coworker with severe dandruff, colleague is borrowing my email voice, and more

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

1. Coworker with severe dandruff

We have a coworker who has absolutely some of the most severe dandruff we have ever seen, like bottle of Kraft grated parmesan tipped over bad. We also wear dark uniforms which makes the problem stand out more. To kind of top it off, he’s definitely a bit of the awkward guy in the office and he also comes with his own set of communication issues with personally and professionally. Manager is aware but unsure how we can bring this up in a non-condescending (more importantly, non-embarrassing manner). Any advice?

Does it need to be brought up? If he’s customer-facing, then maybe it does. But otherwise … sometimes people have severe dandruff, or one long hair growing out of a wart on their chin, or an entire farm of nose hair, and it’s just part of the tapestry of humans. That stuff isn’t the most pleasant to look at, but it’s also not something that has to  be addressed unless there’s a clear work-related reason that it needs to be. (And with dandruff, for all we know he’s been trying to combat it without success.)

If this is in fact a job where it really does matter, like one where he works with clients who expect a high degree of polish … well, the goal can’t be to find a non-embarrassing way to say it, because there probably isn’t one! Most people are embarrassed to have this kind of thing pointed out. The key is to be kind and respectful when doing it. Your manager could speak with him privately and say something like, “It’s a little uncomfortable for me to say this but it looks like you’re having a problem with dandruff. Because you work with clients, do you think there’s something you can do to solve this?”

2. A colleague has borrowed my email voice

I need a temperature check on something. I make an effort to cultivate an authentic, warm, and professional “email voice.” Depending on my audience, I send well wishes and good vibes where I can. I know this “voice” wouldn’t be for everyone, but I have found a lot of success with it. I consider it an invaluable skill.

I was working with another company’s assistant (Jane) to book joint meetings for our bosses. Jane has a very different email style from mine: no exclamation points and straightforward. It’s old school chic and I respect it. We needed to confirm locations for about 10 meetings. I wrote an email (and cc’d her) to confirm the first one and then she volunteered to write the rest. Except … she didn’t? She copied/pasted my email, cc’d me, and then sent it out.

I know that copy/paste is a smart way to save time and everyone would have gotten that same email had I sent them out instead. Yet the wholesale use of my words (from greeting to sign-off) felt really odd. Especially when I could have just sent the emails. I took time to create that warm tone, which is something I had not seen her do. After the initial copying, I noticed she started to incorporate other phrases/style choices of mine. It doesn’t help that we have the same first name (surprise! I’m Jane too!), so her use of my “voice” feels extra weird. And frankly, there was a positive reaction to her new friendly vibe in the replies. People like the “voice!”

I’m taking it all with good humor and this isn’t something I’d ever bring up to her or ask her not to do. We don’t really even work together. But for my own internal calibration, am I wrong to feel put off by this kind of “borrowing?” And if she was a coworker, would I have any standing to say something? I definitely need some advice, because all I can hear right now is Dwight Schrute’s voice saying: “Identity theft is not a joke, Jane!”

Well, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

I can see why that initial email rubbed you the wrong way — she volunteered to finish it and then sent it out as-is — but on the other hand, if there was nothing else to add, it’s not really that strange. And given the topic (confirming locations for meetings), I’m assuming it was fairly straightforward (as opposed to something full of your own thoughts and analysis).

I would try to let it go internally — you don’t know what might be going on with Jane behind the scenes. Maybe she’s been told her emails sound too chilly, she noticed yours don’t, and she’s modeling her new tone on yours. (That’s actually common advice when someone is trying to change their vibe at work — find someone you respect and follow their behavior.) She can’t really steal your voice if it’s distinctive, but she can borrow some of the trappings she sees you using … and really, a lot of professional stylings in the work world come from borrowing what we see people we admire do.

3. Should I tell my boss about my roid rage?

I recently had a really bad case of Covid and a persistent painful cough that lasted for over a month. After trying several different medicines, my doctor prescribed steroids and it made an enormous difference. It also had the really bad side effect of making me incredibly irritable. That’s actually an understatement — I was a rage machine and definitely told my boss off at one point. I nearly quit my job on the spot. It was bad.

I realized after about a week what was going on and was able to dial it back. But should I tell my boss why I was being so unreasonable? I’m normally a pretty amenable person and a few people checked in with me to see what was going on, so it was definitely a noticeable change in behavior. I’m just not sure if I should move on or tell my boss (and apologize) that I had roid rage.

Talk to your boss! If you don’t, then she’ll be left to wonder if you think what happened was normal and fine, and if she needs to be wary of it happening again. It should help the situation significantly if you explain what was going on — not in a “so this excuses everything” way, but in a “whoa, I figured this out and wanted to let you know, and I really apologize” way.

4. I didn’t receive the company Christmas gift

I work remotely and have been with my company for a little over a year. The corporate office is on the west coast and I live on the east coast. In mid-December some coworkers were posting on our Teams channel about getting a surprise gift box from work that had holiday candles, lotions, and the like, and everyone got excited about getting a surprise from work. Soon Christmas came around and we’re now well into the new year, and I never got one. At first I wondered if it wasn’t for everyone, but I asked the few coworkers I’m close enough with and they got it. At this point, I’m just thinking if I was sent one, it’s lost in some warehouse forever or it was stolen off my porch and I never noticed. I still feel left out and kind of hurt (granted at this point, I should just get over myself), but if it’s lost (or stolen) that’s not my company’s fault and I don’t think they’d overlook anyone in sending gifts.

I don’t know who put in the order and I don’t want to sound entitled so I just never asked anyone in HR or upper management. I don’t even know what good it would have done to bring up. It’s not like they’d get their money back. And what could they even do, say “oh, I’m sorry to hear it didn’t make it to you”? Should I have brought this up at all? Is something to keep in mind for next year?

It would be fine to let it go if you want to, but it’s also okay to bring it up if it’s bothering you — because it’s very unlikely that they deliberately left you out and more likely that something went wrong that they’d want to know about. Think of it like this: If you were responsible for coordinating gifts to everyone and someone didn’t get theirs, wouldn’t you want to find out why? Maybe the vendor you hired skipped a page of people and you’d be grateful for someone letting you know. Or maybe the intern responsible for updating the gift list dropped the ball; you’d want to know that too. Or yes, maybe it got lost in the mail, in which case they might want to file a claim, depending on the cost. In any case, it’s reasonable to speak up. (It’s also helpful to remember that this isn’t like asking a friend why they didn’t include you in their gifts; this is a business thing, they intended for all employees to receive it, and you didn’t, so you’re flagging a potential work-systems problem.)

I’d say it this way: “I realized I should have mentioned to you that I never received the company Christmas gift. It’s of course not a big deal, but I wanted to mention it in case it’s an issue with the shipping company or anything you’d want to be aware of for next year.”

Read an update to this letter

5. When is post-interview lack of communication a bad sign about the organization?

About two months ago, I interviewed for what seemed like my dream job: more money, more prestige, more opportunities in my field. This was the final interview stage for a senior position. It seemed to go well, and they told me they’d be making their decision the following week. They didn’t, and after a few weeks I reached out to ask about an updated timeline. They said they hadn’t had a chance yet and asked me about time pressures on my end, but wouldn’t give me a sense of timeline beyond that.

It’s now been several more weeks since any communication. I know job timelines can be long and quiet, but there are a few factors making me weigh whether I should take this as a larger concern about the company (on the off chance they end up offering me the job!). First, they asked me to apply, the initial process was fairly quick, and the early communication was fairly regular. Second, after initially being very specific about their timeline, they were deliberately unclear when I followed up. Third, we’re a field defined by communication and networking. When one of my industry mentors checked in with me on where things were at, she expressed surprise because, in her experience, this is not the norm simply due to how our industry handles conversations more generally.

I’m not assuming I’m their top candidate, though given our industry and the players involved, it would make sense for me to be one of a couple being seriously considered. But if they do end up offering me the job at some point … should I take this lack of communication into consideration in my ultimate response?

I wouldn’t, just because it’s soooo normal in hiring. All sorts of things could be going on behind the scenes that are not only making things take longer, but are also preventing them from giving you a clearer answer. For example: they’re working out questions about the role and there are enough moving pieces that they genuinely don’t know when they’ll be able to come back to you … or something unrelated is consuming all their energy and they can’t prioritize figuring this out until that’s sorted through … or something internal has happened that might affect that whole team and they don’t want to make job offers until it’s settled but that’s confidential so they can’t explain that … or all sorts of other things.

Unfortunately, the best thing you can do is to just put it out of your head and move on. If they do come back to you with an offer at some point, I wouldn’t hold this against them (unless it fits into a pattern that you already had concerns about, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case).

{ 383 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A request about #2 after seeing some initial comments on it — from time to time we all have feelings about things that aren’t necessarily rational or warranted. The letter-writer is writing in to calibrate her internal reaction; I ask that people be kind in response.

  2. Viki*

    LW 2, this is something I’d let go. I wouldn’t even think more about it.

    She’s not plagiarizing your work, and an email “voice”, is something that as far to my knowledge, does not exist. There’s only so many ways to put words together in regards to a business communication and you’re far from the first to make things work for different audiences.

    I also cannot imagine a place in or out of work where a grown adult told me to stop copying the way their emails sound without a lot of eye rolling.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      To be fair to the LW, she says, she’s not proposing saying anything to the coworker. She says, “this isn’t something I’d ever bring up to her or ask her not to do” and she’s just looking to calibrate her internal reaction.

      1. Viki*

        Fair, it’s just one of those things that I would never clock as weird or think about. There is only so many ways to make work comms personable and inevitably they all end up sounding incredibly similar.

        For the internal calibration, chuck me in the column of not something worth noticing.

        1. Zennish*

          Or take it as a compliment. She admires your way of connecting with people, and is trying to emulate it.

          1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*


            If a person went from a blunt, cold style to copying your warmer style, it means that they think it’s an improvement, and they want to emulate it. Essentially, you’ve helped someone up their communications game by example. Good work!

          2. Green Goose*

            When I started at my company, almost a decade ago, I had three years teaching experience and had gone to graduate school but I learned quite quickly that I did not know how to write a professional email. The school I had worked at I weirdly never wrote emails, just taught, spoke in person to my boss and colleagues, and wrote report cards. In graduate school, I went about email writing in a way I look back with retrospective cringe.
            I remember my first boss at my current company pulled me aside and told me I needed to sign off on my emails because it wasn’t clear if I had sent the email prematurely. At 29 I didn’t even sign off emails. I paid really close attention to how my boss and others wrote their emails, and how they conveyed points and asked for action steps to be completed. I’m much better now, but I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. I still shake my head thinking I didn’t know to sign off on emails, but at least I learned.
            OP, you probably write really good emails!

    2. Sue Wilson*

      An email voice is absolutely a thing, just like any writing voice. But this isn’t writing of the nature where copying matters, and in fact is the sort of thing where copying is encouraged. I get OP being annoyed that the effort she put into choosing her tone and written demeanor was not also copied lol, but it’s best to take this as something that isn’t a SWM/AAE, situation but non-malicious admiration.

      1. Green great dragon*

        I agree email voice is totally a thing. But as my first boss told me, at work, plaigarism is good.* There’s no need to rewrite a meeting invitation. You’ve come up with some good friendly phrases, Jane wants her voice to be friendlier, she’s copying some of it. It’s how we all learn, though I realise not normally this much all at once. I’m always flattered when I spot someone’s imported my wording into their docs, I must’ve explained something clearly.

        *OK not if your job is journalism – the point was that it was a much better use of my time to update last year’s report than to write another from scratch.

        1. Ellis Bell.*

          Actually in my first journalism job, my copy often was ..erm copied down to the punctuation use. I told my boss thinking the newsdesk would be irate and he just shrugged and said it was the sincerest form of flattery. As long as we printed it first!

        2. Smithy*

          To the point of copying being good as part of working “smarter not harder”- also being able to mimic someone else’s voice is an indemand professional skill.

          It’s quite common for a wide variety of staff (not just EA’s) to be asked to write corresondence for more senior staff. And being able to capture not just the information, but also the style of how that person communicates. So in a situation where two staff members from different organizations are working together, one staff member mimicing the other’s writing style – it might have been an effort to seem warmer. But it may also be an attempt to make both of you seem more unified and working together as a team.

          Quick example in my professional writing is just with how to open emails that benefit from one “how are you” before diving in. Because “I hope this email finds you well” does get old. So any time I see a good generic alternative – I will steal/mimic/borrow that until I wring that one dry.

          Basically, my boss is not paying for me to spend hours coming up with 101 pithy ways to write charming emails. But a good part of my day is writing emails that do benefit from being charming. So if there are examples to learn/steal from……

        3. Winston*

          Email voice is a thing but it’s not as personal as the phrase email voice might suggest. This is something that LW learned to do and not her colleague is learning it from her. It’s a practical skill with measurable effects, not like a style of music or painting or even other types of writing like fiction or journalism.

      2. Samwise*

        Yep. Our office has email templates for all sorts of situations. You can definitely “hear” the difference in voice — I can tell who wrote which ones, and a bunch of them are mine. But the point is, they are all approved and appropriate for the purpose, and everyone is encouraged to use them. Especially newbies.

        TBH, I’m rather happy (and maybe a bit smug) that my voice goes forth to the university…if I were the OP, I’d work towards feeling pleased and satisfied about it.

      3. Marshmallow*

        I’m always amazed at the number of colleagues I have that know if I wrote something without my name being on it. It actually makes me a little uncomfortable because I feel like the fact that my writing style is distinct may also mean it’s weird.

        I work with mostly technical people and as far as I know I write the way I talk.

        I don’t think I could copy someone’s style if I wanted to, and I could easily see someone being like “oh man they’re copying me” and I was just writing and not thinking about anything.

        So I’m also in camp “let it go”. Haha.

    3. Stitch*

      I train people and I actually just give them email templates I’ve put together over the years. I have to write the same emails a lot (I’m confident most people do) and I’ve found the best way to teach new people on effective tone in emails is to just give them my templates.

      1. L-squared*

        Right. I think this is why this feels so odd to me. I’m in sales. And if someone our team comes up with a good cold email template that works, you can be we are basically copying it and using it. Sometimes its almost word for word.

        Every company I’ve been at has employed this. So for someone to be upset by it just seems weird to me.

        1. Amy*

          Yeah – my job is all about word tracks. While it’s not robotic, we want a fair amount of continuity with how we describe products and processes.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same. I work with a lot of recent college graduates and occasionally new managers, so we use templates and examples to help get tone, organization, and concision down and messaging consistent.

        I do explain the construction and why of the templates to them to help them develop their own “voice”, but there is just some really basic stuff that works well and I see no need to reinvent the wheel on it.

    4. Well...*

      Maybe something that would help LW with her *internal* reaction: I often mirror the voices of people I’m emailing/texting. I think it’s just basic socialization stuff to respond to the tone someone else is setting. This isn’t exactly what other Jane did, but maybe it will help get LW over the gag reflex.

      1. Stitch*

        I think it’s important to understand that Jane was using OP’s work as a model or template rather than “taking” it. They had ten different meetings so presumably Jane did the work of customizing the email to each meeting and double checking before sending. That’s work in itself, significantly and importantly so. If OP was sending the email surely they wouldn’t have entitely rewritten the email each time.

        So for perspective OP needs to value the work Jane did do in customizing and sending each email. And the value Jane recognized in consistency and efficiency.

        1. rr*

          I actually wonder if, somehow, this is something the LW could put on her resume. Wouldn’t know how to phrase it, but it is something I’m very interested in, as my entire office uses a lot of language I created for my emails too. I’m a fan of standardization, particularly with people outside of the organization, so I thought it was a good thing, but couldn’t figure out how to put it on my resume.

          1. bamcheeks*

            “Created email templates for… which were used by all members of my team of 5” or something.

          2. paxfelis*

            “Modeled effective and congenial communication in written format for an office of (however many) (type of workers)”

            IT, does that sound like it would work for you?

            1. Loulou*

              That doesn’t sound like the kind of quantifiable accomplishment Alison has advised people to include on a resume. I’d have a LOT of questions if I saw something like that.

          3. Loulou*

            I don’t think so — that feels like an extreme stretching of the truth to me! But if OP is right about how well their email voice reads, then that will come across in job apps and serve them well.

          4. Office Lobster DJ*

            rr, I hear you about wondering how to present those little things that are unofficial but impactful (for me, I’ve been the default e-mail editor slash tone checker slash ghostwriter). It sounds like in your case, adding it to your resume might be justified.

            At this point, I don’t think LW’s situation rises to this level. I’m imagining LW trying to explain it in an interview, and I don’t think it would land well if the only thing they could say was “One time, my co-worker copied and pasted a confirmation e-mail…”

          5. waffles*

            I feel like the best way to highlight these skills on a resume is will a very well-written resume, cover letter, and email (if relevant).

        2. learnedthehardway*

          In fact, I would assume that Jane thought she was SUPPOSED to copy the email and send it out. I mean, the OP had taken the time to create a well-written template. OF COURSE Jane should use it – anything else would be insulting and waste the OP’s efforts!

          WRT the subsequent use of similar phrases, OP – Jane is expanding her skill set and is using you as a model. Talk about flattering!! You’re a mentor! She will eventually find her own “voice”, and someday you will answer a job interview question about how you provided leadership/development to team mates, and will cite this as an example.

          1. I edit everything*

            Yeah, I read this as “I did the first one as a model. Can you do the rest?” Which Jane did. I probably would have done the same thing–copying and pasting or setting up a merge to get these emails out as efficiently as possible.

            And if I were the LW, I probably would have said: “I did the first one as a model. Can you do the rest? Feel free to copy and paste and just put in the correct details for each meeting.”

    5. Lydia Bennett*

      I don’t know why, but I’m getting Mr Collins Pride and Prejudice vibes from the email-warmth-voice of LW2: “I am happy on every occasion to offer those little delicate compliments which are always acceptable to ladies.”

      I’m sure you’re lovely LW2 and way less slimy than Mr Collins!

    6. Chikkka*

      It sounds like the other person is just naturally a bit more plain speaking, realised from being shown LW’s emails that she was working in an place where the culture is for less plain speaking, so did what any human with social skills would do and modified her way of communication. Most people naturally modify their communication style to fit their environment unconsciously, she may have not even been aware of it.

      I moved from Britain (indirect but often rude and passive aggressive communication culture) to NY (direct and plain speaking culture) to Germany (very very blunt communication culture) and then Japan (very indirect and polite communication culture) and had to learn how to adapt. Adapting to new communication cultures whether that’s a country or a company is just part of living in society.

      1. gingergene*

        I keep seeing responses like this, that posit that Jane was deliberately trying to change her email voice on this and all future emails to mimic the LW. I don’t see any indication from the letter that this is the case, just that Jane had 9 emails to write on the same subject with minor detail differences and used LW’s original email as a template. I think it’s highly likely this is a one-off event, done in the name of efficiency, and that Jane will revert to her old style on all her future emails.

        If it turns out to be a permanent change for Jane, I’d recommend taking Alison’s advice and try to feel flattered, but I think it’s too early even for that- wait to see if any of Jane’s future emails sound like yours before worrying about it.

        1. amoeba*

          But it’s in the letter?

          “After the initial copying, I noticed she started to incorporate other phrases/style choices of mine. It doesn’t help that we have the same first name (surprise! I’m Jane too!), so her use of my “voice” feels extra weird. And frankly, there was a positive reaction to her new friendly vibe in the replies. People like the “voice!””

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          It’s a bit buried, but this line indicates it goes beyond the initial meeting emails:
          “After the initial copying, I noticed she started to incorporate other phrases/style choices of mine.”

          FWIW I was once told that my emails came across too harsh and I tried to modify them to come off friendlier, which for me mostly came down to adding in some exclamation points. So as Alison pointed out, it’s extremely possible Jane was told something similar and found OP’s emails to be a good model. That is a very normal thing to do at work OP!

    7. ferrina*

      I’d actually be a bit annoyed about it, but that would be just a little and I’d quickly put it behind me.

      I’m naturally too outspoken and prone to saying stuff without thinking (I’m neurospicy). I’ve worked really hard to cultivate my professional voice that is true to the best aspects of me, so I can be authentic and professional (because if I was inauthentic, it wouldn’t last long.). We’re talking years of therapy and linguistic and psychological studying. My work voice is pleasant and unique, and it’s a huge asset to me- I can smooth over mistakes, get stakeholder buy-in, etc. It’s frustrating to watch someone take something I’ve worked hard at and pass it off as their own. LW said Other Jane is getting credit for how warm the email was.

      I’d find comfort in that she can’t fully mimic my voice. Part of why my voice is effective long-term is that it is built in authenticity. Other Jane is getting credit this time because it’s a departure from the norm for her- like Alison and others have said, she’s using your work because it’s good quality communications. It’s not her authentic voice- it’s yours. If Jane wants to sustain this long term, she’s going to need to put in the work, just like you did.

      1. Summer Day*

        OP2, I understand why this feels weird to you. I suspect my boss is neurodiverse and sometimes- especially in stressful situations, she copies my response (to a previous similar situation). I don’t think anyone else would notice. I’ve worked with her for a decade and we have very different personalities so I can pick it. She’s also tried different parts of my personality in her work relationships but the only ones that stick have some authenticity to her I think. It definitely feels strange in the moment, but we all help each other out in different ways at work, and there are many skills that she has taught me so I feel like it balances out!

      2. Worldwalker*

        Would you really want a coworker to face criticism for the tone of her emails when there is an example of how to do it better right at hand — but since she hasn’t “put in the work” she’s not allowed to use it?

        1. ferrina*

          No, I wouldn’t say anything about it to anyone. I’d be mildly annoyed for a short while, then go about my life
          But it would be nice if she could acknowledge that I was an inspiration (I’ve had a couple people do this, and it instantly brightens everything and make me feel so seen and appreciated)

    8. Mockingjay*

      In the end, email is a business tool. Its purposes are to communicate info, set up meetings, and distribute items. But we deal with it all day long, so it can tend to reflect our “voice.” My style is probably more like Jane’s, in large part because in my industry emails can be artifacts by law, which can be audited and must be retained; but also because as a technical writer I prefer a blunt style that conveys only necessary info.

    9. Aerin*

      I get the feeling that developing this email voice is something LW had to really work at and found challenging, so seeing someone else just copy it feels like they’re cheating. But that’s just not how things go at work.

      Say you had spent a lot of time refining a process through trial and error until you found something that produced the best results. Colleagues then using that refined process is a good thing! There are times when the struggle of trial and error is an essential part of mastery, but that doesn’t make it a universal virtue.

      Also, there’s nothing to say that she’s always going to write her emails exactly like this. She might be starting out on her own trial and error, playing with phrasing and details she first saw from you, which she can then adapt to her own personality and style. But even if she doesn’t, the truth is that there are only so many ways to write an email within the bounds of professionalism. People are more likely to think “Wow, Jane’s emails are much friendlier these days” than “Wow, Jane sounds just like LW.”

    10. RussianInTexas*

      I would outright use the I copy my boss’s e-mails on purpose when he asks me to communicate things to the customers, to CYA. If there is an issue, the wording is his.
      Up to a point of course.

  3. Blackbird*

    I have severe scalp psoriasis, which looks a lot like dandruff. He probably knows, and trust me that it’s not always straightforward to deal with.

    1. Ang*

      I also have this and sometimes during flare ups there is literally nothing I can do to make it better other than wait it out. If someone brought it up at work I would probably cry and never come back.

      1. CarlDean*

        Yeah, I’d side with this.
        There is a 99% chance he knows but can’t address. Pointing out serves…what?
        There is a 1% chance he knows but doesn’t care or doesn’t have the mental bandwidth to address right now. Pointing out serves…what?
        There is a 0% chance he’s an adult who doesn’t know what dandruff is or hasn’t noticed when he looks in the mirror.

        1. Thistle whistle*

          Yup, either he can’t fix it or he doesn’t care. So you either embarrass him about a medical condition he hasn’t gotten under control or he thinks you are a nitpicking busybody who wants to police his wardrobe. You can’t really win here.

          But it is understandable that you notice if he’s customer facing and its visible on his uniform. Perhaps have a clothes brush and brush yourself down before meeting the public? (Won’t make a difference if he just doesn’t care or is militant that he shouldn’t care).

        2. Lance*

          Agreed on all of this. I’ve had a similar issue at one point, and I just… couldn’t manage to do anything about it. Truly and sincerely I tried, and it definitely bugged me, but I couldn’t.

          All that I’d do, indeed, is give the man some grace and leave it be.

        3. Anonny*

          I would add in the very small chance that he knows he has a problem but doesn’t realise it’s not regular dandruff that can be solved with regular anti-dandruff shampoos, mainly because I’ve found myself in a similar position with a different issue. A friend kindly but directly pointed out that it might be a different but similar-looking problem to what I thought when I was complaining about it.

          Dunno if this would work on him though.

      2. Blackbird*

        Same. Even some of the descriptions in other comments of how dandruff/similar conditions are perceived makes me sad- I would fix it if I could!

      3. Oxford Common Sense*

        Totally agree. I have this too, and sometimes the shampoo helps, and sometimes it doesn’t, but it never goes away. In his private life he probably chooses clothes that minimize the appearance. Please let him be!

      4. OP to Question One*

        Thanks Ang, I really appreciate the perspective on this. I was really worried about bringing this up and most of the sentiment here is right on this being just a lose/lose situation.

    2. Ewesername*

      I was just going to point this out. My grandmother had it and there was no amount of special shampoos or diet changes that could clear it up.
      If someone pointed it out , she’d brush her shoulders off and say “pardon me, I’m degenerating”. That was usually enough to shut them up.
      This person is probably aware. Be kind and leave them be.

        1. Alas rainy again*

          No you don’t! You don’t want the opportunity to proclaim ” Pardon me, I am degenerating”. Trust us high-drandruff-producers on that Although I have to concede that degenerating is the priviledge of the living (who said “Be careful what you wish for… You might get it!)

    3. Bilateralrope*

      Sane here. Complete with a black jacket as part of my uniform.

      I had a manager try to talk to me about it. Starting by suggesting an anti-dandruff shampoo and dancing around why he was suggesting it. So I couldn’t even correct him until I first got him to say why he was suggesting it.

      Once I had got him to say he thought it was dandruff, then it was easy enough to correct him and say that I was doing all I could to manage it.

      1. Worldwalker*

        I had something similar as a teenager (I forget what it actually was called). It was like the skin on my scalp turned into fake Christmas snow. The doctor prescribed some awful coal-tar shampoo which smelled like a Superfund site, but after a few months, it either cleared up the scalp condition or frightened it away. I was in high school. I was painfully aware that I was snowing. Nobody needed to tell me — it was obvious.

        1. Thistle whistle*

          Scalp based psoriasis can be stress activated and can flare up during school years. If it’s scalp based, often coal tar shampoo for a couple of weeks is enough to clear it up. But sometimes a stronger medicated cream is required as well. If its really bad (like the entire scalp lifting up) then it can take a loooooong time to start getting better.

          1. Worldwalker*

            That sounds like it. I think there was some cream, too. Mind you, this was 40+ years ago, so I don’t remember the details. Just that shampoo!

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yeah, the suggested ask of “do you think there’s something you can do to solve this?” won’t get anything other than a response (either internal or expressed) of “Oh! SOLVE IT!! Why didn’t I think of that?!”

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        Yeah. The only “solution” I can even imagine is wearing a headscarf to keep some of the flaking hidden and it feels wildly inappropriate to ask him to do that. It seems like if he was looking for ways to hide the issue for his own sake, he would have thought of that and adopted it by now.

        There is literally nothing to be gained by bringing this up at all.

        1. Milfred*

          Could an accommodation be made for this individual?

          The dark uniforms highlight his problem. Could he be allowed to wear a light uniform?

          Could he be allowed to wear a cap of some kind that would contain the flakes? Baseball, beanie, wave or skull cap, durag, or bandanna (biker style). Depending on the age, some of these could be very stylish and flattering.

          The uniform restrictions may be making his situation worse.

      2. Willow Pillow*

        Or even just “no” – it that’s not an acceptable answer, then I don’t think the question is being asked in good faith. It just feels patronizing.

    5. MsSolo UK*

      Yeah, I was coming here to say something similar. OP’s description sound like what my husband looks like when he’s using the medicated shampoo – without it his scalp would probably be visibly bleeding – but the only thing that really helps is a change in the weather. He did end up having to get lasered when he had it badly on his torso (we had to hoover the bed each morning, he was shedding so much skin) but that’s not really an option on his scalp.

    6. Knitting Cat Lady*

      Whatever is going on with my scalp (four dermatologists, five different opinions) and the only thing I’ve found that actually helps is shaving my head. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if my scalp is allergic to my hair or something. Considering the other weird shit my body does to me.

      So yeah, I know my scalp is flaking off. Nothing I can do about it.

      1. Annika*

        Sorry you are going through this. I had trouble getting treatment for my flaking scalp. When you say your scalp is allergic to your hair, that is kind of what is happening to me. It’s that my scalp doesn’t like my hair oils so I must regularly wash my hair. I found that using shampoo with Salicylic acid a couple times a week can keep it at bay most times. When it flares up, I need to use betamethosone lotion (but not the shampoo).

        I feel fortunate to have found a dermatologist that just started so I could get an appointment. There are shortage of dermatologists in my area, too. (And let’s not even get started on all the people without health insurance in the United States.) So even if you want an answer, you may not be able to find it.

      2. ArtsNerd*

        Skin issue buzz cut solidarity.

        (As it turns out… I freaking love my hair in a buzz cut, even aside from the flareup mitigation. Buzz cuts are underrated.)

    7. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I had a coworker with the same issue – the floor around his desk was literally covered at the end of each day by skin flakes. Only one person ever said anything.

      The rest of us figured a) he knew, b) he was doing the best he could and c) if there was a guaranteed cure for loads of dandruff/skin conditions we’d be invested in that.

    8. STG*

      I’ve got a few different skin conditions depending on where on the body I’m having the problem. I’ve struggled with extreme dandruff since I hit puberty.

      I’ve tried so many different home remedies and medications with zero long term success. I would bet money that he’s perfectly aware and likely self conscious about it.

    9. Agreed*

      I came here to say the same thing. Treatment isn’t as simple as switching shampoos and often nothing works.

    10. RLR*

      This is my husband. He actually was afraid to shave his head when he was going bald because he was afraid his head would look like a “topographical map.” (when he finally did it, the sunlight seemed to actually help the issue… If only he realized earlier he would’ve had way less grief mentally about it!)

      1. PS*

        I vaguely recall that laser and light therapies are a thing for psoriasis. Google tells me it’s all about the UVB. I don’t know if that’s what he has, but it’s possible that the sunlight UVB is fixing things. And now I’m suddenly thinking that I should pull my hair back when I walk outside because the skin gets red around the edges where it is hidden, and maybe I can fix that with sunlight…

        1. RLR*

          Yep, that’s exactly what he has. All the rx meds in the world only did so much;the one thing he feared doing helped the most. He actually goes in public without a hat now!

          1. RLR*

            Replying to myself, but also OP1: Depending on health coverage, US anyway, he may not be able to afford medications needed to clear it up. The one my H uses is close to $2,000 even with insurance, but it’s the only thing that helps. He uses it as sporadically as possible due to the cost. We had a great dermatologist at one point that gave it to him for free but now he only sees skin checks and cancer pts.

      2. Lab Boss*

        My scalp psoriasis always is at its lowest when my hair is shortest, and shaving really keeps it in check- as a Dermatologist pointed out to me, keeping your head clean shaven means you’re not only maximizing the UV exposure but also regularly scraping your scalp with a thin blade that can keep flakes from getting big enough to be visible!

    11. Butterfly Counter*

      For me, in the winter, I get dry scalp. If I set my shower just one degree more than its usual summer temperature, my scalp just starts flaking. Which means that the dandruff shampoos don’t work (and I cannot bring myself to take a lukewarm shower when it’s 5 degrees F out…)

      And yes, I am completely aware of how flakey my scalp gets. I do a quick brush off before leaving my office, but flakers gonna flake.

      I am working on ways to moisturize my scalp. The progress is slow.

    12. Tobias Funke*

      Same here – it took me actual years (2014-2022) to get my psoriasis well controlled enough that I did not resemble the colleague in the letter. Believe me, I knew. I knew my car had to be vacuumed on the regular because of it. I knew I couldn’t wear black anymore because I would look like a snowdrift. I knew I had giant bleedy patches and in my case, it was so disruptive my hair was falling out.

      This is not always about hygiene. I got really, really tired of being asked why I didn’t just wash my hair. Trust that I was in fact doing the most to try to fix it (which truthfully probably just inflamed it worse, about six months on one of those medications that’s so expensive it has a commercial and I look more passable now).

    13. MidWasabiPeas*

      Same-and it gets worse at certain times of year (hello, winter) and when it’s bad, it’s really bad. I’ve tried (and am currently using) multiple products.

      Don’t ever assume he doesn’t know and don’t assume it isn’t giving him hours of angst.

    14. Erin*

      I have scalp psoriasis, too, in addition to plaques on my torso and genitals. All told that’s three areas that require three very different forms of treatment. It wasn’t until I went on a biologic that all three were under control. Without insurance those medications are basically unaffordable, and so I also wonder what kind of insurance the company has, and whether this kind of treatment at a dermatologist would be considered “cosmetic” and not covered.

    15. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

      Yeah, as a person who just gets a really dry scalp in the winter that makes me sometimes fairly flaky, being told that others had noted my flakes would be more demoralizing than anything else. Dandruff shampoo is made for fungal dandruff, which I do not have, and the solution for dryness-based dandruff is to wash your hair less, which – you guessed it – means you will show more dandruff between washes. Just like having rosacea or acne doesn’t affect my ability to do my job, and I hope no one would ever EVER bring that up at work, so too does having dandruff not change my work output. Oof.

    16. RiRi*

      YES – as someone who takes hygiene seriously I was mortified for years about my severe “dandruff” that wouldn’t go away. I had tried literally every product on the market, including prescription-strength shampoo, without success. It was only recently that it was diagnosed as scalp psoriasis and medication is starting to clear it up (although will probably still flare up in the future).

      If anyone does address this with LW1’s coworker, I hope they do so with a great deal of compassion and respect – although it may be a hygiene issue, it may also be something that the coworker is VERY aware of.

  4. Mid*

    For LW 1: why does it matter? (Not being snarky, genuinely curious.) If it’s not causing a work issue (eg you work in food service and dandruff is ending up in food), then why does it matter to you/your workplace? Dandruff is something that happens to all of us, some more than others. And it’s likely already a known issue to your coworker. Why would you want to bring it up, causing further discomfort and shame over something harmless?

    LW 2: Another (gentle) “why does it matter?” It doesn’t sound like she’s impersonating you, or that her actions are hindering your work in any way. It sounds like she realized that your warmer emails were more effective, and adopted some of it! That’s a good thing—it shows you send good emails that are worth repeating. Yay! Your effort was not unnoticed!

    Unless your sign off and greeting is a word your single-handedly created, she isn’t stealing your emails. You don’t own words or phrases or tone. I do wonder if you dislike Jane for other reasons, and this is something that feels easy to point at.

    1. I swear I'm not Lady Cassandra*

      I’m hijacking your comment because you mentioned we all deal with dandruff. And I agree that it’s totally not a huge deal, but if you do want to fix it (for yourself not for a coworker) you should bring it up with a hair dresser. I thought I had Dandruff for years, but I actually had a dry scalp. I applied some moisturizing shampoo and voila! The Head and Shoulders I had been using was actually part of the problem, it was drying out my scalp.

      Now if the letter writers coworker has the symptoms you described he probably does have dandruff, but I figured I’d just throw it out there for other readers.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, I have a very dry scalp, but I haven’t had dandruff for more than 10 years, not since I switched to a different hair salon and my hairdresser recommended moisturizing shampoo.

        That said, if this employee has scalp psoriasis, it’s a different story. It looks like dandruff, but anti-dandruff shampoo doesn’t help. For some patients, nothing does.

      2. Been There*

        Same for me. My scalp started feeling and looking a lot better when I stopped using Head and Shoulders shampoo/conditioner.

      3. Avril Ludgateaux*

        This is such a good point. My partner is struggling with what he thinks is dandruff and what I think is dry scalp. “Skin flakes” are merely a symptom, but “dandruff” in a dermatological sense refers to skin flakes that are caused by an overgrowth of yeast. “True” dandruff is often more yellowish than white, and there is a smell associated with it. It is kind of unknown why it happens to some people, but an oily scalp creates a better breeding ground for this fungal infection (seborrheic dermatitis). As you can imagine, true dandruff treatments, therefore, can be terribly drying, so if your flakes are actually caused by a dry scalp, yes, you will make it worse by attacking it with dandruff shampoo and antifungals and all that.

        (Psoriasis is a whole ‘nother story! That’s an auto-immune disorder and while it may respond to some topicals, it is systemic at its core.)

        At any rate, I agree that unless there is a real sanitation concern – like food service, clinical medical practice, lab work where contamination is a risk, a digital clean room, or even shared workspaces being covered in flakes – I don’t think it would be helpful to bring this up to the coworker. As somebody who had acne for way too long and had to deal with everybody’s unsolicited advice presuming I was not actively trying everything in every arsenal to tackle it, it made an already humiliating condition all the more so. Sometimes the only way I could get through a day was to tell myself “nobody sees it as much as you do,” and then somebody would make some unwelcome comment, and I couldn’t even lean on that anymore.

    2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      For #1, I agreed it’s probably better not to say anything, but it’s pretty obvious why OP thinks it matters. It’s kinda gross to have visible bits of your coworker raining down all over the place. Sure, we all shed bits of skin all the time, but that doesn’t mean you want to see it happen. And this sounds like a lot of snow.

      On the one hand, if there isn’t anything the poor fellow can do to fix the problem, then speaking up about it will simply embarrass him. On the other hand, if he can fix the problem and stop grossing out his coworkers, it’s worth a bit of embarrassment. And some folks, particularly awkward folks like this guy is, just never got the memo that there are things to try that might help. But you can’t know which situation you’re in until you’ve already acted.

      1. Sockster*

        LW2: I can relate to you- not specifically about the ‘email voice’ but about taking pride in your emails. I used to work in a department where a few times a year, we had to communicate a lot of complex information to all of our clients. I spent a lot of time and effort condensing that information into a concise, easy-to-understand email. I was really proud of it! Over a few years, my counter-parts in other departments started asking me for my big info-email, and would essentially copy/paste it and send it out to their clients, just changing the few words necessary to make it fit their department. I can totally see where you would feel frustrated that your coworker is benefiting from something you’ve put a lot of effort into. Since you’re asking about your own internal perspective, I would encourage you to see this as confirmation that you have an enviable skill- people who struggle with their email tone want to copy yours! I even added a bullet point in my resume about it- something like “six other departments use my language as a template for their own communications”. Hopefully you can adjust your perspective to see this as a positive confirmation of your email skills.

      2. Worldwalker*

        Thing is, he knows about the problem. Bringing it up won’t matter.

        And helpful hints … aren’t. It’s highly unlikely that J. Random Coworker is going to know a miracle cure for dandruff (or arthritis, or acne, or anything else) that a doctor doesn’t know about, and that goes double if it’s advertised online and/or involves MLM.

    3. OP to Question One*

      You know I never thought about it in this way. I think it is just from my own personal apprehension about seeing it. Now I know that sounds swallow, mean or insensitive but it is to the point it is the first thing you notice about the colleague. But none of this is client facing and addressing this would absolutely be a lose/lose situation.

      1. Where the Orchestra?*

        OP – thanks for chiming in – I would do your best to frame it mentally for yourself that your coworker knows about it, and just hasn’t yet found a solution. That being the case, maybe just politely ignoring (since it sounds like you aren’t in food service, where maybe suggesting a hair net to contain the sheds away from customer’s food would be the most I would do).

      2. Mid*

        I get it! And I wasn’t trying to minimize your own discomfort, or anything like that. But, sometimes our own personal discomfort with something doesn’t really matter. It’s just something you have to get used to in this case. And I don’t think your urge to bring it up is meant out of unkindness or shallowness, I think you’re trying to help! It’s just in this situation, you won’t help by saying something. It’s like when someone tells a parent their baby is crying while the child is in their arm, or when someone gets a haircut with very crooked bangs. The person knows, and pointing it out doesn’t change anything.

        1. Surfing Safari*

          But, sometimes our own personal discomfort with something doesn’t really matter.

          Yes, this. Sometimes the solution to feeling uncomfortable is better emotional regulation.

    4. Rhiannon*

      “We have a coworker who has absolutely some of the most severe dandruff we have ever seen, like bottle of Kraft grated parmesan tipped over bad.”

      That isn’t about “just” having dandruff.

    5. IDIC believer*

      Also, LW’s emails are work product just like a report she might create that is used by coworkers. These products may be used as is or modified, but belong to the company. It is nice when credit is given to a creator, but that’s not always needed or relevant.

      As a state low level accountant, I created quite a few Excel spreadsheets and email templates to streamline part of the AP & AR processes. Once my boss realized they were partially why my productivity was 4x higher than others, she disseminated the spreadsheets and emails. Some coworkers just ignored them, some modified them. My boss made a point of giving me credit to her boss though I really didn’t care – I just prefer to work smarter not harder.

  5. phira*

    LW 3: Ahhhhh, I am so sorry this happened to you. Several years ago, I was on high dose steroids for a long period of time, and the ‘roid rage I had literally resulted in a family feud that has not been resolved completely to this day. I don’t think people understand just how much it’s really out of your control unless they’ve experienced it.

    Which isn’t to say you (or I) get a free pass, just that … yeah, steroid-induced anger is really, really difficult.

    1. Junior Dev*

      My aunt had to take some hormones for a reproductive health issue when I was living with her and was extremely rude to everyone around her for about a month. She later apologized for “turning into Godzilla.”

      I’ve got an appointment for similar things in a couple weeks and I hope I don’t have to take anything that messes me up so bad I upset others. I guess I should figure out how to address it at work in advance if I do.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        If this happens to you and you have a friendly team, I recommend warning the people you work closest with along with a plan to alert you to the issue. Giving them a code word of sorts to say if you are acting out of control could work well. If they experience you going into a nonsensical/over-the-top rage, they just need to say the code word “Godzilla” (or whatever you decided on) and you’ll realize what’s happening so you can hopefully step away and get yourself under control. (Even with a contingency plan like this, I hope you don’t have to experience this!)

        However, I’d only worry about doing something like this if you have coworkers that might misuse the code word, in which case you wouldn’t want to try this. It would only take one person using the word when you were justifiably frustrated and far from being in a rage to make it a real problem. (Especially if you’re a woman and you work with anyone with a hint of misogynistic tendencies that never sees women’s anger as justified.)

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Came here to say something like this, too. I’ve given a heads-up to my boss and team when I was on a medical regimen – or even dealing with a terrible personal matter – and they’ve done the same.

          I’m pretty even-keeled and never had a meltdown at work before, even during menopause, but a heavy steroid regimen made me angry. I kept in check for the most part but had a couple of moments I wouldn’t want to be held against me. I apologized and reminded the person I wasn’t myself; thankfully, both people replied that my reaction was out of character and they were more surprised than offended.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Being aware of it as a possibility is actually once of the most useful things you can do! It just quickly changes your mindset from, “Everyone is SUPER ANNOYING and being SO UNHELPFUL” to “wow, people weren’t kidding when they said these could make me irritable. What an interesting psychological effect!” It really helps to know that’s a possibility and just make sure you take a moment and correct course before snapping at people.

        I had a course of steroids for eczema about fifteen years ago, and they didn’t make me irritable but they did make me feel like super-woman– I was never hungry, never tired, and felt like I could fight and beat anyone I met. Once I’d realised it was the steroids it all made sense, but for about four days I couldn’t work out what was going on.

        1. anon24*

          The mindset thing is so important! Not steroids, but I get chronic migraines. I had a period awhile back where I was getting them almost daily, and for about a year of that time for some reason, every single time they threw me into an absolute rage. I’m not a violent person and I never did anything violent, but I would get so violently angry that I wanted to hurt people. It was terrifying because it was not me and thats not who I am.

          At the time I was a manager in a small business and managed mostly teenagers. It was so important to keep this active mindset that I wasn’t mad at them, I was just mad, and it took everything I had to keep from ever showing them my anger because they didn’t deserve it, but wow I came so close to snapping some days.

          1. metadata minion*

            I do the same thing! I’m very lucky in that the headache component of the migraine isn’t nearly as bad as it is for many people, but that means I sometimes don’t realize that’s what’s going on. I’ll sometimes get basically all the other migraine symptoms except the headache and aura (the latter is at least completely unmistakable) and walk around going WHY IS EVERYTHING SO BRIGHT AND LOUD AND ANNOYING ohhhhhh right, going to go sit in a dark room now.

        2. Shoulder Injury*

          I was on steroids after I hurt my shoulder a few years ago. After they kicked in, I cleaned the entire house from top to bottom in like an hour. I ended up hurting my shoulder even more bc it was like the pain didn’t exist. I stopped taking it and just stuck to my pain meds and anti inflammatories.

        3. PhyllisB*

          My husband was being treated for lymphoma years ago (he’s fine now, been in remission for over 20 years.) He took prednisone after his chemo, and one of the side effects was an extreme increase in appetite.
          One night I tried a new recipe I found in a novel. (Prune meatballs in case you’re wondering. I believe it’s a Scandinavian recipe.) Well, that night at dinner he ate three huge helpings (it made a ton!!) Then afterwards he grabbed the pot, strode out to the back fence and poured the contents over, and when he returned to the house, told me, “don’t ever make that again!!”

          1. LtBarclay*

            I remember trying a new dish at a restaurant while on prednisone and it was the BEST THING EVER! So incredibly delicious and I just raved about it to everyone. I went back a month later, when the course of steroids was over, and was massively disappointed to find out it was just meh.

        4. Butterfly Counter*

          Before I was on my current birth control regemin, this was me with PMS every month.

          Everyone was super annoying and out to get me (even my wonderful dog) and I was ugly and losing my mind. And then it would hit me that it was just my natural hormones being out of balance affecting my perception and suddenly I could handle all of it.

          But man, those hours before I realized what was going on… phew! I scared myself!

          1. ceiswyn*

            I also have this issue with PMS. For a few days of every month, everyone is an idiot and life is pointless drudgery and I want to eat the world. On toast. With dessert.

            Knowing why this is happening doesn’t make the feelings stop or prevent me acting on them, but I can at least usually avoid the worst excesses.

            1. Galadriel's Garden*

              Same here! Mine has lately been manifesting in severe depressive episodes, where I just hate myself and the world and find everything pointless and flat and gray and want to sleep until the until the heat death of the universe…initially I was worried that my depression had gotten really bad and it was time to get back on medication, until I realized that it had happened two months in a row, four weeks apart. When I started feeling that way a third month in a row it was like, “Oh, right, hormones!” Identifying the source of those emotions takes away (at least some of) their potency, and at least for me puts a sense of control back in my court.

        5. Michelle Smith*

          This is exactly correct. If you know it’s a possibility, it’s much easier to check yourself. Having someone else check you against your previous personality is a good second line of defense as well.

          TRIGGER WARNING: I used to have depression that cycled through very, very severe (dangerously so) low points. It took years before I discovered that it was happening at the exact same time every month and was PMDD, and that if I waited two days the dark cloud would dissipate. What helped me figure it out was tracking my periods AND tracking my emotions. It might help you to track how you are feeling from day to day to see if there are any major changes or patterns. You have to have the information before you can do anything about it after all.

          1. ArtsNerd*

            My hormonal birth control is my primary mood stabilizer and migraine preventative.* Switching to all-active pills improved my life in so many ways. Good thing access to this basic, life-saving medicine is totally easy and unremarkable and I have no anxiety about it being taken away or issues getting it refilled every month.

            *If you have migraine with aura, hormonal bc can greatly increase your risk of stroke etc. Discuss with your doctor and all that.

        6. inkheart*

          I had IV steriods to treat pneumonia, and for the next few days, my pushups were incredibly easy!

      3. Roscoe da Cat*

        I find it depends on the dosage. High dose – I am asleep. Low dose – I am trying to kill the printer and have to calmed with Hershey Kisses.

        I warn my coworkers and try to work from home.

    2. JSPA*

      Everyone: if you get this reaction to corticosteroids (as do I): talk to your doctor. There is a condition called steroid mania. It’s a described medical problem. Susceptibility varies quite dramatically from person to person (though the genetics are still being elucidated). However in some people it is also associated with longer term mania and/or other psychiatric breaks. Directly naming the problem is therefore fraught (as is the colloquial “roid rage”).

      “I need to talk to you about my out-of-character anger and attitude, two weeks ago. I was suffering intense but short-lived irritability as a known but rare side effect of a prescribed drug. The drug was essential treatment for my recent acute illness. The sensitivity is now annotated in my charts and engraved in my brain to prevent any recurrence.

      I am naturally mortified, and terribly sorry. Intellectually, I know there was no way to predict the reaction. But emotionally, I feel terrible about every part of it. I disavow everything I said. I offer my abject apologies for the resulting distress and disruption. I hope we can move past it, but of course understand that it was hurtful, and may take time to fade in people’s minds.”

      And then… you have to leave space for people to continue to have a visceral reaction, even if they intellectually know the root cause. Even if you do not remember everything you said, the people listening to it, still do. And you can’t erase the fact of having been attacked by…well, let’s call it, “someone who looked identical to you and was drawing from your knowledge base, while wearing your clothing and name tag.” This is especially true if they were skewered or threatened by the details of what you said (as opposed to, “you all suck, I hate working here”).

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        I think this script is over the top. Like, OP had a bad reaction to medication and probably snapped at their boss or something. But this makes it sound like they did something truly heinous. Also, I think it’s way too much detail about “I had a reaction to medication but I’m no longer taking it.” And it’s weirdly formal, depending on OP’s relationship with their boss.

        1. yala*

          “Abject apologies” definitely pushes it a bit beyond the pale. It would be awkward in writing. In person, it would be mortifying.

          Groveling just makes people uncomfortable.

        2. metadata minion*

          Yeah, this feels more like an apology for “caused an international incident” than “was a total jerk to the office for a couple weeks”.

        3. Alannagranger*

          I’ve dealt with other medication or lack of medication side effects at work, and what I’d say is something like: “I’ve been reflecting on that incident a couple of weeks ago where I yelled at you/threatened to rage-quit my job/smashed my laptop/whatever. I wanted to apologize to you for my unprofessional behavior, and also give you some context. I was taking medication that can have anger and irritability as a side effect. I’ve since adjusted the dosage so it won’t happen again.” Then stop. Let them react to it. And move on.

      2. BubbleTea*

        I think this explanation would be too wordy. I’d just say “I’m really sorry about X thing I did/said, it was related to a medical issue/medication my doctor was trying, and I’ve got it under control now.”

    3. SAS*

      Omg prednisone. LW3 has my deepest sympathies. I became incredibly depressed to the point of suicidal ideation really rapidly on extended high dose steroids. It truly can cause havoc mentally and is really hard to tell that it’s not actually *you*, that it’s synthetic.

      1. V monster*

        My dog is on prednisone every day for the rest of his life for a chronic condition and it’s completely changed his personality to the point where I don’t even like him anymore and I feel TERRIBLE about it. It is exceptionally powerful stuff.

        1. jane's nemesis*

          I’m so sorry. If you haven’t yet, please talk to your vet – that’s not a good quality of life for him, if his person doesn’t even like him on this med. Sorry for the unsolicited advice, but I just hope there’s another option for him!

    4. EngineeringFun*

      I’m an asthmatic who takes oral steroids from time to time, which make me feel insane. I can’t stop talking, moving or focus. I hate to be around myself, but I like to breathe and it’s only a few days. I tell my boss and coworkers when this happens. “Hey guys I’m on steroids for my breathing. if I’m talking too much or being annoying just let me know.” A decade ago I told my boss this and he said oh it won’t be a problem. But then 2 days later I was in his office he was like “oh wow you’re still on those steroids.” I immediately left his office and went for a walk around the building. A few months later he nicely told me I was jumping from topic to topic and he couldn’t follow what I was saying. My advice just give people a heads up they’ll let you know.

      1. Bibliovore*

        yep this is me. Steroids make me mean. I am irritable and unreasonable and I know it. Mr. Bibliovore would just say, “I am taking myself out of this equation.”

      2. Thatoneoverthere*

        I take an inhaler from time to time an even that makes me feel a little crazy for awhile. I can’t take it after like 6pm otherwise I am up all night. It helps me breathe but after I shake, and feel unhinged.

        1. Cat*

          Based on what I have read, the chemicals in an inhaler react with receptors in your lungs to open things up and allow you to breathe easier. Unfortunately they also set off other similar receptors in your cardiovascular system which can lead to increased heart rate and that sort of thing. Things like rinsing your mouth out after using an inhaler to reduce the amount of medicine getting into your blood stream through your mouth can help somewhat. Ideally they will eventually be able to develop something that will only bind to the lung receptors but I’m not sure if that’s technologically feasible.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP3, I would suggest specifically referencing the prescription to avoid them jumping to illegal steroids.
      How’s this for neutral phrasing? “I was prescribed a new medication that has a possible side effect of mood swings, and it hit me so hard it took me a while to recognize the cause.”

      1. ferrina*

        If LW feels comfortable saying it was steroids, this could help. A lot of people are familiar with this side-effect. I know plenty of people whose attitude toward health/healthcare is “If I’m not personally familiar with it, it’s not real.” Saying the word “steroids” makes it something they’re familiar with.
        (one of my few exceptions to my rule of “don’t talk about personal health/treatments at work”)

        1. LtBarclay*

          And honestly prednisone is prescribed SO often, for so many different diseases/issues. I’ve taken it for both IBD and a pinched nerve. I think I got it after my wisdom teeth extraction too. And while I’ve never had the rage, I’m aware of it (and had plenty of other side effects). If the LW feels comfortable I’d mention it by name, because so many people have experience with it and because it doesn’t really suggest a particular diagnosis the way other drug names might.

        2. CheeryO*

          Yeah, I was on prednisone for almost a month to kick lingering Covid symptoms, and I just told my boss and a few other people that I was on prednisone since I felt like it was making me a bit feistier than normal. No one seemed to think it was odd that I shared that – the reactions were generally sympathetic and acknowledging how much prednisone sucks.

      2. DrSalty*

        If this is something you’re concerned about, just specify “corticosteroids” or “prednisone” or whatever specific thing you’ve been given. But they’re a very common medication, I would guess most people are more familiar in their real lives with steroids for a health problem vs steroids for performance enhancement.

      3. Office Lobster DJ*

        OP is free to share or not share as much as they want, of course, but I don’t see much point in being overly vague. I’d have to assume that just in the natural course of things the boss is already aware OP had a bad bout of Covid, especially if it left them with a lingering month long cough.

    6. Gracely*

      I think it’s hard for people to understand medication-induced side effects like that until they experience them. I took a medication (not a steroid) several years ago that I had to go on and off and back on a couple of times, and every single time I went on it, I became a complete and total bitch (super snappy, constantly irritable, prone to anger, etc.) for the first week or so while I adjusted to it. It was wild, and I still feel bad that my spouse had to deal with me through that.

      Finally changed doctors and medicines, and haven’t had it happen again, but it was a learning experience for sure.

    7. Quality Girl*

      I was on prednisone + a prescription-strength antihistamine for a week in my mid-20s due to an awful sinus infection. It made me absolutely bananas. My dad’s retirement party was at the end of that week and I could NOT stop crying because of a thing going on in my personal life as we were preparing for the party (which is very unlike me). My normally extremely even-keeled dad finally said to me in a very calm and measured manner, “You are ruining my day and you need to get yourself together.” Boy did that snap me out of it. It’s wild how those meds can take complete hold of you and you don’t even know that’s what’s happening.

  6. ChattyDelle*

    LW2: try recasting this as you’re a role model! Jane admires your communication skills & is modeling her own communication based on your (highly effective) pattern. I’m always picking up a turn of phrase or an explanation from my coworkers

    1. nobadcats*

      I agree. Through this site and my boss I’ve picked up some little phrases. I’ve watched/emulated how my boss writes emails to our clients. I do have my own “tone” in writing, but learning from the behavior my boss models has been really helpful. For example, I have been trained in previous positions to “take ownership” for everything. My boss corrected that habit by coaching me to say, “our team,” “our folks,” or similar phrases along those lines whether I’m speaking for myself and/or one freelancer, or a larger team of 10 or more. It’s taken the pressure off me and clients appreciate it. Clients don’t need to know that it’s *just* me and one other person working on their project.

    2. mreasy*

      I like this reframe. I often have colleagues ask me to draft language for tricky emails for them. Take it as a compliment that she felt your way of communicating the message was ideal and didn’t require any changes.

      1. mreasy*

        That sounded really braggy! I just meant, I am just good at emails. My coworkers have complementary skills. Yikes!!

        1. ferrina*

          No braggy! It’s a great skill to have! My work also has someone who writes incredibly- it’s not uncommon for folks to ask her to help. We all love having someone with this skill!

      2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        It’s not braggy! Everyone has different skillsets. I’m typically the drafter of emails with complicated, detailed, or unwelcome messages in my office, but if the same message needs to be delivered face-to-face, that is someone else’s skillset.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same. I’m happy to help, and I write a lot of things with the assumption that they will be plagiarized.

        (This also did not sound braggy to me. We all have different strengths – I contribute the how-to-write-emails and dealing with the no-nonsense people, other members of my team are better at dealing with the easily-overwhelmed people and writing excellent procedures documents. I think it’s good to know and acknowledge what you’re good at, just as much as what you’re not good at.)

  7. Persephone*

    LW1 – only bring it up if you absolutely need to (i.e. it’s an almost exclusively client facing role, his dandruff has gotten in people’s food/drinks, etc.).

    He knows he has a dandruff problem. He’s probably very embarrassed by it. The self esteem problems an issue like this cause could very well be a major factor in his communication issues. Good communication requires confidence in yourself, and he probably doesn’t have enough of that. If you bring this up when you don’t need to, you’re going to make this worse for him.

    LW3 – don’t disclose anything more than you need to! They do not need to know you’ve been on steroids. Honestly, they don’t even need to know that this is from recovering from COVID-19.

    All they need to hear is “I’m really sorry for my behaviour last week. I was on some medication that had a major impact on my temperament. The problem has been sorted and shouldn’t happen again. I’m sorry for *specific incidents*”

    They know you. They know that this was out of character for you. Unless you did something much worse than what you’ve mentioned in your letter, then it’ll be fine.

    When it comes to your health, it is never a good idea to give your employer anything but the most minimum of information. Your boss might be trustworthy, but other people who work there might not be.

    1. amoeba*

      Hmm, generally I agree, but then “steroids for a persistent cough” somehow sounds like the most common, harmless thing possible when it comes to “some medication”. So personally, I’d probably mention it because I wouldn’t want people to think it’s something much worse. And also, because in my head it’s so normal and harmless that I’d just not see a reason not to mention it. (Especially as the coworkers/boss might already have noticed the persistent cough, anyway)…

      1. Persephone*

        My hesitance to mention steroids is due to the stereotypes about them (specifically what they’re used for). You don’t know who has misconceptions about them, and employers/coworkers WILL discriminate against someone for their medications (speaking from personal experience). Your work does not have the right to know the details of your medical care, and it isn’t work the risk.

        1. DataSci*

          Yeah, all it takes is someone saying “they’re taking steroids” without “for a cough” for the rumors to get started. In this case I’d name the symptom (persistent cough) and not the specific medicine.

          1. BubbleTea*

            I agree. “I had a bad reaction to some cough medicine my doctor prescribed” sounds less concerning than “I was on steroids” even though they describe the same situation.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            OP certainly doesn’t have to be that specific if they don’t want to, but steroids are a very normal and common medicine. Sure some people abuse them, but unless OP is some kind of professional athlete why would anyone be starting rumors about anything because they are taking a very normal medicine prescribed by their doctor??

            1. Ray Gillette*

              Someone who has been prescribed a steroid medication or has a small amount of knowledge of pharmacology knows this, but a large percentage of people don’t fall into either of those groups. To the general population, “steroid” is still a synonym for “performance enhancing drug,” even though most steroids are not PEDs and many PEDs are not steroids. It’s ridiculous, but there you have it. And while you’d think it’s obvious that someone who is neither a pro athlete nor a gym rat wouldn’t have use for PEDs, I’ve found that people will start rumors over anything.

            2. Yorick*

              Agreed, as long as OP isn’t a bodybuilder or something, no one is gonna think anything bad about the fact they took steroids. Steroids are very common for these kinds of illnesses.

            3. Office Lobster DJ*

              I also don’t share the concern about mentioning steroids, personally, but OP can avoid it if they want. If people are prone to creating gossip about OP “being on steroids,” they’ll just as easily gossip about OP’s mystery medication that had such terrible side effects.

              I have to assume that the office has, at the very least, noticed a month long persistent cough, with a high probability that they know OP had a bad bout of Covid. “Bad reaction to cough medicine, sorry about X and Y. Good news, the cough is gone and I’m doing much better” should suffice.

              1. Michelle Smith*

                I think OP is just going to have to figure out what they’re comfortable with. I would think it was an extremely weird excuse to blame cough medicine for behavior like this. Steroids would make sense and not seem like a lie.

              2. a clockwork lemon*

                If someone was being this vague about medications resulting in severe mood swings culminating to them being visibly irritable to the point of snapping at their boss in the office, I’d assume psychiatric medication before it ever even occurred to me that it could be a reaction to cough medicine.

                Obviously OP is free to say as little or as much as they want, but this level of vagueness sure opens up a lot of wild rabbit trails for people inclined to judge and gossip to head down. Very few adults hear “my doctor prescribed steroids” and immediately jump to the conclusion that their (normal, amateur athlete/non-body builder) coworkers are using performance enhancing drugs.

                Being open and transparent is the best way to get grace for minor misbehavior like that from colleagues in a healthy workplace. There’s no need to be cagey about prescription cough meds.

                1. Persephone*

                  Honesty and transparency is great *when they have the right to know*. Not mentioning steroids wouldn’t make the LW dishonest.

                  Work does not need to know the details of your personal life, ESPECIALLY medical care. All they need to know is that LW’s behaviour was an adverse reaction to some medication. That’s it.

          3. Michelle Smith*

            Really? I find that strange. I’ve taken steroids my entire life (asthma) and no one has ever assumed I’m doing it for nefarious reasons. Of course, I don’t look like I’ve ever exercised either, so maybe that’s why.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree, especially if it is temporary. Totally fine, and good to acknowledge that you 1) know your behavior has been off and 2) you know what’s causing it and 3) again if it is temporary it’s helpful that you can say so!

  8. Stevesie*

    LW2: I can see something like this getting under my skin. Especially if it went unacknowledged by the person doing this. That being said I was once cc’d on an email from a manager (not mine) to a customer that I found so impressive that I saved it and stole bits from once and awhile when I was having trouble coming up with the right words to deescalate the situation with customers myself. I even forwarded it to a few coworkers who asked me to after I read it to them! So it’s definitely flattering, even if slightly obnoxious.

  9. Observer*

    #2 – Someone copying your voice.

    You ask if you would have standing to say anything if this were a coworker. But I can’t figure out what you think you could say to anyone? I simply can’t think of something you could say that wouldn’t wind up sounding ridiculous or petty.

    Also, you mention “identity theft”. I know you don’t mean the legal form, but the idea that someone is putting on your persona. But I think that you really need to dial that back. It’s good that you’re doing a gut check and looking at whether you need to re-calibrate, because you really are hitting the deep end. I would be truly shocked if this change in how she writes her emails would cause anyone to mistake the two of you. Or that it would cause anyone to say the equivalent of “OMG! I didn’t realize that this was written by Other Jane! It’s sooo TOTALLY you!” Not even a toned down version that doesn’t sound like a high schooler.

    I do see how it could feel weird to start with, but that’s really pretty much where it should stop, even in your head.

    1. Worldwalker*


      I get the feeling that there’s something else going on here. Escalating this to “identity theft” is … not proportional.

      1. Heather*

        How is it “not chill”? It’s constructive, it’s not mean, or misrepresenting anything OP described. I thought it was very good advice.

        1. Well...*

          It’s not chill in that it’s interpreting an obvious joke from the office as a literal accusation of identify theft. Then telling LW to dial it back! Dude dial back your reaction to a joke from the office lol

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Just FYI I literally had no idea it was a joke from The Office. We all have different touchpoints and different shows we watch and make jokes from, so just remember that no, not every joke from a show you watch is an “obvious joke”.

      2. L-squared*

        Really. It seemed pretty “chill” to me, since you chose to use that word.

        Some of the people on here look at any valid criticism as “not being kind”.

        1. Well...*

          You don’t need to justify using the word “chill” just because I did. It’s a great word, feel free!

          Also I think criticizing LWs should always be in the service of helping them, otherwise why the heck would they write in? This isn’t “judge me internet!” time, even if someone legit did something wrong. Maybe that’s why people are saying you’re not kind or whatever.

      3. Moira Rose's Closet*

        It didn’t strike me as “not chill.” I think it’s a good perspective to share. I mean, the LW asked…and Observer answered.

          1. Well...*

            OP puts all caps in LWs mouth by hypothesizing that it’s the only possible respond LW could have to what other Jane is doing. It’s not a very convincing point (“I can only think of ridiculous responses, ergo the only possible response must be ridiculous”) and it’s irritating when some of the words are caps-shouted as if LW would need to shout to make her point.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              One use of all caps isn’t what I would call over-use. Also, I read it as being used as emphasis, not as shouting.

              1. Well...*

                K, well I read it as aggravating and over-the-top straw-manning, but I guess it depends on your perspective.

    2. Knope Knope Knope*

      LW clearly did not mean “identity theft” is the legal form. She was mocking herself for acting like Dwite from The Office.

      LW 2, if you’re reading this comment, note how often “voice” is actually not taken the way you meant it to. Sounds like you might enjoy creative writing or some other form of professional writing. And a great editor can really make sure your voice reads the way you envision it will. Just a thought from one writer to another!

      1. Observer*

        LW clearly did not mean “identity theft” is the legal form.

        Noted in the comment you responded to. Still an over the top reaction, even internally. I have never watched The Office, but from what I’ve read, it seems to me that any time you can actually compare someone’s behavior to a character from that sitcom, you need to really step back. Even what that comparison is intended humorously.

        Not only is no one assuming the OP’s identity, she’s not even assuming the OP’s persona, despite borrowing some ideas from the OP’s emails.

        Agreed that the OP sounds like a good writer.

        1. Happy*

          I mean, that was the whole point. LW felt like it would seem over-the-top to object, as if she were a sitcom character.

          I think you just don’t get the reference (which is fine) and are misjudging the comment.

        2. Well...*

          Maybe if you don’t get the reference then don’t pass judgement on LW that hinges on said reference.

          Like if I said, “that guy’s such a liar that his pants are on fire” and a bunch of people jumped in and were like “whoa there fire safety is no joke, this is an overreaction! Why would you go all the way from liar to fire? Do you think lying should be punished by death?! I don’t even get it they’re not related!”

          Like it’s really a waste of time and not exactly helpful ya know?

          1. AngryOctopus*

            But if we “don’t get the reference”, how do we even know the LW isn’t serious? That’s a real question. Because I for one had NO IDEA it was a reference to anything, therefore why would I not take it at face value?
            Just something to keep in mind when you accuse others.

            1. Happy*

              I mean, it explicitly referenced a person you had presumably never heard of before (Dwight Schrute). That should have been your clue that it was a reference to something you weren’t familiar with.

    3. ferrina*

      LW mentions “identity theft” in a quote from The Office. It’s clearly satire, and LW seems very aware that The Office isn’t the place to go for workplace advice (hence writing in to Alison).

      I empathize with LW. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into cultivating my work persona. I’m neurospicy, and these kinds of communications don’t always come naturally to me. I’ve gotten good enough at it that I got one job specifically because of my strong ability to communicate. And just like any professional tool (like a checklist or detailed notes), it can be really frustrating to spend hours cultivating something just for you, then watch someone swipe it and pass it off as their own. But just like with other tools, there’s not a lot you can do about it. If you make a big deal, you risk looking dramatic/selfish for holding back something that is clearly helping others. But you can casually mention it if someone brings it up- “oh, Jane’s email? Yeah, I’d sent her the text and hadn’t realized she was going to copy it! Glad it worked so well, though!”

      Though honestly, since this is somewhere that Jane sounds like she struggles anyways, a single email isn’t likely to change her reputation at all. And since LW already sounds like they’ve got a strong reputation for communication, there’s not really anything for them to gain (it would just be saying what everyone already knows)

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Just noting that it wasn’t “clearly satire” to me and at least one other commenter here, who has never seen The Office. I appreciate the clarification, but this reference went completely over my head. And I have seen a couple seasons of the show, albeit 15 years or so ago.

          1. ferrina*

            There’s no requirement that someone has to get all the pop culture references. I appreciate Michelle Smith pointing out that this was something that not all commenters would have been familiar with.

            1. Well...*

              But they are reacting specifically to the reference, which are in LWs own words attributed to a fictional character. Why would you jump on LW and start criticizing her for saying something that’s a reference you don’t get? It’s just weirdly inserting your own ignorance into the discussion and adding nothing of value, while being mean.

              You can weigh in on the rest without getting the reference, but specific reactions to “identify theft” that boil down to “I don’t get it so I don’t like it!” is just… A waste of time.

            2. Well...*

              Sorry to be clear I’m not saying Michelle Smith shouldn’t weigh in (they didn’t actually, they just clarified), I’m saying people who are jumping on the “identify theft” verbiage who don’t get it should t weigh in.

              1. ferrina*

                Ah, got it! Thanks for clarifying!

                I totally get the mix-up without realizing that LW was quoting satire. I’m curious if that’s the only thing Observer was picking up on, or if there was more (I asked in a comment downthread).

                Agree with you that “I don’t get it so I don’t like it/it’s not valid” isn’t going to lead to healthy discourse, but I’m not sure if that’s happening here, or if some folks are seeing this more as a Cheap A$$ Rolls moment. If this isn’t something that had ever crossed their mind, it may seem really weird to them. There was definitely a couple strong reactions among certain commentors, but 1) reading other’s comments/perspectives may give them more empathy, or not; 2) there’s always the chance that this is striking a chord with them personally- maybe a close friend accused them of copying when they really weren’t; but also 3) some folks just get in their rut and aren’t going to change. I can’t see which of these three is the case from behind my keyboard, and I’m inclined toward empathy (mostly cuz I’m a terribly awkward person who would love to hope that others take the same empathy with me when they find me odd!)

                1. Well...*

                  Haha I am here for the meta-commentary about the commentariate, well done! This made me think. I jump on commenters for jumping on LWs… Maybe there’s room for more empathy from me as well.

      2. Observer*

        I’ve put a lot of time and effort into cultivating my work persona.

        And you really think that what OtherJane is doing is going is going to change her persona so much that people are going mix the two of them up? Ore even think that the OP and OtherJane are really alike?

        That’s just so incredibly unlikely that it makes no sense that the OP seems to be concerned about it.

        1. ferrina*

          No, I don’t think anyone is going to mix them up because of similar writing styles. And I don’t think that’s the LW’s concern either. I’m not really sure where you’re getting that- the only part I saw there was the Dwight Schrute quote, which I assume was a joke (since he’s a satirical character on a satirical show- worth a quick Google if you’re not familiar with The Office).

          I think her actual frustration is that something she took time in creating (i.e., the voice) is now being used by a coworker without any comment or attribution.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree some re-calibration is key. I’m sorry but the use of “authentic” in particular is just… really over the top. First of all, if you have really spent that much time carefully curating your words for different audiences then isn’t that by definition not authentic? But also… what the heck even is an “authentic email?” It’s good to put thought into how you communicate at work but it’s not something to get this hung up about.

      I know we can’t control our impulses so if you feel weird about it then you feel weird about it and you are allowed to feel your feelings. But you definitely need to accept that it’s a “you” thing, and not something you can reasonably do anything about.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, I am also wondering a bit how much authenticity and personal voice you need in an email that is about confirming a location for an event. Especially one sent ten times.

        That said, sure, seeing my texts copied unexpectedly comes with a ‘huh?’ feeling once in a while. There are times to flag this (if someone takes credit for something important I created) and times when it’s best to be able to go ‘ok, what’s next’.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          I dunno, I kind of think that if a colleague wanted me to send out the rest of the emails and their original went something like:

          Greetings and salutations!

          I’m so excited to see you all at the next Llama Committee meeting. Here are the details:


          Stay gold,


          I’d kind of be tempted to change it to something more like

          Hello all,

          I wanted to let you know the date and time of the next Llama Committee meeting. Details are below:


          Hope to see you all there!



          …just because theirs is so obviously not written by me.

          Of course, the less closely I work with the recipients, the less it matters whether it sounds like my usual self or not. But that would *also* point in the direction of less quirkiness.

  10. Bec*

    This feels like BEC response. Is there something else this person has done against you to cause this reaction? Office email cultures/styles are so common, I just can’t imagine you having such a unique email voice that someone is intentionally copying it.

    1. Millie's Mom*

      The LW states that the copycat’s usual email tone is very formal/chilly, which is what makes the copying so startling/annoying, I would guess. We all have little things that we KNOW are little things that bug us way more than they should, which the LW is basically acknowledging. I can easily imagine having an email voice that is unique to an office, but I also know that many, many people wouldn’t necessarily notice and the vast majority wouldn’t care – but some do! Again, just one of the small, harmless quirks that make people different!

      1. Allonge*

        Would it help to consider what OP would have done if their boss said “I like Other!Jane’s writing style, can you write more like her?”

        In a situation like this (sounds like a low-key assignment, they are alreay workign together, no need to reinvent the wheel) it’s not a sin to copy / emulate.

  11. Viette*

    LW2 – it seems to bother you that you have worked hard at achieving a warm, effective email tone, and Jane is cribbing off of you and getting all these benefits that you had to work for. Look: you’re not going to lose your hard-earned social capital and influence at work even if Jane becomes just as nice as you.

    Deciding to make a change in how you present yourself is no small feat. It might help if you step back from this idea that she’s taking your hard work. She could have “copied off of” anyone, because there are likely many people in your company who send warm, effective emails; she chose you. She wants to be seen as nicer so she’s acting nicer, but that doesn’t make her actions plagiarism.

    1. coffee*

      As another way of thinking about the email thing – it could actually be a positive reputation boost for you. “Ever since LW Jane started, coworker Jane has become much nicer to interact with. Isn’t it great to see LW Jane’s influence at work! She’s a real asset.”

      1. Clisby*

        But these 2 aren’t co-workers. They work at different companies, and sometimes have to interact with each other. I kind of doubt many people besides LW are even going to notice this.

        1. Smithy*

          I actually think that what Jane is doing can serve as inspiration to more of us looking for guidance around an issue like this if we’ve been given directives to change something more subjective like tone but without coaching or other guidance.

          I remember once trying to write a report for a boss and being told it was wrong repeatedly, and when I asked for examples of what would be write he got really frustrated that he wouldn’t just “do it for me”. I’ve heard from people told to soften their writing tone, that the guidance is often also vague and it’s just a fix that needs to be made.

          In those cases, having examples from outside where you work that you can copy until you have a more personal and natural style is a great where to expedite making those changes. Without having this type of dynamic with a peer in your organization.

        2. coffee*

          Oh, I missed that! You’re right that people probably won’t notice. But I guess LW Jane could still use it as an example of how good she is at it. “My emails are so good, people have started modelling theirs off mine” is a good example for an interview.

    2. Despachito*

      From what LW 1 says, it is not easy to find the right tone, and it took her some work to do so.

      LW1- where did YOU get your inspiration? Did you invent it all by yourself, or did you look at other people’s mails and used their ideas you thought were working? That is what I would do if I was insecure what wording is the norm.

      It was probably not easy for Jane to find the right wording as well. It seems that she admired your style, saw it worked and imitated it. If I were you, I’d find it flattering and see myself a sort of a role model for her in this.

      I think it was awesome that you tested the waters for that. I have not heard about a “e-mail voice” before, and I would consider it very strange if someone called me out on this.

      1. Heidi*

        Totally agree. It might be useful for the LW to think about how other people’s emails may have influenced the development of her own style. She didn’t invent exclamation points, after all; she probably saw them used effectively in an email that someone else had sent to her. I can see how the wholesale copying by other Jane comes off like she’s reading Cliffs Notes while original Jane slogged through the actual book, though.

    3. MK*

      Considering that Jane’s natural style is more matter-of-fact, her changing it is probably work for her too, especially if she didn’t decide to do this herself but after a supervisor suggested it. And she may never realize it was a result of hard work for the OP.

    4. Stitch*

      I also find this letter timely because I am in the process of coaching someone on email tone right now. I’ve had to deal with her getting into some misunderstandings with people on the outside because she tends to be a bit too adversarial or short in emails. She needs more transitions and explanations. So when I’ve had to help mitigate that I’ve Cced her and shown her examples of how I approach the situation.

      So having someone copy your tone, to me, is a pretty normal part of coaching.

      1. AGC*

        This. I once managed someone in client relations whose original “email voice” was…not good. I was thrilled when I saw her copying me.

        I know this is different, because there isn’t that coaching relationship, but it’s likely an innocuous, effective tactic on Other Jane’s part.

  12. raida*

    1. Coworker with severe dandruff
    Unless he’s leaving skin on everyone’s desks, the manager should just implement a simple “Once a week we all give our desks a wipe off” rule.

    If he is sharing desks, I’d say that it’s fair to assign him his own.

    Also – he knows. He really. REALLY knows. You don’t need to bring it up. Nobody does. I had a boss with lots of dandruff and he was well aware of it, but it was actually the best he could do – better than it’d been in the past.

    If you want him to DEAL WITH IT then I’d suggest, not when eating, just asking him how he deals with it, even in a roundabout way IE “Oh yeah my sister has rosacea and she’s got a whole routine! If she misses two days in a row, red patches on her face and neck. She’s got a friend that is into fad diets and keeps giving her ridiculous advice like “eat beetroot before bed” or “avoid any foods with acid in them” yeah thanks Jennie, I think we’ll stick with the skin specialist’s successful routine!
    Jeff, what was, like, the most useless dandruff advice you’ve ever gotten?”

    worst case scenario he’s never done anything about it, is shocked there’s any advice out there for him, becomes self conscious of it, you all need to be supportive, and he can actually improve the situation. best case scenario this is as good as it gets, and you learn the efforts he goes to.

  13. Brain the Brian*

    My company never sent me my five-year work-iversary gift, which was due to arrive while we were working remotely during the pandemic. Our admin assistant at the time confirmed to me later that he had forgotten to send it and promised to do so. Then he was fired. So I guess I’m not getting it anymore. *shrug*

      1. Random Bystander*

        Then again … I remember my 10th, and the “gift” was a $50 gift card for things in a catalog (not just a $50 gift card that could have been used anywhere) but practically anything that I actually wanted cost >$50 and did not have dual-payment options (so I could use the $50 card + $30 of my money for said item). So … I got nothing.

        1. Phryne*

          You people get 5 and 10 year gifts? I’m coming up on 15 and honestly not expecting even a mention from my manager. 25 years is the first my employer starts to notice.

          1. Phryne*

            That being said, if the rule is you get a gift, 100% follow up on that. It is the same with PTO and other benefits: it is yours.

          2. Brain the Brian*

            I mean, it doesn’t make up for the substandard pay even when we get the gifts — but yes, we do.

        2. Phony Genius*

          We used to have 25-year awards. You were given 4 choices – a wall plaque, a desktop plaque, a medallion, or none of the above (waive the award). These awards were discontinued when the last option became the most popular.

          1. Your Computer Guy*

            I have several work awards, either glass or lucite. It’s extremely touching that my coworkers voted for me for them, and I’m very appreciative of the recognition. I also don’t know what to do with these things now. I work from home, so they’re on a shelf in my home office, but it feels a little weird. If I worked in the actual office I’d probably have them out on my desk?

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes I mean if it’s something the company is paying for them definitely follow up. I mean if I’m the person who orders 50 gift boxes for the team and only 49 are delivered I want to know so I can check with the vendor. Otherwise I’m paying for something on behalf of the company that I’ve not got.

        Also as a boss if I worked somewhere with a 5 year gift but someone doesn’t get it, i’d rather they raised it than went on feeling upset. Tell me and I can try and fix it.

        1. mreasy*

          Having headed up the holiday gifting team, I would absolutely want to know – as often it reveals a larger problem affecting move people.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          Exactly. Maybe a whole bunch of gifts went unsent because of this guy, but they don’t know because of shoddy record keeping. So let them know!

        3. OP Four-Lorn*

          Hey, I’m OP 4, and just wanted to come in here and say thanks. I honestly wasn’t sure if they would have wanted to hear about a gift not making it to me. I saw someone else say you’re entitled to that gift and honestly, I didn’t think of it that way. This is my first time working for a company that actually bought us gifts and from what I saw in the pics that were posted, it seemed like a lot of thought went into these.

      3. Heather*

        I’ve yet to see any kind of corporate anniversary gift that was worth even the effort of sending an email…

      4. Your Computer Guy*

        I also need to follow up not getting an anniversary gift (e gift cards, I’ve been skipped the last couple of years and have to chase them down each time). It’s just so awkward to do and makes me feel anxious each time. It also feels like one more thing I’ve got to take care of for myself at a job where I already have to pick up a lot of dropped balls. So I can understand the reluctance to say anything.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Yeah, this just about nails it. “Hey, New Admin Assistant (or New Admin Director, since the old one literally died at their desk last year — or New HR Director, since the old one left, thankfully under normal circumstances)! Here’s this petty thing that I was supposed to get two years ago and didn’t. I asked Old Admin Assistant, and he promised to send it, but I never got it. Any chance you can send a new one?” It just feels gross to ask, given everything. The gift is a nice one and something I would definitely use, but to waste workplace capital on it? Ehhhhh. (This is the same company that misgendered me on multiple plaques that I got for office awards; I’m cis, but they just chose the wrong option. I let that one go, too, because asking for things is usually treated as an enormous imposition.)

    1. Chikkka*

      I once worked on a project where the person leading the project bought presents for all of us that he’d had engraved with our names, but he’s extremely disorganised on a personal level (despite being massively successful professionally) – he’s neurodivergent – and forgot to order them in time, then just forgot to give them to us.

      This was years ago and he’s since become one of my closest friends. The presents, as far as I’m aware, are still in a box somewhere in the recesses of his house (in one of the hundreds of random boxes in his attic or shed). I keep threatening to go hunt for it and finally give everyone else their project presents. We’re still all friends and semi-regularly have reunions so I could do this without it being weird.

      Point is, some people are just disorganised.

    2. Snow Globe*

      My company went through a merger, and shortly after I accepted a severance package. A couple of months later, I got an anniversary gift in the mail—a lucite model of our new corporate headquarters. It weighed about 5 pounds. My son’s comment was that it looks like what would turn out to be the murder weapon on a tv detective show.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Hmmm, another idea for my “great unwritten mystery novels because I will never write them myself” series.

      2. SweetFancyPancakes*

        At a company where I once worked, the 5-year gift was a really heavy paperweight in the shape of a pyramid- complete with very sharp corners. It was so heavy that we would actually have contests to see who could hold it upside down in the palm of their hand the longest, because, man that thing was sharp (the “we” in question were a bunch of early 20-somethings, so still pretty childish. That’s my only explanation). Lots of us looked forward to getting it, but when my 5-year came, they had changed it so that all the corners were rounded. Still heavy, but not as much… fun? Anyway, the old version could definitely be used as a weapon.

  14. Allonge*

    LW2 – one of the reasons I am efficient is I use copy-paste as much as humanly possible.

    If someone wrote a good text, with a tone appropriate for purpose, for doing something at work that now needs to be done ten more times and I could just plug in names and dates and locations, I would copy-paste it – not out of flattery and certainly not to steal their voice/identity but because it’s already done.

    And if I wrote the original and someone rewrote it, I would be wondering what was wrong with mine (or how much time the other person has on their hands, really).

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, re-using the scheduling email as a template just seems so normal. I’d assume the task she was taking off OP’s plate was the editing with dates and times and sending out to invitees for the remaining meetings, not composing entirely new emails for each invite, which seems like a waste of time.

      Unless the OP has some unique catchphrases or something, I’m not really sure what’s to be stolen/copied here. Most of the people I know who write warm emails do it using pretty similar phrases. Maybe she’s just making more of an effort to write friendlier emails.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Yeah. I think that if someone was signing off with “Stay gold!” or something, then I’d replace it with something more neutral, or that fits me better. But especially for something lower-stakes that just needs to be sent out quickly, I can totally see myself using whatever language comes to mind (like from a similar email I’ve seen someone else send, perhaps) and not overthinking it.

    2. Goldie*

      Sometimes people will get irritated with you if you don’t leave something in an email that they think is important. Maybe she was afraid she would miss something from LWs message if she changed it.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I agree with this. In two separate jobs I’ve been the person who creates the standard wording for things and it is vastly more efficient to have ONE person spend time doing this ONCE than to reinvent the wheel every time.

      Heck, at $OldJob I built standard paragraphs into Word’s autocorrect (so eg typing “llamacarenotes” would automatically insert “Your llama needs regular grooming to maintain healthy skin and coat. We recommend booking four to six times a year.”) because in most jobs you are doing largely the same thing over and over and once you’ve established some good phrasing you want to keep using it!

      The wider point about tone in general and “email voice” I think is sort of separate because that’s something LW will take with her if/when she moves to a new job, whereas the specific wording of a form email is work product that she has produced for her current job. Unless you are an aspiring author, and frankly even then, having a super distinctive “voice” isn’t necessary and may not even be desirable, as opposed to developing an industry standard tone or best practice tone. And it’s definitely a compliment to have people borrow your phrasing.

      1. Allonge*

        Absolutely, about the distinctive voice – it can be important for an organization to have one, when communicating externally, but I don’t think I ever saw any advantage to having one for a person when at work (so my voice to be ‘distinctively Allonge’). Or thought about the writing style on a personal level beyond “understandable” and “tone-appropriate”.

        Maybe this is something that can be a competitive advantage or important to customers in other places?

      2. Harper the Other One*

        OMG I never considered putting shortcuts like that into Word’s autocorrect. That’s amazing!

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Though I should note I haven’t needed to do this since Office 365 (etc) so I don’t know where the functionality lives. I would be astonished if they had done away with it; I just don’t know where I’d find it.

      3. Antilles*

        Not only is it more efficient, it’s often straight up better to just copy the standard wording for consistency’s sake.
        As the reader, if I’m getting a weekly scheduling email every week, there’s a lot of benefit in getting the same format/similar language every week, since I know exactly where to look to find the information relevant to me and can just skim the rest.

      4. Aerin*

        The authorial voice of most authors I know, myself included, is basically “take the three authors whose books you have re-read the most times and throw them into a blender.”

        And sometimes I’ll see someone say “AuthorA’s book clearly shows the influence of AuthorB” and AuthorA responds “lol I’ve never even read AuthorB”

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I work in IT where copying and pasting other peoples code is just so normal a practice that copying and pasting other peoples text would be just as normal.

      The only exception would be if someone had taken the time to write up a whole list of detailed instructions and then someone else copied them and claimed that they’d written it. That would be a big no no.

    5. kiki*

      Yeah, I feel like this all unfolded in an organic and non-offensive way:

      Jane probably volunteered to write the rest to take some work off of LW, read the email LW had drafted and thought, “Wow, this is already way better than what I would have written! I shouldn’t change a thing!” Then Jane sent the emails, got good feedback, and realized warming up her emails is worthwhile.

      I definitely sympathize with LW because it is definitely annoying to spend time and energy perfecting something, then have somebody else just start picking it up from you, but it happens all the time at work! We all innovate something, it’s really good, and then it becomes the best-practice.

  15. Audrey Puffins*

    LW2, I think it’s extremely normal to use co-workers’ emails as templates, and I suspect that is what Jane is thinking. When I was new to my job, I would constantly ask my co-workers to BCC me on things so I would have existing emails to build my own compositions on, and now that I’m the old hand, I BCC my newer co-workers on a lot of stuff so they can also build a reference library. And sometimes it is just a straight-forward copy/paste job, no need to go “well this is a good starting point, let’s adapt it”. I know that we all develop our own email styles, and if I’m helping someone compose an email then I will encourage them to put it in their own style once we’ve got the main message written out, but if you’re all working for the same company and towards the same professional goal, then it’s so normal to treat existing emails as a company resource rather than considering that they may have been purposefully developed to be more personally representative.

  16. Irish Teacher*

    LW2, it’s possible Jane finds communication difficult in some way – there are many things that can make professional communication difficult, from being neurodiverse to not speaking English as one’s first language to being from a different culture (more formal, less formal), to education levels to just being shy or socially awkward. I can see why the copying and pasting would bother you and I can see how that would influence your reading of the rest of it, but it may be simply that she was struggling to find a “voice” and is imitating somebody who is clearly talented at it.

  17. Luna*

    LW3 – Mention something to your boss. Even if it’s just a short, “Hey, I just wanted to apologize for how I acted recently. I was on some new medication that was having side-effects, which led to my being so irritated.” You don’t have to go into details, just apologize for your behavior and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

  18. Nebula*

    On interview timelines: I once interviewed for a job and was told to expect a response within the week. A week went past, then two, still hadn’t heard anything, assumed I hadn’t got it and was a bit miffed they hadn’t bothered to follow up. About four weeks after the interview, I got a generic email from HR saying there’d been a delay on the outcome, and the week after that, one of the panel contacted me to say that another panel member had been in an accident the day after my interview! She was expected to make a full recovery, but she’d been in hospital. They eventually offered me the job – I turned it down as they couldn’t give me enough hours for me to make it work money-wise, but you truly never know why it’s taking a long time to hear back from an interview.

  19. CutenessCentral*


    I have chronic asthma, which means I occasionally need to go on oral steroids (thankfully not for years now). I’ve had doctors offer to write me a note for just in case I get the side effect of irritability (code for every freaking thing irritates me and I lash out). Hopefully you will not need them again, but if you do this is a great heads up option. It may even be an option for your current situation where the side effect has passed, but you maybe need to do some damage control.

  20. American in Ireland*

    LW2: I went through something similar a few years back. I do a lot of industry facing work and spend a lot of time coming up with friendly ways to explain technical concepts to people who need to understand the concept but not necessarily the actual technology under it.

    I started seeing other folks in the industry talking about the concepts using the same language and wording. This felt very personal, like, they will copy what I say and what I do and not credit me for the work I did to create and refine the text. I talked about it with a few advisors and they told me that was actually a part of being a leader. That when you get something right in the work world other folks will adopt it and follow. And, yes, sometimes that means cutting and pasting words.

    In some ways I still don’t like it, it does feel like plagiarism and sometimes feels like a problem or an insult. (I listened to a man basically word-for-word repeat something I said at an industry meeting on an industry call last month like it was his brilliant idea that we needed to address a particular thing. Mansplaining on an industry level.)

    I understand the feelings about being copied and hearing your words come out of someone else’s mouth. I still struggle with it. But this is part of how leadership works. Not every leader is going to be credited for every idea or word. It’s a part of the work journey.

    1. Silver Robin*

      Ideas definitely matter more than phrasing. I would be ticked too if someone acted like they had come up with an idea I had actually proposed. Even if they do not remember who said it first, they could reference where they heard it.

      Phrasing / templates though are just handy. At my org we have explicitly shared templates with one another.

    2. Samwise*

      Some years ago I was asked to lead a committee charged with making a substantial change in our program. The change was one that had a lot of resistance from many staff members. On my committee was one of the most vocal and intransigent of the objectors. I was in my boss’s office weekly, getting coached in what to do (and also, just venting to my boss). If I had been allowed to develop the change on my own, it would have taken me maybe a couple weeks to do the research, write it, etc.

      It took over six months.

      But at the end of that six months, the committee presented the changes to the rest of the (very disgruntled) staff. Objections raised — I did not respond once, because I was so strongly identified with the changes. Instead, Mr. Intransigent stood up and said, “Well, X Y Z, so we need to move forward with this change.” X Y Z were *exactly* my words, **exactly**. But they came out of his mouth.

      And that was that.

      One of the best outcomes of “plagiarism” I’ve ever witnessed.

  21. Pokécommenter*

    Alison, regarding #2, I think you misinterpreted LW’s letter to mean that other Jane didn’t finish the first email (I initially did as well); it seems like the LW meant that she fully wrote the first email and other Jane volunteered to do the rest, but instead just re-used the first email.

    1. londonedit*

      That’s how I read it, too – OP sent the first email, and Jane said she’d send the rest. OP assumed Jane meant she’d construct her own emails to send to the remaining people, but instead she copy/pasted OP’s original email and sent that to the rest of the people on the list. I can absolutely see why Jane did that – it’s much quicker, for a start, and it seems sort of pointless to write separate emails when she’s got one that works well as a template. And I can also see why Jane might have then thought ‘Wow, I got a fantastic response when I used OP’s email – I loved the way she phrased the request at the end. I’m going to try doing it that way from now on’ and so that’s what she’s done in her subsequent correspondence.

    2. Samwise*

      But so what? If OP’s email was thorough and served the purpose, why add to it or change it unnecessarily?

      It’s a work email. Not the great american novel.

    3. Observer*

      I don’t think that Allison misinterpreted anything. It’s clear what happened. And Allison’s response is perfect.

      The bottom line is that it’s easy to see why it would initially feel off to the OP, but when you get right down to it, there is simply no reason why Other Jane should edit or re-write the email. The OP’s email is fine as it stands so why waste time reinventing the wheel?

    4. DataSci*

      They’re confirming meeting times, though. There are only so many ways to phrase that, and is someone really expecting ten different handcrafted emails for ten different meetings?

  22. John*

    LW2: comms expert here. Just be authentic in your emails. Striving to create a “voice” is going to come across to most as shticky and inauthentic.

    Just be yourself.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Not being snarky here, I really don’t get it – what does that even mean in a work context? I don’t usually see any need to be my authentic self for work communications, because that’s not the job. Like, my “authentic” email voice is pretty brusque, focused on getting the information across, but the most effective email voice for my work is warm and helpful, so I pay special attention to that.

      1. Loulou*

        Well, maybe that advice doesn’t apply to you, but I assume “just be yourself” means express things the way it would naturally occur to you to express them, rather than creating a persona and trying to express yourself the way they would. I do agree that it can be obvious when someone is consciously using a “voice.”

      2. ferrina*

        It means that people can generally tell when others are being fake. Something about it just lands wrong.

        Being authentic doesn’t mean bringing out every single aspect of yourself. No one does that all the time anyways- we present different aspects in different settings. I like to think of it as facets of a diamond- each is beautiful, but you’ll never see all of them at the same time. Authenticity also isn’t about being able to act without consequence- just because you have that aspect doesn’t mean that other people don’t get to react reasonably to it. Think about a small child having a tantrum- most of us learn quickly that tantruming isn’t actually an effective way to communicate. That doesn’t mean we’re inauthentic when we don’t tantrum whenever we’re frustrated. It just means that we’re more aware of our emotions and how we’re expressing them.

        A professional authentic voice at work means being aware of how your communications land and being intentional about which aspects (or facets) of yourself you are showing*. It’s not about being fake, it’s about flexing different muscles. You may naturally have a strong brusque muscle, but you’re being intentional about also using the warmth muscle. (that said, there will be times where we just gotta fake it. I definitely fake-nice to certain people.)

        *This doesn’t go for core aspects of identity. You shouldn’t have to deny who you are. This is more for things like the different ways you choose to handle emotions. And because communication is a two-way street, it’s also incumbent on the person you are communicating with to hold everyone to equivalent standards. I could write a dissertation on this.

        1. ecnaseener*

          I guess I don’t see this as flexing my own personal Warmth Muscle – or if it’s technically mine, it’s the same one everyone else has, it’s not my brand of warmth in any meaningful way. It’s not fake and it’s not ~authentic~ either, in my mind, it just…is.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Thinking about this more, maybe I should clarify that I’m not communicating about anything particularly meaningful at work. I see the need for authenticity in some types of communications, but not setting up a meeting or sending instructions or etc.

    2. Generic Name*

      I mean, my most “authentic” emails are me just diving into the topic with zero pleasantries and also me expecting the other person to just read my mind and deduce what they are supposed to do next. Turns out, that’s not a very effective way to get stuff done. But then again I’m just a scientist and am no comms expert.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      It sounds like LW2 has hit on a system that works really well for them and it doesn’t sound like people are seeing it as shticky or inauthentic. It sounds like they and their company is happy with how they write their e-mails and they aren’t looking to change.

    4. Parakeet*

      I’m an autistic person who has worked and volunteered in areas of human services where perceived tone/affect/prosody is very important, and I don’t agree with this. I get why someone would spend a lot of effort developing a “voice.” My first experience with this was actually working a chat-based crisis hotline for survivors of a specific type of violence, and the most helpful thing I got in training was printouts showing simulated “good” and “bad” crisis counseling sessions. I used those as scaffolding to develop my skills – and I was good at it too, got ratings more than half a point above average on a five-point scale. It wasn’t inauthentic; I just learn how to communicate effectively in different situations by analyzing what does and doesn’t work and then gradually that integrates with my natural style and personality as I practice.

      That said, LW2, I agree with all the people saying that while I get your feelings (and appreciate that you wrote to AAM for a gut check), understand that those are yours to manage rather than a sign that this person actually did something wrong, and let this go. Email voice (or email text, for that matter) isn’t really a context to which the concept of plagiarism applies. And I don’t think you’re going to lose whatever rep you’ve built up for your “voice” because someone else used your style. If it keeps up, you can use the fact that you essentially created a template, as a talking point at your next performance review!

    5. Green great dragon*

      I have several flavours of ‘myself’ and I don’t think it’s inauthentic to be conscious of how I’m coming across. My least friendly emails are probably to people I’m most friendly with – they get direct and concise. Others I make more of an effort with.

  23. Kat*

    LW1 could have scalp psoriasis. I’ve got psoriasis but it’s on my feet and i work with someone who has it on her scalp and she frequently looks like she has bad dandruff. Luckily, because I have it too I know what it is and how hard it is to treat

    I wouldn’t say a word. He likely knows he has the issue with the flakes and psoriasis is notoriously hard to treat. Especially on the scalp. And by bringing it up it could cause him more stress and stress definitely can affect how psoriasis reacts. Mine definitely flares when I’m super stressed.

    Even if it is just dandruff I wouldn’t say anything. Especially because the uniforms are black I’m sure he’s already well aware and speaking to him would only make him self conscious about the issue.

    I’d drop it. It’s nothing that affects his job performance so it’s nothing that needs addressing.

  24. Not your typical admin*

    LW 3 – talk to your boss and doctor! So many people don’t realize how powerful steroids are, and how they can affect mental health. My former brother in law was prescribed steroids for a skin condition and wound up with steroid induced mania. It made his act totally irrationally, and he would up loosing his job, having to be involuntary committed to the hospital, and he almost wound up in jail. Sadly he refused to get the help he needed and my sister wound up leaving him.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I’m so sorry to hear that about your brother in law, and this is true about how little warning you’re given about mental health. I have been prescribed steroids a couple of times to help get a severe rosacea flare up under control, and they have never said anything about side effects aside from elevated appetite.

      I’m lucky in that they just make me violently ill for days when I come off them, no matter how slowly I taper. But I have definitely known people who were impacted mentally and it was so surprising because we were never warned that could happen if taken as prescribed.

      1. BubbleTea*

        My toddler was prescribed steroid creams at four months old, and the only reason I know about the side effects is because I’m a chronic instructions reader, and I also joined a Facebook group for parents of kids with eczema. I wasn’t given any application guidance and I had no idea that prolonged use could be an issue!

        1. Not your typical admin*

          Yes! I feel like so many times we’re given medicine without a full understanding of all the side effects, especially mental health ones.

  25. Tomato Soup*

    OP2, your colleague might have been told to cultivate a warmer tone in her emails or gotten a positive reaction when she sent out the email you drafted. In my last job, I suddenly had a bunch of external relationship building and maintenance added to my otherwise internal analyst-researcher role. My supervisor kept telling me to make my emails more warm and conversational, like hers. However, get style was so far from my own that my attempts to replicate it were…not good. It might be that she found your style more accessible.

  26. whistle*

    LW2, there is no such thing as plagiarizing an internal work email. Good internal emails should be be widely copied by anyone who wants to use them.

    This is a major change from high school or college where plagiarism is (rightfully) seen as one of the worst things you can do, so it can be hard to adjust. I know I struggled with these differences when I first learned them. I was teaching my first college class while in grad school, and my advisor was very clear that plagiarism rules for research and publishing DID NOT apply to teaching. For teaching, we were encouraged to pull liberally from online syllabi, handouts, etc. (as long as there was no copyright violation, and even then you can use a certain amount of copyrighted material in the classroom as long as you are not publishing it). It took a bit of work to feel comfortable copying someone else’s handout. Now, I just hope someone out there has copied one of mine!

    An email is not the time to reinvent the wheel.

    1. L-squared*

      Right? As teachers, I’d copy word for word stuff for lesson plans, and would search for handouts and just print them as is. I mean, often it was because people put it online specifically for that use.

      But as one teacher always said, why reinvent the wheel. If something is effective, why put in work to redo it?

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah I have various standard emails that I send at various points in my work process, and at this stage in my career the wording has been honed through experience (argh why do people keep misunderstanding X; better add in a more thorough explanation) and through picking up tips and standard parlance and bits of wording from other people I’ve worked with over the years. If I see a particularly helpful phrase in an email from my boss to a difficult author, for example, I’ll definitely squirrel it away in my arsenal of useful phrases. Some of the standard phrasing I use now is from template emails I used three or four jobs ago, so I guess you could say I copied it, but really it’s more like ‘that wording used to be really helpful when I did this sort of thing before’.

    2. theguvnah*

      there is ABSOLUTELY a such thing as plagiarizing an internal email. What an odd thing to state definitely.

  27. Dinwar*

    #1: Fun story: In college I worked with some analytical equipment, doing water microchemistry (dissolved metals in parts per billion concentrations). I also have dandruff–maybe not severe, but bad enough that I had to do something about it. That “something” involved using anti-dandruff shampoo that included selenium in some form. I know this because a flake of dandruff got into an aliquot of my sample, and we got an absurdly high reading for selenium. Learned a valuable lesson in proper lab procedures from that episode.

    Believe me, as someone who’s gone through it, he knows. He’s probably doing what he can to get rid of it. It’s one of those problems that isn’t easy to solve, and while it doesn’t create the most clean-cut image it’s also not infectious or anything. And it definitely doesn’t mean he’s unhygienic. Ironically the belief that it did made mine worse–turns out over-use of anti-dandruff shampoo can exacerbate the problem! All you’re going to do is embarrass the poor guy about something he has very little control over.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Absolutely agree. I don’t have dandruff but I do have very severe rosacea and when I was working jobs without healthcare benefits, I could not afford the treatment I need to keep it under control. My face was bright red and swollen and bumpy. People asked me all the time what was wrong with my face and openly stared and there was nothing more at the time that I could have done than what I was already doing. And all of my jobs were customer facing. I eventually started wearing makeup so I could exist in the world in some kind of peace.

      I am begging everyone to please not make anyone feel this way, especially to no purpose.

    2. kiki*

      Right– I also struggled with dandruff and it took a lot of trial and error to find out it was actually dermatitis caused by some of the products I was using.

      I understand that it is sometimes a kindness to point out a “hygiene faux pas” in case the person wasn’t aware of the situation or its severity, but this almost strikes me as pointing out to someone that they have acne. People with acne know they have acne. You pointing it out doesn’t actually help anyone. Same with dandruff. I knew I had dandruff! Someone pointing it out and suggesting dandruff shampoo would have done absolutely nothing for me and only made me very self conscious.

  28. Pocket Mouse*

    LW 2- If you choose not to bring up the missing gift now, you can flag it toward the end of this year, as in: “I wanted to mention that I never actually received the holiday gift last year, let me make sure you have the correct address on file this year in case that was the issue.”

    1. Kes*

      This is what I was thinking, but I would bring it up now, like: ‘hey, I wanted to let you know I never got the holiday gift and I just wanted to make sure you have the right address on file for me because I’d hate for any important documents or anything else you might send me to go astray’

  29. L-squared*

    #1. I second Alison’s question. Does it NEED to be addressed? This seems like one of those things that once you notice it, you can’t NOT notice it, but thats also probably because you are around the guy daily. But unless he is like workign around food and you are worried about it getting into peoples food, in which case I feel like you would have mentioned that, just let it go. Sometimes people have medical issues. That doesn’t mean they need a bunch of people gossiping about it or bringing it up.

    #2. This seems so odd to be upset about. Your “voice”, which you seem to take such pride in, seems to be “be friendly and use exclamation points”. And you seem to be upset that she is getting a positive response to it? Do you think you have exclusive rights to this tone that you use? If a new person started that was similar, would you feel it was copyright infringement? Sure, being mad about a straight copy/paste can be somewhat explained. Everything else, seems over the top.

  30. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    LW 2 – I get you! If you put a lot of thought and effort into cultivating something effective, sometimes it doesn’t feel great to have people reap the rewards of your effort without acknowledgment. I think that’s one of those feelings you just have to kind of recognize and sit with until it passes. I think writing in to Alison was probably a big step to helping it pass!

    For what it’s worth, most of my coworkers are so bad at communicating I would be absolutely jazzed if they started stealing my email style. I have written literal email templates for them to use for certain requests we commonly have to make. I have complicated feelings about the way it intersects with gender, but emails with the style I think you’re describing are often more effective and less likely to lead to unnecessary BS because they skirt around everyone’s ego. So when people are copying that style, it’s improving comms for a lot of the org!

    If it’s still bugging you, you may consider looking for a way your efforts to communicate better can be acknowledged?

  31. SMH*

    LW2 I wanted to add that at my last job our director and VP micromanaged all communication that was being sent to all clients and those we wanted to send to our teams even though we were managers. Think of schedule changes, deadline reminders, and company notices. Any email communication had to be vetted and approved prior to going out which sometimes took so long to do so the communication wasn’t needed any longer. Managers learned to agree to things verbally and provide reminders to our direct reports to share in their team meetings vs the direct route of emailing the entire department once. Your coworker may have had a similar experience and believes all communication must be the same when sent to clients.

    I would approach it as ‘You have the authority/option to draft you own communication if you want as there is more than one way to communicate information. I just wanted to pass this on encase you thought the communication had to be the same to everyone.’

    1. ecnaseener*

      Since Jane and LW work for the same company, idk if there’s anything LW can say about what authority Jane has – maybe Jane’s manager did say to use that template for all the meetings, or maybe Jane just made that call herself to be efficient and reuse a good template – either way, nothing for LW to weigh in on.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I’m picturing other-Jane’s manager being copied on the email, saying to herself and then to Jane “this is what I was talking about with tone in emails, why can’t you write them more like that?” and it changing from there.

  32. MicroManagered*

    LW1 I noticed your whole letter is phrased in the first-person plural (“we this, we that”). This suggests to me that it’s a topic of conversation for you and coworkers.

    The very best thing you can do is to stop gossiping about this person’s dandruff with your coworkers! He knows about it. You know about it. You know your coworkers and manager…all know about it. How and if your manager addresses it is for them to discuss with their boss–not you. Stop harming this dude by discussing it behind his back. Shut it down or change the subject when it comes up–it’s an act of kindness to him and you will feel better, trust me.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      This is a great point and I hadn’t even noticed the use of we. I have a gross skin condition that affects my face, not my scalp, and I can tell you that if this is a big enough deal that your office is gossiping about it, your coworker for sure knows you’re doing that and you’re definitely giving off “ew gross” body language to him.

      I don’t want to contribute to a pile on, but I do want to impress how serious the hurt of stuff like this can be. It’s difficult to imagine if you haven’t lived it, but I have. I am in treatment for social anxiety disorder that is caused by body dysmorphia that I have as a result of the way people reacted to my face.

      Please be kind.

    2. ursula*

      Yeah, great point. Every time this topic comes up, I’m reminded how many people must openly think I’m gross for a medical condition I’ve tried extensively (and expensively) to deal with but which I now accept is going to be with me for the rest of my life. Also, LW1, I don’t mean to pile on you here (because I do actually understand why this bothers you!), but if you need more fuel for your compassion: scalp psoriasis is constantly itchy and frequently painful. It deeply sucks and almost certainly makes your coworker uncomfortable not just in the “social discomfort, this is awkward” way but also in the literal “I want to claw my skin off” way. I don’t have personal experience with dandruff but if it’s as bad as you describe, I’m guessing it sucks for him too!

    3. Observer*

      The very best thing you can do is to stop gossiping about this person’s dandruff with your coworkers!

      This is 100% true!

      OP, even if your coworker doesn’t realize how bad it is (highly, HIGHLY unlikely) or is not taking whatever steps he can (also very unlikely), gossiping about him / it should REALLY be off the table. So is discussing this with manager. There is absolutely nothing productive that can come of it, and it’s really harmful to everyone – not just the coworker.

      If the issue really does need to be addressed, that’s on the manager to deal with. It’s not your place to bring it to them unless you are actually being harmed by it or there is a safety violation. And from what you say, that doesn’t exist.

  33. Lacey*

    LW2: I totally get why this feels weird, but I think Alison is spot on here.

    I’ve done something similar when I need to be outgoing (in person) for work, because I just freeze up in that kind of situation. I think, “What would Sally do?” because Sally is a friendly an competent former coworker who always makes a good impression.

    And I think if Sally had ever been around to see it she may well have recognized that I was low-key copying her introductory style.

    I also think that if I’d had to do it more it might have evolved a bit to be more of my own, friendlier, style. And hopefully that’s what happens with other-Jane. She’ll use this more as a jumping off point to sound friendly than to just eternally sound like your clone.

  34. Alice*

    Hi OP2, I wonder if it will help you reframe things if you think: your colleague said, “I’ll finish it,” and “it” was the task of sending the email to all the people who needed the info. You heard “I’ll finish it” and understood “it” as finishing the email text by adding more content.
    It’s not that your colleague undertook to do a task and then bailed, it’s just that you didn’t understand the original commitment the same way.

  35. ecnaseener*

    Just adding my voice to the general ‘this is normal’ response to #2 – it’s a little different because Jane works at a whole different company, but otherwise IME this is super normal. I was trained to use email templates written by previous coworkers and stuck with that same (rather stiff, formal) voice for my own communications. Eventually I noticed another group on my team used a much warmer voice and seemed to get better results that way. I started adopting their style and eventually updated my group’s templates accordingly. I certainly hope the people who were warm first didn’t feel slighted that others were copying their warmth, it was good for the team as a whole.

  36. Czhorat*

    I have a very distinctive voice in writing, email, and speech for that matter. I’m sympathetic with LW2 that it would feel weird if my language is lifted whole cloth. It would almost feel like someone impersonating me.

    I don’t have direct advice and, as Alison said (and the LW knows) it isn’t actionable. I disagree with the broad consensus here that it’s not worth feeling irked over; it’s completely fine and normal for this to feel strange.

    1. Allonge*

      OP can of course feel what they want to.

      But, if anyone reporting to me would say they re-drafted a perfectly good email already written for the exact task they needed to do because the voice was not theirs, I would question if they had enough work to do.

    2. Lana Kane*

      Agreed. I don’t like people being told that their feelings are invalid.

      Although it would bother me as well for the reasons you said, I think once I asked myself why it would calibrate for me that there’s not much to be done, at least not unless it becomes egregious (taking credit for my work, etc). And the OP is doing just that – finding a way to calibrate by asking someone.

  37. ijustworkhere*

    #5 From the other side: I don’t know what kind of organizations you are interviewing with, but I can tell you if it is local government, or small nonprofits, or education based, many of us are losing people faster than we can hire new ones in. People are taking early retirement, jumping to a job in the next town or with the next non-profit that pays a little more, and/or our budget people are sending weekly alarms about our revenues and asking us to re-evaluate if we ‘really’ need that position.

    We feel terrible about how our hiring processes are affected when people responsible for it leave. We know it’s not a good look to candidates we are trying to recruit.

    I know that doesn’t help a candidate who is trying to get a job with us, and I know it doesn’t make us look good, but I hope it helps the LW know that sometimes it isn’t about them. It’s about us, and it’s not because we don’t care. We are trying to maintain service levels with fewer and fewer staff and manage hiring processes that (in my opinion) are in need of an overhaul.

    Those of us who work here know it’s been a good place to work for a long time, but that it won’t continue to be so if we don’t fill those vacant positions.

    1. Ghosted*

      Similarly, I’ve interviewed for two executive-level positions in local government in the past 18 months. The first one I made it to the final interview, then found out about a month later on social media that someone else had gotten the job. I was never contacted. For the second one (it really wasn’t a good fit and I applied at the very last minute, no heartbreaker), I finished the initial screening, remote interview, and again – ghosted. I literally read it in the newspaper that an internal candidate had been selected.

      I’m involved at the hiring for my org, and I know my HR has attempted to automate a lot of the notifications for applicants rather than assign that duty to someone specific (because we are also losing people at a rapid rate). I think that’s where some of the breakdowns are occurring. We had an internal process last year and I found out through the gossip mill that the notifications didn’t go out until a month after the successful candidate’s promotion had been announced by the company.

    2. M2*

      I’m in the process of hiring and one position seems to be held up by HR. This is an internal candidate but even though they knew the salary grade wanted more $ so I had to go to bat with HR and then a higher up HR had to get involved because it’s about parity within the grade (this person should get more as they proved themselves in their previous role). After that is decided then HR does reference checks and I’m assuming it’ll be 4-6 weeks until they come on board once they officially get an offer and say yes which is very frustrating for all of us directly involved.

      If I had control over the process this would have been done quicker and probably the person would have started already, but this is our HR process. We also have a very large central HR and then department HR representative, so it should not take this long and has not in the past.

      This is to say the process can take long for a lot of reasons and I’m assuming (but not certain) HR has not told our second choice until the current person is official. I don’t think it’s fair or right to do to anyone and I have tried to push HR on many occasions but it won’t work.

      It’s frustrating because my #1 candidate in another role ended up pulling out because the process was too long and they had accepted another position. I didn’t think any of the other finalists were a good fit, so now I am back to step one on that job. It is also on HR to tell candidates when they aren’t chosen and after seeing what has happened recently I don’t even know if they do that! I have offered to email candidates and let them know when they are not chosen, but am not allowed due to HR policies. Ugh!

  38. Khatul Madame*

    I do not believe exclamation marks belong in business email, outside of a very narrow celebratory/congratulatory context.

    1. BubbleTea*

      My work involves a lot of behavioural science and psychology (working with people on financial behavioural change) and exclamation marks are absolutely appropriate in some of my emails. This is an unrealistically broad blanket rule to have.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, my work involves building good working relationships with people, and often asking them to do things according to the timelines/parameters that I need. It’s a creative relationship and for the most part authors want to feel looked after and supported by their editor. Using a warm and friendly writing style in emails – with the odd exclamation mark where appropriate – is definitely one of the tools I use to try to achieve this. It’s far more helpful for me to write something like ‘Thank you so much for sending over your amends; we’re nearly ready for press! Could you just look over the attached PDF and let me know by tomorrow whether you’re happy to sign off?’ rather than ‘Thank you for sending over your amends. We are nearly ready for press. Please review the attached PDF and let me know by tomorrow whether we have your approval’. The former sounds collaborative and invested; the latter sounds cold and uninterested.

    2. CharlieBrown*

      I work in a scientific context (we’re keeping your drug supply safe) and I work remotely, so rarely see my coworkers in person. I often use exclamation points, along with the occasional smiley face emoji (and gifs in Microsoft Teams) to provide an emotional context that we are missing by the very nature of our work. I’ve never had anyone react weirdly and several people have told me that they appreciate them.

      Keep in mind, these are internal communications with people that I work with frequently. There is always a context that must be considered when applying rules like this.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        I have received feedback in the past that my communication can be a bit curt which might come across as rude to some who don’t know me personally. It’s because I’m usually overly focused on efficiency. I have started using smiley faces or the laugh-crying emoji when sending Teams messages. I also am big on the reactions.

    3. Dinwar*

      I work with people who routinely use emojis, profanity, and L33T-speak in business emails. These are hardly small clients, either; multi-billion dollar companies and major federal agencies. An exclamation point or three goes unnoticed.

      It all depends on the folks you’re dealing with. With some I’m incredibly formal; with others formality would be considered insulting. Just gotta play the room.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I just said this elsewhere, but I received comments on my emails being too cold in an annual review and adding occasional exclamation points in was the primary change I made and it seems to have resolved that. I believe that like many things this is a burden that falls more on women as I highly doubt any of my mail coworkers have been told their their emails were too cold, and it’s crap that if we don’t include that kind of fluff we risk being told we are cold but if we do include it we risk being told we’re unprofessional.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Lol, that should be “male” coworkers of course as I do not currently work for the postal service

    5. Daisy-dog*

      These would not all be included in one email (but more than one might):
      Thank you for your help!
      We finished the project!
      Have a great holiday weekend!
      Happy Friday!
      Your request got approved!
      We got a positive response!
      Stay safe! (in context – my area is being hit by a nasty storm right now)

      Definitely send several exclamation marks per week.

    6. Eyes Kiwami*

      I really disagree! I think exclamation points and even emojis in internal communications, can add warmth to a text-only conversation. In most English-speaking cultures we expect even business communications to be warm and friendly. In other cultures there are other ways of making it professional but I’ve never seen a couple exclamation points cause a problem :)

  39. a tester, not a developer*

    LW1 – does your company offer benefits that cover seeing a dermatologist, prescription treatments, laser or UVB therapy, etc.? If they do your manager could mention it’s an option (with a “I don’t know what treatment plan you have currently, but wanted to mention…” starter).
    If they don’t, I’d leave it alone. Odds are he’s tried every home remedy, and getting a doctor involved can be expensive.

    1. Pierrot*

      It’s not the manager’s job to get into suggesting specific treatment options for dandruff to the employee. For all he knows, the employee has tried those treatments before.

      Reading all the comments has made me aware of how tricky an issue this is. The LW and coworkers might be under the impression that the employee can get rid of the dandruff using shampoo from the drugstore. A lot of people aren’t really aware of how dandruff can be the result of a chronic skin condition that doesn’t respond to treatment. I feel like the more time LW1 and her coworkers spend thinking and talking about their colleague’s dandruff, the more of a distraction it becomes.
      I’m not even sure what the manager could do if this was a customer facing role and the employee’s dandruff was caused by a health issue.

  40. H3llifIknow*

    So for the “email” LW, I get it, but I have to say I do this and I’ve had others do it with my emails, as well. If I get a meeting invitation or email that I need to forward on to other team members, I’m not reinventing the wheel if what I was sent has all the information I already need them to have. Now, sometimes I’ll add in “See the info below for XYZ meeting,” or “below is what I mentioned earlier,” but not always. It’s just a more streamlined way of getting the info out. *Shrug*

  41. KC*

    Letter #4 – since this is a business gift given to all the other employees, you’re entitled to that gift. I’m also a remote worker and this same exact thing happened to me a few weeks ago. Everyone got a Christmas gift card except me. I spoke to my line manager about it and they escalated it to HR. I got my gift early January with an apology for the oversight. Please ask someone about this so the company is aware of their mistake and it’s possible you weren’t the only one overlooked. The further away from Christmas you wait to bring it up, the more awkward it will be.

    1. OP Four-Lorn*

      Thank you. That’s good to know. It sucks this happened to you, too, but knowing you spoke up about it with your manager makes me feel better doing that as well. I never thought about it as being entitled to that gift but it really makes sense if everyone else got them and someone else could be feeling the same if they didn’t get the gift either.

  42. ABCYaBYE*

    OP3 – I have started telling people, including myself, that there’s a difference between an excuse and an explanation. The reaction you had to the steroids is natural (I know that from experience myself). You can say something to your boss and show that you’ve come to realization that the reaction you had was due to a medication. It is explaining the situation and why your actions were abnormal. Show an understanding of the situation and some self-reflection and you’re not excusing your behavior. I would think (hope?) that your boss is similarly understanding of the situation.

  43. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP2 – A thought experiment for you.

    How would you feel if your coworker had never seen your emails, but rather arrived at that ‘voice’ independently? Would you feel put-upon? Would you feel like “Ah, I’ve been using the right voice for the industry and my position, and it took her longer to arrive there. Nice to have confirmation that I’m doing it the correct way”? Some other reaction?

  44. HannahS*

    LW1, so far I’ve seen a lot of people saying, “He knows about it” and I’d offer the perspective that there are certain kinds of people (usually male but not always) who are deeply oblivious to how they are perceived and genuinely don’t “see” that they are wearing ill-fitting stained clothes and have straggly, dirty-looking hair, and they are Shocked! and Appalled! that this would affect any aspect of their life. I say this with the exasperated affection of a close relative of someone Like That.

    I’d actually guess that in combination with awkwardness and poor communication skills, your colleague is someone who, for whatever reason, has not quite figured out How To People in an office, and that’s ok, everyone has to learn it and some people have a harder time with it. If his role requires a level of general polish (which includes communication skills) that he doesn’t have yet, it would be a kindness to have a mentor work with him on it, starting with whatever is most important. If it doesn’t, then let him be flaky and awkward in peace.

    1. UnpopularOpinion*

      Sometimes you sort of know about it and assume maybe others haven’t noticed and you need that little bump to get from ignoring it to do something about it. There was a time when I could have used “Hey, those shirts look uncomfortable, maybe you need to check on the sizes” as I was desperately pretending I could still fit in clothing that was not working (and felt much better when I finally bought some larger options). But, of course, telling something they need larger clothes is waaaaay awkward (and heck, maybe they like the fit, it’s hard to say).

      I can’t give unbiased advice though, as I had an ex who regularly picked his scalp, often looked at, played with the scab and then flicked it away. Yes, it was gross. Any mention of the behavior or a possible scalp issue was Off Limits. If I could go back in time, I wish I could have handled it better.

    2. metadata minion*

      I definitely know people like that, and in some ways have probably *been* a people like that, but unless this person’s appearance is interfering with his ability to do his job, this is a conversation for a close friend to have with him, not a random coworker or manager.

  45. djila*

    A few commenters have brought up psoriasis as a possible explanation for LW1 with the implication (or explication) that the difficulty of treating that means he’s as aware as he can be and doing everything he can, it’s just difficult/impossible to treat. But it could also be a fungal infection of the scalp, which _is_ easily treatable with prescription fungicidal shampoo and a little persistence. And, not to psychoanalyze him off a single paragraph, the “awkward” mention hints that he could be the kind of personality that shortcuts directly to “well, this is my life now I guess” or gets stuck trying home remedies and over-the-counter treatments futilely without thinking to broaden the search or see a pro.

  46. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

    LW 4–It could also be that they have an error in your address, which could have some important ripple effects. I hadn’t gotten something small from my new company, and while I considered letting it go, I’m glad I didn’t–I politely asked about it after a month or two, and it turned out that their records had a typo in my address. There were several important documents that had been mailed to me that I hadn’t received, including health insurance cards.

    It’s definitely worth looking into, just in case!

    1. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

      Hit submit too soon, but the phrase “never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained to an oversight”–or in this case, a simple typo–is very true.

      1. OP Four-Lorn*

        You know, I didn’t even think about having my address wrong. I do live in an apartment and have had issues in the past where the sender never put my apartment # on the label and I’d have to call UPS only to be told the driver didn’t know where to deliver it so they just brought the package back to the facility. Now I feel more of a need to make sure they have my address right before anything else needs to be sent out. Thank you so much.

  47. Jo-El (Kryptonian Name)*

    LW2, I have been a manager now and part of my job is helping to make others better than they currently are. To me I would be proud that someone saw an example of how I conducted business and used it to make themselves better.

  48. Mim*

    Ugh, I hate those emails where one has to have a voice of any sort, because I just don’t know how to do it. If it’s not with someone I already have a personal connection with in some way, I just feel fake and terrible. It’s especially hard because of the culture of my workplace/industry and the fact that the previous people to hold my position were naturally chatty, outgoing folks who effortlessly made personal connections without thinking twice about it. I’m not a cold person at all, but I just don’t know how to force adding that personality/chattiness to my emails with people I don’t really know unless I’m emulating what other people do. But then I’m just paranoid that it looks like I’m copying people and being fake. Which I kind of am, because I don’t understand how to write emails with that light tone if I literally don’t know the person I’m writing to. UGH.

    Just some perspective. If there is a culture/expectation that emails have to have a voice, and someone has to email complete strangers, it’s all make believe/creative writing anyway.

  49. Jo-El (Kryptonian Name)*

    LW5-It is SO normal to be ghosted by a company for an extended period. My last job dropped of the face of the Earth and literally 6 months after my interview and maintaining radio silence they popped up when the right opening appeared.

  50. OP5_moving_on_but_curious*

    OP #5 here! It’s been about 5 months now, and still crickets. Not a single follow-up from HR or anyone else, much less closure. The job posting was removed and no hire has been announced. Which is so interesting to me, given how interconnected I am with everyone involved! Stuff like, the hiring manager and I know each other and she still interacts with my posts on social media; I recently discovered that (unbeknownst to me) the hiring manager’s mentor, who I’m on great terms with, recommended me for the position; and so on. I’ve moved on and found renewed direction and energy where I’m at, so it’s more curiosity and bemusement at this point, wondering what in the world happened. It’s not a small company, and they’ve made comparable hires in the same time period.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      Hiring is weird and disjointed. I’m so sorry you were dragged along! If they made comparable hires, they probably just canceled the role for some reason (not necessarily budget or a hiring freeze). And unfortunately, if you were in contact with many people, they each probably assumed that one of them reached out to you about the cancelation.

      I have definitely worked with a manager to hire for a role in June after initially posting it (and taking it down) in October of the previous year. I have also worked with places who went through intense interview processes only to decide that an entirely different role is needed (think interviewing for a Buyer/Planner and then hiring an Accountant).

  51. Delta Delta*

    #2 – You know, you just never know when something is going to rub you the wrong way. And it seems like the copy/paste situation is what did it for OP here. I don’t see this as having anything to do with “email voice” and more to do with the fact this other person did something differently than what OP expected. I”m guessing Jane saw that the email communicated what it needed to say, and rather than reinvent the wheel, sent out the vital information as she had it. I think let this one go but figure out why this was an irritation.

    I’ll also add that I’m a lawyer, and there are times when my emails are very subject/verb. “Did Client show up” is enough and doesn’t need all sorts of additional platitudes and punctuation and whatnot. However, a lot of my work is with social workers and therapists, and I have to be cognizant that “Did Client show up?” might be viewed by them as aggressive because it’s not full of softening language. But I don’t have time to curate a “voice” – I need information so Client doesn’t go to jail or get his kids taken away or whatever the situation is.

  52. azvlr*

    I’ve had this happen to me It may sound like no big deal to some people, but what I hear is that you are feeling forgotten. If I had to guess, this is not the first time you have felt marginalized.

    To the manager folks out there, please don’t forget small stuff like this! As a remote employee, it’s easy to get swept into the cracks. In my case, most of my team was on-site with our manager, while I was in-office, but on the opposite coast. They had regular interactions with each other and a view into “a day in the life”. When my manager was late or cancelled yet another 1×1 (often our only interaction for weeks), I didn’t have the insight to know whether something super important had come up, or if I was just not that important. I tried very hard to be gracious about it, but realized after a few years that they had very poor time-management skills and it was way too easy for them to just forget about me.
    The icing on the cake was when I found out about an award I received only by accident, and it then took me over a year of regular reminding for them to send it to me. It wasn’t until my last week at the company that I finally received it, because I reminded them one last time. It was pretty demoralizing.

    1. OP Four-Lorn*

      Thank you so much for this. Honestly, I think what hit me the most was seeing so many people post about getting their boxes. It felt a lot like being stuck in the time out chair while watching everyone else play. But I understand that it wasn’t anyone’s intention to make me feel that way. If no one brought up getting a gift, I would have just continued on with life because I really didn’t expect anything from the company. I think it’s a sweet gesture on their part and I appreciate it wasn’t like a plaque with the company logo.
      I really wasn’t sure if me bringing it up would just get me the response of, “Can’t you just be happy we at least had the intention to send a gift?” Or something like that, which maybe it’s foolish to think that would be their response. I’m pretty shy and get anxious at the thought of having to give someone any kind of negative news. But other people have said they’d want to know, so that’s reassuring.

  53. TX_Trucker*

    LW #2 DISC assessment is one of many “personality tests” in the corporate world. The only thing useful I got out of that training was the four different “voices” of email. At the time it seemed ridiculous, but I have learned it’s important too many people. Early in my career I tried to copy the style that my boss used. Now that I’m C-suite, employees try to copy my voice. I think you should be flattered instead of irritated.

  54. Observer*

    #1 – Coworker with severe dandruff.

    Is anyone else side-eying the manager here? I really don’t see any reason why they are having these discussions with staff, and why they are allowing the gossip to continue.

    I’m going to agree with the few commenters that said that it’s actually possible that he doesn’t realize and that it’s also possible that the issue is treatable. But it STILL does not matter.

    *IF* there is a real effect on the OP or there is a safety issue, then that’s one thing, and the OP would have standing to go to their manager. But the makes it clear that the issues is that it looks gross and they are tying it to his social awkwardness. That’s just not appropriate.

    Now, it’s possible that even though there is no safety issue involved, there is still a work related issue that needs to be addressed. But that is still not the OP’s business. Their manager is aware, and it is THEIR problem to resolve (or not).

    1. MicroManagered*

      I did kind of wonder about the manager discussing with OP1 & coworkers. It’s possible OP1 & coworkers brought this up and the manager made an understandable comment or even clearly said “it’s not affecting our work so I’m not going to embarrass him” or something else… However, since it’s not the manager writing in, it’s not really relevant.

  55. Qwerty*

    OP2 – You are probably hearing more of your “voice” in her emails because you already know the words/phrases are the same as what you use. Emails are just text – our brains fill in a lot of details about tone, pitch, pauses – all the audio cues. Other people at the company are probably thinking Stern Jane has gotten a bit friendlier and are still hearing her friendlier emails with her real-person-voice rather than thinking the two Janes have merged into one!

    Move this into the real world realm. Say Stern Jane noticed that you ask people about their weekend before asking a favor and people responded well, so she started asking people about their weekend as a conversation starter too. I’m guessing that wouldn’t feel as weird because you’d get to see her body language, hear her real-world-voice, etc

    I wonder if part of your knee jerk reaction could be because you two share the same name? Any chance you’ve thought of yourself as Friendly Jane vs Stern Jane and now that Stern Jane is getting friendlier it feels like there is less of a distinction? I ask because (1) Been there, done that, got permanently mixed up with a Qwerty in another department after a joint project. Plus we looked a lot alike. (2) I feel like a similar question to this comes up in the Friday threads every so often and that is the conclusion the poster comes to after more thought. Not the email voice specifically, but someone does something innocent like this and a poster’s back goes up at first. (3) I bet you wouldn’t mind as much if a junior employee you were training starting writing similar emails to you.

  56. Marna Nightingale*

    LW 1: he knows, I promise.

    I have a comparatively extremely minor patch of chronic eczema on my head and let me tell you what, it feels weirdly shaming even though mine is invisible, and also it’s just really frigging hard to treat your own scalp.

    The only situations in which I think anybody should consider saying anything is if one of you also has severe dandruff and has had significant success with treating it, in which case a sensitive approach to Coworker along the lines of “So, I see we have the same medical issue, are you all over this or would you maybe care to hear what I’ve found out about this?” might be okay, or, just possibly, if your company benefits cover dermatology and you have some reason to think he doesn’t know that.

    In either case, this really is one of those cases where it’s only even remotely on the table if you have real significant help to offer him, AND can absolutely keep any hint of “we want you to treat this because it bothers US” out of your approach.

  57. RussianInTexas*

    I will admit that I do not notice any kind of e-mail “voice” unless it’s for some reason annoying to me.

    1. ferrina*

      You likely notice it subconsciously. Most people aren’t delving into the linguistic nuances of familiarity, but we do notice if someone seems nice or rubs us the wrong way. We notice how we feel, even if we don’t know what’s sparking that feeling.

      And yeah, sometimes the feeling is just “yep, they seem normal.”

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        I don’t know, at least with most of the communications I have at work. There’s not much of a way to put personality or voice or whatever into “I put the new code on the test server last night and rebooted the database. It’s ready for QA.”

        1. RussianInTexas*

          This. The e-mails I get are “the container with ZZZZ is late to the port” or “the warehouse packed the order early”.
          There isn’t much you can do in any “voice” here.

          1. metadata minion*

            There’s still a difference between:

            the warehouse packed the order early

            The warehouse packed the order early.

            The warehouse packed the order early! :-D

            The warehouse packed the order early, hooray!! [happy gif]

            Most people are going to lean toward one of the first two just because they’re faster and easier, but I tend to use smilies since otherwise I feel like it comes off too curt, and I’m also an emotive person in general.

            1. RussianInTexas*

              The last two I would notice and they would annoy me, because why are you so happy about a trivial thing like packing the order early?

        2. Green great dragon*

          True, but if I’m forwarding an email request I can use.

          Please deal.

          Send Fred an answer to below question. Thanks.

          Please send Fred an answer to his latest question (below)

          Hi, another question from Fred. Could you sort this one out please?

          Hiya, how did your birthday weekend go? Fred’s asking yet more questions :( can you deal with this one while I sort out the others? Thank you!

          Aargh! Fred wants to know how many possums a ton of oranges will feed!! You saved me with the pineapple problem last week, can you work your magic again? I owe you one [heart emoji]

          1. RussianInTexas*

            The last two would be very strange. Too over the top. I would phrase it:
            Hi! Unfortunately Fred is asking more questions. Could you please deal with this one while I am working on the others? Thanks,
            Hello again.
            Fred wants to know how many possums a ton of oranges will feed. You helped me with the pineapple problem last week, could you please help me with this one or point me to the source I can use so I won’t bother you again? Thanks

            1. Green great dragon*

              I wouldn’t necessarily recommend any of them, but they’re definitely different voices, right?

              1. RussianInTexas*

                They are, but that’s what I mean.
                I will notice something if it’s annoying.
                Otherwise – I don’t think I would notice a particularly well written or warm or special e-mail.

        3. ferrina*

          Just because it doesn’t stand out doesn’t mean it’s not a voice. It’s still a style not to add a greeting, or sign off, or to add/not add punctuation (and which punctuation), or to add/not add emojis, etc. etc. In anthropology/sociology we learn that there is no “true neutral” when it comes to human communications. The closest we come to “true neutral” is adhering to the norm within the given social setting. The norm is still a style.

          In this case, the norm is to state an observation with recounting the previous step and stating the next step, using technical but not detailed terminology and not using metaphors or colorful language, and to not include a greeting or sign off in this communication.

          fwiw, I don’t think most people need to consciously track this at all. For most people it’s a waste of their brain to track exacting linguistic nuances. There’s only a few cases where this is helpful- I’m a perfect storm of neurospicy who needs to consciously analyze these things + work in a job where I’m expected to spot highly detailed linguistic nuances.

  58. Qwerty*

    OP1 – Can the office stock some lint rollers? I’m surprised the conversation is focused on whether to fix the coworker’s scalp rather than the shirt. Dark uniforms show everything, I’m sure everybody else gets lint and pet hairs stuck to them as well. If the problem is visible dandruff, the solution can be to just make it easier to reduce the visibility to customers.

    If Dave knows its an issue, he’ll use the provided the lint roller, reducing the amount of visible dandruff. If he doesn’t, Manager can gently suggest Dave use the lint roller to tidy up if he doesn’t take advantage of the new supplies. Manager can blame it on the dark uniforms and phrase it the same way as if Sally had an extra amount of dog hair stuck to her that day.

  59. Tech writer by day*

    LW2: in most cases, everything you write or otherwise create on company time actually belongs to the company, not you. So maybe reframe it that way?

  60. Somehow_I_Manage*

    LW2- I suspect that no small part of the frustration is you’re seeing a peer (perhaps even a rival) receive positive feedback, at least in part, based on work you authored. That can be frustrating regardless of the scale. My simple advice is that good work does not go unnoticed, with patience the cream always rises to the top, and if you continue to put your best foot forward, you will have your days in the sun. Swallow this one, and keep doing what your doing!

  61. Caitlin*

    For LW2 – I just wanted to say I completely understand where the annoyance comes from, because it’s something I’ve dealt with too! As other folks in the thread have mentioned, I’ve created form/template emails for my team and don’t mind when they use those at all (that’s what they’re there for). However, sometimes a team member will ask me a question about a student’s situation (we work in higher education, and I have a lot of historical knowledge on our team) and I’ll reply in the tone I use when communicating with a co-worker. They way I communicate with a co-worker (who is also a higher eductation professional) is different than I would with a student, especially at our institution where we have a lot of first-generation students who aren’t familiar with the higher ed system. I’ll then see later in our shared inbox that they just copied and pasted my response, without attributing it to me or re-phrasing at all, when they emailed the student. It’s not the tone or the way of explaining things I would have used for a student, so it irks me. I allow it to annoy me for 30 seconds max, and then try to let it go. Just wanted you to know you’re not alone in valuing the email voice you’ve created!

  62. BellyButton*

    Dwight Schrute’s voice saying: “Identity theft is not a joke, Jane!”

    LOL!! I love that you are self-aware enough to know this is one of those irrational BEC moments.

  63. Jessica Fletcher*

    #1 sounds like they just don’t like the coworker and want to bully him. Describing his common medical condition as an entire bottle of Kraft parmesan cheese is pretty callous and dehumanizing.

    They should stop talking about his scalp and discourage their coworkers from doing so.

  64. River*

    #1. I had to speak to someone about their smelly arm pits because another staff member said that the smell was triggering their migraines. So it was a little easier for me to bring this issue up to them because there was a legitimate complaint about it. Have other staff complained or expressed being uncomfortable around the dandruff? If so, you may be able to use that in your case. Just be prepared that this staff member may want to know who complained or make their own assumption on who made the complaint. Body issues can be sketch. You hope that they have at least attempted to take care of this issue because then it may me medical and you really can’t force them to take care of this issue at that point.

    #4. Maybe you could suggest that the gift packages be sent out with a tracking number? I don’t know how management would react to this in that it may create more work and I don’t know how many people work for your company, but just a suggestion. Furthermore staff could track their own package once everyone gets their number and it would relieve management of tracking responsibilities.

  65. TG*

    I feel badly but in my mind bad dandruff needs to be handled if it is that noticeable especially if a customer facing role but even if not.
    I’d explain that there are hygiene standards and ask if they realize the issue. Of course you want to be nice and sensitive but also factual and see what they say.
    Often dandruff can be handed by shampooing with an over the counter any dandruff shampoo or by going to a dermatologist to be tested for a fungus and getting treatment.

  66. Sunny days are better*

    LW2: I had a similar thing happen to me.

    My company used to lay people off in groups, and one day, my number was drawn from the hat along with others.

    A couple of months later, I was checking out my fellow “layoffees” on LinkedIn to see how they were doing, and I noticed that TWO of them had copied my About section and just modified a few things here and there to be tailored to their position.

    At first, I was offended, but after thinking about it for a few minutes, I realized that they thought it was good enough to use as a base for themselves, so it was probably very well done and that I should feel flattered.

    So, I accepted the “compliment,” and gave it no further thought. I would try to look at it that way – that they are paying your style a compliment.

  67. KatrinaSQ*

    “It’s a little uncomfortable for me to say this but it looks like you’re having a problem with dandruff. “

    I disagree with this. This is centering the manager and her discomfort. That’s not great. A way to acknowledge that this conversation is most difficult for the employee is to say “I’m sorry that this might be uncomfortable for you to here…”

    Something like this can seem minor, but it is in the same vein of a manager having to lay someone off and leading with how difficult it is for them to have to do it. Which is also a nope.

  68. HearTwoFour*

    LW2, I totally get it! I’d be annoyed, too. But even if the other Jane is trying to affect a warmer tone by stealing yours, it can’t last. You’ve only ‘given’ her one email. Before you know it, she’ll have no choice but to go back to her own email voice soon enough. And you can feel a bit better, knowing the people who have complimented her new voice will notice that it’s gone.

  69. LMB*

    To #5; one thing i didn’t see mentioned is you might be their second choice candidate. I’ve been on both sides of that and it’s really hard to tell your second choice “no” before your top guy actually accepts. Often this leads to long delays that are really hard to explain to the candidate. I’ve also been hired as the 2nd choice. A whole month later, after a normal interview process; HR called to ask if I was still interested and offered the job. I had written them off! Several months into working there my boss fessed up why it had taken so long.

  70. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    “Well, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

    Actually, it’s not. PLAGIARISM is.

  71. B Wayne*

    LW#2: Stop supplying details of any medical condition. Your boss and others at work are not your friends, not meant for shared, personal information and certainly not entitled for any type of medical information from you concerning you. A “I have to leave for a medical thing. I’ll be out today for illness.” is all you need to supply. And do that! Sorry for the pregnancy issues you’ve experienced but those at work need not hear about them. Share with your family and actual friends.

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