updates: pregnant coworker keeps saying awful things to my terminally ill sister, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and for the rest of the year I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

1. Pregnant coworker keeps saying awful things to my terminally ill sister

I have an update that, while dissatisfying from an HR perspective, will probably be pretty fun to read.

My sister vents often to me and our best male friend. Preggo left a comment on Lil Sis’s Facebook – some sort of “did you know I’m pregnant bc I’m pregnant” comment on a cancer update. While Lil Sis and I were brainstorming firm but tasteful responses, Male Friend just left a reply that tore her a new asshole. She immediately deleted her reply and went radio silent.

Lil Sis met with her boss the next morning to get ahead of any potential drama. Her boss actually shrugged and said, “This is what happens when you talk crazy out of church” (did I mention they’re in a tiny mountain town?). The gist was she gave my sister carte blanche to put Preggo in her place as needed. A warning and write up would have been better and I’m disappointed that my sister’s manager is kind of a coward. We’re glad manager is on her side in at least some way.

Preggo came into my sister’s office with her tail between her legs and apologized profusely and has since only been annoying in an overly accomodating way. No pregnant talk, no minimizing the TERMINAL CANCER.

Apparently we just needed the audacity of a straight white man with nothing to lose.

2. My employees must have short, unpainted fingernails (#2 at the link)

I took your advice during our annual hiring cycle this past summer and provided those applicants I selected for interviews with a supplemental document describing the work environment in more detail. If they agreed that these were conditions they’d be willing to work under, I went ahead and scheduled the interview. This proved a good opportunity to highlight some other unusual requirements that our student employees need to be aware of, such as not having any food in the lab and the necessity of following security protocols such as leaving coats and backpacks in a designated space away from their work stations. Using the supplemental document makes it clear that these are the rules for everybody and they’re not getting singled out.

I also agree with your assessment that I was way overthinking it! The precipitating incident that prompted me to write in was a recent interview I’d conducted with an exceptionally qualified student of color who uses he/him pronouns and has very long, natural painted nails. I had to ask him if he would be willing to cut them and he said no, which is totally understandable! Coupled with the fact that I am white and the previous student I had to fire for getting acrylics was also a person of color, I couldn’t help but worry I was misstepping somehow.

Thanks also to the commentariat! Hearing about all the other jobs, especially in food service, that require short, unpainted nails, made me feel less like this was an extreme imposition. (Just a heads-up for this time that I use they/them pronouns.) Folks were right that we work with rare books, archives, and museum specimens and because people in my field get this question a lot I did want to address the comments about wearing gloves. American conservators recommend against those iconic white cotton gloves you see in movies for working with paper materials; recently washed, dry, unlotioned hands are the way to go (this can be a real pain – literally – in the winter!). “The acidity of human skin” as one person put it does not damage paper. Fabric gloves can greatly decrease the user’s manual dexterity and sensitivity, especially when improperly fitted, making it easier to inadvertently cause damage to the materials they’re working with. The textile fibers can also snag on paper fibers, leading to tears. From a purely practical perspective, fabric gloves are often reused again and again and unless somebody is vigilant about taking them home to wash properly between uses they can end up introducing more contamination than they prevent (especially if you’ve been handling a book with red rot!). Plastic gloves are a necessity for handling photos, some metals, and some textiles, however.

3. Booking a luxury hotel for business travel (#3 at the link)

I ended up going with the cheaper hotel that was a short drive away, since the price of the hotel + Ubers was significantly less expensive than nightly rate of the luxury hotel. It was definitely the right decision, and I feel silly now for having even considered paying $800/night for a hotel, but I’ve come to realize that my norms around business travel were a bit skewed before this. At the last job I had where I traveled for work, I would regularly stay at very nice hotels where my boss (who handled the bookings) had rewards points. That company was, in general, not a great example of a healthy work environment, and I probably should have realized that extended to this situation also…

Anyways, the cheaper hotel worked out fine for this trip, and the business part of the trip went well also. The people at the office I visited did recommend checking the luxury hotel next time though, as sometimes the hotel will run promotions that significantly defray the cost and make the nightly rate more reasonable.

A few commenters also pointed out that, as is the case with so many letters Alison receives, better communication from my boss would have prevented this whole situation. I have since learned that clear and concise comms and maintaining process documents are generally not my boss’ strength, but now that it’s something I’m aware of, I’m working to manage it better in all aspects of my work.

4. My professor wants us to walk into local businesses and ask if we can do a free project for them

While several students from both classes the teacher pulls the “find your own project” stunt in have filed complaints, none of the students I’ve talked to have had any progress in getting their complaints heard. Whether the IT dean has even seen the complaints is unknown. Meanwhile, I’ve heard the teacher’s doing it again this quarter.

In the comments of that post, I mentioned the dean of the IT school was having an argument with the teachers over the dean wanting all classes back to 100% butt in seat, while the teachers wanted hybrid and asynchronized classes. The teachers won, and with surprisingly minor compromises on their part.

{ 173 comments… read them below }

  1. Eldritch Office Worker*

    “Apparently we just needed the audacity of a straight white man with nothing to lose.”


    1. ferrina*

      So many mixed feelings about this update. But sounds like he was pretty effective!

      At least Sister doesn’t have to deal with that crap anymore.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        It’s a terrible update if you’re looking at the organizational health it reflects, but I’m happy with the general outcome for sister’s sake.

      2. MEH Squared*

        I’m right there with you on the mixed feelings. But, bottom line is that sister doesn’t have to deal with her coworker being a jerk any longer so it’s a win for her (the sister)!

      3. AA*

        I have mixed feelings because referring to the coworker as Preggo feels pretty gross. I know she was being an asshole but that language feels dehumanising.

        1. Marna+Nightingale*

          I think it feels considerably less gross to me because she chose, in really horrible ways, to make her pregnancy her central character trait.

          I mean, her pregnancy plus a level of self-regard so vast it should be captured in a jar and placed in a zoo, but that’s harder to make a nickname out of.

    2. EPLawyer*

      You know, using the power of the white male for good. I’m okay with that. He was being a good friend who had the sister’s back. Isn’t that we want in a friend?

        1. EPLawyer*

          I think anyone saying it might have worked. OP and her sister were too busy trying to find the nice response when was needed was a very necessary “WHAT THE F IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            This. Firm but tasteful could have gone out the window long ago. This [redacted] doesn’t deserve tasteful.

          2. Mongrel*

            I think the problem may be, remembering that this is small town, that a straight, white man has the social ranking to pull this off.
            A woman trying this may have been called bitchy, over-reacting or too emotional.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        The best results I ever got at work were with a white male supervisor saying things for me. Cyrano stuff works. I mean, sucks that it works and nothing else works, but at least it was something.

    3. Elenna*

      Yeah, I’m not sure whether to laugh or facepalm at that one… But at least OP’s sister isn’t having to deal with awful comments anymore!

      1. Malarkey01*

        Same. I both laughed out loud and then said hmmm sad face.
        My friend created a “motivation poster” for me that says “May you have the confidence of a white straight man explaining reproductive rights to a woman” as a birthday present. It does now hang in my house.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I will occasionally give them a pass if they use their powers for good.

      I’m still mystified that this woman was even on this course in the first place, though. Like, what kind of adult needs to be chewed up and spit out before s/he gets the message?

      1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

        Some people have to get rekt before they get a clue. And some people have to have it happen over and over again and still never really learn.

      2. tessa*

        >I will occasionally give them a pass if they use their powers for good.

        I’m glad the OP is more open-minded than that.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I occasionally weaponize my Nice White Lady (TM) Privilege to make things easier for my coworkers, and it’s equal parts fun and infuriating.

    6. Ann Nonymous*

      This is why my online moniker is very cis-white male. Wherever I use my true female name, I get sh*t and I rarely do when I interact as a “male”.

    7. Irish Teacher*

      I honestly don’t know whether to be delighted that he “used his power for good” and got a result here or disappointed that she listened to the “straight white man” who presumably has no known illnesses or disabilities (I mean that she knows of) after dismissing the woman who actually has cancer.

    8. Luna*

      Yeah, they could written it as “calling a spade a spade” or even “being blunt like nobody’s business” and it would still have the same message behind it. Sometimes, you just have to be incredibly direct, and hurtful, to get a point across. Regardless of biological sex or gender identity of the person saying it.

    9. Vio*

      It’s ridiculous that it makes a difference, but sadly that’s the world we live in. At least we can try to make sure that we use such privilege for good like the friend in this update did.

  2. Melanie+Cavill*

    Apparently we just needed the audacity of a straight white man with nothing to lose.

    This is the most relatable thing I’ve ever read.

    Anyway, I’m glad your sister got an apology and some peace and quiet.

    1. Iron Butterfly*

      I would really love to know as well. Regardless, I am glad someone said it because it clearly hit the mark.
      I am still so sorry you are all going through this.

    2. LW*

      He said, “Do you make literally everything about yourself?” and a gif of Kris Jenner that said, “give me attention”

      1. The Eye of Argon*

        So simple, so cutting. Awesome.

        The only thing that would make it better is if someone got a screenshot of Fertile Myrtle’s “OHAI I’m pregnant pay attention to meeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!” post before she deleted it and helpfully posted it to remind everyone what she said.

      2. Boof*

        If that worked so profoundly I have to wonder if coworker just… extremely Didn’t Get It. Like, had some notion that the best thing to do was Minimize The Bad Thing Focus On Happy Things was helpy instead of, yknow, really shitty.

        Doesn’t matter that much just glad in the end that’s all it took!

        1. inko*

          Yeah, I’m so curious about what was going on in coworker’s head. Like, her response here makes it look like she actually did mean well the whole time, but HOW?

          And I too am so glad LW’s sister doesn’t have to put up with any more of this bullshit.

      3. Marna+Nightingale*

        OOH. I am one more Nice White Lady applauding madly.

        Also, as much as it’s both off topic and not your circus, it would actually relieve my mind unspeakably if you, small towns being what they are, knew and could assure us that the father of this poor impending small person is capable of caring about something other than himself, because based on the mom they’ve been issued that kid is in for a rough damn ride.

  3. Murfle*

    Re: LW 1:

    > Her boss actually shrugged and said, “This is what happens when you talk crazy out of church” (did I mention they’re in a tiny mountain town?). ”

    Can someone clue me in here? I’m not sure I understand this part. Is this some sort of regional saying in the US?

    1. alferd g packer, esq*

      guessing it’s a (derogatory) reference to charismatic and/or pentecostal christianity — speaking in tongues and whatnot.

    2. PeterM*

      It’s not a saying I’ve ever heard. I understood it just be an acknowledgment of how people in very closed, insular groups – religious or otherwise – don’t realize their opinions aren’t universal until someone smacks them down.

      1. Marna+Nightingale*

        I think it’s not quite that, but rather that when you’re IN church you watch what you say.

    3. Carlie*

      I’ve always heard the phrase “talk out of church” as being overly gossipy or improper – as in at church, you talk about deeply personal issues and such when sharing for prayer requests and the like and it’s with a small tight group of people. If you’re talking out of church, you’re sharing information you shouldn’t share with someone you shouldn’t be sharing it with, usually about another person entirely about something that’s none of their business and/or that they don’t have the context to understand.

      I haven’t heard talk crazy out of church, but I could see that being that concept to a further extreme.

      1. Hunter*

        “Talk out of church” seems to be the more common saying. I heard it growing up in Arkansas and this is also my understanding of it.

        1. Kayem*

          I never heard it growing up in my minuscule Arkansas hometown, but I heard plenty of alternatives. One wouldn’t think there would be so many ways to invoke turnips.

            1. Darsynia*

              My favorite book series growing up was written by David and Leigh Eddings, and was basically created to be a blueprint for the ‘chosen one’ kind of coming of age story. The countries involved all had very characteristic personality traits, and one of them was to be incredibly practical and down to Earth. The first king was a turnip farmer who was voted on by his peers, and they apparently showed up while he was working to tell him and he made them wait for him to finish.

              I like to think of it as the most work anyone’s put into a turnip aphorism.

              1. My+dear+Wormwood*

                Hahaha, I remember that book! I also remember the farmer mildly pointing out to the delegation that they were kneeling in a freshly-manured field and perhaps they should get up.

                1. Elan Morin Tedronai*

                  “My lords, have a care for your finery. I have just well-manured the field in which you are kneeling in.”

        2. Coenobita*

          The variation I grew up with (in Pennsylvania) was “tell tales out of class” or “out of school.” I just looked it up and apparently versions of that have been used in various English-speaking places since the 1500s!

      2. Bernice Clifton*

        This was my understanding as well; like “get your (own) house in order” doesn’t literally mean clean up or repair your residence, and “stay in your lane” doesn’t mean don’t change lanes on the highway.

      3. Allegra*

        Yeah, something like this. Honestly as a person from the South I’m 99% sure it’s not literally referring to church; people might be more familiar with the idiom “talk out of school.” Talking about something you have no business talking about, whether it’s sharing something private or because you don’t know actually anything about what you’re saying. I’m pretty sure this is a regionalism of that.

    4. Relig*

      I have heard it before and how it was explained to me was imagine someone walking up to you saying there was a man who walked on water, created an endless supply of fish and healed a blind man. If you didnt know someone was talking about religion you’d think they were crazy.

      1. Boop*

        Yeah, my understanding of this saying is that it refers to someone saying the wrong thing in the wrong context/setting, and the consequences thereof. Basically, Preggo is saying inappropriate things in inappropriate contexts and deserves what she gets as a result (the verbal spanking!).

    5. Richard Hershberger*

      I’m not sure, but I suspect it is an oblique reference to 1 Corinthians 14:23:

      “So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who are uninstructed or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your minds?”

    6. Sara without an H*

      Hi, Murfle — I haven’t heard the expression before, but I suspect that he was referring to the practice of glossolalia or “speaking in tongues.” I won’t send a link, since I don’t want to be sent to moderation, but the Wikipedia article is fairly decent.

      The practice persists in some Pentecostal churches, especially in rural areas, hence LW1’s reference to the tiny mountain town.

      1. Dana Lynne*

        The practice is not confined to small churches and is not an anachronism that is “persisting”. It’s hugely common in charismatic nondenominational megachurches not only in the American South but everywhere that influence has spread. I’m in Tulsa, which one of the epicenters of this movement. I don’t belong to that sort of church but it’s extremely common.

  4. Properlike*

    Re #1: Forgive me for not remembering the details, but… no one had ripped her a new one before this, had they? Like just gone off? I think OP likely had, but beyond that?

    Asking because it may have taken any kind of “superior” or stranger or someone whose opinion she valued to shame her into blessed silence.

    And making that point because too many women (and men) are socialized not to go off, even in these situations when they have nothing to lose. I am not one of them. This is a pleasant feature of Facebook – sometimes people get appropriately shamed, plus birthday reminders and that memories feature.

    1. Properlike*

      Although, now that I think about it — and with your pointing out the church and small town and the fact that your sister and this evil person are FB “friends”…. I wonder if someone in the evil person’s life saw her post, wasn’t aware of what had been happening, and had private words with her.

      ‘Cause I was going to say, “Wonder if you could go to her pastor?” since it’s such a small, religious town. But no matter – it’s terrible that your sister’s been put through any of this. I hope this wean reaps everything she’s sown.

    2. TypityTypeType*

      People might have gotten stuck on “Don’t upset the pregnant lady” — especially because the awful things she was saying were directly pregnancy-related.

      If Pregnant Lady needed to be hit with a sledgehammer, looks like Male Friend was armed with one of sufficient weight that she finally got it and apologized. If she’s not utterly irredeemable, she’ll be cringing for years when she thinks about the things she said to an actual fellow human. And that is not a bad thing. At all.

    3. WellRed*

      I wondered if the public nature of the smackdown shamed her a bit whereas other examples of awfulness seem to have been directed right to the sister.

      1. Everything+Bagel*

        Yeah, that is what I think. Not sure how it took a public calling out to get her to realize she was being completely inappropriate and cruel. Hope she doesn’t start up again in private.

    4. kiki*

      I have a cousin who I could see being clueless and terrible enough to say stuff like this. In her case, she continues to say heinous stuff like this because she is so cluelessly terrible that her terribleness is known and expected, so folks just avoid her as much as possible.
      Another similarity I see between the coworker here and my cousin is that nothing she’s saying is an outright insult, the intention is confusing, and it’s said like a normal, cheery thing. It makes it hard for people to react in the moment, like, did she mean to say something so cruel? Did I misunderstand and she meant to say something normal?

      I’m glad somebody intervened in a way that seems to be stopping her absurd behavior.

      1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

        Some people are just… like this. It’s not a diagnosable condition, just a severe deficiency of self-awareness. They have no idea how they actually sound or come across, and they also don’t care enough to work on it because they’ve never experienced serious enough consequences of their malignancy. I understand why people would rather avoid her than call her out, but she’s never going to change as long as no one shines a bright light in her face.

    5. Unkempt Flatware*

      It would have been me who went off and then lost my job and then a story would be told for eons after. I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from exclaiming, “Are you F*cked in the head, lady?!”

  5. Nobby Nobbs*

    “Coupled with the fact that I am white and the previous student I had to fire for getting acrylics was also a person of color, I couldn’t help but worry I was misstepping somehow.” So glad you wrote in for a gut check on this, OP! A lot of institutionalized prejudice persists because people don’t interrogate this sort of thing when they should, so it’s always better to ask than not, even if the ultimate conclusion is that the current standard is necessary and non-discriminatory. And I’m happy for you that the end result of questioning was a more open and efficient hiring practice.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Agreed, people should feel comfortable with questioning their own assumptions and comfortable with the prospect of finding out they’re incorrect.

      Well, maybe not not comfortable exactly, but safe.

      1. Gerry Keay*

        I view it as people should be able to tolerate sitting in the temporary discomfort of questioning your assumptions, knowing that they’ll reach a better place on the other side of the discomfort.

        1. Malarkey01*

          I’ve done a lot of work on this issue the last two years and for me it helped tremendously to stop associating “I had an unconscious bias” with “I am a racist” (or other marginalized group). I’m not minimizing that an unconscious bias is wrong and bad and something I need to immediate correct but it removed the automatic defensiveness that is often triggered by confronting a micro aggression and a way to acknowledge we all have worth and growth to do.

          It makes it easier to sit uncomfortably for a moment and examine what’s behind a thought. You have to be open though to the idea that all of have unconscious biases and have benefitted from institutional racism and that the way we were socialized isn’t always correct.

          1. Boof*

            That is why I really prefer people to call actions/behaviors as good/bad/racist/etc, not people. A behavior is often learned and generally modifiable; dismissing a whole person as intrinsically and forever [thing] isn’t usually helpful – at least not at improving the behavior.

            1. allathian*

              Yes, hard agree. Calling someone a whatever-ist or -phobic is usually counterproductive, because they just get defensive. But calling them out on actions/behaviors is more likely to at least give them something to think about. When it’s an unconscious bias, the person has to become aware of it before they can modify their behavior, and that happens when they realize that their behavior is unacceptable. Obviously this is unlikely to work on people who are committed to their racist, sexist, etc. ideology.

            2. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

              Well, we can hope. I often see this pattern happen:

              Person A: Your statement about Group X is wrong, and here’s why.
              Person B: You just called me a Group X -ist!

        2. VeritInMe*

          The temporary discomfort of questioning my assumptions is far better than the permanent harm I can inflict on others!

      2. ferrina*

        Yes! I wish this was a more regular practice. It’s not a reflection on the individual, but on society- we live in a racist society, and we absorb some of that (because our brains are built to absorb societal norms). Kudos to LW, and I think their solution is a good one- give people the rules during the interview process so they can make an informed choice on whether to continue.

    2. That'sNotMyName*

      OP4, I’m glad the teachers won out on the async and hybrid classes. I’m in grad school and having those options has been great for both students and our professors. For example, one professor was able to present at a prestigious conference that would have otherwise not been possible or we would have missed two classes. Instead, we had class online and it was great. Classmates don’t come to class while sick because most of the classrooms are set up for zoom and/or recording with minimal fuss.

      1. A Karen*

        We have a college freshmen who is withdrawing because ADHD + async classes are a bad match. Anecdotally, he had a lot of async classes because the in-person classes filled up, so obviously a fair number of students don’t love them.

        1. Random Internet Name*

          They may be a bad match for him, but I’m ADHD and find not in person much easier to deal with and a whole lot less overwhelming. I wouldn’t categorically state that ADHD + async are a bad match (in fact *I* would assume the opposite). My personal learning skyrocketed pre pandemic when I found an online async school in an interest area of mine!

          1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

            Me too! Being able to control my space makes all the difference — at home there’s less of everything to distract & overwhelm me and more of what comforts me. But I can totally see where those who need body doubling to get things done would love to be in class. Finding the right environment is a real challenge! It’s good when there are options.

          2. ferrina*

            I’m ADHD, and I prefer synchronous. It’s the urgency + body doubling that helps me.

            My takeaway- giving people multiple ways to learn is better or everyone (but don’t demand that they recruit businesses that have no interest in being recruited).

          3. LaneyBoggs*

            TBF I have one ADHD friend who barely passed the semester after 2020 shutdown and just never went back to school.

            I have another ADHD friend who’s on the honors list every semester for the first time in her life going only online.

            Wide spectrum that isn’t always based on nuerotypical-ness!

      2. Erik*

        I just finished a degree that had some classes asynchronous or hybrid because of COVID, and the courses I was most successful in were either in person or asynchronous with regular expected meetings with small groups. Anything full asynchronous was really hard for me. So I think we need to recognize that people learn best in different ways and there were likely other students who struggled more with online/hybrid classes than otherwise.

  6. Anon woman*

    I need to take a class on how to develop the audacity of a straight white man with nothing to lose. Any recommendations please link to my comment.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Speaking as a white hetero cis male (mediocre or not I leave to others’ judgment) I suspect that you have to be raised to it from an early age. I have only at my advanced age come to realize how much of this stuff that I grew up as baseline how things work is actually privilege.

    2. FrivYeti*

      Unfortunately, a chunk of it comes from the way that a lot of folks in society are trained to instinctively defer to the opinions of straight white men, which suppresses their equally instinctive desire to defend themselves and/or lash out until they have a moment to process the message.

      There’s a lot of evidence that you don’t get the same results if the person you’re talking to has biases that cause them to expect you to be deferential or quiet.

    3. Bioprof*

      My sister and I named our alternative male-socialized person (Ian, which was the top name our parents had for if they had a boy). Sometimes we talk about what Ian would do. Giving him a name has been surprisingly effective!

      1. Eater of Hotdish*

        Hot dang, now I’m going to be asking myself, “What would Edgar do?” every time I need some of that energy. Thank you!

    4. The Eye of Argon*

      I (white het cis woman) was raised to be a meek little doormat and eventually I just got sick of it and started pushing back on people who tried to treat me or others badly, and also stopped caring about what jerks might think of me.

      I tend to be an affable and easygoing sort of person, and it takes a lot to get me angry. When I do it seems to pack a wallop.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        …and also stopped caring about what jerks might think of me.

        Yes, this. Realizing that some people’s good opinion is not worth having is an important step.

      2. Overeducated*

        It’s not easy to untrain yourself – I’m trying but honestly, a lot of the time it literally doesn’t occur to me that I *could* push back instead of just accepting something. Like, the flag doesn’t go up in my brain.

        My brother was talking about having an inter-city bus canceled; that has happened to me, and I would either go home, or buy a ticket for the next one if there was another in the same day. He said he and three other passengers just repeatedly demanded that the bus company staff send them another bus…AND THEY DID. For four dudes. Seriously, I was shocked, this would never occur to me.

        But now that I’ve realized I’m in a very secure job (tenure-level secure), I really have no excuse but to train myself to “see” those opportunities, because sometimes the thing I need to push back against impacts people who are just not as privileged and secure. It’s not a quick or always obvious process though.

        1. The Eye of Argon*

          It definitely wasn’t easy and it took a long time and a lot of support, because it was tangled up in a whole mess of other issues. Because you’re 1000% right about it being hard to retrain yourself.

    5. Forensic13*

      Personally, I play a new game with myself any time I’m feeling socially anxious.

      I’m female, so I ask myself “can this person take away my [certain politically volatile] rights? No? Then WHATEVER, it can’t get much worse than that.”

      It works much better than it has any right to do.

    6. I’m screaming inside too*

      Start by channeling your inner cranky old lady. I’m a 65 year old straight, white woman who recently realized that I don’t have to give anymore f*cks. I think being old is the main factor that led me to that realization.

    7. iiii*

      Sadly, a lot of the time, people react to a woman acting with the audacity of a straight white man with, “What a Karen,” and thwart her on principle. So you not only have to calculate whether SWM audacity will get the immediate result you want, but also how you feel about the possibility of some bystander posting video of you standing up for yourself and having the entire internet call you names.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, the attitude of a cis white male doesn’t have the same results coming out of someone else who doesn’t match those demographics, unfortunately. (Otherwise known as “why Bully Broads was created.”)

      2. Karen*

        Well, you’re going to experience misogyny no matter what you do, and I’m going to get called Karen no matter what I do, because it being my name makes it a go-to insult.

        So if you’re going to do the time, you might as well do the crime.

    8. CowWhisperer*

      The issue, though, is that if you aren’t cis-white man, you have something to lose.

      My cis-white husband is a good egg. He stands up and makes a fuss when he sees something bad happening and listens when anyone who runs into institutional or blatant discrimination tells him about problems.

      The issue I have is that – even as his wife – I can’t really fully get all the things I need to tell him to get what being a woman is like. A few months into #MeToo, I looked at him one day and said, “You’ve never needed to pick a safe parking space if you have a shift where you leave after dark, have you?”

      He said, “No. I just park where my truck fits.”

      I replied “Like in the outer edges of the parking lot where there’s no light, obstructed lines of sight from the building and objects that you can’t see if someone is behind until you are far too close to them? You’ve never memorized where the flood lights are or parked in the middle of a sheet of ice because it’s the only available space that’s under a light? You don’t need to think about this, do you?”

      He said, “I’m sorry. No. I just park.”

      And that’s the hard bit. He didn’t make the system. I didn’t make the system. We grew up in the same world – but we are working in two very different systems. Thankfully, he believes people when they describe the problems with the system – but I’m always a bit surprised at how much easier his system is.

    9. Keymaster of Gozer*

      (Non white disabled woman here) I have not reached those lofty heights but I got a lot better at taking zero crap when I got into my mid 40s. I just don’t care what people think about me anymore.

      It was like a button press to ‘I’m tired of being the ‘nice’ disabled woman who’s a good face and helpful to those who don’t understand. Now I’m Granny Weatherwax’

        1. JustaTech*

          I’m more of a Magrat myself, but I hope in the fullness of time to become a little bit Granny Weatherwax (a bit friendlier, maybe).
          Now I just need to find an Nanny Ogg to instigate some fun!

    10. Delta Delta*

      I just got Masterclass. Maybe I can suggest it to them. I’m sure there are tons of qualified instructors.

  7. Deanna*

    Re #1: As annoying as the boss’s responce is, I’m glad the male friend put that vile witch in her place. I was appalled at that co-worker’s behaviour in the original letter. I hope your sister is doing better now that she isn’t being harrased by a massive harpy in her work life.

  8. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    #4 – How would that professor ever know if the students had emailed instead of walking in?

    1. Candi*

      This is my story.

      He allowed emailing during my classes “because of covid”. It’s pretty much an open secret among the students that everyone emails and no one walks in, and no one specifies to the professor how initial contact is made.

  9. goddessoftransitory*

    I’m so so SO glad that evil woman was put in the STFU box and your sister no longer has to deal with her. I do wish her actual workplace had stepped up a lot more and not let this inexcusable behavior continue as long as it did–Facebook shouldn’t be the HR of a business.

  10. Richard Hershberger*

    Gloves and old documents: I have, over the decades, had multiple occasions to examine old documents in various institutions. We have the outfits that make a show of everyone gloving up, and the outfits that check to make sure your hands are clean and let you go at it. My generous interpretation is that the ones into gloves deal with a high volume of civilian traffic. The research library at the Baseball Hall of Fame is an example. I can see how tracking manual cleanliness would be a hassle. The places to don’t glove up tend to roll their eyes at the idea.

    1. EPLawyer*

      So its a know your archival institution kind of thing?

      I don’t want to derail but I may have a chance to handle civil war documents soon and I want to do it right. I mean I can always ask the institution before I show up I guess.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Definitely call ahead. You should anyway, so they can have the documents ready for your visit and not buried in a vault somewhere.

      2. Hound Dog*

        Definitely ask. There may be different procedures in place based on the documentation itself, not just the institution.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        Yes, just ask, but as state above if we want you to use gloves, we’ll probably have our own supply.

      4. Sister Michael*

        I’ve handled quite a lot of (American) Civil War documents over the years, though the National Archives in DC and they go for clean hands, no gloves. Mind, I never asked about wearing gloves, but I’m pretty sure that over the years somebody would have said. I don’t remember their staff wearing gloves, and the historic preservation/archaeology people I’ve known and worked with also do not wear gloves to handle paper. The plural of anecdote isn’t data, of course, but that’s what my colleagues were formally taught.

        Have so much fun with your work! If it’s not a huge derail, can I ask what you’re working on? (Or can I meet you in a Friday thread and ask there?) Happy to talk about my research as well, as historians usually are!

        1. Sister Michael*

          Through the Archives! I used to have more time to to do it, but I’d go down there, check in early, and sift through old documents all day. It was so fun!!

          1. Stacey*

            I just came here to say that the letter writer did a good job of explaining why most museums and archives don’t use gloves any longer and use nitrile or other gloves when they *are* used for certain objects. I love that there’s a lot of other GLAM professionals here!

      5. Eater of Hotdish*

        Definitely know your institution, and calling/emailing ahead is a good idea. I used to work with ancient (1800+ year old) papyrus documents. No gloves–you need the manual dexterity to avoid crunching the delicate fibers. But heaven help you if you brought a ballpoint pen or a cup of coffee into the lab!

  11. Butterfly Counter*

    I have to say that I’m quite surprised by #4 where the teachers wanted the classes to be either hybrid or asynchronous. Maybe it’s the subject matter, but having 100% online classes was going to lead to me quitting teaching. I need to see my students as more than words on a screen and vice versa or else we were dehumanizing each other on both sides. And I definitely wasn’t alone in my department.

    I don’t mind online classes. But I can’t do all online classes any more. I wonder if it’s the subject matter, IT vs. a social science that is a major difference.

    1. nm*

      Possibly they were concerned about students coming in sick and spreading covid to them? My university has been pretty successful at enacting “students should stay home when sick/professors should accommodate accordingly” since we resumed in-person “normalcy” but I think some places are not so accommodating.

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

      I was also surprised, and hybrid is the worst of all options unless you’re talking about just a lecture where 400 people are sitting and listening and it doesn’t matter if they’re in the room or 200 miles away. Trying to facilitate any discussion with half the people in the room and half typing their questions in a chat (or trying to get their hand seen) while the professor is doing their own IT to make sure the microphone and video are picking up the question and response, is just a dumpster fire.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        When I was doing my master’s degree, our hybrid classes were classes that met in person once or twice a month and everything else was like an asynchronous online class, so that’s what popped into my head when the LW said hybrid.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          That’s what my current master’s program is. Online lectures at will, scheduled discussions in (virtual) person.

          1. JustaTech*

            That’s how my online masters was as well, and that was way back in 2015. We did do one on-campus week a year, and it was great to meet all the people that weren’t in my break-out groups, but I really liked the asynchronous lectures.

            It was clear that one or two of the professors *hated* teaching that way, and I was confused why they were in the program if they hated the online teaching, since the rest of the department was full-time on campus.

            (There was also one professor who really needed to learn to not move her head side-to-side while recording, because it was making it hard for the microphone to pick her up correctly so the sound was all over the place.)

            But this was also a program for “working professionals” where the asynchronous was the selling point.

        2. Elsajeni*

          Yes, the term that seems to have been adopted for the “some attendees in-person and some via Zoom” style of classes is “hyflex”.

    3. No Thanks in Advance*

      I think for many really depends how you do it and what kind of support and tools your institution has available. My job is supporting faculty with learning technologies, and we have resources on humanizing online courses and creating an effective class environment. A lot of what happened in 2020 was emergency remote learning, not effective online teaching. For that, faculty have to learn how to create effective and engaging content, discussions, etc. (and there was no time for that at the start of the pandemic).

      I’m also a big advocate for online teaching and learning because it expands access to education. I think that’s why we see a lot of graduate programs that can be done completely online (more so than undergrad, and more on the professional side). Someone wants a degree to help their career progression, but they have a job and/or family and can’t move if they aren’t local to a university that has that specific program. Whereas in undergrad there’s a lot of emphasis on “the college experience” that assumes that experience is at least partly in person, and more academically oriented graduate programs assume you’ll move if you are really devoted to it.

    4. My+Cabbages!!*

      Same here. Not having that in-person feedback of body language and facial expressions made me kind of hate teaching for the first time. Now that we are back in person the joy has rekindled.

    5. Candi*

      This is my story.

      Hybrid as my college defines it is two classes a week, one in-person and one in Zoom. (Not that everyone uses their camera.

      Asynchronous is no official classes at all. Everything is done through Canvas, and may include a dedicated site like VHL.

      Some classes offer an online-only option, but that tends to be rare. The only teacher I know for sure does online-only is handicapped two different ways, and online means he doesn’t have to use up spoons leaving his house and going to the campus. (Where parking sucks.)

      Even the classes that do all classes in person because the subject matter requires it do all the assignments and whatnot through Canvas -the only things I’ve seen handed in in-person are attendance sheets, midterms, and finals.

      The teachers like hybrid for their convenience -most don’t see a difference between lecturing in person and showing stuff on a projector screen, and lecturing on Zoom and using screen share. A lot of them record their in-person classes and post them to Canvas anyway.

      I’m a nontraditional student, and having the more flexible schedules as I made my way through college was very helpful. I also know some students Zoom in from before work at their work location. (And in one case during, because that student’s supervisor messed up their scheduling.)

    6. Grad TA*

      I also found this surprising. I would rank the modes of teaching as follows:
      1. In person
      2. Fully remote (zoom)
      3. Asynchronous online
      4. Hybrid (some in-person, some on zoom)

      Hybrid seems to just be the worst of all worlds.

  12. CTA*

    For #2

    I don’t think your requirements are unusual. They’re just requirements for your particular job. It’s good that you’re making these requirements available upfront now. Sometimes people don’t think your reasonable requirements are reasonable.

    I once worked at a research library and they hired contractors for cataloging work. The contractors were working directly in the book stacks. All books (regardless of how old or new they are) are treated the same with regard to preservation. One contractor was let go because she wasn’t performing well and one of the things she complained about on Glassdoor was that we didn’t allow her to bring coffee to the stacks. You would think “no coffee in the book stacks” would be an understandable requirement.

    1. The Eye of Argon*

      Ugh. A friend used to work at Barnes and Noble and the beverages were the bane of their existence – spilled on books, magazines, furniture, the floors, half empty cups and cans left on shelves right where some unsuspecting shopper was bound to knock in all over, the angry customers who were assaulted by the dregs of someone’s mocha caramel whatever and got all wet and sticky and their clothes stained…

  13. Lily Rowan*

    The details in #2 are so interesting! I love learning more about people’s specific work.

    And I often rub nail polish off on (regular) papers in my office job, so I would not be right for your field!

  14. Kayem*

    Speaking as someone who is an archivist and worked in an archive with delicate historical documents, I am all too familiar with handling requirements and how problematic cotton gloves can be. The archive I last worked in had a box of disposable white cotton gloves. We were supposed to use them whenever there was any chance a visitor, board member, or VIP showed up. We had to use them at all the special events as well. Everyone hated them because they made handling the documents more difficult, especially anything made with cheap pulp from the 1800s, which is what I usually was handling.

    Mostly we used bare (washed) hands, switching to nitrile gloves if needed because that meant we could properly handle the documents. But the whole pop culture image of archive and museum workers is so thoroughly embedded, that’s what people expect to see. So if we didn’t wear the accursed white cotton gloves and the wrong person saw us without them? Everyone got in trouble for that.

    Some of my coworkers bought more expensive fitted cotton gloves to wear out on the floor so they could handle documents better, but as the LW said, if they don’t get washed, then cross contamination can occur. Washing daily is fine when someone is handling similar documents, but we all had to handle multiple collections and they all had issues where possible contamination was a concern.

    I was especially aware of this because of the collections I was assigned to, one was especially problematic. It was a mix of documents, pulp pamphlets, photos, negatives, and film, ranging from 1700s to 1970s. The older pulp crumbled like crazy and would catch on the fibers of even the best cotton gloves, which meant taking them off to handle anything else. Part of the collection included disintegrating nitrate film, which was a whole other issue. Then there was the part of the collection that had been affected by a leak decades ago. That whole section had to be put into separate quarantine areas so it didn’t spread to the unaffected documents in the collection. Some were so badly damaged, pages were glued together and could not be recovered. All we could do was scan as much as we could and dispose of the original for the safety of the collection. Any time I handled that part, which was multiple times a day as I was working on conserving the remainder, I had to dispose of my nitrile gloves or wash my hands before touching anything else. I couldn’t even touch the doorknobs to leave the vault. If I was going gloveless (cheaper to wash hands than toss dozens of pairs of gloves every day) I usually had to yell at someone to come open the door for me.

    Best job ever, I really do miss it a lot.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Archives assistant here: We have white gloves but pretty much never wear them, and our director backs us up on this. If people ask we just say that practices have changed and that washed bare hands are less damaging. (Our gloves get washed regularly. I make sure of that because . . . ew, gross.) But, yeah–crumbling paper + clumsy gloves = big mess. People end up doing far more damage just trying to grasp it through fumbly cotton than they would if they were using fingertips.

      1. Kayem*

        I know for us, a lot of the show over the white gloves was tied to funding issues. We had a few grants, but our budget largely came from private donations. A lot of the bigger donors treated the archive as their personal museum and had specific expectations. And since admin was too afraid of losing money, they gave in to a lot of donor whims.

      2. JustaTech*

        Just after high school I got a job in the preservation department of Very Old University, where their main library was undergoing a major renovation, so everything (*everything*) in the library had to be moved, often several times.

        My job was (mostly) to go down into the stacks and find everything that wasn’t hard-bound (or was small) and carefully sandwich it with acid-free cardboard and tuck it into an acid-free envelope, and then write the title, author and catalog number on the envelop with a wooden pencil (no mechanical pencils, they’re too sharp).
        Since everything was in the stacks already nothing was terribly delicate so there weren’t any rules about gloves or handwashing.

        The only time I was concerned was the day some grad students came down to the preservation office about a bit of paper they’d found in a book. It was a letter dated 1860-something, and just a single sheet, but at the bottom the signature said Henry David ____ (because the bottom sixth of the page had been ripped off).
        So I’m all of 17 sitting there holding a letter from Henry David Thoreau in my bare hands and lightly freaking out until my boss came over and rescued me.

  15. What Angelica Said*

    I had an internship at one of the top textile museums in the world and we definitely did the frequently-washed, bare hands routine. But we were warned against posting any pictures of ungloved hands online because of public misperception. Nobody wanted to deal with that kind of public relations debacle!

    1. JustaTech*

      There’s a YouTuber who does historical costume (Abby Cox) who explains why she doesn’t wear gloves every single time she gets a new piece of historical clothing for her personal collection. It’s surprising how many people who’ve never worked in museums or archives think that the gloves are mandatory.

  16. Computer-Man*

    #4 – I missed that the first time around, but I can’t think of anything I’d hate more than to maintain or fix a project that someone allowed an inexperienced college student to implement and then leave behind.

    Even something simple is going to turn into a world of hurt down the line when someone needs to do something with it, and has absolutely no clue or documentation of how it works because the college kid didn’t include it and is unreachable.

    1. Candi*

      Thank you! Those were some of my objections! This is my story.

      Part of the documentation problem may not even be with the students. With the second project I was on, we gave all kinds of documentation to the business owner -but they seemed to constantly misplace it or be unable to find it. These were electronic files and documentation of various types, too.

      In my first project, most of us hadn’t been through the html/etc. class, and a slightly smaller number had never worked on a website for fun or profit. This led to a lot of people using various sites where you can build a webpage/site with the tools there -and the burden of handling the account gets left on the business owner afterwards.

  17. Martin Blackwood*

    Somehow, I’ve made it this long without “catching” the cotton gloves stereotype. Theres a few archives social media’s that I follow that regularly post that they’re doing best practices not using gloves. I guess what mystifies me about this stereotype is the cotton part. Surely if you were that concerned about hand oil, or touching rot, you would use nitrile gloves since they aren’t porus? This isn’t the 1800s anymore!

    1. Ceaseless Watcher, Turn Your Gaze Upon This Wretched Thing*

      Related to your username and the archival topic at hand, did you know they’re doing a continuation? The Kickstarter backers blew past the goal within minutes and it’s currently over half a mil, so The Magnus Protocol will be coming next year.

  18. Catabouda*

    I often use my middle aged Karen been working here longer than you’ve been alive and I will make your life hell privilege to speak up for younger coworkers who don’t feel like they can be as direct with a supervisor. It’s surprising how often people want to avoid conflict vs just addressing something head on.

  19. BlueSwimmer*

    #4- Let me just get on my soapbox about this from someone who has frequently been on the other side.

    To all professors who assign graded projects that send students into workplaces as assignments, please reconsider how you handle this. It is not the responsibility of other organizations to teach your students by spending their work hours talking with them, filling out lengthy assessments for you, or otherwise facilitating these experiences. Your “assignments/assessments” take little of your own time or effort but cause someone with a full work schedule to make time to work with your students (with no additional compensation), while their actual duties for their job get pushed off and have to be completed after hours. Instead, develop actual partnerships with other organizations with clear expectations and some benefit to the organization or set up case study type simulations for the students. Under no circumstances should someone not being paid to teach the students be responsible for assessing their work– this is your job and it is not fair to the students or the people who don’t get paid to teach these students at other organizations.

    Okay- rant over!

  20. Oh the audacity*

    Lord, please grant me the audacity of a straight white man with nothing to lose! Sending OP 1 and her sister (and audacious straight white male bestie) all the light and love.

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