coworker anonymously left breath mints on my desk, employer won’t let us drive home if we’re sick, and more

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. A coworker anonymously left breath mints on my desk

I work at a small and generally friendly office. When I came into work this morning, someone had left a small box of Tic Tacs on my desk. We have a culture where people will frequently leave candy or other small gifts at people’s offices, but when I glanced at other people’s desks, no one else had Tic Tacs (and it would be a strange gift for people, anyway!).

I am usually the first or second person into the office and the second to last to leave for the day, so I have a good idea of who it may have been. I have a good relationship with those people and I’m sure if either of them left it, it was intended as a gentle way to encourage me to use Tic Tacs or something similar. I can’t be certain of who it was.

It feels incredibly painful, however. I am on medication that causes dry mouth and low appetite (both of which can cause bad breath). I am also in recovery from a severe mental health episode where frankly I let my personal hygiene slip on some days. My boss is aware of my health issue and I have FML paperwork documenting it. My coworkers are aware as I’ve had to leave the office for doctor’s appointments weekly for the past six months but I have not talked about the specific reason for them.

I would obviously prefer that whoever left this had continued to ignore the issue but, at the end of the day, would have wanted them to bring it up with me in person rather than handle it this way. Do I bring this up with my boss? Do I ask around the office to see who may have left them? Do I ignore it and bring a travel toothbrush to work?

I’m sorry — that has to really feel crappy.

This kind of anonymous thing is just so mean, whatever form it takes — anonymous notes, anonymous gifts of soap or breath mints, etc. It’s such a cowardly thing to do. People who do it may think that it’s conveying useful information, but it’s a horrible way to receive the message … and it leaves the recipient having to wonder who’s behind it, whether it’s multiple people, if they were talked about, and a bunch of other really awful things. If someone is concerned enough that they want to deliver this message, they should have the decency to talk in person. And yes, that’s hard to do, so I understand the impulse to look for another option … but this method is cruel. And avoiding cruelty should trump the desire to avoid discomfort.

As for what to do … If your coworkers are otherwise being friendly and collegial with you, it’s not really in the category of things you need to escalate to your boss. And I don’t know that there’s anything to be gained by asking around the office about it. Whoever did it presumably did it this way precisely to preserve their anonymity, so they’re probably not going to fess up when you ask, and by asking around, you end up bringing more people into it.

On the other hand, if you’re comfortable with being pretty public about the situation, you could just talk to people about it matter-of-factly and say something like, “I wanted to mention that I’m on medication that’s giving me dry mouth. I’m trying to keep it from impacting my breath, but in case it does, please know I’m aware of it and trying to keep it under control.” I don’t think you really have any obligation to say that, but it might give you some peace of mind. (It also has the side benefit of probably making the anonymous-Tic-Tac-leaver feel guilty.)

And yeah, a travel toothbrush, some gum, some mints … any of that will probably help. Sorry you’re dealing with this.


Read an update to this letter here.

2. I’ve found my jobs by offering finder’s fees to acquaintances

I’ve found my best jobs through offering “finder’s fees” of $1,000-$2,000 to acquaintances who put my resume in the hands of a hiring manager and get me a job. It has also made the job search process very quick!

However, are these inducements ethically dubious, and does one risk looking desperate or, well, sleazy, by offering them?

To me, it would look desperate to the point of being a turn-off, because it feels like you’re saying you don’t trust your skills and experience to speak for themselves. I suppose it’s possible that there’s some industry out there where this won’t read that way, but I’d feel pretty icky about being on the receiving end of that request.

And really, if I think you’re a good candidate, I’m going to connect you regardless — I don’t need to be paid to do it. And if I don’t think you’re strong enough to connect, the offer of money isn’t going to change that. I suppose the argument is that it gets people thinking more about who they could connect you with than they’d otherwise do … but it still feels pretty off.

And if I were the hiring manager who was connected with you that way, I’d feel icky about that too.

I’m hesitant to tell you to stop doing something that’s working for you, but it’s worth considering if you might be changing the way people perceive you in the process.


3. I accidentally sent an email mentioning sex to my girlfriend’s work email account

I recently sent an email to my girlfriend that mentioned sex. No pictures, no descriptions. My exact phrase was “about as much as I hate having sex with you,” which meant not at all. She did not reply, nor make any comments that warrant such a remark.

I thought this was to her personal email but realized, after had already pressed Send, that it was to her work email.

She works for a huge company, and her job requires her to send about a hundred emails out a day.

What are the chances they flag this? Gets brought to management attention? Could she get in trouble for something I did?

It is highly, highly unlikely that this will be flagged or that anyone will get in trouble for it. It is Quite Minor as far as inappropriate use of work email goes.

The worst case scenario, which is really unlikely to happen, is that your girlfriend would get a heads-up to stop using work email for personal messages … but again, even that is extremely unlikely to happen. If she’s really worried about it, she could reply with something like, “Please do not email me at my work address,” so that if anyone did happen to look, it would already be on the record that she’s already taken care of it … but really, that’s not even necessary; it’s more of a peace of mind measure.

You should probably take her work email address out of your email program’s auto-fill though, since there are all kinds of possibilities for inappropriate emails to be mistakenly addressed otherwise. And that advice goes for any other mildly risqué emailers out there too!


4. Employer won’t let us drive home if we’re sick

I work in Iowa. My place of employment is now telling us that if we leave work early for being sick, we are not allowed to drive home. They will either provide us a ride or have us set up a ride and leave our vehicle at work to be picked up at a later time. Once I’m off the clock, can they really force me not to drive home and leave my vehicle at work?

Probably. You’d need to take to a lawyer to see if there’s anything in your state law that would prohibit it, but federal law doesn’t prevent this kind of overreach by an employer.

Law aside, it’s an incredibly obnoxious policy; most people who are sick are perfectly capable of driving themselves home. It’s clearly designed to keep people from leaving during the work day, even if they’re legitimately ill. I’d ask them to explain to you the rationale for the policy, and consider pushing back with a group of others so that your objection has strength in numbers behind it.

This kind of overreach is a recipe for annoyed employees who aren’t as inclined to go above and beyond at work. (And if it’s accompanied by similar overreaching policies, it’s the sort of thing that often eventually inspires people to unionize). Your employer is being pretty short-sighted.


{ 150 comments… read them below }

  1. AnonyChick*

    I always wondered, regarding the company that wouldn’t let sick employees drive home, if they also offered to pay for any necessary transportation related to their employees’ illnesses, such as doctors’ appointments, pharmacy runs, etc, since the employees wouldn’t have a car available to drive to those places…and if not, what they thought a reasonable solution to that might be.

    1. Jackalope*

      Yeah, there are so many reasons why as a sick person you might need your car even if as a healthy person you might walk/bike/etc. And what if you’re out for a few days; do they really think you should just get by without a car they whole time? Are they going to provide a ride for you to come back in the office your first day back since you can’t drive in without your car?

          1. Jill*

            How much do people really leave sick? I have been in the workforce 35 years and can only remember 4 times I left early for being ill. Four times in 35 years!

            1. Lenora Rose*

              Probably most people end up doing it more than 4 times in 35 years, but not nearly so often it should be a serious concern. You can be too sick to stay without being too sick to drive.

              And if you are/ your employee is ARE too sick to drive, you can usually tell that as a personal judgement call without your workplace requiring it.

              My husband once had a VERY bad reaction to a new medication and was not safe to drive. I think it they hadn’t had another option they would have sent him home in a taxi and left us to figure out how to pick up kids without a car and car seats, but instead, hubby was sent to lie down. His immediate supervisor drove to our house to pick me up (I was a stay at home mom at the time and this was fortunately one of our 2/3x a week day care days), drove me to his workplace, and I drove him home. The overall company he was in was a horrible toxic place but his immediate supervisor was a gem, and not just because of that one extreme above and beyond.

            2. WillowSunstar*

              Once or twice in my entire work history did I leave sick. That was literally over a decade ago and I was temping, so did not have any vacation or sick time.

              Sometimes when you get a flu bug, the symptoms aren’t that bad in the morning so you might think it was allergies or a cold. But then if they get worse later in the day, and you realize you won’t be able to work if you have to be in the bathroom constantly. This was of course back in the day when most bosses strongly encouraged presenteeism.

            3. Andy*

              It happened to me once. But to be fair, I was not in state to drive and left by public transport (that is how I came in too).

      1. Totally Minnie*

        Yeah, my pharmacy is only a mile from my house and it’s walkable when I’m well, but if I’m sick that’s not an option, I need my car.

    2. KateM*

      I wonder what “to be picked up at a later time” means. It doesn’t sound like employer expects the car to sit there all those three days that the employee is out sick.

      1. Fishsticks*

        Right? How is it any better to have the employee driven home, only for them to have to COME BACK to pick up the car? That just turns on trip home into three – one home, one back, one home again.

      2. sundae funday*

        Yeah, my “malicious compliance” brain makes me think… okay, have someone pick me up, drive me out of the parking lot, and then back into the parking lot to get my car….

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I will say I was once stopped from driving home by my boss – she called somebody else to get me because she didn’t like the fact I was having trouble standing up or walking a straight line (migraines are the worst). But in addition to calling and getting me a ride home, she also helped make arrangements for my car to follow me home (so I wasn’t without transportation).

      Point I’m sleepily trying to make is sometimes you are just too sick to be safe to drive, and I think stopping an unsafe driving situation is a Very Good Thing, but consideration for the vehicle and not leaving the person stranded is also vitally important.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Same. Hubby had a funny turn at work (related to brain lesions from his cancer which later resulted in actual seizures, but his doctors were definitely investigating at this point) and couldn’t drive home. I mean, that’s the kind of situation where it would have been dangerous to drive anyway, whatever the circumstances surrounding the return of the car. In his case the boss/Mrs Boss were able to drive the car back to us, but it is a tricky situation because most employers would feel that’s the employee’s lookout.

        From experience of my miniscule driving experience in this country, the insurance follows the car rather than the person, so they weren’t insured to be driving the vehicle. They did it anyway — they were one of those small companies who behaved like a loving family, and they showed their love over and over while hubby was ill and organised/paid for his wake. But a more distant and detached boss, even a good one in other respects, probably wouldn’t have done that.

        To be quite honest, though, the times I’ve gone home sick are the times that honestly I should just have stayed put. They’ve generally involved migraines and I can’t see driving with a migraine being possible, and certainly as a non-driver being jolted about on the train home has been worse than just being allowed to ride it out in a quiet room. (To the tune of a £50 cleaning fee when I took a taxi to get home before I was actually sick and didn’t time it right at all.)

        There aren’t any easy answers here when someone is unfit to drive or it would be illegal or dangerous to do so even just to return a car. I can see this policy being a good thing but not thought through properly with the implications of it, but tbh I can’t think of a situation where I’d actively go home early would make driving myself actually safer than taking the opportunity.

      2. AnonyChick*

        Oh, absolutely! I meant more that I feel like situations in which a boss is reasonably worried about their employee driving are both rare enough and concerning enough that I would expect said boss to also be like “and don’t worry about your car; we’ll figure out how to get it back to you ASAP!” Whereas if it’s not only just a policy, but one likely designed to prevent people from taking sick time, I can easily imagine bosses not being particularly invested in making sure their employee’s car gets back to them before they return to work.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Honestly, it’s probably much more common than you’d think — an illness preventing you from working is more often than not probably preventing you from focusing on the road. The times I’ve come home from work due to being sick were the times when I could barely travel on a train, let alone drive. The worst time was when I only needed a break but my supervisor sent me home instead (and had issues of her own that meant I couldn’t explain that I only needed a break). I thought I could get home but ended up being shaken about enough on the train that the migraine got worse and I went on to throw up in the taxi on the last leg of the journey. I’d have been better just having a quiet sit- or lie-down in the quiet room than going anywhere.

          To be frank, I think it’s much more likely that if you’re actively going home early, driving yourself would be a bad idea. The company is ham-fisted for forcing the issue, but the logistics for you are your own responsibility after that. I was responsible for the £50 fine for being sick in the taxi; the equivalent here is finding and/or paying someone to sort the car out or getting a ride back to the office.

        2. Sally*

          There are so many ways to make that work when it’s necessary, but what’s not necessary is to have a blanket policy about it.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Yes, and it’s so easy to come up with that policy!

            Dear employees,
            We are concerned about the possibility of you needing to leave work early because you are ill, but that you may not be in a condition that’s safe for you to drive home. If that is your situation, please know that ACME Corp. will pay for you to get a car ride home (taxi, Uber, Lyft, etc.) as well as a ride for you or a person of your choosing to come pick up your car from the employee lot when it’s convenient for you/them. If you have a company credit card, you may charge this expense to your card. If you do not, or if someone else without one is taking the ride service to pick up your car, please submit the reimbursement request through [insert instructions here].

            Easy peasy, if that was actually their concern rather than deterring people from taking off when sick.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              This is just about perfect I think. And it makes sense to have an idea of how you will handle things even you don’t have a fully written out policy.

      3. I should really pick a name*

        Definitely true, but this isn’t a situation where a blanket rule for all illnesses makes sense.

      4. doreen*

        I’ve seen that happen- someone is ill or injured in a way where it doesn’t seem safe for them to leave on their own and arrangements are made for them to get driven home and get their car home, if that’s an issue. The thing is- it wasn’t a policy. It didn’t happen often enough to need a policy , which is why a policy that prevents an employee from driving when they go home sick, no matter what the nature of the illness seems like it’s meant to discourage them from going home.

      5. NotRealAnonforThis*

        I did have a boss like this one time, it wasn’t a policy, but he wasn’t going to put an employee who felt awful into further harms’ way by driving if it was questionable. Heck, I did take him up on the offer once – a coworker drove me and my car home, with another following to pick up the coworker. Because I felt that horrible. It certainly was not company policy, it was his “be a good human” policy. I would not be shocked to hear that the following coworker was either reimbursed or otherwise provided monetary compensation for the trip, even if it was out of the boss’s pocket.

      6. ThatGirl*

        About 5 years ago my husband’s then-boss drove him home because he’d been suddenly struck with a migraine and was throwing up a lot. But she also picked him up and took him back to work the next morning, because she didn’t live that far from us and obviously knew his car was still at work.

        And if for some reason he was in that state but nobody could have brought him home, I would have done it — she just decided on her own.

    4. Lacey*

      Yeah, I’ve rarely been so sick that I couldn’t drive and usually even if I’m too sick to work I’m going to be popping over to the store to grab some medicine & other supplies.

      This was especially true pre-pandemic when there weren’t as many options for getting things delivered.

    5. Season of Joy (TM)*

      This is particularly poignant in Iowa (where the LW works), where almost no cities/neighborhoods could be considered walkable, and public transportation, taxis, and Uber/Lyft is hit or miss in larger cities and completely non-existent in most of the state. That was true in 2015 and nothing has changed…

      1. Random Bystander*

        Agreed–I live in southern IL, and while I live in a county seat (and therefore am “in town”), the rest of the county consists of towns of populations around 200-800, and lots of farm land. Back when we were in the office, I had a number of co-workers who had commutes of 30+ minutes each way.

        That’s not to mention that there are few conditions that really render a sufferer unsafe to drive. I mean, when I had strep throat, I drove myself to urgent care and to the pharmacy to get my z-pack and then back home, never felt like it was necessary to drag someone else into driving me around for that.

    6. lilsheba*

      I also wonder if this is offered to people who DON’T drive, and could really use the ride? Or are they left to fend for themselves?

  2. Flabber Ghasted*

    Re #2, just wondering how exactly does that differ morally from a recruitment agency passing the CV to the hiring manager? Except of course the company paying the $$…

    1. Emmy Noether*

      This, or referral programs by a company. Which are exactly the same thing from the other side, and no-one thinks companies with referral programs are desperate or sleazy.

      The only difference is that what LW is doing is unusual, which is why it could read as desperate (“why do you need to do something the other candidates don’t?”). I don’t see how it would be morally wrong, though.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        That situation gets more interesting if there’s a referral program at the company, as well as the ‘fee’ OP is paying. In relation to Alison’s remark that the hiring manager might find it a bit off – I don’t think the hiring managers are finding out…

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I think the difference is that the company isn’t trying to find a specific person – they are paying the agency to do the work of finding people that the company would do anyways, but probably slower and not as well. OP seems to be circumventing the normal hiring process by essentially fast-tracking their application to the hiring manager, no resume scanning involved. That to me sounds like they might be skipping their resume over people who otherwise would be better qualified, not on the strength of a friend recommending their skills, but based on what feels a lot like bribery.

      It feels unethical to me. Can’t pin down the precise reasons but my gut doesn’t like it.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Then that’s kind of on the company that they’re skipping over more qualified candidates. Paying the hiring manager would be unethical, yes, but just paying an acquaintance that works there to refer, in the way they’d do if there was a company referral program… I don’t see why a company would get to do this, but the candidate not.

      2. BatManDan*

        I am well-connected locally, and get approached pretty consistently by folks looking for work, both white-collar, six-figure jobs, and more pedestrian positions. Since I do some coaching and consulting, I know what my time is worth, and I can’t put the level of focus that a job-seeker would need on that task without taking time away from something else. So, for one person, I charged $6500 (we agreed that was good number, since I’d be likely to shorten his job search by at least a few weeks, and his target salary was over $10,000/month). For another, we agreed on 10% of first year’s salary, for pretty much the same reasons, and that should be about the same amount. No one in my circle thinks it’s weird or unethical, even the folks I referred the candidates to for hiring, since they know that 1) I get paid to connect folks, and 2) my time has value.

        1. Elassandra*

          But you do coaching and consulting, you’re not literally fast-tracking someone’s application to a hiring manager. I would say that seems different than what OP #2 was doing.

      3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        I would see it similar to hiring a realtor to find a house for me, especially if moving to a different industry or location. A professional (or well-seasoned acquaintance in the target industry/region) may have a much better understanding of the market. If this is all above-board and transparent, I’d have no issue with it from both sides.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      I’m not involved in hiring so might not have the full picture here, but I’d see it as a little different since the hiring manager knows the recruitment agency is being paid to do their job whereas they do not know the acquaintance is. I don’t think I’d see it as morally wrong but I do think that if I were the hiring manager and found out the person had been paid, I’d feel I…didn’t have the full picture.

      1. I need a new name...*

        Yes, I do think the transparency is the key piece here.

        If an acquaintance is recommending you for a job, Hiring Manager is likely going to assume a level of personal/professional recommendation of your skills. Because that’s the norm of that practice.

        The Acquaintance is now paid then that recommendation has a big question mark over it. Now the HM (yes, I understand the HM likely doesn’t know) has to wonder if the recommendation of skills has been paid for entirely. And it might have been! Which means money has changed hands in order to deceive someone, which would be shady.

        And this is a hypothetical and might not be happening this way. If OP has easily recommendable skills and is a real gem to work with then no one’s been hurt or deceived. But it does then beg the question, why is OP having to offer money to get strongly recommended?

    4. I should really pick a name*

      I don’t think it’s a moral issue, but to me, it seems very strange that you’d need to pay an acquaintance to hand in your resume. Why wouldn’t they do it for free?

      1. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Totally agree with this. It doesn’t really trigger my moral concern because the person being paid isn’t the ultimate decision maker, so in the end the candidate has to stand on their own merits to actually get a job.

        But it does read to me as incredibly strange, and if I did somehow know a candidate had paid for a referral indeed my first thought would be, “This candidate must assume there are people who would not pass his resume on if he just asked about opportunities, but didn’t pay them. Why?” And while hiring managers probably won’t find out the referee was paid, the referees could someday be hiring managers who may be harboring that same question when it comes time to fill their own positions.

      2. Kes*

        Yeah, this is what I what I was thinking – networking by asking people you know to pass along your resume to any jobs that would be a good fit is pretty normal and you shouldn’t need to pay them to do so. I might take them out for lunch afterwards to say thanks, but it’s also to their benefit for their company to be staffed and for them to have a good coworker, provided they think you’d be good. Because of this, it makes it look more like you’re trying to bribe them to pass along your resume when they wouldn’t otherwise.
        And I don’t think this is like paying a recruiter because in that case they’re being paid to do the work of sorting through either jobs or candidates for whoever’s paying.

      3. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. If I get a bonus from a hire I might offer to give some to the person but I otherwise only refer people I truly care about. It’s my professional rep on the line if they screw up.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is why it seems odd to me. I have no problem referring people I know that are qualified for positions at my organization (for free). If they get the job, great! (I no longer qualify for our internal referral bonuses due to my position – rightly so, in my opinion.) If it’s someone I know well, they may ask to take me for lunch or drinks to say thank you; if it’s someone I only know professionally, I may just get a thank-you email.

        I’m not risking my professional reputation referring people I don’t know for money. Not that $1-2K is a small sum, but it’s not substantial enough to take the hit of recommending someone whose work I don’t have any familiarity with.

    5. Totally Minnie*

      To me, it’s because I am not a recruitment firm and I’m not interested in monetizing my relationships. I’m happy to help out my professional acquaintances when I can and I’ve recommended several people to my bosses over the years, so to me, being offered a large sum of money to do something I’d happily do for free makes me feel pretty gross. It feels like I’m no longer a person they like and think highly of, I’m a means to an end. I’d definitely be putting space in that relationship if I were on the receiving end of that request, because it’s an indicator that the person doesn’t really know or understand me.

    6. Critical Rolls*

      The recruitment agency is expected to *match* candidates and jobs, as in finding a fit that works for both the candidate and the company. (I am aware that bad agencies don’t do this well, don’t @ me.) What LW describes is trying to bypass as much of the screening process as possible by paying connections. That reads basically as a bribe to disadvantage other job seekers, and I don’t imagine companies would think skipping screening gets them the best candidates. Some people might consider it fine to do that to get a leg up (LW doesn’t owe other candidates or the company anything! goes the argument) but it gives a distinctly unfair advantage to connected candidates with cash to spend. Also, personally, monetizing your connections that way feels icky to me on a few levels.

  3. Waving not Drowning*

    Re OP 4 – I did have a co-worker drive home sick who shouldn’t have – I tried to stop him, but he left when I was out of the room organising cover. We were peers, not his manager.

    He was a relatively newly diagnosed diabetic, and things weren’t under control. I’d recognised he was not right (slurring words, and generally a bit incoherent) so I’d suggested he check his blood sugars. I can’t remember what they were, it was several years ago, but they were VERY HIGH.

    I asked my manager afterwards if we had a duty of care, and while I felt morally yes (if he had an accident and killed someone, I’d be absolutely devastated I didn’t do enough to stop him), from a workplace point of view we didn’t as he was an adult, making adult decisions.

    I did tell him when he returned to work a few days later, that if he ever did that again, I would call his wife, then the police. He did admit that his doctor read him the riot act for driving, and agreed that he wouldn’t do that again. I moved departments not long afterwards, and he left the organisation.

    1. Properlike*

      That’s the kind of thing where you might kindly arrange for a colleague to drive the sick person’s car to their home, and another colleague to bring the driver back to the office.

      That seems quite reasonable, right? If the company is so concerned about safety? Or simply book a round-trip Uber – sick person rides in it home, driver colleague takes it back to the office.

      No way is my company making me leave my car at the office.

      1. Waving not Drowning*

        Yes, I’d even offered to drive his car, and catch a taxi back. Its the only time I’ve ever felt someone was sick and shouldn’t be driving! The rest of my colleagues – they’ll be fine!

      2. AcademiaNut*

        You’d need the sick colleague to give permission to one of their colleagues to drive the car home, and a colleague who is willing to drive their car. I’d be kind of peeved to discover I had suddenly been volunteered to provide taxi service for a coworker.

        If the employee is in a state where they can’t safely drive, you can ask them how they want to get home, given that they can’t drive. Maybe they have someone who can come and pick them up, maybe you send them home in an Uber, maybe are colleagues who volunteer to drop them off. Some places have services that will get you and your car home after a night drinking; that could be an option.

        If the insist on driving, and refuse other solutions, then you need to call the police and report an impaired driver, the same way you would if they were trying to drive drunk.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Not to mention there’s probably insurance etc issues from, essentially, giving someone the work assignment “drive Tom home in your car and drive Tom’s car back to his house”.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I was prevented from driving home once when leaving early sick when I had a migraine (my boss was worried that the migraine spawned vertigo and nausea made me seem very drunk). But they arranged for two of my friends to come and get me so the other could drive my car home for me.

      Once I was feeling better I sent massive thank yous to all three of them.

    3. Anonny*

      As a (type 1) diabetic, in that situation, I would suggest treating the hyperglycaemia as much as possible, by doing correction doses and measuring their blood every hour. Make sure they have plenty to drink, easy access to a toilet, and low-carb snacks if needed (e.g. bits of sausage, cheese, vegetable sticks). If they have a ketone meter and their levels are above 20 mmol/L, get them to do a ketone test as this will inform the correction dose – you use a different formula to calculate correction dose if you have ketones present (above 0.6 mmol/L). If ketones are above 3 mmol/L, it’s probably time to get them to hospital or at least contact their diabetes clinic for guidance. If they have a good diabetes clinic then they should have knowledge of handling moderate ketones by themself.

      A few hours of intense monitoring and they should be fine to drive home, even if they’re not their usual self. If it’s close to home time or it’s not getting better after 3 hours, I’d call their emergency contact.

      Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) has a similar pattern of monitoring and waiting, but you want to provide sugary drinks and something like a sandwich or or other filling starchy snack. After a 1-2 hours they should be fine to drive, but they may develop the appetite of someone who smoked a metric tonne of pot.

      1. TypeFun*

        Also a type 1 diabetic though I’d just say these numbers aren’t gospel and diabetes is different with everyone. Like, some of those numbers seem ridiculous if they were being applied to me. Like maybe an hour for getting a high or a low under control. And a sandwich is way too many carbs for treating a low that I would get a rebound high. Also if you have coworkers who have diabetes please do NOT monitor them!

      2. I should really pick a name*

        I don’t think a random co-worker is qualified to handle treatment, especially to the level of specificity you’re providing.
        This is the kind of thing where you would rely on the advice of the person experiencing the symptoms who probably has a better handle of their own specific needs, or if they’re not capable, a nurse or first aider.

      3. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        As a spouse of a type 1 diabetic, my advice for coworkers would be to let the diabetic person handle their situation by themselves, and if they don’t seem to have enough brain function to do so, call an ambulance.

      4. RussianInTexas*

        I am sorry, I am not a doctor, and utterly not qualified to monitor these things nor help with these things. To a coworker, not even a family member.
        I will help to drive you to ER if needed, I am not providing any actual medical help.

    4. Lacey*

      Yikes. I worked at a place where we had a contractor who was diabetic.
      He came in one day and was talking oddly. Someone quickly realized his blood sugar must be too low.
      He wasn’t an employee, but we didn’t let him leave without getting it back to a decent place. He was not ok to drive.

  4. Joy*

    Those who are inclined to be judgemental towards individuals who feel it might be necessary to offer referral fee to contacts to be able to successful in finding employment, might find themselves in a similar situation, i.e. struggling to get a job when they are older (50+) or become disabled.

    There is definitely discrimination towards disabled and older workers. It is easy to say that their skills etc. should shine through to get them a job. The reality is that they seem to keep hitting a brick wall trying to find a job.

    1. Bit o' Brit*

      Is that a similar situation? The LW doesn’t mention being older or having a disability, nor that they’ve struggled to find employment. It also feels a bit off to assume that becoming disabled, struggling to find employment, and still having thousands of dollars spare to spend on job-hunting is at all likely.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I’m also not sure how this method would help with discrimination in any way since you aren’t paying the people doing the hiring?

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      If an employer is going to discriminate based on age, it’s not going to matter if they are referred by an acquaintance or if they apply through the front door. (I helped my mother job search in her early 60s, and there is a lot of ageism discrimination to contend with. But she also didn’t have money sitting around to get her resume short-listed at $1,000-2,000 a pop – that’s more than a mortgage payment for her.)

      My experience with referrals is that any place with a competent hiring system is still going to require the candidate formally apply and jump through the basic hoops required of all candidates, and those places that are hiring people based on a resume slid to a hiring manager for cash are the same ones that blatantly ignore anti-discrimination laws.

  5. Giant Kitty*

    This was such an odd comment from OP 1s update:
    “so I guess there are people who think of spearmint tic-tacs as candy!”

    Well, yes, because they ARE candy, just like mint lifesavers are candy. Mint is only one of the flavors they offer/have offered, many are fruity.

    1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      Yeah, that cracked me up. Tic Tacs are good office candy because you can talk on the phone with one in your mouth, unlike larger candies that cause “Hewwo, vish ish [sluuurp!] Bodiga, gad I he[sluuurp]lp you? Shusht a momed, bleash.” Poor Monica, caught with a new Werthers in her mouth.

      1. The Eye of Argon*

        Any time I put a hard candy in my mouth, I’m guaranteed to get a phone call. I wound up spitting a lot of almost new candies into the trash until I learned to save the wrapper so I could salvage the situation. (Yes, hard candy is cheap, but no bleeping customer is going to keep my from my Jolly Rancher!)

    2. GythaOgden*

      Yup. I love mixing them — mint and the rather artificial fruit flavour go surprisingly well together.

      Just don’t remind me of the Tic-Tac incident when I was a kid. It was 31 years ago, happened at Christmas, and I’m still ashamed.

    3. Lady_Lessa*

      I’m another who thought that they were just candy.

      Now if the person had left Trident chewing gum, that might be different.

        1. Beany*

          Ditto. It never occurred to me that people would seriously think of them as breath mints — or at least, as a serious breath freshening product — because the candy-shell to mint ratio is so off. (Actually thinking of biting a Tic Tac makes me anxious because they’re so hard.)

          1. ThatGirl*

            Not that I want to get into a long argument over this, but they were 100% marketed as a breath mint in the 80s, at least. (They were also marketed as a low-cal candy which is kind of sad, but a whole different discussion.)

            1. Giant Kitty*

              They were originally advertised in the 1970s with “Put a Tic Tac in your mouth and get a *bang* out of life, it’s a clean fresh explosion of mint” but orange was also an original flavor.

            2. NerdyLibraryClerk*

              Huh. I was a kid in the 80s, and TicTacs were super popular among my friend group – as candy. Perhaps they were marketed as candy where kids were likely to see the ads and as breath mints where adults were more likely to see the ads?

              I’ve never thought of them as anything but candy.

    4. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I mean, I eat them like candy, but they are categorized as breath mints. It’s really not that odd. (If you take the position they’re candy, that’s cool, I’m sure a lot of people do, but it doesn’t change the fact that tic tacs are breath mints.)

      1. Zorak*

        They’re definitely marketed as breath mints. I think the divide is between people who would think of mints in general as a treat, vs people (me included) who don’t like the flavor for its own sake, just for utility. For me tictacs on the desk would be the same category as altoids on the desk. (This does not include the grey area of those orange ones!)

      2. Giant Kitty*

        The two original flavors were mint and ORANGE. Orange is not a “breath freshener”. Neither is lime, cherry, berry, mandarin, tangerine, strawberry, pink grapefruit, passion fruit, grape, pomegranate, popcorn, or Coca Cola, all of which are or have been Tic Tac flavors.

        They are a small candy that comes in either mint, fruit, or novelty flavors, not “breath mints”.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      I definitely eat Tic Tacs like candy. Not spearmint because I loathe spearmint, but any of the other flavors.

        1. Kit*

          Yeah, orange Tic Tacs are socially-acceptable candy, even if you scarf down the whole box so fast your tongue and teeth turn day-glo.

          Okay, maybe not as an adult, but… it’s still tempting!

  6. HufferWare*

    The third letter is so charmingly quaint at this point in the Zoom era. I don’t know what level of depravity you’d have to engage in on work channels these days to raise an eyebrow!

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      I actually find a lot of older letters charmingly quaint these days—working from home, office candy dishes, childcare, personal boundaries, etc. Just so much about how work “has to be” has been tossed out the window in the past few years.

    2. Smithy*

      With zero desire to be condescending – it really does read as adorable now.

      In the early 2010’s, I also totally understand this as a far more reasonable question. I had one job around then that had us sign an incredibly restrictive internet usage policy – where even though we “knew” we weren’t truly be monitored that aggressively, the fact that they wanted it on paper that they were made it rather miserable overall.

  7. FashionablyEvil*

    The update to the tic tac letter also includes the update to the bird phobia letter which, omg, is a classic. I hope Jack eventually got help.

    1. Generic+Name*

      I just went down that rabbit hole again. Yikes. I hope when Jack said he “took a break from therapy” he meant he used that break to find a different therapist who could more effectively help him with his phobia.

    2. tangerineRose*

      I’d have expected it would be a big wake up call to him to realize that he seriously injured (and could have killed) a co-worker. I also keep trying to picture how he would feel that he had to push her like that. He couldn’t have run away, gone into the fetal position, hid behind her?

      I’m frustrated that he gave up therapy. He sounds like a danger to others.

  8. Becky S*

    RE: #1 – decades ago a mouthwash company ran a campaign where you could send their product anonymously to anyone. (“send ***** to a friend”) Imagine. It was pulled pretty quickly after comedians had a field day (week?) with it.

  9. ManyHats*

    LW4: Something about this makes me think they’re trying to make sure folks are “really” sick. Yuck.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This was my fault – likely a gross over-reaction to an isolated event that created a draconian rule for everyone. That’s how my old HR head ran things, and it was insane.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          My *thought*, not my fault. (I’m not aware of anything I did to cause one of old HR’s massive overreactions, but who knows? That one was unhinged.)

  10. Dust Bunny*

    LW 4: I assume that if these were company vehicles the LW would have said so, but are they? Has the company gotten gun-shy about insurance claims or something?

  11. Dust Bunny*

    Re: Email.

    Where I work, I assume that IT or somebody *can* see my emails but nobody actually does. I guess they might if something illegal happened on company time, but so far that hasn’t happened and to the best of my knowledge nobody has ever had their email read by anyone else. So I guess someone else at your girlfriend’s job might see it but I suspect the odds are pretty long.

    1. GrownUps*

      I am mindful of what I type in emails and chat because IT could see it…but out of 900 people and I’m low on the totem pole, and they’re quite busy handling real issues like “I can’t print!” and “I’m locked out of my computer!” that I think they have no desire and no time for reading my emails and chat unless I was flagged due to serious performance issues or similar.

      Use code words instead. “Netflix and chill” for example. Many years ago, I could not access my personal email at work so my husband either had to call or email me at work. “Wanna watch a movie tonight?” became our code word for “after the kids are in bed, you wanna get it on?”

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      All of our IT people can see everyone’s email at all times, they simply aren’t doing daily monitoring or keyword pings. As a manager, I can submit requests for email pulls/searches in other people’s mailboxes, but there are multiple approval gates for that.

      What they really care about are phishing and ransomware attacks, which are nearly always let in by an end-user. The do not care about someone using the word “sex” in an email.

      I also spent years prepping corporate email for litigation discovery review, and the bar on what people have to put in email to shock me is somewhere in the stratosphere. Flirty talk between significant others is banal, and it’s disappointing how many people feel comfortable sending racist and sexist jokes to each other. At this point, if I do not have to alert authorities to the content of your inbox and you’re not conspiring to do illegal things, very, very few people really care.

  12. ThisIshRightHere*

    For #1, idk I’m pretty skeptical that people would truly prefer people to come to them in person and say “hey look Jane, just so you know, your breath has been pretty bad the past week or so. Please see what you can do to take care of it,” and just skip off. I think the reaction to that would have been just as bad as the anonymous tic tac thing. Especially in the case of this LW who admits that they: (1) are aware of their bad breath but expect others to “ignore the issue” and (2) have let their hygiene slip to the extent that they need external reminders about it.

    1. nikkole82*

      I would die if I were on either end- the breath mint person or the bad breath person. If my breath stinks, please don’t say anything to me in person. That’s so embarrassing. at least with the anonymous mints I don’t have to face anyone in my shame.

      I feel sorry for anyone doing so poorly that their hygiene slips to the point where it’s noticeable by others and they need reminders, but I cannot tolerate bad body odor at all. It makes me very ill. I would quit my job if I had a coworker that smelled bad on a regular basis.

    2. I am Emily's failing memory*

      Nah, there’s still a difference between “humiliated by Specific Coworker” and “omg humiliated and don’t even know who it was.” Yes, it’s humiliating either way, but it’s the lesser evil to at least know who your accuser is and have the opportunity to respond and explain yourself, than to carry on forever wondering who it was, if it was multiple someones, are people talking behind your back, etc.

    3. Beany*

      There’s no good/nice way of getting this information, but if I had to choose, I’d like it to be a friend who pulled me aside unobtrusively, or let me know casually over coffee or something.

    4. Adds*

      I heard someone once say “if someone ever offers you a mint or gum, just take it.” To mean that they are very subtly trying to alert you that you may need it.

      And to this day if someone offers a mint or gum to me I will actually ask “are you offering because you are getting one for yourself and don’t want to be rude or do I need one? Because if I need one, I’ll take it but if you’re just offering to be nice I’ll pass, but thank you for offering,” assuming, of course, I don’t want the gum they’re offering.

      Also, I thought Tic Tacs were candy growing up. Especially the orange ones, which are a little weird tasting but strangely good.

  13. AA Baby Boomer*

    Employer won’t let us drive home if we’re sick

    This decision is opening the employer up to liabilities. If someone is sick, they may need their car to go the doctor, pick up meds. Also, if they are single they may not have someone at home to take them to pick up their car. Sounds a bit controlling in many aspects. I’ll never forget having a medical procedure where I couldn’t eat after midnight. Mom drove me, had the surgery done, was released and we went to a restaurant on the way home. I was starving, but wasn’t able to drive afterwards. Something was said to me by a faculty member. Not my supervisor. Sometimes you can be sick as a dog, but will stop to pick up meds or to eat something. You do not feel like cooking, etc.

    1. WillowSunstar*

      What if the employee is single and has no friend or significant other to drive them, and literally cannot afford a taxi, Uber, etc.? There are weeks I’ve been negative on my bank account due to mulitple bills going through that week and I’m still single, so have no one to drive me anywhere. Thank goodness COVID happened and a lot of employers have gone to mostly if not all WFH.

    2. jojo*

      If I was leaving work due to being sick and my boss told me I could not drive myself home I would ignore him. Once I am clocked out they cannot give me an order. If they tried to stop me further I would call police on holding me hostage. As an adult plus the owner of my car they have no right. If I am too sick to drive they should call me an ambulance. Chronic conditions such as diabetes, ect… may be another story.

  14. Elassandra*

    #2 feels so gross. Like, it’s a reminder that people who already have resources ($) are more likely to obtain more and better resources (good jobs).

    But another commenter mentioned that this person might need additional help in finding a job (like being disabled in some way) which made me rethink this stance. That is a very good point that sometimes it is difficult to find a job, and some people might need more help than others.

  15. bamcheeks*

    20 years ago when email addresses were just becoming widespread, my mum got her first work email address and used it for everything. She wasn’t a teacher but worked in a school, and everything had to go through a very, *very* tight filter. Me and my brothers COULD NOT manage to send a single email without triggering the filter somehow and getting the email quarantined. We’d think we’d done it, but an “arse over tit” or a “completely bloody ridiculous” or even an “practically in Scunthorpe” would creep in somewhere. Apparently their IT guy got completely used to my mum rocking up with ann apologetic expression and would just go, “Email quarantined is it? What did they write this time..”

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      A number of years ago, we had a surf filter that blocked things like court websites that contained things like “sex” in the name of the county the court served. Some poor paralegal thought he was going to get fired for trying to get contact information for the clerk’s office at the Middlesex County court house based on the block message he got. I think he really thought I was getting some sort of instant notification that he was “accessing porn” in the office.

  16. This is a throwaway acct bc I'm still mortified*

    #1: It could be worse — I once had a stick of deodorant left on my desk for me to find in the morning.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I had a packet of nicotine gum left on mine once. 3 years after I quit smoking.

      Turned out to be from a person who had extreme issues with the smell of incense on my hair but thought it was from smoking. Luckily we managed to actually discuss it in the end.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Weirdly my boss prevented me from driving home segued into a hygiene conversation with another coworker.
      The migraine was spawned by a trio of glade oil plug ins in the adjacent cube. Turned out that the cube was shared by two people and person two was trying to cover up horrible BO being left behind by person one.
      Boss had a conversation reminding person two we were a scent free building; and had a long talk with person one about how hygiene ties into professionalism.

  17. Tesuji*

    #1 – Honestly, this feels like more of a “whose perspective are you using” situation than anything else.

    I could 100% imagine a scenario in which a LW sent in a question about “How do I deal with a coworker with horrible breath?”, and the advice (either from Allison or overwhelmingly in the comments) was that leaving some breath-mints on the person’s desk would be a way to convey the information in the least embarrassing or confrontational way.

    Sure, from the position of the person dealing with the breath issues, they’d prefer that the answer was “Suck it up, pretend that it doesn’t exist and never ever mention it,” which is a completely reasonable position if what we’re looking at it from *their* perspective, but well, that’s not the only perspective out there.

    (I find it kind of funny that, per the update, it turned out that the leaver-of-mints was just trying to do something nice and wasn’t intended to drop hints at all, which is probably a lesson about how we’re rarely the recipient of well-thought-out and complicated messages as we think.)

    #4 – I feel like there has to be some context here we’re missing.

    Like: A manager once told someone to go home because they were sick, they got in an accident along the way and sued the company over it, and HR is overreacting. Or, everyone’s driving company cars, and the rule is part of a “you can only operate this vehicle if you’re not impaired in any way” policy.

    Or, there’s an epidemic going around in which people keep getting sick at 3:00 on a Friday afternoon, and this is their passive-aggressive way of dealing with that.

    (Maybe the OP is younger than I’m assuming. Apparently, assessing whether someone who asks to leave early because of illness is able to drive is a thing that schools do, so maybe that’s the context?)

    It’s possible the context would still make the company come off bad, but it feels like there has to be at least some explanation for such an off-the-wall policy.

  18. Octopus*

    I really want to know what the rationale was for the sick leave not driving letter. Did someone leave not feeling well and then have the heart attack on the way home?

    1. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. It came from somewhere. I

      I also agree that common sense should make the call. Not everyone needs a ride home or is unable to drive safely when ill.

  19. Health and Safety gone mad*

    On letter number 4, reasons might be slightly less malicious but still an overreach. I know my company’s Health and safety team had a long discussion about what our policy should be on sending people home and if we should insist people get a taxi (at our expense) if they left while unwell or after having a fall. There were a lot of interesting hypothetical scenarios dreamt up that got more and more outlandish. It even got to the point where we were discussing if they got a taxi should they be accompanied by another employee just in case they lost consciousness and were kidnapped/assaulted. In the end we decided we’d let the employee judge and call an ambulance if there were any real concerns (not in the USA). Although our workplace is in a large city where everyone uses public transport so leaving their car behind wasn’t really an issue.

    1. Anne Wentworth*

      My mind went to liability for the ride too: wouldn’t the company be opening themselves up to some kind of legal liability for anything bad the driver did to the passenger, or if the taxi crashed etc.? You might call it “outlandish,” but the first time I got in a taxi, the driver was wild and reckless and did not stop at red lights because the streets were mostly empty. I was terrified out of my mind.

  20. Michelle Smith*

    It’s helpful for me to hear the feedback on LW1’s situation, because I abhor confrontation and would much rather someone leave an anonymous message to me than tell me to my face. I found Alison’s response shocking, but I see that my feelings are not the norm. It’s good to know I’m apparently in the extreme minority on that.

    1. Smithy*

      I think the reason why they’re not encouraged is because the messages are simply rarely as clear as the message sender or receiver thinks they are.

      In the mints case, the sender meant them to be a friendly sweet treat and the receiver took them as a sign of bad breath. Now, had the sender switched mints for some Hershey kisses to mean a friendly sweet treat, some recipients might have taken that as romantic gesture …..the opportunities for miscommunication can continue. And this can include the written word, where tone may not come across exactly as intended. Or simply where follow up questions can’t be asked if there’s confusion.

    2. ENTJane*

      Your feelings used to be the norm and still are in many places. And many people would rather receive anonymous mints than have to look a coworker in the eye while they tell them they smell, including me!

    3. Clawdeen Wolf*

      I would MUCH prefer an anonymous note! As long as it’s clear and friendly, anyway. “You stink but we still like you!” maybe.

  21. Keymaster of Gozer*

    3. Speaking as an IT department? Don’t worry. We do have the ability to see everything you say or do on email or internet but it is a major hassle and timesink to do it. We don’t scan accounts randomly and frankly a single email about nookie wouldn’t even flag my radar even if I did find it.

    If it contained dodgy photos, outright gross ones or anything illegal then you’d probably be in serious trouble. But one email? We’ve all made mistakes. Just make sure you don’t do it again and you’re grand.

  22. BellyButton*

    Dry Mouth tip; I take a medication that causes dry mouth and also makes it difficult to eat. AND, I had a massive dental surgery that resulted in not being able to produce enough saliva. It is awful.
    I came across these little tablets you stick inside your cheek and they help you create saliva and have a slightly minty taste and smell. They have been a lifesaver, especially since I moved to the desert, with next to no humidity. The brand I have purchased is by Oracare, they are called Xlimelts. One will last about 2 hours as long as you leave it tucked into your cheek and aren’t tempted to pull it down and suck on it like candy. In the drug store, they were near the denture care items.
    If you suffer from this problem, give them a try! They have really helped me a lot.

    1. Ashen*

      Agreed, xylimelts are the best! I have a heap of other things I already do that are the common list (sipping water all day, changing toothpastes, adjusting medication, etc). I originally tried them because they’re specifically designed so that you can sleep with them in, and that was amazing. But now I don’t even buy other xylitol dry mouth candies because these are by far a better fit for me during the day, too.

      Because you stick the xylimelts to a molar or gums, they last a really long time and I was surprised how easy it is to ignore it. (I am not otherwise good at ignoring mints.) They also come in a flavour-free version, which I always find a good sign for dental products.

  23. Mississippi*


    From the original:
    “I’m sure if either of them left it, it was intended as a gentle way to encourage me to use Tic Tacs or something similar.”

    From the update:
    “my coworker had left them as a ‘treat'”
    “I talked about it at length with my therapist and we both think my reaction is a lot more to do with my own anxiety than reality.”

    Such a great reminder: Believing something doesn’t make it true! Before you project intentions onto another person, remember that you are viewing them through a haze of attribution errors and cognitive biases. In many cases of having a problem with another person, your best course of action is to reframe your beliefs.

  24. ZK*

    Sometimes #4 makes sense. Last time I went home sick, I felt and looked bad enough that several people offered to drive me home. But I lived minutes away, so I drove myself. By the time I got home I was having cold sweats, pain in my jaw, a hard time breathing and just generally felt awful. A call to urgent care informed me that I needed to go to the ER, RIGHT NOW. Yes, I drove myself there too, since it was only a few minutes away. I was having a heart attack.

    But honestly, I feel like that’s an extreme case and most people are fine to drive themselves home when sick.

    1. Anne Wentworth*

      Offering rides as an option makes sense. Mandating leaving your car behind makes no sense at all. The letter is about the latter.

    2. JM60*

      The main problem with letter 4 is that it’s a blanket policy. Such a policy can cause more harm than it prevents. For instance, it can encourage someone who starts to feel sick to just remain at work while sick (and contagious), rather than getting a ride. It could also be that someone’s sick, is still okay to drive, but they need to get home in order to treat their sickness.

  25. birdup*

    if I’m not sick enough to go to the hospital I sincerely wonder how anyone would plan on stopping me from using my own car to return home.

  26. ENTJane*

    Anonymously leaving mints or deodorant to be considered the polite thing to do. Have the standards of professionalism really been so heavily eclipsed by pandering to feelings that an entire workplace is expected to put up with the preventable hygiene issue of one employee, no matter how distracting it might be and no matter how much it might affect productivity? This isn’t that disease that makes your sweat smell like fish. I don’t care what kind of mental health problem someone has; if you smell in the workplace and can afford hygiene products, do something about the odor and don’t subject your coworkers to it.

    1. anonnie*

      Considered polite according to who?? I’m unaware of that as an etiquette recommendation, at least from any manners advisor in the last 50 years.

      Also no one said you’re expected to put up with it. The advice was to talk to the person directly, not to leave anonymous messages.

      1. ENTJane*

        Cultural differences maybe. I’ve been told my whole life that that’s the polite way, although I’ve never personally done it.

        For the putting up with it, I was referring to the LW knowingly being at work preventably/treatably smelly and was offering a public service announcement to anyone else who thinks one person’s mental problem is an excuse for causing multiple others dubiously escapable physical discomfort (and the loss of productivity that might result).

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’m in a culture where overt politeness is the norm and I’d definitely not leave anonymous mints or deodorant on someone’s desk.

      For one thing, it’s cowardly. And for another it can easily be misconstrued! If I found a can of deodorant on my desk I’d assume someone left it there accidentally after going to the gym.

      It’s awkward to have the (private!) conversation of ‘mate, is everything ok? There’s a weird smell coming from your desk’ but it’s way more effective than just leaving stuff on desks. It also allows for the ‘yes I’m aware but there’s not much I can do because illness/medication/etc’ conversation which can lead to a discussion on how to mitigate it.

      And yes, I’ve had the anonymous ‘gift with a message’ on my desk before and it really doesn’t work.

  27. Marna Nightingale*

    I don’t have any strong opinions on the breath mint thing (and I actually really like spearmint TicTacs) but in the spirit of passing on useful knowledge:

    If you have chronically dry mouth, you want to get your dentist involved, and probably get more frequent cleanings and checkups, because it’s a real challenge to your gum health. Which is a challenge to the bone density of your jaw. Which is what holds your teeth in.

    These learnings cost me a perfectly good molar, of which I was fairly fond, so in its memory I share them with the world.

  28. Former Employee*

    I do not think it is fair to ask people to ignore really bad breath in a coworker. On the other hand, I also don’t think it is fair to expect people to have this type of conversation with someone they work with.

    No one mentioned what I think of as the obvious solution, which is to talk to the manager.

    As a coworker, I’m not getting paid to have difficult conversations with a fellow employee. That’s part of the reason why managers are paid a higher salary than the people they manage – they are the ones expected to have the uncomfortable conversations with employees.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I agree with this one. I don’t want to have that conversation, nor should I have to as a peon employee.

  29. another glorious morning*

    I guess I can understand the not driving home if you are sick thing (to a point). I once came down with a horrible stomach flu. I was literally fine one second and the next getting very ill in the bathroom. I could barely go 10 min without throwing up. I am shocked I got home safely that day.

    However if I just had a bad cold I could drive myself safely.

    I sort of wonder if an employee got ill and work and then got into an accident on the way home and somehow the company was liable. Either way it does feel a little over-reachy to me.

  30. Quickbeam*

    Re#4….Iowa is a state where work comp care is provided and directed by the carrier. The company may be trying to protect itself from claims. It’s my field and I’ve seen many companies in Iowa do this for people who get sick during the work day. If it later turns into a Work Comp claim (eg: I was made sick by fumes at work), they want to avoid liability for accidents on the way home.

  31. SometimesGoingHomeOnYourOwnPowerIsBad*

    If you’re talking about leaving a little early when you don’t feel great because there’s nothing essential that has to be done that day it’s one thing. If someone’s legitimately sick, though, it may be unsafe for them to drive (or take public trandit by themselves) and they may not be self aware enough to realize it. I’ve seen this several times with co-workers and experienced it once myself.

    I was working in the main office pretty far from my apartment by public transit and was supposed to be picked up for a night out with friends after work. I was so looking forward to being social and the trip home was so onerous outside of rush hour that I tried to ignore how lousy I felt. I apparently looked and acted so unlike myself that my then boss – not usually particularly employee friendly – insisted I go lie down on some sofas in another part of the office. After an hour or so I ended up in a chair back in our part of the office and eventually a coworker I was very friendly with convinced me to go home then went off to bully another coworker who lived near me to drive me home (after I refused to figure out how to go to a doctor because I wasn’t processing how sick I was). By the time he came back and took another pass at it I didn’t have the energy to fight him and let him convince me to go to an emergency room closer my apartment (because I had no way home from the hospital near the office and I still assumed I was humoring him and would need to get home from the hospital) so he got the other co-worker to take me there instead. He probably saved my life. If I drove, had a car there, and had been allowed I probably would have tried to drive home and almost certainly would have both had problems getting home (if not worse) and would likely not have gone to the hospital until it was too late if at all. I didn’t realize it but my entire system was in the process of shutting down that day – I ended up spending 11 days in the hospital and another 2.5 weeks at a friend’s house unable to do the simplest things for myself. I was too sick to realize how sick I was.

    So forcing folks not to drive home may be inconvenient, but it also may be prudent.

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