coworker keeps saying I’m too muscular, boss suggested I work on a sick day, and more

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

1. Coworker keeps saying I’m too muscular

I am currently working in an allied health field as a practitioner in a private practice, and am (mostly) very happy with my job and my career. I am also an avid gym-goer, which has led to this problem.

We have a practice manager, “Jane,” who is not really my boss as I don’t report to her, but she is the head of the administrative side of things which I guess puts her higher up the ladder than me. We didn’t often interact until recently due to office re-arrangements.

We now see each other much more often. Jane has begun to make several comments on my body, saying that I am “too muscular,” and that she doesn’t “like men that big.” Jane has also stated that my tattoos are inappropriate (two sleeves of snakes, skulls and flowers, nothing outrageous) and insinuated that I am “intimidating” to clients, saying that clients may be physically intimidated by my physique and tattoos and also that clients who are not in good physical shape may feel insecure about my fitness. Furthermore, Jane has made comments to myself and others that I might have outbursts of “roid rage.”

I do indeed use steroids, but I have no difficulty with temper and am in fact a very quiet guy. I did not tell Jane this though, and fail to see how it’s any of her business as long as it doesn’t affect my work.

I am unsure of what to say to her, as Jane is senior to me and I hate confrontation in general, and was hoping you could help me with a script. I am especially worried that she already sees me as potentially unprofessional and aggressive, and am hopeful you can give me something that will convey that I want her to drop the issue without giving her more ammunition.

Whoa, she’s really out of line. In theory the next time she makes one of these comments, you say, “Please stop commenting on my body” or “I don’t want to talk about my body at work and it’s weird that you keep bringing this up.” Or if you think she’s the type to respond better to this, “You keep commenting on my body and it’s making me super uncomfortable and self-conscious. I just want to get my work done and your comments are making that hard.” (To be clear, you shouldn’t need to soften it like this! But I want to give you a few options because she has power and also sounds out of her gourd.)

Ideally, though, you’d skip all that and go over her head. Small medical practices are notorious for not having real management structures in place, and I’m guessing you don’t have anything like HR or even a person above Jane you could go to. But if you do, skip everything above and go to that person. If you don’t, is there someone else who’s high enough up for Jane to listen to who you could talk to about what’s going on and enlist them to speak to her?

Read an update to this letter.

2. Should I pay a service to improve my resume?

I’m hoping you can give me some advice on whether or not I should spend money to help better position myself to find a job. I graduated from college just before the pandemic and was not able to find a position in the journalism or communications fields I’ve been attempting to enter. I recently had a paid internship but it stopped at the end of January. I’ve been seriously job-hunting for the last three months and have had zero interviews despite sending out dozens upon dozens of applications. Frustrated, I happened upon a website last week that offered to evaluate my resume and ran it through an artificial intelligence software that it claims many companies use to screen applicants. Unequivocally, the results they offered said that my resume is actively hindering my job search. Thankfully, this same website/company offers a full resume overhaul, done by professionals for $200.

Given how little interest I’ve garnered for jobs I’m definitely qualified for, I’m considering coughing up the money, However, a longtime reader of your website (my mother) has encouraged me to reach out to you first. From reading your website, she believes that many of these companies offer bad advice and are often scams. I agreed to reach out to gauge your opinion on these sites and to see if they’re a good use of my money. I’m also attaching my resume and a sample cover letter to see if you agree with their assessment of my materials.

Your mom is right. (I so infrequently get the opportunity to say that!) Those sites are scams; as far as I can tell, every resume evaluation they do reaches the conclusion that — surprise! — you need to pay for their help. Once you do, the advice they provide will generally be generic and no more useful than what you could find in 20 minutes of googling on your own. Definitely don’t give them your money.

Your resume is … fine. It’s fine in that it’s exactly like 95% of resumes out there, which means that it looks professional and well-organized but it just summarizes what you were responsible for at each job. Because it’s just like 95% of resumes out there, it’s not going to stand out — especially for someone at the start of their career without a ton of experience yet. If you want to improve it, the way to do that is to include what you achieved at each job — not just the activities you performed, but the accomplishments you had. Think outcomes, not activities; there’s advice on how to do that here. (For breaking into writing fields, what you really need are published clips, and it looks from your resume like you have those.)

3. My boss suggested I work from home while still taking a sick day

I was recently discussing my options with my manager on a day I felt too bad to be in the office but had a lot on my plate that I was worried about having to reschedule. We’ve previously had a fair bit of flexibility, including the ability to work from home if too ill to come into the office but okay enough to stagger on in terms of getting work done, but that has been officially withdrawn. Knowing that I was concerned about my workload, my manager suggested that I mark the day as sick time in the leave system, but work the full day anyway, “to allow me to work from home.”

Ultimately I just took the sick day, of course, but that suggestion feels wrong to me. Is it illegal? Is this something I should bring up later in a “hey, maybe educate yourself on what’s legal and not” way? I’ve done a bunch of googling around labor laws in my state but I can’t find a definitive answer as to legality, and I checked the leave policy statement on my (large) organization’s HR site and found nothing about taking sick leave but being asked to work anyway.

It’s legal in most states, but obviously incredibly messed up — if you’re going to be charged a sick day, why would you bother working from home? Sick leave is for days when you’re not working, not just when you’re working from a different location. What your boss was suggesting was that you take a hit to your accrued leave while the company still got the benefit of you working — all upside for them, all downside for you.

It may or may not be worth bringing back up with your boss now, but it certainly wouldn’t be unreasonable to say, “I was surprised you suggested I work from home while taking a sick day since it doesn’t make sense to me to lose a day of leave when I’m working the whole day.” If her thinking was that you had important stuff to get done that day even though you couldn’t come in, maybe she can use that as impetus to advocate for switching your WFH policy back to what it used to be.

4. How much prodding should I do as an interviewer?

I’m a newer manager currently hiring at my job for an entry-level role, meaning some of the folks I’m interviewing have maybe never had an interview before. I try my best to make sure my questions are worded as clearly as possible and I’m happy to provide clarification if a candidate is unsure of what I’m asking. But when a candidate doesn’t fully answer my question, gives an extremely short answer with no elaboration, or gives a response that doesn’t get at what I’m asking, am I supposed to prod them for more?

For example, I asked a candidate for an example of how they handled making a mistake at work, and instead of giving me a specific example, they generally spoke about how they handle mistakes. (I start by saying “can you tell me about a time when…” so I think it’s clear I’m looking for a specific example.) I had another candidate who answered most of my questions by giving examples from their prior job in a different, unrelated field but without connecting them to what I was asking about for this job. Some of my questions related to work style or communication style also got really short answers, like “I prefer X” with no elaboration.

In these cases, should I have asked them to give a specific example / clarify the connection for me / elaborate? I am not sure if I’m meant to take their slightly off answers as an answer in and of itself, or if I should let them know they didn’t really answer it for me. If I do have to prompt someone more, is that something I should note about their interview? There were a few instances where the answer was so off I did clarify — for example, one person misunderstood the question completely so I re-explained and got a proper answer. In another instance, I asked a candidate how they would manage their workload within the somewhat unusual schedule at our workplace, and their answer was basically that they would not follow that schedule, so I clarified for them it was not optional to not follow the schedule and given that, what would they do instead.

I’m only having these issues with a small portion of the folks I’m interviewing, and I do have a lot of great candidates who are having no problem answering my questions in the intended way. I just want to make sure I’m not being unfair to people who are new to the working world, since this is an entry-level job.

Yes, if someone doesn’t fully answer your question or it’s clear they misunderstood it, you should prod for more or clarify. That’s true with candidates at any level, but especially with entry-level candidates since they often won’t have the frame of reference that will help more experienced candidates understand what you’re looking for. Basically, you want to set candidates up for success (within reason); if a little guidance helps them give you a better sense of how well they’d do in the job, it makes sense to provide that guidance.

I do think it’s fair to take it into account if someone seems to need a lot of guidance and prodding — not for cases when they just need a little (people are nervous or inexperienced and natural misunderstandings happen), but if you have to struggle to get more than one-sentence answers out of someone for the entire interview, that’s relevant data about what it might be like to work with them.

5. Asking for a new office chair when you’re too short for the one provided

I have a quibble I’d love your take on. This is my second job where the office chair is an Aeron, and I freaking hate them. They’re sized chairs, and I’m too short to fit the standard size that every workplace seems to order. As a result, I’ve been having excruciating wrist and neck pain, and have had to take muscle relaxants for the first time in my life.

Is it reasonable to ask my job to either find the the smaller model of the Aeron or cover some/all of the cost of a new chair? It’s not the end of the world to have an uncomfy chair or buy my own, but I’m frustrated with all office stuff being designed for taller people (i.e., men).

Yes, this is a really common and standard request — even from people who aren’t having the painful effects you’re experiencing!

“Our standard chairs don’t fit me and I’ve been having severe wrist and neck pain as a result. Can I get a smaller chair? There’s a smaller model of this one if we want them to match, or I can look at other options.” And go in expecting them to cover the full cost, because they probably will.

{ 489 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    LW #1 is asking for help getting a coworker to stop harassing him about his body. Comments about his steroid use (which may be legal and under the care of a doctor, for all we know) are off-topic and derailing and will be removed. Thank you.

  2. Observer*

    #5 – Chair that doesn’t fit.

    That is NOT a “quibble”. I’m struggling to find the words for my reaction, because to be honest I’m kind of flabbergast that you are dismissing a significant health problem like this.

    Approach your boss as though OF COURSE they will replace your chair. Because any reasonable employer should absolutely do so. Don’t even mention sharing the cost. Allison’s script is excellent.

    In fact, and I don’t generally jump to this, they may even be legally required to do so. Technically, the law doesn’t require ergonomic chairs, but employers ARE required to provide appropriate chairs and prevent clear ergonomic hazards. If you are in such pain that you need to take muscle relaxants (!) then your chair is NOT safe and appropriate for you.

    I’m not suggesting that you should jump to yelling about legality. I’m just making the point that this is really basic safety, and it’s the obligation of an employer to provide that. And any reasonable employer will understand that.

    1. coffee*

      Agreed! And your employer may not even realise that the chairs may not be the right size for everyone, even though it seems obvious that one size doesn’t fit all. It’s completely appropriate to ask for a new, properly sized chair.

      And as Observer has said, this is a basic safety issue and worth pushing about. If your muscles are locking up, it puts your back at risk for further injury. Don’t let it slide. And do consider seeing a physiotherapist about it, if the pain continues. Take painkillers to treat the pain since being in pain will often trigger your muscles to lock up even more.

      1. Antilles*

        And your employer may not even realize that the chairs may not be the right size for everyone
        I would bet that it’s this – that the employer hasn’t encountered this situation or even had to think about it. Aeron claims their chairs are ideally suited for heights between about 5’2″ to 6’2″. If we assume you can probably extend that range an extra inch on either end where it’s not perfect but still good enough, that height range of 5’1″ to 6’3″ covers something like 90%+ of the US adult population. So I think it’s likely it just hasn’t been an issue before because most of their previous employees were within the adjustable range.

        1. many bells down*

          I have short legs in proportion to my torso, so even though I’m in the “standard” range height wise, my legs dangle if the chair doesn’t adjust low enough. The aeron-type chair I had didn’t. It’s not a problem people expect me to have because I’m perfectly average height!

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            A big one for me is needing a chair that has adjustable depth, because the distance from my hips to my knees is often shorter than the chair depth, which means I either have no back support, or my knees are a couple inches back from the edge of the seat while gravity tries to force my shins to bend over the corner, or (what I end up doing) I have to pull my legs up and sit cross legged… which is not great for what it does to my posture trying to use mouse and keyboard, but is the lesser of the three evils.

            For my home office I have a Steelcase Leap V2, which was highly recommended for shorter people because just about every dimension is adjustable – not just a height lever and a lumbar dial that doesn’t seem to do anything like most “adjustable” chairs. You can adjust the height of the lumbar support on the backrest, whether the backrest will lean back or stay firmly upright you lean back, the depth and the height of the seat relative to the backrest, the angle of the slope of the backrest, the height of and distance between the armrests (which also swivel inward and are great for resting your elbows when using a handheld device for an extended time), and of course the usual height of the seat relative to the floor.

            It’s a pricey chair for an individual to purchase but it’s a standard amount for a business to spend on a chair. And if you’re self employed or otherwise someone who does need to purchase your own chair for home use, and you’re in the US and covered by an FSA plan, ask your GP to write you a Letter of Medical Necessity explaining that you would medically benefit from an ergonomic chair. That will allow you to pay for the chair with your FSA dollars, which is like getting a 20-28% discount depending on your marginal tax bracket (and a good way to spend your rollover funds before they expire?). I was able to get a LMN from my GP in a 15 minute telehealth appointment, and I’m not a doctor but my lay understanding is basically anyone who sits in a chair all day 5+ days a week would medically benefit from an ergonomic chair, so it should be pretty easy to get your doctor to agree to provide the letter, and they should be familiar with what an LMN is and how to write one that an FSA plan administrator will accept an valid.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              Also, your employer probably isn’t paying MSRP for those chairs! During the pandemic my partner’s employer switched to work from home and somehow got their office furniture provider to offer employees the same pricing the company gets. They pay 60% less than sticker price! It’s a huge company so that’s probably a particularly good deal, but I’m betting anyone who’s buying a whole office worth of Aeron chairs is not paying full price.

              1. MassMatt*

                On the cost issue, I think the LW may be thinking getting a new chair is a big “ask” but the provided Aeron chair is not the cheap option, so it doesn’t indicate a workplace that’s stinting on basics for the employees.

                FWIW I bought an Aeron when I started working from home almost ten years ago and for me, it’s a great chair, far better than any chair I’ve ever had in the workplace. But if it doesn’t fit the LW, it’s not the right chair and they need a different one.

                I would try going to an office supply or upper end furniture store and try floor models out for fit, which is what I did. It’s hard to tell how a chair feels from photos.

      2. Cedrus Libani*

        As a tall person who spent a couple of years as the “buyer of miscellaneous supplies”, I can attest that I didn’t always know what the short people needed. They had to tell me. But once they did, I fixed it right away, because it was ignorance and not malice.

        (Apparently step-stools break, and I hadn’t been replacing them…after many months of chasing the dwindling supply of working step-stools around to wherever they had been moved, we were down to our final step-stool, and someone was finally mad enough to call me out. I never used them, so I had no idea. Oops. Seriously, just ask!)

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      I need to use an ergonomic keyboard because of the way that I type, and when I first started my current job, I just said “I need one of these keyboards to be able to type comfortably, what do I do to get one?”
      If your employer has the money to buy Aeron chairs, they can buy you a chair that will be comfortable to use. Do not put yourself through physical pain. If they ask why you didn’t initially speak up, tell them that you didn’t realise using this chair would be so painful for you long term and keep following up with them till they get you a new one. It’s your employer’s responsibility to make sure that work doesn’t cause you excruciating pain, and if they care about their employees at all, they will get you a new chair. But you do need to ask, because if you keep taking muscle relaxants and not saying anything, they have no way of knowing that you are having this level of pain, because they’re not mind readers.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. Every company I’ve worked in has been happy to get people the ergonomic devices they need when they’ve asked. You have to ask though as otherwise they won’t know it’s a problem.

        1. Violet Fox*

          I’m one of the people that orders ergonomic stuff where I work (well the IT side of things), and the big thing I really want is just for people to tell me what they need and what actually works for them. Everyone’s body is a bit different, so what works for me isn’t going to be what necessarily works for anyone else.

          Granted we are also really lucky where I work in that we have an ergonomics office who will come and work with an individual to see what their needs are and to give some ideas that those of us who are not ergonomics experts wouldn’t think of.

          1. Lizzie*

            Not ergonomic, but I have very poor eyesight, and recently asked for, and got, a larger monitor. Don’t know if it was new or not, but it wasn’t a big deal at all! I just asked the person in charge of IT equipment, and she replaced mine in a matter of minutes.

          2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            That’s cool; I’ve always worked where it’s “here’s the standard equipment; if you need something specialized, feel free to bring it in at your own expense.” Glad to see there are places where that is no longer the norm!

            1. Kacihall*

              we have had mostly broken chairs in my office since I started working here in 2019. the desks are also a weird, slightly higher than normal height in half the office. my chair would not stay up when you adjusted the height. I was having shoulder pain in 2021 because of it. after two years of letting the bosses and owners know the chairs needed replaced, I went and bought my own from ikea. now, 2 MORE years and after multiple people started bringing their own chairs in, they finally ordered a bunch of new chairs off Amazon and said of we wanted one we had to put it together ourselves.

              guess how well they acted during covid?!

      2. Sparkle Llama*

        Just looked up the price of these and one, holy crap! Two, LW your employer both has money and is interested in spending money on ergonomics. Don’t feel like you are asking too much or expect to have to pay. I would expect my government employer who buys chairs that are around $4-500 to pay for a new chair if I were experiencing pain from it.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        I’ve had a very similar experience. I actually went through multiple keyboard/pointer device combos before I found one that didn’t aggravate my shoulder injury (built-in trackball for the win!) and then I immediately spilled coffee on it.

        I initially approached it as a big request that needed details about my shoulder injury as evidence, but they just approved every request and mailed me the keyboards I requested (including a coffee-free version).

    3. Short shins*

      Hello fellow shorter person! Yes, ask for a chair that fits you!

      I am standard height but proportionally shorter from the knees down, which means my feet never touch the floor in a standard chair AND even if I had a chair the proper height, a cubicle desk is then too high for my wrists. After trying foot rests (which didn’t help me for various reasons) my office got me a chair that goes shorter AND a standing desk — that just happens to be adjustable to be *short* enough for my seated work.

      1. MassMatt*

        Adjustable height desks are a great solution for both taller and shorter than average people. I know someone in a wheelchair that uses one, he liked to joke about his “standing desk”.

        1. Astor*

          They are, but I want to highlight for people that you MUST check to see how high and how low a desk goes before assuming it will help. A normal desk sits at about 29.5″ or 75 cm. Here are some example min-max heights of various ikea sit/stand desks:
          Trotten: 28.38″ – 48″ or 72 cm – 122 cm
          Rodulf: 27.5″ – 46.13″ or 70cm – 117 cm
          Bekant: 22″ – 48″ or 56cm – 122cm
          Uppspel: 29.5″ – 48.38″ or 75cm – 123 cm

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      It’s definitely needed! I can’t use those fancy office/gaming chairs either because I have a spinal injury – and every firm I’ve worked for, even the shady ones, has okayed buying the kind of custom chair I need to not be in pain all day.

      No company can expect the same chair to work for all. My 5 foot 3 coworker definitely doesn’t have the same needs as my 6 foot 1 self.

    5. cabbagepants*

      In my former, US-based employer, medical treatment for pain and injuries caused by poor office economics were covered by workman’s comp. If you spend any money or miss any work over this, LW, definitely check out your rights.

      1. Willow Pillow*

        Ehh, I’ve had to file under worker’s compensation for such injuries (in Canada) and was always declined – I was told it’s really hard to actually get. It’s still good advice to check into, but coverage is also not a given.

    6. Mynona*

      My last two offices both used Aeron, and both purchased “small” sizes for shorter coworkers, so it can be done. Separately, my current employer has received so many complaints about back pain from Aeron users that they added a second chair option with a solid foam seat pad. I scavenged an older generation standard chair from a disused work station and won’t let them replace it!

      1. dmk*

        Yeah, I don’t know why the Aeron chair is seen by some as the “gold standard” in adjustable office chairs. I’ve had several and they have all been terrible for me. My current chair is a Steelcase (it has a solid foam seat pad and back!) and it’s so much better for my body and my office set up.

    7. Cat Herder*

      I agree: basic safety issue.

      My company provides ergonomic assessments, so I ended up getting a petite version of the office chair–it didn’t help with the nonfunctional desk, but now I have a standing desk that is really low so I can also put my feet on the ground (for reference I’m 5’1 and petite). =

    8. cmcinnyc*

      As an admin, I’ve helped more than a few people get a chair that suits their size or is medically necessary. Your situation is not unique and it’s a very standard request. I would be appalled if anyone suggested sharing the cost and would tell you that’s not your responsibility. There are plenty of unethical or uneducated or people pleasing (company pleasing? is that a thing) folks out there who might take you up on it, so don’t offer!

    9. Area Woman*

      Just wanted to add on: If you are seeing a doctor about a workplace-induced injury, then you could be eligible for workman’s comp. I’m slightly baffled you put up with this! Please get them to fix it asap, they already owe you money and time for hurting you.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Yes. Seriously, only a completely illogical employer would see someone with the beginnings of a long term workplace related injury and think “nah, let’s not get her a chair, the workman’s comp claim will cost less.” Because it won’t.

    10. JessaB*

      I admit I only read a few of the comments, but I agree with all of them. This is not a minor thing, and the effect on OP’s back could possibly extend to an ADA accommodation meeting regarding a chair. My husband has back problems, when he worked for a company that had work from home, but was new so was on the bottom of a list of like 50 people, the chair he had was giving him a lot of pain. Now this company was big enough to have an ergonomics person who came out to evaluate him. She took one look and instead of buying him a specific chair put him at the top of the work from home list immediately.

      Now OP’s company may be smaller, and may not have an expert at hand, and WFH may not be offered, but if your back is spasming like that, and the company is not being reasonable, then ask for an accommodation.

    11. Ari*

      I have the same issue, and I haven’t bothered to request special furniture because I’m only allowed to use “drop-in” space and there’s no guarantee it would still be there from one day to the next. I’ve tried a few chairs that aren’t being used. They either don’t go low enough, so my feet dangle, or they do go low enough but then the desk is too high for me to comfortably reach. I much prefer days when I can work at home, where I have a chair that fits and a desk that lowers/raises.

      Do ask for this though, especially since you’re in that much pain.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        I know the feet dangling problem. Is there some way you can get a foot stool for the days when your feet dangle? Maybe have it hidden with receptionist so it won’t disappear?

    12. KMD*

      I am 4’11’ and have been through this. You might need a “prescription” from your doctor for a smaller chair (my last job did), but then I got the smaller chair. If it looks the same as other chairs, make sure you mark it! I had mine swapped out, and had to go hunt around the cubes, and explain I had a medical need for that specific chair, and how they could go to their manager & get one too.

      Also, got my keyboard tray lowered, and got a little foot support. Really helped!

    13. A person*

      If it’s a bigger company, they may even have an H&S team that would do an ergonomic assessment to help with this request.

      Unrelated: I’m short and my boss saw me lower the chair I was sitting in, in the conference room and was like “you’re the one that does that?!?!” Ummm, yes… because otherwise my feet don’t touch the ground comfortably and it hurts my back. Also… I would believe that since the other 3 women in our office are also my height (shorty short short short), they are doing it too…

      Our office does care about ergonomic safety and we are allowed to work with a safety person to accommodate as needed.

    14. Reluctant Mezzo*

      I know someone who had to have neck surgery because the ergonomics of her station were so bad for her. Yes, make a fuss! (I have also found that changing the chair height two days out of the week helped me avoid some of the problems with repetitive tasks as well).

      The neck surgery cost the company (self-insured) way more than the chair did. Just sayin’.

  3. My Dear Wormwood*

    #1: something else you could say is “[Boss name] knows what I look like. If she’s not concerned about me interacting with clients then you don’t need to be either, and I’d appreciate it if you stopped talking about it.”

    Or you could soften it a bit, but keep leaning on “boss knows what I look like and she has no concerns”.

    1. Side slow Bob*

      “Stop staring at my body you creepy weirdo”

      Said in front of others it should knock that right on the head.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I vote for this one.

        I cannot imagine any circumstance under which I would comment on a coworker’s body, unless maybe it was some kind of insane emergency and I had to describe an injury to 911.

        1. Quite anon*

          coworker got injured outside of work and texted me pics asking if it was serious enough to warrant taking the day off. I said yes!!!!!!!!

          That’s another time commenting on a coworker’s body is appropriate.

        2. Antilles*

          I can imagine a few circumstances…but all of them would be (1) positive/encouraging and (2) with someone who you’ve got a decent relationship with.
          Something gets a new haircut or if they mention they’ve been really getting back in the gym or something along those lines? Sure, I might toss out a small compliment.
          But I can’t imagine this sort of negative sniping.

          1. Panicked*

            I was taught from an early age to only comment on something someone has a choice in or can fix in under a minute. Something in your teeth? Comment. Color of your teeth? No comment. Pretty new shirt? Comment. Way the shirt fits their body? No comment.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I try to compliment someone’s style, rather than their body. I will occasionally compliment someone on their hairstyle or clothing choices (and will let them know if their fly is down), but I won’t comment on the body itself.

              1. InsufficentlySubordinate*

                Yes, I comment like ,”I love that color!” or “That’s a great jacket!” or “That’s an awesome look!”

        3. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

          I comment exclusively on things people have chosen and that are positive: ‘I love your hair!’ ‘That shirt is awesome!’ ‘Your shoes are so cute!’

          Positive, friendly, and if I can’t say something nice, I don’t say anything at all.

          1. Princess Leia*

            I LOVE the distinction of complementing only things that people have chosen! That’s a great way to divide what is a nice comment and what can be objectifying/weird. You chose this shawl and I love it! Heck you chose this nail polish and it’s cute. You didn’t choose to be that tall, not going to mention it.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        But it would likely lead to other problems. I don’t think this is a realistic script.

    2. Snow Globe*

      I would strongly encourage LW1 to have another person present if he does talk to Jane. Based on her comments, she seems like the type of person who would interpret LW1’s perfectly normal request to stop talking about his body to be “intimidating” and could even accuse him of being angry or yelling at her. Make sure there is a witness.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Jane is definitely projecting. SHE feels intimidated by OP and she is pretending the clients feel that way because it makes it more of a certified problem to be dealt with by the clinic overall, rather than something she herself just needs to come to terms with and deal with. So unfortunately I agree that other weirdness is likely if OP tries to solve this directly with Jane.

        1. antiqueight*

          Agreed – this is how she feels about him and as another person noted as such any conversation should be had in the presence of others or it could be misreported – in part because she is likely to misconstrue any such conversation.

        2. Observer*

          Jane is definitely projecting.

          That’s probably true. But it’s not the heart of the problem.

          SHE feels intimidated by OP

          I wonder if that’s really the issue. The fact that she says that ‘she doesn’t “like men that big.”” Doesn’t sound like someone who is intimidated, but someone with a lot of prejudice going on. The “intimidated” bit sounds like an excuse.

          1. Silver Robin*

            “You scare me (subjective, specific) so you must be scary (objective, general) and scary people are bad” is a logic. Not a good logic, but a logic. And folks are not the most rational with unexamined emotions (I would bet good money Jane has not actually reflected on her reactions to OP and where they come from).

          2. MassMatt*

            The “I don’t like men that big” comment was the one that jumped out at me as the most inappropriate and creepy.

            The irony is that the coworker is being hassled for being intimidating while actually being soft-spoken and averse to confrontation.

            I would try Alison’s script but if that doesn’t work, go to a supervisor, this has got to stop!

            1. Anonymosity*

              Agreed. My first thought was that she was assessing him in a potentially romantic way, but then she said “intimidating.” The ‘roid rage suggestion is simply outrageous. I wonder if anyone else has heard her say this and what they’re thinking.

              I second the idea that OP should have someone else present for any conversation he has with Jane about her remarks. It worries me that she could later claim the OP did something or said something inappropriate, and it’s important he get in front of Jane’s train before it goes off the rails.

      2. irene adler*

        Good idea!
        Jane might also cite ‘roid rage’ as part of this. Which would be another off- base thing for her to say. The witness could put a fast stop to this being the case.

        1. Lab Boss*

          That’s exactly what I thought. Jane’s comment about ‘roid rage is the perfect setup to disallow OP1 from pushing back on her at all, because now she can frame any response as “raging” or “aggressive” or “intimidating.” As big as he says he is, I wouldn’t put it past her to describe him as having a “threatening posture” by virtue of… standing, and being taller than her.

      3. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        If this is how Jane treats someone she doesn’t manage, imagine what it must be like to have her as a supervisor. I’ll bet she’s a terror.

        1. Observer*

          Yes, I was thinking about this. Her judgement is TERRIBLE. And as an employer, you have to wonder about who and what else she is being prejudiced about.

          1. AA Baby Boomer*

            It’s possible that she feels free to comment, she’s the OP isn’t a direct report.

            Not right, but I can see someone thinking it would give them a bit of wiggle room until HR slaps them down.

      4. Sylvan*


        Also, I know if I (female) had a male coworker acting like this, I would avoid talking one-on-one. Sometimes people who are strange or inappropriate won’t do it when someone else is around.

      5. Lavender*

        Seconded. Some people tend to conflate “this person’s presence/behavior is making me feel uncomfortable” with “this person’s presence/behavior is objectively bad.” It would be useful to have someone else in the room who could confirm that OP wasn’t being inappropriate, if it comes to that.

      6. Random Bystander*

        I agree. The whole “might have outbursts of roid rage” and remarks about how LW “may be intimidating” are enough that, no matter how polite and professional the LW is in requesting Jane quit the inappropriate behavior, Jane could flip it into the LW being the problem rather than her inappropriate commentary on LW’s body–at least one additional witness should be present.

      7. Observer*

        I would strongly encourage LW1 to have another person present if he does talk to Jane

        It’s a pain, but I think that this is necessary.

        the type of person who would interpret LW1’s perfectly normal request to stop talking about his body to be “intimidating” and could even accuse him of being angry or yelling at her.

        Yes. This person’s attitude is a definite problem here.

      8. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, unfortunately I think OP is right to worry about how to push back without Jane acting like he’s just validating her accusations of being intimidating. I think that’s a big reason to loop someone up higher into what is happening, just so if at some point Jane tries to complain to them they will already know the context and that Jane is being ridiculous.

    3. silly little public health worker*

      I would strongly recommend that you would soften this language but yeah, this general message.

      part of the reason I would recommend that is that your coworkers might – as someone else pointed out below! – be intimidated by you, rightly or wrongly. i say this as A Fellow Swole (a natural Lady Swole, so I get slightly different headaches, but same general topic area) who has learned that yes, our bodies do seem to be constant topics for judgment in a way that isn’t fair, but does have an impact on our working lives.

      but no one’s body should be a workplace discussion point!! just simply shouldn’t happen!! so absolutely push back, but i’m sorry to say, you will need to be firm yet ~gentle~ or Jane may not take it well

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Now I want to write a novel set in the regency era featuring Lady Swole…

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I’m imagining a torrid romance (a.k.a. their naked hands brushed once) with Lord Consumption the secret poet.

    4. Totally Minnie*

      I just want to say, LW1, I was in the hospital about a year ago and the nurse who did my check in exams looked the way you describe yourself. Tall, muscular, lots of tattoos. And he was one of the kindest nurses I interacted with in my entire stay. He was so compassionate about my pain and treated me so kindly, and he made me feel safe and comfortable. Nothing about the size or shape of his body had anything to do with that.

      Keep on doing what you do, because I bet you’re amazing at it, and I know from experience that your patients will appreciate you.

      1. Anon Today*

        I’m a blood donor, and the absolute *best* draw I ever got was from a tech who had extensive tats, ear gauges and, ah, bad teeth. He looked like all kinds of negative stereotypes, but when I tell you I did not even feel the needle going in and it was one of my fastest donations ever, I’m not exaggerating. Plus we had a fascinating conversation about nicotine poisoning and murder. (I’m a writer.)

        1. Reed Weird*

          Honestly I tend to trust medical professionals *more* if they have tattoos, piercings, or other “alternative” markers! I’m young and visibly alt with varying color undercuts and multiple piercings, and I’ve found that the nurses and techs with similar looks take me more seriously and treat me better than a lot of the more clean-cut people. LW, for all the Janes of the world, there’s also a contingent like me who will see your tattoos and stature and feel safer with you.

          1. Anonymosity*

            Same; I’m not visibly alt but not bothered at all by any of that. As a gawky nerd, I feel less anxious around people who aren’t so clean-cut (and therefore aren’t likely to be judging me, Jane-style).

      2. many bells down*

        The anesthesiologist I had for my c-section was very much the same; huge burly linebacker of a guy. Who was gently dabbing my temples with a damp cloth when the drugs made me dizzy and nauseous. It’s been 26 years and I still remember that man.

      3. silly little public health worker*

        one of my favorite lifting buddies was an ER nurse!! there’s a lot of medical providers who do a fair amount of strength training – including because it’s often a really physical job that’s made easier when you’re not using your back. my job used to involve occasionally moving cinderblocks so

        1. My Dear Wormwood*

          One of Dr Glaucomfleken’s recurring characters is Ortho Bro – the uber-strong and uber-chill orthology doctor. “Hey ER Bro, whattup? Got any intering fractures for me today?”

      4. Decima Dewey*

        Jane needs to get out more. For Heaven’s sake, children’s librarians have tattoos, even full sleeves. Granted the images are from Alice in Wonderland, The Giving Tree, and so forth.

    5. She of Many Hats*

      I would also add something to the effect about “body shaming is unkind and not something anyone should be doing especially in a medical setting. I thought better of you. And you do know, don’t you, that doctors prescribes steroids for a variety reasons? Steriod use is not an evil.”

  4. Anblick*

    LW5 absolutely PLEASE reach out and ask for a different desk set-up!! My company literally has an ergonomics team that would (pre-pandem at least) come and help set up your work station to the right heights, padding, etc. and now that I work from home I still have the option to request ergonomic improvements on the company dime. Your health is absolutely worth it!!

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Big yes! I have had multiple jobs where they offered ergonomic assessments and adjustments. This absolutely would have been a reasonable request.

      1. Seachelle*

        This reeks of gender bias. If the tables were turned and a male in leadership were commenting either negatively or positively on a female workers appearance, describing the persons style or characteristics of their anatomy, it would likely be sexual, gender based harassment.

        Since she’s in an elevated position, her bias could impact OP. If it was me, I’d go to HR with a careful list of dates/times and comments made by Jane. If HR isn’t available, OP should go to his own supervisor and the business owner.

        Given the brazen nature of Jane’s comments, it’s unlikely that she will react professionally to in the moment feedback. I would be concerned about escalating her behavior.

        1. EPLawyer*

          THIS. If she is as high up in the admin as LW says, she can have negative consequences on his career. Oh don’t promote him to a more supervisory role, he will just scream at all his reports – roid rage you know. Or, claim the nurses are afraid to work with him or something.

          Please, LW, I know you hate confrontation but this is your CAREER. Talk to her first, with a witness present for all the reasons given. Then go to whoever handles personnel problems in your clinic and make it clear this has happened and you have concerns. That way if it continues — and it might because she is out of her gourd and may believe she is “protecting” the clinic in some way, its documented. If it does continue, you go back and say remember when I mentioned this, yeah its still going on. It could open up the company to legal liability if something is not done.

  5. Observer*

    #1 – Coworker says you’re too big.

    This has to be one of the more bizarre letters I’ve seen here- and there have been some doozies, as any regular reader will agree, I’m sure.

    If it were just a matter of asking that you wear long sleeved shirts, I could see it. In some communities your tattoos could make people uncomfortable. But the rest is sooooo off base that I would not trust her judgement on the matter. Does she have a problem with practitioners who are slim because overweight clients might feel insecure? Or women who are pretty might make women who aren’t so pretty feel self-conscious? Or does she just expect them to wear ugly clothes and bad hairstyles? And what makes her think that her taste in men is relevant in the workplace, anyway. You’re not there to provide her with male company, you’re there to do a job.

    It’s not clear how big the practice is, but if there are more that 20 employees, what she’s doing is almost certainly a potential problem under Federal law, and in many states it’s a lot fewer employees. Which is to say that if you talk to anyone with any sense, they should realize just how bad her behavior is.

    1. Anonychick*

      If it were just a matter of asking that you wear long sleeved shirts, I could see it. In some communities your tattoos could make people uncomfortable. But the rest is sooooo off base that I would not trust her judgement on the matter. Does she have a problem with practitioners who are slim because overweight clients might feel insecure? Or women who are pretty might make women who aren’t so pretty feel self-conscious? Or does she just expect them to wear ugly clothes and bad hairstyles?

      Why am I suddenly picturing Jane as a character in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”?

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      Co-sign. One thing I might add to the script above is the observation that just as commenting on a woman’s body or whether you like their “look” is obviously inappropriate in this type of office, it’s equally unwelcome and inappropriate to comment on a man.

      This woman may think these comments somehow are different coming from a woman toward a man, and they 100% are not.

      1. Lilo*

        Yep commenting on people’s bodies is not okay. Size, gender, fitness level, etc. none of that makes it okay.

      2. HonorBox*

        I absolutely had the same thought. If you reverse the genders in this situation, and a male is commenting on a female’s body, the question doesn’t even come up here. It is straight to HR or whatever leadership the office has to file a formal complaint. So I’d strongly encourage the LW to do that.

        And seconding the suggestion upthread to have someone else present if / when you address it with Jane, LW. If she’s going to make these sorts of comments… especially one about roid rage… she may see your attempt to converse with her calmly as you trying to intimidate her.

        1. ferrina*

          Yep, I was also on this train of thought. If LW had a female friend who was going through something similar, what would he advise her to do? Commenting on people’s bodies is not okay, full stop. And making assumptions on what medications LW is taking and how they affect him? Nope nope nope. LW should do whatever makes sense to protect himself in this office- whether that’s talking to his boss to let them know what Jane is doing, HR if possible, etc.

      3. LifeBeforeCorona*

        I had to speak to an employee about her comments about another worker’s body and she just didn’t get it. Her defence was that since they were both women it was okay. It took several tries to get her to understand that you can’t mock someone just because they’re the same gender.

      4. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Agree. I consider what Jane is doing to to LW1 to be sexual harassment or at least bordering on hostile work environment.

        1. Anonymosity*

          According to all the harassment training I’ve ever had, it definitely can be both. Either way, it’s a liability and upper management needs to know so they can put a stop to it.

      5. Butterfly Counter*

        As a very muscular woman, myself, it took a few sentences for me to get to the point where I saw OP is a man. Even so, I still completely sympathize and identify with the OP. A lot of people assume physical strength/intimidating stature = my words won’t hurt them. Nope.

        This woman is 100% out of line. If there is a larger, parent company to this small medical office, definitely go up the chain.

    3. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

      Meh. People being uncomfortable with someone’s tattoos should be a them problem, not a tattooed person’s problem. Same as being uncomfortable with any other part of a coworker’s body, really.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. I really dislike the look of very stretched earlobe piercings. I recognise this is a “me” thing. So if a colleague choose do to that then it would be their right to do so and I would never be so rude as to comment. For the same reason I didn’t comment on the very ugly sleeve tattoo my friend’s wife got. I praised the designs and said nice things on the Instagram post because I wouldn’t for the world upset my friend or her wife.

        I mean just because you’re thinking things about how people look, doesn’t mean you should say anything. Not every thought has to be uttered, especially if it’s going to upset someone.

      2. Em*

        Yup. It’s fine to be weirded out by others’ personal choices, we are all different so that’s fairly inevitable. But as they saying goes “your freedom ends where mine begins” … a.k.a get over it without involving other people and move the f on. :)

      3. Silver Robin*

        It genuinely depends on the context. I did Peace Corps, we were told that tattoos, especially on women, were unusual and could be looked at askance and therefore we were counseled to cover them until we got a better feel for our communities. Most of us ended up showing tattoos eventually (my host sister had multiple, but she was not the standard), but it was good to get a feel for things first.

        Depending on where the OP is and which community they generally serve, it can genuinely be easier to cover than not – especially in a health related field where you need clients to listen to you for their own sake.

        All that said, OP’s letter does not indicate that anyone has an issue with the tattoos except Jane so I see no reason they should cover them.

        1. Jessica*

          Yeah, when I read the part where “full sleeve of skulls & snakes” = “not outrageous,” I thought, “that is not everyone’s opinion.” In some professional contexts those tattoos would certainly not be okay. But it doesn’t matter, because you know whose opinion matters here? Not Random Busybody Coworker Jane’s! Presumably this organization has some non-Jane person with authority to set standards of dress for the office, and if that person thought LW1’s tats were non-okay, presumably he’d have heard from them by now.

          1. emmelemm*

            Yeah, someone there hired the LW, and presumably he was large and tattooed when he was hired, so they thought it was just fine.

        2. CommanderBanana*

          Yep, reactions to tattoos vary widely from culture to culture – and even here in the US, from region to region. My sleeves don’t raise any eyebrows in the metropolitan area where I live, but I get a very different reaction in other places in the US.

          When I was younger, I very rarely saw women with tattoos as extensive as mine. I think it’s much more common now and I’ve noticed that I don’t get nearly the amount of comments that I used to. I usually wear long sleeves in professional settings just out of habit, but unless your tattoos are offensive, I just don’t see why it matters if you cover them or not.

          1. MassMatt*

            Tattoos and piercings have been becoming more and more mainstream in the US since at least the 80’s. I remember when an earring on a guy was a huge deal, now nose rings are not even far out, at least in my urban area.

            I wonder whether the coworker is just old-fashioned or conservative about tattoos? It’s one thing if clients are put off by them, but it sounds as though this coworker really has a bee in her bonnet.

        3. Lavender*

          Yeah, it would be one thing if there were an official workplace policy against visible tattoos, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. (And even if there were such a policy, it wouldn’t be OP’s coworker’s job to enforce it.)

          1. CommanderBanana*

            Yeah, and in most of my workplaces, there was no formal policy about tattoos, it was always just how my particular boss happened to personally feel about tattoos on other people’s bodies, and IMHO that’s not a great way to approach it. I personally hate blue eyeshadow and sleeveless sheath dresses, but I would never tell other people to stop wearing them because I don’t like them.

        4. Observer*

          All that said, OP’s letter does not indicate that anyone has an issue with the tattoos except Jane so I see no reason they should cover them.

          That’s kind of where I was going with it. But I’d go further. Even if Jane claimed that clients might have a problem with, I would ignore her. Because the whole situation is clearly a *Jane* problem.

          1. Silver Robin*

            No, if Jane said there were complaints from clients, OP should then talk to their supervisor to see how they should handle that. Because patient comfort in this situation is important.

            If OP has a reasonable supervisor, they will know if that is something the practice cares about. If the practice does care, the supervisor will investigate with Jane some more, figure out if the complaints are substantiated, if there are only one or two or a pattern of them, and react accordingly. The most OP would be asked to do is wear clothes that cover the tattoos, which is reasonable.

            1. Observer*

              No, if Jane said there were complaints from clients, OP should then talk to their supervisor to see how they should handle that. Because patient comfort in this situation is important.

              No. Jane is not credible. So if Jane actually said that there were ACTUAL complaints from clients, I would still say to investigate first.

              But I wasn’t even addressing that. I was saying that Jane has not actually directly claimed that clients might be upset by the tattoos – she making that claim about his size. But that if she ever went to specifically claiming that clients “MIGHT” be upset I would ignore her.

      4. Observer*

        People being uncomfortable with someone’s tattoos should be a them problem,

        I’m not disagreeing. My point is that it is possible to worry about patient reaction to that without being a loon. Also, in such a case it would make sense to think that the OP could have a reasonable conversation with Jane. I certainly would not jump to the kinds of conclusions we’re seeing up and down the thread.

        It’s the other stuff that takes it from “Jane is probably wrong” to “Jane is indisputably out of her gourd, to be kind”.

      5. Double A*

        My only thought about this is that snakes are a fairly common phobia. And some people find skulls morbid and might find them especially unnerving in a health care setting. Is that a them problem? Yes. Is it something you might want to keep in mind and dress accordingly? Also yes.

    4. sookie st james*

      Yeah her using her own personal sexual attraction/preferences as an argument against your body is actually incredibly gross. Imagine she’s instead commenting how you *are* her type – that would read as sexual harassment territory, no? I think this is just the other side of the exact same coin. Everything she’s saying is inappropriate and unreasonable conversations to have about a coworker’s body in their place of work, but that point is just wildly unacceptable.

      1. My Cabbages!*

        Or picture a male coworker telling a female one that he was unattracted to her body type with the implication that she should change it to be more aesthetically pleasing to him….so gross.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      Also, as a patient: I’m going to get undressed and then try to relax and cooperate while you do physical things to me, like bending my arm around or inserting uncomfortable probes. It’s a very vulnerable, intimidating set-up. The apparent musculature of anyone involved does not register to me as a factor in my comfort. That depends on actions.

      I still bless the dental hygienist who told me before the X-rays that I had bumps in both my upper and lower palate, so the bite wings would hurt, gosh she was sorry about that. Because getting dental x-rays is in fact always painful for me, but she was the first person to anticipate that. She could have been an Olympic weightlifter and I would have had the same emotional response, feeling reassured and more relaxed because she acknowledged my pain.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          With a sample size of one: nope. They aren’t painful to me, just uncomfortable (kind of like a pinch). My main problem is the ones in the back trigger my gag reflex.

        2. LTR FTW*

          Nope, just for us lucky folks with the bumps (tori)! Funny how I’m only aware of them in that specific situation, but then I sure am aware of them!!!

        3. Still Life with Apple Product*

          They’re super painful for me because I have a small jaw, so that’s another potential reason. I’ve never heard of palate bumps before!

          1. Hannah Lee*

            I’ve got tori and a small mouth. Bite wings are very painful for me too! Last time I asked if they had smaller set ups … like what do the do for children, just stick the full adult sized ones in? I think the techs have no idea how painful it is.

        4. aebhel*

          What? Wild. They’ve always been excruciating for me, I just assumed everybody getting dental x-rays feels like they’re having knives jammed into their palates.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Acknowledgement is so important. I had to be numbed for a dental procedure and I felt like my nostrils were swollen shut I couldn’t breathe, which was freaking me out. The dentist was like, “you’re fine” and left. When an assistant came to check on me she could see I was upset and I told her how I felt. She kindly grabbed a mirror and showed me my nostrils were fine (lol). She said “if you can see that physically you’re ok, it can help” And sure enough, I calmed right down.

      2. Fives*

        I was stunned when I was told in my *late 30s* that this wasn’t a universal thing. I was so grateful when my hygienist told me the same thing.

  6. Your Friendly Neighborhood Librarian*

    #2 – Look into the online resources of your local library. They will often have free resume writing/editing services.

    1. Ash*

      Was coming in to say the same thing! Libraries are an invaluable resource, and will not charge you money. I have frequently directed library patrons away from scammy “resume help” websites and shown them how to use the (also free, via the public computers) MS Word templates instead.

    2. Jenna Webster*

      Yes, we have a service called Job Now where you can get your resume reviewed and talk with someone about your job search. You might see if your library has that or something like it.

    3. stacers*

      I strongly endorse this. No reason to spend any money on putting together the information.

      I’m a journalist who has hired interns and entry-level reporters. Including clips of your work is intensely important. So, too, is a cover letter — not only because the job is all about writing, but because the reasons people want to be a journalist are a big part of forming the type of journalist they become.

      Talk about stories you’ve covered (in college or your internship) that meant something to you, that changed you in some way or that solidified your ambition to be a reporter and include that clip.

      It’s a tough time for local media jobs and there are people with a lot of experience who were ousted in downsizings so OP may be up against seasoned professionals. But think creatively — these days, TV stations hire ‘web producers’ who are expected to put together basic news stories; you can learn how to post stories on their website. It’s the news writing that will get their attention.

      If the OP doesn’t have many clips, I’d focus on that. It’s a tough time in the local media business, but almost every publication has a freelance budget. Email a metro/city/features editor and say you’re available for something they may need covered: a meeting, an activity, an event, a game. If you have a suggestion, even better. Every publication I’ve worked at has taken submissions, and if that person is reliable, they’ll start being asked to do more.

      It’s a tough business, but getting on the radar inside a newsroom will open doors. It’s ok to be pushy, just don’t be annoying. that’s a fine line, but it can be found. And keep applying for internships — all the publications I’ve worked at pay their interns and many hire the good ones afterward.

      1. BurnOutCandidate*

        I’m in Comms, and yeah, it’s a tough market. I’ve had more “great/impressive resume/portfolio, you fell just short of our interview cut and we hope you’ll apply with us when a future position opens” rejections than actual interviews in the past five years. Of course, even those rejections are dwarfed by the yawning void of nothing. That’s not meant to be discouraging, just a reflection of the reality of the market. Good luck, LW2!

    4. Fluffy Fish*

      Adding on your County or City may also have some kind of Workforce Services which provides services to job seekers. You can def ask the librarian – they’ll likely know.

    5. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Came here to say this also.
      At our local (Florida) library, they have info about a state program called CareerSource. You might have a similar state agency that will help with resumes, cover letters, interview practice, etc.

  7. scandi*

    #1: Before taking it further, I would get a second opinion on your self-assesment that you are very quiet. I’ve had acquaintances that used steroids, and not a single one would self-asses as having anger issues. Many of the people around them would disagree.

    1. BuildMeUp*

      Jane isn’t saying the OP is too loud or angry, though, just that they might have outbursts of “roid rage” and may be physically intimidating. It doesn’t sound like anything Jane is saying is based on the OP’s actions; it’s just based on her perception of their appearance.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      Nothing in the letter indicates the LW is wrongly self-assessing; even Jane’s endless insults don’t mention them having outbursts, just that they could at some point. Your comment is inappropriate.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yeah, I was going to comment something similar. I don’t know about the anger issues really, but more generally that OP comes off as intimidating due to their build, tattoos, general demeanour, etc. It’s hard to describe but the type of person I’m picturing gives off a bit of a … almost nervous energy, constantly pacing, bouncing on the spot etc sort of feeling.

      I’ve also seen many cases where someone I subsequently found out to be a ‘gentle giant’ came off as a threat at first! I’m not easily intimidated so generally observed this in a more cerebral way, but many people would feel uncomfortable.

      I imagine it’s fine to have this demeanour in the gym but not somewhere like a doctor’s office (although it seems counter intuitive since the doctors office ‘should’ approve of health promotion through exercise etc!)

      1. Myrin*

        I find it quite alarming that commenters are speculating on OP’s “demeanour” (and whether he is pacing and bouncing on the spot, seriously, what a specific image with nothing to go off of!) when nothing in the letter – not even Jane herself, who seems always ready and happy to criticise him – indicates issues of any sort around his actual behaviour.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I agree. Please stop this, y’all. (I’ve also removed a comment from someone about how they wouldn’t want a person with a muscular body around them at all — those sorts of judgments on other people’s bodies are not okay here either.)

  8. GingerCookie*

    Oh number 4, the other side of the coin being when they tell you Way Too Much Personal Information.

    For one of our entry level rolls, we started saying “We ask this question to better understand how you grew professionally” before we ask about the greatest weakness, because we were getting way too Not HR Approved stories.

    1. Sunshine's Eschatology*

      I love specifying the context like this! Very smart and helpful to everyone involved.

  9. AcademiaNut*

    For LW#4 – if you’re not expecting them, “tell me about a time when” type questions can be really difficult to answer on the spur of the moment. You have to think through mistakes you’ve made in the past (not fun in general), filter them for situations that are appropriate to mention in a job interview and were resolved in a productive and mature fashion, and then explain the situation coherently. For entry level applicants without much interview experience, I wouldn’t be surprised if they froze up and couldn’t come up with a good response during the interview.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      Agreed! Coming up with good examples on the spur of the moment is really difficult! More experienced candidates will have prepared for this beforehand and/or have built up an internal catalogue of examples. Newbies often don’t, and they have less experience to pull examples from to start with.

      It’s not ideal to get a general response when you asked for a specific example, but sometimes that’s all you’re going to get.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      This could be mentioned in the invitation to interview (I recently took part in an interview process where something similar was mentioned in the email). E.g. We would like to invite you for an interview. During the interview, some questions we ask will focus on specific questions examples from your previous professional experience (e.g. Tell me about a time when…)

      1. HonorBox*

        Absolutely! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with providing a list of potential topics/questions that will be addressed in an interview. Especially if you’re finding that you’re having to prod for more specifics, giving someone an opportunity to prepare isn’t going to hurt at all.

      2. Fishsticks*

        I also received an email with something similar to that statement while scheduling a video interview. It was great, actually, because it let me take the time to think without pressure, make a few quick notes on which events I would bring up, and then that whole part of the process went MUCH more smoothly for everyone.

      3. LW4*

        Hi, LW4 here! I said this in another comment but I did wonder about giving a heads up to folks about my questions. Based on Alison’s advice in the letter she linked in her response to me, I don’t think I currently do enough probing for that to make a ton of sense, so maybe I will rework my process. Over the span of the phone screen and first interview, I think I ask 4 “tell me about a time” questions total, and I tried to select questions general enough that even people with no work experience will still be able to give some kind of response (making a mistake, having a positive relationship with a colleague, having a challenging relationship with a colleague, an accomplishment they’re proud of). I do also specify when I ask that they can tell me about a school or volunteer experience instead. I do totally understand it’s still hard to think of appropriate examples in an interview, especially when you’re nervous and maybe inexperienced. I’m not terribly far out from my entry level days so I can relate for sure! It’s very weird to be interviewing from the other side now and have a different perspective into things I felt as a candidate before.

        I am also kind of building out my workplace’s interview/hiring protocol as I go – we are small and do have HR, but it’s just not something we previously really had in a standardized, official way – so I appreciate everyone’s thoughtful engagement around my question! It’s going to help my entire workplace be better at this.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t ask “tell me about a time” questions just to include some; I’d ask them only if they connect to essential things you need to see in the person you hire. Often that rules them out with entry-level candidates, although it may not in your case. (A lot of interviewers get this wrong, I think — they just get the idea they should ask some, but they don’t pick stuff that targets the really key traits/experiences they need to probe for.)

          1. LW4*

            I think the ones I ask do tell me essential things I need to know for the job, but I also think this is a good opportunity for me to take a good look at my questions overall and think about the “why” behind me asking them. Thank you!

        2. Sheila*

          I recently interviewed at a company that let me know they used the STAR format for interview questions and encouraged me to both Google what that meant and practice structuring my interview answers in that format. (STAR = Situation, Task, Action, Result.) The format makes it very clear that specific scenarios are expected in the answers. The position was mid-level, too, and I’m an experienced interviewee and didn’t need the guidance, but I assume they started giving that specific guidance to help level the playing field and be more inclusive, which I appreciated.

    3. dingbat*

      I have almost the opposite problem. I have virtually never had the kind of experience I’m asked about in interviews. “Tell me about a time when you argued with a coworker.” I have never done so. “Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline.” I have never done so. “Tell me about a time you were in a high-stress situation at work.” Aside from when I got caught in an old building’s elevator between the 4th and 5th floors, I don’t do stress like that. I’ve just started making things up based on where I sense their questioning going and praying I’m never asked about it again because I won’t remember details of what I said.

      I will say, however, that I have turned jobs down because of these kinds of interview questions. When two questions are about missed deadlines, for example, I ask if it’s something that is common in that workplace, or just with the person I’m replacing. When multple questions center around arguments or stress, I take it as a sign that something is very wrong with how a team is being managed and I decline further interviews and offers.

      1. MsM*

        I mean, if your standard for “high stress” is a literal emergency potentially requiring rescue personnel, I think you might want to recalibrate, or at least mentally reframe the question as “tell me about a time you had to handle a complicated work situation.” Same with the argument question: you may never have raised your voice with any coworkers, but presumably there have been times you’ve disagreed or had trouble communicating something to someone. Although if you’ve genuinely never felt stress or conflict at work, I for one would be extremely interested in learning how you manage that.

      2. Sutemi*

        When I don’t have an exact match for the situational question asked, I’ll provide the closest example I have and then specifically add at the end “Did that answer your question? I can do into more detail if needed”. That gives them an easy way to ask follow up questions if they aren’t skilled at interviewing, and if they truly need a different situation they can ask.

      3. bamcheeks*

        If it is actually, “tell me about a time you’ve argued with a colleague, then yes, I would also have difficulty answering that. But if it’s the far more common, “tell us about a time you disagreed with a colleague” or “tell us about a conflict you had at work”, and you don’t have an example for either of those, then that is absolutely the question working as intended! There are lots of jobs where the ability to resolve something like, “I think our project should proceed like this” “well, I think it should proceed like that” is a necessary skill. Maybe you have had those kind of conflicts, but you’ve always resolved those kind of conflicts so amicably you don’t remember them as conflicts afterwards! But if you haven’t, then this is a probably a skill you don’t have and you probably aren’t the right person for the job.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          I agree with this. In most of these situational questions, you can dial it back and give an example in the same family as what the interviewer is asking. You can say something like “I wouldn’t necessarily call it an argument, but a former coworker and I did disagree on the best way to manage X and here’s how we came to an agreement” or “thankfully, I haven’t been late on a deadline in previous jobs, but here’s a story about a time I came close to missing a deadline and what I did to make sure all the work was delivered on time.”

          I’ve done practice interviews with staff who we’re looking to promote internally, and sometimes I’ve even recommended using an example that ended badly and explaining that with the benefit of hindsight, you’d do it differently this time and here’s how. As someone who’s spent a lot of time on the interviewer side of the table, there are a lot of ways that interviewees can answer these questions that will give us valuable information about what they’d be like in the workplace, so don’t feel limited to answer the question super literally.

      4. LCH*

        Yeah, I have difficulty with answering about how I deal with difficult people. Aside from one really unhinged boss, I don’t have any concrete examples. And that example doesn’t sound good in an interviewer. Then I wonder WHY they are asking the question.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          What if you reframe “difficult” as “annoying”? That could open up more potential experiences when you’ve tolerated a person in the workplace behaving in a way that you’d rather they didn’t, and give the interviewer some information about how you handle personality differences with coworkers.

        2. MassMatt*

          Dealing with difficult people (either coworkers or clients) is a really common work issue, I would really not take questions about it as a warning sign.

          Some roles require getting coworkers to do things they don’t like, or enacting changes which will raise hackles. Anyone who has dealt with the public for more than a week has no doubt encountered someone difficult.

      5. Irish Teacher*

        I would take a “high stress situation at work” to include things like “a time you had a high workload” or “a time you had a short deadline” or “a time you had a very important project to complete” or “a time you had a difficult client.” I wouldn’t take it to mean a time you were personally stressed, but rather a time when there was a lot of pressure on you.

        Most jobs have some times that could be considered “high stress”. In teaching, I would say, the weeks leading up to an exam, possibly correcting the state exams, where the deadlines are fairly tight, any instances of serious misbehaviour (fights, etc), any situation where a parent called to complain about something, having a class with a wide range of ability levels. I don’t personally consider all of those stressful for me (some I do, but not all), but I think they all fit the description. In retail, I would say irate customers, busy times like Christmas, an item failing to arrive, etc.

        The “time you failed to meet a deadline” question does strike me as pretty silly because I think many, possibly most people would not have had that experience and even those who had might not want to admit to it in an interview, but the other two sound like either the interviewer is phrasing them badly or you are interpreting them more narrowly than the interviewer intends. I would assume the arguing with a coworker means, as others suggested, a time your ideas were different from a coworker’s and the high stress situation meant a busy time or a time you had an important project, not a time you were really stressed.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I always think it’s kind of funny when people seem to think that the fact they’ve never encountered the situation in the question means there’s something wrong with the question, rather than the question doing exactly what it is suposed to and discovering that you are not the right person for the job. Like, it’s great if you’ve never missed a deadline– but this job has a very high workload, and we don’t want someone who “never misses a deadline”, we want someone who anticipates when they are going to miss a deadline, and re-prioritises their tasks and communicates with all the relevant people to let them know they aren’t going to be able to deliver that on time. If that’s not something you’ve ever done, because you either go above and beyond to meet every deadline or you don’t have a particularly deadline-driven role, then you don’t have the skill we’re looking for and that’s OK! And similarly, if you decide that you don’t want to work here because all our questions seem to be about handling stress and missing deadlines and it sounds like hell– also OK! By no means every recruitment process works like it should, but it sounds like this one is working just fine!

          1. Overeducated*

            But see, even that’s an interpretation question! I would generally say I don’t miss deadlines because I’m careful about planning my time and will flag in advance whether a deadline is unrealistic and work with whoever I need to to revise the project schedule. (Sometimes on the DAY the clock starts ticking, e.g. last week I received a major collaborative task to complete within 30 days, looked at my calendar, and immediately emailed my collaborators to say “I am out of the office on work travel that week, can we prioritize this and move it up, or do we need to ask about moving the deadline a week or two back?”) I would consider “missing” the deadline to mean not communicating until after the fact that you couldn’t do it.

          2. Mill Miker*

            I remember once early in my career having to answer “Tell us about a time when you failed.”

            Aside from not having a ton of example to pull from, they kept pushing and prodding and rephrasing. Apparently “missing a deadline, apologizing, coming up with a plan B and then delivering on that plan” didn’t count. I think they were honestly looking for examples of times I messed up so bad I had no recourse but to beg forgiveness and carry the shame forever more. And like, I’ve never had a job where that was an option. Even the jobs that expected the begging and eternal shame were still pretty insistent on a plan B too.

          3. GrooveBat*

            I guess I kind of get that, but it sounds a little like a “gotcha” question to me. If I’m interviewing for a deadline-driven role, and it’s been made clear to me that it’s a deadline-driven role, I’m not sure my answer would go straight “here’s what I do when I’m going to miss a deadline.” I’d want to show that I have a plan and strategy in place to ensure I don’t miss a critical deadline.

      6. umami*

        You might want to consider being slightly less literal in responding so that you can get at the crux of what they want without sounding robotic, i.e. ‘I have never argued with a coworker, but when I have had a difference of opinion with one, here is how I have handled it.’ If you are giving 5-word responses to behavioral questions, you are likely going to be perceived as inexperienced or artificial.

      7. TX_Trucker*

        I always ask some variation of the “missed deadline” question during interviews. What I’m looking for is information about how a person deals with priorities or deals with the unexpected. All my staff occasionally miss deadlines. But if you ask them, I bet they will honestly say the never miss a deadline, because deadlines and expectations evolve as a task changes. For a some assignments: (get me this memo by 2 pm) I don’t expect anyone to miss a deadline. But for assignments that involve multiple staff or steps, I fully expect deadlines to be missed occasionally. If a driver brings in his truck for a preventive maintenance appointment that should take one hour, and the mechanics discovers a significant problem, the mechanic is going to miss his deadline for completing X number of appointments that day, and the driver is going to miss his deadlines for his deliveries because his truck is out of commission. Neither is at fault for missing the original deadline. But I want to know how they are going to respond to the situation.

      8. WantonSeedStitch*

        I think the “arguing” question is poorly worded. What they’re really asking is about a time when you and a coworker disagreed, and how you approached/resolved the situation. Did you just say “ok, well, whatever works for you?” Did you use facts to demonstrate why you believed your position was correct? Did you go to a manager and ask them to take your side? This can tell a lot about how you resolve conflict in a workplace–something that is inevitable, even when people work really well together. It doesn’t necessarily mean heated tempers, it can just mean you have different ideas about the best way to do things.

        The “failure to meet a deadline” question, you can certainly say, “I’ve never had that happen,” but you would probably then want to go on to say “when it’s challenging to meet a deadline due to the high amount of work or the short turnaround, here’s what I do.”

      9. Louis Renault*

        Multiple questions around a topic like missed deadlines could mean that it’s common there or that it’s a big deal or that it’s not a big deal as long as there are good reasons and staff handle it appropriately. Same thing with stress.

        I do a fair amount of interviewing, and we are encouraged to ask “tell me about a time when…” style questions. I use them to get a sense of both a candidate’s experiences as well as their overall attitude and approach to work. Honestly, if someone told me they’d never missed a deadline, I’d be suspicious or I might infer that they’d only worked in incredibly laid back places.

        I would agree that asking specifically about “arguing” could be a flag, but I’d take it more as a flag that the interviewer wasn’t great at wording, not that there were lots of arguments.

    4. WellRed*

      I was surprised by this question and answer in some ways. How can you say they may never have even interviewed and then expect a specific, situational response? If I had no experience in handling a specific work situation, I’d also speak more generally. What on earth else should I do?

      1. LW4*

        Hi, LW4 here! Because I know I’m interviewing people for whom this may be their first work experience, my “tell me about a time” questions are not specific to work contexts and I tell candidates they can also tell me an example from school, a volunteer project, etc. I get that some people may still not have a specific answer (even though I think what I’m asking are about things most everyone has experienced, such as making a mistake or having a pleasant relationship with a colleague) but it should be fairly rare. I had wondered about prepping people with a note about what they should be prepared to discuss, but after reading Alison’s letter she linked in her response to me, I don’t think I currently do enough probing to where it makes sense to give that heads up. Maybe next time I’m hiring I’ll rework some things and give a heads up while planning to do more probing.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          This is such a normal interview question, and it sounds like you’re approaching it with grace and some understanding that they may not have a lot of interview experience. I think you’re fine!

          1. TomatoSoup*

            The format of “Tell me about a time when…” is normal but I have seen a wide range of questions following that. They varied in both topic and breadth.

            1. DocVonMitte*

              I want to also add that these types of questions seem to be the “gold standard” these days for interviewers but are very difficult for neurodivergent folks to respond to on the spot. I really encourage all interviewers to email a list of topics or questions they plan to cover prior the interview as an inclusive gesture.

        2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          Since you used the word ‘specific’ twice just now, do you think it would help to throw that in to your question (along with synonyms like ‘particular’, ‘concrete’, etc.)?

          ‘specific instance’ or ‘particular example’ sound more precise than ‘a time’.

          “Can you tell me the details about a specific instance of when you…”

          1. LW4*

            Hmm maybe! But also it was only one person out of, like, over a dozen who failed to give a specific example. So I think maybe that one person did not have a specific example and that’s why they spoke more generally. I think I would’ve been more OK with their answer had they started by saying “I’m having trouble thinking of a specific example, but generally…”. If I could do it again, after they finished I would’ve said “Do you have a specific example of a time you made a mistake you can speak to?”

        3. Willow Pillow*

          What about just providing the questions in advance? This is how more experienced people prepare anyway since the questions tend to be pretty standard. You could add a bit more of a challenge with a larger set of questions than you intend to ask (i.e. email a list of 20 questions and ask 12). Job interviews show you someone’s ability to interview, not their ability to do the actual job you’re filling, so taking away that requirement to come up with answers on the spot can really help.

        4. SometimesCharlotte*

          I used to interview first time and returning job applicants regularly – multiple per week – and the company had standard “tell us about a time” questions we had to use. In addition to letting them know that they could use examples from school, volunteer work, etc., I would often give them further prompts. For example, a collaboration question to a new high school grad “did you ever work on a group project at school?” and they’d light up – oh yes! “Tell me about that!” Or we had a question “tell me about a time you created a plan to complete multiple work tasks” which for a recent grad might be “did you ever have a lot of homework/projects due at once?” or for a returning to the workforce parent “have you ever prepared a large holiday meal?”

          I don’t think it’s too leading to help them frame their experience. I’m not supplying how they accomplished it – just giving them a push to remember something the accomplished and let them realize it is relevant! How they answered was way more important than how they got there. I’m more concerned if they don’t have the experience or worse if their answer throws up red flags.

        5. ferrina*

          These are things where you will need to probe with some candidates. With candidates this inexperienced in interviewing, they don’t know what you’re looking for and may not know what the best description is. Sometimes it helps to start general then build to more specific. So if they are having trouble answering “tell me about a time when you had to prioritize to get the work done”, I’d probe into a specific experience:
          Me: I saw you worked at Fast Food Land. What was the most challenging part of that job?
          Them: There was a lot going on all the time.
          Me: Yes, I remember when I worked at a Burger Joint- there was a lot to do, especially at the lunch rush. I noticed different people will react differently to the business. Talk to me a little bit about how you got through the lunch rush.

          One thing you are watching for is how quickly they adapt to your line of question. One candidate stood out because he picked up on what I was doing and immediately started adjusting and tailoring his answers. When he was called back for a second interview, he had adjusted his interviewing strategy based on the first interview (highlighting the experiences I had been interested in). We hired him, and he was AWESOME- highly adaptable and a very quick learner.

    5. No creative name yet*

      I agree, and also wonder if some of them simply don’t have the experience to draw on given that the position is entry level. It may be that this is their first professional job or job period. Maybe OP could look into other types of interview questions to at least add to the mix for those who don’t have as much work experience? Or could some of them be applicable to school etc. and if so maybe indicate that to candidates who are struggling? I find that now that behavioral interviewing questions are all the rage sometimes managers forget other types of questions exist and may even be more appropriate in certain instances.

      1. LW4*

        Hey, LW4 here! I do specify in my questions they can tell me about a school or volunteer experience instead and I think my questions are general enough that they really do apply to contexts outside of work (handling a mistake, relationships with colleagues, etc.)

    6. Boolie*

      Respectfully disagree – this is one of the single most common questions you will encounter in an interview in practically every industry. Novices notwithstanding, most people who prepare for an interview will be told to expect a question like this and to come up with an answer. (Whether they heed that advice is apparently another story.)

  10. Retired and working*

    #2- Many colleges and universities continue to offer career services long after graduation to alumni. This includes resume reviews. Most schools do not charge for this.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      After all the horrendous advice I’ve seen people report here that they got from their college’s career services that are generally out of touch, I wouldn’t ever use them.

      1. Local Walrus*

        Feeling an urge to defend the good college/university career development people, because mine were extremely helpful! There are definitely some that are terrible, so it’s a case of knowing your own program. Other students and alumni would know – ours had the reputation of being great and students would often recommend going to them to each other. As with any source of outside advice, take what a career development office tells you with a grain of salt, but they can be a useful free service for alumni.

        1. Nebula*

          Yes, I finished a Masters degree last year, working throughout. Before graduating I spoke to the careers service, as I wanted a change and had been job-seeking. I wasn’t expecting much, as I’d been working since I’d finished my undergrad nine years prior and thought the advice might be too generic, but figured I’d give it a go. The person I spoke to gave me some tips which ended up not being relevant but were pretty good, like how to use Twitter as part of a job search and which employers that was relevant for locally. What it was actually most helpful for was talking through my motivations and stopping me from falling into my old, unsuccessful job-seeking patterns. I was in the middle of doing a job application when I spoke to her, and I scrapped what I had and rewrote it, and ultimately ended up getting the job, which I’m really happy in. Sometimes just having an outside view from someone who sees a lot of this stuff can be useful – but yeah, some are terrible, my original alma mater’s service was pretty wet, I seem to recall, and this was for a very prestigious university.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I think the big problem is that if you’re in a position to need their services, you might not be in a position to judge the quality of your program.

        3. Susie*

          I agree. I found the generic resume help at my university wasn’t particularly helpful, but my own department also offered help, and they were amazing. The key is making sure the people offering to help understand your field.

          1. TomatoSoup*

            Yes. It is always worth looking within your department. For my undergrad degree, listing specific courses (let alone their content) was entirely unhelpful and would look out of place. This is true for many (if not most) fields.

            For my current master’s program (a totally different field) they *want* to know that you took certain courses and/or learned how to do certain tests or work with certain machines. These are procedures set by the industry and on samples that are provided on a specific schedule. As a result, even when applying for a new job, it actually makes more sense to list job duties because you’d be hard-pressed to find specific achievements. This is contrary to what works in many fields.

      2. Rew123*

        it’s good to be critical on the advice given (wether it’s career service or this site) but I wouldn’t write them off just because ananonymous online forum says they are bad. There are tons of different universities and tons of differnet employees. I’d recommend compacting careers service and see what they say. Then to picking choose what parts to adopt into your own job search.

        1. Willow Pillow*

          Alison herself has said that campus career centres tend to provide bad advice, though… and as Eldritch Office Worker commented above, anyone in a position to need those services likely isn’t going to be able to discern what advice is good and what isn’t.

          1. Rew123*

            but we are in a vicious cycle. all advice should be taken with a grain of salt including AAM. So anyone taking any advice should use several sources, people in real life etc. and not just trust one site or one career advice centre.

            I personally have used my universities career advice centre and thw advice was pretty good. I would never not recommend using a service provided by university because others on the Internet has said it is not good when we dont even know what the advice is or who is giving it.

      3. High Score!*

        Nooooooo…. colleges and universities offer awful advice. Great advice is posted here in the askamanager website though.
        And, when I’m job hunting, I look for feedback from friends in the same field. Sometimes they even give me leads. If you are female, see if you can find a Dress for Success group on your area. They help with resumes, get you practice interviews, and even interview clothes if you can’t afford them due to being unemployed.

      4. Totally Minnie*

        I used my university’s career advisor service during my job search last year. I wouldn’t say the advice she gave me was bad or wrong, but it was extremely limited. A lot of university employees have only ever been university employees, and that was true of the advisor I worked with. She just didn’t have a lot of context for how other job sectors work, so her advice wasn’t as comprehensive as I’d been hoping for.

        She did help me boil down my previous work experience into transferable skill sets, which I could then use to search for other job titles that I could be suited for, so it wasn’t a total loss, but it wasn’t as helpful as I had hoped it would be.

      5. Kelly Kapoor*

        There are some good ones out there, including some of us that are avid AAM readers and try to do our best by the students that we’re helping.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I used to go to the resume workshops my college offered just to prod where they got their advice, challenge outdated assertions, and redirect people to other resources (I used Alison a lot). They weren’t as awful as some I’ve heard of, but they were pretty bad.

      I’m sure I was incredibly obnoxious but college workshops can cause so much harm.

  11. ChattyDelle*

    LW3: in my state it’s *illegal* to work off the clock. if you’re on a sick day. you cannot work. the company could be heavily fined. You may want to check the rules on your area; if your boss makes a habit of expecting employees to work off the clock/on sick days, they could be creating legal issues for your employer

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just to clarify: it’s illegal to work off the clock in every state if you’re non-exempt. In most states, taking a paid sick day doesn’t trigger that because you’re being paid for the time (even though it’s supposed to be PTO). And of course, if you’re exempt, that’s moot.

    2. umami*

      One of the challenges we have for our exempt employees is that we do not have a work from home policy, so there has always been an understanding that if you take time off, whether sick leave or personal leave, you are still responsible for your work. So while I wouldn’t actually suggest to someone to formally take time off and still work, I do expect professional staff to know what deliverables they are working on and to manage their workflow appropriately, whatever that might mean for the time they are out of the office. By policy, I cannot permit someone to be on the clock and working from home. It applies to me as well – for example, I need to take the day off tomorrow because I have appliances being delivered, but I also have a major project to wrap up before the end of the month, so of course I will be putting in time on it tomorrow to ensure I meet my deadline. Only non-exempt personnel have sacred time off when they are officially out.

      1. DangerMouse*

        Having appliances delivered is extremely different from being ill! What would you expect from someone who is having cancer treatment or is hospitalized with covid? That they have to keep managing their workflows appropriately?

        1. umami*

          LW was mildly sick, not undergoing cancer treatment or being hospitalized, and they wanted to get some work done while they were out sick. Like I said, I would not tell the employee to work when they take time off, but I would expect them to have a plan for their workflow and to have the judgment to recognize what items are urgent and what items can wait until they return. If it’s urgent, let me know and I can develop a plan, but if not, then don’t worry about it until you get back. I say this because I had a direct report who obsessively worked all hours and even when she was out because it was her personality, but that was a her problem, not a me problem. I would consistently tell her that work could wait, but I can’t force her to not be anxious about staying on top of things and working anyway. In this case, the LW wanted to work while being out sick, and boss said I can’t allow it, but I also won’t prevent you from working for your own peace of mind. The letter doesn’t say that the boss said X work needed to be done that day even though she was sick.

          1. MassMatt*

            “LW was mildly sick… and they wanted to get some work done while they were out sick.”

            Please re-read the letter, because this is not at all what it says.

            The company used to have flexible time where someone mildly sick could work from home without using sick time, but that policy was rescinded. Now, if LW is not in the office, sick time or PTO must be used, with no flexibility. The boss attempted to get the LW to use sick time while also working. No flexibility cuts both ways, and the LW was absolutely right to push back on the request.

            And IMO your organization’s sick leave policy for exempt employees still being responsible for their work while out sick is terrible. That’s not sick leave, it’s… well, the best description I can think of is “inflexible Flex Time”.

  12. Lost my name again*

    LW3: I’m little confused on what you wanted from your boss here. You didn’t feel well enough to come in and didn’t want to miss a day and fall behind.

    It sounds like your boss simply encouraged you to bend the rules to get what you presumably wanted without directly violating the constraints of your company policy. I get that taking a sick day when you’re actually working isn’t ideal, but I don’t think his suggestion was made in malice or ignorance, I think it was genuine support.

    Side note: I agree with Alison that your boss can and should advocate for a reversal of the policy, but that wouldn’t have helped you that day.

    1. Happy*

      It is really cruelly entitled of a company to suggest that people take sick leave (aka paid time off) and not actually take that time off, but instead use it to work to the benefit of the company.

      1. I AM a Lawyer*

        It also encourages people to come in when they’re sick if they don’t have sick leave or don’t want to use it, which I thought everyone learned not to do after COVID. Yikes.

    2. TechWorker*

      Things boss actually *could* have done in this scenario:
      – Reassign some work
      – change some deadlines
      – reassure OP that task X can have corners cut this one time.

    3. Green great dragon*

      What they wanted was to take the option which got the work done and supported their health, and also to be properly rewarded for their work. So not losing sick leave on a day that they were working.

      Seems reasonable to me.

      1. Minerva*

        Absolutely, if the manager wanted to offer an “under the table” WFH day because Manager & LW agreed that 1. the work was important enough and 2. LW was in that weird nebulous “I’m sick but could probably work at least a little today” that would have been one thing.

        But charging a sick day/PTO and expecting someone to work? GTFO.

    4. Sal*

      What LW3 actually probably wanted was the clearance to not mark a day as paid leave when she was actually working, or the reassurance that any falling behind that happened as a result (of not giving her time off back to her employer as a present) would not diminish her standing with her boss or endanger her job.

      Unless she is deeply enmeshed with her job on an unhealthy level, she only wants to not fall behind to the extent it affects her standing at work. (My mother struggles with this, but it doesn’t sound like the LW does.)

      It sucks that her boss wouldn’t tell her to either work and not mark the day as sick time or not work and not to worry about the workload. Either option would likely have been fine (though probably the second is better and the first should not be encouraged by management), and she got neither. I’d be unhappy, too.

    5. pinetree*

      The boss may have genuinely been trying to provide the answer they thought LW was looking for. Or, it could be feigned ignorance on their part, knowing that the real issue is that LW feels pressured to do work even while sick, but sidestepping that problem to give a very literal answer to the question LW posed.

      Given the pressure LW feels to be productive and the company’s lack of flexibility concerning WFH, I’d guess the work culture isn’t the greatest. The boss’s guidance in this case sounds more like the symptom than the disease.

    6. umami*

      Yes, that is how I read it as well – boss was trying to be flexible in letting the person actually do work from home because they wanted to, but was bound by policy to not allow them to do so, so he gave them a workaround. I was surprised when OP then spent time researching this when presumably it was a solution they wanted to begin with. It would be great if they could reinstate their WFH policy, but it’s probably not going to happen.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        But its not being flexible – it’s penalizing the employee.

        Charging a day to your sick leave and suggesting you work from home isn’t being flexible.

        Telling the employee work from home even if sick is not possible and they have to use a sick day so should NOT work should have been the bosses answer.

        1. umami*

          I read it differently – LW is the one who said they wanted to be able to do some work from home while taking a sick day. I’m just reading the boss response slightly differently, which is emphasizing that if you don’t come to the office, you have to take a sick day. I’m seeing the suggestion coming after the boss already said to stay home and not work, but LW then said they were concerned about getting some work done and wanted to stay home and work but not be charged a sick day. Since policy doesn’t allow it, boss said no, then LW pushed back. I agree that boss should have left it at no, take your sick day and don’t worry about work.

          It sucks because I totally get being not too ill to do some work, but definitely not well enough to get up early to get ready and drive in, and my job often requires me to get some things done regardless; I could delegate, but if I am feeling OK I would rather just do the work myself and not burden someone else. But I do have to submit leave time if I don’t go into the office because we don’t have WFH.

          1. LW3*

            Nope. I wanted to WFH because I was too sick to come into the office, something that was previously allowed. Manager said no, but you can mark it as a sick day and work anyway, and I said no thanks and stayed home sick.

            1. Hlao-roo*

              Thanks for clarifying! It’s too bad your manager didn’t let you work from home (without burning a sick day), and I’m glad you chose to take a proper sick day and not work rather than the worst-of-both-worlds “solution” your manager offered.

      2. Boof*

        The only way it’s got any logic to it is if there’s some kind of unlimited pto/sick day policy and a strict zero work from home policy. I doubt that’s the setup because that would be unusual and lw probably would have mentioned it tho. Lw was probably just hoping to be allowed to work from home, which would be totally reasonable

  13. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (sick leave) – I think the key to this one is in the middle of the letter: “Knowing that I was concerned about my workload, my manager suggested…”.

    It’s worth thinking about whether this means you are more concerned about the work getting done than the manager is, or that you see it as more of a problem than the manager does, etc. It’s interesting that the manager’s response wasn’t “do you need help in de-prioritising some things” (or “can some of that be offloaded to Sue” or whatever) but rather – yes, the workload is a given, here’s a way YOU can deal with it.

    In the spirit of the commenting rules – how would this observation change the advice? I suppose that I would suggest a discussion with the manager around that, and maybe around the policy in general (though I feel it was probably being abused by certain people in the company and was banned company-wide so the individual manager may not be able to change that), about backup for OP when they’re out, etc. Some of these situations are more nuanced than something that gets written down as a policy!

    1. Jessica*

      A thousand times yes to this. The employee is using sick leave (an important part of her compensation package!) when she is sick, and is thus doing the amount of work the company pays her to do.
      Think of it this way, LW3: How Can We Get All The Needed Work Done is a problem for company management. Your manager is treating that like it’s your problem, but she is wrong. Your problem has a smaller scope and is something more like How can I contribute most within the frame of the amount of work they’re paying me to do.
      The company’s problem has many possible solutions: “hire more people,” “reassess the necessity of some tasks,” “let employees who feel mildly unwell WFH so they’ll need less sick leave,” “invest in equipment or software that will make employees more efficient at some tasks,” “pay higher salaries to get more skilled employees who are more productive,” etc. They can choose any of the solutions, or they can choose the default “when workers are sick, work can’t get done; too bad.” Not choosing any other solution is choosing that default.
      Your manager’s suggestion that you take sick leave for a day you’re working is on a par with “howsabout you work a full day on X day but we just don’t pay you?” and should be treated as such.

      1. BethDH*

        I almost wonder if manager was just exasperated going in circles with OP — “you can’t wfh under the new policy” “but I have too much to do to take a sick day” “it’ll wait” “but …”
        There are plenty of managers who would do something shady like telling you to work on your sick day for sure, but OP also seems so embedded in the “I have so much work, this is a me problem” mindset that I can see manager just being like “what do you want me to say? No one will stop you if you just work on your sick day anyway.”
        OP, if you actually have a bad manager I’m sorry for even suggesting this, but I have tendencies in this direction myself that I’ve been realizing more now that I manage other people and I get so frustrated when they martyr themselves for work (pot, kettle indeed).

        1. doreen*

          The “discussing my options” bit made me think this right away – if I’m taking a sick day and I’m going to treat it as a sick day, I’m not going to work . There aren’t any options to discuss – the WFH option was officially withdrawn so the choice is take a sick day or not. It doesn’t sound as if the LW told the manager they would be out sick and the manager countered with “take the sick day but work anyway” – maybe the LW wasn’t trying to martyr themself, maybe they were just thinking out loud about ” how am I going to get all of this done if I take a sick day, it will just overload the rest of the week” . But it’s very easy for someone to misinterpret that sort of thinking out loud.

        2. Malarkey01*

          I think it’s fair thinking back over the conversation to see if that’s how OP presented it or how she can discuss the issue more directly.

          I’ve had a particular employee go on a vacation or PTO (which I militantly protect and support), but then they’ll resist me doing any reassigning of critical work or want us to move important scheduled meetings. I have said “this meeting must occur Wednesday at 1, we are fine handling it without you, if you are not comfortable giving your material to Jane to present you’re free to call in but I can’t give you that leave back for calling in”.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            I don’t want to derail on this, but I would suggest you re-think giving them the option to dial into that meeting if they are meant to be on PTO… I wouldn’t say that for a one off or for a specific important meeting but this seems like more of a pattern.

        3. Lily Potter*

          This was my initial read as well. I read it as the OP really wanted the manager to bend the rules for her so she could WFH without taking that sick day. After several rounds of “you can take a sick day/I have too much work to take a sick day”, the manager just threw up his/her hands and said “go ahead and WORK on your sick day”.

        4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          I wondered about that as well, but what made me think it wasn’t a martyr situation was OPs statement: “Ultimately I just took the sick day, of course”. Both the ‘of course’ nature of it, and the fact that that’s what they eventually did rather than work anyway and then feel resentful about it.

        5. umami*

          This was my read as well because I have had those conversations with an employee before lol. It was definitely their issue because they were a self-proclaimed perfectionist and were obsessed with their work. It was really challenging for her to let go, and since she had little social life, she would constantly stay late working on things even when I told her to go home and relax, we could get back to it tomorrow. So I am envisioning the LW as being this type of person because she mentioned wanting flexibility to still be able to work even while being out sick. Just … be out sick! And when she then looked up whether it was legal, that also sounds like someone who maybe obsesses a bit about things, so I may have ended up with an unfair read of the situation.

          1. LW3*

            You are incorrect. I did not want “flexibility to still be able to work even while being out sick”. I floated two options: I take a sick day and stuff doesn’t get done, or I WFH. My manager said “here’s a creative solution, what if you took a sick day and still worked”, and I said no.

            I am not a perfectionist. I am not obsessed with my work. I also do not “obsess a bit about things”. My manager has a history of bullying some of my less assertive coworkers, and I am worried that if I don’t approach them and address what they suggested, they might suggest it next time to one of my coworkers, who might actually do it because they don’t feel comfortable pushing back. My manager also has a history of not thinking “this is unreasonable” is a good enough reason to stop doing something.

        6. LW3*

          Nope. We didn’t go in circles. There was no extended back and forth.

          I sent “I’m too sick to come in, but I’m worried about X and Y getting done. Can I WFH?” The response was “No, no more WFH just for being sick. I understand you are concerned about X and Y. As a creative solution, if you have plenty of sick leave, mark it as a sick day and work anyway.” I said “No, I’ll take the day off sick, then.” Trust me, I am not going to martyr myself for work!

          I wrote in because being told to mark a sick day in the leave system and then work anyway really bugged me. I have no problem pushing back on that kind of suggestion, but my manager unfortunately has bullied some of their other reports in the past, and I worry that if they make that suggestion to one of my coworkers they’ll actually do it. I’m going to take Alison’s advice and raise it with my manager again because I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to someone else who might not feel as comfortable saying no.

      2. umami*

        I actually read it as the boss providing a solution to an employee who was worried about falling behind and wanted to be able to work from home. Boss couldn’t allow that, but said take the day and do some work if that is what you would prefer to do. He didn’t seem to be requiring her to work, just opened the door to saying, feel free to get work done while you’re out, but if you don’t come to work you have to formally take a day off.

      3. Ama*

        Yes, we are having some adjustment pains at my employer as we’ve gone back to the office (some of our new WFH rules around our hybrid schedule are pretty arbitrary) and while I’m advocating for changes to our senior staff, I’m making sure my reports know that if the policy says you have to take a sick day, take the sick day and do not do any work — if that means one of our projects gets delayed it just gives me more data to point to as to why our policy needs to be adjusted.

  14. KR*

    I totally empathize with number 5. I’m petite so large office chairs are just really uncomfortable to me. The seat is so deep that I can’t sit fully back in it and have my feet on the ground. Unfortunately most smaller chairs are also more cheaply made :(

    1. TechWorker*

      I’m the average height for a woman in my country and even I had to use a cardboard box under my desk as a footrest when I started work. I seem to have long enough thighs though & my company has now moved to adjustable standing desks which are great for everyone because even if you sit down the whole time you get a choice over how high your desk is & I can have it lower than standard.

    2. Budgieman*

      I’m the exact opposite… 6’3″… and struggle to find a chair high enough that I don’t end up with my legs either tucked under or out in front.

      I do get a laugh every time I see the ideal seating position diagrams.
      Sure… you can have your feet flat on the ground and your elbows resting on the desk at 90 degrees… but only if your desk height and chair height are both adjustable to those positions.
      These ideals also assume that you don’t have arms (like mine) that are so long such that when sitting “correctly” there is only about a 1.5 inch gap between my elbow and my legs… that’s not a lot of room for the desk thickness, no matter how the chair and desk are adjusted.

      1. Violet Fox*

        This is exactly why adjustable chairs and desks are so important. People come in all sorts of sizes!

      2. TechWorker*

        My friend has the same arm length problem. I also have a coworker who uses a keyboard on a shelf hanging below the desk.. doesn’t fully resolve the issue but does get the keyboard a bit lower without impacting monitor/rest of desk height!

    3. ItBetterNotBeACactus*

      Yeah, I bought a sit/stand desk for myself at home finally and didn’t double check it’s lowest setting. It’s lowest setting is not low enough! I made it work with yoga blocks as a foot rest. We have sit/stand desks at work and they apparently ordered ones with a large low/high range (hurray!).

    4. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      Please use a pillow behind your back! It’s important for ergonomic health. And don’t let your feet dangle either – a cardboard box is your friend until you can get a proper footrest.

  15. Camellia Sinensis*


    “and also that clients who are not in good physical shape may feel insecure about my fitness”

    This isnt relevant but this quote reminded me of my previous workplace, back when I was working in the Community Health Sector.
    A dear friend had gifted me sealed herbal teabags in nice packaging, which I took to work, thinking nothing of it.

    But I was then pulled aside by one of the staff from another department advising me not to bring in the teabags ever again, claiming that it could cause resentfulness and insecurity amongst other staff who could not afford such fancy herbal tea (I had no idea the brand was high end), and that clients / patients in the facility, who were mostly of lower socio-economic background, would begrudge me for being obtuse and thoughtlessness.

    It was the most bizarre situation, because our clinic was actually right across the road from a Starbucks, and at least every 3rd client would enter the clinic carrying a Starbucks beverage, which I could not afford for myself at the time.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      I also find it rather patronising to not use something like that in front of people “because they are poor and we don’t want to make them feel bad.” The comment about them resenting you in particular makes me wonder if that member of staff has slightly classist views about people from lower socio-economic backgrounds operating from motivations of jealousy and resentment.

      I mean, it would be thoughtless to start telling somebody who is struggling financially, “I love this tea, don’t you? I don’t know why people drink the cheap brands; they just aren’t worth it.” But just drinking the tea? I doubt most people are even paying attention to what brand it is.

      1. KTB*

        Oh, I would (and do) notice! Not in a jealous or resentful way, but rather to add the brand to my mental “giftable” list. I’m always excited to come across a new variety.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Also seems pretty clueless – I mean, do the people who say these things think that those who are poorer or struggling finacially don’t know that they are poor? Or don’t know that others may be able to afford higher end stuff? I mean, sure, if you are openly critical of less expensive things / people who use less expensive brands that ‘s a whole other issue, but just ..existing while drinking fancy tea?

        Also, i am really curious about what LW1’s colleague wants him to do? deliberate gain weight in case he puts people off or makes them feel self-conscious? Not work anywhere?

        It sounds t o me as though she is perhaps self-conscious about her own level of fitness / weight and is projecting that.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          It’s also really ignorant about the realities of people’s lives and their worries. Of all the worries that people genuinely struggling with poverty have, I doubt ‘branding of my herbal tea’ even makes the top fifty. This isn’t going to be on anyone’s radar.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, even apart from how utterly unacceptable Jane’s comments are, I also don’t even see how they are actionable for the LW. He can’t just…magically change his body type.

      3. Flying Donkey*

        I work in a similar sector to Camellia Sinensis and our organisation is mindful not to set staff too far apart from people using our services.
        But to police what staff eat or drink would be absolutely insulting.

    2. Hosta*

      Has anyone ever considered a person thoughtless and obtuse for bringing an expensive drink to work? That’s a level of involvement in someone else’s snack choices that just baffles me. Do people really pay attention to this sort of thing? Should I stop buying Perrier at the gas station to have with my lunch?

      1. Zweisatz*

        Well apparently the coworker has. Which speaks volumes only about them.
        The irony is if you can’t afford the tea you are probably not aware of the intricacies of expensive tea world so you wouldn’t even notice. I certainly would not.

      2. Bagpuss*

        And apparently co-worker hasn’t considered the possibility that it was a gift!

        I brought in some posh Harrods coffee a couple of years ago . I don’t shop at Harrods, it was part of a Christmas gift from a friend (and I brought it in because I don’t like flavoured coffee, so brought it in to share. I did keep the tin, because it is nice tin, and my coffee beans at home now live in it, masquerading as Harrods coffee. Do you suppose I could refrain from ever allowing anyone into my kitchen in case they are intimidated by my aspirational coffee tin?

    3. Fishsticks*

      I’ve been “shit, we can’t pay the mortgage this month” poor. I LIVED “we have no savings because every dollar is dedicated to rent, bills, and food” poor for years before we dug out of that hole. And I have to be honest – I have never, during those hardest days, given even the slightest care what brand of tea someone was drinking.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        If anything those days, for me, taught me to mind my own business. One of the most common gifts I got for holidays and stuff around that time was dunkin’ gift cards, and if I had any extra cash I’d also put it towards getting an iced coffee on days I had to work (which was commented on more than once). People pick their luxuries, and make tradeoffs. It’s not my place to judge what gets folks through the day.

  16. Ellis Bell*

    It’s particularly gross where she says ‘she doesn’t “like men that big”’…… Oh no! You don’t?! However, nobody’s trying to pull you, Jane! It’s such a weird but common way to gender police; nominating themself as the gender which should find you attractive and then giving you a low score. Whenever a man has said to me they “don’t like women who do x”, I have never once been trying to be attractive to them. I would be sorely tempted to say: “That’s good because I don’t want my body to be discussed at all, so all you have to do is stop looking”. I know the implication of aggressiveness is a silencer (it’s supposed to be), but I want to echo Alison’s recent advice to another LW, that you can be pretty blunt if you do so in a warm tone. Really, you are not the person raising the issue of your body, she is. You are not the one making it weird, she is. It’s awkward? She’s making it awkward. Think of it like stopping someone from making such a bloody fool of themselves. She’s talking about someone’s body as though it’s dress code or demeanor, or as though it’s her business. Such ignorance is hard to believe, but it’s a kindness to stop it. Kind and firm is the tack to take, even though the kindness is undeserved. If you can have a higher up tell her kindly and firmly she’s making an ass out of herself, do that. If not, just say kindly: “You don’t seem to realise you’re making personal comments about my body. I will behave in as gentle and professional a way with patients as I always have, but only my behaviour is up for discussion, not my body.”

    1. EPLawyer*

      You are not my type. Wasn’t trying to be Jane. This office does not exist to display your idea of the ideal man.

    2. H.Regalis*

      Yeah, that is really rude and presumptuous. “I don’t like men that big.” Good for you! But this isn’t Build-A-Bear Workshop, so no one cares.

      1. cnoocy*

        This comment of Jane’s keeps reminding me of Janet’s line in The Rocky Horror Picture Show: “I don’t like men with too many muscles” followed by Frank’s reply of “I didn’t make him for you!”

        1. H.Regalis*

          I keep thinking of the same line, but will the call-and-response, “Just one big one!” :-D

    3. Ama*

      Yes, this feels a lot like the equivalent of all the letters we’ve had here about women who have gotten spoken to about daring to have even the slightest hint of cleavage (or the woman who had a double mastectomy and then got told she was making people uncomfortable because she *didn’t* have curves). This is all Jane being weird and making things about her as if OP is being muscular AT her or something.

      1. Kit*

        That’s what I was thinking too. If there’s anyone in the org who handles this sort of thing – maybe not formal HR, but someone higher up – I’d absolutely mention that as a concern, that of course they want to shut this down because it crosses that line, among many others – and it sounds like Jane is making these comments in earshot of patients!

  17. Name*

    LW 2 – don’t use the service. We recently hired someone who’s resume sounded way too good for the position he was hired for. (He knows the “CEO” of our business and it was a forced hire for an entry level position.) After a few weeks, I found that he didn’t know how to do the basics, so I pulled up his resume. It read as if he was overqualified and not written by him. Put the objective section into a search engine one sentence at a time and found it word for word on 4 LinkedIn profiles. If we had discovered it before hiring, we would’ve had a stronger case for not hiring him at all.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > If we had discovered it before hiring, we would’ve had a stronger case for not hiring him at all

      For what it’s worth, if it was a nepotism etc hire I don’t think it would have mattered how much you pushed back or how strong a ‘case’ you had. Hiring the CEOs nephew or whatever isn’t a situation where logical arguments and making a case have any impact.

      1. Name*

        Preaching to the choir. He’s already done a lot that should have gotten him fired. And we’ve had to take away all his duties except answering the phone or the door because he can’t do anything else. The sad part is that it’s not even weaponized incompetence. It’s thinking he’s more competent than he is. He’s applying for positions based on salary, not skills, and is legit unaware that the only reason he got hired is because of who his parents know.

        1. not a hippo*

          Ugh I am currently dealing with a person like that, down to the applying for a job because of the salary and being wildly unqualified. I discovered after we hired them that their LinkedIn is full of nonsense and half written in the 3rd person.

          Unfortunately for them, they don’t have Nepotism Armor and our down to their last half a heart, to mangle a metaphor.

  18. formerly unemployed*

    #2 – Resume review – putting in a plug here for local libraries!

    In addition to what others have said about colleges offering career advice (which might very well include resume reviews ) I would also suggest that you check with your local library. My local library has a recruiter/college advisor from a nearby state university come in every so often to help with resumes. The service is free for participants. One does have to reserve a spot. The recruiter/college advisor gives a prepared presentation about resumes in general to the group; and then sits with each participant individually to go over their resume. She has a timer for each person as you get one-on-one service, otherwise she could be there all night!

    While it is true that her suggestions were rather generic (the same can be said for what college career advisors offer) as I didn’t get many suggestions from her that changed my resume that much – it was still nice to get a “free” service (quote marks because it is really our taxes that helped to pay for it). If there aren’t many changes it is good to know that your resume isn’t totally wacky! And, lastly, but not unimportant, it was nice to feel like someone is willing to lend a hand while you are unemployed/looking for work rather than trying to see how they can make money off you!

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      And your local Department of Labor career center — free to use, for anyone who can work in the US.

  19. JSPA*

    ​#1, some ​options:

    “would you find it appropriate to comment on a woman’s body?” ( Then hold the silence as long as it takes to become uncomfortable.)

    ” It’s exactly as inappropriate for you to comment on my body shape as it would be for me to comment on yours.” (Over the shoulder, turn away to continue tasks.)

    ” Presumably you don’t mean it that way, but it almost sounds like you’re saying that we should hire, retain, rate and promote people based on gender, gender presentation, and physique–which would of course be hugely problematic.” (bland smile)

    ” I was hired looking like this, so presumably my body is work-appropriate. And for the record, by law, all bodies are ‘work appropriate.’ ”

    “Look, I’m very uncomfortable that you are looking at my body in terms of what you do or do not like in men. But I’m even more uncomfortable that those thoughts are coming out of your mouth, and being made my business. How about you stop right now, forever, and we can both pretend you never went there in the first place.”

    “My body is my body. I am not having it ‘at’ you, I’m not having it ‘for’ you, and your comments regarding my body are increasingly unwelcome. Please stop.”

    “Do I look like I’m laughing or enjoying this? I’m not. Strained laughter is my discomfort response. Having a certain size or shape of body does not mean I want comments on it. So, please don’t.”

    “I find inappropriate and awkward that you have a personal opinion on my body, and that you choose to share it.”

    “Having anxiety about other people’s bodies can be a terrible burden to bear. I hope you find whatever support you need in dealing with it.”

    “As you were growing up, what part of ‘we don’t comment on other people’s bodies’ did you miss out on?”

    “I am telling you formally that I do not welcome these comments on my body.” Follow that up with an email: ” To reiterate and clarify my verbal statement of a moment ago: what you may think of as banter or guidance is in fact a pattern of inappropriate, detailed comment on my body. I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with it. Despite being deeply conflict-avoidant, I am hereby formally stating that there needs to be no further comment on my body, by you, to me or to anyone else, in this workplace.”

    Look this is actually fairly classic sexual harassment. It is gendered: she is telling you what she likes in a MAN. It has a sexual- attraction component– again, she is literally telling you what SHE LIKES in a man. It involves an ongoing or pervasive series of comments. It involves the implication that you are less fit for your job based on the gender, shape and style of your body.

    The steroids are a complicating factor, because they are often illegal (or in a legal grey zone) and because it can be an open secret who is using what, if she knows somebody who knows somebody who also goes to your gym, and they know your supplier. Furthermore, ‘roid rage is distinct from “default level of conflict seeking vs conflict avoidance.” I’m not sure how you can address that, in that (in the US) the truth is a presumptive defense against being charged with slander or libel.

    As for the tattoos, “I hear you. Clients have a wide range of comfort levels with provider styles. There are some people who will be more comfortable with you than with me and other people who will be more comfortable with me than with you. Regardless, we are all professionals, and clients seem broadly able to focus on that, rather than on our bodies.”

    To be clear, snake phobia and discomfort with skulls are both a real thing. Some people will go out of their way in their daily life (like, crossing the street) to not encounter that sort of imagery up close. Regardless of how common those tattoos are within the tattooing community, that can happen to be an issue when a client has to be in close quarters with you. But the correct response is, “One of your clients tomorrow has indicated that your snakes give her a panic response, such that she can’t do the balance portion her physical therapy routine because she’s hyperventillating to the point of vertigo, and it’s also raising her blood pressure. Please figure out something to wear tomorrow that covers your arms and lower neck.” Not, “your body is the wrong body, stop having that body.” And not, “I find you edgy and large, so clients must be scared… though nobody’s ever said anything.”

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “The steroids are a complicating factor, because they are often illegal (or in a legal grey zone) and because it can be an open secret who is using what, if she knows somebody who knows somebody who also goes to your gym, and they know your supplier. Furthermore, ‘roid rage is distinct from “default level of conflict seeking vs conflict avoidance.” I’m not sure how you can address that, in that (in the US) the truth is a presumptive defense against being charged with slander or libel.”

      Still not a coworkers business and still falls under “don’t comment on my body” or “that’s inappropriate”. Not complicated. If there’s a professional concern, OP’s boss can speak to them. Otherwise it’s under the same bucket as everything else.

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

        But Jane doesn’t KNOW that OP takes steroids, she assumes he is taking them illegally because he is muscular.
        Plus the steorids could be for a legitimate, medical reason. I take steroids every day in order to live. If I didn’t I could be really ill and even die. But I don’t “look” like I have a medical condition, it doesn’t affect my every day and I know of people who are fit who take steroids for medical reasons.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I have zero issue with OP taking steroids. Jane is referencing them to comment on OP’s body, so it’s just not a distinct issue to address the way this commenter breaks it out.

        2. JSPA*

          1. Absolutely true that they could be on prescription. The LW could have said “(which I use medically on prescription)” and that could have been cut, for length. Having belonged to a gym with a lot of body builders, I wouldn’t make that my first guess, in the area where I live; but I have the sense it’s an 80% / 20% thing, not a 99% / 1% thing, even there. Which is to say, absolutely plausible.

          2. We don’t know where the LW lives, and whether Ms Judgemental is just guessing, or not. In a town or small city where people know people’s business, Youth and everyone is 3゚ of separation from everyone else, I wouldn’t want to bet that’s she’s operating on pure bias and supposition, as far as the steroids.

          The LW can judge for themselves, what of all this might be in play. I would not want to find myself pee-tested, in LW shoes, due to getting into an awkward discussion over who might be using what. Nor a need to medically disclose, in case of a prescription. The best answer to the “OMG ROIDS” sub-issue is probably (therefore) eyerolling and a sigh.

          IMO, when you’ve got so many problematic statements to attack, you pick the easy win(s), not the one(s) with a complicated endgame.

  20. Bluburry*

    #1 – Jane: “I don’t like my men that muscular”.
    OP: “that’s okay, I’m not interested anyway.”
    When things are wildly inappropriate I’m faaaaaar too cheeky to let things slide without an equally strong boundary check. Professional? Probably not but I’d rather set a boundary then be stomped on.

    1. PaxThulcan*

      I was gonna comment on the same line. I keep thinking about how there’s only so many ways to read/hear that comment. Unless she means “personal dislike/distrust,” which is still obviously a problem as per all the above, it kinda sounds like she’s commenting on how your body isn’t attractive/sexually attractive to her, personally? Which sounds like the kind of thing that edges into (or already is – I don’t know exactly how far this has to go to count) sexual harassment.

      Just thinking about how it would sound with the genders swapped: “she doesn’t ‘like men that big’.” If you (or any guy/masculine coworker) were frequently commenting on how you/he found the body of a woman you worked with to be upsetting, said “he doesn’t ‘like women that thin'” (or anything like that)… it would very obviously be out of line. The idea that it’s okay to objectify your body that way, seemingly because she has the idea that your build makes it okay, is just absurd. There’s no “unless the target is a conventionally attractive and/or muscular man” clause in Title IX.

    2. The Original K.*

      Yeah, my response reading that was to think “did anybody ask you, Jane?” and I’d be inclined to say some version of that. “I don’t like my men that big.” “I’m not your man, and won’t be, so it’s moot. Stop talking about my body.”

    3. Hiring Mgr*

      Not that it matters to the letter overall but fwiw Jane is quoted as saying she doesn’t like men that muscular, not *my* men.

      In any case, she is way overstepping and someone should shut her down. And I realize this isn’t the point of the letter but please be careful with the ‘roids. I’ve had bodybuilding friends who have messed themselves up by trying enhancements on their own

      1. Silver Robin*

        yeah, but when someone says “I don’t like [gender] who are XYZ” there is an air of “I am not sexually/romantically interested in [gender] who are XYZ” since outside of that type of attraction, a person’s looks should not matter. Very presumptuous and (borderline?) sexual harrass-y because why the hell are you using your sexual/romantic preferences as a basis for *any* interaction with a coworker, much less a critique?

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yep, a male colleague wouldn’t say it; actually no one should, because the implication is gross.

        2. I have RBF*

          Seriously. Saying you don’t like muscular bodies is just as boundary violating as saying you don’t like fat, thin, tall, short, black, asian, etc bodies. It’s just a bridge too far.

    4. HereForThePriceyTea*

      I love that response in this context, but for LW1, I would advise against it since it’s aggressive in a workplace context, especially to someone who has already written him off as overly aggressive no matter what he does.

      Good luck to you LW1.

    5. Mill Miker*

      I’m split on two possible responses too that, both of which would be fun, neither of which would be productive, and in complete opposite directions.

      Either a very chipper “Oh cool! I don’t like you either! What are the odds! We’re like twins! Isn’t bonding fun?”

      Or an almost tearful “Y-you don’t like me? B-but I’ve always looked up to you…” and then sulking off.

  21. Not Australian*

    One really does wonder what Jane expects OP#1 to do in response to her expressed discomfort? Diet into oblivion, always wear long-sleeved shirts, tiptoe around humbly? *Anyone* who expects an individual to alter their lifestyle/appearance simply to suit their particular preference is displaying such massive amounts of entitlement as to not even be worth considering. OP – if you wouldn’t take that critique from a life partner, don’t take it from Jane.

      1. MyStars*

        She may be personally intimidated by him, but it’s no excuse and still an abuse of power.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          It really reads more like contempt/distaste than intimidation – she is being very aggressive for someone who is scared!

      2. Fishsticks*

        Yeah, this reeks of passive-aggressive “make the workplace so miserable he quits” behavior to me.

    1. Bagpuss*

      YEs, that was my thought, too.
      Byt I agree that OP should be raising this with his direct boss or the clinic owner, and explicitly framing it as ‘I am uncomfortable with Jane harassing me and making personal comments about my body’

    2. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      Sometimes when people are uncomfortable and not very self-aware, they just say their thoughts, without thinking any further about whether it’s a sensible or helpful thing to say. She might have some further agenda, but the motivation might just be to discharge some of her own discomfort.

      1. rusty*

        Yeah, I’m not sure Jane has an agenda as such. I think her inane thoughts are just falling straight out of her ridiculous mouth because Jane has no self awareness, no filter and no freaking manners. (I’m having some feelings about Jane.)

    3. 5Seconds or Less*

      Ugh, LW#1 never got the lesson on the 5 second rule. not the floor, but if you notice something about a persons appearance that cannot be fixed in 5 seconds or less, e.g. lint on their shirt, food on their face or an untied shoe, you don’t comment on it ever. That includes weight, height, birthmark, hair color etc.

    4. Observer*

      One really does wonder what Jane expects OP#1 to do in response to her expressed discomfort?

      Get him to quit? Get his boss to fire him? I have no doubt that if she had her way, she WOULD fire him.

  22. Varthema*

    Yes!! I’m bang on average height for a woman, but I have a short torso and long limbs, so if my upper arms are at my side, my elbows are touching my hip bones and keeping my arms at 90 degrees has them almost lying on my lap. There is no desk/keyboard so thin that would allow me to keep my arms at 90 degree angle while typing.

  23. Knope Knope Knope*

    LW#2– it’s a really tough time in media right now. Newsrooms all over the country just went through layoffs, most pretty significant. And at all those tech companies that laid off 10s of thousands, the media and News partnership were severely impacted. That means there are fewer jobs than normal, and really, highly qualified candidates out there looking for jobs, often willing to take lower paying jobs than they normally would. Competition is fierce. I say this just for context that hour job search troubles may be about more than the resume. I’ve been in media/journalism for 15 years and unfortunately this is part of the territory and happens every time the ad market softens, but this is by far the worst I’ve ever seen.

    1. Sloanicota*

      This is what I was thinking. In this case I wouldn’t take radio silence in a job search as a sign that your resume is flawed, so much as that you might need to broaden your search right now because media is going through some big contractions (Even NPR just laid off a bunch of their staff). I sympathize, it sucks to get a degree in a field with a certain vision of what your life will look like – I wanted to be a nonprofit scientist during the 08 downturn, and it just wasn’t happening – but you might have better luck looking in adjacent writing fields or leaning on your network to see where they are landing.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, if OP really wants insight into whether there are areas where the resume could be punched up beyond Alison’s suggestions, I think the best play might be to try and line up some informational interviews and get feedback from people who are actually in the field. I’m curious how much communications professionals at bigger companies do use (or are forced to use) AI to weed people out, but I feel like prioritizing keyword optimization is a more relevant strategy for something like, say, software programming than for for roles where your biggest selling point is going to be your ability to write professionally while still sounding like an actual human. Which is why it’s best not to get sucked in by services promising a one-size-fits-all solution.

        1. Knope Knope Knope*

          I work at one of those big media companies, and honestly, the point is almost moot. There are very little new roles opening up. It’s either super high priority things that drive direct revenue, meaning high stakes, or backfilling roles that were already budgeted for and someone has quit. I even had an internal recruiter tell me this is not the time to hire someone who can grow into a role, because we have access to such an experienced talent pool willing to work at lower salaries then what we would ever consider normal. I really feel for OP.

          If I had some advice for OP I would say look for more internships or early career programs like official News Assistant or Page programs and try to get hired full-time after it concludes/apply to direct competitors of the places you’re working because they’ll value the inside knowledge you can bring. Expand your search to things like executive assistant or tour guide at companies you might like to work for, then find every opportunity to pitch articles, act as a production assistant… whatever it is you’re trying to do. I have seen this work countless times. Get involved with organizations like SPJ and ONA. You’ll make great connections and probably even find people who work as hiring managers in your field who will review your resume and pass it on for free. Best of luck!

  24. Josephine*

    “and that she doesn’t “like men that big.” Umm, he wasn’t hired for you to look at, Jane.
    How incredibly rude.

    1. Gritter*

      It is extremely rude. Commentating on a colleagues body and saying you don’t like it is also arguably a form of sexual harassment.

    2. I have RBF*

      Seriously – he’s not there for a calendar photo spread. He’s there to do a job. Whether Jane finds him attractive or not is just not germane at all.

      Just as it’s not appropriate for a guy to say he doesn’t “like women that big/fat/musclebound/skinny/tall/well endowed/etc” it’s not appropriate for a woman to say that type of thing about a man, or for any gender to say it about any gender, for that matter.

  25. DJ Abbott*

    #1, it sounds to me like Jane is projecting her own issues. *She* is intimidated by muscular men and tattoos, so she assumes patients and others are, too.
    And the comment about not liking men that big – you are not trying to date her, so her taste in men doesn’t matter.
    Keeping in mind that she’s intimidated might inform your approach, to prevent accidentally causing her to panic.
    The person who hired you didn’t mind your physique and tattoos. Can that person help you with Jane?
    Good luck! None of this is fair to you in any way.

    1. Observer*

      I honestly don’t believe that she’s intimidated. She doesn’t “like” big men, and she disapproves of his choices. She stated the former explicitly (as if it matters in the least bit), and strongly implies the latter. The “intimidating” bit is an excuse she’s making, and not even about herself.

      1. Gerry Kaey*

        yeah, if she was genuinely intimidated by him and fearful of his response, I doubt she’d be publicly insulting him so frequently. I tend to simply avoid people I find intimidating because, well, I’m too intimidated to do anything else!

  26. Seashell*

    Jane seems wildly inappropriate, but are the steroids in question legal and I wonder if could it potentially be a workplace liability issue if they aren’t and something happens to a client?

    1. Reluctant Brarista*

      This. I am really concerned about a healthcare worker abusing powerful prescription drugs – and finding that so unexceptional that they will casually admit to it.
      Please look after yourself OP1

      (I’m also concerned as someone from a country where prescribing steroids for cosmetic/body-building purposes is completely illegal that someone is going to tell me that there is anywhere in the world were such a recklessly dangerous practice could possibly be legal and considered ethical medical practice)

      1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        Steroids are a pretty common prescription for a lot of things! I don’t think we should assume LW is abusing them. I’ve been on them for asthma, poison ivy, and tendonitis. I know folks who are on them long-term for eczema and Chron’s disease, and short-term for a bad reaction to a new tattoo!
        And yes, even short-term use under medical advisement *can* cause anger management issues – one of my poison ivy and Prednisone interludes had me angry about everything, all the time. But it’s a “can”, not a “will” – I’ve been on higher doses and for longer and not had that result at all.

        1. amoeba*

          I mean, I certainly also understood the LW to mean that they take them in the context of bodybuilding, not for completely unrelated issues (I mean, I guess that’s possible, but would have expected them to mention it?)
          Was also quite taken aback because here, as well, that’s very illegal (although unfortunately apparently still really common in the bodybuilding scene), but having someone admit it casually like that sounds very wrong to me, indeed!

        2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          And if we’re talking anabolic steroids, rather than corticosteroids – there are fewer reasons to prescribe them, but still several entirely legal uses, including gender affirming therapy and anything that reduces testosterone production.

        3. The OG Sleepless*

          Anabolic steroids (for bodybuilding) and corticosteroids (for allergies and such) are two different types of medications that are chemically related to each other, thus the name confusion.

        4. Imtheone*

          The steroids for bodybuilding are different than the steroids for asthma or poison ivy. Anabolic steroids vs, corticosteroids.

      2. I just work here*

        It’s possible for someone to “take steroids” (usually meant as testosterone or a medication that increases testosterone) for medical reasons. I worked for years as an endocrine nurse and many of the men we saw for hypogonadism (a disease of testosterone deficiency, which can cause depression, osteoporosis, fatigue, etc) were also bodybuilders or extremely muscular. I can tell you (because I reviewed their labs as part of my job) that even with exogenous testosterone, their blood levels were in the normal range. If they DIDN’T take the medication, they would have had significant negative health effects. WITH the medication, they were healthy and could also pursue their hobby (fitness/bodybuilding). OP might have a condition that requires that he take steroids for completely legitimate reasons. I would want to know more before jumping to the conclusion that the drugs he takes are illicit.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yep, and it’s not relevant to the question, which is that the LW is being harassed about his body. I’m going to close this subthread.

      3. BlueFann2*

        Not sure where the LW is based, but if he’s in the USA, there are plenty of legal steroids for muscle building that do not require prescriptions, and are easy to find in supplement stores or even some grocery and drug stores. Nothing in his letter mentions “abusing powerful prescription drugs.”

        From a liability stand point for the practice, it’d be no different than someone taking daily vitamins & supplements or a new fad weight loss pill. And as far as LW admitting it, that’s no different than me telling people I take an daily iron supplement- it’s available over the counter, I wasn’t instructed to by a doctor, not everyone wants or needs to take it, but I like the affects it has on me, so I keep taking it.

        If LW is taking illegal steroids, that’s a different story, but I think it’s safe to take the LW at face value and not jump to assumptions.

  27. Ergonomics*

    LW5 Request a decently sized chair ASAP. For the love of everything ergonomic do not think of yourself as a troublemaker or that you just need to deal with being uncomfortable – this will lead to serious chronic issues if it continues.

    I showed this letter to a friend who works in my workplace’s department for workplace accommodations, and I’m pretty sure it broke her to see someone wondering if this was reasonable. Yes. Yes it is reasonable.

  28. WellRed*

    What is UP with coworker people!? The one who talked about menopausal, the one who complained about over emoting and now this.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Everyone got absurdly de-socialised during the intense work-at-home period and all their weird is coming out now? I agree, there do seem to have been a lot of “holy heck surely nobody thinks that’s OK” comments from co-workers recently!

      1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here. Lots of people talk about their concerns with how the pandemic response is going to effect the social skills of children, without really paying attention to how it has impacted the skills of adults, and our ability to be sociable and tolerant of each other.

        Seems like a lot of us turn into judgmental busybodies if we’re not constantly engaged with a social structure that reminds us that’s not acceptable. (Yes, I appreciate the irony in that observation)

        1. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

          Or is it just that people were always terrible but most people didn’t notice? We haven’t had to put up with it for the past couple of years, but now we do and it’s standing out.
          Before the panini I used to get unwelcome comments on my body, “hot flush” jokes (I’m in my early 30s but run hot), unsolicited dating advice (hurry up and settle – like I said, early 30s) and this was just treated like normal by my bosses.

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

            I think it might be this- I can think of A LOT of things people said to me over the years, way before the pandemic, that no one thought twice about but now would be considered rude, simply because we all had a baseline of less interacting and therefore, we’re not desensitized to it anymore.

            I can’t speak for anyone else, but I hit my 40’s during the pandemic and between getting older, going through a world crisis, and living through the last US president where it seemed like we were all in a heightened state of anxiety for five years, honestly, I both am willing to give people more grace than I used to but I’m also less tolerant of blatant BS. Collectively, our priorities have shifted and I think we’re all navigating it still.

          2. Peanut Hamper*

            I know it’s a typo, but I keep chuckling at “before the panini”!

            My life was definitely different before I got a sandwich press!

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              Might not be a typo! Lots of people are using ‘panini’ instead of ‘pandemic’. Oftentimes, it’s to get around filters and/or searches for ‘pandemic’.

        2. WellRed*

          True! When I start silently seething over the dishes my roommate left in the sink, I know it’s time to go work in the office for a day or two.

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

        “all their weird is coming out now”
        This made me laugh so hard! I need to find a way to use that line!

        We need a cartoonist to make a sketch of some coworker who is just oozing slime as they walk around the office.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      I had a similar reaction.

      All I want from my coworkers is that they get their job done and done correctly, and that they don’t smell (and I used to teach middle school, so even here, I have a high tolerance). Everything else is either forgettable or ignorable.

    3. Em*

      my favorite insane coworker is the one who harassed the LW after feeling offended and triggered by LW’s scary, life threatening emergency surgery because a side effect was significant weight loss. You can’t make this stuff up…

      1. Beebis*

        Was that the same person that was strongly implying a LW had lost a significant amount of weight quickly and taken time off from work because they had weight loss surgery and was therefore cheating at getting thin?

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      People have always been like this, but I think the extreme stress of the last few years plus a few other things has made people more, strident, about having their bigotry vocalised. We saw a heck of a lot of ‘I have a right to my opinion and rules don’t apply to me!’ during the worst of the pandemic.

    5. ACM*

      I’m still hoping for an update from the LW whose coworker snapped and started making complains in meetings because LW lost a ton of weight very quickly as a result of having a health problem resolved.

  29. ThatgirlK*

    #2- I am not familiar with the sites you have described. However about 5-6 years ago I found someone who was local, independent consultant who helped people by re-writing their resumes. She came highly recommended by several sources. We had several meetings in which we went in detail over my resume. She re-formatted the whole thing for me. Gave me the word version so I could edit as I saw fit. Or just save the template for use.

    I was not familiar with AAM yet, and my resume wasn’t written in a way that garnered much attention. I got so many more calls once I used her service. Yes I realize I could have spent a long researching and re-writing my resume. However I had 3 really small kids at home, I was laid off and it was the summer (no school time to work on my resume). My youngest was a colicy baby. I had no time or energy to devote to this. It was such a benefit to me at the time.

    OP – there are ways to find someone to help you write your resume. Local librarie, Local networking groups etc. My area has a Facebook group that is called (geared towards women) Women’s Network Group of **my local metro area**. You may have something like this for your area on Facebook. There maybe several if you don’t identify as female.

    Good Luck!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Resume consultant seems like one of those jobs where you can absolutely find a great one through word of mouth, but a lot of the ones out there will be scams. Like life coach.

  30. Onward*

    2 — Seconding Allison’s statement that those companies are scams. Spent $100 thinking they would help me with my resume and all they did was make it more generic and fill it with a ton of useless, meaningless corporate jargon. I had to completely re-do it after the fact. It was a total waste of money.

  31. just another queer reader*

    #4: my partner does a lot of interviews for entry level positions, and some of the candidates need a lot of prodding! I totally agree with Alison, it’s smart to help the candidates figure out what you’re looking for and guide them to an answer if you can.

    Occasionally, a candidate will just… not be able to say much at all, even after a lot of prodding, and in that case they’re probably not a good fit. But at least you’ve tried.

    As a side note, I am grateful for the interviewers who were patient and accommodating with younger me, because looking back I know I made a lot of blunders!

  32. Sloanicota*

    #3 – I sympathize, this sucks but it was the stated policy of the place I used to work, or at least it was my boss’ stated policy. The organization did not permit any work from home (this was pre-pandemic) so we would take sick leave but still work … from home. It came from the high achievers at the top and trickled down to the little people like me. Of course it’s legal, because we were getting paid; there is no right to any form of PTO where I live, I’m pretty sure.

  33. I should really pick a name*

    LW#4, think of it this way:

    You want to hire the best people, so you want to give them the chance to show you that they’re the best.
    If you think they misinterpreted a question, let them know, because their actual answer might be good.
    If you want more detail, ask for it. They might tell you something that you wanted to know.

    Though in the specific case of the person who said they wouldn’t follow the schedule, I think they’ve told you all you need to know at that point. There’s a difference between prompting for more information, and trying to get someone to fundamentally change their answer.

  34. HonorBox*

    OP3 – Hard second to going back to your boss to clarify the situation. You were charged a sick day which is generally paid time off for you to NOT work and get better. Yet you worked. You might suggest that while you didn’t feel well enough to come into the office, you still worked. I think it is important for companies to recognize that the ability to work from home allows us to work through illnesses that aren’t keeping us in the bed for the full day while also not bringing whatever it is into the office. Maybe this is the impetus your boss needs to help bring about some change to the company’s policy.

    OP5 – Please ask for a different chair. I think a small investment (small in the grand scheme of things of course) in a chair that allows you to be functional and not in pain is absolutely something most companies will see as reasonable. Just yesterday, a coworker was sitting in a side chair from their office with her feet propped on another. I asked if she was OK and she said her chair was the wrong height for her desk and she wasn’t able to adjust it to fit properly so her neck and shoulders were hurting. I told her to immediately find something that would work better for her because there’s zero sense in being uncomfortable for 8 hours while you’re working.

    1. LW3*

      Oh–no, I took the day off sick and did zero work. I didn’t mean to be ambiguous there–I didn’t work, and oh well, stuff didn’t get done.

  35. Andi*

    #5, I’m a very fat woman and it’s allll in my hips. I don’t fit in any standard chairs. When I was younger, I agonized over this, and was super embarrassed about it, and I tried everything in my power to not be a burden to my employer with my hideous body, etc etc. Now I rock into interviews with a cheerful, “I’m going to need a chair without arms, thanks!” and I ask for a wide chair right from day 1. I’ve never had any company or manager give me any grief about it or even make a comment other than, “Sure!”
    Further, I currently work as an office manager, and part of my job is helping people on my team who need an extra-tall standing desk because they’re 6’6″ or a smaller mouse for their hand or a chair that reclines for their back injury or absolutely whatever. We’ve never said no to any of these requests. We want our employees to be comfortable so they can work at their best.
    Go on and ask. You deserve to be comfortable at work. I think you’ll find almost every company would be happy to help.

  36. PsychNurse*


    This is exactly the same as: “I just don’t like women with such big boobs. It’s unnatural. I can tell yours are fake, and it’s so gross when people have fake boobs. Also, a lot of our patients are opposed to fake boobs, so you are probably making them uncomfortable.”

    Like, WHAT?!

    1. Fishsticks*

      I worked in a lingerie store on the online catalogue side of things, but everyone worked more or less in one big room. We had a warehouse, our retail store which was mostly just fitting rooms, and then the big open office. Rather than shopping through racks, customers would go into a fitting room, getting a fitting, and then the fitters would bring items to them to try on.

      One of our fitters had implants and spoke openly about them with coworkers. I wouldn’t have known really except that she mentioned it. She was great at her job! Confident, easy-going, and had this incredible knack for knowing exactly what a customer would feel AND look best in. She routinely got these sterling reviews from customers and management alike, great worker, was more or less the assistant manager for the store and I think she actually has been promoted since I left.

      We had one customer who complained about her, just went on a rant about how “girls with fakes” shouldn’t be allowed to work for the store because it made “real women” feel uncomfortable about their bodies, and if she was going to keep working, she should have to “cover up” (she was wearing a totally normal outfit). When pressed, the customer admitted she did a great job, knew her stuff, but “it was just hard to be near her” because she was too pretty.

      She sent this incredibly long letter through email about it. My boss had her own issues, but I will say this for her – she absolutely had her employees’ backs when it came to unreasonable customers, which is a huge rarity in retail. She ended up printing out the letter and putting it on our shared fridge. And replied to the email letting the woman know that she was free to take her business elsewhere, but Boss wouldn’t be hiding someone in the back because she had the temerity to be TOO good looking according to a total stranger.

      1. Hans Moleman*

        In most cases people project their insecurities through outrageous means.
        I had a former college friend refused to invite a classmate to her birthday on the grounds that she was “too pretty”. She also hated a contestant on a reality tv show because the young woman seemed to have all her s**t together and made her feel inferior, and made her boyfriend change the channel when the contestant came on.

        1. Observer*

          It sounds like a good dose of therapy is indicated there. Also, I hope her BF recognized it for the relationship red flag this was. Because I have zero doubt that she would absolutely accuse him of “of course” cheating with any pretty coworker.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        Weird, I had no idea mine meant I was no longer a ‘real woman’ :D.

        Nothing triggers other people’s weirdness than elective surgery.

        1. Fishsticks*

          Right! It’s the weirdest thing. Or like, I know someone who got a nose job and people used to give her SUCH guff about it. And… why is it your business, Random People? She wanted the surgery, she qualified for it, she received it. Go on with your lives!

          1. CommanderBanana*

            I had massive sinus rebuilding surgery that involved completely removing my septum and replacing it, so I had a rhinoplasty at the same time (kind of unavoidable?). I was about to get a cosmetic rhinoplasty anyway, but the internal damage was so extensive that a only an ENT who was also a plastic surgeon could do it.

            When I tell people I had a nose job, they’re weird, but if I say it was because of sinus surgery, I had someone literally say “well, that’s ok then,” like they personally would have had a problem with it if it was just cosmetic.

            1. Fishsticks*

              Exactly! It’s just nobody’s business whether a surgery is ‘cosmetic’ or not. It’s a surgery. It’s their own body.

              But boy do we love dictating what is or is not ‘okay’ for other people to do in their private time with their own money.

  37. Fishsticks*

    Huh, it just occurred to me I only know steroids in two contexts – Capital-B Bad For You, Bad to Use, Bad Bad Bad, and then the steroids used when you have certain illnesses that help calm inflammation. Now I think I’m headed down a rabbit hole of research into other uses for steroids that aren’t explicitly under the label of Bad. Just something I didn’t know, that they are used outside of shady ‘doping’ contexts.

    Love when a random AAM letter sends me down a research trail!

    To #1: Every single thing Jane is doing is passive-aggressive warfare designed to push you out because she is uncomfortable. It’s wrong. It’s inappropriate. Your body is your own business, not hers. And you need to cut this short. I loathe people like this. And I guarantee your patients don’t care as long as you, as their healthcare provider, are listening to them! I’ve had doctors and nurses who look all sorts of ways, and what I remember about them is A. if they listened to me about why I needed help/was there, and B. if they were overall friendly. That’s it. And bedside manner + competence is really all that should matter to Jane, and if you’ve got both covered, then she needs to focus on her own job performance.

  38. Mandie*

    LW1: I am a woman, and if I walked into a doctor’s office and saw a muscular, tatted guy, I’d instantly feel more at ease. I don’t know exactly why…I think it’s because people who don’t fit the typical buttoned-up, preppy mold are less scary to me. What intimidates me at the doctor’s office is feeling like the person assisting me is impatiently rushing through the appointment, dismissing me, or
    judging me. Their physical appearance means little to nothing in that context.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      From my mosh pit days, I know that big muscular men with tattoos are the same ones who will single handedly stop a moshing crowd if a smaller woman falls to make sure they don’t get crushed.

      I’ve had good experiences, I would also feel safer (especially encoutering them in a caregiving scenario). People have their own perceptions and biases, but no one type of person is automatically better or worse than another.

    2. Rocket Raccoon*

      I know what you mean – I would think “this practice judges people by actions, not looks,” which means that they will actually listen to what I say and not just decide things about me.

    3. Not A Manager*

      If we’re discussing our own personal, completely gender-based, socialized responses here, I PERSONALLY would immediately feel safe and comfortable with a muscular, tattooed man who had a gentle and appropriate demeanor. Especially in a doctor’s office where I might already feel anxious or vulnerable.

      I think my gender-based, socialized association would be that here is someone able to protect me and keep me safe.

      Does this matter in the slightest to the LW’s situation? Of course not. It’s not *actually* my business what my health-care providers look like. And I hope that even as a client I would have the good sense to keep all of my opinions to myself.

    4. rusty*

      Same here, absolutely. I’m a physical outlier myself and I feel more at ease around other people who also diverge from ‘standard’ in some way, it doesn’t really matter how. I have more trust that they will see me as a person and not a shape. (Obviously I won’t be weird about anyone or their body, average or not – this is all going on deep inside my head.)

  39. irene adler*

    For #2:

    The only helpful resume writing service that might be of value is one where the reviewer is very knowledgeable in the industry within which you want to work.

    And that can be a difficult person to find. They have to know way more than simply having written resumes for people in the industry (they all seem to cite a version of this when you ask if they are familiar with the industry).

    I know of one independent recruiter who works solely in biotech. She’s the go-to for that “needle in a haystack” skill set employers can’t seem to find on their own. She’s been doing this for 20+ years. She does provide resume writing advice that is spot-on for biotech.

    If there is a professional organization pertaining to the industry you wish to work in, they MAY know of someone like this who can help you add resume items that pertain to the industry. And professional organizations may also offer a resume review/advice as well. You can certainly ask about this.

    This is not to negate Alison’s advice in any way.
    Just offering a way to evaluate resume writing services to see if they can actually assist you.

    1. Fishsticks*

      I think Allison was choosing to focus on the part of the letter relevant to the question.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      Yes because its irrelevant to their question.

      The rules here are we address what the OP is asking and if we address anything else it must materially change the answer.

      How anyone feels about that statement is irrelevant to the advice to OP.

    3. Jessica*

      I was a bit shocked by that as well, but the point at hand is that Jane doesn’t know that. She’s just projecting a stereotype: big muscular guy = must be abusing steroids. In this case the stereotype may be accurate, but Jane still doesn’t know that. And if we take the LW at his word as we’re asked to do, he’s not ragey at work. So Jane’s just assuming things like the presumptuous busybody she is.

  40. Jessica*

    Yeah, but LW3 can still push back. I’d just approach it like “I’m too sick to come in, but could WFH if you’re able to allow that? Oh, no? Company policy is absolutely no WFH? Well then, I’m too sick to come in, so I guess I’ll be taking a sick day. Good luck with the McGuffin project, and hopefully see you Thursday if I feel better!” And then meet any countersuggestion with shocked incomprehension (and if necessary, slowly dawning horror/indignation). Make them say the quiet part out loud. And then shut it down.

    1. Fishsticks*

      “Politely and earnestly make them say the quiet bit out loud” is honestly a shocking effective solution to so many workplace problems.

    2. DeeBeeDubz*

      +1 to this.

      I agree with many of the other commenters that the manager flubbed this one. The company policy is no WFH and at the first occassion where an employee was too sick to come in, her suggestion was to do an under the table WFH day, explicitly against the company policy? No. When the policy came into effect, that was the time to start making contingency plans for when absences would start effecting the work.

      The correct response was to encourage the LW to use a sick day and either reassign the pressing tasks and cope, or let the deadlines pass and use it as an opportunity to advocate for WFH to be permitted again in certain circumstances.

  41. Fluffy Fish*

    OP4 – I requested a petite office chair and its’ made my time at work so much better! If only I could request a petite desk (gov – not happening)

    100% reasonable.

  42. No Soup for You*

    I also have an Aeron chair. I believe it is the middle size. I’m 5’2″ and initially looked like Lily Tomilin playing Edith Ann when I sat in it, until I figured out how to lower the seat almost all the way down and play with the other adjustments. Ask your facilities person for help if you are having a problem. This is the most comfortable chair I have ever had and actually makes my back feel better. Obviously, if this does not help they need to give you another chair.

    BTW I do NOT work for Herman Miller!

  43. ijustworkhere*

    LW 3: You would think after almost three years of people working remotely companies would have adapted better than most of them have. Asking you to take a sick day and still work from home is so ridiculous I’m surprised the person saying that could get it out of their mouth.

    I have a friend who has a 100% remote job. It was advertised as a “100% remote opportunity from any US location.” Her offer letter says the same thing.

    Now she is being told that she can ONLY work in her home office. If she works anywhere else –at her parent’s home, for example– she must take 1/2 day each day as leave— BUT STILL WORK THE FULL DAY–“to be fair to others who are coming into the office and don’t have this flexibility.”

    They are researching software to verify her location and have asked her to send photos of her home office and keep her camera on at all times, even when she isn’t in a meeting.

    She is a senior level employee, highly productive, and has received excellent performance reviews.

    Honestly, some companies have lost their minds.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Yikes on Bikes. I hope that your friend is actively job hunting, that kind of bait and switch is horrible, especially with the tracking plans.

    2. EPLawyer*

      The work is getting done. Who cares if it is at beach or her home office? And I bet the people in the office don’t care either. Well they care because they have to be in the office. But they probably think the WFH folks are at the beach anyway. In office people (if they are there because they HAVE to be, not want to be) are going to be mad at the WFH people even if they ARE working in their home office. So making a WFH stay put doesn’t really solve the problem.

      Also this is tech. Dollars to donuts, someone is coming up with a way around any location tracker and will just put up a fake background that looks like their home office.

    3. Govt Paper Pusher*

      The 1/2 day thing is bonkers. But “work from home” is not the same thing as “remote work,” even though I know many people (and companies) use the terms interchangeably. My customer service staff can remote work from the beach or where ever they want that is quiet. Our HR folks and others that deal with confidential data are only allowed to work from their home. And our senior staff that deal with sensitive government contracts, must work from home, AND their home must pass an in-person security site visit.

      1. Willow Pillow*

        Remote work can even mean still going into the office! I worked for a company with HQ in, say, Philadelphia, but a certain department all in Pittsburgh. I lived and worked in Philly, my department got rolled into the Pittsburgh-located department, and a handful of us then worked remotely out of the Philly office.

    4. Observer*

      If she works anywhere else –at her parent’s home, for example– she must take 1/2 day each day as leave— BUT STILL WORK THE FULL DAY–“to be fair to others who are coming into the office and don’t have this flexibility.”

      If that actually winds up affecting how much she gets paid, it’s not only nuts and stupid, it’s almost certainly illegal.

      1. I have RBF*

        Yeah, that’s a bananapants rule.

        I can see it if she has sensitive hard copy documents that she needs to keep in her home office, but most stuff is online these days in the company’s intranet, and most remote workers log in to the corporate network via a VPN. As long as it’s using the company laptop and the company VPN plus doesn’t have hard copy of sensitive documents, why would it matter whether she was at her home, at her parents’ home, or in a coffee shop?

        And taking a half day of PTO while working a full day if she’s not at home? LOL, no. That’s not “fair to others…” at all, but it’s very unfair to her to make her take PTO when she’s actually working. If she were writing in I’d advise her to run like the wind to a new job that isn’t full of bees.

  44. Onward*

    2 — I can attest to Allison’s advice. Those places are scams. I paid $100 to have my resume rewritten by one because I had the same fears as LW that my resume was super flawed. All they did was make it more generic and add a bunch of meaningless corporate buzzwords and jargon. It was bad. I had to rewrite it after the fact. What a waste of money.

    1. irene adler*

      That sucks!
      I bet they gave you all kinds of assurances- beforehand- about how wonderful they were going to make your resume look and sound.

      1. Onward*

        Oh you bet! “You’ll get a 90% increase in call backs and interview requests”. Okay. I heard it. Should have known it was a ‘too good to be true’ type situation.

  45. Fine with WFH*

    OP3 – If you have a good relationship with your boss or are comfortable doing so, i do think it’s a chance to talk to your boss about the sick day policy to see if they can to push back with and have amendments made.
    I work in BigLaw as an assistant so my situation will be different from others but when we got mandated back to work in January, our HR made a strict policy that you can’t come into the office if you’re sick. But if you’re sick, then you HAVE to use a sick day and cannot work from home. This didn’t sit right with me and when I did end up sick a couple weeks ago, I emailed HR and my bosses (2 Partners) saying i was taking sick day as i’m not well enough to go into the office but per the policy can’t wfh either. Well wouldn’t you know, the Partners weren’t aware of that policy and my boss called up HR and chewed them out XD next thing i know policy was suddenly revised to allow us to wfh if we’re experiencing symptoms but still feel well enough to work through.

  46. HannahS*

    So OP1, it might be helpful to you to think of this as sexual/gender-based harassment and use those words if you’re complaining to a higher-up. I’m not American so take this with a grain of salt but in my jurisdiction a colleague making unwanted comments repeatedly about your body would meet the threshold. If Jane were male and you were female and “Jim” commented “I don’t like muscular girls…you’re too intimidating…you might get angry” I think it would be pretty obvious what kind of issue that is. It’s super duper not ok for your colleagues to say that about you.

    1. lisasimpson*

      Removed. I’ve now removed 5+ of your comments violating the rule at the stop and if you continue I will need to permanently ban you from commenting. – Alison

      1. anna*

        You misread the letter. Jane does not say he has had episodes of road rage, she is telling people she is afraid he might based on the appearance of his body. It’s harassment.

      2. Blue*

        You commented similarly below, that the OP was having “episodes of roid rage” but going by the letter,

        “Furthermore, Jane has made comments to myself and others that I might have outbursts of “roid rage.””

        which reads to me as not Jane describing OP’s behavior but saying that it *could* happen. And based on all the other ways in which Jane clearly has poor judgement, I’m not inclined to trust her perception.

        1. Observer*

          And based on all the other ways in which Jane clearly has poor judgement, I’m not inclined to trust her perception.

          Absolutely! Jane is almost a caricature of an unreliable narrator. No judgement whatsoever.

      3. CommanderBanana*

        Alison already shut down some threads about this, but lots of steroids are legal, and there’s no indication that the LW is using illegal ones or abusing them. I’m certainly not advocating for steroid use, but I will say my long-time roommate has used steroids for the entire time that I’ve lived with him (he’s a bodybuilder) and he is the most even-tempered, cheerful person I’ve ever encountered in my life.

      4. HannahS*

        I read “Jane has made comments to myself and others that I might have outbursts of “roid rage.”” as meaning that Jane thinks it MIGHT happen because she’s making assumptions that a muscular man with tattoos is inherently prone to rage, not that OP has actually displayed any rage.

        If a person in a workplace IS having rage episodes, the answer isn’t to start making unwanted comments about their body, it’s to escalate it appropriately.

        1. Observer*

          If a person in a workplace IS having rage episodes, the answer isn’t to start making unwanted comments about their body, it’s to escalate it appropriately.

          Yup. And it wouldn’t matter WHY they are having rage episodes. In this context, the steroid use is just not relevant.

      5. peacock limit*

        The letter writer tells us Jane says he *might* have roid rage. Just stop with this storytelling.

      6. roann*

        Yeesh, you’ve just wholly fabricated facts that aren’t actually present in the letter.

      7. Irish Teacher*

        I don’t think she said there were any informal complaints about him having episodes of ‘roid rage. It sounds like she simply said that based on his appearance, she was concerned he may in the future have episodes of ‘roid rage. It sounds more like she was making a snarky comment than anything else, “he’s so muscular, he’s probably going to show signs of ‘roid rage. Lol.”

        And the last paragraph isn’t exactly what was said. We don’t know he’s abusing steroids or using them illegally. For all we know, he may have been prescribed them for some medical issue. Nor does it sound like anybody, even Jane, has accused him of having had any episodes of ‘roid rage. It appears to be solely her suggesting it might happen in the future. It’s more “I have a large physique and Jane has made comments about how that means I’m at risk of ‘roid rage. I actually do use steroids but there have been no complaints from anybody about my behaving inappropriately or showing any signs of anger.”

        And even if she is hinting at previous episodes of anger and couching it in terms of “might,” that still wouldn’t justify the other things she’s said, like that she doesn’t like muscular men. Even if he were abusing steroids and it was affecting his behaviour, it still wouldn’t be appropriate for her to say she didn’t like muscular men.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          > it still wouldn’t be appropriate for her to say she didn’t like muscular men.

          This is a weird thing for her to say, to me – a lot of people have assumed that she means in the sense of men like that are not her ‘type’ (in terms of being attracted to them or whatever) and I can see that being what she meant, only because I can’t think of any other explanation – it does seem an odd thing to say though even outside of the comments about “roid rage”, being intimidating to their patients/clients etc.

          I’m not sure what he is even meant to do with a comment like “I don’t like muscular men” although it would certainly be tempting to respond with “oh that’s good as I don’t like overstepping nosey parkers so I guess we will have to keep it platonic!” ….

  47. Enginerd*

    OP2 For what its worth my university had the #1 ranked broadcast journalism program in the US when I graduated (My degree was in a different field) and they claimed an average job placement of 6 months after graduation. It’s just a competitive field and takes time to break in so don’t be discouraged!

  48. DrMouse*

    LW1, I’m so sorry you’re being treated this way. My husband lifts and he gets some amount of this too, from his coworkers at a nonprofit focused on social justice….basically, the people who you would expect to be more enlightened about the impact of our behaviors on others and the importance of celebrating body diversity. Mind-boggling. I wonder-what about saying something to your coworker along the lines of, “gosh, it makes me really sad that even in our line of work, we haven’t moved past making judgments about each others’ bodies. I celebrate bodies of all shapes and sizes”. Realistically she’ll keep doing it and you’ll have to escalate, but I probably wouldn’t be able to resist pointing out the irony.

    Side note- can’t we all just agree to STOP COMMENTING ON OTHER PEOPLES’ BODIES? It’s not that hard….

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I really like your wording – that’s a great way of getting it across.

      Also sign me up for ‘stop commentating on peoples bodies 2023!”

    2. Ray Gillette*

      Unfortunately, experience has shown me that people who have progressive ideals but are weak on the critical thinking side of things can easily get caught up in regressive ideas so long as they’re dressed up in progressive-sounding language. So I can easily see how someone who is generally on board with the idea of respecting body diversity has a blind spot for how to treat people who are considered conventionally attractive.

      1. Willow Pillow*

        Very much this. I would like to sign up for “be aware of our implicit biases and don’t let them cloud our perceptions 2023”!

      2. Gritter*

        Completely agree. This is something I’ve encountered myself from many who would consider themselves to hold progressive ideals, and claim to celebrate diversity but will think nothing of using words like ‘skinny’, ‘blonde’ or ‘white’ as pejoratives.

        1. Appletini*

          Whereas I’ve run into not a few self-identified progressives who talk about how “disgusting” natural hair or larger bodies are and how “coarse” and “unrefined” they think non-White facial features are. Perhaps we could collect those you’ve run into and those I’ve run into, put them all in a room, and see if they explode like matter and antimatter touching.

          1. I have RBF*

            LOL! Yeah, the casual bigotry expressed by some folks in supposedly progressive circles just astounds me. I’m white, AFAB, and the number of comments I see about non-white folks who are poor or “foreign” is ridiculous. Don’t get me started about non-white anti-blackness.

  49. DrMouse*

    The thing is, if there were an actual concern about his performance or behavior, presumably they’d be handling it differently- i.e., dismissing him. This is just body shaming, plain and simple.

  50. danmei kid*

    When will we stop commenting on other people’s bodies and appearance in the workplace, 2023 goals

  51. MuseumChick*

    LW1, I’m petty so I would try and respond to Jane when several other people are within hearing. “Jane, you seem to be really focused on my body and frequently comment on it. It makes me very uncomfortable and I need you stop.”

  52. Charlie Rose*

    To OP #5:
    It might also be worth asking for an ergonomic assessment of your work station as well. As someone on the opposite end of short, I am 6 ft and female, I needed to have my desk & monitors raised to prevent bodily strain due to my work station being set for someone who is 5’4″.

    Remember, you are your own best advocate!

  53. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP #2 – I suggest you take advantage of the professional blogging/self-publishing platforms out there, and just keep writing. The more writing samples you have – especially for journalism – the better. Start hanging out at town council meetings, interview any members of the public with interesting comments/questions from the open session, etc. – the shoe-leather-on-pavement kind of journalism that takes dogged persistence.

  54. EMP*

    LW #5

    Someone above mentioned an ergonomic assessment, I second that suggestion! And if your company won’t pay for an assessment, then still consider the whole workstation. I’m too short for many chairs (5’3″) but if the desk doesn’t accommodate a lower keyboard tray then the better solution for me is to use a regular chair, the higher keyboard, and add a foot stool (one specifically made for under desks). A shorter chair with a standard desk is KILLER on my wrists and forearms.

  55. Nea*

    #5 – I’m in a similar position; ever since I had surgery there is literally only one kind of chair I can sit in. Find the chair that works for you, buy it, and ask companies if you can bring your own chair. Considering that the standard alternative causes you pain, it’s reasonable to call it an accommodation.

    My script for this runs along the lines of “I require one accommodation that at no cost to the company – there’s a certain kind of chair I need; I will provide my own.”

    (The first time I did this I was given permission but warned the chair might get stolen, so I got it in a really bright color.)

    On a completely related side note, the Container Store bungee chairs are insanely comfortable, relatively inexpensive, and high-adjustable. It’s a pity that they don’t come in the hot pink “wild berry” color anymore.

    1. Observer*

      Find the chair that works for you, buy it, and ask companies if you can bring your own chair. Considering that the standard alternative causes you pain, it’s reasonable to call it an accommodation.

      Nope. Do NOT do that. Sure, if only one specific chair works for you, then find it. But do not buy it yourself. Only consider it if the workplace is otherwise great (or you can’t afford to leave without something else lined up) but they “can’t” (ie refuse) to get it for you. In that case TELL them that you’ll be buying it and bringing it in.

      Getting a special chair is generally considered a very basic accommodation that is almost certainly required by law. That goes even more strongly for a basically standard chair in a different size, and it’s also just plain decency on the part of an employer. There is absolutely no reason why the OP should proactively offer to pay for something that the employer should be providing.

  56. Punk*

    LW1: Is Jane possibly trying to bring up, in a roundabout way, concerns that female patients might not feel comfortable being vulnerable in front of a large man with major tattoos depicting symbols of death? I don’t quite know how to thread that needle but if he’s touching patients/moving their body parts (sonograms, physical therapy) and/or serving a vulnerable demographic, it’s something that might need to be addressed at some point. Like he has the right to do his job, but a vulnerable female patient maybe also shouldn’t be expected to litigate her feelings and experiences with men every time she goes for her necessary health services. It might even be a good thing that Jane is anticipating this issue, or possibly noticing patients’ reactions.

    Again, I don’t know the answer, but I sort of feel like the substance of the issue hasn’t been identified.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      As a fellow tattooed person with tattoos of ‘death symbols’ (you know, that bony thing we all have inside our noggins) I’d feel MORE comfortable with someone like that. I’ve had some extremely negative interactions with healthcare workers who looked at me and instantly assumed I was there for either STD testing or some sort of drug problem.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I’d argue that “please cover up your tattoos” is more acceptable to say than “you’re too muscular”

      1. Observer*

        Right. *if* that’s what the problem is. It’s quite obvious that it’s not the problem, though.

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      Even if that’s the case Jane is going about it in the wrong way. If she’s being told that there are concerns from patients then she should pass that along to the proper person (maybe the LW’s manager) to figure out a solution. Harassing the LW, though, is definitely not the way to go.

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “a vulnerable female patient maybe also shouldn’t be expected to litigate her feelings and experiences with men every time she goes for her necessary health services”

      No. As a vulnerable female patient, this is someone I would feel a lot safer with than a lot of men with more common characteristics and I am constantly expected to litigate my feelings and experiences with men to get necessary health services. Tattoos and muscles aren’t what make men dangerous or scary, and it’s certainly not Jane’s place to decide what’s appropriate for all of their female patients.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Yes, and sadly, I’ve had to litigate my feelings and experiences with men every time I’ve seen a male doctor! The worst experience I ever had was with an older, grandfatherly doctor (without specifying which country, he was not from the US and I definitely think that there were some cultural issues coming up in our interaction). Conversely, the kindest doctor I’ve ever had is my plastic surgeon, who is also male.

      2. Ginger Baker*

        ^My mother def felt *more* comfortable with [anyone that might need to help her move/keep her from falling/etc] healthcare providers who were very clearly strong enough to keep her from getting hurt/get her up easily if she fell. Smaller people can and did very ably assist her! But when the person about to help her move from wheelchair to bed was a guy who just looked like he lived in the gym lifting weights 3-4x heavier than her, she could be pretty immediately confident that he could keep her safe.

        Every person/patient is different and brings their own views and perspectives but I most definitely would not support the idea that every woman (or even most/many) are by default feeling intimidated in the presence of a large and muscular healthcare provider.

    5. Blue*

      The substance of the issue is that Jane is commenting on OP’s body in highly inappropriate ways.

      If Jane has other, actually legitimate concerns, she needs to communicate them and not go off on weird tangents about her weird hangups.

    6. bamcheeks*

      “do female patients have the ability/opportunity/right to request a female healthcare provider” is SUCH a common discussion in healthcare, and there are completely normal, business-appropriate ways for anyone involved in providing healthcare to discuss it. None of them involve commenting on the body shape of an individual provider TO that provider!

    7. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      It doesn’t sound like Jane is being indirect, unless the subtext is that she thinks LW should quit. She is very directly saying that she finds LW unattractive, with the strong implications that nobody she doesn’t find attractive should be anywhere she can see them.

      Given what Jane has been saying, if any patients had complained about LW’s appearance, it wouldn’t be “someone might be uncomfortable.” It would have been “a patient told me you made her uncomfortable” or a non-insinuating “some of the patients are visibly nervous when LW is in the room,” taken to their boss. Not insinuations about what patients might think.

      Even if patients had said LW made them nervous, Jane’s statements about what she does and doesn’t find attractive would be out of bounds. If I was a hypothetical patient there, I’d want the practice to take my complaints equally seriously, whether or not another employee thought the LW was attractive.

    8. Observer*

      LW1: Is Jane possibly trying to bring up, in a roundabout way, concerns that female patients might not feel comfortable being vulnerable in front of a large man with major tattoos depicting symbols of death?

      Really? In what world is commenting about whether she “likes” men “that big” or not, related to people being creeped out by the tattoos? As I mentioned above, if she had addressed the tattoos directly, that could be a conversation. But the minute she starts complaining about what she “likes” in men, and how muscular someone is (or is not), it becomes impossible to believe that she’s actually worried about legitimate issues on the part of clients.

      but I sort of feel like the substance of the issue hasn’t been identified.

      Oh yes it has. And it is NOT the patient’s fears.

    9. AnonRN*

      I’ve had male patients who are not comfortable with personal care being provided by a female, too, so this goes both ways. We try to accommodate as best we can, but in a small practice where OP might be the only radiographer/PT/speech therapist it could be a challenge. However, if that’s really the issue, then the whole office needs to have a method for addressing it so that any patient can request a chaperone (very common; even my female gyn does this) during certain types of care. Jane shouldn’t be specifically calling out OP as the problem.

      1. AnonRN*

        Replying to myself on the topic of tattoos…my husband is really, really afraid of snakes. He won’t even look at them on TV. He doesn’t have a problem with tattoos in general, and wouldn’t mind having a male caregiver, but the snake thing (not, you know, the skull thing!) might make him uncomfortable. Everyone is different, and some people won’t gel in a way that can’t really be predicted. But again, if Jane herself is afraid of snakes then she needs to say that specifically (or say that a patient actually complained) rather than concern-trolling about “patients might be intimidated” and negging about “muscular men.”

  57. JustMe*

    LW 2 – Don’t do it. Years ago I applied for an online resume-writing job. For the “interview,” the company asked me to write a resume for someone who had worked as a restaurant server who was applying for an office job. I said, “Well, who is this person? What’s their background? Have they gone to school? Where did they work before?” The company told me it didn’t matter, I just needed to write the resume.

    I was totally at a loss, because a resume is supposed to be a reflection of the PERSON–their education, their experience, their background, their volunteer work, their accomplishments–so I invented a character who was fluent in Mandarin, was great at customer service, and had also helped with the catering side of the business and learned some accounting and sales. My application was promptly rejected.

    They’re not going to give you a good resume. If you’re concerned or stuck, use Alison’s advice to make a resume and cover letter (I use Alison’s format for cover letters all the time). Totally not sponsored, but you can buy Alison’s book How To Get A Job and it’s cheaper and more helpful than a $200 resume service.

    1. JustMe*

      I forgot I did this application, so I went back and found my email exchanges with the company. I said, “When you say that you would like it to be a writing sample for a Waiter/Waitress–would you like the summary statements, skills, and experience to be based on an imagined person? Is this a person who is applying to be a waiter/waitress, someone who already is a waiter/waitress and is looking to get into a new industry, or a waiter/waitress who is looking for another serving job?” They said it didn’t matter and recommended that I use ONET and Indeed Resumes to get a sense for what a good resume would look like! Haha!

  58. El l*

    Tactic in two parts.
    1. A couple short phrases, depending on what’s lacking:

    “Alright, can you expand a little more on __?”
    “Sure, could you give a specific example of __?”
    “Interesting, could you tell me why you prefer __?”

    2. If you can’t get it within 2 questions, think after the interview about what it tells you about them. Because let’s face it – being able to speak to the point is part of general professionalism.

  59. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#1 — Most of the medical practices I know have fairly flat organizations, but I really think you should bring your own supervisor into the loop quickly. I don’t mean to make you paranoid, but Jane’s (totally unprofessional) comments could damage your reputation. Talk to your supervisor ASAP.

    If you’re not sure how to approach your supervisor, Alison often recommends framing it as a request for advice: “Jane keeps making personal comments about my body. [Quote some of the examples from your letter.] I’m not sure how to respond — do you have any advice as to how I should handle her comments? I want to maintain good working relationships with everybody.”

    I’m assuming your practice is fairly small, but in your place, I’d work in building relationships with as many of the other staff as possible. The more they know you as your really are — quiet and professional — the less likely they are to put any stock in Jane’s comments.

  60. Jennifer Strange*

    #4 reminds me of the time my team (non-profit development) was hiring someone for an institutional giving role. I asked a candidate what tools she has used in finding new institutional prospects. She answered with “The internet.” My supervisor asked her to elaborated, which she did with, “Google.” She did not get the job.

  61. Data/Lore*

    LW#5- when I started working with my current employer, every last one of the office chairs had been specially ordered for the “big and tall” variety of office worker. Enter me, smaller than nearly everyone at the facility- I could fit my entire self in the seat of the chair I inherited. It took a few weeks and some really awful back pain for me to say something- the next day I was taken chair shopping for something small enough for my feet to touch the floor and my back to touch the backrest (that’s the quick and easy way to tell if a chair is ergonomically appropriate for you if anyone is curious). Making sure you have a chair that is ergonomically appropriate for your physical needs is to the benefit of your employer as much as it is to you.

  62. ThisIsTodaysName*

    “insinuated that I am “intimidating” to clients, saying that clients may be physically intimidated by my physique and tattoos and also that clients who are not in good physical shape may feel insecure about my fitness. ”

    Ask, “has a client expressed this to you? I’ve not gotten that vibe from anyone and I think you’re projecting. If someone HAS said something, please let me know. If not, then please stop talking about my looks. You wouldn’t appreciate if I told you multiple times every day that I found parts of your appearance to be unpleasant, would you?”

    1. Fishsticks*

      I keep coming back to the “people who aren’t fit might be upset at having to be around someone who is”. Like, does anyone out there dislike a doctor or medical provider because they’re TOO healthy? Is that a real thing in the world?

      1. Juniper*

        If anything I think the judgement goes the other way. I’m a larger former-health provider and definitely experienced self-doubt because I knew that patients sometimes judged fat health care providers as less competent because of an erroneous “if you can’t take care of yourself why should I trust you to take care of me” mentality

        1. Fishsticks*

          On the other end of the scale, for a long time at my gyno I would ONLY see a specific nurse practitioner. Not because she had my body type, though she did (I’m overweight, I know that, let’s move on with our lives) – but because she understood so much what it was like to have every. single. medical conversation be turned around to her weight that she was the one person in the office who genuinely listened to me! I still chat with her when I see her at the farmer’s market, even though I switched gyno offices later on.

  63. Grith*

    #4 – Remember that you are interviewing in order to try and find someone who is good at the job you are hiring for, NOT to try and find someone who is good at interviews.

    There will be some jobs where the skillsets cross over enough, but those where being able to answer questions on-the-fly are a key requirement are actually very few and far between. For most jobs, an interview is a means to an end, and you should be focused on trying to find out the truth of the answer, not if the answer and exactly the right amount of detail can be on the tip of their tongue.

  64. Critical Rolls*

    LW1, Jane is wildly out of line. You’ve gotten good advice, and I hope it helps you. There is one thing to consider in the future, though. I am absolutely *not* speculating about the circumstances of your steroid use. However, that might be something to keep to yourself at work in the future. As we’ve seen from the comments here, it’s quite possible for people to draw negative conclusions. Whether or not it’s right for them to do so, not sharing that information will prevent the possibility next time, a lesson a lot of have learned the hard way about various aspects of our lives. (Further disclaimer: Jane would have been horrible anyway and it’s not your fault she’s woven this piece of information into her web of inappropriateness. Just consider protective nondisclosure in the future.)

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The LW explicitly states that he has NOT told Jane that he uses steroids.

      1. Critical Rolls*

        You are absolutely correct, I read too many comments and got my wires crossed. Had I a delete button I would remove this blot on my reading comprehension escutcheon.

  65. Beboots*

    LW4 – I also do a lot of hiring for entry-level positions at my job and I sometimes encounter the same issue! I’m a big fan of tacking on “explain your thoughts” or “knowing what you know now, what would you differently in a similar situation and why?” to questions. I find I have to prompt for them to express their logic, but hearing why they did what they did, what their thought process was, really helps me assess their judgement. I also like the second question I listed above, because about 50% of the time I get a sense of the growth of that candidate, who may not have oodles of experience thus far.

    I generally do prompt as well, with things like “can you tell me more about [specific part of the question they missed]?” In my interviews, I usually only have four to six questions, so if by question four it becomes apparent that even with prompting they’re not going to go deep, I don’t tend to always prompt them for every question, but I find sometimes with a little bit of prompting I get a lot more.

    In my conclusion to the interview, too, I always tell them (if we have time), that they’re welcome to take a few moments to review the questions (we give them in writing 30 minutes in advance, which allows them to gather their thoughts and come up with better examples than being put on the spot in my experience), and add any details they like. Some take advantage, some then realize they missed something. As Allison says, it’s about actually assessing the candidates and setting them up for success. Sometimes I think people are very procedure-bound and think “well, I can’t prompt this candidate, because it’s not fair to all candidates if I don’t prompt them all” (that was the thinking at my big bureaucratic organization), but it’s about giving candidates a chance to demonstrate their strengths (and weaknesses) as candidates. I find entry-level candidates are also the most likely to clam up from nervousness too!

  66. H.Regalis*

    LW1 – Ugh, Jane. She’s doing a great job of paying way too much attention to her coworker’s body. Does she want to check your teeth too, like she’s buying a horse? She is being so objectifying and obnoxious.

  67. Rosemary*

    Regarding the advice to focus on what you “achieve” rather than what you “do”… honestly, as hiring manager, I DO want to see what you “do” in your job, especially for lower/mid-level roles. I need to know you have experience doing X, Y and Z tasks. If you did achieve A, B and C…I want/need to know how. Also, sometimes the “achieved” can feel inflated, IMO.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Even when it’s a what do you “do” at work, there’s room to add more. So instead of just “chopped lettuce” — it’s “chopped lettuce for busy sandwich shop to X standard” or “answered phones” can include details like how many people/departments did you support, did you answer customer service questions, did you also greet walk-in visitors … etc.

      CONTEXT is what I care about as a resume reviewer — can I SEE the person doing the work and get a sense of how well they do it?

  68. Kara*

    LW #4 –
    My partner is one of the best interviewers I’ve ever met. I get to hear a great many of his online interviews (we both work from home and our offices are side by side).

    One of the things he does that I’ve incorporated into my own interviewing is that he starts off every interview with a set of guidelines for the interviewee. It both lets that person know how to best answer the questions and also gives my partner some insight into how well the person listens and follows direction.

    He says something like: Before we get started, here’s what I’m looking for: When I ask questions about work you’ve done in the past, I’m looking for “I” and “me” responses and specific instances. I don’t need to hear about what your team did or how things were or are “generally” handled. This interview is about YOU and your skills, experience, and abilities. Ideally you can direct me to specific items on your resume that highlight those achievements. If there’s any time or place you can brag about yourself without reservation, an interview is it, so I expect you to do that. If there’s anything that you’re particularly proud of that I don’t ask you about or we don’t touch on, please feel free to let me know and to give me details.

    He gets great responses from this and it becomes apparent pretty quickly who is listening and who isn’t.

  69. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4: when I’m interviewing people and they do the things you’ve encountered, I will give them one chance to course correct by asking them (again) to provide specific examples. If they don’t, then I have to assume they don’t have the experience. There are some people out there who have a wealth of knowledge as well as experience, and who are just bad at getting to the point (which I will also make note of).

    With people who do provide specific examples, I will ask further probing questions to make sure that they really do have the experience I am looking for, what their role was in the situation, what actions they took, what they learned, even where their role began and ended (eg. if other people were involved in the situation).

    For people who are giving you unrelated examples, tell them to tell you how they feel this example relates to the qualities you are trying to evaluate. They may see how it relates more clearly than you do – eg. if they’re in a completely different industry, but have transferable skills. Or they may have misunderstood your question because they don’t have industry experience.

  70. BellyButton*

    LW1, I could probably ignore all the body comments, but someone implying he is dangerous (“roid rage”) to his coworkers and patients is unacceptable on so many levels.

  71. Essess*

    OP #1 – Since Jane is being deliberately rude, you don’t need to sugar coat your response. Especially in response to her comments about “too muscular,” and that she doesn’t “like men that big”, I’d respond that comments about my body are sexual harassment and they need to stop immediately.

    The letter doesn’t say if the practice is large enough to qualify to invoke the EEOC hostile work environment harassment. If they have 15 or more people in the company, you could also tell her that you will file a complaint if she continues.

  72. 1-800-BrownCow*

    LW #5: Definitely say something and ask for a chair that fits you better. If you know of one this is comfortable and would work well with you, share your suggestion with your manager. Honestly, as a 5’8″ person, I would not even realize that a desk chair would be that uncomfortable for a short person as I don’t know what that’s like! So it would never occur to me that someone could be in pain if they never told me. If you explain your situation to your manager, I’m sure they’d want to remedy it right away as they don’t want someone out of work for weeks because they had to have surgery due to problems sitting in a chair that was way too big!

    1. AM*

      I completely agree. Many people may not realize #5 is struggling with her chair. Most people, you would think, would want their employees to employees to be comfortable. I’m 5’2″ and my boss was great about making sure I had comfortable work space. I was using a box for my feet, but she insisted I get a proper foot rest. In the winder she ordered little heaters for our desks in case we were cold. These little things help make me feel appreciated.

  73. none123*

    LW1 this is wild – I was actually let go once for being “hypermasculine and intimidating” which in that case was cover for “outed as trans at work .” I can only imagine what would have happened if I had been tall and had actual muscles.

  74. Juniper*

    LW1 #1 (I’m trying to make this easy to search lol)

    Former psychotherapist here. Given the content of your message, I’m assuming this is what you do. I know you said “allied health care”, so I suppose you might mean dietitian, occupational therapist, or physiotherapist, but there’s enough overlap in the client-service provider dynamics that I’ll work with it.

    So I see a ton of advice about either confronting her (in a calm manner since people seem to think “confronting” inherently holds anger) or talking to the boss above you. Something I want to add is maybe documenting that there is no evidence that your size has an effect on clients; not in the client case notes but creating some separate documentation that adheres to confidentiality and privacy (like specifying that details are in case notes, but not making specifics about clients).

    Also, do you have a regulatory college? I’m assuming you do but I don’t want to preclude the possibility that you’re in an allied health care profession that’s not regulated. You might want to check into their governing policies and see if registrants harassing other registrants is a complaint worthy thing. If Jane won’t stop, you could register a complaint and let the college deal with it.

  75. CommanderBanana*

    I had massive sinus rebuilding surgery that involved completely removing my septum and replacing it, so I had a rhinoplasty at the same time (kind of unavoidable?). I was about to get a cosmetic rhinoplasty anyway, but the internal damage was so extensive that a only an ENT who was also a plastic surgeon could do it.

    When I tell people I had a nose job, they’re weird, but if I say it was because of sinus surgery, I had someone literally say “well, that’s ok then,” like they personally would have had a problem with it if it was just cosmetic.

  76. London Calling*

    Jane – “ you are too muscular.”
    LW (as politely as possible) – “too muscular for what?’ and let it hang while Jane thinks of an answer.

  77. Avril Ludgateaux*


    I know this probably will not be helpful to hear, but it is astoundingly hard to get into the journalism field without connections. Especially now that traditional/print media is on its dying breaths; there is a global market for cheap, quick churning “content creators” vs. real journalists; and less scrupulous publications are even moving toward using AI and hiring people to just clean up the automaton-generated muck. You may not be doing anything wrong! You may have the perfect resume with the perfect education and experience – although I would definitely take Alison’s advice about highlighting achievements/accomplishments over responsibilities. The problem is the industry, not you. (“Communications” is also an extremely saturated degree field/industry, but it is a flexible skillset that can translate to many occupations/career tracks, if you are flexible and strategic. Still, because it is so “common” for lack of better words, you’ve got a LOT of competition among your former classmates, so to speak!)

    My point is… You could be doing everything right, but the barrier is higher for you. I don’t know if you will find this comforting or frustrating, but it should at least inform your approach.

  78. BlackKat*

    For #5 , definitely worth the chair request but if it takes time to sort out, I am 5ft (0”) and I work from home (so depending on your set up may not work) but instead of a foot rest, I found that a yoga block under the desk work well for me. It’s lightweight but entirely solid. At my height, I’ve only found only a few chairs that go down low enough and even if my feet touch the floor it’s still not super comfortable (think just touching the floor vs knees comfortably elevated) so I use the yoga block. I work from home so mileage will vary but if you desk underneath is hidden, I think it could work.

    1. BlackKat*

      I should have added, I like using yoga blocks because I can use 1 or 2 (stacked if I want more elevation) and move it around easily.

  79. Samwise*

    OP #4
    Please, yes, “prod” a bit. You’re not looking for interviewing skills in an interview (unless that will be part of the job!). You’re looking for someone who’ll fit in and be able to handle and learn the skills and functions of the job. Don’t weed out people who might be a good fit!

    For example, I asked a candidate for an example of how they handled making a mistake at work, and instead of giving me a specific example, they generally spoke about how they handle mistakes.
    –> That’s interesting. Could you please give me a specific example?

    I had another candidate who answered most of my questions by giving examples from their prior job in a different, unrelated field but without connecting them to what I was asking about for this job.
    –> That’s interesting. Could you please explain how that connects specifically to llama shearing procedures? What aspects are comparable to [procedure in the unrelated field]?

    Some of my questions related to work style or communication style also got really short answers, like “I prefer X” with no elaboration.
    –> Hmm, ok, could you please give some specific examples? How do you handle it when a colleague does not-X?

  80. PlainJane*

    #1 brings up (for me, anyway) a related-but-not-directly question: What if the comments had come from a client instead of directly from Jane? What if a client really did call in saying, “I’m uncomfortable with this very muscular, tattooed nurse”? It would still be out of line for Jane to comment on the subject to OP, but there’s also the question of serving the client, who might feel particularly vulnerable in the situation. And it needn’t just be this issue. What do you do, as a manager in a field where you’re dealing with clients who feel vulnerable, when they make a complaint (or express discomfort) about things that you can’t really bring up with employees? (When I was in library school, my advisor told me about one of the best reference students he had… who couldn’t get/keep a job because he had facial tats and the public was put off by them. As the manager in that situation, how do you thread the needle?)

    1. Observer*

      It depends on a lot of things.

      In some cases, there really is nothing you can do. “I don’t want to be served by someone who is Black / Latino / has an accent / is Religion X / Is not religious / other legally protected characteristic”? Nope. That’s the one class of “bona fide” business reason you simply cannot accommodate.

    2. jane*

      You would address it by providing a different nurse to that specific client if one is available, or giving the patient the choice of how to proceed (cancel, reschedule, second person in the room, go ahead as is) if a different nurse is not available. You would accommodate the client’s needs and preferences to the extent reasonable and possible.

      I mean, what would you want to happen if you were that client? Would you want to have a different care provider or would you want the manager to go to the nurse you were uncomfortable with and berate and harass them?

      1. PlainJane*

        That’s the question with the public, isn’t it? (For myself, I’d hope I wouldn’t say, “Ick, tats, he must be unsafe” in the first place!) But do they really want accommodation, or are they just saying, “I wish society wouldn’t allow the things I don’t like and I would like to make sure that the person you’re sending me knows this.” In other words, it might very well *be* that the patient wants the staff member berated and harassed for having the temerity to not fit the gentle nurse stereotype, but will not phrase it in that way.

        I think that “How would you like us to handle it? We don’t have another availability right now but…” would be the best bet. And if the response is, “I want him reprimanded,” then at least you know and can say, “We do not reprimand our employees for their style choices, as long as they meet safety standards.” (Eg, you probably don’t want someone who’s going to be washing delicate areas to have long sharp nails with jeweled decorations in them. Tats are not going to scratch anyone.)

    3. Appletini*

      When I worked in healthcare this was the kind of thing the charge nurse handled, usually by starting with talking to the patient to get an idea of their specific needs. Simply refusing to employ providers with tattoos, etc, would be wasteful of human potential as well as prejudicial.

  81. William Carmichael*

    I don’t think the manager’s intent matters at all. She’s suggesting that the letter writer work for free. This country has enough wage theft going on that a manager openly suggesting a thing, for whatever reason, should be corrected.

  82. Pierrot*

    LW4– I was in an interview recently where the interviewer asked a question, but the syntax of the question made me interpret it differently so I appreciated that the interviewer elaborated.

    The question was something to the effect of “describe a time that you have organized people successfully to change a policy?” I interpreted it as being about organizing people who succeeded in changing a policy. I was thinking, well I have done some organizing centered around policy change, but the policy change aspect took a lot of time and there were other organizers involved. So instead I said something vaguely related that didn’t answer the question.

    What he meant was “Describe a time that you succeeded in organizing people to push for a policy changed.” The success part was not about the policy change occurring, but the process of organizing. When he gave examples of what he meant, I understood the question and was able to answer it.

    The larger problem was that the job was different than what the listing described. But I’m glad I was given the opportunity to course correct because I did have an actual answer— my nerves and the phrasing just led me to overthink it. I’m not suggesting that LW4’s questions themselves are confusing because they sound straightforward. This is more of an example of how people such as myself might interpret questions too literally, so elaborating can help. As others have said, if a candidate needs every single question to be elaborated, that might be a red flag.

  83. Christine*

    LW#4, Yes, do prod and ask a follow up to get the specifics. I often find following up with, now tell me about a specific time… will get me the details I need and help them be successful.

    If they are having trouble coming up with an example, I assure them it’s totally fine to take a few minutes to think.

    However, what I keep an eye on is patterns that emerge during the course of the interview:
    – If I continue to get generic answers throughout the interview, even with my prompting for specifics.
    -I prompt for specifics, and they still don’t give me any. I occasionally have candidates who buckle down on the generics, and I can’t get a specific example even with multiple follow up questions (I will usually give a candidate at least 2 follow up questions before I move on)

    One thing you can do is evaluate how other, similar candidates have answered questions. I have reworked certain questions when I saw multiple candidates struggle with it. It’s usually a sign for me there’s something about the question causing confusion.

  84. LW3*

    This is deeply frustrating, but I am absolutely unable to reply to any comments!

    So, to clarify (assuming this posts). My initial ask was to work from home due to illness–the flexibility to WFH if sick went away only about 2 weeks before this incident, apparently as a response to one person who just doesn’t come into the office and then says they’re working from home (we all have a hybrid schedule but are supposed to be in the office a specific number of days per week). The response was that if I wanted to work from home, I’d have to mark it as a sick day and work anyway. There was no “back and forth” where my manager “got frustrated with me”–they presented taking a sick day and working anyway as a “creative solution” for my benefit.

    I didn’t want to take a sick day and work anyway, I wanted to be able to work from home because I thought I’d be able to at least stagger through my day if I didn’t also have to get to the office, and this time of year there’s a lot on my plate, and I am the only person in my department who does what I do. I have no real backup. It’s just me.

    Some context: my manager has a history of being rigid in ways that don’t matter and are deeply confusing to their superiors when it comes to light, and I should have just taken the sick day and let the chips fall where they would rather than ask them for flexibility that I should have known wasn’t going to be granted. Lesson learned.

    1. Observer*

      I was having a problem with replying as well. I had to restart my computer, but now it’s working. Very annoying.

      To the meat of your comment. Is this a company wide policy or that of your boss. Because if it’s your boss I would have put it in email, and when / if work fell behind, I would put the reason (ie you couldn’t wfh) in an email to your boss and CC the relevant people.

      1. LW3*

        It’s a policy from our department; there’s not really organization-wide guidance about this. Different divisions and departments have different needs and traditionally there’s a lot of leeway to establish a policy that works for your unit.

        My manager, as I said, is a pretty rigid thinker (apparently except about asking people to work when they’re out sick :D ). I’m going to bring this up to them casually at some point, though, because while I am definitely the “no, that sounds terrible” type, my manager has already bullied some of their other reports over similar stuff, and I really worry that they are going to say this to one of my less assertive colleagues who won’t feel like they’re able to push back on it and they’ll do it.

        1. Appletini*

          I commend you and send you strength. The US has a massive wage theft issue and you are fighting back against it.

  85. Petty Betty*

    For L1, I get the vibe that Jane attempted a flirt (“I don’t like my men X”) and it fell flat, so now she’s being petty about it and generally trying to neg LW into… compliance? Her standards? Something.

    No matter what, it’s gross, violating, and yes, harassing. She needs to stop immediately, whether LW tells her to outright or another manager does. If LW could alert his own manager to the situation and ask for advice (leaving out his own steroid use, because that is not relevant information at all) on how to shut this down, and if he needs to be the one to tell Jane himself, and if so, can he please have a witness since she is already accusing him of being intimidating and insinuating potential “‘roid rage” due to his size without any actual evidence to support her bias/stereotyping.

    I would also recommend documenting everything as best as you can. You never know when you might need it.

  86. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    It is just mindblowing to me that after all we’ve been through the last few years there are still companies that refuse the WFH in these situations.

    Because the 3rd option was you come to work sick, you work, you get the entire office sick, and then the boss has real problems.

    Our office has always had the WFH if you are potentially contagious but we share air space with an office that came in all through the pandemic and came in “heroically” when they were all sick a couple of weeks ago and our office ended up just shutting down so we didn’t catch it. We don’t have WFH as a standard practice, but always put health first.

  87. H.C.*

    LW1 – first off and foremost, Jane is being ridiculous with her remarks; in addition to AAM’s advice, I would also go to your manager (if you have a decent relationship with them) and bring up Jane’s offputting-to-offensive remarks, especially if they are in a position to do something about it.

    On a tangential note, does your practice regularly work with trauma-involved populations (e.g. domestic abuse survivors, foster youth, etc.) where there might be a legitimate possibility that they are triggered by your presence? Even if so, that doesn’t justify Jane’s remarks & actions (esp since she herself isn’t in a patient care role) but it might be worthwhile to consider what accommodations are possible ensure you & patients feel comfortable (e.g. you are not front-of-house during those patients’ appointments) – but only if patients themselves raised that concern and not out of mere assumption that they might be triggered based on their background & experiences.

    1. Observer*

      but only if patients themselves raised that concern and not out of mere assumption that they might be triggered based on their background & experiences.

      I added the bold. Because that is absolutely the key. Keeping in mind that not all physically abusive people are big me is important here. Because for some people that “big guy” might be the most comforting thing because that’s who can protect them from their abuser. Not that I think that anyone is actually consciously thinking that the OP is likely to go to the mat with someone. But if you are talking about unconscious triggers based on past experience, this s a real potential thing.

      Which is to say that trauma informed care is great, but it only works if you don’t start with assumptions about the specifics of someone’s trauma.

      1. jane*

        Yep, all my genuinely traumatizing experiences with medical personnel have been perpetuated by average-bodied women with no tattoos. Any medical personnel who provided me care who happened to be larger men with tattoos provided care that was wonderful, safe, and validating. The PTSD I have from IPV would also in no way be triggered by a large person with visible tattoos.

        It really misses the mark to me to approach trauma informed care from the perspective of “specific bodies may be triggering.”

  88. PlainJane*

    #4 — Depending on how long the interviewee has been working, it’s possible that the scenarios you’re asking for haven’t really happened yet. I was interviewing for a managerial position and was asked how I’d handled an issue of employees having a personal clash at work, and, while I have a general theory and “What would I do if X?” scenarios in my head, the truth is, I’ve worked in a very well-adjusted staff for a long time, haven’t been the manager in the two cases where there *were* interpersonal troubles, and can’t answer with a specific example simply because I’ve had the good fortune to work with a staff that hasn’t had major conflicts.

    Digging back a few years to a point where there *was* a conflict, it was one between the employees and a manager, and I was on a level with most of the others there. I could talk vaguely about doing my best to ease the situation among the staff, but that’s not the same thing as managing, and an alarm bell would go off for me as an interviewer if an interviewee started going on about how bad a former manager was. (Though no one in the call was unaware of it; everyone had been there for that particular bit of unpleasantness.)

    There may also be hesitancy to admit to a mistake that they think you’d consider big enough to need handling. Or maybe the mistakes they’ve made have been so minor and the handling so routine that it’s just not coming to mind as something that’s been “handled.” Maybe add something like, “For instance, a report was emailed with an uncorrected error, or you missed a meeting due to communication errors…” (The sorts of things that happen to everyone eventually.) If they’re wracking their brains for that time they accidentally mislaid $8000 for the Building and Loan when the bank inspector just happens to be by and Mr. Potter is threatening their boss with jail time, then they may be overlooking that time they accidentally erased a presentation just before the meeting it was needed at and had to improvise from their own knowledge base, thus demonstrating the ability to adjust that you’re most likely looking for.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah, I’m nowhere near entry level and I struggle mightily with the “tell about a time you made a mistake” question. Not because I never make mistakes, but none of them are notable. All of them pretty much boil down to “i made a bad commit, which caused errors in code. automated tests caught it. I fixed the mistake in the code, committed the fix, and then the automated tests passed.” I couldn’t be more specific because I don’t even remember the specifics. I never know what to do because I worry it sounds like I’m avoiding the question, but there’s just not much to it.

  89. Ms. Haru*

    OP5 – I haven’t been able to read all the comments, but I am also very short (5’1/154cm). I have the smaller version of the Aeron. Honestly, I still find it too tall for me. I wished I had a chance to see it in person before purchasing. I find that office chairs made for teenagers work best for me, and they are often half the price of most. I would recommend trying some in person if possible so you can avoid the costly mistake I made!

  90. noname12345678*

    LW 1: I had to read “roid rage” twice to figure out you’re talking about steroids and not hemorrhoids. While I 100% agree with Alison’s comments, the next time your co-worker comments on “roid rage,” if you are feeling up to it, you could say, “My hemorrhoids are absolutely none of your business. They might get bloody and uncomfortable, but they certainly don’t cause me to rage. Now, stop commenting on my body. It’s weird and inappropriate.” That will probably embarrass the heck out of her and she’ll probably never mention “roid rage” again.

  91. noname12345678*

    I took steroids for 12 weeks to try and heal lung damaged caused by COVID. My teen takes steroids (testosterone) because he is trans. Another child was offered to take steroids to help with delayed pre-puberty growth. My stepmother took steroids for years to treat Crohn’s Disease. Now, can we all please follow Alison’s rules and stop wondering about LW #1’s steroid use? It’s not relevant to the question and it’s just weird.

    1. Ginger Baker*

      ^This. I thought of a list very like this and was…very frustrated with how this was discussed in comments.

  92. Raida*

    3. My boss suggested I work from home while still taking a sick day

    At my work we’ve found WfH and sick days go great together – but that’s because we can denote how many hours of sick leave are used if it’s different to the full day, and we can have a timesheet that shows leave and work types in one day.

    So for us, nowadays someone would just let us know they’re not feeling well, they’ll see how they go, or sign off after a certain meeting, or just have a big break in their day to sleep.

    It’s fantastic – instead of getting into the office at 8am, I can start work when I wake up at 6am, work for four hours, sign off, and if I don’t go back online the rest of the time is sick leave – or maybe I am fine later and get back to work at 4pm for three hours!

    So, if your timesheets and leave can work like that, I’d try utilising sick leave with WfH and clearly denoting how much of the day is each. You can do a couple of really focussed hours on the important work, go to sleep, feel good about the work getting done but also get in recovery time

  93. Flipperty*

    Regardless of your personal feelings on using anabolic steroids (though it’s alarming how many people don’t realise the difference between anabolic steroids and corticosteroids!), the fact remains it IS illegal to use steroids in bodybuilding.

    LW’s number one priority has to be to protect himself, because if he’s asked to do a drug test, he will certainly be fired and possibly also arrested. Given he’s already been accused of “roid rages” LW urgently needs to be discreet and not do anything to draw attention to the conflict, because of his own managers hear these rumours and decide to drug test, it won’t end well.

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