my coworker asked me to stop dressing professionally, saying where you’re going when you resign, and more

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

But first, a quick announcement: Due to the quantity of updates we have, posts on Wednesday will publish at 11 am, 12:15 pm, 1:15 pm, 2:15 pm, 3:30 pm, 5 pm, and 6 pm (all times Eastern).

1. My coworker asked me to stop dressing professionally

Your letter last month about coworkers complaining that someone is violating the dress code but they aren’t reminded me of a situation a few years ago that I’m wondering if I could have handled differently.

When I started a new job, I was working with a woman, Cornelia. Our roles were very similar and we often ended up working together and co-presenting to small groups. We were the same age but generally had different lifestyles, personalities, and styles. For example, she was single, lived alone, did not have children, and generally wore jeans, band t-shirts, and cardigans (I promise this is important later). I am married, have two children, and generally wear business casual things to the office. Sometimes I mix it up with dresses, and I participate in casual Fridays with jeans and company t-shirts/polos. I do dress business casual, but certainly no one had ever mistaken me for a higher up/admin.

Once, after we finished presenting together, Cornelia asked me if I could stop dressing so nicely, because it made her look bad. In the moment, I think I was so shocked that I kind of looked at her funny and said, “Oh, I’m comfortable and I’m not going to go out and buy a whole other casual wardrobe.” I had never heard anyone make a comment about her clothing choices or imply that she wasn’t professional because of them. A few months later, Cornelia ended up getting a different job at another company, and I never said anything to anyone else about it.

But it made me start second-guessing my outfit choices, especially on days I presented with her. I started looking at other people’s clothing choices more carefully and ultimately decided that I could be perceived as landing on the more professional/dressier side of the office spectrum, but I was okay with that because this is how I’m comfortable. I don’t feel confident or like I do my best work in jeans and t-shirts every day. Plus, I really enjoy putting outfits together and getting ready in the morning, it’s a form of self-care for me. I guess I’m just wondering if I handled this the right way, or if there was something else you would have done in the situation.

You handled it perfectly! You shut it down with a firm no.

That said, I can kind of see where Cornelia was coming from. Because you were co-presenters, she might have worried that the two of you looked visually out of sync to your audiences. Normally the solution to that wouldn’t necessarily be that you needed to dress down — it could just as easily be that she needed to dress up more — but if she was was solidly within your office’s dress code and you were more formal than most people, I could see her thinking it was reasonable to ask you to be the one to change.

That said, this wasn’t a situation where one of you was presenting in sweats while the other was in a suit. Jeans, a t-shirt, and a cardigan aren’t that out of sync with your business casual outfits, so Cornelia may have been overthinking it.

2. Senior colleague forwards emails with no context

Not my direct supervisor, but a C-Level employee at my company is known for flinging emails like a gorilla flings poo. He will often forward emails without context, requiring me to sift through multiple messages to discern the purpose/task. I find it challenging to understand the intended action or request buried within the email chain.

How can I get him to include his request at the top? Replying with “is there a task for me here or is this an FYI?” feels too passive aggressive, nor has it seemed to change his email etiquette. I report to the CFO and he’s the COO.

It really depends on the internal politics, what your relationship with him is like, and how open he is to hearing pushback. In some cases you could say, “When you forward messages, would you mind indicating whether it’s an FYI or you want me to take action? It’s not always clear.” In other cases that would go over badly — so you’ve got to know the players and the politics.

3. Adult toy ads on a website I use for work

I’m an early career software engineer working at a huge company with a relatively conservative culture. I often rely on articles and documentation from various websites, but I’m having a serious problem with one I use very frequently. Ads keep appearing for a popular sex toy company! It goes without saying that I’ve never browsed anything of a remotely sexual nature on my work laptop, so I have no idea why this is happening. There’s no way to install an ad blocker, and I need to use this particular website for my projects.

I live in fear that my boss will walk behind me while I’m working on something and see ads for vibrators! We certainly don’t have the kind of rapport where I could laugh it off (after all, does anyone have that kind of rapport with their boss?). I have no idea how to ask IT about this problem as it’s pretty embarrassing. What should I do?

IT has dealt with much worse! But it doesn’t sound like this is something they’d be able to stop anyway unless they’re willing to let you install an ad blocker.

Personally, I’d just say to your boss, “Just FYI, I regularly have to use SiteName to research X and it has really unsafe-for-work ads on it. I wanted to preemptively mention it in case anyone ever wonders about it.”

If the ads are obviously out of sync with the content of the website, you might also consider reporting it to the site. Websites are generally able to block ads by category (and adult products are definitely a category) but sometimes those blocks fail and they might appreciate the heads-up.

4. Why shouldn’t you say where you’re going when you resign?

I have universally heard that you are not supposed to tell your current work what your next job is when you are resigning. Although I have heard this from everyone, I have not heard a compelling, specific reason why this is so. Is it just that where you are going should be on a need-to-know basis, or is there some specific concern that people have when declining to provide this information?

I’m surprised you’ve heard this so much! Most people don’t hide where they’re going when they resign, unless they have a specific reason to — like if you’re going to a competitor and don’t want your employer to know right away, or if you have reason to believe your old employer will try to cause problems for you with the new employer. It’s very normal, though, for people to ask what you’ll be doing next when you leave, and most people will answer unless there’s some specific (and generally unusual) reason they don’t want to.

Read an update to this letter

{ 313 comments… read them below }

  1. Julian*

    For the emails, I sometimes get things like this from our operations team. I find a breezy “Hi NAME, How can I help?” usually works. It’s annoying to do everytime but might be helpful if you can’t ask them to not do that.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      Yep, it sounds like the COO is trying to hand off work so he doesn’t have to think about it anymore but doing it badly.

      I get stuff like this from time to time and know that writing back to the forwarder isn’t going to get me anywhere; if they ever do respond it’s often weeks later. Instead, I reply to the person/people in the chain, identify myself and my job, say that X person forwarded it to me, and ask what they need from me to move forward. It gets better and faster results.

    2. I Would Rather be Eating Dumplings*

      Yeah, I think this sort of polite push-back can help people reframe their thinking.

      If OP doesn’t feel comfortable doing that and still sifts through the chain, she could still follow-up with clarifying questions, which will nonetheless reinforce for the sender that it’s helpful for them to include context (e.g.: “Hey NAME, I looked through this and see that X item is needed. Just want to confirm that you’d like me to tackle that and get a sense of your timeline?”)

      The one caveat I would put is that if OP is aware that the sender is currently especially pressed (like at a conference or a particularly swamped week, etc.) then I think it can be gracious to let some of them go. I know having worked with field-based teams that often have to rely on phones to get communications done relatively quickly, a lot of pushback on admin details can build resentment.

      I’m not saying they should get a full pass, but the occasional slip-up can be understandable, IMO.

      1. ZooKeeper*

        OP here-

        I’ve found two things help-

        1) a follow up phone call “hey didn’t want to have another 10 emails on that chain, what are you looking for?”

        2) Sometimes I have to loop him into an email chain and I’ve been very specific with my request.

        The @ZooKeeper tags with no contexts have been dwindling.

    3. Lucia Pacciola*

      I’d be curious to know what LW#2’s own boss had to say about it. If LW already has clear assignments from their actual supervisor, the right answer here might be to simply ignore any emails that come through without context. But LW’s actual supervisor will probably have the most insight into what’s going on and what their direct reports should do about it.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Yes, LW#2’s boss may have already found a workaround for this. Or if not, is there someone else who’s been there a while who can offer suggestions?

        Oh, btw — the phrase “flinging emails like a gorilla flings poo” has already made my day.

      2. ZooKeeper*

        My boss is as frustrated as I am.

        At the end of the day the items are items that need to be brought to our attention. But no one appreciates running in circles to get it done

    4. MassMatt*

      This director (or whatever his title is) would drive me nuts. Forwarding an email chain about topic X with no directive as to what I am to do seems extremely lazy.

      Your response seems like a good way to volley the ball back to his side of the court without being as snarky or irritated as I probably would be.

  2. Zombeyonce*

    #1: I’ve always dressed up a little more than usual when doing presentations, so I’m heavily on the side of “Cornelia should have dressed up” side of the debate rather than asking you to change. But I also doubt anyone even noticed the discrepancy.

    1. English Rose*

      100% Presenting, even informally to small groups, is partly about the presenter’s authority, and dressing up a bit helps with that. Of course company culture comes into it too, as does one’s personal style.

      1. Smithy*

        As everyone has said, this depends on what you’re presenting.

        There are so many cases where dressing more informally is a strategic approach to make the presenter seem more approachable and less at a distance. I know that every technical systems change where I’ve worked, the people presenting about how we’re switching from Skype to Teams, Google to Outlook, Raisers Edge to Salesforce, etc – that’s when seeing your presenter in soft pants, a Sesame Street graphic tee, and fuzzy cardigan would make sense and almost more expected than businesses casual. Because at that point, the authority of the transition has already been made and now the presenters are holding our hands like whiny babies as we make it seem like we’ve never learned a new computer system in our lives (or maybe that’s just my offices).

        In the scenario above, someone certainly could be an effective presenter in business casual and getting a new wardrobe just because a co-presenter preferred that approach wouldn’t be required. But I could see where finding a place for both colleagues to meet in the middle would make more sense. When both styles of dressing can have a strategic approach, but applied together can become contradictory, trying to negotiate a middle ground can make that difference between working well with someone and doing what you have to.

        1. The Fashionista*

          I am sorry, but I would dismiss anyone who gave a presentation in a Sesame Street t-shirt as a lightweight.

          1. JustaTech*

            I’m curious about your industry, because in Tech (Google, Meta, Apple), it is very common for people presenting at their big conferences to be wearing soft pants (or nice jeans), nice sneakers, a graphic T-shirt and a cardigan or soft blazer (women only).
            A friend of mine has given several well-received technical talks (before hundreds or thousands of people) wearing a T-shirt with a cartoon dinosaur.

            At the same time, this would 100% not fly in my industry (biotech), so I presume that Tech is its own microcosm that I have an unusual amount of exposure to. (Go to nerd school, have nerd friends.)

            1. New Mom (of 1 3/9)*

              This would work in my company, but only internally. Externally you would veer more conservative (but still business casual, no graphic tees).

            2. tell*

              Likely they’re well known and therefore get away with it, but dressing too casually comes off as a bit bratty and entitled. Dressing up a bit, though, conveys respect for the situation at hand, and I love it when very well-known people in my field do just that. Humility goes a very long way.

            3. Kathy*

              I’m confused by this usage of “soft pants” – I thought it referred to pajama pants and sweatpants, and as a person in tech I haven’t seen people presenting at conferences dressed quite *that* casually. (Jeans, sure).

          2. Allibaster kitty*

            If someone in IT was giving a talk with a sesame street t-shirt I feel like it gives them credibility. Like a super smart technical genius.

            1. Willow Pillow*

              That kind of thing helped with the point person from the Sharepoint company my company engaged recently – it made her seem relatable.

      2. The Fashionista*

        Cordelia needs to dress appropriately when making important presentations. OP should not change her dress style, because to do so would undermine her authority and lessen the impact of her presentation. Cornelia needs to remember the aphorism “dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”

    2. I Would Rather be Eating Dumplings*

      I’m very much like OP, where I veer toward over-dressed (in both casual and professional settings). I just feel more comfortable and ‘myself’ when dressier. So I’m often the most formally dressed on my team.

      But in my experience, people very quickly adjust to seeing that as an aspect of my personal expression, so it reflects more on me than it does on my more casually dressed colleagues.

      Assuming Cornelia wore nice, clean cartigans and non-ripped jeans, she probably coded as fairly professional, despite OP’s more formal outfits. The only question I would have is the band t-shirts, which can sometimes read as ‘fashion-forward’ but sometimes ‘overly youthful’.

      1. MK*

        I am not sure I agree. What Cornelia wore might have been fine on its own, co-presenting with more formally dressed OP may well made her worried she was giving the impression to some that she was a more junior person or an assistant.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Then the solution is to up your clothing game, not to ask the other person to tone it down.

          I also read band t-shirts as more on the casual side rather than business casual. Cornelia could have upped her game just by adding a nice solid color t-shirt rather than a band t-shirt.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            THIS. If you’re afraid you read too casual for the presentation, then YOU need to wear a plain t-shirt, or a nice button down, or something a smidge more “professional reading” than your band t-shirt.

            1. The Real Fran Fine*

              Agreed, and I say that as someone who LOVES band t-shirts (though only for casual Fridays).

          2. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Yeah, Cornelia is sort of the clothing equivalent of someone who needs to put someone else down in order to feel superior to them. You don’t ask someone to dress down in order for your outfit to look better, you dress up a bit more. I also agree with Pastor Labelle that band t-shirts are about the most casual you can get without wearing ripped clothing. It really wouldn’t have been that big of an ask for Cornelia to just switch to a shirt that doesn’t have writing on it.

            1. Dancing Otter*

              Or turn it inside out, for pity’s sake. Mostly, the printing doesn’t go all the way through, unless the shirt was really, really thin.

              1. Kathy*

                an inside-out t-shirt is visibly inside-out, though? even with a cardigan, the collar and hem will have raw seams and stitching visible.

          3. Turquoisecow*

            Every place I’ve worked we were not allowed to wear shirts with logos or brands on them unless they were the company logos. Plain T-shirts or t-shirts with designs on them like floral or whatever were fine, but sports or band shirts would have been put (unless it was pre-Super Bowl and people were specifically allowed to wear team jerseys). So yeah, they definitely read as super casual to me.

          4. The Fashionista*

            Then the solution is to up your clothing game, not to ask the other person to tone it down.

            Well said.

            1. Jackdaw*

              It always depends on the context! I’ve seen presenters blow their credibility by dressing too formally. The framing of “you’re making me look bad” makes me think that isn’t the case in this letter, but adjusting toward the formal isn’t a universally good choice.

              1. Zombeyonce*

                This reminds me of when I tried to hard to get my partner interviewing for a new electrical engineer job to dress up more. I had such a hard time believing you shouldn’t wear nice clothes, even a blazer to an interview because that’s the norm in the industries I’ve worked in.

                He wore jeans and a polo shirt, telling me anything more formal would make him look like didn’t know the industry, and he was completely right. His interviewers were wearing tattered jeans, old t-shirts, and the CEO at one place was in cargo shorts! I ate humble pie and now always try to remember that my experience is not universal.

                1. Rainy*

                  There was a fantastic set of posts on Reddit a while back from a guy whose extremely well-regarded, in-demand engineer fiancee was interviewing and he kept hammering at her to stop being so critical, to take whatever she was offered, to stop withdrawing from consideration for jobs that she judged to be wrong for her. He came to Reddit to complain that she was being “too picky”, that her interview questions were “embarrassing the company”, and that it was all an excuse to avoid a move they had planned to make together to an area he wanted to move to.

                  While of course there were other insecure manbabies who told him he was doing the right thing and should dump her for being an elitist princess (it was Reddit, after all), the majority wanted to know what field he was in and what kind of experience he had to figure out where the disconnect was–because of course for engineers at her level, what she was doing was normal and absolutely correct since a big part of her focus, it turned out, was not ending up in a company that didn’t take safety compliance seriously, since an employer that skimped on safety would negatively impact her professional reputation and endanger her licensure!

                2. Not Your Sweetheart*

                  I worked at the Amazon campus for a while, and you could always tell the interviewees and 1st day interns. They always showed up in suits. Everyone else- including C-suite- wore jeans and geeky graphic tees.

      2. Honestly, some people’s children!*

        My last job was business casual. My thought also was the band shirt might be a bit too casual unless it’s an actual casual day. Like, I’m in Minnesota and Fortune 500 companies look like US Bank Stadium with the shirts the Friday before Vikings games but you’d be out of place the rest of the time. She could have substituted cheap plain t-shirts from Target on presentation days and solved the problem.

        1. Tammy 2*

          This is a tangent, but it drives me up the wall that it’s acceptable to dress much more casually if you have professional sports logos plastered all over your clothes. That shouldn’t be considered any more office-appropriate than a concert tee or other apparel that reflects a hobby/fandom/special interest, but it somehow is.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            “on the Friday before games”

            Sounds like it’s in the same category as my division having Hawaiian shirt days: Here have this special occasion to dress down….so you know it’s not acceptable the rest of the time.

    3. Earlk*

      I think this really depends on the type of things they’re presenting and who they’re presenting to as well as the general way everyone else who works there dresses. Jeans and tshirt seems more appropriate if they were presenting to a younger audience giving drug awareness talks or something whereas pitching if they were delivering corporate training dressing more smartly would be better.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      And amongst those who noticed the discrepancy, I would posit that most of them do not care–it just lands as “Violet’s style” and “Cordelia’s style.” Especially once the presentation is going and it’s not just a first impression any more.

      Someone out there cares, but someone out there cares about everything.

    5. Chinookwind*

      What is getting me is that the OP was wearing a dress, something traditionally female, while Cornelia is wearing a t-shirt and jeans, something that is either gender neutral or more traditionally male.

      Cornelia may not realize it, but she is basically asking the OP to not look female but instead more gender neutral. The OP stated that she is not as comfortable in jeans, something I can relate to. My after hours casual wear are dresses (usually a knitted, t-shirt like fabric), which fit my body much more comfortably, and jeans are a requirement for work (and it is hard to find a pair that fit right). I have had to deal with women asking me why I feel the need to “dress-up” or making comments when I do wear jeans about being surprised I own a pair.

      Every time these comments are made, I wonder what the problem is. It is not like I am wearing my dresses at them. Maybe they are having issues with me being comfortable showing myself as female?

  3. Evil Annie Edison*

    #1 If I felt that Cornelia was simply choosing to dress more casually for comfort, I would have done the same thing as the letter writer, but if I had the impression she couldn’t afford to update her own wardrobe, I might have toned my own look down (without buying new clothes myself, of course).

    1. KateM*

      It sounds like Cornelia would have looked less casual already if she had just worn a plain t-shirt instead of a band one – surely that would not be that expensive?

        1. GythaOgden*

          Agreed. There are things that it would be sensible to budget for and plenty of places to buy them. When I returned to work after being ill for years, I got a lot of my work jackets from charity shops for a fiver — that was ten years ago, but they’re still not that expensive. I cultivated a bit of a shabby chic look — still do — but when you’re broke, you also tend to be a bit more resourceful than that as well to compensate. It’s always a little bit patronising — and band teeshirts also tend to be more expensive than plain ones because of the logo.

      1. WellRed*

        Agreed. Casual is one thing, band Tshirts take it (down) to another level, at least for presenting, which I would also up my game for.

      2. Random Bystander*

        I would think a plain t-shirt would be cheaper than a band t-shirt (or maybe I’m just thinking of the ones that are merch related to concerts?).

        1. rollyex*

          She already owns the band t-shirts for her life.

          Even if plain shirts are cheaper, that’s buying part of another wardrobe. I think she should do it, but it’s not necessarily cheaper to have both.

      1. Despachito*

        Also it would not be OP’s problem, and I think it was weird from Cordelia to ask. OP handled it perfectly.

      2. duinath*

        and either way i don’t think this was something that required action from op. they were both in line with the dress code, and no one had gotten any feedback on their clothes (afaik). i don’t want to say “f your feelings” but your coworker preferring you in different clothes is not something you need to act on at all.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      But the solution to Cornelia not being able to afford more business oriented clothes is not to ask OP to spend money to be more casual. You don’t ask others to spend money to help you fit in.

      Even if Target was too expensive, thrift stores have tons of nice tops that would have helped Cornelia look more business than casual.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        And some of those thrift store finds have Really Good Labels; and having it be slightly worn just means you have the Right Background.

  4. Rectilinear Propagation*

    #3 – If you’re only seeing these types of ads on that site, then yeah it’s their ad network not your browsing behavior. It’s also possible they don’t realize this is happening or don’t realize that at least some of their audience is using their site at work. I’d definitely let them know. (It’s possible that they’ll blame your browsing behavior anyway but it’s worth trying.)

    If you can’t install an ad blocker, IT still might be able to block traffic from that particular advertiser or help you block that company’s JavaScript so it doesn’t show up.

    1. kalli*

      It’s fairly simple to block the ad server at the terminal level if IT allow access to certain folders so you can edit or replace the HOSTS file so that traffic to/from ad servers gets effectively blocked. You don’t even have to do the work of digging out which ad and where it comes from anymore as you can just download the right file already filled out and dump it in the right spot. A software engineer should be able to manage this process pretty easily, and it also works in Linux.

      I work remotely and IT just gave me admin rights instead of bothering with couriering my computer every time they needed to look at it so I just installed Brave and dealt with it that way, which may or may not be an option if LW#3 uses a custom OS but similar packages exist that incorporate an ad blocker rather than running it as a separate app/process. IT may be persuaded that way or a browser with a separate executable install file may not trigger the same protection policy as app store purchases.

    2. Nessa*

      I hate this idea that it’s always your browsing history that dictates your ads. Most people I know try their best to refuse ad tracking anyway, but the algorithm often makes really huge leaps. For example, I’m pretty left/Liberal/what have you, but I also really like Christmas specials. Especially when Youtubers I like make fun of Christmas specials that are bad. And then I end up getting extreme right wing content advertised at me. They make the leap that Christmas equals religion and then immediately give me stuff like Prager U ads. Or a whole sermon that someone has earmarked for advertising interrupts the middle of the video.

      Still not sure how I got an ad for prison photos at the very top of the children’s toy checklist I was using though. That one was new to me. I did contact the site admin who is not located in the US and they decided that they wanted to block that one.

      1. Mister_L*

        Some years ago I was visiting a site that had parodies of religious tracts and got advertisement for a religious dating site. Maybe somewhat understandable.
        However, when I later watched a video of a (at the time) left leaning comedian I was asked to donate to keep Texas a red state.

        That being said, at least on Youtube I have noticed that the longer I watch political content the further right leaning the recommendations (and ads) get.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Youtube seems to be particularly bad at targeting. I watch mostly crafting, sewing, and fashion history content, and youtube decided I was most interested in anti-aging cosmetics and shopping on temu (though that latter one may have just been shown indiscriminately to everyone). Both things I am never, ever interested in. The good thing about this is that it saves me lots of money by not tempting me to buy anything.

          Instagram, on the other hand, is scary good. They must be able to get scary precise data, so it’s no wonder (scrolling behaviour and whatnot).

          1. Seashell*

            Sounds like YouTube decided you were a woman, so those are the ads they give to women. Not very precise, but not totally nuts either.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              YouTube keeps serving up pregnancy testing adverts to me. I get that I’m a woman but come ON.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              YouTube thinks I want a truck. Very loudly, at random junctures in the middle of what I’m trying to watch, up until possibly I had my offspring install a strong ad blocker.

              1. Lily*

                YouTube thinks I want either a boyfriend who is 50+, or a girlfriend who is in her 20’s.
                I do not understand this.

            3. New Mom (of 1 3/9)*

              Yeah, I get a lot of ads for bras for small-chested women. I’m a woman but that is…not me. LOL.

          2. Tad Cooper*

            Former paid ad specialist here! YouTube has a ton of restrictions on targeting for political/social ads—and at least when I was working on YouTube ads it was not possible to target political ads by party or liberal vs. conservative leaning. I think their assumption is that this creates less potential for an echo chamber… but that’s just a guess.

            1. Anax*

              Thanks, that’s helpful to know! The extreme right-wing ads are the reason I use an adblocker on youtube, just for my own sanity, and I always wondered.

              (The geographic targeting also seems to be weird, interestingly. Every other type of ad seems to know roughly which town we live in, but last election season, the political ads were consistently for the district two counties over. Go figure.)

          3. Inkhorn*

            I have a similar viewing history, and YouTube keeps showing me ads for sports betting. Guess it thinks all Australians are avid gamblers?

          4. DJ Abbott*

            YouTube is bad at targeting with the actual videos too. I don’t use it much because after I watch a video I like, it tries to recommend others I like and is almost always wrong. Or ones I’ve already seen.
            I didn’t want to use an ad blocker because I sometimes watch videos of non-famous musicians and want them to get the revenue, but had to because of those five-minute-long ads. I don’t have time to stop what I’m doing and walk across the room and click “skip ad”at each one of those!

            1. JustaTech*

              Honestly, this is why I pay for YouTube premium (or whatever it’s called) – to not have ads that interrupt the content. Can’t do anything about the in-video sponsor ads (no, I’m not buying a mattress, sheets, Audible, a wine subscription, a coffee subscription or a meal kit subscription!) which are extra irritating because when you watch a group of related channels, they often are all sponsored by the same companies at the same time (though it can be entertaining to watch how different people present the same ad copy).

              1. Emmy Noether*

                I don’t mind the in-video sponsors so much. They’re in the same voice and style that I like, so not quite as grating, and I can fast forward through them.

            2. Mister_L*

              5 minutes you say? Ever had the 90 minutes sermon / church service. Of course the kind of church I wouldn’t attend even if I was generally interested.

          5. LifeBeforeCorona*

            I posted a picture once of a very large truck parked next to my very small car and made a joke about Ford trucks and for months I got ads for very large trucks.

          6. ¿donde esta la biblioteca?*

            Google/YouTube thinks I’m a middle aged Mexican woman. I’m a white guy who barely passed high school Spanish. All the ads in Spanish are hilarious to me. I chalk it up to my attempts to avoid tracking working.

            1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

              My family went to Mexico for a week in January 2017, and I got ads in Spanish for at least a year after.

            2. DisgruntledPelican*

              I have this same problem, but in Korean! I watch ONE YouTuber who is Korean, but every time I watch more than one of her videos at a time, YouTube starts showing me ads in Korean and disables the translate function for anything written in Korean, and my Google news feed starts showing me articles from Korean newspapers.

        2. Gracie*

          I watch anti-scam and anti-MLM content, and the more I watch the more I get pyramid scenes and Ponzi schemes pushed at me by advertising! And I watch them the whole way through unless they’re silly lengths, because then they’re having to pay the people taking down their scams

          1. Lydia*

            “Maybe we can change your mind!” I watch a lot of Drag Race videos, crafting, some nail polish, and some history, and YouTube can’t decide if I’m a twink or an over 40 housewife.

      2. niknik*

        So much. And don’t get me started on regular technical terms with a NSFW double meaning or just plain typos.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Industry specific technical terms that are double entendre is why my industry has the emotional maturity of about an average middle schooler.

      3. Rhymes with Bo Glue*

        I find one of the worst algorithm fails is around sports fandoms. Sites always think that because I am a fan of a specific college football team in a well known conference I must be a fan of ALL teams in that well known conference. Including both our arch rivals.

        1. KaciHall*

          I have been getting an ad on the book of faces for the last couple weeks to win tickets to the biggest rivalry game for my alma mater (from a beer company.) I would love to go, and I don’t mind deals on beer (that I don’t drink, but my husband does) so I’ve entered every day I see it. Yesterday and today I started getting the same ads but for the rivals instead. It was so weird; I interacted with the first one for a week straight so why would they suddenly think I would switch sides?

        2. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

          Someone in my household likes a basketball team. I always love when that means we get ads for random college football things. We’ve been identified as Enjoying Sports, surely we must Enjoy All the Sports?

        3. Antilles*

          I’ve definitely seen that too. I suspect it’s because the advertising for football fans is still a small enough bucket that trying to differentiate between “Ohio State fan” and “Big Ten/college football fan” has been lower on the priority list than trying to distinguish between “college football fan” and “basketball fan”.

          The CEO of Fanatics was on a podcast earlier today and actually discussed this very topic a bit, that they’re trying to continually improve their side of it to really drill down on your correct fandom and really get the targeted ads when you open their website/app. Presumably the search engines are doing the same thing on their end to build more information about you.

        4. londonedit*

          Yep, same with football. Instagram, believe me when I tell you that I do not want to see content related to either Manchester City or Liverpool.

        5. Lalaith*

          I’ve somehow gotten on the email list of one of the arenas in my area – which is fine, I might be interested in concerts and other performances happening there. However, recently they decided that because I was on their general email list, I must also want to get emails for the hockey team that plays there. The one that is the arch rival of my preferred hockey team. Unsubscribe!

      4. Parakeet*

        I do a lot of things in incognito windows to avoid this. I also have a few privacy protection plug-ins, including Privacy Badger, Firefox Multi-Containers (and Facebook Container NewAlexandria), and CanvasBlocker. Not perfect, but it does pretty well.

        I also choose my VPN service’s servers that are located in California, because then websites treat me like a California resident, with the extra privacy protections that entails.

    3. I Would Rather be Eating Dumplings*

      Also, be aware that IT would almost certainly be able to tell if you were on NSFW sites, so no one is going to doubt you when you say it’s not your browsing behaviour.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Absolutely. We are *very* aware of that stuff. We don’t need winter lights in IT – we just drop the filters for a minute and let the monitoring screens go nuts.

        (Joke btw)

    4. felis*

      IT will almost certainly be able to help with this, and I would argue that they even have an obligation to make sure you can do your work without being exposed to ads with adult content.

      When you talk to them, don’t present it as “I have an embarrassing problem”, present it as “I have to use this site for my project, but it keeps showing me very inappropriate ads. Can you please help me make sure, that I can do my work without being exposed to that.” That way you make it clear that _you_ don’t want to see these ads. If you have halfway decent IT, they’ll be able to block the ads for you.

      1. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

        This this this. You need the site for work. You need them to make it available in a work appropriate manner

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      Heh, yes, the website can often do some work to stop those kinds of ads. But only if you can reach someone who cares and takes the time to address it.

    6. thelettermegan*

      A lot of ad networks will let you indicate that you do not want to see an ad on the ad itself! There should be a little Ad Choices icon in one of the corners.

      You can also find the popular ad network websites – they usually have a form for personal data removal.

      Browsers will also let you set your desired level of privacy, which may help.

      One thing to consider is that some websites, like the ten-minute-email site, are getting a lot of use from people who want a ten minute email for adult websites, so the advertising is actually targeted.

      If you use a gmail-based email system, you can instantly create infinite addresses by adding a + sign. When I used to test automated email sign-up systems, I had my robots sign up to test. The application registered a new email address, but the emails went to my personal account. I think you can do something similar with outlook.

      I’ve also asked IT to help me by creating a inbox for a ‘client’ company within our ecosystem, so I could test white-listing without sending work emails to a personal email account.

    7. Beth*

      First thing the person should try is clearing the cache. If anyone else visits the site, do they see similar ads? It sounds like the poster got a bad cookie or something.

    8. My Cabbages!*

      I wonder if OP is signed in to their personal browser account at work. I use the same Chrome account at work and at home, so searches at home can affect what shows at work sometimes.

    9. Michael*

      One thing. If you have FaceBook installed on both your personal computer and your work computer, the SAME advertiser ID is used.

      So you may never have looked at sex toys on your WORK computer, but the adds will follow you around to ANY computer you log into facebook on.

      Welcome to 1984. and then some.

      1. Michael*

        should have been more specific. if you did look at one of ‘those’ adds on your home computer, they *will* show up on your work computer if you log into facebook/amazon/google from both.

  5. nodramalama*

    #4 is interesting because in my experience people think its weirder when someone doesnt say where they’re going next, rather than the other way around. It often leads to a lot of speculation

    1. Alas*

      A lot depends on the culture of where you’re working and the industry. I’ve known senior managers who think it’s entirely reasonable to call acquaintances at the new employer to trash to the leaving persons reputation. Lots of infighting and possessiveness between companies that seems to be self perpetuating. People sneak around to avoid weirdness, which looks weird and shady, so other folks gossip and generate weirdness. On the other side of the coin I’ve worked at terrible places where people were so desperate to leave they’d ring the new employer in an effort to get the job for themselves instead. I am aware that the industries I’ve worked in are just full of bees and nonsense, but these things get ingrained

      1. Mongrel*

        There are also more strident places on the internet that will define the workplace as an ongoing battle between the employees and the employer.

        1. MassMatt*

          Sadly, I think this reflects the fact that many WORKPLACES define the workplace in exactly the same way.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        If I sincerely thought Noel was a terrible llama groomer who screwed up everything he touched, I would be thrilled that he was leaving on his own initiative. I certainly wouldn’t be calling up the new employer to try to convince them to leave him embedded with me.

        Sadly I gather some hiring managers are not able to trace those logical steps, as to the purity of the person calling up to try and derail this hiring.

        1. Jackalope*

          I don’t get the impression that the bosses in question think that the employees are actually terrible. They just want to sabotage them to punish them for leaving, or make them lose the offer so they’ll have to stay at their current job instead.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            And a minute of logic on the hiring manager’s part should indicate that Noel’s current manager, who is trying to convince me that Noel is a terrible worker I definitely shouldn’t want on my team, my best interest is to make Terrible Noel continue to wreak havoc on the current manager’s team…. wait, maybe current manager is not sincere and thinking only of new hiring manager’s best interests.

            But I grant some hiring managers are pretty gullible, so I get keeping mum if you think your current manager would pull this.

            1. Slartibartfast*

              I ran into this problem switching careers. Hiring manager called to ask why my previous employer of 15 years gave me a negative reference and said I wasn’t eligible for rehire. I gave a vague comment about refusing to do something practice owner wanted me to do that would violate my professional ethics, so I was fired. Hiring manager said “Ah, vengeful ex boss. Got it.” Then proceeded to tell me where to go and when for my onboarding. Never asked me any more about it.

              But because I know y’all are curious, it was a veterinary practice and he wanted unlicensed people to be trained in house to do anesthesia, dental cleanings, and other high level tasks to save money, AND give the title of technician to these people to hide from clients they weren’t licensed. Which is legal in my state, you can call anyone a veterinary technician, but only board certified ones can be called licensed veterinary technician.

      3. Miette*

        Came here to say just this. A former colleague left our mutual employer for a competitor, and the CEO called the other CEO and threatened to sue, so they rescinded the poor guy’s offer. He was caught high and dry with no job and no references.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Yea, I worked for a guy like that, too. I left that job with no next role lined up–and that was not a small part of the reason why.

    2. Just Want A Nap*

      yeah when I left my last job, my coworkers speculated where everyone was going to go (toxic management caused a flood turnover) but no one would admit where they were going until they’d landed because management WOULD have called and badmouthed you to your new job.
      when people leave my current job they are open about why and where they’re going.

    3. rollyex*

      Related – ” I have not heard a compelling, specific reason why this is so.”

      Ask them. Next time you hear it, ask why.

      1. Snow Globe*

        Some people may have a true anecdote to share, but a lot of people are just repeating advice they’ve heard and don’t really know why. Pay attention to how things are handled in the company you actually work for when someone leaves. That will tell you what you need to know.

    4. Smithy*

      I know there are definitely employers and industries that are more cutthroat, but honestly – this is my industry.

      Where if you don’t say where you’re going – it’s pretty common for people to wildly speculate and it’s when there’s the most common whisper chat about whether or not you’ve been pushed out. There was one job I had that was crazy bananas toxic, and I genuinely was terrified that if I told them where I was going I’d get pushed out which I couldn’t afford.

      So I didn’t share, but then when I updated my LinkedIn a few months later – my former boss who I left on ok terms with – basically got caught unawares by other catty senior folks in the office and felt he was made to look stupid. It made him furious with me that I wouldn’t tell him, he’s never served as a reference, etc etc. As mentioned above, that workplace had lots of issues and I did the best I could, but when it came to not sharing where I was going – it was made clear how much more drama I had made by not telling.

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      It really depends on what the culture at your workplace is like, and on your personal feelings around privacy. I think people generally don’t say anything while resigning because it is easier (and safer) not to. You can’t unsay “I’m giving my notice and going to Company B” after you say that and suddenly discover your boss is the kind of petty person who will call your future boss at Company B to try to get them to rescind the offer. You can always answer the question “Where are you going?” later, on a case by case basis if you’d like to, but stating it upfront leaves you no options.

      1. Peter*

        Yes, “personal feelings around privacy” as a factor.

        I resigned from a Fortune 50 company. I had worked there for about 5 years, 10 years if you count the time with the company which they bought. I had a toxic manager. [Yelled at me on the phone about getting back to work when I was on FMLA with my mom in hospice.] No, I didn’t tell HR or my manager where I was going.

        Other times, it’s simply been a matter of privacy — I’d rather land in the job and get established in it first.

        They are free to go over the non-disclosure agreement I signed when I first joined the company (which I comply with). But I won’t sign a second one in the exit interview (an overreach to ask!).

    6. PhD survivor*

      This can vary by field though. In my industry, people typically don’t say where they are going or only disclose the day they leave. All other companies in the industry are basically competitors so there’s a small risk of being asked to leave before the end of your notice period if you disclose too soon. So this can vary depending on your industry/field. Outside of this industry, it’s never been an issue for me to say where I am going but the OP should keep their industry norms in mind

      1. Haijlee*

        Same. My industry is small and everyone has friends or former co-workers at other competitors. Typically if one would say they are going to x place, people have the human tendency to talk to their friends at that place. “Watch out for Sansa. She is good at x but struggles with y.” Its not fair and is unsolicited, so people tend to keep things quiet until they have a chance to make a first impression on their own without the rumor mill doing it for them.

      2. Allibaster kitty*

        We make people leave right away no matter where they are going, unless of course they are leaving the workforce, going back to school or something. They literally shut you down once you resign so you better get what you may want or need before that time.

    7. Sitting at a desk*

      Me too. I work at a place where everyone wishes you well and says good luck. The one time someone wouldn’t say where they were going it was super awkward, particularly with external collaborators who all asked.

    8. Random Dice*

      It’s really standard in my company, I’d say 75% of people don’t disclose where they’re going next. We find out on LinkedIn, when they get around to updating it (usually a few months later). People often make large loops between the big companies in our area, so many people know folks at other companies and could drop a flea in their ear.

  6. JaneDough(not)*

    LW1 — If Cornelia was so worried that the contrast made her look bad, then *she* could have altered *her* wardrobe! Clueless, not taking responsibility, being a bit self-centered and a bit immature … I’m not implying that she was some or all of the above in other interactions (I don’t get that impression from your letter), but those labels certainly fit this situation.

    As the boss noted, you behaved appropriately by dressing professionally, and by responding cordially while staying true to your preferences / needs.

    1. Flare*

      So, not to make an armchair diagnosis, but it’s possible to be aware of the norms and just not able to functionally comport with them because one’s neurodivergence says no. I can generally manage to be mostly wtthin professionl clothing norms (except for heels, hard pass) for an hour, but not three hours. I should not have to disclose a diagnosis to avoid folks concluding I am clueless, and would rather not find that’s the consensus.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        The cluelessness is in asking OP to change to dress down to Cornelia’s level, not in dressing more casually.

      2. Laura*

        Except that it’s not on OP to make her feel better and it’s weird to ask someone to change THEIR clothes to make you feel more comfortable. It’s not on me to manage someone else’s neurodivergence.

    2. Aha*

      Yeah, there are some built-in consequences to dressing very casually, one of which is that you will look too casual when presenting or next to someone who is dressing less casually. Those are the consequences that Cornelia has chosen, they’re not someone else’s job to fix. If she’s okay with those consequences then that’s great. If she’s not okay with those consequences she can make different choices.

  7. Testing*

    Ha! The ads on THIS site sometimes include clothes that are … definitely adult (think sexy underwear with strategically placed holes). It annoys me and I’ve reported them sometimes, but they keep reappearing. No adults toys, so far.

    1. Clare*

      Ironically, getting adult ads out of context often means that your cookie blocking and/or tracker avoidance strategies are working well. Some ad delivery platforms will default to adult content if they can’t get any information about you, because why else would you be browsing so secretively as to have no history? (/sarcasm)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        “You’re just a vague outline of a person with no defining characteristics other than occasionally checking the weather in Cleveland? Have an ad for how to increase the size of body parts you may not even have.”

        1. The Provisional Republic of A Thousand Eggs*

          Oh wow, now I’m glad I’m using an ad blocker. o_O

          (Not exactly ads, but the worst I’ve had so far was when I entered “eating disorder” as a search term in the Google Play Store and the first handful of suggestions were for things like calorie counting and intermittent fasting, so, the opposite of helpful. I would’ve been glad about “how to increase the size of body parts you may not even have”.)

      2. Cabbagepants*

        That… might actually be brilliant? I have to imagine that a large majority of incognito mode use is by people looking at porn.

        1. Clare*

          I use incognito mode by default because I don’t want my browser reminding me of my typos forevermore when I’m just trying to order a sandwishich, but maybe I’m in the minority.

    2. No ads*

      I rarely get ads when I’m on AAM. A small banner one at the bottom which is easy to ignore. It’s one of the reasons I like coming here!

    3. Chili Heeler*

      I get ads for junk from Temu. This includes something that claims to be a bike chain cleaner but looks like an adult toy.

      1. bamcheeks*

        OMG, I once got an ad on FB which said something like, “[Married couple I’m FB friends with] like this: ASS SAVERS”. It turned out to be an outdoor sports shop, and an Ass SaverTM is a thing to protect your bum when you’re cycling long distance. But for a moment I thought I knew WAY too much about their marriage.

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I also get ads for ebooks with clearly adult covers – which is not my genre of choice and for some reason only come up on this site lol

  8. David*

    LW 3: I do have that kind of rapport with my boss. I think so anyway… but we do use ad blockers so I suppose I can really only speculate. But the point is, I do believe that kind of boss-employee relationship can exist. It helps that we work in software development so we’re acutely aware that the ads you see online can be wildly different from anything in your browsing history.

    Anyway, I have little to add to what Alison said, except to emphasize that a good ad blocker should be one of the core tools of modern web browsing and it’s silly that your company isn’t letting you use one (assuming that is the reason you can’t, which I’m guessing at). You have my sympathy on this.

    1. I Have RBF*

      I used to work for a once major web portal, in their ad delivery department. This means that to troubleshoot sometimes I had to visit one of their most girly, pink ghetto landing pages that they had – think fashion, celebrities and weight loss. My ads in my browser would be assuming that was what I wanted for months afterwards.

      1. Peter*

        One thing to try is deleting cookies / browsing history, and keep deleting them daily. Also, go into the browser settings and see if blocking images or restricting other settings helps.

  9. Filicophyta*

    LW3 A bilingual dictionary I use daily constantly shows me internal ads to their encyclopedias and other books, with graphics. But the suggested articles are almost always for reproductive organs (male and female) with graphics. I look up a wide range of words, but nothing ever related to these topics. It does mean I avoid using it at work when anyone might be walking by.

  10. Monster Munch*

    I was looking up custom-made silicone parts for an idea I had, at a desk positioned where anybody who walked through the office would see my screen. I was focussing on the text content of the website, and it took me literal minutes to notice that the things most people apparently wanted made from silicone were all shown at the top of the page… and they were not work-appropriate!

  11. Epsilon*

    When I submit my resignation, I never say where I am going, just what my final date is. Then on occasion I have refused to say where I was going – major issues with my manager. It was warranted too – she asked all my staff, her manager (who I had a good relationship with) and got HR involved trying to find out where I was going!! I had told my staff, but no one else. To their credit, not one of them told her!! The more she pushed, the more they told her she needed to ask me. She refused to talk to me in my last two weeks – including in face to face meetings with others present.

    1. Arthall*

      I actually just went through this. Resigned about 3 weeks ago with no job offer lined up (was moving out of state). Did get a job offer about a week later but didn’t tell anyone right away (mainly because my boss was avoiding me). I finally let the news about my new workplace slip out a few days before my last day. A small part of me was worried that my boss or her boss even would somehow try to sabotage my new role at the 11th hour which was partly why I hadn’t blurted out news of my offer to them when it happened.
      (yes, there were specific reasons I was leaving that place without a new job lined up, especially to move cross country! Thank you for asking!)

    2. Bast*

      My boss at my last job was so angry when I put in my resignation, she just asked me, “It’s not ABC is it?” ABC being run by one of boss’s personal rivals. I said no, (it really wasn’t) and she just continued to be angry for my last two weeks, basically also refusing to speak to me unless absolutely necessary. The whole “I’m not speaking to you” attitude is just so… high school. I’m not sure when/why we reverted back to that.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        I had a manager behave like this once. It only further validated my decision to leave. That level of pettiness is obnoxious.

  12. Irish Teacher*

    LW4, I wonder if this is something specific to your industry and there is some internal reason for it.

    I’ve only ever met one person who was reluctant to disclose where he was going and I think that was just because he was an exceptionally private person rather than specifically not wanting to disclose that information. And everybody thought it pretty odd. The attitude was “I know he’s a very private person but to not even mention where he was going!”

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Same, I’m wondering if this is specific to a particular sector and toxic workplaces where employees leaving have to protect themselves from vengeful managers. I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector for decades and I’ve never known anyone who didn’t share where they were going afterward. That includes people sharing that they were taking some time off to take a break from work, and would decide later what their next step would be.

    2. amoeba*

      Yeah, I’ve never encountered that in my industry and would honestly find it pretty weird if it’s a coworker I’m on friendly terms with!
      (And even if it’s somebody I don’t know well – people leave rarely enough here that it’s generally considered News in the department, and you’ll certainly hear it from other people at some point… I’ve never seen any negative talk/effects/whatever though, so would really see zero reason to keep it secret!)

      We also do have long notice periods here (3 months), so that would probably make it even weirder to keep secret for that entire time! Chatting about your plans after is such a normal thing to do here.

      1. Allibaster kitty*

        It happens in my industry and I always think it’s weird. We pay people their full two weeks but ask them to leave right away. Everyone will know anyway once you update your LI and also start seeing work come through from the competitor with that person’s name. Maybe they just don’t want to deal with people telling them bad things about the place they are going. Sometimes that has happened.

    3. Tinkerbell*

      It’s not uncommon here, but a big portion of the white-collar jobs in my city are department of defense and various subcontractors. Most of those are okay with their employees saying “I work at X company” (even if the details of the tasks are classified), but I have friends who aren’t even allowed to say that much because it’s a potential security risk. If someone I knew was leaving for a new job and didn’t say where, I’d assume they were just choosing to be cautious about who they told and coworkers don’t count as close enough friends to be “in the know.”

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I suspect it really does differ by field and that the reason the LW is being advised to say nothing is specific to her field.

    4. OrangeCup*

      I didn’t disclose recently because I signed an NDA and wanted to read it over more thoroughly, but also I’ll admit I was being a bit petty. I was leaving a job with toxic management, specifically because of their bad management skills (or their lack of those skills, and refusal to deal with many problems or admit there were problems at all). And there was a possibility where I’m now working was a client of my former company (which turned out to be true). And it wasn’t even 24 hours after I quit that the manager was already running her mouth to certain people who dealt with their account, and I hadn’t even left the building yet! So I stand by my decision not to tell management, who had already shown themselves not to be trustworthy people and frankly I was worried about some kind of retaliation even though they were happy to see me leave.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        Yeah, every time I kept quiet about where I was going after I left a company/firm was because I didn’t trust the people asking.

    5. Bast*

      In the city where I work, everyone knows everyone in my field. If you mention where you are going, there’s a good chance your current boss knows your new boss. If your current boss is a huge jerk, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he will call your new boss and either trash talk, or in some way threaten to steal that person’s employees/blackmail them/guilt them out of it. They never see it as, “Bast is leaving because Company A is offering a 20k/year raise and better PTO and health coverage” it’s “Company A is trying to steal MY employee and I want to make them pay” OR it can go the other way, “Bast is so ungrateful for all we have done and we have to make HER pay so she will stay.” It’s odd that they think the latter would work, but I have seen employers that try to sabotage their employee’s new position in the hopes that the offer is rescinded and stay. This would personally make me MORE desperate to leave, but these are clearly places that don’t see their employees as human.

  13. Crumpo*


    >We were the same age but generally had different lifestyles, personalities, and styles. For example, she was single, lived alone, did not have children, and generally wore jeans, band t-shirts, and cardigans (I promise this is important later). I am married, have two children, and generally wear business casual things to the office.

    Actually, I don’t think the details about children and being married/single are important. I wonder why they were included?

    1. Genua*

      I think its relevant, because in some people mind being a married parent already makes you more of a “grown up” than being single and living alone*. If C was already feeling aware of this stereotype it can feed into her response on clothing.

      *obviously this is nonsense

      1. Tinkerbell*

        I suspect if she hadn’t included that info, half the comments here would be speculations on “what if the OP was X demographic and her coworker was Y demographic? That would change my answer!”

        1. birch*

          But those demographics would be like, race, age, and income level. Whether or not you’re married and have children has precisely zero to do with how you dress.

            1. mmmmmmary*

              It’s more that POC are often read as being unprofessional by existence and often need to dress on the more professional side to be taken as seriously as their white counterparts.

              1. Gemstones*

                Fair enough. I’m a POC, and I typically wear both dresses/skirts and jeans but have never really thought about it all that much; fashion is more fun/pleasure for me.

            2. Cymru*

              Non-white people often have to present as “more professional” than their white peers to be taken seriously as a professional.

            3. Charlotte Lucas*

              A POC might dress up a bit more to look more professional and be taken more seriously. (I am a white woman, but I am short and often am perceived as younger than I am, so I often dress up a bit, because it can affect how I am treated.)

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            See, I viewed it as more likely to go the other way–person with small expensive people who spit up on them has migrated to a very casual wardrobe (inexpensive, yet also washable), while the single and childfree person has more disposable time and income for putting together an outfit that tells your brain “We’re in the yellow dress, it must be time to be sharp and professional.”

            But having been a parent of smalls, I would definitely tend to lock in on whatever I currently wore that worked for me and the job, because I did not have the bandwidth to be reimagining my workplace look.

    2. I Would Rather be Eating Dumplings*

      I think with questions like this, people will often wonder about demographic information. People from different cultures and of different age groups will often have different ideas about what ‘business casual’ means.

      Also, I remember being in my late 20s/early 30s and having the sense that some peopel in my co-hort dressed in ways that coded as “adult” while other dressed more in ways that coded as “young”. I think especially single and childfree individuals occasionally are stereotyped as perpetually-adolescent even though there is no reason to think they are less mature than their coupled/child-rearing counterparts. So this context makes me wonder if OP’s colleague is more sensistive to the perceived mis-match than someone who was married, or at a later stage in life.

      But it’s all speculation, of course.

      1. I Would Rather be Eating Dumplings*

        Yeah, I take your point. But I am hesitant to judge OP too harshly for the inclusion, because I think with these questions demographic info is often a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ sort of thing.

        I wasn’t trying to draw a correlation between familal status and dress, but familal status and perceieved maturity, wherein parents are often seen as more “grown-up” than their childfree peers, even if they are the same age.

        In that context, with different dress sensibilites layered on top, it might explain Cornelia’s worry, which many commentors are downplaying.

        1. amoeba*

          I get what you’re saying, but I guess to most people here it’s not the fact that Cornelia was worried, but what she decided to do about it that’s wild… I mean, I dress very casually at work and can kind of see being in a similar situation, but it wouldn’t occur to me in a million years to ask my coworker to dress down in that situation! If I was worried, Id just… dress up a bit? Like, nothing super fancy, but maybe a pair of slacks and a plain t-shirt instead of jeans and a band shirt.
          The most I could *possibly* see is asking my coworker if we could coordinate a little bit better and discuss before what kind of thing we’re going to wear so we look more “aligned”. But even that… only if it was a really good work friend.

          Asking a coworker to change the way they dress is just not an acceptable thing people do!

        2. RVA Cat*

          Plus the OP’s comment about “buying a whole new casual wardrobe” – having little kids is rough on the clothes you wear at home. Not to mention she may already have replaced her whole wardrobe for her post-baby size.

    3. bamcheeks*

      I read it as a generalised “we don’t really get each other or have much in common”. Not that you have to have Things In Common to get on with people, but if you don’t click with someone but are in similar lifestyles/ life stages you can often turn that into superficial Getting On by having the generic lifestyle/life-stage conversations. If you don’t get on AND you’re in very different lifestyles/life-stages, it can feel like a very big gap indeed.

    4. Myrin*

      My goodness, there is an awful lot of handwringing in this thread about something that OP actually explains herself in the letter. The whole quote is:

      We were the same age but generally had different lifestyles, personalities, and styles. For example, she was single, lived alone, did not have children, and generally wore jeans, band t-shirts, and cardigans (I promise this is important later).

      The “single, lived alone, no children” part is a direct reference to the “different lifestyles and personalities”, the “jeans, t-shirts, and cardigans” referred to the “styles”. The sentences mirror each other.
      (Also, if your problem is more with the “this is important later” part, I’m pretty sure that only refers to the latter half of the sentence after the “and”. It’s not 100% clear but it makes the most sense, both regarding the sentence’s structure and what’s to follow.)

  14. Cheesesticks*

    #4 Disclosing where you are going to next really depends on your industry, workplace management etc.. All too often I hear of stories of someone giving their 2 weeks, disclosing where they are going and suddenly losing the offer.

    Much along the same lines of having your current manager contacted when you are actively seeking a new job. Nothing stops them from giving you a negative reference etc. despite any laws saying otherwise.

    Personally I have never disclosed where I was going unless I was moving out of state due to spouses new job, moving closer to family, etc.. When your workplace management gets desperate enough to get HR involved as an earlier poster stated, it makes you wonder what their true intentions are.

  15. I Would Rather be Eating Dumplings*

    For OP no. 2: Assuming you choose to address this, another thing you may want to flag is that you get a lot of e-mails and action items, and it can be difficult to know the urgency of an ask if you have to sift through an email chain.

  16. Morning Reading*

    I had an adult toy ad at the top of WaPo when I opened it a few days ago. I’ve never browsed for that either. I hope no one human makes assumptions based on the ads that pop up.
    Lately I think my iPad thinks I’m Black, based on the ads I get, possibly due to what I watch or read online. Sometimes I get ads in Spanish too. I don’t read Spanish so this baffles me.
    In conclusion, the advertising algorithms don’t seem to be working very well these days.

    1. Nebula*

      I always think this when people talk about how our phones are listening to us all the time so they know everything about us. I’m White and non-religious, and when I moved to my current flat a couple of years ago, I started getting ads for Muslim dating sites because a lot of South Asian people live in this neighbourhood. If these algorithms really had such sophisticated and detailed profiles of us, then they wouldn’t think that I suddenly changed ethnicity and/or religion based on location.

      1. amoeba*

        Ha, yeah.

        I’ve also noticed another thing they do, which is showing me ads for things I literally just bought. Which might make sense for stuff you’d consume repeatedly, but, like, “oh, I see you just bought a sofa, would you be interested in buying exact same sofa again?” just… does not seem like a particularly useful marketing strategy!

        1. Dinwar*

          I had to purchase some traffic delineators one time. For the next three months every ad I saw on YouTube was for traffic control devices. Which is better than most ads, to be fair–at least this is useful, learned about a few options I hadn’t considered.

      2. JustaTech*

        I also assume that my social media knows where I am, so I was very confused why I was getting ads on the service formally known as Twitter for Dunkin Donuts, given that I didn’t know of a single store in my area. I finally looked up the nearest location – 500 miles and two states away!

        1. Allibaster kitty*

          It will show you a million annoying ads for something you looked at once but your GPS will somehow think you are in another state when searching for a restaurant!

        2. Gumby*

          I usually spend ~3 weeks at my parents’ place at the end of the year. I will get ads for restaurants / stores that don’t exist anywhere within 1000 miles of me for all of January and half of February. Like, sure, I have nothing against H-E-B. But I am now in CA so please stop advertising to me!

          But my favorite part of tracking is that I know what my roommate likes to browse purely from what IG shows me. (K-pop and cat videos mainly) The ‘you may like’ posts started just after she moved in and I actually did a few ‘fewer like this’ things to get it to clear out because it was so overwhelming. Relatedly, I hope she enjoyed the many gymnastics posts that I am sure she was barraged with after she moved in.

    2. The Provisional Republic of A Thousand Eggs*

      I used to wonder about ads I get in foreign languages (and about products and services that aren’t available in my country or even on my continent), but then I realized it’s probably because I’m using a VPN that lets me choose which country I’m telling the internet I’m in. (Right now I’m pretending to be in Tokyo. I’m actually in a small town you’ve never heard of in southern Finland, and my provider is in Helsinki.)

      I do read at least some of those languages, but in the beginning it was truly baffling. “Why does my browser think I know Hebrew?” At least I was familiar with some of the company logos…

      Back when I used Spotify (and before I started using that VPN), I kept getting the same three ads over and over again, probably because all they knew about me was the fact that I live in Finland and they only had three Finnish-language ads at the time. Little did they know that I’m also fluent in English and German *schemy fingers* They should have been able to guess at least the former, though, since I was using the English-language interface. Yeah, sometimes ad algorithms are a lot more stupid than we think.

    3. Cranky-saurus Rex*

      We joke that the algorithm thinks my husband is every demographic except married. When we watch streaming services using his login, he gets ads for every dating service — dozens of different dating services for different racial backgrounds, sexual orientations, and even one for single parents, none of which match his actual white cishet married without kids self. He swears (and I believe) that he’s not doing anything to trigger the ads, sometimes the algorithm is just confused…. or thinks that someone browsing for that much tech toys can’t possibly have a partner.

      1. Banana Pyjamas*

        Lol I relate strongly. For the longest Google thought I was an old, Black, Christian farmer in need of a mate. I was a young, white, agnostic woman living in the suburbs.

    4. Copyright Economist*

      I agree. I listen to online radio in a lot of different languages. There’s a 30 second ad roll before the content starts (though you can skip before). Recently, I’ve been hearing ads in Mandarin and Bengali (I speak neither), with the Bengali ads almost all being for a Toyota dealership 200 miles from home. I wonder how the algorithm got it so wrong.

  17. r.*


    there’s a a root cause at your employer that you probably do not yet see due to lack of experience, and that is that your company’s information security posture sucks. This is what gives rise to your problem.

    If you had local admin access to your development environment, then you could sort it out by installing an adblocker. Now there are good reasons why local admin for developers should be either limited or preferably eliminated, but in all instances where such reasons obtain it would also be extremely important to reliably block most if not all ad networks. The ad ecosystem is a great vector for criminals to deploy targeted malware distribution or spear pishing campaigns to, and as such ought to present an inconsciousable information security risk for anyone that cared to restrict local dev workstations enough to prevent them from installing their own adblocker.

    Therefore that you even find yourself in that scenario is, to me, evidence that your itsec people do not know what they are doing. You’ve been given good information on how to handle your concrete problem. But you also need to be aware of that similar problems will resurface at your employer due to their substandard implementation of it security.

    1. mlem*

      My company specifically prohibits ad blockers. In theory it’s because there was some terms-of-service debacle; they now want to whitelist every single app, program, and plug-in used on any work device.

  18. Anon. Scientist*

    Agree that it seems to be industry specific to announce where you’re going. In my organization, the only people who don’t tell either don’t have a job lined up or they’re in the final phases of the job process but haven’t officially received/signed an offer yet.

    As a manager, I always want to know if someone’s going to a competitor and what factors entered into their decision so I can push for changes in the future. Unfortunately, we keep losing staff, but on the positive side they’re not going to other consulting firms, they’re going into government or leaving the industry altogether. Hard to combat structural issues around stress/billability requirements and we can’t compete with government benefits.

    1. Snow Globe*

      In my industry, it’s perfectly normal to state where you are going. If it’s to a competitor, a person in a sales role may be asked to leave early rather than working through the notice period, but they’d still be paid for that time.

    2. JustaTech*

      I think it used to be normal for people to say where they were going, but then a while ago about half of R&D left for a single new company (not a competitor) and senior management lost their darn minds and started spreading all kinds of rumors about people getting their jobs pulled, or that New Company was afraid we’d sue, so they weren’t hiring anyone from us anymore (not true and transparently dumb).

      Did Senior Management actually address any of the reasons that all these people were leaving? Ha ha ha no.

      And so, now almost a decade later people are still hesitant to say where they’re going until they’re gone/almost gone.

    3. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I, too, am in a consulting firm Anon–federal contracting is rough WRT stress/billable hours/reporting requirements/etc. Add in that, no matter which field you’re in, your field is probably 1. small and 2. any place you’d move to is likely to be a frenimy at best (so preserving those relationships are important for future teaming agreements) or a full-on competitor. I have not had problems telling former workplaces where I was going, but others certainly have.

  19. Robecita*

    LW2- my boss does this too, she’ll reply to a chain and add a bunch of people who haven’t been involved but she thinks should know about whatever it is. The problem is that she doesn’t think about what’s happened earlier in the chain which means that you might find some confidential details as you read the chain trying to figure out why you’ve been added. She once included me and other senior department members in a reply to a candidate accepting a job with us, meaning to notify us that he’d accepted, but including a long string of their negotiations! Chains have also included personal information about employees’ circumstances or conversations among senior staff. It’s been mentioned to her by direct reports but not much has changed.

    1. rollyex*

      This is bad management. Lazy.

      So much of management is handling information flow and helping your team have some understanding of their work and org goals. Just barfing out info is bad.

    2. Elitist Semicolon*

      I have a friend who does this. If there’s a question in the email he thinks I can answer, he’ll loop me in on his response, even if the rest of the original email is all highly personal information about someone’s health crisis or their divorce or something work-sensitive like a disagreement they’re having with a colleague. I’ve yet to find a way to discourage him from doing that but it does mean I am VERY careful about what I put in my own emails to him.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        Yes, I try to practice selective amnesia when I receive those types of e-mails. I try to keep anything too personal in e-mails that I wouldn’t want to wind up in the wrong inbox (That is, indeed, what phone calls are for)

    3. Allibaster kitty*

      I know a lot of things because my former boss was very sloppy with things like this.
      It was good to know too though that comments that may be slightly snarky from me could also be passed along just as easily.
      In some cases it was good because I found out what my CEO really thought about me and it was super positive! I had no idea! I wish this things were disclosed to employees.

  20. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    I’m not an IT person, and if there is one here who can confirm/deny, please feel free to do so, but my understanding is that depending on how your office internet is set up, it’s possible the external world gets one IP address for the office location (that of the modem), so it could be someone ELSE was browsing NSFW items.

    That said, I am in an adjacent field, so I assume it’s something like StackOverflow. I have not had that behavior from any of those types of sites, but if one is problematic, maybe try a different one.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Like so much in IT operational security…it depends. A large scale company running multiple server farms is very different to a small firm where everything is going out on one router.

      I think the best bet in this case is for OP to contact the website and ask them to remove the ads that are nsfw.

  21. MoreTechSavvyNow*

    #3: the LW said they had not searched adult content on their work computer, but didn’t say if they’ve searched adult content at home. If they’ve searched adult content anywhere and are logged into something that collects data in both places (say, the Chrome browser) then the data follows them. Years ago, I was logged into Chrome on both my personal and work computers. I didn’t realize I could make a new chrome account for work and I wanted to save and sync bookmarks. I had been buying new bras from my home computer, so all the ads on websites on my work computer were lingerie.

    1. Enginerd*

      I came here to say this too. I specifically make sure that I’m not logged into Chrome on my work computer so that I don’t have to worry about my personal browsing/search history and bookmarks ending up on a work computer.

  22. Charley*

    I’m not sure about the response to L3, I feel like bringing it up will call more attention to the ads and might backfire in that people could think you are trying to cover your tracks in a they-doth-protest-to-much kind of way. They ads feel like not a big deal to me and unless they’re very aggressive pop-ups, I doubt a boss or coworker would really notice the content of the ads from just casually walking by – I certainly couldn’t tell you that I remember any ad I’ve ever happened to see on a coworker’s computer.

  23. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    OP3 I have often translated for the fashion industry, specifically lingerie. This has led to some funny moments, like :
    – the day I printed out a glossary about leather, but then when my boss found in on the printer he saw some NSFW definitions (specifying what kinky stuff each type of leather was suitable for),
    – the day I clicked on a website called christiandiorlingerie which in fact turned out to be a lesbian pornsite, which was impossible to get out of except by turning my computer off just as the sound effects started up
    – the day my boss asked me “WHAT are you looking at on your screen?”. We had just moved to a new office, which used to be a shop, and I basically had my back to the shop window. A passer-by was leering over my shoulder… because I was researching certain terms and needed to check just how much cleavage each type of bra revealed, meaning that my screen was covered with very scantily clad women…
    All that to say Alison’s advice is spot on. I’d ask IT about the AdBlock.

  24. NMitford*

    #1 — I was once told by my manager that I needed to stop dressing better than she did. She always wore slacks and a nice blouse (perfectly acceptable under the company dress code), and I always wore dresses or skirts and blouses (also perfectly acceptable under the company dress code) because I don’t think I look good in slacks, have difficulty finding ones that fit without significant alterations, and just prefer to wear dresses. I think I must have looked at her with such confusion that she backed down, but I was very taken aback.

    While I couldn’t have said what you said to my boss, your reaction to your coworker was just fine.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I think you had an ex boss of mine. She really hated that I don’t wear trousers or jeans and regularly rock up in long black dresses.

      Said it was ‘too formal’. But then one day she complained about my SH scars being visible so I showed up in what *formal* actually meant.

      Ultimate goth. Veil, floor hanging sleeves, the works. You wanna see formal? I’ll give you formal.

      1. Lucia Pacciola*

        Never have I ever before met anyone who thought “full goth” was formal. White tie is formal, but if you wear white tie to the office because the dress code is “business formal”, you’re not doing formal wear, you’re doing fancy dress (costume party, for our cousins across the pond). I think the same applies to “full goth”, without the caveat that it’s actually formal in other contexts.

        1. Dinwar*

          It’s going to depend on where you go with goth. You can either go more grunge–think torn fishnets, platform boots, and the like, what Lizzy Hale dresses like and what Pink tries to imitate–or more formal–look up Tarja (formerly lead singer of Nightwish). Amy Lee from Evanescence toes the line between the two. I could easily see the latter being considered very formal, since it really is formalwear with a macabre tone.

          1. Lucia Pacciola*

            For me it’s the macabre tone that crosses the line from formal to fancy dress. And I’m pretty sure people who profess a goth aesthetic understand this quite well.

            1. Dinwar*

              That was rather the point, I think–it was an Argument ad Absurdum. If you’re getting in trouble for being too formal for wearing a black dress, why not go all the way? You’re already catching flak, may as well have fun with it.

              I did something similar. Got in trouble for not being formal enough, because I had the audacity to come into the office from the field one afternoon (bear in mind, field work is the source of about half our profits) and was wearing jeans, t-shirt, and work boots. I made it a point to come in as a safety Christmas tree whenever I had to use the office printer from then on–hard hat, safety glasses, high-vis vest, steel-toed boots, work gloves, the whole thing. I was basically daring anyone to complain–and if they did, I had a copy of the safety plan on my desk. Of COURSE I’m wearing this, it’s required for the job. You aren’t suggesting we not make safety a priority are you? Unfortunately the pandemic happened and I got put on a TDA, so I never did get called out on it.

              1. Lucia Pacciola*

                “If you’re getting in trouble for being too formal for wearing a black dress, why not go all the way?”

                Because Extremely Online Clapback Culture rarely works well in real life? I would absolutely have concerns about the judgement of any co-worker who did this, and concerns about the reliability of any narrator who claimed to have done this.

                1. bamcheeks*

                  Keymaster of Gozer works in IT, and IME the rules are very different – like, Extremely Online is kind of the default. “Tshirt with an ironic but non-bigoted slogan” is smart. “Band tshirt and torn jeans” is business casual. “Full formal goth” is somewhat bending the limits of normal, but not so much that you’d get more than an eyebrow raise.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I am very, very pear-shaped and pants and I are pretty much not on speaking terms. I literally only wear them if I absolutely have to.

      1. NMitford*

        Yes, I’m pretty pear-shaped as well. I only wear slacks when I have to (i.e., jeans to work in the yard).

      1. NMitford*

        They really are! I’ve had some interesting comments about my dresses thru the years, and they’re not dressy dresses at all, just basic everyday dresses.

      2. londonedit*

        Yeah, definitely. I love a dress and find it really quick and easy to just throw a dress on in the morning. I tend to wear midi dresses with trainers as a casual look – I don’t think it’s any more ‘dressy’ than a pair of black jeans and a top. But some people can be really odd about it, especially when I visit my friends in a more rural area. To them, anything other than jeans and a top is ‘really dressed up’ and I always get comments about my ‘fancy London clothes’ if I turn up in a dress and trainers and a denim jacket (which to me is pretty casual!)

      3. Rugged & Mudded*

        Right?! In my area (which, as londonedit brought up, is fairly rural), any kind of dress is perceived as formal. I once did a mud run with some friends (for those unfamiliar, it’s basically an obstacle course designed with lots of mud pits so you end up very dirty). I definitely caught some good natured ribbing for changing into a jersey dress and sandals afterwards. Friends, we had to change out of our muddy clothes in a big covered event tent, with no real privacy besides a towel, and mud EVERYWHERE because the showers were nearby and the ground in the tent turned to mud, too. I stand by my $15 slip-on Walmart dress and comfy sandals over their jeans, t-shirts, socks, and sneakers any day, and looking slightly more “done” was just a perk.

      4. Lola*

        Yes! A lot of people seem to think a dress is too fussy, but for me, a dress takes way less time and mental energy when putting together an outfit and/or getting dressed first thing in the morning. It’s one piee of clothing, as opposed to several that you have to make sure match and look okay. I wear pants a fair amount but am both tall and have wide hips, so finding ones that look just right takes effort.

      5. CommanderBanana*

        This is so true!! I also don’t wear pants, because I find skirts and dresses to be much easier to fit, and there are some people who just Will. Not. let that go. I also don’t think dresses or skirts are inherently more formal than pants.

      6. Allibaster kitty*

        I’ve found it to be the opposite! I literally HATE dresses and they are not great because my calves and legs are the largest part of me, certainly does nothing to make me feel pretty, and they are so awkward, but people are always shocked and say they are so comfortable and make them feel good about themselves.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      My boss did this too! She wanted me to “stop trying to dress like you’re the manager” and she actually took it to HR. The HR response was “Uhh…no one is violating the dress code here.” I was covered by a union and the union rep said that was the stupidest reason anyone ever called HR.

      1. NMitford*

        I think that was part of it (dressing more like a manager than my manager). This manager was very burned out in her position and it definitely showed in how she dressed and how she comported itself. I give her a lot of credit, though. She transferred to a different department in the company, realized how just burned out she’d been, and apologized to some of us in her old department about some things that had happened.

    4. NotAManager*

      I also got negative feedback about my clothes from a manager (not MY manager). I dress vintage-inspired (within the dress code) and that particular day I was wearing a knee-length sundress and a white sweater. This particular individual wore more typical business casual attire and thought displaying a personal clothing style was unprofessional.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        “Displaying a personal clothing style was unprofessional.”

        What on earth? Did they want everyone to wear Mao suits to work? Everyone displays a personal clothing style at work, no matter what they’re wearing.

  25. Ophelia*

    OP3, my company has a longstanding tradition of ridiculous holiday skits, and one year when I was very junior, I was in charge of sourcing costumes. My boss gave me a budget to outfit roughly 25 people as elves, and I, naively, hopped onto the internet. It turns out that when you search “elf tights” you just get a zillion options for small children. So, I thought to myself, “Aha, the obvious play here is to search for “adult elf tights.” Oh, OP. That may have been the obvious option, but it was DECIDEDLY the incorrect one. 23-yo me frantically called my boss over, yelping, “OK, if you get a call from IT I did NOT click on this on purpose, I was searching for costumes, helppppp!” Thankfully he just laughed and said not to worry about it, but wow did I have a moment.

    1. WellRed*

      The only time I wanna see a skit is while watching SNL. The thought of a large group of costumed coworkers attempting this boggles the mind.

      1. ClaireW*

        Some people find things fun that you don’t find fun. This is not really the time and place to start insulting the commenter’s workplace’s traditions.

        1. Expelliarmus*

          TBF, Ophelia did open by calling them “ridiculous”, so I don’t she’d be too insulted by this. But yeah, in general, don’t yuck someone’s yum if it’s not actively malicious.

          1. WellRed*

            That’s what I get for trying to show solidarity with a commentator. Geeze. Also have you ever read the comments?

    2. Old and Don’t Care*

      I was searching for a specific type of running shorts once, and, yeah, people can have fetishes about most anything.

    3. noncommittal pseudonym*

      Trust me, never Google “exotic fruit tree nursery”. You will see images you don’t want to see. (Or, at least, that used to be true. They may have clamped down on that by now.)

      1. MassMatt*

        IME people often say specifically where they are going, maybe a bit more than those who will only give a vague answer such as the role or the industry but not the company.

        It seems odd to me that the LW honestly has no idea why people wouldn’t give this info, especially considering they are being told this by so many people they know.

        Some workplaces/bosses are vindictive and petty and regard taking another job as a personal betrayal, or a danger to their business.

        I fortunately have only ever worked for one such place, but that experience along with those of many people I know and the many stories I have read mean that I will only share exactly where I’m going when I am sure that the manager and employer does not use the information vindictively.

        Likewise, I would never tell an employer or manager I was looking to move on beforehand, to me that’s just begging to be fired before you have the next job lined up. And the only place I ever left without notice was one that acted abusively and fired people when they gave it.

        With so many managers and employers acting poorly, it’s only natural that employees take steps to protect themselves, these things don’t arise in a vacuum.

    4. Distractable Golem*

      This happened to me maybe 15 years ago when I was helping a group of students start a Gay-Straight Alliance. We were having a movie night. Turns out you should search “coming-of-age” not “gay teen movie.” Yikes

    5. Kathy*

      I recently meant to Google “black veined brown butterfly” but accidentally hit Enter 5 characters too soon…

  26. Keymaster of Gozer*

    3: This is a very complex answer that depends on a lot of criteria.

    If your IT department is overworked (most are) or understaffed, or just lazy they’ll go for the simplest solution to your issue: Block the website. I know that’s not what you want!

    Now, there *are* ways for them to implement to enable you to view the website without the NSFW ads but they require a lot more effort (and skill) so…it really depends on who is in your IT department.

    If your call came into my queue I’d first suggest you contact the website and tell them that they are serving up inappropriate ads. Most decent websites have a contact form for stuff like that. Then, if that didn’t work and the site was really important to access and I could replicate the problem on our test rig I’d look into a solution. Text only, no embedded images, block the javascript…there’s a lot of ways we can do it but it takes time.

    What I wouldn’t do is assume you’ve been looking at smuttage on our network. THAT kind of useage lights up the monitoring software like Blackpool illuminations.

  27. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP2: Is your boss (CFO) copied on these chains from the COO also, or are they directly involved in what’s going on (ie included in the chain earlier in time)? I would talk to your boss about this – “Hey, when I get CC’ed on these things from the COO, is there a way for me to figure out if I need to take an action or if these are just FYI? Are there ever urgent things in these email blasts? Do you need me to flag you when I get them?” etc.

  28. Pink Candyfloss*

    LW#4 I work in a huge industry that is also remarkably small in feeling – everybody at some point knows everybody else or somebody knows somebody that knows somebody else through only a degree or two of separation. There’s a lot of competition for top talent as well as written rules against poaching staff from each other which are not always followed (sometimes indiscreetly, which can be reputation damaging – it’s OK to poach if no one can really prove that’s what you did, lol).

    In our industry because of this culture it is extremely common to NOT say where you are going when you resign, only to announce when you have already started (on LinkedIn for example). It’s so prevalent to not say, that only the really new people ever ask anyone where they are going, and they soon stop after being pulled aside and informed that it’s not the done thing.

    There’s also this lingering fear among some people that if someone who knows them also knows someone at their new job, they might try to prejudice or undermine them in their new role by spreading gossip, rumors, or actual bad experiences to their friends at the new company – which is something that has actually happened to former colleagues of mine. The competition can be fierce and you never know who you might have beaten out to get your new role, and some people can be vindictive when they didn’t get a job and don’t think the person who did is as deserving as they are.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, all of this. I had this happen within the company just while changing departments. In one case, the current boss actually got the future boss to rescind the offer. Future boss reinstated the offer after he found out how nuts my current boss was. Then, someone who didn’t get the job started a disinformation campaign. It’s madness but that just how some industries are.

      1. Pink Candyfloss*

        I was surprised to see Allison say she was surprised that OP heard this. It’s so embedded into my industry culture (heavy on R&D let’s just say) that whenever someone does rarely announce where they are going before they’ve fully left, I have a mild anxiety attack on their behalf.

  29. Ally McBeal*

    LW2 – since you report directly to another C-level exec, could you ask them for advice on how they discern the meanings of the COO’s emails? Maybe they have some tips/tricks, or maybe all it does is let your boss know that something is impeding your work – and they would have the standing to raise it with the COO if they think the issue is significant enough.

  30. Guest*

    Alison, I really dislike your response to LW1. Cornelia’s attitude about LW’s outfits was HER issue, not LW’s, and if Cornelia is not in charge of enforcing the office dress code, she needs to keep her comments to herself or change her own wardrobe if she’s concerned about looking unprofessional.

  31. LB33*

    It doesn’t sound like either OP or Cordelia were dressed inappropriately and it doesn’t really sound like there’s much of a discrepancy between the outfits – cardigans can be very nice!

    I wouldn’t think twice about this – maybe Cordelia had some other issues going on and this was how she vented… Since she left shortly after she was probably unhappy overall.

  32. Hiring Mgr*

    When I’ve received unclear emails or forwards with no context from higher-ups, I usually would respond with “Anything I need to do with this one?” or similar.. Or slack them if they don’t reply back by email..

  33. Yup!*

    I used to volunteer at my kid’s school to translate documents/emails/etc. as needed, so I was used to receiving emails from school asking if I could do something (Could you…/Do you mind…/Would you have time…, etc.). So when the secretary sent an email that started with “Could you forward this to parents, please?” I was SO confused. Me? Why is she asking me? Which parents? I don’t have a list! It turned out she wasn’t asking me to do anything–just forwarded the email from the principal with the “Please forward” message still included and 0 context.

  34. Astrid*

    #4 A few years ago I had a partner at a law firm who was so upset when I gave notice that he repeatedly threatened to contact my future employer and bad mouth me (he was always a cheerleader and very happy with my work). I have no clue what he thought this would accomplish, but I had no doubt that he was sincere. I had to get the managing partner and our firm’s general counsel involved to tell the partner to cut it out. Lesson learned: when I gave notice at my last firm, I did not disclose where I would be going.

  35. HannahS*

    OP1, I tend to dress as casually as humanly possible within the realm of what’s appropriate for my job, because that’s what makes me the most comfortable. In some of my work settings, I can get away with jeans, a t-shirt, and a cardigan. In other settings, that’s too casual, and I swap for slightly more professional-looking things, which are mostly either second-hand or from Target. It would never occur to me EVER to ask someone else to change their clothes to keep me from looking bad. I think you had a great response in the moment.

    1. H.Regalis*

      Same. My job can have my hoodie when they pry it out of my cold, dead hands XD and also same that I can’t imagine asking someone else to change how they dress because I felt they made me look too scrubby. It feels so arrogant and self-centered to do that.

      I also don’t have kids, but given some the tales of other parents I have heard from my friends who do have kids, I don’t feel immature in any way.

  36. Dinwar*

    #3: A colleague of mine once tried to download some papers off an archaeologist’s personal website. Standard stuff in this field–as author they’re allowed to distribute the paper as they please, and it’s fairly common to have personal websites where folks can find your research. I you had buy these papers it could easily run into the thousands of dollars (given how many they had).

    This particular archaeologist was into some….adventurous….private activities. Way beyond toys and the like. Triggered multiple red flags for IT. We had a meeting about it, in fact. The archaeologist was apologetic, but pointed out that this person was THE expert on a topic that was of critical interest for our client, so there really was no other option. IT laughed about it, and said they didn’t care, they gave up tracking us technical folks a long time ago, we just had to have a meeting to check the box. Our manager said she didn’t care either, she trusted us, and the money we were saving was worth a few automated emails.

    Another time (for a totally different client), I had to look up ways to clean out frack tanks. Googling “Super Suckers” was…interesting. It’s the name of a device built to clean out frack tanks, but….let’s just say I forgot to put “Safe Search” on before looking at the Google Image results, and I was very glad I was in a hotel not on the jobsite.

    If you work in a sane office, I wouldn’t worry about it. Most folks understand you can’t control ads on websites, and things happen.

  37. CatsandMore*

    @2 I had a boss just like this. We developed a short hand where he would write “PDW” on most emails which meant Please Do Whatever. It meant that just assume I was emailed it and do whatever needed to be done, whether it was information to file away in my brain as an FYI, something to assign to someone else, or a task.

  38. Dek*

    Cornelia should’ve leaned into it. Y’all could’ve done the whole “I’m a Mac.” “And I’m a PC” bit.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      If all parties are willing, I think this is an excellent, creative way to resolve the issue.

      (But I’m a performer type, so others’ mileage may vary.)

  39. Craig*

    LW3 – since you’re an early career software engineer, this is a great opportunity to stretch your programming skills! I bet if you poke around a little bit in your browser dev tools, you’ll be able to come up with a script that you can run in the console that deletes the ads.

  40. Sunflower*

    #1. I used to have a coworker who wore business suits or dresses everyday when the rest of us wore business casual or jeans. Nobody cared what others wore or at least nobody mentions anything. If Cornelia felt self-conscious, she should buy a few business casual outfits for meetings instead of telling the OP to dress down. I don’t even understand that request.

    #4. When I interviewed for at another building at the same company, my boss’s boss asked a few questions (where, who, etc.) Poor innocent 20 something Sunflower thought she was just curious and interested in a friendly way. I found out later she has a habit of contacting the other hiring managers to sabotage “her” employees so we won’t leave. I finally got another job when I applied for a different company. So now I’m very private about new employment even if I got the job. Once bitten, twice shy.

  41. how it is*

    LW 2: I have this problem too. This person will forward a giant chain between themselves and an external stakeholder that cover a lot of subjects/projects and the message will be “plz take care of this. Thnx”

    I usually end up sending something back like “I’m sorry, can you clarify what you need me to do?”

    At first I used to feel guilty for bothering them or worried I looked bad because I didn’t understand the request but now I just begrudgingly accept that’s just how it is.

    1. Dr. Doll*

      Good lord, I wish I had the cayenne to send an email like that to my most senior, skilled, on-top-of-it direct report!! Not that I would *apply* the cayenne in that ludicrous way.

  42. Overit*

    LW#4 — I left a job under unhappy circumstances: my boss (a pastor) was an addict. I quit but he hid my resignation and fired me right before Christmas. I then got a letter saying they were withholding my paychecks for 3 months to force me to help them with the fallout from firing me. I sent a certified letter back telling them tbat was illegal and reporting them to the state emoloyment board. Got my money. BUT!
    They then called me at home for 2 months demanding help. I finally got another job and made the mistake of telling a former coworker who I thought was my friend where I worked. Starting on my first day, they began calling me at that job and harassing me to provide info and help (as addict pastor was driving parish into the ground). They were relentless.
    Finally new boss got on the phone with them and told them the org’s lawyer would be in touch. Only then did it stop.
    And that is why I avoid telling where my next job is.

  43. Angstrom*

    LW1: For important presentations, I’ve had “How should we dress for this?” discussions as part of the preparation. It is reasonable to want to coordinate if more than one person is presenting.
    But without specific information I’d lean toward dressing up a notch instead of dressing down.

    Either way, if the presenter is not comfortable with what they’re wearing it can come out in their body language in the presentation.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      Yes, it’s super common to have “what’s the dress code for x” conversations. We used to default to biz formal, but we had a minor rebellion when we were due to have a large event during Philadelphia high summer.

  44. DressesToNice*

    #1 I had something similar happen to me! I was in my early 30s, single, working as a corporate trainer. The team I was on was made up of women 50+, most of them former teachers or full on IT techies. I was visiting many different business locations and mostly training higher level employees. I was the person who was most often “out in the field”. I like to dress on the nicer side of business casual, lots of dresses and skirts, with heels. I have always dressed this way.
    My manager asked me to not dress so nice as I “looked like management” and my colleagues were uncomfortable. Uh… ??? She pointed out that they all wore khakis, casual polo type tops, and sensible loafer style shoes. Well yeah, ok, whatever. I have never in my life (and I am now 50) ever worn khakis, polos, or sensible shoes, it isn’t my style!
    Needless to say, I was not a good fit for that team. I moved on to bigger and better things! I still wear dresses, skirts, and heels, even in my day to day life.

    1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

      Yes! This happened to me once at a job interview. The manager was very short, I was wearing heels in the interview (I’m 5’11 in socks) and she said, more than once, that I “won’t have to wear heels” if I got the job.

      Another time it was very similar to what you described. I was in my late 20s, the supervisor was a former elementary school teacher in her 50s, and she Could. Not. Stop. bringing up the fact that I don’t wear tshirts. I don’t wear tshirts! They don’t flatter my body type, and I don’t wear clothes that make me feel ugly! But Supervisor wore a tshirt every day and seemed to feel like I was wearing my tops At Her. She was a mess in lots of other ways, too, which makes me wonder about Cornelia’s broader personality.

      1. DressesToNice*

        I am 5’10”. In my mid-20s I had a good ‘ol boy VP who was very short. He told me to stop wearing heels because I was taller than him. HAHAHA right.

        1. DressesToNice*

          OOPS, hit submit by accident. Even in my bare feet I would have been at least 4″ taller than him.

          1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

            LOL if my ex, a Little Person, was comfortable with me wearing heels around him, I’d love to know what that guy’s excuse is.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Ugh, I worked for a manager like this right out of grad school. I didn’t own ‘business casual clothing’ because the only other office job I had had was an internship in a pretty formal workplace, so my choices were limited to dress pants, dress skirts, and blouses, and since this organization paid crap, I couldn’t afford to and also didn’t want to buy polo shirts or jeans. If I wanted to dress like I worked at Best Buy I would go work at Best Buy. This woman Could Not let it go and kept making comments about it.

      I also hate when people think your clothes mean you’re somehow making value judgments about what they’re wearing. It’s giving – what do the kids call it – main character syndrome.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        I also hate when people think your clothes mean you’re somehow making value judgments about what they’re wearing. It’s giving – what do the kids call it – main character syndrome.

        I’ve had to say this so many times in my career. I promise, those of us who love to dress nice at all times are not thinking about what others are wearing in the workplace unless we see something we like, and then we want to know where you go it! LOL

  45. DivergentStitches*

    I remember about 15 years ago, I wore a knit ankle-length skirt to work and someone complained to my boss that it was fleece, i.e. “sweat pants material.” It was definitely a business casual place. I’m neurodivergent so I thought “knit” in the description meant it was fine?

    IDK why people worry about what other people wear.

    1. JustaTech*

      My office is freezing today and that sounds so delightfully snuggly and warm!
      Boo on people who pointlessly nitpick fabric choices.

      (I have several blazers that are “sweatshirt” material and they look plenty business. Cut often matters more than material.)

  46. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – I think you handled it perfectly. It’s great that your office has a lax dress code that allows both you and Cornelia comfort to each wear what you like. But dress codes don’t prevent clients from forming opinions about you/company. My office has a lax dress code too but I tailor my outfits based on who I’m expecting to interact with for the day. If Cornelia’s concerned about being perceived negatively/more junior when she knows she’s co-presenting with a peer, then Cornelia needs to consider having a wardrobe available that she can use on presentation days.

    #4 – I’ve learned to ask my colleagues in private “if you don’t mind, can I ask where you are going” because it has become such a personal thing. There’s always the horror stories of managers who contacts the future employer and tries to persuade them against hiring their employee. Or of people who get terminated earlier than their anticipated departure date too because the employer was upset about where they were going. But, I feel like people are more invested when you don’t share because now they think you have something to hide and if they will jump to competitor of the company if you don’t share.

  47. ArtK*

    I’ve always told folks where I was going to, except for the last transition. I was going to a place where a former manager was and they had a “no poaching” clause in the separation from the company I was leaving. Those are questionable at best but we figured better safe than sorry. He also didn’t specifically recruit me, but just said “why don’t you talk to these folks?” When he said that, I didn’t know that he was already working there.

  48. ClaireW*

    I think OP1 you handled it well, I’m definitely on the jumpers-and-jeans side of things working in a tech office but I’d never ask anyone else to change their outfits unless they were inappropriate in some way.

    Is it worth going back to Cordelia, if you present together often, to discuss why she asked? Is it possible that people are assuming you’re a lead/manager and she’s an assistant or intern or something similar, that could otherwise be resolved by a “Who we are” slide at the start of the presentations?

  49. Statler von Waldorf*

    #4 – I’m not surprised at all that LW#4 has heard this advice so much. I have as well. I think this is one of those bits of advice that varies a lot between blue collar and white collar jobs. I haven’t heard this advice nearly as much in my more professional jobs. When I worked more blue collar jobs I heard it more. When I worked retail this advice was extremely common.

    1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

      Yes, I was going to comment that I’ve only heard this from my retail/food service jobs. I think it has to do with the vulnerability that someone from the previous job, who hates you, can come in as a customer to the new job and engineer a complaint.

  50. Trixie the Great and Pedantic*

    OP3- do the inappropriate ads have any way to report them to the actual advertising network a la AdSense?

  51. Lobstermn*

    There are two kinds of jobs: jobs where you give notice and everyone is sane and you wrap it up and hand it off, and the other kind. Everyone knows which kind of job they have, and people should listen to themselves.

  52. MsVanS*

    Re LW1: I have a similar question. Pre-covid, I was opening an office for an organization that was otherwise 100% virtual. Then as now, I wore business-to-business-casual clothes. My background is law, so they feel appropriate to me, and I’m genuinely more comfortable in skirts and dresses than pants (and never wear shorts, even to the beach). We established that people could wear what they wanted to the office, so long as we did not have meetings that required us to dress up. One of my direct reports (a man) asked me if I would start wearing jeans to “make everyone else feel more comfortable.” I gave a similar response as LW1, but the power and gender dynamics have always troubled me….

  53. Filicophyta*

    Algorithms can be so close yet so wrong. I currently live in a Place that is at war with AnotherPlace. For the first few months I lived here, my Youtube ads were often in OtherPlace language and for products specifically target at OtherPlace population (cultural food, toys, holiday specific clothing). I had to click ‘not relevant’ for a while, but they’ve stopped now.

  54. Zudz*

    OP1: In my 20s I discovered cufflinks. I was on an IT help desk team, so my dress code leaned towards the casual side of business-casual. I invested in some moderately expensive french cuff shirts, cufflinks in several colors, and some neck ties. Eventually I upgraded the shirts to custom fitted dress shirts with french cuffs, expanded the cufflink collection, and got bow-ties in a variety of colors and patterns.

    This wardrobe did not, at all, match with my actual job title for about 15 years. I’m fond of saying my responsibilities finally match my style.

    My point is: dress the way that makes you happy. It’s worth the odd remark. (And people occasionally mistaking you for a manager of whatever department, floor, or retail store you happen to be standing in.)

    OP3: I practically guarantee that if you contact your IT department and say “I have unsavory ads showing up on a site I use for work. Can you install an adblocker in my browser?” that they’ll be happy to do it. I’ve been that IT guy before, so I feel like I can say that with some confidence.

  55. Weaponized Pumpkin*

    FWIW, in consulting my presentation partners have routinely checked in on what we’re wearing to ensure we’ll have the similar level of both dressiness and style/vibe. It changes depending on the event and client and we want to look like a team. So I don’t think it’s wild to consider the idea they should dress a little more similarly! That said, it sounds like Cornelia didn’t approach this well — or even from that POV — but I’m really curious what the rest of the office wore and which one was closer to the middle. (If this office has Casual Fridays, then the one wearing jeans and graphic Ts every day is more likely the one who’s off-base.)

  56. MondayMonday*

    #3 I had this happen to me all.the.time when I worked at a software development company.
    My role was to monitor our support email box and we would get a TON of $ex spam. It was so bad that my PC would regularly get infected with viruses and my screen would lock with a huge p0rn scene on my PC and there was nothing I could do. I would have to turn off my monitor and go down to IT.
    It was just part of the job and everyone expected it who worked with the support email box.
    I wasn’t there long enough for a solution to be implemented, but I am sure your IT department can help out and won’t think badly of you.

  57. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

    LW2: “Is there a task for me here or is this an FYI?” isn’t passive-aggressive, it’s both direct and a fair question. “Any action items on this?” “Thanks for the update, anything needed on my end?” Even if he doesn’t respond, asking directly is the best way to, if nothing else, cover your ass to show that you tried.

    I’ve also had some success asking for brief check-in calls to “align on our current priorities and deliverables.” Sometimes people think their emails are a lot clearer or more self-explanatory than they are, and talking through it both gets you the clarity you need and also possibly helps them see that they’ll have more success sending a short “can you please address X” or “handle Y” message. (This meeting COULD have been an email… hint, hint.)

    The caveat there is that that only works if people are trying to do more than give you the run-around. If there is ego involved, it’s more complicated. Making you sift through emails without bothering to explain can be a power play. I’ve dealt with someone like this who would fire off flurries of borderline cryptic e-mails and not deign to answer any follow-up questions. It was a symptom of larger issues and, long story short, that person went on to pursue other opportunities. Hopefully this isn’t the case in your situation, but if it is, you have my sympathies. Checking in with your direct manager on expectations and priorities can be helpful in figuring out how much energy and attention you need to spend on the email puzzles and whether it might be appropriate to set an inbox rule for a specific “Fergus folder” that you can sit down with at specific times and keep the rest of your email from getting buried.

  58. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    #4 – One of my jobs was bleeding people left and right and it became general knowledge that if you were leaving for another job even remotely connected to the industry you would be walked that day.

    When I left I just said I was burned out (true) and taking some time off, also true- I negotiated a delay of 6 weeks for my start date at my next job so that I had a solid month off.

  59. Immortal for a limited time*

    I’ve done internal and external training for years and the rule I was taught to follow was “dress one level above your audience.” That might sound old-school, but I still think it works. If it’s a jeans-and-T-shirt audience, then as a trainer/presenter I’d probably wear khakis and simple top or sweater. If I’m presenting to a business-casual audience where nobody wears jeans, I’ll wear a skirt with a blazer or cardigan. Luckily I’ve never had to present to a suit-and-tie kind of audience! I suppose in that kind of environment, going a step above them becomes unnecessary. No one needs to be presenting in a cocktail gown ;)

  60. Pizza Rat*

    I think Cornelia was out of line, but that may be because I always dress in the red-jacketed power suit when I present.

    Some people lack situational awareness.

    Also worth noting: I have seen a great many definitions and interpretations of business casual, including fishnets, leather pants, and tops so skimpy they’re more appropriate for going clubbing.

  61. Veryanon*

    “like a gorilla flings poo”


    But seriously, when someone sends me an email and I have no idea what they’re talking about, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ll respond by saying “I’m not sure what you’re asking for here, could you clarify?” Because I’m old and cranky and I just don’t have the patience to try to mind-read anymore.

  62. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (Cornelia asks OP to dress down) – I wonder if Cornelia had the sense that there was competition between her and OP, and that one of the things they are being judged on is who is ‘better’ at the shared projects, who contributed more, presents better, knows more about the subject… and Cornelia perceives OP as having “cheated” at this “contest” by wearing something a step above the usual casual dress code. You often see this kind of competition in people’s mind in companies where there’s a scarcity mindset – things are a zero sum game, resources given to one area are taken from another area, etc.

    1. I haven't slept*

      Interesting take. I hadn’t considered that, which makes me lucky in my shared presentations.

  63. Learned the hard way*

    I always find the question #4 asks really interesting because it reminds me that some people really have been lucky in their careers and have been able to avoid toxic and vindictive managers, colleagues, and employers.

    It’s essentially an extension of the old rules “never tell your employer that you’re looking for another job” and “don’t ask candidates to get their current manager to give them a reference”. It can endanger your current employment, and if you’re dealing with anyone vindictive or toxic, it can endanger your new employment.

    I’ve never told any of my employers or managers where I’m going when I resign, and I rarely tell colleagues, either. After more than one bad experience, it’s not worth the risk to me.

    1. BF*

      I 100% agree with this (and posted a few minutes after you). Why anyone thinks you need to share your personal career decisions is beyond me. So you want to know why I am leaving XYZ Company? “My micromanager is making it impossible to get anything done.” Or “I haven’t received a decent raise in three years.” Or “Other companies in our field allow two days at home.” No matter what you say, they….don’t…care.

      The bottom line: it’s none of your business why I’m leaving this company and I’m certainly not going to endanger my future employment or help you figure out why I left.

  64. BF*

    #4 (Communication about Leaving a Company) Strong disagree with the answer about where you are going when you leave a company. It is legitimately no one’s business, especially the employer you are leaving. Most of the time, people leave companies because of dysfunctional managers or other negative reasons that are known to the company but ignored. Why would I care to share where I’m going, or do an exit interview? In many cases, they didn’t care about me while I was there — why would I spend any time on their “curiosity?” If you end up at a competitor or a company that you could partner with in the future, reach out after you have landed at your new gig.

  65. seri*

    LW #1, I’m not sure how it’s relevant to the dress code point that your coworker was single, lived alone, and had no children whereas you were the opposite. “We were the same age but had different living situations and lifestyles” and then a description of the different clothing styles would have sufficed.

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