how do I quit my volunteer job, explaining a wardrobe emergency, and more

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

1. How do I quit volunteer work I’ve been doing for a decade?

I informally volunteer for a nonprofit. I live near an environmental feature they want tested routinely. The job started by me calling them to ask a question about that feature. They said they did not know the answer, but suggested that since I live here, I might purchase some small inexpensive equipment, test it myself, and give them the results. (Think soil or water testing.)

They told me what data they wanted, and I bought the equipment and started testing three or four days a week. I take a notebook into the field and keep a chart of all the information they requested. The first year, I made copies of my handwrittten field notes, which were quite clear and arranged in a sort of a spreadsheet fashion, and sent it to them. They told me they wanted a typed spreadsheet. I did it for some years, but frankly I hate it. I do not like data entry, I don’t like making spreadsheets, and I don’t want to do this anymore, even though I love the testing portion, because I don’t want to have to turn it into the format they want to receive it in. Also, the environment does not lend itself to electronics.

This year I hired my friend’s recent college graduate kid to enter the data into the spreadsheet. But now I’ve realized I have to check her work before I submit it. I don’t want to. They have also required me to add some columns that require looking things up, such as the weather for the previous two days, instead of simply the weather at the time that I’m testing. I don’t have time for that, nor do I have the desire. This year, I had the intern look it up for me. But I don’t want to pay her to do this anymore. And she’s not even available because now she has a real post-college job.

I’m happy to do the testing and give them copies of my field notebook with all the info they need except for the past two days of weather, but I’m not interested in doing more than I’m willing to do. They don’t even have an official volunteer program. And I’m not a biologist. I’m just a random neighbor who asked a question and agreed to provide them with this information, and have done so for probably a decade now.

Unfortunately I’ve let it get to the point where I am not willing to do one more second of data entry. Life is short. How can I politely tell them that they can either have a copy of my notebook pages or they can have nothing? Politeness and tact are not my strong suit. I could use a script!

You never even intended to volunteer for them and yet you’ve been doing fairly involved volunteer work for a decade! You’re allowed to be done.

If you’re really willing to continue the testing itself as long as you don’t have to do the rest of it, say this: “While I enjoy doing the fieldwork portion of this project, I no longer have time to produce the spreadsheets or look up the prior days’ weather. If you’d like, I can switch to submitting my handwritten field notes from the testing (sample attached) and you can take it from there. Or would it make more sense for me to end the project entirely since I can no longer do all of it?”

If you’d rather be done with the whole thing, say this: “After a decade on this project, unfortunately it has started to take up more time than I have available and I’m going to need to end my work on it. I hope the data I’ve sent has been useful, and I’ll remain a strong supporter of your work.”

2. Explaining a period emergency

To preface, this hasn’t happened to me before. But it’s always a fear of mine that I will surprise start my period and bleed through my pants at work. What do you say to your supervisor when that happens? Can you say, “I bled through my pants and need to go home to change”? What if it’s a male supervisor?

If you don’t want to lay out the specifics (and you shouldn’t need to), you could say, “I’ve had a wardrobe accident and need to go home to change” or “I need to go home to change clothes; I’ll be back in an hour” or “I’m having a small personal emergency and need to run home; I’ll be back in an hour.”

Also, since you mentioned you’re always worried about this, keeping an extra pair of pants in your car or your office might give you peace of mind.

3. Should I tell my colleagues what to get me for my wedding?

I am getting married in a little over two weeks. The last time someone got married in my workplace, the team raised money to buy her a gift. I haven’t worked here long enough to know if this is an established pattern or was just for her, and I don’t know if they’re planning to do the same thing for me.

I asked all the guests at my wedding to donate to a charity fund in lieu of presents. If my team is planning to surprise me with a gift, I’d like for it to be a donation to this charity. However, it feels presumptuous of me to tell my boss, “Here’s what you all should get me for my wedding,” if the team wasn’t going to do that.

Should I say something like: “Hey, I hope this doesn’t sound presumptuous but I know you got that lovely collection of llama figurines for Karen when she got married, so I just wanted you to know that I’m not accepting gifts for my wedding and would prefer that you donate to the International Llama Rescue Foundation instead”?

Or should I just keep quiet and see what happens? I can always make a donation of equivalent value to the charity if they do end up giving me a gift.

The general etiquette is not to assume they’re getting you a gift, not to direct them on what to buy unless they specifically ask, and to just accept it graciously if one materializes. I don’t really love this approach because I don’t like people spending money on unwanted gifts, but it’s the considered the polite way to handle it within our existing system of manners.

(That said, if you’d been there long enough to see multiple marriages and were sure they were going to buy something for you, I could see politely warding it off ahead of time anyway, etiquette be damned. But since you haven’t worked there long, I wouldn’t try to predict.)

4. Candidate sent a million post-interview questions

I’m hiring for a mid-level position and brought in a handful of promising candidates to meet with me and some of my colleagues after having done initial screenings over Zoom. We’re all mindful of leaving time for candidates to ask questions; each applicant probably had a total of an hour for their questions over the course of these initial interviews. Candidates know that there will be one more round of interviews with those selected as finalists.

One of the candidates we met with yesterday sent a follow-up email with a list of a dozen questions they didn’t ask in the meetings, from big weighty things (“What are you doing related to DEI and how does it show up in your work?”) to things like the dress code and standard business hours.

I did at the end of the interview (after she said she had no other questions) say my standard, “If you think of any other questions or anything else you want me to know about you, definitely feel free to reach out.” But I’ve never had anyone take that so literally — it usually is one, maybe two questions, or a note clarifying an answer they didn’t answer as well as they’d have liked in the moment.

I’d already decided not to move ahead with this candidate — I liked her, but she doesn’t quite have the right experience we need. I’m planning to respond to her questions, at least briefly — I don’t want her to think I’m rejecting her because of these questions and it feels wrong to reject her in a reply to this email. But is that the right move here? And is there something I should be doing differently in the interview process, or in the language I use in those parting words, to prevent this type of follow-up?

Yeah, that’s a candidate who isn’t reading the subtext correctly, and isn’t thinking about how much time they’re asking you to spend writing out answers to numerous and (at least some) complex questions.

It is reasonable for a candidate to realize, “Oh crap, I didn’t ask about X and I need that answered before deciding whether to accept the next interview.” But that probably doesn’t apply to the full dozen they sent over.

When I’ve had this happen, I usually say some version of, “I can’t do justice to all of these in an email, but here are quick answers to some of them and I will make sure we set aside time to discuss the rest in our next conversation if we move forward” (or just “X isn’t a topic I can do justice to in a short email but I’ll make sure we set aside time to answer all your questions about it if we move forward”).

I don’t think you need to change what you’re saying, since you do want people with a more reasonable number of questions to know they can ask them. Most candidates will read what you’re saying correctly (as they’ve been doing), and you have a way to handle it when someone does read it wrong.

{ 467 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Please no graphic comments in response to question #2. It’s possible to give advice without those, and I’ve removed a couple that were excessively detailed.

  2. I have RBF*

    #1: Ordinarily environmental testing isn’t a volunteer type job anyway, much less turning in regular spreadsheet of data.

    You are well within your rights to say “I will give you my raw data, but I am not a spreadsheet or data entry person, so you will need to pay one of your own people to do that. I can’t afford the time or effort to do the data entry for you.”

    1. LG*

      I’m just gobsmacked by how they turned you into an employee without paying you (and from the sound of your letter, without much thanks for your hard work!). You owe them nothing more.

      1. Avi?*

        Seriously, this organization is WILDLY overstepping in how they’re taking advantage of the writer’s good will, and instead of gratitude and understanding they’re making increasingly more involved demands that seem to boil down to making the writer do more of their work for them? Somehow I suspect that the organization not going to take the writer’s ‘resignation’ well, no matter how softly they try to couch it.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          I don’t see any evidence that they’ve made any demands.
          Based on the LW’s words, they said that they wanted a typed spreadsheet.
          The LW could have always said no.

          1. EPLawyer*

            And now they want her to include the weather for 2 days before her readings. Which they could look up as easily as she can.

            LG has it right, they figured out a way to get the information they need for free instead of paying an employee to do it.

            My gob is smacked that their FIRST response to her phone call was “We don’t know the answer, but spend your own money to get the equipment needed to find out, then provide us the information. ” Like excuse me, I called with a question not an offer to work for you.

            1. Sloanicota*

              As a lifelong nonprofit worker, I wonder if they’re really using this data for anything. If they are, and it’s important, they should be able to scrape together funds for it at this point (they’ve had plenty of time). If it’s not, then it’s reasonable for OP to say she can’t do it anymore. Either way, there’s no call for OP to continue spending her time this way.

            2. ferrina*

              Right?! Asking a volunteer to buy their own equipment is just bizarre. At that point you’re making them pay to volunteer.

              1. Ace in the Hole*

                I don’t think they were asking (or expecting) her to volunteer.

                It sounds like LW called them up asking for some very specific, local data that was outside the org’s scope and/or budget. Instead of just telling her “we don’t know, sorry,” they explained a way she could get the data she wanted if she were willing to do it herself, and mentioned that if she happened to have it they’d appreciate the info… presumably so they could share it with other interested people.

                LW decided she did want the data enough to collect it herself. But she initially offered it to Org in a format they couldn’t use (presumably they don’t have the staff/budget to do the necessary data entry). They explained they can only take data in X format and ABC variables are necessary for interpreting the data appropriately. Of course they’re not going to do it themselves… this data is obviously not their top priority and their resources are going to other things. So LW decided to do the extra work herself.

                LW sees this as volunteering for the organization… but I think it’s quite likely they don’t see her as a volunteer at all and never intended her to be one. She doesn’t say anything to indicate they’re following up with her, asking where the data is, demanding anything from her, etc.

                It’s totally reasonable for them to politely say “please don’t send us all this data in a format we can’t use, that’s a waste of everyone’s time.” Just like it’s totally reasonable for LW to say “Okay, but if you’re not interested in handwritten field notes you won’t get any data at all.”

                1. Help Desk Peon*

                  It’s very possible they’re sharing the data set, maybe through a website. And someone else asked for the extra information, so the org asked the LW to collect that too, because why not? No effort on their part.

            3. Antilles*

              I don’t know why they made that initial ask.
              But OP responded to that ridiculous and absurd initial ask with “sure, I’ll spend my own money to buy equipment that you should be providing and go gather data on my own time”. And there’s no indication that OP pushed back or fought it or etc.
              So yeah, of course they’ve kept pushing for more because you’re clearly enthusiastic / dedicated / spineless / non-confrontational / whatever enough to put up with it.

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

                I don’t think it’s fair to say that the OP is spineless. That is unkind and unhelpful. We don’t know how much the OP may have pushed back or anything.

                1. Antilles*

                  That’s why I listed four different motivations (and “whatever” because there’s probably other options too). It doesn’t really matter *what* OP’s motivation for it is – the answer is exactly the same:
                  In agreeing to the initial ask, that makes it clear you’d put up with more. In the decade since, you’ve kept putting up with more and more ridiculous asks. OF COURSE they’re going to keep asking for more because you keep agreeing to it.
                  And that’s equally true regardless of your motivation.
                  -You’re really enthusiastic and doing it because you want to? You’re going to put up with more.
                  -You’re really dedicated to the idea of this data and doing it because you want to? You’re going to put up with more.
                  -You don’t have the spine to say no? You’re going to put up with more.
                  -You don’t want to confront them because it’d be an awkward conversation? You’re going to put up with more.

              2. Lime green Pacer*

                I’m a birdwatcher and so I didn’t find that to be a huge ask on behalf of the non-profit. LW said the equipment was inexpensive. This sounds to me like the kind of citizen science birders and other amateur naturalists do routinely: making and recording routine observations. This weekend, for example, is the Great Backyard Bird Count. I have also participated in my province’s breeding bird atlas program as one of many volunteers. I would combine LW’s observations with regular birding outings to the same place, no problem.

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  I think the difference is that you (presumably) knew what you were signing up for. OP wasn’t trying to volunteer and is being treated like an employee. They even hired an assistant *with their own money* to try to keep up with the changing demands.

              3. Jack Russell Terrier*

                I don’t think people really should think this way. A lot do of course, with the push push push. But there’s no of course about nor should there be.

                I don’t really want part of a group that pushes and pushes to find out how much you can possibly wring out of a situation. That’s not the type of organization I want to support or the type of people I want in my life. In other circles, it’s called taking advantage of someone and making them jump through hoops. In the UK it’s liberty taking.

              4. Introvert Teacher*

                Yeah honestly the crux of the problem is the letter writer’s ability to say no. They don’t pay you. You literally owe them nothing. Just say no. I know that’s hard to do for some, but it’s an essential life skill to be able to assert yourself in situations you don’t want to be in. Perhaps the letter writer could do a little reflection on why they have chosen to continue doing something that they don’t want to be doing for a whole decade. I bet if they told them “I no longer have the time to do this work. Wishing you the best,” they would either pay someone to continue the work, or drop this project completely. They would figure it out.

            4. Stretchy McGillicuddy*

              I used to work in the nonprofit sector. Never again! The running joke is “When they say non-profit, they mean you, not them!”

            5. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              I wonder if it was more like, “I neither know nor care – but feel free to work it out for yourself,” and then when the data arrived they thought “huh, interesting, tell us again next time you check”.

              I also think it very likely the oversight of LW’s data was passed between staff and they didn’t realise how the arrangement had started. So for example, “OK so this volunteer Tangerina sends us soil pH data on the first Tuesday of the month, and that goes into the environmental benefit report at the end of each quarter. Here’s Tangerina’s email address.”

              1. Help Desk Peon*

                Very possible. And then a recipient of the report says, “This would be more useful if we knew the weather…” and there ya go.

            6. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

              I get the feeling this is a case of staff turnover within the org combined with the longevity of the volunteering. In my experience some volunteers who’ve “been there forever” are taken for granted and not actively managed/cultivated the way new volunteers are. New staff have probably been told “that’s OP, he does the testing for us, isn’t that great” but don’t know the history of how requests have been framed to OP and that he never even signed up to do that much work.

              I think he’s totally within his rights to decide he can’t do it anymore, and staff is just going to have to figure out how to make it work.

      2. Phryne*

        No appreciation, yes, and no protections either. Official volunteering programmes have some kinds of rewards, even if it is only a thank you letter and some swag. But they probably also have insurance, and a handbook with rules and rights. None of these are in place here.

      3. Empress Ki*

        TBH if they are a business (rather than a charitable organisation that have the right to have volunteers), I’d be tempted to claim wages.
        And ask her to pay for the products, when she does this to help them ? The minimum is to provide the products for free in this case!

      4. Too Stunned to Speak*

        Right?! I’m waiting for the update that they fired her when she stopped sending them polished reports.

      5. Luna Lovegood*

        Similar to this, I wonder if they both think they’re doing the other side a favor here. I recently started a job where my predecessor had been in the role for decades, and I’ve already come across a few things that the staff has kept doing because they always have without questioning whether it’s needed anymore (or ever was, in our case). That might even be why they asked for a spreadsheet, if it’s not a huge priority for them but think OP enjoys doing it. Either way it’s completely reasonable for OP to end their service at this point. I mention the possibility in case it assuages their guilt in bowing out.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I had to go back and read this again because I couldn’t understand why the OP would volunteer to do a task that they hated for multiple years. Was OP made to feel obligated? Is there some social benefit they feel personally responsible for? The only thing that jumped out at me was “I love the testing portion” and that the organisation were not bothering to test in OPs area before this. I think the OP has basically been told how to DIY the answer to their original question; though it was a question they were initially very concerned with, they are only now at the point where they no longer care. To get to the point where they are hiring someone to help them test, OP must have been very invested in this work at some point. It’s entirely okay to quit though, my goodness.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            OP, keep the equipment since you paid for it.
            Since you love the testing, you could keep doing it and keeping your notes. The notes might be useful for some other purpose down the road.
            If you already have something in mind that you could do with the data, you could go ahead and start working on that.
            Oh, not, just doing the testing and keeping notes – only if you want to – is enough. :)

            1. Sloanicota*

              I would say, if OP wants to do it for her own sake, absolutely, just be aware that there are reasons there are protocols for testing, without which the data may not be useful – and I’m not sure it’s likely anyone will ever be interested in transferring hand-written notes into useful data. (I may be taking this a bit too seriously because my work is with citizen data and it can’t be used as evidence of anything unless it meets a pretty high bar for data accuracy).

              1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                I once had a student job in a chemical plant, night shift. Part of my job was taking and recording a number of readings; these were not usually transcribed from the nightly worksheet but archived. Should anything go wrong, they would be consulted a few weeks back to look for any early indicators. Otherwise the engineer of the morning shift would glance at them, go “all noninal, eh? Fine, have a good sleep” and file them away.
                They might still do it that way and transcribe only two per month for long-term trending, or they may have automation in place (more likely, chlorine at 200 bar/2900 psi is no joke).

          2. whingedrinking*

            I don’t know if “made to feel obligated” is the right phrase. I’ve certainly met my share of people who obligated themselves, if that makes sense. Like I’ve said to someone, “Hey, if you happen to be going that way, would it be okay if I got a ride partway home?” and not terribly fussed if the answer was no. The person then insisted on taking me all the way and seemed happy to do it, only I later found out they were mad that I accepted.

        2. Sloanicota*

          I completely understand why the nonprofit isn’t interested in getting a notebook of handwritten data. We are often on thin margins and probably can’t scrape together a staff person just to transfer OP’s notes into a spreadsheet. As OP found, it’s not always as easy as just “getting an intern to do it.” That said, if this data is a priority for the organization (I suspect it’s not) they would find ways to get it. In my experience, we had a tablet so that staff could enter the data in the field that was in a useful format.

          1. Beany*

            Yeah. I can’t imagine putting in the effort in converting someone else’s handwritten notes into a searchable, quantifiable format — at least on an ongoing basis. Perhaps if it was a matter of a once-off transcription (e.g. Viktor Frankenstein’s lab notebooks after he was dead & gone), but a continual stream of new notes? No way.

            If LW1 had their own tablet, they could input the data directly into a spreadsheet on the spot, and save everyone trouble later.

            1. Sun and clouds*

              To me it sounds like if the data entry process could be streamlined she may continue to collect the info. Maybe a locked excel sheet with drop downs? OP sounds like she’s been too good at her volunteer job!

        3. Non-Profit guru*

          I thought the same thing. Perhaps the way OP “asked the question” made the organization think that there was an interest on OP’s part in gathering the data to answer that inquiry – then the non-profit just proceeded with the assumption that OP was invested enough in this issue to help. I am the Director at a non-profit, and sometimes in the past I have had the public needle me so much on an issue that I have thought – well sounds like they need to volunteer because we don’t have the bandwidth to track this. They wont know you don’t want to do this task unless you speak up, they are not mind readers – just people trying to do their job with the limited resources they have. I am never going to outright reject a volunteer, I will just keep proceeding with finding them projects on what they seem to be interested in until they fizzle out or tell me what they want to do. Perhaps the organization thought putting the data on a spreadsheet was easy for the OP (and easier for others to read and process), again they wont know this arrangement wont work for you unless you speak up!

      6. Snow Globe*

        Beyond not paying the LW for the work, the LW had to purchase the equipment to do the testing. That does not sound right.

        1. ecnaseener*

          And pay an intern! If you’re pushing so much work on a volunteer that they have to pay for assistance out of their own pocket, somethings gone very very wrong.

          1. Samwise*

            We don’t actually know that the organization asked the OP to hire an intern (maybe it was an intern already at the organization) or asked the OP to pay the intern.

            OP could have said no to any request anywhere along the line.

            Did the organization ask for a lot? Seems so.

            Was the OP *required* to do anything the organization asked for? No, absolutely not.

            My read on this is, OP felt obligated and said yes. But that’s not on the organization.

            OP is now at a point where they resent and dislike doing most (all?) of the work. Alison’s advice is, as ever, on point as to what the OP could do and say.

            But I think the shade the commentariat is throwing at the organization is misplaced. They can *ask*. OP was never under any obligation or requirement to say yes.


              I disagree with thr assumption that the candidate failed to ” read between the lines” when it was suggested after a second interview to email with any questions they may have- and I think for it to be considered abnormal to do so is unfair to candidates who do choose to follow up more closely than those who do not follow up at all. Didn’t we just see a long thread in AAM from a candidate who was not getting time to ask questions during the multiple interviews she was going through with one company? Perhaps the reasons that this person is asking more questions about DEI and the dress code is that she is looking for confirmation that something important that she needs is really there. Again, we see Alison probiding lots of advice to potential candidates not to disclose a need for an accomodation too warly in the hiring process for fear of being discriminated against. Also, keep in mind that a lot of candidates who are neurodiverse would not as easily “read between the lines” that they should not ask follow up questions when they are told specifically that it is ok. Also keep in mind that quick office tours after an interview can be overwhelming and a lot of people are unable to absorb all the information they are being given during that little tour. Also, perhaps this candidate is using the emailed questions to gauge you as a manager as well- they may be testing you to see how you respond to someone who asks for additional clarification to see if you are the type of person who is present, engaged, and approachable or if you tend to brush people off and ignore them. Remember, hiring someone isn’t just about the employee being a good fit for you- you have to be a good fit for them as well.

            2. ecnaseener*

              I didn’t say anything about the org asking LW to hire an intern – my take is that they almost certainly did not ask or even know about it. What I said was they pushed so much work on LW that LW needed to pay for assistance.

        2. BethDH*

          It sounds like the kind of citizen science call my husband got a lot at his non-profit — and often the person answering this sort of question by email would be a volunteer too.
          You’d get a call asking if you did x in their neighborhood — water testing, robin counts, whatever. You’d say “no, but if you want to do it yourself here’s how, and we’d be interested in your results.”
          Then when OP sends those in, a different volunteer sees the notes and says “but we only take notes in y format,” not realizing that this wasn’t a formal project.
          At least in my experience, local chapters of environmental non-profits are often are run entirely by volunteers who each take responsibility for a different domain, and the people who run data collection are unlikely to be talking in great detail to the person answering general inbox inquiries.

          1. Pennyworth*

            That makes a lot of sense. It has been going on so long that OP’s above-and-beyond contributions are just being taken for granted. Alison gave great scripts for graciously backing away.

        3. Lacey*

          Yeah, this whole thing is wild. They bought equipment, they paid an intern?
          The people asked them for data and then made demands about how it was submitted?

          What? Why would anyone in this scenario think this makes sense?
          Is there more going on here?

        4. constant_craving*

          In my experience, volunteer work is often quite expensive. Having to purchase equipment is really not unusual when volunteering. But the key thing is it’s all voluntary. In this case it seems like it initially was, and LW should probably have spoken up sooner and should definitely speak up now. But buying equipment is not, in and of itself, a red flag. Lots of really important work is done by volunteers who supply their own equipment.

      7. Irish Teacher*

        And the way they did, “nope, we want it typed.” Somebody spends both money and time doing something for no recompense and they just asked for more.

        1. Gerry Keay*

          I mean… if someone is literally volunteering to help, it’s on them to say uncle when it becomes too much. Sounds like LW forgot the word “no” existed for a decade.

        2. Malarkey01*

          I mean I’ve been in a situation where someone provided information to a non profit I sit on and while I thought it was very nice of them to compile the data there wasn’t anything we could do with it unless they provided it electronically. So we had to request they either enter it into a spreadsheet or unfortunately we couldn’t take it.

          There’s a thing that happens with non profits a lot where volunteers think I’m doing this for free so you should just be happy for whatever I do….and while I’m always grateful for volunteers there are absolutely times when you need to say “your offer or the way you want to volunteer won’t benefit us.” You try to redirect them and if not possible thank them for the offer and move on.

          1. Reality Biting*

            Ok, so this was exactly my take on the situation. We all seem to be forgetting that this “environmental feature”–whatever it was–wasn’t even within the organization’s mission. I’m guessing that they think they’re doing a favor for a member of the community by taking and tracking this information. But of course since they had no staff for this particular feature, they’re going to want to do that in a way that doesn’t additionally tax their resources.

        3. DisgruntledPelican*

          Sorry, as someone who has worked in non-profit my whole career, I really don’t have a lot of patience for people who want to volunteer or donate on their own terms. I have no problem telling a volunteer – a volunteer who has created his own project for himself that nobody asked for, no less – I’m only going to accept specific types or formats of data. Just like I have had no problem handing someone back a donation and telling them the garbage was a better way to dispose of it. We have a specific scope of work. Making a space for volunteers to do whatever they want isn’t included in that.

      8. WillowSunstar*

        Yes, I agree. At least the organization I volunteer for gives out awards. If I got nothing back other than the feeling of having worked for them, I’d go somewhere else to donate my time.

      9. MigraineMonth*

        Not just an unpaid employee; an unpaid employee who *hired another employee with their own money*. WHAT.

    2. Grandma*

      I wonder if after all these years the fact that you aren’t actually an employee has been forgotten? Letter to AAM: “I don’t know what to do about an employee who seems recalcitrant when asked to turn in his data properly formatted, etc. etc. I’ve only been a manager here for 18 months, so I don’t know if they have always been so stubborn. I’ve never met this person because they never come into the office. Should I insist they come in once a week and enter their field data here?”

      Unlikely, but you never know. If it’s not this I wouldn’t feel bad about telling them to hike out and collect their own data.

      1. Bit o' Brit*

        This is what I’m wondering. They have no official volunteer program so even if there hasn’t been any staff turnover they’re not in the mindset of dealing with volunteers, they’re employees dealing with other employees (including vendors/suppliers). LW has been acting like an employee by taking instruction on the format and expanding the report, so it’s easy to see where the line could have just dissolved.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Nonprofits often have volunteers in key roles, and the board is all volunteer and may be doing a ton of work, so the lines do get a bit blurred, although I don’t think it’s credible that the manager actually believes OP is on the books when they’re not. We had retirees who wanted staff-lite type roles at my prior nonprofit. I see people’s comments blaming the org but it reminds me of the aphorism “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”

      2. Chikkka*

        It sounds very unlikely that a manager genuinely believes a random member of the public they’ve never met is a salaried employee who just coincidentally doesn’t have a contract, work email address, etc.

        This vaguely reminds me of a something that happened in our local library not long ago. A woman in the area who I think likely had OCD got fixated on wanting certain things to be in straight lines, and constantly nagged the staff to put the items into straight lines. The staff eventually started saying “could you put them into straight lines, thanks so much, you’re amazing!” just to alleviate the distress the woman felt at the things not being in straight lines. Then the woman’s mum got upset because she thought her daughter was being exploited and made to work for free (the library has a volunteer programme but she wasn’t an official volunteer – if you’re an official volunteer you sign a volunteer contract and it’s much more formal), when no one even wanted the things in straight lines to begin with, it was just to avoid her being distressed at seeing then

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          > It sounds very unlikely that a manager genuinely believes a random member of the public they’ve never met is a salaried employee

          Perhaps, but it seems likely to me that they could believe she’s a freelancer or self employed field worker.

          1. Corporate Lawyer*

            This was my thought too. I wonder whether whoever is interfacing with OP these days assumes OP is a contractor. It wouldn’t be at all unusual for the person interfacing with a contractor to be different from the person responsible for paying the contractor’s fees, so the interfacing person may not be aware that OP isn’t being paid.

            In any case, it doesn’t change AAM’s excellent advice. OP, you get to quit any time you want! In fact, even if you WERE being paid, either as an employee or a contractor, you would STILL get to quit any time you want. You also get to tell them that you’re happy to keep doing the testing but you are no longer able to do the administrative stuff like data entry, if that’s what you want.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I don’t know if it’s necessarily gotten that far but after 10 years I do wonder if there’s been enough turnover that the people involved now don’t realize exactly what this situation is…

    3. Chikkka*

      I don’t mean to be unkind, but I can’t help wondering if the company actually wants the data, or if they are just humouring the LW.

      They didn’t monitor that data at all until an ordinary member of the public asked about it, suggesting the data is not a priority.

      Honestly if I asked a question and got “we don’t monitor that but feel free to do it yourself and send us the answer” I’d think I was being politely fobbed off.

      LW, do you know what they do with the data? Does it get used in a meaningful way, or is it just filed away on the off chance another member of the public asks?

      1. Jo F*

        If they’ve asked for the spreadsheet rather than accepting the notes and then asked for more involved data I do think they are using it. If they were humoring OP they’d just take the notebooks and file them.

        1. MsM*

          Eh, it could still be a case of “ugh, we don’t want to store these notebooks; what would it take for there to at least be a chance of this being useful somehow at some point?”

          Regardless, OP, if it *is* important enough to them that the work continue, they can find a willing (and ideally paid) replacement for you. You don’t need to worry about what that looks like for them.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I don’t know that’s necessarily the case. “Just taking” the notebooks would mean they’d have to be stored somewhere. I’m in supply chain management and when someone comes to me and says “I want to buy this” I give them the spiel about what I need to make that happen…and sometimes I never hear from them again because they aren’t interested in doing those steps. This could be similar — they don’t want to store the notebooks but also feel rude saying “that pond isn’t on our radar and we aren’t going to expend limited resources to put it on our radar” so “aw, sorry — we can’t use handwritten data” feels like a way for everybody involved to have a way out. The whole thing really reads to me as each person thinking they are doing something of value for the other and don’t want to be rude.

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          Possibly, but not necessarily.

          As LW has discovered, transferring field notes into useful spreadsheets is incredibly time intensive. There’s no point accepting a notebook that will gather dust on a shelf forever because no one has time to do the data entry.

          As for more information… the data she collects may well be useless without it, and there may not be a good way to collect it at another time/place. For example, stream turbidity data tells you almost nothing if you don’t have data on recent rainfall because rain stirs up sediment. What is the probable source? Is the sampled turbidity representative? Is this a natural feature of the watershed, or a product of pollution? All those questions depend on knowing pre-sampling weather.

          A helpful organization would want to let LW know if she’s putting in all this effort to collect unusable data. After all, she’s presumably invested in the outcome or she wouldn’t bother collecting it in the first place.

          Alternatively, they might have asked thinking anyone collecting Data X probably has Data Y too, since it’s standard protocol to record both. We don’t know quite how they asked. Was it “Thanks for X. We need Y data, go get that for us too.” or “Thanks for X, do you happen to have Y also?”

      2. Chikkka*

        There’s absolutely the possibility the data is genuinely important and they’re taking the P in exploiting the OP’s good nature, and are so used to her doing this work they take her hard work for granted (though I still want to know if the company are aware she’s hiring an intern to do work for them without their knowledge).

        A lot of people in the non profit world are evangelical about their causes and assume others are willing to go several extra miles to support that cause, and that can and often does result in exploitation.

        On the other hand, I wonder if the LW has simplified the original conversation for the sake of brevity, because it just sounds so very very unlikely that a company’s response to a simple “do you have this data” is to immediately turn around and make an unprovoked demand that a random strange member of the public to go out and purchase scientific equipment, do testing, and send in data. Was it a longer conversation, and did the LW show an interest in doing the testing? Or mention being able to do testing of something else that was interpreted as LW volunteering to do the testing, rather than being asked?

        Maybe I’m projecting, but I know in my old job, we sometimes had members of the public who were quite forceful in wanting info that we didn’t cover, and our only option was to tell them how to find the info themselves. I probably have said “feel free to send us the info once you have it!” in the past – because if the info is that important to the other person, you don’t want to be rude and let them know it’s not as important to you. That could be interpreted as “please find this info for us.”

        I think LW really needs to talk to them and find out how much they value the data.

        1. Chikkka*

          I mean obviously LW is perfectly within her rights to just quit straight up if she wants to! She doesn’t owe them a conversation. It just sounds like LW is invested in the testing and still wants to do the testing part, and like there’s potential grounds for people working at cross purposes, I think an open conversation would be useful.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, I think it’s very likely that the conversation was something like: “we don’t have data on that but it’s something you could collect if you wanted to and here’s how you could do it” … and then later, “to make this useful we’d need it presented in this specific format.” There’s no reason to believe they ordered her to do anything; if she presented herself as interested in volunteering after their initial suggestion and never pushed back on any of this, how are they to know she doesn’t want to do it? Some people DO want to do this kind of thing as volunteers. It’s totally fine that she doesn’t, but they won’t know that until she tells them!

          It sounds like the LW has been very accommodating, but she didn’t have to be … and it’s likely that by doing that, they’ve gotten the impression that she’s happy to work on this project. She just needs to explain that she’s not.

          1. t-vex*

            Yes, as someone who regularly uses volunteers I would be horrified to learn that she hated doing it and just went along (for 10 years! and hired someone else to help her!) just because she didn’t want to say no. If I asked “It would helpful if you put it in a sheet, could you do that?” Why wouldn’t she say “I’d rather not.” I’d just do it different way, no harm, no foul. This is really sad.

      3. Employee No. 24601*

        Even then! I once worked in a position that humored volunteers. They were avid patrons and occasional donors, and no, we didn’t need the research they did, but letting them do it and sharing it on our website fostered a lot of community goodwill. One retired volunteer inexplicably liked to use PowerPoint as their word processor with a separate text box for each paragraph. I accepted it graciously and painstakingly copy-pasted it into a usable format in word, and mentally checked off the time spent doing so as “volunteer & donor relations”

      4. Liz*

        Yeah, I got a strong humoring vibe from the letter. At no point does it sound like the organization asked OP to do anything – OP seems to have taken their statements (about testing equipment, about spreadsheets) and interpreted them as requests/instructions. Not sure that was ever warranted in this first place, and I think OP should feel free to step back and hopefully can do so without harboring ill feeling.

        1. Kella*

          I don’t understand this comment. OP says, “They asked me to do X” and “They asked me to do Y.” It’s entirely possible that OP heard those requests as stronger than they were intended to be but to say that there’s no indication that the organization asked OP to do anything, when OP says they did, seems weirdly dismissive of OP’s information.

          1. Chikkka*

            But we don’t know that, since we hardly have a verbatim account of a phone call from ten years ago.

            It’s just extremely unlikely their response to “do you have this data” was “why no random strange member of the public, please purchase scientific equipment, go out and do fieldwork, and send us your data!”

            It’s just far, far more logical that they gave the LW advice on how to find the data for her local area that she wanted (thinking they were helping her), since that data wasn’t something they covered, LW expressed enthusiasm for doing that, and they happened to say something like “oh cool send it to us too.”

          2. whingedrinking*

            “They asked me” is a very broad phrase, though. “Please open the window” and “will you marry me?” can both be described as asking someone for something.

    4. Llama Llama*

      I would not do any of of it anymore. Could she possibly get down to the notebook again? But they will somehow try to get her to do more and more again as time goes on on.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      My county has a pretty robust volunteer program for routine environmental testing (stream monitoring, wildlife counts, etc.), but it requires training, there is an established process/reporting methodolgy, and also the volunteers actually volunteer. (One of my kids is very interested in conservation and wildlife and is planning to become a trained volunteer after their upcoming birthday when they age into the program.)

      1. CheeryO*

        Yes, my state does as well. Like yours, it’s very structured and formal, and volunteers opt in on an annual basis. It’s also not our only data source. The point is mostly to get people engaged in citizen science and to use the data to complement our official monitoring programs.

    6. Lizzianna*

      I actually kind of disagree with this.

      I work with a number of environmental non-profits that have pretty complex citizen science programs that includes monitoring like this.

      I can totally see someone calling for info about an area they’re not monitoring, them saying, “Oh, we don’t have anyone monitoring that stream, but if you want to do it, we’d love to include your data in our report!” and then between poor communication and staff turnover, the situation getting out of hand in terms of what the volunteer thinks they agreed to and what the organization thinks they need.

    7. Office Manager*

      I quit a volunteer job at a theater where I was working the box office/front of house. They really should have been recruiting volunteers or paying someone, but I was young and into it at the time.
      When my life situation changed a lot, I let them know I would no longer be available to volunteer after X date, but they kept asking. I ended up leaving my key and any other info there on my last day so I couldn’t be asked.

      A several months later I got a desperate email from them asking to help cover, and I replied I didn’t have the info I needed anymore and wouldn’t be available, with some suggestions on where they could find other volunteers. I wasn’t asked again and they’re still doing fine.

    8. LW 1*

      LW 1 here.

      Thank you Alison for running my question. I’m so very sorry about your mom. Thanks to all the commenters for your helpful and interesting comments. To respond to a few points:

      I’m sorry I was not really completely clear. I hate data entry with the intensity of a thousand suns. The testing is fine with me. So it’s not the testing or the volunteering I dislike. It’s making that damn spreadsheet. I do support their goals, and I live here. So I’m perfectly enthusiastic about continuing to do the testing. I just don’t want to have to put it into a spreadsheet. Or look up a bunch of stuff about the weather for the previous 48 hours.

      In terms of how it started, I don’t think there was a misunderstanding. I did actually just ask a question about this environmental feature, to an organization that does actually exactly the sort of work that would mean they would have the answer to my question. They got a government grant to actually study the feature that is 100 ft from my house. I just didn’t put all the details in my letter for brevity’s sake. But although they got this government grant, and did the study, which was a one-time deal, not ongoing, the general locations they cover (except for the duration of that study) stop a few miles from this particular environmental feature. Therefore, they asked me if I would do the testing, because it would extend their reach. I have no problem doing that. I am in this particular place almost every single day.

      I don’t think I was a citizen scientist pain in the behind, who was overly enthusiastic, and therefore, in order to make me go away, they said why don’t you do this testing. But that is always possible. I can certainly be overly enthusiastic. I was told they needed the data, which is exactly the kind of data they collect elsewhere, and it would help them if I provided it. So I did.

      The equipment I bought was under 50 bucks. I didn’t mind buying the equipment or learning how to use it. All I mind is doing the data entry. My mom is sick, and I’m traveling a lot back and forth, and in this experience I realized that one of the reasons I wasn’t giving them the data this time was because I abjectly hate data entry. And life is short. So what I was hoping for was a script to see how I can stop doing data entry but still continue to give them the information they want if they still want it. I intend to use Alison’s script.

      This organization, 10 years ago when I started, only had three people. An executive director, a fundraiser, and one other person. For all I know they are all volunteers. I just checked their website again, and now they are up to six people! Tiny and probably broke. And they do now have a volunteer coordinator as one of the six. So I’m going to take Alison’s advice, and all of your good advice, and contact the volunteer coordinator, using that script.

      Thanks very much for the script, and I will let you know what the volunteer coordinator says!

      Oh, and for the people who suggested I was simply non-confrontational or should have pushed back a long time ago, (or “spineless”, thanks!) I just really didn’t realize how much I hated the data entry part until my mom got sick and I didn’t want to waste my time doing it. I needed the script because if anything, I generally am pretty crabby, and I wanted to be polite. I didn’t want to say look, I hate data entry with an intense passion. I’m happy to keep testing, but I never want to look at that spreadsheet again. And I don’t want to look up the darn weather because it’s too complicated to get weather history from various websites. It’s a pain in the behind and I don’t want to do it. It is a very small community, and I don’t want to offend anyone.

      I don’t know how I would enter the data into some sort of tablet directly, because as I said, the environment does not lend itself to electronics surviving well. But I definitely will check into that further, because if they make some sort of waterproof/mudproof tablet, that would solve the whole problem! My field notebook would become an electronic notebook, and the spreadsheet would make itself.

      Oh, and I probably would continue to do the testing even if they don’t want the data anymore. I remember reading about a guy in Colorado who recorded the snowfall every year. He did it for maybe 40 years and no one ever wanted the data, but at some point all of a sudden everyone wanted the data. He just did it for his own interest. But now, with climate change and severe drought, it turns out to be extremely helpful. So I’ll probably keep doing it anyway. I just won’t give them a spreadsheet because I can’t stand it. Unless I find a waterproof tablet with a price range in my budget! Thanks to all who commented on my little problem. Very low stakes for sure. But I’m grateful to have a script.

  3. nnn*

    #3: Do you have a wedding website? They tend to become easily googleable, and you could put a link to the charity (maybe with a note about why it’s important to you) under the “Registry” link.

    That way, if co-workers want to figure out what you’d like, they’ll find this info without you having to ask them. And if they want to buy their own thing, they’ll do that anyway.

    1. Noblepower*

      And if you don’t, if anyone asks you about where you’re registered, you can use that as an opportunity to say that you prefer a donation to that charity in lieu of gifts. That happened a few times at my workplace and I believe it worked well.

      1. Green great dragon*

        If you are talking about your wedding (or about charity) you might be able to drop it into conversation that you’re doing donations rather than gifts.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I’d engineer a conversation where I could mention how family & other wedding guests are reacting to our redirecting gifts to X charity.
          My opinionated relatives provided some “interesting” quotes in the planning stages. (We didn’t register for china? Horrors.)

        2. Irish Teacher*

          That was what I was going to suggest. I don’t think it would be a good idea to say, “if you are planning to give me a gift, I’d like…,” especially as a new employee. I think in my workplace at least, a long-term, well-valued colleague saying that would possibly cause some affectionate amusement and teasing but would be respected and wouldn’t cause anybody to think less of them, but from a newer employee, it might raise more eyebrows.

          But I think it would be reasonable when talking about your wedding planning to colleagues to mention that you are asking your guests to donate to x charity instead of giving gifts. They might pass that on.

        3. Critical Rolls*

          This is the approach I would take, if you’re chatting about the wedding at all. “We went back and forth about a gift registry but we really have everything we need, so we are asking anyone who is inclined to donate to X instead. So now we have more time to overthink the seating chart instead, haha.”

        4. Olive*

          I’d strongly discourage finding a way to work this into conversation if it doesn’t come up naturally with coworkers. Unless multiple people are asking about wedding details, a new employee finding ways to bring up her wedding registry is not going to come across as professional.

          1. Happy meal with extra happy*

            But, they’re not bringing up a registry, because there is no registry?

            If OP works in a typical place, it would be absolutely normal for them to talk about their wedding now and then. (What did you do this wedding? Oh, we went to try a caterer for our wedding coming up blah blah blah.) And then, when people ask more, I think it’s fine to mention their donation idea as part of the wedding planning.

          2. Olive*

            Bringing up any type of expected gift, including donations, is not a good thing to work into conversations at a new job. Especially if none of the new coworkers were invited to the wedding.

            1. Happy meal with extra happy*

              Disagree. Some people enjoy talking about wedding plans, and I think it’s fine to include a comment about one’s idea for donations instead of gifts.

            2. Onym*

              Right and if they realize that she went out of her way to covertly slip her request for donations in the conversation, it’s going to go over poorly.

              Nudging people towards a specific gift, especially when they hadn’t indicated they wanted to give you anything and weren’t invited to the wedding, is not a good look.

    2. Rapunzel Rider*

      I was thinking that if you are close enough to your co-workers that you talk about personal things, you could make a general comment with one or two (maybe after looking at your phone like you just sent/received a message) along the lines of ‘It sure is nice to see people able to adapt to our eccentricities for the wedding. Like, we are asking to do charity donations to International Llama Rescue Foundation in lieu of gifts since we already have everything we want/need and prefer that any money people spend be something that will be used rather than items people think we will need but never get used’. Then if they would be part of the gift conversation, they could mention it but you did not explicitly tell them. You were just making random remark as far as they were concerned, especially if you make other comments about the wedding from time to time about non-gift things.

    3. Bride to Be*

      (OP here) I have a wedding website but it’s password-protected and not Googleable; people in my line of work are frequently the target of online harassment and doxxing so I am very strict in my privacy settings.
      I’ve chatted about my wedding with coworkers but I don’t see a way to bring up my registry without it sounding forced.

      1. constant_craving*

        Can you bring in a small complaint, even if it has to be manufactured? “My husband’s cousin is just insisting we make a registry even though we’ve asked for no gifts and only donations. She just won’t let it go!”

      2. Onym*

        > I don’t see a way to bring up my registry without it sounding forced.

        Then don’t. The last thing you want is to get caught or worry about it.

        I would take Allison’s advice and just be gracious about it and only mention it if someone asks.

  4. Pam*

    #2 – I always keep a backpack in my car that has a change of clothes, period supplies, a towel/washcloth and some stain stick for that kind of emergency. Plus a few other emergency supplies and a plastic bag to put the old clothes in after I’ve changed. It’s portable and most people don’t question what you’ve got in your backpack if you need to go grab it from the car during work. It’s also great for when you accidentally spill something from lunch on you right before a big important meeting.

    1. Numbat*

      #2 – I had this happen at work; marched straight out and walked a few blocks to Target where I purchased the exact same pants and underwear I bled through! I had the kind of relationship with my manager where I could just text her and be upfront about what happened.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      I taught group exercise classes for years, and usually had a bag in the trunk of my car with just enough to get through a class — music, shirt, bra, pants, drawers, old pair of sneakers, and a couple of basic toilet items (none of them my favorite items, but the ones I would be happy to see in an emergency). I added a spare cute top, and called it my “emergency workout / party bag.”

      I also have a makeup bag in my purse. It has a lot of things I use often, like lip balm, nail file, acetaminophen, et cetera. Then there are also a lot of emergency items, like hair ties and eyeliner pencil … and, in the bottom in a little pouch, spare drawers. Trust, I’ve needed all of these things a non-zero number of times.

      It’s possible LW2 doesn’t drive to work, in which case I would keep just enough spare items in a bag in a drawer at work to save me in a real pinch. Even just some basic drawers and cheap leggings or yoga pants would be enough to get me by in the emergency she describes. (This is where I throw the ones that are okay but not my favorites; I don’t miss them day to day, but am happy to have them in an emergency.)

      1. Miss V*

        I do something very similar. I have a bag with a plain black dress, black cardigan, black flats, and a change of underwear that I keep in my car. The dress is made out of one of those travel knits that you can scrunch up and then just give a quick shake and all the wrinkles fall out, so even before I had a car/desk to store it in and had to schlep everything around with me it took up almost no space in my bag.

        It’s certainly not an exciting outfit, but it’s perfectly professional and has saved me a couple of times, not just from a period related accident, but I’m also clumsy and have poured coffee down myself more times than I would like to admit. And it’s worth having an extra pair of shoes if you can, because nothing ruins my day more than stepping in a puddle from an unexpected rainstorm and having to wear wet shoes all day.

    3. BethDH*

      I keep a scarf/shawl and a tunic-length cardigan at my desk for times when I’m cold, but I have also used both to cover up clothing accidents, like the time I managed to sit on fresh bird poop during my lunch break. If this is more an anxiety for OP than something that is likely to happen given OP’s particular period onset patterns, perhaps OP would be comforted knowing they have that as an option.

      1. Miss V*

        I keep a scarf at my desk, yes for when I get cold, but mostly because I can be a messy eater. I’ve been known to throw the scarf on before lunch, especially on days where we all decided last minute to order pizza, because a scarf looks a lot more professional than a bib or tucking a napkin into your shirt. It’s also been used as a coverup when I wasn’t smart enough to put it on before lunch, and I don’t want to walk around with a giant dribble of French dressing down my front.

        1. starsaphire*

          Miss Manners and her “gaily patterned scarf” for eating messy food has always resonated with me. :)

          I also keep emergency supplies in my office drawer. A small toiletry kit (toothbrush/toothpaste, mini hairbrush and hair ties, spare knickers, feminine supplies, Tylenol, hand wipes – that sort of thing) and it all fits in a discreet little cosmetics bag that I got at the pharmacy.

          Also? Almost all the women at your work – even the ones you don’t get on with or have barely ever spoken to – have emergency stuff and will very likely loan you things if you are in need.

    4. Lauren*

      Honestly, tell men that you spilled coffee all over you and going home to change and may just work from home at that point for the day.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      I have always kept a change of clothes in my office (and a cardigan and a stain stick/Tide pen). It started because I used to work a job that sometimes required all-nighters and also looking fresh and unrumpled for a meeting/proceeding the following day, but then it also became useful in other situations (spilled an entire cup of coffee on myself and always while wearing light-colored clothing, victim of urban pigeons and their literal crap, walked around the corner and straight into someone who’d just heated up their pasta in the kitchen, etc.).

      Also, for people worried about leaks, in particular, there are reinforced underwear you can get to try to stop the leak from getting through the underwear – they’re not period underwear per se, but they’re designed to stop leaks. My kid has several pairs of them that the use for sporting events or other situations where a bathroom may not be immediately accessible.

    6. Ama*

      Also a quick tip — saline solution is excellent at removing blood stains. It will even work on dried stains (as long as you haven’t washed and dried the item already), so you can always fix it when you get home. But this tip has saved me when I’ve been traveling during my period and had limited clothing with me, I was at least able to rinse out the stain so I didn’t have to stop wearing those pants for the rest of the trip.

      You can use a bottle of contact saline solution or make your own by dissolving salt into water. (I usually just use contact solution.) The salt dissolves the protein in the stain — it actually works for a number of human/pet mess emergencies and I’ve even used it successfully on a stain from high quality chocolate ice cream (the kind that’s mostly cream and eggs).

      1. What She Said*

        Wah! How have I never heard of this? Stocking up on contact solution (I wear contacts, legit purchase).

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Oxyclean spray does wonders on dried/old stains as well. I have a kid who doesn’t pre-treat/deal with stains as the occur and I’ve been able to remove pretty much anything from them with the Oxyclean, even when I get a clothing items that been sitting stained in the laundry for a week and is dry as a bone.

    7. Smithy*

      A) those options are great and B) even if you don’t drive/have an office – having a more modified set that can fit in a desk drawer works.

      If you’re in a true hot desking option and don’t want to be coming into work with that much stuff every day – I just want to call out permission to just say you need to go home. 100% you can say you need to leave to clean up and come back. Particularly if this is a more regular issue or more of a visual oopsie than a major mess.

      That being said, in the fight or flight response – cleaning up and moving on like nothing has happened is such a common response. But I’m just here to say, it’s ok to be like “today is over, I need to go home, take a shower and start over tomorrow.”

      1. Shira VonDoom*

        yeah, I learned to keep a set of Backup Clothes after the time my zipper stuck closed in the bathroom, and I had to GO. I had to rip open my pants along the seam (much more difficult than movies/tv make it look), and then RUN to my desk after holding my pants together, put a sweater around my waist, and then tell the office manager I had to leave RIGHT NOW due to wardrobe malfunction, LOL

      2. Ask me how I know*

        Yes, absolutely! Years ago I dumped an entire bowl of freshly-heated chili, loaded with shredded cheese, into the lap of my black skirt. I cleaned up as well as possible and took the rest of the day off so I could go home and try to salvage the skirt. (Success!)

    8. WillowSunstar*

      Always keep extra supplies in my car trunk, even though I only go in one day a week. Murphy’s Law exists for a reason. Am glad we’re WFH now though, so there’s less of a chance of staining the gray chairs and having to stay late one day to try and get the stain out.

    9. Lucy P*

      I do the same. Plus, I have a toiletry kit in my desk that has a spare pair of underwear, dental hygiene items, deodorant, etc.

    10. RecentlyRetired*

      I recently found washable/reusable period/incontinence pads on Amazon. I’m past the point in my life when I need them for the first, but I wear them due to minor bladder issues. They seem to be very absorbent. They can be used on the days before you think your period is due to start and folded discretely for washing at home; eliminating the need to change clothes.

    11. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I have a “travel” skirt that can survive being balled up in the bottom of a bag or drawer that I used to keep in the car, in a bag, etc. It worked so well in any kind of clothing emergency!

      1. RunShaker*

        I’m so happy someone asked this question since it happened to me a month ago! And I have male director. Luckily my jeans were a very dark indigo wash. It was unexpected as well and freaked me out. I wear period panties when I have to be in the office as backup with tampon. Lucky for me, I’m getting my problem fixed so I’m hopeful this will be behind me. I also love all suggestions!

    12. Tammy 2*

      It’s also a good idea to have a change of clothes at work–or your car if you don’t take transit and can easily get to your parking spot–in case of a natural disaster. I work in an area that might have a very big earthquake and if I am at work when it happens I could be stuck there for days. I keep an old pair of jeans, a pair of sweatpants, hoodie, a sports bra, running shoes, spare socks and undies in a desk drawer. I picked dark jeans and black sweats for this with the idea that they might also come in handy in a period emergency.

  5. Pennyworth*

    Directing donations to your favorite charity instead of gifts can rub people up the wrong way if it is not a charity they favor. I recently went to a funeral of a friend who had died of cancer, and told his widow I would like to make a donation in his name to a charity related to his type of cancer. She told me she only wanted donations to their church, which is not an organization I would ever donate to.

    1. Not Australian*

      Which, of course, doesn’t prevent you making any donation you like in honour of your friend…

      1. RagingADHD*

        But in that case you would not want a memorial card sent to the widow (as charities often do for gifts in memoriam). It would be a direct snub.

    2. ED123*

      Could it be considered like a gift registry? Strongly encouraged to get from the list but you can buy off the list. Donations to the chosen charity is encouraged but you can donate to somewhere else.

    3. MK*

      And that rubbed you the wrong way? Why? Unless she was rude about it, there is nothing wrong with mentioning where one would prefer donations to go.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I think telling people that you don’t want their gift/donation in their name, and only want them to spend money on this other thing instead is sort of rude per se (in Euro/American culture at least). There’s a small margin to tell people tactfully what one would prefer, but “oh no, I don’t want that, I *only* want this” generally is considered rude. One cannot dictate what other people spend their money on when they aren’t obligated to spend money at all.

        Especially as cancer charities aren’t generally controversial, or interpreted negatively if one appears on a donor list (unlike churches).

        1. MK*

          Telling someone you don’t want a specific gift is considered rude, that’s true. However, usually people don’t announce that they will get you a gift, the just give it to you, and then it’s on you to accept graciously, even if you don’t like it. In the cases that they do tell you beforehand what they plan to do, in my view it’s implied that they are inviting some input. Of course, “oh no, I don’t want that, I *only* want this” is kind of rude, but “actually, if you are going to make a donation, I would want it to be to X” isn’t. Or you know, you can just tell the other person that you made a donation; or, if it’s in memoriam, just make it and not tell anyone.

          1. Heather927*

            You’re ignoring the context, I’m assuming intentionally considering it’s been brought up twice and you’ve ignored it both times. Asking for a religious donation is on the same side of things as asking for a political one. Lots of people will feel uncomfortable financially supporting one they don’t agree with. Especially when it’s not even ‘this specific religious charity’ but ‘my church that I go to.’

            I don’t blame the widow ‘cause, you know, her husband just died and she’s obviously grieving. I’d imagine her church gave her a lot of support at the time, and it’s fair that she wanted to give back. But it is generally an inappropriate place to ask people to donate to in this sort of context, because it’s inherently and obviously controversial.

            1. Happy meal with extra happy*

              They not ignoring the context. The original commenter specifically brought up the donation idea; they weren’t solicited for a donation. And, as MK said, the level of rudeness from the friend depends on how exactly she said her preference for a church donation.

            2. ferrina*

              I agree that asking for a religious donation is akin to asking for a political one. You need to know your audience. If it’s a group that you already know is on the same page as you (if you’re talking to someone who holds the same religious/political beliefs), there’s no issue. But if you aren’t sure or you know they hold different beliefs, it’s good to offer them an alternative.

              To say “The way you show you care about me is to give money to a cause you don’t’ agree with” isn’t kind or thoughtful, especially when it’s so easy to come up with an alternative that doesn’t alienate people (i.e., cancer research foundations).

              1. MK*

                Hmm, I would agree that it’s inappropriate to tell someone you would like a donation to an organization you know (or can safely assume) they disagree with. If Pennyworth had actually discussed their non-support of this church at some point with the widow, it was bad of her to suggest this. But I don’t know that I would go as far as to say you should be certain they also support the cause.

                1. ferrina*

                  I should add that I don’t know if the friend was rude or just a bit clueless (I’ve met plenty of otherwise-nice people who assume other folks have similar values to them. They’re nice when corrected, but the initial conversation is awkward and a bit frustrating).

                  Should also clarify that I don’t think it was bad for the friend to suggest donating to the church (sorry if I implied that!). I just think it was gauche for her to only include the church and no other options.

            3. MK*

              I am not ignoring the context, intentionally or not. You, on the other hand, are ignoring the point I am making, which is that no one asked the person in the original comment for a donation, or anything else for that matter. They, of their own free will, approached this woman and told her they wanted to make a donation; they opened the conversation and, in my opinion, made it acceptable for the other person to express a preference.

              Also, I see nothing inappropriate about asking people to donate to something you believe in, political or not, as long as you aren’t overbearing about it. If these people don’t want to give their ficancial support there, they don’t have to do it, but it’s unreasonable to take exception to even being asked, when they preseumably know your beliefs (and if they don’t, it’s good for them to find out).

    4. ecnaseener*

      Idk, if the donation is in lieu of a gift, it doesn’t seem rude at all to say “the only gift we want is a donation to this charity.” Like with a gift registry, you can ignore it if you really want!

      It’s a little different in your example because the gift is in your friend’s honor, not his widow’s, and you can’t ask him. But with a wedding, the would-be recipients are telling you where they would like to funnel the gift money.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Gift registries are usually shared without asking. This is in lieu of a gift registry. I’m baffled that people think it’s somehow ruder.

    5. Smithy*

      I think in general – gifts or marking any life event inevitably brings up etiquette questions. I work in nonprofit fundraising on the private institution side, so not directly with small personal donations. When my dad passed away, my boss asked about charitable donations made in his name and if there were any preferred charities. I replied by mentioning the nonprofit where he had volunteered. While it wasn’t where I worked, it also wasn’t a direct competitor nor a nonprofit with any ideas or values in contrast to where we worked.

      To this day I feel like I messed up and should have just said that a donation could have been made in his name to where we worked. That I answered too personally, that making a more professionally political move would have been smarter for that job and that team.

      Ultimately it was one of those chaotic neutral choices… didn’t actively hurt me but I 100% know it didn’t help me. And for that team, I would share my experience as an FYI. I think unless you’ve seen wedding gifts at work – and it’s something like giving a nice bottle of champagne and you don’t drink….I’d really advocate for not speak up.

      1. Panhandlerann*

        Hmm–I don’t see anything wrong at all with directing donations to the nonprofit where your dad had worked (instead of to your own workplace). Why would your boss see anything negative about that at all?

    6. Esprit de l'escalier*

      I live in a notch of the Bible Belt and I read the local obituaries. It’s pretty common for people to request memorial donations to their church, although sometimes they’ll also suggest a medical cause or animal welfare or some other not-their-church charity.

  6. Artemesia*

    The vaguer the description of the personal emergency to the boss ‘that requires going home to change clothes’, the more embarrassing. Yeah. If this is your fear, always keep a spare pair of pants in the office — actually not a bad idea anyway. YOu should always have a pair of shoes you can walk 20 miles in in the office, and a outer garment like a rain poncho (911 when a friend had to fee Manhattan in heels made this my rule). A pair of pants is not a bad other basic here.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I’ve done a surprise ~6 miles when there was an undergeound/light rail failure and I thought it looked like a nice walk. I was wearing well-worn-in Birkenstocks, which are about as comfortable and supportive as summer shoes can be, but nothing short of proper walking boots and decent socks is going to be comfortable on mile 6 on a hot day!

          1. chips and scraps*

            I have a pair of magic flip-flops that can do 10 miles – really, MAGIC – but I don’t think I’ve got anything good for 20 miles at this point, having given away my old hiking boots.

      1. doreen*

        Is it that you don’t think you could walk 20 miles or you don’t have any shoes suitable to walk that far – it’s not the same thing. There’s no way I could walk 20 or even 10 miles uninterrupted- but I have shoes that I could walk 20 miles in. Sneakers and walking shoes rather than the heels and flats I wore to work.

        1. WillowSunstar*

          During at least 3 months of the year where I live, you could not walk 20 miles outside nonstop without seriously risking frost bite, even 10 miles, due to it being below freezing temperatures. Not to mention, often there are lots of icy sidewalks/roads where you could slip and sprain something (happened to me years ago and I have a permanent bad back as a result). That being said, I do think people should think about and plan ahead what they would do in case of a fire or other emergency at work, and keep supplies in their car trunks/desk/locker/whatever just in case.

        2. bamcheeks*

          I mean, I guess it depends on the level of urgency! I usually wear trainers, mid-heeled boots or Doc Martens or Birkenstocks that I can certainly do 10k steps in. If I was forced to flee a natural disaster, I’m pretty sure I’d manage 20 miles. But the only footwear I’d actively choose to walk 20 miles in is well-worn-in hiking boots!

        3. bamcheeks*

          (I do understand the broader point about having footwear you can walk a decent distance in, I just thought 20 miles was a bit of an extreme example!)

      2. I have RBF*

        I couldn’t walk 20 miles, period. I’m disabled, but don’t use a wheelchair. My walking distance is a max of half a mile, regardless of what shoes I’m wearing.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Has reminded me to see about getting a backup walking aid in case of mine breaking/getting stolen at work.

          Never thought about it.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Similar lesson from earthquake or tornado country: Sneakers or hiking boots, with a clean pair of socks tucked inside EACH shoe. (The second one for when you step in a puddle –or want to help someone whose blisters popped.

        People don’t necessarily walk home all in one shot, but you do want something comfortable enough to walk a mile or two then repeat after a rest if you haven’t gotten to working public transit.

      4. Chinookwind*

        It is also context relevant. Around here, in winter, you need to make sure you can walk anywhere safely if you car/bus gets stuck because the alternative is that you need to ensure you can stay put safely until help arrives and not freeze. Both alternatives involve good boots, a warm coat, mitts, gloves and a hat (and snow pants if you are highway driving because the length of the walk could be unknown). Sure, an outfit might look good with dress shoes but you always carry those while wearing the big, warm boots in the vehicle.

      5. linger*

        At a bare minimum, emergency shoes need to last a sufficient distance to get to a shoe shop. (Once had a pair unexpectedly disintegrate as I arrived at an overseas conference, 2km from the nearest shoe shop and 30 minutes before closing time. I only just made it, speed-shuffling after quick use of an office stapler to temporarily reattach the soles. Got very strange looks on saying my shoes “exploded on the plane”.)

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Nowhere near the 9/11 example, but I’m grateful to the colleague who took one look at my high heels on my first day of my post-college job working on the 25th floor and suggested I keep a pair of flats in my drawer for fire drills.

    2. Melissa*

      Not 20 miles but I did have to walk for hours after an earthquake once! Thank goodness I was in flat shoes that day— and since that day, if I’m wearing heels I always bring a pair of tennis shoes in my bag or car. Just in case!

      1. Capybarely*

        Caveat that having your emergency supplies in your car won’t help if you can’t get to your car.
        I’m NOT a fan of trying to prepare for every contingency, but in an earthquake etc, your car is unlikely to be accessible, so having walkable shoes and any other *for emergencies* supplies in your desk is the way to go.
        Nice-to-haves are in the car, glad-to-haves are in the office, and absolute need-to-haves (epi-pen, phone) stay on my person.

    3. Rosemary*

      After the NYC Blackout of 200? I (along with several other women) ended up buying flip flops from a nail salon to walk the 40+ blocks home. They had set up shop outside the salon to sell them, which I thought was genius. And they didn’t even price gouge!

    4. Office Lobster DJ*

      Had to do a surprise 3 miles home once and was glad for sneakers, and back-up bad weather gear has kept me comfortable (umbrella, hat, gloves) or safe (Yaktrax) more than once.

      That’s how I stock my own emergency work supplies: What would keep me comfortable to ride out the workday or in one piece until I can get home?

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, I feel like I’d rather someone know it was my period than possibly think I like… peed or pooped in my pants? And I also agree that if this is something that you worry about *frequently* then keeping spares on hand is the best bet. I’m a big fan of keeping “emergency” stuff at your desk if you have space for it. When I was in the office before I had a spare rainjacket, umbrella and a pair of sandals in a drawer in case of unexpected rain or in case I wore new shoes to the office that I thought were comfortable and then turned out not to be after a few hours lol.

    6. Heather*

      Seconded. “Sorry, minor emergency, I have to run home quickly but I’ll be back in an hour” could mean almost anything (that plumber who told me she’d come tomorrow just called and said she’s coming now instead, someone’s locked themselves out, I just remembered I took something out of the freezer to defrost in the fridge but accidentally left it on the counter, etc etc). Any reference to needing to change clothes evokes bathroom accidents and is really unnecessary.

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is where being a public transit commuter comes in handy. I always wear sneakers on the train/walking from the station to the office, and I always have my tote with the basic first aid kit, a bottle of water, extra masks, reading material for the train ride, a cell phone battery charger, etc.

      I have had to walk home from DC twice – once on 9/11 and a second time when there was a rare earthquake about 10 years ago and no way in hell was I getting on the metro and going under the river until we knew if the ground-shaking was done.

    8. DataSci*

      If you have an emergency “I need to walk home” kit including walking shoes, you need good socks. I had these when I worked in downtown DC. It was 10 miles from home, I could walk in a “the city is locked down, transit is shut down” emergency, but not in thin socks. Those plus a couple granola bars and a first aid kit lived in my desk for multiple jobs.

  7. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    I wish I had kept a spare pair of pants in my car when I once had the inseam of my trousers split open from knee to crotch. Luckily, I was working very close to home and was able to get there and back quickly.

    I currently work from home, but I’m going to make note of this should I end up in a position in the future where I work in an office again. I think having supplies like that at the ready is a really great idea and should help with the anxiety surrounding whatever sort of wardrobe malfunction could come up.

    1. Mark-eh-Ted*

      I’ve had pants split before. It’s so embarrassing. I was getting into a higher-up SUV to go to lunch with a car full of colleagues. I underestimated how high I’d have to lift my leg up and over to clear the door sill and totally blew the crotch out of my structured-slimmer fit dress pants (read: absolutely no stretch in the material). Thankfully my boxers were very close in color, but the sound was clearly heard by all as it tore up the seam and into the fabric to the fly.

      Always made sure to buy pants with a little more stretch, and offered to drive myself anytime that coworker pulled up in his jeep.

    2. ferrina*

      I constantly have safety pins with me. This originally started in my goth phase in high school, but I found them so useful that I now always keep some somewhere nearby.

    3. Artemesia*

      Years ago my best friend was on a flight from London to Seattle with her 12 year old twins and the man behind them heaved over the back of the seat on take off all over one of the boys. The guy was moved to first class and fussed over — poor poor man — by the FA but the kid covered in it got no help or attention. They didn’t hve spare clothes and it was a tough flight for this kid. I think Mom gave him her sweater.

      Since then I always have a change of clothes in my carry on on flights. Shirt, underwear and very lightweight pair of pants. I check luggage on international flights and so this set of basics in the backpack also assures that with lost luggage I can make it through a day or two.

      1. Mark-eh-Ted*

        I have such a fear of luggage getting lost that I have spare undergarments in both my laptop backpack and my carryon. The thought of getting vomited on has never crossed my mind but makes me want to fly in my poncho (also in my computer bag).

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          My mom is a military kid and taught us to always have a set of pajamas, two clean pairs of underwear, and a spare set of clothes in our carry on. When I became a parent I added two gallon sized ziploc bags to that list so that compromised clothing can be quarantined :)

      2. Relentlessly Socratic*

        This reminds me that I probably still have (clean) spare makeup, grundies, and socks in my carry-on backpack from my last business trip. In December 2019….

    4. I have RBF*

      I have “stress based incontinence.” If I cough, or even laugh hard, I leak. I wear “granny pads” (Always).

      When I was in an office, I always had spare pads and spare underwear in my desk, and if I had a locker I had a complete change of clothes, down to the socks and underthings, as well as a couple bottles of water. I also have a pair of shoes, socks and underpants in my car.

      I learned the hard way.

      1. Chinookwind*

        My mother has the same problem and I turned her on to “period underwear” as a way to reduce the waste. (Knix was actually designed by a post-partum woman who was having similar issues). The initial investment as more than she normally pay for underwear but it saved her in the long run (no more granny pads) and she could keep a spare in her purse with a plastic bag for the switch out.

        So, for someone who is paranoid about having some type of issue at work, this might be a good alternative for every day wear. You still are wearing cloth (not disposable) but they give you an ease of mind for catching leaks. As well, in my experience, they are so much more breathable and comfortable.

  8. Turanga Leela*

    OP #2, if you ever have to change your clothes because of your period, it’s fine to say, “I suddenly feel very sick and I need to go home.” You don’t need to be more specific. And personally, framing things as illness would feel less embarrassing for me, although it’s hard to articulate why.

    And yes, if you have a private place to keep things at work, definitely keep a spare pair of pants there! I keep a ton of things in my office–at various points, I’ve had a dress and spare tights, a blazer, scarves, a first aid kit, and like three pairs of shoes.

    1. amoeba*

      Well, yes, but if she’s planning to come back to work after changing clothes, that won’t work? Would probably just go with a white lie (“spilled my coffee/lunch”) type of thing. Had to do it once and in my case it was easy because I work in a lab, so just said I had contaminated my clothing with chemicals…

    2. SarahKay*

      Yes, I take the bus to work, but have a decent sized drawer I can keep stuff in.
      Currently I have a t-shirt (in case site gets too warm), a jersey (in case site gets very cold – our heating/air-con is aged and unreliable), two pairs of work shoes plus one pair of flat shoes I can walk in, shoe polish, a pair each of sheer black and neutral tights, a pair of socks, tampons and sanitary towels, a small towel, a washcloth, deodorant and a make-up kit.
      And since perimenopause is playing havoc with my periods (they’ve suddenly gone incredibly heavy) it occurs to me that adding a spare pair of trousers would be a very good idea.

    3. Ada*

      This happened to me once. My commute was longish and I had things I needed to get done so I planned to work from home the rest of the day instead of spending ~2 hours driving back and forth. I *tried* to keep my explanation as to why I had to suddenly leave vague, but my manager kept pestering me for details until I got to the point that I just told him straight out, “I tried a new menstrual product and it failed. Spectacularly.” I think he regretted pressuring me for details. He let me go after that.

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

        makes me think of what happened to my mom. She was going through perimenopause and had irregular periods. She worked someplace where everyone was required to take breaks at the same time (nursing home/hospital cleaning staff). She went to her car to get a pad and was gone for no more than 5 minutes. Her boss cornered her and yelled at her for taking breaks early. She threw the (clean) pad in his face and said she just got her pad and would he rather she use the medical supplies instead. The ways she explained it was that He was so embarrassed that he turned beat red and didn’t talk to her the rest of the day.

    4. Captain Swan*

      I used to have two plastic stacking drawers that I kept a variety of fancy heels in to wear around the office. Then I could wear dressy sneaker style shoes or flats to commute in. (public transit).

      In this OP’s specific situation, I did actually have it happen once. I told my closest female coworker/friend that I needed to run home to change clothes. I only lived 10 minutes away from that job so I was back in a hour. Too bad it was a March 14th (Pi Day) and I was wearing a distinctive dress with Greek symbols in it for the occasion. There was a meeting I was running in the afternoon so I didn’t have the option of not coming back. No one said one word about the wardrobe change when I got back. After that I kept a few additional items handy in case of a second incident.

  9. Decidedly Me*

    OP4 – I say the same thing at the end of interviews and have never had anyone send me a zillion questions. I don’t think there is any need to change what you’re doing, as it will likely never happen again and most people appreciate the option to send over a question or two afterwards.

    1. Camelid coordinator*

      I say the same thing after interviews. When I would get short questions that I could answer quickly with facts or a link to a policy website I would. When I got more of a strategic question I basically gave the answer Allison suggested. It makes me glad to see that!

    2. Cait*

      It sounds like maybe the candidate Googled “Questions to ask at an interview” and thought “OMG! These are great questions and I didn’t ask them! Let me copy and paste them into this email and hit send!”. But unless they were really interested in hearing the answer (things like dress code can definitely wait until an offer has been made), they should’ve been more discerning.

    3. Mark-eh-Ted*

      I realize this is a unique example, and the LW may not do this, but considering how commonplace assignments are now in the interview process (along with umpteen # of interviews), I am struck by how taken back LW is about being asked questions.

      Even if it was 10-12 questions, I understand that would require a time investment on your end, but you’re requesting a time investment of the candidates to have answers for questions you may not even ask. The candidate has a right to information they need to determine fit on their end.

      I’ve hired before, and I know it’s a time-consuming process. So LW has my sympathy, but obviously, I’ve applied/interviewed for roles before, and that’s always consumed way more time per role than hiring for one, especially when projects get requested.

      1. OP4*

        That’s a really important point. I try hard to be mindful of respecting candidates’ time and keeping the process as streamlined as possible (no assignments!), but I agree that too often hiring managers don’t see the process as a two-way street and have candidates jump through way too many senseless hoops.

        At the same time, I’d never go back to a candidate and say, “Oh, here are 10 things I should’ve asked you when we met.”

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I think it also makes a difference that the questions were very in-depth and would be better as a conversation than an email, vs 10 questions about small details that could easily be answered by email or by giving a copy of the handbook.

        2. Park Bee*

          I wonder how much experience this person has interviewing, especially for certain types of roles? There’s a lot of literal thinkers, and you literally asked them to send you any questions. They might not know the sub-textual language of working. Of course OP and the commenters of this site wouldn’t respond that way because many of us have had experience interviewing well enough to land the job (where we can then read on this website every day….)

          I also wonder how they generally are able to work and think on their feet. I wonder if this person didn’t think of anything at the time, but thought of a bunch of questions later and decided to ask them all. “It doesn’t hurt to ask”, right? “There are no stupid questions”, right?

          I also wonder if that is their attempt at showing they were listening and engaged by asking pertinent follow up questions. Just at a later time.

          As an educator, I see and work with all of these different styles of thinking and interpretations,

          Perhaps clarifying your statement from “If you think of any other questions or anything else you want me to know about you, definitely feel free to reach out.” to “If you have a couple more questions or anything else you want me to know about you, definitely feel free to reach out.” might be helpful. It doesn’t change much of what you say, but it does provide a key clue for those who might be figuring it out.

          1. anon for this*

            Yes, and (as an autistic educator) I also wonder if the question and “reading of subtext” expectation plays out in an equitable way for, say, neurodivergent applicants who can’t read that subtext or who haven’t been exposed to deliberate job coaching and interview scripts.

            I know, for example, that OP4’s comment didn’t literally mean I should send 10 in-depth questions via email afterwards, but I also got a lot of exposure to/explicit training on professional interview norms in high school and college. But my autistic cousin, who is equally capable but has not had that coaching, might not know that.

            I’m not sure if that makes a difference in the end, but my immediate thought when Alison mentioned subtext was…oh no. And just a sinking feeling. And I’m pretty good at professional subtext for an autistic person. I know in my current position there are efforts to remove as much of that from the hiring process as possible in order to make it more equitable. And I know the question is ultimately pretty innocuous, so it’s probably not the biggest concern. But I wonder if it could be clarified a little bit to help folks who might have that “subtext” gap succeed, or at least not shoot themselves in the foot.

    4. Antilles*

      I agree. This is a one-off thing and you really shouldn’t change your typical methods to deal with a complete unicorn.

      1. linger*

        Candidate probably read OP4’s invitation for followup questions as a hint that “I will impress more as a candidate if I have more questions!!!”, so responding with a dozen questions = Gumption. Not necessarily a red flag by itself, but it’s generally candidates that feel they need to compensate for some other lack who will overreact in this way. And indeed, OP4 says this was already not one of their strongest candidates.
        Given OP4 will not be moving forward with this candidate, they can be as selective as they like about answering those questions (perhaps with a note about having “selected the most relevant questions”), if they feel inclined to answer any. Questions about details of the position don’t need an answer beyond the standard “Thank you for your interest in our position; unfortunately other candidates were more qualified on this occasion” rejection opening — which makes those details moot.

  10. CivilServant*

    I’ve had to go home multiple times for “wardrobe malfunctions”—usually a seam rupturing (I’m a fat man, and they give out). In some cases, I lived too far from work to even attempt to come back—so just “something’s come up, I need the rest of the day off, see you tomorrow.”

    1. Excel-sior*

      I had the same thing once, had my trousers split from fly to thigh. As I don’t drive, a 1.5 hour return trip home on buses and trains was out of the question. Fortunately i was close with my team and a coworker drove me down to the local Tesco to buy a cheap replacement pair.

    2. My Dear Wormwood*

      I spilled a whole vial of a study participant’s blood in my lap once. Had to shower and then lurk in the disabled access/shower room till someone ran across to the hospital and begged some scrubs for me. Thankfully no-one needed it in that time!

    3. Split*

      A few weeks ago I had to deadlift a heavy box at work and as I stood up I heard a “POP”. It was the inseam of my jeans giving out.

    4. I have RBF*

      Back when I bought women’s pants/jeans, I found out that they aren’t made as well as men’s by the simple expedient of my entire upper inseam just… failing. I had to squat and reach under a table for some shipping supplies, and rrrrriiiiippp! The jeans were only 6 months old.

      Safety pins held the worst together, and it was close to quitting time, so I just stuck it out. No underwear exposure, but still annoying. I was glad I had driven in that day, rather than taking the train.

    5. linger*

      I kept a sewing kit in my office. Was very useful the day I split a side seam open to the hip on a bus seat armrest at the end of my commute in.

  11. Anon for this*

    I know bleeding through feels like a nightmare anxiety scenario, but when it happens in reality, it’s not that big a deal. Most people are sympathetic–even if they don’t personally menstruate, adults are aware of periods and know that sometimes leaks happen. Ask for what you need (time to go home and change? half an hour in the bathroom to spot clean and dry your pants? for them to not question the sweater tied around your waist? you know what’s most possible and necessary for your circumstances, ask for that) and you’ll probably get it. Anyone who gives you a hard time about this kind of incident is being a real jerk.

    1. LG*

      In my experience with this problem, most women were sympathetic, and the few men I worked with didn’t want to know about it. (I’m one of those people with an extra pair of pants for exactly that reason.)

      1. Anon for this*

        It’s definitely more comfortable to talk to a woman about it–you’re right that most men don’t want the details. But that not wanting to know usually comes with a clear “whatever you need, go for it, you don’t need to tell me any more about it” vibe, unless the guy in question is a total jerk. Which was enough sympathy for me! I didn’t really want to talk about it either, I just wanted to get what I needed and get out of there.

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

          Until you get that one male boss who thinks women can hold their periods, or that women bleed intentionally, or the boundless other things you hear about on bad women’s anatomy reddit.

          1. P.*

            A friend’s husband, who was previously married and had children through both marriages still thought women could hold their periods.

          2. SadieMae*

            I had a micromanaging male boss who would ask me in annoyance why I was taking my purse to the bathroom: “If you’re just going to the bathroom, you don’t need your purse!” I started tucking tampons into my pocket (or, if I didn’t have pockets, into my bra) to basically smuggle them into the bathroom.

            Probably I should have just carried the tampon in my hand and when he objected (which he *definitely* would have) I could have said with a perplexed air, “But, sir, I thought you didn’t want me taking my purse to the bathroom?” But I was very young and didn’t have the guts to do something like that then.

      2. Phryne*

        Maybe I’m getting biased info on this, (it does include two people I know directly who dated American men at one point) but the attitude of grown men in the US towards menstruation seems very childish. I cannot imagine my male coworkers going ‘eww, please keep it away form me’ over something natural that happens to 50% of the population including their wives and daughters.
        Not that I would discuss the details with them unasked for, just that I am sure they can manage to accept the reality of female exitance like an adult.

        1. SarahKay*

          I’m in the UK, and keep tampons in my desk drawer. At my last site I had a male co-worker who was definitely of the ‘eww, gross’ type. He suggested I should keep them in my locker, where he couldn’t possibly see them if he needed to borrow a pen. He then followed that up by asking “How would you feel if I kept condoms in my drawer?” !!!
          I was very scathing about the comparative need for tampons vs condoms at work.
          Oh, and this was a married man with a (small) daughter – I can only hope he grows up before she’s old enough to need period supplies.

            1. SarahKay*

              Well, I was in my mid-forties at that point and by then I had no f’s to give on this one, so much better me than someone younger or less willing to push back and normalise it.

              Also, it’s possible I specifically keep tampons in my drawer because I know that it will put off a good portion of men from looking further – and since my site then was about 90% men this was remarkably effective at stopping my stationery from wandering off ;-)

              1. I have RBF*

                Also, it’s possible I specifically keep tampons in my drawer because I know that it will put off a good portion of men from looking further – and since my site then was about 90% men this was remarkably effective at stopping my stationery from wandering off ;-)

                LOL! I had never considered that as a theft deterrent…

        2. bamcheeks*

          There was a letter here about someone who got reprimanded because their colleague had seen sanitary towels in their CAR and was disgusted! Very very weird.

          1. Appletini*

            Don’t we have several letters like that? The one where the LW had a package of pads on a shelf and her (male) boss blew up at her and wrote her up, the one where the LW’s niece’s boss fired her for needing to use the bathroom to deal with her period, and so on and so forth.

        3. H2*

          Nah, the vast majority of American men would be mature about that. I’m struggling to think of any man of my acquaintance who would say anything other than “Oh, that sucks, so what you need to do.”

          I’m sure there are some immature jerks around, just as there are in all areas of the world.

        4. ScruffyInternHerder*

          My couple decades of life experience on this topic indicates you’re not wrong here. The overwhelming childishness/prudishness on the topic of menstruation is ridiculous, and a lot of it comes from men.

          1. La Triviata*

            I’ve heard stories from women that bosses wanted to know why they couldn’t “hold it” until after a meeting.

        5. RagingADHD*

          IME, most men I have encountered who prefer a cone of silence about menstruation at work are just trying very hard to give privacy and respect, rather than being personally grossed out.

          It is more common for men to be aware of or discuss periods with a romantic partner or family member, so it seems very personal & intimate in a way that is not appropriate at work.

          1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

            I also feel like it falls under the “please keep this not so graphic because we are at work” thing. I’m a woman who will discuss my period with my coworker, but I’m not being too graphic about it. I’d also consider illness (please do not tell me about what happened when you ate bad shrimp) and/or some other body function that aren’t shameful, but potentially gross, to fall into that category. We all do these things at some point in our lives- we can just be discrete about it.

            For what it’s worth, the only time I had to tell a man I had a pants emergency due to a period, he waved me off and was like, “Just do what you need!” but I think that had to do more with him not wanting specific details and having dealt with plenty of female coworkers before, rather than him being weirded out by periods.

        6. NotAnotherManager!*

          It really is ridiculous, and I hear it from women, too. I accidentally scorched my menstrual cup once (forgot about it while boiling to sanitize), and my spouse was going to be near a store that sold the brand I have as part of his routine day. My mother was horrified that I asked my husband to pick one up for me; my husband treated it no differently than if I’d asked him to pick up some milk or bread and also hung out in the aisle long enough to text me picture of the packages to make sure he got the right one and wait for a response. I believe my MIL also made a comment to my spouse about our child leaving their box of pads next to the toilet rather than hiding them from view, which he shut down immediately.

          I’m not living with someone grossed out by my natural bodily functions; his does some gross things too.

          1. turquoisecow*

            We were on vacation once and i unexpectedly got my period. We had our small child with us at the time and Husband was still anxious about going into large supermarkets due to Covid, but we needed other stuff and once of us needed to stay with the baby, who was sleeping. I asked him to get supplies for me and he had no problem. Service for text messages in the store was S L O W so he called me from the aisle to confirm what I wanted. No drama about it and no other issues. We have a daughter and it will benefit all three of us if he can be as helpful to her when she gets to puberty as I am.

        7. turquoisecow*

          I think 90% of the men I’ve known have been of the kindly sympathetic at a distance variety. I’ve never wanted to overshare on the topic (I’ve been blessed to not have a really traumatic experience with menstruating.) so maybe that’s why?

          I did have one coworker who asked me why I was making faces all shift and I said “if you must know, I’m having terrible cramps.” He freaked out like I had thrown a used tampon at him or something. He had a girlfriend at the time and I guess she never talked about it? I lost touch with him but last I heard he was married with a small child and working as a phlebotomist so I hope he got over himself but I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t.

      3. ferrina*

        This has been my experience too.
        With a woman, I’ve gotten sympathetic look and often an offer of supplies–sanitary supplies, pain relievers or both. One office had three different women who each supplied a different type of pain reliever, and even the occasional man would take them up when they were having muscle pain or something.
        With a man, I say, “it’s a female monthly thing….” and have immediately gotten a permissive wave and permission to “take care of it.” I think once a junior staffer made a ridiculous comment (can’t even remember what is was), and I laughed and said “yeah, that’s not how bodies work. Might want to Google it.” The junior staffer turned to a male colleague (who was also snickering), and the male colleague confirmed. I don’t know who Junior thought a guy was the best resource on a female body, but the colleague handled it beautifully- he confirmed and deferred right back to me as a better expert.

        1. Artemesia*

          The average man thinks women pee from their vagina so not surprised they have misinformation about periods.

    2. WS*

      I had PCOS with irregular, sudden and very, very heavy periods for years, and never had any workplace problems (high school was a different matter!). When I was working far from home I kept spare pads and pants in the car; when I was close to home I occasionally had to duck home. Honestly, it was all quite civilised apart from the sudden outbursts of blood.

    3. Jackalope*

      Worst experience with this: I was in my mid 20’s and on a day at my job where I worked in multiple locations. Because of this (and the fact that I was on public transportation), I would leave in the morning and be gone until evening, with no good way to get home in the middle. I had a day where I didn’t bring enough feminine hygiene supplies with me. While in the middle of teaching a class to a group comprised entirely of teenage boys, I discovered that I’d bled all the way through everything and left noticeable blood on the (thankfully black) chair. I don’t know if any of the boys noticed (I grabbed my sweatshirt and tied it around my waist as quickly as possible), but I was MORTIFIED. The chair at least was faux leather and so didn’t absorb anything, but STILL.

    4. Rebecca*

      I work in a place where I can’t leave to go change clothes without warning – I’m a teacher, and supervision is a safety issue. I’ve only left in the middle of the day without warning once, and it was because I was physically unable to carry on and my being the supervisor in the room was more dangerous than not having one. I have stayed at school when I wasn’t well enough to teach but we still needed an adult body in the room, and I put on a movie and sat at my desk. A period mess would be a reason every teacher in the staff room was helpful, but not a valid reason to leave a class unattended.

      I did also bleed through my pants at school once. Luckily, I worked at a boarding school and my classroom assisstant lived on campus, and she ran to her room to give me a skirt to loan me for the rest of the day. And that’s what taught me to always have emergency supplies and ALSO to make sure I always have emergency supplies for students. Obviously I can’t have clothes and underwear for all of them, but they all know where the pads in the room are kept.

      I’ve worked at both ends of the squeamish spectrum in terms of men who are immature about it. I have indeed worked with male teachers who didn’t like that I kept pads in a shared classroom or announced where they were, who didn’t like that the boys in the classroom also heard and knew about it, or who didn’t like that I openly talked about it with parents – but they weren’t the majority, and weren’t loud enough to make any policies actually change. When I taught sex ed to 10 year olds, I intentionally did not split the boys and girls up for the first lesson on periods (the girls did get a private class later to ask questions, but everybody got the first lesson and the diagrams), and some of the parents in the class were squeamish around their sons learning about it – but not the majority.

      I had one memorable case where a 10 year old girl failed a math test and really started spiralling. Her dad wrote me an anguished dissertation on all the reasons she could be missing study sessions and crying in class – it was 3 heartfelt pages long, and it ended with him deciding to ban screens and cut his hours at work. The girl’s mum saw me the next day and said “Did he tell you she got her period last week?”

      All to say: yeah, some men can be super squeamish, not always intentionally (that girl’s dad was realllllly trying), but I do see it getting better and changing, and I’m heartened that our next generation won’t have as much of the immaturity around periods to deal with.

      1. BlueSwimmer*

        Teacher/Department Chair here.

        I keep a basic black “broomstick skirt” in my closet at work- one of of those very flowing, full skirts with a super stretchy elastic waist that fits almost everyone. It has been worn by many members of my department for periods, spills, and split pants emergencies since we can’t just leave and run home. I also have emergency lunch items, bandaids, tampons, Advil, Pepto Bismol, Tums, deodorant, and comfy shoes on hand. My department calls me “Walgreens” as a joke.

    5. Harper the Other One*

      I’ve got to say, not only do people tend to handle it reasonably well, but also younger generations seem to be even more understanding IME. And that will get more so as the next generation goes to work, I think; my oldest son is now 14 and I don’t think he’d even blink an eye except to say “oh, that sucks, what do you need?”

      1. nona*

        Which have the same issue as any of the other products – you have to pick the level of absorption you are going to need that day. And if you don’t pick the right kind for the day you’re having (or you are surprised when something starts), you can still bleed through.

  12. Jamtoday*

    LW #2: This exact scenario happened to me in my first adult job out of college. I laid it out for my manager since she was a woman and I thought she would empathize. Boy was I wrong! She denied me permission to go home to change and was borderline cruel about the situation. My roommate ended up driving a pair of pants to my office and I changed in the restroom-insert eye roll- Now I would just say I’m feeling very unwell and need to go home. If sick time or unpaid time isn’t an option, I’d keep a pair of inexpensive black pants in an office drawer or in your car.

    1. philmar*

      I usually see this response in male-dominated industries, where any specifically female weakness undermines all women, i.e. it will be taken as an example for why women shouldn’t be in this industry (always getting their periods!! getting pregnant to get out of things!! having crying emotions instead of yelling emotions!!). In response, women are harder on fellow women. This sucks, obviously, but I would definitely be wary of assuming women will be sympathetic to period issues just because they’re women.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        “Crying emotions instead of yelling emotions!!” Perfectly said.

        “Women are so emotional and irrational!” complains man who gets road rage and leans on his horn every time he’s stuck in traffic.

      2. SpringIsForPlanting!*

        Oh man, thank you for “having crying emotions instead of yelling emotions.” I will find myself re-using that, I think.

      3. IDIC believer*

        As a woman, I definitely had my moments over 30 yrs of periods. There was only one coworker in 50 yrs of working with whom I was unsympathetic over her period emergencies. Every month she had to leave work for period-related detailed reasons (bleed through, surprised, no supplies, etc.). BUT she never took precautions to avoid repeats – just acted like it was the first time. After 6-8 months, I lost patience and refused to cover her desk. (Not surprisingly she was also a flake and below par employee.)

        FWIW Her period was as regular as mine during this time (3+ yrs). Like clockwork, she started 1 day before me. The only reason I knew was she broadcasted her start and had the afore-mentioned emergency.

        1. P*

          IDIC believer, your co-worker may have had uterine fibroids. One can have both regular periods and variable heavy bleeding with sometimes bleeding through even when using the most absorbent layers of products. And while one might be using Rx means of working to lessen the bleeding, one has to adjust Rxs, then again the bleeding levels can change again.

      4. Appletini*

        I just want to heartily second this comment. In my experience of period-related issues, men have vehemently called the events disgusting but it’s women who have personally berated me for my ‘irresponsibility” and “immaturity” up to a written warning once. (No, I didn’t have an ongoing pattern like IDIC Believer’s deliberately-inconvenient coworker.) And neither category of supervisor has let me take an extra trip to the bathroom to deal with things, let alone go home for the day, ahaha.

        1. P*

          Appletini, Thanks for sharing that. Any particular person have any number of medical conditions affecting their period OR simply a normal uterus and normal bleeding for them, that differs from someone else’s body experience. Those people who berate others for supposed ‘irresponsibility” and “immaturity” need to learn this!

        2. P.*

          (edited) Appletini,
          Thanks for sharing that.
          Any particular person can have any number of medical conditions affecting their period OR simply a normal uterus and normal bleeding for them, that differs from someone else’s body experience.
          Those people who berate others for supposed ‘irresponsibility” and “immaturity” need to learn this!

  13. Blue Moon*

    Your nightmare scenario happened to me, OP #2. Luckily there was a Target about 5 minutes walking distance from my office. I ducked out, bought new pants, changed into them in the Target bathroom, and was back at my desk before anyone noticed I was missing.

    Not ideal to have to spend money on something you may not really need, but it was a better solution for me than spending an hour each way on public transportation to go home and change.

    1. WS*

      I’m plus size so I keep the spare trousers because even on the off chance that a shop would have something that fit me, it’s likely to be horrible fabric and vastly over-priced. I once ripped a skirt and ended up having to buy a packet of sewing needles and thread and stitched it up right there because none of the clothes available would fit me. It wasn’t great stitching but it held for the rest of the day and from then on I kept the spare trousers.

    2. Seahorse*

      Same here! I worked in a shopping center, so I got my jacket from the break room, tied it around my waist, and informed my boss I was taking lunch *right now.* They did not object, the gods of Target provided, and I got everything sorted enough to finish my shift.
      I’ve always had at least a locker or a drawer everywhere I worked, so I could be a little more prepared after that.

  14. Lirael*

    OP1: the absolute nerve of that non profit has my jaw on the floor. They can want a lot of stuff, but if they’re not paying you, they can whistle! Do you WANT to be taking this measurement multiple times a week?! It’s really ok to just stop. If it’s that important to them they can pay of their own staff to do it, or find another volunteer. Although I’m curious as to whether it’s even legal for them to not pay for the time it takes to do this.

    1. Empress Ki*

      If it’s a non profit, it’s probably legal. But they should provide the products for free at least.

    2. OrdinaryJoe*

      This seems a little over the top … lots of nonprofits ask their volunteers to do more than this without reimbursement. I’m not saying this volunteer can’t stop (they can! they hate it, they should stop!) but I don’t think what the nonprofit is asking is so over the top to be shocking and borderline illegal.

      If people sit quietly and are miserable but still doing the work, how is the nonprofit suppose to know they are miserable and not happily doing what they’ve been doing for 10 years. I think that’s doubly true when the nonprofit doesn’t have a volunteer manager in place.

    3. Pierrot*

      I believe it is legal. The rules around non-profits are different, especially because some are completely volunteer run. Is it ethical to have an unpaid volunteer do complex tasks that you’d ordinarily pay someone to do? In this case, I don’t feel that it’s very ethical, but it doesn’t seem illegal. I think that the assumption is that a volunteer would decline to do tasks that they don’t want to do — the organization will either find something else for them or just say that they don’t have any other tasks to assign to them.

      I don’t want to sound like I am blaming the LW- they were originally interested in this work and had no idea that the organization would continue to ask for more advanced things. But a key difference with volunteer work as opposed to employment is that you aren’t beholden to the organization in any way and can set boundaries or leave without worry about losing a paycheck.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, I used to work for an organization where there was a longstanding culture of extremely passionate volunteers getting deep in the weeds on some very technical, mission-critical stuff. It was really hard to get even the board to understand we needed paid staff as the point people on these projects so volunteers couldn’t just hold the work hostage or go rogue if they didn’t like something else we were doing, or even just to avoid things grinding to a halt for extended periods for personal reasons given the relative age and accompanying health complaints of many of those volunteers. (One of the many reasons I used to work there.)

      2. Parakeet*

        Yeah, in OP’s case it seems like they do need to be forthcoming with the org about how they’re feeling about the work – I think Alison gave a good answer! – but it’s very common (and by and large a good thing IMO, though sometimes it goes bad) in nonprofits to have volunteers doing intensive, sophisticated work. There are all-vol orgs out there with volunteer executive directors, after all! Most programs that work with gender-based violence survivors have volunteer programs that require extensive training and commitment (though there’s also clear lines about what staff do vs volunteers, even if it’s something like “weekday staff cover the hotline during the workday as one of their regular job tasks, part-time paid staff cover weekends and overnights; volunteers can only cover it during evenings”). It’s not the fact that it’s volunteer work that makes this situation problematic, it’s that the org doesn’t seem well-set-up to work with volunteers, doesn’t communicate especially well, and OP doesn’t enjoy most of the work.

    4. Heather*

      There is zero indication that OP has ever pushed back on this, so that seems really over the top. Of course she can walk away any time she likes, but let’s not pretend anyone’s ordered her to do any of this. People volunteer for all sorts of things.

    5. metadata minion*

      It’s definitely legal, unless there’s something unusual going on with this specific organization. Some people volunteer full-time, especially if they’re retired.

  15. DEJ*

    LW2, add me to those this has happened to and I went with ‘I need to run a quick errand’ since I live close enough.

    1. Spooncake*

      I’ve also done this- I didn’t live close to the office at the time, but said office had a big supermarket round the corner so I said “just going to the shop, won’t be long”. I was back in the office with replacement clothing in about 20 minutes, if that.

  16. Whyblue*

    OP 3: How about casually chatting with some of your closest coworkers (or the office busybody) about your wedding plans and mentioning that you’re asking your guests for donations in lieu of gifts because of (Important Reason)? That way, the information is out there and if they are planning something, they might even be happy not to have to figure out what to get you.

    1. IchKriegDieKrise*

      I was thinking about something like this, too. So small talk about wedding planning, rather than telling them what you want, but gets the info outm

    2. PoePuck*

      This is what I was going to suggest as well! If they know you’re getting married, there must be some polite conversation about the wedding – or at the very least with the person you are closest to in the office. “getting close to finalizing wedding website, just have to do xyz, finally figured out how to word asking for donations in lieu of gifts” etc etc.

  17. Bagpuss*

    OP1, is it possible that the people asking for the extra work don’t realise you are a volunteer?
    I like Alison’s script but would add something to make clear you are a volunteer/ not an employee, as well.

  18. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    I’d like to live in a world where menstruation isn’t some big dark secret. But I’m the person who can’t stand that supermarkets have a sign that says feminine hygiene products rather than tampons or menstrual supplies. I try to normalize it as much as I can and I don’t care who turns green. A few decades ago I worked in a mostly gay nonprofit and the guys would have pretty graphic conversations about sex. Me and the other dyke mentioned something about periods and they turned pale. We blocked the exit to the Xerox room and insistanted they stay and listen.

    1. Bit o' Brit*

      I view it the same as pooping. Completely natural and expected of the people with the equipment, but I still don’t particularly want a description of what’s happening in someone else’s abdomen or underwear.

      Of course in your anecdote that ship had quite thoroughly sailed with the graphic sexual discussion.

      1. ferrina*

        Agree and agree! I personally don’t want or need to hear details, and that’s a blanket rule for most bodily functions. (if there’s an exception, I’ll check with folks nearby to see how they feel about a one-time exception – I’m a blood and injury person, so I always check to see if others are okay with gory details). But when other folks casually open the door, they can’t be surprised when other people walk through it.

    2. Nina*

      Shoutout to Woolworths in the southern hemisphere, who’ve finally relabeled the shelf ‘menstrual products’ and not-so-subtly pushed the other supermarkets into following suit.

  19. NforKnowledge*

    Wow, LW1! The cheek, the nerve, the gall, the audacity, and the gumption of that non-profit!! You volunteer to take some measurements, give them perfectly readable handwritten data, and they demand another format and a load of unpaid work from you?! I hope if this ever happens again you would feel empowered to say “well, good luck with that” and just walk away at that point

    1. Lizard Breath*

      I got the vibe that LW1 kind of roped themselves into it. This sounds like essentially an informal citizen science project. Citizen science is awesome and can be a real force for good, but standardizing observations and data collection is often very important for these projects.

      I kind of envision it going down like this:

      LW: Do you have this info?
      NP: No, and it’s not high enough on our priority list for us to pay someone to do it, but here’s how you can collect it yourself. If you decide to do that, we’d love to have the data.
      LW: Here’s the data I collected
      NP: Thanks so much. We don’t have the staff to transcribe this into an electronic format we can use, can you send it as a spreadsheet? [perhaps thinking they could collect the data on a tablet or phone, as most field workers do now].
      LW: Here’s your spreadsheet
      NP: Thanks so much! This data would be way more useful to us if we had the weather, is it possible you can add that?
      LW: Adds weather, everything becomes too much.

      I don’t think there’s a villain here. LW1 is doing work that they enjoy, but they don’t enjoy the work of putting the data into a format that the nonprofit can use. The nonprofit has been up front about what they need in order for LW’s data to be useful to them. I agree with Alison that LW just needs to let the nonprofit know what they are able/willing to provide, and at this point it’s up to the nonprofit to decide if the data is sufficiently important that they are willing to devote some staff time to transcribing it, or whether they need to focus their energy on something else.

    2. Courageous cat*

      Why is everyone saying this? OP appears to never have pushed back or said no in any capacity. She’s not a slave to them: they are allowed to ask for as much as they want, and she’s allowed to say no to any/all of it.

      Saying no when you volunteer doesn’t even take the kind of skill/soft touch it might at work. Just say no. They don’t pay you.

  20. Agent Diane*

    OP2. If your period is regular enough to know it’s due around a particular date but you worry it’ll start a day or two early, you can also consider period pants for those days (pants in the UK/Aus sense). They are knickers with a built in absorbent pad and come in a range of sizes, styles and weights. I used the Modibody brand when my perimenopausal periods decided to be less regular but a lot heavier: it meant if I had a flood it didn’t reach my outer clothes, and I didn’t spend time worrying about it.

    As other posters have said though this happens to most people who bleed at some point in their lives. And most everyone will pretend not to notice. If it ever happens and someone around you reacts like a grossed out teen? They are the one with the problem.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I was wondering if someone was going to suggest period pants; they have been revolutionary to me in terms of feeling secure. I bought a pair (Marks and Spencers) to wear to bed on those nights when you’re not sure when you’re period is going to show up. They’re entirely comfortable enough to wear even when you’re not on your period. I started wearing them daytime too in combination with tampons (a belt and braces approach for the anxious) but honestly they can handle even heavy periods totally solo. They absorb so well that they’re still touch-dry after hours. I don’t even know how they do it, it’s witchcraft. For eons I thought I’d have to tangle with a mooncup to get an eco friendly period product and I was overlooking these the whole time.

      1. Agent Diane*

        I switched because I was using pads with wings in a belt&braces way (and was thrilled pads are no longer the giant blocks they were in the 1980s!). But I hated the wasteful/environmental harm element of them. So I switched to the period pants and the relief was so strong.

        Like another commenter said, teen child has them to remove that anxiety too.

    2. Harper the Other One*

      I have already outfitted my not-yet-menstruating kiddo with period underwear because oh, how much of a relief would it have been for me as a teen to know that even if my period showed up unexpectedly, I didn’t have to worry!

    3. MsSolo (UK)*

      I switched to period pants for my post-partum bleed, because I did not want to be wearing pads for 6+ weeks, and I’ve never looked back. I’m not a heavy bleeder, but with hormonal birth control I sometimes spot for weeks at a time. It’s just convenient!

      1. LegoGirl*

        I also got them for post miscarriage use because I hated wearing bulky pads (even the thin ones feel bulky after over a decade of diva cup use). After multiple losses, they’ve definitely been worth the upfront cost.

    4. Pigeon*

      It tone a spoilsport, but Google the class action lawsuit against Thinx in particular. There’s some mild concern about chemicals in period underwear. Dr. Jen Gunter has a newsletter with a good rundown.

      1. Artemesia*

        They are great back up with tampons, but they are plastic and so wearing them everyday is not as healthy as cotton unders.

  21. Nene Poppy*

    I kept a change of underwear and black jersey trousers rolled up in a ziplock bag in my desk drawer. Ziplock bag was necessary to take stuff home. Another bag had toiletries and a cloth for washing; same reason – problem periods. Later during the perimenopause I had such bad sweats that I tried to keep a complete change of clothing at work, because on two occasions it was so bad I had to go out buy new clothes – right down to bra and knickers. A big shout out and thank you to the very kind sales people at M&S Fenchurch Street!

    1. Artemesia*

      The wet toilet paper which comes in fairly small packets is also handy to keep in with the emergency pants especially if you don’t have single person bathrooms. You can clean up discreetly even in a large restroom with stalls

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I miss my last office, where I was on the floor with the office showers (the building had an onsite gym, and there were two floors with shower facilities). It was easy and unobtrusive to pop in and clean up, and everyone just assumed you’d been to the gym or for a run mid-day. Didn’t need it often, but it sure was convenient for the rare occasions.

  22. Wrench Turner*

    Wardrobe Emergencies happen all the time! I’ve learned over the years to keep a full set of very basic work clothes (including socks/underwear and even shoes/boots as appropriate) on standby somewhere convenient just for that. One time I was doing work at a condo and unknowingly stepped in fresh dog poop hidden in leaves, then sat on my heels working on equipment. I smeared it ALL over the back of my pants and didn’t notice until the wind stopped and I started to smell. This was less than 5 minutes into the start of my work day. I ran back to my truck, got the spare set and the apologetic customer let me use their bathroom to change. If you can, keep a spare set. You never know!

      1. Wrench Turner*

        I’ve had roof tar totally destroy pants, greasy rust permanently stain shirts, machinery edges just catch and shred things. That’s not including “personal” incidents. We’re animals, it happens. If you’re prepared with a spare set, you don’t have to stress about it. Just switch out and keep moving. Just be sure to replace your set ASAP.

  23. Princess Deviant*

    As someone who has had two – TWO!!- period accidents in work… yes to the advice, it’s solid.
    The first time, I mentioned to a colleague that I needed to go home to get changed because I’d had an accident.
    The second time I was in a home visit of a client and I went straight to the local store afterwards and bought new trousers, underwear, and period products then got changed in the toilets there. I keep a change of underwear in the car now.
    (Luckily the client didn’t notice).

  24. Wedding guest*

    Re: the wedding, I think I’d roundabout mention to someone I’m close with on my team that for the whole wedding you’re asking for donations. If someone asks how wedding planning is going, you could be like, “oh, it’s going well, (give more detail) and one thing I’m glad we did is take away the stress of registering for gifts by simply asking for a donation to a charity).” I think it only works if you have a buddy you can talk to and share that info with while not relating it to a gift they are looking to give you.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I was going to suggest something like this, mention it casually if you happen to be having a conversation about the wedding (but also accept that you may well get something anyway, because even if the message gets through, office politics or the views of whoever organizes these things may mean that message gets overridden )

    2. Irish Teacher*

      Yup, I’d be inclined to say mention it in the way a colleague of mine started telling us about how she was planning to get wedding photos at historical sites of interest in the city because she loves history. “We’ve ordered a cake with an x theme because I/my partner loves x and I’ve asked the guests to donate to such a charity because I’m really passionate about y.”

  25. Xavier Desmond*

    There are a few comments on here about OP1 lambasting the non profit but from the letter it’s not clear the OP has ever pushed back. If she’s never complained about the work they are asking her to do how are they supposed to know she is not happy to do it.

    1. ecnaseener*

      It’s just a lot to ask of a volunteer, particularly in a situation like this where they volunteered to do one specific task (as opposed to signing up to volunteer wherever the org needs help). Like, just in life, if someone offers to do a favor for you you don’t generally go “thanks but I also need you to do a bunch more work too.” That would be rude.

      I don’t disagree LW should have set boundaries at the start!

      1. Parrot*

        But the letter only really mentions two “extra” things the nonprofit asked for: they asked the LW to put the data in a spreadsheet /nine years ago/, and at some point more recently they asked for some extra data.

        Since this wasn’t something the nonprofit was doing already, it’s presumably not mission-critical, and it’s entirely possible that typing up the notes was taking up more staff time than the data was worth. At this point, I’d be surprised if anyone at the org even remembers the LW sent in handwritten notes the first year, because the LW has been sending in spreadsheets–apparently without complaint–for nearly a decade. They almost certainly don’t know the LW paid someone to do it.

        So from the LW’s perspective, adding the extra columns is Just One More Damn Thing ruining the experience, but from the org’s perspective it’s probably just a minor change to the data gathering procedure that the LW doesn’t seem to have any issue with.

        1. ecnaseener*

          The data entry ask nine years ago was the “we need you to do a bunch more work too” I’m referring to.

    2. Critical Rolls*

      I agree that step one is clearly pushing back. However, there’s a definite lack of awareness/unwarranted assumption from the org in the way they’ve just kept making this task more and more work for LW without ever checking in. Especially since LW didn’t even formally volunteer!

    3. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I fully agree with this. I think there’s an extremely strong chance that, if we heard from the nonprofit, the story would be completely different and they would have no clue that OP was so frustrated by this. I couldn’t imagine a volunteer silently seething for a decade!

    4. Lizzianna*

      This was my thought. I’ve worked with volunteers on citizen science projects before, and can think of a couple responses the non-profit might have.

      First, data that’s not in a format that we can analyze it is not useful data. If I get a handwritten spreadsheet, I have to find someone else to transcribe it. Assuming I already didn’t have the staff/volunteers to monitor the area LW is monitoring, I don’t think it’s safe to assume I have the staff to transcribe their data. Collecting data in a non-usable form is not a good use of a volunteer’s time, and I feel like it’s a lot more rude to waste someone’s time gathering info that I have no way to use, than it is to ask them to gather info in a different way that I can use.

      Second, I don’t know what kind of information LW is collecting, but given apps available for phones and tablets, it’s not uncommon for people to use their phones to collect field data. So whoever was asking for this info in a spreadsheet may not understand that they’re asking LW to do double the work if LW didn’t say anything. If that’s the case, then really, in their mind, the only *extra* thing they’re asking for beyond what LW volunteered to do a decade ago is to add the weather data.

      If a volunteer had been doing work for 10 years without complaining, I don’t know how I am supposed to know that they’re unhappy with what we’re asking them to do.

  26. MsSolo (UK)*

    LW 1 – Am I correct that you’re volunteering, but you’re also paying an intern? Out of your own pocket? Does the intern know that they’re not employed by the non-profit, but by you? Does the non-profit know you’re employing someone to work on data on their behalf?

    This just seems so, so complicated, and risky, because you’ve gone so far out of your way to avoid turning down volunteer work you don’t enjoy (presumably so you can keep doing the bit you do like) that I really can’t believe the non-profit would be okay with it, and if they are, then it’s a non-profit with serious professionalism issues that you probably need to disentangle yourself from post haste anyway.

    1. Chikkka*

      Yes – LE, is the company aware that you’re representing yourself as an employer on their behalf?

      Normally the rules for interns are quite strict – an internship is supposed to be an educational opportunity. I’m really surprised an ordinary member of the public is allowed to hire an intern to do personal work. What company or org did you go through to find the intern, and what did you tell them?

      1. MsM*

        OP said it was a friend’s kid – I imagine it was a very informal “hey, your parent says you need something to do while you’re looking for full-time work; would you be interested in this?” type search process. I do wonder how that’s getting listed on their resume, though; are they saying they worked for OP or the nonprofit? If the latter, does the nonprofit agree/know? (Because yeah, they 100% should not have let OP cover salary out of their own pocket.)

        1. Chikkka*

          Yes, you’re right. I misread “I asked a friend’s child” and the later “this year I had an intern” to mean two different people. The use of “intern” threw me off.

          1. MsSolo (UK)*

            This is part of the messiness that worries me, because it’s one thing to hire a friend’s kid to mow your lawn or watch your dog, or even to do a discreet set of data entry for your own company, and even though legally you really ought to be covering all your bases in terms of tax and liability and insurance and so on, you’re unlikely to get in any serious trouble for it. However, when you’re hiring a neighbour’s kid to work on someone else’s data, and referring to them as an intern, and you’re not even an employee let alone the employer, there are huge, huge question marks over that arrangement and so many risks that may or may not manifest.

            1. Chikkka*

              Yeah, LW comes across as a lovely person and genuinely passionate about environmental issues. But if she’s been using the word intern in real life or to the graduate she needs to check that she’s okay legally. If the college grad puts “Non Profit – Intern” on her CV, or contacts the non profit to say “I interned for you last year, and am interested in applying for such and such job” it could have all sorts of ramifications, including damage to the grad’s career.

              1. LW 1*

                Lw1 here. I shouldn’t have used the word intern. I gave my friend’s kids 60 bucks to input the data because I didn’t want to and I don’t have time. She’s not putting it on her resume. It’s not in her field. It is exactly like hiring someone to mow my lawn. Except now I have to check her work which is just as unpleasant to me as data entry is. There are no dire consequences coming to her for taking 60 bucks to do a task I abhor. And I did not in any way represent myself as hiring her for the nonprofit. She doesn’t even know the name of the non-profit or where it is. She just entered some data for me and I paid her. That’s it.

            2. Gerry Keay*

              Right — and does Intern know the arrangement? What happens when Intern lists this on their resume and someone tries to verify?

            3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Interesting that you say “someone else’s data” because I think it’s the LW’s data at least to the point where it enters the nonprofit’s systems. But I also think it’s a grey area because of the doubt involved.

  27. Turingtested*

    LW 1 a mentor once told me “When you ask for favors make it as easy as possible.” Your non profit is making it as hard as possible. You may want to give them feedback when you resign but you don’t have to.

    1. Rubikoder*

      The phrase “hit menopause” caught me out of context for some reason and all I could think was that “menopause” was an actual button one could press. Something like:

      LW notices blood on a Thursday, thinks “I do NOT have time for this today!”, presses menopause, finishes out the work week, then hits menoresume on the weekend when it’s slightly less inconvenient!

      1. Marna Nightingale*

        I like to refer to it as “having cancelled my subscription to Menstrual Cycle Monthly”.

      2. Lyudie*

        Oh lord I wish it was this easy LOL One of the best things about WFH is that I can deal with my period in my own home. I can lay on the floor if I need to and use my heating pads with no one being concerned that I hurt myself lol

    2. my cat is prettier than me*

      Once I was acting in a musical and had a period emergency. Unfortunately, almost all of the other women in the show were in their 60s.

      1. Appletini*

        I’m going to keep pads and tampons in my purse until I die, so I can be the help to younger people I desperately needed when I was younger.

    3. I have RBF*

      I had a hist at age 43. It was wonderful after I finished the recovery period. Of course, now I had stress-based incontinence, but for a few years I was pad free.

  28. Sati*

    IMO it’s always a good idea to keep spare clothes at work, if you possibly can. At the very least, a bottom (for period emergencies, among other things), a top (for things like coffee spills), a seasonal-weather-appropriate outer garment, and a pair of shoes or boots you can walk home in if necessary. During my office days in London, public transport was usually reasonably reliable, but I remember a handful of times it stopped running unexpectedly – the London bombings in 2005, the riots in 2011, a few snowstorms and heatwaves – and I had to walk the 15 miles from work in East London to Kings Cross in order to catch my train home going north (which was thankfully never cancelled totally, though a couple times delayed enough to get a hotel room for the night). Weather, terrorism, and other big events can sometimes shut down a town or city’s public transport system with little to no notice. Even if you drive, floods or blizzards or bombings can prevent you from accessing your car. Walkable shoes are a good thing to keep in a drawer.

    As a youth worker, I always kept a handful of other clothing items in my office – something I could play sports in if the kids asked, something I could wear to court or a police station if called in unexpectedly, and something to cover my head if I needed to make a home visit to a religious house (not strictly necessary, but often made the difference between having a good relationship with a kid’s parents, and not having one).

    1. Greasy monkey*

      Yep. Thats what I always tell the new folks where I work. Rule 1: Always turn the breaker off before working on something and Rule 2: Keep a spare set of clothes on the truck in case you get spattered, sprayed or showered in sewerage.

    2. Appletini*

      The only problem with keeping clothes at work is that they need to be inexpensive enough that one can be okay with losing them while also being of a decent quality for work. I have more than one friend who was perp-marched when they were fired and either never got any items back from their desk or got a clearly – scavenged selection, which in one person’s case lacked the shawl she’d knitted herself (and her desk radio).

      My solution for this in my 20s was an airplane-size carryall which I dragged around every day between home and work, but I don’t think I’d be strong enough to carry it anymore.

  29. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    Re: LW2-

    This is one of the things being overlooked when organizations try to do things like hot-desk setups. People often want/need/benefit from being able to store a few things where they work. Maybe it’s spare clothes, an emergency inhaler, or a lamp to ward of winter blues. I know it’s not directly related, but I raise this because I used to keep spare clothes in my office for similar reasons and when we went to a different setup, I lost that ability. It’s something folks may want to raise with various attempts to bring people back to (sometimes smaller) offices.

    1. DrSalty*

      We all have little private cabinets where we can store personal items for this reason at my office. It works great.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Yeah, we have decent sized cabinets at my work. One could easily fit a change of clothes.

    2. ScruffyInternHerder*

      There was brief discussion of hot-desking here (immediately pre-pandemic, so that wound up being a moot point and so not happening). My not quiet point was:

      1. This would be putting me at a disadvantage (as a woman) because my appropriate office wear under the dress code is far less acceptable in the field than the otherwise similar equivalent for men.
      2. Forcing me to decline last minute site events/visits where the men in my department wouldn’t have to wasn’t going to go over well, and they happen with enough frequency that I keep a complete change of clothes in my desk cabinet.
      3. Either change the dress code or forget about hot desking. (Even the men weren’t thrilled with the idea – sites require PPE and we need a place to stash it)

    3. Agent Diane*

      When my old office switched to hot desk I g we all got lockers. And there was absolutely a pair of emergency tights in mine, along with a cosmetics bag with essentials.

    4. Torn Asunder*

      I’ve tried raising this issue with my workplace as we’re facing that exact situation. We’re expected to return three days a week starting next month, but we no longer have enough space for everyone to have an assigned desk, nor do we have space for any sort of lockers. Plus it’s a downtown location where most of us rely on public transit, so we can’t even leave emergency supplies in our cars. I’m envisioning a great many large backpacks in the future as we all try to haul in everything we might need every single day we’re there.

  30. Daisy-Lou Who*

    #2. I am a manager who manages 15 menstrating employees and about once a quarter one of them has this same issue. I have a pretty good relationship with most of them so they just say what happened and we move on. For the ones who choose to stay at work, I have a large collection of oversized company sweatshirts in my office that I loan out all the time. Think 3XL-5XL, things that on most people look like dresses. No one can really tie it back to the issue because people choose to grab them for other reasons (like being cold or in one instance someone realized their shirt was more see through than they’d prefer). Everyone returns them cleaned after use so that they are available for the next person who needs one. I realize not all managers would do this, nor would everyone feel comfortable using them, but it’s a little something extra I try to have around and I started collecting the sweatshirts because of the issue in # 2 where I loaned out my personal sweatshirt to someone who didn’t want to go home.

    1. Appletini*

      Keeping sweatshirts around is utterly brilliant. I hope one day to have a supervisor like you whose solution to the issue is more than a sharp tongue.

  31. I should really pick a name*

    You seem to have convinced yourself that you have some kind of obligation to this organization.
    I honestly don’t understand how this got to the point where you were paying someone to do work that you weren’t being paid to do.

    When they asked for a typed spreadsheet, you could have just said “sorry, I don’t have the time for that”.

    Please try and take a deeper look into why you were willing to do something you didn’t want for so long.

    1. UnpopularOpinion*

      I suspect it’s something that creeps up on you. It started fun. They asked for a typed spreadsheet. OP probably didn’t immediately think “I will definitely hate that” until they’d done it for a bit and then realized it was sucking the joy out of it. They stated they liked the testing portion so problem solved for someone to do the data entry. Then realized that really needed an extra step too, etc, etc.

      I’ve definitely volunteered for things that as they started to morph found myself in a momentum bind where I realize I don’t like it so much, but I’ve been doing it for awhile so it feels awkward to just drop it.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        I mostly understand that except for the paying someone to do data entry portion. But also, I’m cheap :P

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Yes, that was my assumption too, that they were really passionate about gathering the data and enjoyed it and were mildly irked when asked to do a typed spreadsheet, but figured it was only a small part of the task and that it made sense to ensure the data gathered was clear, but then that part of the task increased and while doing it once might be a “this is annoying but it’s worth it to do the part I love,” over and over again became a problem.

    2. Gerry Keay*

      Strong agree. It really doesn’t sound like the nonprofit has done anything wrong. From their pov, I imagine they feel like they’ve put in quite a bit of effort trying to accommodate the passions and interests of a community member.

      1. Ben*

        Yes, and when you are a non-profit operating in an area of public interest, you encounter people like this ALL THE TIME. You learn it’s much easier and less resource-taxing to humor them than to explain, constantly and repeatedly, why you are not doing the things they think you should be in the ways they think you should be doing.

        I was on the board of an organization that had a need for a very particular kind of second-hand supplies, which were clearly spelled out. People always wanted to drop off boxes of other stuff and would not take no for an answer. Like, imagine you need flashlights and they wanted to give you candles. Past a certain point, you just take the candles and throw them out, rather than have the tenth argument over why, actually, candles are better than flashlights and shouldn’t we really be using candles instead? It’s not an ideal or totally respectful approach, but you only have so much energy for these things.

    3. Courageous cat*

      Agreed. There are many things in life that can be hard or tricky to walk away from.

      This should not be one at all. This may require further self-reflection to make sure you don’t end up in a similar situation again.

  32. I should really pick a name*

    While the applicant’s questions for LW4 sound excessive, it could be a good opportunity to see if there’s any information that should be included in the interview that currently isn’t.

    1. Area Woman*

      I kind of disagree. The questions in this example are easily asked at the offer stage. That is when it is more reasonable that a hiring manager should be invested in describing all the details of the job. You are doing the final push for recruiting the candidate. If the candidate has had an hour of questions answered during the interview, that time investment is kind of over. I also wouldn’t change what I talk about based on one candidate’s questions, either.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        DEI stuff jumps out to me as something that should be brought up fairly early. It gives you some insight into the company’s priorities.

      2. Mark-eh-Ted*

        IDK, the candidate should have a right to know relatively early on because they may self-select out and time can be saved from further interviews. While the LW says they had close to an hour for interviews, what was the format? Was it maybe 10 minutes over multiple meetings? Were people on the call sending cues they wanted to hop off which would have made holding them up to ask questions seem awkward? It’s hard to say.

        I’ll agree answers to the big questions like DEI would require some time, and answering by email might not be the best format. However, a simple “let’s discuss that should we meet again” would have sufficed and gives the interviewer time to prepare and structure the DEI conversation into the next conversation if they determine it’s worth both parties time to do so.

    2. Mark-eh-Ted*

      I like this. It raises a point on the questions themselves: were they really in the weeds, and unique to the candidate? Because the dress code one should have been covered in the interview. Although, I’ve noticed most interviewers, don’t make any effort to impress and I’ve been on zoom where I (the applicant) am in a shirt and tie, and the person interviewing me is wearing a tattered college hoodie which does suggest that they are pretty informal (at least on WFH days).

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        I’ve never had an interview where dress code was discussed – it was always after I got the job in preparation for my first day.

        1. Mark-eh-Ted*

          I have. Less likely to have certain wardrobe malfunctions like the ones listed in the other comments the more relaxed we can be. I read a question like that as they have multiple interviews for different roles and are trying to get as much info as possible to help them make the decision.

          1. OP4*

            The dress code question was especially confusing to me, honestly. Her second round of interviews was in person and I’d let her know ahead of time that we’re business casual (because I, too, have been the person in a suit when everyone else is in a hoodie!); she also saw how everyone was dressed in her interviews and as we walked around the office.

            I totally agree that there are some questions you’d really want to know the answers to before you move forward (I think about the LWs who learned too late about rigid policies about visible tattoos or piercings or hair color, for example, or hiring managers who aren’t clear upfront about expectations re. WFH) but it struck me as odd that there were so many of them that fell into that category.

            1. Mark-eh-Ted*

              Oh yeah, I saw the part about zoom meetings, but didn’t notice anything about in-person interviews with office tours. Yes, they should have been glancing around and paying attention to the dress code. Maybe if it was a Friday, and they presumed it may only be casual Fridays.

              Either way, the more context I get, I side with the LW more and more. I don’t necessarily think asking the dozen questions is wrong, but upon learning what they were, it’s possible it would have been a red flag that they don’t pay attention to details and I would have been soured, and thus less likely to bother to answer them.

              1. Age Discrimination Sucks*

                I give this candidate points for thoroughness! Half the situations posted here would not happen if candidates could do this kind of due diligence without seeming weird.

  33. Suz*

    OP2 reminded me of the time something similar happened to me. It was my 1st week at my current job. I was in a co-worker’s cubicle and I snagged my pants on a drawer in her filing cabinet. It ripped a 6in hole in the butt of my pants. I had to tell my boss, who I’d only known for 3 days, that I needed to go home to change.

  34. Enn Pee*

    LW1: A few years back, I was on the board of a library friends group. One of our volunteers had been managing a somewhat regular (if not terribly onerous) task for years and had gotten so frustrated that she was snapping at anyone who asked her a basic question about this task.

    At one of our board meetings, I asked the head librarian if this weren’t really something a staff member could do. And he said he was surprised that a volunteer was doing this, because in the libraries he’d worked at, this duty was always paid…and so the volunteer was relieved and the task was given to someone who was paid to do it!

    Don’t do volunteer work that makes you miserable!

    1. Too much experience*

      So many volunteers, in a wide range of fields, don’t seem to understand the definition of the word volunteer. It means voluntary. It means you can stop doing it any time you want. It would be courteous to give the organization a heads up, but it isn’t even actually necessary to give advance notice.

      If you’re a volunteer who is regularly complaining about your volunteer task, please stop doing it. If you think the thing won’t get done without you, trust me, if it needs to be done someone will do it. But … this is key … no one else will beg to do it while you’re still doing it. You may think it won’t get done without you, but if you just remove yourself, someone will step up.

  35. Onward*

    LW3 – I think you’re overthinking it. If they get you something and you don’t like it, hopefully it will either come with a gift receipt or you can donate it. You’re out nothing, and you allowed them to make a kind gesture. I wouldn’t go the route of trying to head it off because it will just seem presumptuous.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      It’s also quite possible they’ll just give money. In my workplace, that is the norm for weddings, large birthdays (30ths, 40ths, etc), new babies, etc. It’s possible they gave the colleague something they knew she wanted but as they don’t know the LW as well, they are quite likely to just give money.

      1. a raging ball of distinction*

        Yes, this is what we do at my workplace. A cash card or gift cert to someplace generic (Amazon, Target). If OP3 feels very strongly about giving to the charity and not keeping things for themselves they could turn around and use the cash card for a donation or buy things off of their Wishlist.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Same. When it was my turn to organise, we converted the cash into currency local to the honeymoon. When I was the recipient, I was discreetly asked what shop the gift card could most usefully be for.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      My thought as well. It can be regifted to a friend who isn’t fully outfitted in their home. Or it may just be nice to have whatever it is as a reminder of their well wishes at the start of your marriage. No reason to think about it.

  36. Maybesocks*

    LW1. I call it commitment creep. It starts to happen every time I volunteer, and I’m always on the lookout for it.

    Tell them how much you want to do. If it’s important to them they will find someone to do the rest. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking no one else will do it.

    Good for you for supporting them for so long!

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Ah, yes, commitment creep, good way to put it. It’s an easy trap to fall into if you are not one who sets boundaries easily. I have a very extroverted friend who doesn’t like to say no to people so she’s always trying to commit to too many things at once and it stresses *me* out when she explains to me how she’s love to meet for a walk at 2 but she can only meet from 3-4:30 because she’s having lunch with friend A and dinner with friend B and also can we invite friend C to join us on the walk because she wanted to do something in the afternoon too? And maybe we can go apple picking instead of just a walk? And then I’m like, nah, never mind, I will say no for you, and also I only have time/interest/energy in a walk and that’s my limit. :-)

      Since this non-profit doesn’t have any kind of volunteer program, it seems likely that they have no formal limits set as to what they can ask of their volunteer. It seems bonkers that they have asked so much of OP, but if OP is willing to say, hey, I have a very set limit as to what I can spend my time doing for you so either you get my handwritten notes with the data or you get nothing, then if they are a good non-profit they will accept OP’s boundary. OP, don’t feel bad for having limits, you need to take care of yourself first and foremost.

  37. MicroManagered*

    LW1 A charity I’m involved with recently announced the long-time director (who is a volunteer) would be stepping down after like 10 years or something. They phrased it as “she’s completed her service” or completed her volunteer work or something and I just thought that was such a nice way to put it.

  38. my cat is prettier than me*

    #3 I got married last year, and HR asked for my resume. They then proceeded to buy something not on my resume. It would have been fine, except they got me mugs labeled “Mr.” and “Mrs.”, while I had been very explicit previously that I was not changing my name and not going by “Mrs.” I was a bit miffed.

    1. ecnaseener*

      By resume do you mean registry? If not, I’m very confused.

      But ugh to the Mrs. thing! I guess you could’ve scratched off the R.

      1. DataSci*

        It sounds like they got the whole name wrong, not just the title! Mrs SpouseSurname instead of Ms HerSurname.

      2. my cat is prettier than me*

        Haha, yeah, I meant registry. I was looking at resumes just before I posted this.

  39. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    LW1: The “resignation” of any or all of the data collection duties can also include a very gracious and friendly “I don’t have time to do the data collection and management myself anymore, but if a staff member or volunteer would like to come see how I’ve been doing it, I can arrange a short training session.” (And if you want to donate your equipment you can, or you can offer to make recommendations for when they need to buy their own.)

  40. Littorally*

    #2 – A change of clothes that lives in your car or at your desk can be a huge anxiety alleviator. The last time I actually needed any part of mine was several years ago, when I absent-mindedly headed off for work still wearing my slippers! But it still lives in my car to this day, and I’m comforted by knowing if worst comes to worst, I have a solution there and ready to deploy.

    1. SpringIsForPlanting!*

      Reading quickly and read “a change of clothes that lives in your cat” and was like, what now?

  41. Fluffy Fish*

    Friendly note from someone who works in emergency management –

    PLEASE keep a bag in your car or in your desk or in your locker (you get it) with some emergency supplies including season appropriate clothes, shoes (flats you can walk in), some nonperishable food, water, and any critical medications.

    Emergencies happen. Needing to change your clothes but also…Massive car accidents that shut down roads for hours. Unexpected flooding. Mass transit shutdown. Other bad things I wont dwell on but I’m sure you know.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I have personally lived through a multi state blackout, and a sudden unpredicted ice storm that shut down all surface roads within a couple of hours.

      Neither was horribly dangerous or traumatic, but people had to either walk a lot further than they planned for, or camp out unexpectedly.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        yes! a lot of emergencies are not necessarily super dangerous for you personally and you wont die without supplies but you will be very very uncomfortable.

    2. Free Meerkats*

      I keep a bugout bag and a CERT response bag in the trunk. At work I have multiple sets of clothing and shoes. Also, since I work in a place that will likely be isolated when the big quake hits, I have a personal supply of food and water as well as the plant emergency food and water supplies.
      After being in downtown San Francisco when the Loma Prieta quake hit, I live prepared.

    3. I have RBF*

      I will second this.

      At one of my previous jobs they moved us off campus to an open plan nightmare, and did not provide the little three day emergency kits like the previous offices had. I did have a locker, so I put a change of clothes, spare undies, extra pads, a flashlight, some bottled water and some emergency rations in there. I wanted to put a first aid kit in there, but there was a big one in the locker area.

      I live in earthquake country, and a three day emergency kit is pretty standard, IMO. If all of the traffic lights and bridges are out of service, anything over a couple of miles can be difficult to navigate to get home.

      During the Loma Prieta quake in 1989 I was about 6 miles from home. It took me several hours to get there from work.

  42. Marna Nightingale*

    LW2: I’m not sure whether this is worrying you because you have sudden heavy periods and this has already happened away from work or whether it’s bugging you because it’s become That Thing That’s Bugging You.

    Either are perfectly reasonable, to be clear! They just have different solutions.

    If your periods come on so hard that it’s zero to visible leakage in too short a time for you to address it, and either this is a sudden change or your doctor hasn’t already said that’s normal for you, get that checked out, ok?

    And also, in that case, period undies are probably your friend, even a few days before there could be an issue. You can use them as a backup plan if you don’t like the notion in general.

    But as far as minor leaks … so, I have had this happen to me more than once, but only in two situations has it actually made it to the outer layer of clothing/become anything anyone but me is going to know about, because you can generally tell when you’ve sprung a leak:

    a) when I have got stuck in a “can’t take any kind of break” situation, and
    b) when I was on a med that temporarily brought a “last act of Titus Andronicus” vibe to the proceedings

    Most of the time, this is a situation you can solve at work, with wet wipes or, if you have to wet paper towels, and clean underwear.

    I mean, keeping spare trousers at work, and spare underwear, is a good plan, but if this is more of a “I’m haunted by this possibility” situation, I hope that helps.

    1. GingerNP*

      “Last act of Titus Andronicus vibe” is gonna be my new go to right after “Satan’s sacrificial waterfall.” Perfect.

  43. L. Miller*

    There are citizen scientists who do things like OP describes.
    OP could suggest where they volunteer, that the organization reach out to some local environmental groups to see if they have citizen scientists who may be interested in partnering with them. Or find one who may be willing to share the volunteer job with OP who could do the part they like and have someone help do the spreadsheets etc…

    I’m a volunteer coordinator, as a volunteer , for a nature center.
    When your volunteer “job” starts to become consistently frustrating or unsatisfying, it may be time to move in from that. Or talk to whomever you volunteer for, and change the parameters to make it work for you. It happens. And sometimes stepping away helps recharge one’s enthusiasm.

    Also, for OP’s place , if soil testing and reporting is required then they will find a way to make that happen at the non-profit. That’s their job to figure out not a volunteer’s to worry about.

  44. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #2: I put an uncapped pen in my shirt pocket once and had a splotch about 6″ in diameter by the time I noticed it. So I always kept a spare dress shirt in my desk drawer after that. I never needed it, but like Alison suggests, it totally removed that anxiety from my mind.

  45. Dinwar*

    I’m curious as to what soil/water sampling equipment is cheap. I have three teams doing this today, and the cheapest equipment they have is several hundred dollars. $10,000 isn’t unreasonable for this stuff.

    Regardless, these people are taking advantage of you LW#1. To rope you in when you had a question is….annoying, but understandable. To be this pushy is simply unreasonable. You’re a volunteer, doing this out of the goodness of your heart; the only leverage they have is your unwillingness to cause waves, and they’re using that to dump more and more of this onto your shoulders. That’s not right, regardless of how noble they think their cause is.

    1. Generic Name*

      If she’s measuring stuff like temperature and pH, there are all in one readers you can get on Amazon for pretty cheap.

      1. Enai*

        Also certain air quality measurements are cheap. Dust sensing can be had for very reasonable prices, water levels of a creek can be measured with a simple stick, rain collection be done with a jar and a funnel (probably not though, she wouldn’t need to look up the weather then) and so on.

      2. Dinwar*

        I get that you can get cheap stuff. I just don’t know what good it’ll be. The pH and other meters you get on Amazon don’t have the precision (and thus reproducibility) necessary for any testing I’ve ever done. Useful data for most purposes requires a lot more than most people think. Like, for example, river depths. I’ve installed gauging stations. You need to mitigate wave action, and you need to measure within 1/100th of an inch which requires an expensive water level meter.

        Proper measurement methods are governed (de facto anyway) by ASTM, and I’ve yet to see a simple method there. Even making an international standard cup of tea is a complex process!

        I mean, I’m sure there are things that can be done cheaply. I joke that if you give me a topo map and a box of colored pencils I can do more science than the Mars rovers have done (any geologist can). I’m mostly just curious.

        1. Enai*

          Sure, but if the question is “does this creek dry out for three consecutive weeks each summer and if not, when _did_ it start drying out for three weeks each summer” a volunteer with a ruler and a piece of paper to make notes on (for 10 years! That’s not nothing!) gives you a hell of a lot more info than any proper gauging station that never got built.

    2. CheeryO*

      Could be something as simple as strip charts for pH or other chemical parameters, or a Secchi disk for water clarity readings.

  46. Lizy*

    #1 – I honestly wouldn’t use Alison’s script… if you seriously still want to do the testing, I’d just tell them – “I enjoy the testing but it will have to be submitted as my handwritten notes.” You have the upper hand, IMO – they’re getting free work/data from you that they would never have had otherwise! If they push back AT ALL, I’d say “I’ve done this for years with no compensation and even purchased equipment out of my own pocket. I’m happy to continue to do the testing part, but as I want it to continue to be a thing of joy, I’m going back to my handwritten notes.”

  47. Slow Gin Lizz*

    With the caveat that I’m not a hiring manager and have never had to respond to any post-interview emails or reject any candidates, why, OP4, do you not want to tell the candidate in your reply that you’re not moving forward with her? Presumably you were planning to tell her anyway and not ghost her, right? Is there any advantage to waiting to tell her later in a separate email? (I’m genuinely asking here, I do not know the etiquette for these sorts of things.)

    And hey, if you were planning to ghost her, why not start now? (Sarcasm.) But of course you aren’t, you already said you’d respond to her, because you’re a good hiring manager.

    1. OP4*

      I struggled with this a bit, honestly! (But I promise I’m not ghosting her!)

      It felt weird to me to do it in that email because (1) it was less than 24 hours after the interview, and I always worry that such a quick rejection makes people feel extra bad (especially when I’d let her know that we had a few more applicants to see this week, which was true) and (2) I worried she’d think that I was rejecting her because I just didn’t feel like answering those questions, or I had something to hide about some of the weightier issues she’d raised, like on DEI. Maybe I was overthinking that! (I’m an overthinker in general….)

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Good reasons, I’d say! Overthinking usually means you’re being courteous and kind, so I’d say you should feel free to keep doing that. The DEI question does maybe make rejecting her in response to her email a bit tricky, so your reasoning there makes a lot of sense to me. Thank you for answering my question and good luck finding a great new employee.

      2. Artemesia*

        I like the idea of answering one or two easy ones and then saying — if we move to the next stage of interviews we will have time to discuss XYZ.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      Sounds like it’s to separate the “we’re not moving forward with you” from the “I’m not answering these questions” in order to not imply a causal relationship. They said it in the letter. Candidate isn’t moving forward anyway, having nothing to do with the zillion questions. Telling her that in the reply to the zillion questions might make her think there’s an implied “because” there, when there is not.

  48. Rosemary*

    OP #2 Period underwear! I wear the “light” versions on the days approaching my start day. I am pretty regular but never know the EXACT day, so these provide a buffer in case it happens to come when I am out. I get the “panty liner” version so they won’t stop a flood, but are enough to protect my pants. I also use them as a backup on my heavier days.

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

    #1. I’m wondering if this is entirely legal what the nonprofit has been doing. It sounds like the OP had been doing a lot more work than a volunteer would, I can understand taking the sample for the group, and the field notes but why on earth would they force the OP to format it in the specific way? And they can look up the weather the 2 days before hand just as easily as the op.
    Honestly I think someone is taking advantage of the OP and that if they want to continue doing the testing they can but someone in the group can read their (typed not handwritten) notes and do all of the other stuff.
    #2 I think every person who has ever had a period has this fear at least a little bit.
    #3 Could you mention to a few coworkers in passing that you and your fiance are not taking gifts?
    #4 Oooff. Poor candidate. I wonder if they are relatively new and had never gotten the option for clarifying questions like this. Or they read somewhere that they should ask all these questions.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      But they aren’t they forcing the LW to do anything. Forcing implies that there’s no choice in the matter. They asked, but they have no hold over the LW.
      You could make the argument that some of the things they’re requesting aren’t reasonable, but why would they stop so long as the LW keeps saying yes?

      1. Gerry Keay*

        Seriously I just do not get this. Part of maintaining volunteer relations IS giving work to volunteers who want it. Like, this isn’t a hostage situation. LW reached out to the nonprofit, the nonprofit replied with volunteer opportunities and LW said yes and yes and yes and yes and now doesn’t know how to say no. That’s not on the nonprofit!

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

        Maybe forcing isn’t the right word. But it just rubs me the wrong way. especially since the OP was not looking to volunteer. They just called to ask a question, and now they’ve added more and more items for them to do.

        1. anna*

          The OP could have said no from the start or at any point after that….. The org I’m sure assumed they would say no if they weren’t interested. Doing the work for 10 years indicated the opposite so of course they assume the OP is happy to help.

        2. Gerry Keay*

          Okay but like, the nonprofit wasn’t looking for volunteers either! LW called to ask a question that was outside the nonprofits scope, so their options were to either say “No this it outside our scope” or to say “this is outside our scope so we can’t provide that info, but if you want to explore it and have it contribute to our overall mission, here’s how you can do so in a way that is beneficial to us as well.”

          People have to learn to say “no” to things they don’t want to do. It’s not a nonprofit’s job to read the minds of their volunteers in case one of the volunteers is secretly seething in resentment over the work they agreed to. I just really do not understand this idea that the nonprofit should have just *known* what LW was thinking/feeling this whole time without LW needing to say anything.

    2. Dinwar*

      “I can understand taking the sample for the group, and the field notes but why on earth would they force the OP to format it in the specific way?”

      This seems backwards to me. Formatting is relatively easy; getting data is the hard part. There are FAR more rules about collecting samples–see ASTM for a few tens of thousands of examples–whereas formatting is about convenience. Plus, I’ve come within inches of death FAR less often formatting data compared to field work. And asking that it be formatted a specific way makes sense. The formatting of the field data should be easily transferrable to the system used to store/analyze it.

      I’m not saying that the clerical stuff isn’t important. It absolutely is. I’m just saying, it’s much more reasonable to ask a volunteer to do that than it is to do field work!

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        But, Dinwar, I agree with you about the safety issue, but I can understand wanting to do the field work vs clerical. It’s more fun (says the lab chemist who prefers the bench to the computer)

    3. Parakeet*

      I’m not sure why it wouldn’t be legal, for a nonprofit. There’s not really any such thing as “a lot more work than a volunteer would” as long as there are lines about what volunteers do vs what you pay paid staff (if there are any! some orgs are all-vol!) to do (and ethically, even if not legally, I think it’s important that orgs that use volunteers make sure they get proper support). Depending on the org, volunteers work with highly emotionally fraught situations, manage teams, act as subject matter experts, etc.

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

        There are still specific requirements for volunteers. They can’t do work that would otherwise be done by a paid employee. Being they don’t have other volunteers the OP is doing work that someone else would be paid for. That’s why I think it could be illegal.

        1. anna*

          You’re assuming they would otherwise have a paid employee doing this work. They probably would not.

          This kind of setup is common in nonprofits and is legal.

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

            I guess it really depends on the nonprofit and what they do and what the OP is doing. I was thinking that if the Op is doing something like testing water for farm chemical contamination and the nonprofit’s mission is land and water pollution the staff’s job would be to go to places and test the water and write the reports. But if what the OP is doing is not really a large part of non-profits mission, and they don’t do this at all then I can see your point.

            1. non-profit hr lady*

              Even if it’s their mission, this isn’t strange or illegal. Lots of non-profits use volunteers for that sort of thing. If they wouldn’t otherwise have a paid employee doing the exact work she is doing—and it sounds like they would not—then there is no legal issue.

  50. RagingADHD*

    LW3, whenever the topic of giving a wedding gift comes up, someone always asks where the couple is registered. So if the organizer asks, you can tell them about the charity. Or if you have any sort of online registry connected to the charity, they will probably find it.

    The other thing you can do without being presumptuous is to mention the charity in conversation, and include the fact that you asked your guests to donate there in lieu of gifts. That may or may not get picked up on, but it’s likely to.

    (Do not do the mention-itis thing if you are awkward with conversational dynamics. If it’s too heavy handed, it’s worse than telling people directly.)

    1. Clisby*

      The only way to politely raise this issue is if someone asks directly. Outside of that, it’s presumptuous. I can’t conceive of any way to just casually drop this kind of info into a conversation without everybody immediately thinking, “Oh, they’re fishing for donations.”

  51. Firecat*

    #1 I worked at a non profit like that. It was basically a rich woman’s pet project to ensure she could feel important and say she was a scientist.

    If people called in with questions about water or soil safety the receptionist was trained to talk them into volunteering and buying testing equipment “for the good of your family and community”.

    The data was rarely reviewed because she rarely worked and she drove off every analyst she had.

    She also illegally 1099’d all her interns while paying us under minimum wage because she bunked us all in a house she owned near the worksite.

    There are people who take advantage of the young and naive and are fantastic at it.

  52. kiki*

    LW 1: I wouldn’t feel bad at all about setting boundaries with this non-profit or stopping entirely. Giving the non-profit the benefit of the doubt, I would guess that they didn’t realize how much more involved and unpleasant they were making the task for you– I certainly hope they didn’t know you had hired somebody else out of pocket to do some of this work for you! Part of having volunteers handle projects like this is that you’re accepting some risk of data gaps and inconsistencies– they’ve been lucky to have someone taking on this task for 10 years!

  53. JelloStapler*

    #2 I’ll just say I’ve been there, granted I work with all women and we are pretty close so I felt comfortable saying more; you could just tell your boss that you have to run an emergency errand

  54. Empress Matilda*

    #4 is good, but I would reverse the order:

    If we move forward, I’ll be sure to set aside some time for this…

    I tend to skim rather than reading each word, and the “if” got lost for me in Alison’s response. If a job candidate also misses the “if,” they’re going to assume that you’re definitely moving forward, which will cause a whole different set of problems. If you put it at the beginning of the sentence and separated with a comma, I think it’ll stand out more.

    1. Gracely*

      I mean if the candidate doesn’t have basic reading comprehension/skims an email about something as important as a potential job, that’s really not the hiring person’s fault…

      1. Empress Matilda*

        That’s not at all what I said.

        What I said was: what stands out to me from the original sentence is “I will make time for this.” And I don’t imagine OP wants to give the impression that they will *definitely* make time to answer the candidate’s questions. So they might want to reword the sentence to put more emphasis on “If we move forward.”

  55. ZK*

    #2, I have had a wardrobe emergency before, and while mine wasn’t period related, I did have to leave work and go home to change. When I was pregnant I would occasionally get very heavy nose bleeds. The first time it happened, I was at work, at a very public facing job, and it was completely unexpected. I managed to grab tissues and disappear into the manager’s office before anyone really noticed, but I looked like a slasher victim by that point. I was mortified and I had no choice but to tell everyone I had to run home to change.

    Things happen. Sometimes, you’ve got to go home and change. I’ve spilled coffee all down my front. My husband tore the back end out of his pants once (He stuck them together with duct tape and went out to buy a new pair, since he was an hour from home). It life. Just calmly explain that you need to grab a change of clothes and no decent manager is going to care why, they’ll just let you do it.

  56. ijustworkhere*

    I used to keep a change of clothes in my car, primarily because I lived pretty far away from work and there are all kinds of things that can happen in addition to the issue raised by the letter (food spills, getting caught in the rain, et) to cause a wardrobe accident. That minimized my need to provide much in the way of an explanation.

  57. Delta Delta*

    #1 reminds me of the episode of Seinfeld where Kramer was “working” in some corporation, got “fired” and said “I don’t even really work here.” OP 1 can say those words exactly and walk away, because she doesn’t work there. If the org wants to keep doing the work they can do it or they can rely on what OP chooses to share. If they push back, “I don’t even really work here” is a great response.

  58. Reality Biting*

    LW1: Maybe I’m misreading this, but it sounds like this environmental feature was never within the scope of this non-profit org. So they obviously wouldn’t have had any staff or other resources to deal with it. Along comes a community member who seems really interested in this feature. So essentially the community member has set up a kind of “external” program area that the organization isn’t set up to deal with. (That’s why they would have asked for the data in a particular format, because from their point of view, converting it just represents new work that they didn’t ask for.) I’m guessing they are doing this out of some sense of community service, or what have you. It sounds like LW thinks she is providing a service to the non-profit and the non-profit thinks they are providing a service to the community member.

  59. Jo*

    #3 Wedding Gifts. I’d find one colleague you are comfortable with, explain to them “just in case”, and ask if they could route the information as necessary.

  60. HonorBox*

    OP 1 – Absolutely do whatever you want to do. I wouldn’t worry too much about about how whatever you say might be interpreted by the organization, either. Heck, you (a volunteer) hired someone to help you with a portion of the project that was added to your (volunteer) responsibilities. You’ve given the organization a great deal of information and assistance over a decade. Alison’s suggestions are spot on and I’d say pick whatever situation works best for you. If you want to collect data and give them your notes because you enjoy that part of it? Great. Do that. If they want more, do just what you want to do. If they get weird or nasty about it, you can step away without having to feel the least bit bad.

    OP 2 – I wouldn’t ever think to press someone on “had a minor wardrobe emergency and need to run home and change” nor would I want to know more than that. Most people will understand because they’ve run into something that they’d also consider a wardrobe emergency in their lives too.

  61. Jo*

    #2 Period emergency. If it’s a fear of that preys on your mind, then it’s worth being prepared even if it never happens. Then it would be unlikely you’d need to leave work.

    Keep the necessary supplies and and an extra outfit at work (and perhaps another in your trunk if this is a concern beyond work). Perhaps add a thin, removeable (dark) seat cushion on your desk chair, as THAT is also likely to be a worry. No one will think twice – if they even notice-as it will just be thought of as a comfort, or even ergonomic, addition.

  62. Candy*

    1. “Hello, I will no longer be available for volunteer work with ORG effective DATE.”

    2. “Hey, I have to step out for an hour. My phone is on if you need to get a hold of me.”

    3. Keep quiet and see what happens. Thank them, and make a donation of equivalent value to the charity if they do end up giving you a gift

    4. “Thank you for your interest in POSITION, however we won’t be moving forward with your application. Best of luck with your career search.”

  63. H3llifIknow*

    Re: Wedding Gift. If they’re going to collect and give you cash anyway, just put the money toward the charity after you get it and in your Thank you, say something like “Thank you so much for the generous gift. With your help we were able to make a substantial donation to XYZ Charity.” Done. I wouldn’t overthink it.

  64. zinzarin*

    After reading OP1’s letter, and the discussion from the commentariat, I’m wondering is this is just a case of ASK vs GUESS culture. Many commenters (seemingly from GUESS culture) are vilifying the non-profit for putting so much on OP1, while others (ASK culture folks) are not-so-much-vilifying-but-still OP1 for agreeing to take on tasks (and pay an intern) for work they didn’t want to do.

    I think OP1 is just GUESS culture, and didn’t want to say no to the requests of an ASK culture organization. Now, a decade later, GUESS is fed up that ASK didn’t know they shouldn’t be asking.

    1. zinzarin*

      Forgot to add: meanwhile, ASK would have been perfectly fine with GUESS saying “no; I don’t want to do that” to any request along the way.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I don’t think that accounts for ten years of work and independently hiring someone. This behaviour seems very out of the ordinary, regardless of the whole ask/guess thing.

  65. SleeplessKJ*

    LW 2: just keep an extra set of pants/underwear at the office. I’ve always done this and keep a shirt here too. Periods happen. Spills happen. Buttons can fall off and zippers can break. It’s nice not having to stress about the what-it’s.

    1. zinzarin*


      I’m a cis male, so periods have never been a risk for me, but I had an egg roll explode all over my shirt at lunch once almost two decades ago. I’ve kept a spare shirt in my drawer ever since.

      1. Dinwar*

        Most people I work with keep a spare outfit at the office. A lot of them go to the gym at lunch or after work, or go to jobsites, or otherwise need a spare outfit occasionally, so they keep one there. I doubt most of us would notice someone changing shirts or pants mid-day, and if we did we’d all assume there was a valid reason for it and move on with our lives.

  66. Maria S*

    Politeness and tact are not my strong suit, says someone doing work they dislike for TEN YEARS because they just don’t know how to refuse nicely enough. This made me laugh. OP#1 is a treasure.

  67. Finch*

    #4 I don’t see why the person who sent the questions is in the wrong. Maybe they have anxiety and can’t ask these questions in the moment. You don’t have to hire her, but being open for people being able to do this and then taking the time to answer them seems like basic courtesy. (Tbh I would vastly prefer this be the norm, I think it would be a lot more equitable.)

    1. fridayanon*

      the op’s point was that the questions asked are ones that would take a lot of time to write answers to. you can’t do that for every candidate, you’d be spending all your time on it. that’s why the suggestion was to say ‘let’s hold time for this if we meet again’.

    2. MsM*

      A dozen questions running the gamut from dress code (is that really going to be enough of a dealbreaker that it can’t wait until the offer stage, especially if there’s going to be an in-person interview that might clear it up anyway?) to DEI suggests difficulties with prioritizing and understanding limitations on other people’s capacity that might keep me from moving forward even with a stronger candidate. And while I also sometimes have trouble speaking up in meetings due to anxiety, it is a necessary skill in most workplaces, and I’ve learned that I have to be mindful of my colleagues who have an easier time processing their thoughts verbally. If you’ve been presented with an opportunity to ask questions, you have to be willing to take it in the moment and reserve any follow-up for the most pressing stuff you just couldn’t get to, not hold everything for when you’re ready but the other person has already moved on to the next thing they needed to do.

  68. Modesty Poncho*

    For those packing up emergency bags after this discussion, I also want to call out a spare set of medication if you can swing it! If you take daily meds, having a baggie with one day’s dose in case of an emergency that keeps you from getting home for them can be a big deal.

      1. I have RBF*

        A photocopier and a sharpie can help with that. Photocopy or take pictures of your prescription(s) and put that in the bag with your pills, and label the bag with your name.

      2. Caterpillar hunter*

        Leave bills in box. If blister packs, keep the last one and cut large enough that labeled.

        If you take multiple meds – some pharmacies do pill books (basically a book of all the morning, lunch etc pills for each day do each set of pills is a blister pack). Keep a day’s worth in your work bag that has your label on it.

        1. Dahlia*

          Prescriptions don’t usually come in boxes or blister packs in the US and Canada. They just come in bottles.

  69. Delphine*

    #1 is bananas. A decade! I know someone who would allow herself to be put into the exact same position. No strong arming required, she’ll strong arm herself on your behalf.

  70. 1-800-BrownCow*

    LW #4: So I would be the person with a million questions after the interview. My personality, I tend to listen and absorb info and then later, after the fact, I start internalizing and coming up with thoughts and questions. However, unlike your interviewee, I would email you only 1 or 2 critical questions and save a list of follow-up questions for my next interview round or if I received an offer, I would request some time to go through my additional questions. I think the advice Alison gave you is spot on. It’s nothing you did or anything you need to change!

    1. Age Discrimination Sucks*

      Yes, folks are too hard on the candidate here. Maybe she’s learning professional norms, but nothing is wrong with due diligence. Not enough candidates do it, I didn’t do enough of it early in my career. I too reflect on things, and do not like to ask canned questions.

  71. Lauren19*

    LW2, it’s weird when normal body functions interfere with work. Reminded me of when my breast pump was stolen from our wellness room (which served as the mother’s room), which then required me to explain to my boss how milk production works and why I needed to go home ASAP.

  72. Sunflower*

    #2 I don’t know if anyone posted this but in addition to keeping spare clothes and supplies in your desk drawer, keep an extra jacket or sweater at the back of your chair at all times if possible. Tie it around your waist for that walk to the bathroom.

    I realize not everybody has a desk, locker, or car but you can carry them in a backpack to and from work around that time.

  73. SparePants*

    I have to agree that keeping extra pants at work is a good idea. There’s just so many reasons you might need pants (I take transit and kept mine in a desk drawer with tampons and socks). These are the reasons I’ve needed fresh pants at work:
    I spilled an entire cup of tea on myself
    I got caught in a rainstorm (this is why I keep socks)
    I sat in something gross on the bus
    I squatted too quickly and my pants couldn’t handle it

    It’s very common in offices I’ve worked in to keep extra pants/shoes/supplies at work, especially if lots of people in your office use transit – weather happens.

    1. Forty Years In the Hole*

      Been there, done that. Ex-military, rarely close to being able to run home, so always had a “go bag” at work, but more for actual emergencies like major, close the road storms/public safety emergencies/not getting home for hours. Fortunately our workplace had full shower facilities. So…along with hygiene supplies…extra charger, batteries, flashlight, towel, soap, change of clothes, portable/non-cook food, small wrap to keep warm, etc. sometimes things happen even before you get to work – so knowing you have a plan B in your drawer is a bit of comfort if you need it.

  74. Jane Eyre*

    I highly suggest that LW2 (and really all women) buy a few pairs of period underwear and start wearing them a day or two before her period is scheduled to start. I have Knix (and Thinx, but Knix are better) and they’re really comfortable and feel like normal underwear

    1. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      Thinx are involved in a huge lawsuit because there are forever chemicals in their product. :(

  75. Ellen N.*

    Original poster #3. I vote against you suggesting a donation to a charity as a wedding gift from your coworkers.

    Every charity has detractors. For example, as I am opposed to medical testing on animals, I don’t donate to charities that fund such testing.

    Also, as who donated how much is a feature of charity drives in lieu of gifts for life events, your coworkers could feel pressured to spend more than they want to.

    1. Not Alison*

      I agree with this. The reason I would want to donate for a gift for my co-worker’s wedding (or other significant event) is so that they would have a nice remembrance of the event from their work buddies.
      If the co-worker didn’t want a gift because they didn’t need anything and was just soliciting donations, I would just prefer to donate directly to a charity that I support in order to receive a deduction on my taxes.

  76. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

    I am willing to bet that over the course of 10 years, at least some of the staff at LW1’s nonprofit have no idea LW isn’t a paid freelancer. Assigning work like looking up the weather, adding columns to the spreadsheet–that’s the type of thing one does with a contractor. Volunteers get praised and ASKED. It is going to flabbergast at least some of these folks to hear that “reliable field staffer” isn’t a field staffer at all! You should get a profuse thank you/apology and a box of cookies when you quit.

  77. Dawn*

    I’m not attempting or intending to armchair diagnose with LW4, but I just want to note that in some ways the candidate mirrors my own experience being younger with (mental health issues, likely somewhere on the autism spectrum) and sometimes even approaching 40 it takes a very conscious effort to remind myself not to take everything someone offers literally.

    If it’s possible for you, it might be useful to adjust your standard line to be a little more explicit about what you’re actually offering; I know that’s not necessarily practical but something along the lines of “I’m here if you have any other brief questions you missed/things you’d need to know before proceeding to the next stage/require additional clarification” – something that a little more directly says “not just because you have questions you are interested in the answers to.”

    1. anon for this*

      That’s what I was thinking. I’m autistic, and while I’m pretty good at interviewing and professionalism more generally, I was also able to access coaching on those skills very early on. But if the expectation to succeed is to parse social subtext, that’s always going to be an inherent barrier for certain kinds of people–and I’m not sure if the question OP4 asked is the hill to die on in terms of neurodiversity, but it’s something worth considering more generally in the hiring process. How direct is this process? How much subtext are we leaning on, and how much of (ingroup) knowledge or culture must a successful applicant have access to in order to parse that subtext? Can that be changed at all without compromising the quality of the candidates we hire?

    1. A person*

      I keep emergency pants and shirt because I work at a place where I can get dirty.

      Emergency pants are important!

  78. Lizzianna*

    I hesitated to comment on LW1, because I don’t want to sound ungrateful. And I LOVE the volunteers I work with. They make a lot of work for my agency and some of our partners possible.

    But I’m seeing a lot of comments in this section basically along the lines of “the organization should be grateful for what they get and how dare they ask for more!”

    Here’s the thing about managing a volunteer program – not every project a volunteer proposes is useful. Not every product a volunteer produces is high quality. And it can be a significant workload for a program to manage the volunteers and get their work into useable formats. Sometimes to the point that it’s more work having the volunteer than not.

    I don’t say this to discourage people from volunteering. But if you are volunteering, it’s really important to ask them what they need, and listen. I mentioned this in a subcomment above, but if I got handwritten data sheets from volunteers, that would not be something I could use, because I don’t have the staff to transcribe them. So having a volunteer collecting data for 10 years, but providing handwritten notes, would result in 10 years worth of notes sitting in a drawer in our file room.

    It’s absolutely reasonable for LW to say that she’s not willing to do that data entry part any more, and to ask if they would still like the handwritten notes. And maybe the organization’s circumstances have changed, and they have someone who can transcribe the data. But it’s also reasonable for the organization to say, “Handwritten notes aren’t something we can use, if you want to submit these to us, this the is the format we would need it in.” Non-profits don’t have to accept every offer of help that comes in the door, regardless of how well intentioned it is.

  79. Caterpillar hunter*

    LW3 feel free to tell people (or at least one specific suitable person) you don’t want gifts (although not if you’ve heard that a collection has been organised already). But do not tell people you do not want gifts and instead they should buy you this specific gift.

    If you want them to donate to charity that is a request for them to buy you something. A donation to a charity of your choice on your instruction is a gift to you.

    Similarly, a donation to a charity of the giver’s choice is NOT a gift to the individual named on the card – it’s a gift to yourself (and possibly the charity)

  80. Caterpillar hunter*

    LW2 I think how you handle this depends on your workplace. If you’ve a job where going home early and working from there the rest of the day, or ducking out and coming back, is easy then a simple heads up to boss that that is what you are doing is likely enough.

    If your presence is somewhat important, then you’d likely have to explain a little more than “wardrobe emergency” – and your preferred solution (going home to change) might not be practical to accommodate.

    And if your presence is critical then frankly I’d expect you to quickly deal – going home would not be an option. A staff member who left over a wardrobe emergency would be unlikely to keep their job if that meant closing down the department or canceling a major event.

    If you’re that worried about it keep a spare outfit at work (especially if your presence is critical). Also – if your work is in a central business area, you can probably pick up a spare pair of undies from a local store easily.

  81. L*

    #3 Also be aware that there can be political and religious issues with charities that could make it uncomfortable for your employer or someone you don’t know well to get involved, even if you think it is a pretty non controversial charity. I have several charities I can’t give to for religious reasons, and I don’t necessarily want to get into those religious reasons with work colleagues, so if I were your boss and that was the only gift open you’d presented, I’d be torn about what to do.

  82. A person*

    If LW 1 is feeling passionate about it they could reach out to local high school and see if their science teacher would want to take it over with their classes. It would be a good exercise for local high schoolers and a teacher might appreciate that the framework is already there.

    Definitely agree though that OP is well within their rights to just say “I’m out”.

  83. ProcessMeister*

    LW3 could wait till the topic of their wedding comes up at work then steer the conversation towards their gifting preferences, but all without implying any specific involvement by their work colleagues.
    I.e. a general discussion of wedding gifting > what friends/relatives have done in the past > what they and their partner have decided to ask their guests to do this year > why they’ve made this decision etc.
    If the work colleagues then decide to offer something, LW has given them a framework within which to work. And all without implying any sort of expectations.

  84. Tiger Snake*

    I think its pretty normal that someone needs transcribed notes rather than handwritten. That much is not unreasonable, and if you just hate having to type it up that much then you’re probably better off not doing it at all.

    But I also wonder if the OP finds the rest of their requests about data entry harder than it has to be *because* she hates it so much. As in; there are in fact easy, near-autoamtic ways to do what the OP has been asked to do, but because she hates excel she’s not familiar enough to know that and has to do it the long way.

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