my boss said my posture is too casual for the office

A reader writes:

In June, I was really lucky to do a work experience with my state electorate’s representative (I’m not American but I live in a western country).

While I certainly got some invaluable experience and built up my skills, I felt like I was treated slightly harshly by my boss, the aforementioned politician. For example, she made comments that my work or behavior was only acceptable “for a student,” despite my feeling I wasn’t acting much differently from her five other employees.

One comment that sticks with me, though, was at the end of the work experience, when my boss handed me a report I was supposed to return to my career counselor. I was mostly happy with it, but she took me aside to mention something she didn’t want to put on my report and “embarrass me” — that I sit in chairs and couches around the office too casually and I need to fix how I act at work versus home.

I have physical posture issues and a psychological disinhibition, which leads me to often find sitting uncomfortable and so I recline or lie down, especially on spaces like couches, but I didn’t consider myself to be excessively slouching or having an “unprofessional” posture in chairs. I was only approached about this at the very end of the work experience, but apparently she found it such an issue she wanted to include it on my report but instead opted to discuss it with me privately. She called it a “watching TV position,” which made me feel belittled, but I decided I wouldn’t confront her at the very end and ignored it. This experience and my future aspirations weren’t a public-facing people job — I wouldn’t be dealing with clients who’d have issues with it.

I’m trying to figure out if this is something I’d be seriously judged for in future jobs. Do managers often consider posture or how much I recline in seats, or would this be another sign of my boss’s critical nature? Am I even allowed to have these complaints about her or should I stay in my lane?

It’s definitely possible for a posture to be too unprofessional for an office — like if you were routinely slouched so far down in your chair that your head was barely visible over your desk or propping your feet up on your desk or stretched out on a couch while customers were talking to you or, oh I don’t know, working from a nest of blankets on the office floor.

To be clear, a lot of people slouch! Offices don’t generally expect people to have perfect posture all day long. But there’s a big difference between a little slouching and the stuff in the paragraph above.

I don’t know whether your posture was actually that extreme or whether it was more like a little slouching … but if you were indeed often lying on couches (and it sounds like maybe you were?) then yeah, that’s going to come across as overly casual in most offices. (As always, there can be exceptions for people who need medical accommodations, but I’m assuming that isn’t the case here.)

You also mentioned that you have “psychological disinhibition,” which might make it more likely that you were indeed being too disinhibited for an office environment … and perhaps especially for a legislator’s office, which are often on the more formal end of things. In general, the expectation at work is that you’ll maintain a certain level of inhibition on your behavior. That’s true even if you’re not public-facing — and while partly that’s just because of the conventions we have around professionalism, it’s also to avoid disrupting your coworkers.

The totality of the details in your letter — especially your mention of disinhibition — makes me suspect your boss was giving you legitimate feedback that you’d want to pay attention to for future jobs. But since I haven’t observed you firsthand, it might be worth asking for feedback from people who have, like past coworkers. Since people aren’t always comfortable giving honest feedback about potentially awkward topics, you can increase your chances of candid input if you frame your request as, “I’m realizing I need to up my professionalism for future jobs and I wonder if you could offer any specific advice on what I could do differently, based on what you observed when we worked together.” If they have a hard time coming up with anything, that’s useful data. But if they quickly rattle off a bunch of changes you should make, it’s likely your boss wasn’t being overly nitpicky.

All that said, it’s interesting to ask: why shouldn’t you be able to put your feet up on your desk and spend the day lying on a couch if you can easily work from there? If something doesn’t impede your work (or other people’s work, which is also key), why shouldn’t you be able to work from whatever position you want? If we could design our professional norms from scratch, maybe we’d leave this one out. But the reality is that as a society we do have existing ideas of what “professional” looks like, and it’s important to understand what those are because they can have a big impact on how you’re perceived and what opportunities you’re given. You might end up deciding to break some of those conventions (and I’d support that in some cases, especially when a convention is rooted in racial, gendered, or ableist bias, as some of them are). But when you’re flouting conventions around professionalism, you want that to be a deliberate calculation on your part — one where you’ve assessed the risks and benefits and how much political capital you have to spend, and decided the risks are worth it to you — rather than something you stumble into without having thought it through.

{ 400 comments… read them below }

  1. Clefairy*

    I had a manager who, behind closed doors but in front of her direct team, would flop down on a couch and lounge ALL the time, sometimes with her dress riding up, and at least one time (which I immediately told her about) with her underwear visible. She was smart enough not to do it in front of her leaders, but I was always embarrassed for her. She had a total lack on inhibition in many aspects of her personal and professional life, and while I do think being bold and confident can be very helpful professionally in many situations, having a lack of inhibition should not be an excuse to do things that other people would find off-putting, which was def the case with her coach lying. Read the room when it comes to your posture or lack thereof at future jobs for sure.

    1. The Eye of Argon*

      Besides the risk flashing everyone in the room, the whole laying on a couch while her reports stand or sit around her has a sort of “Cleopatra bossing her slaves around” flavor to it that I’d find really off-putting. I’d definitely have a hard time respecting her and taking her seriously.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Same reaction here. Probably because she only did it in front of her direct reports and never in front of her superiors or peers. I had a flashback to when a classmate bullied me in high school – he did a lot of things including physically hitting and kicking – but the one incident that I remember as the worst was when, after gym class, he walked out of the locker room with his pants down and then proceeded to stand in front of me and make eye contact while he pulled them up and zipped them. Like I was a dog, or a cat, or an inanimate object that he felt okay changing in front of, and not a full human. It is a super humiliating power move.

      2. NotBatman*

        Not only that, but lounging or lying down sends a message of “I’m extremely relaxed.” In context, that can also send the message “I don’t care that much about this conversation.” If a coworker flopped over sideways or put their feet up, I would take that posture the same way as I take people looking at their phones while you’re talking to them — as a signal I’m not being listened to.

        1. Taketombo*

          I had an issue at a previous job (Pre COVID) sort of like this:

          I worked mostly on field sites and had no desk at HQ. HQ also had no hotelling desks but required certain types of staff to be in the office one day a week. (why? I have no idea. They also didn’t give parking passes to field staff … it was a hassle)

          Now, in the space where they could have put hotelling desks there were a student lounge’s worth of low couches & coffee tables and a standing desk/bar thing, and approximately 0 power outlets.

          I took off my shoes, sat sideways on a couch with my laptop and headphones and went to town. What I really wanted was a desk with a second monitor, but I was making do. And then my boss told a co-worker to tell me that lounging in the lounge was unprofessional.

          Wish I’d never taken that job.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        To quote TV’s wisecracking Crow: “She could use a few inhibitions, they’d do her good.”

      2. Olive*

        Not seeing other people’s underwear at work is a professional norm I’d really like to keep.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      My spouse and I worked with a medical professional on testing for one of our kids once, and she sat like this every time we met with her. Either slouching so her skirt rode up or sitting in a way that you could see all the way down her shirt. It was so awkward, and I’m still not 100% sure she was aware of it.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I can kinda sympathize about the shirt, because unless I’m in a turtleneck every single neckline/button front has found some way to betray me. The cut, the width, the angle–somehow my entire tops wardrobe has decided that I really really want to show off some part of my bra at all times.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I had many unsuccessful attempts at getting myself into therapy before I found my current one who is phenomenal! One woman I had two appointments with (and then bailed) had a habit of sitting cross-legged in her chair, facing me, with no desks or other items separating us, wearing a knee-length skirt. It was 11 years ago and the sight of her underwear is still burned into my retina. Staring at her white briefs for an hour while she carried on about the abandonment issues I must’ve developed from being a latchkey kid. Lady, having to look at your panties for an hour traumatized me far more than being a latchkey kid (which I loved) ever did!

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Honestly, today’s me would’ve said something about 15 minutes in. Past me was too timid to tell her that I wasn’t comfortable being flashed for the duration of the session. I am working on this (learning to be assertive and say it when things bother me) with my excellent therapist, whose underwear I have never seen and never will see, thank dog.

  2. Morning Flowers*

    One possible workaround for sitting being uncomfortable, OP, might be to ask for a standing workstation or sit-stand desk. “Slouching” or “reclining” might read as unprofessional, but sit-stand workstations are a pretty well-recognized, professional-acceptable disability accomodation for a lot of people with problems sitting. (Now it may be you also have problems standing, in which case this wouldn’t help! But it’s what I’d try first in your shoes.)

    1. Super Admin*

      Seconding this, it’s also a great idea for people who have fidgety habits.

      I personally have a medical condition that makes it hard for me to sit normally for longer periods. Best I can get round it in more formal situations is to cross and uncross my legs, but in less formal team meetings or with my boss I will often sit with one foot on my chair, or with my legs on a second chair. Which is to say I think you have to be able to read the room, and if you know you’re less good at that, you should definitely ask people for help in judging if a situation will be accepting of more slouchy behaviour.

      1. Allura Vysoren*

        There’s definitely something to be said for reading the room. At my very first office job, I reached the point where I would sit at my desk in the morning, kick off my shoes, and sit with my feet on my chair (we weren’t customer-facing and I often did this with a blanket over my lap because it was cold in the office).

        I can’t sit for eight hours with my feet on the floor. It hurts my legs and it makes me feel extremely restless. I used to challenge myself to see how long I could sit properly in a chair before I couldn’t take it anymore and I never made it more than two. I also can’t use a standing desk because standing still hurts worse than sitting. Thankfully, my office was casual enough that people would joke about it but no one counted it against me–it’s also worth noting that I was a rockstar in my department.

        And now I work from home, where I can sit however I please.

        1. I'm Just Here For the Cats!*

          See I don’t think sitting cross leged or with on leg under you is unprofessional. I wouldn’t do it in the board room full of top executives but at your desk it shouldn’t be a problem.

    2. Cat Tree*

      It might also help to try different types of seats such as a kneeling chair or giant ball, but only if those wouldn’t be too weird for the industry or particular company.

      1. Morning Flowers*

        Yeah, I also sit on a yoga ball, but I figure that’s pretty far from “professional” in read too.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Can confirm that no blinks were had over a standing desk, while I received a blank “WTF is wrong with you?” stare over a request for a yoga ball. Turns out the standing desk serves me better (sitting in a chair is miserable for me for skeletal structure related issues, but I’m also, apparently very very fidgety so standing is apparently a better solution)

          A freaking ergonomic chair, as opposed to one that matches the color scheme, was apparently too easy.

        2. PoolLounger*

          I worked in a back office in a university library and two of us had yoga balls for chairs! No one blinked—whatever was good for your back was good for work.

          1. My Cabbages!*

            Ironically, I find I actually slouch *more* on a yoga ball…something about my center of gravity. A leaning chair works great for me, though.

        3. Media Circus*

          The downside of a yoga ball, for fidgety people, is that it’s a little too *fun* to fidget on a bouncy ball. Apparently i made a few coworkers vaguely seasick during conversations.

          1. Retired To Morning Room To Write My Letters*

            This is actually a very useful bit of insight! I’d like to try a yoga ball but I’m such an instinctive fidgiter/mover that I’d probably end up unconsciously bouncing up and down which would look decidedly weird.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              I have a standing desk in my home office and have to either keep my camera off or sit on a temporary barstool during meetings, because otherwise I sway back and forth and make people seasick.

          2. Hats Are Great*

            This is why I only use the (slow, walking) treadmill desk I have access to when I’m on internal team zooms, and not with people outside my team. I worry that the slight bouncing back and forth is a little weird. My team doesn’t mind if my camera’s off most of the time, and when I’m actively participating in the conversation, I can turn it on and they don’t mind that I’m walking.

        4. Fanny Price*

          I sit on a wobbly stool in my home office – having only side-to-side wiggling, instead of up-and-down wiggling, seems to read as more professional. It was a little hard for my backside for the first week or so, but then I accommodated.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I totally sat on a giant yoga ball for the 2-3 months when I had a herniated disc in my back and we still needed to be in the office every day. I also wore slippers around the office at the time (sciatic pain going all the way down to my foot made winter boots less than ideal to wear all day), but was happy to explain to everyone why I was doing it, and went back to using my office chair and wearing regular shoes as soon as I felt better. Never had any negative feedback from anyone.

    3. Need to Lean*

      There are also professional workstations that allow a reclining posture for those with a legitimate need to do so while working. The key is probably getting a desk that makes it clear it’s designed for that rather than just flopping down on the reception area couch or wherever.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        That’s so much more expensive, though. It’s a big ask, even though the optics are more clearly “accommodation” than “lounging.”

        The norms are a big bummer. I have physiological issues that make traditional sitting postures hard-to-impossible for me, but they’re not severe or disabling enough to be worth the fight to get them seen as legitimate.

        My employer won’t even get me a standard sit-stand desk for general wellness because of the cost. (My coworker has made a bit of a game out of improvising DIY laptop risers for himself.) Fortunately, there are lots of out-of-the-way booths I can slither into when I need to get my legs stretched and feet up for a bit.

    4. AngelS.*

      I remember when a coworker, who had a cubicle next to mine, got a stand-up desk top. (Not sure what exactly they call it.) When she worked standing up, I could see her through the glass partition whenever I turned around. She could constantly see me. I put one of those giant Post-It easel pads against the partition. Problem solved!

    5. anxiousGrad*

      I also have problems sitting for a long time because of a hip issue. When I worked at a job where I had to sit at a desk all day I would get up for a brief walk whenever my hip started to ache. Nothing too long, usually just a walk to the bathroom or the kitchen or something so that it didn’t seem like I was walking around aimlessly. I think that doing this is actually recommended for your health anyway – apparently walking for a few minutes every hour or something is better than standing or sitting all day. I would also say that if you do slouch, it’s important to cross your legs instead of spreading them out.

    6. Random Dice*

      I have an ADA accommodation (thanks Alison and the commentariat) for a condition that requires lying down for part of every day. My reasonable accommodation is to work remotely. I’m not sure lying down at work would be considered reasonable unless there were a specific room where I could do it in private.

      1. Bird of Paradise*

        “Reasonable” in this context means “doesn’t cost an excessive amount of money” or “doesn’t prevent completion of core job functions” or “doesn’t interfere with other people’s work.” It’s possible that lying down at work could be considered reasonable by that definition.

  3. Dr. Rebecca*

    I didn’t read the sentence about couches as referring to couches in the workplace. I read it more as ‘when I’m home I recline on couches and the floor but at work there are chairs and I don’t think I did to bad in them.’ If the OP is reading, could you clarify, please, because that changes a lot.

    1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      The LW said the feedback was that “I sit in chairs and couches around the office too casually,” It wasn’t clear whether the reclining referred to only home couches or also work couches.

    2. Pippa K*

      “that I sit in chairs and couches around the office too casually”

      This seems to mean couches in the workplace, though.

  4. Baron*

    My posture is terrible – not quite on the levels of Alison’s examples, but pretty bad. In my younger days (but not as much younger as I’d like—this was a professional job, post-grad school), the senior vice-president of my company used to give new hires tours of the office where he would make a lengthy stop at my desk, make joking comments about how people shouldn’t sit like this, and use that as a segue into giving them a serious talk about ergonomics. Somehow, it never occurred to me that he must have meant this at least partially as feedback about how I sat—it all seemed like a joke, and certainly his tone was jovial. But in hindsight…yeah, I should have taken the hint. (Maybe “hint” isn’t the word I want for “the senior vice-president regularly telling everyone they don’t like something you’re doing”.)

    1. The Eye of Argon*

      Honestly, the SVP should have just told you (privately, obviously, not while giving someone the grand tour) that your posture was terrible and needed work. Unless he realized you weren’t picking up on his hints but kept doing it just to make fun of you, which is kinda jerky.

  5. cosmicgorilla*

    “I lie down, but I’m not unprofessional.” (paraphrasing)

    Um. Um.

    Lying down might not be unprofessional in a dude-bro startup where the culture revolves around the game room, and maybe not in some creative endeavors. For most places of employment, ESPECIALLY a politician’s office, your statement reads as wildly clueless.

    Lying down is for home. Lying down is not for work. Public-facing or not is irrelevant.

    1. Baron*

      I think Alison’s comments about capital are important here. I don’t know if this is a thing in this generation, but a lot of people who worked for politicians in my generation were inspired by The West Wing. If you’re Toby Ziegler hanging out with his subordinates, you’re *often* lying on a couch, and I think that part of the West Wing culture appealed to a lot of fans – hey, work can be a relaxed environment where I hang out with my friends! But what that read misses is that a., all the people on The West Wing we see lying down (or otherwise being “unprofessional”) are the most senior people in the entire government, and b., they stand up straight when the president walks in.

      Whether it’s government or not, a senior person can often get away with things a junior person (especially a student!) can’t.

      1. Lulu*

        I really like this insight. Toby was lounging, but Ginger was standing or sitting up straight. Josh was lounging, but Donna was standing or sitting up straight. Leo would sit back in a chair, but Margaret was standing or sitting straight up. Everyone was standing if the president was in the room. It’s really important to see *who* is doing what, not just that *someone* is lounging.

            1. Erie*

              I think given the nature of the commentariat here it will have occurred to a lot of us, but I hope we don’t derail, as this is only tenuously related to the question.

          1. Lulu*

            We did sometimes! Think of the scene when she was drinking with Abby Bartlett in the residence. But I think you’re right that she was always more put-together than her counterparts, and she directly addressed some of the gender dynamics in the show (probably could’ve had more of that, tbh).

          2. Totally Minnie*

            There are at least a couple of scenes where CJ is talking to Josh or Sam in her office with her feet up on the desk.

          3. bamcheeks*

            It’s a lot easier to lounge in typical male business wear than typical female business wear.

          4. Patty Mayonnaise*

            Getting even more off topic, to bring in Sports Night, another Aaron Sorkin show, the professional lounging was pretty evenly split across gender lines and even job seniority. Dan and Dana definitely did, Natalie and Issac definitely didn’t (though there might be an episode where Issac was napping in the office but that’s not the same thing), and Jeremy only did when he was having a nervous breakdown as far as I can remember. Casey I think was a no also.

        1. Three Flowers*

          Also an interesting gender breakdown there (which…TWW is super bro-ish anyway). I don’t ever remember seeing CJ lounge either.

        2. Owls Lang Syne*

          Similar to CEOs flexing by wearing tshirts, when their staff still wear button-downs.

          1. Enai*

            Okay, question: what is it about button-downs that makes them especially office appropriate? I see many comments telling people to wear them, or talk like everyone who’s sensible does, but never _other_ styles of collars. Are point or spread collars really that unusual?

            1. Gray Lady*

              I think button-down in this context refers to shirts that button all the way down the front, not to Oxford collars.

              1. Lulu*

                Yeah, technically we’re talking about button ups, not button downs. They get used interchangeably but refer to different parts of the shirt.

                1. Owls Lang Syne*

                  Weird, maybe it’s regional, but I’ve never heard of a standard business shirt with buttons /long sleeves referred to as anything besides a button down.

                  If you said button up, I would get what you were referring to, but would think you misspoke.

                2. Lulu*

                  Owls, I don’t think it’s regional per se, but it’s possible the area you’re in doesn’t see some of the more formal work wear? Button down collars are generally more about function and less about style compared to some of the other collars. If your area or industry doesn’t see a lot in the way of men’s work fashions, I can see those terms not being used. It might also be a small blind spot for you – I know I didn’t know there was a difference until recently (not a fashion person) and sometimes miss terms for things that then magically appear around me as soon as I’ve learned them. Or I’m wrong and it’s regional!

            2. Formerly Ella Vader*

              Where I live, the nomenclature has shifted. In the 1980s and 1990s, button-down meant an Oxford-collar shirt, or shirt with buttonholes on the collar points. When I was growing up, which was earlier than that, my mother used to use “button-down-the-front shirt” as opposed to more casual shirts with a round collar, two-button placket, or turtleneck.

              Now that Oxford collars aren’t the wardrobe staples for men and women that they were in the late 20th century, I find that people are more likely to use “button-down” to mean a shirt or blouse that opens all the way down the front and is closed with a row of buttons. Probably because other norms have changed enough that such shirts aren’t worn as often by anyone.

              I might say “dress shirt” to describe any tailored shirt with a collar and buttons down the front, suitable for buttoning to the neck and wearing a tie, where Owls Lang Syne said “button downs”. But then, not living that kind of big-corporate life, I probably don’t know all the nuances of dressier dress shirts in 2023 either. (Professional vs home laundry? Ironing vs hanging permanent-press? Cufflinks and studs and collar tips for a bow tie? White and pale blue vs black? Striped torso and an attached white collar? Not being in one of those careers/lives myself and not being a theatrical costumer, I don’t need to know. )

        3. Salsa Verde*

          Hmm. Never watched the West Wing, but if those names are traditional to the gender of the characters, it sounds like the men slouched and the women stood up straight?

          1. Baron*

            Yes – though Lulu’s example is meant to highlight that the bosses slouched while their assistants stood up straight – but for the most part, “man = boss” and “assistant = woman” was a given on that show.

        4. Zelda*

          Another element to the power dynamic is that the bosses-who-lounge are also top-level staffers who might be at the White House ten or twelve or sixteen hours on a given day because this is their life not their job. When you pretty much live there, you may as well get comfy.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is a very posh, very conservative British MP, once attracted considerable backlash for reclining on the benches at the House if Commons to listen to a debate. I don’t think any MPs who weren’t super-wealthy straight white men would have ever dreamed of doing such a thing.

        1. Baron*

          Agreed. I’m Canadian and have worked in politics. Many MPs and senior staff will recline if they feel like it—at 8:30 at night in their offices—and even that depends on the exact factors you list. I don’t think there’s a single MP in Canada right now who would recline in the House – we are a humble people. Context is everything.

      3. Hlao-roo*

        When I was an intern at a fairly formal office, there was a coworker on my team who wrote his reports with his feet on his desk, his keyboard in his lap, and his desk chair reclined as far back as it could go. He could get away with this posture because (1) he was a senior person on the team and good at his job and (2) he had a private office, so it was only noticeable to people who happened to glance in as they were walking by or were coming to his office to talk to him.

        (I mention the private office because so far, I haven’t seen anyone else with similarly relaxed posture in a cube farm.)

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I was coming to add something like this. I would pull out my bottom desk drawer and edit pages on a lap desk. My boss came to me and said, “I know you are most productive this way, but it is not working here. People are commenting that your feet are on the desk. I’ve picked my battles for you* and this is not one I can win.”
          So I got a foot rest and keep my lap up that way and work.
          *In terms of capital, I preferred wearing work boots over loafers, and all but blue jeans instead of dockers and my boss let those go. So yeah, give and take, balancing.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Oh, man, people complained about your feet on the pulled-out bottom drawer? I hope that job was worth it in a lot of other ways, because that would feel bonkers to me, more than one person complaining about how I sit while I work. (And not in a meeting, or speaking directly with them, etc.)

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          I just had to tell a fairly new hire whose desk is located in an open are of the office that he needed to stop putting his feet up on his desk because several senior-level people had noted it unfavorably. We have clients and VIPs walking through a fairly open office, and it’s not a good look, especially for someone who’s brand new.

      4. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        This is such a good point. I once got feedback about something I did as a very junior military officer that stuck with me.

        My headquarters was hosting some kind of event where reps from our subordinate commands across the US came in. They were our subordinate commands but the individuals all outranked me because, well, everyone did at the time.

        They were doing a Q&A and one of my very senior coworkers answered a question with his hands in his pockets (a big no-no for the US military, which is the subject of much derision as well as the focus of the uniform police) and kind of slouched leaning against a wall while answering. When the next question came to me, I adopted a similar posture as him and answered it (probably wasn’t brave enough to keep my hands in my pockets but I was pretty casual otherwise).

        My boss approached me afterward and told me that the coworker could get away with it without anyone blinking an eye because he’d been in the service for 30+ years and was a subject matter expert. I was a baby lieutenant and didn’t have the experience to do things that required credibility to get away with.

        And it wasn’t something I should expend social capital on.

        Reminds me of an old post here where the letter writer was asking about … frilly office decorations? something like that. The conclusion was similar, that this wasn’t the kind of thing that she needed to expend capital on doing.

        1. Free Meerkats*

          The number of times I saw Ensigns do stuff like this, especially on summer cruises when they were getting their first “sea duty” can’t be counted. Then there was the Academy grad who thought his excrement wasn’t odorous who talked down to a CWO4…

        2. Jenna*

          I just want to say – “you don’t have the experience to do things that require credibility to get away with” is a great way of concisely explaining the issue, and I’m going to use it when having to address these kinds of situations going forward. Thank you for sharing.

      5. morethantired*

        I think the other key part there is that people like Toby, Josh or Sam essentially had no work/life balance and were often lying down because they’d been working 14 hours straight or were having an 8am meeting after only getting home at 2am the night before. People are very comfortable around each other when they’re pulling 60 – 80 hours a week and you get some leeway about having to always be sat up, showered and shaven.

        1. BPT*

          That’s what I was going to say – not being your most presentable during an 8 hour day is much different than going over legislation at 10 PM when you’ve been at the office since 6 AM.

          1. morethantired*

            I’ve worked at places where we sometimes pulled late nights and 16 hour days– and when it’s 11pm and you’re trying to just finish up the report, sometimes both you AND the boss are slouched on the office couch cranking the work out so you can just go home. But it’s not like it would have been acceptable if we sat like that all day, every day.

        2. Citra*

          I think the most key part is that it’s a TV show, not a documentary? And the directors and actors are trying to find some more dynamic or interesting blocking than just “everyone sitting a a desk all the time?”

          I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong there, but I’d always assumed that the West Wing wasn’t real.

        3. TomatoSoup*

          That was my thought as well. Additionally, they weren’t doing that when in the Oval Office, even if they had a close personal relationship with Pres. Bartlett.

      6. KatEnigma*

        I understand that people just starting out don’t understand that Television isn’t reality, and often reflects the workplace in ways that aren’t at all realistic.

        But… while the basic premise is true (senior or someone with a particular needed skillset can get away with behavior others can’t) .. ummm… television isn’t real! It may or may not reflect the real workplace. The writers make choices to further their plots/feel/vision.

        1. [insert witty username here]*

          This. Does art imitate life and vice versa? Yes. But when it comes down to it, TV =/= reality.

          1. KatEnigma*

            The people in the thread are talking about it like it’s a real white house and white house office and protocols. Still. Presumably, those who aren’t interns…

            1. Lulu*

              Yes, we know. Thanks. It’s a cultural touch point. We don’t all share an office or even an industry, but many of us have seen the show so we can talk about it. It’s also been talked about extensively by real world West wingers who say the show did get the feeling of being there right. Of course that won’t be the details, but there’s still some value for those of us who know the show and enjoy talking about it

        2. sarah*

          Yes, exactly. There’s even a good chance the writer/director/actor made the choice to have a character be lying down *specifically to convey* that they are tired/bored/not paying attention. TV is not an employee handbook

      7. mimi*

        It may also be relevant that the people on that show never leave the office. A little more lounging might be acceptable when working through the night during 80-hour workweeks, less so if you’re getting to go home on the reg.

      8. Hats Are Great*

        In West Wing, there’s also a lot more lounging late at night. I’ve worked at some places (like law firms) that were quite formal normally, but also had high-intensity deadlines, and after dinner when you’re pushing into hour 12 of the workday, nobody cared about ties or shoes or if someone was lying down while working. But at 11 a.m. it’d be super weird.

      9. Politico*

        1. The West Wing is still a television show. I have worked on senior congressional staff. I would not say we spent lots of time lounging around, except for things like midnight vote-a-ramas, or our annual staff retreat, or other travel, such as CODELs.

        2. Most of the lounging on the West Wing happened after hours, and the West Wing staff worked long hours. Politics is not a 9-5 job in the real world, and White House staff probably has longer hours than Congress, and the Chief of Staff probably is always on, but some of this was a Hollywood exaggeration. Dan Drezner, a political scientist, has written an article about this very point.

        3. A better example from television is Kim Wexler from Better Call Saul. She is *always* extremely poised when at work, particularly when she meets with her main client, Mesa Verde.

    2. Lulu*

      Yeah, I think this is an important angle for the LW to understand. There are definitely increased requirements for “professionalism” when you’re working with the public, but it’s not a free-for-all if you’re behind the scenes. You need to be “professional” for your colleagues as well. There may be some increased leeway for things like putting your feet up on a chair under the desk, and some less-than-perfect posture. But things like lying down on couches are generally a no-go regardless of who can see you (unless the answer is literally no one because you work alone). I think you might have misunderstood the general idea that you need to be more professional if you’re client-facing as “anything goes” if you’re not public-facing, and that’s incorrect, especially in formal environments like elected office, law, etc.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      My job (fairly professional officey space) has a seating area with a couch where people take a break from time to time and lie down. Someone might recline or lie down while having a conversation in that area. But you really have to know your culture with this kind of thing. I always say tend towards conservative behavior until you know better.

    4. Nesprin*

      I work in a lab, which is one of the more casual environments you can find. We had a trainee who would recline his lab stool and put his feed up on a lab bench.

      In a context, where professional decorum is at its nadir, it absolutely made him look bad. I struggle to imagine that lying down on a couch in a politician’s office would even remotely count as ok.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, my workplace is not *that* formal–definitely less formal than a politician’s office, I’m sure–and lying down frequently would raise some eyebrows. My supervisor has a small couch in her office but I cannot imagine her lying down on it unless she were literally feeling ill and trying to regroup.

    6. Dark Macadamia*

      “Lying down is for home” made me LOL. Reminds me of Joan telling off a secretary for crying on Mad Men – “There’s a place to do that. Like your apartment.”

    7. zuzu*

      There were a lot of people who got the shuddering fantods over Barack Obama putting his feet up on the Resolute Desk.

      The nerve! Ronald Reagan would never do something like that, and he wouldn’t wear a tan suit or shirtsleeves in the Oval Office, either!

      I’m sure you know where this is going — pictures soon emerged of Ronald Reagan doing all three things (feet up on the Resolute Desk, tan suit, shirtsleeves in the Oval), though not at the same time, to my knowledge.

      But no one else is going to put their feet up on the desk in the Oval. Because only the top guy gets to do that.

      And even John Fetterman puts on a suit when he’s on the floor of the PA Senate or the US Senate. It’s part of the job.

    8. Rosa Rosa Rosa Rosa Diaz Diaz Diaz Diaz*

      If he wanted you to take the feedback seriously, he shouldn’t have pretended it was a joke.

  6. C*

    This is similar to feedback I got in my first performance review at my first office job – my thinking pose is to bring my knees up to my chest, and it just doesn’t work in an office.

    Now, I work from home 3 days a week, and (apart from calls) can sit how I want, but when I’m in the office and feel myself needing that extra stimulus to think through a problem, I will get up and walk instead. I don’t know if my compromise would be any use for OP

    1. Lea*

      I was going to say wfh has been great because I can switch from sitting properly in my home office and working from the couch, especially on days I don’t feel 100%

      But yes, in the office there are just some slouchy home habits you have to avoid

    2. ferrina*

      Agree- I definitely sit differently working from home than in the office. At home I’ll even lie on the floor while working out a tough problem- in the office, that problem gets worked on while I sit straight.

  7. to varying degrees*

    It’s also important to note the environment the LW was working in. Politics, elected official offices are going to be very different and much more formal than other offices. It’s going to even be different depending on which office of the official you were working in (capitol office vs branch office) but even then slouching (especially laying anywhere in the office) is not going to fly.

    1. Dancing Elaine*

      My son worked often in the Capitol and it’s very formal. No slouching, professional dress, and if you lay down someone would probably call 911 thinking you collapsed. If you want to succeed in political life you absolutely have to look the part.

    2. Malarkey01*

      I’d also add that the LW isn’t in the US but is in a western country. In my experience working in a few European countries, the workplace can be even more formal than the US. That might need to also be factored in here.

      I noticed that things that were “presentation” based were taking more seriously than my experience in US law/consulting/legislation offices.

      1. Tussy*

        But on the flip side, the term “state electorate” makes me think it’s Australia because that’s a term we use regularly as we have both a state and federal system. There aren’t so many other non-American western countries where there are states or where you would differentiate between your state electorate rep and your federal electorate rep (New Zealand has states but not more than one electorate).

        Australia is a bit more casual than the US in politics and workplaces but not by a huge amount – but enough it makes me think the slouching is probably pretty bad for it to be notable because the office wouldn’t be as formal as a state rep in the US as they are usually little shopfronts in the suburbs.

        1. Jonquil*

          Also the use of the term “work experience” is very Australian. I did once work in a junior capacity in a political office in Australia, and while it is definitely less formal than the US (we don’t typically stand for the PM, legislators are often called by their first names), it’s very much about knowing when and where that is appropriate. I can’t think of a time where it would be appropriate for a work experience student to be lying down in a legislative office. As discussed in the long West Wing thread above, I can think of times where senior staff/the boss might have done it, usually late in the evening when there was no chance of media/staff from other offices/public servants/visitors being around, but never the junior staff, and to be quite honest, rarely the women.

        2. Pathfinder Ryder*

          Aotearoa New Zealand does not have states. We have city/district/regional councils and MPs for each electoral ward.

          1. Tussy*

            Actually you technically do have states! It’s just not in the same way that Australia and the US have states. Your states aren’t the same as your regions, they are the Cook Islands and Niue.

            It was fair to correct me though, it wasn’t clear what I meant. I just meant NZ is technically a western country with states to head off people who googled “countries with states” and saw NZ listed.

    3. CheesePlease*

      I really can’t think of many workplaces where LAYING DOWN ON A COUCH could be seen as professional. Even if you are working while you are laying down. And even so, political environments are likely much more formal requiring a certain level of behavior.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        The only laying down I’ve come across in decades in tech/officey environments was in a tech company back in the day where the sw engineers would nap in an oversized closet furnished for that purpose while waiting for code to compile, and at another tech company where a Sales VP would lie on the floor of his office to ease back pain while working into the wee hours of the morning at end of quarter.
        Oh and one intern who kept lounging on the floor leaning against the wall during team meetings.

        The first 2 examples were high level or SMEs in specific circumstances where that behavior was allowed. The 3rd did it repeatedly after being told not to because he figured it was NBD. People stopped correcting that behavior right around the time we decided he wasn’t going to be on the short list for a full time offer. He had other issues, but his “failure to norm” on that one issue was part of the decision making. It wasn’t a trivial thing for that role – the group’s between the lines professionalism was key to its successful function.

        I think the person giving LW this direct feedback without writing it up was being kind: loungey posture in any non-casual workplace is so outside the norm, having to be counseled on it, even as an intern, might be a mark against someone. It’s not quite “don’t pick your nose in board meetings” but it’s not good.

      2. Tussy*

        From the term “state electorate” it makes me think it’s Australia (there aren’t that many non-US western countries with states and among those, Australia is the one where you would specify between your state electorate rep and your federal electorate rep) where in general everything is a little less formal (including working for a state MP) – so the slouching is probably pretty bad for it to be notable.

        1. amoeba*

          A lot of Europe does, though? For sure Germany and Switzerland (even though they’re obviously called differently but would call them “states” when speaking English…)
          Probably the LW would have said “Europe” in that case though, so you might be correct, anyway.

          1. Tussy*

            It’s only Germany and Austria in Europe. And as you say, they are more likely to say European than western, while Australians use western all the time because we are culturally western but geographically “eastern”.

            But to explain more clearly, what makes me think Australia is that Australians use the terms state electorate and federal electorate a lot because unlike Germany and Austria, our state and federal electorates have different boundaries. Someone in your same state electorate might not be in the same federal electorate, for instance. We also use the term “work experience” instead of internship.

      3. Politico*

        I worked in a law firm where it was acceptable to lay down on a couch if you were working very late at night or pulling an all-nighter. I worked at another that had a dedicated sleeping/nap room.

        This is a very unusual situation, though, and specific to jobs like law and banking that require very late hours in the office.

    4. Smithy*

      While I think the point about politics is entirely valid – I also think that there’s a reality about jobs that are external facing inevitably having greater sensitivity to a range of presentation issues. Posture, tone of voice, choice of words, dress, mannerisms, etc.

      Now those criticism can and certainly have come from problematic places over time – and in those moments deserve being challenged. But whether its politics, hospitality, or the countless other external/client/community facing jobs, being aware of the need for those tweaks and receptive to that criticism is important. And also mindful that sometimes that criticism won’t come from people who phrase it the mostly kindly or people who we otherwise don’t like for good reasons. But the criticism is still valid.

      I’m in an external job, and once had a boss with zero subtlety – so when on two occasions she told me I was dressed so awfully for respective events I had to change, sure the message would have been greatly appreciated in nicer words. However, I also wanted to be dressed appropriately for those events and on reflection my initial choices for those events weren’t quite right and I’m glad I got the chances to change my clothes.

  8. learnedthehardway*

    I routinely work with my feet up on an ottoman. If I’m at a client’s office, I’ll put my feet up on a chair, if I can manage to do so discreetly. I have circulation issues and would really prefer to NOT have swollen ankles, TYVM. I have recently invested in support stockings, but they aren’t ideal for all situations.

    That said, there’s a big difference between putting your foot on a chair under a table, and lying down in full view of the office, which would tend to imply that you are trying to take a nap. And slouching to the point that people can’t see you over the table top would tend to imply you don’t take a meeting seriously / don’t want to be there.

    Overall, I’m guessing that the manager feedback was warranted. How you present yourself does reflect on you, and people WILL infer things about you based on this. The manager was professional to provide the feedback privately. I would take it seriously.

    At any rate, before lying down on the job (there’s a reason that is a saying, by the way), I would get a medical note and file for an accommodation. That will validate that you have a bonafide reason for lying down, AND will enable your manager to deal with the inevitable questions from her manager or your peers about why you are being allowed to do so.

    I’d also file for an accommodation for seating that works for you – if you need to sit up at work, then you need a chair that is comfortable.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      I worked fully reclined in an office chair for several months after major abdominal surgery. It was fine because a) I’d told people why I needed to do so and b) it was work-from-home.

      Remote working might be the way LW wants to go.

    2. Julie*

      If, as suspected, LW is Australian, it’s not as simple as getting a medical note to say that they need to slouch and lie around at work due to posture and physiological disinhibition. Requests for conditions that are pretty vague are usually sent to a medical practitioner of the employer’s choosing for assessment.

      LW didn’t mention having a brain injury so I wonder about the psychological inhibition diagnosis, and not many physiotherapists would recommend slouching on couches when working as being good for posture concerns. I can’t help wondering if LW is using terminology that they don’t quite understand to medicalise doing what they feel like.

      1. doreen*

        I normally see “disinhibition” used to refer to certain socially unacceptable behaviors that a person can’t control due to either an injury, disease or drug/alcohol use. I’ve never seen it refer to something like posture, or to a person who chooses not to follow social norms so it seems to me like the LW is trying to medicalize doing what they want to do. There are in fact people who cannot comfortably sit for any period of time – I’ve known a number of them but I’ve never known anyone who could neither sit nor stand who didn’t have a physical disability, which the LW does not mention.

        1. BubbleTea*

          I’ve seen it in relation to diagnoses of borderline personality disorder and other similar conditions.

  9. Sara without an H*

    Letter Writer, I think you need a mentor here, or a trusted senior coworker who can give you some feedback. It’s very hard, sometimes, to be aware of our own body language. See if you can find some people you trust to be candid with you about how you’re presenting yourself in professional settings.

    You mentioned you have some “physical posture” issues. It may be time to start preparing a case for formal accommodation. Consult an HR professional for what kind of documentation you’d need to support a claim for special seating, or whatever would help.

    It’s clear from you letter that you dislike this woman. But whatever you do, don’t just blow off this information because you dislike the source.

    1. Pennyworth*

      My first response to ‘physical posture issues’ was what else would you expect if your default posture is slouch. I am currently working on my core strength due to lack of exercise and far too much lounging around over the last year or so. I was starting to feel like a jellyfish.

      1. PsychNurse*

        That’s actually a good point. It IS really hard, and tiring, to sit or stand upright if you aren’t used to it! It even makes your back and neck sore. But the treatment is to do it more, not less.

        1. Pennyworth*

          I used to work with young children, and the ones with poor posture were always the ones who would back up against a wall to lean on if we were sitting on the floor.

          1. Katy*

            Which is the cause, though, and which is the effect? Maybe they had poor posture because sitting up straight was harder for them than it was for the other kids.

            1. ArtsNerd*

              Thank you.

              FWIW, I was always looking for a wall for back support despite having excellent core strength as a kid. I did ballet quite seriously. But in ballet I was frequently moving, and even our formal sitting positions would read as “weird” in a classroom.

              The expected “criss cross” legs pose was very uncomfortable for me after a minute or so. I suspect it was my hypermobility (a la Ehlers Danlos syndrome), since my muscles have to work extra to keep my floppy body bits where they belong.

  10. afiendishthingy*

    I don’t think it’s overly harsh of your work experience supervisor to tell your work/behavior was acceptable “for a student” when you are in fact a student. Your letter does suggest you aren’t particularly knowledgeable about office/professional norms – which is to be expected! Nobody is when they first start which is why it’s great to have work experiences like this with supervisors who can give you feedback on those unwritten rules. It’s not fun to get feedback like this, for sure, but it can be very useful.

    1. Lulu*

      I think back to some early feedback I received, and I know I bristled at it at the time. But looking back? Yeah, I had a lot to learn. It’s really common to only see some things with hindsight. It’s very hard to know what you don’t know.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Absolutely. I hope letter writers can take the benefit of our hindsight and learn a bit, but you always do something in your early career that will haunt you in memory.

        1. afiendishthingy*

          A number of things, in my case! Many that nobody ever called me on at the time, but gosh I cringe looking back.

        2. Lulu*

          When I get that deep cringey feeling, I try to remind myself that it’s a signal of my growth. I should be so lucky as to cringe when I look back because it means I’ve grown and developed. I’d hate to look back and realize I’ve learned nothing. (This is what I say to myself to mitigate the cringe feeling. I hate the cringe.)

          1. afiendishthingy*

            Good point, I have grown! And also I’m now 100% remote and am nearly always reclining on my couch with nobody the wiser.

          2. Casper Lives*

            I try to do that. But I can’t help cringing when I remember I cried at the gentle feedback from my boss in my first office job (teenager in college, likely similar age to LW).

        3. MigraineMonth*

          I am so happy that next time I job search, I won’t have to use any references from my first professional job. I had such a skewed view of the manager-report relationship I still wince every time I think about it.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        YES. Early in my career, I remember being Very Offended about various points of feedback that I now cringe about. But that is how we learn.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      ” which made me feel belittled, but I decided I wouldn’t confront her at the very end and ignored it.”
      OP, you should ‘confront’ your boss for giving you feedback. What you boss said (you were in a ‘watching tv position’) does not seem to me to be confrontation-worthy.
      It seems that between this and ‘psychological disinhibition comment that you need to reframe this whole experience, not just your posture.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        This is another pretty obvious example of OP’s professionalism needing work.

        Its very rare to “confront” anyone at work, let alone your supervisor. Having a discussion over things, including things you disagree on, is a very normal necessary skill.

        You should be able to discuss things. You should be able to take feedback without bristling. You should be collaborative and coachable.

        You should not confront people because you don’t like what they said.

        1. TomatoSoup*

          It made me think of the head of a company whose holiday party had gotten out of control and his note about confronting people in the office. “I will confront you by Wednesday of this week” That read to me as incredibly odd and rather aggressive despite his role in the company and some of the egregious behavior described. I can’t imagine it would go well in LW’s situation.

      2. Antilles*

        OP especially needs to reframe the mindset around feedback because the Boss was actually doing OP a huge favor.
        Since you’re not going back there, she could very easily have left that bit of feedback out and let you to your own devices (read: make that same mistake again) in your next role. Instead, she gave you some good advice on professionalism, alerting you to how you were coming across.

  11. Dancing Elaine*

    Take your boss’s advice. My adult kid worked for a very high placed politician that everyone would know and demeanor and professionalism is everything. He wore suit and tie everyday and very much was aware of things like posture and home v office behavior. It matters in this field. Good luck.

  12. Sparkles McFadden*

    My (quite excellent) boss in the job I held while in college politely told me “Look, I know you’re doing five things at once, and you know you’re doing five things at once, but anyone coming in would see you with your feet up on the desk like that and the phone jammed under your chin and think you’re just lounging around having a casual phone chat.” He went on to add “You won’t always work for me and appearances do matter a great deal in almost all situations, so smarten up.”

    Still the best boss I ever had.

    1. PsychNurse*

      Same with smartphone usage. If you’re sitting back in a chair, scrolling through your phone, you look for all the world like you’re checking Instagram. Even if you are actually responding to emails. Thus, you really have to take what you look like into consideration— use the computer more and the phone less, for example.

    2. umami*

      Good example. I always talk to new front-office staff about optics. My boss’s office is just down the hall, and sometimes he will pop down to talk about something. So I make sure that they understand that when in a public space, they have to be a bit more mindful of their behavior and how it can appear to others than those staff who have private offices. I always do this in their orientation to preempt any issues rather than being reactionary to something that might make someone feel defensive.

  13. Gunther Centralperk*

    I think that a big part of the feedback could be related to what you were supposed to be doing while reclining/slouching. If you’re at your desk typing, it’s not so much a big deal. But if it was during a meeting, you would probably look disinterested.

    I’m not a fan of sitting “properly” either, but I try to tailor my body language in other ways so people know that I’m engaged and that I’m not slouching because I don’t want to physically be at work (unfortunately, perception does matter). E.g. If I’m in a meeting and I want to slouch while resting my chin in my hand with my elbow on the table, I make sure that I’m making eye contact with the speaker and actively nodding to indicate that I’m listening.

  14. Good Enough For Government Work*

    From Alison’s response:

    “(As always, there can be exceptions for people who need medical accommodations, but I’m assuming that isn’t the case here.)”

    However, LW does say they have “physical posture issues”, which reads to me like there IS at least some kind of physical/medical issue at play here…

    1. nt*

      I don’t know, I read that as “I slouch a lot” not as something medical. It could go either way I suppose.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      I guess the point here is that the LW should be asking for accommodation. Since this is a first job, they may not have been aware that they *could* ask for such things! So LW, don’t feel terribly about it! Realize you can tell your supervisor that you have issue X that means that you can’t sit for more than 30′, and you can discuss what you need to be comfortable. My company is large, so they’d send you right to Occupational Health to discuss what is available to you and what can help, and it wouldn’t be an issue at all. They’d just make sure you had what you needed to be comfortable.

      1. Skyblue*

        Yes, or even if it’s not a formal accommodation, it would be helpful to tell a boss that there’s a reason for it.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, sometimes it helps to introduce the elephant. When I returned to work after abdominal surgery, I’d say something like “Sorry to be reclining right now, but I’m dealing with a health issue.”

    3. The Original K.*

      Yeah, I work with a VP who has a bad back and she will stand up and/or lie on the floor in meetings. If you know her, you know; if you’re new, she explains herself and life goes on. She has a standing desk at home and in the office because she really cannot sit comfortably for extended periods of time.

      1. Antony-mouse*

        Yeah I worked at an office while doing rehab for a back injury. I never lay down in the office but only on the couches in the common room and whenever people came in, I’d say ‘don’t mind me, my back is having a bad day so I’m just trying to stretch it out a bit’. But that was also maybe once a fortnight max

  15. AngryOctopus*

    Lying down on the office couch if not in a private room with door closed = not OK. Having posture issues that mean you can’t sit upright in the chair for an extended period = fine, but you do need to discuss that with your supervisor. You should be able to ask for accommodation in that regard, if you find you need to stand more, or the chair you have causes back pain. There are things that can help you!

    I work in a lab, and I often sit at my desk with 1 leg up on the chair under me, or both feet balanced on my open bottom desk drawer. It’s not comfortable for me to sit with my legs under the desk and feet on the floor. But if I worked in a more formal office setting, I would ask for a desk board (the foot board thing that goes under your desk to prop up your feet, not sure of the real name!) or something else instead, because I would need to present myself in a more formal manner.

  16. Prefer my pets*

    I feel the LW. It’s incredibly uncomfortable for me to sit “like a normal person” in really any furniture, but particularly office furniture. I’m too short for my feet to touch the ground so either my back is miserable from no support or my legs are falling asleep, I can’t use a foot rest because then I can’t move my chair as much as I need to reach all the different stacks on my desk, and standing desks don’t work because I also have a chronic pain issue I’ve had since my early teens. But I *look* like a totally healthy person who should be able to sit normally. I usually alternate having one foot tucked up on the chair seat but that’s because I’m established enough now I can do it even in meetings and no one thinks anything of it. When you’re first building your reputation (especially if you are a woman, POC, LGBQT+, etc) it’s an unfortunate reality that you need to behave “better” and have a “better” appearance than more established employees.

    1. Queen Ruby*

      You sound like me, with the feet not touching the floor. If my chair is lowered enough for them to touch, I feel like I’m hidden behind my monitor. I end up resting my feet on the legs of the chair, or tucked underneath me. Barefoot, most of the time lol, but that’s ok in my office.
      But early in my career, an older motherly boss corrected my posture a few times and I cringe thinking about it now.

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Clearly the “Soul Seat” was designed for people like you! (And me). I’ll post the link in a separate comment.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Ooh, if it only had a back rest I’d want one for myself. (And I work from home, so I can sit in whatever position I want, but my knees and back have taken to complaining about some positions in a normal office chair.)

        1. jane's nemesis*

          Yeah, I can’t do without arm rests too, for shoulder injury reasons. My arm has to be supported by an arm rest or my shoulder will scream at me!

    3. Nethwen*

      You sound like me. After I explained that the standard tables and chairs were causing injuries that sent me to physical therapy, and no, a stool/foot rest and back pillow in the chair would not solve the problems, I got permission to order a special chair and table/desk.

      I talked to the sales person, explained what I needed, including the length of my thighs when sitting, and she found me a petite cylinder chair that not only goes low enough for my feet to touch the floor with my knees at an average angle, but also the seat length front to back is short enough to accommodate my smaller body. She also found me an adjustable table that went down to 21″, which was perfect for me.

      I’m still more comfortable with having my feet up on a chair rung or out like they’re on an ottoman, but when I do need to sit “normally,” I can without sliding out of my chair or being in pain.

      The table is from HON. I don’t remember the brand of the chair (not HON), but now that I’ve left that job, I really miss furniture that was sized for my body. The chair and table together were in the $2,000 range with the institutional discount, but the accommodation stopped the occasional rounds of physical therapy.

    4. Robin Ellacott*

      Yes, once you’ve built capital you have more leeway and you probably also know what would fly – or not – in your office. I have the opposite problem – my legs are too long to fit without bumping something in most desk/chair arrangements so I often have a foot tucked up or even both feet propped on the side of the desk. But this works in my informal workplace and I have my own office.

      I wouldn’t do it in a setting whose norms I didn’t know. And of course if a boss or someone way more experienced told me I wasn’t appropriate for the space, I’d take it that they knew best.

    5. Kyrielle*

      I loved it so much when the adjustable sit-stand desks at my workplace and the adjustable chairs, both of which came in with a furniture refresh, conspired to let me sit with my feet on the floor, my hands on the keyboard comfortably, and my monitor at proper eye level!

      …and now I wfh all the time and have a much more casual setup that works great for me, but still. Desks that *lower* more than the average human being needs are good for those of us who are below average! (And I could stand up when I needed to. But honestly, being able to just sit without needing a footrest or something was so nice.)

      1. Tau*

        Honestly, the thing I love most about our office’s standing desks isn’t the standing part (although that’s cool), it’s that at the very very lowest height… that desk is FINALLY the perfect height so that everything works out with my feet flat on the ground. At a previous job I had to use footrests and thoroughly hated them. And TBH, the fact that I have to strain that desk to its minimum to get there isn’t great – there are definitely shorter people than me out there as well.

        (for some bizarre reason the most comfortable posture for me is actually sitting cross-legged in a chair, in which case distance to the ground no longer matters so much… but I don’t do that one in the office :’))

  17. New York*

    Alison asks, “why shouldn’t you be able to put your feet up on your desk…”

    Because unless you’re Mr. Rogers and changing shoes when you get inside, the bottoms of your shoes have probably stepped in all sorts of grossness that I wouldn’t want on my desk.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      This, right here, as the kids would say.

      Shoes are filthy. They don’t belong on the same surfaces that hold the papers and other items that I will have to handle, and where I usually eat my lunch.

    2. Kacihall*

      In my office I rarely have shoes on :)

      In the winter I usually wear boots and keep slippers at work for if I leave my desk. But no one is in my direct area and I’m out of sight from the rest of the office.

    3. short'n'stout*

      Yeah, I came here to say this. Even if you are wearing indoor-only shoes, seeing them up on your desk, or any kind of table or bench intended to be a work surface, thoroughly grosses me out. That goes double if I can see the soles of your feet, especially if we’re having a meeting (as opposed to me noticing as I pass by).

      If you need to raise your feet, use a footstool or similar.

      On a similar note, sitting on tables or desks is also disgusting.

      1. short'n'stout*

        forgot to add: slippers, socks, or bare feet are not exempt from the “feet on desks are gross” rule.

  18. Rose*

    As an autistic person who absolutely cannot sit in a chair “normally”, this one is a real bummer. So far everywhere I’ve worked has been cool about this quirk but I feel like I have something new to be insecure about now.

    1. Gerry Keay*

      Eh, it’s hugely about office culture ime. I’m tall and gangly and have a really hard time staying comfortable in chairs. In my first front desk job (customer facing), I was given feedback about sitting more “normally.” A later job (not customer facing and more start up-esque culture) I would routinely lie down on one of the secluded couches and do a couple hours of work in full goblin laptop posture and just sit up a little straighter when someone walked past. Was never an issue! So I think if your office has been cool about it so far, I’d assume you’re fine to keep doing you.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I had a coworker at a fairly formal government agency who was young, and often leaned back in his chair with his feet up because the poor kid was nearly 7 feet tall and built like a #2 pencil, and he literally did not fit in normal furniture.

        He was so charming that people viewed it a silly quirk, not an annoyance – but he DID go too far when he was caught vaping in the office by a director.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I’m sorry this makes you feel insecure. Is there an accommodation you can think of that would help (such as allowing you to stand rather than sit, a different type of chair, etc)?

    3. hellohello*

      I think it’s less about “you cannot sit like this” and much more about understanding your office and the impression you’re giving off. Some offices are perfectly fine with people sitting however pleases them, and some (especially more formal places like a politician’s office) will find that strange or unprofessional.

      Even then, it’s still probably possible to find a position that works well for you, you’d just want to be deliberate about it and ask for specific accommodations and/or request a standing desk or other type of setup that allows for more varied sitting positions. There are specifically designed chairs and foot rests that allow for kneeling/sitting cross legged, etc. that would come off as more professional than just slouching in a standard office chair.

    4. Kella*

      If all the places you’ve worked have been fine with the way you sit, then I don’t think you have anything to worry about! You didn’t break a social rule if this social rule didn’t exist at your work places.

      I’d take this as a piece of information that if you enter a new work environment, it’s good to check what the cultural norms are around sitting, and that the more formal the work place, the more likely they are to want you to sit in a certain way.

    5. I heart Paul Buchman*

      For some reason people are rushing to reassure you even though the comments to OP are overwhelming that this is not professional.

      Feeling insecure doesn’t help. Ask someone you trust if your version of not sitting ‘normally’ is a problem. If not, proceed without anxiety unless you receive info at a later date. If so, look into how you can make changes (if it’s about muscle tone an OT can help).

      1. Bird of Paradise*

        “For some reason people are rushing to reassure you even though the comments to OP are overwhelming that this is not professional.”

        I picked up on this, too. I agree that feeling insecure is not helpful. I’ll take you at your word that all your workplaces to date have been fine with how you sit. If you find that you need to change workplaces, the comments give some information on how to evaluate which postures are likely to go over poorly and when:
        -Unusual posture (slouching, reclining) in meetings seems to go over worse than unusual posture working alone at a desk
        -Unusual posture gets less of a pass in new people and lower ranking people
        -Unusual posture gets more of a pass in experienced or high ranking people
        -More formal workplaces expect more typical posture
        -Propping feet up seems to elicit a particularly emotional response
        If you observe that everyone at a new place of work sits up ram rod straight at all times, you might want to have a discreet conversation with someone senior about whether you can get away with different posture without negatively impacting your reputation.

    6. Pierrot the Clown*

      My sibling is autistic and sometimes has trouble with social cues/norms but is also aware of that. At an internship (I believe this was his last year in high school to give context), he was given feedback that his posture was sometimes unprofessional. He was putting his head down on his desk, which is definitely not appropriate in an office, and his supervisor did give him some gentle feedback which it sounds like he appreciated.

      I am not autistic but I have ADHD that severely impacts my ability to sit still and also I think I have trouble being aware of my posture sometimes if I am concentrating on something else. My more recent jobs have been in customer service but I’m shuddering a bit about an internship I had in college where we did have living room like chairs. Anyways, my not sitting still/general posture is something I could see getting flagged in a more formal office and reading this definitely made me think about that (though I’ve never lied down at work or put my head down).

      I think that if I was given feedback along the lines of “Try to pay attention more to your posture/how you sit and how it might come across”, I would take that feedback to heart… picturing myself in this hypothetical scenario, I might try and find some discreet/office-appropriate fidgets that I could maybe reach for without drawing too much attention? If it continued to come up, I’d probably talk to my psychiatrist about possible accommodations.

      Anyways, this is just to say that I empathize with your comment/overall insecurity. It sounds like your previous jobs have not given you any negative feedback on this, which makes me think that the way you sit is probably either not too noticeable to the point of being distracting or that your employers have understood that this is more of a thing that’s not within your control rather than a sign of disinhibition or not caring :).

  19. PsychNurse*

    “Psychological disinhibition” isn’t a diagnosis. That sounds like something you and a therapist may have talked about, and it may be helpful for you in your own personal growth. But you can’t ask for accommodations— like lying on a couch— because you are “disinhibited.”

    1. Lulu*

      I agree. There seems to be some blurring of the lines here between “diagnosis” and “what I feel like.” There can be real overlap there, but the LW needs to figure out what’s on what side of the line for them, and then address it accordingly. If they have real posture issues that are diagnosable (either physical or psychological I guess?) then get them diagnosed and managed with treatment and/or accommodation. If they just struggle with posture (I’m with you!) then that’s something you work on yourself, not something you ask someone else to deal with. If you’re “disinhibited” because you haven’t learned social conventions, learn them. If you’re disinhibited because of a clinical condition, seek treatment to manage the condition and/or request accommodation from your workplace. I think the LW may be confusing these different types of experience, which can certainly be the case for young adults. We all start there and then figure out how we take accountability for ourselves in a variety of ways.

      1. lost academic*

        I really have to agree and I am usually very sympathetic to all the potential accommodations people need or might need, on this forum or elsewhere. I’m honestly just very skeptical that the LW has a problem that rises to some sort of accommodation requirement or request versus just not ‘getting it’. I had to unpack why I felt so skeptical and dismissive, but I think it’s because of the overall tone of “this is what I do and I didn’t appreciate being told it didn’t look good”. That’s not being treated harshly, that’s being given relevant feedback that your manager believed you would benefit from hearing. Per the ‘psychological disinhibition’ (actually the first time I’ve heard that phrase) – this is where the feedback is so useful. LW got the appropriate feedback to calibrate the behavior! This is what is supposed to happen! Harsh, in my opinion, would have been if the LW had experienced actual negative consequences as a result of the behaviors – not getting good work assignments, termination, problematic attitude from manager/coworkers – not someone saying “hey, this is a problem here”.

        If you need accommodations, explore what they need to be – talk to doctors, PT and OT specialists – explore physical therapy – consider getting better sitting equipment (desks and chairs) if warranted, but dial back on the reaction to being told that the way you sit in an office doesn’t have a good look. Everything the LW said suggests that this is a LW lacking perspective and experience, and if there are legitimate physical issues with sitting to do office work, that’s something to work on if s/he wants employment doing that kind of work.

    2. Gerry Keay*

      Yeah, if OP does have a formal diagnosis (plenty of mental illnesses and neurotypes and disabilities that involved a clinical level of impulsivity) then they can absolutely go down the route of accommodations, but I struggle to believe that the accommodation would land on the side of “sit however you want, wherever you want” and not like… finding a better ergonomic set up — especially given the more straightlaced field they’re in.

    3. Nela*

      Disinhibition seems like a more highbrow sounding synonym for impulsivity, which is a symptom of certain mental and developmental disorders… but not one workplaces are interested in accommodating. Even with a documented diagnosis, I can’t imagine what that conversation would look like without it sounding like you’re looking for permission to act… juvenile.

      I have ADHD so I’m saying this as someone who understands how difficult it is to fit into workplace norms: impulsivity is a really important trait/symptom to get under control in the workplace, and outside of it. While other people may occasionally find it charming and quirky, it can also cause serious issues.

      If you find it too difficult to control your impulses in order to conform to certain workplace norms, it’s better to know that early on, and choose a career path where it’s generally tolerated.

    4. Owls Lang Syne*

      I agree, that phrasing sounds like OP thinks this “disinhibition” is (for want of a better term) an excuse, rather than a description of a problem that it’s still incumbent on OP (and their therapist/support system) to work on.

      1. Lulu*

        This reminds me of people who think that if you can name or explain something, that makes it okay. Like when my mom visits and doesn’t notice when the dog is in the baby’s face: “Oh, I’m just not attuned to that. I didn’t notice.” Okay, well, that’s a problem. You have to notice.
        So “I have bad posture” =/= “My boss needs to be okay with my bad posture.” Instead, try “I have bad posture so I need to work on my posture.”

        1. Katy*

          I think this is broadly true, but I also don’t think “I have bad posture” necessarily = “I need to work on my posture.” And I think bosses should be okay with people who have bad posture, just as bosses should be okay with, for instance, people who have acne.

          Personally, I have a weak back and a tendency to hunch forward that I inherited from my mom and grandmother. My back is slightly curved, so I always look a little slouchy even when I’m standing straight, and standing or sitting straight for more than a few minutes is exhausting and uncomfortable. Sitting in a straight-backed chair without slouching will eventually give me a migraine. I don’t have a diagnosis for any of this, because I’ve never needed one. It’s not a disability, just a body type. But I would be deeply upset if my boss decided my body type wasn’t professional enough, and I would be completely unable to change it to suit my boss’s preferences.

    5. Kella*

      I think psychological disinhibition is more of a symptom than a diagnosis. It’s likely caused by something else, which may meet the criteria for a medical accommodation, but not knowing the cause, we can’t really speak to that either way.

      1. b*

        Yes, I’ve heard the term before–but only ever in the context of TBIs and how they disinhibit–or remove the impulse control, basically–those suffering. It’s also, iirc, a symptom of other disorders, but TBI is what I know it best from.

        But it’s odd to me that LW would say they are “disinhibited” rather than that they have a TBI, or suffer from a mental illness or neurodivergence that leads to disinhibition–that phrasing is very strange. It strikes me as the difference between wanting only to claim to the disorderly behavior, rather than the responsibility of treating its root causes.

    6. Spencer Hastings*

      Yeah, the zeugma really got me there. Putting that in along with the posture issues made me think that “psychological disinhibition” was a technical term for something medical (which, after some googling, doesn’t seem to be the case).

      -Spencer, who has allergies and an eye for detail

    7. Yikes*

      Ding ding ding. If there is a real medical issue, sure, seek accommodation. But some of this stuff is a bit over the top, and the OP bristling at receiving positive feedback from their boss makes me wonder if OP just has a lot to learn about professional life. (Which is fine and expected, a their stage of life. I just hope they don’t make the mistake of calling their boss out when they are the one who needs to learn something.)

    8. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      Also possibly a translation issue. (“States” + “not America” made me think Mexico.)

  20. Not So Little My*

    It was unclear from LW’s phrasing whether they had any formal diagnosis of the issues that might be affecting their posture. This could be a disability or neurodiversity issue. A lot of times people aren’t aware that their postural needs are related to disabilities, so if the LW has a more casual relationship with this issue, they might want to look for a neurodiversity-inclusive practitioner to check it out. Due to so many offices’ concern with certain representations of “professionalism” and the general cultural misunderstanding of non-apparent disabilities, it might be the case that, this early in their career, they might learn things that would steer them towards a different industry that is more accepting of diversity in this regard.

  21. DannyG*

    I’m thinking that OP would benefit, long term, from a work from home situation. Depending on field there may be a need to gain experience on site, but after that work from home would seem to be ideal.

  22. Not A Manager*

    LW, some of the language in your letter concerns me. You felt “belittled” by an (apparently accurate) description of your behavior. You considered “confronting” your boss about it. You think she has an “overly critical” nature. You object to being told that, as a student, you do work at the level of a student.

    Your assessment of your own situation is at odds with your supervisor’s, which is fine to an extent, but you also seem to think that you and she have roughly the same chances of being correct in your assessments – for example, while she thinks you are doing fine “for a student,” you think you are on a par with her professional staff.

    I don’t really have much of an opinion about the slouching/sitting thing in particular, but I do think that, in general, when someone with more experience than you, and in a direct supervisory position, gives you any kind of feedback, you’re better off with a presumption that they know what they’re talking about. You might ultimately decide that in this case they are wrong, but I think you’d benefit from at least seriously considering whatever your boss or professor is telling you.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Those are all really good observations. It’s normal to be early in your career and bristle at criticism, but you have to work through that reaction and take the feedback to heart. Especially if this boss cared enough to leave potentially embarrassing feedback off your official report and give it to you personally, I highly doubt that they’re as critical as you believe. It’s actually very kind to give difficult feedback privately.

      It’s better than neglecting to give feedback on behavior you feel may hold someone back, which many people do to avoid confrontation.

    2. Katelyn AM*

      Agreed. I feel like LW glosses over the part where their work was criticized too. My initial thought was that they were doing the ol’ “your criticism isn’t valid because you were mean to me, actually, so I did nothing wrong” routine (with a little “I have An Unspecified Issue, so this is discrimination” for flavor), but I hope that’s not the case. It’s normal to have an ego-defensive response to negative feedback, but the boss almost certainly has better professional judgment and no reason to lie. At the end of the day, your employer’s perception of your work and conduct will determine if you thrive, or keep your job, no matter how many stickers you’ve put on your own star chart.

      1. Observer*

        I feel like LW glosses over the part where their work was criticized too.

        What’s worse is that they don’t gloss it over – they use it as an argument for why they should probably ignore their boss on this issue. “My boss criticized me and since I disagree that I deserved it, it probably means that any criticism from her is invalid.”

        Which is exactly backwards. OP, your boss was letting you know that although YOU thought you were doing well, maybe not so much. Take that on board.

    3. MigraineMonth*

      It’s so, so hard in the moment, but when you’re receiving criticism the most important thing is to be curious. Assume they have a point and ask for their help understanding. Sometimes criticism isn’t valid! Sometimes it’s sexist or racist or unfounded. But if you don’t ask for clarification, you’ll never really know.

      I once had a manager remove a piece of criticism from my performance review just by sincerely asking for examples of what I should do differently. Since he couldn’t think of any examples, he decided to remove the sentence.

    4. Lily Rowan*

      I would love to see a post from Alison about why “confrontation” is usually the wrong move, and how people should think about their communication in general. That word comes up so often! And is almost never the best way to go.

      (Aside from “I will confront you by Wednesday of this week,” of course.)

      1. Miss Muffet*

        Agree! It’s rarely the right approach at work, for anything. Discuss, talk to about, ask about… but confront is really adversarial.

    5. Kella*

      OP’s response actually reminded me of a mind frame I think Alison has commented on before that’s common in students: The idea that you need to get 100% in order to be considered successful.

      Negative feedback isn’t an error to be corrected or a punishment for not being perfect. It’s information to consider and incorporate into your behavior going forward.

    6. Observer*

      Your assessment of your own situation is at odds with your supervisor’s, which is fine to an extent, but you also seem to think that you and she have roughly the same chances of being correct in your assessments – for example, while she thinks you are doing fine “for a student,” you think you are on a par with her professional staff.

      Yes, this is a very good point. OP, you really don’t have the standing to have an opinion, unless your boss is really dysfunctional. And from what you say, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  23. Skyblue*

    I sort of think the LW is being the critical one here.

    If the LW is a student, some mentoring is appropriate, and it sounds like the boss was kind to mention it. A lot of people have difficulty providing feedback on stuff like this, but if it was something she thought could hinder the LW in their next job, it was good to bring it up. And leaving it out of the formal report was a good idea.

    Especially early in their career, most people want to hear about stuff like this that might hold them back when they don’t realize it.

    1. I can never decide on a lasting name*

      Agreed! The feedback itself as well as not including it in the report is a kindness from the boss. Once LW gets over the embarassment or disappointment from receiving negative feedback, I hope they see it that way. If they do not… more problems might be coming their way

    2. Malarkey01*

      I’ve supervised students and interns before and a real part of the feedback and mentoring is around professional norms. There’s an expectation that students and interns need extra support around this (and some of the best columns here have been “tell me about the time you did something cringey and clueless as a newer employee”). I know that sometimes it can be embarrassing and defensive, but it’s almost always done in order to helpful you develop.

      1. Sabine the Very Mean*

        The ayes have it. I’ll draft the press release from my lil tiny soft office chair.

  24. Katelyn AM*

    In my experience, the appearance of being attentive and Giving A Darn is wildly important in the workplace, especially when you’re just starting out. When you have more credibility as a solid employee, there’s more leeway to be casual, but credibility has to come first. Since you don’t say your boss praised your work or that this was her only complaint– in fact, she criticized your work as well– I would focus on improving in that arena, which can eventually get you to a place where you can be more relaxed without judgment. I’m glad you didn’t confront her about this; your boss could’ve pointed out that your work wasn’t up to par, and it would read like you were trying to deflect criticism with a petty complaint, which hopefully wasn’t your intention.

    And honestly, I think a good attitude to take towards this kind of early negative feedback is, “Thank God I’m hearing it now, when it’s normal to not know this stuff, rather than later in my career, when it would be embarrassing.” Better to know!

  25. I can never decide on a lasting name*

    Do take the boss’s advice!! I’d also suggest asking other people what signals they receive / read from the way you pose yourself.

    The part about psychological disinhibition makes me curious, and I hope that LW has time to elaborate about what this means; my mind goes to extreme manspreading or positioning body parts in unusual, eye-catching ways. Could be entirely different!

  26. Owls Lang Syne*

    Your posture, especially when seated/recumbent, doesn’t just send signals related to your competence, which it seems like is your main framework, but also about how focused you are, how seriously you’re taking the work, how much respect you’re showing the people around you. Yes, you can send a professionally-worded email while lying down, and plenty of people have now that WFH is common, but the message of lying down in a office (especially a government one!) is wildly different.

    If it’s just they physical discomfort issue, better strategies would be to either ask about it at the start (“Is it all right if I lie down? I don’t want to seem casual but I have a bulging disc that gets painful after a few minutes of sitting”), or more likely, to see about a standing desk/workstation.

    It sounds like the feedback you got was probably on point as Alison said, and the rep was kind to discreetly mention it instead of writing it in your report. I’d argue that it was much kinder of her to mention it for the sake of your future career.

    That said, lying down is “off” enough in the type of workplace you describe (and most workplaces) that someone should have told you on day one, not right at the end.

    1. Citra*

      It’s not just the signals posture sends other people, either. It’s the signals your brain sends to you. Studies have shown that slouching, slumping, etc. can negatively affect your mood, your confidence, your alertness, and your productivity, and that sitting up straight can make you more alert, aware, and enthusiastic.

    2. Politician's Minion*

      This, exactly. I work for an elected official, in state government. During the height of unemployment h*** during the pandemic I was having the same conversation multiple times per day (more than 30, occasionally more than 40). By lunchtime on the worst days I was sitting in my chair on my tailbone with my calves resting on the corner of my desk (so my feet weren’t). I could have recorded myself and saved my voice a lot of strain because everyone had the same issue and received the same response. I was also wearing jeans.
      I was, however, working in a locked office with at most one other person and we were not open to the public. The building was also not open to the public, and I was either alone in the building or one of maybe three people (one coworker, one person from landlord’s office who came to collect the mail) in the whole large office building.
      The posture was to keep my voice from reflecting my complete and utter doneness with my state’s unemployment (non) system. The coworker I usually worked with found my posture hilarious because she said she couldn’t tell from my voice whether I was having the conversation for the first or the 40th time that day. She had to lean around the cube to see where my feet were.
      However, this was an extraordinary time under extraordinarily stressful circumstances. This is not situation normal by any stretch of the imagination. The office and building are now open to the public, my feet are always on the floor, and I’m back to suits and dress clothes. The unemployment system is still a mess, however.

  27. IsbenTakesTea*

    I can see that if there are couches and fuller chairs around, a person could reasonably think “if a couch is here, then I can treat it like a couch,” but in many offices that’s just not true (at least for couches in lobbies and personal offices, rather than break rooms). A couch in most office spaces is more for aesthetic rather than comfort: you should still treat your posture in it as if you were in an office chair, for the most part, especially if you are in front of anyone else, whether they are customers/clients or coworkers.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      This is so true for so many things in the office environment, not just furniture. The kitchen is not there for you to cook complicated meals. The refrigerator, even if it usually half-empty, should not contain all of your groceries. The printer is not where you print out a 300-page novel you downloaded for personal use. Use them, but use them with discretion.

  28. lyngend (canada)*

    Since it’s the LW with the poor posture, I have some questions for the LW. Have you seen a doctor about it, since it’s uncomfortable for you to sit properly? might have a medical reason things aren’t comfortable, and there may be things to do to make it more comfortable. (I didn’t go to the doctor’s but when I switched from slouching on my couch to sitting in my desk chair (wfh) I had a lot of lower back pain, and ended up occasionally putting on a corset to reduce the strain. And eventually a new work chair). I’ve heard of people doing stretches (physio therapy) etc to make it so they can improve their posture issues caused by health issues.

    1. Ima Goodlady*

      I had physical therapy in middle school for scoliosis and it literally changed the curvature of my spine! A doctor can prescribe it and insurance may cover it, and you can keep doing a lot of the exercises at home. It really does help so much with pain and discomfort. Even if you (general you) don’t care about how you look to others, you can still do it for yourself to make your own life better. Life’s too short to be uncomfortable all the time.

  29. Velomont*

    I’m having troubling visualizing/understanding “psychological disinhibition”. If someone could give me an explanation and/or example, I would really appreciate that. Thanks

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It’s sort of a watered down version of impulsivity, to oversimplify. A lot of times it’s used when people are studying internet discourse and behavior – the anonymity of being online makes you say or do things without thinking through the consequences. Like sending nude pictures on snapchat.

      In this case it probably means the LW does things like lie down on the couch because it’s comfortable and in the moment doesn’t think of consequences like outside perception. But it’s not a ‘condition’ like tourettes would be, where he does something impulsively and can’t help it. It’s just not something his brain automatically considers, which is why someone upthread suggested it probably came from a conversation with a therapist.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I may be misunderstanding what the LW means, but it sounds like impulsivity/impulse control.

    3. Somehow_I_Manage*

      That particular statement is downright weird. It means lack of restraint, or poor impulse control. The way it was used walks a weird line that is suggestive of a professional diagnosis, but is notably lacking such detail. I don’t mean this as a real judgement on OP, but it reads like a pretty flimsy excuse. e.g., “I shouldn’t be judged as harshly, because I’m worse at it.” Hopefully it’s just coming off incorrectly to me.

    4. I can never decide on a lasting name*

      Reads to me as not inhibing themselves from doing things that are against social norms in the environment that they are in – basically doing something offensive or odd.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Yes. But normally you’d list the condition, not list this as it’s own thing. The way it’s incorporated here makes me wonder if it’s just a phrase the OP stumbled upon and finds useful as opposed to part of a condition.

      1. DashDash*

        This was my read, and as an autistic person I think it’s a VERY useful phrase to describe a type of behavior that people have made me aware of, but (especially earlier in my career) I am often oblivious to. It sounds like a great way to describe the overall effect of “I don’t notice a lot of social cues, so I also don’t notice when I’ve missed them, and my behavior then becomes embarrassing to those around me.”

        1. Bird of Paradise*

          IANAD (I am not a doctor), but what I just learned about disinhibition doesn’t seem to apply to being oblivious to social cues. It seems to be more about ability to moderate behavior than about knowledge of behavioral norms. If you have trouble moderating your behavior once you have been informed as to the types of behavior that some people find embarrassing, that could fall under disinhibition, but you should check with a psychologist rather than an internet stranger.

        2. flob*

          But…as a fellow autistic person, would “autism” not get that point across better? “Psychologically disinhibition” doesn’t, to my mind, actually communicate that a person is unaware of social norms and thus unintentionally causing embarrassment–both because it indicates to me impulsivity/improperly functioning prefontal cortex rather than obliviousness and because it strikes me as the kind of term a certain kind of person might use to avoid having to take responsibility for the exact behavior you’re describing. Perhaps that impression is coloured by OP or by the fact that it’s a term I’ve only otherwise heard used in the context of TBIs, but it doesn’t seem particularly useful to me as a term to describe what sounds like a standard part of autism.

    5. CommanderBanana*

      It is basically the perfect way to describe both toddlers and my Chihuahua-Jack Russell mix, who usually behaves like she has been snacking on dynamite.

      1. wordswords*

        Wow, really? This seems unnecessarily unkind to both the LW and the other people who have mentioned dealing with impulsivity in their careers.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          I’m not trying to be unkind. I’m also on the autism spectrum and struggle with impulsivity and being unable to perform the type of social mind-reading a lot of neurotypical colleagues seem to expect.

          Disinhibition is also often a trait seen in people who have had certain types of brain injuries and certain types of dementia.

          I think if the LW has been diagnosed with something along those lines, it’s reasonable to ask for an accommodation. I personally wouldn’t see it as any different than someone needing a different type of chair because of a back injury.

    6. Funny Little Thing*

      I’m wondering if maybe the LW first language isn’t English (they mention they aren’t in the US) and there are some translation issues here? “Psychological Disinhibition isn’t a typical phase in US or UK English (and probably isn’t in other Englishes either) but disinhibition and and impulsivity are symptoms of quite a lot of possible diagnoses (many NeuroDiversities, plenty of mental health issues and some neurological conditions). It’s possible the LW meant to convey that they have one of those, and didn’t want to name a specific diagnosis for anonymity, but their way of wording it is confusing us?

  30. GingerSheep*

    I work in a lab in a fairly informal environment, and nobody is going to give you a second look if you’re kind of slouched or sitting weird alone at your desk. The same does not apply though when you’re interacting with other people; you’re expected to look engaged and attentive. I’m specifically thinking of a PhD intern we had a few years ago ; he used to slouch all over the table in meetings, holding up his head with one arm or balancing on the back legs of his chair, and looking all like a petulant bored five-year-old. He got a talking-to by his supervisor, which he took very badly. That was the first of a series of issues which culminated in us ending his internship early, which is the first time it ever happened.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      This reminds me of a cringe-worthy moment when I fell asleep on the table in a five-person meeting. I never took that cold medication before work again.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I have been a side character in SO many cold medicine stories. I find cold medicine to be a pass for automatic forgiveness.

      2. Storm in a teacup*

        I once dozed off at my desk and had to be shaken awake by a junior member of my team. Never mixed up the drowsy and non-drowsy hay fever meds again.
        Particularly embarrassing considering I worked in healthcare at the time in medicines!

  31. Goldenrod*

    As hard as this was to hear, I think the LW received worthwhile feedback here.

    As a rule of thumb, I think erring on the side of formality (in dress, behavior, etc.) is best whenever you are starting a new job. Especially if you are not especially senior or experienced. It’s better to be formal, until you get the lay of the land a little.

    Having said that, as a young person it was almost IMPOSSIBLE for me to do this, but that’s also why I got stuck in low-level jobs. It’s not actually all that difficult to present more formally, so it’s a good trick to learn early on, if you can.

    1. Sal*

      this is an important lesson! I had a legal internship where the dress code was business casual but I picked up that my boss wasn’t bringing me to court because I wasn’t in a full suit. (My bus-cas outfits were very cute and appropriate, for the record! But they were things like A-line skirts and cardigans with flats.) Without discussing it with him, I started wearing a full suit (even though I was still just tasked with research and writing projects back at the office). Once I was, though, he started bringing me to court on the spur of the moment (which led to him trusting me with more substantive work (including conducting a hearing)). If I hadn’t done that, I would have had a summer of sitting in the computer cluster even though I was not breaking any rules. (Extremely unfair for the neurodivergent, come to think of it–it was all very implicit and vibes-based.)

      1. Observer*

        Extremely unfair for the neurodivergent, come to think of it–it was all very implicit and vibes-based.)

        Yes, unfair that no one said anything to you. But, that’s why the OP’s boss was right to do what she did. The OP clearly doesn’t understand how they were presenting, but their boss has given them some valuable information here.

      2. Goldenrod*

        Ooh, well done! I’m impressed that you figured that out.

        It took me a LOT longer to figure out this kind of thing, but I’m a slow learner. :p

  32. I should really pick a name*

    despite my feeling I wasn’t acting much differently from her five other employees

    I think this is a good opportunity to consider that what you feel might not line up with how you are perceived. There might have been differences that you didn’t think were significant, but your boss did.

      1. Salamander*

        This. This is such a valuable lesson to learn. Feelings do not always equal or reflect reality. And they don’t always need to be acted upon.

  33. fgcommenter*

    Objectively, you did nothing wrong. Subjectively, what you did is offensive to people who have interesting feelings about how things need to be, and have the power to act on their negative feelings.

    The last paragraph of the answer is a powerful one, and I hope you do manage to build up the social capital necessary to push back against this and normalize the absence of meeting standards that are based on illogical nonsense and rooted in negative assumptions.

    1. Critical Rolls*

      I don’t think there’s enough information to come to the “objectively you did nothing wrong” conclusion. OP admits to reclining or lying down on couches at work, and seems to have resented and disputed pretty much all of the feedback they received. Their self-assessment may be other than accurate.

      1. fgcommenter*

        > OP admits to reclining or lying down on couches at work, and seems to have resented and disputed pretty much all of the feedback they received.

        All of which is merely subjectively wrong, not objectively. Alison has it right with:

        “If something doesn’t impede your work (or other people’s work, which is also key), why shouldn’t you be able to work from whatever position you want?”

        As it doesn’t cause a problem by objectively measurable standards, it is not objectively wrong, only subjectively offensive.

        1. Rosa Rosa Rosa Diaz Diaz Diaz*

          The “if’ is huge though. Is there evidence about this? Does lying down really never impact the way you think, the way you listen, the way you are approaching your work? Are we sure that’s definitely true?

          1. fgcommenter*

            > Does lying down really never impact the way you think, the way you listen, the way you are approaching your work? Are we sure that’s definitely true?

            That is very easy to turn around in the OP’s favor:

            Does sitting in an uncomfortable way really never impact the way you think, the way you listen, the way you are approaching your work? Are we sure that’s definitely true?

            > Is there evidence about this?

            The burden of evidence is on the ones claiming it would negatively impact the work, not on the OP to prove a negative.

        2. Eyes Kiwami*

          Yeah but if it’s subjectively wrong in the eyes of your boss, that’s the only thing that matters, isn’t it? If the person evaluating you and setting the rules for the environment says that OP is too unprofessional, then that is the case.

          1. fgcommenter*

            > Yeah but if it’s subjectively wrong in the eyes of your boss, that’s the only thing that matters, isn’t it?

            No. What matters is that it is not objectively wrong, and it is unjustified to treat the OP as though it was objectively wrong, instead of merely something that triggered the boss into feeling offended.

            > If the person evaluating you and setting the rules for the environment says that OP is too unprofessional, then that is the case.

            No. The evaluator merely feels that is the case.

            1. Might be facetious*

              Whoever is responsible for programming this AI chatbot, you need to tweak your code. Its responses don’t sound human at all.

            2. JustSomeone*

              Sheesh! The boss never said they were “triggered” or “offended” (or at least there’s nothing at all in the letter to suggest they they did.) They were sharing information about the level of professionalism expected in an office like that. That kind of feedback is a huge part of why internships exist!

        3. Critical Rolls*

          You seem to be ignoring that the OP absolutely disregarded feedback about *the quality of their work* as well, or is that also subjective and they shouldn’t have to listen to their boss about it?

          You don’t seem to think workplace norms should exist unless *you* have judged them logical, and that all unapproved norms should be taken as a personal attack, which sets up just an angry and exhausting dynamic of ongoing righteous struggle with reality. This advice is terrible for anyone, and it’s worse still for someone new to the working world who is already confrontation-minded and offended by feedback.

          1. fgcommenter*

            > You don’t seem to think workplace norms should exist unless *you* have judged them logical, and that all unapproved norms should be taken as a personal attack, which sets up just an angry and exhausting dynamic of ongoing righteous struggle with reality.


            “If something doesn’t impede your work (or other people’s work, which is also key), why shouldn’t you be able to work from whatever position you want?”

    2. Always Anon*

      I have to agree.

      As a manager, my first question is always, “is this actually a problem that impacts work quality, health and safety, or something else that is truly critically important, or is this just someone’s preference that may – or may not – be based on logic?”

      Unless they are physically impeding upon someone else’s workspace (or are causing themselves physical injury), the way someone sits while working does not even rate as something to dedicate thought to.

      1. amoeba*

        Eh. I’d argue that it can certainly also impact you relationships with your coworkers. I mean, if you say “oh, sorry, is it OK if I put my feet up, otherwise the chai is hurting me” – sure, fine, absolutely no problem. If you just slouch in your chair during a work meeting without any explanation when everybody else is sitting more or less normally, this will probably be perceived as disrespectful/like you don’t care.
        Speaking from experience here – my former boss generally talked to you basically horizontally sunken down in his office chair while you were standing next to him (never offering you a chair, either. At some point, I normally just took one). It was super weird and off-putting.

  34. Still*

    It sounds to me like the boss did a kind thing by giving the LW direct feedback when many people would have just silently judged them. And they did it in private, without putting it on the official feedback form (which I’m guessing the LW would be even more annoyed about). The only thing they could have done better is to mention the issue sooner, when the LW still had time to do something about it.

    At the same time, I 100% feel the LW about sitting straight. My co-workers always laugh at my many bizarre sitting positions, but I’ve asked my boss directly if it’s a problem and they’ve confirmed that I’m good. Of course, I want to be known for the quality of my work, not as that woman who can’t sit straight, but we’re a small enough company that I think people know I’m more than my quirk. I don’t know what I would do if I had to sit straight for eight hours but I think I’d be pretty miserable. And yes, a desk with adjustable height makes my life so much easier!

  35. Budgie Buddy*

    With the couch there could also be an issue of treating a common use item as if it’s for your personal use (or appearing to do so). If someone is lying across an entire couch then no one else can use the couch without getting their attention and explaining that they would also like to sit down. But usually two or three people can all sit on a couch no problem.

    Many wouldn’t have a problem announcing “Oi, LW move your feets!” (And then parking their butt where the shoes had just been?) But it can also improve your vibes if you’re in the habit of taking up just what you need in public spaces and leaving everything else open to be used by your coworkers as they need.

    This is something I’m working on, though I’m not always as aware as I could be…

    1. Jess B*

      If I have to ask someone to move their feet so I can sit down, I also ask them to sit where their feet were, and I take the seat they were in.
      They don’t always move, but I think it makes a point!

  36. Quinalla*

    It is so interesting to zoom back and think about what & why we consider to be professional and unprofessional. I remember during the height of COVID (we still have lots of folks working from home full time or partial, but then everyone was) and someone asking me about a new employee who was always “sitting on their couch” while on Teams in a tone that suggested it was the height of unprofessionalism. I was honestly baffled myself at them taking such offense to it, it was only when on internal meetings and that is where she worked. A lot of people worked sitting on a couch or even on their bed which would have me raising an eyebrow but mostly not caring :) sometimes because that was the only space they had in their living space. Not everyone has room/$$ for a more office-like desk set up.

    That said, there is definitely a level of professionalism that is expected, especially in certain careers/industries. Sounds like there could be merit to their feedback, not sure why they waited until the end of your time to give you the feedback – that is obnoxious! But I would check in with others to see what they think and highly encourage an open ended question as Alison suggested so you don’t lead the person into giving the answer you want/expect.

    1. Always Anon*

      I find this attitude so, so baffling. Who cares where someone works from, or how they sit/stand/lie down while doing it, as long as the work gets done?

  37. Jen*

    I don’t know the LW’s physical posture issues, but I have pretty severe scoliosis, and on first glance, I’m sure someone could assume my posture is horrible and too casual.

    If you do have physical issues, I highly recommend physical therapy to build up your core. It has helped my posture a lot, since the muscles are stronger to keep my spine up.

    But that said, if you do have a physical reason, be upfront about it. Since you’re not in the US, you can’t ask for an accommodation under the ADA, but perhaps upon hire you can state that you have back issues and need an ergonomic chair in order to do most of your sitting? After having a job that skimped on chairs, I’ve requested this upfront for my past couple of jobs, and it has made a huge difference.

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

    My first thought was this reminds me of the minor media kerfuffle over Kellyanne Conway sitting on a couch in the Oval Office, with her shoes kicked off and her feet tucked up underneath her. All professionalism and formality aside, I personally don’t want to sit on a spot where people have had their feet with or without shoes, be it a subway seat or the Oval Office. So if the LW has been so disinhibited to have their shoes off and or up on a chair/couch/table/countertop/desk/filing cabinet… just no.

    1. Jonquil*

      And when your boss is a politician, you are on display in the office in a way you aren’t in other offices. Least of all because you have journalists, other politicians, senior staff, security detail, lobbyists, members of the public, school children and others coming in and out all day long. In that situation, standards of behaviour are going to be different than in a corporate office.

    2. amoeba*

      This is honestly always baffling to me. I mean, feet without shoes are… clean, right? They get washed every day, you generally put on clean socks every day as well – why would they be so different than, say, an arm (or a butt, for that matter? I change my socks more frequently than my jeans, for sure…)
      I mean, sure, if you tend to have sweaty feet, but that’s not, like, the majority of people (at least people I know)?

      1. metadata minion*

        Some people get grossed out by seeing someone sit on tables or desks, which I deeply don’t get, but is definitely a thing. (I’m not parking my *bare* backside on desks! I’m pretty sure the seat of my pants is way cleaner than my hands if I’ve gone a few hours without needing to wash them; doorknobs and keyboards are gross.)

      2. Snell*

        You’re making the mistake of expecting that everybody follows basic hygiene. If you can’t even trust your coworkers to wash hands with soap after pooping (and, as we have unfortunately learned, you indeed cannot), it’s too much to expect that every person out in the wild is as considerate about public areas.

        Maybe you specifically, amoeba, wash your feet everyday and put on clean socks everyday, and maybe even the majority of people you know do the same! But it’s a huge assumption to think something like washing feet and changing into CLEAN socks everyday is the baseline. It seems basic and normal to you because it is basic and normal…/to you/.

        Maybe the filthiness of public spaces is just particularly on my mind today because when I arrived at work this morning, I had to tiptoe around MULTIPLE piles of vomit in the vestibule.

        1. JustSomeone*

          But those concerns aren’t unique to feet. Clothed bodies would generally have to be very, very problematically unwashed to cause issues with another clothed body touching the same spot at a later time. Someone’s feet in socks are no more unhygienic than the backs of someone’s thighs in pants or their elbows in a shirt.

          1. Snell*

            I primarily mentioned foot-related hygiene because amoeba posited that at least most people’s shoeless feet are clean. My broader point was that you can’t trust that every member of the general public abides by basic hygiene, so my position is closer to Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain’s than to amoeba’s.

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

        I would say that a lot of women especially do NOT wear socks with their shoes — as my example, Conway was not prior to removing her shoes. Walking around in high heels (or sandals) doesn’t really keep your feet clean within the shoe. There is a fair amount of kick-up dirt and other stuff that gets airborne and into shoes, especially if the person is taking them off and putting them back on during the day. In addition, feet in particular, rather than other body parts or clothing, have fungus even if there isn’t an obvious itchy fungal infection; about 1 in 10 people has a toenail fungal infection.

  39. smeep248*

    I have ADHD, hypermobility (and resulting pain in every joint), and I comport myself like a pile of discarded laundry when I am around my friends and family – and yes sometimes even while I am at work. I completely get the disinhibition and posture thing, but I also have years of painful (mentally and physically) work experience in acting professional. I also wore a wig over my brightly dyed hair and wore clothing that covered my many colorful tattoos for my most recent job interview until I was able to suss out how the company and my boss feel about both.

    1. Always Anon*

      This comment breaks my heart. As a fellow ADHDer with hypermobile joints, I can completely relate to this.

      It’s also why I find in-office work so painful and exhausting. I’m happy to be there if I genuinely have to be for a specific reason, or if it might make something easier that can be tricky remotely (eg: certain types of collaboration), but it is not how I am at my most productive, healthy, or content.

  40. Zap R.*

    OP, if your physical posture issues and psychological disinhibition are extreme enough that you can’t sit for extended periods, then you need to start asking about workplace accommodations. A doctor’s note might be all you need to get a standing desk, for example.

  41. Kella*

    OP, I think there is a lot of useful advice in this comment thread! Something I wanted to call your attention to, you said:

    “I was only approached about this at the very end of the work experience, but apparently she found it such an issue she wanted to include it on my report but instead opted to discuss it with me privately.”

    I wanted you to notice the contradiction here. You say that your boss found your posture to be such a big issue that she wanted to include in the report, which felt in conflict with the fact she never told you about it until your work experience was done. If it was so important, why didn’t she mention it sooner?

    But earlier in the letter you said this: “but she took me aside to mention something she didn’t want to put on my report and “embarrass me.”

    She *didn’t* want to include it in your report. She decided it *wasn’t* such a big deal that she felt it needed to be in the report, and she felt it was more appropriate, and more compassionate, to just talk to you about it as a mentor. Because she left it out of the report, you’re less likely to be judged for this misstep going forward, and instead, it can just be a low-stakes mistake left in the past that you had the opportunity to learn and grow from.

    1. Rosa Rosa Rosa Diaz Diaz Diaz*

      Great comment, Kella. The boss handled this really well and did a good thing by telling LW in the way she did.

    2. MT*

      Eh I see what you are saying but I’ve been in OP’s position before. On my last day of a job where my supervisor had to fill out a report on me for school credit, he told me “I touch my hair too much” as feedback. He didn’t write it down, he never mentioned it before then but apparently “other people had commented on it to him”. He also compared me to another coworker who had Tourette’s, but “he couldn’t help his motion”.

      If it was such a big deal, that other people commented on it to him, why did he wait 3 months to tell me? Why did he compare me to someone with a medical condition? The feedback wasn’t so bad, but it was all the other stuff he told me that upset me.

      Curiously enough, I was often the only woman in the room at this job and I think that sexism played a really big role in the feedback. In the 12+ years of my career, no one has mentioned this to me again so I think it was a “him” problem.

      1. Kella*

        It sounds like the problem there, though, was emphazing that multiple people had mentioned it, and comparing it to a medical condition, neither of which happened in OP’s case.

        I don’t know whether your supervisor was being reasonable or not since I wasn’t there. But I’d also say that measuring things in terms of “a big enough deal” or “a small enough deal” might be a false binary. Feedback can be valuable enough to be worth mentioning, but the appropriate place to share it might be at the end of an internship, rather than during it. Especially within the context of an internship or work experience for students, the unprofessional behavior might not negatively impact them much in that context, but it *could* negatively impact them in actual jobs they apply for in the future, which makes sharing it as feedback at the end more fitting.

  42. A Kate*

    Lots of great comments here, but I just wanted to underscore that the boss did the LW a kindness, here. Most of the time, we are left to “read the room,” (and you’d better believe there are real consequences if you don’t!). In this case, LW didn’t have to infer or glean anything; her boss straight-up told her. Take the note, as they say in theater.

    And you know, “taking the note” might mean sitting more attentively at work, OR it might mean concluding that a more formal office environment just isn’t what you want from your career. That’s also valid! But “eh, this boss didn’t like me anyway and my work is JUST as good as the regular employees’ plus I have *vague things* going on, ergo none of this feedback applies”? Not valid, not helpful, and will be very self-limiting.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This. It was one of those things that people post in the comments when Alison asks for “what great advice did you get at the beginning of your career?”
      “I remember a mentor telling me to sit in the office like I belonged there and as a result…”

    2. cosmicgorilla*

      Right? LW is asking if she should have come back at the boss, but not only did boss do LW a favor by letting her know, she did her a solid by not committing it to paper, so it didn’t count against her with her program.

  43. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    OP, you don’t want to ‘confront’ your boss about pretty much anything.
    Please don’t start from such an adversarial position. When getting critiqued on your personal habits, it’s hard not to feel personally attacked.
    But still, try not to take it personally. It’s not a statement about who you are (if it were, she would have included it in your review “posture indicates OP clearly doesn’t want to be here, doesn’t know how to act in an office.”) it’s about what you probably do not know.
    Ask for an explanation. Negotiate your position. Discuss the options.
    It’s a suggestion to change something to better fit into corporate norms. If you answer your phone with, “Yes? or “hello.” and nobody said anything because you only had internal coworker calls, but at the end your boss said, “really, you need to say the name of the company and your name,” it’s not that you have been wrong, it’s just been more complicated. Like sitting sprawled complicates things. Are you on a break? Are you miserable? Are you in distress? Are you somebody’s adult child waiting to go to lunch?
    Take the suggestion as a suggestion and let it go.

  44. Retired To Morning Room To Write My Letters*

    I used to work with an arts & culture non-profit, and it was perfectly fine to sit/recline anywhere (chair, floor) in any way that was comfortable. Hell, a nest of cushions would have been admired. Productivity was high and we were very efficient. But – norms is norms!

  45. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    The “watching TV position” remark made me wonder. I interviewed a college student once for a summer intern position. Two of them actually, and both came across kind of strange in my opinion when it came to sitting in a chair for the interview. I am a woman and the candidates were both men in their 20s. With the first guy, I made the mistake of letting him walk into my office in front of me, and he promptly sat his butt behind my desk in my office chair, leaving me the guest chair. It made the interview awkward. Would’ve thought nothing of it, but he was later turned down by my grandboss with a comment that he was difficult and a liability (no idea of the story behind that). Second guy, I walked in first and sat in my chair. He took the guest chair… slid way down in it… leaned back and kind of reclined and spread his legs. I spent the entire interview talking to this man’s crotch, and believe me when I say that it went a long way towards me not wanting him on my team. It felt disrespectful, to be honest. FWIW it was a college student in great physical shape, well-dressed in a suit and a dress shirt, it was just the way he sat (and some of the things he said) that set off red flags for me. We don’t even know if LW identifies as male, or if the way they sit can be construed in that way, but something to think about. Sitting in a way that is comfortable is great, but you’ve got to be cognizant of how you come across and whether it sends a message that you don’t want to be sending. If you have medical issues that prevent you from sitting as one would normally expect, for the love of dog, say so and you will be provided accommodation.

    1. cosmicgorilla*

      You are nicer than I am. I would have stood there completely silent, with a raised eyebrow, one hand gesturing towards the guest chair. And I would have waited.

    2. Observer*

      With the first guy, I made the mistake of letting him walk into my office in front of me, and he promptly sat his butt behind my desk in my office chair, leaving me the guest chair. It made the interview awkward. Would’ve thought nothing of it, but he was later turned down by my grandboss with a comment that he was difficult and a liability (no idea of the story behind that).

      I would love to know the story behind that one. But, seriously, that’s a MAJOR red flag. Even in an intern. If you ever do interviewing again, you don’t need to make sure to get into the office first to keep someone from taking your chair! And if someone does do something like that, should SHOULD think something of it – at minimum pass this information along, along with anything else you found out.

      1. kriscross*

        For the record, I did this once completely by accident and have been mortified ever since. I was new to the office and used to taking the furthest/hardest to get to chair at a restaurant to make it easy for the rest of the party to sit. I didn’t even realized until the interviewer pointed it out. MORTIFIED.

        1. Bird of Paradise*

          See, why attribute malice when awkwardness is equally plausible? If it’s your desk, just ask the person to sit in the guest chair! You’re the interviewer! You have the power in this situation! How they respond to being asked to move will tell you way more than sitting in the wrong chair does.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      I think it was a good thing the applicant went first. The red flag would have been missed otherwise.

  46. Purple Jello*

    Way back in the ‘80s I read an article with tips for women to be taken seriously in the office. They suggested that you didn’t need to follow ALL of the tips, and the more clout or seniority you had, the more of these “rules” you could break.

    Posture (sitting, standing, walking) was on the list of about 10 different things.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      …then the manager from the very top comment read the same article and took it way too far lol

  47. Buddha's Mom*

    I had to look up “psychological disinhibition” and basically it sounds to me like “don’t like following structure and prefer to act in the moment and on impulse” and that’s also the vibe I got from the LW. Dude, you’re at WORK with a state legislator and you’re “lounging” around? Laying down? To the extent that she had to mention it to you?? A little self-awareness, please. The level of defensiveness about the interaction that came through was very off-putting. I would have said, “If you’re that bored working here, please feel free not to anymore.” You’re lucky she let you finish out you term IMHO.

  48. Observer*

    For example, she made comments that my work or behavior was only acceptable “for a student,” despite my feeling I wasn’t acting much differently from her five other employees.

    This betrays a real lack of understanding. For one thing “not much differently” can be HUGE. Like if your coworkers answered the phone “Person Speaking. How can I help you?” and you answered “Hello. What can I help you with?” It seems like a small thing, but it makes a HUGE difference. And that’s assuming that your “feeling” is correct and what you did was really not that much different. If this went further to “Hello. What do you want?” that’s on a different planet level of different.

    What makes you think that your assessment is more correct than hers?

    Also, in general, how you feel about your performance is not the relevant thing when evaluating it. Sure, it’s good to feel good about it when you’ve done well. But “feeling” that you are doing things well doesn’t really mean much. There are exceptions, of course, but they almost never apply when you are new in the field.

    In the future, it might be useful to ask what exactly your boss means. Not as a challenge! But to gather information. What should you have done differently? And if it’s not clear why it makes a difference ask for an explanation – if not from your boss (who may not have the bandwidth for this), then from someone else who you can ask questions of.

    I have physical posture issues and a psychological disinhibition, which leads me to often find sitting uncomfortable and so I recline or lie down, especially on spaces like couches, but I didn’t consider myself to be excessively slouching or having an “unprofessional” posture in chairs.

    So, you’re impulsive and tend to act without considering the effects of your behavior. Shorn of the medicalese, that’s what you are saying. Why do you think that reasonable employer would respond by “Ok then, do what you want”? In fact, using that as an explanation would make a boss MORE concerned because now they need to worry that you are going do worse things that laying down in the office.

    Now, if you have a condition with impulsivity as a symptom, you need to think about what you need to keep that from having a negative impact on your actual performance and then speak to your boss (or HR in many organizations) to see if that can be accommodated. Otherwise, this is your issue to deal with, and not a really good excuse for inappropriate behavior.

    Also, you may not think that you slouch too much or that your posture in a chair is unprofessional, but there is a good chance that you are wrong. After all, what is your basis for your conclusion. If you reclined or laid down on couches in the office, then you clearly don’t have an appropriate basis for making this judgement call.

    Again, if your posture issues are due to a condition (eg scoliosis), then you should ask for a chair that works better for you, stand when you work, and / or let your boss and relevant coworkers know that you have a condition that makes it problematic for you to sit in a more normal fashion. But if your issue is more in line with “I like being on the couch” or “I don’t like sitting up straight”, that’s on you to deal with.

  49. Michelle Smith*

    You need to sit up in a chair with your feet on the ground or a small, unobtrusive foot stool. This is basic stuff when you’re in an office. If this is uncomfortable for you to do, I recommend trying things like a different type of chair, a lumbar support cushion, or again, a small footrest. If none of that helps, you need to see a medical professional to figure out if there is a medical condition that would qualify you for medical accommodations. Otherwise, I recommend finding remote jobs. When you’re working from home, if you’re not on camera, you can lay on the couch however you like. But in person, in an office, you need to sit upright in a chair.

  50. Jonquil*

    I was all set to be on OP’s side until they got to the bit about lying down. In the office. Yeah, no. That’s not office-appropriate behaviour.

  51. Vanny Hall*

    One thing Allison doesn’t mention, and which explains why many people are uncomfortable with very unconventional behavior, is that it can feel like it’s deliberately calling attention. I remember years ago going to PTO meetings in my kids’ school library, with a big circle of about 30 chairs, and one dad would always walk to the center of the rug, sit down, remove his shoes AND SOCKS, and assume the lotus position. He may have been more comfortable like this, but there are ways to be more comfortable a bit less conspicuously, whereas this screamed “LOOK AT ME, FLOUTING CONVENTION, UNLIKE THE REST OF YOU SHOE-WEARING CONFORMISTS.”

    Not that there is anything wrong with the lotus position per se (although, please keep your socks on?). But if, say, everyone were sitting in the conventional way around a conference table and one person came in, pushed his chair back, and reclined as far as possible, that is gonna look like you are doing it to make some point and really want everyone to notice. It’s a distraction, and a manager would be right not to want that.

    1. Bird of Paradise*

      This is always a fascinating take for me. There are so many underlying assumptions: 1) that there is a *deliberate* call for attention; 2) that calls for attention are negative behaviors; 3) that calls for attention are critical of others.

      1. Zap R.*

        Barefoot Lotus Circle Man was 1000% deliberately calling for attention and that’s a negative behaviour in a situation like the PTA where all participants are supposed to A) be equals and B) be working together for the good of someone else.

      2. Budgie Buddy*

        Hmm I think there is a kind of respect in entering a new situation, reading the room, and making little adjustments to mimic what other people are doing. It’s like saying “I see this is the kind of context where people mostly do ___ so I will too so everything goes smoothly for the group.” It kind of shows you’re interested in whatever’s going on and willing to make an effort to contribute?

        But I’ve also spent time in Japan so that may have changed my perspective on standing out versus reading the room lol

      3. Snell*

        This behavior wasn’t purely about physical comfort. Barefoot Lotus Man could have removed one of the chairs, and taken its place sitting with lotus position. Instead he made a point to position himself more prominently than the other attendees, which isn’t appropriate unless he’s leading the meeting or has been given the floor (as it were) to speak. If that’s not the case, it was disrespectful to the other attendees, who, as Zap noted, are intended to be equals working cooperatively.

  52. Always Anon*

    One of the many numerous reasons why WFH needs to be a right from Day One for any and all jobs that can be done remotely, in all or in part.

    I’m sorry, but seriously, don’t managers have more important issues to worry about beyond “Bob slouches” or “Cindy likes to work from the couch with a laptop stand on her lap”?

    Don’t they have actual jobs to do?

    As a manager, I’m bothered by whether or not my team feels comfortable in their work environment, not only as a fellow human, but because people are most productive when they feel comfortable and secure. If that involves sitting in a yoga position on their beanbag char at home, or slouching at their desk at the office, then that’s fine by me!

    1. fgcommenter*

      They should, but a lot of them treat the position less as one that grants the power to do good, and more as one that grants the power to dominate and humiliate.

      There is a disturbing lack of critical thinking about this behavior; people opt instead to express the feeling that because bosses have the power, it is not the place of anyone less powerful to question their use of it. This societal problem of uncritical worship becomes a validation that feeds back into this behavior.

      1. Always Anon*

        This is such a great comment.

        It’s also a summary of why I sometimes find this website – and particularly the comments some people post on it – really disappointing.

        Someone being a manager doesn’t mean that they are right, nor does it mean that they should have such a job in the first place. I’ve seen a lot of managers abuse their power, or make ridiculous decisions that they are too proud or silly to walk back, and many good people have lost their livelihoods because of this behaviour, which is unforgivable.

        I would like to say that it is only a small minority of managers who behave in this way…but sadly, that certainly has not been my experience.

        1. fgcommenter*

          > This is such a great comment.

          I appreciate that. The constant attacks I receive can get disheartening.

          > It’s also a summary of why I sometimes find this website – and particularly the comments some people post on it – really disappointing.

          Same. But there is something interesting that keeps bringing me back: sometimes, the content and tone are the thought-terminating cliche of “boss is superior!” (by both Alison and commenters), but other times, some great things are written against it (again, by both Alison and commenters).

          On this page, Alison dared to question why this norm should exist. Just recently, Alison wrote a response that said anyone who deserves to hold authority should want to be questioned and should be suspicious of people who don’t examine things too deeply. Years ago, Alison wrote the response that led me to bookmark this site, in “how can we get employees to follow our strict time-of-arrival policy?”, where she called out the nonsense and hypocrisy of the policy.

          It’s disappointing that it’s not more consistent. In a recent comment section about bosses that wanted to reduce the hours of a non-hourly employee, there was almost universal criticism that the employee should have jumped because the boss barked, instead of any attempt to critically examine the reasonableness of the bosses’ desire.

          1. smol might*

            Honestly, I think a lot of it is less ‘boss has power therefore boss is right’ and more ‘boss has power therefore think realistically about the results of questioning them’. Some hills are worth dying on and some are not. Questioning every petty expectation (not that I necessarily feel that this boss was being petty) might be justifiable and feel good, but if you end up souring your relationship with the person who controls your livelihood, you can still end up worse off for it.

            1. fgcommenter*

              I could see that, if lines about “they’re being ridiculous, but they have the power to hurt you if you don’t cater to their ridiculousness” were more common, but without any such lines that note the nonsense, it comes across as “boss is right because boss”.

  53. Rar*

    Bad memories of throwing out my back on the way to a conference and having to participate lying on the floor. Other participants were very kind and understanding. No other way to get home than driving myself (3 hours), after which I was out of commission for two weeks. Couldn’t even tie my own shoes because I couldn’t reach my feet. Since then I’ve learned that good posture actually helps keep that from happening. (Posture, and a lot of physical therapy.)

  54. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    Body language is language. You want yours to say things like, “working hard”, “interested”, “competent”, or maybe “paying attention”. You definitely don’t want it saying, “distracted”, “asleep”, or “indolent”.

  55. New Jack Karyn*

    The one thing I might say that your boss *may* have done wrong is not tell you about it earlier, and give you a chance to correct it. If she has an office manager, or chief of staff, maybe delegate it to them, but I think you should have gotten that feedback sooner.

  56. Jessica Fletcher*

    Oh man, I wish I was OP’s coworker’s bff and got to hear a semester of stories about her sprawling across the couch in (maybe) a Canadian parliament office. (Parliament? You get what I mean!)

  57. Letter Writer*

    disgusted by how the commentariat have so easily settled on me being some sort of disability faker or hiding character flaws behind medicalese because i didn’t feel the need to describe every single thing that’s wrong with me but just the symptoms that matter in the letter. i can tell you all of the many times i’ve been excluded from networking events or skill-building opportunities because i decided to explicitly mention my autism or my nerve damage and the one time i decide to play it safe and not namedrop my entire medical history i get derided as an overly-touchy impulsive know-it-all?

    i know when i post this i’m going to see these commenters retract what they’ve said and apologise and i don’t know if i can forgive that – i struggle to assume good faith in the comments section now when they were so ready to assume such unflattering things about me just because i didnt include a disclaimer of my medical history.

    1. Shiny*

      I’m sure you won’t want to hear this, LW, but your comment here really highlights the accuracy of what some commenters pointed out. Critical feedback seems very hard for you to take; learning and growing from feedback is an essential part of developing professionally. Many commenters raised the suggestion that you might need accommodations, which you must ask for, not assume in advance. I hope over time you can take on some of the feedback to heart and grow from it. It can be hard when it feels as if everyone is against you, but I think if you’ll consider, you’ll find that much of the feedback was kind and even more if it is offering you useful information.

      1. Letter Writer*

        “critical feedback” like people minimising your symptoms and comparing you to an impulsive defiant teenager or, what CommanderBanana said and horrifies me to no end that this is what other people see me as, toddlers and dogs? it’s hard to think these people really want to help when they treated me in such open contempt

        1. AzaleaBertrand*

          LW – I work in state govt in Australia and am an autistic woman who also takes on interns regularly.

          Please try to take the feedback without getting lost in or fixating on specific characterisations by commenters who don’t know you. The underlying feedback is accurate – in my state you absolutely could not lounge or slouch in the office of an MP, certainly not a Minister’s Office, and not even in the departmental offices where we policy plebs reside (far too much chance of an ED, Dep Sec, Secretary etc seeing you).

          The only place she went wrong was not having a quiet word with you earlier about this, but the feedback wasn’t wrong. Also I expect that your work *was* ok for a student. I can’t tell you the immense difference in standard I expect of and accept from my interns vs staff. That doesn’t mean the interns have done anything wrong, and I’ve had brilliant interns who have gone on to permanent public service positions. Yes I have them do meaningful work and usually work that interfaces with stakeholders or even the public, but it’s still not on the same level as a staffer. That’s ok; part of the deal with an internship is that you are expected to perform at a lower level, and to be coached on professional norms.

          Sounds like your team failed to coach you with regular feedback – including how to accept feedback – and I’m sorry for that. But please strongly consider the feedback you were given, and as suggested, sense check it with other senior professionals within a govt setting (ie not with your friends/family, and with someone in the same industry).

          Best of luck!

        2. GythaOgden*

          I know this forum well after a year reading it now and you won’t find a more inclusive bunch of people anywhere else. A lot of us — people commenting and giving you advice — are neurodivergent, and we totally understand and bend over backward to make people aware of disabilities and mental health issues. I’ve gleaned a lot of good ideas here on how to approach the workplace as neurodivergent and move on from a low-level clerical job to progress my actual career a tiny bit further. I’m never going to be a high-flyer, never going to be a lawyer or a doctor — or a headmistress or lead the work on essential infrastructure for my locality like my parents. But I can use ideas here to build a better awareness of how other people see neurodivergence and cope with it and use mine to my advantage rather than letting it hold me back.

          These are not fuddy-duddy blowhards talking to you here. They’re good people, with amazing insights, and they know how to square the circle between what our minds do to us and what we’re expected to do as part of a community all working towards the same goals. Few people if any are perfect — everyone will have their obstacles to overcome, be they social (my grandmother was the first woman to get a law degree from her university during WW2 and my mother was of the generation who could ‘have it all’ and didn’t have to choose between career or family, and both found it tough going) or neuro-physiological (I have to use a walking stick because otherwise an injury to my ankle would put the rest of my skeleton out of place and cause actual pain). We work hard to make sure these issues don’t hold us back from being who we want to be, but it takes a lot of effort.

          You’re also much less susceptible to the problems of bad ergonomics right now as a recent graduate, but at 43, I’m at that age when I need to think more about it. You’re right that it sucks hard to be ragged about it as a teenager or young adult — my mum was always like ‘shoulders back!’ and I hated it. But actually…it makes a difference. You can’t put this off indefinitely or use your impulsivity as an excuse, because your skeleton is the only one you have!

          Maybe reframe this: everyone has issues. I can’t speak for the US or Australia, but 1 in 5 people in the UK have a disclosed disability, and far more have something that they may well not consider worth calling a disability but is an impediment to their physical lives (two of my friends are hard of hearing in one ear; my husband — RIP — had to read things on a computer screen at twice the size of other people. My co-receptionist broke her foot a bit before I started working with her and gets pain in it occasionally. Another of my friends is both lactose intolerant and allergic to sunflower oil, which is the pits because a lot of commercial food products are bathed in the stuff). So chances are the people you work with, including your boss, have confronted similar but minor physical and neurological issues at one time or another, but dealt with them in such a way that they didn’t interfere with their careers.

          They took ownership of their issues, modified their behaviour, asked for accommodations and discussed them with their supervisors. So you don’t notice them as much as you notice your own situation, but they have learned to work with them to get them to a point where they’re not interfering with their day to day life.

          You need to get over the self-pity here (I know, it’s totally HARD to do this) and focus on finding an accommodation within yourself. When you do that, I think people will be more receptive to your own issues and you’ll get more traction for the things you really do need accommodation for.

          I absolutely wish you luck and few people here will directly wish you ill-will, because these are some of the most amazing people on the internet. But just think these things through when you’ve calmed down a bit — because it is important to look after your body and not mess it up through impulsive behaviour.

        3. It was bananas*

          CommanderBananas was bananas and out of line, but you are being pretty immature in this particular thread. Being upset at concrit is fine, because no one likes to be told they’re less than perfect, but reacting with open sulking and hostility is not how you handle things, if you want to be viewed as a proper adult in most life situations.

        4. CommanderBanana*

          That wasn’t my intention. I’m on the spectrum and struggle with impulsivity and difficulty reading the subtle social cues that others seem to interpret very easily, and it’s had some really negative effects on my career.

          If you have a diagnosis, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for accommodations. Personally, I wouldn’t find someone sitting in an unusual way that odd, or any different than needing a different type of chair because of a back injury or similar.

          1. Citra*

            I’m very sorry you’re getting so much guff for an offhand comment trying to explain and contextualize an unusual and unfamiliar term. FWIW, it was clear to me at least that you didn’t mean any offense and weren’t comparing the LW to a dog, you were just trying to give context for the term and what it meant to you personally.

            1. CommanderBanana*

              I also work with adult clients who do have issues with disinhibition, ranging from brain injury-related to trauma and abuse-related disinhibition, and it’s really, really hard. They struggle immensely with things like keeping employment or stable living situations because of it. I don’t know the LW, but I don’t think what they are describing is that.

            2. CommanderBanana*

              I think the LW is determined to find offense somewhere, and if you’re looking to be offended, you usually find something to be offended about.

        5. Citra*

          Nobody “minimized” your symptoms. You did not explain any actual symptoms, so there were none for people to minimize.

          Maybe you should stop focusing so much on how you feel about how others see you, and look at what you said or did that made them see you that way. You don’t get to tell people how to see you; they will decide that for themselves, based on your behavior and words. And you thinking that the comments here are full of “open contempt,” when actually most of them are very kind and simply pointing out that your boss is likely a better judge of your professional behavior than you are and you seem very young, is just more proof that you need to learn to accept constructive criticism and learn not to take it so badly–as many people needed to do, and many here mentioned that they had to do, when they were young and starting their careers like you are now.

          Your boss did you a huge favor by not including that info on your report, but you have decided she’s just “mean,” and wanted to “confront” her about it. The professional workplace is not a social club; you do not get to “confront” people for not agreeing with your opinions of yourself. And just because it might hurt to hear people’s honest feedback–of course it can, we all understand that–doesn’t mean you should just discount it, either.

        6. b*

          LW, nobody minimized your symptoms. YOU minimized your symptoms. I am autistic and have a chronic pain issue; I get that it is a stigma you don’t want to bring into every conversation. But when it’s relevant to the issue at hand and you deliberately choose not to share that information, the advice you get is a result of that choice, not the commentariat being jerks. “Posture issues and psychological disinhibition” are vague and by your own design non-specific terms not meant to clue us into your legitimate grounds for accommodation; that we responded based on that and your overall attitude is reasonable, though I am sure unpleasant to hear.

          You need to work on receiving feedback. Negative and even hurtful feedback is not necessarily contemptful, and the people delivering it are not your enemies. I know it sucks to get it more often because of factors outside of your control. But it’s delivered in good faith, as an attempt to help you, and you acting the victim is unfair and unprofessional. Take responsibility for managing the symptoms of your disabilities in a professional context, take this experience for a learning opportunity, and start working on how to take criticism gracefully because it is a skill you are going to need for the rest of your life.

        7. edwina*

          You described yourself as “psychologically disinhibited.” Per the American Psychological Association, disinhibition means:

          “diminution or loss of the normal control exerted by the cerebral cortex, resulting in poorly controlled or poorly restrained emotions or actions. Disinhibition may be due to the effects of alcohol, drugs, or brain injury, particularly to the frontal lobes.”

          In other words, comparisons to impulsive teens or toddlers or dogs are hurtful but not, in terms of self-control which is the point of the term, not necessarily inaccurate. I’m not really sure what your understanding of the term is, but my understanding–and I’m assuming also CommanderBanana’s–is that it’s a term that describes a clinical lack of self control. If that applies to you, then yes, I think a comparison to a small child is appropriate, if only to capture what disinhibition actually is (and that was, I believe, the context in which the comparison was made).

    2. TruetalesfromHR*

      If this is how you respond to people, then 100% the issue is your attitude (and not your diagnosis).

      Additionally, does neurodivergence impact posture? I’m not an expert by any means, but have never seen this in any of the people I know who are on the spectrum.

      And FWIW, your rant above is written as if you were a 13 year old texting.

      Finally, I hope that you can take a break from this and come back and read all of the comments (which are left to help you) with a more introspective attitude. If virtually every commenter has the same take on the situation don’t you think that there’s a good possibility that the problem is your behavior, not everyone else?

        1. dawbs*

          and a huge co-occurance with some things (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome) that can contribute to such issues.

      1. Bird of Paradise*

        A spectrum trait is poor proprioception, which is the sense of knowing where your body is in space. It can affect gait and posture.

    3. Robin*

      look, i get that reading all this can be upsetting, but also: “psychological disinhibition” is the WORST way to describe your medical history. fully puts an idea of someone who simply prefers not to do something in people’s heads rather than what is now clearly the case–someone who has grounds for accommodations, and who should ask for them. i think it’s also pretty clear from this comment that critical feedback is hard for you to take, and that, regardless of whatever accommodations you need, is something you should work on if you want to remain in the more traditional working sphere. (you might not want to! but it’s an important skill in that realm.)

    4. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

      What Commander Banana said was bad. Full stop. And I can understand your frustration with the feedback being delivered at the end of your time in the office- it would have been better to give you time to work on it, whatever that would entail. But rarely is advice given perfectly. Ignoring a lot of good advice and thoughts from Alison and commentators because of some bad apples (bananas?) is only going to make things harder for you in the long run. Life is all about nuance- and can be exhausting to sort out- but rigid thinking helps no one.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        That wasn’t my intention. I’m on the spectrum and struggle with impulsivity and difficulty reading the subtle social cues that others seem to interpret very easily, and it’s had some really negative effects on my career.

        If you have a diagnosis, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for accommodations. Personally, I wouldn’t find someone sitting in an unusual way that odd, or any different than needing a different type of chair because of a back injury or similar.

        I often stand during meetings because of awful sciatica. I usually mention it right away because otherwise people think it’s weird.

    5. Zap R.*

      LW, all you needed to say was “My boss criticized my posture but I have a medical condition that makes sitting at a desk difficult.” You didn’t need to include your whole medical history; we would have got the message.

      Instead, you worded your letter in a deliberately confusing and obfuscating way and now you’re trying to shame everyone who failed to decipher your message.

      “i know when i post this i’m going to see these commenters retract what they’ve said and apologise and i don’t know if i can forgive that”

      Look, I don’t want to be harsh but the above statement comes across as deeply immature. None of us were waiting on tenterhooks for your forgiveness.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Weirdly, I once had a coworker completely lose their mind because I brought a specific type of desk chair in from home because the ones we had were causing my to have back spasms. I moved the chair that had been at my desk and he went on a rampage and accused me of stealing government property (the chair in question was in our storage closet).

        Who knew sitting at work could be so fraught?

        1. CommanderBanana*

          They’re lucky I’m not like Marat, who did most of his work from the bath (DNA analysis of the bloodstains on the newspapers he was reading when he was killed in said bath indicate he likely had seborrheic dermatitis caused by a bacterial infection secondary to a fungal infection). Don Draper seemed to get his best ideas during naps on his office couch.

          I think whatever posture works best for you at work ought to be allowed, but I’m not your boss.

      2. umami*

        I found it interesting that the focus was on how they tend to lounge whether sitting in a chair or couch. It sounds like if they are sitting in a more relaxed type of seating (couch or comfy chair) they tend to lounge back instead of sitting more upright, and yes, they should learn that the type of setting, not the type of seating, should dictate how to sit. I wouldn’t expect any of my staff or interns to be lying down on a couch unless they were feeling ill, and certainly not in the space where we greet visitors.

    6. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      LW, I understand your anger and frustration over past treatment. It feels awful to see one’s self excluded. However, you cannot be openly angry in the workplace, especially if you do so when you receive constructive feedback (and if you think you are hiding your anger, that is often not the case). Your word choice (confront, belittled) and dismissal of your manager’s comments indicate disdain for what she said, an assumption that she is the one in the wrong, and a resultant anger. That behavior is never productive in the workplace. Please keep in mind that while your neurodivergence plays a role, your inability to see areas of self-improvement, lack of coachability, and expressions of anger are likely contributing to your negative experiences.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Escapee from Corporate Management – I really needed to hear that this week, thank you. Sometimes things hurt because they’re true, and growing is often painful.

    7. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      OP, I understand your frustration and anger. No one wants to be excluded because of a medical condition. However, you need to look at how your workplace attitude can be creating problems. When presented with constructive criticism, you use negative emotional words (confront, belittled), assume you are right and your manager is wrong, and show disdain towards here. That is always going to hurt you in the workplace, especially if that is how you treat your co-workers. While your neurodivergence has surely played a role in your past experiences, a combination of never admitting wrong, resenting feedback, and showing disdain (and possibly, visible anger) likely were key drivers in your previous experiences.

      I recommend you seek out a professional coach focused on working with people with autism. This can help, as long as you are willing to accept the constructive feedback they will provide.

    8. Observer*

      You’ve actually proved what a lot of people have said.

      You have a medical condition, so ask for seating that works for you (or a standing desk, or whatever). And to the extent that the best you can do is to slouch, EXPLAIN that. I get that in some (too many) situations, the explanation might backfire on you. But if you do NOT explain, it will LEGITIMATELY backfire 100% of the time.

      Beyond that, this comment and your response to the one responder to it support the idea that many people mentioned – that you don’t take feedback well and that you seem to react emotionally. And it does nothing to change the impression that you have an issue with impulsivity.

      As many people have said, these are legitimate issues for an employer to have a problem with. So you need to find a way to reduce this behavior to the extent that you can. And you need to figure out what things can be changed in a workplace that allows you to perform at the required level and ASK for those things (again, explaining why you need those accommodations.)

      Also, none of what you say here provides any reason to doubt your (former) Boss’ evaluation of your performance.

      Lastly, it might also be wise for you to think about what fields are the most likely to work well for your particular set of issues. You are more likely to get the accommodations you need – and you might need less of them in the right circumstances. (Like if you are in a WFH time position where you rarely need to be on camera, no one is going to care how, of even if, you are sitting or laying.)

    9. zuzu*


      But mentioning autism would have given context to your letter, and situation, that would have made a lot of pieces fall into place. Many people correctly guessed that you were describing a *symptom* of something else, and wondered why you weren’t naming it unless there wasn’t a diagnosis.

      You can’t hold information back and then get mad when people assess your situation based only on the information you gave them rather than on the information you held back as well. People who commented based on the information available to them *were* acting in good faith; perhaps you could consider that it was *you* who didn’t act in good faith by hiding the ball and then expecting everyone to read your mind.

      As for your work situation, I don’t know how it works in your country with accommodations, but in the US, under the ADA, the employee must request accommodations — which could indeed include unusual-for-the-environment sitting postures and cutting a bit of slack on norms around use of furniture, if doing so means you can accomplish your tasks. But it also might include working with a job coach who can help you understand the norms of the workplace. The employer isn’t responsible for guessing what the employee needs — just providing reasonable accommodations once the employee qualifies.

      I don’t know what you told your boss about your medical situation, or if you requested accommodations. But she did do you a kindness by laying out the expectations of that particular workplace for you and how you did not meet them — and not putting any of it in your final report, so it will not affect your ability to get a job going forward. You can decide she’s wrong just because you’re unhappy about what she said, or you can take this information on board and either work on the areas she identified as needing improvement, request accommodations, or decide that maybe this kind of buttoned-up environment isn’t for you.

    10. flob*

      I would not expect any apologies or retractions because, despite what you seem to think, your disabilities do not cancel out the very real and valid criticisms people have levied at you. I am autistic and disabled as well; your post was deliberately vague and confusing and I stand by my comments about your use of symptoms rather than pointing to an accommodation-worthy disorder. And while I understand the impulse to not mention stigmatized disorders, they were directly relevant to this letter, and the choice not to include those details in favor of vague, confusing language was one that fundamentally shaped the response you got. We cannot infer context you do not provide and the language you used did not provide it. Moreover, you have proven with this comment that your inability to receive criticism is a serious issue, just as many commenters picked up on.

      I’m not interested in your forgiveness because no comment I made earlier or now is unfair. I do however hope that with time you can reflect on the ways in which your attitude is not serving you well, and the opportunities for growth that this has presented you with.

    11. fgcommenter*

      Unfortunately, a lot of people are unable to separate “offends the sensibilities of people in power who have strong feelings about how things need to look” from “objectively wrong”, despite Alison’s astute analysis in her last paragraph to you.

      Expressing frustration over the kind of feedback your boss gave you doesn’t show anything wrong about you. Decades ago, women in the office were told to wear dresses and do various things to look pretty and behave “pleasingly”. These days, we tend to see those belittling, degrading, and humiliating expectations forced on women in the office for what they are, but in those days, calling them out for what they were received the same hostility you received for calling out certain conventions for what they are.

      But, as important as the first part of Alison’s last paragraph to you is for calling out the nonsense for what it is, the second part of Alison’s last paragraph is also very important. The conventions are based solely on powerful people having a sense of entitlement for things to look aesthetically pleasing for them, rather than any objectively measurable benefit; but this sense of entitlement is so widespread that a lot of people will reject you or treat you harshly for not catering to it, just like women in the office used to be attacked for wearing comfortable shoes instead of catering to their bosses’ desires by wearing high-heels.

      1. Zap R.*

        That’s a pretty major false equivalency. Like, “You need to dress more feminine and wear makeup to keep this job” and “Heads up: most workplaces don’t like it when you lie down on a communal couch during business hours” are two very different things.

        1. fgcommenter*

          It’s not a false equivalency when the differences are less fundamental than the similarities. The fundamental similarities are that they are both about subjective feelings about looking proper and pleasing regardless of comfort, and have no objective benefit, only the benefit of catering to the feelings of how someone with power thinks you should look. The differences are only in what qualities have to be met in order to meet their feelings of what constitutes a proper and pleasing look.

          1. smol might*

            Body language is communication for a great many people. Unless you offer some form of explanation or go out of your way to reassure people, some physical actions/postures are going to create a specific impression. Not because of triggered sensibilities, but because when a lot of people do that specific thing, it genuinely has a specific meaning. I know that when my autistic friend Wakeen stands very close to me, I’m not in danger from him, because I have context for his behaviour – and I know I can ask him to back up a bit and he will, because he has no desire to make me uncomfortable. If someone I don’t know does the same thing, I am certainly aware that they MIGHT be just like Wakeen, but I also have decades of experience and several assaults telling me that they are more likely attempting to cross a boundary as some sort of power play, and that I am not safe with them.

            Slouching obviously isn’t threatening, but when a lot of people slouch, it really does mean that they are mentally ‘off duty’ – they don’t care much about what’s going on, they’re not alert, they’re not focused. It’s what I do at the end of the day when I stop working. If slouching doesn’t mean that for LW, well, that’s great – but they still need to figure out some strategy for managing the impression that they are giving other people. Just because this level of physical communication isn’t 100% reliable, that doesn’t mean it’s not real or that people will magically know when to ignore the part of their brain that watches for social cues.

      2. b*

        I mean–I say this as an autistic woman, and someone who is broadly skeptical of the idea of professional norms–these norms exist. They may not be objectively wrong or morally abhorrent, but they are real professional barriers to being taken seriously, and learning that is the point of internship. And it’s especially important for OP to know that as an autistic person; it’s one thing to say “these rules are silly so I won’t follow them” when you know what you’re getting into and are prepared to face the consequences, and another thing entirely when receiving polite feedback about your (inadvertent) flouting of norms leads you to want to “confront” people.

        I don’t read the comments here as being obsessively attached to norms for norms sakes but recognizing the fact that OP–who at posting had not provided context for their lack of regard for those norms–was just willfully disregarding those norms, as an intern, and then taking the feedback provided as an attack. Nobody is mad that they want to sit comfortably or are frustrated. But OP’s frustration over the feedback they received went beyond “I think people should be able to sit the way they want” and demonstrated a lack of understanding of what is normal in a workplace, as well as a lack of understanding of how to take feedback from a superior and a broader lack of self-awareness re: their performance. They wanted to confront their boss! Muddying the waters discussion over whether or not the norms in question are objectively fair is not, imo, helpful or relevant to the situation at hand; OP behaved badly in this letter, and realistically, their options are to either deal with the reality that this field has this level of formality (by getting accommodations or sitting less informally) or find a more informal field. And regardless, they need to learn to manage the feelings that critical feedback engenders in them.

        1. fgcommenter*

          > discussion over whether or not the norms in question are objectively fair is not, imo, helpful or relevant to the situation at hand

          For an autistic person, knowing that the foundation of these norms is not logic or objectivity can be very helpful. That makes it clear that they are like the many other social games one is expected to play in order to fit in and not be attacked.

          As far as whether the desire to confront is bad behavior, I agree with Alison’s comments on authority in a more recent response:

          “Anyone who deserves to hold authority should want to be questioned and should be suspicious of people who don’t examine things too deeply.”

          1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

            I agree, but there’s a big difference between question and confront. Asking the manager calmly why these norms exist is a question that can be very educational. Confronting her angrily and accusing her of belittlement will not produce the effect LW seeks.

          2. b*

            The thing is, most social and professional norms are not founded in logic. Why do we have to make eye contact in an interview? Why do we have to dress up for an interview, even if the job is not that formal? Why is it rude to be direct about certain things rather than circumspect? I’d argue that most autistic people know that if you dig deep enough these things are arbitrary. But your framing of this as “you see the real silliness of the thing and that’s why you’re getting the negative feedback here” is not accurate or, again in my opinion, a helpful framing for someone who already struggles with social context.

            And sure, examining things is a great value to hold; questioning things is a great thing to do. But OP didn’t do that here. OP came in assuming that because they didn’t like the feedback they got, that their boss must be overly critical; their framing of the whole question is them seeking validation because they believe–wrongly–that the very normal kind of comments they received were somehow belittling and as such that they cannot trust their boss’s judgement. That’s not a sign of them examining things deeply, it’s a sign that they wrote in seeking validation after their feelings got hurt, and telling them that seating norms in professional contexts gives them that validation without providing the necessary context–that they are pouting about having been given perfectly appropriate professional feedback.

            And, more to the point, examining things is not confronting things. Examining things is examining things. Confrontation is an entirely separate thing. Ideally, it’s a thing informed by deep though and examination, but regardless a separate step altogether. OP very clearly did not examine anything–if they had, either by speaking to their boss, a coworker, or their career counselor, they would have been able to appropriately contextualize their performance and the comments they received. Jumping to confrontation without understanding what you are confronting is just foolishness, and I understand that OP is young and new to the workforce, but you should not encourage an unchecked urge to lash out at perceived injustice when the person doesn’t seem willing to even understand what they are confronting.

            And I want to be clear, I’m not trying to be mean here, I get that they are young and autistic and these things are hard. Lord knows I’ve had some embarrassing gaffes and unnecessary oversensitivity in my past too. But your earlier comment painted them as a crusader being pilloried for questioning some vaunted norm, and with the reality as far from that as it is, and their resistance to taking criticism as obvious as it is, I don’t think it’s helpful to give them this kind of shelter to hind behind. Yes, their seating style will make it harder for them if this is a must for them. But, to the extent OP has received negative feedback, it is because they couched their question in a very clear resistance to hearing normal critiques beyond just those about their physical bearing, period.

    12. Snell*

      Okay…but you didn’t write in to the commentariat for advice. It’s unfortunate that you’re not receiving the response you hoped for from them, but they’re just anybody who found this site and posted a comment.

      What do you think of Alison’s advice? Do you think it would be a helpful application?

      1. Letter Writer*

        alison’s advice tells me i’m in the wrong and i should have shut up when my boss talked to me, and i wish i knew that sooner because i wouldn’t be in this comments section

        1. fgcommenter*

          That’s not the impression I have, especially with the last paragraph.

          To me the response could be summarized as:

          People have strong feelings about these norms. These norms are not objective or logical. You can (and it may be a good idea to) push back against them, but only do so while aware of what it will cost you to do so.

        2. nnn*

          Her response doesn’t say anything of the sort. You don’t seem to be engaging in good faith at all now.

        3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          Letter Writer, please see my comment above about the difference between questioning and confrontation. Polite questions usually have a productive result. Angry confrontations do not. Alison was advocating the former, especially if you qualify for accommodations.

        4. b*

          …No, it very much does not, and if that is your takeaway then I strongly encourage you to work with your career counselor (and perhaps other professional supports) on developing methods for processing feedback.

          I say this with kindness, OP, because I am also autistic and I am also quite sensitive to criticism–Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, if you have never heard of it, is sometimes a symptom of ASD, one which I live with, and which can make dealing with even neutral professional feedback difficult. But you really need to learn to how to react in a less loaded and negative way to perfectly normal comments. Allison didn’t tell you to shut up at all, she told you that based on what you shared, your boss was likely giving you actionable advice, but that you could also check by talking to others (and here is where I would encourage you to make use of your career counselor). She also told you that while you can choose to push back on this norm in future jobs, it will come at a cost, which is true, and not at all an attack on you, and that you can seek accommodations if you qualify for them (which it sounds like you might). All of that is normal. None of it is equivalent to “shut up when your boss talks to you.”

          I’m sorry that you feel attacked by the comments section, and by Allison’s feedback. It sounds like your internship was hard for you, and I know it must be hard to come here and be told some of that difficulty is on you. But that’s the reality of being an adult. The good news is that internships are learning experiences by design, and you can take this knowledge and do whatever is best for you–whether that means knowingly and proudly flouting the seating norms in this field, getting accommodations, working from home, or whatever. And I really, strongly encourage you to work on your own wellbeing and processing of feedback with a professional: it will serve you well in the long-term, probably better than anything else you take away from this will.

        5. AzaleaBertrand*

          Oh LW, you sound so much like younger me! That’s what I would have taken from it too!

          Turns out no, that was just my childhood trauma and rejection sensitive dysphoria kicking in. From the grand old age of my mid 30s and having just had a discussion with my psychologist about this very thing today (see! I still struggle!), I promise that Alison and almost every commenter is trying to give you heartfelt advice and encouragement that will help you so so much in future jobs if you take it on board.

          I know it stings right now, but please step away from this for a few days or weeks and try to come back and re-read with an open mind. Or – as had been said a bunch of times – get someone you trust from that job to give you a second opinion.

  58. ONFM*

    I currently work for a guy who takes “manspreading” to new lengths. He will gradually adopt a position I’ve started to refer to as “starfish” – he will lean back in his chair and push his feet forward, legs fully extended and angled out from his body. He then throws his arms over the armrests of his chair and will stay that way for a few moments. It’s almost like he’s laying down IN THE CHAIR. I’ve never seen anything like it. He does this in meetings with department heads. To my knowledge, no one has ever said anything about it – but the looks that go shooting around the table are hilarious.

      1. ONFM*

        The general opinion seems to be that he’s getting bored, zoning out, and sliding into this position without realizing it. Then when something captures his attention, he snaps back up.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I had a lovely, quirky faculty member who often did yoga poses on the floor during breaks. He was in his 80s and I think it helped with joint pain. Other than taking care not to trip on him, I don’t think anyone ever felt any particular way about it.

  59. Not at the Front Desk*

    I hadn’t thought much about posture in the office until a recent hire who sits at our reception desk was taking lunches at her desk, somehow thinking she was invisible perhaps. She’d recline in her chair with her feet up on her desk, looking on her phone while eating lunch. She knew she was at lunch but visitors to our office (often potential clients) would walk in and not know she was technically “at lunch”. I’m not her manager but I tried talking to her about it. Received a blank stare in return. Her manager must have said something (most of us in our small office noticed and commented on it) and she now takes her lunch off site or in the office break room.

    I agree with the advice given to ask former colleagues their advice on upping the professionalism. Wise advice for all of us, probably!

  60. Free Meerkats*

    OK, I just walked down the hall in my office and here are the postures of my reports:

    1. – working on a bit of data entry, sitting mostly erect but entering data with one hand while the other pets the office cat on his desk.
    2. – hunched forward, chin resting in one hand while reading a technical report from one of the industries we regulate.
    3. – fully reclined with her feet up on a drawer reading some new regulations I asked her to review so I don’t have to.

    In my mind, every one of them has acceptable posture.

  61. umami*

    This reminds me of a meeting I had with another VP’s direct report – the VP was having issues with her direct report understanding her role in a project that my team was providing support for, so I offered to meet with her jointly to make sure we were all on the same page since she hadn’t been taking in feedback well from her own boss. We met at my small conference table in my office, and no joke, she was completely slouched back in her chair, relaxing on the arm rest and appearing completely disengaged the entire time I was speaking with her about the project and expected deliverables from her end. It was the strangest thing! The VP was horribly embarrassed and later asked her why she was sitting like that, and she said she was (apparently in her mind) showing her confidence! So yeah, some people may not fully understand how their posture is perceived. Ultimately, it didn’t work out for her here.

  62. umami*

    I see a lot of focus being on the word ‘posture’, but I don’t think that is the issue the supervisor wsa trying to address. The OP wasn’t being criticized for not having a rigid back when sitting, they were told they sit in a manner that looks more like lounging than sitting, which is not appropriate in a work environment. That is definitely good feedback for someone starting their work career and isn’t cognizant of how to present themselves professionally when sitting in an office environment that doesn’t sound like a private setting or space but in a more public space where visitors would see and wonder why there is a staffer lying on a couch in reception. This isn’t the same as allowing trusted, proven, talented employees bend the norms while they are productively working in their own work space.

  63. DJ*

    As LW mentioned have a physical issue that makes posturing hard worth having an assessment to see if an adjustable sit to stand desk or specific chair would work. Also, good to look at how to alternate one’s posture during the day e.g. loo, get a glass of water, stationary, photocopy, informally meet with someone at their desk/in the hallway. And with a meeting offer to fill up the water jug, distribute documents etc.

  64. SnappinTerrapin*

    Years ago, when I worked for a State agency, one of the NGOs that frequently lobbied our agency had an Executive Director who really missed a lot of business norms. She had a really weird habit of sitting every way but the right way during meetings, including hanging a leg over the arm of a wooden chair while sitting at a conference table. The times that she simply folded one leg under her weren’t really noticeable, at least at first, but some of her posturing issues were significantly distracting. We respected the issues she was there to represent, but it was hard to take her seriously when she was channeling her inner preschooler while transacting serious business.

  65. TeaCoziesRUs*

    OP, I know you mention you have some sort of physical limitation and I’m curious. Have you ever tried a corset? Ignoring modern “wisdom” about corsets and watching LOTS of historical costumers and reenactors on YouTube has convinced me that if I ever go back to the working world it will be with a corset. I’ve spent too many years in yoga pants, flopped in my recliner. :) Between being far too casual as a SAHM and having a larger frame, I’m hoping a corset (custom made, with a tank or chemise underneath) will not only help support my chest better than the thin bra straps, but will also help my posture.

    If this idea intrigues you, may I suggest Abby Cox’s “I Wore 18th Century Clothing for 5 Years” and Bernadette Banner’s “I Grew Up in a Corset…”? There are a TON of great Costubers who have spoken at length on the topic – enough to get me intrigued enough to buy one. If you enjoy write a bit of snark with your history, may I suggest “Reacting to ‘The History of the Corset’ / Busting Some Really Weird Corset Myths”? Abby hosts it but brings in some of my other favorite Costubers, including Nicole Rudolph and Bernadette.

Comments are closed.