office only has folding chairs, how does bereavement leave work, and more

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

1. Our office only has folding chairs

I work for a midsize nonprofit that, like many organizations, has become fully hybrid since the pandemic. Our office is considered flex space, used for both regular work days and events, and the only infrastructure we have is a combination of rolling 6-foot tables, three-leg stools, and plastic folding chairs.

There is more expectation that we are in the office more frequently now, and I’m finding myself there on average 2-3 days per week. On those weeks, my body hurts from being there, to the point that I am sore for one or more days after being in, to the point that I am limping, managing tension headaches, or unable to do planned physical activities. HR has offered to provide me an adjustable chair as an accommodation but I have been told explicitly they cannot provide for the whole office due to budget.

I am uncomfortable taking their accommodation offer because it doesn’t seem fair to my coworkers (and for what it’s worth, I am on the primary leadership team too, so it feels especially icky), and I anticipate running into the situation of calling it “my chair” or having to ask someone to give it up who is using it before I arrive (which, of course, is fine with me!). But super awkward!

How would you suggest I manage this? Advice for managing the dynamic if I take their accommodation offer, or advice for how to force them to provide for the whole office (which would be my preference)?

You can’t force them to provide different chairs for the whole office, but you can strongly recommend it, pointing out that the current chairs are insufficient for adults to sit in all day and that you’re unlikely to be the only one suffering in them. Since you’re on the leadership team, you presumably have some influence, so you could decide how much capital you want to put into this — but it’s very reasonable to argue that if the org expects people to come in more frequently, providing actual office chairs that match most adults’ sitting needs should be as much an expectation as providing the physical space itself is. You might be able to recruit other senior leaders to push the issue as well.

But either way, you should accept the accommodation, both because you need it and because not accepting it would be modeling the wrong thing to your more junior staff; you definitely don’t want them to watch you and conclude that they shouldn’t advocate for their own needs or that if they’re ever physically suffering they should just suck it up. You can also make a point of being clear with people about what the org’s accommodation process is and how they could go about making their own requests if they ever need to.

2. How does bereavement leave work?

I found out yesterday from a mutual friend that an out-of-state friend died by suicide. I’m having a lot of feelings about it. (It wasn’t entirely unexpected, they were in treatment, I’m wondering if I should/could have done more to support them, etc. LOTS of feelings.)

A few hours after I found out, well outside working hours (I found out around 7 pm, messaged work around 9), I messaged my acting (while my manager is on vacation) manager and left a message that I wouldn’t be in today due to a friend passing. (I didn’t go into more detail, I always try to keep things private with work.) I also messaged several coworkers to ask them to cover tasks that had to be done today, also telling them I just found out a friend passed.

But now on top of processing what’s happened, I’m stressing about work. What level of making sure my tasks are covered is my responsibility when taking bereavement leave? I obviously didn’t get confirmation of task coverage from the coworkers I asked given what time it was.

Is it reasonable to use bereavement leave for a non-relative? I have regular PTO I can use instead, but not a lot. I have no idea if her kids are going to have an obituary published, and I don’t know her kids anyway, and I wouldn’t ask them even if I did! My grief is not their problem. So what do I do if work asks for proof? Is it even reasonable for them to ask for proof? I’ve never taken bereavement leave before, so I feel like it’d be unreasonable of them to ask for proof. I’m probably winding myself up unnecessarily, but I can’t stop thinking about “what if work gets onto me about this” … possibly my brain trying to distract me from what happened. I have no idea what’s my responsibility for work in this kind of situation.

Companies that offer bereavement leave in the sense of “you get X additional days on top of your normal PTO when someone close to you dies” usually have policies that define what relationships are eligible for it — often confining it to specific family members and excluding friends, unfortunately. That doesn’t mean you can’t take leave when a friend dies; of course you can! It just means that in that situation the leave would come out of your regular bucket of PTO rather than a different one. So you should check any written policies or check with your manager about what your company offers.

Some companies do ask for obituaries, a funeral program, or other documentation to guard against abuse, although if you weren’t able to get something like that, they’ll often work around that. But again, that would be if you were specifically using bereavement leave rather than regular leave.

Beyond that, you can treat your work during the days you’re out the same as you would treat it with sick leave,  meaning that you can assume others — your manager if no one else — will step in to ensure anything crucial gets covered or rescheduled. (Of course, in some jobs you might still need to say “someone needs to handle X/please tell Y that Z is on hold/etc.” It depends on the job and your level of seniority, but the way you’d handle it during a sudden severe illness is a good guide.)

One thing that often comes up when bereavement leave gets discussed: Bereavement leave is not intended to provide enough time for you to grieve; it would need to be months or years longer if so. Rather, it’s mostly intended to give you time for logistics, such as organizing/attending a funeral, etc. (as well as, of course, an acknowledgement that you might not be in an emotional state to be working right away either).

I’m sorry about your friend.

3. Something in my performance review was factually incorrect

A few years ago, I went back to school and pursued an advanced degree in order to change career fields. I graduated and got a job in my new field and just had my first annual performance review.

I received an overall score of “meets expectations,” which was slightly disappointing as I felt some of my work and progress since my six-month review wasn’t recognized, but I felt it was overall constructive and I got some good ideas for growth out of it. However, one piece of feedback I got was totally inaccurate and was used as a reason to give me “meets expectations” instead of “exceeds expectations” in an area I know is a strength.

Let’s say we are a llama grooming supply company, and writing product manuals is an area where I typically excel. My feedback for this area was akin to “we had to educate you on the difference between scissors and shears, which is something we expect employees with a degree in advanced llama grooming to already know.” This never happened! I have always known the difference between scissors and shears and contrast both frequently in my writing, and I have never received any feedback about doing so inaccurately.

I feel that my managers must have gotten me confused with someone else, as they hired several new employees for the same job at the same time as me. I know the time for addressing this is probably past, but what is your advice for a situation like this where feedback is completely inaccurate?

Ideally you’d do it in the moment by saying something like, “I think there may be an error in the written review. It says I didn’t know the difference between scissors and shears, but that’s never come up as an issue and I contrast both of them frequently in my writing. I wondered if that was a different new hire rather than me, and whether we can get that corrected in my review?” If you don’t speak up in the moment, you can still go back later and say the same thing, just starting off with, “I realize I should have mentioned this on the spot, but I was confused by it.”

I don’t know how much time has passed since the review meeting, but unless it’s been months it’s still probably worth correcting (even if they don’t change the rating you received) so that you’re not letting objectively inaccurate information be included on a written assessment of your work.

4. What to wear for an informal networking meeting

I’m pretty new to the job market. I’ve been in the workforce for three years now, and it’s been in entry-level work in a field that’s not really close to what I want to do. I’m working to get certified as a paralegal. I’ve recently gotten a chance to connect with a lawyer in my field of choice in my area; she wouldn’t be a lawyer I would work directly with, but she is well known for taking new lawyers and paralegals under her wing and getting them connections to other law firms. She suggested we meet up for coffee, lunch, or a happy hour, so I’m assuming this meeting would be pretty informal (even though I turned down the happy hour). However, I’m stuck on what to wear.

My current and past jobs have all had the same dress code (jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers) but working in a legal office obviously has a different standard of dress. Further, while this is the second time I’m getting this sort of informal career meeting with someone, the first time was with a family friend, so I knew a t-shirt and jeans were okay. This time I don’t know this person at all, so I have no idea what she would think of what I wear. It may not be an actual job interview, but she is definitely a very valuable networking connection and potential mentor, so I don’t think showing up in jeans and a t-shirt would be good. I have some nice casual dresses and some more formal wear (think dress pants and blouses, the type that you would wear in a law office). It may be an informal meeting — too informal for office attire — but I also don’t know if spaghetti straps are appropriate either. I don’t have any makeup, but should I start getting used to wearing it now? Are hair accessories (like head bands or hair clips) too childish? The only thing I am sure I’m going to wear are a nice pair of sandals — not flip-flops!

No spaghetti straps. It might be fine, but law is a conservative field, and spaghetti straps read very casual. Aim for one step down from a suit; dress pants and a blouse are safer than a casual dress. Even if the person you’re meeting with dresses down because she figures it’s informal, you’re not going to go wrong by showing that you’re taking it seriously.

You don’t need to wear makeup. Hair accessories: depends on the specific accessories, but the classic end of the spectrum is safer (think tortoiseshell, not neon pink).

I also wouldn’t assume this is an informal meeting just because she suggested doing it over coffee, lunch, or drinks; those are all pretty standard business meeting settings, so come prepared for the possibility that it might not be as informal as you’re envisioning!

5. Accepted a new job and found out I’m pregnant all in 48 hours

After almost a year of being unemployed and job searching, I finally landed a job that I am super excited about! It is exactly the opportunity I had hoped for and I don’t want anything to jeopardize that. Within 48 hours of accepting the position, I also found some other very happy news: after months of trying, I am pregnant. It’s been a wild week, to say the least.

How should I navigate this with my new company? I would prefer not to tell them until I know the pregnancy is viable (I’m currently at five weeks) but I also don’t want it to seem or feel as though I took the job under misleading circumstances, or to give them a reason to question my ability to do the job. I also know another team member will be going on maternity leave soon and they would probably appreciate as much advance notice as possible for planning purposes. I understand I will likely be ineligible for the full maternity benefits outside of what is protected by my state, since I will have only been there for about seven months when the baby is due.

To add further context, part of the reason I was unemployed for so long is because I witnessed pregnant women being mistreated by my prior employer, which propelled me to leave since the behavior was illegal (they did get sued, FYI). Obviously, this has traumatized me in a way that I didn’t realize until now, finding myself in this situation. When should I tell my employer? Is there a best way to handle this?

You don’t need to tell them about your pregnancy now. It’s perfectly reasonable to wait until you’re in your second trimester or whenever you’d normally be comfortable announcing. That still leaves them months to plan; you’re not doing anything shady or inconsiderate by waiting to share the news until then, and that’s a very normal timeline to announce on.

When you do announce it, they might realize that you likely found out around the time of the offer, but they’re not going to know if you knew you were pregnant before accepting or not — and even if they figure you probably did, the law would have prohibited them from factoring it into their hiring decision anyway, and no reasonable employer would fault you for waiting to share until you were further along (nor would they have any legal ground to stand on if they did).

{ 368 comments… read them below }

  1. Cold and Tired*

    #2: If your company has any sort of handbook that outlines company policy you should check it. I just checked my company’s this week as a close relative has just entered hospice for end of life care so I’ve been starting to plan for the inevitable myself since I have advance warning. I found that friends do count for some bereavement leave, but less than direct family members, so you never know what your company might offer.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I’m sorry about your friend, OP. If you find yourself in this situation again, and you find the policy only covers some relations and not other people whose deaths have deeply affected you, I have no problem using sick leave for this, as I am mentally not well enough to work, and something unexpected like this can’t be planned for in advance (as we discussed yesterday, some bosses require non-medical time off to be scheduled/approved in advance). YMMV. It does mean that you don’t necessarily get the emotional support from your boss/coworkers that you otherwise might, if you choose not to share the reason for the mental health day.

    2. Hannah Lee*

      At where I work, the bereavement policy specifies particular relationships- spouse, parent, child, sibling (or their spouse’s p,c or s). But then mentions special consideration is given in cases where another person has a similarly close relationship, and in practice it’s allowed pretty generously.

      So LW should definitely check.

      1. MsClaw*

        Same for my company. I have taken PTO when a friend died, but bereavement leave wasn’t available as they were not a first or second degree relative.

        In terms of how work gets covered, it got covered in the same way as if I’d been out with the flu instead of traveling to and attending a funeral.

        When it comes to how companies handle grief as opposed to bereavement leave, I’ve been lucky enough to work with individuals who generally care about each other and understand what when someone close to you dies you may need more time off, more help, more support, and have allowed people to take more time off and/or work lighter duty until they were in the right headspace to fully come back to work. That was very much not a company policy, but was what local managers did because they weren’t jerks.

      2. Runner up*

        Seconding this – check the language, and consider asking HR or your boss. In my experience, the limitation on who counts as a close enough relative is designed to prevent abuse, and – especially if it’s your first time using bereavement leave – nobody is likely to police if the time is for a close friend or a relative. (Relatedly, many years ago, I had to travel to support a friend after a medical procedure. When I called the airline to ask about emergency/compassion fares to see my friend, the agent’s response was something like “so you’re flying to see your sister”…)

        1. Rater Z*

          In my case, I missed seven days when my Dad died back in 1991. I was paid for three days and not paid for four days. They did know where I was (in Michigan three states and 250 miles away) and that I kept them posted each day after the first three days. It didn’t help that my dad had been a widower for 15 years so we had to figure out what to do with what was in a seven room house that had a full basement and an unattached garage. His will said he had donated the house to a foundation (40 miles away) that helped troubled boys so that was one problem off our hands. I knew how he felt about the group so I wasn’t surprised but happy about it. My two sisters lived further away than I did.

          One thing that I didn’t know about was about a problem the company ran into while I was gone. As Alison would say, life happens. We had five people, including me, working evenings. Three days after my dad died, one of the other guys was notified that his wife’s parents had been shot during a home invasion at their home in the Netherlands. Her dad died and her mother was badly wounded and in the hospital. So, he was spending that Saturday trying to get plane tickets to Europe. I normally did 1000-1200 plus bills a night which they were able to cover with few problems but “Bullet” as he was known only did about 300 bills. I was told that was too much for them to handle as they were limited to how many guys they could pull from days to help them. They didn’t tell me about the situation until I got back. Nothing was said as I was updating them every day as to what I was doing. (As an aside, when our evening supervisor – one of the five – suddenly died, I jumped to routinely doing 1500 plus bills a night.)

    3. Coin Purse*

      I am an orphan who ended up raised by a combination of aunts and legal guardians. When they each died, I was not allowed bereavement leave because they weren’t parents or siblings. Every time. I had to take the time from my PTO. It was extremely frustrating that a coworker was allowed two weeks off bereavement leave for her grandfather but I could not get a day. I did bring this up in my exit interview since it seemed so cruel. This is the US, not sure how this is handled in other countries.

      1. Sloanicota*

        This happened to a coworker of mine. It really felt like a double punishment, like he didn’t “fit in” because he came from a non-traditional family so the usual systems didn’t fit him (in my coworker’s case, it was a former step-parent who raised him for most of his life – not eligible). In theory, the supervisor has some flexibility and could let you access the leave at least one time for a non-traditional family member, but not all bosses are willing/able to go to bat for you unfortunately. I’m sorry it happened to you.

      2. Nina*

        In the companies I’ve worked for in New Zealand, that’s handled like this:

        – the law explicitly provides at least one day of specific bereavement leave for any death (friend or family); whether you get it is largely up to your boss but they have to consider the closeness of the relationship, any cultural responsibilities on you around the death, and whether you’re doing any of the heavy lifting around organizing arrangements.

        – it explicitly provides at least three days of specific bereavement leave for the loss of a parent, child, partner, spouse, grandparent, parent-in-law, or sibling, or for a miscarriage.

        In your case, you would tell your boss ‘I don’t have parents, my parental figure died’ and most decent bosses would process that as ‘parent’. If you need more than the legal minimum three days, you’d take it as annual leave and again, from any decent company that would be processed without a murmur.

        1. Anon in Aotearoa*

          Seconding Nina on how it works in NZ, and adding that most of the companies I’ve worked for here would allow far more than the legal minimum – it wouldn’t necessarily be documented in their policies, but if you lost your mum/mother figure (for example) and took two weeks off, then that would all get recorded as bereavement leave.

  2. short'n'stout*

    OP5: life happens, babies come when they come, and any employer worth your time has accepted that as part of business as usual. Congratulations!

    1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Babies always* come at an inconvenient time. It’s part of the deal with babies, like diapers and spit up. Don’t worry about it.

      *OK, not always always, but usually.

      1. ferrina*

        Truth! It’s also totally normal to wait until second or third trimester before telling your company (usually companies prefer a couple months notice, but anything more than that is up to you). It’s pretty unusual to say anything in your first trimester, for the reasons OP states.

        Congrats, OP!

        1. Kyrielle*

          Not to mention that 5 weeks is very close to the earliest time a pregnancy *can* be confirmed. It is very normal to not know, or just be finding out, that early. (And the way we count pregnancy means that the baby-to-be has existed for only 2-3 weeks at that point.)

      2. Ginger Cat Lady*

        Even if it is the perfect time in the big picture, they might come at a small-scale inconvenient time. Like when the dog is puking, the basement flooded or the audit came back showing changes need to be made.

    2. Love to WFH*

      I hired someone who realized they were pregnant right after accepting the job. They didn’t tell me until they were further along. When they did tell me, it seemed clear that they’d been feeling guilty about it. I assured them that it was fine! They needn’t have worried, and you shouldn’t either.

  3. Observer*

    #1- No chairs.

    If you are on the primary leadership team you need to get a lot more pushy.

    Firstly, *take the accommodation!* Alison is completely correct. Not taking is only going to harm you and it will do nothing for your staff. Worse, as she says, it will send exactly the wrong message to your staff.

    Also, you need to start pushing for adequate furniture or allowing people to go full time WFH. You can’t “force” anyone to do anything. But you *can* point out that even in a bad job market (which this is not) *good* people – the ones you want to keep! *will* leave if you don’t treat them decently. And refusing to give people decent seating certainly qualifies as non-decent treatment. In the meantime, seating this bad is almost certainly tanking productivity and creating huge resentment.

    If they don’t have the budget for decent chairs, they don’t have the budget to operate in a legal fashion. I have worked with dozens of organizations over the years. There has never been a situation where there actually was no money for basics like this (I’ve seen cracked floors, inadequate lighting, as well as furniture issues) where the organization was viable. You simply cannot run on a shoestring that worn.

    You might want to point out that refusing to provide decent furniture is likely to make the disability insurance costs go through the roof, even before someone goes to try to make a claim.

    If I were in your shoes, I would also give a look at whether there are any relevant regulations (whether local regulations about ergonomics, or the possibility of DOL safety regulations).

    1. Kella*

      I very much agree. I would emphasize that plastic folding chairs are designed to be *temporary* seating, not an office chair you sit in 5-8 hours a day, and if they cannot afford real chairs to sit in, then they cannot afford to have the whole team working from the office.

      –Signed, a person that can sit in a plastic folding chair for about 20 minutes before being in massive amounts of pain.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Something about them being plastic folding chairs is just extra bad – I’m picturing the rental kind they put out in huge numbers for graduations and such.

        A few years ago I bought a set of 4 padded metal folding chairs for my house when we need to squeeze extra people around our dining room table – they wouldn’t be appropriate permanent office seating but at least they’re sturdy enough that you don’t have to worry about them collapsing, and they’re fine for a meal for most people.

        I sit cross-legged at work much of the time at my desk – not terribly professional, but it hasn’t held be back career-wise so far. I’m not especially picky about chairs but a flimsy folding chair would make me so uncomfortable because my normal sitting position wouldn’t be possible!

        1. Antilles*

          If the office is “used for both events and regular work space”, I’m guessing the chairs *are* the same kind that get put out in huge numbers: They already had piles of those chairs available for their events and just grabbed them rather than getting separate office quality chairs.

        2. JustaTech*

          I would make it maybe one day in a plastic folding chair before other people would say I couldn’t use it any more – I have long hair and can get dangerously staticky – like, I shocked myself painfully more than once until I learned not to wear Polarfleece.

          In a chair like that chances are excellent that I would short out my computer.

          (I know this because I own a set of plastic folding chairs for party seating and I’ve zapped a few people over the course of Thanksgiving dinner.)

            1. AnonORama*

              Ha, I hope JustaTech is a superhero — as a fellow excellent conductor who is not, I’m glad I no longer live in a climate where fleecy clothes are necessary. I was once consumed with guilt for giving the dog a shock! (He barely noticed, but…puppy!)

      2. MassMatt*

        I am really struggling to think of a work place, even a nonprofit, where it would be acceptable to only have plastic folding chairs and tables. Maybe a summer camp? But LW says this is an office.

        If the business cannot afford chairs that don’t cause pain and possible injury to their employees, they can’t afford to have people work from the office and need to let that “expectation” go.

        What was this place doing before the pandemic?

        1. StressedButOkay*

          I agree – if they can’t afford to buy office furniture, they can’t afford to have people in the office. Nonprofits can get cheap, used furniture and it doesn’t have to match! It’s better than plastic folding chairs and tables.

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          > What was this place doing before the pandemic?

          I almost wonder if they did have proper chairs but sold them.

      3. Pink Candyfloss*

        Agreed! Many adults spend more time sitting in an office chair than they do sleeping in their beds, and you would never suggest to someone that an inflexible, unsupportive bench would be adequate for healthy sleep and a productive next day. Seating is a VERY important part of offices, and bringing in an ergonomics expert (or a few printed studies, if not in the budget) may help shed some light on just how important proper seating is for health and well-being for all employees.

        Take the accommodation, and make waves in support of the rest of the staff!

    2. Lilo*

      This is completely unacceptable office furniture. Folding tables and chairs, three legged stools? Absolutely not. Definitely not acceptable to work at for 8 hours and will cause back and neck strain for even younger employees. It also looks unprofessional and imagine bringing someone in for a meeting and giving them a folding table and chairs. I’d question if this place was about to shut down if I encountered that.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I won’t eat in restaurants that have those annoying bar stools because they’re so damn uncomfortable, let alone try to work a full day perched on one!

    3. Al*

      In the UK it is against Health and Safety rules to have such chairs for permanent working. You may want to check what the rules are where you are

      1. Introvert girl*

        Same in the rest of Europe. This would be considered against health and safety rules and would mean a massive fine for the company. It also opens them up for litigation as to medical treatment for back injuries.

      2. Cat Tree*

        The same is true in the US. Unfortunately, making something illegal doesn’t mean that nobody ever does it.

      3. RPOhno*

        This is *technically* not a specific regulatory violation in the US, but it could very easily run afoul of OSHA’s general duty clause. Employers are expected to provide a workplace free from unreasonable and unnecessary hazards. And to head off arguments I’ve heard similat to before, “necessary” and “reasonable” are typically not evaluated through the lens of company finances

    4. Sharkie*

      I totally agree! Also if they can’t afford to provide you basic tools / fulfill basic needs to do your job in office , they need to allow you to work from home. This is like my old job that no joke told me in 2021-2022 that they could not afford to provide kleenex to us, but made us come in 4 days a week during the peak of cold, flu, covid season.

      OP please push back

      1. Colette*

        I agree the employer needs to provide basic tools, but as a note, I have worked for exactly one company that provided kleenex – that’s out of the norm IME.

        1. l*

          This must be a regional thing. I’ve worked in multiple industries and have never held a job where Kleenex wasn’t provided (except maybe my first retail job out of high school). I would find it really weird to be asked to provide my own

        2. ThatGirl*

          I’ve worked a few places that had them and a few that didn’t; I currently bring my own because I never know if our supply cabinet will be out of them. One place I worked mostly had the generic really rough ones, and when the name-brand Kleenex boxes appeared we hoarded them.

          1. Freya*

            I also bring my own, not because my work doesn’t supply good ones (because they do!) but because the good ones usually aren’t hypoallergenic enough for me and I’m not making the entire office use less-good tissues just because I don’t want to risk the good ones making my allergies act up!

      2. GrooveBat*

        I really wish people would stop proposing “full time work from home” as a knee-jerk solution for every workplace issue under the sun.

        Some jobs cannot be done from home. Some workers do not have a viable WFH setup. Some workers don’t *want* to work from home.

        The issue here is that the chairs suck. That’s what needs to get fixed.

    5. WellRed*

      Yes to all of this. I’d be as worried about the company stability as much as the impact on staff. OP, have you perhaps been there too long such that you’re thinking this is ok is a bit warped? As to what’s normal and reasonable?

    6. BlueSwimmer*

      And, with so many offices going fully WFH, used office furniture providers are probably rich in inventory that could be purchased for much less than new stuff.

      I know used furniture isn’t ideal but as a teacher in a poor district where we get a plastic student chair for our desk chair, I scored a nice, slightly-used office chair from someone whose office was being redecorated. It has lasted for 15 years and is still really comfortable.

      1. Some Words*

        That’s exactly where my mind went first. Thousands of people have left the office for WFH set ups. I bet they even have real tables/desks available.

      2. Jaydee*

        Or even donations. If they’re a non-profit, their fundraising/development person or team should reach out to local companies that might be sympathetic to the organization’s mission and let them know they are seeking gently used office furniture in cases anyone is remodeling or moving/downsizing offices. The non-profit I used to work at got most of its office furniture that way. Desks, chairs, conference room tables and chairs, book cases, filing cabinets.

      3. HonorBox*

        There are dozens of companies around the country who purchase office furniture when offices close or do a furniture refresh. I know from experience, as I’m sitting at a desk and in a chair that was purchased secondhand. In talking to the owner of the company who we purchased from, there are about a hundred around the US who do this type of business. Most of the stuff we’ve purchased from this company has been about half (or less) of the cost of new, and it all is in great shape.

      4. SarahKay*

        Seconding that second-hand furniture could be the way to go.
        My current office chair wasn’t new when I started at my company, 17 years ago, but it’s still fully functional and comfortable. And by fully functional I mean I can adjust seat, arm and back height, seat inclination and depth, and back tilt, plus it’s got the proper 5-spoked wheeled base.
        Yes, the arms are a bit battered, but it does the job, and goodness knows even a less-good version would still be a whole lot better than a folding chair.

        1. JustaTech*

          Yes! I’ve had the same office desk chair for 12 years, and it wasn’t new when I got it. (Herman Miller Mirra; like an Aeron, but with a semi-rigid back instead of a mesh back, but the same mesh seat.)

          I get that for a non-profit the optics of a room full of fancy-looking rolling chairs might not be good, but couldn’t that be countered with a comment like “we were so lucky to get these when [local startup] shut down their office!”

          The folding chairs just feel very penny-wise and pound-foolish.

      5. Observer*

        I know used furniture isn’t ideal

        Yeah, but what the OP now has is not just “not ideal” it’s actively ridiculous.

        Which is to say that I totally agree that if finances are actually the issue (which I’m not sure of) this is a way around it. And even the slightest whiff of push back because “it’s not ideal” should be met with total incredulity it deserves.

      6. Philosophia*

        I’m joining the chorus in praise of used office chairs that were of high quality in the first place and have been refurbished as necessary. Mine cost about one-third as much as the new model.

    7. DJ Abbott*

      If they can’t afford to buy new office furniture, there’s probably ways to buy used furniture. Iused to live near a store than advertised this, and I’ve seen other ads for it too.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Heck, the chair I sit in while WFH was purchased for $200 from a used office furniture place, and it’s specifically designed for big and tall people.

        If they can’t afford $200 – $500 per employee in the office, then they need to stop requiring the employees to work from the office.

    8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I don’t think it is as simple as “take the accommodation of course”. If the chairs won’t be approved for everyone that needs them it does look, rightly or wrongly, that senior leaders are given more ‘attention’ with accommodations than standard staff. Or everyone will request them as an accommodation, because any doctor will presumably write a note saying “so and so needs to sit on a proper chair rather than a folding one for ergonomic reasons”.

      I think before accepting the chair myself I would try to get some kind of assurance that similar will be provided for other people who need them. There are some things where senior leadership should be given precedence or more clout etc but accommodations are not one of those things.

      How will normal staff feel when they are also uncomfortable, have their accommodation request turned down on the basis of unreasonably high cost but their big boss has a nice chair. Says it all about how much the company values them

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        It’s not the LW’s responsibility to be in pain because of something illegal her company (not her) might do in the future. If it looks bad, that’s on the org, not the LW.

        1. Pink Candyfloss*

          EXACTLY. No one should have to suffer because of their position or how it looks to others.

          If this is an org where the next person who requests accommodation is turned down, while the LW is allowed their accommodation, that org is opening themselves up for a heap of legal trouble.

          This is a whole-company issue that needs to be addressed properly by its management for ALL employees.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          YES. The LW suffering does not make the higher ups suddenly decide to not use torture devices for seating–it signals that it’s perfectly okay.

      2. Antilles*

        Why is *any* of that OP’s responsibility to worry about?

        It’s entirely possible that those things will happen. Maybe the company comes out of this looking awful, maybe normal staff notice when their request gets turned down for cost, maybe there’s even legal problems when HR turns down accommodations.

        And not one word of that should matter to OP’s decision making process. It’s not OP’s responsibility to physically suffer to cover for the company’s cheapness/stupidity. If morale tanks because the employees realize the company is ultra cheap and doesn’t care about ergonomics and employee health? Well, that’s their own damn fault and maybe if the story spreads they’ll actually be motivated to change the situation.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          > Why is *any* of that OP’s responsibility to worry about?

          Because an “I’m alright Jack” approach (not that I’m suggesting OP has that attitude) is a terrible look for a senior leader.

          1. Lana Kane*

            I get your point, and I feel like this is what OP is worried about in the first place. But if OP isn’t successful in changing the org leaders’ minds, then they can urge employees to request an accomodation. When I was a supervisor I would have told them all in a heartbeat to do so if my co-leaders had been that hard-headed.

      3. Lenora Rose*

        This seems to be assuming that OP will leave people high and dry if she takes the accommodation, which isn’t the tone of the letter at all. And yes, if nobody else has ASKED for an accommodation, having OP be the first is not in any way a crime or wrong, it’s setting an example.

        It sounds like OP will in fact go to bat for others who need the same, (as she already has asked for the office as a whole to be furnished), and Alison’s advice is to actively recruit more people to make the request en masse.

      4. The Person from the Resume*

        Take the accomadation and model how to do it and not being afraid to request one. If anyone asks (or even hints at jealousy) LW the should tell them the exact process to get a medical accomadation for a decent chair.

      5. Observer*

        Or everyone will request them as an accommodation, because any doctor will presumably write a note saying “so and so needs to sit on a proper chair rather than a folding one for ergonomic reasons”.

        And why is that a problem? If that’s what it takes to get them to do what they are *legally required to do anyway*, that’s a stupid time waste. But at least it gets people the chairs. It’s not the OP’s problem if some idiot in leadership insists on doing it the hard way.

        How will normal staff feel when they are also uncomfortable, have their accommodation request turned down on the basis of unreasonably high cost but their big boss has a nice chair.

        Hopefully they will be ticked off enough to do something about it, including finding a new job!

        Says it all about how much the company values them

        Well, we already *know* how most of leadership values staff, or this conversation would not be happening. If they are willing to take it to such lengths, then it’s not on the OP to hide that from staff, nor is it on the OP to protect the organization from the consequences of such behavior. What the OP *should* be doing if this happens, is to be as helpful as they can to people who are trying to get out and looking for a new job at a less toxic company.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          > And why is that a problem?

          It’s already been discussed in some capacity that there isn’t the budget to replace chairs for everyone. So if everyone suddenly requests it as a medical accommodation, it’s going to be like “here’s one weird trick to get your way in the office — employers hate it!”. And if there truly isn’t the money for it (not just the vaguer ‘not in the budget’ that gets bandied around) the employer ‘physically’ cannot pay for those chairs so what do you suggest they do? Yes, it may indicate that the org is in financial trouble, but that doesn’t change the short term situation.

          I think the moment OP tells others that they got this chair as an accommodation that is going to open the floodgates.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            And if the organization’s in that level of financial hot water everybody needs to update their resumes anyway.

          2. Sneaky Squirrel*

            If there’s truly not money for it, the employer needs to re-examine whether hybrid work is really working for them. Perhaps they can stop requiring non-essential staff come into the office and downsize their facilities footprint. Staff salaries and office space are often the two biggest expenses of a company anyways.

            Back problems are often cited as one of the top reasons an employee misses a day of work; not to mention the #1 worker’s compensation issue. It can also impact an employer’s health insurance when their staff file too many claims. Investing in an employee’s long term health is a cost savings measure.

            And honestly, LW shouldn’t have to be a martyr for their company just because they’re in a senior position. If they’re eligible for a benefit that is equally open to everyone, they have every right to take it.

          3. Sara*

            If that is the case, the accommodation would be to allow people to work from home as apparently they were doing perfectly well previously

      6. Dr. Vibrissae*

        ‘Or everyone will request them as an accommodation, because any doctor will presumably write a note saying “so and so needs to sit on a proper chair rather than a folding one for ergonomic reasons”.’

        Frankly, if the organization won’t proactively provide appropriate furniture, I think LW should encourage everyone to ask for this accommodation. Also, it doesn’t sound like everyone is typically in the office at the same time, maybe they could provide enough office chairs for a rotating in-office staff to be comfortably seated.

    9. cnoocy*

      In the 90s there was a company near me that was operating with bad furniture like this and so many of their employees got repetitive strain injuries that their health insurance threatened to drop them. In case OP is looking for another anecdote to help convince their company to get real furniture.

      1. Katydid*

        Not just that—there will likely be worker’s compensation claims, at least in the US. I was permanently damaged by ill-fitting office furniture, back before many businesses or agencies paid attention to ergonomics.

        IANAL, but I would be surprised if the situation in your office isn’t breaking OSHA rules.

        Might be worth talking to someone there, or at a state-level equivalent, if you have one. Or even banding together with your coworkers—but I’d want to know my legal rights first.

    10. Richard Hershberger*

      My immediate thought reading the letter was “Was know how (at least I assume) your organization has trouble recruiting? This is (part of) why.”

    11. GrooveBat*

      I wouldn’t propose “full time WFH” as a solution here. Many people can’t work from home, even if their jobs were able to be done from home. They might not have an appropriate housing/family setup to accommodate it. Or they simply might not want to. So you end up with a situation where the people who can’t work from home get doomed to the crappy furniture because they have to be in the office.

      It’s better for LW to take the accommodation and advocate forcefully for the rest of the staff.

    12. Artemesia*

      My back hurt just reading this. Do the people who decided you don’t get office furniture themselves sit on. a plastic folding chair all day while they work? Hard to believe anyone of any age could do that regularly without misery. This is something I’d leave a job over and I am betting others who can will.

      1. Marmalade*

        What I want to know is what happened to the pre pandemic “real” furniture! Or did they never have actual chairs?

        1. Hush42*

          This was my immediate question too! They’ve only been hybrid for a few years at this point… surely they had some type of furniture *before* the pandemic hit? What happened to it all?

    13. Ali + Nino*

      “There has never been a situation where there actually was no money for basics like this (I’ve seen cracked floors, inadequate lighting, as well as furniture issues) where the organization was viable.”

      This was my first thought. Seriously!? No budget for real chairs? Time for a reality check.

    14. Gingerbread Maiden*

      I too cannot sit comfortably for more than a few minutes in the average folding chair due to spinal problems, so I can totally relate to the OP here!

      That being said, there ARE folding chairs that provide excellent support and are very comfortable as well (we have two at home that we use for our home office and they look very like ordinary dining room chairs.) They’re not that expensive, either; perhaps that organization might look into replacing their cheap, uncomfortable chairs with some like these. (Google “folding dining room chairs.”) These still might not meet your particular needs, OP, but the rest of your office would surely appreciate them!

      1. WellRed*

        I worked from home for six weeks on a dining room before going back to the office and taking my desk chair during the pandemic. I don’t think substituting one inappropriate chair for another is the way to go.

    15. Nomic*

      Not to mention, you don’t have to buy NEW office chairs. You can almost always find used but decent chairs at used furniture stores where offices have re-vamped. They might be perfect for this situation.

    16. I Have RBF*


      Even the most shoestring startups manage to buy adjustable chairs. Folding chairs are one step down from the crappy hotel chairs that leave you aching after conferences. I would actually wonder if having such crap furniture for office workers is even legal.

      Folding chairs cost $20. A single visit to a chiropractor is $200. A workmans comp claim, which is what your company is inviting with this shit, is thousands of dollars.

      If they can’t afford to get decent seating in the office, they should give up on the hybrid BS and go full remote. Then they can sell the cheap chairs and cheap tables on eBay in bulk lots.

      If I were in management, I would push hard on this, and start looking for a new gig that did not abuse my subordinates and I in such a manner. Because requiring people to come in to an office with garbage seating is really bad decision making on the part of your upper management, and I would wonder about the rest of their decisions if they can’t handle something basic like this. Worse, if all the executives have decent seating but middle management and down doesn’t, it indicates that they literally don’t give a damn about their employees’ health, and indicates poor decision making.

    17. Love to WFH*

      Decent office chairs don’t have to be very expensive. There’s often a place in town that sells used one, from when businesses redecorate.

  4. They Don’t Make Sunday*

    For #3, I’d bet a fancy dinner on this being a copy-paste error that the reviewer didn’t catch.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yup, I bet it was either that, or a stray piece of text left over from a previous review document.

      1. Lauren*

        It doesn’t matter how it happened, but if it stays in there – then its a whopping error that affects future raises etc, and OP should make the manager change it because anyone with only the knowledge its incorrect in their heads doesn’t help if that person quits /they get hit by a bus tomorrow, and a new manager only has that review to go by – OP is at a disadvantage.

    2. Name*

      Might not be. I had a manager give me a 1 out of 5 for knowing how to use a piece of software equipment. She even admitted it wasn’t my fault because she hadn’t trained me and wouldn’t let us use it. Funny thing was I had transferred from a location that did train me and I had used it for the new manager. I found out later that leadership got together, predetermined everyone’s individual raise, and the managers were supposed to write an evaluation that supported that raise.

      1. Mongrel*

        My first thought was BS excuse to reduce raises.
        My second thought was I should try to lose my cynicism.
        Then I read your comment and now you can take my cynicism from my cold, dead hands

        1. Name*

          Here’s kindle to add to the cynicism fire – I became a manager at a bullseye store. The team I had had very bad attitudes. Shortly I after, I found out that they had reviews before I got there. The store is given so much money for raises, totally based on how well ($$$) the store performed as a whole. As a team. management determines how much each person gets and then their manager has to write a review to support that. Everyone got shitty reviews. Why? The recession had affected the stores profits so very little money to make raises. An honest evaluation should have given top performers about 25¢ an hour raise. They got 5¢. Bad attitudes were deserved.

      2. Introvert girl*

        Had the same happen in the company I work for now. The client gave us 4,5/5 while our TL gave us 2 or 3 max. It was done deliberately so we wouldn’t be able to fall in the category of people being able to receive company subsidisation for courses (up to 50%). It was a way of the company to save money. So on paper it looked like the company was investing in its employees but in practice they did everything to not make this possible.

      3. ferrina*

        Yep, I had a manager do this to me for that exact reason. She was give $XX for raises among her staff. She didn’t really understand what I did, so she gave me a lower rating so she could give me a lower raise. She flat-out made stuff up on her review, including things that directly contradicted the KPIs I had provided in my self-review (which she was supposedly required to read before writing her review. She didn’t read it). I appealed to HR, and my manager corrected the inaccuracies and found a different excuse to downgrade me.

        For added fun, the annual goals she was evaluating me against were written for a team of 4 people, and because my boss refused to hire, it was just me in the department. The role of department director was unfilled- that was supposed to be my boss, and my boss was actually supposed to be my grandboss. I took over a lot of the directorial duties and actually did a pretty good job (even though I was vastly underqualified). My boss told me because I only did 70% of the things that a 4-person team would do (including roles with degrees and expertise I didn’t have), I clearly didn’t deserve a raise. When she realized I was upset, her “comforting” words were “The raise wouldn’t have been that much anyways. At your salary it would have only been a few thousand dollars”

      4. Butterfly Counter*

        I’ve heard of this happening in non-businesses as well.

        A friend of mine went to school for a very specific degree, but no one was hiring after she graduated and got certified. Therefore, she decided to go into policing. She excelled. But every evaluation period she got dinged on not knowing enough about X (something most police officers actually don’t know). Readers, her advanced degree and further certificates were in the study of X.

    3. It Takes T to Tango*

      I’d take that bet. Management is given a budget for raises and they have to force everyone’s performances to fit the budget. I’ve had more than one manager tell me that they lowered my scores in my review “so the guys could get better raises.” One review was seriously inaccurate and when I brought it up to my manager, I was told, “Too bad. It’s already finalized in the system.” I disputed the review but it didn’t make any difference. The only other woman in the department at the time was given a 1 out of 5 for her review, which is reserved for people on PIP and about to be walked out the door, and people were shocked when she quit a few weeks later for a better job. Ah, the joys of working in a male dominated field!

      1. Anna*

        Oof, I know someone who quit after her employer pulled that “predetermined raises and lower evaluations to match” nonsense. E.g., she was told by execs she could only give “exceeds expectations” to X% of her reports . . . and *after* those reviews were finalized, the execs gave a surprise company-wide announcement that only exceeds expectations employees were eligible for any raises or their usual bonuses.

        In other words, messing with reviews as a political maneuver to sneak in decreased pay does happen! I hope it doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Office politics are wild sometimes.

      2. They Don’t Make Sunday*

        Oof, I’m so sorry that happened to you. In my original comment I was figuring that anything glaringly factually wrong would be sloppiness rather than malice. There’s that quote about not assuming malice when incompetence can explain it. You’d think that management conspiring to tank raises would base their scores on subjective metrics (goalpost moving, etc), but when people feel invincible they do get careless. Ugh. I hope that’s not the case for our OP.

    4. Rage*

      Another possibility is that the manager who wrote and presented your review got their (bad) information from another person. I had that happen to me, and I had TWO factually inaccurate items in my annual performance review. My immediate supervisor did not conduct my review, the manager did, but she pulled all of her data from my supervisor. I countered the first inaccuracy when it came up, and the manager agreed to change it. But then a second – and probably worse – inaccuracy came up, and I wasn’t allowed to counter it since I had already argued back on the first one. No surprise that place was toxic af.

      But you should definitely attempt to correct the record on this. Ask them to give you specific examples to support the inaccurate statement, as this may be all it takes for them to realize the error (and, if not, gives you some proof that it really and truly wasn’t accurate).

    5. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

      It certainly could be, but we don’t know the context of what her job is like otherwise. I once got a performance review that criticized me for being both ‘too thorough’ and ‘careless’ because my manager was a sadist.

  5. Observer*

    #5 – Pregnancy.

    Do yourself a favor and don’t say anything till you are really showing. As Alison says, that will still give them plenty of time to plan. And it will keep people from making assumptions about you because of your pregnancy.

    Since there was no reason you should have disclosed your pregnancy to them even if you had known about it, a good employer won’t hold it against you that you didn’t tell them. Having said that, you could mention that you didn’t realize you were pregnant till after you accepted the job. You do NOT have to do this, and if you do decide to do it, be casual and matter of fact, not apologetic.

    I hope you have a mostly boring pregnancy, with things like hearing the heartbeat being your only excitement.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        These past few years have certainly underscored why “May you be born in interesting times” is a formal curse.

    1. birch*

      This, and also, not to be a downer or to scare you, but the risk of loss is much bigger than people think, even after it’s “viable” (and frankly early pregnancy care, care after loss and research on all of it is a bleeping travesty, but that’s another rant). I was already wearing loose clothing, was told “everything is going well” and had an email drafted to HR and planned to announce to my colleagues in a matter of days. In the end, I was glad I hadn’t said anything yet. Of course we should be more open as a society about these things and it’s up to individuals when and how to share, but just consider the worst case scenario and whether you’d want to re-do the announcement tour with sad news. If that sounds awful, consider keeping it a fun little secret as long as possible as a gift to yourself.

      1. pregnantanon*

        I’m so sorry about your loss, but I do think it’s important to say that the risk of loss genuinely is very small after 12 weeks for most people (and before then). I’m pregnant at the moment and have been looking into this a lot. The Datayze Miscarriage Odds Reassurer tool has a great data-informed breakdown of how the chances of miscarriage diminish over time. (Easy to Google for anyone interested, and a completely free resource).

        Obviously pregnant people should be informed of the risks of miscarriage, but the great majority of miscarriages do happen early on. According to the tool above, at 10+3 weeks my chances of miscarriage are already only 2%, and probably less given that I had an early scan that detected a heartbeat.

        I’m saying this only because I have made myself very very anxious reading about miscarriages in these early weeks, and it’s easy to forget that most pregnancies are far more likely to succeed than to be lost.

        1. anne of mean gables*

          Seconding the miscarriage odds reassurer tool – it’s great. However as someone who has been in the 2% (or 1%, or 5%) multiple times – seconding the advice to just wait. Not only because of the possibility of pregnancy loss, but also to give her time to feel out the interpersonal dynamics of her office before she invites everyone in to her family life. Obviously every pregnancy and body is different but especially in a workplace that doesn’t know LWs typical dress habits – buy some loose fitting tops and pants and give yourself the gift of time. Even waiting until four or five months gives her new office months and months to plan.

          A possible middle ground that I have taken is to loop in just your boss a bit earlier (like, 12 weeks-ish), if there’s planning that’s taking place on the time horizon that your mat leave would factor in. But in a brand new work situation I’d play that by ear – would depend on how comfortable I felt interpersonally with my boss.

          1. Observer*

            but also to give her time to feel out the interpersonal dynamics of her office before she invites everyone in to her family life.

            This. It can be different when people know you and you know the people. In a new environment? Give yourself some breathing room.

    2. Quinalla*

      Agreed to not say anything until you are showing is good practice or if you are just dead tired in the 1st trimester like I was (falling asleep at my desk!!!), I did tell my boss I was pregnant at 12 weeks because he was going to catch me asleep at my desk eventually, but asked him to keep it quiet and I told the rest of the office when I was showing at about 20 weeks (you may show before this, I have a very long torso).

      Remember, if you tell them in the 12-20 week range, they still have 20ish or more weeks to plan, that’s a TON of time. Parental leave is something you get so much notice for, way more than any other medical leave. Towards the end of pregnancy, it gets a little more up in the air of exactly when leave will start, but still you shouldn’t feel like you have to tell them early.

      Good luck OP5!

      1. anne of mean gables*

        Yes, all of this! It’s so personal what makes sense, but I think people get themselves feeling like they are obligated to share very early, and they just aren’t! I also looped my boss and immediate leadership team in at 12 weeks – but I have worked with them for a decade, trust them, and they knew I had a recent history of pregnancy loss and was trying. The rest of my office can find out after 20 weeks (though I am not blessed with a long torso; the observant among them may have already figured it out). It’s commonly accepted to give two weeks leave before quitting; twenty weeks is more than enough to plan for an extended leave.

      2. ScruffyInternHerder*

        And even if they HAVE approximately 20 weeks to plan, they might (headscratchingly) take it to the wire and not hire anyone til you’re 36-37 weeks, giving you very little time to get them up to speed.

        Its actually pretty amusing now. The temp they hired kinda let them know exactly HOW lucky they got that I went a full 39 weeks…

      3. bamcheeks*

        Fifthing or sixthing the advice to wait, and I would also say that this from Alison’s answer — they might realize that you likely found out around the time of the offer — is highly, highly dependent. Yes, if you have regular periods and are actively trying to get pregnant and knew to test at the earliest opportunity, you will probably find out at around 5 weeks. But all these things are HIGHLY variable, and “didn’t find out until 8 weeks / 10 weeks / 16 weeks / even later” are well within normal. Anyone inferring, “wait, if your due date is 29 September, that means you already knew when we interviewed you on the 24 February!” is making some EXTREMELY inappropriate assumptions.

        1. anne of mean gables*

          Agreed – folks would have to do some truly inappropriate math to even have the thought that she knew before or very shortly after she accepted the offer.

          FWIW, a person who is very regular and is actively trying (and possibly a little bit insane) could find out a 3 or 3.5 weeks, but 1) the odds of miscarriage at that point are like 25% and it would be madness to tell a company you were interviewing with at that point and 2) anyone who knows enough about the early human reproductive schedule to do said inappropriate math would also be fully aware of the myriad reasons you wouldn’t disclose during the early weeks, and know that many/most people don’t find out until much later.

          1. Anna*

            As someone who was very regular and actively trying to the extent of doing many rounds of IVF (and I won’t weigh in on whether I’m insane), I literally do not understand how someone could find out at 3 or 3.5 weeks. I knew what day I went in for the embryo transfer, yes, but I still didn’t get a positive pregnancy test til later.

            1. anne of mean gables*

              I have tested positive (on cheapie at home tests) about a week-10 days after I ovulate, somewhere around 20-21 days after my last period started (I actually just went back and confirmed this in my calendar – my current pregnancy I tested positive 21 days after my LMP). I’m crazy regular, ovulate early, and have been TTC long enough that I’ve given up trying to appear sane and wait until I’ve actually missed a period to test.

            2. bamcheeks*

              I’ve just checked, and I had an embryo transfer on a Thursday and marked a faint-possible-maybe line on the following Wednesday. If the embryo transfer was on an imaginary 5 days-post-ovulation, that’s 11 days after ovulation.

              I guess you COULD have a positive test at 3 weeks if you had an incredibly short time between the first day of your period and when you ovulate, but the time between ovulation, implantation and enough HCG to show up on a test cannot possibly be less than 9-10 days from everything I was reading during the obsessive phase.

            3. Lellow*

              Some of us seriously just know. I knew within two weeks every time I got pregnant – I just *felt* different. Turns out I’m absurdly sensitive to HCG! (I had multiple miscarriages during the time period when I was trying, so I have quite a few data points to draw from. I miscarried a few weeks after test confirmation each time, and I was 100% accurate with my week 2 yes/no.)

              (The HCG sensitivity meant I had a pretty awful pregnancy, sadly, so it’s a superpower with a serious downside!)

              1. Anna*

                Sorry to hear that, sounds rough. But to clarify, did you mean “within 2 weeks” after conception, or after last period? After last period is what I was referring to, since that’s how pregnancy is typically dated, so if you were talking about 2 weeks after conception, that’s more like 4 weeks. So my point is that knowing you’re pregnant at 3 weeks (i.e. one week after ovulating/conceiving, or a few days after an embryo transfer if you’re doing IVF) is hard for me to comprehend scientifically.

    3. zuzu*

      Honestly, you don’t have to disclose until it’s time to go out on leave. But it’s a good idea to disclose at least a couple of months before that, especially in a new job.

    4. Artemesia*

      This. You would never disclose this during interviews and hiring anyway. Wait at least 14 weeks, so you know everything is proceeding normally and then assuming you are in a place that seems without bees, talk to your boss about planning around the birth. I have a close relative who discovered she was pregnant almost immediately after being hired. Although the maternity leave benefits didn’t kick in for a year, they nevertheless gave her the 6 week paid leave she would have gotten with them and were totally supportive about her situation; I think she was also able to take the extended FMLA leave so she was out 3 mos; she worked for them for many years and that was a great start.

  6. Aggretsuko*

    #3: a lot of jobs are going to give you “meets expectations” no matter what you do to stand out.

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Yep. That’s the policy where I work, because you “have to leave room for growth!” and I gotta say it really sucks. My boss always tells me what she would have rated me if she was allowed to, and then files the official, regulated one.
      But it sure is frustrating to always get a mediocre score because some higher up doesn’t believe in telling good employees they are, in fact, good at their jobs. It’s not motivating at all to “leave room for growth” because we are forbidden to grow into a better rating!!

    2. Magpie*

      This is what I was thinking when reading this. At my company, “meets expectations” means you’re doing well in your current role. They only give “exceeds expectations” along with a promotion because they say that’s their indication that you’re ready for the next level.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        I think this is part of why my company went from a 3-point scale to a 5-point scale — you can now express that someone is doing well in a particular area without accidentally implying that they don’t have “room to grow”.

        (Hilariously, this is the exact opposite of Totally Minnie’s comment right under yours)

    3. Totally Minnie*

      Yeah, at my previous job they were pretty up front that they expected most staff to get a “meets expectations” on their evaluation most years. You might get one or two “exceeds expectations” over the course of your career when you’ve had a really stand out year, but overall, the expectation is “meets.” They had a five point scale when I started with them, no one ever got a 5. If you read the description of what a 5 employee looked like, it was basically impossible. They got enough pushback that they eventually restructured it to a three point scale. So most people were still expected to get the middle score, but at least we weren’t still being taunted with an unachievable top score.

      1. JustaTech*

        You get a description of what a 5 looks like?
        I’ve never gotten a description of any of our ratings (besides the obvious “we already fired anyone getting a 1”).
        But our last several sets of overlords believe firmly that everyone should fall perfectly in a bell curve, and pretty much no matter what you do you can’t score higher or lower than a 3.

        For a few years we even got the “we only have permission for one person to get a promotion and we gave it to the lowest ranked person who earned their promotion years ago and is painfully underpaid. Do you want to take that away from them?” Which is rankest BS intended to divide the staff but really just makes everyone rally together against upper management.

    4. Lenora Rose*

      Yeah, I mentally recalibrated “Meets expectations” from “Meh, they exist and the work is done” to “They’re doing well, we noticed, and we’re happy with them” – after helping edit someone else’s performance review that was clearly a glowing review for a star candidate. (They had a few “exceeds expectations” too). This happened before my own review, so I was not saddened when I was all “meets” except for one “exceeds”.

    5. Office Lobster DJ*

      I had the same thought. “Meets expectations” feels like a slap in the face at first when you know you’ve been going above and beyond, but that’s sometimes just the nature of the organization’s rating and review system. It could be as impersonal as “We’re only supposed to give top ratings to one person out of the five, and we need to justify Bob’s upcoming promotion, so….”

      I think it’s worth LW asking about the pieces that don’t make sense. Maybe it was a mistake or a misunderstanding that can be cleared up. However, being new, I think LW should do some sleuthing at their new company as well. Ask some long term employees how important the reviews are, how often do they give top marks, etc.

    6. Ama*

      I really dislike many things about my nonprofit employer’s performance review process (for one thing we have a question on the self-assessment about how you “lived the mission” of the org which to me is a very toxic idea in nonprofits that encourages overwork and burnout). But I remain thankful that they have abandoned rating people on any kind of numerical or value system — you either met your previous year’s goals or you didn’t.

    7. Fluffy Fish*

      I’d also say a lot of managers. At my employer, different managers scale differently.

      I’ve always been exceeds expectations for multiple managers. Until the newest one gave me “meets” pretty much across the board and flat out said no one gets a 5 for anything because you can always improve.

      It sucks – especially when other people are getting glowing reviews because they have a different manager.

      1. All Het Up About It*

        That’s the worst!

        The best place I worked for evaluations it was made very clear company wide that “Meets Expectations” was a good score, that people would still get the standard raise with that score, etc. Most people got “Exceeds” in a few categories, but their average was a 2. (I also like the cleaner 3 point scale than a 5 point or more. I’ve found the more “points” to consider, then the more room for variations between managers.) There’s always room for some variation between management, but when a company policy is in place and clearly communicated, I’ve found there is less variation at least.

        That being said, I hope the OP is able to clear up the discrepancy, because even if that doesn’t change their score, they should understand what happened there. Because while it’s certainly possible that the was confusion between them and another new hirer, if their boss DOES feel like they had to correct them and the OP didn’t notice, that’s also something they need to know because it tells them a lot about their boss and how they communicate. i.e. not well.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          The thing is – our score arent even tied to raises. There’s literally no reason to not reward good employees.

          That said we are undergoing a huge DEI push – it’s certainly not equitable to have scores be subjective. I’m going to email and suggest that the system be changes to one someone else state – no scores – the review is whether you met goals or not.

    8. Kali*

      Yuuuup. My employer is known to pre-determine what they want you to get and calibrate all the ratings to get that total score. If you’re in your first year, there’s no way you can get an “exceeds expectations”, because they do not believe that’s possible. We do hire a lot of people who have never had a professional job before, and my work is very much a “learn on the job” sort of place. But as an example, I have a law degree (not needed for this job) and was given a “needs improvement” in the category of “legal knowledge”. So.

      Once you move past your first year, you will get a top level rating for the rest of your career unless you really screw up. Like, get the organization sued level of screw up.

    9. MCMonkeyBean*

      I found out my company grades on a scale when one year I was told “This was your best year ever… but this was also a number of other people’s best year ever and we’re only allowed to give out X number of 4s so here is another 3 (out of 5).”

      Shortly after I ended up leaving for another company… and they also did reviews like that.

      At first it was very demoralizing. But then honestly accepting that knowledge has been really freeing. I have put a much higher priority on work-life balance and I feel comfortable pushing back more.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yeah, the stack-ranking thing is not at all conducive to building employee morale.

        I have a friend who was working for Old Tech company when his entire team had a year where they all really kicked butt on a lot of important projects. But they could only have so many 4’s, and my friend isn’t great at the interpersonal relationship part of work, so he got at 3 even though his work was just as good as everyone else’s.
        He was beyond upset (reasonably) and started engaging in what we would now call “quiet quitting” about how much effort he was going to put into his work.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      It reminds me of that Calvin and Hobbes comic strip where Calvin dresses up like his father and says, “Go do something you hate! Being miserable builds character!”

    2. Lenora Rose*

      I read that article and mostly said YES! That.

      There’s a balance between excess luxury and excess suffering, and right now the OP’s org is far too far to the suffering side. They might need to buy their office chairs secondhand and/or not get fancy ones, but they need to buy office chairs, stat.

      As the article and Alison note, it’s disrespectful to the employees, to the point of physically harmful – but it ALSO makes the org look bad to visitors, and potentially harms those visitors in turn.

      1. JR*

        We got our office chairs (for our small nonprofit) from IKEA. They’re perfectly comfortable. They look professional. They were very reasonably priced.

    3. Elsewise*

      I wish I’d had this article while I was at my old job! We had no air conditioning (common in our area) or fans, which made summers horrible. In the winter, I discovered that we had no heat (NOT common in our area.) Apparently the thermostat had been broken for years, but would be “too expensive” to fix. (It was a rented office space! We wouldn’t have had to pay to fix it!) We also had no trash cans in the office, you’d have to walk out across the parking lot to the dumpster if you wanted to throw anything out. Our staff attorney didn’t have a desk at the office, she had to borrow someone else’s or work at the conference table. The ED’s office was filled with cans of soup for some reason.

      1. WellRed*

        pSA for anyone in the US, the heat would need to be fixed. There’s a min:max fir temperature and while it’s easier some areas to ignore the need for ac (I live in such an area), no heat is unacceptable.

  7. Name*

    LW 3 – my guess is your company predetermines how much of a raise everyone gets and then writes the person’s review to ensure that amount. I worked as a retail manager for a bullseye company that did that. It helped me realize why I got a review for a star company that said I didn’t know how to use a specific piece of equipment, even though my manager admitted it was because she didn’t let us or train us how to use it. What the manager completely forgot was that my previous store had taught me, I did know, and had come in on a weekend off during my first week at the new store to print off a bunch of stuff on the machine for the manager.
    That’s when I realized that reviews aren’t always the “here to help you grow” tools that some claim them to be.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I’ve had a former manager adjust my review downward while we were meeting to discuss it because she realized that my score was high enough to entitle me to a raise but there was no room in the budget for one. It made me rather cynical about the whole review process in general, and while I certainly go above and beyond when I feel the situation warrants it, I do so to maintain my self-respect as a reasonably high performer rather than with any expectations of being rewarded for it. That same manager was also offended when I dared to suggest that of course I work to get paid and that I consider my salary a direct reflection of my value in the eyes of our employer. I enjoy my job, but I wouldn’t do it for free. My passion projects are something that I’d never even attempt to monetize because I don’t want to lose the passion.

      If I do get a performance-based raise, I’m always pleasantly surprised and suitably appreciative.

      But I admit that there have been times when I’ve considered going above and beyond and then decided to just do my work up to standard because I don’t see the point in extending myself when there’s little chance of a reward.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      That’s when I realized that reviews aren’t always the “here to help you grow” tools that some claim them to be.

      This sentence hit me so hard.

      When I was job searching last year, I rolled my eyes at job descriptions that described yearly evaluations as an employee benefit, because at the time I’d never had a job where the evaluation process wasn’t miserable and awful and time consuming for basically no benefit to me. My current job doesn’t seem so bad, but I’ve only had one evaluation there so I can’t say definitively. But over the course of 15 years of full-time work, most of my evaluations have felt more demoralizing than beneficial.

      1. This is how much I make*

        I hear this so hard. I finally told my self I would never do one again. Not sit meekly through the canned speech that was an excuse to berate you and underpay you. When I said I just wanted to be paid what I was worth, he literally said, “Oh, we couldn’t afford that!” It taught me negotiating skills and I finally got something more reasonable.

      2. Parakeet*

        My current job is the first one I’ve ever had where I WANT a review (ironically, it also, for various reasons that hopefully will be remedied soonish, doesn’t have a proper review process). Most places, in my experience, it’s like getting a high school report card, but if your teachers also went over the report card with you at length and reminded you of every mistake you made in the past year, even if it was in an area where you’d massively improved at it.

      3. Management needs some Self-Evaluation*

        My company has us fill out self evaluations yearly (which they pulled off the internet with questions that have zero correlation to our business/jobs, and is problematic on its own!). Then after we turn them in we never discuss them and they seemingly go into a black hole of management only to get sent the exact same review form the next year. I haven’t had a formal conversation with management about my performance in almost 10 years beyond a “yep your doing great” in passing conversation. Such a waste of time!

    3. Merrie*

      Similar experience at a large pharmacy chain. Our review criteria were so vague they could make them mean just about anything. That year they decided we should have psychically known to pick up some unspecified number of extra shifts in order to get “meets expectations”. I didn’t get a raise that year because I hadn’t done this and as a result didn’t get a good enough review. Not at all sorry to have left there.

    4. JustaTech*

      I’ve never had a review that was a “here to help you grow tool” and honestly didn’t think they really existed – until I ended up listening to my spouse talk about doing annual reviews from the manager side.
      He’d say things like “New Person and I were working on their plan for how to get them promoted to the next level; I suggested this project and that project and they suggested two other projects” and I was like, wait, you have a plan for advancing your staff? You have clearly stated metrics for what each rating at each level means?
      (I may have had a little cry after this.)

  8. Ginger Cat Lady*

    I can barely last an hour on a folding chair, and plastic ones are even worse!
    If they can’t afford chairs that are meant for all day work, then maybe the accommodation needs to be working from home!

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, same. I’m unequivocally fat, and I could easily break a flimsy folding chair just by sitting on it.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yep, I’ve broken plastic folding chairs, because I’m over 250 pounds.

        Shoestring startups are often are fully remote for budget reasons. Even the cheapest open plan is still a minimum of around $250/month per employee. Get rid of the office, get rid of that monthly cost.

        My used office chair that I sit in at home cost me $200 in a HCOL area. If they can’t afford decent office chairs, they can’t afford an office, IMO.

  9. John Smith*

    Re LW1, just curious as to whether there are laws in your country regarding display screen equipment (I’m assuming there are some you’re using), workstations etc? In the UK employers have a duty of care in these areas and must carry out a risk assessment for people who regularly use them. Sounds to me like your employer is setting themselves up for litigation.

      1. Cat Tree*

        That is completely untrue. OP absolutely would be eligible for worker’s comp due to an ergonomic injury like this.

        1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          Worker’s comp is kind of a different thing than what I understand “duty of care” to mean, and I don’t think this company is setting themselves up for litigation in the US – nothing I see in the OSHA standards necessarily forbids folding chairs. Though they should absolutely get proper office furniture, because this will cause injury over the long term.

          Those injuries would absolutely be covered by worker’s comp, but that really just means their insurance pays for it and not the employee’s. For example, as an archaeologist I had multiple worker’s comp claims for poison ivy. My doctor appointments and resulting medication were covered so I didn’t need to pay, but it would’ve been ridiculous to sue over my poison ivy exposure.

          1. Observer*

            nothing I see in the OSHA standards necessarily forbids folding chairs

            You may be correct, but that’s not the bar for getting sued, and even losing a lawsuit. The general duty of care and safety applies whether or not the OSHA regs specifically state something. Those regulations are a *minimum* – that is anything on those regulations is an automatic fail. But they are not a *maximum* – that is you may have to do / avoid things that are not in the regulations.

            Something that defies common sense puts you at risk. If there are multiple complaints, some of which are even accompanied by doctor’s notes, then the organization is absolutely on notice that there is a safety issue, and failure to deal with it appropriately is definitely a legal risk.

      2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Might be a thing in the US, because we’re 50 countries in a trench coat, with different rules in different states.

        This is why Alison sometimes gives advice like “google your state final paycheck law.”

        1. JustaTech*

          “we’re 50 countries in a trench coat” This is the best description of the US I’ve ever read!
          Tucking away for future reference.

      3. Observer*

        Not a thing in the US.

        Yes it is. The formal specifics, not so much. Duty of care? Requirement for a safe working set up? Yes. That includes appropriate furniture.

    1. Alex*

      I think the closest we have is OSHA (occupational health and safety) which is a federal organization that does have some powers with regards to worker protections, but generally things like chairs and workstations just have ‘guidelines’ rather than enforceable rules. If they were radioactive or regularly bursting into flames or something it would be a different story, but ‘chairs are crappy’ doesn’t rise to that level. Having said that, if they start getting a bunch of requests for accommodations (including decent equipment) and refuse to honor them because ‘no money,’ they’re likely to end up in trouble for different reasons.

      1. Quinalla*

        Yes, OSHA does address this kind of thing, but yes not with strict rules and a lot of times people don’t think about OSHA for office jobs even though it still applies – most folks think about OSHA for blue collar jobs, not white collar.

  10. Kiwi Leslie Knope*

    Congratulations OP5! You might be interested to read about the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who found herself in a similar position when she got elected. It all worked out okay for her :)

  11. DannyG*

    Number 2: bereavement leave. I am in the middle of a 3 day leave right now, my brother’s funeral is later today. My large healthcare system’s policy is 3 days for a sibling, a week for a spouse or child, etc. in my case I haven’t been asked to provide proof, but the handbook says that it is up to the manager’s discretion. Technically there is a 7 day/year limit, but exceptions are made (unfortunately I know this all too well from personal experience). Check with your manager or HR for your situation.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Danny — my sincere condolences. That must be really hard. I hope your brother gets the send-off he deserves, and you and your family come to terms with the loss in good time.

      There’s a symmetry to these questions today with both the joy at a potential birth and the sorrow at the loss of a friend, and it just shows how much life goes on even after a terrible loss. It won’t help now, but what has kept me going after a big loss is seeing other people have their own joys. NGL, it hurts on days like Valentine’s Day when your supervisor’s family joins her in reception (and I have to work because my colleague has her own anniversary on that day) but it does heal being able to share in other enjoyments and pleasures.

      On to the technical part of my comment: The manager’s discretion part sounds like a good compromise — if someone has a bit of a history they can ask, but not routinely. It’s the definition of managing these on a case by case basis where the people who respect the policy don’t have to provide proof (and tbh public obituaries here aren’t generally a thing) but management can keep a closer eye on those who would abuse that policy (which is especially tacky given the name of the policy).

      At uni my grandfather actually did die, but he did it during the Easter break so we were free to go over anyway. When it came to my grandma she chose the week I ended up with a snorting cold, which was just made worse by the plane trip there and back on the turboprops (which became ‘flying lawnmowers’ for my husband, with the airline as FlyMo, after the big lawnmower manufacturer) used for some very short internal British flights. My line manager raised an eyebrow and I had to do the full self-certificate forms when I got back to work, but to be honest she had a stick up her butt about a lot of things and was already working her notice by that time after losing out on her job in a reshuffle. She was more conscientious than some of my managers since then (I could actually do with her gimlet-eyed oversight now my job has completely atrophied; say what you like about micromanagement but the reverse is also a PITA) but it was highly frustrating that my grandmother’s funeral will be forever tainted in my memory by the horrible dose of crud that followed it. She deserved much better :(.

    2. DannyG*

      Thanks for the support. A beautiful morning, a lovely setting, full military honors. Taking some time to unwind, then dinner with his younger son.

  12. HSR*

    #1 feels like the perfect opportunity for all the staff to get together and make a group accommodation claim. If they can’t afford chairs for all the staff, how are they going to meet their obligations under work health and safety legislation if everyone submits a legitimate claim for accommodations?

    As a member of senior leadership, you have the capital (and the responsibility) to advocate for the health and safety of your workforce. Don’t drop the ball on this one.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      That’s where my mind went. OP gets the new chair and people go oh wait we can ask for that? Then everyone asks for one. What is the organization going to do then?

      OP take the accomodation because you are then setting the precedent and letting others see they can ask too.

    2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Accommodations are by their nature individual. A group claim is not a thing.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        No, but it is highly likely that most people will be able to get a letter from their healthcare provider stating their need for an ergonomic chair for the cost of a copay.

        1. Be Gneiss*

          I’d be willing to bet most wouldn’t even need an actual office visit. I think my GP would write me a note saying I need an actual chair if I called the office’s “non-urgent questions for the nurse” line.
          Now that I think about it, I’d bet my dentist or my GYN or the eyeglasses place at the mall would write a letter saying “Be Gniess needs a real chair made for human persons to sit in” because seriously…

          1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            I attended a trail running camp a few summers ago, and there was a PT (who is also an ultra runner) that attended and gave a talk on how to keep your joints healthy as a runner. He said he brought a printer and letterhead and would happily write notes for anyone who needed one to get a standing desk at work!

      2. Mill Miker*

        I wonder if they’re just hoping not too many people will ask for a chair, or if they plan to start saying “no” at some point.

        If they are going to accommodate everyone who asks, surely they must realize once word gets out everyone is going to ask, and that it would probably be cheaper to do a bulk order of chairs than a bunch of one-offs.

        1. JustaTech*

          They might start saying “no”.
          At one point my company radically changed how they did ergonomic assessments from an actual in-person assessment of your workstation by the safety person to an online self-assessment. Scuttlebutt was that this change, which resulted in no one getting any ergonomic accommodations, was because someone high up looked at a budget sheet and decided too many people were “needlessly” requesting ergo evaluations to get “nicer” chairs.
          (Ha, joke was on them that we already all had nice ergo chairs and the accommodations were things like keyboards and foot rests.)

          The upshot? A lot of short people were stuck using trash cans as foot rests until enough other folks were laid off that they could scavenge for real foot rests.

  13. FoldingChairs*

    OP1, just for some perspective, there are people who will be more comfortable in a folding chair than a weird so-called ergonomic chair many offices try to foist on people but that only work for people without physical problems and within shooting distance of average height/weight/girth/etc. – and only then until they start wearing down which happens really quickly.

    Ask for what you need. Support others in doing the same. Know that you will sometimes have to fight people for “your” chair. But don’t ditch the folding chairs, as there are probably some people overjoyed to have them rather than being stuck with an expensive chair that they hate or in some cases can’t use without severe pain or even fear of serious injury.

    1. Scarlet2*

      I don’t think buying halfway decent office chairs means that all folding chairs will be thrown in the garbage though.
      If some people still want to use the folding chairs, they presumably can. The problem is that now there’s no choice and everyone is stuck with the crappy chairs, which are awfully uncomfortable for a lot of people, non-adjustable and not really meant to be used for 7 or 8 hours straight anyway.

    2. yvve*

      ooh, i hate those supposed “good chairs”. luckily when we switched I was able to save my favorite simple rolling chair with no sides and a flat cushion instead of a scoop-type seat. I dunno if I’d be happy on a folding chair tho, that might be pushing it even for me!

    3. Roland*

      Of course everyone should still be accomodated going forward. But I believe the majority of people would be more comfortable in a basic padded office chair than in a folding chair for all day work, so moving away from folding chairs as the default would be good.

      1. I Have RBF*

        A basic “task chair” is $100 at Costco or Office Depot, IIRC. They roll, adjust height, and have lumbar support. They are not great for lots of people, but they absolutely beat plastic folding chairs. If they buy them in bulk they can probably get a discount.

    4. WellRed*

      They can have both. Not that I believe for a second there are scads of people out there that would prefer a cheap chair like the OP describes.

    5. Observer*

      But don’t ditch the folding chairs, as there are probably some people overjoyed to have them rather than being stuck with an expensive chair that they hate or in some cases can’t use without severe pain or even fear of serious injury.

      This is a total straw man. It’s not really helpful to bring this up, as all it does is to give terrible management a smokescreen for refusing to get decent chairs.

      Yes, they *should* ditch the folding chairs. If there really is someone who is “overjoyed” to have one of those rather than a decent chair, well the organization can spend $12 on a folding chair for them.

      This whole thing is even more ridiculous because any company that refuses to by regular, safe chair because it’s “too expensive” is NOT going to jump to these supposedly uncomfortable ergo chairs that only the select few can sit in (as those tend to be specialty chairs that are quite expensive.)

    6. Critical Rolls*

      There’s a lot of daylight between “fancy ergonomic chair” and “plastic folding chair.” Not wanting a fancy chair that doesn’t suit you doesn’t mean you want to be stuck with a hard, flimsy chair that is likely to be the wrong height for desk work, designed to sit back in, doesn’t roll, etc.

  14. GythaOgden*

    I’m so sorry for your loss, OP. A friend’s death can hurt just as much as any, particularly if it was sudden.

    >>”One thing that often comes up when bereavement leave gets discussed: Bereavement leave is not intended to provide enough time for you to grieve; it would need to be months or years longer if so. Rather, it’s mostly intended to give you time for logistics, such as organizing/attending a funeral, etc. (as well as, of course, an acknowledgement that you might not be in an emotional state to be working right away either).”

    Yup — this. I actually wanted to get back to work fairly soon after my husband died. In the UK, although a few days of bereavement leave is legally standard and often paid, a doctor will sign you off so you can use sick leave (although it varies by employer how that is paid), because it’s understood to be a form of depression. For my MIL, the bereavement leave was to be with my BIL, who had at that point lost his whole family and had no wife or kids to be with him. I took a day — the Friday — to sit with MIL while she died and be there for him when the inevitable happened. I get 5 paid days but only needed to use 2 — one for the day spent with my BIL and one for her funeral a few weeks later. I also got BL for my dad’s aunt and grandmother, although by the time another aunt of my dad died, things had tightened up a bit under a new system and I was able to take special leave for the day and still get paid, but not BL. I took regular annual leave for my friend’s dad’s funeral recently and combined it with a week off anyway.

    Grief is sad and traumatic but it lasts years — if not all your life in some circumstances — and you do need to be able to work while grieving. For me, the grief hit about six months after my husband’s death because of the pandemic, and my line manager gave me six weeks off because of the lack of public transport which I rely on to get to work (in-person, essential worker — the trains ended up only running every two hours, but by the time I went back a month or two later, they were back to at least once an hour) and my panic attacks due to how much of a twilight zone I felt when I went out. I basically used that time to get my head around things — it was more by chance than design, but it was timing I couldn’t really pass up. Meanwhile a colleague lost his daughter (! :((((!!) and took a month off, I assume paid because of sick leave.

    So it will be individual but it’s not meant to be an extended break.

    1. Melissa*

      Yes, I was coming here to say this. And I am so, so sorry for your loss.

      People often get very upset when they read their company handbook and it says “You get X days for the loss of a parent” etc. But of course like you said, grief can be a lifetime’s work, and even the fresh period where you can barely see straight is often long, in addition to being variable between people. When a company says you get X days, they aren’t saying that workers should be “over it” in that many days, but many employees seem to read it that way and it can seem heartless.

  15. ceiswyn*

    I keep seeing this ‘bereavement leave is for the paperwork, it’s not for grieving because that would be months’ and it still doesn’t make any sense to me. After all, doesn’t the admin of death grind on for months as well?

    I always assumed that bereavement leave was simply because you wouldn’t be capable of work in the first shock of losing someone close to you. Especially since even in this post Alison acknowledges that that is the case and OP2 will need to take leave for that very purpose…

    1. GythaOgden*

      It does. Presumably it includes immediate things like getting a death certificate, placing an obituary or funeral paperwork — that kind of stuff that people need to focus on immediately. Wills and other stuff connected with the estate can take longer but those are things you can do alongside a day job.

      With my husband the immediate stuff involved stopping his bank account/credit cards and responding to all the letters for payment that came in as a result. That was done within the first month in which I did take sick leave.

      But the probate claim took a lot longer — around six months. My dad was executor of my husband’s estate because he was the one who had the time and energy to do it as retired and was the most organised and focused among us. I had to make things like inventory and sort out transferring the car to my BIL, but that was easily done in the evenings and weekends. It was an exhausting process and my dad at times got into ‘when did you last see your SORN notice?’ interrogation once or twice, because he’s like that when it comes to managing this kind of project. We got the bulk of the money transferred over within six months but the claims on the insurance policies and pension pots we turned up took almost two years (my husband was a real squirrel — I’m still finding caches of pennies in coffee jars at the back of the kitchen cupboards.) I did blow off the benefits agency who tried to claim back Personal Independence Payment overages by asking them to send the request for payment to his executor, my dad, but that was the last I heard from them so either they just gave up or they did as I instructed.

      But it’s not so all-consuming that it can’t be fitted around a day job. By the time the benefits agency letter came in and the insurance policies were unearthed (literally because the premium payment was frozen and Aviva came knocking), it was December and I’d been back at work the whole autumn.

      You just do what you have to to keep going. It is crappy in some respects, but in terms of being employed, the company you work for is several steps removed from your world and that’s when it is understandably not their problem. Mine — the NHS — were awesome in the lead up to my husband’s death and the aftermath, but just before he died I was at the point of being offered a leave of absence (presumably unpaid) because two years of someone else’s emotional rollercoaster can get disruptive. I dodged that bullet but it was clear that they needed me either at work or they could keep my job open but get a temp while I was dealing with my life crumbling around me. It’s not fair — death of a loved one at a young age never is — but it’s wise to remember that you’re the centre of your own world, not of theirs. Continuity for them is important, and the humans involved want to help, but it’s also on me to find ways of maintaining both my job and my emotional life.

    2. Rito*

      “doesn’t the admin of death grind on for months as well?” To a certain extent, yes, but it’s not nearly as immediate a need and it usually takes the form of small things. The immediate aftermath of a death involves registering the death, meeting with funeral directors, planning the funeral etc and all of that needs to be done quickly. And it’s happening while you are in the grip of the first wave of grief, which is often incapacitating, and often falls on someone unexpectedly. Giving people a few extra days to help them get through that initial phase is beneficial, and the purpose of the bereavement leave. No one thinks that time will be sufficient to do everything that needs to be done after someone dies, but it’s a recognition of the difficulty of the situation,

    3. Grief Is The Price of Love*

      Bereavement leave is to give you time to plan the funeral or give you a chance to go to a funeral. You may be eligible for more (or your employer may give you more days) but its basically for the funeral.
      When my spouse died, I took off 2 weeks, but the first 3 days (which were the “official” bereavement days) were for planning the funeral.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        My workplace lets you take the bereavement leave within several months of the death. That accommodates religious traditions that have ceremonies well after the death – I was able to take leave to travel to my FIL’s interment of ashes, which happens 49 days after the death in that particular Buddhist tradition.

      2. MaineCat*

        Do we really have to define what it is and is not for in such exclusionary terms? If you’re entitled to 3 days bereavement leave at your job for certain deaths, it should not matter in the least how you use that time. And creating these not stated in the handbook ad hoc assumptions about what is and is not okay is quite harmful. My husband unexpectedly lost his Dad and his company gives 3 days bereavement. He got asked by his boss if he “needed” the leave to travel for the funeral and when he said he couldn’t fly thousands of miles right now due to my being due with baby imminently, he got a very weird guilt-trippy reaction about wanting to take his leave to grieve. He ended up taking only 2 of the 3 days to which he was entitled even though there are no written rules about how you spend your bereavement leave.

        1. ceiswyn*

          Yes, I think that’s my issue with the idea that bereavement leave is ‘for’ dealing with paperwork, or going to a funeral. If it’s for dealing with immediate death admin, then why do you get bereavement leave for siblings, whose paperwork you’re unlikely to be immediately involved in? If it’s for arranging or attending a funeral, then why wouldn’t you get it for a close personal friend, whose funeral you would undoubtedly want to attend and may play a part in?

          I think these are all attempts at justifying corporate bereavement policies that attempt to avoid people using the deaths of distant acquaintances to get a free day off, and as a result end up too prescriptive about whose deaths actually will render you unable to work, or for how long.

          1. DataSci*

            The point is that you’re not going to be done grieving at the end of the bereavement leave.

            (Crossing threads, one thing that doesn’t get bereavement leave, which would if it was primarily for grieving, is pregnancy loss.)

            1. MissElizaTudor*

              Bereavement leave for pregnancy loss is a thing at some places in the US (one stat I saw says 24% of policies explicitly allow it), as is entirely separate leave for miscarriage, aside from FMLA. There are also a few countries where you the law says you can use bereavement leave for pregnancy loss, or where there is leave specifically for miscarriage.

              1. MissElizaTudor*

                To be clear, I’m not saying it’s primarily for grieving. It’s pretty clear to me it’s for a combination of dealing with the initial shock, handling some logistics, and attending services. It leans towards the travel/logistics side, maybe, but most places don’t offer enough to fully do any of those things fully, except, maybe, attending a not-too-distance service.

            2. ceiswyn*

              Of course you’re not, but that’s a complete red herring.

              There is a big difference between the initial shock – especially if the death was unexpected – and the ongoing long-term process. I think any reasonable person would agree that bereavement leave isn’t for the latter – so why do people keep bringing that up and pretending it’s the same thing?

              1. Critical Rolls*

                It’s because there have been long derailing debates here in the past about how bereavement leave is for grieving, or it should be, so why would they call three days bereavement leave when you’re still going to be bereaved at the end of it, and on and on. But clearly the note was not successful in heading this off at a the pass.

          2. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I appreciate the way my company’s policy is written – the intent is for *unforseen* time off needed to deal with the death of a relative (and others at manager’s discretion). There’s no specific amount of time that you’re allotted. When my grandmother died unexpectedly a few months ago, I took three and a half days of bereavement leave — two and a half days when I was completely unable to function (I found out while I was at work, hence the half day), and then a day a week later to travel out of state for the memorial service. In several weeks I’m going again to spread her ashes but I’ll use vacation time for that trip; I actually asked my manager about how to handle that and she said it was up to me – if I’d otherwise be unable to go use the bereavement leave, but if I had enough vacation time to use that.

            I also appreciate that the list of relatives explicitly included in the policy is quite long — our HR department does a pretty good job of recognizing that not all meaningful familial relationships are nuclear-family-and-grandparents!

          3. Snow Globe*

            The reason Alison mentioned that is because otherwise people will complain (and have complained) that 3 days clearly isn’t enough to get through grieving of someone close. The point is that it is not intended to cover all the time you need to deal with your grief, but there is a lot of stuff happening in those first few days. (And, yes, a lot of us have had to deal with paperwork for the death of siblings, when they are unmarried and don’t have adult children.)

          4. Lily Potter*

            If it’s for arranging or attending a funeral, then why wouldn’t you get it for a close personal friend, whose funeral you would undoubtedly want to attend and may play a part in?

            In an ideal world, close personal friends would “count” for bereavement leave. The problem is that there would be people taking leave for “close personal friends” every year. How do you quantify “close personal friend”? Perhaps possible to do in a smaller organization where you interact in person with people 40+ hours a week, and often mention your closest friends in conversation with your manager. Nearly impossible for your manager to quantify if you work at home and your only contact is a weekly Zoom call and emails. With familial relationships, there’s a legal “tie” there to fall back on.

            I hear what you’re saying, though. When I worked for a Fortune 500 corporation, we got 5 days for spouse/parent, 3 days for sibling/grandparent, and 1 day for aunt/uncles/cousins (or any “step” permutation thereof). If I lost my best friend (no blood or legal tie), I’d be devastated and need to be out of the office for longer than a week for sure. My aunts/uncles/cousins? There are some for whom I wouldn’t even attend the funeral.

            1. Drago Cucina*

              It’s possible to advocate for this before it happens. When I was a director I was able to have the employee handbook changed so that someone who didn’t fit the categories usually outlined could be named. I asked that we have a letter from the employee indicating who that is. In one instance it was the employee’s dog.

              The point of having it documented beforehand was so that it was an established relationship. It turned out to be the right move because after I left the next director tried to deny it, but it was in the handbook and the employee had stated in writing that the friend was “their person.”

              1. Lily Potter*

                I like this idea of documenting things ahead of time. I can envision this list including things like: a partner that you’ve been with for many, many years but will never legally marry; your best friend that’s closer to you than any family member; the significant other of your parent who, again, will never formally be your stepparent but IS a parent in every way that counts; the couple that stepped up and let you live with them when you were a teenager but were never formally declared to be your parents. Under a lot of companies’ policies, all of these people would fall under the category of “not family, so no bereavement leave”

              2. bamcheeks*

                This is SO lovely. I hope you’re really proud of this, because it’s such a fantastic way to recognise that relationships and love come in all sorts of forms.

            2. MissElizaTudor*

              You don’t need to quantify “close personal friend” to give people bereavement leave if one of those friends dies. You trust your employees to have decent judgement and deal with it on an individual basis if it becomes an issue.

              If someone has a close personal friend die every year, they can take the bereavement leave if they want it, just like if they have a huge extended family and have a family member die every year. If that was an issue due to workload or coverage you’d need to deal with it even though the deaths were family, so the same would go for close friends.

              There are places where close personal friends do count for bereavement and even more places where managers would give someone that leave even if it wasn’t technically included in the policy. I’m sure it gets abused in some cases, just like sick leave can get abused or bereavement leave for family members can get abused. That isn’t a good reason not to offer it.

        2. doreen*

          I don’t think it matters how you use the time – I think what it is “for” only matters because it’s not the case that employers think people should be over their grief in three days or three weeks.

          I do want to point out that different employers have different bereavement leave policies, but nearly all of them are going to have some sort of limitation. Either by relationship or by total number of days in the year or by not granting additional leave for bereavement , just loosening the rules for some other type. I had one job that granted an additional four days of bereavement leave for each death – but only the deaths of certain relatives, in-laws and household members. Another job allowed bereavement leave for any death of a relative , in-law or household member. I could take bereavement leave to attend my third cousin’s funeral – but I was limited to 15 days per year and it wasn’t additional leave. I was allowed to use sick leave rather than the vacation time I would have had to use for a friend’s funeral.

        3. fhqwhgads*

          The point of defining it that way isn’t to say you can’t use the time for whatever you use it for, but rather an explanation for why its duration is what it is. They’re giving you (say) 3 days for a spouse or parent or child because you probably have to make the funeral arrangements for that person. They’re giving you (say) 1 day for any other death because you probably need/want to attend the funeral. That’s the reason for the distinction. Yes, sure do whatever you need to do with your own grief, but the reason they provide whatever extra “bereavement” leave over regular PTO is about the sudden, unexpected time related to the funeral itself. You don’t have to use it for one, but that’s how they’re deciding how much leave “is enough” of the extra bereavement specific leave.

      3. ThatGirl*

        In my case when my grandparents died, I didn’t need the leave immediately; my parents and their siblings handed that stuff. I needed it for the funeral so I could travel. Obviously it’s different if you’re responsible for handling an estate.

        1. PhyllisB*

          That’s the way it was when my stepfather died. I wasn’t needed immediately and service was delayed a couple of weeks. My boss said to use my leave in whatever way worked for my needs. Was nice to have a reasonable boss.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      When my father died (in hospice, so not unexpected within the frame of several months), my spouse, child-at-home, and I flew down for a few days to help my mom. Some of that was emotional support, and some of that was practical support like with financial stuff*.

      A few weeks later child-away, who had been in a crunch period when the death came, flew out to visit for the weekend and provide emotional support. I was really glad of that, as spacing it out helped and gave my mom something to look forward to after we left.

      The memorial was a couple of months later, and we all took off a couple of days to travel for that.

      “Time off work or school” was a few days, and it was used in different ways. Nobody expected to be given months off, and nobody got flak for wanting some time off around the death.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        *My by-experience advice: If you go to help someone in the immediate aftermath, plan to return on Monday night, rather than Sunday night. Because you will probably come up with some stuff on the weekend that can only be handled 9-5 M-F.

    5. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      The admin stuff goes on over several months but it doesn’t take several months. It takes an hour or a day here and there.

      1. ceiswyn*

        So really it works exactly like the emotional reaction; there’s an initial massive burden that you can’t work through, and then a long-term slow burn.

    6. Anna*

      My mom died a month ago, and y e s, I can confirm the admin of death stuff lasts for months and is time-consuming / stressful. That said, it’s less time-intensive than immediate concerns like funeral planning and informing people of the death.

      1. Anna*

        It also tends to be less *physically* stressful than shortly after a death. At least in my case, it took some time for my brain to get out of “you need to be On Constant Alert for medical emergencies at 4:00 AM” mode, and unsurprisingly I could not work in that mental state.

    7. Fluffy Fish*

      It can help to think of bereavement leave as extra. It’s basically the company giving you a few extra paid days to deal with a loss without having to dip into your regular leave banks of PTO.

      The reality of death and grief is it is different for every person. It’s impossible to know what anyone individual is going to need – its simply an extra few days to deal with the immediate needs.

      No one is expecting peoples grief to be gone in 3 days – afterwards is when you take PTO or sick leave. Yes its because you are dealing with the death but its not considered “bereavement leave”.

    8. I Have RBF*


      When my mother passes I’ll need a month just to travel and deal with her house and all the stuff she has, plus all the funeral logistics. Bereavement leave won’t cover all of it. I’m hoping she lasts until I’m well retired, but… (she’s in her early 80s and doesn’t take the best care of herself, so IDK.) But if not, BL should cover the travel time and I’ll have to try to work from a hotel while I deal with stuff.

  16. BereavementLeaveOrPTO*

    Bereavement leave varies a lot from company to company. I’ve worked at some that didn’t give you any but let you take 1-3 days of regular vacation time without prior approval for a parent, child, or sibling. Some places give 3 days of separate bereavement for the same group of relative plus (in some cases) grandparents. I’ve worked at one place where you could get 1-3 days for any relative at the discretion of your boss. It wasn’t formalized in policy, but most places I’ve worked would let you take 0.5-1 day of PTO for pretty much any local funeral.

    My current company formally gives 3 days for parents/siblings/children with additional flexibilty at the discretion of the Executive Director. Unfortunately I’ve had to use it twice in the past 18 months. I was unexpectedly given 5 days for my mother and took another 1.5 of PTO to sit Shiva but I was forced to work the morning of her funeral for a planned call with some folks in Ukraine (during the war) and I had a hard time getting away in time for the funeral (I attended the funeral via Zoom). My sister unexpectedly died on Dec 31 and there were some problems scheduling her funeral and I ended up taking 5 days total (but wasn’t able to take a proper Shiva period – her funeral was sufficiently delayed that it would have meant taking something like 11 days total so I went back the day after her funeral – this was complicated by my taking a rare two weeks off at the end of the year to use up expiring PTO so I was already off for slightly more than 3 weeks in a row without the extra Shiva time).

    I’ve never worked anywhere that gave bereavement time for friends or for other relatives; I took a day of PTO for one of my uncles but wasn’t able to take time for any other aunts/uncles (I would have been able to take a day for any of these to go to a funeral if any had been local).

    1. MK*

      Especially since it does sound as if OP is taking the day off to attend the funeral or help the family with arrangements; she needs the time to deal with her feelings. Which is understandable, but it’s not what bereavement leave is usually for and most companies would expect you to use regular PTO for, or maybe a sick day, if it includes mental health days.

      1. Some Words*

        MK, your post makes a lot of assertions that I don’t think are true. No company I’ve worked for has ever dictated how one should or could use their bereavement time away from the office. HR policies tell us which relationships qualify for bereavement leave, and the duration. That’s ALL. And that’s all it should be.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I’m in the UK, and I think where I work has a policy which is pretty common (especially in smaller organizations) in that it’s compassionate leave rather than specifically bereavement leave, it’s discretionary but with guidance as to when it would usually be given . Normally it would be around 3 days in the event of a close family member or 1 day for more distant relatives (which lets people attend funerals without having to use PTO)

      I recall an incident a few years go where it was given to a young employee whose close friend was killed in an RTA – the situation wasn’t one of the ones envisioned in the policy, the deceased wasn’t related to the employee in any way.

      I don’t think it is that it’s ‘for’ specific things, more that there are often things that need to be addressed right away (registering the death, organising a funeral etc so it can be helpful to have the time to allow you to do those things / support the people who are doing those things, and to deal with the initial shock of losing someone.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      I did work somewhere that had a line in the bereavement policy that your manager could consider other bereavement needs with approval. This company also stated that you could take up to 5 days (again, with approval) for all family based on needs – travel, planning, other appointments – within a year. This is definitely an uncommon practice and I imagine not all managers at that company were as kind and understanding as mine was.

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

      Berevement policies can be so confusing and oddly strict. At 1 job I fudged it a bit and said that a person was a great aunt. She was my cousin’s mother in law but she had no other family but her daughter so she was always a part of our family. All holidays, get togethers etc. I think my team lead was a little skeptical but didnt push anything.
      and job 2 I lost my aunt but there wasn’t going to be anything official. She died in another state that’s half way across the country, her husband was in a care facility and her son wasn’t able to do anything. We had a small celebration of life for just our family in our area. I just had to get the obituary, which we put in the hometown paper. a few years later when her son came to our hometown he brought her ashes and we had a formal funeral at the veterans cemetery.

      Both job 1 and 2 bereavement was separate from your PTO. In my current job bereavement is taken from your sick time. I think its like 3 days and you can take an extra 4 days for traveling if needed. And if you need more time exceptions can be made.

      1. JustaTech*

        The year that both my grandmother and my husband’s grandmother died my boss didn’t ask for any kind of “proof” for either of them, which was nice because I’m pretty sure that in both cases I was back from the funeral before any kind of obituary was published.

        I didn’t end up taking any leave when my aunt died because I decided that it wasn’t safe for me to fly to her funeral in Texas because I was newly pregnant, the laws in Texas about maternity care had just changed *and* the mask-on-plane requirement had just gone away. I ended up watching her streamed funeral at my desk over my lunch break, which was a little awkward when my coworker asked why I was crying (very quietly).

    5. SimonTheGreyWarden*

      I worked one place where, for my partner’s grandfather, I had to do my mandatory overtime but was allowed enough bereavement to go to the funeral and then return to work.

      When I worked retail and my grandma died, because it was out of state I was allowed 5 days bereavement.

  17. Baroness Schraeder*

    Surely I can’t be the only one wondering how tall a person would have to be to work at a 6-foot table?

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        I’m thinking that it is the standard size rectangular folding tables. I can’t imagine doing a professional type job where you would normally have desks and computers.

        1. Some Words*

          I’ve had to do it for limited periods of time and yes, it sucks as much as you suspect it would. These aren’t desks, they’re display/picnic tables.

    1. I Have RBF*

      Amazon, when they were a startup, made desks out of solid wood doors and 4x4s. When I went up to HQ in Seattle a decade later there were still “door desks” in use. They were sturdy as hell, but no height adjustment.

      But even the cheapest of their chairs were rolling task chairs, not plastic folding chairs, and Amazon is known for their frugality.

  18. Electric sheep*

    OP1, please take your ergonomic set up at work seriously – it is possible to injure yourself long term or even permanently. Chronic pain is unpleasant and restrictive to live with and your job is not worth acquiring a disability that will affect you on and off the clock, financially, emotionally, physically, socially… the list goes on.

  19. Daria grace*

    #1, in addition to the risk of strain injuries from sitting on bad chairs (which is problem enough on its own) terrible folding chairs tend to break from lots of use. Best case scenario is lots of chair replacing, plausible worse case scenario is a bad injury if it breaks underneath someone

    1. WS*

      I was just coming along to say that this is how my co-worker broke her ankle at her previous place of work. She had a folding chair and a card table to work at because there was a two week overlap of her taking the job and the previous person leaving, which was meant to be for training. Instead, it ended with the chair breaking while she had her legs tucked under the chair and crossed at the ankle, and she broke two bones. On day 5 her workplace called her to see how she was and tell her she needed to come back soon because the other person was leaving next week and needed to do the training. When she recovered she got a new job.

  20. ECHM*

    I work at a funeral home, and upon request we will provide work excuses on letterhead. Perhaps check with personnel at that funeral home. I’m sorry for your loss.

  21. Green great dragon*

    Take the chair! This is how you model getting your basic needs met instead of suffering in silence.

    Whenever you need to move someone out your chair your line is ‘I need this because the plastic ones cause me pain. If you’re the same you need to fill out form NC1 to get your own chair, shall I send you a link?’ Personally I’d also make a point of dropping it into conversation as often as possible, but judge that one for yourself.

    If you’re all in half the time, then it only takes 50% of people to request a chair and you’ll have enough for everyone…

  22. MistOrMister*

    OP4 – I have been intellectual property (IP) law for over 15 years. I think Alison is spot on with her suggestion. Basically, aim for business casual. I will say that in the various offices I’ve worked or visited, most of the women did not wear makeup. There could be an expectation of being made up in certain fields (I’m assuming it might be more the norm in fields like corporate law, etc) but I think overall it doesn’t tend to matter much if you wear it or not. I would keep anything hair related (cut, color, accessories) on the more subdued side, at least at first. Many places won’t care if you come in with rainbow hair but I always ease into that kind of thing because you never know when you’re going to run into someone conservative.

    Good luck getting your paralrgal certification! And, if you are not currently working in a law firm, you might find it helpful to take an entry level position in one and then trying to move up once you finish your paralegal studies. So many firms want you to have certification plus experience even for what they claim are entry level jobs, so if you can get a foot in the door sooner that tends to help.

    1. I Have RBF*

      Yes, I would suggest business casual. Also, don’t try to do makeup if you ordinarily don’t wear it. IMO, it should not be “required” anyway.

  23. Juggling Plunger*

    #1: I get the future awkwardness of needing to say “this is my chair, you need to get a folding chair.” Maybe frame it like “I know this is nicer that the folding chairs, but I actually got it as an accommodation and need to have it. If you’re having trouble with the chairs I can walk you through what I did to get the accommodation.”

    Being upfront about the fact that you have the chair isn’t you being a jerk, it’s a specific need, and signals to others how they might also get such a chair.

    1. Juggling Plunger*

      Last paragraph should have been “upfront that you have the chair as an accommodation”

  24. Something Wicked This Way Comes*

    #2 When my father died, the company I was working for required a copy of the obituary in order to grant bereavement leave. And it was only given for family deaths.

    1. Jinni*

      What if no one writes one? Especially without widespread print news anymore…

      I’m finding with older relatives (born in the 1940s) with no one left in their age group, the younger generations aren’t at all concerned with that kind of thing, or even a funeral or memorial service. It’s cremation, and clean out of their stuff. Everyone’s sort of at their place for a bit, but all the traditional stuff hasn’t been happening.

      1. DataSci*

        I’ve been to several memorial services for older relatives that are weeks or months after the death – a time for the family to reconnect and remember the deceased rather than an internment.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Yeah, when my father died in 2018, just before Christmas, my stepmother didn’t have the memorial until February 2019, to allow time for the family to marshal its finances to fly in for the service. There were other sub-optimal things that my stepmother did, but that wasn’t one or them. I took emergency PTO to go be at his bedside when he was dying, and then bereavement to go to his memorial. I was lucky? that I didn’t have to handle any of the logistics.

      2. metadata minion*

        When my dad died in 2020, we looked into doing a death notice, but it was going to be really expensive for something that we in all honestly mainly wanted as a geeky kindness to future historians, so we ended up not doing it. We did a memorial service over Zoom because lockdown, so there wasn’t a printed/advertised program or anything, and because we donated his body to science it went directly from the hospital to the medical school so there wasn’t even a funeral home involved. And because weirdly enough dying during a pandemic means this sort of paperwork is really backed up, it took almost two months for the death certificate to arrive.

        If my employer had decided to be a jerk about it, I’m guessing the hospital he died at could have sent them a note, but I would have felt really bad about asking an overworked hospital do that in the middle of a crisis.

      3. doreen*

        I find that there aren’t nearly as many death notices printed in local newspapers as there were when I was young but there still is often some sort of service which is publicized on the funeral home website and/or

      4. Daisy-dog*

        It’s usually a standard option through the funeral home’s website. You can share that through Facebook or email the link to certain groups.

      5. Random Bystander*

        Well, my father very recently died (very sudden/unexpected), and the funeral home creates an obituary that they post on their website. The employee who was handling things for us did mention we could put one in the print paper, but the death notice (Name, age, of town died [date]) goes in free but an actual obit in the print paper would be hundreds of dollars (at least 300, could go up to 500, maybe more, I don’t know). My brother spoke up and said “it’s the 21st century, no one reads the print papers any more” so no print obit. I suppose if someone *needed* an obit, they could screen print the one from the funeral home website.

    2. Stuff*

      We never wrote an obituary for my father. Why would we, nobody outside of me, my sister, and my uncle even cared he was dead. I have a copy of the death certificate, if that wasn’t accepted, I’d have been pissed. Is that not proof enough?

      1. doreen*

        I’m sure a death certificate is good enough – IME the reason for accepting an obituary or a funeral program or a letter from the funeral home is that those are easier to get/less expensive/faster than a death certificate.

      2. Daisy-dog*

        That is certainly allowed – it’s just considered overstepping if there is a more public-facing option available. I didn’t get the death certificate for my grandpa’s passing because I wasn’t involved in the paperwork stuff and it would have been annoying to ask to see it to take a picture for my boss. Plus, that wouldn’t have told my manager anything – we have different last names – and it’s not like she needed to know the cause of death.

        If you have nothing like an obituary, funeral home announcement, or death certificate, talk to your manager about what they would need. (Obviously, terrible management will be terrible about this too.)

  25. Llellayena*

    OP4: You should understand that even if the meet is casual, it’s probably happening during or adjacent to her working hours. So she will be wearing her work outfit. You should strive to be closer to that than to “meeting the girls for a weekend.”

    1. Shorty Spice*

      +1 I was coming to comment this exact thing. She’s in the middle of her work day if you meet for lunch or coffee, so business casual is the way to go.

    2. Zelda*

      This. It seems to me that there are really two different meanings of the word ‘informal’ here. It’s an informal *meeting*, meaning that there isn’t a preset agenda, there won’t be an admin taking minutes, the notes will not be entered into anyone’s employment record, etc. There are just two people talking about whatever comes up. That doesn’t mean it’s exactly an informal *situation*, meaning wear shorts and cuss as much as you like. It’s still a business situation, and LW4 should be in office attire and on relatively conservative office behavior for meeting with a senior person.

  26. cabbagepants*

    #1 If you are in the US, OSHA has a lot to say about ergonomics. Ergo injuries sustained at work are generally eligible for workman’s compensation; I have successfully gotten workman’s comp for ergo injuries as well as reduced duties. You company is currently treating things as a comfort issue, and it is, but it also is a SAFETY issue. Since you are on the leadership team, addressing the issue in these terms could help your company open their eyes. I’ll drop a link in a reply.

  27. Anon in Canada*

    I’ve seen companies that give one day of paid bereavement leave for the death of a friend (intended for the day of the funeral). It’s always just one day though, so travel to get there and back will have to come from vacation days or unpaid.

  28. Velociraptors*

    LW1: If the office only went hybrid due to the pandemic, what happened to all of the chairs and office furniture? Surely they weren’t using folding chairs in the before times?

    My husband’s employer moved offices in the middle of 2020 and disposed of many extra chairs (we would have benefited if he’d gotten enough notice to bring some home). There are plenty of reasons why the chairs might be gone. But the question of “what happened to the chairs?” is going to be living rent-free in my head all day.

    1. Heather*

      Presumably people brought them home and were allowed to keep them there since they’re still hybrid.

      1. Billy Preston*

        Wait, people get to bring home work chairs? That hasn’t been the case at my workplaces during this time.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Some people at some companies/organizations were able to bring home their office chairs (and/or monitors, mice, etc.) in 2020 when it became clear that “work from home for two weeks” was going to be a lot longer than “two weeks.” It’s a reasonable guess that OP1’s office had real work chairs pre-pandemic and people brought them home in 2020 and the work chairs have not returned to the office even though the people have (at least part-time).

          Not all companies allowed people to bring their chairs home in 2020. Some that did allow chairs to go home have required chairs (and employees) return to the office.

        2. Lana Kane*

          I’ve been able to do that before, I had to sign a form stating I’d return if I left the department or company. But it’s not super common.

    2. jane's nemesis*

      They could have sold them all during the pandemic, thinking they’d “never” return to the office, or they rented a furnished office space in the beforetimes and moved to an unfurnished space during/after covid. Either of those seem likely to me.

  29. Zarniwoop*

    #1. Your workplace needs to either find funds for proper chairs or go back to WFH. The current situation is Not Normal.

    1. ragazza*

      Right? They want them to be in the office regularly but they don’t want to invest in their employees’ basic comfort? NOPE.

  30. Oops I did it again*

    Op #5 almost the same thing happened to me, I found out I was pregnant on my first day. Talk about a whirlwind day!

    I waited until after my the 20 week anatomy scan to tell work. I think that is an excellent time to do it if you’re not showing before that point. You know everything is OK, and your office still has plenty of time to plan.

    1. JustaTech*

      This is what I did as well, though I did tell my immediate boss a little earlier than I told the rest of my department.

      And just because you think you’re showing a lot doesn’t mean anyone else will actually notice! I was well past 6 months and wearing snug dresses when I told some coworkers and they were all very surprised.

  31. Melissa*


    In terms of your dress and behavior, I would actually pretend that it IS a job interview! Because you never know how things will turn out, she may know of an opening immediately. Nobody is ever going to think you are over-dressed for a meeting like this (I mean, unless you show up in a prom dress), so I would dress up as though you are working in a law office.

    1. Bye Academia*

      Yes, this! I went on some informational interviews with lawyers when I was deciding what job to get after grad school, and I was coached to wear a suit. Whoever’s meeting you from the law office will probably be wearing one, just because it’s what they wear to work every day. Even if you don’t have a suit, I would at the very least wear dress pants and a nice blouse (preferably long sleeved). Law is very formal, and they care about polished appearances. It’s important to play the game in that field and make a good first impression.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      Yes! I would definitely go with slacks, a blouse, nice flats, and a nicer-than-normal bag – all things that I would wear for a job interview in my industry.

      But you definitely don’t need to try to be someone that you’re not. Definitely agree with Alison that make-up is not needed.

  32. Dinwar*

    #1: Check the manufacturer’s recommendations on the chairs you’re being required to use. They may in fact be a safety hazard.

    We actually had a guy injured by a chair. It was a field trailer, and they got cheap folding chairs for folks to sit on, as commonly happens. It was one where the crossbar between the legs is tack-welded on. One of the struts broke and slashed his leg. Come to find out, that chair wasn’t made for people to sit in regularly–it was designed as something to sit in for an hour at a time at most, and him sitting in it for several hours to do his paperwork over-stressed the structure of the chair. We had to inspect all folding chairs in field sites and remove this style to avoid further injuries. (If you want a folding chair, get one with double rivets holding the crossbar to the legs. They can still break, but it takes a LOT more stress to do so!)

    Most companies don’t want to deal with the liability associated with injuries, and if you bring them a document from the manufacturer pointing out that you’re using the chair improperly you may have more leverage. At the very least, it’s worth looking into to see if it’s a possibility.

  33. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    I once worked for an organization which was overly policied and overly strict in their enforcement of these policies. Our bereavement policy provided three days for the deaths of parents, but nothing for siblings or close friends. We got around this by giving sick leave on the grounds that the employee was naturally too distraught to come to work. Since our bereavement leave was deducted from sick leave anyway, it cost the employee nothing to do it this way. I will say that working in such a bureaucratic institution taught me how to manipulate polices to make them workable which proved to be an asset for the rest of my career. Also, I remembered the lesson when the time came to draft my own polices and always advocated for using the minimal level of oversight possible.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Bereavement leave was deducted from sick leave anyway? What a horrible policy. And pointless to call it something other than sick leave. Glad you were able to apply lessons from that ridiculousness to future policies.

      1. Cat's Paw for Cats*

        Well, to be fair, the organization was very generous with its sick leave and vacation time. We received far more than average for our area. So that did sort of offset their deficits. It was really a case of too many rules.

      2. doreen*

        One of my employers did this as well – but we could bank up to 200 days of sick leave and the point of calling it bereavement leave is that different documentation was needed than for sick leave. For example, we were allowed to use up to 15 days per year for bereavement leave – and I used all 15 when my father died. The only documentation I needed was the on-line obituary.

  34. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    OP #4, if it’s your dress that has spaghetti straps, you could do a cardigan over it. But definitely closer to interview style than casual. It’s more like a business meeting. Plus, being a bit more formal for the first meet up to me is always a safer bet. I think wearing a nice blouse and dress pants or khakis, or a dress with a cardigan, gives off an impression that you find this meeting to be important enough to put a little more effort in to your clothing choices. For hair accessories, if you wouldn’t wear it to the office, I wouldn’t wear them (for me that would be the headbands I wear to work out, or those that are not clear, black, or close similar to a hair color, I also refrain from wearing my pink and blue ponytail holders and just wear brown at work).

    Basically treat it similar to a job interview, she’s likely getting a read on you to see where you can fit and it sounds like she’d be talking to other firms on your behalf, and since she doesnt really know you, all she’s going off of is your meet up. Don’t forget to bring a pen and pad of paper, a copy of your resume, and I would recommend offering to pay for her coffee. Also you might want to think of some questions ahead of time and practice your ‘tell me about yourself’ elevator speech (I hated that question in my first few interviews, I always kinda fumbled my way through) and some ideas on what you are looking for in a job. [If this is stuff you already know, sorry for womansplaining, but just wanted to give some info that helped me through a few of these first meet ups].

  35. Call Me Al*

    OP5: I went through the same thing in May (except I found out about the baby the day before the job), and I’m happy to report that it’s gone really well! I was nervous even without your background, but I can share some things that will hopefully make you more comfortable. (I’m assuming this is your first baby, if not you can obviously skip some of it.)
    – I hope for you that you never have an abnormal test/symptom/anything, but it’s so common in the first trimester (mine resolved on its own!), that I would really recommend waiting. Not sharing until your second trimester is so common that it won’t seem out of the norm.
    – Do some light recon to set your own expectations for how your boss and team might react. Since you have a pregnant coworker, this should be pretty easy. Team culture plays a role, but it was easy for me to ask people about their families and do the math to realize that many of them/their spouses had taken maternity leave at some point (they’re mostly older and I doubt had leave for non-birth parents). Alison is right about the laws, obviously, but as a friend of mine said, it’s not illegal to be a low-key a-hole. Hopefully, their behavior toward your co-worker will set you at ease.
    – Don’t let not telling become more stressful than telling. My boss went out on medical leave during my first month, and I didn’t want to get to a point where it was blatantly obvious to everyone else before talking to him. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him until about a week longer than I wanted to, and if I’d had a choice I would say that week was not worth it.
    – Plan somewhat what you’re going to say, just to ease your mind, and do *not* apologize. I went with something like, “This won’t take too long. I just wanted to share with you that I’m pregnant.” Then I had some language I didn’t end up needing to use about how we didn’t have to figure out logistics on the spot but let me know when he wanted to have that discussion.
    – That said, you will probably start showing to *other* people later than you think. This is my first, I’m pretty thin and definitely did not have abs of steel in April, and at 19 weeks there are still some angles/outfits in which it’s not super obvious that I’m pregnant. I had to start phasing out my clothes around 10-11 weeks, but I just reserved less-obvious things for my office days and more-obvious clothing for WFH.
    – Especially if you work hybrid/remotely, it’s sort of a weird subject to segue into, so think about who you want to tell when and then force yourself take the most sliver of a tangent. After my boss, I told the person who will be the most impacted by my leave. Their positive reactions made me feel so much more relaxed.
    – Not at all boss-related, but I am obsessed with compression socks. I wear them most days I work from home and I can definitely tell the difference. I like Wellow and Comrad. (not sponsored)

    Congratulations on all the things, and I hope it’s all smooth sailing!

  36. amanda*

    LW4: Wear business casual. Attractive but not flashy. And real shoes. No matter how nice you think your sandals are, your toes should not be showing at a business meeting.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Yeah, I was going to note the open toes–if this meeting were in the law office, I would tell OP to wear nice flats and nothing that shows her toes.

      I’m pretty sure an informal coffee shop meeting would have more leeway for foot formality… but I’d go with the office-appropriate blouse, slacks, and close-toed shoes, just to be conservative. In the “nothing unexpected here” sense of “conservative.”

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      It is not true across the board that toes should not be showing at a business meeting. In this case, I’d go closed-toe because law is conservative, but in my field it’s completely normal to lead meetings with c-level executives in open toed shoes.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        In addition to law being conservative, if you don’t know much about the office norms I would err conservative. Then “huh, that’s an unusual fashion choice” isn’t the first takeaway of meeting you.

        When I worked in an office I had followed but never parsed out the “no toe cleavage” thing. I only figured out the (mostly unspoken) rules around this when it was spelled out here. So I think it’s good that Amanda mentioned it.

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          I definitely agree on staying safe if you’re not sure! Can’t argue with that.

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        When you say “open toed shoes”, do you mean something like peek-a-boo toes on shoes with raised heels? Or like flat sandals?

        (In my case, what I wear as “sandals” are often called “fisherman’s shoes”: the toes are mostly-covered by strips of leather, and in my case the heel is closed too. So they are more like shoes, but with lots of cut-outs and I don’t wear socks with them.)

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          Everyone has a different take. The most conservative approach is a flat or pump with zero toe showing — not the ends of the toes, not the toe “cleavage”, not glimpses between straps of leather. Honestly at that point I would wear an ankle boot because I find traditional dress shoes uncomfortable.

          Many people will draw arbitrary lines around specific styles — peep-toe or strappy sandals are too sexy, flat sandals are too casual, etc. Ugh. For some meetings I do skip my favorite flat sandals to avoid getting that wrong. I have a few low-heel dressier sandals that work better in that case. But much of the time it doesn’t matter.

  37. Hiring Mgr*

    Unlimited PTO isn’t perfect but one area where it’s good is in things like bereavement.

    Just take what you need and you don’t have to worry about life circumstances fittting into predetermined categories

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yup. When my grandfather died I had unlimited PTO, and I was able to leave immediately and do what I needed to do. I think I only took one day truly “off” but I also knew I didn’t have to worry. I was also able to take the time I needed a few weeks later to straighten out his estate and clean out his condo– most bereavement leave policies would not have allowed so many days for a grandparent. The lack of nuance is what drives me crazy about bereavement policies– not all relationships or situations are the same.

      When my grandmother died 18 months previously, I was at a company that did not have unlimited PTO. I was able to travel to my family (I was working from home then anyway) and I took meetings from my grandparents’ home in between funeral arrangements and organizing her things. Our office manager called me the next week and reminded me that I got 1 day of bereavement leave for a grandparent and I had to put in for PTO for the other days I was “out”. Never mind that I was available to work (and I did do some work), never mind that it was the height of COVID and work was extremely slow, never mind that my mother is an only child and elderly herself and I had to do a ton of heavy lifting with her for the arrangements (which they knew), never mind that they sent NOTHING to me to acknowledge my grandmother’s passing (a client got a donation and a flower arrangement a month later when his mother passed– I really liked the client and was happy we sent him something but I was pretty irritated by that).

      Yeah, I really hate most bereavement leave policies.

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      My mom died last year and THANK GOODNESS for my company’s liberal application of our unlimited PTO. My sib and I took off a ton of time for care at the end plus time after. No questions asked. I didn’t end up needing to take additional days in the following months because my workload was light enough to handle it, but if that hadn’t been the case I would have been absolutely in the clear to take more “I can’t function / I have things to manage” days.

  38. HonorBox*


    Asking people to work all day, multiple hours a day on plastic folding chairs is too much. There’s a reasonable expectation that you can do your job in (relative) comfort and not have to deal with ongoing pain because your work setup sucks. Please ask for the accommodation, as it will help you but also be an example for others to follow. No one should be expected to deal with pain because their chair isn’t reasonable for the work they’re doing. You may, when you ask for the accommodation, cite OSHA rules, just to point out that it isn’t just about comfort (not that comfort isn’t very important) and rather about providing a safe and reasonable work environment. Or ask for the accommodation to work from home entirely, where you can be certain that you’re not putting your body in a bad spot multiple times each week.

  39. Jill*

    I work in retail. I stand and walk all day, everyday. I understand pain because standing and walking year after year takes a toll. I would be absolutely over the moon to have ANY chair, plastic or otherwise.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      And if you had to sit in a plastic chair for a long period of time, you’d probably be pretty uncomfortable. The LW shouldn’t have to accept pain and be thankful just because she has a chair. It’s not a competition.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Agreed. It’s not a competition. I’m not sure why people are inclined to write in and say “You think that’s bad? Look at what I’m dealing with!”

        It would be great if as many jobs as possible could provide excellent working conditions for their employees (thank you Aldi, for providing stools for your cashiers!) but the nature of some jobs just dictate that you’re going to be on your feet all day. I’m not sure that these comments are ever meant to help the LW.

    2. DrSalty*

      What’s your point? The physical conditions (and associated injuries with) of retail work are obviously incredibly different from desk work.

    3. Generic Name*

      I’m sure you don’t mean it this way, but this isn’t the Pain Olympics. OP suffering in an inadequate chair doesn’t take away from your suffering standing. Everyone deserves to work pain free.

    4. Observer*

      I stand and walk all day, everyday. I understand pain because standing and walking year after year takes a toll. I would be absolutely over the moon to have ANY chair, plastic or otherwise.

      What you seem to be saying is that since you are being mistreated, others shouldn’t complain if they are being mistreated a bit less. That is not, to say the least, a useful point of view.

      I would be absolutely over the moon to have ANY chair, plastic or otherwise.

      Maybe you would, and maybe not. As much as standing all day takes a toll, some chairs take as much (or more) of a toll, at least on some people. It may look different, but it’s real.

    5. I Have RBF*

      Get off the cross, we need the wood.

      Just because you work in a very movement oriented occupation doesn’t mean that people in sit-down jobs should have to endure musculo-skeletal injury. It’s not a competition or a race to the bottom.

      Also, if you want a chair, train for and get a sit-down job.

  40. Other Alice*

    LW1: I have a chronic knee condition and after I told my doctor I was an office worker he immediately asked me to describe my setup, because this kind of pain is caused most often by sitting in an incorrect position or inappropriate furniture. I actually have a great chair and desk, and he eventually determined that my issue is from a past injury that didn’t fully heal. But my point is, ergonomics are no joke. Please ask for the chair. Please advocate for your team, if the business can’t provide chairs for everyone then they should let people WFH. If they don’t have the money for chairs now, would they rather pay compensation when someone develops a condition or is injured?

  41. NeedRain47*

    LW2, check with your supervisor if they’re generally trustworthy. Our employee manual only says “up to five days leave for immediate family members” but I (unfortunately) discovered recently that if you tell your supervisor they will in fact let you use it to go to a funeral/memorial service. I’m very sorry about your friend.

  42. Juicebox Hero*

    OP 1, I’m Nth-ing the call to TAKE THE ACCOMMODATION! You’re sore now, so do something now before those pain issues become chronic. I like the idea of walking your junior employees through the accommodations process so they can advocate for themselves if they also need a better chair.

    In the meantime, if you can get hold of a “juicy cushion” (they are flat high-tech foam cushions most often used by folks who use wheelchairs to prevent pressure sores) one of those made a huge difference when my office chair broke and I had to sit on a waiting room chair for a few days until the new one arrived.

    And use whatever clout you have to get some actual office furniture, especially in any part of the business that is client-facing. The place can’t be running very efficiently without it.

    My boss is working in a temporary setup (we’re in the middle of refurbishing and moving offices and her new office furniture hasn’t arrived yet) with a couple of folding tables instead of a desk and she’s going out of her mind. No drawers, no organization, computer cables and wires all over the place. She’s working out of boxes and going crazy because she can’t find anything. Plus it looks like someone turned on a wind machine in a library.

  43. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    1. Get the chair. I cannot state strongly enough that taking care of your back/joints is something you really need to do because it can save you from a lot of pain later.

    This message brought to you by several years of sitting in seats unsuited for a very tall and obese lady.

    Now as for everyone else at the firm: if they want better chairs then encourage them to go for it. It’s one of those situations where safety trumps corporate budget. It wouldn’t be acceptable for a firm to give everyone knitted hats instead of hard hats because it’s cheaper after all and while a bad chair isn’t generally lethal the damage to a spine can be crippling.

    My chair at work cost nearly £2k because I need a very specialised one due to spinal injury and the firm did at one point suggest that it wasn’t fair on others that I got such an expensive seat. Well, it’s not fair that I have a broken spine.

  44. DrSalty*

    Lw #1, if you are on the leadership team, please advocate for getting better chairs for everyone!! This situation is ridiculous and I can assure you that you are not the only person in pain.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      you are not the only person in pain

      So much this! A lot of people are probably pretty uncomfortable, but nobody is saying anything and probably waiting for someone else to speak up.

  45. Jenz*

    #5. I found out I was pregnant the day after accepting my current job. I waited awhile until nausea affected my work performance, and everyone was so excited. I was super nervous about making it public. So, good things can happen!

  46. Anony-ms*

    OP #5–I was in this exact same position two years ago! I interviewed for and accepted an offer then found out I was pregnant with my first (after a long journey) two days later. I was so nervous about it, but it ended up being totally fine and the new company was lovely and gracious when I told them (which was not until I was 16ish weeks). They even gave me full maternity leave benefits even though I technically hadn’t been there long enough, so know that it’s at least worth asking (despite what the handbook might say.) The trickiest part for me ended up being the physical symptoms of early pregnancy–nausea, exhaustion, etc–but you will figure out your systems and coping mechanisms just as women have been doing since the beginning of time. Solidarity and congratulations!

  47. Sevenrider*

    OP#4 I have worked in the legal field (not a lawyer) for most of my career. Both law firms and in-house legal. While my current office is jeans and sneakers, I usually dress in nice cotton pants, shell and cardigan/sweater or short sleeve blouse in summer, ballet flats or other low heeled type of shoe. Some law firms have crazy rules, i.e., no cropped pants, no toes, no sleeveless, etc. That may not be the case for your meeting but if this is an important connection, why risk it? I would go for casual but on the dressier side. Just my opinion but this is what I have found works for me. Good luck!

  48. Safely Retired*

    Regarding the chair, if you drive and can spare the room in your car you can probably find a folding chair intended for outdoor use that will be more comfortable. Think camping chair. There is tremendous variety, which helps with finding one that is comfortable. Amazon can give you an idea of what is available, but I would shop in person to try them out.

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

      The OP should not have to do this!! Basic office equipment is a work expense and the company needs to pay. They are either on the verge of closing, or they have someone who is too stingy to do anything!

      OP DO NOT BRING YOUR OWN CHAIR!!! Use the accommodation and send an email to all of your employees to ask for accommodations for themselves. Start a poll or something showing how many employees are having issues.

      1. Safely Retired*

        Of course nobody should have to bring their own chair. But lets look at the reality here. One of the alternatives you offer is that they are on the verge of closing. Lets assume that is the case, it is certainly a reasonable one. Is it better that they close over the chair situation?
        Perhaps the operation can find used office chairs. With so much work from home going on everywhere I would expect the used office equipment market to be flooded.

  49. Firecat*

    #3 Once the final sign off steps/deadline have passed, e.g. if you have a sign off phase or a due date for signing off etc., then it’s usually to late to adjust the performance review and it would look weird to try and get it fixed.

    If it makes you feel better most managers aren’t reading old performance reviews.

  50. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 Shameful disregard for their workers by this org.

    Can all those of you who were not keen to return to the office band together and tell your employer that you will continue wfh as before, until they provide proper office chairs?
    Maybe they could obtain used chairs quite cheaply, as no need to be matching, just to be fit for purpose.
    If they genuinely can’t afford to provide supplies for office work, then wfh should continue indefinitely. Otherwise, I’d be job-hunting immediately.

    No employer, including non-profits, should get a pass on penny-pinching that damages employee health or makes them uncomfortable all day.

  51. Cranky-saurus Rex*

    When I was in my late 20s I lived about 90 minutes from where I’d grown up, and had a close high school friend planning to visit for the weekend. She was going to come to town early Saturday afternoon, stay the night, and go home Sunday. Instead, I was awoken Saturday morning by a phone call from her family — she’d passed away unexpectedly from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. I made it through the rest of the weekend, went to work Monday, and was greeted by a work friend asking how my weekend visit with my friend had gone. My response was to burst into tears. That’s when I learned that my company even had bereavement leave for friends (one day, generally intended for the funeral), which I took for the remainder of that day. At the time, I remember commenting that the leave policy allowed a week for grandparents, and while I’d be sad if my grandma died, I’d have been far more emotionally able to work after the death of a 90-yr old than I was that day.

  52. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    #1, definitely take the accommodation, and definitely encourage anyone in your situation (or even anyone whose situation is not as severe, because *plastic folding chairs* as office furniture is suitable for exactly NO ONE) to seek an accommodation. I can guarantee that just about any healthcare provider will write a note for an accommodation for a “real” office chair for just about anyone.

    I mean … even grade schools have chairs that are better than what you are describing!

  53. Fun Aunt*

    For LW#3 – I had the same exact thing happen! My review was actually “needs improvement” based on a complete fabrication. The fabrication was that I had written, let’s say, an instruction manual and this demonstrated that I “had trouble understanding the concepts” in said manual. But – I didn’t write the manual AND said manual was approved by out senior VP, who is an attorney specializing in the subject matter!

    Have others had this happen? Is this a typical corporate America trick?

    In my case, they didn’t change the review or the rating. Thankfully, I no longer work there.

  54. Thatoneoverthere*

    I am curious how companies handle the passing of a spouse/partner, parent or child; beyond the typical bereavement time allotted. There is no way I could return to work after a week after my husband or parent died. I am hoping most places are kind and offer return to work plans for people.

    1. Just Another Fed*

      I’m afraid to say that a week is usually more generous than most companies are. People generally handle it by using their vacation time.

    2. OyHiOh*

      Most of the working age women in my widows group took as much vacation time as they could, and then either sucked it up, or (assuming some life insurance and/or family support) quit working for a period of time.

    3. Anon in Canada*

      Many companies, especially large ones, will accommodate longer unpaid time off in circumstances like that. That’s not all companies though, especially not small ones where extended leave cannot be accommodated for logistical reasons, some people have to quit their jobs.

    4. Lola*

      I’d hope most companies would be understanding as well, but in my experience it’s usually been unpaid leave or the person using vacation and sick time. Bereavement leave is for the logistics, like funerals and other aspects of a loved one’s death.

    5. Some Words*

      I work for a very large company with a very diverse workforce. It was typical for my Hmong co-workers to take an entire month of leave when a relative passed. I assume only the first few days were covered by bereavement. They were most likely taking unpaid time off for the balance, but managers were supportive.

      All that to say, my employer recognizes people have different needs & they accomadate them when possible.

  55. Ali + Nino*

    Vacation and possibly unpaid time off. After a coworker lost a child they were out of the office for at least six weeks.

  56. Trout 'Waver*

    Folding chairs? More like folding company. If you can’t afford reasonable chairs for your employees, how tf can you afford to even open the business?

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

      Exactly. If the furnace goes out how are they going to fix it? I think they are just being cheap or maybe even worse (embezzlement?).

    2. ragazza*

      Also, just wait til those workers’ comp and physical therapy claims start coming in…it’s a short-sighted savings strategy for sure.

  57. Q*

    LW 3: Get the inaccuracy corrected. And if they resist, that tells you a lot about your employer as well.

  58. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

    #1: If the organization can’t afford to equip its office with the bare minimum in decent work furniture, the organization can’t afford to have an office. I don’t think anyone over the age of 25 can sit in a plastic folding chair all day without being in pain at the end of the day.

    1. Lola*

      Totally agree. I have worked in nonprofits for the majority of my career, some operating on the slimmest of margins. We’ve always been given desks and office chairs, even if they’re 20 years old and donated. It’s not that hard/expensive to furnish an office with the basics and I’d highly question a nonprofit who can’t provide this for their employees.

  59. S*

    #4 Paralegal here! So I’ve worked litigation and in house corporate positions. You’re right in assuming you’ll need to dress up for future work places. Some are okay with jeans and blouse, some want full on business.
    For this meeting id suggest dressy casual. So wear some jeans and nice sandals (personally I’d wear flats but that’s my regular work shoe choice) , with a blouse. No spaghetti straps, I wouldn’t even wear any kind of tank blouse, just a plain blouse with short sleeves. Put on conservative but cute jewelry, like a simple necklace. and keep your hair simple, either up or down. You just want to look put together and mature

  60. Koala Tea*

    OP#4: Check out the blog Corporette! It has great professional dress inspiration and discussions. You can’t be too professional, but you can be too casual. Think more Cate Blanchett and less Ariana Grande :) Good luck with your networking and future career!

    1. Seconded!*

      +1 – Corporette got me through being a baby lawyer. Fantastic resource for anyone entering the legal profession in any capacity.

  61. lost academic*

    OP4 – I don’t know where you are geographically but I do know the vast majority of law offices (and by that I mean firms of the type that are going to have multiple offices in various states or be based in major cities, not a local startup/family type place) are pretty specific about the dress codes and it definitely matters there much more than anywhere else. You might not be interviewing to be a Wall Street paralegal but it still matters. Treat this as an interview and dress for it, but also, go get some intel about how people who work there are dressing! Keep an eye out for colors and materials, shoe types, cardigans vs blazers, makeup, hair – the works. This is a chance to set a first impression for someone who’s going to be finding you a fit someplace and having an initial impression that you fit in, however topical it may feel, will matter.

    The makeup thing is complicated. I didn’t realize until I was much older that absolutely no makeup had a very specific read to it and there were many times that it hurt me – but I didn’t grow up using it or having ANY guidance until my late 20s. It might be fine here and it might not. There are countless opinions on how much regular makeup is ‘right’ for various situations and there’s no way to advise you, but try and get more information before the meeting. If you can find some contacts who work as paralegals in the immediate area, that would be the first place to go.

    I second checking out Corporette. It’s been a huge help to me over the years.

    Good luck!

    1. I Have RBF*

      If you don’t regularly wear makeup I would not start now. It requires practice to get a polished but understated look.

  62. Stuff*

    Maybe this is me being very military brained, but I expect that, in a situation where nobody in the workforce is being properly cared for, a leader needs to care for their people before themself. Therefore, Allison’s and many commentors’ advice to take the accomodation comes off as very poor leadership to me. My view is, the letter writer needs to ensure everyone under their charge has a chair that meets OSHA safety standards before accepting such a chair for themself, and the optics of a leader coming in and telling one of their charges to stop using the only suitable chair at work are super bad to me. Yea, it sucks, but that’s part of being a leader, if your people aren’t properly taken care of but you are, that sucks for everyone else.

    I’m in this situation myself. At my job, we only have one chair that isn’t broken and unable to be lifted above its minimum height, and I was a lot bigger than anyone else at work before we got a new hire, so I had to insist on using the one chair that doesn’t hurt my knees. Well, the new hire is my size, always comes in earlier than me, and is always in the chair I need. So I need to screw my knees up every day at work now, and yea, it’s horrible, but so would me pulling rank and ordering her out of the chair be. Yes, we sorely need new chairs, because this is a health and safety hazard and it impacts my own ability to work. That’s very much not going to happen.

  63. Yes And*


    “HR has offered to provide me an adjustable chair as an accommodation but I have been told explicitly they cannot provide for the whole office due to budget.”

    I’m a senior nonprofit finance professional, and this is bovine fecal matter. An organization that can’t afford to furnish an office properly can’t afford to order its employs into said office, full stop.

  64. Mclefty*

    LW#1 – inquire with HR about a worker’s compensation claim for repetitive motion injury related to poor ergonomic set up. I am in HR and used to support WC claims for a temp agency and you wouldn’t believe the horrible set ups clients would use for our workers. Like putting a computer on a cardboard box or putting screens far off to the side of the keyboard to where the worker would wrench their neck doing data entry. WC insurance will take the company to task for not setting up ergonomically appropriate work stations and could threaten to remove coverage if they don’t address it.

  65. Manders*

    OP1 – can we give you some chairs, LOL!? When our new research building was opened, they were very proud of the fact that they had a chair for every single kneehole. Every one. Frankly, most people don’t sit much when at the lab bench, and not every area in the lab is used as personal space where you might sit – it can contain equipment or whatever. So within a month the hallways were crowded with unwanted chairs – tons of them. They now live in a chair graveyard in an unused room under the parking garage, and every time I walk past them I shake my head at how much money the University must have spent on chairs that nobody asked for.

  66. No Tribble At All*

    OP#5 (pregnancy) congrats! One thing to note is sometimes FMLA and/or paid parental leave is contingent on working there a year — how should OP#5 proceed if that’s the case?

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      OP5 said this: “I understand I will likely be ineligible for the full maternity benefits outside of what is protected by my state, since I will have only been there for about seven months when the baby is due.”

      FYI FMLA is not sometimes contingent on anything: it’s a federal law and there are pretty well-defined rules for it. Whatever (paid) parental leave a company gives is another matter.

      1. Ginger Cat Lady*

        Yes, and the federally defined rule is:
        “Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.”
        (Source: US Department Of Labor web site)
        So it definitely matters that she will have worked less than a year. Employers *can* give leave earlier than that, but for FMLA working there a year definitely matters.

  67. Knope Knope Knope*

    OP 5: I got offered my current job on the same day I found out I was (unexpectedly!) pregnant! I actually told them right away. Five years, two kids and three promotions later, it all worked out! Congratulations on the job and the baby!

  68. Not my project*

    For #3. I remember one review, the entire review was on a project, which had gone really bad. So I got dinged all kinds of points because of how bad this project went.

    It wasn’t my project. I had done a review of some work on the project, so I worked perhaps 2 hours on this 5000 hour project. My manager realized his mistake during the review. Well, he realized his mistake of applying the entire review to this one project.

  69. LW #3*

    Hi, LW #3 here and actually already have an update. I submitted the question to AAM on the day I got the review because I was upset but wasn’t sure if I should push back as I didn’t want to seem contrarian, but the more I thoguht about it and discussed it with friends the more I decided I should at least ask. I can’t remember if it was that evening or the next day but I did email my supervisors saying I actually had a question about the review and asked if they could give me some examples of that issue. It turns out that the supervisor who made that comment was actually trying to make a comment on how not knowing industry terminology was NOT an issue with me, but worded it oddly and used such a strangely specific example that I misunderstood. I’m glad I followed up but was still a little disappointed in the overall review, so reading everyone’s feedback on “meets expectations” being pretty standard was helpful so thanks for all the feedback!

  70. Hel M.*

    Bereavement leave update – I had to use regular PTO, as no friends are not included in the company policy, but whatever. Everyone I asked to cover something did and expressed sympathy, and there were no problems. My acting manager was a bit awkward about the situation during our scheduled weekly one on one, but whatever.
    And yeah, in retrospect obviously ‘just like an unexpected illness’ makes perfect sense, but I was very much not thinking clearly at the time! Thanks for all the kind comments.

    1. Observer*

      I’m glad things went as well as they could have.

      And it’s no surprise that you were not thinking so clearly – the shock and initial processing is very rough in a way that’s not really about grief per se. And when you add in the grief. . .

  71. Melissa*

    Ummmm, LW 9: Get off of whatever subReddits you are on. Lips are pink and red. So is lipstick. I don’t have any problem with non-natural colors (my hair is blue) but let’s be realistic about what is “natural-looking” (and has nothing to do with genitalia) and what isn’t.

  72. SB*

    LW2 – Where I live compassionate or bereavement leave is only able to be taken for the death of a direct/close relative – parent, child, sibling or spouse (possibly grandparent too but I can’t find anything to confirm this). Not for aunts, uncles, cousins or friends. It sucks because most people I know like their friends more than they like their siblings but a line had to be drawn somewhere & that is where it was drawn.

    It is also not very long. I am a widow & when my SO died I was given three days paid bereavement leave & the rest had to be taken as sick leave (my manager approved the sick leave based on the fact that I was in no mental condition to work & therefore it qualified, however if I had a poopy manager they would have been well within their rights to force me to take Annual leave or LWOP).

    * Just FYI for those not in Australia…The difference between SL & AL is that AL rolls over year to year & is paid out if I leave while SL is use it or lose it within each calendar year & is not paid out if I leave.

  73. Erin*

    #30: no, you’re not posting your cat on the Chat du Chat channel. However, I agree that adding various disguises and costumes is in order!

  74. Database Developer Dude*

    I worked for a company where they provided bereavement leave for parents, but not for parents-in-law. When I asked why, since an employee would be expected to support their spouse, the answer came back that people could have multiple parents-in-law as excuses.

    Are people really doing this? That seems dumb. Luckily, that company was bought out and many of the managers left. I mean, how many employees are Elizabeth Taylor?

    And some people have relationships with their inlaws such that they willingly call them Mom and Dad, and are grief-stricken when something happens to them. This sounds like an “Oh well, get back to work” response.

  75. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    LW3, you could even say something like “I know I should have brought this up in the moment but I was so confused by it… so I wanted to reflect on it and consider if there was a reason I’d given this impression, or a mistake I’d overlooked. Having considered it carefully I can’t think where this came from so…” (back to Alison’s script).

Comments are closed.