I got in trouble for overstepping at work, bringing luggage to an interview, and more

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

1. I got in trouble for overstepping at work

It’s been 18 years since my last job. I was a stay-at-home mother of five, but I was also stuck in a seriously abusive relationship; he prevented me from doing anything. After finally escaping him in 2019, I became extremely agoraphobic, with severe anxiety and all that stuff that makes it hard to be around people.

I wanted to try to put myself back out there. Believe it or not, I handpicked my job as a laundry attendant to slowly get myself back out there. It had been a little over a month and I was feeling great. I felt like I had a lot to prove to them and myself, but I have never been the type of person to just stand around, doing nothing, waiting to be told what to do. I found things to do — sweep, vacuum, clean shelves, dust the top of machines. All of a sudden, the housekeeping supervisor has this huge problem with me, stating, “I only need you to do what I hired you to do!” I wanted to cry all day. I’m so confused why hard work, good work ethic, and taking initiative has become such a bad thing. I have never worked at a place that punishes their employees by cutting hours because they work too hard.

I have made a few comments about how they keep the rooms. As a guest, I would not stay there. They only change the top covers if they are stained, and no one cleans properly. And this isn’t some hole-in-the-wall, this is an award-winning hotel. So my supervisor took my ideas to her boss and blamed me for the crap happening in the laundry room. I’m totally beside myself and confused.

It’s not unreasonable that they’d want you to stick to the job they hired you to do! If the job is laundry attendant and you were going beyond that to do other work — even if it was work you could see needed to be done — they might legitimately feel you were overstepping and/or causing them more work. That’s not always easy to see when you’re the person trying to take initiative, but sometimes doing X without being trained or authorized to do X can cause problems you don’t have the context to anticipate. For example, you could be stepping on someone else’s toes, or messing up an established system that you don’t know about because they didn’t have any reason to teach it to you, or adding to the list of things your boss would be responsible for overseeing.

Sometimes volunteering for extras will be helpful and appreciated … but you have to be willing to be told no and not take it personally.

I can’t tell how much of the problem came from your comments about how they keep the rooms — but it wouldn’t be surprising if they bristled at that, especially if they were already concerned that you were overstepping the bounds of the job they hired you for. It sounds like your manager is telling you pretty clearly that the contributions you hoped would help just aren’t things they want to see, for whatever reason. If you don’t like the idea of sticking just to your assigned duties, this job isn’t the right fit (which is okay! no job is a good fit for everyone who does it). If that’s the case, why not look for a job with broader responsibilities?

2. Is it a faux pas to bring luggage to an interview?

I once interviewed someone who brought their luggage with them. To be fair, we were close to the airport and this was a city where five miles is an hour of driving. It was a little odd though, and they had come about 30 minutes early and joined me and my coworkers while we ate lunch (open concept floor). After the interview, we concluded that they should have waited at the coffee shop across our building instead of coming into the office so early.

We ended up not going with them for a few reasons, but I was curious if this was actually a faux pas, or if I was being a little unfair. I was early in my career and that workplace had a cliquey mentality, so looking back I wonder if the luggage wasn’t such a big deal. I still think the lunch/earlyness was weird, but I’m happy to be corrected.

I can’t count the number of people I’ve interviewed who brought their luggage with them to the interview! If someone has flown in for an interview and has come straight from the airport or will be going there right afterwards, they might have no choice. It happens all the time, and it’s normal and not a faux pas in any way.

Arriving 30 minutes early is a misstep though. Depending on the reception area set-up, it can force the employer to deal with the candidate before they’re ready for them. And unless the candidate was explicitly invited to join you for lunch, that was definitely an overstep — you could have intended to use that time to discuss the hiring process or confidential work or all sorts of other things.

3. I’m the only one still wearing a mask

I work for a smallish company (about 75 employees) and as of about a year ago, my department has gone almost 100% digital. From January 2022 until January 2023, I worked from home almost exclusively. Unfortunately, at the start of this year, the VPs decided to require everyone to come back to the office at least three days per week. Upon returning to the office, I discovered that I am the only person in the entire building who wears a mask. My partner is high-risk, and I have told anyone and everyone who will listen that I have to protect him and that we cannot take the risk of just vaccinating and hoping for the best (though we are five times vaccinated now).

At the end of last month, I came down with bronchitis after babysitting my nephew and niece and had to go back to working from home until I recovered. I had just shaken the fever this last weekend and came back to the office two days ago, when I learned last night that a coworker (who was in the office yesterday, unmasked) tested positive for asymptomatic Covid.

I’m pretty angry with my workplace. One year ago, I was happy with my job; I felt productive, had a healthy work-life balance, and could see myself working there for many years to come. Today? I’m pissed. I feel betrayed and that they’ve undermined all the hard work my partner and I have done these last 3+ years to keep him safe. Further, the idea of potentially having my lungs hit by Covid scarring while I’m still dealing with lingering bronchitis effects terrifies me. If I end up testing positive, I want to let all the higher-ups know how I feel about this, but should I? And how do I say it without all the fuck-words that are in my head and heart?

What you describe in your office is pretty typical of most offices, not just yours: most people, unless they are high-risk or have high-risk loved ones, have largely stopped masking.

I get why you’re upset — I still mask in most indoor situations too because my mom is immunocompromised from chemo and I don’t want to endanger her. But the vast majority of people in the U.S. have decided Covid infections and the risk of long Covid are things they’re willing to live with. I know that sucks if you’re high-risk or close to people who are high-risk. If it feels like the world has left you to fend for yourselves … it has. But it’s extremely likely that you’ll encounter the same conditions in any other job (unless it’s fully remote and you’re confident it’ll stay that way) and extremely unlikely that your company will require everyone to start masking again, or even that they’ll think you’re reasonable for being upset that your asymptomatic coworker wasn’t masking before the positive test.

What you’re upset about isn’t something specific to your company; it’s the response of the world in general. I’m sorry.

4. Is this job description a red flag?

I just came across a job listing that had these last two bullets:

• Maintain a calm demeanor and manage issues professionally and respectfully in accordance with our company standards.
• Act with integrity and trust, modeling behavior that respects our employees, peers, and customers in accordance with the core values of our company.

Stuff like this always gives me pause and (to me) is a red flag that they have to specifically ask people to be a cordial, working professional in a job listing. Or is it a green flag that misbehavior isn’t tolerated and they have a code of conduct that folks really buy into?

I wouldn’t read anything into it. It reads pretty boilerplate.

Even if it were a little weirder, I wouldn’t necessarily read much into it. Sometimes hiring managers overreact to their last bad hire — like if the previous person was hostile and argumentative all the time, sometimes that’ll show up in the form of a job description that seems disproportionately focused on handling conflict well, and it’s not because it’s a high-conflict workplace but because they’re trying to avoid the mistakes they made with the last person. That doesn’t mean you should ignore anything that seems weird in a job description; it’s always okay to ask about it (“I noticed you emphasized the need for X; can you tell me more about that?”). But I wouldn’t consider it a red flag on its own.

5. Should I tell employers I was laid off a few months ago?

I was laid off from my tech job in mid-February and I’m currently still job hunting (not having much luck!).

Should I mention “laid off” on my resume and/or cover letter? I’ve heard mixed reviews from everyone I’ve talked to (friends, recruiters, former colleagues), so I’ve kept everything on my resume as “present” and don’t mention being laid off until during a live interview. Thoughts?

You don’t need to specify that you were laid off on your resume or in your cover letter — although you might choose to if you think it helps to explain for why you left — but you definitely definitely definitely should not be sending out a resume in May that says you’re still at a job that you left in February! That’s deliberately misleading, and I’d be concerned if I realized a candidate had done that.

{ 574 comments… read them below }

  1. Turanga Leela*

    OP #3, I’m so sorry about your situation. Is there anything you can do to further reduce your risk when other people aren’t masking? (I assume you’re already wearing an N95 or similar and that it fits well.) Are you able to open a window near your workspace or bring in an air purifier? Last year, I asked my manager about getting an air purifier, and a week later the office bought one for the conference room. This is anecdata, of course, but it seems to have prevented spread in the office–even when individual people have caught Covid, it doesn’t seem to have spread through the office.

    Finally, it doesn’t do much to stop asymptomatic spread, but I’ve been thanking colleagues who mask up or work remotely when they have cold symptoms or know they’ve been exposed to Covid or flu. I want people to know that I notice and appreciate it.

    1. D*

      I am also one of the only people in my office still wearing a mask religiously. Fortunately for me, my bosses have been giving me extra leeway on avoiding situations that we know will be crowded or group lunches–because they see that mask on me every day, all day long. So they recognize I’m not making excuses and that this is genuinely very serious for me.

      I keep bags of masks in my desk and my work bag, and everyone knows if they feel they want one (sometimes others wear them for brief illnesses or the like) can come get one from me. I’ve told other people where I get mine. I somehow haven’t caught it yet.

      OP, I hope the same can be said for you, and while I am angry all the time about the situation, I find pointedly wearing a mask and refusing to take it off even when others “offer” and reminding people everywhere I go visually and verbally that, yes, masking can still be a thing if we want it to be, helps me feel like I’m channeling that anger somehow. The fewer people wear masks, the harder I wear mine.

      1. Masked Retail Employee*

        I’m a retail employee who still masks everyday when I’m on the sales floor. We still have a fair amount of customers who wear a mask as well when coming in. I like to think me wearing one (even if I am the only one who does so) makes those who also wear one feel more comfortable shopping with us. I’ve even had a few customers offer to put on on when they see me. And I’ve only had a handful of negative remarks about my mask.

        I wear mine because the last 2 antivirals I was on, one caused an allergic reaction (Tamiflu) and the other dehydrated me to the point where I was delirious. Neither an experience I’d like to repeat.

        1. Night Owl*

          As someone who still masks in retail stores (and most other places), it always makes me happy and more comfortable when I see an employee masking, so thank you!

          1. teapot analyst*

            Me too, I wear mine no matter what but seeing employees mask makes me feel less alone about it.

        2. Cj*

          I’m one of those people who always ask a masked person if they would like me to mask also. or I just put one on if I see they are mass. I don’t understand why everybody doesn’t do this. it’s not that hard.

      2. Tricia*

        N95 all day long because I’d rather lead with my black belt attitude than a black lung cough

        1. There You Are*

          Same. Over-the-head, tight-fitting N95, indoors anywhere but my own home.

          When I go into the office (when I don’t have a broken foot), I take longer than normal breaks so I can step outside [7 floors down and a football-field length walk] to chug water, because I won’t even pull my mask down long enough to drink water at my desk, and dehydration headaches are a bitch.

          1. DataSci*

            You may want to look into a sip valve for your mask! My personal risk profile is OK with taking a mask down to drink water, but I realize that’s not for everyone.

          2. Sequoia*

            Have you looked at the Sipmask? It’s a valve you can put onto an N95 type mask that will allow you to use a straw to drink without compromising the seal of your mask.

            1. There You Are*

              Thank you DataSci and Sequoia!

              I’ll definitely get the valve. Not just for the office but for when I have to travel for work. In the Before Times, if I got to the airport early for my return flight, I would hang out at a pub in the airport until flight time. Couldn’t do that last year. :-(

      3. matcha123*

        I wear a mask basically from the moment I’m about to step out of the door until I come home. I do take it off at my desk, but that’s because I have high partitions around my desk, put it on when others walk by, and I’m mostly alone in my little corner.
        I’m not high-risk and I wish the narrative wasn’t “If I’m not high-risk, I don’t need it.”
        I live alone and if I get severely sick, no one is going to help me. It’s so weird to me to see parents complain about taking time off for sick kids, and then going without a mask themselves because *shrugs*.

        1. BubbleTea*

          I wear a mask if I go to a medical place (GP, hospital etc) or if I’m feeling a bit under the weather, which in winter means I am basically masked all the time. But the reason I’m not masking 100% is because my biggest risk factor IS my child, who is too young to wear a mask and goes to nursery. I mask to try and protect others because it doesn’t do much to protect me. And I don’t mask for others all the time because frankly almost no one else is bothering. It’s disheartening.

          1. Alice*

            BubbleTea, thank you for masking where you do.
            I am guessing you are in the UK from your vocab, and I don’t have stats about there – but in the US, 23% of people said, in a poll taken May 12-15, that that they are still masking all the time or sometimes, plus another 41% of people in the “occasionally but not often” category. We just don’t see that because the people who are masking are not spending as much time in public indoor spaces.

            All that is to say, you are not alone!


          2. WantonSeedStitch*

            Yeah, I am with you on my biggest risk factor being my child. Toddlers are little germ vectors. When Covid finally hit my house last month, it was my son who caught it first. His daycare never told us that anyone else had tested positive, but we can only assume he picked it up there.
            I still wear a mask on the few occasions when I spend time indoors or in a car with anyone outside a small, select group of people. I have even gotten some little masks for my son, and while he certainly couldn’t leave one on all day, he’s getting fairly good at wearing one while, say, in the grocery store.

          3. CityMouse*

            Yes, when I caught COVID it was because my kid brought it home from preschool. I couldn’t isolate from a sick 3 year old who needed mom. But I’m quintuple vaxxed as well.

          4. MCMonkeyBean*

            FWIW I believe that while they were hesitant to make claims about their efficacy in protecting the wearer at the beginning of the pandemic, current studies support that good, well-fitting masks actually *do* protect the wearer a lot more than they originally thought.

            During the initial months of the pandemic we wore masks to protect others. My partner and I continue to wear them indoors and at this point it is more to protect ourselves.

            1. Totally Minnie*

              I don’t think BubbleTea was implying that masks don’t protect the wearer. They were saying that with their toddler going to preschool unmasked, they’re more likely to catch COVID that way than by being unmasked in a store, and since they’re likely to catch COVID from their unmasked kid, they wear a mask so they won’t pass it on to others.

          5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            Thank you for masking. I mask indoors almost everywhere except my own home (the main exception is the dentist), but other people masking also reduces my risk.

        2. AnonNow*

          I so relate to the fact that I would also have to deal with Covid on my own if that happened.

        3. Shiv Roy*

          My infant in daycare (and her peers) can’t wear a mask. So she gets sick, and then I get sick. I get sick from her, not the people at work or other places. I’m not going to wear a mask around her in the little time we get to spend together during the week, and I have a feeling I would still get the sickness even if I did.

          1. Jzilbeck*

            Lol, I’m in the same boat with my infant, and have conceded that daycare sickness is inevitable no matter what…and my kid would just eat the mask if it was put on. In general, I’ve realized putting anything on an infant’s face is pointless. My spouse and I have been sick more in the last few months than we have in the last 10 years combined, sometimes without our kid even showing symptoms of what’s struck us down. Hoping this will be a less frequent occurrence by the time kindergarten rolls around.

            1. Shiv Roy*

              Yes! It’s nice to hear from someone who can commiserate.

              I didn’t get sick for almost 3 years- from 2020 to when she started daycare in December of 2022. Now we get sick multiple times a month, and I get it way worse than she does. I’m also still sick/recovering from bronchitis- we’ve gotten that, sinus infections, multiple colds, multiple rounds of stomach flu, she and my husband got HFM (I luckily dodged it).

              My work won’t let me WFH the entire yea, but that’s what it would take.

              1. CityMouse*

                It’s such a well known phenomenon that kids bring home sniffles for them that are plague for adults.

                1. Shiv Roy*

                  Well, I didn’t know! Lol. I wonder why that is- I thought my immune system would be more robust.

                2. Totally Minnie*

                  During my first semester of grad school, I worked as a teacher’s aide in kindergarten and first grade (5-7 year olds). Once the kids got comfortable with me, I was on the receiving end of about 60 sticky, germy hugs a day. I loved those little germ buckets, but I had a cold for about a month and a half!

                3. NotAnotherManager!*

                  We call my youngest something similar to Typhoid Mary. It is family legend how many people this kid has taken out or been Family Patient Zero for.

                  My oldest gets sick an average of once every 5 years and never brought anyone else down with them; the youngest averaged out the scales for us.

            2. Yoyoyo*

              Not to mention, putting a mask on an infant would be a suffocation hazard. It is not recommended to mask before age 2 for that reason.

            3. Silver Robin*

              My parents told us that the worst illnesses they got was while my brothers and I were toddlers. Several years of plagues (effect on us did not predict effect on them). It does subside a bit as they get older, somewhere in elementary school the kids get better about not licking everything.

              1. Hills to Die on*

                Yeah, even with older kids they have siblings. Being around kids is no way to stay away from illnesses.

              2. Random Dice*

                Except right now. All the older elementary kids are catching up on the illnesses they missed due to masking.

        4. mlem*

          I’m also not officially high-risk, and I also mask indoors anywhere that isn’t my home (and outdoors if close to others) in part because I live alone and have no handy carer.

          And I too am beyond frustrated by people who care for sick kids and then come into the workplace unmasked. I do not want your child’s latest illness!

        5. Novid*

          I also hate the narrative that only the high risk or people who live with immunocompromised should mask. I don’t want to get sick, and I don’t want to get long covid. I also want to know that I am not going to get someone else sick or give them long covid. These are all perfectly good reasons for me continuing to wear a mask, even if I am not currently high risk. I should not need to have to justify this further.

      4. Stretchy McGillicuddy*

        I wonder if there are ways OP’s office can accommodate this. I have a friend with a job that has to be 100% in person no matter what, and is immuno-compromised. She was able to get a closed-door office, and set a basket of masks outside her door with a sign asking anyone entering her office to mask up first. Team meetings are either masked or outdoors (people really like outdoor meetings). Her coworkers are cool with all this, bc they are not monsters.

        It can be easy to lose perspective on AMA bc nobody writes in about their normal workplace with normal coworkers, but I think most people would be willing to wear a mask for a few minutes for a coworker dealing with health issues-their own or others.

        1. Spero*

          We also have someone who does this! She has a sign on her door that says “I understand you have to do your task, but please put on a mask” and it’s well respected. We mounted a magazine file next to the door for the box of masks.

      5. Random Dice*

        If I see someone wearing a mask, I immediately start looking for mine to put it on.

        More often than not, they tell me not to bother, that they’re keeping germs in rather than keeping them out… but I always want people who need it to feel safe and respected by my actions.

        One thing that might help is to ask your Facilities team if they have MERV13 air filtration. That really can make the air incredibly safer, and it became standard for big offices in the US after the CDC recommended it. I saw it in favorites newsletters and consultant blogs, so even facilities teams who weren’t glued to CDC guidelines (somehow?) should have seen it.

    2. lovewins*

      OP3, there are many groups online for people who are still coviding. they are wonderful communities that provide respite and support and a safe place to vent. there is such understanding and compassion there. i highly recommend seeking them out if for no other reason than to know that there are many, many people still doing their best to stay safe and stay up to date on scientific progress. sadly, the recent research seems to reinforce that you are absolutely doing the right thing in masking. adding hepa or cr box protection at the office if you can is a great idea. i second that for sure. seeing the kindness and thoughtfulness in these groups – especially considering that their needs/the needs of their high-risk family members are largely being ignored by so many, including most of the (now unmasked) medical establishment it seems – has helped me retain some faith in humanity. wishing you all the best OP3.

    3. OP #3*

      Depressingly, we do have an air purifier in the space I share with 3 other coworkers. I did end up testing positive last Friday, and we tried very hard to quarantine me to the bedroom to keep my partner safe, but today he treated positive too. We then spent 6 hours trying to bring his fever down from 103. I’m worn out, and I’m going to ask to go back to working exclusively from home after this.

      1. Casey B*

        OP #3,

        My pulse spiked when I read your post. In my home, my wife is the one masking indoors and at work due to her high-risk partner and I’m the high-risk partner (doing the same). For me, I don’t ever expect to get over the frustration with my workplace (and the world at large) who have a mirrored timeline, policies, and culture as your workplace. My hope is the those with vulnerable families are met with understanding and accommodations as they both perform risk-mitigation for their partners and try to participate socially as anyone might want to.

        It’s an uphill battle and I think Alison is right not give your post an answer– there isn’t one. I think asking for accommodations such as working from home is a defensible and reasonable step. Protecting yourself and your family is always the right thing to do and while I don’t think workplaces are likely to allow these requests, we’ve seen enough evidence to know they should. I hope you have superiors who are willing to hear your concerns, be educated about the risks, and listen to how you can make this accommodation work for them and for the company. Hang in there.

      2. Dubious*

        OP3, I’m so, so sorry to hear that. I hope you both recover as swiftly and fully as possible.

      3. Artemesia*

        It is pretty impossible to keep a partner you live with from getting COVID if you get it given that it is most contagious before symptoms (and a few days after). We also isolated but I gave it to my husband when we both finally got it on the cusp of an international vacation. Luckily our cases were genuinely mild; it is were all like ours, it would be truly ‘just a cold.’ We are 5 times vaxed and had been careful but noone is making in public anymore near us.

        Sorry your partner caught it from you and hope he will not have lasting misery from it. But pretty much nothing you could have done would have prevented it once you were exposed when you live together.

        1. Alice*

          I’m so sorry, OP.
          Artemisia, I was going to comment about my own experience preventing (with luck, a big house, and lots of air filters) household transmission one time out of the two times people in my household have gotten sick – but it turns out you are right. The household attack rate is even higher with new variants.
          OP, if you had been thinking like me, that household transmission is something we can try and control – I don’t want to be fatalistic, but it is very, very hard to prevent. So, get air filters before the next time, and keep trying, but please don’t blame yourself if it still happens.

          Changes in Transmission and Symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 in United States Households, April 2020–September 2022, medRxiv preprint
          doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.05.18.23290185

          1. Artemesia*

            Omicron has been super contagious — also somewhat milder but of course not for everyone.

        2. Lime green Pacer*

          Husband tested positive for Covid six weeks ago. I immediately started masking inside the house (N95 with medical mask on top.) So did our daughter. I moved to a separate bedroom and ate my meals there. He did not mask. It was winter, so there was little we could do to improve ventilation.

          We continued this for 10 days. He tested negative on Day 13, I think. Neither daughter nor I were infected.

          Now, the fact that I was not infected before he tested positive is straight up luck. But after that, the steps we took were effective.

          1. Sparky*

            My fiance got it last year. I didn’t mask around him and slept in the same bed, because we live in a small apartment and I figured if he had it, I was gonna get it regardless. I did not get it.

            1. MsSolo (UK)*

              Same – I was the only person in our household to test positive at any point, despite sharing a bed with husband and, at the time, breastfeeding a small person. It’s actually reasonably likely I got it from hubby or daughter, just because they both spent a lot more time outside the home than I did, but if so they were both asymptomatic and giving false negatives, or passed it on to me far enough in advance that they can already stopped testing positive by the time I started. If we’d had to option to isolate form each other, we’d have done it, but it wasn’t achievable with our resources, and very fortunately, it worked out.

              1. Artemesia*

                A friend of mine in Paris shared a bed with her husband who had COVID — didn’t get it; they she went to wedding in London, got it there. ???

                I find that I often don’t get colds my husband gets, so I think sometimes if you have a good immune system and are exposed when it is just starting, you might be able to fight and develop antibodies and not get sick — at least it works that way for me. Didn’t work for us on COVID though — no idea where we picked it up — but we did celebratory dinners in restaurants the preceding week with unmasked waiters hovering over us. No one else in our group got it though — although some had already had it.

        3. CityMouse*

          Weirdly my friend’s husband didn’t isolate from her (they live in a teeny apartment and it wasn’t realistic) and he never caught it, even getting PCR tests. He was 4x vaxxed (though so was my friend).

          1. Queen Ruby*

            My fiancée tested positive on a Monday. He probably caught it in a training session on the previous Friday. So we weren’t isolating all weekend. I decided since I’d probably test positive within a couple days, I wasn’t going to bother staying away from him. We just went about our business as usual at home. And somehow, I never got it. (we were both fully vaxxed)

            1. CityMouse*

              I admit I’ve totally lost count at this point as to how many I’ve gotten. I think four or five? Whenever they tell me I can get one, I go.

            2. The Other Dawn*

              Same here. I was sick and tested positive last year. By that point, we both figured my husband would test positive within days so we didn’t bother isolating. Lo and behold, he never got sick and both tests were negative. Total crap shoot.

              1. Kara*

                Keep in mind that asymptomatic infections have been a thing since the beginning. If he caught it first, it’s not impossible that he could have cleared it before you tested positive. There’s one time I had it that I’d have never gotten tested if my husband hadn’t gotten sick; I was completely asymptomatic.

                Also worth keeping in mind is the method you used to test. PCR tests are quite good, but almost impossible to get anymore. The rapid tests have horrible accuracy; with the last I checked (admittedly a year ago) only having a 37% chance of having a true positive result on Day 1 of symptoms (as opposed to a false negative). The odds gradually improve over the following few days, I believe finally improving to an 80% chance of a true positive result (still a 1 in 5 chance of a false negative), but that’s only for people with symptoms. Asymptomatic people have even higher odds of getting false negatives, but are still contagious. Also, double-check the directions. I found out that my circle had universally missed the tiny line in the instructions that said that each nostril had to be swabbed for 15 seconds. (They had done the correct number of circles, but very very rapidly and then stopped.) Unfortunately, the number of positive tests in my circle went up sharply after they started taking longer swabbing each nostril.

                Not sure where I was going with this, tbh. General information, I guess, if you’re wondering if you should take extra precautions but the test read negative.

                1. mlem*

                  My kits have said that collecting the sample should take 15 seconds as if that’s total, not per-nostril, but I definitely agree that it’s far too easy to take less than 5 seconds total if you haven’t read that instruction.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            My husband and I have both been exposed but never contracted, even though I’m moderate to high risk. There’s so much random luck involved.

          3. Enai*

            It may just be differences in viral shedding. Some people do not shed viruses, which is more likely if they’re recently vacced or boosted. Your friend got lucky with her partner.

        4. ThatGirl*

          Anecdotally, my husband finally got it after 3 years, but as best we can tell his most contagious days were three days I happened to not be home – for the rest of the week, he masked while we were both home and I slept in the guest room and I managed to avoid it. But I have to tell you I was surprised, it really is a crap shoot and it’s definitely nobody’s fault if the person you *live* with gets it from you.

          (It’s also not a moral failing if you do happen to get it despite precautions – it’s very hard to avoid at this point for so many reasons and often just luck if you do.)

      4. L. Bennett*

        That’s awful :-( I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I understand why you’re PO’d.

      5. Mona Lisa*

        I’m so sorry you are both sick. I hope you both get well soon and are able to find a better work situation for you after you recover.

      6. Beth*

        Oh, damn. I am so, so sorry it went down like that. Best wishes for getting back to your fully remote work!

        My wife and I still mask much of the time, even — especially! — when we’re the only ones doing it.

      7. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Best wishes to you both for a quick recovery and for being able to work remotely.

      8. NotAManager*

        I’m so sorry to hear that you and your partner got sick, I hope you both heal quickly with no complications.

      9. Kara*

        I’m so, so sorry, OP#3. I wish you two the best of luck and a speedy and thorough recovery. And here’s hoping your company has no issues with you perma-working from home.

      10. lilsheba*

        I am sorry to hear this. It really sucks that you all got sick because other people can’t be bothered to protect others. In the last 3 years I have never seen so many grown ass adults act like children when it came to wearing masks, literally throwing tantrums when told they had to wear one, and now making fun of people who still do wear one. What is wrong with people?

      11. Still coviding*

        OP3, I’m so sorry to hear things turned out that way! It’s so enraging and demoralizing to have to bear the consequences of this collective desire to pretend there’s no need to take precautions anymore. I hope you and your partner recover quickly and fully and your company is reasonable about letting you go back to work full time. I also hope you find/ have some support from other people who are on the same page about needing to take precautions, feeling like you’re living in a different world from everyone else is so draining (at least in my experience as someone with a chronic illness who’s still masking etc).

      12. Mask Solidarity*

        I’m so sorry. I am very sympathetic to your position, as I am one of the few masking and taking any kind of precautions.

        It would be wonderful if the world actually became more cautious, but at this point I would settle for just making it so those of us who wish to be cautious don’t have to participate in all this risky stuff. It is very disheartening to have to explain to friends or colleagues that actually I don’t think it would be fun to get dinner after work, or that going to a large stadium event now sounds like a nightmare. It’s sad enough to be missing out, even though I think it is the long term correct choice, but having to be around people who couldn’t care less is much worse.

      13. MigraineMonth*

        I am so sorry, OP3! I hope you find a job soon that allows you to exclusively WFH.

      14. Happy*

        My heart breaks for you, OP. I’m so sorry that you are in this position and I would be extremely frustrated if I were you.

    4. polly pinecone*

      N95 masks offer great protection and are widely available. If you have a supply of those, you don’t need to worry about other peoples’ behavior so much.

      In my area, which was very covid-conscious at the peak of the pandemic, mayyybe 1% of people are still wearing masks. People did their bit while vaccines were rolling out, but now we’ve shifted to acceptance of covid existing alongside flu and other illnesses. The tide isn’t going to roll back.

    5. Alice*

      +100 on the air purifier. CDC recently released explicit ventilation guidance, saying to aim for at least 5 air changes per hour and that MERV 13 is the minimum recommended filter. Your building manager may not know about these recent changes. After you and your partner get better, OP, you can ask your org’s leadership to implement the new guidelines.


    6. fish*

      As another point of anecdata, my entire family has religiously masked in all indoor situations since the start of the pandemic. Simple rule – keep N95 mask on indoors at all times. Not kinda, not mostly, no exceptions to eat or drink. And we have none of us gotten COVID. Even though some of us come into contact with hundreds of people a day.

      Masking works!

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          It means don’t take your mask off indoors to eat or drink?

          Assuming they do not also mask in their own home, it’s a pretty easy rule to follow. I went to a work social at a bar with a rooftop area but the social part was all inside. I kept a mask on while inside socializing, took my plate of food and drink up the the roof and sat alone for a few minutes while I ate, then put my mask back on and went back to socializing.

            1. There You Are*

              And some people can’t eat sandwiches.

              Fish is saying that is what is working for their family.

              I’m the same way. No food or drink indoors, period. I’ve stood outside airports in the northern U.S. in the dead of winter, in howling wind with snow, just to slam some water and eat a protein bar before checking in for my flight, since I knew I wouldn’t be taking my mask off again for another 6-9 hours.

              1. Observer*

                Yeah, that’s not “can’t eat sandwiches” territory.

                It’s not an outlier to find not being able to eat for 6-9 is not doable. It’s not an outlier to not be able to eat ” in the northern U.S. in the dead of winter, in howling wind with snow” or similar extreme conditions. And it’s not an outlier that people can’t go outside to eat during work and similar long stints indoors with no private space.

                1. There You Are*

                  How is “I guess depending on where you live it might not be that easy to always eat outdoors,” not the same as “Not everyone can eat sandwiches”?

                  Person1: “I never have time at work to go out to get something to eat, so I always pack a sandwich.”

                  Person2: “Not everyone can eat sandwiches.”

                  Um, OK? But Person1 simply stated what works for them.

                  Fish: “My family never removes our masks indoors, not even for food or drink.”

                  LB33: “I guess depending on where you live it might not be that easy to always eat outdoors.”

                  Um, OK? But Fish simply stated what works for them and their family.

                2. LB33*

                  The difference I think is that in the sandwich rule, you’re not supposed to criticize a suggestion by saying not everyone could do it, because plenty of people still can.

                  In this case, I was just asking for clarification about how Fish ate without ever removing their mask. It didn’t occur to me that they always ate outside, so the comment was just an observation, not a criticism

              2. LB33*

                Especially in that type of weather, where if there’s wind and snow you could get stuck on the plane for a while before departing, so good thinking.

                1. Enai*

                  The sipmask valve comes highly recommended. You install it in the respirator and can then poke a straw through without breaking the seal. If you don’t mind meal shakes, you can even “eat” that way.

                  I haven’t tried it, though.

            2. Anonymous*

              My family lives in a place and has jobs where it’s not easy. Very cold a lot of year, no private space/hard to take a break at work. But we do it.

    7. M2*

      Have you also asked colleagues if they would wear a mask if they are face to face with you and provide the masks? I have extra masks in my office and will ask people to put one on if they are in for long periods of time. Our office specifically says people can’t pressure anyone either way, but if you say “I have an immunocompromised spouse” most people will be accommodating. But you should provide the masks.

      Kids are germ carriers so maybe if you are worried about catching things you shouldn’t babysit your nephews and nieces or if you do wear an N95/ have them tested the day you visit. I caught many things this year all from my children. They masked at school in the winter but still caught stuff because hey they all eat lunch and snack together!

      1. Anon for this one*

        This is what my spouse did when I was immunocompromised last year due to chemo. Many people will accommodate a specific individual even if they wouldn’t mask for the sake of unspecified “others”.

    8. Betty*

      I may catch flack for saying this, but I don’t think it’s reasonable at this point to expect everyone around you to wear a mask. We have one immune compromised person in our office who still wears a mask. When we are in very close contact with her as in a meeting, we all put one on. Otherwise we don’t. And I have taken Covid very seriously-had 5 shots and mashed religiously for a long time.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        I agree. I was a big proponent of masking for a very long time, along with other Covid mitigation efforts. But most of these things were implemented as emergency measures and were never designed to be continued indefinitely.

        When implementing a safety measure, we compare the consequences/risks of doing it to the consequences/risks of not doing it – and everyone will weight those risks differently depending on their own experiences, values, perceptions, and needs. Every protective measure has some level of consequences. There are legitimate problems with wearing masks all the time, which range from trivial to serious and often are quite difficult to quantify but nonetheless real.

        For a long time the risks of Covid were SO high that very few people would argue against masking without also arguing against science. Over the years, the risks from Covid have come down significantly. As that happens more and more people (including those who are fully aware of the facts) will decide the benefits of masking indefinitely aren’t worth the cost.

  2. Foagmlord*

    Re: #4

    I left my last job for a number of reasons.

    Zero growth. Underpaid (full time design/service job, my take-home pay was roughly 1800 USD). We all worked from home but never had any check-ins to see how we were doing(we were literally just 4 people). Meetings happened twice a year. Weeks would go by before any of us, including the boss, would contact each other. Tracking software was installed on our computers, where we got questioned the literal second we went over our lunch break (1:00:01, a message would pop up asking where we were, no joke).

    I had clients literally yell at me over the phone until I cried for not answering their email over the weekend outside of work hours. One even berated me for not being available to take her call while I was on my lunch break (“Excuse me, your business hours are from 9am to 6pm!” she said) Heck, one of my coworkers was live-texting an assault happening next door to her apartment in the company group chat (which was triggering to my abuse-related PTSD).

    I quit that job because it was terrible for my mental health.

    The job posting that went up to replace me had a bit that said candidates shouldn’t be toxic people.

    Like what? I questioned myself a lot. Was I a toxic employee? Was I truly that bad?

    I’m thriving in my new job now, I’ve built a good work support system and I have great colleagues that I can honestly be friends with in real life outside of work. There are wellness check-ins and no one gets berated for being a second late from lunch. Everyone’s told me I’m doing great and if I’m not, people are honest and tell me what I need to improve on through a constructive conversation.

    Going back to the job posting at my last job, I decided that it was more of a reflection on them than it was on me. It hurt at first that I might have been considered a toxic employee (because why would someone write that in a job description after I quit?), but ultimately I decided it’s better for my mental health to ignore it.

    1. Leenie*

      Yikes! I’ve done a fair amount of hiring, so I’d guess I’d have a greater than average tolerance for weirdness in job postings. I’ve seen things get lost in translation between the hiring manager and the recruiter. I’ve seen people get hung up on random things and people who are doubting themselves after making a bad hire. So I can easily see how eyebrow raising language could sneak into a posting for a great job on a solid team in a good company. But no toxic people? That’s not eyebrow raising, it’s hair raising! I would run so far, so fast from that listing if I were looking for a job. It’s wildly unprofessional. It doesn’t describe any actual behaviors or concrete qualities. It really reads like someone got back on the dating apps a little too soon after a particularly bitter break up. Anyway, in sum, I think you’re right – that description is about the people drafting the listing, not about you. And it doesn’t say anything good about them.

      1. Foagmlord*

        My former boss was definitely not quite happy I was leaving on a two-week notice.

        Where I live, it’s customary to give at least a 30 day notice (some contracts even try to enforce a 90 day notice!) but by law, a 2-week notice is the minimum perfectly acceptable. I was fading fast and spiraling so I wanted to get out just as fast.

        Funny enough, I did end up becoming good friends with one of my regular clients and every now and then, he’d complain to me that the level of service dipped in quality ever since I quit. I usually processed his requests within the hour but he started getting several hours to a day response times after I left.

        My new job came with 150% rise in pay and no one’s yelled at me in the six months since I started working here. Life is good.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Yeah, most of our job descriptions include something like “Act with integrity and trust, modeling behavior that respects our employees, peers, and customers in accordance with the core values of our company” and the main reason for it is so that we can name the problem when someone is NOT doing it, and point out that this is a requirement of their employment. I think this is absolutely standard in large companies because if you’re employing a couple of thousand people you will have seen every possible iteration of “technically does the work but in such a way that they cause more work for everyone within a 50′ vicinity” so you name the behaviour you want to see. “No toxic people” is not that!

      3. Inna*

        It’s also completely pointless. No one is going to read through a job description thinking “hmm, seems like a good fit for me”, get to a bit that says “no toxic people” and go “ah shoot, that’s me out then!”

        1. Stretchy McGillicuddy*

          With this, I must recognize the amazing Captain Awkward for gifting to the world the following:

          “I hate drama!”-the person who both smelt it and dealt it, usually.

      4. AE*

        Agree 100%. Wild unprofessionalism aside, having a non-toxicity requirement would be completely useless, because no one ever sees themselves as a “toxic person” (and if you are the type of person who worries about whether or not you are toxic, then you are probably not).

        cf. Thousands of pop self-help articles about how to rid one’s life of toxic people, who are apparently lurking EVERYWHERE waiting to prey on the innocent, comparatively few resources for helping one determine if one is themselves toxic.

      5. Ace in the Hole*

        “No toxic people” is not just bizarre, it’s also completely useless!

        The point of including qualities you do/don’t want in a job posting is so applicants self-screen. To be of any use, applicants must recognize whether or not they fit the description. No one “toxic” will ever think of themselves that way, so what’s the point of including it?

    2. Dragon_Dreamer*

      Number 4 is mine! And I actually have an update!

      It’s a grocery store position, and apparently one of their employees got into a fight with a customer.

      From what my friends who work there told me, the customer was mostly in the wrong and doing most of the shouting, but the employee lashed out verbally. The employee was “allowed to resign.”

      Another reason I’m glad I left retail.

      1. metadata minion*

        Ah, that makes a lot of sense!

        For jobs where you have to deal with the public, I’m pretty used to seeing something along the lines of “person must be able to keep their cool”, because sooner or later you will have people yelling or being otherwise egregiously unreasonable, and there’s not really anything you can do to prevent it.

        1. Emily H.*

          One that I saw was “You display appropriate demeanor at all times; this includes dress, body language, and facial expressions.”

          I understand that you don’t want to hire someone who’s going to roll their eyes at customers, or maintain a permanent scowl, or whatever, but in a job where you get berated by customers a LOT… I don’t think I’m bad at my job because I display appropriate facial expressions, like, 98% of the time.

          1. Chilipepper Attitude*

            At my public library job I learned I do not have a poker face! Coworkers at the desk across the building used to come over or call to ask what was up with that last patron. I’d ask how they knew and they said they could read my face from across the building.

      2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        I was expecting something more high-stakes: collections agency, rental car desk, etc. But I suppose people can flip out about anything, including whether the plums rang up at $3/lb or $3.50.

        1. Jzilbeck*

          Former cashier. That absolutely does happen. I had an old lady do this to me every single time she came in. She almost always misread the sale signs….and then when she got done putting up these fights, she’d pack up her groceries into her fancy Cadillac and drive home. My old manager and I had special nicknames for her (that only we knew) to warn each other whenever she came in.

        2. Drago Cucina*

          Public library world gets lots of irrational people. Sorry, no, that book wasn’t wet when we checked it out to you. It was brand new.

          I would roll my eyes whenever someone commented that it must be nice to work in a stress-free environment.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      “Not toxic” is such a useless descriptor in a job posting that it’s definitely about them being weird, not about you. Who is gonna read that and self-select out because they think of themselves as toxic? Yeah, exactly no-one. More likely normal people will read that, think it sounds like a workplace with lots of drama, and pass.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I don’t know, it should eliminate applications from poison dart frogs and nuclear waste cannisters, assuming they’re self-aware enough to recognise their toxicity. But beyond that, it isn’t very helpful.

        1. Be Gneiss*

          I believe I’ve worked with a couple sentient nuclear waste cannisters, and they weren’t at all self-aware.

        2. alienor*

          “Dear AAM, my new coworker is a poison dart frog, should I complain to someone?”

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            “Well, the job posting didn’t explicitly say the workplace wasn’t toxic so legally I don’t think there’s anything you can do.”

      2. Bagpuss*

        That was my immediate through. No-one is going to think of themselves as being ‘toxic’ but a lot of people are going o think that the person posting an ad like that is at best unprofessional and at worst is themselves part of a toxic workplace projecting onto those who get away!

          1. I have RBF*

            Yeah, when I see that I figure it’s one of those “toxic positivity” environments where you can’t ever point out a problem. I don’t apply for those jobs, because that environment sucks.

    4. Kelly*

      I wouldn’t take that personally. My last job at a very small vet practice was a toxic waste dump. I started having panic attacks going into work and was severely underpaid on salary while working 70+ hours. We had a rotating on call schedule, but we would be expected to work to “help” our colleagues with zero notice on our time off without getting the same help in return (they would hospitalize animals and expect us to drop everything to do care shifts over the weekend for no pay and they looked flabbergasted when we asked for the same on the VERY rare occasions we had a patient over a weekend). My colleague and I both quit at the same time because we were sick of the abuse after several years. Any time we tried to approach the owner about lightening the load we were threatened with extra Saturday hours and double on call.

      The job posting to replace us (because we were literally half the vets on staff) went on a hilarious, angry rant about being dedicated to the job and clients. It made us sound like spoiled children who played all day instead of working and refused to help anyone, ever. If one was perceptive enough (and not desperate for a job) you could figure out what a mess this place was.

      1. not bitter, just sour*

        Vet practices are always full of bees. There’s compassion fatigue from the work itself and then there’s the burnout from just how consistently crappily run the offices are. The head vet/owner hates people so they hire a mediocre, self-absorbed office manager (since they have 0 people skills and don’t know how to properly vet staff) who then does a bunch of nepotism hires and leaves everyone else out to dry.

        1. sb51*

          My late uncle was a vet, and at his funeral, one of his colleagues got up to speak. In a 5-minute sweet little remembrance about how my uncle was a good friend and how dedicated he was to the animals, I could tell that office had been all bees all the time. For decades.

    5. Richard Hershberger*

      I once saw a job posting by a lawyer for a legal assistant that went on at length that if he told you to call the client, you damned well better call the client! Clearly this guy was obsessing. Either he had made a bad hire, of someone who wouldn’t pick up the phone, or he had a bad client that no one (including him) was willing to talk to, and he blamed the assistant. Either way, it didn’t make me want to work for him.

    6. Fishsticks*

      If it helps, I would definitely have seen the “dont be a toxic employee” as a red flag for the COMPANY, not for a past employee. A company adding that into a job posting is a company showing that they can’t keep issues internally focused and instead want to be passive-aggressively hostile. That’s not going to be a good environment.

      1. Ama*

        This is precisely what I came here to say. Things like that in a job description screams “we don’t have appropriate HR processes.” Whether that’s because they just don’t have HR at all or the HR staff lack either the experience, sense, or authority to say no when someone wants language like that inserted, it is something to be aware of before you apply.

    7. Random Dice*

      “Don’t be toxic” is like “no drama!!”

      Only people who create drama endlessly say “No drama”.

  3. Emily*

    LW # 1, I think Alison is correct that this may not be the job for you, and perhaps you should look for a job with more responsibilities/more to do. Also, there’s a big difference in volunteering to do something and just going ahead and doing something without asking/being told. Volunteering gives your supervisor the chance to say no, but just going ahead and doing something without being asked could cause problems you did not anticipate, as Alison pointed out. Also, I’m not sure how new you are at this job, but if you are still fairly new I can see why they would bristle at you making critical comments, especially depending on how the comments were phrased.

    1. Emily*

      I’m sorry, I realize I somehow missed the part where you said you had been at the job a little over a month. Because you have been there for such a brief time, I can see why they would bristle about you making negative comments about the rooms (even if you comments were correct).

      1. nodramalama*

        Yeah I do think there can be a tendency for new people to come in hot to a role and bring up ways to improve or issues with the system right off the bat, and it rankles a lot of people because they often don’t know that there is a reason why certain things are done or a process that has developed over time. It doesn’t mean the new person doesn’t have a point, but there can be a lot of value of getting the lay of the land, watch how the team and organisation works first.

        1. Colette*

          Agreed. Sometimes there is a way that’s better for one piece of the process, but causes problems later on, and you don’t know that when you first start.

          It’s possible that the OP was keeping busy cleaning, but the the cleaner didn’t have enough work to do, or the supplies got left in the wrong spot, or that she took an extra 5 minutes to notice the laundry was done and over the day one less load got washed.

          The OP says “I felt like I had a lot to prove to them and myself … ” but they’re not giving her a job so she can prove something, they’re giving her a job because there’s specific work they need done.

        2. Panicked*

          There could also be a union issue, if the housekeeping staff is under a collective bargaining agreement. I have worked in places where I couldn’t even move a box from one side of an office to another without causing issues! Having someone come in and start taking work from unionized employees could cause major headaches for management.

          1. MidWasabiPeas*

            Ohhh yeah. In one of my first managerial positions, I finally got an office with a door-and became aware that Housekeeping vacuumed offices, dumped trash, and did the office cleaning. After the end of a fairly intense project, I was tidying up my office. After all the files had been put away, scrap paper tossed, and it once again resembled an office not a storage locker, the last thing it needed was the floor vacuumed. I grabbed one from the hallway and proceeded. A housekeeper walked by and offered to do it but I said it was fine, no problem for me to take care of it.

            The next morning, I got an in-person visit from their Director who (kindly) explained that housekeeping duties were to be performed by Housekeeping and if I needed anything at all, please call and they would be more than happy to take care of it, but please never do it myself again. I didn’t.

          2. Pugetkayak*

            YES! My dad used to do conventions at the Javits center and you got in big trouble if you put together your own booth instead of using the union guys.

          3. Butterfly Counter*

            This was my guess.

            At my university, the cleaning staff has a union. I am 100% behind unions. I am in a union, myself. But this particular union means that our buildings are never cleaned. Basically, the union has worked out that certain duties, if not finished by the end of their shift, qualify for overtime. It kinda feels like they’re doing their best so that any and all duties not done on shift should be done during overtime, which is then not granted.

            If someone, even someone within the cleaning staff, starts actually cleaning a lot, it will mean that the rest of them actually had the time to do so during their shifts as well, so it sets a precedent for the expectations of everyone else. (This can be the case for those working not in the union as well. If someone comes in and does twice the work of everyone else, TPTB will wonder why everyone else is not working as hard as that person.)

            Again, I’m very pro-union! I just hate that I see the dust bunny in my classroom grow to twice its size from January to May and that students are complaining about cigarette butts under the radiator that have been there who knows how long (I’m guessing the 80s).

        3. Always a Corncob*

          Yes! I find this verrrrry annoying as the person who has been on the receiving end of it multiple times. Come in with some humility, learn the job, get a feel for the team, and then bring out your great ideas. Also, start by asking questions, not by criticizing existing work or changing things without consulting anyone.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Also, start by asking questions, not by criticizing existing work or changing things without consulting anyone.

            I need a pillow with this stitched on it. I welcome suggestions and ideas, but I need people to get the why and understand the existing process before reenvisioning it. We do things for specific reasons (including data privacy and compliance) that we’re very upfront about when doing training. Every other year, I get someone that wants to criticize before understanding, and it drives me nuts.

        4. yala*

          Yeah, I also think it’s easy to say: “You should replace the comforter every time” if you’re on the outside looking in, but it’s another thing if you’re the one who has to drag 200 comforters out of 100 rooms, and drag another 200 up to replace them.

    2. Cats and dogs*

      OP 1 I really commend you for going back to work after what you endured. I think it is clear that they do not value the suggestions because implementing them would cost more money, time and resources and they are not willing to do that. You are a self starter in a position that does not value that.

      1. nodramalama*

        the letter writer likely doesn’t have a birds eye view of the workings of the hotel. they may not want to spend more money, time and resources on this thing because they’re spending it on other things.

        1. Daisy Daisy*

          Plus a month or two is way too early to start making critiques and suggestions at your new job, especially if you’ve been out of the workforce for a long time

      2. JayNay*

        I think I’ve been OP1. I’ve worked at places where I would constantly see things that could be done “easier” and “quicker”. I would get frustrated because no one saw all the potential for improvement and change. The reality was it was simply not my job to worry about anything and everything.
        You really are stepping on people’s toes when you’re regularly telling them how they could do their own jobs better when no one asked you.
        I think some of that need comes from (subconscious) anxiety around being responsible for all the things. It really helps to remind yourself that you’re only responsible for your part of the operation. Doing your tasks in the laundry room is the job! if you do that well then that’s all you’re being asked to do. That’s it! you don’t need to overhaul the entire operation.
        It also may be a sign that your standards of cleanliness – or your general prefernce for how work is organized – don’t align with this business. That’s fine, and it might ultimately be too frustrating to keep working there.
        but the thing about wanting to improve everything everywhere could follow you. My tip would be to work on communication skills. Practice stating clearly what you want and why, asking for decisions from others, really listening to feedback.
        Those things can be hard to come by when you’ve been in an environment where healthy communication wasn’t happening! But they can be learned and relearned.
        I think you may find that if you’re able to state your needs clearly and focus on your area of work, you do have agency in your part of the job. That may lessen the need to want to overhaul the entire operation.

        1. Merrie*

          Seconded. Coming from an environment where you’ve been constantly criticized and are responsible for everything, it’s easy to slip into this.

          1. Random Dice*

            Yes! Abuse victims can often become overly controlling. It’s part of the cycle for many of us.

        2. Dust Bunny*


          I wouldn’t be happy about that housekeeping process, either, but the underlying problem here is that the LW took over a job that wasn’t hers, and that will be a problem in almost any workplace. I don’t know if this is an anxiety-and-overcompensating thing or an unfamiliarity-with-workplace-norms thing, or some combination of both, but the LW would be better served to address the anxiety by some other means and/or recognize that her own job is the job on which she needs to focus.

        3. Smithy*


          In just about every employer with more than a few teams – very often decisions get made thinking of the whole over the parts. Sometimes those decisions are made with thoughtful and good intentions, sometimes not at all. But those decisions get made, that can make our individual jobs or roles on a team feel inefficient or have room for improvement.

          And sometimes there’s an openness to make those changes, but other times those decisions were made very intentionally and there is not openness for change. There might be a certain room that is never vacuumed because guests don’t go there and the noise disturbance it causes the guests outweighs the benefit of keeping that room cleaner. Most workplaces have countless decisions like this, where they intentionally have a team do “worse” work in one area for the benefit of another area. And how much sense that choice makes is usually on a sliding scale from a huge amount to zero.

          So while ultimately this job may not be the forever fit, finding ways to address the impulse to improve everything will be a reality in most jobs.

        4. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Hell I’ve been brought into organizations specifically to change them – that’s what I went to college for – and I’m still not making judgments or suggestions after a month. I’m watching, listening, learning….and keeping notes. It’s fine to notice things and have ideas. The finesse comes in knowing if and when someone will listen to them.

          After you’ve worked somewhere for awhile, in the laundry room or at the front desk or whatever it may be, you’ll realize things like why certain things are done that way, who it is appropriate to make suggestions to, and what level of suggestion would be heard. “We could skip step three of this process” will go over more easily than “Fire the CFO” (even if both would be honest improvements). You need to get the lay of the land to figure out where that line is.

        5. Emily*

          I’ve been this person when I was earlier in my career, mainly because I was in jobs that I found kind of boring and I didn’t know how to handle it maturely. The thing is, there’s a lot of subtlety in most workplaces about what’s acceptable behavior and what’s not. Every office/workshop/laundry room is basically a microculture. LW, when you start a new role, it’s best to take some time really listening and observing so you can pick up on those norms. Bonus: You’ll understand processes better so you can make better suggestions if/when the time is appropriate! It may seem like this period of observation is unproductive, but it is in fact VERY worthwhile and important!

      3. L-squared*

        I don’t know that I’d say what they value. The problem sounds like she is trying to tell another department that they aren’t doing their job well after only being there 1 month. That won’t go over most places.

      4. WellRed*

        As someone who had stayed at high end hotels pre and post pandemic I can say the housekeeping isn’t what it used to be. OP I’m sure there are plenty of opportunities in the hospitality industry for you.

    3. Expiring Cat Memes*

      Also, there’s a big difference in volunteering to do something and just going ahead and doing something without asking/being told.

      Ha, reminds me of my part-time waitressing job as a teenager. When all the tables were settled, the job was to fold napkins. One night the manager told me to help in the kitchen as there was already another server watching the floor and folding napkins. So next shift, when there was already an overflowing pile of folded napkins with 2 waiters adding to it and a third just standing around, I went to help in the kitchen. Not told to – wrong move! I still remember the searing embarrassment of being hauled back to the dining room and being loudly torn a new one in front of the patrons and owners.

      Maybe she had a good reason for it… maybe she was just a bully on a power trip. Either way, it’s fit as Alison says, and that kind of rigid hierarchical environment wasn’t a good fit for me. Hope you find something that fits you better too, OP.

    4. Artemesia*

      A laundry room attendant who keeps the laundry room clean seems well within a reasonable interpretation of the job. And yeah criticizing the hotel operation is just something you don’t do as a new employee.

      1. I'm here for the cats!*

        yeah, I would think that cleaning the machines, and other things in the laundry machine would be part of the laundry services. I’d like to know if she was cleaning other areas of the hotel and that’s what the problem is.

      2. Nina*

        My immediate question is ‘what were you cleaning with?’

        A surprising number of plastics are surprisingly picky about what industrial cleaners you use on them if you don’t want them to disintegrate within the month.

    5. A person*

      Since you’ve only been there a month, you may also want to make sure you are actually fulfilling all of the responsibilities of the job you have. We have an admin that got smacked down for doing work that was definitely overstepping (rearranging other peoples desks to help them look less cluttered), but she viewed it as helping and frustrating that people don’t keep their desks more “organized”. While it would be an overstep either way, the bigger issue is that there are a number of actual core job responsibilities that she hasn’t been able to pick up and learn effectively yet but she’s already looking for other things to do (things arguably more in her condor zone) and she’s not even doing her actual job satisfactorily yet.

      Now, theoretically if that’s happening to you, a good manager should make you aware, but there are so many bad managers out there that it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t, so maybe you’ll have to check yourself.

      I actually agree though that this may not be the role for you. There are lots of roles out there that would love the sort of initiative and care for the work and company that it sounds like you have so start looking around!

      I wish you much luck and success!

      1. Emily*

        Oh yes, I have worked with people like this. They aren’t doing their own jobs well, but are always trying to do things that aren’t their jobs.

      2. Tesuji*

        Can’t tell if “condor zone” is typo or just terminology I’m unfamiliar with, but I now have a burning desire to know.

        Like… that’s the zone that’s even better than your comfort zone, where you can soar high above your responsibilities? Is that a thing?

    6. Beth*

      LW1, you’re going to be a terrific, highly valued employee in the right job. Your current job probably is not that job, but you’ve made a start, and that’s important. Keep it up!

      You’ve spent almost two decades in an abusive environment, and you have a lot of ground to cover in learning about workplace norms and norms in general. I hope you’re in a safe place now personally!

    7. NerdyKris*

      There’s also problems with doing another person’s work. It makes it difficult to properly assess that person’s job performance. If there’s a problem employee that you’re coaching, someone else doing their work for them just makes it hard to tell if they’re improving or not. And especially if you’re complaining about issues that are being worked on already and not in your wheelhouse.

    8. Snarky McSnarkerson*

      LW#1, There ARE jobs out there that would appreciate and even encourage (!) doing something without being told, or asking if you could do it. I don’t think that many of them are related to hotel work, but I am distressed at the number of people here who have said basically, “just do your job.” If you have additional skills, or are willing to learn, I suggest looking for something in an office setting. Don’t sell yourself short!

  4. Luggage*

    LW2: It is absolutely not a faux pas to bring luggage to an interview. Happens all the time.

    1. Allonge*

      Yep. I suppose if OP’s company feels strongly about it, they can reimburse two nights in a hotel for those who attend the interview. We reimburse one, so, yes, we see a lot of suitcases (practically everyone who is not a local comes with one).

      1. BethDH*

        A lot of people are saying it’s okay because it’s practical, and that’s not really fair to OP who is trying to figure out standard workplace norms that are often more convention than logic.
        There are a lot of things you can’t do as a candidate that would also be practical, like asking for a place to change into your interview clothes because you are coming straight from the airport.

        1. Qwerty*

          Hm, I would not balk at that request from a candidate, though ideally that question would be asked during the scheduling stage rather than when they arrive so there is time baked in. Seems reasonable to need to freshen up if we’re requiring the candidate to come straight from the airport rather than arrive the night before. I’ve had plenty of candidates change in the bathroom after the interview because they were headed to the airport.

        2. OP 2*

          I appreciate this! I’m on the spectrum and back then I was also a recent grad with little experience. Nowadays I like to think I’d handle it with a little more grace, but I asked Allison this question with the thought it could give me closure and help anyone else with the same question.

          1. Always a Corncob*

            The luggage is not a big deal. (I’m assuming the candidate traveled for the interview and showed up dressed appropriately with a small rolling suitcase; not like, in pajamas wearing a neck pillow and lugging a duffel bag.) Showing up early and having lunch with you is odd, though!

        3. Allonge*

          It’s not so much that it’s practical (a lot of things are practical), it’s that it would be wildly impractical to leave the suitcase somewhere else (and it does no harm to bring it).

          Assuming that the org has a place for you to change is a lot more of an imposition (but it would not be a problem at mine), and somewhat more of an indication that you are not prepared for the interview.

    2. Coverage Associate*

      Having been on both sides of this situation, a potential employer who would hold bringing luggage against an applicant is unlikely to be a good employer or boss. Not everyone has the privilege to keep that in mind, but it was definitely a positive sign when I called my future boss during my notice per at my old job, explained I had a random afternoon free, and asked if I could bring over some books and similar work stuff early, rather than take it all 15 miles home on the subway and bring it 15 miles back to the business district, instead of just carrying it the block to my new office.

      I said I understood it was a little tacky, and she assured me it wasn’t tacky, just practical. I have enjoyed since how this employer is aware that people are humans with human practicalities, like legitimate headaches on Friday afternoons and heavy practice guides at downtown offices.

      1. OP 2*

        It was definitely NOT a good workplace, and this was probably another indicator of that.

        I love this story you’ve shared about moving to a new job as well- as I’ve gotten to interview/manage others more my philosophy has been to treat others as people over employees regardless of workplace norms, and this is a really lovely example of that.

    3. Eh*

      Right? Especially given the context provided on traffic. I live about 5 miles (or 45 min) from LAX. I don’t think with an extra half hour it would be reasonable to assume a person could make it to their hotel and then to their interview without being late. Showing up 30 min early when there is a coffee shop nearby is a bit much though. And I think the concern was a bit of a combination of those two things. But the suitcase on its own just tells me they didn’t want to be late and spend time checking into their hotel to leave it when they had flown in from out of town.

      1. Mockingjay*

        But isn’t a lobby for waiting?

        I once arrived 30 minutes early for an interview; I had flown to an unfamiliar city and had no idea what traffic would be like. I lucked out and got there early. (This was in the days of paper maps and radio traffic reports.) The corporation had a very large campus, so no coffee shop nearby. I debated whether to wait in the car or the lobby, but the lobby had a restroom to freshen up, so I chose the latter.

        Most business have at minimum a chair or two for visitors to wait. I really didn’t think about whether an early arrival might rush my interviewer. I was prepared and expected to wait until my allotted time. Is it really that awkward for a manager that a candidate is waiting? (Genuinely asking. I’ve interviewed people and the only issue I had with arrival times for appointments were those applicants who were late.)

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Arriving early and deciding whether to hang out in a nearby coffee shop (if there is one) vs. your car (if you drove one) vs. going into the lobby has a fair amount of nuance.

          But isn’t a lobby for waiting?
          A lobby is generally for waiting, yes, but not all companies have one (see the post linked in the answer to #2). In your situation, if sounds like waiting in the lobby was a good choice.

          Is it really that awkward for a manager that a candidate is waiting?
          I think how early you are matters a lot here. Effectively, the receptionist (if there is one) and the hiring manager are hosts and you (the interviewee) are a guest. I think it starts to feel a little rude to leave a guest waiting for 30 minutes even when they arrived early, and even if it doesn’t feel rude to leave a guest waiting for 5-10 minutes. Not everyone will feel that way, of course, but some people will feel some implicit pressure to start the interview early.

          1. ferrina*

            I once had a candidate show up 1 hour early. Her interview was at 9:30, and she showed up at 8:30. I was the only person in the office. We had no secretary, and no lobby (our “waiting area” was our lunch room/coffee room/casual meeting space, where we often were chatting about proprietary data).

            She had planned to sit in our office for an hour before her interview. If she had done that, I would have needed to sit next to her and confirm for everyone who was coming in to the morning that she was supposed to be there. It would have been extremely disruptive to my work.

            I told her where the nearest coffee shop was and told her to come back 5 minutes before her interview. The office was in a downtown area surrounded by coffeeshops/places to hang out, so it wasn’t a hardship. But it was really annoying to be interrupted in my work before I had scheduled (and I was already overloaded. That was why we were hiring someone!)

          2. Jaydee*

            I think a really useful thing in that situation is to have something to read with you. If the receptionist seems bothered by the fact you’re so early cheerfully say “Oh, I realize I’m *very* early. I wasn’t sure what traffic would be like and guess I gave myself a little too much time. But don’t worry at all about me! I’ve got my book/the latest issue of Llama Groomers Monthly/some emails to check. I’ll be fine waiting over here until the interviewers are ready for me.”

            My last job was client-facing and sometimes people would show up ridiculously early for their appointments. Our receptionist (who was a very sweet person but…not the most skilled at her job) would get all worked up and kind of imply that we needed to see the client right then – even if we were in the middle of something and their appointment wasn’t for another 30 minutes or more. I was usually fine bringing a client back 5-10 minutes early if I was available – no sense making them wait if we could get started. But I was rarely prepared to rearrange my schedule to meet with someone at an entirely different time than their appointment time. They call it a waiting room for a reason….

          3. sundae funday*

            I’m glad I read this because I could honestly see myself arriving 30 minutes early in this situation. If I had luggage with me, I’d be hesitant to go to a coffee shop because the thought of ordering and then trying to stay out of the way in a coffee shop is just overwhelming and exhausting, lol.

            I’d much rather get to the place where I know I’m supposed to be so I can sit and relax before the interview instead of worrying if my suitcase is in the aisle of the coffee shop! Or worrying that the coffee shop took too long and I end up late for my interview….

            1. sundae funday*

              also… I would plan to show up for the interview 15 minutes early, so that would mean only waiting in the coffee shop for 15 minutes, so tbh I probably would show up 30 minutes early. I am glad to know that’s a faux pas, though!

        2. Hiring Mgr*

          No, it shouldn’t be awkward or a big issue at all. If a candidate comes early, they know they might have to wait around for a bit. As the interviewer, I don’t feel any different if they have to wait for ten minutes rather than thirty – fine either way

          I’ve interviewed candidates on Zoom where I’ve gotten a notification that they’re on the call 20 minutes early.. same thing, no pressure on me to go before I”m ready.

          1. Mouse*

            I hate dealing with this with virtual interviews. I often would LOVE to test out whatever weird software the company is using before the interview, but I know that many of these programs send notifications and don’t want to look like I’m just sitting there for half an hour.

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              FWIW, when as an interviewer I get those notifications, I assume it’s what you just said – testing the connection, making sure the camera looks ok etc. So that would be completely fine!

        3. alienor*

          Is it really that awkward for a manager that a candidate is waiting?

          It wasn’t for me when I was still working in person, but I also worked in a large office building where the lobby was several floors below me. They were out of sight, out of mind while I finished what I was doing, and then I’d just go pick them up at their appointed time. I can imagine it being super awkward though in a setup with an open reception area, where you could see them waiting and they could see you.

        4. ferrina*

          No, don’t arrive 30 minutes early. Because 1) you don’t know what their lobby set up looks like and if it’s actually a good place to hang out for 30 minutes and 2) it puts undue pressure on the interviewer (who may feel rude if you’re sitting there waiting…even if it’s your choice).

          Go to a coffeeshop/park bench for 20 minutes, then show up 10 minutes early.

            1. Generic Mid-Career HR Person*

              This has been mentioned a few times and I keep wondering what the best plan is. LW 2 and their team nailed it “we concluded that they should have waited at the coffee shop across our building instead of coming into the office so early” but there are bound to be worksite setups where there is not a nearby coffee shop or park.

              I agree with the comment below from Observer. The onus is on the candidate to research the interview location and see if there is a place to wait within walking distance. If there isn’t, then I (as a candidate) would ask if there is a place I could wait since I might be 20-30 minutes early. It’s about the extra step in planning since a candidate could also ask if there is a place where they can store their luggage in anticipation of a tight travel window.

        5. Seahorse*

          It’s definitely frustrating as a job seeker. I’ve had interviews where no one bothered to tell me there was a code to get in the front door, where I was expected to make my way through a maze of a building to find the right person, and where the hiring manager counted 8:45 as “late” for a 9:00 interview.
          None of those are great when you’re already nervous!

          It’s not always easy to get there early and then find the perfect waiting spot so you can arrive precisely when you’re expected with only the accessories you need.

          The unplanned lunch seems like a significant overstep, but I am generally sympathetic to job seekers trying to balance all the spoken, unspoken, and occasionally contradictory expectations of interviewing.

          1. Observer*

            Some employers are unreasonable, no doubt. A commenter on the post linked to this letter also claims that if you show up on time, they consider it so late that they are already wondering if the person is a no show.

            But the thing is that you can’t plan for every unreasonable employer, unless you happen to know for a fact that the employer is unreasonable in that particular way. Because not only are these unreasonable people often in conflict with the way the rest of the world operates, they are in conflict with each other.

        6. Observer*

          The corporation had a very large campus, so no coffee shop nearby.

          Yes, but the OP specifically states that there was a coffee shop nearby. And that the person wound up spending lunch with them.

          Also, with smartphones, it’s reasonable to check whether there are any places like that nearby. If you don’t have a smart phone, you can ask whoever it is that checked you in. Given that it was around lunch time it would have been very easy to say “Hi, I know I’m early. Do you know of a decent place I could grab lunch in the meantime?”

          Is it really that awkward for a manager that a candidate is waiting?

          It depends on the set up. In this case, it apparently was, since they wound up eating lunch with the candidate.

        7. Cmdrshpard*

          I think it depends on the office layout. In a small office of the waiting room is at the front and it is the only way in and out (think Dr. office) as the interviewer needing to pass by there can make it feel awkward, or the receptionist needing/feeling like they need to check in if they need water/coffee etc, or the candidate needing to borrow the bathroom key. If the person waited in the lobby of the overall shared building on the ground floor I think arriving 30 minutes early is fine.

    4. CityMouse*

      Back before we switched to remote interviews we used to clear out a closet before interview time so people could lock their bags in there.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Oh that is so wonderful and thoughtful. If I were interviewing that would give me a positive view of your company.

      2. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

        We don’t have closets to spare, but similarly at my org whichever hiring manager is hosting a candidate will offer/encourage the candidate to leave their luggage or anything else in their office, where it will be safely locked up as they move between meetings and tours. This has been very helpful for both local and out-of-town candidates as they can leave things like wet umbrellas or outercoats in addition to luggage.

      1. Adultier Adult*

        That is what I keep wondering? Check out from the hotel happens before the interview-there is literally no other choice?

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Some hotels will hold luggage in situations such as these. That’s not always helpful, depending on transit time between the hotel and the interview, but it might be an option.

    5. hbc*

      Yeah, if there’s some reason it shouldn’t be brought in, a workaround should be clearly stated in the interview instructions/invitation. “The lobby reception will store any luggage or other large bags you might bring” or “We don’t have room for bags, but there are secure public lockers half a block away.”

      1. Rimowa or bust*

        If you don’t have a conference room or even a utility closet big enough to fit a typical business size rollerboard, I’d question what is going on at the business. If I were told to use storage lockers a block away, I would frankly be at the point of declining the interview, because God knows what other non-standard, bizarre practices the company has instituted.

    6. El l*

      Yeah. It’s fine for that matter if they bring luggage to any business meeting where someone has flown in.

      One of those little accommodations you have to make when you deal with busy people.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        I’m thinking of some of my pre-covid meetings where we would all pile into a conference room in DC for three or four days, and on the last day, there would be a row of luggage along the back wall for the 25 of us who were booking it from the meeting to the airport to catch a flight home.

      1. OP 2*

        Hello! I mean no harm in saying this but I think this is kind of a bad-faith assumption about me when I did state there were other reasons we didn’t go with this candidate. I asked this question because I didn’t know the answer, and I don’t think it’s “bizarre” to ask for clarification when professional norms can be so scattered (hence the existence of this blog!).

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Agreed. I think it’s a sign that the norms at OP2’s last job were weird (as they mentioned), not that they personally had an axe to grind against people who were traveling.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        It sounds like your job involves a lot of travel and you work in and industry with international candidates. Many, many hiring managers will never encounter this. A lot of businesses, especially pre-covid which this sounds like it was, DID cater mostly to local employees for a variety of legitimate reasons. Many still do. Not all, there’s a ton of variation by industry and profession, but it’s really not the bizarre supposition you frame it as if someone has never encountered it before.

      3. KayDeeAye*

        I certainly wouldn’t call it “bizarre” not to have encountered a luggage-toting candidate. It’s a bit unusual, perhaps, but “bizarre” is definitely too strong, at least in my opinion.

        But no matter how unusual it is, OP, I would suggest you ask yourself, “Well, did the candidate have another good option?” Because there are times when the answer to that will definitely be “no.” So just keep that in mind when you come across this again.

        Getting to the interview 30 minutes is a bit more problematic, unless the candidate knew for a fact that there was a lobby or somewhere to wait until it was interview time.

    7. KayDeeAye*

      Re. luggage to an interview…I mean, what else is the candidate supposed to do with it? Assuming they don’t have access to a hotel room or hotel checking, what other good options are there?

      Anyway, bringing the luggage to an interview seems absolutely fine to me. I’d rather not lug it around if I were a candidate because as a candidate, I would not want to worry about lugging around my suitcase along with everything else I’d have to worry about. But if there wasn’t another good option, that’s definitely what I’d do, and I would assume (correctly I hope) that my potential employer would understand.

  5. Cheesesteak in Paradise*


    Someone who’s asymptomatic is still getting tested. And staying home after a positive test. Sounds like people are actually behaving responsibly at your work. Both of those things aren’t happening everywhere.

    Also, as the bronchitis from the family members shows, one can get sick outside of work.

    1. Well...*

      I’ll also note that I spent half of the first year of Covid in a country in Europe with some of the most strict lockdowns and aggressive government response and overall popular population compliance. I spent six weeks unable to leave my apt for any reason other than getting groceries, and outdoor exercise was not legal. Children weren’t allowed outside for those six weeks for any reason. It was very challenging for people, and on the whole people were very much in favor of weathering those challenges. Once the lockdown lifted in the summer of 2020 and well into 2021, everyone was masking everywhere, even people out for a run, etc.

      Now, in that country, nobody is masking when I go back to visit. I currently live in a different country which didn’t have the same popular reception to the aggressive response, and I still mask if I feel sick, but it sticks out. The only places I’ve visited that still mask sometimes were Germany as of last November only on public transport, and Korea and Japan who still widely mask. Japan has had a culture of masking when feeling sick that predates covid. I never visited Korea before this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s true for them too.

      Just to give context, it’s not just the US that has turned away from widespread masking.

      1. Artemesia*

        Just got back from Berlin and no one is making there now. Same in France where they had very strict COVID protocols. We masked on the metro but were often the only ones.

        1. CityMouse*

          No one’s masking in the Netherlands either. If you go out masked jn thr Netherlands some people assume you have COVID.

      2. Been There*

        Germany lifted its requirement to mask on public transport in the last couple of months.

        Korea, like Japan, has a culture of masking but also had Covid protocols around masking in public until fairly recently.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Ireland has just lifted the last of its restrictions (masking in medical environments, including pharmacies and one or two other things).

          I do mask on public transport, at events like the theatre, at Mass and when my sinuses are bad, as I’m always afraid I’ll mistake covid for my sinuses being awkward. I am masking today for the last reason and one colleague asked if I was sick and she was just expressing concern.

          There aren’t many people masking here any more though and we had pretty good compliance – think we had one of the higher rates of vaccination uptake.

      3. shockingly aussie*

        yeah, I’m from the place with the longest lockdowns in the world and I very rarely see anybody masking anymore. we’re all over it.

        1. Well...*

          I think because of how polarized things got in the US in the absence of any government guidance, they still aren’t over it. They were all told they had to individually manage their risk, and they are still living with that burden. It’s a relief to live in a place where you can let your guard down because you trust the government to tell you what’s safe and what’s not.

          1. Elsa*

            Yup, I also live abroad and think that not getting over Covid is a specifically (liberal) American thing. Where I live you can still occasionally see individuals masking, but judging healthy people for not masking? Only in the USA.

            1. OK*

              Elsa I agree. This is in no way an American thing.

              All over the world people are no longer masking.

              1. Phony Genius*

                I think Elsa is saying that judging people for not masking is an American thing, not the masking itself. Are you seeing people outside of the US being judged for not masking?

                1. OK*

                  I was adding on to her point.

                  The only place where I see people still talking about masking is on this site. In my circles it’s not a thing at all, I didn’t experience any judging at all.

                  My point is that some people on this site make it out to be an American political thing, when most of the world seems to have mostly moved on, and they are the only ones still bringing it up.

                  The only places where masking is still sometimes required are in hospitals/medical facilities.

                2. Dahlia*


                  Personally I see lots of people talking about masking still, because I’m friends with a lot of disabled and immunocompromised people who are basically trapped at home without masking. Experiences vary.

                3. OK*


                  Of course experience varies, that’s why I said in my circles, and I didn’t experience etc

                  My main point is that Americans make it political (it used to be very polarized in the US, but now all over the world people are not masking.) and think only Americans don’t care about masking.

            2. Rimowa or bust*

              Removed. People at high risk trying to keep themselves safe is not “virtue-signaling” and that’s a cruel thing to say. – Alison

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              I can see why someone outside the US might think that. The debates got publicized more than the reality.

              For the record, for those unaware, there was a ton of government guidance. The split was mostly about “what the government can and cannot make us do”, which is a more hot button issue in some parts of the country than others. This led to a LOT of debate over “why wouldn’t you just do it to protect your neighbors” vs “you can’t guilt me into giving up my personal freedom/I don’t believe it will protect my neighbors”. That’s what got picked up on the news channels.

              Not to rehash the debate at all – not my goal, please don’t – just to tell people who weren’t in the US that the issues we had were much more about compliance than guidance. Our guidance was similar to most of Europe.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                I will mention that different levels of government had different guidance (figuring out when I needed to follow federal vs. state vs. county vs. city masking requirements was confusing). Furthermore, the CDC guidance often contradicted the WHO (e.g. masking at the beginning of the pandemic).

                So yes, there was tons of guidance, but that was actually much of the problem.

                1. Phony Genius*

                  Not to mention the confusion of the guidance including recommendations vs. requirements. It became hard to remember who could enforce what, where.

            2. Well...*

              I should have chosen my words more carefully. I wasn’t in the US, but my family and many of my colleagues were. It seemed that they didn’t have very touch legal restrictions on what they could do. I will say I felt safer knowing that certain things went from *illegal* to *legal.* If I was complying with the law, I was being reasonably safe. That removed a huge mental burden for me, whereas my family really struggled with “assessing their own risk” and being responsible citizens.

          2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            It looks like we’re going to have to individually manage our risk forever, with less and less information to do it with. What’s the current infection rate? They aren’t saying. Hospitalizations? They aren’t saying. Number of people being infected while in the hospital for something else? The hospital may know, but they won’t tell me.

            Give me evidence that it’s safe to unmask and I’ll consider it. (What’s safe enough for you might not be safe enough for me, or vice versa.) Other people being tired of masking isn’t evidence of safety.

          3. Random Dice*

            Um there actually wasn’t an absence of COVID guidance in the US. Kind of wildly the opposite.

            Compared to Canada, there was incredibly robust Federal guidance. Canada had very basic info in federal Health Canada, but it wasn’t updated often, and PM Trudeau threw responsibility to the provinces – some of which did great, and others that… did not.

            US national health agency CDC’s guidance was updated daily, if not more, for a full year and a half. It was way better than WHO’s info, especially early in the pandemic, and had helpful practical info that we could actually apply. (Not that it perfectly jibed between pages, but an email to CDC resulted in them updating it quickly.)

            Federal labor dept OSHA did not update its guidance that often, but when it did it landed like a ton of bricks given the powerful enforcement mechanism (which CDC lacks).

            Many states had their own guidance and laws on top of that. So many things to track!

            You know who was crap at keeping up with US government COVID guidance? The news. We would have had official guidance in place at work for weeks, and suddenly one journalist would breathlessly report something about CDC guidance, and other news stations would pick it up. It was kind of shocking, actually, how bad journalists were at following the public sources.

      4. Pugetkayak*

        I do see some people mask in stores in my city in Virginia. More people on planes, but this is still a very small number. My kid still wore a mask through the winter and then the week after spring break. I just got back from the haircut place and all the employees were masked and one patron. I think that is kind of rare. I was masking still until about two months ago.

    2. Analyst*

      An asymptomatic person has tested positive, just isn’t displaying symptoms. and OP is rightfully upset that they were at work and unmasked.

      1. Green great dragon*

        Asymptomatic just means ill and not showing symptoms. The letter doesn’t say whether they tested positive and then came to work, or didn’t realise they were positive until after work.

      2. ceiswyn*

        It’s impossible from the letter to tell whether they knew they had Covid before they went to work.

      3. Snow Globe*

        If they weren’t displaying symptoms, they likely didn’t know they were sick. Then they tested positive (likely after learning they were exposed to someone else who got sick) and didn’t return to work. What is wrong with that?

        1. Alice*

          We are still explicitly told by CDC to wear a mask as soon as you learn you have been exposed to COVID and to keep it for ten days.

          I’m glad the colleague tested after (presumably) being informed of their exposure. And I’m glad they went home after the positive test.

          But, if the colleague was running around the office without a mask after finding out they were a close contact of someone who was infected, then yes, they did something wrong, out of ignorance or negligence, and OP and OP’s partner are both suffering as a result.

          1. Been There*

            You don’t know the timeline. You’re just assuming they were in the office after finding out they were exposed to someone with covid.

        2. Fikly*

          They were contagious before they tested positive, and because they were not masking, this places OP at high risk of catching it.

          This is not that complicated an issue to understand. What is wrong is that our society hates people with disabilities and does not value their lives.

          1. Andrew*

            > They were contagious before they tested positive, and because they were not masking, this places OP at high risk of catching it.

            But if you are asymptomatic, how on Earth are you supposed to know that you are contagious?

            1. GythaOgden*

              Schrodinger’s Covid.

              The reality is that there’s a wide variety of immunocompromised experiences and a wide variety of things that can kill you other than Covid — some of which I’ve encountered before, during and after the pandemic. While Covid was an acute crisis we did the right thing, and a few people still mask here and no one will actively suggest people take them off. I think Fikly is way, way overstating the risk — and that’s putting it mildly.

              I also agree with the people saying that American politics polarised Covid quite a bit and made it harder to get people to comply and to take up the vaccine. I think it’s worth it for people to step outside for a bit and realize that most of the rest of the world moved on quite some time ago, and we will have a similar proportion of ill and disabled people among our population in the UK who are not in much trouble right now and have also largely moved on. The person I know who was shielding in 2020 was, last time I heard from her, on holiday in Iceland.

              I don’t think it’s necessarily an irrational fear, but the politicisation on both sides exacerbated the problem and is hampering the recovery from the situation. Because it’s become a political football, the side that was originally on the right track has really crossed a line into self-righteousness, and that’s what’s pushing the rest of us away from being on their side.

      4. Magpie*

        so should her coworkers be upset with her because she babysat and got sick?

        They behaved responsibly exactly how is expected of a working professional. I’m tired of people whose belief is that when everyone else is sick its a moral failing and when they are it’s not.

        1. Julia*

          Or rather, that when someone else is sick it’s a moral failing, and when they are sick it’s also someone else’s moral failing

      5. Ace in the Hole*

        No, an asymptomatic person has covid with no symptoms. They find out they have covid when they test positive, but they were asymptomatically ill even before the test. They probably had no idea they were sick. They may have not even been aware they were exposed.

    3. MK*

      I don’t think it’s going to look good for the OP to complain about how a coworker’s asymptomatic covid might exacerbate the illness she caught while babysitting children. And I do think she might temper down her outrage against her company and coworkers not wearing masks, when she herself is also not isolating like it’s 2020.

      1. Dubious*

        Isolating for three years is a much different and unrealistic measure than the simple step of wearing a mask in public. OP can absolutely feel upset that other people aren’t wearing them.

        The fact remains that many people like this OP would be able to move about in public without risk to their health/lives or the health/lives of their loved ones if more people masked.

        1. MK*

          Ok, but it’s still a bad look to complain about the possibility of being infected by coworkers when you got infected doing something else.

          1. Alice*

            At this point it’s not really complaining about the possibility of being infected with COVID by coworkers – it’s a reality.
            Unless you think that someone who is clearly COVID-cautious in general, knows the source of their last infection, and is trying extra hard to avoid infection after the case of bronchitis somehow didn’t notice another likely exposure route in the same week as sharing indoor air with the infected, maskless colleague?

          2. Colette*

            That’s like saying you can’t be upset that your coworker hit you with a car because you tripped while walking up the stairs yesterday.

            Having to work in a place where masks are required means that people have to take risks they aren’t comfortable with. Given the choice, I’d rather be in riskier situations to spend time with family and friends rather than coworkers.

            1. Magpie*

              it’s not at all. it’s like comparing a coworker pitching a fit because you dinged their car after they dinged yours. there isn’t a difference in the severity of actions here at all. only personal accountability in that LW sees her coworker catching something as a result of negligence, but doesn’t see her own illness as a result of negligence. masking is no longer the standard, you can huff and puff about it but that means that it’s not reasonable to be angry with people for following the standard for prevention.

              1. Colette*

                The OP is upset that she has been exposed to something because her coworker is not taking reasonable precautions. Yes, for political reasons, those precautions are no longer mandatory, but the virus doesn’t care.

                1. Courageous cat*

                  Ok, I’m extremely liberal, but the precautions not being mandatory anymore aren’t “for political reasons”, or at least certainly not primarily/solely for political reasons. COVID variants have weakend and my understanding is that it is on its way to becoming endemic – much like the flu, we cannot keep those precautions up forever, nor do we statistically *need* to after a certain point. That’s literally just the reality of any illness/disease existing with us here on Earth.

                  It isn’t inherently political, and it is not reasonable to expect people to live like it’s 2020 forever, which most countries have made clear they do *not* intend to do anyway.

                2. Colette*

                  Vaccination was fairly widespread; many people have not gotten boosters.

                  We estimate that 15% of people who get COVID get long COVID, and half of those have symptoms for more than a year. (https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/symptoms/post-covid-19-condition.html). There are no tests or treatments for long COVID.

                  We also know that COVID is causing issues including heart attack, stroke, clotting, diabetes, and immune suppression after the initial illness (sometimes months afterwards); we don’t fully know the extent. (https://www.cedars-sinai.org/newsroom/covid-19-surges-linked-to-spike-in-heart-attacks/#:~:text=The%20spikes%20in%20heart%20attack,high%20risk%20for%20heart%20attack.)

                  Vaccination helps reduce the risk, but the risk is still high for everyone. We just don’t want to believe it, so we’re pretending it’s “just a cold”.

              2. MCMonkeyBean*

                “Dinged your car”

                Cool, another person wildly minimizing the risks and dangers of covd

        2. Allonge*

          The fact remains that many people like this OP would be able to move about in public without risk to their health/lives or the health/lives of their loved ones if more people masked.

          Not quite. Many people like OP would be able to move about in public with reduced risk to their health/lives or the health/lives of their loved ones if almost all people masked. Which is not easy in any way.

          I totally understand that OP is upset about this. But that does not make getting everyone to mask easy. This sucks.

        3. Zzz*

          “The fact remains that many people like this OP would be able to move about in public without risk to their health/lives or the health/lives of their loved ones if more people masked.”

          Can you show me the source of that information? It doesn’t match my understanding, nor the public health communication in my country.

          1. Alice*

            Masking (espcially with high quality masks that actually fit, ie N95) reduces the amount of virus-carrying aerosols (breathed out by an infected person) floating around the room. That’s called “source control.”
            Ventilation and air filtration can also reduce the amount of viral aerosols too. In fact, CDC and ASHRAE recently releasd new guidance (draft guidance in ASHRAE’s case) on indoor air quality. These “engineering controls” or “environmntal controls” can’t substitute entirely for source control, but they can help a lot, especially re long-range transmission.
            These two kinds of interventions to reduce transmission – and others too, like offering paid sick leave and encouraging vaccination – work at two levels. First, if they were happening in OP’s office, infected colleagues would be less likely to infect OP. Second, if they were widespread, there would be fewer cases in the community, and OP’s colleagues would be less likely to be infected in the first place.
            If your comment is pointing out the difference between “without risk” and “with lower risk,” ok, that’s a good point. But if you are actually curious about the effect of NPIs, say what direction you are interested in and I can offer further reading sugestions.

      2. pbnj*

        I think maybe it’s the frustration of getting sick again after just getting over something, which I can empathize with. And it sounds like OP is frustrated with the situation in general, or perhaps their workplace in general. But I agree that their coworkers would likely be irritated that OP is babysitting but expecting masking at work, since most kids are bringing home all kinds of viruses.

        1. Double A*

          As a parent with young kids, we got sick literally every 2-3 weeks this year. We tested every time and it never was Covid.

          The only thing that sent anyone to the ER was the flu (my 4 year old– and yes, she had gotten her flu shot).

      3. T.N.H.*

        I don’t think you can ask other people to mask anymore. I’m not talking about in a perfect world, just acknowledging reality. It also bothers me that people don’t seem to take into account the toll that masking and isolating take on mental health. Mental health is health and needs to be brought into the equation.

    4. L-squared*

      Right. The fact that she got bronchitis kind of shows that she has an unreasonable standard. Somehow HER catching something is understandable, but the “evil” coworker catching it isn’t

      1. Green great dragon*

        This is unnecessary. OP didn’t call anyone evil, and their preferred standard isn’t that no-one should ever catch anything or that no-one should visit family, but that they would like more mask wearing at work/the ability to work remotely more often.

        It’s unlikely to be achievable, but it isn’t inherently unreasonable, and they aren’t holding anyone to higher standards than they have themselves.

        1. L-squared*

          I guess my point is that you could easily argue that babysitting a school aged child (lets be real, they have a LOT of germs at that age) is just as risky of an activity as being in the office unmasked. But she has decided (as many people do) that the precautions they take are all reasonable, while thinking if others don’t have the same standards, than they aren’t reasonable.

          1. CityMouse*

            This is where I come down too. My kid doesn’t mask at preschool and brings germs home. I’ve made that personal choice. I can’t get mad that my coworkers make their own (frankly less risky) choices.

          2. Qwerty*

            This is similar to where I land as a high risk person – I consider babysitting two children to be a bigger risk. One that I take gladly! I generally take precautions for a couple days after I spend time with my niblings to mitigate risk to coworkers/friends since it a question of “when” not “if” I catch something from them.

            Especially when the question in the letter is about whether to make a big deal to the higher ups. I think OP3 being angry is probably due to a culmination of many things – 3yrs of pandemic anxiety, recent illness, worrying about the worst that could happen – and while the unmasked coworker is just a piece of a large puzzle, it is a piece that feels safe to be angry with.

          3. Ahnon4ThisOne*

            I agree with this. LW comes off as pretty hypocritical. You can’t be upset at a coworker for putting themselves at risk when you also decided to take a risk by babysitting. LW also conveniently left out what the coworker did once they figured out they had a positive COVID test.

            Like I get it, being exposed even when you’re not considered high risk is scary and anxiety inducing, but it happens. You can make your choice to mask up at this point, but we’re not in the height of it anymore, so I can understand why people don’t mask anymore. It’s a personal choice, not an ethical one at this point imo.

            1. Happy*

              I don’t think it’s hypocritical for OP to be willing to take more risks to help their family than they are willing to for work. There are lots of things most of us would do for our families that we would not do for our jobs.

              1. Ahnon4ThisOne*

                While I agree with your overall message, that is not my point. I am not talking about taking a risk *for* work.

                I’m saying it is hypocritical for OP to be upset that someone else took a risk and got sick from it when they also decided to take a risk by babysitting and got sick from it. They do not know how their coworker got COVID, or at least have not mentioned why here. It could be for similar reasons for all we know.

          4. Observer*

            I guess my point is that you could easily argue that babysitting a school aged child (lets be real, they have a LOT of germs at that age) is just as risky of an activity as being in the office unmasked.

            This is exactly the point. At this point, I don’t mask in most places. But if someone told me that they are immunocompromised and asked me to mask around them, I would *absolutely* do it. I don’t want to increase someone’s risk if I can avoid it!

            But if they told me that they are babysitting young school kids? Nope. Because then it’s theater not reasonable precautions. I get that the person doing that may not think so. But seriously, the OP was at much greater risk from their niblings than the coworker. And I’d be willing to bet that a lot of people would be reasonably wondering if the OP came down with covid despite masking because they were already sick, which would not have been an issue if they had stayed away from the kids.

        2. Lily Potter*

          Probably said in not the most kind way, but I absolutely had the same thought when I read the letter……”I’m mad because of your choices but you can’t be mad at me for mine.”

          I was team-mask throughout Covid, but with community transmission down so much, it’s simply not reasonable to expect the world to continue wearing them as a matter of course. Covid will likely linger in our world for a long time, in the same way that influenza never goes away. We can’t expect people to mask for a virus that is lingering in the background. I know that the OP is tired and frustrated and it’s not fair that s/he needs to deal with this – but directing their anger at people that are living their lives mask-free isn’t going to be productive.

          1. Frankie*

            Yeah, I’m torn about this. It reminds me of a coworker who was hypervigilant towards the illnesses of others, and prior to Covid loved to ream people out for coming in sick (this was before we were allowed to work remotely). This amped up during Covid but I also saw this coworker taking her own risks–which is fine, she just did have a level where she expected everyone else to be very fastidious but didn’t always expect the same of herself.

            I’d kind of love mask-wearing to be normalized in the US when sick, but it hasn’t really taken hold. I wear one if I’m sick and have to be somewhere public, but not if I don’t have symptoms of anything. I think that’s reasonable? I’m not sure it’s fair to expect individuals to mask anymore when they’re asymptomatic and have no reason to believe they might be sick, when it hasn’t caught on here culturally.

            1. Observer*

              I’d kind of love mask-wearing to be normalized in the US when sick,

              I think that this would be a good thing. That’s not what this discussion is about, but it’s such a good point that I wanted to highlight it a bit.

              1. Well...*

                Yes, I was really hoping this would be a nice longterm impact of Covid. We all have masks now, why not where them when we’re feeling sick?

                Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be catching on as much as I’d hoped.

              2. Random Dice*

                I see people masking when sick in the Northeast (US).

                I’m in a purple small town, and I sometimes get dirty looks when masking by conservatives, but my deep chesty cough that they don’t want to get usually makes them mind their own business.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              I’ve taken to masking in public when I have a cough or sore throat even if I test negative for Covid. If it’s making me miserable, I assume no one else wants it.

          2. Courageous cat*

            I agree. I masked all the way through 2020 and most of 2021 but it isn’t reasonable to continue forever at this point; or at least, expect others to continue forever.

            1. Lily Potter*

              To be explicit – I’m 100% in favor of people putting a mask on themselves for as long as they want to do that, and for people to MYOB when they do. I still wear one on airplanes (sorry, I don’t believe for a minute that COVID hasn’t been running rampant through airplanes from 2020 to present day) and I should be able to do that without snarky comments from other passengers. On the other hand, with Covid community transmission down as it is, I don’t have the right to demand other passengers mask up for me.

              1. Courageous cat*

                Agreed. I think what it comes down to (or should come down to) is that we should all respect each other’s decisions to mask or not mask, and morality shouldn’t weigh into it.

                I no longer mask, and I am still all for people masking 24/7 if that’s what they want to do.

              2. DataSci*

                Demand, no, but I think high risk people (especially the immunocompromised) and others in their household have the right to ask politely in the workplace. (I’d never dare to ask on a plane. I’d probably get attacked by an anti-masker).

          3. Spearmint*

            Agreed. Masking was necessary at one point, and I happily masked until I was fully vaccinated, but let’s not pretend it doesn’t have significant costs (as some masking advocates do). Not being able to see other people’s faces, or have them see yours, significantly hampers communication and social connection; we communicate just as much through our faces as we do our words. Masks also are very uncomfortable to wear for long periods and sometimes make breathing difficult or make the wearer feel tired, especially the gold-standard N-95 masks.

            1. Mask Solidarity*

              This is not some kind of universal truth, though. What has hampered social connection for me is the “vaxed and relaxed” attitude that has taken hold of the country. When people took more precautions, I felt more comfortable going places and seeing people. Now, no one even tries to plan any get-together with precautions, and certainly no public spaces will have any. I am more isolated now than I was then.

              Additionally, I wear an N95 for at least 8 hours a day when I am at work, and what helped it become more comfortable was practice. The first couple of times it did seem like a lot, but I powered through and got used to it.

              The reason I bring this up is because there are a large number of people who want to act like our needs are unreasonable (and therefore should be ignored or left to us to manage) while their needs are very important and crucial to their happiness and survival, and thus must be honored and respected by everyone else.

              Everything has a cost. People have just decided they are fine with vulnerable people (which is a group the CDC admits that 1 in 10 infections makes them likely to join) paying all the cost, so they don’t have to pay any of it.

              1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

                I’m not willing to give up playing music in a group forever. I mean, I could pick up a non-breath-powered instrument and maybe get to a reasonable standard in a few years, in a style without wind instruments…

            2. Well...*

              I think there’s a middle ground. There are countries that have been masking when feeling under the weather since before Covid. I’m also fine wearing a mask 8 hours a day — I’ve worn them on long flights no problem. I don’t find them uncomfortable at all.

              I also think that as a society, people are not going to want to be told what to wear on their face in public for the rest of their lives. They are not going to want to be told they can’t go to concerts, can’t have parties, can’t hug each other, must spend most of their time in tiny apartments, etc. Covid restrictions were really hard on a lot of us. I was separated from my husband by a closed border that we had no reason to anticipate would ever close. I spent 9 months in a new country with no friends, family, zero social bubble. Many of us sacrificed a lot, and people are reasonably very unhappy with the implication that we should have to continue that level of sacrifice for the rest of our lives.

              I won’t live like I lived in 2020-2021 forever. I don’t want that life. I lived that way for a few years for the good of mankind, but I can’t go back. And I think a lot of people being accused of just forgetting about people with disabilities, etc, are feeling that resistance bubbling up.

              1. DataSci*

                Nobody wants that, the immunocompromised least of all! But it’s a far cry from “please put on a mask when you’re in my office” to “full lockdown forever”.

            3. Coconutty*

              Yup. Preschool teacher here. The number of children needing speech therapy as they learned to talk while being unable to see other people’s faces was SIGNIFICANTLY higher than in pre-pandemic years, and that’s without getting into the weeds of social-emotional issues we’ve seen. Was it worth it to try to keep them and others safe when the risk was highest and we knew so little? Absolutely. But dealing with the ramifications is long and difficult, and now that we DO know more and many people ARE safer, we can reevaluate the balance of their needs.

              1. Yoyoyo*

                Yup, dealing with this with my kiddo. Fortunately speech therapy has helped tremendously, but I do sometimes feel guilty for having isolated him so much. I’m glad he did not get COVID until he was a little older (19 months), but the precautions we took absolutely did have a negative effect on his communication and social skills.

              2. Novid*

                As a speech-language pathologist I will say that your data is anecdotal and not supported by the evidence. Looking at mouths does provide some cues, but it is not necessary to learn to talk (think about speech and language development in children with vision loss versus those hearing loss). There isn’t good data that suggests that we have seen an increase in speech and language disorders since the pandemic, and even if there were, what makes you determine that it is due to masking rather than, say, children who have missed a lot of school due to infections or post-covid immunity theft?

                This is not to say that you don’t have a lot of children in your class who require support-I believe that you do. I also believe you are working to support your kiddos in an awesome way! So thanks! . Just please be careful about making causation statements re: masks have caused an increase in speech and language needs.

          4. Anon for this*

            What makes you think community transmission has reduced? We just aren’t measuring it any more.

            Anecdotally, I currently know more people who have recently or currently had Covid than I have since 2020.

      2. NotAManager*

        I think that COVID has become stigmatized as an illness in a way others (like a stomach bug, or the common cold, or bronchitis) have not. A commenter said further up the thread that some folks have the idea that getting COVID is representative of a moral failing in a way that catching something else isn’t because there hasn’t been as much inflamatory rhetoric around those illnesses and they’re endemic.

        I understand LW’s fear and frustration, especially since their partner is immunocompromised. But I do think the anger is fueled by a sense (in some quarters) that if you “do the right things,” you won’t get COVID or that if you *were* doing all the right things, someone else must have done something *wrong.* When the reality of virus transmission is much more complicated than that.

        1. Spearmint*

          Yes, and I think people’s reactions also haven’t caught up with the reality of mass immunity (via a mix of people getting COVID and vaccination) and the fact that omicron is a less severe variant. At this point, for the vast majority of people, COVID will be more like the cold or the flu than it was in the spring of 2020.

          And while I really feel for immunocompromised people, let’s be honest that bad colds and flus are also very dangerous for them.

          1. Dahlia*

            Just going to gently point out that “mass immunity from getting covid” is not a thing. You only get very temporary immunity from it.

        2. GreenShoes*

          I agree with this. I remember sitting down and going through the questions when I got my vaccine and the woman asked me if I’d had Covid. I told her no. She then says “Good for you, you’ve been following the rules then”. I remember telling her. “No, I’ve just been lucky” but that really rubbed me the wrong way.

    5. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

      Came here to say this. I’m surprised an asymptomatic case even bothered testing. Maybe there were exacerbating circumstances, but the LW didn’t include them in their letter.
      (e.g. coworker knew they were a close contact and testing daily, but still coming in to the office and not masking.)

    6. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

      My doctor’s office doesn’t require preventative masking unless symptomatic. My partners medical office no longer requires them either. I think you’ll find it hard to locate another workplace with stricter masking requirements than medical environments.

  6. takeachip*

    LW1, I really want to sympathize with you because of the difficult situations you’ve been in and your hard-won fight for your freedom and re-entry to the workforce. It has taken so much strength and determination for you to get where you are now. You need to take this experience as important feedback about the norms of your workplace and possibly about the way you are coming across in the workplace. There are very few jobs that will welcome a newcomer taking it upon themselves to come in and do things to their own liking and criticize other people’s work processes or standards. Are you objectively “right?” Maybe. But you do not have the track record, acknowledged expertise, or social capital to step outside your explicitly defined role right now. Your first month is the time to demonstrate that you have the fundamentals down as an employee–that you’ll be on time, on task, and generally agreeable. As you prove that, over time, you can start asking for more responsibility, but you also need to be ready to be content with the role given you. Right now it sounds like you’re perceiving yourself as some kind of, I don’t know, dynamo with a heart of gold who’s going to save the place from itself; your boss and coworkers are perceiving you as an intrusive know-it-all. That mismatch is going to lead to bigger problems down the road and the only you can change is your own point of view and your own behavior. Be careful not to ride a moral high horse about your work ethic and standards; it’s great to have these things but you can’t use them as a way to claim superiority over or wrest control from others. It’s understandable that you want more to do, but you’re going to have to build some credibility and relationships first, and you’re damaging that right now by overdoing it. There’s really nothing to be confused about; you’ve been given clear instructions about what your boss wants, it just sounds like you don’t want to accept that. Some of this workplace dynamic, where you’re trying to take more autonomy and being denied, could really be challenging to deal with because of your background, so if you’re seeing anyone about that you may want to raise the question with them of how to cope with these limits and how to distinguish reasonable boundaries at work from the kinds of abusive tactics you were subject to at home.

    1. Haunted Toilet*

      My Aunt lost her job due to overstepping her responsibilities.
      She had reentered the workforce and landed a cushy office job doing as a receptionist, but would then go out of her way to complete tasks not in the scope of her role.
      She wanted to prove herself after being absent from the workforce for years, and liked ‘helping’ a bit too much.
      So much that she tidied up a staff members files, and did unsolicited jobs around the office, which only made things more difficult for everyone else.
      My Aunts heart was in the right place, but her unsolicited ‘help’ was detrimental to the office dynamics. She was shocked to say the least when she’d been fired. Had work ethic and taking initiative not mattered anymore?
      It was only later that she assessed the situation properly and admitted she had been out of line. My Aunt is careful nowadays not to overstep.

      1. Sassy SAAS*

        This!! It’s not that hard work and taking initiative aren’t things employers like or appreciate. It’s the environment and the delivery of that info. Unless it’s been made explicitly clear that your manager/team is open to suggestions or changes in processes from a new employee, then it’s unfortunately not your place to offer those things unsolicited. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to put yourself back out there, LW1, but in this case you took normal feedback about sticking the the assigned job duties as a personal attack on your work ethic and character. Not every job is made for folks to go above and beyond, so it could be a good time to find something with a little more room for growth! You’ll find some place that is looking for those great qualities. And on a side note, you don’t need to prove anything to ANYONE. :)

        1. Always a Corncob*

          This is so important. It’s hard, but in most jobs, you are better off reining in the impulse to “help” with things outside your purview that no one has requested your help with. Even if you think you could make it better, and even if you’re right about that. The question is not “am I right?”; the question is “do I want to keep this job as-is?”

    2. TeeManyMartoonies*

      I sympathise with the LW a little.
      Although I did not come from a background of abuse, I did however have it instilled in me since childhood to go above and beyond, go an extra mile, much so that I was always asking for extra school work and other curriculars.
      This carried on into University where I was praised and rewarded for my work ethic, ambition and dedication.
      The problem is when I entered my first Big Girl job after graduating, I realised that those values that were pushed through my childhood/youth didn’t exactly translate into the real world.
      Id get scolded for going above my job requirements, colleagues were fed up with me, then Id end up burnt out anyway.
      It was only then someone told me “Its not your job to fix everything” that I began to realise I needed to let go of things beyond my control.
      I’m not perfect but I’m getting there.

      1. Seahorse*

        This is a helpful insight. The LW reminds me of my mother, so maybe I’m projecting a bit.
        My mom also values “above and beyond” at work, while I’ve learned to deliberately pull back and do only what I’m paid for. That’s not the only option, but it works for me.

        I know my mom wants to be a quality worker, but she’s burned out due to fighting for improvements from a position without much leverage to make changes. She still won’t step back and let the bosses do what they want because “above and beyond” is a fundamental part of her self image. I wonder if something similar is happening with the LW. Either way, I wish her the best.

      2. Observer*

        I sympathise with the LW a little.

        I sympathize with the OP a lot.

        But the rest of your comments is sooo soooo important. I hope the OP can read this and take it on board.

    3. Artemesia*

      good observation. It is about the attitude and presentation of self. As a laundry attendant, you could ask the boss ‘when I have the time would you like me to clean the room too?’ This shows your initiative while acknowledging that someone else is in charge of your assigned work.

      At any level including professional positions, it is poison on a new job to come in hot and advocating how to do it ‘better.’

      1. yala*

        The attitude is a big factor, and I can see how it would be an adjustment for someone who’s been out of the workforce for so long. But there was one sentence that stood out to me:
        “I’m so confused why hard work, good work ethic, and taking initiative has become such a bad thing.”

        I hope OP can take a step back and reframe this thought, because this framing is not going to be helpful to her at all.

        Of COURSE “Hard work, good work ethic, and taking initiative” hasn’t “become a bad thing.” So the issue is that what OP is intending to be a display “hard work, good work ethic, and taking initiative” is having a different effect than her intentions.

        Management isn’t punishing you for working hard, OP. That wouldn’t make sense on any level. There is an unintended effect your actions had, either practically, or emotionally, that is disruptive or unhelpful at your workplace. You’re new there, and it takes time to learn all the ins and outs. Take that time to do the work you’ve been assigned as best you can, and learn the whys and hows.

        1. Anonymous*

          That jumped out to me too, and I think your comment about reframing this thought in a different way is really helpful and important.

    4. HugsAreNotTolerated*

      This is such a well-thought out and evenhanded response! I 100% agree with all the points you made.

  7. RLB*

    The first LW needs to understand that you deciding to “help out cleaning” could have very well made life harder for the janitorial staff.

    If you’re interested in helping to clean, talk to the department head.
    As the head of sanitation and housekeeping I have a unique job and we do things a certain way for very good reasons.
    If someone not trained to clean to starts “cleaning” they’re most likely using the wrong products or procedure adding to the chore list at the end of the day. This isn’t helping.

    If you need more to do speak up! I and every other cleaning manager I know will welcome the help But if you’ve not asked any questions then you may just be creating more work for the professionals.

    1. John Smith*

      I’ll second this. Once had someone (one of many incompetent line managers we’ve suffered under) who decided to have a clean out. They threw away in-use equipment purely on their own decision that it wasn’t needed. Archived paperwork (required to be retained by law) ended up in the shredder and decided to clean some equipment with a chemical that caused the equipment to malfunction. This was 5 years ago and we’re still coming across the effects of his endeavours.

      By all means volunteer to go the extra mile, just make sure that your employer/colleagues are going to be happy with what you want to do.

    2. JSPA*

      It also makes it impossible to see at a glance if the job has been done (correctly), and creates the risk of mixing incompatible products, or even voiding a warrantee, if the wrong product for the surface is used.

      It’s really hard to go from running a household, where there’s something to be done every moment; where every task is your job; where your judgement on products and process is the only thing to consult, to the point that you stop even being aware that there could be other ways of doing that thing; and where every moment not used for doing something is a moment wasted, to a job where none of that holds true.

      It’s also hard to go from an abusive relationship as your main point of contact with the outside world, to having normal, ask-and-answer interactions with a boss…who is in fact your superior and who legitimately gives orders without it being abusive, because that’s their job.

      The way you prove yourself in a job is to [drumroll] do the job in the way that you are asked to do the job. Full stop.

      The way you go over-and-above is to ask if there’s anything else that you can do, or be trained to do (which very much includes, “taking ‘no’ for an answer”).

      The way you add to your responsibilities, if the above does not increase your responsibilities, is to shift jobs.

      OP, I know it grates to waste your time, but you’re literally one of the lowest paid people; this means that wasting your boss’ time is a lot worse, because your boss is paid more than you are. When you take on parts of other people’s jobs, you mess with the process, and with the schedule, in ways that mess with your boss’ time.

      It’s not the company’s fault that you are underemployed, right? If you make it clear that you can get your actual job done in less time, and that you mess with other people’s jobs, if they have you there for longer than that, then it makes 100% perfect sense for them to cut your hours.

      Your only goal should not be, “improving their process” or “proving how much more I can do in limited time, than what they budgeted for,” but “getting a new foothold in the work world, after 18 years out of the job market.”

      You don’t have to do that at your current job, if you can easily find another that fits you better.

      But, given that you chose your current job, and it’s a job that you can easily do, it’s worth trying to do the job exactly as described–with no extras, and especially with no drama–while picking up current professional norms (like, whether complaints and drama and opinions are welcome, which…mostly…no, they’re not). You can do that while applying for jobs that may better use your skills.

      But you’ve already learned a valuable lesson at this job, and it’s a lesson that will serve you well, wherever you may next go, which is, that your internal taskmaster (your superego, your “sense of what you should be doing”) does not get to overrule the actual parameters of the job you were hired for, as explained to you by your boss.

      1. Green great dragon*

        I think that this is true for this job, but it is not true for every job or every company. It’s definitely better to check in before starting! But I would be much happier with an employee who let me know she’s always finished grooming the llamas by 3 and offered to get on with lining them up in colour order than someone who just hung around twiddling their thumbs.

        1. ceiswyn*

          Sure, but that’s not what OP did. If you just rocked up to find the llamas lined up in colour order, and then had to call the vet because all the actual llama-wranglers know that the two blue llamas need to be kept separate but the ‘helpful’ groomer placed them close enough to fight – you would probably be less happy.

          1. ceiswyn*

            …I guess the important point that OP1 needs to take away is that there is a huge and VERY IMPORTANT distinction between ‘asking for more work’ and ‘just doing things that seem like a good idea to you’.

            The former is good. The latter is a massive pain for everyone.

            1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

              There is also a difference between just doing things that seem like a good idea when you’ve been there for a year and have a good idea about which ideas are good, and when you’ve just been there a month and don’t

            2. Observer*

              there is a huge and VERY IMPORTANT distinction between ‘asking for more work’ and ‘just doing things that seem like a good idea to you’.

              Very good summary of the issue.

        2. JSPA*

          Ah, but the key word is “offer.”

          That’s already covered:

          “The way you go over-and-above is to ask if there’s anything else that you can do, or be trained to do (which very much includes, “taking ‘no’ for an answer”).”

          That includes, “hey boss, how about I line up those llamas from darkest to lightest, and is there anything special I need to know?” not just, “got anything I can do next?” with a cheery smile.

          Though frankly, it’s easier to answer the second, rather than do a partial correction on the first, which involves a “no” or a “no, but” or a “yes, however.”

          “Yeah can you line them up by height”


          “Joe needs to give the medicine today before we get them lined up, so could you get out the long handled spoons and the llama spit smocks”

          or even,

          “please don’t do anything further, unless you want to take out the trash.” (They don’t owe you the explanation that today is the day that they are going to rate Joellen on her lama lineup skills.)

          More specifically, people who are brand new are rarely well suited to “just do that thing, in the way we all by now understand that it needs doing.”

          And people who are new to entry positions and who have the urge to comment and help… they deeply (!!!) need to internalize that nobody owes them an explanation of “why not,” when the answer is “no, please don’t.”

          If hearing that a helping hand isn’t needed sends your brain weasels into a spiral, that’s something you need to deal with internally, not something for someone else at work to help you handle.

          Even if you are a bonafide genius with stellar management skills, there are few ideas so good that they’ll make up for being someone who brings complications or drama to what would normally be the simplest of zero-drama jobs.

    3. PharmaKat*

      Also, sometimes it is more important to provide affordable service/product than to provide excellent service/product. So cutting LW1’s hours if they have so much free time on the job that they can help with clening makes business sense. The same applies to not cleaning the covers after each customer – this may not be financially feasible.
      Also, as someone who supervises employees doing manual labour, I agree with everything Alison mentioned. It is about all processes running smoothly, and the best way to achieve it is to follow rigorous protocols, have each task assigned to specific employee and adhere to a clear-cut schedule. The larger the organization/team size, the more important it is, otherwise the chaos ensues and processes spin out if control.

      1. JSPA*

        Doesn’t everyone already know that the bedspreads are not normally cleaned / changed after every guest??? I feel like I’ve never not known that…

        1. The Crowening*

          Yeah, I already knew that too, and whenever we stay in a hotel (which isn’t often anymore) I just assume that Who Knows What has happened on the cover. The bedspread/duvet/etc comes off right away.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Right? That’s what top sheets are for–creating a barrier between bodies and bedspreads.

          (Unless she meant top sheets when she said “top covers”? That is gross, but it’s still not her job to fix singlehandedly.)

        3. Emmy Noether*

          Rule of thumb: only things that are white cotton get washed in hotels. They can be boiled and bleached, quickly and efficiently. The pretty patterned beadspread? And the decorative satin pillows with the tassels? Too complicated/delicate.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      We had an intern who compulsively cleaned up a specific area of our workspace, which meant she was constantly re-filing things that we weren’t done using, so we’d have to retrieve them again. It was a massive waste of our time. Our supervisor had to threaten to end her internship (which would mean she couldn’t get her professional degree until she’d found another one) to get her to stop.

      The area wasn’t even messy–it was just that there were things left out (neatly arranged!) at the end of the day and she thought we were lazy for not putting them away. Well, I’m just going to want it back at 8:00 tomorrow morning and nobody will be here overnight to see the “clutter”, so who cares?

    5. CityMouse*

      We once had to deal with a legal secretary going in and making serious changes to files, sometimes overriding attorney decisions because she thought she was “helping”. Yeah, she got fired, and rightfully so.

  8. Knighthope*

    LW#1 – It’s not easy to step back and take direction when you are used to doing everything it takes to be a good mom and maintaining a household. A month into a job isn’t very long. Do what they ask with a positive attitude while you are looking for more challenging opportunities. And well done, for your hard work to get to where you are today!

  9. yvve*

    LW1: with full sympathy regarding the personal circumstances– why is there a whole genre of letters which summarize to “my boss told me to not do something, or to do something i think is a bad idea– do i have to listen to them?”

    yes, yea, probably you do! if its a REALLY bad idea, then make sure you cover your assets and get it in writing. But theres not really an outcome where someone can write into a third-party advice column and get agreement that they can do things their way, against clear instructions?

    ( this is mostly not about LW1– its the fact that this is a *recurring* letter type that i find so baffling)

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Regardless of the situation, there’s a certain type of person who thinks that rules should apply to everyone else, but not to them. (I have done stuff way beyond my job description in previous roles, but I always made sure to okay it with my supervisor first!)

      Also, I think some of the OP’s frustration in this case comes from the idea that the place they are working should be kept as spotlessly clean as their house. Unfortuately, that’s just not going to be feasible in the vast majority of workplaces, especially one that is frequently used by the public.

      1. Boolie*

        That’s a little harsh to assume about OP. While I appreciate just doing what you’re told to do, I don’t think doing extra busy work constitutes as some flagrant rule breaker. She wasn’t intending to overstep, she was trying to fill the time.

        1. ceiswyn*

          She wasn’t intending to overstep, but she did overstep. What she needs to do now is acknowledge that, learn from it, and do differently going forward – not blame her workplace for not valuing her gumption.

          1. The Crowening*

            Yeah. This – “I’m so confused why hard work, good work ethic, and taking initiative has become such a bad thing” – really stood out to me. OP is taking this really personally and chances are it’s not at all personal. This doesn’t mean “they don’t like me” and it certainly doesn’t mean “they don’t value hard work, good work ethic, and taking initiative” – I’ve literally never worked for anyone who doesn’t want employees to work hard. This isn’t personal, they just need OP to stay in her lane because even well-intended helping-without-asking can cause issues OP just hasn’t been there long enough to know about yet.

            When my son was a newborn, my MIL would “help” by doing various kitchen tasks. She did them the way she apparently does them in her own kitchen. However, it resulted in us having to redo some of the tasks due to her using the wrong products on things, and it also made it harder for us to find things when we needed them. Her intent was 100% good and we appreciated the intent but it was actively costing us time we couldn’t spare.

            1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

              I have dubbed this “Putting the Dishes Away.” You attend a dinner at a friend or family member’s home. Dinner is done, what do you do now? Clear the table? Obviously something you do. Load the dishwasher? Maybe, if you have done it before at the hosts’ home and understand what can and cannot go on what rack, and if you have confirmed it is OK with the hosts.

              Put the dishes away? No. Stop. You are going to do it wrong. You will put the serving spoons in the wrong drawer, the china that lives in the dining room hutch will be shoved into an overstuffed kitchen cabinet with the daily dishes, and no one will ever be able to find what you did with the lid to The Good Jar. You will make it worse. And rather than being “helpful” for your hosts, doing the job correctly will require constantly asking them where to put things, and doing the job wrong will result in later frustration for them.

              Organize the clean dishes together by type-ish in a place of the hosts’ designation and then STOP unless you receive enthusiastic consent to put them away.

    2. bamcheeks*

      I don’t think this is “do I have to listen to them”, it’s “are my expectations about what make a good worker wrong?” Nineteen years out of the workplace is a long time, and depending on LW’s age and what kind of work she was doing before she stopped working, it’s quite understandable that she has a bunch of expectations which are a mismatch for the type of work and environment she’s in now. If she was in her late teens or early twenties when she last worked, she probably had a bunch of “useful advice” of the “work hard! show initiative! gumption!” type, which works better for teenagers because they have less experience in seeing stuff that needs doing, so their “take initiative” is often more “do the next task on the list without someone specifically telling you” rather than “find a bunch of tasks that aren’t on the list. If she did have white-collar jobs, then she probably did have the scope to spot problems and develop her solutions, and going back to manual labour which is more heavily OSHA-regulated is a culture change. And above all, it’s been a long time since she’s had to calibrate what the expectations are for *this particular workplace*– that’s a skill in itself too.

      LW, I hope you can take this as a learning moment and it doesn’t knock your confidence too badly. Try and look at the situation with fresh eyes, and decide whether you can align your expectations with the relatively limited (and frustrating!) requirements of this role, or whether it’s a sign that you need to find a different kind of work. And do see whether there’s any return-to-work mentoring or peer support available in your area: I bet you are not the first to experience this and you won’t be the last! But you’ve got this. Lots of luck.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        “If she did have white-collar jobs, then she probably did have the scope to spot problems and develop her solutions, and going back to manual labour which is more heavily OSHA-regulated is a culture change.”

        Yeah, I was thinking this is actually quite a difficult issue to adapt to because it is so industry-dependent and situation-dependent. As a teacher, I rarely have to ask before deciding to do a job. Heck, I have decided to introduce certain subjects without asking anybody (this is a very specific situation but among other things, I teach students who are exempt from Irish and it was suggested I introduce some of the new what are called “short courses” as alternatives, but I am free to decide which courses to use with which students and which groups I should do something like EAL work with instead – obviously, a lot of students who arrive from other countries are exempt from Irish and some of these students need support with English). A lot of the time, I don’t even know who I would go about asking.

        There are things that require authorisation before I can do them but they are fairly major things like taking students on a trip, so if the LW had a job with similar levels of authority before, I can see why it wouldn’t even occur to her that things like cleaning would require permission. Even when I worked retail, it was assumed that we would notice things like that and do them if we weren’t busy.

        However, the LW’s boss has now made it clear that that is not how it works at her current workplace. I can understand why she is upset. She meant well and was doing what she thought was expected (there are some workplaces where not taking initiative and asking before doing anything would be taken poorly and she is used to being at home and running a family where initiative is obviously important), but the best thing she can do now is just adapt to what is expected in her workplace and maybe talk to somebody about whether there are any additional duties she could take on.

      2. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        Agreed, it’s very context-dependent. I’m a professional with over a decade of experience, in a white-collar job with broad responsibilities and latitude, and my boss has been trying to train me not only to spend less time getting buy-in and more time just making changes and communicating them, but even to override my boss if I’m the subject matter expert and I’m convinced I’m right. It’s not a matter of lack of confidence, exactly; I’ve always found it easy to conclude I’m right and my boss is wrong. It’s a mindset of, “Well, I accept the paycheck, I can’t ethically refuse to accept the terms on which it’s offered (taking orders from the hierarchy)…can I?”

        And my boss is pushing the idea that yes, I can, sometimes. He walks the walk, too: I’ve overridden him a couple times this year, and it’s worked out. In one specific case, I wanted our team to follow a new process, and he said it was a bad idea, and we had this conversation several times, until I decided to just do it anyway. I started telling people to follow the new process. Since seeing it in action, he’s embraced the process with the fervor of a convert and is now selling the advantages of the process to upper management, all the way up to the C-levels!

        So if a letter writer (not just this one) comes from an environment like this…it can be hard to know where to draw the line.

    3. Becca*

      I don’t know, there are some ideas where the right answer might be “no do not listen to them, try going above them to report what they are asking you to do.” I feel like we’ve gotten such letters here where that *was* more or less the answer, but I’m also thinking of “my boss asked me to leave a work note at a grave” here, which may have gotten such advice if LW had written in before doing the thing. It would easily apply to anything requiring you to break regulations and definitely to things where you would be personally liable and getting it in writing would not suffice. Ideally people working in such positions (the ones where the request in question is breaking a big deal regulation) would know when and have the confidence to push back, but… I can think of some where that’s frequently not going to be the case. And that’s before getting into whether they can risk the job, because if not they might have to go for whichever feels likely to end in the least bad way.

      But I agree with Bamcheeks. This feels more like a “check my sense of normal” question. Although the way things are phrased I get the feeling it might be more like a “validate me” question. I hope I’m wrong about that, because OP has gotten through so much and doesn’t need to be getting in her own way by doubling down on this!

    4. Ellis Bell*

      I don’t think this style is letter is always someone plotting gross insubordination, and on the verge of overhauling the boss’s filing system to their own preferred method. When they imply they don’t ‘have to listen’, I think they mean they don’t ‘have to internalise’ that they made a mistake and therefore they can do the instructions while rolling their eyes at the bad decision making above them.

    5. Gray Lady*

      I read these letters not so much as asking “do I have to listen to my boss” as “is this a normal thing for my boss to ask? Do I have an unreasonable boss or do I have to adjust my expectations of what is reasonable?” Even if it doesn’t change what you’re supposed to do, it’s helpful to give context as to what the norms and reasonable expectations are.

      In this case the LW doesn’t sound super open to the idea that she’s the one in the wrong, but at least she’s asking.

    6. Meep*

      +1 The only time you shouldn’t do something if your boss tells you to do something is if is illegal.

  10. takeachip*

    LW3, I find it’s always best to resist the temptation to give people a piece of my mind. Your anger about the situation isn’t actionable; there’s nothing your bosses can really do with it except react to it with whatever emotions they feel, and you have no control over that so there’s a risk that your anger will be met with a response that isn’t in your best interest. Even if you tone down the message, there isn’t much to be accomplished from going “on the record” about your objections to the way things are being done, especially when it doesn’t sound like anyone has behaved irresponsibly. It might make you feel better for a moment but it won’t change anything, and again it comes with a risk of you standing out in a way that could come back to bite you.

    1. Analyst*

      I mean ..they can remind everyone to at least follow the current guidelines of quarantine and masking even if asymptomatic. OP’s coworker wasn’t. They can also use this to push back for WFH. I approach it calmly and not with the fury I’m sure they feel though .

      1. nodramalama*

        There’s absolutely no evidence to suggest the asymptotic person wasn’t doing that. They may have had absolutely no idea that they came into contact with someone with covid, so they would have no reason to quarantine or mask.

        1. Peachtree*

          Yes agreed – I had covid recently and I’m pretty certain I caught it at work, as three people in an eight person workshop tested positive the week after. But no one was showing symptoms at the workshop, and testing isn’t mandatory here, so are we supposed to just test three times a week on an off chance? Considering the tests cost £2 each – I don’t think that’s happening for most people …

        2. Alice*

          I mean, if they were really asymptomatic, then presumably they tested because they were informed of an exposure. We don’t know how early or late they found out about the exposure, but at some point they must have.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Coworker did test and tell work about the results, so that points to them being responsible and following guidelines.

        The way this usually goes is: you meet a friend on friday, go to work on monday as normal, tuesday your friend calls to say they tested positive – you also test and dang, positive. There’s nothing to be done about this sequence of events, except 100% WFH or 100% masking, which isn’t the guideline in most places anymore. Even with daily testing this can happen, because of incubation periods. I was even symptomatic and tested negative, the positive came a day later.

      3. Observer*

        they can remind everyone to at least follow the current guidelines of quarantine and masking even if asymptomatic. OP’s coworker wasn’t.

        How do you know that? The current guidelines for masking don’t require it of people who are asymptomtic unless they have been exposed. You don’t know that the person who had a positive covid test was at work unmasked after they found out that they were exposed.

  11. nodramalama*

    For LW2 i definitely don’t think I’d notice if a candidate arrived with luggage. Maybe if it was a comically large suitcase or they were dragging around a Kardashian amount of suitcases. The rocking up at 30 minutes early and just sitting in your office as you eat lunch is definitely a misjudge. I definitely get turning up early, but I would go to the local cafe or something.

    For LW3 I sympathise with you, but I think its just the reality that not everyone was going to mask forever. People don’t perceive mask wearing as the norm, and a lot of people find wearing them uncomfortable! Hopefully it has changed some norms like wearing them if you’re sick, but I just don’t think its realistic to expect it to continue indefinitely.

  12. Mollie*

    My heart swelled and broke at #3. I’ve been there. Haven’t found anyone willing to be sympathetic yet, even without me so much as mentioning my reasons for masking, so it’s back to remote work for me.

    1. Rimowa or bust*

      No one is saying you can’t mask voluntarily.

      OP is demanding that OTHERS mask, when not sick, despite that no longer being commensurate with the risk posted by Covid.

      1. Dell*

        Whether or not it’s commensurate with the risk is a judgement call and not at all clear-cut. For the LW’s spouse the risk of LW being around unmasked people is still very high.

        1. Rimowa or bust*

          Fine, so LW and her spouse can mask. No one is saying otherwise. (Why they are babysitting is another question.) She does not get to set the floor for society writ large.

          1. Anon for this one*

            I was immunocompromised last year due to chemo. Any fever was an instant hospitalization. COVID would, at minimum, have been a hospitalization plus a three week delay in treatment, if not worse. I didn’t leave the house for months other than to go to medical appointments. My wife masked whenever she was indoors outside the home, and didn’t do any indoor socializing or shopping other than groceries. Her coworkers masked when in a room with her, because they aren’t jerks.

      2. Mask Solidarity*

        The CDC recently said that 1 in 10 infections cause new and perhaps permanent health conditions and disabilities. Not for 1 in 10 people, 1 in 10 infections. So every time you get COVID, you are raising the already high level of risk that you will end up with a new health condition or disability.

        Saying that COVID is now somehow less dangerous or on par with a case of the sniffles simply isn’t what science says.

        I don’t expect I will change your opinion, but I am hopeful that putting this fact out there might help others who are deciding on what risks they want to take. I wish you luck taking yours.

        1. T.N.H.*

          I’m not seeing that data anywhere. Can you provide a source? That’s not in line with the long Covid research on the CDC website currently.

          1. Caramel & Cheddar*

            The 1 in 10 number comes from the World Health Organization. They announced it on April 26, 2023.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Removed a long off-topic thread here that was becoming a political debate. Please stay focused on advice for the LW, y’all. Thank you.

      3. Katara's side braids*

        Because one-way masking, especially for vulnerable people, is simply not enough based on the data. The only way “you do you and I’ll do me” works is if you’re okay with vulnerable people having to choose between total isolation and debilitating (or deadly) illness.

        1. Anon for this one*

          I was in fact totally isolated, other than medical appointments, when I was immunocompromised during chemo. My wife had to work in person, but because her coworkers weren’t jerks they masked when in a room with her.

      4. Ginger Cat Lady*

        Maybe the risk posed *to you* by Covid. That’s not the same for everyone.
        Your lack of care for high risk people is showing.

  13. Lozroz*

    Number 4 – probably just a way for them to bulk out the job description to be honest!

    1. ferrina*

      Or they just finished updating their code of conduct, and some executive mentioned off hand “we should include this in our job descriptions.” So now it’s a random bullet in job descriptions. I could totally see my job doing this.

      Seconding Alison- it read as boilerplate to me.

    2. Random Dice*

      I read it as their last hire was a nightmare.

      It’s like how so many online dating profiles are basically just an outline of their emotional baggage from their last ex or two.

  14. HA2*

    My work gave me COVID as well. I know exactly how, too.

    It sucks. I have nothing but nasty things to say about them all.

  15. Mothman*

    Regarding the hotel job, I think two things may be happening than what was mentioned.

    1. You’re seeing how the sausage gets made…and it’s icky. This is fairly normal, and your reaction could have been a bit bigger than you realized simply because of the shock.

    2. You’re dealing with trauma. I was in an abusive marriage for a decade, and I didn’t always realize what I was doing was a reaction. Feeling the need to do everything could be closer to “I need to keep everyone calm and happy” than you realize. You could likely feel really sensitive to the responses you’re getting, which may not be as harsh as they seem.

    The good news is that the trauma gets better. If you have a great teammate or boss, ask them for help guiding you through this major life transition. You’ve got this!

    1. ecnaseener*

      I agree about #2 – I’m sure we don’t have all the details, but from the letter it sounds like a simple statement of “I only need you to do what you’re hired to do” (very reasonable thing to say) is being interpreted as “has a huge problem with me.” It might just be a simple correction and not a personal problem with you, LW – you’re not in that abusive environment anymore.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This is a really compassionate comment and I agree with it fully. I’m in a phase now of working through “dear god is my entire personality just a trauma symptom?” and while no, it’s not, a lot of my reactions are, and I have to think through them a lot more deliberately than some other people do.

      OP – if this is what’s going on, and I think that’s a good guess, it’s going to take time to get better but it’s very normal. Being aware of it helps a lot.

  16. Chrissssss*

    I have no advice for OP#3 (covid at workplace), but you have my understanding and sympathies. I myself was infected last year at the office and haven’t recovered since then, but also I don’t get real help from doctors. I get the feeling that people (in general, not all) don’t care, and being thrown under the bus so that the lucky ones can pretend it’s 2019.

    As alyson wrote, I’m affraid the only thing we can do is get a remote job where other people can’t endanger us.

    1. Mask Solidarity*

      I am so sorry that you are going through this. You are absolutely correct. I hope you find a doctor that is helpful and that you have a full recovery sometime soon.

    2. Katara's side braids*

      I’m so sorry. The dismissive attitude toward long haulers has been so demoralizing.

  17. AlwhoisThatAl*

    #5 – Either say it was a Contract job which is a bit naughty or just say it was a mutual decision to leave as you wanted to do x,y and z. Having now done those you are actively looking again.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      I don’t recommend either of these. At some point a future employer is likely to contact someone at the previous position and learn it was a layoff and they won’t be thrilled to learn their applicant didn’t tell the truth.

      Layoffs are tough but there is no shame in it – and my understanding from friends in tech is that it can be really common. Heck, even being fired doesn’t automatically have to be a game ender if you address it thoughtfully (depending on the reason for the firing.) Just say what actually happened.

    2. Welsh Cake*

      No, and no. Do not lie. You do not have to state why you are job hunting, but you should not try to hide the fact that you were let go if it comes up. Addressing that honestly and reasonably is a much better look than trying to hide it by lying.

      (also, “a bit naughty”? Please. It’s dishonest, unethical and foolish. Don’t be that person.)

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Why lie when the truth is completely innocuous?
      There’s no need to volunteer the info, but if they ask why you left your last job and you say you were laid off, no reasonable employer is going to bat an eye.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Exactly. Layoffs are not firings. Layoffs are because the job doesn’t exist anymore. Well should be that way. Its not a fault thing that you need to hide. Its also not badmouthing your former employer.

        1. Snarfblatt*

          Well one time I was part of a layoff, but I was the only member of my department who was impacted. The other laid off employees were all from the same department and worked on a business line they were exiting. I was performing poorly and they took the opportunity to get rid of me.

          That said, doing it that way allowed me to save face, I could honestly say I was laid off. So it only took me a few weeks to find another job, where I stayed for over 5 years.

          Lying in this case is almost certainly worse than just telling the truth.

      2. Observer*

        Why lie when the truth is completely innocuous?

        Yeah, that stuck out to me as well.

        In a way it’s even worse than lying to cover up a real problem. Because if someone lies “just because” I don’t even have a reasonable way to asses the likelihood of the person lying in other situations. Which is bad.

    4. Rose*

      If I found out someone lied about something being a contract job, which you almost likely would when you checked references, I wouldn’t hire them. If they’re lying about something that innocuous, who knows what else they’re lying about?

      Saying something was a contract job when it wasn’t or that you’d decided to leave when it was a layoff, quite possibly a very large, not performance based in any way layoff given our current climate, does absolutely nothing to make you look better. If anything they make you look worse, even before the totally unnecessary lie is discovered. Absolutely do not do this.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, don’t do that. They’ll learn the truth in a reference check and it’s likely to cost you the job offer for lying. This is really bad advice!

    6. I have RBF*

      No. Just no.

      There is no stigma at any reasonable employer in an applicant having been laid off. It’s not that you quit or were fired for cause, they eliminated your job. Not a black mark, it’s a business decision.

      Just be honest. It’s easier than lying and won’t get you fired when they find out the truth.

  18. fgcommenter*

    LW1: I’m sorry you’ve received so much negativity for trying to do the right thing. You are learning an unfortunate reality that some companies will cut corners when they feel they can get away with it, preferring health risks over a loss of profit, and reporting this to people within the company is often unproductive because they are incentivized to let problems fester in order to cut costs.

    Allowing things to become excessively dusty, filthy, and improperly cleaned, especially if bedding is not sufficiently ensured to be sanity and (for sheets and pillowcases) changed between guests can be in violation of state regulations; a search for your state’s regulations on the matter, and if necessary, a call to your state health department, would be the most realistic way of getting these issues fixed, in light of your supervisor’s response.

    1. Boolie*

      I’m glad there’s some deviation from Alison’s advice here, I do think she missed the mark a bit. Yes, do just your job and don’t be other people’s boss when you’re not, but if things are bad enough it does warrant a call to an outside authority. Additionally, when people are indeed doing their job wrong and it is allowed to continue it can pile up out of control.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Nothing in the letter warranted a call to an outside authority, though?

    2. I should really pick a name*

      The “right thing” in this situation is what the employer asks you to do.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I’m not sure that’s a useful universal rule though – and there are situations close to this one where it wouldn’t be appropriate to just do what the employer says. For instance, if the employer told LW to use a product for laundry that was cheaper but not safe for linen due to high risk of allergic reactions, that wouldn’t be the right thing to do.

        LW wrote in for guidance and that’s a good thing. I sympathise because hotels are disgusting and it’s hard to stomach that sometimes.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          It doesn’t need to be a universal rule–it just needs to be a universal consideration. You don’t do this without asking (which doesn’t mean that you never do it at all, you just make sure first that it’s wanted).

        2. Rimowa or bust*

          If the hotel has made a decision to use a particular kind of detergent, it’s not your place to unilaterally decide it’s “unsafe” and switch to another. That’s why we have product testing.

          1. Dahlia*

            I think they mean if, like, the hotel was advertising themselves as allergy friendly or the like, and you decided that wasn’t against your morals, you are allowed to say “I can’t work here” and also report them to any relevant authorities.

            Like if the restaurant you’re working at decided they might as well take advantage of all the rats in the kitchen and start putting them in the burgers, you don’t have to just go along with it.

            1. Nina*

              Agreed, but the starting point isn’t quitting and calling the health inspector. The starting point is saying ‘hey manager I thought we were advertised as allergy friendly, this detergent isn’t allergy friendly at all, should I be using something else or is there a reason for this?’ It could be someone in purchasing Screwed. Up. Bad. and the manager will appreciate being able to fix the problem. It could be the detergent is generally allergy friendly but not friendly to your particular allergies. It could be that that is indeed the hotel’s policy. In any case, going off half-cocked and running to the health inspector is just going to get you fired.

    3. EPLawyer*

      That’s a huge leap. It is just that the employer has not assigned her to find out how to improve performance, tasks. She’s been there a month. OP doesn’t have a grasp of why things are done the way they are. And neither do we.

      But, in general, the first month on the job is to learn the job, not learn everyone else’s job or reorg the entire place. The boss was not being unreasonable to ask that OP do her just as assigned and only that. The boss might have been too harsh in saying it, but it needed to be said.

    4. hbc*

      The “right thing” is not to let someone who hasn’t been trained to, say, climb up on ladders to reach the top of the machines, stir up dust that can be pulled into their lungs or the air intakes of machines that are currently running, and use whatever cleaner seems best on expensive control interfaces. That’s the kind of thing that gets you in trouble with OSHA, not a half inch of dust on a 10 foot tall machine in the basement.

      1. BradC*

        Great answer.

        This brings to mind a piece by programmer/entrepreneur Joel Spolsky titled “Making Wrong Code Look Wrong” (I won’t link it, but its easily searchable). He’s using it for a software analogy, but in this article he talks about his time working at a bread factory, and that it took him a long time to even *understand* what it really meant for the machines on the floor to be “clean”:

        > It took me a couple of months of cleaning the bakery every morning before I realized what they meant. In the bakery, clean meant no dough on the machines. Clean meant no fermenting dough in the trash. Clean meant no dough on the floors.

        > Clean did not mean the paint on the ovens was nice and white. Painting the ovens was something you did every decade, not every day. Clean did not mean no grease. In fact there were a lot of machines that needed to be greased or oiled regularly and a thin layer of clean oil was usually a sign of a machine that had just been cleaned.

        > The whole concept of clean in the bakery was something you had to learn. To an outsider, it was impossible to walk in and judge whether the place was clean or not. An outsider would never think of looking at the inside surfaces of the dough rounder (a machine that rolls square blocks of dough into balls, shown in the picture at right) to see if they had been scraped clean. An outsider would obsess over the fact that the old oven had discolored panels, because those panels were huge. But a baker couldn’t care less whether the paint on the outside of their oven was starting to turn a little yellow. The bread still tasted just as good.

        1. Lurker*

          Wow, thank you for linking to this article. I had never heard of it before and it really clarifies a lot for me. I’m going to save and print it for my office.

    5. Relentlessly Socratic*

      This is a bit excessive. OP says this “They only change the top covers if they are stained, and no one cleans properly. ”

      Hotels do not change the top covers often, they really don’t. Housekeeping doesn’t deep clean rooms, they clean the bathrooms, remove trash, change bedding, quick dust, and vacuum. To someone who has been cleaning their own home to high standards, it won’t look like it’s been properly cleaned. Filth, like you are projecting, would cause guests to leave and complain.

    6. Nina*

      In all possible seriousness, do not call your state’s anything department until a) you’ve spoken to your manager b) they’ve confirmed that that’s the way things are and the way upper management want them to be and c) you have another job lined up.

      OP’s primary responsibility right now is to keep herself employed, because that’s how she pays the rent. Working in a job that’s doing things you think are unethical sucks ass, but sometimes you have to just keep your head down, avoid doing unethical stuff yourself, and focus on not getting fired until you have something to do that’s more in line with your moral code.

      If you run out of things to do and see something that obviously needs doing (dusting the top of the washer?) by all means say ‘hey boss I have finished all the tasks you gave me, should I dust the tops of the washers?’ but don’t just go and do it, not in your first month on the job.

  19. Nebula*

    Re: 4 – those requirements sound fine, I think for that sort of thing it needs to be a bit more glaringly weird or you need other context to determine if it’s a red flag.

    A few years ago, I was going to apply for jobs with a major prestigious national employer that had a base close to me – I’d heard not so great things about them, but thought I’d look anyway. Every single job posting had a requirement that was something to do with having high levels of emotional control and the ability to deal with pressurised emotional environments. Combined with what I knew from other people who worked/had worked there, I figured it was code for “will put up with bullying” and I never applied.

    But that was a particularly egregious example, in general if I came across something like that which gave me pause, I’d maybe bear it in mind if I got invited to interview and assess the working environment more closely, but it definitely wouldn’t be a red flag.

    1. Dragon_Dreamer*

      See above, turns out there was a bit more drama involved when I asked friends who worked there.

  20. Expiring Cat Memes*

    #LW4: IME working in government, every job listing includes some boilerplate relating to the org values. It’s in the template pack all hiring managers are given, and usually at least a couple make it through verbatim. Though I have also seen some interesting attempts to shoehorn them into the role description instead, resulting in spectacularly clunky wording. If you’re deep enough in their vernacular you can understand what the intent is, but to an outsider those bullet points would sound very strange!

    1. Sundae funday*

      Same in higher ed. Our HR also recently started rewriting our required qualifications to be more “ LinkedIn” friendly and the results are weird, as if he job posting was run though an online word spinner to avoid plagiarism charges. We successfully pushed back against some of the more egregious recordings and additions, but I didn’t love what remained. We still got a great hire, though!

  21. anxiousGrad*

    LW3, as someone who is also high risk, I fully support your continuing to take precautions and understand your anxiety. However, at this stage of the pandemic, I don’t think that we can continue to view other people not taking the same precautions as them doing something morally or ethically wrong. People who are immune compromised or have chronic diseases have always been at increased danger of severe illness compared to the general population, and the rest of the world has always operated without regard to those people. When I was in high school, my grandfather was immune compromised because of cancer treatments and he got a cold which he gave to my grandmother. She ended up getting pneumonia, which exacerbated her autoimmune disorder and led to an 8 month downward spiral in her health until she died.
    When I was in college, I got some kind of viral lower respiratory infection which made me sick for months due to my asthma and most likely triggered my developing hypothyroidism. When COVID started, I was scared out of my mind until I got the vaccine because, having asthma, I get pneumonia quite easily. When I did eventually get COVID, I ended up having an easier time of it than with other illnesses I had had in the past. I’m not saying this to downplay the severity of COVID, since I know that many people have gotten pneumonia and/or developed chronic illnesses from COVID. But the truth is that the dangers of living and working with other people have existed since before COVID and continue to exist outside of COVID. These dangers are indeed greater for people with chronic illnesses, and maybe it isn’t fair that others don’t take consideration for those people, but unfortunately life with a chronic illness is often unfair. Yes, COVID has brought attention to the problems with doing things like going to work without a mask when you’re sick, but it’s not necessarily wrong for someone who has no symptoms of any illness to decide that they’re not going to continue masking on a daily basis.

    1. Melissa*

      Thank you for verbalizing this so well. I don’t like the moral tone that gets infused so often— as though walking around bare-faced in 2019 was fine, but in 2023 it makes you an immoral person.

      1. CityMouse*

        I just want to note my Dad’s one of the doctors who was out firmly fighting the pandemic from the beginning despite personal risk, and he doesn’t mask socially now (he does with patients). Very reasonable, pro science, and educated people can make different choices.

    2. allhailtheboi*

      I think this is a very well thought out and worded response which I totally agree with.

    3. Alice*

      I respect your opinion and I think your blood pressure is probably lower than mine….
      But I can’t get over it. I am not OP but I’m in a similar situation – immunocompromised household member, I work partly in person, with some people who refuse masks. I also got COVID,a lmost certainly at work, though I avoided household transmission that time. (Later on, my immunocompromised partner got it, probably at the doctor’s ofice, and I didn’t try as hard to avoid household transmission.)
      I am still not over the fact that colleagues who I thought were my friends know about the risk to my partner and yet can’t be bothered to:
      -wear a mask when they are in the room with me
      – use the free testing we (for now) have access to, at least after returning from big events where we know from social media that COCID was spreading
      – stay home when they are sneezing and sniffling
      It has absolutely tanked the relationship and I can’t take seriously anything they say about DEI as a result (and they have a lot to say about DEI).

      1. CautiousCathy*

        I was living alone and a few hours away from family who are higher risk for the bulk of the pandemic, but I still was really cautious. If I knew I was seeing that family soon I’d mask up at work for a couple of weeks before (I wasn’t masking at work all the time but I was and still am in other indoor places). If I was going someplace I thought had the potential to be a spreading event, I was in a mask. When I was exposed I tested if I was able (tests were in short supply in my area) and masked as advised.

        I sometimes got frustrated with my colleagues for not picking up what’s I was putting down. If you see me in a mask and I’ve explained to you why I’m in the mask and it’s for the protection of my loved ones of course you’re going to come to the conclusion that you should be following the same protocols right? But at one point I realized that I never asked them to, and if I wasn’t willing to do that it was also unfair of me to expect them to just do it on their own.

        I’ll also add that I was by most standards a really really cautious person, but I also wouldn’t have met your standards. I couldn’t stay home every time I had a sniffle, I wore a mask but if I wasn’t testing positive I was probably coming in because we didn’t have enough sick time to cover that. There were times that tests were scarce and I had to do a risk assessment about my symptoms (or lack thereof) after a potential but not confirmed exposure, and had to decide if I was better to save the test.

      2. Antilles*

        Expecting someone to stay home any time they have “sneezes or sniffles” seems like an enormous ask given that stuff like seasonal allergies or very mild colds can last for literal weeks.
        Unless your company has unlimited PTO/complete WFH freedom *and* no penalties for using it, that’s just…not realistic.

        1. Alice*

          If anyone out there is in that situation: as your COVID-cautious colleague, I get that you are under pressure to come in despite your symptoms If you want me to be more comfortable working with you in person, your obvious respiratory symptoms notwithstanding, here are some ideas:
          You could wear a mask when you are coughing during our meeting.
          You could offer to meet outside.
          You could offer to meet via Zoom even though we are both in the office.
          You could sit down at a different table from me at the big meeting with 40 people.
          You could refrain from making “jokes” about how I’m still wearing a mask and still eating lunch outdoors.

          1. Rose*

            People don’t plan when they’re going to cough. Sometimes people cough.

            If you were at a point where you are working in person, but very anxious when somebody coughs indoors near you you are in the minority.

            Why don’t you suggest those things to your coworkers if they are what you need to feel safe?

            I see this as someone with a health condition that Covid has greatly exasperated and who has lost a family member to Covid: you cannot expect the world to bend around your needs all the time. Request the things YOU need to feel safe, and stop trying to make others feel guilty for not accommodating you in all the ways you want.

    4. NforKnowledge*

      This is very well said, thank you.
      I agree it would be better if we could keep the mindset of masking when we are ill, as many in East Asian countries do, but sadly that seems to not be the case.

    5. tiny*

      A thing I deal with personally, as an immunocompromised person of the “vaccines don’t work” variety, is confusing past anger for current anger. I am still mad, I think justifiably, about how things went down in 2021 and early 2022 (there was a lot of “everyone who wants a vaccine can get one, so I don’t have to care literally at all”). And so sometimes I still feel irrationally mad about mask policies ending in present day, even though I think in my area at least we’re getting into a level of risk that’s not going to fall meaningfully anytime soon.

    6. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I think the difference is that unless you were immunocompromised yourself or knew someone who was, most people pre-pandemic didn’t give much thought to how their own illnesses might impact other people. We’re more than three years into a pandemic and it’s become incredibly clear that our sicknesses *can* impact others even if they don’t impact us severely. It’s not unreasonable to have hoped this would make us kinder and more compassionate, but instead they get told “Sorry, life isn’t fair.” We have a chance to do better by these people and we are absolutely not taking it because we think getting dealt a bad hand with your health is a personal problem.

      1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

        Most people are not making masking decisions AT immune-compromised populations. If you insist on framing it that way, you will get nowhere, because you’re assuming that if some one does not do what you want, they are failing to do it maliciously.

        The reality is that most of us have accepted the personal risk levels of the not being masked. If you request that I put a mask on, I am likely to do so, because I am not a monster – and in my experience the same is true of most people. If you demand it, you’re less likely to get my compliance, because I’ve spent the pandemic dealing with the various demands of others, and I’ve come to hate that tone. If you simply assume I will do so because you wish I would… well, I’m sorry, but were you confused as to whether I was telepathic, or you were the foremost concern in my life?

    7. CityMouse*

      I mean the issue is, at this point, people aren’t going to mask forever. Hospitalizations are way down, so from a public health perspective, they’re not requiring it. From an individual perspective sure, but the reality is at this point it’s really not that different from not masking in 2019. Flu, RSV, bacterial pneumonia all existed then and exist now.

      1. Courageous cat*

        Yeah, I don’t know why society acts like this is a new phenomenon with COVID. There was no scientific doubt whatsoever that, even in 2010, a healthy person giving the flu to an immunocompromised person could kill them. This was common knowledge, so I am not sure why now we’re expecting things to be significantly different.

        1. Nebula*

          I got flu in December 2019 and had to go to hospital to get my lungs checked out – this as an otherwise healthy 27 year old. I’m pretty sure I picked up that flu infection at work. At least now I feel more empowered to say to friends who are/have recently been sick that I don’t want to hang out with them while they’re still infectious. And I mask when I’m sick, whatever it is, and I now have the option to wfh when sick as well. I think it depends on your social circle etc., but at least in some quarters Covid has at least made people far more aware that “powering through” is actually irresponsible if you’re in a position to stay at home instead, no matter what the illness is. To bring it back to the original letter, it’s not entirely clear but it sounds like the coworker didn’t come into the office after testing positive, so that is an improvement over 2019 at least.

          1. Courageous cat*

            Yep. I had the flu in 2018 myself, at a perfectly healthy 31, and it was absolutely savage. Took me out much harder than COVID did. These things have always been around.

            1. Clisby*

              I’ve had flu twice as an adult – once when I was 19 or 10, once when I was mid-30s. It’s the sickest I have ever been in my life. Both times my temperature was almost 105.

              This is one reason I was almost apoplectic when people dismissed Covid-19 as “just like flu.” Apparently, no one who said that had ever actually had flu.

        2. Katara's side braids*

          Because more of us are aware of how our own health affects others? I admit that in 2019 I didn’t give much thought to how my sniffles could affect an immunocompromised person, but now I absolutely do. I wouldn’t blame someone for judging me if I actively chose to return to my 2019 behavior.

    8. WellRed*

      You can be asymptomatic and remain so no matter when informed of a possible exposure. Man I wish this was the first comment so everyone would see it.

    9. I Licked Your Salt Lamp*

      I do think that, unfortunately, the average person -from my own experience at least- seems to think of covid as something we just have to live with now, its like the flu and realistically its true that it will never be eradicated at this point. I do wish more people had seen the past 3 years as a learning opportunity to be more compassionate and considerate, but unfortunately it seems even most of the people I know who did take it seriously and were super careful, have regressed into not caring so much/ trying to return to normal. I don’t think that makes them evil though, maybe its human nature tbh we don’t think too much of immunocompromised people unless we know one.

      That said, if I knew I work with someone who is trying to protect a loved one, I will either keep my distance or mask in their presence at least. I think that should be common courtesy now.

    10. Chrissssss*

      “People who are immune compromised or have chronic diseases have always been at increased danger of severe illness compared to the general population, and the rest of the world has always operated without regard to those people”

      But the pandemic would have been a good oportunity to become aware about the existence of vulnerable people, and learn that everyone can become vulnerable. Instead we as a society chose to throw vulnerable people under the bus, instead of doing something simple like masking when going to the doctor.

      Just wearing one if you have a doctor’s appointement or you go buy a groceries is a simple thing one can do which would allow more people to live less in the margin of society.

      Yes, being vulnerable makes things unfair, but part of the unfairness is chosen.

      1. I have RBF*

        Yes, being vulnerable makes things unfair, but part of the unfairness is chosen.


        Our society still does not protect the vulnerable among us from preventable diseases. It’s sad.

      2. anxiousGrad*

        I absolutely agree that people should continue wearing masks when they’re in healthcare settings or are sick. However, LW3 seems to be upset that their coworkers aren’t all masking everyday even when they don’t have symptoms/know that they’re sick. The message we’re getting from public health officials now is that everyone should assess their own health risks and choose whether or not to mask based on that. So I don’t think it’s an unethical choice to follow that guidance. The fact that that guidance makes life more difficult for vulnerable people may be problematic at a societal level, but I don’t think people are doing something wrong at the individual level by following what public health experts are saying.

      3. Anon4This*

        Some of us are vulnerable in ways that make masking difficult for us. People seem to conveniently forget that part.

        1. Anon as Well*

          Thank you! COVID was the sickest I ever was, I still have fatigue, and this was honestly best case scenario for me with immune problems….BUT masking tweaked my anxiety so bad that I developed hair trigger nausea resulting in my vomiting or dry heaving any time I had to take public transportation in a mask (as in, all the time to go into the office) and then had to remain in it. The damage to my teeth, throat, esophagus and stomach isn’t awesome, and the stomach is worse because it is also connected to the immune issues. When we could stop masking, I did. I decided I could live with the risk of reinfection and death more than shredding my stomach a risk of massive bleeding and death. There was no option where “and death” was not a possibility.

    11. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I think the hard part for those of us who are, and will always be, at risk from fun new and old illnesses is the prevailing attitude that “well, it’s pretty much safe for everyone but those people at high risk! Unmask! Run free!” is that we do feel left behind.

      I am grateful for the people around me who understand my ongoing caution, but it’s still a drag that I have to be so vigilant and it feels lonely with fewer people being cautious with me. I’m not angry about it, and I think living in a very liberal and highly educated region of the US helps me not be angry because people did take it very seriously from the get-go–we were all in it together for the most part. If I lived somewhere where folks were more cavalier, I probably would be constantly seething.

    12. Katara's side braids*

      I don’t think “we didn’t mask before COVID so why would we mask after” works as well as everyone thinks it does. We now know that masking in public, especially in health care settings and/or when sick, can make life much more accessible for the disabled and immunocompromised. We can’t un-know that, and neither can they – many people who had previously been totally isolated were able to access community and career growth for the first time during lockdown, and later during mask mandates. Now they’re watching that access dwindle back to nearly nothing, and no one seems to care. I’m not saying we need to pretend it’s 2020, but why on earth would we go back to 2019?

      Plus, COVID itself is still very new, even if it feels like it isn’t. We’re still learning the long term effects. Again, I don’t think all healthy people should be masking everywhere forever. But until we figure out how to prevent and treat long-term symptoms from this particular disease, I do think it’s a bit callous to pretend it’s 2019 again. If we don’t want masks to be a moral issue, we should all be mobilizing for improved ventilation and sick leave policy instead of just telling vulnerable people they’re on their own.

  22. SimpleAutie*

    LW1: I’ve been in pretty close to your exact shoes. While it wasn’t an abusive marriage, but an abusive upbringing, the rest is very familiar- I took a job that would gently get me “out there” and then found myself in trouble for, what seemed to me, taking initiative and working hard.

    The good news is that this is a flag that you’re actually ready for more- while you do have to keep your critique of how others do their responsibilities to yourself, you also are learning that you need and want a job where you can spot and then solve problems, have enough work to fill your days working full speed, and take on additional responsibilities as needed.

    Those jobs are out there.

    You do have to be careful not to imply that you’re somehow better than others because you’re invested in a way it feels like others are not, but it really sounds like you want to prove yourself and I encourage you to realize you have proven yourself. You are excelling at the stuff your job consists of and just need some practice at getting stuff done within a larger group setting, which often means keeping your mouth shut until you’ve built enough capital to pick a battle you can win.

    You can thrive. I believe in you.

  23. Redaktorin*

    LW1, I’m so sorry this happened. Like you, I exited an abusive relationship into a job in which I immediately overstepped and was eventually fired by someone I alienated.

    FWIW, there were three things going on, neither of which were about me being a smugly superior rule breaker.

    1) I genuinely needed to be doing harder work and have felt mostly fine since being promoted to a higher level.

    2) I needed way more money for my kid than I was getting as an assistant and spent most of my time wondering when I could finally have that money and how to prove myself so I could get it.

    3) The most important person in my life had been calling me stupid for many years, and I really wanted to prove I was not. I wanted to prove it so bad that … I did a lot of stupid stuff.

    I hope you read this comment and know that you will be okay. Similar things have happened to many people leaving abusive relationships with kids. You’re normal and still pretty much on track, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

    1. Redaktorin*

      *None of which, LOL. I had originally been writing about two things. (Man I wish this site had an edit button.)

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I definitely think the OP got into a tunnel where they were trying overly hard to prove themselves in order to feel worthwhile, and made the job into more of an emotional journey than a simple business transaction is supposed to be. I also think it’s more difficult than people think to go from a situation where you’re self directed (as a SAHP) to one where you have to take orders, do stuff that makes no immediate sense, and stay in your lane. It can be harder to keep your mouth shut about perceived failings too.

    3. ferrina*


      All of these resonated with me for different reasons. I’ve gone through all of these, though thankfully all at different times in my life (not at the same time). #3 clicked with me the hardest- when someone that you trusted has spent years telling you who you are (and possibly/probably gaslighting you to make you fit their description) it’s so hard to be yourself again. Abusive relationships also foster paranoia- which is totally reasonable! Paranoia helps you survive the relationship, but when you get out and you can’t trust anyone and you feel like other people are looking for ways to tear you down…..yeah, I’ve lived that a couple times. I didn’t even realize that’s what I was doing or that my thought process wasn’t normal. I just felt like of course people would pounce on my mistakes, and I had to be perfect (or at least better than anyone else) so I could deserve something basic. Because that’s the way my abuser had treated me.

      Sending good wishes and love to LW!

      1. Flowers*

        I just felt like of course people would pounce on my mistakes, and I had to be perfect (or at least better than anyone else) so I could deserve something basic. Because that’s the way my abuser had treated me.

        Holy crap that’s how I was raised. I’ve had this thought in my head for the better part of my adult life that I need to work twice as hard to be half as good. Hasn’t stopped me from making a million mistakes or looking “not perfect.”
        Probably why I get cringe so hard after when I post something, everyone says X but I believe is Y.

  24. HighRisk*

    RE: LW3 – can this employee talk to HR or a manager to see how to improve this situation. Is there a possibility for a more permanent remote accommodation or the ability to have a more isolated space to work if in office? If the job was fully remote, and the employee was hired as a permanent remote employee, then it’s seriously messed up to require a RTO on many levels. That’s not made clear though. If this person was hired as an on-site employee and the intent was always to RTO then that’s a different story.

    Alison – how can there be no ADA accommodation for something like this, especially for a job that truly can be done remotely (obviously not all jobs can)? As a high-risk person myself, who luckily is fully remote, I feel so much sympathy and also rage and helplessness that companies are literally gambling with peoples’ health in this cruel way. I am fully in support of getting back to normal in most areas, but disgusted that places like offices and medical facilities no longer see the need to protect people.

    This is not a difficult problem for this person’s company to solve. It’s a shame companies aren’t willing to make the smallest adjustment to address a valid concern.

    1. Ray*

      In this case, ADA wouldn’t apply. LW3 has no disability that needs to be accommodate. They only live with someone who is immunocompromised.

    2. Mo*

      It’s probably not an ADA issue because the person with the disability is not employed by the LW’s company.

    3. My Useless 2 Cents*

      It doesn’t HAVE to be an ADA accommodation for the company to make an exception and I agree that would be the best course of action for OP to at least look into.

      I sympathize with the immunocompromised/loved ones but requiring offices/medical facilities to go back to full masking is just not going to happen. Masking (by a large portion of society) was tolerated only out of great necessity. Masking when you know you are sick could have a slim chance of becoming normal. Masking while “healthy” because someone in the building lives with someone who is immunocompromised… not likely.

  25. Heather*


    This is, for better or for worse, not Covid-specific. If you look back in the archives pre-2020, you’ll find people asking questions about coworkers coming in visibly sick and infecting others (saying “Oh it’s just a little cold” or “I don’t want to use up my sick leave”). I know that doesn’t help you, but perhaps a little comfort in knowing that this struggle is pretty universal.

    1. Nebula*

      I think this is slightly different to that, in that the coworker was asymptomatic. Pre-pandemic, we didn’t expect anyone to stay home in anticipation of having a disease, and we also didn’t have the capacity to test for asymptomatic instances of common illnesses.

      The OP’s ire seems to be – rightly imo – directed at the higher-ups for the apparently inflexible back-to-office mandate. If it’s possible for someone to work 100% remotely, and they are or live with/care for someone immuno-compromised, then in an ideal world, what we would have all taken from the pandemic is that the person ought to be given the opportunity to work from home if they choose. Instead, OP has been forced back into the office and is in the position of endangering their partner’s health unnecessarily.

      OP can judge how this would go down at their workplace themself, but I don’t think it would be unreasonable to ask if they can go back to working remotely. In my organisation, we’re supposed to be in at least twice a week, but a request like that would be accommodated.

  26. Clever name goes here*

    LW1 – *So my supervisor took my ideas to her boss and blamed me for the crap happening in the laundry room*

    That sounds like we’re missing parts of the story. What crap in the laundry room?

    1. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I read that as supervisor bringing OP’s concerns about housekeeping standards to grand-boss and presenting them as her own, and then throwing OP under the bus re: the dispute over keeping the laundry room clean.

      Rereading that, it’s possibly not just the OP straying from their lane? In either case, doesn’t sound like a healthy place for her to stay long term.

    2. Anonymous*

      I read it to mean that she took her complaints about cleanliness etc. to her manager and complained about LW cleaning and tidying the area when it was not part of her job description.

      1. Meep*

        I read it slightly differently. Mostly that LW was so focused on other people’s jobs that she wasn’t doing her own effectively.

  27. English Rose*

    LW5 – Alison’s absolutely right you shouldn’t leave your job as ‘present’ when you were laid off in February. Going one step forward, it’s worth going through your social media accounts, especially LinkedIn if you’re on there, to make sure they are also not specifying a job is current when it isn’t.
    Recruiters will often check out LinkedIn especially to make sure everything matches up.
    Good luck in your job hunt, hope you’ll be a Friday success story soon!

    1. I have RBF*

      Yeah, LW#5 needs to update their resume.

      At least in tech, there’s no stigma in having been laid off. I’ve lost count of how many layoffs I’ve had in my 40+ years.

  28. JP*

    This is off topic from any of the letters in this post, but some time back there was a post requesting book (maybe media in general?) recommendations featuring characters who are competent at their jobs. I think that was the gist of it, I may be misremembering. I read through the comments and wrote down this big list of books to look into and now…I have no idea what I did with the list, and I’m struggling to find the original post. Does anyone else remember it?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Post this question in the open thread (probably fits best on the weekend open thread, may also fit on the Friday work-related open thread). It’s best to keep comments on these posts on-topic.

  29. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#4, At a previous job, HR would append two pages of bullet points like those two to all our job postings. HR had very little say in hiring, though. It was just a corporate thing. I wouldn’t read anything into the boilerplate stuff at the back end of job postings.

    1. A person*

      Same at my company. They have some boilerplate crap that’s on all postings. For us it’s because they did some study on “inclusive language” and made changes based on it. I feel they missed the mark because even for internal candidates I find the wording very off-putting but definitely don’t read much into it. Surprisingly little goes into these, and often corporations have requirements that managers can’t change in some of their posting wording (which you can decide is a red flag also if you want…).

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Ours isn’t that extensive, but I also have a number of HR-generated bullets all my JDs are required to have. Some are for inclusivity, some are policy-related, some are from legal. Fortunately, I’m allowed to stash them at the end and put the important stuff up front.

      I also see weird bullets like the one OP#4 describes in situations where you have to be explicit with people about what behavior is/isn’t allowed for the people who think that they can/cannot do things based on what is explicitly in their job description. Working collaboratively is really important on our team, so we have a bullet (with less clunky wording) about working positively and productively with others, and it’s also part of reviews. It’s actually quite helpful when you get someone who behaves poorly toward their coworkers (or customers), and it’s right there in their job description that that is not what’s expected.

  30. Llama Llama*

    Well before COVID my employee was immunocompromised and we had an open office plan. We worked with HR and got him an accommodation to work from home permanently. He didn’t have to come in for anything (even with my boss trying…).

    It’s not without it’s repercussions. My grandboss was hateful about it because ‘he didn’t just ask’ (ha!). Then his job was going away (not because of WFH) and he had a hard time finding a new role.

  31. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Oof. This might not be the right job. I’d suggest asking the supervisor what you can do to be helpful in your idle time so that you can be helpful. There are probably things you can do, but you’ve also got to recognize this is a larger organization with systems in place, and that you don’t control those things. And maybe also tame the comments about how others aren’t doing their jobs to your standards. That’s not terribly helpful. All you can do is control you. If this isn’t the right job, then move on to a different one.

    #2 – I’m getting a slight Regina George vibe from this letter; maybe because OP specifically says the office can be a little cliquey. The arriving early and having lunch with the team seems like a misstep (unless there are details we’re missing), but the snark about the luggage is off base. Let that go.

    1. OP 2*

      Gonna be real, I’m honestly shocked by how people are interpreting me and my question as antagonistic/judgey. I’m autistic and this was a past situation I thought could be helpful for both me and others to have more clarification on, hence reaching out to AAM for a public answer. I’m genuinely confused as to where I was snarky in this- maybe the “i found it strange” part, but I was expressing how I felt in that moment since I wasn’t sure of the social cues. It’s a little disheartening to be treated like I should have known better when this entire site exists because plenty of people can use answers to things people assume are common sense.

      1. Bugalugs*

        Yeah I wouldn’t worry about it. I didn’t find any off it at all coming off as snarky. The luggage question is a good one though. I’m near the airport as well and I’m not so sure I wouldn’t have side eyed it a few years ago myself. the coming in 30mins early always drives me crazy though however if they’re taking the bus the get a free pass because of where we’re at.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Hi OP, I think the thing people are associating with judginess is that the story made it seem as if you and your coworkers were judging the candidate’s suitability for the job based on appearances. There is a form of snobbery that looks down on practical or logistical choices as gauche or unseemly.

        There’s a whiff of classism associated with it — as if the “right sort” of person would have staff to deal with their luggage, or would have paid for an extra night in the hotel, or some other expensive and inconvenient solution. Being unfettered by practical concerns is a sign of very high status, because one has people to deal with those mundane things.

        But of course, most of us don’t have people. We have to deal with the luggage ourselves.

        I don’t think that’s what you meant, but I think that’s the hot button you accidentally pushed.

  32. Anonymous Tuesday*

    Re: LW #5, what’s the best practice for someone who gets laid off while already partway through the process of interviewing for a job elsewhere?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      There’s no need to proactively bring up the layoff with the company you are interviewing at, but do not lie to them if the topic of your current employment (or lack thereof) comes up in conversation. The same holds true for any other places you have already applied to, if they contact you about interviews in the future.

      If you’re still applying to other places, update your resume before you send it out so you’re not misrepresenting yourself to those companies.

      1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

        I have seen my employer pull an offer because they did not correct us when we asked about their current position, but it they had left that position (under what circumstances I don’t kn0w) at least a month prior. Obviously you can’t correct a printed or even electronic resume, but definitely don’t lie about your employment status.

        February is a long time ago and LW#5 definitely can’t keep hiding under the cover of pretending their resume is just out of date.

    2. Fuel Injector*

      Depends how partway you are. If you are far enough along that they might be confirming employment, you could think about informing them that your circumstances changed just bc they are going to be a little weirded out if they call and hear that you don’t work there.

  33. Littorally*

    1. Extra work rejected
    Oof, I can see why this stings! But Alison brought up good points. Especially since you’re only a month in on your job, they don’t have a good measure of you yet and an employee wandering off to do unassigned tasks would make them wonder if you’re slacking on your own assigned work.

    Please keep in mind too that this is not a common experience! Especially in jobs like this, it’s much more common to experience a mindset of “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean” versus the opposite. When you ask why hard work isn’t valued anymore, you’re covertly assuming that your employer’s attitude is widespread.

    4. Job description red flags
    The second bullet point especially I think I’ve seen in every job posting I’ve ever looked at. Granted, I work in the finance industry, where there is a lot of temptation for shenanigans and sensitive personal information all over. Employers have to at least PRETEND that integrity and ethics are a really big deal to them.

  34. Still Masking*

    I’m in the same boat. Besides my roommate and the 3 people in my book club… I’m the only person I know who still masks. I’m definitely the only person in my part of the office. It sucks. Especially since people still come to work sick (when I thought that would at the very, very least be the one singular lesson we’d learn after all this but… no). It makes me feel crazy. But you’re not alone. I’ve gone to my manager about my issues and she said the company is pretty much able to do nothing since the CDC has stopped mandating/recommending anything. I’ve gone this long without catching Covid and I’m mainly afraid of long Covid (I know this country will do nothing to help me should I become disabled from it), but everyone else seems to not care.

  35. Hamster pants*

    I don’t think the luggage is a faux pas and I could understand showing up too early – I made the latter mistake a few times early in my career. But the joining in a lunch unasked would give me pause. To be fair, I’m not sure if it’s because my own social anxiety would NEVER allow me to join any kind of work gathering unless someone specifically says “Hamster pants, join us!” or if it is a true faux pas.

    1. Qwerty*

      I wonder if someone at the company suggested it or felt obligated to invite the candidate to the lunch. When candidates show up too early, we either leave them in the lobby or take them to a conference room to hang out for the remaining time (depends on my company – some didn’t have lobby seating). It was a pretty common occurance at my city jobs because candidates were worried about getting stuck in traffic or were unfamiliar with the area.

      1. Sneaky Squirrel*

        Yes, I suspect that someone at the company felt obligated to invite the candidate to lunch instead of leaving them in the lobby for 30 minutes. It’s really awkward as an employer to know that you have someone waiting on you, especially if you have to walk by them. And it’s a burden on a receptionist who usually has other office duties on top of making sure office guests and candidates are being well received.

        I think there is a sociably acceptable limit to early (up to 15 min) and anything before that is ‘too early’. Agreed with OP’s sentiment that the candidate should have gone to a nearby coffee shop to wait before their time.

    2. Courageous cat*

      Lol agreed on the lunch part. And honestly lunch aside, I personally don’t even like coming in early. I just know that, as an interviewer, when someone comes in super early it makes me feel rushed.

      I arrive about 3-5 minutes prior to my interview time and that’s the most I’m really comfortable with.

  36. JustMe*

    LW 1 – my first thought was that you could start looking for a job with broader responsibilities and where it’s more expected that you will just do whatever you see needs to be corrected. My immediate thought is that if you have the time and funds (which I understand may not be the case), taking a course in dog grooming could be a good fit because there’s a culture that you pitch in to help out whenever you see something that needs to be done (Hair on the floor? Go ahead and sweep it up, even if it’s not yours.) and you can also limit your interactions with other people if you want. If you are in the US, you can also go to your local Worksource Board and explain that you were a stay at home mom (given your situation, you may even fit the criteria to be a “displaced homemaker”) who wants to go back to work, and they should be able to direct you to positions or training programs that will be a good fit. (Source: I once worked at a Workforce Board and then a Cosmetology School.)

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I don’t disagree, but I think the LW also needs to re-familiarize herself with workplace norms, too, because overstepping is going to be a problem in more jobs than not, and right now she doesn’t have much of a work history so finding a job with more responsibility is likely to be hard. If the underlying issue is that she doesn’t know how to operate in workplace in general, and is overcompensating for years of being in a relationship that made her feel worthless, she’s likely to have problems in most settings.

      1. JustMe*

        Yes, absolutely. Worksource Centers (at least Pre-Trump) used to have programs for that that were specifically for people in situations like this, at least in the region where I was working. That could be a good option for the LW because they can start doing something again with the help of a caseworker who has some background in what they are going through.

      2. Relentlessly Socratic*

        I think also she’s bringing in her experience as a homemaker to a hotel. Cleaning one’s own house is very different from cleaning guest rooms and public common areas where hundreds of people trail through on a daily basis.

        Housekeepers change/clean/turn over dozens of rooms in a single work shift. It’s simply not possible for one housekeeper to keep all of those rooms in the same condition every single day that one homemaker can do with one household over a day/week/and month of one’s own particular cleaning schedule.

        I think that OP 1’s familiarity with running a household is coloring her views of how to run a housekeeping staff. Perhaps in a different work environment, it would be easier to regain those work norms.

  37. Megan C.*

    LW3, I sympathize that you feel so much fear about becoming ill and possibly infecting your partner. I do have to agree with Alison though – by and large, masking is over. Even in doctors offices! Covid did not institute a culture of masking when sick where it didn’t already exist. I don’t think anything would be gained by venting to your employer. It sounds like everyone behaved according to the current norms. I would look into whether they’re willing to accommodate you continuing to be fully remote due to your partners health concerns, and if not, you may have to consider transitioning to a fully remote job.

  38. Lynne879*

    LW1 – I feel like we are missing parts of this story. Are you prioritizing cleaning the laundry rooms instead of doing the laundry? Is cleaning the laundry room someone else’s job? If either of those is the that’s the case then yeah, I understand why you were told to “do the job you were hired to do.” It is unethical to punish employees by cutting hours, and you don’t deserve that.

    LW3 – As someone that also works hybrid in an office environment, I can confirm with Alison that mask-less offices are the norm now. Does your employer require its staff to be vaccinated and boosted? That’s the only reason why I’ve been comfortable wearing going mask-less in the office. If not, then yes I do think your employer is being irresponsible by not forcing unvaccinated staff to wear masks.

  39. BellyButton*

    #4 a lot of companies put their core values/competencies in a job description- and those sound like core values.

  40. Chairman of the Bored*

    I always comply with the latest federal, state, local, and site requirements regarding masking and Covid generally; and require that the people who report to me do the same.

    If somebody still opted to give me an expletive-laced rant about masks despite me following all extant rules they would not find a very receptive audience.

    1. Alice*

      Hi Chairman, CDC now recommends at least 5 air changes per hour in occupied spaces and at a minimum MERV 13 filters in the HVAC system. Does your workplace follow that guideline?

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        I have no idea, as I have no involvement with or authority over the building HVAC.

        To clarify, I comply with the *individual* behavioral requirements regardless of whether or not the office itself meets CDC recommendations.

    2. CityMouse*

      I mean the one thing I’m going to note is that my father, who is a physician, who designed the protocols that kept COVID from spreading in the residential facility he is the medical director for, who was one of the first people to get vaccinated, does not mask socially anymore (he does when seeing patients). He’s read the community transmission and vaccine data and has made his choice based in science and evidence. My Dad has had COVID, almost certainly caught from a patient, but was fine thanks to his vaccines and boosters and Paxlovid. My Dad is not a COVID denier in any shape or form. Back when they had PPE issues, my mom sewed hundreds of masks for the clinic and residential medical staff.

      You can be one of the people who risked their lives fighting the pandemic before vaccines, but be electing not to mask socially now.

      1. Courageous cat*

        Yeah. My friend once brought to mind something we need to be cognizant of: we blamed the right for not following the science back in 2020, but we’re going to be hypocritical if we don’t follow the science on our end now. We need to all be mindful of listening to the science community – even when they say “risk has lessened, variants are weaker, these activities can be resumed, etc” – and not just when it suits our bias in one direction or another. (And I say this as someone who is very liberal.)

    3. Melissa*

      Also, even the hospitals in my very blue state lifted masks for all staff, patients, and visitors as of last week. It seems a bit much to say that you are going to override every epidemiologist in leadership; the infectious-disease experts on hospital staff; the CDC etc, and decide that you, personally, have some insight that the rest of us have to follow. Forever.

      1. I have RBF*

        You mean the CDC, who had a conference that turned into a superspreader event? That CDC? LOL

        The removal of mask requirements is not based purely on science, it’s mostly based on politics. The whiners have won, the immune compromised and elderly are thrown under the bus. Forever.

  41. cosmicgorilla*

    LW1, it seems to me that the lower paid, lower skilled jobs are the ones that least value someone going what may seem to you above and beyond. They aren’t paying you to think, to have gumption. They want drones to come in and do the
    job they were hired to do and nothing more.

    Use this job to establish yourself in the working world. Relearn workplace norms (and know that workplace norms cam vary from workplace to workplace!) And in 6 months to a year, apply somewhere else that will better use your energy.

    1. HealthDeptCompliance*

      Housekeeping jobs (and similar ones) are not necessarily lower skilled. They also often have extremely strict guidelines, due to OSHA, health depts, etc, that necessitate doing something a certain way. It isn’t that employers are looking for drones, it’s that employers have to ensure compliance to those guidelines. White collar jobs also have guidelines and are often not able to accommodate “gumption” if it means ignoring them.

  42. BellyButton*

    It is interesting to me how many negative posts there are about a company’s values being included in the job postings. I want to see what they are, and it is usually a good starting point for questions you can ask during an interview. “I see that ‘Innovation’ is part of your core values. How is that encouraged/measured/recognized?”

    Many companies will include a copy of the core values in the email invite for the interview. I will sometimes ask when the core values where adopted and how those were decided on.

    Maybe because org/people/company culture is part of my job LOL

    1. Chairman of the Bored*

      My experience is that “company Values” are things that organizations simply declare in a vacuum, and they often have very little connection with actual conditions on the ground.

      At this point I take them to be basically meaningless until proven otherwise. Everybody *says* that safety is the most important thing, including companies where safety is absolutely seen as an afterthought at best.

      My standard question as a job applicant to assess this is “is this Value part of your executive compensation calculation?” If it is not, I conclude that they probably don’t care too much about it.

      1. BellyButton*

        That is exactly why it is important to ask about it. If it is part of performance reviews, I want to know and I want to know how it is measured. If it is lip-service, fine, move on. But that also tells me a lot about the company.

      2. Dahlia*

        That is kind of awful and scary. I don’t mask socially but I 100% mask in medical settings. No one has a choice to be there.

  43. Observer*

    #1 -I haven’t read the comments yet, so I hope I’m not repeating something has been mentioned multiple times.

    You mention that are cleaning shelves. What exactly does that mean? I have been dealing with a cleaner who has been going “above and beyond”, including cleaning the shelves. The problem is that when they do that, they move things to different places which causes inconvenience to people who now have to go looking for stuff.

    In general, it may not be that your work ethic is not appreciated. It may very well be that your behavior is not seen as “hard working” but “avoiding their REAL job by doing this other stuff.” I’m not saying that you are actually doing that, but I can see how it might come off that way.

    Combined with your comments about the rooms, it could look to people that you don’t want to actually do the job you were hired to do, which will often not go over so well with supervisors, and feed a perception that you are “overstepping” and willing to throw your coworkers and supervisors under the bus. In which case, from the supervisors POV it could make sense to throw you under the bus first as a protective measure.

    I realize that you are not doing any of those things, but if you understand how it can be seen, it might be useful to figuring out your next steps.

  44. JobHopper*

    for LW 1–Can’t read all the comments, but I wanted to share about my son’s first job in HS.
    He worked one day a week, in a local pizzeria, prepping and washing dishes.
    Son would work extra time if needed on his day–and often tried to get extra hours without being asked. Ultimately, due to the business budget, they had to let him go. It was *never*about the busy-ness or quality of his work! 16 years later, they are still in business.

    Iget it. I just left a job where I gave 110% and it wasn’t what my bosses wanted [basically, I tried, but couldn’t deliver the support and product required]. I was miserable. I changed 1 thing about my work–a different workplace and despite the lower pay, I am happier, more productive, and appreciated.

    I hope that you come to peace with your workplace’s wants or choose a new position where you can thrive. Best of luck!

  45. JobHopper*

    Not sure if this posted, trying again.
    LW1– I am reminded of the time that my son had a one day per week job in a pizza place near our home. He would volunteer for extra hours, or worked them if asked. They loved his work but let him go after a few months.
    The pizzeria had a tight budget and only had the one shift per week for him, so even a few hours of work (not OT) were not an option.
    It’s not personal. And it’s hard not to take it that way.

    I gave 110% to a job I had this year. I was miserable and what I was producing was not up to boss’s standards. I resigned, changed jobs, and now I am very happily working at a lower salary and making a difference.

    I hope you are able to adjust to the job you have or move on to a different position that is the best fit for you.

  46. Mim*

    LW3, totally with you. Work for a similar sized company that talks a lot about being progressive, includes disability awareness in DEI stuff, etc., and has been increasingly (and alarmingly) lax about Covid protections. (Meaning they DGAF about disability accommodations, and I have to assume any of the other DEI stuff, other than their ability to check boxes and make themselves feel and look good.)

    At this point I feel abandoned by the vast majority of society, including friends and family. Defeated, betrayed, and angry and depressed that it turns out that even the most self professed progressive humans can’t be bothered to take the most minimal steps to protect other humans. I can’t believe this is the world we live in, and as much as I want to just flip tables and leave this job, I know that it’s going to be the same anywhere I go. Though honestly it hurts more when it’s an organization that likes to think of itself as being socially responsible and stuff. LOL

    It’s especially distressing because the US is going through some terrifying political stuff, some of which directly affects me and my family. If people can’t be allied to help by doing simple things, no way would they be willing to help by doing harder things.

      1. Mim*

        This does not feel like a good faith question when my work related complaints were about systemic failures.

        I would like my co-workers to go back to masking. I know it won’t happen, and especially won’t happen without strong leadership leading the way.

        1. Truth Bomb*

          It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to go back to masking. I did it for over 2 years at the expense to my mental health, plus 5 rounds of vaccine. I’m done.

        2. Chairman of the Bored*

          My goal was to determine if there’s something that I can do individually to help colleagues who are feeling the way you are, given that I have limited abilities to change systemic problems or company policies.

          If what you want is for me to wear a mask in public until Covid is gone (which means wear a mask in public forever) then of course that’s not going to work.

          But if there’s a more practical thing I could do to help I’d be willing to try to accommodate you.

    1. Shuthmili*

      Masking may be simple, but I don’t actually think asking people to mask anytime they’re in any indoor setting for the rest of their lives is a minimal ask! I’m not trying to be dramatic: covid is endemic and there are animal reservoirs. It will always exist, so asking people to mask for covid is asking them to mask forever. I think plenty of people are willing to attend protests/vote for progressive policies/donate to nonprofits/volunteer/sign petitions/go on strike/etc who would not be willing to mask forever. I don’t think not masking when you have no symptoms or known exposures means someone is necessarily unwilling to agitate for change in other ways.

      1. Heather*

        That’s a good explanation, and I agree. I am very progressive! But I am actually not willing to wear a mask every time I am indoors– nor am I willing to require that of my 11-year-old son– for the rest of my life. That doesn’t make me a Covid denier, a Trump supporter, or anything else.

      2. Fuzzyfuzz*

        Agreed. And masking is not a riskless, easy, or inclusive practice for many people–those who are hard of hearing and rely on reading lips, certain neurodivergent people, young children who need to see faces and lips movement to learn to read and communicate, etc. Some would argue that the COVID risks outweighed the risks to those populations early in the pandemic (I might disagree with that given what we know now). These days, however, it’s a more difficult question.

        1. CityMouse*

          Yes, there have been some language delays linked to masking around children. It’s really not correct to frame this as a “costless thing that helps everyone”.

      3. I have RBF*

        It will always exist, so asking people to mask for covid is asking them to mask forever.

        If you or someone you love is high risk, asking you to mask forever is exactly what they need to do so they don’t die.

        My wife caught Covid when we went to a hotel and were exposed. She’s 70. It hit her hard. Even with paxlovid, even though she is vaxxed and boosted, it still laid her low with cough, fever and a total drain of energy, to where she needed help walking to the bathroom.

        She’s not the highest risk person in my household. My roommate with ulcerative colitis is.

        Damned straight your immune compromised friends and family are asking you to mask forever if not doing so could kill them. I am involved in a disabled community. The level of anguish when ableds stop masking even though they have an immune compromised partner is high. It actually destroys relationships.

        The question is: Do your friends and family have the right to ask you to do something fairly simple to keep them safe? For the foreseeable future? They are not even asking you for a kidney, just to wear a mask.

        Yes, I get it, masks aren’t always comfortable, they don’t allow you to eat or drink, yada, yada. It’s really an inconvenience in my household if someone has been exposed and we all have to mask inside our own home, except for our rooms, for one or two weeks. But we do it, because a couple of our roomies could die if they got it. And we will need to do this forever, unless a sterilizing vaccine is developed.

        1. Chairman of the Bored*

          They have every right to *ask* but others have the right to decline to go along with that ask.

          “I’m going to follow all of the CDC/state/local requirements” is a reasonable position for people to take at this point.

        2. Well...*

          Honest question — do you think things got easier for your immunocompromised housemates or harder after Covid? Is Covid your only safety concern, or is exposure to the flu/etc also very dangerous? Far more people (in the Western world at least) have masks now and have the ability to mask on request, which naively I would think have made things better for disabled communities.

          If you think people got *more* careless towards immunocompromised people since Covid, I’d be very curious as to why you think that and what has changed.

          1. I have RBF*

            A lot of people have taken the hard line “It’s my right to not mask, regardless of someone else’s reason for masking”, so in many way the attitude is more hostile to those who need it. It used to be that when a cancer patient asked their housemates to mask up it was no big deal, but now it’s some sort of political statement or “freedom” thing.

            So on the one hand there is a little more awareness of the risks to immunocompromised folks, but on the other hand there is a strong resistance to doing anything that smacks of accommodation of anyone who isn’t “healthy”.

            The whole experience has made me more cynical about my fellow humans than I like, quite honestly.

        3. Shuthmili*

          For a close friend or family member, I probably would keep masking at all times, even though it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient, because I love them and that love outweighs the negatives. I wouldn’t do the same for an acquaintance or stranger (I would mask around them, if they asked, but I wouldn’t mask when they weren’t around for their sake). You may think that’s awful: after all, everyone is someone’s beloved friend or family member. How can I be so callous? But the truth is, only a very small handful of religious ascetics never sacrifice the greater good for their own convenience. I currently have a low income, but I’m not cut to the bone. I could eat rice and beans and donate the money I would have spent on bulk bin candy to the homeless and starving instead. I eat dairy products, even though I know dairy farming contributes to climate change, and a vegan diet (which I am physiologically capable of maintaining) would be better for the environment. I fly 2000+ km once a year to see my parents, even knowing the CO2 impact of air travel. I am certain that you make similar moral compromises in some area of your own life, an area where loved ones aren’t immediately and visibly affected. Is it morally worse to not mask knowing that at any time it’s possible you could have an asymptomatic contagious disease that could seriously harm any immunocompromised person you happen to meet, or to spend money on treats and frivolities knowing that that money could provide food or life-saving medical care to a desperate child? Or to make dietary and travel decisions for your own pleasure despite those decisions contributing disproportionately to climate change, an existential threat that will impact the global south first and worst? I don’t think you can measure these things, but I do know that the vast majority of humans privileged enough to make these decisions will often choose their own convenience and pleasure over the greater good, because it’s soul crushing to sacrifice pleasure every time. I just don’t think that this particular decision of convenience over the greater good is morally worse than other similar decisions that I (and you!) make.

          1. Well...*

            I think you articulate well why it’s exhausting and extremely difficult to nag individual people into changing their behavior for the greater good, and far more productive to implement regulations we agree upon as a group.

    2. Anon4This*

      You and others seem to think that because wearing a mask is easy for you it’s easy for everyone, and that simply is not the case. I have asthma and I was pregnant during part of the pandemic. I masked up, but breathing was INCREDIBLY difficult for me at times. There were moments I would get out of breath simply from talking (and that was before the summer time). Yes, I think it’s important to try and be considerate of others, but that’s a two-way street.

      1. Katara's side braids*

        Yeah, I agree people are too quick to make blanket statements about the ease/accessibility of masking. As a very pro-mask person, I worry it hurts our cause more than it helps. That’s why I’m also very vocal about improving ventilation and sick leave policy, so those who literally *can’t* mask are still protected.

        But I also wish more people who could easily mask would do so. That would also help people who don’t have the option.

        1. I have RBF*

          IME, some masks are better for breathing than others. By a significant amount.

          But I absolutely encourage people to improve their ventilation and sick leave policy, because that also helps everyone, not just the people at risk.

          IMO, masking isn’t fun, easy, or cheap. I understand this. I would love to be able to ditch my masks without risking the lives of other people. But, I consider my ease and comfort to be a lower priority than my loved ones’ lives.

  47. Nay*

    LW1 – You sound like you might be a good office manager! Especially for a smaller firm, somewhere that didn’t have a ton of people, where it’s probably easier for you to be more independent, and encouraged even! Or I’m sure there are other jobs out there that will help you transition back into the working-world, and it never hurts to look.

  48. Me*

    For the luggage, I assumed that this was NOT an out-of-town candidate, and that the luggage had nothing to do with the logistics of the interview, because I don’t think the LW would have brought that up. But I would take note if a local candidate brought enough luggage that it would be commented on if the interview involved meeting multiple people and moving from room to room.

    I don’t think it would be “wrong,” and I think I would recognize that it would be a bit irrational to find it off-putting, but, as was said in an earlier post, on a certain level, the interviewee is a guest and now the guest has brought into the picture something that the host has to think about — is it burdensome for the guest to be bringing the luggage from room to room; is it safe to leave it lying around; is it going to be problematic if the interviews are running behind schedule; etc. It would be like if a friend of a friend brought a bunch of luggage to your cocktail party.

    Again, it’s not “wrong,” but I think it shows some lack of awareness about how the interviewee’s actions affect others that goes along with showing up 30 minutes early. I would wonder if the interviewee’s lack of awareness might lead to low-level drama amongst the team. This wouldn’t be a dealbreaker, but it would be something I would note.

      1. Me*

        Because they were catching a flight later that day for whatever reason, and they didn’t want to go home later and get it. I’ve had clients bring luggage with them to Friday afternoon appointments. Never more than a rolling carry-on, though. Our office is close to the airport, as I think the LW said was true in their case.

      2. Clisby*

        I suppose, hypothetically, a local candidate might have an unrelated flight scheduled close enough to the interview that it made sense to go straight to the airport afterwards. I had assumed this was an out-of-town candidate, and wondered why on earth the OP would thinking having luggage in tow was a faux pas. So maybe my assumption was wrong.

      3. MsSolo (UK)*

        I know several people who use a rolling suitcase (carry-on size) as their standard bag, especially if they’re carrying a laptop or other equipment around. Usually it’s an accessibility thing, where a shoulder bag or backpack isn’t an option for them for physical reasons, which does raise the spectre of discrimination is interviewers are biased against them for bringing a bag.

        That said, it’s also possible the person has just got used to being able to bring a suitcase’s worth of stuff with them everywhere, which might raise questions about their judgement.

  49. Sssssssssssssssssssssss*

    We’re all still masking outside of the home here and my son happily played D&D with his friends, in person, with a mask firmly in place. My daughter is wearing her mask as school every day and while they are few, she’s not alone in this decision.

    My office is an outlier where masking is still required in common areas until the end of May.

    Anyone who gives you grief about that mask, you can tell them where to go.

    There are still cashiers, servers and many others still in masks. I support you!

  50. I'm done*

    I’d like to think we are past the point of trying to convince/shame others into masking. If you want to wear a mask, then wear it, but leave others alone. That goes both ways – if you see someone wearing a mask – don’t question it or try to convince them of your opinion of masks; leave them alone, too.

    1. Courageous cat*

      Agreed! I don’t think the majority of us are doing this anyway, but it’s important to include in this narrative that the people who want to mask should never be made to feel “less than” for doing so. I don’t mask anymore, but I don’t find it one bit strange when others don’t, and I don’t think any differently of them for making that choice. Do whatever you gotta do.

      1. I'm done*

        The only time I roll my eyes a little at masks is when I see someone driving solo in their vehicle with the windows up, but still wearing a mask, which happens frequently. But as you say, do whatever you gotta do.

        1. Courageous cat*

          The only thing I imagine that’s going on there is that they’re totally zoned out in between errands lol, because that one makes zero sense. I zone out easily so I can see myself doing it

          1. Alice*

            Masks are useful because they catch aerosols – tiny floating particles – that people breath out. These floating particles can stay suspended in the air for hours, unless the air is center and replaced or there’s a great filtration system built into the HVAC. If the someone has COVID, the aerosols they are breathing out will contain SARS-CoV-2, and someone who enters their space will be breathing those aerosols in (unless their respirator has a perfect fit) – even if the infected person puts on a mask when someone else joins them.
            Putting on a mask when someone enters the car/room doesn’t do anything about the aerosols that are already floating around the space. So, if someone else has recently been in the car, or if someone else is about to get in the car, then the currently-solo drivers wearing masks are behaving very reasonably.

            1. Courageous cat*

              I don’t think any of this is a compelling reason to wear a mask in your car, by yourself, except for like… if someone else is in the car with you, which is not what we’re talking about, so it’s beside the point.

              We know COVID primarily infects people by someone else physically sneezing around you, for instance – we know its primary method is not hanging out in the air for a long amount of time, or infected surfaces.

              It is HIGHLY unlikely you will ever get COVID in your car by yourself. Don’t know what else to say.

              1. Alice*

                Courageous cat, honest question: why do you think that COVID is transmitted primarily by sneezing, ie, droplets?
                CDC and WHO now acknowledge airborne/aerosol transmission. The White House OSTP puts it very clearly: “The most common way COVID-19 is transmitted from one person to another is through tiny airborne particles of the virus hanging in indoor air for minutes or hours after an infected person has been there.”
                I really hope that you will read this paper, which I’m sure you will find interesting:
                Greenhalgh, T., Jimenez, J. L., Prather, K. A., Tufekci, Z., Fisman, D., & Schooley, R. (2021). Ten scientific reasons in support of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2. The Lancet, 397(10285), 1603–1605. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00869-2

              2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

                I think Alice is saying maybe the person drives for Uber and is about to pickup a passenger in the next several minutes. It might make sense to leave a mask on. For your average solo commuter, it doesn’t make sense.

                I sometimes see people walking outside alone in masks and I don’t think that makes sense. Though not my business.

              3. Relentlessly Socratic*

                And why do you care at all if I’m wearing a mask by myself in my car?

                There are several good reasons outlined but, even if I think the ‘rona is going to sneak into my closed car and get me…well, why do you care?

        2. Relentlessly Socratic*

          I admit I do this sometimes when I’m running errands: I go into one store (mask up) and then if my next stop is a couple minutes away, I just leave the ol’ mask on. Go ahead and roll your eyes, but I’m just lazy.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          I don’t know why this would even merit an eyeroll since it’s so wildly none of our business. Maybe they’re wearing it for allergies. Maybe they’re almost to their next destination and didn’t bother to take it off for such a short trip. Maybe they don’t think their hands are clean and don’t want to touch their face. Who cares?

          I’ve had a string of jobs where I wore masks, anyway, and sometimes I don’t take it off because I’m used to them and just don’t care. Somebody eyerolling me from their car is still more invested in what I do than they need to be.

          1. Relentlessly Socratic*

            Allergies! Yes, I am actually suffering less right now because of my mask, I might use it forever to keep the pollen away.

        4. Former Retail Lifer*

          I always assumed the person alone in a car in a mask was an Uber driver in-between calls, or a delivery driver that’s in and out of restaurants. It’s just easier to leave it on in those circumstances.

  51. Eater of Cupcakes*

    LW1: I remember an article about a movie worker who plugged in an electrical device that had accidentally been unplugged. A lamp or something like that. His boss then told him that while no report would be filed this one time, plugging in an electrical device counted as electrical work, which union rules clearly stated must be performed only by professional electricians.

    1. GreenShoes*

      At one location I used to work at I was told I was not allowed to pick up a widget and bring it to my desk. I was supposed to contact a material handler to carry the widget for me.

      Everyone relaxed when I as a data analyst was not going to be jumping on the forklift or wrestling the pallet jack out of somebody’s hands to willy nilly reorganize the warehouse.

      So yes if the OP is in a unionized environment that can be a big deal.

      1. Jaydee*

        Or even it’s not strictly a union/division of work responsibilities issue, there might be other rules or regulations involved. Is there special training needed to use certain machines or chemicals (including cleaning solutions)? Is there a system for checking out certain equipment/supplies or tracking who has completed certain tasks? These could be based on occupational health & safety regulations, or they could just be practical internal systems the employer has come up with because employees kept misplacing llama clippers or “forgetting” when it was their turn to clean the bathrooms.

  52. Bess*

    LW1, sounds like you have a skewed idea of what’s going on with labor and employee sentiment right now–“hard work isn’t valued anymore!?” Work ethic and hard work are as valued as ever. You overstepped, whatever your intent was, and you were therefore out of line.

    Telling your new bosses you wouldn’t stay at their hotel due to their poor work is pretty rude. Whether your added cleaning was helpful or not is hard to determine from the letter. You may have helped, you may have caused trouble in some process or procedure you don’t know anything about. But insulting your bosses is really not going to do you any favors and will not mark you as the great employee you’re trying to bill yourself as.

    There are probably places, small businesses maybe, where doing a little of every job is going to be valued. Those might be a better fit. If you want to step up and do additional work outside the scope of your responsibilities, ask and respect the answer.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, my dad is notorious for going the extra mile but in a direction you didn’t want him to go. I asked him to prime one side, and one side only, of an item that I promised to paint for a friend. He was all pleased that he primed both sides! Except that showing the patina on the other side was half the point and he got mad that I didn’t appreciate his extra effort (which actually ruined the project–now I have to figure out how to strip and somehow re-patina the part he primed that he wasn’t supposed to prime).

      Extra effort is only a bonus if it’s something that someone wants and needs done; otherwise, it’s just interference.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        This reminds me of my dad, who very helpfully stripped all of the old paint off of an antique 6-board chest. My mother, who was an antiques dealer, was….not happy with the pristine end result.

  53. Fuel Injector*

    LW 1:
    I’m sorry you had this experience. It’s tough to go back to the workforce and not understand the unspoken rules. Something I want you to think about is that if you do more than your job description, you might be doing someone else’s job. That means you could actually be taking work away from someone–that’s what’s behind union rules and people not being able to plug something in or carry something to their desk in the stories from Eater of Cupcakes and Greenshoes, above. Even if you are not unionized, think about how you would feel if you came in and someone had done all your work already, leaving you with nothing to do. If you see something that needs doing, instead of jumping in and doing it, ask your supervisor if you can help out by doing that thing. If she needs it done, she will tell you to go ahead. That’s how you can show you are a hard worker without taking someone else’s work away from them.

  54. Heidi*

    OP #1, I was a housekeeping director and a hotel general manager for a major hotel chain for years. If you’ve never cleaned rooms in a hotel setting (think 20+ rooms per day, only 30 minutes to clean each one), it’s very possible you simply rubbed the housekeeping supervisor the wrong way by trying to give input on something you have no experience doing. Room cleaning is absolutely backbreaking—with so many repetitive movements and heavy lifts, it’s no wonder housekeepers are always injured—and it’s arguably far more demanding than laundry.

    Also, even the cleanest hotels are filthy! Take a black light to any Ritz Carlton or what have you and you’ll be absolutely horrified. This isn’t the answer you probably wanted, but working in hotels ruins you for ever staying in them as a guest…I’m sorry!

    1. Clisby*

      When I was a child, a guy who worked at the small rural store nearest our house told my mother he had been employed at an Armour meat processing plant for awhile after WWII. He flatly refused to eat any Armour product after that.

  55. Relentlessly Socratic*

    My first job was housekeeping at a small hotel. We weren’t union, but someone mentioned upthread that housekeeping and other jobs withing hotels may be unionized, and those positions have very clear duties that are done, and duties that are not done. OP1, you may be inadvertently swimming in someone else’s pool there.

    Re: Cleanliness. Hotels absolutely do not change out the bedspreads or blankets between customers, that is an unfeasible amount of labor, storage needs for an unbelievable amount of extra linens, and expense. Similarly, the pillows themselves aren’t changed out between customers. Sheets/Pillowcases–of course these are changed. In hotels with duvets/duvet covers, the covers will be changed between customers, but not the duvet inserts. It’s difficult, if not impossible to vacuum under the beds (they have very low frames).

    There is not time to deep clean every room–imagine having an entire floor to clean between 11 and 4, including changing king size beds by yourself (thank goodness we didn’t use fitted sheets) with guests clamoring to check out late/check in early. The bathrooms get the most attention, because dirty bathrooms are no bueno. But the rest of the room is “clean enough”

    I am sorry you are feeling so frustrated. I get the desire to go all out, I really do.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      And, yes, hotel rooms are gross, because people are gross. I just try not to think about it too much when I travel.

    2. Clisby*

      This is pretty much what I expect as a customer. It would never have occurred to me to think bedspreads would be changed between customers.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        Right? Realistically, we don’t usually even change our bedspreads at home all that often. Come to think of it, I should probably switch out my duvet cover.

  56. jes*

    #2: you’d need to provide a bit more info about exactly how they ended up joining you for lunch. If an interviewee arrives 30 minutes early (presumably they were just playing it safe and wanted to be sure to be early rather than late, not knowing the local traffic/transit schedule/parking situtation), it seems reasonable that they would check in to the office and at least ask “is it OK if I wait here/store my luggage here until my interview?” If that’s a problem, the receptionist should just tell them. Before joining you for lunch, a few words must have been exchanged. If you were sitting in a meeting room visible from the front door, and the interviewee just sat down with you without saying anything, yes, that’s weird, but I’m assuming someone told them to come in, or they asked “is this where I should wait for my interview?”

    1. OP 2*

      Imagine a big open room. There was a receptionist desk at the front (no chairs) when you walked in, some desks along a wall, a kitchenette with a kitchen table, and a little couch area, all in close proximity to each other. After being greeted by the office manager they sat in the couch area. I said hello, offered them coffee/tea, let them know I was looking forward to chatting further in the interview, then continued to inhale my sandwich. Then they joined us at the table and began asking my coworkers questions about the job/company. I didn’t invite them to join us, unless saying hello was an implicit invite!

      1. Fuel Injector*

        It sounds super awkward all the way around. With no walls and close proximity, you are just all in the same space. Sitting there and not engaging with the people who are really close to her and not working probably felt so awkward that she figured she would just start talking to you. At this point in my life, I figure things will be awkward if I don’t know what to do and things will be awkward if I ask questions about what I am supposed to do, so I go with the awkwardness of asking questions. At least that way I know the right course of action, which in this case is sit there awkwardly while you eat.

        Of course, I also know that if I get there 30 min early, I should wait in my car or somewhere else rather than go inside. I arrived really early once and while I was waiting in my car, I saw the interview coordinator arrive and go inside. So good thing I waited!

        1. Fuel Injector*

          I’m re-reading this, and the “of course” at the beginning of my second paragraph sounds a little superior. I know not to arrive 30 min early bc someone told me as much, not bc I have some secret decoder ring to implicit rules. I very much do not have a secret decoder ring to implicit rules.

          1. jes*

            Yeah, I would assume that because you said hello and offered them coffee/tea, and there was no obvious place to sit where they would be out of your sight, they probably thought it would be weird or antisocial NOT to join you at the table. They probably thought it would be too strange to just stay in the same room as you NOT talking with you while you’re right there and you’re visibly eating, not working.

  57. I have RBF*

    An N95 mask, fitted properly, offers 95% protection. But you have to wear it religiously.

    An elastomeric respirator with P100 filters is … 100% protection – if properly fitted and worn religiously.

    It’s not rocket science.

    The problem comes with wearing it all the time. You take it off to eat or drink? Boom, you are more at risk. You adjust it during the day? More risk. These are the type of things that take those high protection numbers down.

    Most people wearing N95 masks also don’t realize that 95% =/= 100%. 5% risk is still a lot.

    Masks greatly reduce risk, but unless it’s a supplied air system it’s not a 100% reduction.

  58. ThePear8*

    Re LW5: as Alison said, definitely don’t continue to list the job as present. Just put the end date, no need to say “laid off” anywhere on your resume or cover letter but you can absolutely mention it if it comes up during an interview. I was also affected by the tech layoffs at the end of last year, there have been so many layoffs lately and so many people affected by them that nobody should bat an eye if you tell them you were. In fact I’ve found interviewers were all very understanding when I told them that was my reason for searching for a new position (I never proactively brought it up but was honest and up front when asked)
    Best of luck on your job hunt!

  59. Former Retail Lifer*

    OP #1, it’s really hard to be a self-starter and to be in a job where it’s not needed or appreciated. When I switched careers, I went from being a manager to just over entry-level and it was hard to see things that I thought needed to be done, or done differently, but I had to let it go. I was new to the industry and this location and company had standard protocols for stuff. Being a successful company, I had to accept that they probably knew best. I often had to repeat to myself IT’S NOT MY JOB, IT’S NOT MY JOB. IT’S NOT MY JOB. I did wind up getting some suggestions in later, but I was more familiar with the industry, company, and my particular site by that time. In your case, you’re probably also dealing with a union, who will have rules and standards that aren’t flexible.

  60. SofiaDeo*

    #3, while it would be nice if people were considerate of potentially infecting others, unfortunately this is not the case nowadays. So we take it upon ourselves to take care of our health. Get your own N95/FFP2 and a set of clear wraparound goggles, wash your hands before touching your face/mouth, and the risk of you catching Covid or anything is very, very small.

    I started wearing N95’s during Influenza Season, and always on public transportation, starting 2011 when I got my leukemia diagnosis. Similar to the hassle of grabbing a cane or a set of crutches, it’s just the reality some of us have to deal with. I get being upset, like I was when in 2009 I was on crutches and people would thoughtlessly slam doors in y face.

    Since mask wearing is politicized in a number of places, you also need to learn to either disengage from the hostile, or cheerfully state otherwise when people comment. I prefer the cheerful “nope! My oncologist says masks aren’t optional for me” when I get the “you don’t have to wear a mask anymore” comments. I do a huge smile on my masked face when saying things like this; people can see the “smile crinkles” of your eyes. The more we act like “masks are normal”, the more people will calm down about them. And perhaps some kindly folk where you work, will consider wearing a surgical mask there when they are ill/coughing out into the open. But we can’t be angry/upset when we have special needs others are unwilling to provide.

  61. yala*

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but I’m confused by:

    “So my supervisor took my ideas to her boss and blamed me for the crap happening in the laundry room”

    What crap was happening in the laundry room that you were blamed for? Or do you just mean the cleaning stuff?

  62. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    I once read a job description that said the candidate must be a, b, c, and “not be bullied by other coworkers or staff…” I can’t quite remember the exact wording but “not be bullied” was in there.

    So yes, they called me and I asked them about not “being bullied” by whatever it was. They gave me some lame translation of what that meant – having boundaries, thinking independently, tolerating ‘strong personalites’ – there’s one for you.

    “Thanks for calling but I certainly can’t work for anyone who fosters a culture of bullying in their organization or tolerates that kind of behavior.”

    Job posting changed the next day.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      the candidate must ….. “not be bullied by other coworkers or staff”

      That’s screaming a warning about the bullying hellhole they have.

  63. gardener*

    In regards to poster 3 and other people who are still masking everywhere indoors, and hoping others would do the same, I’m genuinely curious – do you just plan on doing this long-term/for the foreseeable future? And why is it different now than pre-Covid, when we still had dangerous infectious diseases and immunocompromised people? Does Covid feel riskier?

    It seems we’ve reached a level with Covid where the risks aren’t ever really going to get substantially better – so if you believe in universal indoor masking NOW, are you also, rationally, committing to it in next month, and all of next year, and all of the next year, etc? Or do you think the calculus will change over time?

    I’m especially interested in this for people who are not at high-risk themselves – I’m assuming people who are severely immunocompromised were also masking and wishing others would mask even pre-Covid, which makes sense.

    1. Katara's side braids*

      I’m not high risk (that I know of) but still mask in all indoor environments. I don’t eat at restaurants that don’t have outdoor seating. I have vulnerable loved ones, but I think most people do.

      For myself, I’m mostly concerned about long term effects. Not just symptomatic “long Covid,” but the elevated risk of heart attack and stroke after full recovery – even among young, healthy people (google “Covid stroke” for reliable sources).

      I’m monitoring vaccine development and research into long Covid prevention/treatment. I’m hopeful that we’ll develop a vaccine less susceptible to viral mutations, and that we can prevent or neutralize the long term effects of infection. If we get to that point, I’ll consider unmasking in most places.

      Pre-Covid, I was pretty ignorant about the threats “mild” illnesses pose to immunocompromised folks. You’re right that these threats aren’t new, but my knowledge of them is. I think we all have a responsibility to act on that knowledge once we have it. For me, that’ll probably mean masking indefinitely in medical settings (including my job), when I’m sick, after known exposure to illness, and in the presence of people I know to be immunocompromised. I’m also contacting my legislators to advocate for improved sick leave policy and indoor ventilation requirements.

      All of us who are able bodied are only temporarily so. When we structure society to isolate the vulnerable, we isolate our future selves.

    2. Alice*

      Great questions. Speaking for myself, not OP3 —

      “Do you just plan on doing this long-term/for the foreseeable future?”
      I plan on continuing some NPIs indefinitely, yet.
      Masking on public transport? Masking in the grocery store? I see no reason not to — I’ve gone to the trouble of finding several N95 models that are very comfortable on my face, so why not use them?
      Whether I continue to mask in all indoor spaces, and whether I go to crowded outdoor spaces, will depend on some other factors. I pay a lot of attention to wastewater data to make decisions on this point.

      “And why is it different now than pre-Covid, when we still had dangerous infectious diseases and immunocompromised people?”
      It’s different for several reasons:
      First, I was wrong before in that I didn’t think about the ethical imperative of including people who are disabled in society. I was also wrong about how much of society is disabled, or living in a household with someone who is disabled.
      Second, I (and pretty much everyone) was wrong before in that we believed most diseases were transmitted by ballistic droplets only, and that airborne transmission only happened with a few diseases, like measles and TB.
      Third, I was wrong before in that I thought face-to-face interaction was necessary for a lot of things that actually turn out to work pretty well remotely.
      Fourth — and finally, something I wasn’t wrong about — the world really is different now that SARS-CoV-2 is endemic. (BTW “endemic” just means “regularly occurring” — it doesn’t mean “not worth worrying about.”) There is higher infectious disease morbidity and mortality now than there was pre-SARS-CoV-2, so it makes sense to try and reduce or at least postponse preventable deaths.

      “Or do you think the calculus will change over time?”
      Yes, I think the COVID risk calculus will change over time. I’m actually a lot more optimistic than the folks in this comment page who believe it’s never going to get better. Here’s what I think will change things:
      – the biggest one: improvements in indoor air quality via engineering and building codes. This means more ventilation and filtration, maybe even UVGI. This will help reduce the burden of COVID but it’s also important for addressing wildfires, air pollution, asthma, etc. I hope that we’re about to see a golden age of IAQ improvement that will help OP3 and OP3’s partner — and for that matter OP3’s coworkers. Better indoor air quality is better for everyone.
      – maybe a sterilizing vaccine will become available
      – NIOSH-certified respirators are widely accessible now, but (I hope) they will become available (and affordable) in sizes and shapes to fit a diverse population

      Back when cholera and typhoid were endemic in US cities, I’m sure people said “Waterborne disease will always be with us. You can’t expect people to boil water all the time. You’ve just got to accept it and stop tilting at windmills.” At the time, it must have seemed wildly unrealistic to propose sewage treatment plants and municipal water supplies. And yet people created that infrastructure, and waterborne diseases basically disappeared in the US.

      The COVID risk calculus will change when we use engineering tools to solve a public health problem.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        Historical disease trends are kinda wild to look at now. Like people were dying of malaria in DC. Can you imagine worrying about malaria while visiting the Smithsonian now?

    3. clinging desperately to my value*

      Yeah, I am planning to mask indoors for the foreseeable future. Covid doesn’t just feel riskier, it actually is. Even “mild” infections of the variant my doctor called “so gentle, just go ahead and get it already, it’s no big deal, it’s so gentle, so gentle!” can cause issues like clotting, brain damage, fatigue, cognitive decline.

      I’m not willing to risk those things because:

      1. My partner has had 3 TBIs. They were so many years ago that doctors can’t do anything now. We’re committed to mitigating the inevitable cognitive decline as best we can.

      2. At age 38, I’m already suffering the cognitive impairment caused by perimenopause. MHT (Menopausal Hormone Therapy) has helped me recover some of my abilities, such as mostly finishing a sentence without forgetting everyday nouns. Covid can cause blood clotting. If I develop a blood clot for any reason, I will never again be allowed to take MHT. Without MHT, my intellectually demanding career will be at risk.

      3. My partner and I don’t have children, so we’ll have to see to our own care as we age.

      4. We are American, so developing a disability would be financially ruinous. (Also, as we’ve seen happen to our family members, the quality of health care for disabled people is abysmal. If you’re not contributing to the economy, doctors DGAF about your quality of life.)

      5. Pre-2020, I caught about 5-6 colds a year, each one lasting for 3-4 weeks, each one causing significant brain fog to the point that driving a car was dangerous (but necessary for going to work, because I’m American and public transit is not available to me.)

      We’re on our own. No one but us gives a single (poo) about us. Every time I go to the store, I see people intentionally coughing as germ-spreadingly as possible: mouth wide open, tongue sticking out, hacking away. Sneezing right into the air without even thinking about covering it. Because, I guess if they feel sick, they’re going to make as many other people as possible feel bad too.

      I get that the world is unfair and people are naturally selfish/cruel. I understand that it’s everyone for themselves. But I don’t think it’s asking too much for people to not point and laugh at me when I wear a mask. (This actually happened to me at the grocery store two weekends ago; they pointed directly at me and then laughed among themselves. My partner, three weekends ago, experienced that an older man approached him at a produce stand, bent slightly at the waist for a better angle, and silently stick his face right in my partner’s face.)

  64. Eve Polastri*

    To OP#1
    My take on situations like this is that if you look like a “go getter”, it makes everyone else look like slackers so doing anything extra is discouraged.

    In my first job it was frowned upon to be doing nothing “If you are leaning, you should be cleaning”…was a motto.

    My suggestion is to start looking for another job where your motivation will be appreciated and not a detriment. Some company will be thrilled to have someone like you.
    Good luck!

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      The problem is it sounds like the LW is doing things that are outside of their scope. There is nothing wrong with telling someone to only perform the tasks assigned to them.

    2. No Thankyou*

      I hate the “If you are leaning, you should be cleaning” attitude of some managers. Cleaning is not in my scope. It is not what I am paid to do & if I start doing things other people are paid to do, what is stopping shitty managers from reducing the hours of those people & expecting other people to pick up the slack?

      I do my job & I do it well, but I am not going to do other people’s jobs without appropriate financial compensation.

  65. H.Regalis*

    They’re cutting your hours and being shitty to you because you’ve made comments to them about how you think they are shit at cleaning the rooms. It’s not a huge surprise that coming in as the new person and telling everyone else they suck at their job is not winning people over. Also, if your manager says, “I want you to only do XYZ” and you want to keep your job, then listen to them.

    That said, they should talk to you directly if they have a problem with you instead of cutting your hours down until you quit. That’s common in retail and service industry jobs, and it sucks.

    It sounds like this isn’t a good fit for you though, but it’s not because “people don’t value hard work anymore.”

  66. Sometimes maybe*

    I see several comments chastising companies for not requiring mask and mandating quarantines anymore, claiming them to be irresponsible. I understand some people are still dealing with trauma and illness from the pandemic, but an employer also has a responsibility to act in its own best interest as well. If a company were to start requiring these things again after both the WHO and governments around the world have declared the pandemic over, I cannot see how they could reasonably maintain a staff. How many good and qualified people would want to work there, and most current employees would start looking elsewhere. This is in addition to there are no longer resources for companies to cover the cost of testing and extended quarantines. I am not being callous, we are just no longer in the same situation we were for the past three years. For most people Covid is not as serious as it once was (objectively not emotionally): the variants are less severe, there are vaccines, and treatments. I understand there are people at higher risk, including myself, but masking, rigorous testing, and isolation is not sustainable for the general public.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yes, any employer that imposes conditions on employees that competitors don’t would have a similar difficulty attracting /keeping workers to those that remove expected perks, such as remote work.

      A couple of years ago, masking & testing rules would reassure most workers; now these would cause most to look elsewhere, because the great majority of people have decided the risk/benefit ratio wrt Covid precautions is very different now to 2020 & 2021.

      Public health authorities around the world have also massively reduced their recommendations. I expect employers to conform to official public health policy, which for most workplaces now means no requirements for masks or tests.

  67. NaoNao*

    I can see the LW 1 is confusing a few things here:

    1: taking initiative and being “busy” at all times isn’t quite “hard work” in the sense that it’s being used there. The OP isn’t being punished for “hard work”, they’re being given less hours because it’s clear there’s not enough to do in their role if they’re spending hours dusting appliances and mopping floors and inspecting rooms or whatever.

    2: OP is doing something common which is confusing business decisions with morality. Sometimes they are aligned and intertwined. But sometimes they’re not–like for example when a well intentioned person with a solid work ethic is also a PITA and messing things up for the other workers so they’re taken off the schedule while the boss figures it out. It’s not a “punishment” it’s a business decision. And work is not a place to prove your morals generally speaking, or prove anything, really.

    As a very general rule almost *no* working situation rewards people for bustling around. They care far, far more about how you work with the team, how they feel around you, and how much of a problem you are or are not. So if an effort is made, it should be to get along with others, and learn the ropes of the specific business and the working world after 18+ years out.

    I would approach the boss and say “I realize I’ve overstepped and I apologize. I’m left with some extra time on my hands after doing A. B, and C. what’s the best way to handle that? Should I be coming to you, clocking out, be engaged to wait, etc.”

  68. SB*

    At least your coworker tested even though they are symptomatic & isolated once they tested positive. The advice here is to only test if you have cold & flu symptoms & as it is our normal flu season in Australia most people are testing negative for covid but are still contagious with influenza, which can be just as devastating for seriously immune compromised people.

    Were you as angry with your relative for giving you bronchitis as you were with your very responsible sounding coworker?

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