employee wants cash because she missed a group lunch, teenage worker’s mom keeps contacting us, and more

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

1. My employee wants cash because she missed a group lunch

I am in the CEO-like position for a small local government (I oversee everything in the organization and report to a board of five who have no day-to-day authority). We have 18 full-time employees and a total of about 50, including permanent part-time and seasonal workers.

In April, as a thank-you for Stress Awareness Month, I organized a lunch from a local restaurant for employees who RSVP’d to the event. Being a local government, the entity can’t pay for this, so the money came out of my own pocket. I did not tell any of my employees this.

One part-time employee, Jill, was not scheduled to be at work this day. Historically employees who are not scheduled do not come in for these types of events, although sometimes do attend and are welcome to do so. Jill had a conflict and was not able to make it into the office for the lunch.

She later asked me to purchase her lunch another day, and I was taken aback! I know I should have said something then, but I didn’t. Three months later, she asked me to buy her lunch again, and when I said I wouldn’t be there on that day, asked for cash instead. I was left speechless.

I’m getting conflicting advice, including telling her “no” after I thought about it to not allow precedence, to getting her a gift certificate to the restaurant, to just buying her a meal. I’d appreciate any thoughts you have!

Whoa, no, don’t get her a gift certificate or buy her a meal. You paid with your own money for an appreciation lunch for staff who could attend. That does not obligate you to buy separate meals for people who couldn’t be there. That would be true even if the organization was paying, but it’s doubly true since it was your own money.

In this case, it might help to tell Jill you paid out of your own pocket. I’d say it this way: “I think you misunderstood the event. I paid for this out of my own pocket as a treat for employees who could be there, but I’m not in a position to buy separate meals for everyone who didn’t attend.” You might add, “You’re always welcome at this kind of thing even if you’re not scheduled to work that day, but we don’t provide make-up meals to people who miss the event.”

2. My teenage employee’s mom keeps contacting us

I am the owner of a small retail shop with one part-time manager. Most of our employees are teenagers. Our standard employment policy is no-call/no-show results in termination. We recently hired a new employee, Katie, who has had much difficulty picking up the job and performing the job to standards. We intended to have a 30-day review with her to highlight areas of improvement needed. Katie’s mother recently called the store and said Katie broke her phone and could not access the app to get her upcoming schedule. We provided the schedule in writing to the mother (through text) and let her know the schedule could also be accessed on the computer. Katie no-showed for that next shift and the manager messaged her, resulting in no response. Her mother called the store a few days later and said Katie would not be able to work her next scheduled shift due to a family vacation. The manager informed the mother that Katie had already missed a shift and we would take her off the next shift. We haven’t scheduled her since since due to the no-call/no-show, and we removed her from our scheduling app.

After two weeks pass, her mother again calls to get the upcoming schedule. The manager informs her Katie has no scheduled shifts. Katie texts me later that day letting me know she has a new phone and can’t access her schedule. Shortly after, her mother texts me and says Katie will be unavailable to work this weekend due to another family vacation, but Katie can’t access to the schedule and she hopes she is not terminated and that we can work something out.

Since Katie was already a poor performer who probably wasn’t going to make it, I don’t want to bring her back. Do I simply respond to Katie that no-call/no-show has resulted in termination? Do I owe any response to her mother? Or do I need to give a second chance since she’s just a kid with a broken phone and an overbearing mother who schedules a lot of last-minute vacations?

You’re certainly justified in deciding not to bring her back, based both on her not showing up without calling and her struggles with the job itself. If you go that route, you can just respond to Katie to let her know that because she no-called/no-showed for a shift, you’re not going to keep her on. If you wanted to give her another chance, I’d recommend telling her that you’ll give her another shot, but that you need to go over the store policies and your expectations around scheduling first (including that she needs to be the one communicating with you, not her mom).

Either way, you don’t need to communicate with her mom. If her mom contacts you again, you can say, “Katie will need to call me directly; while we made an exception when her phone broke, generally we need to talk with employees directly rather than through their parents.”

3. How to respond to “I’ve never had Covid”

I have a question about something that seems like it should be increasingly rare but is continuing to come up. Often in both my personal and professional life, I’m still encountering people who, when Covid comes up, will say “I’ve never gotten covid, I’ve been really careful” in a tone like you’d say you’ve never returned a library book late.

I do understand that people have extremely serious reasons for needing to avoid Covid to, you know, stay alive (though I’m not sure that’s the demographic always making these comments) and that you do need to have been quite careful to have avoided it thus far. But I’m frustrated with the implication that I got Covid because I wasn’t being careful. I’m a healthcare worker and got Covid seeing a patient in a nursing home experiencing an outbreak. I was also 34 weeks pregnant and obviously had my own reason to want to not get it. I ended up delivering early (capstone to a very difficult pregnancy doing an intense job with non-stop nausea all three trimesters). Everyone is fine! But obviously the “careful” thing touches a nerve. It’s almost never patients saying it, it’s mostly my own acquaintances and external people I work with who are only tangentially connected to the healthcare system.

Is there a way to respond that acknowledges both their reality and mine? Am I a little too sensitive to a well intentioned comment?

Well, maybe a bit, but very understandably so! For a response, how about, “It’s tough in healthcare”? Or, “Yes, I’m extremely careful as well.” Or, “That’s great, you’ve been very lucky.”

4. My team used to be awful; we’re treated like we still are

I am the director of operations at an educational technology company. I took this role from another role in the company due to a significant gap and performance issues in the department. Unfortunately, the department has a multi-year history of poor performance, mistakes, lack of reliability, and so on. My team and I have spent the last year working incredibly hard to create scalable, repeatable processes and execute reliably, and it has worked! We have gone from a 60+% error rate to a 2-8% error rate in most areas that we can measure.

However, when inevitable errors do occur, other departments react as if we were still in the old days. I have coached my team that it will take some time for us to flip the narrative; however, they find it exhausting and demoralizing to have fingers constantly pointed at them anytime something doesn’t go perfectly. Sometimes feedback is expressed very unprofessionally (yelling, name calling, etc.). Is there anything further that I can do to help dampen this response and shield my team so we can continue pushing hard for process improvement?

Well … that historical 60% error rate is astoundingly high (as you clearly know) so it’s no surprise that other teams are fed up, especially if they’ve raised the issues previously and nothing was done until recently. But yelling and name-calling is unacceptable, regardless.

Can you talk to the managers of the teams that are responding that way? You’re going to need to convince them that (a) you fully understand the frustrations from earlier and (b) you are on it now, but their employees are yelling at your staff and calling them names and that can’t happen. Ask to collaborate to figure out how to ensure they’re getting what they need without abusing your team. For example, is it feasible to have other teams’ feedback go exclusively through you for a while? Can you set up an easy way for people to escalate things to you if they’re not getting what they need, so that you can quickly step in and solve it? People tend to yell when they’re frustrated and don’t see other options; if you can be that other option — because they know they can come to you and you will ensure the problem is solved — that could help significantly. It means you’ll need to be really hands-on for a while, but that’s likely to be crucial in resetting people’s assessment of your team. Those other managers need to be part of your solution though, because they need to use their authority to make it clear to their people that yelling/name-calling isn’t acceptable.

I will say though … an 8% error rate is still really high in most types of work! I know you’re working on it, but it’ll probably help to communicate that more improvement is still coming, assuming that it is.

5. Ghosted after second interview

I reached out to marketing agencies in my city to offer my services on a freelance basis and expressed interest in part-time or full-time opportunities should they arise. One firm that got back to me was a small creative firm that I did some work with previously. Their project manager, Abby, said they were looking to hire a creative position full-time and asked if I was interested. I said yes, and waited a few days for the job description to be ready. It was pretty vague and filled with marketing lingo but the job seemed like it could be a good fit and I set up an interview.

My first interview was with Abby and the owner (Cal). We talked for three hours! They loved me! After the interview I was more excited about the opportunity and expressed my interest in a follow-up email, at which point Cal asked for my salary requirements. I told them I was interested in hearing their ballpark number first (especially as we had discussed full-time versus part-time, or a more flexible schedule), but he pushed and I gave him a breakdown. I told him that I would be open to negotiating that number for the right job and was open to exploring how else we could still work together if the numbers couldn’t work. Cal responded, “You’ve alluded to this potentially not working out a couple of times. For clarity, are you saying you wish it wouldn’t work out?” I was kind of shocked. I explained that I found salary conversations super awkward and also wanted to be flexible. He responded, “I was kinda messing with you ;) I totally understand how awkward that can be — been there. Abby will be in contact soon to arrange a second interview.”

The second interview was with the entire team and went well. We had a great discussion and some of the team members alluded to me having the job already. I left, followed up, then heard nothing for 2-3 weeks. I followed up again and was told they were still looking at resumes and would be in touch. After a little longer, I reached out again, and Cal said, “I’m sorry we have been radio silent. Things have been an ebb and flow of craziness and we are still in the process of conducting some interviews. At this time we are not in a position to make a decision, and we completely understand your needs. I would not want our chaotic schedule to hinder you from considering other options. We will be in touch as soon as we can, with the mindset of chips falling where they may. Thank you for being so patient with us!” I never got a response after that. It doesn’t appear that they hired anyone new from their website, but I don’t know for sure.

I’ve moved on, but I am still so angry and frustrated about this. What happened? I feel disrespected and somehow (though I’m not sure exactly how) taken advantage of. I don’t have many options to work with firms to do the kind of work I am good at and am resentful that they made this so awkward for me. I know at this point, there’s no point in reaching out again, but I have wanted to tell them how shitty this is (I won’t, but I want to). Am I justified feeling this way? Is this a normal hiring practice? Do you have any sense of what in the world went wrong?

This is pretty common. It’s rude to ghost you after two interviews, but really, really common. It sounds like you were thinking the job was closer to a done deal than it was, and it can help to remember that no matter how well interviews seem to go, anything can change and you never have the job until you have a formal offer. They can like you and think you’re great and still end up hiring someone else or no one at all. That can happen because they decide they’re looking for something slightly different, or someone else is more strongly matched with what they want, or they reshuffle things internally, or someone else brings a skill that they didn’t even know they were seeking but realize would be helpful, or tons of other reasons.

I don’t think they disrespected you, really! They should have gotten back in touch whenever they made a decision (whether that decision was to hire someone else, or just not to hire you, or to put the whole thing on hold, or whatever happened). But it’s so common for employers to view hiring as “we’ll tell you if we want to move forward, but otherwise assume we’re not” that there’s not a ton here to be angry about. If they had strung you along through even more interviews and work samples and blah blah blah, then yes. But two interviews isn’t such a huge time investment that this is an outrage.

I would try to see it as disappointing more than disrespectful.

{ 845 comments… read them below }

  1. H.Regalis*

    The “I’ve been really careful” thing bothers me too. Covid doesn’t only happen to stupid/reckless/ignorant people. You can take every precaution and still get sick. Diseases aren’t a sign of moral failings in other people.

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      Yeah, at this point, never having gotten COVID is really due more to random luck or genetic makeup. And, essentially bragging about one’s immune system is such an unnecessary and unimpressive flex.

      1. louvella*

        Luck is absolutely a factor but I don’t think it’s coincidence that I, a person who wears a high-quality mask in indoor public places, avoids indoor dining, etc. hasn’t gotten covid as far as I know. (Yes, I could have been asymptomatic at some point. I do test frequently especially after doing something higher risk, but tests aren’t 100% accurate and it’s not like I’m testing every single day.)

        Someone could also do the same things as me and get it, because masks aren’t perfect. I don’t think getting covid is a moral failing. But it’s not ONLY luck.

        1. Lime green Pacer*

          Agreed. I’ve been lucky, sure. I’ve been fortunate, too, to be able to take the steps that I have. But I also was way more careful than most people I know.

          And yeah, I could’ve had it and just had very mild symptoms. At this point, I’m just happy that the people I was working hardest to protect—both of whom got Covid eventually—are alive and healthy today.

          I said “I never got Covid, I was really careful”, to a few people mostly because I was amazed to actually be in that position. However, people can definitely see it as some kind of comment about them, so I have learned to add on the qualifiers about ALSO being in a fortunate position to be able to take precautions, AND being lucky.

          1. louvella*

            I definitely add qualifiers. But it is pretty frustrating to live in a world that has mostly moved on from something that is still so dangerous and have people be like “people who haven’t had it are just lucky!” when I am the only one in the room wearing a mask (and calling around for covid-safe dentists…and arguing with my mom about eating outdoors versus indoors…) and the only one who hasn’t gotten it.

            1. Tommy Girl*

              I don’t want to freak you out, but I just got it in May for the first time. I was also really careful, but a friends’ kid gave it to me. But I now have some long covid issues – I’m so miserable and pretty despondent about it all. So keep up your precautions, you do NOT want this disease. It seriously messed up my immune system and now I’m allergic to like everything.

              1. louvella*

                Ugh I’m sorry. I am definitely already freaked out! I have a friend also in her 30s who had a stroke after having COVID and another one who had a heart attack. I have two friends who has such severe fatigue that they can no longer work full time.

                1. Nesta*

                  This is so scary to hear. I also take precautions still, even though I’m one of the few remaining around me who does, and this is exactly why. I don’t want to get sick with the acute illness either, but the thought of ending up disabled or dead because of something in the post-accute period is awful.

                  I can’t believe our world has set us up for this as if it is absolutely fine.

                2. Becky*

                  My friend has been very careful throughout all of it and still got Covid FIVE TIMES and now has permanent lung damage. She and her family are moving across the country to be at a lower elevation where she can get more oxygen because she gets too fatigued in the place where she has lived for 20+ years now.

                  I have also been very careful and have gotten it once. My sister has not been terribly careful in general (she did follow mask mandates but didn’t mask when it wasn’t required) but has never gotten it. You can take precautions but that is not a guarantee, just risk mitigation. And depending on how good your community is at group action for risk mitigation you may be exposed to higher or lower risk.

              2. STAT!*

                Good luck Tommy Girl, may you get better soon. After I got covid the second time, I ended up with some food intolerances (not allegies though) for a few months (two to six depending on the food). But it got better! I really hope the same will happen for you.

            2. Hannah Lee*

              Good point!

              Yes! keep up the precautions based on your assessment of risk.

              I’m also in the “been very careful because I have medically vulnerable people I care about and provide personal care for and have not had COVID as far as I know” camp. And I’m realistic about understanding that while my choice to take fewer risks over the last several years has reduced my risk of getting it, luck has also been a big factor.

              I don’t lecture others or comment on my friends’ and family’s choices, but manage my own behavior according to my personal assessment. And try to let any comments slide past me, because COVID doesn’t care what other people think.

              For LW, maybe try to reframe friend’s comments as being aimed at themselves, in a “I did this and I’m okay and so I’ll keep doing this and I’ll continue to be okay” way, instead of about you or commenting on you or your experience. Yes it’s a difficult subject for you and she touched a nerve – an understandably raw nerve. But consider what you’d accomplish by pushing back or challenging her? If the answer is nothing, just chalk it up to a “her” thing and move on (Alison’s suggestions are good if you want to reply)

              1. Relentlessly Socratic*

                This reflects my approach and risk management. I have not (as far as I know) gotten COVID thus far because I’ve been careful and lucky, and ENORMOUSLY ISOLATED. People ask me why I’m still so cautious as if COVID’s totally not a thing anymore, so my explanation of risk management is to head off “why don’t you just [insert activity that is higher risk for me], it’s not a big deal”

                I’m not being careful AT anyone, but I understand that people might perceive it that way.

                1. There You Are*

                  That’s me. I am both very risk averse and cannot afford to get sick. So I do the following:

                  * 100% masked with a tight-fitting respirator indoors;
                  * only going indoors for absolutely required activities (2 days a week in the office, once a week to the grocery store after they ended curbside pickup, and doctor’s appts);
                  *outdoor dining only in places with ceiling fans on their patios, to keep the air moving, and me removing my mask only when the food is served;
                  * sitting outdoors in my or my neighbor’s yard, drinking beer while seated several yards away from anyone else, with a battery-powered tower fan blowing straight across my face; etc.

                  I don’t go to parties. I don’t go out to the movies. I don’t go to art galleries or to plays or to concerts. I don’t get on planes, unless required by work (and when I do, I am masked with a tight-fitting respirator from the time I enter the starting airport until I leave the destination airport).

                  I mask up when receiving deliveries or when I have to have a repair person come into my house. I run my HEPA-filtration air purifiers on high the whole time they’re inside and then for an hour afterward, before I’ll take off my mask.

                  I inconvenience myself and severely restrict my life in ways that most people Wouldn’t tolerate. When I say, “I’ve never had COVID; I’ve been really careful,” I mean it in the extreme.

          2. Cacofonix*

            You might consider amending your “I never got Covid, I was really careful” to add “and lucky.” Because it otherwise comes across as smug and judgemental. I agree with the poster. Consider your audience. People like the pregnant healthcare worker noted here, people who had just as careful loved ones become acutely ill or die, people who were so careful, they have anxiety from lack of socialization for years. People who lost their livelihoods or savings, careful or not. Just saying.

            1. Lydia*

              My standard is that I’ve been very fortunate and not had it. The end. I admit my precautions have dropped off dramatically, but I’m still taking them and I’m still very fortunate I haven’t had it.

            2. Jane*

              As someone who has isolated myself for 3 years to keep myself Covid free I’m not super inclined to minimize that action. Yes, of course luck is part of it. And also there is a tremendous amount of luck involved in being economically and socially privileged enough to make these choices, and in having a job that I can safely do.

              But my not getting Covid is primarily aresult of a) the choices I have made to isolate myself, and b) my luck in having a job I can do that is low risk.

              I could say “I have been very cautious, and I am lucky enough to have work and a living situation that allowed that”. I could say “I have been very cautious, and isolated”.

              But I am not going to minimize what it has cost me by calling it luck without a qualifier. I’m not doing this at anyone – I’m just doing my best to keep myself safe, in a world that has largely decided that this is over.

          3. Cherries Jubilee*

            I think it’s such a common phrasing, also, because just the bald sentence that you’ve never had Covid sounds way more braggy if you just leave it as is.

            People are adding that they’ve been “really careful” because a) it’s a holdover from the middle of 2020 where you often did want to confirm to people whose opinion you care about that you were in fact avoiding restaurants and the like, and b) “I’ve never had Covid” sounds rude to say unless you add a few words onto the end of it to help that thought trail off. I don’t think that people are making a deliberate, thoughtful choice to attribute their lack of Covid directly to only their own cautiousness. I think they just needed an extra half a sentence to put at the end there.

        2. yvve*

          i mean, technically thats anecdotal evidence, right? you personally were very careful and did not get it, meanwhile i worked retail the entire two years of 20-21 and either did not get it or was asymptomatic. statistically, even if it were totally random, some of the non-covid people would have been careful and some would not (i did TRY ofc, but theres only so careful you can be in that circumstance)

          1. louvella*

            Absolutely anecdotal! Of course there are going to be people who are not careful who haven’t gotten it and people who are who have. But it feels like people use that to question the idea of taking COVID precautions. It can feel pretty hard to be the only person masking these days and telling someone that the only reason they haven’t gotten it is luck feels a lot like telling them that their precautions don’t matter, when we know they do.

            1. yvve*

              yea, sorry– i tend to be a bit snippy when people talk about how careful they were and how they all ordered everything delivered etc when half of us were still at work — i know thats not what you were doing! its a knee jerk response on my part, sorry

              1. MigraineMonth*

                From the beginning, being able to be careful has been so dependent on personal circumstances. I’m pretty sure I’ve never gotten COVID, but my job went and stayed remote. An acquaintance who has gotten COVID three times is a middle-school teacher. The level of “careful” I am able to maintain is far different from the level they can.

                1. atalanta0jess*

                  THIS. And “personal circumstances” are also socioeconomic circumstances, impacted by a huge number of intersectional issues. Attributing anything to having been really careful when you’ve also been in a position to BE really careful – your livelihood didn’t depend on it, you didn’t live in a balcony-less studio appt, you had a car vs. public transport; you had a computer (!!!); you had a HOME, etc etc etc….if you think you’ve just “been really careful,” you’re missing a lot of the big picture.

                2. A Small Hill on Which to Die*

                  I admit it’s a touchy subject for me. But I go absolutely blind with rage when someone ascribes a moral value to whether or not you’ve gotten Covid (or how many times you’ve had it).
                  Because all this “well I was CAREFUL!”? Not only is that an incredibly privileged position to have been in, but in many cases it means that you were actively outsourcing the risk onto someone else who was less privileged than you. That person who you’re sneering at put themselves in harm’s way so that you could get your groceries delivered, or work from home, or whatever else. You’re actively insulting the healthcare workers and educators and essential workers that allowed you to isolate yourself, at huge risk to themselves. A little gratitude towards them, and towards the universe for putting you in such a fortunate position, instead of patting yourself on the back would be nice.

                3. Monkey Princess*

                  Just wanted to +1 A Small Hill on Which to Die.

                  “I’ve been careful not to get COVID” is not about your actions, it’s about your circumstances. It’s exactly the same as “I was really careful about saving up to buy a house” when your parents paid outright for your college so you didn’t have any loans and also then matched the down payment.

                  People in positions of privilege need to be really careful about their audience when they talk about their luck.

              2. SpaceySteph*

                Exactly! A large part of “being very careful” is passing the risk on to someone who has less choice in the matter. We as a society need to address that being really careful is actually a matter of enormous privilege to do so and I think LW is bristling over that lack of acknowledgement that being able to be careful is itself a privilege not afforded to everyone.

                (I say as someone who got Covid in late 2020 at my essential job)

          2. Cmdrshprd*

            I don’t think anyone here is saying being careful = not getting COVID. Of course things will vary, but at the same time getting/avoiding COVID is not 100% luck either.

            Someone going to crowded venues not masking compared to someone staying mostly isolated and still masking I do think will have different degrees/% of getting COVID. Yes luck/genetics will play a part, and the isolated person could get it and the crowds person could still avoid it, but I don’t think overall it is just pure luck at this point.

            1. *kalypso*

              The thing is the letter is about people who ARE saying that. Debating whether it is or not in here is basically irrelevant. People are going up to the LW and going ‘I WAS CAREFUL!!!!!’ like LW wasn’t. Assumably at work, where LW can’t necessarily respond freely and keep their job.

              1. Peonies*

                It does not seem like that is what is happening though. The OPer says when Covid comes up some people are saying they haven’t gotten it and they have been careful. Those are just statements of fact that are relevant to the conversation. It doesn’t sound like people are randomly going to her and saying this, nor does it sound like they are accusing her of not being careful.

                1. Momma Bear*

                  I think it’s understandable to take it a bit personally but if that’s not the tone the person is using just let it ride, IMO.

            2. Analyst*

              right it’s also privilege in many cases: things like the ability to work from home and avoid going out, or even just order grocery delivery aren’t available to everyone. It’s a combination of precautions, luck, and privilege.

              1. House On The Rock*

                Yes, 100% this. Until both my spouse and I were able to get fully vaccinated, we were lucky enough to keep our WFH, flexible, pretty-well-paying jobs and take advantage of delivery services (of which there were many in our affluent college town). We were able to protect ourselves and our older aging because of this privilege, but I never assumed this was an option for others and always used qualifiers when speaking of the precautions we were able to take.

              2. Cmdrshprd*

                I agree with you in the privilege part you are right. but I think people/OP might be reading a bit too much into the statement “Ive been careful.” due to their own baggage.

                Y es it is due to luck/privilege/precautions. Personally I say I haven’t tested positive. but I do think it is okay for people to say “I haven’t gotten it and I’ve been careful.” without having to go into radio contest announcer or prescription drug side effects speed to list all the caveats of why they my not have gotten COVID. people are not testifying in court or writing a contract that needs all potential reasons listed out.

          3. Melissa*

            Right— I’m a nurse who worked every week of 2020-2021 and never got it. We were not even a little bit careful, because I was already working, so what was the point. Neither me, my son, nor my husband ever caught it.

            1. Salad Daisy*

              You may be one of those super-immune people. It’s genetic. Not to say you should still not take precautions.

          4. MCMonkeyBean*

            Ok, but their anecdote is also in line with the actual scientific evidence. Yes you can be careful and get it anyway. But also yes, being careful reduces your risk of getting it. Do you dispute any particular part of those objective facts?

            1. Observer*

              Yes, but the person is saying that there is actually a direct line between their being careful and their not getting it. And that’s just not true.

              Now, if we’re talking public health and what we should be encouraging people to do, ABSOLUTELY hammer home the idea that masking, avoiding crowed indoor venues, etc. are still very wise things to do. But in *this* context, when talking about whether a *particular person* got covid or not, and why, luck / factors out of an individual’s controls are as much an issue as how careful that person was.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                Literally all this person was saying was that it isn’t *only* luck. Precautions matter. Lowering your risk matters. Lowering your risk is NOT bringing your risk to zero and nobody has ever claimed that. But lots of people try to claim that because lowering your risk doesn’t make it zero there is no reason to bother at all because it’s all just luck that that is NOT true and it is very harmful and I’m so, so tired of it.

                Vaccines matter. Masks matter. Attributing *everything* to luck diminishes the importance of these very important tools and is why almost nobody I know bothers to mask anymore.

            2. louvella*

              It’s like seatbelts. We all know that people who wear seatbelts still die in car accidents, and some people who don’t still survive. But that doesn’t make seatbelts useless.

              1. M*

                except we don’t live in a world where only some people are afforded seatbelts and crow at others in accidents that oh gosh golly, that hasn’t happened to me I wear seatbelts!!!!

                1. louvella*

                  That’s true! But considering that right now, in 2023, most people aren’t wearing masks in public places and could choose to do that if they wanted to, it feels pretty similar. Of course high quality masks are expensive, and I definitely feel for those who would be wearing them if they could afford them! But I think that’s a minority these days. Obviously some people have much riskier jobs than others. (My wife worked in person in health care for 2020-2022, I’m very aware of that!)

        3. It's My Birthday*

          It certainly is a lot more than luck! I’ve had six vaccinations (high risk), and still wear a mask everywhere. I live alone, which helps limit exposure. I sure don’t have a stellar immune system, just the opposite.

          Try not to be sensitive about this, many folks have not had diagnosed covid, while some I know have had it more than once and yes they took more chances than me, mostly with travel and socializing. It’s not a contest though and I didn’t judge them, why do that? It’s an illness, not a moral failing.

          Covid is the gift that keeps on giving.

          1. It's My Birthday*

            Oh, I work at home also so had no workplace exposure. It was difficult for healthcare workers in particular to stay uninfected. Again, not a moral issue.

          2. constant_craving*

            But being able to take that level of precaution is also pretty fortunate. For many it just wasn’t practical. I took precautions a lot more seriously and long-term than anyone around me, but my kid brought it home from daycare (and we were not in the kind of position where we could avoid daycare unless we wanted to become unhoused). Others get exposed even when wearing PPE at their jobs, etc. So while precautions certainly help, even the privilege to take those is pretty lucky.

            1. Willow Pillow*

              This. I have a sibling in health care who swabbed COVID-positive patients… and all of their precautions worked until their child brought it home (at the time the government was all “kids don’t need to wear masks in school”). It’s been nearly two years and they still haven’t been able to work due to long COVID.

              The whole “I never got COVID” discussion screams unchecked privilege to me, especially since members of marginalized groups (POC, women) were less likely to be able to work at home or take other strong precautions. Getting COVID is not a moral issue, but not getting it and neglecting to consider all the systems that allowed this is amoral.

              1. atalanta0jess*

                YES. This is what I was trying to say above, but you’ve put it perfectly here.

                “Not getting it and neglecting to consider all the systems that allowed this is amoral.”

                1. louvella*

                  100% agree with this. And it is because COVID has had such a disparate effect on people in marginalized groups that I believe so strongly in taking precautions now, to protect everybody. Our governments are really failing us right now.

              2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                I think for me it’s more a case of try and be aware of the audience that you are making these comments to – because those different options available to everybody are at times a huge reason why someone got or didn’t get Covid.

                Signed the healthcare-adjacent worker who got it because their coworker knowingly brought it to work (yes they did get disciplined for purposely exposing everyone, and later fired after a second round of I’m going to ignore my Dr and go to work with Covid). I just couldn’t work from home for all of the pandemic – my job wasn’t built that way.

                1. Willow Pillow*

                  I agree… but making those comments without said awareness goes back to unchecked privilege to me.

            2. J*

              Fortunate…or at great sacrifice. I left a job and took a 50% cut in pay to stay safe with remote work. I needed to do it anyway given my health history, working in person 5 days a week was killing me in a way I didn’t fully realize as a disabled person. I don’t have kids…also because of my health issues. It’s definitely at great cost for a lot of us to have to make these choices and it isn’t because I’m rolling in dough. Every decision of my life since age 19 has been like this and it still is a decade later.

              1. I Have RBF*

                My immune compromised roomie had to quit her job in 2020 because of the risk of Covid. She didn’t have a choice if she wanted to survive. She’s just now starting a new job, three years later.

                Disabled, elderly and immune compromised people are increasingly made to feel like some sort of hypochondriac for daring to take precautions. I’ve even been literally accused of it when I mention that I still mask when in public. It’s annoying.

                When someone tells me they got Covid, all I do is wish them a swift recovery, because I can’t run their life. But I have less sympathy for people who don’t even mask in public and won’t vaccinate. Some days it feels like those folks are out to get my household sick.

                1. Eep*

                  Folks aren’t out to get your household sick. I get feeling embittered but ascribing ill-intent to people who all have their own traumas is not healthy or helpful.

                2. Peach*

                  I’m really curious – your line about “running people’s lives” – do you think if you were in charge, there’d be no Covid? I’m struggling to understand why you think people wouldn’t get Covid even if they took more precautions. You do realise nothing is foolproof and, by the way, people will always need feeding, transporting and care, so we can’t live in an isolated bubble?

              2. Eep*

                It can be both but if you left your job at a 50% pay cut you obviously could still afford to do so. It wasn’t the difference between getting by and starving on the street. Some people would never be able to take a pay cut like that. That’s not to say your life hasn’t been hard, but you’ve also still had options that other people simply don’t. You’ve also likely NOT had options that other people have — both things can be true.

                1. Allonge*

                  Sure – but they still get to say “I was/am careful” without being accused of all kinds of horrible things.

                  Because they were, and if we take your argument to its logical extreme, only the very poorest person in the world who could still do anything different to protect themselves from COVID would be allowed to say they were careful. Can we not do this please?

          3. melody*

            Six vaccinations?

            I’ve had two and two boosters, which is all that have been available. How does a person get two more?

            1. Susie*

              I’m in Canada and have had 5. So it could be location specific. I think we have #6 available now too, I’m just not eligible for it yet.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              I believe immunocompromised people in the US are eligible for more frequent boosters.

            3. J*

              Immunocompromised people were bumped up to a 3-dose OG dose and then regular boosters (fall 21, spring 22, again potentially in summer 22 depending on timing) then the bivalent, then even a chance for a bivalent booster. If you aren’t moderately or severely immunocompromised, it would be 2 OG, fall 21, bivalent in 22 and nothing more…in most cases.

            4. Ginger snaps*

              I’m on 5 doses in Australia (and we had access to the vaccines quite late). And I am not immunocompromised, the regular schedule that’s advised has me on 5.

        4. Darsynia*

          Yeah, I did all those things and caught it from my *pastor* who lied about how long it had been since infection, during a situation I couldn’t avoid, and was masked for. I subsequently kept the four other members of my family safe despite living in a small house and being sick for two weeks.

          In short, I wasn’t careless, trusted people around me were (left the church and tbh religion entirely), and crucially: I recognize I have charged emotions around this situation. As such, I try to see ‘I’ve been really careful’ the same way I view standard greetings (‘how are you’ etc.) that have deeper meaning than what we as a society agree to respond to, when used in specific situations.

          It’s helped a little!

          1. Still Mad*

            Yeah, my roommate didn’t tell me she had covid (“definitely allergies”), and didn’t quarantine herself. I only found out I had it when I tested myself to get on a plane to visit my brother in April. I never actually got sick, so pre-test I did my usual (masked) life, and exposed my entire office plus MSG, so…cool…

            1. Elizabeth West*

              My mother got it when it first came around, in February 2020 — I think from my sibling, who traveled for work. She didn’t say anything at the time because she didn’t realize that’s what it was. Later she did, when her sense of smell didn’t come back (it has since, but not all the way).

              I never got it that I’m aware of, though we were living in the same house. I was downstairs and she was upstairs and there wasn’t a lot of close interaction at that point. After lockdown, I was super careful for three years — until I moved. I figured I’d get it after that because moving is stressful (I got all the vaccines, but I know that’s no guarantee) and now I have to use public transport, but nope.

              Some people here are still wearing masks but I don’t question it because I don’t know their story. No one at work is masking either.

        5. I'm A Little Teapot*

          Except that there’s lots of people who are wearing high-quality masks, avoiding public places, etc that HAVE gotten covid. Sometimes multiple times.

          At this point – it’s luck, genetic quirks, or you’ve gotten covid and just don’t know it. I agree that getting sick isn’t a moral failing though.

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            Yup. Even doing those things, I am also sending my toddler to daycare three days a week, which is almost 100% certainly where we got it. My husband was the only person in our house who’d already had it once before: at the beginning of the pandemic, his Army reserve unit sent him out of state to help with the pandemic response, and he came down with Covid within a few days of flying out: there were no vaccines yet, and high-quality masks were hard to come by. Since he was away, I avoided contracting it from him. I managed not to get it until a few months ago, right after my son got sick. Sometimes you just can’t help but take some risks. Doesn’t mean you have to abandon caution. It’s a combination of luck, good fortune to be able to avoid risk, and sensible precautions that keep people safe from Covid, however long that safety holds out.

        6. Observer*

          Someone could also do the same things as me and get it, because masks aren’t perfect. I don’t think getting covid is a moral failing. But it’s not ONLY luck.

          It’s a LOT more luck than most people realize. For one thing, being able to take these precautions is something that has nothing to do with how careful a person generally is. If you need to go to the office, shop in person, use public transportation at ALL, your risks go up exponentially. A lot of people really, really *cannot* do everything you’ve done.

          On the other hand, a lot of people who did do what you did got sick and a lot of people who didn’t do what you did, did not get sick. My husband got covid, and we didn’t know till well after he got the symptoms. (It’s not because we did not WANT to test, but because my husband was not “eligible” for a test because he didn’t have a known exposure and his symptoms did not perfectly match up with the official list of symptoms.) Yet, I never had covid – I tested then and have tested since and not only have I never gotten a positive test, I’ve never shown any antibodies. We also have no idea where he picked it up – he was being quot careful, doing pretty much what you did.

          1. louvella*

            For the record, I work in person fairly often and don’t have a car so I do rely on public transit. So that’s what I mean by, yes, I could do the same things and have gotten it. But a lot of people are doing those same things and NOT masking. Those people are way more likely to get it.

        7. M*

          Yeah it’s not a coincidence that a person who doesn’t have to work with the public, you know, the cashiers, waitstaff, etc, you so neatly forgot about in condemning public life, didn’t get COVID.

          You all have got to stop patting yourself on the back for this.

          1. Claire*

            For me and most other people I know, one thing the pandemic did was to make all the people who can’t afford to be careful so much more visible. My groceries got delivered by a person so I could stay home. My alcohol got delivered by a person so I could stay home. Amazon drivers brought me things so I didn’t have to go out and expose myself. I had weekly, at least, text interactions with Seamless drivers who spent their days running around in public so that I could have restaurant food delivered to me. It didn’t take long after lockdown started for me to look around and go “Damn, look at the number of people putting themselves at risk that it takes for me to avoid risk.”

            How did so many other people miss that part? I don’t understand.

        8. Rose*

          A lot of people are doing the same, but have gotten sick once or more. That’s still luck.

        9. examine your statement*

          cool! it’s very *lucky* for you that your workplace allows you to mask at work.

        10. biobotb*

          Well, I think at this point in the pandemic, never having it or never testing positive is LARGELY due to luck. That doesn’t mean luck is the only factor.

          1. Susannah*

            Well – if you’re talking about the vaccinated world, yes.
            I’ve never had it (neither has my husband) and we both feel just very, very lucky. He travels a lot, as well.
            But had we both not been vaccinated and bolstered as soon as we could – and also masked in public (we rarely do now), I wonder if we’d be so lucky.

        11. Indolent Libertine*

          louvella, I’m with you 1000%. I also haven’t had it, as far as I know – I have not had any symptoms of respiratory illness since March 2020 – and neither has my spouse. Sure, it’s theoretically possible that we either both had asymptomatic infections at the same time, or that we each had asymptomatic infections at different times that the other one didn’t catch, but statistically that seems quite unlikely. We’re both of an age to be at elevated risk.

          Yes, luck and privilege play a part here – we were able to limit our exposure early on without disastrous financial repercussions, and we are everlastingly grateful to the healthcare workers and all the other essential workers who took on those risks so oldsters like us could stay home and out of their way. But there’s also been a lot of effort and sacrifice that is part of being as insanely careful as we have been and continue to be – like testing often, being as fully vaxed as each of us is eligible to be (which sadly is an exclusive club encompassing only 17% of the total population here in the US according to the CDC), buying large quantities of and wearing high quality masks absolutely everywhere indoors in public at all times, keeping our exposure low by living a life that’s got vastly smaller horizons… and those efforts have reduced not only our own risk, but that of everyone in our immediate orbit, and everyone else in theirs, and so on. I really feel like the “oh, it’s just luck” point of view is unfairly dismissive of that reality.

          1. louvella*

            That’s the thing. It’s been a lot of work and it’s pretty exhausting.

            And yes luck has played a role. Of course it has. And I get to work from home a lot of the time (not all the time). Obviously that’s a huge privilege. My wife did work in health care in person from 2020-2022, though. I don’t have a car so I do rely on public transit (obviously always masking and sitting by an open window whenever possible).

            Taking precautions has been hard on my professional life and my personal life. It has been pretty emotionally exhausting but it is very important to me, for my personal health and to live my values. So it does suck when people are dismissive of it.

            1. Random Dice*

              This has all been f***ing exhausting, hasn’t it?

              I’m glad you lived your values in a way you can be proud of. That’s always such an important thing in life.

        12. All Het Up About It*

          I think people who are talking about it’s not just luck, it’s their precautions are missing the point of the letter. Two people could take the EXACT same precautions and one could get Covid and one could not. Why? Because either luck/genetics. (And I think we could argue that the genetics thing is “lucky” too.)

          Of course still be extremely cautious is going to lower your risk, but luck still has something to do with it. I’m curious if people who haven’t gotten it and are still coming back to because of the efforts they made are doing so because it makes them feel like they have more control of the situation than they do. It’s like they don’t want to admit after three years of masking and avoiding high risk situations, they might still get Covid.

          Based on a lot of these comments if this is the sort of “I’ve been careful” individuals the OP is dealing with, I absolutely get the frustration.

          1. Happy meal with extra happy*

            Yes, exactly this. And being the unlucky person who gets it despite of how safe they are, how many precautions their taking, it must suck. Like, yeah the chances of that happening are slimmer compared to someone not taking precautions, but we’re not talking about statistics and chances here, we’re talking about individuals.

          2. Katara's side braids*

            I haven’t seen a single person saying luck plays NO role, though. At this point it looks like everyone in these comments is saying the same thing (“it’s not just caution, luck plays a part too!” “It’s not just luck, caution plays a part too!”) and only responding to half of the message.

            The comment you’re responding to even acknowledges that someone could take precautions and still get covid, AND that it isn’t a moral failing, so I’m not sure where you’re getting “they don’t want to admit after three years of masking/avoiding they might still get covid.”

            1. Cmdrshprd*

              Idk I think a lot of people in this general thread that have said being careful plays a part most (if not all) have admitted that luck plays a part.

              I think part of the problem is to some people the phrase “I haven’t gotten COVID, because I’ve been careful.” sounds to them as “I haven’t gotten COVID because I’ve been careful and that is the one and only reason I have not gotten, no other reasons/issues mattered in me not having covid.”

              and to others that same phrase “I haven’t gotten COVID because I’ve been careful.” means “I have not gotten COVID and ONE of the reasons (but not the only reason) is because I’ve been careful. Personally this is how I take it when people say that.

              I do think it would be better if people said “I haven’t gotten COVID because I’ve been careful and lucky.” but I don’t think someone who only says careful is some irredeemable person who thinks they can do everything in their own.

              I think expecting people to say/list out all the reasons they haven’t gotten COVID or reasons why they may have and not known it is unreasonable.

              like “I haven’t gotten COVID because I was careful, lucky, I have various racial/socioeconomic privileges that afforded me the ability to isolate (WFM, order groceries) and avoid crowds, and I may have gotten COVID early on when no tests were available, but I did test frequently when at home tests became available when I was sick, but also I may have been asymptomatic so I could have had it but never tested for it.” is very wordy.

              1. Katara's side braids*

                Yeah, I was mostly addressing the comments in here, which pretty much all acknowledge a combination of caution and luck. But for some reason people only respond to the parts of the comment that they personally feel is over-acknowledged, and act like the commenter didn’t explicitly mention the other factor.

                I didn’t get covid until June 2022, but until then I led with saying I was lucky, despite being more cautious than most others in my circle with similar access to time and resources. I agree that that’s the way to go, but there are so many different reasons why someone could be saying “I’ve been really careful” that I wouldn’t necessarily interpret it as a judgment of the other person.

        13. Random Dice*

          It’s a good reminder for those of us who have taken rigorous precautions to add “and lucky”.

          “I haven’t gotten COVID yet because I was really careful, and lucky.”

          Because even careful people (and of course masking helps!) with certain jobs were just hugely exposed.

          I’m assuming you don’t have a job where, say, kids with behavioral problems pull off your mask (as my kid’s classmate did to the special ed teacher).

          Or healthcare, like my brother, a totally not-lungs-related doctor (with a disabled wife) who nonetheless was assigned a Covid ward, pre-vaccinations.

          Or grocery stores where tiny Covid particles are everywhere and people are screaming in your face or spitting on you in rage about mask policies.

          So just add “and lucky” to be kind.

          1. Random Dice*

            Added: read the whole thread first. This has been addressed ad infinitum.

            Clearly many of us (myself included) are still working through a lot of Covid trauma, this stuff is hard.

          2. Trippedamean*

            It’s not even just about the work you did. My husband worked from home, picked up groceries outside the store masked, and never went anywhere. We kept our child in virtual school and avoided social interactions that didn’t include numerous precautions. I had to go into the office (though we all masked, have separate offices, and had meetings via Zoom). I was the one taking more risks but my husband got it first (we still have no idea where from).

        14. Freya*

          I am an HR manager for a small-ish construction company (less than 200 employees). I’ve been exposed more times than I can count by employees. At the beginning of COVID and into 2022, I was diligent about protecting myself with masks, isolation, testing, etc. However, once the mask requirements were lifted last summer, I stopped masking in public spaces when I’m not ill.

          I have never gotten COVID (tested and confirmed through blood donations), and am the only one in my office and family that hasn’t gotten it. I believe, at this point, I am likely part of the estimated 25% of the population that is immune to the virus.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        I think it’s also about life circumstances and how careful you *can* even be. Someone who works in healthcare will see people and have a higher probability of exposure, no matter how careful they are. Someone who has children who go to daycare (because the parents have to work) will have a risk. Not everyone can afford to drastically limit their exposure, so “careful” can mean very different things to different people, not by choice, but by necessity.

        1. louvella*

          Absolutely. People can mask 100 percent of the time and still get it. But it reduces the risk.

        2. Chrisssss*

          You can be careful and then make a mistake at the wrong time in the wrong place. That is how I got it :/

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              As Captain Picard once told us – ‘you can make no mistakes and still lose’

              It’s true. Epidemiology is all about probability mechanics – there is no way to achieve 100% immunity to being exposed to a virus. The best vaccines is the world can’t give that. Bio safety suits can’t give that (although they get darn close. Still they’re blasted sweaty and noisy).

              I’m a former virologist with higher degrees in epidemiology. I caught covid in December. Just sheer bad luck.

              1. Random Dice*

                They’re SO sweaty!!!! Ughhh.

                And somehow they always have to be worn in the hottest weather, like it’s a rule of the universe or something.

              2. Random Dice*

                Also, THANK YOU for your service to the common good. That’s not a job one does to get rich. Thank you for all that education and training and work to keep us all safer.

            2. louvella*

              I do know someone who got it and their only potential exposure was the hallways of their apartment building while wearing a high quality mask. So yes, absolutely.

        3. CityMouse*

          Yep, I kept my son brought COVID home frok daycare eventually. Not holding my sick child simply wasn’t an option.

        4. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

          I intubated COVID patients at a hospital and never got it but then we all got it in my family from my toddler’s daycare. Luckily mostly asymptomatic and no lingering effects. But goes to show you that healthcare can be safer than childcare.

          1. Random Dice*

            Thank you so much for your service.

            I can’t even imagine the level of fear and trauma you dealt with, and I’m so grateful that you were willing to do that job.

        5. Snow Globe*

          Agree so much with this! The issue for the LW is that they are not in a position to be “careful” (e.g., staying home or away from potentially contagious people), and it is really tone-deaf to essentially brag to a healthcare provider that you haven’t gotten covid because of how careful you have been able to be.

          1. Zap R.*

            This right here. I had five shots and masked everywhere and still got it because I had to go into the office every day on an overcrowded public transit system. Also, after three years of living with literal OCD during a pandemic, mental exhaustion set in and I probably had some lapses in my state of hypervigilance. I don’t want to hear that *you* masked and *you* got your shots and didn’t get it. *I* also did those things and it still happened.

        6. lostclone*

          I know I was mandated to go back to work in person and, while I was careful and always wore a mask, I also commute via public transport and almost all of my co-workers stopped wearing masks immediately. That’s how I got it for the second time!

          The first was from my husband who waited tables at the time. There wasn’t an awful lot of ‘being careful’ he could do.

      3. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, I’ve never gotten it and on the rare occasion that it’s relevant enough to the conversation that I mention it, I always attribute it to luck, or rather a combination of luck and the vaccines. I have been careful, probably more than the average person and for a longer time, but not to the extreme. My kid got it twice from daycare (once before she was old enough for the vaccine), and I didn’t catch it either time from a child I was in constant contact with for 10 days. So I can’t really attribute that to being careful.

      4. Lisa*

        I agree that a lot of it is luck. I can only think of three people I know who have never gotten COVID – none of them have been especially careful. They all stopped masking when the general public stopped masking and have been going to the office, to parties and vacations, etc.

        1. CityMouse*

          I mean, I got COVID while I was still masking and being careful. I have since mostly quit masking (I am 5x vaxxed? I lost count but however many they said someone my age could have) and haven’t gotten COVID.

      5. ThatGirl*

        Well, there are certainly ways to be more or less careful. But in general I agree. As far as I know, I’ve never had covid. We were extremely careful for the first year and then started taking calculated risks after vaccines became available. At this point we’re just living our lives. After three years, my husband got covid in April, no idea how or where, but I happened to not be home when he was most contagious. we slept separately and he masked for a week. I never got it. It really seems to be dumb luck at this point.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          Yeah, both my parents got it at different times and both times, they were fully around the other while they were at the most contagious, but didn’t transfer it. (Like, sharing the same bed, long car rides together, zero quarantining, when symptoms had already appeared.)

        2. allathian*

          Yeah. I got my first and AFAIK only bout of Covid in October 2020 (omicron), i.e. about 2.5 years after the pandemic started and when I’d had two vaccines and one booster. Those were the vaccines I was qualified for as someone with no diagnosed risk factors (except possibly obesity, but you have to have a BMI of at least 40 for obesity to qualify as a risk factor on its own here, and I’m fat but not that fat). Here, a PCR diagnosis of Covid counts as another vaccine if you’ve had at least one booster.

          Our son brought it home from school, and I self-tested positive two days after his diagnosis, and my husband self-tested positive a couple of days after me. Our house’s pretty open-plan and my husband sleeps in my home office, so isolating wasn’t really practical for us… I was lucky to get an official diagnosis and luckier still to be able to go back to work after 5 days, even if I was too exhausted to do much more than work for about two months afterwards.

          After they lifted the mask mandate on public transit, I pretty much stopped masking unless I went in for a medical appointment. Now I only mask if I have respiratory symptoms and can’t avoid going out. The shape of my face must be weird, because I haven’t been able to find any masks that fit even reasonably comfortably. So for me the options are either to socialize without masks or to stay at home and only go out when it’s absolutely necessary, as I was privileged enough to be able to do during the worst of the pandemic.

          I’m comfortable with my current risk level, and it seems to match the vast majority of people around me. My mental health certainly suffered from the isolation of the pandemic, although I’ve only realized it after the fact, and I don’t think that’s a negligible factor. In my case, I lost about two years of what I consider a “normal life.” I missed no important milestones in my life, unlike the high school kids who never got a prom or high school graduation, for example. We don’t know yet what the mental health consequences will be for the teenagers who were in remote school for much of that time, or for that matter, for the babies and toddlers who never saw a stranger’s face for several years.

          The health authorities here stopped all attempts at contact tracing except in medical facilities more than a year ago. Now there’s only one laboratory in the country that’s doing PCR tests, and only those who could potentially benefit from Paxlovid treatment can get tested. Basically Covid’s being treated like any other infectious respiratory illness, and last winter more people were hospitalized with the flu than with Covid. The majority of patients who were hospitalized with Covid went to hospital for some other reason and were routinely tested as a precaution.

          So yeah, I totally respect people who need to mask and isolate for their own health and for the health of their loved ones, and there’s a friend I’m only seeing outdoors in the summer because her husband is immunocompromised. But there’s a difference between those precautions that I consider necessary (or not) to protect myself and my immediate and extended family, and those that the government imposed to ensure that the healthcare system isn’t completely overloaded. I’m lucky to live in an area with a good vaccination rate and a sufficient respect for the authorities that people by and large complied with the masking mandate.

      6. Starlike*

        I’ve absolutely just been lucky. I work in healthcare and have been face-to-face all but about 6 weeks when I was transitioning jobs. There’s no reason I should have not gotten it except for luck and possibly genetics.

      7. Kel*

        Literally someone will ask me if I’ve had it and I say, in the luckiest voice ever, ‘no’ and then i knock on wood.

      8. Amanda*

        It’s also due to privilege. It’s hardly bragging if you work from home to say you’ve never gotten Covid vs. if you work in education, healthcare, or other people-intensive jobs. Like, gimme a break already. Find something else to praise yourself about.

      9. Quill*

        Genes probably aren’t too much involved, given that an immune variant would play a larger role in not getting a severe case than not getting a case at all. (And I wouldn’t assume that a stronger immune system would equal asymptomatic either – a lot of the symptoms are actually your immune system combating the virus.)

        But yeah. Combination of luck, caution, and the privilege to not be exposed to the public constantly.

        1. Mf*

          Yes, there have been investigational studies on this, and it’s not clear that genes are actually involved. Basically, we don’t understand why some people get sick and others don’t at all.

          1. Susannah*

            I’ve wondered, myself. Yes, I’m all vaxed and wore masks and avoided crowds, etc. (though not so much now). For whatever reason, I don’t get viruses. Bad colds, other health issues as well. But not viruses. Go figure. Luck, there (on other health stuff, not so lucky, but so it goes..)

      10. Mack*

        It’s also possible they got it and didn’t take a test or did the test wrong. Obviously some people are just lucky but I’m 100% sure at least one of my family members who brags about not having had it has actually had it.

      11. Mia*

        I was essentially housebound for three years because I’m immune-compromised. COVID would have killed me so I didn’t have a choice. When I did have to go out I wore an N95, but I went out very infrequently. It’s not a moral failing for those who have had COVID, but being immune-compromised during a global pandemic absolutely sucked. I’m pretty sure the only reason I haven’t gotten it yet was because I avoided everything for three years. I’m just now allowed out.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, I was expecting that one to come up.

        I still haven’t gotten it yet and tested all over the place with every exposure. I still am pretty sure I haven’t gotten it. *literal knocks on wood* But who the hell knows why some manage not to. I’m very paranoid, but you never know any more.

        1. Artemesia*

          I went for a couple of years, being careful and then early this spring with the only exposure being in a group where no one else got it, got it and gave it to my husband (or vice versa). We were well vaccinated and had mild cases but after all that time there we were. I know a couple people who had no symptoms but tested because they had been exposed — and tested positive with no symptoms.

          1. It's My Birthday*

            And this is why I retain a bit of paranoia. Asymptomatic covid has always been a thing.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Exactly. My standard line is “As far as I KNOW, I’ve not yet had Covid.” If I have, I’ve been asymptomatic and it hasn’t shown on the tests I’ve taken, but that doesn’t mean I know for sure.

        I would assume it’s probably more due to a combination of luck, vaccinations and living like a medieval peasant that never goes more than a mile from home than anything else. It’s certainly not a prize or any kind of moral high ground. I really hate the crap tendency of our species in general to decide who’s an “innocent victim” of a virus and who isn’t–it’s like the deserving/undeserving poor false dichotomy.

        1. Ellie*

          This is the phrasing I use as well, although given I’m in a family of four, I would have thought one of us would have shown symptoms if we’d had it. But I really have no idea.

          I would try not to get too hung up on the “I’ve been really careful” phrasing though. I mean, being careful is one factor, sure, and the person saying it may not mean any more by it than that. My state shut down early and hard, and I’m a natural introvert, those are factors as well.

        2. Anonosaurus*

          This is my line too.

          my beef with the “being careful” line is that it doesn’t recognise the extent to which privilege has affected this. if you’re in a white collar WFH job it’s easier to take precautions in situations where you choose to do so. if you’re an essential worker/in a role that has to be in person, with no control over whether you can mask and no other precautions such as ventilation, you have far greater risk and less control over your risk.

          I’ve chosen to be careful in my private life and have a lot of control over my work arrangements, which is the main reason I don’t believe I have had it (or at least have never tested positive). if I worked in the supermarket and had kids in school? pretty inevitable that I’d have had it by now.

          1. Venus*

            Privilege also extends to having groceries delivered, driving a car instead of public transit, and many other situations in which money limits exposure.

            1. I Have RBF*

              Yep. Unfortunately, in our society it is a privilege to be able to keep yourself safe.

              Many low wage “essential” workers are being discouraged or even forbidden from taking the simple precaution of masking (https://www.forbes.com/sites/judystone/2023/07/17/in-n-out-burgers-new-masking-policy-threatens-their-employees-health/?sh=515e55054909)

              I know that in the early days when masks weren’t available, I would give homemade masks to delivery drivers who didn’t have them, because they were better than nothing. Even now, I will give an N95 mask to someone who wants one if I have one available. I’m not rich, but I put a priority on helping people protect themselves.

              I have a roomie who uses public transit solely. She masks religiously, because her customers are vulnerable people. If she’s sick, she can’t work near them even masked. She’s still had it twice.

        3. It's My Birthday*

          Living like a medieval peasant, LOL. That’s been me. Less than 3000 miles a year on my car.

        4. Dust Bunny*

          This.

          I’ve been really careful and *as far as I know* have not had it, but a friend of mine who was also very careful, but had complicating health problems, died from it. My workplace has limited human contact and has been gung-ho about vaccines and masks, but my friend was retired and barely left home, so we were both privileged to be in low-contact situations.

        5. ufos&unicorns*

          In my family, we refer to it as being COVID “unicorns” because it’s a little bit mythical/lucky and mostly self-reported these days (since we will all have the antibodies from the vaccines).

          LW – feel free to use that or similar in a response. “Wow, you’re like a unicorn or something” will make most people think you’re praising them on being unique, even if you’re really expressing your skepticism (they could just be a horse with a plastic horn glued on their head).

        6. Lorraine*

          This is the phrasing I use as well. I test regularly (negative this morning! Seeing my elderly father later), but I could have been asymptomatic and not had it picked up on a test.
          Absolutely everything about covid – the current lack of scientific data, the ongoing misinformation, the rhetoric – is depressing. Keep masking and protecting each other out there!

      3. Phony Genius*

        My doctor asks any patient who brags about it if they would like to take an antibody test. So far, all of those who agreed have tested positive for the antibody. So he thinks nearly 100% of people have had the virus, but many more were asymptomatic than previously thought.

        1. jane's nemesis*

          Yeah your doctor is conveniently forgetting that having been vaccinated causes antibodies.

          1. biobotb*

            Depends on what kind of antibody test the doctor is recommending. If it tests for antibodies against internal proteins, then it will distinguish between people who’ve been vaccinated and those who’ve been infected.

          2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

            Not saying I put a ton of stock in anecdata or that I think other people should, but there are tests that can distinguish between COVID antibodies from vaccination and antibodies from infection.

        2. Mianaai*

          Is that antibody test able to differentiate vaccine-induced antibodies from infection-induced? I wasn’t aware of any currently available for clinical use that could differentiate (there’s some research-grade which can) – I might be behind the times on what assays are available but he might just be picking up these folks’ vaccination antibodies.

          1. Texas Teacher*

            My family were part of an antibody study. The test they were using could detect antibodies to the spike proteins caused by the vaccines, and also antibodies to the virus itself.

            1. J*

              Can confirm, also part of ongoing antibody testing since I’m part of a subset of people who don’t develop antibodies. I did develop vaccine antibodies and as of this month with the study ending, I never had wild Covid. I would get results for each category. These antibody tests were essential in getting the immunocompromised dosage increased to 3 original shots.

      4. Just Another Zebra*

        Yes to this.

        I’ve had COVID twice – both times I was completely asymptomatic. I only found out because I got my daughter tested, when one of her daycare classmates tested positive. She, too, was completely asymptomatic. If we hadn’t been told another child in her class was positive, we never would have tested because there was no need. It’s entirely possible, even probably given that I was working in person the whole pandemic, that I had it more than twice, but didn’t have symptoms.

    2. Texas Teacher*

      Heck, I have several family members who have not been careful, refused the vaccine, and still haven’t gotten Covid. Like, have gotten checked for antibodies a couple of times and test negative.
      It really is confounding. I think many people overestimate their contribution to good things, like parents whose children are naturally easy sleepers and think it was all the things they did to make it so when it was just… luck.
      Id answer, “good for you” and try to put it out of your mind.

      1. cabbagepants*

        +1

        Like so many awkward comments, the brag about not getting COVID is really all about the speaker’s internal landscape and not really about you or anything else. You can respond to it like any other non sequitur. “Good for you” is perfect.

        1. Good for you*

          My husband and I used to playfully tell each other “GFY” instead of “Go f*ck yourself”, and when our young daughter overheard and asked what it meant, we told her it meant “Good for you.” Now, anytime I hear “good for you” my mind translates it to “go f*ck yourself”, which makes it an extra-perfect response in this situation. Outwardly polite, but I know what I REALLY mean.

      2. Smithy*

        This is where I am. I got COVID during a period when I was being “very careful”, and then during a period when I had to travel internationally a lot for work and was testing all the time around lots of people who all got COVID, didn’t get it.

        Those who talk about not getting COVID, I see a lot more like “I don’t eat avocado toast, so I was able to buy a house” talk. I’m not going to deny some element of personal contribution, but there’s also a lot of other stuff there that we’re either not talking about or can’t see.

        1. AnonORama*

          Yes, it’s definitely in the same vein as “I gave up my daily latte and saved TWO MILLION DOLLARS!”

      3. AGD*

        I agree. I was careful, sure – or as careful as an educator who works with young adults can be. There were some near misses, but I assumed I’d get the freakin’ virus sooner or later – hopefully after as many pokes in the arm as possible. I ended up taking 10 or 11 COVID tests and they were all negative.

        But the absolute biggest reason why I didn’t get COVID while a big circle of my friends did was that I had a choice between two travel dates to go reunite with some of them in person in a not-too-distant city as a day trip: July 9 or July 16, and I ended up picking the earlier option. We had a blast!

        In between that and the alternative date, they had someone else visit them spontaneously on July 14, and he brought COVID with him and everyone in the room got it, even though the room contained an awful lot of vaccinations.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          I’m in that same boat with your friends– got it right after my fifth shot. Got long covid, too, yay me. It was a difficult psychological blow, as well as a physical one. You really can take every precaution and invisible physiological realities can still flatten you.

    3. Educator*

      I think that it can often be a lingering push back against the people who were being recklessly not careful at points in the pandemic where that really put all of us at risk—the people who thought that their wedding/restaurant meal/trip home for the holidays/college party/whatever was more important then keeping people safe during the height of Delta or Omicron. Honestly, I am still mad at those selfish people for dragging the whole thing out. When I say that I have been careful in a social situation, it is a nice way of saying “I don’t want to hang out with you if you are the kind of person who does not prioritize the well-being of others over your immediate wants. Are you one of those reckless people?” But that description obviously does not apply to people (like me!) who work essential jobs, did what we could to protect ourselves, and sacrificed a lot to protect others during those terrible years.

      1. Tina's Dress Finder*

        I hear you. I spent so long with incredibly frightening Long Covid symptoms (having to crawl from my bed to the bathroom, for the best part of a year, and having no knowledge if I would ever recover) that I am still shell shocked by the widespread sense of, “Getting my life back to normal is more important than protecting other people from Long Covid, death or bereavement”.

        Big respect to the people who kept trying. I know it’s really challenging, and there’s a grey area nowadays where we don’t know how much to move on or not. But I hugely respect the people who are thoughtful.

      2. Jackalope*

        That’s some of what I’m feeling. I know that at this point more people have had it than haven’t. I know people who’ve been very careful and still got it, and I totally know that happens. But I still feel anger about people who just blew it off. I’m trying to let it go, and will get there eventually, but I’m not there yet!

        1. louvella*

          I mean, I have a lot of anger toward people who are blowing it off now…how hard is it to put on a damn mask at Target?

          1. Nobby Nobbs*

            Yeah, but people who have had COVID at some point are also entitled to that anger.

          2. It's My Birthday*

            I’m pretty much the only person masking anywhere now, luckily I care nothing about being different. My anger is toward anti-vaxxers who depend on others to vaccinate (herd immunity) for their protection.

            Not only was covid risk addressed my masking, but all respiratory ailments declined. I don’t want any of it, being immunocompromised. And some folks have not been careful, that’s just a fact.

            1. connie*

              They don’t care about herd immunity. That phase has long passed. They think people who vaxxed are idiots and that the vaxxes are far more dangerous than covid. They are absolutely not relying on your behavior to keep from getting it.

          3. lost academic*

            There’s a difference at this stage of the pandemic between personal masking and masking for a public health response to ensure that our ICUs aren’t overwhelmed. The rationale for masking has changed because the nature of the disease within the population has changed. I’m happy to see people who still mask as needed both for themselves, their loved ones and the people around them when they might need to be in public while sick. I am frustrated that it became and remains so political, but from a public health perspective I don’t have a problem with people generally not masking in Target. (That was not true previously, I definitely gave a lot of glares and I have a powerful glare.)

            1. Fives*

              This is where I stand. I masked *everywhere* until about May, and now I do it as needed.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              Yeah, for a while now my goal has been less “never get COVID” and more “make sure I don’t get COVID during a wave that overwhelms the health system”. Currently, I mask when community levels are medium or higher, or in healthcare locations, I isolate if I think I’ve been exposed, and I test before meeting up with one friend who is particularly worried about long COVID.

          4. Globby*

            Seriously? The pandemic is over. The WHO and CDC have said so. It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to mask forever. Just no.

            1. Quill*

              Not to derail, but there’s a difference between public health entities declaring the acute phase of a pandemic over, (which is based on their estimation of the risk to the average healthy adult) and the risk to people who are already sick – which is why masking should at least continue in healthcare settings. And there’s a difference between the global estimate and whatever transmission is going on locally to you.

              However you’re going to drum up a lot of anger with the blanket statement “the pandemic is over” because that is 1) not what the WHO and CDC declarations actually meant 2) a standard talking point of people who want to pick a fight with those still taking precautions due to their own health.

        2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          They not only blew it off, they shamed anyone who was careful, no matter the state of their health.

      3. Well...*

        I thought that they were dragging it out at the time, but now I think that was just wishful thinking (if we all work hard, it won’t be so bad!) They didn’t drag it out, but they did make it so that more people died.

        I lived abroad in countries with stricter or lockdowns and a more compliant population. Covid still dragged a lot, and the only thing that “stopped” it was widespread vaccination, which the US offered pretty quickly. The US had low uptake, but life morphed back to something like normal at around the same time there as it did in Europe.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          At the beginning of the pandemic, there were some models predicting that COVID could be contained and eradicated the way swine flu and some other respiratory viruses were. Knowing what we know now about the extent of asymptomatic/pre-symptomatic transmission, that probably wasn’t ever a possibility.

          1. Burger Bob*

            Yes, I think it had spread a lot farther than we realized by the time people started noticing something was up. Heck, my brother thinks he had it in JANUARY 2020, super early on, while he was directing a study abroad program in Europe. The students came back from winter break, and then a whole bunch of them and the staff came down with what they figured was a really nasty cold/flu situation. It was later revealed that one of the students had spent his winter break visiting family….in Wuhan. >_< It really was out before we ever had a chance to contain it.

      4. Joron Twiner*

        Yes, I think the person (and others in this thread) mean it this way. They want credit for doing the right thing, they want their sacrifices acknowledged, and they’re trying to filter out who they can trust.

        I think some of those are important, and I agree with the sentiment behind them. But many people feel the same way even though they got Covid, so “I never got it, I’ve been careful” is not the right way to express that.

        I think the primary thing is not to bring the topic up like a brag. If asked it’s fine enough as an answer, but if you proactively bring up the topic it just sounds like you want a cookie for doing the right thing. Like saying “well I didn’t lose MY house in 2008, I was careful about my savings”–we all know that’s more up to chance than your actions, and trying to frame it as a virtue makes you look bad.

    4. Bilateralrope*

      Some people are lucky enough to seem immune to covid.

      One of the cleaners at my workplace hasn’t had covid. The only person from her cleaning company who hasn’t had it. No symptoms. She took RAT tests whenever she found out she might have been exposed, all negative. She isn’t taking any extra precautions compared to everyone else.

      1. CityMouse*

        My friend’s husband didn’t catch COVID when she had it (they live in a tiny apartment so didn’t bother isolating). He even took a PCR test.

        1. ClaireW*

          Yeah I had it bad (like, hospitalisation for a week bad) and my husband never got it, he took a bunch of tests to be sure but it somehow missed him! And we weren’t even isolating from each other because the day or 2 before I went into hospital I couldn’t care for myself.

      2. It's My Birthday*

        My mother smoked cigarettes most of her life, died at 91, never had lung cancer or any respiratory ailments. Smoking seemingly had no lasting ill effect on her. Amazing how some people’s bodies work, but those are the exceptions.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, my grandmother smoked, drank, never visited a doctor until she had to (I am talking when she did have to go to a doctor, they found healed fractures that she hadn’t bothered to do anything about) and while her diet wasn’t completely unhealthy, she did like her chocolate, salt and ice cream and she was overweight. And she lived to 93. It was smoking that caused her death in the end, something related to COPD, but yeah, she never got cancer despite doing many things that raised her risk and was doing crossword puzzles either the day of her death or the day before.

          These people exist but for every one of those, there are people like her husband who died at about the age of 60 from something smoking related, probably lung cancer.

        2. Observer*

          Smoking seemingly had no lasting ill effect on her. Amazing how some people’s bodies work, but those are the exceptions.

          See, this is the interesting thing. For context, I *hate* smoking with a passion, and I have real problems with the companies that make most of their money from selling that poison.

          Having said that, being a smoker who does NOT get lung cancer is not an exception. It’s far closer to the the norm. 10% of people who smoke or are exposed to second hand smoke get lung cancer. Which means that *90%* do not get lung cancer.

          Of course, that only sounds “not so bad” until you realize that in the *rest* of the population, only *1%* of people get lung cancer. So, smoking increases your chance of lung cancer by *10 fold*. And there are a lot of other issues as well, which anyone can find if they care to look. But when you get down to it, not getting lung cancer is not exceptional. Neither is not having *diagnosed* respiratory ailments. (Having less stamina or getting out of breath sooner than you might otherwise is a whole different issue, but it’s much harder to see that in individuals.)

    5. Numbat*

      whenever someone tells me they’ve never have covid i ask them if they’ve ever been tested. unsurprisingly, they often have been sick, but not had a covid test. this bugs me.

      1. louvella*

        I mean there is a big difference between people who are still masking, testing, are aware of the limitations of at home tests (one negative test does not mean you don’t have COVID), etc. saying they think it’s pretty likely that they’ve never had COVID and people who aren’t following the science at all, testing or taking any precautions saying it…

      2. Cheese Victim*

        I feel like a fair number of those people are leaving bad reviews on Amazon about how they ordered a Yankee Candle but it had no smell and what is product quality even coming to these days?

    6. learnedthehardway*

      Yeah, in the OP’s shoes, I would be very tempted to say something fairly snarky to anyone who told me they hadn’t got COVID because they were careful. I mean, hurray for them, but my guess is that their “being careful” meant staying the heck away from anyone who had the illness.

      The OP was on the front lines in healthcare, while pregnant. In my books, she deserves a medal. A LOT of healthcare workers got COVID simply from the constant exposure, even with the best PPE, hygiene, and vaccinations, etc.

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        I wonder how much is OP actually trying to imply OP was not careful (I’m sure some have been) and how much is OP maybe reading into it what they think people are saying, and frustration that as a Frontline healthcare worker they don’t have to avoid sick people. But I do think some people might have just been trying to express certain precautions they are still taking. I have seen people being “careful” and still masking in grocery stores and other places.

        I know plenty of people who have been careful and still gotten COVID, it is partially luck and genetics etc…. But being careful does play a part in decreasing your chances. being careful can mean not being around people who are sick and or avoiding large crowds.

        1. shuu_iam*

          I know earlier in the pandemic, there was a lot of frustration over people’s lack of precautions, reluctance to vaccinate, etc. coming from people in the medical profession specifically because they were the ones getting overworked and having their lives risked as a result. It makes me wonder if any of the people telling the LW about not having gotten covid are doing it because they subconsciously are trying to show that they respect her profession, and they want a gold star for good work (or even to subtly acknowledge “I’m sorry your profession means you can’t avoid ill people; I did my best not to be one of them”). LW said they confided never getting covid “in a tone like you’d say you’ve never returned a library book late;” within that metaphor, I’d assume they’re viewing LW as the librarian they want to curry favor with.

          1. Burger Bob*

            This is a very real possibility. The phenomenon of people wanting to appear to be a Good Patient when interacting with healthcare personnel is very real. It’s quite possible they think OP will be proud of them and congratulate them on their good work.

      2. CityMouse*

        Yeah, my Dad was a a doctor on the front lines at nearly 70 years old. He risked his life for people. He fortunately didn’t catch COVID until after he was vaccinated and paxlovid was available. My parents do take some risks traveling and similar but my family lives on multiple continents, so not traveling means not seeing siblings or grandkids.

      3. Office Lobster DJ*

        This is what makes me so irritated. Obviously, I can’t and won’t speak specifically for OP, but healthcare workers have endured a certain level of trauma throughout the pandemic that the rest of us didn’t, on top of constant exposure. The idea of someone implying the moral high ground because “they were careful” to a healthcare worker is just beyond me.

        OP, of course this hits a nerve, and I’m sorry people are being so thoughtless.

    7. BG*

      It bothers me so much too. I’ve never had COVID (that I know of!), and when it comes up I try to emphasises:
      1) It’s basically pure luck at this point
      2) I was incredibly privileged to be able to work exclusively from home and otherwise isolate for a *very* long time
      3) The “that I know of” part–I absolutely could have had it by now and just not know that I have!

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        It is absolutely true that people can be very careful and catch it anyway but it is absolutely not true that it is “basically pure luck at this point.” That narrative is the reason most people seem to have stopped bothering with any precautions at all which is very frustrating.

    8. Despachito*

      I understand why it grates the wrong way but “I was really careful and managed not to get Covid” does not necessarily imply “… and you were not because you did”.

      We were really careful too, even took some almost ridiculous precautions, but still got sick. I put it in the category “such things happen”. I do not associate any moral flaw with it or feel any guilt about it, and I don’t think anybody should.

      I think OP is being too sensitive in this case. Unless the commenter does other things implying a holier-than-thou attitude. I’d not think they are implying that OP or anyone who caugh it was reckless (they may even not know whether OP got it or not).

    9. babaloo*

      here’s my every day situation: some random or coworker harasses me about my mask, I shrug and say it’s my choice/health etc, they press me more, I shrug again and say I haven’t caught it yet and I’m trying to keep it that way, they get offended and accuse me of insulting them etc etc etc. some may say anecdotal but this has literally been an every single time I leave the house every place I go situation since late May and it was happening with frequency before that. ime non-maskers are initiating the confrontation and assigning all the value judgements to neutral statements I make about my health choices. OP only needs to own that they’re in healthcare and the person they’re reacting to will almost definitely modify their reaction appropriately. my own mother is a nurse and caught it the week before her first vaccination because support staff violated protocols. the ‘really careful’ crowd is almost exclusively made up of people who have been enduring attacks on their choice since the beginning and it keeps getting worse. there’s no value judgement in getting COVID, life happens, but there are tons of people bringing the hate to those of us who don’t have any choice but to keep masking and crossing our fingers

      1. J*

        This is exactly my experience. People harass me regularly about my mask. They know I’m disabled. They still insult me. If I try to make it personal, about my own risk and lack of infections, they get even more angry. I was full of value judgments in years past and now I’m beyond that. I’m exhausted. I’m abused. I’ve lost someone to Covid. I trust no one. Me saying something like “I’m really careful and haven’t caught it” is a way to say I isolate a lot, left a job that was too risky at great cost, I don’t do my absolute favorite activities, I wear a mask everywhere, even to small family gatherings and I suffer for it but the other cost is too high for me. It’s less about them and more me trying to soften the defense I have to do with every family member and every friend.

      2. Bluebell*

        I kind of fit in this category. I have two risk factors so still mask inside stores and on planes. I know I get looks, but luckily no one has confronted me. Im in a very blue state. friends have been very kind about social events, and making sure there’s ventilation. I’ve been fortunate to be mostly retired and my spouse still masks at work if it’s crowded. I find myself sort of apologizing about the masking, saying “I haven’t gotten covid yet and am still trying my best not to” but I don’t think I mean for it to be a humble brag/ superiority thing.

    10. Liisa*

      Yeah, “careful” only goes so far. Like:
      * I got covid in march 2020, when there was basically no PPE available, everyone thought it was aerosols and only symptomatic transmission and the public messaging was “just wash your hands and you’ll be fine”. I’ve been exceedingly careful since then but there’s a LOT of first-wavers out there like myself who had bad luck at the very beginning.
      * Not everyone has the ability to be completely careful – while some people can work from home and get groceries and everything delivered, not everyone can do that. Being able to “be careful” is pretty correlated with higher socioeconomic status these days, and it’s the height of check-your-privilege to go around talking about how careful you are without recognizing those other factors.

      OP, I don’t have any specific advice/comebacks, but if it helps as validation, I don’t think you’re off-base in your response to those type of comments at all.

    11. Well...*

      This makes me so angry. My husband and I were separated by a border closed to us for nine months with zero ability to visit each other. Birthdays, holidays, all spent in a room alone and on Zoom. I had to move mid-pandemic, was living in a new country with no family or friends, and it was illegal to try and go out and make friends. I was entitled, legally, to have a social bubble but I didn’t know anyone. Many people at my career stage in my field had to move internationally the same month I did, and many of them had similar experiences.

      When I finally had the opportunity to travel to see my husband, I did. The law was ambiguous and I had to argue my way onto the plane and through the border. A week later the policy was clarified and I wouldn’t have gotten through the border.

      I caught Covid while living with my husband and working remote. We lived in a crowded neighborhood and there was no avoiding it. We either caught it walking to get groceries, or he got it on his way home from his vaccine appointment.

      This is just one story, but I really do think COVID cost me a year of my life. I was so alone, my days were so empty. I was terrified my husband would catch it and die before I saw him again. I spent the beginning of the pandemic in one of the strictest lockdowns– I couldn’t go outside to exercise for six weeks. I’m lucky to be alive, and I’m happy these restrictions kept vulnerable people safe, but I gave up a lot for the public good. A lot more than the people I personally knew in the US were giving up. And I think I had it easy, because my loved ones are still alive.

      Anyone who tries to use this nightmare for moral superiority is self-centered and oblivious to what people went through.

        1. Well...*

          lol okay. I just told you a spent nearly a year in total isolation (far beyond what any of my family and friends in the US went through) and still caught Covid, and I’m still being badgered about masking.

          Yes, it was illegal at the time to go into grocery stories without masks, and obviously my husband had to mask when he went to his vaccine appointment & on the public transport he took home. The laws required this.

          Also the travel restrictions targeted me as a US citizen because the rates were so high in the US, but I had not been to the US since the outbreak started. I didn’t see my family for two years. People who lived and worked in the same places as me were free to travel back and forth at the time. I only managed to squeeze through the border because a policy that said “resident” of the country I lived in let me kind of qualify. Once they tightened it to “citizen,” I was blocked again.

        2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

          Tons of people who masked diligently got sick because masks reduce risk, they don’t eliminate it. It’s a pandemic, not the red right hand of justice trying to catch you slipping.

          1. I Have RBF*

            True.

            However, those who refuse to mask in high density situations are still playing Russian roulette, IMO.

            Masks, vaccinations, and isolation are all risk reduction measures. They are not risk elimination measures. Refusing to take whatever risk reduction measures you can is not very smart in my book.

            1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

              I’m specifically responding to someone who asked about masking as a gotcha to someone who shared their story of getting COVID despite doing everything in their power to minimize risk.

              1. Well...*

                Also, my point isn’t “I did everything I could.” My point is that the pandemic was very rough on me personally, and that’s true for a lot of people. Maybe I could have done more, maybe not, but given everything I went through, I’m not interested in litigating it for morality points. I get no satisfaction from having gone through that time, and I hope nobody ever had to go through it again. People who wear it as a badge of honor are profoundly selfish and oblivious.

                1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

                  If this clarification is because of my second reply, I know that’s not the thrust of your post, which I empathize with. I also had a brutally difficult time at the height of the pandemic, and with COVID itself, which I got at a work event last summer when I was unmasked. I’m frustrated that I initially tried to point out that “did you mask” is a nonsense question in the context of your post and garnered a lecture on masking in general.

                2. Well...*

                  Karlos, I meant to elaborate more than to respond. I agree with everything you’ve been saying, plus I find the fact that you had to say it is exactly the kind of thing that makes me angry about the “I was careful” bragging. A lot of us went through a lot to help keep people safe, and some of us were forced to give up more than others.

                3. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

                  Well…, I get you – I just wanted to clarify in case it came across as indulging the idea that there was a way to do things “right” or “wrong,” when really the majority of us were doing our best in unbearable circumstances.

                  My situation wasn’t nearly as bad as yours, but I was also isolating alone and far from loved ones, and to keep it brief and vague I clung to a situation I shouldn’t have as a sort of coping mechanism. I don’t regret it, because isolation kept people safe, but there was a price that I didn’t even fully process until I was past the worst of it. It rewired some parts of me, honestly.

                  I hope you and your husband are doing well now.

        3. Nancy*

          Missed the point of that post.

          And honestly, most of the replies to #3 are exactly what they were complaining about.

      1. CityMouse*

        I mean, the reality is I’m glad we traveled and saw people because my FIL died 2 years into the pandemic (not of COVID) and had I not traveled my son wouldn’t have gotten to know his grandfather at all.

        1. Sweet Clementine*

          I feel this so much. I traveled around Christmas 21 cross country, caught covid on the journey, and passed it on to family. But, it was the farthest from a joy trip. My sister was going through a traumatic health issue, needed immediate surgery, and they needed someone to be there for them (my BIL needed to be with her at the hospital, they had a toddler who needed care, amongst other things). While it sucked to get covid on top of everything, after so many precautions, I’m still glad (as are they), that I was able to be there in such a traumatic time.

    12. londonedit*

      Yup. We were extremely careful in my family, as my parents are over 70 and my sister is on the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ list. I spent two years taking every possible precaution so as not to bring Covid with me when I visited them – we all assumed that as I live in London, I’d be most likely to unwittingly catch and spread it. Then in March 2022 I went to stay with my parents for a week, who had been over to their friend’s house for dinner the previous Friday. On the Monday, both of my parents tested positive, and of course they then passed it on to me by the end of the week. Ironically, my elderly parents were both absolutely fine (my dad had no symptoms at all; my mum had a headache and some muscle aches, neither had a cough) whereas I ended up spending two days in bed and taking about six weeks to recover my energy levels. So when people are all ‘Oh, I haven’t had it, I’ve been careful’ it does rub me up the wrong way, because you can be as careful as you like and it’ll still get you! And you really don’t know whether you might have had it and been asymptomatic, like my dad. Additionally, my sister has at this point had about six Covid jabs, and she’s still had Covid four times. Her immune system just doesn’t work, and she has a four-year-old, so it’s basically impossible for her to avoid illnesses – including Covid. Anyone suggesting she ‘hasn’t been careful’ would get extremely short shrift from her, I can tell you.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I don’t think “care” comes into it, I think it’s more luck. I’ve been reasonably careful because I have vulnerable parents. We’ve all been vaccinated the maximum amount allowed (and if they gave another booster to under 50s I’d have it tomorrow). So far I’ve not knowingly had Covid but I think that’s more luck than anything. I’ve tested when I’ve had a cold and it’s been negative each time so either it’s been asymptomatic or I’ve not had it.

        I’ve got one colleague who has had it 3 times. I know she’s been vaccinated, she’s just unlucky.

      2. Media Monkey*

        absolutely. “care” is not the only thing. my husband and i have had it once each (he gave it to me). our daughter has never had it that we know of and didn’t catch it when we had it (he isolated as soon as we knew he had it but clearly gave it to me before). she has been back at school the whole time through several outbreaks where it seemed like more than half the school were ill or shielding/ been exposed. we are in the UK and followed all the guidelines and have all been vaccinated as many times as possible. and it’s not that we didn’t test – school required weekly tests and we tested before seeing any vulnerable family members. i honestly put it down to luck.

    13. Harper the Other One*

      I hear this line of thought from my mother-in-law all the time, who is a) retired with an amazing pension and therefore can afford to stay home and have everything delivered to them and b) honestly showing pretty significant unhealthy behaviours (sanitizing hands multiple times in five minutes even if she hasn’t touched something, refusing to meet people outdoors because she doesn’t want to get sick, and having panic attacks at the idea of going to public spaces.) But in her mind, if you catch Covid, you were “careless.” I was particularly furious when she managed to combine Covid snobbery with a hearty dash of racism and said that the outbreak at the Amazon warehouse near them was probably because the majority Indian workers there were having family gatherings.

      My default response now when someone talks about being careless as the only way to catch Covid is to say that, while precautions can help, circumstances and luck play a significant role and those of us who are fortunate to have jobs we can do without coming into contact with hundreds of sick or potentially sick people daily need to recognize what a privilege that is.

    14. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Exactly, I’ve been an essential worker since Day 1 of the pandemic and I’ve worked through 4 or more workplace outbreaks, Strict measures were in place and enforced. Even now we’re still required to mask when dealing with our clients. It wasn’t luck that kept me Covid free.

    15. Kate*

      If there’s one thing I’ve learned during COVID, it’s that “take every precaution” is a real spectrum. Put kindly, many people have a pretty rosy view of what they have done to prevent COVID and a negative one of what others have done.

      I’m immune compromised. My ex took our daughter to an 20-person Easter dinner in spring 2022. “Real” COVID’s over, right? I can’t keep being so strict, it’s ridiculous! I need to wake up and get back to real life! Hrm.

      Entire group of people, save my daughter, who I insisted at least wear a &$#ing N-95, got COVID.

      Ex insists “we took every precaution!!”
      Me: did you reduce the size of the group? Did you at least do it outside? Did you open the windows? Did you space out the seats? Did ANYONE mask? Did anyone take a rapid test before arriving? Did you send a virtual invite instead of an in-person one to the person *who had COVID two days beforehand?
      Ex: …no.
      Me: so how exactly did you take every precaution? Did you take ANY?

      Rant over.

      For what it’s worth, I did eventually get COVID. Luckily not from this infamous Easter dinner. I lasted long enough to have made it to the stage where we had access to both vaccines and Paxlovid and I am so, so grateful for that.

      But there was a cost to that, both professionally and personally. Thank goodness I am not in healthcare, but it was basically a stand off between my boss and I every day for those three years, with him magically wishing for things to be normal and me insisting that my job was not worth my life. I ultimately left that job, much as I originally liked it, because that’s not actually the fight I want to be fighting every day. And on a personal level, we didn’t go to concerts, the mall, any indoor gatherings AT ALL, for three years. Not one. It sucked. A lot. But I’m alive.

      None of this is to suggest that people who got COVID failed somehow, morally or otherwise. Sometimes it just happens — especially if you work directly with clients in health care. But et’s not pretend that everyone out there did the best they could, either.

      1. Kate*

        (And yes I realize the irony of me saying all of this while possibly over-valuing my own protective measures)

      2. Well...*

        Yea, I mean, in my experience people who brag about how well they did things that line up with vaguely type-A traits (organized, clean, careful, following the law, hard worker) tend to not be very good at the things they brag about. It’s weird overcompensation.

        I find people who actually are clean, organized, hard workers, etc are more likely to never meet their own standards, or to be in situations where they have hard accountability structures that push them even harder. They rarely self-describe themselves that way without caveats.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        Yes, I think for some people, “I was really careful” means “I didn’t actually break any laws and I got the vaccines offered to me” whereas for other people it means “I haven’t been to a party, meal out, pub, bar, restaurant, show, concert or sporting event and haven’t been on a plane, train or bus in over three years and I wear a high quality mask at all times when at work, shopping, etc.” And obviously, everything in between.

        And I think a lot of people feel that anybody taking less precautions than them is being reckless and anybody taking more is either very anxious or high risk.

        1. CityMouse*

          It’s a but interesting because I see people in the US still being way more COVID conscious than people in other countries (from what I understand from my husband the exception being Japan).

          I generally see more masks where I live in the US (a large city) than you see outside the US.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            My partner and I are still masking indoors and we are literally the only people we know still taking even that minor precaution. My father continues to act shocked every time he wants to meet up and I tell him we will only go to an outdoor restaurant (and I recognize even that is of course higher risk than just staying home). Literally every time he says “oh, you’re still doing that?” and literally every time I tell him he should basically expect us to be doing this forever and we will let him know if that changes.

            I still see some strangers masked on occasion, but not often.

          2. Miso*

            Yeah, I’m in Germany and nobody takes any precautions here anymore. Not even in doctor’s offices or so.

            And I mean honestly… I don’t see how it’s necessary for the vast majority of people either. If your immune system is severely compromised or so, then sure, but then you probably should wear a mask forever anyway.

            You can always catch influenza as well, I’m not going to wear a mask for the rest of my life.

            (Totally not judging people who still do though!)

            1. I Have RBF*

              As an older person with comorbidities, and an at-risk spouse, I can tell you that I probably will wear a mask in public for the rest of my life.

              While we have caught Covid once, we have not had other respiratory illnesses like the yearly cold or flu. I used to catch a week-long cold once a year. I haven’t for the last three years, due to masking in public. It even helps with my allergies, so I’m one of those weirdos who masks while driving so I don’t sneeze at the wheel.

              Do I “like” masks? Not particularly. But I “like” being sick, especially with Covid, even less, so I wear a mask. It’s not that inconvenient to do.

        2. Caramel & Cheddar*

          I think the “I didn’t actually break any laws and I got the vaccines offered to me” part is a very real thing, especially with how poorly the pandemic has been messaged in various respects. “I did what I was told to do” often translates in people’s heads to “I’m doing everything I can” and not “I’m doing the minimum the government requires of me.” I can’t count the number of times I encountered someone who has said “I got COVID but was so careful!” and then you look back three days earlier in their social media and they’re unmasked in a crowd at an indoor event.

      4. mlem*

        Yes! I keep thinking of an early study about masking, in which many participants who said they “always” masked had caught it; but when they were quizzed more closely, it turned out they had eaten in restaurants. Which of course means they weren’t “always” masking at all, but that somehow didn’t register for them.

      5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        For some people, “very careful” seems to mean at least as careful as the other people in their social group. That’s not (just) about wanting to think well of ourselves–we pay attention to what people around us are doing and talking about, even when they’re not trying to persuade us to do, or not do, something.

        That doesn’t excuse the person who says “we took every precaution” and then can’t name any precautions they’re taking, but it’s part of what’s going on with the person who thinks they’re being careful because they know all the people they’re inviting to a party are vaccinated, or because they asked “are you being careful?” before accepting an invitation, without defining what “careful” means for them.

    16. Caz*

      This! My husband and I had covid last year. We weren’t careless – I was working in health care and commuting on public transport, he was working in food retail, we were taking all the precautions we could and we were unlucky.

    17. mreasy*

      I didn’t get COVID until March 2023, and I was NOT particularly careful, though I did get all the vaccines they would give me. I flew across the country a dozen times (masked but…), and went to lots of concerts & movies (I live in a big city), without wearing a mask after that became the norm. I attended multiple events in my industry that ended up being super-spreader events. My husband even had it and we didn’t do anything special except he slept in another room for a couple of days! Still didn’t get it until I had random bad luck at a work function.

      The idea that people are trying to take some sort of moral high ground about not having an infectious disease is truly upsetting, and it would be hard for me not to (ill-advisedly) tell them EXACTLY why they’re wrong. Ugh. I think Alison’s pivot to “wow, that’s lucky” or some other acknowledgment that doesn’t give them credit for their extra special “carefulness” is probably better than my instinct tho!

    18. DrSalty*

      This is exactly why the “it’s great you’ve been so lucky” response is perfect

    19. connie*

      Seriously. I lost a parent to covid. If you don’t know what that’s like, I don’t want to hear you talk about how you haven’t had covid because you’ve been super careful. By all means continue to be careful; I know exactly what you are trying to avoid and it is my sincerest wish that you will avoid it forever. But there is no moral virtue in not having caught covid.

      1. anonymous immunocompromised person*

        I haven’t had Covid either and find this insulting from the other side. I’m immunocompromised and had no choice but to be extra careful. I spent the pandemic being treated as expendable. I’m still masking and have had the opposite problem of being insulted, even recently at a health care providers office! The person who checked me in gave me attitude that we didn’t have to wear masks anymore and got really defensive about it. Why should it matter if I still want to wear one?

        You don’t know what people are going through, and don’t have to make it about you.

        I appreciate hearing another perspective. We both deserve more kindness.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I really don’t understand people who object to others wearing masks. Like, how does it possibly do any harm. I guess it’s sort of defensiveness, that they feel they should be taking more precautions than they are and seeing other people do so makes them feel guilty, but it’s still really weird.

          1. Observer*

            I really don’t understand people who object to others wearing masks.

            Yeah, that is the single weirdest thing in this whole mess. No matter what your particular take on the matter, I just can’t see how you make the argument that OTHER people should not wear masks.

          2. I Have RBF*

            Seriously. My wearing a mask neither picks their pocket or breaks their leg, so I don’t get why they have to make it all about them. Is it because they can’t afford a mask? Let me know and I’ll hand you one. Is it because they feel guilty? That’s their problem, not a thing to harass me about.

        2. connie*

          I mean, I’m glad it’s useful. But over a million people died. Those deaths were not equitably distributed across races, geographic areas, and social classes. However, the odds that you will speak to someone who lost someone during the height of the pandemic isn’t zero, especially when you’re talking on the internet. What I am getting from this thread is that people are so focused on their own risks or the politics of the situation that they have forgotten the totality of what happened. Do what you have to to feel comfortable. I’m sorry you get judged but that’s survivable. Just be more thoughtful about how you have your own discussions.

    20. Ex-prof*

      I’ve probably said it. I’ll try not to say it now that I see it bothers people, but I have never seen it as boasting, more as a sort of apology. I work from home. I haven’t had to expose myself to the risks others have.

      I wouldn’t say it to a healthcare worker.

      But you know, on reflection, maybe I’ll keep saying it to the people who walked around with masks down on their chins and noses bare during the worst of it.

      Because on the whole, when the chips were down, some people, probably including almost everyone here, did their best, and others, encouraged to think of the virus as a political entity, did their worst. And they’re the reason almost everyone got it.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I do recall those headlines that were claiming every single person had gotten it by now, and a lot of my friends around that time stopped caring in part because “everybody has had it anyway,” and some of them had it three or four times at that point (this was post-vaccine). So it is actually a randomly interesting factoid when people don’t think they’ve ever had it, although moot because, as others have said, it’s quite likely they had it without knowing it. (Is the science still that virtually every person in the US had it at some point? I don’t know.)

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, I don’t trust those headlines, because science reporting is generally very bad at the headline level. Certainly a potential majority of the population has had it, but probably the only way we are even approaching everyone is if we count “people who were exposed but didn’t have a viral load large enough to be actively infected” as an “asymptomatic” positive. (Speaking from a background in microbio which at least gave me an overview of virology, they’re not exactly the same. And they’re not the same if you are immunocompromised or have an inflammatory disorder. But to most of the general public they appear the same.)

    21. Rebecca*

      Also,it’s important to remember that for a lot of people, being as careful is a luxury they can’t afford, or our society can’t afford.

      I would have loved to not take the risks I did, but I work in schools in a country that opened up to hybrid reallllllly early, and I couldn’t afford to quit my job to be more careful. Parents who were able to work from home and isolate and be careful were happy to be able to either send their kids in to me, who was taking the risk, or to have me online for them from the classroom so they wouldn’t have to take it at all.

      The supermarkets stayed open. The workers there couldn’t afford to quit their jobs either to be as careful as they’d liked, and if they had, we’d have been outraged that the supermarkets were closed. We needed health care workers to be ok taking the risk.

      The “I was careful” crowd forgets that a lot of us would have liked to have been a lot more careful than we were!

      1. Colette*

        I think everyone understands that some people had to work with the public, and that those who did were not able to reduce their risk as much as those who could stay home. But many people did more than the legal minimum – many are still masking, avoiding restaurants, avoiding crowded places, etc. even though a large part of the population is living like COVID never existed.

        Yes, luck plays a part in whether you got it or not – but people who are making choices to reduce their risk are not just lucky, they are also making sacrifices. Let’s say someone who works from home, gets groceries delivered, and wears a mask if they leave the house is at protection level 10 while someone who has to work with the public has a maxium level of 7. Both people can be really careful outside of work, or they can not.

        1. Rebecca*

          I think what a lot of people don’t seem to understand is that many people were able to be at a protection level of 10 because other people were willing to be much lower and take one for the team, so to speak. And that a lot of those other people might not actually have been willing, but had no other economic choice to do so – our available protection levels were starkly divided by class and income levels.

          I would have loved to have been able to be at a maximum protection level of 10 – I couldn’t afford to be. It’s more than just ‘both people can be really careful outside of work’.

          1. Colette*

            It really isn’t. Obviuosly, reducing your non-work exposures as much as you can won’t get you to a 10 – you’re still more at risk than if you didn’t have to work in public – but you can still reduce your risks where you can. Or, like many people, you can decide that it’s not worth the effort to reduce your risks. Making the effort won’t move you from a 7 to a 10, but not making an effort could move you from a 7 to a 1.

            And even if you’re at a 10 – which almost no one is – that’s not 100% protection. You can still get COVID.

            1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

              But it is, both because risk isn’t evenly distributed throughout the population and because “protection at work” vs “protection outside of work” isn’t a meaningful distinction. If your protection at work is a 2 and your protection outside of it is a 10 your overall protection level is not a 6. Reducing your risks “where you can” means you’re most likely reducing your risks in the areas where your exposure is least likely anyway. OTOH, if you can’t reduce your risks at work by working remotely, you’re more likely to share a household with people who can’t either.

              Yes, a certain level of precautions will minimize your personal risk, which is wise, and the sacrifices people have made to do this are real. But luck is still a major factor in whether or not you’ll be in the small percentage who will get sick despite doing everything “right” (as you acknowledge), to say nothing of whether or not you are in a position to outsource the risks of grocery shopping to a gig worker who will assume the risk instead, and whether or not you’re someone who really needs the gig work in spite of the risk of exposure.

          2. IneffableBastard*

            Hi! Ultra-privileged, masker, isolating person with a disability here. I think you are right that being able to take more precautions comes with class privilege, although information also helps — I’ve seen in-person, not-so-privileged workers avoiding infecting each other inside their very small apartment by taking some very specific measures.

            I also think that who has the privilege must bear more responsibility when it comes to precautions, whether is avoiding going somewhere, or buying good masks and sharing them with other people, or working from home, etc. I understand that somebody needing to work in person would not be able to flip a switch and think “it is safe to work retail every day, but unsafe to socialize”. I am grateful to the ones who where able to do it, but I understand that many could not do this compartmentalization.

            In the beginning of the pandemic I was in a much better health state, so I started extreme isolation more as a duty to others who did not have the same privilege I had. Now I do it for myself and other vulnerable folks. I only recently started to hang out with friends outdoors, and my kids will move to in-person school this year, keep masking and hope we keep being this lucky.

            1. IneffableBastard*

              *were. Sorry, I am a non-native English speaker. I probably made other mistakes.

      2. I Have RBF*

        IMO, my taking whatever precautions I could meant that I did not additionally contribute to the risks that essential and healthcare workers endured. Every month that I wasn’t sick meant I wasn’t risking getting others sick, either.

        I still feel that way. Every precaution that I take to avoid it also is a precaution against spreading it to someone who’s life doesn’t allow them to stay home, etc. I am trying to be part of the solution, for myself and others.

        Yes, my precautions are mostly for me and my household, but I also try not to add risk to others outside my bubble, either.

        I still got unlucky and got it this year. But the fewer times I get it, the less risk for others I come in contact with, too. That’s worthwhile to me.

    22. Also-ADHD*

      Yeah and many people got it at work just like LW. Many people were not able to work from home for various reasons during the height of the pandemic. Many people got it from family members who had to work outside the home. Honestly, so much was out of folks control.

    23. doreen*

      Especially since plenty of the people saying ” I’ve been really careful , I never got Covid” may in fact have had it and not known it. I had Covid twice. I didn’t have symptoms either time. The only reason I got tested was 1) because my husband tested positive and 2) I was in the hospital. My husband’s test was positive at a point where it took a week to get the results – had he gotten the positive results a few days sooner or later, I might have tested negative.

    24. AnonInCanada*

      How would she know she never got COVID? You can carry the virus and not show symptoms, regardless how “careful” you’ve been. Other than locking yourself into a room with no outside contact for the past three years, anyone could get it. She likely had it, too.

    25. Nancy*

      Agree. And frankly, who cares? I don’t need a list of diseases people haven’t gotten.

    26. Sloanicota*

      Yes, but I think there’s displaced anger and resentment in the way this is bugging some people so much – anger at the wrong people. People who did their best to try and be careful, and yes, were also priviledged to be able to do so, and didn’t get Covid aren’t your enemy. Your enemy is people who didn’t care, were not careful, were thoughtless and spread it far and wide. You don’t need to indulge a humblebrag if you don’t want to, but it’s a very minor sin.

      1. Burger Bob*

        This. I get why it can rub the wrong way, but I think people saying this are very genuinely NOT trying to imply that you are a failure if you got covid. They usually understand that people have different circumstances.

    27. Miss V*

      Just my perspective, but I think part of the reason the ‘I’ve been really careful!’ crowd bothers me is because in my experience, that person was able to work from home.

      I was also really careful. Exceptionally careful. But none of that negates the fact that I was stuck spending 40 hours a week with people who weren’t careful. I always wore my mask, 2 years in a row Thanksgiving dinner was just me and my partner. I controlled my environment as much as I could, but you can’t control other people. So when my coworker came to work despite a positive test, I came down with it too.

      Some of it is luck, some of it is being careful, but some of it is the privilege of being able to be that careful. And I think that’s where the Lw’s irritation is coming from.

      1. Observer*

        Some of it is luck, some of it is being careful, but some of it is the privilege of being able to be that careful. And I think that’s where the Lw’s irritation is coming from.

        Perfectly put, imo.

    28. kiki*

      Yeah, it also doesn’t take into account the different privileges folks have. I work from home and therefore spend most of my time not exposed to others without having to think about it. Most people don’t have that privilege. It doesn’t make me better than anyone else to have avoided covid– I’ve been super lucky!

    29. El l*

      “I wish ‘being careful’ had been good enough for me. I got it while being a nurse in a nursing home with an outbreak.”

    30. M*

      Since getting a few vaccines, I really have not been careful. I don’t mask anymore, and I go out to eat or shop. I still haven’t got it though. But, my job is 100% remote, and I think that’s the real reason I’ve been lucky.

    31. M*

      I haven’t gotten covid (knock on wood!)- and it’s not because i’ve been extremely careful. It’s luck mixed with a good immune system. I’m grateful but like, it isn’t some achievement. I’ve been lucky, that’s it.

    32. Too Many Tabs Open*

      I know someone who’s incredibly careful about masking, avoids crowds and spends most of their time at home, and has still gotten Covid (more than once!), most likely in waiting rooms at medical offices. Masking and avoiding crowds reduces your chances of catching it, but if you’re having to wait in a doctor’s office where no masks are required, you’re going to get exposed.

      1. Well...*

        Almost everyone I know who caught it in the first wave in Madrid (a city that got hit pretty early) caught it at the hospital, being there for an unrelated reason.

    33. Ink*

      It sucks. I’ve been trying really hard, personally, to either avoid the conersation altogether or frame it in terms of “I’m lucky enough to [not have to leave the house, dodge one super close call where my mom got it when we were running a class together, etc].” But I still find myself pullimg it out sometimes, often when someone is getting pushy about me attending a risky gathering!

    34. Meep*

      I mean, my former boss “never had COVID” because she never got tested. (She is also an anti-vaxer)

    35. Dido*

      LW, I’m sure nobody has any malicious intent by talking about how they’ve never had Covid. I’ve never had it and share it as more of a fun fact or just as part of a normal conversation

    36. KatieP*

      This reminds me of an episode of the Golden Girls (“72 Hours,” is the title of the episode), where Rose was in denial that she could have contracted HIV. Blanche went off on her that it wasn’t a bad person’s disease.

    37. I Have RBF*

      You can take every precaution and still get sick. Diseases aren’t a sign of moral failings in other people.

      This

      The only surefire precaution is to never be around other people outside your bubble.

      I have been masking, distancing and mostly staying home for three years. I stayed in a hotel in March, for a conference. I was masked most of the time outside my room. I still got Covid. I’m not sure how, but it happened.

      I take high precautions because I live in a house of people over 60, and one of my roomies is immune compromised. Fortunately, I didn’t give it to her. My spouse did get it, and she had a pretty rough time, even with Paxlovid.

      So yes, “I’ve been really careful”, but not out of some virtue signalling thing, but because I’m afraid of causing serious illness in my spouse and roomies. But Murphy is alive and well in the Covid problem. I’m just glad for vaccination and Paxlovid.

    38. RagingADHD*

      And “being really careful” is a benefit of significant privilege. Because most people who say they were “really careful” mean that they were able to isolate, work from home, order in, get PPE, and not have to put themselves in high-risk situations like caring for others. They didn’t do it because they didn’t have to. And they assume when they say such things that everyone they’re speaking to is equally privileged, and therefore being at-risk is a choice.

      As a society, we have historically conflated privileges like economic and social status, race, and even health with moral superiority. It’s just uglier than ever in this context.

    39. BagelMarta*

      I doubt many will see my comment but, I’ve entirely just been lucky. All of my immediate family has gotten it at some point. I live in an area where people stopped masking very early, and it’s really weird to be the only one in a mask so I stopped pretty early myself.

      I got all my vaccines/boosters as soon as I could, but now their efficacy is probably quite low since it’s been so long. There’s a thing called the “just world hypothesis” were people like to thing others deserve their lot in life. But that’s not how life works, bad things happen to good people all the time and vice versa.

    40. Sasha*

      Yep, I caught covid by working on a covid isolation ward in April 2020 with no PPE (it was reserved for ED and ICU, general wards didn’t get any).

      We all caught it. Several of my team were hospitalised, I lost 10kg and was not properly well for about 3 months. Not everyone had the option of “being careful”. Yes I’m bitter.

    41. LIZZIE*

      Oh me as well. I managed not to get it until last fall, but I never thought it was because I was more careful than someone else. More like pure dumb luck, as I caught it a couple of days after I got back from vacation! But I would never say it took me that long to get be simply because I was careful. that’s just ridiculous.

    42. GreenDoor*

      I think LW3 can use their job in healthcare in responding. For ex.
      “Working in healthcare, I can tell you that viruses don’t discriminate.”
      “Working in healthcare, I know for a fact that sickness hits all types of people”
      “That sounds like blaming. I’ve worked in healthcare for years and I can tell you that plenty of people get sick through no fault of their own.” or even
      “Huh. Well, lots of things about life are totally up to chance. I wouldn’t get too complacent”

      1. Burger Bob*

        I’m not sure these kind of casual comments warrant pushback though. I think all that’s really needed here is a “Lucky you!” to close the conversational loop and then move on. I get why this irritates people, but this particular little humblebrag is probably not really worth debunking in most of the situations it comes up in.

    43. Nina*

      I was careful (wearing a mask, isolating, getting vaccinated as early as I could, testing weekly) and I got Covid on a freakin’ NASA mission. For which everyone involved had been testing daily in the week leading up to it.

      You needed caution and luck to get out of this one.

    44. fluffy*

      The one time I got COVID was from the one time I went into the office. I was masking. Some other people weren’t. The exposure came during an elevator ride where some people decided they Really Had To Make It In and figured it’d “be okay.” It wasn’t.

      Everyone who was in the elevator at the time got sick. The resulting illness was very difficult for me.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people who “never got COVID” actually did but they were asymptomatic carriers.

    45. DataSci*

      Yeah, that bothers me too. I see a lot of “I never got COVID because I was careful” on social media, and not only is there a ton of privilege in being able to be as careful as you’d like (not everyone has a job where they can work from home) but it’s awfully critical of, say, parents of kids who went to in-person school (which my son desperately needed for this mental health) and picked it up that way. My case was completely asymptomatic, as was my son’s – if he hadn’t had mandatory weekly testing at school we’d both still be assuming we never had it.

    46. Reluctant Mezzo*

      I know I’ve been incredibly lucky, and I like it that way. I know too many people it hit like freight train and some it killed. I live in a smaller town where most of the people were horribly cavalier about the risk and sneering at those who masked, too. Still crossing my fingers because people are still getting it.

  2. LinZella*

    Re: letter 2 — If Katie’s mom can call and text using her own phone, then why can’t Katie use her mom’s phone?
    “Hi, manager, this is Katie and I’m using my mom’s phone… blah… blah… blah…”.
    Even though Katie is a teenager (and there’s a big difference between a 15 year old and an 18 year old), Katie can and should handle this herself. She can also recover and learn from being let go (which is what I’d do).

    1. Artemesia*

      She isn’t any good AND she no showed and didn’t handle it herself — not a good candidate for another chance. If she had been good but then fumbled this — well then some instruction for Mom and Katie might be a nice thing to do. But she isn’t someone you want anyway.

      1. Venus*

        Not only is Katie not good, and no showed, but she’s also taking a lot of time off for family events! I think it would be useful to point out that the no show was problematic but she also can’t expect to keep a job if she’s always going away. Or she needs to find a job on weekday evenings if that’s her only availability.

        1. sparkle emoji*

          Yeah, Katie doesn’t seem like a good fit for OP2’s business. I think it would be really kind of the OP to communicate the issues directly with Katie, but I can also understand not wanting to deal with the whole situation any longer.

    2. Dover*

      Yeah, LW should her go. If she was a decent employee I’d give her a shot while setting extremely clear, explicit, in-writing expectations. Since she wasn’t great anyway, I’d say it’s not worth the trouble for you and ending the employment might be a lesson for her.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Another vote for dropping Katie and for giving another kid a chance. Katie needs to learn a lesson about working, her mother needs to learn to let Katie manage herself, and some other kid out there needs/wants a job.

      1. Despachito*

        Seconding this. Katie is showing no interest and what her mother is doing is outrageous.

      2. mb*

        Yeah, I agree – but I also think Katie should be told that the fact her mother was managing this for her is a strike against her. She should be told that employers only want to deal with the employee, not their parents. Obviously, there are exceptions for actual emergencies – if Katie were in the hospital, her mother could make the call. Also, Katie’s constant family vacations – another strike – it’s not fair to the other employees if Katie is constantly taking time off for vacations and they have to cover her share of the shifts. I mean, Katie can go on vacations with her family every other weekend – but it’s probably not compatible with a part time job in retail.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I field a lot of calls from younger people looking for jobs in the summer, as is to be expected (food service.) But man, the BIGGEST red flag is when the kid’s parent is doing the calling.

          It’s one thing when they’re just checking around in general for openings in summer employment (which can be understandable if, say, kid is out of state at school or something) but still can come across a little weird, especially when they refuse to go online to see our list of who is hiring for what. But it’s really glowing neon when they’re trying to shop for specific hours and fill out the application for them and do everything but show up to interview for them (and there’s been a couple that tried it.)

          Basically, they’re announcing that they are going to be A LOT to deal with even if their unfortunate progeny is a good employee. But it gets clear fast that young workers who have their parents looming over them to this degree are being encouraged to think of a job as “show up now and then if you want to” type of thing, not a professional agreement.

      3. Momma Bear*

        I agree. It sounds like Katie’s mom manages a lot of things for her and either Katie needs to step up or not be employed until she can handle things on her own. This is not her mom’s job and if Katie isn’t willing to put in the effort, then I would find another kid who will.

      4. GreyjoyGardens*

        Thirding this. There are other young people who have a decent work ethic and who do not have helicopter parents (or if they do, they don’t encourage them). Katie isn’t worth it. Drop her and I hope she learns a good lesson. Probably better to learn the lesson now when she’s young and it’s a low-stakes job, than to become one of *those* employees with helicopter parents that people write to Alison about.

    4. Mister_L*

      If it wasn’t for Katie’s mom insisting she can’t work because of family events I would have guessed that she made Katie get a job and Katie wasn’t interested.
      That being said, I think the LW should have clarified:
      1. If the person calling is actually Katie’s mother
      2. If Katie is OK with her mother having access to her schedule.

      1. WellRed*

        Yeah the company handled this ok but missed a couple opportunities to try to reset expectations. But since Katie wasn’t a great employee anyway…

    5. Ellie*

      Of course she can, she just hasn’t learned the fundamentals of the working world yet. This is an excellent opportunity for her to learn them, by being let go in a very low-stakes way. If she isn’t very good then just let her go with a neutral, ‘Our policy is that a no-show/no-call will not be eligible for any new shifts, we wish you well in the future, etc.’

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yep, a kind firing with a clear explanation would be a real gift to Katie here.

        1. Open Office Escapee*

          Yes, a “welcome to the working world, you need to do it better next time” lesson. It really would be a gift for Katie to learn it early.

      2. Mockingjay*

        Most workers understand that “Our policy is that a no-show/no-call will not be eligible for any new shifts” = fired. Katie as a young/new worker (and Helicopter Mom as a clueless person) needs a direct statement from OP2. “Katie, your employment is terminated due to failure to show for multiple shifts.” But only if Katie calls/texts again; no need for OP2 to seek her out. (Ignore or block Helo Mom.)

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yeah – let her go, and when you do make sure that Katie knows that at least part of the problem is that her mom kept “managing her job for her.” Young teens generally need to be taught that the job wants to deal with just one person – the employee (exceptions made for emergencies/severe illness).

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I think that would be the norm. But it’s just more on the already large pile of evidence that Katie isn’t really mature enough for this job.

      She’s a teenager, so it’s entirely possible that orbiting the sun one more time would bring about a marked change.

      1. Observer*

        Agreed. And I think that a firing with a clear explanation *to Katie* – NOT her Mom- would aid in her maturing.

        1. Hazel*

          Agreed, but OP needs to be the adult and responsible manager and actually terminate the employment. Not scheduling or deleting her access to the schedule is not the right way to go about it. If Katie were an adult I think the employer would clearly see that. Treat her like an adult yourself and you stand a better chance of adult responses.

    7. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I’m sitting here scratching my head and am kind of coming to the conclusion that Katie’s mom miiiiiight be a little overbearing (towards Katie). But that is something that Katie is going to have to get a grip on on her own terms. Would it be a kindness to Katie to let both Katie and Mom know that Mom needs to stop, yesterday? Absolutely. Is this a requirement of you? Not really.

      My own ScruffKids are younger teens and there’s no way that Momma is handling their job related correspondence. The younger one does yard work and the like in the neighborhood amongst other odd jobs, and loops Mom in on the texts confirming schedules, payments, etc. simply because its 2023 and most adults seem to prefer having a family adult in on the conversation so that there are no questions about contact. The older one has made it very clear that Mom and Dad are not to contact their employer on their behalf unless they’re sick, but they’re going to handle things, thanks.

      I think my own Mom may have contacted my boss twice in the years of me working as a teen, and both were due to it being pretty much the only way to contact my boss at the time given technology in the early nineties.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        And to be clear? No, I don’t think you need to keep Katie on, either. Were it me, I’d make it clear the reasons why, and I’d make it clear that communications need to be with the employee, not the employee’s parent.

      2. Media Monkey*

        my teen was working and other than going with her to meet the boss and check the working conditions (which the boss requested we do) i had nothing to do with it – to be honest learning to deal with that herself was a big part of why we wanted her to have a job!

      3. Turquoisecow*

        When I was a teen with a job my mom made it clear she wasn’t going to call and talk to the boss in order for me to be out sick – if I wanted to take off, it was on me to manage, because that’s what adults with jobs do. I’m sure I’d i was in a position where I was so sick or injured I physically couldn’t call, she would have done it, but that was never the case. I told the bosses my schedule and worked out with them when I could or couldn’t work (and since mom or dad had to drive me, took their schedules into consistent as well), but at no point did mom ever talk to my boss about my job.

      4. Quill*

        Looking back on my jobs as a teen in the early 00’s (not counting when I needed to be driven to a babysitting or tutoring gig,) the only times my mom was involved was 1) signing parental permission to work at age 15 the summer I worked at the fair, and once I needed to be called in sick by an adult for a school – related job. (I have no real memory if we got paid for this or if it was an Honors Society credit – probably the latter.)

      5. sparkle emoji*

        I think all of this is correct. I want to add being able to point to an outside authority’s (teacher, boss, etc) instructions/rules/policies can be really helpful in reining in an overbearing parent so if OP is willing to spell out that Mom’s conduct was Not Acceptable it could be helpful to Katie.

    8. Merrie*

      PRECISELY. She can borrow a phone and call herself. There is zero reason for her mom to call on her behalf (barring illness that renders her so incapacitated she can’t call).

    9. Smithy*

      As a former Katie…..do her a favor and fire her/let her go/leave her off the schedule.

      My first job, my mom basically got for me. In her view, it was a perfect job for me because it was walking distance from our house and we lived in a suburb without a lot of options, and I didn’t have a car. Except of course it was a fine dining restaurant and would have been my first service job, so I was incredibly nervous/shy about the whole thing. Bad fit overall, and while getting fired was embarrassing it taught my mom and I a good growth lesson for how she shouldn’t support me with finding a job.

    10. AnonInCanada*

      This. Mommy’s going to have to let go of the apron strings and let Katie grow up, or else she’ll never be able to support herself. Manager should be polite but firm and tell Katie that she did not live up to expectations at the job, and no-call no-showed, hence the termination. Maybe this will be a life lesson for Katie. And Mom, too.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        It’s not just Katie who needs to learn about the working world, Mom needs to learn too. Mom needs to learn that contacting the employer is a no go except in dire emergency. Mom needs to learn that the world is not going to re-arrange darling daughter’s schedule so she can always go on family vacations.

        Katie needs to learn that she is responsible for her work. That Mom is not going to be there to steamroll the path for her. She has to learn the basics of the job, which include keeping track of her own schedule and showing up when scheduled, on time.

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A thank you for acknowledging there will be the occasional teen without a phone.

    12. Sharon*

      First time Mom called, you should have told her you only discuss schedules with employees and to have Katie call.

      I hired a teen to do some work on my property once and the first time he said “I thought my mom told you…” I said, “I hired you, not your mom. You need to communicate with me directly.”

    13. Babysitter of Adults*

      YEP. I used to be in retail management, and I had one associate very much like this. She was an okay worker (nothing horrendously bad, but nothing stand-out – she was there because her parents made her get a job). But her mother called out for her several times before I was able to shut it down. I finally had a conversation with the employee and let her know that unless she called out herself, it would count as a no call, no show – and 3 of those would get her fired. I was very specific that since SHE held the job, every aspect of the job was her responsibility.

      About a week after that conversation, her mother tried to call out for her again, so I got to have the same chat with mom. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t last much longer with us.

    14. Mostly*

      As a rule of thumb, I agree Mom shouldn’t handle these things, but there are times when a parent stepping in is needed. When I was a 16 (in a time before cell phones) my retail job was about 20 minutes from home. I was 16, so a new driver, and we had a horrible snow & ice storm. My Dad wouldn’t let me drive to work for a night shift and told me to call in. So I did, and the manager yelled at me and told me they’d fire me if I didn’t come in. I told Dad I had to go to work and headed out the door. He picked up the phone, called my manager and told her his 16-year-old was not driving to work in a blizzard and if that was an issue for her, I wouldn’t be back anyway. She assured my Dad I had “misunderstood,” that was not an issue for her. I kept my job, but had my Dad not stepped in, 16-year-old me would have done something incredibly unsafe.

      REPLY

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Yes. That’s the level where a parent should step in.

        Mom let a key-holder hear it over the ridiculousness that I had a shift scheduled and I was a no show (this was in the 90s, paper schedule, and the policy was “if you add Scruffy to Wednesday on Tuesday afternoon, and she’s only working Monday and Friday nights, freaking call her so she knows to come in as the schedule is NOT supposed to change for the week after Monday at noon.”) and would be receiving a write up. My manager was on vacation, and the key holder was power hungry and lording it over a bunch of 16-17 year olds. I had not been on the schedule until Friday night when I closed up on Monday night. We had received no phone calls indicating that I’d been asked to pick up a shift (thanks answering machine and caller ID). I couldn’t pick up shifts at the drop of a hat as I shared a vehicle in a rural area with Mom; days I worked was a choreographed dance of carpooling for Mom in the morning and me leaving early enough to pick Mom up from work, where she then dropped me off.

        The kicker was that she’d INITIALED the changes on the schedule with date and time made, and I wasn’t the only one she’d written up! None of the write ups stood when my manager got back from vacation. Apparently key-holders received some additional training from the HR Gremlins shortly thereafter, and all the area managers handled their vacations differently coverage-wise after that.

    15. Susannah*

      Seriously. After the first call from the mother, I would have said, I need to speak to Katie – she is our employee, not you. And for a parent to call and say there’s a family vacation so she can’t work? Nah-uh. If you have a job, work out with your employer when and if you can take days off.

  3. HBJ*

    3. I don’t know that there’s a way to say anything like this, but anytime anyone says that (including people in comment sections on here), I internally raise my eyebrows and think, “Really? You seem very sure.” I’d say there’s a very good chance, maybe even 50/50 or higher, that they have had covid and we’re either asymptomatic or just didn’t realize that a given sickness was covid.

    1. nnn*

      Eh, I’m confident I haven’t had it because I’ve had the antibody tests to check. I’ve been extremely careful but it takes a lot of privilege to be able to do that and I don’t feel superior to people who haven’t been as lucky.

      1. Flashgordon*

        Have you been vaccinated? Because I believe basically everyone has antibodies to covid even if they think they haven’t gotten it because the vaccine produces them.

        Also, a huge number of people have had Covid and been completely asymptomatic. Unless you have literally been testing every single day for the last three years, you really cannot be certain that you haven’t has it.

        1. nnn*

          Yes, I’ve been vaccinated and boosted. In trying to figure out whether my medical symptoms might be long Covid, my doctor recently did antibody testing and told me I’ve never had Covid. Apparently the antibody testing can tell if you’d had Covid versus just being vaccinated against it.

          1. misspiggy*

            My understanding is that antibody testing is the only way we have to demonstrate if someone has “had” Covid. But no antibodies doesn’t guarantee that you haven’t had it.

            1. Luva*

              The antibodies fade over time. I had COVID in the first wave, had a positive antibody test a month or so later, then an inconclusive test a few months after that, then a negative antibody test a few months after that.

            2. Rose*

              This, more or less. I work in medical research, and have been doing a lot of Covid work the last few years. An antibody test cannot confidently tell you what hasn’t happened.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Ehh, your doctor was wrong. To an extent.

            Antibody response is a complex system that includes different types of cells and chemicals and proteins and it’s still a system we don’t fully understand. Also, the response fades over time at differing rates dependent upon the virus encountered and what the immune response in that case was. It’s not as simple as encounter protein A, devises antibody B and you can test for B.

            So in some people you might be able to detect no antibodies and have a conclusion that they were never exposed to a virus OR that they were but the response has gone dormant. We simply have no way of knowing.

            (I used to work with herpesviruses – they are masters at not showing up on tests until they activate again)

        2. Adam*

          Antibodies react to specific proteins or other indicators of disease. The vaccine only produces the virus’ spike protein, so you can test to see if someone has antibodies that react to other virus proteins to see if they’ve had an actual infection or have just been vaccinated.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Yep, I was part of a clinical study where I regularly sent in a piece of blotter paper with a drop of blood on it, and they told me my antibody status. They were able to tell from the antibodies that I was vaccinated, but I had not developed antibodies to the virus itself by the end of the study.

          2. fhqwhgads*

            Sure, but having no antibodies right now doesn’t mean never did. Someone who had covid-19 in the first wave when all tests were scarce could’ve been asymptomatic, had antibodies for a time, and by the time they could get antibody tested, have none anymore. It’s the whole “proving a negative” issue.

      2. Liisa*

        Not everyone seroconverts. Not only do antibodies fade over time, but some people never get them in the first place.

    2. Happy meal with extra happy*

      If the person is saying it in a factual and non-judgmental, I don’t think it’s necessary for you to judge them.

      1. Artemesia*

        just had dinner with close friends who have not yet had it; they are Jewish and pointed out that it was no doubt due to it being engineered to not affect Ashkenazi Jews. We laughed and laughed and space lasers may have been mentioned.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The CDC says nearly 1 in 4 U.S. adults and older teens haven’t had Covid, as of the end of last year, so I’m going to ask that we not derail on this.

    4. Mister_L*

      I’ve had it about 1,5 years ago. At the time I was vaccinated but not boosted and without a test I wouldn’t have known, since my usual spring / summer allergies are worse then the symptoms I had.

      1. Pennyworth*

        The best I can say that I am not aware if I have had Covid. I haven’t had so much as a cold since February 2020, so if Covid came my way it was asymptomatic.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Truthfully the only reason I know I had covid was a short period of minor symptoms that could easily have been dismissed by an arthritis flare up- but the sudden and colossal weight loss following had the doctors taking blood tests for everything under the sun. And yeah, I had covid.

          (I mean, I’m not obese anymore – it’s that sudden – but gosh darn do I feel rough 6 months later)

    5. Ellie*

      It’s possible I’ve had it but there are four of us in the household who have all gotten PCR tests whenever we’ve had symptoms, as well as using the home nasal swabs for general screening before we visited any of our vulnerable relatives (which was twice weekly for months at one point). We’re all vaccinated, still avoid public transport (which is a privilege, I know), do our grocery shopping online, and just generally do our best to avoid large, indoor crowds. I don’t think the chances that we had it and didn’t realise are anything like as high as 50%. Vaccination actually provides pretty good protection on its own. There’s an element of luck, especially if you’re in a high risk occupation like health care, but its not a foregone conclusion that everyone’s going to get it.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          How important is the hand washing for preventing COVID transmission? It seemed like “wash your hands” was the major message in the first couple of months, then it switched to masking, masking, masking.

          1. justcommentary*

            If I remember correctly, while touching isn’t a major vector compared to breathing the same air, it’s still a notable risk when it comes to repeatedly touching the same shared spaces (so handling the same doorknob in a house for example).

    6. alldogsarepuppies*

      I always say “i’m lucky that i never tested positive.”
      My fiancé has had it twice so i think there’s a good shot he game his weak strain to me as even weaker and it did t show up? Either way i didn’t go anywhere when he had it but to the pharmacy to get him medicine and tests.

      But I think LW (and the rest of us) need to accept that this is going to be part of our normal chatter and patter for now.

    7. Ex-prof*

      I actually think I did have it, but about two weeks before it hit the headlines and about six weeks before it supposedly reached the US.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Ditto… red cross bloodbank tests pushed back the date it was proveably in our state by 2 months, and that means I was in the right area when I got sick. (“This is the worst cold of my life, I’m sicker than when I had pneumonia. How how can this not test positive for flu?” )

      2. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, I had an illness in January 2020 that was probably Covid. It tried to become pneumonia, but I managed to avoid it. It was a lot like when I had it this spring, except the recent bout was not as bad on the coughing, probably because of the vaccines. I also know of people who were found dead in their homes in early 2020, supposedly before it reached us. I think the original timelines of people getting it are pretty bogus. The “cold from hell” in early 2020 I’m pretty sure was Covid.

    8. Purple Cat*

      This is also really frustrating to insist that people cannot possibly NOT have had COVID. Strongly insisting they’re lying or just have absolutely no idea what is going on in their bodies.

      1. Sasha*

        I don’t think anyone is saying that! Just puncturing some of the smugness by saying no symptoms or history of positive tests doesn’t always mean no infection.

    9. Turquoisecow*

      I’m 99% sure I haven’t have it (though I agree that it’s impossible to know for sure). I spent 2020-21 isolating to the max (partly because I was pregnant for most of 20202), not going anywhere but doctors appointments. My husband also didn’t go anywhere but tested himself probably like once a week “just to be sure” and he never had a positive test, so I’m fairly certain I have not either.

      I’m not saying that makes me better than anyone at all, I completely understand that I am in a privileged position by being able to work from home and having a spouse who also works from home and being able to get what we needed delivered and avoid most person to person contact for like 2.5 years. There was a definite trade off there and I know not everyone could do that.

      But that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong in my statement about my personal lack of infection.

    10. Meep*

      As someone who has been blamed for the past twenty years of my golden child cousin getting mono, please don’t. It doesn’t matter I got tested and didn’t have the anti-bodies about 10 years ago, I am still to blame.

  4. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    LW3: I don’t think you are being sensitive at all. I would just look them in the eye and say… how do you know you haven’t had it? If you work with the public (like in healthcare) you have been around COVID a lot. Also since you work in a nursing home, a usually thankless job, I just want to say thank you for all you do and you are seen! Really disappointed in AAM’s answer to your question.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      You’re *really* disappointed because Alison disagrees with you (a bit)? That’s extreme.

      1. nnn*

        I can’t even tell where the disagreement is. The OP asked if they were being overly sensitive, AAM said maybe a bit but understandably so.

        1. Allonge*

          Yes, OP had 1. what sounds like a difficult pregnancy 2. in a global pandemic while 3. working in healthcare and 4. gotten sick with a dangerous disease which 5. caused them to deliver early. Of course adverse-sounding references to any of this are going to sting!

          But snapping back against people who were in a different situation (except for the pandemic) and gotten lucky is unlikely to help. Most people mentioning this are likely somewhere on the spectrum of ‘still cannot believe I got through this’ and ‘go me, I did a lot of things that were uncomfortable but it worked’. They are, like most of us, focusing on their own story and not on OP.

          Exception – if someone keeps mentioning this, OP could ask them to stop. And maybe consider talking to someone if they aren’t – that is a lot of trauma to carry.

        2. Well...*

          I think a lot of people are understandably sensitive, because the pandemic was a sh*t time for lots of us.

          I also think someone who says something like that is totally, 100% being rude and mildly classist, frankly. It’s reasonable to be able to predict that statement would upset people. Maybe that’s the source of disappointment/disagreement?

    2. John Smith*

      I think that response is a bit argumentative. The Covid dodger may have information that proves they’ve not had it and have chosen not to share that information. Regardless, what does it matter and whose business is it?

      I’d just say something like “wow, lucky you” and move on to another topic. The parable of the tiger and the donkey once again springs to mind.

    3. Cmdrshprd*

      I don’t think saying it might be that OP is a bit sensitive to it is out of line. like Alison said it is understandable that OP is sensitive due to the job they have not being able to have avoided being around peo.ple with COVID.

      But it also can be a bit of the straw that broke the camel’s back kind of think. OP has heard a million times and might feel judged. but each person individually might not really think anything of it. I’m sure some people might have been judging or thinking that OP was not careful, but others might have just been trying to genuinely explain how/why.

      While avoiding getting/testing positive for covid does involve luck, it also does involve being “careful.” If you are going around kissing every sick person you meet, I do think your chances will increase compared to someone who is still staying mostly at home and masking in public. Not saying staying home and masking will 100% protect you, but it can decrease your chances.

      1. Not like a regular teacher*

        I managed to not have COVID until a couple of months ago. Yes I was careful, and yes I was lucky, but mostly I was privileged.

        I worked from home the entire pandemic (and still could, if I wanted to), lived with someone who was also able to work from home and was willing to be careful, didn’t have kids, could afford to get groceries delivered, etc etc. Managing to still not have had COVID is a product of privilege that people are presenting as a product of moral superiority. I’m not at all surprised that this is rubbing OP the wrong way.

      2. Well...*

        The point is that a lot of people you interact with every day didn’t have the luxury to avoid the public during the pandemic. It’s rude to treat that luxury as something you chose or “earned” by being careful, even if that luxury factually did decrease your chances.

        1. Allonge*

          Sure – but neither saying “I’ve never gotten covid” nor “I’ve been really careful” are saying anything about anyone else, and most people don’t talk with disclaimers (one could argue they should, but, well…).

          Look, a bit different perspective on this: OP, as a young mother, is probably getting 50 different comments every day on how she is destroying the entire life of her child by (not) providing [thing] – whether or not [thing] is in her control or even possible with how the time-space continuum works.

          Of course she is more sensitive to random statements that feel like they could be about her, and are about a really bad experience she had! This is totally normal. But, unless it’s a repeated comment from the same person, it’s better to treat it as a clueless statement that has nothing to do with OP than as criticism.

          1. Well...*

            I don’t know, I think this is rude. It’s like saying, “I paid off my student loans, but I’m really careful with my money.” Or, “I’ve never been laid off, but I’m really good at my job.”

            I would definitely push back on sentiments like that in work/social settings, and if someone stuff like that frequently, I would be embarrassed for them, and it wouldn’t leave me with a good impression.

            1. Allonge*

              Eh, I don’t know. We can acknowledge our own or others’ achievements even if not everyone is in the position to replicate them.

              Is it clueless to say ‘I was careful’ to a healthcare worker? A bit, yes. Rude? Depends on the situation (if they say this frequently, that’s a bad sign). Just as ‘paid off college loans’ is different coming from and said to people who come from money and those who don’t.

              Someone who centred their life around not getting COVID in the last years took (is taking) a huge amount of sacrifices for that. They probably missed out on a lot of things, in a lot of places they were told they are [insert expletive here] and part of the conspiracy etc. They can mention this even if not everyone had the chance to take the same measures.

              Obviously you are not obliged to listen to it or be happy about it – if someone is harping on this, by all means clue them in. I just don’t think that – if that is as far as the comments go – OP should invest time / energy beyond a ‘good for you’ in this; that time is better spent elsewhere.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                I strongly agree with this; yes, it’s annoying and clueless, but I don’t think OP should waste their time on these comments. They could try this, as a gentle pushback:

                “You’re lucky! Working in patient care during the pandemic, I haven’t been so fortunate.”

                Or just go super bland and gray-rock them: “You’re lucky.” “Vaccines are so important.” “Good for you.”

                1. Sasha*

                  Yep, I think “Ok, good for you”, or “Oh right. Anyway, about those charts…” or anything else non-committal is the way to go here.

              2. Indolent Libertine*

                If I had ever said “I was really careful” in this context to a healthcare worker, what I would have meant was “I did my utmost to avoid creating more of a burden for you and everyone else on the front lines.” Maybe the person who spoke to OP did so inartfully, but I don’t think it’s at all a given that what they meant was “I was really careful, unlike YOU, and you could have avoided it too if you’d just tried harder.”

                1. A person*

                  I agree on the sentiment. I don’t think I’ve ever said “I was really careful” in the context of having escaped Covid so far, but the small number of times it has come up I’ve probably said something like “I haven’t had it yet, but I live alone so my exposure was easy to limit” or something along those lines. I definitely never mean it as a judgement on anyone else. I just got lucky. And we were careful… because as you said, we were trying not to make the burden on healthcare people worse, not because we are judging healthcare people for getting it.

            2. Cmdrshprd*

              “I paid off my student loans, but I’m really careful with my money.”

              It is not rude for someone to say that, just because not everyone is in the same position.

              it can be true that someone both was in a privileged position due to various reasons to be able to make payments on their student loans, and they were careful/frugal with their money to be able to pay them off. It is not all one or the other. the same way yes someone might be been privileged to work a job that allowed them to stay home, but they were also careful in their social life.

              1. Colette*

                Yeah, you can make a good salary and prioritize paying off your student loans, or you can make a good salary and spend it on vacations, gambling, and consumer spending.

                Being in the first category doesn’t make you better with money than someone who is working a minimum wage job and can’t afford to pay off their loans, but it does take more financial effort than the person in the second category.

                Similary, working from home, skipping indoor events, and wearing masks doesn’t mean you’re being more careful than someone who has to work with the pubic but masks and avoids non-work indoor events, but it does mean you’re being more careful than someone who never masks and has been to three indoor concerts this month.

              2. Well...*

                Yea IDK man, maybe we just disagree. I think it’s pretty rude to say that to someone you know hasn’t paid off their student loans. I guess a lot of people in this thread like to say random statements bragging about themselves that are vaguely something they’ve earned/something they got lucky to have in front of people that don’t have those things, and see that as good socializing. Not my jam.

                1. Cmdrshprd*

                  “I guess a lot of people in this thread like to say random statements bragging about themselves that are vaguely something they’ve earned/something they got lucky to have in front of people that don’t have those things, and see that as good socializing. ”

                  Maybe it depends on your definition of “random.” but bringing up that fact that someone managed to pay off their student loans or have avoided getting COVID when discussing student loans/COVID, would not be my definition of random.

                  sure if someone just randomly goes up to strangers to say they paid off their loans or avoided getting COVID I would agree with you.

                  Maybe your social group(s) do. it like discussing those issues, but in many (not all sure) groups student loans/COVID are topics of discussion.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              Eh, it depends. I think we can all agree that, for example, saying “I’m not so stupid to do x” to someone who just did x is fairly clearly calling them stupid. The COVID statement is not quite that direct, but it’s not really that far off.

              It’s the unqualified causality statement that does it. “A didn’t happen to me because I did B!” implies “if you had done B too, A wouldn’t have happened to you either”. Clearly egregious examples: “I’ve never gotten sexually harassed because I dress modestly”, “I have never gotten into a car accident because I know how to drive”, “my children do well in school because my wife breastfed them”.

    4. Santiago*

      I don’t think being sensitive to something is a bad thing.

      (Not regarding Alison but regarding the commenter on Covid,) I also think that sometimes people say things that are rude, classist, unthoughtful, smug, etc., it’s a part of being human. It’s worth point out “I was an essential worker in Health Care,” no need to shrug things away, context is helpful, but also it’s a mark of humility to not bite people’s heads off or go full nuclear. People don’t speak through PR firms, so we are going to have to give people a little grace unless we speak perfectly all the time ourselves.

  5. Happy meal with extra happy*

    I was an incredibly shy kid, like even ordering for myself was a struggle at restaurants. And I don’t think I fully got over it until college or even law school. However, I never would have even considered having my parents call my work/boss, even when I was 16 at my first job. (And that first job definitely kickstarted me starting to get less shy.)

    1. Fikly*

      You’re assuming the teen can somehow prevent the mother from contacting the employer. We’ve seen letters from adults who can’t figure out how to do that. Parents can be that controlling and there’s no way to stop them, especially as a minor living under their roof and entirely dependent on them.

      1. Fred*

        You fire the kid and move on. Either they’ll get the message or they won’t, but you stop it being your problem.

        1. Risha*

          I agree with that. Just fire them and move on to another kid who wants the job. Unless this employee is stellar in all other ways. But from how OP describes Katie, I don’t think it’s worth it trying to work around this issue to keep her as an employee.

          However, I think it would be a huge kindness for a manager to speak to a minor employee and let them know their parent should not be doing this. Often times, the teen doesn’t realize that the parent is acting overbearing and inappropriate, because they’re so used to it and don’t know what “normal” is. Sometimes it takes an outside person to point it out and set the teen in the right direction of setting boundaries and putting the parent on a low info diet. Of course, this is only my opinion and not everyone would agree, which is ok. And a manager isn’t obligated to do this for a teen. But I strongly believe that when you employ teens, you should do/explain more than what you normally would for older/more experienced workers.

          1. Observer*

            I agree that it would be a kindness to talk to Kate. Not an obligation, but could still be really useful to the kid.

            I think it’s a stretch to claim that Mom is being overbearing and and controlling. But for the OP, it doesn’t really matter. Whatever the reason for the behavior, it’s not ok. And Kate’s performance is bad enough that it makes no sense to cut her extra slack.

            At the same time, regardless of why Mom is doing this, it could be extremely useful for Kate to hear that this is not normal and not OK.

          2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Yeah – if you are employing younger teens who are in their first job it can be a kindness and part of the boss’ unofficial job to help them learn what is and isn’t reasonable for their parents to be involved with.

            But in this case it sounds like Katie wasn’t a great employee to start with, so let her go but be clear with her about why you are letting her go so maybe she can fix that stuff in her next job.

      2. Good Wilhelmina Hunting*

        Some parents would take the firing as a signal that they needed to be even more proactively involved in their kid’s employment issues.

  6. eye roll*

    On number 5, I don’t think the ghosting is even the main issue. Cal pushed for a specific salary even after OP tried to get a ballpark from them, turned her response into an (unkind) joke, and gave a somewhat flippant “let the chips fall where they may” response when he finally followed up with OP. The ghosting seems normal, but the rest of this does feel disrespectful of OP.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      yeah, Cal is giving me vibes of one of those people who just won’t communicate clearly, so you’ll come away from each interaction confused and frustrated, but without being able to point to exactly why. Perhaps best avoided as a boss.

    2. duinath*

      yeah, the ghosting seems normal to me, but cal sounds like a tool imho. bullet dodged?

    3. EngineeringFun*

      I interviewed with a consulting firm’s ceo. Had a great conversation and he talked about how my 20 yrs experience could help expand the business blah blah blah. Second interview was with the second in command and she asked “how would I tell x she’s not getting promoted?”. Then the third interview with the team was openly hostile to me. Total disconnect within the small business. Nope. I sent a nice thank you letter…

    4. Cat Tree*

      And a 3 hour interview!! I’m surprised no one is mentioning that. It sounds like it was more of a conversation instead of the interviewers grilling them with a barrage of hard-hitting questions, but that’s still excessive. It’s also a sign of poor time management and general disorganization. I can’t imagine being in any meeting that was planned for one hour going long by two hours. Even if I didn’t have other meetings scheduled I would still have other stuff to do.

      This workplace seems pretty dysfunctional. LW doesn’t seem to be in a position where they have the luxury of being choosy, unfortunately.

      1. WellRed*

        That jumped out me! Was it an actual interview or did it morph into a big ain’t-it-great we’re all conversing fabulously! But also, Cal is an asshole.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I interviewed with a chatty hiring manager, and our first interview ran an hour over. Which probably should have been a yellow flag; when I was hired, our first team meeting was scheduled for 30 minutes and ran 45 minutes over.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        That was my first thought! Having a first interview last 3 (!!!!!) hours is a sign of poor time management! And Cal was a jerk about the salary thing, but given the uncertainty around FT/PT and also renumeration, it kind of seems like either 1-the job needs someone in a different role/time than the OP wants or 2-they can’t afford her salary asks, but instead of saying “sorry we’re budgeted for X” they just let it go silent.
        Also, OP, potential coworkers acting like you’ve “got the job already” doesn’t mean anything. They’re not in charge of hiring, and often when interviewing they’ll converse about what it would be like were you working there. So for sure their discussions didn’t indicate anything. I know it sucks to want a job and have it go radio silent, but it doesn’t seem this job was for you.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Three hours would be pretty short in my field (at least it was before Zoom interviews). It wasn’t unusual for an interview day to include three different technical interviews, or a technical interview and an assessment, on top of behavioral interviews and lunch. On the other hand, that interview day would be all the rounds of interviews; it would be very unusual to be asked back for another interview.

    5. Hannah Lee*

      Agreed!

      Cal was incredibly disrespectful.

      Any hiring manager or chief executive who would lob any comments even anywhere in the ballpark of “jk Psyche!” or “I was just messing with you lol” about employee compensation at ANY time is a huge glassbowl. And doing it during salary negotiations to a potential new employee is WAY out of bounds.

      LW, while the way they communicated after the interviews may or may not have been disrespectful, that “I was just messing with you” *absolutely* was. And it was a hint of how that guy would treat you if you ever did work for him. No one needs a cruel disrespectful prankster for a boss or grandboss.

      Consider missing out on this job a giant bullet dodged. Their loss, not yours. And move on to potential jobs where the boss isn’t a known JA.

    6. Trout 'Waver*

      Yeah, I agree. I also 100% disagree with Alison here. OP was disrespected. Not personally, but this employer is disrespectful of all their applicants by acting in the manner they are.

    7. GammaGirl1908*

      That they didn’t even know whether the role was full or part time tells me that this job wasn’t as fully baked as LW assumed.

      Then, they meandered around in a three-hour interview (so not focused on what they needed to know). Then they didn’t have their salary numbers together. Then Cal was a jerk.

      The ghosting was almost foreordained.

    8. fhqwhgads*

      Cal’s an asshole but his message that included the “chips fall where they may” stuff means they DIDN’T ghost the OP. He did something most jobs don’t: acknowledged their process was taking longer than expected and basically said “we don’t expect you to wait on us”.

  7. irianamistifi*

    In my experience, “I haven’t gotten Covid; I’ve been really careful” is mostly being used to help explain why a person might still be masking or taking extra precautions. Particularly in areas where many precautions have been left behind and people who are cautious are often ridiculed or even being discouraged from trying to stay Covid-free. It’s been in the news these past few days that some restaurants are now disallowing their employees from masking, which I know some people have come to interpret as “the danger is over, no one needs to keep being careful.”

    I don’t think people are necessarily saying that they haven’t gotten covid AT you. I think they might be trying to explain why they are being careful (and for them, it’s paid off!) Like you said, it’s not some moral failing to get sick, but they’re just trying to reduce their risk.

    1. Jasmine Tea*

      “ I don’t think people are necessarily saying that they haven’t gotten covid AT you.”

      Yes… my first reaction was…There’s a tone for saying, “I’ve never returned a library book late.”???!!!

      1. Jasmine Tea*

        I think a lot of people who have not gotten Covid yet know they eventually will but hoped to delay it as long as possible so they could get it after good vaccines and treatments had been developed. My husband and I both got it last month after 3 1/2 years of working from home and obeying strict masking laws here in Taiwan. Both of us had mild cases in spite of having asthma. I’m calling it a win.
        I would congratulate them.

      2. Luva*

        I read it as “self-righteous”, but honestly if someone has been very careful masking and as a result hasn’t caught COVID (that they know of), I’m fine with them being a bit self-righteous about it.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I read it as “smug”, implying they have the key to never getting Covid.

          I’m also not fine with people being smug or self-righteous toward essential workers, who assumed a higher risk for the benefit of society. Masking will only do so much – avoiding people altogether is the really effective precaution, but not everyone can do that.

          1. EchoGirl*

            I feel like even beyond essential workers, there’s also a layer of people (particularly at this point in time, a few years into this mess) where they may have to take the risks even for jobs that wouldn’t be considered “essential” because they still have to pay their rent and may not have other options available (or at least other options that would be safer). I know several people in that kind of situation, they have to weigh risk management against the need to make a living.

            1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

              Yep.

              I’ve gotten COVID 3 times. My kids brought it home from daycare 2 weeks after it reopened with “new safety precautions.” Then my daughter, the one of 3 kids masking in her K classroom, brought it home from there. Third time was two weeks ago, and I’ve given up sourcing it.

              I’ve been careful – but careful isn’t enough.

          2. Harper the Other One*

            +1

            There’s a reason so many health care, retail and service, and logistics workers cannot say “I’ve never had Covid.”

        2. Morning Coffee*

          I have never had Covid but it’s because I had the luxury of being unemployed for the worst years of pandemic and my spouse was working from home. It’s easy to be careful when you’re privileged enough to only leave home for buying groceries.

          1. J*

            Everyone keeps calling it luck when I spent months unemployed, finally took a job at a 50% pay cut when I needed remote work for safety, then had to leave said job when they forced us back into the office with 8 days notice. It’s been at a huge cost, including losing a family member and having several others all but treat us horribly for doing things like masking at a Covid funeral. But I’m still alive (and shockingly less disabled than in 2019 because masking actually improved my health) and that isn’t a guarantee the other way.

        3. hbc*

          A former coworker of mine was self-righteous about it right up until she got Covid and died. Being self-righteous about something not fully in your control isn’t a good look even if karma doesn’t hit you quite that hard.

          FWIW, the two biggest Not Careful things I did during the height of the pandemic were 1) going to the factory where we made systems that kept hospitals (among other buildings) supplied with hot water and 2) giving biweekly donations of platelets to the Red Cross so sick people could get treatment. I don’t bring it up unprovoked, but anyone who wants to get self-righteous with me about not leaving their house will be asked whether their position is really one to brag about.

          1. And I'm the alchemist of the hinterlands*

            Seriously, I may adopt “Being self-righteous about something not fully in your control isn’t a good look even if karma doesn’t hit you quite that hard.” It could apply to so many things!

        4. Prospect Gone Bad*

          I am not. The internet forgets things are multiple shades of gray. I live close to the center of a city and would go way out to my parents and their friends would come over some of their kids would stop by outside and they tended to be very pro-mandate and preach about how it’s easy to wear masks etc. But here’s the thing – they’d wear the mask 10 minutes a day to the store and WFH, or once a week going to a doctor, and I never got into it with them, but mostly wrong/too loose.

          So I don’t know why we treat these as black or white situations. Surely someone who “lived” the restrictions and didn’t just talk about them, should be given more weight

          The internet literally treats the opinions of people working in medical facilities, and rich people who got to spend covid in houses surrounded by woods and getting to WFH and then lounge by the pool, as equal opinions. I don’t think that’s right

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I once asked a man to please tie the bottom ties of his surgical mask, and he angrily told me that it was fine the way it was.

            That man was an ER nurse who was treating me during the height of the pandemic, before vaccines had been developed.

        5. Rose*

          Right but a lot of us were very careful including and beyond masking (or worked in healthcare, or had an essential hourly job that they couldn’t afford not to go to…) and got sick. You’re being smug about something that is largely luck.

          It’s like learning someone doesn’t have a lot of money and telling them “I’m financially well off because I worked really hard.” Sure, that was a factor, but there were a lot of other more important factors and you’re being generally annoying.

          1. Willow Pillow*

            I would compare it to interest rates going up (making life increasingly expensive for most people) and talking about being able to pay off your mortgage. It’s generally annoying on top of widespread stressors that you’d have to live under a rock to not know about.

            1. Sasha*

              Yep, it is the Avocado Toast of covid conversations.

              No, the reason a 30 year old nurse or teacher cannot afford a house in our area, but nurses and teachers could afford them easily in 1992, is not because nurses and teachers nowadays spend their money on smartphones, Netflix and avocado toast – it’s because houses around here cost £1.5m now, compared with £200k in 1995, and public sector wages have not gone up tenfold to match.

              And the reason healthcare workers caught covid in high numbers isn’t because they “aren’t careful”, it because they were working with covid positive patients, and often substandard or non-existent PPE.

        6. Observer*

          but honestly if someone has been very careful masking and as a result hasn’t caught COVID (that they know of), I’m fine with them being a bit self-righteous about it.

          When talking to a healthcare provider? No. Being self righteous is generally not a good look in any case. When “being really careful” is generally enabled by a fair level of privilege, it’s an even worse look. What talking to someone who had NO CHOICE – and who really WAS an essential worker, it’s just flat out rude.

      3. duinath*

        i’ve not yet gotten covid and i’m hoping not to get it because i am scared shitless that it could kill me(with less reason than many). i have, on the other hand, returned library books late. in fact, one time i had to flat out buy the damn book. the fee is just not as scary, by comparison. it’s not about morality, it’s about your life circumstances, ie your area, your joblife, your health risks, and also your behaviours, yes.
        course there are always some who think everything that happens in life is because they’re just so good, but i find such people are best ignored.

        1. ferrina*

          I have returned soooooo many library books late. At one point I had to pay a couple hundred dollars of fines.

          Why? I have ADHD. I misplace my phone and keys multiple times per day- there is no way I can regularly track a library book. And in that I’m a fast reader with a packed schedule- I’m getting several books at a time, forgetting to return them, losing one… it got bad enough that I had to cut up my library card and never go back.

          It’s not about how hard I’m trying or how moral I am. I mean, yes, those factor in. But even when I try really hard and have the best of intentions, life gets in the way. Ironically, life has skewed lucky for Covid- I’ve tried really hard and been really thoughtful and risk averse, and I’ve been lucky not to get it. (Weirdly one of my kids has had it twice, but no one else in the house got it. Covid is weird.).

          1. ferrina*

            Side note- my local library abolished late fees a couple years ago, and I LOVE IT!! I can go to the library again!!! And I can take my kids to the library!

            And no, I’m not costing my library money. I’m late sometimes (getting better, but still happens), but I don’t often lose the books outright. When I do, I promptly pay for a replacement. And they may soooo much money from me whenever they have a library book sale.

            1. duinath*

              that’s great :)

              for me it was 100% me being irresponsible though. i’m sticking with the apps until i trust myself to get my ass out the house with a physical book. all else fails, i’ll read in the actual library.

      4. doreen*

        Yeah, there is a tone for that. It’s the same tone that people use when they feel morally superior about anything that really has nothing to do with morality/people don’t really care about. It might be about never getting Covid, it might be about never returning a library book late, or never getting a parking ticket or never watching TV. The OP might be extra sensitive and I’m sure most people aren’t actually using that tone – but it definitely exists.

      5. Miette*

        Agreed – it’s all about tone and context. Until last month, I was one of the unicorns, but my point and the tone I used was more “I still can’t believe I’ve been this lucky” than anything else.

      6. hiding under the library steps with a cheese tray, giggling*

        Yes, there is a tone for that. (Source: am librarian, people say it to me all the time like I should give them a trophy. Spoiler, even librarians don’t care.)

    2. Sprigatito*

      That’s my reaction, as well – I’m higher risk so I’m still taking as many precautions as I can, so I tend to be a little defensive about it in reaction to all the people who think I’m overreacting for wearing a mask at the grocery store. There are definitely people who think they’re somehow morally superior for having good luck (and not just around COVID) but some of us have to explain why we don’t think COVID is gone.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Smoke from wildfires was blanketing our area this summer and n95 masks were reccommended for anyone who had to be outside. People who refused to wear maks during Covid were wearing them because they could smell and see why it was necessary. Good luck and moral superirority weren’t much help.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Amazing how they weren’t too uncomfortable to wear and people could still breathe with them for wildfire smoke. But avoiding covid, well wearing a mask is equivalent to cruel and unusual punishment.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I had a nonsensical conversation with someone who insisted that wearing a surgical mask didn’t allow oxygen in and caused brain damage. I asked them how they thought surgeons did their work.

        2. J*

          I’ve got air quality so bad in my area that I can’t even see across the neighborhood and people still think I’m a fool for masking. You can smell the stench of these Canadian wildfires but people are still so stubborn about masks that they’d rather hurt themselves than put them on again. It’s just bizarre to me, especially as someone still masking.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Yeah, I’ve been careful out of concern for some vulnerable people in my inner circle, plus more recently a friend was diagnosed with long COVID and it underscored how badly things can turn even after a seemingly mild infection.

        I’m still masking up where I think it’s appropriate for ME; I don’t comment on other people’s personal health decisions. And still years into this pandemic there are people who give me flack about wearing a mask or choosing not to in situations I previously did (like it’s some kind of gotcha! See they were “right” all along!) with strangers I just ignore it, and with people I know I internally roll my eyes, but unless I’m already in a conversation ABOUT infectious disease control or risk assessment, that’s all.

        With people I don’t know, especially if I’m within earshot of one of my medically vulnerable family members, I might say something like LWs friend – if asked about my status – not AT *them* or judging *them* or in some mistaken understanding of how risk of infection plays out.

        LW it’s understandable this is a sensitive thing for you, but I’d just try to let it go and not hold it against them.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I would take this to mean “I have to be more careful than other people”. Like, I was as careful as I could be, but I was working with the kids of key workers when everyone else was at home. My colleague who has a different health profile to me, didn’t come in for that. For them, most of the risk was when people were ordered back to work. I take OP at their word that there is a tone, but people had different experiences and risks during the pandemic. Just ask what they mean and remember that people are usually talking about themselves, rather than about you.

    4. Pennyworth*

      A friend told me that people who haven’t had Covid probably have some Neanderthal DNA.

      1. Old Admin*

        Former scientist here.

        tldnr:
        Neanderthal DNA doesn’t seem to protect against Covid, but enforcing good policies and masking will.

        Studies show that a majority of persons of European extraction have 1-3 or even 4% Neanderthal DNA. This *may* coincide with a higher risk for certain metabolic diseases etc. I’ve never heard or read about higher Covid resistance.
        In fact, I was stuck in several lockdowns in Europe while the big C swept through numerous European countries.

        On the other hand, South Korea was a pretty good example for sensible policies: C numbers were low in the country as long as masking, lockdown, and international travel restrictions were enforced. Mostly members of certain religious communities who insisted on meeting in large groups fell ill. Numbers all over the country jumped once various restrictions were lifted.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          A quick google says that how the body reacts to Covid exposure is partially genetic, and some of those genes come from Neanderthals (interestingly, depending which ones you got, it can make it either worse or better).

          The reverse statement (“people with Neanderthal DNA don’t get Covid”) is very obviously untrue. That’s not what Pennyworth said though, although their statement seems a bit misleadingly broad. More accurate could be “some people may be more resistant to catching Covid due to a Neanderthal gene they have”.

    5. Still masking*

      OP I’m really sorry this response is causing such a strong reaction, and understandably so.

      I have to admit that I’m one of the “I never got Covid” people (I have a serious immune deficiency and tested bi-weekly throughout the entirety of the last three years and tested more frequently the 2 times I had a cold. It’s totally possible all of this was negative to be sure, but I was confirming in the best ways I had available and not just guessing I didn’t have it.)

      I wouldn’t say it to a healthcare worker or other essential worker though. And I never forget that there’s a ton of privilege in having been able to avoid Covid.

      For me, it’s not self-righteousness or blame or moral superiority. It’s a lingering deep frustration that quite literally every single person I know told me they were being careful when I know they did meet what I thought was any definition of careful. Still attending unmasked family dinners, still eating at restaurants, still seeing friends in person. I experienced an extremely lonely time to really and truly be as careful and I have strong feelings about all of my friends and family not doing the same. And all of society that kept Covid spreading.

      But I promise you I would literally never be thinking that a frontline healthcare worker wasn’t careful. Thanks for doing such a tough and important job.

      1. J*

        “But I promise you I would literally never be thinking that a frontline healthcare worker wasn’t careful. Thanks for doing such a tough and important job.”

        I wouldn’t until recently on that. The medical teams who have unmasked at my cancer center I do think that about. I’ve lost too many others in treatment at this point and as survivors and I’m just so angry that we can’t have providers masking in healthcare settings with the immunocompromised anymore.

        1. Katara's side braids*

          Yeah, I literally work in a doctor’s office and I’m the only one still masking. And even though I do have direct contact with patients, I’m not even a medical provider (I’m a social worker). At this point I absolutely do think that my colleagues who COULD choose to mask but don’t are being careless with our vulnerable patients’ health.

          For disabled and immunocompromised people, going to the doctor is the ONE non-negotiable risky activity, and we’ve now put the burden of requesting masks on them. Even I, as someone trained in advocacy, would feel uncomfortable having to ask my doctor to mask, and most of our patients face an even larger power differential in their appointments due to language barriers/immigration status. I don’t know how many of our patients have gone through appointments feeling less safe than they could (and should), but it’s definitely too many.

    6. Analyst*

      eh, I see this most often with people who aren’t taking precautions at all and are anti-mask and/or anti-vax. It’s absolutely a statement about their being right to put us all at risk cause they can’t be bothered.

    7. sb51*

      Yeah, I’m going to try to edit to “I’ve been careful and lucky “ but I’m usually saying this while being the only person in the room masking and who has refused to get lunch with my coworkers over and over, so it’s really not a judgement, it’s a justification for being the weirdo.

      (We’re eating indoors occasionally but not as a general policy—we discuss exceptions and make a risk-vs-reward call. We’re being less cautious than most of our long-term/close friends because our social circle has a lot of immunocompromised folks, but everyone else thinks we’re being paranoid and I sometimes can’t just shrug it off and start justifying myself.)

      1. Katara's side braids*

        Ugh, solidarity on having to refuse indoor lunch invitations. During the summer I can usually redirect us to the outdoor picnic table we have, but once it gets cold I’m by myself in the big conference room, rather than the much smaller lunchroom. Last winter I had to turn down invitations to eat in the tiny lunchroom every. single. day. I’m already not a cold weather fan, but I’ve been dreading it even more in recent years.

    8. theletter*

      This was was I was thinking as well – in a polarized environment, someone might be trying to communicate that they haven’t gotten Covid because . . . . . they believe it exists and take precautions, as opposed to ‘I’ve never gotten Covid . . . because “.

      The too-good-for-overdue-library-fines vibe might come from that as well – if they don’t know you, how do they know you won’t . . . you know. . . .. immediately respond with a polarized viewpoint about masks and vaccines that will make everyone uncomfortable? If they still have to explain to family members and friends that the fear is real, they might eventually approach every Covid conversation with a slightly moralistic/adversarial tone, like the puritans of yore.

      OP, maybe go ahead and relate that your Covid experience was unavoidable and traumatizing, and if they’re reasonable, they’ll respond with empathy. If not, well, you don’t have to be friends with everybody in the world, just the people who matter with you.

    9. Hawk*

      Yep, I have said it for that reason. I also said it today in a new doctor’s office because I have health conditions that are now appearing in people with Long Covid. I stated it as a fact, not to gloat or seem better than someone.

  8. Tiger Snake*

    #3 – I have literally never seen this. People not have covid, sure. People have attitude about it, no.

    So, act with the assumption that they were one of those people who thought that they just had a cold? “Oh gosh, you’re so lucky you had it so mildly you didn’t think to get tested. It really hits people differently, doesn’t it? My mom didn’t even realise she didn’t just have allergies until she gave it to my brother, and then he was hospitalised for three whole months!”

    1. Caramel and Cheddar*

      Or you could just take them at their word instead of telling them they definitely had it at some point. “You didn’t think to get tested!” is so condescending for something you can’t possibly know.

      1. Tiger Snake*

        When people are condescending, they shouldn’t really be surprised when others are condescending back.

        1. Jack Skellington*

          Are they condescending though, or are they simply all using similar phrasing without meaning anything by it? Because in the case of the letter writer it sounds like it’s being interpreted as if people are judging them for having gotten it purely by how often that phrasing is used, when it’s equally possible people just…don’t think of how it is interpreted or how often LW has already heard that phrasing.

      2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        I agree. During 2020-2022 I didn’t have any kind of cold symptoms. Anything that could possibly have been Covid, I got tested for, even if it wasn’t traditional cold symptoms. It’s extremely unlikely that I would have had symptomatic Covid during that time and believed it to be something else. I was also relatively careful, though not quite as extremely as some. In May 2023 I had Covid with cold-like symptoms and no after effects. I’m pretty sure it was the first one for real.

      3. brushandfloss*

        It’s beyond condescending and just unnecessary rude. As a dental hygienist(my patients couldn’t mask)who took the NYC public transit and had to go back to work in June 2020(way before vaccines), I took an abundance of precautions to avoid COVID.

        And yes I was tested often whether it was because of coworker exposure or I had the sniffles/cough. All negative.

      4. Covid later*

        I was part of the UK’s covid survey and tested weekly with the ‘send off for an answer’ tests from pretty early on, as well as the regular testing when the rapid tests came out. So I’m fairly confident I didn’t get it even when my kid had it and I spent most of a week hugging a covid case.

        Then it got me last month.

      5. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

        Especially if you don’t know if they had been tested or not. Where I worked we had to be tested every 2 weeks regardless of exposure or symptoms. This went into the first part of 2022.

      6. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yes, I think we should generally assume people are authorities on their own lived experiences. I get why these comments bother the Letterwriter, but I also don’t think they are meant to be bragging or suggest that someone else wasn’t careful.

    2. Green rose*

      To the best of my knowledge I’ve not had COVID. I tested in accordance with all recommendations and requirements.

      I tested when potentially exposed. I treated when slightly symptomatic. I tested multiple times when sick and potentially exposed.

      There is as much evidence I’ve had COVID as any number of common transmittable diseases that are circulating around the community.

      I have been both lucky and careful. This is not to say some people have not been careful and were unlucky, or weren’t careful and were lucky to get away with it – or really anything else.

      COVID is circulating. Incidence rates are high. Many many people have contacted COVID multiple times. But there are still a lot of people who haven’t gotten COVID. Why assume they are lying or didn’t test or received all false negatives?

      LW needs to understand that these comments are not a criticism of her. Someone who comments that they are a careful driver isn’t implying that only reckless drivers are injured in car attacks. I think the LW is reading into these comments accusations that overwhelmingly do not exist, because she is still affected by her experiences during COVID.

    3. Heather*

      About half of this site’s comment section on any Covid-related letter for the last three years has consisted of people bragging they never had it and judging those who have.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Unfortunately, the entire discourse about Covid precautions is full of tribalism, extremists and straw-people. Is wearing a mask sensible, charitable, virtue-signaling or child abuse? Everyone seems to come to these discussions ready to interpret others through the worst possible lens (smug, entitled, crazy, cruel).

    4. Parttimer*

      I wouldn’t suggest this. My sister said that to me allll the time. We never bragged about not having Covid, but when we got it we were incredibly sick. I had to go to urgent care for fluids. My family’s response was “oh, I guess you really hadn’t had Covid!”

    5. Observer*

      I have literally never seen this. People not have covid, sure. People have attitude about it, no

      Wow. The fact that you never *saw* it means nothing. Even if we could be 100% sure that you never even encountered it and just missed it, it would *still* mean nothing. Your experience is simply not the whole of human experience, and acting as though it were doesn’t make for a very convincing basis for any sort of suggestion.

    6. Tom Green*

      So, act with the assumption that they were one of those people who thought that they just had a cold?

      What an odd assumption. For that assumption to be true, you have to be assuming that they ever had symptoms that could have been COVID, which may or may not be true; you also have to assume that if they did have symptoms, that they did not take any tests, which may or may not be true. Some people really did not ever have COVID. If someone tells you they haven’t had it, you can’t prove otherwise. So why assert that you know more about their health history than they do?

      I don’t agree with your statement that two condescendings make a right, either.

  9. Beth*

    LW4: When your team is getting blamed for errors, is that blame accurate? You say that “they find it exhausting and demoralizing to have fingers constantly pointed at them anytime something doesn’t go perfectly”–are those fingers pointing to your team even when the errors aren’t on you?

    The reality is, you took over a team that was failing more often than it was succeeding, and had been that way for years. It’s not surprising that other teams are still frustrated with your team. That sucks for you, since you weren’t here during that time and have turned things around significantly in your tenure, but it’s natural for them to feel that way. All you can do about that is shield your team from aggressive feedback (yelling and name calling aren’t okay!) and keep the improvement up until your team’s reputation fades.

    But if your team is actually still the usual culprit when errors happen, then your bad reputation is still going to stick. You need to get your team to a place where you can genuinely say “I know we have a reputation, but this one wasn’t on us. And actually, if you look at the data from the last year, we’re no more error prone than any other team.” Until you get there, the frustration is going to continue.

    1. Artemesia*

      I was struck by the feeling great that the error rate is only 8% — that seems huge to me although I don’t know what the job is, so what do I know. Yes, it was horrific but now it is still pretty bad — so while taking PR steps to cut the criticism, you also need to assure them that you expect continued progress.

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        Yes, it’s possible that someone is making huge progress in something but the result is still nowhere good enough.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        The OP says between 2% and 8%, though. (Presumably it varies according to the task.) 8% is not great, 2% is pretty good for anything involving humans.

        This situation is an example of why management should not let situations in which one department is incredibly ineffective go on indefinitely. In addition to the terrible impact on their work, other departments have been used to thinking of the OP’s department as the Reason For Everything Bad. When you think of anything as the Reason For Everything Bad, a certain amount of dehumanisation creeps in along with the (totally understandable) anger and frustration, because (as far as they see it) these people could just choose to stop being bad at their jobs.

        When they actually DO stop being (incredibly) bad at their jobs, their brains are so entrenched in believing that the department is still the Reason For Everything Bad that the dehumanisation is still there, hence the yelling. And they are over-reacting to new mistakes because they were so often on the receiving end of old ones. They might even be starting to believe that the reformed department can do better, so any new mistakes make them feel like they were stupid to think that things could change. So unfortunately this is going to be a poisoned well for the OP until they can build trust with the other departments. And that’s going to take a lot of time and communication.

        1. Smithy*

          Absolutely this.

          It’s also very much the case that to fix long standing problems time. No one takes a department with problems in the realm of 60% to 2% overnight. And in most systems, it’s very rarely the first time someone speaks up and says “I’ve started noticing more and more problems with legal/finance/copy-writing” that sweeping change happens.

          The first time someone notifies their boss, they probably have a few examples or one really bad example. Their boss may choose to just “keep an eye on it” or just give notice to the other team. And depending on 101 other things at any given workplace, this dynamic can go on for years before the levels of badness can truly be recognized and change insisted upon happening. At that point, the first people who were originally providing professional and neutral toned feedback, can easily be at a place of burnout in working with that team.

          I totally get that the OP may have been hoping that demonstrating better work product alone would do it, but I think there may be a larger rebuilding of trust exercise that’s also needed. AAM’s advice about only working through one person means that all of your team isn’t responsible for that, but it also helps you identify if there are any particular bad actors from other teams who perhaps have their own anger issues at past leaders who ignored their complaints for so long.

      3. Elle by the sea*

        It’s a technology company. I don’t know if LW is talking about human error rate or not, but a jump from 60% error rate to 2-8% is a fantastic achievement which needs to be celebrated. And 2-8% error rate translates to 92-98% accuracy, which is great. I don’t understand why people are shocked that LW takes pride in that.

        1. Green rose*

          It’s so hard to know without context, but if it is 8% of documents transcribed contain unidentified words that sounds quite good. If it is 8% of clients are harmed because of the errors then that’s a couple orders of magnitude too high.

          But given the company was functioning with a 60% error rate, I don’t that 8% is that critical. Yes they should improve if that is feasible – but if the staff are constantly everyone’s punching bag – why bother?

          Frankly, even if an 8% error rate is a problem – if the staff aren’t recognised for their improvements there’s no incentive for anyone to improve. If you continue to treat people based on previous, now improved, performance don’t be surprised when people decide it’s not worth the effort as it doesn’t change anything.

          1. Mockingjay*

            OP4 wasn’t asking about the error rate; she’s asking how to change the perception of her department. As a manager, OP is doing an excellent job by recognizing this team has issues on multiple levels: technical, reputational, and likely other areas, such as staffing and training (speculation, but fits what I read). She’s fixing the technical error rate (I’m going to assume that’s ongoing); now she needs to address the next piece. My advice for OP4 is to look at the source of the comments; is the team the scapegoat out of habit or deflection, or are there more issues that need to be addressed? The other managers need to provide hard evidence of errors, schedule impediments, etc. If there are none, then OP4 can ask her managerial peers to treat her team with more professionalism. If there are problems, managers should bring them to OP4’s attention promptly to be fixed, rather than hand-wringing.

            1. MassMatt*

              “OP4 wasn’t asking about the error rate; she’s asking how to change the perception of her department.”

              And the answer is that this is going to take time. I takes far longer to build a reputation than to destroy it.

              A 60% error rate is remarkably poor, as in Soviet Gulag style quality.

              Reducing the error rate to between 2-8% is a remarkable achievement, but we don’t have enough context to know whether that’s still excessive, acceptable, or very good. If it’s merely OK, then it will take a very long time to change the department’s reputation. If it’s now a good rate, OP still needs to be patient. This isn’t something you can rush.

        2. ecnaseener*

          No one’s shocked that LW’s proud of the massive improvement. You can have massive improvement and still not be meeting the bar yet, and in a lot of contexts 8% would be really far from the bar.

        3. hbc*

          Yeah, it really depends on what’s being measured. If we’re talking about getting working code out with a first pass, 98% is freaking amazing. Or coming up with a quick patch that reduces a minor bug frequency by 95%. Or having the first troubleshooting path identify the root cause of a problem.

          But if it’s educational software and a kid gets told the wrong answer nearly 10% of the time, that’s horrific. Or the grades get slotted into the wrong field. Or you’re supposed to type in a fraction but the field doesn’t allow slashes. Still doesn’t help to scream about it, but yikes.

        4. Just Another Zebra*

          Because even though the reality is closer to 8%, to the coworkers who have dealt with the 60% errors, the 8% can feel like it’s just part of the 60%.

          When you have a department/team/person where bad behavior and poor output come to be expected, ANY mistake from that department is going to be attributed to that previous perception. Is it fair? Absolutely not. But it probably feels less like “oh, they’ve made such good progress” and more like “look, the llama groomers are slipping back into bad habits AGAIN”

          Yelling and name calling is unprofessional and rude, and that needs to be stopped. But just like the llama groomers need to be given time to course correct, other departments need time to recognize a permanent change, rather than a fluke.

        5. Observer*

          nd 2-8% error rate translates to 92-98% accuracy, which is great. I don’t understand why people are shocked that LW takes pride in that.

          Firstly, because for most situations, it actually is not “great”. Also, the OP says that they have gotten it down for “most things” -not all- that “they can measure” which means that they still don’t know the error rate for all of the areas that they could be failing at.

          Also, people are not shocked that the OP is proud of how far they have come. People are just pointing out that there is still a ways to go before the rest of the company can be reasonably to cut them some slack.

        6. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          I’m kind of with you on the error rate, but as others have pointed out, it probably greatly matters what industry/area we are talking about.

          Also, the problem with % is it lacks information on the quality/severity of an error. If an accounting department consistently screws up payroll but does every other task perfectly, it might mean the error rate is .5%….but that REALLY is a big error to keep making.

      4. b*

        Agreed, though it does depend on what kinds of errors they are and what consequences they have. If an attorney blew 2% of their court deadlines they would be disbarred. If a surgeon made meaningful errors in 2% of their surgeries they’d be in prison.

        If the performance remains unacceptable, as a colleague relying on this department’s work I would not have much patience for hearing how much closer to acceptable they were getting. Any PR message that doesn’t start with “we know we are still failing, and here is how we will fix it” would only make me angrier, frankly.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          Also it is the kind of error. Like, “blowing a court deadline” can mean that 2% of the time a lawyer is scheduled they miss the first case call at an appearance because they were running late (not a super big deal unless you miffed the judge) or totally blanked on filing an appeal on a death row case resulting in the case being finalized, a serious violation of civil liberties, and SCOTUS needing to come fix the error. Do that that more than once and you don’t have a license.

          Or, to put it another way, I worked on a medium data project assembling contracts. The majority had errors in them. “Error” however meant anything from: “It is is dated 1897 instead of 1997” or “Exhibit C was never attached” to “The math is wrong in this payout section and we have been paying the vendor incorrectly for 10 years” or “The terms of this agreement are actually not legally enforceable. At all.” If I had 60% of the first kind of errors, there would be no problem, but 8% of the latter would be a nightmare of biblical proportions.

    2. Heffalump*

      Regarding feedback: Criticizing the work when criticism is warranted–OK. Attacking the person–not OK.

      1. Observer*

        This is 100% true. And the OP needs to recognize and fully acknowledge the first half, while pushing back on the second half.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      OP – have you publicized what you’ve been doing? Monthly updates to the people who depend on you, with nice line charts showing your error rates plummeting? And explanations of those repeatable processes?

      People don’t remember when things work ok, they remember the failures. So all the times when things go correctly don’t stick in their minds, and maybe a little internal PR would help with that.

      1. Miette*

        Absolutely this. In addition to Alison’s advice, I think your team’s efforts need a bit of PR. Think about how you are messaging things. 2% error rate vs. 98% accuracy rate puts focus on the accomplishment, not the failure. Use of graphs to visually demonstrate the improvements can go a long way. Comparing current rates to industry benchmarks (if you have any to point to) can give the complainers very relevant context as well.

      2. MassMatt*

        Transparency about the processes would definitely be helpful. Maybe a monthly report on errors resolved, or # of work pieces passed, which can objectively show improvement?

    4. consuela*

      Came here with a similar comment (question?): LW 4, are you/can you track info on the errors themselves? Are there patterns still happening? (Eg, most of the 2-8% affect a specific other department or part of the process; are they occuring in very visible parts of a process; are they cumulative errors or individual mistakes) And is 2-8% typical for your work culture?

      Strongly support Alison’t recommendations and emphasis that yelling and namecalling are totally unacepptable. Just trying to see if there’s anything besides others’ habits of blame involved here.

  10. Goldie*

    #5 It seems like the company wasn’t really ready to hire. They liked you so they kind of got it together to interview you but then maybe realized they didn’t know what they needed or what their long term budget is or both.

    Try not to take it personally

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, I don’t know that I’d even consider this ghosting. They replied to OPs email saying things were crazy/chaotic, they were not in a position to hire anyone, and OP shouldn’t hold out for them. The message reads to me like they’ll get in touch with OP if things happen to shake out with them wanting to work with her, but who knows when that could be, if at all.

      1. roboto*

        I also wouldn’t call it ghosting, in the same way that I wouldn’t if I went out on two great dates with someone and they said “hey I am not ready to date someone right now, but if things change I’ll reach out”.

        I feel like this company was pretty straight-forward and communicative, especially when compared to the average company interviewing? People on the interview team who were not hiring managers acted like the job was OP’s but that’s pretty common (I feel like it’s from an instinct of wanting to seem positive and put the interviewee at ease).

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, the problem I had with the company was the weird response to salary negotiations, not the respectfully communicated “we’re not going to be ready to hire in the near future”.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        That’s where I land – they used their words. No ghosting here.

      3. Reba*

        Agree, I was confused to read this interaction described as ghosting! They don’t know what they want, but they actually communicated that pretty clearly.

      4. And I'm the alchemist of the hinterlands*

        I agree and commented down thread. This doesn’t seem like ghosting at all- they did reach out when the OP inquired.

      5. RagingADHD*

        Agreed. This is certainly not what I would call “ghosting.” They were very responsive, up to the point where they specifically said, “we are not ready to hire.”

        That’s a pretty clear and definitive answer, it seems to me.

    2. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, I thought this sounds exactly like me when I really want to buy something but I simply can’t afford it! Yes, I love them. Yes I can totally see myself wearing them. I’m going to go back on Tuesday to look at them. They would be PERFECT for that wedding. And yeah, I am behaving exactly like someone who is going to buy them, and the sales assistant thinks she’s got the commission in the bag, but fundamentally I do not have the money, and at some point I have to end the fantasy that I do!

      OP, I think they loved you, and all the warmth and excitement you felt was real, and they tried really hard to make it work and had conversations like, “but really, can we afford NOT to hire them??” but when it came down to it, they just do not have the budget/workload to justify it right now. Hence the awkwardness around money: they were really hoping you’d give a figure that would make it *just about* possible to say yes or quite obvious that this was going nowhere, and the weird comment from Cal was about hoping you weren’t as invested as they thought you were because they knew it was going to be SO awkward when they turned you down. And it was! I think they’re embarrassed that they got so invested in you and let you think it was going to happen when really they knew the budget wasn’t there. Annoying, but not something you need to carry with you.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I think if they knew at the beginning they couldn’t afford a position for OP, asking them in for multiple interviews (one of which lasted 3 hours) is rude. On the other hand, if they were still trying to refine the job duties and went in a different direction or if a revenue stream dried up, their behavior is understandable.

        Except for the weirdness about the salary negotiation. That was rude.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          They did seem to have had the 3 hour interview FIRST, before salary even came up. And who knows, maybe behind the scenes HR was like “oh sure, we can make that work, I just have to get X to sign off on it, go ahead and bring them in to meet the group” and then surprise, X says “whoa, we can’t afford that for what we need!”. Or “whoa for that price we can get 2 junior staff and hopefully keep them a lot longer!” or whatever. It’s not set in stone until you’ve accepted an offer (and not always then, but those are usually more extenuating circumstances).

          1. Goldie*

            Also the LW approached them first, they did even post a position from what I read so in that case you have to assume that things are not quite as organized.

            It’s a bummer but certainly par for the course with freelance or “creating your own job”

    3. Festively Dressed Earl*

      It was considerate that the company admitted they’re not ready to hire. Better that than leaving LW in limbo or sticking them in a role with no defined duties and no performance parameters.

  11. Enough*

    LW#1 While Alison’s script in general is fine I would leave out the part about you paying for it. Who paid for this has nothing to do with the issue of an employee who expects a free lunch for missing a free lunch. As my husband pointed out it would be as if an employee at his first company wasn’t there the day he brought in donuts to celebrate a milestone (company tradition) and expected a donut later.

    1. roboto*

      Yeah that confused me too – if the company DID pay for it, they still wouldn’t owe someone who was not in the office that day lunch or a gift certificate.

      1. Allonge*

        I think mentioning it might help flip the mindset of Jill, more than anything. It’s not strictly relevant, but it helps illustrate the absurdity of the request.

        1. zaracat*

          I think it is also relevant to how Jill might handle the next time a meal is offered: she might still feel a bit resentful about missing out, especially if she would have come in on a day off if she had known that was an option, but would be more likely to be graceful about it if she knows it’s coming out of LW1’s pocket. If she thinks it’s coming out of the company budget she might be more tempted to “get her money’s worth” next time and order the most expensive thing on the menu.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            But it’s very likely that Jill knew she had the option to attend, since:
            1. The OP says that PT staff are welcome to attend these types of events if they are scheduled on their day off, and often do.
            2. She says that she had a conflict and that was the reason she couldn’t attend. (If she didn’t know that she didn’t have the option to attend, it seems unlikely that she would have mentioned that she couldn’t attend due to a conflict.)
            I agree with the rest of your points though – no lobster thermidor for Jill unless her conflict was an emergency puppy rescue or something.

      2. Antilles*

        Agreed. I work in private industry where the department budget would be expected to pay for this sort of thing and I’ve never seen a company providing gift certificates for people who miss these sorts of celebration meals. Never.
        Even if the reason you can’t attend is directly work-related (e.g., at a client’s job site that day), that’s just the way it goes. Sorry you can’t make it, maybe you’ll make the next one.

        1. JustaTech*

          The only time my company has done an alternative celebration meal was when the site holiday party ended up scheduled for a weeknight (if you don’t get a budget until November finding any time for a holiday party is a real challenge). There were a few people (2-3) who were scheduled to cover the phones (essential position) during the holiday party, so the party planning folks had a very fancy dinner delivered to the office.

          But that was only because those people had to be working during that time, not because they were on vacation or something.

      3. kiki*

        I think there’s been a shift in recent years to view everything given by workplaces as a benefit earned, like a holiday or PTO, but not everything can realistically fall into that category. If I had to work a holiday, I’d expect to be given another day off in lieu of that holiday because I’d perceive it as one of my benefits and part of my compensation. I can see how people might apply a similar mentality to paid meals or work activities, but paying for a catered team lunch is different than paying for an individual meal, both in price and also the outcome. A catered team lunch provides some team bonding aspect that having a separate solo lunch wouldn’t.

        That all being said, some places do send restaurant gift cards to employees who are remote and can’t make it to group meals, so it’s not completely out of pocket for LW’s employee to think this might be an option (though it is strange that they’re fixated on it months after the fact). I think for this employee, making it clear that this was not on the organization and on LW’s personal dime would go a long way.

      4. Artemesia*

        I disagree. Company is giving out benefit A and so I naturally think I am entitled to a company benefit. Boss is treating everyone — well if I am not there I don’t think boss personally owes me. I would not have made a fuss myself BUT I can understand that an employee simply sees this as a company provided benefit and feels everyone is entitled to their share of it whether they are there or not. If they are giving out t-shirts and I am not there that day, I expect to pick mine up the next day. Boss personally gets everyone coffee — different thing.

      5. MassMatt*

        That Jill is still bringing this up months later makes me think she lacks some sense. It’s a work lunch, not Oprah giving new cars away to everyone in the audience, get a grip.

    2. WellRed*

      Anyone else wondering if Jill is a great or mediocre employee? And I am embarrassed that she’s still asking for this three months later (though side eyeing OP a bit for her part in that).

      1. Armchair Analyst*

        no but I am imagining her as more entry-level and younger where she doesn’t know workplace norms, perhaps attended school or worked remotely suddenly during Covid and watched many peers get boxes or gift certificates to encourage morale, even to the extent of groups getting meals “together” to enjoy at home but on a “zoom” event. I imagine she doesn’t spend $20 or $25 on most meals by herself for whatever reason and thinks the catered lunch cost about that per person and doesn’t realize it would be about $8.99 per person instead

      2. Heffalump*

        I could have done something analogous to what Jill did–when I was a single-digit age.

      3. LW Who Owes Everyone Lunch*

        Jill is a younger employee, but has been with the entity for over 5 years. She is firmly in the mediocre category, however, I don’t have any direct oversight and her supervisor doesn’t seem to notice or mind.

        I’m giving myself side eye, so I get it.

    3. Really?*

      Agreed. Expecting a make-up lunch for an employee that didn’t happen to be there that day is way beyond workplace norms. Caving to this type of behavior is bad policy. Are you going to have a make up holiday party for those that couldn’t attend the original one? Of course not. Whether you decide to tell her that you paid out of your own pocket or not, you were doing her (add yourself) no favors if you give in. Alison’s script is a good one, use it.

    4. Boof*

      IDK, I think this is a read the room situation; I think it highlights the absurdity of the situation; they aren’t asking for extra from some faceless corporate expense account, they are asking for extra from a specific person.

  12. Texas Teacher*

    Op 2, obviously you have ample reasons to fire this employee, but this part of your letter makes me wonder if she/her mom is actually clear about no call no show resulting in termination:

    “The manager informed the mother that Katie had already missed a shift and we would take her off the next shift.”

    This would sound to me like the employer was just accommodating my request, not that I was being fired!

    1. coffee*

      Yeah, although I now know that in retail “we haven’t scheduled you on any shifts” means “you no longer work for us”, in most other contexts it would sound like the worker’s availability and the business’s open shifts didn’t line up, and that will change in the future. Combine that with the way many other jobs have an explicit “You’re fired” conversation, and I doubt Katie knows that she’s been fired!

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        OP1 (cash instead of a meal) – the suggested wording of “we don’t provide make-up meals to people who miss the event” is a bit disingenuous to my mind. The use of ‘we’ suggests it is a company/organisation thing, and is stated as if it’s policy. There is no “we” here, just OP acting unilaterally.

        Of course it is fine to set a boundary like that and state you won’t be paying up, but don’t hide behind “we” and policy.

      2. doreen*

        Especially since there are actually jobs that do work like that , where you might not be scheduled to work a particular week but you haven’t been fired. I don’t know why food service and retail are so resistant to actually firing people.

        1. siliril*

          I had a retail job where I actually wasn’t scheduled all summer long.
          I was sure I had been fired. I got a check for my remaining vacation days.
          Starting applying elsewhere.

          August came around and got a call from my job, “Hi! Can you come in Mon, Weds next week, thanks!”

          Turns out the senior cashier was in the management training program and needed like, all the hours to complete it. So barely anyone else got on the schedule that summer. Crappy thing to do to not give a heads up but hey at least I could go back to work. Had normally scheduled hours after that until I eventually left for a full time job in my career.

    2. Tiger Balm*

      Same. It’s very vague. If she’s terminated, and you haven’t said “Katie your employment is terminated” then you need to say that, instead of “taking her off the next shift” and cutting her access to the roster app.

      Use your words.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Wait, Katie has already been fired? I genuinely didn’t pick up on that, and I worked in food service for a year.

    3. Decidedly Me*

      This is what struck me, as well. Katie has been effectively terminated, but no one had told her! I understand this is a thing in retail, but not everyone knows that and that doesn’t make it right.

      LW2 – if you want to fire Katie, and it sounds like you do based on where she’s at with her performance and following policy, just fire her. She wouldn’t be continuing to reach out about shifts if you’d just tell her.

      1. Jiminy cricket*

        Right! This happened to my teen. She didn’t make herself available for enough shifts, so the store stopped scheduling her (rightly, of course), but never said, “You are no longer employed here.” Finally, I said, “Sweetie, I don’t think you actually have a job anymore. You should ask the manager in exactly those words.” She did, and what the manager said was, “I don’t have room on the roster for you.” Which is at least clear — but still a weird aversion to the words, “You are terminated/fired/not employed here.”

        1. MassMatt*

          In addition to the general aversion people have to conflict and difficult conversations, firing someone may require paperwork and considerations about liability, etc.

        2. Burger Bob*

          Well….technically there is sometimes a difference. Sometimes people are being passive weenies and just don’t want to say the words, “I’m terminating you.” But sometimes there just genuinely aren’t enough hours on payroll for everyone at the moment and your time may come later but not now. Though, to be clear, I think you should still SAY THAT if that’s what’s happening. Like when new people want to transfer to our store, my partner will tell them, “I can transfer you in, but I currently have a full team, and they will get priority over you since they have been here longer. You will maybe only get one shift a month or something.”

          Regardless, managers need to suck it up and use their words, but yeah, there can sometimes be a difference between “You’re terminated” and “You’re on the staff but are not being scheduled.”

          1. Boof*

            And that’s exactly why managers should use clear language “you no longer have a job with us” vs “we don’t have any work for you currently, but we can call you when something opens” – very different!

      2. MassMatt*

        Hard for the job to tell her she’s fired when supposedly her phone broke (I presume the dog ate it) and most of all this has been relayed through her mommy.

        1. Nameless*

          This is really mean spirited. She’s 16, she’s still learning what professional norms are, and OP hasn’t exactly been communicative here either. Katie has had at least one conversation with OP to ask why she isn’t on the schedule; OP could have had the “parting ways” conversation then, or any time since.

    4. UKDancer*

      Yes. I think OP you need to tell Katie directly that she’s been sacked. You may think it’s obvious but she clearly hasn’t picked this up. If you don’t want to give her another chance (and you probably don’t judging from your email) then at least tell her so and give her an explanation.

      She’s young and if it’s her first job it will be good for her to understand the sort of things you get sacked for so she can do better next time.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Exactly its her first job, she doesn’t know the code words for fired yet. You would be doing Katie a favor by being clear that she is terminated.

    5. clueless*

      I agree, but it also seems like saying “Katie’s fired” will result in the mom saying “okay, btw she can’t work tomorrow”

    6. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, particularly since the last correspondence from Katie/her mom was that she “hopes she is not terminated.” Not “hopes you’ll reconsider” or anything like that – she has not been told that she’s fired. You gotta tell her!

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, reading this, I was a little confused if Katie had actually been fired. Like, I know in retail it’s common to just stop scheduling somebody instead of making a formal firing, but it seems like when Katie’s mom kept reaching out about scheduling, it would have been a good time to clarify with Katie that she doesn’t work there anymore.

    7. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, they are best just letting Katie go–but it doesn’t sound like they made that clear to Katie or her mom that that was what was happening. Especially if the mom never worked retail herself, I think it’s very likely she would have read that response and thought “oh great, they’re letting Katie go on the trip” rather than “oh no, Katie has been fired.”

      1. Alanna*

        Yeah, I’ve never worked retail and “not scheduled for any shifts” absolutely would not immediately make me think “fired,” I’d think they were just keeping her in reserve for another week when they were more desperate.

        1. Burger Bob*

          I DO work in retail, and I still would not automatically assume that “not scheduled for shifts” meant “fired.” I WOULD assume something must be up and they must be mad at me for something and were trying to passive aggressively get me to quit. But sometimes they do keep you on with the intention of maybe using you someday when they’re desperate, even while they’re not bothering to schedule you.

    8. Ahnon4Thisss*

      Yeah, LW really dropped the ball with handling the situation here imo. There is no language in the letter at all that says they communicated to Katie that she has been fired. It doesn’t matter if no showing results in termination and employees should know that, you still have to go through the process of firing them, especially if it is a young kid who is new to the world of working.

      1. UKDancer*

        This so much. Especially with someone who is new to the workplace you have to be clear and explicit about things. Neither Katie nor her mother appear to have picked up that she’s been sacked.

      2. Burger Bob*

        Yes, and especially since it’s not super common to have the callout policies explained to you when you first start working in retail. They tend to just hire you and inform you of things as they become relevant. I had been with my company for five years before I learned that our official policy was that someone must no-call, no-show three times in a row before you can officially terminate them. It had just never been relevant for me.

      3. Boof*

        it strikes me as VERY STRANGE that OP is clear they have terminated Katie, but they only tell Katie they “have no upcoming schedule”; what’s up with that? Why don’t they just say “unfortunately due to [no call/no show] we will not be scheduling you further” or “we have terminated your employment with us as outlined at orientation” or whatever language makes sense and CLEARLY SAYS they are done with the job

  13. Punk*

    OP3: I’m curious about how these conversations are starting and playing out, because anecdotally, I’m not talking about covid anymore unless someone deliberately brings it up because they want to start and “win” an argument. That said, if I ever talk about having covid, I tell the truth, which is that I caught it from a coworker. So you can just say you caught it from a patient. Anyone who tries to blame you for that was already looking for a fight.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      The sort of people who are self-righteous about not having caught Covid are definitely happy to start this kind of conversation; I know a few! There will always be people who protect themselves from fear by deciding that it was their good management, not good luck, that prevented [awful thing] from happening.

      I think of it like the folks who pop up on articles about things like childhood cancer saying “well we did X thing because it reduces cancer risk.” They’d rather imply it was their good decisions that “prevented” their child from getting sick than face the scary reality that their child could get sick through no fault of their own.

      1. Lily*

        “There will always be people who protect themselves from fear by deciding that it was their good management, not good luck, that prevented [awful thing] from happening.”

        100% this

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’m surprised you’re not encountering those conversations. It’s maybe not as prevalent in my daily life as it once was, but I’m definitely having a conversation with COVID about someone at least daily. (Conversation, to be clear, not argument)

    3. Smithy*

      To me at least, this kind of conversation risks heading into territory along the likes of “millennials could buy homes if they bought less Starbucks/avocado toast.”

      Essentially, a personal observation based on their life choices and applying that to a huge number of people from wildly different backgrounds and different experiences. And sure, it can bring up very strong emotions because things like the economy (or COVID) can have huge impacts on our lives in very negative ways.

      To feel like someone is being glib or dismissive – becoming angry or upset in that moment is understandable. So, I just find it easier to think of it as a social trap. Especially at work. Millennials waste their money? Mmhmm – sure…. You never got COVID because you were really careful? Mmhmm, yup…..

    4. Lily Rowan*

      I just had a conversation yesterday with someone who got covid for the first time last month, so that’s one source of current conversations.

      1. AnonORama*

        It’s weird how fast it vanished from the conversation of folks I know, now that I think about it. Other than “what did you do yesterday? Oh, got a Covid booster” or “so-and-so is out sick, she tested positive for Covid” I don’t remember the last time I heard about it.

  14. EmployersDontCommunicate*

    LW5 this is by far more common than actually hearing back with a rejection these days, even if you’ve been involved in many, many rounds of interviews.

    Also, hiring freezes happen, company layoffs requiring consideration of internal candidates over external happen, timeframes change, etc. Different hiring practices take longer than others – I’ve gotten offers within a week of applying and had other processes spread out over many months with huge gaps between each stage.

    Stuff happens, and most companies don’t communicate much or well. I’d also caution you not to make any assumptions until you have a written offer in hand. Even then, it’s not set in stone; I’ve even had two offers fall through after I accepted them but before I started.

    Good luck.

  15. Pups & Politics*

    Are we allowed to discuss work-related issues we’re having on any thread, or just the open threads?

    1. Jackalope*

      Open threads only unless it’s related to one of the topics in the letter(s) that the comment thread is for.

    2. Oh noes!*

      Just the open thread normally, though exceptions might be made if your issue is very similar to that of a letter writer – especially if it involves how you solved it. In general I’d personally err on the side of caution and mention it only in the open thread, perhaps with a reference to the letter describing a similar issue.

  16. Cary*

    My husband never tested positive for covid despite multiple exposures including the time both me and our son caught it. At this point we figure hes just naturally immune, and its really not to do with being careful.

    1. amoeba*

      I got COVID after deciding to go back into “personal lock down mode” during the delta wave. So, no more indoor events, almost 0 contact with people, 100% home office, N95 mask on public transport, etc. Also, after vaccination during a time when that was still called a “breakthrough infection” and considered somewhat rare.

      A year later, my boyfriend got omicron, had quite high viral load judging by the lateral flow tests, and I shared a bed with him without isolating or masking (because basically, at the point he tested positive, I assumed I was probably already infected, anyway). No symptoms, tested every day, including a PCR, never positive.

      So much of this is luck.

    2. anon4this*

      This is where I am. My husband had it, I never tested positive. We did isolate from each other, but not 100% perfectly.
      My brother also has never tested positive, despite his young children and wife all having it, and their isolation was also imperfect, as a family of 4 having to coexist in the home.
      So I think my brother and I somehow have genetics that have protected us? Our father has had it (twice, I think), but my mother has never tested positive. On the other hand, she thinks she might be having long covid issues from having it as a mild cold that just did not register to the testing – maybe the genetics my brother and I have inherited from our mother just protect us from testing positive somehow?? (IDK if that’s even a thing lol)

      1. Margaritaville*

        This was me. Multiple exposures.^ Family members sick. Trying to isolate, but hard in a small house. Never testing positive. Never feeling symptoms. Figured I was one of those naturally immune people. Then, WHAM. Hit hard by the latest wave, with no clear path of exposure, sicker than I have ever been my life.

        So, um, good luck everyone!

        ^For some reason I feel like I need to add, “Despite being really really careful!” here.

    3. MigraineMonth*

      My sister, her husband and her 3-year-old all got COVID. For some reason, my 7-year-old nephew never got sick or tested positive (despite daily tests).

    4. Y'all come back now, ya hear?*

      So much of this is luck! I had COVID in December 2020 and didn’t know because my symptoms didn’t line up at all with the symptoms that were prevalent at the time. Even called my doc about if I needed to schedule for testing and he told me I probably had a sinus infection, and anyway, our area didn’t have any available tests. I was masking 100% of the time at work and in public (worked frontline so I was in person the whole panini). Found out it was COVID a month later when doc did bloodwork before getting the jab, and I had antibodies.

      I didn’t give it to anybody at work, and my husband has never gotten it. He’s been exposed so many times so we figure he’s just immune

    5. Gene Parmesan*

      So much is truly luck – I had COVID once and started to feel symptoms at a baseball game (it was limited to 15% attendance and there was no one around us) with my middle grade child between myself and my spouse for hours (not to mention the long car ride and living in the same home) my spouse tested positive 2 days later and my child never has (once we were sick we tested him every day for 14 days, nothing).

  17. münchner kindl*

    #1, paying for lunch of out of pocket: I hate that so many of the public feel that nickel-and-diming public employees is reasonable because “it’s my tax money” and then politicans cave to loud pressure and deny even the most basic amenities to public servants, so that the managers feel pressured to buy lunch out of pocket. (Similar to how I’m appalled that teachers are expected to buy supplies for their classes – that’s what tax money is for, here).

    #2 teen employee: Of course here, under-18 year olds are generally forbidden from working, with only very few exceptions.

    But if you consider the person old enough to work for you, shouldn’t the employee also be old enough to make their own decisions, not their mom?
    If a parent is legally required to consent to all work stuff, maybe stop hiring teens and hire legal adults?
    I’m also disappointed at the bad communication – OP wanted to fire Katie for no-show, no-call, but did not send a postal letter or similar to tell Katie, just stopped scheduling her. Why not tell Katie clearly that she is fired, and why?
    Also, was Katie told clearly about the no-show, no-call = fired rule when she started, or was this only assumed as industry standard, but not told directly?

    1. GythaOgden*

      Well, in the UK it’s fairly similar. In ten years in the NHS I’ve only ever had one paid-for meal out. Our celebrations at work tend to be food brought in from a supermarket by ourselves. It’s also fairly common to pay for a ticket to the company Christmas meal out of pocket if you’re in a small business like my husband was. (It means it’s completely optional, but my expat American friend was scandalised by it and told me to push back against it, which was a very very strange idea because it wasn’t a huge deal in the first place.)

      Getting snotty about American practices might feel good, but it is poorly received by them, partly because it’s not in their power to change much about social attitudes but also because it is rather crappy — a bit like coming into someone else’s house and complaining you don’t like how they’ve painted their walls and you would have done them a different colour. It’s not only unwarranted but makes you look foolish rather than them.

      1. amoeba*

        Huh? I didn’t see any “getting snotty about American practices”, I think the first part was about the treatment of public servants in general, not in the US specifically? (I’m not in public service but I believe it’s actually pretty similar in Germany…)

    2. Myrin*

      I always thought – based on your username and comments in general – that we’re from the same area but now I’m confused – people make their Mittlere Reife at 16, Hauptschüler are often only 15 when they graduate, and most of them start working (in an Ausbildung) immediately after? Where is this “forbidden from working” coming from? There are certain rules in place, of course, specific things they’re forbidden from doing, hours they can’t work, etc. By law, even 13-year-olds are allowed to work two hours a day (again, with several restrictions) so I’m wondering if I’m completely misunderstanding you?

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, I’m also confused. There are laws and protections (on hours, etc.), yes, but you can definitely work as young as 13 in Germany. Apart from the traineeship/”Ausbildung”, school kids have jobs, as well, that’s a very common thing! And once you’re out of school, you can also work a “normal” full time job that’s not a traineeship…

    3. WellRed*

      Where do you get that the patent is required to legally consent to all work things? At most, they might have to consent to the teen taking the job. Anything that comes after should be between the kid and the employer.

    4. *kalypso*

      This is a pretty big regional difference.

      The parent isn’t legally required to consent to any work stuff once the kid is of an age to work (13-16yo depending on state) or at most, that they approve that the kid can work and that’s it.
      In retail, especially in at-will states (where employees can be fired at any time for any reason other than those prescribed in legislation, like for discriminatory reasons like based on race or age), if you don’t turn up to work without leave or having cover arranged (and some employers will expect employees to arrange their own cover even if they’re sick) or at least not specifically letting the employer know an hour in advance or ASAP (if in case of emergency) then it is generally in the contract, included in meagre training/induction, or written at the bottom of the schedule, that further shifts may not be provided. There is no right to minimum hours unless agreed in a contract, and even then, a lot of the time people end up losing hours until they reach zero. It is an industry with high turnover and low employee investment, and the assumption is that if you don’t work there are more people who will, so if you don’t turn up, then you don’t get paid and you aren’t coming back.

      It would be significantly unusual for any employer in this space to send a registered post letter to an employee to say ‘you didn’t turn up to work, we warned you that if you didn’t turn up you wouldn’t get more hours, you didn’t turn up, you have no more hours’. It would also end up a rather outsized burden because of the frequency with which it happens. The only less than usual thing here is that between Katie losing access to the schedule and Katie regaining access to a device with which to access the schedule, the only communication was from Katie’s mother (likely because like many people today, a cell phone is the only ‘computer’ they have). Now that the employer can contact Katie directly, the obvious thing to do is resume only communicating with Katie. LW doesn’t want to do that, and would like Alison to approve ghosting Katie or whatever.

    5. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      This is definitely a US thing. In the US kids can work at 16. The parent might need to sign the paperwork, but there is no consent by the adults to all work stuff. In fact that is the problem here, Mom is interfering where its none of her business.

      We also tend not to send letters of termination. Now, yes, Katie should be told flat out that she is terminated. But the next time she calls would be enough or Op can pre-emptively notify her. I think OP is relying too much on industry norms as to why Katie is not getting a clue instead of telling Katie who is new and doesn’t know industry norms.

    6. doreen*

      In my state , the only place parents really come into the picture is when they consent to the minor being issued working papers ( which can be issued to an 11 year old for newspaper delivery ) and possibly to work past a certain hour. The employer must follow the law but doesn’t need a parent’s permission to hire the minor or to schedule the minor to work or anything else. The employer deals with the employee and the parent deals with the child. I suppose a parent might deal with the employer if they tell the child to quit the job and they don’t or if the employer violates the law but those are very specific situations.

      Also , I’m not sure why anyone should need to be told about the no call/no show = fired rule – it’s not just an industry standard , it applies in one form or another to every job.

    7. Critical Rolls*

      To your first point, heartily agree. Do people really want all civil service to be done by people who need to settle for poorly-paid positions with terrible quality of life factors? Because that’s not a recipe for good service. Or efficiency, competency, etc. Never wonder why government computing is a decade behind — it’s people who have an in-principle objection to government workers having anything more expensive than an abacus. AND NOT ONE OF THOSE FANCY ABACUSES, EITHER.

      1. doreen*

        That really depends – I spent my entire career in civil service, and my employer didn’t pay for meals ( except when traveling) parties or tissues or coffee or water coolers. Fine with me though, because my pension and the health insurance that comes with it is worth more than any of those things would have been.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Same here in the UK public sector. The pay is crap, but we have more job security and holiday than the statutory minimum and an insanely generous paid sick leave entitlement. And even then increases have been relatively generous because the NHS just has to tug on the heartstrings of the public and the government will lay out more money. (The rest of the public sector just got their new pay rise while the private sector tightens its belt.) It’s worth the socializing being limited to a Macmillan fundraising coffee morning where everyone brings their own cupcakes (and puts a few quid in the pot for an awesome cancer support charity).

          In the private sector I’d also have been first out the door at the beginning of the pandemic because the company may well not have seen a future in a non-public facing reception. I am struggling in my job to stay awake but I’ve been very glad of the payslip for the last 36+ months.

          I wouldn’t give up any of that for better Christmas parties, even if the one time I did work for a big firm we got a social fund and once drank TGI Fridays out of cocktail glasses. Discovering crispy chilli beef on the company euro was fun, but it wouldn’t have made up for the less secure position.

      2. b*

        Unfortunately, for many of the people pushing for austerity, making civil servants less competent, effective, and happy is a feature, not a bug. Saving money and “proving” government doesn’t work so you can justify further cuts — two birds with one stone.

  18. Coverage Associate*

    I think of COVID-19 like dental cavities. There are behaviors that lower the risk, and being very careful can very much lower the risk, but there’s also a lot out of genetics and privilege in the mix. And people who are actually just lucky can express moral superiority about it.

    I have never tested positive for COVID-19, but I have had more than my share of cavities. I spend more time and money caring for my teeth than a lot of people who never get cavities, but I can’t change my jaw and other factors that are just how I was born.

    I hope this is an additional useful analogy.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I really like this. It’s a great analogy. You can do everything you can to be healthy and still have something happen that destroys your health.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Another cavity sufferer here. I once had a dentist tell me I needed to stop sucking on lemon wedges (which is… something some people do, I guess?). I apparently have enamel-destroying saliva.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      That’s an interesting analogy, because a lot of people absolutely do equate good dental hygiene = no cavities (possibly because it’s often presented to us that way as children to get us to brush our teeth?). Personally, I’ve been in the position to observe that my parents, who have about the same dental hygiene behaviors, don’t get the same number of cavities, at all. I’ve been lucky to inherit my father’s cavity-resistant teeth.

      Generally, humans are very, very bad at probability – even when we grasp it intellectually, we don’t really feel it. We always want to think causality is 100%.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Generally, humans are very, very bad at probability – even when we grasp it intellectually, we don’t really feel it. We always want to think causality is 100%.
        Definitely. And it is understandable. I know I often feel the urge when I hear of something bad happening to find some reason it’s less likely to happen to me. We like to believe we have some control.

        And sometimes it’s even useful, as in the case of getting kids to brush their teeth. While it’s not going to 100% prevent cavities, it will reduce the risk and “brush your teeth so you don’t get cavities” is probably more effective than “brush your teeth to reduce the risk of cavities by x%. You probably will still get cavities at some point because most people do, but you want to delay it for as long as possible and ensure you get as few as possible.”

        Even with covid, I heard some people in the early days insisting that there was no point in taking precautions because “it’s all luck anyway; if it’s going to get you, it’s going to get you. It’s in God’s/the universe’s/whatever the person believes in hands.”

        There are good reasons to focus on the benefits of taking precautions because that is the part that is in our hands, but so many people seem to jump to either/or when it’s really both/and. At this point, most people who have avoided covid (truly avoided it, not those who just avoided testing) have probably both been reasonably careful and been lucky.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        We really are. I learnt a lot of complex maths during my epidemiology masters and the hardest thing was overcoming the brain’s natural tendency to equate a percentage chance to ‘eh, it won’t ever happen’ or ‘omg it’s definitely going to happen’

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I had a tumor imaged, and the tech wrote that it was “probably” cancerous, so I was convinced I had cancer. Two weeks later I spoke to a gynecologist, who said they’d seen a lot of tumors like this and there was only a 10% chance it was cancerous; I was relieved that I didn’t have cancer. Then I spoke to a gyno oncologist, who said it probably wasn’t cancer, but it could be (or it could be “borderline”, because even cancer is on a spectrum).

          I complained to a family friend in healthcare, and she reminded me that doctors have experience bias too; a gynecologist deals with a lot more non-cancerous tumors than a gyno oncologist. In the end, though, the odds didn’t really matter; what mattered was whether or not I had cancer.

          (It was not cancer!)

    3. Madame Arcati*

      I agree. I feel that in the west at least we get a lot of (useful and laudable) messaging along the lines of, “try not to smoke/be too sedentary/eat too much [thing] because ot increases your risk of various health issues”, and it’s easy to turn that round and think, if I don’t do what they say not too, I am guaranteed not to get cancer, heart problems, gum disease or whatever. So when something goes amiss, we might blame ourselves. Sure, do your best, but remember that sh!t happens.
      I had this discussion with a friend who had an unexpected health scare (all fine but could have gone wrong but for the skill of medical staff spotting an issue in a timely manner) – she was inclined to feel guilty, even though none of her lifestyle choices, medication, family history etc predisposed her to the condition.
      As I say, do your best to look after yourself but getting smug about escaping an illness because you reckon you’ve done everything right…I wouldn’t. There are no guarantees, and it’s basically hubris.

      1. Madame Arcati*

        I meant to say; we need to stop treating illness etc as a moral failing (maybe it’s a hangover from a more religious/superstitious time when illness was thought to be a judgment from god, or a witch’s curse?) – and conversely to stop acting like good health is therefore because “I’m better than you, germy loser.”

        1. JustaTech*

          Yes to this!
          As someone who works in the general field of cancer research/treatment, here’s the unpalatable truth – cancer is mostly about chance. Sure, you can wear sunscreen and not smoke and not work with asbestos (or live in a town that mines asbestos), and get vaccinated against Hep B and HPV, but other than that it’s all genes and chance, and it’s still mostly chance.
          And even if you do everything “right”, there’s no guarantee. It just sucks.
          So don’t ever let anyone tell you (the universal you) that cancer is your fault.

    4. TX_Trucker*

      This is an awesome analogy that I plan to use in the future as it relates to risk factors. I have lots of dental drama in my life, in spite of doing everything “right.”

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        I think it’s an incredibly apt analogy, because I, too, have tons of dental drama–I used to try to do everything “right”, but now I’ve given up a little bit because now it seems like I get a crown a year, so why bother?

    5. AnotherLibrarian*

      This is a useful analogy. I think we attach a lot of moral judgement to health in this country.

    6. allathian*

      Great analogy!

      I’m still dealing with the cavities I got during the Covid lockdown when I neglected my dental health. You can wear a mask to a mammogram appointment but not to the dentist. Before the pandemic I always got sick after a visit to the dentist. That said, the two times I’ve been I didn’t get sick, so maybe they’ve improved their hygiene protocols…

      One of my friends is 50 and she’s never had any cavities. She’s always been very diligent about brushing and flossing, so she’s done the right things, but she thinks she simply doesn’t have a caries infection. I just wish they’d develop a caries vaccine already…

  19. pcake*

    Most of the people who tell me they haven’t had Covid don’t get a PCR test (or often don’t test at all) when they have what they assume are cold, allergy or flu symptoms. For all they know, they have had Covid. Just sayin’.

    1. amoeba*

      Eh, not necessarily. I did have a mild case of covid once, no not really in that group, but certainly tested like crazy any time I had any kind of cold symptoms or exposure (and for quite a while, also tested regularly several times a week without any symptoms!) Got quite a few PCR tests as well. So for those, I’m actually reasonably sure they weren’t covid and most people in my bubble handled it in a similar way.

    2. mreasy*

      That is probably true in some communities. My husband and I tested all the time because we attended so many events and had to travel for work… and I would get a PCR every time I had a sniffle (which for allergenic me was a lot), to the extent it became kind of a running joke with my pharmacy. But I do agree, lots of folks were in denial when they had cold symptoms…

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Anecdotally, I’ve been testing once a week for three years and had a PCR test every time I’ve been sick (the doctors have actually told me to stop, and that PCR isn’t really a thing anymore but I’ve had too much medical gaslighting trauma tbh) and only got covid for the first time a few weeks ago. I think CDC estimates are something like 25% of people haven’t gotten it. There are plenty of dodgers.

    4. AngryOctopus*

      My work tested us weekly via PCR through mid 2021, and none of us had covid in that time period, even if we had allergies or a cold. Lots of people haven’t had covid, for Reasons We May Never Know.

  20. kays*

    For LW3 i’d probably go with an innocent “oh really? that’s lucky!”

    Because the reality is even if they have been very careful, plenty of people are careful and have gotten covid. Plenty of people haven’t been careful and haven’t gotten covid. Plenty of people managed to get through all the lockdowns, and all the mask wearing and are now getting covid for the first time. It’s not worth having a fight about how careful someone is being or not. getting covid isnt a moral failing or a failure to be careful.

  21. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP3: Yeah I’m with you on the annoyance factor. It’s akin to the people who look at a disabled person with pity and say things like ‘I’m glad I look after my health’ – although less offensive.

    You can reduce the risk of getting a virus but there’s nothing that’ll take it to 100% you’ll never catch it. So some of it is risk mitigation but the rest is pure chance.

    For those rude enough to say things like ‘I never got it – I was careful’ I just like to say ‘it’s good you took precautions but I’m afraid that the rest is just luck. I wasn’t lucky’

    1. Sara*

      Fully agree. And on top of all this, people had different abilities to mitigate risk. I was super lucky that my husband and I were able to work from home and keep our kiddo with us rather than sending to daycare because our jobs were flexible enough. I can also recognize that this wasn’t about me being “careful” but rather simply lucky that our jobs lined up that way. LW3 wasn’t like going out to nightclubs unmasked—she was literally saving the lives of sick, elderly patients! To imply this is a matter of careful/not careful is super insulting.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I saw a quote once that was along the lines of ‘disability is the only marginalised community you can enter by chance at any point in your life’.

        The whole thing is kind of too close to home for me. There’s holes in my life, people I’ll never see again because they died and people I had to cut out of my life because they said things like ‘oh they died from being fat’.

        Some people were lucky and got through this without residual trauma or health issues. Some weren’t. And as I’ve had to remind a few people- virology is a messy chaotic science. Some people can swim in concentrated titres and never have a problem for years and then suddenly a single tiny virus gets past their immune system one day and goes nuts and you can never tell when that day is.

        Always take precautions but remember that nothing is 100% safe. Barrier methods + vaccines + luck is the best medical science can do.

  22. frida*

    maybe this is just my own personal bias, but I find the only people I encounter who are still uppity about not having gotten Covid are people who already had lifestyles/living arrangements where they could treat lockdown as an extended vacation. like yeah, you probably were pretty safe and careful in your 4-bed detached with a huge garden, Karen

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        When they act as Frida described, yes.

        But not all women who avoided covid acted like that, did they? Most just went about their business just like the rest of us did.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      1) Can we not use “Karen” as a slur? It’s an actual woman’s name.
      2) “Entitled asshole” works perfectly, unless you are determined to limit examples to women. Because men doing the same thing are obviously manly men of manly manliness who know how to stick up for themselves, as they should.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I think that Karen, and its predecessor Miss Anne, are useful when discussing the way that some weaponize white femininity against black folks. Unfortunately its definition has gotten so broad I’m not sure it serves that role anymore.

      2. Random Dice*

        Can we also not use “uppity” with any seriousness? Its subtext* is inherently bigoted.

        *Someone acting like they have worth above the low societal value set for “their kind”.

        1. No!*

          NO! People need to use language to communicate. People who impede communication in this way are not progressives (since communication is essential to any social movement) and are in fact social vandals. Shame!

          1. Observer*

            There are plenty of other words people could use to communicate this idea. And some of the might even be a bit more accurate in this context.

      3. Broadway Duchess*

        Karen is not a slur. people named Karen have not faced any systemic discrimination or societal punishments because of their name. I take your point that there are other ways of expressing what using Karen does, but it’s sort of Karen-like to push this narrative. No one asked people to stop saying “‘Bye, Felicia” when being dismissive, for example.

        1. Observer*

          WOMEN have, however, faced lots of systemic discrimination. Women who are not so young and svelt face even more systemic discrimination. If you look at all the memes, it’s explicitly about women of a certain age, who probably have kids.

          I’ve never seen “bye felicia” anywhere but here, so I have no idea how it compares.

          1. Joron Twiner*

            Karen does not apply to all women. It applies to white women wielding their privilege to bully other people.

            You know this because you never hear it applied to women of color.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      Please don’t use the word “uppity”, since it has very racist/sexist/classist connotations. Good alternatives include “superior” and “high-and-mighty”.

  23. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP5 (ghosted) – most likely imo is that they are revisiting finances and budgets, like so many companies at the moment, and aren’t in a position to move forward but don’t want to state publicly “we’re struggling financially”. If that’s the case, consider it a bullet dodged as you could have been taken on, then laid off a few weeks or months later.

    1. Hazel Atlas*

      I was halfway ghosted by a prospective employer this year. They took months to get back to me. Then they told me that they’d been tasked with a new initiative that meant they needed to hire someone with a much different skillset, but they REALLY liked me and were interested in hiring me for a different, unspecified role. Then they never followed up with information about the role. I was pretty miffed by then and just let it go. (I have a friend who works there, so I know the scoop – they have not filled the position I interviewed for, still, and it’s been six months since my interview.)

  24. JKL*

    For me “I’ve been careful” is just code for “I’m still masking inside everywhere”. A lot of people aren’t and haven’t been. As soon as I hear someone is in healthcare, man, all bets are off; the institutional failures of care have been so extreme. My cousin’s husband is a surgeon and gave her and their toddler COVID while she was pregnant and then they all got it again after the baby was born. And, also, they went on multiple vacations during COVID. These are two side by side facts, not actually a judgment.

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      I think people hear “I’ve been careful” as “I’ve been masking inside everywhere” but really it’s more like, “I’ve been masking inside everywhere except when I haven’t been”

  25. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (should we give Katie another chance) – I almost wondered if Katie’s mother is the one sabotaging the job. It seems strange to me that she (mother) got the updated shifts from OP, but then Katie didn’t show up (did the mother actually pass them on?) and asked OP about access to her shifts in the app. The last minute vacations meaning Katie is unavailable seem a bit sus as well. I dunno, I don’t really have anything concrete to point to but this has pinged my radar a bit.

    1. Chrissssss*

      Now you mention it, there have been adult kids from abusive parents, where the parents have sabotaged their children’s life. Although I’m not suggesting that is the case, especially because we do not have enough information about Kate’s life, but it’s a possibility.

      1. stk*

        Yeah I agree, I think OP needs to speak to KATIE, not the mum. Probably they still need to fire Katie, but currently there’s a lot of ambiguity! If they speak to Katie then they can at least find out what’s going on, and then tell Katie directly that she’s fired if that’s needed.

    2. Vimto*

      I mean, maybe. But I think it’s not uncommon for a parent to push an older teenager to get a job – so they can get their own spending money, so they get out of the house, so they can get a bit of real-life experience, and simultaneously see that job as trivial enough that last minute holiday requests will be accommodated by the job – of course Jane’s NikNax can do without one 16 year old for one Saturday! She’s 16, it’s not like she’s running the place!

      Equally – and this is based very much on my own life – I can see a parent (my poor sufferign mother) say ‘remember to say you need x date off (6 weeks in the future) for Great-grandma’s 100th birthday barbeque” and following that up weekly with no response until just picks up the phone herself.

        1. Mister_L*

          That was my first thought too, but the fact that mom called in to tell them Katie couldn’t work because of a family vacation twice made me wonder.
          Now that I’ve re-read the letter, was LW ever actually in contact with Katie after the broken phone?

          1. Lady_Lessa*

            And even with a broken phone, Katie could have used another’s phone and do the calling herself. Might need to leave a message if the recipient doesn’t recognize the number.

    3. Peanut Hamper*

      Yeah, but this doesn’t really change anything for the LW, who is trying to run a business, not negotiate the relationship between Katie and her mother.

      If this is the case, then I feel bad for Katie, but still, it doesn’t change what the LW should do.

      1. mlem*

        I think it does, slightly. The LW should not be giving any information to the parent at all, even if Katie’s phone “breaks”. The LW should insist on speaking directly to Katie on any replacement device and should not be providing schedule information to any other party.

        (I know, using phones qua phones is just *so* 1990s. Point still stands.)

  26. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (cash instead of a meal) – the suggested wording of “we don’t provide make-up meals to people who miss the event” is a bit disingenuous to my mind. The use of ‘we’ suggests it is a company/organisation thing, and is stated as if it’s policy. There is no “we” here, just OP acting unilaterally.

    Of course it is fine to set a boundary like that and state you won’t be paying up, but don’t hide behind “we” and policy.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      imo “we” in this case is softening.

      Coming from their manager: “I don’t provide make-up meals to people who miss the event” sounds like an implicit criticism for not coming in.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yes, this. Which is also why LW should explain that it was something that she paid for out of her own pocket, not that the organization paid for. (Some people upthread were questioning this.)

  27. Thegreatprevaricator*

    Covid: I think one of the most damaging things that happened was to allow visible public health measures (mask wearing) to become a moral choice. It doesn’t encourage people who don’t or won’t, and it can lead to adding a moral aspect to having the disease. As many other infectious diseases have shown that is really not helpful in controlling infections. Personally I no longer wear a mask, but I also don’t go out into crowded places with symptoms. I had a child in nursery during the height of the pandemic and was able to choose to keep that child in childcare post lockdown. Infections were inevitable. I also would point out that while we all have individual social responsibility, collectively many of us were let down by a complete failure in political leadership (I’m in the UK, can you tell?). Individuals can only do the best they can in the context that they are in. All this probably too long to consider in a brief work encounter but I hear your frustration OP!

    1. Student*

      “I think one of the most damaging things that happened was to allow visible public health measures (mask wearing) to become a moral choice.”

      It is a choice for the vast majority of people (with some notable medical exemptions). It impacts whether you are more or less likely contract a deadly and contagious virus. It impacts the likelihood that you infect others if you are a carrier of a deadly and contagious virus.

      I’m not sure it’s possible to take the moral implications out of that choice.

      1. Willow Pillow*

        Agreed, even making it illegal doesn’t not make it a moral choice. It doesn’t change the privilege some people have it in being a choice either.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I think it becoming a statement of political/tribal allegiance was the problem (at least in the US).

        I did have a very odd conversation once with an elderly woman who was wearing her mask over her mouth but not her nose. There was no mask mandate and most people in the store weren’t wearing one, so I assumed she would want to know that it had slipped. She told me angrily that masks didn’t prevent infection. Apparently she was wearing it for fashion reasons.

    2. uh*

      If you are in position where you can’t wear a mask, are you in a position where you can be in public, around others who are breathing on you?

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I agree with this. It’s similar to what happened with HIV and condoms. If you caught HIV, you must be a dirty dog who didn’t wear a condom.

  28. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #3 Depends on why someone is saying this and to whom:

    Tactless to say ““I’ve been really careful” to healthcare, utility services, transport, retail & all the other essential workers who daily had to take the risk of going into work to keep you safe and to keep your comparatively comfortable lifestyle possible.

    Maybe OK if you’re having a dig at someone who took few precautions and had Covid multiple times, but I’d avoid any trace of smugness if they are telling you they have Long Covid.

    1. Gyne*

      I think this is the crux of why this comment is so hurtful to LW, which a lot of the commenters are missing. To say, “I’ve been careful” to someone who not only didn’t have the luxury or privilege to be as “careful” (which means very different things to people, and that’s a whole other topic) in the first place, but was out on the front lines doing the work that kept more people from dying *and* enabled everyone else to stay at home in the first place – that is not a necessary, kind, or helpful thing to say. Someone else already suggested an unemotional “good for you” is probably the best response and then move on.

      And to LW3, as a fellow medical provider, solidarity.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I would also guess that the fact of being pregnant and delivering early means that the whole thing still feels like an open wound. I had a reasonably straight-forward pregnancy and a moderately difficult birth and very high-anxiety first 10 weeks, nearly nine years ago. By 12 weeks, my baby was visibly thriving and absolutely fine. She is now nearly 10 years old and sometimes when I talk about it (and I promise, I remember every date, every weight, every decision) I still get a rush of adrenaline and find my heart is racing and I feel sick.

        Everything is so intensely heightened and high-stakes during pregnancy, birth and the newborn weeks: even when it All Works Out and Everyone Is OK, it can take *years* to process it all. And that’s on top of the trauma and exhaustion that came from being a healthcare worker during a pandemic! When OP says it touches a nerve, I 100% believe them.

  29. LAR*

    Also NEVER give out an employee’s schedule to anyone else – even if you are 100% sure it’s the mother. There have been incidents of men on the phone claiming to be a “father” to get the info on a woman they are stalking.

    1. *kalypso*

      100%

      This sounds like the mother didn’t want Katie working and made sure she couldn’t by controlling Katie’s access to the schedule.

      But LW isn’t really in a position where it’s worth it to them to investigate, even if it sounded like they wanted to.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Agreed. OP I understand you work with teens and might think you have to deal with parents – but you don’t! Only speaking to the employee is an important safety measure, and has the double benefit of avoiding a lot of these situations. Treat your employees like adults, even if they’re not.

  30. Bookworm*

    #5: This is super super frustrating but it is more common and the headline doesn’t quite match: ghosting (I thought) means they simply didn’t respond in any way even after follow-ups. You are still absolutely right to be annoyed and I’ve been there.

    I think what would be a good tell is if they restart the process but don’t reach out in any way, which is also something that has happened to me (interviewed, they said they weren’t hiring but then reposted the job and/or said I had to go through the entire process all over again). None of us are entitled to the job, of course, but you can sometimes tell what kind of organization it is by how they handle a situation like that.

  31. The Eyeroll*

    “I’ve never gotten COVID” — Oh, so you’ve been testing weekly since March 2020? And you live in an alternate universe where rapid tests never turn up a false negative?

    There are asymptomatic cases and no one has been THAT thorough about testing, so anyone who says this is really just indulging in wishful ignorance. And possibly trying to make you feel bad or make themselves feel superior.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, I definitely acknowledge it’s possible I had an asymptomatic case and never knew, but this attitude that “everyone has had it” or “it’s just a matter of time at this point” is harmful and has definitely played a huge role in how quickly so many people just gave up on taking even basic precautions entirely.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      This. I have been extremely careful to avoid people and wear a mask indoors and I have never had covid that I know of. So it’s possible that either I’ve never had covid, or that I had covid and it was so mild that I mistaked it for allergies or a 24-hour bug.

      I have been saying for a long time that as it becomes endemic in the population, eventually everybody is going to get it. For some of us, it will still be severe, for others a mild inconvenience. That’s just the nature of how these diseases work.

  32. clearlier*

    #4 In addition to Alison’s advice if you aren’t doing it already work to ensure that the other department managers know that your team is performing relativepy well. If they don’t know that your team is performing well they’re far more likely to let unprofessional behaviour slide plus they could be missing underperformance in their own team.

  33. Just Me*

    In regards to being ghosted, I feel like 2 interviews is still in the realm of okay to leave the options open (aka ghost) rather than close the loop (especially if the position isn’t filled and perhaps they still are considering whether to fill it now vs later). Once we get to 3+ unless they were virtual and VERY short is where I start drawing the line at please TELL me even with an automated email that the job isn’t mine. And I’ve had multiple companies in the post not meet that threshold, the worst being 5 or 6 l.o.n.g. virtual interviews plus flying across the country for an on site interview…I was unemployed at the time of that nightmare interview process but even so, that many interviews was encroaching on my time, and after that many interviews and expecting me to travel on my own dime to come see them in person I really expected an actual rejection if I didn’t get the position. Sometimes I wonder if these institutions are so awful to work for that they have such high turnover that they stop seeing the applications as correlated with people but simply a stream of trainees who aren’t going to last anyway.

  34. I should really pick a name*

    #3
    Simply for your own benefit, I would suggest that when someone says “I’ve never had COVID”, assume they’re just mentioning a detail and not judging you are.

    Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but since you can’t know, assume they aren’t because that’s the less annoying option for you.

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      yes this
      put it in the same category as “says more about them than about me.”
      I try and think “ok…” and then I mentally pick up what they just said, set it aside, and continue: “and have you been vaccinated for the flu this year? any history of bunions?” whatever the (presumably medical) context is.

      “ok… and we’re all masking due to our policy, so we’ll provide one for you if needed”
      “ok… and the down payment is due the first of the month, and I can email you the paperwork”
      “ok… and most people don’t wear masks when they come inside but if that’s important to you, please wear your own.”

      just think of it like “huh that was weird that they mentioned their allergy to lemons.”

  35. Delta Delta*

    Them: “I’ve never had Covid.”

    You: “I’ve never been a pole vaulter.” (Pause) “oh, I thought we were just naming things we’ve never done.”

  36. a clockwork lemon*

    LW 3 – I’ve found that “Good for you” tends to shut down people who want to be smug about whatever precautions they think they took that prevented them from (possibly) getting COVID. You don’t need to engage with people about personal health stuff, especially not when it comes to the absolute crapshoot of who did/did not get a highly communicable airborne respiratory illness during a global pandemic.

    1. EMP*

      I like this one.
      A lot of commenters seem surprised that OP is encountering judgement like this but I am around people who are (a) very anxious (b) very judgemental about Covid. No one’s day gets better if you engaging with them on it.

      1. Gyne*

        Yeah, I’m surprised and also not at all surprised that people are reacting this way. Also a Healthcare worker, I’ve been berated since the beginning of the pandemic for being too strict with infection control (Why can’t I bring my entire unmasked family in to my appointment?) and not strict enough (How dare you make me come in to the office to be evaluated, don’t you know there’s a pandemic out there? you should call me so we can discuss all my questions and then you can send in a prescription -> when I won’t get paid for any of that) and everything in between. And I’ve been out there in it since the beginning, since I’m in a specialty that doesn’t lend itself very well to telemedicine and has a large hospital component (ob/gyn.) I’m so, so tired. To everyone who says it’s just a dumb throwaway comment and not directed *at* LW3, I’m pretty sure it is, and I trust LW3 to be able to tell the difference between random small talk with a cashier and smug barbs from a patient.

  37. *kalypso*

    Sounds like the mother was reaching out again in case the LW didn’t recognise Katie’s new number.

    However, it’s odd to me that the mother is making excuses for Katie when Katie herself *isn’t* and I wonder whether Katie knows her mother is doing all this, at the very least the ‘Katie is on holidays with us :)’ business. Probably not worth finding out for retail given the high turnover and the likelihood of already having replaced Katie, but in most any other position I’d be looking into that. ‘Thanks for letting us know, Katie. We haven’t scheduled you since your mother told us she was taking you on holidays, which she tells us you’re still on. Is that correct? If not, you need to make sure to contact us directly.’

    I generally hate apps for the must-have-minimum-of-x-recent-device-to-ride aspect but this also demonstrates why having a posted schedule in the store is useful – if Katie could have come in and checked and, like, talked to a person and stayed on the schedule, maybe the mother wouldn’t have had the chance to take over. Goodness knows how many parents I’ve come across who’ve disapproved of kids working (‘I’m losing my baby!’ and ‘isolate my punching bag’ being the most common reasons, not always explicit) who would have loved the opportunity to get in this way and get their kids fired. ‘I know you’re not going to your friend’s house’ style.

    But again, retail + LW’s lack of caring makes following this up unlikely – to the point of questioning why even write in?

    1. Student*

      Just because there’s an app involved in scheduling doesn’t mean there are zero other avenues for Katie to learn her schedule. That’s a bit of a jump. It seems quite likely that Katie probably could’ve asked in the store, asked her co-workers for a schedule update, or phoned the manager to follow up. Email or text messages might’ve also worked, potentially.

      Katie could’ve even used someone else’s phone to call the store herself – I feel like a bit of a curmudgeon to bring this up, but phones still work when you let someone else use them, and that used to be a common thing to do. It would seem eminently reasonable for any number of Katie’s friends or family to let her borrow their phone for a ~5 minute chat with her manager while her phone is broken.

      1. *kalypso*

        The letter explicitly states that the other way Katie can access the schedule is by computer – which they told Katie’s mother, not necessarily Katie.

        Many scheduling apps used at this level don’t give the full roster to everyone, only the people on that login. Katie’s login would have only shown her schedule. There isn’t always an easy way to print off a complete schedule to post in a break room, nor is it always allowed for people to be on site or in employee areas when they’re not working. This tends to mean a lack of visibility to alternate methods in the declining number of cases where they still exist. I have seen entire 24/7 stores where nobody has a full schedule or knows where the training materials are because they’re all on an app so that employees can’t take them home and copy them. I do not like this, and I do not have to gainsay or whatif to not like this.

        The issue remains that having the primary method of scheduling being an app presented the vulnerability that caused this situation to end the way it did – Katie’s mother taking over and Katie not being given information because of that, with Katie not having another way to get that information directly. After all, if Katie’s mother didn’t want to take over, she herself would have been perfectly capable of letting Katie borrow her phone instead of calling for her, multiple times, and apparently keeping information from Katie.

  38. Dog momma*

    Retired RN here. Dog papa & I have had covid 3 times . We were vaccinated with Modern ( only one available at the time but available quickly bc our local VA had the capacity to store it correctly). We were very sick with the 1st virus AND the vaccine to the point he probably should have gone to the hospital. The 2nd time it was a bad flu& the 3rd time just a scratchy throat and nothing else. We have antibodies. we checked twice. We masked & initially went to Dr appointments and grocery store. As time went on we lived our lives more. We are fortunate to live in a state that opened up more quickly and had better weather so can spend a lot of time outdoors. Both of us would be considered high risk . But we aren’t boosted bc of the bad reactions to the vaccine, which the Drs agree with. Do we have long Covid symptoms.. maybe, fatigue, brain fog. But nothing more than that.
    People should do whatever is right for them. Nothing should be mandatory for as long as it was, no businesses or schools should be shut down like it was. We can’t catch up financially, our kids were MAJORLY affected in many ways. Hopefully we’ve learned how to manage better as the variants cycle through.
    all this is jmo, so I won’t argue with anyone.

  39. DJ Abbott*

    #1-not getting covid- I grew up in an area dominated by religion, and one of the things they did there was see what happened to people as God’s judgment. If bad things happened, God was disapproving of you. if good things happened, God approved of you.
    Obviously this is very toxic, and the opposite of compassionate.
    So if you feel like it and think the other person would hear you, you could call this out and point out that getting Covid is no more of a failing than catching a cold or flu.
    IMO this is worth fighting to prevent all the judgment. Good luck, and congrats on your baby!

    1. Roy G. Biv*

      “If bad things happened, God was disapproving of you. if good things happened, God approved of you.”

      Ugh. Refer them to the book of Job in the Old Testament, and see if they can hold on to that opinion.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Sadly, they ignore or rationalize everything that doesn’t fit with their beliefs. Yes, including Bible verses.

  40. Madame X*

    LW#2: i’ve never worked in retail, so perhaps someone can explain this to me: why can’t the letter writer just say to Katie that she has been terminated?
    The language of “Katie is not scheduled for any shifts” may imply to some people that she has fired, but it’s not very clear. If you’re terminating someone’s employment, it seems like you should be very clear instead of just implying that they are no longer expected to come into work.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I have worked in retail and I am very confused by this as well. Taking you off the schedule is usually a sign that you’ve been terminated, but a teenager working their first job is not going to understand this. Heck, I’ve known adults who didn’t understand this and had to go to the store manager for clarification.

      Save everybody a couple of steps and please let Katie know that “you’re not scheduled” means “you’ve been fired”.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Right? I’ve been out of retail long enough that its unclear to me (because my boss would have indeed called and spoken to me about removing me from the schedule meaning termination, and to please do XYZ with my electronic swipe card, etc.). And even if its clear to Katie, I’m still picking up on “interfering Mom” here…and maybe Mom is insisting “no that’s not what that means I’m sure”.

        Any which way, be clear, use your words.

      2. evil bunny too*

        In my state a lot of retail employers take people off the shift to try to avoid having the person apply for unemployment. The argument is the worker is not fired, so they aren’t eligible for unemployment as they could be put back on the schedule at any point.

        However, my US state has more worker’s rights than some other states so people who have been subject to constructive discharge or who have had their hours reduced are eligible for unemployment. A lot of companies who use this kind of thing in US states where there aren’t good workers protections find out the hard way that you can’t do this in my state.

        1. Madame X*

          This website has been so helpful in illuminating to me how few rights US workers have. I am now very cynical whenever I hear about a company that’s very vague when they communicate with their employees about basic work duties.

          Katie is an employee, who struggles to communicate clearly and promptly about her whereabouts when she is supposed to show up for a shift. Ironically, the employer is also very vague in communicating to Katie about her employment status. The wording “not scheduled for any shifts” just adds to the confusion. However, it does make a lot more sense to me now if this type of wording allows companies to avoid paying out unemployment.

      3. Burger Bob*

        I still work in retail (have for ten years,) and I still would not know that “you’re not scheduled” is supposed to mean “you’ve been terminated.” I do know that it usually means you’ve screwed up somehow, probably by failing to be available when you said you were, and you likely need to get right with your manager if you actually do want to start being given shifts again. But you’re not terminated until you’re terminated, you know? Until they actually push the terminate button on your employee profile, you’re still technically an employee. If they want to terminate Katie, they need to say so, not dance around it.

    2. Melissa*

      Agreed! Next time the mother texts, reply with, “Can you please have Katie call me?” Then, Katie will either call you or (I think this is likely) ghost. If she calls you, say, “Thank you so much for your work. Because of all the no-shows and call-outs, we’ve decided to end your job with us. I hope you enjoy your summer– it was lovely meeting you.”

    3. kiki*

      Yeah, especially in the context that Katie’s mom was asking for Katie not to be scheduled, saying that she has no scheduled shifts could be interpreted as something positive. But I also understand LW and their coworkers probably didn’t want to tell Katie’s mom over the phone that Katie had been terminated if they hadn’t had the chance to tell her that directly.

      1. Madame X*

        OK that explanation does make a bit more sense. If they don’t want to reveal private employee information to another party, even if the other party is her mom, then I can understand why they would not say to her mom that Katie has been fired. However, they did say to her mom that she’s not scheduled for any more shifts, so they are sharing some information about Katie‘s employment status.

        The easiest way to handle this would be to send an email or a text directly to Katy informing her that she has been terminated. Her mom can then follow up with Katie about her employment status.

    4. Cat Tree*

      Honestly this is more of a ghosting than LW5. I realize that people experienced in the industry will take the hint. But this girl and her mom clearly aren’t familiar with the euphemism.

  41. bubbler*

    I feel like I’m experiencing some culture shock around the “never got covid” thing, as someone who lives in a place where almost nobody masks anymore. So generally “I never got covid” is from people who are downplaying it, taking little to no precaution, likely were ill but didn’t bother to get a PCR test, and are saying it to belittle people like me, who will apparently be masking for the rest of their lives because not even our families can be bothered to care anymore.

    It’s obviously different if it’s folks who are bragging because they were fortunate enough to be able to avoid high exposure situations. Though OP, if you are still masking and they aren’t, please throw that back in their faces. I mean, with a passive aggressive smile.

    1. amoeba*

      Hm, interesting. I live in Europe and here, masking pretty much hasn’t been a thing for the last year or so (and honestly, COVID doesn’t really get talked about much anymore at all!)
      But when/if people say “I never got COVID”, it’s generally in an “huh, guess I’ve been lucky” kind of way, neither to downplay the disease nor for virtue-bragging. Might just be my bubble, obviously!

    2. louvella*

      I will say I have never heard someone who takes precautions bragging about never having gotten it. As someone who takes precautions, it’s certainly never something I open with! I’ve only ever shared if asked or if it’s the genral topic of conversation.

  42. Peanut Hamper*

    #1 — it would also be a kindness to Jill to explain how these sorts of things work even if this were paid for the by organization. It would probably look very strange to auditors to see a check cut to an employee for $15 without any kind of accompanying receipts. That’s just not done, especially in a government job.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      I have worked in the private sector for over 20 years and have never had this done there, either.

  43. Katrina*

    If asked, I say I’ve never gotten Covid *to my knowledge*. But I know there’s a good possibility I got a mild case at some point and was never aware or a text was wrong. (I’m admittedly a bit of germaphobe, but I know people more cautious than me who still got it.) It’s frustrating that some people who just got lucky think it’s all their doing.

  44. Golden Raven*

    OP2: How about instituting a policy that you will ONLY communicate directly with employees – not their mommys, daddys, grandmas, grandpas, etc.? You could make an exception for an employee who is unconscious and in the hospital but even then demand written proof of their medical inability to talk with you. Seriously; how else are these scatterbrained kids and their helicopter and bulldozer parents ever going to learn how a responsible employee behaves?

    And yes, cell phones DO break, go missing, and get stolen or lost – but, as you pointed out, you are able to give your employees paper copies of their schedules. If Katie can get to work then she can come in on a day off to pick up a paper copy of HER schedule, and she should do just that. Also, of course, if she has a laptop, she could ask you to email her a copy as well. Taking your work schedule seriously and taking responsibility for keeping up with it is an essential skill for adulting, and one that all your teenage employees should be learning now.

    Finally, if you haven’t written down your rules and expectations into a “personnel policies manual”, please do so ASAP. It may seem absurd to go to all that trouble for a bunch of kids on a summer job, but, as you’ve seen, those kids do NOT take for granted all the expectations (including not having Mommy call in with excuses for your no-showing?!) that mature adults would already know. Setting your employee policies down in writing, going over them with each employee and having them sign a copy acknowledging that they’ve read it, understand it, and know the consequences of not following those rules will go a long way towards preventing the kind of mess that you’ve currently got with Katie.

    1. Melissa*

      The policy manual is such a good idea. And it can probably be just a page or two! Things like, “You have to be dressed appropriately, which means XYZ” and “I can only talk to you, not relatives or friends, about your job,” and “Please do not take your shoes off and walk around without them in the store.” (That last one I had to be told, when I was about 20.)

      1. UKDancer*

        This so much. Teenagers can be unaware, self obsessed and clueless and when it’s their first job they may be unclear why things work a certain way or what the norms are. I know I certainly was.

        They also don’t know what they don’t know. When I was a teenage student doing work experience in a law firm I thought I ought to dress like Ali McBeal because that’s what I thought lawyers wore. One of the senior legal advisors took the time to explain to me what I should be wearing if I wanted to be taken seriously and what was appropriate and inappropriate office conversation. I am grateful to her for taking the time to teach me because it meant when I went for proper office jobs I was able to pass for civilised.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Especially if the parents explained the norms, which they were wrong about.

          Alison has done whole columns on this phenomenon in her sphere, and the Car Talk guys could get a whole show out of things your parents told you about cars that are wrong.

        2. *kalypso*

          At my first job in a law firm I started out as the only person who wore business casual and people who were being given the extra work were turning up in ratty jeans and sloppy joes. I had a rough commute and lowered my dress standards to fit in. Some people on the other shifts did dress nice but we all thought they were actual lawyers, not document clerks.

          They were document clerks and when the bulk of phase one was done and they just needed people to do data entry they only kept the people who dressed nice.

          The lawyers were totally cool to come in and chat with us and give us free food and nobody said a word about dress code because we weren’t public facing and weren’t worth it since we were there for one task on one case.

          Meanwhile as an actual lawyer I didn’t get a job because of how I dress. That was a) code for me being LGBTQIA+ and b) because that firm was Wimbledon-level strict and wearing a vest over a shirt without a jacket in summer was a Faux Pas on level with saying ‘oh my goodness gracious glory me’ in front of royalty.

          Law is weird.

    2. Czhorat*

      This.

      I know it’s the manager writing in, but we as parents need to learn that different phases in our kids’ lives are different.

      Issue with their first grade teacher? You need to step in and deal with it.
      Issue in Middle School? Give them the tools and direction to handle it themselves, step in later if you need to.
      Issue with an actual job? Let them deal with it.

      They’re nto little kids anymore. They’re not quite adults yet either ,but it’s time to learn. I’ll also add that a retail job for a teenager is usually low enough stakes that if the kid *does* flake out and get themselves fired that’s probably not too great a cost for the lesson it teaches them. At this stage of life it’s usually for a bit of spending money and independence, not to support themselves or their family. So let them try. Let them do their best.

      Even let them fail if it comes to that, and then talk to them after about why. Then let them try again

    3. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I’d probably have the parents sign the understanding too – there are a LOT of bulldozers out there…

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        Parents should not be involved to the point of signing things at their kids’ employer unless legally required to give consent for employment. This is on the business to have a policy for their employees (both communication expectations and extent of information exchange with non-employees) and hold to it when the situation arises. I agree with Golden Raven’s content, but definitely not the unnecessary and misplaced exasperated “kids/parents these days” tone.

        1. Czhorat*

          Yeah, though tone is hard to read online.

          Being charitable, I could read it as the reasonable idea that teenagers aren’t going to know workplace norms because they’ve not yet had the experience of being exposed to a workplace; you aren’t spelling it out because of a deficiency in their character but simply because they’ve not had a chance to learn it yet.

          By that logic you’re both setting expectations that will have your business running smoothly and also being kind to those who need an introductory lesson on the working world.

        2. ScruffyInternHerder*

          And I completely agree with you, Pocket Mouse, that parents should not be involved in signing anything other than legal consent forms or working papers…but I also should not have to have parents sign an acceptable behavior outline for themselves for youth sports either, but here we are. That was probably coloring my thought process, as that paper covers my bum (with youth sports – being about the same as young working teens btw). And yeah, the ton was a bit too, I agree there.

          Like Czhorat says, the charitable view is where I fall as far as the policy, its there because it is, not because of anyone’s moral failing.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I don’t think one should bother with this. The bulldozers will know they are the special exceptions. And non-bulldozers may wonder what you are up to. (One place parents of young teens can be useful is that their “Well that’s a clear labor violation and we’ll be calling the state” carries more weight.)

        I had to sign these for my kids in school–“I understand that homework affects their grade, etc”–and then the one time my kid didn’t turn in homework I was trying to be the model helpful parent, and the teacher was absolutely obsessed with whether I remembered him signing this form (apparently she had saved neither the form nor a list of who returned it) and kept asking no matter how many times I said I sincerely didn’t remember. So I’ve gone from eye-rolly to hostile at the prospect.

  45. Michelle Smith*

    LW3: The level of condescension you’re experiencing infuriates me. Getting COVID is not a moral failing.

    I got COVID for the first time in December 2022, testing positive the day before I was supposed to get on a plane to visit my family for the first time in a year. The only place I went that entire month? The doctor’s office. I had a gynecology appointment 5 days before my flight to deal with an excruciatingly painful issue, kept my well-fitting KN95 mask on the entire time, and only interacted with 5 people (a nurse, my doctor, the receptionist, and two drivers). Obviously I missed Christmas.

    I have asthma. I was sick for a month. I am still not back to “normal” nearly 8 months later, still dealing with some shortness of breath. I take COVID extremely seriously and always have. Yet, I still got it despite masking, washing my hands, isolating, getting literally everything delivered to my door, etc. The only way to be 100% certain you’ll avoid it is to avoid all people forever in perpetuity and even then the only way to do that is if you’re privileged enough to be able to work 100% from home and let other people in service professions take on your risk. I was deeply privileged to only get sick once, because I was able to work from home and have all my groceries and necessities delivered. I washed my clothes in my sink by hand for 2 years.

    Some of the people being condescending about never having gotten it actually don’t even know that for sure by the way, unless they were testing multiple times a day every day with tests that have no risk of false negatives. Because there is such a thing as being asymptomatic. The bottom line? Don’t be a jerk to people about COVID. No one is better than someone else who got it from their job or otherwise having to exist in a world with other people. Assume good intentions and that we are all doing the best we can with the information we have and assume that anyone who didn’t do so isn’t a villain but rather a victim of organized and prolific misinformation.

    1. Alice*

      Largely agree, but I would say that hospital and nursing home infection prevention leaders who cling to the mantra of hand hygiene and droplet transmission, and thus allowed extensive nosocomial transmission – and indeed continue to do this – are indeed either villains or hopelessly incompetent.

  46. Lusara*

    I disagree with Alison on LW5. it is come completely disrespectful when they ghost applicants like that. I know that not responding to someone after two interviews is very common and usually nothing personal, but it’s still disrespectful.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      They did respond though! And the letter writer says it doesn’t look like they have hired anyone new. The last interaction was OP reaching out to ask for an update, and them responding. It’s highly possible they have still not made a decision at this point so I think it is too early to assume they will definitely not be contacting OP again.

  47. Kaikeyi*

    So for Letter 3 — I think the crux is when the statement “I’ve never gotten covid, (because) I’ve been really careful”. That “because” is either intentionally implied by the person making the statement, or it’s assumed by the receiver.

    I think everyone who has taken COVID precautions wants those precautions to be recognized (understandably so). When you (to the best of your knowledge) have not had the virus, it seems like evidence that you were doing everything right. There are definitely those folks who think “I’ve never received it, so I am better than those who HAVE and clearly I was right and they were wrong.” There are also folks who (more reasonably) just see it as a combination of precaution and good fortune (obviously some precautions such as self-isolating are ones that come from a certain amount of privilege).

    For those who HAVE had COVID, it hurts to feel like the implication is that you had it because you were not careful. A lot of us were (and, yes, you can argue that it is to various extents, and I think lots of people who took reasonable precautions often at the expense of our mental health, etc. are still angry at those who did nothing or were more flippant than others).

    I think that all of these attitudes lead everyone down a path of defensiveness, though, because it’s been a really, really hard few years for most people and perceived snipes at what we did or didn’t do can really strike a nerve. I think that’s pretty evident just in these comments with people taking shots at each other.

    I don’t think comments about whose had it worse are particularly helpful and are often a way to avoid empathizing. The reality is that when you play the “who has it worse” game, no one wins and it shuts down any ability to meaningfully connect over what a shitshow this whole thing has been. People have lost family members, people have had to worry about sending babies and children to daycare, people have had to worry about immuno-compromised folks (including themselves), healthcare workers have watched people die while worrying about what they’re possibly exposing themselves and their family to… There are certainly groups of people who absolutely have been assholes through this whole thing but, barring evidence to the contrary, maybe we should just assume that each one of us has been in some way traumatized by these past 3 years and be a little kinder and more understanding.

    Anyway, I’m sure people will disagree with this and continue to take shots, but I just want to put this out there. It’s been hard.

  48. YetAnotherAnalyst*

    LW3 – I think you need to try reframing this, if you can. You’re understandably upset because you’re hearing this as “I’ve never gotten COVID, I’ve been really careful. How could you be so careless?”. You might even be hearing it in light of all that other judgement that gets piled on new moms (“Oh, you’re still working? I could never leave my baby with a stranger”; “Oh, you quit working? I’d be bored out of my mind with nothing to do all day!”, etc, etc). So you might be hearing it as “…how could you be so reckless with your baby?”, as well

    Unless it’s coming from someone who knows your personal situation well, that’s probably not what they’re trying to say. (All bets are off if you’ve got a snide mother-in-law or whatever).

    I know at least in my area there was a big push early in the pandemic to reduce community transmission and keep essential workers safe. But also in my area, there were protests and folks openly undermining any precautions intended to keep other people safe. So maybe what people are trying to say to you is “…I’ve been really careful, and tried reduce the risk for folks who couldn’t reduce their exposure. We’re on the same side here!”

    What if your response was something like, “Great! As a healthcare worker, it’s always good to see folks reducing community transmission where they can”? Either they walk away feeling good that they’re doing their bit, or they’re reminded other folks are out there making bigger sacrifices than getting their groceries delivered.

    1. J*

      This is a fantastic take. I know when I arrived at a hospital in early 2021 with an emergency and had to stay for a week, I was really clear that I hadn’t had Covid, I was one of the rare people who had already received both vaccines and the 2-week wait and I wanted to discuss how I could remain Covid-free while at the hospital. It was a really positive conversation and one that sadly I get treated as if I have a mental health crisis when I mask at the doctor now. A lot of people are trying to initiate a conversation of “Are you safe?” without trying to be attacked. Hearing a response about “Great! As a healthcare worker, it’s always good to see folks reducing community transmission where they can” would honestly make me feel so much safer, even with someone off duty. I just don’t know who will attack me for masking these days and I’m just trying to suss out safe people in my life.

  49. Melissa*

    I’m sure most people are just making conversation. “I’ve never had Covid” is sort of a short, abrupt sentence. People fill it in with something else to follow. It’s annoying, but no more so than “It’s a hot day. I’m from the south though so I like it!” Unless they say it in a smug way, or follow it up with, “Everyone else should have been careful too,” I’d just let it go.

    Of course, I probably WOULD respond with, “Ooh, lucky you!” in a genuine tone.

  50. Hiring Mgr*

    On#3 I agree with Alison that you are being a tad bit oversensitive. It doesn’t sound like these comments are made with any criticism of people who did get covid. Personally I’d let it go

  51. Pocket Mouse*

    OP #2: You and your manager need to think about and approach this scenario differently. Most of your employees are teens and new to the work force; they (and apparently some of their parents) need guidance for what their communication responsibilities look like. Although you are in a position to assist with guiding them, setting expectations around communication should happen on the front end with clearly laid out policies provided at hiring. Then, what it looks like on the management end in the moment is no different from if they were established professionals. This means that when someone who isn’t your employee calls to discuss an employee’s schedule or other aspects of their work, your response is: “Unless there’s a medical emergency, I can only discuss work arrangements with the employee directly. Employees are welcome to contact us via email or any phone they have access to. Thanks for understanding.”

    This makes what constitutes fulfilling or neglecting a work responsibility a lot clearer for everyone. It sounds like there were a lot of responsibilities Katie wasn’t fulfilling, but by talking with her parent instead of her, you let her continue not fulfilling her responsibility to communicate with you about her availability and schedule. That muddied the waters because you essentially let her go for something you allowed to happen without attempting to manage her around it.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      In short: I’d go further than Alison did and say you should not communicate with Katie’s mom (or any other non-employee) outside of the scripts she or I provided.

  52. Eldritch Office Worker*

    My husband and I both hadn’t gotten COVID until very recently, and I hope I never came off this way. I always said some variation of “I still haven’t gotten it – knock on wood”. For me not having got it yet was a huge anxiety because I didn’t know what to expect if I did. (Rightfully, as it turned out. Long Covid with disability is a lot.)

    Obviously I’m projecting, OP, but hopefully they aren’t being smug or judging you.

  53. Elizabeth*

    LW1 – outside if the issue of the egregious behavior of demanding a makeup freebie, you should not have concealed the fact that you were paying from your team! They’re responsible for following the rules in accepting gifts and expenditures too, and need to know that the lunch was not an allowable use of public funds! This isn’t about expecting recognition for your generosity, it’s about making sure you don’t have to terminate someone over a dumb mistake like winning a raffle at an employer-paid conference.

    1. LW Who Owes Everyone Lunch*

      I appreciate the thought, but our requirements for gifting only apply to people who were elected to their position – none of the employees would be bound by the law.

  54. Risha*

    LW2, I would say to just cut your losses. There are plenty of teens who are able and willing to work, and who will manage the schedule on their own. Katie could’ve used her mom’s phone to contact you if her phone was broken, instead of the mom doing so. She could’ve emailed you, she could’ve found some way to get in touch with you herself. And I strongly believe her mom should have encouraged her to handle this on her own.

    It’s one thing to be patient with a teen who is new to the working world. I think all managers who hire teens should be patient and willing to go a bit above what they would normally do for older workers. It’s another thing to deal with this type of behavior. Katie has to learn that you just don’t act that way when you have a job.

    I really don’t understand why parents do things like this, you are not doing your kid any favors. Let them manage these things on their own, they have to learn. From the time my kids were 14 (working age in my state), I let them know I will be there to guide them in the working world, but will not get involved directly in their job/with their boss. As a parent to a working age child, the best thing you can do for them (IMO) is teach them workplace norms, teach them what’s legal/illegal, what bosses can and cannot do, what their responsibilities are, how to manage common workplace issues (scheduling conflicts for example). They need to be given the tools to handle this on their own.

  55. mlem*

    For LW3, I think it matters how this topic is coming up. I have “I haven’t caught it yet and I don’t plan to” cued up as a response if someone tries to give me a hard time about being one of the few people still masking in grocery stores, the office, and medical facilities. If people are blaming you for having caught it at work, of course they’re being jerks; if they’re responding to someone giving them a hard time for continuing to take precautions — whether that person is you or someone else in the conversation — maybe just accept that there’s a difference.

    (Yes, I’ve also been lucky. Yes, my precautions go beyond masking. Yes, I’ve been testing 1-2 times per week the entire time it’s been possible; yes, I tested more frequently the one time I had a brief sinus thing; yes, I had a PCR when my supervisor’s unmasked “just allergies” turned out to be Covid; yes, it’s possible that weird illness I had in January 2020 *could* have been Covid, even though that antigen (?) test I later had once it was available said I’d never had it. No, a brief conversation does not require all these annotations.)

    Some people haven’t caught it despite acting in ways that suggest they should have; some people caught it despite doing everything they could. But there is a huge percentage of people who caught it (whether earlier than necessary or at all) because they couldn’t be bothered to take simple precautions, and that last category does actually have a moral component to it.

  56. CLC*

    I’ve never had Covid. Yes I was very careful the first year—I had an infant and didn’t leave the house or see anyone. But that’s not when most people have gotten Covid! It’s 2022-now that most people have had it, including my immediate family. It’s really weird to say it’s about “being careful” at this point.

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

      But there are still lots of people who are taking precautions, even if they don’t need to. I don’t think its weird to say I’m really careful.

      1. *kalypso*

        We all should still be taking precautions regardless of whether we “need” to.

        That’s just not the point here.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          It’s a little bit the point.

          I agree that it would be rude to imply in conversation that everyone who caught covid wasn’t careful enough because that is obviously not true. (Though I don’t necessarily agree that’s what everyone OP is encountering is doing without knowing context and tone).

          I think the biggest factors in whether someone has caught it are Luck+Privilege+Vaccines+Masking and obviously those first two things are not under anyone’s control.

          But I also admit I am curious how many of the people in this thread that are so indignant at the thought of someone simply saying “I’ve been careful” are still wearing masks. I’m sure lots of them are! But based on my own personal experience I would bet that quite a few (if not most) are not.

          1. Rainy*

            When I say “I haven’t had covid yet, I’m just being careful” it is always, ALWAYS in response to someone making a comment or asking a question about why I’m still masking in public. I am not swanning around shouting “I haven’t had covid! Take that, germ-laden peasants!”, I’m masking at work and someone has either asked me why or commented on the fact that I’m still doing it.

            Everyone assesses risk differently. I’m not stopping anyone from doing whatever they want, but this is what I can do for myself, so I am.

      2. Antilles*

        Do you say it judgmentally, like OP is discussing?
        Because what makes it weird isn’t you saying “I like to be really careful”, it’s the additional step of subtly (or not-so-subtly) blaming people who got Covid, like it’s their fault. There plenty of people who followed all the recommended guidance, were vigilant about masking, and kept up their precautions but still got Covid.

  57. HonorBox*

    OP1 – I think you need to be more forceful with Jill. Tell her that everyone had opportunity to take part in the meal. The fact she (or anyone else) couldn’t participate doesn’t entitle them to a “make up” meal. The part of you paying out of your own pocket might help it land more clearly, but I think you need to be very explicit because someone who is asking months later may not fully appreciate that you paying is out of the norm. Hell, she may think you paid and were able to expense it, so I think clearly stating that the invitation is to everyone and no one is being given a free meal at another time is probably best.

    OP2 – I’m firmly in the camp of “mom needs to step back” because you needn’t speak to the parents. If Katie is a bad employee and mom is involving herself and mom is requesting time for family vacations, all the more reason to let Katie go.

    Having said that, I think you need to be clear with Katie. Telling mom that she was removed from her next shift and then not scheduling Katie leaves some uncertainty. In my first job, I was not on the schedule for a couple of weeks straight and when I would go in and check the paper calendar (in the dinosaur age), no one said a word to me. I ended up having to ask about the lack of shifts and was just told, “It isn’t working out….” In the two weeks that I was checking, all they needed to do was tell me that I wasn’t going to be scheduled any longer. Yet I was left to have to inquire. So do Katie a solid and let her know that because she missed shifts, was performing poorly, etc. she’s being let go. And absolutely do her the courtesy of telling her that having her mom call in is not appropriate. That’s going to help her in the long run.

  58. NoOneWillSeeThisComment*

    I’ve not had Covid…and while I wasn’t being uncareful, I would never say I was being careful. I worked out of my house every single day, and even had co-workers get it multiple times. Shared a bed/apartment with my sister for 5 days while she had it…who knows
    It’s possible some of those people feel morally superior or some garbage (I know my sister sure was cocky until she got it, and my Dad is cocky, but he barely leaves his house)
    They may also be pre-emptively trying to explain, because on the rare occasion it comes up, I definitely get people curious about how, and looking at me like I’m an alien.

    And no, I haven’t secretly had it and been “asymptomatic” my job required twice weekly testing, and it was AWFUL.

  59. Dork-e-ness*

    #1 – When I started to read this I thought this was another WFH discussion moment about people missing out on people in the office got. Maybe staffer is applying that logic to the situation. Just a thought.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Staffer isn’t work from home, they are part time and were excluded from the event. There’s any number of reasons a particular employee may not be present on any given day at a full time in person office.

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

        I think what Dork-e-ness is getting at is that the part time staffer may be using the same logic that a WFH person may use in a similar situation.

      2. Mister_L*

        Splitting hair here, but technically they were not invited because they were off that day, but people are free to show up even when they don’t work that day. It just doesn’t happen often.

  60. Accidental Manager*

    LW3, I guess I would be a bit more direct, especially when it isn’t a professional interaction with various power dynamics in play. I would raise that one eyebrow and ask if they are implying I haven’t been cautious, then wait for an answer. But then, I’m at a stage in life where my filters have apparently exceeded their best by date.

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

      I think it really depends on who it is that is saying it. If it’s a patent or family member of a patient they may be clarifying because the OP is in a position of power. She is a health care practitioner and they may want to let her know that they took covid seriously and took precautions. Especially if she is in a nursing home where people were not able to see their loved ones, they may still be afraid of getting kicked out.

  61. Kay Zee*

    My husband is a social worker who works with clients one on one. He had a client right at the beginning, before masking, who was coughing up a storm in his office and soon died of COVID. My husband did not get sick.

    Almost three years later, while masked and shielded, working out of the office part of the week and not even talking to anyone who seemed sick, he got it.

    Seems to me, it’s pretty random.

  62. Huzzah!*

    I haven’t gotten covid but I wouldn’t say I’ve been careful—just an introverted recluse who naturally avoids people.

  63. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

    OP3 In my opinion I think you are taking these comments a bit too personally. No one is saying that they are better than you or anything. It sounds like you had a really rough time with your pregnancy and that talking about covid can be a personal irrtant for you. When people say that they are just making a statement about themselves. If someone says “I’ve never been in a car accident, but I always wear my seatbelt” do you think they are implying that you don’t drive safely and don’t wear a seatbelt.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t self entitled people who could be making comments of “i was careful” But I doubt every person is. I also wonder who are these people that you say keep saying these things. Are they strangers who don’t know that you are in healthcare, and so don’t know that you were at elevated exposure? Are they clients or family of your clients who maybe are trying to prove to you, someone who is taking care of them/their family member, that they are doing all the right things and being cautious?

    I think you need to just take a breath. In social settings If people start talking about how they haven’t had Covid try and tune them out or change the conversation

    1. *kalypso*

      People are 100% attributing value and class judgments to whether and how many times someone has had COVID, the same way they have done since 2020.

      In the fraction of LW’s situation which is at work in healthcare, if it’s safe for them to push back on the narrative that if you’re careful enough you won’t get a highly contagious virus ever (as in, without endangering their job or funding) then they’re entitled to do so and more than justified in wanting to.

    2. Aelfwynn*

      “No one is saying that they are better than you or anything.”

      Eh. You don’t really KNOW that, though, do you? It’s possible that this statement was made in a matter-of-fact way that was free of any judgment, but it also could have been said in that morally-superior, judgmental tone that LW inferred. I don’t think it’s fair to say that no one makes that statement without the intention of belittling the other person. Maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t. LW is in the best position to know the tone.

  64. Boolie*

    #1 it’s like a birthday party. Just because you couldn’t make it doesn’t mean we had to save a piece of cake for you.

  65. Observer*

    #4 – Unreliable department getting getting yelled at.

    I have some thoughts, mostly related.

    Firstly, how is your staff reacting when issues are being brought up? Do they recognize the significant issues posed by the current level of errors? You want to give a really hard look at that, and make sure that people get that there is still a significant problem, that they are responding appropriately, and that there are concrete plans to further improve. Because being *totally* error free is generally not realistic, both the 8% and the wide spread of error ranges are serious problems. It only looks good because you are coming from a situation in which many companies would have fired the whole team and either outsourced the function or rebuilt if from scratch. Not only is it going to take time to change perception, but it’s clear that they really, really are not where they need to be. Keep in mind that on top of 8% being, high, it sounds like there are still areas where the error rate is definitely higher, and you don’t have good metrics for some other areas. So, part of your coaching of your staff needs to include their recognition of what still needs to be done, on their part.

    When you speak to the other managers you need to acknowledge up front that there is a legitimate trust issue and that your team still needs to improve – and that you are *working on it*! But regardless, there are appropriate ways to handle this, and inappropriate ways. Yelling and name calling definitely fall in the latter category and it needs to stop. Ask them what they need from you to move things forward. But be clear that regardless of the improvement (or lack thereof) of your department, other staff simply cannot let loose at your department. Name calling and yelling at people are unprofessional, in appropriate and profoundly counter productive.

    You shouldn’t need to mention it being counter-productive, because being a decent human being should be a base line expectation in the work place. But sometimes you could be up against people who only see “affects production or work” as things they have standing to address. (Look at all of the letters where management says or thinks that they can’t get involved because it’s “only a personality clash” or “it’s not illegal” or some such. So you want to address it before it even comes up. Also, you could be dealing with managers who feel like they don’t want to spend resources (time, energy, capital) on “protecting” a problematic group from dealing with people who are being “not so nice.” Again, you want to get ahead of that by making it clear that they benefit from stopping this kind of behavior without having to address it head on, and without making any accusations. Especially since often these attitudes are somewhat unconscious which means that a reasonable conversation about this won’t happen unless you address it immediately but without appearing to make any accusations.

  66. nikkole82*

    I have not had covid, never tested positive for it, never had even so much as a cough or stuffy nose. I am one of those essential healthcare workers that went to work every single day. I think it’s just part of my DNA as my daughter never got covid, my sister, or my mother who works in a college dorm of all places. We just don’t really get communicable diseases.

    I consider myself very fortunate as covid killed two out of three of my uncle’s children (his third child died but not from covid), and with some distant cousins, they lost a father and uncle (twins) and the aunt barely made it. So, I’ve had losses and do not take them lightly at all.

    1. Bluebell*

      Thank you for being a healthcare worker through all of this! At some point I wonder if researchers will try to do a study on the group of people who somehow managed not to get covid, but didn’t totally isolate.

      1. nikkole82*

        my daughter and I had to take three planes due to a death in the family the day after christmas to another state, and two coming back home I just knew we would get sick as packed as those planes were but still no covid.

  67. Cat*

    I’m actually a little shocked at the amount of vitriol from people about the “not had Covid” comment. I usually say the same thing to anyone who asks me: “As far as I know I haven’t had it, but I’m more careful than most people”.

    I say this for two reasons. The first is to reassure that I know even people who have been careful have gotten it. The other reason I use this phrasing is because it seems less awkward than the truth, which is that my OCD and severe agoraphobia have kept me at very, very low risk of infection.

    It’s so weird to think that people may have been interpreting that as a judgement of them. That seems so out of left field!

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I am not, because it overlaps with a bunch of other things. Personally I started going back to the office in 2021 becuase I was stir crazy in my small house and the office was almost empty or empty, so it didn’t really matter, to begin with.

      but I was subject to loads of passive-aggressively toned “I wouldn’t do that, I always wear a mask” from people in my hometown, where people live on nice acreage and tend to have pools and WFH. As if there masking for ten minutes a week to grocery shop = they are in solidarity with healthcare workings in the city.

      It was actually really annoying becuase no one asked questions like “is the office empty except for you,” or heck, even ask what I was doing when I was WFHing (not every can isolate at home) everyone just assumed it was a huge risk so they could tell you you were wrong.

      Classism and some people being eternally self-righteous or clueless did not take a break during covid.

    2. Sara*

      It’s rude because healthcare workers didn’t have the option to stay home and be super careful—this person was out there risking her life and her baby’s life to care for sick people. To imply she got COVID because she wasn’t “careful” as opposed to because she was doing a hugely essential job is not just rude, it’s offensive.

      1. Cat*

        I guess I just don’t think a person saying “I am extra careful” means that they are categorizing the listener as NOT careful. My point is that I don’t know your life, you don’t know mine, and “careful” is nothing more than a generic umbrella term for all the behaviors that people can (or cannot) do to avoid viral infections of all kinds.

        What phrasing do people want from me when they ask “how many times have you had Covid”?? Because to be clear, I don’t ever offer this information. It’s a common question that apparently has no good answer.

        1. JustMe*

          That’s weird that people are asking, “How many times have you had COVID?” I guess the safest answer regardless is just to say, “Oh, haven’t had it yet” or something breezy and simple before moving on.

          It’s unfortunate that this is so difficult–people who HAVE had COVID through no fault of their own don’t deserve to be judged, but neither do people who have REALLY had to adjust their lives because medical history has put them at risk (or in general increased their anxiety about COVID).

          1. Cat*

            I think it’s actually demonstrably NOT weird that people ask me that. Look how many people just in this one thread on this one site have to say on the subject! I still wear a mask when I go to crowded places with strangers, and people who observe this behavior are likely to comment on it. Many assume I have Covid at that moment and that’s why they ask.

            And for the very last time, when a person says “I do This Thing” they are not necessarily also saying “if you don’t do This Thing, you’re bad”. To me it feels like y’all are insecure and just expecting me to judge you. If you’re comfortable with your decision, why does my decision bother you so much?

      2. Cat*

        I’m so sorry to comment again but… did you read what I wrote? I didn’t just “have the option to stay home”. I’m like. Severely disabled. I was working very hard on conquering some of my fears in 2019 and now I’m not sure if I’ll ever be okay again. I’ll never be ABLE to be a hugely essential worker.

        The point I’m trying to make is that people have such different lives. Please stop assuming so many weird judgements from the simple phrase “I’ve been careful”. If someone is being a judgy rude jerk it’s usually fairly obvious, you don’t need to search for the jerkiness.

      3. Burger Bob*

        But it sounds like these comments are in passing from people who don’t even know whether OP herself has had covid. They aren’t trying to imply that she messed up. They’re not talking about her at all. They’re just talking about themselves. Frankly, they may be trying to impress her a little. Lots of people start bragging about their health decisions and lifestyle practices when talking to a medical professional. It’s weird, but it’s true. They want to look like a Good Patient. It has nothing to do with her. It literally isn’t personal. I get why it rubs the wrong way and why she finds it irritating, but it doesn’t warrant any more reaction than, “Oh? That’s really nice for you,” and then just moving on with the conversation.

    3. *kalypso*

      The thing is you don’t need to qualify it with how careful or not you are at all; it’s not relevant to whether you’ve had it or not (and in some cases genuinely doesn’t matter), you don’t always 100% know for sure you have or haven’t had it, and it still carries the implication that if you’re careful enough, reduce your risk enough, can just do enough, you too can not ever catch this super contagious thing that’s destroyed hundreds of millions of lives in some way over the last three and half years. And that’s before considering the damage COVID has done to everyone regardless of whether they actually had it just in how it’s changed the world and the irrevocable effects of that.

      You’re doing it because you think otherwise you have to tell them how you didn’t have it yet. Whoop. I haven’t had it, I’m immunocompromised and can’t wear masks and we had rationing and I got shamed in front of the whole supermarket for trying to buy food for a week when I didn’t know the rules had changed overnight and I was only allowed food for a day and then I had to go without food and so I stopped eating and going out and every time I had to go out people would get super invasively concerned because I was social distancing and it aggravated my PTSD. So I haven’t had COVID (maybe) because I stayed home and hoarded food and now it’s 2023 and I live on sugar water and don’t ever leave the couch. But I wasn’t actually Careful Correctly, it’s just that everyone else has gone back to normal and last week I was literally actually assaulted for simply attempting to social distance and I’m sick of people. Is that awkward? Did you need to know any of it? No, you did not. Does it mean I should tell people I was careful to save them from their own inability to mind their own business if they can’t take a hint? No. Is it still better than stopping one inch short of telling someone if they were just careful enough, they too could have avoided having COVID? Especially when it’s 100% likely they’re still impacted somehow? Yes.

  68. OK*

    Is it just me or are the commentators on this site disproportionately anxious and cautious about Covid? When I look around 99% of people have no problem taking public transport, attend crowded events etc without masks or worries.

    1. Ch