manager only invites senior employees to drinks, smoking on camera, and more

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

1. Manager only invites senior employees to drinks

I am one of the most junior employees at a pretty small firm. (I am not junior for my field, I’m quite seasoned, just one of the more junior on this particular team.) We are almost entirely remote, and I am also one of the only staffers whose job often requires them to be in the office. Some other junior employees are in from time to time, but it is often just me.

However, once a month or so, a bunch of senior management all travel to the office for a monthly meeting they have. I look forward to these times, as the office is very lively and it’s great to see everyone, and I get along really well with many of them. However, recently our vice president, Laura (who is everyone’s boss or grandboss), has begun inviting all the senior management to drinks after work on these days. I’m never invited — I will see her walk around to everyone else’s desks and ask if they’re free for drinks after work and just skip mine entirely. When other junior staff are in the office, they are also not invited. But as I mentioned, this is rarely the case and I am almost always the only person in the office who’s not invited. It is almost always the whole office getting up to leave at 5 and all saying goodbye to me on the way out.

This has been upsetting me and making me feel really isolated from the team, which I thought I got along pretty well with. But I don’t know if I’m taking it too personally. Is it normal that senior management will frequently go for drinks without inviting other employees? Should I just try to ignore them, or is there a way I could bring up with Laura how this makes me feel?

It’s not odd for senior management to get drinks together, but it’s pretty rude in these particular circumstances — where it means continually excluding one person. It might land differently if they framed it differently — like if they explained they were doing a management team meeting and liked to do it over drinks (which could even be the case, since they’re all there for this monthly meeting) — but if it’s clear they’re just socializing, it’s rude.

But I wouldn’t mention it to Laura. Sometimes you just need to deal with stuff like this when you’re the most junior person, and you risk coming across as … well, not delicate, but something in that neighborhood. That doesn’t mean it’s not understandable that you feel slighted; it is! But saying “please invite me” when you’re not part of the management group that’s going carries a high risk of feeling off. That said, it could be something you could ask your direct manager about. She might be able to give you more insight into why Laura does it this way (who knows, maybe they are talking about work stuff and just haven’t made that clear) or invite you along sometimes.

2. Smoking on camera

I recently had a one-hour call with colleagues from another department and one of them chain-smoked four cigarettes on camera!

We’ve all seen people doing things at home while on camera that they wouldn’t do during an in-person meeting. And I’ll be the first to admit that I very rarely wear real clothes while working from home unless I absolutely have to, though I make sure it’s not obvious on camera. But smoking just hits differently. Right?

If they were on my team, I would send them a chat message in the moment telling them to put it out, and then follow up with a conversation about how it isn’t professional. However, this person isn’t part of my team or even in my larger department. We’re both at the same level title-wise. Would you alert their manager or let it go?

Let it go. It’s unprofessional, but it doesn’t rise to the level of something you need to alert their boss to.

3. How to dress when traveling for work

I’ve been working from home since I started my job about a year ago (this is my first job out of college). The teams who work in the office have a dress code, but my boss isn’t strict and as long as the C-suite or clients aren’t on calls we have Zoom meetings in T-shirts, sweatpants, etc.

Our upcoming quarterly meeting is in person, and since it’s across the country it will be a long travel day for me. I know what to wear for the meeting itself but, given that we are traveling from the same area and staying in the same hotel, there’s a good chance I’ll run into coworkers on my travel day. Is it generally expected that I dress professionally while traveling for work?

No, you can dress comfortably when you’re traveling — in nearly all jobs, but especially in one where your colleagues wear sweats on Zoom calls. Don’t go as far as traveling in full-on pajamas, but otherwise feel free to dress for comfort.

4. Employer refuses to change my employee ID even though my name changed

When I got divorced, my company changed my email address to my maiden name as soon as I had the legal paperwork in place. I was thrilled at how seamless that process was.

However, my employee ID, which is essentially my first initial plus last name, cannot be changed. Everytime I sign into my laptop I have to enter in my employee ID, which includes my married name. Every single application and software through work uses my employee ID. All day long I have to be reminded of my ex life. Recently I had to get a new work laptop and go through all the logistics of setting everything back up, and vocally telling the tech team my old name to sign into things over and over. To be honest, it’s brought up some trauma. I left my ex because he was emotionally abusive. Still being tied to this name is such a challenge, and to be faced with it daily at work is just horrible. Is this considered discriminatory based on marital status? Is there any recourse I have?

It’s not considered legally discriminatory. It would be if they only applied this policy to women who changed their names but not to men, but assuming they apply it across the board it’s not illegal … just bad.

You can try escalating it above whoever is insisting it can’t be changed, and you can try enlisting your boss for help in pushing for it. Ultimately, though, if you’re working somewhere that’s more devoted to rigid bureaucracy than to sensible flexibility, you might hit a wall. It shouldn’t be that way, but it sometimes is.

{ 443 comments… read them below }

  1. soontoberetired*

    For LW#4 – your employee ID behind the scenes is probably a primary key field, tied into your security and other things. So while they should have the capability to change it, it isn’t just a change, it is essentially setting you up again as a new employee. My company employee ids which are based on our names are changeable now but they weren’t for the longest time. And they are much happier if someone doesn’t ask for the ids to change.

    1. allathian*

      One of my coworkers who divorced her abusive husband and reverted to her unmarried name *quit* because it was impossible for her to get her employee ID (first name initial + last name) changed. My employee ID shows my unmarried name, but I’m not bothered by that because there’s no trauma attached to my former name.

      1. Private_Eye*

        I changed my name by deed poll in the UK. First Name and Last Name. My company also said they couldn’t change it so I left, and then returned 18 months later and insisted they set me up as a new account on the system.

      2. Hannah+Lee*

        It sounds extreme, but if I were the LW, this would be an option on the table.

        Something about your current workplace is causing emotional stress, trauma, multiple times a day.
        Your employer is unable or unwilling to make changes that could prevent that negative impact on you. (Frankly, I lean towards unwilling, because there are likely means they could use to do it, whether it’s an alias or setting you up as a new user, or whatever, but they are choosing to not deal with it and let it be your problem)

        As good as other elements of the job are, are they worth the way this one thing is dragging you down every day? Especially in the current labor market?

      3. Artemesia*

        And this policy mostly affects women. You can bet if it inconvenienced men, they would have long ago figured out how to fix it. Of course it can be fixed; they just have decided not to expend the effort required to do so.

        1. My+Useless+2+Cents*

          Agreed. Since in our society it is the women who more often change their names (marriage, divorce) I would think a good lawyer could argue discrimination. But it is definitely sexist and would change immediately if a male higher up for some reason changed their name.

          IT doesn’t want to fix it because it’s more work. If at all possible LW needs to make it more work for IT to *not* fix it. Perhaps a little weaponized incompetence…. like signing in with maiden name instead of ex’s name until it locks her out and IT has to go in an fix it, over and over and over again. “Sorry, it’s just automatic to type my name, not my ex name.” However, LW would most likely need to be at the change ID or I quit stage.

          1. Disconnected*

            It could also easily depend on the age of the system. Where I once worked you could not change a person’s username under any circumstances because when the account is generated it generates an ID file for another system that could not be regenerated. This means when HR screwed up and didn’t want to fix their mistake (the IT accounts were generated as part of the onboarding process based on their employee file and we once had someone’s names get put in backwards) if we fixed the username it would implode that system which everything ran off and caused IT issues of the order of the user having to log a job at least three times a week. There were other issues with people leaving and coming back causing similar issues, seriously it was a horribly designed system that nobody liked but had so much historical data in it that they couldn’t see a way out with the available budget at the time I was there.

            That being said, we did have a policy for acrimonious divorces. On paper the person was fired and then rehired and given their accrued benefits as sign on bonus. Their personal data and emails were data dumped and they were given the dump to sort through. But it took buy in from three departments to do so, HR, IT and Finance, and turned into sitting down with the user to get them to sign off on a lot of things regarding their employment/current benefits/general awareness of what could go wrong for them to keep an eye out for that the systems wouldn’t automatically pick up.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I am suddenly grateful for the annoying random letter-number-combo ID’s assign by my corporation.

        2. Dana Whittaker*

          1000% this, with undoubtedly many sprinkles of “geez, it’s just a name and you had it for X years so what’s the drama about?”

        3. Fae Kamen*

          I was wondering about this with Alison’s response. Is disparate impact an accepted legal theory in employment law, as it is in housing? If so, maybe there is a discrim case to be made after all.

        4. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Exactly — the men have no idea how something like this can affect people, so they just don’t consider it a problem that they’re willing to do jack about.

    2. Susan+Ivanova*

      LW#4 : IT might be able to set up an alias to your account. Most things should just handle it transparently – email, chat, account directory, etc.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        It *should* be handleable as an alias, from a system design point of view, but if the system hasn’t been designed to handle it it’s possible that they genuinely can’t change things without, from the computer system and paperwork perspective, having the OP listed as a completely new person who was just hired.

        It would be bad design, certainly, but also the kind of thing that can be surprisingly expensive and time consuming to fix.

        1. Tinkerbell*

          My 14yo is nonbinary and we helped them legally change their name this summer so they could start at their new high school with their new, non-gendered name. From an IT standpoint, it was a disaster :-/ Their name got changed in one system and not the other so they spent the first two weeks of school being un-enrolled from some of their classes multiple times per day (including at least once when they were in the middle of submitting an assignment). Their class and computer logins are all based on a first.lastname email account assigned to each student in kindergarten (which they have no access to until high school), meaning they had to type their deadname in every time they turned on their computer and had to explain to all their teachers that deadname.lastname was actually them. And then – when the poor overworked and understaffed IT person finally made them a newname.lastname account – it wiped ALL work under their old account including big projects they’d been working on for weeks. It was a massive mess.

          My kid is undoubtedly happier with their new name, but I wish it weren’t so hard to change things once they’re in a database!

            1. Momma+Bear*

              Same here. My kid has an ID number for an email address/login that they were assigned in kindergarten.

              I really think more companies/schools need to think about name changes and the emotional impact of being stuck with the wrong one forever. There are a lot of reasons names change and a system that can’t handle it without wiping the slate clean is poorly conceived.

              1. Mid*

                Also, another downside to the name system is that people can have the same name. My friend had a very common name, and there were 3 other people in our school district with the same first, last, and MIDDLE name, including one in the same grade. This caused problems for things like standardized testing, class enrollment, and getting her grade transcripts sent to colleges. The district switched to an ID number first system a while ago because of those issues. Everyone has an ID number, and they can have a name alias, but the ID is their actual login info. More privacy that way as well.

                1. Nightengale*

                  I work for a huge hospital system. My office manager’s e-mail suddenly stopped working one day. It turns out a nurse with the same first name got married and changed her last name to the same as my office manager, and was given her e-mail address. This took weeks to sort out.

            2. SarahKay*

              Yes – for all that “I am not a number, I am a free man” resonates, sometimes it’s actually easier to be a number.
              My primary ID at work for all computer systems is a number; everything else hangs off that number and thus everything else is changeable. Granted, I’ve seen IT make a dogs’ dinner out of changing an email name, but I’ve also seen it done seamlessly so I suspect the failed change was lack of experience by whoever did it.

          1. Rara+Avis*

            Wow, that’s frustrating. We did the same for my 14 yo this fall, but one new entry in the “preferred name” field of the master system cascaded across all the interfaces. On the other hand, I have some students whose preferred name is the baby nickname they used in kindergarten, and by middle school they’d love that to disappear, but their parents never make the change request.

            1. Mid*

              Kids should be able to select their own chosen name in the system, honestly. It seems silly to not allow that option. And while some kids might abuse that and put inappropriate names in, a simple filter could prevent a lot of that, as well as them realizing that being called Lord Cucumber isn’t actually that funny after the 3rd or 4th time.

              1. New Jack Karyn*

                You would not believe the names kids would choose. They’d be clever about getting around the filter, too. I teach high school. I’m happy to use a kid’s chosen name when it’s legit. I would not be happy to have to remember that Lord Cucumber is actually Joey.

                1. Birb*

                  I teach high school and have students submit a survey with their preferred name and pronouns. I get one or two joke responses every year, flag them, talk to kid about why that’s Not Cool and is punching down in a way that makes life harder for others, and remind them to be decent to each other. It takes almost 0 energy and protects kids that this can literally be life or death for.

          2. ZSD*

            I’m sorry this is happening to you and your child. Also, this story makes me glad assignments weren’t submitted via computer when I was in high school!

        2. misspiggy*

          Makes one think about how useful employee diversity is. If there had been more women in the team of IT people who designed these systems, there’s a good chance the question of name changes would have come up.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Absolutely. Just like any sort of new social media feature should be considered with the lens “how can this be used to abuse vulnerable people”

          2. JustaTech*

            There’s a (possibly apocryphal) story of what happened back in the day at an Old Big Tech company (I think IBM) when a man wanted to change his name. The system had literally been set up to only allow easy name changes for women (why gender was recorded in the database software I don’t know) and for this one guy to change his name when he got married ended up being a *huge* to-do because of the way the database had been programmed.

            No one wants to be “just a number”, but deep enough in the database we’re all numbers, so why not make everyone a number that you can drape any name over and save all this hassle?

        3. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

          +1. SO is a software developer for PopularERP, so I asked him how he would fix this. He said it would be incredibly easy if someone had the foresight to anticipate needing to change EMPLIDs. If they didn’t, pause for lots of geekspeak while SO picks apart the problem and has a muffin, changing it would be varying degrees of complicated with a good chance of creating orphan records.

          Out of curiosity, how does company handle it when an employee changes their name due to marriage? That should tell you whether it’s bad design or bad business.

    3. Inkognyto*

      As someone in the Information Security field, and has done Identity management for over 15 years, it’s a bad practice that many do not understand, even those in the field.

      You just do not have profiles by someone’s name. Names change, people input them wrong, hear them wrong, don’t understand that was the last name not the first name. They do change, and some legacy and custom applications tied to it are not built for it to be changed.

      I’ve had to do projects to prove the time savings to just use a generator.

      1. TrixM*

        Totally agree. One of the bugbears where I work currently is that we do use personal names as login IDs, and it’s a pain in the butt. Yes, it’s been that way over 20 years, but we could start creating new accounts with a new standard and things would clear up over time.

        In the meantime, we can change the names, annoying process and all – we have over 20K employees, so it’s not uncommon. If that’s the naming standard you use, you should suck it up and have a suitable process in place to deal with it. It’s just unacceptable, frankly.

      2. Jen*

        Thank you for this explanation! We used to have usernames in the format [first initial][last name] for the longest time and we switched to the employee ID number. I found it pretty dehumanizing for new employees to be just a number… but I suppose it does avoid problems like OP’s!

        (In my company it’s also unheard-of to change your username. They can change your email address and display name in Active Directory, but the username stays. As far as I understand, access to different systems is granted by manually inputting that username in various places rather than it being a centralized thing. I’m sure it’s technically possible, but such a PITA that they just have a policy of never doing it.)

        1. Hannah Lee*

          There can be different values for “unique employee identifier” and things like user ID and email and display name.

          I agree that it is bad information systems, database design to assign the unique identifier/record key as a hard coded version of the employee’s name. If it’s a matter of safeguarding important fields from unauthorized or accidental changes, there are other ways to do that (while still allowing edits to those fields by authorized people when necessary)

        2. Aerin*

          DayJob’s usernames are based on initials (plus a few other characters so it’s unique). Display names can be changed fairly easily, but changing the username for something like a location transfer is a full-on nightmare. Our general rule of thumb is that if a user does need a login change, they can expect it to take 4-6 weeks to be fully back up and running, meaning the change has replicated to all systems and then we’ve gone through and tracked down everything that broke along the way. And depending on which systems throw a fit, the user may be unable to do significant portions of their job during that time.

          So yeah, it’s more than just a PITA, it’s a fairly sizeable outlay of labor hours (diverted from other priorities), risk, and potential downtime. Our legal name change process doesn’t alter the login, and if someone wanted the login changed for something other than a transfer they’d have to get buy-in from pretty high up the chain. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, and it may be a battle worth fighting for OP, but they’re likely to have better luck if they understand the scope of what they’re asking for.

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          That’s why I had to fight like hell not to have my full legal name, which is very gendered, as my login at my new job. I had requested that it be my first and middle initial, but they had to have my wallet name for their records, so I gave it. Next thing I know I have everything set up under my full legal name, and I’m very angry. Since it was in the first week, I was able to get it changed. There is still one person in HR who uses my gendered name, constantly. I suspect she was behind it getting set up everywhere. My boss was horrified.

        4. Mid*

          Also those systems run into issues quickly when you have a decent number of employees over time. John Johnson, James Johnson and Jennifer Johnson are all jjohnson. How does the system handle that? Probably adding additional letters. But if John’s middle name is Ryan and Jennifer’s middle name is Rachel, you still have jrjohnson. You can add numbers then, but that makes it confusing because who is jjohnson, jjohnson1 and jjohnson2.

          ID numbers are absolutely the best option, with aliases so people don’t feel like they’re just a number but the name info can be changed without breaking systems.

      3. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

        You can also end up with multiple employees with the exact same name, including middle name.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          And overlaps when someone doesn’t recognize a name as common bc it’s not in his/her language.
          (I had a former co-worker who mixed up our Indian co-workers to an embarrassing extent… “no not that $IndianName” became a refrain I do not miss.)

      4. InsufficientlySubordinate*

        Yup. Exactly. Databases some 25 years and this is crap-tastic design. EmployeeID should be the key and not based on mutable characteristics and everything else an attribute around that.

      5. Darcy*

        Agree that this is the root of the issue. It is a BIG deal to change IDs that may live in multiple databases and have been sent via integrations to benefits vendors. At a place I worked at previously the ID numbers were part of people Social Security Numbers. When I started I changed this, but it took massive coordination between HR, IT, and all of our vendors. Random numeric and/or alpha sequences are really the best way to go with IDs, but it is unfortunately very common to see names used.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          And even social security numbers can change (it’s rare, and requires extensive documentation, but it can happen for situations like domestic abuse/stalking and bad cases of identify theft). And if the company hires people on visas, they may not have a SSN when they start work (My first day at a job involved going to the SSC office to apply for a card).

      6. kikishua*

        I have a fun example of that. I couldn’t understand why one particular employee was always at the top of the list when it was sorted alphabetically. Turns out there was a space accidentally added at the front of their name on the database!

      7. TiredButHappy*

        My login name at work is misspelled because people ALWAYS misspell my last name. IT cannot change it without nuking my entire account.

        Square refuses to remove the deadname from my account because it is tied to my account ID and the only way to fix it is to make a new account and transfer my device to myself.

        I’m planning on escalating the latter past the customer service bots because as a financial service operating where I live, they actually have a legal obligation to fix this and I need to get my ducks in a row for the fight.

      8. Empress Matilda*

        Our logins are based on our departments, which makes even less sense! People change jobs internally pretty often, so my IT.Matilda login might be useful today, but it won’t make sense next week when I move to HR.

        I’m not even sure why it was set up that way in the first place – certainly that’s not the best way of keeping track of which department we’re all in. I guess if there were an IT Matilda and also an HR Matilda, that would be the differentiator?

      9. Selina Luna*

        My husband’s last name is NOT an atypical type of the last name-it has a space in it. An astonishing number of places do not even have the ability to put a space into last name boxes, which leaves interesting effects like his last name being shortened to what is effectively the Dutch word for “from.”

        1. Laika*

          Yep! My legal first name has a hyphen in it and there’s a shocking number of fields that just won’t accept it. This has happened for things like plane tickets where I correctly input my name and then the system spits out a confirmation email with a first name condensed. Then they complain that my name and ID don’t match. Hmmm!!!!

        2. Emmy Noether*

          It’s really kind of astonishing how badly some systems are set up for names. Names can have spaces, apostrophes, dashes, upper case letters in the middle, accents, or be more than 11 characters long. This shouldn’t be a surprise, but some systems can’t deal with anything that isn’t Smith or Miller.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            An Icelandic friend had a non-English character…databases are catching up with that at least.)

        3. New Jack Karyn*

          An Irish friend has the common O’ at the start of her last name. She says there are plenty of systems that won’t accept the apostrophe. That’s bonkers to me!

        4. Been There*

          I’ve had this problem as well, as someone with a last name consisting of three words. Sometimes I have to type them all together, sometimes the first two words get seen as my middle name.

      10. Kyrielle*

        I have also hit – twice in my life, neither time affecting me, both times affecting someone I had to email – the fun “name collision” thing. Generated IDs don’t collide, because you don’t let them.

        So, you had to know there was already a “jsmith” in the system when the other “jlsmith” came to our school as a freshman. I was friends with the original…and besides the fact that she would get email for the other one because people assumed the email based on names…her middle initial was also l. So. That was fun. And we had another very common name at work where one got their middle initial and one didn’t. The one who didn’t was our front desk admin. The other worked in HR. You can imagine how well THAT worked….

      11. Eater of Hotdish*

        “people input them wrong, hear them wrong…”

        THANK YOU. I have an uncommon surname that nobody knows what to do with, as well as a first name that can be spelled several different ways. It’s wildly frustrating getting people to spell and pronounce it right. Especially over the phone, ye gods and little fishes. Just give me an ID number. I’ll be fine.

    4. nodramalama*

      yeah at my work our email addresses are first name.lastname @, and we have profiles that are notoriously hard to change in the system. one of my coworkers got married, her email changed, but her username and profile came up with her maiden name until the time she left. They just couldn’t easily change it

      1. Lilo*

        Same at my work. My boss changed her name when she got married 15 years ago, but her previous name is still in the system, though her email is different. If you email firstname.maidenname@org, it also goes to her email, she mentions it when another colleague changed her name.

      2. bee*

        My work is like this! It’s already a problem for me because I go by Middlename Lastname (have since birth! p.s. don’t do this to your kids) but my email is firstname.lastname, so people constantly call me the wrong name or email Middlename Spelleddifferently in another department.

        But! It gets worse! My girlfriend and I will likely get married in the next few years, and we’d like to have the same last name so I’ll likely change to Middlename Maidenname Newlastname which would mean that at that point NONE of my (social and legal) name would have anything in common with my work email.

        They told me when I got hired that it wasn’t changeable (even though I interviewed as Middlename, it’s what’s on my resume, etc) so I guess it’ll just be a weird artifact until/unless I get a new job.

        1. Random+Bystander*

          We used to have that at my job–there was someone I had to occasionally contact who was in a different location who went by Middlenickname Marriedlast, but was in the system as Firstname Maidenname (think someone named Mary Catherine Jones, formerly Smith–she was known by everyone as Kate Jones, but you had to email Mary Smith to contact her). When we changed from Firstname_Lastname to Firstname.Lastname, they did apparently set up alias display names, so that now you could send an email to kate.jones@ and get the right person. I also noted that for people in my department who changed surnames, that the displays changed fairly soon after, so apparently changing the email structure allowed them to set up the new fields, even though underneath it is still the old name.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          They did is kind of thing at my current job, and I had to pitch a fit to get it changed – my email literally was firstnamemiddlename.lastname@company. They insisted they had to have my “legal” name, then they splattered it all over everything. Furthermore, they concatenated my first and middle name, both of which are gendered, and I’m enby and go by my initials. I think it was deliberate on the part of some HR person (“Women should not be allowed to use their initials, it’s unfeminine” or some such) and I’m still salty about it. Fortunately I was able to get them to fix it before it was too far embedded.

    5. Bilateralrope*

      If they are using a persons name as the primary key, what happens when they have two employees with identical names ?

      That’s a problem even with the western tradition of the surname being a family name.

      But there are religions where adherents share the same surname:

      So using a persons name, instead of an employee number, sounds like a bad idea. But I can’t say that it doesn’t happen.

        1. kitryan*

          I started at a company after my sister and we have the same first initial/last name. So her email was kryan@company and mine kcryan@company (not our real names). She left 6 months after that and after a couple years I asked if any emails to her old address could be auto directed to me – to solve the issue of people assuming they know my email based on the company’s usual formatting. After those couple years, she wasn’t getting contacted for any active projects, so it was a very small amount of cold emails and the occasional email actually for me.

      1. EB*

        As someone with a super common first initial and last name, I can verify what others have said- there is a number after my first initial last name. so basically I am jdoe276 (not real name).

        I also have the same name as someone in HR so I get their emails 2-10x a month because the number thing is easy to get wrong when there are a bunch of ids that are jdoe##

        1. kitryan*

          I’ve gotten more issues with email autofill with a same-first name fellow employee and an external contact with the same first half first name than I did with having the same email but with added middle initial as a fellow employee/my sister. Since (at my office at least) we all just start typing the first name and it fills it in based on last used address, it was much harder to mix up my and my sister’s first names which diverge after 2 letters than it was when someone else had the same first 4+ letters.

      2. Petty+Betty*

        Numbers, middle initials…

        As someone with an *extremely* common full name, I have been firstname.middleinitial.lastname.number (sometimes without that last dot) multiple times, and am currently the 7th with a ctr to denote I am the 7th contractor of that name, and previously I was civ 2 to denote I was the 2nd civilian within our COMPANY with the same name working in the same department on the same contract as a civilian.

        The joys of having an extremely common name. My maiden name is even more common (I was born the same day as another with the same middle initial, and our mothers had the same first and last married name).

      3. No name yet*

        We had an issue when my son first needed glasses – they said he’d already used his vision benefit. It turned out the identifier was policy holder’s ID number + dependent’s birthdate. And our provider had never before dealt with twins.

        The official solution from the vision plan was to change his birthdate in their system. In the 21st century.

      4. Lenora+Rose*

        Our work is usually firstinitiallastname, so there are even more duplicates. The first duplicate, they add a middle initial. The second, they use the first three letters of the person’s first name. Get far enough, and they start adding full first names. But there doesn’t seem to be a big deal in changing it, either. (Though there are some odd artifacts: our receptionist, who goes by her middle name, has an email starting with her first initial. But had no issue changing from maiden name to married name.)

        My kids’ school system has to have the email (Firstnamelastinitial, with numbers added at the end for duplicates) match the legal first name of the child, but if the name is legally changed, apparently then the email can change. There’s a trans child at my kids’ school whose email is their deadname, but only because they haven’t done a legal name change yet. (The school does have a “known by” field that is in constant use for formalized nicknames, trans name changes, kids who use middle names…)

        1. kitryan*

          Yeah, our work emails are the same, so you have to know about the couple edge cases where someone’s email has a middle initial or where they have a first name that’s the initial in their email but it’s not the name they use – if you don’t know that James Alan Johnson goes by Alan Johnson but has the email jjohnson@company or jajohnson@company, it can get confusing. Also when someone’s had their middle initial added because of someone who’s not at the company any more – everyone at the company knew my email had a middle initial because everyone knew my sister already but someone started years after the previous F. Smith and thus had a middle initial in their email and I actually set them up in one of our external provider systems without that middle initial before they corrected me!

    6. TrixM*

      There’s no technical reason on any current identity/account management system I know of why a name can’t be changed. And frankly, as an identity specialist, this kind of bureaucratic inertia is infuriating and gives “IT” a bad name. It’s 2022, we’ve been dealing with this for decades now.

      That said, it can be a pain in the butt, especially with multiple systems, which is why I refuse to use person names for logon IDs (and emails, ideally) when I can. So it may be difficult, but that’s why we modernise systems and try to come up with established processes for this kind of thing in complex environments. For extremely old systems (I’m talking over 20 years old) or incredibly amateurly-designed ones, it may not be possible, but it might be possible to create a new ID and transfer data/link it to the functions and access the old account had.

      For HR systems, it’d be very unusual these days for a person’s actual employee ID, as opposed to login ID, to be based on their name. But if it is, it’s it should be possible for a “new” logon ID to be linked to it if required for employees to sign in to the system.

      And in the very last resort, they could create a new account which duplicates the old one in every respect except for name, and transfer emails and documents from the old one. But this would be way overkill in modern environments.

    7. Cranky lady*

      I completely understand the technical reasons why a system may not allow for name changes, however, if they ever change a name when someone gets married, they can do it when someone gets divorced. I have a few colleagues with name changes for reasons not marriage/divorce related and HR and IT handled it very well for the one that really pushed the issue and it’s still a problem for the one that wasn’t a squeaky wheel.

      1. elena*

        agree– it can be really difficult to tell from the inside if this is a “yea, its a problem, but its a system problem and this random employee is helpless” vs “this random employee just cant be bothered to try when its easier to say no”

      2. Snow+Globe*

        I think it’s pretty common that email addresses can change, but user ids don’t, either when getting married, divorced or other changes. But there is no real reason why a user id needs to have a full name (either first or last) in it. My previous company it was -[city first letter][state first letter][first name initial][last name initial][random 3 numbers]. It never changed, but since it was just letters rather than a full name, it wasn’t a big deal to keep using it. My current company gives everyone a six digit number, which was harder to remember at first, although it avoids the name change issue.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          My happiest employers have been ones where I can pick my userid. These places also had the ability to use stuff like ‘ghost’, ‘foghorn’, ‘dragon’ and other non-name IDs.

          At one university the primary key in the LDAP database for people was a number, and all the other fields should have been changeable. Except the accounts database it was the user ID, and when someone picked a married one and then had to deal with that years later after a divorce they couldn’t/wouldn’t change it in the personnel DB, which is where LDAP and everything else got it’s data. I was the LDAP administrator, but I couldn’t change data that flowed down from the personnel system – it would just get changed back. Essentially, the HR IS was rigid and obstinate, and everyone had to live with it.

    8. Captain+dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      The obvious answer seems to be to treat it as if she was a new employee, if it can’t be changed. Have a ‘fiction’ that she’d quit and then later been re-hired (from the perspective of this system).

      1. Phryne*

        Depending on the system, that might have unwanted effects elsewhere, like HR. I’m not involved in my employers IT or HR, but I work in a lot of systems and they I often surprised in the ways they are connected and how much legacy there is in them.
        But employment history is a pretty sacrosanct thing here. In doubt it would be legal to mess with it in this way by law, as duration of employment has a lot of effect on legal rights in case of unemployment, long-term illness, retirement… This might be less rigid in the US with different employment laws, but to just reset someone could be risky in ways beyond just the internal systems.
        (incidentally, this is why by law, people will always legally be called their birthnames here. You can get your spouse entered in your ID, and you can pretty much choose who takes whose name in daily use, but at the core of all systems, you will always be your birth name unless you legally change that (difficult and expensive) or get adopted before 18.)

        1. AcademiaNut*

          I can just imagine the kind of problems you get. You apply for FMLA, but you’re listed as only having worked there for three months, or you aren’t eligible for a raise, or your vacation accrual reverts to new employee status (with or without payout depending on location).

        2. Captain+dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Surely in the eyes of the law duration of employment is calculated from actual start date though – regardless of whether something is set up as a new account? (That’s why I say “from the perspective of this system” she would be a new person, but of course not legally.) If it affects a HR system there must be a field for “start date” for example.

          1. Phryne*

            Like I said, I’m not in IT, so don’t ask me the difficult questions. :) Just pointing out that resetting someone in one system might have weird ramifications on other things, and a system old/inflexible/badly set up enough not to be able to change user names might well be very bad at mitigating those follow up problems as well.

          2. BethDH*

            In our case, the system is set up to be mostly automated — but that isn’t a built-in connectivity, it’s a coded pipeline for changes that sees a change in one place and alters it other places. So it’s not a united system, or even a series of separate systems where you update things multiple times but each is independent.
            Instead, it’s a sort of webbed Rube Goldberg contraption where you change a name in one system and suddenly the person has 17 overdue library books (except it’s usually something low-visibility that you don’t notice till months later and don’t know why it’s wrong).
            Can they make changes? Yes, and they will, but if you ask in person you’ll see the panic behind the eyes.

            1. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

              Or their eyes will light up, they say “Hmmm”, and at that point you’d better just have a seat and go “uh huh” a lot. Always pee first and get a snack before asking an IT question, just in case.

          3. Mockingjay*

            Our company has spent the last few years linking all the disparate systems: email, HR, intranet, payroll/timekeeping, all created under different vendors. It’s been a very slow roll0ut, because they have to keep dealing with things like start dates being linked to the original employee email name which is used as the identifier in all systems. They’re at the point now in which a name change is an easy fix, but it took a couple years to get there.

            It’s a natural albeit convoluted evolution; company uses a basic IT system, adds another system for HR as the company grows; add another system for more stuff…Of course there are out-of-the-box, all-encompassing systems but those cost a fortune and most companies put their money elsewhere.

          4. Things*

            Keep in mind that in many states, the law is outright hostile to the interests of employees, and seeks out any bureaucratic excuse to find in the employer’s favor.

        3. Kelly*

          What about if someone is transgender? I’m sure that would create outrage if they can’t change their names.

          1. marvin*

            A lot of things are more difficult to do when you’re transgender, and believe it or not, this does not tend to inspire much outrage. Just a lot of wasted time (for us) trying to navigate bureaucratic processes or long chains of emails to try to track down the one person in town who might sort of be able to help you.

            I am pretty fortunate that changing my name at my current job has been fairly straightforward, though.

          2. DataSci*

            Are you really suggesting that people in general are more sympathetic to trans people than they are to cis women changing their name when getting married or divorced? I can 1000% guarantee that almost everywhere the difficulty of cis women changing their names will get a lot more sympathy than that of trans people. Which is not as it should be, but it’s absolutely how it is.

        4. Pugetkayak*

          All of our work over years needs to be tied together, so if it were a new user, apparently previous accounts and everything that person did before would be considered “new.” It just doesn’t work from a documentation standpoint.

      2. soontoberetired*

        it takes a month to get security set up correctly for new employees where I work. As our security got more complex and we brought in more vendor packages to deal with it, the harder it got to set up new employees. it makes us look bad. I understand it though, I am in 60 security groups, 60!

    9. Not+Australian*

      Okay, but why *shouldn’t* they set her up again as a new employee? If she left and someone else tookover the job they’d have to do this anyway, and it sounds like making the change is all that would be needed to *prevent* her from leaving. It’s a basic courtesy that should be extended to a valuable member of staff, no matter how much it inconveniences someone in IT.

      1. SleeplessKJ*

        Because it could basically wipe out her employment history with the company. That would be harmful to her – not just a pain for IT.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          But it wouldn’t *actually*
          It would just mean they people responsible for maintaining employee data in their HRIS universe might have to manually update some stuff in multiple systems to have it be accurate based on reality as opposed to what the systems automatically think. Not saying that would be easy or intuitive, especially if they have poorly designed or documented systems and data feeds, but it should be impossible. And LWs record could be flagged as one needing extra QC checks anytime they are doing an import, export of data from one of those legacy systems. For example we have one employee whose birthdate was entered wrong at some point years ago. Any time I’m doing something that involves employee birthdates I take a second to eyeball “is Kevin’s birthdate correct?” (And sometimes add a back burner to do item to correct another data source if I find a feed with the lingering wrong data … hasn’t happened in years thankfully)

          1. Beany*

            It *shouldn’t* be impossible to update things manually — but would you want to be the guinea pig for that process?

            1. Hannah Lee*

              Yes, actually, I would.

              If it was a choice between that and being confronted multiple times a day with the name of my former abuser, yes.

            2. Emmy Noether*

              I’d expect the problem to be shifted elsewhere – like now her login is correct, but because she’s a “new” employee, she has no vacation time in the system, and gets no bonus, and whatever else is linked, and is getting the runaround on correcting all of that… and then she finally gets it fixed, but it resets every month when the systems sync and has to start over… just thinking about it makes me break out in hives.

      2. Lilo*

        I know in my case, I have a caseload that’s assigned to my IT profile. Setting her up as a new employee could cause caseload issues. Every case I every worked on is accessible under my profile.

      3. Staja*

        It can also cause problems downstream for the departments that use HR/IT data on new employees.

        As a more extreme example, my team sets employees us with an arbitrary ID number that’s not their employee ID number. This is used in multiple places (Salesforce, Oracle, our commission system). As part of a data automation project, it was recommended that we switch to using the employee ID…for everyone, including the 7-800 people already in our system. This project has been brought to a halt, because we would A) lose historical data and B) need to be able to make changes on multiple systems.

      4. AK*

        In some payroll systems, you can only change an employee ID by setting them up as a new employee and then it needs to be done when the year changes so that the employee’s W-2 is processed correctly.

      5. Insert Clever Name Here*

        The consequences of that others have mentioned in the thread are things OP would need to be aware of but if those are worth it to OP (and they very well might be) in their shoes I would go to IT and ASK to be set up as a new employee to resolve the issue. It could be IT is thinking “it’s not possible because no one would possibly want to deal with that hassle just to change their ID.”

        (Other things OP should find out if this would impact and if there is a way to override the impact: 401k vestment and company matching level, PTO accrual, service awards…)

      6. Person+from+the+Resume*

        I’m not saying it’s a right policy, but an old fashioned system that doesn’t allow you change username (not email address) could mean that the user loses access to her files on the shared drive under her old name, her old emails, etc. she’s a brand new employee and has no data saved.

        At my organization in the last 10 years we moved from using a login which included first initial and parts of last name and password to using a token (card) and PIN. I haven’t entered my login in probably 5 years now.

        The problem is IT is being rigid, but also their system may be old fashioned enough that they can’t just change this with no impact. There are ways to fix this problem but the LW probably can’t convince them to move to an entirely new system because that’s cost prohibitive.

        If it matters, LW needs to get boss, boss’s boss, etc on board and force IT to allow LW to get a new login ID despite negative consequences.

    10. Monday Monday*

      I’ll add to the #4 thread here :)
      I had the same thing happen…divorce and name change. It was easy to have my email changed. But my login for all the things was still my old last name.

      When I talked to IT I realized how intertwined it was and I agreed with IT that it was best not to change it even though I had to type that old name 100 times a day.
      At my company, that ID was tied to my electronic signature and my signature was on 10’s of thousands of documents (I was at the company over 15 years). And being in a regulated environment subject to government inspections it was just easier to keep my electronic name for auditing purposes so I didn’t have to explain the difference or after I left (which I did) no one had to explain why there were different IDs.

      IT did say they could change it, but like someone else mentioned it would have been a huge mess and there was no guarantee things would port over well to the new name and it would have been like I was a new employee. I didn’t want to risk it since my ID was so critical to company documentation.

      The badge part is strange in your case. For security reasons my badge was changed immediately. At the time I worked in a very secure facility and when you swiped your badge security could see your name on their screen so it would not have matched the badge. I would think it would be a security risk depending on where you work.

      I left the company and now I have my correct name at my new company :)

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        I agree. I don’t think the big issue is necessarily the LW’s HR records. It’s everywhere in the system where it recorded the LW did something. Existing workflows that would be broken.

        It’s not impossible (people quit, new people are hired), but it could be essentially mean the LW is starting from scratch as a new employee and anything in progress needs to be connected back to her (as if someone new took over), and anything completed now appears to be associated with a former employee which is incorrect.

      2. Jay*

        The badge thing also confused me. When I started my last job, they misspelled my name – I have an odd spelling of a common name and people often seem to remember that it’s odd and forget in what way it’s odd. So let’s say my name is Terri and they spelled it Teri. They also told me it couldn’t be changed and I pointed out that because I’m a doc, my work product is medical records and there could be repercussions if the name on the record didn’t match the name on my medical license. They didn’t change the hard-wired part so all my tech still shows up as being issued to Teri, but everything else including my badge has my name spelled correctly. And Email is firstinitiallastname, so that didn’t have to change.

        I still find it annoying when I see it – when I hook my work phone up to the Bluetooth connection in my car, it announces itself with the wrong name – and if I had trauma attached to that name I would find it VERY disturbing.

      3. Aerin*

        Yup, for audit and other SecOps reasons, your unique identifier is SUPPOSED TO be permanent.

        Plus, there’s the fact that an attribute that can be changed WILL be changed by accident. Not for any specific given user, of course–but at some point, someone will go to make the adjustment for one user and select the wrong one, or a typo in a script will apply it to the wrong thing, or a table somewhere will write in the wrong direction… That stuff happens all the time. You don’t want to subject the most basic fact of “who is this” to that kind of chaos.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Bingo. In a well designed system it is. But in one place the ‘people’ DB had a numeric primary key, but the ‘accounts’ DB had the login that was often name based as the primary key, and that caused issues.

        As an IT person, I often have to deal with this, and it’s usually the HR IT and their ATS or payroll systems that are rigid and inflexible, and the IT data flows from HR. If HR isn’t willing to change it in their HR system, IT usually can’t do anything.

        IMO, HR IT should use applicant number and employee ID as primary key, and those should be numeric or alpha-numeric, but not attached to a name – like ‘fow13579246’ (random or sequential) as opposed to ‘cic02291960’ (initials plus dob). But that’s apparently a harder design because it has to be system generated rather than derived from other data.

    11. Generic+Name*

      Just because it’s a pain in the butt for the employer doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do it. I similarly left an emotionally abusive marriage, and I was also still having to use my married name to log into things. I finally asked the head of HR if I could change my logins, and she got it taken care of immediately. I would go to your boss and ask that they advocate for you in getting it changed. Tell the powers that be that this is very important to you.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        This- they need to know this is about more than preference, and it’s big enough for you to consider leaving over. It’s a cost of, say, a few days of IT time (if that’s what it takes, way less if it’s actually not hard, more if someone has to copy paste all your files to a new account or something) versus the benefit of keeping an entire employee, and all the work you could do for them in the future.

    12. Junior Dev*

      I am a programmer working on a system where initials are unique identifiers in some situations, and no longer are programmatically in others but it still has to be enforced because of the first set of systems. It’s so stupid and I hate it. For exactly this sort of problem, and also stuff like what happens when there’s 2 people with the same initials. I will hold my rant on the technical ideas behind this but suffice to say it’s just bad all around.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I was configuring a new system within the last couple of years and the consultant told us that using initials as user IDs was the most common setup. I had to show them my roster of users and how many we had that either had the same initials or the same first and last names – we ended up using a combination of initials and employee ID numbers.

    13. Anon+Supervisor*

      My company started giving new employees id’s that are randomized alpha numeric user ID’s about 6 years ago. I think that’s ideal.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Definitely. Then it isn’t tied to personal characteristics that may or may not be mutable.

    14. Justlikethat*

      I work for local government and our ITD is able to change names as soon as they get the paperwork. It’s distressing to imagine a for-profit company being more hidebound than a government agency.

    15. NotAnotherManager!*

      It is a royal pain, especially in systems that use the ID as a primary key across systems, but it can and should be done (and there should be a process for it because this isn’t that unusual a situation). A smart organization is using and employee ID number as the primary key, but a number are working off legacy systems that use first initial + first 7 of last name as the standard. They should join the 21st century sometime before the 22nd.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        … a number are working off legacy systems that use first initial + first 7 of last name as the standard.

        Oh I hate that. My actual last name is 12 letters long, so grabbing the first 7 letters is like fingernails on a blackboard. I would much rather pick a user ID like ‘cicgrump’ than be ‘ccalifor’

    16. Mallory Janis Ian*

      This doesn’t help OP, but this is why I’m glad my place of work uses numbers as the employee ID (and as the separate university ID, as well).

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I have had, in the past, multiple circular discussions with a payroll department about my legal name, which they require to be in the payroll system, not fitting into the payroll system. I’m pretty flexible on how they shorten my name to put it on my check as long as I get paid and get my W-2, but I had a payroll admin once suggest to me that I needed to legally change my name to accommodate their payroll system limitations. Sorry, not happening.

    17. Wenike*

      As an IT person, our employee IDs are a series of numbers but are not used for logging into anything other than the HR system. The login for the computer is indeed a form of the user’s name (because we want as many different applications as possible to work with the same username and some completely break with all numbers). We have people ask for their username to be changed and we refuse without some very high level people pushing for it and even then, we warn that there will be downstream effects that may not be visible for months to appear. We also keep people’s usernames if they leave the company and come back at some point in the future, because that allows our biggest application (an EHR) let the user log in back to the same personalizations with just minor security updates needed.

      For one thing, you can’t just point an email inbox to another account, you have to essentially export the entire mail file and then import it into the new account. Potentially losing emails in the process. Any personalizations in an application will be lost because it will again be creating a new account from scratch, this also includes in Windows. So any mapped network drives, anything stored on a user-specific folder, all will need to be backed up and restored on the new login. Any 2-factor authentication will need to be tied to the new login.

      It is a massive pain in the rear for the IT department to change usernames and is not a simple flick of the switch but is instead likely to be at minimum a multi-week process (because it’s going to be multiple teams involved) and something weird will still show up in several months.

    18. Random European*

      On my way to my current job, I had some on again, off again temporary positions at the same place. First couple of temp periods, they just kept my employee ID, e-mail etc. – but between the second and third they removed me from the system. I come back, they make a new ID according to the standard formula.

      Which was of course identical to my old. Except it wasn’t somewhere behind the scenes, so, well – I had to spend a fair amount of time telling people to actually type my full e-mail instead of using the one that automatically popped up, and no, that wasn’t my current work calender they had bookmarked, so that’s why they couldn’t tell I was away for a course. Fun times…

    19. PeskySecurityRegulations*

      In some regulated industries changing credentials is considered a security risk, and using aliases even more so. I’ve also seen random companies take this stance (perhaps because someone with authority used to work somewhere it was disallowed). Sometimes companies will tell you ahead of time when this is the case and let you pick your login, but sometimes they’ll only use whatever rigid formula they have in place. I once had a company incorrectly enter my name in their system and they fixed my ID badge but not my account credentials.

      Obviously this is problematic in a variety of situations, but apparently there are industries where making the change would cause violations if IT gets audited. I do not know if there have been any recent formal concessions/changes for things like deadnaming, but my guess/experience is that people enforcing the rules live in fear of failing audits and thus are pretty rigid. It likely would take extraordinary actions to get them to disregard years of rigidity even if it’s now allowed in limited circumstances. I suspect it has to be considered discrimination and that mere discomfort, no matter how severe or warranted, likely is not sufficient if regulation is involved. Company policies without external constraints are, in theory, less rigid, but that depends on the people involved and it may still be difficult or impossible to get around protections in place to implement the policy.

      Again, some of this is speculation that there must be some allowances by now for potentially discriminatory practices, but I don’t know that for certain (it’s been a few years since I’ve worked at a company where this was an issue and longer still since I last had details about the exact rules).

    20. Phil*

      Yep I was going to mention this too. I maintain a major system at my company, and the username is in the format of surname+first initial (with some slight alternatives is the username is taken, too short, too long, etc). It has first and last name fields so the person’s name will come up in reporting etc. The name fields are modifiable but the username is locked on creation.
      Whenever we get someone with a surname change we lay it all out: We can change your display name but the username you log in with is locked. To change username, we would need to completely archive your account and create a new one, which can cause some issues in auditing, etc.
      After we explain all that, we ask if they would be okay keeping the username, making it clear there’s no pressure with that. Thankfully everyone so far has been okay with it, but the option is always there.

  2. Ann Ominous*

    LW4, I’ve had success with my dental insurance that KEPT sending me mail with my married name. I left my ex for the same reason as yours.

    So I kept calling the insurance company but they kept telling me my name had been changed in their system and they had no idea why mail would still be coming to my old name.

    So I got this lady on the phone and told her please, every time I see his name I feel sick inside, can you please see what you can figure out. And she did! It was some obscure thing and she figured it out because she saw me as a human. Maybe you can find That Person who just knows how to Do The Things in your work place?

    1. High+Score!*

      It’s likely how the system works. I’ve been employed at lots of places that cannot change it. I was first initial + hired last name after I got married until I switched jobs.

    2. Dr.+Rebecca*

      I’d’ve gone with “that person whom you’re billing no longer legally exists, so if you want to get paid, you’ll figure out how to change it,” but my divorce was pretty amicable all things considered…

      1. kitryan*

        There was a ‘not always right’ entry on that a couple weeks ago – where they were dunning someone for a bill under the wrong name and wouldn’t change it, so the person just said ok, then I’m not paying that other guy’s bill. They said he had to, of course – and he said they were welcome to try to collect from *wrong name* if they could find him. Suddenly the name’s fixed- funny that.

    3. starfox*

      I get spam texts addressed to my abusive father. I once got fed up and replied to one saying that I would really rather not be reminded of my abusive father. There was actually someone on the other end and they apologized.

    4. Bart*

      I left my husband for the same reason and had similar challenges with bureaucracy. My car company would not let me update the information on the car I legally owned after the divorce. I was still “driver two” (thanks, patriarchy for always making the wife driver two!) so needed my abusive ex’s permission (or a call to the phone in the house I didn’t live in) to add my email and contact info. I spoke to John, who was so nice and bent the rules to let me be listed as driver one (I did show him the divorce decree to prove I owned the car). Later, John sent me a box of swag to say he was sorry for the problem. I smile every time I see my stuffed animal from Subaru! Sometimes there are nice people who will help.

  3. Sally*

    I’m feeling outraged on your behalf! It might be a pain in someone’s ass to change your “official” name in Active Directory or whatever system the company uses, but it CAN be done. Or they can give you an alias so that, to you and everyone else, it looks like your new name is your actual ID. I think it’s worth pushing for, and I wish you the best of luck.

  4. Anisoptera*

    OP No.4 – I’ve seen this from the other side, back when I was an IT sysadmin. There were (and still are) many systems where changing a username is not possible – you have to just create a new account. I once had a lady come to me with exactly the same situation as you, and before she told me why I ummed and aahed because it would be a lot of work for both of us, and she would lose a lot of settings when she moved accounts. And then she told me it was due to divorce and she didn’t mind the extra work/bother, just please get rid of that guy’s name, and so we did it. It took some effort from both of us but obviously it was worth it for her!

    It might help when you go to them about e.g. your laptop username to point out that you don’t mind if they have to set up a whole new account and transfer stuff over and probably reconfigure some things. Some IT people are just worried that they’ll be blamed if they break things for you and telling them you understand it’s a nuisance for both of you might help. No guarantees though because sometimes people suck. :-(

    Anyway, I’ve realised since those days that name change requests are never trivial, actually. Divorced people and trans people and people who are estranged from their families and even the traditional case of women who want to go by a new married name all deserve to have their identity respected! Your work really needs to get over this and figure out a way to do it, even if it means setting you up as a whole new employee and just putting a link to your old ID in their files. Also software should be designed to make this easier, and I’m mad that we still have to deal with this for so many things.

    1. Mary*

      Great answer. Every person deserves to go by the name they desire to use.

      IT and HR should get together and decide to treat her as a new employee with a new profile or make all the changes and links internally.
      If she left and they hired a new person they would need to setup a new employee anyway.

      I think if I was the LW I would treat it like any Health and Safety issue, this is making me unwell and it needs to be fixed. Why is mental trauma treated differently to say a chemical burn to her fingertips every time she logs in. Both cause the LW injury but because one is physical and one is mental they are viewed differently?

      1. Snow Globe*

        I agree with the need to do this for the LW, but they really need to be careful that creating a “new account” doesn’t mean that all the LW’s employment history is wiped away, which could impact overall benefits pretty significantly. (eg, in some companies things like number of vacation days, retirement benefits, FMLA eligibility, etc. are tied to time with the company, and you don’t want to loses that.)

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          Yes, they need to be careful about this – which is why a competent IT person would say “this is a process, and things need to be done very specifically for it to work right. Let me get back to you with a time frame to expect us to have made progress in.”

          Every database can be changed, and the links and dependencies taken care of with sufficient effort and a systematic approach – it just requires working out what is dependent on what, and planning out the process and the changes based on that.

    2. Herder of Cats*

      This is one of the reasons why usernames should not contain anything related to the person’s name. Better something like abcd123. For the full name there are separate fields in ldap, passwd etc. Then a name change will never be an (IT) issue.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        True. But when LDAP is fed from a rigid HR system it is impossible for IT to make the change alone. In many workplaces, all IT data flows down from HR systems.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*


      Yes, when an employee has been there a while and has permissions in multiple systems it can be a nuisance. But if HR and IT can just get together and do it in a single day, it is really helpful to people. Having your identity respected goes a long way toward happiness in the workplace.

      The bonus of knowing how to manage all the systems at once is that it also helps with onboarding and offboarding.

  5. DiplomaJill*

    has no one there gotten married and changed their name and had this process worked out? it’s no different! I’m totally dismayed and angry for you. it’s not acceptable for this to be a thing.

    1. TechWorker*

      I would expect it’s exactly the same, you can change your display name but the actual username which accounts are tied to remains. I have a lot of colleagues who are in the system as say ‘Bob Smith’ but their username is still bjones because it was set before they got married. (Some of my male colleagues took their wives surnames, but there are both men and women in this position).

      1. Adrian*

        In Japan men have the option of taking their wives’ surnames. Married couples are legally required to have the same surname, and 95% of the time the wife takes the husband’s.

        I heard that a Japanese man will take his wife’s surname if she has no brothers, to preserve her family name.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          In the US, it’s very similar. In fact, there’s no law requiring both names to be the same, and men absolutely have the option of taking their spouses’ names. In fact, I know some couples where both partners changed their last name.

    2. Not+Australian*

      Yeah, and the suspicion is that if someone transitioned genders there would be a similar snafu and they’d end up being deadnamed. This is a more serious matter than just a little personal annoyance; persistent and wilful failure to get someone’s name right feels like feels very much like a deliberate erasure of their identity.

      1. Disabled+trans+lesbian*

        Definitely, I had a lot of issues with my bank when I transitioned, they kept deadnaming me and it took multiple tries to get my name corrected, which was not only a lot of hassle, it was also mildly traumatic to have to engage with my deadname so often.

        1. King Friday XIII*

          I changed my name SIX YEARS AGO and one of my credit cards still hasn’t gotten the memo. Guess which card I never use anymore.

    3. Mangled Metaphor*

      My user ID is still my maiden name (sort of – first initial, five letters of surname and a number because it turns out my not so common surname actually has a separate branch that also works at my company *and* she has the same first initial as me).
      I’ve been married for 10 years. Every system aside from the initial logon screen shows my married name.
      IT did roll out a new system using aliases, but for everyone who had gotten married/divorced/other name change it just utterly failed – we all ended up with two profiles that conflicted. (My work BFF in IT says its because of the legacy system not playing nicely – since our legacy system dates back to about 1996, I believe him!)

      We have had some people who genuinely quit and returned – all work history erased and new HR payroll code issued, so I wouldn’t recommend unless there is literally no other way around it.

    4. ecnaseener*

      I wouldn’t assume there’s a double standard…no, they might not have worked it out for married people either. There are at least two married women in my dept who still have their maiden names in their emails years later.

    5. Snow Globe*

      My user id at a former company was my initials, and that didn’t change when I got married, even though my email changed. There is no reason to assume they can change the user id for people that got married but not for people that get divorced.

    6. Lexie*

      Many people who have changed their name through marriage probably don’t really mind the system not being able to update their name. It may be mildly annoying to them but not something they feel the need spend a lot of time and effort on. So IT is probably used to people just accepting it and maybe as a result they haven’t looked into possible solutions.

    7. soontoberetired*

      There are companies who won’t change the name in their systems – ours couldn’t for the longest time. Our employee ids are our initials and then random numbers, but we originally tied in the email with the user id. As we grew, a divorce between email and user id took place so they finally could change the email name, the id name stayed the same. You can be but your id will remain forever mmj#####.

    8. The Person from the Resume*

      This is the employeeID, not their email address. LW says her email address was changed immediately. Her listing in email system was changed. Her name in the system was presumably changed and all “paperwork” and legal information has her current name. It would be the same for people who got married or changed their name legally for whatever reason.

      This is just her employeeID which contains first initial plus last name. So people who change their first names are not deadnamed although they may be dead-initialed. People who have gotten married simply may not care as much as the LW. Others who have gotten divorced may not care. The LW has a good reason. She has to type it multiple times a day, but it is not the same to compare to people who have gotten married. They likely kept their maiden name in their employeeID happily.

    9. Anon this time*

      I think a lot of employers genuinely never thought about even that, the most common of reasons for a name change. I work at a university that I also attended. I graduated almost 15 years ago. When I came back as an employee a decade later (hired under my married name), my old username was automatically linked to me and I was told that I HAD to use it. I know it’s theoretically possible to change it because I’ve seen other people do it, but I’ve never rocked the boat since I don’t have any particular issue with using my old username (no negative associations tied to my birth name, and people don’t seem to have trouble finding me). It’s so common in my org that we just kind of know that some people’s usernames have very little to do with their actual names. It just seems like someone should have made that simpler by now. As someone noted, my guess is that a lack of women on the tech team is a contributing factor.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        At the university where I worked it was the same thing, but the rigidity in account name (username) came from the personnel and registration databases that fed everything else. I was in IT, and I couldn’t change stuff. If I tried, the system automatically “updated” it back to the original.

    10. Generic+Name*

      Honestly, I see lots of people whose email last name doesn’t match their display name (the local school district, especially), which seems really absurd since our society operates under the blanket assumption that a woman will change her name when she marries [a man]. It’s one of the reasons why I kept my original name when I remarried. I didn’t want to go through the extreme hassle to change it a third time. Even more frustrating, some entities would literally just take your word for it if you changed your name by marriage but would require official copies of court orders for other reasons. I presume these systems that make it difficult to impossible to process a name change were designed and built by men who didn’t think for a second that some people need to change their names (for marriage or transition or any other reason).

  6. Hamster Manager*

    LW 3 I agree with Alison with one small add: my work does quarterly meetings as well, and I run into coworkers at the airport literally every time, both arriving and departing. Dress comfy, but in a way where you wouldn’t be embarrassed to share a however-long taxi ride with a coworker based on what you’re wearing.

    1. Artemesia*

      Learned the hard way to always travel to work events in clothing you can give a speech in if you are giving a speech or professional looking clothes is attending meetings. If your luggage is carry on this is not an issue, but if you check luggage definitely travel in something office appropriate.

      And if you are going to be traveling or meeting others at the airport then business casual rather than grunge is the way to go for sure. Comfortable doesn’t have to mean sloppy.

      1. Jackalope*

        Almost had this for a wedding. Thankfully my bag was delivered a couple of hours before the wedding (I flew in a day or two early), and also the couple knew what was going on so would have understood if they didn’t, but I really didn’t want to have to go to a wedding with dirty clothes I’d been wearing for two days including on a flight.

      2. Curious*

        I would say to be sure to pack something (semi) work appropriate in your carry-on, even if that’s a backpack or the like. You can still dress comfortably.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I literally have a travel outfit that only gets used on long plane flights. It’s comfortable enough to sleep in on a 12 hour plane flight, can be worn in a wide variety of climates (-10C to 38C), but looks respectable enough to wear around coworkers and go through immigration checks (even after 24 hours of travel), and has pockets.

      And, as Artemesia notes, I could wear it to give a presentation in if my luggage were delayed and I couldn’t buy new clothing at my destination. (I travel frequently in East Asia, and if I had to buy clothing due to luggage loss I’d end up in poorly fitting men’s sweatpants and t-shirts, because I can’t get off the shelf woman’s clothing that fits me).

      1. Artemesia*

        I did some work in the Middle East and had to carry work stuff and so check my clothing bag (COULD NOT lost the work material) and was obsessed with the idea of travel for 26 hours and then not have other clothes, so I carried a professional outfit in the work material case. The luggage made it, but at least I didn’t have to worry about showing up in front of a group in an outfit I had worn for over a day on a plane.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Linen blend slacks in a flowing style (but not so long they drag on the ground) with an elastic/drawstring waist, plus a long tunic-style top with cap sleeves in a sturdy but stretchy fabric. I pair it with long socks (to keep my ankles warm on the plane) and comfortable shoes.

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            Linen normally makes me run screaming for the hills due to its tendency to practically pleat when you look at it cross-eyed – could you be so kind as to give the blend percentage/mix so I can shop online with a little more confidence?

            1. AcademiaNut*

              It appears to be a 56/44 linen rayon blend, and it came from Old Navy. If it’s hung dry and not ironed it starts out a bit wrinkled, but wrinkles fall out quickly.

            2. AceInPlainSight*

              I wear a lot of linen/ linen blends; something with ~50% linen, 50% rayon or cotton should still be linen like and cool, but won’t crease nearly as much. I iron my 100% linen clothes, but the blends don’t need it.

      2. Ana+Gram*

        I have a plane outfit, too! Lol I thought I was the only one. Mine is a pair of slim black joggers (that look like pants if you don’t look carefully), a thin hoodie that isn’t obviously a hoodie at first glance, and a pashmina. It’s a surprisingly pulled together look and so comfortable.

        1. ectotherm*

          Not trying to be a creeper, but do you have a picture? I’m trying to imagine this. It sounds comfy, but the picture in my head isn’t gelling with a pro look. I’d love something like this as an option!

          1. Ana+Gram*

            No pic but it’s all black and fits well. The hoodie is from Target surprisingly and the joggers are Athleta. The hoodie is more like a knit material, not an voluminous heavy material like a typical hoodie. I’ve gotten compliments from coworkers, so I’m pretty satisfied with this outfit.

          2. Not A Girl Boss*

            I think fitted/coordinated athleisure can be very professional.

            My favorite hoodie ever is a Patagonia that has a quilted pattern. The pattern somehow makes it look very put together, even though its still got all the zip-up hoodie snuggly feels. For my backup work sweater that I keep in my desk, I have a similar quilted style from LL Bean that is a zip up but has no hoodie (just a collar). .

            1. Ana+Gram*

              I have a quilted sweatshirt from LL Bean that I wear to the office and it totally works! I found some jeweled dickeys on Amazon that I’m thinking about trying under sweaters this winter. I want to be comfy and warm but professional and they might be a nice touch.

        2. morethantired*

          I also have a place outfit! Solid black leggings, a comfortable loose dress (t-shirt dress in warm weather, sweater dress for cool weather), a jacket and a large scarf/pashmina. I always travel with a scarf/pashmina because it’s a blanket, it’s a pillow, it’s a hood, it can cover a stain on a shirt if I drop something while eating – truly multi-purpose.

        3. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I have a similar plane outfit: Black high-quality leggings, a kind-of dressy tshirt (solid color, cotton/rayon/spandex blend, drapey and not clingy), and a thin cardigan that hits below the hips.

      3. GuineaPug*

        My travel outfit involves a jersey dress with pockets, cardigan or shawl that doubles as a light blanket, black leggings and smart looking leather sneakers.
        I find breathable fabrics like bamboo, merino wool and modal/tencel tend to be very travel friendly.

        1. Toblerone*

          I usually wear my boyfriends XXL flannel shirt which doubles as a dress if I wear a belt at the waist. Super warm and cosy on planes and easy to dress up or down.

            1. Green great dragon*

              Yes! Wool dress if it’s cold, thinner jersey dress if it’s warm, cardigan/opaque tights as required. It’s not what I’d choose to attend a conference in, but I wouldn’t look too out of place and I find it far more comfortable than any sort of trouser.

              1. AllergiesStink*

                ugh, wool allergy here (both breathing and contact). I didn’t even know they made wool dresses. Something else to worry about :(

        2. BethDH*

          Those fabrics are also often quick-dry so if you end up needing to do some sink laundry you’ll have a chance of it actually drying before the meeting/speech.

      4. Sophia Brooks*

        I work at a University with a major medical center. There is one active directory account if you work for the medical center or go to school in medicine, nursing, or dentistry. There is another if you are part of the schools. There is a third that they are trying to eliminate used for systems that cross. The mess I am living in as a person who helps with the learning management system with outside vendor authentication via email for integrations is that no one seems to be able to tell which email or user name gets fed into the LMS, and then the integrations don’t work. It is such a hot mess I never want to hear the word LDAP again! And then, they are very inconsistent about changing user names. I work with one person who is using her maiden name user name 12 years later and another who got married, didn’t actually change her name, and came back from her honeymoon to a new user name!

    3. Rain+rain+go+away*

      I agree! I travel in the Athleta Brooklyn pant or Avenue Wide Leg pant and they are both super comfortable. I will wear nicer top.

    4. Not A Girl Boss*

      I recently had the horror of being forced into taking a redeye with 5 male colleagues (male dominated industry). It was short enough notice that I didn’t have time to go shopping for a magical travel-with-coworkers outfit.
      I ended up just changing into my workout leggings at the airport for the redeye home, but felt super weird about it the entire time. Somehow I think it would have been more comfortable to wear straight up PJs than to have my coworkers & boss know exactly what my bum looks like.

      1. BethDH*

        Didn’t see anyone else mention this for OP 4: could you perhaps use a text expander to enter your username? You could set it to something that doesn’t bother you and even feels like a username (xinitialsx or similar).
        That wouldn’t help with the employee badge, but honestly from a tech perspective that seems like a separate issue so maybe could have a separate solution.
        Others have explained why it might be more of a lift for IT to fix than you’d expect, so I’d go into this asking about how to get the effect you want — “how do I minimize the number of times and places I have to see badname?” IT, like many of the rest of us, can get tunnel vision and focus on “it’s not possible to change your primary id” and forget that there may be other paths.

      2. Smithy*

        I agree that while dressing for comfort is 100% ok, it’s the same kind of comfort that you’d be ok with your coworkers seeing. Depending on who you are, that may be clothing prone to stains (eh hem, white….), tightness (i.e. leggings), skin (crop tops), or graphic designs. Some of us may be in industries where seeing our boss/colleagues in leggings and a white cropped sports jersey or spring break tee in a hotel lobby is no big deal. However, I think far more of us have jobs where there are desires to a) be seen by coworkers in more neutral (unstained) clothing and b) potentially have clothing double for work if luggage is lost.

        Because of that, I do think you see far more women talk about travel clothing in a far more uniform and narrow way – but then also say “feel free to dress how you want!” Both approaches come from a place of truth, but it really can be confusing when you’re newer to the work world.

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          I agree. I consulted with many people before the trip about leggings, and they all said it was perfectly appropriate from a technical sense. But in reality, part of comfort means that *you* have to feel comfortable, and I just didn’t. Mind you, was still way more comfortable in leggings than in professional pants, LOL, but I wish I had time to find an option C.

          1. Smithy*

            My comfort with leggings vs no leggings is dependent on the top I’m wearing.

            My favorite top to travel in is more in the space of a large/loose black top that fits in a gray area between short dress/long shirt. If I’m traveling home, I’ll wear it with leggings – but traveling to a work thing….I usually go with another kind of slim cut pant that’s forgiving but not as comfortable as leggings. I have two dresses that I also find nice to travel in with leggings – however, I’ve found that they end up being a risk of dipping in the toilet. Which is also not an effect I’m seeking.

            All to say, this is one of those areas where I just want to scream that, especially for women, asking around is the opposite of silly. Depending on your size, style, length of trip, time in transit, etc. etc. there are a lot of workable answers – but it’s not always 100% obvious.

    5. KayDeeAye*

      Yes, I agree with Hamster Manager. Dress for physical comfort, but with the knowledge that you also want to feel mentally comfortable if you run into coworkers or your company vice president in the airport or in the hotel lobby.

      For me, this usually means jeans (or I have some slacks that look like ordinary business-casual pants but are as comfortable as athletic wear) and a decent top, but not sweatpants. I save the sweatpants for when I’m comfortably ensconced in my hotel room.

    6. Bunny Girl*

      My favorite things I ever discovered were Yogi Pace pants on Amazon. They are yoga pant material and really stretchy and comfortable but look like structure work slacks. They are only about $35 and come in a variety of lengths which is so nice. I’m short and the petite ones fit perfectly. The only drawback is that they tend to be pretty staticky. I have a fluffy white dog and you can tell. LoL.

    7. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, I’d not wear anything less nice than you would wear on a “casual friday.” So to me that means jeans are fine, but I would definitely not to sweatpants.

      I’d probably wear a nicer top but if you really want to go t-shirt maybe a plain colored nicely cut one would be fine. I wouldn’t do a boxy tee with words on it or anything. Cardigans are great to have layers for the unknown airplane temperature while still looking a little bit professional.

    8. ILoveLlamas*

      LW 3 – since this is your first biz travel experience (congrats!), I’ll add some tips (learned the hard way). Like everyone is saying, wear something biz casual acceptable and look like you are ready to engage with biz colleagues. Be aware of your behavior from the moment you arrive at your DEPARTURE airport (go into biz mode). I have unknowningly flown with key speakers and then been singled out during their presentations (not bad, but I felt awkward as I mentally ran through a list of “what did I do?”). I have run into people throughout my travel journey including sharing a limo with a bunch of folks including someone in the C-Suite of our publicly traded co. That was a bit awkward because I was dreadfully hung over, had no makeup on and was not on my A-game. I had to rally and it worked out fine – LOL. Good luck!

      1. Malarkey01*

        This is really good advice. In the Before Times I spent a lot of time on travel and have been on both sides. When I was newer and found myself sharing taxis from the airport with C-Suite and being invites along for nice dinners to times when I was the higher exec and overheard entry level people complaining about our company and someone having a pretty heated argument with a boyfriend who was joining her on travel. You don’t have to be stuffy but it helps to keep in mind that you aren’t anonymous either.

    9. Sara without an H*

      I used to travel for work fairly often and, yes, it’s just a matter of time before OP#3 finds themselves on an airport shuttle with coworkers. I usually opt for knitted fabrics in a dark color, plus a sweater and comfortable shoes. Nothing fancy, but nothing I’d be embarrassed to meet an academic dean in.

    10. EmmaPoet*

      I tend to wear things I’d choose for casual Friday at a conservative office- nice dark jeans with a comfortable pretty cotton top (with 3/4 or long sleeves for comfort) and a cotton cardigan as I’m allergic to wool. Or a soft knit dress with a cardigan or shawl. I don’t want to be seen by conference speakers/C suite execs in lounge wear.

  7. J*

    The first letter is reminding me that in my first job, I worked in the administration office for a hospital. There were maybe 10-12 people in the admin suite. All but 2 of us directly reported to the Executive Director. I, along with one other woman, were a step removed (our bosses reported to her).

    Year 1, the admin suite held a holiday party in a break room one afternoon in December. It was casual but a nice social time with our coworkers.

    The next 2 years, the ED decided to take everyone out to a restaurant for a holiday lunch instead. But she only invited her direct reports. Which left me and one other woman at our desks all afternoon in an otherwise empty suite.

    Obviously it was the ED’s right to only include direct reports. But it rubbed me wrong, since it replaced a party that had previously included everyone in the suite. The last year I was there, when they got back from their party, she did bring over a small gift for me. It was, randomly, a nail file set with 2 pieces missing.


    1. Mockingbird*

      Hugs. My experience was definitely bullying, a coworker at my level purposely excluding me from the assistant social group. I’m sure people exist who wouldn’t mind being the only one excluded from work drinks, but I think most of us have had exclusion used as a bullying tactic at some point so even when we know it’s not personal, that it’s not middle school bullying, it still brings up those feelings and hurts. I did lots of temping and still think fondly of the department that happily included me in their picnic outing, and made sure I felt included. It was a part of the really good management culture they fostered. The departments with bad management were never inclusive.

    2. sarah*

      I once worked at a place where the office parties were explicitly only for full-time staff. Except I was the only part-time person in an office of 65.

      To make it worse, I was the admin assistant, so my job often involved setting up these parties. Which I was then not allowed to attend.

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I know how you feel! For a while I was working for a group, only I was the only one on the premises working for company A and everyone else was working for company B. The boss of company B would make a point of handing out baskets of fruit for everyone working for company B, and would invite them all for lunch at Christmas, leaving me to eat alone, etc. Added to the fact that employees of company A in another town all had fruit baskets and were taken out to lunch, and that I was routinely forgotten in company-wide announcements (with emails hurriedly forwarded to me once they realised because I had missed the response deadline, no apology, no attempt to then add me to the list, no attempt to make me feel better about it in any way).

  8. CatBookMom*

    Have nice, polo-shirt tops and relaxed trousers gone totally out of style? Im older, but that would be what I would have worn in those days.

    That your “gift” was “a randomly nail file set” with TWO pieces missing. Should have been the first clue.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      Not sure if polos are in style or not but I can think of a million things I would rather wear because I find them absurdly uncomfortable.

      1. Phryne*

        The only time in my life I’ve worn a polo was as part of an uniform selling coffee. We used to have perfectly fine button shirts, but it needed to be more sporty or something I guess so we changed to polos, and I kept getting tips ‘for the baby outfit’. Never had that with the old uniform, never had it with any other clothes. Safe to say I’ve never worn one again ever.

      2. FashionablyEvil*

        I mean, perhaps not polos, but “wear decent looking trousers and a shirt that’s a step or two up from a t-shirt,” is pretty standard advice. (That’s usually what I go for when I travel when it’s not hot.)

        1. ThatGirl*

          My husband wears them – he’s staff at a university and khakis and a polo are a pretty good go-to for warmer weather work attire. But I agree that for women, they tend to read “uniform”.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          Really? I wear them all the time as business casual. I get plain, single color ones with pockets. They work really well under a sweater, too.

          It’s not a ‘uniform’ like at a Starbucks, but for me it’s a uniform in that it’s what I uniformly wear in a business casual setting.

    2. londonedit*

      I haven’t worn a polo shirt since it was part of my school uniform 24 years ago. For travelling I’d wear a soft pair of smarter jogging bottoms in a jersey fabric and a comfortable but well-fitting plain t-shirt – something that feels like pyjamas but still looks smart/casual.

      1. UKDancer*

        I don’t wear them either. Travelling I’m usually in smart jeans and a top or jeans and a warm jumper depending on the weather. In this job I don’t travel long haul involving overnight flights but when I did I usually wore fleece trousers and a plan jumper as they were easier to sleep in. If I’m going there and speaking straight away I’ll travel in my suit.

        I don’t own pyjamas so tend to go for things that are smart enough to be seen in but not uncomfortable.

    3. Morning+reader*

      LW1 reminds me of the recent James Taylor appearance on Colbert, singing “you’ve got a work friend.” LW needs one, perhaps among the other junior employees. “When you’re down and troubled, and your real friends are all busy…” Too funny.

    4. to+varying+degrees*

      I’ve always found a turtleneck (I normally travel in colder months) or long sleeve button down top with a nice pair of dark jeans and boots the most comfortable to travel. I’m covered from head to toe (so not touching the seats, for some reason they squick me out and I’m normally not squeamish about that type of stuff) and I’m warm as planes and airports are freezing!

      1. FashionablyEvil*

        That’s cause airports and airplanes are gross. I’m also not a germaphobe, but we had a layover with my daughter when she was learning to crawl and, omg, after 10 minutes, her hands, knees, and tops of her feet were SO. GROSS.

    5. Nesprin*

      I’d say that trousers and polos have been out of style for a while but then, my leggings and tunic with a pashmina is on it’s way out as well, so we may be cycling back.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I’ve never considered polo shirts as either in nor out of the fashion cycle, especially for men; they just . . . are.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          They also work fine for enbies. They are the quintissential ‘business casual’ for men and masculine presenting enbies.

  9. Computer-Man*

    #4 – it *REALLY* depends on how internal systems talk to things and how up to date they are. At my work we have a lot of in-house stuff that ties to other things. There’s a few things that are a nightmare for us if someone requests a name change (largely depending on legacy systems that have a lot of tentacles deep into the organisation).

    I haven’t been here long enough to know what’s happened in marriage/divorces and how we handle specifically that, but I do know there’s a specific site account a manager wanted a name change for and the crap that would have gone into that would have been painful. Heck, one of our long term employees whose last name is longer than 8 characters STILL has to use a short-hand to logon to some of our services.

    1. Ina+Lummick*

      if it’s a logon onto their computer and they use Microsoft – absolutely names changes happen.

      Whether other systems that don’t sync to MS365 can change it or not depends (at least in my organisation) whether the product owner can be bothered or not.

      But at the end of the day, say like the purchasing system still displays [married name] and the system doesn’t allow them to change it… surely a new user profile could be made with OPs new name, as if they were new to working there?

      1. Computer-Man*

        Logons are fine, but sometimes the tentacles of other software engrain so deep that it makes it way more complicated than it needs to be.

        1. Lilo*

          My organization still.piggybacks a specific function on a piece of software from the early 2000s. The new replacement system has had issues.

    2. turquoisecow*

      Haha this reminds me of when I started at current company. They had set up the system to have some max character set for user names, and the people setting up login would usually truncate your name if it was longer that that, but then when I started that task had been outsourced, and no one had informed the other company to truncate my name. All was fine and I was able to login properly but then when I tried to make an edit in one system I got an error that it couldn’t write to the underlying database because the character count was too long. The item I was editing was definitely not too long.

      After a few minutes of confusion we finally talked to the IT guy who owned the system and he realized what had happened. He figured out that there was really no reason for the user names to be truncated for that system anymore and removed the limitation.

      The really funny part was that if I hadn’t gotten married or changed my name my old name would have worked just fine and it would have been someone else’s problem. And if I or someone else had started a few years later after that guy retired they might have taken longer to figure out, because the company’s cobbled together database was built 30 years prior and most of it wasn’t documented but was just in the head of this guy and one other person who retired shortly after.

      They’re in the slow process of upgrading now.

  10. MK*

    OP1, frankly, I don’t think it would be appropriate for you to go for drinks with higher-ups on a regular basis just because you happen to be in the office at the time they leave. You are not part of this team and you are junior to everyone else, which would make having you there awkward. Sure, I understand why it feels off to have everyone going for a social outing and leaving you there, but feelings can be normal and valid without being reasonable or something that needs to be addressed. So, yes, try not to take it personally, because it’s not personal. The only thing the VP is doing wrong is maybe being a bit thoughtless about the optics of how she invites her team, she could have done it over IM or at the end of a meeting, but I wouldn’t even call it rude.

    1. Captain+dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yes, sounds like a de facto management meeting (or at least a gathering where “management level stuff” frequently gets discussed). I think saying she feels left out and could she please be invited would land as well (i.e. not at all) as OP saying “I feel left out of management meetings when everyone else goes, can I be invited to the next management meeting”!

      1. Cmdrshpard*

        If OP did end up getting invited it could bring up potential issues with other junior coworkers because OP is getting access to management staff that other people do not get because they are remote employees, or not in the office that day.

        1. Saberise*

          I came here to say the same thing. We have seen many letters similar to that as well co-workers being upset that because they were remote they didn’t get a monthly perk (free meal) that the in office staff got.

      2. anon for this*

        I know someone who wanted to come to a set of meetings/get a recording to “learn more about the company” and “get a sense for the mission,” but I had to say no — sensitive information about budget allocation, etc is discussed, and it’s simply not ok for a junior employee to have exclusive and perhaps inadvertent access to information that affects the jobs of coworkers. I have to sign a different NDA and file quarterly disclosures; you do not. We have different jobs with access to different information.

    2. londonedit*

      Yeah…I really don’t have a problem with senior management going out together and not inviting junior members of the team. It sounds like it’s a special event where the senior people specifically get together, and the drinks are part of that, so it would be weird for someone not on the senior team to ask whether they can join in. For me it’s a pretty normal thing to happen – there’s often an executive committee or a group of heads of department who will get together every few months for a strategy day or whatever, and of course they’ll all go out for a lunch or for drinks at the end of the day – that’s part of the whole day itself, it’s another chance for them to chat about whatever issues they’ve been discussing in a more relaxed environment. I wouldn’t dream of feeling ‘left out’ because I’m not part of the senior team and not part of whatever event or meeting is going on. I get that it’s a little weird if you’re the only junior person in the office, but that’s also not a reason for them to invite the OP if the drinks are part of the monthly senior management meeting.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes the directors of my company arrange to go out for lunch after the monthly board meeting sometimes. They don’t always go but every 3-4 months they lunch together. They’re based around the country so it’s not surprising they want to catch up informally as they aren’t all in one place that often.

        The rest of us aren’t invited and that’s fine. They have plenty of events which do include everyone.

      1. somanyquestions*

        But she is going desk to desk and asking all of them in front of the LW. That seems like something that could be done in an email.

    3. Lilo*

      I agree. It feels bad in the moment but I think it’d be the worse choice to invite OP. It’d give her or anyone else management access based on chance, not work merit, and potentially set up favoritism allegations.

    4. Myrin*

      Yeah, I feel like this is a bit of an… inverse, maybe?… of the “all men get invited to [career-improving thing] no matter their job or seniority but none of the women” thing. Like, if there’s a group of five junior people consisting of four women and one man, the man shouldn’t be invited to a meeting-and-drinks with the senior men just because he shares a gender with them; likewise, OP shouldn’t be invited to this senior meeting-and-later-drinks just because she’s there.

      Laura is going about inviting the others in a somewhat thoughtless manner but it’s also only thoughtless in the social sense, not the professional one, and I feel like this blur of social/subjective and professional/objective is what’s at the heart of OP’s problem here – OP feels stung because it feels strange/hurtful/personal on a social level to be excluded like that but objectively, it makes complete sense that she wouldn’t get to go along with this group.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Is she the only junior person? I can’t figure it out really. She says none of the other junior people go, but then she says that everyone but her goes.

      OP, this stuff can eat at you if you let it. Honestly I am not sure myself if I could ignore it, so there’s that. If everything else with the job is going well, then maybe try to push through. One thing I have done is kept my mouth shut and waited. Sooner or later I could almost count on hearing, “I hate these fn meetings at the bar on off hours. I just want to go home.” And that would be my reassurance.

      1. Captain+dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        She’s not the only junior in the company/team, but she’s the only junior in the office. So the other junior people don’t go, but you wouldn’t really expect them to since they aren’t in the office anyway. She’s the only one in the office who doesn’t go.

      2. Myrin*

        Is she the only junior person?

        She’s not – there are other junior people who are in the office “from time to time” but mostly, it’s just OP. The other junior people are not invited, either: “When other junior staff are in the office, they are also not invited.”

        I believe you might be getting tripped up by the part immediately following that quote: “But as I mentioned, this is rarely the case and I am almost always the only person in the office who’s not invited.” but that’s just following up on her first statement: since she’s usually the only non-senior person in the office, she’s also the only person not getting invited.

    6. FashionablyEvil*

      I mean, I think it’s rude to do it every time. I don’t think OP should be invited regularly, but it would be kind to invite her occasionally.

      1. MK*

        Why? I actually think it wou6be even mire awkward to only invite her occasionally. And the reality is the OP doesn’t belong in these outings, ever. It’s not rude to not invite her.

      2. Oryx*

        If it is a gathering for senior management and OP is not part of that group, OP is not entitled to an invite even just occasionally just because they happen to be in the office.

      3. Raven*

        I mean if it was truly social then yes.
        But as others have pointed out, it is likely that they will be discussing work or work issues that they don’t intend share with a subordinate.

        And if it is social, they probably just aren’t thinking about OP. Possibly, because of wanting to relax and detach a bit from work in a way they can’t if a subordinate is there. (Though as you said, the occasional invite in this instance would be polite, but not strictly necessary)

        This isn’t something that OP should be taking personally, the same way they wouldn’t if some loose acquaintances met up without them, which socially at least is exactly what is happening.

      4. L-squared*

        I mean, not really. If these senior manager meetings are like 2-3 times a year, I hardly think that is absurd. If this was a standing weekly happy hour, sure I can see that. But it doesn’t sound like its happening that often.

      5. KateM*

        It’s like the story of a conference for directors where a junior-level OP invited themselves – just this one is not a destination conference but one in office.

    7. Corporate Lady*

      I came here to say the same thing. In my industry it’s a quarterly occurance for members of different management teams to have all day meetings and then go out for dinner/drinks as company sponsored socialization. It would be weird and inappropriate for someone outside if that all day meeting to invite themselves.

    8. Escapee+from+Corporate+Management*

      To add as someone who went from junior to senior in a company: while these drinks are not work meetings, work topics usually come up. Many are often topics that should not include junior employees, such as an internal debate about a major project and if it should be cancelled (ultimately, it wasn’t). It was fine for me to hear them as a director. It would have been a problem for a junior employee to hear that, assume it was cancelled, and tell the people working on that project.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I came to say the same thing. These execs are likely to continue talking about work at happy hour, especially since they’re all just coming out of the same management meeting. The topics may be confidential. And even if they’re not, the OP will likely feel left out of the conversation.

      2. Malarkey01*

        Right- in my experience these are the places where work topics are discussed more relaxed but are often where you kick around more out of the box ideas or longer ranger ideas Something like “you know I’ve been thinking about the way we do x and maybe there’s some better approaches” and the over a drink or two people are thinking through the possibilities. It’s more informal and things you’ve been kicking around but don’t normally come up in your more structured meetings.

        Or, quite frankly they are sometimes venues for venting about something unpopular that you wouldn’t do in a formal meeting but want to take everyone’s temperature on.

    9. L-squared*

      Exactly. Its similar to how a group of coworkers may choose to go out and not invite the boss. Its awkward to have people not on your level at these things.

    10. Smitty*

      Agreed. The only thing I would say senior management could do better would be to discuss where they are going and when they are going at the end of their meeting. That way they aren’t creating this awkward situation for the lone junior employee when she can hear them all being invited at the end of the day. It would just be a kindness not to advertise right in front of her that everyone is going to happy hour except for her.

      1. oranges*

        +1. And as a manager, I would see this as a very fair request. As the next meeting is coming up, bring it up to your boss.

        “This is a really small thing, but I’m feeling awkward on the pre-drink afternoons when all the walking around and planning chatter begins. I understand these are senior events, and I’m not at all fishing for an invite, but is there a way to sort some of this out right after the meeting or over IM so it’s less awkward for everyone when I’m in the middle of it?”

        1. Heather*

          If LW absolutely has to speak up I think this is a great script! It focuses on something tangible and it’s explicit about “just feeling awkward” vs. “I should get to come too”. But I’d still caution LW to just keep her head down – even this very good script comes off as pretty precious to me.

          1. L-squared*

            Agreed. If I was giving advice to the person doing the planning, I’d suggest not doing it in front of OP. But OP bringing it up does come across kind of whiny

    11. Avril Ludgateaux*

      I agree with this. I also am curious what OP’s role is because they note they are the only junior person required to be in an office where most workers are “almost entirely remote.” My first thought was that their job may be admin, reception, clerical, or something else that is not management aligned at all, which is why they aren’t being invited to management meetings (irrespective of the “junior” characterization).

      Either way, it’s not really out of order nor out of the ordinary for senior management to do working lunches where they discuss senior management topics. I know it feels isolating because OP is the only person left behind, but it’s really not personal, it’s practical.

        1. BluntBunny*

          She isn’t junior though she is a seasoned employee. Junior could just be less years at this company.
          It reads to me as if people have flown in specifically for a series of leadership meetings and that they don’t usually work at the same site. Therefore I thinks it’s fine that you aren’t invited.
          But the VP should also make time to see members of the teams, and seeing their work. Hold a departmental meeting or town hall where can share updates and allow all staff to ask questions. It’s not great if the VP only comes to your site twice a year and only speaks to execs and they should be approachable.

          1. L-squared*

            I think it also depends on whether the VP is in the chain of command of OP.

            I kind of read it as she just is an employee, but its a VP of something else just organizing the outing.

            And, even if VP is her VP, they may make time during the day to catch up, but that doesn’t mean the happy hour needs to include her.

      1. OP1*

        Nope, I’m not an admin. I’m in the same field as these people, my particular speciality just involves a bit more hands-on work.

    12. ILoveLlamas*

      OP1, I would suggest that you reframe the “going out for drinks” concept. Being excluded happens – senior leadership needs to build their internal relationships and discuss things that are probably not appropriate to be discussed in front of junior folks. This is another work event for them on their agenda. It sounds social, but it isn’t really. You aren’t being excluded from a social event, you are being excluded from a senior management work event. It’s normal to feel the sting of not being invited, but perhaps by reframing the event, it won’t sting so bad.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Agreed – I would look at it as a “senior manager’s meeting held off-site”. You wouldn’t feel badly about not being invited to a senior managers’ meeting at the office. This is basically the same thing.

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

      Agree. LW1 could have priviledged access to information outside her role, that could become a compliance issue very fast. I know if feels personal, but it isn’t.

    14. marvin*

      I kind of agree, and I wonder if the larger issue is that the LW is finding it a bit lonely to work alone most of the time. I noticed they mentioned that they look forward to seeing everyone come in for these meetings. But I don’t think it would really be comfortable to force an invitation to team events you’re not part of.

    15. turquoisecow*

      Yeah it feels really rude to stand in front of one person and invite another person to a social outing while not inviting the other. If the other people were from another department OP would probably not feel as awkward about it – oh of course I’m not invited to the Sales Department luncheon because I’m in Advertising, whatever. Feels awkward to sit alone in the office but it makes sense. So I agree that the boss could be more subtle about how she organizes this and send meeting invites or something rather than ask people at their desks.

      If I was in OP’s place I wouldn’t really want to go to social outings with VPs – it would feel supremely awkward and I would worry that I would say something odd and it would reflect badly on me.

      1. OP1*

        I know that would be the case in a lot of jobs, but in this case these aren’t vice presidents, it’s a number of people I often work closely with and personally get along well with. (All the comments are well taken, just felt the need to clarify this)

        1. Smitty*

          I understand that it feels awkward and somewhat hurtful. I’ve had really close managers in the past and can fully understand that feeling. However, everywhere I’ve worked, the senior folks will hang out like this. It allows them to talk about topics/issues that they can’t (or shouldn’t) discuss around their direct reports, no matter how well they get along.

          Something you probably could do is mention to your boss (or maybe even Laura) that it would be great if, perhaps quarterly, when senior management all comes in that you do a larger group happy hour. All of the junior staff could be told ahead of time so that everyone had the option to go. Then you wouldn’t feel excluded every single month, but they could still do a fair number of management only happy hours.

    16. Hannah L*

      Came here to say this.

      OP I’m curious though, is this the only social type outing that your company has? If so, maybe you could pitch the idea of hang outs where everyone is included? I’d leave out the management drinks part and just say it’d be nice to get to know people outside of work.

      Just a thought!

  11. Jack+V*

    OP 1: I wouldn’t ask anyone about Laura’s drinks, because it’s likely that she DOES want to have the senior management get to know each other well, not just have people have someone to hang out with, so it would likely sound presumptuous to ask even if it’s a reasonable way to feel.

    However, it’s reasonable to feel that you (and probably other people on the team too) don’t get to see each other enough! Can you think of a different way to invite people for an after work thing — on the occasions some of the other employees come to the office, or when someone more senior is there but not a gathering of everyone? Or even if some people would be likely to come in to make time for a social thing. Or to ask your immediate manager, you wish you had a way to spend social time with some members of the team, can they suggest anything? It might not come to anything, but you might find other people who would appreciate the opportunity.

  12. bamcheeks*

    Lw4, it sounds like you’ve tried to address this as a bureaucracy problem so far, but I would try and address it as a tech problem. Go and find someone in IT (maybe a sysadmin?) and ask them about it. Find out from them whether it’s “actually impossible (it probably isn’t), “technically possible, would break other things like your work seniority, access to systems, would be a huge ballache for the IT team / you personally”, or “actually quite straight forward, just requires someone in IT with higher level access to make the change” etc.

    The best way to get a change like this implemented is to really understand the ramifications and then persuade someone that DESPITE ALL THAT, it’s still worth it to you. If you can find that friendly IT person who is able to explain it all to you and also get how important it is for you, and the two of you can approach the bureaucracy side together, it’s much easier to get a yes.

    1. Despachito*

      I was going to ask the same question.

      The person is smoking at home and not bothering anyone with their smoke. What is unprofessional here, more than if they were drinking coffee on camera?

      I’d let this one completely go – there is no harm to anyone (unlike if they were smoking in a real-life meeting, I am SO glad that this became unacceptable over the years)

      1. Scarlet2*

        My thoughts exactly. It’s legal, they’re in their own home and no participant is exposed to their second hand smoke.

      2. Allonge*

        Yes – I hate smoking around me, but on a videoconference it’s no harm, no foul. It’s like drinking water or soda.

        1. Anonym*

          Completely agree. I mean, they may be exposing themselves to judgement from others, apparently including OP, but as a smoker they’re probably already aware of that. Rare disagree with Alison on it being unprofessional, too.

          I’m a non-smoker who gets migraines from cigarette smoke, so I can’t stand it and avoid at all costs, but this seems to be WILDLY not OP’s business, and totally unrelated to professionalism in any way.

      3. Falling+Diphthong*

        I think it’s closer to taking the meeting in a dinosaur onesie, with tail*. It’s not like it physically affects anyone, but it would stand out as odd.

        *This was a past embarrassing remote-work tale, before covid made people dressing very casually on work cameras the norm.

        1. Puggles*

          I don’t think smoking on Zoom at work is THAT bad. People smoke all the time, you see them standing outside buildings and such, but they don’t dress in dinosaur onesies in public.

      4. High+Score!*

        I remember the days when people works smoke in office. It was gross. And I’m allergic to it. That’s why I detest it. BUT seeing someone smoking during a video call would not bother me in the slightest. There’s no smell. It’s like they’re drinking a coffee. Who cares?

        1. Koalafied*

          Honestly, I think it’s for the same reason I felt compelled to change out of a shirt that I’d visibly sweated through during my afternoon walk on a very hot day, before joining a video call. I commented to a friend at the time how is another example of meatspace norms that carry over into the digital space even though the rationale for them is gone. It’s not like anyone could smell me through Zoom, but it still felt unprofessional to join a work call visibly sweaty.

    2. Lilo*

      It is more involved than drinking and is highly visual. It’s not dissimilar to if someone was snacking the whole time.

      1. Phryne*

        But as long as they chew with their mouths closed and mute the chewing sounds, that should not be a huge problem either?

      2. High+Score!*

        Eh, not really. If you’re snacking that interrupts the conversation if we have to wait for you to swallow to speak or worse yet see what you’re chewing. But a smoker can easily put the cigarette down and continue the conversation.

      3. 1-800-BrownCow*

        Q2 gave me a chuckle. By the time I entered my career (early 2000s), smoking in the workplace was not allowed in my state. However, my first company had a smoking room within the facility and the one owner of the company was not giving up smoking so her office was also a smoking area. I am not a fan of smoking and do not enjoy being around it, but as a young employee, it was something I just dealt with. I remember telling my dad about it and him laughing talking about how smoking in the office or during meetings used to be the norm for a good number of years early in his career as well. And oftentimes, the smokers outnumbered the non-smokers.

        1. 1-800-BrownCow*

          Sorry, nesting failure.

          I did want to comment to this and say that I sometimes snack during in-person meetings. As well as many of my colleagues. Our executive office at work has a snack basket, water, and soda and we’re often reminded to grab something if we’re interested when using that room for a meeting. Sometimes those snacks during meetings are a big deal when I have a busy day and miss taking my lunch.

        2. Dinwar*

          I’ve seen videos of conferences for NASA employees working on the Apollo program. They had cigarettes in their hands while they were pointing at various drawings around a conference table.

          Never seen that in person–smoking indoors was mostly banned when I entered the work world–but it seems to me that if you can put a man on the Moon while smoking you can pay attention to another call to discuss TPS reports…

    3. PJH*

      Probably seen as such because “they’re in a meeting ‘at work’,” and if they were in a meeting the real office, they wouldn’t be smoking.

      Most anti-smokers have gotten so used to not seeing smokers smoke in certain contexts, that any time they do (and they’re otherwise allowed to,) they have some sort visceral reaction to it akin to “they shouldn’t be doing that. At all.”

      1. Firefighter+(Metaphorical)*

        Yes! I was curious about this response too – I quit smoking twenty-one years ago (and this question made me miss it like crazy) and couldn’t work out why smoking on Zoom was unprofessional, but I think that visceral “it’s wrong” feeling is it. Mind you I either knit or use a fidget toy on Zoom meetings, so I may just be out of sync here (knitting in meetings ftw!)

        1. Cat Lover*

          I think because you wouldn’t do it at work… also because its 2022 and smoking isn’t seen the same way, especially by young people, that it was in the past.

          1. Firefighter+(Metaphorical)*

            Yeah, I think that’s part of it (though all the smokers I know these days are under 25 – I work at a uni & only students smoke). Like, on one level, the only reason you wouldn’t do it at work is because it’s not allowed there for reasons that don’t apply on Zoom, so it’s no more “unprofessional” than, say, using a chair that the company hasn’t approved (Health & Safety risk to you, not allowed per policy). But “unprofessional” is in the eye of the beholder!

            1. Phryne*

              “(though all the smokers I know these days are under 25 – I work at a uni & only students smoke)”
              Yup. Almost all smoking employees quit smoking, retired or died by now. Only students smoke in front of the doors now.

              1. Phryne*

                But back in the day when I was a student (early 2000-s) uni workers were still allowed to smoke in their own offices as long as all people in that office agreed to have smoking allowed and there was an indoors smoking room for students. The Humboldt in Berlin even allowed smoking in the hallways (which were very very high it has to be said, the building being an actual former palace)

                1. PeopleStillSmoke?*

                  Really? It was long disallowed by my student days in the late 80s/early 90s and certainly never allowed in any workplace I’ve had. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen someone smoking – it’s typically disallowed within 50 feet of most buildings here.

                  Thst said, I remember being viscerally shocked when restaurants with bars allowed smoking in the mid90s when I moved to Massachusetts (technically they were supposed to have separate smoking and non-smoking sections but the physical separation was minimal at best and sometimes the non-smoking sections were closed). Thankfully the law changed a few years later.

                2. Payne's Grey*

                  I went to uni in 2002 and we had to go outside the buildings on campus (no idea what the policy for staff smoking in their offices was), but we all smoked in our halls of residence and I remember smoking areas in restaurants. Feels unbelievable now but it was so normal.

          2. Unaccountably*

            I’m 53 and when I was growing up it seemed like everyone smoked, everywhere, all the time. In cars. Around kids. While *holding* kids. In offices. On airplanes. My ballet teacher smoked like a chimney all through class. I think most people my age and older are just desensitized to it. Someone who grew up after it started being portrayed as a nasty filthy habit probably will have a different reaction.

            I don’t know that I agree that that makes smoking on a zoom call inherently unprofessional, but if one of my colleagues did it, it would strike me as strangely… retro? Old-fashioned? Boomer-ish? I don’t think I’d think anything more of it than that, though.

      2. Snow Globe*

        I think it is interesting – people used to smoke at work all the time until it was outlawed a couple of decades ago. Since we no longer see people smoking in the office, it seems unprofessional. But it was banned for health reasons, not because there is anything inherently unprofessional about it. News anchors used to smoke on screen! Our perceptions have changed, simply because we don’t see it in work contexts anymore.

        1. FalsePositive*

          Yes — my coworkers of a certain age tell me about the days when you sat on the smoking or non-smoking side of the conference table. As if you could save yourself from the smoke. One coworker said he used to have a no smoking sign on his desk to signal coworkers shouldn’t smoke in his office (and avoiding some super-smoker coworkers offices altogether). Even smoking/non-smoking sections of the restaurant are a vague memory for me. I’ve definitely been at an outside, but private venue and been weirded out by people smoking (and then remind myself that we are outdoors).

      3. L-squared*

        This is true. I’m not a smoker, but the reactions some people have to it (like this one) are a bit much, especially if it doesnt’ actually impact you

      4. JustaTech*

        I think part of it is also that in all the (many) places where you’re not allowed to smoke in the workplace, people who do smoke do so on a break, so for a lot of people there is an association that smoking = not working.
        So in that way it’s less like drinking coffee (a normal thing to do while working in-person), and more like doing something obviously *not* working (making a sandwich).

      5. Starbuck*

        Totally, it might throw me for a minute to see it but Allison’s right that on a Zoom call, it really doesn’t matter. I remember there was another letter about vaping, and that was a slightly different answer though – maybe because vapes can also have weed in there and you can’t tell just by looking? And the clouds are bigger, hah.

    4. FashionablyEvil*

      Yeah, I hate the smell of cigarettes, but seeing someone smoke on camera, to me, is a “no harm, no foul” situation.

    5. ecnaseener*

      I was wondering that too! Before office buildings started banning it, it wasn’t seen as unprofessional to smoke at work, right? (I’m just going off of old movies lol)

      1. Morning+reader*

        I think maybe it was even considered professional to smoke at work. I’m with you here, though. I think I might enjoy seeing someone smoke when I couldn’t actually smell it. Delightfully retro.

        1. Firefighter+(Metaphorical)*

          Both professional and *suave* (actually offices were mainly nonsmoking when I started working so I am just going off old movies too)

        2. Phryne*

          Meh, there were always people who disliked it even back then. We used to have this old director, now long retired, that had some great stories about burning incense during the c-suite meetings of a major international company in the 60ies or 70ies until smoking during the meetings was banned.

          1. London Calling*

            In my first job (1975) the office was like working in a fog bank by mid afternoon. And my clothes stank when I took them off. No chance of wearing a sweater twice :)

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          I actually met and bonded with my previous mentor because we went out to smoke in the same area and we smoked the same (unusual) brand of cigarettes.

          I quit in April 2020, because I couldn’t tell if a cough was from smoking or Covid. It has saved me some money.

          But smoking on camera in your own home? So what? It’s not a risk to anyone else. Workplace smoking bans are based on risk to others. So smoking at home equals no harm, no foul to other people.

      2. RagingADHD*

        No, it wasn’t unprofessional at all. People used to smoke at work and in meetings (including client meetings) all the time. Even after building bans started, you’d often have one or two longtime employees who had special dispensation to smoke in their offices.

    6. londonedit*

      I’ve never worked in an office where smoking was allowed (I’ve been working in offices since 2003) and a country-wide ban on smoking in public places (which includes company-owned vehicles) came into force here in 2007, so I’ve literally never seen anyone smoking during a meeting in my whole working life. Zoom or not, it would therefore strike me as incredibly odd if I saw someone smoking in a meeting. I think it would definitely come across as unprofessional to me – one of those ‘you wouldn’t do it in the office, so why is it OK to do it just because this meeting is online’ things. Like how you might prefer to work wearing just a sports bra and yoga pants while you’re WFH, but you wouldn’t do that in the office, so you’d at least put a t-shirt on for a Zoom meeting.

      1. Firefighter+(Metaphorical)*

        But the reason you wouldn’t do it in the office is because it’s not legal & harms others, which isn’t true on Zoom. Like, if you had a scent-free office it wouldn’t be unprofessional if a scent diffuser in your home office was visible on Zoom.

        (I actually don’t know what I think about this one – am trying to nut out whether it’s more “scent diffuser”, “snacking” or “sports bra”. Like it sort of seems off to me too but I can’t quite find a reason *why* it’s off that completely makes sense to me.)

        1. Myrin*

          I mean, the legality of it isn’t the reason people find it jarring/odd/unusual, the fact that the general perception and acceptance of smoking has changed is, and with that background, seeing it on camera doesn’t make a difference feelings-wise.

          1. londonedit*

            Yes, exactly. It’s one of those things that’s now so far removed from workplace norms that seeing someone smoking in a workplace – even if that workplace is an online meeting – looks extremely odd. As an aside, I don’t know what the smoking figures for my part of the world are now, but I know it’s rare enough for me to see someone smoking in the street here that when I went to France a while back I absolutely noticed how many people I *did* see smoking in their everyday lives. Because it’s not something I’m used to seeing anymore.

          2. Firefighter+(Metaphorical)*

            Yes, I think so. Falling Diphthong sums it up well below (including the class dimension – I was just thinking that it’s significant that no-one* in a professional/managerial job at my uni smokes, ie it’s strongly NOT associated with white-collar workers)

            *wild generalisation

          3. BatManDan*

            The “general perception and acceptance” should (and I emphasize “should”) ONLY have changed because of the effect that it has on other people. Let’s normalize letting people do what they want to do as long as it doesn’t harm others. (Second-hand smoke’s effects are the only reason it was outlawed.) Unusual? Sure. Odd? Feels like a loaded word, but whatever. Unprofessional? Hardly. What’s unprofessional is taking an excessive interest or concern with what people do in their own spaces, when there is no impact on the observer of the behavior.

          4. UKDancer*

            Yes. I’ve been thinking about this and it would just be weird. I don’t know it would be forbidden in a zoom or teams meeting within my company but it would be considered extremely jarring and strange in the same way as it would be if I took a call wearing a bellydance bra and belt set. It kind of isn’t in synch with the things people in my company do so it would be considered as weird.

          5. KatEnigma*

            But LW should manage their feelings professionally. Instead, hizzer reaction was to want to report it to the smoker’s manager.

            Feel your feelings, but when it doesn’t impact you in any way, keep quiet.

        2. turquoisecow*

          I think it’s because having a smoke is usually seen as a relaxing, break time activity. It’s obviously not impossible to smoke while doing something else, but usually at work you go and have a smoke to relax, while on a break, so seeing someone do something seem as a break time activity while in a (virtual) work meeting gives the impression they’re not fully focused or treating the meeting as *work* but as a time to relax and take a break from work.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I’m old enough to remember smoking at the office. I never smoked more than five a day, and mostly at home. I distinctly remember one time working late at night when I suddenly realised I’d be smoking if I were at home. I was stuck on something, couldn’t see something I knew was there. Lit up, and suddenly there it was right where I’d left it. I had this feeling that the cigarette helped me see it, and started worrying that addiction was setting in, that I wasn’t able to function without my hit of nicotine.
            (Got pregnant a short while after that, and smoking made me so sick I have never touched a cigarette since)

      2. Allonge*

        If we are looking for metaphors, it’s like people’s cats/dogs/geckos showing up on Zoom. You definitely cannot do this in (most) offices, with good reason, it has a mild interrupting effect but nothing outrageous, and is a benefit of working from home for the person in question without any negative impact on others.

    7. bamcheeks*

      I think for me it’s the same as the non-alcoholic beer question yesterday– smoking just isn’t associated with work anymore, and it’s a weirdly jarring, “I am doing a kick-back-and-relax thing in this meeting”. Even watching SATC Carrie smoke whilst writing articles in her apartment looks weird these days.

      1. Caramel+&+Cheddar*

        Yes, this. Even if at some point it was considered professional in the past, or at least neutral wrt professionalism, it isn’t anymore and would feel very weird to see it done.

      2. Jack+Bruce*

        Agreed! It’s just too casual for a meeting, like “I’m on my down time and am just hanging out with y’all.” I’ll add that I never see people on zoom meetings snack, but either they turn off their camera and mic when they do or they do when none of us have cameras on. So seeing someone snacking would also be odd to me.

      3. Curious*

        Not really. with non-alcoholic beer, the question remains among observers, “is it alcoholic or not?”. With respect to smoking on video, the basis for the prohibition — harm to colleagues from second hand smoke — clearly doesn’t apply.

        I’m sorry, but it seems like the term unprofessional seems to be a euphemism for virtue policing in this context.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Well, I’m explaining how I feel about it, I can’t speak for someone else. As I said in the thread about non-alcoholic beer, even if I *knew* it was non-alcoholic it would still seem weird to me because the connotations of drinking beer are relaxing and downtime. Same with smoking.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Except that nicotine is a pretty powerful stimulant. People relax after smoking because they got their hit of nicotine, but it sends your adrenaline right up. People would light up at work to stimulate their thoughts, pace, whatever. You just think it’s relaxing because people have to take a break to smoke.

        2. Anonym*

          Yeah, smoking doesn’t affect your ability to work, so while it may feel similar on the surface, the analogy doesn’t really hold.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Since nicotine is a stimulant, it can actually boost your ability to work.
            Not that I’m recommending it of course.

      4. turquoisecow*

        Yeah, I said above but I think it’s because having a smoke is usually seen as a relaxing, break time activity. It’s obviously not impossible to smoke while doing something else, but usually at work you go and have a smoke to relax, while on a break, so seeing someone do something seem as a break time activity while in a (virtual) work meeting gives the impression they’re not fully focused or treating the meeting as *work* but as a time to relax and take a break from work.

    8. Falling+Diphthong*

      If it is a thing you would never do in a meat-space work meeting, it lands as odd when done in a virtual meeting.

      For smoking specifically, I think there have come to be strong class signifiers, especially with chain smoking in front of other people–e.g. on Better Call Saul Kim’s occasional one cigarette in the parking garage after a very stressful meeting is a bit of character work, while her chain smoking through a banking meeting or court case would send a very different message.

      (I have asthma and would strongly object to anyone smoking in my shared physical space. But on screen, it’s like you pause to spray perfume around occasionally, or took the meeting while mowing–it’s odd, it would be a huge problem for me in person, but since it’s not affecting my actual air I would say nothing. Definitely don’t try to correct the other person, unless they are your direct report and so coaching on optics is your purview.)

      1. High Score!*

        This isn’t always true either. We wouldn’t wear sweats in an in office meeting or housecoats etc… but I’ve seen those things and more since we’ve been doing video meetings. We’re engineers and do business casual in office bc we never know who will be there but our video calls are extremely informal.

        1. Anonym*

          Agreed – there are tons of things that are fine to do differently on video call than in the office. I work in finance where people usually are pretty formal, but by this point no one dresses formally for video calls. Like, not sloppy, but unless it’s with senior folks, or presenting to a big group, I see a lot of tee shirts, casual tops, etc. And people DEFINITELY drink and occasionally eat (with minor apologies) during calls. Plus pet and kid and doorbell interruptions!

      2. Allonge*

        Our office has a designated smoking area. I don’t smoke, so I don’t go there, and in a lot of place it’s outside the gates or whatever, but smoking breaks (and intel from them) are a thing! Plenty of people do this in their workplaces, just not in a meeting.

      3. marvin*

        I think the class component is probably a significant factor here. Otherwise I don’t see why it’s different from other stuff that doesn’t work in person but is usually acceptable over zoom, like interacting with pets.

      4. JustaTech*

        On the class signifier, there aren’t a lot of jobs these days where you could smoke all day *while* working in-person (as opposed to places that have places and allow time for smoking breaks), and most of those (that I see) are outdoor work (construction).
        (At least, this is true of where I work, where smoking in indoor public places has been banned for years and years.)

    9. Hlao-roo*

      Alison answered two questions about vaping on video calls in 2020 (I’ll drop links in a follow-up comment) and I think it boils down to this paragraph:

      I’m not going to try to defend why it’s okay to take a sip of coffee on a video call but not to vape, because the reality is that our norms about what is and isn’t professional are rooted in convention and not always logic. But the reality is, vaping on a work call does look unprofessional.

      “It just is unprofessional” is not a satisfying answer, but I think that is the best answer to this question.

    10. Oxford Comma*

      Maybe it’s because I work at a place where smoking is not allowed on the entirety of the premises (not even in your cars) and because times have changed, but if I saw someone vaping or smoking on a video call, I would think it was very unprofessional.

      1. Good+Enough+For+Government+Work*

        I work in a similar place but think nothing of it when I see colleagues smoking or vaping on video calls. I absolutely loathe smoking when I can smell it, but since I can’t… what do I care?

        Also bemused by the people here who seem to think SNACKING is unprofessional. Stay on mute and (if on camera) keep your mouth closed while chewing, that’s all I ask.

        A lot of people need to chill out, imo.

        1. londonedit*

          Snacking in general isn’t inherently unprofessional, but as you say, it becomes unprofessional if you’re on camera/not on mute in a meeting. And I think that’s exactly the same with smoking – if you’re in the meeting and you don’t need to be on camera or speaking or whatever, then go ahead and do what you want. Wear nothing but a sports bra, have a cigarette, eat your lunch, whatever. But if you’re participating in the meeting in the sense that you need to be seen on camera and you have a role where you’re required to speak or present in the meeting, then I think it would be unprofessional to be eating a snack or smoking or whatever.

          1. Unaccountably*

            I take it you’ve never had a full day of back-to-back meetings. I think everyone in my company’s leadership has had to bring their lunch to a meeting at least a couple of times. For our full-day in-office committee meetings, we have not just snacks but catered lunches, and not everyone is done eating when the meeting starts back up. No one thinks anything of that either.

        2. Dinwar*

          We often provide snacks for in-person meetings. So the idea that snacking is unprofessional seems strange to me.

          Agreed about the need for some people to chill out. The person is in their own home; as long as they’re capable of paying attention, who cars?

        3. whingedrinking*

          Re: snacking: that’s also a very cultural thing. I teach international students and I once had a Japanese student approach me to ask why one of her classmates was eating during class. I told her that as long as the food isn’t smelly or messy or otherwise causing problems for other students, I’m okay with people having a snack, and she seemed pretty surprised (though she did just roll with it after that).

      2. The Person from the Resume*

        The law has made it illegal in pretty much everyone’s office and workspace. We are not used to seeing a person smoking in an office. So now seeing on Zoom triggers “unprofessional” in our heads. It’s not sensible, but you can see where people’s unconcscious are coming from. It is not allowed in the office has come to mean it’s unprofessional.

    11. Raven*

      Smoking has a tone of negative associations and for a business meeting it has the same vibe as drinking alcohol.

      While it definitely isn’t something OP should raise (because however the optics, it has nothing to do with them), it’s not that out there to feel that if you’re in a meeting with someone you both should be focussing on the topic at hand. Having a drink or lighting a cigarette quite simply does not give that impression to the person you’re talking to.
      It’s telling them you’re prioritising your need to relax/de-stress over both of your jobs. However it’s actual impact on your work, that is what people will take away and crucially how they will remember you conciously ofr sub-conciously (instead of ‘Dave who solved my super complex issue’, it’s ‘Dave who’s good but wasn’t very interested, maybe I should talk to Susan’).

      Obviously this isn’t to say that that having a relaxing outlet isn’t important, just that there’s a time and place for it, and in most environments a work call is neither.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I’m reading all over the place here that cigarettes are for relaxing. Seems like nobody knows nicotine is a powerful stimulant. People used to light up for a boost while working, much like drinking coffee but you get the boost much more quickly (apart from the psychological boost “ah coffee that’s what I needed”). There’s a good chance the chain-smoker was keeping himself awake.
        I’m not recommending the use of nicotine of course, just pointing out a fact.

    12. Elspeth+McGillicuddy*

      Well, it has a strong social taboo. Which sucks for smokers and is unfair to a large extent, but on the other hand it’s saved probably millions of lives.

    13. KayDeeAye*

      I admit I’d have the same reaction as the OP at first…but I’m pretty sure I’d get over it. I dislike smoking a LOT, but once I got over the visceral reaction to being, sort of, “in” a meeting with a smoker, I would tell myself all the perfectly reasonable things that people are saying in this thread – that it doesn’t affect me, that the person is in their own home, that it doesn’t affect me any more than their sipping from a bottle of water would. So I think I would talk myself down fairly quickly, but it would be a little bit of a shock at first.

      I can remember the days when seemingly everybody smoked and when they did so nearly everywhere, but gosh, it seems like a whole different life!

    14. Not+A+Manager*

      Perceptions of smoking are so geography-specific, age-specific and sometimes class-specific that I’d really question why smoking is more unprofessional than any of the other things people do on Zoom that they wouldn’t do in the office.

    15. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Q2 gave me a chuckle. By the time I entered my career (early 2000s), smoking in the workplace was not allowed in my state. However, my first company had a smoking room within the facility and the one owner of the company was not giving up smoking so her office was also a smoking area. I am not a fan of smoking and do not enjoy being around it, but as a young employee, it was something I just dealt with. I remember telling my dad about it and him laughing talking about how smoking in the office or during meetings used to be the norm for a good number of years early in his career as well. And oftentimes, the smokers outnumbered the non-smokers.

      1. seps*

        We had a smoke room in the breakroom at the big box retail store I worked at in college around 2005. It basically was a regular room with an exhaust fan (that barely worked). I didn’t smoke, but I was friends with the smokers, so I usually took my breaks in there. Pretty sure they took out the smoke room during the next remodel.

    16. Red+Reader+the+Adulting+Fairy*

      I would also expect that, if one’s work computer was company-issued, the IT department would have kittens to find out that it was being used in a smoke-filled environment. We had a team member who smoked while she worked (not on meetings, just regularly through the day) because she was in her home and she felt that was reasonable, but when she had to take her computer in to IT with issues, they pitched an absolute FIT because the thing was just gross.

      1. metadata+minion*

        If an employer expects someone to quit smoking as a condition of working from home, they need to make that explicit. I hate it when people return books reeking of smoke, but if you let people bring organization property into their homes, it’s going to come into contact with stuff people do in their homes and unfortunately smoking is likely to always be one of those things.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          They don’t have to quit smoking; they just have to not smoke while using the computer. (Just like at the office, yeah?)

    17. WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot*

      I had a co-worker on the other side of the globe ask if I minded if he smoked during one of our video calls. I was a bit off guard in the moment because it literally had no impact on me at all. Of course, I said I don’t mind. And I appreciate his manners. But if he hadn’t asked, it wouldn’t have bothered me in the slightest.

    18. Leenie*

      Current cultural context is that warnings at the beginning of movies and TV shows include smoking along with adult language, sex, and violence.

        1. Leenie*

          My point wasn’t to endorse the practice – I don’t have a strong opinion on it either way. But it does seem worth pointing out that smoking is now being treated as something close to taboo, so it shouldn’t be shocking if it reads as unprofessional to some people in the current environment.

        2. Hen in a Windstorm*

          Knowing the history of Joe Camel and the industry deliberately targeting kids to make smoking seem cool… I disagree. It’s not asinine. It’s just stating a fact that some parents might care about.

    19. El+l*

      I think this is one of these things that “used” to be professional and…society changed its answer. Quickly. Now in most parts of the world (that would be discussing this blog) it makes people uncomfortable.

      That said, I don’t think there’s anything OP can do. If they were smoker’s manager, it’d be worth having a word, but it certainly isn’t getting in the way of workflow or illegal or endangering colleagues.

      Smoker just makes OP uncomfortable – which can get in the way of work a little sometimes.

    20. lilsheba*

      I have to agree. I am a former smoker and if it was still the days when I smoked at home and inside my house I would totally smoke during virtual meetings. I’m really tired of the way smoking has been demonized lately. It’s even a warning in movies in tv shows now. Seriously?

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Lots of substance use/abuse gets warned for on TV shows/movies, not just smoking. Whether one agrees with that or not, smoking isn’t getting singled out.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Given how addictive it is for most people, it actually is. It just happens not to be illegal like most recreative drugs.

    21. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I hardly see anyone smoking in California because of all of our strict laws about smoking in public, but when I travel I’m sometimes taken aback by how many people are smoking and where. To me it’s more similar to drinking alcohol rather than coffee — if they’re at home, and not bothering anyone, why couldn’t someone drink a beer during a Zoom call? Well, for both of those, it’s generally not acceptable “while working” and it’s even likely to seriously offend someone, even if they’re not affected by the smoke.

      1. Allonge*

        Hold on – alcohol has for the majority of people a negative and close-to-immediate effect on their capacity to work. Smoking (if you are a smoker) does not.

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          Not one beer though. And nicotine does alter a person’s mental state…that’s one of the addictive reasons people use tobacco.

          1. pieces_of_flair*

            Coffee is also addictive and alters a person’s mental state, but there’s nothing unprofessional about drinking it at work.

      1. pieces_of_flair*

        Not a smoker, but I disagree that the act of smoking is inherently disgusting in the same way as nose-picking. It’s just inhaling and exhaling, no body fluids involved. The disgusting part is the actual smoke, which is not a concern on a video call.

      2. RagingADHD*

        No, it really isn’t like that at all. Do you watch old movies and react to every scene with smoking as if the actors are picking their noses?

        I don’t like smelling it or breathing it, but seeing someone smoke isn’t any different than seeing someone drink from a straw.

      3. Malarkey01*

        Yeah this is where I land and it’s not something that we’ll all agree on. I view smoking as disgusting. It’s the same to me as if someone was “chewing” and spitting into a cop. For me to sit and watch people smoke is gross. Not everyone has to agree but I think in my region it’s so out of fashion and frowned on that you’d be told it’s not okay on video calls.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        That’s your personal judgment call. You can put “no smokers please” on your dating app profile to be sure of never hooking up with a disgusting smoker, but please, there’s nothing unprofessional about a worker smoking behind a screen. It’s a bad habit, a poor choice, but you’re not in that person’s shoes to know why they smoke, so please don’t judge your colleagues like that.
        (I haven’t smoked since 1991, but I refuse to become a rampant anti-smoker.)

    22. MsClaw*

      I suspected responses to this might have a lot to do with age/experience. I’ve often said that of all the things that would be difficult to explain to people my kid’s age in terms of the olde days is *just how much* people used to smoke. I sat in classrooms with teachers who smoked. My first flight had a smoking section on the plane. To be clear, I don’t and never have smoked, the smell and ash bothered me as a child and now drive me absolutely barmy.

      And yes, it can be jarring to see someone smoke because the socio-economic baggage around it has changed so much. So I would not say that it’s *unprofessional* but if I had an employee who smoked on zoom meetings, I might pull her aside at some future date and let her know how it might be coming off to others. OTOH, I definitely wouldn’t tell off or tell on a peer for doing something that is completely legal and not impacting me at all other that maybe giving me a bit of an ick. I suspect I’m not the only person who has certain visual things that ick me out but I have to learn to ignore when I’m on the job.

  13. Yellow+Flotsam*

    LW1 I can understand why it’s jarring, but there are good business reasons not to include you. Mixing senior management with junior completely changes the event. They can’t have the same conversations with you present, and they need to consider optics of including you but not others at your level. This is a meeting of peers, with you present there are reporting lines to consider.

    If it helps I’ve been at things where we’ve asked management to leave so that open discussion can occur (and they were wanting an out too!). At drinks, it was often the case that senior management would turn up, have 1 drink and do the rounds then head off early because they completely understood that things were different with them there. It does mean managers were excluded from things that they otherwise would have been at.

    1. londonedit*

      Yes, I was also going to mention that there are many occasions where this happens the other way round. Where I work if there are after-work drinks then the usual form is for the bosses to be there long enough to buy the first round on their company card and have a brief chat with everyone, but then they say their goodbyes and leave everyone else to talk about whatever they want to talk about. There are plenty of things that people want to discuss amongst themselves without a boss being present, and in the same way there are plenty of things that senior people will want to discuss amongst themselves that can’t be discussed candidly if there are junior team members around.

  14. Minimal Pear*

    I think the site is doing that thing again where it replaces the spaces in your name with plus signs again.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! Can anyone who had it happen to them tell me what device and browser you were using when it happened? (Also, people who had it happen may need to clear their cookies to get rid of the plus signs.)

  15. The Tin Man*

    For LW#3 I agree – when traveling for work but not “on the clock” my main gauge is to wear something I wouldn’t be embarrassed for a coworker to see me in. So shorts, t shirt, etc is fine I just wouldn’t wear something super ratty or a print T with something not appropriate.

    I do admit it’s simpler for me because I’m a guy and I don’t really own/wear out anything I would be embarrassed for a coworker to see me in anyway.

  16. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    Non-smoker here. LW2, you need to let this go. Smoking is not illegal, but even more importantly your colleague is allowed to smoke in his own home! Just as you’re allowed to wear what you want while you work from home.

    LW4, if they didn’t change your log in when you actually got divorced and had all the paperwork, then I don’t see them changing it now. It sucks. You might need to decide if the job is worth having to use your old name every day or if it’s time to look for a new place to work.

    1. Mornington Cresent*

      Yes! I came here to say the same thing for #2! Telling someone what they can or can’t do in their own home, when it’s perfectly legal, just feels like an overstep.

  17. WorkerJawn*

    I realize OP3 didn’t ask for specific recommendations, but several athletic brands are starting to make more formal clothes that are very comfortable but still look polished. When he was traveling constantly for work, my brother had a pair of LuLuLemon pants that were cut like trousers and felt like sweats. He loved that he could travel comfortably and not have to change before presenting to clients. I just bought a jumpsuit from Athleta that I travelled all day in and then immediately met friends for drinks in. It’s an expensive piece so it wouldn’t be worth it for 1 day of travel, but if they are a regular occurrence, I think it is worth investing.

    I’m not sure if this follows the spirit of commenting rules, but here is the jumpsuit I now love:

    1. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

      I have several pairs of pants from Athleta that I think would be ideal for business travel. I just wear them normally in the office, but they are very stretchy / have that athleisure feel, and look like “regular” pants (especially in black).

  18. MicroManagered*

    LW1 in my first “office job” I was excluded from happy hours. I would hear people, including my immediate teammates and my immediate supervisor, planning and talking about happy hours and felt VERY left out. I’m not one to invite myself to things, so I just sucked it up, but there were a couple tearful conversations with my partner-at-the-time when I knew everyone was hanging out without me. :(

    When I finally did get invited after a few weeks, I found that my supervisor had asked others not to invite me. He had JUST become a supervisor a few weeks before I started, so the happy hour gang were all former peers but he wasn’t sure if it was professional to invite someone who had only-ever known him as their manager. We laughed about it, he felt terrible that I’d felt excluded, and to this day he remains one of my favorite managers of all time.

    My point is just that sometimes things that FEEL hurtful may not have hurtful motives behind them.

  19. Krista*

    LW #3-My one caveat for dressing down for travel is that if your luggage gets lost you will be attending meetings in your casual clothes. This has happened to multiple colleagues of mine. You could pack something business appropriate in your carry on and know you’ll need to press it when you get to the hotel.

  20. L-squared*

    #1. I’m not trying to discount your feelings, but at the same time, this isn’t really unheard of. Hell, in my office this week, a bunch of the leadership team was in from out of town. They definitely all went to dinner together (paid for by the CEO) and none of the employees were invited. Yes, for you it sucks because you are the only non leadership person there, but it really isn’t abnormal at all. Now, she is doing it in kind of a rude way. It would probably be better, at least on the surface to send an email or a slack message. But the outcome would be the same. I also can see how she wouldn’t find it rude because of how common it is for senior managers to do stuff just with their group. Also, think about it this way. Even if its not a “meeting” they probably want to let off some steam about some of their employees, and don’t want you around for that. Try to not take it personally.

    #2. I’m not a smoker, and smoking bothers me in person. But I don’t see why you’d care that someone was smoking on camera. The main issue is the smell toward other people. But you can’t smell it, so why does it bother you? I may not eat in an in person meeting either (unless it was a lunch meeting), but I”d have no problem with someone eating on camera. To answer your question, no, it doesn’t hit different.

    #4. This is one of those IT programming things where things you think are just simple fixes really are not that simple, and there are a ton of things tied to that field that you can’t just change easily. I’m sure it sucks, but I don’t think its a personal thing. Only you can decide though if its a big enough deal to leave over.

    1. Generic Name*

      The flip side of #4 is that companies should consider if keeping their byzantine IT systems is worth it if employees are willing to leave over not being able to change their names

      1. L-squared*

        That is fair, but changing IT systems is often a massive overhaul. If this is just one employee, and they aren’t all that high up, I completely can see why a company wouldn’t find it worth it to change an entire system for a small number of people being uncomfortable. I’ve been places where IT systems get changed, and it sucks for everyone. If this is a big problem, maybe its worth it. If OP is the only person really bothered by it, I wouldn’t blame the company for thinking its not worth it.

        1. Esmeralda*

          It affects many people (primarily women) who change their name when they get married or divorced. Trans people.

          1. L-squared*

            It CAN affect many people, but without knowing about the company makeup, we don’t know how many it actually has affected or will affect in the near future.

            I’m in no way saying that at no point should they update things. But it may just not be worth it to do right now.

            And you do have to consider the overall impact that it has to overhaul a system like this. Is it worth making 50 people’s lives more difficult for one person? That I can’t say. But it is something to think about

          2. Anonny NonErson*

            Chiming in from the IT perspective:

            I would encourage the letter writer to complain up, for two possible reasons:

            1) If IT is just refusing because of how much work it is, HR should be able to get it pushed through.

            2) If IT is correct and it cannot be changed (like it would legit break a bunch of things), the business needs to hear that impact from someone it is currently impacting.

            I – and every other IT person I’ve ever known in my entire career – have a list of stuff a mile long that I know is wrong, that I’ve told the business is wrong, and the Business Itself has decided not to fix the issue – either outright “we don’t care” or by not giving us the budget to do so.

            I frequently encourge end users with issues I literally cannot fix to run it up the chain, so I can (once again) explain to the execs why it needs to be remedied.

  21. Miller_Admin*

    3. How to dress when traveling for work

    When I worked for a company where management and VPs travel, anywhere from 40 – 80% per month; one of the VPs had a travel wardrobe. It was black pants, black top (do not recall if it had sleeves or not, black lightweight cardigan; black shoes. That was her work (personal uniform) when traveling. She said it didn’t wrinkle. She wore every day while in our office. She could have had the same outfit; or multiple versions of the same.

  22. Lady_Lessa*

    About LW1. I agree that it is likely that the senior management is talking about the work, etc. and it wouldn’t be appropriate for them to be included. But, I also see the optics, of Laura going around to every desk with the invite, and skipping them.

    It would be better if the invites were done via phone and/or email. Not as obvious.

  23. Dinwar*

    #1: My team did that last night. The management team had drinks, and did not include the junior staff. It’s nothing personal, it’s just part of the separation necessary to be an effective manager. The junior staff aren’t peers, and while we have really good relationships it’s extremely unwise to cut loose to that extent with junior staff. We have to correct them, we may have to discipline them, we may have to fire them. On the flip side, a recommendation from someone who has a professional relationship with their direct report is going to have more weight than the same recommendation from someone who’s drinking buddies with their direct report.

    And yeah, even if we don’t want to we end up discussing work–that is, after all, the most significant point of commonality between us. The junior staff quite frankly don’t need to know about these issues; one of our jobs is to shield them from these issues, so they can do their jobs.

    I know it feels weird when you’re the only one in the office excluded, but it’s almost certainly not personal.

    #3: I used to travel a LOT for work. Wear what’s comfortable. If you see a coworker in the lobby they’ll know you were traveling and think nothing of it. I mean, make sure the cloths don’t have holes in them or stains or whatnot, but after that wear what you’re comfortable with. If a coworker sees you, they’ll assume you were traveling, because, well, you were!

  24. Katie*

    When I married married years ago, my maiden name was still everywhere at work. Not that big of deal, but a slight annoyance. Our work was outsourced to another company. I went to the new company but since I was doing work for old company I got a new ID with them. During the onboarding I was very clear my new name. Alas, my new email for my old company still had my maiden name. I was able to get the view to change to say my ‘new’ name but the primary email still said my old name and that has caused confusion on many occasions.

  25. Suz*

    #3 reminded me of a time I had to travel to my company’s HQ. It was a hot summer night so I wore a tank top and shorts for the flight. The airline lost my luggage and my flight arrived too late in the evening to go out and buy new clothes that night. So the next morning I had to give a presentation to VP and several high level execs looking like I just came from a softball game. I got a lot of good natured teasing about the new dress code at the remote offices.

  26. AvonLady+Barksdale*

    For #3, I have a somewhat opposite story. Five of us at my company were traveling together to a conference. Cross-country flight, no one checked a bag, all of our stuff in carry-ons. I wore jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt with a scarf. The other woman on the team was similarly dressed. My boss wore basketball shorts. One guy in khakis and a polo. Then the 5th co-worker showed up in dress pants, dress shoes, and a tweed jacket. We all kind of looked at him curiously, since we had no meetings that day and we were all going to be on a plane for five hours, plus it was very warm and he was already sweating buckets. Oh, and my boss ran into a former client who actually made a crack about his overly casual basketball shorts.

    So wear something comfortable, neat, clean, and weather appropriate. You neither want to sweat profusely nor risk being seen as unusually casual.

    1. BatManDan*

      Some folks who travel a lot report being treated better by customer-facing employees when they are dressed more sharply than the average traveler. For example, one of the most common suggestions I’ve seen for successfully asking for a free upgrade to an empty first-class seat is, “dress like you belong in first class.” So, I can see reasons why people might go for “sharp” over “travel comfortable.”

      1. AvonLady+Barksdale*

        Sharp, sure. But you have to be comfortable in those sharp clothes– my colleague was obviously not, judging from the copious sweat.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I always find planes to be freezing cold so I would definitely have warm clothes, at least in my carry-on bag if not on me. I don’t want to freeze while waiting for the air hostess to bring me a blanket.

      2. Pugetkayak*

        The most likely scenario though is going to be me stuck in economy dressed extremely uncomfortably, so I’m better off just being dressed in my usual work attire (and since I work from home its yoga pants and tshirt)

  27. Amy*

    How I dress for travel depends on when my meeting is. If I’m flying in, arriving at 6pm and my meeting isn’t until 9AM the next morning, I wear jeans.

    But I’ve had so many times when I thought I would have time to change and then didn’t. So flight was arriving at 2pm, had a 7pm dinner and then ended up arriving at 6:30pm in the clothes I wore on the plane. A colleague of mine once did a nice dinner in an extremely grubby track suit.

    For any same day events, I know wear a slightly nicer version of what I’d normally wear in case I get stuck with it.

    Also personally I don’t do full athleisure either. It’s just too casual for me in a work connected event.

  28. 1-800-BrownCow*

    LW #2: Be careful telling someone they’re being unprofessional smoking on camera during a company zoom meeting. I work for a large international company with headquarters outside the US. The country of origin, smoking is not considered as negative as it is in the US. When the company headquarters C-Suite visits, they do respect our laws and do no smoke in the building. However, they do ensure to get frequent smoke breaks during all day meetings and can often be seen standing just outside our main entrance, wearing suits and ties, taking a smoke break.

  29. PeppermintTea*

    #3 – Depending on the type of clothes you need, many athleisure brands offer items that are really comfortable and easy care that look polished enough for work. I have some Athleta items that I wear when I travel. Sometimes they can be pricey, so I will usually shop on Poshmark or other online second-hand stores, and I have scored some really quality items that are staples in my work wardrobe, but don’t make me feel like I have to be uncomfortable or delicate with them. As for the style of clothing – I look for more bootleg or straight leg pants (as opposed to leggings), solid tops and cardigans, or even a blazer if it’s in a comfy fabric like a ponte knit or stretchy technical fabric. I always wear sneakers though! I don’t think anyone will fault you for wearing comfy shoes when traveling, and I like to get sneakers in a fun/trendy color – it adds an nice touch to my dark/monochromatic outfits.

  30. Angstrom*

    #3: It never hurts to be prepared for the unexpected: lost luggage, unscheduled layovers, etc. I had an unplanned layover in Chicago due to a winter storm and saw a LOT of underdressed people freezing waiting for rides.

  31. Risha*

    LW2: I’m not really seeing what the issue is with the person smoking. I’m guessing they’re in their own home and not blowing the smoke in any coworkers’ faces. It may be unprofessional, but then we can say the same about eating/drinking/chewing gum on camera. If that person shouldn’t smoke, then no one should do anything else on camera either. I don’t know why you would want to notify their manager. Would you do the same if they were eating breakfast on camera? I just don’t understand the issue with someone smoking, especially if it’s not bothering you. If their manager sees it and wants to address it, then that’s on them to do. One of the many benefits of working from home is the ability to do things we couldn’t do in the office, such as vaping/smoking/making a sandwich and eating it.

  32. Ray Gillette*

    LW1, if you decide to approach your direct manager about this, I’d frame it as “I know it makes sense for the senior management team to all go out together since they’ll be discussing stuff that it’s not appropriate to discuss in front of junior employees, but it’s a bummer to watch everyone else be invited and later leave for the bar when I’m the only junior person in office that day.” You can work the problem together. Since it sounds like you can work remotely occasionally, just not most days, maybe the solution is that you shift around your schedule so that you’re remote on the days that the management drinks events happen.

    1. Regular Poster, Anon for This*

      You have a good script for approaching the manager, but I don’t think OP should. It’s not personal. It’s because of her level. She should focus on building connections, or at least saying hello to all of the senior managers she has access to. Those connections, not addressing this personal issue, will help her build her network.

  33. Safely Retired*

    #2: Smokers are addicted, have some sympathy – at least when you don’t have to share the smoke. Be grateful that you don’t have to put up with that in person, as so many of us used to.

  34. Justme, The OG*

    LW #2, thank you for writing in about this. I had a similar thing happen and was about to write to Alison about it. I was gobsmacked when the person in question started smoking during a meeting.

  35. just another queer reader*

    Just chiming in with name change woes! Two of my work friends recently got married and changed their names. One of them changed their name and email, apparently without a lot of hassle. Another person tried and tried and could not get their email updated and finally gave up. I don’t know why or how, but I’m more confused about our IT department than ever.

    1. just another queer reader*

      I should add: at my company everyone has an employee ID number which forms the basis of the database. The name is just an alias (or something). This makes name changes easier, at least in theory.

  36. Clothing, Anonymous*

    LW #3 Re: Clothes when traveling

    Caveat to Allison’s answer, for those in the audience who work for the federal government. (So not the actual LW, who seems to work for a private company.)

    If you travel for work, the general standard is that you are a representative of the government and should look the part at all times. (Not suits! I’m not talking about wearing a suit on a plane. The previous generation did that, I know, but almost no one today will unless they are *maybe* very high up on the command chain.) But business-casual, at least.

    I personally wear easily slip on/off professional, but comfortable shoes, stretchy black slacks, and a loose-fitting button up. I also take care of my appearance before going through security checkpoints and border control, so I don’t look like a completely frazzled mess. (Not full on make-up, I’m not that sort of person, but re-brush my hair, clip it back, go through morning ablutions in the plane lavatory, etc.)

    (Chico’s has some light weight, jet black slacks with an elastic waist that are easy to travel in and don’t wrinkle, as an example of what I’m talking about. )

    I won’t lie and say that everyone holds themselves to this standard, but that is the preference and if you can find the right clothing, it’s no hardship.

  37. Bubba*

    OP 1: I would ask yourself whether you’d really want to be invited to this type of thing. I would personally feel very awkward about being asked to hang out with a group of senior executives as the only junior employee. I’d be worried about being on my best behavior the whole time and I’d be worried that others at my level would start to see me as “boss’s pet”. Also, it may help to remember that you are not actually the only junior employee being left out of these happy hours, you are just the only one who is present in the office when they occur. If there were others juniors in the office and Laura went around inviting everyone but you, then I would feel slighted but, as others have mentioned there are good reasons that senior executives would go out as a group and not include any lower-level employees. I know it sucks to feel excluded from things even when there are good reasons, which is why if I were Laura I’d probably extend the invite in a way that was more sensitive to your situation. For example, emailing my colleagues to plan happy hours rather than going around to every person’s desk except one. However, this is not something you should bring up to Laura, it’s not your place to correct her on minor etiquette issues! I probably wouldn’t even mention it to your direct boss unless you were going to frame it as “I noticed the seniors meet for drinks quite often, any chance our team could arrange a happy hour for junior level employees too?” I would not mention anything about feeling slighted or out, leave that for venting to your friends.

  38. Pisces*

    LW4: I know someone, call her Anne Green Gables, who professionally went back to Anne Green after her divorce.

    However, legally she’s still Anne Green Gables. Her name IRL is a very unique and complex one, and trying to change it on everything would be a lost cause. Travel-related stuff alone would be its own nightmare.

  39. Just Me*

    LW 2 – I would think there may be some cultural context at play here as well. In the US that’s very much seen as unprofessional, but don’t forget a) that wasn’t the case a few decades ago, and b) in a lot of countries in the world, it’s not seen as unprofessional. I once worked in an office in the US where I was the only American, and nearly all of my colleagues smoked. The only reason they didn’t smoke at the desks was the building regulations, but they would all troop out en masse a few times a day to smoke directly outside the office. If they could, I’m sure they all would have smoked at their desks. Not sure about the background of your colleague but I’d cut them extra slack if they’re older or not originally from the States.

  40. Really?*

    I disagree about dressing for travel. Most importantly, the airline industry is a hot mess right now. (My spouse travels about 80% of the time and luggage is delayed more than half the time.) so as a matter of practicality, I would dress in a work appropriate outfit – and then carry a change of shirt and underwear in a all carry-on bag.

    Also, I think he will be judged negatively by other people/colleagues if you run into them in the airport and you are too casual. Is it fair? No. But it happens. Just my 2 cents.

    1. Pugetkayak*

      Business attire for me is nothing I would ever travel in unless I was zooming off just for the day. Why not just stick THAT in a carryon? No one is judging anyone when they are traveling because they are…traveling. People know others want to be comfortable. I guess if people are judging others then that’s their problem.

      1. Bubba*

        “I guess if people are judging others then that’s their problem.”

        My thoughts exactly. They may judge but, people who are that weirdly judgmental will likely judge anything and I can’t control for all variables. Do they think my hair is too short? Too long? Is my outfit too colorful? Too bland? Is the type of car I dive professional enough? You could drive yourself nuts trying to manage an overly judgemental person’s perceptions.

        In most cases, even if my Boss is Judgy McJudger “I saw Bubba at the airport and tsk tsk she wasn’t wearing a suit and heels” is not going to be a career stopper.

        And if it is, well then I don’t want to work for that company anymore!

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      My mom was a military kid in the 50s, and she drilled into the very fiber of my being that you ALWAYS carry a pair of pajamas and change of clothes in your carry on, no matter the size of the carry on or length of the trip. I never check a bag, but always have those in my personal item if I wind up having to gate check my bag. That saved me a time or two when turbulence meant I wound up with my drink all over my shirt and pants!

  41. HR are people too*

    LW4 – HR here. We have a general practice that someone’s login stays the same even if they have a name change because it can be a huge pain in the butt to change it because the login ID feeds to different systems. BUT, whenever we have had someone say that is it problematic for them to continue having to use that login, we have done what it takes to make the change. Please ask your manager or HR to advocate with IT on your behalf for this change.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      This is a really good argument for employee numbers. The number can be the key field, and legal and display names are both attached to that.

  42. DJ Abbott*

    LW2, I understand why chain-smoking on camera seems unprofessional and as a person with a severe allergy to tobacco smoke I am very, very grateful I don’t have to be around it in person. If people smoked in the office like they did in the old days I would be too sick to work.
    I would have been horrified seeing him light up and chain smoke, partly because I’m allergic to it and for a minute it would’ve felt like I was there in person, and partly because I’m enough of a medical geek to know a little about what chain-smoking does to a person.
    It’s something you don’t do in front of people anymore. You go outside and if you’re considerate, away from doorways and non-smoking areas. So having someone right in your face light up seems like a breach of manners. But he is in his own home – I hope it’s a house so no one else has to deal with his smoke! – and he can do what he wants there.
    I feel bad for him that he’s so addicted he chain smokes and that he couldn’t get through a meeting without lighting up. It’s horrifying.

  43. blnkfrnk*

    I don’t think anyone else suggested this, but– can the person with the name change just “lose” her ID? “Whoops, I slipped and it fell down a sewer grate…guess I need a new ID. Oh, I had a legal name change, can you do that at the same time?”

    Anyway, that was how I handled several credit cards, memberships, and work name tags after I changed my name for gender reasons. You’d be surprised how many companies will straight up refused to change it, even with a court order, but be fine if you “lost” your ID.

  44. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

    LW 1: Consider two options: (1) wfh on the day when all the senior management is in; or (2) leave early on those days. If you’re not at your desk, you won’t see the VP inviting everyone but you, and you won’t see the whole gang leaving without you.

  45. Stuff*

    Can I just say that as a member of the Transgender community, the “you can never change your name in the system” policy is wildly discriminatory in practice, if not in law? I know the issue for OP is being constantly reminded of an abusive ex, which is also totally unacceptable, but I shudder at the prospect of being forcibly deadnamed every single day at work. It is not okay, any system that forces it is unacceptable, and the company needs to either fix it or get a new system altogether. I mean, I know full well they won’t, but still, this is completely beyond the pale.

  46. AnonymousReader*

    #4 – I had a similar issue because I have two last names. Even though I told IT on my first day that my name is “Jane Doe”, my job application had “Jane Doe Smith” (as is in my birth certificate, SS, etc). and my login should logically be “Jane Doe”… IT decided it should be “Jane D. Smith”. It’s been 8 years and I resigned to being addressed by my Mother’s Last Name which isn’t too bad but I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to make simple username changes. On the flip side, I have a male coworker whose legal name is “Thomas” but all his work documents have him down as “Tommy”. How he was able to get his nickname everywhere and I still can’t get my name fixed is a prime example of sexism in the workplace.

  47. Adultiest Adult*

    For what it’s worth, OP 1, my boss also has a “no drinking with junior employees” rule, and the culture of my office is such that, although I don’t drink, since I am now in management I am expected to follow that rule as well, as are others at my level. Laura may be operating from an old system which values “propriety” or is legitimately concerned about trade secrets or whatever, and hasn’t realized that in this case pointedly excluding only one person is bad optics. But I wonder if you did bring it up, that’s what you’d hear. If you do, be prepared that the practice probably isn’t going to change, they may just stop talking about it in front of you.

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

    #2 what are “real clothes”? Do you only wear imaginary pants? Counterfeits of designer brands?

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