people are pressured to participate, and the very concept of mixing work with non-related body issue is a bit icky).

        But I have witnessed things like – two coworkers, each wanting to lose some weight, challenged each other to have motivation. It was fully consensual, and I did not perceive it as either gross or fatphobic or ableist, it helped them to stay focused and achieve what they wanted.

        I think the key here was it was consensual and just between the two of them, and they did not force anybody else to participate, or even indicate they should. Yet it was “at work”, and I reckon people were aware they were doing this.

          1. Despachito*

            I find this unnecessarily snarky, and moreover, not certain.

            It was a challenge between two consenting people who wanted to lose some weight, AFAIK they did not drag anyone else into it, I do not even know whether other people at their workplace knew that Fergus and Wakeen challenged each other to this (I only know about the challenge because I was on the same WW-equivalent programme with Fergus and he shared this as an excellent motivation).

            How on earth is this ableist or fatphobic?

            1. Despachito*

              That is, I realized that I do not really know how much people at Fergus’s and Wakeen’s work knew about their challenge, if at all. In my former post, I just assumed they were not 100% secretive about it, but then I realized I have no indications either way.

            2. sb51*

              Because doing this sort of thing publicly Carrie’s with it an implicit statement that there’s some sort of virtue in dieting and/or being naturally thin.

              I am sympathetic to the fact that a lot of AAM commenters struggle with seeing implicit statements but I promise you it’s there.

              1. Despachito*

                I think that this is a very subjective take.

                It is obvious that Fergus and Wakeen consider being thinner as more desirable FOR THEMSELVES. But, as long as they do not preach it around, or tell other people they are fat, or discriminate them for that, I still do not see any ableism or fatphobia.

                If they were training for a marathon and supporting each other in that, would we also think that they imply there is some virtue in being able to run a marathon and that this is somehow affecting us (and that they are somehow ableist towards us because we cannot/would not do that)?

                There definitely IS some virtue in defining a goal and achieving it, but how does this affect me, if the person is clearly doing it for themselves, and not pestering me with suggestions I should do the same? I think deciding to be able to run a marathon and actually achieving it is impressive, but it does not make me want to do the same or be ashamed that I cannot achieve that.

                1. Just My Name Is Fine*

                  Did you bring a scale in to your office? You seem invested in defending this ridiculous action. Some folks with eating disorders or recovering from eating disorders are upset by the mere sight of a scale. If a personal scale must be in the workplace (n reason for it to be there anyway), it should probably be in the bathroom or something, or a person’s cubicle. I see these two scales as a not too subtle message that the office is full of fatties that shouldn’t even think about patronizing the vending machines. Just no.

                  OP, ask facilities to send around a notice that if not removed within a certain time frame by the owner, the scales will be taken away as they are unauthorized. Ugh.

                2. Despachito*

                  JustMyName, are attacks ad personam really necessary?

                  I certainly never brought a scale in my office, nor I ever intend to. I am not defending it, and I stated several times that I did not deem it appropriate.

                  All what I did was to refuse to classify it as “fatphobia” and “ableism” so categorically, there could be a lot of other reasons. “You are fatties and should not touch the food contained in the vending machine” may be one of them, but not necessarily the only one, and I am rather inclined to Occam’s razor in cases like that.

                  I agree with you that the scales should be taken back by whoever brought them, and that it is not office appropriate.

                3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

                  I really suggest that you educate yourself about biases (racism, ableism, fatphobia, etc.). Because the “well, you can’t prove it’s fatphobic unless someone comes right out and says they hate fat people” thing is a common defense to all sorts of bigotry (sub in any oppressed group you want to that sentence). What matters is impact. If they failed to think that not everyone wants to lose weight, not everyone can lose weight, not everyone buys in to diet culture, and some people have disabilities related to dieting (eating disorders), then they are showing bias whether it’s intentional or not. These are not some sort of niche idea. Assuming everyone wants to lose weight is an anti-fat bias.

                  Also, you seem insistent that the scales are for the use of the people who put them there. It is just as possible that people put them there because they think all the fatties shouldn’t be eating [the things the skinny people assume they’re eating because of course it’s a fat person’s fault that they are fat].

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

                  It affects others because they are doing it in a public place and public way. Someone who has distorted body image issues could be triggered by seeing their coworkers weigh themselves. People can brace themselves for weight loss talk or for being weighed when they go to the doctor. But if you’re at work and you walk into the break room and see 2 people weighing themselves and talking about their weight loss goals its going to be unexpected.

                  When if 2 coworkers are doing weight loss together why do they have to weigh themselves at work? Why don’t they go to one of their homes to do it or meet at a gym?

                5. Koalafied*

                  To Here for the cats’ point, at best this is just stupid. A person’s weight can easily fluctuate by as much as 5 lbs within a single day due to eating/drinking/sweating/pooping, as well as fluctuating from day to day, without any of those numbers on the scale representing true gain or loss. A pint of water weighs one pound. If you drink a pint water, you will weigh one pound more until you pee. If you ask a medical professional, the correct way to use a scale to monitor weight gain/loss, they will tell you to weigh yourself no more often than once per week, always in the morning, on an empty stomach, after using the bathroom. A scale in the break room at work is at best being used incorrectly and providing spurious data.

            3. Banana Pancakes*

              This isn’t an issue of subjective opinion or reading intentions. You are simply not well-informed as to what fatphobia and ableism look like in the wild. Maybe consider this an opportunity to educate yourself.

              1. Despachito*

                When someone disagrees with me and says “go educate yourself”, I feel it as pretty condescending.

                I always thought that to be fatphobic or ableist you must do something to harm those people – intentionally or unintentionally. To tell them a nasty thing. To discriminate against them at work. To police their eating/exercise. To gossip about them… because of their weight or physical ability.

                If Fergus is trying to lose weight but

                – is not forcing people to do the same
                – is not commenting on their food /exercise choices
                – is not discriminating against anyone,
                – in a nutshell – is not pestering anyone with it
                but sometimes mentions it at work, or agrees a challenge with Wakeen at work, is he fatphobic or ableist?

                1. pieces_of_flair*

                  Yes. Don’t talk about weight at work. It does actually harm people. If you demonstrate that you lack understanding of a topic, don’t be surprised when people rightly tell you to educate yourself. If you don’t want to be condescended to, don’t show your ignorance.

                2. nom de plume*

                  Consider that diet culture is inherently fatphobic and ableist (“being thin is good! Weighing too much is bad!”), consider the difference between dieting / weight-loss and fitness, and you may start to see what others are saying here.

                  Also, you reacted to being told to go educate yourself, but you did in fact suggest that those upset by the sight of the scales go work on themselves — so again, perhaps there’s another path for further thought there. And I don’t mean any of that condescendingly.

                3. Koalafied*

                  I do sense you’re being genuine here, so I’d like to suggest a thought experiment of whether this would be appropriate for any other health issue. Could you imagine diabetics testing their A1C levels in a shared space at work as part of a competition to motivate each other? Or two people with high blood pressure leaving their two cuffs in the break area to challenge each other to see who could achieve the lowest reading? And not just as a one off laugh, but as an ongoing and regular thing?

                  The whole concept of weight loss challenges is inseparable from the fatphobic culture they exist in. The only reason it feels normal to some people to compare weight and weigh ourselves publicly and design biggest loser challenges, is because of the underlying assumptions that losing weight or maintaining a low weight is unquestionably and universally desirable. If weight loss were truly seen as a personal goal that makes sense for some people and not for others, we wouldn’t have highly public group activities designed around weight loss. The kinds of things we make big public/visible deals about are typically things regarded as universally beneficial to all: Stop smoking. Donate blood. Drink enough water.

                  The fact that “weigh less” gets treated in our culture much more like “drink enough water” than “lower your blood pressure” tells us that whatever lip service people might pay, on some level they believe the desire to be thin is near enough to universal to become an inoffensive public activity. That’s fatphobia. The belief that being far is so obviously undesirable that the steps one takes to avoid it are not considered personal business.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Honestly, I’d still consider this inappropriate in an office setting. Have that conversation in private between the two of you, fine, but as soon as other people in the office know about it or have to witness it, it’s Weird.

          1. Despachito*

            Yup, I am on you with that.

            I would not mind knowing Fergus and Wakeen are trying to lose weight, or they are training for a marathon, and I would not mind if they shared the results. But I do not need to know the details, and definitely not want to be dragged into it in any manner (like implying I should do the same).

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Everyone’s mileage may vary, but I would see a pretty significant difference between sharing at work “I placed fifth in the local marathon” and someone sharing at work “I lost thirty pounds”. I guess because the first seems like a hobby, and the second feels like private health information.

              1. Despachito*

                Is it not at people’s discretion to share their own private health information if they choose to?

                1. no*

                  Yes, of course, this is why whenever I call in sick with food poisoning I describe the exact consistency, texture, and timing of the bowel movements I’ve been having. This is definitely appropriate for work because it’s my private health information that I’m allowed to share

            2. CPegasus*

              You wouldn’t mind, but presumably you don’t have an eating disorder. You never know who would not just mind but be harmed by being a spectator. Weight talk needs to be 100% opted into by all parties, not something that a person can accidentally walk in on when they’re just trying to get their drink from the fridge.

            3. Despachito*


              thanks for a genuine answer (it somehow does not let me nest my reply below your post). I appreciate to be able to differ without attacking each other.

              I’d consider the diabetics comparing their blood sugar mildly disgusting but not triggering.

              I also think that if someone wants to compete for weight loss, it is weird but as long as he does not pressure me to participate, it is his own business. And if I want to be fat or thin, it is my business. I have no right to pester anyone about that, and no one has the right to pester me either way.

              If someone does pester me, it is time to shut it immediately, but to automatically assume they definitely will seems to me a bit far-fetched.

        2. ecnaseener*

          Still no reason to have scales left around at work. They should weigh themselves at home, or if for some weird reason the challenge requires you to weigh yourself a million times a day, keep the scale in their own cubicle.

          It really is inappropriate to make weight a topic of conversation at work where others can hear it, let alone a whole activity others have to witness. Just because it’s common doesn’t make it appropriate.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Very much so, as well as the ‘helpful’ notices around places telling you that obesity kills, use the stairs etc.

        Look, I get wanting to lose weight – despite being obese I’ve battled anorexia for decades – but much like discussing whether or not you should have children it’s not a discussion for the workplace. It’s too personal and irrelevant to coworkers.

        By all means support and do these things but outside of work or at least in private.

        1. Despachito*

          I think commenting the choices/bodies of other people is a hard no-no in the office. Whether you should have/not have children, are thin/fat/whatever are absolutely NOT my business, and I consider it unthinkable to ever mention it to you (generic you, meaning any coworker, but also family and friends.)

          But I wonder whether it would be insensitive to mention MY OWN ambitions, with no intentions to suggest that the other person should do the same.

          As in “I am trying the Weightwatchers and it looks promising” or “I have always wanted a big family/three kids”.

          I of course know better than say that to a person who just had a miscarriage, but is it really so that this triggers people and should be rather avoided?

          1. Splendid Colors*

            Because things like eating disorders and miscarriages are often kept private, you never know who around you might have an ED or who had a miscarriage (or a close family member miscarried, or whatever).

            The whole reason people think it’s appropriate small talk to talk about THEIR weight loss goals is that we are swimming in a sea of diet culture. People who think diet culture is toxic don’t need to hear that and there isn’t a good reason to talk about it at work in front of a captive audience.

            It’s like the recent letter about suicide jokes at work. That coworker didn’t know LW was a survivor and their brother had ended his own life, because it’s a private subject with a fair amount of stigma so people don’t bring it up at work. Just leave the suicide jokes in your personal “edgy humor” circles and don’t bring them to work.

            Don’t bring your scales and weight loss talk to work, either.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        I agree.

        It’s really easy to tell who here has never really had a problem with their weight and being fat shamed for it by the entire society. They are lucky, but the judgement they put out toward the rest of us is pretty gross. Everything from faux concern for our psychological health to hand wring about what we eat is on display.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Gillian said it’s all completely voluntary! Look, I’m overweight and very sensitive about it, but two people on a weight-loss challenge in my vicinity are going to get nothing but encouragement from me, because there’s no way I’ll ever think they’re doing it AT ME.

    1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      How can weigh-ins be private if the scales are in a spot that’s open to all employees? That doesn’t make sense.

      1. Hi! Hello! Good morning!*

        Because it’s away from the desks where everyone usually is? How many people are generally standing around the trash or vending machines at one time?

    2. turquoisecow*

      If they’re private and on the honor system, people can do them at home, or at the gym, or somewhere else that’s not the office.

      1. Darsynia*

        Not just this, but having the scales at the office for a challenge like that might imply that there’s some kind of value to knowing what you weigh at different parts of the day, and that can lead to some destructive and disordered thinking about weight. Healthy thinking about losing weight does not involve needing to know what you weigh at work versus weighing yourself at home that evening! There are all sorts of factors that can affect that number, even the kinds of shoes you wear.

        Basically I’m saying it’s not a full positive even for the people who are using the scales.

        1. Robin*


          Also, I am honestly confused about why folks would weigh themselves at work just from a data consistency perspective. They would have to be clothed to do it and clothing changes the reading on the scale. I suppose if the goal is big enough, a few pounds from clothes will not matter but still.

          1. Oryx*

            Back in the days when I was still dieting, I wore the same outfit every Thursday because I attended a WW meeting directly after work and I wanted to mitigate the clothes variable.

            I’m so glad to no longer be in that headspace.

            1. Eater of Hotdish*

              I feel you in that headspace and congratulate you for getting out. I’m not there yet–still hate going to the doctor in the winter, because they’re gonna put me on a scale in my boots and sweater and I know the Dread Number is going to be higher than it would be otherwise.

              Nothing about this weight/food thing is easy, for quite a lot of people.

              1. pieces_of_flair*

                You can tell the doctor not to weigh you. It was a lightbulb moment for me when I learned this was a thing I could do.

        2. Observer*

          Basically I’m saying it’s not a full positive even for the people who are using the scales.

          That’s true, but not really relevant. People get to make their choices, even if we thing that they are not positive – even if we are objectively right about it.

          The argument against scales in the break room has nothing to do with if it’s good for the people who WANT to use them. It’s about the potential harm to people that didn’t ask for it and don’t necessarily want it there.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            I am all about mitigating the harm to people who don’t want scales and their associations in the break room.

            The people who want scales in the break room might be less disappointed at their loss if they knew it was a bad idea for THEM too. (Although they probably won’t believe it.)

            1. Despachito*

              If you do not want YOUR choices policed, maybe YOU shouldn’t be policing the choices of others.

              Remove the scales from the break room/from being in plain sight? OK, no problem.

              (I sincerely hope you mean “loss” as “removal from sight”, not “throwing them away or damaging them”).

              But you are in no position to tell other people what is and what is not a good or bad idea for them, same as they are not in a position to preach this to you.

              If you feel triggered/not at ease by something, the only professional thing to do is to ask people to stop doing that, and if need be, escalate to the boss or the HR.

              On the other hand, any petty revenge that has been proposed here (throwing the scales away, giving them away, or intentionally breaking them) is highly unprofessional, and I cannot wrap my head around how otherwise very thoughtful and reasonable commentariat can speculate about it in such length.

      2. Observer*

        If they’re private and on the honor system, people can do them at home, or at the gym, or somewhere else that’s not the office.

        At least not in the break room that every other person uses.

    3. emmelemm*

      Imagine being a person struggling with an eating disorder which you would prefer no one at your office know about, and when you go into the break room, you see a scale every day?

      Not cool.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Scales are an enormous trigger for those of us with ED. I won’t have them in my house and really push back on being weighed.

        If they were stored under a coworkers desk and only brought out when someone asked I wouldn’t have a problem. But scales right next to food? No. Absolutely not. They’d be in the outside dumpster.

        1. EchoGirl*

          Yeah, I’ve had to have this conversation with my psychiatrist since we went to remote appointments during the pandemic. I didn’t mind as much when he would weigh me during visits (to his credit, he was really not concerned with the number, it was more about tracking changes because a lot of psychiatric medication has weight-related side effects), but I cannot keep a scale in my own house, it becomes an obsession. It’s bad enough what spirals I can get into just with tape measures (which I actually keep around for an unrelated reason, but that doesn’t stop me occasionally getting into spirals over my waistline measurements), let alone a scale.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’m currently struggling. Scales in the break room would mean I couldn’t go in there.

        I feel it’s rather like having a beer fridge when you may have recovering alcoholics on staff.

        1. Emma*

          This is a good analogy. Drinking beer or weighing yourself isn’t inherently wrong, in some workplaces it’s fine to go somewhere else and privately drink a beer or weigh yourself on your break, but it’s inappropriate to do it visibly in the workplace because you know it could have a really negative effect on a coworker.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              Most places I’ve worked have had the occasional 4pm party with beer and/or wine in the office. It’s not unusual.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              I worked at a company that had alcohol in the work refrigerator, after-work meetups at pubs, and a meeting room decorated with beer paraphernalia from a local brewery.

              I don’t know if anyone on staff was alcoholic, but I know I had Muslim coworkers who avoided all alcohol (including vanilla extract) and several non-drinkers (including me). I tried to push back on the drinking culture, but I didn’t have enough capitol to make it stick.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Agreed. I used to work at a hospital, and a couple of the nurses I was eating lunch with expressed envy over my ice cream. Apparently their department was running a “Biggest Loser” competition, and I goggled at the fact that they thought that wasn’t just okay, but a good thing. Weight loss competitions carry so many health risks, I thought they would be more aware.

        I’m not saying I ate the rest of my ice cream *at* them, but I did eat the rest of it.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*


        IME, weight loss competitions in the workplace can trigger disordered eating or warped views on the bar between private behavior and public behavior.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        A friend of mine had one of these happen in her workplace and while she seemed quite enthusiastic about it, it…also sounded like there was limited choice. It may have been the way she described it, but it sounded like it was opt-out rather than opt-in, which kind of bothered me. Like “are you joining our weight loss challenge? We want our workplace to have a combined loss of at least however much, so we need all the help we can get” kind of thing.

        To be honest, I didn’t even think of people with eating disorders, just that even without that, putting pressure on people of average weight to lose weight…is not a good thing.

        1. Zweisatz*

          That’s bonkers, apart from callous towards people who had, have or might get triggered BY THE VERY “CHALLENGE” into an eating disorder.

    4. ceiswyn*

      It worries me that you don’t see a problem with all these weight loss competitions and challenges constantly going on at your workplace.

      Not to mention that weighing in the middle of the day, after you’ve been eating and drinking and exercising, is extra inaccurate.

    5. münchner kindl*

      But the LW says the scales are “additions” – they weren’t there before.

      Which is really annoying passive-aggressive.

      If company decides “employees are eating way too unhealthy, that’s causing problems for us” then reasonable solution is:
      get rid of the machines or
      stock with healthy (non-sugary) drinks and healthy snacks.

      Putting scales there to signal “you’re unhealthy” without saying anything loud is bad communication, bad management; and problematic for people with eating problems.

      1. Emma*

        Well, actually the appropriate solution for the employer would be to go “oh well, our employees’ diets are their own business, we’re not their mum!” and move on.

      2. tommy*

        if anyone running a company decides “employees are eating way too unhealthy, that’s causing problems for us,” then they have no business running a company.

      3. tommy*

        and it’s not about “people with eating problems” — it’s about systemic fatphobia and systemic ableism that infuse culture at structural levels.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*


          Scales in the workplace are symptoms of systemic fatphobia and fat shaming. It’s ableist as hell, too.

    6. Alex Rider*

      As a person that has dealt with anorexia, Weight loss challenges in my office and scales in the break room would bring me back to a very dark place. The scales do not belong at work.

    7. Tania*

      The fact that this has happened at your workplace does not make it right, acceptable or healthy. Your workplace is clearly dysfunctional in this way, and has an unhealthy and harmful relationship to weight, food and exercise. This is bad for many people, and actively dangerous for those with eating disorders, as well as some other health conditions.

      It is not appropriate or professional for a workplace to endorse, support or accept these things. The fact that you have never had the awareness or knowledge to recognise how inappropriate and harmful these behaviors are is saddening but not surprising. Many people are ignorant to the point of harm on these issues. But having been informed of the concerns, you now have the opportunity to educate yourself and be better. I hope you will take it.

    8. Emmy Noether*

      I think the fact that there are two scales, and two different ones at that, does make me think this may be a weight-loss challenge. Maybe two people brought in their scales to weigh themselves for their challenge and thought the breakroom would be convenient.

      That said, weight is SUCH a fraught topic, don’t bring it into the workplace! If someone absolutely wants to bring their scale to work to weigh themselves, they can put it in their own space and weigh themselves in private where it won’t be as likely to be taken as a pointed dig.

      There are some people who seem to assume that everyone is always trying to lose weight, as they are, and think it’s an appropriate topic of conversation or appropriate activity to propose. It’s not.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Weight is like politics, religion and sex: topics not suitable for the workplace.

        (Unless one works in a place specifically geared toward one of those topics of course – like if you worked for weight watchers I suppose)

        There was a letter a long time ago here about a non-profit geared toward helping sufferers of a disease who wanted to implement a healthy eating mandate on all staff so as to ‘set a good example’ or something. There was quite a heated debate in the comments and it’s a good read IF you’re not going to be triggered by a lot of diet talk:

        (Note: general consensus was ‘what your staff eat or weigh is not of your business’)

        1. Observer*

          Yes, that was the general consensus.

          But there were a surprising number of people who thought that it WAS reasonable to set “reasonable” rules, including one long thread where someone basically ignored the reality that 1. it’s actually not possible to implement universally “sensible” rules and 2. There is almost no rule that’s actually enforceable without a level of intrusiveness that’s just ridiculous (especially when dealing with supposedly competent adults!)

          Which is to say that Keymaster’s warning about getting triggered is especially important.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        My ex-bf’s mother commented every time she saw me that it looked like I lost weight. In her mind, that was a compliment. I practiced my dead-eyed stare and just said, “No.”

        1. JustaTech*

          My mother said that to me exactly once. I gave her my steeliest eye’d look and said “no, I weigh exactly the same as the last time I saw you when you said I was looking chubby. Please don’t.”

          It was hard to say, but I was 1) pissed and 2) fully aware that if I didn’t nip it in the bud right then that it would be a thing for the rest of our lives. She wouldn’t mean it unkindly, but it was something her mom did and I know it bothered her, and I didn’t want to continue the cycle.

          (I must have made an impression because she hasn’t said anything about how I look now that I’m visibly pregnant, unlike my MIL who constantly comments on my body to the point that I’m pretty irked.)

    9. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      Yeah, the presence of scales isn’t surprising to me, but I’ve worked in military facilities and servicemembers do have fitness requirements. (I’m also used to showers being available, for that same reason.)

      That said, the scales were usually kept in the bathrooms.

      1. JustaTech*

        Many years ago there was a doctor’s office type scale (the kind with the tall stick) in one of the locker rooms of my building. It was there when we moved in, and no one seemed to know why it was there in the first place (nothing we or the previous company did involved anyone’s body weight).

        It disappeared during the last move/renovation and no one missed it.

    10. The Other Dawn*

      Yeah, this is the most likely explanation as to why the scales are there. If some employees are getting together to improve their health or whatever and motivate each other, it’s probably the most convenient spot for them to weigh themselves. We have people that do this at our administrative building. They’re often walking the grounds around the building, or arranging different activities for people who are interested.

          1. Nameless in Customer Service*

            Regularly weighing oneself and going down in weight is seen as synonymous with “improving one’s health” but it isn’t always and it can even be damaging for some people.

            Should the coworkers who are “improving their health” by publicly weighing themselves be seen as more appropriate for promotions than those who are not seen to be doing so at work?

    11. Justme, The OG*

      But why do they need to be in the break room in front of everyone? People doing a weight loss challenge can weigh themselves at home.

    12. Rain's Small Hands*

      I loved having scales at work. They were in the restrooms, but were the high end doctors type scales – I couldn’t get scales that accurate at home back then – and accurate scales are expensive (and any scale takes up room in a tiny bathroom). You don’ t need to use them if you don’t want to.

      I also liked having access to fitness/weight loss/health, etc. programs at work -generally I think sweating in front of my coworkers is gross, but I used them a few times, and in my last role actually took a yoga class twice a week. And I seldom used the weight loss/health programs at work. But those programs were popular with other employees – as was the basketball court that a lot of my coworkers used. One of my peers and my boss joined a fitness group at work – both got into much better shape and loved it – they asked me to join, and I would have during the next session, but I left that job. I did belong to the work golf league for several years. A lot of people have very limited time when they commute and have other commitments (like kids) and having a WW program that they can attend on their lunch hour is nice. I did learn to knit at work through lunch class – which was life changing for me.

      1. Nameless in Customer Service*

        It’s a not about using the scales. It’s about knowing we’ll be judged for not using them. Especially with them beside the vending machines, clearly implying “think about your weight before you get a snack.”

        I also had a group of coworkers who worked out together and dieted together and hassled me, I mean, asked me every day about what I ate and when would I join their workout group. I frankly found it very annoying and detrimental to working.

          1. Nameless in Customer Service*

            If I could drop a note to my past self it would probably be to go to HR about the first time. The second time one of the HR people was in the group, ahaha.

      2. Observer*

        You don’ t need to use them if you don’t want to.

        I think you are missing the point here. The mere presence of the scales can be a problem for some people. I get that they are actually and positively useful for some people, but you simply can’t just brush off the issue that the scales present.

        Having the scales in the bathroom is a good mitigation for a lot of people because the direct visual link between the scales and the food is really negatively powerful. Putting it in the bathroom changes the dynamic significantly.

        I also liked having access to fitness/weight loss/health, etc. programs at work

        That’s fine – as long as there were a variety of programs not all focused on weight loss and “fitness”, and as long as there REALLY was not pressure on people to participate. REALLY as in no pressure officially, unofficially or socially.

        having a WW program that they can attend on their lunch hour is nice.

        That’s a separate issue. WW has changed so I’m not sure how bad it is these days, but there was a time where they were pretty much the template for disordered eating. Even when they finally officially acknowledged that some foods are just not a problem (if you are eating enough raw carrots to get a significant amount of calories, you are probably going to have significant gastric problems….) their focus on weighing and measuring portions was just obsessive. It did nothing to engender a healthy relationship to food at best.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          WW is part of what set off my problems with disordered eating when my mother forced “us” onto it as a teenager. She cheated, I starved because of basically nothing but carrots available to eat in the house – and I was a growing, active teen. Plus there were other food related problems, too. So scales, weigh ins, and other diet stuff invokes a “they are taking my food away, eat it all now” trigger in my head. I can’t get rid of it – I’ve tried. My only way to have a healthy way of eating is to not subject myself to diet shit.

        2. Astr*

          That’s fine – as long as there were a variety of programs not all focused on weight loss and “fitness”, and as long as there REALLY was not pressure on people to participate. REALLY as in no pressure officially, unofficially or socially.

          Yes, and a lot of people don’t understand how this can manifest! It’s really hard to make sure that there’s no unofficial or social pressure. My boss participated in these programs, and there was nothing to suggest that she thought that all of her employees should participate in these programs. She found them convenient and fun, and thought that others might find them convenient and fun. She had good relationships with people who came with her, but also with people who didn’t. I can’t think of any time where she put pressure on people to participate.

          Except, hmm, she clearly thought that when her fat/sick employees didn’t participate where she could see us, it just proved that we were lazy and any health issues we had were our own fault. She clearly didn’t believe that any of us were actually exercising in other venues (even though she assumed that her thin and athletic-looking employees were doing that) because our bodies were proof that we weren’t working hard enough. Her attitude would have been similar without these activities, but at the same time I suspect she wouldn’t have been thinking about it in this way so regularly.

          This is at a large enough university that I generally think those activities are a good thing for staff and there should be more of them! But, man, I don’t think people realize how easy it is for people to use them to reinforce ablest and fatphobic views and that the smaller the workplace is the easier it is to happen!

    13. Observer*

      We’ve always had scales in the break room where I work. It’s nothing to do with the vending machines other than they happen to be in the break room too.

      It doesn’t matter WHY they are there – they don’t really belong there in general, and especially when they are right by the vending machine.

      It’s honestly never dawned on me that anyone might be offended.

      AAM really is a good forum to learn about stuff. But one thing – for a lot of people this is more than offensive. If someone has had to deal with overt fatphobia (especially if they’ve had to deal with something like their medical care being messed up over that), has an ED or has body dysmorphia of many sorts, this stuff can be far more that just “offensive”. At best, it can be like a hard slap in the face, at worst it can be actively harmful, and points in between.

  11. WoodswomanWrites*

    #5 – At my workplace, two of my colleagues who do great work each requested reduced hours to spend more time with their children. Both were accommodated. One shifted to three days a week and the other to four.

    1. The Original K.*

      Ditto at a previous workplace – she worked 30 hours a week, 6 hours a day. Basically school hours.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      At a previous workplace, one of my coworkers worked four days a week (32 hrs – 80%) to spend more time with their child. Just another anecdote that it is possible at some workplaces, and very reasonable to ask for.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’ve got 2 members of staff who work part time so they have time with their children. They actually both requested it at the same time so e.g. Bob works Monday – Wednesday lunchtime and Belinda works from Wednesday lunchtime – Friday.

      I wonder if there’s a similar setup possible in the US?

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        My Mom did something similar to this when I was very young. 3/2 rotation – someone worked Th/F-Monday-Wed, then they switched.

        I worked 80% for a while, basically school hours, but suddenly that was a “problem” and I was “quietly fired”.

    4. Momma Bear*

      If she’s ready to bail anyway, nothing lost in asking for the swap. There may also be another employee looking to do same – can they maybe job share? I know some of my coworkers are helping out elderly parents or have a sick spouse and some PT options would be appreciated. IMO, ask. Worse they can say is no, and OP can decide then to take it or leave.

    5. anon for this*

      My employer recently created a part-time shift designed to coincide with elementary school drop off and pick up – good people are hard to find, and a good company will do what they need to do to keep good people.

    6. Lightning*

      Yep, for one more anecdote, I moved to part time when my first was born, no one had any problem with it at all. I’m actually just about to shift my hours from “daycare hours” (3 days a week, normal-ish hours each day) to “school hours” (all week, 5 hours a day) and no one’s blinked an eye.

      I’m sure it won’t work everywhere, but there’s definitely places when it’s absolutely possible.

    7. Baby Blues*

      Thanks for all the anecdotes, everyone. I will ask (although I am sadly in the US). No harm in trying.

  12. Dark Macadamia*

    Hm, maybe LW4 could start coming up with ridiculous ways to use the scales in relation to the vending machines. Stack them and use them as a step to get a better view of the top row snacks. Weigh your snack on one of them and then loudly complain that yesterday’s candy bar was a fraction of an ounce heavier and today you feel cheated. Use one as a tray to carry a snack to the table. Etc :)

  13. MC*

    Is it possible someone put the scales there for themselves because they feel tempted by the vending machine and this is their way of dealing with that?

    1. Allonge*

      Even if this is the case, this person is not entitled to do so by a method that causes others harm. They could put up a sign that is a reminder for them and neutral for others, but scales are really not.

      1. Stunner266*

        I find it a bit over dramatic to say that scales existing in a room causes harm to people.

        Nobody is being asked to weigh themselves, if you want to use them, do so, if you aren’t interesting in using them, just keep walking on by, no issue.

        Some people look for any little excuse to be offended. And then everybody else jumps on the bandwagon and agrees with them so they look ‘woke’ too. This is a classic example.

        1. Allonge*

          I am glad for you – sincerely – that you have no issues around eating, weight or diet culture. Please believe the several others on this page who say this is problematic.

          Also: you know what is not harmful? NOT having scales in a workplace breakroom.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          This has nothing to do with looking for ‘excuses to get offended’ or whatever buzzwords are going round. Please read the many, many comments from people like me who would be harmed by this.

          Empathise with us, that’s all we’re asking.

        3. ecnaseener*

          Seriously, read the comments on this page about how the presence of scales harms people with eating disorders and other related issues. Do some googling for more long-form explanations if you’re not convinced.

          It’s easy to go through life with the assumption that any harm you haven’t experienced or personally witnessed must not be real. It’s not healthy though.

        4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I guess since everyone has caught on to the fact the “politically correct” just means compassionate and respectful of fellow humans, it’s been rebranded as “woke.” But it still means having a modicum of decency and respect for other people.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Yeah, all “woke” really means is that you are awake to the impact of injustice on others, especially minorities.

            The fact that anyone considers “woke” a bad thing says that they consider empathy, consideration and equal justice a bad thing. I avoid toxic people like that.

        5. LB*

          People who develop or relapse into eating disorders aren’t at risk of being offended. They’re at risk of dying.

        6. Nameless in Customer Service*

          Ah, the mocking conservative use of “woke”. As a wise person put it:

          ““Woke”, the past tense of “wake”, meaning to have awoken, is an expression that African-Americans began using to mean “historically and politically aware”, usually in regard to issues of racism in the US. Other people began using it with essentially the same meaning, “politically astute”, but not necessarily tied to issues of racism.

          The Right picked it up and started using it pejoratively, and for obvious reasons – to poison the discourse with more anti-intellectual sentiment, often with a subtext of racism. “

        7. Observer*

          I find it a bit over dramatic to say that scales existing in a room causes harm to people.


          Some people look for any little excuse to be offended. And then everybody else jumps on the bandwagon and agrees with them so they look ‘woke’ too. This is a classic example.

          Have you bothered to actually read what people have written here? Or you so locked in your worldview that you only read enough to know that people actually have an issue and dismissed them because OF COURSE they are making it all up and looking for reasons to be offended.

          I’ve mentioned this before, but I’d like to point out that my father, who passed away about a decade before the word “woke” was ever used in this way, refused to have a bathroom scale in the house. Because with several daughters, he was afraid of the weight obsession. He’d seen what WW was like (other family members that were older than us), and he wanted no part in this kind of obsession with weight.

        8. Starbuck*

          “Some people look for any little excuse to be offended. ”

          What have you been seeing or reading to make you think this? I would think that the overwhelming response here would show otherwise.

          1. Observer*

            What have you been seeing or reading to make you think this?

            The contents of their own mind / psyche?

            Have you ever heard of projection? Very often when people accuse others of something, it’s just them projecting their own issues onto others. In this case, I suspect that the reason @Stunner266 is accusing people of “looking for things to be offended by” is that THEY are actually doing that. Because their reaction here seems to be waay more offended than is reasonable to the situation.

        9. Irish Teacher*

          The concern isn’t that people might be offended. It’s that somebody might be embarrassed about using the vending machine, thinking, correctly or incorrectly, that somebody put the scales there to imply anybody who eats anything from the vending machine is overeating and unhealthy or worse, that somebody with an eating disorder might be triggered into unhealthy behaviours by seeing the scales.

          Not using them wouldn’t prevent any of these things from happening.

          And truthfully, if numerous people are bothered by something, it usually means there is a problem even if those of us who have not been affected by the issue don’t see it. It’s rarely everybody just “pretending they knew all about that issue too” and even if it IS, that still means there IS an issue. Trying to be “woke” or in other words, aware of issues you previously didn’t understand and were “sleeping” through, is a good thing. It’s just about learning more.

    2. Emma*

      If that is the case, I feel really bad for the person doing it – that’s not a healthy or sustainable way of maintaining good eating habits.

      But also, what the other two commenters says.

    3. Observer*

      s it possible someone put the scales there for themselves because they feel tempted by the vending machine and this is their way of dealing with that?

      TWO of them?

      Of course it’s possible. That doesn’t make it appropriate for them to be there.

  14. Tau*

    LW5 –

    So I know that the chance you are in Germany is very small, but I’ve had to give this information to so many surprised coworkers that this is my PSA anyway:

    If you are in Germany (employed by a company with at least 15 employees for at least 6 months) and you request a reduction of your hours, your company MUST by law allow this if it would not harm their business. If they reject your request, they must give you a reason why and you can in theory go to court.

    This message brought to you by overhearing way too many coworkers wonder about going part-time in a way that makes clear they think it’s something the company can grant and deny at their discretion instead of something they have a legal right to.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Similar in the UK.

      But Alison is right to say that it’s worthwhile asking *anywhere*, particularly if the alternative is resigning altogether, and particularly if you would be asking for a relatively small reduction (eg four days per week). I also think the tide is turning on this and that more employees and employers will be interested in part time working.

      LW needs to pay attention to whether she would lose benefits by dropping hours. For example, if she would lose entitlement to vacation time then she might end up working similar hours for less money!

      1. Tau*

        Yes, asking is definitely always worth it! I dithered for ages over asking to go down to 90% FT (Friday afternoons off) until I finally did six months into my current job. It was such a great decision and has made a huge difference to my quality of life – I really regret not having done it earlier.

    2. BubbleTea*

      This is also broadly true in the UK – you can make a flexible working request (it isn’t specific to reducing hours).

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, in the UK you have the right to *ask* for flexible working, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get it. In my industry it’s very common for women to drop down to three or four days (with pay and holiday pro rated, obviously) once they come back from maternity leave, and then when their kids are at school they often go back up to five days a week. We also have core hours with flexibility around working hours (you have to be at work between 10am and 3pm, but you can flex your start and end time either way up to 7am and 6pm as long as you stick to a regular pattern) so if someone needs to do the school run then they can request hours to accommodate that. But I know that isn’t the case in all companies and in all industries, even in the UK. I’ve had friends in different sectors who have asked to do four days a week, or who have asked to WFH two or three days a week (pre-pandemic) because of childcare and they’ve had those requests refused for whatever spurious reason.

    3. Myrin*

      Count me in as another surprised not-coworker although now that I’ve thought about this some more I feel like I’ve actually heard this before but have totally forgotten about it.
      It’s established in § 8 Teil­zeit- und Be­fris­tungs­ge­setz (Tz­B­fG), in case anyone wants to read the exact wording.

      1. Tau*

        So few people seem to know about this! The only thing I do more work PSAs for is educational leave (Bildungsurlaub), but that’s a state thing and IIRC you’re in Bavaria, which doesn’t do it.

    4. Katie*

      I wholeheartedly agree with asking. You would be quitting anyway so it can’t hurt. I have accomplished people before who asked to go part time. I have them different takes to do, but I still wanted them there.

  15. Luna*

    LW2 – I’m not much of a touchey-feely type of person, so hugging so often would be very uncomfortable for me. I do enjoy hugs every now and then, but they have to be on my terms.
    Simply saying “I’m not much of a hugger” is fine. On a similar note, I told a coworker that I am not a big fan of perfume because of a sensitive nose, so she knew to not hold her wrist towards me where she tried on a new perfume.

    LW4 – Ignore them. If they get put in your way, just step on them loudly (and unevenly) and just look down, like, what did I step on? And then push it out of your way with your feet.

  16. SaeniaKite*

    Same in the UK, you submit the request and they have to give you a formal response and explain their reasoning if the answer is no and you also have the right to appeal if you think there isn’t a business reason to refuse the request

  17. Green great dragon*

    Excluding people who got a raise from a big bonus seems really strange. I do not understand their reasoning at all – if you deserve a little extra $ in the last few months then Ha! you do not deserve more $ now?

    Is LW the only one in this position?

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I think it has to come from an attitude of raises and bonuses only being there for placating underpaid employees and stop them from leaving, not for – egads – merit. So if you already got something within the last few months, you are considered sufficiently placated and don’t get another “treat”.

        I don’t think that works out like they think, mind. People like the LW will do the math, get frustrated, and leave anyway.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          I can see that (warped) reasoning and completely agree that all it does is piss folks off and makes them leave anyway. But maybe they don’t actually care about retention?

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      It honestly makes me wonder if OP isn’t the only person who recently got a raise….

      I’m hard-pressed to think of any legitmate reason for this practice.

    2. LW#3*

      No, I’m sure others in the company have also been promoted or received merit raises this year, but I don’t know if it was retroactive for them too. On my team, I could the only one. Since raises are rare, we never discuss them.

      1. The OTHER other*

        The way your company handled this makes me think they are both cheap and disrespectful; not a good combination IMO.

        I’d try Alison’s advice, but be prepared to accept that they have shown you who they are, and believe them.

  18. Hugs*

    #2, saying, “I’m not a hugger,” is fine and will likely work in most cases. I’d probably say something like, “I’m not a hugger, but I love a good fist bump,” and put out my fist for the bump with a warm smile. An elbow tap would also work. Both would satisfy their need for connection and perhaps feel less awkward for you. We are still in a pandemic so these two options are safer anyway.

    1. KateM*

      Basically, you tell them “I’m not a hugger” and put your fist up? :D The warm smile will be very necessary.

      1. I should be working*

        Nice visual. ;)

        I thought the standard was to cheerfully declare “Fist Bump!” while raising one’s closed hand. That’s enough to make the point. With relatives I’d feel much more comfortable with a more blunt “don’t hug me”, or just “nope” and step back. The fact that one would feel afraid to do so tells me that it’s even more appropriate. Practice with a friend until it feels normal. We don’t have to let people touch us when we don’t want them to!

      2. Bread Addict*

        As long as you use the words how about a fist bump instead it should be fine to put the fist up. As a hugger, who knows and asks first, I would totally understand it. Pre-pandemic I would have said high-five but fist bump is better now.

        Ultimately you dont need to accommodate them at all. I’m not a hugger should be fine. But if you want the connection than that might be a nice option.

  19. Mimi*

    #4 I would just push the scales under the table close to the wall and promptly forget about them. Out of sight and all, and nothing missing. But then I am conflict-averse.

    1. mreasy*

      I would push them under the vending machines, then probably make a stink with HR (am not terribly conflict-averse)

      1. Ex economist*

        I’d put them *on top* of the vending machines (yes, I’m tall). If anyone asked, I’d say I’m glad someone removed the dangerous trip hazard.

        1. JustaTech*

          Either of these is excellent. I wouldn’t put the vending machines *on* the scales only because vending machines are really heavy and it might fall over while you’re trying to get the scale under, and that would be a terrible way to die.

          And I’d put up a note about trip hazards.

  20. Sam C*

    Immediate all-staff email: “someone has accidentally left their scales in the vending machine area. I have removed them to my office for safekeeping. Could the owner please collect them from me at their earliest convenience.” Act as if OF COURSE no one would leave them in that place on purpose, and if they say otherwise express confusion and alarm at this. I’d say something “oh my goodness, but why would you leave them there? That could be so upsetting for people with eating disorders!” And then stare at them, wide-eyed and concerned.

    That’s assuming you are a colleague and not their manager or otherwise in a position of authority – in which case, I would go with coldly stating that it isn’t appropriate to put them there, and tell them to remove them to a private space immediately.

  21. Butter Bonanza*

    Ok, huggers, QUIT IT. Handshakes. Fist bumps. So many other ways to sate your unfathomable need to put your body against someone else’s.

    The pandemic taught us two very important things: literally every meeting is unnecessary and huggers are the the worst.

    1. WellRed*

      I was once interviewing someone to be a potential roommate and as she was leaving said “I’m a hugger” and hugged me. Total stranger. I did not ask her to be my roommate.

    2. Michelle Smith*

      I disagree with both of your conclusions, but I think we can both agree that people shouldn’t hug each other (anytime, but especially at work) without consent.

      I’m not normally a hugger, but appreciate a nice hug from someone I’m close with on occasion. One of my former bosses was a huge hugger, but she didn’t hug people at work 99% of the time. The 1% was in a very unusual situation (like say a long-time colleague at their retirement party in the breakroom) and she always, always, always asked for consent in a way that it was clear there would be no negative consequences for saying “no thanks!”

      I miss her.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yeah, I think I’ve only ever hugged a coworker once outside the “leaving forever” context, and that was when my close coworker thought she was going to be laid off and was nearly in tears (and it was a very quick from-the-side hug, not a face-to-face hug).

        I also live in a region where people (in general) aren’t very demonstrative with affection, so it might be a cultural thing too.

    3. Valancy Snaith*

      Comments like this are why this comment section has developed a reputation as insular and rude. Really, “literally every meeting is unnecessary and huggers are the worst?” Even if this is poorly-landed hyperbole, it certainly sets a tone here.

      1. Art3mis*

        Huggers are the worst because they assume everyone else is also a hugger and welcomes hugs. I am not a hugger and rarely have I been asked if it’s OK before someone hugs me. Even my friends. Consent is key.

        1. ...*

          You’re basing this assumption on… people who violate your personal boundaries, not huggers. There are plenty of huggers who are very physically affectionate with people they’re close to, and choose not to impose that on coworkers because they can read the room. But you wouldn’t know they’re huggers because they’re not hugging you, so you just assume they’re on “your side”

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          There are plenty of people right here who’ve said they are huggers and will respect anyone who says no hugs please, so I really don’t know what you’re going on. Maybe you have never tried to set any boundaries and have just put up with it?

          It’s perfectly possible to make the argument that non-huggers are the worst because their children never get any affectionate hugs. I know my brother suffered from that and I blame a lot of his atrocious behaviour on the fact that he never got any hugs from either of our parents (my Dad hugged me, his daughter, but not his son, he probably thought it’d make him gay since that was a very prevalent mindset back then).

      2. Jackalope*

        Yes, SO not cool. As a hugger, it’s incredibly important that I respect the boundaries of people around me. That’s a hill worth dying on, and I agree that someone who refuses to recognize that boundary is way out of line. But just like awesome bosses and fabulous HR depts on this work blog dedicated to problems at work, the reason you only hear about problematic huggers is that the huggers who care about consent and don’t force themselves on you are just going about their merry, consent-respecting ways and you don’t have to worry about them.

        And hugging is a normal part of being human, just like not wanting to hug is also normal. You may have come through the pandemic thinking that it’s so wonderful that you didn’t have to hug people for over two years, and that’s great. Sincerely, good for you! I personally struggled with this a lot, as someone for whom physical affection is extremely important and who had a system set up to make sure I got that regularly with friends and family. A handshake or a fist bump is NOT the same as a hug. It’s doesn’t do the same things for you physically (studies have shown that hugs can help your heart health, cause the release of oxytocin and serotonin, etc.), and it doesn’t do the same things emotionally. That’s not to say that you have to like hugs, or that you can’t have a boundary around them. Of course you can! But pretending that there’s no reason that people enjoy hugging and that there’s something wrong with people who like to hug just because you don’t is a jerk move.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        Here, try this:

        Substitute the word “huggers” with “non-consensual huggers”, and that might get it across.

        I like the occasional hug from people I know well and have affection for. Random coworkers? No.

        If you try to hug me without my consent you may end up with my elbow in your midsection as I mistake it for an attack. I have some interesting reflexes due to time spent in dangerous areas.

  22. MistOrMister*

    IP1…wow. Just, wow!! I am in awe of how you handled such a crappy situation. I’m not sure many of us would have handled that so well in our first major job. Kudos to you! And as Alison and others have said, there is some major dysfunction on multiple levels at your job. None of what you were describing is normal at all. That being said, it is an unfortunate truth that a lot of places have issues with favoritism and complacency. But it is usually not quite so blatant.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am also impressed with how you handled it, OP. And I impressed with your factual reporting of what went on.

      OF COURSE, you are scared to go into talk to the new boss. This is pretty normal for a person who has been through stuff. You could try letting the boss know that it would be helpful if she told you the topic(s) the two of you would be discussing before you went in.

      Unfairly, time is needed here. As you repeatedly go in and see first hand that nothing bad happens to you, then you will gradually come down off “high alert” and calm a bit.

      Another thing you could try doing is initiating a meeting with your boss- for legit reasons, of course- sometimes reversing the norm helps in processing past trauma. If YOU ask for a meeting (again legit reasons only) then you are in control of what is happening. We need to see ourselves taking back our autonomy/control. It’s a great visual.

      In yet another idea, please take time to think about how smart and savvy you are to have gotten yourself through this. In the end, you actually DID effectively stand up for yourself. You fought and won. Remind yourself “I fought and won.”. Sometimes winning does not feel rewarding, we can just feel tired/worn/beat. So we have to remind ourselves that we have won.

      Last. You will know you are doing better when you progress to the Angry Stage. What your company did/allowed was so very wrong. I’d like to say it’s not normal, but there’s plenty of stuff that happens out there- so I will say it this way, “It’s not a healthy way to run a business.” The anger can come in when a person realizes jobs do not have to be this HARD. What you went through was very hard, OP. I kind of think it will be a looong time before you see anything this hard again. Framed this way, perhaps you can think of this period as your healing time after a long battle. Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel but keep moving forward in cautious baby steps.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        This was such good advice. OP, please pay attention to this post if you don’t pay attention to anything else.

    2. Myrin*

      Yeah, everyone is rightly aghast but I too want to underline how impressively OP handled this whole situation.

  23. Anonymous for this*

    When some of those scented reed things showed up in my work bathroom they mysteriously ended up in the trash that very day. Some things aren’t appropriate in the workplace. Scales are genuinely triggering to some people, and scented things make some folks ill.

  24. Meh*

    A hug as a greeting is part of life in Hawaii. Now that I’m on the mainland it doesn’t happen unless I meet someone from or who live in Hawaii. It always startles me, like oh yeah were embracing stranger lady. When I go home and am hugged it’s OK again. The context is right *shrug*

  25. Yellow Flotsam*

    LW3 if the scales really bother you ask whoever is in charge of the space to find a location for them not next to the vending machine.

    The presence of the scales really doesn’t have to be secret code for anything. They’re just scales, and they’re just there. Sure – it could be the company suggesting you weigh yourself before purchasing junk food. But really – if your office doesn’t want you eating from the vending machine they could just not sell junk food to you.

    I can think of plenty of reasons for scales to be there that have nothing to do with a commentary on staff diets. Starting with – we found some old scales in the store room and we’ll pop them in the break room for whoever to pick up. Personally I used to use bathroom scales to get the weight of boxes/bags etc as much cheaper than fancy scales (now I have fancy scales).

    Do not steal or destroy someone else’s property.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      I’m glad that you see the scales as objects that just happen to be there, but as many, many people in this thread have already pointed out, they can be deeply triggering and damaging. I would say I probably have fewer hang ups about diet culture than most people and I still find it to be pretty gross—are people supposed to weigh themselves before they buy a snack to see if they “deserve” it? Or to figure out how much they’re “supposed to” run to burn off the calories from a candy bar?
      And that doesn’t even touch how difficult seeing a scale could be for someone in recovery from an eating disorder or for someone who had been subject to fatphobic abuse in the past.

      Scales in a break room, next to the vending machines, are not a value-neutral statement in American culture.

      1. 653-CXK*

        +1000000. It’s beyond value-neutral.

        The people who put the scales there do not do it innocuously – they’re doing it because they’re selfish, self-satisfied, and self-righteous – and for those with previous weight issues (anorexia), those scales could trigger a relapse.

        If I were a manager and saw these, they’d be in my office, and a very stern broadcast email stating that whoever put these scales in the break room can come and claim them in my office, and with that claim comes a very stern lecture about boundaries.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*


        Seeing scales next to a vending machine might make me think twice about my purchase before doing so, but there are better, safer, smarter ways to encourage thinking that aren’t callous and judgemental towards my peers.

    2. Michelle Smith*

      You’re just wrong here, I’m sorry to say. Just seeing this picture was somewhat triggering for me. The correct approach to the scenario you posed was to send out an email saying “hey, found some old scales in the store, if anyone’s interested in a free scale, come by my office before 5 pm today or they’re going to Goodwill (or the garbage – where they belong).

    3. urguncle*

      I literally have 0 reasons to weigh myself at work. If the company has a business case for weighing boxes/bags, there are safer and more appropriate ways to go about that and it’s an enormous stretch to say they are there for a business use case. In fact, I wonder if they are in violation of OSHA policies.

    4. Observer*

      Starting with – we found some old scales in the store room and we’ll pop them in the break room for whoever to pick up.

      Wow! You are really stretching there. That is something that no sensible person would do *without putting a sign there*! Was you pointed out, someone throwing them out or breaking them would essentially be stealing them. So how can it even be a consideration to leave the scales there for people to “steal” (ie just sitting there without a sign.)

      I suggest you read what others have written about the harms that those scales can do. The fact that there could be less nefarious reasons for their presence does not change that, and it doesn’t outweigh the potential damage.

    5. Irish Teacher*

      I didn’t take it as the company suggesting you weigh yourself before purchasing junk food so much as a comment by somebody concern-trolling with a reminder that “junk food puts on weight.” A bit like when people put “warnings” on their fridge to remind them not to eat so much, except…those are only for themselves. This appears to be for everybody.

      Of course, it MAY have nothing to do with the vending machines, but the reason isn’t really relevant any way. Regardless of the reason, it could harm people with eating disorders and could make many people feel uncomfortable or as if their choice of snack is being judged. Even if the intent ISN’T to say “remember your weight. It will go up on these if you eat too many snacks from the vending machine so better keep away,” well, there’s something I read that “intent isn’t magical.” Even if it isn’t the intent, it is VERY likely to be the impact it has on at least some people.

  26. Michelle Smith*

    LW4: The scales seem to also be conveniently placed right next to a large trash can. That’s where they should go. :)

  27. irianamistifi*

    OP #2, As a small, feminine person who often comes across as “cute”, I instituted a policy at every job I’ve ever been in: I don’t do hugs at work, and I don’t want to be picked up, or touched.

    I *am* a hugger, but it undermines my reputation and authority at work as a person who can be taken seriously. I found this to be more of an issue in workplaces that skew younger. People see you’re small and cute and want to see if they can pick you up and tote you around. Like, you’re a puppy or a handbag. They think it’s funny; *I* think it’s insulting.

    My script for this has always been, “Please don’t touch me, it makes me uncomfortable,” and “I will give you a hug on your last day working here, or mine. Until then, please no hugs.” You run the risk of seeming uptight, but your dignity will remain in-tact.

    1. Jay*

      PICKED UP? In the WORKPLACE? Excuse my caps. I’m just gobsmacked. I’m average height and was fat for most of my working years so no one would ever have tried to pick me up. I worked with several women who were small and no one ever tried to pick them up, either, because it’s wildly out of line. OMG.

    2. Observer*

      People see you’re small and cute and want to see if they can pick you up and tote you around. Like, you’re a puppy or a handbag.

      I had to read this a second time because I though I couldn’t be reading correctly!

      That’s . . . I’m not even finding the words for this. It’s bad enough in a personal situation. But at WORK?! I don’t care how “young” a workplace skews, unless the staff are literally children. Because who DOES that!?!?!

      1. Laika*

        Yep, not irianamistifi, but when I was younger and less assertive (but still 5′) I’ve had taller coworkers jokingly use my head as an armrest. Like, different coworkers, at different occasions. It is indeed baffling!!

        I’m much meaner now. It hasn’t happened in years. :)

    3. Nameless in Customer Service*

      It is insulting and I am very sorry you’ve been subjected to that. I once *accidentally* picked a coworker up (combo of hug and losing my balance/tipping backwards) and I could not possibly apologize enough for doing something so mortifying. She waved it off, wanting to get back to our lives, so I made myself shut up, but I still cringe when I think of it.

      Also I generally agree with your comment, but I wanted to highlight that bit.

  28. Not LW1*

    I’m not LW1 but in a similar toxic situation – I’m thankfully leaving for a new job, and my boss has been outrageously abusive during the notice period. When I start my new job (where my manager seems wonderful and the place seems really together) do I share any of my issues I may have because of a bad boss? Do I act like it was a great job? Do I not say anything?

    1. ABCYaBye*

      I would err on the side of “proceed with caution” and “take it all in” as you enter the new workplace but don’t call attention to the past issues you had. If there’s some sort of introductory meeting during onboarding, you could share some generalities about your previous workplace as it relates to how you operate best and how you appreciate feedback (call it a historically based DISC assessment of you) but I don’t know that I’d walk in and lay that information on the table right away. You’ll get a good sense of how this new place operates, and I’m certain that your new manager will want to know how you operate best.

    2. Fluffyfish*

      See how things shake out. Generally it’s not a great idea to just put it all out there and, again generally speaking, even good employers don’t care about that as the cause of any behavior. But you don’t have to pretend it was a great job. Come up with a neutral statement – previous employer wasn’t a good fit for my working style.

      Really they just identify areas for improvement and you both come up with a plan to improve. This is not a reference to a PIP at all. A good employer should want to help you continuously grow as an employee.

      My situation is a bit different because my terrible former boss is still here and also reports to my boss who is by now fully aware of his bs. I still didn’t disclose the issues I had working for him for almost a year, it was an exercise is tact, and it was because he was harassing new employees they way he did me.

      But I struggle with professionally setting boundaries with difficult people and that’s largely related to old boss. Boundary setting is something we’ve talked about as a thing I want to be better at – but really there was never a reason to specifically tie back the issue to old boss.

    3. Generic Name*

      I wouldn’t act like all was normal, but I also wouldn’t “trauma dump” either. I suggest at least a few sessions with a therapist to help you process your experience. I would start out being as circumspect as possible. Most people will get the message of all you say about your former workplace is blandly neutral. You moved on to find better opportunities/ lack of cultural fit, etc. if you find yourself reacting to something in your new job in a way that takes people aback, you can say something like, “sorry, at my old job, when I would do X, Y would happen” (as in, “when I would make a minor mistake, my boss would yell at me”).

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        Yeah, I agree with this strategy. Once you’ve settled in, if you do find it’s causing a specific work problem or you’re working to change a specific behavior and want some extra grace or support (coaching, access to development classes), it makes more sense to get into details with relevant people.

        Words like “challenge” and “struggle” really can do some heavy lifting, as do nice vague phrases like “communication problems” or “competitive environment.”

        Congrats on your new job!!!

    4. Rain's Small Hands*

      Its only your new jobs business (and they really only care about it) when it affects them – and as a professional, you shouldn’t let it affect them. But there will be times when you need to let your boss and coworkers know that you need clarification or “oh, my old boss always wanted to see any email before it was sent out to clients, I’m glad to hear that you trust me to send them out by myself.” (you don’t say “was a micromanaging b****, they will pick up on it). There probably won’t be that many times it comes up.

  29. Katie*

    Regarding 3. I wholeheartedly agree with sentiment that it sticks and you should say something. However one thing to think about (or be prepared for them to push back about) is that the bonus is a one time thing and in theory your raise will carry over each year and compound.

    1. Lab Boss*

      Except OP3 missed the bonus because of the specific date that they back-dated her pay to. It’s not a question of raise vs bonus- by giving her 2 extra months of her higher salary, they avoided giving her a bonus that was worth way more than that. The better deal for OP would have been no back pay, so that her raise would be late enough that she’d still be bonus-eligible. The CORRECT deal would have been full back pay, so that her raise would be EARLY enough she’d still be bonus-eligible, but it sounds like the company wouldn’t even consider that.

  30. Anon AF for this one*

    Please don’t throw away the scales.

    I was able to recover from my own eating disorder only when I found a doctor who was willing to take a harm-reduction approach and allow me to recover at my own pace, instead of insisting on full weight restoration as quickly as possible. We agreed that I would give myself unrestricted permission to eat as long as I didn’t exceed X lbs (where X was still underweight, but not critically dangerous over the short term). I kept a scale in the breakroom at work for a few months (until I had gotten to a point in my recover where I felt safe enough to let myself eat without weighing myself immediately beforehand). If someone had thrown it out, that wouldn’t have magically cured my eating disorder- it just would have meant I wouldn’t eat lunch that day. And, if I liked how that felt, maybe not dinner that night either. And then maybe not anything the next day, too…

    It’s okay to advocate for your own well-being without lashing out at someone else’s journey. If having scales in the breakroom is unsafe for you, just send around an email asking that they be moved elsewhere. You don’t know who put them there or why.

    And if that’s not a good enough reason, well, they aren’t your property. Stealing is wrong.

    1. Lab Boss*

      Agreed, and big props to you for having a system that works for you- and thank you for the perspective that what’s triggering for one person may be lifesaving for another. Throwing the scales away is one of those emotive feel good things that’s really just a bad idea and should stay in the realm of satisfying daydreams.

      1. Anon AF for this one*

        Yep. I’ve been weight-restored for over a decade now and have a pretty healthy relationship with food, but I’m not sure I ever could have gotten here if I hadn’t had access to harm-reduction strategies. It’s not an exaggeration to say that someone screwing with my access to scales would have been literally life-threatening to me in the early stages of my recovery.

    2. Dr. Rebecca*

      Could you not have kept them in/near/under your desk instead? It’s great that this helped with your recovery, but it may have hindered someone else’s.

      1. londonedit*

        This. OK, fine, in a very few cases someone might have a medical condition that means they need to weigh themselves at work (and genuinely can’t do it at home or at any other time of the day). But in that case, surely they can keep their own personal set of scales at their desk and use them there? Rather than leaving two sets of scales out in the middle of the office, and right by the vending machine to boot. It’s very difficult not to see that as a deliberate ‘Going for something from the vending machine? Don’t you think you ought to weigh yourself first??’ pass-agg move.

      2. Anon AF for this one*

        I didn’t have a desk, lol. I was 19 working as a veterinary assistant. But if someone had told me they needed the scales to not be there, I could have found a hiding place to stash them in and only taken them out as needed.

      3. Observer*

        Could you not have kept them in/near/under your desk instead? It’s great that this helped with your recovery, but it may have hindered someone else’s.

        Sure. But the point here is that instead of just getting rid of them you could ask the person to move them elsewhere, at which point the person has the opportunity to implement these options. By just throwing them out BEFORE talking to someone you take away that option.

        Now, if the person insists that, no this scale MUST be right next to the machine and must stay in full view and unlabeled, that’s a different issue. But give people a chance first.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          I know you’re reacting to the overwhelming number of comments suggesting the nuclear option for the scales, but please note: I did not contribute any of them.

    3. Lilo*

      I will note, I did have to regularly weigh myself when I was being monitored for pre-eclampsia. Very sudden weight gain is a sign your kidneys aren’t working and you have to go to the hospital. I was monitored for this for most of my third trimester.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      This is a perspective I’ve never heard before and sincerely thank you for sharing it. As another ED sufferer I know how hard that is.

      In light of this, I’d like to modify my advice away from throwing them away and to ‘inform others, via whatever means that suits your office culture, that the scales are in an inappropriate location and have to be moved out of sight’. Thus, someone with a need for them such as yourself can keep them under their desk if need be and it won’t trigger others such as myself.

    5. Robin*

      That is a helpful perspective, thank you. I am curious though, why somebody in your position could not keep the scale at their desk/locker/in a covered box/tucked away *somewhere*? If it was helpful to you, wonderful! But it also does not mean you have to have it in a public place where it could cause somebody else to spiral.

    6. Nameless in Customer Service*

      Thank you for sharing this with us. This is a facet of the issue I had not seen before.

    7. rage criers unite*

      This is beautiful “It’s okay to advocate for your own well-being without lashing out at someone else’s journey.”

      just a wonderful way to think.

  31. Lab Boss*


    Get your immediate management chain on your side with this one if possible. We had a similar situation: My company used to have a policy that anyone who got a raise for ANY reason (including promotion) in the 3 months prior to annual COL raises didn’t get their annual raise because they “already got a raise recently” (yes, terrible policy). Of course managers just didn’t give promotions during that quarter. I had a direct report get promoted and 2 days later the company announced they were changing the timing of COL raises- and he would now be ineligible for his next one. Long story short HR wouldn’t budge, claiming his 10% raise from the promotion should make him so happy he wouldn’t notice missing a 2.5% COL raise. We just did an end-around the policy and gave him a spontaneous “merit-based” raise for his “surprisingly good performance” about a month later, in the amount of the COL raise he wasn’t given. Alison’s advice is a good first step but be ready to look for a way around it.

    1. Lab Boss*

      Edited to Add: I just re-read your letter and noticed that you said they don’t normally give retroactive pay, and although they gave you an exception they didn’t give you FULL retroactive pay- just retroactive enough to make you ineligible for the bonus. I suspect you might be right and someone realized that was a way to save money (and assumed you’d be so happy with back pay you wouldn’t notice it was a bad deal).

      You said your manager was excited about the back pay- hopefully that means he’s playing it straight with you and genuinely thought it was a good thing, and he’ll go to bat for you.

  32. enchilada*

    Re. the scales in the break room. Are there any initiatives going on in your workplace that relate to fitness and weight loss? At a previous employer, we regularly had programmes working with personal trainers (completely optional and paid for, but discounted by the personal trainer) where cohorts of coworkers motivated one another to achieve fitness goals. In that case, there was a scale available. I never did them but many of the people who did found them useful. Because these programmes were discreet and optional it didn’t feel rude or egregious. Personally I don’t feel the mere presence of a scale is anything to get upset about, just tuck them out of sight and don’t use them. It would be a different thing altogether if there were signs encouraging you to use them or not to eat what you want.

  33. Jay*

    LW1 – my first job in my current location was toxic. The only feedback I got was negative and it was always delivered in a “surprise” meeting that would show up on my schedule with no warning and no agenda provided. It was horrible.

    In next long-term job, I had weekly meetings with my boss and monthly meetings with my grandboss. I received regular feedback, mostly positive, and felt supported and safe. I’m telling you all this because after two years in that position – five years after I left ToxicJob – I walked into work one morning to be told that grandboss was going to drop by to talk to me. It was somewhere around December 20th and I knew – my brain knew – that he was coming to give me a present. My body went into complete panic mode and I had to go into my office and close the door because I was about to cry. I had to call my husband and sob into the phone for a few minutes before my heart stopped racing and I could breath sort of normally again. Grandboss showed up an hour later with two bottles of very nice wine. I felt shaky all day.

    It takes a long, long time to recover from that kind of abuse and dysfunction. To this day, 20+ years away from ToxicJob, I still hate surprise meetings. My boss in my last job was pretty disorganized and often needed to meet with me on short notice. Luckily he was amenable to requests for an agenda. You are doing amazingly well. Be gentle with yourself – and I second or third or fourth the suggestion to check in with your EAP, if you have one.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      This describes some of my experiences over the years. I still get the gut clench anxiety and stress response when I get requests for sudden meetings, and I haven’t been in a truly toxic job for over a decade.

      1. Laika*

        Yes! I am three months into a new job. Everyone is incredibly (suspiciously?) normal, and I get consistent positive feedback and useful, constructive criticism. People have been nothing but supportive and excited to get me up to speed. But at my job previous to this one, I was nearly three years in a hyperanxiety-inducing environment with no structure and where consequences were arbitrarily doled out–literally anyone was at risk for scolding, for any reason, at any time. Nerve-wracking.

        Just yesterday I got a message from my supervisor asking me to “let them know when I was free to chat”. For about 15 minutes my lizard brain took over and I was *so* certain that this was finally the moment I’d be ambushed with a laundry list of my misdeeds. I took a lil walk, ate a snack, had some water, then checked in with my supervisor. And…they just wanted to tell me they would be taking a long weekend, make sure I had everything I needed to keep working on my project, and wish me a nice weekend!!

        I think it takes a lot of time to unlearn those gut reactions. When they first develop they sorta feel like emotional self-defense. Then they kick into overdrive after being in a shitty environment for so long, and it’s way harder to assess if/when they’re still useful once you’ve left the toxic place and gone somewhere else.

  34. Lilo*

    As someone who does weigh myself, there’s no reason to do it at work. Your weight fluctuates during the day and wouldn’t be a usable datapoint.

    1. Lilo*

      I did think back and I was weighing myself multiple times a day when I was at risk for pre-ecalmpsia (sudden water weight gain = kidney problems). Someone dealing with kidney issues might need to weigh themselves regularly.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        So they’d need two scales? In the common break room, not where they work? And they have to be positioned next to the vending machines?

    2. Baby Yoda*

      Exactly, Lilo. Plus the added weight from normal eating/drinking and clothes could be enough to worry someone that they’re gaining when they’re not.

      1. Nameless in Customer Service*

        Would you hire someone who doesn’t have a scale at home? Are you sure someone’s responsible if they don’t weigh themself daily?

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Hell. I’m a weirdo who likes to weigh herself. The weight fluctuations in a day blow my mind – I think it is fun to see what makes it go up or down. The only reason I can think of weighing myself at work would be if there was a top/bottom weight limit for some equipment, that scale shouldn’t be in the breakroom, and it definitely better be better quality than those scales

  35. Fluffyfish*

    OP 1 – You did great. You stood up for yourself. And your willingness to do so took the trash out.

    Having dealt myself with working for a toxic boss, I cannot stress enough the value of therapy. If your company has an EAP program, maybe start there. If you need more session to process the abuse (and it is abuse), they will typically help refer you to someone.

    All things considered – the company itself sounds good. Your boss created a toxic microcosm, but the company took you seriously and handled it – reading in between the lines it is very likely your boss was invited to leave.

    It can be hard to untangle my boss was toxic from work is toxic. Sometimes the abuse is bad enough that it just ruins the whole place for you, and moving on is part of healing. And that’s ok. It’s also ok if you’d like to stay now that evil incarnate has left, but still feel bad about what happened. And that’s okay too. Therapy can help you process all that too – stay or go.

    But really really really – good on you. Sticking up for yourself takes guts and being a new employee on top of it? Bravo. I hope you are giving yourself a regular pat on the back.

  36. Not A Hugger TM*

    Oh my goodness, #2, yes. I have made being Not A Hugger one of my main personality traits at work. My field is full of huggers and too much friendship between peers across different companies. I personally find it really distasteful and it blurs too many boundaries for me to be comfortable with. But rather than saying “I think this is inappropriate touching and also may compromise your better judgement down the road,” I can pop up with, “Oh you know me. I’m not much of a hugger. My whole family is like this, we don’t even hug each other on holidays!”

    With the more serious offenders, I can always go a step further of, “I’m not much of a touchy-feely person.” Which is very midwestern of me.

    I’ve gone a step further at conferences and preempted the hugging in conversation with, “Have you noticed how many people hug, here? I’m so not a hugger, and I always feel weird about it.”

    Nobody has ever once blinked an eye at the boundary.

  37. Art3mis*

    The second best thing about the pandemic is not having the pressure to hug people. (first is curbside pickup) And why is hugging at work a thing anyway? I don’t want to hug my friends and family let alone coworkers.

  38. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    The first scale doesn’t interest me. It can be explained by anything from passive aggressive judgmentalism to a desire to find a good home for an unneeded object.

    The second scale, on the other hand, I can think of no good reason for. And that intrigues me.

    (This also means I don’t recommend just tossing them. Somebody brought them in for some unknown purpose and will be justifiably mad if you trash their property.)

    1. Phony Genius*

      Two scales – no waiting? Or maybe targeting someone, implying that they can’t fit on one? (Ugh!)

      Aside: The vending machine is labeled for “natural” food and “smart snacks.” Most of the items I can see probably don’t meet that criteria.

  39. ABCYaBye*

    OP1 – You are a freaking rock star! You stood up to a MAJOR problem and shed light on it, helping to correct it. Things will get better for you and for your workplace, no doubt. As others have said, talking through that trauma will definitely be helpful for you if you can do it. But remember that you are awesome. You did exactly the right thing. And you did something that others might not have…frankly something others there at your workplace hadn’t. That is amazing!

  40. RagingADHD*

    I am fat. I don’t like scales particularly. I certainly wouldn’t get on one in the break room.

    But for real, I don’t understand why anyone is het up about an object existing in the same room as you. Nobody is forcing anyone else to use it. It isn’t going to jump up off the floor and do anything to you.

    The most likely explanation is that they aren’t there to “send a message” but that a couple of people brought them in for their own use. Maybe they’re doing a program together. Not my business, not my problem.

    Do you throw your coworkers’ mugs, Tupperware, or “up for grabs” snacks in the trash just because you don’t like them?

    If merely seeing someone else’s scale makes you start coming up with fantasies and justifications for swiping your coworkers’ belongings, I think you have some more work to do on your own relationship with your body.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Someone upthread used the comparison of alcohol at work and recovering alcoholics not wanting to see it and I think it’s a good one. The sight of something can absolutely be a trigger and mental harm is every bit as real as physical.

      PTSD triggers are another example. Or having a phobia of something.

      If the object causing the triggers isn’t needed for a valid purpose then there’s no harm in it being removed from the common areas of an office. I have changed my opinion from binning them to remove them from public sight – if people want to put them under their desks then fine, but I do not want to see them.

      1. revengeofpompom*

        Society cannot function if one removes from sight every innocuous item to which a hypothetical person may have a hypothetical phobia or may be a hypothetical PTSD trigger.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          It’s not an innocuous item, and it’s also not a workplace item. Why keep around something that has no business being there, and has the potential to cause harm?

      2. RagingADHD*

        Okay, what if it were an alcohol fridge? Does that make stealing it and throwing it out, or ordering your coworker to remove it from sight, a healthy or appropriate reaction? Of course not.

        Pick literally any object, because it could be triggering to someone:
        Someone else’s copy of Fifty Shades that they accidentally left behind could trigger a DV survivor.
        Someone else’s mug with a bird on it could trigger the guy with bird phobia.
        How about your actual coworkers? Someone struggling with infertility or issues around pregnancy could be triggered by the sight of a heavily pregnant coworker. Someone with gendered trauma could be triggered by having to work around the gender that victimized them.

        If you’re going to function and hold a job, you have to have boundaries around what is within your sphere of influence and what is not. Maybe you need to have a conversation with HR about policies, or about an accommodation. That’s reasonable, as long as you can abide with the outcome and don’t make it into your coworkers’ problem.

        But if a person is so triggered by the sight of someone else’s belongings to the point that they can’t keep their hands to themselves, they need to go home sick and have an emergency appointment with their provider, because it is not an okay response.

        Leave other people’s stuff alone. If you can’t, you need to take the time to deal with it, because that is a huge red flag that you aren’t getting enough help, or your plan isn’t working.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Ah, the judgement of people who have disabilities that are psychological in nature, with a side of victim blaming. Special.

          The scales are a passive-aggressive jab at people who are fat. There is not really any other interpretation for it in my book. I say this because of the positions and the count of scales.

          1. Lindy's Homemade*

            “Ah, the judgement of people who have disabilities that are psychological in nature, with a side of victim blaming. Special.”

            That is an obscenely incorrect, ignorant reading of RagingADHD’s statement who routinely shows themselves to be calm, rational, and professional in this community even when everyone else is screaming about “burn it all down, a bird looked at me!!!!”

            I’d find scales in the breakroom a little odd too and it might even bring up some weight/body image-related stuff that I’d rather keep tamped down while at work. I also have a weird phobia about pool drain grates and yet my apartment faces the complex’s pool. Do I scream at the leasing office about how the pool should be taken out, or I should be relocated to another unit at no expense or inconvenience to me, with a rent discount for my trauma? Do I set fire to the pool? No because that is all insane.

          2. Coconutty*

            There are SO MANY other interpretations and it’s ludicrous that so many people here are determined to assign malicious intent

    2. Lindy's Homemade*

      Co-signed. Also, has anyone considered another possible-if-not-likely scenario? Someone was cleaning out stuff, came across the scales, and shoved them in the corner as a “deal with this later/throw it out” errand? They are next to the trash can after all. Like, we could assume very sinister, “these scales mean that the office is going to force us all into Kardashian-style diets!!!!” motives but that’s quite a reach.

      I don’t know, I just wonder how much time the OP has on their hands every day at work to make this into SUCH an issue that they had to write to an internet columnist about it. Instead of, I don’t know, asking around their own office to see what the issue was. I guess the latter doesn’t get internet clicks though.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        “I don’t know, I just wonder how much time the OP has on their hands every day at work to make this into SUCH an issue that they had to write to an internet columnist about it. Instead of, I don’t know, asking around their own office to see what the issue was. I guess the latter doesn’t get internet clicks though.”

        And they didn’t even ask for advice. They sent in a picture and said,”hey look at this!” My guess guess is they felt like stirring up the internet outrage. And they succeded.

    3. Nameless in Customer Service*

      Where does it stop, though? What about when it escalates to diet group fliers on the bulletin board, diet group brochures left on people’s desks, personal repeated invitations to the diet group, refrigerated lunches replaced with notes encouraging “healthy eating”, and outright discussions of how someone is too fat to look professional? All of which I’ve experienced at work.

      I am, to be clear, not advocating for throwing away the scales because messing with other people’s property is a bad idea. But based on my lived experiences they would get my back up and make me wonder what was coming next. And I know I’m not the only person who’s had experiences like this.

      1. Coconutty*

        And all of which is a huge leap from the mere presence of a scale, likely with a completely innocuous expiation and zero expectation that anyone is going to use it if they don’t want to

        1. Nameless in Customer Service*

          I did mention that I’ve seen this sequence of events happen, right? Actually, twice, at two different workplaces.

          1. revengeofpompom*

            The difference is that if this occurred — the scales by the vending machine — in the context of any of the other events you described, then yes one could see it as part of that pattern of size-based bullying. But just two scales laying on the floor of a common area does not imply that the next thing that will occur will be any such bullying. The letter writer has not indicated this is part of a larger context of size-shaming, so there’s no reason to draw that deduction. I understand your personal experiences have been different, but we have no reason to believe those dynamics exist at the letter writer’s workplace.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        If someone left a diet group brochure on my desk I would be pissed off. THAT KIND OF GARBAGE DOES NOT BELONG IN THE WORKPLACE!

        Seriously, a person’s weight is between them and their doctor. It should not be a “workplace wellness initiative” or any such thing.

        Workplaces like that need to mind their own business, not people’s private choices.


        1. revengeofpompom*

          Ok. But in the actual letter that’s posted here literally none of that happened. Letter Writer walked into a building they don’t usually work out of and saw these scales. Fin. That’s it. No one left diet info on LW’s desk. No one said anything to LW about their weight. No one implied anything to LW about their weight. There is no indication that there is a workplace wellness initiative in place, nor that these scales have anything to do with such a thing. A person just walked into a common area and saw scales laying on the floor and thought it seemed weird. None of the other things you’re responding to actually occurred.

          1. Nameless in Customer Service*

            None of the other things you’re responding to actually occurred.

            Yet in this case. (As I noted above I’ve seen them happen and am unlikely to be the only one) And looking at this discussion I’m beginning to wonder how many commenters will defend those actions. “They’re just concerned about your health!” and so on.

              1. Nameless in Customer Service*

                Green Tea said to you above, “You are causing harm by being one of those people who will defend dog whistles and passive aggressive behavior because ‘we can’t know 100% their intention.’” I have nothing to say to you.

                1. Despachito*

                  I do not understand?

                  I did neither mention nor advocate employers “being concerned for your health” and I think it is none of employers’ business. Nor do I remember anyone here advocating employers meddling in this.

                  And I do not understand Green Tea’s comment either – I have been protesting against passive-aggressive behaviour (throwing scales in trash or damaging them), and strongly disagree that the ONLY explanation why scales could have been placed in the break room by the vending machine is malicious, passive-aggressive saying “fat people! do not eat sweets from here”!

                  Because somebody says something, it does not necessarily be the truth. I truly cannot see how I am causing harm by saying that a certain situation does not necessarily have only one cause. We know very little about it, and we all speculate a lot. You see this incident as a part of a pattern (probably experienced before) of other truly horrible things done to obese people, but there is absolutely no indication in OP’s post that there is any such pattern in this particular case. It was not even OP’s habitual workplace. WE DO NOT KNOW if there is any pattern. Please stop behaving as if you were certain there is.

    4. Long winded and fed up*

      My company used to have a doctor’s scale in the cloakroom next to a blood pressure machine. I think that’s a bit different than putting it next to the vending machine, but who knows what the options are at the place in the post.

  41. Lizzo*

    OP2: BIG hugger here who presently works with some non-huggers. They set a boundary with me early on, which I am more happy to respect–I definitely don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable on my account. The pandemic has also made me hyper aware of others’ preferences when it comes to hugs/handshakes/touching in general, so now I always ask people (even those I know well) if they’re up for a hug or if they prefer something else.

    All this to say, if anybody is upset when you express your preferences, it’s 100% about them and their issues. You do you. :-)

    1. ThatGirl*

      Yknow, I’m a hugger, but I can count the times I’ve hugged a coworker on one hand. Because it just doesn’t seem like the place to hug people.

      1. Lizzo*

        It depends on the work environment. Most of my employers have been nonprofits (read: casual), and colleagues typically become friends, so…..
        If I worked in a corporate environment, that would be a totally different ball game.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Sure. And I have made real friends at work who I have hugged! But I don’t tend to hug them **at work**. With limited exception (people saying goodbye, once when someone was having a really tough personal day).

  42. Just a thought*

    OP1 – This was a hard intro into the workplace! One thing I’ve learned over time is that most employee discipline is private and takes way more time than you would hope it would. I echo that your boss probably didn’t quit on his own. Kudos to you for not only advocating for your self initially, but for not giving in. Things will settle with the new boss, but if you are still rattled by what happened with the old one, definitely reach out to your EAP for a couple sessions to recalibrate.

    OP5 – I would definitely ask. Literally the worst they could do is tell you that you are crazy and fire you that day – likelihood less than 1%. Not every employer can accommodate moving a position to part time, but if they can both you and the company will benefit.

  43. Anon for this one*

    Not OP4 – Wow, I had no idea how much vitriol a picture of a couple of scales would cause. We have a scale in the women’s bathroom and have had for years. I believe it started with a Weight Watchers group. Why so much throw them away, etc. instead of just “push them out of the way under the table”?

    On the hugging – we all deserve to reject any particular form of touch that we find uncomfortable. If you’re not a hugger, speak up. If you are a hugger, ask first before you hug anyone new!

    1. Observer*

      We have a scale in the women’s bathroom and have had for years.

      Because women need to watch their weight… (And men don’t?) Do you really not see why this could be a problem?

      Also, it’s in the bathroom, which lands rather differently from having it near the vending machine. But why do people need to weigh themselves at work anyway? Even if you ARE trying to lose weight (which I am…)

      The fact that is was related to w WW at work makes is worse not better. WW is the template for disordered eating. (That’s not just a personal opinion – there is a lot of evidence of this.)

      1. Ah Jeez*

        “Because women need to watch their weight… (And men don’t?) Do you really not see why this could be a problem?”

        Oh *come on,* why would they have any idea what is or isn’t in the men’s bathroom? I certainly don’t know what the men’s bathroom looks like at my workplace because… why would I?

            1. Observer*

              You mean that no one would have understood the point is she had just said “the bathroom” without specifying which one?

    2. Luffi*

      I am making stuff up BUT I strongly suspect they were underneath the table to begin with, and someone pulled them out and snapped a picture to make it all seem much more outrageous.

      Either that, or people are actually using them or was cleaning under the table and forgot to re-stow them, and now it’s a “problem” because people can see them clearly which hurts their feelings.

  44. calvin blick*

    I kind of feel that people are overreacting to the scales. It is definitely a little odd that someone (or more likely two someones) put them there, but it’s not really hurting anyone.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Please read the many comments above from me and others about how actually yes it *can* hurt us.

      1. revengeofpompom*

        Removed. Do not compare mental health conditions to conditions to “imaginary monsters” here. – Alison

        1. calvin blick*

          Yeah, a pretty big percentage of the commenters here (and don’t get me wrong; it’s a great bunch and I learn a lot from them) seem to think that if anything, anywhere offends anyone it should be absolutely verboten.

          I’m sure in a couple weeks we’ll get a letter from someone trying to lose weight with a friend from work so they can finally hike the Appalachian Trail with their terminally ill mother but some horrible person threw away their scales

          1. Observer*

            Yeah, a pretty big percentage of the commenters here (and don’t get me wrong; it’s a great bunch and I learn a lot from them) seem to think that if anything, anywhere offends anyone it should be absolutely verboten.

            I don’t think I’ve actually seen a single comment that tries to make that case. Never mind “a pretty big percentage”.

        2. Observer*

          Except that:

          1. ED, fatphobia and body dysmorphia are not theoretical issues. They are so common that between the 3 of them, you are going to find some people who have been affected by one or more of them in any workplace that has a substantial number of employees.

          2. I would suggest that you actually look at how “reasonable” is defined. Even with religious accommodations, where employers are not expected to incur more than “de minimis costs”, you would never be able to make the argument that moving or getting rid of the scales in the break room is “not reasonable”. There is no cost to the employer, there are no safety implications to taking the scale out of the break room, this is not keeping staff from doing their jobs, nor is this keeping people from doing the things that people reasonably expect to do while at work.

        3. pieces_of_flair*

          1 in 5 people have dealt with an eating disorder. This is not some obscure phobia. If you bring a scale to work, there is actually a high possibility of harming one of your coworkers.

          If you think the scales aren’t a problem, ok, that’s great for you. Go ahead and ignore them. But why the judgment against people telling you it is a problem for them? Why not try empathy instead?

        4. Irish Teacher*

          The difference is that nobody could reasonably predict that that username would cause you to have symptoms of mental illness (which is different than it ruining your day) whereas it IS reasonable to assume that at least some put would be stressed at least by seeing scales beside a vending machine and that people with eating disorders would be triggered by it.

          In my experience, a pretty large proportion of people have some degree of issue with weight or eating and I would be VERY surprised if in a large workplace there was nobody who would react badly to this.

          No, of course, we can’t avoid everything that could potentially harm anybody because somebody COULD of course have been abused by somebody wearing a red shirt and be triggered by red shirts, and in that case, if the person doesn’t ask people not to wear red shirts, it’s not reasonable to expect people to know. However, I think it IS reasonable to assume that scales beside a vending machine are, at the very least, likely to put people off their snacks. In fact, I would not be surprised if it was a majority of people who feel embarrassed or awkward about buying a snack while seeing a scales.

          Certainly in my workplace, I know of a very high number of people who talk about being “bad” any time they eat sweets or cake, who talk about how fat they are (some of these people look underweight or at least slim to me), constantly crash diet, etc. In my workplace at least, it would be hard to believe that anybody could believe a scales would not make ANYBODY think of dieting, feel fat or question whether they should get a snack from the vending machine. I’d be inclined to guess maybe a quarter of the staff would have some kind of negative reaction to it. And I don’t think my colleagues are that outside the norm here.

          Depending on how high a criteria you give for “being harmed,” I would say it’s possible a high number of people you would consider completely mentally healthy, people with no diagnosed mental illnesses and no experiences of therapy, would experience some form of harm in this situation. Now, by harm here, I am including not buying a snack because the scales make them think of putting on weight or feeling embarrassed and awkward or wondering “should I weigh myself? I don’t want to, ’cause I know I’ll be really fat and what if somebody comes in and sees the number but does thinking like that mean I should, because I should face up to it?”

          But even those issues mean that a lot of people are likely to be unhappy about this and honestly, it isn’t hard to predict that people would be. It IS much harder to predict that a username would cause somebody to have a flashback or self-harm or have nightmares.

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

          Using your thought experiment: No one is making you read the comments. You are probably not reading and commenting for your employment. You can skip the comments. However, Someone who works at this office has to use this break room and therefore has to step over those scales to get to the table. And I mentioned in a comment before that people with body issues usually psych themselves up for when they know they have to be weighed or when they know they would see something that could trigger them. But no one is going to expect the scales in the break room at work, and so it could be jaring to them.

  45. WantonSeedStitch*

    I’d place a scale in the men’s room and a scale in the women’s room (or both in unisex bathrooms if that’s what you have), and send out an e-mail to everyone saying “hey, I moved the scales to the bathrooms so people who wish to weigh themselves can do so in private if they prefer.”

  46. Tsalmoth*

    “the company’s intention is not for me to lose money through this raise”

    I get why this is in the script, but I’m almost certain that this is exactly the company’s intention.

  47. Nameless in Customer Service*

    I wish I knew how to explain why having a coworker (let alone management) bring in scales to the workplace comes off as the beginning of a referendum on employees who do not participate in diet culture, not least when I think of all the workplaces with all the scales and diet clubs and mentions of people’s weight in their periodic employee reviews. But then considering how many people find it reasonable to mark down otherwise competent and hardworking employees for not participating in diet culture, maybe it’s actually meant to be a feature, not a bug. I’m still not convinced it’s not a waste of human potential, though.

  48. nnn*

    Assorted thoughts without a specific conclusion about the “scales are someone else’s property” vs. “scales are passive-aggressive commentary” vs. “scales are harmless” discourse:

    1. Unless there’s something very particular about this job, scales aren’t in any way work-related office equipment. Scales also aren’t part of individuals’ personal routines that could plausibly spill over into the office. (Compare with if someone brings in a hair dryer and dries their hair in the bathroom before work, or brings in a waterpik and does a very thorough teeth cleaning after lunch. It’s a bit much, but you see how they get there.)

    2. If an individual is weighing themselves for their own personal purposes, they’d keep the scales where they keep their personal property, not in the break room.

    3. If an individual is weighing themselves for their own personal purposes, they’re almost certainly not going to do so in the break room. They’d either do it somewhere more private, or, if there’s no privacy, they’d do it somewhere that’s more their personal space rather than communal space. (Compare: if you’re in an open-plan hot-desking office and you’re doing some personal care thing like brushing your hair or adjusting your bra strap, you’d be more likely to do it at your desk than in the break room.)

    This all suggests that the placement of the scales in the break room is intended as “These are for everyone”, rather than them being a personal item for personal use.

    Also, if they were left in the break room from an “I’m getting rid of these, does anyone want them?” perspective, then throwing them out would be harmless.

    So we’re left with either a weight-watchers club having sprung up in the office and people are using the break room for their weigh-ins, or someone is sending passive-aggressive messages about people’s weight.

    1. Observer*

      For the most part I agree with you.

      They are still someone’s property, so the best way forward is to either talk to facilities or send the appropriate email and go from there.

  49. no one reads this far*

    I am not a touchy-feely person, especially when it’s sudden, due to past trauma.

    I worked somewhere where one of the people always wanted to hug/touch/play with your hair (if you appeared AFAB anyway) and she was always trying to do the same with me.

    One time she came up behind me to touch my hair (despite me telling her no repeatedly) and my instincts kicked in and I nearly hit her.

    Am I working through my own isduew

    1. no one reads this far*

      Hit enter. Ugh.

      Am I working through my issues? Yes.

      Did I apologize profusely and explain that sudden contact makes me jumpy? Of course!

      Did it get her to stop and apologize and never do it again? Also yes.

    2. Observer*


      I don’t have any traumas, but I really think that if someone came up behind me and started playing with my hair, I could easily react in a way that could hurt that person. Not on purpose, but my startle reflex can be pretty strong.

      This person was beyond out of line! I’m so glad that this at least put a stop to her behavior.

  50. Safely Retired*

    #4: Other than the obvious use of the adjacent trash can…
    Remove (or turn around) the batteries in the digital scale.
    Put them up on top of the vending machine, way toward the back where they might not even be visible and will be hard to reach.

  51. Dawn*

    For some reason what’s bothering me most is: why TWO scales? And so close together?

    Also I didn’t realize they had Miss Vickie’s (a Canadian brand) in Ohio. Learn something new.

  52. The-cg*

    OP2 — if possible I recommend saying no thanks like advised, but do a fist bump instead. It’s a friendly touch with minimal contact (but totally reasonable if you don’t want to touch at all!)

  53. LondonLady*

    LW2 – yes, use the wording “I’m not a hugger, but…” while smiling warmly eg “I’m not a hugger, but that’s great news” or “I’m not a hugger, but thank you” etc so that they get the warmth without the hug.

    LW4 – Has the arrival of the scales been accompanied by any company memo or management announcement? If not, I’d immediately move the scales to the nearest stationery cupboard, or stash behind reception or in the communal kitchen cupboard or some other neutral but out-of-sight space, and see who says what in response. You can always say that you were afraid someone might steal them, and gently point out that they send an unhelpful mixed message.

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