the weaponized allergy, fire drill Daryl, and other stories of strategic incompetence

Last week we talked about weaponized incompetence, and here are 17 of my favorite stories you shared.

1. The Diet Coke

My first job out of college I was the only woman on a small team of other guys who were also fresh from college. They tried to get me to make the coffee. Convo went something like this:
“Why don’t you ever make coffee?”
“I don’t drink coffee.”
“Well, WE all drink coffee, if you made some occasionally it would be nice.”
“Does this mean you’ll start bringing me Diet Cokes to be nice?”
“Okay, when that happens then maybe I’ll make a pot of coffee.”

Never got a DC from those boys, but they never bothered me about it again either.

2. The allergy

Someone in my office is suspected of weaponized allergy to mold, carpet glue, and dust. She changed offices three times because “something is just getting to me” in this part of the building. She now has a lovely office with a fireplace (we work in an old house) and a balcony overlooking a luscious green lawn and hedges. Interestingly, there does not seem to be any mold, carpet glue, or dust there.

3. The duo

My boss is great, but is nearing retirement and spent most of her career in federal government service, where tech updates were not the priority. I don’t know if this is weaponized incompetence exactly, but I get away with a lot by pretending I’m just as clueless about technology as she is. For example, she mentioned not really understanding Teams and whoops, neither did I! I didn’t explain to her that if she had the app open she’d be able to see my activity status in Outlook … and now she never uses it and I can take long lunches/midday walks/etc without worrying that she’ll see that my dot went gray. Another time I was having laptop issues and couldn’t get into the office to fix it until the next day. Before I could say that I would just log in on the firm’s virtual desktop from my personal laptop, she said, “Oh well, guess you can’t work today.” I shut my mouth and said, “I guess not!”

(Obligatory caveat that we have a great working relationship and none of my white, incompetent lies create a burden for her – just a little more free time/a little less surveillance for me).

4. The coffee

As a middle-aged woman in engineering, I’m utterly baffled by the coffee machine and dishwasher. I only make coffee when I’m the first person in the office, and I make it 1.5x strength. No one has noticed that there’s fresh coffee when I’m the first person in, but I’m helpless to make it through the day. I’m also ruthless about sending people to the admins to solve their problems rather than trying to be helpful.

5. The art skills

This is from way in my youth, but here goes: in high school, I ended up on my home country’s equivalent of the student council and, once on it, was put in charge of all things art – signs, posters, decorations etc around the school. Which in practice ended up being 10% me overseeing somebody else making art and 90% me making ALL THE ART. Tried to leave after a year, but was told I had to stay on and keep making the art, which I did till I graduated.

Mentioned it to a few people when I started college and spent most of my five years there being on a team of 2-3 people responsible for making ALL THE ART in the dorm building. Signs, posters, etc. We are talking a tower 14 floors tall with 16 suites and several common areas on each floor. It got exhausting fast.

Started my first job out of college, in an IT department of a large manufacturing plant, and not even two weeks into the job, I had two young women approach me saying that they were on the (forgot the name of it … something employee-engagement-like?) committee and did I know how to draw? DID I KNOW HOW TO DRAW? I smiled and said Nope! and that was the end of my poster-making career. I’ve done some of it in my later years, but for myself (made a sign for a protest I was attending, painted the large rocks embedded in the curb strip next to my house, etc.) but never was anyone able to rope me into doing it for a job or similar on a volunteer basis ever again.

6. The weaponized competence

I did this to get out of auditing purchase card transactions at work (it’s not my job, I was just pulled in because the team that was in charge of it was drowning in work and I’m known to be very efficient/a fast worker with little to no training). I did not like doing this.

Company policy is that any employee with a purchasing card must provide all receipts of transactions, and if receipts are missing too many times the card will be revoked. (Example: missing one $5 receipt in the span of 6 months will just be a gentle warning, while consistently not having receipts, especially for bigger purchases, will definitely get the card revoked, with a sliding scale between the two points; there was also an approved vendor policy, no alcohol policy, etc.)

The CEO’s expense report landed on my desk. It was missing tons of receipts, with random high-cost expenses without explanation (think $3000 at a sports arena in alcohol and food and ticket costs). I took my red pen to that thing and attached company policy to it. Said it couldn’t be processed because of missing items, highlighted that it was turned in late too. I had already done similar things to the VPs and CFO. They’re the ones that made the policies, they should be examples of how to abide by it, right?

I was politely informed that I would no longer be doing this work after the CEO came down on the CFO and VP for allowing someone to step to him because he couldn’t do the simple thing and provide his receipts.

7. Fire drill Daryl

I worked in a hospital registration department back when I was in college. It’s very fast-paced and sometimes you’re coordinating life flight helicopter landings and incoming casualty ambulances at the same time. Even for a small college town it was an intense job.

“Daryl” worked there for about a decade by the time I was there. His mom was some high-up’s executive assistant so he couldn’t be fired. One phone line was dedicated for incoming casualties to the ER and it would literally blare an alarm, flash red, and light up the whole office. ER coordination was an in-depth task that took about half an hour and required a lot of focus. It wasn’t bad and it made the day go faster. One day he just sat there while it was ringing and then walked away. When we asked him why he did that, he replied, “Oh, I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was a fire drill so I left and went home.”

8. The apps

The times I’ve deployed it are all around defending boundaries in my pushy nonprofit, usually around things they’d like me to do on my personal phone without offering me any money. I already use my own devices for most of work, and being “unable” to get certain apps to work — either not downloading them or claiming I don’t seem to be able to work them — gets me out of more boundary-pushing (requests lately include, downloading our office’s banking app on my phone — which would now leave me as the only person who can handle checks outside of office hours (I am in communications, not finance) or being unable to take zoom meetings from my car while driving to other meetings (oh darn) or not being reachable via slack outside of hours for minutiae. It’s so unfortunate that I have this crappy old phone that just doesn’t work well!

9. The potlucks

Weaponized/strategic incompetence is the males in my department not being able to find or figure out how to set up the plates/cups/silverware (all disposable) for our mandatory monthly potlucks OR being able to clean up afterwards because they must do XYZ immediately.

There are labels on every drawer and cupboard. They are reminded during every pot luck to clean up … NOPE. They will not do it.

Now the ladies make sure not to tidy up after a potluck and sometimes things will sit for days, but we grit our teeth and hold firm.

One dude even admonished my female colleague that his crockpot had been sitting in the sink for three days and had not been washed. She told him the soap was in the cabinet under the sink and he could wash it whenever he wanted. I hate mandatory potlucks.

10. The black hole

I’m in a non-client-facing role. The CEO, President, and JD are all in agreement that I am not in a public or client-facing role.

My email and phone are black holes for anyone outside my organization. Emails get deleted before the inbox. My phone won’t ring if the number isn’t whitelisted. If you find my cellular number, the texts fail to route. My voicemail isn’t set up on any system. For all intents and purposes, I do not exist to the outside world.

Any time anyone tries to pass an external person off to me, it fails miserably and they have no alternative but to do their actual job. I’ve had to demonstrate unabashed remorselessness. When asked, I simply shrug and say “All I know is that I wasn’t hired for a client-facing role.”

11. The video calls

For YEARS, I managed to not be capable of online video conferences. Right up until COVID, in fact. After that, everyone had to transition, so I had to as well. Before then, though, I successfully avoided work video calls for over 10 years.

Reader, during this time, my husband worked overseas on and off for 3 years, and we had regular video calls.

12. The typing

I was one of only three female engineers. It was the early 90’s and the organization had decided that engineering admins were a waste with everyone having emails and computers, etc. and all of the engineers would have to do their own typing, etc.

A mid-level engineering manager tried one by one to make us his unofficial admin “since he never learned to type.” None of us worked for him and all of us told him we had never learned to type either so couldn’t help him. (As we turned our backs and started typing our own work.)

It was a battle of weaponized incompetence. Eventually someone left a copy of Mavis Beacon on his desk.

13. The lazy director

I worked for a director who would constantly send me last-minute requests for things that were not in my area of responsibility. I have enough general knowledge about the organization to be dangerous, so I could usually drop everything and put it together for him by the end of the day. I found out these were tasks he was supposed to produce, which he had forgotten about, and he would submit my work as his own (no changes at all) and blame me for turning it in late.

After I found out, I quit doing them. I would respond blandly with, “I’m sorry, that’s outside my area and I wouldn’t have any idea how to do that…” I wouldn’t even direct him to the right person or department. Eventually he was fired, and after he left we found a stack of similar assignments from the head of the organization that had never been completed.

14. The notes

One of my favorite days at work ever was when a new mid-level (male) manager turned to the only two women in the meeting and asked which one of us was going to be taking notes. Both of us were higher on the org chart than him (just different departments) and as a team lead it is part of his role to ensure that any meetings he chairs have a note taker (as in, he was supposed to bring one of his admin people with him to take notes or do it himself).

I was only one level above him but the other woman was exec team level with no one above her but the CEO and owner. She asked him to step outside with her and when they returned he was beet red and asked if anyone in the room objected to him recording the meeting so he could have them transcribed by his admin team afterwards. I still get a little serotonin from that memory.

15. The notes, part 2

For a while, I was the only woman on a leadership team. We got a new grandboss, who, while also a man, was actually fairly sensitive about this kind of stuff. (I later found out that his daughter was a professor at our state university’s business school and was writing a book about gender dynamics in the workplace. I guess he was listening when she talked at Thanksgiving!)

About two months into his tenure, he interrupted a meeting to ask, “Is there a reason Lizzianna always gets volunteered to take notes?” After some sputtering, someone finally said, “She just takes the best notes. Ours are chicken scratch and no one else understands them when we send them out!”

To which my grandboss said, “Well, that sounds like a developmental opportunity for you all.” And he put out a rotating schedule for note taking and specifically instructed me that I was not to volunteer to take on someone else’s week without his explicit approval.

The note taking had been bothering me for months, but I had been choosing my battles, that wasn’t one I’d decided to take on yet. The truth is, my handwriting is also atrocious, as is my spelling, I was just taking the time to type up and edit my notes, because that’s what you do when you’re the notetaker in a meeting.

16. The Word functions

Early in my work life, I worked in a secretarial office (5 of us, each assigned 4-6 professors). I loved using every available Word function to save time and effort especially on tasks done multiple times each semester (ex. merging long lists into letters and envelopes). But several coworkers always pretended to “forget” how and wanted my help to basically do it. This got old fast, so I started “forgetting” how too. I might have just done a big merge in am, but forgot how after lunch.

Technically, no one believed me but those lazy coworkers were also too chicken to call me on it – as was our supervisor so she & they would do things manually.

17. The tracking software

My department head has limited power around policies. So technically, we’re all supposed to be working from the office with no flexibility and very little vacation time. But the tracking software is complicated. So complicated that the department head, a senior software engineer, can’t figure out how to work it. And he certainly can’t expect the managers to figure it out if he can’t. So while he’s figuring that out, we should use the honor system and take the vacation that we need without worrying about it. For now, as long as we do our jobs, he won’t penalize people.

It’s been 10 years and who knows how many software changes. I appreciate him.

{ 343 comments… read them below }

      1. Quill*

        #14 is a great opportunity for the answer to “who’s taking notes?” to be “You, thanks for volunteering fergus!”

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      That’s how my old job handled notes. We had a shared OneNote and we just rotated every meeting, even the CFO was in the rotation. The Notetaker would share the screen and we’d help fill in gaps if they missed something key while they were typing (I cannot type and listen at the same time) and it worked out wonderfully.

      1. ErinWV*

        Ooh, I would hate that. I’m an assistant, so I routinely take notes in meetings – it’s my actual job, I’m very good at it, and I don’t have a problem with it – but I would hate them being displayed for people to see, especially because I sometimes add my own commentary. “And now we’re discussing this thing again and I can probably cut and paste last month’s minutes because everyone’s saying exactly the same thing and this will never move forward.”

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        A very popular “typing tutor” computer program in the…1990s? The early home computer days.

        1. AnonyNurse*

          It existed by the late 80s. We got a PS2 in what 1988? And I LOVED mavis beacon. Little 8 year old me would sit for as long as I was allowed. Just loved the games and typing. I’m still a great typist and participate in the “citizen archivist” programs at NARA and the library of Congress, transcribing documents for fun. :)

          1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

            I had to Google PS2 and computer because, having been alive since 1980, the only PS2 I remember was the gaming console that came out in 2000 and was *way* confused. I didn’t know IBM’s PC’s were called PS2. We had a TI computer when I was 3 in 1983 and pretty steadily have been upgrading our computers ever since, but I don’t think we ever owned an actual IBM branded computer.

        1. Gingerbread Lady*

          Yes, I really had to chuckle at that one. As if the internet isn’t chock full of programs (some of them free) to teach people touch typing!

            1. Gingerbread Lady*

              Mmm, yes, good point – but, in addition to Mavis Beacon, there were books out there (well before the 1990s) showing diagrams of which fingers tap which keys and including practice drills. The only reason that fellow didn’t know touch typing was because he figured that was a way to get some female to do it for him!

              1. Ally McBeal*

                Yes, but Mavis Beacon gamified it and made typing an accessible skill for children (people at all age levels, really). Books with diagrams are not a particularly compelling way to learn an essential hands-on skill.

                I was born in ’86 and started using Mavis in the mid-to-late 90s when I was in middle school. Just the other day I needed to copy text from a website that had blocked copy-paste functionality, so I just loaded my blank document on my second screen, started typing into it while staring intently at the website text, and thanked my lucky stars that I’d been drilled so frequently in school. I can’t imagine how long that task would’ve taken if I’d had to hunt-and-peck.

                1. Pikachu*

                  My favorite Mavis Beacon game was the one were you were “driving” and every typo made a bug splatter on the windshield.

                2. STAT!*

                  I’ve found a way around that which works sometimes. Following are my steps for an Office/ Windows environment:

                  (1) Use something like Snipping Tool to copy the relevant text.
                  (2) Paste the snip into a blank Word document. Save as a pdf (best done using the “Print” command to print to pdf, rather than “Save as”). Close document.
                  (3) Reopen document in Word. Word will convert it to an editable Word document.

                  I once had a great touch type speed but can’t be bothered going that fast any more, so the above is useful to me from time to time.

                3. Dog momma*

                  That’s why there was a typing class back in hs. Mostly for girls. I graduated in ’72.

                  otoh, I re-taught myself typing back in the 90s when I got a medical hospital position. previously an ICU RN.. no typing needed. and my handwriting is STILL atrocious 50 yrs later!

                4. Ally McBeal*

                  @STAT! – that is amazing, I can’t believe that worked! Fortunately the text I had to copy last week was super short – like 3 or 4 paragraphs – but I will definitely keep this in mind for next time. Thank you!

                5. H.C.*

                  I preferred Mario Teaches Typing even though it wasn’t as effective as Mavis for actually teaching typing (I remember one stage you really can’t go above 40 wpm because the animation sequence takes so long lol)

                6. But what to call me?*

                  I sure wish someone would have introduced me to that in the 90s!
                  Or, you know, bothered to teach it in school, since we did have computer class and it was very obvious what direction the world was going in. But for some reason there was never a bit of typing instruction.

                  Instead it was year after year of occasional typing tests, teachers giving me a disappointed look for my usual hunt-and-peck 5 words per minute, and then no one doing a thing about it until it was time to be disappointed again by the results of the next typing test. How was I supposed to improve when they never taught me to type?

                  I was better at hunt-and-peck by high school, but I don’t know where I’d be today if my teenage self hadn’t somehow had the foresight to take an elective typing class. Remarkably, once someone bothered to teach me how to type, I could type! And suddenly homework got a whole lot faster.
                  (no I’m not bitter, not at all, of course not)

              2. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

                You would be surprised at how many people pre-computer era did not type. Most people I went to highschool had to type at most 1-2 papers in 4 years. I started out of college as email was just really getting going. We had it to email inside the company but it was a major process to email someone else. Most people older than me did not type or did not type well.

                My dad put himself through college typing papers for other students and even with his level of skill he paid a professional to type his dissertation.

                I learned to type in high-school in a formal class, but I improved dramatically with Mavis Beacon when it came out in the late 80’s. The feedback on your strengths and weaknesses was stellar for a relatively new platform of computer learning.

                1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                  EVERYBODY took typing when I was in middle school! It was an easy A and we did use it when we went on to high school. Getting typing for your last class of the day was the prize because it was more like an activity instead of a lecture.

                2. DJ Abbott*

                  In my eighth grade class In the late 70s typing was required. I didn’t understand why – I had no plans to be a secretary! Had no clue that computers were on their way.
                  Luckily, the teacher was nice and the class was fairly interesting. She would have us do a little exercises where we type a certain number of spaces and then a letter, then more spaces… and at the end, it formed a picture.
                  As it turned out, I was not good at other types of work and ended up working as a secretary and have done office work ever since. :)

                3. Irish Teacher*

                  DJ Abbot, I felt similarly to you in primary school in the late ’80s when our school got computers and because there wasn’t much you could do on them, they taught us to type, I think just to fill the computer class each week. At the time, I thought it a waste of time, because most things were written by hand, but now I am glad I can.

                  That said, I know loads of people who don’t actually know how to touch type and while they type a lot more slowly than I do, they can still do it. I bet that guy could have managed even if he wasn’t as fast as he would have liked.

                4. gyratory_circus*

                  My parents had a friend who was drafted for the Vietnam war and because he knew how to type he was given an office job instead of being sent overseas.

              3. amoeba*

                Also, to be honest, you don’t need to know touch typingto type relatively quickly! I never really learned it and have written a PhD thesis using 2-4 fingers – you can become quite quick that way, no way I’d use that as an excuse to not do my own typing.

                1. Ganymede*

                  Touch typing is brilliant though. I actually find it really a pleasure – interestingly, Stephen Fry mentions it in his first biography, he used to type out novels on a manual machine for FUN! I’m not that bad..

                  When I take minutes for a meeting I can type away and participate at the same time – I think people find it a bit unnerving that I can have my fingers busily typing away while looking at someone and nodding. The resultant notes are a bit of a mess but easy to clean up, especially if you use the agenda as a template in a word doc and just type away under each heading. Highly recommended if you are stuck with the job.

                2. Orv*

                  The main advantage of touch typing is if you’re not looking at the keys, you can either read copy or check your work in real-time.

                  I was an intern at a bank where I used a computer essentially made out of spare parts, and a few employees were genuinely weirded out to see me happily typing away on a keyboard with all the labels worn off. ;)

              4. Candi*

                I learned touch typing both with Mavis Beacon and from books back in school.

                I progressed better and faster with the fun of the games in MB then the boring “type these very dull letters and other texts” in the books.

                MB made qwerty-touch-typing fun instead of something you “had” to do.

            2. Orv*

              I learned using Typing Tutor IV, because my dad won a free copy of it in some kind of workplace raffle. This was in about 1987.

          1. Jill Swinburne*

            The story took place in the early 90s! I fondly remember Mavis Beacon, it gamified touch typing (a skill I’m very grateful to have).

          2. WellRed*

            I don’t recall an internet in 1988 but I did take an old fashioned typing class that summer after graduating high school. On typewriters.

            1. Rara Avis*

              I took touchtyping in 9th grade. Wrote exactly one high school paper on the computer we got in May of 1989. Was able to email my parents during college because my dad was also at a college. My kiddo learned typing in 2nd or 3rd grade and has had a computer for school since 4th.

              1. Candi*

                Once my kids recognized their letters, I hooked them up with simple typing games I had on a disc (not quite ready for Mavis Beacon at that age).

                By the time they _were_ old enough for Mavis Beacon, they each had their own individual styles of how to type quickly and accurately, even if it wasn’t home-row-qwerty style. They still liked the MB games.

              2. Reluctant Mezzo*

                I took typing in high school as well and made cash on the side in college. Then in the 1980’s I had some GI Bill to burn while the unemployment rate was sky high. One of the classes I took was simply drill typing. My speed got *fast* along with accuracy. Made more money on the side till the word processor allowed students to turn their odd little thoughts into papers without me (before then, I learned a lot about artifacts and grid cutoff from the X-ray students and learned how to deal with foreign students who thought wearing shorts meant I was easy).

                I also learned how to type summaries later turned into Real Minutes by having the Zoom window over to one side and the half-size Word window to the other. Now we just record the meeting…

      2. Brain the Brian*

        I learned typing from two versions of Mavis Beacon concurrently: a “junior edition” at my elementary school and the adult version that my mother bought for my father to use. (He was a hunt-and-pecker until the day he died. But I learned touch-typing in third grade, so… a win, in some senses?)

      3. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

        Thank you, I’d sort of guessed a typing programme. I don’t know if we had anything like that in the UK because we didn’t have a computer at home. My sister and I had typewriters from a young age though so always typed, then I learnt to touch type in about 1998 as an addition to my a levels, and it’s probably the most useful thing I learned!

        1. Elly*

          we certainly did have Mavis Beacon in the UK! my mother used her software to teach me how to type in the late 90s as an 8 or 9 year old, before telling me very seriously that once I was a grown up with a job, I needed to never admit to being able to touch type, lest I be relegated to typing regardless of my role!

          of course, by the time I was looking for jobs, everyone had to do their own typing, and so I freely admitted it!

    1. Bread Crimes*

      “Eventually someone left a copy of Mavis Beacon on his desk.” My favorite line in the whole thing, and it makes me think fondly of some old typing games I used to play. Maybe I should try some of them again, see if I can brush up on my skills and train myself out of my weird shift key habits.

      1. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

        When my kids moved from Montessori to public school they were way behind in typing skills and I actually found a version of Mavis Beacon that I could get to run on an old laptop. It was a little wonky, but still better than the newer stuff and more fun for the kids.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I love Mavis Beacon! I’m old enough that we had to take typing in high school (but young enough that it was a universal requirement, not just the girls). Between my fabulous typing class teacher and Mavis, I’m an excellent touch typist but also have enough to do without typing things for other people.

    3. Otter L*

      I was in a similar situation to #12, but it was with an elderly patron, not a coworker, so I did help them out. If it had been a coworker trying to get me to type for them, my response probably would’ve been “Don’t worry, the buttons are labeled.”

    4. Happily Retired*

      I had to take required typing in 9th grade at a college prep school where it was assumed that everyone would go to college, and did. The typing teacher would chant “a-s-d-f-j-k-l-semi-colon” while we sullenly pecked it out on our typewriters. Our MANUAL typewriters.

      My class was the period right after lunch, and after dealing with 24 snotty kids per class, five classes every day, she eventually had a genteel odor of gin on her breath. Don’t blame her a bit!

    5. pagooey*

      I wish I was young enough to have benefited from Mavis Beacon! I took two semesters of typing in high school–we needed a certain amount of vaguely “professional” skills credits–on huge IBM Selectrics that I later recognized on “Mad Men.” Even at the time, those typewriters were older than any kid in the room, and they were enormous and heavy and loud. When 25 teens turned them on all at once, the whole room THUNDERED.

  1. Juicebox Hero*

    #6 (marking up the CEO’s expense report) is a level of malicious compliance the rest of us can only aspire to.

    #2 (alleged allergies) makes me laugh, because my mother worked with a woman who also claimed to be allergic to darn near everything. If the janitor sprayed a cleaner at the other end of the building she’d start “togging lige dis” (talking like this) and going into different offices to cough dramatically until the boss sent her home. Miraculously, her voice went back to normal and the cough went away once she got permission to leave, even while still in the building.

    1. SparklePlenty*

      I have a current coworker who does this! She’ll state that her asthm is acting up coughCOUGHcough whisper cough & then will do a 360 and commence literally screaming at people. Sadly NOBODY gets sent home lol

    2. Bea*

      Ughh, when I was a student worker in college, there was someone like this in the office! I wasn’t technically working for her department, but building renovations meant that everyone was squished into the same area. One day, she ordered me to get a stack of chairs from a dusty basement and clean them for an event she was running. There were no great cleaning supplies, so I filled a bucket with hot water with a little squirt of UNSCENTED dish soap. Well, the fumes were just making her soooo dizzy! I dumped it out, got a NEW bucket, and filled it with just hot water. The fumes were making her SO SO dizzy that I would have to do it outside. In January. In upstate NY. I told her that I was just using water and if that was too much for her, everyone would have to sit on filthy chairs because I was not going to catch a cold for this. She eventually backed down, but she did things like that A LOT. My fellow student workers and I would often find ourselves sitting on the floor in the hallway because she could definitely smell the adhesive on the peel-and-stick stamps and envelopes, and it was making her soooo sick. It made no sense! I have no idea what she even got out of it. I think she just liked messing with the student workers, honestly.

      1. noncommittal pseudonym*

        Ooof. Reminds me of a former coworker who was very unhappy she got assigned a desk area next to a lab space. There were glass walls in between, so the desk wasn’t actually in the lab space, but it was out-of-the-way, and she preferred to be in the heart of the action.

        Anyway, she kept complaining that the CO2 tank attached to the sputter coater was leaking, because she could *smell* it. She swore up down and sideways that she could smell CO2. (OK, gases coming from aluminum tanks sometimes have a bit of a smell, but that’s not what she was claiming – she was saying she could smell the CO2. So, to solve this problem, she started wearing a particle mask. Any attempt to explain to her that a particle mask won’t do anything against CO2 didn’t make any impression.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Honestly, if it shut her up, I would just have let her wear the mask and be clueless. Whatever, lady.

      2. Goldfeesh*

        Ugh, this reminds me of a college roommate. She also had allergies, etc, one of which was dust but also wanted nothing cleaned. The shared bathroom was getting both dusty and disgusting, so one day when she was gone I took a rag, a bucket of water and dish soap which she had purchased. So it’s not like it was a different foreign dish soap I had brought into the house. I wiped up the dust and bathroom grime with the wet rag so it wouldn’t spread dust and wiped everything down. She gets home and pitches the biggest fit about how she can smell cleaner that she is allergic to and threw open all the windows and stormed out. I was not at all sad when she moved out when the lease was up.

      3. pagooey*

        Haven’t thought of this in eons, but at the mall bookstore I worked in during college, incessant dusting was part of our duties. Our manager bought a case of Windex for this purpose, the green color that was new at the time, and something about the smell of it set me off! I wasn’t allergic to it, but it made me want to hurl, and they had to go out and get me a personal bottle of Original Recipe blue Windex from petty cash, lol.

        (A quick look online tells me that today, green Windex is GREEN APPLE-scented, which sounds even worse, gah.)

    3. Just Another Cog*

      Yeah, No. 2 reminded me of a former employee. We bent over backwards to satisfy her….nothing was right. Office was too hot/cold/fumey/loud/quiet, you name it, until she was moved into the prettiest office in our side of the building. Everything was the same as her old office, just decorated nicer. She was on a PIP and was fired shortly after that for other reasons. Her co-workers breathed a sigh of relief when she was gone.

  2. The Cosmic Avenger*

    #9: “One dude even admonished my female colleague that his crockpot had been sitting in the sink for three days and had not been washed.”


    1. Frickityfrack*

      That would be the day I got fired for workplace violence, because I’d dump the contents of the crockpot right in his lap. That’s one of the most infuriating things I’ve ever heard.

      1. Ashley*

        I probably would have sent an email for an annual kitchen cleaning so everything would be tossed by Friday at noon. I would have loved to throw away someone’s crock pot … and depending on grossness thrown it my car to take home for me own use after a good cleaning.

        1. AnonPi*

          The problem with threatening to throw it out is half the time they don’t care. I have a coworker that has thrown out who knows how many pyrex bowls and the like because he forgets them in the fridge then doesn’t want to clean them out. Since their his wife’s and not his, he said he doesn’t care if they’re trashed.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Since their his wife’s and not his, he said he doesn’t care if they’re trashed.

            More flames on the side of my face. WTF, dude.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same! It’s bad enough not to clean up after yourself but to then chastise a colleague for not doing it for you? Hard no, with a visit to HR about the overt sexism tolerated by the organization on the way out.

        I’d also probably make him say the quiet part out loud by feigning confusion over why he was chastising me – I’m just so confused, why exactly are you complaining that *I* didn’t clean *your* crockpot? Wait, watch the sputtering. Clarify that surely he is not saying that I should clean up after him because I’m a woman? That would be such an absurd thing to say in 2023, so there must be another reason….

        1. Satan's Panties*

          Came in to say, where did he think he was — pre-revolutionary China? Dude, *you* left *your* crockpot in there, unwashed, for three days. That’s you being rude, not your female co-workers being lazy or negligent.

    2. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      Honestly, I wanted the response to that one to be a lot stronger. I was expecting at least: So why haven’t you cleaned it then?

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Too bad HIS MANAGER didn’t admonish him.

          It’s not the job of random female co-workers to clean his crackpot– NOR to train him how to be an adult.

    3. Peanut Hamper*

      Honestly, I would have just gone and tossed the thing in the trash, and then taken the trash bag out to the dumpster. Problem solved.

      1. Inkognyto*

        last company I was at the rule was.

        “You bring it, you clean up after it, you take it home the same day”
        washing it at work was optional.
        The nightly cleaning crew could and was given the ‘all clear’ to toss it or do whatever they wanted with any dishes left out in the conference/break rooms.

        Repeat offenders were not allowed to bring food.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I would have gone to him, said I was cleaning up the break room, and sweetly asked to borrow his car keys.

        Then I would have left the crock pot in his car. Unwashed. Hopefully on a very hot day.

      3. bleh*

        I would have asked him why he hadn’t changed the oil in MY car yet. If we’re doing gender assigned duties for each other…

      4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Trouble is he’d consider that a win. He doesn’t care about getting it back, he’ll just tell his wife someone threw it out because they were too lazy to clean it.
        (I’m rather hoping he doesn’t have a wife though because who could enjoy being married to a jerk like that?)

    4. Unkempt Flatware*

      Yeah this would have gotten a very flat but audible, “F*ck You” and a graceful walk away.

    5. triss merigold*

      Yeah, shout out to the colleague for allowing him to remain in this plane of existence after that. He should be very grateful.

    6. goddessoftransitory*

      “Actually, Fergus, I think you’ll find it’s been flung from the roof into the parking lot, directly onto the hood of your car.”

    7. Sallyhoo*

      “I can’t believe you’ve left your crockpot there for that long without washing it, that’s disgusting. Are you waiting for your mother to come around to clean up after you or something?”

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        My last office had those “if your mother doesn’t work here, clean up after yourself” signs, and they always irritated me because I was an adult, and, if my mother worked there, she’d tell me to go clean up after myself.

        There was one fairly entitled guy who kept leaving his dirty dishes in the sink, assuming that our meeting organization staff would clean them up (not their job, and postage signage about being responsible for your own cleanup). The head of his department happened to show up when he was dunning one of them for not cleaning his dishes for him. He was shocked when his department head not only didn’t agree with him, but apologized to the meeting organization person and then had a sit-down meeting with him about expectations for behaving like an adult in the workspace. It was not a good first impression to make on his department head.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I worked at an organization that had “Your mother doesn’t work here (and even if she did, she shouldn’t have to clean up after you)” signs in every break room. One week they all disappeared, allegedly because they hired an employee’s mother.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Those signs have always bothered me. My mother stopped cleaning up after me once I was old enough to do chores in grade school.

            Also, my mother and sister worked in the same office for a while. If anything, my sister cleaned up after my mother. (They have different organizational styles: A place for everything and everything in its place vs. It doesn’t exist if I don’t see it or have it somewhere on top of my desk.)

        2. Freya*

          Those signs irritate me because my parents decided that it was better for their relationship to hire a cleaner than to get cranky about mess. So mum wouldn’t have cleaned up after me anyway :-P

          1. Satan's Panties*

            My late mother was a hoarder. If I saw that sign, I’d tell whoever put it up that they should be glad she did not work there.

    8. WellRed*

      That one ticked me off. After pointing out the dish soap I hope she walked over to HR to complain.

    9. Lexa B.*

      “Wow, that is really inconsiderate of you to leave it there. What if someone else needs to use the sink?”

    10. Dust Bunny*

      “I don’t live with you, Fergus, so I don’t know how you think it’s going to get home if you don’t take it.”

    11. IneffableBastard*

      I’d say “dude, are you not ashamed of this? Are you always this dirty? I ate from your dish, ew, ew, ew, you could have poisoned us all with bacteria”. It is the only instance where I would shame somebody regarding their cleanliness standards, by the way.

    12. Laser99*

      And what was that about “mandatory monthly potlucks”? How can you mandate something like that?

  3. Antilles*

    #6 is just wild to me. Are we sure he wasn’t committing fraud? That arena example is a crazy high price to not have *any* form of documentation – e.g., even if it’s not the original receipt, the team’s ticket office (or ticket master) will have a record of your ticket purchase.

    1. Margaret Cavendish*

      100% he was committing fraud. OP just found a very elegant way to avoid participating in it!

      1. Quill*

        I do not want to imply that OP is a Guacamole Bob.

        But I daydream about them following up this event by siccing Guacamole Bob on this dude. Fraud detection AND extreme inconvenience to him!

    2. A Girl Named Fred*

      Literally. In one of my previous EA roles, my CEO was notoriously bad at giving me receipts right after getting them and so would lose them by the time the deadline came around. But that meant I had to spend time calling different businesses to see if they could get me a new receipt; he didn’t get to just skip providing them!

      (Okay, he OCCASIONALLY got to skip them, but only if I’d exhausted all other options first.)

      1. Freya*

        I’m Australian, and Australia has ‘fun’ rules around businesses paying for non-business expenses. If you can’t justify it as a reasonable business expense – a glass of wine with dinner while you’re at a business-related conference is fine, getting completely blotto on the company card is not – then the business gets to pay “Fringe Benefits Tax” on the expense to the value of the tax you’d have paid if the money had been paid to you in cash as part of your pay packet and you were being taxed at top rates.

        If you can’t produce a tax invoice (receipt) then you can’t claim the sales tax portion of an expense. Technically you can’t claim the expense at all, but there’s quarterly sales tax reports (BAS) you have to lodge. The tax office will usually let it go for small things where it’s obvious what the expense was and otherwise documented, but if you get audited, it is Not Fun.

        What I usually do is if whatever the business owner spent cannot be documented, and cannot be reasonably assumed to be something claimable, then it gets put down in the accounts as a loan to the business owner. And _that_ is their personal tax accountant’s problem, not mine, because there’s rules about the business having to charge interest (Div7A interest rate is 8.27%pa this financial year) and do paperwork if the business owner doesn’t pay it back immediately (or the business owner has to include the value of it as income in their personal tax return and the business declares it as a dividend payment) and if the loan runs for more than 7 years there’s extra paperwork to make it legal. And none of that is my problem, it’s all on the business owner and their tax accountant/advisor :-D

    3. Achtung, Baby*

      Oh, I can completely see this not necessarily being fraud but instead executives not thinking the rules apply to them. I work with our executive team, who is responsible for writing policy. And at least once a month I say something is not what the policy says, only to hear “oh, but what that really means is…” If that’s what it means, then say that? Instead of interpreting things later so it means you don’t have to go through the hoops you designed. The rules are only the rules until it gets in their way, then the rules adapt as needed. *eye roll*

    4. MigraineMonth*

      I assumed the CEO was just violating the hell out of all the no alcohol/preferred vendor/personal expenses policies. But yeah, definitely could be fraud.

      1. Anonymask*

        Hi, OP 6 here. It’s definitely this, with a pinch of “I’m above the rules I force the rest of the company to follow.”

        If it *is* fraud, well, I wouldn’t know — I’ve been banned from touching purchase card expense reports =]

  4. LCH*

    #9, please, nobody set up for this mandatory potluck. just don’t put out the stuff. i’m sure if someone is hungry enough, they will be able to find utensils, etc.

    1. ferrina*

      Or they will all look extremely disappointed and loudly talk about how it was so unfortunate that [woman] wasn’t a team player and wouldn’t have set up, and I guess we’d better not have her on that big project since she doesn’t know the value of teamwork.

      I’d love to see the boss from 15 have a word with these folks.

      1. LCH*

        except she doesn’t know where they are either. nobody knows! sucks that the dudes were also not team players who didn’t do the set up.

    2. thelettermegan*

      second rule of potlucks is the organizers (or in this case, the mandaters) are in charge of setup and teardown.

    3. Ally McBeal*

      I’d bet my next paycheck that, if the rules were changed to say “you *alone* must make whatever dish you bring to the potluck,” at least half of the men who refuse to clean up after themselves would show up empty-handed.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        It’s more “elective incapability” than outright “strategic incompetence,” but I figured it was close enough to fit the spirit of the call. I had to figure out how to break every direct method of communicating with me outside of the correct one and doing so passively.

        I work on documents that can be entered into evidence in lawsuits. It’s rare but not rare enough and they are bound by laws that vary by jurisdiction on what contents are allowable and what formatting is required. No one at my pay grade is an expert on this stuff, but like anything… you spend enough time around it and you start to develop intuition.

        If a document fails the specific restrictions and that is recognized after it arrives and a lawsuit brought on those grounds, whomever deviated from those restrictions is liable for the consequences (financially). Naturally, such liability demands a robust and reliable system of change tracking (i.e. paper trail). When you dismiss all the fancy language and wishful thinking, my job boils down to balancing three goals that do not completely or consistently align: giving the client what they want, saving the client from they want, and enforcing the integrity of the change tracking system that protects me.

        The correct way to communicate with me is in plain writing directly in the change-tracking system. The incorrect ways that my weaponized incapability thwart are mostly sabotaging convenience (why can’t I send you a screenshot to rekey?) or client-facing peers who don’t understand that not doing their job will eliminate said job (why can’t you speak to the client directly?). Every lazy shortcut opens the door for a nefarious abuse of social conventions if I tolerate it (e.g. “Make that thing red, please” when blue is a requirement and I have no SME on hand to verify), and without the change coming through the tracking system intact, I shall own the change, not the client, which means my employer’s insurance will be paying out the judgment and I’ll be looking for a new job. Maybe not the first time, but the pattern won’t take long to reach that consequence.

        So I’m more than happy to hang someone out to dry and ignore incoming calls that might cost me my job and I shouldn’t be receiving in the first place. I’m more than happy to let the junk folder eat an email that I can’t enter directly into the system (and if I could, being submitted in my name, what proof could I offer that I did not compose it in mala fide?).

        If you want it done, you have your choice of doing it right or it not being done at all. I’m ruthless enough in that stance that I’ve earned my credibility.

        1. Beany*

          That’s an ruthlessly impressive (or impressively ruthless?) approach to a very tricky job requirement.

  5. ENFP in Texas*

    As a “Diet Coke instead of coffee” person myself, I really appreciate #1’s response!

    1. Ally McBeal*

      I am a Diet Coke purist and have never made a pot of coffee, not even when I worked in admin roles. I don’t have a coffee machine in my home, and when I have visitors I offer a stack of Starbucks gift cards (gifts from managers who forget I hate coffee). I’ve put a single-use pod in a Keurig, but I genuinely don’t know how to make a pot of coffee and have absolutely no reason or desire to learn.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        I do drink coffee, but I really only know how to make it in my tiny home coffee pot. One past workplace had a really easy system though and I would only make coffee there because it was our culture: *everyone* made a new pot if they finished it. But other than that workplace, I never made coffee anywhere. Even in my extremely old-school workplace, no one ever asked.

        1. Jaid*

          H-Mart sells all sorts of flavored instant coffee and packaged single use filtered coffee. Pop one out and set it in your cup and pour hot water.

          My unit is mostly WFH except for me and this other lady who do use a kettle. I have my instant and tea, she has a French press and single cup drip filter thing I got her. She’s fancy that way, LOL.

  6. aarti*

    I have definitely used the “my technology is too old to do xyz thing”. I just bought a new phone, I had the old one for five years which is not long at all but apparently incredibly long technology wise. So nothing they wanted me to do on my phone worked.
    I have not made it known I finally caved and bought a new phone.

    1. Veryanon*

      Our company wanted us to use our personal devices to check email after hours, for multi-factor authentication, which I need to access certain HR systems, etc. I refuse to have any company software on my personal device, since that means that they can wipe your device remotely when you leave the company.
      I flatly refused and told my manager that if they want me to have this access (you know, TO DO MY JOB), they’ll have to get me a company phone.

      1. Nothing Happening Here*

        We had some sort of heatlh/wellness app that we were supposed to install on our personal phones to track our meals, exercising, even take pictures of our bedrooms! I don’t know how to install apps on my phone and I keep leaving it at home so nobody at work can show me how. Eventually the program went away.

        I would never give my employer access to my phone for any reason.

        1. can't think of a name*

          This is absolutely insane. This serves absolutely zero work purpose. What an egregious overstep!

        2. Wow*

          This feels like something you should report to someone to get the program removed. This is so highly invasive.

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          Take pictures of my what???

          I’m afraid all pics of my BEDROOM are going to be blocked by these two middle fingers.

      2. can't think of a name*

        Good on you. Expecting employees to use personal devices to check emails/anything of the sort after hours is bullshit — work should stay at work. And any company using MFA (multi-factor authentication — which should be all of them, as much as I hate to say that) should make sure to have hardware/physical keys as an option. The “old crummy phone” excuse isn’t even a lie here, I have legitimately run into multiple real life instances of someone being physically unable to install an MFA app on their smartphone (or not having a smartphone in the first place). But also, yeah, I just don’t want company shit on my phone, even if it supports it.

        I have many rants/rambles/stories about MFA mishaps if anyone is interested.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          And any company using MFA (multi-factor authentication — which should be all of them, as much as I hate to say that) should make sure to have hardware/physical keys as an option.

          My employer is this weird mix of “you must provide smart devices for MFA and be reachable by cell and email at all hours,” but treats BYOD as the Devil’s gift. No new company phones in the last 8 years, and even then those were only for those on a first-name basis with the CEO.

        2. Quill*

          I had to jump through soooo many hoops to get MFA working at last job. For budget reasons I’d expected Bring Your Own Device (we pinky swear we can’t access anything from it, if we had the budget for that tech we’d have a spare laptop in the lab) but not the problems with getting 2 factor authentication. Your phone is over 3 years old and the app does not work? So you’ll be giving me a keyfob instead? Oh, you want me to PAY for the device you require for me to work? How charming. I have some people to forward this to.

          … Cue shocked and impressed student workers going “wait I didn’t know you could just… not put that on your phone? And not have to pay for the alternative?”

          Me: Kids I will give you one piece of advice, and it’s never pay your employer for anything.

          1. bleh*

            I got the fob as well. No way can you use my personal phone for YOUR security requirements. Noppity nope nope. I didn’t pay for it personally but I found out later my department had to. Still wrong, but not my problem.

        3. Cyndi*

          My last workplace had MFA set up to send a code to people’s personal cell phones–and then instituted an “all cell phones left in lockers in the coat room” policy. This went about as smoothly as you’d guess.

        4. AnonPi*

          yeah we’re in the midst of mfa hell, for like, 3 years now (the most laughable was the one system that had a 20 pg instruction sheet i s*** you not). we may finally work out enough bugs to get something working next year.

          but yeah they didn’t consider at all about us being an org that deals with people all over the world and therefore their ability to use mfa can vary greatly. hell, couldn’t even download one app they wanted to try on my S8 because it was considered too old.

        5. Never Boring*

          Unfortunately I need to use government websites at work that use MFA. That’s the one exception I make to allowing work-related things on my personal phone because there’s really no other way to make it work.

      3. The answer is (probably) 42*

        For me MFA is my one exception to “no work stuff on my personal device”. It doesn’t require that the company have any ability to affect my phone in any way except to disable my access to their data on that app.

        I’m lucky enough that I don’t have to feign incompetence or technical issues to decline work stuff on my phone- I can be up front with my boss and say that I simply don’t do that, and she’s never pressured me about it. And since she’s acting in good faith, I’m willing to as well with MFA. If this were a different working culture and they were putting pressure on me to be more connected all the time, I’d absolutely be difficult about the little things as well.

      4. Can't Sit Still*

        I pushed back on this so hard when they went from reimbursing phones to…not, but still expecting us to install corporate malware, er, software.

        End result: Everyone at my level got a work phone. It makes our lives so much easier, particularly since HQ is now in another time zone.

      5. Rainy*

        Yeah, many of my colleagues use personal devices to check email, or keep Teams on their phone, etc, and I won’t. I was issued a laptop, and if I can’t do it on the laptop, as far as they know, I can’t do it. And I’ve said several times, when the instruction is “for this all-hands-on-deck event please install Teams on your phone”, that if they want me to have a work phone they need to issue me one, and I’m not going to put work applications on my personal devices. It’s such a reasonable stance that there’s really nothing they *can* say.

    2. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      Yep. I started a new job last spring. I could not install the email stuff on my phone. I just skipped that part of the onboarding instructions since I was able to get my computer up easily enough. When it comes up I (accurately) say that my phone’s old OS isn’t supported by IT so I was never able to install the software. Not been an issue yet… well, when my internet went out it was annoying, but not that bad, to be honest.

    1. DogsInPJsAreMyFavorite*

      wait that’s actually so funny because I didn’t even think about the fact that he WENT HOME until you pointed that out, hahahaha Daryl’s the worst.

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

      I used to work with a Daryl, except I think it wasn’t weaponized incompetence…just literal incompetence. We’re in California here, and a university, so we participate in the Great Shake Out every October — it’s planned and advertised. Picture it! We’re all standing in the parking lot in our designated evacuation point after the fake earthquake. Daryl2 pulls into the lot (already late) in his very identifiable vehicle, sees the entire 6-floor building all congregated in our groups taking attendance, and in front of everyone pulls a U-turn without parking and goes grocery shopping…comes back to the office an hour later with the bags to stuff into the shared refrigerator. I hate the dumb drill too, but that’s also not how it works.

  7. Essentially Cheesy*

    My HR manager just popped in to ask me for assistance with her passport. I’m like no I am unable to help you, here is a number to call.

        1. Dawn*

          ahaha the number of times I have not so subtly told a customer, “no, you’ve gone well beyond how much assistance I’m paid to provide you” by saying “Here’s an article that might help with that!” lol

    1. Frickityfrack*

      It took me way too long to figure out why that would be an issue. It’s because I take passport applications, so it actually is my job to help people (even coworkers). I’m clearly not on my A-game today, eesh.

      1. Essentially Cheesy*

        My main issue was that UPS doesn’t accept PO Box Addresses (which I’ve told the HR manager many times actually) but yeah that’s some pretty personal stuff too. :)

        1. Dawn*

          UPS and FedEx can actually eat my entire behind for their absolute refusal to hand over packages to be delivered to a PO box.

          I live in Canada and I cannot tell you the number of times I have had international packages fail to arrive to my PO box because the seller decided to send it with FedEx or UPS and they just went, “Welp, nothing we can do, send it back to Scotland or whatever” instead of dropping it in a public mailbox

    2. It's Marie - Not Maria*

      I’m the HR Director, and because I am one of only two Bilingual People in the company, they wanted me to do some Operations Stuff. Nope, sorry, my access to those dedicated Operations systems is only to add or remove people, and change passwords (it’s not, but they don’t know better). Ask other Bilingual person who actually uses those Operations systems every day for Operational Purposes, but doesn’t like to use their skills unless they absolutely have to for work.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        My organization pays a Bilingual bonus for being fluent in another language that you use at your job. You should get a raise!

        1. It's Marie - Not Maria*

          Believe me, I have tried to get something extra for myself and the other person, but they refuse to give either of us anything additional. I use my second language as little as possible at work, unless it is directly related to Human Resources tasks.

  8. Orbital Exhaustion*

    Maybe I’m some kind of weirdo, but I feel like going “Tee-hee, I no can do thing!” and cocking my head to the side like an empty-eyed broken doll is…very bad for feminism, actually?

    I’ll just keep weaponizing my competence, thanks, rather than dragging all the other female-identified people down with me.

    Also, being paid to do art is many people’s dream job. OPEN YOUR MOUTH AND SAY “NO” TO THINGS YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO AND DON’T WANT TO DO, PEOPLE!

    1. desdemona*

      I don’t think anyone in these stories is doing that? There’s a lot of “no, I don’t know how to do that either” in response to people who SHOULD know how to do The Thing in Question as well, but nobody is pretending to be empty-headed.

    2. mcm*

      There are so many times when people don’t accept “no” as an answer that saying you don’t know how to do something can be the only firm answer that they won’t try to persuade, cajole, etc. Also, I think it’s a little dramatic to say that not knowing how to make coffee is dragging down the feminist cause. This is a weird projection in terms of how this message is delivered and to create what impression.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        And as nice as it would feel to say, Fuck you, I’m not your maid, we still have to work with some of these assholes.

        Wow, I really am still angry at the dishes one!

    3. Nah*

      I think saying “I don’t know how to do this” when it comes to things that are historically gender coded as “women’s work” is not the same thing as going “tee-hee, I can no do thing.” Like if you want coffee made, dishes washed, notes taken, parties planned, artful signs, etc., do it with your own two hands and don’t assume it’s inherent to a specific gender identity.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        If a baby’s father can claim not to know how to change a diaper, I can claim not to know how to change that baby’s diaper too.

        (I know how to change my niblings’ diapers, but that’s different.)

        1. Happily Retired*

          I once had to go on a trip while pregnant with our third, leaving my husband (Husband 1.0, the practice version) with the 4-year old and 18-month-old. He objected that he didn’t know how to change the two-year-old’s diapers, which was the most recent in a series of whines.

          I just snapped, “Pretend I died! What would you do then?” It seems that he was able to figure it out.

          Things are way better now with Husband 2.0, the keeper version.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        Yes! I have never claimed not to know how to change a tire or set up a tent or any of the many things that many people expect male-presenting people to do. But I don’t necessarily share that I also have a lot of skills that could pigeon-hole me.

    4. Essentially Cheesy*

      I legitimately help where I can (and very happily too!) but there are definitely lines that people cross, regardless of gender. Unless you think a person should be a doormat for their intentionally incompetent/lazy coworkers?

      1. Be Gneiss*

        I think that’s the difference. I have no problem helping out someone who wants to know how to do the thing. I have a lot of problem helping out someone who is intentionally incompetent or lazy. It’s the difference between “can you show me where to put the recycling?” and “I can’t possibly take out the recycling! I don’t know where it goes! It’s so complicated! You’re just so much better at these things than me!”

        1. Essentially Cheesy*

          Right, it seems like the person with so-called power is the one starting out with “Tee-hee, I no can do thing!”

        2. amoeba*

          Yeah, I mean, to be fair, in most of these stories, the (male…) coworkers tried to weaponise their incompetence first, and the LWs just beat them at their own game. Which is fair!

          Using weaponised incompetence to get out of work you should actually be doing (care work or job work) is obviously a bad thing, regardless of gender, though it seems to be much more prevalent with guys. This is not that.

    5. Fluffy Fish*

      1. The vast majority of things the women are “incompetent” at are things that are traditionally assumed to be female tasks. Claiming to know not how to do female coded tasks is not anti-feminist.

      2. Individuals do not have to singlehandedly fight systems of oppression. It is often exhausting and feels like screaming into the void. People are allowed to take the path of least resistance to protect their well-being.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        I will also add that reducing the examples from women rejecting being “helpers” by stating sorry I don’t know how to do that task to them saying ““Tee-hee, I no can do thing!”” is insulting, diminishing and misogynist. Saying no nor feigning ignorance isn’t the equivalent of playing cutesy dumb.

    6. Veryanon*

      I think you are missing that women are tired of trying to explain why they won’t just Do The Thing.

    7. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Can you point to which one of these suggested that or do you just need a cookie? And everything is someone’s dream job, that’s irrelevant to everyone else.

      1. Antilles*

        The dream job thing is an especially odd way to look at it because it’s not the dream job of the person being asked to do it.

        1. Betty*

          Also, my spouse is a professional artist and getting “oooh, can you help out with a poster/tshirt/etc.” requests is his least favorite thing in the world because of what a colossal pain those things turn into/ the inevitable shift from “oh, do whatever you want” to “hmmm, that’s not quite hat I had in mind… no, I’m not sure what exactly I want but I’ll know it when I see it” .

          1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            Oh but you love doing art! It won’t be like work at all! And I want it to be like…

          2. Arts Akimbo*

            This! Setting boundaries is essential, especially in the creative professions, because otherwise people will take advantage of you.

        2. Elsajeni*

          It also does not at all sound like they were being paid for it! Being paid to do art might be a lot of people’s dream job; being voluntold to do art for free is not!

    8. Theremin Perfume*

      I can see where you’re coming from, but man, I’m exhausted from doing an underpaid, underappreciated job all while being five different kinds of minority.

      Maybe we should look more to the people who keep trying to exploit feminine labor to fix the problem rather than this “lean in” stuff. I’m plenty able to say no when I have to but if I can preserve my energy and social capital by weaseling out of something that isn’t my responsibility, I’m gonna.

    9. Bea*

      If it really were as simply as just saying no, we wouldn’t have SO many stories, articles, etc. about this issue. In a perfect world, people should be able to say no and have it end there. In reality, that can cause a lot of unfair and unnecessary problems, especially for women. It can have consequences on their careers, even if those effects are subtle or unofficial.

      That’s not even touching upon the lifelong socialization that teaches girls and women to always be helpful, nice, and easygoing. It’s REALLY tough to break that. Listening and being empathetic is the way to go, rather than insulting them as bad feminists.

      1. Bubbletea*

        I worked somewhere where we had a rotating schedule to clean the kitchen. Which was fair! I was fine with that. SOMEHOW whenever it was the women’s turn to clean up the guys all brought in messy food that needed cooked and chucked all their stuff — unwiped and uncleaned – in the sinks or left them out. I was so mad about it — since literally all I used in that kitchen was the kettle and a cup – that I went a bit mad. I printed up notes that said ‘DO I LOOK LIKE YOUR MUM?” and then I’d put the dirty dishes all back on the guy’s desks with the notes on top. I’d walk around holding a bowl of congealed curry with a snotty tissue chucked in it going, ‘WHO DOES THIS BELONG TO?’ and spitefully run the dishwasher like four times a day.

        They took me off the cleaning rotation. Two weeks later the other woman in the office – who was the most experienced member of staff – was also taken off after she put dish soap in the dish washer and flooded the place.

        We both got the same result, but I had a couple of weeks of being angry and difficult and putting people’s noses out of joint. She had one afternoon and a sigh from the boss. It’s hard to argue she picked the wrong tack.

        1. A friendly reminder*

          I’m a dude so take this with a grain of salt, but IF you power to resist by being truthful, I feel you should. (I’ve pushed back again and again and again on using my personal phone for work. One person got my number off our emergency contacts info or something, called me and I told them not to do it again. They did it one (1) more time a few months later and I said let’s end the call now – I’ll call you on Zoom/Teams. They never did it again. I ignore texts. I can afford to make that trouble – I didn’t care if I got let go and recently decided to leave my job. That’s just me. YMMV)

          If you don’t have the power, or are exhausted, use any means necessary.

    10. Ticotac*

      It’s so true, the worst thing for women everywhere is other women saying they don’t know how to make coffee when they actually know how to.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Weird how it’s never in the history of the world made a man look weak and stupid to claim they can’t do women’s work, but women doing exactly the same thing is an assault on gender equality.

        Many of these examples are in fact men saying “I can’t do [women’s work]” and women responding, “Me neither! Good luck.” Yet a woman not being competent at everything is what is shameful, rather than the men trying to offload their work.

        1. Ticotac*

          Right? If these were examples of women shirking actual work because their delicate womanly hands can’t possibly touch a computer or whatever, then I may understand the outrage, but what dangerous stereotypes are these examples of weaponized incompetence confirming? Women are unable to take notes? Women are incapable of doing the dishes? Women can’t make coffee? Oh no, the tragedy.

      2. Samwise*

        No, it’s a lot worse when someone (regardless of gender) gets all snitty about How to Do Feminism Correctly.

        If I decide that I am not up for a Big Thing about why women should not always be the ones asked to make coffee (= why is it on me/women to educate you, it’s 2023 and there’s no way you don’t know that it’s no longer 1963), or I’m not in a position of power and it’s not smart for me to ruffle feathers, or I’ve gone round this rodeo one too many times and it’s easier for me to just say I don’t know how, then that’s my choice, it’s a legit choice, and it doesn’t make me a Bad Feminist or Ignorant about Feminism or Harming All Women to make that choice.

        Yeah, now you can say ok boomer, but I was explaining to guys why it was wrong to assume that I, the only woman on the team, should be making the coffee back before most of y’all were born. Somedays I’d just say, oh my mom had a perc we put on the stove, I don’t know how to use this newer machine, shrugs, oh well, sorry! Because it was **tiring**

        1. Ticotac*

          Great points, but have you considered how damaging it is for women everywhere when men think you can’t make coffee? That’s the whole foundation of the second wave of Feminism, when Rosie the Riveter said “We Can Do It!” she was talking about coffee.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Hmmm… I know how to weld (learned in middle school), but I don’t make coffee. Am I doing feminism wrong?

            1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

              See, you use the welding tool to heat the stove-top percolator until it goes perk, perk, perk….

    11. ferrina*

      I truly envy you that you believe that is a strategy that works in all situations. It speaks volumes about the kinds of situations that you have been in, and I really, really wish that I had had that kind of luck.

      But when you are not one of the lucky ones, you need to find a way to survive. And sometimes, you need to make your own luck.

      I’m not a big fan of weaponized incompetence- in fact, I loathe it. But I’m not going to claim that it is never the answer (though it’s very rare that it actually is the answer)

    12. Peanut Hamper*

      “I no can do thing”? Really? You’re combating sexism with….racism?

      Not a cool look.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Not sticking up for OP (I made my own comment about their…misguided sentiment) but I believe OP was using a type of internet speak made popular originally with animals like cat’s saying “I can has cheezburger?” there’s a whole website with that name.

        1. Isben Takes Tea*

          I took it to denote the stereotype of a young woman twirling her hair and batting here eyelashes and asking a Big Strong Man to Fix Things, so I took it as Orbital Exhaustion equating the examples above with women self-infantilizing themselves for attention.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I love me a good icanhhas joke, but this is not it. It reeks of mocking people who aren’t yet fluent in English. So much so that my inner ear heard it in the voice of a 1950s/1960s white actor playing an Asian servant.

      2. biobotb*

        Ah, I thought that was supposed to be baby talk. For some reason the commenter thinks women can’t refuse to do things like make coffee without sounding super ditzy.

    13. Ellis Bell*

      I think when first and second wave feminists were in play, there was no room to be less than a perfect and awe inspiring goddess; you would never give up, you would never concede, you could do a woman’s traditional work while also doing the jobs of two men while standing on your head and single handedly increasing the war effort. That was an important stage and the memory of those unstoppable women is golden. More modern feminism, however, is quite rightly focused on what we will not do anymore, or will not put up with any more. I know you don’t mean to suggest this; but I’ve heard older mindsets complain that sex assault victims are weak because women don’t know how to slap men any more. But why was that ever their responsibility in the first place? Because some people would have said it’s bad for feminism, and a bad idea to have women in the workplace if they don’t stand up for themselves. Also, why *should* a woman know how to work the coffee machine? Type? Take notes? Deep clean? No, really, why? If these are her job, yes she should know, and if this is something her male coworkers cheerfully do, also yes – otherwise no and hell no. Feminism isn’t about impressing sexist people with our competent perfection and hoping to be gifted equality by the kind people we’ve managed to strike down with awe. Feminism is drawing a line on what bullshit you will endure and taking what was always yours to begin with.

    14. Unkempt Flatware*

      The prompt from Allison was to tell stories of weaponized INcompetence. Perhaps you’d like to start a Friday thread that is more to your liking.

    15. Sloanicota*

      The good news is, I think 99% of the other posts on this blog are about being direct, holding reasonable boundaries, and trying to be competent and awesome at your job. Well, maybe not the weekend open thread. This is intended to be a mild diversion.

    16. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      One of the best examples I ever saw of drawing a boundary by saying “I don’t know how to do that” was a male engineer who switched departments within the same company. One day after he left “teapot painting” and went over to “llama grooming” he would reply “I don’t know what teapot painting is” to any questions from anyone except his direct manager. Everyone got the point quickly and stopped asking him to do his old job.

      “No” would have been seen as rude. Especially in older organizations that were very rank sensitive. Everyone knew he was drawing the boundary and that he really knew how to do it, it gave everyone a face saving out to just chuckle and move on.

      I’ll have to tell him that he was missing the giggle and eyelash bat when he said it.

      1. A friendly reminder*

        There is a middle ground between “No” and “I don’t know how.” It’s “Sorry, I’m too busy/focused/etc on other things.”

        My former manager tried to get me to do something in a meeting today and I said “No, it’s X team’s role now. Bring it up with them please.” I actually thought it was a good idea she had, but no it’s not my job.

    17. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      Isn’t it ‘bad for feminism’ when all female identified people are looked to as the only ones who know how to clean, take notes, and make coffee? Shouldn’t the males be competent enough to figure out how to do these things when we say no, that’s not my job, so we don’t have to say “oh, I don’t know how to work the coffee machine either?’. I mean, I go full aggressive, because one of my (male, because he is also tired of people ‘not knowing’ how to make coffee) coworkers put up detailed instructions on how to make a pot WITH PICTURES, and dudes still ask me if I can put a new pot on. I don’t drink the office coffee, and again PICTURES. But sometimes, it’s just easier to tell them ‘don’t know how, if you want it, you do it’ even if you do know how, because otherwise they’ll sit there and go, “but it’s haaaaard” (actually now that I think about it, the guys are the one’s ‘tee-hee-ing’ and doing the empty eyed broken doll because they spend so much time trying to convince people that it’s too hard for them to figure out how to wash a dish or make coffee so someone else (normally a woman) has to come in and save them).

    18. NotAnotherManager!*

      I’m a big fan of saying no directly, but I’ve also got a lot of credibility and capital built up in my current role and very rarely care when people don’t like me personally. Those are both big luxuries that a lot of other people don’t have, so sometimes you go with what works and gets you back to your regularly scheduled day.

      I also think there’s a difference between feigning incompetence in coffee-making, typing, and organizing/cleanup to avoid sexist tasking and feigning incompetence in your actual job duties. You’re going to be very dissatisfied with the way I wash your dishes, but I make a mean Excel spreadsheet with dashboards.

      1. A friendly reminder*

        “I’m a big fan of saying no directly, but I’ve also got a lot of credibility and capital built up in my current role and very rarely care when people don’t like me personally.”

        This. If you can, do it. If you can’t, I get it.

    19. Dr. Rebecca*

      While this comment has already been deservedly flamed by everyone else making amazing points, I would like to point out that saying a direct ‘no’ to people who have the power to summarily fire you is generally not a feminist move; it’s just stupid. It’s not more/better feminist to be unemployed.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Amen. Those people tend to decide what they think your job is, even if it’s not what you signed on for. I hate it, but yeah, it beats unemployment. I actually was once fired by a WOMAN business owner because I wasn’t constantly at the ready to fetch her a glass of water whenever she snapper her fingers. Uh, you hired me for computer and organizational skills and my B.A., remember?

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I just commented below that if a boss in a male dominated industry asks for somebody to bake cupcakes for the office party and all the men are like “oh, sorry, I never learnt to bake” and the lone woman says, “sorry, I don’t want to,” and admits she does know how, it…probably isn’t going to look good for her.

    20. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      #5 here, where did you get the idea that I was ever paid, or going to be paid, for any of it?

    21. saskia*

      Sometimes getting the upper hand requires a little more finesse and subterfuge than just saying “no,” unfortunately. And when you say no too many times at work, it can negatively impact you, even if it shouldn’t. There are many reasons one might pretend not to know something.

      Also, I doubt #5 was getting paid to do any of that art.

    22. Laser99*

      It’s also very bad for feminism, ACTUALLY, for women to constantly be expected to take care of everyone and everything.

    23. Irish Teacher*

      Strangely, in this weird patriarchal world we live in, it could end up actually being perceived in a positive way, assuming the thing the person can’t do is something that is perceived as “female.” A woman who says she can’t sew or can’t bake or something like that might well be seen as MORE competent as a result. It doesn’t make logical sense, but it could make her be seen more as “one of the guys,” “more of a career woman than a homemaker,” etc.

      And it DEFINITELY wouldn’t drag other female identified people down to make your coworkers think that women are no more likely than men to be able to sew, bake, make coffee, etc. I think men thinking, “damn, women are so useless at things like sewing and baking. All they can do is their jobs” is more likely to be beneficial than otherwise.

      Now, it’s different if it’s a part of the job that the person is claiming they can’t do or if it is a task that men are traditionally considered to be better at. Then it could allow sexists to justify their sexism, but…not being able to do things women are expected to be good at isn’t going to damage feminism.

      And the last paragraph isn’t always a good idea. If the boss is say asking for a volunteer to bake cookies for the office party and all the men insist they can’t bake and the one woman “opens her mouth and says, no, she doesn’t want to,” admitting that she could, that is likely to have repercussions for her in her career. “She was the only person who could do it and refused because she couldn’t be bothered” does not look good.

      Yeah, she should be free to refuse to do that because it’s not her job, but unfortunately we don’t live in a world where it always works like that.

  9. The Prettiest Curse*

    As someone who actually has a severe allergy to dust mites, I would like to say a big EFF YOU to the colleague in #2 and to anyone else who pretends to have this type of allergy. Not being able to breathe because dust is making your asthma play up is no joke.

      1. nnn*

        Not all the stories are here to be celebrated, the request was for ridiculous examples, which this is.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Yeah, the call was definitely for stories of positive and negative weaponised incompetence – though in this case, it was pure jerkishness on the part of the arsehole allergy faker.

            1. The Prettiest Curse*

              I’m so sorry that I was unable to append the complete medical records of the colleague in this reply, but I will of course look forward to reading them in your response to this comment.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              LW’s co-worker’s allergies acted up in 3 of 4 offices in the same converted house and you don’t see why it’s suspicious that the one she tolerates is prettiest with most amenities? I sure do.

    1. tommy*

      alison, i’m bummed that you included #2.

      yes, some people in the world fake some allergies. okay. maybe this person did.

      what people gain from sharing their suspicions in any particular case (like here) is that they get to feel clever and savvy and superior. but what’s lost? what’s lost is support for a culture (which we don’t have, but deeply need) in which people with real allergies and disabilities are generally believed.

      the more times we try to prove or assert that someone’s faking, the more we contribute to non-fakers being disbelieved. one direction is an ethical direction to lean and one isn’t. if a few people get away with faking but more non-fakers are believed, isn’t that worth it?

    2. Chase*

      Chronic rhinoconjunctivitis due to dust mite allergy checking in, boils my blood that someone might weaponise that on the other hand I’m quite shocked the employer actually took it seriously lmao

  10. not like a regular teacher*

    I used to work with international students at an American university, having previously done similar work in Canada. I was so 100% sure that the rules around international students’ part time work off campus were definitely exactly the same in both countries, that it never once occurred to me to look up what the rules in America were! :)

  11. EBStarr*

    #1 makes me nostalgic for my cubicle-mate at an old company. Once in awhile he really did randomly grab me a diet Coke from the (free) office fridge because I loved them so much. And I never brought him anything! There was zero flirtatious energy about it, he was just an excellent guy who didn’t think caring for others was women’s work. (Not unrelatedly, he was an actual, not just claiming the label to seem like a good person, feminist.)

  12. desk platypus*

    #2 reminds me of a colleague who claimed a lot of scent allergies. We think she just didn’t like the smell of certain cleaning products because she always declined to bring in medical documentation, so especially during the initial Covid days we kept using disinfectant for high traffic public areas. But she for sure loved to “clean” her own area with lavender essential oil spray that was so deeply fragrant I felt gross for hours after with upset stomach and migraine. It got so bad she had to be formally disciplined because she wouldn’t listen to pleas to stop doing it.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      i wonder if she was one of those people who who claim allergies to “chemicals” but are ok with perceived “natural” things. see 90% of people shilling MLM products for reference.

      1. Generic Name*

        Yes, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. I won’t claim that it doesn’t exist, but as my mom (who is not a catty or sarcastic person) once observed, the only people she ever knew who had it were wealthy, white, middle-aged (in the 90s) women.

        1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          Well, that’s probably because they’re the only ones who can afford the kind of health care that would diagnose a condition like that.

          1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            Or they’re the only ones who have a chance of getting a doctor, or much of anyone else, to listen to them about it.

            The only person I know with that problem is none of wealthy, white, middle-aged, or female–but an awful lot of people would rather dismiss a disabled Asian-American trans man than try to help him.

      2. desk platypus*

        She literally claimed that, yes. Specifically just “chemicals” no matter what. I’ve known people allergic to various things like alcohol that made finding cleaning supplies difficult so I know it could be possible. But this woman in particular always gave me the vibe that she was lying.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, sorry, this also makes zero sense. *Literally everything* contains chemicals. The ones made synthetically are most of the time completely identical to the ones found in nature. The is *absolutely no way* somebody is “allergic” to all synthetic chemical products and not at all to stuff like essential oils (which contain a ton of irritants, etc.!)

          That’s just anti-science BS.

      3. Cj*

        yep, and those things can be just as bad. I don’t think it’s caused from an actual allergy, but certain scents, natural or not, give me migraines.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          Once I sprayed Lysol in my office to combat the lingering smell of old whatever (probably dampness; the building sometime leaked) and the woman two offices away knocked on my door and asked me not to do it again because of her allergies. It was a perfectly reasonable request*, but the minor hissy she pitched when I said I was allergic** to and therefore could not use the eucalyptus spray she wanted me to use was not reasonable.

          *I complied
          ** Truth

  13. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    11. So for 10 years nobody noticed you were missing? Or did just call in without video? If you missed calls entirely, that seems like that could have been career limiting to me.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      I also want to know if this meant others had to take in-person meetings due to this hold-out. I would resent that.

    2. Pikachu*

      I interpreted it as they just “couldn’t get the camera to work.” I took a similar stand during covid. Our company had survived with 800 number conference lines for decades and quite frankly covid did not magically transform video into a value-added business tool.

    3. Rara Avis*

      During covid we had a number of meetings where they wanted cameras on to make sure we were all engaged. (So stupid, especially when it was just listening to a presenter.) Crashed my inadequate home internet every time. Not weaponized anything — just the reality of how bandwidth works.

      1. Kayem*

        This is why I tell all my direct reports on our (mandatory) all day Teams meetings to please turn their cameras off unless they’re presenting and it’s necessary. A lot of my team are in places with crappy rural internet or just have ISPs that like to throttle bandwidth during the work day. It took half an hour of people constantly popping in and out due to connection issues the first day before I turned off all the cameras from my end.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          My company sometimes shows a nearly Guacamole Bob level of thriftiness.

          The one silver lining is no video on VOIP calls to save on bandwidth & VPN usage.

  14. Doctor Whom*

    No. 1 could be me! I don’t drink coffee and I get my caffeine through Diet Coke. One of the first places I worked at wanted me to contribute to the coffee fund, and I told them I didn’t drink coffee. I don’t think they believed me, but I wasn’t giving them my money!

    1. The OG Sleepless*

      Our dotty old office admin would occasionally go around and nag everyone to contribute to the coffee fund. I don’t drink coffee (I’m a Diet Coke person too) and I told her that, every time, but she kept asking and I suspect she didn’t believe me.

  15. Legally Brunette*

    **Cackle** These are great!

    The last position I held before changing government organizations was filled by a man-child whose weaponized incompetence knew no bounds (and made me SO VERY SAD for his three young daughters). That position entailed a ton of government-regulated documentation that was a lot to keep up with, on top of being a glorified project manager for internal and external assets. As a guy who liked to bring his wet wipes for marathon lockdowns in the only bathroom available for about 8 of us on site, and who could most often be found otherwise with his feet up on the table sleeping, the tales I’ve heard of him after I left from former colleagues make me chuckle. I offered to walk him through everything before I left and he proceeded to mansplain the job to me on the “transition phone call” that management made him have. I kind of wanted the chance to say “I no longer work there, oops – not sure how to do that anymore, sorry!” but some weaponized incompetence just goes unpunished…

  16. Unkempt Flatware*

    I totally support my colleagues’ intentional weaponized incompetence unless it negatively impacts me. I was once the director of ground transportation at a ski resort. One woman told me she needed a driver to stand by after the resort had closed so he could drive her and her team down to the parking lot from the very top of the mountain where they worked in a bar. When I asked why she didn’t designate one of them to be a certified driver for the resort and thus being issued a company vehicle, she quipped that then she or her team would constantly be asked to drive for other departments and she was unwilling. So…..yeah, just pay your driver to hang around for an hour to drive four people down the mountain. Nope.

    1. Kaden Lee*

      Is there some context I’m missing here? This seems reasonable to me – you were directing ground transportation, her team needed ground transportation.

        1. Kaden Lee*

          Thanks! Agreed, that does make it obnoxious if you otherwise weren’t transporting employees.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I can’t blame her, really. I hate driving (I can do it and do it well, but I rank it below toilet scrubbing in the list of chores) and if I signed on to a non-driving job where I am not required to be a certified driver then I’m not getting that certification without a pay bump at minimum.

  17. ThatGirl*

    No 5 is ringing some bells with me, because in college I was part of the newspaper staff, and really, I just wanted to write and edit. But I made the mistake of mentioning my photography experience and all of a sudden I was photo editor for three semesters.

  18. Kevin Sours*

    I am at a loss for why you would want to have somebody who never drinks coffee make the coffee. Leaving aside all of the fairness considerations (which you really shouldn’t) you are left with somebody who probably doesn’t know and has no incentive to figure out how to do it properly.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Good point. You’re likely to end up with either beige water or something you could pave a road with.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        The one time I tried to make coffee for my colleagues just to be nice, one took me aside the next day and asked me (kindly) to never do that again. Apparently it was strong enough that he was awake almost the entire night.

    2. me*


      I do not drink coffee and have never had a cup of coffee. This is both my fun fact and my “never have I ever” gotcha. I only own a coffee machine because my mother bought it for herself when she came to visit. We had to go out very early the first morning to buy filters because I did not remember that they were a necessary thing for making coffee. It is highly unlikely that you will enjoy any coffee you ask me to make.

      1. Despachito*

        I do not think a person who is dumb enough to behave like those dudes wanting the woman coworker to make coffee would even realize that.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          They probably think there’s some sort of coffee-making gene that only is on the X chromosome.

      2. Quill*

        I do drink coffee but according to my parents’ chore schedules throughout my childhood making coffee is my dad’s job. (The logic was that for most of my childhood he had to get up earlier to commute to work.)

        Thus, the only arbitrarily gendered skill I have ever not learned is how to make coffee.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          At my first job the senior partner made the coffee. NO. 1, he came earliest after dropping his kids and school and he wasn’t about to wait for someone to come in and do it for him, and No. 2, he wanted HIS coffee HIS way. I still love his logic.

    3. Mostly Managing*

      So very true.

      Eons ago, I started a new job. I was told on my first day that the person in my role was traditionally the one who made the first pot of coffee. They walked me through how to do it.
      Next day, I did as I’d been shown.
      By 10am, a senior engineer had come and asked me if I ever drank coffee, and instructed me to never touch the pot again. He did it himself so it wasn’t disgusting.

      Reader, I have honoured that promise and have not made coffee since!! :)

  19. A friendly reminder*

    A friendly reminder: receipts are required for all expenses. Expense reports missing receipts will not be process.


    Friendly reminder

  20. Ruby + Rowdy*

    Wow, that crockpot from #9 would have been in trash if they tried to pull that on anyone in my office.

  21. Ex-prof*

    The chutzpah of the guy complaining his crockpot wasn’t washed. He’s lucky he didn’t end up wearing it.

    Any chance of the women complaining to a higher up about the mandatory potlucks? Or was that already tried before the general strike was called?

  22. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

    I was a computer teacher on a one year contract with a principal who was notorious for grading first year teachers in her school with negative reviews/observations.

    The minute after receiving my negative observation, I was suddenly unable to help others and especially the main office with their computer issues.

    “I am sorry, but since I am such a terrible teacher, I am unable to fix your problem and must spend every moment trying to improve my teaching skills.”

    The teachers union reversed the observation (almost never happened) and I quietly helped other teachers, but never went near the main office unless I was signing in first thing in the morning.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      ^^ Love this. My horrifically incompetent last boss gave me my first negative review after 6+ years with my last org (she was new) claiming that I wasn’t helpful enough to other staff. She could not, of course, come up with any examples.

      I had outlasted the vast majority of the rest of the staff in a place with extremely high turnover and my office was the first stop for most people for questions of any type, since I usually knew the answer or at least had some context or could tell you where to look just because I had been there longer than almost everyone else.

      I started answering all questions by directing them to New Boss, who then tried to ask me, and I suddenly didn’t know the answer to anything.

  23. BlueCanoe*

    I admit I have some sympathy for the allergy (#2 I believe). I’m pretty sensitive to things normal people aren’t sensitive to, like smells/chemicals in the air or clothing that’s too tight or putting pressure on the wrong spot. I’m pretty tough in that I can hike all day, sleep in a tent, do various farming and ranching tasks, etc., but the wrong perfume in the air or trying to wear a jacket with sleeves that are just a tiny bit too tight can easily put me in bed for the rest of the day.

    That being said, it does seem very suspicious that there isn’t dust, carpet glue, or mold in the nice office with the view, especially given the age of the house and the presence of a fireplace, which are notorious for airborne particulates.

    1. Kara*

      Unless ventilation is the difference. If the office has a balcony outside it stands to reason that there’s a door leading to it, and thus more fresh air than a window would produce.

  24. anon12*

    Super sucks to have people questioning allergies.

    I recently started developing red, burning, peeling rashes on my face and body. Turns out I can’t use anything that has scent in it–limonene and linalool. It also means I have to avoid essential oils. And all of those are in almost EVERYTHING. Only had things checked by a dermatologist and a patch test as my skin situation became unbearable.

    Also, I’ve been told that this can develop suddenly to women over 40–which I am.

    I don’t even bother trying to explain it too much anymore. People ask, and you can say limonene or linalool, and their eyes glaze over. So “scent” it is. Or some people might just say “chemicals” to get around having to explain it to someone who–let’s face it–doesn’t really care.

    Anyways, maybe that woman in the old house does better in the room with the balcony because it affords more ventilation.

    1. Emily*

      They’re not questioning it just because the person has allergies. They’re questioning it because super conveniently the person only does not have allergies in the nicest office.

      1. Anon12*

        Yes, nicest office with balcony doors in an old house that’s probably covered with dust and mites. Hence, better ventilation. I don’t see a problem with that.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yeah, that one confused me too. It does make perfect sense that she’d be better in a room that she can actually air out.

    2. MEH Squared*

      I’m with you. I am allergic to almost everything, but there are weird pockets in my allergies. I had the same thought you did about the ventilation and maybe because it was the newest/best office in the house that the woman wasn’t allergic in it.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I implore you to skip to the last one and read it. Also ##14 and 15. You shall be healed.

  25. Extropy Is My Middle Name*

    Oh, if we’re doing the weaponized competence against incompetence (#6, I love you), my version of this was that I was the senior engineer running our mail and calendaring software. We’d switched to it as the best of a bunch of mediocre options, and the documentation provided by the vendor was…sub-optimal.

    So the Admin Assistants started asking for help on it, and my colleagues were blowing them off. Finally, one of them came to me and said, “I know I’m stupid, but I just can’t make the calendaring software part of this thing work. I just don’t get it. I’m sorry.”

    “Hold on, back up. If the software’s not doing what you need it to do, it’s not because you’re stupid. It’s either because the software can’t do it – in which case I need to file a feature request with the vendor – or it’s because the documentation is garbage – in which case I need to rewrite the documentation. Nobody who juggles the egos of six different executives the way you do could possibly be stupid. So, shall we back up and have you explain why the software is being stupid at you?”

    Her face just lit up.

    We solved the problem; I did need to rewrite some documentation.

    And mysteriously ever after, whenever office reorgs happened, I got the office with the window and a door that shut…

    1. GuacamoleNob*

      You are a hero. Thank you on behalf of everyone who has ever been made to feel stupid because of rubbish documentation.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Thank you on behalf of someone who has had to explain why technical writing is a specialty.

  26. Cj*

    haven’t the people in number 16 heard of The Help screen in Word. it is actually very helpful. there’s no way I do something manually that I know can be done, just because I don’t currently know how. I will learn, and do it the best way even have to have to look it up every time.

    1. Hot Flash Gordon*

      For sure…everything I do in excel I’ve learned with Google and You Tube. Except for vlookup…can’t figure that ish out…

      1. I Have RBF*

        I didn’t even need You Tube or Google for that. I just used the built in help and trial and error. Vlookup is a little tricky. That and pivot tables are guru level stuff, though. IIRC, in order for vlookup to work right, you need to have the index column sorted and deduped.

      2. Brrr*

        You might want to try XLookup instead. I never got the hang of Vlookup either, even after a colleague showed me how. But I was able to figure out XLookup quite easily with a short online tutorial. And I get the same result.

    2. Kes*

      I mean, I agree they should learn how to look things up, and it shouldn’t be OP’s responsibility to just do everything for them. At the same time, the fact that the result was they did everything manually suggests that they weren’t “forgetting”, they actually didn’t know. I feel like there’s probably an intermediate ground where OP could have done some training.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Can you expand in-group to regular Coke & Pepsi? Coffee is for mornings only. ;)

      1. Judge Judy and Executioner*

        No. Diet Coke only.

        Me ordering a drink – Diet Coke please
        Waiter – Diet Pepsi okay?
        Me – No, I’ll have a water

        Haha, just kidding. Soda is soda. Diet Coke is superior obviously, but to each their own. :-P

  27. New Senior Mgr*

    I love Notes 1 & 2, the why isn’t my crockpot washed guy, the retiring boss, the no video camera worker, … ok I love them all.

  28. Deeeej*

    My dad insisted that both of his kids (boy and girl) learned to touch type because he credited it with saving his life several times when he was drafted to Vietnam. He missed out on several dangerous assignments bc they found out he could type and assigned him to a clerk job instead.

    1. dawbs*

      Near the end of WWII, my gramps was (against his wishes) put in charge of supplies in and out. Gramps was good at a lot of things and could track stuff–but not type. There was 1 young man who knew how to type and gramps ‘lost’ his paperwork sending him into the European theatre 3 times.
      (He only didn’t “loose” it the last time because the young man was so dead set on it. Gramps tried really hard to convince him to let the paperwork get lost again, but the man was beyond insistent)

      1. TX_TRUCKER*

        There was a short story I read (decades ago) about a father teaching his son to type during the Vietnam draft era for that same reason. It was published in an American magazine which I sadly misplaced. The dichotomy between the father who wanted to keep his son safe, and the son who wanted to fight and become a hero was poignant.

        1. Dawbs*

          yeah- it was 2 generations later when gramps told me this story– and an additional detail is that gramps had served in Europe and after flying over 50 missions, was back stateside with “combat fatigue ” (aka PTSD).

          and this was the segregated military- gramps was made an officer because he was white (he was unhappy with that) and all of the men under him were not. This young man wanted to serve to prove himself as capable of breaking the race barrier and gramps was trying to tell him nothing he did would be good enough and that it was all hell.

          But the wheels were in motion and it was a lousy story without an end.

  29. Tubby Toast*

    I’m not sure if its a sign of the times but Ive been a woman in both male dominated and female dominated industries, and Ive always witnessed males volunteering to make coffee (instant or with the espresso machine) or buy coffee.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It’s good to spot the guys like that — the ones make coffee, take notes, and in general “don’t believe that caring is only a woman’s job’ (to misquote a comment upthread).

      Then tell them it’s noticed & appreciated. Before a jerk teases them and they think they “should” stop.

  30. Possum*

    On #9, in my last office, it always fell to the young women to clean up after potlucks. One time, a middle age male colleague actually noticed! He very kindly confronted the guys not helping out after the gathering: “why are the ladies the only ones who ever clean up?!” And then he returned to to his desk without lifting a finger…

  31. The scum is winning*

    Ooh, I missed this. Many years ago, I had a job where I lived with a handful of coworkers (all male, I’m female) and the boss. The boss did not cook, and any of us could cook the meals. I ended up doing all the cooking, which I didn’t mind in large part because the boss’s rule was the cook doesn’t have to do dishes (and he didn’t do dishes either). Well, for the first couple days, the guys just … didn’t do them. Just left them in the sink. There was no way I was going to do them, so I just left them and worked around them. Made things that used whatever dishes were left, maybe washed the one thing I needed or one fork for me and one for the boss but none for anybody else. A couple times, they made comments and I just refused. “Boss says cook doesn’t have to do dishes. I’m not doing them.” Eventually, the boss sees that no one is doing dishes, and he knows that I’ve cooked every meal. He comes down and he washes all of them. Doesn’t say a word. I know I’ve done nothing wrong so I’m just chilling, but I can see the guys looking at each other and looking nervous. Later they were whispering about it. Boss didn’t have to say anything but the guys always did dishes after that!

  32. Not Faking It*

    disappointed to see number three included here. as a person with multiple chemical sensitivities and environmental intolerances, I have to move around my workspace a lot and I know it annoys coworkers and I know some of them think I’m faking it or exaggerating it. I’m not. and it’s hurtful that they think so. so to see number three listed here where another reader of this blog is claiming another employee is weaponizing a potentially disabling medical condition and knowing there was an intentional choice to include that in this list, is disappointing and disheartening.

    1. tommy*

      same. i just wrote a comment about this but it’s not showing up… either it will show up soon or it got eaten. but you’re right.

      there will always be a few fakers in the world. people yearning to feel clever by casting suspicion are contributing to a culture where the vast majority of us, who are not faking, are often disbelieved.

      (it’s #2, not #3.)

  33. Mister_L*

    # 1 reminds me when I was voluteered to pour beer during a field drill during my mandatory military service. After the 3rd beer they insisted I do something else. Technically it wasn’t even malicious compliance, I just don’t drink and have no idea how pour beer.

  34. Kayem*

    Similar to #11…

    We have a client who insists everyone must have their camera on at all times during the work day. They want to make sure everyone on the team is working whenever they pop in for a random check. I swear they have someone whose only job is to watch everyone fidget at their desk because as soon as someone gets up for the bathroom, someone not on the team pops in with “Has anyone seen Fergus, he’s not at his desk.” It’s maddening and teams assigned to them have the worst performance and most absenteeism.

    I recently upgraded to a new computer, a really nice gaming laptop. Though oh no, it happened to not come with a built in webcam! (No webcam was the deciding factor in picking this one over my other options). My mom gave me a 15 year old Logitech webcam she was getting rid of but for some strange reason, it just doesn’t work with my computer.

    I told my boss this while I was in a video meeting with our team, while using said webcam. My boss said her webcam doesn’t work either and she was sad to report no one on our team had a working webcam. We haven’t been assigned those clients since.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      “I swear they have someone whose only job is to watch everyone fidget at their desk because as soon as someone gets up for the bathroom, someone not on the team pops in with “Has anyone seen Fergus, he’s not at his desk.””

      Dear god. Do they get any real work done? Love your boss’s response (and your contribution to it)!

    2. Ticotac*

      It’s truly tragic how webcams can just fail, just like that!

      I was wondering, since this (people checking on you through the camera) is not unheard of, has there ever been a story of someone connecting the webcam to a looped video, heist-movie style? Don’t even know if it’s feasible, I’m just wondering

      1. Kayem*

        I was wondering about that too though I don’t know anyone who did it. One of my colleagues’ solution was to put a cardboard cutout of the (older) Maytag repairman in front of her computer whenever she had to get up from her desk. I don’t know if it actually fooled the client’s spies or they just got used to that being her bathroom break signal.

  35. Ganymede*

    Number 14 – thank you for sharing the serotonin. I like to think the guy went on to lead a better life.

    1. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

      Same here — but we all have those mortifying moments that wake us up at night, and a crash-course in feminism through grave error is a good one for this guy to have.

  36. EJ*

    Number 8 reminds me of a former coworker who had a Windows phone (remember those?) for that exact reason. There were barely any functional apps for those phones, so he managed to avoid any boundary-pushing all requests to install various things on his phone.

    That worked for a long time, until our government employer coughed up enough money to saddle him with a shiny new work iPhone.

  37. Coffee Beans*

    I have a story of weaponizing incompetence against someone’s own weaponized incompetence.
    I work in a medical office setting, and occasionally need to help the front office with answering phone calls from patients. Due to the nature of my duties it’s difficult to put my work on hold and pick up where I left off, but I was catching a lot of attitude from my manager if I ever seemed reluctant to halt my own work and answer the phone, even during times I felt like I was answering it more than the receptionists were. One of our two receptionists was an entire HBO series of her own weaponized incompetence, frequently ignoring the phone and feigning ignorance about very simple things that had been her job from the start. I often ended up picking up her tasks and fixing her mistakes. I’d tell my manager about this but this receptionist was never reprimanded or spoken to in a way that would prevent her from doing it again. This frustrated me to no end, especially since my manager would defend her while also looking for ways to accuse me of not doing enough.
    This year, an additional duty was added onto my list of tasks. It involved me needing to be on long phone calls (think minimum of 20 minute each,) and the idea was that I would filter these calls between my other tasks, so I wasn’t spending too long doing any one thing.
    I promise I did put in a good faith attempt to do this, but was still being nagged about not doing them enough while also being expected to remain constantly available. One day I decided I’d had enough.
    Amidst a particularly heavy day of phone calls, I decided to get all of my long ones done. One by one. In a row.
    4 phone calls came in at once? Sorry, I was already on one. Receptionist needs help doing her job? Not my problem, better ask the manager to help you instead. As the day went on, I saw them get visibly confused, until my manager’s jaw dropped and a look of realization dawned on her face that I’ll savor forever. I just stared at her wide-eyed and shrugged. She was obviously flustered, but she couldn’t accuse me of any wrongdoing without admitting her own. She reluctantly shuffled out to help the receptionist and I heard them arguing with each other from my desk.
    Since that day, I’ve never been bothered about the phone again, and my manager has made a noticeable effort to be more fair to me. That receptionist quit, and we hired a new one who’s absolutely wonderful.

  38. ZK*

    The apps. I did the same thing. Work required us to download several apps, but they didn’t work well with Androids. So every time my boss asked if I had them, I said, “sorry, they don’t work with my phone,” and he’d just nod, say, “Yeah, I have an Android, too,” and walk away. I have an iPhone. But when my boss doesn’t have the apps, why should I? It wasn’t my fault they didn’t have enough scanners for employees. It was just one example of the company trying to pass on equipment costs to us.

  39. birb*

    As someone with MCAS, I hate the allergy entry here.

    Of course the “nicest” office is less likely to her. It was likely made for a higher up and with higher quality materials (usually safer and less likely to trigger a histamine response), with better ventilation and moisture control to keep mold away.

    Similarly, once I checked into a hotel well after midnight and there were bed bugs in my room. They couldn’t get me a room in another hotel, so htey put me in a second room. Which also had bugs. And a third room. Which also had bugs. They finally put me in the presidential suite… not because I was pretending there were bugs in the other three rooms… it was just the “nice” rooms were the only rooms they cared enough about to keep consistently clean and well maintained.

  40. You Can't Sit With Us*

    #4 – Imagine being so offended about being a female engineer & making coffee, but then being a petty B to dump all the problems onto the (also probably female) admins.

  41. Tara*

    These are amazing! I wish they weren’t amazing though; how is it possible that these ridiculous gender dynamics still exist? I’m strongly rooting for Gen-Z and the generation after them and whatever it is that they’re doing with gender. I’ll admit that I’m totally baffled by the tsunami of gender queerness, but I’m hoping that it might finally put an end to these deep seated assumptions about the tasks and roles that people are assumed to be responsible for.
    I’m such a fan of men like the grand boss in #15 who manage to see that this stuff exists and matters. Some might need the help of a daughter, but whatever works.

  42. SusieQQ*

    I was late to the party on the last post, but my contribution:

    I was teaching math at a community college and a physics student was looking for a professor to help them with a homework problem that required calculus. The student was nice enough but smelled like a cologne factory. I could barely breath around them. When they asked me for help, I told them that I don’t know how to do calculus. (Not sure why I resorted to this when there are a million other excuses I could have made that sounded more legit, like having papers to grade, but that’s what I did). The student said okay and walked away. Not sure if they bought my story that someone with a masters degree in mathematics doesn’t know Calc I, but they left me alone.

    (To emphasize, this was not my student. It was a rando physics student and was not in any class that I taught. If it were my student, I would have helped them.)

  43. 1-800-BrownCow*

    #1: You reminded me of my job that worked at in my late 20s. There was a middle-aged man in a different department that I would have to take project work to for him to complete (part of his job). He considered himself a ladies man and would often hit on the younger women at work (ugh). The first few times I went to him, he would casually ask “Did you bring me a coffee, too?” Which I’d answer “No.” Then one time when I had to drop work off with him, he tells me that the other “pretty, young ladies” would always bring him a nice, hot cup of coffee and so he’d always make sure to get their work done first. I replied that I didn’t know how to make coffee and walked away. I didn’t care if he didn’t get my work done first and I knew if he didn’t do the work in a reasonable time, his boss would get after him.

    As for knowing how to make coffee?? Yeah, I’m a huge coffee drinker and at that time would drink several cups of coffee a day at work, often making the coffee myself, and I knew he knew I was a coffee drinker.

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