wearing luxury clothes as a public defender, resigning while an employee is on medical leave, and more

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

1. Wearing luxury clothes as a public defender

After law school I started work as a corporate attorney and hated it. The office culture was cutthroat and aggressive and the work was unfulfilling, but the money was incredible. I’ve always loved fashion, and I bought a lot of second-hand designer clothes while I was there.

I am now a public defender in dependency and drug court. I love it! Client relationship-heavy work has always been my strength, I’m passionate about it, and it’s rewarding. Because of the nature of the work that I do, I’m in court a lot, and I still have all my old work clothes. I always tried not to buy things with logos, but inevitably some things are recognizable (Louboutins, etc.) There is something that feels incredibly out of touch and icky to me about wearing designer clothes to court while representing clients who literally could pay two months rent with the retail cost of my outfit.

Part of me wants to only pull out the expensive stuff for dates and happy hours and build up a more affordable court-appropriate wardrobe over time, but the other part of me figures that as long as I don’t wear the clothes with logos I’m probably fine? I just don’t want to alienate my clients or make them feel bad because they are going through the hardest parts of their lives, and the last thing they need is to feel like I’m holding something over them. But maybe I’m overthinking it and that’s unfair to them and shows my own bias?

I suspect other public defenders will give you the best, most field-specific advice on this, but my take is: yes, clothes send messages! I don’t think you need to avoid wearing every designer item you have, but it does make sense when working with financially struggling clients to avoid items that will be easily recognized as extremely expensive luxury — Louboutins being a good example since their red soles are so well known. (Of course, not everyone would be bothered by that; some people like it when their lawyers look expensively clad since they figure it’s a sign that they’re good at what they do. But enough people will feel weird about it — as might your colleagues since public defenders are so underpaid — that I’d avoid the really obvious symbols.)

2. I don’t want to attend a training that’s hostile to LGBTIQA+ people

I am the newest middle manager at my institution, and in the past, all manager-level staff have been required to attend the county’s leadership training, which consists of a full-day workshop once a month for nine months. It costs my institution a fair amount of money to send people to this training, and now it is my turn.

I am one of only a handful of openly queer people at my workplace, and we are in an extremely conservative county in a very conservative state. I already have to deal with fellow staff not using the correct pronouns for me, as well as customers that will likely never acknowledge my gender identity. I stay because it is important to me to be a shield for my queer staff members and customers and to make our institution as much of a safe place as possible.

One of my staff (the final person besides me who has not attended this training) was sent this past year, and her descriptions of the training make me concerned for my safety. I am certain my pronouns will not be honored. I am highly doubtful there will be a gender-neutral or family-style restroom for me to use. I will have to sit through many hours of extreme political talk that aligns with people who truly wish I did not exist. It doesn’t sound like any leadership traits are actually taught, so I’m not certain what I’m supposed to be learning through this nearly year-long, expensive training.

I have mentioned to my boss that this doesn’t feel safe for me and that I’d prefer not to go if that’s possible, but she laughs it off like it’s some rite of passage that everyone must endure. I am fine with training in leadership, and I understand that, as an introvert, I will likely not enjoy any meeting with a bunch of team-building activities, but this is not merely discomfort I’m worried about.

Do you have a script I can use for attempting to speak with her about this again, or do I need to suck it up and go to this training since everyone else has done it? Or is there a third option I’m not seeing?

If you think she’s not taking you seriously, address it from that angle: “When I’ve brought this up before, you’ve laughed it off almost as if it’s a rite of passage, so I wanted to be clearer: My concern with going is with my safety as a queer person. My understanding from others who have attended is that I’m likely to be repeatedly misgendered and need to sit through hours of discriminatory talk, and there will be no safe bathroom for me to use. I’m formally requesting to be exempted from the training because it’s hostile to queer people. Can you exempt me from it?”

It’s possible she’ll tell you it’s an absolutely inflexible, unwaivable requirement — but spell it out this explicitly and see.

3. Mixing suggestive swimwear photos with work links on Instagram

I may be old (and possibly prudish), but is it a good idea for a young person to include their work hashtags and work profile links in their Instagram account, if this account is entirely photos of them in suggestive swimwear shots? I was reading an article about science in the newspaper and was curious about the author. So I googled the author, and their Instagram account was the second result. Clicked on it and was floored. Am I out of touch or is this normal behavior now?

No, it’s still a bad idea. There’s nothing inherently objectionable about suggestive swimsuit shots in a vacuum, but it’s not a good idea to tie them to your work profile. Work and sexually provocative photos don’t mix (in most fields, at least). What you saw isn’t a new norm; it’s just one person making a bad decision.

4. Resigning while an employee is on medical leave

I currently serve as a director of a small office (three employees total). For a variety of reasons, I am searching for new job opportunities. One of my direct reports is currently out on medical leave (she has exhausted FMLA for the year, but is on unpaid leave).

I’ve been a finalist for two positions I’m really excited about and am waiting to hear back. If I accept a new role, how should I or should I notify my employee on leave? HR has been very strict about what I can and cannot say to my employee (I was berated for checking in on how she is doing) but I also don’t want her to come back to that surprise, or text me asking about returning to work when I’m not there anymore. She really struggled with initially taking off the time she needed to recover, so I have been trying to give her so much space from work.

From a legal perspective, it should be okay to let her know you’re leaving once you have an end date. What the law prohibits is what’s called “FMLA interference,” which is where you ask an employee on FMLA to do work — but it specifically exempts very minor questions like “where’s the key to the supply room?” as long as they’re infrequent. In this case, she’s not on FMLA anymore anyway. You shouldn’t contact her about actual work since she’s not being paid, but contacting her to say goodbye wouldn’t generally trigger a pay requirement.

That said, you should follow HR’s rules regardless. Your company might have stricter rules, or there might be something specific to your employee’s particular situation that makes them not want you to contact her. (One thing that comes to mind is that is that since she struggled to take the time in the first place, hearing that you’re leaving might trigger her thinking about/worrying about work in a way that isn’t conducive to her recovery.) So ask HR before doing anything. If they say not to contact her until she’s back, you can always wait and then explain once she returns (even if it’s after you left) that they told you not to contact her.

All that said, totally aside from the law and company rules, I’d strongly consider not bothering her right now anyway. Let her stay completely free of work thoughts while she’s on leave. She’s undoubtedly aware that if/when she returns, people might have come and gone during her absence. Two circumstances that would alter my advice: (a) if you’re very close and you know for a fact that she’d be upset you didn’t tell her in real time or (b) if there’s some specific logistical thing she might want from you before you go.

5. Resume section headings

I’m re-writing my resume, and I’ve realized I need a third section that’s not Experience or Education, but I can’t figure out what to put. The things I want to list are all different but seem important — for example, a business award nomination, participation in a competitive mentoring program, and a volunteering stint related to prior work experience. What heading do these go under? Or should I put multiple headings even if each one only has a single bullet point?

You could do a section called Other Achievements. If “achievements” doesn’t quite fit everything, it’s perfectly fine to just call it Other, or even Additional Information. Really, you can use any heading that sounds reasonably professional and fits the purpose. I think you’re feeling like there’s only a limited menu of appropriate headings to pick from, but there is not!

{ 536 comments… read them below }

  1. Observer*

    #2 Leadership training

    Perhaps you could find another program that provides the same kind of benefit / training that this one claims to be providing. Like, if this is supposed to give you really good insight into how to work with government agencies to help clients, is there another program that provides the same type of training without the hostility?

    Also, if your boss won’t respond with any seriousness, or won’t allow you to opt out, can you go above her head / to HR? If you have to do that, it might be worth doing some research and finding out if the group has a specific religious affiliation because that might put some weight behind your request – you should not be required by your job to attend training that seems to have a religious component.

    1. Dancin' Fool*

      This is what I was thinking as well. If you can offer suggestions for alternate training it would demonstrate to your boss that you are not against leadership training, just not the one they want you to complete. They may be much more open and willing to let you skip it if they know that you are still invested in becoming a stronger leader/manager.

      Maybe check to see if there are any online courses/workshops/seminars? I know some post-secondary institutions offer this kind of thing.

      Good luck!

    2. Beth*

      It also might be that you need to show up once and get actual confirmation that these problems are real before you can make a strong case. Being put in an environment where you’re being misgendered and have no appropriate bathroom is probably something HR will care about–at least, they should! But it sounds like you’re going on hearsay right now, rather than actual proof that those are issues yet.

      For what it’s worth, I agree with your read that they will be issues, that sucks, I’m sorry you’re being put in this position. But straight people often don’t trust our “okay but I know this is going to be a problem, can we just skip it?” homophobia-dar, unfortunately. Going to the training, in your own car, prepared to remove yourself from the environment once something HR-actionable happens might be your best way through here.

      1. Bookmark*

        Even if you end up having to go this route, I would strongly recommend talking about it with your manager, including your plans if you go and encounter the anticipated situation. My employer would be extremely upset if they paid for me to attend an expensive training and I walked out, and I would definitely have to take that time as PTO, if not more severe consequences. If they’re a conservative organization with a history of not being supportive of queer people, as OP indicates, they’re probably not going to find “there wasn’t a safe bathroom” to be a persuasive reason to walk out. The same people who don’t trust our predictions of anti-queer bias are also often people who discount our experiences of anti-queer bias, even when they’re in the room to observe it.

    3. No Yelling on the Bus*

      Exactly what I was going to suggest. I would think that the conversation would go better if you were armed with an alternative and could speak to why it’s preferred: costs less, less time intensive, learn the same skills (or more). The major thing I am thinking that wouldn’t be covered by another program is networking?? Is that why this awful “training” is so crucial? Maybe there’s another way to make contacts with select people but in a less awful environment

  2. Observer*

    #3- Suggestive instagram linked to professional accounts.

    You’re not being a prude. It’s not smart, and it’s not professional. If this person is young this is just going to make it harder for them to be seen as a serious professional. I’d say the same thing if the account were all about their surfing, ballroom dancing, kid’s arts and crafts from school, etc.

    It sounds to me like this person has not learned about the normal process of compartmentalization that happens to most people, with good reason.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      Hmmm…I’d been thinking of uploading some recordings from my solo and chamber music recitals to a YouTube account under my real name (which currently only has unlisted videos that I used for various auditions). Now that COVID restrictions are tending to lift, I’ve gotten the chance to sub with a semipro orchestra and am looking into auditioning for additional orchestra sub lists, and I was thinking that having more of a web presence for my musical activities might be good.

      But it’s a good point that I should think more about what people might think if they Google Spencer Hastings the accountant, find results for Spencer Hastings the violist, and realize that they’re the same person.

      Honestly, at this point in my life, I see my job as the thing that funds my hobbies. I’d rather I get to perform as much as possible and be a part of the music community in my area even if people are unable to take me seriously as an accountant as a result, as long as my employer doesn’t fire me. But in another ten years (or if I do need to find another job), who knows how I’ll feel? If I struggle to get interviews, will I regret having non-accounting stuff that’s linked to my real name online and makes it harder for me to be seen as a serious professional?

      1. Phryne*

        People have hobbies. Any employer that is going to judge you on playing the violin in your own time outside of work is waving a red flag. The line of appropriate can be fuzzy at times, but I disagree with Observer that any indication you might have a life outside of work is bad.
        The problem with too much children’s artwork is not the artwork but misogyny about mothers in the workplace. The problem with ballroom dancing is that too many people have an opinion on it being camp. The problem with swimwear is not the outfit but being comfortable with seeing your co-workers in it.
        Violin playing however is safely in the ‘no issue’ zone.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          The viola itself is fine as a hobby, but I think it goes further than hobby if it’s “semipro”, does it pay? would employers think of this more like moonlighting than a hobby?

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            My guess is that the conductor, any soloists, and perhaps the concert master are paid, though probably not much.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, that’s such a weird take to me that they would take people les seriously if they knew they have… any kind of hobby at all?

          1. Dulcinea47*

            it actually makes me like my coworkers more when I know they do interesting things outside of work… but I’m not in a place where everyone is expected to work themselves to death. (honestly, I wouldn’t want to work for someone who thought hobbies were a negative.)

          2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            My hobbies are only now main stream but it’s so annoying to go ‘ no I don’t mean Monopoly ‘ and ‘ No I don’t mean 2k’ that I don’t go on about them at work

          3. Rainy*

            I saw an IG reel a while back where a creator I like stitched some dude’s rant about women liking sports and then said “Is that really where we are now? We’re gatekeeping *activities*???”

            And this is how I feel about that.

            If someone takes me less seriously because I *do things outside of work*, that is 100% a them problem and frankly I’m going to take them less seriously.

        3. MassMatt*

          There’s a difference between having hobbies and outside interests and linking your professional profile to other sites where you display them.

          Most people have sex lives outside of work also, that doesn’t make it a good idea to link your Grindr or Tinder profile.

          1. Yorick*

            It’s unclear to me from the letter whether this person actually linked their Instagram to their work in some way. I guess they might have since LW asks if that’s ok, but LW says they googled this person and found the Instagram. If you have a slightly unique name, this can happen no matter the fact you didn’t mention your company in the profile. I don’t think people necessarily need to hide away their Instagram that has swimsuit pictures.

            1. PB Bunny Watson*

              I had the same thought. I also have questions about “suggestive.” That is a very loaded word that means different things to different people. Some think a one-piece is suggestive… others think any two-piece is suggestive… while maybe you are like me and assuming the person had on a string bikini that barely covered the essentials. My thoughts are there are a lot of us out here trying to shift the norms. If this person has a lot of these shots, they may be trying to shift the narrative that women in science fit a certain mold. So if the swimsuit is revealing, that’s one thing… but if not, they may be doing it mindfully and for a purpose.

              1. Rainy*

                With the general tone of misogyny present in the letter, I’m pretty dubious that the photos were actually all that suggestive.

                1. JustaTech*

                  That’s how I’m inclined to lean as well.

                  I have a friend who posts a ton of pictures of herself in a swimsuit on her Instagram. She’s also a professor.
                  But one would have to have major issues about people’s bodies to try and claim that her swim meet photos are “suggestive”.

              2. Aeryn Sun*

                It also depends on the context. Is it suggestive poses with a string bikini? Or is it being in a swimsuit posing with friends/family on a beach vacation? Or is it someone posting photos training for a triathlon?

                There are a million ways to interpret an instagram full of swimsuit photos, some appropriate for work and others not.

            2. PittsburghGirl23*

              I read it as they Googled her, saw her Instagram, and saw she had links or hashtags associated with her day job on the Instagram. The sequence is presented out of order as written.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I took it as debating technique “reductio ad absurdam” — reduced to the absurd.

              Swimsuits are on a spectrum from bland to salacious. I think people are failing to trust OP’s definition of these as overly sexy images.

          2. Annie*

            Right, I think if you have a Youtube Channel with chamber music, that’s fine, even under your real name.
            If you have that YouTube Channel and then have links to your 9-5 job as well, then that’s connecting work with your hobbies, and you shouldn’t be doing that.
            From the LW experience, if the person is having swimsuit pics on Insta, that’s up to them. If they are linking to work, that’s not appropriate.

          3. OhGee*

            Huh? How is linking a dating profile in any way similar to linking a social media account that shares your hobbies? That makes no sense at all.

          1. NotAManager*

            …not really? It’s just classical music written for a small number of instruments. *Some* chamber music is religious in nature, but like…so is *some* music, period.

        4. Observer*

          The line of appropriate can be fuzzy at times, but I disagree with Observer that any indication you might have a life outside of work is bad

          The issue is not that someone indicates that they have a private life. It’s that they are linking their personal account to their work account and the specifics of what they are posting. A hobby per se, especially one that is seen as “serious” is not necessarily going to make someone look like they are not a serious professional.

          The issue is that they are linking their personal account to their work account. And that *these* particular things are seen as less “serious”. Also, things that we typically don’t bring into the office. In the case of suggestive stuff, not at all, and in the other examples I mentioned, only in small doses in passing.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, I tend to agree. It’s one thing to be active on social media and showing off your hobby there under your own name, so that anyone can find your hobby account by googling your name. This I think is fully acceptable (pretty much regardless of the hobby as long as it isn’t illegal). It’s another thing entirely to link their work account to their personal account by posting hashtags to the work account on the personal one (or vice versa).

            That said, I’m very glad that I work in Finland. It’s actually illegal here for employers to google their employees or candidates. They can only look at the social media accounts that employees link to in their applications, typically LinkedIn. Or if they google, they aren’t allowed to use what they learn against the candidate, so prudent employers don’t google.

      2. Green great dragon*

        Just having something up under your name is different to having it linked from work accounts though. I can’t imagine anyone having a problem with you having music up on the web. If it was all over your professional site, like you had a website for your business but the first page was all about your music, that might raise some eyebrows.

        The situation here seems to be somewhere in the middle, where the instagram linked back to the work profile. I’m not social media savvy enough to know whether that makes it more likely that people looking at the work site will find the instagram.

      3. Evergreen*

        Oh cool another viola player!

        I would guess the only concern would be would they think you’re trying to leave accounting to go from semipro to professional, but I agree with the other commenter who said musician is a much different hobby than suggestive swimwear photos!

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          Oh, of course it is! But the top post of this particular comment thread said “surfing, ballroom dancing, or their kids’ art”, so that’s what I was responding to.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            I think the main point isn’t to act like you have no interests outside of work or never have a social media presence for your Other Things. It’s that you shouldn’t be putting your hobbies/personal life/kid costuming business pictures on a social media account WITH your professional life (passing mentions are OK, like if you post a work volunteer event or something). But if you want to have a place for your professional life, it should be separate from your other life. If you’re OK with people searching and finding that Professional X and Person X are the same, you can, and you can also lock down Person X so it’s more private. But it’s better that the two don’t mix.

            1. Me...Just Me*

              But, the OP just googled the person. Of course, they’re going to find the person’s Instagram account. I think it really odd that people are affronted that they find out about a person’s personal life when they are ACTIVELY searching for that information via a google search. If you want to know about their work life, look on LinkedIn, don’t be trolling Instagram and then get all shocked that someone has swimsuit pics.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                OP says the Instagram account has hashtags back to their work profile.

                That does seem questionable — unless she’s an aquatics biologist or scuba engineer whose job does involve wearing a swimsuit and OP is overreacting to a professional coverage swimsuit.

      4. ClaireW*

        I wouldn’t hold back on that sort of thing at all! Most people have stuff to do outside of work and yours is especially interesting, most people will just think “Oh that’s cool!” and move on, this isn’t an ‘unserious’ hobby and is generally something that’s considered quite ‘proper’ and formal and requiring a lot of dedication which are good things! If a company would genuinely be concerned about hiring someone who has a hobby outside of work then that’s probably a sign that workplace wouldn’t suits you anyway.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think balance is a lot of it. A small amount gives an idea of your interests (playing viola; doing triathlons while wearing a bathing suit; knitting tiny sheep). A social media account that has a small work link and a vast sea of tiny knitted sheep will look like that’s your main interest.

          And intent. For some people that’s like “Damn straight my insta is about my actual interests, and I don’t have photos of my forensic accounting work because that is not visually interesting.” For others it’s like “I don’t want to be known as ‘the tiny sheep whisperer’ in a context where I’m trying to get people to think of me as a skilled forensic accountant, so I’m going to delink these two sides.

      5. Pineapple Salad*

        The viola is an awesome instrument: it would only improve people’s opinion of you to see that you’re a violist :-)

      6. Richard Hershberger*

        Being a classical musician is prestigious, even (if only in an abstract sort of way) with people who don’t listen to classical music. I am in a somewhat similar position with my early baseball history writings. It would be a very narrow set of circumstances for these writings to ding me professionally. They are far more likely to be neutral, or positive as an interesting thing to talk about.

      7. I should really pick a name*

        I’d argue that the mistake was posting swimsuit photos AND work stuff on the same account, not simply posting swimsuit photos.

        I think you’re fine.

        1. Antilles*

          That’s my view too, the issue is having it on the same account as your work stuff.
          Don’t cross the streams.

          1. Breezy*

            I agree with this, but the letter writer wrote that they searched for the author and found their IG that way. Didn’t seem to be any indication that the IG account was connected to work except by the person’s name.

            1. I am Emily's failing memory*

              I was a bit unclear on that part too, but in the opening sentence LW references “work hashtags and work profile link in their Instagram account.” So it does sound like her glamour/boudoir photo Insta account is tied back to her work in some way other than just her name.

              1. Spero*

                I disagree. I think it’s fine to link from the personal to the professional as long as you’re not linking from the professional to the personal. So having a link to LI from Insta, ok…but linking TO an unprofessional Insta from the LI would not be ok.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          Someone who is a professional surfer who also has swimwear endorsements could absolutely post those. But in many other lines of work, having work and recreational images in the same feed could hamper someone’s advancement.

        3. Observer*

          I’d argue that the mistake was posting swimsuit photos AND work stuff on the same account, not simply posting swimsuit photos.

          Yes. It’s the combination that primarily poses a problem.

      8. MCMonkeyBean*

        I am an accountant and I cannot imagine anyone taking you less seriously because they know you play music! I was involved with my community theater for a while and I’ve had people from work, including my bosses, come to see shows I was in. Lots of people go so far as to include hobbies on their resume. Most good employers want to hire well-rounded people, not robots.

      9. AnonInCanada*

        I disagree. This implies that it’s “unprofessional” to have a life outside of work. I would counter that, in most circumstances, it would considered odd for someone to not be outgoing with their outside interests, presuming they’re not risqué. No one’s going to raise an eyebrow over you (gasp!) playing the viola. And if they are, then I’d be questioning whether I would want to work for them.

        We’re not robots, tethered to our desks 24/7/365. We are human beings, with lives outside of work. At least, we should be.

      10. Ace in the Hole*

        I don’t think having hobbies is an issue at all. People have lives outside of work, any decent employer/colleague/client knows that and won’t think twice.

        I’m an artist in my off-hours. Like your music, it’s a hobby that I don’t intend to make a career of but I do post my art online because I enjoy being involved in the arts community. It’s hands down the most visible thing about me online… if you search my real name, you’ll get a full page of my illustrations and paintings before you see anything about me professionally. And that’s fine! As long as your art/music/hobby isn’t controversial or overly intimate.

    2. reckless eyeballing*

      my old professor is a venerated scientist and her social media is three things: her cats, her photography, and her pandemic-instigated hobby of aerial silks. aerial silk performers wear less than surfers. this hasn’t hurt her but instead has encouraged many peers at her school and beyond to carve out social media for their hobbies, not their work. this goes from men doing make up tutorials or knitting to women line dancing and blacksmithing.

      the problem with seeking out these private public spaces is at large people expect experts to be “always on” (hm I wonder why there’s such a high rate of burnout…) or are applying completely subjective moral value judgements that have no standard except that the person applying them pretends that there is a broader standard this person fails to meet. a scientist in a bikini is still the sum of her cited works in peer reviewed journals. the person failing compartmentalization is the lookie-loo OP seeking out her instagram which is not included as a method of contact in the article per the information we’ve been given.

      before anyone starts banging on about “she should know better than to be a woman on the internet with her own name” google deeplinks material that they have quietly determined to be connected to a single individual via shady semi-legal tracking storing and labeling of PI data, online purchases, browser cookies and history, past log-ins, devices, wifi networks you connect to (or don’t), IP addresses etc etc. ask me how i know. google wrote the white pages and playbook and made it available and following that exact roadmap is how a certain large retailer I worked for (on this project AFTER the debacle) ended up in hot water legally and in the media for exposing the depth of the data we keep and track by inappropriate outing a teen’s pregnancy to her parent thru suggested purchases of baby supplies (inappropriate in that the data that made this suggestion possible was kept and used well beyond legal compliance and people got soft fired over their sloppy work)

      1. Brownstag*

        Yes, to this. I feel LW just googled the person’s name so the question about “linking” in that case is by virtue of simply having a readily googleable name! I have one of those, but also the algorithms know everything is connected on the back end by just a few email addresses and phone numbers even on accounts that don’t I use my name to register.
        Professor didn’t appear to go out of their way to make their science and swimming attire worlds collide.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          From LW3’s letter:

          “…include their work hashtags and work profile links in their Instagram account…”

          LW3 isn’t asking about doing an internet search and finding this person’s IG. The question (and @Observer’s comment) are about the widom of intentionally sending people from our private social media to our work-oriented social media.

          1. MathBandit*

            That’s the initial question, but then when they (seemingly) clarify, the situation where they are asking “Am I out of touch or is this normal behavior now?” is about someone who has an instagram that they were able to find on google, not about someone who plugged their instagram in their professional life.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Thank you for this.

        I remember a meme that went around a while back of female doctors posting photos of themselves in bathing suits. In solidarity for one of their own who was getting attacked for daring to have a bikini shot on their private social media, because ladies in bikinis can’t be doctors.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          Yup. Made me think of the same thing – and there was an awesome story of a emergency doc in Hawaii saving someone’s life after a shark attack. She was there because she was surfing. In a bikini. If I can find the link I’ll post it in a reply.

          1. Jay (no, the other one)*

            Here it is – and it reminded me that this all started with a peer-reviewed article published in an established and respective journal in which several male authors surveyed the online presence of younger surgeons and reported that many of them had “unprofessional” social media accounts – and women were far more likely to be in that category in large part because of swimsuit pictures.

            There is a somewhat graphic picture using a mannequin that’s a recreation of the incident for TV.


      3. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

        I think it’s worth noting that the question asked is ‘should people mingle links and bikini shots in the same place’ but the story told is just that they googled the author and found her instagram full of swimwear shots- that’s two different situations, and it’s not clear to me if this person is actually posting their publications on the same account.

        It’s nearly impossible to separate your work and personal info these days! If she’s actively intermingling them, maybe it’s worth a little side-eye (though really- why? what’s so evil about liking to go to the beach?) but sometimes it feels like the outrage is really focused on the idea that someone has personal social media and a life outside work at all.

        1. NewAccountant*

          Exactly, I came here to say this. I was expecting that she would say her Instagram had both pictures in her swimwear and work related stuff. But no, her Instagram just happens to be easy to find and has pictures of her doing normal stuff? Are we not allowed to have any social media under our real name, cause I’m sure others Facebook profiles have similar stuff as well?

        2. Myrin*

          the question asked is ‘should people mingle links and bikini shots in the same place’ but the story told is just that they googled the author and found her instagram full of swimwear shots

          Unless I’m misreading something, that’s actually not the story told. That’s how OP found the Instagram in the first place, yes, but the fact that she begins her letter by asking “is it a good idea for a young person to include their work hashtags and work profile links in their Instagram account” makes me think that that’s exactly what she saw on that Instagram account (as opposed to a thought that struck her randomly after seeing the bikini Instagram), she just didn’t repeat it when she re-told what she actually did..

          1. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

            It’s not clear to me. There’s not much description of the content except that it has bathing suit pictures.

            1. Myrin*

              No, it’s not exactly clear, but I’m having a hard time coming up with a reason for OP to write in otherwise – “I googled this scientists name and found their instagram with swimwear pictures but WHAT IF there were actually hashtags and links to their work amidst those even though that wasn’t actually the case”? That doesn’t really seem like a logical thought process to me.

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                I’m not getting the difference. Why does it matter if there’s a link to the work on the instagram account as opposed to no link? I can’t picture the scenario where someone sees these swimsuit photos, clicks the work link, and then…gets upset that someone who posted these photos is also a journalist?

              2. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

                Because some people are looking for reasons to accuse young women of being unprofessional and advance the idea that young people these days are behaving badly?

                there are people who would Google a name, find a personal IG and be scandalized that she dares to behave that way with her name attached.

                It’s not the most charitable interpretation of the LW, to be fair, but there’s a whiff of misogyny to this letter that makes me hesitant to buy that this person is really virtually mixing business and pleasure that brazenly.

              3. Observer*

                “I googled this scientists name and found their instagram with swimwear pictures but WHAT IF there were actually hashtags and links to their work amidst those even though that wasn’t actually the case”? That doesn’t really seem like a logical thought process to me.

                I agree that this is not so logical, and that’s why many of us are responding the way we are. On the other hand, we do know that this illogical way of thinking is not as uncommon as one would hope. Teachers in some districts can literally lose their jobs if they post a bikini picture (even not a specially suggestive one) on a personal account, if someone sees it. So, I think that in this context, it’s a reasonable question to ask.

          2. Sharkie*

            It just just be that she posted a #womeninstem picture, or posted “So I won an award for my research on x,y,z and added work hash tags”. That’s my read

        3. AngryOctopus*

          Oh, you know I read it that the person was posting work things AND bathing suit pics on the same social media channel. That’s where I would say there should be a line. If you post an Instagram link to a Professional Whatever, I should not be able to see bathing suit pics of you if I look on that same channel for your Other Professional Dealings. But if I google you and come up with your personal Insta that’s bathing suit pics? That’s different. That’s fine.

        4. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I was really confused by the setup and then the details. I’m not sure if there was more missing. What do they mean by a work hashtag? Like she’s posting a photo in her swimsuit but the hashtag is #IAmAScientistForXYZCompany???

          1. alienor*

            It sounds to me like the link and hashtag were in her Instagram bio, and the swimsuit pics were in the photo grid. I see people listing their employer more often on Facebook because it’s one of the profile sections and they just automatically fill it out when they’re prompted, but I can see someone maybe thinking “I have this on Facebook, why not Instagram too.”

          2. OP #3*

            Yes, the account was 95% *very* sexualized bathing suit shots (like poses you might see in porn), and they had a link to their work profile, and work hashtags in the bio.

            1. Mine Own Telemachus*

              I’m honestly having trouble buying this, mainly because of the explicit comparison to porn. I’ve seen (cisgender, hetero) men call perfectly innocent pictures of women who are doing physical activity (sitting on a surfboard, for example) pornographic and I have to wonder if there’s some interpretation happening here.

        5. Pole Dancing Scientist*

          I use one social media platform for sharing scientific work, and another for my pole dancing hobby. But I might also like to share my impressive new publication or news about an award with my pole dancer friends!

        6. Observer*

          I think it’s worth noting that the question asked is ‘should people mingle links and bikini shots in the same place’ but the story told is just that they googled the author and found her instagram full of swimwear shots- that’s two different situations, and it’s not clear to me if this person is actually posting their publications on the same account.

          That’s a good point. I was addressing the first part. And I think that Allison was for the most part also addressing that. Calling someone unprofessional for merely having those photos is a different thing, and I agree that that’s a problem.

          Having said that, it’s still a good idea to keep the private stuff a little more private. I get it – it’s almost impossible to keep anything on the internet 100% private, but it is possible to make things a bit harder to find, and I do suggest that people do that. Not so much because of “professionalism” but because it’s often a good idea to not be the low hanging fruit.

      4. flora_poste*

        Yes, ALL of this. A scientist also happening to enjoy the beach, or swimwear, or her own body in swimwear – as discovered through finding what appears to be an individual, rather than an institutional, social media account – does not and should not detract from her work.
        I have a very googleable name, am in a serious field, and I like to run races. So if you google my name you can probably find race pictures of me in teeny shorts and race tops. Does this make me a less serious professional? Should it?

        1. Irene Cassini*

          I am a surgical resident and the first Google image of me that comes up is me in race buns.

        2. Happy meal with extra happy*

          Yeah, my follow up question is what does “suggestive” mean? Unfortunately, it can run the spectrum between “boudoir shots” to “day at the beach, but I happen to be wearing a bikini.”

          1. Curious*

            I am curious with what “suggestive” means as well. Many terms are subjective without context. I wish specific descriptions of what constitutes “suggestive” would have been provided. (No need to chastise me by stating it wasn’t provided. I am aware.)

            I work in a male dominated field and surprising amount of misogyny I have encountered has been perpetuated by other women.

            1. Sharkie*

              It really just depends. I was once told my clothes were suggestive because you could see that I have boobs. I was wearing jeans, converse, and a t shirt that wasnt baggy and my normal size.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            To clarify: The Instagram is nearly 100% bathing suit photos in cheesecake-type poses (does anyone still use that word? like just full-body shots in poses, not shots of the person hanging out at the beach or surfing or whatever), with all their work stuff linked at the top. So closer to boudoir type shots.

            1. Katiekins*

              I think people do still use the word “cheesecake-style,” but to me it’s gendered (describing women in pinups, whereas men in pinups might be called “beefcake” photos).

              OP #3 makes the point below that they were careful not to gender this swimsuit wearer, but people are assuming they are a woman. Perhaps the use of “cheesecake” is part of why people are assuming that? (I don’t think this counts as nitpicking language. Sorry if it is!)

            2. Biscuits*

              I’m sorry, the LW sent you the actual link? I’m sorry but I find that alarming behaviour, bordering on stalking. It’s not normal to be this invested in a total stranger you have literally zero connection to other than you read an article they wrote in a newspaper. It would be different if this person worked for LW’s company or was even in the same industry, but it’s literally “a person in the media isn’t as sexually pure as I think all women should be.”

              I would find that a red flag in a co-worker or potential employee, honestly, because it’s projecting a lot of personal morality onto others. If a total stranger sent my photos (as a slightly well known media figure) to an advice columnist for advice on my moral purity I’d feel incredibly creeped out, and worried the person’s fixation with me might escalate.

      5. Also-ADHD*

        Yeah, I don’t think you would put bikini pictures on a work account, but it was confusing to me because it sounded like the LW googled the person from her name, which is not exclusively used for work, and found a public but personal Instagram. But then acted like the individual had explicitly connected it to their work?

          1. Also-ADHD*

            Yeah but the title wording makes it seem like they had bikini stuff on their work social, not work stuff on their personal social. Leading from their personal to their work seems different to me than the other way, like promoting your work among your social circle isn’t the same as bringing your social stuff to work.

          2. Yorick*

            They actually didn’t say that! They asked if that was ok but didn’t actually say they saw that there. They said they Googled the scientist and found this account which was mostly swimwear photos.

      6. ZugTheMegasaurus*

        I worked on an acquisition of a company that created that sort of software; it was incredibly impressive and also terrifying at the same time. Say they had a client that was a major manufacturer of pickup trucks. They could put a basic-looking ad for the trucks on Facebook, then could tell whether you had scrolled past the ad at all, whether you stopped on the ad (and for how long), whether you clicked on the ad, whether you web searched for more information about the truck, and even whether you went to the dealership for a test drive. And it could do this all *without you ever logging into any account at any time in that process.*

      7. AliceInSpreadsheetland*

        Your prof is a ‘venerated scientist’- which is very different from a young person in the beginning of their career. Aerial silks alongside cats and other photography is likely to be perceived differently too from an entire feed of just suggestive swimwear pics. When you have years of career history and influence to back up that you’re a professional and your work is solid it really doesn’t matter as much as it does for someone who isn’t established yet or who works in a very conservative industry- knitting, line dancing, blacksmithing, and makeup also aren’t in the same category as sexually suggestive photos. I’m happy to see any of my coworkers knit or dance, I want to see zero of them in a swimsuit, ever. (Granted we don’t know if the journalist described is early career or not, but still what works for someone with a strong reputation is not the same as for everyone)

        It’s absolutely not fair and it sucks for women in the professional world that anything possibly sexually suggestive will result in judgement, but the reality is that people- clients, coworkers, potential employers- are going to Google you, and what they see is going to affect their opinion of you as an employee and as a person. In a good or bad way, but it will have an effect- even if they really respect and value your work, they can’t just unsee something. I don’t think this means people can’t post whatever they want under the name they use for work, but just that they should be aware of who will be seeing it.

        (On the other hand, someone who follows you for your swimsuit pics now knows your full name and can easily find your place of employment and more. Like you said they can maybe find that anyway just from the amount of info we leave in our social media but it certainly makes it easier)

        1. Biscuits*

          We don’t know if the person is a scientist or a journalist/media personality. All LW said was that she writes articles for a newspaper.

    3. Ally McBeal*

      I think you’re a little off-base here. Instagram isn’t LinkedIn – it’s 1000000% fine to share your hobbies. I’d actually be irritated if one of my friends only posted career-related content on Instagram, and as a manager I’d be very concerned if my employee had no life outside of work (or felt they couldn’t share about their life outside of work on a personal social media account).

      And even LinkedIn is becoming a lot more personal – I’ve seen a few articles lately about how people are posting things like a cancer diagnosis, a personal milestone like hiking a volcano, etc.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        Yes, I agree that most social media (IE Not LinkedIn) it is fine to have posts that show all/most aspects of your life.

        My personal example: I’m a librarian by profession and a quilter by hobby. I’m not “in the industry” in quilting in that I don’t make any money from it, but I am brand ambassador for a fabric company and post a lot of my quilts on social media. Last month I was a state-wide library conference and there were *multiple* of my professional contacts who told me how much they enjoyed seeing my quilts online. No harm done to me professionally by mixing both in social media, and I actually think it helps for people to have something outside the professional to comment on.

      2. doreen*

        I don’t think the question is about sharing your hobbies on Instagram or other personal social media – it’s really about the opposite , having work info on your Instagram or other personal social media so that someone finds your personal Instagram with the swimsuit photos when they were looking for the information associated with your work hashtag.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          Well, I work in media and it’s very, very common for journalists to use their personal Instagrams for both work and personal content. So maybe I’m just biased.

          1. Bee*

            Yeah, posting your journalism on Instagram is less about making professional connections and more about sharing your work accomplishments with your friends and family. Posting bikini photos on your professional account is inadvisable, but in fields like media, posting work stuff on your personal account is very normal. It’s a part of your life! Often the people who care about you want to read it!

      3. Huh?*

        I don’t talk about my hobbies on LinkedIn, and all my other social media is either completely locked or totally pseudonymous. I don’t think my employer has a right to know about my hobbies – no matter how anodyne they might be. Why should my managers be entitled to know about these things via my social media? I don’t mind sharing things off-hand in meetings or in small-talk where appropriate, like that I did some baking over the weekend and tried a challenging new pastry recipe. But I’m a little confused at the idea that some employers might think they have a right to know about my life outside work.

      1. Eliot Waugh*

        Same. It seemed like someone just wanting to be angry that women exist and wear bikinis sometimes.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Please give the LW some benefit of the doubt — she’s asking because the account is nearly entirely suggestive, barely dressed poses with the work stuff listed right up top. Whether you should link sexually suggestive stuff to your work persona is a valid question.

          1. l*

            I think if it had been the owner of the Instagram account who had written in asking if they should remove the work links from their profile, there wouldn’t be this kind of reaction in the comments section. But I think the reason there’s been so much pushback is that the question comes across as very disingenuous. It reads as if the LW is asking, “Will you give me permission to be judgmental about this person’s behaviour?”

            Because it’s hard to imagine that anyone would write the question “Is it a good idea for a young person to include their work hashtags and work profile links in their Instagram account, if this account is entirely photos of them in suggestive swimwear shots?” and expect an advice columnist to respond, “Yes, it’s a fantastic idea. It’s a great way to get ahead at work.”

          2. Biscuits*

            It’s a valid question but it’s also very context and industry dependent. A friend of mine is a respected award winning lighting designer and his Insta is literally straight up gay p*rn. No one in this industry would raise an eyebrow at that.

            Other industries like education or banking would be different.

            1. allathian*

              It’s also very cultural, I suspect that many countries in Europe are a lot more willing to acknowledge that people’s hobbies generally have no bearing on their ability to do their job or their professionalism. I work for a staid government agency in Finland, and I heard from the horse’s mouth that a former event manager in my department got the job at least partly because they mentioned running LARP events with up to 100 players as a hobby.

              A work friend is a burlesque dancer. Granted, their burlesque social media is under their artistic pseudonym, but they’ve mentioned their hobby at work before and AFAIK it hasn’t affected their professional reputation.

              Similarly, a teacher wouldn’t be fired for posting pictures of themselves holding a drink on their personal social media, although most teachers do lock down theirs and have a policy of never friending parents whose kids they teach or who are students in their schools as a matter of course.

      2. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

        that’s really how it seems to me, I’m a bit surprised that very few people are reading it that way.

    4. OP #3*

      I do think it’s interesting everyone assumes it’s a her. I was pretty careful to not gender this person.

      1. Not my coffee*

        Women’s bodies are often policed. The commentariat here skews female. In combination, it not surprising people are assuming female.

        The commentariat assuming this worker is female doesn’t really change the concepts being addressed.

      2. l*

        I don’t think it’s that interesting. The assumption makes total sense to me. I’ve only ever seen this issue raised about the way a woman — or, on much rarer occasions, an NB person or a queer man.

        But if this is about a straight man in a Speedo that would honestly be a refreshing change of pace.

      3. len*

        Yeah the assumption is because people don’t do this kind of condescending concern trolling about young men’s bodies.

      4. MC*

        We can read and are aware of the imbalances between how men and women’s bodies are treated, hope that helps.

      5. allathian*

        I think it would be even more interesting if you told us this person is a man, or at least male-passing.

  3. Biscuits*

    3. I’m curious if this person is a scientist whose work was profiled in a newspaper, or a media columnist/journalist who happened to write a piece about science.

    Only because I work in entertainment/media and there’s a lot of pressure on young women in the media to develop social media fanbases and develop their personal brand basically as celebrities. I write a regular column for a newspaper (though that’s not my main career) and I’m very much expected to do “glamorous” media photo shoots and press interviews to promote myself as a columnist, as are some of my journalist friends.

    Of course if the author of the newspaper article is a scientist that’s a different matter! Though I do think it’s much more common and more acceptable now than it used to be.

    1. NoNameToday*

      Good perspective! I‘d also say if she is a scientist she might have an agenda with the bikini shots. Like you can be showing to girls who are interested in STEM subjects that you can be frivolous and still extremely smart? Or she can not have an agenda and enjoy sexy pictures but still be a really good researcher? I obviously haven’t seen the pictures but I work for a university and think I might find it not bad if we had a mathematician who published in well-ranked journals and also has loads of followers on her bikini instagram:)

      1. birch*

        Yeah from a researcher perspective, it matters what field you’re in (and to some extent what culture you’re from). Education? Absolutely not, and you should probably take the swimwear pics down even from a private account. Theoretical physics? Depends on how much power you have in your professional networks–if you’re early career, it will probably hurt you, but if you have a tenure track position it could help change the culture from the inside. In my field most of us are pretty quirky and tech-savvy and wouldn’t think twice about it. I have colleagues who do and share all sorts of things that wouldn’t be considered “work-appropriate” in other fields.

        1. ClaireW*

          I think this is a really good point – there’s an astrophysicist I follow who has a big Instragram following and has once or twice posted a bikini pic, but she’s also incredibly popular, has a book out, does loads of science outreach, etc so she’s not in a position where her career is going to be hit because people know she went to the beach on her bachelorette weekend. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a new grad trying to get a first role in a buttoned-up industry post the same photo on a public profile.

        2. happybat*

          Ooof – I wonder if this is culturally specific. I wouldn’t imagine that being an education researcher (or instructor) who puts their swimming photos online would cause any ructions at all in my institution.

            1. Random Dice*

              Much more so for women. Men who have shirtless muscle poses are still thirst traps, but sexism makes it much less of an issue.

      2. MsM*

        I also have questions as to whether the LW’s definition of “suggestive” is “this person is wearing a swimsuit and I have weird feelings about that.”

      3. Nonanon*

        This; back when I worked in a lab, my Instagram would have photos of drinks/fashion/makeup back to back with lab equipment and the like (no bikini pics, but that’s more personal taste than anything). My personal (albeit public) Instagram has pictures of my acrylic nails next to me posing with a poster I was presenting… is this “inappropriate” or one of those “things that shouldn’t matter but Great Cosmic Koala forbid a woman in a serious field is frivolous”?

        Also… how are we qualifying the bikini? Yes, there are “fashion” bikinis that show more skin, but there are also more “conservative” bikinis that are, y’know, acceptable at most family beaches. Is the user “posing” poolside? At a water park? Vibing on a balcony while it snows outside Kardashian style? Would the LW have the same issues if it were a male-presenting researcher in swim trunks at the pool? Take LWs at their word and if they say its sexualized and inappropriate, sure, but there’s a lot more that goes into this than just “person posted a bikini picture on the same account as their professional accomplishment”

    2. MsSolo (UK)*

      My main thought is the LW googled her. Google gave the LW the individual’s personal instagram, but she may in fact have a work account that’s completely separate. A lot of scientists I follow have two accounts, one under their name (because instagram defaults to that when you sign up, especially if you have a facebook already) that they’ve had since before college, and another called something like DaveTheVulcanologist or SharkSarah which they use professionally, and would usually link to articles or share at conferences (it’s notable to me the original article was in a newspaper, so less likely to contain social media handles than an online article might). Google has predicted which account LW wants to see based on their previous search history and other links – maybe they have a friend of a friend link to the personal instagram, or bought from the same online store, or the personal account is more popular due to being around longer, or whatever google is algorithmically obsessed with currently – and served up the personal account.

      (of course, if you’re a marine biologist, a certain amount of swimwear shots are pretty standard! Making research look fun and sexy is pretty standard in science promoting accounts)

    3. singularity*

      #3: It’s really going to depend on the person in question’s field. Sometimes that’s no big deal, but other times it’s considered inappropriate (whether you think that’s unfair or not is an entirely different area). I don’t post pictures of myself in anything revealing on social media, and my accounts are private, but that’s because I’m a high school teacher and I know my students will attempt to look for me on social media. I’ve had colleagues get into hot water because of things they posted to social media that students found and made memes out of.

      It’s a weird world out there. A teacher friend of mine got into trouble because one of her students saw her at a public pool with her child and she was wearing a bikini. He took a photo of her at the pool and sent it to his friends. Was she in a public place, doing something innocent? Yes. Did that seem to matter to parents who were upset and somehow blamed her for existing in public in a bathing suit? No.

  4. Turanga Leela*

    Public defender here: LW #1, I would not stress about your clothes. The more common complaint about PDs is that we look rumpled or cheap, unlike “real lawyers” in the private bar. Many of your clients will be happy to have a lawyer who looks polished. Others won’t notice. A few might be resentful, but you’ll get that regardless; some clients are going to (probably correctly) note a cultural, educational, or socioeconomic divide between you and them, and they may discount your advice accordingly. Wearing less expensive clothes won’t always bridge that gap.

    I wouldn’t even stress about the Louboutins. People will think they’re knockoffs, you’re fancy, or you’re a bargain-hunter. None of these is bad. Clients might ask about them, and you can answer honestly–you used to be at a fancy firm.

    Your colleagues might care (mine wouldn’t), but presumably they know your professional background. You should wear the clothes that you like and feel comfortable in.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      One more thought on this: Your clothes could have an impact on other people in court. Some judges have weird biases. (I practiced in front of one who asked me, out of the blue, if I came from money.) I can’t tell from your description of your work whether you have jury trials, but there are all sorts of theories about what lawyers should or shouldn’t wear to impress juries. I subscribe to basically none of these theories; everyone has a different courtroom style, and while you might get a juror who thinks, “I’m not listening to that out-of-touch big-city lawyer in the Louboutins,” you could just as easily get a juror who thinks, “I like that sophisticated lawyer, and she seems to know what she’s talking about.”

      If you have a mentor in the office or a colleague you’re close to, you could ask if judges/juries in your area respond badly to expensive clothes. But even this is probably not necessary.

      1. Dorothy Zbornak*

        I was an alternate on a jury earlier in the year and I can’t recall what the PD was wearing but I do remember she was ON IT and so good and made the ADA look like a clown.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Oh, I have one more for you – last year, a close family member was going through a mental health crisis, and ended up in a county jail and then on two trials six months apart (one was a competency hearing that had him sent to a state hospital, the second was after he returned from the hospital and was for his original charge). He got a PD for his first. We wanted to get him the best available lawyer for his second. Another family member called someone he’d found online and the person, after looking up the case, said to him “you don’t need to hire me, you already have the best defender we’ve got in the county” (the PD). Family member then called the PD offering to hire him. The PD said, “are you thinking that I’ll do a worse job defending your loved one pro bono than I would if you paid me? Because that’s incorrect.” and went on to be our family member’s PD for the second trial, and to do an amazing job. I honestly could not tell you what he wore for either trial. I am assuming it was a suit and maybe a tie? I would’ve been in awe of his work and professionalism even if he’d worn a sparkly one-piece suit covered in glitter.

            1. rollyex*

              “are you thinking that I’ll do a worse job defending your loved one pro bono than I would if you paid me? Because that’s incorrect.”

              This is off-topic, but it actually is correct in a lot of places due to workload. Not the quality of PDs are attorneys, but their inability to spend enough time on each case. This is an important issue in a lot of the US.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Fair point, though I am sure he only meant himself, with the same load he’d have otherwise, working for us on a retainer vs as PD.

        1. Elsewise*

          I remember my one time serving on a jury, the PD was absolutely fantastic, and the prosecutor seemed like a total dunce! (The jury did still rule guilty, but that had more to do with the facts than the lawyers.) From what I remember, the PD’s suit did seem a little nicer than the other guy’s, but it didn’t stand out at all. But both of them were men, so of course your mileage may vary.

      2. kalli*

        That’s going to be specific to individual juries, and most people will be awake enough to make appropriate judgments after voir dire. This is about clients, who are specifically allocated a public defender as a default because they can’t pay or secure aid to get a private criminal lawyer, from which it follows that LW is likely working for a lot of people in places of lower socioeconomic standing who don’t typically have multiple outfits that meet court dress code, let alone specifically purchased pieces from brand name designer labels.

        They just also tend to either not care about that kind of fashion or are far too stressed and scared for that to be more important than having a lawyer who listens to them.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Yes, I don’t care about that kind of fashion. I wouldn’t know most designer clothes unless there was a logo, except for the Louboutins.
          If I did know someone was wearing all designer clothes, I’d think they were rich and wasting their money.
          So OP, I would keep it subtle. If it ever comes up, telling them you got the clothes secondhand would be good.

      3. KM*

        I second all of this. My husband is a PD (admittedly in a jurisdiction where PDs are well paid) and there would be no issue in his office with what you describe in your letter, including the Louboutins. He’s been with the office for almost 15 years and I’ve gotten to know a number of his colleagues socially and it’s not uncommon to see them wearing designer items in professional settings. Like Turanga Leela noted, this may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction (we are in a large urban area) so I think this would be a solidly know your audience situation :-).

      4. Itsa Me, Mario*

        I’ve been on two juries (one criminal trial, one civil), and in both cases the way the attorneys dressed sent subtle messages that the jurors 100% picked up on. And in absolutely zero of those situations did anyone appear to think “this sloppily dressed rumpled person in the ill-fitting cheap suit seems more trustworthy; I should side with their client.”

      5. Chili Heeler*

        I can add the perspective from having worked in drug/mental health courts. It’s a lot of arraignments and subsequent appearances before the case is dismissed if the person completes the program. If you’re going to contest the charges, you generally go to a different courtroom. Also, you’re basically always in front of the same judge or (if your jurisdiction is really supportive of the program) few judges so you’ll get to know one another. We definitely had ADAs and PDs who’d come from corporate law backgrounds and I guess they had clothing to match. Not being into fashion, I couldn’t tell and I’m sure our clients didn’t either.

    2. JSPA*

      One suggestion (though I am not a public defender) is to hold the more identifiable pieces in reserve, until you get a sense of which judges respond favorably to looking a bit extra-put-together. Then prep your client–” I’m going to pull out my fanciest clothes from my corporate for Judge Murfingle, as they generally seem more impressed by lawyers with that look.” (You don’t want your client looking more uncomfortable or dubious.)

    3. kalli*

      All this! You don’t need to dress down just because many of your clients are in some form of disadvantage, and that can come across as patronising if you try – besides, you’re meeting people in what may be the lowest/worst days of their life; many will be too stressed to care where you bought your court dress.

    4. John Smith*

      I’d say there’s a difference between “polished” and expensively dressed. Not a PD myself, but do work indirectly in the justice system and meet equivalents of PDs and the likes. What you wear definitely affects a person’s judgement, rightly or wrongly, and I’ve seen everything – mismatched socks, unironed clothes, inside out (and even reversed) garments, tailored clothing that just shouts “I’ve got lots of money” to the garish that says “look at me!”.

      Sometimes I have to meet people ‘under cover’ and wear casual clothes, and the difference in the way people treat me compared to when I’m in a shirt and tie is very much marked, but its the same in day to day life. If I go shopping while wearing my trackies, baseball cap and favourite Nike TNs (Google “scally gear”) you can guarantee I’m getting followed by security or sometimes questioned why I’m in the shop. I’ll get stopped and questioned by the police (how dare they, I’m white!) for no reason other than how I look. I never experience this when wearing more conventional clothes.
      I’d say smart and well presented – clothes that fit, are clean and ironed, matching with the rest of garments and not garish or ostentatious – is the way to go. You will want people to focus on you and your case, not your clothes.

    5. Llamalawyer*

      I disagree, for a different reason. In my area, offices like the public defender are constantly fighting for more funding and their attorneys are notoriously underpaid for what they do. Wearing such an ostentatious and recognizable item of high wealth sends a potentially harmful message to a) your coworkers who are struggling to make ends meet on the low salary and b) the powers that be in the political system that decide funding. Reserve them for wear in your personal life.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        That’s hard, because it can also send a strong message of “I love going to thrift stores and consignment shops and really searching for good deals.”

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          I think there is a big difference between consignment Louboutins and Naturalizer heels from Goodwill. There’s no way someone just “happened” to find a pair of nice Louboutins for $20 at their local Goodwill through persistent searching. I am sure the OP got a good deal on what they bought, considering the designer status, but even secondhand designer items are more expensive than a cheap equivalent from Payless.

          The point is not the numerical amount of money that is spent on clothing. The point is that designer clothing is MEANT to be a status symbol. By wearing it, you’re participating in the status game. It is like wearing an Eagles jersey because you support endangered animals. Sure, that might be true, but you can’t just ignore the fact that it’s intended to mean something else.

          Personally I think the OP should continue to wear the less flashy designer clothes as Alison advised. But, it’s disingenuous to pretend that it’s not making a statement.

          1. SchuylerSeestra*

            I have found luxury goods at thrift stores. Depending on your area it isn’t impossible.

            I’ve also received several high quality designer clothes from clothing swaps with friends and Buy Nothing Groups.

            When I was younger I would shop sample sales.

            I don’t even dress ostentatiously, or wear things with visible logos. I just like well made clothing.
            If you know where to look you can find excellent deals on designer stuffs

          2. RagingADHD*

            I literally found a very high-end designer handbag at Goodwill last week for $13. I wasn’t even looking that hard, just happened to see it hanging on the wall and recognized it.

            You underestimate how casually people who can readily afford those things give them away.

          3. Ahnon4Thisss*

            > The point is that designer clothing is MEANT to be a status symbol.

            Or, it’s a symbol that LW worked her butt off to be able to afford some nice clothes that she feels good in. This is such a weird framing to me, tbh. She’s not wearing her shoes AT people, she’s just wearing shoes that she likes for herself and quite honestly, I doubt most people are paying attention to her footwear.

            Also, you can totally find stuff like this in thrift stores, especially if you live in an area that has a lot of high earning people. I regularly go to a thrift store in wealthier city and you can always find at least a couple high end items.

          4. Itsa Me, Mario*

            There are enough knock-off Louboutins out there (and any other fully mainstream recognizable designer item) that this almost certainly isn’t a big deal.

            Some flashy items might give LW a reputation as a flashy dresser, but I don’t think anyone remotely intelligent would assume she is secretly mega-wealthy or something. Especially since, presumaby, LW knows her colleagues and is able to share context around who she is and her past career. I work in a legal field and know a number of folks who came from white shoe law firms and have the designer suits to show for it. It’s in no way unusual.

          5. (Health, Safety) Environmental Compliance*

            There is a thrift store in my city that consistently has extremely high end clothing, shoes, bags, etc. Prices are incredibly low – shirts are $5-7. I’ve picked up a lot of very nice work clothes from there. Most recent was a $250 nice canvas jacket for $8.

            If it isn’t a really flashy item, it’s not going to be noticed in all likelihood other than she looks nice and put together.

        2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          Or you have rich relatives? my mom always buys designer on super sale and gives it to me. I only wear it on special occasions, but if I was in court ( we do virtual now) I might use the special items

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Ohhh I got the 3rd degree once in my second year in the US, when I came into work on my birthday wearing a pair of Saks 5th heels and my officemate just lost her entire mind. I did not want to tell her where I’d gotten the shoes from, but she just would not drop it. Saying things like “you can’t afford these so where did you get them? Come on, you can say Kmart, I won’t judge you” meanwhile I only bought new clothes at Kmart on very rare and special occasions. The shoes came from my parents. A coworker of theirs had a wife who cleaned houses for a living, and one of her clients was incredibly wealthy, had the same shoe size as I did, and loved giving her things away after only wearing them a handful of times. I was embarrassed to say it. Realized a few years later that my officemate had assumed the shoes to be a gift from our boss as a thanks for, er, special favors she’d thought I was giving him. (I wasn’t.)

            I’d assume something innocuous like thrift stores or estate sales (or, like Happy meal said, a career change in law) before I jump to the worst conclusions.

      2. Happy meal with extra happy*

        (For my perspective, I’m a lawyer but in civil law.) Would one PD’s clothes really affect funding? I find that to be an extreme concern. Also, while there will always be resentful coworkers, I think it’s relatively common for lawyers’ careers to take varied paths that it’s not unusual for someone to go from a high-paying job to a lower one.

        1. Seashell*

          I would hope one person’s clothes wouldn’t change anyone’s mind. They could have had a giant inheritance for all anyone knows.

        2. Shandra*

          Yes. Many lawyers who start out in BigLaw firms, later move on to corporate legal depts/government agencies/non-profit organizations. Less money, but better work-life balance after they’ve paid off their law school loans.

        3. Not my coffee*

          As a government worker, I’ve observed that many people outside of government work expect government workers to “perform” the appropriate level of poverty.

          Basically, you can have nice things but not “too nice.” The problem is “too nice” is subjective and no one likes to hear their definition is wrong.

          1. GerminatingPollinating*

            Yep. As a relatively high GS employee, I still wouldn’t feel comfortable toting Hermes Birkins/Chanels into the office. I’ve seen very senior leaders with LV Neverfull and Goyard St Louis but they’re literally like the directors of the agencies. As a fashion lover, I still try to steer away from logos and well known luxury designs at work (think Cartier Love Bracelet). I however do think that high quality pieces like a Max Mara coat or an Armani suit would be acceptable given that they give off high quality rather than luxury.

        4. Observer*

          Would one PD’s clothes really affect funding? I find that to be an extreme concern

          If people were reasonable, you would be right. But people are often not reasonable.

          I recall a letter some time ago from someone who wanted to tell a staff person to stop wearing expensive clothes because some of the other staff were jealous and claimed that it’s a “bad look” for the organization. A few people in the comments agreed. In fact one person explicitly said that they give a fair amount of money and if they ever saw an employee of an organizaiton they give money to wearing clearly expensive clothes, the would assume that the place over-pays their staff and they would reconsider giving money.

          That kind of thinking is shockingly common.

          1. rollyex*

            Those people are looking for excuses not to give/support to to drag more fortunate people. I’m pretty sure they’ll find one no matter what. They just like to hang the threats out there to get attention and justify their penuriousness.

            If a large numbers of an organization are rolling around in luxury clothes that raises a question. If a small amount are, nah – they’re just looking for excuses to cut/critique/whine.

        5. RoseofFrance*

          I work for a PD that’s fighting tooth and nail for anything approaching decent funding and I can tell you that judges and administrators will use literally any reason, no matter how petty or stupid, to deny us the money we need and deserve. I can think of at least three judges right off the bat who would take one look at a PD in Louboutins and say, “Pshh, ABC Defenders doesn’t need any more money! Their attorneys wear designer shoes!” and the legislators would listen to them. It’s infuriating.

      3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        PDs are going to be underfunded even if everyone is wearing burlap bags. Nobody is checking PD offices before budget talks.

        Clients are weird sometimes. Some of them want their lawyers to look like their image of a lawyer. Some of them want lawyers to dress down to be more relatable. You just never what you are going to get. I don’t meet clients wearing a suit. Because that is my personal style. I’ve had ONE client in over 13 years of doing this not hire me because of how I was dressed. I do wear a suit to court.

        But for court, well fitting, covers everything appropriately and is not to unusual is more important than how much it cost. And with designer its a lot easier to look court appropriate so the judge or jury concentrates on what you are doing rather than be distracted by your clothes.

        Short answer: Wear the clothes. They are in your closet and you already spent the money.

        1. rollyex*

          “PDs are going to be underfunded even if everyone is wearing burlap bags. Nobody is checking PD offices before budget talks.”


      4. Observer*

        recognizable item of high wealth sends a potentially harmful message to a) your coworkers who are struggling to make ends meet on the low salary

        Those coworkers are supposedly competent adults who know about things like career changes, thrifting, etc. And even if the LW had a wealthy spouse or a trust fund, so what? What “message” is being sent here? If the LW is hard working and respectful of all, then seriously who cares. I work in social services, another field with notorious underpayment. I would never have occur ed to me to think in those terms about the people we work with.

      5. Ahnon4Thisss*

        I disagree. I don’t think anyone would look at PDs and say “they make too much money, we must defund them now!” without there being another excuse for the defunding – it would be a cover up excuse. There are too many factors at play like thrifting, gifts, etc.

        And to be a little harsh, people are allowed to have feelings about their low salaries, but it is not fair, nor reasonable, to tell someone that they can’t wear regular, work appropriate attire that makes them happy so that they don’t offend others due to the price tag.

    6. lovehater*

      Lawyer here but not a public defender (or even court room attendee). My first thought was that the clothes send the message that you are a “legitimate” lawyer who they want representing them.

    7. Smithy*

      Not in the legal field – but nonprofits as a fundraiser. One meeting I had in our office – and as it happened in a particularly sad looking conference room at that – was with a large luxury goods conglomerate. So while it entirely made sense that they were wearing the luxury goods of those brands, and the rest of us weren’t – it was so strange in the setting my #1 take away from that meeting always was “I’ve never seen so much Brand X in the wild”.

      But then there were other times, such as the nonprofit’s gala fundraiser, where I’m sure people were wearing as much clothing from luxury houses – if not that brand. But it wasn’t as distinctly noticeable.

      OP, at this moment, if it feels like the labels are wearing you – then it’s reasonable to put them in the closet for a season or two until you have a stronger sense on how you want to dress in those moments. Because highly identifiable clothing at any price point – think Target designer collabs, Telfar bags, or Louboutins – if it feels weird to be called out for them, then it’s fair to give them in a pause in those moments until it feels better.

    8. Joielle*

      Yeah, I’m not a PD anymore but I worked in a PD’s office when I was in law school and I really don’t think “overdressed” is a problem. Clients know you have more money than them – what you need to demonstrate is that you are indeed a “real lawyer” and part of that is dressing the part. Most clients will consider it a good thing that you come from a big firm.

      The only potential issue I could see with the Louboutins is that they’re eye-catching and sexy. After a couple of uncomfortable experiences in the jail I started dressing very conservatively and not wearing anything that could invite sexual comments. But perhaps the OP’s clients are more respectful than a few of mine were, or the OP is better at handling it than I was.

      And so much respect to you and all the PDs in this comment section! The best lawyers I know are PDs – they care about their work, they’ve seen it all, and they’re in court all the time so they know the ins and outs of the system. Whenever someone asks me to recommend a lawyer for a criminal matter, my advice is to find someone who’s a part time PD and takes private clients on the side.

    9. Velawciraptor*

      Another PD here seconding this. Your clothes are fine, so don’t sweat it. And honestly, they could serve as a bit of an armor against the “public pretender”/”should I get a lawyer”/”what would a real lawyer tell me” nonsense we all get.

      Showing up to court both looking better than and being more prepared than the State? They won’t know what hit them. Go forth and kick some ass.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Yeah, it feels like the PDs here are saying to just wear her clothes, and it’s non-PDs who are expressing reservations.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          Following up on this because it’s bothering me a little: I feel like non-PDs are assuming that we should strive to be “relatable” in a particular way, and that’s just not how it works most of the time. I respect my clients, their humanity is equal to mine, and we are not on a equal playing field. I’m their guide, advocate, and expert on the law and the process; I am literally supposed to speak for them while they remain silent.

          Lawyers are effective when they are authentic. My clients find me relatable because I take the time to explain things, I’m friendly, I return their calls, and I do good work. It has nothing to do with thinking we’re the same or that I share their struggles.

          To be clear, there are lawyers who will bond with their clients over a shared background (and that’s different for each client, because clients’ backgrounds vary). That can be part of a professional persona. But “well-dressed, stylish lawyer who’s on top of her stuff” can also be an effective professional persona, and if that’s a comfortable fit for OP, she can lean into it.

          1. Velawciraptor*

            You’re not wrong. There seems to be a higher than usual rate of “I know nothing about this job but let me provide advice based on my assumptions” than usual in response to this one.

            And the thing about authenticity is so important. It’s something I emphasize with law students and baby lawyers all the time: I do it this way because it’s what makes sense for me. You’ll have your own approach and your own voice. As long as you’re getting the job done, following the style (writing style/speaking style/fashion style/etc) that works best for you can only make you a better help to your client in the long run.

            I wouldn’t be any more comfortable in OP’s Louboutins than she likely would be in my trial combat boots. Doesn’t make either of us wrong; just makes us different people. As long as we’re comfortable enough in our own skin (or shoes) to convey the confidence we need to clients, to judges, to juries, we’re good.

    10. Butterfly Counter*

      IANAL, but I’ve done some research in CRJ and the ways in which lawyers and perceived (though not by their clothing).

      I know a PD’s day can be varied, moving from meetings to court and back again at times. I think you should dress for the most important meeting of the day. If you have a trial with a jury, wear your nicer conservative clothing. Meeting in front of judges with other lawyers: one step down, but still some of your nicer clothing. Client meetings all day: your more budget-friendly clothing. And maybe there are ways to mix-and-match that will signal dressing up and dressing down as you move through your day?

      I’ve been in court a few times and was honestly surprised at how casual a lot of the clothing was, even by the prosecutors. I’m not a person who could recognize labels, even when some of them are obviously branded, and I don’t have a single “nice” piece of clothing. However, I was wearing business casual (blazer, dress pants, shell top) and was often the most dressed-up person in court that day.

    11. Whyamihere*

      That was my thought as someone outside the law. If I needed a public defender I would want them to look put together and almost expensive. It would give me confidence that I am a priority and to the jury like my attorney is good at their job.

    12. Hats Are Great*

      I used to regularly carry a gucci purse (when I wore suits to work) and people frequently commented on it, to which I always replied, “My sister got it at a sample sale for TWELVE DOLLARS because the zipper pull was broken!” (Cost me $8 to have the pull replaced with a generic pull.)

      Which basically always kicked off a conversation about people’s best bargains ever. I used to worry that it would be distancing or look out of place, but it turned out to be actually my best tactic for building rapport. Everybody loves bragging about insane bargains they scored.

    13. No Yelling on the Bus*

      I don’t entirely agree with this advice. I recently spent 6+ months traveling around the country (USA) and realized that there are things about my lifestyle that register as “status symbols” without me even knowing it. (Clean clothes can be a status symbol, good teeth, the pets you have, the food you eat). It can be really uncomfortable to have people call you out on that, and it absolutely does affect how they perceive you and interact with you. I WISH that what Turanga said was the case in all instances, but people just aren’t that emotionally intelligent all the time. It will breed suspicion or resentment at times, and at other times just an unspoken “Not One Of Us” that can be either positive or negative. Personally, I think the LW is right to consider how this would affect her client relationships and I wouldn’t be so quick to brush it off.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Turanga Leela is an actual PD and knows the field. Other PDs are agreeing with them. I think it’s best to defer to people who are in the field.

      2. Chili Heeler*

        This is a very odd take. The LW is talking about designer clothes and you’re talking about …clean clothes. All PDs should be wearing clean clothes. This is an attorney-client relationship, not hoping for some new besties. I worked in drug court and got drilled by clients on if I went to a “good” law school, had experience, etc. Not that they could shop around for someone else but it was still a frequent conversation. They didn’t want someone who was like them to represent them because they know the system is stacked against someone who is like them.

    14. PD Lifer*

      10 year public defender here chiming in to agree with the other actual PDs – wear the clothes! Our job is hard enough without worrying about what you’re wearing (besides being appropriately professional). The vast majority of clients will not notice, will not care, or will see it as a positive. I worked with a PD who wore a lot of designer clothing and it was really a non-issue.

  5. Sue*

    #1 I think you do your clients a favor by being well and professionally dressed. We live in a society that can make snap decisions based on appearance and lawyers who look casual or poorly dressed have an uphill climb in establishing credibility with the Court and opposing counsel.
    I don’t mean that lavish clothes are better, I would argue no. But well fitting very professional clothes are an asset and the vast majority of clients want their attorney to look professional. They aren’t generally measuring themselves against their attorney, they are measuring their attorney against opposing counsel and all of the other professionals in the courtroom. Don’t wear evening appropriate wear to Court but do dress as nicely as you are able.

  6. Plastic Ball*

    For #1, I feel like I would want to be represented by a lawyer who has expensive clothes. Even if they’re a public defender, it implies that I’m important enough to have a fancy, upscale lawyer. I wouldn’t feel like I’m competition with the lawyer apparel-wise, or jealous of their clothes. They’re on MY side, their amazing clothes reflect well on me.

    1. Butterfly Counter*

      Also, perceptions by juries can be more favorable of private defense lawyers. It’s not as if they’re told by anyone that the defendant’s lawyers is a public defender.

    2. Adds*

      I agree with you, although maybe not necessarily “expensive clothes” so much as clothes that make you feel like you are being well-represented. If the Venn diagrams of those things overlap for your lawyer, cool. But yes, clothes are important.

      My (family law) lawyer wears ties with skulls and crossbones on them, and matching dress socks, to court. The pattern is very subtle and you have to be up close to know that’s what the pattern is. I know it’s skull and crossbones and it absolutely makes my day. It is a huge confidence boost to me, I don’t really know why, but it is. I walk into court with him knowing (believing?) that my lawyer is confident and completely unaffected by my ex-husband and, in turn, I feel like I don’t have to be scared of my ex because my lawyer has my back and will make sure that I’m ok.

      1. rollyex*

        “skull and crossbones ”

        As a group I generally hate those guys. I’m sure some are nice, but collectively ugggh. And I “went to school in Connecticut” for a degree after college “just outside Boston” BTW.

        But for sure, they’re likely good at attorneying.

  7. Another PD*

    1. I’m a long time public defender in a jurisdiction that pays well. I wear the occasional designer piece (including plain black loubies), but I steer clear of most obvious labels. It’s my goal to always look put together and professional, wherever my clothes came from. I think if you appear to be anything less than well-dressed, you risk being (further) judged by the stereotype that public defenders are somehow “less than” retained attorneys. I am also a big proponent of sustainable shopping and I would prefer to have higher quality items that last a long time, especially since I’m stuck in business formal attire nearly daily.

    Honestly, some of my clients are decked out in labels. It’s complicated.

    That said, our drug and dependency courts are noticeably less formal than the trial courts and I’d probably dial it back a little in those settings.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I”m actively in a treatment court right now, wearing Levis corduroy pants and a sweater. Would not try a case in this outfit, but it works just fine for what I’m doing right now.

    2. badger*

      Your comment about some clients being decked out in labels is spot-on. I’m not a public defender but I am a public interest/legal aid attorney, and I have also been on public benefits myself at various points. People make a LOT of assumptions about the “type of person” who is on public benefits or who is poor enough to qualify for a public defender, but there are plenty of people out there who had nice jobs and decent money, and then lost their jobs and now qualify for Medicaid. And folks whose relatives buy them nice things.

      Poor people are allowed to have nice things and likewise, people working with them do not have an obligation to dress to match the societal expectation of what poor people should and should not be allowed to have.

      And, one other note: there are states in which PDs are automatically assigned for certain types of cases without a determination of indigency, so the clients in those ones may have significant assets (our cases that do this allow the PD’s office to seek reimbursement for some or all of the costs if the person would not otherwise qualify for a PD).

  8. Stu*

    I think #3 is a little different than the title represents. By my read here, it’s not that the work links to the Instagram account where they have swimsuit photos, it’s that the Instagram account with swimsuit photos links back to their professional account. OP#3 didn’t find the Instagram account by doing anything other than Googling the person. And I do not think that a person should have to hide who they are and their public swimsuit photos of themselves from being discovered by their name.

    In this case, with the link going from less formal personal account to a work account, I think that’s less objectionable. I don’t think it’s inappropriate to go in that direction, especially since both the work and the instagram are all under the person’s real name in the first place.

    1. Shakti*

      I agree with you here! If it was a company account that would be wildly unprofessional, but if it’s a personal account and she shares her life and work that’s not unprofessional that’s just her being a human on social media? It seems very normal to me

    2. Plastic Ball*

      The letter says the Instagram was almost all suggestive swimsuit shots though. That does seem different than an account that has an occasional racy shot, or bathing suit pics that aren’t overly suggestive.

      1. Birch*

        yeah, but the point is that people will be looking at the personal account and find boring LinkedIn links, rather than expecting work related information and getting surprised by swimsuit pics, which is significantly worse.

    3. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, I agree with this. If it was a direct link from their LinkedIn, and they weren’t in an image-, fashion- or design-focussed sector, I’d think that was weird. But LW googled their name: it sounds like they just have a Instagram account in their real name. At some point, we have to accept that people have private lives! Work doesn’t *own* my real name, and the idea that anything that appears online with my real name has to be “professional” definitely feels like the kind of expectation that’s going to create an unequal burden for marginalised groups. If you don’t want to see it, close the tab and pretend you didn’t!

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yes! You googled her! You found her personal Insta! It was not an account of 98% super serious work links and then SURPRISE 2% personal photos! It was a totally normal personal account. LW needs to dial it down and accept that people have lives.

    4. Catwhisperer*

      +1, it doesn’t sound like there was anything work related on the IG account at all, the LW just Googled their name and found their personal IG. Not everything related to someone’s name on the internet is going to be work related and I think it’s a bit out of touch to assume so. Otherwise we’d all have to go by two different names to keep our personal and professional lives totally separate.

      1. kiki*

        I think in the bio, the person mentioned their job/ where they worked/ and other work things. So when LW googled, the Instagram preview probably looked like this:

        Samantha Jones
        Scientist at University Research Lab

        And then LW clicked on the Instagram page and the content was all bikini pics.

        I don’t think that’s terrible or something to be horrified about, but I can see how it could be jarring/ surprising. Especially if you looked it up and work or something.

        I tend to separate my work persona from my personal persona completely, so I wouldn’t personally link to my work stuff on a personal page. But it’s pretty common for people’s personal accounts to mention their occupation.

        1. Catwhisperer*

          The LW commented below, they Googled the person’s name and found their IG. From the comment it doesn’t look like there was any professional info on their IG profile at all.

    5. K8T*

      Agreed, response and letter very prudish. No shame in linking to your linked in from your socials if you’re comfortable with being associated with that – and clearly she is.

  9. Annie*

    #5 Perhaps the word you’re looking for is “miscellaneous”.

    Maybe someone else can come up with a word that covers awards, volunteer work, and special skills programs that isn’t simply a more formal synonym of “other stuff”?

    1. coffee*

      I’ve been trying to think of a word beginning with E to keep the theme going, so I looked for words that mean Achievements but start with E, and got the result… Executions.

      I see where the thesaurus is coming from but the threatening vibe it gives a resume is probably not what the LW was going for, lol.

    2. Emilia Bedelia*

      I use “Community Involvement” for my volunteering and leadership activities :)
      If the awards are from a professional or outside organization, I think that would count.
      If the awards are from work I just put them under the relevant work experience.

    3. Hats Are Great*

      “Community Engagement” or “Community” has been my miscellaneous heading most recently, since I leveraged my volunteer experience with some high-profile projects in my city to move into a new career.

    4. Another Michael*

      Just went to check my resume – I use “Involvement and Volunteerism” for this type of stuff. Could also see something like “Community Involvement” or even “Leadership and Involvement” working.

    5. Distractable Golem*

      I have variously used
      “Service to the Field”
      “Professional Development”
      “Community Leadership”

    1. CRM*

      Oooh, I love Professional Service! I think that match’s the vibe of OP’s additional achievements, especially the job-adjacent volunteer work.

    2. glouby*

      “Service to the Profession” or just plain “Service” is a pretty standard heading in my work universe.

  10. Brain the Brian*

    No real advice for LW2, but solidarity nonetheless. Among many, many other egregious-but-understandable-given-where-we-work (read: not entirely in the U.S.) incidents at my employer was the time one of our senior directors said, verbatim, “No LGBT inclusion here — we don’t do that at Company.” I’m one of a very few openly queer folks at my employer. I got off that call and cried.

    I hope you find a solid way to get out of that training, LW2.

      1. Sorry I was double muted*

        Why? OP hasn’t clearly expressed their reasoning for not wanting to go. If after they they do and the boss says “too bad, you have to go” then they can weigh options. The flippant tone people automatically take here about ‘time to job hunt’, time to quit’ is not helpful.

          1. Polly Hedron*

            Yes, I was responding to Brain the Brian, and I was not being or automatic or flippant.
            Job hunting is not the same as quitting. Job hunting is seeing what’s out there. If I had a job where a senior director made such an outrageous comment, I’d cry, too, and then I’d start looking elsewhere to help inform my decision on whether to leave.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              I didn’t take your comment as automatic or flippant, for what it’s worth, Polly Hedron. :)

    1. Critical Rolls*

      For what it’s worth, Brian and OP, never doubt that this is cruel, messed-up behavior. No matter how normalized it is in your particular workplace/area, it’s not normal to target a minority for degradation and exclusion. It is/was wrong to target immigrants, people of color, women in the workplace — this is the same type of deeply inhumane and morally inexcusable behavior. Don’t let its pervasiveness convince you otherwise.

    2. Pita Chips*

      Oh ick, I’m so sorry Brain the Brian. That is horrid. It’s also a case for a hostile work environment if you wanted to go there.

      Best wishes that things get better for you.

    3. lilsheba*

      That is so awful! Personally I have reached an age where I am tired of LGTBQ people like myself and others are picked on and targeted and it’s considered ok. It is NOT ok and I won’t stand for it anymore. I wouldn’t go to that training and I would say why, it is NOT safe for my community and myself as a person. We need to put a stop to this bs.

  11. Viette*

    #4: I really support the advice to not contact her. It seems harsh to effectively walk out without saying goodbye, but if she’s on unpaid leave that was formerly FMLA, she probably isn’t currently thinking about your workplace at all. You are, because you’re there doing work tasks, but the amnestic properties of absence cannot be overestimated in this setting.

    Plus, there’s just no reason she needs to know right now. It will be an interruption of information with which she can do very little. Anyway, if you’re close, you can tell her after she comes back — *if* she comes back. If you’re not close, you’ll both have moved on by then.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I agree. Especially if she struggled to take the time off initially because of workload etc – hearing that the boss is leaving is likely to trigger a “they need me, I need to go back before I’m ready” sort of response. Your point that she can’t do much with that information is right, but also I would go further and say that would be part of the problem.

      I am generally in favour of sharing as much info as reasonably possible and being transparent, but I think this is an exception. I’m aware people will probably think this is overly “paternalistic” of me, and I do see their point even though I don’t agree in this case.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed. There can be a case made for reaching out to folks off on leave when someone in the dept is leaving for a new position. But this isn’t one of those cases. Think of this instance as the exception that proves the rule.


      The person who did once send the following email to a coworker on FMLA.

      “Hello Jane.
      Hope the recovery is going well. Can you tell us where the login information for the XYZ service is? Thanks.
      Where’s the Orchestra?”

    3. Beth*

      #4 – Perhaps leave behind a card/letter at her desk. If she returns (or just comes back to clean out her desk), she’ll get it then.

      1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        Also love this idea! Maybe include your personal email address or phone # so she can get in touch to say goodbyes if she wants to?

    4. LW4*

      LW4 here – some important context that I should’ve included:
      1. She has been very in touch with the office. She has friends in other departments and has been really open about her current situation with myself and others in the larger company, folks have been arranging meal trains and other support mechanisms for her.
      2. I am her direct supervisor. HR has told me she does need to give me at least 3 days notice before returning to work, so logistically that is my main concern, of her texting me that she’s coming back and me not being there.
      All that being said, I definitely agree until there’s movement there’s no point in letting her know – no one at my company knows I’m currently searching and I’d love to keep it that way until I have something in place. Logistically I feel conflicted – since she has friends that she is more in touch with than me (which is absolutely fine and how it should be – I’ve gotten periodic updates from her but have been really clear that she doesn’t need to provide them if she doesn’t want to) she likely would find out any way, but I worry about the harshness or coming across as if I’m hiding it if I just up and leave.

      1. kalli*

        Yeah, that’s crucial – if she’s meant to contact you to organise RTW you need to let her know alternate arrangements for that, which includes letting her know you won’t be there to organise that with her.

        That’s probably going to look something like

        ‘Hi Worker, I’m leaving Org on Date, so when you’re ready to start coming back to work you’ll need to contact HR Designated Alternative. I’ve loved working with you and would be happy to give a reference if you ever need one! LW4’

      2. HR Exec Popping In*

        Given this, I would send her a quick note (email to personal email or text) sharing the info, include instructions on who to contact once you have left and an apology for reaching out this way but that you wanted her to know. I agree leaving a more personal note/card on her desk or to her work email that share that you have appreciate working with her and wish her well.

      3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        If HR says she needs to gives her supervisor 3 days notice before returning, they can tell her who to notify in your place. I think you are stuck on give ME notice. What HR means is her supervisor, not specifically you.

        1. LW4*

          Oh I completely understand that if I leave, she won’t have to give me notice. My concern is that HR won’t notify her in a way that is actually going to get to her. When her leave status changed to unpaid, they said they would send an email to her work email, which I knew she understandably wasn’t checking, so I requested that I be able to reach out to her directly to give her that important heads up. I wouldn’t be surprised if they notified her the same way about a new supervisor, if they notified her at all. It’s a lot to get into, but there’s been a lot of issues with how HR has communicated things, and different expectations between HR and my employee.

          1. CRM*

            It does sound like HR is being overly conservative about communication with her, but I would still follow their lead. They may have a good reason for heavily restricting contact. For instance, if she is in recovery for mental health due to a work-related incident, ANY work-related contact could impede her recovery.

            Even in the situation you outlined above, HR may have instructed her to keep close track of her FMLA end date so that only a cursory update is needed once it ends. Also, you leaving the company doesn’t impact her life quite as much as not having a paycheck.

            The note is a very lovely idea! If she is regularly in contact with another coworker then you can have the coworker send along a note as well. Otherwise, please just follow HR’s lead.

            1. allathian*

              Her FMLA has run out for the year and she’s now on some other kind of unpaid leave, it says so in the letter.

      4. Slow Gin Lizz*

        If you end up leaving the company, I would (with HR’s blessing) definitely tell her before she gets back from her leave. I absolutely LOVE my direct supervisor and if she were to leave our org while I was out on FMLA and I came back to my job with her gone, I would be devastated. Someone at your company should tell her, even if HR says you shouldn’t talk to her yourself. Having your direct supervisor leave the company is a big deal. If the company “disappears” your supervisor, so to speak, that would make the blow a lot worse than if they just outright told you about it when it was happening. (And yes, I know that OP isn’t really being “disappeared,” but it sort of seems that way if you are the direct report it is happening to.)

    5. Grogu's Mom*

      Personally, I completely disagree. I would be PO’d if I returned to the office and nobody had told me (for potentially weeks, months, years?) that my direct boss had left. To me, my manager is one of the most important aspects of a job, and would 100% affect whether I would intend to return to the job I had after my leave, or if I would start job searching while I was on leave. It is a significant enough change that it would be akin to returning to find out the salary is 75% lower, or we had to start reporting to the office every day, or major job responsibilities had shifted. I wouldn’t want to be blindsided like that right as I finally felt well enough to begin my work life again. A manager change can materially alter the job environment, and even if I couldn’t process it immediately because I was focused on getting well, I would still want as much notice as possible. (When I was out on FMLA, my boss did reach out to me to share that we were going from fully-remote to hybrid, and it caused me to immediately start polishing my resume, applying, and interviewing. Was it ideal to have to deal with that while caring 24/7 for a tiny infant and recovering from major surgery, no, but I certainly appreciated knowing sooner than later and there were small actions I could take and small mental shifts in preparing to go back hybrid even if a full-blown job search was not possible.) That said, there are some people who like to have all of the information before they walk into a situation (me) and others who prefer to find out negative information at the last possible moment, so I’d think about what this particular person has shown a preference for in the past.

      1. Cyndi*

        Same! I would be furious, and I don’t personally think there’s any way to justify pulling a rug this big out from someone unless you’re on really hostile terms with them, which LW obviously isn’t.

        1. Cyndi*

          I want to add that if a major change like this was ever sprung on me when I came back from a long leave, it would permanently damage my opinion of the company as a whole and I would be job hunting no matter how great my new manager was.

          1. DisgruntledPelican*

            Totally agree. I cannot imaging finding out about such a significant change way after the fact.

        2. Gemstones*

          I would be, too. Maybe the answer is to do it through HR, if there have been issues with LW contacting the employer…but c’mon, someone has to reach out to this woman and let her know what’s what. “People might have come and gone” is one thing if it’s a big company and it’s some random employee…but this is a tiny company and it’s the person’s direct boss. That’s huge!

      2. Alf*

        I completely agree. It’s hard to imagine this ever happening in my field, but I would find it very, very strange if I came back from a leave to discover that my supervisor was gone and no one had told me. Especially because “who is my boss going to be?” is exactly the kind of information that I would really want to have when deciding when (or whether) I was ready to return to the job.

    6. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      I would not contact her either. I would, however, ask a trusted friend or colleague to contact me when she returns so that you can reach out to her then and be more open to post job inquiries from her than from others.

  12. Talking Shirt*

    #1 – for what it’s worth, I can’t tell any difference between a $10 outfit and a $1000 outfit, and I suspect there’s a not insignificant number of people that can’t or just don’t care.

    1. Phryne*

      Same. I would recognise logo’s, but without those I would not know or care if your outfit was expensive. I would care for my lawyer to look professional and if these clothes fit well and look good on you then wear them.
      But not the stuff with visible logos, I’d say. Personally I think logos are always a bit tacky. Other opinions may differ, but they do tend to draw the eye and that seems unwanted in your case, OP. The Louboutins on the other hand are fine, I would recognise those but my prejudice is that expensive shoes are a good investment because they last longer and are more comfy because you can wear them if the materials are high quality.

    2. Bluebird*

      When I worked in nonprofit a coworker constantly talked about her Vera Wang collection and how she always saved up for designer, I eventually learned she meant Vera Wang for Kohls. She actually had no idea Vera Wang did anything higher end. I really think the world of designer is so far out of what’s affordable for 95% of the population that most people are clueless.

        1. Seashell*

          I don’t know much about designer clothes, but I know what Louboutins are, thanks to mentions in pop culture such as Sex and the City and Oprah.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Same, although I feel like this probably dates us now and I have no idea whether someone who wasn’t there for 00s pop culture would know!

            1. sparkle emoji*

              There is a reference in Cardi B’s Bodak Yellow to Louboutins so I think they’re still pretty current in pop culture.

        2. Nina*

          I have absolutely heard of them, vaguely want a pair but not at new prices, and once almost bought a pair at a consignment store, but they were a weird quarter-size too small :(
          Also I wear steelcaps almost every day so I wouldn’t have got much use out of them.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Oh, I do love the Vera Wang items I see at Kohl’s (and the Lauren Conrad items). Even those are sometimes out of my price range, but at least it’s within reason for me!

      2. Jesse*

        I was pretty excited to find a Vera Wang at the Goodwill, and didn’t mind when I figured out it was from Kohls, but I did laugh at myself.

    3. UKDancer*

      Yeah I think unless you’re wearing a massive diamond tiara or something obvious, most people can’t tell the difference between a cheap outfit and an expensive one. I have a paid of diamond stud earrings and a pair of paste earrings in the same cut and setting. You’d probably need a jeweller’s loupe to tell them apart from a quick glance apart from the paste ones being very slightly larger.

      To be honest I’ve enough friends who buy fake designer goods or shop at TKMax that I wouldn’t automatically assume anything was genuine nowadays.

    4. connie*

      This is where I fall. This is what’s typical.

      Brands that have a clear, storied aesthetic, like Chanel, are ripped off by other brands and so particular styles can have a certain ubiquity across price points. People often also wear one expensive piece with others that are not so expensive, and it becomes hard to tell which one is the expensive piece if the outfit is styled well. And fit can make something inexpensive look more expensive than it is or make something expensive look cheap. Apart from the Louboutins, it’s more complicated than assuming that at any random person will be able to tell what LW is wearing, especially if she’s thoughtful about it.

      I’ll just say though that if I were a defendant I want the attorney in bad-ass heels to represent me.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        And fit can make something inexpensive look more expensive than it is or make something expensive look cheap.

        This is so true. I wear vintage 99% of the time and I can sew, so I tailor my own clothes. They fit literally no other person on earth. And because they’re vintage, even though they’re (mostly, I have a few pieces) not couture, they are beautifully made, with linings, little snaps and hooks that keep every edge down, French hems, complicated darts and seams, generous seam allowances so they can be let out if needed, etc., because they were all made and finished by hand. Even expensive designer clothes today don’t have that level of craftsmanship. You’d have to get couture or engage a tailor to make things for you. Anyone can buy a bag with LV stamped all over it.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      And for those who can tell and care, you’ll get both “This person looks like they are pulled together and professional, just what I want here” and “This person looks rich, which means they do not understand the salt of the earth types, just what I don’t want here.”

      1. Angstrom*

        Yup. And for every one who is impressed by “bad-ass heels”, someone else may be thinking “ridiculous impractical overpriced shoes”. It’s yet another arena in which women’s clothing choices can feel like a no-win situation.

    6. Heather*

      I think a lot of people think that, in the same way most people think commercials “don’t work” on them.

      1. Myrin*

        I mean, either they can recognise an expensive outfit or they can’t. How would one “mis-think” that?

        1. lunchtime caller*

          I’m guessing that the logic is people probably do make assumptions about someone’s level of wealth by looking at them, even if they think they couldn’t recognize an expensive brand from a hole in the ground. And I agree that it’s pretty common for even the least style conscious person to make quick guesses that someone is richer or poorer than them, and to potentially feel differently around them (more or less comfortable, for example) as a result.

        2. MsSolo (UK)*

          People will have an idea of what a “professional” outfit looks like, or a “put together” outfit, without necessarily knowing how those are influenced by high end fashion.

          How much you pay doesn’t necessarily dictate how well made clothing is, but good quality clothes survive more wear than bad quality. You don’t have to know how to identify expensive leather to be subconsciously aware that one person’s shoes are shinier and scuff-free compared with the person next to them, or that one person’s shirt is slightly greyer than someone else’s, or that a person’s trousers hold their crease all day, or that one lawyer’s jacket has different lapels to all of the others.

          I’m trying not to conflate expensive with good quality here, because that’s not a guarantee, but it’s true that expensive brands often have specific materials, cuts and lines they prefer, and those preferences come from the fact they hold their shape better over multiple wears. We form associations with these shapes and materials based on who we see wearing them, whether that’s characters on TV, politicians, celebrities, other people in the courtroom.

          All of that is to say you almost certainly can recognise an expensive outfit, but you couldn’t necessarily put your thumb on why it looks expensive to you.

          (one of the better things of Devil Wears Prada is when Glenn Close scathingly points out that it doesn’t matter if the heroine cares about fashion – the reason her cheap sweater is a specific shade of blue because someone at a high end fashion house used that colour a few years ago. You can’t escape the cultural capital of the fashion industry as long as you wear clothes, whether you consciously care about it or not)

          1. Myrin*

            Sure, I’m aware of all that, but it’s still undeniably true that I have personally gauged stuff as exprensive/some sort of brand before and later found out that it actually wasn’t either, it was just well-made/imitating a style one often associates with high-end clothes.
            That still means that I couldn’t tell the difference (obviously, or else I wouldn’t have been wrong) and I doubt I’m the only one who has experienced this.

          2. bamcheeks*

            *person confuses Glenn Close and Meryl Streep*

            “Oh okay, I see. You think this has nothing to do with you.”

            1. MsSolo (UK)*

              No IMDB on the work computers! XD

              (it’s still not as bad as the time I watched Heat and didn’t realise that De Niro and Pacino were two entirely different actors, and figured it was doing a kind of reverse Fight Club thing)

        3. Nina*

          Some people can tell a newish Balenciaga navy-blue cashmere coat ($8000) from a newish H&M navy-blue wool blend coat ($80) on sight. Some… can’t.

          If you can’t tell them apart, in my experience you’re about as likely to think the Balenciaga is cheap as you are to think the H&M is expensive (and for some people, especially people likely to need a PD, the H&M is expensive!)

    7. Kesnit*

      I agree.

      Former public defender here. With 1 exception, I cannot tell a difference between the clothes of the public defenders and private attorneys. (The 1 is a private attorney who is is widely known to be able to pull off clothes the rest of us never could. I have NO IDEA how he does it, but he could wear a sack and set a trend.)

      Even if someone does realize your clothes are expensive brands, they are likely to either think (1) you save up for your clothes, (2) they are knock-offs, or (3) you got them second hand. (After I lost about 100 pounds due to a medical condition, I had to replace my entire work wardrobe. Goodwill and the like were a blessing to my wallet.)

    8. Somewhere in VA*

      As a former legal aid attorney, this was my experience too. I fretted over wearing designer clothes and even the car I drove! Then I realized that my clients didn’t even notice what I wore. This was driven home when a client who met with me several times showed up at her courthouse hearing with her mother. Her mother asked me, eight months pregnant and wearing my usual clingy knit dress, when I was due and my client asked her mom what she was talking about. The client hadn’t even noticed I was pregnant.

    9. A Poster Has No Name*

      Same. I do not hang out with people who can afford even second hand designer clothes, hate clothes shopping myself, and even if I recognized a brand I don’t think it would occur to me to look at people differently because of it (really, really don’t care).

      You know your office/court culture better than the rest of us, and can probably gauge pretty well if people will notice/care or not, but I wouldn’t necessarily assume people will notice or care.

    10. Ash*

      Same. I have never heard the word “Louboutins” before this day and I don’t expect I’ll remember it 24 hours from now. (Assuming they’re fancy shoes, because people are talking about the soles? Definitely would not recognize them in the wild.)

      People who are super into fashion, expensive or otherwise, can sometimes severely overestimate how likely the average person is to recognize any of their clothes, apart from “nice shoes.”

      1. sparkle emoji*

        Louboutin is a shoe brand with a distinctive shiny red sole. As others have mentioned, they get a lot of focus in pop culture, including in a Cardi B song where she refers to them as “red bottoms”. It’s completely understandable to not be aware of them but they do have broader brand recognition than some other luxury brands because of the pop culture connections.

        1. Ash*

          I mean I guess. (I also don’t get the Cardi B reference. People have frequently confused me by referencing Pop Culture Thing I’m not aware of because I don’t use Social Media Platform where everyone talks about it, apparently.)

          It sounds like the OP just needs to judge whether the kinds of clients they’re going to be working with will be likely to recognize those things, and how much that matters to them. Because clearly, it’s not everyone.

          1. Courageous cat*

            Ok, we get it, you don’t follow pop culture – however, the majority of people do know this kind of stuff about the world around them, and I’d go so far as to say that’s a good thing to be in tune with. A Louboutin is largely very recognizable by the public, even if not *you*.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              This seems a little harsh. I’m into some pop culture stuff, too. I’ve heard of Louboutins, but I also wouldn’t recognize one in the field. This also might be gendered, to an extent.

  13. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    For OP 4:

    I think this is the “exception that proves the rule” in that a light contact that does not interfere with the employee’s FMLA leave is okay. Your coworker was overworked and stressed to the point she needed leave – but was also stressed about leaving all that workload behind for the rest of you to do. The best kindness I think you could give here is to let the coworker continue to recover and reach out to say farewell after they have recovered enough to be back at work.

    1. LW4*

      I do want to clarify – her leave is due to serious illness, not due to the stress of the role. I was very open with her that it did not matter what was happening in the office, we would figure it out. She was very open with me on what she was going through when she was in office (never initiated by me – I let her know I was there if she needed to process but she was not required to share anything at all with me).

      1. CRM*

        Even if her leave is due to a serious illness, that situation may be causing her significant emotional distress, which could be further exacerbated by a concern about the gap left by your absence. Please just let her focus on recovery!

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          If I was out for a long time, and came back to discover that my direct supervisor had left weeks/months ago without a word, that would rattle me. A little heads-up is fine.

  14. reckless eyeballing*


    im pretty sure i know which person you’re talking about and her main business is coordinating safe and interesting travel in countries other than the us, prioritizing bipoc clients. should she have to give up the business that paid for her phd and her bills and lifestyle bc you have specific criteria for what scientists should do when they’re not doing science?

    1. Ice Queen*

      I don’t know who you might be referring to (if it’s that big of a “media” name the lines get blurred), but I think the difference is a work account linking back to to personal accounts that tell people too much about your life. I think there is a difference between if someone internet stalks you and finds out about your hobbies versus linking to your hobbies via a work related site. This sort of goes for racy and non-racy in my opinion. Segregation between personal and professional is good.

    2. metadata minion*

      She shouldn’t have to give up her travel business, but what does that have to do with sexy swimsuit pictures? The LW has commented below with more context, and it sounds like if this is the same person, the Instagram is a separate thing from either the science or the travel.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        You seem to be reinforcing their point. What does their separate IG have to do with their science or travel?

        1. Observer*

          It doesn’t have anything to do with it, if we’re talking about the same person. So why the links to the professional piece(s)? Just not necessary or useful.

  15. AnonRN*

    I have a section on my resume called Certifications and Recognitions. I list a couple of certifications I got by sitting for exams, some important SME work I was asked to do, and some boring but required certs like hospital CPR (with the expiration date). They don’t really go together but it sounds better than “Other” to me!

    1. t-vex*

      I only have 2 sections: one called “Professional Experience” that lists my roles and achievements and one called “Certifications, Appointments, Education” and all the other stuff goes in there. I didn’t break out the education because even though I have a Master’s degree I think it’s less important than my experience, especially in my particular field. Now I’m questioning that though…

  16. Squash the Second*

    I may be misinterpreting OP 4, but it sounds like the main reason they want to reach out is as a courtesy and perhaps to close the loop on their current work relationship with their employee. But if it’s that, then why not send an email to the employee’s work account (which they’re presumably not checking right now) or even just leave a personal note on their desk, with HR or wherever would be appropriate given the work environment? That way, the employee would receive the message once they were ready for it but not before.

    1. LW4*

      You’re right – definitely want to close the loop and don’t want to just leave unannounced, especially when she’ll find out from colleagues she is more in touch with. She’s not checking work email right now, and has been out for months. Most of our communication has been via text, so my big concern is making sure if I leave, she knows who to get in touch with when/if she’s ready to come back.

      1. ecnaseener*

        As long as she has your personal number for texting and not just a work phone that’ll be disconnected when you leave, I think you’re fine. Remind HR when you leave that someone needs to tell this person who to contact when she’s planning to come back.

        If she doesn’t have a way of contacting you other than your work phone/email, then giving her your personal contact info is a good idea in case she wants a reference or anything in the future (I guess that falls under “logistical thing she might want from you before you go.”)

  17. Cheesesteak in Paradise*


    I’m sure I’m going to get flamed for this but I’m not hearing anything that’s really egregious to justify avoiding a required training. Is the training at a standard location like an office building or conference center? Yes, it may or may not have family or gender neutral bathrooms but that’s going to be all standard locations in your area. Also, the political discussion sounds like it’s related to the other participants gabbing, not part of the meeting agenda. You don’t have to make small talk with other attendees or you should be able to say “I’d rather not discuss politics.” If political or religious talk is part of r the agenda, that’s different. If LW is just going to be surrounded by people with conservative views because that’s 90% of the population where they live, then I think having to deal with that is not an unreasonable expectation if they don’t want to move.

    1. Gritter*

      I agree with what you are saying. I also find it odd that LW2 seems to have already decided that these training seminars will be a “hostile environment” before they’ve attended a single session. I’m not sure if demanding special exemptions is a good way to advance the cause of LGBT individuals in the company, if fact it’s likely to have the opposite effect. As for dealing with “people who truly wish I did not exist.” doesn’t that kind of come with the territory of management and leadership?

      1. metadata minion*

        “As for dealing with “people who truly wish I did not exist.” doesn’t that kind of come with the territory of management and leadership?”

        No, it really doesn’t. Hostility toward you as a person in a position of power over another person is worlds away from hostility toward you for who you are. I really can’t overstate how threatened queer people are right now in many parts of the country, especially trans people.

        1. HaveTheScarsToProveIt*

          Yes, it actually does. Because you have to deal with the bigots who walk in the door and the bigots who call up (and the bigots who work next to you, or for the same county more generally). You can’t nope out when you work for the county – you have to deal with everyone. It is part of the job, unpleasant as it is.

          1. Colette*

            Frankly, no one should have to deal with bigoted (bigotted?) behaviour – even from the public. Their employer should have policies to provide a safe environment for their employees.

          2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

            No, you’re conflating 2 different things. Gritter is pretty clearly saying they do not understand what LW is talking about. They are saying “oh, everybody hates managers, amirite?” which is not at all the same thing. You personally may deal with bigots in your job, but that doesn’t mean all managers everywhere deal with bigots.

            I also expect it’s different when you are in your office and have the power to end/change the conversation rather than in a training where you have no power and have to listen to terrible hate and lies about you and people like you being passed off as truth all. day. long. without being able to get away from it.

          3. bamcheeks*

            There’s a really big difference between working with members of the public who are bigoted (exhausting, but yes, necessary in certain types of work) and working with colleagues and managers who are bigoted. Support from colleagues and managers is what gives you the resilience and standing to deal with bigotry from members of the public or service: if you don’t have either, it’s a fast road to burnout.

          4. Ismonie*

            Actually, that is not always the case. In the state of California, if customers/opponents/the ups guy harasses someone for being a member of any protected class, the management has to step and and prevent it. That can include refusing to serve customers/clients.

      2. Melissa*

        The sessions take place monthly, so one idea is to attend the first one. If it is actually intolerable (and beyond what you clearly already deal with at work), then refuse to go to more. Yes, it will waste their money. It will also draw attention to the specific problems. And if it turns out that you’re pleasantly surprised and everyone is lovely, it’s a win-win.

        1. Jj*

          No it sounds like the LW knows it’s pretty bad. They shouldn’t have to go to a traumatizing event to prove it. Trust queer people

      3. Queer Earthling*

        “Stop advocating for yourself, it makes the cis-hets like you less!” sure is an interesting take.

        As a queer person who lives in a conservative area: yes, you learn to live with it. But it’s a lot of little hits that can get exhausting. It’s not unreasonable to feel like, “I already deal with this in my daily life, every time I try to go shopping, random people at work, random people at the store, do I have to do ANOTHER thing that’s going to make me feel like crap? How many attack helicopter jokes do I have to endure today?”

        Also, “lol people already don’t want managers to exist haha” is a very different experience compared to being surrounded by people who think you’re actively threatening their children by being who you are in public, and who think you should be legislated out of existence. Especially as this person sounds like they’re trans and possibly not within the gender binary, people who are being actively targeted by everyone from hate groups to churches to politicians to other leftists.

          1. MsM*

            +1. I don’t understand the logic of “well, you’re going to have to deal with it anyway, so why don’t you practice dealing with it on the fly coming from the people who should be teaching you strategies for how to handle encounters like that constructively, or at least exit them safely?” What other outdated, counterproductive non-LGBTQ leadership guidance are these trainers providing, if that’s how they handle this issue? Is attending this even a requirement for the institution to operate, or did they just settle on the county training because it’s easier/cheaper than investigating other options or designing their own training?

        1. DenimChicken*

          Yes, you lied to me all these years
          You told me to wash and clean my ears
          And talk real fine just like a lady
          And you’d stop calling me Sister Sadie
          -Nina Simone

      4. You don’t know me*

        Advocating for a non-hostile workplace and bringing up issues that affect queer folks absolutely is the way to “advance the cause” (although it’s not a cause – it’s asking for things that should be a given, like respect and safety). It doesn’t seem as though management is going to think of these things on their own so someone has to do it. Kudos to the LW for being brave enough to do so.

      5. Ashley*

        It is possible to know places are hostile without having to sit through an entire day of training. I can think of a number of hostile places without effort, and I have only been to some of them.
        On top of which, while the LW suspected it would be terrible, a colleague confirmed the atmosphere.
        LW I really hope you have someone in your hierarchy that will understand why it is so terrible to make you attend and understands the safety concerns.

      6. Also-ADHD*

        While updating bathroom facilities is more complicated (actual construction), and I get that barrier cannot be broken down, any seminar in which people are reporting they were repeatedly misgendered without any recourse and topics or advices were treated in a way hostile to LGBTQ+ isn’t just a “well we all have to suck it up sometimes” situation. Being misgendered is not a small thing (and it contributes to the practical bathroom issue probably). It’s not a normal thing LW should have to just deal with.

        1. MsM*

          I also suspect that if people feel comfortable misgendering or making insensitive statements in a public environment, anyone who does not present as stereotypically masculine or feminine is going to have a hard time going to the bathroom in this location without having to justify their presence in one stall or the other.

        2. Jennifer Strange*

          In regards to the bathroom issue, I will say I attended a conference this summer where the conference area’s (single-gender bathrooms) all had signs outside of them from conference planners the stating they were for all genders. So even that could be doable (likely won’t be by the organizers, though).

              1. Ann*

                You asked why your comments are being removed — it’s because you’re continually using transphobic dog whistles and I don’t allow that here. – Alison

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          No, a person does not need to attend something and face bigotry just to confirm there is bigotry.

      7. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        “I also find it odd that LW2 seems to have already decided that these training seminars will be a “hostile environment” before they’ve attended a single session.”

        I don’t. You need to develop a sense for where will be safe, especially in an area like LW2. If the training is being run by an organization known for conservative politics in general and anti-LGBTQ+ hostility in particular, they wouldn’t need to attend the training to know it’s likely to be hostile.

        “As for dealing with “people who truly wish I did not exist.” doesn’t that kind of come with the territory of management and leadership?”

        It really shouldn’t, even if there is an implied “for LGBTQ+ people” at the end of that sentence (because it’s a complete non sequitur otherwise). I don’t want to get into politics here, but the hostility towards anyone under that umbrella, and especially trans and non-binary people, in parts of the US is truly breathtaking. And people shouldn’t have to be exposed to that AT ALL, let alone as a required part of their job.

        OP2, I hope you have a way to stay safe. I agree that being upfront that it’s not that you’re “just” worried about your pronouns (which in your area sounds like it may get you dismissed as a snowflake) but for your physical safety may be your best recourse. Good luck.

        1. sparkle emoji*

          Agreed, people from marginalized groups can and do use their networks to determine what will be safe for them. The LW has done this and I think we should trust they know their situation best.

      8. Dek*

        “I also find it odd that LW2 seems to have already decided that these training seminars will be a “hostile environment” before they’ve attended a single session.”

        So despite having details about the kind of environment it is, and the kind of rhetoric they practice there, LW2 should put themselves in harm’s way before being allowed to say “Hey, this sounds harmful?”

        Because they “seem to have already decided” that it’s going to be hostile because of what they heard happens there. That…seems like a preety good thing to go off of.

        Please trust that queer people learn to recognize dogwhistles and danger signs for their own safety, and usually through painful experience. It’s wild to me that y’all are saying none of this sounds like a hostile environment, because it’s blaring off the page to me.

    2. You don’t know me*

      “ I will have to sit through many hours of extreme political talk that aligns with people who truly wish I did not exist.” That is not just people chit-chatting.

      If an employee doesn’t feel safe in a work environment, I believe it’s my job as a manager/HR person to care about that and figure out if there’s anything to be done. In this case, I fear that the things that the letter writer is concerned about are ingrained in the culture given where they live. However, they understand that and are still willing to speak up. That shows a lot of courage!

      This 9 full days training is going to take a much larger psychic toll on them than usual. I’m sure it’s exhausting enough for the LW at work where they have to put up with misgendering, discussions where people say disagreeable/offensive things, and all the other myriad of things that queer people are often subjected to. But there presumably they can get away from that throughout the day by retreating to their office to do work or whatever. I doubt they have that option during the training.

    3. FitPro not Fitspo*

      The fact that LW lives in a place where they face violence based on their identity every day does not mean they are obligated to suck it up in situations where they are more visible or more vulnerable.

      LW has gotten in the habit of checking for restrooms that aren’t single gender for a reason. That reason is probably awful, and LW isn’t obligated to share it with us.

      LW’s employer wants to send them somewhere hostile, away from their every day allies, where they will be afraid to use the restroom. And they want to do it once a month for 9 months, so LW gets to dread it on a recurring basis until it’s over.

      That’s a big deal and none of it is reasonable. You cannot agree to disagree with people who would be happier if you were dead, and to suggest otherwise is really pretty callous and out of touch at this point- anyone who is not totally off grid knows how bad things are for anyone queer, and particularly for trans people.

      1. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

        Yeah, and the public restroom issue is a GENUINELY big deal, because NOT using the bathroom for a whole work day isn’t just uncomfortable and nigh-impossible, it’s actively dangerous. That’s one of the reasons WHY bathroom laws are such a big deal – because they heavily restrict the ability of trans people to exist in public.

        So yeah, even if they only go one day and report back to HR “it is as actively hostile to me as I feared,” that’s one day where they’re actively risking their safety to prove the point. That… isn’t something reasonable to ask.

    4. Justme, The OG*

      The LW gave examples where they are literally scared for their life and you don’t think it’s egregious enough to miss the training?

      1. Awkwardness*

        Where does LW say they are scared for their life?
        They say they do not feel safe, and, as the very next thought, that they think their pronouns will not be honored. To me, this does imply psychological aggression, not necessarily physical aggression.

        But besides that, I do think it is difficult to dismiss a training of which they have not even attended one session of. With that, it’s only hearsay and I am not sure if I, as a manager, would accept this argument.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I think you missed the part where LW’s coworker confirmed all of the things they are concerned about are actually true since the coworker has already attended the training.

          1. Awkwardness*

            No, I saw that.
            But LWs comment below has given some more context, especially the part that the training is also held in churches.
            Please note that I am situated outside of the US. Sometimes it might take me a little bit longer to grasp a situation completely.

            1. Dek*

              Yeah, not sure where you’re at, but it’s gotten…really bad really quickly over here. There are a lot of people who are more than willing to put the time and energy into absolutely ruining someone’s day/life for being visibly queer–they practically consider it a calling. I hope it’s better where you are.

              That said, even under other circumstances, I wouldn’t think it would be appropriate to dismiss an experience a coworker specifically spoke to another coworker about out of concern to be “hearsay.” I mean, I guess legally it is, but if someone I trust warns me that a show I was going to watch has specific things that trigger me to the point of harm in it, I might decide not to watch that show. If you can trust the feedback of the other person, there’s no reason you have to put yourself in harm’s way to experience something before you can make a judgement call on it.

    5. I forgot what I put here*

      Can we trust queer people on deciding what environments will be hostile to them? Most of us have a pretty good antenna for what places and groups of people will be truly unsafe vs just unpleasant.

      And even having to *hear* other people wishing you were dead or did not exist as part of small talk (that LW might not be able to avoid) is not really acceptable. If all others agree with that sentiment it can be unsafe or otherwise impossible to stop them.

      So yes, that is an unreasonable expectation.

    6. ClaireW*

      You’re making a lot of assumptions that tell me you’ve never really been a part of, or maybe even known someone who’s a part of, a targeted minority.

      We don’t know the LW2’s situation, but as an example let’s say they work in education/libraries/children’s services in Florida. That means they could have to sit through training that literally talks about them as predators who have intentions to harm children and are unsafe to have around kids and should not be allowed to dress or identify in the way they do and should not be allowed to speak to kids or be in public talking about themselves in any way that could be seen as ‘advocating’ or ‘encouraging’ an LGBTQ+ lifestyle.

      That’s just one more well-known example of many situations in many countries including the US right now. Do you really think someone should just “deal with” that sort of thing? That it’s not ‘egregious’ enough?

      1. Jackalope*

        And even just *existing* in public as a queer person, even if you’re not looking noticeably queer at the time or doing anything like, say, holding hands with a same-sex partner, has been recently stylized as “grooming” behavior trying to make young people queer. Which has led to violence against queer people and all sorts of nasty laws. This isn’t an accident, this is totally on purpose – the people who do this want queer people to just stop existing, and if that happens by violence they’re cool with that.

    7. I should really pick a name*

      Perhaps instead of leading with “I’m sure I’m going to get flamed for this”, consider WHY you think your comment is going to be taken poorly and address that aspect up front.

    8. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Everyone else has covered the queer part of this, but I want to add as a municipal employee: these trainings are not apolitical. These sorts of trainings are based on a shared set of values and a shared agenda (set by elected officials) and if those values are hostile to you then the entire training will be hostile to you.

      Organizations cannot make you share their values, but they can require you to act like you do. I’m not super confident the LW will be exempted from this training (I don’t exempt anyone who pushes back on attending the part of our leadership training where I tell them how to treat queer people with respect) but it’s worth a shot if they’re already out at work.

    9. Jigglypuff*

      I am OP, and you are right that you will get flamed for this.

      1. The training is held at various locations throughout the county, including churches, and the videos shown at some of these training days are aimed at churches themselves and include a lot of religious talk that participants are told not to complain about “because there’s still good stuff in this video.”

      2. Are you seriously suggesting that I simply don’t use the restroom the entire day? Really? I am guessing that you are not trans, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, or in any way in danger by using the restroom of your assigned gender. That is not the case for many people, and it can very seriously be dangerous to enter a gendered restroom for some of us.

      3. The political talk is by the SPEAKERS as part of their presentations, usually right after the attendees have been told that so-and-so is going to speak but it won’t be political.

      4. You’re right that I am surrounded by conservative people and that in some ways that is my choice. But as others have said, under normal conditions I can retreat to my office or commiserate with sympathetic friends or colleagues. I would not be able to do that at these trainings. It is dangerous enough for queer people where I live that my spouse was concerned about me having to walk to my car unaccompanied after these trainings.

      I really strongly recommend that you find some queer people – particularly trans people in conservative areas – to follow on social media and just listen to what it’s like for them. This is much more serious than, “Ew, that person is wearing a [political] hat!”

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Thank you for speaking out on this. I wish I could give you more than positive vibes and internet hugs. I sincerely hope your manager listens to you (and especially that your company finds better resources for trainings).

        1. Fieldpoppy*

          LW, I hear you and I am with you. And I continue to be astonished at how easy it is for cis-het people to minimize or excuse daily micro-aggressions when they are aimed at LGBTQ folks.

          1. MEH Squared*

            So much this. LW#2, I am sorry you have to deal with this situation and the minimization/dismissiveness in the comments. The threats are real, and I hope you can convince your manager to find another option. Solidarity.

      2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        You are so brave to stay to protect your employees and (I assume) community members who need your services. I’m so sorry that most of the responses seem to be from people who aren’t taking you seriously. This must be really hard to deal with.

      3. JelloStapler*

        Thank you for adding more information -I already thought you had every right to protect yourself mentally and physically, this made it all the more apparent how toxic this is.

        Cheesesteak in Paradise, Let’s not do an “it doesn’t happen to me so it doesn’t happen or it is clearly something they should get over”.

      4. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Somehow that is more or less exactly what I guessed was going on. Fingers crossed that your manager snaps out of it and realizes this is an unreasonable ask!

        LW2* for those who search!

      5. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        Hugs. That’s it. Just internet hugs and so much support in whatever you manage to do about this awful situation.

      6. nonprofit director*

        Thank you for the additional information. I am simply shocked that a series of training sessions like this would be considered valuable by any employer, let alone required. I do hope you are able to get an exemption from this.

        1. nonprofit director*

          A thought: Can you find online or alternate training that offers the same general leadership skills? Perhaps if you can present an alternative, your exemption request will succeed.

    10. Temperance*

      I’m guessing that OP is non-binary and that they have been discriminated against or worse due to their status. It’s not really the same thing as someone liberal wandering into a conservative area; they very likely have a fear for their safety and security around these people.

      Here’s an example from my life: I wouldn’t enjoy going to a very right-wing event or church service, but no one there would question my presence as a blonde, white woman. I wouldn’t be in any more danger than I would be in any other situation. But for OP, they very well could be.

    11. Critical Rolls*

      I don’t think you read the letter very closely, because it was clear to me that the “political discussion” (which frankly sounds like borderline hate speech) is part of the program to affirm the “values” of the organization. It’s one thing to endure the drip-drip-drip of daily interactions, and another to get a firehose of intolerance aimed at you *from the upper ranks of your workplace* monthly for a damn year.

      Please believe queer people are not being hysterical when they say they do not feel safe, especially when you have internet-stranger levels of context.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. It’s like expecting Black employees to attend a training from a “Confederate heritage” group.

    12. Ismonie*

      If I had to go to a training where all the other attendees made threatening or negative comments about people of my race or ethnicity or sex or sexual origin I wouldn’t want to be there. They are talking about feeling literally unsafe. Even if it’s only the fellow participants and not the training materials/trainers themselves (which is not clear to me) that’s not acceptable.

    13. Irish Teacher.*

      I would add to what others have said that there is a big difference between conservative views and bigoted views. Conservative views are things like “I think the government should prioritise saving for a ‘rainy day’ over tax cuts or increased spending” or “I think we need harsher punishments for repeat criminals” or “I think we need a strong military in case we are ever invaded” or “we need to invest in business.”

      What the LW described sounded less like having to interact with people with conservative views and more like having to endure a presentation filled with hate speech.

      1. Dek*

        I can’t help but notice that most, if not all, conservative politicians and pundits are quick to espouse hate speech and passing laws based on it.

        I think this is a case of “lie down with the dogs, get up with the fleas.”

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Yeah, I’m not saying that conservatives can’t be bigotted, just that if they are, they are being bigotted and saying “oh well, they are just conservative” is kinda making excuses for bigotry.

          Of course people exposing hate speech are going to say they are just being conservative, or just advocating for “family values” but that doesn’t make it any less hate speech or mean the LW should just expect to have to deal with it.

    14. Nina*

      The concern about bathrooms makes me think LW (like me, hi) may be someone whose gender presentation is such that they would be at risk of actual physical violence if they’re perceived to be using the ‘wrong’ bathroom. It is absolutely unacceptable to put employees at risk of actual violence for a leadership training.

      The concern about politics makes me think LW may be visibly and obviously recognizable as queer. If you’re not already aware, queer people in a lot of America are having their existence in public slowly (and not so slowly) outlawed. Does a political discussion in which people are discussing whether you should be allowed to have a family, access medical care, have a job, a house… &c, or whether you are automatically a pedophile and a danger to society who should be jailed or killed, sound like harmless political discussion it’s possible to opt out of? Or does it sound like something that could get extremely nasty and personal regardless of whether the LW is visibly queer or not? Because that’s the kind of discussion that happens in rooms where people assume everyone agrees with them.

  18. Melissa*

    It is remarkable how often there are letters about a notable thing that happened once, ending with the question, Is this a trend now?

    1. Heather*

      Agreed! it sometimes seems like people just want to tell a story of someone behaving badly, and then they append “is this the new normal” to make it look like they have a question.

    2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Yeah. They pretty clearly just want folks to agree with them that what they saw is wild or bad, but aren’t sure how to ask for that or feel some kind of way about asking for that.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      When I see “is this the new normal” I mentally read it as “what do you think of that?”.

    4. CommanderBanana*

      Right? Maybe I’m being too sensitive but it feels very much like IS THIS WHAT THE KIDS ARE DOING THESE DAYS?

    5. Knope Knope Knope*

      Lol I always feel like the LWs who do this know it’s not a trend, they just use that to justify writing over something that happened once. They could just as easily say “that was weird, right?”

  19. Hiring Mgr*

    With #3 is the concern that the author has swimsuit photos at all, or that her instagram page is somehow linked to her work account? I’m a guy so maybe I’m clueless, or not enough of a prude, but I don’t see the issue.

    Also, LW found these photos just by googling, so he link in the instagram account I don’t think is even relevant here

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Upthread people have noted that name–>Insta–>work link seems quite unremarkable. While LinkedIn–>your profile–>your Insta of beach shots would be more unusual.

      I would recommend the latter only if you are confident that people know you principally as an expert in thing you want to be acknowledged in and this shows that, hey, you have outside interests. e.g. Fine for tenured professors, not for new PhDs applying for jobs.

      The former, I’m with those asking that people give the eyerolling a rest. Having an instagram in your real name should be shrug-worthy.

    2. Tsukushi*

      I also wonder at the letter writer’s description. I remember a situation where I hired someone new over zoom during the pandemic, and everyone went nuts Googling her to see what she was like before she arrived. On her facebook she had some cosplay pictures from a con; the outfit wasn’t a bathing suit, but similar in coverage. One employee was absolutely scandalized and insisted that I tell the new hire to delete the photos from her public facebook. I laughed and said there was no way I was getting involved in her personal life. When she asked what we would do if patrons Googled her, I said I would respond to any complaints the same way I was responding to her: if you don’t like it, don’t look. I suspect that there was nothing particularly racy about these pictures, and I also suspect that the account wasn’t “entirely” bathing suit pics. I would bet both were exaggerations on the part of someone offended by the mere existence of women’s bodies.

    3. umami*

      I agree. There’s a whiff of sexism in the letter, suggesting that a young and (presumably) attractive woman posing in a swimsuit on her personal Instagram should somehow not be taken seriously in her job. If she feels comfortable having these photos posted on her personal Instagram, I don’t see why she should consider censoring herself because some people might choose to Google her name for more information. The account found is clearly personal, so … just move on from it once that is obvious? Just because ‘I’ wouldn’t post swimsuit photos doesn’t make them somehow damning!

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Also, different social media platforms are used for different things, and yes, while you can find someone’s IG by Googling them depending on how it’s set up, I post selfies on Instagram but I wouldn’t post them on LinkedIn.

        1. umami*

          Right. And OP clearly states that the second entry after Googling this journalist was her Instagram. I admit to not personally using Instagram, but I would not assume I would find scientific content on someone’s Instagram. Pretty much everyone I know uses Instagram in a personal capacity, not a professional one.

  20. MrsMotz*

    I’m curious if there is subtext here that explains why HR would be so adamantly against you contacting the employee, like if there had been a conflict or other issue between you and the direct report that contributed to their absence. I can picture a few scenarios where that would not necessarily be obvious to the manager, especially if there was a power balance issue preventing the employee from (feeling safe) giving the full story about their leave. (Also curious why a 3 person office has a dedicated HR person, but assuming you’re part of a larger company.)

    I agree with other posters you should refrain from reaching out, or consider asking HR for advice on this specific situation, or to reach out in your place. They could have more information about the specifics for the employee, and be better placed to know if letting the employee know you’re leaving would be appropriate/helpful or not.

    1. LW4*

      Great questions! I have a full understanding of the leave, it is due to a serious illness. She’s been really open about it with me and our larger company (of which we are one of the smaller departments in). Based on what she shared with me, I did a lot of digging into the options for her related to leave and accommodations, so I tried as much as possible to support whatever was best for her (to my detriment, if we’re being honest. I was pulling 12 hour days for a month or so to make sure all our work got done).
      We actually have a dedicated HR department, so I am actually assuming (possibly incorrectly!) I know more about her situation than our HR rep who I work with, because someone different processes FMLA and someone else different processes accommodations. There has been some conflicts between what HR is directing me to do and what my employee expects from me – I get the sense that by following HR directives, I’ve indirectly come across as colder than I would like to.

  21. I should really pick a name*


    Speaking as a queer person myself:
    The way you’ve described the training, it would come across as at worst shitty, not unsafe, to an unsympathetic audience such as you boss.
    You said that it’s not merely discomfort that you’re worried about. I think you should spell out clearly to your boss what you ARE worried about, because they’re not connecting the dots on their own.
    For example, the lack of a gender neutral washroom makes you feel unsafe BECAUSE of how you may treated by people who don’t think you belong in the washroom you end up using.

    1. Magenta*

      This is a good idea.
      There is a trend right now for people to use the term unsafe when they mean uncomfortable. If the OP’s boss thinks that they are using unsafe to mean that they will have their beliefs challenged, or will face a lack of respect and acknowledgement of their identity, then the boss may not realise there is an actual risk of physical harm rather than hurt feelings.

      1. J.*

        I appreciate what you mean here but I do want to add that for those of us already in a difficult psychological state, whether due to chronic mental illness or acute stress/trauma, an uncomfortable day of being misgendered and listening to evidence of how much people hate us very much can put us at risk of physical harm, even if the physical damage isn’t dealt by the people in the meeting.

        1. Magenta*

          I agree, but that is far more serious than the “hurt feelings” or “challenging conversations” that the boss may understand from what the OP has said so far.

          If I didn’t know the situation and someone told me that they didn’t want to go to training because it would be with people who had different political beliefs to them, I would probably consider being exposed to different view points to be a positive and expect them to suck it up.

          If someone said that they felt that going to training would put their physical and/or mental health at risk because of the behaviour the people there may exhibit then I would take it far more seriously.

          1. I Have RBF*

            If I didn’t know the situation and someone told me that they didn’t want to go to training because it would be with people who had different political beliefs to them, I would probably consider being exposed to different view points to be a positive and expect them to suck it up.

            That is just a horrific take.

            In the US, if you are liberal or even centrist, “being exposed to” conservative points of view is often accompanied by literal threats. How would you like to be “exposed” to opinions like “kill all libs”, “lock up the libtards”, etc.?

            There is NOTHING positive about being exposed to “different viewpoints” that are, essentially, that various minorities shouldn’t exist or at the very least “know their place”.

            I’m an enby, and just being in the same place with people who think like that is threatening to me.

            I don’t need my boss deciding that I need to be “exposed to different viewpoints” period, especially those of people who hate me.

            This comment is just awful.

            1. Magenta*

              Perhaps the key difference is that in the UK we don’t have easily available weapons. I have regularly been told that women/feminists have ruined society and deserve to die, or that Remainers are globalist scum who should be killed. The difference is that here that can be dismissed as hyperbole, if someone threatened to punch me I would see it as a threat, but a death threat in the kind of situations described here would be dismissed by most people.

              Really listening to what people say has helped me to understand them and see their point of view and understand their motivations. Asking them questions has meant that some people have seen the flaws in their reasoning. This in turn has allowed me to counter their position with well thought out ones of my own.

              Talking with people who hate me because of some kind of identity politics, a group I belong to has caused them to see me as a person and me to do the same for them. People are rarely all good or all bad and realising that they don’t hate me has meant that they start to question if they hate the group.

              I am not suggesting that anyone should have to do the above, it can be exhausting and draining, but I honestly think that divisions along ideological lines are a real evil in society and avoiding people who think differently does not help it entrenches the problem.

    2. CM*

      Agreed — and you can see from the comments from Cheesesteak in Paradise above how somebody who has not experienced this would construe it as, “sure, you might be a little unhappy, but that’s life” rather than being literally unsafe.

      As a lawyer, here’s how I would lay out your argument:
      1. Precedent. Are there any written policies at your office about not having to be in unsafe situations, mutual respect, etc.? Have there been times in the past when people were accommodated in difficult situations?
      2. Explaining why this situation is unsafe for you. Present statistics about violence against queer people, including links between anti-queer rhetoric and actual physical violence. Share stories that OTHER people have made public — e.g., in books or articles — explaining how being in situations like this affected them, and be clear that this would make you less able to do your work.
      3. Reminding your manager that if you are unsafe doing a work-mandated activity, that would mean liability for the company.

      1. CM*

        One other thought — since your colleagues have been through this training, you should have some information about what the training covers. Consider finding an alternate training or resources (for instance, a series of online trainings) that would cover the same material and meet your needs. This would probably cost less for the company, too. That way you can point out that you are getting all the work-related content that they require, without having to be in an environment where you are concerned about your safety.

        1. Delta Delta*

          This occurred to me, as well. There are probably training materials in the office from other participants, and it would be worth looking at them to figure out if that class actually fits the bill for what the office needs. It might be it’s evolved over the years and management sent people just because it’s what they’ve always done. It might not even be wholly relevant anymore. Recent participants can also say whether the presenters stuck to the material or if they went off-book and veered into irrelevant or weird territory.

  22. Zarniwoop*

    Figuring out the appropriate level of communication with someone on leave isn’t easy. Your HR department wants to do it for you.
    Let them.

  23. K*

    I don’t think OP number 1’s low income clients are likely to recognize the red soles on shoes as being something special. That is not a thing poor people know about.

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Poor people exist in culture just like other people. Some of them will know “red soles = $$$$$$$$$” and some of them will not…just like the people in this comment section. That knowledge is not based solely on their socioeconomic background and being able to *afford* luxury goods!

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I think it’s more about how into fashion you are, not how much money you have.
      I’m comfortably middle class and didn’t know about the red sole thing.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        It’s more about what television you watch than anything else. Seen Sex & the City? Or other TV shows with characters who are very into fashion? Then you’ve probably heard of it. Don’t watch any of that and aren’t super into fashion yourself? Probably won’t know.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. I’m aware that luxury brands exist, and I have heard of Louboutins. But I didn’t know about the red soles either.

    3. Paperclips Please*

      A lot of poor people still have social media and can see celebrities, movies, etc. I feel like red soles are very commonly recognized as fancy, high-end shoes. It’s possible some of their clients may not recognize it, but a lot of them will, and other folks in the courtroom might recognize it as well.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes poor people exist in the same world as the rest of us. They consume the same media, watch the same shows. Just because you can’t afford things doesn’t mean you don’t know what they are if it’s something you’re into.

        Also I’ve at least one not particularly wealthy friend who buys a lot of knock off / fake merchandise. They know exactly what these brands should look like so they can identify which fakes they want and whether they’re getting a good fake. I have slightly more money than they do but less knowledge because fashion and status symbols aren’t of interest to me. I’d never buy Louboutins and am only vaguely aware of what they are, but could give a detailed rundown of the different types of dance shoe I’d like.

        People know about what interests them.

    4. Catwhisperer*

      This comment is very condescending towards lower income people. When I was low income and on food stamps, I still cared about fashion and recognised high-end brands even if I couldn’t personally afford them. Are lower income folks only supposed to have a specific set of interests or hobbies in order to count as “poor” enough for you?

    5. xylocopa*

      I can guarantee you that there are plenty of poor people who are attentive to fashion. Heck, I don’t care about fashion and even I know about Louboutins–that’s a pretty mainstream example of a recognizable expensive brand. Sure, not everyone knows it, but you don’t need to be born on a yacht with a silver spoon in your mouth to be aware of it.

      Anyway, without being a lawyer myself, I’d go with the advice upthread to hold off a bit on the more recognizable pieces until you learn more about the immediate culture–the judges, the staff, the clients–and can decide on a case-by-case (ha) basis.

    6. Dell*

      I actually know about mostly because of lyrics in pop & rap songs, which I don’t think are particularly limited to the wealthy. In fact, now that I read this, I’ve had the lyrics to Cardi B’s debut hit Bodak Yellow (which apparently made over $4.5 million for Louboutin because of the prominent reference in the song). I frankly came to the conversation with the bias that stereotypically low-income communities would be far more aware of this than middle-class folks for this reason.

    7. Queer Earthling*

      This is so funny. Poor people don’t, like, live in workhouses, eating only gruel, with no access to the outside world. Even not being interested in high end fashion (which many poor people are because even low income people do have interests), you can still be exposed to it through like…books, TV, the Internet, celebrity gossip magazines…

    8. Justme, The OG*

      That’s completely not true and gross to stereotype low income clients as people with no knowledge of popular culture.

    9. 2023 is Meh*

      Gotta disagree. I could never afford such things on an admin assistant’s pay but I certainly know about them. These things called television, movies and Vogue .

    10. kiki*

      Red soles = Louboutin is fairly well-known. It’s referenced in a lot of music, shows, etc.
      There are other brands and labels that are “stealth-wealth” that are mostly recognizable only to the uber wealthy, like t-shirts that cost hundreds of dollars, but people of all income brackets are familiar with markers of wealth even if they can’t afford them.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        Yes, I’d consider Louboutins and their trademark red soles to be up there with a Louis Vuitton monogram bag or similar. They are used as wealth signifiers in pop culture often enough that many will be aware of the connection regardless of their income or interest in other luxury brands.

  24. Sevenrider*

    OP1 – I don’t know if you are involved in jury trials. I do know that sometimes a jury can judge the attorneys on how they present themselves. If they are looking for any reason to dislike you, clothes can be a part of it. I worked in the legal field for the past 30 years (not an attorney) but I heard more than a few jurors say they were put off by the “flashy clothes” worn by one of the attorneys.

  25. AthenaC*

    #1 – I think it’s fair to maybe tone down your dress when you’re in the office or just meeting with clients … but if you’re going to court, wouldn’t the high fashion signal to opposing counsel that you’re not the stereotypical public defender and not to mess with you? I would think it would be a weapon in your arsenal to be the best advocate for your client you can possibly be.

    But if that’s not how the courtroom would read it, then disregard.

    1. Queer Earthling*

      As a not-lawyer, I kinda thought this, too? Dress down for your office when you can, dress up for court when you can. You’d still be able to enjoy your high fashion hobby and maybe impress on behalf of your clients, but you will seem approachable in your office when they’re probably a bit nervous. But as you said: if this isn’t feasible, disregard.

    2. Temperance*

      That’s not really how public defense works. OP will very likely know the prosecutors in her courtrooms pretty well on an individual basis. She’ll often have to work with them on plea deals etc.

  26. Emilia Bedelia*

    For #5 – I use “Community Involvement” as my catchall heading for volunteering and leadership roles.

  27. Ex-prof*

    LW1– I’ve never heard of Louboutins, and wouldn’t have a clue whether LW’s clothes came from an expensive fashion house or Walmart. Not sure how true that is of the population in general, or of her clients.

    BUT the way that wearing the clothes makes her feel is important.

    It sounds like the clothes are giving her feelings of guilt or self-consciousness when she meets with her clients; in other words, the clothes are interfering with her ability to do her work.

  28. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Former criminal Public Defender here. This one is hard. For starters, if OP likes the suits and non-flashy clothing, wear them. OP likely goes to court quite a bit, and if there’s an expectation in that court to wear suits, wear them. However, avoid the recognizable stuff. I have a couple pairs of Manolos that I have worn in court because they’re very plain and they go well with some of my court clothing. (bought secondhand) But they’re not flashy and not recognizable, unless you look underneath and see the name stamped into the sole. A PD client once complimented a Tiffany necklace I was wearing and asked where I got it. I vaguely answered, “oh, a jewelry place in New York,” and kept it breezy.

    I was always very aware there’s a fine line. You have to look appropriate and professional, but you also don’t want to convey to your clients that you’re somehow “better” than they are. There’s already a disparity PD clients can sometimes feel, and may not trust a lawyer who they don’t think can understand them because of their respective social statuses. I now do a lot of dependency and kids’ work, and the courtrooms tend to be more relaxed. I think if I was representing an impoverished mom trying to get her kids back, and I rolled in wearing clothing obviously worth more than her house, she might not trust that I can empathize with her.

  29. Carol the happy elf*

    #1,About 4 years ago, I found a coworker matching a paint chip in Home Depot to the bottom of a SHOE! The shoe had a red sole, and she wanted to paint the same red on all
    her dress shoes. I figured that nobody would see the red soles, but her roommates wouldn’t borrow them. (facepalm!)

    (“Dressy” to me these days means my young granddaughter put my initials on my scrubs with one of those bedazzler As Seen On Tv things. (purse and coat, too.)

  30. K8T*

    Honestly a bit disappointed in the letter & response for #3.
    She was linking to her linked in /from/ her instagram, not the other way around. OP went out of their way to find their personal information, not their professional profile.

    Also what does suggestive mean? For many people that’s any woman posting photos in their swimsuits.

    1. feline outerwear catalog*

      That’s a good point. Does context matter? For example, a photo of someone wearing a bathing suit on a beach on vacation doing something fun vs. a more posed “sexy” type photo that’s obviously social media attention seeking type one?

    2. kiki*

      I don’t think LW went out of their way to find her personal page. It sounds like they googled, “Kate Jones scientist.” And then an instagram account came up as a result that had a bio like:

      Kate Jones
      Scientist @LargeResearchUniversity

      So they thought it might be a professional account, they clicked, and it was all bikini photos.

      While I don’t think this is a huge deal, I can see how it could be surprising to somebody searching for someone in a professional capacity.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, there are contexts where it would be inappropriate but the letter really doesn’t have enough info to be sure that is the case here IMO.

    4. Ahnon4Thisss*

      Agreed. LW isn’t even in a position of trying to hire this person/being near her employment. They literally only found her Instagram after reading one of her articles. For all LW knows, the woman’s boss is totally okay with her Insta having personal pictures on it.

      I feel women, especially younger women, are really under scrutiny in employment for just living their lives. Would the same be said of a young man posing on the beach in just his swim trunks? I really doubt it.

  31. Salt Lamp*

    #5 That section of my resume is called Volunteer & Other Employment (it includes my casual weekend job that I don’t want to be the focus but do want to include).

  32. VanLH*

    I am retired now but practiced law for over 30 years. I started out in private practice but did a fair amount of court appointed cases and ended my practice of law by working as a full-time public defender for seven years. Poor clients know that attorneys dress well. If you dress down they doubt you would dress like that if you were representing someone who was wealthy. They would likely think you were being condescending by dressing down. Wear your fancy clothes and show your respect for your clients.

  33. feline outerwear catalog*

    #4 If you end up not telling the employee, please at least write up a document like a performance review with comments for her, maybe a recommendation note while is fresher in your mind (if appropriate, and to deliver later). It really sucks when you have a manager leave and can be stressful to start with a new manager who has nothing to go on and might think you’re lazy or absent because you didn’t happen to be there because you were on leave. It also sucks when review time comes around with a new manager who has very little to go on. She might also decide to leave, and coming back from medical leave is hard enough. This is a low effort kindness you could do to make it slightly less stressful for when she gets back.

    Good luck to you too!

    1. LW4*

      I really appreciate this idea as well! I haven’t supervised this person too long, but will definitely write some recommendations down in my personal drive. We’re approaching our seasonal review, so it might be good to fill out that form anyways to have something started.

      Thank you! I learned yesterday I’m now only a finalist for one search, so we will see!

  34. Monkey Princess*

    Question 1 – What’s okay for women to wear in their professional life.
    Question 2 – My company forces me to go to a “training” that’s actually super political and I’m worried for my safety.
    Question 3 – What’s okay for women to wear in their private life.
    Question 4 – Management issue.
    Question 5 – Resume question.

    I came to the comments with the expectation of them being entirely people outraged by #2, trying to figure out this shady-sounding training (some sort of local Rotary thing, is my guess?), and showing solidarity. Instead, I’m weeding through post after post of people opining about what women are allowed to wear. And also a long thread about how the training sounds totes fine.

    I thought Alison’s answers were all great, but the comments here are really disappointing me.

    1. Jj*

      I’ve unfortunately found that straightsplaining in the AAM comments is par for the course among the commenters here

  35. Rise and shine!*

    #1: another public defender here checking in! Wear what you like, in my opinion. Clients care how you talk to them off the record and how hard you fight for them on the record (as well they should). I personally have never encountered or heard of my snappily dressed colleagues encountering a client upset because their lawyer dressed too well. And I don’t personally care what the judges and DAs think of what I wear.

    Jury trials of course are a different consideration. I agree with the previous commenters who said you can’t ever predict which way a jury will go and whether they will like your clothes (or you, or your case for that matter)…so just do your best and let it go.

    1. Rise and shine!*

      I will add though: I wouldn’t wear the noticeably nice stuff in a jury trial if for no other reason than I don’t want the jury focused on anything other than the case. That’s just my preference though. You do you, jury trial is an art not a science. As you know!

  36. Lady Ann*

    I changed positions while an employee was on leave (to a totally different program in a different location altogether, so I no longer have much contact with that person). The employee had experienced a significant personal event and I felt really weird about just disappearing while she was gone. I sent her a card that was not work related at all that said that I would be gone when she returned but I was thinking of her and her family during a difficult time. When she returned she expressed appreciation that I had thought of her. Obviously YMMV based on what is going on with the specific employee and the relationship you have with them.

  37. Knope Knope Knope*

    LW 1: I’m not a lawyer so take my comment with a grain of salt since I don’t have much experience with the legal system. I’m not a fan of visible logos. I think they make expensive clothes look cheap. But the more put together I look, with stylish, well-fitting clothes and good grooming, the more I notice people take me seriously and respond well to my opinions. I think it’s subconscious. So I’d recommend wearing your clothes

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Agree with all of this! I’m not a fan of logos because it makes me feel like a walking advertisement. To me it’s more about looking put together (clothes fit well, look professional for a court seating, and don’t have any visible stains/tears).

    2. allathian*

      Knowing you look your best is also a great confidence booster for a lot of people, and most people respond well to someone who’s projecting calm confidence.

  38. OP #3*

    I just wanted to put in a blanket comment for those interested in the 3rd letter. The person was a scientific journalist for a major paper of record, though not a scientist. I just want to emphasize these weren’t typical swimsuit photos, like of you and your friends hanging out, just in swimwear. I’m a swimmer and spend most of my summer at the pool, I’m not phased by swimsuits and spend a lot of my life in one! These photos were overtly sexual (poses you might see in porn), and I honestly don’t know how they were allowed on Instagram, because some showed partial nudity. And about 95% of the photos were different shots like this, the person had put a lot of effort into setting up an account portraying themself that way. I shouldn’t have clicked on it, I really was just looking for this person’s linkedin account, to see what their scientific background was. I found all your alls comments very interesting – it does sound like maybe this activity is more normal these days. Interesting!

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I presume you knew it was Instagram and not LinkedIn before you clicked on it. If that account was linked directly from a work site or her LinkedIn, I’d agree it might be inappropriate. Doesn’t sound like it was, though, if you found it on a Google search. The question is still whether it’s inappropriate for women with serious jobs to have visible sexual lives that they enjoy and want to share even when other people disapprove.

    2. BellyButton*

      I am still confused. Was her personal Insta linked somehow to her professional publication or LinkedIn account? Or did it just come up when her name was searched? If they were not connected it should not even be a topic of conversation. She is allowed to have a personal account, with whatever type of photos she wants. “Sexy” or “suggestive” photos do not take away from her credentials, talent, skills, and knowledge.

    3. musical chairs*

      I guess I’m trying to understand the harm sustained here, as that framework always helps me understand what may need to happen next. I am willing to accept that in your case the answer may be “very little, but still curious”. (I’ve written a letter in before about something I was curious about, but not all that invested in, and the comments section acted like I was making a formal authoritarian decree and Taking A Stand. It was kinda jarring having to (re-)explain in the comments that it wasn’t that big a deal to me, I just wanted to know if there was something I wasn’t seeing. So I’m not gonna do that you!)

      Are you asking if things are changing in the world to where those pictures would no longer be disqualifying or impact her ability to sustain her journalism work, at least the way it could be in the past? I can agree with Alison that there is nothing to extrapolate here. It’s still out of the norm. And if it’s working for her so far, there isn’t anything for her change.

      I think you might agree, you’re not necessarily impacted by those pictures as a reader, especially as one who had to do a little extra work to access these pictures. However, if this were a situation, say, where she somehow “sent” people to her Instagram from professional page, do you feel like, as readers, we should expect to enjoy some of the same “protections” (for lack of a better word) that one could reasonably expect in a workplace, as it pertains to freedom from sexual situations or inappropriate content? Why or why not?

      I’m legitimately curious about your thoughts! I can’t come to a complete decision on where’d I’d land myself, but I haven’t thought about this question for very long.

      How far do these norms extend beyond the workplace in a world where so many more people’s public personas include both their professional and personal lives?

      1. OP #3*

        I’m genuinely curious what norms are these days among younger people. I don’t feel harmed by the pictures. I’m still operating under the old social media adage, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss to see, but I’ve noticed that this seems to be changing, and was curious what Alison thought. And was wondering what commenters would say, too. Seems like the commenter consensus, is anything goes, and no one should judge anyone else, especially young women. I think that assumes a lot, a more perfect world than we live in. But that is often the privilege of the young, they still have a rosier view of the world than those of us who have lived in it longer.

        1. Katara's side braids*

          I think most of us know the world isn’t actually that rosy. We just haven’t abandoned the possibility of changing it. The way we *create* a more perfect world is by behaving in a more perfect way. That includes challenging the expectation that everything we post online should be seen as fair game for hiring decisions, regardless of whether it’s actually harmful to anyone (racist, sexist behavior, etc).

        2. umami*

          I think there is room for acknowledging that not *everything* posted online is for a professional audience. I didn’t see anyone saying it’s ‘anything goes,’ just that there can and should be a clear distinction between content that is attached to a professional profile and content that is clearly for a personal social media site. Inviting yourself to a young woman’s personal profile and then wanting to judge their content based on professional norms sounds strange to me (as a 50+ female, so …)

        3. Jennifer Strange*

          But that is often the privilege of the young, they still have a rosier view of the world than those of us who have lived in it longer.

          You may not mean to, but this comes across as very condescending. I also think you’re misreading a lot of the comments here. The consensus isn’t that anything goes, but that people are allowed to have a professional side and a personal side.

        4. I should really pick a name*

          I think you’re misreading the comments.

          The general tone I get is that people feel that it’s a mistake to have those photos in the same area where you reference your job, but simply having those photos up isn’t an issue.
          Additionally, the general sentiment is that no one SHOULD judge others, while acknowledging that people DO judge others.

          Also, the commenters here are not all younger people.

        5. LWH*

          John Waters is 77, I don’t think age means as much as you think it does in terms of how people see things.

        6. Sybil Shade*

          Hi OP3. I’m taking you at your word that you’re curious about norms among younger people, and responding as someone who has a sexualized Insta account. I’m a recreational pole dancer, and I have an Insta account about this hobby. I don’t use my real name there or link to professional stuff, but it’s a public account and colleagues do find me there. I know there’s a professional (and personal) risk of people judging me, but I do it because I want to normalize women’s public ownership over our bodies and sexuality. It’s a choice I made after the Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court last year. I dance because it’s a fun creative outlet for me, but I view the Instagram account as a form of political art. I probably wouldn’t have done it earlier in my career to be honest, but I’m at a point where I’m secure and I believe that my experience and reputation are strong enough to make it possible for me to take this risk. The only feedback I’ve gotten on the account from people I know professionally has been positive, and I haven’t faced any negative consequences that I know of (other than the occasional nasty comment from a troll).

    4. umami*

      If you immediately saw the content was clearly bikini photos on a personal account, I wonder that you … kept looking at it? Once you saw it was not content you were interested in, why not just click away and find their Linked In account, rather than continue to scan the content to assess just how much of it was inappropriate in your estimation? Whether the activity is ‘normal’ or not isn’t really relevant, it’s just really weird to me for a stranger to judge the content.

    5. OP #3*

      I mean, I’m human? That’s why I clicked on it? I didn’t think it was going to be the author, I thought it was going to be some sort of instagram model/influencer. What I found interesting was that they posted all their work links at the top of the Instagram bio, that’s how I knew it was the author, and not someone else with the same name. Twenty years ago when I was young, I just couldn’t imagine linking my work life with something like that. I remember myself and my other younger work colleagues tried to appear as mature/capable as possible when starting out, in order to convince our bosses to give us more important work.

      1. BellyButton*

        Isn’t it great that women today do have more freedom to be actual humans and don’t have to try as hard as we did to be taken seriously?

      2. Shoes*

        I hope you’re not upset at the responses. I’ve been working for decades. I suspect I am older than most who post here. The norms are for women changing. For the better.

        -They posted all their work links at the top of the Instagram bio, because they are fine with people on Instagram knowing where the work. I would not assume that the person did not know people beyond Instagram could look them up. Also, the Instagram and LinkedIn did not exist 20 years ago. Separating your “work self” from your “personal life” was different then and by different I mean easier.

        – “tried to appear as mature/capable as possible when starting out, in order to convince our bosses to give us more important work.” This reads to me like an incomplete thought, so rather than respond to what I think you mean, I am sincerely asking, what do you mean?

      3. Parakeet*

        Twenty years ago, social media was not a part of most people’s lives, and online communities in general were still a little bit niche. I think (hope, anyway) that people are becoming less likely to judge anyone’s maturity or capability at work by the kind of social media posts that you’re describing, especially since it sounds like this was a link from a personal to a work account and not vice versa. Which is a slightly different question from whether they’re a trend.

        If she’s a science journalist for a major paper, clearly some significant player in science journalism thinks she’s capable.

      4. umami*

        Women 20 years ago definitely operated in a different world, for the most part. I can remember when suits and pantyhose were, by and large, the work uniform. About 15 years ago I went to a conference where a panel of mostly 50+ women were talking about how different it was that they could be onstage with sleeveless dresses and open-toed shoes, which would have been scandalous when I first entered the workforce! So I celebrate women who feel free enough to express themselves and their sexuality in their personal spaces while risking being unduly judged for it, because being pretty and comfortable in your own skin does not make you less talented, knowledgeable or competent.

      5. Menace to Sobriety*

        I don’t think you did anything wrong in continuing to look. I’m a woman and if I came across a colleague’s media that I expected to be professionally relevant and then saw it was a bunch of bikini shots, I’d prolly look thru at least several as a sort of sanity check …. a “WTF Slide Show” so to speak. You’re right, it’s human, and if I saw professional hashtags included, I’d probably also to at least some extent, judge their professional …uh judgment. *Shrug*

      6. Nancy*

        Social media didn’t exist 20 years ago and no one was really putting photos online. Times change. That’s why there will occasionally be a trend of professional women posting photos of themselves in various settings/outfits, including bikinis. To remind society we are full beings with full lives.

        Clearly this author has a successful job and is fine with having her work link on her instagram. Why assume she doesn’t understand what she’s doing?

    6. Katara's side braids*

      Could you clarify whether her work account was actually linked to her personal account, or did the personal account just happen to come up on the google search? I feel like that really changes the calculus here.

    7. Me...Just Me*

      “partial nudity” — unless she was either completely topless or completely bottomless; having a bare midriff, wearing thong bikinis, or showing cleavage isn’t “partial nudity”.

      I just find it so weird that anyone would be snooping a personal Instagram account and then be all upset that they find personal pictures (at least enough to write on a work advice blog to comment). It isn’t a good look for you, OP.

    8. Rainy*

      So you put some effort into finding the personal social media of a science journalist and then you were so offended by it that you spent a bunch of time scrolling through it and taking note of the “offensive” poses? Huh.

    9. Pink Candyfloss*

      OP, what you are describing is what happened to a personal friend of mine’s IG profile when it was hacked. All her content was deleted and replaced with suggestive content by the hackers. She fought for a long time to regain control of her account but ultimately, Meta’s processes for supporting hacked users are pretty abysmal and she was never able to recover that profile with her original user data. Are you SURE that the profile you found is the author’s personal profile and NOT a hacked profile?

  39. teensyslews*

    LW 4:
    I think a happy medium could be to write a note to your team member and have it delivered by HR when they return to work. I’m imagining something similar to the note I’m sure many people write to coworkers when they leave a job – it was a pleasure to work with you, here’s my personal contact information/LinkedIn, and if you managed them, perhaps a note if you’d be willing to provide a reference. That way the person will know you were thinking of them without interrupting their leave.

  40. Katie N.*

    Maybe it’s just that I’m an avid thrifter, but Q1 (and the commenters’ input) is one of my favorite AAM questions of all time!

  41. BellyButton*

    #2, I am so sorry you are in that sort of environment. Part of me would be tempted to go and then sue them for the blatant hostility and discrimination. Frankly, as a cis- woman, I would call them out on it while there and walk out. It is BS and I won’t be subjected to it.

    Please do whatever it takes to be safe. No one should put in that position.

  42. el l*

    Won’t argue with the public defenders and lawyers who’ve commented above – I’m not one – but overall observation:

    Your clothes are only part of the package. It ties in with how you conduct yourself otherwise. For myself, I dress more formally and poshly than colleagues and clients – I work in rural areas.

    But I come off okay and avoid negative perceptions because I work hard to make the rest of my manner down to earth. I have a non-posh accent, avoid big words, and laugh a lot.

    I’m not just like my clients and I don’t pretend to be. But I do like them and I make efforts to be on their level. My clothes help elevate what I do for them – and how I convey information otherwise balances that out.

    Bottom line: If you’re down-to-earth in manner, wear what you like.

  43. Yes And*

    The irony of LW1 is that even store-brand suits from Men’s Wearhouse will set you back $400-$500. “Wearing designer clothes I already own” is actually a lot more frugal than “Replace my entire wardrobe to avoid giving the wrong impression.” I get that you can’t explain that to everyone you meet, but the assumptions people make based on clothes are still frustrating.

  44. BellyButton*

    #1, I work for a very casual company. We all work remote, but leadership gets together monthly and then the entire company comes together every quarter. People at my company are in shorts, jeans, and athleisure. That isn’t my style. I am an avid thrifter myself, and since I work at home, when I am out and about I do like to be more polished and put together. One of the top leaders in my company said to me two weeks ago “you are always so well put together!” It was very much a compliment from her.
    I am usually the one leading/facilitating most meetings and events at the company, and I do think it makes it clear that I am there for a specific reason. Besides, it makes me feel good, and gives me the confidence to lead the top leaders in the company through their strategy meetings.

  45. This_is_Todays_Name*

    For LW1, my advice would be to wear the designer clothes, but sparingly. Balance out a generic black Kohl’s or Penney’s or Macy’s or… whatever suit or skirt with ONE good/expensive piece. Don’t go head to toe Armani or Prada, etc.. Wear the Loubitons, or carry an expensive (unlogoed, understated) purse, tote or briefcase, but with a more subdued suit. Wear a designer pair of slacks, sheath, or skirt with an appropriate but less “shmancy” cardigan or blazer, or an expensive jacket/cashmere sweater with more affordable pants/skirts/dresses. Use your clothes! You bought them (secondhand even!) and you SHOULD get to wear them and enjoy, just do so thoughtfully and it won’t appear you’re rubbing anything in or “showing off” etc… Also, off topic, KUDOS for the job switch to one more personally fulfilling!! That takes strong character!

  46. Anon (and on and on)*

    LW4, for the opposite perspective, I had a boss move to different role in my organization while I was out on parental leave. She did tell me a few weeks before I returned about the change, which I appreciated. One thing that really made me feel better about the transition was that she took me out to lunch once I was back to work. We had been to lunch a few times before so this wasn’t out of the ordinary for our relationship. She gave me some final performance feedback and we discussed how my projects with her could be transitioned/continued without her. It was helpful from a work perspective but also gave me some important emotional closure, given how closely we had worked together.

  47. Notahugger*

    LW5 I distinguish between work experience and life experience. so under work experience is the typical listing of jobs and relevant achievements from those jobs. And then under life experiences I lost a professional conference I co-coordinated and the volunteer work I have done (both of which I used the skills I need for the type of job I am looking for.) I also have a section for professional development. it only has one thing, and I actually only put it on resumes when it is important to show that I can manage a team, but it lists the management training course I took when I was at my previous job.

  48. Lauren19*

    #5 – I have a section called ‘Additional Accreditation and Key Recognition’ that includes professional certifications (nice to haves but not required for my role), selective development opportunities (both internal and external), industry awards and internal recognition and awards.

  49. Abogado Avocado.*

    LW#1: yes, clothes send messages. The question for all of us who do courtroom work is: who are you messaging? In other words, who is the “decider” you’re seeking to influence? If the judge or the prosecuting attorney, you may want to wear your designer clothes because they suggest you have access to money, which is never a bad thing if those offices are elected since money signals power. If a jury, then you may want to wear clothes that will allow jurors to identify with you. Unless you’re trying cases in a very wealthy locale, your jurors probably are not wearing designer labels and, thus, your designer clothes may prevent you from connecting with jurors in the way you want.

    The field of costume design is concerned with the messages that clothes send. So, if you’ve got time, befriend a costume designer at the nearest repertory theatre or a professor at a college with a respectable costume design program. They can help you organize wardrobes for yourself and your clients for influencing the deciders.

    1. Rachel*

      Respectfully, I don’t think this is a practical solution.

      I think the LW needs advice from other people in her field about their professional norms. Costume designers are an excellent source for advice on dressing at the theater, not the legal field.

  50. Hiring Mgr*

    I think if #4 worked at a bigger company it might be different, but if there are only three people in the business, and one of them is the FMLA employee’s boss (OP), I think it would be pretty weird to come back to only two of you and now you don’t have a manager?

    I would absolutely want to know that before I showed up on my first day back

  51. eons*

    LW1 – I work in legal admin & I did my co-op at a community legal centre. The first few weeks there I would show up in my cheap but fancy to me jacket and slacks. The first few days the ppl working there were like “oh you can just wear jeans, don’t worry”. After a few weeks I was actually told “we do not want you to wear slacks, we want you to wear t-shirts and jeans (or whatever) so that you are more approachable to our clientele” and basically so you’re seen as being basically “on the same level” (I can’t think of the correct wording right now) – that might apply to your work as well

    1. kiki*

      It depends so much on the community and preferences and context. Because I’d feel more comfortable opening up around somebody who was dressed in a similar way as me. It would feel more approachable But if we’re in court and my future is on the line, I’d want to be represented by the sharply-dressed lawyer. I want wouldn’t care as much about approachability in that context. I wouldn’t want to feel like I got the budget defender– I’d want to feel like I have the real deal lawyer who looks like they’re so good they’d have been OJ’s top pick.

      So it really depends on LW’s role.

  52. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    #5 – Is it a bad idea to include those things under the job they went with (assuming they went with a job)? The info with each job should be specific accomplishments, so I usually include things like awards, programs, etc. with each job. Wondering if I’m doing it wrong/there is a better way to do things…

    e.g., I was selected to participate in a C-suite-level mentoring program at Llamas R Us, so I’d include that with that section of work experience; I was in the Top 10 Salespersons of the Year at Teapots Unlimited, so it goes with that role; I was awarded the ICUE (Innovate, Change, Update, Evaluate) Award while working at Skeleton Supplies, so I include it as a bullet there.

  53. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    #4 – When out on FMLA, I opened my email to let my boss know I was interested in coming back two weeks early and working half days.* I saw an email that my great-grand boss who’d hired me was leaving the org–I would have been devastated to see that when I got back and her already be gone. TBH If my own boss had left, I wouldn’t have been upset at all though. It all depends on your relationship with the person.

    *aside: Don’t do that. It messes with your leave and your pay while off. I ended up owing money back to the ST disability company because I didn’t qualify for any pay to cover the half days I wasn’t working. Just stay home the full time and don’t try to be responsible/ease your way back in. 100% not worth it.

  54. Beth*

    LW2, I want to poke at your staying at this institution because you’re trying to make it as safe a place as possible for other queer people. That’s a noble goal, and I relate to wanting to make it happen!!

    But babe, we queer people do not have the power to make spaces that are institutionally anti-queer safe for one another. It’s not possible to do that, and I’m worried that you’re keeping yourself in an institution that’s harming you–misgendering you, refusing to take your concerns about homophobia and transphobia seriously, routinely exposing you to people who hate us–out of a sense of duty to a goal that’s actually not achievable.

    If you need to be at this job because it’s what you can get that pays in your area, legit. If you decide to stay at this job because it’s better than the alternatives available to you…I hope you get better alternatives soon, but once again, legit. But if you have safer, kinder, more welcoming options available to you? Sometimes the ‘safest space’ you can offer people is evidence that there are safer spaces out there and that they should follow you to them.

  55. Silverose*

    #1: I work in affordable housing. The person who replaced me at one property after I was promoted pulled into property in a Tesla – in one of two colors. Every person at that small property was on a small fixed income plus getting food stamps and food from the local pantry. After he left, I covered the property for a while (he didn’t work for the company for long)…residents felt the class gap. He did other things that made him not a good fit for the position, but rolling up in one of two fairly new Teslas to a property where most people were barely keeping food on their tables and nursing along cars that were 20-30 years old…it wasn’t a good look. Residents voiced their displeasure about it for the first few weeks I was covering the property after he left. I’m on Team Allison for not using recognizable signs of wealth when working with underprivileged clients if you want to have good rapport with them.

    1. Me...Just Me*

      So, he should buy a completely different car than what he would like so that …. what?! …. people wouldn’t be offended? That’s so intrusive and out of touch with personal liberty that I am just yucked out at the thought that you (or people) think that their opinions should matter so much — what next, telling people what kind of house they should live in, so that it’s not “too nice” for others’ sensibilities?! The world is a truly weird place.

      Should he have purchased a 3rd, crappy car to drive to work in? So weird.

      1. spiriferida*

        He can buy whatever car he likes, but he damaged his ability to do his job and connect with the people he was serving by not only driving both cars to work, but through other behaviors that separated him from the people he should have been working with. It’s not universal that someone with enough money to buy two new-ish cars will be dismissive of their problems or do a bad job, but it doesn’t give a good impression that this guy knows how to relate to people who aren’t as well-off as him. when your job is to develop a rapport with someone who has a lot of negative experiences with people in positions of power over them… these are things that are important to consider if you want to do it well. If he was already having issues connecting with people, the two cars thing wasn’t the last straw, but it definitely didn’t help him dig his way out of the hole he was already in.

        1. Misty_Meaner*

          So, it’s okay to judge someone superficially if they HAVE money or nice things, but it’s wrong to judge someone who is poor and doesn’t have nice things, right? Ok. Just wanted to make sure I understand the rules.

    2. Ahnon4Thisss*

      These are two situations that are a bit hard to compare, imo. You can thrift designer clothes for way less than their sale price, or save up for a little while if you have even just a little extra disposable income every month. I just looked up Louboutins on eBay and thredUP where I found prices as low at $120 USD for a used pair. On the other hand, a used Tesla is around $20,000 USD. So, even if the guy’s Tesla’s are both used, that’s around $40,000.

      A designer pair of shoes is much more affordable and much less flashy than something like a Tesla, which I could see causing strife in the situation you described. A Tesla is in a whole different ballpark than designer clothes, though.

  56. rk*

    Letter #3: I’m sure Alison’s advice is spot on for most workers in most fields, but in the case of this particular letter writer’s situation, I have thoughts.

    First off, the letter writer Googled the article’s author and clicked through to what sounds like that author’s personal Instagram. The author linked to their work in their personal Instagram bio (which for journalists is very normal to do!), but it doesn’t sound like the author’s byline in the newspaper included their IG username. I suppose it’s possible that the newspaper could object to being connected to the author’s swimsuit-life in this one-sided way, but it strikes me as unlikely in any but the stuffiest newsrooms.

    Which brings me to my second thought: based solely on the context from the LW, I can’t tell how suggestive we’re talking, and it makes a difference! A newspaper wouldn’t have to be that stuffy or out of touch to object to, like, Maxim Magazine-style string bikini crotch shots. But is the author’s page just pictures of them in a bathing suit hanging out at the beach? Again, I’m sure there are plenty of fields where even those pictures would be safest on a private account for friends only, but it makes a distinct difference in this context whether the author’s pics are more PG or PG-13, so to speak.

    Finally, I can see where the article’s author might even feel that a personable social media presence boosts her profile in this increasingly precarious media landscape. Journalists are getting laid off in huge numbers these days, and one way that many of us try to protect our ability to keep writing professionally is to work hard on our “brands,” which can mean presenting a lively and intimate social media presence rather than a strictly professional one. That way, even if you lose your job, you can leverage your followers’ parasocial interest in you to e.g. start a newsletter. Basically, swimsuit shots may not be strictly within professional norms in media, but there are vast swaths of media where they would be perfectly fine.

    Again, I haven’t worked outside of media in four years now, and I’m sure Alison’s advice is right in most fields! I just think that unfavorable professional conditions (rampant layoffs, constricted opportunities) have changed the calculations for a lot of journalists and writers.

  57. 1-800-BrownCow*

    Am I the only person who had to Google Louboutins???

    I’m a 46-year old woman, who owns a couple (literally only 1 or 2) designer items, that has lived and worked in suburbs of a very large city, been to upscale places a few times in my life, and I have never, ever heard of Louboutins. I’m sure I’ve seen someone wearing them but wouldn’t have known they were a designer shoe and not purchased at payless.

    If I needed a PD, I would likely not even realize if the PD was wearing designer clothing or not. Nor would I care. But that’s me, someone who obviously does not know a whole lot about designer clothing.

    1. linus*

      you might not know the name “louboutin” but you might be familiar with the idea of “red bottoms” (mentioned in the chorus of cardi b’s breakout hit ‘bodak yellow’) or “red bottom heels.” they reached cultural ascendancy via sex & the city, though, and danielle steele (romance novelist) famously owns like six thousand pairs. there’s a handful of people on youtube who restore pairs, including specifically treating the red bottom. people across the cultural spectrum know what they are and they’re a big deal and a big class signifier. this is broadly equivalent to not being familiar with, like, a chanel suit in the mid sixties.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        It’s entirely possible to not be familiar with something that’s widely recognized.
        Personally, I’ve heard of louboutin, but never knew about the red soles.
        I’m sure there were people in the mid sixties who weren’t familiar with chanel suits.

        It feels like you’re challenging 1-800-BrownCow’s statement about their personal experience.

        1. k*

          No, I think linus is pointing out that 1-800-BrownCow’s comment is not particularly helpful to the LW, not that doubting their personal experience.

          It’s totally fine, as an individual, to be out of touch with fashion and popular culture. But Louboutins are an extremely recognizable cultural signifier, and it’s worth considering if clients will have a reaction to them. Saying “I don’t know what Louboutins are and wouldn’t care” doesn’t change the fact that many people do.

          1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

            What k said.

            Although it’s likely rhetorical, BrownCow is surely not the only person who had to google Louboutins, but more people than not know what they are. So much so that I had HS sophomores including them in poems when I was an English teacher (at a 95% free and reduced lunch district, I’ll add since it’s relevant-adjacent to the LW’s question) 10+ years ago.

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        I’m not sure if they were Chanel or not, but I certainly remember Jackie Kennedy’s outfits from that time – simply beautiful.

      3. metadata minion*

        Yeah, I know nothing about fashion and am not actually sure I’d recognize these shoes other than the fact that I know they have red soles, but I’ve heard of them from conversations like this one.

        On the other hand, this thread has made me realize that I had conflated “Louboutin” and “Louis Vuitton” because — at least in my head — they sound similar.

  58. Pink Candyfloss*

    LW#3: are you SURE the Instagram profile you found is the real person’s, and wasn’t hacked or stolen? The way you describe the profile, it sounds like a pretty typical hacked profile replaced by scammers.

  59. spiriferida*

    LW 2, one thing you don’t mention is how supportive your boss actually is in general, which I think might change the usefulness of Alison’s advice. At the very least, it seems like she is tepidly accepting, but not a strong advocate for you in practical ways, considering that she brushed it off in the first place.

    If she has a history of trying to stand up for you in an otherwise hostile company, then I think Alison’s advice might get more results, or at least result in a more solemn conversation about the political impacts both within and outside of the company. If she’s a very wishy-washy ally, then it might get better results to take the tactic some other commenters have mentioned, and call the training out in other ways, arguing about its’ effectiveness in general, or finding an alternative that you think would be less hostile and you can argue would serve you better.

  60. Laura*

    Re LW1: I would consult with a trusted mentor, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much as long as you limit the amount of logoed items. Unless someone is seriously into designer stuff, they’re going to assume bags and sunglasses are knockoffs. Your fellow lawyers who recognize non-logoed items are from monied backgrounds themselves or seriously into clothes. Everyone else will figure you are a flaming liberal trust fund kid, married well or a BIGLAW refugee.

    You want to set some distance between criminal defendants and yourself. You aren’t their friend or their peer, you are their public defender.

  61. Dawn*

    LW#1: I am not a lawyer, but at least where I’m from, public defenders are often volunteering their time and do have or work for a private practice outside of that.

    You know your clients best and your mileage may vary, but if I were facing that kind of charge, it would make me feel better to have someone in my corner who at least looked like she was good enough at her job to be well-compensated for it, and I’d suspect that the judge would react better to her as well.

  62. SB*

    If I needed a public defender & she turned up looking like a badass in a pair of red bottoms & a power suit I would be cheering!

  63. Anon4This*

    For OP1, I worked in the immigration court system and I saw hundreds of attorneys come before the judges. I could always tell when an attorney representing a noncitizen was private practice or pro bono/non profit. The private immigration attorneys tended to dress a bit more on the low brow side often with less well-fitted suits in crinklier synthetic materials and the pro bono/non profit attorneys always dressed sharp, i.e. structured wool suits and nice heels/polished oxfords . From experience, I’ve seen this affect judges’ perception of how competent the attorney might be in representing their client. Just thought I’d provide another perspective into this whole debate. But this might be industry specific so I’d advise consulting with a trusted mentor about this.

  64. From Back When Law School Was Only $12K/Year*

    #1 I think this person is overthinking it. I’m in court every week and the general decorum, including dress, has been declining. You are not really dressing for your client. If anything, you are dressing for the Judge and maybe a jury. I Would recommend fairly conservative professional dress. If that can be achieved with designer duds, then have at it.

  65. Semi-retired admin*

    LW1, my work situation is different than yours, but I’m currently working as a part time receptionist in a mid-sized office. It’s actually my 3rd source of income, and I’m doing it just to keep busy. Add to that, I’ve always been a little “extra” and have very nice (though not designer) clothes, shoes, and jewelry, and my hair is pretty high maintenance. I am the lowest paid person in my office, but with a very few exceptions, I am consistently the best-dressed (including the owners and upper management). I initially considered downplaying my look, but I ultimately decided that my clothing choices make me happy, I’ve worked really hard for a long time to be able to afford my choices, and I am going to enjoy dressing nicely. You worked really hard in a job you hated to afford your nice things. I definitely think you can wear them!

  66. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    I’m a PD (for certain kinds of civil court, not criminal), and I don’t make a whole lot of money – I’m certainly not on the same level as my clients, but I’d say I’m solidly in lower middle class territory. Most of my court clothes are from Old Navy or JCPenney or Eshakti.

    The truth is that, for a lot of our clients, Macy’s is just as financially out of reach as Louboutin. Clients are not stupid: they know that lawyers make more money than them. While there are definitely attorneys that can show up to court in sweatpants and a T-shirt (not an exaggeration) and still be taken seriously, I think most people expect all lawyers to look like Harvey Specter, so a lawyer wearing designer clothing isn’t going to strike them as odd at all.

  67. Kotow*

    I’m not a PD but I’m in private practice and accept court appointments for dependency cases so I’m around a lot of attorneys who work for public interest organizations (and are similarly low-paid). I really don’t notice a difference between the way the public interest attorneys dress and the way private attorneys dress. Ultimately in court, all of the lawyers look like lawyers; it’s the blazer that gives it away. I really don’t think designer labels make much of a difference at all for most people. Clients either expect their lawyer to be dressed better than they are, or they assume that all lawyers are wealthy and so of course they’d be in fancy clothes and driving luxury cars (I know, humor me for a second!). The only time I’ve heard any comments about an attorney’s attire is when they were dressed very casually in court and a client hasn’t appreciated it.

  68. Mmm.*

    I like the LW 1’s awareness of how their clients may feel! I agree with the advice to not wear clothes that are immediately recognizable or at all “look at this costly item!” A lot of Dolce and Gabana comes to mind there. But wear the other things. After all, you own them, and they’re professional.

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