Ask a Manager speed round

It’s the annual Ask a Manager speed round! Until 3:30 pm ET today, I’ll be answering questions live.

How to ask questions: Submit a question using the form here. (Don’t leave your question in the comment section; I won’t see it there.) If you submitted a question yesterday, there’s no need to submit it again; I’ve got it in my queue.

How to read answers live: Refresh the page to see new questions/answers. I’ll post new answers at the top as I go so you don’t have to scroll down to see the latest.

Other info: It’s a speed round so these are going to be quick answers. We’ll see how many I can get through.

That’s it for today!

There were a ton of questions I didn’t get to (I received 610 total and only answered 61 here) so please feel free to submit them to me for regular answers if you’d like to:

I may save some unused questions for future “short answer” posts (or maybe I’ll do a second speed round with the leftovers later this month).

61. Does everyone really hate their job?

I recently had a bit of a panic attack over the idea of having to work jobs I hate for the rest of my life because the jobs I like don’t pay well enough to live off of. Once I calmed down, my mom casually mentioned her belief that the vast majority of people hate their jobs, actually, and do them anyway to be able to pay their bills. Is she right?

Not everyone hates their jobs. A lot of people like their jobs. But a lot of people do dislike their jobs, and a lot of people dislike working generally.

I think we’re done a lot of people a disservice by propagating the idea that work should be fulfilling, and that you’ve somehow failed if it’s not. First of all, the vast, vast majority of the world’s population works for money, not fulfillment, and it’s incredibly privileged to be able to even contemplate anything else. Secondly, for a lot of people, the things they find fulfilling simply don’t lend themselves to building a career around (or if they did, they’d drain a lot of the pleasure from them). It’s very, very normal to simply work for money. You’re not a failure if you do that. It’s completely okay to just work in order to be able to fund the rest of your life.

That said, if you actively hate what you’re doing, I’d think about doing something else. It’s one thing not to like your work that much … but if you actively hate it and dread going in every day, that’s probably something that can be changed.

60. Did I do something weird?

A couple of weeks ago I had a stomach bug that woke me up at 3 AM. When I finally felt ready to fall back asleep at 4:30, I emailed my manager that I was going to be out sick the next day and then slept in until 10:00 AM (unusual for me).

My husband thought I should’ve woken myself back up at 7 and emailed my manager then instead of at 4:30, but I wanted to sleep and not wake up early since I didn’t think I would be able to get back to sleep. Who’s right?

You are. Sometimes you know at 4:30 am that you’re going to be out sick that day, and you don’t need to wait a few hours to announce it. Sleep matters when you’re sick, and you don’t need to wake yourself up when you could just email earlier.

59. I don’t pledge allegiance

I’ve worked at a nonprofit for several years. Our unit is divided into a handful of small teams. We all do the same job, but the small groups are there for us to brainstorm on challenging clients, discuss issues, etc.

The teams are being reorganized and I will now have a new leader. With the current teams, she has instituted a practice of reciting the organization’s mission statement at the start of each weekly meeting. None of the other teams do this or anything similar.

I hate this idea for many reasons. It feels cult-y and like I’m back in elementary school. I also think it’s a bit insulting as we all chose to work here because we believe in the mission—working in this field elsewhere would pay substantially more. What’s the best way to address this?

Yeah, this is weird. I’m sure you’re all aware of the organization’s mission. She’d probably argue that reciting it at the start of meetings keeps everyone focused on the big picture or something, but it’s still weird and, yes, cult-y.

Are you and some of your coworkers on the new team comfortable asking at the start of the next meeting why she’s doing it and then saying something like, “It feels out-of-place to us and too pledge-of-allegiance and we’d like to skip it and move straight into the agenda”?

If not but you have the ear of someone higher up who’s likely to find it as odd as you do, discreetly mention it to that person — that might get it shut down.

58. Job Hopping

I know you have always said that having a consistent trend of switching jobs every couple years will be seen as a negative by employers since it shows that someone might not be dependable. In each of my last 3 positions, I have been promoted quickly, which means that my resume shows “positions” lasting only 1-2 years. How can I get across the nuance that it’s due to being promoted and not that I am flighty?

Job hopping is about moving companies every year or two, not moving jobs within a company. You’re fine.

57. Parental leave courtesy

Hi, I’m going out on parental leave soon and I’m really strongly considering not coming back to work afterwards. All the advice I have been given is to not decide that until after the baby is born — which is not my style, I like to plan and communicate in advance! I’m worried that if I hint to my boss that she shouldn’t be counting on me, it will mean they might terminate me before I can use the personal time and short-term disability that I wouldn’t need to pay back after quitting — but wouldn’t that be an unlawful termination? So really, I guess I have nothing to lose by being very honest with her now?

No, wait until the baby is born. First, you said you’re only “strongly considering” not returning, which is not the same as “not returning.” Second, even if you were sure, plans and circumstances can change and you shouldn’t lock yourself into a plan now that might need to change later. Third, law aside, if your company has to do layoffs you could find yourself on that list without any way to prove that it was because you said you weren’t returning.

Protect yourself and wait.

56. Can money buy happiness?

Which is better for a person overall in the long term — a job with an adequate boss and great pay, or a job that has adequate pay and a great boss?

It’s going to vary by person! People find fulfillment in different things. But if I had to pick, I’d say adequate boss and great pay — assuming that we’re defining “adequate” as “decent/not horrible.” Great pay can make life much easier and more pleasant.

55. Accommodations for pumping

My company owns its own building and there is an accommodation for pumping. We also rent space in another building that is a five minute walk away from our main building. For employees who work in the other building, who would be responsible for making accomodations for pumping? The landlord could easily say it’s the employer’s responsibility and my company could say they do accommodate, just in another building.

It’s the employer’s responsibility, not the landlord’s. And I’d be pretty skeptical that a five-minute walk to another building meets the law’s requirement for a private pumping spot, but you’d need a lawyer to tell you for sure.

54. Pressure to travel to my company site – for nebulous reasons

I work remotely for a company with an office about 3 hours drive from me. The company has several hundred people who were based at this site before the pandemic, and now work hybrid. I have been here a year and have never been to the office. I occasionally get some vague pressure to attend the office (particularly if there is a party) “to meet people” (just people I would work with on projects, my manager and closer team are based overseas and wouldn’t be there). I don’t really want to do this, as I have already met everyone over Zoom, Slack etc and I think it would be so incredibly awkward to try to hang out with them for the length of a party. The company would also also reimburse me for travel/accommodations for the trip, so I don’t feel that I could attend the party for an hour, say hello to everyone I need to, and go.

Is my approach of ducking these invitations ok? I feel like it is just a waste of time and energy to travel so far just to say hello to people I don’t even work that closely with.

You should accept some of these invitations. It’s an investment in your relationships with colleagues and also just in your employment there more generally. You can choose not to, but that’s a risky approach — over time it makes you less likely to be promoted and thought of for interesting/high-profile projects, and more likely to end up on a layoff list if they ever have to make cuts. You might decide you don’t care — that you’re willing to make that trade-off in exchange for not having to ever show up in person — but it’s an investment in your job security (and your manager’s perception of you) to occasionally show up even if you don’t enjoy yourself, and it’s a reasonable thing to do in exchange for being remote the other 99% of the time.

53. Validation

If I’m currently financially ok to do so, can you give me permission to not accept a job offer that has several red flags but could maybe be fine? (I wish I could do a test run, if that were a thing we could do.. but something else will probably come along, right?!)

I hereby give you permission not to accept a job that has several red flags! “Red flags but could be fine” is risky enough that you’d be very justified in passing it up.

Obviously, you never need anyone’s permission to turn down a job offer. If you’re financially okay turning it down, you can turn it down for any reason at all, even bad ones.

52. No work talk

Is there a way to tell someone you don’t want to talk about work on your commute? Unfortunately changing the time of commute hasn’t helped. I just want to mentally make my grocery list, not rehash your project goals…

Headphones are a traditional way to signal this. But if you don’t want to wear headphones, the other options are saying you want to spend the time on something else (a book you’re really into, catching up on emails, a volunteer project you’ve taken on, or so forth) or just directly say, “I like to use the commute to decompress from work, so I’m going to just zone out on my phone.”

I’m assuming this is something like a bus or subway, but if you can physically create distance between you and them, that will help — so you could say, “I’m going to catch up on a book so I’ll see you tomorrow” and then walk a ways away.

51. Updates – How To’s

Do you keep a list of posts that get particularly high engagement to solicit updates each year? Or are most updates these days unsolicited? (I’ve gotten into the archives a number of times, and there are so many letters that I wish we could get an update on!)

It’s a mix! I flag stuff that I want to be sure to request an update for throughout the year, and then every fall I go through the entire year’s list of posts and flag more (that’s also when I pick nominees for worst boss, select my favorites of the year, etc.). But a lot of people send them in unsolicited, which is great.

50. Assigned office privilege

Our teams work on a variety of schedules, and always have, which is to say we’ve always had a hybrid work model. The word “hybrid,” however, is new to us (since pandemic) and staff with assigned offices are adamant they’re always there. They’re not. They’ll WFH for a day of deep work, or they’ll say they’ll come in after an appointment and then decide not to. We have more staff than we have offices, and we could use the space when it’s available. How can we help them see their own patterns, without making them feel spied on or put out?

For transparency’s sake, can you just announce that you’re going to monitor office usage for a set period of time (a month? two months?) and say clearly that it’s not to pressure anyone to come in but so you can get hard data on office usage to base office decisions on. If your sense is that people will come in more during that time just so that they don’t lose their assigned office, that might be a bad idea but otherwise it would be my first choice. If that’s a concern, though, then I’d just track it for a few weeks/month and then show them the data, again emphasizing that you’re gathering data, not trying to change anyone’s habits. If you’re clear about why you gathered the data and how you’re using it, reasonable people shouldn’t feel spied on — their office usage isn’t really something they should think of as private information and it’s info you have a vested interest in knowing.

49. Leadership coaching

My boss suggested leadership coaching for me. It feels like that means he thinks I am less than competent. How common is leadership coaching? I am terrified of the 360 feedback. I just want to lay low, do great work and support my team. This suggested coaching is terrifying. Any advice?

Leadership coaching is pretty common as you move up the professional ladder.

I wouldn’t assume it means he thinks you’re less than competent, unless he specifically said he’s suggesting it because he think you’re struggling as a manager. Often leadership coaching gets suggested for employees who are seen as high-potential, as a way to help you progress because they see promise in you! You could ask your boss what’s behind the suggestion — you might hear something reassuring!

If the coaching is good, it’s almost certainly worth doing and could end up being really valuable. I do management coaching, which isn’t exactly the same thing, but a lot of managers find it really helpful to have someone to talk through specific challenges they’re grappling with and build their skills (which is directly connected to your goal of supporting your team).

48. LW updates

Do you have a favorite update you’ve ever received from a LW? (Bonus points if the update was more satisfying/delightful than the original letter/situation.)

I have a bunch of favorites, but one that was especially delightful was this one.

47. Multiple messages instead of just 1

How can I tell my colleague (who is lovely but quite sensitive!) it annoys the crap out of me when he
A couple of
At a time
On individual messages?!

This is on the work instant message system. They ping in my ear constantly when I’m on calls (and can’t turn off notifications as I need them for important messages).

“When you send each word in its own message like this, I get a ping for each one separately, which is a lot of pings when I’m on a call. Could you send the whole sentence in just one message? Thank you!”

46. Worst Boss

Do I have to be asking a question about my horrible ex-boss to nominate her for Worst Boss of the Year? I just really want her to win.

Yep, you’d have to submit a question about her featuring her horribleness.

45. Is the term “suffering together” indicative of bad culture?

My workplace uses internal core values as part of our quarterly and yearly annual reviews. We are required to submit self-assessments of our performance and how we meet the core values. Each value has a sentence or two explaining how we might meet that value in our work, one of the values is Sacrifice. A part of the sentence to describe this value says “Employee suffers together with coworkers to complete tasks when necessary.” Is it just me or is this a bit much?

I can see what they were going for, but their wording is pretty bad! I don’t think it’s indicative of a bad culture on its own, but it’s not hard to imagine it stemming from one.

44. Your Reading Life!

I love your book recommendations and have tried out quite a few! Where do you get book suggestions? You often recommend ones that I have not heard of.

I read a ton of book reviews (New York Times, Washington Post, Goodreads, The Millions, and lots of others). I also occasionally spend a chunk of time playing around with “if you liked Book X, here are recommendations for what to read next” sites. But mostly, reviews.

43. Is it time to retire?

I’m 62, I own my home and have hit “my number” (the amount I was aiming for retirement) as of last week. I’m not enthused or challenged by my job, but I’m paid well, work 100% remote and know how the job and where all the “bodies are buried” so it’s not particularly stressful. Every day I ask myself – do I really want to spend my remaining good health doing…this nonsense? Getting a new job, most likely entailing a commute and wearing actual clothes and learning new things, is probably off the table. There’s zero chance of advancement with this employer. It’s either keep doing this until Medicare kicks in, or shut it down now and hope some time off gets me back enough energy to consider doing something else.

If you can afford to retire, retire! You don’t need to work several more years because of an arbitrary number.

However, make sure that your money target still works if you add several extra years of retirement (and potential market volatility) in there — it might be low if the original target assumed a retirement age of 65, not 62. It would be smart to have a finance person sign off on your plan before you do anything.

42. LinkedIn recommendation importance

Do LinkedIn recommendations carry any weight for senior roles? I have a coach who demands I pester people in my network and personal life to write one – and insists I can’t get hired into a more senior role or attract good recruiters without one for every year of experience – to show I’m not difficult to work with. (I’m 15 years into highly technical individual contributor or project management roles.)

No. Most people don’t put any weight on LinkedIn recommendations because they’re public (so not going to contain anything critical or negative) and rarely very nuanced. That coach is highly suspect.

41. Pooping at work

If I need to poop at work, I go to a different floor in my building. Is this okay? Is there better work-pooping protocol?

This is okay.

40. To correct or not to correct my boss’ misspelling

It has been over a year, and my boss is still misspelling the last name of someone above him in a different branch of the company org chart. The misspelled VP is a woman, so this grates on my nerves. On the other hand, watching him continue to misspell is amusing, especially as he will vary the misspelling. Am I morally obligated to correct him on this or may I continue to watch this for my (mild) entertainment?

You are not morally obligated to correct him. You can correct him if you want to, but you’re not obligated to (unless your job includes proofreading his communications, obviously).

39. What to wear to work

I’m a fresh grad who just started work. My workplace explicitly stated that the dress code is casual on days when we’re not working with clients directly. Since my work does not require me to work with clients at all, will it be okay for me to dress casually everyday? I’m also wondering if casual means that t-shirts with cartoon characters and sports jerseys are fine.

“Casual” means different things in different offices. In some it means “khakis and collared shirts,” believe it or not. In others it means “jeans but no shorts” or “t-shirts but no writing on them” and all kinds of other variations. The best thing to do is to dress slightly less casually than your ultimate aim in the beginning and take a week or two to observe what other people wear. (Make sure you don’t calibrate down to the absolutely most casual person there since they could be out of sync with what’s expected — look at what the majority of people at your level and just above are wearing.)

38. HR says we can’t use negative internal knowledge when hiring

My academic department recently had a position open that required someone with a specific and rare specialization. We had very few applicants, and the one my supervisor selected to bring to interview was a former doctoral graduate of our academic program. I was rather alarmed when I heard they had been selected, as the candidate had intentionally plagiarized on a major assignment in my course while he was a student. When I brought this up to my supervisor (stating that I’d be willing to go along with the department decision), my supervisor informed me that she had raised the issue with HR and was told we could not consider any information we already knew about the student outside of the hiring process. Is this legit or is my HR off-base?

There’s no legal requirement that they do that; at most it’s an internal policy.

And it’s horrible hiring. It’s the kind of thing you see when hiring processes get so standardized that all individual judgment is removed from the process.

37. Dying awful colleague

A member of our C-suite has gone from being healthy and fit, to suffering from a sudden and aggressive cancer that has him in hospice. The chance of recovery is almost zero. Everyone at our company is basically just waiting for “the call.” It is a sad time for almost everyone who works here. Except for me. In the short time we’ve worked together, I was the target of his racist and misogynistic behavior, to the point that HR nearly had to get involved. I don’t wish him death or pain, but I have no interest in attending his funeral. Very few people know he treated me this poorly. I worry that being new to the company, many staffers will judge me harshly for not attending. Additionally, it’s about a 7 hour round trip drive to where the funeral will be held (as soon as he was diagnosed, he moved back to his hometown for better support). Can I skip this, or must I go?

You don’t need to go. If anyone asks about it, you can say in a regretful tone, “Unfortunately I’m not able to attend.”

36. Coach junior employee or nah?

I’m one of two senior people on this team. We have a junior, new to the company and new to salaried work as far as I know. She and the other senior run a weekly event, but the other colleague has been calling out on event days. Now the junior is pouting in our IMs and threatening to call out on those days too. If she does, I have to step in and run it, which is not my job but otherwise it won’t get done. I’ve been gently trying to coach her on professionalism due to this and other behaviors, but she’s pushing back a lot (and to be honest, she’s not entirely wrong). Do I keep trying, let our manager know what’s up and ask for her help, or just step back and let the manager manage (or not manage)? Yes, the other senior is a problem but that’s a whole other issue.

If you trust your manager to handle it well, ideally you’d give them a discreet heads-up about your concern since it’s affecting your work. It sounds, though, like you should make sure it’s clear to your manager that the junior is only part of the problem; the other part is that the other senior person keeps skipping events, which is causing all this in the first place.

35. Returning to work

When an employee is returning to work after a long-term sickness, is it better to have them do less days but full days, say 2 days a week, then 3 days, to build back up to all 5 days? Or do more days but shorter hours like 4 days until 12:00, then all 5 days until 1:00, etc., building up the hours? What do you recommend to help get an employee back on their feet and transition their workload back to them?

Ask them! Different people will have different answers, based on their own preferences and energy patterns throughout the days and the right answer for one person could be different from the right answer for someone else. What you can do as their manager, though, is to lay out the various options so they know what’s possible to choose from — because they may not realize some of those schedules are possible.

34. Favorite time management tips

What are some of your favorite time management (or schedule management) tips?

If it’ll take two minutes or less, do it right now.

Also, write everything down. Don’t rely on your memory; it will fail you at some point and it takes mental energy better spent in other places.

33. Wrong font?

One of my coworkers uses a different font than the default company email – it’s not one of the other “standard” business fonts like TNR or Arial but it also isn’t a fancy font. It just comes across kind of odd that everyone in the company uses the default font except her. Is it overly micromanaging to ask her to please use the default font or is this just a quirk we should get over?

Nah, let it go. If she were doing it in printed materials, it would be reasonable to expect she comply with your organization’s style guide, but it’s just her font in emails. She’s allowed to have that kind of quirk, unless someone with authority to say otherwise decides to say otherwise.

I do wonder why people do this, though! It’s possible that it’s easier for her to read … or maybe she just likes it and it’s the equivalent of decorating your locker in high school, who knows.

32. Layoffs

Are layoffs always based strictly on salary and finances? My department only had two people and me, the manager. We knew layoffs were coming and we were all told to present two employees for potential layoffs. The idea being they would choose one of the two. The CEO and HR chose to lay off my highest performer and best employee because she made $2000 more a year than the other employee, who is a low performer and difficult to work with. Employee #2 was on their third strike for attendance and work quality. The CEO and HR said it was strictly a financial decision when in my opinion Employee # 2 costs us so much more with their bad performance. Is that normal?

Wow, no, that’s a terrible way to do it. That’s not a good financial decision for exactly the reason you say: the bad performer undoubtedly costs you more than $2,000 compared to the good performer. It could be different if the salary difference were really enormous, but it’s incredibly unlikely that $2,000 will be in any way meaningful within the company’s larger budget (and if it is, things are on the brink of collapse).

31. Promotions of senior management

Am I out of touch for finding it awkward when an email goes out announcing that several people within senior management have all been promoted?

Do similar emails go out for lower-level promotions? Or is it work-relevant info that people need to have to function effectively in the company? Either of those would make the emails pretty justified. But if it’s basically just PR for senior execs … well, it’s pretty standard corporate practice but you’re allowed to have feelings about it.

30. I just really love cats

We have a “pets” slack channel at work. How do I know if I’m posting there too often? I try to make sure I don’t have more than two in a row. I just really love my cats okay, and people always like and comment on their pictures.

How often do other people post? If you post more than anyone else, that’s likely a sign to scale it back. Or you could start posting photos of your cats in disguise.

29. Negotiating Remote Work

I have an interview for a role that would be a terrible commute, but I lost my job 6 months ago and have had zero luck finding anything new. It was stated clearly in the JD that it’s on site, and the recruiter also made sure to confirm that I’m ok with a non-remote role. I said I would be for the right fit. I’ve been moved on to speak with the hiring manager and now I’m second guessing whether I can really make that commute; however I am not in the position to turn it down if I get the job. Is there room to negotiate a hybrid schedule, and if you think so, when should I bring it up? This is not a senior level position, so I don’t have a lot of pull. The salary is fine, but not great taking into considering the amount of gas I’d use. Any thoughts/advice would be helpful!! Thank you!

Ha, see #20. If they’ve made a point of confirming that you’re okay with on-site several times, they’re unlikely to change it although you can try. If you have extremely in-demand skills and they really want to hire you specifically, you have a better chance of negotiating it than if that’s not really the case. (Before you ask, though, I’d think really objectively about what their reasons are for requiring the work to be on-site. They might have good reason for it! And if the rest of the company is on-site, there can be serious downsides to being the one person who isn’t.)

28. Favorite books

Do you or would you ever create a reading list of your favorite/recommended books? Would love to see/read what you’re reading!

They exist! I do a recommendation every Saturday, and then every December I compile all the year’s recommendations into one list. You can find them here:

27. Thank-you’s in text-based communication

What’s your take on thank you etiquette for text-based communications (email, Teams, etc.)– always, never, context dependent?

I have a coworker who never thanks me for my replies to her requests, no matter how complicated, and it drives me batty! However, a mentor of mine recently shared that at a conference, a presenter suggested that thank you emails be eliminated to reduce email fatigue (we’re in a busy academic hospital setting, if it matters).

Eliminating thank yous seems wild to me, but maybe I’m out of touch? If it’s more nuanced than that, would I be out of line to ask my coworker for a thank you every now and then?

It’s context-dependent, but a lot of people don’t send thank-you’s for minor work stuff because they’re trying not to flood people’s inboxes. If your coworker doesn’t ever acknowledge even substantial efforts, that’s rude … but asking her to thank you would be weird itself (unless you legitimately need to know something was received and sufficient, but then you’d ask for that rather than for thanks).

26. Wet/Damp Hair

Would you consider arriving at work with wet hair unprofessional (wet from the shower, not from weather)?

It really depends on what it looks like. If it’s pulled back and just a little damp, that’s not a big deal. If it’s very wet, long, and hanging in your face, that would be off for a lot of offices and especially if you’re client-facing. (Also, in many cases curly hair has to air-dry and that complicates things … but that’s where pulling it back if it’s long can help.)

25. WFH separation of desk and bedroom

Is it better to have your work desk in your actual bedroom, rather than in your living or dining room? For some reason, being able to see my monitors from bed is bumming me out (probably because I hate my job). I wonder if this is a thing for anyone else. Could just be a manifestation of, again, how much I loathe into work every morning.

I don’t think you’re the only one who would find that unpleasant! In fact, a lot of sleep hygiene advice focuses on only using your bedroom for sleep.

Try moving to your living room or dining room and see if it improves anything.

24. How do you gracefully accept a resignation (you are secretly glad to receive)?

I manage a team of 5, one of whom is severely underperforming and on the verge of a PIP. I know he has accepted a job elsewhere and will be handing in his resignation within the next two weeks, but I’m not supposed to know this — one of his colleagues gave me a heads-up in private. The usual period notice for his role is four weeks, but I’m happy to reduce that significantly. What should I say when he resigns? How can I offer a shorter notice period?

If you can say it in good faith, start with something positive — “We’ll miss you, but I’m happy for you” or similar. Then, about the notice period, if you’ve been talking openly with him about his performance struggles, it’s okay to reference that: “Because of the issues we’ve been working on, I think a shorter notice period would be fine — would (X amount of time) work for you?” (Or “we could set your last day as early as this Friday, depending on what works on your side” or whatever you’d ideally like to do.)

But keep in mind that he might have set his start date at his new job based on the assumption that he needs to do four weeks with you, and he might not want/be able to give up any of that income if you have him end earlier. So you want to be sensitive to that and not just dictate an earlier end date if he’d prefer the usual notice period your org has set. (Ultimately you’re coming out ahead regardless, since you won’t have to go through a PIP and possible firing.)

23. Your reading routine

I love your reading recommendations. I think of myself as quite a bookworm, but even I don’t manage a book a week year-round. What’s your reading routine?

I read for ideally a couple of hours every night before I sleep, and then ideally more on weekends. This is problem, though, because it means if I get caught up in a book, I’m prone to staying up way too late.

22. Can I tell my manager to stop joking in official documents?

My fun/personable manager can be… too fun, in official documents. One recent example was a document on client policies that included the line “those who don’t follow XYZ policy might be discontinued as our clients, or beaten with a limp noodle.” Which doesn’t send a clear message about the importance of XYZ policy. Similar such language in official emails and other website features abounds, and I don’t know if it’s worth trying to be the fun police.

Do you have standing to tell her to stop — like are in you charge of corporate communications or client relationships or something else that would make it part of your job to manage this kind of thing? If not, and if she’s not soliciting your advice, it doesn’t rise to the level of something you should take on. Internally roll your eyes and let it go. (Also, who still thinks wet noodle comments are the height of humor? Dads, I guess.)

21. Bathroom privacy and flossing

There are no single-person bathrooms at my office, only a 3-stall restroom that, because my workplace is largely women, I therefore share with my boss, grandboss, supervisees, etc. I like to floss and brush after lunch. If anyone comes in the restroom and seems to be needing a while, I assume they are possibly waiting for me to leave so they can poop, etc. What’s the etiquette here? Should I go away and come back to floss later? Is it ok to continue but just hurry up? (Flossing and brushing in the staff kitchen is not allowed.)

I don’t think you need to leave — brushing and flossing is a legitimate use for the bathroom too — but it would be thoughtful to finish as quickly as you can.

20. We really don’t do remote jobs

I help with our HR department in a local nonprofit. When we post jobs, we’re pretty explicit about this job being hybrid, requiring 3/5 days onsite (with actual reasoning relating to the roles, not just to be managed). We’ve had 3 applicants who applied from outside the state withdrawal their applications because they thought we could be flexible about the hybrid/remote status (again, we can’t, and it’s specified in the role description). Is there any other way to signal that no, we don’t do full remote positions?

It’s frustrating when you’re up-front about something in the ad and then people assume they can change it! All you can really do is to continue being really clear about it in the ad, and then address it again in the first interview screen — “I wanted to make sure you know that the role is hybrid and requires three days a week on site, because of the nature of the work. Will that work for you?”

19. Resignation

What’s a good, non-awkward way of telling colleagues in other departments (so your absence won’t affect their work) you’ve resigned?

Just be direct and matter-of-fact! “I wanted to let you know that I’ve accepted another job and my last day here will be (date). I’ve really enjoyed working with you!”

18. No coffee after 2 pm

My boss has been reading up on the effects of caffeine on the body, and how it can stay in your system for hours. Since then, he has decided to turn off our office coffee maker at 2 pm every day, and also confiscates one of its components so we can’t just turn it back on. When a coworker pushed back, he said he “wants us to all have a good night’s sleep”. Most of us are going to Starbucks in the afternoon now but that is a cost we don’t necessarily want to shoulder. Any advice on how to approach this more effectively?

Wow, that’s a big overstep. Can you go to him as a group and say, “We’re adults who manage our own coffee consumption and we don’t want you managing that for us. This is just making us need to leave the office to go to Starbucks, which takes us away from work and costs us money. We’d like the machine on all day.” If that doesn’t work, is one of you willing to bring in your own machine that stays under your own control?

17. Friendship and work

Can I be friends with someone I have managed for several years and always had a friendly (but with good professional boundaries) relationship with, now that she has moved on to a role at another company? She’s reached out and I’d like to say yes! We’re both married women in our 40s if that matters.

Yes, since you’re not working together anymore! I’d just think about whether you’re likely to work together again in the future and how this could affect things if you do. But otherwise, go forth and be friends!

16. Unadvertised jobs

I read online that around 80% of open positions are never advertised and instead are filled more informally, through networks, referrals and internal candidates. Is that true?

Nope. It gets repeated all the time but it’s not based on anything real; it’s just a bunch of people repeating each other with no one bothering to confirm it. More here.

15. Responding to Sick Day Emails

I treat employees like adults. You feel puny or need a mental health day-have at it. When I answer I want to show a bit of humanity but it’s really none of my business why they are out. OK is too curt. “Feel better” doesn’t seem right. Suggestions?

I think “feel better” is good! You could also say, “We’ll see you when you’re feeling better” or “good luck with whatever it is.”

14. Family Emergency Questions

Last week, I had to take last minute time off for 4 days to try and visit a dying relative in another country. Due to flight cancellations and other travel issues, I did not make it in time to see the relative. The whole process was long, frustrating, and incredibly sad. How do I respond to the questions that are “Did everything turn out alright?” It’s easy to respond to every other style of question, but that specific one I can’t come up with a good answer for without lying.

“Unfortunately my (relative) died — it’s been a tough week.”

Or if you prefer less info, just “It was a pretty difficult week for my family. I appreciate you asking.”

I’m so sorry about your relative.

13. Retirement hobbies

Do you ever dream of retirement? What hobbies do you plan to enjoy in retirement?

Hell yes. I am just going to lie around and read all day, every day, then cook and eat extravagant dinners.

12. Layoffs

Would a company ever answer anything other than “we don’t know of any plans for layoffs at this time” when asked? That’s the only answer I’ve ever heard given, almost verbatim. Is there any circumstance where they’d actually say yes or no?

Not really. The timing of layoff announcements is usually really carefully considered with a bunch of strategic things going into it, and they’re not going to upend that just because someone asks before they’re ready to announce anything. Occasionally you’ll get a manager who’s willing to discreetly tip you off, but that’s pretty rare (and they may not even know themselves, especially if they’re not very senior).

11. Is wearing a mask weird now?

I just got back from a conference, and I was the only one wearing a mask out of my whole team. Everyone acted a little chilly about it. Do I need to give an excuse, or can I keep wearing my mask without having to explain myself?

You don’t have to explain yourself, but if you feel like other people are reacting strangely (which is BS but it happens), sometimes it helps to say something briskly and cheerfully . I’m still masking in some situations because my mom is having chemo and I find people are generally really receptive to a quick, “I’m going to mask because my mom is having chemo.” You could do a similar, “I need to mask for medical reasons right now.” (That even has the benefit of indicating maybe you’re protecting them from you.)

10. Old Gumption Letter?

I know this is totally the wrong forum for this (sorry), but did you ever get an update from this LW?

Nope. If there’s an update, it’ll always be linked at the bottom of the column.

9. Makeup at work

Is it unprofessional to wear colorful makeup at work? Trying to find the reasoning behind why red lipstick, e.g., is ok even though its meant to mimic the color of labia, whereas green lipstick isn’t ok?

Most people who wear red lipstick aren’t trying to invoke labias; they’re trying to enhance their natural lip color. That also explains the difference in acceptability (in professional dress codes) between red and green: red lips are reasonably within what you might find in nature, whereas green usually isn’t.

8. Interviewer questions

I applied for a job with a company branch that I wound up not taking due to commute time/branch issues. At a job interview for a different job at a different branch (same system), the interviewer asked me why I didn’t take that other job. I handled my answer fine, but I later had weird feelings about the question, which seems like it could have a potential negative impact on my application. Thoughts?

It’s not weird that they asked! Your answer had the potential to be relevant to them — for example, if there was something about the first job or salary or team that would be an obstacle with the job they’re hiring for too. There’s no real expectation of privacy or a firewall between hiring processes within the same organization.

7. Consistent updates?

Is there a schedule for when you update your resume, even if you’re not job searching? Something to make that “polish your resume” less arduous in the future!

I don’t think you need to do it on any particular schedule … but it’s smart to update it roughly every year or so, just so you don’t forget significant accomplishments that you might want to include. One option is to mentally link it to annual performance reviews if your company does those, so that you can add things to your resume while they’re fresh in your mind.

6. Going back to work to “revitalize the local economy”

I work for local government in a large metro area, and recently local leaders have been making a lot of noise about getting departments back into the office to revitalize our downtown. A lot of gov employees think this is silly, as going back to the office significantly increases our overhead expenses. What do you think?

I think they have it backwards: downtowns should serve the needs of the communities they’re in, rather than the people of those communities needing to serve their downtowns.

5. Imposter syndrome

How do I know if I’m any good at my job? I just got a new job, highly competitive, and feel like a total fraud. I know that might be imposter syndrome, but what if it’s not? What if I am just bad at my job and good at hiding it? How can I see the signs, and what can I do to get better? Also in my situation I don’t have a boss or manager.

What are the signs of success in your work for any given period? Do you have clear goals that you’re trying to meet for the quarter or year? If not, you need those — not just so you know if you’re doing a good job or not, but because that’s what should be guiding you work and priorities on any given day. When you’re really clear on the goals you’re there to achieve, it gets a lot easier to tell if you’re meeting those goals — i.e., being good at your job — or not.

Also, side note: I got a lot of questions about imposter syndrome when I opened up the question form yesterday!

4. What kind of branded gifts do people actually like?

I feel like a lot of people in the corporate world have countless branded mugs, pens, drawstring backpacks, etc. gathering dust because every conference/fundraiser/what have you does the same thing. Is there anything out there that a company could put a logo on and give out that people would actually be excited to get?

All people? No. There’s not a single item everyone will like. That can’t be your measure of success. Personally I don’t want any of that stuff and will toss it all immediately. Other people like water bottles but not backpacks, or backpacks but not water bottles, and on and on. There’s no item that will please everyone.

3. Can I ask a vendor to chill?

I have a vendor at work that I work very closely with. We speak and email several times a day. Occasionally if I don’t get back to him right away, he will simply just forward his email to me again and again, until I do respond. I have never left him without a response, by the EOB. But there are times when I can’t respond within the hour or even the next few hours. Do I just have to deal with this as one of his quirks? Or can I ask him to chill a bit?

Yes, tell him to chill! “Please don’t forward me your emails if I haven’t answered you right away. If I don’t respond immediately, I may be tied up with other things. I will generally get back to you by the end of the day, so please don’t follow up before then.”

Also, if this is an outside vendor — meaning you are giving them your business, which is what it sounds like — you can be very, very, very firm about this.

2. Awkward re-encounter

I just learned that a beloved former coworker has unexpectedly passed away. I’m invited to the memorial and really want to arrend. The only problem is that my former manager from this job will also be there. She was a nightmare — the worst manager I have ever had. I don’t want to dramatize, but it’s been 15 years and my heart is racing with stress at the thought of meeting her again. (She wasn’t a candidate for worst boss of the year, but she constantly undermined me, was unrelentingly critical, and had completely unreasonable expectations). Any advice? I don’t know how possible it will be to avoid her at the event.

It’s really easy to avoid people at memorial services. Maybe not 100% — she still might come over to say hello — but you can extract yourself quickly by saying, “I’m so sorry, I just saw someone I need to speak with” or “I was just on my way to the bathroom” or even just “Please excuse me.”

Ultimately though: would you be more upset about going and seeing her or not going because of her?

1. Do you have to listen to a counter-offer out of politeness?

When I gave notice at my last job, my boss there told me it’s unprofessional and impolite to not “at least consider” a counter offer from him before officially resigning. I had never been given a counter offer and didn’t know much about them, so I agreed to consider it for politeness’s sake (and a little bit out of curiosity). However, five days later, he still hadn’t come up with an official counter offer, saying that it was still “in discussion” with the board and president. At that point, I had to sign my offer letter at my new job and begin the pre-employment paperwork, so I told him I no longer could wait for a counter offer and that I resign. He seemed insulted and embarrassed that he’d brought it to the board and then had to tell them I was leaving, and barely spoke to me during the rest of my notice period. Who was in the wrong here?

He is. First, it’s not unprofessional or impolite not to consider a counter-offer, particularly when one hasn’t actually been presented to you. Second, it’s ridiculous for him to think you’d be willing to wait 5+ days to even see the counter, especially without him confirming your timeline. This is on him for taking so long, not on you.

{ 621 comments… read them below }

  1. Crocodilasaurus*

    1. Do you have to listen to a counter-offer out of politeness?

    No, but it might help maintain the relationship, if that is a thing that is important to you. You certainly don’t have to wait so long that your offer expires. I would have told him the timeline for accepting your offer upfront.

    “Sure, I’ll hear you out. Just to let you know, I plan to give them my decision on Friday either way.”

    1. ferrina*

      I’ve declined to listen to a counter out of politeness. The company was paying me waaaaay less that what I was worth and any offer they tried to make would have been less than my new offer.

      Boss: Is there any way that we can try to convince you to say?
      Me: I don’t think so. The new company has offered me a salary of [Boss’s salary +15k]
      Boss: Ooh. I was going to offer you 30k less than that.

      1. Jm*

        When I quit( mostly due to parenting) the employer asked what could change my mind. I told him if I wasn’t worth more yesterday, it was too late to change my mind.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        I declined to listen to a counter offer once because there was legitimately nothing they could offer me that would convince me to stay. I was leaving because I was underpaid and didn’t like the work. Even if they fixed the fact that I was underpaid, they couldn’t fix my dislike of a fundamental part of the actual job!

    2. MigraineMonth*

      Eh, if you don’t want to take the counter-offer I think it’s best not to let them go to the effort. Particularly if the reason you want the new job is something other than salary.

      Something like, “I really appreciate that, but I’ve already made my decision/accepted the other offer” shouldn’t burn a bridge unless the bridge was already smoking.

    3. LongTimeReader*

      #1’s boss sounds very similar to what an upper manager told me around 10 years ago: that one should never submit a resignation notice without first telling the current employer that you were considering a new position, so they could suggest a counter offer. I was never sure if that was a belated attempt at mentoring, or just that they were offended that someone was daring to leave their department. Glad to read that wasn’t a professional norm I had someone failed to know about.

    4. Kella*

      I think in this case, OP’s boss *did* give them a counteroffer. The offer was “You don’t get to know what our offer is before you need to take the other offer.” Which is not a competitive offer at all!

  2. Safely Retired*

    If #3 does decide to attend, keep in mind that if an encounter does result you can tell them to their face what you told us here. Possibly cathartic?

    1. Crocodilasaurus*

      If you do this, you look like a loon to bystanders who will definitely judge the person going on a tirade at a memorial service rather than the recipient of the tirade.

    2. Dittany*

      No, you’re just going to look like… well, the kind of person who publicly beefs with another person at a goddamned funeral.

    3. M*

      Politely making your excuses and privately admitting to yourself that the world is a better place without him or making really awful morbid jokes (again, to yourself, maybe your SO) would be much better, professionally speaking.

      They say the best revenge is living well. I’d say that outliving your enemies counts.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Um, I think it was a coworker who died, not awful boss. Outliving a beloved coworker isn’t really something to be celebrated.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Ah, I just figured this out. I think the top comment is for #2, and @M was commenting on #37.

    4. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      No, what you do is just burst into tears and hide your face in your handkerchief. (You will of course have to remember to bring a handkerchief.) If the person keeps trying to engage you in conversation, wail “OOHHHHHHHH I JUST CAN’T” and cry some more.

    5. Rose*

      For gods sake please do not create this kind of drama at a coworkers funeral. This is a horrible thing to do to the coworkers family and friends.

    6. linger*

      #2 could think“So, when should yours be scheduled?”, but probably shouldn’t actually say it.

    7. allathian*

      Not at a funeral. Don’t approach the former manager and if she approaches you, excuse yourself ASAP if you can’t avoid an encounter.

      Also bear in mind that the boss *may* have matured during the intervening years, and even if she hasn’t, you haven’t been working for her for years and she has no power over you anymore, apart from the power you choose to grant her in your mind. She’s an abuser, and most abusers can be perfectly nice to those who aren’t under their thumb. That’s why abuse victims have such a hard time being heard because people can’t believe that such an upstanding member of the community could be abusive.

    8. Kella*

      Making a scene in order to get old (valid) drama off your chest would be incredibly disrespectful to the coworker’s family and close friends. It’s one of the worst contexts to choose to do this.

  3. Heffalump*

    Branded items: I can’t say that I’d be outright excited to receive a pen, but I can always use another pen.

      1. ferrina*

        Yes! Even a notepad. My kids will happily claim any spare notepads I leave lying around- it’s a precious commodity.

        1. Ama*

          Yup we always hand out pens and branded notebooks (about 5×7 size) at my nonprofit’s events and the researchers we work with LOVE them, some of them take them for themselves and some will take them for their kids.

          But to illustrate Alison’s points that you’ll never find one thing for everyone –at our patient events they love the branded tote bags, but we stopped giving them out at the researcher events because they’d take the notebook and pen out of the tote bag and then leave the tote bag behind.

          1. Love to WFH*

            I hate it when I’m given nice notebooks, because I feel guilty throwing them out, and if I use them, I dislike every moment.
            The only notebook that I will _enjoy_ using is a Moleskine printed with a grid.

            1. I Have RBF*

              See, I dislike Moleskine because they are staple bound, not spiral. I give the ones with a hard, staple, or otherwise not lie-flat notebooks away to friends.

      1. PollyQ*

        Ehhh, my coffee mug shelf is full (and then some). But this is probably exactly what Alison meant when she said that no one item would please everyone.

      2. The Person from the Resume*

        I don’t use coffee mugs. I have too many coffee mugs. I don’t drink coffee and only occassionally drink tea. Even my parents who drink coffee everyday, drink from a single mug each, each day and wash dishes more than daily so for them one person only need a single mug and you can definately have too many.

        Not to rain on your parade, but this is an example of Alison saying you can’t please everyone.

        I do feel a pen or post-it much closer to being at least usable by everyone than a cofee mug is, but that’s my opinion. I am sure someone could disagree.

        1. Heffalump*

          You’re certainly not “raining on my parade.” My feeling is that if I’m running out of cupboard space for mugs, I can put the extra mug in the break room at work for use by all and sundry. If the new mug has a particularly cool design, I’ll keep it and donate one of my existing mugs with less-cool design. Different strokes for different folks.

    1. AnxiouslyAnxious*

      If the pen is a good pen – don’t just get those bulky, barely has any ink pens. Also, fidget toys are my personal fave – something to have in my minds as I am walking around an expo/conference.

      1. Gumby*

        Word. I once picked up a branded tangle fidget toy which served me well for many years before wearing down such that it had to be retired. I would happily take another one. I’ve considered just buying a normal one multiple times but haven’t done it yet. For now I fidget with binder clips.

      2. Angstrom*

        Agree. Too many branded pens have an eye-catching design but are crappy writing tools. The nice ones I’ve picked up are the ones I’ve kept using — which is the goal of branded products.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I don’t know what sort of situation OP4 is asking about (items for a table at a conference, gifts for a team they manage, etc.), but in case this is useful:

      A (large) company I used to work for had their own “brand store.” In partnership with an outside vendor, they had a selection of branded items that were available for purchase. Sometimes managers or project leaders would say “I will buy you any item under $XX from the brand store as a ‘thank you.’ Email me which item you want by [date].” That always went over well, because the people who want backpacks but not water bottles could get a backpack and vice versa. People who didn’t want anything branded could opt out.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        My company also does this — we have a “brand store” full of items our salespeople can send to clients. The items at the store are listed for what they cost the company, so less than retail price, and sometimes employees are given gift certificates to the store. Also the stuff in the company store is REALLY nice.

        I don’t normally like company-branded merch, but I have a bunch of things I got from the company store either with gift certificates or because, like, I wanted a new insulated mug and the company store had super nice ones for cheap.

      2. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, one of my former employers had this too. It was great for me, because their company color was also my favorite color. When they shifted the color slightly at the whim of the CEO, the stuff in the older color went on sale. I still have some of that stuff, and I worked there over a decade ago.

        With conference swag, many offices have a table that people can put out their unwanted swag for others to take if they want it.

        Funny enough, no one seems to like those cheap drawstring backpacks, like these:

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Exjob did this too. T-shirts (we weren’t supposed to wear graphic tees, just branded ones, although no one listened to this edict), mugs, etc. The only thing I wanted was the black leather padfolio, because mine (branded with a local hospital’s logo, which I found at a flea market super cheap), had finally given up the ghost. It’s really useful.

    3. Tenebrae*

      I got a really nice tote bag at a tradeshow once (strong, big, and easily crumpled). My favourite swag ever; I used it for years.

      1. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

        Meanwhile I have so many tote bags I’ve done several donate/clear-outs and *still* have too many to store!

      2. Wendy Darling*

        My partner’s dedicated travel backpack for about a decade was a backpack he got as swag at a conference. He used it until the seams fell apart, and then I repaired it and he used it for a few more years after that until they fell apart again and I told him it was too worn out for me to fix it effectively anymore.

        But also our local goodwill is absolutely full of donated swag from the local big companies.

    4. LizBoston*

      I do love those lint-free cloths to wipe my glasses with. Preferably at least cocktail-napkin sized.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I have some things that I own multiples of because I lose things a lot, and sometimes I need several of a thing so I can consistently know where it is. For instance, apparently I need three pairs of scissors to keep in different rooms or I’ll never know where my scissors are. I have like five sewing measuring tapes because I found a basket of them for 50 cents each and I lose them ALL THE TIME.

        The number of glasses cloths I need to always be able to find one is somewhere in the teens. I scoop them up whenever they’re on offer because I never seem to be able to lay hands on one when I need it.

    5. Chirpy*

      Pens are at least useful, and if they’re ugly it’s not a big deal.

      Notebooks/post its just sit around unused, shirts (unless they’re really, really, really nice), mugs, stress balls, and most other stuff goes straight to Goodwill. Very nice tote bags might get kept, those little string backpack things do not.

      1. Nina*

        Oh interesting, my partner and I both use a lot of notebooks/post-its (we try to keep at least one, and a pen, in every room) so conferences are ‘stock up on notebooks’ time.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        I hate the little string backpacks as backpacks but I’ve discovered they’re great for using as shoe or dirty laundry bags in my luggage, so I have a few I keep around for that.

    6. hedgehog in a ball*

      I prefer something that is consumable (pens, notebooks) rather than not (coffee mugs, tote bags) because unless the mugs are low-quality, I’ll build up a collection I don’t need.

      1. Victoria*

        I agree, things that get used or maybe get lost a lot (glasses cleaners) are great cos at least they can be used up rather than lingering.

        In my expertise, branded non-consumables that aren’t the bog standard mug, tote bag etc, are often poor quality so end up being a waste of money and resource, such as the battery pack I got one year that broke immediately.

        Personally, I am more likely to keep items that have more than just a logo on–an industry-related phrase or joke, that kind of thing. There are very few company logos that are attractive in their own right, and I include designer logos in this!

    7. Nebraska Jones*

      Portable chargers. I have several, and I’m always happy to get another. Multi-device cables are good too.

    8. justanobody*

      Please no more coffee mugs, flimsy tote bags, string bags, stress balls, plastic water bottles, tshirts. Yes to nicer pens, post it notes pads, nice shirts, higher quality bags, chargers.

      1. Pickle Pizza*

        This year, my company gave all of us really nice lightweight, black North Face zip-up jackets that had our company logo on one chest/shoulder. Everyone LOVED them, to the point that many of us asked for a second one (and were denied), and many of us wear them frequently to work, on video calls, and just out and about.

      2. LIZZIE*

        Over the years I have received (and donated) every single bag I’ve gotten at work. My company seems to go for the cheapest stuff, and it shows! And its not limited to bags, pens, mugs, etc., everything is the cheapest they can buy. After almost 25 years there, I think I have one or two items I’ve actually kept, out of who knows how many i actually received.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        That company I temped for last year had REALLY nice backpacks and messenger bags — I know because I inventoried them. I wanted one soooo bad but alas, not for the temp.

    9. Another Millenial Emily*

      Yeah, useful but not exciting is probably about as good as it gets with branded items.

      Last year I saw a table at an expo that was handing out jar openers (like the rubbery things that you can use to get a better grip on your jars), and it made me realize how much I actually needed one. Still use it constantly and would consider paying money to replace it, so I would probably take a backup or two from some future expo!

      1. penny dreadful analyzer*

        “Useful things you don’t quite know where to buy and might feel goofy spending money on” is absolutely the corporate swag sweet spot. I own a surprising amount of corporate branded food storage containers (a relative used to send out branded tupperwares/tins/etc full of candy on Christmas to family in addition to his corporate clients or whoever that mailing list was for, and my current employer has blessed me with a Bento box) because they’re higher quality than takeout containers but also I feel silly buying tupperware when I can just keep takeout containers. A rubber jar opener is brilliant!

    10. BubbleTea*

      I picked up a pen with a stylus tip, whiteboard eraser end, and phone stand built in – possibly the best branded freebie I’ve ever had – and was disappointed not to get the folding phone stand that was also available but in smaller quantities. Another bit of branded swag I was excited about one time was a trolley token (the kind that replaces £1 coins to unlock the trolley at a supermarket), because I’d recently lost mine. And I have a coffee mug that I actually like (along with many, many that I don’t) as it’s easy to clean and doesn’t smell weird.

    11. noncommittal pseudonym*

      My favorite swag from a conference: pens with a light attached. They were clickable pens that had a small penlight attached that you could click and would illuminate right where you were writing. Best things *ever* for taking notes in a dark seminar room.

      I also have a couple pens made up to look like micropipettes – cute, but no extra functionality.

    12. Sopranohannah*

      I’m ever so slightly picky about pens, but when it’s a nice pen that writes smoothly, I love it.

    13. Dek*

      Never underestimate a Really Nice notebook.

      Also, if it’s a Good Pen (like, Pilot Precise good, not, y’know Expensive Fountain Pen good), I’d be excited about it.

    14. Lenora Rose*

      Pens only excite me if they’re really really good pens, but the number of times at home that the first pen I grabbed is out or just being stubborn* and I’m scrambling for another is astonishingly high.

      My union gave me a nice one, though.

      (* some pens seem to work when I ‘m at leisure, then not work when I’m not on the phone with someone trying to write down a date or number).

    15. RH1812*

      I always need more pens, so while not the most exciting exactly, a good quality pen is a nice branded item. My employer recently had an in-person all-staff retreat and we all got pens, notebooks, and tote bags. The notebooks were poor quality, but the pens were GREAT! I still use it every day.

    16. Elizabeth West*

      I thought of a really good one I liked a lot whenever I got one: those little keychain flashlights. They’re flat with an LED bulb and you press a button on the side. Love those.

    17. Anne of Green Gables*

      I like some of the less common things. My husband got a metal/reusable straw last year as swag and I keep it in my purse and use it frequently.

  4. Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet!)*

    4. For branded gifts, I feel like portable chargers, post-its, and small notepads are good options. Like Alison said, there’s no pleasing everyone, but those are some of my favorites that I’ve received over the years. I especially like the notepads with magnets on the back so I can stick them to my fridge.

    1. Tio*

      Our company gave us branded cell phone charging pads, and I was actually delighted. Finally, something I’d use.

    2. Crocodilasaurus*

      I was super jealous of my friend’s branded power block from her company. But then, if they became common to the point that I had dozens of them, I would probably be as jaded as I am about water bottles.

    3. Mostly Managing*

      My favourite ever branded gift was years ago – it was a chocolate bar!
      The event has faded into the mists of time, but the branding on the chocolate bar wrapper has stayed with me nearly 25 years later.

    4. Anon for This*

      If you are talking about something to hand out at a conference, I recently got a branded spatula. While I was irritated because the conference was aimed at women, and I had never seen this at a conference before so considered it sexist, it is actually a good spatula and I do use it. I also like useful things – post-it pads, fidget spinners, good pens. (Please don’t bother with pens that have almost no ink in them – when they run out quickly they leave a bad impression.)

      If you are talking about something for your employees, a former employer had the swag store with some good items in it that people really would want/use. That’s the way to go. Be sure clothing is sized for men and women. They only had men’s sized shirts/jackets.

    5. Beth*

      It makes a huge difference (to me, anyway) if the item is GOOD QUALITY. Not everyone will like any given thing, but everyone will hate the crappy items.

      Also: every conference needs at least one vendor with really good quality tote bags that will hold all the other swag. If the bag is really high quality, it’ll be the one that’s used to carry stuff home, and stays in use afterwards.

    6. Kella*

      I worked retail and three years in a row I received a branded sweatshirt but it was a really good quality sweatshirt so I wore them all the time! They were each in a different color so I got to choose which color I was feeling each day and the different colors also turns into a kind of unofficial code for how long someone had been working there.

  5. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    It’s unprofessional not to hear a counteroffer?
    No, no. It is unprofessional to waste people’s time if you have no interest in staying.
    And it is pathetical and sad and unprofessional to manipulate OP into waiting for a counter offer for whatever reason (was manager hoping the offer would fall through? Speculative fiction perhaps, but having no time line reeks of manipulation, not good intent.)

    1. Nina*

      I mean, if there’s a dollar value or a change that’s within their power to make that would make you stay, sure, hear them out, and then if that’s not part of the offer, move on.

      If there is no amount of money that would make you want to stay, or if the problems with the company are systemic and go all the way to the top, no reason to waste anyone’s time.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Alison has made a number of good points about why taking a counteroffer is a risky move.

        If you need another job offer just to get paid what you’re worth, will you continue to do that every time you want a raise? Will the company decide you’re planning on moving on and lay you off first, leaving you with neither job? Will the other offer be there again if you want it in the future (particularly if the promises weren’t in good faith), or will they assume you’ll just take the counteroffer again?

  6. Gender Menace*

    re, branded materials: coming from the book industry, everyone I know was ALWAYS excited to get sticky notes (just make sure your logo doesn’t take up the whole thing.) Best item I’ve ever gotten was a branded highlighter.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Pretty much anything that might have disposable utility is good. Even something like branded packs of tissues. If you have a water bottle you like, a new water bottle probably isn’t super useful. If you have something that’s going to run out, having back ups is great. I always love branded chapsticks!

      1. penny dreadful analyzer*

        Yes to chapsticks and tissues! For in-person conferences, might I also suggest hand sanitizer?

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I thought you and Eldritch wrote “chopsticks” at first and I love that suggestion as well.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I was once excited to get branded post-it tabs to mark pages in a book/document.

      I don’t do much hard copy editing, but they are great for marking research books or recipes in cookbooks.

    3. Chirpy*

      Specific items used for work are best – I did once get some Rite in The Rain notebooks, which was excellent as they’re kind of expensive.

    4. I Have RBF*

      I still am using the big block of sticky notes, with the company logo on the side, that I got as an onboarding gift from an employer 20 plus years ago. I got two of them, and they are actually very good 3.5″ x 3.5″ stickies.

      Spiral notebooks are good too – I have several from various companies.

      Cheap stick pens will get tossed. Good ball points with stylus on the other end I’ll keep.

      Then again, I’m an office supply snob.

  7. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    Oh wow, #3 (resending emails multiple times a day???) is one of my pet peeves and would drive me bonkers. Shut it down hard, OP. And then ignore any follow up emails until you’re ready to respond. Then address it at that time. “Bob, I asked you last week not to send me multiple emails in the same day about the same topic, but you’ve continued to do it. Can I ask what you’re hoping to accomplish by doing this?”

    Then based on his response you could say …

    “Resending emails doesn’t raise the level of urgency for me or make it likely that I’ll respond any faster, so it is a waste of your time and mine, and it clogs up my email. I generally respond to you by the end of the same day you reach out to me. If you have a time-sensitive request and need an answer more quickly than end of the day, you can call me. Otherwise I’m going to ask you again to only email me once per issue. If I don’t respond within 3 days, you can call me or email me a second time.”

    1. Anonym*

      “I do, in fact, read more than just the first thing in my inbox.”

      That was all I could think after reading that, and should counter the apparent assumption behind his actions. Not the most polite, however!

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        Oh my first response would have been snark too. But I would have pretended I didn’t understand and that I thought something was wrong with his email. “Hi Bob, did you mean to add some details? It looks like you just resent the same email from earlier today” and then I would make him spell out what he was trying to accomplish.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Oh, I quite like that. And then when he says “no I was just bumping it up in your inbox” you can cheerfully tell him you always read the oldest unread emails first anyway.

        2. tangerineRose*

          I like the idea of pretending something was wrong with his email. I might respond to whatever he says by explaining that a new e-mail is just 1 more thing I have to look at and check.

    2. Crocodilasaurus*

      If you are unconcerned about or perhaps actively seeking to blow up the relationship, this is a great approach.

    3. Artemesia*

      And if they are a vendor i.e. selling you stuff and continue to do it, seriously consider buying whatever it is elsewhere if practical or you have a choice.

  8. Anonymous Koala*

    Branded gifts: one year instead of gifts, we gave everyone a branded raffle ticket that entered them in a drawing to win a MacBook Pro. People still talk about it (3+ years later).

  9. DEJ*

    I once didn’t go to a memorial because of former coworkers who would be there. I felt it was important to protect my peace. I think that the question of ‘Ultimately though: would you be more upset about going and seeing her or not going because of her?’ is a good way of thinking about it. I was able to express my condolences to the family through another way.

  10. JustKnope*

    OMG I so appreciate how Alison worded #6. I’ve been so annoyed by the rhetoric that we all have to go into our offices to save the downtown spaces. Why is it my responsibility to make my life harder to “save” downtown?? Our cities should adapt to how the world works now.

    1. Lacey*

      Yes! If the only use for downtown is that it serves people who no longer work there – maybe it’s time for a different use for downtown! My city is revitalizing ours buy building new housing and parks there!

    2. ferrina*

      My local neighborhood is getting some revitalization because more people are working from home and spending time/money at local places.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      Yes, I liked that too! It is unfortunate that so many cities were enamored with the “Central Business District” idea, where a downtown is supposed to be all offices and a few ancillary restaurants/convenience stores/etc. that the office workers can pop into during the workday. A mixed-use downtown with offices and housing and entertainment is much more resilient and much better at serving the community.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I live & work in a city with a mixed-use downtown. This summer seems as busy as pre-pandemic.

        1. Angstrom*

          People seem to love visiting cities that have mixed-use walkable downtowns, which often have the “classic” arrangement of first-floor retail, second-floor professional, apartments above. Then they go home and pass single-use zoning which produces alternating housing developments and strip malls.
          I’ve never undrstood that…
          To the point, if people don’t *have* to come downtown, there need to be reasons for them to *want* to come downtown.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I moved from Major City to a nearby suburb that has really excellent city planning and in the last 15 years has developed a small but lovely mixed-use walkable downtown. My friends all make fun of me for moving to the burbs…. until the first time they come visit and they have a walk around. Then they stop mocking.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Same, and boy, do I wish I could afford to live where I work.

          For the office OP, maybe they could do what we do; you get an assigned desk if you commit to at least 3 days in the office, otherwise you’re hotdesking. There are spaces set up for that.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        I’m so glad that planners seem to have rediscovered the charms of mixed-use neighborhoods in recent years (at least they have here).

        My preferred way of living is to do everything on foot or by bike, and I have always loathed zoned spaces, be it business, commercial or residential. They always have an inhospitable vibe, are not practical, bad for the environment, and a forking stupid idea all around.

      3. Lenora Rose*

        Well, people tried to introduce the idea of the 15 minute neighbourhood, (Ie, most essentials are within a walking or biking or wheeling range of 15 minutes for the average person) but this got tangled with China supposedly building massive buildings nobody would leave, and folks started to talk about how you’d be locked in and they’d put up borders, instead of just envisioning downtown or near-downtown neighbourhoods that already exist in some cities in North America and Europe (and presumably elsewhere, I’m only speaking to what I’ve seen) in the real world.

      4. MigraineMonth*

        Better yet, make most (or all) of the city/suburbs mixed use. I lived in Berlin for a while, and it was a major city that was formed by a collection of “villages”, each with their own residential, business, school and park space. It kept commutes short and allowed almost everyone to do without a car.

    4. Ama*

      In the cities where I’ve lived while working there is plenty of residential within the downtown –but of course most of it is luxury condos aimed at the wealthy (and in at least one of those cities a lot of them are pied a terre apartments that are only sporadically in use). In my opinion if they want people to spend more time downtown they should talk to those people or put more afforable housing in those neighborhoods.

    5. FrivYeti*

      Yep, I live in a city with a large government presence in downtown. To help hire and keep workers, the government recently moved to substantially more hybrid and work-from-home, and several local ‘business leaders’ have been writing op-eds in the newspaper loudly bemoaning that this move is going to hurt downtown businesses and cause crime rates to rise and destroy the fabric of urban society forever, and how dare they let workers *work from home*, the monsters.

      Of course, if you dig into *which* business leaders are saying this, the organizers are always the people who own the buildings, not the people who own the shops. What they really want is to not have to lower rent on all those downtown offices and businesses.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I’m betting they’re also the ones demanding lower taxes and decrying government waste… like renting premium downtown real-estate when most could work from home.

      2. Jack Russell Terrier*

        Live in DC and they want the Federal Government to use the buildings as they’re standing mostly empty. The main gripe here is that they’re not being freed up for any other possible use. Quote from Mayor Murial Bowser in The Washington Post

        “The federal government represents one quarter of DC’s pre-pandemic jobs and owns or leases one third of DC’s office space,” Bowser said in January during her inaugural address. “We need decisive action by the White House to either get most federal workers back to the office most of the time or to realign their vast property holdings for use by the local government, by non-profits, by businesses and by any user willing to revitalize it.”

        Also did you know:
        *we have no voting representation in Congress. Yup – we have taxation without representation, with a population higher than Vermont and Wyoming.
        * Congress has to approve our budget, and they’ve been known to veto it.

    6. Polaris*

      I mean, it *should have* always worked like this, but too many cities failed to grasp this simple concept of good urban planning.

    7. Wilbur*

      Yeah, hard to feel inclined to save the rich developers. Based on my city, it seems like they:

      1. Made the city build a bunch of parking garages that have had very low occupancy for the last decade.
      2. Want the city to build a new parking lot in the cool new warehouse district.
      3. Helped create downtown so unwalkable people hardly ever go there.

    8. Dinwar*

      My view is, a storefront is an investment. I see no reason why the investments downtown are a moral necessity, while investments in small towns or suburbs or the like deserve to fail. Investment is a “Win some, lose some” game, and it’s downtown’s turn to lose some.

      Further, what IS the use of a city in the modern world? In the past cities were where economics and government happened, because technology was incredibly limited–goods and ideas traveled at walking speed. Now? I know a few places isolated enough that you can’t get access to the same goods/services that you find in a big city, but they’re pretty few and far between. Manufacturing’s moved to the countryside or overseas, and knowledge work can be done literally anywhere. Live events, maybe, need a city, but how long can you sustain a million-plus population on tourism?

      1. Bee*

        Even taking personal preference out of it (I LOVE living in a place where I don’t need a car because everything is either walkable or on reliable public transit, see and know a wide variety of people, and can get both everyday goods and world-class entertainment within 30 minutes, and so do many people who choose to live in cities even if their jobs are done remotely), concentrating most people in cities is vastly better for the climate and environment and we should probably be aiming to make it more viable for more people, not phasing cities out. Which means radically reimagining downtowns to make them more affordable for people who actually live there, among other things!

        1. Dinwar*

          Depends on how you implement it. If we have Bermuda grass monoculture lawns and the current styles of subdivisions (built for real estate investors, not for residents), maybe cities win out. But if we encourage seasonal eating (or industrial-scale hydroponics), and yards that emphasize native vegetation, and make the towns and villages such that they aren’t reliant upon cars (improving rail infrastructure, providing employment opportunities within walking distance), and the like, we could drastically reduce the environmental impacts of towns. We could create a situation where human habitats merge with and become a part of natural habitats. Cities are an entirely new biome, cutting swaths out of existing biomes, in a way that smaller clusters of dwellings aren’t, and with regard to biodiversity, thermal properties, surface- and subsurface-hydraulogy, and a number of other factors, I’m not convinced cities are better for the environment.

          Peter Ward’s “Future Evolution” has some interesting essays on this subject, by the way. He’s a paleontologist who was involved in proving an asteroid wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs (I was introduced to his work by his paper on correlating ammonites across the Great Valley in CA.), but the book is for general audiences. And he tends to disagree with me on a few points.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I grew up in a small town, and I do think we need to invest in rural areas. On the other hand, we’re going to need cities even more as our population passes 8 billion, because that kind of hub uses less resources than the same population spread out.

        Bringing food from efficient countryside farms to a central distribution hub close to millions of people is pretty efficient, often more efficient than hyper-local production. (I know my backyard tomatoes are using a lot more water and fertilizer than they would on a modern farm.) Public transit works so, so much better in cities than towns; I don’t know anyone who lives in a town or rural area who doesn’t have a personal or family vehicle. Single-(nuclear)-family homes are much less efficient than apartment buildings in pretty much every way: electricity, heating/cooling, physical space used, etc. The last is going to be important because placing houses close to/in forests has proven pretty dangerous due to wildfires and exposure to zoonotic viruses.

        I think we can all agree that suburbs are the worst, though. ;-p

    9. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yeah — of course it’s complicated by the fact that the downtown is often in one jurisdiction, and the people who commute there live in a different jurisdiction. So the taxes & money flows don’t line up.

      The politicians who are encouraging it are trying to serve the interests of their constituents (the people who live in the downtown jurisdiction and often run/work at the small service businesses there like restaurants & convenience stores), not the interests of the commuters.

    10. I Have RBF*


      Why do workers have to save downtown businesses? Are they going to support us when our company lays us off? No?

      Why is it capitalism and survival of the fittest when it comes to our job, but we have to expend money and time (ala socialism) to make their businesses viable? Why should I have to commute so Starbucks and Subway can make a profit?

      If downtown “dies” because of WFH, so be it. Maybe all that space near transit can be converted into housing, instead of non-viable businesses.

    11. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Funny how the demand is always to make the city workers return to the office even when they could work from home, and never to give the city workers who have the kind of jobs where they need to be downtown anyway a two-hour paid lunch every day (or even once a week!) so they have an incentive to do their shopping and eating near work…(I would revitalize the crap out of the restaurants near where I work if I could take 2 hours lunches as paid time, and to an even greater degree if they’d also loosen up the no-drinking policy to let me have a single beer with lunch. Instead, I get a half hour for lunch so I just eat a sack lunch.)

    12. Jackalope*

      I want small businesses like little restaurants and cafes to be close to where I live. And have the areas where I – and other people – actually live be vibrant and lively. I feel for the people with small businesses in downtown areas like that, I truly do. But it’s long struck me how much better our lives could be if we didn’t spend most of of our waking hours so far from home.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        Mostly what I feel is why aren’t there more apartments and such in that downtown area in the first place, if it’s so important to support those small businesses.

        Although for that you also need grocers and such, not just cafes. I love across a river from downtown, and within long walking distance (half an hour rather than 15 minutes). Within my neighbourhood I could get all the stuff I need within reason. But I was walking home from a downtown locale and decided I could stop at their grocery and etc. store with the stroller to pick up a few things — only to discover that the one remaining downtown grocery in one of the remaining downtown spots with actual apartments and condos near it didn’t have *Any* baby food or toiletries (for adults or babies). Despite seeing other parents in the area and knowing they were there. Which meant those parents were paying overinflated convenience store prices for necessities if they weren’t forced to leave the area to get them.

    13. Purple Halo*

      I agree. However, I do understand why governments do the accounting differently. Empty downtown can affect their income in so many ways. It can affect the metrics they are measured on.

      So if bringing their staff back to work makes them do better on the metrics by which they are measured, and helps ensure their ongoing employment, it is not surprising that this happens.

      I wish voters would look to the future more. Utes we have less office people and that crushed the retail mix – but we could also improve accommodation in the area, re-introduce nature for all those health benefits etc. AND transition income producing industries to other areas that are more decentralised.

    14. Yorick*

      I appreciated this answer too. Our downtown is totally structured to serve commuting workers, when lots of people (including me) live downtown and things are not set up well for us at all. But the downtown restaurants and stores are just complaining that they’re struggling because XYZ companies hasn’t come back to the office yet, instead of trying being open at dinner time instead of lunch.

    15. J*

      So agreed. My downtown has doubled in population and still can’t keep up with housing demands. But our city does nothing to adapt to the increased population and just keeps targeting businesses and suburban tourists coming for sports or concerts while grocery stores close and they talk away the walkability downtown residents love. Meanwhile, so many residents nearby is making some people happy to go to those offices in their sectors (often for a short mid-day shift) but it’s the opposite groups being forced back for the full day. The city focuses all the entertainment and resources in that mid-day window and never for residents at night. It’s foolish.

  11. Eldritch Office Worker*

    …red lipstick is supposed to mimic what now? Most people I know are just trying to make their lips stand out.

      1. Student*

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who was concerned for the health and well-being of OP #9 and any girlfriends they may have had.

        My labia are only ever bright red during occasional moments in my period. They’re maybe a bit purple in places, and then nude colors in the peach-to-pink range. If your labia, or the labia of someone you know, are routinely bright red – contact a doctor.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          It is true that labia swell and get redder during sexual arousal — and so do lips, just a little. But yeah, OP#9 read something somewhere and took it as gospel.

        2. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

          Technically every labia is “nude colours” isn’t it? Whatever nude is for you…

          Sorry, being pedantic!

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I use lip gloss and am now horrified. What do people think I’m trying to mimic with my glossy, wet-looking lips? why has no one told me?

      1. AJoftheInternet*

        Nobody’s thinking that. This sounds like a “fact” that someone heard some nut claiming and stuck to. Like my friend who heard someone claim the system we have of writing music is inefficient and just took it as gospel truth. (The person making the claim was found not to understand the music theory they were making claims about.)

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Oh I know, I was being my usual sarcastic self!

          I heard the same claim about roses. Equally weird.

          Willing to give OP a pass on this one if OP is Georgia O’Keeffe.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          I googled and there is a magazine article somewhere that mentions the comparison, so…maybe that is where they got it from? Kind of a “we surveyed men to see if this subconsciously reminds them of…” thing.

        3. Sleeping Panther*

          IIRC, this is something Jordan Peterson has talked about, so maybe the question writer heard it from him.

        4. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

          Jordan Peterson claimed it once I think? So that (hopefully) tells most people how seriously they should take the idea….

        5. Globed fruit*

          I’m pretty sure it was Desmond Morris’s idea to start. He also thought cleavage was meant to mimic the swell at the top of a pair of buttocks,

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Our boobs… are meant to mimic… our butt? Meant by whom? how? This isn’t even lipstick we are talking about, these are body parts that we (those who it applies to) have whether we like it or not. Never heard of Desmond Morris and am now scared to look him up.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              This isn’t quite as loony as it sounds – although the way a lot of people interpret/present the idea is so distorted it becomes loony. While human evolution is a fascinating subject, it tends to attract a lot of racist/sexist pseudoscience.

              Here’s an explanation of the general boob-butt-connection hypothesis:

              Human breasts are much larger than functionally necessary for feeding babies – there’s a reason most mammals (even other primates) don’t have prominent breasts. They serve no practical purpose and can even get in the way, are found almost exclusively on adults of one sex, they’re heritable, and are generally considered sexually attractive. Those are textbook indicators of a sexually selected trait. Basically, it’s reasonable to assume that humans evolved breasts exclusively because other humans think breasts are sexy.

              The question is… why? What makes enlarged breasts something we select for in particular? One line of thinking is that they mimic the butt. Most mammals are roughly eye level with each other’s butts, and the majority of mammal species indicate sexual readiness by a female presenting her rear (“mammalian lordosis”). It’s fair to say that female buttocks are sexually attractive in every mammal species. Humans with our upright walking and (often) face-to-face intercourse don’t have as good a view of the butt as our quadrupedal relatives. Having something with roughly similar size/shape in the front near face level might be attractive enough to give a competitive advantage.

              The problem is when people claim buttock mimicry as “THE reason” for boobs. There’s just not enough evidence to support it, and plenty of other possibilities. Seems plausible as a contributing factor, but anyone who says it as if it’s fact is talking out their ass. Pun intended.

      1. Ama*

        This feels like a myth spread by misogynist groups online to me. (I don’t know that for sure, but it feels like one.)

        1. Paris*

          I’ve only ever heard men say this. My first thought, “What MAN submitted this question?!” Misogynists are always trying to undercut the style choices of women by assigning some demented logic to it. Also fun, high heels simulate the shape the foot naturally assumes during an orgasm (In your imagination, sir!). You see, it’s not men’s fault that they’re constantly seeing women as sexual objects, it’s the women who are tricking them!

          1. Lenora Rose*

            Are any men who aren’t specifically foot fetishists even looking at what women’s feet are doing when they’re having an orgasm?

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            The foot does what naturally? Do they only mean the woman’s foot, or everyone? I am learning a lot about human anatomy from this thread today haha

        2. Not Bob*

          Reminds me on when misogynistic men tried to spread the rumour that feminists colour their hair in bright unnatural colours to signal danger. I mean, if this keeps this kind of men away, then it’s worth a try!

          1. Chexwarrior*

            Bright colors are often meant to scare away predators. Make of that, and the misogynists’ reaction to it what you will…

          2. Sunshine Gremlin*

            I have actual rainbow hair (and a very professional job, minus a boss that’s bananapants awful – take THAT misogynists!) and I am sad to confirm it does *not* keep the misogynists away.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              True, but while my bright blue buzz cut didn’t keep misogynists away it was *excellent* for detecting them early!

      2. Crocodilasaurus*

        Lots of people, actually. The belief that lipstick is meant to mimic genitalia is pretty widespread.

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          I haven’t heard the genitalia version but I have heard that rouge and lipstick are meant to mimic the kind of flush you get when you’re aroused and blood starts flowing. Or it’s to draw attention like a pretty bird. Or to look healthy (back to the flush thing). Or anything else people make up to either sell makeup or shame them for wearing it.

        2. Phony Genius*

          I heard that once from a rabbi. It was a discussion of Adam & Eve, in which he said that this is what the “forbidden fruit” actually represents, and that’s why it’s often depicted in artwork as a bright red apple. Then he went on to compare it to modern-day lipstick.

          (As an aside, he also said God knew they would not be able to resist the forbidden fruit. The real test was whether they would admit guilt and apologize, which they did not.)

        3. Aquatic*

          That just means that a whole lot of people need to log off, go outside, and touch a lot of grass

        4. Lexie*

          Never heard this theory before today and would like some brain bleach to erase it from my head.

    2. ferrina*

      Yeah, that’s not how it works! If anything, the bright color of the lips is indicative of good health in general, similar to pink cheeks. There’s stories from certain points in history (Holocaust, American slavery system) where people would try to enhance their color to show that they were healthy so they could survive.

      1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        Yes, this is what I’ve heard…not necessarily in a total “need to survive” way like your examples…but to show health and wealth. Makeup has been used by both women and men for millennia, not just modern era. Add me to the list who has never heard it associated with female genitalia.

    3. mango chiffon*

      like there are plenty of cis men who wear lipstick…can’t imagine this is on their mind

    4. AJoftheInternet*

      “Labia” is derived from the Latin for “lips” anyway, so I had to read through twice before I figured out what the questioner meant.

    5. badger*

      yeah, I have to say that thought had never occurred to me with fire-engine red lipstick. I like red and if I’m gonna wear lip tint of any kind, I’m not generally going to be subtle (I rarely do, so it’s usually An Occasion anyway). But I also would probably seek medical attention if anything else on my body was that color.

    6. Queer Earthling*

      It’s a weird urban legend I’ve heard before but didn’t think anyone except 16-year-old radfems believed.

    7. Not Bob*

      I assumed it was because it has always been easy to colour your lips red and making it look good. With green it’s more complicated.

    8. Fluffy Fish*

      Its one of those random unsourced things that people hear on the internet and take as gospel because it’s a slightly scandalous “fun fact”.

      It’s not factual nor based in science and most humans who have seen female genatalia would not describe the color as “red”.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        “No, my privates are not bright red. You seem to have mistaken me for a baboon, good sir.”

    9. CatWoman*

      I specifically came to the comments section to see if I was the only person who will never be able to un-read that…thankfully, I was not

      1. waffles*

        Same. Not much surprises me on AAM any more, but this won stopped me dead in my tracks. What the WHAT?

    10. Head sheep counter*

      My eyes did a double double on that one. I… can not imagine confidently typing out that “fact” to anyone…

      Now I am wanting to paint my lips outrageous colors (I already dye my hair). Let the oddballs… draw conclusions. :) Lord knows I draw conclusions when I see neck beards (and in a different yet related camp… mullets)

    11. Pumpkin215*

      I had the same reaction! Never heard that one before and it makes 0 sense to me. I have red lipstick and wear it all the time. I’m not trying to mimic anything.

    12. BubbleTea*

      I’ve seen a LOT of labia (previous medical career, rather than rampant lesbian sex life) and the comparison has never, ever occurred to me.

    13. M2RB*

      Came to the comment section for this!! I wear red lipstick because it was a statement against H!tler and the N@zis & f@scists during WWII; I would have been anti-f@scist then and I certainly am now. Elizabeth Arden produced the Victory Red color in the 1940s for this very reason and even produced the Montezuma Red color for the WAAC (later WAC) to match their military uniforms.

      Red lipstick does NOT automatically represent other body parts.

    14. Dinwar*

      It’s a Just So Story. And that’s a fairly harsh insult in evolutionary biology.

      Basically, folks find some trend, and find some flimsy evidence that supports a tentative evolutionary justification, then declare “Evolution caused this to happen in this way!” The classic example is The Evolution of The Horse. The typical example you get is that horses get larger and have fewer digits on their limbs over time. And you can trace modern horses backwards and make that kidna-sorta work. But if you look at how Equidae evolved–starting from the first horse and moving forward, tracing all the lineages–the picture because VASTLY more complex, and no clear trends exist at all. I can show you horses with claws, for example.

      It’s even worse when it comes to evo-psych. First, they tend to ignore the rather self-evident fact that humans have volition. We can choose things. To what extent animals other than humans can is an open one, but humans can choose pretty much ANY aspect of our psychology, including what we find attractive in a mate, both individually (ie, preferences changing over time) and collectively (ie, beauty standards changing). Second, the evidence is beyond flimsy. Remember, evolution is change through time–and the only evidence presented is that X imitates Y today. In order for this claim to be worth examining, they’d have to show that this occurred in the past (universally), and that changes in the past caused changes to this trend.

      As it stands, from an evolutionary perspective, I put it on par with the ramblings of that guy who always wore shades and a red hat on “King of the Hill”. Someone found something that kinda-sorta looks kinda-sorta like something else. That’s the evidence. It’s…it’s not even wrong. It’s not scientific in any sense of the word!!

      (Fun fact: Lips are endoderm. There’s only one other area where endoderm is exposed, at least as far as I’m aware, and…it’s not labia. This matters, because of how chips work, and chimps are probably the best source of info to support this argument if it can be supported. I’m trying to be discreet here, so be aware if you decide to go digging….)

      1. An Extremely Fresh Start*

        Hm no, I think lips, specifically, are not endoderm. I think the throat — the uvula-tonsil-soft palate area — is, but the front of the mouth not so much.

    15. Beka Rosselin-Metadi*

      Thank you, because my first thought after reading that was it does what now?! And WTF, really? No, it does not and I’m not sure I want to know where you got that idea.

    16. Shakti*

      Right?!?! I was genuinely shocked by this like what?!?! Red lipstick is so normal and that’s not at all what it’s supposed to do??

    17. Lenora Rose*

      I think this is a myth right up there with “eyeshadow is trying to emulate the look of bruises, because guys get turned on by signs of abuse”. People are determined to read things into feminine makeup that has absolutely zero to do with the reality of what most women are thinking when they put it on (AND zero to do with the actual nature and thought processes of most men, for that matter).

      Me, I like evened out skin tone and a bit of sparkle. I don’t do serious eyes stuff but I adore it on others, and I have never, like ever, looked at lip decor in any state of colour or shininess and thought of labia.

  12. Lacey*

    #4 Unless you have a great logo and/or a popular brand – no one wants branded merch.
    But, if you put the logo on something very nice, people will tolerate branded merch.

    For example, my company bought us very expensive, insulated water bottles. I’d rather have one without the logo, but since I’d never spend this kind of money for the bottle myself, I will tolerate owning one with the logo.

    But I also might cover it up with a sticker.

    1. Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet!)*

      I got some great water bottles and backpacks from work, and when I left that firm I felt weird carrying their swag. I got a big sew on patch for the backpack and some stickers off Etsy for the water bottles. The water bottles go through the dishwasher occasionally, and the stickers are still holding up beautifully. Highly recommend.

      1. Goose*

        I scratched out the logo of a company I’d been laid off from but still wanted to use..not sure why, I still have tshirts of theirs I still wear!

        1. Retiring Academic*

          Once when I needed a backpack, I found a decent one in a charity shop, black with the logo in white of LAFitness, a chain of gyms. Well, I’m not the biggest fan of gyms, so with the aid of a black marker pen and white-out, I changed it to UNFitness. I used it for quite a long time.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        My mother in law sat down and carefully worked with a stitch ripper to completely eradicate the full machine embroidered logo off a very useful and attractive jacket acquired from one of my husband’s ex-workplaces that was a toxic nightmare. That took some dedication.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Ha, I did that once with a long-sleeved polo shirt from an old job. The seam ripper made the fabric a bit rough so I put an applique of a cat over the place. Wore that shirt until it fell apart.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      The quality of an item definitely makes a difference. I have a branded insulated stainless travel mug from my employer that’s legitimately an excellent, well-made mug. I like it a lot. I’ve previously gotten another travel mug from my employer that was plastic and leaky that I chucked almost immediately.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Ohhh I forgot that one when I was typing my comment – older son’s first job was a Silicon Valley startup. Everyone in the office was a hiker and weather was always on the cooler side, so I’m guessing that was why they gave their employees Marmot brand zipper jackets that they put the company logo on… but my son brought his home with its packaging still unopened when he moved back in with me two years later. I opened it and it was in my size. He let me have it. I’ve been wearing it ever since. Did not cover up the company name and at least on one occasion, someone excitedly asked if I was working at (company) so that was awkward. Just checked and it sells for $95 on Amazon and $100 on Marmot’s website, holy cow! More of that, please, employers, thank you very much.

    4. GythaOgden*

      Says you! NHS branded swag is the best and, given the iconic logo, is something others actually want as well.

      Also, the £20 retail value of the metal water bottles we were given for free as a thank you for working throughout the pandemic is decent. We eventually got a monetary bonus, but something useful that would be quite expensive to actually buy is a nice gift. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean no-one else does.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Seriously one of the weirder questions. The use of red lip color goes back literally thousands of years and almost all lipstick colors are variations of red or pink. Using green lipstick would be out of place at work (unless you work at Sephora) for the same reason that painting your face blue would be weird at work.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Purple is common & works for many skin tones.

        Back when I wore makeup regularly, my favorite color was a copper with pinkish undertones. But it worked with my coloring.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Purple (and burgundy, wine, berry, etc.) are still reddish colors. Even most “nude” and brown lipsticks generally have some sort of rose/pink/somewhere vaguely red-adjacent in there undertone.

          I found the nude, almost greigeish colors that briefly became popular a little while ago to be really interesting. It’s so fascinating how different skin tones can make the same colors look wildly different. I have yet to find a “nude” that doesn’t look awful on me and wear bright red every day.

    2. NaN*

      The other one I’ve heard is that both lipstick and eye shadow are made to mimic the way the face flushes after orgasm.

      It’s one of those little “facts” that stick in your head once you hear it. It’s also a great example of how people misuse “studies” in daily life. Did some researcher study something and publish a paper with results to suggest that this might be the historical, biological origin of wearing makeup? Sure. Does that mean that it’s the reason women choose to wear makeup today? No, of course not. People are weird.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Wait, what color are eyelids supposed to flush after orgasm? Because I’ve seen a ton of blue, green and gray eyeshadows, which seems like it would indicate terrible circulation, not a flush.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Seems like maybe someone in one of the health class scare decks from the 90s (or earlier decades) the other day on the “so and so shared graphic birth photos WTF?” question might have one?

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Not unless they’ve been applying lipstick where lipstick ain’t meant to go!

      3. Head sheep counter*

        I mean… not when its healthy… but perhaps after a bad wax or some bad health issue…

    3. Dinwar*

      As a general rule, if you hear someone make an evo-psych argument you can assume it’s false until proven true. This is especially true for aesthetics. When you look at the history of what’s considered attractive through time, you find that standards have always been arbitrary, on timescales that absolutely DO NOT allow for evolutionary forces to explain it. The history of fashion gets really, really weird (and given that, it’s absolutely certain that our own culture, far from being evolutionarily pre-ordained, is equally weird).

      Simply put, our culture likes red lips and not green ones because…our culture happens to like red lips, not green ones. Why is probably an extremely complicated story involving innumerable historical contingencies mixed with a healthy dose of advertising dollars. And given the fact that more and more people are embracing wild colors of hair, this is almost certainly changing.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Yep. Heck, for a while, lacquering teeth black was considered the height of beauty in some cultures.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, I met an older woman when I visited Vietnam who still chewed the nut that makes teeth black. Which may have been very wise, because it’s been found to be protective and slow teeth decay. Many forms of teeth-whitening, on the other hand, actually damage enamel.

    4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yeah, it’s a thing that some sociology/psychology people have been saying for a long time. I find it highly dubious.

        1. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

          and I just remembered when skinny ties and string ties were in fashion.
          I wonder what bow ties are meant to represent…

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh, so the red power tie is supposed to mean… oh no that’s enough internet for today for me.

    5. JustaTech*

      The only place I’ve ever heard this was a discussion of why the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact wears lipstick – it’s supposed to be a way of mimicking a thing about a fear of teeth in the vagina.
      Or something. I thought it was a pretty weird idea then, but hey, sci-fi makeup.

  13. KatKatKatKat*

    LW #2: This was me last year. I carpooled with a former coworker who was also dreading seeing our villainous former managers. We had a buddy we could use to avoid anyone we didn’t want to see – but luckily I also got to see a lot of folks I hadn’t seen in a few years. I think you will regret not going – I would have in my situation. I’m sorry for your loss.

    1. allathian*

      I don’t think so. But your lips apparently turn redder when you’re aroused, so the lipstick is meant to exaggerate a secondary sexual characteristic. Or maybe it’s just to enhance a more youthful appearance. My lips were much redder when I was 20 than now at 50+, and in another 10 years you won’t be able to tell the difference in color between my lips and the rest of my face, assuming I age the way my mom has.

  14. CommanderBanana*

    “I think they have it backwards: downtowns should serve the needs of the communities they’re in, rather than the people of those communities needing to serve their downtowns.”

    ^^ THIS. It’s not my responsibility to keep businesses in the area where my office is afloat or justify an organization’s bloated rent by having my body go to the office to do work I can do from home. I’d much rather support the small businesses in my neighborhood when I WFH and see a lot of that office space turned into housing. I work in a district with a lot of large firms and the lobbies are just obscene – massive, empty marble lobbies where you could literally fit entire apartments.

    1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*


      It may not be wholly practical to turn all of those big office buildings into apartment buildings (I can see where plumbing might be a logistical problem), but given the issue I keep hearing is that there’s a lack of affordable housing/increase in homelessness + companies downsizing their office footprints due to hybrid/WFH thus leaving office buildings empty, it seems like the best way to fix both of those issues would be to renovate at least parts of those office buildings into apartments.

      1. JustaTech*

        I read a really interesting article recently (that I of course can’t find now) about how the hardest thing about converting a modern office tower to apartments is actually the windows- in order for every apartment to have a window you either have to punch an atrium through the center of the building (where the elevators and plumbing and other utilities usually run) or you end up with these really weird shaped long skinny apartments that are still really, really dark.
        Basically anything built after the 1960’s would require such major re-engineering that it’s not worth it.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I stumbled into a couple of arguments about this on social media, and was informed that, due to the office buildings’ unique architecture and design, there is no possible way to convert them into living spaces. I was dumbfounded. I live in a Rust Belt city where we have former factories and warehouses that are now apartment buildings. One of my sons lived in an apartment in a former warehouse when he lived off-campus in college. Not the comfiest apartment ever (it squicked me out that none of the bedrooms had windows), but it was an apartment and people lived there and it wasn’t even cheap. Made that argument and was told that converting a warehouse into apartments is easy, while converting an office building is impossible. I am still extremely confused as to why it is so. At least hostel-type living spaces with shared bathrooms should be a possibility, no?

  15. Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet!)*

    9. This reminds me of the letter where the employee kept changing her appearance noticeably in the middle of the day. My two cents is that clothing and makeup in the workplace shouldn’t be the thing people notice first or the most, unless clothing and makeup are your job. And I say that as a woman who LOVES fashion.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Maybe their labia were changing in the middle of the day and they were trying to more properly mimic it? /sarcasm

      1. Head sheep counter*

        Oh heavens perhaps their merkin needed changing out and it changed the “look”?

  16. InTheMountains*

    This won’t get the same reaction out of everyone, but the best branded item I ever got was a travel umbrella (it folded up really small and could fit easily in a larger purse or briefcase). I got one at a conference and I still use it and that’s what I take when I travel to other conferences!

    1. Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet!)*

      Oooh I LOVE that idea. I always need a tiny umbrella. I keep one in the car, one in my gym bag, and one in my work bag.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      That’s a great idea – useful, something that you’re definitely going to need a replacement for at some point (all my umbrellas eventually break or get lost)

      The thing I have always loved was a nice presentation folder with metal corner protectors, with a logo that is fairly small and discreet. Got it at a former employer and I’ve used it for years.

    3. CommanderBanana*

      Travel umbrellas and those really thin, fleece blankets are always hits.

      In my decade-plus of running conferences, hands-down the favorite giveaway was these little tiny stuffed animal moose on keychains. People loved them and took handfuls to bring back for their staff and kids/grandkids.

    4. Expelliarmus*

      I’ve gotten a company swag umbrella that is nice and sturdy, but I’ve also gotten one that inverts when the wind hits it a certain way. So if it’s a good quality one, then yeah, that sounds great!

    5. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      I love umbrellas and blankets as swag–I am always losing my umbrellas, so I always need more, and it’s always nice to have extras anyway. I try to keep one in my car, a couple in my office, and one at home. Extras in the office are great if it starts to rain and a coworker or client doesn’t have one.
      Blankets can always be used for something–keep an extra in the car in case you get stuck somewhere, in the office in case you get chilly, etc. and when/if you get a new one as a replacement, donate the old one to your local animal shelter–they ALWAYS need blankets and towels.

  17. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    Admittedly, it’s been a minute since I looked at my labia, but it’s def not the same color as my red lipstick, not even close. TBH most red lipstick colors are just as “unnatural” as green, blue, and black. Hashtag: not everything you read on the internet is true

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      But Abraham Lincoln said otherwise! I saw it on the internet! (Ducking to avoid things thrown at me)

      1. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

        I think you’ll find it was Albert Einstein, also known for writing The Raven and Eat, Pray, Love.

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          As Florence Nightingale put it, “Ninety percent of quotes on the internet are mis attributed.”

          1. MigraineMonth*

            That was debunked. The quote should be attributed to Marilyn Monroe, instead (and only in the swooshiest of fonts).

  18. Steve Frasz*

    Re: Corporate swag gifts

    One of the things that we give out that has near universal positive feedback was branded tins of mints. Think Altoids, but with your logo. Cell phone battery chargers were another one.

    But yeah, most of the swag I get ends up donated.

  19. Caramel & Cheddar*

    RE: 11 — I always want to say “I’m just getting over COVID, did you want me to take it off and breathe on you?” but that’s probably inappropriate for most scenarios.

    1. Sage*

      I’m planing to say I have malaria and see how many people don’t know it’s a parasite that spreads via moskito bites.

      Probably not doing this because I’m too much of a coward.

      1. Katydid*

        I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t know that malaria is spread by mosquitoes, so I definitely recommend that you do NOT use this line. :)

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, perfect example of a badly-named disease. Malaria literally means “bad air,” as the word is derived from the mid-18th century Italian mal’aria, a contraction of mala + aria = bad + air. The term originally denoted the unwholesome atmosphere caused by the exhalations of marshes, to which the disease was formerly attributed.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          True, but I don’t think I know anyone who thinks another person choosing to wear a mask is a problem, either.

    2. JustaTech*

      A few weeks back I was getting over a cold and wearing as mask when we had some high-ups come through for a facility tour. When my director was introducing everyone he mentioned that I have a baby who just started daycare, as an explanation of why I was wearing a mask.

      I was a little surprised that he felt the need to explain my mask, but it was true and I’ve used that line several times when people seemed surprised/curious as to my mask wearing – everyone has immediately gone “oh, yes!” (and most of them take a small step back because I have just announced that I am a plague carrier).

  20. ferrina*

    #5 – I know the feeling! I have a weird work history that makes me uniquely good at certain really weird things. It’s good enough that I have had job descriptions custom designed for me at multiple companies. I never had any formal training in a lot of these things, just a lot of being thrown into the deep end and figuring things out. Sometimes I think that I’ve gotten so good at faking it that I’ve come around the other side as an actual expert.

  21. Lex Talionis*

    #2 – Honestly running into my former toxic boss always makes me happy as I once again realize I am FREE! And she knows it too. And if your toxic boss is rude just turn around and walk away, what can she do? Nothing.

    1. Sara without an H*

      This. And it’s been 15 years — you’re not the same person your Toxic Boss tortured back when. Reflect on everything you’ve accomplished since then.

      And even if you do run into her, it’s probably not going to amount to much. I once ran into a Toxic Former Boss at a conference. She practically bubbled over with geniality, asking me how I was and what I was doing. Fortunately I kept it together, we exchanged a few pieces of small talk, then I headed back to the buffet. I didn’t see her again.

      Short version: Go to the memorial service. Try not to spend a lot of time and mental energy thinking about what you’ll say if your Toxic Boss speaks to you. Small talk was invented for good reasons. Deploy some, then move on to talk with someone more congenial.

    2. Q without U*

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. This person no longer has an power over you. You are now free to treat her exactly as she treats you. And if you choose not to stoop to her level, it’s because you’ve decided to be the better person, not because you’re afraid of her.

    3. I Have RBF*


      I ran into a former toxic boss in a store parking lot, with his wife. (No, I was not in my car…)

      I was cordial, and it made me glad all over again that I was no longer working for him. He was an ass, who got promoted for dicking over an entire group (as in > 100% turn-over in a year.)

  22. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Branded items from past jobs that I still use: gym bag, those backpack-looking bags that the one employer that gave us back-to-school supplies as gifts used to package the supplies in. Chargers, power banks. … that’s it. Tshirts and hoodies were never my size/length/comfortable fit for me. Don’t know what I’ve done with all the pens and mugs. I don’t have much use for them.

    That said, I still have the Microsoft branded slinky that a job gave me 20 or something years ago. It survived 4-5 job changes and as many moves and is sitting on a shelf in my home office as I type this. Not saying that a slinky is a good gift, but I guess it worked for me.

  23. Crocodilasaurus*

    16. Unadvertised jobs

    This goes back to research on using weak ties–the “unadvertised jobs” were jobs that your immediate network didn’t know about, but your network’s network might know about. I don’t recall whether the original study found that these jobs were literally not advertised or just advertised outside of a jobseeker’s immediate network. What it actually found was not that 70% of jobs were unadvertised, but rather than 70% of the people they queried found their job through a weak tie.

    There was recently a piece on HBR where the author investigated how useful weak ties are currently for finding jobs, and they found that only 15% of the people they queried found a job using a weak tie. So. Times, they have a-changed.

    1. All Het Up About It*

      This is interesting! And I was thinking that something like this could have been misunderstood or misreported to start this statistic. Like 80% of people found jobs through a weak or strong tie, but that doesn’t mean the job wasn’t also advertised! It just means that knowing someone or knowing someone who knows someone often works as a good reference.

      The shift is FASCINATING though. Especially when you think how much networking is still pushed. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it, but maybe it’s not quite as important as we tell people it is?

      1. FrivYeti*

        I’ve noticed that a lot of places recently are actively trying to put measures in place to weaken the role of recommendations and to advertise jobs more widely, because it improves your pool of candidates and their diversity. Hopefully, it’s working!

      2. Emmy Noether*

        I bet the shift is due to the internet. Ads have a lot more reach now, and it’s also so, SO much easier to cruise job ads on a whim without ever leaving one’s couch.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      I could see something like, 70-80% of jobs are filled by someone already in mind by the hiring team. It was posted, they accepted applicants & resumes, did a round or two of interviews, and . . . went with the person they intended to all along.

      I don’t think the number is nearly that high, but it at least makes more sense than “70-80% of jobs are filled without ever being posted at all.”

      1. Daisy-dog*

        I always assumed it was referring to promotions that weren’t posted. That was because the new job was designed for that one person based on their knowledge and skills. But still 70-80% is too high there too.

    3. Jackalope*

      When I found my current job it was because a friend had heard of a job fair and suggested that I go to it. I met people from my current employer there and ended up applying a few months later when they had an opening. So it was both through a friend (Although a close friend in this case, not a weak tie) and through a posted job. But I would never have known to look for the job without the job fair my friend recommended.

  24. Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet!)*

    18 – I’m not a big coffee drinker anymore but I would lose it if my boss cut off my coffee a couple years ago. Wishing you luck in restoring your caffeine source.

    1. ferrina*

      That boss is heinous.

      I used to drink coffee in the afternoon so I’d have energy when I got home. I worked a very intense job that required my full attention and energy. When I got home, I’d crash on the couch and binge watch Law & Order for three hours, then go to bed. The afternoon coffee meant that I actually was able to get housework done.

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

      That’s insane!
      I had a grand-boss once that sent multiple, long diatribes about the evils of sugar when I made a public offer to share my self-purchased mountain dews.

    3. Lacey*

      Yeah, I’d be irate. That’s right around the time where I need a coffee if I’m hitting a slump.

    4. Artemesia*

      Coffee freak. If I had a boss like that and needed my coffee I would make arrangements to prepare it myself. for years I had a small kettle (those things that head water and have an automatic off switch). You could do that and have a drip cone or use one of those tea bag like coffee things. Drip cones makes great coffee. Or use the microwave to heat the water and use the drip cone. OR. buy a good thermos, fill it with boiling water in the morning, then just before you leave for work fill it with your good homemade coffee. It will probably be still drinkably hot in the afternoon. All this is cheap compared with starbucks and better too. And the group should push back hard on the boss who is micromanaging things that are none of his business.

    5. Green great dragon*

      I need to stop caffeinating myself earlier than that if I’m going to get to sleep. Except when the kids were younger, and I needed to drink caffeine in the afternoon to get through, and would be asleep in minutes because I was shattered. Others sleep fine after their post-dinner espresso.

      Boss needs to learn not everyone is the same, including in sleep patterns and caffeine tolerance.

      Also, decaff exists.

      1. Lacey*

        Ha yes, I don’t drink late coffee anymore, but when I was younger I’d go out for coffee at 9 pm, come home and go to bed at 10. My mom is 65 and STILL drinks coffee at 10 or 11.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, my mum and brother drink coffee before bed (like 9pm ish) and my brother sure doesn’t have any problems sleeping! People are different.

    6. Ama*

      I have tried to cut my afternoon coffee frequency back the last few years (although I make exceptions on certain bad sleep days) but my anti-stupid rule streak would kick in if my boss did this and I’d bring my travel french press in and make one at 3:00 every day.

    7. Not Bob*

      I’m not a coffee drinker, but I am appalled at that boss’s nosiness. It’s like he believes his employees are children!

    8. badger*

      Same. But I was treating ADHD with caffeine before I was officially diagnosed, too, so it was kind of a necessity to function.

      1. Loredena*

        This. I was self medicating for undiagnosed ADHD *and* undiagnosed sleep apnea. I dropped from drinking large lattes literally straight until dinner time to two in the morning post cpap – but I still needed the caffeine hit for the ADHD

    9. Irish Teacher*

      I don’t drink coffee at all, but if my boss implemented that policy, I would be tempted to go get coffee after 2pm. I wouldn’t do it but it would be tempting.

    10. Nea*

      Hopefully the rest of the office can get anti-caffeine boss to see reason. But until then, if I were in your shoes I’d bring an insulated thermos or tumblr and make coffee at 1:45 and let it sit until I was ready for it.

      To bring a different thread into it, I have multiple insulated tumblers. All branded.

    11. Electric sheep*

      I try not to have coffee in the afternoon becuase it affects my sleep but I am an adult who decided that for myself. Not having coffee past 2pm probably wouldn’t affect my coffee drinking habits but it would for sure affect my opinion of my boss.

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

    #13 that’s what my (coincidentally) 13 year old daughter does. living the life!

    1. Artemesia*

      I’m retired and it sums up my day. It is very very pleasant. Luckily I also have a splendid view of Lake Michigan from my chaise so it couldn’t be better.

    2. Katydid*

      This is what my spouse and I planned for our retirement…not realizing that we would have vision problems that made reading normal print tiring at best and impossible at worst. We have 1000s of books collected from childhood on, and most of them are effectively inaccessible to us now. I need to give more of them away, but dream of grandchildren browsing our personal library some day.

      Luckily, we have other hobbies. Having a range of interests and activities helps a lot when injuries, etc. put some of your current favorites out of your reach.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        I also had 1000s of books and then longterm vision problems worsened. Now I have Kindle on my iPad, 1000 books on there plus an annual Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription.

        I’ve read 300-400 Kindle books every year of my retirement.
        Bliss :D

      1. starsaphire*

        This, 1000%.

        If I can’t read myself sleepy and cuddle huge fluffy kitties while lounging on a sofa/recliner/hammock/whatever, what is even the point of me retiring?

  26. Becky S*

    Branded Items – Make sure they are quality- post-its that stick; pens that write well, maybe with a rubber tip we can use on our phones; water bottles with a lid that is tethered to the bottle; mugs with comfortable handles.
    One of my former employers gave us nice pens, with blue ink. All our forms were to be filled out with black ink. (this was before everything was done on a computer)

    One of the first vendor gifts I received (decades ago) was a bottle of wine so bad I poured it down the sink. The following year it was a case of delicious jams & jellies. Much better!

  27. Irish Teacher*

    LW11, it always strikes me as really weird when I read about people objecting to others wearing a mask; like what harm do they think the mask is going to do them?

    1. FrivYeti*

      People who object to others wearing a mask, as a rule, do so because they feel judged and they don’t like it.

      Not, I should stress, because they *are* being judged, but there is a subset of people who think that other people being more careful than them about anything are doing so to prove that they are more virtuous. It’s the same sort of people who get pushy if you say that you don’t drink alcohol, or get incredibly rude if you say you’re vegetarian, and so on and so forth.

      1. An Extremely Fresh Start*

        There is a set of people from my workplace who FREQUENTLY comment on how they’d love to stop being hybrid/mostly from home, but because everyone else is irresponsible an inconsiderate, no longer wearing masks in all indoor setting, clearly that’s totally impossible.

        They are NOT saying that they are being cautious, or disclosing a condition, or anything like that. They are flatly saying that they know everyone else to be inconsiderate and irresponsible. So I mean, there certainly are people who are very judgy about it.

        1. FrivYeti*

          This rather eloquently proves my point.

          The fact that someone exists somewhere who is openly and repeatedly judgy to the people around them has no bearing on the question of whether the act of wearing a mask is inherently a judgment, but you jumped directly to defending the people who see a mask and feel judged by using it as an example.

        2. louvella*

          I’ve never said it out loud to my coworkers but I would feel much safer in the office if they wore masks, but they don’t.

          I wouldn’t call them inconsiderate to their faces, but like, they’ve exposed me to covid twice already and we know one-way masking is not as effective as two-way. I didn’t get sick (not yet) but I did have to cancel plans to see my family and miss my niece’s first birthday party.

          Obviously it would be more considerate if they took measures to protect my health and the health of others around them.

          1. J*

            I definitely just quit a job rather than have that conversation. I thought it a lot but knew that the world was over hearing from marginalized voices like myself (even at a nonprofit targeting high risk individuals for services) so I just left because it wasn’t even safe enough to push back. I found a fully remote job and saw the opportunity to keep being as healthy as I had been for 2 years already. I don’t think I’d realized how much my workers infected me with illnesses before I went fully remote. I really do miss office life sometimes but I just can’t deal with the people and the illnesses. It’s not even a judgment on them anymore, it’s a sadness for how they don’t think about me like I miss them.

    2. mango chiffon*

      I think a lot of the time it’s not wanting a reminder that COVID is still happening, or they might think that others wearing a mask is somehow an indictment on their own behavior.

    3. Ama*

      There are a surprisingly large number of people who are so insecure about their own choices, they think any time someone makes a different choice than they would they are being personally insulted.

    4. Lady_Lessa*

      I’m low fear, but have never been concerned or threatened by someone else wearing a mask.

      I do have to grin when I went to have my hearing aids checked, the sign on the door said “all had to be masked”, so I did. But the women at the MD’s desk were unmasked. THAT felt unfair.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I’d guess it’s more people who are high fear who are likely to be threatened by people wearing a mask, like mango chiffon says, some of them probably are people who were really frightened by covid and don’t want any reminders of it.

        But it’s still illogical, like they are sticking their heads in the sand and thinking, “lah, lah, lah, if I pretend covid doesn’t exist, maybe it won’t.”

        I’d imagine most people who are low fear would have no problem with others wearing a mask or wearing one themselves if asked to.

      2. JustaTech*

        When I went to the physical therapist recently I was wearing a mask (it’s a giant medical building with tons of patients, I’m going to mask up just for the elevators/waiting rooms). When the PT called me back she noticed my mask and was like “our new policy is to mirror our patients, do you want me to wear a mask?”.
        I said no, it was fine, I was just wearing it because I have a baby in daycare and I know *I* have germs.

        But I think that’s a very sensible way to operate if the organization decides not to require masks for everyone.

    5. Tio*

      My mother said to me that now when she sees people wearing masks she always thinks they’re sick. I was like…. that’s the opposite of how it’s supposed to work.

      1. BubbleTea*

        No, I think that’s exactly how it should work! If you feel unwell, you should wear a mask. That should be the norm forever, whatever illness people have.

      2. An Extremely Fresh Start*

        That’s exactly how it does work, though. Much of Asia and other parts of the world, they’ve normalized that if you feel under the weather bu you’re going to [work/the store/take a walk] anyway you mask IN CASE it turns out to be Plague.

      3. allathian*

        Yeah, I agree with your mom. I still wear a mask in public if I have respiratory symptoms and absolutely have to go out, such as the doctor’s office. Otherwise I and 99.99 percent of the people around me have stopped wearing them.

        I’m a lot more careful about washing and sanitizing my hands and pushing elevator buttons with the first joint of my finger rather than the tip, and I avoid touching doors with my bare hands if I possibly can, so that I push them open with my elbow. If it’s a door that has to be pulled, I’ll just stretch my sleeve a bit and use that as a glove (unless it’s winter and I’m outdoors wearing actual gloves) rather than opening it with my bare hand. I haven’t been sick since October 2022 when I had Covid. Sure, Covid isn’t spread by contact, but other diseases, such as flu, are.

    6. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I don’t know about other people, but since it’s uncomfortable to wear one properly for long periods of time, I’m wondering if I need to make accommodations for them (such as giving them an office) or if they’re going to ask themselves. Sort of an awkward “should I saw something” moment.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        How uncomfortable people find wearing a mask is going to vary a lot by the person (and the mask), though. For me, it’s easy to tune out, which is one of the reasons I still mask pretty much all the time indoors. (My thinking is that the more people masking in general, the better, so those of us who aren’t bothered by wearing them should definitely continue to do so whenever indoors and around people in order to reduce overall transmission rates of everything airborne, although I’d prefer to see masks used by everyone in crowded and poorly-ventilated spaces rather than just by volunteers.)

        I find it less annoying to wear a mask than wear a bra, personally. I know other people have different hierarchies of annoyance, though.

      2. J*

        I know my husband would love to not join his Zoom meetings in a mask in the middle of the office or he would love to drink water/eat without having to walk to the other end of the building to exit through security so he can take a break. If you can, definitely offer ways to accommodate or take a break. If it’s a smaller building without specific doors or with only in person meetings, it might not be as important. His work was nice enough to have covered outdoor seating during a retreat so he could eat and drink and it really was wonderful for him to not starve himself life he has to when they schedule lunch meetings each time. Just some thoughts.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Just don’t do what one of the LW’s companies did and use the milk pumping room as the “take a break from the mask” room!

  28. Delta Delta*

    #9 – the woman who sings the national anthem at Tampa Bay Lightning hockey games wears sparkly royal blue lipstick when she sings and it is perfect on her and I love it so very very much. I guess it depends on the job!

    1. RaginMiner*

      All I’m saying is, if my labia match any shade of red lipstick I own, I’m going to the E.R.

    2. KateM*

      That happened admittedly in eighties, but a teacher of mine with heart problems claimed that she wore lipstick so as not to scare people with her blue lips.

    3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I love the idea of someone in a conservative office trying to justify their unusual lipstick color by getting it in the company brand color. I don’t recommend it, but I do love it.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      But that matches the team colors last I checked? Not just a person deciding they want non-standard colors. This person is matching the company logo basically.

  29. Free Meerkats*

    For #18 (turning off the coffee machine), at 1:30 go fill up a vacuum flask big enough to last you the rest of the day. Encourage your coworkers to do the same.

    1. LimeRoos*

      Yeah this. If you somehow can’t convince your boss that everyone is an adult, definitely just fill up a thermos or something before his shenanigans with the coffee machine. Or maybe someone can do a coffee run and get one of those bigcontainers from Dunkin’ or Panera or something to bring back for everyone. And perhaps donuts. But no donuts for Mr. Caffeine Police.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      That sounds way too close to “Company Script,” a concept I’m in no rush to return to.

  30. ferrina*

    #20 – There’s always some people will either skim over it or read what they want to read. And a few that will feel that they are the exception to anything. But most people aren’t doing that- by definition, you aren’t seeing the thousand people that read it and think “not remote? good to know, I won’t apply.”

    1. Saber McSaberton*

      LW20 here!

      I felt awful because these recent positions were very niche, and management teams had narrowed down 200 to a handful for interviews. Our HR director is very pro-transparency for our job roles (upfront salary and expectations, etc.) so we can be equitable and not waste anyone’s time. Thankfully management has managed to pick back-up applicants for those positions to interview.

      1. WellRed*

        I think it doesn’t hurt to explicitly say “ please note, this is NOT a remote position,” some folks will still read what they want but it might weed out a few and the ones it doesn’t, you can feel less bad about it.

      2. LJ*

        Especially for a niche position, I can see someone thinking maybe the organization is more flexible than they’re letting on in the initial job post (which may be written to a template). All you can do is double check on an initial phone screen (good practice anyways for any sort of dealbreakers)

    2. MigraineMonth*

      This is an ironic counterpoint to all those jobs early in the pandemic that advertised fully remote… which was only allowed 1-3 days per week. It just seems to waste everyone’s time not to be upfront about requirements (from both employer and job-seeker).

  31. GM Stands For Gender Menace*

    #11 (I think? The masking question)

    I read an article recently that had the incredible quote “It’s not weird to not want to get COVID.” I have internalized that and will be using it constantly

    1. Nesta*

      This is very true! I have taken to reminding myself that if I should get COVID, none of these folks are going to come and cook for me, clean my house, or even pick up any of my work. I am looking out for me, and if they think that is weird, well, they don’t have to send me a holiday card.

    2. Nea*

      YES! It’s not at all weird to not want to get a disease with a high chance of disabling you!

      And LW – I also mask in public. *Always*

      1. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

        Same here, still masking.
        And with stores selling off masks i have been able to upgrade from KN95 to N95 for cheap.

    3. Anon for this*

      this is good.

      I will use the “going to see my grandma at the weekend” type line but actually it is also completely ok for ME to not want to catch covid.

      if you are going to pay my mortgage if I get long covid and can’t work, you can have an opinion then.

  32. LMC*

    #21 – I just got invisalign recently so I have to use the work bathroom (multiple stalls/sinks) to floss and brush my teeth every day after lunch. I just view it as we all gotta use the same space – I try to be as quick as I can, but I’m not rushing myself because someone else has to poop. It’s just the way it is.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      With the two poop-privacy questions, I’m starting to feel weird about the fact that when I need to poop… I just go to the bathroom and don’t worry about who might find out.

  33. Sunflower*

    #9 (lipstick)- the labia idea is like all those armchair anthropologist clichés about “in caveman times people did this or that, which explains (current social norm)”. ie, not actually to be taken seriously or given credence. Seems like you might want to take a step back from the psychoanalysis forums, since acting like “lipstick=vagina” is an accepted truth instead of a thought experiment indicates you’re a little too deep in the (internetty) sauce.

    1. Anne Shirley*

      Yes to all that. Additionally, my first impression was this (sadly) synchs up with all the toxic core beliefs about Woman As Temptress (Who I Cannot Speak to in My Office or Drive in My Car With).

    2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Every time I’ve encountered someone who used that “evolutionary psychology” thinking, it sounds like they got their degree at the University of Bedrock.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Yeah, I saw some dumb thing online about how women like to paint their nails red and pink because it looks like berries and we were gatherers* and that..somehow..makes us think our nails are berries and we like that??

        *Not actually true

        I don’t know if there are any evo-psych theories that are actually true, but all the ones I’ve come across just reinforce very stereotypical views of what is masculine and what is feminine, and personally I think most evo-psych is about as accurate as phrenology.

        1. penny dreadful analyzer*

          “red and pink are the default colors for nail polish the same way they’re the default colors for lipstick” tells me someone hasn’t even updated their understanding of what cosmetics are available since the 1950s, let alone their understanding of anything else.

          the two classes of colors for nail polish are “tasteful nudes” and “dramatic.” If you’re going dramatic there’s essentially no difference in either social signaling or availability if you go fire-engine red, lime green, black, or Barbie pink with sparkles; those are all statement nails in a way that pearl gray, ballet-slipper pink, or greige aren’t.

          i wonder if that person thinks it’s considered modern and professional to wear sky-blue eyeshadow to the office, too.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            I have reddish fingertips (even the backs of my fingers), which nailpolish that isn’t red or pink makes stand out more, which I personally don’t like on me. So I only wear nailpolish with at least reddish undertones. I’m probably not the only one who prefers this.

            Reinforcing or picking up variations of colors that are already there is the easiest to make look harmonious for makeup (not that contrast can’t look really cool also). Which explains the popularity of “my lips but better” lipstick and pink nailpolish. Also it’s just what we’re used to seeing.

    3. Lana Kane*

      I remember seeing this theory back in the 90’s at least, it’s probably older than that. It’s BS.

  34. Charlotte Lucas*

    #21 – Flossing in a shared bathroom doesn’t bother me, but I used to work somewhere that had a flosser who got rrreeeaaalllyyy close to the mirror & left flecks of detritus on it. That did bother me. I’d recommend keeping something handy to wipe the mirror with just in case.

  35. AnxiouslyAnxious*

    #26 – Listen, my hair is thick and it takes forever to dry, but I also have an infant who is often sleeping in our bed right outside the bathroom door. If I were to stand there and blow-dry my hair, it would certainly wake up the baby, and that is a no-go. My hair mostly dries, semi-damp by the time I get to work, but I think requiring/ thinking dried hair as a more professional appearance is silly.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      In thinking about it, so many “professional” appearance norms just make a LOT more work, especially if you’re not a dude with short hair. And more cost.

    2. nhb*

      I’m the one who asked about the wet/damp hair, and I have basically the same issue! I come to work with my hair damp very often. It is long, and it is curly. I brush it and keep it out of my face, but I was curious if there was a professional standard or some such that I was missing :)

      1. Lulu*

        I too have curly hair, and it’s still wet when I arrive. But it’s very curly, so I think it mostly looks darker or like I put more gel in it, not like a drowned rat. I had a coworker a number of years ago (an older gentleman) tell me about a conversation he had with his daughter, where he explained to her that she shouldn’t come to work with wet hair. I have yet to figure out if he was just making conversation or was trying to hint that my hair should be dry. But the way I see it, I can’t feasibly blow dry my hair on a daily basis because different hair is different. I do need to wet it to re-set the curl (I have yet to figure out bonnets and keeping curls looking good on subsequent days). So yeah, I’m showing up with “wet” hair. Deal with it.

    3. BubbleTea*

      My feeling has always been that I can either dry my hair, or get more sleep. As the day goes on, my hair will get drier and I will get more tired. I’m going to choose sleep every time.

      1. nhb*

        I also fall into that category. It doesn’t even take me that long to dry my hair, but I usually have my baby/toddler (she’s 1.5) in the next room and I don’t want to wake her. Also, I get to work early, and there are no managers or supervisors on site to see me until after my hair is dry.

        Yay for sleep!

    4. allathian*

      I air dry my hair, which means that I simply shower in the evening, usually about two hours before bed so that it has time to dry. If I don’t have the time for that, I’ll shower just before bed and sleep with a terrycloth towel on my pillow. It works for my thick hair (my hairdresser compared it to horsehair once, although that’s an exaggeration). Sure, I’m an early riser, but the idea of having to get up even earlier to shower… Nope, nopity, nope. I haven’t showered in the morning since middle school, when raging hormones ensured that I needed to shower twice a day.

      So maybe, just maybe question your inherent assumption that showering before work is an absolute necessity unless you like to exercise hard enough to get sweaty in the morning.

    5. Dr. Vibrissae*

      -I think requiring/ thinking dried hair as a more professional appearance is silly.-

      Same, this has come up on the site before, and has always struck me in the sam category of taboos as ‘shorts aren’t professional’. Maybe it’s because I swam before school in my youth, but I had literally never considered that I should be drying my hair before coming to work until I read it on this site last year. Granted, I work in academia and in a field akin to Llama grooming, so the expectation of remaining polished at all times is less. I am also privleged to have hair that does not require extensive maintenance (I demand wash a dry compatible cuts), so there’s that too.

  36. LW#80*

    Update from a previous speed round: I was the last question answered, #80, about irrational jealousy over colleague’s promotion. That colleague held the manager position for only one year before going back to an individual contributor role. They cited things like unrealistic expectations and lack of training / support in learning how to manage (a new to them role, as it would have been for me). I actually ended up reporting to them for that year and I actually think they did a bang-up job, but that wasn’t the feedback they got from their boss (my grandboss).

    None of my peers wanted the role, either, so they recruited externally and it took 8 months to find someone. Then another manager resigned and they decided to just eliminate that position (operate with one fewer manager) rather than embark on another months-long search.

    1. KateM*

      At my job, a thumbsup reaction to chat message seems to be a generally accepted “thanks, noted”.

  37. A Good Egg*

    Ah, the wet noodle joke. Back in the day when my only access to advice columns was Dear Abby and Ann Landers.

  38. Career grower*

    Question (I can email it this too if this thread is not the right place):
    I have over two decades of experience during which I worked at diff roles, companies of various size and diff industries but somewhat connected industries. My experience mounts to two, major areas: lama buyer and lama project mgr. I’m applied for the lama buyer positions. My resume and cover letter were specific to the job and they want to interview me. There is another job, lama project manager that I’m also qualified for. I really like this company and truly believe I can make contributions to either areas. I thought about applying for both jobs but it feels weird. Should I apply for both? Or is there a way to convey my interest and qualifications in a different way, like during the interview process?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      If you’re looking for an answer from AAM she specified up top she’s not answering questions in the comments!

    2. Sarah*

      I remember reading another question similar to this and her advice was to apply to both, just be sure to tailor your resume for each role like you would if it was a different company altogether. Best of luck!

  39. Jane Bingley*

    Re question 23: I read a couple hundred books a year and I have some reading advice!

    1. Become a book quitter. This is essential. There are 750,000 to 1 million books published in English alone every year, and a backlog going back millennia. Do not waste any time on a book that you’re not enjoying when the best book you’ve ever read could be waiting next in line! In addition to wasting your valuable time, it will discourage you from reading – instead, read books that make you look forward to picking them up. Consider borrowing more books than you can read to encourage you to quit when the vibes are off.

    2. Become a library user. Unless you’re a millionaire (power to you!), this is the best way to keep your reading habit fresh and it keeps books in stock for those who can’t afford them. I almost never buy books I haven’t read anymore – I borrow nearly everything and I buy the books I really loved and I know I’ll want to re-read.

    3. Everything counts. Ebooks, graphic novels, YA, audiobooks, smutty books. This goes back to point 1 – don’t read what other people or even you think you “should” be reading. Find the books that make you happy and make those a priority.

    4. Keep your book handy. If you’re going to the bathroom, or cooking in the kitchen, or sitting at the table supervising homework hour – the more you have your book right next to you, the more likely it is you’ll fill a small chunk of time with reading instead of using your phone or whatever you normally do to pass the time.

    5. Commuting is an especially great way to make time to read – a physical book or an audiobook depending on whether you’re driving and whether you get motion-sick. If you work from home, it’s good to have an off-work routine – consider stepping out for a short walk with an audiobook or closing your laptop and having a 10-minute reading break to help your brain decompress.

    6. Add reading to your everyday activities outside the home, too. If you go to the gym and spend time on a treadmill, consider bringing a light book to flip through. If you take your kids to soccer practice, bring a book along. If you know you’ll be spending time at a doctor’s office waiting for your appointment, bring your book. If you have a lunch break, consider adding 10 minutes of reading to 20 minutes of socializing. You don’t HAVE to read 24/7, but keep your options open for those little gaps of time that appear!

    7. Find a way to keep track of what you’re reading. This can be as simple as a running list in your phone or as complex as a social media account to track your reads (booktok and bookstagram are huge) or an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of books, pages, dates, and ratings. The goal isn’t to impress anyone else (though if that motivates you, lean into it) but to be able to say “hey, I did great this year!” It also lets you figure out your normal. I normally read about a book every other day on average – if I’m running well below that, it usually means I’m overwhelmed or stuck on a book that isn’t good enough to motivate me. That’s not a reason to beat myself up, just a way to check in and make sure I’m not neglecting a hobby that brings me joy.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I try to have multiple books that I am reading, based on mood. A great book can feel like a slog if you aren’t in the right frame of mind to read it.

      1. Nea*

        An excellent idea (and another excellent screen name).

        I’m usually reading 3 at any given time – one audiobook, one nonfiction, one fiction. I try to read a chapter each of the paper books every night, although that can be more aspirational than achievable sometimes.

      2. Lana Kane*

        Yes! I’m usually juggling 2-3, all in different genres. I just am in different moods each day! And that means that each day I usually have something to read that actually appeals to me.

      3. allathian*

        Yes, this. I always have at least 3 books going. I rarely quit reading a book completely, but sometimes I take fairly long breaks. Currently I have Pratchett’s Lords & Ladies on pause. I do intend to finish it at some point, but I haven’t felt like reading it for a while. (My favorite Pratchett books feature Rincewind and my fave character The Luggage and/or Unseen University and Ankh Morpork. The witches just don’t grab me the same way.)

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      7. Kindle is great because it keeps a record of each book I’ve read, how many consecutive days & weeks reading, how many books completed per year.
      I read 300-400 Kindle books per year now I’m retired and I like the automatic stats

    3. ferrina*

      Item 1 changed my life. I was slogging through books that I wasn’t a fan of. At a certain point I realized that that had become my approach to most things in my life- slog through because you started it. When I gave myself permission to quit “fun” things I wasn’t enjoying, suddenly I had so much more free time and I enjoyed it so much more!

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I am taking this as permission to return the library book that I’m just not enjoying, even though it’s one I “should” read.

    4. Daisy-dog*

      Track books with StoryGraph! You can have an active “to-be-read” list there and can mark things DNF (did not finish) to know what didn’t work for you or to remind yourself if you want to go back.

      And saying audiobooks “don’t count as reading” is a major pet peeve of mine.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Also, forgot to mention: I know a lot of people who say that reading puts them to sleep. So…use it! Start reading 20-30 minutes before you want to go to sleep. Maybe you get 2 pages, maybe you get 2 chapters, but it’s way to read a little and also might help you sleep better. (I read on my tablet with “blue light” turned off when it’s before bed.)

        I eventually made it so I can read at any time without falling asleep – except for when it’s right before bed or if I really need a nap.

      2. Lexi Vipond*

        They don’t *feel* like reading to me, so it does depend what you’re counting. But you mostly don’t get to decide that for somebody else.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. I have some (self-diagnosed) auditory processing issues and It requires a lot more effort for me retain any info I listen to than to retain what I read. I’m also a fast reader, and listening at the intended speed would take far longer than reading it does. The only audiobook I’ve consumed is King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table narrated by Sean Bean. I only did that because I really enjoy his voice and I’d happily listen to him reciting the decimals of pi for hours.

          I had a bout of iritis last year and when I couldn’t see to read I listened to podcasts instead to occupy my mind. It was better than nothing, but it didn’t fill the void that reading does.

          However, I don’t get to decide that listening to audiobooks doesn’t count for anybody else, only myself, and to some extent to our teenage son, although I’m happy to report that he enjoys reading traditional printed books. That said, I’d much prefer him to listen to audiobooks if the alternative was that he didn’t consume any literature at all. If your brain’s able to handle listening to long stories, you’ll get the benefit of a larger vocabulary and the pleasure of following an extended story from audiobooks, too.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            You’re also more likely to learn the correct pronunciation of the new vocabulary listening to audiobooks, which is something I’ve always struggled with.

            (Though I have read a scathing review of an audiobook called… I think it was Space Corps? Apparently the reader pronounced it “corpse” the entire way through.)

    5. stacers*

      These are all great. They all apply to me.

      I had to learn to be a quitter — I was always, ‘if I start it, I will finish.’ But, life is too short to keep up that particular slog.

      I love my city’s library system, and have since I was a child. My online login keeps track of my reading history (they give you an option to bypass keeping a record if you’re worried for privacy reasons, though they assure that they’d fight any effort to turn them over, but you never know what could happen). I love the main library building downtown so much that if my partner and I were ever to marry, that’s where I’d hold the ceremony/reception.

      I work from home and read on a computer all day every day. Picking up a physical book and reading until it’s time to make dinner feels like a completely different endeavor.

      I learned the value of carrying a book at all times as an introverted child. It remains my ‘happy place’ at middle age, even if that physical ‘place’ is anywhere and everywhere, and I’m just going there in my mind.

    6. Nea*

      Yes, yes, yes! #1 is the most important – life is too short to read crappy books! We’re not in school anymore, we’re not being graded on completion!

      #3 THANK YOU! I get really huffy when people tell me audiobooks don’t count. Hello? It’s all the same words, it’s just someone reading it to me when my hands are busy.

      (Also, love your screenname. I see what you did there.)

    7. PhyllisB*

      That’s one reason I love Goodreads. I can track my reading, and if later I run across a book I’m not sure if I’ve read, I can check my page and see.

  40. SofiaDeo*

    #24, I have a caveat to Alison’s advice. I have had folk do even less work when allowed an extended notice. I would include something along the lines of “of course we still need to see improvement on X and Y” if they are asking for a long notice period, or you may get stuck with someone just putting in time, pushing as much work off onto others as they can.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just to clarify, it doesn’t sound like she’s concerned he’ll ask for an extra long notice period, but the company standard one (and she’d be happy to have him go sooner).

  41. Warrior Princess Xena*

    #33 – some fonts that look a little odd are actually easier for people to read, especially people with dyslexia! If it’s not something nightmarish like wingdings then I’d let it go.

    1. Lana Kane*

      Yeah, I use Segoe UI and the default is Calibiri. I don’t expecially like Calibri as I just find it…generic? And in the default font size it’s a bit small to me. I like Segoe UI for its clean lines and readability.

      1. Pierrot*

        Segoe UI is my default too! I like it a lot more than Calibri, and I find that it’s easier to read. I work at a nonprofit and email clients, and many of them do not use email frequently. I try to make my emails easy to read while still looking professional, so I like that Segoe is a bit bigger and more spaced out.

    2. I Have RBF*


      Sans-serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica are hell for me to read, because l, i, I, and | are really hard to distinguish. My dyslexia also scrambles b and d, q and g in many of them.

    3. Electric sheep*

      I’ve known people who like a different font so it’s easier in email threads for them to see which replies are theirs so they can skim over them.

  42. Hlao-roo*

    #25: Work set-up in the bedroom

    I saw some advice early in the pandemic (likely on AAM) for people who don’t like looking at their work-from-home equipment after work hours:

    Break down your workstation at the end of the day if that’s possible (computer and other work things in drawers/boxes so they’re out of sight). If not possible, throw a towel or sheet over the work set-up so you see an amorphous blob of fabric instead of your monitors/computer/other work things.

    1. Sleeping Sun*


      I share an apartment with my sister and she runs a baking business from our kitchen/dining room so there is no space for a desk outside of my bedroom, what worked for me is buying a drop-down desk that I can close when I’m done for the day so I don’t see work related stuff until the next day I have to work (my chair is a gaming one… so).

      I’ll put a link with a similar desk as a reply (sorry is not the same one, but I’m in Mexico and bought it from a local carpenter).

    2. BubbleTea*

      This question puzzled me, because I’ve never seen anyone recommending putting your desk in your bedroom if you have other options. It seemed like the asker thought that was the usual choice, but all the advice I’ve seen has said the opposite.

      1. Too Many Tabs Open*

        Emphasis on “if you have other options”. If I had room for a home office separate from my bedroom, I’d absolutely work in the home office and keep my bedroom for sleeping and relaxing. As it is, I have a choice between my bedroom and the family room where my spouse and kids hang out, and I choose my bedroom so I can close the door.

        I have a shelving unit acting as a room divider, so the office part of my bedroom feels more separated from the sleeping area. That’s helped.

    3. Evelyn K.*

      I would also suggest that, if the poster is willing to spend slightly more money, a folding room divider may be a good idea to visually separate the work area and also give a neutral background for work from home video calls.

    4. allathian*

      A friend who lives in a small apartment downtown got rid of a closet full of work clothes and only kept her favorite items that fit in another closet, and set up a workspace in the closet, including an extension cord for the laptop. She still works remotely most of the time and the work clothes that she’s kept are sufficient for when she does go in. When she stops working on her WFH days she just unplugs the extension cord and puts it in the closet, closes the closet door, and her job’s out of sight, out of mind.

  43. Not Bob*

    #11 – Wearing a mask. I feel you, and I know too well what you mean! I wear a mask because I don’t want my long covid to get worse, and the way some people react is incredible rude and nosy.

    I have read that saying you do it for a loved one, even if it’s a white lie, spares you from some of the rude behaviour. I still have to try it out myself, though. The reasoning was that is is seen less as “virtuous signaling” and more as a sacrifice you do for someone else.

  44. Bluebonnet*

    #31: I work in higher ed and can relate to getting mass emails about faculty and other higher ups getting yet more awards and promotions. Staff lime me rarely get a promotion let alone an award.

    Honestly, it gets tiring.

    1. KateM*

      The “someone higher up got promoted” mass emails that I have got have been along the lines of “10000 people belonging to this group have a new highest boss now”, which I find warranted.

    2. Chirpy*

      At my work, we get messages about people from corporate’s birthdays. Nobody else’s birthdays get announced company wide, it’s just odd.

    3. sam_i_am*

      As staff in higher ed, I agree. Like, I understand why they email everyone when associate deans come or go (even though tbh it doesn’t affect me at all). But the “please welcome [new faculty member I may never meet] to the department! Here’s a bio!” or “[Departing faculty member whose name I’ve never heard] is leaving, here’s information about the new opportunity they’re taking” with no corresponding announcements for any staff position gets a bit tiring! Staff get overlooked time and time again in academia, and the announcements feel like salt in the wound.

      1. len*

        For academics I think announcements like this can be important so that the department is aware of its new (and departing) peers in research because department members often collaborate or work on complementary projects, including after someone leaves. (As a new Assistant Professor, this literally made my job possible in the first year!) I don’t think it has the same function for staff members, but maybe I’m wrong and there’d be a similar benefit. I do get why it doesn’t feel good though.

        1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

          Considering profs generally need help/support from staff and yet often have no idea what we do, there would definitely be a benefit to making them aware of who is coming and going. And if nothing else, it would be a benefit to other staff members who need to know when someone they collaborate and work with is coming/going.

      2. Lexi Vipond*

        In my (UK university) department it generally seems to be the other way round – we seem to have dozens of admin staff who apparently spend all their time joining and leaving to general acclaim (never see them, never interact with their jobs in any way although I assume they do something!), while academics just appear and vanish silently, so that the first you know is when you try to find out something about their course and eventually get told that it’s new person you’ve never heard of’s course now…

  45. Chirpy*

    #33 – re: fonts: I don’t do it at work (unless I have full authority to create print materials), but I always use fun fonts personally. I just think there’s a ton of much more interesting ones than the ones used as defaults. Some are easier to read.

    There’s also fonts designed specifically for people with dyslexia- they’re often “heavier” at the bottom, which a friend tells me “anchors” the words to the page for her. Comic Sans is one that is easier for many dyslexic people, if the specialty fonts aren’t available, as well.

    1. Nea*

      Comic Sans is pretty much the only free disability-friendly font widely available, so it makes me grit my teeth that it’s considered a punchline.

  46. geek5508*

    Re: Cat pix in Slack channel – I have likely 200 + doggie/cat pix on my phone, and ONE of my daughters. “Embrace the weird”…

  47. The New Wanderer*

    #29, I was in a similar situation regarding full time on-site versus the company’s definition of “flexible WFH.” (This was pre-Covid, the company went full remote during the pandemic.) Initially I told the recruiter I was fine with the (awful) commute for the most part, because my previous experience with “flexible WFH” was that it could be 1-2 days per week and I assumed this would be similar. In a follow-up conversation, it became clear that their idea of flexible (WFH once a month, maybe) and mine were very different, and their expectation of working hours was very fixed, which would put me into the worst commuting timeframe. Shortly after that I emailed my withdrawal from the process. Even if I’d stayed in and gotten an offer, I would have been looking to leave ASAP for something else.

    All that to say, it’s a personal choice whether the commute is a deal-breaker to you, but I’d go into it expecting that they will not entertain a more flexible situation for you.

  48. Irish Teacher*

    LW37, we had a situation last January where a much-loved colleague died and our school actually closed the day of the funeral to allow us to attend if we wished. Most of us did, but there were some who didn’t and to be honest, I couldn’t even tell you who they were nor do I know if they attended the removal the night before or not (I don’t know if ye have anything similar to that).

    And given that it is a 7 hour journey and you are fairly new, I doubt anybody would be surprised if you didn’t attend, even without any bad behaviour on his part. I was actually quite surprised to se some of the staff members who started work with us the previous September attend. I really didn’t expect them to do so as they wouldn’t have known her very well (she got sick in early December and died early January) and her funeral was in the parish church near the school. I would be very surprised if they travelled 7 hours.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Assuming the company doesn’t close for the day and needs someone to man the office, maybe OP could offer to do that to allow people who knew the guy better to attend?

    2. Blue Horizon*

      Probably just my general poor social radar, but I was not even aware that attending the funerals of colleagues was a thing. I thought they were for family and friends. I just assumed that the announcements we got about them were for the benefit of people who happened to fall into one of those categories. There were a few episodes of mutual incomprehension before I realized that it might be OK for me to attend, or even expected in some cases.

    1. ferrina*

      Srsly. This is the only scenario that would make sense to me. Suffering isn’t a form of team-building. Trauma-bonding is not an admirable basis for a work relationship. #NotRelationshipGoals

      1. Angstrom*

        I suspect they meant something like “Everyone pitches in and works together to accomplish difficult tasks.” and got caried away with the wording.

    1. Gyne*

      Wondering this too! I mean, poop wherever – that’s what a toilet is for. But it seems like a lot of effort to wander the building and I’m curious what makes a bathroom on another floor so desireable for pooping. Is it the (relative) anonymity? If so, is that the general culture at this office that everyone on the 3rd floor goes to the 5th floor to poop and all the 5th floor people come down to the 3rd floor? Or is this exchange more one-sided, in which case I do think it’s slightly uncool to go that far out of your way when presumably the people on that floor might want or need a close bathroom to use themselves.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        I once worked in a 16-floor office building. There were no offices on the first floor – just the lobby, a little cafe, a gym (which had locker rooms), and a big restroom. That restroom had probably 10 stalls, compared to my floor which had 3 stalls. Lots of people would go down there to poop. It wasn’t taking up a stall for a long time and it was sorta anonymous (though co-workers going in-and-out for lunch/errands would see you). You also aren’t stinking up a smaller room.

        1. Heidi*

          Okay, so that makes a lot of sense. I was imagining that the OP was going to another bathroom that only 3 people use and they all know he doesn’t belong on their floor.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I just think there’s a lot of weirdness about the subject. Freud wasn’t wrong about everything…

    3. Thatoneoverthere*

      I read this as why can’t LW 41 poop on the floor…. LOL

      People are weird about others knowing they poop at work. I don’t care tbh. I have a body and that body needs to poop during work hours. So do others!

      1. Heidi*

        I realize now that this was not the most clear way to phrase that sentence. I think it’s the speed of the comments coming in that’s throwing me. :)

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I read this as why can’t LW 41 poop on the floor…. LOL

        Me too. I was like “woah, did I miss a particularly interesting question?!”

    4. HonorBox*

      Not exactly the same, but there was a guy in college who would come to our floor to shower. Same setup on each floor. We didn’t have anything nicer. It was always weird to all of us living on first floor that dude from second would use our showers.

    5. Prospect Gone Bad*

      This was always bothered me. At last job, the bathroom would often be full but then I’d see people coming out of it and going up or downstairs. Or people coming to ours to have, eh, stomach issues. I always thought, does coming here make it less embarrassing? It just felt like a useless game of musical chairs. This and having to clean other peoples’ dishes and wipe the counters after them and water their plants makes me like WFH

    6. Huh*

      I also go to the next higher floor for this, but because the bathroom on my floor gets a lot of use (it’s right across the hall from the library). That means it’s a lot more crowded, and frankly it’s a lot less clean. Going one floor up means much more privacy and a more pleasant environment. It’s worth the trip.

    7. Lana Kane*

      Yeah please stay on your own floor, unless the other floor is empty or hardly populated. Go take up a stall and stink it up in your own area! lol

    8. Random Bystander*

      I wonder the same thing. Reminds me of a time, back when we were in the office–actually before we moved locations, so we were in this really old building with one set of bathrooms a little down the hall from the office I was in, and another down in the basement (really!).

      One day, a co-worker from the office across the hall (these were rooms divided into cubes) came into my office room and was talking in this scandalized tone about how some other co-worker had been in the bathroom passing a BM. In this person’s words “she was just going plop, plop, plop with no shame” like she expected us all to be in total agreement that it was weird/rude for the other person to … use a bathroom for one of its intended purposes. So, being utterly shameless myself, I just responded with this really puzzled tone “Well, she was in the bathroom, so I don’t know what’s to be ashamed about. I think there was even a book written on the subject for little kids.” (Everybody Poops)

      Of course, she tried to go on about how horrible it was to hear/smell. Then I got out the ‘big guns’: “Well, my mom always told me that in a public restroom, we all pretend that nothing smells and the only sounds that can be heard through the stall walls is ‘help, there’s no TP in this stall’.” Being apparently utterly no fun, she finally dropped the subject, but she did make it clear that she thought everyone should go down to the basement (one singular toilet that you’d either have to run the stairs from the second floor or take the dodgy, slow elevator for).

    9. Carl*

      Warning to LW41: Some people will absolutely notice this!
      I used to work at a very large law firm (500 lawyers). I was on the top floor of one of the offices, but it wasn’t a penthouse situation – it was an expansion, that made it a weird floor that was the only floor that couldn’t be accessed by the regular elevator. A handful of people very clearly thought this meant it was a super secret special poop hideaway. Except, we all had eyeballs. We would frequently see the same few usual suspects in our bathroom, with no reason to be there. (We also had a frequent visiting flosser – 3 times daily!).
      The point is, if you feel awkward about pooping and don’t want anyone to know…then go into your normal bathroom and act normal. Don’t go creeping around potted plants like a weirdo bc people will absolutely take note.

    10. RedinSC*

      This hit home. People come over from the other build and poop in my office’s bathrooms. I mean, they literally sh!t all over the place, they splatter the toilet, leave poop prints, and other stuff. It’s so disgusting and they walk over to do this! COME ON! Poop in your own building, DO NOT COME TO MINE to drop a deuce.

      I completely disagree with this answer to LW 41. It’s not ok. Not at all.

  49. LawBee*

    Re: #6
    Having people go back in the downtown offices makes sense for revitalizing if you consider that now there are PEOPLE DOWNTOWN, going out to lunch, maybe shopping after work or at least hitting up the drugstore, dinner out, rents in office buildings, parking fees for lots, etc.. Also relevant—does this governmental organization interact with the people at all? A physical office located in the area it serves, that is staffed with humans, means a lot.

    Downtown isn’t an agency, it’s where the stuff is. It’s not meant to serve anyone, but the local government who oversees the parts that they oversee do have a responsibility to not only the people who live there, but businesses that are trying to stay open, parks and green spaces that need tending, and the like.

    1. mlem*

      The issue here isn’t “we need people on-site to serve people on-site”. That’s a reasonable reason to staff an office.

      In contrast, many policies are “force all your tech and back-office workers to downtown office buildings, to have the same video meetings they would have at home but have to add over an hour of rush-hour driving and pollution to their days, because sandwich shops and bars want the same captive audiences they had in the Before Times”. The businesses were there to support the workers, in theory; forcing the workers back just to give the businesses a reason to exist is backwards (and infuriating).

    2. Helewise*

      Agreed. In most cases “revitalizing downtown” isn’t a good enough reason to get back in the office, but it makes sense for some local govs.

    3. J*

      But don’t you have people living downtown? Are their needs being met? If there aren’t people living there, why not?

      I’m so much less interested in appealing to daytime tourists and office sitters than people living in places. Maybe it’s just because I’m a medium midwest city that has its downtown residents treated as if they’ll always be third-class to an accountant who doesn’t leave his office for 12 hours or a suburban Bob who drives to a ballpark and immediately leaves. Neither of those archetypes is spending at local small businesses where the residents go every day.

    4. MigraineMonth*

      I work in government in a job that can be done fully remotely. Should I have to drive an hour every day just to spend money at lunch places downtown?

  50. Coin Purse*

    Hi #43. I was you. I had a job that I made great money at with terrific benefits. Once I did the math on health care costs I ended up staying until 66 and 2 months, my full Social Security retirement age.

    I often thought I wished I’d quit earlier but for me the loss of Social Security income plus Medicare would have been significant if not crippling. I’m glad now I stayed. If the health care costs are not an issue, then I think it is an easier equation.

  51. Lisa*

    #33, there are fonts that are better for people with dyslexia. It’s possible this is the reason.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’ve realized relatively recently that as someone trained to do disability work, I default to approved dyslexia fonts without thinking – and that doesn’t match my company’s style guide. I don’t think many people cared, it came up collaborating with someone on something, but it’s an easy thing not to think about in both directions.

  52. Goldenrod*

    Alison, I LOVE your answer about the crazy idea that workers should go to the office to “revitalize the local economy.”

    “I think they have it backwards: downtowns should serve the needs of the communities they’re in, rather than the people of those communities needing to serve their downtowns.”

    Hallelujah! I keep hearing this sort of thing in Seattle. I totally get my politicians and corporate real estate agents want this, but honestly, they need to re-adjust. For example, a mom getting to spend more time with her children by working from home does NOT owe anything to some real estate baron!

    1. Chirpy*

      Move more small businesses into residential neighborhoods again – makes them more walkable and people working from home OR coming home from a commute would be more likely to stop by. It’s what people want anyway, no reason it has to exclusively be downtown!

        1. Warrior Princess Xena*

          Yes! I know why many commercial spaces/skyscrapers aren’t zoned for housing, but I’d rather see taxes going into a revitalization of existing spaces rather than in forcing people to commute again!

    2. MigraineMonth*

      Funny how whenever workers complain about pay we’re told to bring coffee from home and pack a lunch, but now that we’re not buying downtown they want to force us to spend money.

  53. El*

    15. Responding to Sick Day Emails–not the OP but thanks for this response! I always worry that when I say “Feel better!” it’s possible to read it as an order (you better feel better soon or else) but I hope I am just way overthinking that! “We’ll see you when you’re feeling better” seems much nicer.

    1. Heidi*

      I usually say, “I hope you feel better soon. Let me know if there’s anything in office I can help take care of.” In case they have plants that need watering or something like that.

    2. londonedit*

      My boss will usually respond with ‘No problem, hope you feel better soon!’ or ‘Thanks for letting me know, now go and get some rest!’

  54. ADD*

    Re: #11 – I’ll admit to having gotten complacent about masking. I was diligent while I was riding the train/bus to work, but recent months have had me driving again, and I’m in a private office by myself most of the day, so I’d gotten very lax about it. My office is certainly not hostile to those who wish to wear masks, and some still do! I just got lazy about it.

    Then we just had another big commencement event (as we do three times a year at the university where I’m employed) with well over a thousand students and all of their guests – and wouldn’t you know, I’ve spent the last week quarantined in my room on anti-virals recovering from my second ever COVID infection. Masking is no guarantee, of course, but I can’t help but wonder if I could have avoided this unpleasantness again if I’d been a little more careful in a huge public event.

    Yeah, I’ll be back to masking again. No reason to put myself, or my family, at further risk.

    1. Nesta*

      I hope you have a full and swift recovery, and I applaud your decision to return to wearing masks at large events! Nothing is foolproof, but a reduction in the odds is better than nothing.

  55. darsynia*

    Re #7: a good motivator for refreshing your resume every so often is the idea that if you got laid off or your business burned down or any other *negative* reason why you might unexpectedly need it is probably both urgent and depressing, and that will definitely affect your mood while refreshing your resume. However, having one ready to go in a crisis will be a mood boost and a way you can support your future self!

    1. I Have RBF*

      You could just do it on a fixed date every year, like your birthday, New Years day, Labor Day, or whatever. Then when people notice and ask, you can just tell them you do it annually so you don’t forget.

    2. JustaTech*

      For reasons related to federal regulations my company requires us to submit and updated resume every year (got to show that we actually have the required experience, or something). Most folks think it’s silly, but it’s a nice neutral reminder to update my resume.

  56. CS*

    Re. #4 – I received a branded manicure set that I love. It fits anywhere, and can double as a key chain (if you’re into that, I am not.) It’s a small rectangle with a piece that pulls out. Each side has a different tool – a nail clipper, tweezers, a file, and a little scrapey tool. Don’t care much about the branding, but the trinket is handy!

    1. mlem*

      I adore Alison’s idea of posting them in disguises, myself. “I know you’re all probably getting a little tired of all these pictures of Boomer and Gonzo, so here are some new cats of mine! Meet … Shmoomer and Shmonzo!” With little photoshopped moustaches or wigs ….

      1. Fitz*

        Are we sure she meant to put the cats in costumes and post those pictures? My first impression was that the poster should wear a costume while doing the posting.

        I mean, I did immediately go back and reread, but still…

    2. tangerineRose*

      One of my co-workers posts a pic of his cat fairly regularly, saying something cute about the kitty, and it’s fun to read! Also, the kitty is adorable! But this is a channel that’s all about cats, so it would be easy for anyone to opt out.

  57. Math is hard*

    41. 100 percent of men do this! I know that when a guy exits that restroom and he doesn’t work at my company he’s definitely taken the Browns to the Super Bowl.

  58. Crocodilasaurus*

    58. Job Hopping

    How can I get across the nuance that it’s due to being promoted and not that I am flighty?

    List it as:
    Company Name
    Title 1
    Title 2

    If the job titles are things like Welder 1, Welder 2, or Welder, Welding Manager then that will show the progression naturally.
    And talk about your progression in your cover letter.

    1. Crocodilasaurus*

      Oops, in keeping with reverse time progression, Title 2 would be above Title 1:

      Welding Manager
      Welder 1

    2. Come on Barbie let's go job hopping*

      I was a little surprised to see job hopping described as “every one or two years” because maybe I’m imagining it, but I thought I’d read here before that job hopping is *usually* moving in less than two years. And my experience seems to back that up – I’ve had three jobs since finishing my education, each for 2-3 years, and I’ve yet to have any employer in an interview hint at me looking like a hopper. I would like to find a place to settle into longer for my mid-career, but I’m trying to “hop” one last time to find my goldilocks combination of fringe benefits!

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Probably very field dependent. A short-term contractor, for example, would have only short stints and that wouldn’t be considered flighty at all. There are a lot of startups in my field, so it would be pretty typical to jump every 2-3 years due to layoffs/mergers alone.

        Now I’m trying to think of a field where 5+ year commitments would be the norm, but all I’m coming up with is tenured professor.

        1. Jackalope*

          Government is another field that tends to keep people for a long time. It’s one of the few remaining fields where loyalty is actually rewarded, and along with the good benefits that helps keep people around.

          1. Come on Barbie let's go job hopping*

            I’m actually commenting in government and you’d be amazed how much people hope between stations, offices, and agencies. It’s really an extreme dichotomy – people are either moving before they finish probation or staying until retirement.

            Although the variances in offices, stations, and agencies can be as stark and changing companies in the private sector, I get the sense it all gets a bit more of a pass because it’s all under the umbrella of “government”

            1. MigraineMonth*

              That makes a lot of sense to me. Government jobs in my state accrue benefits based on seniority (rather than performance-based), so you want to stay as long as possible. If you realize during probation that the job isn’t right for you, there’s a real cost to sticking it out for a year or three at the low salary if you know you won’t stay long enough to get the better benefits.

    3. Lulu*

      There are a lot of job descriptions that list something like “demonstrated progression in…” or “increasing responsibility in x over time…” and I think of this type of moving as demonstrating that progression rather than demonstrating flightiness. You’re absolutely not flighty if they say “Hey, you’re great at this. Can you do it at a higher level? Or handle this more complex thing?”

  59. Fluffy Fish*

    #33 coworker font –

    i think this question goes beyond the question. generally speaking as a colleague – not someones manager – your standing to “address” things is limited to things that directly affect your ability to do your job. coworker constantly late with something that in turn makes you late? yes, you can say something. coworker doing something you don’t like but in no way affects your work? no.

    take a step back and think about why you think it would be in your purview to tell a coworker not to do something like that.

    and one step further as a manager you do have more standing to tell an employee not to do something but theres a lot to be said for being able to distinguish what is worth spending your authority on and what is not.

    1. tangerineRose*

      What I found annoying is when people would put bright fonts with letters in colors when the fonts and letters were similar enough or clashing enough that it was hard to read.

      Otherwise, as a general rule, I don’t care what font someone uses as long as it’s reasonably easy to read.

  60. Melicious*

    Oooh, 57. There are SO MANY ways this could bite you in the a$$ if you disclose before your leave has actually started. I was in the same position. I was 95% sure I wasn’t going to return, but I waited until after the birth and I was 100% ready to resign. My leave was supposed to be 4 months, and I resigned after 2. So they got 2 months notice, and I rested easy knowing I wasn’t risking the loss of any of my disability and parental leave benefits. Also… nobody was shocked. It’s pretty common.

    1. SpaceySteph*

      Also for #57 (grouping here since for #57, but not really related to top comment): make sure you research the policies about what you do/don’t have to pay back if you don’t come back from leave. Some companies make you pay back your portion of your benefits that would have come from your paycheck, or paid parental leave. I don’t say this to deter you from not going back, but to make sure you budget accordingly to pay that money when you resign.

      1. Melicious*

        Yes, definitely. My company was a “we’ll give you what the state mandates and no more,” so I only needed to to know I definitely had to be employed when my leave started to get my state benefits. (Fortunately, that state is CA; I’m so sorry for so many parents who don’t get nearly as much).

    2. tangerineRose*

      Some women try the stay at home mom thing and just can’t stand it. To each their own. I think it makes a lot of sense for the OP to take the time and find out what it’s like staying home with her baby. It’s gotta be tough to know what’s going to work or not work without trying it.

  61. cabbagepants*

    #55 pumping

    I am honestly surprised by this answer, though I’d be really happy to have had the wrong idea. I’ve always worked on vast campuses where you had to walk up to 15 minutes to the nearest pumping room. Maybe because these campuses didn’t have many females and had even fewer mothers!

    1. SpaceySteph*

      Yeah, I’ve definitely had a 10+ min hike to a pumping room before at some worksites. (Or at least to one that wasn’t in a restroom vestibule.)

      It would suck if you had to change buildings in inclement weather though, I’d hope a company would at least be able to manage a makeshift pumping space (borrow a conference room, use a supply closet, etc) if you were stuck in that other building in bad weather.

    2. tangerineRose*

      For a new mom to have to walk 15 minutes to pump just seems inconsiderate. This is a woman who just grew a human being and is now pumping to feed the baby.

    3. JustaTech*

      It might be impacted by the new federal law about pumping at work; it’s not clear to me if the pumping space has to be within a certain distance of your primary working location, but since you have to be given as much time as you need to pump, it would be in the company’s best interest to not make folks add in an extra 10 (or 30!) minutes of walking.

  62. ferrina*

    #60- you can also do the delayed send. I know of some managers (who were generally not the best) who frowned on calling out before 7am because “you might be feeling better”. It’s silly and yes, you should be able to call out at 4:30 am. My current manager is great and I emailed her at 2 am calling out for that day, and it wasn’t an issue. But if your manager is not the best, use the delayed send feature.

    1. Green great dragon*

      Be careful though – delayed send in Outlook at least doesn’t work until the computer’s switched on, so in the example give the email wouldn’t have been sent until the OP woke up and switched on their work email. I really don’t see the problem with sending at 4.30.

      1. ferrina*

        I’ve done delayed sends in Outlook without being active at my computer. My computer is usually on though (if in sleep mode)- I’m one of those people with a million windows open and I shut down my poor computer only once a month.

        1. J*

          I’ve noticed for me it needs to ping the server side. So on my desktop version I need to keep it on for about 5 minutes after sending or force a send/receive, on the web version I might be just fine.

  63. Crocodilasaurus*

    31. Promotions of senior management

    What’s the tone of the emails? Is it rah rah whoo hoo? Or is it informational?

    I’m used to seeing emails announcing changes in senior management, which people do need to know about. They are informational, though. They might say, “Congratulations to Natalia Dunderson on her new role,” but it’s kind of boilerplate.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      I worked at a company for one year, and I think there were 5 reorgs during that time. My boss and grand-boss stayed the same; the CEO and president stayed the same. The three levels of management in between were playing musical chairs, the best I can tell, and I was never sure which department I was part of from one week to the next.

  64. Heidi*

    So, for Letter 54. I’ve come to realize that it is very, very important to some of my colleagues to meet people in person. It’s like we’re not even real to them if we only meet over zoom or Teams. It’s worth going to meet this kind of colleague if they’re going to be heavily involved in your own work.

    1. ferrina*

      I have a colleague like this. She’s convinced that remote work is killing our company….even though most people love it and say they are more productive when they can choose where they work. She actively derides any kind of virtual social events or trainings (even when it’s between colleagues who are based on different sides of the company). Generally we ignore this, but it builds a lot of goodwill when you occasionally see her in person.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        The only ‘decent’ virtual social events I’ve ever done have been “we are all going to watch a movie together” or on one occasion an online cooperative jigsaw puzzle. While those were fun, I didn’t find that they led to improved coworker relationships even as much as meeting someone in the employee kitchen has.

        Trainings are a different matter, but even then small group virtual has been to me a ‘meh’ experience at the absolute best.

        1. ferrina*

          Our virtual social events are all optional, and there’s no penalty for not joining. She even hosts a couple of them! She just seems to think the ones that she dislikes are horrible for everyone.

    2. Sophie Hatter*

      Not directly related, but grouping for LW 54:

      I know for me the three-hour drive would definitely mean getting a hotel room, which feels super frustrating for a social event you’re already reluctant to attend. Are there any fun things you could plan do in that city the day after the work event (go to a museum, see a matinee performance or sporting event, etc.) to make the obligatory work trip into a semi-fun weekend? Even if it’s something that wouldn’t warrant a round trip on its own, that plus the goodwill might make it feel more worthwhile.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Yeah, that’s a great idea! I try to do that when I have to travel for work – stay an extra day and see something interesting.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      For me, I just like to see co-workers in person every once in a while. I’m sorry that you won’t enjoy it #54, but at least it’s a party and not being asked to come in for mail duty or a 30-minute meeting or some other task rotation that is entirely unnecessary. They will try to make it interesting even if it isn’t for you.

      (I am introverted, but I do like certain events a few times a year.)

      1. LW 54*

        Hi, I’m the LW in question! It’s more that I haven’t met any of them before in person, the people there would be people I have had only brief Zoom calls with. My main team is based in another territory. I get quite bad social anxiety about going to parties where I am very lightly acquainted with the attendees.

  65. I’m screaming inside too*

    #38- HR says we can’t use negative internal knowledge when hiring: could this be HR being cautious about FERPA regulations? I can imagine them taking the position that it’s not legal to consider an alum’s confidential academic record into consideration when hiring.

    1. Crocodilasaurus*

      The letter actually said:

      could not consider any information we already knew about the student outside of the hiring process.

      I think the rule is to avoid having internal candidates held to a different standard than external candidates either way.

    2. Prospect Gone Bad*

      My advice is to just “find out” about the plagariasm on your own, make up a white lie about how you found it. For example, while checking references. The HR guidance is weird. Like, it can basically be used to say you can’t use any information to make any decision

    3. JustaTech*

      I mean, I guess, if it’s just for stuff that happened when the candidate was a student (trying to offer a “clean slate” or something).
      But if it’s “you can’t use anything you know about any candidate that you didn’t explicitly learn in the interview process” – hoo boy that’s going to 1) be kind of impossible to enforce and 2) going to get you a lot of bad employees who look good on paper.
      And also, wouldn’t “asking existing employees about their prior experience with a candidate” count as part of the hiring process?

  66. Angstrom*

    #49: Leadership training is not a bad thing! Too many companies promote people with no training for their new roles & responsibilities, which often leads to imposter syndrome and/or underperforming. It’s more likely that your company sees you moving into a leadership role and wants you to succeed.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      I once had a colleague ask if I was thinking of a leadership course that was advertised in our school (for people thinking of applying for deputy principalships, principalships, etc). I took it as a compliment, that she was suggesting that she thought I’d be good in a higher role. (I wouldn’t and I’d hate it, but still!)

    2. Experiment 626*

      It’s a good sign that they acknowledge that leading a group of subject matter experts has a different set of skills than being a subject matter expert.

  67. Thatoneoverthere*

    61 – I don’t hate my job currently. But I have had jobs where I hated it so much, I almost walked out. This was due to really toxic environments.

    What I hated for a long time was being stuck in jobs that didn’t pay well. I graduated with a basic degree, right after the recession in 2008. I got laid off twice since in that time. Wages in my area have basically not increased at all since 2008. I FINALLY made over a certain salary (which wasn’t that high) in November 2023. It was very frustrating. I hated that I worked places and saw people in management buying nice cars, $500k houses, taking vacations and I was barely scraping by. Finally my husband and I are making good money and we are comfortable. But it was hard for a long time and I hated it. I hated that I had to wake up and go there every day.

  68. Alex*

    There’s a wide gap between “I love my job and would not spend my time doing anything else” and “I HATE MY JOB PLEASE SET ME ON FIRE NOW.” I think most people exist on a spectrum in between. I came awfully close to the latter at my old job, but then I got a new job and am now firmly somewhere in the middle. Would I rather be at the beach? Sure. But it’s not soul crushing.

  69. Nicki Name*

    #30, if you always get comments on your photos, maybe you’re really good at pet photos and should start an Instagram account for your cats or something! That would help keep you from spamming your work channel.

  70. FrogEngineer*

    #61. No! I don’t think it’s true at all that most people hate their jobs. It’s just… it’s a job, you know? Of course you’d rather be doing something else most of the time. But if you accept that it’s something you have to do to provide for yourself and others, I think it becomes easier to have a positive outlook.

    1. tangerineRose*

      I’m not sure that there’s a job in the world that most of us would want to do for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, with occasional holidays and vacations, unless we could really increase the holiday/vacation time.

      I like my job. But it does mean that I have to get up earlier than I’d like (I’m not a morning person), and sometimes I get stressed, and sometimes the idea of going home and goofing around on the internet or reading a book or taking a nap is just soooo appealing.

    2. allathian*

      Yes, this. Most people enjoy doing things they’re good at. I’m good enough at my job to get the competence kicks I enjoy out of it. But it’s also challenging enough that I’m not bored at work. I have a decent manager and the vast majority of my coworkers are great, and the small minority that I don’t really enjoy interacting with all that much are still professionals I can work with if necessary, even if I don’t seek them out for social chat at work.

      Having a decent job doesn’t mean that I don’t look forward to the weekend or to going on vacation, of course I do. But the idea of returning to work after a break, regardless of whether it’s a weekend, a week, or a month, doesn’t paralyze me with anxiety, either.

      I wouldn’t do my job for free, but I’d still rather be doing my current job 40 hours a week than any of my previous jobs.

  71. Lacey*

    #61 I’ve rarely had a job I hated and it’s always been a sign I needed to leave.

    What I’m generally shooting for is a job that doesn’t make me depressed on Sunday and where I feel reasonably competent, but not so competent that I hate everyone around me.

    A bonus is if I enjoy my coworkers. That really helps.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I think the majority of jobs out there are either okay, or at least bearable in exchange for money. People tend to discuss either the most positive or most negative experiences more than anything else because those experiences tend to stick in your mind the most, and because that’s what gets the most engagement online.
      It’s the same as with people – most people you meet in life are generally okay, but it’s either the complete a-holes or the totally lovely people that you remember the most – especially if you end up working with one of them!

    2. I Have RBF*

      One thing I’ve noticed is that when a job is turning toxic my dreams/idle storytelling take on a really dark twist. I used to think that’s just how my dreams/stories were.

      Then I ended up in a not toxic job, and I didn’t have the dark stuff – until there was a management change and it came back, then I got laid off. A couple cycles of this, and I now take it as a warning that my stress is getting too high or the job is about to blow up.

      YMMV, but it’s one of the ways I keep track of my stress level.

    3. Jackalope*

      Yeah, hating your job is a sign that you should consider moving on. If it’s ruining your weekend that you know you have to go back in to work in two days, or making you constantly stressed, or anything like that, time to find a new job!

      As one small data point, I personally like my job a lot most of the time. Of course it has some stuff that’s not my favorite, but in general I like it. The only thing I dread about Monday is the tyranny of my alarm clock not letting me sleep in as much as I’d like!

  72. Giselle*

    Re: the mask thing, I wonder if coworkers are afraid that you’re wearing the mask because you’re actually sick. Last year our office had a guy who never wore a mask until one day he suddenly came in double-masked with an N-95 – we all (correctly) suspected that it was because he had come down with COVID but still wanted to come in.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      LW61, no everybody does not hate their job. I mostly love my job. Like sure, I dislike having to get up at 6:30 and there are times I’d rather be chilling online or reading, but most of the time, I actively enjoy it. I’m utterly delighted that laws about retirement in Ireland have changed and I no longer have to retire at 65 or 66 and can carry on to 70 if I wish.

      Plus, I think when it comes to jobs, people tend to split things too much into extremes – do you love or hate your job? I think most people fall somewhere in the middle. I mean most of us would rather be free to do what we want but most people aren’t really dreading work each day either.

      I’m currently just over a week off the new school year and half of me is thinking, “no, I want more time to chill out. I don’t want to get back to 6:30am starts and less free time” and the other half of me is thinking, “I can’t wait to see what classes I have this year and to meet the new teachers and to get going on all my plans.”

    2. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Yes, our version of a plague rat came in right after the winter holidays suddenly wearing a N95 (when typically he had an ill fitting cloth mask worn under his nose) back when mandatory quarantines were a definite thing in our office, probably early 2021.

      Yeah. His wife and two of his teenagers had tested positive the day before. At that point, that meant you were excluded from the premises for two weeks and a negative test. He still came in.

    3. JustaTech*

      My coworker and I with babies in daycare often come into work with masks because either kiddo *might* be coming down with something, or we’re getting over something, but feel well enough to come into work (and think that we’re past the contagious phase).

      But those are run of the mill colds, not COVID.
      Also, we have a lot of hands-on work so we can’t just WFH for days after getting over a cold.

  73. Sue*

    “Most people who wear red lipstick aren’t trying to invoke labias…” HAHA
    9. Makeup at work

    1. Purple Halo*

      I can’t say I’ve actually seen all the many labias. But if red lipstick is supposed to involve labias I suspect they come in very different colours to what I have experienced.

      I can’t help but suspect that’s one of those “this is the real history” myths and it sounds cool rather than being real.

      Does anyone actually think of labias when they see red lipstick?

  74. LimeRoos*

    For 61, I love my job!! And as far as I know, most of my friends love their jobs as well. Plus, there’s a lot of room between love and hate – tolerate, like, enjoy, would love if it wasn’t for rude Bob, etc.

  75. Insert pun here*

    Re: branded items. I work a lot of trade show type events, and in that context (trying to draw people in/engage) these are the best options:
    1.) candy
    2.) any other sweet treat
    3.) salty snacks
    4.) pens (everyone is always looking for one anyways)
    5.) small, consumable items (chapstick, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, etc)
    6.) anything that fulfills the “oh crap, I forgot to pack X” need: lint roller, spare pair of socks, etc

    But really it’s candy.

    1. HonorBox*

      I think consumable items are always a win. Not everyone likes the same things, but people can grab whatever you have and share it with others, too. It can be consumed immediately or can be easily packed.

  76. I don't like it*

    61- I don’t like working. I have tried a bunch of fields and none of them really do it for it me. For me its about finding a good company, with decent pay and benefits. So I can at least support my family. I buckle down and do it bc I have kids, and want a decent house. I want to travel, buy things I want (within reason of course, I am not rich lol). So that’s why I do it. I am convinced I probably won’t ever like working.

    If my husband made enough, I would be a SAHM in a minute. But that’s not the case for us. So its kind of “It is what it is” situation.

    1. Lana Kane*

      Same. I’ve been working for over 20 years and I’m just tired of it. I work to support myself and my family, have a fairly comfortable life, and to find my retirement because I don’t have the luxury of a pension. In fact I’d say that’s as big a driver as being able to support myself now (because I really want to retire but the financial realities of it scare the poop outta me).

  77. Sleeping Panther*

    #4 (branded merchandise) is also a common complaint in academia, since so many academic departments and conferences will give out T-shirts, which professors/lecturers and university staff generally can’t wear to work. I’ve seen reusable water bottles given out, but if you go that route, make sure they’re dishwasher-safe so that they’re less annoying to clean.

    The best-received conference gift I’ve ever seen was the lunchboxes my department gave out at a conference on how food and culture shape each other. Everyone was excited to get something other than a T-shirt, and I still use mine almost a decade later.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      I’m still bummed that I lost the branded insulated lunchbag from my previous company – they had done a really good job with the design.

      Other useful swag – I use the reusable grocery bags, especially the reinforced ones, for years.
      Might as well have a conference or company logo since the grocery stores brand them too.

  78. ZugTheMegasaurus*

    #61: I don’t think most people hate their jobs, though I’d be willing to bet that most people grumble about it. Like I’m not super happy with my job at the moment so I’m searching, but I’m essentially searching for the same type of work (so it’s more the company and not the job itself that I’m unhappy with). Sure, there are bad days like with any job, but it doesn’t rise to the level of hate.

    To contrast that, my mom recently ended a 40-year career in medical billing, and she HATED her job. Like REALLY hated everything about it. Hated dealing with condescending doctors and angry patients and frustrating insurance companies day in and day out (and honestly who can blame her?). She’d reduced her client load down to one practice over the last few years, and when the doctor suddenly sold it, she decided that was it. Retired a few years early and figured it’ll be easier to sort out the financials when she isn’t spending every day in I-hate-my-life mode.

    1. Scarlet Ribbons in her Hair*

      I hated a few of my jobs, and what makes me sad is that my hatred of them was so unnecessary. It was always caused by TPTB’ lack of consideration.

      At one job, I was required to go to the bank during my lunch hour. This meant that I had to walk fifteen minutes to get there, wait on line about ten to fifteen minutes, and then walk fifteen minutes to get back to the office. This did not give me much time to eat. Whenever I got back to the office even one minute late, the owner screamed at me. I tried to explain that it wasn’t right that I had to go to the bank instead of being able to eat lunch and go, say, to the drugstore to get something, but he wouldn’t listen to me.

      At another job, whenever the receptionist was late, I was the one who had to call the answering service to get messages. My supervisor was always furious and would scream at me that he needed to give me some work. I would scream back that it wasn’t my fault that the receptionist was late, and that the office manager insisted that I get the messages, and that if my supervisor was really angry, he should find someone else to call for the messages. The receptionist was ALWAYS late, because she saw that when she arrived late, I had already gotten the messages (something that she hated to do) and made the coffee (something else that she hated to do), and she got paid JUST AS MUCH as if she had arrived on time and had done what she was supposed to do. I blamed the office manager for tolerating the situation.

      At another job, I was hired to be an executive assistant, but on my first day, I found out that it was a bit-and-switch to be the receptionist. The woman who was supposed to relieve me so that I could go to lunch or the restroom was extremely uncooperative. Nothing was said to her. One day, when she refused to cover me for a lunch hour, I walked out of the office at 4:00 PM. I had managed to get her to sit at the front desk, telling her that I needed to go to the restroom, so the front desk was not left unattended. She was shocked when I walked out the door. Nothing was said to her. I gave notice the next day.

      At one company, we were told that the office would be closed the day after Thanksgiving. On the Monday before Thanksgiving, the owner told us that he had changed his mind – we had to come in on the day after Thanksgiving. (He told us on Wednesday that we could take Friday off after all, but the damage had been done. People had already changed their travel plans.) At another company, I was told that the office would be closed on the two Mondays before Christmas and New Year’s Day (which were on Tuesdays). After Christmas, I was told that I would have to come in on Monday, December 31. Just me. No one else. Fortunately, another employee insisted that I be allowed to take that day off. But it still left a very bad feeling in me.

  79. Student*

    #47: You can probably just mute or turn off notifications on this one specific co-worker in your instant message application, rather than muting all the instant message sounds.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I have peers who I have had to block because they’re irresponsible and inconsiderate with communication. I keep screenshots in case I’m challenged on it; the decisions have been questioned but never overturned.

  80. Student*

    #25: My office is in my bedroom.

    I use a room divider.

    I bought it online. I can’t see most of the bed from my “office”, and I can’t see the monitors from my bed. Also helps cut back on any ambient electronics light from power cords, etc. while I am sleeping. As a bonus, it gives me a nice-looking back drop for online video calls.

    I hate having my office in the bedroom, and I’d put it somewhere else if I had a better space for it.

  81. Festively Dressed Earl*

    LW 37, not only will no one judge you harshly for not attending the funeral, but no one will judge you for not being fond of this person. Not mourning does not equal celebrating someone’s death.

    “Just because you lost me as a friend, doesn’t mean you gained me as an enemy. I’m bigger then that, I still wanna see you eat, just not at my table.” – Tupac Shakur

  82. HonorBox*

    RE 36 – It sounds like the junior employee, while being a bit childish, is not the issue, at least on the surface. If the senior employee is calling out consistently for these event days, I’m not surprised that the junior person is taking exception. That likely means a whole lot more work for them and I’d be miffed too. Your manager needs to know. Perhaps there’s some sort of interpersonal dynamic in play between these two employees that needs to be addressed. But the best thing for you to do is point out that senior employee is consistently absent for the event days and ask what the manager would suggest doing to start the process of correcting the issue.

  83. RYNE*

    #61 – I think most people hate their jobs periodically – or hate certain aspects of their job. Sometime this is an indication that you need to find a new job, but more often its just the way things are. Eventually you gotta come to terms with being content without being happy all the time. Focus more on the REAL things you get out of the job (pay and benefits) and less on the warm-fuzzies.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      Yeah, coming to terms with it is important. I’m mostly neutral with my job. There’s a few parts that I love (and I’m trying to edge my way to those parts more often). The only part that I actively hate is when people send me unwarranted, angry emails. That’s not super often and it’s out of my control. But some days, things just pile up and I get confused and frustrated – I also hate those days. As long as the good heavily outweigh the bad, I can deal with it.

  84. E. Monday*

    Re: #11 – Not weird! I still mask in indoor public spaces despite being fully vaxxed and boosted, and would absolutely have masked at a conference. COVID is still a thing, and the country as a whole is having an upswing of infections right now.

    1. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

      My main workspace is very well-ventilated and distanced –big, open, high-ceilinged room with high-volume filtered air exchange, the 1-2 other people in it are usually 10+feet away — so I’m not masking at my desk these days. Or in the building hallways, since academia between semesters is basically deserted. There’s very low risk of transmission in these circumstances.

      But I still mask for face-to-face meetings, especially with colleagues who have recently traveled through airports or attended conferences, and in close quarters indoors with people whose contagious-illness precautions are looser than mine or unknown. I’ll be back to masking all day at work when the new semester starts and the building gets crowded.

      Most of my close family (who I live with or see regularly and want to continue to) and friends are medically complicated in a ways that put us at higher risk, and not only from Covid. One of my close circle already has disabling Long Covid, and others have enough difficulties from other conditions that even a mild cold could lay them flat for weeks or trigger life-threatening complications.
      I’m on the lower-risk end of our higher-risk group; If I catch an illness, it’s more likely to give me a few or several bad days than to kill or permanently disable me. But, I’m just recovering from a non-contagious medical thing–basically an environmentally-triggered complication of a chronic issue that’s usually no big deal–that had me out of work or doing limited remote work from bed or doctor’s offices for a couple weeks… while my office is understaffed, I’m carrying extra work due to the staff shortage and I need to be involved in interviewing and hiring, and I am so snowed under that I just can’t afford to be out sick any more now if I can possibly help it.

      Wearing a mask in situations where there’s high risk of transmission of airborne illness, like stepping up hygiene against touch-transmitted illness, and keeping on top of my chronic issues as best I can in a society that is pretty lousy about accommodating different needs… those are just what I need to do to reduce my risk of a lot of complications for myself and my loved ones. And of those things, masking is for me by far the easiest.

  85. Dinwar*

    #18: One office I wroked in had a coffee machine that was ALWAYS going down. Like, it’d work for one week a month. I got fed up with it and bought a French press. No heating element, so it didn’t violate any policies–I’d use the microwave to heat up the water. I got to make coffee I liked, too, which was nice. Cleanup was a bit of a pain, but not overly so.

    I’d recommend a metal one if you can find one. Most glass isn’t rated for repeated heating/cooling, so will eventually shatter. I have a dual-walled metal French press that’s survived three large dogs and three rowdy children–dented, but still functional!

    1. Lana Kane*

      A french press also has the advantage of being fairly discreet, as buying a separate machine might raise Mr. Control Freak’s hackles.

  86. Dover*

    Re #46, Worst Boss: “Dear AAM, this is bananananapants, right?” is technically a question. I need to hear this story.

  87. Engineer*

    #4 – Corporate gifts….whatever you choose to get, make it from a quality and/or well known brand. My company HYPED up gifting us Yeti mugs. Yes we received a yeti branded mug, but it holds 10-oz on liquid. Don’t do that.

    If doing a clothing give away, make sure people can find item in a store to try on so that arent guessing on size.

  88. ChemistryChick*

    Oh how I would love to hear a “post-pandemic” update from Wanda’s employee. I just really love the way the update was written and how awesome OP did resetting boundaries.

  89. Kyrielle*

    #11 – my go-to, since it’s true, is “I have allergies, so if I’m getting sick I might not realize immediately. I mask so I don’t have to worry about giving anything to the people around me.”

    1. mlem*

      If anyone ever asks me, my planned response is “I can’t afford long Covid”. It’s true that I can’t, but it’s also a swipe at my company’s below-market pay rates, heh.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      That’s my reason too. I don’t mask all the time, though I would for something like a conference, but when my sinuses are bad, I tend to wear it the full day.

      Most people don’t say anything. One colleague mentioned “you’re back in the mask?” and I’m pretty sure she was concerned that like maybe I’d a family member who had had a serious diagnosis or something, so I just said something along the lines of “my sinuses are playing up and I just wanted to take care in case I was mistaken and it was something contagious.”

  90. Raida*

    4. What kind of branded gifts do people actually like?

    People often like branded gifts they have the option of taking or leaving.
    I will not ever want a water bottle – I won’t use it, it’s cumbersome, no.
    I don’t need any more backpacks, but if it flukes being a good size for something specific I’ll take it.

    Pens, notepads, sticky pads are all small and super functional – highly likely to be taken. Same with lens/screen cleaning cloths.

    So look for more functional things that are still of use if the receiver already has one, and don’t force gifts on people to get a better idea of how many of each item type to order moving forward by seeing how many are leftover.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Yes! I love water bottles. And I won’t take another one until my current ones start to break, because even if I love them, I only need so many. I have enough backpacks right now. Etc. Things that can be used up are a better choice, but as you say, MANY things can be good if they’re offered but not shoved on you. Pens? Post-its? Notepads? Those *do* get used up fairly regularly, and thus replaced more often.

      1. HonorBox*

        I received a branded Hydroflask from a vendor, and it is one of the best branded gifts I’ve ever received. But it is one of my favorites because it is higher end. I like the vendor, but have put fun stickers all over it, just as I have with other water bottles I’ve purchased. I think the key for something like a water bottle, backpack, etc. is ensuring it is well-made and at least perceived to be higher end. And as I type this, I’m sipping tea from a branded Yeti mug that my wife received.

    2. NeedRain*

      Options are ideal, if you can let people choose from two items even you will make more people happy. I got a branded wireless charger at a conference once and that’s come in handy.

      The other thing is, make sure people know it’s okay to say no. Personally I will say no thanks anyway but not everyone will feel free to do that at the moment when another tote bag is being stuck in their hand. I will only take tote bags if they are sturdy, not the cheap kind that falls apart in months. I’ve also turned down blankets and jackets that are 100% polyester- too sweaty- and plastic water bottles, and mugs I don’t need… but I’ve got a sweatshirt, stainless steel travel cups, nice totes with zippers, a backpack… so much stuff.

  91. BatManDan*

    Re: branded “gifts.” Anything given with your company’s brand on it is NOT a gift, and it not RECEIVED as a gift. It may be handy, it may be useful, but the recipient KNOWS that its purpose for existing is to promote your brand. If you want to understand the psychology of both giving AND receiving gifts, and what makes a good gift, there is a great book by a guy named John Ruhlin called Giftology. It totally changed the way I understand, and give, gifts.

    1. NeedRain*

      My dad taught me that any branding is free advertising for the company. Even things like the Guess triangle logo on a pair of jeans, but especially anything you get for free.

  92. justcommentary*

    Re: 30 and cat pictures

    I think Alison’s advice is good. Another way to look at it is if there’s any chance of your posting frequency creates a perception of you spending a significant amount of your day not working. I’m biased as a cat person but I wouldn’t begrudge even a noticeably high level of cat photos from a coworker if I knew their work was reliable and high quality. It’d just be a quirk of theirs. If your work is even more along the lines of adequate, then I’d scale it back.

  93. Daisy-dog*

    #50: My company utilizes shared offices. Some people do have assigned offices, with the expectation that someone else may use it if it’s empty. Certain positions may get to lock their office, but I don’t know which of those they are. I’m in HR and only our CPO has an assigned office – the rest of us share or use whatever space is available. Our CEO works out of a small meeting room when he’s in town, so the room is up for grabs the rest of the time.

    This does mean that I WFH 98% of the time, but that’s also because my role is mostly deep work. I’d consider going in more often if I knew I’d have a space, but I also don’t expect my own assigned office.

  94. Archangelsgirl*

    #33. If they’re using Verdana or Century Gothic, these are recommended in my school district to be used for low vision students and are considered easiest and clearest to rear. Just a thought as to why they might be chosen, if indeed it’s either one of those.

  95. Noodles*

    Our family have several ugly but extremely warm winter hats from the company my dad worked for in the 90s. They’re great for camping.

    (We’re in Canada; sometimes warmth takes precedence over all else.)

  96. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    Listening to a counter offer out of “politeness” feels like such a waste of their time. If anything, that seems ruder. It would be disingenuous, wouldn’t it?

    I’d be inclined to say “I appreciate that you’d want to consider making a counter offer but I was offered this excellent opportunity that was too good to turn down/I have made up my mind/it isn’t a reflection on this company at all, it’s just time to go/I would be wasting your time if I wasn’t honest.”

    But this boss sounds so unreasonable that I doubt that would have stopped him having a bizarre reaction.

  97. Free Meerkats*

    For #55 (pumping room a 5 minute walk away) Nobody says you have to speed walk back and forth. When pumping time comes, grab your stuff and amble your way there, do a leisurely clean up when finished, and then meander back. Maybe stopping to smell the roses on the way. Take the scenic route. If there’s a coffee place, you obviously need to replenish your fluids…

    Use the remote spot to your advantage.

  98. Annette Weston*

    Wait, lipstick has nothing to do with labia. And, honestly, if your labia is bright red you should get that checked! Also, why is someone bringing up labia in a work situation at all? What is the gender if this person?

    1. Crocodilasaurus*

      If you mean Question 9, I didn’t see where anybody brought up labia in a work situation.

      1. Antigone Funn*

        The question’s implication is that red lipstick is more unprofessional than green/blue/purple lipstick because red “represents labia.” By that logic, women wearing lipstick are walking around advertising their genitals like baboons. It’s a pretty gross assumption!

        The more boring, but also more correct, statement is that green/blue/purple lipstick is less professional because those are such unusual colors for lipstick. (Same with hair color, although that has relaxed a lot in the past decade or so.) You can believe red lipstick means genitals if you’re a weirdo, but red is simply a very common color for a very common type of makeup, and therefore acceptable in most professional situations.

  99. NoOneTellsYouHowToDeal*

    #37 Be prepared to feel guilty and be upset when it finally comes. Perhaps it won’t hit you the same way, but I know when a teacher I loathed died the year after I was in his class I was absolutely devastated. It shocked me, but in the moment it was actually harder to deal with than the deaths of people I loved. I got over it fairly quickly, but there was so much unexpected emotion – a lot of guilt, a lot of just weird feelings. It’s so strange and no one talks about being in that situation so it’s unexpected. I’ve since met three other people who had similar reactions to people they really disliked but interacted with regularly dying so I know it’s not unusual. Hope you don’t have to deal with it, though.

  100. Johannes Bols*

    The return to work letter reminded me of returning to work after chemo. I had Stage IV Non Hodgkin Lymphoma (there is no Stage V). I called HR to get an idea of the various scenarios of returning to work and how it would affect my benefits. I called my supervisor on a Friday to tell her about this. She told me she was leaving for the weekend and couldn’t really be bothered. I walked out of the job a year and a half after returning from sick leave due to being terrorized.

  101. oh boy *eyeroll**

    Me being Black and all, I am rolling my eyes so hard. I try not to make assumptions about people but several words run through my mind for anyone who thinks lipstick is supposed to mimic the color of a labia. (Just an FYI, evidence of makeup use can be found all over the ancient world – including where Black and brown people lived…so…yeah. Weird. Could be a medical condition. Who knows.)

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      And men (of all races and cultures) wore plenty of makeup, too. Look at all those pictures of 18th century kings with rouged cheeks (and yards of velvet and lace). I think that to want to adorn oneself and look attractive (according to the standards of one’s culture and time) is a human universal. Nothing to do with imitating naughty bits.

      In some desert cultures, eyeshadow was meant to protect against sun glare in the same way that baseball players wear black smudges under their eyes, too. Makeup can be very utilitarian, keeping one’s lips from chapping, skin from burning, and eyes from sun glare.

  102. Bjoyous*

    Film (streaming) business: we got coolers and mini-waffle makers as branded wrap gifts. Universally adored.

  103. A (Former) Library Person*

    re #4: This isn’t a corporate context, but my spouse and I put a lot of thought into choosing wedding favors people might actually like. Ten years later, we have a 100% hit rate on seeing our commemorative (handmade) drink coasters in our guests’ homes. Maybe that could translate to corporate swag?

    1. allathian*

      Sounds like your wedding was an event your guests want to remember, so they enjoy using the drink coasters, or at least displaying them in their homes.

      As much as I enjoy my job, I wouldn’t like being reminded of it when I have a drink on a Friday evening.

    2. NeedRain*

      Some friends of mine did coozies with their names & date as wedding favors, which I used regularly for years… until they got divorced.
      Current job gives us loads of branded stuff, some nice, some of which I have turned down b/c I don’t want it. But I don’t want to see any of it when I’m at home. I like my job fine but but please don’t remind me of it constantly during my downtime.

  104. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    One of the best pieces of branded swag I ever got was very site-specific. We worked in a call center that was (a) super picky about letting people wrap up warmly (you could wear a sweatshirt but not have a blanket) and (b ) FREEZING. So for your one-year anniversary, the standard gift was a branded microfiber blanket.

  105. el l*

    Suppose you tell your boss. what reaction are you hoping for? and what reaction are you most likely to get?

    Don’t give notice until you’re certain.

  106. Anne Boleyn's Necklace*

    for #48: two of my all time favorite updates (for VERY different reasons) was the man who accidentally threw condoms all over his interviewer’s desk from 2021, and the man who claimed he “ghosted” his ex years earlier who about to become his new boss in a 2017 letter. He’d actually intentionally moved out of their shared home, TO ANOTHER COUNTRY OVER CHRISTMAS and vanished without a trace. She’d thought something horrible had happened to him. I give him a ton of credit for writing back, but oof he’d behaved dreadfully and karma’s on your scent like a bounty hunter / karma’s gonna track you down / step by step from town to town.

  107. Just*

    #43 (early retirement). Please make sure you have your financial situation well thought out.

    1. Make sure you really understand how much you will need to cover health care insurance and other health care costs before Medicare kicks in. I have read that many people who retire early vastly underestimate these costs.

    2. Make sure that you have emergency funds for things that might pop up.

    Good luck.

  108. RagingADHD*

    #9, I am just so very curious about what you think wealthy, powerful men in ancient cultures and like, right up through the 18th century, were trying to mimic with their cosmetic colors?

  109. An academic*

    Does the stuff everyone is saying about swag being useless or stupid apply to college students? I am running a program for college students who are from outside my university but doing research with my university’s professors. I was thinking about getting them all some small branded swag from my university (out of my own pocket; it’s not provided for in our grant). Do college students like swag?

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Just from my experience of seeing postgrads take swag at our events, I’d say that they’re more enthusiastic about it than people in general – probably because they haven’t yet accrued 20 years’ worth of water bottles and tote bags! Also, your educational institution giving you swag is probably more similar to getting a freebie as a customer than as an employee.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I think it’s a bit different if it’s swag from their own college. There’s a difference, to me, between say wearing a t-shirt or having a water bottle branded with your college, which a lot of people feel a sort of belonging to, and having one for a company your company say did business with. Even now, I’d probably keep a pen branded with my old college name or logo, whereas a pen from some group I did an in-service with would have far less meaning.

      Plus college students often don’t have an income and might therefore be more excited about free stuff.

    3. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

      I think students like swag, if it’s advertising or commemorating something they enjoy/identify with/want to promote. In one department where I worked, the grad students were not happy with the department and wouldn’t take department swag, but they would spend far more of their own money to buy swag from conferences, or campus affiliation groups/clubs. Undergrad students were less unhappy with the department but they also didn’t go for department swag, though some used the swag from special programs for undergrad subgroups (like, “undergrads in Llama Sciences summer study” or “4th year Teapot Artists mentor mathing program”).

      All of them always cleaned up the free food at department-hosted events though.

  110. linger*

    PSA for #13: Don’t put off recreational reading until retirement! Most people’s eyesight goes rapidly downhill with age. I first noticed some difficulty reading about 5 years before retiring, and then I was dismayed to find I physically couldn’t read more than a few hours a day, and only in bright sunlight or with large print. (No joke, it takes me a few days to get through the Friday open thread comments each week.)

  111. Corelle*

    Re:#8 – I asked this question a couple of years ago! I didn’t ask the candidate, I asked the hiring manager. She said the candidate turned the job down to keep working for the local school district because her spouse filed for divorce during the hiring process and she decided keeping her school-based job would be easier while making the transition to single parenthood. If she was applying for jobs with us again, clearly that hiccup was in the past, so I had no concerns about her candidacy. But if she’d had significant concerns about the work content/environment/ pay, those were going to be largely the same for the posting she applied for with me, so it didn’t make sense to interview her if that was the issue last time.

  112. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    #45: Listing “Sacrifice” as a core company value makes me very uneasy; it smacks too much of the kind of workplace that demands that its employees work 100 hour weeks, put in uncompensated and mandatory overtime, spend thousands of dollars every year for workplace supplies (ask any elementary school teacher about THAT!) and makes it clear that employees’ families are annoying nuisances that distract said employees from focusing on the company 24/7/365.

    Even a nonprofit lifer like myself who has willingly spent her life earning less than one can in private industry in order to pursue a calling is well aware that some organizations ruthlessly exploit their idealistic employees – and would certainly see “Sacrifice” as a splendid value indeed. This may not be a red flag, but it certainly sounds like a dark pink one!

  113. nnn*

    #11: A useful script can also be “I’m in a situation where I have to continue taking full COVID precautions.”

    You can decide on a case-by-case basis whether to elaborate on the fact that the situation is being in an ongoing pandemic where systemic protections have been all but eliminated.

  114. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    I am an adult and would be deeply offended at the idea that anyone would think they had the right to police my caffeine intake. Seriously.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. Or to interfere in any of the (sometimes suboptimal) decisions I make that can affect my health. Nobody’s business but mine. If I consult a doctor about any medical issues I may have, I’ll listen to their advice and at least try to follow it if I feel heard. But as a fat, middle aged woman, being truly heard by medical professionals is not a certainty.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’m just here waiting for an update where this guy discovers intermittent fasting and tells his employees they won’t have a lunch break anymore. What a tool. He’s not even accomplishing what he set out to accomplish, people are still getting their coffee after 2PM, just not from the office breakroom.

  115. Tarrie*

    LW#11, and any other “I’m the only one here masking” buds: in situations where people say something, I’ve found a cheery “I haven’t had a cold in over three years!” to do a decent job. (And it’s true, I used to work retail and spend half the winter sick, I don’t think I’ll ever stop masking in stores…)

    1. Billy Preston*

      YES I’ve hardly gotten sick since COVID and I still wear masks inside. It also helps protect me from other scents and perfumes, which give me migraines. It’s all worth it.

  116. WestsideStory*

    41 – stay till you are eligible for Medicare, as it only takes a single bad medical incident to wipe out savings in the current US health system (and ruin your plans for an active retirement.). If you are insured through an employer, might check out the costs of a comparable plan and run through some cost scenarios (for example if you are on a spouses insurance plan and they lose THEIR job)
    If your retirement plans are flush perhaps consider switching to a qualifying HSA (Health Savings Account) where contributions are tax deductible and can be used for any current or future health care expense.
    As to how to spend the next 3 years at your current position, brush up your hobbies and consider gathering material towards writing a book about your work experiences! It could be anything from a manual to assist your colleagues to a racy Roman a clef that includes all those funny stories and little known facts in your industry. After all, who besides you knows where those bodies are?

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      You can also stay until you can COBRA out the rest of the wait until you go on Medicare, if that early start to retirement is worth the extra money to you. Gives a little more flexibility to when you start retirement, but certainly not cheap in most cases.

  117. Llama Mama*

    #55 when I had my child 9 years ago and worked at a big University in Texas in a new building with mostly glass walls, their pumping ‘accommodations’ were not in every building and involved a 5-minute walk. (In fact, they sent out an email about these rooms, maybe 5 on the whole campus that they had set up, like they were pretty proud of themselves). Don’t do that to your employees. Maybe you could allow the person to move buildings if it’s impossible to retrofit the one you are renting. (Fortunately, I was able to use another office on the other side of campus during that period, but it was very isolating).

  118. HonorBox*

    Regarding branded items: A lot depends on the budget. If there’s room to go with a higher-end product, people will more likely take it or receive it with gratitude. Not necessarily because of the brand itself, but because it will be something that lasts and isn’t just a piece of branded junk.

    One of the best branded gifts I’ve ever seen is a shoe bag. It was something we ordered for a golf event, and people LOVED them. It works in so many situations whether someone golfs or not. It was Nike so it held up well (I still have mine 12 years later and it doesn’t look worse than the day I got it).

    One tip is to talk to companies that provide branded swag and ask about closeouts or “last season’s” items. You may be able to find a great deal. Sometimes they have limited stock, but depending on what you’re looking for, their limited stock may be the perfect number for your needs, and you can get a fantastic discount because you’re freeing up their storage space.

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

    #5 with the red lipstick. I’ve never heard of it being reprenative of labia. However, in the 40’s is when the red lip became super popular as it was a symbol of victory, optisim for during WW2. It was actually made part of the uniform for women in the military (nurses) and even part of the workplace. In fact the red lipstick was banned in Germany and other axis countries during that time. I just saw someone talking about the historical relevance of this the other day online. Wish i could find it again.

  120. swagosaurus*

    re: #4 – One company I worked for gave out branded portable phone chargers, which are too small to be obnoxiously logo’d and I really will use! or have on hand in the car, in the guest bedroom etc. Can’t speak for everyone but that’s been my fave.

  121. Jessica*

    56. Can money buy happiness?

    There’s actually science showing that having 15% of your income be disposal is correlated with a *big* jump in happiness. Beyond that, it’s diminishing returns. People with 50% disposable income weren’t noticeably happier than people with 15%, but people with 15% were A LOT happier with people than 5% or 10%.

    So money can buy a degree of happiness, or at least buy your way out of a lot of happiness.

    So good salary, adequate boss (as long as the boss is actually adequate) for me is always going to win over low salary, great boss.

    Looking for emotional fulfillment from work is risky. Work is the time you sacrifice to earn money so that you can do things that are actually fulfilling. Get paid.

  122. Bruce*

    #29 and #20 WFH vs Hybrid… some jobs really are better with some time in the office. I’ve been very very lucky to be allowed to go fully remote out of state BUT: I’m very very senior, my role was changed to no longer directly manage a local team, and I work a lot with people overseas. For the team at our office I really see that some in office time helps their interactions. In contrast, we hired a younger person fully remote, she moved on after 6 months and I think that being fully remote for our type of collaborative hands on work was >partus<, from what I can tell 900 miles away…

    1. Bruce*

      Ugh, that last sentence should read: “…I think that being fully remote for our type of collaborative hands on work was >part< of why she left." Never mind about the rest of it.

  123. Salsa Verde*

    #59 – I’m wondering if the supervisor actually makes all of you recite the mission statement at the start of every meeting, or if it’s more like she reads the mission statement at the start of every meeting?

    It says: she has instituted a practice of reciting the organization’s mission statement at the start of each weekly meeting
    I can’t tell if recite refers to everyone or just her?

    I think those are very different situations. The first one is absolutely not okay and smacks of cultishness, the second one is something I would not find terribly objectionable.

    1. Asker 59*

      Great point that I wasn’t totally clear. It rotates to a different person assigned to read it weekly-so not reciting as a group but each person is expected to do it ~1/month.

  124. Bruce*

    #4 company branded gifts: I really use my company zip-up fleeces in a couple of different weights. Also a couple of water bottles. I used a light cross shoulder bag quite a bit, but the construction was too flimsy and I had to re-stitch the straps, so I’ve demoted that one. Quality matters, cheap junk does not contribute to morale! I did >not< appreciate the fancy bottle that came with an electronic base that was supposed to flash lights at me to remind me to drink water, and which required an app and a registration to control it… talk about Orwellian! But that base unplugs and the bottle works great without it :-)

  125. Autumn*

    I have two thoughts on swag, one, do pay attention to the quality of the item, cheap and easily broken is annoying, two, think about having a swag table, water bottles, pens, magnets, reusable shopping bags, lunch coolers. Everyone can take one item, then at the end of the day it’s open season on what remains. That way people who don’t want swag can just skip it, people who like some swag but not other swag don’t get stuck with stuff they don’t want, and at the end of the event the magpies can go crazy. You can also box up what remains for the next event, especially if you only put your logo on it. “Pacific Llama Grooming Academy” is fine, adding “2024 Trimming Update” means you’ll have to throw/give away all those combs.

  126. constant_craving*

    It wouldn’t make sense to generally be unable to use known information, but I wonder if this particular instance is an issue with FERPA or other protections that apply because the person was a student rather than an employee.

  127. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

    I enjoy my job. I find a lot of fulfillment in it, and it consists of things I’ve been known to do for free in my spare time. (Both the tech parts and the people management parts.) When I’m at work, I’m passionate about doing my job well, and I look forward to Mondays. But, no, I wouldn’t do all the specific things my companies have required, for these companies, 40 hours a week, almost all weeks out of the year, for 12+ years, if I weren’t getting paid this much. It wasn’t even my first choice at a job (academia was), but the job market and salary were just *so* good I made the choice to go corporate, and I haven’t regretted it.

  128. Ms. Vader*

    #21 – hard disagree with Alison here. I cannot go to the bathroom knowing people can hear me. If you aren’t using a toilet I think it’s courtesy to do your tooth brushing or hair brushing when it’s empty.

  129. librarypizzarat*

    I always like to say “rest up and take care!” when someone calls out sick. It shows that I got the message, I genuinely mean it, and it covers everything from illness to mental health days.

  130. DJ*

    #37 I had that situation with a colleague who’d been horrible to me for several years. Until a particularly nasty incident I’d tried to build rapport. Then they got cancer and 18
    months later died. I didn’t go to the funeral, I called in sick and got a med cert to cover myself. I did sign a card/contribute for something for the family (who’d done nothing bad to me) seeing it as expressing condolences for their loss. But can understand if you don’t wish to.
    I deflected questions by saying I couldn’t make it not saying why beyond not well.

  131. DJ Abbott*

    I hope it’s not too late to comment! I just want to say on the question about whether people hate their jobs (56?): completely agree with what Allison says. My mother did not do me any favors by modeling and teaching I should have a job that was perfect for me. When I was young I was not satisfied with any job and kept looking and changing jobs. I would have done better then and now, if I had simply gotten a job I was comfortable with and stayed in it.
    If I was advising a young person now, I would say get a job where you’re comfortable with the work and can make a decent living, and don’t change jobs unless there’s a good reason. Financial stability helps a lot.

  132. meggus*

    #56: Yes, it does! But only up to a point. Research shows the upper limit is ~$75k ($97.5k in 2023 $$), beyond that, it can cause more stress

Comments are closed.