we’re getting no direction while our manager is sick, companies that escort fired employees out, and more

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

1. We’re getting no direction while our manager is sick

For the past year, my boss has been dealing with a very serious health issue that has prevented them from coming into the office. That wasn’t too bad, since they were available online and by phone and generally things were handled in a timely manner. However, their treatment became less effective and, as that has happened, they’ve become more unwell. They’re now part of a clinical study that may cure them, which is great! But along with that has come less contact, fewer timely answers, and a lot less direction.

You would think that as this happened, their boss and they would have put together a plan for me and my coworkers to get answers when we need them and let us know what kind of timeline we’re looking at for things, but that hasn’t happened. Nobody has checked in to see how we’re getting on, and we are feeling more and more unsupported.

We all have enormous compassion for our boss, and there’s a lot of fear about them feeling betrayed if we bring it up with anyone, but we are at a loss. The fear is causing paralysis and none of us know who we would talk to anyway. Our grandboss knows about the illness, but it feels like as long as our boss is getting their work in to him, he doesn’t see a problem. None of us trust him to really care that much about how we’re doing anyway. Add in the fact that work seems to be what our boss is clinging to right now in a world where they are facing a deadly illness and if the clinical trial doesn’t work, there are no other options. We are worried, frustrated, and unclear on what we should be doing.

Should we: (1) talk directly to our boss, even though that feels like putting even more on their plate, (2) talk to the grandboss, even if we don’t trust it will help much, or (3) talk to HR to see if we can get some internal direction? Every one of those things feels like a betrayal in a way and there’s no consensus (there are four of us) on what to do.

It’s not a betrayal to raise work issues that need a solution. But if your boss is still in some amount of contact with your team and not on medical leave, it makes sense to start with them. Frame it as, “We know you have a lot going on right now. We need a way to get answers and approvals to keep work moving forward without being a burden on you. Is that a conversation we should have with you, or would you rather we talk to Jane or someone else to figure out solutions so that it’s not one more thing on your plate right now?” If they say they’d like to handle it, then you should take them at their word — and lay out what problems you’re seeing that need to be solved. In doing that, it’s important that you be honest; don’t sugarcoat your concerns, or they may miss what the extent of the problem. That’s not a betrayal — the only thing here that a good boss could possibly see as a betrayal is if you just let things fall apart rather than speaking up.

On the other hand, if your boss is on leave or is absent to the point that there’s no practical way to have this conversation — or if you try it and it doesn’t work — then ask HR for guidance. They may tell you that your grandboss is the right next step, or they might have other suggestions. But at that point, you do need to loop in someone who’s not your boss. (Normally I’d say choose the grandboss before HR, but given your skepticism that she’ll help, this may make more sense.)

2. Companies that walk fired employees out

Today at my place of employment, a member of HR and a staff member who was being let go walked into our workspace with a box. The HR person had the staff member box up her personal effects while they stood there. The employee was upset and crying, while the rest of the staff in the area were dumbfounded and shocked!

I have worked for this agency for 20+ years and have never seen this before. There would usually be a time scheduled for the staff member to come to the office to collect her personal effects, receive their last check, and do any other HR paperwork that needed to be completed. But, not in front of the rest of the staff! I personally don’t feel that this is okay. Isn’t this unprofessional?

It’s not an uncommon way to see it done; it’s even recommended as a best practice in some fields and in some circumstances. Employers aren’t always able to wait for the end of the day or a time when no one else will be around, and some people prefer to gather up their things themselves immediately. Ideally you wouldn’t have an HR person hovering like the person can’t be trusted to leave without causing a scene (and really, the presence of the HR person causes its own sort of scene), but some companies, and some security experts, believe it’s safer for liability reasons (and sometimes it actually is, although I’d argue it’s a bad practice to apply it as a general rule; there’s no reason to embarrass people if you can avoid it, and to the contrary you should try to protect their dignity).

If this isn’t your company’s normal way of handling firings, it’s possible there were specific security concerns you didn’t know about, or that the employee asked to get her things on the spot rather than returning later.

3. My interviewer didn’t ask me any questions at all

I recently had a job interview over Zoom that was scheduled for 30 minutes. The interviewer didn’t even look at my resume, like not even a glance, until the interview and so I had to explain what was on there. That didn’t take that long since I’m only four years into my career. She then asked me if I had any questions for her, and I had a few prepared, but I unfortunately told her I could ask them at the end because she wanted to go over the job descriptions. She then spent the rest of the time and then some going over EVERY. SINGLE. BULLET of the two job descriptions that I was interviewing for (one is senior and one is junior).

After she had gone over the junior role in detail, I cut in and told her that I was very familiar with the senior role job description since that was the one I was interested in, and I even told her I had it in front of me so we didn’t have to go into too much detail. She forged ahead and still read every single bullet point of that one. By that time, the 30 minutes was up but she still continued on to describe in detail where the office was and what was on each floor of the 12-story office.

At that point, it had been 45 minutes and I really didn’t have any more time on my end, and she asked what my questions were. I told her I wanted to be respectful of her time and so I would save them for the next interview since we were over on time. She stated that it was fine and I could ask the questions, but since I had only scheduled for 30 minutes, I really didn’t have time to continue to ask my questions and chose to end the interview.

She probably doesn’t have any kind of impression of me because I really wasn’t able to talk about myself at all besides going over my job history. I recognize that this wasn’t totally my fault, but is there anything I could have done differently? I kind of doubt I’ll be getting a call back since she still doesn’t really know anything about me. I guess I should have just asked my questions in the middle when she asked but I was used to either asking them at the end once they’re done with their questions, or sometimes asking just in the middle of the interview when relevant (more like a conversation).

Eh, you didn’t have much opportunity to do anything differently. Sure, in retrospect, ideally you would asked your own questions when she first offered, but it’s not weird to say you’ll hold them for the end since some might be answered as you talk. And you couldn’t have known that she was then going to spend the bulk of your time together reading the job descriptions out loud and describing each floor of their 12-story building (?!).

It’s not terribly unusual for interviewers not to have spent time with your resume before your interview, or not to remember it in detail even if they had. So if there’s anything to improve here, it’s to not be thrown by that if it happens again. But this sounds like an interviewer who had nothing planned for the time and didn’t know how to actually conduct an interview. Sometimes in a case like that, you can redirect the conversation to what they’re looking for and what you can offer … but in this case she made it hard, and maybe impossible, to do that.

4. Assuring coworkers I’m not contagious

I have endometriosis and raging PMS symptoms, one of which is basically a 2-3-day hay fever attack (think constant sneezing, runny nose, cough). Every month. Along with everything else. It’s about as fun as it sounds. Apparently antihistamines can help, but they’re not medically an option for me.

My current role is WFH with optional in-office days so it’s not really an issue at the moment, but I’m hoping to transition into a full-time office role soon. I can’t feasibly call out every time I have the PMS sneezes as that would destroy my sick leave allowance within six months.

How do I approach this in a post-Covid world where everyone is super-conscious of transmitting infections? I know coming in sick can cause a lot of resentment and I don’t want to get a reputation of being the office Typhoid Mary, especially if I’m not actually contagious!

Would it be completely unprofessional to let people know I’m not infectious, it’s just PMS? I don’t want to announce my medical conditions to a new office. At the same time, I feel like being cagey would just make it more suspicious and it’ll become apparent pretty quick that it’s not just seasonal allergies.

“It’s just PMS” is likely to confuse people since we don’t generally associate sneezing with PMS — and you’re likely to get coworkers worrying you’re flat-out wrong about what you have, speculating, or asking questions that you really shouldn’t need to get into at work. Would you be comfortable saying it’s allergies, just as a catch-all category for “I’m not going to infect you”? You could say, “It’s so reliably clockwork that I’m confident it’s allergies.” It’s not exactly correct, but it conveys the info that’s necessary for them — which is the sneezing is a predictable symptom of something that’s not contagious. If it’s too weird to cite allergies when you don’t actually have them, you could say, “I have a chronic condition that makes me sneeze like clockwork every month.”

5. My coworker and I talk a lot about our career goals — and now I’m about to become their manager

About six months ago, I joined a new team and hit it off with a colleague. We’re both very interested in our career growth and started meeting every other week to share progress on our goals. Let’s say we are watch makers—I might report on how I’ve been reading about the history of clocks, and they may share how they’ve been tracking new trends in watch bands.

I have recently learned that I’m going to be managing a small team that will include this colleague. I have never managed before, and I’m wondering if it would be appropriate to continue this meeting. Would it seem like favoritism unless I extended the meeting to all my direct reports? Maybe not all of them are interested in this sort of thing, and I don’t want to make it seem like a requirement. And if I don’t exhibit good progress in my goals, would I be setting a bad example for my team? Would my team feel similarly pressured to perform? There might be other potential pitfalls I’m not thinking of.

Ideally, I want to encourage a spirit of constantly learning and lead by example without making my team feel burdened by tasks they don’t want to do. Nor do I want them to feel like they have to be perfect. I also don’t want to make my colleague feel like once I became a manager, I became too important for us to mutually share how we’ve been doing. What do you think would be the right way to balance all of these?

You should end the meetings with your colleague. Otherwise you’ll be having what will seem like special mentorship/career growth meetings with one member of your team and not the others, and that will definitely seem like favoritism and unfair access.

It might be a practice that you could continue with everyone, either individually or with the group as a whole — but wait and get a better feel for the dynamics of the team first, as well as your strengths and challenges as a manager (the first year of managing tends to be hard and you might have other places you need to put your focus/energy).

Your colleague isn’t going to think that you feel you’re too important to continue meeting if you explicitly say, “Now that our roles are changing, I don’t want others on the team to feel left out of this, although maybe it’s something the whole group can do down the road.” You might also encourage them to continue the practice with someone else if they want to.

{ 330 comments… read them below }

  1. Zee*

    LW4 – “I have hay fever; it recurs every few weeks but it’s not contagious at all” sounds reasonable to me.

    1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      Yes! Or ‘an immune condition that isn’t contagious’, which has the benefit of being fully accurate (these symptoms imply immune involvement, even if the cause is non-immune).

    2. birch*

      Yeah I would go with the “every few weeks” phrasing and specifically avoid the wording “every month,” which chimes menstrual bells with most people. That’s just not necessary and leads to all the questions and confusion Alison already cited.

    3. Anonys*

      Yes saying either hayfever or allergies is the way to go (hayfever by defintions implies an allergy).

      Also,by saying that LW is not actually lying/ citing allergies when she doesnt actually have them. The way I am interpreting this is she does have (non seasonsal) allergies (otherwise it wouldnt be hayfever) but they only cause an acute reaction during certain times of her cycle. There is a lot of evidence that period hormones and PMS intensify allergic reactions/histamine levels.

      Since in-office days are optional for the LW and the hayfever only lasts a couple of days i would still advise to mostly stay home if the sneezing is severe and if possible. Constant sneezing can be distracting if its an open office and sneezing still spreads germs around. Everyone has a certain level of viruses and bacteria in their system even if not acutely sick.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I (a middle-aged period haver) had NO idea that period hormones could intensify allergic reactions and histamine levels, but that really explains a lot.

        1. SchuylerSeestra*

          I don’t know how common it is, but I also get hay fever around my period. It was one of those symptoms that started as I got older(along with migraines and brain fog).

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              I have exercise-induced asthma and allergic rhinitis. It totally makes sense that allergies flare up when running. I used to cough uncontrollably for hours (hours!) after running or biking, until I finally got inhalers that helped control it. I’m also allergic to latex and have recently learned that latex allergies can be triggered not only by contact (rubber gloves, etc.) but also the latex particles that can be in the air from car tires that wear down. So, yeah, allergens everywhere….no wonder I cough so much!

            2. Allison Wonderland*

              Oh my gosh! I get itchy when I run. I always suspected it was some kind of histamine thing but could never find any info on it. So if running really does increase histamine levels, this makes a lot of sense!

        2. Jessica*

          It isn’t always, but it *can* be a symptom of endometriosis–and it’s both one that most patients don’t think to ask about, and many doctors don’t know about–so if you get it, I’d definitely bring it up with your doctor.

        3. Allura Vysoren*

          I also feel like I’m having an epiphany. I wonder if starting birth control over the winter has anything to do with why my allergy symptoms have escalated…

    4. Iselle*

      Or non allergic rhinitis. I actually have this—various irritants and scents make me sneeze repeatedly. She could say “it flares up once in a while.”

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I have non allergic rhinitis, and I still call it allergies sometimes when I don’t want to explain the whole thing to somebody I don’t know very well. It acts like allergies and it’s not contagious, which is the main thing people around you want to know.

        Also, I wear a mask in the office when I’m having a flare up. I know I’m not contagious, but it make the people who sit near me in the office feel a little more secure spending time around me, so it seems like a fair trade off.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yes, I do this when I’m out and about and I’m having an asthma flare-up and coughing a lot. I just want others to feel safe. If I were in an office and therefore around the same people regularly I would definitely tell them it’s allergies; no shame in that.

        2. hayling*

          I also have non-allergic rhinitis! I suspect it’s more common than it’s actually diagnosed, because you can’t test for it, it’s more a diagnosis of exclusion. (It took 3 allergists to figure it out for me!). I also usually say “allergies” because nobody wants to hear the details lol.

      2. Reluctant Mezzo*

        I have allergies to some artificial scents too (though not natural ones, go figure).

    5. A person*

      I would also say that “it’s allergies” is likely accurate in some sense. I get hives once a month as a PMS symptom because my body hates itself and it’s own hormones. This is probably similar. And yeah… it’s basically allergies. It’s just that the allergy is to yourself.

    6. Analyst*

      yeah….as someone who is immunocompromised, I hear this a lot- and people are turn out wrong about it, a lot. It honestly drives me crazy. You THINK you just have whatever your usual thing is until you don’t and then you get me sick (and I get much sicker than you). So don’t expect a statement like this to be useful, I’m still not going near you when you’re sniffling or whatever, I just can’t risk you being wrong.

      1. CanadianPublicServant*

        Agrees with Analyst – this doesn’t actually reassure a lot of us who are rightly worried about people lying/downplaying isssues or just being flat out incorrect with no malice.

        I would encourage OP4 to wear a well fitted, quality mask (N95 or better) for those days where they are sneezing, etc. once they need to be in office.

        1. T.N.H.*

          I just don’t think that’s reasonable. She isn’t contagious! It’s not her job to be performative for other’s comfort. A quick explanation is all that’s required (like sorry, allergies) and hopefully her colleagues notice after a month that it does recur as expected.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I don’t think wearing a mask when you’re coughing and sneezing is about *knowing* you’ve got something contagious so much as it is about knowing you’re … leaking more. Even if the cause of the sneezing and coughing isn’t a specific contagion, there is just a lot more Stuff coming out of you, at higher speeds, and therefore there’s more chance that whatever biotics are happily living in and on you will hit someone else who might find them less happy.

          2. Anonys*

            I don’t think its just performative. If she has bacteria and viruses in her system (as everyone does at all time to some extent) she could very well be contagious even if the cause of the sneezing is not contagious.

            Like if ive caught some strep throat bacteria but am not (yet) symptomatic and then I sneeze because of my allergies, im still spreading it around further than by just breathing. And someone with a weaker immune system might get sick from an exposure level to bacteria/virus that I can tolerate.

            At the same time, there is just a general risk/expectation that we will all get exposed to some viruses/bacteria by being around other people. It’s not easy to know where to draw the line between trying to reduce risk and also not curtailing people’s life too much. Wearing a mask when suffering hayfever reduces risk but so does wearing a mask around other people at all time regardless of symptoms (as some people have started doing and are still doing due to covid).

            I have quite severe hayfever and tbh I don’t put my whole life on hold or wear a mask all day either when my allergies are acting up (fortunately i can manage with anti histamines though) And i have some other respiratory issues that mean im blowing my nose multiple times day which some people also see as a sign that you are sick.

            Another thing to consider is that if OP doesnt normally wear a mask and it’s not an office norm, her wearing one when suffering from hayfever will probably make people think she is actually sick and wonder why she is coming in at all

          3. RC*

            As someone who has been wearing an N95 or better everywhere indoors for the last 3 years (not just to protect others, but to protect me, including from asymptomatic covid cases)… I think it’s pretty reasonable to me. It’s not performative, it’s both source control and dose control. I second CanadianPublicServant.

          4. Kara*

            I’ll back Analyst on this one. I have asthma. Back in early spring 2020 one fine day at work i noticed that my asthma was flaring up very slightly. (Mine presents as coughing and shortness of breath.) Long story short i found out very shortly after that it was -not- asthma and that I had a mild case of covid. I never did find out what happened to the guy I’d been working alongside, and that haunts me to this day.

        2. I Licked Your Salt Lamp*

          Yeah except sneezing while wearing a mask is pretty darn unpleasant and I would opt to stay home rather than be sneezing/have a runny nose in a mask all day. If its possible I think staying home those days is best, especially since she still could be spreading something else around

          1. Observer*

            Given that the OP gets this *every month* and it’s *several days* a month, this is wildly unrealistic in most full time in office jobs.

      2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        That’s completely understandable and reasonable for someone who is immunocompromised. I think the LW is thinking more about the non-immunocompromised folks who are probably the majority of the office.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          The thing is, you don’t actually know which of your coworkers are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed. My mom is immunosuppressed and you’d never know just by spending time around her unless she decided to tell you.

          You’re right that there are likely more people in the office with standard immune systems than there are immunocompromised people, but because immunocompromised people look the same as everybody else, you have to assume that some of the people around you have a weaker immune system and act in ways that won’t endanger them or make them feel unsafe.

          1. Happy meal with extra happy*

            Well, OP isn’t endangering anyone, so how do you suggest she act in a way that doesn’t “make them feel unsafe”, especially without having to reveal personal details of her own condition.

            1. Jackalope*

              Especially since there are several people in this thread saying specifically that being told, “It’s okay, it’s just my regular allergies,” is NOT enough to make them feel safe?

              I’m not entirely sure what the best answer would be, depending on the symptoms the OP is having. Wearing a mask as well seems like the best option, for obvious reasons. But on the other hand, as someone who has had sneezing fits in a mask, it gets super gross super fast in the mask, and if you’re sneezing all day for a couple of days it’s going to be hard to keep up with that.

            2. Totally Minnie*

              Okay, one, this is a really aggressive comment. For years now I’ve seen people claim it’s just their allergies or a cold and then find out it was COVID a day or two later, so people are not unjustified in being worried about that happening and feeling potentially unsafe about it.

              And two, masks are a thing that exists. I said elsewhere in these comments that I wear a mask when my rhinitis is acting up. I feel reasonably certain that I’m not contagious on those days, but I can’t know for certain and it makes my coworkers feel better if my respiratory droplets are somewhat contained on days when I’m coughing or sneezing more than usual.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                “respiratory droplets are somewhat contained on days when I’m coughing or sneezing more than usual” seems like a very reasonable standard

                1. RC*

                  Another thought: if it is allergies being exacerbated by hormones PMS etc etc, I wonder if a well-fitting N95 would actually help mitigate those symptoms? (By design it will both block outgoing aerosols/droplets, and protect the wearer from breathing in so much pollen/dander/whatever might be causing the allergy-like reaction at that time of month).

                  Just a thought; not that kind of doctor, but might be worth a try!

              2. Irish Teacher*

                Yeah, your second paragraph is where I land too. Uusually, when my sinuses start acting up, I take my temperature and if it’s normal and I don’t have any symptoms that aren’t usual for me, I wear a mask. If there are any additional symptoms or I have a temperature, I take a covid test.

                I feel reasonably certain it is just my usual sinus problems but they are similar enough to covid, the flu, etc, that it’s not possible to be 100% certain and wearing a mask and being extra aware of any other symptoms is a pretty minor accomodation to avoid potentially putting others at risk.

                1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  Not on purpose! But sometimes a sneeze hits you too fast to react and grab a tissue, and I’m not going to specifically lift my mask so that I sneeze into the air – that defeats the purpose. It’s very gross and not ideal, but not always avoidable.

                2. Gyne*

                  I hope so, removing the mask to cough, sneeze, or blow your nose defeats the purpose of masking.

                3. J*

                  What do you propose as an alternative? Removing masks right when they’re the most valuable? I bring a lot of extra masks with me in life in case of things that might moisten and compromise my mask. I step outside and change them out as needed. It’s certainly an added expense but as a high risk person, it’s still cheaper than my ER co-pay if I get sick from someone who thinks taking off a mask to sneeze is a good idea.

                4. Kara*

                  Wait, there are people who aren’t?! One of the main points of masking is containing droplets from coughs and sneezes!

              3. MrPotPuffer*

                I see your point but at the same time, at least in the US, masks are still not popular among a large number of people. In my area, they never caught on even for the people who wore them all the time during the height of the pandemic. And a few years ago, suggesting that someone wear a mask would get you odd looks for sure- I’m thinking its kind of back to pre-covid around here and people wearing masks when sick/sneezy is just not going to happen.

                Maybe I’m wrong about this but I know that where I live, if I wore a mask I would get stares, comments, etc and it makes it actually feel worse to wear them even if I needed to

              4. I Have RBF*

                For years now I’ve seen people claim it’s just their allergies or a cold and then find out it was COVID a day or two later, so people are not unjustified in being worried about that happening and feeling potentially unsafe about it.


                When I got Covid in April, I thought the time between my exposure and my first positive test was just allergies – running nose, sneezing, and coughing. When it got worse, I tested, and it was Covid. But otherwise I couldn’t tell – I thought the fatigue was a problem with my job. It wasn’t, it was Covid.

                I regularly have allergies – dust and multiple kinds of pollen, so I have a certain amount of runny nose, etc. unless it’s raining. I take antihistamines, but they don’t do much.

                But thinking it’s “just allergies” I know full well can mask the first, contagious days of Covid. My wife got it as well after I did, and even with Paxlovid it hit her hard. One of my roommates is still pissed at me about it because she got it, but fortunately I did not give it to my immune compromised roomie.

                So yes, mask up when your nose is trying out for a marathon, because you never know if it is something more.

            3. Venus*

              The problem is that if OP gets a flu or cold at the same time as the monthly sneezing then they won’t know that they are contagious at the start and will endanger people. I would strongly suggest that OP mask on days when they are sneezing in the office as a way to be kind to others.

            4. AnotherOne*

              yeah, the trick- problem?- here is that one person’s medical condition (endo and pms, and the reasonable desire to keep that discussion private) is hitting against other people’s medical conditions (being immunocompromised.)

              and realistically, there isn’t going to be a perfect solution.

              1. Old and Don’t Care*

                The other problem is that with colds and other things people can be contagious before they have any symptoms. Really, people who need to protect themselves from illness need to protect themselves. There’s just no way around it.

                1. Pippa K*

                  Sure, and one key way they protect themselves is by avoiding proximity to people with contagious illnesses. Thus the question is “how can I be confident that my colleague’s cold/flu/COVID symptoms are actually just non contagious rhinitis from allergies or something?” and there’s no obvious perfect solution. I see why people don’t want to disclose medical details, and I see why people don’t want to mask, and I see why people are leery of trusting other people’s “just allergies” assurances. And we’re all so tired of all of it, but this issue is here to stay, so we have to work out compromises.

                2. Jackalope*

                  Part of my problem with this issue is that I have chronic allergies; they’re ongoing for all but a couple of the coldest weeks of winter. I don’t sneeze much, but I’m having COVID-like symptoms almost all the time. I’m still masking at work (for other reasons), but assuming that I’m going to stop that some day, I can’t test every time I have allergy symptoms (it’s too expensive, if nothing else), and can’t act 100% of the time with the caution I’d hope from a possibly sick person. So basically I just have decided to take normal precautions, with the understanding that I could have it, and that that’s always the case (I could be asymptomatic, or pre-symptomatic but still contagious, and not know), but I can’t realistically always be on high alert.

          2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            Yes I am not immunocompromised but every single time you bring germs to the office I get sick for a long time and everyone is mad at me.

    7. Mockingjay*

      This. Truly, what the majority of people want to know is only whether it’s contagious, to protect themselves. “Allergies” is a lovely catch-all for many conditions; people understand without needing details.

    8. Jessica*

      Heh, yeah, I too get a fake cold a few days before I get my period (sneezing, congestion, losing my voice) and I’ve always just told people it’s allergies. That’s an answer that seems to satisfy everyone, and other than the occasional offer of a Benadryl and expression of sympathy, no one says any more about it.

    9. Kimberly*

      I have atopic and contact dermatitis. I’ve had people tell me I have ringworm and or Necrotizing Fasciitis. Since I was a baby, my parents were flat-out honest about what was going on. There is nothing to be ashamed of with having a medical condition. Since I was a teacher and worked with kid, I had my doctor write a letter explaining the condition in lay terms. I gave that to my principal with permission for him to give it to any concerned parents or staff members. It included information about how the condition is treated and that bandaging it is NOT an option and antibiotics are not needed (allergic reaction not an infection)

      I know most people aren’t comfortable with that amount of frankness – but may a less detailed letter from your doctor explaining what is going on and that you are not contagious. Also in my experience telling people before symptoms appear is usually the best option.

    10. tangerineRose*

      I think I would go with “I’ve checked with my doctor, and I’m not contagious, but this sneezing flares up every so often.”

  2. AcademiaNut*

    For #2 – if the company is normally reasonable and treats people decently, I’d assume that there’s some reason behind this specific that can’t be shared publicly.

    Usually, the perp walk is recommended for employees who have access to critical systems – most employees aren’t going to sabotage their employer after being unexpectedly fired, but for some jobs they could really damage things (reformatting the computer system and deleting the backups, for example).

    The other cases I could see are when someone is fired who is known to be a loose canon, so you want them escorted off the property as soon as possible, or if the person is being fired for unethical behaviour. If someone is being fired for theft, or fraud, or leaking secrets to competitors, or threatening or harassing people, then you already have evidence that they can’t be trusted to behave honestly, and want to keep an eye on them as they leave.

    1. Inkognyto*

      I’ve done Information Security Administraiton. Aka the network and computer/application access portion for over 2 decades, across multiple mid to large companies.

      It’s done both ways within the same companies. It is as the person said above said.
      It was not uncommon to be told “We’re going to get called at this time by HR and we need to disable this account. Most often this was near end of day, but not always. What it usually is HR called us, asked us to disable the account, and they would be then having the ‘talk’ with the person. This doesn’t give the person time to do anything. They would tell us if they wanted access to the mailbox etc. It was a rule that manager’s never got access to employee’s email unless HR approved it, they would look it over and decide yes/no.

      Other times HR would call and say “We need ‘accounts’ disabled.” we would do it.

      This is about protecting the company and sometimes sending a message. I never asked why. It wasn’t professional and none of us were going to start rumors. I had other co-workers who wanted to know and I’d advise them not to push it. One person tried, and then got a ‘talk’ about confidentiality and if they would like to keep their job part of it is just keeping your mouth shut and not spreading rumors.

      Later you might find out the person that nice kind person raiding the supply close for extra office supplies and carrying them out of the office in a backpack for over a year. Extra colored paper etc. You heard they cried on the way out, but that’s shock and loss of losing a job immediately. I’ve heard and seen many things, and it’s too long to type, but there’s a time I spent 6 months in the early 2004 checking internet activity (that was all logged) for a company that new they had bad blocking filters. People are stupid, even when tracked on company time. At least one of the investigations was working at the Federal level.

      The rule is, don’t do anything you don’t want on the 6pm News. Doubly so on any company resources.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      This has been my experience. We do not typically walk people out. If we do, there is a reason for it, which I obviously cannot share with anyone.

      We have had people pack up company property in their boxes – at least a few people have tried to take the company-provided laptop or other expensive technology with them when they left, and one got caught trying to steal a file of confidential client documents for a high-profile matter. Most people just want to get their stuff and go, though.

    3. aa*

      My firm did the perp walk on one occasion. We’re in our own building and don’t have much in the way of security, so it was kind of alarming one day to walk in and see a man in a suit pop out of a larger closet and watched as I walked in, then slowly retreat to said closet to watch some security monitors that were set up. The official message was that he was from a security firm doing a security audit, but it happened to line up on a day when one employee was being told he was no longer going to work here anymore. There were lots of rumors circulating as to why – most involving a sudden fascination with weapons and going to the shooting range (we’re not in an area where carrying is the norm). He was the type of person who would get sudden fascinations with all sorts of hobbies, but I know he made several people uncomfortable (including myself). His office was near mine, so I saw a few of our top people and Mr. Security Auditor watch him as he packed up his personal items. Mr. Security Auditor was never seen again after that, though a few security changes were actually made after that.

      I will say, there are definitely roles where “perp walked” out is kind of the norm. My dad has been escorted out, usually late on a Friday after being told his services are no longer needed. But he’s a contractor who works primarily in financial institutions and has access to a lot of personal financial records of clients of major banks. If he was a malicious or bad person and was told that his last day was a few days from now, presumably he *could* go in and make a real big mess for the bank and/or their clients.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Yup, being walked out immediately is pretty common in a lot of finance/accounting positions, or being let off immediately once you put in your two weeks. There’s a LOT of sensitive info you have access to.

        1. Jay*

          I work in finance and I had a coworker who was fired earlier this year. Basically everyone in the immediate area around her desk was called into the conference room for a “meeting” while she packed up her things and was escorted out. I think that was the most discrete way it could have been handled.

    4. Yip*

      The (former) director of my dept was walked out mid-day by HR and security, which left a lot of staffers aghast, because it was not at all how things usually went. Turns out she’d been embezzling money for years!

      1. Jojo*

        One of the two times I’ve seen people perp walked out was for financial crimes they had committed.

        The other time was when two guys got into a physical fight with one another. They were each escorted off the site, individually, by security. And we were all very appreciative of that.

        During Covid, we had a real wackadoo resign, and the manager had another (very large) manager with him in case things didn’t go well. The wackadoo was pretty paranoid and spoke often of his “sidearms”. I am very relieved he’s gone because he just had so many red flags. If he hadn’t resigned on his own, he was defiantly someone that should be walked out by security.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        At my very first job, we had a long-time embezzler walked out in a similar manner (and then arrested outside the office because it was A LOT of money). We also had a federal agency takedown of someone who was apparently having distribution-level amounts of narcotics shipped to them at the office.

        This was highly unusual for a fairly staid law firm that was still requiring full business dress code. Long-time employees were really confused and kept swearing to we newer folks that this was not representative of what their office was like. Excitement for them was having to take a different route to work when DC was having a big protest event.

    5. Lucy P*

      Almost every person who leaves the company that I work for gets this treatment. The company strongly values their IP and their academic resources. It’s a print happy company so all the IP is on paper. Thus when someone leaves they have to be watched to make sure they’re not boxing up confidential documents along with their personal items, or that they’re not stealing some reference manual.

      It still feels off when it happens even if you know the reason behind. it.

    6. Olive*

      My last company had an employee who was going to work for a direct competitor, and he was told the day he gave notice would be his last day instead of the normal two weeks. I think it caught him a bit off guard (he was young, this was his first job), but it was matter of fact, albeit a bit awkward.

      If the crying and HR escort were truly a once in 20+ years occurrence, I’d assume that something negative and out of the ordinary had happened – being fired for serious cause or a display of unsafe, erratic behavior.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        That was often the standard procedure at my old company, which never made sense to me because obviously the person had been interviewing and whatever, so if they were going to pass on proprietary secrets they would have done so before giving their notice.

    7. learnedthehardway*

      I wouldn’t make any assumptions about how the person left – ie. escorted out vs other things.

      When I was let go from a major company, it was policy that I had to be escorted out, just the same way the OP’s colleague was. The reason – well, my manager told the internal client group I supported that I had quit without notice, but the reality was that she had let me go (I am told) because she wanted to build her own team. Which she proceeded to do over the next several months.

      Still salty about that, but turns out to have been great for me, in the end.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, but the OP says that this is the first time this has happened. So it’s clearly not policy.

        And, I wonder if it was actually policy in your case, or just your manager using “policy” as a cover for bad behavior.

    8. Apt Nickname*

      When I was a kid in the ’90s, our dial-up internet was through my dad’s workplace. One weekend the dial-up wouldn’t connect at all, and we later found out it had been disabled. The IT head had been fired and they cut all internet access until they could go in and change his access to their systems.

      1. Expelliarmus*

        I thought this was gonna end with your dad being fired and that’s why the dial-up was disabled! Glad to hear that wasn’t the case.

    9. Ama*

      Yeah, I was witness to a similar scene involving an old boss –HR and his boss and a security staff person came in, had a quick private meeting with him and then while security stood there and watched him pack his things HR and the boss took me into a conference room to tell me he was being fired immediately. Turned out he had been embezzling for years and an audit had just turned up the evidence.

    10. Pyanfar*

      I worked at a company where it was required as policy to have someone escort them to their desk and then to the front door. To try to make it as reasonable as possible, I usually had the department admin go with them and just be as casual as possible and let the departing employee decide whether to say they were leaving early that day or say goodbye. Not ideal, but best we could do with the limitations.

    11. Hannah Lee*

      A company I worked with always did the perp walk if someone was fired or laid off. Even if it was a big RIF (reduction in force) with dozens or hundreds of people gone in the same day or over a couple of days. I was cut in one of their last ones, in a 10% reduction in force event … they called me into a conference room, told me the news and went over paperwork, had me go back to my office to collect my things, then as I was being walked out the main corridor, I realized I’d left my purse behind … and had to trudge all the way back and all the way out again. It was … not ideal… though both I and my boss were laughing about the awkwardness on my 2nd walk to the door.

      I was zero security risk, in terms of my access, but also my temperament and my ethics. But it was just their policy, and one of the many ways they were not the most humane company to work for.

    12. Melody Powers*

      They did this to me at the one job that fired me, hovering over me while I collected my things and all (I’m pretty sure I left something fairly expensive behind because I wasn’t thinking very clearly and didn’t want to prolong it by going across the building anyway), but none of the common reasons in this thread applied to me. I can only hope it was standard procedure for everyone and I didn’t know because I hadn’t seen anyone else fired there. It was humiliating.

    13. JustaTech*

      We had a CEO who got the perp walk – he was an arrogant guy who wasn’t meeting his goals and was super rude to the board and they finally had enough and canned him.
      Since the CEO (usually) has access to a *lot* of critical system then it makes sense to escort him out if it’s a “you’re fired” situation (rather than a “please resign” kind of thing). He also had a very aggressive personality and frankly, some anger issues, so that probably contributed to the decision to escort him out.

    14. NotSigningThisOne*

      The flip side, of course, are places that aren’t reasonable, and don’t treat people well. One of the most traumatic work experiences I’ve had was to see my former boss (who was 5’1”, and maybe 100 pounds soaking wet) perp walked out of the building by seven armed police officers, after an incredibly emotional and messy town council meeting. (Local government can get kinda wild, y’all.) It was horrifying (and in retrospect, ironic; she hadn’t done anything illegal, but her replacement, installed by the same town council to “clean up her mess,” got caught embezzling and did time in prison).

      Usually, though, when your workplace is *that* level of toxic, there are definite warning signs, and it’s far from the only thing that bugs you about the place.

    15. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My old job did this to everyone. There were several waves of layoffs and everyone who got laid off got the box and perp walk treatment. I witnessed one myself, as the laid-off person’s desk was across from mine. The HR rep whose job was to stand and watch the employee gather their things in a box, had a nickname in the office; The Angel of Death. Nobody stopped to think how this made poor Angel feel. After she eventually left the company, her next several jobs (according to LinkedIn) weren’t even in HR. I just checked and she’s back to HR work, but in a director role and hopefully not in charge of escorting people out anymore.

    16. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I’ve definitely seen a few perp walks throughout my career, which is not typical for firing. But I’ve always assumed there was just cause for it. I do know of 2 situations where the employee was escorted out for good reason. The 1st, the person had been with the company over 20 years. They were very good at their job, but tended to be in HR a lot because of personnel issues with other employees, usually because how they treated people. They finally crossed the line and there was concern of what they’d do or say on their way out of the building, so definite need to be escorted. The 2nd incident, the employee was fired for a multitude of things, including clocking in and then leaving the building for 2 hours in the morning before regular staff arrived, as an hourly-pay employee. When HR and their manager fired the employee, they made some threats and so they were escorted to their desk to collect personal belongings and then out of the building. While being escorted, they did a whole show of crying and wailing that they didn’t understand why they were being fired and later convinced a bunch of employees during an already scheduled after work drinks gathering that the new manager hated women and targeted this employee, which was false. But yeah, cleaning up that mess sucked as there were a few rumors going around at first thanks to the former employee.

      I wonder if in OP#2’s situation, the employee got caught doing something and their crying was more about upset they got caught, not because of being escorted to their desk and out of the building. If this has never happened at the company, then I’d say there’s likely a warranted reason.

  3. D*

    LW 4, you could also make a point to wear a mask when you’re down with the sneezes. It’s good practice anyway since COVID is around, but it will probably help the anxious coworkers feel safer about catching anything from you.

    1. Chirpy*

      I was just going to say the same thing. If the “hay fever” explanation doesn’t work, wearing a mask might help people feel more comfortable.

    2. nekosan*

      Yup. I third this. Having to change to a new mask when it gets snotted up is worth the bother, IMHO; masks are cheap and plentiful these days. (Yah, I try to blow my nose before then, but sometimes the output is faster and more plentiful than expected. Darned allergies.)

    3. Radical Edward*

      Definitely this. As someone with terrible environmental allergies myself, I *want* to believe people when they swear it’s just hay fever – but so many folks in my life have done exactly that, only to share their positive Covid tests a few days later. People will feel loads better if you’re already masked up when explaining that it’s hay fever.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Yes! You don’t have to have a contagious illness for there to be germs and gross stuff in your snot. If you’re sneezing all day, be considerate and contain the spray with a mask instead of just your elbow.

        2. CommanderBanana*

          Yep, I am having the worst year ever for allergies (along with, it seems like, every other person in my city) and they’re lasting longer than they ever had. I’m not contagious, but I’m still a snot ball, and it’s still gross.

      1. desdemona*

        & if OP can afford it, regular covid testing and saying that to coworkers can help, too.
        “I get hay fever once a month, but I still test just in case and am negative” is reassuring to me.
        (In part because when I got covid, I thought it was my fall allergies at first!)

        1. Boof*

          Honestly there are so many contagious URIs out there, repeatedly testing negative for one very specific one means so little I don’t think OP should do that at all at this point – covid messed up a lot of people but these days it doesn’t really carry any especial precautions it’s been so rampant for so long.

          1. A biologist*

            Even though *you* feel like all URIs are roughly equivalent, the science does not back you up on this (virologist here). People are more concerned about Covid specifically for a reason (particularly if they/their loved ones are immunocompromised), and it is still worth testing for it if you care about reassuring your colleagues.

            1. Not Bob*

              Or if they got Post Covid and still struggle with fatigue, and don’t want their condition to worsen :/

            2. Boof*

              I didn’t say they were equivalent- i just said a lot of the isolation etc precautions are going away + there are plenty of other things out there which, frankly, I don’t want to catch either.

              1. desdemona*

                Which is why I suggested testing in addition to the mask, not in lieu of. I also don’t want the flu!

                1. Boof*

                  I’m just not sure what a monthly negative covid test adds; take the same precautions even if a test says covid negative! Alas we don’t have much pan-testing unless someone needs tx

          2. Ellie Rose*

            think of mono or strep: we still aggressively test for it if it’s indicated because it is so contagious and damaging — like covid.

            ‘The flu’ is also no joke, and I wish we treated it more seriously, but knowing you have CoVid is still useful to protect yourself and others.

            antivirals are much more commonly recommended for covid than for the flu, for example, and covid is both more contagious than and more deadly than the flu. There ARE many mild cases these days, thanks to advancements in treatment and prevention, but ‘better’ when compared to 2020 is WAY too low of a bar.

            “The COVID-19 situation continues to change, sometimes rapidly. Doctors and scientists are working to estimate the mortality rate of COVID-19. At present, it is thought to be substantially higher (possibly 10 times or more) than that of most strains of the flu.” – from the Johns Hopkins website (link in reply)

        2. Analyst*

          a negative rapid covid test when you’re symptomatic isn’t enough to say it’s not covid- instructions are literally stated as such. You’d need a PCR test to conform and that’s not feasible. Just wear the mask or work from home…you may think you know it’s just whatever allergy, but you can’t actually be sure and I don’t want to get it when you’re wrong….

    4. Sammie*

      Agreed. When people say it’s just allergies, I remain doubtful. I do live in Texas tho…

      1. D*

        People say it’s just a cold and I don’t believe them at this point. I go through life assuming everyone who is sick probably has Covid.

          1. Magpie*

            This is an unnecessarily standoffish response. I don’t think anyone said anyone is lying about having Covid. However, these days I think most people don’t even bother testing for Covid even when they have symptoms. It’s not top of mind the way it was a few years ago so many people assume it’s allergies or a cold and carry on with their lives. It’s not that they’re lying about having Covid, it’s that they just have no idea and might be infecting people without even realizing.

              1. mlem*

                I think the past few years have shown us definitively that people don’t, in fact, know what is going on with their own bodies. See all of us here in the comment section who have been assured “oh, it’s just my usual allergies!” by people who turned out to have Covid for just one example. You don’t have to assume everyone’s lying to calculate that they’re probably wishful-at-best about the cause of their symptoms.

                1. mlem*

                  (* don’t inherently, automatically, definitively know what is going on with their own bodies, that is. I do actually prefer to give people credit for that in most cases, but at least in the US, vast numbers of people apparently adopted the mindset that they can’t have Covid if they say they don’t have it.)

              2. Magpie*

                “Lying” implies that the person knows they have Covid and is claiming they don’t. You’re ascribing malicious intent by saying they’re lying. I don’t think that’s what anyone here is saying. They’re saying people are just not testing for Covid and have no idea. It’s odd to frame it as people knowing their bodies best because there’s literally no way of knowing whether a symptom is Covid or something else unless you’ve taken a test. Even if you get a specific symptom like clockwork, there’s no way of knowing with absolute certainty that it’s not Covid unless you take a test. It also doesn’t sound like the person who made the comment is going up to people saying they’re lying about their symptoms. I took that to mean they’re just choosing to be more careful around people with symptoms even if they insist it’s not Covid. There’s nothing offensive about someone choosing to take extra precautions that don’t affect anyone else in any way.

              3. Curious*

                as for knowing what is going on with your own body, if people could know what diseases they have or don’t have based on self knowledge, we wouldn’t need diagnostic tests. But we do, because self diagnosis isn’t reliable.

              4. Eldritch Office Worker*

                This is unnecessarily snarky, and to answer your question yes I am going to assume people are incorrect/understating their symptoms/making a wrong assumption/lying forever, just like I did before COVID. Because people downplay things as a social nicety or to otherwise avoid discomfort.

                The vast majority of people don’t know what’s going on with their own bodies a lot of the time, and people have been blatantly lying about having COVID for years. Acknowledging that isn’t policing, it’s living in reality.

              5. CommanderBanana*

                I have no idea what’s going on with my body vis a vis things like allergies. Out of nowhere I’ve developed a severe allergy to cats – bad enough that I can’t visit family who have cats in their homes. And I grew up with cats and have never had an animal allergy before!

                The plant and pollen allergy bands are shifting because of climate change too.

            1. metadata minion*

              Home tests are also notoriously unreliable. I had a horrible respiratory thing earlier this summer that tested negative for COVID three times, so I felt pretty safe saying I got some other lung-related doom. But it still could have been COVID — I wasn’t sick enough to need a doctor so I didn’t feel like it was worth it to drag my clearly-contagious-with-*something* butt to the clinic to get a PCR test.

          2. Irish Teacher*

            I don’t think the issue is really people lying and I doubt anybody knowingly claims to have a cold when they really have covid, but it is highly likely that people are often mistaken.

            The options aren’t “lying” or “knows exactly what is going on with their own body.” People make mistakes, all the time. I have sinus trouble. I know this and yet, when I had covid, I was wondering at first, “is this just my usual sinus issue or is it something contagious?” We need tests because the symptoms of covid are so like many other things (and vary quite a bit). The odds of somebody knowing whether something is covid or a cold without testing is quite low in most cases.

            I have no doubt people who say “it’s just a cold” or “just allergies” truly believe that to be the case and probably in 9 cases out of 10, they are correct, but there are enough cases where people make mistakes to make it a good idea to be wary.

            And this isn’t a new thing. Before covid, I still wouldn’t take somebody’s word for it that “oh, it’s not the flu. It’s just a cold” because how can they know? And yeah, I do think it will be true forever.

            That doesn’t mean we should send people home from work any time they show signs of allergies, but assuming anybody could have covid or another contagious disease and therefore being careful ourselves (washing our hands regularly, wearing a mask in crowded places, etc) makes sense. I don’t see what issue there is with being aware somebody could be wrong about their symptoms.

          3. Person from the Resume*

            I don’t run around noticing a sniffle or a sneeze at all so the mild cases are sort of moot.

            But if someone is obviously ill, I may not trust their claim of “just allergies” and I think they could be in denial or wishful thinking or frankly a COVID denier.

            As an example I played softball with a guy on Tuesday. He wasn’t there on Thursday because he tested positive for COVID. I saw him again the next Tuesday. He and his wife had the sniffles and thought it was just allergies but he eventually took a COVID test and was shocked by a positive COVID test result. He wasn’t malicious, but he was moving through the world with mild COVID symptoms and thinking it was allergies. Once he had that positive test, he stayed home but until then he was that guy saying “it’s just allergies.”

            If someone is obviously sneezing, coughing, and congested, I’m going to keep my distance.

          4. I Have RBF*


            Because unless you get a PCR test, you don’t really know. It’s not actually lying, though, it’s self deception. Either way can cause a lot of harm to an immune compromised person.

            You’d think the way some people act being asked to wear a mask was being asked to wear a heavy parka in 100 degree weather. It’s not.

            I may not be immune compromised myself, but half of my household is, and my spouse is over 70. We are a vulnerable group who need to be able to live too.

        1. DataSci*

          Even if they say “I tested negative this morning”? I mean, I understand you want to protect yourself, but colds do still exist, and for some of us cold symptoms can linger for weeks.

          1. Katara's side braids*

            Rapid Antigen Tests (which at this point are the only option for someone to test and get an answer that same morning) are rapidly decreasing in reliability as new variants develop. When I had Covid a couple months ago, I didn’t test positive until day 5 of symptoms. My coughs and sneezes probably weren’t any less contagious on days 1-4, though.

            It’s a privilege to afford enough rapid tests to test every day you have symptoms, so I’m not saying people have to do that. But masking while symptomatic seems reasonable, especially now that more of us are aware of the dangers that cold/flu also pose to immunocompromised people.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I also tested negative for COVID the first few days I had it recently and now I have long COVID and I’m miserable, and really hope I didn’t give it to anyone else. I certainly don’t want anyone’s colds, flus, or variants on top of my long COVID.

          3. Kara*

            Rapid tests only have a 37% chance of a true positive on Day 1 of symptoms. It’s only by Day 3 that you have a decent chance of an accurate result, and most people aren’t waiting two days to test.

        2. Old and Don’t Care*

          You should. People could have false negative tests, be contagious before they have symptoms, or, in the case of a relative of mine with mental illness, and a variety of health problems, literally forget they have Covid. Most of them probably don’t have Covid, but if you need to assume they do, you should.

      2. Ready to Retire*

        Oh LW2, you just brought back memories of the worst day I ever endured at work. It was my first job out of college, and I worked in an office with about 90 employees. I had seen people fired before, and they were usually let go near the end of the day and collected their things after the rest of us left. We had a new HR person, and he believed in the “walk them to their desk, stand there while they collect their personal things, take their key, and walk them out to their car” approach to firing.

        So this day (the Tuesday after Labor Day) everyone coming into work noticed a large pile of empty boxes stacked up near the stairs. At exactly 8:00 they called “Carol” to the boss’s office over the PA. Carol had been with the company for 30 years, and was the sweetest person ever. She came back in about 30 minutes, sobbing, and carrying one of the boxes, accompanied by a senior staffer. We were in shock as we watched her pack up her personal belongings. Before she was done, “Bob” was called to the boss’s office. Bob was back and packing up when “Alice” was called back. And so it went for most of the day. Everyone was terrified that they would be called next. They fired twelve people that day, and each one had to make that walk of shame. At the end of the day, the boss sent a manager into the cube farm to tell us they were done and we were “safe.” He said they had felt it necessary to “clean out the dead weight, and easier to do it all at once.” It was horrible, and destroyed all trust in management.

        It was also a good clue about how things would go under the new HR regime. When I resigned nine months later, I was the 13th person to leave after that day, and as I told the boss in my exit interview, I was not the caboose on that train.

          1. AnotherOne*

            a friend of mine worked at a company who for years has had a great reputation in their industry among current, former, and potential employees.

            the board hired a new ceo like a year ago. no background in field- came from banking. it’s basically been a bloodletting.

            and all i could think as i’ve heard about it yes- the biggest thing they’re lost is that reputation for being this great company to work at. this company that was huge but cared about employees.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Dear Lord Spaghetti Squash.

          Even if its the truth, you do not tell your staff that, as its going to (as you stated it did) absolutely destroy all trust in management.

    5. AskingForAFriend*

      So what are people who cough and sneeze constantly but are medically unable to wear a mask supposed to do? Asking for a friend…

      1. Allison K*

        Go for one of the plastic face shields, keep exploring medication with their doctor, and keep a constant supply of easy to access tissues and hand sanitizer. Get in the habit of leaving spaces like the kitchen or areas where people are eating when a bout is coming on.

        1. allathian*

          Some people with severe skin conditions might qualify.

          I haven’t found a mask yet that would fit my face well enough to stop my glasses fogging up. I can’t see my computer screen properly without glasses and contacts aren’t an option for me. I can look at a screen for a few hours without glasses, but after that I get a debilitating headache from the eye strain.

          For some people who are highly sensitive to touch, the sensation of wearing a mask is unpleasant enough that they can’t focus on anything else. I’m not quite in that situation, but given the choice between seeing someone in person with a mask or seeing them in a videoconference without masking, I’ll pick the second every *single* time. I don’t get any benefit from in-person interactions if I have to wear a mask because I find it so unpleasant.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Tightly woven, 4-layer cotton masks with a flat metal bendy piece at the top worked the best for us.

          2. Totally Minnie*

            Target sells anti-fog wipes for eyeglasses, and I’m sure you could get a similar product somewhere else. I’ve had a lot of success with them so I can wear a mask and still see the world around me.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I used to regard “medical exception” people with a lot of scepticism – I wore a mask religiously.

          Then I got pregnant and wearing a mask would exacerbate my morning (haha, more like all-day) sickness to the point of having to take off the mask to go vomit. Luckily it wasn’t mandated at that point anymore and I avoided crowds anyway due to feeling like crap. But there are *some* conditions that make mask wearing really difficult.

        3. Not Bob*

          I read about a case of someone with PTSD who had to train herself to be able to wear a mask. I think that she was finally able to do so, but it was hard for her.

        4. ceiswyn*

          I know of at least one person with PTSD from past physical violence, who has panic attacks at any sensation of their breathing being restricted.

          I believe this is actually worse since the pandemic; trying to force yourself to do something that causes you illness, where the other option is receiving public censure and verbal abuse, doesn’t exactly reduce anxiety. And the public is not generally forgiving about mental health difficulties.

        5. Eldritch Office Worker*

          It can be incredibly difficult for people with sensory issues, which can rise to the level of a medical issue. For me it creates a psychosomatic asthma response that I haven’t been able to shake – FULLY in my head, and I wear masks, but warm breath on my face makes my brain think my lungs aren’t working. It’s very uncomfortable. If anyone has overcome that I’ll take tips for sure.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I’d say maybe just keep an eye out for any change in symptoms – a cough that sounds different, sore throat, even if it appears to be from the coughing, tiredness, etc – and test at any sign of them.

      3. ecnaseener*

        A face shield or other solution that doesn’t exacerbate their medical condition but is still better than trying to contain dozens of sneezes per day in an elbow. We’re three years in, this question has been answered.

      4. Katara's side braids*

        That becomes a case of competing access needs, which are always tricky! It would probably have to be handled case-by-case. Maybe by giving remote work accommodations to either your friend or their immunocompromised colleagues, or moving your friend and/or their vulnerable colleagues to better-ventilated areas of the building. Ideally we should have been massively improving ventilation in all of our workplaces over the last few years, but (at least in the US) most places didn’t prioritize that when allocating Covid funds. But it’s not fair to place either your friend or their vulnerable coworkers in a situation that presents a serious risk to their health.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Competing access needs are 100% tricky but in this case it would almost certainly lean towards “you can’t be here if you can’t wear a mask”. Public health usually supersedes even if only one or two people are technically immunocompromised.

      5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        I know someone who stayed home except for walks at 4-5 a.m. for the first year of the pandemic, until she found a mask that wouldn’t trigger an asthma attack. (Yes it was psychological, but no, knowing that didn’t help her breathe.) Fortunately she was already self-employed and working from home, and they had all their groceries delivered, and her husband (who didn’t have that problem) took care of some necessary in-person appointments.

        It wasn’t ideal, or enjoyable, but nothing about the situation in 2020 and early 2021 was ideal.

    6. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      Agreed! I got covid (and then was bedbound with post-covid stuff for 5 weeks, and housebound for a while longer) from someone who swore they just had allergies, until I got sick and then they tested. I no longer trust most self-reports of allergies, even though one of my fun long covid things is new, ever-evolving allergies. A mask would be a kindness!

      1. allathian*

        Yeah. I go to the office about once a week and I do a Covid test before I go in if I have any respiratory symptoms at all and even if I’m pretty certain it’s just my allergies playing up again. Even if your symptoms are caused by allergies, you can still be an asymptomatic carrier.

    7. Irish Teacher*

      That’s a good idea. I do that when my sinuses get bad (I wear a mask on public transport and at crowded events anyway, but I don’t wear it every day for teaching any more), not so much to reassure people as because the symptoms of my sinus problems are quite close to covid and I could easily think, “oh, just my sinuses playing up” if I had a mild dose of covid or something else contagious like the flu.

      Like Radical Edward said, it’s easy to assume it’s just allergies if you get them regularly. I do think the LW has more reason to be sure as she knows the timing.

      I would also explain. My usual comment is something like “oh, my sinuses are playing up. They do that regularly, but I just didn’t want to take any chances.”

    8. NerdBoss*

      I agree with masking, that goes a long way for protecting others. There have been multiple occasions when someone in my office said it was “just allergies” and then turned out to be something infectious. So it helps put everyone at ease AND keep any mucus contained – win win

    9. Orange You Glad*

      I was also going to suggest being overly performative at their workspace when it comes to their sneezing – keep a box of tissues and hand sanitizer handy at your desk and make a point of using them when you sneeze. It’ll make other people feel more comfortable even though you are not contagious.

  4. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

    If you were Bajoran you could claim to be pregnant, though every month like clockwork might throw a monkey wrench into that excuse.

    1. raktajino*

      That was EXACTLY where my brain went too!
      Honestly, I bet if Bajorans get periods, it wouldn’t be uncommon to sneeze then too. Same system, same hormones.

  5. yetanothersara*

    LW 4, I know it’s intimidating but once people get to know you they’ll adjust. Call it allergies or hay fever or histamine response. People don’t just have allergies in spring and fall.

    Mask up if you can. Sneeze into a tissue. Blame it on your mother’s cat and you just happen to visit your mother once a month. If it’s possible to work from home for a day or two a month take advantage of it.

    It’s great you’re being so conscientious!

    1. cabbagepants*

      Probably no one besides LW notices the regularity of the sneezing! I don’t think there’s any need for a cover story for that.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Disagree. Someone had to post on my Teams channel this week to beg allergies because everyone was noticing how often they sneezed. And it wasn’t constant. People are more alert now.

        1. cabbagepants*

          Were people noticing that she was sneezing on a schedule like the LW, or just that she was sneezing a lot?

          Also I think it’s weird that any office would put someone in a place where she had to publicly defend sneezing.

      2. Roland*

        Yup, I think people are unlikely to notice it happens every 4 weeks and OP doesn’t need to address the regularity.

    2. Relentlessly Socratic*

      Ahem–I assure you that I very much do have spring and fall allergies. Winter, too. I get to play “allergies or plague” all year round!

      1. ThatGirl*

        they said “don’t JUST have allergies in spring or fall” – meaning it can be all year (mine too)

      2. I Have RBF*

        I have the same problem. Dust, grass pollen, tree pollen, flower pollen, etc will set off my allergies. Hell, if I leave my house and cats for a few days I will have allergic reactions when I come back until I acclimate to the cats again.

        But a couple times when I thought it was “just allergies” it wasn’t. Once was a cold, the most recent it was Covid. However, my go-to when out of the house having an allergy attack? An N95 mask – it reduces the pollen that I breathe! I’m one of those wierdos that sometimes wears a mask while driving alone in the car. Why? Because I am a safer driver when I’m not sneezing my head off!

        I wear N95 masks against Covid, against pollen when out during hay fever season, and against wildfire smoke. I have since the California wildfires started getting bad in the 2017-ish time frame. I even handed my postal carrier a mask during the wildfire that made the sky orange in my area. This was pre-covid.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      I like the idea of “intermittent pet” – cats are good for this. I can verify that some people are almost deathly allergic to them. I had a roommate with a cat and the people who were allergic had to take antihistamines to visit me.

  6. Commentmouse*

    LW2, I haven’t worked anywhere that’s standard practice but I have seen or heard of it twice. In both times, the person was generally not considered a safety threat but was being let go for reasons that reflected a serious lack of judgement/flagrant policy violation and I could understand why it was handled that way.

    It does still feel awful to see it happen though.

    1. DataSci*

      It’s awful that your default assumption in a situation like this is “they did something awful”. It’s absolutely standard in some fields, and for some roles across fields. Its common practice for people with access to production systems – even if the risk of someone, say, dropping the main customer database in anger after being laid off is low, it’s not a risk most places will take.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Huh?? Commentmouse didn’t make any assumptions at all, let alone “awful” ones (?!), they just said here’s what happened the 2 times they specifically know about.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I have worked for this agency for 20+ years and have never seen this before.
        The letter exists because it is not standard in this field, role, or office.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        It’s a pretty reasonable assumption, when you work places that don’t walk people out as a regular practice, that there are some extenuating circumstances the very small number of times you see it.

        It’s our common practice to terminate all network access for people who are departing during their termination, so if you can’t access the network at all and are still being walked out, I know enough about the termination process to make a reasonable assumption that there’s something extra to the situation. (Bonus points to the fired network engineer who built a little backdoor into our system unaffiliated with his user ID that we *did* find prior to terminating him for a litany of reasons.)

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Exactly. Seems like this would be “mileage varies by industry and individual workplace” here.

          I’ve never worked where its a thing (walking them out immediately), so it would register as “what the what?” if I were to see it happen in person. This would be further exacerbated in my case because the one time I DID see it happen, well, there was definite what the what going on.

          Heck, I’ve been laid off twice. The first time my boss gave me the option to walk out right away (insert my “wouldn’t it be better if I did a real quick summary on my projects and issues and handed them to you instead of letting you find out three months down the road?” – my department had been eliminated because the company was bleeding money, and they’d determined it was because they’d grown too quickly. My department had been the growth.) and the second, heck, my boss basically gave me six weeks notice that it was happening.

          1. AnonORama*

            I’ve been laid off once (RIF, not performance-based) and we got a month of notice that it was happening — but we still got pulled out of meetings by HR and perp-walked through the cube farm to the conference room to be told. Very weird. Thankfully for me, I was already looking for a new job and took an offer just a couple days into what the laid-off folks started calling our “dead man walking” month.

      4. Commentmouse*

        It’s not an assumption, unfortunately. I am aware of the details in both situations. One case resulted in follow up with multiple departments including mine and I personally witnessed the concerning behavior in the other.

        1. DataSci*

          Sure, it’s generalizing from there to other situations that means you’re assuming the worst of a lot of people.

          1. Roland*

            You’re inventing something they literally didn’t say. They literally just described 2 incidents. Nothing was generalized to future situations. You are perhaps generalizing from other comments you’ve read and applying that to Commentmouse unfairly…

      5. RagingADHD*

        It’s interesting that you assume a lack of judgement or policy violation equates to ‘doing something awful.’

        People often make dumb choices for well-intentioned reasons. And sometimes the pattern or impact of those choices mean they can’t be relied on to handle company information or equipment correctly.

        Doesn’t make them a bad person. Doesn’t mean they had bad intentions. However, it often does mean they cannot function in a particular role, and require supervision to ensure they don’t make any more dumb choices on the way out.

      6. Observer*

        Except that you generally know if you are in one of those fields. And the OP says that this is the first time it has happened at this workplace, where they have worked for a long time and seen other firings. So, yes, there is good reason to think something was up.

    2. margarita water*

      I work in Health Insurance where privacy is regulated our policy is the person never comes back to their desk/office. Security and another manager packs up the persons desk while they are in the meeting in another building getting the news. When I first started I thought this was a terrible practice, but now I get it. Adding the humiliation of packing your things up after you have learned that your source of income is gone would be a blow that could push most people over the edge.

  7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (interviewer didn’t ask any questions) – I wouldn’t assume that you won’t be getting a call back! I got the impression that the interviewer thinks the job is basically yours so was just going over these details… It would make sense if the job is hard to hire for (salary, location, working pattern etc)…

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        If the interview was just a formality because someone else already had the job -I don’t think it would make sense to continue on after the 30 minutes and especially say it was OK to continue after OP had already said “I’m conscious of time” though.

    1. Allonge*

      Or they “interview” everyone like this and next steps are based on the resume/other documentation sent. But yes, don’t assume anything other than they are bad at interviewing.

      1. cabbagepants*


        Some people’s brains just require this kind of extremely literal description in order to process information. Maybe the interviewer described each of the 12 floors as a way to describe the different teams in the company, or as a way to give a feel for the physical space and thus (in their mind) a feel for the daily workflow. Or whatever.

        I wouldn’t read any coded messages into the detail dump.

      2. TriviaJunkie*

        Yeah if my sister had been management at any point I could see her interviewing like this. She had some undiagnosed learning disabilities, and one of the effects was that she couldn’t tell which details in a story were important so she’d include them all. I remember one time she was telling a story about ordering pizza, including details on topings, and totally derailing on the nutritional value of everything she’d eaten for the past several weeks. Half an hour later we still hadn’t finished the story about her and her husband having pizza and a movie night. God rest her she was lovely, but spending time with her could be exhausting. Now I’ve derailed a bit, but yeah it could easily just be how this interviewer processes their thoughts.

      3. Smithy*

        100% this – so much of bad interviewing really is just people not being good at interviewing. And while there is likely a more complex reason why behind each specific example, there are also so many unknowns that make it impossible to know exactly why.

        I do think a big one that can be included even by good interviewers overall, are people who are not well versed in your resume when you’re interviewing. They read it carefully a week or so ago, and then maybe skimmed it another time closer to the interview. But assuming they’re reviewing multiple candidates, by the time you’re in the room together – appearing to not know someone’s resume just isn’t uncommon.

        Good interviewers make it seem like they’re giving you a chance to explain yourself in your own words, and to level set the conversation. Bad interviewers make it feel like they’ve never heard of you until you got into the room together. But very often it comes from a similar place of trusting the larger HR vetting process and not having the time to review resumes and prep for individual interviews. So being prepared for someone to be clunky about not remembering/having never seen your resume, it spares you from being surprised and including that amongst other very real red flags.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t assume it means you won’t get a callback. It sounds to me like most likely that’s just what this person does, possibly everybody at this stage will get called to the next and this is just about giving information to the candidates and not about screening them out or slightly less likely, they are really impressed by the LW and plan to give them the job if they are interested so wanted to make sure they really were. Or…this person is appalling bad at interviewing (which is probably true regardless).

      But I don’t think the interviewer would give so much information if they had the person ruled out before the interview began. That’s not the say the LW will be called back, who knows? But I definitely wouldn’t see it as indicating they won’t.

      The only thing I think the LW could have done differently was asked any questions they had.

    3. OP3*

      I’m OP3. As an update, they did call me back for a second interview but unfortunately only for the junior role which I wasn’t interested in, which only became more apparent during the second interview. The junior role basically has nothing to do with my field and I’m not sure why they named it the junior job title as I haven’t seen anything like that in my now year long job search.

      1. Risha*

        I replied before I saw your update just now. Sorry to hear that OP, I know it’s frustrating when they do things like that (try to give a job that you’re not interested in/applied for). Maybe it’s a bullet dodged then. Good luck to you in your search.

    4. Risha*

      I was going to say something similar. I’ve noticed that anytime I’ve been offered the job, the interview went like how OP describes. The interviewer didn’t really ask me any questions, it was more like a conversation or them just telling me what the job is. Any time the interviewer asked me those scenario questions (tell me about a time…), or asked me behavioral questions, I didn’t get offered the job (maybe I gave bad answers). Of course, that’s not always a guarantee, but it’s definitely been my experience.

  8. Petty Betty*

    LW 4: I’d recommend wearing a mask, just to keep the habit up and to alleviate some fears. My humorous and playful side would tell people that you’re just having an allergic reaction to yourself at the moment, but the symptoms will clear up in a day or two. Or perhaps you visited X relative or Y and Z relatives with Q pet came over for their monthly visit and you’re allergic so dang it, you’ll just have to ride it out because you just can’t resist little fluffy Q!

    1. DataSci*

      The more elaborate the lie, the harder to keep straight, and for something recurring monthly it needs to be kept straight. “Allergies” is fine without spinning a story where you need to remember what sort of pet you claimed to be allergic to.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yes, exactly.

        I can not figure out for the life of me why some people on this site immediately jump to “let’s create an elaborate lie” as their solution to a problem when often a little white lie or even the truth will work so much better.

        Whole lotta drama llamas here.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I don’t think it’s deliberate drama-llama-ing, I think it’s just a different level of confidence in how privacy and indirectness work. I’m quite happy with a broad and vague white lie and confident that very few people will enquire further, but I definitely know people who feel incredibly guilty about deviating from the full honest truth and that everyone can see through them so they need to have a five-star rated backstory and at least three people they can call as independent witnesses or they’ll be FOUND OUT.

        2. Relentlessly Socratic*

          I interpreted Petty Betty’s response to be tongue-in-cheek, not an actual recommendation. The commentariat here also seems to occasionally lose its collective sense of humor.

      2. Antilles*

        Yeah I don’t really get the point of having some super detailed lie here. When someone asks about your minor symptoms, people are *really* only thinking about the following two things:
        1.) Are you okay? Should you be at home resting?
        2.) Is it contagious? Should I be keeping my distance?
        A vague unspecified “nothing to worry about, just seasonal allergies” and leaving it at that works just fine to address both of these concerns, no need for anything further or a detailed backstory or etc.

      3. Mockingjay*

        Yeah, OP4 is not asking whether they should mask or get tested, etc. They requested suggestions for a simple explanation of a recurring condition without inviting scrutiny of medical details. “Oh, it’s allergies again.”

  9. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP5 (career goals chats and now you’re their manager) – you will find that the dynamic changes in lots of ways being a manager of a team you were previously a peer of. There are some articles on this site already about that, and lots elsewhere on the internet which I would encourage you to look up – in some ways this situation can be harder than being a new manager to a different team.

    The letter has made me think about “professional development” activities as a manager though! I’m a pretty keen learner (or just nosy about everything, not sure which!) and constantly doing things like Coursera, certifications, etc. I like to learn and apply new stuff, and I like to succeed and be recognised for it. Now I am wondering if people see this (I post them on linked in etc) and think they “ought” to be doing more. I do encourage people to develop their knowledge (not to a pushy level) and support them in succeeding. It is an interesting point whether the manager ‘should’ model professional development for their team. Ultimately I think they should if it is something they or the company value. I have encountered too many managers that had “made it” to a management position, became comfortable and complacent and then stagnated.

  10. AlwaysAskQuestions*

    OP3 an interview should be a conversation. Obviously the person who interviewed you was incredibly bad at it, but you shouldn’t wait until the end to chime in either. As someone who’s been on both sides of the table a lot, I find this incredibly weird. At some places I’ve worked it would even be viewed as lack of iniative and count against the candidate. Always be prepared to ask questions and engage with future interviewers as much as possible without seeming insincere or obsequious.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      Yes, but OP specifically said that they were waiting until after the interviewer talked about the job descriptions to ask their questions. I think normally that’s a pretty good approach–in this particular case the interviewer was pretty bad, so it didn’t work out. But the instinct to say “I’ll hold my questions till the end unless something comes up in the moment” is a good one. I’ve certainly had many a question answered that way, and certainly have refrained from asking some questions because the discussion of the job itself put me off and I didn’t want to bother.

      1. AlwaysAskQuestions*

        Yes, I understood what they said. I’m saying that their doing so is part of the problem. In many environments I’ve been in waiting until the end would be considered a negative against the candidate. And it risks not having an opportunity to ask at all if the interviewer doesn’t plan for it and there’s a tight schedule.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I suspect this was a case where it wouldn’t be though. It sounds like, for whatever reason, the interviewer was more interested in giving the candidates an overview of the post than in interviewing them – perhaps they’ve had a lot of candidates drop out early in the process, perhaps they had already decided to go forward with the LW, who knows?

          But it doesn’t sound to me like there was much opportunity to chime in (sounds like the person was just reading through stuff the LW already knew and then giving a description of the building, in both cases, it would be difficult to ask anything without interrupting in a way that could sound rude) or that it was really expected.

          And the LW mentions in a comment that she did get called back, so my guess is that either that wasn’t really an interview, more an information session to be sure everybody wanted to go forward and they just wanted to give everybody the info or else they had already decided to go forward with the LW and were just giving her information.

          While interviews are usually a conversation, this one sounds like it wasn’t.

        2. metadata minion*

          Interesting! Waiting until the end is very standard in my field, though people obviously ask questions about things the interviewer says if they come up in the moment.

        3. Ferret*

          I find your responses bizarre. Yes, ideally an interview should be conversational with a back and forth, but it seems clear that in this example LW was basically being lectured at for most of the time and didn’t have any chance to get questions without rudely interrupting.

          We always leave time for the candidate to ask questions at the end to address anything that didn’t come up naturally in conversation, but in this case it seems like there wasn’t any conversation to be had so LW4 never had a chance!

          Sure, if candidate gave brief answers and then sat there silently while waiting for the next direct question like it was an interrogation I might wonder about their interest and engagement but I also wouldn’t monologue at them for the full interview slot and then judge them for not interjecting as you are.

          It is very normal to have a list of questions but to allow the interviewer to go first – which can easily end in a situation like LW4 if the interviewer is poor or inexperienced

    2. CommanderBanana*

      “At some places I’ve worked it would even be viewed as lack of iniative and count against the candidate.”

      Sorry, how does someone being a terrible interviewer become the interviewee’s fault?

    3. Madame X*

      The Letter writer did not say that they didn’t have any questions. They said that they would ask their questions at the end.

      For most people, in most industries, it is very standard to ask questions at the end of the interview. In fact, all the job interviews I’ve ever had usually leave time at the end of the interview for the candidate to ask any additional questions. It’s really just a matter of preference. The only thing that can make you look bad is if you have no questions at all during or after the interview and don’t seem very engaged throughout the process. I would argue, It’s actually more efficient to wait to the end to ask questions. That way, if the questions you have are going to be answered during the interview, then it allows you to only ask questions that weren’t covered already.

  11. It’s Suzy now*

    #3, the only advice I’d give you about what to do differently would be to have a buffer time after job interview appointments if you possibly can. These often run longer than estimated, especially if they’re going well.

    This one sounds like it didn’t click and potentially a bullet dodged, but it would be a shame to have to cut off a good rapport because you had another appointment right after.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Came here to say the same. I always schedule 1.5 hours because of potential delays or possibly a great conversation. I do the same when I recruit as well and would be a little confused if an potential hire only had 30 minutes without letting me know in advance so I could prepare accordingly and potentially line up a second slot later.

    2. Pierrot*

      That’s what I was thinking. It’s annoying that the interviewer wasn’t respectful of LW’s time, but interviews can run late for all kinds of reasons (especially when they were only scheduled for 30 minutes). If you’re worried about running over throughout the interview, that could come across in other ways to the interviewer (distraction, nerves, etc).
      That said, if you’re in a position to be choosy and an interviewer running over is dealbreaker, more power to you. I’d still suggest adding more of a buffer so that you aren’t late to whatever you have next, but it’s up to your preferences.

    3. ecnaseener*

      In fairness to LW, they were able to stick around for 45 minutes of a 30-minute appointment — a 50% buffer seems like plenty!

    4. BuildInBuffers*

      you should always leave at least an extra hour, more if it’s a longer interview block. Many interviews that go well run over, and I’ve had 30 minute first interview calls turn into 90 minute conversations that resulted in a job offer or had a 3 hour onsite interview turn into a 5 hour onsite interview so I could meet with the hiring manager who got stuck in another meeting when supposed to meet with me earlier, or had all sorts of other times where it was either assumed I could go over or by being able to go over it resulted in an advantage for me.

      Either build in a big buffer or be aware that not going so could disadvantage you.

      1. Olive*

        Given the number of people who are already working at job while searching, it’s not reasonable to expect that a candidate would be able to take off several hours for an introductory interview.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          If you’re a candidate, try to avoid having any commitments for the rest of the day after an interview. There’s a good chance it could go a lot longer than expected, and you don’t want to have to bail because you’ve got a meeting, appointment, etc afterward.

  12. Ink*

    #4- Particularly in summer or if there are indoor plants, you can pretty much always go with “Something is releasing a lot of pollen right now and it’s setting me off” because that happens CONSTANTLY if you have bad enough allergies. Even the duration is pretty typical for that- a week or two passes and whatever the culprit is has finished its most intense period for the year, to be replaced far too soon by another. I think the cause might have you overthinking things- most people aren’t going to have further questions if you confidently say hay fever! My allergies are bad enough to be year round, and I’ve never had more than a sympathetic “Even now? In *January*?” question asked

    1. Harper the Other One*

      Yes, and while it’s obvious to OP that it’s PMS-related, that timing probably won’t be meaningful to anyone else! I certainly don’t make a habit of tracking my colleagues’ allergies to the point where I could say “huh, she sneezes every 27.5 days, just the same as a typical menstrual cycle…”

    2. ThatGirl*

      I sneeze year round, not every day, but regularly. I don’t otherwise have congestion – sometimes itchy eyes, but for me sneezing is not really a cold/URI symptom. I have not been formally allergy tested but suspect that I have allergies to beech pollen, dust and mold. Taking a daily allergy pill has really helped. But yes, even in January, it’s probably allergies.

  13. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    4: Ensure that you are always sneezing into a tissue that is disposed of and that you face away from others (crook of elbow is good). Basically show that in visible ways you’re taking hygiene seriously. Noses and mouths contain bacteria all the time and it’s best to keep the spray in something that can be disposed of.

    That combined with a reason like ‘it’s a nerve response, not an infection’ might help.

    (Now to convince my cat)

      1. JustaTech*

        So, the CDC says to use a tissue to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and if you don’t have a tissue, you should use the crook of your elbow.
        In all cases you should then go wash your hands.

        The logic behind using your elbow rather than your bare hands is that you are much, much, much less likely to touch a common surface with your germy elbow than your germy hands (like the door handles on your way to wash your hands).

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I meant cover your mouth/nose with a tissue AND if possible go into the crook of the arm. It’s all about not dispersing particles everywhere.

        I’m a very paranoid person by nature and a former virologist, but I do think as long as you’re not sneezing stuff into the air (and you shouldn’t be!) and you know it’s because of a hormonal issue/allergies then you don’t need to wear a mask unless you’re in an environment that mandates them.

  14. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    1: The boss who isn’t available due to medical issues. It’s nice and humane to show consideration and concern for someone who’s health is seriously bad. It’s also irrelevant to the technical problem here:

    Things are not getting done because a key part of the process isn’t working.

    In this case it’s not working because the boss isn’t available. If it was a critical to your job bit of IT kit failing you’d talk to the IT department and if they said ‘sorry, just muddle along, can’t do anything’ you’d take it higher. A critical part of your work can’t be done because your boss’s boss said ‘just muddle along’ so you take it to another authority. HR since it involves people.

  15. londonedit*

    Number 1 sounds mainly like a rubbish interviewer, but in my experience it’s very common for an interview to begin with the interviewer asking you to talk them through your career history to date – which basically means summing up the info on your CV. Yes they’ve already got your CV in front of them, but they want to hear you talk about your experience in your own words. So I wouldn’t count her asking you to go through your CV as a huge red flag on its own. It sounds like she was one of those people who just loves the sound of her own voice, and it sounds like she assumed you’d be able to spend as much time on the interview as she wanted – neither of those things are ideal, but the CV thing isn’t necessarily a bad thing on its own.

    1. Pierrot*

      When I was fresh out of college, I thought that this question meant to essentially go through every position and describe what I did in detail. I was always confused when the interviewers would cut me off after asking me to run through my resume. I’d also do this when I got the “tell me about yourself question”. At some point, I picked up on the fact that most interviewers just want a brief overview of my career trajectory in my own words (ideally making some sort of connection at the end to the job I’m interviewing for), so I practice this before every interview. In my experience, 95% of interviewers ask some version of this.

    2. bamcheeks*


      Always remember that it’s not an interviewer’s job to learn your CV off by heart. They’re looking at it briefly to decide whether or not you’re moving to the next stage, and they’re probably looking a minimum of 5-6, probably 20-30, maybe even hundreds. When someone sits in front of you and says, “I’ve got customer service experience from my 3 years at McDonald’s, where I was team leader, and excellent data management skills from my Masters in Environmental Biology”, that’s so much more memorable. It’s your chance to really highlight the things you want to identify you in the interviewer’s mind.

    3. londonedit*

      Realised it wasn’t number 1 at all, but number 3 – but you know what I mean!

      Definitely agree that while an interviewer will of course have skim-read your CV, you shouldn’t expect them to know it inside-out. The ‘so, talk me through your career to date’ question is a chance to highlight bits that are particularly relevant, or explain how you rose through the ranks or were responsible for particular achievements etc.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      I use the professional summary question as an icebreaker because most people are comfortable talking about themselves. I do make it clear I’ve read their resume and refer to a point or two from it that are particularly relevant to the job, but having people summarize something they’re intimately familiar with seems to do a good job getting the ball rolling.

      But shutting up and letting the candidate talk is key having an actual conversation with them. People who talk just to hear themselves drive me nuts.

  16. Still*

    Honestly, for the PMS question, I’d just say “for some reason I always get allergy symptoms right before my period, aren’t bodies weird!”. Period is a well-established regular occurrence and I think it’s an easy way to explain what otherwise sounds like a rather bizarre recurring allergy. I think it goes a long way towards establishing that you can reliably predict it. But my office / culture might be more relaxed about periods than yours is.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I would accept this. Hormones make bodies do things, and while this is unusual, it makes sense.

      Really depends on office culture though. I wish we could just normalize the fact that people have bodies.

    2. Anemones*

      I get this symptom of PMS, and this is exactly what I do – nobody’s been weird about it!

    3. Observer*

      Only do this if you know your office culture well AND you have some credibility.

      There are two potential issues here. One is the general busybody who always knows better about medical stuff, and the more information you give them them more they are going to try to tell you why you are wrong and how to handle it. The other is the specific issues around female stuff, including all the sexist idiots out there.

      If that’s not your office, then this can make a lot of sense.

  17. short'n'stout*

    If I met someone who appears to be able to menstruate and they had symptoms that recurred every four weeks, my spidey senses would be tingling even if the symptoms weren’t conventionally associated with menstruation.

    And even if I believed someone when they said that their sneezing was not due to COVID infection, I’d still be concerned that they were spraying pathogens everywhere. COVID, flu, RSV, the common cold, none of these are fun and all can be spread by an asymptomatic person who is frequently ejecting fluids from their face holes for any reason. Saying it’s allergies is not going to reassure me. In that scenario, I’d be far more comfortable if you worked somewhere else during that time, or wore a mask in the office. And I would be wearing a mask as well.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Really? You’d keep track of how often those symptoms occur? (I can think of few things less interesting/productive to do with my time.)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Like people who notice that you wore the grey houndstooth trousers Tuesday and again Friday, and the person next to them who has no idea about your work wardrobe other than that you are always wearing clothes when they see you.

      1. Magpie*

        Right, I can barely keep track of my own menstruation schedule. I certainly wouldn’t be able to identify patterns like this in co workers symptoms.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I was gonna say, I’m frequently surprised when my app pings me that my own is coming up, so not a chance that I would notice a pattern in a coworker’s health symptoms.

    2. Heather*

      no offense, but both those things are unusual enough that I wouldn’t assume other people do the same or that LW should plan around it…

    3. bamcheeks*

      If I met someone who appears to be able to menstruate and they had symptoms that recurred every four weeks, my spidey senses would be tingling even if the symptoms weren’t conventionally associated with menstruation.

      but — so what? I mean, what would you do with that suspicion? Call them out for fibbing? Tell other people? I can’t what conceivable difference it would make.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, I don’t quite get this either. If it’s connected to menstruation, it’s unlikely to be COVID or anything else contagious, right?

        So why is this a bad thing? It’s really not anyone else’s business otherwise.

        1. Alice*

          If someone is sneezing because of allergies, and at the same time has asymptomatic or presymptomatic COVID, the allergic sneezes are sending lots of SARS-CoV-2 aerosols into the air, where they will float around and infect others.
          If OP actually wants to reassure colleagues, without wearing a mask, then they can make a point of testing frequently (so that they catch any COVID infection early) or they can advocate for their employer to monitor and improve ventilation (so that any one person’s infection is less likely to spread).

          1. short'n'stout*

            Exactly, thank you. They could also be asymptomatically infected with any of several other respiratory conditions such as flu, RSV or the cold, and I don’t want to be exposed to any of those either.

      2. short'n'stout*

        Absolutely nothing. I’m just challenging the assertion that nobody will notice that it appears to be linked to OP’s cycle.

    4. Peanut Hamper*

      I still don’t want to be around sneezing or coughing people. That was true in the Before Times, and is doubly true now.

      But if a coworker told me it was allergies, I would be content to accept that. Allergies are a thing that happens.

    5. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Paying attention to your “spidey senses” around people who you think have periods is creepy.

      1. Lisa Vanderpump*

        Yeah, and “someone who appears to menstruate” sounds a bit…eh. What does someone who menstruates look like?

        1. bamcheeks*

          I think this is just a way of not saying “women”, since not all women menstruate and some people who menstruate aren’t women.

          1. Lisa Vanderpump*

            But it ends up sounding super terf-y, so it might be ideal to find a new way of phrasing it.

            Like: people who menstruate. But then short ‘n’ stout’s post makes even less sense.

            1. short'n'stout*

              A TERF-y act would be insisting that the only people who menstruate are women of reproductive age. I’m acknowledging that some men and some non-binary people also menstruate.

    6. Jessica*

      Ah yes, the eternal “women are lying about their own experiences” trope.

      (And yes, I’m aware that people who aren’t women also have periods! But the trope itself is gendered.)

    1. DataSci*

      I’d notice “about once a month”. And I’m extremely non observant about people stuff.

  18. Pierrot*

    For LW3, this sounds like a (poorly executed) “screening interview”. The fact that it was 30 minutes and over Zoom tips me off, as someone who interviewed pretty recently. In my experience, screening interviews do involve more actual questions than your interviewer asked, but the purpose is more about telling candidates about the job and asking them some basic questions about their background than asking more involved, behavioral interview style questions about how you would perform on the job.
    The interviewer should definitely ask actual questions and not spend the entire time literally reading the job description, but a lot of screening interviews are pretty basic since they’re just trying to get a sense about how the candidate communicates and inform the candidate about the job to make sure that it’s in line with what the candidate wants to do.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yeah, I’ve been interviewing recently as well, and I think pretty much all initial screening interviews have been the HR recruiter telling me about the job and benefits and asking what my salary expectations are. Very little has been about my background. The actual interview is more of a normal interview where they ask me questions. Most initial interviews don’t go over time this much, though.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This sound right to me – I have unusually good recruiters, but their first call is to share information about our organization and benefits, ensure we’re on the same page salary-wise, and sometimes provide some information the hiring managers may specify. The goal is to make sure that it makes sense to use the candidate’s and hiring manager’s time to move forward.

        The reading of the job description bullet by bullet, though, is really odd. I assume the candidate looked over the job description when they decided to apply, just like I look over their resume when deciding to interview. I’d be concerned about the impression made on the candidate if that was how HR conducted initial screens.

  19. FashionablyEvil*

    #5–depending on your team, those types of conversations (call it book club, journal club, lunch n’ learn, whatever) can be really helpful for developing your team’s technical (and presentation) skills. I’ve participated in several where there’s a rotation of people who pick the article, agree to present, etc. If they’re done well, they can be both fun and helpful.

    #1–it isn’t about betraying your boss. It’s about figuring how you can best work together and support your boss. If you think of it as, “Jane needs help and support and so we are going to figure out how to manage issues A, B, and C so we can focus on the work and she can focus on her treatment,” you’ll likely feel a lot better about the conversation than if your mental framing is, “Jane is dropping balls left and right but we can’t say anything because she might be terminally ill.”

    1. Need More Sunshine*

      Re: #5, I also feel like “professional development” can mean so many different things! Once OP gets a handle of managing for the first time, they could start having these meetings with everyone on their team – with Report 1 it might look like what they’re doing with their coworker and discussing tangential skills they want to build, with Report 2 maybe it looks more like getting better at their direct job skills, and with Report 3 maybe it’s getting more comfortable with professional norms because they’re new to the workplace.

  20. L-squared*

    #2. I saw this done once, and let me tell you, it completely left a bad taste in my mouth about my company AND the HR people.

    To be clear, I have no problem with the woman being fired. She was very nice, but objectively not good at her job. Letting her go was the right move. But in no way was this woman volatile, or had any company secrets. But they trotted her out with a box and made her empty her desk while crying, in the middle of the office while everyone could see. It was pretty awful.

    IMO, there are so few actual situations that warrant this, that I don’t really think its ever worth it to do so, because the company will look far worse to the remaining employees. These days you can remotely lock someone out of their computer and the systems, so what are they really able to steal?

    1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      That presumes you have and follow IT practices which support doing that. The reality is that most companies skimp on IT, and their practices (as opposed to their policies) will have a lot of holes in them, like people who knew enough to work around the system, who took up too much of ITs limited time to support and were granted an exception because of it, and then there’s the people who had too much political capital and decided following policies wasn’t for them.

      And most corporate IT, especially on the security side, is underfunded/understaffed, with all the issues that entails. It wouldn’t shock me if a lot of companies do this sort of thing because the middle of the day was when there was an opening on everyone’s calendar for it.

      I’d also disagree that there are “so few” situations that warrant this. For example, working in a factory it can be ridiculously easy to crash a production machine – not even through malice, but through simple distraction and inattentiveness. Mistakenly grabbing a thumb drive can sometimes mean information gets exposed that opens a company up to legal liability. Access to customer information can mean adjustments that no one wants to spend the time tracking down (I remember one fellow librarian who made themselves a second (pseudonymous) library account with a very extended expiration date when fired, to keep access to the expensive databases the institution subscribed to).

      It can also make sense to protect against any claims the company kept any of the employee’s personal property. I have a desk trinket that can easily be valued at a few hundred dollars – it’s a great conversation piece, with substantial emotional value and meaning to me, but any employer firing should rightly want to make sure that some can attest “No, Cthulhu’s librarian took that with him.”

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yep, all of those things. You also just don’t know exactly why someone was fired or how the process/conversation went. I’ve had firings go sideways at the last minute – for instance someone getting extremely volatile in the room at the moment unexpectedly – and had to have them escorted out. People get fired for stealing, or sharing information, or making threats….so many things that may require they get overseen.

        Now I think there should be follow up conversations of some kind with the people who are impacted by that, including the people who witness it, that both protects the privacy of the person getting fired and reinforces the company’s values and policies and reiterates that sometimes things need to be handled less privately than they’d prefer. But to say it’s rarely necessary isn’t accurate.

    2. K8T*

      This totally depends on your field! I work on-site in sales and when you quit your job AND you’re going to a direct competitor you 100% expect to be walked. I’ve been walked off property and it wasn’t a bad experience since I knew it would happen but that’s definitely the key here. Since it’s unusual for their office I’m leaning towards that the coworker did something to warrant it as opposed to management flexing their muscle. If it happens again then I’d say to be wary but otherwise it was an unfortunate situation for everyone.

      Obviously the concept of walking is incredibly archaic but it’s not necessarily uncommon

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Oh yeah I didn’t even think of going to a competitor, that makes sense. I would think that’s common enough that you’re prepared for it.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      It’s not just about theft (though the downside to lightweight laptops is that they are pretty easy to slip into your box of things to take home as is removable media), but also people who are likely to make a scene in front of customers, people who are likely to confront someone that they believe is at fault for their termination on their way out, or who did actual steal things already. There are also places that have open terminals or machines that are not user specific that can cause problems.

      We very rarely do walkouts – I don’t even need a full hand to count the ones we’ve done in the past decade for an org with hundreds of employees – but it’s not done lightly when we feel it’s necessary. Because it’s highly unusual, I hope that any observers’ takeaway is that it’s not something they see often and only happens in egregious situations.

    4. Skippy*

      If you must handle it this way, for whatever reason, the kindest way is to do it either at the beginning or the end of the day when there are fewer people around.

  21. ecnaseener*

    For #5, I wonder if you could institute regular 1-on-1’s with everyone and fold the career growth conversations into those (for people interested in having them). You would probably lose the mutual sharing element of it but still be able to offer a sounding board to both this particular person and the rest of your reports.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      Honestly that’s a really good way to start out with everyone as well. Then you get a sense of what all your reports want from their jobs now and in the future. If later when you have more experience under your belt you want to have more group things that lean to career development you can start them, but for sure start out with “I’d like to have regular 1-1s with everyone so that I get up to speed with what everyone’s working on, and how I can best support you. I’d also like to discuss what directions you’d like to see your career path taking you, and how we can make sure that’s reflected in your work”. When I had to swap to a new boss, it’s one of the first things he asked me about, which I appreciated, because then we can make sure projects I have are tailored to both my goals and our department goals.

    2. Jamjari*

      This is what I came to say. I’m a believer in good 1-on-1s, and those are a great opportunity to continue to discuss your direct reports’ career goals … all of your direct reports unless they’re very clear they’re not interested.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Totally agree, one-on-ones are a great practice. I think I’d just be mindful that the dynamic in the standing meeting needs to change. Not only in it not being mutual, but just that you’re no longer speaking as a peer and you have to assume a different level of information sharing. This person probably won’t tell you if they’re job searching or building skills to move their career in another direction, for instance. You’ll also have to restructure the time to include management check-ins, with career building just being one aspect. It might go more smoothly if you take a break first and then restart the check-ins with everyone so it feels like a clean slate, but either way just be prepared for a shift.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      This was going to be my recommendation. Career development check-ins may not need to happen in every 1:1 meeting, but checking in a couple times a year on that subject would certainly make sense.

  22. Hiring Mgr*

    I’d just say allergies and I think you’re fine. Also, you may have done this already, but can you ask your doctor if there are alternatives to antihistamines that might fix the symptoms?

  23. Bookworm*

    LW1: No advice, just sending you sympathy. That sounds very frustrating and emotionally draining and I hope it all works out, for both you and your team and your manager’s health.

    LW2: I’ve witnessed this (small office and AFAIK this was very much of a case of a terrible manager who was trying to force this employee out anyway) and it is super awkward. You don’t always know the whole story but I do think there are better ways to handle these things. It may also be a signal of the organization’s culture, too (YMMV, though).

  24. Irish Teacher*

    LW5, I definitely think you need to back off from these conversations if you can’t include everybody. It’s too likely to make you think, “oh, I must suggest coworker goes on such a course because I know she’s really anxious to learn about x and there’s only one place” when other people might be equally anxious but you mightn’t know. Or “coworker would be great for that promotion/project with her knowledge of bands” when other coworkers might have as much or more knowledge but you are less likely to know about it.

  25. Potatoes gonna potate*

    About 10 years ago I was “let go” from a seasonal position, middle of the day. Had to collect my stuff because I couldn’t trust the company to send it to me. Same company but years later, most people were walked out similarly.

    At my current employer, only one person has been let go in the past year and that was a very quietly done – we didn’t really know about it until a few days later so I have no idea how it happened. I’ve gotten into the practice of clearing my desk of clutter every few months and keeping a bag with me.

    1. Skippy*

      I have been laid off twice. The first time happened at the end of the day, and I had to pack up all my stuff while my supervisor sat in her office, presumably to monitor what I was doing but mostly she was just stewing about having to stay late at work. I had so much stuff, including a mini-fridge, and it took me well over an hour to get everything loaded into my car.

      Never again will I accumulate so much stuff in a desk that isn’t mine.

  26. Potatoes gonna potate*

    # 5 – yes please, exactly for the reasons stated. It’s really not fair to your direct reports that you’re close with someone and they don’t have that access to you.

    The only way I can see a manager/employee being close in that sense is if they’re in different departments and their roles will never overlap. (i.e., I chat regularly with a coworker who’s in a mentoring role so…we’ve become friends now. She’s a manager of a different department that I will not ever work in. If by some fluke that does happen, I would fully expect the conversations to pull back).

  27. HonorBox*

    OP1 – I’m really sorry this is happening to you, and also am sending your boss lots of well wishes that the treatment goes smoothly for them.

    I think you need to remove the personal feelings from your question. You’re not betraying anyone by asking what to do. It isn’t a personal attack on your boss for asking a question, and if you frame it with the idea that you’re still trying to get work done while not having to rely on them while they’re dealing with their health issue, you should be fine. Your grandboss may have their head stuck in the sand and not realize the extent of the issue. But you say your team is sort of frozen and unsure what to do. That’s going to surface at some point and you’re likely to see things spin out of control more if that happens than if you ask questions now. It makes sense to start with your boss. Could they jump on a Zoom with the team to discuss things? You could ask them how you could take some things off their plate. Or you can go to grandboss (or HR) and just lay out the situation. You’re all waiting for boss to do ______ and that’s leaving you all without direction quite often. Is there a way someone from the team could be given boss’s responsibilities for certain things on an interim basis just to keep things moving? I’d love it if your boss was on board because if they’re telling grandboss that they’re not able to accomplish certain things that keep processes moving and they’d trust a person on the team to carry out those tasks, that might help grandboss see things in a clearer way.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      I don’t really have more to add to Alison’s answer except your Grandboss really sucks. I’m reading your whole letter wondering where Grandboss is and has been. Even if your boss seemed to be and was doing great working from home because of his illness earlier, your grandboss should have been doing a lot more checking in in person with you and your team given the situation (because your boss was suddenly working from home and not able to come in). And he should have kept checking in as your boss’s health changed.

      But also it is not betraying your boss to tell him, his boss, or HR you need more guidance than your currently ill boss is able to manage. It’s just a statement of fact. It’s information a good boss would want to know.

      1. Artemesia*

        I don’t see how this is an HR issue at all. It is about performance of the tasks of the department. The boss is out so the grandboss needs to direct what is to be done.

        1. Expelliarmus*

          If the grandboss doesn’t take the necessary steps to help out the team, then HR would be the next step.

    2. christy7h*

      Agree with this, take your feelings out of it and focus on what needs to be done.
      I was sort of the boss in this scenario, when I was pregnant earlier in the year. Leading up to my maternity leave, I was delegating a ton, and we had a plan for when to flip the switch on who was in charge of other things (it was going to happen when I actually left). Well, I had a ton of dr appts near the end due to a high risk pregnancy and honestly my head wasn’t in it. My staff approached me and rather bluntly said I was slowing down the process, how about so and so take over now? I am SO GLAD they were that blunt and I didn’t push back. I wound up going into labor a week later, and all is well.

      In talking to your boss, have very specific examples (when the widgets are done, we need you to review them within 3 days or XYZ), and maybe some solutions – a weekly touchpoint, a certain time sensitive approval delegated (or escalated) etc.

      also – if they are clinging to wanting to keep doing it all and saying they will fix it, give them a chance and see how it goes for a week or two. then take the next step

  28. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    #2 When I was laid off in May from my WFH job, I was locked out of my computer within 30 minutes of my call with HR. It was the WFH equivalent of being marched out.

    I was told later by another manager, the company started doing this because of IT security issues, and that it wasn’t personal as though they thought I was going to harm anything.

    Still, just so you know, if you ARE documenting anything as proof, or if you’re a creative who want a sample for your portfolio, make sure you email it to a personal email account and/or back it up somewhere offline.

    1. Han Sola*

      Be careful emailing things to yourself. Our company checks to see if people have started emailing a lot of things to themselves. I had personal things on my computer (I know) that I emailed myself but didnt worry about it because if they checked they would see what it was. It’s good even if you don’t plan to leave to occasionally print stuff off to have at home so it’s not lost. Now, our company can check printing too, but they aren’t going back super long or thinking its weird that you are printing documents. Also, I accepted my most recent job over a month before I gave my notice due to waiting on my bonus, and previously was interviewing and sure I would get the job several months before, so THAT was an ideal time to print things. I still didn’t email them though.

      1. Han Sola*

        I want to clarify its when you leave that they may check to see what you emailed, not on a regular basis.

    2. I Have RBF*

      Yeah, when I got laid off from one remote position they literally locked me out of my computer the moment I got off the call with my boss. This was their standard practice as a government contractor.

  29. Observer*

    #2- Walking a fired employee out the door with HR over their shoulder.

    I hate the practice. I’ve heard all of the arguments for it, and I simply do not buy that this actually *IS* a “best practice” for normal situations in any industry.

    Having said that, there are *definitely* situations where this really is the best or only way to handle it. So I’d fall back on Alison’s advice – is this typical of how your company operates? If not, there may have been good reason for what you saw.

    And I’m going to say that asking your boss / HR is unlikely to get you any real information. Because smart bosses and HR know that getting into details here is a really bad idea.

    1. I Have RBF*

      It is “best practice” for certain roles or job descriptions. The two I can think of are finance and IT. I work in IT with production access. I take the perp walk as a standard thing in my position.

      1. Observer*

        I work in IT as well. More often than not, there are better ways to handle it.

        I’m not saying that it’s never the way to go, but perp walk as *standard practice* just doesn’t have to happen.

        If I ever had to fire one of our IT folks (small department) I would do my best to avoid it. Including logging them out of everything and having their access to any systems shut off while the person is in the meeting where they are being fired.

        And I’m going to say that if your primary plan to keep someone like that from causing problems is the perp walk, you’re leaving yourself exposed.

  30. cabbagepants*

    Regarding the perp walk

    During a time of profound upheaval, as my company prepared to move a whole division a thousand miles away, many people quit to work for a local competitor so as to not have to uproot their families. These quitting employees were perp walked out. It made sense but was still felt sad and jarring to see people who were otherwise loyal for a decade or more suddenly treated as the enemy.

    1. Polaris*

      I do not understand whey employers are so shocked that they lose loyal people over things like “uprooting an entire division half the country away”. In the late 70s my father’s employer was flabbergasted over the number who took a buyout instead of moving across the country.

      Heck, a former employer was confused that I wasn’t interested in a promotion that would require uprooting my family and moving us to an area where we had no family and no “village”.

  31. Someone Else's Boss*

    10+ years ago, my job included firing people and walking them to their desks/offices to pack up. No one shared a space with more than three other people, but it was definitely uncomfortable at times. Most of the people I fired had their own offices, which made it easier, and if we were worried it would be intense, we would lure their officemates away from the shared space to offer some privacy. Now that said, I 100% would never fire someone now without walking them to their desk and out the door. I had people react in ways I would never have predicted. You really don’t know how you will respond to being let go, even if you’ve been on a very clear PIP. Some people just don’t think it will ever come to firing. And it’s worse if a PIP is not involved. One woman threw something at my head. Firing is an experience no one wants to be a part of, but it’s sometimes a necessary part of business. Personally, I would want to collect my things immediately and not have to come back another day so as to not create a scene.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      Now that you mention it, I have seen before where a team was called to an impromptu meeting, unknowingly because someone was packing up their things. I think they announced the departure in the meeting and talked a little about upcoming changes.

  32. Observer*

    #4 Wierd PMS symptoms

    I would be extremely cautious about mentioning your Endo and PMS to people. I would say that in any case, because dealing with all the Nosy Nellies, (closet – or not) misogynists who will use this as an excuse to question you capacity, and just the clueless and uninformed, can be exhausting and infuriated. Given that you have rather unusual symptoms, you are going to get an added helping of that plus a some people who are going to inform you that you are WRONG about your diagnosis. Because they *know* all about it, and *they* have never seen this so OF COURSE, they must be right and you are wrong. It’s crazy making.

    Stick to something neutral like “It’s a chronic cyclical thing, I’m working with my doctor on something that works.” And have a bland answer for “But ~~medicine of choice~~ works! Why aren’t you using that?!” Again, simple, vague and definitive.

    Before anyone jumps down my throat telling me that we need to normalize this stuff, etc. please keep in mind that the OP is not the person to fight that battle unless they are game to take it on. Keep in mind that PMS is likely to garner a LOT more stupidity and problematic behavior than something like migraines, which are bad enough. There are very few diagnoses I would disclose to a new workplace unless it were absolutely necessary, until I had a lot of social capital and credibility and I got to know that my coworkers are reasonable about medical stuff. (Which means that in some workplaces, I would never be able to share.) If the OP is up to dealing with the craziness, more power to her. But if she’s worried about looking unprofessional (she would absolutely not, ftr) I suspect that she not up for this kind of battle yet.

    I hope you’re working with a doctor who takes you *seriously* and is trying to find a reasonable solution for you.

    1. Jessica*

      Yup. That’s why, if I need to talk about it for some reason, like to reassure people I’m not contagious (and/or what I’m experiencing is not an emergency), my pre-period cold symptoms are “allergies” and my cramps and nausea are a “migraine.”

  33. Fred*

    I’ve been both sides of the being walked, and let’s be clear about one thing – there’s no “asking” to collect my things. They’re coming with me. Now. I’ve had the “you can come back later…” – well, no. I’m not burning the time and gas, and now I don’t work here, I’m also not leaving the hundreds/thousands of tech/personal belongings in my office. We’re going to go and get them – now.

    1. Observer*

      And the answer mat be “No.” Backed by security. It’s not something I would do lightly, but we just had a scenario where we had no other choice but to essentially march someone out the door. It was a bit traumatic for everyone involved. We had tried very hard to avoid that scenario, but the employees behavior left us no choice.

      And it someone got this aggressive with our staff? It might turn into “we’ll send you your stuff. If you want to make sure everything gets to you, send us a list.” Backed by security.

      I understand where you are coming from, which is why I would want firings to be done either early or late, to give people as much privacy as possible.

  34. Waiting on the bus*

    OP #4: I’ll be honest, I’d probably go the route of telling people it’s PMS rather than allergies. Maybe it’s the places I’ve worked so far but any talk of allergies usually devolves into what allergies everyone has and it would be weird if you didn’t specify at least a little. Especially if you say they are mobthly

    I’d go with a humorous “shark week is also sneeze week for me – sorry in advance for the monthly sniffling!” said in a light-hearted or exasperated tone. It lays out that this will happen monthly but doesn’t have anything to do with contagious illnesses, even if someone isn’t familiar with the term shark week. I’ve always worked in pretty casual offices where hot bottles are lent out to combat cramps and back pain freely, and everyone knows which employee has what painkillers in their bag for times when the hot bottles aren’t cutting it, though. Maybe it wouldn’t fly in your office.

    1. bamcheeks*

      it would be weird if you didn’t specify at least a little

      “I don’t know, I’ve never figured it out!” is a legitimate answer, though! I had some kind of dermatitis last autumn into winter, and possible candidates included leaf mould, soap, cycling regularly in colder weather for the first time since Covid,

      Generally speaking, my eczema is this thing PLUS that thing PLUS the other thing all happening at the same time. Stress + a slightly less effective moisturiser + washing my hands more than usual, etc, rather than any individual cause. It’s definitely possible to know that something is autoimmune without necessarily being able to pin down a specific allergen.

    2. Jessica*

      Yeah, I’m glad you have such a nice office, but that’s not how a lot of the world works.

      I’ve worked in male-dominated fields my entire life, where the techbros tend to do things like muttering “someone’s on the rag” when women do highly unreasonable things like politely disagreeing with them.

      Until we live in a society where men don’t become testerical at the entire idea of menstruation, they’re not responsible enough to be trusted with any information about the workings of my uterus.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Sadly I agree. I work in IT in heavy engineering and there is still a large amount of ‘females and their hormones mean they can’t be logical!’ stuff knocking about here. I actually wish I’d kept my mouth shut when I went in for a hysterectomy because the crap I got afterwards was uncomfortable.

      2. Artemesia*

        This. PMS discussions just ignite misogyny for many and seem like TMI for others. Allergies — they just flare up at every little thing.

  35. Marna Nightingale*

    LW1: FWIW, whichever approach you take, I think there’s a lot to be said for phrasing it — to yourself and coworkers as well as to Boss — as “How do we work things to let Boss focus on what they’re great at while they’re going through this and have limited energy?”

    Because it sounds like they are getting some things done really well, and their job is just Too Many Things for someone at their level of health.

    Effectively, they need to be regarded as part-time right now, and thinking of it that way is probably both more productive and less resentment-producing than thinking of it as “they’re dropping balls”.

    1. kiki*

      Yeah, I think it’s important to lead this first conversation with empathy for boss instead of trying to assign blame to anyone– it seems likely that boss and grandboss both don’t recognize that boss has slipped below a certain threshold in delivering for the team. I might actually start the conversation privately with grandboss in this situation., to be honest. I feel like going to boss may make him feel guilty and like he should try to push himself to do more when he probably can’t. I feel like having one designated person from LW’s team approach grandboss and ask for more guidance would go over well. It don’t think that would come across as a betrayal.

  36. an HR lady*

    LW2, I have been that HR person once. In that situation, we let the person go at the end of the day (after they had months of performance improve conversations and additional training). Our goal was for the office to be mostly empty so that if the person was upset, they wouldn’t have an audience. We also offered to pack up and ship at our expense (or arrange pick up) the personal belongings but the exiting employee preferred to pack up themselves. All that is to say, we ended up with a person weeping at their desk (we offered them time to collect themselves in the conference room, but again the offered was denied) while they packed up their belongings. I was nearby because we did have some concerns that she would make a scene, but I wasn’t like hovering hovering. Just wanted to share a different perspective.

  37. a.p.*

    LW 3: I had a similar thing happen to me early in my career. The interviewer wanted me to ask all the questions. Thankfully, I had enough prepared to take up some time. But she didn’t ask me a single question. She spent the bulk of time just chatting about the other staff positions, detailing every aspect of the open position, and talking about some things that weren’t relevant at all – like an event that happened 10 years prior and had nothing to do with the role. I got a weird feeling from it, but still sent a very professional thank-you. I never heard another word from them. I think there are some people who just don’t know how to interview, or maybe they already had a rockstar candidate and just followed through with my interview out of courtesy.

  38. NeedRain47*

    lw#2, your coworker who got walked out was either angry, or someone was angry at him. This is the only time I’ve seen this happen in places where it’s not the norm. someone is fired or quits abruptly and the company perceives this person as “might take revenge”, no matter how unrealistic that is, they treat them like a criminal. (yes, I realize vengeful people exist, but for some reason they’re not the ones I’ve seen getting walked out.)

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Some companies absolutely handle things wrong, but it’s worth noting you never know what someone’s disciplinary process looked like. I’ve had people react really poorly/violently to being fired that you wouldn’t have assumed would do that from the outside. It’s traumatic, sometimes people don’t act like themselves. The disciplinary action itself could also be based around behavior that triggers a need for that walk out. You just never know all the context.

  39. sam seaborn*

    Some of the responses to #4 are totally off the wall. Just tell people you’ve got allergies / you’re a little sniffly / something must be blooming for a few days but you’re not contagious, and go about your day – I promise no one thinks about you as much as you think they are and it’ll be fine. Sounds awful though, I’m sorry you have to deal with it.

    If you want to wear a mask you can, as some people here have suggested, but frankly if I saw someone wearing one I’d think they *were* contagious — and even more frankly wouldn’t wear a mask on my own unless it was contagious or someone very explicitly asked me to when around them.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’m really glad that’s been your experience! I have employees in my office freaking out whenever someone comes in with the sniffles, especially right now when there’s a new variant circulating. If I’ve learned anything the last couple of years it’s that not everyone has lived the same pandemic.

    2. Heather*

      Agreed! this comment section is usually so insistent that you don’t owe anyone private information, but maybe today is opposite day… LW should just say it’s nothing contagious and move on. if people are unable to be around somebody with allergy type sniffles and the occasional sneeze that’s their problem.

      1. Expelliarmus*

        It’s not “opposite day”; no one is saying you owe anyone private information. They’re just saying that you have to be really careful about even seeming contagious, because a lot of them have had experiences where someone said they only had “allergies” but turned out to be sick (not necessarily maliciously, just because things like COVID can have seemingly minor symptoms). It’s perfectly reasonable to advise the OP to wear a mask if they have such symptoms just to be safe; whether OP wants to do that or not is their prerogative.

    3. Not Again*

      Bless your heart. I am high-risk and always wear a mask indoors. Not contagious with anything as far as I know. You would be thinking incorrectly about me. Why not just assume that the person is cautious and protecting themselves from all URI’s?

      That said, I truly give up on people ever being intelligent about Covid. So I protect myself the best I can. I haven’t had the flu or a cold since COVID arrived. Not a robust immune system either, although I am fully vaccinated. Health care workers , those working in dusty environments, or around chemicals etc., have always worn masks/respirators to protect themselves. It’s just smart.

      OP, say what you want, or nothing.

    4. Alice*

      So would wear a mask on your own when you are contagious? Great!
      How exactly do you know when you are contagious?
      Please share your secret so that the rest of the world can solve the problem of presymptomatic transmission, asymptomatic transmission, and “don’t worry it’s just allergies” transmission. We will all be in your debt.

  40. Elevator Elevator*

    LW4 – It’ll be a little weird at first but you’ll be fine. I have some respiratory/sinus issues that mean I always seem a little sick – coughing, needing to blow my nose a lot, sounding stuffed up. I also can’t usually smell anything. Pre-pandemic this was a lot less fraught, and people who have known me since then aren’t phased by it, but I was really worried when I started my new job last year that it would be a problem.

    I kept a lid on it as best I could during the interview process, and then once I was in the job I just explained it in conversations here and there over the course of my first week – sorry in advance if I cough a lot, I’m just like this, I’ve always been the person with three bags of cough drops in her desk drawer. I don’t make a big deal about it, just casually establish that it’s chronic and noncontagious.

    In terms of details – I don’t think you need to go into detail about the medical cause, or specifically call it PMS. Just stick to naming what people will see – “I have regular bouts of something that’s a lot like hay fever, it’s like I have really bad allergies for 2-3 days so I might seem like I’ve come down with a cold but I’m actually fine.” It’ll probably help if you can get out ahead of it – it’s easier to believe a sneezing fit is non-contagious when someone gave you a heads up about it days/weeks before it happened than it is when someone comes in unexpectedly sneezing and you have to take them at their word that it’s nothing you need to worry about.

    The thing that’s going to help the most is time. Some people are going to be justifiably skeptical and wary no matter what, but most of that’s going to fade when they see that it really is just something that happens to you with some regularity. It’ll be awkward the first couple of times but even this side of 2020, people will get used to it.

  41. stranger*

    I’ve seen people get walked out at two of my jobs. In most of the cases, it was because there were concerns about how the person was going to react or the work had a level of security/sensitivity that required an escort just in case.

  42. sad interviewee*

    I just had an interview where the HR person talked so much, I barely got to say anything. They would ask me a question but then continue talking and going off into a different area so I wouldn’t even be able to answer once there was a pause. And by then, they were so far into some other topic, it seemed bizarre I was speaking about something so much earlier. They only asked me 2 questions during their entire monologue, why I wanted the job and would I relocate. Nothing else. They also rambled on, there wasn’t any time for me to ask questions at any point. And after the 30 mins were up, they were clearly eager to leave the meeting. It was probably the worst interview I’ve ever experienced.

  43. Anontoday*

    For number 2, this happened to me in a situation I was told I could be fired or quit – two days after I was interviewed for a promotion. It was the meanest, nastiest thing I have ever experienced and the way my previous organization went about the whole process was so disgusting, it left the worst taste in my mouth – and also meant they were forced to pay my severance AND unemployment, which they wanted to avoid. It’s been over a year and I’m still livid at everyone involved.

  44. Sssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I wasn’t given a box but I was expected to pack up my stuff and go the day I was laid off. I was shoving things into random bags in a hurry and it was awful.

    I had to return a week later to get the rest of my stuff. One box would have been insufficient after four years on the same job. I had accumulated shoes, a boatload of feminine sanitary supplies and more.

    1. JustaTech*

      Yeah, one box would *not* be enough for me – I’ve got a lot of creature comforts and thingies at my desk!

      The first time we had mass layoffs at my work everyone was told they were coming the night before (and honestly had known before that) so some people had already taken stuff home (but not necessarily the people who got laid off). When the calls down to the HR office started the heads of various teams tried to keep everyone else in conference rooms (but we didn’t have enough for everyone) to give the laid off some privacy.

      Pretty much everyone went out for lunch for the same reason, to give our departing colleagues some privacy while they cried. (And then everyone went out to happy hour at like 2, because yo, that was a terrible day.)

      Management did learn from how terrible that layoff went for everyone and for the next ones they managed a lot more privacy for everyone.

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      At a job I left in 90s it took multiple trips on a flatbed cart to get me out of my office! And I’d only been there 2 years! Some shoes and toys, but mostly books and magazines (that I paid for). At the time my field had a lots of beautiful, huge monthly publications and annuals — that were delivered straight to the office since my apartment mailbox couldn’t hold them — plus I had loads of inspiration and reference books. My apartment was too small to hold all this plus work is where you need the work books anyway.

      Luckily I wasn’t escorted out or anything, I had time. I learned my lesson and never stocked up an office like that again, and honestly haven’t had to since the internet replaced a loooot of books.

  45. e271828*

    LW4, wear a well-fitted mask. You’re still spreading bacteria and viruses when you sneeze, even if they may not be COVID-19.

  46. RagingADHD*

    LW1, if antihistamines would alleviate the symptoms, just call it an allergy. It might as well be.

  47. Hamster Manager*

    LW 1

    This is a sucky situation, but I do think you need to consider what you’ll do if nothing changes. In my role, I have no oversight, no support, and no job expectations. I have flagged the issue with this many times, and just keep plugging away as best I can. When management gets upset with me for doing something ‘wrong’ (again, what would be right is totally undefined), I remind them that I’d be happy to do whatever they wanted, if they would only say what that is. They never do.

    When you want to do a good job, this type of ambiguity is maddening, but at some point you have to just chill and let things be sort of bad if that’s what your management is willing tolerate as a tradeoff for not doing their jobs.

  48. Unfortunately Fed*

    Letter writer #4- I was mildly allergic to whatever they deep cleaned my old apartment building with once a month. That feels like a good cover story for you!

    Took me ages to figure it out, hives the first week of the month like clockwork.

  49. Pogo*

    LW 3 one of my very first interviews out of college went similar to this – I was so prepared to talk myself up and talk about my experience and my excitement for the role… and they just told me about the job and showed me the office and asked me not one single question about myself and my experience, and didn’t give me an opening to ask anything. It was a job I was excited about too, so I was super annoyed when I got the rejection a few days later – based on what, exactly?! You didn’t learn anything at all about me! Not that I’m still bitter or anything lol. And that is how I learned some people just have no idea how to interview – occasionally I think about that and wonder how on earth they ended up deciding on the person they hired if their interview went anything like mine.

  50. Be kind*

    Why not wear a mask when you have these symptoms? Presumably you could catch covid and have these symptoms and not know that you are in fact contagious, if you’re expecting to have hay-fever like symptoms once a month. Wearing a mask would ensure that everyone is safe regardless, and would show respect for coworkers who might be genuinely concerned because they or someone they love is medically vulnerable.

  51. Raida*

    3. My interviewer didn’t ask me any questions at all

    Good god, I’d’ve been hard pressed not to go into my “stern, this is big enough of a problem that we’re not going to spend time on niceties” manner for dealing with repeatedly wrong staff/customers:
    “Stop. What prep have you done for this meeting? Have you seen these job descriptions before? What useful information about the applicant are you getting from slowly reading a piece of paper *at them* without adding real-world context? Do you think this is a good use of our time? Do you think that ignoring concerns raised is good practise?…”

    I’d’ve probably gone with… Interrupting after two bullet points, clarifying that she’s not intending to add anything, and clearly stating “*I’m* across both position descriptions, can we move on now thanks.” and if she resumed just change tack to deflection such as “Sorry to interrupt, Position 1 describes [bullet point nine] what does that look like, day to day?” and “I’m comfortable with my understanding of Position 1, but I have a couple of questions about [bullet point 1, 2, 4] in Position 2”

  52. Raida*

    5. My coworker and I talk a lot about our career goals — and now I’m about to become their manager

    I actually would suggest instead of stopping the meetings, arranging them with every team member.

    You are new to managing – do not put “talking to my staff” in the category of “well I’m real busy right now” box.

    Your ‘sessions’ with your workmate have given you insights into the kinds of information and support that you and they like – use that as a framework to create a style of catchup with each person and tweak them based on needs/wants for them all. One person might want you to put their name forward for a conference, another might want a clear guide on how much budget they have each year for training, another might be more chatty.

    My current manager has a fortnightly 1-hr catchup with every person in our team – that’s allocating almost a workday per two weeks. And y’know what? Sometimes they’ll be focussed on a current project, sometimes they’ll be about training, sometimes they’ll be about positions coming up, sometimes it’ll be more of a general chat.

    You can create an open, inviting, two-way work relationship with your staff, even with a coffee catch up once a month, get a good idea on how the team’s doing in regards to staffing, BAU workloads, deadlines, projects, etc. PLUS your staff will see the specific effort you’re putting in to being an available manager that is interested in their success.

  53. SB*

    LW2 – my employer does this as we all have access to proprietary data. If you are being terminated they will call you into a meeting & while you are in the meeting the IT team will remotely disable all your passwords – laptop/PC, phone, company intranet, CAD software, entry codes, etc. You will no longer have access to anything & if you had any personal data stored on any devices that belong to the company you have to request the docs be copied & sent to you.

    After the meeting they will escort you out of the building & any personal items on your desk will be couriered to you within a day or two. It is brutal & I hate it but the company was apparently burnt pretty badly a few years ago when someone they allowed to remove personal docs from a company computer sent an email to all internal users, all customers & all suppliers with a massive rant about how the company is shady & they should all find a new employer/supplier/customer. So because of his shenanigans they now go OTT when firing people.

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