I found a naked sunbather on our building’s roof, unethical soda, and more

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

1. I found a naked sunbather on our building’s roof

I’m a manager at a company that rents part of a large building, with a roof deck shared with other tenants. The deck has a vegetable garden on it and we can take the produce home.

Earlier this summer I go up to the roof and there’s a guy up there sunbathing. I want to believe he had SOMETHING on, but I saw nothing but skin and a strategically placed laptop, and if he was in even the shortest of shorts, I’d have seen them.

I work for a big company where all managers are expected to intervene when someone is behaving inappropriately, but a company badge was one of the many things he wasn’t wearing, and I extremely didn’t want to deal with it, so I just chickened out and left.

The Question: I know that chickening out was not the right move, but what is the way to handle “someone at your office is either naked or so close to it that you can’t tell from 20 feet away?” Writing that out makes me realize that the answer is “call building security and let them save the gentleman from those tan lines,” but can I be forgiven for the part where I gossipped to peer managers about it, even though I should have done that after calling security? Does “there’s a naked guy on the roof” demand managerial discretion?

Yes, yes, and no. Yes to building security (they’re there for a reason, and while dealing with naked sunbathers probably isn’t a regular occurrence for them, it does fall under the umbrella of stuff you can bring them in for). Yes to being forgiven for telling other managers about it! Your motivation might have been gossip (who among us could have resisted in your shoes?) but there was a social good to telling people too — it’s the kind of thing that’s useful for others to be aware of in case they hear about it happening again, so that it’s clear that it’s a recurring issue. And no to the situation warranting you keeping it quiet. I mean, you shouldn’t go office to office gleefully telling everyone you encounter for the next two weeks, but it’s awfully understandable to share something so unexpected (and frankly funny) and useful too.

2. Unethical soda?

We have free soda available in the office for customers and employees. I have a coworker who will take a soda right before they leave with the express purpose of taking it home and making a cocktail.

That feels weird, and I’m half-tempted to say something as we are friends. I’m under the impression that office food/drink is for people to enjoy in the office, since they don’t have an opportunity to leave and get other refreshments easily. Not for taking home unopened to have a rum and coke. That said … it’s just a soda, and it’s once a week, maybe every two weeks. Is this an office culture thing, is there a norm, am I just feeling weird as a goody-two-shoes employee?

The soda is undoubtedly there for the reason you say: for people to drink while they’re at work so you don’t have to leave to get beverages. So yeah, he’s probably outside the spirit of what’s being offered.

But it’s not a big deal or something you should mention to him. If it’s once every week or two, it’s costing the company about 50 cents (and it’s pretty likely that he spends more than the equivalent of that in his salary thinking about work after he leaves); that’s nowhere near the level of “must intervene.” I wouldn’t recommend you start taking sodas home yourself, but that’s different from it warranting saying something to him about it.

It is true, though, that if everyone starting taking sodas home, there’s a stronger chance the perk would be cut off or restricted. So if he starts doing it more often and you feel like you really want to say something, you could approach it from that angle.

3. My coworker put weekly social meetings on my calendar

I work for an international company. I have a counterpart in another region, let’s call him Josh. We have the same role, but I am slightly senior. So, if he is a Widget Analyst, I’m a Senior Widget Analyst. We’re on different teams, though we both roll up to the same division. I do not especially care for this person. He’s perfectly nice, but I don’t think he’s very good at his job and I am often asked to pick up his slack, which I do in the interest of teamwork.

Recently, Josh asked for a meeting so that I could teach him how to do a particular type of analysis. We met and the teaching portion took very little time, so we chatted a bit at the end of the meeting. He then suggested that we meet weekly to “catch up on things.” I thought that he meant work-related things; I kind of thought he was asking for some mentorship, which I thought was a pretty good idea because frankly, he could use it, and I’m happy to teach a man to fish instead of constantly being asked to fish for him.

We had the first of these weekly “catch up” meetings and we didn’t discuss anything work-related. All he wanted to talk about was our summer plans and what TV shows we were both watching. I tried to ask a few times if he was having trouble with anything work-related, but he kept steering the conversation back to recreational topics.

Today, ahead of our second “catch up,” I messaged to ask if he had anything work-related he wanted to discuss. He said he had one request for a file, which I sent him over the messaging system. I then said, “While I had fun in our last chat, I can’t put aside time every week just to socialize. I just have too much on my plate these days. I’m always happy to jump on if I can help with something work-related.” This has the virtue of being true; I am exceptionally busy these days. He seemed to take it well and cancelled the weekly meeting.

Did I handle this correctly? It’s such a strange situation. But I really do need to protect my time. (Before you ask: I’m a woman but I don’t think he was hitting on me. He’s married to a man, and I didn’t get those vibes in the chat.)

You handled it perfectly. You gave him the benefit of the doubt initially but then when the first meeting went strangely, you asked very directly about the agenda before the second one, and then clearly explained that what he was proposing didn’t work for you. You weren’t rude about it; you cited your workload. And he took that well! If he hadn’t taken it well, that wouldn’t have meant you didn’t handle it appropriately — sometimes you can handle something perfectly and the other person still responds badly — but in this case all seems fine. Well done.

4. Can I get out of a work trip because last time I went I had a miscarriage?

In my industry there’s an annual trade fair in another country that many, if not most, people in my role attend. I have been most years and enjoy it a lot. It’s not essential that I go, but it can be of benefit to the company. However, there is another job in my company where it would usually be essential they attend the fair.

Unfortunately, we’re in the midst of recruiting for that position, and though we have hired someone, they won’t be in the role in time to attend the fair.

My boss suggested I go instead of them and fill in for them at the fair. Usually I’d be excited to attend. However, I had a very negative experience at the conference last year. My husband and I are trying to get pregnant and I lost my pregnancy the first day of conference. I was in another country, alone, not sure how to access medical help, fully scheduled with meetings, and not comfortable revealing to my colleagues what was going on as I didn’t want them to know I was trying to get pregnant. It was incredibly traumatic.

The thought of going back again this year is really upsetting to me, but I can’t work out a way to explain that to my boss. Further complicating the matter is the fact that I am still trying to get pregnant, and I’m terrified that if I get pregnant then the same thing will happen again. I know that isn’t rational, but I have had three miscarriages and it’s made me very nervous about going away in early pregnancy. I just want to be at home close to my doctor and my husband.

I’m worried that if I reveal to my boss I’m planning a pregnancy, he won’t take me as seriously for advancement opportunities coming up … I know it’s illegal to discriminate but it’s not a particularly fair world. Any thoughts? Do I just need to suck it up and go?

You do not need to suck it up and go, and you don’t need to tell your boss you’re trying to get pregnant. This is a situation where it’s perfectly fine to cite vague health issues. For example: “Unfortunately I have some health stuff going on right now that means I can’t travel. It’s nothing to worry about, but I can’t be the one to fill in this year.” That’s it! Your boss shouldn’t push for more, and it should get you out of it.

5. A salary negotiation success story

Just wanted to share a small success story with you. One of my kids just graduated college and was interviewing for jobs. During one of his interviews, the company asked what his salary expectations were, and he gave an amount that was in the upper end of the mid-range of what he was seeing he might expect for entry-level in his field in the location he was looking.

This company eventually came back with an offer that was a few thousand below his number – more in the lower/middle of the aforementioned mid-range. He told them he would look it over and get back to them, and when he shared it with me, he was happy with the offer and ready to accept it. I told him that Ask A Manager thinks everyone should negotiate salary offers. The worst that could happen is they say no and you accept what you were going to accept anyway. And if they rescind the offer, that’s a red flag about the company and you probably wouldn’t want to work there anyway. So I searched your archives for examples of how to ask, and wrote out a script for him that was simply, “I’m really excited for this job. Is there any flexibility on the salary? Would you consider (the amount he originally said he’d like)?” (AND THEN DON’T TALK … wait for them to respond.)

He did it – the person said he thought that was within the budget and just needed to check with upper management to check on internal equity. They came back the next day and gave him the amount he asked for. It was pretty small stakes for them – only a couple thousand dollars – but to someone fresh out of school it makes a big difference as he starts his new life, getting an apartment, etc. And it gave him a little boost of confidence and experience in asking for what he wants in a professional, objective way.

This is a great example of how just a sentence or two can get you thousands of dollars more in pay. (And it’s a great example of parental coaching from behind the scenes, too.) Congratulations to your son!

{ 453 comments… read them below }

    1. BrooklynAnalyst*

      Hi, I’m the LW for #3. It just happened today, so there’s nothing to update yet, but we’ll see how it goes

      1. ASneakierMailman*

        Just here to say that I love that you’re monitoring the comments and keeping us updated! I love to see the OP chime in throughout the comment threads.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        I want to echo the answer that you handled this situation really well. You made a reasonable assumption–that the meeting would be work-related. You attempted to steer the meeting back to work topics. Then you directly stated that you don’t have time for social catch-up meetings, and your coworker responded by cancelling the meeting series. I don’t see any way you could have handled the situation better than the way you did!

      3. jane's nemesis*

        The only thing I wanted to add to the AAM answer was that I would try to be warm and friendly to Josh the next time we interacted, as a sort of olive branch towards knowing that I cut off a social interaction he obviously wanted and a thank you to him for taking it graciously – if he does indeed continue to be gracious. It sounds like he’s not your favorite colleague so you’ll have to walk the line of being warm and friendly without inviting further attempts at socializing.

    2. Grey Coder*

      An ex colleague (who was similarly not very good at his job) had a lot of “catch up” meetings in his calendar. I am pretty sure they were mostly social chat pretending to be work. He was lazy overall and I did not shed a tear when left.

      1. BrooklynAnalyst*

        I can’t help but wonder if the reason Josh can’t seem to get his work done is bc he fills up his calendar with social calls like this

        1. Anneke*

          I work with a guy who’s always complaining about how he can’t keep on top of his workload, but also regularly turns what could have been a 30 second email into 15 minutes of social chitchat. I often wonder if he sees the connection.

    3. Crocodilasaurus*

      It was a harmless situation that resolved in a friendly manner. Are you looking for friendly updates or drama-filled updates? Personally, I’m looking forward to reports on their continued friendship.

    4. Gemstones*

      Seems like it pretty much got resolved, though…not sure what else is going to happen there.

  1. Joron Twiner*

    #2 I understand the desire to see everyone behaving in the spirit of the rules, not just the letter of them.

    But I also see that upper management makes in a month what I make in a year. And that they hold company-paid retreats while removing WFH.

    So the least they can do is let us take a soda home every now and then.

    1. That's 'Senior Engineer Mate' to you.*

      That’s depends a lot on where you work, and what you do. If you’re an assistant teapot packer at Teapots International there will probably be many people making more than 12x what you do. But if, like me, you’re a senior engineer in a small company it’s entirely possible that the person who owns the company doesn’t make 12x what I do.

      And as Alison said, the trouble with one person pushing the envelope is that it can encourage others to do so, which then annoys management and now no-one gets free soda.

      You might also want to make sure that this is an official top-management decision that applies to everyone and can be abused, rather than your grandboss doing it out of petty cash or their own pocket. In the former case it’s very easy for your grandboss to get found out and told not to waste petty cash, and obviously in the latter your grandboss might get quite annoyed at their generous gesture being abused. And that annoyance can be very direct… you might not be fired, but you’ve likely fought your way to the bottom of the list of people who get nice things in future.

      1. M*

        I doubt anyone has been fired over taking a weekly soda home. I don’t doubt that people have been fired for monitoring and reporting obsessively on coworkers.

        ‘As Alison said’ this really isn’t a big deal. You’re digging into her polite concession that sure maybe if x y z happened this could be a real problem to ignore the substance of her response.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          If there is one thing this site has taught me there are places that enforce rules with orbital death lasers . I’m sure it’s happened.

      1. Martin Blackwood*

        Yeah, like, according to the letter of the law it’s against policy, but….it’s one can of soda. The difference between taking one full can home and an open can you didn’t finish at most, once a week? Negligible, to me. Every day, yeah maybe its time for a “I don’t want to lose this perk” conversation.

        1. Miss Muffet*

          My company, eons ago, offered fridges of water and soda to employees. But then people were using the bottled water to water their plants so they took the water away (but left the soda, for a while anyway).

      2. Jade*

        Seriously. And if everyone is allotted one per day, who cares WHEN they drink it. It’s a perk.

        1. Knope Knope Knope*

          There’s probably not even a soda allotment, there’s probably just a snack budget. I don’t see how this could possibly push the snacks over budget and have any negative impact on anyone, anywhere. Even if everyone started to do this, I imagine rather than taking the perk away, the company would either just decide to raise the snack budget if they could afford it and decided it made employees happy, or not raise the snack budget and employees would have to find a way to be satisfied by either drinking water during work and bringing their sodas home or bringing free soda home and paying to drink more soda at work. I see no downside and really don’t think this is unethical.

        2. OMG, Bees!*

          The only issue I could see is if more people start taking soda home and then it isn’t restocked as often, so management responds by taken away all soda. I’ve seen it before (although in the form of free lunch for everyone turn into free lunch for employees, not contractors, because we ran out of food once).

          And there have been many posts on coffee wars here and who pays for that.

          But for now, 2-4 cans a month? Who cares.

      3. JSPA*

        if they’re counting two cans a day per person, and the coworker is drinking one per week (at home) while other people are drinking 3 or 4 per day at work, the powers that be would be fairly ridiculous to care exactly where it’s being consumed. Should they also police the person who pops the top as they leave to head home? Or differentiate between “one step before the threshold” and “one step outside”?

        1. Knope Knope Knope*

          I highly doubt they count sodas. They probably just purchase as many as the budget allows, periodically look for cheaper snack vendors, and call it a day.

          1. Lydia*

            It’s not that they’re counting them, but they might very well be estimating how much to order based on what a person might drink. It’s not weird to do that.

            1. Knope Knope Knope*

              Possibly. Or really just looking at how often they need to restock, and finding a cheaper alternative if it becomes cost prohibitive.

    2. Looper*

      To me, the “spirit” is to boost morale, and if an employee leaves work every Friday with a spring in his step and a can of coke in his hand, then the spirit is met. If the company finds they are spending too much on soda, they’ll adjust. Let whoever’s job it is to order the soda deal with it, don’t be the soda police.

      1. Aquamarine*

        This was my thought. Company offers free soda as a perk. Guy enjoys perk. All ends well.

        It’s one can – I don’t see the difference between him taking it for the road instead of drinking it 15 minutes before his workday ends, which would be well within the rules.

        1. Adultier adult*

          I would be much more likely to grab one to drink on my commute home than during a busy work day- i agree!

          1. Knope Knope Knope*

            Something tells me it’s about using it for a cocktail mixer. If the coworker grabbed one on the way out the door because it gave them a boost on the commute home, I doubt anyone would raise an eyebrow.

            I know when I have had a draining day at work I rely on an afternoon soda or coffee for a boost of energy to go home and have energy for my kids, but I don’t think anyone would fault me for that. If someone has a stressful day at work and unwinds with a cocktail and lets the company pay $0.50 for the mixer, I think that’s pretty similar moral ground.

            1. Paulina*

              Yes. And if he’s using it as mixer as soon as he gets home, he may be taking it because it’s ready for that (available and cold) rather than to save on soda. This is more a matter of convenience than money.

            2. Lynx*

              Yeah, I think you’re right that it’s about the cocktail aspect more than anything else.

              But it definitely made me wonder for a minute if I’m committing some kind of office faux pas by grabbing a snack from our snack table (usually a single-serving bag of chips or cheez-its or something) on the way out the door for my hour-long commute home haha

              Then again, 95% of the time, I’m the last one out the door, and there’s always a full bowl, so… probably not! But I guess it depends on company culture (like, my office also has an entire shelf full of alcohol in the kitchen, so probably very different than OP #2’s workplace)

      2. Jade*

        It would not even occur to me to track someone else’s soda consumption. I think employer may think it strange someone is keeping tabs. Now if they walk out with a fax machine that’s different.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I have to wonder if it’s the way it’s being presented to OP that’s throwing them. Like, if the colleague just put it in their bag without saying anything, I doubt OP would even have noticed. The whole cocktail hour discussion is probably a joke that landed wrong? Or if there’s a tone to the activity… if the colleague is gleeful about swiping one (as a joke, most likely) or negative “with what they pay me, the least they can do is let me have extra soda”, but I dunno, because even these examples are shrug worthy at best. Perhaps the colleague feels awkward about taking one and is covering the awkwardness poorly with a joke… but the OP sees the embarrassment and wonders if it’s an issue? Honestly, I am scratching my head a little bit. Even if you think taking end of day soda is a bad look, you’re not the one doing it, so….

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Yeah I find it really weird that OP seems to know for sure that Coworker is taking it home to make a rum and coke. Like, why would Coworker tell OP that? He can afford to buy rum, but not coke? Why only once every other week? How is OP sure he’s really doing that, he could be chugging the soda as he walks out of the office to his car for all we know. Heck, that’s what he’s probably doing and the rum and coke comment was a joke.

            1. LW2*

              Coworker’s actually a really good friend and they told me as they were taking it out of the fridge. Explained how they don’t drink soda at home, doesn’t want to buy a whole pack/liter just for one rum & coke. (And I was 100% overreacting because of abusive previous job, I have rightly said NOTHING to them.)

              1. TrainerGirl*

                Thanks for the additional details, LW2. Good on you for not saying anything.

                And I totally get you with the previously abusive job situation. I’m still recovering from a previously abusive boss.

          2. Just Another Starving Artist*

            What’s throwing OP is that they’re a stickler who doesn’t realize that no one with sense cares. That’s it.

            1. LW2*

              Not a stickler, just previous job had a stickler boss and still working through anxiety. I personally do not care, but I was hyper worried boss might.

              And of course they won’t because they aren’t previous abusive boss.

              1. WorkplaceSurvivor*

                Kudos to you LW- recognizing those patterns in yourself is more than half the battle. Good luck!

              2. Observer*

                And of course they won’t because they aren’t previous abusive boss.

                That’s a line you should probably put up on your monitor or something :) This way you can remind yourself when you find yourself spiraling.

                It’s almost like “If this is something by former abusive would do, it’s probably not something *reasonable* boss would do.”

                It really can get better with time.

              3. OMG, Bees!*

                Ah, I get that. I’ve worked as a contractor at companies that would provide lunch and snacks to employees, but not contractors, and at companies that provide those to everyone, so I am very attentive of not using that perk too much.

              4. Princess Sparklepony*

                I worked at a place where there were drinks. The person who ordered drinks for her department would order an extra case of cranberry juice and take it home with her… bold as brass! She was assistant to a high up director who had his own shady stuff going on so no one ever said anything but everyone knew…. knew ALL that was going on in that department.

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            I was torn between “you mean TAKING Tabs” and “collecting tabs” (the little opening device that the Salvation Army does actually collect for recycling.)

        2. The Coca-Cola Kid*

          This one is up there with that dude Bob from accounting, who was tracking whether people ordered guacamole with their lunch when traveling on an expense account.

          If OP brings this up because the soda-drinking co-worker is a “friend,” you can bet your bottom dollar he’ll soon be an ex-friend.

          1. Looper*

            That’s very much my thought! Everyone has a right to be a persnickety goody goody- when it comes to their own thoughts and behavior. But when you start foisting that on other people, you very much are putting yourself in the position of a scold and that’s just not the vibe a lot of people want in their work friendships. This guy isn’t embezzling from petty cash, he’s drinking a soda. Keep some perspective, pick your battles, and think big picture.

          2. LW2*

            Definitely not tracking guacamole, lol. Turns out it was a PTSD reaction from having a previously abusive would-totally-care-about-soda boss and not wanting my very good friend to get in trouble.

            Got my friend this job actually, saving them from THEIR abusive (and criminally exploitative) boss. I think our friendship will weather this, especially since I said absolutely nothing to them.

            1. 1LFTW*

              Good for you to be looking out for your friend like this, and also to refrain from giving feedback to your friend until you could reach out to someone who could help you figure out whether you might be imposing some warped workplace norms on the situation.

        3. Donkey Hotey*

          Just think: a few decades ago, they would be keeping tabs on someone who was… keeping Tabs.

          Sorry. That one was right across the plate.

      3. Hannah Lee*

        I wouldn’t worry about this one guy occasionally grabbing a soda on his way out. But if everyone starts doing it or taking multiples, and the cost of the perk starts going up, it could become a budget item that gets reevaluated.

        It happened at my company… the coffee consumption nearly doubled at one point. It’s a small company < 20 people, and there was no obvious reason why. Until one day the owner happened to be in the break room when the UPS guy came to drop off a package. Mr UPS put the package down, headed to the break room, pulled out a large YeTI and proceeded to make himself a Quattro shot latte with mocha and 5 sugars. Owner let it slide in the moment, but then asked around. Turned out Mr UPS did that not just every day … but 3 times a day: morning package drop off, lunchtime random stop by as he looped around the industrial park and in the afternoon when he picked up any outgoing packages. At ~ 50 cents a coffee or froth shot, plus the fixings, Mr UPS was costing the company $30-40 a week in coffee supplies
        Owner talked to the manufacturing/shipping manager who then pulled Mr UPS aside the next time he headed to the break room. “Dude, there’s a DD around the corner. No more free coffees here”

        No one minded him grabbing the occasional cup of coffee, but this guy was being super greedy treating a customer as his free super-duper Quattro grande supplier day after day, and he nearly ruined the coffee service for everyone (that extra couple thousand $$ a year was an expense the company couldn’t afford or would rather put towards things for its actual employees… not to subsidize UPS’s benefits while also paying for the privilege)

        1. INFJedi*

          Turned out Mr UPS did that not just every day … but 3 times a day

          Oh, wow. That’s ballsy…

          1. Dek*

            Not to mention nervy. In the “that’s so much caffeine dude must have been shaking like a tiny dog” sense.

            1. Cmdrshprd*

              Not a Dr. but I would imagine like any other drug, you get used/desensitized as you drink more and more, or a set amount.

              At first you would be very jittery from 3 yeti tumblers, but after a while your body gets used to it.

        2. Coverage Associate*

          Not to be the dreaded goody goody, but if it was coffee pods and regular cow’s milk, it could easily have been more than $0.50 each. Just an espresso pod is more than $0.50 retail, and milk is about $0.50 per 8 oz here.

          And here’s where I stop being goody: all that talk about “save money; make coffee at home” only works for drip coffee with no calculation for your labor.

      4. ferrina*

        Agree. If one employee is occasionally taking one soda, it’s not an issue. I had days/weeks where I was too busy to partake of any company’s perks- if I took one home to unwind because I literally did not have 5 minutes to drink one while I was in the office, it’s still well within the spirit. It would be very silly for the company to begrudge me that.

        If it becomes more widespread that could be a problem, but it’s still not your problem. Let whoever is in charge of this part of the budget deal with it.

        1. Czhorat*

          The employee’s behaviour isn’t even egregious enough that it would be a problem if everyone did it.

          If everyone took one can of soda home every week or two .. it would be fine. This is perfectly reasonable behaviour, even if outside the technical bounds of The Rules.

      5. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        My impression is that in some industries that have ridiculous hours, perks like this are offered in part to save the employees time. Time saved=more time for the employer. In which case, they don’t care in the least if someone is taking a soda home every other Friday.

        1. umami*

          Right? During peak times (like right now), we have someone actively circulating the building periodically with a snack cart for that very reason. I can promise you that NO ONE is monitoring when the snacks are actually consumed. We want people to have a little morale boost for their hard work. Who would begrudge someone taking from the cart and using their snack whenever they choose, especially if they didn’t have a chance to use it before leaving for the day?

    3. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah I feel like the company is giving free sodas to its employees, this person is an employee who is taking the free soda. Does it matter if he drinks it on his commute home, when he gets home, or while he’s in the office?

      I’d be more annoyed if someone took like 5 sodas a day or brought home six sodas to share with their family, because to me that’s taking more than their fare share and giving it to non-employees. But bringing it home at the end of the day? That’s fine.

      1. Colette*

        When I worked somewhere that had free soda, it very much did matter – the policy was very clearly that the free beverages were for use in the office, not to take home.

        Now, I don’t know how/if that was enforced, but the policy was clear.

        1. M*

          no one is suggesting a policy would ever be ‘ya take the office sodas home.’ they’re saying no one reasonable cares. That they had a policy is not it actually mattering, that you don’t know that they even enforced it points pretty hard to it not mattering

          Policy will not be written as ‘these are office sodas, you can take one or two home every now and again, and also can drink 3 a day but 4 is too many.’ They expect you to be able to use your own discretion. Like you have to do for hand soap, toilet paper, fridge space, etc..

          1. JustaTech*

            I would say “who drinks 4 sodas in a day” but then I remembered my friend who would have sworn he only drank 2 Cokes in a day, until the day his office mate was out and at the end of the day there were 6 cans of Coke in the recycle bin and he only remembered 2.

        2. umami*

          Wow, that seems oddly specific! I could see if someone were taking several sodas home to have at the end of the day, but it’s seems strange to say this employee can’t have a soda because they grabbed it on their way out the door.

        3. Lydia*

          That is 100% too much care for anything and points more to paranoia about being taken advantage of than an actual problem.

      2. JustaTech*

        We have $0.25 sodas at the sites at my work. At one site there is also a rule (with a sign) “Sodas are for you to drink and may not be sold on the beach.”
        Because someone (a few people?) was buying a bunch of sodas at lunch and then walking down to the beach to sell them for a buck. Now, we all make enough money that this is a hilarious waste of time, but apparently it was enough of a problem that there had to be a rule.

        There is also rumor that another site had their K-cup machines swapped out for a fancy coffee machine that grinds the beans right there because folks were taking home whole boxes of K-cups, which is clearly Not OK.

    4. Tiger Snake*

      Every reasonable manager is going to see; one person grabbing their one daily soda at the end of the day is okay in theory.

      The problem is that then Cheap Chris uses that as an excuse to grab an entire stack at a time to take home for his kids each week and Rude Rachel takes even more because she’s hosting a party.
      At that point, what are your options? You can’t make exceptions for just one person. Is it that everyone is only allowed one soda? But then Cheap Chris will just grab a stack and insist it’s okay because he didn’t drink any all last week (and he’s just grumpy at work anyway and is looking for any excuse to stick it to the man), and Amazing Anne is miserable because she needs her morning and afternoon fizzy fix.

      Cool Middle Manager was happy to provide a perk to his team and get them soda for work, but once its abused there’s not much room to step back except remove the perk entirely.

      1. KateM*

        For me, the obvious line is that one employee has no more than one non-empty can of free soda with them at any time.

      2. bamcheeks*

        You could make the same slippery-slope argument about policing everyone else’s use of office supplies. First it’s Susie Soda-Police glaring at anyone who takes a can of Coke home with them. Then it’s Erica Energy Monitor telling you that you shouldn’t be charging your phone on the company’s dime. Then Freddie Not-A-Fan points out that Erica’s desk fan uses way more energy than charging a phone and before you know it everyone’s working in a field.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        I don’t think you have to have hard and fast rules for things like this ahead of something being an issue; you can totally see how it plays out and pull back if and when needed. If something’s actually causing a problem (as opposed to being a potential problem only if people are jerks) you can just name it, and yeah you can single out the one person who’s actually causing the problem. Something like”I try to be flexible with the sodas because it’s a perk but I can’t justify letting you take home whole cases/enough for a party/whatever the problem is.” If a manager thinks they have to rules lawyer, and treat the good faith employees the same as the boundary pushers in the name of fairness, well the employees will follow the lead and rules lawyer back.

      4. I should really pick a name*

        Proactively taking that approach is a sign they don’t trust their employees.

        If there’s an issue, deal with it. There’s no need to preemptively inconvenience everyone because there could theoretically be a bad actor.

        1. I Have RBF*


          I used to work at a company that had free soda – in the cafeteria two buildings away. I would get frowned at if I took two sodas – one for lunch, on for the afternoon at my desk. So I would snag one at the start of my lunch, then another as I headed back to my desk. The problem wasn’t taking soda back to my desk, it was taking more than one at a time.

      5. Dinwar*

        But we’re not talking about a Cheap Chris or Rude Rachel. We’re talking about a guy taking a soda home once every week or two. This doesn’t rise to the level of abuse; it’s a perfectly normal sort of thing. As I said below, if he was taking it to drink on the ride home no one would bat an eye–it’s only the “He’s taking it home to make cocktails” that makes this even remotely questionable. But from a managerial perspective, it’s fundamentally irrelevant; all I see is an employee occasionally taking one of the free drinks on his way out. This warrants a resounding “Meh”.

        This sort of catastrophizing and rules-lawyering are precisely why corporate American can’t have nice things. Everything has to have a cut-and-dried iron-clad Standard Operating Procedure, with no room for nuance or discretion. It destroys horizontal social ties, as people start policing each other, and vertical social ties, as employees start seeing things as “Management vs. Employees” (in a healthy workplace management exists as a part of the necessary division of labor to get large-scale projects completed). And then we wonder why we’re facing an epidemic of mental health issues and loneliness, and why work is such a miserable experience….

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly. The thing with rules is that there is always situations that they don’t cover, and someone who wants to exploit the system will find ways to try to exploit the system. Cheap Chris will find ways to be cheap, whether it’s sodas or printing a 100-page personal document or taking ALL the good pens in the office for home use.

          The solution is to address this with Cheap Chris directly, not to pre-emptively try to set up rules strict enough that Cheap Chris won’t take advantage (and let’s be honest, even if there are rules, Cheap Chris will find an excuse why that doesn’t apply to them). When you make super strict rule, you are 1) assuming that all your employees have the potential to be Cheap Chris, which is insulting to them and also says that you have issues hiring trustworthy people and 2) not giving wiggle room for people that genuinely are doing the right thing but are in a weird circumstance. If I work a 10-hour day, then need to go home to pick up my kids but will be working another couple hours in the evening, do I get a soda for my evening work? What if I’m in meetings for 7 hours that day and haven’t had a chance to eat or drink anything- do I get a soda for the road? Or even if I’m a good performer who is deeply underpaid and a soda at home helps keep me happy and means the company doesn’t have to replace me (and they’d have to pay at least 10k more to replace me)? When companies set strict policies to nickel and dime their employees, employees are more likely to do the same. If companies allow flexibility within a certain range, then employees are more likely to do the same. Cheap Chris is always going to suck, but we can’t treat our great employees the same as Cheap Chris.

          One test is “How is this actually impacting me?” (vs some nebulous sense of justice or fairness or How The World Should Be). A couple sodas a month aren’t actually impacting the budget. There is no evidence that this one employee will become an endemic (and frankly, even if they were, how many employees would need to take home 1-2 drinks per month before it impacts the budget?). So you’d be chiding them because….Justice? Punishing small crimes forestall large crimes? (that strategy has been shown not to work, btw). You’re not Batman, and this isn’t your problem. Sure, make a comment to the soda taker like “gosh, that doesn’t feel right”, but escalating this to management is unnecessary and will definitely hurt your relationship with the single-soda taker and other coworkers who will see you as overly rigid.

        2. Antilles*

          Honestly, to me this soda situation falls in the same “managerial discretion” and “general conduct expectations” zone as personal phone calls, not being a stickler for arrival times, and so forth:
          I hired a professional adult, I expect you to carry yourself like a professional adult, and I’m going to treat you as a professional adult who can handle themselves.
          So the policies and typical enforcement of these sorts of policies is crafted around that – and if someone decides to abuse them (whether Cheap Chris taking a full 12 pack of soda at once or Napping Nancy who shows up three hours late every day), we address those exceptions individually.

      6. Observer*

        At that point, what are your options? You can’t make exceptions for just one person. Is it that everyone is only allowed one soda?

        Yes you can. The idea that you can never ever make any exceptions for anyone at any time is pretty toxic.

        In this case, though, you don’t even have to make an exception for a person, you just institute a sensible rule such as no taking home multiple cans of soda. If someone is going to try to rules lawyer their way out of it, the manager has the standing to just lay down the law and / or make an “exception” for this person, because you get to make exceptions for people who don’t know or care how to behave appropriately.

        1. Czhorat*

          Yes. The boss pulls Chris aside and says “Dude .. this is NOT cool. The sodas are there to give you a small treat, not to save you your weekly shopping. Do you want to lose your job over a sixpack of soda?”

          You don’t take a perk away from EVERYONE because one person is abusing it.

          1. The Coca-Cola Kid*

            No one is abusing anything here. Do you really think anyone gives a rat’s ass about whether he pulls the tab in his can in his office or at home?

      7. umami*

        I would tell the employee to grab their soda earlier in the day, then – if they then still have it at the end of the day and take it home, who’s business is that? I do see what you’re saying about the slippery slope, but so closely monitoring soda distribution if you aren’t the one purchasing it seems silly.

        1. Paulina*

          One of the benefits to taking a soda from work is probably that it’s already cold. And that also makes it more of a work-related consumption (even if used as after-work cocktail mix), since it’s going to be consumed right after work. It sounds like the soda is being taken more for convenience than to save money, since one soda every 1-2 weeks doesn’t cost much.

    5. The Coca-Cola Kid*

      I appreciate your Marxist analysis, but the LW doing the explaining is one of the follow members of lumpenproletariat, not one of the 12x capitalist exploiters.

      1. Well...*

        Not to go further down this rabbit hole, but the capitalist exploiters of course must rely on enforcement and protection of the interests from some members of the proletariat to maintain the status quo.

      2. MissElizaTudor*

        If we’re being Marxist about it, LW is a fellow member of the proletariat, not the lumpenproletariat. Lumpen are members of the supposedly non-revolutionary underclass, like criminals, chronically unemployed people, and people who do sex work. The (wrong, imo) idea is that they don’t have class consciousness and therefore don’t have any revolutionary potential, unlike the proletariat.

    6. Boof*

      It depends a lot on degree. I’d say if people are taking home /multiple/ sodas at once, then it starts crossing a line. (basically it probably quickly becomes cases of soda at that point and then it becomes no soda because it disappears too fast)

    7. AnotherOne*

      My office has drinks and I totally admit I often snag a water for my commute home. It’s hot and I figure its in my office’s best interest if I don’t overheat on the subway.

      A similar logic is used for why we offer drinks and snacks to every delivery person. And why we provide lunch to the building security guy. We just get better service so minimal cost.

    8. The Person from the Resume*

      The oddest part to me is that the coworker doesn’t keep soda on hand at home (but apparently does keep rum).

      I am a coke zero addict and probably drink equivalent of 6 glasses/bottles a day. I would feel zero shame in grabbing a drink as I walk out the door to drink on my commute home so generally I’m not bothered by this guy taking 1 home once a week or so. I do think it a tad bit unethical because the drinks are clearly intended to be drunk at work / walking out of work, but I actually wouldn’t metter enough to to me to say anything about it.

      I would care much more if someone was packing up one or more bottles a day to take home for themselves or family. And I might say something because that risks the perk being taken away.

      1. Ophelia*

        This is funny because I am definitely like the soda-taker! We have a bar shelf that has some standard liquor on it, but we don’t really keep mixers on hand, and never drink soda /unless/ it’s a mixer, so if I wanted a rum and coke, I would definitely have to go out and find the coke part!

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          If I were feeling particularly picky, I argue that cans of Coke are hardly perishable. If you have a rum and Coke every two weeks, it will take about 6 mos at most to work through a 12-pack. There’s no reason not to keep that 12-pack with the bar supplies (unless, of course, there’s a Coke fiend in the house who will drink it all on you).

          Of course, I like gin and tonics and never seem to have any tonic on-hand, so what the heck do I know, LOL.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            I’m told that diet soda is perishable, because the sweeteners degrade after a while. (I don’t drink diet soda, so I’m just going by what diet soda drinking friends tell me.)

            I generally don’t keep soda of any kind in the house other than seltzer water unless I’ve hosted a party recently, but I also typically either drink whiskey straight or have a beer rather than make mixed drinks and so does the only regular drinker among my typical houseguests. I used to keep a more elaborate bar with a variety of types of liquor and mixers, but I didn’t replenish them after my last move since I realized how few of my current friends drink so I downsized to just stuff I like.

          2. JustaTech*

            Fun fact: if you leave any cans of soda sitting around long enough the soda will eat through the can and leak all over everywhere.
            This has happened to me *several* times, both with diet soda and regular.
            Granted, it takes years, but it can and will happen.

      2. SarahKay*

        I’m very fond of a nice G&T, or a Malibu and coke, but have no head for alcohol and don’t actually drink very often. However I often get given bottles of nice gin etc for Christmas / birthdays with the result that I have a (large!) shelf full of all sorts of booze at home.
        On the other hand I will drink all the coke in the house *if* it’s in the house, and for this reason I rarely stock coke at home – and if I do have it then I keep it out of the fridge to slow myself down as I have to wait for it to chill.
        I would absolutely be that person grabbing a can of (already chilled?) coke from work every so often.

        1. TeaCoziesRUs*

          Same. If I want a soda (or cookies or other food that I can’t enjoy in moderation), I go to a convenience store to buy one. Not only the inconvenience and hassle of leaving the house, but the added expense of the convenience store, means I REALLY want one – rather than mindlessly grazing and guzzling because I’m bored or actually need a meal but don’t want to make it. *facepalm*

    9. Well...*

      “#2 I understand the desire to see everyone behaving in the spirit of the rules, not just the letter of them.”

      Really? I feel like this is way too much investment in following the rules, spirit or otherwise, over something trivial that doesn’t affect anything (unless, as Alison points out, there’s some threat to losing the perk, which seems highly unlikely).

      It reminds me of a colleague who used to monitor when I showed up at work, even though literally nobody cared as long as we were there for meetings and productive. I came in early because I found the morning hours to be very productive for me personally, but she saw it as some odd competition and kept interrupting my morning hours to come in and 1) notice I was there first to her own dismay and 2) complain that no one else came in as early as we did. This kind of weird invention and enforcement of rules that have zero impact on your work drives me nuts.

    10. Artemesia*

      When everyone starts hauling sodas home — and they will because, ‘well he was doing it’ — they will stop supplying sodas. I have worked at places where people abused amenities like that and the management response is always ‘it is too much trouble to police this, if people are going to take advantage, we aren’t doing it anymore.’

    11. lyonite*

      Taking a soda to enjoy at home: fine.
      Taking a gallon jug of milk to stock your fridge (yes, I worked with that person): dude, no

    12. Elle*

      Yeah, if someone talked to me over something like the situation in letter two, I’d mark that person in my mind as a humorless rule follower with questionable priorities who is not to be trusted with anything beyond the blandest “how about them padres”- type office conversation. Yikes.

      1. LW2*

        I said nothing because I realized it was an anxious reaction to a previous job’s abusive policies and not wanting my longtime-friend-turned-coworker to get in trouble. (And go Padres! But coworker is a diehard Dodgers fan, so we’ll keep that on the down low.)

        1. Leenie*

          Oh yes – a sense of scarcity and the feeling that there’s zero flexibility/room for error can definitely result from an abusive environment – personally or professionally.

          Congratulations on stepping out of that! It’s lovely over here on the other side, where there’s a little room to breathe. It’s truly fabulous that you recognized that and are able to give not only your coworkers, but yourself some grace. I spent a lot of time worrying about things going slightly wrong – way longer than I really needed to. But it was a coping mechanism that outlasted it’s usefulness.

  2. Swiping Office Supplies*

    #2 – do… do people at other organisations not take “one for the road” when freebies are offered? Is this level of perceived-politeness an American Thing…?

    1. Looper*

      No, I don’t think it’s a cultural thing, just some people are more…particular about that sort of thing than others. I personally would never dream of making a work friendship (a rare and precious thing!) weird by calling out someone over a couple sodas, but there are definitely people who would.

      1. The Coca-Cola Kid*

        This isn’t an American thing, but rather an OP thing. She must be long in pearl futures.

        1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          Be kind to LWs. Some people are just very rules-oriented (these people make excellent compliance officers and accountants), not to mention neurodivergent people who sometimes have trouble understanding unstated/minor exceptions to rules.

          1. Well...*

            Sure, I agree we can be kind to LW, and based on their comments it seems they realized their judgement is skewed by previous interactions.

            That being said, people being very rule-oriented isn’t always a neutral quality. People who are detail-oriented are excellent at the jobs you listed, but not being able to exercise judgement about when to appeal to authority to exercise control over other people’s behavior can do a lot of very real harm. I would argue they can do *more* harm in jobs where rule compliance is important.

        2. Allonge*

          Indeed, certainly OP is the only person who ever wondered where a rule is applicable and where it’s not. / s

          Can we not shame people for asking a question?

          1. kitryan*

            Agreed- everyone, I think, has their own idea, shaped by their experience and so forth, of what’s ‘fair’ and ‘appropriate’ and it’s very human to have feelings when someone is doing something outside of that.
            Either because there’s a bit of ‘that’s NOT FAIR’ reaction I think we all have every now and then, or because you don’t want to lose the in-office soda supply due to abuse by others, or because you don’t want that person to get into trouble.
            So it’s very reasonable to check in with a larger group that’s not directly affected by the situation to see if it is a pearl clutching response or if it’s a pretty reasonable thing to have a problem with.

        3. LW2*

          Pearls were involuntarily equipped by former abusive workplace. Gonna try to get them removed with chemicals. And therapy.

          1. ShinyPenny*

            Totally reasonable!

            Also, kudos for the great example of conflict de-escalation! Relevant info added, breezy tone achieved, zero defensiveness, zero counter-attack— you are awesome!

            1. Observer*

              Yes indeed!

              OP, therapy is a great idea. But I think you are starting off from a good ground, because you recognize the problem and already have some good tools in place.

              Lots of luck!

    2. Shakti*

      I’m American and honestly just as baffled! I worked several places with free drinks soda, juice, water and literally no one would’ve cared or even thought about it? The budget was for the free drinks and people used them? Who cares when? The only thing that would’ve been a big issue is if someone had taken multiple juices because they were large bottles and meant for shared use, but honestly if someone had taken one the admins wouldn’t have noticed unless it was multiple times a week. I’m pretty shocked by how the soda is being perceived as only in the office

    3. Heidi*

      I honestly think the context is what’s creating the conflict here. If there are sodas left over after a party, it’s usually no problem to take some home. But in this situation, the company is paying for the sodas in the office every day because there isn’t access to beverages close by. I’m guessing the OP views what the coworker is doing as basically stealing the office supplies or toilet paper for home use rather than “one for the road.”

      1. Aquamarine*

        I guess one question is, are they providing soda because there aren’t drinks nearby, or is it just to make people happier with their jobs and the company? I was assuming the latter, in which case taking one at the end of the day instead of the beginning seems fine.

        1. LW2*

          It’s actually a remnant of an old paper advertisement this small company had in the 20th century. Come in for a coffee or a soda and check out our llama grooming supplies!

    4. The Prettiest Curse*

      British people also have the same weird idea of politeness, combined with a love of petty rules and a high level of willingness to dob in anyone who isn’t following said rules. Definitely not just an American thing!

      1. londonedit*

        I really wouldn’t care if someone was taking their can of Coke home in the evening instead of drinking it at some point during the day, though. If someone was taking two or three cans home every evening, or chain-drinking them throughout the day when the accepted form was just sticking to one or two, then that’d be an issue. Otherwise, crack on.

    5. Temperance*

      It is not.

      I grab a flavored water on the way out of the office some days, because it’s really hot outside here and flavored water is delightful.

      It would be tacky to take all of the sodas, or all of the waters, but that’s bad behavior everywhere.

    6. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      It can be a cultural thing. When I studied abroad in Spain (I lived with a host family, but some other students were on dorm) the US students taking hand fruit from the dining halls became a HUGE THING and the study-abroad program had to intercede to get them permission to take fruit with them to eat in class or whatever.

      1. Artemesia*

        Resorts sometimes have people police this as people haul loads of stuff from the breakfast buffet to make picnics for the whole family for the rest of the day. I used to go to a salad bar that had all sorts of nice things to put in salads — olives, cilantro, peppers, capers etc. And then people started taking home containers of capers or cilantro or whatever for home cooking. These are the expensive garnishes that are only cost effective if some people use them. When they are hauled off en mass, then it makes the cost prohibitive and soon you have a salad bar with grated carrot, celery, lettuce and radishes and maybe chopped egg or olives.

        I am not policing the cokes or the capers, but it is annoying when you can’t have nice things because some people can’t resist pushing the envelope.

      2. amoeba*

        I feel like taking things home/for later from an actual buffet style thing is different though? That would not have been OK any place I’ve been so far (all in Europe though!)

    7. RagingADHD*

      IDK if it’s an American thing, but if I happened to notice someone frequently making a special trip to the office fridge to load up on their way out the door in the evening, it would probably cross my mind that “Welp, this is why we can’t have nice things. They keep doing that, we’re going to get cut off.”

      But it would never occur to me to say anything. Because I don’t want to be the one who gets us cut off.

    8. WorkplaceSurvivor*

      I’m equally baffled at learning I may be considered a criminal for taking a break room lollipop “for the road” a couple of times a week.

      I genuinely don’t get what the difference is between enjoying a treat at the office vs. taking that same one home to enjoy… not trying to be combative, just truly surprised ha!

    9. sara*

      I work in tech in Canada and my offices have always had some low-key snacks like granola bars, fruit, and canned pop/sparkling water. Plus bringing in beer etc on occasional fridays.

      The friday drinks have always been an “in person” thing, like the whole point is to chat with colleagues etc. It would be Very Odd if someone took one home instead. If it happened regularly, they’d get a talking to for sure.

      The snacks & pop, though, no one would really care. It would be seen as quirky/weird to take one home to enjoy at home, but having a snack for your commute is very common/expected.

  3. Firecat*

    #4 I’m so sorry for your losses. Infertility sucks.

    Since this is a regular conference that your team attends, I do think you will eventually need to return to this conference and can’t expect to avoid it forever. Its hard but therapy can help.

    I’ve been in somewhat similar shoes where I have had to have meetings with coworkers in the same section and even the same offices of the hospital I had a traumatic, painful, 2nd trimester miscarriage. It was hard but avoidance and hurting my career wasn’t the answer.

    I hope everything works out for you and you get the medical and mental support you need to grow your family.

      1. Tomato Soup*

        Agreed. OP could very well show up there again while pregnant and not be able to perform well at the conference because of the understandable worry.

    1. Melissa*

      I agree, and I’m usually a hard-liner on not avoiding triggers, but in this case, I think she can give herself some grace. The miscarriage was only a year ago, and she is still struggling with fertility, so I think it’s fine to make an excuse and avoid it. Not forever, but for this short period when it is so painful and fresh. It doesn’t sound like making an excuse to skip this one event, this one time, is going to have any negative consequences.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Nothing wrong with being a hardliner on that, so long as it’s a policy for yourself and not others.

      2. Observer*

        and I’m usually a hard-liner on not avoiding triggers,

        The issue here is not triggers. The OP has a medical problem, and she is rightly concerned about it.

        Now if this turns into an ongoing issue, that’s something she’s going to have to think about and make choices about. But she would, I hope, be doing this the way she would for any other medical problem, rather than an issue of her emotional state or even mental health. (Not that there is anything wrong with mental health, but the conflation of the two in this context is about as sensible as conflating an allergy with a broken bone, but much more fraught, because of how often women’s medical problems go untreated because they are misdiagnosed with mental health issues such as “anxiety” and “depression.”)

      3. Paulina*

        Also there will be a difference between attending as a member of the team, and explicitly being the fill-in for the team’s primary attendee. OP needs some time and some space, and she also needs to be able to step away if she needs to, not be the focal point.

    2. Observer*

      Infertility sucks.

      Yes, it does. You know what makes it worse? This:

      Its hard but therapy can help.

      Therapy is highly useful, and I wish it were more easily available to people who can benefit from it. But right now we have absolutely zero evidence that the OP is in that group.

      Her problem is not psychological; she’s not being “overly emotional” or acting irrationally; her *current* plan (to skip this semi-optional trip *this* year) is not one that has implications for her long term well being; and she is not showing any signs that she’s faily to manage her life / work. Obviously if there is an issue that’s not showing up in the letter, or things change, then that would be different. But based on the present and what we see in the letter, no.

      The OP’s problem is primarily medical with a touch of life planning. What she needs it *good medical care*, and I hope that they (because Recurrent Pregnancy Loss – RPL can sometimes be due to male issues), are getting it. And they shouldn’t feel bad that their life plans are inconveniencing her employer.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Isn’t therapy a type of medical care? I’m not sure what’s wrong with recommending it as one option among others. Lots of therapists have exactly this as a specialty

        1. Observer*

          I’m not sure what’s wrong with recommending it as one option among others

          There is no indication that the OP needs therapy at all. Framing this as a mental health issue is is simply inaccurate, at best.

          And that would be the case if @Firecat were suggesting is as *part* of a holistic approach and. Which they are not. They *are* doing is implying that the issue here is that the OP is being “overly emotional” / irrational / maladaptive and ignoring the physical / physiological health issue.

            1. Anon4This*

              For a lot of people, though, that implication is central and intended.
              “You need therapy” is a message that is, still, unfortunately, used as a slam with appalling frequency. It’s used as an insult, to erase a person’s POV, to bully, to diminish. If you have never witnessed or experienced this, you are lucky. But it is totally a thing, and it is totally wielded as a weapon that combines with misogyny, racism, economic bigotry, etc. in really harmful ways.

              Just as one tiny example: my Mom took me to numerous doctors as a young teen, due to severe and increasing abdominal pain over YEARS. The most consistent message she received was, “Teen girls— so dramatic! You need to take her to a psychiatrist.” By the time they finally diagnosed my gallstones, my gall bladder was gangrenous. “She needs therapy” allowed them to comfortably dismiss me and my actual life-threatening medical crisis.
              That’s just one shade of “You need therapy” though. There is, sadly, a lot of other crayolas in the box.

      2. lucanus cervus*

        Do you think people can only go to therapy if they’re being irrational about something? Dealing with grief and trauma is the main reason a great many of us go to therapy.

    3. Van Wilder*

      Just chiming in to say I can relate to OP. I had a very early miscarriage and I thought I had processed it and moved on. But then the next time I had to go back to my doctor’s office where I got the official news, I got a sense of dread and my panic kept escalating as the appointment grew nearer. It totally took me by surprise.
      I can only imagine the dread given the traumatic situation you were in. I now see my doctor at her other office and I have no issues. Definitely give yourself some grace and some time.

  4. Sookie Stackhouse*

    Re: number 3, my company used to have free sodas until everyone started taking them home. Like people would go home w 5 cokes. They increased the price to 25¢ and apparently that did it. I got hired after the price was increased and I think it’s great! I used to live across the street from the office and would pop in on weekends to buy soda for my husband and I.

    1. Pretty as a Princess*

      I worked somewhere in the early 2000s that provided free soda and there were constantly people taking a ton home, or drinking half and leaving them out and the cleaning crews were tossing just tons of not-empty sodas.

      The company did the same thing – increased the price to 25 cents to cut down on waste. You would have thought they punched everyone in the balls, all the howling that went on.

      What was interesting was that this was in the height of the dot com boom, and there were a lot of very brand new grads or people who were taking a few years off of college to get their shot at big internet money. They were making BANK tech salaries. It was people on their first job and interns doing the wailing. The people who had actually held professional jobs in the past were like “yes I am still happy to have Diet Coke for 25 cents instead of $1.00 in the vending machines and appreciate that there are no longer empty cans everywhere.”

  5. Jade*

    Let the soda policing go. These are treats to boost morale. What’s the difference if he drinks one there or takes it home. We get water bottles. Sometimes I take one for the road. No one cares. Management does not nickel and dime the little treats they give.

    1. Harper*

      Agreed. OP just asking if they should tattle about 2 sodas a month really gives me the ick. Don’t be that coworker.

      1. Well...*

        Yup, I think it would do damage to OP’s reputation to tattle, and it would harm their relationship with their coworker to start conflict over this. I’d seriously assess whether it’s worth it.

      2. LW2*

        Definitely not tattling, was gonna give the coworker the heads up he shouldn’t do it in front of the boss, if anything. But I’m not even doing that because I was keenly reminded that this job is *not* my previous job where I did have a nickel and dime management and awful boss.

  6. Minimal Pear*

    I think this is one of the best-titled AAM posts I’ve ever seen. The naked sunbather is shocking, it draws you in… and then unethical soda! HOW is it unethical? I must know!
    (…I’m coming off a flight that arrived past midnight, so it may just be the hour + jetlag that make me so easily amused.)

    1. Myrin*

      Personally, my favourite sentence in this whole post is “a company badge was one of the many things he wasn’t wearing” – you couldn’t have worded it better, OP #1!

      1. Sherm*

        OP1 does have a way with words! I hope OP1’s naked-sunbather-adjacent-job involves the written word.

          1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            That would make it better, but it would not make it good. Sunbathing in a speedo isn’t appropriate at work either! Especially when nobody can tell if you are wearing said speedo.

            1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              Perhaps he had his lanyard around his hips and was using his ID badge as a codpiece?

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      For anyone who knows the Tori Amos song Programmable Soda- well, “unethical soda” is now stuck in my head, to that tune.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Well I hadn’t thought of that connection before now but guess what will be stuck in my head all day…

    3. Tomato Soup*

      The amazing thing is that aam never oversells the content. If anything, there are frequently undersold levels of whackiness.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      I was expecting the unethical soda letter was going to be about a company that sold sodas that contained an ingredient most avoided due to some health risk or which was claiming its sodas were healthier than they really were (eg, calling them low-sugar or diet when they replaced the sugar with something equally or even more unhealthy) and whether one could ethically work for such a company.

      And yeah, cool titles.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Or that the soda company had some sociological or political things going on that the OP didn’t agree with and was trying to get the company to not buy that brand anymore.

        1. SarahKay*

          That was my thought too, and I was vaguely wondering if there’d been anything about it in the news recently. I was not expecting the actual question!

      2. LW2*

        Ironically, unethical ingredients is why I had one foot out the door at my previous abusive job in “natural” llama grooming supplies! Literally took my beautifully FDA compliant ingredients list and crossed out the ones the boss “didn’t like”. Like the preservatives we supposedly didn’t have.

    5. Timothy (TRiG)*

      Before reading the actual letter, my assumption from the headline was that it was about the brand of soda. Probably Coca-Cola. (A company which has funded paramilitary death squads to execute union leaders meets most people’s definition of “unethical”, I’d say.)

  7. Gingerblue*

    All my love for “a company badge was one of the many things he wasn’t wearing”, LW#1.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I know! If I had a line like that, I definitely would not have been able to resist telling the other managers either.

    2. OMG, Bees!*

      I want an update on that one, as we had something similar years ago.

      Also a shared office building, but one converted from apartments. Our company shared a floor with I think 2 other companies (at the time), but still needed keys to get into the building and floor.

      Yet, somehow, a person was taking a shower in our bathroom every morning and no one who he was or how he got in. Nothing was taken except for shower water. The gross part was that the towels weren’t changed either, so he was using the same used towel for months until he stopped.

  8. Awkwardness*

    I love #5!
    I did not negotiate my current salary because there was no discussion and only the offer that was delivered via phone. I was taken off guard and kind of agreed on the phone. I remembered AAM and how she asks us to negotiate and was quite angry with myself. But I had the feeling I could not go back and initiate a discussion as I already had agreed.
    LW5 is a good example how I could have done it!

    1. Forkeater*

      Yes- #5 is excellent. I started a new job this year and read up on AAM every step of the way. Did the exact same thing at the salary negotiation. The keeping quiet part was so hard! But it worked! 5k bump in my case.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Dear Awkwardness, you will be able to do it next time. Practise the awkward out ahead of time by tailoring Alison’s suggested scripts to your applications and it’ll go fine!

      Personally I opt for outright openness. A client wanted to negotiate my rate: I was charging extra because I was basically going to have to sacrifice my evening to working on her file. She was maybe a bit worried that the accountant would balk at paying extra, because it would reflect badly on her: she could be accused of being badly organised not getting the file to me in a timely manner. I hesitated then just said, to be perfectly frank, if I remove that surcharge I’ll be in a bad temper while I translate your file. Since it’s about a fun treasure hunt for kiddies, you don’t want that bad temper to influence how I translate your file. When I’m in a good mood, I know it shines through, so I’m pretty sure a bad mood will seep in somehow somewhere.
      She agreed to pay the surcharge.
      And has never sent stuff to me late in the evening since.

    3. LW5*

      I didn’t negotiate my salary either and have always regretted it, so I didn’t want him to pass up the opportunity too. What really struck me when looking at the advice in the archives was when Alison said she always expects a candidate will negotiate, and when they don’t she thinks to herself, “well THAT was easy!” I emphasized to him that there’s nothing weird or emotional about it, that he’s just sincerely asking if it’s a possibility or not. (Easy advice to give, but not always easy to do!) I was so proud of him (for this and a million other reasons!).

      1. Awkwardness*

        Oh, that’s an additional point! I left my last job because they did string me along for quite some time and never gave me a raise. Because of that I feared that lack of negotiating would harm me in the long run when asking for raises.
        By now I know that my manager does not think this way. He has a very non-emotional approach and said once that money, of course, is an important topic. So I try to practise and try to get rid of the idea anybody will be mad if I dare to ask for more.
        But it is a process for sure!

  9. The Geek*

    #4 Given how difficult it can be for people with medical conditions or disabilities to be treated fairly in the workplace, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to advise the LW to get out of an element of her work by lying about vague “medical issues”. She has good reasons for not wanting to go, but they are not medical and should not be presented as such.

    1. TechWorker*

      Mental health is health. And even if her fear is not fully rational, having a miscarriage again would absolutely be a health issue… ignore this LW4 & feel free to be vague!

      1. Observer*

        And even if her fear is not fully rational, having a miscarriage again would absolutely be a health issue

        Yes. But the thing is that her fear is actually VERY rational. The fact is that she had 3 miscarriages. That is an absolute risk factor, and if her doctor has not discussed this with her, she should probably be looking for better medical care.

        I mean, even if it were “just” a mental health issue, it would be legitimate. But the thing is that her mental health is not the only thing that’s at stake here.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      People who are likely to become pregnant are not treated fairly in the workplace either.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      Humans can get sick, can get symptoms which makes them worried about their bodies, and need access to their doctor without having an ongoing medical condition. OP needs to be close to their doctor and loved ones while going through something that is, yeah, medical. Fertility is very much about the body and can benefit from a doctor’s advice, and that’s not even counting OP’s mental health. A medical issue is not the same thing as a medical condition! This reminds me of when I was visiting a doctor’s office as a teenager and an old lady, (who was in quite poor health and a very sour mood) who knew my aunt told her I must be pregnant. Apparently young, apparently healthy women aren’t allowed to have the use of a doctor unless they are expecting. Which is ironic because women’s bodies are constantly being doctored.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      It’s not a lie. Brain not operating on standard frequencies under X conditions is just as much a medical thing as any other.

    5. Insert Clever Name Here*

      So what is your advice then? For LW to say “hey boss, I was pregnant at the conference last year and had a very traumatic miscarriage. I’m still trying to get pregnant and have now had 3 miscarriages so going to the conference makes me really nervous”?

      Because while all of that is true, it’s reallllllllly not a great idea to tell your boss you’re trying to get pregnant. Will that change the way they think about you? “hmm Jane is trying to get pregnant which means she’ll need maternity leave — and who knows if she’ll come back — so we should give this big project/promotion to someone else.” Are they one of those nosey jerks who then will want updates on the success of your sex life with your husband?

      LW had a medical issue at the conference last year. She is still dealing with the impact of that medical issue. Saying she can’t attend this year due to a medical issue is not lying.

      1. Just Another Starving Artist*

        “I need to stay in town for family stuff this year, sorry.”

        Accurate, vague, doesn’t bring medical stuff into it. It’s not difficult.

    6. Peanut Hamper*

      Everything LW discusses is a medical issue. Mental health is health. Reproductive health is health. Quit trying to put these things in different buckets.

      1. ferrina*


        This is a health issue. LW isn’t lying. Reproductive health and mental health are health conditions and can be disabilities. More than that, it absolutely makes sense that LW doesn’t want to travel to a place where she won’t have access her healthcare systems when she is planning to be pregnant. Pregnancy is a health care condition! Yes, no guarantees that LW will be pregnant, etc., but there’s also no guarantee that other healthcare conditions will flare up or arise during a trip. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan for them or consider your unique health needs when planning work travel.

    7. Irish Teacher*

      I wouldn’t consider it to be a lie. She is concerned that she might have a possibly high-risk pregnancy by the time of the conference. That is very much a medical concern.

      And while I agree that people with disabilities or long-term health conditions can face discrimination, I don’t think claiming a current health issue is likely to lead to that. Every employee is likely to have a health issue at some point of their working lives and a comment like “I’m having a health issue and can’t go this year” implies something short term and could be anything from pregnancy to taking a medication you can’t drive while using to awaiting the results of tests and needing to be there for the result to something like a back issue that could make travelling difficult to a minor medical procedure that clashes with the date she’d be travelling (something like the removal of a wisdom tooth or a scan of some kind or a colonoscopy, something that could be done after work or on a day off but that would mean you’d need to be in the area). Honestly, in today’s world, my first though would probably be, “I or a member of my family is currently high risk for covid and therefore I can’t risk travelling with the new variant.”

      I really doubt saying “I can’t travel that week for medical reasons” would be likely to lead to discrimination in a workplace (unless the workplace was completely toxic altogether) since virtually everybody is going to have some situation like that at some point in their working career. I don’t see it as any different to taking a day off for a doctor’s appointment or working remotely when covid is spreading or calling in sick one week. I don’t think it would imply a disability or ongoing medical condition, just a minor short-term one that unfortunately clashes with the date of travel.

    8. Magpie*

      Are you saying pregnancy care is not a “medical issue”? The LW is trying to get pregnant and any pregnancy would be deemed higher risk because of her past experiences. It’s absolutely valid that she would want to stay close to her doctor at this time. It’s odd that you would characterize this as lying.

      1. Observer*

        It’s odd that you would characterize this as lying.


        Which makes me wonder if the poster considers the LW’s concern as “over-reacting” or being “too emotional”. Those are not health conditions.

    9. Professor Plum*

      A more vague reason would be “can’t go this year because of a family situation/obligation” if LW doesn’t want to raise medical concerns.

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        I think this a reasonable option as well. Any way you look at the situation, LW is dealing with a medical issue, and it would not be a lie to say so. However, there are potential risks in raising even a vague medical concern. So it would also be fine for LW to be as vague as feels comfortable — family situation, conflict with the dates, not up for it year, etc.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, I would also consider this – not because my colleagues or boss would make any kind of issue out of it otherwise, they absolutely would not! But I’d hate for them to worry about my health, which I think in my office they would. Especially because it’s so weird – normally people are quite open (as in, “oh, I have a bad shoulder”, “I had the flu” or whatever, not because we’re forced, it just comes up when chatting at lunch time!), so I’d be worried people would assume something bad if I stayed that vague. Again, not that they’d intrude or anything, I’d just hate for them to worry.

    10. HonorBox*

      Vague is not lying. Vague is sharing the general topic while not diving into a fully annotated explanation, which the boss is not entitled to. There are too many potential negatives that might come with a full explanation. The LW is entitled to protect her physical and mental health and her privacy.

    11. Angelinha*

      Infertility is absolutely a medical issue. I’m dealing with it myself and wouldn’t be comfortable traveling and being away from my doctor, both for testing/treatment if the LW chooses to go that route, or just to be near home in the event of another early pregnancy. After recurrent loss you have to go into the doctor constantly when you have a new pregnancy. I agree with you that naming it as a medical issue could lead to discrimination in the workplace, but it’s definitely not a stretch to call it that!

    12. FridayFriyay*

      Infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss are absolutely medical issues. As is mental health. Policing what the “right kind” of medical issues are that “count” is extremely detrimental to people with disabilities and medical issues being treated equitably in the workplace – including on the basis of their specific medical circumstances.

    13. INFJedi*

      As a person with a (albeit hidden) disability, I think that dealing with a “medical issue” or “health issue”, is still correct for LW4 to use.
      Struggling with infertility and having to deal with a pregnancy loss *are* health issues. Having come to terms with a trauma (miscarriage while all alone, in a “strange place”), is a legit concern when it only happened a year ago, at that place LW is asked to visit again, for the first time since.

      Like others have said, mental health is also a health issue!

      1. ferrina*

        mental health is also a health issue!

        YES!!! Say it louder!

        People with mental health conditions (and many invisible health conditions) often struggle with stigma around “well, there’s no evidence that you’re really disabled. You’re just not trying hard enough. You’re being dramatic. Your condition doesn’t really count.”

        Mental health is health.
        Brains are part of bodies. Bodies need brains, and brains need bodies. Just because you can’t see it and it’s hard to measure doesn’t mean it’s not real. The gravitational pull of a black hole is difficult to measure. Doesn’t mean it won’t destroy your spaceship.

    14. kiki*

      Hmm, I really don’t feel like this a lie at all, to be honest. She has a history of miscarrying and is actively trying to get pregnant– she doesn’t want to risk miscarrying while traveling and not knowing how to get medical help or support she could find at home. That seems pretty medical to me.

    15. Yes And*

      Sorry to pile on, I’m just genuinely curious about the logical process that gets you from “I just want to be at home close to my doctor” to “this is not medical”.

    16. GythaOgden*

      Yeah, no. As a disabled person, normalising medical issues as a reason for adjustment discussion is served just as well be being vague as it is specific. The various laws around accommodations do allow employers some leeway in terms of not having to radically change job descriptions or ditching elements of certain jobs, but there’s still possibilities open to people and the laws in the US at least do let employees reserve the right to explain why they need accommodations.

      Also, disabled people might have issues in different parts of their bodies but generally speaking, anyone in good enough shape to hold down a job doesn’t need to spoken over in this manner. It’s ironically fairly ableist to speak for all disabled people on anything, whether you’re an ally or someone with a condition. (This includes slinging the idea of being ‘internally ableist’ around — because it calls our agency into question as human beings to, say, manage our conditions or make calls based on other people’s priorities and needs).

      Empowerment of disabled people in the workplace is not best served by making us out to be perpetual victims trapped in some kind of twilight zone. It’s meant to demonstrate that we can carry as much on our plate as other people and can be more than the sum of our conditions (which let me be the first to say are not things I want to base my identity around) but might need help with something around our physical abilities or neurophysiological capacity.

      Furthermore, I like to give my able-bodied/neurotypical colleagues the benefit of the doubt, because they also have the capacity to make judgements with care and discretion. It’s about respecting people’s basic humanity and capacity for reason — they’re also trying to get stuff done and may well have their own social/economic struggles and needs, so there’s no need to create antagonisms where we should actually be trying to break them down.

      This kind of statement just makes us sound like fragile and other people as stupid. Please stop.

    17. Crocodilasaurus*

      Miscarriage is medical. LW has a history of miscarriage and a likelihood of becoming pregnant. Her reasons for not wanting to go very much involve medical issues.

    18. Observer*

      it doesn’t seem like a good idea to advise the LW to get out of an element of her work by lying about vague “medical issues”. She has good reasons for not wanting to go, but they are not medical

      Are you serious? Multiple miscarriages are not a medical problem?! Since when?

      And you have just illustrated why the OP should not divulge any details. The last thing she needs is an ignorant manager or colleague deciding that her reason is not “good enough” or that she’s not handling this “correctly” or having any other intrusive reaction.

    19. JSPA*

      how do “strong history of miscarriage and likelihood of being pregnant” not add up to a medical issue??? Especially given how spotty the response to partial miscarriages has become, from one region to another?

      LW could wait to pee-test the night before the flight, and only cancel if pregnant… but that’s far worse for the company. Anticipating a medical issue is the rational thing to do. If LW often had cluster headaches that month due to some environmental trigger, LW could also predict that it would be medically problematic.

    20. This_is_Todays_Name*

      What do you think the reasons are if “not medical”? Why would you impose such a judgey POV on someone who is clearly TRAUMATIZED by what they went thru the last time they attended this event? Yeah, it’s definitely medical. Medical does not ONLY mean “current physical condition,” it also includes mental health. Wow. Just Wow.

  10. Looper*

    LW4 would not be “lying”, both mental health care and pregnancy care would be considered medical issues. What a weird stance to take on that letter.

  11. GythaOgden*

    Re — free soda. If it’s for employees and customers, this isn’t fair behaviour and if it gets more often or more blatant it puts it at risk. As someone who drinks a lot of soft drinks (diet drinks are much more common than they used to be thanks to the UK sugar tax, so I’m really loving the range of stuff available now), I would be upset if it was more than an occasional thing — not out of concern for the budget but for the lack for someone who wants a drink later on and can’t have any because someone took more than their fair share.

    Excessive use is always a risk of free or unlimited stuff and nipping this in the bud if it’s blatant might help. If someone can get away with something like this it can often escalate, so I’d be pretty firm myself that it was a communal resource and taking it home as a substitute for buying your own mixers is not fair on those who behave honourably. This sort of thing only ever works if people behave reasonably; otherwise there should be a clear rule that it’s one per employee per day and you can’t grab it on your way out.

    I’d certainly be not very amused if someone raided my stash; I keep it behind Reception and it’s clearly not in general circulation, but I like things cold and so when it goes into the fridge I rely on other people to be honest. Someone has to buy these things even if they’re made free, and all it takes is for someone to abuse the facilities for it to be taken away.

  12. Lilo*

    Dealing with a naked sunbather is not part of your duties as a manager. You don’t realistically even have the tools to deal with that.

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Naked…sunbathing…tools….garden…there’s some wacky free association going on in my head right now.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          My local Nextdoor hasn’t even fully recovered from No Mow May yet, I don’t know what Naked Gardening Day would do to them.

    2. Ophelia*

      Absolutely imagining OP1 shooing him off the roof with a broom and a trash can lid like he’s a wild animal.

  13. Mosquito*

    Now I’m wondering about when it’s NOT appropriate to negotiate on salary.

    My current job was advertised with a fixed salary, not a range. That fixed salary was made clear throughout the process. I was offered the job at that salary.

    If it had been advertised as a range, and I’d been offered somewhere in the middle of that range, I would have negotiated.

    As it was, it felt inappropriate and bad-faith to go back and try to get a couple of £k more when they’d been so up-front about the salary during the whole interview process, so I didn’t. (And I’m very happy with the salary I was offered, which was entirely in line with the market.)

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      “My current job was advertised with a fixed salary, not a range. …..they’d been so up-front about the salary during the whole interview process”

      Yes, imo it would be odd to even ask after all this transparency, might make you look out of synch with the org before you start.

      Sooo much better for equity for employers to do this.
      FinalJob (Germany) was similar with set pay for each job type & level, set vacation amounts. There were annual COL increases negotiated (by the unions).
      “Exceeds expectations” over a couple of years led to promotions or progressing up the levels. We’d also get one-off bonuses for patents or tech measures to cut costs.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Off the top of my head, I think situations where it’s not appropriate to negotiate are:

      * a situation like yours, where there is a fixed salary, not a range
      * if the company (organization, government agency, etc.) proactively mentions they do not negotiate on salary
      * if you name a range you’re looking for and the offer comes in above that (ex. “I’m looking for something in the $50k – $55k” and they offer you $60k)

      1. Angelinha*

        I agree with you on 1 and 3, but often organizations who proactively mention that they don’t negotiate, are doing that solely because they don’t want the hassle of people pushing back. It’s a way to discourage candidates from thinking they have the option to negotiate. My government offer was presented as a fixed thing based on an unchangeable formula, but I negotiated and got more. I know plenty of colleagues who didn’t realize they could do that, and are upset with their salary even though technically they did accept it.

        1. MK*

          I think “presented as a fixed thing” isn’t the same as outright stating that there is no room for negotiation. If they straight up told you the offer is take it or leave it, it would be odd to try to negotiate. If the wording was more vague, like “we calculate offers based on X formula and don’t typically deviate from that”, no harm making the attempt.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      It definitely wouldn’t even be possible to negotiate in my job. I am paid by the Department of Education and my salary is set by…I’m not even sure; I presume either the Minister for Education or the Minister for Finance or maybe the entire cabinet in agreement (and of course, it is generally done in negotation with the unions).

      It would be utterly odd to try and negotiate a salary with the principal (who is the person who generally offers teaching jobs) as they have no say in it.

    4. Melissa*

      I am starting a new job in a couple of weeks. It is one year long, with no opportunity to renew it and stay on. When I got the offer, I was told, “The stipend for this position is $75k.” It was clear that that amount was what would be given, and I didn’t even try to negotiate. (Another hire did, actually, and didn’t succeed in changing the pay.) Sometimes there’s truly no flexibility, although I don’t suppose it actually does any harm to ask.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Generally a stipend is set by the instiution granting it, and is not negotiable like a salary might be. Things like grad student salaries, stipends off a grant you get, etc.

    5. ThatGirl*

      When I got my current job I was offered the top of the range I’d given them. In retrospect, I probably could have gotten more, but I didn’t feel like I should negotiate when they’d met my request. The lesson of course is that I should have asked for their range, but so it goes.

    6. JSPA*

      Still leaves open, negotiating time off, some wfh, a flexible schedule, an excellent office chair, adding paid dental to your insurance (or whatever) and automatic cost of living adjustments that keep pace with inflation, separately from merit raises (unless that’s also cut & dried).

      1. Mosquito*

        I’m in the UK, so negotiating anything outside salary is extremely out of the norm. Also, everything you mentioned was already included in the offer!

    7. just a random teacher*

      In my state, public school teaching jobs all come with a union-bargained salary schedule. It’s a big grid where left to right is your level of education (Level of degree and additional graduate credits) and top to bottom is your years of experience. You may be able to negotiate what prior experience counts for your initial placement on the schedule (for example, counting your years working in another district to go down on the chart or whether or not certain classes should count to move you to the right on the chart), but you are going to be placed in some cell in that chart and that will be your salary.

      (You may also be able to negotiate for extra duty pay for things like coaching a team or something else that would give you an additional stipend of a fixed amount. I’m not qualified to coach a sport, so I’ve never had that as part of my own negotiations.)

  14. Turingtested*

    LW #2, I mean this kindly, but do you want to work a place where that kind of behavior is seen as a huge deal? There are all sorts of things that might not meet the highest ethical standards but also aren’t a big deal or indicative of truly immoral behavior. I’m talking about things like taking a pen home without thinking; having a very occasional slack day; that sort of thing.

    Good employers see the difference between these small things that don’t truly have a negative impact on the business and when the small things become a pattern to address.

    On a personal note, as a people manager I’d find it very strange if you brought this to my attention. Whether the pop is drunk at 3 or 7 doesn’t matter. Now some managers would love it, write him up, etc but once again, not the ones you want to work for.

    1. Colette*

      I agree the OP shouldn’t make a big deal about this, but a better analogy is someone who takes a pen from the supply cabinet so that they have a pen at home (for non-work related reasons) – and I’d think that was wrong, too.

        1. Colette*

          If one person takes a pen home, it’s not a big deal. If everyone takes one home every day, it is.

          I wouldn’t report someone for taking a pen specifically to take home, but it’s pretty clearly wrong.

          1. metadata minion*

            Are people likely to start taking home pens every day? I’m sure I’ve taken home a few pens from work, and I’ve also brought pens in from home. The net pen migration is probably in the direction of my employer, if anything.

            1. SpaceySteph*

              “net pen migration” has me cackling

              My office buys nicer pens, but my favorite is the cheapy hotel pen style so I usually bring my own from home (or from the last hotel I stayed in)

          2. KateM*

            Everyone taking a pen home every day would be more akin to taking a dozen of cans because pens usually last somewhat longer than cans of soda.

            1. Dinwar*

              But the cost of a pen is much less than the cost of a soda. And since the pens last longer, it means they’re likely taking them at a lower rate.

              Figure a can of soda is $0.50/week at most, based on the letter. A pen lasts 2-3 weeks, and costs $0.13/pen, so we’re looking at $0.04/week in pen costs.

              If I can’t afford $0.04/week, my budget is done for. To put this into perspective, my company’s accounting software doesn’t register costs this small. It doesn’t register costs ten times this.

              But it gets better! Office pens are, at least in my experience, notoriously unreliable and prone to breaking, being misplaced, being borrowed by clients and not returned, etc., meaning that very few get fully used for business purposes even without people taking them home. Which means that realistically I’m looking at 50% utilization of a box of pens–probably more like 30% for my line of work. That means that of a box of 10 pens, 3-5 will be fully used up for business purposes. That means that in all probability, taking a pen is literally not within my capacity to notice as far as the budget is concerned. The signal is swamped by the rampant noise of random stuff that happens to pens.

              Add to that the cost of someone making these calculations. It’s usually going to be someone fairly senior, meaning they aren’t cheap. Call it $50/hour on the low end. Triple that for the overhead and benefits. If it takes them an hour to do this, it would take 72 YEARS to recoup the cost via pen-savings. And remember, that’s on the low end; in reality the timeline would likely be much, much higher, both due to higher billing rates and longer time spent on the project.

              1. amoeba*

                Huh, I guess we have fancy pens (or pens are more expensive here?), because I just googled the price and it’s somewhere around 1 €… I mean, sure, they probably get it cheaper, but I’d assume the same goes for the soda, so that would make them pretty similar in price?

                (That said, I’d have no problem with somebody taking home either! Unless it becomes excessive, obviously, but one pen a month or one drink every two weeks… who cares.)

      1. Dinwar*

        What if I take the pen because I have to sign documents at a meeting, then put it in my pocket and forget about it and take it home? What if I then let my spouse borrow it so she can sign a waver for the kid’s field trip?

        I’ll grant that there’s a limit to this sort of thing. I wouldn’t take a ream of paper home, or a box of pens, or a stapler. But a cheap ballpoint? Whatever; it’s the equivalent of printing out a one-sheet personal document. As long as it’s an occasional thing, and at a reasonable level, it doesn’t rise to the level of being a concern. Or, to put it another way: If my budget is going to be blown by a few employees taking a ten-cent pen home with them, my budget is already blown so badly that saving the ten cents isn’t going to matter.

        1. kiki*

          Yeah, I think this is one of those interesting questions where there is a line where most people would agree it’s too much, but where exactly is it? I think most people wouldn’t think twice about grabbing a pen. But a box seems like too much to me. At the same time, if I took a pen home every time I needed one, it might add up to a box over the course of a few years.

          1. Dinwar*

            How will you, as a manager or coworker seeing me take pens home, know? Literally all you see is me grabbing a pen.

            Some things simply do not rise to the level of being worth worrying about. Others may technically be an issue, but policing it would create far greater problems than it solves. You have to ask yourself: Is that pen worth destroying the trust between my employee and myself? And if the answer is “Yes”, the solution is to either work on your mental hang-ups or start buying pens that are cheap enough that the answer becomes “No”.

      2. ferrina*

        Except…..who hasn’t taken a pen home? Before I was wfh, my pens regularly made their way from the office to home and back again. And now that I’m full-time wfh, I certainly don’t request reimbursement for “work pens”.

        These are negligible costs. The business has a vested interest in not encouraging employees to think in terms of nickel and dimes. I don’t want my employees thinking “I worked an extra 5 minutes, so now the company owes me”. I want them thinking “this company is flexible with me, so I can be flexible with them.”

        1. Colette*

          Deliberately, for non-work reasons? Not me.

          I’m not talking about taking pens home as part of work (e.g. you bring a note pad and pen to make notes while working from home), I’m talking about taking a pen deliberately to have one at home for non-work reasons, which is the equivalent analogy to taking a soda home.

          1. amoeba*

            But… how do you separate that? I work hybrid, on my desk at home, the same desk where I also do private stuff like journaling. If I decide to take a pen home because for some reason I have none left, I’ll almost certainly use it for both (I will not start dividing my pens between work and leisure!)
            I also always have a pen in my notebook, which I’ll carry back and forth between office and home, and it’s either one of mine or one from the office. Like the ones on my desk at home, like the ones on my desk at work.

            Nobody cares.

        2. umami*

          Exactly. I am always taking a pen home. And bringing it back. And taking it home. In essence, I am using the same pen for work reasons that also ends up in my purse at the end of the day, which I may then grab at home if I need a pen for either work or non-work reasons. And sometimes my own pens end up at work. I don’t think most people are grabbing a new pen at work every day and then taking that pen home to then grab a new work pen the next day. That would be extreme to think.

          1. I Have RBF*


            I used to often take my own pens and pencils to the office because the ones they had sucked. I had to stop because people would use my desk as an office supply cabinet when I sat near a meeting room. So I had to make sure that only office crappy pens were out on my desk, and that anything decent, i.e. mine from home, was locked up.

            Yet another reason I’m glad I work remotely – a box of good Uniball Signo pens lasts years, instead of weeks.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        .. and?

        Have I done this, yes. Have I bought office supplies with my own money because the office didn’t provide enough or good enough quality to be usable, also yes. Did not raise any eyebrows in either case.

  15. Roo*

    #1 – Pre-Covid, we actually had something similar to this at my work. Some of our offices are in very old buildings and, at the time, we were based on the upper floor of a 16th century construction, with a number of roof spaces accessed through improbably small and oddly situated doors. We had a man (not of our department) who would appear from one of these spaces either semi-clad in lycra or barely-clad at all, claiming he cycled in to work and was changing privately. No-one knew who he was or from whence he came, but he must have had a security pass for the building. He would pop out at random times, with never so much as a scrape of scuffle to herald his appearance. It was tolerated for a while, other departments seemed to know of his existence but not who he was, senior (male) managers tried to catch him and put a stop to it without success, but after a pattern – er – “emerged” that he himself was only emerging when female staff (including me) were around and generally alone in the office, our Facilities Management Gods were invoked and ‘naked bicycle bloke’ was seen no more.

    It was bizarre. Apparently it had been a situation for years, just tolerated. Various teams had accepted that he was “inherited” when taking over the office spaces and his presence seemed to be common knowledge. I don’t think he was ever disciplined for anything, and no-one ever found out who he was, where he came from, which department he worked for, or where he went. I think he might still be doing it now, were it not for the fact that a couple of junior admin staff on our team were distressed when they encountered him and a senior manager and I then stepped in and went to FM. Company-wide emails went out reminding staff that “unusual behaviour” and concerns around such should be reported to FM ASAP, along with not allowing people to use others’ security passes into the buildings and avoiding ‘tailgating’ situations with people without visible ID badges entering immediately behind ones-self. But everyone seemed to know about him anyway.

    We never saw a bicycle.

    1. LW #1*

      Ugh, I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. Even if he HAD a bicycle, surely the building had bathrooms where he could change into his cycling clothes? How many spaces specifically designated for taking care of private business did he have to walk past in order to find an attic hatch with non-powerful women nearby?

      I don’t think the rooftop guy in my building was trying to be seen by anyone–he just wasn’t trying not to be seen, which was a problem.

      1. Roo*

        Thank you LW#1. You’re absolutely right – he would have bypassed three floors, each with bathrooms, and a shower room in the basement. I think that, maybe, there are a lot of people (certainly in the case I mentioned) who are inclined to think “Whoops! Haha!” about such things, and treat it as a comical encounter with a quirky fellow – disregarding the fact that it’s completely inappropriate and, to some, genuinely distressing.

        I hope you were/are able to resolve the situation in your place without too much in the way of hassle, discomfort or distress.
        Every good wish to you.

  16. Delta Delta*

    #2 – would it make a difference if co-worker opened the can at the office, took a few sips, and took the rest with him?

    While I agree in principle that people shouldn’t be taking work supplies/perks/free food home if they’re meant for work (think: countless letters from people where coworkers took whole catering trays so they could feed their kids dinner), one soda every couple of weeks is not a big deal. I think OP has to get over this.

  17. There's a G&T with my name on it*

    Holy LW1 Batman! I used to work in a library and we’d get all sorts of visitors, and one of our regulars did come in absolutely stark naked one day and was politely asked to leave. I do share this story, not just for the gossip fodder, but also to warn people at work so they’re prepared if he ever decides to do it again..

    1. Jamie Starr*

      That reminds me of the time someone called the museum where I worked, explained he was a nudist, and asked if he could come to the museum nude. After researching ordinances and checking with the security department, it was determined that he needed to at least wear pants.

      1. Temperance*

        Okay I have to ask … why wasn’t that an automatic “hell no”? No shirt, no shoes, no service?

        1. Jamie Starr*

          Because in some cities it’s not against the law to be nude in public; and this museum was a public museum (e.g. federal/state/city) so I wanted to make sure I was following the law. Also, I took every call seriously. Even the one time my friend prank called me and asked about bringing in a group of ex felons.

    2. kiki*

      I think sharing information so others know this has happened before is actually a great reason to mention this sort of thing to other people. I understand not wanting to be seen as a gossip, but there’s actually a lot of utility to making sure others are aware of a situation. If a coworker has been creepy before to a lot of women, knowing that in advance means I’m more likely to escalate any transgressions to HR vs. debating whether it was just a one-off. Knowing that there is a man who has been sunbathing naked on the roof before means folks will handle it a little differently than if they think it’s just a one-off oddity.

    3. Texan In Exile*

      I was on my town’s library board. We were reviewing the policies and realized that although we said patrons needed to be wearing shoes, we did not have anything saying they actually needed to be wearing clothes.

      We spent some amount of time debating how we could address that issue, without having to specify every single detail, in anticipation of possible rules-lawyering naked but wearing shoes patrons.

  18. Spicy Tuna*

    #2, I don’t think it’s a big deal but all offices have their own norms. I once worked at a company where someone got written up for filling her water bottle from the water cooler for her commute home every day. That seemed extremely petty!

      1. Captain Swan*

        it could be that this is one of those places that has a ‘water club’. Employees who want to get water from the water cooler as opposed to the tap or a drinking fountain, pay in monthly. The monthly dues pays for the water cooler. No contribution, no using the water cooler. Coffee is another one thatI have seen done this way.

        1. Spicy Tuna*

          Nope, it was a local branch of a Fortune 500 company that operates across the globe and water cooler water (and coffee) was provided by the company for the benefit of the employees. SUPER PETTY!!!!!

    1. I Have RBF*

      WTF? That’s absurd.

      It is in the company’s interest that she is properly hydrated on her commute, IMO.

      That would have been a resume generating event for me.

  19. Boss Scaggs*

    To some, taking one soda might not be a big issue, but he pilfering of food in large amounts or small, is one of the most serious occurrences in an office

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      It’s not pilfering.

      The purpose of the soda is to raise morale; if this employee chooses to improve his morale at home to make him happier the next day at work, this is money well spent.

    2. MissElizaTudor*

      It isn’t one of the most serious occurrences in an office. Wage theft is quite common and way more serious, for example. Harassment, unsafe working conditions, and discriminatory practices are all serious occurrences in the office. Taking home more food than you were supposed to? Not so much.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I really don’t think the pilfering of food in small amounts is the most serious occurrence in an office. If anything, that sounds like a goal–our biggest problem is that someone takes sugar packets? Especially if the food is company provided. (Rather than stealing only one bite of your coworker’s sandwich from the fridge.)

    4. Melissa*

      I’d love to work in an office where taking a soda once a week is “one of the most serious occurences”

    5. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Is it pilfering? There don’t seem to be any specific policies about it, the LW is just “under the impression” that they are meant to be consumed in the office.

    6. Irish Teacher*

      I don’t think it’s pilfering to drink a soda that was intended for you in a different place to where you were expected to drink it. If it were somebody else’s soda, sure, but I don’t think it makes sense to consider it pilfering if somebody drinks a soda at 5:30pm, but not if one drinks it at 5pm.

      1. Boss Scaggs*

        I think there are two things involved – place and time. Wrong place right time, ok no biggie. Same with right place wrong time. But wrong place wrong time is asking an awful lot.

    7. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I don’t think this is like taking Suzy’s yogurt from the office fridge.

      It’s more like taking a slice of Ash’s birthday cake, but instead of eating it straightaway instead putting it in a tupperware to take home and have after dinner. The per-person allocation is unaffected.

      I still think people would get weird about home-cake, but I think it’s a closer analogy.

      1. Ali*

        See, you back only eat two meals a day due to dental work I’m doing. I absolutely would need to either decide to just not have cake while everyone else gets to have some, or take it home to eat with my evening meal. I can’t snack, but I like cake. Am I supposed to just watch enviously at every office party?

  20. Peanut Hamper*

    it’s pretty likely that he spends more than the equivalent of that in his salary thinking about work after he leaves

    This! Good lord, if I could be paid for all the time I spend on the evenings and weekends thinking about work, I could triple my salary. I think my company could easily afford that fifty cent soda.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      I dream-solved a problem earlier this week and applied the resolution while awake. I should at least get comp time.

  21. OpSecDude*

    A note on your friendly neighborhood security office/team (if you have one): *Never* hesitate to contact us for anything, even just “bad vibes.” It’s literally our job to listen, evaluate and take action if necessary. Trust me when I say “naked guy on roof/deck,” does not even register on our weird meter, not are we going to judge you for reporting it promptly.

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I have some discomfort about responding to “bad vibes.” In my experience, “bad vibes” can be the result of bias and prejudice. I’m a white woman and I know I’m more likely to have bad vibes about people of color, especially Black men. I recognize this in myself, I’m working to change it, and I would not call security on a Black man unless I had a very specific observed and objective reason to do so. To be clear, naked sunbathing would qualify as specific!

      In a mostly white workplace, white folk are more likely to think Black people look out of place. I’m all for trusting your gut when making decisions for yourself. When you’re making choices that could put other people at risk, I think you have to examine your initial response to check your unconscious bias.

      1. I Have RBF*


        But if you see someone, of any color or gender, nude sunbathing, or flashing people, calling security is not out of line.

        But those are both obvious and egregious examples. Just “hanging around outside” or “watching something” (like wildlife) is not a reason to call security.

        One way I try to look at it is to put myself in their position, and see if I would feel shady or weird doing it.

        YMMV, of course

  22. English Rose*

    #1 “a strategically placed laptop” – am I the only person whose mind went straight to hoping his laptop doesn’t overheat while it’s perched on his crown jewels?

    1. Black cat lady*

      I’m also hoping that when he returns to the building the laptop doesn’t get placed on a shared desk/table!

    2. Dinwar*

      Given the propensity for lithium-ion batteries to overheat and/or ignite, and the way they ignite, as a man….No. No no no no no.

    3. LimeRoos*

      Nope. I was thinking the same thing. Laptops can get so freakin’ hot sometimes he is a brave soul.

    4. LW #1*

      I’ll admit, the thought that he was going to fry his laptop did cross my mind. But he was actively using the laptop as a computer and not just a towel, so he probably would have noticed on his own if it was overheating.

  23. HonorBox*

    OP1 – Telling others in your office about a naked, or near naked, sunbather on the roof is warranted. Frankly, I’d be OK with it if it was more about the gossip and less about the warning that something was amiss on the roof. Because a dude sunbathing in his birthday suit on your office roof is something quite interesting. But the way you write about how you presented it to others, it seems as far from gossip as the sunbather was from clothed. I think asking “what do we do about this, as this has never occurred” is perfectly normal.

    I’d love it if you or someone had called security, but the oddity of the situation might have caused a stray from the norm.

    1. margarita water*

      Agreed, This would have been a great remember when office moment that would have entertained for a least the week.

      1. HonorBox*

        Honestly, my first thought was something a comedian said once about Vegas. Rather than “what happens here stay here,” he said “what happens in Vegas, I’m telling EVERYONE.”

        If I saw a dude naked on the roof, I’d have a hard time not picking up the phone and doing an all-call to everyone just to report what I’d witnessed.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Me too. I’d be calling everyone, saying “There’s a naked guy on the roof!” with the same line delivery as “Morpheus is fighting Neo!”

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I am not a gossipy person, and even I recognize its importance as a means of social cohesion. For most of human history we couldn’t talk about the latest episode of Afterparty: it was the weather, or what Ogg got up to yesterday. It would be very weird to try and bond together in social packs without ever mentioning what we saw or heard Ogg got up to.

      On one end is spreading around minimal information (that should have been considered private*) with heaps of mean-spirited speculation, and at the other end is “omg there was a naked guy with a laptop on the roof.”

      *Recognizing that views of what should be kept quiet and what is good to loudly note can change over time, or in different contexts.

      1. Kit*

        The expectation of privacy is a perfect angle to take, actually – the difference between “I opened the door to so-and-so’s office, and they were changing their clothes!” and “there’s a naked guy with a laptop on the roof!” is that an office with a closed door can reasonably be expected to be private (even if they failed to lock it before disrobing) and a rooftop space that is accessible to the entire building cannot.

        Gossiping about the first would be deeply inappropriate (and I would hope it would be a lesson on both sides – lock the door, but also knock before entering!), the second is warning any would-be produce collectors that they may get an inadvertent eyeful.

  24. mreasy*

    OP5 – I love this story, not only because it is a great example of salary negotiation, but also, we see so many people on here who dealing with meddling or straight up job-endangering parents. Seeing a parent just giving good job advice and it working out warms the ol’ heart. Good work!!!

    1. K8T*

      Right? Genuinely could not imagine any world where I’d snitch about something a) insignificant and b) would destroy my working relationship with people. No way I’d be friends with LW if they chose to say anything and I’d sure let people know they’re keeping track.

  25. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP4: I am sorry for your losses and the experience you had last time, it’s no wonder you don’t want to go again. I think Alison’s wording will work fine, as it is true there’s a medical thing going on that means you can’t go this year. If anyone gets nosy I suggest practicing a slightly bored face in the mirror and saying ‘nothing major, nothing infective, I just can’t do that trip right now’.

    The less information you give them the less chance they have of trying to argue you out of your decision. And yeah, anything relating to reproductive health is a right can of worms at the moment.

  26. Dinwar*

    #2: Would the equation change at all if you knew that he was drinking the soda on his commute home? I know for a fact my company would be 100% fine with it–they are actively encouraging us to loop drive time into our safety systems, and hydration is included in this. Soda’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing. Fundamentally, though, it doesn’t change what you observe of the man’s behavior. You’d still see him grabbing a soda on the way out of the office.

    For my part, I’d have zero qualms grabbing a soda on my way out. I’ve bought enough coffee out of my own pocket that they can afford a can of soda once every week or two. Not that I expect it–I buy the coffee because I like coffee–but it balances the morality a bit. And maybe that guy’s doing something similar. Maybe he’s purchasing something work-related out of his own pocket, something you’re not seeing.

    1. KateM*

      Well, I would have quite some qualms if someone grabbed a soda claiming they will make it into an alcoholic coctail AND drink it either at work or during their drive home.

      1. umami*

        Why is the fact that he is making an alcoholic cocktail with it a problem? I genuinely don’t see why that is concerning, when he obviously is drinking it at home, and only on occasion (as in, he’s not taking a soda every day, just every once in a while and drinking it how he chooses).

        1. KateM*

          That’s what I was trying to say – him making an alcoholic cocktail would be a problem if he was drinking it at work or while driving, not at home.

      2. Dinwar*

        That’s a totally different scenario, though. Drinking at work is obviously bad, drinking while driving is far worse. The soda is irrelevant–if he was drinking rum straight it would be a problem!

        Taking a can of soda home and making an alcoholic beverage there? As a manager I see no difference–as far as the company is concerned–between that and drinking the soda (sans alcohol) on the drive home. All I see is an employee taking a can of soda out the door in either case. Whether he drinks it on the ride home, or at home, or uses it to clean his toilet is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. I’ve made the soda available, it’s perfectly reasonable for someone to take a can out the door with them once every week or two, end of story.

    2. LW2*

      I think my biggest issue that I left out of the actual question is that he told me he was making it into a cocktail at home…but he said it out loud, in the office, where the boss or non-friendly coworker could potentially HEAR.

      Honestly have no qualms with the taking, it’s the potentially getting caught that made me want to say something to them.

  27. HonorBox*

    OP2 – Goodness gracious. I had to read your letter a couple of times just because I felt like I was missing some important detail that makes the soda an issue. If a coworker is taking a can of soda a couple/few times per month (no matter when/how they’re going to consume it) I don’t think I’d worry about it. There are plenty of other ways that this could be abused even more. I didn’t see you mention any sort of daily limit, so are you worrying if I have one when I arrive, one at lunch and one at 4 pm when someone else only has one? If you see someone taking one for the road every day, or they’re drinking a 12 pack per day, maybe it would make sense to pull them aside and ask them not to spoil the perk, but one going home for happy hour once a week isn’t something I’d think about any longer

    1. LW2*

      The missing important detail is I had a really abusive previous job that WOULD have taken an issue with the soda and it skewed my judgment, which is why I kept asking if my feeling was weird and out of touch.

  28. OpSecDude*

    Respectfully, this is a problematic take. I would never even consider advising any person to ignore their gut instincts for any reason, including “maybe you’re just a bigot.” A good security team is the sanity check you are looking for; if you don’t trust your security team to handle situations like these, that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

    1. metadata minion*

      I would definitely not assume a security team would be able to do an accurate sanity check on whether I was reporting an actual issue or something founded on racial bias.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        Humans are gonna human, and there is no doubt that the quality of security guards varies widely. That’s partly because companies want to minimize what they pay for the service.

        But it is absolutely reasonable to expect your employer to hire a security company that hires people of good character and sound judgment, and that trains them to exercise sound judgment as they assess the situations they encounter in your workplace.

        And it is appropriate for security guards to be trained to filter out their own bias, as well as the bias of reporting witnesses, before deciding how to handle an unusual situation.

    2. This_is_Todays_Name*

      Did I miss the “potential bigot” part (of any of these stories) but presumably in L1? That seems (to me, and I’ve not had coffee) to be a weird leap based on the information provided and I’ve reread it a couple of times. Where did race come in since presumably the sunbather was white based on the “tan lines” comment?

      1. Crocdilasaurus*

        “presumably the sunbather was white based on the “tan lines” comment?”

        Black people tan.

  29. I should really pick a name*

    I don’t know that Alison has said you should ALWAYS negotiate salary offers.
    She encourages it, but always is kind of strong.
    Sometimes it’s already a really good offer.
    Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to.

  30. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (miscarriage) – I think there are 2 things being conflated here which is why the way forward is unclear.

    1. early pregnancy, presumed high risk (given the history) means it is not advisable to travel abroad etc at this point – this is a genuine and well understood reason.

    2. feel uncomfortable going back to that specific location / event because it is a reminder of the traumatic event last year. Also genuine in its own way but if this event is a standard part of OPs field, will need some work putting in to get past it.

    I think OP has framed it in their mind as “I’m afraid, maybe irrationally, that history will repeat itself and I will have another miscarriage on the first day of the conference again”. It needs refraining to “I have a medical condition that means I cannot travel at this time” (as suggested in the answer), the anxiety around the location etc is valid, but is unlikely to be seen as a reason to avoid the event unless the anxiety is a medical issue in itself.

  31. i drink too much coffee*

    #4… I had an EXTREMELY similar experience! I began the process of losing my first pregnancy in the middle of a work event with my boss. We weren’t in another country, but we were about 2-3 hours from home. I’m fortunate that my boss was fantastic, knew I was pregnant already, and I felt comfortable letting her know what was going on. She immediately had us start packing up, and took me directly to my house instead of back to the office (where my car was lol I picked it up a few days later).

    A year later I was pregnant again, and I spoke to my extremely close coworker about how an upcoming trip was giving me a lot of anxiety because last time I went on a trip while pregnant it was extremely traumatic, but I didn’t feel like I could just ask to not do an essential part of my job. Luckily our team was all very close and my coworker mentioned the whole thing to my boss, who called me in and said she already took me off the event and got it covered, and suggested we not schedule any more out of town events for me until I was at least in second trimester, and once we hit that point we’d discuss it again to see where I was at. (If you’re wondering, that child is about to celebrate his 3rd birthday!)

    I left that job last year for one with higher pay, but man I miss that dynamic.

  32. Myra*

    Naked sunbather is an exhibitionist waiting for the right victim. That behavior can escalate to sexual assault. There is nothing accidental about being a naked man in a shared space of a professional building — nothing whatsoever. This is NOT “funny.”

    1. Jackalope*

      It can be, but it can also be someone that has more relaxed views on appropriate clothing, feels that bodies are natural and don’t need to be covered, etc. I’d be more concerned about this if he’d actually done anything other than just sitting there using his laptop, or if the OP had mentioned that he was giving off a creepy vibe, or something like that.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        As someone with nudist leanings myself, No.
        I feel that bodies are natural and don’t need to be covered.
        I think people get way too worked over the sight of genitals.

        I also know that getting naked on top of an office building is completely inappropriate.

        1. I Have RBF*


          Naked in your home or other clothing optional spaces? Fine, whatever floats your boat, remember your sunscreen.

          Naked in/at a semi-public office building? Oh, hell no.

          What’s the difference? Essentially, consent. In your own home or clothing optional places the people that are there know, and consent by staying, that those places are clothing optional. People in public or office buildings do not consent to a clothing optional environment.

          Could people who worked for a company consent to a clothing optional workplace? Technically yes, if it was stated up front and informing them of this was part of the interview and offer process. Mind you, only clothing optional venues and/or private clubs tend to do this, but it does happen.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Most of us get naked in the shower at a bare minimum; the whole concept of exhibitionism is that you’re getting naked in a public space where that is not the norm.

        Survivor had a very unpleasant incident of “just no hang-ups” nudity that crossed the line into assault as a way to manipulate someone he wanted gone. It was very gross, aged horribly, and would color my view of any “Hey there, my accountant–I thought I would attend this meeting nude, as I feel my body is natural.”

      3. Observer*

        ut it can also be someone that has more relaxed views on appropriate clothing, feels that bodies are natural and don’t need to be covered, etc.

        No. This is a shared space in a type of are with some well known and very strong norms. Either he’s aware of those norms and is deliberately flouting them, which is not “relaxed” or he is soooo out of touch that he has seriously impaired judgement.

        or if the OP had mentioned that he was giving off a creepy vibe, or something like that.

        Sitting in a shared work related space IS “doing something” and by definition give off “creepy vibes.” I’m not saying that this guy is a rapist in waiting, but the idea that this could just be a lovable teddy bear whose is just soooo much more laid back that all of the uptight folks at work is untenable.

        1. Jackalope*

          So just wanted to respond that I don’t think he’s a “lovable teddy bear”, and I agree that this was a sign of poor judgment. He should be wearing (more) clothes on a general-access roof, period. I just don’t think it’s automatically a safe assumption that his intention was to sexually assault someone given the fact that as far as I can tell he didn’t interact with the OP at all and didn’t give off a predatory vibe. Poor judgment doesn’t HAVE to mean wants to assault people, and although if he was an employee of OP ‘s company discipline would clearly be appropriate, they should investigate to find out what’s going on.

        2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Given that this is a multi-tenant office building (if I’m reading the OP right), I suppose there’s also a 1% chance that he works for a different company in the building and his particular company, for reasons beyond my comprehension but which possibly rhyme with “start up culture”, is either clothing-optional in general or has decided that it’s totally reasonable to sunbathe nude on the roof.

          That it might be someone from a different company is a great reason to loop in building security, since they’re the ones who can enforce (or invent) building-level policies for shared spaces like the roof or lobby when things like this happen.

      4. Ukdancer*

        Most naturists (as opposed to exhibitionists) are aware there is a time and a place for naturism. I mean my uncle and aunt go to a naturist resort every summer, they don’t walk down Oxford Street with nothing on. I sometimes visit a spa in Germany which is textile free in parts but I don’t expect my supplier in Dusseldorf to show up to business meetings starkers.

        A rooftop is not appropriate to most people and offensive to some.

    2. HonorBox*

      I think it can be both. The initial reaction should have been to get building security (or someone in a position to address it in a similar way) involved so it didn’t escalate. No one needs to be flashed, whether intentional or if they guy just adjusted the laptop and accidentally showed his hardware.

      With a potential crisis averted, it can definitely be a funny story that is shared like an office urban legend. Especially if it was just some dope feeling a little too comfortable, jokes about the tan lines, etc. would be difficult to pass up.

    3. Peanut Hamper*

      Can we not jump to the conclusion that something that makes us uncomfortable is automatically a potential crime? This guy could just be a standard run-of-the-mill nudist who discovered the roof is a great (and until now) private place to get a little relaxation in. Or he could even be (gasp) European, where this would not be considered weird.

      This attitude gets a lot of people of color shot and killed.

        1. Misty_Meaner*

          This was a multi tenant building so assuming it’s the bather’s office roof is a stretch.

      1. Apparently a weird European*

        I never heard of sitting naked on roofs of office buildings being common nor unremarkable… Granted, I’m not in a country with sauna culture, but still.

      2. Mrs. Pommeroy*

        European here, and this behaviour would definitely absolutely completely be considered weird.
        Public nudity laws exist here, and places for people who like to be outside in the nude are very clearly signposted. The roof of a building shared by several tennants and with a communal vegetable garden is NOT an appropriate place for nudity in Europe, just as in the US.

      3. Ukdancer*

        European reporting in. I’ve lived and worked in the UK, France, Belgium and Germany. All of them would consider this weird. There are times and places for nudity and the roof of a mixed office and residential block is neither.

        I know some people think Europe is chill about nudity but that tends to mean that it’s fine to sunbathe topless on a French beach or not wear a costume in a German sauna. Not that people strip off in unexpected places.

    4. LW #1*

      Yeah, my reaction wasn’t ideal–I should have told security. Throughout my career I’ve had to be the one to intervene in various types of weirdness and I’m fine doing so, but I tend to under-react when I’m the one uncomfortable. It’s not good, because if I’m uncomfortable it’s likely others are/will be as well, and even if I’m not inclined to stand up for myself, I should stand up for them. I know I need to work on that.

      In this case, I didn’t get the sense that the guy had any intention of exposing himself to anyone. He was using his laptop and didn’t react when I walked in his direction. The roof is past multiple security checks (so he almost certainly works in the building), and it’s not an isolated area. I think he was just exercising really bad judgment.

      1. Misty_Meaner*

        So, if he walked past multiple security checks, I think I’d land on “ok he’s fine and I just don’t see it.” Not “OMG HE IS NAKED.”

    5. Misty_Meaner*

      That assumption is SUCH a leap. The OP said they assumed he was naked, but not sure he was. He could have been wearing a speedo, etc… The immediate assumption that his lack of full clothing = sexual assault is SUCH A LEAP. A woman in a string bikini would NOT have received the same assumption. Not all men are sexual predators and the assumption tney are is offensive.

  33. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #2 – Unless coworker is emptying the soda fridge every 2 weeks and leaving the rest of the group without, I’d leave it. If a customer grabbed a soda right before they left and said they were going to take it to drink later, presumably you wouldn’t admonish them.

    1. Petty_Boop*

      Additionally, if he grabbed it 15 min before leaving and took a swig or two, would the LW still feel the same about him taking the remainder home? It’s a weird thing to get upset about, IMHO.

  34. Alex*

    I’d argue that Naked Man had no expectation of privacy and you can tell anyone and everyone about it. I know I would.

    You get naked on a public roof, people are going to talk. If you don’t want people talking about it, don’t get naked on a public roof!

    1. Petty_Boop*

      I’d venture that *IF* he was self confident enough to be out there in his Birthday suit, he’s unlikely to be bothered if someone talked about it (and how would he know if they did?). But he may not have been naked. He may have had a speedo or thong or something else on. The LW didn’t seem to venture close enough to be sure.

    2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Also, it sounds like the OP didn’t know his name, so the office gossip is just that there is an unnamed naked dude on the roof. Unless you are already known as the office naked dude, people will probably not be able to tell that it’s you specifically. (If you are already known as the office naked dude, then presumably your coworkers are relieved that you are at least working from the roof instead of from your assigned desk, and won’t consider this new information any more negative than their existing opinions of you.)

  35. Petty_Boop*

    I dunno about #1. The LW and her company only rent part of the building and share the space, including the rooftop garden (which it SEEMS they don’t maintain, they just can share the bounty) with “other tenants”. If she didn’t recognize the guy, then he likely didn’t work for her company and she can’t say for SURE that he wasn’t wearing say… a speedo or something. Turning him into Security or whatever for something that as a tenant he may be permitted to do…. Personally I’d have coughed or somehow alerted him to my presence, and then gone about my business and let him hightail it outta there after I left, *IF* he was indeed au natural, and let him go about HIS business, if he was not. But, I’m a pretty “live and let live” kinda person so…

    1. HonorBox*

      If he was in a Speedo or something like that, mentioning it to security would amount to them checking in on the situation and deeming it a nothing burger. But if he was nude, someone in that shared space may see something they’re not expecting to see in a shared public space. It doesn’t need to be an major issue when reporting it, and if he’s covered his bits and pieces and security looks into the situation, it wouldn’t be a Big Deal for anyone either.

    2. Angstrom*

      If the rooftop was considered part of the LW’s workplace, then one could certainly argue that a naked person was creating a hostile environment where employees felt uncomfortable.

      A shared recreational space that employees have access to? Not as clear. It’s hard to claim a hostile work environment if it’s not the workplace. A well-placed laptop would prevent a charge of indecent exposure in most places. Seems like a “no harm, no foul” situation.

      If the naked person was doing something sketchy it would be different.

    3. Temperance*

      If he’s allowed and encouraged to sunbathe in a tiny Speedo, security will know and will let it go, but that’s such a weird thing to do at work.

      1. Petty_Boop*

        We don’t know that he was “at work” and it’s pretty clear that he wasn’t working for the OP’s company as she didn’t recognize him. Remember this is a shared tenancy. There could be people LIVING in those other spaces. And the rooftop garden was not part of the “workspace”. They were simply (so we’re told) permitted to gather and eat some of the vegetables. To me that’s similar to saying, “we can go to the park next door to eat lunch” and then complaining about people being in the park that offend you. Once when I was much younger, I was accused of “not wearing pants” with my tunic top. I was wearing beige leggings but I was HUMILIATED because I was called out and had to PROVE I was wearing pants because “someone” was offended. (Lesson learned: don’t do that they DO look nude) Unless the OP is 100% sure that the guy IS nude AND his bits are on display, I think just letting him do his thing… was the right thing to do. He clearly didn’t engage with her or create a “hostile work environment” just by existing.

        1. LW #1*

          Just to be clear, there’s no housing in the building, just offices. To get access to the roof added to your building badge, you have to agree to a set of rules for community spaces, and they specify that you have to be fully clothed unless you’re in the gym. Even in the gym, shorts or pants are required.

          So even if he was in a speedo (he may have been!), it’s wasn’t appropriate, and it was uncomfortable to stumble across. Telling someone to put some pants on when they’re in an office building isn’t really the same thing as policing someone’s skirt length or leggings.

          1. Observer*

            Telling someone to put some pants on when they’re in an office building isn’t really the same thing as policing someone’s skirt length or leggings.

            Very much so.

            You absolutely did NOT over-react.

            It’s probably a good thing you told others. And if you do encounter the guy again, you’ll be in a better position to get security.

        2. Crocdilasaurus*

          I had the same thoughts that you did. I probably would have asked people if there were residential tenants in the building when I went around talking about the naked guy (and I would definitely have talked about the naked guy).

          I also once owned a pair of beige leggings. Fortunately, nobody important was offended by the resemblance to nudity (just my now-ex boyfriend).

    4. Observer*

      and she can’t say for SURE that he wasn’t wearing say… a speedo or something.

      So? He was bare enough for that to actually be a question that could almost be answered if he just shifted a few inches. That’s close enough, in this context,

      Turning him into Security or whatever

      Like they are the police and will ruin his life? What exactly are you getting at here?

      for something that as a tenant he may be permitted to do

      If he’s actually permitted to do this, then security won’t be a problem and security won’t do anything. But the reality is that there is simply no reason to think that he *is* actually allowed to do this. I’m pretty sure that the OP would have been aware if one of the other tenants in the building is a nudist colony or something like that. And in the *highly* unlikely event that there actually is a company like that in the building that the OP didn’t know about, again, security would know about it and the OP would then be enlightened – and would know to warn everyone that the roof garden may be less accessible now.

      1. Misty_Meaner*

        Are YOU that offended at seeing some skin? I’m not. You’d be fine if a woman were say, breastfeeding, right? What if it were a woman in a string bikini? If the LW was a man offended by that, say based on religious beliefs, or simply being uncomfortable with it, people here would be all about body shaming, she has a bathing suit covering her bits, etc… and would LOSE their MINDS if a man called Security on a woman sunbathing in a skimpy suit. Why the rush to get this guy at the LEAST bothered by Security/possibly humiliated when he did LITERALLY NOTHING to/with/against the LW other than existing in that space in what she considered MAYBE no clothing but she’s not sure? It’s so weird how this entire chat rails against misogyny but has NO problem with jumping all over anything a man may/may not do as automatically being in the wrong. (btw I’m a woman, but I can call out a double standard when I see one!)

        1. metadata minion*

          I would be fine with a woman breastfeeding, but a bit uncomfortable if she took off her entire top to do it; luckily that doesn’t usually come up and people breastfeeding don’t typically expose all that much breast. If a woman were sunbathing on the office roof in a skimpy enough suit that it was ambiguous whether she was wearing clothing at all, then I would also be uncomfortable.

          I’m fine seeing people’s skin, but people wearing significantly less clothing than is socially acceptable in a given situation is a yellow flag for me in that they may not be aware of other, more important social norms. This situation is a very unusual one in that the roof is a shared space and it’s unclear who the other tenants are (possibly-nude sunbathing is considerably weirder if the whole building is offices than if part of it is residential), so it’s unclear which set of social norms people are supposed to follow.

          1. LW #1*

            The entire building is offices, and the building rules specify that you must be fully clothed in community spaces. Except in the gym, where you must be wearing at least shorts.

          2. Observer*

            I’m fine seeing people’s skin, but people wearing significantly less clothing than is socially acceptable in a given situation is a yellow flag for me in that they may not be aware of other, more important social norms.

            Yes. This is really the thing. The LW was not shocked by “some skin”, but highly anomalous behavior.

          3. Misty_Meaner*

            I guess I don’t equate “my discomfort” with “that’s wrong and potentially illegal.”

    5. Gumby*

      I am not sure that sunbathing in a thong/speedo in a shared *professional* space is any better. There are a very small number of businesses where that level of attire would be appropriate and I’m guessing OP would know if there was a lingerie photography studio in their building. (Also, I am fairly certain that businesses where that level of dress would be appropriate keep it in their own office space when they share a building.)

      It would be interesting to look at what an employer’s responsibility would be in this situation as it relates to sexual harassment. If we push back against someone hanging a calendar with racy photos in their cubicle (and we do), then how much more inappropriate would live action speedo man in the break room be?

  36. Observer*

    #4 – Issue with going to a trade show.

    Alison is correct – just be vague but definitive.

    If you haven’t done so yet, please be in contact with a good high risk OB or a Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist. After 3 losses, you should probably be doing some testing.

  37. Falling Diphthong*

    #2, I have very strong goody two-shoes tendencies, which I am trying to overcome in my middle age. (In the sense that feeling I should be rewarded–by authority or the universe–for following the rules, and other people punished for not doing so, is usually disconnected from how reality is going to work.)

    So in that spirit, I say to you to let the soda go. Human interactions require giving each other a little grace, and not trying to cast everything as a slippery slope. “Twice a month, Doug takes a soda to drink on the way home rather than at his desk” is not a violation of the social contract. “Every time we get more soda for the break room, Doug carries it all out to his car, takes off, and sells it in the parking lot of Costco” would be a violation.

    The framing of the soda you drink at home being worth less than the work stuff you figure out while technically off the clock is a good way to think about the appropriate margin of grace.

    1. CeeBee*

      In the sense that feeling I should be rewarded–by authority or the universe–for following the rules, and other people punished for not doing so, is usually disconnected from how reality is going to work.)

      THIS!!! This is exactly it.

  38. Juicebox Hero*

    I remember one time my mother, brother and I had to travel to another state for a family event that NONE of us wanted to go to :D The hotel we stayed at had a free continental breakfast. We took some extra cups of cranberry and orange juice back to the room and stuck them in the mini-fridge until after the event, when we got back to the room and used the juice to mix with the vodka we’d brought to help us recover from the event. We paid for the room, the breakfast was included with the cost of the room, and what did it matter if we drank the juice at breakfast or at night? It was my mother’s idea, and she was the biggest goody-two-shoes law abiding citizen on the planet.

    Needless to say, I’m firmly on the side of the guy who takes a soda home to make a cocktail a couple times a month.

  39. RagingADHD*

    #5 – ask and then be quiet, exactly. People talk themselves out of perfectly good situations all the time by not knowing when to zip it.

  40. Anne Shirley*

    LW #2, I am operating under the assumption you are talking about individual cans of soda and not liter-size bottles people are pouring from. I don’t think it matters when an employee consumes it. I see it as no different from taking leftover sandwiches or cookies from meetings (once invited, of course). I am not necessarily going to consume those things in the office, before close of business.

    Sometimes my company goes all-out for clients and will offer us what remains of a hot buffet. Hello, dinner for that evening!

  41. TX_Trucker*

    On #1, are all the tenants commercial? My office rents space in a skyscraper and some floors are reserved for residential tenants. Our rooftop, swimming pool, and sometimes elevators have “activities” that I would not consider appropriate in the workplace. That’s just some of the joy of mixed use development. As long as it’s not safety related, I tell staff to ignore everything outside our floor.

    On #2, we provide free drinks for our employees and I don’t care if they take one for the road occasionally. I wouldn’t even care if they take one every day. If they take multiple cans daily, I might care. But destroying employee morale over an occasional soda they will drink at home is not something my company would do. And while it’s not the same thing, with the current heat wave, I’m actually encouraging folks to take a drink on the way out.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      Rooftops and swimming pools, I can see ignoring “activities”, but elevators are shared spaces that you don’t really have a choice about using. “Activities” in the elevators really is a step too far and I would want to alert building management to it.

    2. LW #1*

      All tenants are commercial. But some commercial buildings do have pools, and if ours was one of them, I’d fully expect to see people using the pool (or going to/from the pool) in swimwear. Honestly even without a pool, if he’d been in gym shorts or similar I wouldn’t have cared even a little bit that he was topless- I’m not the dress code police. But even I draw the line at being bottomless at the office.

  42. BellyButton*

    I absolutely would not forgive anyone who did not immediately run to tell me about the naked sunbather at work. I don’t care if it is considered gossip or not, this is information I need. :)

    1. Olive*

      I see gossip as speculation, talking about a known person behind their back, or using selective information to tear down or elevate someone’s reputation. “OMG there’s an unknown naked guy on the roof!!!” doesn’t fall into any of those. It’s absolutely fair game.

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      Come work with me. I’d have been rounding everyone up and leading the parade up to the roof so everyone could take in the show. Especially my coworker Robert, who’d have no problem walking right up to the guy and striking up a conversation with him that would have nothing to do with nudity and everything to do with finding out if the guy was in fact totally naked under the laptop.

  43. ILoveLlamas*

    As a person in property management, OP #1, please contact the building’s property management. Not just security. The property manager needs to know. They can and should send out a memo to ALL tenants outlining the building rules as it pertains to the common areas. I am no prude, but in an office setting, there is a minimum expectation of proper attire in the common areas of a building. He’s taking business casual to a whole new level…..LOL

    1. LW #1*

      When I read the building rules, I was a bit amused that they actually spelled out “you must be fully clothed outside the gym” and “you must wear shorts or pants in the gym,” because even in a career where I’ve had to enforce codes of conduct it hadn’t occurred to me that people really needed a rule that specific.

      Based on your comment and the comments from security folks…yup. People do in fact need a rule that specific.

  44. BellyButton*

    I don’t think I would ever notice or even care if someone took a soda or a bottle of water as they walked out the door. It is such a non-issue to the LW and to the company. I can’t even figure out why this is a letter.

    1. CeeBee*

      because maybe the LW wanted validation – they kept backtracking too – at first it was written like they took one home every evening, then on Fridays, then maybe every other Friday. this is such a nothingburger

  45. I should be working*

    As someone who has worked at a place with a soda fridge, my experience is that the company cares more about the amount of soda being consumed compared to where it is consumed. We did get a few messages saying “we have the budget for you to drink one soda per day”, please limit yourself to that otherwise we’ll have to revoke this privilege. This makes a lot of sense to me, I would assume the company cares about how much soda the workforce is drinking, not what they are using it for.

    Maybe the policy at my previous workplace has skewed my expectations around social norms related to office food, but when I read that LW2s colleague was taking one soda every 1-2 weeks, I immediately thought ARE YOU SERIOUS.?! Unless they are also drinking multiple soda’s per day at the office, this seems like such a minor transgression, and one the company should have little/no interest in knowing about.

  46. knox harrington*

    #1 I used to work in commercial property management and property managers have seen everything – it’s completely normal to contact building security and the property manager about this.

  47. beacon of joy*

    on #2: I work at a company with a similar policy, and I’d find it VERY weird if a someone approached me to complain I’m taking one or two items with me as I head out. It would be even worse if it came from a coworker, as it seems to be the case of the LW. yes, the rule is for us to eat/drink at the office, and from time from time the office manager will put up some signs around the kitchen to remind people of that, but unless someone was doing all their grocery shopping there, it’s just another perk for the employees

  48. Cakeroll*

    RE LW #3: I can see this particular set of circumstances, but I’m curious whether, in a general sense, coworkers seeking purely-social time is reasonable? I’ve been experiencing burnout at a new (six months) job, and I think a major cause is my lack of any kind of social connections with my (fully-remote) coworkers. I want to try to be more proactive with reaching out to colleagues to chat and try to build some kind of professional relationship beyond “I need this from you”, but I’ve gotten similar “I’m so busy, I only have time for strictly work” pushback which I’ve accepted gracefully, of course, but has been disheartening. Should I stop trying to seek this out? Am I coming off as odd or even inappropriate?

    1. Ray Gillette*

      I don’t have an answer, but I completely get your meaning. My company used to have an office and transitioned to 100% remote because of the pandemic. Before, social conversation would happen organically – you know, literal or metaphorical water cooler chat. But in a fully remote workplace, those things don’t happen on their own and trying to make them happen typically results in what you and OP3 described.

      I wonder if it’s because if I’m physically at an office, socializing with coworkers in my downtime makes sense. But if I’m working remotely, any downtime I have (especially if my workload is heavy) I’m going to spend on household stuff like running the dishwasher or doing a load of laundry.

    2. metadata minion*

      I suspect it varies a lot based on field, individual office, etc. Just as a data point, I would find it weird at all, even if I were too busy to take you up on it.

      This is also assuming the proposals are along the lines of a weekly video-coffee; I would feel weirder about social time that wasn’t within the usual norms of breaks in the workday.

    3. BrooklynAnalyst*

      (I’m the OP for this letter)

      If he had scheduled something outside of work hours, I don’t think that would have struck me as strange. If there was some digital equivalent of hitting up a happy hour after work and he had invited me to that, it would be a very simple situation. I still probably would have said no, because again, I don’t especially like him, but it would have been less confusing. I think the fact that he scheduled it as a meeting during work hours makes it weird and a little manipulative. It’s basically making hanging out with him part of my job. With an after-work situation, you can make up a polite fiction about having other obligations if you want to decline. But at work, there is some expectation that I will make myself available to him if he asks; after all, when he asked for help with his analysis, I made time for him despite my workload.

      So, I don’t think it’s odd or inappropriate to seek out friendships at work, but I think you should do it after hours, when people will feel freer to accept or decline as they wish. There are lots of online games or activities (like Jackbox or…is Among Us still a thing?) that you could invite a group of people to without making it weird. Hope that helps.

  49. Gigi*

    #5: Parenting win! Good for him, and better for you! As someone who supervises a lot of people right out of school, I’m deeply appreciative of parents who coach, support, and prepare functioning, independent adults. Go, you.

    #3: I’m over here jealous of someone who has so few problems at work that they write to an advice columnist about someone taking a soda for the road. Congratulations. You are in utopia.

  50. Pocket Mouse*

    LW #5: Success! I’ve never been a parent of a college-age person, so this is a genuine question: why did you look through the archives and write a script for him, instead of doing it together, or even sending a link and letting him use it or not? Curious about the approach and if future behind-the-scenes coaching will look different now that he’s seen some success with following AAM’s guidance. (I’m especially thinking of the readership demographics and that this was likely a mom doing a professional prep task for her son, which proved helpful in the short term but I assume not a dynamic she wants to continue long-term.)

    1. LW5*

      He lives about 4 hours away so we couldn’t work on it together, but also I was working and he needed to call them back so time was of the essence. I didn’t really think about sending him the links, to be honest. I found 3 or 4 old articles and I kind of combined them to put together a short script that I thought best applied to his situation. I guess I figured he didn’t have enough workplace experience to really understand what exactly was appropriate and I didn’t want him to be like “I’m happy enough with the offer, this isn’t worth it”. I didn’t really think my reasoning through but I guess my approach has often been to give them an effective way the first time so they have an example to follow the next time?

  51. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I just want us to appreciate the fact that the naked sunbather did not take any soda out of the office. (Or anything at all, it seems, other than the laptop.)

  52. OneElle*

    LW #5 – Mazel Tov to your son on gainful employment at the salary he wanted. Kudos to you for guiding him toward advocating for himself. I want to be like both of you when my son and I grow up, lol (mine is 16). :-)

  53. Colorado*

    OP #2: file this under no big deal and move on. Where I work, our break room looks like a 7-eleven and everything is free. You bet I take 1-2 sodas (and a pretzel/hummus pack or salami/cheese pack) for the drive home. If one happens to still be cold after my 45 minute commute, then yes, it is perfect for an after work cocktail :D

  54. umami*

    I can’t find anything in the first letter to indicate that the sunbather is an employee of the company or was even working when OP saw him. It sounds like he is a tenant there and was sunbathing while on his laptop. It is a shared space, and nothing sounds like it is exclusively office space. I don’t think I would have said anything – someone sunbathing and not actually showcasing their genitals doesn’t seem to rise to the level of needing an authority to address. If I see someone occupied in their own business without their business clearly on display, I wouldn’t be staring long enough to try to figure it out, seriously!

    1. LW #1*

      I don’t want to be repetitive/defensive, but I know folks will frequently check their own posts for replies and not re-read through all comments. The building is entirely commercial, not residential, and the building rules require folks to be fully clothed on the deck. If he’d been 20% more clothed I honestly wouldn’t have cared about the other 80%, but in an a shared space where nudity is not permitted, I think it’s reasonable to expect people to be wearing at least enough clothing to not leave people wondering if they’re naked.

      In any case, what actually happened was I didn’t stare long enough to figure it out, and then I left. And then I ran to the group chat to laugh about it, which I’ll cop was childish.

  55. LW2*

    LW2 here – reading the commentary and YUP, turns out this was allllll my PTSD from my previous job. Still working out those fleas. (ex: I got written up for sitting backwards in my chair at my desk.) My anxiety was high the day I submitted it and it was a supremely low stakes question. It was a personal vibe check, and boy was my vibe off.

    I really personally couldn’t care less for a can of soda, but my anxiety brain was “but would BOSS care? I can’t have my friend fired!!!”

    The coworker is a very good friend of mine; I got them this job. This is NOT something I’d report, just something I’d caution the coworker against doing if it got excessive. I would never bring this up to our boss. It’s a very small company, less than 10 employees, and it is a good work environment. No overtime, good pay, we get our breaks on time, and fairly chill clientele.

    In the end: don’t care, shouldn’t care, will let the coworker know if it’s getting excessive to the point where boss *might* care.

    1. MissElizaTudor*

      I’m sorry your previous job did such a number on you and I’m glad your new job is better!

      Getting a vibe check was a good instinct especially after a wild situation where you get written up for sitting backwards. Hopefully the comments aren’t too harsh. It isn’t like you were planning to report your coworker or anything like that.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      With that context it makes sooo much sense why you asked the question (out of concern vs rules lawyering!). Good on you recognizing the root cause — bad jobs mess with your brain.

    3. Observer*

      don’t care, shouldn’t care, will let the coworker know if it’s getting excessive to the point where boss *might* care.


      As for your old job, I’m really sorry that it did such a number on you. Your experience is, ironically, a perfect example of why turning everything into a formal rule with a formal process that needs to be the exact same regardless if true importance, is so toxic.

      I can see a lot of environments where sitting backwards on your chair would not be appropriate. But I can’t see an environment where that should lead to anything more than “Please don’t sit that way”, much less a formal write up. I mean, who in heavens name even has time for that?!

      1. LW2*

        Office space, super casual dress code, and I was doing it for a few minutes because I was just jotting a quick note before going to train a new employee. I was baffled and embarrassed because then the boss asked if I was drunk! I was just in a happy mood? I was excited for the new hire? I don’t even drink?

        Boss was a narcissist who actually liked me. But he also believed women weren’t meant to be in an office and hired fresh grads so he could take advantage of their lack of professional know-how and knowledge of labor laws. Fired me the day I decided to quit (was already sneakily packing my personal things when he handed me the termination notice) and then emailed me saying how much he missed me and how I should expect emails from employees because I had the best knowledge of all his llama grooming products.

        So yeah, lots of fleas.

        1. Observer*

          Oh wow!

          Alison often speaks about how staying in a toxic environment messes with your sense of what is normal. This sounds like a perfect example.

          I’m glad you are out of there. And I hope you blocked any emails from this ex-boss.

      2. Shan*

        My ex worked at a car dealership in the import division, which meant he was on the phone a lot. This was 2009, so these calls were on the telephone, not Zoom, and his office was not visible to the public. The owner’s son “magically” became his manager, and was just on a constant power trip. One day, ex was leaning back in his (uncomfortable) chair with his arms up behind his head during a long conversation, and this guy barged into his office and started going off on him for how he was sitting, while the client could hear everything. It is absolutely bonkers the kind of stuff bad bosses will go after!

    4. Dinwar*

      Sorry you had to go through that. And I’m equally sorry it’s left scars. I’ve had bosses like that, and it’s a painful process to pull yourself back into a normal expectation of workplace behavior.

      Hopefully the responses are helpful with the recalibration process–and if not, for my part, I apologize for any offense I’ve given.

      1. LW2*

        I appreciated your previous comment! Because I too buy communal foodstuffs out of pocket (like better coffee!) and then feel morally okay to take more of one thing. Coworker doesn’t do that, but that’s fine, because it really doesn’t matter.

    5. Crocodilasaurus*

      Don’t be too hard on yourself for having anxiety responses. I can think of a number of LWs who wrote similar letters who later came back to say they had anxiety. It’s a common problem.

  56. Boystown*

    Like #5 I also have a child, recent grad, get a salary bump thanks to AAM. I mentioned negotiating but he informed me that isn’t done, so I convinced him to ask about any compensation since he wouldn’t be utilising their health benefits (still on ours). He brought it up and they said they would get back to him as no one had ever asked before. They came back to say they couldn’t pass on the health care savings but offered a $5000 bump to his salary instead. Many thanks to AAM for giving me this idea to pass on. And yes I am still working on his misguided notions of negotiating…

  57. Relentlessly Socratic*

    I feel like a lot of people are being very unkind to LW2–LW2 has explained themselves a number of times in the comments, and it must be very disheartening to keep explaining that they aren’t tattling or the soda police.

    Alison, would you consider possibly posting a note?

    1. LW2*

      Appreciated! I think I’m just anxiously reacting (again) because the coworker is a very good friend of mine and I thought I had couched my question in a lot of “this is weird, right? I’m being weird”…

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        Haha, I think it’s a little weird to take sodas home for my cocktails. Like, not bad weird–but won’t that soda be all foamy when he gets home? It’ll be warm from the commute! What happens to soda at home that he’s not keeping a six-pack of cans in the house?

        If it were my friend, I’d think “huh, interesting choice.” but probably nothing beyond that.

        Are you weird? Nah. Your former work trauma is making you hyperaware. If it helps to know you’re not alone in prior work hangovers, I feel super guilty whenever I’m not over capacity for work, so any downtime at all makes me think I’m doing SOMETHINGVERYWRONG. That’s my former work trauma. It’s a process.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        The PTSD from a bad job made a lot of sense to explain your reaction.

        I think most of us have something where past experience gives us a take that would seem kind of out there without that specific experience.

  58. Pop Aficionado*

    Not sure I totally agree with the soda advice. If someone’s not taking more than their fair share – say, one can per day – I don’t see how it matters where they drink it.

  59. Mimmy*

    Related to #5: It is ever okay to accept the pay that you are offered without negotiating? In all my years of working, I’ve never negotiated salary because I’ve always been satisfied with what I’ve been offered at my various jobs (mostly hourly wages). I will concede that it could be ripe for being taken advantage of. I’m job searching now, and most positions I’m seeing (higher education staff) advertise a yearly salary; at this point in my career, I’d be happy with anything above what I’m making now (state-run program), keeping in mind the market values of the type of work I’m seeking, of course.

  60. SB*

    There’s potential for an additional stream of income here…selling tickets for uninterrupted naked roof time or sale of tickets for the show?

  61. TakingItHomeOftenEncouraged*

    OP2, I’m pretty surprised by your reaction to taking drinks home, especially that infrequently. Many places I’ve worked encouraged people to take some of the free drinks or snacks home, especially if people were hybrid but usually even if not. All of them have been fine with taking a drink or two and a snack or two to have on the way home. Those companies that invest in providing such things – maybe 1/3 of the places I’ve worked – did so to make it easier and more pleasant for employees. The places I’ve worked where I could absolutely see them minding doing that weren’t places that provided snacks and/or drinks at all.

  62. Anony74838*

    2. Unethical soda?

    who cares?! op, mind your own business. would it make a difference if the employee took a soda an hr before shift ended and put it in his pocket or desk instead?

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