do professional clothes need to be seasonally appropriate, how to tell coworkers I’m married, and more

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

1. Does professional attire need to be seasonally appropriate?

My wife hosts college students for six-week programs that introduce them to a professional setting. Each student is graded on categories related to their field of study, but they are also graded on professional norms like teamwork and punctuality.

One of these norms to be evaluated on is professional attire, and we disagree on whether it should be seasonally appropriate.

When a student comes to work in the middle of the winter wearing slacks with a sleeveless top and no jacket, she thinks this comes off as strange and should be addressed (we live in the northeast US, so it’s cold). I feel that as long as the student is wearing appropriate business attire, and it isn’t affecting her ability to work, then it shouldn’t matter. What is your take on this low-stakes situation?

I’m with you. If she managed someone who came to work without a jacket in the winter, would she feel she needed to tell them they looked unprofessional? She might ask if they were cold! She might reflect on whether she was paying them enough to afford appropriate winter wear! But she wouldn’t chastise them for being unprofessional (I hope).

I suspect what’s going on here is that these students only have a limited amount of professional clothes (because they don’t need many yet) and so they’re wearing what they have — which might be for a different season.

2. How do I tell coworkers I’m married when they don’t think I am?

I started a new job about five months ago. A week before my new job, my partner of 10 years moved out of our home as we commenced a trial separation. It was a very difficult and emotional time, and I didn’t wear my wedding ring to work. I wanted to avoid questions that had messy answers.

I also had several pet emergencies in the last few months and explained my need to rush home after work or take time off as “I don’t have anyone to help me take care of my dog.” Several coworkers began to make references to me living alone and I didn’t disagree with them, as I was indeed living alone.

My husband and I recently started to reconcile and he is moving back in. I have confessed to one coworker, who I am close with, that I am married and was going through a separation. If anyone at work wanted to, they could access the emergency contact list and see my spouse is listed as my contact and spouse.

I’m not sure if or when I could tell people I’m married. Do I slip it into conversation casually? Will that naturally trigger questions about why I didn’t bring him up before? Will it make my prior absences seem fishy? I might be overthinking it but I don’t know how to go about it! There’s also a part of me that’s nervous things won’t work out with my spouse and then I’ll have to break the news to my coworkers all over again.

Sorry you’re dealing with the stress of this in the middle of everything else! I think you can just start referring to your spouse again and if people ask, you can say, “He’s been out of town for months — long story — but he’s back now!” You don’t owe people the details of your marriage, and this statement gives them the parts that are relevant to them: he’s not new, he’s been away, and he’s back now.

If he moves out again in the future, you could use that same formulation — “he’s away right now” or even, if you’re comfortable with it, “we’re living apart right now.”

3. Why can’t our interns write good social media posts?

I work for a small arts organization, and one of my many responsibilities is to manage the organization’s social media feeds. I feel like I have outgrown that aspect of my role, but seeing as there is very little chance that we will hire a new person to oversee social media, I try to share the posting load with our various interns.

The issue I am running into is that every single intern I’ve worked with in the last three years can’t seem to get our institutional voice right. Last year, I began requesting a social media writing sample with intern applications, and I still struggled with the multiple candidates we have hired since then. A lot of the time, the writing misstates key ideas, misrepresents an artists’ work, or is flat-out grammatically incorrect. I struggle with editing these posts in such a way that the intern’s voice remains meaningfully present while the text accurately, eloquently, and professionally reflects my org. It takes up a ton of time and often I end up rewriting the posts entirely. I’m not sure if I’m doing a bad job outlining expectations, giving confusing feedback, or just setting my expectations too high for these interns. Any advice?

The work you need done takes real writing skill and professional expertise — especially being able to master an organization’s voice — and most interns won’t have that.

You might be able to coach some of them into it, but (a) you’d need to make writing skills a main trait you screen for when you hire, (b) it’s going to take real investment of your time (doing things like sitting with them to compare their version to your version and talking through the differences), and (c) a lot of them still won’t be able to do it. If your goal is to spend less bandwidth on social media, this coaching process will achieve the opposite: it will create more work for you. That probably means it’s not a great intern task, since just when you get someone trained (if you do), they’ll be moving on. (It would be great for them! But it probably doesn’t align with your goal of getting the work off your plate.)

4. Nosy coworker in an open office

I work in-office for a team of ~30. Our office is set-up such that the junior employees work in an open office and the senior employees have their own cubicles or private offices. As a result, the junior employees have almost no privacy. In particular, my desk is very (in)conveniently located next to a high foot-traffic area, so pretty much everyone in the office walks by my desk around 10 times a day and has a full view of all three of my monitors.

So far, it hasn’t bothered me too much, as none of the work I’m doing is confidential to my team and I rarely browse the internet for non-work reasons. However, there is one coworker, “Nicholas,” who is about five years my senior who drives me absolutely insane.

Nicholas walks by my desk about 10 times a day. Each time, he cranes his neck and turns his head a full 90 degrees so that he can very conspicuously stare at my monitors as he walks past. I don’t know why it bothers me so much, because I’m not looking at anything I shouldn’t be looking at, and it’s not like he’s seeing anything he shouldn’t, but it drives me insane. No one else at the office does this, only Nicholas. Nicholas also doesn’t have a direct supervisory role over me, so there’s no reason he needs to do this, either.

I thought it only bothered me, but at a recent happy hour, I learned that all of my other junior coworkers have the same problem with Nicholas. So it seems clear to me that this is a “him” issue, and not a “me” issue.

I know this is low-stakes, but it drives me up the wall. I don’t know if it would be professionally appropriate for me to “confront” him about this and ask him to stop. I’m also leaving this role in about half a year, so I’ve considered just ignoring this and biting my tongue for the length of my stint here. What should I do?

Because you’re junior to him, you’ve probably just got to live with it; it’s one of the annoying things about working in an open office. If he weren’t senior to you, you could probably say something like, “I don’t know if you realize that every time you walk by, it seems like you’re craning your neck to look at my monitors; it’s really distracting.” But you’re junior and he’s senior to you? I wouldn’t.

That said, there are subtler ways to approach it. For example, you could try looking up expectantly every time he does it, like you think he needs something from you, or even saying, “Did you need something from me?” It’s possible that doing that a few times would clue him in that he’s throwing you off from your work … but it also may not.

5. Can I ask my interviewer if they’re considering internal candidates?

I was recently interviewed for a position that I thought I was a good fit for, and the recruiter who reached out to me seemed to agree. However, by the end of the interview, I realized that the manager had asked no questions about practicalities— travel frequency, my availability, etc. That, plus a few other factors, made me suspect there was a strong internal candidate.

Would it have been appropriate to ask if they were considering any internal candidates? I guess it wouldn’t have changed anything for me at that point, but it would have helped me adjust my expectations (I was declined in the end).

You can ask, but it won’t tell you anything conclusive. They might have an internal candidate who they already know they don’t want to hire. They might have an internal candidate they’re not wed to and they’re considering others just as strongly. Or sure, they might already have someone internal they plan to hire (or someone external they plan to hire, for that matter). You won’t have any way of knowing.

The fact that your interviewer wasn’t asking the questions you expected doesn’t necessarily point to an internal candidate! It points to a bad interviewer, and those are at least as common as interviewers who just go through the motions because they’ve already selected someone else.

do internal candidates have a better chance at the job?

{ 583 comments… read them below }

  1. Certaintroublemaker*

    I wonder whether LW4 can get those monitor privacy screens that mean you have to be exactly in front of them to see what’s on them. Mr. Nosy Parker needs to reel himself in.

    1. Vincaminor*

      That’s a much better solution than my thought, which was to have a document with HI NICHOLAS in 72-point font that she could switch to when he walks past.

      1. The answer is (probably) 42*

        I actually came here to say exactly this! I would be petty enough to do something like that. I’d just have it open on Notepad and minimized at all times. Heck, if you can get other junior employees on board, it could be hilarious.

        I don’t know if it’s actually a good idea, it probably depends on how casual the office culture is, but I would be so, SO tempted. And even if it’s a bad idea, it could be fun to imagine doing it, at least.

      2. Laugh cough*

        I’m home sick with a cold, and your comment made me laugh, which made me cough my head off. But thank you for the laugh!

      3. I Have RBF*

        You could make your text bubble screensaver say that*, and then when Nicholas walks by hit Windows-L (assuming Windows machines). Get together with the other juniors and set it up. IMO, it’s good practice for working in places that do have confidentiality issues.

        * Select the Start button, then go to Settings > Personalization > Lock screen, and select Screen Saver Settings. In the Screen Saver Settings window, choose a screen saver from the drop-down list. The one you want is “3D Text”, then go to Settings > Text and select “Custom Text”. Type in your greeting, and then pick a really large, fancy font.

      4. Angela Zeigler*

        Even better, make it a smaller size (not terribly different from anything else on the screen) so it catches him by surprise trying to read things.

        ‘Project due by 2/18 what do you think Nicholas? See anything interesting? Can I help you in some way?’

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I know nothing about how this office works, but I have worked in places where a senior employee was instructed to do exactly what “Nosy Parker” is doing—keep an eye on the work of juniors. Admittedly it was for new people not long-term junior employees,but it’s worth considering if he’s doing as reqthe thought that the behavior not doing this on a whim.

      I’m not sure how to figure that out before asking him to stop…

      1. Also-ADHD*

        Keeping an eye on usually entails actually collaborating with and supporting, giving feedback etc, not just looking over shoulders randomly though—at least in orgs that do it in any way that’s useful.,

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, ‘keeping an eye on’ a junior employee should mean having regular meetings with them to check that they’re on track, making sure they have time and space to ask questions, generally making sure they’re handling their workload well and they know what they should be prioritising. It really should not mean literally checking up on what’s on their computer screen multiple times a day. That’s intrusive and infantilising, and it’s bad management. I once worked for a horrible micromanager who would make regular tours of the office and loom over people going ‘Why are you working on THAT?? Stop that! You should be working on THIS’. It was absolutely awful and it just made everyone feel terrified that they’d be singled out at any moment and told they were getting it wrong. No one wants to work feeling like they’re under scrutiny or like the boss doesn’t believe they’re working.

          1. ZugTheMegasaurus*

            Dude’s just Amelia-Bedilia-ing his way through the office; let’s hope he’s not asked to fire anyone.

      2. Justice*

        I think it’s much more likely that Nicholas has appointed himself as the designated Monitor Monitor. I had a co-worker who did this too, and she also walked around at 5PM on Friday just to see who was or wasn’t still at their desks.
        Our actual boss didn’t care much at all, but I guess some people just never grow out of being a tattletale. I think Alison’s advice to turn around and ask him if he needs anything is the only strategy with any chance of working. Unfortunately, I think it’s a pretty small chance.

        1. AnonORama*

          When I practiced law, my one coworker would pull out a little yellow pad and mark down when the other associates got to and left work. To be fair, I never actually saw what he wrote, but when you walked by him on the way into or out of the office, he’d pick up the pad and pen and note something down.

          I worked plenty hard without getting there at 6am or whatever to lie in wait, so I literally walked up eight floors to enter through the back. I left by the stairs as well. It added a little functional fitness AND kept me away from Mr. Yellow Pad.

          (I’m sure it will surprise no one that he’s a partner now, and I’m out of the practice. My choice, though, and not because of anything he reported about me.)

        2. Random Dice*

          My husband can’t NOT swivel his head and stare fixedly at a screen, if it’s in the same room as him.

          Today I told him that he’s welcome to sit somewhere and watch me take my online piano lesson, but looming over my shoulder like A.R.T. to Murderbot was right out. He had no idea that he’d been looming ponderously, leaning in and staring fixedly, until I said that.


      3. Mad, mad Me*

        Was he actually senior to her though? I see where she says he is 5 years her senior, but are we sure he has actual seniority over her?

        1. allathian*

          Yes, I was wondering the same thing. Is Nicholas above the LW in the org chart, or has he simply been there longer? I guess it would depend on how hierarchical the organization is, but as long as Nicholas doesn’t have any supervisory authority, whether formal or informal, over the LW, it should be okay to tell him to cut it out (in more professional terms, obviously).

          Given that Nicholas is doing this to everyone in the junior office, can you ask your actual supervisor if Nicholas has been instructed to do this or if he’s doing it because nobody’s told him to stop?

          I hate open offices and won’t voluntarily work in one again. At the very least, I want a cubicle half-wall behind me. Just reading this letter made me hunch my shoulders.

    3. lilsheba*

      Yeah I don’t give a damn if he is senior or not, he does not need to be doing that. He’s no better than the OP, he’s not superior or any of that stuff. He’s just rude and nosy and needs to be told to stop.

    4. My Useless 2 Cents*

      Requesting the privacy screens would be a good opener for talking to your manager. Putting a flea in their ear about this wouldn’t be a bad thing as it sounds very intrusive and uncomfortable**. Come at it as an “asking for advice”… like “Manager, every time Nicholas walks by he very obviously monitors my monitors. It’s never anything but work but it makes me very uncomfortable and I’m not sure how to handle it. I was thinking some privacy screens. What do you think?”
      **Only saying this because multiple people are having this problem. If it was only OP, I’d say keep biting your tongue for the next half a year.

    5. Cat Mouse*

      This is what I came to recommend! Those privacy screens are great. I used to use one that attached to the monitor and could easily be removed.

      I will say I tend to be distracted by screens and I know I tend to look at them as I walk by. I don’t think I’m doing the neck crane and being obvious, but I’m certainly going to be more conscious as I walk past work stations to make sure I’m not appearing to be staring at other people’s work!

    6. Simon the God of Hairdos*

      We had a Nicholas in my last department. He would stare at one coworker’s monitors every time he walked by. He wasn’t even subtle about it. So I suggested she change her wallpaper to a photo of Samuel L. Jackson with that super intense stare (Google “Samuel L Jackson stare” to see it yourself). She did, and would minimize her apps whenever he walked by. Pretty sure he started minding his own business.

    7. My cat is the employee of the month*

      I’ve had multiple managers do this to their employees. They were awful in many ways, and I always hoped that they’d trip while craning their necks to look at people’s computers. I wonder if this is taught in bad manager school?

    8. Office Drone*

      I was once the brand-new entry-level employee who was assigned a desk right outside a senior exec’s office. Literally, so close that if he had someone at his door, I’d have had to say “excuse me” to get up and walk past.

      The man drove me insane by chatting with colleagues who hung out at his door, entirely oblivious to anyone nearby who couldn’t concentrate because of the constant talking. I finally had enough the day someone stopped by his office and regaled him with the graphic (and gory) details of a close relative’s death by suicide. Having dealt with this issue myself and in my family, I was extremely upset.

      This probably wasn’t a solution Alison would have recommended, but I was too junior to ask the guy to close his door, and felt I was too new to bother my direct manager with the problem. So, I bit the bullet and contacted HR. I figured that if there were unpleasant repercussions I was new enough that I could always leave that job off my resume.

      HR was great. I was offered a chance to move desks, but I wasn’t compelled to move. (I liked my position in the open space, noisy neighbors notwithstanding.) I was given information on employee mental health benefits. And, I was told, my C-suite neighbor was pulled in by his HR director for a chat about sensitive discussions being heard on the floor. He never said anything to me (probably couldn’t), but he was more careful after that about calling people into his office and shutting his door.

      I mention all this to say that you don’t have to put up with intrusive behavior as a consequence of working in open space. There should be serious reason to involve HR (in my case, I waited until there was no doubt that the talk I was overhearing was inappropriate in an open setting), but it is something a decent HR team will handle—no matter the disparity in positions.

  2. Observer*

    #2- Changing household.

    This sounds hugely stressful. I do think that you are over-thinking it, but I also think that that’s really normal! Alison’s language is really good.

    I hope it all works out. But if it doesn’t, I think that Alison’s language is again very good, so at least that won’t have to be one more thing to cause some extra headache.

    1. ThatOtherClare*

      I agree! Here’s some example scripts building on Alison’s “he’s away right now” theme:

      Co-worker: “Oh, you have a husband?”
      LW#2: “Yeah, he’s been away for a while but he’s back now.”
      Co-worker: “That’s nice. Was he travelling for work or something?”
      LW#2: “No, he was dealing with some family stuff.”

      Later on, if necessary:

      Co-worker: “Oh you’re doing vet duty again? Where’s Husband?”
      LW#2: “He had family stuff come up again, so he might be gone for a little while.”

      My best wishes Letter Writer #2, I hope everything turns out well for you.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I see that this lets OP avoid getting into the details of her marriage, but if it were me I think I’d be mostly concerned that my coworkers thought I was weirdly misrepresenting myself before (reminds me of the letter the other day about the coworker with the ghost cats) – I’d prefer to say, “we were separated” or something, to make it clear that when I said I was single and living along, that was true at that time. I’d probably avoid bringing him up *now* unless I felt really good about our future together, personally. Depends on how much openness you’re willing to go for, I guess.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            I think Sloanicota is referring to “My coworker has imaginary cats” (letter #2 from the short answer post on February 5, 2024).

        1. Observer*

          (reminds me of the letter the other day about the coworker with the ghost cats)

          Yeah, but most people don’t jump to the kind of response that that LW had.

          I’d prefer to say, “we were separated” or something, to make it clear that when I said I was single and living along, that was true at that time.

          This is a perfectly good way to handle it, if you are comfortable sharing that. But if someone really doesn’t want to get into it, I don’t think that she needs to worry about weird people being weird.

        2. LW2*

          I really appreciate all the kind comments! My workplace is one where folks tend to be relatively open and chatty. I know the names and occupations of some folks’ spouses. I’ve met others. Obviously, because I feel like I’ve been consciously avoiding mentioning things that signal my coupledom, I see all the times I’ve had an opportunity to mention I had a spouse but didn’t. I am normally very chatty about my partner so not mentioning him at all definitely felt like I was hiding something!

        3. Elsajeni*

          I think that’s reasonable, but I also think it’s reasonable to say “we were living apart for a while” (or “he was living in [Location] for a while,” if he actually did move out of town during the separation) and not specify a reason. Some people will probably draw the correct conclusion; others will guess that he was taking care of an aging parent or deployed or had some kind of unusual work situation; ultimately it’s not really their business, so it doesn’t really matter what they assume. (You do probably want to be prepared in case someone asks “ohhh, was he like working on an oil rig?” or something, so decide in advance whether you’ll want to answer with the specific truth or give another sort of “haha no, just living apart for a while!” non-answer — but unless they ask, I think it’s fine for some people to just… be wrong about this!)

      2. ferrina*

        Family stuff is a great line, and truthful as well (since OP is family)

        I love Alison’s wording here- “it’s a long story” should shut down most inquiries. If someone is being nosy, I think the “family stuff- it’s a long and dramatic story, and I’d rather not talk about it” is great. I’ve used that a few times when dealing with my own dramatic family (family of origin in my case).

    2. Pelican*

      Communications person here rather frankly exasperated that management (of many organisations) fail to grasp that writing really well is a highly skilled task. And AI won’t grasp nuance or develop excellent relationships with customers/members/the public.

      1. Tea Monk*

        Yes, I want to think a company will do a good job. Seeing slap dash communication makes me think the opposite.

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      I hope it all works out for the best.

      Just drop him into conversation as appropriate, and answer any questions neutrally. “He was living in Bedrock for a couple of years, but he’s back home now.”

      Many people probably won’t even ask, or will make their own assumptions, because it is none of their business. Lots of people have spouses who are based elsewhere, or deployed, or not available to help with household tasks because they work long hours or have heavy travel schedules. I knew a couple where the wife moved to another city for a couple of years for grad school, and the husband didn’t go. I wouldn’t think anything about you not having people to take care of the dogs; I’d just assume your spouse was out of town a lot.

    4. Prairie*

      So stressful! LW2, are you comfortable lying? “He’s been away with caregiving responsibilities.” I think a lot of people have experienced or know someone who’s had to relocate for a sick or elderly loved one. And if there are follow up questions, say you don’t want to dig into it at work.

      1. Observer*

        are you comfortable lying?

        Don’t do that. It’s not the OP owes anyone any information. But it winds up adding an additional layer of stress, in that you have to remember what you said to whom. And if / when it comes out, the OP is going to have another whole layer of stuff to deal with.

    5. LCH*

      agree that you don’t need to get detailed with coworkers on this. anyone worthwhile will accept whatever you say. anyone else is a rude busybody.

    6. Festively Dressed Earl*

      I don’t see a reason why LW #2 should go out of their way to tell people they’ve got a husband. The possibility of things not working out is too real, and there’s no reason to bring him up unless he’s coming to a work event or LW needs to take time off because he’s seriously ill or something.

    7. Lizzianna*

      I had an employee who went through something similar.

      I assumed he was single when he took the job and moved to our city. There were a few mentions of an ex-wife, and I knew he had an adult son, but other than that, it just never really came up.

      Then one day, he mentioned something about his wife, and I noticed he was wearing a wedding ring. At that point, we were close enough that he told me he and his wife had reconciled, but to the rest of the team, if someone expressed that they didn’t realize he was married, he just said, she wasn’t living here, now she is, and said it in a matter of fact way that didn’t invite any questions. A couple people tried to pry, and said something very similar to Alison’s script, and then changed the subject. It was very low drama and the office had completely moved on within a week or so.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yes, especially when you’re new people will just assume either that it hadn’t come up yet, or they hadn’t heard when you’d mentioned him before. At least, that’s always my assumption is that I just wasn’t paying attention, or had made an assumption without actually asking, not that my coworker was lying about their partner/kids/pets/whatever.

    8. linger*

      N.B. “It’s been mostly long-distance the past few years” is true, too.
      Though note, describing it more vaguely as a (mostly/temporarily) long-distance relationship may fuel unwelcome speculation that you might be tempted to move or leave.

  3. Daria Grace*

    #1. As long as the clothing is office appropriate, please don’t force it to be seasonal. Some of these students will have changed clothing sizes by the time they graduate or end up in jobs that require less formal clothing in which case they’ve spent money they probably can’t afford on things that will wear a handful of times. They may also find the temperature in the office less comfortable that some do- at my last job I wore summer tops in winter a lot because it was so warm in the office.

    1. Heidi*

      I have also encountered people who have a surprising tolerance for cold. I’ll be in a parka and they’re just fine with no jacket at all. Some people are just different.

      1. MEH Squared*

        Yeah, this is me. I live in Minnesota and run hot. I don’t put on a coat/jacket until it’s below 0F. The most I’d do is throw on a sweatshirt. I do wear gloves if it’s in the 10s or so.

        OP#1, I’m with you. As long as the interns are dressed professionally, that should be enough.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Co-sign. I am hot when everyone else is comfortable. I am comfortable when everybody else is cold. I live in DC and I haven’t needed more than a heavy sweatshirt this year. It’s very possible that these people just run warm and they are fine in their clothing. As long as they look appropriate and are not complaining about the temperature, let it be.

          Also, a lot of professional clothing isn’t seasonally comfortable on its merits. Men often have to wear heavy dark suits and ties and jackets even in the middle of the summer.

          1. mango chiffon*

            I also run very hot and live in DC. I still sweat on the Metro during the winter and carry a mini USB charging fan with me most of the year (yes even in the winter) just to stay comfortable.

          2. Rage*

            +1 here – under normal circumstances, I am the normal level of cold-tolerant you’d expect for living in the central Midwest. But last summer, my body decided to undergo some changes which catapulted me into personal and permanent summer episodes (“hot flashes”). This winter, I only put on a coat when the temperature dropped into the 20s (and below). Even then, I was cracking windows to keep from overheating on the 12-minute drive to the office. My attire remained solidly in the spring and summer realm – dresses, skirts, and short-sleeved shirts. I don’t think I wore boots (normally a staple of my winter wardrobe) more than once or twice. I was fine with flats/no socks.

            Conversely, about 15 years ago, I had the opposite happen as a medication side effect: I was freezing all. the. time. In the middle of summer. It was June/July, temps in the 90s, and I was wearing corduroy slacks and long-sleeved shirts (or short-sleeve + sweater inside) and still shivering. I should have burned up outside, but I was simply comfortable.

            As long as the attire is appropriate for your business environment, it shouldn’t matter what season it’s for.

            1. Anax*

              Speaking as someone with analogous medical issues – I’m sorry you’re dealing with that! It’s surprisingly debilitating, and people don’t quite know what to do about it.

              (And also, having to pick between overheating and frostbite is a pain! I started wearing actual shoes instead of flipflops after a few bad incidents in the slush, but I was never happy about it, lol.)

            2. Abundant Shrimp*

              Yep, I’ve had those ungodly things for a year now (the hot flashes) and the best way for me to manage them is to dress very light. I would be beyond annoyed to be told I was required to dress warm for the weather.

          3. Anax*

            +1 here.

            No one on Dad’s side of the family will willingly spend time in a place with ‘reasonable’ central heating. I’ve had relatives sleep in their car rather than overheat in a hotel room. I used to go downhill skiing in a t-shirt and pajama pants regularly.

            Here in California, my household leaves the windows open at night year-round – and while it doesn’t get very cold, it does get down to 32F.

            I actually start having very real medical issues above 72F. This is not fun in northern California, and I’m mostly housebound because of it.

        2. Michelle*

          same, I’m in St Paul and I haven’t owned a winter jacket for years. I have a wool-lined hoodie that functions as one when layered over another hoodie or sweater, and I hardly wear even that.

        3. essy*

          Agreed! I moved from Minneapolis to DC a couple years ago and still haven’t fully adjusted to the weather here. I love my seasonally-appropriate sweaters but have to have a fan blowing cool air to stay comfortable (and meanwhile colleagues in the same temps are running space heaters!)

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            It’s such a huge adjustment! I used to work in a little tourist store that sold tee shirts and sweatshirts in Seattle, and you could always tell when someone came from a much hotter climate–they’d lunge for the sweatshirts exclaiming about how “cold it was on the water.” This was usually when for me it was warm or even hot outside.

            At the other extreme were people from Canada/Northern Alaska who would buy tank tops in the dreariest, coldest rain ever.

        4. Justme, The OG*

          Agree. I work in the US South and my Northerner co-worker and I both usually come in not wearing a jacket. Only if it’s really cold. Not like today, high of 70 in February.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        This was my read. Possibly because personally, I will prioritize being warm over being perfectly professionally dressed. Mostly because if I’m freezing, I can’t concentrate, won’t do my best work or have my best interactions. About 30% of my brainpower will be busy with “Cold! Cold! I’m cold! How can I be less cold? When can I get out of here? Where can I get a sweater? Maybe a scarf? I should have worn a sweater! Cold!” I’ll deal with it and knuckle through when I have to, but it’s not conducive to good work. I’ll choose acting professional over looking professional any day.

        There are people less sensitive to hot/cold who may either genuinely be comfortable that way, or be able to prioritize differently, because it won’t hurt their behaviour as much.

      3. Tiny Soprano*

        I’m like that, and if it’s air conditioned to anything above 18C inside, I’ll be too hot in a jacket. I always felt sweating big patches in a jacket was less professional than just going without, so long as you’ve got an appropriate top.

        It can be what you get used to as well. I’m sure everyone knows a Canadian who’s happy in shorts and sandals at -10C (and at the time I reference in my own life, there was windchill as well!) Whereas one of my current colleagues is Punjabi, and he’s in a jacket with a hot chocolate as soon as it gets below 25C. We mutually agree it’s funny when at the same temperature he’s rugged up but I’m using the nearest file folder as a fan.

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly. Different folks have different temperature preferences. Heck, I have different temperature preferences on different days! As long as the clothes are appropriate, please don’t dictate that they have to be “seasonal”.

          Also curious what the wife thinks about menopause- would she tell someone experiencing a hot flash in winter that they should put on a sweater because it’s “seasonally appropriate”?

        2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          This reminds me of when I was in college and a group of us (from Iowa) took a winter term class in Georgia (the state not the country). One day it was 50F in GA and with wind chill -30 in Iowa, and we decided to go swimming. So here’s a group of college kids splashing around in the (admittedly cold) ocean, being watched by a LOT of older people wearing full coats, hats, scarves, etc.

      4. Irish Teacher.*

        I have a colleague who occasionally dresses quite…unusually. Like in winter, she’ll wear a summer dress under a quilted winter coat and then just wear her coat inside. Given that she also had a lot of difficulty with the masks when they were required (she kept trying different types) and some other reasons, I suspect it is a sensory issue.

        Now, with interns, it’s more likely it’s just a case of not having a lot of work clothes and work clothes being relatively expensive for students, but it is worth the LW’s wife keeping in mind things like sensory issues and different tolerances for hot and cold too.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          I wore a summer dress last week. I just couldn’t bear to wear my winter professional clothes another day. I needed something light and bright.

          I did wear stockings and an appropriate long sleeved shirt underneath, but it uplifted me out of some of these winter doldrums for a day.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I have read that your temperature tolerance depends upon the temperatures you encountered in your first year of life.

        I don’t know if that’s statistically valid but anecdata from my friends has shown few exceptions. (And those have been medical. for example the friend with Reynaud’s feels the cold much more than her close sibling.)

        1. Inkhorn*

          I’m an exception to that hypothesis – I was born and raised in a city notorious for its frigid winters, yet I’m a lifelong cold-hater who fled to the subtropics at the earliest opportunity. No medical issues, just quick to get chilled and slow to warm back up.

          1. Harried HR*

            Me too, I was born & raised in the UK emigrated to South Florida at the first opportunity because I was fed up with being cold ALL.THE.TIME !!!

          2. House On The Rock*

            I also grew up in a notoriously cold city, went to college in another snowy clime, and have spent my whole adult life in a third chilly place. And yet I hate cold and always ask myself why I live here and dream of moving.

          3. HMS Cupcake*

            Add me to the list of exceptions then. I grew up in a tropical country, went to college in the (deep) American south and can’t stand the heat and humidity. Now I live in the NE US and while not quite sleeveless in the middle of winter, I tend to wear short or 3/4 sleeve tops under a coat with no hat, scarf or gloves while others around me are bundled up.

          4. Justin D*

            Born and raised in the Minneapolis area and while I tend to run a little warm I still wear jackets until it’s above 50. But it also depends on the time of year. 50 in March and I might want to go in a t-shirt, but 50 in October and I’m wearing a decent jacket.

          5. Kt*

            I wonder if your parents kept the house really warm when you were a baby? So, the region was cold your actual environment was hot?

        2. Askew*

          I’ve often wondered about this – I run really cold, and spent the first few years of my life living in a house without central heating and no heat at all in the bedrooms, in a cold, damp climate. It always seemed like it should have made me a bit hardier! But instead not only do I run cold but I have a real horror of being cold and no tolerance for it

        3. New Mom (of 1 5/9)*

          I will say that, for many people, you eventually adapt to your environment. Spend enough time in northern Wisconsin and all of a sudden 10˚F isn’t so bad. If you get deployed to Iraq and get used to that, you may find yourself wearing a light jacket in 70˚F–I have heard of this happening. (This can also be true in a given year–compare how 40˚F feels in October vs. March.)

        4. Ann O'Nemity*

          This tracks for me! I spent the first part of my childhood in a place that never got above 80 degrees. Since then I’ve lived in warmer places for *decades* but I’ve never gotten comfortable with really high temps. On the other hand, I can go visit the mountains in the middle of winter with subzero temps and I’m fine. Snow is my friend.

        5. Seconds*

          I spent the first four years of my life in a hot, humid place with no air conditioning.

          The one kind of weather I can’t tolerate? Hot, humid weather.

        6. Hrodvitnir*

          Oh ho, while that’s logical I’m another exception: my first year was in a city that was what I would consider hot – I run very hot and am one of those people wearing a t-shirt and standing under cold A/C in winter.

          I also carry a good amount of muscle regardless of my fitness level – and it’s worse with more fat for insulation reasons, but I just seem to produce an annoying amount of bodyheat when I move pretty much at all.

      6. I'm on Team Rita*

        I always want to ask those people if they’re hyperthyroid. I mean, I don’t, but I want to.

        1. Kara*

          Not so far as I’m aware! I’ve never had a full workup done, but none of my physicals or labwork has ever uncovered any issues. I just run hot.

        2. londonedit*

          I’ve always generally been quite a warm person. Then I actually WAS hyperthyroid. Bloody hell. Whole different level of hot.

        3. Orv*

          I have a friend who runs very hot, to the point where it’s inconvenient. She’s gotten tested repeatedly and they never find anything wrong.

        4. Christina*

          Apparently my grandma has hypothyroid and my mom said she would always tell anyone who said they were cold to get their thyroid checked. I’m always freezing, but especially this past year. Finally went to the doctor with that and a bunch of other random symptoms. Yep. I had hypothyroid.

        5. Anax*

          My thyroid is normal, but I have dysautonomia, which basically means “random processes in your body which are supposed to be automatic … malfunction.”

          In my case, I overheat, to the point where it’s very much a medical issue. I got heat exhaustion literally every weekend when I had to mow my own lawn, and I can’t count how many times I’ve had heatstroke or fainted down the stairs.

          Heat intolerance is a common manifestation but the opposite can also be true, as well as… well, any random system which should be automatic. Digesting food, pushing blood around your body, sweating, sleeping…

          It’s actually one of the common manifestations of long covid, so there are a lot more people out there with dysautonomia these days. That’s one of the reasons long covid is hard to diagnose or describe – ‘random systems malfunction’ is a hard one.

          In my specific case, it’s genetic, so I’ve been symptomatic for most of my life, but I’ve only had it diagnosed and taken seriously in the last few years.

      7. Pam Poovey*

        This is me, as a northerner transplanted to Florida. Everyone else will be in winter coats and I’ll have on a cardigan at most.

        1. Panicked*

          Grew up in PA, now in TX. It was 60 the other day and I was in jeans and a t-shirt. Everyone else in my neighborhood was in puffy jackets and hats. I’m like, this is spring weather, why are you all in parkas?

          1. 1-800-BrownCow*

            Lol, I’m from PA as well (the snowbelt region), but lived very briefly in TX for 4 months. People at my job there thought I was nuts coming to work in jeans and t-shirt when it was 60. And I’m normally a cold person, but yeah, I laughed at how warm everyone was dressed compared to me.

            1. Panicked*

              I’m from the snowbelt too! It’s 73 where I am today and man, I’m missing a good lake effect snow storm right now.

          2. AnonORama*

            Ha, also PA to TX and that was probably me you saw in a down vest and a toboggan cap. (I actually don’t bust that stuff out until it’s under 50, but I still feel silly wearing it when it’s above freezing. But…I’m cold! That’s one of the reasons I moved away!)

      8. Prof*

        this is me, except it’s not so much cold tolerance as I’m actually boiling hot and sweating if I’m in sweaters and such. It’s above 70 degrees in my building and I’m up and moving around when teaching- no way I can wear a sweater when doing that! I do bring a cardigan or whatever most of the time (and my heavy winter jacket for going to my car), but I absolutely live in tank top like shells (and I get as many in cotton or linen as I can)! I do get comments occasionally about how am not freezing…and I just tell them, actually I was boiling with a cardigan on! It’s just how my body works (I’m well checked up on by doctors and nothing’s wrong).

        Oh, and at one point I was on a medication that made this even worse (horrifically so, holy cow, SNRIs can do insane things to one’s body).

        If the interns are dressing like this and complaining about being cold (or worse, asking it be made warmer), that’s one thing. Otherwise…leave it alone.

        1. Hrodvitnir*

          So much sympathy – venlafaxine has indeed made me a sweaty beast on top of running hot. Not enjoying that one bit!

      9. iglwif*

        This is me, and it’s getting worse the older and more zaftig I become.

        A friend described the kind of “lightweight fall jacket” she was looking for and I said “… that’s my winter jacket.” I was genuinely upset (privately) when the new choir director vetoed short sleeves for concerts. At every professional event you will see me in a short-sleeved blouse or sleeveless shell while everyone else is wearing a blazer or cardigan and kvetching about the AC. My spouse will be dressed for bed in flannel pyjama trousers, socks, long-sleeved top, and occasionally even a toque, and I’ll be under the duvet in my underpants and a tank top AND STILL TOO HOT.

        I am asked “Aren’t you cold??” so often that it barely registers anymore. But if a manager lectured me for not wearing seasonally appropriate clothes to the office, I’d be Very Annoyed.

      10. Broken Lawn Chair*

        And I’m the opposite. I used to wear a long sleeved collared shirt, a light sweater or two, and a heavy suit jacket in the Midwestern summer because my office was freezing.

      11. Elizabeth West*

        There’s always one person running around in shorts in the middle of winter. Not that shorts are appropriate office wear, just that you seem to always have a person who runs hot in nearly every group.

        Thanks to my thyroid disease, I run cold, so I’m the one with a blanket at my desk in winter and when the AC is on in summer.

      12. Dek*

        I used to be like that. I still remember sitting at the kitchen table in a tank-top and the loosest pants I had, with my brother next to me bundled in two sweaters and mittens.

        Then I went to England for half a year. I say the cold seeped into my bones, because I swear I’ve never felt warm since then unless I’m bundled up.

      13. Jess R.*

        Oh absolutely, I was just thinking this. I run so hot it’s ridiculous, and in the winter (California, but still), I’m perfectly happy in a sleeveless/short sleeve blouse and pants, even in the office. I’m literally only wearing a sweater right now because all my short sleeve work tops are in the laundry lol.

        I’d be that student, LW1, and while I’d wear a blazer if I had to, I’m always happier not doing that so I don’t overheat and can actually focus.

        All this to say, I’m fully with Alison on this one — there are so many reasons they might be not “seasonally appropriate” and I’m definitely not in favor of penalizing them for that.

      14. nm*

        Yup. I used to have a roommate who genuinely seemed not to understand why I was layering up when temps were below freezing. His mother did try to send him warm coats and the like, but the heaviest thing I ever saw him wear was a cardigan over his t-shirt.

      15. Annie*

        In my office, they would turn the AC on the summer, so it was actually really cold. People would be in the office in the summer with parkas and hand warmers. Sometimes it was so chilly it was difficult to type!

    2. Lab Lady*

      I shared an office with another woman who was always cold! I’d come to work mid winter in something seasonally appropriate, but I always had to make sure I had a smart thin blouse or short sleaved top on as a base layer, because our office was 23ish degrees (C) …. and she was still wrapped in two sweaters, and kept a lap blanket at her desk when I was down to my minimum work appropriate layer.

      Only one of us could be seasonally appropriate at a time.

        1. Lab Lady*

          I know, but it was our compromise temperature. I’d be in a skirt with a no sleeved shell (and a blazer on the coat hook for when I left the office) and shed be wrapped in blankets with fleece lined stickings (with a parka for when she ventured out)

          1. iglwif*

            Yeah, I can imagine. After many many years, my spouse and I have compromised on 21C in the winter, but when he goes to the office I turn the thermostat down below 20 so I can actually wear a long-sleeved top!

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I work in a big building with older HVAC and even though all the floors are set to be the same temperature, the result is… variable. The floor I work on consistently has too much HVAC regardless of season, so it’s too hot in winter and too cold in summer.

        Everyone on my team wears layers and adjusts as needed.

    3. ThatOtherClare*

      Also, she might just be wearing the right clothes for her body.

      I tend to end up wearing anti-seasonal clothes at work. My building has very… enthusiastic climate control. I’ll be sweating in short sleeves in winter and wearing multiple layers in summer. The student’s attire might be surprisingly appropriate for her building.

      I’d also like to note that temporary or permanent medically induced menopause is a treatment for some common conditions. A woman is never ‘too young’ to be suffering hot flushes, even if she’s a student.

      1. Twix*

        Agreed. I have a chronic autoimmune disease that among other things messes with my nerves’ sensitivity to temperature. Sometimes I’ll be shivering when it’s 90 degrees out and other times I’ll be sweating buckets when it’s 40 degrees out. I wear slacks and lightweight long-sleeved shirts essentially year-round and get occasional comments in the winter and especially the summer about it.

        It’s one thing if it’s wildly egregious, like wearing a parka during a heatwave, or if it’s causing an actual work or safety issue. But otherwise let people dress however they’re comfortable.

    4. RLC*

      Additional thought: heavier/winter weight garments/fabrics often are more costly than light weight/summery ones. Another strain on a student’s possibly limited clothing budget.

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      Yep. They’re wearing it because it’s what is accessible and/or comfortable for them right now. It’s not reasonable to expect them to buy a new wardrobe for a six-week program.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s not reasonable to expect them to buy a new wardrobe for a six-week program.
        This part. It takes time and effort to find actually good workable pieces when you’re shopping for them on a professional salary, and expecting to be able to wear them for years.

        1. Delta Delta*

          If the supervisor is so hung up on this, one thing she could do is include tips on how to create a capsule wardrobe. That’s the kind of thing students just wouldn’t know unless someone taught them.

      2. Rayray*

        Agree. It sounds like they’re doing the best they can for the one activity they’re going to. Seems like the instructor is missing the point in my opinion.

      3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Yes. Alison’s line about they might not be able to afford a whole professional wardrobe right now is SPOT ON.

      4. Sloanicota*

        So much this. I have a whole wardrobe from the before-times of business casual clothes and I hardly ever get to wear even the more casual outfits now. Conferences in my field are polo shirt appropriate at best; I am generally already overdressed for most of our meetings. Don’t make college kids pony up for a professional heavy weight blazer they may literally never wear again. It’s probably the most expensive item of professional clothing! Even though maybe they could maybe try to borrow one or something, it just seems unnecessary.

      5. ferrina*

        Truth. I spent most of my life having a really low clothes budget (combination of low income + student loans + no family support). “Seasonal” clothes were something I could not afford. If I had had to buy special clothes for a 6-week program, that money would have come out of my food budget and I’d spend the two months constantly worried about my next meal. That’s not a good way to get the most out of an internship.

    6. MK*

      I would still not recommend wearing sleeveless tops in winter weather, because it will strike people as bizarre. A lighter fabric or shorter sleeves I wouldn’t even register, because people have varying tolerances to temperatures and sometimes clothes are warmer/cooler than they look, but seeing someone walking around sleeveless in February just looks off. Though I don’t think it should be necessarily be addressed.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        As long as short sleeves would otherwise be allowed in the office I don’t think anyone would find it bizarre.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, I see people at my job in sleeveless tops in the winter regularly. The only reason I register it is because I am cold! And my first thought is “aren’t you freezing?” and then I remember they are adults who dressed themselves, so probably not, and I continue to mind my own business.

          1. AnonORama*

            I have coworkers who wear sleeveless dresses all year, with a cardigan if they need it. I would be cold, but they would be hot wearing what I’m wearing, so whatever.

          2. Lizzianna*

            I wear a sleeveless top in the winter because my office faces south and it’s an old building with inadequate airflow, so I basically sit in a greenhouse most of the day. And I’m, um, a woman of a certain age who needs to layer to adjust to my own internal temperature throughout the day.

            And sometimes I forgot to put on my cardigan or jacket when I go to a different part of the office. If it’s only for a few minutes, I’m fine, given that I’ve always run a little warm.

      2. Skitters*

        So, when I worked in Florida during the summer I would purposely wear my winter wool suit, because inside the office it was freezing. It was a pencil skirt with matching suit jacket and usually a sweater underneath. Would this be considered unprofessional?
        Most employees had to go outdoors on their breaks just to warm up their hands.

        Plus, I know a lot of women who have worn a sleeveless blouse under a jacket as keeping the jacket on was too restrictive for them indoors. I think professional and comfortable to be just fine. There are certainly more things to be worried about in an office, surely!

        1. Lima Bean*

          That was what I was thinking. I don’t know if I have ever really thought about the weather outside when dressing for work (other than chosing to wear a coat to get me from the car to the door).

          My choice of clothes has everything to do with whatever nutty temperature was put on inside (where usually they would blast the heat during winter and make it a freezer during summer).

      3. a clockwork lemon*

        It’s around freezing where I live right now and the clothing options in my dressy-ish business casual office range from short sleeves or sleeveless tops with a light cardigan and a skirt to long pants and heavy sweaters and everything in between. If someone was walking around in a sleeveless top, nobody would think anything of it except that the person in question might be hot.

      4. Prof*

        it’s actually really hard to find short sleeved professional wear vs. sleeveless shells in my experience. Especially at thrift stores which is where I shop….I’m actually trying to find short sleeved items and/or very light cardigans for when I can’t be sleeveless. Options are….not great or plentiful.

        1. Lizzianna*

          This is really true for plus sized clothes. There was a time I couldn’t find a professional blouse with sleeves that didn’t have the cold shoulder cut outs. Even if I had sleeves, my shoulders would be out! Thank goodness that trend seems to be less of a thing, but I still struggle to find blouses that are both loose around the stomach (where I carry my weight) and not sleeveless.

      5. i can't help being this hot!*

        I wear sleeveless summer dresses year round. And flip flops (they aren’t the $5 old navy type but still), though I do wear socks/shoes to and from the car in winter. Summer means short leggings under the dress, winter means ankle length leggings. People do indeed find it a bit odd, but they find it more odd when I’m sweating through what I’m wearing all the live-long day.

        Maybe rethink what looks off to you? Why would it offend your sensibilities to be in the presence of someone who runs warmer than you do?

      6. iglwif*

        Glad I don’t work in an office with you :-)

        When it’s extra cold outdoors, it’s often extra warm indoors. It is perfectly appropriate to wear office-appropriate attire in which you, personally, feel comfortable and confident and not sweaty AF.

      7. MassMatt*

        I don’t think many people care, much less find it bizarre; I know I don’t, unless someone is wearing sleeveless blouses, miniskirts, or summer dresses with sandals and complaining about how COLD they are. In January. In New England.

        Some people seem to have a real disconnect between the fact that your clothing has a lot to do with how warm/cool you are, and is designed for certain climates.

        I remember going on a shopping trip with someone, there was a lot of ice, snow, and slush on the ground, she said “I’ll wear my boots”. Her “boots” were open toed stiletto heels, and made of suede. She spent the whole trip teetering around snowbanks and slush puddles. And she grew up in New England!

      8. AngryOctopus*

        Any thoughts I have about that would be “oh, Intern must run hot” and then I’d never think about it again.

      9. HSE Compliance*

        The office temperature will generally still be the office temperature, regardless of whether it’s 85F or 15F outside.

        In some offices, it ran so warm inside that even in winter I was wearing lightweight/shorter sleeve tops so I didn’t die in a pool of my own sweat. In some offices (like my current one), I keep a warm sweater in my office even in summer because it runs super cold.

        1. allathian*

          And in some offices the HVAC is set too high so that it’s too hot in winter and too cold in summer. At my office, the temperature in winter is generally comfortable for me, but in summer, I might come in to work in a short sleeve top and put a cardigan on when I’ve been sitting still for a while because the AC runs too cold.

          I’m obese and perimenopausal, so you’d think I’d be sweating most of the time, but so far that hasn’t been the case. My mom had a regular cycle until she was put on estrogen blockers to treat her breast cancer when she was 50. She tells me that she had exactly one hot flash, so I’m hoping for an easy transition as well (HRT isn’t an option for me because in addition to my mom, my paternal grandma and my *dad* have had breast cancer).

      10. This Old House*

        I’ve had multiple jobs where I saved my lightweight, sleeveless, and/or “summery” outfits for winter, when the heat was blasting. They didn’t work at all in the summer, when the AC was blasting. That was when I needed my heavy pants, long sleeves, and a jacket or cardigan. Let people where whatever appropriate clothing they’re comfortable in.

    7. Em*

      Massive pit stains and a sweat mustache- now if that’s not a professional look, I don’t know what is!

    8. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yeah. We have central climate control nearly everywhere in the US. It doesn’t matter what the temperature outside is if its always 71F inside.

      1. Antilles*

        I wear professional clothes based on the temperature of my office where I’m spending 8+ hours rather than the temperature of the 15 seconds it takes to walk through the parking lot to my car. That might mean wearing a polo in January because the office is always warm or it might mean tossing on a sweater in July because the AC is at max blast.

      2. i can't help being this hot!*

        I sweat at 71 degrees. I keep my room at home in the 50s. Sleeveless at the office is the only way to avoid being a sweat monster.

    9. Hot stuff*

      There are so many reasons already mentioned as to why someone would wear summer clothes in winter (and winter clothes in summer) that I absolutely agree with Alison, Daria Grace, and the other commenters on the bottom line that as long as a person is wearing clothing appropriate to the office setting that’s what matters.

      But, if wife needs more reasons for why someone might need short/no sleeves in winter, please also note that not only do a lot of people run warm all the time because of hormone issues, aging issues (both men and women deal with temperature regulation in middle and later age), pregnancy, diabetes, thyroid issues, medications, sweat gland issues, etc., but also because climate controlled buildings also run too hot for a lot of people. I live in the Upper Midwest so I’m used to the cold outside, but struggle with how hot most places are inside and I haven’t worn winter clothes in winter for YEARS because they’re unbearable.

    10. Apostrophina*

      The temperature was my first thought—years ago, I worked on the very warm top floor of a building that was a long walk from the parking lot. I remember joking in fall/winter that we could have a “[Workplace] Fashion Show” made up of people in thick overcoats with sundresses underneath.

    11. SheLooksFamiliar*

      The student made the effort to wear professional attire and not their usual wardrobe, which counts for a lot in my book.

      In addition to maybe tolerating cold weather better than most, it’s just as likely that the students don’t have a lot of spare cash to buy new clothing, even from thrift stores. And I don’t think it’s realistic or kind to expect them to, just for a 6-week program. I mean, I lived in jeans and peasant tops in college – late 70s – with 2 or 3 dresses and a skirt suit in case I needed to dress for an event. Adding even a few items so I could have 6 weeks’ worth of professional outfits would have emptied my meager savings.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          No kidding! When I’m looking for a certain item or brand that’s no longer available via retail, I’ll browse online thrift stores or visit local Goodwills. Some of the prices for very used items…yikes.

    12. Michelle Smith*

      I ruined my credit as a law student in large part because I invested in a bunch of professional clothing for internships and then gained weight and could no longer wear them, and had to rebuy my entire wardrobe when I started working my first attorney job. Both wardrobes went on a store credit card and I wound up in over my head. Definitely just be gracious with folks.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        I bought several suits using my Lexis/Westlaw points to get Macy’s gift cards. Only way I could afford enough suits.

    13. Mockingjay*

      In my first job after college, I moonlighted after hours and on weekends at a local department store, simply for the employee discount to purchase work clothes. This was back in the day when suits, blazers, dresses, and heels were the “norm.” These clothes were EXPENSIVE for someone starting out in their career.

      Adjusting for inflation, prices haven’t gone down much since, especially if you want a quality outfit instead of fast fashion. It takes time and money to build a work wardrobe, even a capsule wardrobe, when you are on a starting salary and have to budget every dime. I hope OP1’s wife backs off on her criticism.

    14. Ink*

      Yeah, my first thought was that this seems likea great way to add another thing to the office thermostst wars, ensuring people can’t compensate for the temperature with their clothing.

    15. Give me black sheath dresses and cardigans or give me death*

      There are some offices where bare arms would be too casual, and it would be fair for the LW’s wife to point out to interns if that’s the case in their office. Interns shouldn’t be penalized for not knowing that, but then they have that knowledge for the future and they might be able to choose different tops or find an appropriate blazer or sweater (doesn’t have to be expensive, could be thrifted or borrowed from a friend) before the internship ends.

      But in general, I don’t buy the idea that clothing needs to be particularly fashionable, trendy, or seasonal to be professional. Maybe if you work in fashion or a fashion-adjacent field, but for your average employee or intern at most companies, fairly basic clothing in the right level of business casual or business suits or whatever will work just fine.

    16. JelloStapler*

      Some people run warm or cold, plus females* approaching a certain time period where a lot of hormones change would appreciate the flexibility.

      *I also intend to include any planned hormone adjustments for trans women at this age. I want to be inclusive but I am honestly not confident in how to address it, so any correction is welcomed!

      1. peter b*

        If you’re referring to a thing bodies can do, you can just say “people who’re going through menopause” – this comes up at my job with a push toward “people who are pregnant/planning to become pregnant” when discussing associated medical needs. Just name the process, and that people go through it!

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          True, but women aren’t the only ones who go through menopause. They could be non-binary or trans men, for example.

    17. StressedButOkay*

      Also, they’re college students – when I was in college, I had like 3 professional outfits I could swap around but I certainly couldn’t afford to go out and buy more pieces.

      OP1, if your wife is keen on having them “look the part”, have her see if there’s funding the school can give the class to help buy outfits or reach out to nonprofits (Dress for Success) if there are students who are simply not able to afford it. Having that be part of their grade if you’re poor puts you at such a disadvantage.

      1. iglwif*

        Yes, I had a part-time job in university (8 hours every Friday) and throughout the fall, winter, and spring I was wearing the same 5 days’ worth of office-appropriate clothing I wore while temping over the summer, because I was making like $7.50 an hour and it was all going to the grocery bill.

    18. Hermione Danger*

      In my first full-time professional job out of school, despite living in a variable climate, I had the same work wardrobe the entire year: office-appropriate tank top under office appropriate sweater. Because of the way the building HVAC worked, my office was BOILING in the winter and FREEZING in the summer. So in the winter, I wore the sweater to work and then peeled it off once I got into my baking hot office. In the summer, I wore the tank top to work and put the sweater on while working in my personal arctic tundra.

      No one ever said a thing, because they’d been in my office and understood the microclimate I had to suffer under, and my clothing was always office appropriate, even if seasonally “off.”

    19. Lenora Rose*

      I’m also wondering if this is before or after they take off outerwear, because I currently wear a winter parka to work, AND am wearing a short sleeved knee length dress at my desk. It’s true I wear more long sleeved and heavier shirts over winter but I don’t even think about “Seasonal” beyond “is it warm enough to deal with this outside?”

      (And the answer right now is, if my spring hoodies were only waterproof, it would absolutely be warm enough for them. It’s been raining in February. In Winnipeg.)

    20. Sparkle llama*

      Bit of a counter, when I was in college and grad school my programs shared spaces with the business school, who had a dress code of professional attire at least some of the time. The women wearing short skirts and stilettos in the snowy and cold winter looked very unprofessional to me and I think that part of figuring out professional dress is that if you are visibly cold or struggling with your shoes it is not professional.

      I wouldn’t have any issue with someone wearing a sleeveless shirt if they looked comfortable but if they are choosing cute over practical to the extent that they are visibly uncomfortable that is not professional attire and this does seem to be a lesson that some people new to the professional workplace don’t necessarily pick up on themselves.

    21. LK*

      Maybe LW’s wife could talk to the interns about professional options for layering, not as a ‘you must do this’ but ‘here are some ideas if you want to.’ It’s much more cost effective to buy a simple cardigan or blazer that can be kept at work and thrown overtop of any outfit if you get cold than multiple long-sleeved shirts.

      Personally, I wear short-sleeves 90% of the time, year-round, even though I live someplace with long winters. This is partly because I have a hard time finding long-sleeve shirts that are work-appropiate and don’t look weird on my body, and partly because the heating in my office building is wildly inconsistent (like, tropical in one room and frigid in the room next door inconsistent), so layers that can go on and off as needed are vital.

    22. Hats Are Great*

      I am extremely cold tolerant … and then I hit menopause and hot flashes, and I’m wearing tank tops all winter. I know I look seasonally weird, and I have some very light cardigans for when I need to look a bit more seasonally appropriate, but as long as I’m having to share space with other humans who prefer the thermostat set about “antarctic,” I’m going to be wearing tank tops all winter until the hot flashes die down.

    23. lilsheba*

      It would be nice if we could all move away from superficial junk like what someone is wearing. We have proven during the pandemic that work gets done no matter what someone has on.

    24. Rex Libris*

      Expecting college students to buy and maintain a four season wardrobe for what is essentially a six week class is a bit much regardless.

    25. see you anon*

      +1 on the temperature front! The office I work in currently is constantly 22-23*C, which means I’m either taking off and putting on layers, or wearing a t-shirt-style turtleneck. As long as the clothing is appropriate to the workplace (which can be highly subjective) I think this one needs to be left alone.

    26. Jane Anonsten*

      The LW’s wife commented below as “LW#1’s wife – preceptor of student” with some details about the type of office and why she found the attire odd (because the intern was visibly shaking).

    27. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I find it a very odd but consistent office quirk that many people wear “summer” tops in the winter (central heat) and “fall/winter” tops in the summer (central air). Limiting what people should wear to work to “seasonal” even if they roast in the winter and freeze in the summer is an strange stance to take.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah…our office is boiling in the winter because we have a very old heating system that seems to only operate on ‘off’ or ‘on full blast’. So even if it’s cold and wet outside, I need to make sure I’m wearing something lightweight under my winter layers so that I don’t roast while I’m at my desk.

    28. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing – students have limited budgets for clothing!!

      I do think that – if the office culture is quite business formal – then you could mandate a suit jacket as part of the standard office attire. At least at client meetings / video conferences.

      But I don’t see that requiring people to wear what you perceive as seasonally appropriate is an appropriate thing to do. Some people run hot, some people run cold.

      (When I was starting my career, it was required that we have a full business suit available to be worn, including appropriate footwear. We were allowed to dress down somewhat, but if a client showed up, we had to be in suits – that entailed sometimes changing IN our offices. Better than wearing a suit all the time, though.)

    29. Beth*

      Agreed. Many of those students also won’t be facing the same requirements for ‘professional’ clothing once they graduate, so your partner really shouldn’t force them to waste money (which most students don’t have tons of) on an all-seasons wardrobe that meets her sense of professional norms! A trial lawyer, a doctor, a fully-remote software developer, a scientist focused on field research, and a teacher are going to face radically different professional clothing requirements. It doesn’t sound like this program is necessarily specific to a given field, so it’s really not appropriate to expect students to get an entire wardrobe that they may or may not ever need again just for this 6-week course.

    30. Hills to Die on*

      It’s worth commenting on for future reference though. If it’s something they will be judged on in the workplace, then it’s something they need to know. To ignore it is not doing them any favors. They need to understand professional norms, and those are that your wardrobe – especially as a woman – needs to be *generally* in style and seasonally appropriate.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        Clarification: When I say that it’s worth commenting on for future reference: Don’t deduct points from their grade, but let them know and make them aware.

    31. Cat Mouse*

      Agreed. I had undiagnosed thyroid issues for years and wore short sleeves year round. Having to wear something heavier would have made me to uncomfortable to work well. I did keep a suit jacket I could throw if I needed to look extra professional for a client (at my bosses suggestion and recommendation)

    32. Araxie*

      It can depend on the office set up as well. I worked in one of those glass boxes with offices along the outside rim and cubes in the middle. The thermostats are set to keep the offices comfortable which can cook or freeze those in cube land – leading to sweaters in the summer or tank tops in winter.

    33. My cat is the employee of the month*

      The building I work in is three stories, and there is a noticeable temperature difference between the floors. I need to dress in layers because my office on the third floor gets hot, but I need a sweater for my meetings on the first floor.

    34. NotAnotherManager!*

      +1,000,000 to the office temperature issue. My first office post-graduation seemed to be climate-controlled with men wearing full suits in mind. It was freezing in the summer and almost hot in the winter. I often had to dig into my “wrong season” wardrobe just not to be sweating or freezing in the office. Every single woman had an office cardigan in her desk.

    35. Momma Bear*

      I’m always cold. If I am not cold, everyone else is too hot and there’s a problem with the HVAC. I layer up in the office all year round. Another coworker is always warm. I think that LW’s wife should simply appreciate that they’re dressed for work vs nitpicking the outfit by season.

    36. Dragonfly7*

      As someone whose workplaces are normally too warm in the winter and a bit too cold in the summer, I frequently wear professional clothing out of season. As long as I have the right layer to put on (or take off) on the way to and from the car, I’m just fine.

  4. BuildMeUp*

    #3 – I think writing for a company’s social media account is just often difficult and specific, and different enough from the interns’ personal social media experience that it will be hard for most of them to nail it.

    That being said, could you try assigning a project early on that has them studying/reviewing your existing social media posts? Like, taking a week’s worth of posts and summarizing them, listing any themes, saying what they think the goal of each post was (getting people to click a link, buy tickets to an event, etc.), some data about engagement. That may lead them to have a better understanding of your social media accounts, and reviewing something like that could help you pick out interns who may have the skills for what you’re looking for.

    1. emmelemm*

      That would certainly be an interesting experiment and a good project for interns, since they’re supposed to be learning!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Yes, the skill needed here is “Ability to write in the voice of the company” not “Ability to post stuff on social media.”

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        My team uses SharePoint for our major initiative launches, project updates, commentary on our function and its evolution, and so on. Our corporate comms team met with us to share corporate style guides and recommendations on writing for our audience. Most of the team took the sessions to heart.

        Even so, some people write in the total-stream-of-consciousness style of Kerouac – I assume – and fight my request to edit content or tone. They even fight me on spelling corrections. Seems using spellcheck is an infringement on their ability to fully express themselves, which isn’t the purpose of our SharePoint content.

        These folks do not have Facebook pages. Hmm.

    3. MsM*

      Or have them do research that will save time on putting the posts together, like looking up the artists for fun facts. That’s what I do with interns when it turns out copy is not their strong suit.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        This seems like a much better idea.

        From the other side, I had an internship where I was expected to do an extremely difficult project with no support, and I was miserable. If all of the interns haven’t been able to do a good enough job in the past, it might be time to admit that it isn’t a good task for interns.

    4. deesse877*

      This is a decent idea. I can confirm based on my career as an educator that the LW has under-estimated, to a really extreme degree, the difficulty of the task. Most people with only a bachelor’s or less cannot identify a distinct writing voice, much less imitate it. That’s an advanced skill. You’ll usually only find it in people who write avocationally, and/or read very intensively for pleasure, and even then they might only be able to address their preferred genres.

      1. Ganymede*

        I wrote a reply that basically said this, but it’s gone into the ether.

        One thought is that the company could pay for some training, but it won’t e enough. When Social media became a thing, it was automatically gi en to the younger people to do because it was a young people’s area of expertise. But considering how completely disastrous a bad tweet can be, it really needs professional input.

        1. Miette*

          When I ran marketing for a nonprofit, we’d often ask for marketing or business majors when hiring interns, and when we tasked them with writing anything for our blog, the work wasn’t really all that good. One summer we needed to fill a gap when someone was on family leave and I decided to change the job description to look for English majors instead. Lo and behold, we got some really strong candidates. My point is that OP isn’t necessarily looking in the right place for this kind of skillset, and may want to reconsider where the interns are being “sourced” from.

          If the bulk of the work they’ll be doing requires a different concentration like finance or program management, then expecting them to be good writers this early in their lives is a big ask. But if writing is a desired output from them, shop at the writers store LOL.

          1. Knope Knope Knope*

            +1 from a former English major who has run professional social media teams for more than a decade.

      2. Michelle Smith*

        Yup, there is a reason people can get entire degrees in communication and why social media manager positions are real jobs.

        I know how to write well enough and did extensive legal writing for many years. I am not skilled in other types of writing that I have less experience with and would probably fail if given the task of imitating a company voice for social media (in fact, I’m not sure I could even identify a specific voice if asked!).

        If this is a big part of the job and LW feels they’ve outgrown it, the answer is probably to look for a new job that doesn’t include this piece rather than trying to pass a highly skilled task off to untrained interns.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Yes. Everyone jokes how the media accounts are run by interns, but they are really not. Comms for a company — which includes social media — is a professional job involving a very specialized skill.

          I get OP doesn’t want to do it anymore, but offloading it to the interns is not the answer. I think what OP needs to do is discuss it with her boss how to handle it. It might be this is just part of the job. There may be someone else better suited in the organization to do it. But it is not a basic skill that you can depend on a rotating series of interns to handle.

          1. Observer*

            Yes. Everyone jokes how the media accounts are run by interns, but they are really not. Comms for a company — which includes social media — is a professional job involving a very specialized skill.

            Actually, a common problem is that social media accounts are STILL being run by interns or “the social media savvy kid”. And that tends to end in less than stellar ways. The OP’s expectations are very normal.

            Which is not to say that they are *realistic*. You are 100% correct that this is not a job for the interns – it’s a specialized skill, and expecting your interns to be able to do it is a recipe for frustration.

            I get OP doesn’t want to do it anymore, but offloading it to the interns is not the answer.


          2. Momma Bear*

            My company wanted to hire an intern for social media. I pushed for a FTE and we got someone to also support Marketing because I think a lot of people don’t understand the work behind a good post/campaign.

            LW may have already done this, but I’d sit the interns down with a few good examples as well as highlights from your own org. When they pass back something subpar, sit down to discuss it. Your corporate tone is….you avoid use of….your formatting is… If in reality they are not good even with guidance, then it might be time to talk to the boss about finding someone FT with that skill.

            I also agree that if LW wants to lighten the *writing* load, look for writers. I work with a lot of Engineer types who couldn’t write (unless it’s code) their way out of a box, but they’re excellent at their particular skillset.

        2. ferrina*


          Writing is skilled work! It is something that people spend years learning, and with good reason! It’s a type of art- and like any art, it’s not something just anyone can do. And different writers/artists will specialize in different mediums. Yes, sometimes you find someone who is naturally gifted, but more often you’ll need to find someone who is experienced in what you need.

          Just because you can hold a paintbrush doesn’t make you Degas, and just because you can write a sentence doesn’t mean you can manage a professional social media account.

        3. Anonym*

          Yeah, in my industry (finance) social media jobs are typically paid in the six figure range and absolutely not entry level, or at least entry level folks aren’t writing anything that reaches the outside world without heavy editing from senior folks. It’s highly skilled work and and for us creates serious reputational risk if we get it wrong.

      3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        Most people with only a bachelor’s or less cannot identify a distinct writing voice, much less imitate it. That’s an advanced skill.

        While I was definitely reading the letter going, “This is WAY harder than you think it is, LW,” I got to your comment and went, “Really? You think it’s THAT rare?” … and then I got to your part about writing avocationally and reading intensely for pleasure, and yup, me on both accounts.

      4. AngryOctopus*

        Yeah, it feels a little like LW said to themself “Oh, kids these days are on the social media all the time, so I can have the interns do our social media!”. That’s just not true! Me posting my cat on Instagram has zero influence or bearing on my (non-existent) ability to write a social media post for my employer.

      5. Warrior Princess Xena*

        So true. I’m a member of the “reads intensively for pleasure” category, so I can and have identified the author of a piece of writing in the past just by hearing it (CS Lewis has a VERY distinctive voice!). Trying to pick it apart and replicate it? I might be able to do it, but it would be a long and intensive process and I couldn’t guarantee that I’d bring back results. I’m assuming that a corporate social media account would be slightly less challenging than trying to mimic a fiction writer, but only because there’s a certain level of “business” that I’m already familiar with, and I would still expect it to be a task with a lot of skill involved.

      6. Beth*

        Yeah, I’m surprised that OP thought an intern would be able to just pick this up and be successful. Having a “social media intern” handle all your posts was maybe a thing a decade ago, but nowadays writing copy that the public will see is a career position that’s generally a couple notches above entry level.

        Needing to heavily edit copy, often to the point of completely rewriting, is what I’d expect for asking interns to do this kind of work. Even if you specifically hire for interns who are strong writers at their level, have experience running large social media accounts in their personal life, etc, they don’t have any experience doing it in a professional context or matching an institutional voice. That’s why they’re an intern. If you need someone who can jump in and do this right off the bat, you need to hire an experienced professional.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          That’s true with interns in general. Being an intern is an educational experience more than it is a regular job, and you have to expect that they’ll need very close supervision. If you want someone you can hire and they’ll hit the job running and do a competent job with little training, you not only want an employee, you probably want someone who isn’t entry level either.

    5. iglwif*

      “Brand voice” is a whole area of copywriting and marketing, and it takes time and effort to get good at it.

      Social media is a whole skill set that people don’t acquire just by being the youngest person on the team.

      I would love for more people to understand both of these things!

      1. anon tech writer*

        Agreed! I have a very expensive communications degree that helps me understand voice and style. And I still spend time some days looking up acronyms and consulting the company style guide.

        LW3, please consider the fact that this is a really advanced skill set that takes time and training, and not just busywork that can get passed along to whoever has time right now.

        1. i like hound dogs*

          I am an editor on a writing team at a Fortune 500 company and I *still* have to correct people’s writing so that it adheres to our brand voice. And we are the internal brand team!!

          Literally just did it this morning, for my manager. (He won’t listen, but my point remains.)

      2. Constance Lloyd*

        My sister in law is the social media director for a very, very high profile organization. In addition to mastering brand voice and balancing the opinions of equally important higher ups who have wildly different opinions of what that voice should be, she has to be absolutely on top of current events and know how to build and deploy a post to hit all the right metrics across different platforms and audiences. It’s an incredibly complex job, no matter how much she jokes that she got science degree only to tweet for a living.

      3. Starbuck*

        Yeah; my small company fell into the trap of thinking they could just have the interns do social media (since they were too cheap to hire an extra full time permanent staff person for marketing). And there would be constant griping from program staff about writing quality, using an image they didn’t like, misstating things, leaving out context, etc etc.

        I supervised the interns and pushed back on this being an appropriate task for them, because it wasn’t! The company clearly felt that having high quality posts was important, but without a full time marketing person it kept getting suggested that staff should then post about their own programs.

        Since it wasn’t actually our job to do that either, it was everyone’s lowest priority and so never got done…. there was definitely also the vibe of, these interns are young and on social media all the time so they should know how to do it, and us older folks can’t be expected to figure it out.

        Ugh, it was so annoying to see how that was managed. We finally made room on one staff person’s plate to make it actually part of their job and that was what mostly solved it.

      4. Frustration Nation*

        Yes! Adapting to different voices is hard, requires cultivation, and is not going to be something everyone can pick up. I work in nonfiction TV, often writing copy for various hosts and talent, and that copy always needs to be in their voice so it sounds natural when they read it, but it also needs to feel like the brand of the network they’re appearing on, so that’s an additional piece of the puzzle. Social media often needs to sound young and fun, but also like the brand, and that’s a heck of a tightrope to walk, especially when you have a number of supervisors all concerned about public image. It’s not a job for an intern or AI, and if a company is genuinely concerned about their social media, then they should pay for a professional. (Also, a lot of of us TV people are being pushed out by various circumstances, and are available to do this work right away!)

    6. Autofill Contact*

      Yes, I am quite empathetic to the LW as they may in fact be naturally skilled at brand voice/have more training as well as had the time to learn social media best practices over the course of several years/positions. I tried to pawn this off on interns for YEARS before I finally just accepted either I had to do it, or I would need to review every post before it went out. Even when I hired a comms specialist with a masters in strategic comms, they never quite got it.

    7. Hohumdrum*

      Yeah, I think people think of social media as an intern job because it used to be- when companies were first getting on social media they didn’t take it seriously/wasn’t really on the wavelength of many older folks anyways. Posting on Twitter was a throwaway job no one took seriously- so many friends as interns had to suggest having social media to their managers themselves when this was first happening. You also could get away with a lot more in that time.

      But now it’s very different, corporations obviously now fully understand and utilize social media and everyone is far more involved with it (both employee end and customer end). Much higher stakes job, not meant for an intern to do.

    8. RG*

      I used to manage interns that primarily did writing – not social media posts, so YMMV, but here are some of the things that helped:
      1. Went over basics of writing in a 45 minute training – I was always very writing-focused so at first I worried it would feel condescending to be like “Avoid passive voice! Break up long, stringy sentences!” but I got great feedback from the interns.
      2. Implemented a style guide – This covered all the little nitpicky things like “write out numbers under 10 as words; use numerals for numbers 10 and above” and “use present tense, not future tense.” When *I* was a new writer, my biggest source of stress was the fact that I *didn’t* have a style guide, and my manager was constantly marking up my work to change it from what she’d told me to do the last time.
      3. Held peer review meetings – I’d meet with my team once a week, and they’d each bring a document they were working on (usually about one page). We’d take 5 minutes to read the document, then everyone would offer feedback and the doc writer would ask questions (e.g. “I wasn’t sure how to phrase X…anyone have ideas?”). We’d do that for about 5-10 minutes, then we’d rotate to the next person and do the same for them. It wasn’t scalable to do this for every document they needed to produce, but it was a good way for me to gauge who was struggling where and for everyone to learn how to offer/receive constructive feedback.

      Good luck!

      1. kim*

        I work in publishing. Our internships are not explicitly writing internships – we’re a small enough shop that the interns work on a lot of different projects – but when we work on writing, we start with examples: here’s the author’s description of the project in the original proposal, here’s how the editor described the project in pitch memos and other internal documents, here’s the website and jacket copy. Who’s the audience for each of these? What changed throughout the process, and what’s the same? How many of my em dashes did we have to remove in the final version? And then we give them a copywriting project and go over what they come up with, discuss what was successful and what wasn’t.

        They also are cc’d on emails where the acquiring editor, the managing editor, and the marketing manager review and edit copy before it’s finalized, so they can see how we talk about public-facing writing and how we give and receive edits and feedback. This isn’t a school assignment where the goal is an A; this is a professional task where the goal is to have the cleanest, strongest copy going out into the world, and we are colleagues working together to make that happen.

        Writing is a skill, and it’s hard, and you can be good at one type but not another. I’m 20 years into a publishing career, I think I’m a pretty good writer, and I absolutely do not want to be in charge of social media. It’s so hard! That’s not where either my skills or my interests lie. We used to have our interns help with social media, but it’s such a mixed bag (as the LW discovered) that we don’t have them write for social media anymore, but we do have them help with, eg, taking photos of new books or researching themes/events we can peg books to, even basic graphic design to make tiles and such.

    9. Two Fish*

      Yes, writing doesn’t suddenly stop requiring skill and experience just because it’s for a company’s Instagram. It’s like the words “social media” are a hypnotic trigger for visions of kids these days doodling around, and not… the main way your company interacts with the general public.

    10. Knope Knope Knope*

      This is such a common and frustrating phenomenon. People want a great social media presence but won’t invest it. It’s so common to be treated as an afterthought or a junior task when, in fact, it’s anything but. Social media is hugely impactful and requires skills and resources to get good results.

    11. Sleeve McQueen*

      Yeah, I run an agency that often does social posts for clients, you need to invest a lot of time and energy in building an understanding of brand voice, company voice, and so on and it often takes a lot of bat and forth to get it right.
      I understand why social media gets kicked down to the cheapest resource in the office, but that can be false economy – it’s one of your organisation’s most important public-facing avenues, there needs to be alot of thought and oversight.

  5. ENFP in Texas*

    #4 – Get privacy screens for your monitors. If anyone asks why you have them, just say that it’s because you’re in a high traffic area and wanted to ensure any sensitive information you might ever deal with was properly protected.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      Yep, this is the answer. LW’s manager can get them for pretty cheap and the use of them will likely spread like wildfire once people notice. I’d love to see what Nicholas has to say when he complains about not being able to be a busybody anymore.

    2. rusty*

      I hate other people’s screens. Not a fan of TVs in restaurants either!
      I’m almost incapable of not looking as I pass by — I don’t /want/ to know whatever someone else has going on, yet the screens basically are an impossible lure!

      so glad my career has moved to fully remote

  6. Too Online*

    #3 – writing for social media is a skill, don’t undervalue your work!
    Just because the kids are on social media doesn’t mean they know how to write for an organization’s online presence. I’ve also outgrown my social media role at my organization but I just do it anyway in between doing other stuff because it’s easier than training someone else.

    1. Clara Bowe*

      +1 It took me too long in my adult career to realize that just because I had been doing something long enough that it might be an easy task -to me- did not mean that it was an easy task. Or a simple skill.

      1. iglwif*

        YES I wasn’t thinking about it this way but you’re right: this is an expert-novice problem!

        LW, when you have been doing a process for a long time and are good at it (an expert), it can be extremely difficult to (1) put yourself back in the shoes of a novice to that process and (2) explain how the process works in a way that novices can understand. To the expert, the task is “write in the brand voice.” To the novice, that’s not one task, it’s a whole bunch of elements they have to master — the vocabulary, the tone, the things you should and shouldn’t say, the ways you should and shouldn’t respond in the comments … even things like “how long or short should the posts be?” and “how many exclamation points can I use in a post?”

    2. Consonance*

      this was my take too. The LW might be assuming that because they’re young they can do social media well. Or even that social media is easy and something literally anyone can do. Both of those aren’t true. Social media for a professional organization is a professional skill and requires professional writing in addition to good knowledge of the work you’re trying to convey. In fact, if the interns do a lot of personal social media stuff it might even work against them as they are competent in one form of that medium, and would assume it translates easily instead of putting in the work they need to do in order to become proficient at the professional level.

    3. ThatOtherClare*

      Reading books and sharing fanfiction with your friends won’t automatically give you the skills to start publishing novels.

      Reading Facebook posts and making TikToks won’t automatically give you the skills to start making corporate social media posts.

    4. Irish Teacher.*

      I’m always shocked at how poor the computer skills of our 1st year students (12 and 13 year olds) and sometimes even the older students. Yes, they’ve all been playing games and watching videos online since toddlerhood, but a lot cannot send an e-mail or figure out things like powerpoint or word documents.

      I think sometimes we assume that under 30s know everything about computers and the internet, having grown up with them, but using them for socialising and recreation is very different than using them for education and work and yeah, interns probably won’t know much about the business usage.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this.

        Later in life, there’s the additional problem that all primary and secondary schools in my country work almost exclusively with Chromebooks because they’re cheaper. My son got a laptop assigned to him at school in 3rd grade (9-10 year olds) for use at school, when he went to secondary (13-14) he was assigned another laptop that he carries in his bag, kids who break or lose their laptop may be limited to using their new one only at school for a while, which can make it difficult for some to complete their homework, even if students can log on to Google Classroom from any computer. Tertiary schools and universities tend to go for Windows-based systems, and our Matriculation exams (the equivalent of the Irish Leaving Certificate) are fully computerized these days. To sit the exams, students log into a system that locks down the computer so that they only have access to the exam materials and nothing else.

        When you’re used to working with Google apps, switching to Windows/Apple can take a while. That said, my son’s made a few pretty cool-looking presentations in Google, he’ll be 15 in a few months.

    5. fallingleavesofnovember*

      Yeah, I’ve definitely been in offices where I was the youngest person so my colleagues were like, ‘hey, you do our social media!’ I always felt super out of my depth because I didn’t post that much personally, and I didn’t have a comms background – it wasn’t in my skillset and wasn’t particularly something I wanted to add to it!

      1. Lola*

        Agreed. I occasionally write thank you emails for our new-ish CEO and it’s taken me a good year to get her voice. She still makes changes.

    6. xylocopa*

      It sounds like the social media also requires some background knowledge – OP mentions issues like misrepresenting artists and key ideas. So it’s not just a matter of finding the institutional voice, but having a solid grasp of the subject matter. Sounds like it needs to be recognized as a paid and time-consuming part of a “real” employee’s role!

      1. Ama*

        Yeah you CAN do this as an internship but only with a lot of oversight — OP should be coaching the interns on how to properly prepare a piece (not just giving them sample pieces — most people need more guidelines than that when they are learning), how to learn how to write in brand voice, and be prepared to talk them through edits to their first drafts. If OP needs someone who can come in, get up to speed on brand voice in a short time and produce polished posts without a lot of oversight, this isn’t an intern job.

        1. Starbuck*

          Right, for the interns themselves it can be a really great opportunity for learning if it’s managed as a training program. My company didn’t do that – it was more, here you go, you’re young so you should be able to figure it out better than any of us can teach you! And then it was like this :O when they inevitably made these sorts of mistakes.

    7. Jennifer Strange*

      This. Using social media for personal accounts and using it for professional accounts are two separate things.

    8. Dust Bunny*

      Also, they’re interns! They don’t know your institution well enough yet to have mastered its institutional voice! I can do that for my workplace because **I’ve been there for 15+ years**.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*


        As an example coming from the opposite direction, I was at my last employer for ~8ears and had a reputation as a strong writer but of technical reports. No one wanted me near our social media because writing professional social media is a *professional* skill.

      2. Starbuck*

        Like, would you trust an intern to deliver a speech on behalf of your org about an important program to a crowd of a couple hundred people? No? Then why are you having them write a social media post with no oversight??

    9. L'étrangère*

      Every organization I have been in contact with in the past decade has been under the delusion that social media is a job for an intern, from both forgetting about the writing and assuming that young people are born with tech skills. Nothing can be further from the truth. The last one that was inflicted upon me, a job-hunting fresh graduate mind you, was full of self confidence. She came with a very active Instagram account, over 800 posts, every one of them of her in very skimpy bikinis, on a variety of lovely beaches. Good marketing, but for what?

      I’d resign myself to doing it all if I were the OP, or try to train a permanent colleague instead. And be sure to update your resume, keep statistics, get this down in your next review. But don’t expect too much because right now everyone sees it as unskilled work

  7. Posilutely*

    LW4 – Alison, I didn’t read this as Nicholas being senior to the LW in work terms, I thought she meant senior to her in years but I could be wrong!

    I wondered whether Nicholas is one of those people whose eye is always caught by a screen that’s in view without even thinking about it. My daughter always stares at a screen as she passes it but my son walks straight past and couldn’t tell you afterwards whether the laptop/TV was on or off.

    1. Orv*

      I’m like that. I have to remind myself that it’s not OK to look at screens, into open offices, at people’s houses as I walk by, etc. I’m a naturally curious person.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, me too. It’s extremely difficult for me to ignore any screen that is on anywhere. I have a really hard time at restaurants if they have any kind of TV on because my eyes will automatically gravitate towards it even if it’s tuned to a sports game of a sport I do not watch (which is almost all of them).

        As for Nicholas, OP, could you tell him nicely that you find it distracting when he stares at your screen when he walks by and if he could refrain that would really help you? I agree it’s probably not a hill worth dying on but it could be worth having at least a polite conversation about it if you want to.

        1. allathian*

          I’m the same way. I don’t normally care about what’s on other people’s screens (unless it’s something obviously bad like NSFW videos or something unbelievably cute like animal videos), but it’s physically impossible for me to walk past a screen without looking at it unless I intentionally look the other way. It’s one reason why I could never have a TV on in the background but in my line of sight while I work, my gaze would go to the TV all the time. I’m also very easily distracted by movement in my peripheral vision, which is an issue in an open office. Thankfully I’m still 90% WFH.

          If I go to a sports bar but want to talk to the people I’m with rather than watch the game, I have to do what I can to sit with my back to the biggest screen. For obvious reasons, it’s difficult to find a seat in a sports bar where you can’t see a TV…

    2. John Smith*

      I thought exactly the same in terms of Nicholas being senior in age, not rank. I had a manager who would do this and also stare at my keyboard as I was typing. Several times I had to tell him to look away when typing in passwords. Drove me (and everyone else) nuts as he seemed to think he was entitles to any and all information.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I’m pretty sure Nicholas is senior in rank, or at least tenure in the company, rather than age. OP contrasted “junior” employees who have desks that are visible by onlookers in an open office area, with “senior” colleagues who get their own offices. It was implied, even if not quite stated, that Nosy Nicholas is one of these senior-office-havers who occasionally (or frequently) wander around the open area to see what everyone is doing. I think Nickholas being 5 years “senior” to OP just means that in some sense of company seniority he is 5 years ‘ahead’ of OP.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Ahh, I read that as “this is only a problem that affects junior people because more senior people have their own office”.

      2. Elsa*

        I also thought the LW meant that Nicholas had been there five more years than her. And, unless it is a super hierarchal office, that doesn’t sound to me like a reason not to politely tell him to back off. He’s not her boss and has no power over her.

    4. bamcheeks*

      I wondered about that too.

      LW, I think you could also reasonably mention this to your on manager in a catch-up. I wouldn’t focus so much on the privacy angle or how annoying it is (valid though both things are!), but more the distraction angle— it’s incredibly hard to ignore someone staring at your screen, makes you self-conscious, and jolts your concentration. Even if you can’t say something directly to Nicholas, your manager might be able to.

      Or you might get told that’s just the way it is and to deal with it, but I don’t think there’s anything to lose by trying.

    5. Gray Lady*

      I was thinking that about Nicholas, too. Some people are just drawn to screens. My husband is drawn to sounds. He’s learned somewhat to restrain the reaction where it’s not appropriate, but he’ll stop in the middle of a conversation if there’s an external sound distracting him.

      Not that that means that LW shouldn’t mind Nicholas doing it or find some way to discourage or prevent it; it just helps to frame it as possibly “this is a quirk of Nicholas’s” rather than “Nicholas is nosy/inconsiderate etc.”.

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      It wouldn’t surprise me if Nicholas doesn’t even know they are doing it. Highly possible their eyes are just drawn to the screens as they pass and then they probably stop thinking about it as soon as they’re gone.

      It would annoy me a lot, but since they do it to everyone I’d probably just try to ignore it.

      (Well to be honest I think I would actually job search over an open-floor office plan because the whole thing would drive me crazy, but if this one thing is the only thing that bothers OP then I think just tuning it out is best)

    7. Lassie*

      I agree – even if Nicholas is senior to LW, but he’s not their manager, it is incredibly odd, and would not have flown in any place I’ve been at. Open offices are bad enough with distractions, this kind of active monitor staring each time he walks by is awful! I’d let it slide a few times (like LW has) but then point it out to him when he does it. If LW is uncomfortable doing that, the previous advice about asking their manager about it sounds good.

  8. Shopgirl*

    Please don’t judge them on their out of season clothing. I’m on a various medications that can cause side effects that make me dress strangely for the season occasionally. I will sometimes get hot flashes in the winter or I’m uncontrollably freezing in the summer.

    1. Old Admin*

      Same here.
      I run fairly hot, and gone through an entire winter (mild, just around freezing temps, no ice) in sneakers with short or no socks in a very casual work environment.

    2. High Score!*

      Judging them for out of season clothing also puts an undue burden on interns who do not have the money to purchase more clothes.

      1. 1-800-BrownCow*

        Agreed! When I was a college intern, all my money went toward my schooling, food and personal needs. I did not have financial help from anyone, so I had to stretch my money. Clothes came from thrift stores and purchasing “professional attire” meant I was buying items that could wear year around. So my first business suit I put together was a sleeveless top, pants and jacket.

    3. pearly*

      I was thinking the same thing. And it’s not even just due to medication. I am always, always cold, and my nearest coworker is always, always hot. If someone asked her to wear long sleeves all day in the winter, she would melt.

    4. Rainy*

      Yup. Also people just run hotter or colder than others, or are more sensitive to humidity etc. That’s before we get into the issue of offices where the setpoint on the climate control was determined by someone whose ideas about ideal temperature are wildly different from yours.

      I will never forget the call center job I worked as a kid where the thermostat was controlled remotely by the facilities staff in the corporate headquarters in Minneapolis. Minneapolis got its first snow very early that fall and so they turned on our heat. In Kansas. Where we were enjoying an extended second summer that year so it was in the high 90s outside. And inside.

  9. Dina*

    #3 – As a digital comms person I am begging people to realise that having a social media account doesn’t make you an expert on it. Nor does being a young person.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Not all young people are on social media, and there are so many people who post prolifically and enthusiastically, but not up to corporate standards. Passive aggressive vague-booking, posts with TMI, banal updates on what they had for lunch, vague inspirational platitudes….
      Copywriting is a specialized skill, and I wouldn’t expect interns to be expert at it. Even ones who have a talent for it will need a fair amount of oversight and training.

      1. Observer*

        , and there are so many people who post prolifically and enthusiastically, but not up to corporate standards

        That’s putting it mildly, as your list illustrates.

        Copywriting is a specialized skill, and I wouldn’t expect interns to be expert at it. Even ones who have a talent for it will need a fair amount of oversight and training.

        Yes. Very much this. But that’s also only one piece. The others are voice – which others have pointed out takes time and skill to understand and develop; judgement, which your list also touches on; and subject matter expertise, which these interns clearly don’t have.

        I’m honestly not sure why the OP is so surprised by the abysmal results they are getting. After all, would they turn their interns loose to create their brochures, or their pitches to their prospective funders?

    2. Sleve*

      I own a car. I can change my own oil and swap out a flat tyre. I still take it to an auto mechanic to get it serviced. Same thing.

    3. Sunny*

      This, this, this! Social media is still people – and understanding how people think and operate, no matter the medium, is a skill you learn over time.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I think the short length of social media posts is deceptive. If anything it’s harder to do “voice of the company” right when you only have a few lines to do it.

    5. Delta Delta*

      This. I have several social media accounts – some that are personal and clearly me, and some that are a pseudonym and focused on a particular topic. I also have professional social media accounts. My personal accounts are for things like, “hey, look at this cool flower” or “I just ate a tasty pizza” or whatever other personal SM nonsense I have to say. My pseudonym account has a highly curated voice that has taken a decade to get right. It’s very popular, and I think that’s because I’m able to stay in-voice for the account. I’m also really smart and funny in that account; if that was me in real life I’d be wildly popular. I’m not. My professional accounts are basically ghost towns. I can’t get the voice right. Nothing comes across the right way, and I think it’s because I can’t exactly figure out how to do it. I’m a smart person, I’ve been on various forms of SM for close to 20 years. I can do it, but I can’t do that one account.

      I say all this, because I think it’s a mistake people make to think young people who use instagram are automatically going to be social media communication geniuses. They aren’t. Don’t treat it that way.

    6. ThatGirl*

      This is exactly why I hate the trope of “the intern who runs our social media accounts” … I am a copywriter, I mostly do *not* do social media and when that team asks for our help, it can take me a few tries to get it right – and I’m a trained and experienced copywriter!

    7. Allonge*

      This. I worked comms-adjacent for some years and I picked up a lot of things, but it’s a whole profession for a reason!

      ‘Digital native’, without training and experience, at best translates to being comfortable with using the various apps, maybe with an understanding of the basics on the personal level. Knowing what a hashtag is or how to insert an image / video to the post without a handbook does not mean that someone will be able to draft for a corporate account!

      And drafting short texts is often the most difficult to get right! Slight style issues in a 60-page report are not great, but it’s a lot more forgiving than when you have 100-300 characters to work with.

      1. Observer*

        Knowing what a hashtag is or how to insert an image / video to the post without a handbook does not mean that someone will be able to draft for a corporate account!

        True. It’s like the old joke of an experienced tech who charged $10 for driving a nail in and $990 for *knowing where to put the nail*.

        What the OP is essentially doing with these interns is the equivalent of say “Oh, you learned how to use a screwdriver and hammer in your training to put together Ikea furniture? Let’s have you start building these complex armoires with hidden compartments in custom sizes.”

    8. lilsheba*

      It sure doesn’t make anyone an expert on spelling or grammar! Social media is full of so many writing mistakes I can’t even bear it anymore. And my own co workers don’t even know how to spell correctly!

      1. Cat and dog fosterer*

        I was asked to help with an animal rescue’s social media, and I occasionally post material sent to me but more than half of what I do is edit the founder’s posts because the spelling, grammar, and sometimes tone is completely wrong.

    9. DameB*

      OMG yes. I’m a writer for a marketing department and could PROBABLY do social media but it’s SO HARD.

    10. Sheila*

      THANK YOU. Comms/marketing is a skill set! The whole “intern/social media” trope is so frustrating to see. I was tempted to reply to the post earlier but decided I shouldn’t as I got too wound up lol.

  10. Observer*

    #4 – Nicholas obviously looking at your work.

    I think that it would make me nuts too. And I think the reason is that he seems to be trying to look over your shoulder, so to speak, and make it clear that he’s watching you.

    Are you near enough to your supervisor (or his manager, for that matter) that if you speak in a loudish voice they will hear you? Because I think that if you do, and you ask, each time, if there is anything he needs it’s going to make it really obvious what he’s doing. And unless there is something else going on, I don’t think it’s going to make him look good.

    Also, I’m wondering if you can ask your supervisor if Nicholas is supposed to be monitoring your work, as that’s what he appears to be doing. Because if he is, then you would want to know if that’s because your manager, or someone above, has any concerns with your work. The key here is not come to your manager in a whining or complaining mode, but inquiry to make sure that this unusual thing is not an indicator that something is going on the you need to be concerned about.

    1. Satan’s Panties*

      I would think that if he was supposed to be monitoring her, he would walk right up, make his presence known, ask about what she’s doing, then move on. What he is doing is rubbernecking. If he is supposed to be monitoring, he’s not doing it well.

      But hey, ask anyway! I love Totally Innocent Questions. Second one down.

      1. Observer*

        What he is doing is rubbernecking. If he is supposed to be monitoring, he’s not doing it well.

        Oh, agreed.

        The main reason to ask the way I suggested is that you don’t want to come off as being secretive or defensive. I would be willing to bet anything that Nicholas is NOT “supposed” to be monitoring anything, but OP comes to their boss with “Is he supposed to be doing that? It’s really annoying me!” Manager is likely to just dismiss it. But if OP comes to Manager and says “Hey, is Nicholas supposed to be doing this? Do you have any concerns? What would you like me to change?” Manager is much more likely to respond “No, he not supposed to be doing that, and it IS weird.” And then be more open to figuring out a way to make it stop or at least be less intrusive.

    2. Forrest Rhodes*

      I like your idea, Observer: Every time Nicholas is staring at the screens, LW stands up, steps between him and the screens, and asks (just loudly enough that all those nearby can hear), “Was there something you needed, Nicholas?” Three or four times of everyone turning to look at Nicholas might be a deterrent!

  11. Zombeyonce*

    #3: Writing is a skill, and writing for someone else (an org instead of personal social media) is difficult. I work with people who have been with the org for decades and couldn’t write a summary of a program we run in a simple, clear way, much less in a consistent voice that represents our company. While giving social media work to interns is a common delegation, it’s not actually a good task for people who are essentially temps unless they’re studying communications (and good at it!).

    1. Waffles*

      One day, the OP is going to have an intern who thinks that the Wendy’s tweets are hilarious. Even if sarcastic humour is not on-brand for a small arts organization.

    2. ferrina*

      I work with a lot of brilliant people who cannot write a concise paragraph. I do a lot of the internal comms, and a lot of people don’t understand that different mediums need different voices. SOPs should read differently than an article in the company bulletin. A message from HR should read differently than the same content coming from other departments.

      Brand voice is hard for a lot of people to understand, much less replicate. This is not an intern level task!

      1. AngryOctopus*

        You can have a communications intern study your company and previous social media posts, and at the end of the internship they can craft some draft posts for specific asks, but you don’t have interns do your actual social media posts. That’s a learned skill!!

  12. hellohello*

    #3 is why jokes about interns making companies social media posts (like “what intern tweeted this?” etc) always ring false (and honestly kind of annoying) to me. Social media copywriting and management is hard! It’s something large corporations pay professionals a lot of money to plan, write, and manage, and requires experience and training to be able to do well. It, like most writing-heavy tasks in my opinion, isn’t something that can be easily offloaded on an intern.

    1. Introvert girl*

      This! There is this saying: if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. OP, Your mistake is that you think social media copywriting is unskilled work that can be done by an intern. It isn’t. It’s very skilled work that requires years of training and should be compensated accordingly.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yes. Years ago I was a junior engineer at a very small company. The CEO tasked me with designing the layout for a newsletter to our customers. She drew a sketch of what she wanted and told me to create it in Word. It was complex with columns and color blocks. But I’m not a graphic designer and I doubt an actual graphic designer would use Word as their tool. I’m not even the type of engineer that does computer stuff, where if maybe you squint really hard you could at least see the reasoning behind assuming I have this skill. The CEO simply did not view it as a skill at all. (That place was full of other bees and I only stayed until I could find any other job during the recession.)

        1. iglwif*

          To confirm your intuition, an actual graphic designer would ABSOLUTELY NOT use Word as their tool. Word is not built for that, and I say this as someone who has been a Word power user for 25+ years and written dozens of Word tips for company newsletters. You can make Word do a lot of things, but good graphic design is not one of them.

          1. penny dreadful analyzer*

            An enormous part of my job right now is trying to make Word documents look “more graphic” in a way that neither completely explodes the Word doc nor necessitates moving the entire document into InDesign. Relatedly, one of my goals for the year is to get better at InDesign, and quite coincidentally all the other tech editors have the exact same goal! (Our request to add a graphic designer to our team has tragically been denied, at least for now.)

            1. iglwif*

              Oh man, I feel this.

              I am currently engaged in a very polite battle to get literally anyone in our brand team, which makes templates for the rest of us to use, to spend even a small amount of time considering things like colour contrast, font sizes, and document structure / reading order* that affect accessibility.

              Like I’m sorry, I know this light blue is a brand colour, and it’s very pretty, but if the contrast ratio with white is just over 2, I am not sending that out to customers without first switching it to a brand colour with better contrast!

              *The worst part about semantic structure and reading order is that Word and Powerpoint have tools for this that the folks making the template just aren’t using. A Word template I was using yesterday kept throwing up warnings about lack of document structure, and I couldn’t figure out why — I was using the heading styles! — until I dug a bit further and realized the heading styles were all set up with the outline level set as “body text” ::headdesk::

    2. philmar*

      Well, if they screwed it up, then the joke does make sense… the intern doesn’t know how to do it right.

      1. Phryne*

        Yes, that is the whole point of that joke isn’t it? That foisting the job of managing your social media presence as a professional company is very unprofessional and will probably damage your image, because it is a real job and not something you dump on the lowest paid person who can’t say no.

        1. Phryne*

          ‘That foisting the job of managing your social media presence -on an intern- as a professional company is very unprofessional’
          Proofread fail…

        2. ferrina*

          This is how I read it. When social media presence is an afterthought to a company (i.e., foisted onto an intern), it shows. Social media is a skill and should be managed by a professional with expertise in it.

      2. Two Fish*

        Exactly; people say that phrase when a company’s social media post is inappropriate, like with the killers of the flower moon post recently (by someone who clearly had not seen the movie). Or when brands get combative in the comments. So it does make sense.

    3. Zzzzzz*

      Posting on social media is a part of the larger, strategic communications plan of the organization–one of many tools out there to reach specific audiences with specific messages for specific goals that need to be measured for effectiveness at various points along the “way.” Why the LW thinks an intern, not only not privy to this plan but not skilled writing let alone messaging for the organization, what competitors are doing, what tools are needed to measure reach, etc. etc. etc. is capable of doing the job because they might use TikTok… well. That’s a LW who doesn’t understand communications or its purpose. (Didn’t we learn these lessons yet from the 90’s with graphic design, the in the 00’s with website design, coding, apps?). LW: hire an expert.

  13. nnn*

    If the program in #1 teaches students about professional dress norms rather than just telling them to dress professionally, one thing they could consider incorporating is tips for building a professional wardrobe gradually, or for maximizing the professional appearance of their actual existing clothes.

    For example, a jacket can elevate many outfits, so it might be worth making that one of the first pieces you buy. (But what if you don’t own dress pants or a blouse? Should you buy those first? What are the pros and cons? etc.)

    You could also give information about your best bets for if you need a particular piece immediately on a budget, what times of year particular things are likely to go on sale, the best way to get value if you have a bit of money to spend on one or two good pieces – basically all the unspoken knowledge you accrue from maintaining a professional wardrobe for years that people who haven’t had to build a professional wardrobe are unlikely to have.

    (People always bring up thrifting in these kinds of discussions and that’s certainly an option, but thrifting is unpredictable. If you’re educating people who haven’t built a wardrobe before, it’s also important to provide information about more predictable sources.)

    1. Daria Grace*

      And thrifting tends to be worse for people who were already having trouble in normal stores. The plus size selection at many thrift shops is really bad

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, my ability to find lower cost professional clothes rested heavily on there being a store called Repeat Petite near my parents’ house back when I worked in-house. When that store closed, or my parents moved and I had no reason to drive 4 hours away, I couldn’t just turn to all those small-size clothing stores near me.

    2. ChurchOfDietCoke*

      Always buy the blazer first! Here in the UK ‘smart casual’ workwear is now often revolving around jeans and a top / cardigan, dress and a cardigan, rather than what Americans amusingly call ‘dress pants’. Throw a blazer over *anything* you look pulled together and smart!

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Dress pants (in the Brit sense of pants) are for a different kind of office. Or maybe one that’s really really hot?

    3. Michelle Smith*

      I love this idea! It would have helped me a ton back when I was first trying to figure this out! And it’s also a great opportunity to provide examples and ideas that are size and gender inclusive. I paid a style coach a couple of years ago to help me figure out how I could look professional and still be comfortable as a person who doesn’t fit the stereotypical ideas of what that means (e.g., I’m plus size, disabled, and nonbinary, so I have to think through different places to shop, fabric structure/texture, etc. in addition to style). I never would have been able to afford that as a student, so having that information provided in other ways would have been so valuable.

    4. Kes*

      This is what I was wondering – is the point to teach students about professional norms? If so I don’t think it’s out of line to tell them that it could come off a little weird to be dressed significantly differently from what most people would be wearing. Also some offices don’t really allow sleeveless tops on their own and a light cardigan or jacket over would be more usual.
      I certainly don’t think it’s something to penalize students for in terms of grading since student wardrobes often are limited. But if the goal is to help them learn workplace norms I don’t think it would be wrong to talk to them about it.

      1. UKDancer*

        I agree. I wouldn’t penalise them for it but I think it’s good to tell them what the norms are. I’d also let them know what the weather is like so they can work out what might be appropriate. My father mentored a lot of Malaysian and Chinese students at one point. He did give them a general feel for the weather they might experience in that part of Northern England and the sort of outer clothes they might want to think about getting. This was more along the lines of “it’s rarely freezing but it drizzles a lot and there’s a bitter wind so getting something rainproof might be a good idea.”

    5. sparkle emoji*

      Agreed, I think examples around what professional dress means are more helpful than making students do it for 6 weeks when they may not have money for a full professional wardrobe yet. Also good to give specific examples of types of professional dress(business professional vs business casual) because that can be tricky if you’re unfamiliar. Many students may end up in a more casual office anyway and may not use the clothes LW’s wife recommends after the 6 week program.

      1. I Have RBF*

        I had a temp job that required business professional dress. It paid crap. I had to spend a lot of money just to get things like blouses, skirts and goddamn nylons for that job, on a temp’s pay. I ended up putting a lot on credit, and it hurt for years afterward.

        Do NOT push interns to spend a lot of money of “professional” clothes. For starters, they’re poor. Leave them their dignity. For seconds, it’s a six week program, and asking people to buy an entire “seasonally appropriate” wardrobe for a six week program is arrogance, at best, and definitely out of touch with how the rest of the world lives within their means.

        By the time they have a full-time, professional job, fashion will have changed, their size and weight, will have changed, office norms may be different where they actually work, and all the money that they spent on “seasonally appropriate professional clothes” will be wasted. Do not do this to them.

        Just be glad they aren’t wearing jeans and a t-shirt and give the clothing policing a rest. Sheesh.

    6. Captain Swan*

      My daughter took a class in High School (that was for special education students) called Education for Employment. One of their in class assignments was to first look at magazines to find pictures of professional clothing or not professional clothing and discuss the pros and cons of each. They followed that with a field trip to the local mall and ‘shopped’ for affordable pieces that could be used in their future workplaces. They took notes in case they wanted to comeback later and buy anything they liked.
      Daughter bought and wore some of those pieces to her first job interview.

    7. MCMonkeyBean*

      There doesn’t seem to be a problem with unprofessional clothes though. Some offices may not allow sleeveless tops, but that’s not the case here–she just thinks it’s out of season. That veers way too far into “fashion” policing than “office norms” IMO. If the top is appropriate in the summer then it isn’t inappropriate in the winter if that’s what they are comfortable wearing.

    8. Yellow sports car*

      Really not a fan of workplaces being expected to provide shopping and style tips. I’m certainly not going to talk to my juniors about how to purchase clothes beyond expected dress code for different events. I can tell staff they have to dress professionally – and name the dress code – but after that it really is on them to find how to do that themselves. There’s many things I expect staff to learn themselves – I’m no more going to provide training in how to dress than how to shower, or hope to launder their clothing.

      I’d have found it rather infantilising or insulting to have a boss telling me where to purchase my clothing, or how to style myself.

      If you want your staff to dress better – pay them real wages. Don’t provide advice on how to look good for less.

  14. coffee*

    #5, maybe they think all of those points should be covered in a second interview, or when an offer is made? Or they might think “Why talk about this with candidates who won’t be successful”, forgetting that it should be a two-way information exchange.

    Interviewing is stressful. Good luck with your job junt.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Agreed with your first point, unless they told you explicitly that they’re only doing one round of interviews for this role I would assume they’re saving logistics for the second (or third+) round.

      1. Antilles*

        Especially with a topic like “my availability” where there’s usually a very clear norm.
        I’m going to generally assume you’ll be available to start on a timeframe that’s somewhere in the ballpark of 2 to 4 weeks after the offer is (a couple weeks for notice, maybe a little extra time for the transition) – and if for some reason your schedule is well outside that norm, I’d expect you to let me know that you have a contract stating you can’t leave till June.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Yeah I don’t think I’ve been to an interview in the last 15 years or so where I was asked what my availability is or anything about my commute. In my admittedly anecdotal experience, “When can you start?” is typically a question asked in the application. Presumably if my answer to that question was unacceptable, they wouldn’t have invited me to interview. In situations where I had weird or unusual circumstances that wouldn’t allow me to start immediately (like the time I had to explain to a very unhappy hiring manager that company policy required me to give 6 weeks of notice), I just…brought that up affirmatively myself. (That specific situation ended up working out; I talked to HR and got an exemption to provide 3 weeks notice and I worked every Saturday of my notice period to make sure all my case files were meticulously organized). As far as commute, I’d actually consider it a red flag if the interviewer did ask me about it! If the job requires me to commute, I’ve researched the trip and have tested it at least once to make sure it’s something I’m okay doing. I had a job once that required multiple trains and took me over an hour an a half commute each way and not only did I do it, but at the time I was actually happy to do so because I really liked the work and my team compared to the previous job. If I’m interviewing for an in-person job, I’m willing to do the commute. Respect me enough not to micromanage my life and what I’m willing to do to make the job work for me.

          1. Sloanicota*

            That said, I’ve been to interviews where it seems like they’re really picturing me in the role – “this will be your office” etc – and interviews where it’s clear they’re not. It doesn’t always lead to the outcome you’d expect either way, to be honest. It’s one piece of data but ultimately not worth dwelling on. And I certainly wouldn’t reach out to the hiring manager to ask about it.

          2. ecnaseener*

            FWIW, LW mentioned travel frequency not commute time. So I think they meant frequency of business trips, not their daily commute.

          3. AngryOctopus*

            Yeah, asking about your commute in a job interview should only be prepatory to a “we offer a parking discount/we cover your train pass/you get x% of your commuting costs covered”, with them leading with the specific commuting way you mentioned.

    2. House On The Rock*

      Yeah, I don’t think this necessarily points to a bad interviewer or interview process. It might simply be that they don’t cover this until they are close to an offer, or are working through offer details.

      Unless the job requires a lot of travel or working a non-standard schedule I wouldn’t ask questions around that in an initial interview. In fact, I’d probably avoid asking questions that made it sound like someone was definitely advancing, and many candidates will take “when can you start?” or “what’s your preferred schedule” to mean that they’ll get an offer.

      I have had candidates ask me questions about travel, schedules, flex time, remote work etc. and I appreciate they are thinking those things through, but an interviewer not raising it doesn’t feel like particularly meaningful.

  15. drinking Mello Yello*

    For #3:

    a) OP’s question is boiling down to “Why am I not getting experienced professional level results out of interns?”

    b) OP’s undervaluing social media and underestimating the effort and skill that goes into making quality social media posts.

    And tbh, both attitudes are super common! But hopefully they’ll look into making corporate social media management a paid position filled by somebody with some experience (or suggest it to whoever makes those decisions) instead of assuming an intern can do it just by virtue of being young and having a personal social media account. It’s actual work and needs experience if you want decent results!

    1. Glen*

      if the interns are unpaid it’s double bad.

      Actually I think using an unpaid intern for work that is specifically for the benefit of the org makes it many, many times worse, but will leave it at that…

    2. Lily Rowan*

      In general, I don’t think interns save you time. At least, they shouldn’t save you much time — it’s a training program! For their benefit! You have to spend a lot of time working with them, even more than a new early-stage employee.

      1. esh*

        In medical education, the saying goes, “Show me the medical student that only triples my work and I will kiss their feet.” Training people to do complex and finicky work is extremely time-intensive.

  16. ThatOtherClare*

    LW#3, if your company will allow it, you might be better off paying for a corporate licence for your favourite AI tool and training it on old posts in your company’s voice. Many AI companies now allow you to keep anything you feed the AI out of their training data and on your own servers only – IF you pay for a corporate licence.

    If you train it well, this kind of low value, high effort social media posting is the kind of thing AI excels at, because it’s seen a heck of a lot of it. Far more than any student. Then, all you need to do is get your students to put in the prompt and sanity check the results, and you’ll get an excellent impersonation of the company voice every time.

    1. ThatOtherClare*

      Note to say: I don’t think all social media posting is low value! But you can let an AI put out the kind of ‘joke of the week’ posts you’d trust to a brand new intern, and save the time and sanity of your pro social media people for writing things like your International Women’s Day post or your new company values statement.

      1. Sunny*

        Jokes are exactly the kind of thing you should not be trusting to AI. There are so many ways jokes can go wrong, and honestly, this kind of thinking is just as devaluing of the comms expertise needed to run social media well as throwing it to interns.

        1. Cmdrshprd*

          “Jokes are exactly the kind of thing you should not be trusting to AI.”

          I don’t think the above poster meant use AI and post it exactly as what it writes. but double checking to make sure it is write and not offensive.

          Same way using AI in law for research is fine if you confirm/check it before using.

          1. Observer*

            Same way using AI in law for research is fine if you confirm/check it before using.

            Which is almost not at all, because it gets so much wrong. The only places that are having any success whatsoever are the places that are doing things like training specifically on vetted legal databases and also making sure that it’s taking everything only from those databases. And even then, they need to check everything.

            The OP is slammed for resources. I can’t see how they would have the ability to deploy the necessary resources to properly train an AI.

    2. xylocopa*

      It’s not just a voice issue – it sounds like they need to know more about the material (art and artists) than a typical intern does. I’m not sure AI would improve on that.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, if the AI makes up facts, it doesn’t sound like they’re necessarily going to catch that without additional training first.

    3. Observer*

      If you train it well, this kind of low value, high effort social media posting is the kind of thing AI excels at, because it’s seen a heck of a lot of it.

      The effort to train it *well* and to the make sure that it does not “hallucinate” would be even worse than the effort that the OP is now putting in with their interns.

      It’s one thing to use meh content for “low value” posts. But if you put something *wring* in one of those posts, your “low value” post is going to become actively toxic. And you are absolutely going to need to cross check *everything* an AI puts out, not just about the specific of their artists. Even if they can train it on a really specialized data set, and *also* make sure that it takes its “facts” ONLY from that same specialized data set.

      1. ThatOtherClare*

        What? How on earth would it be hallucinating? Are you thinking that you’d just be prompting it with: “Give me a social media post about rabbits” and auto-posting whatever it word-vomits? Sigh, no wonder people are struggling with AI. It’s not psychic.

        The prompt would give it all the facts. The intern would attempt to write a social media post and the prompt would be “re-word this in the style of a facebook post from HoppityCo”. If that fails, you can give it more context upfront and retry the prompt or say “Well, actually” and ask it for a re-write. Then the intern checks the output to see whether it’s sane, true, inoffensive and grammatically correct, the same as they would with their own work.

        We’re only trying to cut out the letter writer’s chore as the ‘tone providing’ middleman here, not cook minestrone from a stone. Trust me, AI is actually really good at tone if you give it a highly detailed prompt with all the facts. And if the intern doesn’t know all the facts then how could they be expected to write the posts anyway?

        I’ve been using untrained AI for this very purpose because the ‘voice’ I need is already well published online, but they also don’t take long to train if they’re just ingesting 2000 or so X posts.

        If the letter writer is having to waste time re-wording an intern’s attempt at social media posts to make them sound less bubbly, or more bubbly, or more dryly sarcastic, or more like a staid financial institution, AI can do that under the intern’s supervision, and it will save the letter writer some time.

        1. Observer*

          The process you are describing is pretty labor intensive. Especially since the interns don’t actually have a solid handle on either the facts or the tone. So first you have to make sure that you check the prompts they provide the Bot. Then, they have to check the output for accuracy, and yes, even having gotten the correct information to start with, it’s not a guarantee that it won’t throw in some random incorrect detail that “sounds right”. So the interns check that, and then the OP needs to check it again (because the interns apparently don’t have a completely good grasp of the facts themselves) to make sure nothing slipped through.

          And if the intern doesn’t know all the facts then how could they be expected to write the posts anyway?

          Good question. And a point that most of the comments on this post have been making. That is the a good chunk of the fundamental problem that the OP is creating for themself. They are trying to get *interns* to do a job for which they don’t have knowledge base. And what’s more, it’s almost certainly unreasonable and unrealistic to expected to have the knowledge base. The use or not, of a chatbot is not going to change that.

        2. ThatOtherClare*

          Here’s an example I threw into the free version of chatGPT and the output:

          Here is a fake news report: “There was a large earthquake in Washington DC on Saturday. The White House has sustained severe structural damage. Many people sustained injuries but no deaths have been reported. The city is currently responding to the disaster.” Please write 3 tweets about the event. The first tweet must be in the tone and style of Barack Obama, the second tweet must be in the tone and style of Donald Trump and the third tweet must be in the tone and style of Elon Musk.

          1. Barack Obama: “My thoughts are with the people of Washington DC following the devastating earthquake. We must come together as a nation to support those affected and ensure swift recovery efforts. Stay strong, DC.”

          2. Donald Trump: “Terrible news about the earthquake in DC. Our administration is closely monitoring the situation and working with local authorities to provide all necessary assistance. We will rebuild stronger than ever before! #DCStrong #MAGA”

          3. Elon Musk: “Sending support to those impacted by the DC earthquake. Innovation and resilience will prevail as we collaborate to rebuild. Consider this a wake-up call to invest in sustainable infrastructure. Let’s harness technology to create a safer, more resilient future for all. #DCquake #Innovation”

          They’re not perfect, but it would be quicker to re-word something like this that’s 80% there than the voiceless pieces described in the letter.

  17. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (actually I’m married) – I would just be honest with them, without going into a load of details! There’s nothing to “confess” (the way OP characterised it as confessing to a coworker). You can just wait until it organically comes up and then say (e.g.) actually I was separated but technically still married, but my husband and I have actually agreed to give it another go and he’s moving back in! Tie it to some chat about doing something in the house.

    1. Happily Retired*

      I guess I love this in theory, but wow, it sounds like it would feed the endemic office gossip machine into out-of-control mode!

      I prefer the other suggestions about saying yes, he was gone due to family stuff (true), he’s back now (true), and if it doesn’t work out, he’s gone again d/t family stuff (true). The deets are no-one’s business! If they eventually divorce, that is something that OP can choose to share if it happens. (OP, if you’re hoping to make this marriage work, I wish the best for you!)

      Captain, I don’t know if you were saying this, but if so, I agree that “confess” is a terrible mindset for OP. Confessing implies sin or other misdoing, and implies shame or fault. If OP has these feelings overlaying the separation, she might want to examine that, possibly with the help of therapy.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I think the “family stuff” would work for some people, but I feel like OP wants to be more ‘honest’ than that (I understand that “family stuff” etc is technically true) given that OP used language like “confess”, “break the news” to colleagues, etc. I think “technically the truth but not the truth” would still weigh on OP but if I’m wrong about this, yours (and the one in the answer) is also a valid approach. Yes, that’s what I was getting to about “confess” but didn’t articulate it very well.

      2. melissa*

        People here seem to work in offices that have way gossip than anywhere I’ve ever worked. (Or— and this is my theory— people have some paranoia that everyone is talking about them all the time.) I’m a nurse, and nurses tend to like gossip. But “I thought she was single but she’s actually separated” wouldn’t even move the needle. Nobody is going to care.

        1. Phryne*

          I work in education and same. There is plenty of stories going round, but they are generally all work related, not about people’s private lives. People split up. People get together with someone. People get mental or physical health problems and are off for a while. That is all daily life and par for the course and no one blinks an eye.
          Now the director who is rumoured to have redirected public innovation funds to his son’s company though… that is the juicy of the day.
          OP also mentions not having worn a wedding ring. The significance of a ring might be a cultural difference, but it is not anything I would ever notice. I am trying to picture it in my head and I genuinely cannot recall if the married coworkers I regularly sit next/opposite to are wearing a wedding ring or not. Or any rings at all.
          I guess this could be different in other countries, but I would not even consider the presence or absence of a ring as a significant indicator of someone’s relationship status, I know way too many people who have been together for 20+ years with a house and several kids who never bothered to get married, or who are married but don’t like wearing rings, or still wear a ring even though they are widowed.

          1. Lady_Lessa*

            When I was open to a relationship, I looked for wedding rings, to make sure I was attracted to a single person.

            Now, I never notice. Besides working in a lab, jewelry can be dangerous.

          2. allathian*

            I work for a governmental agency in Finland. I enjoy socializing with my coworkers, but at my office, there’s very little gossip about other people, and I’m very glad of that. People share what they want to share about their personal lives, especially when it’s something that might affect their work, but generally we don’t talk about our coworkers’ personal lives behind their backs unless it’s something like buying a joint present for a coworker who’s going on maternity leave or retiring, or gifts of condolence for the loss of a loved one, or birthday presents for milestone birthdays. Even then the talk’s very matter-of-fact rather than “gossipy.”

            I haven’t worn my wedding ring for years, and I’ve never worn it regularly. It doesn’t make me feel any less married. Between 2011 when I returned to work after my parental leave and 2019 I wore my wedding ring to an annual professional conference I went to, mainly because my husband asked me to (at the time, he wore his ring all the time, but he stopped during the pandemic). Last October they organized the first conference in 4 years and I forgot the ring. I realized that I didn’t really need that relationship status marker, given that I’m a fat middle-aged woman who’s never been conventionally attractive, and that in my field women outnumber men at least 20:1. I’m happy to report that I’ve never been hit on during one of these conferences and I’ve talked with a lot of interesting people in my profession of all genders and ages; the youngest are 20-something interns, the oldest are over 80 and attend as respected mentors and authority figures in my field.

            Given that I’m in a monogamous marriage and have no reason to care about other people’s relationship status, and given that the presence or absence of a ring isn’t a reliable indicator of relationship status anyway, I rarely even notice if people are wearing rings or not.

      3. Awkwardness*

        Or maybe: “We had a rough patch.” Or “We have some rough/ busy/ stressful months behind us where he was not available”

    2. Guacamole Nob*

      Agree that there’s nothing to “confess”, and she doesn’t even need to go into much detail. There are some perfectly happy married couples who choose to live apart for various reasons and nobody needs to know the ins and outs. A simple mention that the husband has been living elsewhere but now they live together is all that’s needed.

      Yes, people might be curious and even speculate, but being matter-of-fact can help starve gossip of oxygen.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, I couldn’t tell from the letter if LW wanted to be honest about it being a separation – if so, I would go with a breezy “we were on a break but we’re back together now.” (Can you say “we were on a break” yet without being bombarded with Ross Geller impressions?)

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Probably depends on the age of the people involved because I definitely read your parenthetical quote in his voice even before I saw you mention the character name lol.

    4. Generic Name*

      This strikes me as TMI. Some people will feel uncomfortable being told this level of detail while others will dig for more info.

      1. SoloKid*

        People can learn to deal with discomfort, especially if they initially were the ones saying “Oh I didn’t know you were married”/”you didn’t mention a husband before” etc.

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      That’s a level of vulnerability I wouldn’t want to have at work. You have to trust that your coworkers won’t have have a weird and inappropriate reaction, you have to trust that they won’t judge you, and you have to trust that they won’t ask prying questions. And you have to trust all of that with every coworker the ones you tell might pass it on to.

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree–you definitely don’t *have* to tell them, but I feel like it’s really a very normal thing and if you just state it matter of fact “we were separated, but now we’ve reconciled” then I think everyone would just be like “oh, okay” and move one.

      I do understand though being worried about having to share again if the separation ends up not panning out.

  18. Snoozing not schmoozing*

    #4, I’d be SO tempted to have a full-screen HI, NICHOLAS! to toggle to every time he walks by. if you can talk your coworkers into doing the same, it might give him the hint he needs.

    1. Too Hot*

      Just what I was thinking! Alternatively browse for genuine News articles that have that name prominently displayed. “Nicolas charged with Embezzlement” – that type of thing

      1. bamcheeks*

        the idea of someone who habitually looks at people’s screens suddenly having a day where everyone seems to be reading newspaper articles with their name in is DIVINE. I love it.

        (for Real Life, I think this would be better as a prank on someone you get on well with who would take it as funny, rather than as a way of hinting to someone that you genuinely want to them to change their behaviour. If Nicholas isn’t actually malicious or nosy, but is just someone whose attention is attracted by screens and he doesn’t realise the effect that has on other people, it would be a horrible way to find out!)

  19. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (social media) – I don’t think this is a job for interns really and I feel like they’re being set up to fail here. It is a skill in ita own right, similar to saying “you use a computer for your online banking, right? Can you build one for me?”.

    How long does the social media part take? If there’s no chance of hiring an additional person, would the amount of work make sense to hire a freelance social media expert who writes content for various clients?

  20. #skilled*

    I know this will get lost in the posts but LW #3 one thing I’ve learned in my job is that apparently writing social media captions is hard to many. To me it is very simple, almost ridiculously so. I have trained at least 4 people. It’s not simple to them. It is crazy frustrating but you are not alone.

    1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

      I’ve been a professional writer for several decades. I can write a great 50 page proposal or report but am terrible at titles and captions. Short social media posts are similar. These are very different skills.

    2. londonedit*

      I was recently involved with producing some written things outside of work, with a group of friends. Part of what we were producing involved some written copy, and I volunteered to have a go at writing it. I’m an editor, so I work with a lot of writing, but writing isn’t really a core part of my job, so I warned them that I could have a bash but it wouldn’t necessarily be perfect. To my great surprise, everyone loved my first draft, thought it was amazing, said they never could have written anything so good, couldn’t believe it was just a draft, etc etc. I say this not to humblebrag but because it’s true that when you have a natural ability to do something, you assume it’s easy and you tend to devalue your efforts in that area – whereas to other people who don’t have that particular skill, it really is difficult. In the same way that if I was tasked with creating a whizzy spreadsheet or knitting a blanket I’d find it incredibly difficult.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      The more skilled you are, particularly in something that relies on fluency and automaticity, and have forgotten the trenches of learning how to do it pre-fluency, the more likely you are to underestimate the gaining of the skill.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yes. When I was a student teacher, I was really surprised to realise that I found it easier to teach the Renaissance, which isn’t a topic I’d have much interest in than I did the topics I love like the Celts, because I know nothing about art, so I started with the absolute basics on explaining things like perspective, whereas when it came to the topics I loved, I had to try and figure out what would not be obvious to a 12 year old.

        Teaching topics that came naturally to you is a lot harder sometimes than teaching the topics you struggled with and needed to develop techniques to remember.

        1. Ray Gillette*

          This is why when studying a second language, I had a better experience studying under instructors who also learned the language as a second language, than instructors who were native speakers of the language I was learning. Native speakers were still able to teach effectively because they had experience of learning another language at least once, but they didn’t have the specific experience of learning the language they were currently teaching as a second language.

          1. allathian*

            Agreed. I took French in middle school and continued in high school (honors class). I also took all the French classes I could in college without making it my major. Most courses I took in college were taught by two people, the main teacher was a Swedish-speaking Finn like me who’d learned the language as a teenager or adult and who understood the tricks of learning French when your school language is Swedish. Their assistant who taught French conversation classes was a person whose first language was French. The combination was truly the best of both worlds.

  21. Chad H.*

    Have to find 3 a bit funny: “why can’t someone who’s working with me to gain experience magically perform at the level of an experienced staffer I’d have to pay”.

    Because they’re interns LW. They’re there to learn. If they could perform at the Level you want them to you’d be paying market rate, not nothing/very little.

    1. Lola*

      Good point. And the idea that supervising the interns takes up a lot of time – in my experience that is integral to having interns. They usually need and (should get) plenty of guidance and oversight.

  22. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    OP2: Inserting it casually is the way to go: My husand and I [saw (Movie), binge-watched (Show), painted the kitchen, found a new dog park] last weekend. Your marriage and separation is a huge deal for you, of course, but many people don’t even think about their co-workers’ marital status. If I was your co-worker, I wouldn’t notice whether or not you wore a wedding ring, rushed home to take care of your dog, didn’t reference a spouse before. If I did notice, I would assume your husband was not available to care for the dog because of an inflexible work schedule, school, travel, etc.; think that you didn’t mention your husband earlier because you were new or it wasn’t relevant to the conversation. I can’t imagine a question about your ring, but if there is, “I take it off when I wash dishes/work out.” If you decide to split, you get to choose if and who you share it with.
    I hope you find peace in however the situation works out. I’m sorry you’re going through such a tough time and hope you have good supports.

    1. Mid*

      #2- I think that we (as a species) have a tendency to overestimate how important our lives are to other people. This isn’t to be mean! Your life is of course deeply important to you.

      But most coworkers aren’t paying that close of attention to the details of your personal life. I’m polyamorous (and have multiple partners) and while it’s not a secret, it’s not something many people in my work life are aware of, because they don’t care. I’ll mention my partner is a researcher, and I’ll mention my partner is a musician, and people don’t notice or care that those are two different jobs and the details I share about my partners do not line up in a way that would make them easily mistaken as one person when I talk.

      People do tend to pay more attention to scandal and shame though. If you talk about your husband as if things are A Big Deal, people will react in kind. If you talk casually about it, most people won’t recall that anything was different from how you talked about your personal life previously.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        I also think that we tend to assume the things that are particularly significant to us will be noticed by others. That’s not phrased very well, but I mean if we know there is a personal reason behind something, we tend to give it more attention than the other things we mention about our lives and therefore we assume others are also paying it more attention, when there is no reason why they should.

        It’s like when you are reading a detective story and sometimes (especially if the story isn’t very well-written), the characters can seem really stupid to miss a particular clue, because you, as the reader, know it must have significance because why else would the writer have mentioned it whereas there may be no reason for it to stand out to the characters. Something like “there was a slight mark on the wall above the radiator.”

        The LW knows there is a “story” about where her husband is but her coworkers don’t and to them there is no more reason to focus on that than on the fact her pet needs to see the vet.

      2. metadata minion*

        I suspect some people also go “huh, I thought Mid’s partner was from Toronto; I must have misremembered”.

      3. UKDancer*

        Yes, I mean I have an awareness of the broad outlines of some of my colleagues lives and in some case some of the details but that doesn’t mean I know everything about all of them. So I know Jenny is getting married because she’s been telling people about the wedding plans with considerable excitement and I know Inderjit has a new kitten because he’s had a morning off to handle some vet appointments. I think he has kids but I can’t remember exactly if it’s 2 or 3. I know Jan is with someone because he was looking at Valentine cards and flowers online the other day but I can’t remember his boyfriend’s name.

        We know some features of peoples’ lives but it doesn’t mean people know all of the details, sometimes it’s just a vague generality.

        I’d agree the more casual it is the less people will notice it as a big deal. So I remember the colleague who had a massively ugly divorce because she told all of us at length how awful her husband was and I can not erase some of the details from my mind. I don’t remember whether all my other colleagues are married or not.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I think this is pretty true and will probably need no further explanation; however as a couple of the colleagues did register and mention that OP lived alone, I would be prepared for someone to say “Oh, I thought you lived alone” and in that instance I think saying either “Oh, he was away for quite a bit; family stuff!” or “Yeah, we were separated recently, but not any more” is equally office appropriate and the choice of which really boils down to OP’s comfort level.

      1. LW2*

        I really appreciate all the kind comments and I am definitely aware that most coworkers don’t worry or think about whether or not I am in a relationship, hahaha. We’re a pretty friendly team, though, to the point where they made a card for my pet who went through surgery and gave it to me when I got back to work (sweet!) and they definitely made mention of how hard it would be while I’m by myself. I guess that’s one of the reasons it gave me pause – I perceive that my coworkers assume I am single. Though, who knows!

  23. Irish Teacher.*

    LW2, if it’s any consolation if one of my coworkers mentioned there being nobody at home and then later mentioned being married, I’d assume their partner had been working away or in hospital or maybe had had a family emergency, like one of their parents being ill and their needing to stay with them to care for them. I wouldn’t think trial separation or that they were lying to take time off.

    At most, I might say, “oh, I didn’t know you were married,” but more likely, I’d be embarrassed that I’d assumed they weren’t married and would say nothing. Even if I did, just “oh, he’s been away” would be sufficient explanation.

    I will add one of my colleagues has a husband who at least until recently didn’t even live in the same state (I think he might be moving to be with her now), simply because it’s his second marriage and he has kids from his first marriage who he had shared custody of, so he needed to live near his ex until they were independent, while she has a job here (and teaches a subject that wouldn’t easily adapt to Northern Ireland).

    And I have no idea which of my colleagues wear wedding rings. Plus some people don’t. Even if I did notice, which there is zero chance of, but others might be more observant, I’d assume left it at home so it didn’t get lost.

    1. londonedit*

      Yes – firstly I doubt anyone will have been paying such close attention that they’d immediately think ‘What?? OP didn’t have anyone to take the dog to the vet and now they have a husband???’, and secondly I don’t think it would be odd at all to drop the odd mention of a husband in even if you haven’t before. If someone said ‘I don’t have anyone to look after the dog’ I wouldn’t immediately assume ‘ever’; it could easily also just be ‘I don’t have anyone to look after the dog on this particular occasion’.

    2. mreasy*

      I am friendly and chatty with a lot of colleagues but I never know which are married unless their spouse comes up in conversation… and same with me. So you might not encounter it, LW. Sending you the best.

    3. Humble Schoolmarm*

      Even if you do, LW. “Oh, I didn’t know you were married,” isn’t necessarily an implied criticism (although it can be). If I say that, I more mean “please forgive me if I said something awkward, not knowing your actual situation.”

  24. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    Re: Nicholas the Gawker: since so many colleagues are having the same issue, how about you all agree on the same response/reaction and start doing it on the same day?
    Are you looking for something, Nicholas?
    Would it be easier if I used a larger font, Nicholas?
    Can I help you with something, Nicholas?
    Do you have a question about my work, Nicholas?
    Then the screen protector in a few weeks, for all of you.

    1. Old Admin*

      I agree with all of the above.
      When the privacy screen (preventing reading from an angle) is on, he’ll be standing right behind you to read . Then jump and loudly be scared! After a few times you can complain to his manager. *evil grin*

  25. Rosacolleti*

    #3 I assume this is an old question because AI is the solution to this – you can train it to a tone of voice in about 5mins. Then you can get the intern to do the QC!

    1. Elly*

      LW4 – if you’re using a Windows computer, then get used to the keyboard shortcut Win + D

      Everything minimises to the desktop immediately – nothing for him to see.

      And you can make it as obvious or non obvious as you like!

      1. Rosacolleti*

        We use AI at our agency, it hasn’t put anyone out of work and we’re busier than ever. It allows us to take on more work/people, reduce our rates and increase our creative and strategic input.

        Not embracing AI is more likely to put people out of work I fear.

        1. Bon*

          It hasn’t put anyone at your firm out of work, at least — I don’t think we know if your firm’s use of AI has hurt anyone outside your office who might have otherwise gotten some of those projects.

          1. Yup*

            Yup. My work as a freelancer is drying up. I get asked to proofread AI-generated copy now. Makes for great bill paying.

      2. Katie A*

        This is a rude thing to say to someone who is offering advice to a letter writer. I assume you wouldn’t tell them not to use spell check and instead hire more professionals to copyedit.

        If you strip away the issues of what AI is trained on, which isn’t relevant to the basic “AI is taking jobs” criticism, it’s simply another technology that is going to take up work that could be done by humans, and those humans will get work doing other things. Hopefully but way less likely, we’ll institute a UBI. Honestly the fact that this might result in more college educated and relatively well off people being disgruntled could make it more likely to lead to an improved social safety net than if lower paying jobs/jobs that don’t make use of a degree got automated more quickly.

        That sucks more when it’s a job people like doing or that is already undervalued like writing and art, but that doesn’t make it wildly different. And writing a lot of the things AI actually does an okay job at (e.g., summaries of text, putting bullet points into a different format) isn’t generally the kind of thing that people love, and it isn’t work that gets done by writers not of the time. Those are tasks that many people need to do, and lightening their load doesn’t have to mean someone misses out on something like a writing gig. It’s more likely to mean an office doesn’t hire another analyst because the existing ones can get more done in the same amount of time. And that’s a regular function of technology.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Common misconception but no. AI isn’t an intelligence as such, it’s just a program – and like any program it can throw errors and fall prey to GIGO (garbage in, garbage out).

      So rote stuff? Yeah let the computer handle it. Actual creative work? Pay the writers.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        This is why I am more and more preferring the term “machine learning”. I get that it’s partly a way to avoid people’s weird reactions & misunderstandings, but hey! People have weird reactions and misunderstandings about AI because they don’t know enough about it to correctly interpret what the “intelligence” part means in this context. So let’s sidestep that, use “machine learning” instead, and get on with things.

    3. BubbleTea*

      I’ve not yet managed to get ChatGPT to sound anything other than extremely chipper and American, and it doesn’t seem to be training towards my tone at all. That’s both with the regular public interface and with a special marketing tool designed for the purpose. It’s not simple unless your tone happens to align with what it churns out already.

      1. Rosacolleti*

        Oh that’s a shame, that’s not our experience at all. Keep trying, it’s improving by the month.

        1. Laika*

          Wonder if part of this difference comes from paid/unpaid use.

          I’m on GPT-3.5, and have the same experience as BubbleTea. But in a conference recently, someone (senior, experienced) in my field recommended using it because of the iterative and ongoing improvements. Later they mentioned only in passing that they were using GPT-4. I didn’t love that they were encouraging the use of such a “great” tool without also highlighting that it’s apparently only great if you pay for the upgraded version.

    4. anon tech writer*

      Yep, then you can put the interns to work on handling the fallout from your AI social media posts about artists that turn out not to exist… :)

      1. Observer*

        Yep, then you can put the interns to work on handling the fallout from your AI social media posts about artists that turn out not to exist… :)

        And *that* is going to be a walk in the park compared to the cleanup that you are going to need when you posts make up quotes and events that never happened.

        LLM (the type of model underlying most generally available AI Bots currently) Chatbots still hallucinate. A lot.

      2. Rosacoletti*

        “Yep, then you can put the interns to work on handling the fallout from your AI social media posts about artists that turn out not to exist… :)”??

        This sounds like a QC problem not an AI problem. Can’t blame AI on poor quality control – for the timebeing, that’s a really crucial role.

        1. Elsajeni*

          But the problem is, the interns aren’t getting the tone right and sometimes also make factual errors, requiring the OP to do a bunch of tedious checking their work and sometimes rewriting it entirely. Your suggestion is, get AI to write the text, then do QC checks to make sure it’s gotten the tone right and hasn’t inserted any factual errors. You haven’t created a more efficient process for the OP, you’ve just saved the interns the time of making the factual errors themselves.

    5. sparkle emoji*

      Given it sounds like LW needs the writing to be accurate on facts about their industry(sounds like the art world?), chatgpt may not be ready yet unless LW is willing to invest plenty of time fact-checking the output.

    6. Observer*

      I assume this is an old question because AI is the solution to this – you can train it to a tone of voice in about 5mins. Then you can get the intern to do the QC!

      No you can’t!

      Even the “tone” is actually not going to be great beyond the most basic stuff. But also, the content is not going to be good, and almost certainly not accurate. Especially in a niche field, unless the OP has LOTS of resources to “train” the model!

      1. Rosacoletti*

        I understand your skepticism about AI’s role in social media, but the reality is that AI is already being utilized extensively in creating and optimizing social media posts. Many platforms employ AI algorithms to analyze user behavior, generate content suggestions, and even automate posting schedules.

        Here are a few ways AI is making an impact:

        Content Generation: AI-powered tools can generate high-quality text and visuals tailored to specific audiences. These tools use natural language processing (NLP) and image recognition technologies to create engaging posts.

        Personalization: AI algorithms analyze user data to personalize content, ensuring that social media posts resonate with individual preferences and interests. This level of customization enhances user engagement and encourages interaction.

        Analytics and Insights: AI tools provide valuable insights into social media performance, helping businesses understand which types of content are most effective and how to optimize their strategies accordingly.

        Automation: AI enables the automation of routine tasks such as scheduling posts, responding to messages, and moderating comments. This frees up time for marketers to focus on strategy and creativity.

        Numerous successful examples exist where businesses have leveraged AI to enhance their social media presence and drive results. While AI may not fully replace human creativity and intuition, it undoubtedly complements human efforts and amplifies the effectiveness of social media marketing.

        I encourage you to explore some of the AI-powered tools available and see for yourself the impact they can have on social media engagement and brand growth.

        (obviously this was produced by Chatgpt – the point is that pretty much every software took we are using already uses AI extensively)

        1. Observer*

          None of this is relevant to the question at hand.

          I’m not arguing that no one is using chatbots, nor that no one should use them. What I am arguing is that they are often not an appropriate solution to a problem. And that this particular case it’s likely to cause more problems that it will solve.

          1. Rosacoletti*

            I guess we have to agree to disagree. For me, having an intern using AI for the first pass, or, as a QC when creating social media posts could very easily help the OP. It’s a useful skill to learn.

        2. nnn*

          So just FYI, this sounded so stilted and free of an interesting voice that as I was reading it, I thought “this sounds like it’s produced by ChatGPT” and then saw your note at the end that it was. Which proves the point, it’s not ready for all uses.

          1. Rosacoletti*

            Hey there! I totally get where you’re coming from with your doubts about AI in social media. It can seem pretty far-fetched at first, but trust me, AI is doing some pretty amazing things in the social media world!

            Imagine this: AI tools are like our trusty sidekicks, helping us create awesome content that’s tailor-made for our audiences. They’re super smart and can analyze all sorts of data to figure out exactly what people want to see and engage with.

            And you know how sometimes you come across a social media post that feels like it was made just for you? Chances are, AI had a hand in making that happen! It’s like having a personal assistant who knows your likes and dislikes.

            Plus, AI isn’t just about making cool posts. It’s also a whiz at crunching numbers and giving us insights into how well our posts are doing. With AI, we can see what’s working and what’s not, so we can tweak our strategies and keep getting better.

            And here’s the best part: AI can take care of all the boring stuff, like scheduling posts and answering messages, so we can focus on the fun stuff – like being creative and connecting with our audience!

            So while AI might not be able to replace our human touch, it definitely adds some extra sparkle to our social media game.


            Totally get where you’re coming from, dude! But for real, AI is like the secret sauce for social media, making things way cooler than you’d expect!

            Think of AI as your social media wingman, helping you craft posts that are totally on point for your crew. It’s like having a super-smart sidekick who knows exactly what’s up with your audience.

            And you know those posts that feel like they’re speaking right to your soul? Yup, AI’s probably behind the scenes, making that magic happen! It’s all about personalization, making your feed feel like it’s just for you.

            But wait, there’s more! AI’s not just about making your posts pop – it’s also a total whiz at analyzing data and giving you the lowdown on what’s hot and what’s not. With AI, you can tweak your game plan and keep leveling up.

            Oh, and the best part? AI takes care of all the boring stuff, like scheduling posts and answering DMs, so you can focus on slaying your content game!

            So while AI might not be able to replace your human touch, it’s definitely your secret weapon for taking your social media to the next level. You gotta check out some of the rad AI-powered tools out there and see for yourself how they can amp up your feed!

  26. weckar*

    Does LW3 read to anyone else like “Young people should naturally and automatically be good at social media”?

    Rather hate that attitude!

    1. Longtime reader, rare commenter*

      YES, I got that exact vibe and wanted to point out the same. Please don’t assume that younger people are inherently good at social media – just as you wouldn’t assume that older people are inherently bad with technology or women are inherently good at note-taking. I also appreciated Alison’s comment that social media writing is a professional skill.

      1. I Have RBF*


        My wife was once told, at a job in the 90s where they built and ran a database application, that she “didn’t need to be afraid to admit that she was afraid of computers”. It was a total record scratch, as they were working as a computer software demonstrator in the 80s, and have been a geek for years. But since she presented as female and older, the assumption was that they only used computers grudgingly and with fear. It was a horribly sexist and ageist comment, and I am still boggled by it.

        Some people are good st writing social media posts, some aren’t. It is not necessarily matched up with age or gender.

    2. Rachel*

      I agree, and I hate the expectation that the youngest person in the building or on the team should automatically be responsible for social media. Social media has been around for 20+ years at this point, and many seasoned professionals have a lot of experience with it. In some cases, they have experience that younger professionals do not, such as creating Facebook posts. Younger professionals should definitely have input on social media, because they may be more aware of current trends, and certainly they should be trained to do social media work if they are interested and if it makes sense in the context of their job. But just expecting that all young professionals are social media gurus makes no more sense than just assuming they are already competent in any other area of work.

    3. plumerai*

      Yes! I work at a content agency. This is literally people’s entire jobs, to write good social media posts! Like, that is what some of my very skilled colleagues literally do all day. And there’s a reason for that: It’s not as easy as it appears. I am also a writer – with 25 years in the field! – but I specialize in articles and longform content. I can do social media copy in a pinch but it is never, ever as good as our social copywriters’ work.

  27. Too Hot*

    LW1. You also need to take into account medical issues. I am the person who wears shirts & trousers in winter. No jacket, no jumpers, no coat. I’m perfectly warm. I have a fan at work so when the ‘neshies’ (cold people) whack the thermostat up to boiling I switch it on, in the depths of winter.
    I have no control over this medical issue and believe me, I’d prefer to be cold, you can make yourself warm in an office environment but there are only so many layers you can take off.

      1. Sharpie*

        Small world!! *waves from N. Notts/S. Yorks/Derbs area. (Though I recently moved from north Kent.)

    1. londonedit*

      I’ve always been a warm person. I do a bit of running, and I’m always the one in a t-shirt and shorts when everyone else is togged up in leggings, jackets, hats and gloves. I won’t put long sleeves on unless it’s below zero (C) because I’ll just boil after a mile or so.

    2. Massive Dynamic*

      +1 this – I used to work in hospitality and a middle-aged manager had a great collection of cute sundresses, that she would wear in winter. And I loved that she was super open about why these were the best since she was running very hot from menopause at the time. I also loved that she’d sometimes unnerve dudes who were all bundled up, like they were losing Tough Guy status around her superior heat generation.

  28. Madame Arcati*

    LW1 I wonder if what is bothering you is, the idea/instinct that more skin showing than you’d expect for the season = more skin showing than is office appropriate at any time? I would have a think about it and if the outfit would be professional enough in August then leave it. I had this reaction seeing a colleague in a sleeveless thin dress with a lower (but perfectly acceptable) neckline and thought for a minute, oh she’s a bit scantily clad! But then took a moment and realised that if it had been hot weather I wouldn’t have noticed it was perfectly smart enough for our office. As it goes she cycles to work and completely changes her clothes on arrival into a decently heated office, and she doesn’t feel the cold anyway (maybe because she originally hails from the noble land of the moose, the maple, and the lumberjack!)

    1. KateM*

      I have a nice warm winter jacket which keeps me warm enough with -20°C – but when it is around 0°C then in order to not be sweating walking outside I need to have no more than a t-shirt under it.

  29. Madame Arcati*

    LW2 it’s up to you but if you just want to deal with facts and not reasons, you could. If you didn’t live with your husband for a bit it’s none of your colleagues’ business why. I don’t live with my partner and I’m stopping explaining why to anyone – because I don’t have to justify it! It works for us – and while your situation may be different ie it’s the way it had to be for a while, well, they don’t need to know either way.

    Similarly, you could just say you don’t always wear your wedding band. And nothing more. Plenty of men don’t wear one at all and they don’t need to explain, nor do those who wear it on a chain under clothing for safety or convenience.

    1. Another One*

      I don’t live with my partner ,either. I’ve stopped explaining that in detail, just say “X is in country Y just now, I’m visiting for Easter” as if it were the most natural thing.

    2. allathian*

      My MIL and her husband have never lived together, and they’ve been married for 13+ years. They live in separate buildings in the same neighborhood. Because both of them have children from previous marriages and because my MIL’s husband is significantly richer than she is, they’ve decided to maintain separate finances. It’s a lot easier to do that when you live separately, have separate mortgages and other debts, etc. My MIL’s a bit of an oversharer, so pretty much everyone who knows that they live separately also know why, but it’s definitely possible to share some facts without sharing the reason, if you want to.

      Similarly, my sister and her SO also live separately during the week and at the SO’s apartment during the weekend and at least some of their vacation time. The distance between them is about 45 minutes by public transit and 20 minutes by car, so it’s not as if they live in different cities. When they met about 20 years ago, both of them had a serious relationship behind them (my sister and her ex were engaged but never married, although they did have a joint mortgage). Both of them are career-oriented and childfree, and happily maintain separate households and spend time together when they feel like it. I have no idea how much of this my sister’s shared with her coworkers, if anything, and in any case it’s none of my business.

  30. Yup*

    LW3 – There are whole online groups dedicated to calling out companies who hire interns to do professional-calibre work. Interns are there to learn and your role is to train them. Professionals are people you pay when you need a job done properly and without supervision. Please decide what your company needs and hire accordingly.

  31. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*


    I feel that as long as the student is wearing appropriate business attire, and it isn’t affecting her ability to work, then it shouldn’t matter.

    Didn’t you know? Wearing off-season or off-trend clothing DOES introduce errors into spreadsheets and prevent reports from being written coherently.

    1. sparkle emoji*

      An out-of-season color like mustard yellow(soooo 2016) makes it impossible to focus! Doesn’t everyone know you need to throw out your entire wardrobe once there’s a new trend?

  32. Morning Reading*

    About the “seasonal” clothing: sleeveless dresses are less expensive and can be dressed up/made warmer with a sweater or blazer.
    Often offices are heated or cooled to the opposite of the season. So you need the light summer clothes in the overheated winter office, or the heavier winter clothes in the overly air conditioned summer office. Unless you are frequently outside, office attire doesn’t need to match the season, just the indoor temp.
    As for training the interns on this, it seems offices vary so widely on “professional” attire that I’m not sure it’s worth addressing at all. Unless you’re in an industry with some standard, or the intern is coming in with flip flops or in their red union suit, the “seasonal” aspect seems to be LW’s personal preference or the custom of her particular office, not something the interns need to know more generally.

    1. sparkle emoji*

      Yeah, I think explaining the meaning of different terms like business casual and business professional would be useful, but college students may not have enough professional attire to dress in it often. If LW’s wife wants business dress daily for 6 weeks(unclear how frequently they meet) some students might be scraping the bottom of the barrel by Friday. Dressing business professional/casual on a presentation day makes more sense if she still wants to have a practical application.

  33. Birdup*

    My first job out of college was in PR. It was an unseasonably warm day in March so I didn’t wear a jacket that day. Got lectured by a boss on the way to a meeting for not having a jacket and looking unprofessional. I think of it often and have never seen anybody discuss this until post #1. I was in that role 9 years ago…

  34. Meemur*

    LW3: are you being clear what kind of posts are acceptable for your company? With the emergence of Twitter accounts like RyanAir and Wendy’s where they’re allowed to be cheeky to their customers, do your interns understand that your expectation is not that? It might be worth providing examples of what *not* to do as well as what they should do

    I agree with Alison’s advice though – writing is a skill and one that should be prioritised when hiring for this role, whether or not you allow irreverent posts

  35. So Tired*

    #3 is why I get so annoyed when I see those jokes online about interns handling social media when a company has a funny post go viral–like fast food chains interacting with each other or something similar. So many times when a company has a snappy reply or a particularly funny post, you’ll see comments along the lines of “someone gave the intern the SM password!”

    Those aren’t interns, those are professionals who’ve worked hard to have the skill to make social media posts. I’m sure there’s many folks–from all generations!!–who don’t realize how difficult it actually is to make social media content that is engaging and informative. Just because your interns (presumably) grew up online and on social media, doesn’t mean that they have an inherent knowledge and ability to make good social media posts. You can certainly train them to be more in line with what you’re looking for, but like Alison said, that won’t lower your social media related workload.

    It sounds like there’s a few options: 1) go back to doing the social media posts yourself. Even though you think you’ve outgrown them as a work task. 2) Continue to allow the interns to make the posts and accept that you’re going to only be able to edit for the most basic of grammar mistakes or inaccurate information, without focusing on the org’s voice coming through. or 3) see if your company has the ability to hire a social media manager, someone–not an intern!!–whose job it is to make those posts. There are whole subsets of business/marketing degrees that focus on making engaging social media posts. If you no longer want that aspect of your job and the interns aren’t able to do it satisfactorily, there may be a budget to hire someone who’s job it is to make the posts.

  36. AvonLovesBlake*

    Please don’t penalise the students for having professional but out of season clothing!

    This would disproportionately penalise students with low incomes and also students who are fat (professional clothing for fat people is harder to find, AND much more expensive)

    1. danmei kid*

      YES thank you so much – many people don’t really grasp the inherent privilege and/or sometimes ableism in judging other people’s wardrobes.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      And possibly people with sensory issues around clothing and people with medical conditions that may affect how they experience temperature.

    3. Minimal Pear*

      Honestly I think it would also penalize women/people who are assumed to be women, just because professional clothing for women can be so fiddly!

      1. I Have RBF*

        Plus, to get a sufficiently varied and fashionable professional wardrobe if you read as a woman but are fat and disabled is hideously expensive. A guy can buy one suit and a couple of shirts, but a woman has to have variety, colors, but it all has to be coordinated, and pretty, but not too pretty, not show too much skin, not accentuate their weight, not be too nightclubby, but not too dowdy, and, and, and…

        I used to identify as female, and doing the business dress thing just made my dysphoria worse. Now that I am enby and can dress comfortably without the whole “fashion” BS, I never want to do the business woman dress thing ever again.

      2. sparkle emoji*

        Yes! If a man shows up in a lighter-weight suit are they going to get the same seasonal scrutiny?

    4. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I agree! What also frustrates me is that I live and work in the northeast US as well and no one questions all the men at my job who wear short sleeve polo shirts all throughout the winter. But a woman wears a sleeveless shirt and suddenly they’re “unprofessional” because it’s too cold and they need to dress appropriately for the weather to appear professional.

      I share an office with a guy who doesn’t even own a long-sleeved shirt and no one questions his attire. Meanwhile, I’m sitting 5 feet away from him with a long-sleeve top, cardigan and a blanket wrap, wishing I had a space heater because I’m still freezing cold. If I were dressed more like him, would I also be unprofessional?

      1. JustaTech*

        When my mom worked in the US northeast she used to get catalogs directed a “professional women of a certain age” that specialized in dickies – ie, just the collar and front of a shirt for you to wear with a jacket you don’t take off, for when a jacket and a shirt would be too warm, but expectations of professional clothing say you can’t take the jacket off.

        The lengths people have to go to for a “professional appearance” – just let them take their jackets off! (And let me keep my jacket on!)

  37. Pink Candyfloss*

    “The work you need done takes real writing skill and professional expertise — especially being able to master an organization’s voice — and most interns won’t have that.”

    Insert Meryl Streep Standing Ovation gif here. YES thank you for pointing out what should have been obvious to the OP.

  38. Morning Reading*

    Thinking more about LW1, I wonder, does it strike anyone else as strange that LW is weighing in on their spouse’s workplace issue? Usually Alison puts the kabosh on non-employees’ opinions on their family members workplace.
    Also, is it weird to evaluate 6-week interns on professional attire? Unless the internship includes a stipend for wardrobe, I would assume most students don’t own office wear, or if they have any, they might wear the same thing every day. I suggest an office supply of blazers in various sizes that any ill-equipped intern could use for the duration. Like the jackets and ties they used to keep at fancy restaurants for guests who showed up underdressed. Or a session in the internship on “how to acquire a professional wardrobe” as part of their learning experience. But evaluating on attire for six weeks when they are earning little or nothing reeks of classism. I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to take an internship like that when I was a young student.

    1. Dahlia*

      Not really. It’s a low-stakes situation they’re discussing and they’re asking for an outside opinion. It’s not one spouse trying to solve it for another.

  39. Workaround genie*

    #1 is it “professional” for a male-presenting person to wear a long-sleeved dress shirt and jacket in the summer? Or are only female-present people being judged?

    1. Michelle Smith*

      I always felt so bad for my male colleagues in the summer. I could wear sleeveless dresses and blouses and just throw a blazer on over it and people didn’t blink twice, while they were sweating through their long sleeve shirts.

  40. I should really pick a name*

    What you’ve described suggests to me that either the interviewer wasn’t that great, or they’d already decided not to hire you. Not specifically that there was an internal candidate.

    While it’s easier said than done, it’s best to minimize expectations after an interview. Do the interview, and then move on to other things regardless of how well you felt it went. If you get a job offer, it’s a happy surprise. But until you have that job offer, you should try to keep your expectations where they were before the interview.

  41. Less Sexy More Librarian*

    For LW #2 with Nosy Nick… Could you get one (or three I suppose since you have multiple monitors) of those privacy screen covers that make it near impossible to see what’s on a screen if you aren’t viewing it head on? They aren’t horribly expensive.
    I know you said you aren’t looking at anything sensitive or that you shouldn’t be and this doesn’t directly solve what’s bothering you. It may not be the right solution for you. For me though, there would be a fair bit of petty joy in seeing his face crinkle in confusion, and I’d hope he’d learn that there’s no point rubber-necking your work area at that point. And if it just increases his curiousity it would make me giggle to know it’ll never be satisfied. But this is definitely a “to each their own” kind of solution. Proceed accordingly.

  42. Chocolate lover*

    #1 I’m a woman who overheats easily and I’m in the northeast US. On any given day, I’m wearing a sleeveless blouse in the office while other people are wearing sweaters. I do wear sweaters and winter coats outside, but I take off all the layers as soon as I’m in the office.

    As long as the student is not dressed inappropriately, leave them alone. It may be a physical comfort thing.

  43. thatoneoverthere*

    I guess this might be office/field dependent. But I don’t think I have really worked anywhere that cared that much about your wardrobe choices. As long as you were following the dress code, you are fine. I will say college career centers made this a MUCH bigger deal than it had to be. They drilled into our heads, what to wear for work and it had to be suits ALWAYS. I have never worked anywhere that required suits (although I know some fields require it). Most places in the last 5-10 years have relaxed their dress codes from business professional to casual. I don’t think I have dressed up for work since 2014.

    1. I Have RBF*

      The last job that I had to dress “business professional” for was a temp gig in 1989. It paid crap, and I went broke buying even cheap business clothes. Never again.

      IMO, if you want interns to wear expensive suits, you need to provide a “uniform” allowance.

  44. chewingle*

    Ugh, I’ve been in LW4’s shoes and it’s so annoying. I was once working on a project where my job was to assess the design deliverables and either 1) make changes or 2) request changes.

    A more senior member walked by while I was in the process of my review, speed walked to my desk, yelling, “That’s wrong! We can’t use that!” All I could think was, “No shit, I’m prepping my notes to the designer right now and this is one of them.” When I tried gently explaining that, she just kept repeating, “It’s wrong, I don’t understand why it looks like that.”

    Dude. Fuck off and let me do my work, for the love of gob.

  45. OrigCassandra*

    LW3, I’m going to approach this, as kindly as I can, from an angle I haven’t seen yet.

    Are you bringing in interns as a mechanism for dumping work you don’t enjoy, much less respect? Because if you are, that’s — kindly — not an okay thing to do. The message you are communicating to that intern and to everyone else in your company is “PR is so worthless and simple I can dump it on someone with no experience who’s just learning How To Workplace.”

    If PR is part of your own job… you’re running yourself down, which makes me sad. Respect your own skills!

    I bring this up because I’ve seen it happen multiple times in the professional program I teach in (which has required internships for yonks) — places utterly underestimating the skill and experience it takes to do what they want done. Sometimes it was naivete rather than contempt or cheaping out, true, but all too often it was one of the latter two.

    We could and did block it at the internship level — we weren’t born yesterday — but that didn’t stop a couple of places from paying our students rates insultingly low for a professional (but high enough to attract students) to do not just professional work, but incredibly challenging professional work.

    Somehow it never turned out well. Gosh. Can’t think why not.

    1. Workerbee*

      I can only draw from my own experience, but – doing both front-end social media (sourcing, crafting, polishing, scheduling, maintaining, moderating, responding) AND back-end (campaigns, data, tactics forecasting, sometimes targeted ads, SEO, keywords, reporting) – well, it’s at least a two-person job right there, often squeezed into one job – and that one often with other duties as well.

      You get burned out. Even if you are “just” doing front-end stuff: Writing just ONE post takes a lot! Now multiply that by different approaches for different media (LinkedIn typically has a different style than what you’d put on a Facebook professional page, for example), perhaps multiple times a day (for you have to plan out AND stick to a cadence, too) – and I haven’t even gotten to the fact that you are dealing with the public, and that means public commentary, and the public collectively likes the no-accountability aspect of hiding behind a screen. . .

      …this can very easily be what you feel you’d like to move on from. Especially because that front-end stuff is also considered a lower position, no matter how rockstar you are at it, no matter how many company accolades you may receive, no matter that it DOES take that work and effort.

      I equate this to how the person with the most paperwork to have to deal with gets squeezed into the smallest cube.

      Anyway. OP #3 is most certainly neither dumping nor sending a message that PR isn’t important. It’s just a role that OP has outgrown. And if there is such a message being sent, it’s almost certainly the company’s fault, not OP’s.

  46. Workerbee*

    #3 – Grammatical issues aside, I’m surprised you don’t recall how long it takes to get a particular voice “right.” If you have a new intern each year who hasn’t had prior professional-ish social media experience, it’s no wonder they’re struggling, having to learn about business norms in general, business norms in particular, plus be the voice and sometimes the face of a company.

    Sometimes you have only so many applicants to pick among, but I do wish you luck in finding help that has some direct experience!

    1. Workerbee*

      ETA: This is not to say I don’t understand your struggle! When you’ve outgrown a role/had a lot more added to your workload without something being taken away, you’d like to truly move on. It just doesn’t seem that interns are the way to go. Would your company approve a part-time position?

  47. LodiBound*

    LW3: I’ve met several millennial/GenZ coworkers who report being expected to take on social media as a job duty in previous positions, even though they were ill-suited for it. It’s kind of like expecting the lone woman in an office to make the coffee and order the lunches even if she’s in no way a domestic goddess. Not every young person is a great content writer or manager just by virtue of their age bracket. Depending on where they were educated, they might not have learned this skill, which comes with time and practice.

    I also understand small nonprofits and their need for someone to handle their social media, on a budget! I have a side hustle doing just this, writing blog posts/FB/IG captions, etc., for small nonprofits. I charge a modest hourly rate. I have a degree in writing, so I understand voice and tone, and my clients only need to prepare a content brief, then comment/suggest edits once per piece (or often not at all, depends on the client). It cuts their prep time down considerably, freeing them to do their actual work. I would suggest finding a freelancer to do this work for you. If interns need to practice with content, they can prepare the content brief, which doesn’t need a writer’s skill – it’s just notes and raw material for the writer to use.

  48. Jennifer Strange*

    For #2 I have to admit if I assumed someone was single and then they mentioned a spouse I would just assume that I had misinterpreted. I certainly wouldn’t ask any follow up questions. Granted, I get that not everyone is me, but I also think you’re overestimating how many folks are going to pry further (and how many folks remember exactly what you said about leaving to get your dog).

    If anyone does pry further, I think the scripts given are perfect. But please don’t stress!

  49. The Baconing*

    For LW1, I think I’m confused as to why “seasonally appropriate” equates to professional. Unless the interns are working within the fashion industry, I would think clothing trends, seasonal or otherwise, are very much outside of scope. As Alison said, professional attire is a yes, but who is to say what truly is and isn’t seasonal within the confines of office spaces, which, historically are too cold in the summer and too warm in the winter?

    I feel this is a very antiquated way of looking at professional dress akin to ‘women should always wear stockings’ or ‘men should never have a haircut that touches the tops of their ears,’ and it concerns me that we might unintentionally be perpetuating ideas that should be transitioned out of work spaces.

  50. workfromhome*

    Take a screenshot of this vey Ask A manger post “Nosy coworker in an open office”

    Enlarge it so it can be read from a distance and every time Nicolas walks by pop it up onto one of our screens as if you are browning the web page.
    See if he takes the hint.

  51. Ferret*

    They are just referencing the letter wording of “sleeveless top and no jacket” and which uses “her” to refer to the example student

  52. trust me I'm a PhD*

    For LW5, in my field at least they don’t ask about travel frequency, availability, etc, e.g. I’m assuming hints at an in-person interview?, until the in-person interview is on the table. Even if it’s more common in your field to ask, I’m not sure I would read anything into not asking –– could just be a company policy, to avoid tipping their hand with candidates.

  53. CommanderBanana*

    I have to dress for two different climates every day because my org insists on keeping chunks of the office freezing cold year-round. Maybe check the temperature of where the interns are working before chastising them for not wearing seasonally-appropriate clothing? My office has 2 distinct temperature zones depending on if you’re in an inner or outer office.

  54. LW#1's wife - preceptor of student*

    I am surprised so few people found it odd. Tomorrow is her last day. I did not say anything negative about the sleeveless blouses, but did advise her “no bare shoulders” for an important interview she had coming up in NYC. She is from a well to do family in Long Island. She appears to be physically shivering throughout the day and sits with legs crossed and shaking – either nerves or part of temperature control. It is a medical office, she is meeting with patients, and yes, coworkers and patients have raised eyebrows. I think this situation would be less of an issue if her medical knowledge was solid but alas, the strange attire not correlating with temperature combined with questionable knowledge base are not helping her case. Thank you for your input everyone. I will remain silent on this issue.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Huh. I mean, have you ever asked her if she was cold? If other patients and coworkers are commenting on her attire, I think you can bring it up, but framing it as needing ‘seasonally appropriate’ clothing doesn’t really make much sense to me. She needs to wear clothing that’s both professional and comfortable.

      I think this situation would be less of an issue if her medical knowledge was solid but alas, the strange attire not correlating with temperature combined with questionable knowledge base are not helping her case.

      Now I’m just totally confused about what the actual issue is – that she just overall wasn’t a great intern? I don’t know that there’s much you can do over 6 weeks, but if you’re in a position to offer feedback before she leaves, I don’t see why you couldn’t talk about professional clothing as long as it’s in a straightforward and constructive way.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        (I’d like to think if I noticed one of my coworkers physically shaking I’d ask if they were ok or if they needed to borrow my Office Cardigan, not just silently judge them.)

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          Everyone in this story is behaving very strangely about this intern to the point where I’m even more confused now that I have more information about the situation.

          1. londonedit*

            Yup. I really don’t understand why this has become a big ‘Is this unprofessional???’ deal in the OP’s mind rather than just having a simple ‘Are you cold? Would you like to put a jumper on? Feel free to bring a cardigan or blazer to wear if you’re chilly’ conversation at the very start.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      What do you mean that these things aren’t helping her case…Case for what? People raised eyebrows because she had bare shoulders?

      If she’s visibly shaking and shivering, maybe she has a fever and should be sent home. Or maybe she is cold. Can you ask her if she’s ok when this happens?

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, I have to wonder if the raised eyebrows are more about people wondering why she apparently feels obligated to be there and keep working if she’s not feeling well.

      2. Antilles*

        To me, that part reads like this:

        She doesn’t have the medical knowledge, so patients are already uncomfortable and get the perception that she’s unqualified. Then when she starts shivering, that feeling of “you’re wearing a sleeveless dress and no coat in February? really?” just reinforces that perception that she’s an idiot.

        No idea if that’s actually the case or not, but that’s my interpretation of that sentence.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, if she’s generally not doing a good job, you have bigger fish to fry than her outfits.

        2. Enoby*

          I would be seriously weirded out if someone who didn’t know what she was doing and looked incredibly uncomfortable was trying to help me with my medical needs. I’d be like, maybe you need the doctor more than I do.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      Given the shivering etc, you really could have just had a conversation with her. “Hey I noticed this, it’s not giving the impression you want. What’s going on?”

      Seasonally appropriate is a red herring.

      You’ve made the assumption that people are weirded out by her “strange attire”. It’s really not that odd and certainly not something that by itself people would normally be visibly reacting too.

      1. Saturday*

        I agree with this. The shivering is making an odd impression, and that could be addressed. Without the shivering, the same clothes could be fine.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Thank you for weighing in. If I can tease out a few strands:
      “No bare shoulders” is a reasonable professional standard in many contexts, but distinct from “no bare arms.” The sleeveless silk shell is a wardrobe standard for many women, and I think if she wore slacks and a shell that looked sharp and deliberately chosen, and had a blazer or cardigan draped over the arm of the chair, and radiated competence, no one would care that her arms were bare. Also in the standard medical lab coat, you can’t see the shoulders and arms, so if this piece were added the pieces underneath it wouldn’t matter as much.

      I think what’s off here is shivering in winter in the summer outfit. Just as looking sweaty and miserable in tweed layers in summer would be off. In both cases, you’ve chosen to dress in a way that would make sense if you run very hot or very cold, but then your actual affect doesn’t convey “I am comfortable, even if most of you would add/subtract a cardigan at this temperature” and it is off-putting because the person is out of norms–they seem to be deliberately making themselves uncomfortable.

      This is reminding me of the rule that if you have something nonstandard in your appearance, it’s helpful to have a boring one-sentence explanation you can drop in early. (“Excuse the sneakers; I’m recovering from foot surgery.”) People notice when you’re outside of norms; conveying “I am a person who can notice and fit into norms” is an aspect of professional behavior, especially when meeting new people. (If you only interact with familiar people behind the scenes, this becomes less important.) In this student’s case, it seems like the fundamental problem is a weak knowledge base, a poor fit which is then exaggerated by her seeming physical discomfort. Clothes come into this, but it’s more nuanced than “don’t have bare arms.”

    5. thatoneoverthere*

      I would def ask her if she’s alright first. Maybe she’s ill?

      I could see for interviews not wearing a sleeveless top. Field dependent I would def wear a suit, or at least a nice cardigan/blouse and slacks.

    6. Gemstones*

      What kind of medical office has six-week college interns meeting with patients? If you want someone with actual medical knowledge, shouldn’t they be meeting with medical professionals?

      1. DrSalty*

        I bet she’s working the front desk. You do need some cursory knowledge of the types of procedures etc done in the office to be successful. Also lots of patient interaction at the front desk.

      2. Jane Anonsten*

        My pediatrician’s office frequently has medical students shadow the pediatrician — sometimes they just watch and listen, and sometimes the pediatrician has them ask questions or check reflexes. I would imagine this is similar and that the interns are meeting with patients under the supervision of a trained medical professional.

    7. londonedit*

      It sounds like there’s more going on here than just the fact that she’s wearing a sleeveless top. The question isn’t ‘are sleeveless tops inherently unprofessional in winter’ but ‘this woman is shivering in the office and it’s putting clients off’. Wearing ‘seasonally inappropriate’ clothes isn’t unprofessional in itself, for all the reasons people have mentioned above, but this goes beyond that, and I definitely think you could have had a conversation with her right at the beginning where you asked whether she was cold, and pointed out that a) you don’t want her to be uncomfortable at work (does she somehow think that she *has* to wear a sleeveless top?) and b) that she’s in a public-facing role, and her sitting there shivering doesn’t give a good impression and is a distraction for clients. It’s not really about the clothes, in the end, it’s about the fact that she’d seemingly rather sit and shiver than put a cardigan on. I’d absolutely have a conversation with her to find out what’s going on and try to give her some pointers for the future (maybe she’s been told she ‘can’t’ wear a jacket indoors? Or that cardigans aren’t business attire? I don’t know, but being so cold that you’re visibly shivering in the office really isn’t normal so there must be something going on there).

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        In a public-facing role… this is a distraction for clients.
        I think this is the meat of the issue. If you seem to be in physical distress then I, as a patient/client/potential buyer, feel I should not burden you. I’m not going to relax and describe my medical problem. I’m not going to shrug off your crippling migraine and open negotiations for buying a new fridge.

    8. Sneaky Squirrel*

      You could suggest to her that given that she appears to be cold (based on the observation of shivering) she could supplement her outfit with a sweater or cardigan. I think the message here is that she consider whether the outfit accommodates her needs in the office. This is a little bit different than grading on seasonal fit because it could mean wearing a cardigan on a 100 degree day outside because it’s super cold in the office (so many companies blare that AC) or a lighter blouse because the business cranked the heat in the winter.

      1. londonedit*

        I’m wondering whether it’s something along the lines of someone’s told her ‘you can’t wear a jacket indoors’ or ‘wearing cardigans at work is unprofessional’ or ‘if you’re going to be on the front desk then you need to wear a smart top’ and she’s too nervous to admit that she’s cold because she thinks she has no option but to wear one layer. I can definitely imagine doing something like that if I was brand new to the workplace and didn’t know how these things worked.

    9. bamcheeks*

      My guess: her current perception of “professional clothes” is based on what she has seen people wearing on magazines, TV shows and TikTok GRWM, and she’s trying to straddle a line of “smart but also sexy and on-trend” because that’s what she sees in magazines, TV shows and TikTok, and “warm enough for a coolish office” isn’t currently all that high on her agenda. The professional attire that you typically see in the media is ALWAYS going to be cooler, more on-trend, more glamorous and sexier than what most people wear in most offices most of the time, and if you’re someone who cares a lot about clothes and engages with fashion it can take a while to disengage the “look like TikTok girlies” part of your brain and engage the, “look appropriate for the [much less fashion-forward] office you’re actually in” part.

      I do think you can address this as, “you look visibly cold, and it’s a little bit off-putting when you’re in such a visible and client-facing role. You can wear a light sweater or something, you know– is it that you don’t have anything suitable or you don’t know how to dress warm enough and still look professional? Or something else?” But I would address it as a developmental issue, and be genuinely open to a range of different answers, not just “mark her down”.

    10. Jane Anonsten*

      I think it’s the framing in the original question that is making people think it’s not odd — because on the face of it, no, it is not unprofessional or odd for someone to be wearing a sleeveless shirt in the winter for all the reasons that folks have detailed.

      In *this* instance, based on the additional information you’ve provided (namely that she appears to be physically shivering), yeah it’s odd that she’s persisted wearing sleeveless tops when she’s seemingly freezing. Not the best impression to made, but as others in the thread have already mentioned there are ways of addressing that (are you ok/I have a sweater if you’d like to borrow it/more detailed conversation about how to dress when you’re uncomfortable with the office temperature).

      1. DramaQ*

        Can she perhaps not afford another top? Interns aren’t exactly rolling in it and you don’t know what is going on in her personal life. I know the hospital I worked at briefly sells branded jackets which are considered appropriate outer wear and encouraged for all staff since it makes it easy for patients to identify you as staff. Or is she shivering because she is nervous? Maybe a client facing role isn’t for her. Some people do get performance anxiety. Could she be on medication that causes tiks? Have an illness that she can’t help but shouldn’t feel obliged to disclose for a 12 week internship program? There is just a lot to unpack here that seems to have very little to do with “seasonally appropriate” attire. It’s probably worth having a conversation and ask if there is anything she wants to talk about and see where the conversation goes before launching into an attire lecture because that may not be the actual source of the problem. Shivering cause you’re cold vs shaking because of a medical condition or nerves require different handling.

        1. Jane Anonsten*

          Yup, that’s why I said the framing of the issue as “lack of seasonally appropriate clothing” is a problem — it’s not the problem! Or maybe it is, but really it’s a “my intern is constantly shivering and it is impacting patients’ experiences” problem. There are myriad reasons someone could be shivering, which is why I also mentioned that several others in this thread have given advice on how to approach the actual issue (shivering) to see if there’s something within the preceptor’s power to address.

    11. Batman*

      Is this a larger issue you’ve had with other students or simply a matter of this particular student? Because the LW made it sound like a larger issue, but you seem to be talking about one particular student.

      1. Saturday*

        I didn’t get the impression that multiple students were involved from reading the letter. It sounded like a “what would you do in this situation” question.

    12. Observer*

      I am surprised so few people found it odd.

      Well, I think that this is because the question as asked has little or nothing to do with the situation you are actually describing.

      but did advise her “no bare shoulders”

      Here is the first piece of it. This has nothing to do with seasonally appropriate or not. Bare shoulders would be a major no-no in many environments, even in Mid-August in the the Southwest (ie HOT weather.)

      She appears to be physically shivering throughout the day and sits with legs crossed and shaking

      Another issue where seasonality is not relevant. What *is* really odd to me (as other commenters have noted) is that no one seems to have asked if everything is OK. Sitting and shivering is not typical or normal. It would have been reasonable and normal for a supervisor to check in with her and ask if everything is OK. As an intern I would definitely have expected someone to talk to her about the fact that she’s visibly shivering and seems cold and find out what’s up with that. Not in a punitive way, but to make sure that everything is OK and that she’s not wearing something that she’s not comfortable in because of some piece of incorrect information.

      yes, coworkers and patients have raised eyebrows.

      What have they raised their eyebrows about? Is it about her “offense” of wearing what they think is unseasonable clothes? That needs to be shut down. Is it the actually office inappropriate stuff (ie bare shoulders)? Someone should have talked to her about that. Or was it because she was shivering, or shivering while wearing an outfit that seems way too cool for the office? That is something you should legitimately talked to her about. Although it’s also possible that people were raising their eyebrows at *your office* as much as at her because “why is this poor girl so cold?! And why is no one doing anything about it?”

      1. Saturday*

        I think I get what you’re saying, but this seems weird to me: “why is this poor girl so cold?! And why is no one doing anything about it?”

        She’s an adult, even if she is young. It seems weird that other people would be expected to do something about her dressing in a way that leaves her cold.

  55. Fluffy Fish*

    4. I would be tempted to go the feigned ignorance polite route. “Oh hey Nicholas, do you need an update on what I’m working on?” said absolutely genuine and with a smile.

  56. Jenna Webster*

    As far as seasonally appropriate clothes go, I’m in the South, so we tend to where whatever fits the weather. That said, we’re actually not allowed to wear sleeveless shirts without something over them – at all, any time of the year.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      We live in New England; daughter went to school in the deep South. She observed that New England understood how to heat buildings in winter (so that in a winter outfit you’d be comfortable inside after removing your coat) but blasted the AC way too high in summer (leading to the “my sweater for the frigid August office” so many of us do). In Texas, the buildings were comfortable in the summer, but the heat was cranked way too high in the winter.

      1. DrSalty*

        Really this is the opposite of my experience living in the south. The AC is blasting so hard all summer I had to carry a sweater with me at all times.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Haha yes! When I lived in Texas I had a designated Movie Theater and HEB sweater because it was frigid inside most buildings. I hated it.

      2. bamcheeks*

        That drove me crazy the summer I was in the Midwest– I’m British, and there are about five days a year when you can go out without taking a cardian just in case, and I find it absolutely blissful. Taking a cardigan to PUT ON INDOORS when it was 28-30 degrees outside broke my brain.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          One of my minor delights in Shakespeare and Hathaway is that the background will be a glorious riot of roses indicating it’s near summer, and the two leads are both happily bundled into warm coats.

      3. TooDarnHot*

        depends on what you consider comfortable. I live in Boston and I am almost always hot in local office buildings – they crank up the heat way too high in the winter and have ineffectual A/C in the summer, or someone with the power to make the rules wants the thermostat set to 75 or 76, meaning the heat might go on at 72 and A/C won’t until it hits 80 – even though this is outside the normal operating parameters of most HVAC systems (designed to expect a range of 68-72 – that’s why most leases mandate using something in that range). It’s sometimes bad enough I get physically ill from the heat.

  57. Carlie*

    “every single intern I’ve worked with in the last three years can’t seem to get our institutional voice right.”

    Everything you need to know about the problem is in that one phrase. Understanding a company’s institutional voice takes time and immersion, and interns by definition are brand new and not familiar with your company. You couldn’t even expect that out of a new professional writer right when they start.

    That’s aside from the other facts that writing in someone else’s voice is a difficult skill to learn, that interns are probably barely comfortable with writing in their own voice (let alone someone else’s), that social media usually has a unique “spin” from the rest of the company’s product, that they aren’t there long enough to develop that familiarity and use it before the internship is over, etc. and etc. It’s just not a task that can be expected from anyone in an internship position. Could it be revised a bit to still help you there but in another way? Maybe the interns can keep a staff writer updated on all of the current memes, pitch ideas for topics for posts, find the cool images and gifs, all of those things surrounding the posts that they would be great at, but someone permanent at the company actually does the writing.

  58. DrSalty*

    LW#2, if my coworker started talking about their spouse without doing so previously, I would never ever say anything about it becasue I would be embarrassed for ME that I didn’t know they were married. I’d assume it was my fault for forgetting or not realizing or whatever. If you just act like it’s normal, most people will follow your lead.

    1. Boof*

      Yeah most of the time I probably wouldn’t even clock it, and at work when I get in to this stuff at all I’m trying to be a polite/warm/humanistic coworker or boss or whatever, I am so not trying to judge their personal life and generally really don’t want to get sucked into any drama or feelingsdumps (unless somehow I feel that is necessary for work, like if I could tell someone was struggling and I was trying to understand why/what to do about it).

  59. MCMonkeyBean*

    What is the temperature *inside* where your wife works? I recall one winter working in an old building I actually had to go out and buy more sleeveless tops because apparently the heat didn’t reach one section of the office well so they heated the whole floor such that my desk was well over 80 degrees every day. It was awful and I was miserable. And frankly if anyone had the nerve to suggest my apparel wasn’t “seasonal” enough it may have ended very badly lol.

    1. Menace to Sobriety*

      I had the OPPOSITE in a govt. office I worked for an aircraft program. The Air Handler wasn’t working properly, and it was 58 degrees in our office. Outside, that seems fine, for taking a brisk walk, or heading in/out to lunch, etc… but sitting at a desk all day? Miserable. So I sat there with layers of clothing, a heated blanket over my shoulders or lap, fingerless gloves and even took off my shoes for fuzzy slippers and was STILL cold most days–I’d have DARED someone to tell me “you don’t look professionally or seasonally appropriate”. This lasted until Summer, where … it was still cold because someone set the A/C to “morgue” setting. I hated that office with passion because I was never once warm or comfortable the entire time I worked there. One year and I was out (not because of the temp of the office, but rather the ineptitude and lack of ethics of the people) but, moved to another program and 2 weeks later we were all sent to WFH due to COVID and… I’ve WFH ever since! 4 YEARs now!

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      This was my first thought too. In the age of climate control, the seasons rarely correspond to the actual temperature indoors, so I’m confused why sleeveless tops are considered seasonally inappropriate. If the company has a dress code that prohibits sleeveless tops that’s one thing, but “seasonally appropriate” is such a weird thing to get hung up on.

      Further up in the comment section the LW’s wife commented saying that the intern was seen shivering, in which case I think the real dress code lesson is “How to dress comfortably for the office so you’re neither freezing or overheating” and not “don’t let people see your arms in the winter.”

    3. thatoneoverthere*

      Oh def, I have worked in my fair share of hot and cold places. I def would not have taken it well if someone told my sweater was not professional. When they can’t heat the building properly in the wintertime. There was a debate if it was actually on at all (bc cheap owners).

      Or the time I was heavily pregnant and the AC went out on 4th floor office. PLEASE, PLEASE come tell the pregnant women she isn’t dressed appropriately, when the AC is out in the dead of summer.

  60. Boof*

    LW1; what is the issue? Sounds like the issue is concern that they may be cold/uncomfortable (that the clothes are generally office appropriate, but may not be warm enough). I’m stressing this because “seasonally appropriate” makes me think of holidays and “not sticking out”, which I think is sometimes important (unfortunately) but worth not trying to normalize (I’d prefer if that WASN’T the culture and in a lot of places it isn’t; sticking out can even be good as long as it’s still polished/professional!) vs really I think the main legitimate concern about a sleeveless top in the winter would be “are they cold/uncomfortable”? So it’s really about professional clothes for “different environmental conditions” and “comfortable/functional” professional clothes.
    Since this is a class oriented towards teaching professional norms, ask the normal professional question as a boss or coworker you might have “I feel so cold in here these days! Are you feeling it?” (maybe they are comfortable at colder temperatures, I’ve known a lot of people like that!) if they’re comfortable, things are fine, move on! Since this is a teaching class, if they admit they are cold, THEN it’s appropriate to explore what sort of professional clothing might be helpful to add to the wardrobe (jacket, sweater, etc)

    1. londonedit*

      Definitely. The only way I can see ‘seasonally inappropriate’ clothes really standing out would be if someone wore a strappy summery sundress and sandals when it was snowing outside, but as you say in most situations even that would either be just that particular person’s quirk, or it would be a legitimate dress code issue (if the dress code was, for example, no spaghetti straps and no open-toed shoes). A sleeveless top? That’s really not an issue in itself unless the dress code specifically prohibits sleeveless tops. The issue here seems to be that the employee is visibly shivering, which is a completely different kettle of fish – really, the OP’s wife should have had a conversation right at the beginning and said ‘I’ve noticed that you’re shivering – we don’t want you to be cold, and patients are finding it distracting. Do you have a blazer, cardigan or jumper you could wear?’. It’s possible the employee has somehow got mixed up about the dress code (maybe she’s been told not to wear a jacket indoors and thinks that extends to blazers; maybe the dress code is ‘no sloppy knitwear’ and she thinks that means she can’t wear a cardigan, I don’t know). It’s a shame the OP’s wife has left it right to the end of the six weeks, meanwhile stewing about the employees ‘seasonally inappropriate’ tops, rather than having a simple discussion to find out what the issue is.

  61. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    OP1: What Alison said – most of these students probably can’t afford anything like an extensive “professional” wardrobe – they’re poor (as students usually are!) When you’re poor, few things are as infuriating and demoralizing as having comfortably-off people blithely give you advice to do or buy things that are far beyond your means – it signals that those richer folks are tin-eared, oblivious, inconsiderate and stupid.

    Telling people who are eating ramen noodles twice a day to go out and buy a professional-level wardrobe when they’re wondering how they afford to buy the detergent needed to wash what clothes they have is bad enough – blaming them for not dressing like a Bergdorf Goodman model is unforgivable!

  62. H3llifIknow*

    LW4: Ugh I had that situation in a govt. program office. My colleagues and I called my cube “the fish bowl” because you HAD to pass it to get to the breakroom, the CRs, and the restrooms. Constant traffic and everyone HAD to peek over the cube to see what was up. I actually put up clear plastic on the top of that wall with puffy fish stickers all over it. But, depending on your office, people might not be as amused as my coworkers were. But, a few ideas: 1) Can you change the set up at all so that your monitors are facing away from the direction “Nicholas” comes from? 2) Can you put a fan or something on your desk that would not be fully obstructive but make it less easy to view so he might just stop trying? 3) I know you aren’t worried about WHAT he sees, but I have always used 3M screens on all my monitors, on both my laptop (I travel a lot for work and work with CUI) and my in office, because not everybody has a “need to know” (and also I find it annoying when people are obviously trying to look at my screen. Again, not to keep him from seeing WHAT you’re doing but make it less appealing to TRY. –Fun side story: I was traveling, working on a briefing on my gov laptop and the person next to me kept glancing over at my 3M shielded screen. Finally, she said, how can you see what you’re typing? Your screen is black!” And I said, “Oh it’s okay; I’m blind.” Mind you, I wear glasses and looked AT HER as I said it, but it still took a couple minutes before you could tell the penny had dropped and the light dawned and she said “wait a minute….”. She did stop trying to view it after that. So a nice shut down.

  63. Starry Motley*

    #3, Alison was pretty gentle in her answer and I feel like this needs to be more explicit. Writing social media posts in a specific voice is skilled labor. It takes experience, talent, and a lot of background information about what’s effective and why, in addition to a firm foundation in the material you’re posting about. Expecting your interns to just jump in and handle it because they tweet is like expecting them to be able to offer a polished presentation to a key client because you saw them use Powerpoint once. It’s unrealistic for the vast majority of them, and if any of them CAN do it, it’s inappropriate to ask them to do it for free or for entry level wages!

    It seems like you may be talented in this area and may not have realized it. Not everyone just has this come naturally. You may have been able to tack it onto your job, but if you hadn’t, or if you want to offload it now, it’s likely the org would need to hire someone specifically for social media.

    1. Enoby*

      A lot of people joke about “the poor intern at Big Company who has to see all our tweets and comments” but the truth is it’s usually a professional social media manager heading a team of people whose sole job is responding to customer service complaints or making memes or staying on top of what’s culturally relevant right now. Brand accounts often look like some poor hapless coffee-getter has to handle them but chances are that’s actually a carefully curated persona. It may seem odd to people who don’t care about social media because it certainly seems like the kind of thing an intern could handle (just say what the higher ups want you to say!) but it really isn’t. Trying to balance everything you need to do (keep stuff engaging, maintain the expected level of professionalism, hit all the points you need to in a natural way) is actually pretty hard. Expecting interns to be able to speak in the kind of institutional voice that probably comes with years of experience in a company actually doing Company Stuff may be expecting way too much.

  64. Juicebox Hero*

    Another polar bear here. Usually, I’m sitting in my office in short sleeves with the window cracked and fan on in the dead of winter. Meanwhile, some of my coworkers are blasting heaters, wearing their coats, and using blankets.

    I also remember graduating from college and working the first fall/winter afterwards wearing my summer dressy clothes, when it got really cold pieced out with heavier pieces that didn’t really go with them, because they were all I had and I wasn’t making enough money to replace them all at once.

    That was my retail from hell job, which required a fairly formal dress code complete with pantyhose. I used to wear long skirts with knee-highs, which I could get for 50 cents a pair at the drugstore instead of expensive pantyhose that were usually trashed after one wearing.

  65. el l*

    Completely get why you want to know if internal candidates – I’ve poured a lot into interview processes only to have an internal candidate get chosen. Made me wonder why they bothered with me.

    But that doesn’t change the math: Whether there’s an internal candidate or not, it doesn’t really affect how you proceed. Can’t change what you do either way.

  66. H3llifIknow*

    LW5: Did the application you filled out ask for availability, or indicate that it was potentially shift work? Was it a full time position you were interviewing for? If it was an office type standard full time 40 hour-ish role, why WOULD he ask your availability; I’d guess he assumes if you applied, you’re available? Or, do you mean “when would you be available to start?” I don’t always ask that either, as in my head I always assume 1 month, time to make determination, give the standard 2 week notice, etc… I admit, I do say “we do travel at times to do testing/whatever for this role, are you okay with traveling up to 20% of the time” or whatever, but unless the job description indicated travel would be part of the role, then maybe he felt no reason to ask about travel? I don’t think I’ve EVER asked “what is your availability” when hiring for a professional role, or BEEN asked, outside of when I was working retail or food service, where availability due to school etc.. could be an issue. I think you’re overthinking it, IMHO.

  67. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

    LW1, I’m absolutely with you. Some things you may want to point out to your wife:

    As with most things about attire at work and in life, this has a disproportionate impact on women. There’s far less seasonal variation for men in what’s considered “seasonally appropriate” especially for professional attire (someone wearing a heavy sweater in midsummer might get odd looks, but that’s not likely to be considered “professional” if jackets are expected in any case). Additionally, people have different set temperatures! The students very well might be dressing comfortably for their own set point, and telling them to wear a blazer not because of professional norms but because of the outside temperatures is EXACTLY the same as a parent telling a kid “Put on a sweater, I’m cold”. (I’m exactly the opposite – I run very cold due to a medical issue – and would hate to be told I’m not “professional” for wearing long sleeves in midsummer.)

  68. BecauseHigherEd*

    LW 1 – I’m with you and Alison–what matters most is that the student is dressed professionally (also, they may be thinking about what they WILL wear when they start interviewing in late Spring/Summer). With that said, I think your wife can counsel students to start investing in multi-season pieces (lightweight, long-sleeve button downs, for example) and give them examples of places to buy them at a discount (I frequently tell my students how they can take the train from our university directly to the TJ Maxx, or how they can buy nicer pieces cheaply from online thrift stores like Vinted or ThredUp).

  69. Corrigan*

    #2 agreed with Alison’s response. Just to add that there are many reasons spouses may be apart. My boss’s spouse has a winter seasonal job so she told me that they and their spouse live separately for a few months while he does this job.

  70. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    LW #3

    1. Undergraduates are still learning to write. Capturing an organization’s voice is a skill that people don’t generally develop that early.

    2. Interns are new to the working world, including your organization, and often won’t be familiar with business writing in general, much less your organization’s distinct voice and style.

    3. Social media posts represent your company to the public and should be crafted by people with experience and training to write them well.

    4. Writing skill is frequently undervalued in workplaces but it really is essential to most organizations’ success. Don’t underplay the value of your skills.

    People often expect undergrads to be able to do all the things they remember being able to do themselves as college students. Usually, though, we remember what we were able to do as graduating seniors, not what we were able to do the four years before that.

  71. cosmicgorilla*

    I rolled my eyes so hard at “why can’t interns get our institutional voice right?”

    Why can’t interns who are brand new to the workforce speak in a way that was developed over time by senior level execs with years of experience?


    Now, having factual and grammatical errors are something completely different from not achieving the correct voice. I feel your pain there. From social media posts at least, it does seem that grammar isn’t the focus it once was.

    Heck, if you read any of the news articles aggregated on Yahoo, you’ll see that fact-checking and editing aren’t the focuses they once were either, as articles frequently mix up people and places and other references.

    1. penny dreadful analyzer*

      I’d say factual and grammatical errors aren’t *that* different, in that they are also things that companies used to hire whole-ass additional professionals for, but that lots of people think are easy, unskilled work that you can just dump on the same person who’s writing the copy. The lack of “focus” on editing and fact-checking that you’re seeing in the news is a direct result of newsrooms laying off tens of thousands of formerly full-time, career fact-checkers and copy editors.

  72. Kat Em*

    As someone who works in social media, I hate the idea that it’s something you can just give to an intern to do. I have a degree in marketing and a decade of professional writing experience! My teammates are subject matter experts! None of us are entry level! I think the youngest member of my team is currently 27. While there are gifted students in any area who will take a shine to all kinds of skills, it’s a bit silly to expect that any old intern will be able to handle social media posts. If you wouldn’t expect them to write print ad copy at that stage of their career, don’t expect them to write social copy either. It requires just as much skill.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Ding ding ding! This is a skill, a full time professional job, and just “have the young people do it” is not it anymore.

  73. RagingADHD*

    #3, having done nonprofit social media work, I don’t understand why you are struggling to keep the interns’ voice meaningfully present at all. Their voice is irrelevant. You want the org’s voice, which is exactly what they aren’t able to capture.

    Intern tasks in general should be low-stakes and require minimal supervision and correction unless you want training to be a major part of your job. I have worked with some orgs where the social media was relatively perfunctory and only existed to have a discoverable footprint that would lead back to our contact information, and others where it was a major component of our public messaging and donor engagement.

    Interns can do the first type (and use their own voice as long as it’s not wildly inappropriate). Not the second.

  74. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #3 – LW probably already knows that being young and having experience with social media is not the same as managing a social media presence for a company. It’s much more an understanding of marketing and public relations than just writing twitter posts. Understanding your specific company’s brand and voice likely takes much more time than your interns will be employed at the company. Not only that, but they’re still learning the corporate world and are still being taught to write. I think you should continue to ask your interns to draft posts because this is great practice for them, but if you can, take the time to sit down with them and help them understand why you would edit it the way you would.

    #4 – Open offices make me squicky because of exactly this issue. You might not have anything confidential but that doesn’t mean you want to have everything on display. And I have been to interviews where it was made clear that even HR worked in the open office environment which makes me extra squicky because there IS confidential information at risk.

    I agree that a first approach here might be to casually call him out on it by asking him if needs something when he’s looking at your screens. They also make privacy screens for monitors which are intended for situations like this too, though if you are only staying for another half a year you may not want to waste your money or the company’s money investing in them.

  75. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    OP1 – the only reason I was as well dressed as I was at my college internship was because, at the time, I was living at home and my mom and I were the same size. We basically just shared a wardrobe that semester. I did end up buying/getting as gifts a few staples I really liked (including an Express dress coat that I LOVED and had relined multiple times because I loved it so much; finally had to let it go and replace it after a little over a decade), as I knew I’d need them sooner rather than later.

    I’d also stress that while professional attire is important, those norms have significantly shifted over the past 20 years or so. I remember when I was first going into the working world that you ALWAYS WORE A SUIT to an interview (and, if you were a woman, make sure it’s a skirt suit!), and that’s just not true anymore. Cardigan, blouse, and plain black slacks are a great uniform and won’t break the bank. (A couple pairs of black pants won’t set you back much more than jeans and can be reused a couple of times between washes, so 2 pairs will get you through a 5 day work week. Febreze is your friend. Follow me for more how-to-stretch-your-clothes-when-you’re-broke (or don’t have a washer/dryer) tips.)

  76. Ex-Marketing Intern*

    #3 — I held several marketing internships while in college, and social media always was a big component. I was usually working in nonprofits where messaging and mission in communications were key, for donor development, etc. Something a few of my managers did was provide me with access to a shared spreadsheet plan of the social content for the upcoming few weeks—they’d draft the actual written content there, then have me select photos, videos, hashtags, and prep the posts. Then they’d do a final review before we posted. This still gave me a lot of good experience, as I was learning how they executed a larger strategy and I got a better idea of how to write for their institutional voice by observing them. After a few months of practice, I was actually able to fill in on the writing when the social media manager had to be out a few weeks! I know there can be lots of logistics and little time-consuming details to running socials, but if this is an option that would be possible and may lighten the workload for you, from an intern’s perspective, I really recommend it!

    1. Ex-Marketing Intern*

      One additional note is that I worked with arts organizations too—a huge learning curve when I started was writing about their art form. Writing well and writing well about composers/artists/musicians are two very different things and I wish someone had told me earlier.

  77. monana*

    LW2 – externally, I’m in the exact same situation as you. I don’t wear a wedding ring (broke my finger many years ago, and it’s uncomfortable now), and my spouse is currently working in another country. I even took a morning off this week to deal with a sick pet. All my colleagues know is that he’s away, and I’m home alone with a dog who eats things he shouldn’t. This covers your situation too (except, I hope your pets are smarter than mine) – so if that’s all you want to share for now, it’s enough.

    I hope things improve for you, the last months sound tough.

  78. Academic glass half full*

    These are not employees. These are students who you now have the responsibility to mentor.
    For EVERY writing task have multple excellent examples.
    Call these mentor texts.
    Break them down and tell them WHY these are excellent.
    Have at least one negative really really bad over-the-top example- extra points if it is funny. Ask them WHY this is So So So very bad.
    Have them write their own according to the rubric you provide.
    Remind them that writing is easy, revision is hard.
    Have realistic expectations.
    If you have more than one intern, have them work together and read aloud their writings.
    (I always have interns and it isn’t like having help. Its like having a puppy)

  79. CLC*

    Does anyone else think it’s weird that there are programs where college students are evaluated on their attire? First they are college kids. As Allison said they probably don’t have the money or need for a lot of professional clothing. Second, this kind of stuff seems extremely outdated in 2024. Most workplaces are even more flexible about clothing now than they were five years ago. Third, it seems like this could be rife with sexism. Even just the specific example in the letter—they don’t really make sleeveless business casual clothing for men, so OP and his wife wouldn’t even be pondering these petty things if it were a young man. This is very odd to me.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      They shouldn’t be evaluated on their attire unless there are clear outlined expectations (business attire aint it) like jeans without holes, no tanks tops, etc. There are workplaces where there are attire expectations.

      I actually do think discussing work attire and what it means at different employers should be part of internship/shadowing programs etc. Things are more flexible now but also there are things that still don’t work in offices. Then you start getting into students who’s parents maybe were blue collar or came from a different culture so they really don’t have any sense of what one wears.

      I think the biggest issue in all of this is that x2 in todays letters expecting students to just know things is a problem. I think both could use some training in how to mentor students effectively – which isnt a knock. It’s a skill like any other – not some inherent thing people should just magically be able to do.

      1. Angstrom*

        For students, who may not have a clothing budget, they should not be evaluated on what they have but on what they would choose.
        Lots of ways to do this: Photos, catalogs, fill an online shopping basket, the department could build a lending closet, etc.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          I agree that would be a fine alternative if a student did not have attire that would fit requirements however it’s unreasonable to think that all employers are going to be okay with students wearing absolutely anything.

    2. JustaTech*

      I can see a school program that *teaches* the bare basics of “office appropriate attire” (hopefully with the cavate “this will depend on each individual office, and will change over your working life so keep your eyes open”) – but not evaluating the students.

      Up thread the LW’s wife commented that the real issue is that the intern is wearing these clothes and shivering at her desk, in which case the conversation needs to be “Are you cold? If so you should wear a jacket/cardigan/sweater/long sleeves.” (Maybe the intern thinks that jackets/cardigans/long sleeves are unprofessional?)

  80. Garblesnark*

    #1 feels extremely fraught to me as someone who has dealt with severe mental illness. (which is more common as you think – psychotic breaks are equally as common as scoliosis.) people like me, who have had psychotic breaks, can be institutionalized or otherwise mistreated if people in charge of us don’t feel we are “dressed for the weather.” unless you’re concerned they will suffer due to exposure, please don’t call people on this unnecessarily.

  81. DramaQ*

    I wanted to point out that with climate change the notion of “seasonal” appropriate attire has also changed. I don’t have nearly the winter wardrobe I used to because we very rarely have the types of winters I grew up with. If I was an intern I’d be peeved if I was expected to invest in a Midwest professional Winter wardrobe I am unlikely to use again for a 12 week program just because I had the bad luck of starting when winter decided to show up for a change. It’s patronizing. I know how to dress for “real” winter it’s just I don’t invest in that much clothing for it anymore I make what I have work. You could also fall into a trap of someone pushing that if this is required to pass your program then the company should supply clothing or a budget for it because not everyone can afford 4 season professional wardrobes which puts them at a distinct disadvantage based on economics. This is the case when jobs require certain types of PPE. I don’t know that it could extend to office business attire but why chance it just to nitpick? So long as they are on the professional attire bell curve who cares if they are wearing short sleeves or no sleeves in winter? It isn’t your wife’s job to monitor people’s body temperature. And personally I would be hesitant to come back to work for a company that is going to judge my professionalism and ability to do my job on whether or not I “wear a coat!” like an elementary school kid. I’ll look elsewhere thank you.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      SO true!! I literally did no stop wearing my flip flops outside this year until the end of December.

  82. SquarePizza*

    LR3: I completely understand why you can devalue social media (it feels like a bottomless hole you just chuck stuff into!) and at the same time chafe at content that doesn’t speak to the org’s brand/values. But there’s really no shortcut to good Comms with people who don’t have a certain level of investment.

    One thing I’ve found helpful is writing a more longform piece about XYZ thing in general and delegating someone junior to break it up and use it across several social media pieces. It helps reinforce the brand, scale your effort some, and still take a decent amount of day-to-day management off your place. Disassembling and repurposing pieces like this helps the junior person engage with the material in a way that usually proves instructive/helpful without being extra training.

    Otherwise: yeah, you need someone new specifically in charge of social media.

  83. Jam Today*

    LW1 — I’m not clear on how or why anyone would expect a student to have multiple seasons worth of business attire without having a job that gives them a salary to afford it. If the only thing I had was the sleeveless top and slacks I bought in the summer, for my summer job/internship/interview/whatever then that’s what I’m going to wear.

  84. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – you can certainly ask if there are internal candidates, but you may not get accurate information. The HR / hiring manager may or may not tell you the internal situation, but odds are they will say they are looking for the best qualified candidate. Having an internal candidate does NOT mean the person is a shoe-in for the role.

    For another thing, internal candidates may not apply at the outset of the hiring effort. eg. if an internal knows they are a stretch candidate, they may wait for a bit to see whether the search is attracting highly qualified candidates, before throwing their hat in the ring. If the search is not attracting good candidates, they may feel they have a better chance and more credibility in the process. Also, some internals feel they should be asked to participate, before they would put their hands up. And some will wait for a period of time to not look overly ambitious, even if they really want the role.

    There’s really no way to know if the interviewing is being done merely to confirm an internal person will get the role. That does sometimes happen. But even when it does, a candidate who is superior to the internal may very well get the position.

  85. heyalright*

    As a longtime writer for organizations who has taken on many “voices” in my career, THANK YOU for this answer to LW3. It is not a reasonable expectation that an intern be able to write like someone who put years and years into this specific type of writing.

  86. Student*

    OP #1: I know this varies a lot by industry and individual buildings, but here’s my experience. When I pick out clothes to wear to the office, I use “summer” clothes in the winter and “winter” clothes in the summer. Why?

    In the summer, the AC in most places I spend long periods of time is cranked up to be positively frigid. I spend like ~30 minutes outside and then 8-10 hours inside. I’m going to dress to be comfortable for the 8-10 hour period. I’ll shove my outer layer into a bag or leave it at the office for the 30-minute outdoor period, if it’s particularly hot.

    In the winter, the heat may or may not be cranked up and blasting right at me throughout the day. Depends on the part of the buildings I’m in, whether I’m driving around a bunch, whether somebody near me loves operating a space heater. But, usually, it’s about comfortable for spring or summer clothes, or a bit on the hot side. I find there’s more variation in the indoor winter temperature, but it’s still rarely cold enough for “winter attire” inside.

    Your wife may want to think hard about whether this may be happening to her interns. Even if your wife’s area is comfortable for her “seasonal” wear, it might not be so in the intern’s work area – full time professionals tend to get nicer spaces than the intern team, and maintenance tends to be a lot more responsive to full-time employee requests about comfort than to interns…

    1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      Yeah, this. When I was in high school I went to a school that was *refrigerated* in warmer months (and just barely “warm anough” in winter, too, IIRC.) I was made fun of for wearing jeans and a denim jacket, but the kids who were dressed in “seasonally appropriate” shorts and t-shirts were constantly complaining of being cold. “Maybe you should wear more clothes” “but it’s hot outside!” Yeah but we’re outside maybe half an hour daily.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Exactly. It may be entirely appropriate for the indoor weather.

      The supervisor’s mindset has so many many, problems built into it:
      – scrutinizing the women on their fashion choices
      – giving students a hard time on the extensiveness (or not) of their wardrobe
      – the stereotypical “mom joke” of “I’m cold, you should put on a sweater.”

      This should definitely be left alone.

  87. Ann O'Nemity*

    #1 is a good coaching opportunity for the whole class. I hope the student isn’t downgraded for wearing a sleeveless top, good grief. But I think it would be cool for the wife to talk a little bit about how workplace dress codes can vary dramatically.

    In some conservative workplaces (e.g. some accounting and law firms), sleeveless tops are generally frowned upon. Also, some workplaces do vary their dress codes and norms depending on weather, such as being more lenient of bare arms and legs in hot weather, or accepting less fancy snow boots in winter. And then other workplaces are going to be much more relaxed year round. The key is to learn your employer’s expectations and then dress accordingly.

    Again, this should be coaching, not penalizing! These are students here to learn.

  88. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I had a friend growing up whose expat family was involved with…development and antiterror stuff as regards politics. Sensitive stuff, they did get a bit of local news coverage for involvement but couldn’t always say exactly where and what they were doing.

    Mom and kids mostly stayed home in the US, except for some trips in summer. If they couldn’t say/didn’t know or want to answer “where’s Dad?” the line was always “well, he’s out of the country,” technically the truth. LW could try to aim for a similar truthful but vague answer. And stick to the same story, so you don’t get mixed up.

    I was hanging out one day when a couple of weirdos in suits showed up, and BFF and I decided it was time to go get some afternoon coffee. That, I never got even a non-answer answer to.

    Anyway, LW, not everyone needs to know your personal life, but keep your explanations simple, consistent, and don’t seem upset.

  89. CTA*

    LW #3

    While you mention asking for a social media writing sample with applications, were the interns hired as social media interns? If not and they don’t have the aptitude or desire for it, then IMO you should limit their social media tasks to posting straightforward info, such as “Today is Frida Kahlo’s birthday!” or “Join us for our annual benefit! Buy tickets here.” Even then, you should still review their work before it gets posted to social media. When you establish that they can check their own work, then you can stop checking every single item.

    You can expect interns to learn some social media basics. You can’t expect them to deliver the output you specified if their internship isn’t focused on that. I understand that internships are meant to get real world experience and improve skills, but you need to adjust your expectations.

    I’m offering this advice as someone who worked in the arts field and tried to delegate social media tasks to interns. I assigned them tasks that required them to post straightforward info and didn’t ask for any creativity. It was terrible and kind of alarming. The interns would post the wrong dates for events (no, there wasn’t a last minute date change) and misspell names (think using “Ann” instead of “Anne”). I couldn’t wrap my head around why they couldn’t proofread their own work. At the time, my supervisor (who was also the business owner) supported me and was of the opinion that these were tasks that required the interns to be more conscious of their work and it wasn’t something that necessarily required me to check their work (because it really was just copying existing info into a social media post).

  90. plumerai*

    LW3, does your organization have brand voice guidelines? All of my clients (at a content agency that includes social media copy written by people who specialize in exactly that) have a brand voice and tone guide. These are explicit, with examples, and are sometimes several pages long. And they are CRITICAL to getting the work right.

    If you’re not able to do what all the other commenters here are doing (i.e. giving this task to someone who is actually skilled at it), please at least create a firm set of written, clear guidelines. That should exist even if you find someone who is a social media star.

  91. e271828*

    3. So many people think writing is not a skill worth paying for.

    If your organization’s social media posts matter, if they need to be professional, consistent, image-burnishing, and provided in a timely way, then that is not intern-level work.

  92. Formerly Frustrated Optimist*

    #4 – I used to have a co-worker who did this. She’d come into my office and walk behind me, ostensibly to look out the window, but another colleague alerted me that after she’d glanced out the window, she’d pivot and start scanning my desk.

    To handle this, anytime she walked into my office, I made sure my eyes never left her. Sometimes I’d ask her, “What’s going on outside?” if she was near the window, or if she was just hanging around and trying to surreptitiously look at my desk, I’d ask her if she needed something.

    The only downside was that her visits interrupted my work, but that was a trade-off I was willing to live with. Might (?) help with OP’s situation, although admittedly, it sounded like this behavior is happening a lot more to them than it was to me in my situation.

  93. Mango Freak*

    The only way to have interns actually REDUCE your workload is to ensure they’re somehow able to make money, so you can hire the kind who actually have skills.

    This might mean paying them, or this might mean making the internship part-time in an area where they can easily take other work (as one org where I interned did). You make sure the internship is enriching to them in other ways, but hire for the specific skills you’re looking for.

    If you want social media, you need to hire a social media intern. Make it part-time, check their past social media work, and figure out what they’d be getting from working for free at your org.

  94. I hate consulting*

    #4: I just wanted to pop in and share that I had the same experience at this small consulting firm. The project managers and senior ICs felt very very entitled to crane their necks and look at my screen. I took online classes and would stay afterwork. One colleague would always stay just as long as I did, and check my screen. It WAS infuriating. If you are in a senior position and you are getting away with this crap, shame on you & your boss. What a sad, lazy way of feigning interest in productivity levels & impact.

    Anyway, it’s hard to feel empowered to do something when you’re junior. Once I got fed up enough, that I sent a slack message to one of them. I essentially said, “I noticed you’ve been watching my screen. If you have any particular concerns about my work, or would like to hop in a meeting for a quick feedback session, please let me know.”

    At the time [one of] the offenders was a middle-aged man. He looked so, so ashamed. Later on, I had a chance to work with him on a project. He complimented my work, etc. But at that point I was so irritated and offended it didn’t make much of a difference. By then I was so frustrated, resentful. It was like, “who cares, you have helped make my experience here miserable”. People like that, they have no shame. They don’t even care if it makes them look rude, entitled, condescending, like some schoolteacher..Pathetic. Truly pathetic.

  95. Marianne*

    For the professional attire. I’ve always worn approximately the same outfits whatever the time of year – maybe adding a jacket, cardigan or jumper in winter, maybe switching to short sleeves in summer. I wouldn’t care what kind of coats my colleagues were wearing because they don’t wear them at their desks. And many offices are air conditioned or temperature controlled to be the same temp all year round.

  96. Sally Forth*

    LW 3. I have a degree in English and professional writing experience. I still struggle to think through voice and POV. I actually brought it up myself during a quarterly review as something to work on. My manager had a knack for getting it right.

  97. Dawn*

    LW3: Speaking as someone who’s been doing social media management for the past year and has it on my resume – social media management is a real skill and not “something to throw at the intern” unless you want crappy social media management.

    Please do those of us who do this for a living the professional courtesy of understanding this and that you get what you pay for.

    1. Observer*

      Please do those of us who do this for a living the professional courtesy of understanding this and that you get what you pay for.

      OP, you may not care about what professionals think. But you SHOULD care about how it’s going to affect your organization. Do *yourself* and *your organization* the favor of recognizing this reality before it comes back to bite you.

  98. Anony3738*

    4. Nosy coworker in an open office
    99% sure your coworker is not being nosy, but it’s done out of natural human behavior. when people are walking down a hallway, their minds linger and it is just human curiousity to see what other people are looking at, especially if what they are looking at can be viewed so easily in their face. Is there a way to adjust or position your monitors or desk so that doesn’t happen?

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      OP specified that this is beyond the normal looky loos passing by of the rest of the offce and that this is an extreme craning by one individual to see what is on peoples computers.

  99. Molly Millions*

    LW#1: I’m with you. It’s one thing to say you’ll look oddly for wearing shorts when it’s snowing, and there are some dresses that read as more “summer sundress,” than others, but I don’t think anyone would look askance at a sleeveless blouse in the winter. The office is presumably heated, and assuming they wore a coat outside, they were probably sweating in multiple layers on their way in. (I have a fan running all winter for that reason alone).

  100. happyhoodies*

    I would say my workplace attire is never really seasonally appropriate despite living on the east coast. Being in an office, it’s climate controlled so once you take off your winter coat, you should expect that you can wear regular clothes indoors. In fact, in my workplace, I wear more sleeveless tops in the winter because the heater will be cranked up too high, and I’m always freezing in the summers and wearing sweaters! But, I think the expectation is that you won’t need cold weather business attire because the business environment is temperature controlled.

  101. Disabled Worker*

    Probably nobody will see this comment because it is so far down. But for LW #1, I think that expecting “seasonal” clothing can be ableist. People might have conditions that make them very cold or hot. Or they might dress to cover up for medical reasons. Thinking this matters is really weird to me.

  102. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    Social media is like any other external publication. All your most important stakeholders – customers, donors, government officials, journalists, and everyone else – can see your social media posts. This isn’t an intern task. Why would it be?

  103. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    Absolutely baffled at the idea of penalising people based on whether or not they wear a jacket.

    Aside from all the reasons why students may not have a big selection of office wear to choose from, people are just… different. You might need a cardigan or jacket, while someone else might not.

    They are surely capable of assessing for themselves whether they’re warm enough. It would be utterly bizarre to have an objection to this in the real working world.

  104. Statler von Waldorf*

    So after reading the comments, I have gone from completely disagreeing with Alison to a more moderate take. In my defense, I currently work in Northern Canada, so professional norms are a bit different over some things, and I think seasonal outfits are one of them.

    I’ve seen many comments about how offices tend to be too warm in winter and too cold in summer due to AC. I believe people saying this, but I want to tell you that is not the case this far north. My decades of experience include many cold offices in the winter because the furnace only can work so hard and many warm offices in the summer because most buildings don’t have AC up here.

    It may be (and probably is) different elsewhere, but in this country, it looks unprofessional if your clothing does not reflect the extreme weather we can get. If it’s 50 below outside and you show up shivering at the office in a sleeveless dress and no sweater, it’s not a professional look.

    That said, I still wouldn’t make students buy seasonal clothing that they may never use again. They’re probably already struggling with finances, and this won’t help with that. However, I do still think that in some climates, professional clothes should be seasonally appropriate.

  105. samwise*

    Professional clothes for students.

    The students may not be able to afford many professional clothes. More common than you might think. (Your interns may be facing housing insecurity and food insecurity, may have children or be helping to support their family. ) Their campus may have a “closet” — a program where students can get or borrow professional clothes. Check the campus career center to start, if they don’t have such a program, they likely will know of a place that does (such as a church, a non-profit, a professional organization, etc)

    (for recent data on food and housing insecurity among college students, search for an article by McKibben, Wu, and Abelson at Temple University, very clear and readable description of the latest federal data)

  106. Alison*

    I have work meetings coming up in Florida and am definitely struggling a little with the ‘seasonally appropriate’ part – I would usually wear a dress with bare legs in the summer to work where I live, but is that really OK in February? Seeing a lot of coworkers that I rarely see otherwise so I want to be comfortable but not look foolish.

  107. Kt*

    Letter # 1. I’m the person that is warm in winter, that spends all day getting asked if I’m cold, that wears a business casual sleeveless top to the office year round. The absolute absurdity of telling someone who is not cold to wear a sweater is hurting my brain. Wife just comes across as controlling.

  108. Mehmehmeh*

    LW4–I am newish in my job and was “lucky” enough to get a cube in plain view of my boss’s office. I was so stressed when I started because I was low on things to do and didn’t want anyone to think I was shirking work because everyone else was SOOOOOO BUSY! However, turns out, no one actually cared. A new employee started a couple weeks ago and I made sure to assure him that no one cares what you do all day as long as work gets done, and if anyone were to ever report on you, your defense would be that THEY have too much time on their hands if they’re watching you all day.

  109. fae ehsan*

    re: LW3, do they have an organization-wide style guide? this is a very helpful tool in communications!

  110. WearItYearRound*

    LW1, the idea of seasonally appropriate work attire is weird unless you’re working outside. With the exception of a few individuals, nearly everyone I know has a single work wardrobe. For one thing, most offices have a similar temperature year round, one that people tend to find either too hot or too cold. I’ve worn shorts and a sleeveless tshirt to work under a heavy winter coat before (obviously in a casual dress environment) and I nearly always wear sleeveless or very short sleeved shirts year round as I tend to find most offices too hot. Conversely, I know people who tend to feel cold and always wear long sleeves and sweaters even if it’s 100 degrees out and the office is what I’d consider unbearably hot.

    If it fits the level of dress expected by a company then it’s appropriate no matter what the calendar says.

  111. Jiminy Cricket*

    I am absolutely banging my head on my desk over the expectation that college students with zero years of professional writing experience and zero years of experience in your organization could magically write all your social media posts.

    The era of the intern running social media is long since past. It is a skilled profession. Hire professionals.

  112. Jane*

    #3 – As a marketing copywriter, this is a huge part of my job, and it’s actually quite offensive to think that a random person can just waltz in and nail a skill I studied for years. People get paid specifically to do this task, so try hiring interns who are studying writing in some way.

  113. Mmm.*

    One of the times I’ve been truly humiliated in my working life was when I got “dress coded.” I was grossly underpaid and dressed appropriately… except if I stretched all the way up (which was very rare), a tiny bit of stomach showed for a fraction of a second.

    And that was only because my sub-par healthcare and inability to take days off had led to me ignoring a health condition that was making my weight fluctuate like crazy. Which I then had to explain to my boss, who told me I had to just figure it out because other people struggle with weight, too.

    All that to say, unless they’re dressing *inappropriately,* bosses should leave employees’ clothes alone–particularly if they’re not providing a clothing stipend.

  114. Jason*

    Interns not knowing how to write- an intern has how much experience? You have your answer there. You are paying them, right, not one of those ‘volunteer for experience gigs’ which amounts to nothing but ‘you get what you paid for’.

    As an aside, they might be utilizing ChatGPT and not using it as a tool but as a product. Something else to consider, but LLMs can fill out a lot of blanks to get the juices flowing.

  115. Johannes Bols*

    It seems to me ‘Nicholas’ is presenting his narcissistic personality disorder when he zooms around to look at your computer screens. Our Nicky is asserting control. Instead of sucking it up, I would say to him LOUDLY so that EVERYONE can hear you, “When you stop at my desk and crane your neck to look at my screens it distracts my concentration. I am unable to reach my full potential on these projects when you do this. I am telling you (we are adults, we tell, with children we ask. Asking him gives him to opportunity to reply) that I do not need the distraction; it is inappropriate. If you have a question with my work please refer to my manager. I hope I am making myself clear that I will not tolerate further unwelcome and unwanted intrusion into my ability to complete the tasks I have been assigned to.”

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