employee is demanding Diet Coke as a religious accommodation, desk is covered with photos of feet, and more

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

1. Employee is demanding Diet Coke as a religious accommodation

My friend is a manager at a public health-focused nonprofit whose mission is focused on building healthier communities by improving access to healthier choices, like walking trails and fresh produce (among other things). They offer some health-related perks to employees — think, subsidized public transit and gym memberships, bike storage at the office, fresh fruit at the office — and also have some policies banning things that are known to lead to poor health outcomes, like smoking. One of the things they have banned is soda, which is not allowed at company events and which the company will not pay for.

They are having a fundraiser in a few weeks where there will be a bar serving beer, wine, several healthy mocktails, and sparkling water. Guests will receive two drink tickets as part of their admission that they can use for whatever they’d like, whether alcoholic or not. It is definitely not an alcohol focused event at all — I have attended their fundraises in the past, and the health focus of the nonprofit’s mission means the majority of the people attending are not big drinkers.

My friend supervises an employee, “Jane,” who does not drink for religious reasons, but who drinks a lot of Diet Coke (she brings several bottles to the office daily). Jane is insisting she should be able to order Diet Coke at the event since she does not drink, and thinks the company should make an exception to their policy to accommodate her religion. As far as my friend is aware, there is not a religious reason why Jane can’t drink any of the other non-alcoholic beverages that will be offered. He does not want to make this kind of exception because of the impression it might give to their potential donors, but is concerned there might be legal repercussions if he says no. What is the best way for him to handle this situation?

There’s no legal requirement to provide Diet Coke as a religious accommodation. They definitely should ensure there are non-alcoholic options there, but they’re already doing that.

If they weren’t a health-focused nonprofit with a policy of not providing soda at their events because of their mission and an employee were asking for it, I’d say to spend the few bucks it would take to make an employee feel taken care of at an event, even if it’s a bit of a silly request. It’s not often you can make someone happy for a couple of dollars, and when you can, you should. But this is a health-oriented organization that explicitly doesn’t serve sodas and has legitimate reason to be concerned about sending mixed messages to donors. Your friend should reiterate the organization’s policy and tell her there will be a variety of non-alcoholic options to choose from.

2. Coworker’s desk is covered with photos of feet

Joan works with me in an office of about 25 people. It is a laid-back advertising and graphic design office, and most people freely talk about non-work related things throughout the day.

When it comes to Joan, aside from her job here, she is also a foot model for advertisements (not fetish stuff). This would be of little concern to me normally, but her work station is plastered in photos of her feet from various publications. She has also occasionally given demonstrations of what are apparently the best ways to pose one’s feet for photographs, and sometimes comments (always positively) about colleagues feet and how they should get into foot modelling too.

We have clients and various external persons come in and out through the office during the day, and they have to pass Joan’s feet-filled work station. Although her coworkers have context on her foot obsession and most don’t seem to mind it, these external parties do not, and I’m worried it could deter them from engaging with us. Am I right to be worried about this?

I don’t think you’re wrong to worry. If I were a client coming into your office and passed a work area plastered in photos of feet … well, I might think “I guess that person works on some sort of foot-related campaign” … but I’d probably be as likely to think “that feels weird and fetishy.” I would definitely not think “oh, the desk of a foot model!”

If you’re Joan’s manager or otherwise have some authority in this situation, you wouldn’t be wrong to explain it looks odd to people without context and ask her to tone down the foot decor.

However, I’m now very interested in knowing the best ways to pose one’s feet for photographs.

3. My remote employee didn’t bother to meet with me when they were in town

I have a remote employee who travels to the city where our company headquarters is and where I am based once a quarter. Occasionally, they come to the city for work-related reasons that are not directly connected to our department. I found out today that this person had been in town for the entire week when they previously told me they had planned to be in the city for two days. They’re supposed to notify me when they are traveling and working outside of their regular work location, so I need to address that from an administrative standpoint.

What I don’t get and what I am really confused about is why this employee doesn’t proactively set up time to meet with me when they are in town?

If I only got to see the person making decisions about my promotions and salary increases four times a year in-person, I would want to take advantage of any opportunity I had to interact with them. I’m not sure if it’s lack of awareness of business norms or disengagement. This person has previously asked me about the path to promotion, so it’s hard for me to imagine they’ve totally checked out. It just seems rude to come to the city and not ask your boss if they have time to meet for coffee. Do you have any advice for me?

Ask them to start setting up time to meet with you when they’re in town.

I see where you’re coming from with being surprised that they’re not doing this on their own, but a lot of people wouldn’t think to do it. They figure you’re busy, or they figure they talk to you all the time anyway, or they just haven’t been exposed to the stuff that says “take opportunities to form a face-to-face relationship with your boss.” It’s so common that you shouldn’t read much into it or consider it rude. Just let them know that you’d like them to do it going forward, if in fact you would.

It’s also useful to keep in mind that there’s a difference between “X is smart to do for your career” and “it’s a problem if someone doesn’t do X.”

4. When your boss asks if you’re looking for another job

A while back, some of my coworkers gave notice within a week of each other (totally unplanned on their part), which prompted my manager to ask some of the remaining team members, “Are you looking for another job, too?”

I’m assuming the answer to that question is almost always “no, I’m not,” but is there ever a situation where you could say, “Well, yes, because XYZ”?

It’s almost never in your interest to give your manager a heads-up that you’re job searching before you’re ready to give notice. You could end up pushed out before you’re ready to leave, on a list for layoffs “because you’re on your way out anyway,” or sidelined from projects that could help your career because your manager figures you could be gone any day.

And you’re certainly not obligated to disclose that you’re job searching just because your manager asks. That’s not a question they’re entitled to an honest answer to, given the power dynamics and the fact that your ability to pay for food and housing probably depends on keeping your job until you’re ready to leave it.

5. Applying to a company where I previously withdrew from a hiring process

I applied for a job in an adjacent industry (think the vendors that service my current industry) last year when I was feeling unfulfilled. I didn’t hear back right away and kept job searching. I was eventually offered a position somewhere else. I rejected it because we couldn’t come to terms on salary and remote work, and my company ultimately offered me more money with a verbal promise of a title bump at the end of the fiscal year.

While this was all happening, I got and accepted a first interview with the vendor company. I was invited to the second round, but I withdrew upon getting the counteroffer from my current job. I felt like I’d burn way too many bridges to leave (and I’d have to give up a volunteer role in my industry). When I withdrew, I apologized and cited seeing my commitments through the fiscal year (a teammate had also left and so my area would’ve been short-staffed). The hiring manager expressed her understanding.

It’s been over a year and I’m honestly still a bit unsatisfied — I know that’s the danger of counter offers! My company never gave me a title bump even though I took on more work. I saw peers get promoted as well. I’m still well connected with folks at the vendor company and a friend there nudged me that they’re hiring again. I’m still interested and want to apply.

But how do I professionally mention why I withdrew? And when do I mention it? It’s the elephant in the room, and I’d ask if I were the hiring manager. Is it worth spending a few sentences in my cover letter talking about it? Do I wait for the first interview (if I get one?)

It’s not a big deal to have withdrawn from their hiring process last year, especially since you explained why and especially after only one interview. (If you had gone through multiple interviews, received an offer, and then spent a week agonizing before giving them an answer … well, you could still reapply now, but you’d need to be more prepared to speak to what had changed.)

Just mention it right up-front in your cover letter: “I had an initial interview with you about a similar role last year, but ended up withdrawing from your hiring process when I realized I wanted to see out some commitments here. I’m still very interested, and the timing is much better for me to make a move. I liked what I learned last time about your work with X and Y, and I’d love to talk about your ___ opening.”

You should also send a note to the hiring manager since you’d talked with her directly before, refreshing her memory about your previous conversation(s) and mentioning that you’re applying again now.

Read an update to this letter

{ 518 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’ve removed a long debate below about the fundraiser allowing alcohol but not soda, and ask that we not derail further on that. Whether it makes sense from a health perspective is a completely different question than what’s being asked (and the letter-writer has no control over it anyway). Please stick to constructive advice for letter-writers. (Comments violating this request will be removed.)

      1. Princess Sparklepony*

        Just wait until you see Le Tigre and Ferrari!

        (Narrators voice over: No one has ever seen Le Tigre or Ferrari.)

        1. Chexwarrior*

          Fun fact, that sequence was actually adlibbed because Ben Stiller forgot what the second question was supposed to be, and in the spur of the moment decided that it would be in character to just ask “But why male models?” a second time.

    1. QA Mini*

      It may not be as much of worship thing so much as a social/ cultural thing. I can think of two major churches in the US that don’t allow drinking but cola is super popular. I don’t want to speculate about the religion here as OP was vague on purpose but it’s enough of a thing that in some cities where at least one of those churches is well attended there are whole soda shops.
      It’s actually a neat cultural phenomenon but it’s not exactly directly religious

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        One of the religions you’re likely referring to has a prohibition on “hot drinks”, and among folks I know, interpretation or degree of adherence varies. Some follow it as a broader prohibition on caffeine but many take it literally and drink a whole lot of Diet Coke for their caffeination needs. Not sure how the growing popularity of cold brew coffee has landed.

        I’d feel differently about not providing Diet Coke as a religious accommodation if coffee and tea were being provided, honestly. It’s still probably not required by the letter of the law but it feels closer than in the context of this letter.

          1. lilsheba*

            Same here. There is no way I’m not doing hot drinks, but then I wouldn’t be part of a religion that bans anything to be honest.

              1. Random Dice*

                Thirded! That’s the best religion I can think of – monks who make tea and listen to people who are lonely or sad or just want tea. They can curse, screw, be any gender, no matter – they just have to hold space for people.

            1. Donkey Hotey*

              For MONTHS after I finished those books, my mantra was, “I am not allowed to run away and become a tea monk.”

            2. Leira*

              Have you read Becky Chambers’ novellas? A Psalm for the Wild Built is the first one and it’s literally about a Tea Monk!

          2. Turtlewings*

            Lol, “hot drinks” was quickly clarified as meaning “coffee and tea.” Hot chocolate, herbal teas, etc. are still permitted. (Interestingly, the VERY, VERY high temperatures at which coffee and tea were drunk at the time has since been shown to contribute to throat cancer.)

            [Source: I am a member of the church in question.]

      2. Distracted Procrastinator*

        Being a member of one of those churches, sometimes it feels like Diet Coke is a religious mandate for women. LOL. (Especially since I get weird looks when I say I don’t like it.)

    2. Delphine*

      I think the religious part is that she doesn’t drink, not that she’s required to drink diet cola. The Coke is just her drink of choice.

      1. Smithy*

        This is my take. It may also be that she either does not care for or is avoiding the other nonalcoholic beverages provided (i.e. dislikes sparkling water and is avoiding juices or other beverages with calories).

        I will say from the point of the OP, I do think that this is a case where instead of focusing on all of the other beverage options available – it may be best to focus on the work/mission aspect of the event, the length of the duration, and share if staff at the event will be there so long – if there’s an opportunity for a break. I’ve worked a lot of nonprofit events, and for some staff who do this less frequently, they can see more of the fun/party side of this as opposed to the work side.

        If staff are expected to be there in advance to help set up as well as take down the event space – then you can discuss ways and spaces where staff can bring their own food/beverages for break times because it’s understood that staff may not have the time to truly have a meal or may not enjoy everything served. Or to flag the length of the event if it’s not overly long, and recommendations for getting a better meal before/after.

        Right now this is a conversation about the OP and their colleague having fun at the event and whether a preferred beverage is offered. And while I do get how only drinking still water may be a bummer, focusing on the work piece can help shift the overall tone.

        1. Orv*

          I was going to say that most mocktails are EXTREMELY sugary, so if you’re avoiding both alcohol and sugar you’re pretty much going to be left with just water at an event like this.

          1. Smithy*

            Absolutely. And while sparkling water is often the calorie free, nonalcoholic evening beverage on offer if there isn’t diet soda – if you happen to not like it (which is totally fine), being left with still water can be frustrating.

            In this case if there is truly no other non-soda alcoholic beverage that would work for this coworker for minimal to no extra expense (i.e. if a specific flavored sparkling water was an acceptable alternative?), then it genuinely seems like something that might boost an event where people don’t drink a lot of alcohol and are large health conscious. No different than taking advice from someone who keeps halal or kosher about how best to include others who have similar dietary restrictions. But if all this person wants to drink is soda/Diet Coke, then that’s fine.

          2. Random Dice*

            I have intense fatigue, and an after-hours work event without caffeine would end with me weeping in exhaustion. Literally.

      2. lilsheba*

        Seriously and she can’t live without it for ONE NIGHT? She can’t do sparkling water or something? wow.

        1. Ahnon4Thisss*

          TBF, as someone who hates sparkling/seltzer water and also wouldn’t want to drink at a work event, I’d be pretty disappointed in the choices, too. Buuuuuut, I would just drink regular water and keep my annoyance to myself, lol.

          1. Wilbur*

            For whatever reason, the only beverage options my company will ever provide are: Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and water. It is what it is.

            This usually goes along with dry brisket, sad mac n cheese, cole slaw, and cheap ass rolls. The company makes it difficult for organizers to do something better, and everyones already doing 110%. Work events are not for making people happy. It is what it is.

            1. Annie*

              Pepsi and cheap ass rolls work for me!

              Work events are not for making people happy — that’s a sad but true statement.

        2. Mina*

          I’m definitely approaching this from feedback we received after a retreat from staff a few years ago, where we thought we had done a good job provided a balance of food & drink that accommodated everyone, but one member who didn’t drink alcohol or coffee, and hated seltzer water, felt left out as the rest of the staff was boozing it up on company funded drinks, and they were left with nothing (in-part because the juice we had gotten to cover the non-drinkers was quickly used for mixers).

          We did a bad thing that week, and since then we make a point to make sure that everyone feels like they have a voice and can be comfortable at our events. It’s been super simple to make sure we have some extra stock of lemonade/juice/soda so people don’t feel excluded and dismissed. So yeah, this employee could go a night without a diet coke. But it’d be a shitty thing to do when everyone else is living it up at the company’s expense. Think about the vegetarian who gets half a salad and roll instead of an actual meal, or the tea drinker who gets a 4 year old tea bag and lukewarm coffee-scented water. You should want to do more than the legal requirement for the people who make you money/run your programs/do all the work that you fundraise on the back of.

          1. Person from the Resume*

            It is tough because as I mention below I like soft drinks and fizzy water seems “off” to me because I’m so used to carbonated beverages which are flavored and sweetened (artificially or not). OTOH I can and do drink plain water. And I can drink tea I prefer artificially sweetened again).

            Since I am picky about my beverages and prefer not to drink things with sugar (although I like them) sometimes there’s slim pickings for me. But that’s a me choice. (There’s no religious or dietary limitations reasons that I have to be picky,) And I can drink plain water and get by.

            I think the LW’s is being a bit ridiculous to ask for something the non-profit is vocally against. They’re obviously not preventing her from drinking it in the office even though they’re not buying it for her.

            1. Mina*

              Of course, but we’re also hearing it third hand (DC asker – to manager – to friend), and it could be something like “For religious reasons, I don’t drink alcohol and would like there to be something I enjoy to drink there, like diet coke” and the freind got freaked out at the invocation of religion, or was it “I need to be provided a diet coke there as an accommodation of my religious observance.” so we really don’t know how ridiculous the ask was. The first one is MORE than reasonable and incredibly valuable feedback for the worksite, because staff are all too often concerned to share genuine feedback.

              I guess when there’s a $10 fix to make an employee feel welcomed and heard, it’s the easiest decision in the world for me. Even if not legally required. And I just could not imagine standing on “healthy” as a principal at an event with alcohol, so their justification for not providing diet soda is stupid.

            2. Kay*

              Agreed. Many work/charity events have subpar wines in varietals I’m not a fan of, I don’t drink beer, am particular about my mixers, don’t drink soda – but I manage not drinking my preferred drink for one night. If it were a California wine lobby function I wouldn’t get all “but Provincial rose!!!” on the matter.

              A no soda policy is very reasonable for this event, although I might allow the employee to slip a flask of her beverage of choice into her pocket and pretend not to see it.

            3. Annie*

              I’m with you there. If there’s only seltzer water, I won’t drink it, because it does taste really strange and I just don’t like it with no flavoring. I’m fine with water but yeah, I guess I wouldn’t be too happy if that’s all that was provided when everyone else is having a grand old time with their choice of drink.

          2. RNL*

            This isn’t a retreat. It’s a fundraiser. It’s not a perk, it’s work. The choices made about the drinks are based on the goal of the fundraiser, which is not to accommodate staff but to engage with donors. Staff should get adequate provision at these things, but their preferences are not the point, at all.

            When I go to work events where my job is to mingle, I eat beforehand on my own dime because I can’t work properly (mingle, greet guests) and eat easily. When I go to staff appreciation type events it’s a totally different ball game.

          3. Yellow sports car*

            My industry has the concept of EANAB – or equally attractive non-alcoholic beverages. Some workplaces have it as a requirement for all functions. It’s not so common yet in my country, but things are improving – slowly.

            So if you’re catering with a goon bag the habitual warm bottle of juice and Pepsi/coke is acceptable. If you have 6 different alcoholic offerings you need to provide variety in the non-alcoholic options. If it’s $50 bottles of wine then a warm bottle of juice won’t meet that requirement. And you can’t just use low-alcohol or alcohol mimicking options and call them non-alcoholic.

            I’ve been to events where taking your glass to the toilets was the only non- alcoholic offering. Thankfully in my own country that is illegal and they must at least serve tap water to you. But plenty of times there’s a half dozen alcoholic options – and very little to none non-alcoholic.

            Personally I’d be completely pissed at a company that was so disinterested in including non drinkers. I don’t drink alcohol, or alcohol imitators (no low alcohol or non alcoholic “alcohol” drinks). For a company promoting healthy living that’s a strong alcohol and sugar focus they’ve opted for. Personally, you’d immediately wipe out any chance of me as a donor cause I can’t stand the alcohol is good for you BS that this promotes.

            If it was my job nothing I can do. But if it was a long event they need to provide staff with a break to go grab something to eat/drink that works for them. A “free” meal is of no value if you don’t eat/drink what is on offer.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        This. And I don’t think soda is obviously less healthy than alcohol so FFS just get her some Diet Coke. How much of it she drinks per day is none of the company’s business, just as they don’t know for certain that their employees are not big drinkers, since they use that to justify serving alcohol. Not all alcoholics are falling down at work.

      4. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        I’ve also seen a religious requirement before for “nothing that looks like it might be alcoholic”. So potentially mocktails might be as problematic as cocktails for her. if that’s the issue?

      5. OfOtherWorlds*

        It’s also possible that it’s important to her to have something that’s unambiguously non-alcoholic in her hand at all times if she’s at an event with alcohol. A sparkling water could look like a hard seltzer, and a fruit juice could look like a mimosa or screwdriver. A Diet Coke has branding everyone recognizes.

        1. whingedrinking*

          I could see that being the issue if we were talking about containers that imply alcohol – a lot of non-alcoholic beer packaging still looks like beer, and many mocktails are served in stemware – but I’m not sure it would actually be possible to avoid “the appearance of impropriety” if that includes drinking water out of a tumbler because then someone *might* think they were drinking neat vodka. After all, there’s nothing stopping someone from emptying their can of Diet Coke and filling it up with Everclear, either.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      LOL! Jane does not drink for religious reasons. That her non-alcoholic beverage of choice is Diet Coke is personal.

      And weird but not weird to me. Because I love me Coke Zero and drink too much of it, but it is clearly superior to Diet Coke.

      1. allathian*

        Team Coke Zero all the way. Diet Coke tastes metallic in my mouth, I suspect it’s the sweetener. I also hate the way Diet Coke makes a lot more foam when it comes out the fountain than other versions of Coke do. I have memories of working in a fast-food restaurant at college, and you had to wait at least twice as long for the bubbles to subside than with normal Coke (Zero didn’t exist yet). Customers would understandably complain if you gave them 3/4 measures instead of a full drink container. (What do you call those carton “glasses” anyway?)

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          I heard that this is why flight attendants hate when people ask for Diet Coke as well. It slows down their whole procession waiting for the foam to calm down.

          1. Random Dice*

            Every waiter I’ve known just sticks their finger in to make the foam go down.

            Honestly, don’t drink fountain drinks. It’s a lot of trust in minimum wage workers to clean the machines and all the lines, and to be hygienic.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I drink Coke Zero because it IS better than Diet Coke, and also because TaB was discontinued…yeah, I know. But when it was ice cold, TaB tasted like Coke. No, really. It did. Honest.

        Seriously, unless I have a medical reason to avoid certain foods, and even though I have food likes and dislikes, I can always find something to drink or eat at an event without needing special accommodation. I don’t like Pepsi products but I can cope. Or I’ll just drink water or iced tea.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          It’s a fascinating road to go down for sure. Why does she have to have Diet Coke at this ONE event? She can’t drink water for a few hours? It’s so important that she’s making it a ‘religious accommodation’ issue? I wish I understood that mindset!

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            The Diet Coke camp does always seem pretty devoted, but this is the first time I’ve seen it described as a religious thing.

            I hate diet drinks but know that if you provide soda to a group, Diet Coke must be involved.

          2. Zelda*

            I have known of at least one person who was so dependent on Diet Coke for their caffeine fix that coming off it was intensely painful.

            1. SpaceySteph*

              This was me. I despise coffee. I drank a couple cans a day and got caffeine withdrawal headaches when I didn’t. There’s a whole subculture out there of coffee addicts that is seen as normal/funny (like wine moms), but if its soda there’s less social acceptance. “Don’t talk to me before I’ve had my coffee” is fine but for some reason “don’t talk to me before I’ve had my diet coke” is frowned upon.

              That said, even in my most caffeine addicted day, I could have made it through one evening event without a diet coke, by drinking one before I went.

              I am lucky when I got pregnant with my oldest, I developed an aversion to diet coke flavor. Quit then and never went back because I didn’t want to get addicted again. Now I’m like 95% caffeine free (on occasion will have a soda or tea while out, but I am careful not to do it frequently enough to develop a habit again).

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Back when I smoked, I went through a period where I drank Coca-Cola (classic) like water. My family actually gave me a case of Coke for Christmas as a joke — I wasn’t even embarrassed. :’D And no, I didn’t share any of it, lol.

        2. juliebulie*

          omg, TaB. I kept drinking it until they took out all the saccharin. I hate aspartame.

          Also Pepsi Lite (with lemon). But that’s going back quite a ways.

          If this Diet Coke thing has something to do with caffeine (because some religions prohibit “hot drinks” but not caffeine explicitly, as explained above), then I feel for this person. I didn’t realize there was such a prohibition.

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

            Pepsi Twist was *amazing*. I still ask for lemon in my pop- it’s a joy that I feel cheated at not having until my 20’s.

            Also, Diet Pepsi would like a word- it’s so much better than Diet Coke. ;)

            1. AFac*

              I try not to eat too much fast food, but I eat at Sonic more than I should because they’ll let me put lime in my Coke.

              One time they must have given me a double shot of lime by accident, and it was spectacular.

          2. SheLooksFamiliar*

            juliebulie, Coca-Cola actually did add saccharin back to the formula – I checked! – but it never tasted like the 60’s-80’s version. It truly was…special. Yeah, let’s call it ‘special.’

        3. Camilla Hect*

          I like Diet Coke better! Half because it tastes like the La Croix of Coke, which is what I want in a soda – and half because Coke Zero (and most other diet sodas) have introduced a new sweetener that mimics sugar much better than the aspartame/sucralose/phenylalanine variants; it just happens to also be something that I’m pretty allergic to. Sigh.

      3. Snow Globe*

        Nope, Diet Coke is the winner for me. If I’m served Coke Zero by mistake, I’ll send it back and ask for water.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          You are correct about the difference. I have a good friend who used to work in a taste biotech, where they were developing (trying to!) sugar subs that tasted more like regular sugar. Each sub has a distinct flavor profile. Some of them people really hate. Some of them give people issues (I myself cannot have sucralose, it gives me awful abdominal migraines). But most people can absolutely tell the difference right away.

          1. Texan In Exile*

            I toured a Coca Cola bottling plant in Austin years ago. The plant manager insisted that people could not taste the difference between Coke in a can and Coke in a plastic bottle and that they could also not taste the difference between Coke made with cane sugar and Coke made with corn sweetener.

            He was so wrong.

            1. Random Dice*

              That’s like a professional sommelier not being able to smell. Those are outrageously incorrect statements for someone in his job to hold!

            2. whingedrinking*

              The first time I travelled to the States, I bought a bottle of Coke, took a sip, and immediately said it didn’t taste the same. My travelling companion (a then-boyfriend who was the kind of guy who had to be right about everything) scoffed that the thing about Coke is that it tastes the same *everywhere*. Then he tasted it, and was forced to agree. And that was just Canadian vs. American Coke (Canadian is sweetened with glucose-fructose, American with HFCS). The stuff made with cane sugar is very different.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          Hello, fellow member of Team Diet Pepsi! *high five* we seem to be in the minority here!

          I actually don’t mind Diet Coke too much, especially when served well chilled/with lots of ice, but if I have a choice, it’s Diet Pepsi all the way. 8-D

      4. JSPA*

        i suppose there could be some intersection of health needs prohibiting sugar, and religion prohibiting alcohol, and it only “being fair and equal” to offer something more celebratory than water. But if she has sparkling water, a lemon wedge and (say) stevia, it’s hard to argue that she’s not being Tequesta care of.

      5. SopranoH*

        I know why most people feel this way. It really does taste a lot like regular coke. But I hate it. I’ve been a diabetic since I was 3. The taste of regular coke is the taste of something that will kill me. I can’t do it. I can make an exception for cherry Coke Zero because it doesn’t have the association.

    4. Mariko*

      A google search reveals there’s a Coca-Cola Church in San Juan Chamula, Mexico. A bit hard to believe employee is a follower, but maybe this is where she got the idea of asking for a religious accommodation?

        1. Potatohead*

          Just be careful if you go on vacation and bring some home with you. Customs will not be amused when you tell them you have real Mexican coke in your luggage.

          1. Orv*

            You can buy it at most supermarkets in Southern California and at pretty much all Mexican restaurants, but there’s a significant markup over the regular stuff.

        2. Not on board*

          I beg to differ – Coca Cola in Aruba is the best. Real sugar, like the 1970s and bottled in Aruba, made from de-salinated ocean water. Something about using that water to make it is incredible.

    5. John M*

      It’s been a while since I read it but I think Coke was used in the rituals of a cargo cult in the Larry Niven novel “Dream Park”.

        1. Darsynia*

          Well, they do work for a health conscious company! (This is not wholly serious, not not sarcasm either)

    6. Funfetti*

      I wish I had a religious exception for Diet Coke when I worked at a PEPSI campus – ugh! The sacrifice that had to be made!

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        I’m that patron who orders Coke, then when asked “is Pepsi ok?” switches to iced tea or water.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          There’s a meme out there I love:
          “I’ll have a Coke.”
          “Is Pepsi ok?”
          “Is Monopoly money ok?”

    7. birb*

      Some religious people believe “mocktails” are also unethical, because they’re PRETENDING to be alcohol / look like alcohol. This person possibly doesn’t want to be seen with a mocktail in a photo. They’re still absolutely wrong and could have sparkling water or probably a glass of any juice or “mixer” from the mocktails.

        1. Not a Lawyer*

          I know AA has helped a lot of people, but some people trade one addiction for another, and for some people, that’s AA and/or other 12-step groups. I have an uncle who’s a recovering alcoholic and addict (sober since the late ’80s, but blames everything that goes wrong in his life on anyone/anything else but himself) who goes to 12-step groups seemingly every night. They can be culty for some, such as my uncle.

          1. Orv*

            Yeah, and for the people who find those groups helpful, that’s fine; I don’t begrudge it. But there’s few good statistics on their success rates, and the general religious overtones make it really hard for the to stomach people being ordered by courts to go to them.

            1. Random Dice*

              AA really helped one of my alcoholic in-laws, he doesn’t believe in a god but he was able to find an atheist “higher power”. (The other one doesn’t do anything to stop drinking.) But there are a good number of valid critiques of AA, and it’s certainly not the only option.

              Interestingly, the diabetes / weightloss drug Ozempic has shown profound improvement of addiction, and is currently in drug trials specific to addiction.

    8. Siren of Sleep*

      I know the answer to this (sort of)! Mormons!

      See, for Mormons, hot drinks like tea and coffee are a HUGE no go but drinking soda is generally fine. However, the church itself has stock in Coca-Cola, so the go-to seems to be mostly Coke products. So, ymmv but she could see it as “I can’t drink tea, coffee or alcohol and it’s Diet so it’s healthy.”

      Source: I live with a bunch of them and was told this outright

      1. SubjectAvocado*

        Meh, as an LDS person myself, I don’t think the church’s investment portfolio has much to do with the choice of Diet Coke (at least it’s never factored into my own decision!). I know plenty who enjoy Pepsi instead. :) But you’re right, soda is generally fine while coffee and tea are eschewed.

    9. AKchic*

      All of you are making me want a Vanilla Coke, which will give me massive heartburn. True love is pain when it comes to taste. It’s why my lactose intolerant self still eats ice cream and mac & cheese.

    10. Tiger Snake*

      Coca-Cola Church, Chiapas, Mexico.

      … I’m Australian. How the heck do I know that? How the heck do I know that well enough to be able to answer the question immediately without thinking?

  2. ENFP in Texas*

    “there will be a bar serving beer, wine”

    Since it’s a community fundraiser, and patrons are more likely to open their checkbooks when there is alcohol flowing, it’s not *actually* about “improving access to healthier choices”… it’s more a performative sort of morality.

    That said, as long as there are non-alcoholic beverages there that Jane can drink, her religious accommodation request is irrational. Her religion doesn’t require that she drinks ONLY Diet Coke.

    1. Jolie*

      On the other hand, I feel like it does depend on what non-alcholic beverages are on offer, and how many options. If there have, say, mocktails and juice and homemade lemonade – then fair, OP is unreasonable for asking for diet coke. If the situation is more like “there’s beer and wine and spirits, people who don’t drink alcohol can only have still water”, that’s a bit of a different story.

        1. Mina*

          I think it’s helpful to think of accommodations both in bare bones (water is available) and what is equitable.

          We have a diverse restrictions at my job, the people who keep kosher don’t just get a collection of snacks from the bodega that are probably stale, we find them a meal that is an appropriate substitution.

          For our halal staff, when alcohol is free flowing, we make sure that there’s a range of non-alcoholic drinks for them beyond water. Not because we’re legally required, but because we want them to feel welcomed and appreciated, and not treated differently due to their religious observance.

      1. Dog momma*

        OP says there’s beer, wine ,healthy mock tails and sparkling water. Which may be flavored.
        Not just plain water. So there is a variety. And diet sodas are not healthy by any means, depending on the sugar substitute. I try to avoid for the most part. and love vitamin water or flavored sparkling water. No religion that I know of pushes diet Coke, Pepsi or anything else.

        1. Also-ADHD*

          I’m trying to imagine a healthy mocktail, and honestly can’t. But it’s still not a religious accommodation. If everything but plain tap water had sugar, I could see a medical complaint or accommodation (Diet soda might actually be a much healthier choice for someone who couldn’t have sugary drinks) but even then it’s a stretch.

          1. WellRed*

            There’s no such thing as a healthy sugary drink no matter how many organic virgins picked and squeezed it, agreed. In Janes place, I’d bring my own Diet Coke.

              1. Also-ADHD*

                They’re usually juice and mixers, which are all sugar. Though maybe there’s ones I’ve not heard of.

                1. whingedrinking*

                  Zero-proof spirits, seltzer or diet pop, some bitters if a few drops of alcohol-based flavouring isn’t a deal-breaker, and garnish. Voila – no-sugar mocktail.

              2. Random Dice*

                You have to go very far afield to get to a non-sugary mocktail, deep into keto recipes. And those in turn rely heavily on fake sugars, which are problematic in different ways. (Yes including stevia, though it’s one of the best options for us diabetics.) Sugar is so deeply unhealthy it’s crazy.

            1. Critical Rolls*

              This is very bad advice. “My boss told me this drink couldn’t be at our company event due to the optics. Even though there are other beverages that are definitely allowed by my religion, I will choose to *bring the restricted beverage to the event* and *consume it in front of the donors in open defiance.*” That would NOT go over well.

          2. metadata minion*

            Sparkling water with some juice or other flavorings? Not all of them are particularly sweet.

            1. Overit*

              But they all make me vomit. As in, literally vomit.

              I can drink soda fine. But sparkling water is a no go.

              1. Michelle Smith*

                Right but that’s not a religious reason and so even if that was Jane’s situation, the religious accommodation would not apply. She could approach the conversation from a health standpoint if Diet Coke is the only thing that doesn’t make her throw up and ask for permission to bring her own or have a single 20 oz set aside for her or something. But I’ve had various dietary restrictions over the years, some for health reasons, some for ethical reasons (think vegetarian/veganism) and some for personal reasons (picky eater). If they weren’t serving something I liked at an event I needed to be at, I simply ate/drank before and/or after the event and attended with a smile on my face. It’s also pretty easy to walk around with a glass of water so that no one pushes you to grab a drink. If they were prohibiting her from bringing her own Diet Coke to her desk, I’d advise her to apply for an ADA accommodation or a new job. But a one time fundraising event? She can manage for a couple of hours.

            2. Butterfly Counter*

              I get that it’s fancy and that some people like the fizz, but on the long list of drinkable beverages, sparkling water is on the very bottom of the list for me, just after all of the flavored additives for sparkling water.

          3. LK*

            Yeah, this was my thought. I’d be surprised to find a mocktail that had low or no sugar. The insistence on only Diet Coke is still odd, though if I knew sugar was the sticking point, I might try to compromise and offer her a diet version of a clear soda that could pass for sparkling water if the donors saw it.

            I’m actually in a situation where I can’t have alcohol, sugary drinks, or cabonation, for medical reasons, so I really couldn’t drink anything at this event or the proposed Diet Coke accommodation. I’ve considered asking (not insisting) my org if they’d be willing to provide unsweetened iced tea at events, but so far I’ve just sucked it up and drank still water or used a tea bag from the coffee station to cold brew my own.

            1. Proofin' Amy*

              You would be surprised. There are brands of fancy seltzers like Aura Bora (0 calories, 0 sugar, no artificial sweeteners) and low-sugar fancy sodas like Avec (15 calories, no sugar) that have interesting flavors that can be drunk independently, used in mocktails, or used as mixers. Seltzer and bitters aren’t high in sugar. I’m not sure what the calorie count is on non-alcoholic liquor equivalents like Figlia, but I suspect many of them are not all that sugary. Mocktails are not just sugary juice and club soda anymore. I think your particular issue would probably be more that it would be hard to get a mocktail that had still instead of carbonated water, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

              1. Eastern Phoebe*

                Obviously it’s not impossible to find non-sugary mocktails. But I’d say, based on every single event I’ve been to that offered mocktails over the past few years, that it is still extremely common to find mocktails that are very high in sugar or artificial sweetener content.

          4. londonedit*

            We had a work event a year or so ago where there were only mocktails on offer – they were long glasses of sparkling water with ice and things like berries and a dash of grown-up-tasting cordial. Cordial/squash is popular in the UK – it’s a concentrated fruit juice that you mix with water to dilute it. These mocktails had things like a dash of pomegranate cordial, some crushed raspberries and mint. Not very sugary at all and not like a soft drink.

          5. Bagpuss*

            I think it depends on how you define healthy, there’s no reason that soft drinks made with slimline tonic water couldn’t be as healthy as diet coke.

            I’ve had amazing mocktails made with mint and cucumber and a dash of lemon juice – no sugar or sugary fruits, very low in calories and (at least the one I had) sofull of fresh mint it priobably counted as a portion of fresh veg!
            I’ve also seen mocktails made with pepermint tea with sparkling water , and I would imagine you could probably do a fairly tasty mock mojito with coconut water and mint, for example.

            Of coruse, if the mocktails are basically fruit syrups or diluted fruit smoothies then yes, they are likely to have quite a lot of sugar.

            I agree that regardless, it’s not a religious accommodation

      2. Allonge*

        As far as I can tell, a lot of mocktails are either a fancy lemonade or dolled-up juice, so it’s very unlikely that someone cannot get what is essentially an orange (or other) juice (tiny umbrella optional).

        And it’s a single event, not a lifetime choice. It’s vanishingly unlikely that an afternoon with water only is going to be an issue for anyone.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          The mocktails might be pre-made.

          I always dislike going to an event and finding there isn’t a zero-calorie option, which I suspect is a big part of what is behind Jane’s demand. It sounds like sparkling water is the only zero-calorie drink.

          But I’m with you that it’s ONE event; there is no reason she can’t drink sparkling water. Diet Coke is not a requirement.

        2. ClaireW*

          I am that person! I am allergic to citrus fruit, so I can’t drink lemonade or orange juice or most cocktails/mocktails (and I just plain hate sparkling water). That said, I’d just drink plain water or bring something in my bag and down a glass of water to empty it.

          1. Allonge*

            Sorry, I phrased that wrong – I meant that it’s very likely that anyone who wants a lemonade/juice can find something close enough. It may not be their exact preferred brand, but that is just life

            For people with allergies / food intolerances – that’s a whole different issue (and I would say it’s a lot more legit to bring up regarding catering choices if this would be a recuring thing). But as you also say, it’s something that can be worked around in other ways. I have celiac, I know about bringing a granola bar or something ‘just in case’.

            1. SopranoH*

              Right, and the thing is, The employee wasn’t asking for a medical accommodation, which I think would get more traction. The proffered options wouldn’t work for me for various reasons. I would have lead with that. Unless, of course, the employee thinks that asking for a medical accommodation will lead to discrimination.

          2. JSPA*

            Coke and other colas contain citrus oils. So if you’re highly citrus allergic, they’re to be avoided, as well.

            Tomato juice or V8 plus sparkling water is a good low-sugar mocktail, though.

          3. Venus*

            I have brought an opaque water bottle to events with my drink of choice in it, and never had issues. If Jane keeps quiet and brings her own non-alcoholic drink then no one needs to know. I can’t imagine that she would be unhappy about having to pay for her own drink, given that she has two bottles of it a day.

        1. Orv*

          Depends on how bad the tap water is where she lives. ;)

          Around here people look at me weird for drinking the stuff, because it’s got a pretty strong mineral taste. (I grew up with well water with such a whoppingly high iron content it made my teeth permanently beige, so I don’t mind.)

      3. Nonanon*

        I can see providing an additional sugar-free beverage as a HEALTH accommodation, since people deserve things that aren’t just sparkling water and aren’t as full of sugar as a traditional mocktail with juices (I’m thinking type 1 diabetics but there are certainly other conditions that qualify). The mocktail/sparkling water IS the religious accommodation, since it is the option without alcohol. It’s POSSIBLE the religion Jane belongs to has additional stipulations that exclude mocktails since they hint at alcohol (eg a “limeade” is fine but a “virgin margarita” is not) but that’s a specific, case by case thing that we certainly do not have enough information to conclude.

      4. Dido*

        The letter clearly says that mocktails will be available. I don’t understand commenters who rush to be the devil’s advocate so much that you don’t even read the whole letter

      5. Not a Lawyer*

        I am currently pregnant and have gestational diabetes, so that severely limits what beverages I can have. A solution I’ve found is to mix seltzer water with a splash of juice so there’s less sugar.

    2. londonedit*

      You get what you’re given at these sorts of things. I wouldn’t dream of trying to dictate what sort of drinks were served! If you do drink alcohol, half the time you’re stuck with cheap white wine, and if you don’t then the options are usually sparkling water or orange juice. That’s how it goes.

      1. mskyle*

        For real! I don’t see how this is different than demanding that the bar serve a specific brand of beer. “My religion requires that I drink only Bud Light! Heineken will not do!”

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think this is the key: The host gets to set out the terms of the entertainment, and the guests get to decide if they are happy within those terms and want to come. Informing the hosts that to correctly entertain you they must add a pole dancing element, or an interpretive dance about the federal reserve element, or a shrimp bar element, or move the whole thing to the following Saturday, is not something they have to accommodate.

        Assuming that the employee is effectively working the event, this is not really different than saying that you cannot bring your Diet Coke (or ask the boss to buy you a six-pack of Diet Coke) to a company event based on launching new flavors of Spindrift sodas. Sometimes as grown-ups we have to drink our Diet Coke after the event.

        1. Daryush*

          This is such a strange take. Maybe it’s a cultural thing? For me, part of the fun of hosting is making sure I have good stuff my guests like. That’s how you show you know and care about them.
          I wouldn’t dream of inviting my vegan friend over and then saying the terms of the event are, we are only eating meat cause that’s what I like.
          None of the dancing stuff is relevant. Not even in the same ballpark as requesting a widely available drink that costs a couple dollars at most.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Providing food and drink that people are able to consume means having nonalcoholic options if some guests don’t drink alcohol, and vegan options if some guests are vegan, and no shellfish options if some guests are allergic to shellfish. This event is already accommodating the non-alcohol drinkers with their beverage choice.

            It doesn’t mean that if you invite a barbecue enthusiast to your vegan buffet Arbor Day celebration, and they like pulled pork, you need to add a pan of pulled pork for them. Or that if they like to drink top shelf whiskey, and you are hosting a tea party with no alcohol, you need to go buy their preferred brand of whiskey.

            (The one exception I will make is if you are entertaining a group that includes a small child who will currently eat only one type of chicken nuggets. If you are wearing your professional trousers, though, arguing that you can only eat dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and all work events must provide you with those is not reasonable.)

            On a social level (rather than corporate fundraiser gathering) I think the decline in people willing to host is directly tied to the rise in people treating this like their friend is running a nightclub and a) doesn’t care whether the invited people actually turn up or not; b) would love to hear about all the special things each guest would like included. (This came up recently on the letter about hosting an open house for a group that included, but was not limited to, work colleagues, and whether one of the work colleagues should be accommodated with a completely different gathering. And in the comments, there were people who had your approach, and believed that the LW should pay to host 40-odd people at a restaurant instead of their home.

          2. Allonge*

            Could be cultural, sure, but consider:

            1. Jane is not a guest, she is a host at the event, or part of the host team. She is there working, not invited to just have fun.

            2. You know your friends and I assume you invite only so many people at a time that you can accommodate all their preferences. OP’s non-profit invites a bunch of potential donors and offers a certain kind of party as, basically, bait. If the donors don’t like the drink selection, that of course has an impact overall, but there will always be limits to what the event can offer.

        2. Elitist Semicolon*

          NGL, I’d go to an event with an interpretive dance about the federal reserve. Especially if it also included the pole dancing my colleague insisted they needed to be correctly entertained.

      3. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Yeah. I really want to know if the people who are adamantly stating their drink preferences, bordering on requirements, here in the comments would really be kicking up such a fuss for this event or if they would be reasonable IRL.

        1. AKchic*

          I’m a caffeine junky and have a long car ride from my house. My bag is big so I have at least one 20oz in my bag at all times. But, I also spend about 3 hours a day commuting and I never anticipate any gathering to cater to my drink preferences.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      I must say that when I was pregnant and had diet-managed gestational diabetes, it really opened my eyes to the common dearth of variety in drink choices.

      I (obviously) couldn’t have alcohol, and also couldn’t have sugary drinks, including juices and lemonades. I personally hate the taste of artificial sweeteners, and they’re not always on offer either. So for evening events when there were no hot drinks, I could usually have… plain water. Sparkling with a slice of lemon if I was very lucky. People tend to pity you if you’re sitting there with your glass of tapwater, lol. More options are recently starting to appear (vitamin waters, citrus and cucumber waters, unsweetened iced teas, nonalcoholic wines and ciders, though some of those are too sweet also), but it’s slow to spread.

      Maybe they could offer a non-alcoholic, non-sugary alternative that isn’t diet coke? Otherwise there is, indeed, always water.

      1. Throwaway Account*

        Those are good points for a health conscious company to consider! It might expand the non alcoholic options but sorry to the OP’s employee, still no soda!

      2. SJJ*

        I hope there’s a flat water option. I *absolutely hate* sparkling water.

        I get it’s not a medical accommodation, but I’m sure Jane isn’t the only non-alcoholic drinker, or the only person who’d feel uncomfortable drinking mocktails.

        Also, consider that pictures posted of the event with an alcoholic looking drink might bring attention she doesn’t want.

        So, I don’t think she’s completely out in left field requesting something she knows she can drink and is zero calories.

        1. OrangeCup*

          I hate sparkling water too -so bitter! And I can’t drink alcohol anymore due to a medication I take. So when I go to an event and the only options for me are plain or sparkling water, urgh. I’d love more mocktails or soda options.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            There are dozens and dozens of products on the market that are small enough to fit in an evening bag that allow you to spruce up still or sparkling water to accommodate a wide variety of taste preferences.

        2. Dawn*

          The thing that really jumped out at me in OP’s letter is that this is a fundraiser, and Jane has just unwittingly provided potentially useful information about the limited nature of the planned offerings. If OP has the power to do so, I think an ideal solution would be to talk with Jane about the applicability of the “no soda” policy (being prepared for her to respond that alcohol isn’t healthy either), and work with her to find a non-alcoholic, sugar free option that can be made available to everyone at the event.

          1. Colette*

            We don’t know that there is an issue with the available drinks, other than that Jane prefers diet coke.

          2. La Triviata*

            As an aside, there are religions that forbid caffeine; colas – diet or sugared – are full of caffeine. As is Mountain Dew.

          3. kt*

            From my time waitressing and a few other experiences, people who love Diet Coke love DIET COKE. They do not love anything else. There is no substitute. No other non-alcoholic, sugar free option is even relevant. It’s just…. a really strong and exclusive relationship.


            Might be worth the talk anyway, but be prepared for this!

        3. Llama Llama*

          Right! I think about my former boss and how I know he would have faced criticism at the mere idea he could have been drinking alcohol. Plus I would bet a lot of the uber strict would themselves balk at just the suggestion of alcohol like mocktails.

        4. Prof*

          I love sparkling water myself, but my body does not- I have a medical condition that means I’ve had to give up all carbonation (I hate Crohn’s, I miss diet coke so much I occasionally let a can go completely flat to have some of the taste). So yeah, please always have plain, flat water…

          1. Kyrielle*

            Different reason carbonation is problematic here, but I’ve seriously considered buying the cola/diet cola flavors for Soda Stream and then just adding them to plain water….

          2. SpaceySteph*

            It would be a pretty big deal if this event isn’t offering plain water (or if you have to use one of your drink tickets for plain water). Water should always be abundantly available when people are drinking alcohol, and a health-conscious event should also allow people to hydrate.

            1. whingedrinking*

              No freakin’ kidding.
              A friend of mine once went to a craft beer festival where the organizers decided to roll out several initiatives at once. Some were instituted with the very laudable goal of preventing people from getting too drunk, like not letting people bring in bottles, so they couldn’t smuggle in extra liquor to drink while waiting in line for beer samples.
              Unfortunately, this meant you couldn’t bring in a water bottle. You would have to buy water. The organizers also apparently figured it wasn’t necessary to set up water stations so you could at least refill those bottles.
              Oh…and this was an outdoor event in the summer.
              Perhaps ironically, the only reason this didn’t end up being a complete disaster was because of another poor decision the organizers made, namely to set up a new payment system with tappable wristbands instead of tokens, which barely worked. People had to wait forever to get beer. So they were irritated and thirsty, but at least they weren’t also wasted.
              Since the organizers had a past history of running things well, they were allowed to go ahead and hold their next planned event, a cocktail festival, with a number of stern warnings. (I went to it, but only because I’d already bought a ticket.) *~Suddenly~*, you could bring in an empty bottle and fill it up at one of several water stations, and the tappable wrist bands were out, tokens were back, how charmingly retro.

        5. londonedit*

          I mean, this is sort of why there’s usually just a choice of a couple of options. You’re never going to please everyone. You don’t like sparkling water; someone else in the comments said they’re allergic to citrus so they can’t have orange juice or lemonade; someone else can’t have sugar because of diabetes…and so it goes on. Unless the event is being held in an actual pub or bar, there’s no way the organisers can or will cater to everyone’s individual drinks requirements. So they go with the easiest option, which is probably going to be bottled beer, white and red wine, and water/orange juice.

        6. Office Chinchilla*

          Yeah, not having flat water listed as an option jumped out at me. It could easily be “of course it’ll be there, we don’t even need to mention it!” which would be good, but I’ve been to more than one event in my life where all of the beverage options were alcohol and sparkling water, and I left them feeling very thirsty and grumpy.

          (As an aside, is sparkling water like cilantro, where some people just taste… water, but with bubbles? And not the horrible sour taste? Because I’ve never been able to think of an excuse why people think it’s weird I don’t like it, unless they are literally tasting something different.)

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Or a third option on your side note: I personally can taste a difference but don’t think its a bad difference. I like that it has a little bite to it, especially complementing certain foods.

      3. Thegreatprevaricator*

        Yes! I don’t particularly like very sweet soft drinks and particularly in pubs they are the only option. I became that person ordering a decaff coffee. There is a limit to how much plain sparkling water or soda I can take. And variable low to no alcohol beer availability

      4. Princess Pumpkin Spice*

        I realize it isn’t a medical or religious issue, but the optics of drinking a mocktail while pregnant can be dicey, as well. I remember attending a wedding when I was 6 months pregnant. Obviously not drinking, I asked a bartender if he could give me ginger ale in a champagne flute, so that I could feel a little bit fancy (as an aside – it was a very luxe wedding with an impressive open bar so NOT drinking was a standout). I was given several disapproving looks and overheard some nasty comments. Eventually I started inserting into the conversation, “Oh, the bartender was great! He poured my ginger ale into a flute for me instead of a cup!”

        All this to say, if my choice is booze, fake booze, or water, I’d be grumpy, too.

    4. Smithy*

      I think that “performative morality” is a bit unfair. This organization has a position against all soda, but not all beverages with calories. This is no different than an organization having a position against serving alcohol due to a stance on wellness reasons, but then being ok with having Hawaiian Punch in a celebratory space.

      Both are not necessarily key pillars of macro nutrients in a diet, but there are also arguments to make for both that in moderation etc etc. It just depends on the stance of the organization and the consistency. Not the transitive nature that because of a position on soda that necessarily applies to all alcoholic or caloric beverages. Now if they were serving Four Loco…..

    5. Completely Marshmallow*

      Exactly though. It’s a community fundraiser, and the point is offering drinks to keep the donor money flowing and patrons happy.

      The organization is being short-sighted and selectively moralistic (offering alcohol but not soda, ignoring that drinking juice straight up is also a huge sugar hit thats bad for health) and if they offered a selection of sodas at their fundraiser, they will have patrons who dont drink booze who are happy to have something to drink, its not just Jane who will be appreciative.

      If serving beer at a fundraiser for one night doesn’t detract from their mission, I highly doubt serving soda and diet soda will.

      And juices and mocktails and sparkling water are all very well , but sparkling water is an acquired taste (I enjoy it, but I used to only think of club soda or sparkling water as something you mixed with juices) and all of the other mentioned drink options- boozy or otherwise- sound like they are sugary. The mocktails dont need to be “sweet” to have to much sugar for someone who prefers diet coke, or for that matter for someone who is diabetic.

      Through the lens of “if I was attending with a diabetic friend or relative “ (having been at parties or restaurants with diabetic friends and relatives and watched them navigate drink orders whether its to burn the sugar/carbs they can have that meal entirely on a fun drink or trying to not do so and find something to drink) , I would be side-eying this fundraiser and therefore this organization as caring about performative health rather than actual, and would assume that they only are supporting good health outcomes in people they think are sufficiently deserving.

      1. Over Analyst*

        Yeah the juice, mocktails, and alcohol being okay while soda is absolutely not is what gets me. I would have beer or wine at this event because I don’t have a problem with alcohol, but if I couldn’t drink for some reason I’d also be stuck. I don’t like drinking my calories (unless it’s the occasional alcoholic drink), and juice and most mocktails are calorie/sugar bombs and certainly not healthy. Fruit is healthy, but when you take away the fiber by juicing it you’re left with sugar.

    6. birb*

      Jane’s concerns are likely also performative – some churches believe mocktails are also a sin because they look like / normalize drinking. She also likely doesn’t want to be seen with anything that even looks like alcohol, and wants to be seen with a conspicuous soda so everyone knows she’s Absolutely Not Drinking. How would OTHER people know its a mocktail?

      Growing up evangelical this was a HUGE talking point, with lots of wild rules about avoiding the appearance of wrongdoing, and managing what other people “might think” with logic like “you can’t wear a strapless bra because it LOOKS like you’re not wearing a bra and others may sin if they think you’re not wearing underwear!”

      Still not a valid religious accommodation, even if the issue is “mocktails are also evil so I’m just left with sparkling water.”

      1. Hrodvitnir*

        Ohhh. You’re not going to see this, but I was so bemused by the idea of mocktails being an issue, so thank you!

        I personally think letting someone have diet coke in some sort of cup would be nice if they really feel strongly, but the religious accommodation angle is beyond ridiculous.

  3. Tasha*

    For #4, if the company is having internal discussions about possible layoffs that could affect you, they aren’t going to inform you even if you ask. Similarly, they have no expectation of an honest answer if they ask if you’re job searching.

    1. Also-ADHD*

      Yeah, and you could still speak to the overall issues the team has facing that led to the others to leave (likely at a different time) even while answering no. Saying no I’m not looking isn’t saying there was no reason two people left in quick succession and no problems exist to address.

    2. ferrina*

      This is a great parallel, and absolutely accurate. Until you are ready to leave, you aren’t obligated to say anything.

    3. OMG, Bees!*

      Yup. At the most I would say is “No, I am not planning on leaving, but there are some issues that need to be fixed, which I understand contributed to Jane and John leaving.” Since some companies/managers only seem to be concerned about fixing issues when a lot of people quit over it, and not before when they had the chance to make it right.

  4. Fiorinda*

    “beer, wine, several healthy mocktails, and sparkling water”

    LW1: I do get the argument against Diet Coke and other sugary/caffeinated fizzy drinks, given the focus of the event, but can’t the people who don’t drink alcohol at least have an option to choose a drink that tastes of something (other than fake alcohol)? Even if it’s just sparkling water with some lemon juice added – that’s healthy enough to pass muster – or something non-sugary and non-caffeinated that tastes a bit like Diet Coke for Jane? Just because we don’t drink alcohol doesn’t mean we dislike all flavour…

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yes the options of “alcohol or water” seemed less than ideal. I assume juice is also considered unhealthy, of course.

      1. Artemesia*

        professional mocktails usually have herbal mixers designed to have a similar profile to a regular cocktail

    2. Decidedly Me*

      Almost every mocktail I’ve ever had (and I’ve tried a lot from many different places) didn’t taste like fake alcohol. I can actuslly only think of one off the top of head that did.

  5. Pink Sprite*

    Re: # 2: Joan may think there aren’t people fetishizing her feet, but I guarantee they are.
    The companies she’s worked for are definitely advertising on social media and that’s where it happens. Most likely her name isn’t attached to the photos, but I do hope she realizes it is happening. It’s not her fault and, unless she stops modeling, unfortunately there’s nothing to be done about it.

    1. melissa*

      But people can get turned on by anything. Like, if I knew somebody was a model for a hair-dye company, I wouldn’t be thinking “Ew but don’t you know a lot of people fetishize redheads?” If her feet are cute and she can make money with modeling, good for her! The fact that some people might be (and definitely are, as you said) getting a charge out of it— who cares?

      1. Wendy Darling*

        Once in my youth I posted, amongst dozens of other photos I’d taken in photography classes, a photo that included bare feet on DeviantArt and it was, by an order of magnitude, the most popular thing I ever posted. It got a gazillion likes… exclusively from accounts that ONLY liked foot pics.

        Having it made so, so obvious that I had unwittingly landed my work in a bunch of people’s pornography collections really changed my opinion about allowing images of my feet anywhere in public. I know people will get turned on by anything but usually I’m not forced to confront that information personally.

        There’s just something about doing something you feel is totally innocent only to realize that people are interacting with it as a sex thing that…. ugh.

      2. Alice in Spreadsheetland*

        That’s true, but some things get fetishized way more than others (for example, feet and breasts) to the point where posting photos of exclusively that body part (especially around the office) is going to feel weird to people. Of course this doesn’t mean you can’t take/post these photos in your private life or wear flip flops at the beach (or breast feed in public) but it’s just so likely to be taken in the wrong context that it’s inadvisable at work in my opinion and something to be aware of if you’re in that line of modeling work. Maybe she knows and she’s fine with it, maybe she hasn’t thought of it and it would make her uncomfortable, or maybe she wouldn’t care but it is A Thing.

        And in the office at least I just find it off-putting generally. I’d be just as weirded out if my coworker had a bunch of photos of their knees or ear or armpits all over their desk even if I wouldn’t make the ‘fetish’ connection.

        It’s similar reasoning to why people suggest nowadays you don’t post photos of your baby in the bath/naked. For many people the knowledge of the extreme likelihood of that photo being ‘misused’ is enough to deter them from posting.

    2. dot*

      Nothing in this letter indicates that Joan may or may not be aware of that possibility and it’s not really relevant to the issue. She may be aware that that could be happening and be perfectly content with it.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      That’s not really relevant to the question of Joan hanging up her own pictures in her own office space.

      I still think they could ask her to take them down or at least take most of them down. But the question is about what people walking through the office will think Joan is doing with them, not what random strangers who come across the pictures online are doing with them.

  6. Dark Macadamia*

    LW2, somehow the weirdest part of this is that they’re her OWN feet??? Like, I have pictures of myself in my work space but there are other people in the pictures too and they’re candid snapshots of vacations and stuff. The feet aspect is odd for sure but it would be just as weird if she modeled makeup or hair products and had a bunch of professional photos of her own face!

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yes, aside from the fact that it’s about feet or whatever, essentially what she’s doing is showing off a side hustle. I would assume she was “advertising” and hoping to drum up business (for private feet pics in this case) based on what seems to be on offer…

      1. Susan Calvin*

        I mean, that’s not out of the question, but I honestly would assume that she’s just really passionate about a niche subject and proud of her accomplishments in the field. Like, I’m an enthusiastic amateur photographer with a small portfolio on shutterstock, and if any of my work ended up used in print you bet I’d have a cutout of that framed!

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I read it more as if she did community theater and had up some posters that featured her in Pirates of Penzance and Death of a Salesman.

      3. Sparkles McFadden*

        I think she’s just enthusiastic about her modeling career and she’s really proud that her photos made it to print. It’s similar to someone who hangs up their number from running a marathon, or photos from decades ago when someone won a boxing tournament.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I think it’s reasonable for her to have pride in her work! But it may be more appropriate to show off that pride in her home space rather than in the office for a different job.

    2. Madame Arcati*

      I am wondering if the feet are bare. Because bare feet would read a little more strange, but I would have thought that a large proportion of a foot model’s work would be modelling shoes and hosiery. I guess pedicures are an important field for the foot model though, maybe she is a specialist in the display of French tips or UV-cured gel polish. Or perhaps her niche is the “after” shot for the ointment or powder or plasters or scratchy tool, and is displaying soft smooth skin (Mary Pop-PINS, podiatrically perfect in every way!) with no athlete’s foot or corns or cracked heels.

    3. Chas*

      I didn’t think of it like that. My take on it was that Joan was just putting up cut-outs of any articles that that showed her picture, like you might want to do if your picture or something you did got shown in a newspaper. (Although I do wonder if Joan ever rotates out the old shots, or if her wall is getting more and more crowded with them all, long after you’d think the novelty of being featured in magazines would wear off. That would make it feel odd to me.)

    4. Darsynia*

      It feels like a form of (could be non pretentious, I don’t want to impugn) boasting? Like if someone did crochet sample work for a designer and had images up that had been in magazines? Personal experience; though I have access to the photos and could display, I don’t.

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        “It feels like a form of ……boasting?…..Personal experience; though I have access to the photos and could display, I don’t.”

        I think in the very technical definition, I guess maybe it is boasting. But I see it as more of being proud of their accomplishments/achievements. I would call it more just being proud of her work. I think just having the pictures up in their own cube/office is understandable, most people spend so much time there.

        To me boasting would be if she was going around shoving them in peoples faces, putting them up in common areas, or talking about it without being asked.

        To me it really is not different than people putting up articles they are featured in, articles that they wrote, or marathon finish times etc…

        I would say if you want to feel free to display your photos with out worrying it would come of as bragging/boasting.

        1. darsynia*

          Not sure how else I could have conveyed that, given that I said ‘could be non-pretentious, I don’t want to impugn.’ We’re saying the same thing, you’re just focusing on a perception of what I meant.

    5. Hiring Mgr*

      Well they’re her feet, but from modeling work. If any part of me was good looking enough to be a model, you better believe I’d be shouting it from the hooftops

      Also, wouldn’t it be weirder if it were photos of OTHER people’s feet?

    6. Nameless*

      Keeping a record of your modeling work? Reasonable! Keeping it at work? Weird! And it would be weird with other things too – like what if you were on a bowling or baseball team that didn’t have anything to do with your job and you kept those trophies & mementos at your desk? That would be weird! The one way I can see for a display like this to not be weird at work is if it in some way contributed to you being in your current role – ie, you’re higher up somewhere, and your time as an athlete/model/artist played a big part in directing your career.

  7. Artemesia*

    While I am old now and time has ravaged my feet and nails a bit, in my youth and even middle age I had unusually attractive feet — actually my best feature. So I am feeling a deep sense of a lost opportunity to have had a second footed career. And I too would love to know how best to pose my feet for photos. We have a whole year till next year’s holiday cards.

    1. John Smith*

      Funny, a while ago in a changing room of my local swimming pool I was accosted by a stranger who told me I had beautiful feet… I won’t go into detail as to the rest, but let’s just say he was arrested a few days later for public decency offenses (not involving me, I hasten to add). To this day, I have no idea what made my feet beautiful, but I certainly wouldn’t want to do with them what he wanted!

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Years and years ago, when I was in college in the pre-internet days, a friend (anthropology major, for context) was browsing the library stacks and came upon a book about sexual fetishes. She opened it up, and an envelope fell out. Inside were photos of feet and a note to the effect: “If you’re interested, call me at…” with a phone number.

        She slowly put the book back, looked around to see if anyone was watching, decided her library research was done for the day, and went back to her dorm.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      A few months back on Go Fug Yourself, another website with an active commentariat, there was a whole conversation about what’s your party trick? People listed all kinds of fun and quirky things they can do. Who knew that “Posing my feet attractively for photos” was one of those talents?

    3. Keymaster*

      Back before the scars I did some hand modelling in my early 20s and actually did work with a foot model. If I recall through the haze of time it’s things like:

      Pose the foot as through you’re wearing low/medium heels – so a upturn on the toes but not at stilleto levels and not flat.

      Matte finish is ideal and that often means powder (hand modelling is the same). No hard skin.

      Have a background that’s relevant. A fluffy rug conjures up the feel of nice softness, grass implies nature and freshness etc.

      Ankle tendons and foot tendons shouldn’t be overly visible but not invisible either. That’s why you don’t over stretch the foot.

      Have only the balls of feet touching the floor covering. It’s to give the impression of walking on air.

      Conclusion: wear a pair of wedges, take the shoes off without straightening your toes and notice the shape.

    4. Avery*

      This is weirdly relatable for me, though in my case it was the hands. A family friend used to say I could be a hand model. These days, not so much, but ah, what might have been…

  8. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    Who else immediately went to Zoolander? “I’m a hand model…we’re a different breed.”

    Also, I’d love to learn to be a foot model. I need income.

      1. OMG, Bees!*

        I don’t even watch Seinfeld and yet hand modeling reminds me of Constanza (I admit, I have seen that episode, even if I don’t perfectly remember it)

  9. Brain the Brian*

    FWIW, I think LW3 would also be on solid ground addressing the “promotion path” impacts for their employee of not informing them when working from a different location than usual. That sounds like a policy violation, which would definitely dampen enthusiasm to promote an employee. I know that wasn’t the LW’s question, but I thought it was worth mentioning in the comments.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      But the employee was there on a business trip (“Occasionally, they come to the city for work-related reasons that are not directly connected to our department.”) – the company, even if not this manager, must know that the employee was working away from their usual location, since it’s a business trip! For the company! This policy is really about if you decide to work from Florida or whatever for a few weeks visiting family.

      Honestly I think it says more about how (not) connected OP is to the employee’s work, rather than about her promotion prospects.

      1. GythaOgden*

        It still clearly falls within that remit though. The spirit of the law may be one thing, but if the letter is that you tell people, then you tell them. It’s not that onerous just to drop someone an email ahead of time.

        Besides, OP is this person’s boss, which makes it reasonable that they know what they’re actually doing all day in general.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          I understand what you mean about the spirit of the policy, but I don’t think it would occur to me to notify the company that I would be working from a different location, if they already knew that because they were sending me on a business trip… probably it didn’t occur to them (employee) that a business trip falls under this policy either.

          I agree that it’s reasonable for OP to know what her employee is up to (broadly). That’s one of the things that seem off about this, because clearly she doesn’t, and I think that’s an organisational issue. OP can require being notified of these things but more broadly, the job seems set up in such a way that the employee works on things their manager isn’t involved in, and this seems (from what I can tell) to be the official setup, rather than “side of the desk” work.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Yeah I agree the policy violation sounds like a really minor thing, very understandable for the employee to assume they didn’t need to notify work about a work trip the way they need to for personal travel. It’s an “FYI, please do this differently next time” conversation not a “My trust in you has been damaged” conversation.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              Even if LW3’s trust has not been damaged by a minor policy violation, higher-ups who are constantly looking for a reason to cut labor costs may use the policy violation to deny a promotion. Hence my thought to have it in a conversation about “promotion tips.”

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Adding to this after I thought about it some more – I almost get the sense the manager (OP) is resentful that the employee has their own work life that the manager doesn’t know about (trips unrelated to the department, etc). I suppose they (employee) work cross-functionally on things that are managed by others and the manager isn’t part of that. There’s a lot of language about control in the letter (OP makes decisions about their review, they are supposed to notify OP (not “the company”) if they go out of town etc). Perhaps unconsciously OP feels she doesn’t have as much control over the employee’s work as she would like and now there’s something concrete (they were supposed to notify me and didn’t) to hang it on.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          That’s an interesting point — not one I necessarily considered, but also not one with which I disagree. I’m also an employee who works on a ton of projects that fall under managers other than my direct supervisor, so my own manager doesn’t always know what my day-to-day is. In my case, though, my manager is simply too busy to require that I tell her anything but the bare bones — the opposite of someone who would be resentful if she didn’t know a business trip schedule — so perhaps I just wasn’t thinking about that aspect in the LW’s question.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I’m the same. I get more face time with almost every other member of management in my area. (Personally, I’m cool with that, as I neither like nor trust my own manager and am currently job searching.)

        2. bamcheeks*

          I’m not sure I’d go as far as “resentful”, but I definitely think it’s a “my employee isn’t doing the things I expected them to do even though I didn’t make that explicit!” It’s possible that LW has had a “if your plans change and it turns out you’re staying for a whole week, please email me to confirm that, don’t just assume that saying “I’ll be in Chicago first week of Feb, probably a couple of days” and updating your Outlook calendar is good enough”, but it feels like there’s a LOT of scope for genuine mis-alignment there without either person actively being in the wrong. I think it’s probably a sign to LW that they need to look at this management relationship as a whole and really think about whether the employee is doing anything wrong, whether their expectations are reasonable, and whether they’ve made them completely clear. If you’re managing someone and you think, “you should just know this because ~~business norms~~”, then it’s always worth looking first of all at what you’ve made explicit.

        3. Also-ADHD*

          I couldn’t put my finger on what seemed off to me in the letter, but maybe it’s this. I’m not quite clear why, but LW doesn’t seem to like their employee much (with no real reason given). I think it’s really odd that it was suggested as a policy violation that they stayed longer at the company headquarters and worked, longer than planned. There must be some context missing but I can’t think what, or why the boss is so off put the employee hasn’t set up meetings just to have face time (which would be a faux pas on my team/group and most of my company, and which LW isn’t requesting directly —but maybe they are more the culture at LW’s org?).

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I agree. I definitely get an adversarial relationship feeling out of the letter.

            This might sound weird, but I would bet the employee is either especially incompetent or especially competent. If it’s the first, this is just a long line of missteps by the employee (and I don’t think it’s that big a deal, but it might be in that organization). If it’s the second, the manager feels threatened by the employee and is trying to find ways to Assert Authority.

            1. B*

              The latter also would explain the vague sense of suspicion/alarm I detect in the letter–this employee is going around meeting with other people at HQ, and may even be more in the loop about certain things than the manager.

          2. londonedit*

            For me, I think it was the line about assuming the employee would want to meet the person who’s responsible for their promotions and pay rises. It makes it sound like the OP thinks the employee should be turning up to doff their cap at the boss every now and then like some sort of Dickensian clerk. The OP also sounds quite rigid about rules and regulations – why does this employee have to notify them whenever they’re working somewhere different? Seems like quite a level of oversight to me. I also can’t work out whether the OP is this person’s direct line manager or a higher-up boss. If it was my direct boss, I may well check whether they wanted to meet if I was going to be in their town, but someone two or three levels up? Probably not – I’d assume they were busy, and if they didn’t have much to do with my everyday working life then I wouldn’t necessarily see the value in trying to make time to see them. It sounds mainly to me like the OP is annoyed because they weren’t aware of all of their employee’s comings and goings, and I wonder why that is.

            1. Cmdrshprd*

              “why does this employee have to notify them whenever they’re working somewhere different?”

              This is a pretty common policy with remote/hybrid jobs just to make sure an employee isn’t creating a legal liability on the company by working too much time in a different area, or do to data security issues.

              Our hybrid policy is to allow us to work from “home” (as in actually our home/house) for data security issues/legal issues we have to notify our managers if we want to work from somewhere else. Working from a different home in the same state no problem my manager can approve it, but if I wanted to work from home in a different state it would need to get approved by a higher level.

              Working in a different state could mean different rules/regulations apply, could create a legal requirement to pay payroll taxes in that state, unemployment, etc….

              In this situation I do think it would be understandable to not think to notify your manager about working in a different location that is the actual main office, when it is a work trip.

              1. AngryOctopus*

                Yeah, that struck me too. The employee would likely notify LW were they working from a ski lodge in CO for two weeks, but working from the main office of the company wouldn’t ping “need to notify boss” at all.

        4. Baunilha*

          That was my reading as well. OP seems too invested in the fact that the employee didn’t ask to meet, when is not clear that the employee knows they should (or even could) do that.
          And something about the line “If I only got to see the person making decisions about my promotions and salary increases four times a year in-person, I would want to take advantage of any opportunity I had to interact with them” rubbed me the wrong way. Like, is the OP (even if unawarely) basing the promotions on who has more face time with them? Or are they unwilling to promote this employee now especifically because they didn’t ask to meet?

          I don’t mean to be unkind, but it’s worth thinking about why this bothered you so much, OP. Also, let the employee know what you expect them to do in the future, since they may not be aware of both the administrative purposes and the impact on promotions of not notifying you.

      3. Maleficent2026*

        I’m glad I’m not the only person who wouldn’t even have thought to ask for a face to face meeting with my boss! Also, it’s not clear to me whether LW actually works in the office or if LW is remote as well; it just says LW and the company headquarters are located in the same city. If LW is remote as well, I could see that it might be more difficult to schedule a face to face meeting. Address the policy violation, definitely, but don’t punish the employee for what sounds like just an issue of preference.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah, I think this is in the same ballpark as considering it rude when there’s no thank you note; lots of us didn’t grow up with the secret handbook to Looking Like you Belong and Getting Promoted. Even though I’ve been in professional settings for years, on some level I am still getting over a strange working class hump of not wanting to bother higher ups unless it is in their interest. If your employee asked for promotion tips, for the love of sanity, just give the tips directly.

      1. bamcheeks*

        yeah, I grew up middle-class and work in the same industry as my parents, and I also don’t think “take opportunities to get facetime with the boss” is nearly as universal a “business norm” as LW seems to think. It may be in their industry, of course. But generally I think it has to be judiciously balanced against, “don’t waste other people’s (or your own) time with pointless meetings”.

        I’ve had bosses I would actively seek a meeting with if I was in the same place because I came out of those meetings feeling good: I knew they’d take an interest in my ideas, ask useful questions that made me improve my projects or plans, give me good advice, help me problem solve and so on. I’ve had bosses where I wouldn’t seek those meetings because they didn’t give me anything, and I wouldn’t consider that a failing on *my* part!

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        YES. With the increse in remote work people might not realize that some managers still consider face time important. If the employee has always been remote, they might not see the value in having a meeting with their boss while in town, just because they are in town.

        You have to tell them. Don’t expect well everyone knows this is important.

      3. Jaydee*

        I also wouldn’t think to set up a meeting with my boss just because I was in town unless I had a reason for needing to meet with them. Unless my schedule was super-packed, I would probably make it a point to stop by their office and say hi, but I would want to be conscious of their time and not take up more of it than actually necessary.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          There is the distinct possibility here that the employee’s schedule is indeed packed, they might have tons of stuff to get through during that week and even a quick meeting with their supervisor might be hard to fit in.

          1. Jaydee*

            Yeah, I wondered about that. Especially if a trip that was supposed to be two days became a whole week, that to me signals that there was 2.5x more work that needed to be done than the employee anticipated and they were probably busy the whole time.

    3. Mockingjay*

      I work remotely and make regular trips to the area of the home office, which is also where our government customer is located. My meetings are 95% with the customer. Trips are supposed to be 1 or 2 days, but I always plan for 3 or 4 because extra meetings and site work are usually added. I don’t always get time to pop into the home office. I’m doing work – a lot of work. I file detailed weekly reports describing exactly what I’m doing and keep in touch on the Teams chat. Most trips are very full (start early, work late) and I can’t stop by or by the last day, I’m too tired.

      All that is to say, OP3 should look at the employee’s productivity. Are they doing what they are supposed to be doing? Are they meeting milestones? Getting stuff done? If so, great! If OP3 needs more visibility on work, try regular check-ins or ask for summary reports. Schedule a recurring call/chat.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Great points. The LW doesn’t include much detail about what their company does, so it’s really hard to gauge whether this is the case — but if it is, it’s important to keep in mind.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yeah. I would just mention “I heard you were in town, it would have been nice if you could have dropped in to say hello. We don’t get to see each other very often, so please do drop in whenever you come!”

  10. Heidi*

    For Letter 3, a person who is performing well in an almost completely remote job might not place as much value on meeting someone in person. It might be useful for the OP to articulate the reasons that they want to meet in person sometimes. Even if the answer isn’t practical (some of my colleagues don’t think online meetings feel “real,” for instance), it would be a kindness to explain that to an employee who cannot intuit that information and whose career prospects might depend on knowing it.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, I agree on this. I think it’s a bit unfair of LW to look askance at a report whose performance they otherwise seem happy with if they’ve never said something like “I value seeing my team in person occasionally, so I want you to schedule a meeting with me whenever you’re in town. I’ll let you know if I’m too busy to see you.”

      1. Fikly*

        It’s still amazing to me how many letters from managers can be summed up as “I want my report to do X, they do not do X, I have never told them to do X, how do I get them to do X?”

        And the answer, of course, is to start by telling them to do X! When did telepathy become a job requirement? You have to tell people what you want in order to give them the opportunity to do it.

      2. Gumby*

        And the LW should also clarify in their mind what the purpose of these meetings are because they didn’t write “have an in-person one-on-one” they said “meet for coffee” which sounds quite social and is the type of thing I’d do for an informational interview or the like where the inviter would be expected to pay. It could be a company culture thing but I have never once gone out for coffee with any of my managers. Or even sat in the break room having company-provided coffee/tea/whatever with a manager as a work-related activity.

    2. Awkwardness*

      It might be useful for the OP to articulate the reasons that they want to meet in person sometimes.

      This is such a good point.
      Meeting other people is always a two-way-street and it seems as if the relationship between OP and their employee is quite distant. I think managers might gloss over this fact most of the time, but in a situation as described when the employee clearly shows that they are not especially eager on meeting their manager in person, it becomes more relevant.

      Of course their employee might have had other reasons too (afraid of small talk, not feeling well, afraid to bother their manager etc.) But I have a feeling that OPs attitude might have a part in this.
      Do you actually want to meet your employee or do they have to show up because an employee has to show up?

      1. Poison I.V. drip*

        OP didn’t articulate a clear reason, other than some hand waving about raises and stuff, for why they wanted an occasional face to face meeting. Frankly, that meeting (or coffee or whatever) sounds like a waste of everyone’s time. Maybe they have a good reason, but as AAM said, they need to make their expectations clear instead of nursing hurt over a perceived slight.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          It sounds like a waste of time for you. Many people find value simply by meeting in person because it’s easier for them to form and grow a relationship. Just because you’re not one of those people, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that there’s anything wrong with it. And, the same as you’re assuming that the other side doesn’t exist, so did OP, so now it good that OP knows that if that’s their preference, they need to make it known.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          I agree. I work and live in a different city than my boss. Sometimes she flies out to work at our location and *she* schedules a team meeting so we can all hammer out some strategic planning or engage in team building or the like. She does not put the onus on us to schedule “face time” and I’m glad, because I don’t personally find it valuable to chit chat for no business-related reason.

          Conversely, I find work trips exhausting. I will occasionally go to a dinner with a coworker, boss, or client while on one, but I generally use my evenings to recover from the exhaustion of having to be “on” all day and to start getting things prepared for the next day. I’m an introvert and I am not at my best when I don’t have sufficient alone time to recharge.

          If my boss insisted on adding a coffee meeting to my schedule every time I had a work trip, I would attend but I’d be frustrated that I don’t have that time to do my actual work + have some quiet. If she got mad at me for not intuiting on my own that she wanted me to schedule them, I’d be reconsidering whether I could continue working for her because we have a major misalignment both in expectations and, more importantly, in communication. If you want me to do something I’m not doing, say that. Use your words. I’m not a wizard or clairvoyant.

        3. Goldie*

          I think their letter shows that they are trying to gain a better understanding not just nursing a hurt.

          1. Lana Kane*

            Agreed. I think it’s pretty clear from the letter that this is something they are trying to understand, not holding a grudge.

  11. nnn*

    I think part of the root of the problem in #1 is that they’re framing it as banning pop.

    What they’re actually doing in reality is not providing pop. Much like, I’d imagine, they’re not providing most of the foods and beverages that exist – both in office break rooms and at catered fundraisers, the selection of food and drink available is always limited.

    I suspect the “ban” language is there for performative reasons – “Look how healthy we are!” – but what it’s actually doing is creating a situation where people feel the need to push back. If there just quietly wasn’t any pop, I suspect they wouldn’t notice, or they’d be like “Meh, there’s nothing good to drink here”

    1. allathian*

      They aren’t even banning it in actual fact, because the employee brings in several cans /bottles to work every day and it doesn’t look like anyone’s objecting to it.

      In Jane’s shoes, I’d probably bring in a couple Diet Cokes even if I had to pay for them myself, and quietly start looking for a new job. I admit that I’d be a very poor fit for a company that’s this insistent on policing the healthy choices of its employees.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        I work in a place that supplies a bunch of different snack-type foods, and none of them is candy. Sometimes I really want some chocolate! But here, all I can get is nuts, dried fruit, that kind of thing. I do not think that the company is policing my choices; I do think that the company is making decisions of what they want to spend their money on. I can bring any dang thing to work that I like, but I don’t want to go to the trouble. And those super-thin slices of dried mango are really good.

    2. Joron Twiner*

      I agree, the framing of this is all wrong.

      I drink several cups of rooibos tea a day, and I’ve never seen a formal event provide rooibos tea. That is fine, I can temporarily drink something else, like Jane. The religious accommodation thing is nonsense.

      What this framing does is pit soda against alcohol (see top comment), and make the org look performative. If they’re OK with unhealthy drinks at events, then could they just provide soda? (People drink rum and coke after all.) If it’s not in the budget/catering plan to provide additional beverages, then sorry, they won’t be provided and you can drink something else as you like.

      1. Dek*

        Yeah, I think that’s what’s rubbing me the wrong way. The hard stance against providing soda for health reasons, but providing alcoholic and sugary drinks just feels…irritating. It conveys a sense of moral judgment, and I’m not surprised that someone who drinks a LOT of soda (what is it with diet coke drinkers. My aunt can go through it at an alarming rate. My little cousin has learned to tell when she’s over by just seeing a diet coke can) feels a little salty about it, and maybe is quick to jump on some hypocrisy to feel better.

        I don’t like the company’s framing.

        But it’s still not a religious accommodation.

        1. Ms. Murchison*

          Mocktail recipes have evolved. There’s a good chance a health-focused company hired a skilled mixologist and isn’t serving “sugary drinks.”

          1. Dek*

            I mean, there’s still alcohol, which was more what stood out to me. If they have an issue providing soda because it’s not healthy, alcohol is also unhealthy.

            I’m not saying she’s right. Just that I get why she’s annoyed.

          2. Joron Twiner*

            That would make it even WEIRDER! Investing in a skilled mixologist to mix healthy non-alcoholic drinks makes the org look really devoted to the “healthy” options, but they are still providing non-healthy alcohol for some reason (to please donors). Could they not throw in some soda for that same reason?

            Or… they could just drop the “healthy vs not healthy” framing and say “we’re providing XYZ and we hope you like it”.

            1. edda ed*

              The decision to bar soda was likely also made with pleasing donors in mind, so I don’t think they’re going to “throw in some soda” for that. Whether that’s the right or wrong move business-wise, we can’t tell just from a third-hand retelling on the internet, and it’s not really the matter at hand, since it’s about appearances for donors, not the working conditions for Jane. Also, there’s a note at the top of these comments to not (further) argue down this path due to irrelevance.

      2. sparkle emoji*

        Yes, you mentioned rum and coke and there are a number of other cocktails and mocktails that would normally include some kind of soda. If soda is being used as a mixer, then I don’t see why there can’t be a few cans set aside for Jane. If soda isn’t being used as a mixer, I think it’s fine not to provide Jane’s Diet Coke. I will say that even in that case I think the ban is a little silly and performative if alcohol is fine but diet soda is not.

  12. Guliver*

    Re:#1, I’ll bet a case of diet coke that the people setting the policy enjoy their alcohol too much to ban it.

    1. allathian*

      Nah, this is a fundraising event. They’ve probably realized that people are more willing to donate if they have a drink or two.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Agreed. And for anyone who doesn’t know – the entire point of serving alcohol at fundraising events is to get rich people drunk (or at least merry) enough to give you their money. So this is far more likely to be related to the needs of the organisation to raise money (and therefore to donor wishes/preferences) than it is to the opinions of the staff.

        I should also note that at every fundraising gala I have ever worked, staff were not allowed to drink alcohol during the event, for obvious reasons.

        1. MsM*

          On the other hand, I’d be surprised if they don’t have at least one or two big ticket donors who will be unhappy about there being no soda. (Admittedly not nearly as many as would complain about no alcohol, but…)

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Yeah, people are going to complain whatever drinks you serve. (And if you only served filtered tap water, they would complain about that, too!) But I imagine the folks planning this event are well aware of this and have factored it into their messaging.

      2. Two Fish*

        Yes, there’s a difference between offering celebratory/generous beverages to their potential donors vs providing snacks day-to-day to employees.

    2. cabbagepants*

      This seems like an unnecessary ad hominem attack on the event organizers. It’s extremely common to provide free alcohol at fundraisers. Alcohol is considered festive/celebratory in many cultures around the world, and it has a know effect on inhibition that can be desirable when asking others for money.

    3. Mockingjay*

      Companies make all kinds of decisions that, on first appearance, don’t make sense. For an org involved in fundraising, you might have to compromise a bit on your principles to obtain donations. Not all donors are altruistic people giving because it’s the ‘right thing to do’ or because they believe in the org’s mission. Some will donate for visibility, tax write-offs, etc. OP1’s company has to court the latter category as well as the first.

      Jane is looking at it from her perspective: wanting her preference to drink. The org is considering the needs of the many. (For my personal perspective, I don’t drink alcohol or soda. Which means at most corporate and industry events I’m stuck with bar tonic water, weak iced tea or iced water. I’m not asking my company to provide something just for me. It’s not the end of the world to drink water at one meal.)

  13. Andy*

    I don’t think I have ever been so intrigued by the two teasers in a AAM 5-for-5 article title before.

    1. Mina*

      I 10000% will be sending this to my DC loving friend. About time someone recognized its importance.

      1. Dek*

        Seriously, what is it about diet coke that makes it practically an identity, lol. My aunt is the same way!

        …then again, I have a friend who was like that about Mountain Dew. He recently moved abroad to teach and found out it’s banned in his new home!

        1. Mina*

          I don’t really think it’s that serious (ie. a lot of us lean into the joke), but there’s a higher caffeine content than in regular coke, so that may be part of it.

          But also, the misinformation that surrounds diet soda has made me more vocally supportive of it. (As evidenced by the fact that this workplace bans it for being unhealthy but is serving alcohol & presumably sugary mocktails. Absolutely wild!) Like if you ask me if I’m concerned about aspartame as I’m drinking a diet coke, you will get a rant back at you, and that probably makes me look like a crazy person who is addicted to diet coke. While I do enjoy it, I also go long periods of time without drinking any.

  14. Rainy*

    I think if Joan from L#2’s boss just had her add a handwritten note under her nameplate on her workspace that said “…and foot model!” it would basically answer all the questions, and I would 100% find that absolutely hilarious if I walked past a foot-covered workspace and saw that the occupant had a professional interest.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      ^ This really is a perfect solution. It explains the foot photos, and lands as a bit of very mild humor, like having a funny cartoon.

  15. Free Meerkats*

    As an ordained minister in the United Church of Bacon, I have never even suggested to an employer that they provide me pork products. The employer is doing a big pile of performative morality with the public ban that isn’t, so long as the employee brings their own. Then serving something to their donors that has killed more people than diet soda has, by many orders of magnitude.
    Jane is being a tool here as well.

    1. Jessica*

      How can I find a church near me, preferably one with a breakfast bar? I might like to convert to your faith.

  16. Punk*

    LW1: Does it matter to Jane that her beverage bottles and cans are sealed at events where there might be some cross contamination? Are the mocktail ingredients certified in accordance with common religious dietary needs? You should probably have something in single-serve bottles or cans besides plain water regardless of Jane’s specific request.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I was thinking this, because a lot of premix mocktail flavourings would spark off my gluten intolerance and my partner’s IBS wouldn’t be very happy with fruit-heavy drinks. But I am having to squint to make that one look like sense, because in that situation I would just bring my own pre-packaged drinks. Or, I would just say “Oh I can’t have mocktails – is there going to be seltzer water, that I could just have some lemon in?” Insisting on a particular drink is what is making this read as strange.

      1. Punk*

        I think that coming to the discussion with a safe suggestion in mind is easier than a back and forth about brands, ingredients, certifications, and whether the club soda dispenser nozzle might come into contact with alcohol.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          The “contact with alcohol” is a very good point that I hadn’t considered. How easy is it to get a mocktail mixed up with a cocktail? How easy to contaminate the glass etc? A branded and sealed drink is definitely a safer bet on that score. But yeah, the requirement for a safe option should be brought to the discussion.

          1. Yellow sports car*

            My experience is that mocktails often contain alcohol (there’s several mixers that are alcoholic used in small enough quantities you can legally sell to children once mixed, but the mixer bottle is restricted sales). And if they are also mixing cocktails – cross contamination is really high risk. For many mocktails drinkers – this is a complete non-issue as they just don’t want much alcohol but are fine with some. For some it lands to losing their license if they need to be zero BAL and get randomly tested!

            I don’t drink mocktails. It’s not a religious thing (my religion is big on consuming alcohol) and while I drink very very little alcohol I’m not alcohol free. But I completely understand why someone who is genuinely opposed to alcohol consumption doesn’t want anything close.

            It’s difficult to understand how someone can be so repulsed or opposed to something that you consider normal. But imagine your server saying – oh I rinsed the spoon off after mixing up the puréed kittens/puppies/babbies/vegemite (choose whatever completely repulses you as an option) it’ll be fine! Oh it just looks like you’re eating kittens (etc) but it’s fake – you should be fine with that! Mocktails really aren’t the inclusive option some people think they are for those opposed to alcohol.

  17. Probably best to be anon for this*

    Re. OP1

    Does the employee have standing to demand diet soda at work functions? As a religious accommodation or other? I agree with AAM that no, there is probably no *obligation* to do so, but I can’t say I reject the idea of “diet soda as religious accommodation” for being any more silly/unreasonable than any other religious accommodation. If we allow employees to request accommodations because of strong personal values and beliefs then this is absolutely in scope. That said I absolutely agree this is not currently reflected in law and so there is no legal obligation for the organisation to accommodate this.

    It’s no more inconsistent with their health mission than other hypocrisies already disclosed as present in their work functions. That said – it’s not that diet soda is banned; it is tolerated if the employee BYO. Jane should continue to BYO to work functions as she does in the workplace. I do feel for Joan in that the workplace is purchasing some drinks, just not the drinks she wants. But the organisation is not purchasing alcohol for the workplace either (so far as we are told) and so this is in fact consistent treatment.

    TL;DR I don’t see this as any different to a religious workplace allowing some sincerely held beliefs but not others that aren’t also legally protected categories, as this is not. In Joan’s shoes I’d be irritated… and looking for another job.

    1. Kella*

      It’s not that the diet coke request is silly. According to Joan, the reason for the religious accommodation is to have non-alcoholic beverages available to her. But there will already be sparkling water and mocktails, so this need has already been filled. Unless there is a specific reason that necessitates diet coke for Joan that OP doesn’t know about, supplying diet coke specifically is not necessary in order to accommodate her religion.

    2. Chriama*

      I think the specifics of this request are silly and unreasonable. Access to nonalcoholic beverages is a reasonable request, and the company seems to have already been meeting that. Insistence on Diet Coke as a *religious accommodation* is the difference between “I can’t work on the Sabbath” and “I will only work Monday-Friday from 10am-3pm”. One of them is a sincerely held religious belief and the other is insisting that their *preference* is the only way be accommodated.

      Diet Coke is not the only nonalcoholic drink in existence, which is why Jane insisting on it as a religious accommodation is unreasonable.

    3. doreen*

      “If we allow employees to request accommodations because of strong personal values and beliefs then this is absolutely in scope.” Not really – because whether it’s religious or medical accommodation, what the person is entitled to is an accommodation, not their preferred accommodation. If my religious practice can be accommodated by leaving at 4 pm on a particular day of the week , I don’t necessarily get to choose whether I can make up that hour at another time or whether I must either take PTO or lose an hour of pay. If my physical condition can be accommodated by assigning me to work on the first floor, I can’t demand that an elevator be installed in a two story building. And if my religion doesn’t allow me to drink alcohol, having mocktails and sparkling water will accommodate my needs – I’m not entitled to insist on Diet Coke unless my religious belief requires me to drink Diet Coke.

    4. Critical Rolls*

      The reason this is ridiculous is because it is hugely unlikely that the practice of Jane’s religion specifically requires the consumption of Diet Coke. The planned beverage offerings already include nonalcoholic and decaffeinated options, which covers most religious restrictions. Religious accommodations are for things that are actually required by the adherent’s religious practices, not their specific preferences.

      I said in another comment, telling Jane to bring and consume a beverage her org has said cannot be at this event is *very bad advice.* And I think the idea of quitting a job over having to drink a non-preferred beverage at a single event is disproportionate at best.

  18. Carrot*

    OP1 – I don’t agree Jane specifically needs diet coke providing, but I will say the idea of drinking “mocktails” does make me a bit uneasy because of the name alone – it still sounds like I’m engaging in alcohol culture (even though they aren’t, and I think they’re generally a good option – there’s only so much soda you can take).

    If they’re listed like that on communications, it’s worth considering the name might be putting some folks off (vs listing idk, “fruit juice” which feels a lot more neutral and ‘safer’).

    1. Throwaway Account*

      I’m really curious about this take, I think saying mocktail implies not alcohol more than anything else. The current phrase is Zero Proof. Does that give folks who see mocktail as ersatz drinking culture feel the same about Zero Proof?

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        To me, the name “mocktail” implies a way to participate in the drinking culture even though you can’t/don’t drink. I don’t personally have any issue with it since my reasons for not drinking don’t involve any objection to drinking, but I would see the point of having mocktails rather than soft drinks as being related to the significance of alcohol in our society and sort of an implication that people should at least pretend they are partaking, so if the religion has an objection to the drinking culture, I could imagine them seeing mocktails as playing into that.

        I’m not familiar with zero proof, but I would see things like non-alcoholic Guinness as being the same idea.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I just read mocktails as more festive or denoting of a special occasion–some effort was made to produce an interesting or fun drink that does not have alcohol. You’re joining in the festive atmosphere of having something you don’t get all the time at home.

          I almost never drink alcohol and have been really pleased that more and more nice restaurants have some interesting options–some have been hits (flavored hops) and some misses (too sweet). I also almost never drink soda–and if I do it’s probably a local company and unusual flavor–and at this point if I go to a nicer restaurant and the options are alcohol and Coke products I’m surprised, in a negative way.

          1. Artemesia*

            I have a friend who is an alcoholic and when we go out with her and her husband and are drinking those $20 cocktails and she has seltzer, it seems just unfair. I have noticed that many bars now offer mocktails that involve complex herbal mixers and multiple ingredients to be interesting drinks. when we do Moscow mules at home, I make her a drink with lime and non alcoholic ginger beer. Not drinking should not mean, you have to drink water.

          2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

            I don’t drink because of medications I take, but also I was never a big drinker so dropping that from my life was not a hardship. I also judge a restaurant by what they can serve me that isn’t beer, wine, etc, and I am beyond irritated when my expensive dinner can’t be accompanied by an expensive beverage. I know that restaurants make more money on alcohol than on food, and I’m happy to pay them for something special! Standard brand-name soda is not special (also too sweet but that’s another story).

      2. bamcheeks*

        I think of cocktails as “how to drink alcohol without feeling like you’re drinking alcohol”, so the idea that mocktails are also “how to not drink alcohol whilst feeling like you’re drinking alcohol” is breaking my brain.

      3. Carrot*

        Glad to hear the range of perspectives from other non-drinkers in the replies!

        For me, I guess the clearest and most neutral labelling would just be [drink name] (non-alcoholic) or [drink name] (alcohol-free). Imo that’s clear, not cutesy, not listing all the ingredients (though ideally these would be accessible if needed). I would probably have previously avoided zero proof, not understanding what that meant (maybe it’s less common phrasing here).

        I’m personally a fan of interesting non-alcoholic drinks (strawberry & black pepper is my fav, second to elderflower cordial), and my intention is definitely not to be the fun drink police/shut out/patronise folks – I’m really sorry if that’s how it came across to anyone. I’d just hoped to share my own perspective.

        On reflection – I think the way EA frames the issue below makes the most sense anyway, which sidesteps a lot of this debate.

        1. edda ed*

          If it’s the names that are putting you off, that’s its own matter itself! Similar to how it was mentioned that mocktails invoke festivity, your preference of [name] [non/alcoholic] may seem too cold for the intended effect. Additionally, it’s funny that you brought up elderflower cordial as an interesting non-alcoholic drink, because my first gut reaction to that was “But cordial is alcoholic?!??” Elderflower isn’t a common flavor where I am, so I had to look it up because cordial as non-alcoholic definitely wasn’t obvious to me.

          1. Artemesia*

            Cordial is a British name for what would be koolaid or similar flavor additives to make drinks for kids. IN the US cordials are alcoholic drinks; in the UK, they are flavorings for water.

            1. wendelenn*

              On Prince Edward Island in the mid-1800s, cordials are alcoholic too–Just ask Anne of Green Gables and Diana Barry. :)

            2. Carrot*

              Both interesting and good to know! Perhaps it sounding too cold to some folks might also depend on region too. I’m learning :)

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Mocktails and fruit juice aren’t the same thing. And where I am mocktails are seen as a way to drink less, or no, alcohol while having something less sweet and less associated with childhood than plain juice. Sometimes they’ll have zero-proof spirits, but in my experience they usually don’t.

      1. Wings*

        I drink very little alcohol (and I’m admittedly from Europe) but to me fruit juices are breakfast drinks and I never liked sodas even us a kid (the carbon gives me hiccups) so I always applaud the option of mocktails. The idea is that someone actually put some effort to make a drink that tastes somewhat interesting and isn’t all sugar/sweetener/children’s birthday parties with the dreaded carbon in it. I’m a bit of foodie myself so taste is the primary appeal to me and not that I’d be partaking in any kind of alcohol culture. And I’ve had the most memorable mocktails in fine dining restaurants where they might be based on house-made kombucha or whatever, usually anything but zero-proof spirits. My secondary option is ginger ale (non-alcoholic version The Famous Five style and also not sweet) but with similar logic that could be considered “partaking in alcohol culture” too?

      2. Pizza Rat*

        Quite true.

        The zero-proof spirits are becoming more popular. “Dry bars” are opening up in my city that serve all kinds of zero-proof drinks and no booze at all. Stores that sell things like Jamaican sorrel (a hibiscus-based drink that is absolutely wonderful) and fake liquor are opening too.

    3. tinybutfierce*

      Obivously there’s not one answer to this and people will feel differently based on their own experiences, but for me as someone who’s eight years sober due to a past of alcohol abuse, I’d be fine with “mocktails”; trying to find some other cutesy way to describe them, or breaking what’s obviously intended to be a mocktail into like a list of ingredients would just feel to me like it’s calling more attention to it being alcohol-free and A Thing than just calling it a mocktail would. I get that it feels associated with alcohol culture, because well, it is, but it’s also a casual term than most people get just means “fancy drink with no booze”.

    4. Chriama*

      I think mocktails are less like fruit juice and more like mixed drinks or punch. I also find it interesting that it sounds like drinking culture to you — I find it’s a way to clearly delineate from alcoholic drinks. No one chugs a keg of mocktails, or gets wasted on them, or has to get their stomach pumped for bingeing on them… I think on the menu it would be fine to say there’s a selection of alcoholic and nonalcoholic drink options, but it would be weird (and a bit limiting) to say there’s cocktails and fruit juice. I don’t think people would read that and think “mocktails”.

    5. AngryOctopus*

      I think when you say “mocktail” it means ‘we are serving a non-alcoholic beverage which has multiple ingredients and flavors’, which is distinct from fruit juice.

    6. Two Fish*

      Nonalcoholic drinks at bars have in recent years progressed from the kind of fake-daiquiri mocktails older generations might be familiar with from Red Robin, to very sophisticated and delicately flavored botanical drinks are that exist to be delicious and interesting in their own right, rather than to be the ingredients of a cocktail just without the alcohol. So I think it’s entirely possible that the mocktails they are serving are better than people are assuming.

      That said, it seems a little puritanical to be uncomfortable with fruit juice and herbs just because the name given to them is a play on a name given to alcoholic beverages. If you have a religious objection to drinking alcohol, it’s the alcohol that’s banned, not for example the shape of the drinking glass. If you’re drinking water out of a martini glass, you wouldn’t be participating in alcohol culture anymore than drinking a mocktail/NA cocktail would be. It’s a little bit like vegetarian’s being uncomfortable with veggie burgers because the idea of a burger is associated with meat. It’s a little irrational.

      1. Two Fish*

        (Maybe I mean more prudish than I mean puritanical. Basically, it seems more concerned with appearing reflexively overly proper to others than with the substance of whether between you and God you know you’re doing what’s right.)

        1. Carrot*

          Not to go too far off topic, but to me the equivalence here would be more akin to feeling uncomfortable at a phrase like “mock meat fillet”. You’re welcome to theorize – but ultimately I was just trying to provide a perspective I hadn’t seen commented already.

  19. EA*

    I think the people saying no soda is “performative” is kind of funny- it’s a fundraising event, of course it’s a little performative. The idea is to get people to donate to a cause, and whether or not AAM commenters agree, there’s a business interest to how these events are catered. The soda vs alcohol thing obscures the real issue with OP1 – this is a fundraiser and the employee is not a “guest”/client; presumably, Jane will be there to work the event. I don’t see why the org would need to change the menu of a fundraising event for one employee working at the event, since the menu is specifically designed for donors. I wonder what Jane’s role is at the event and organization.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, I admit that I wonder, too. Employees working a fundraising event are generally not allowed to drink alcohol even if it’s provided for guests/donors.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Not the case where I work. We are encouraged to drink (in moderation) at fundraising events. It helps encourage donors to drink, and then they make larger donations. :)

        1. allathian*

          It would be interesting to know more about which rules apply in the LW’s company.

          Granted, they’re only providing a maximum of two drinks, most adults who aren’t extremely petite and who drink in moderation somewhat regularly won’t be impaired by a couple of glasses drunk over a few hours.

          I’m not in the US and I haven’t attended any fundraising events either as an employee or as a donor.

          1. MsM*

            It varies a lot. At my current workplace, if you’re working registration or some other station where you potentially need to be problem-solving for guests, you’re supposed to stick to water or other primarily hydrating beverages. If you’re on the party floor schmoozing, it’s fine to have a glass of wine in hand (although it’ll probably stay the same glass for most of the night).

            1. oh geez*

              This was way it was when I worked in cultural heritage institution. Curators were allowed (encouraged?) to have a glass in hand with an air of casual merriment, although it typically remained mostly full for the entire night so that we were sharp to swoop in and prevent a more imbibed guest from leaning on a display case if need be.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes. I’m in the UK and here and in most of the European countries I’ve been to smoking indoors in restaurants, clubs and venues is banned, full stop. I’ve been to a couple of events when on business in Rome that were at places with an outdoor patio that allowed smoking but indoors was banned.

            But anything that is being organised in the UK for patrons would be, by default, no smoking inside. That’s why the last formal dinner I went to for work, had a group of people outside smoking that you had to walk through to enter the venue.

            A few non EU countries still have smoking in restaurants. I know I was quite shocked in Podgorica by this and the only restaurant I could find with a non-smoking room was TGI Fridays.

  20. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    I mean, it starts with diet cola, but before long they’ll be demanding organic vegan yogurt, kombucha, dried figs, etc…..

    1. Throwaway Account*

      I’m guessing cheap ass rolls will also be off the menu as they are clearly not a healthy choice!

  21. münchner kindl*

    LW 3 – employee not meeting the boss when in town: Alison already gives some good possible explanations: they thought you, the boss, are busy and didn’t want to interrupt; it didn’t occur to them to need additional meeting on top of the regularly scheduled ones – which is what I, as non-remote employee would think.

    If the boss is good, the work load is manageable, nothing problematic has come up, why would I need extra face time with the boss, who has their own busy schedule and workload to finish?

    In addition, if employee travelled to city for work for a week, wouldn’t they be busy with the work for the whole week, so no free time to meet with the boss, just 8 hours of finishing teapot painting?
    And they may not want to spend their lunch time meeting with the boss because that’s not relaxing as a break should, that’s more work and stress for them.

    If it’s about optics, I would wonder whether additional meetings with boss, especially if it’s lunch meetings, wouldn’t look like brown-nosing instead.

    1. ferrina*

      I’m mostly remote. I don’t schedule meetings with my boss when I visit. I will happily meet with them if we have a project to discuss, and of course I’ll say hi in the office, but I don’t schedule an additional meeting just to say “hi I’m in the office.”

  22. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, I don’t think the company is obliged to provide diet coke just because her religion forbids alcohol, but I do think it might be a good idea or at least, a kind one, to provide something other than water that isn’t related to alcohol. Mocktails may not be alcoholic, but given that her objection is religious, it is possible that she may also be uncomfortable with something that is sort of imitating alcohol (or she may not; it depends on the nature of her religion’s objections and how she interprets that religion).

    But I could well imagine people who either have religious reasons for avoiding alcohol or who have trauma related to alcohol not being 100% comfortable with mocktails either. I have relatives who are alcoholics and their child was at the age of 10, drinking the fake wine out of toy wine glasses because that was her idea of what relaxing meant. I could well imagine that child growing up and having negative memories around things like mocktails.

    I don’t think the company is obliged to provide soda if it is against their mission, but perhaps they could provide something like juice or smoothies. It would probably be more inclusive (though I might be biased here as I don’t know if there is anything I could drink there as I don’t drink alcohol and I dislike sparkling water, so it depends on whether or not the mocktails include anything I would like) and I think it might also be more in line with the mission because providing more non-alcohol related options is very much improving access to healthier choices.

    But “you must provide the drink of my choice since my religion prohibit alcohol” seems rather demanding.

    1. Chriama*

      I don’t think I’ve ever had a mocktail (other than a Shirley Temple — does that count?) but aren’t they made of juice? I assume the drinks are all made to order, not premixed and handed out, so wouldn’t you be able to just get juice? I don’t drink alcohol so my drink of choice is cranberry juice plus ginger ale or sprite at work events. I would assume there’s other kinds of juice behind the bar though I’ve never thought to ask for them.

      1. Jackalope*

        Yeah, every time I’ve been at an event with drink tickets and I’ve asked for a nonalcoholic drink I’ve been able to get either plain fruit juice or fruit juice mixed with a sparkling beverage (Sprite or sparkling water, usually).

      2. Dinwar*

        Depends on the mocktail. Some are made of juice, but they often include other ingredients like various vegetables (cucumber, peppers, and such), sparkling water, club soda, bitters, and other stuff. (Bitters are made from alcohol, but the dose is a few drops–they’re powerful flavors, you don’t want more than that–and the amount of alcohol is less than your body generates from eating a slice of bread.) They can get surprisingly complicated.

        That said, you’re right about the juice. A LOT of cocktails include various fruit juices. My wife and I have gone out to eat with the kids to places that have bars attached (like seafood places on the beach, for example) and have explained to the servers that anywhere that serves fruity alcoholic drinks necessarily has fruit juices that the kids can drink.

        1. doreen*

          Depends what you mean exactly by fruit juices – lots of bars use prepared mixes so that they make their pina coladas by adding rum to a prepared mix of pineapple juice and cream of coconut. Or they make a paloma by adding tequila to a premade mix of grapefruit juice, lime juice and agave syrup. So you could get a mocktail/virgin drink but not a glass of just pineapple or grapefruit juice.

      3. theagonyaunt*

        Depends on the drink; I’ve had mocktails that are essentially fruity cocktails minus the booze (e.g. tequila sunrise sans tequila – so OJ and grenadine) and I’ve had mocktails that are doing their best to mimic cocktails without alcohol (up to and including using non-alcoholic gin and vodka). The last time I went to an event where they had ‘healthy mocktails’ as the alternative to the wine and beer on offer, I admittedly was a bit annoyed that as a non-drinker it was those or water, because all the mocktails either involved kombucha or herbal bitters, neither of which I particularly like.

  23. Keymaster*

    2: Context and expectations are key here. I’m not quite talking optics but almost if that makes sense.

    If this were an agency that specialises in advertising featuring skin products then clients would probably expect this. But it’s an outlier.

    A more generic advertising agency with a broader range should show off various types of work but with no special focus on one. Which the foot desk would kinda disapprove. Think of it as submitting a portfolio to a prospective client who wants to see a range of what the agency can do. If you have a large section filled with feet it’s going to give them an unbalanced view.

    A ‘let’s show more of a variation for our clients’ could work.

    (I did have to tell a few people here to take down some of their toys off their desks because while IT can be quirky and a certain amount of Lego is allowed it’s not great to have customers come in and see a playschool. We’re quirky and a bit odd but we’re still professionals)

  24. Elsa*

    About the diet coke, I think Jane has religious accommodations all wrong. Religious accommodation means not making work stand in the way of an employee fulfilling their religious obligations. For example, workplaces should give the day off for a religious holiday or give a break during the workday for prayer times that fall during work hours, since without those accommodations, the religious employee won’t be able to observe their holiday or to pray at the right time.

    But food or drinks served at a couple hour long event shouldn’t really have to accommodate anyone, since the religious person can just observe their religion by not eating or drinking those foods. I keep strictly kosher and while it’s nice when a work event orders kosher food for me, just telling me “there won’t be kosher food so make sure to eat beforehand” allows me to observe my religion just fine.

    1. StarTrek Nutcase*

      I have attended dozens of catered events where it was alcohol, bottled water, coke, and rarely also diet coke. I dislike alcohol and can’t tolerate caffeine, so it’s always water. As a guest, I might be slightly irritated – that water isn’t in a glass. As an employee, I just want liquid hydration & time to guzzle. And Jane is acting entitled. Her work isn’t even that restrictive because she can bring her own into the office. And at the event, there’s water. Surely, she’s not claiming she can ONLY ever drink diet coke.

      1. AnonORama*

        Also, unless she’s never worked an event before, she must know that it’s generally not a huge deal to bring something for yourself. I’ve worked a ton of nonprofit events like this, and always have my own sources of snacks and caffeine because I know I won’t get near the catered dinner or the bar (even for a water). Put it in the back of the venue and have a swig when you get a short break, or even slide it under the table if you’re tabling — the branded tablecloth will cover it, and when you’re not registering attendees or whatever, take a sip!

  25. Bookworm*

    I was also curious to know what religion would somehow involve Diet Coke (I understand the prohibitions on alcohol, the issues with caffeine, etc.) but this a new one. Perhaps if it’s a health-oriented org, maybe broadening the offerings (fruit juices, bottled unsweetened/sweet teas, protein shakes, etc.) might help? Because if alcohol is going to be allowed…:/

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      I didn’t think the religion involved diet coke, especially as the LW says that Jane can drink the non-alcoholic options. I got the impression the religion just banned alcohol (and perhaps that Jane was also uncomfortable with the mocktails as those are made to imitate alcohol) and that therefore Jane thought she should get an exemption from the rules as she was left with so little that she could drink.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        But Jane can drink water. It’s not that complicated. It’s not like it’s a 6 day event where they’re forbidding her to drink her soda. She can go without diet coke for a few hours.

  26. DJ Abbott*

    Re #1, back in the 90’s I worked as an admin and temp. It was commonly believed that Diet Coke was addictive, and there were managers and executives who required a certain number of cans for meetings. I remember one visiting executive who specified 6 cans for a day long meeting.
    This kind of attachment might explain Jane’s attitude.

  27. Honestly, some people’s children!*

    #1 serves alcohol at fundraisers because the people attending who have funds expect a glass of so-so wine or a beer. It’s like the beverage equivalent of cake at an open house. “At least there’s cake!” (I worked for years in local government where at least there’s cake. And ice water. We couldn’t always even make a pot of coffee for a meeting.) I’m betting if they ever even think of it this way, beer and wine are what seem to come up in the context of “healthy” alcohol. So a glass of wine might be good for your heart.

    1. Throwaway Account*

      I love that we are so regional in the US that some things don’t translate well.

      I’ve never seen cake at an open house and now I want to know more. What kind of open house routinely has cake? What kind of government office has open houses? What are open houses if not events for selling houses? What kind of cake (sheet cake, round, tiers, flavors) and where does it come from (proper bakery, grocery store bakery, homemade)? My fairly wealthy city cannot afford food for events, and if donors provide money, cake is almost never on the menu!

      Please tell me more!

      1. Gray Lady*

        An open house has more than one meaning. One is that a house that is open for tours because it is for sale.

        Another is an informal party or something like a client meet and greet in a business in which guests are expected to come and go during the stated hours of the party, staying at most for an hour or so, circulating and leaving, rather than coming near the beginning and staying until near the end.. I think this is the use intended here.

      2. doreen*

        There are at least three definitions for open house. There’s the real estate one , where you can view a house between specified hours without an appointment. There’s the one where an institution ( school, government office) is open to visitors during certain hours – maybe it’s for prospective students or for the families of the people the government agency serves. And the last, which is a type of party that people drop in and out of during specified hours which usually does not require an RSVP. ( One might have an an open house for a child’s graduation where friends are stopping by each other’s parties.) What they have in common is that it’s during specified hours and doesn’t normally require pre-arrangement.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          We went to the third type last month, and my spouse–who has been on Earth for some decades–had never heard of this and thought they were only for real estate.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            My guess is Gray Lady and doreen assumed you were only familiar with the real estate types of open houses (which typically do not have cake), and in some regions of the country cake is expected at the other two types of open houses (school/government office and parties in private homes).

            I’m reading in between the lines quite a bit here because “cake at open houses” (even the school/government office open houses and party in a private home open houses) isn’t a thing in my region of the US. I am also curious to know more about which region(s) this is common in, and what types of cake a usually served!

        2. Throwaway Account*

          As I said above, where does the “there is always cake at an open house” come from? I’ve never understood cake to be de regueur at an open house.

          1. Throwaway Account*

            Ugh, first the system would not allow me to paste the same message, then it did but I had already changed it. I also lost two messages this week as I hit submit.

            1. doreen*

              Mine have a habit of showing up hours later, sometimes after I think it didn’t go through and posted it again.

              Anyway , I assumed “always cake at open houses” was a little but of an exaggeration. In my experience, except for the real estate sort, there’s almost always some type of food and drink at the other types. Might not be cake – might be donuts or mini-sandwiches or cookies or fruit but almost always something.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      I once went to an open house which turned out to (somewhat informally) be the “Realtor’s Open House” where it was mostly local agents learning about the house for future showings. We got free Panera lunch and free branded bottles of hand sanitizer. And they encouraged us to take more Panera for the road. Best open house ever (house was OK but the layout was a bit cramped, so my friend did not come back with her husband to see it).

      1. trust me I'm a PhD*

        Oh man, I’m not in the market for a house at all (sadly too poor) but apparently I need to start going to more open houses if they’re giving out Panera lol.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Our trick was apparently “go to the Friday lunchtime open house”. Aside from the free food, it was also full of agents who were telling my friend all about the house (I was there to say things like “I know you love the floors, but there are multiple holes in the roof and the sink is leaking” if needed.).

  28. Hiring Mgr*

    For this one event, could Jane just bring her own Diet coke? Just leave a bottle behind the bar if they don’t want anyone to see what it is,

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think that would be akin to Jane brining along her own tray of pigs in a blanket because she doesn’t enjoy the “on brand” menu for the event. Eat your tray of pigs in the blanket before you arrive, and have a diet coke chaser after the event.

      1. Nomic*

        Interesting example because if Pigs-in-blanket were the only thing being served, it would obviously not be Kosher or Halal. That would be a prime example of where an employee might need a religious accommodation, or to bring their own food to eat instead.

        Others have pointed out that it is unclear whether drinking diet coke was the accommodation, or not drinking liquor. The latter makes Jane much more sympathetic. Either way I’m not a fan of the mixed messaging of ‘no soda ever’, but ‘occasional beer/liquor fine’ from the company itself. For that reason alone I tend to side with Jane, even if she is being ridiculous about a religious need for soda.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        It would be akin to Jane bringing her pigs in a blanket to an event promoting vegetarian food. It might be the one thing she regularly eats, but it goes against the spirit of the event.

  29. Fiachra*

    Should just tell them that another employee adheres to the Pepsi religion. Can’t risk sectarianism in the office.

  30. Also-ADHD*

    For the remote job, I don’t understand why seeing someone in person and promotions have somehow become related in that person’s mind if the company is dedicated to remote work. If it’s not, that’s different, and I know there’s a big division happening. But I can’t imagine my career being bolstered more by seeing my boss in person more, I guess. (And I’d definitely feel like I was bothering her if I set up extra or inconvenient —making her leave her home — meetings in person just to set them up because I was in the area, though I don’t mind seeing folks at offsite events.) I really wish promotions would be based off of merit and measurable outcomes, and at some companies I feel like that’s exactly what remote first principles are helping create, as we learn to set clearer outcomes and measure better rather than just guess at what value people add (guessing almost always benefits already privileged groups).

  31. tinybutfierce*

    #1 hit a particular nerve for me as someone who no longer drinks thanks to a past of alcohol abuse and has had to make a polite fuss at seeeveral work and community events that provide tons of free alcoholic drinks, but nothing booze-free but water. The employee mentioned is just being an ass, they’ll survive for a few hours without their soda.

  32. Ashley*

    So this might be awful advice for LW #4, I wonder if you could do something like “While I’m certainly open to new opportunities, I’m not actively looking.” I know sometimes managers awkwardly take it personally if you leave, especially if you expressly told them you’re not looking to leave, so I wonder if there’s some way to avoid saying an outright “no” without it sounding like a sneaky “yes” to help avoid some of the weird feelings.

    1. Ashley*

      To be clear, meant my advice might be awful to avoid outright no, not the official advice being awful. -facepalm-

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I think those managers tend to react poorly whether you’ve told them you’re not looking or not, so it’s probably not worth saying anything.

    3. Chriama*

      I think if the intention is to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation when you leave, all you’re doing is moving up the timeline. Bosses that ask “are you planning to leave” instead of looking to address root issues will resent anything other than a firm no.
      – What new opportunities are you open to?
      – What have you heard/Who have you been talking to?
      – blah blah the grass isn’t always greener / I’m going to badmouth [other company]
      – Why are you so disloyal?
      – We can totally give you those opportunities here (whether or not that’s a lie or results in you just doing 2 jobs for the price of 1).

      Those are the kinds of reactions you’re likely to get from a boss that looks to stop people from leaving rather than entice them to stay. If the boss is asking that question so that they can make an offer to entice people to stay then they should just go ahead and do it, not check to see if they *need* to make that offer.

      1. Fribble*

        In my experience the kind of boss who resents people leaving and takes it personally is also the kind of boss who doesn’t understand the kind of subtle distinction that you’re suggesting.

        Like others I also doubt that LW’s boss was seriously asking. If they were truly concerned and a good manager, they’d be checking in with staff individually, having real conversations about how things are going, and- most importantly- making changes to ensure staff are engaged and happy.

    4. Sneaky Squirrel*

      My awful advice that LW should probably not use is to say “If I was looking for a new job, I wouldn’t share it with the company”. I’ve said that to my manager before but we have a good relationship. The company doesn’t need to know of my plans until I’m ready to share.

    5. I Have RBF*

      My response to “Are you looking for another job, too?” would probably be “Not currently.”

      Because even if I’m not actively looking, if the perfect job dropped in my lap I would try for it. Even when I’m working at a place I enjoy I will peruse the job openings at various places just to keep my finger on the pulse of what skills are being sought.

  33. Jersey Girl*

    I live in an area with a large Orthodox Jewish population. Coke products are considered Kosher. Having Coke products at general events can make it easier for folks to consume something at an event where there is likely to be no other easy options. I’m not saying this is what’s going on with Jane, but the fact that it’s a Coke product stuck out to me.

    1. RavCS*

      Coke products are not “considered kosher,” they are certified kosher. (As are Pepsi, LaCroix, Dr. Brown, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, Canada Dry, and many others.) That said, Kashrut is complicated and some people would want to see the bottle if it is anything other than regular or diet. (And during Passover there are added restrictions so, for example, regular Coke is not kosher for Passover but Coke with yellow caps are. Regular Coke has corn syrup, the Coke with yellow caps is made with sugar.)

      1. Baby Yoda*

        “regular Coke is not kosher for Passover but Coke with yellow caps are. Regular Coke has corn syrup, the Coke with yellow caps is made with sugar.”

        That is so interesting! And good to know, since corn syrup (HFCS) has been proven to be worse for you than regular sugar.

        1. metadata minion*

          No — depending on your tradition, corn is in a category of grain-adjacent things along with rice and beans, which are forbidden during Passover. Not all Jews follow that particular rule, but it’s very common.

          1. Coffee Protein Drink*

            Today I learned beans are not eaten on Passover. I knew about grain and grain-adjacent things like corn. Thank you!

        2. Silver Robin*

          Ready for some real nitty gritty bits of kashrut?

          During Pesach, we cannot have things that leaven. How do we know what leavens? Well, when you mix flour and water together, it leavens.* So, we have to be careful with stuff that expands when soaked in water. Ashkenazi Jews decided that corn, beans, and rice act too similarly to wheat and should be avoided out of caution. Sephardi Jews decided otherwise and eat those things during Pesach. Most Jews in the US are Ashkenazi, so will not consume stuff that has beans, corn, and rice in it, including regular Coke. But! Mexican Coke, (aka traditional, sugar Coke), is fine. Which is why you might see an uptick in yellow-cap Coke around April.

          Younger generations of Ashkenazi Jews (in the US, in my experience) find corn/bean/rice a non-issue and will adopt the Sephardi ruling for this. But that depends a lot on your particular stream.

          *Yes, the leavening is actually happening from wild yeast in the air, but folks did not always know that.

            1. Silver Robin*

              fermentation and leavening are separate processes this case; we do not drink beer (or whiskey, or wheat vodka, etc) during Pesach but we sure do drink wine!

    2. doreen*

      If Jane wanted soda to in single serve cans or bottles , that might be the issue. But there’s no indication that Jane cares whether it’s from a soda gun or a large bottle or an individual can although it seems she does care that it’s Diet Coke rather than sparkling water , which also comes in cans/bottles and is often kosher .

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yeah, I think it would have gone over better if the employee had asked for an *option* that met their religious and dietary needs rather than asking specifically for Diet Coke. As in,

      “Can we have a non-alcoholic kosher beverage option besides just water?” sounds like a reasonable request.

      “I need Diet Coke provided to me at work events; it’s a religious accommodation,” is a different story.

  34. I should really pick a name*

    It’s also useful to keep in mind that there’s a difference between “X is smart to do for your career” and “it’s a problem if someone doesn’t do X.”

    I think my list of the five answers to Ask a Manager letters just got increased to six.

  35. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Multiple things are true here. First, Jane is being kind of a jerk. No, no religion anywhere requires a Diet Coke accommodation. Many people don’t drink alcohol for religious reasons, and many also don’t drink caffeine for religious reasons. The second is clearly not where Jane is, and by saying it’s a religious accommodation makes Jane look wildly out of step with the workplace and frankly, religion. Second, the organization is being a jerk. This is a fundraiser, and clearly the goal is to get people to donate money. It’s nice to have beer and wine, as many donors will likely drink that. But there are also likely many donors who would like a coke or a Diet Coke. It’s not a big jump to think someone might want that at an event. Third, I cringe at “fancy mocktails.” Unless they’re really being crafted with syrups or shrubs or other ingredients really meant for “mocktails,” you’re going to get a bunch of donors standing around with Shirley Temples. I definitely appreciate that OP is trying (or their caterer is or whatever), but these are probably not going to be much fancier than a Diet Coke anyway. I say this as someone who both loves well-made non alcoholic cocktails, and as someone who ran events for a nonprofit and had to struggle with that line between boozy and fancy and not coming across as hokey.

    I think the answer is to get some Diet Coke for the event and also to tell Jane to cut out her accommodation talk.

    1. JustaTech*

      Except that this nonprofit has made “no soda” (of all kinds) part of their mission, so serving soda at a donor event doesn’t really make sense.
      It’s like if a non-profit supporting local small businesses bought all their fundraising swag off Ali Express or something.

      (They’re probably also not going to be serving a Shirley Temple specifically since that’s made with Sprite/7-Up.)

  36. HonorBox*

    I’m a huge fan of Diet Coke. Love the stuff. That said, Jane’s supervisor needs to remind her of a couple of things: The organization’s mission is most important and there are indeed other non-alcoholic options that will be provided. It is not an undue hardship to refrain from drinking Diet Coke for a bit of time. Also, the fact that the organization is anti-soda and she’s still able to bring in her own is something she should really think about. If she pushes too hard on this one instance, the consequence could be that she’s not allowed to bring in her own to the office.

    Also, not to be too much of a rules guy, but beyond the mission, it might also be as simple as the venue is a Pepsi venue. That happens. Contracts must be followed or the venue could lose money, too.

    1. AnonORama*

      As a practical matter, if she wants Diet Coke, she can bring some and drink it when she has a break. As far as I can tell, she’s asking for this as an accommodation because she wants Diet Coke for herself, not because she thinks other people have this religious need. Honestly, even if they served Diet Coke she’s unlikely to get near the bar when she’s working the event, unless she’s a high-level person schmoozing the high-level donors. Just put it in your bag, Jane!

  37. JTP*

    RE #3

    I guess I have to assume that I will never be promoted. What #3 is complaining about would NEVER have occurred to me. I’ve been with my company for 6+ years, in the same role. I’ve asked about advancement, and never got an answer (after asking, company went through layoffs, then my boss went out on parental leave). I’ve learned that there’s so much about office politics that I just don’t know, or don’t get.

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      It rubs me the wrong way how much LW talks about promotions & salary increases here like whether having coffee with the boss while in town is what’s going to sway them. Also, I would probably have thought to tell my manager that I would be in town but I wouldn’t have necessarily gone out of my way to propose meeting up.

      1. Czhorat*

        Yeah, I think it’s possible that LW3 took genuinely reasonable office politics advice (try to make and maintain a good relationship with your boss, get facetime when you can) and turned it into an expectation.

        You ARE right that it *shouldn’t* matter, but in many cases it *does* – even if subconsciously.

        If the LW’s supervisee had written then I’d suggest they do try to schedule a meeting, even if it does feel like a bit of a power play for the supervisor to *expect* a meeting.

      2. Cmdrshprd*

        “whether having coffee with the boss while in town is what’s going to sway them.”

        Maybe not in a Jenny had coffee with me 2 time, while Jane had coffee with me 8 times she gets the promotion way. But generally I will say that if you create a develop a good relationship with your boss they will be more likley to go to bat for you, and/or think of you for promotions first. Like if Jenny and Jane are both about equal employees in most ways, who does boss have a better relationship with could make an impact.

        Like it or not relationships do matter. Personally I give baseline respect and good work to all my coworkers, but I am definitely going to be more likely to do a favor, maybe work a little hard for the coworkers that I like more, get along with better than ones that I have a basic relationship with. I think bosses/managers probably feel similar.

  38. Jessica Clubber Lang*

    I don’t know if this is practical, but depending on Jane’s role, and her relationship with the attendees, if she can get one of the big donors to request Diet Coke I’m sure the rules would be bent.

    1. JustaTech*

      But if the non-profit is big on “no soda” why would a donor do that?
      Like, the donor doesn’t have to be no-soda in their own life, but it would be weird to ask for soda at a no-soda group’s event, just like it would be weird to ask for BBQ at a vegetarian event.

  39. Lilo*

    I have a sibling who was definitely a diet coke addict for a while there, but calling it a religion is something else.

  40. Juicebox Hero*

    The feet o’plenty letter brought back a memory of one customer I had. He was an older man who came in to pay a bill, and kept staring at my feet before saying he liked my pedicure and my sandals (Alegria brand.) He immediately apologized and explained that he was a podiatrist and after all these years he can’t stop himself from checking out people’s feet.

    I guess people in foot-centric occupations really do spend their lives looking down.

    1. The OG Sleepless*

      Ha! That’s kind of funny.

      “kept staring at my feet”

      (Choose your next words very carefully, sir.)

      “explained that he was a podiatrist”

      (OK. Whew. You get a pass. But in all kindness, I think I’m wearing closed toed shoes the next time I have to see you.)

  41. Dinwar*

    I’m going to disagree with Alyson on #2. I think you should lean into it a bit.

    If this was something overtly offensive or sexual, yes, that doesn’t belong in the office. But this is a model, who has pictures from her modeling side-gig on her desk. That’s hardly in the same boat. Think of it this way: If you had someone who was a preacher working for you, would you be inclined to tell them to take down pictures of their church?

    I also firmly believe that this tendency to smack down eccentricities is one of the reasons why working in an office is so often viewed as soul-crushing. Humans are nearly infinitely variable (within certain parameters), which is why we’re so successful, ecologically speaking. While an office environment necessarily must constrain that to some extent, once it’s taken to the point of suppressing individual expression it becomes damaging, not only to the individuals in question but to the organization. If I see someone reprimanded (and it absolutely will come off as that) for sharing their hobby, I’m certainly going to keep quiet about my life! In contrast, if you play it up as “That’s what she does in her spare time, ask her about it if you get a chance, she’s got some really fun insights” you’ll probably be surprised how many people are open to discussing it. I was frankly astonished at how many other people collect bones, for example–I do it professionally (technically it’s a comparison collection, as much a part of my equipment as a hammer is for a carpenter), but a surprising number of people collect them as a hobby. In this case you may have to suppress some creeps, but I think most people would be far more interested in the “model” part than the “foot” part.

  42. Pretty as a Princess*

    LW#3, you are reading way too much in to this. I am someone who manages a team with remote staff in at least 5 locations other than my own, and staff in another primary office of ours.

    If you want your remote staff to make a point of trying to meet up with you when they are in town for other business, share that with your team. Do not single out this one person. Share with your team that you enjoy the opportunity to meet up with them on those occasions where other business brings them in to town and that if they are coming to town, please reach out and you will do your best to adjust your schedule to make time to catch up.

    I frequently have staff visit our “home office” from other locations and often when they are here on other business, it is full on days with a client for a project they are matrixed on to. I get a heads up via status reports that they will be in town, and folks will try to pop by my office if their schedule and mine permits it, but most people *don’t* try to schedule a coffee or something because of the nature of the business day unless we have talked about it in advance. In your case, it sounds like they weren’t even in the office, but just in the same city. In that case, I’d suspect all the more that they didn’t want to try to burden you with logistics of trying to pull off a gathering outside the office.

    Don’t assume that someone just “doesn’t know the norms” – they may well have thought oh well LW is a super busy person and I see them for our regular quarterlies and don’t want to bug them. The onus is on you to set clear expectations and tell them that you enjoy meeting with people whenever they are in town and request they make an attempt to do so. And you should set this expectation with your entire team.

    As to the change in travel, stuff happens. And if this is the first time that there has been something like this, send a reminder to folks that you do need to be made aware of changes to travel plans because of the expectations on your position. If this employee has not otherwise made a habit of disregarding stated expectations, allow them a mulligan.

    1. J*

      It’s been a couple years since I traveled for business but often in a city I’d find I’d need to stay an extra day if I wanted to be at the home office versus just meet with clients. I often flew in with no transport so I’d stay where the client was, I’d meet all day and I might be able to do an evening meal or drinks but I also might be exhausted or need to prep for the next day’s meetings or a flight.

      These days I’m a remote employee and the only one in my city. I’ve had 3 coworkers come to town and none met with me but also they were all on strict timelines and the best we maybe could have made happen was me driving them somewhere, but that would take time out of my day that none wanted to ask for and they didn’t want to be weird and propose it. Maybe next time, or maybe not.

  43. Czhorat*

    The answer to “are you looking for another job” is always “No, of course not” until the day you sign an offer letter for another job.

    There’s no benefit to you for doing so, and a risk of getting less consideration for better assignments, promotions, raises, anything else positive. You also never know how long a search for a new job would last – especially if your current situation is tenable.

    If you think you’d be better off elsewhere feel free to look, and then give appropriate notice once you have a landing place.

  44. Czhorat*

    I think LW 1 is a perfect example of the difference between battles worth fighting and hills on which you’d rather not die.

    As others have said, there are so many reasons to NOT fight this:

    1) it’s just one day/event.
    2) there are other non-alcoholic options available
    3) The optics of serving soda go against the company’s mission.

    I’d argue that even for those who think that the *actuality* of soda isn’t worse than, say, beer it doesn’t matter; the optics matter, and they see beer, wine, and mocktails as *culturally* different than soda. Whether this is right or wrong, they have their mission and the vision they need to portray.

    If part of the cost of this is one employee not getting her favorite beverage for an event that’s one they’d find worth paying.

  45. Kristin*

    I feel like the right answer to your manager asking if you’re looking for another job is to narrow your eyes and say “No…should I be?” in a suspicious tone of voice. Honestly, if my manager asked me this, I would think my job was in jeopardy and WOULD start looking.

    1. Pita Chips*


      With a couple of people leaving close together, as a manager I’d want to find out what I could do to keep the person, not put them on the defensive.

    2. Polly Hedron*

      “No…should I be?” is brilliant but I would widen my eyes and use a tone of shocked innocence.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, if the place was starting to be a dumpster fire I might add that, especially as a way of cluing my boss in that asking that type of thing is possibly a bad move in the grand scheme of things.

  46. Spooky Spiders*

    I will say that in sock knitting, posing your foot like Barbie seems very popular! Both feet belonging to actual people, and designers who use a mannequin foot/leg. I assume because it shows off multiple areas of the pattern at once.

    Example link to follow!

  47. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    Let her have her Diet Coke but ask her to drink it from a glass so the company isn’t advertising Coke at its event.

    1. JustaTech*

      I once went to an event that was supposed to be dry where one attendee put red wine in a pint glass so that it looked like cola, so I guess you could put cola in a wine glass and it wouldn’t be instantly obvious (except the bubbles).

  48. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #3 – Address the issue of not knowing where the employee is working from the administrative standpoint because they did not correctly notify you of the days outside of their regular work location. However, it sounds like your feelings about the employee not meeting with you are personal. You seem awfully focused on the power structure here of you being their boss and having the ability to control their pay/promotions. I hope you do not base your promotion & salary thoughts on whether staff tried to be chummy with you or not and who makes the biggest effort to be your friend. There may be plenty of reasons why the employee didn’t meet with you – they were here for another department, after all. Perhaps their schedule was loaded with that team. Or maybe they didn’t want to disturb your time. Or maybe they genuinely just didn’t want to go through a meeting with their boss. You can suggest the employee meet next time they’re in town for coffee or lunch, but do not penalize them for not being more personal with you.

  49. Ho-ho-holey hose*

    I have to say that organizations who use bans on sods (or other foods) as part of their promotion of health always rub me the run way. Absolutely provide access to fresh foods and vegetables, fitness activities etc., but the bans often come with moralizing and feels icky. Especially if they are focusing on marginalized communities, because it feels like its forcing already moralized people to meet certain made up standards to ‘deserve’ access to support.

    That being said, I don’t see the LW taking that tact at all, and Jane’s request is off-base. If she really wanted to raise it as an issue, she should have raised it based on principles (ie why is beer healthier than diet coke etc.) rather than claiming a fake religious exemption.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      A ban would be if the org didn’t allow soda to be brought in to the office or event; this isn’t a ban because although they won’t provide it themselves, they allow employees to bring in their own, as Jane does

    2. Drowning in Spreadsheets*

      I used to work for a health department. The rules around what was allowed for catering were ridiculous. Yes, there was plenty of fresh fruit & vegetables available, but there were also things like tubs of sugar-loaded yogurt and muffins that, while tiny, were more like cupcakes. And of course nothing prevents a person from having more than one tiny thing.

      1. Angstrom*

        Yup. The amount of sugar in flavored yogurt and oil in muffins can be…impressive. And the “yogurt chips” in snack mixes are mostly oil and sugar.

  50. Czhorat*

    I feel conflicted on LW#3. On one hand, I totally agree that arranging a meeting is the smart thing; it’s a low-cost way to increase your political capital. On the other hand, expecting the employee to arrange it and being irked when they don’t feels a bit like expecting a higher degree of deference than is healthy.

    Also, if the supervisor wants a meeting – or to as a matter of course meet with their direct reports when in the same town – then they should *ask*. This feels like a situation in which two people have different expectations (the report is fine with electronic communication, the supervisor wants face-to-face when possible) and nobody is communicating them.

  51. Jake*

    LW3, I would worry if you are basing your promotion decisions on how pally people are with you when they are traveling, rather than on the quality of their current work and their suitability to the new work.

  52. el l*

    OP3: I have the same arrangement as your employee – I travel to company HQ quarterly. While I do see my boss pretty much every trip, I can see several reasons why in a particular situation I might not:

    1. Boss has a history of being unavailable when needed, or generally unable to coordinate schedules.
    2. Have higher-priority project work and don’t have time to chat.
    3. Loss of trust.

    But lurking throughout this is a question of expectations: What exactly you are expecting to achieve by having them see you. Is there some vital piece of coordination that was missed? Perhaps a performance review? Or were you just wanting them to show up and generally talk shop for 2 hours?

    Even the last one is fine – if you decide that’s what you expect. But if so it’s necessary to make that explicit and allow them to prioritize accordingly.

  53. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Like everyone else said, this isn’t ground for an accommodation. Now, would I suggest making sure there are as many non-alcoholic drink options as there are alcohol, yes. I would also like to explore a church of Diet Dr. Pepper or A Church of Cheerwine (the original cherry soda of the south, IYKYK).
    #2-Yeah, a wall of feet pictures is weird. Good luck with that one because the OP has been allowed to do this thus far.
    #3-It sounds like you want face time for face time’s sake. The employee may not see the benefit. Unless they are underperforming, I don’t see why they had to meet with you unless you told them to schedule something and they refused. I think people are pushing back on the narrative that you just can’t build culture being remote and you need some in person stuff to advance.
    #5-Yeah, even with my best bosses I did not tell them I was looking.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      #3 You can build a good work culture from remote, but at many places facetime helps you advance more quickly, either because bosses have an unspoken preference or just because seeing people in person more often makes it easier to form bonds and then to think of that person more.

      The OP should state clearly that she wants her reports to check in with her when they visit the office, instead of making them guess.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        I agree with you but there is a lot of dialogue about how you just can’t build a good rapport/culture with a remote population. Interestingly, I’ve seen it cross generational lines.

        The OP needs to be clear on their expectations of check ins. Fully agree.

        1. Zona the Great*

          I’ve come to the realization that I am simply okay with not getting opportunities I would have gotten if I were more willing to show up in person.

  54. Ex-prof*

    LW3: Yet another mistake I made during my working years! I’m starting a collection based on AAM columns.

    I wish there had been a college course called Professional Norms For People Who Didn’t Grow Up With Them.

  55. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

    Many people out there have the opposite of a foot fetish, in that they think all feet are disgusting. And sorry guys, but often especially men’s feet. I once had to sit on a bus next to a dude who was wearing flip flops and he kept bending down to pick at some wart like growths on his toes. Nope nope nope. I’m firmly in the camp of keep exposed feet out of view in public places. (Unless it’s babies or toddlers, those little feet are cute.)

    1. metadata minion*

      If you think a part of my body is gross, you don’t have to look at it. I’m not going to wear closed-toed shoes in summer just because someone might not like feet.

    2. Dinwar*

      This sort of comment can be incredibly damaging, for a number of reasons.

      First, the idea that men don’t suffer body image issues is simply not true. We’re pressured to fit into arbitrary beauty standards just as much as women, just in different directions–often directions we can’t do anything about. Ask any 5’4″ tall man if you don’t believe this. And quite bluntly we get told we’re gross and disgusting for being male often enough as it is, and often have been told this most of our lives. Please don’t pile on to that.

      Second, I’ve seen men suffer real psychological trauma from this sort of comment. I know a man who has a scar due to a medical issue–he needed surgery on his leg–and to this day the man will not allow ANYONE outside his wife to even see his legs. Most people don’t notice, because most men (especially of his generation) are trained that our emotions are inherently wrong and our body image issues are gross and icky and no one wants to hear them. But imagine what he must be going through. Nor is he the only one. I would go so far as to say a large number, if not most, men have some trauma like this in their past.

      I get that a lot of people think feet are gross, but body shaming is inherently wrong. And it doesn’t stop being wrong merely because it’s men you’re body shaming.

      I strongly recommend “The Dadvocate” on Youtube and TicTok. She discusses these sorts of issues, among others. And to be clear, despite her name it’s not a “Men’s Rights” thing for her, but an emotional maturity and empathy thing–in other words, something we should apply to everyone, and men happen to be included under the heading of “everyone”.

  56. Rowan*

    Foot-posing advice from an amateur fashion photographer: I’ve noticed that a lot of people stand with their toes pointing inward (“pigoen-toed”), which always looks awkward to me in a photograph.

    Make sure your toes both are pointed straight ahead or outward, or one is straight while the other is out. If you habitually stand with them pointed inward, look down to check their actual position, because what you *feel* is straight or outward might be only slightly less inward.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I remember a girlfriend of my son who would always put one foot forward, she never looked awkward in photos. She always wore low-slung but elegant kitten heels.

    2. Rainy*

      The reason the kiddos stand with their toes pointing inward is because it creates or exaggerates a thigh gap.

  57. i like hound dogs*

    I can’t believe how many people think mocktails, sparkling water and water are not sufficient options for nondrinkers at an event that will last a few hours.

    Like, I prefer bourbon slushes to beer and wine but I recognize that the world is made up of many people who all have different preferences and these preferences are not all going to be accommodated all the time.

    She can drink her Diet Coke before the event!

    1. Dinwar*

      For my part, I’d want coffee and tea added to that list (most bars I’ve been to at least serve coffee). But yeah, she’s not exactly deprived of options.

      Also: Bourbon slushes? I’ve not heard of that. What’s that involve? A coworker got me turned on to descent bourbon (I can’t afford most of the good stuff, but Buffalo Trace, Angel’s Envy, and 1792 are in my price range, whereas before I was drinking JD), and I’m always looking for new options.

  58. Ms. Murchison*

    To everyone in the comments complaining about mocktails being full of sugar: Mocktails have evolved! They’re now made with all sorts of flavorful, savory/umami/sweet/herbal ingredients. There’s a good chance that the company in letter #1 is serving mocktails that aren’t full of sugar or only fruit juice.

    Also I think there’s a non-zero chance Jane will pack a bottle of Diet Coke in her purse.

  59. Ess Ess*

    I would consider speaking to an employment lawyer. You turned down a job offer based on a promise of a title bump. This was a condition for you to stay at your company. They did not follow through, which is a violation of an employment agreement. You could argue that that they made you an offer under false pretenses.

    1. Statler von Waldorf*

      I’m not a lawyer, but with over 20 years HR experience I know just enough about that law to be dangerous. So with that disclaimer, this doesn’t appear to be a strong case from what I see.

      The legal concept that would apply here is promissory estoppel. That is the legal doctrine that says parties may be liable for broken promises that result in financial harm.

      There are four requirements for promissory estoppel. 1 – The defendant made a clear and unambiguous promise. 2- The plaintiff acted in reliance on the defendant’s promise. 3 – The plaintiff’s reliance was reasonable and foreseeable. 4 – The plaintiff suffered an injury due to reliance on the defendant’s promise.

      This letter fails on 4 and might also fail on 1, depending on facts that are not available. Assuming they got the pay bump, I don’t see anything in the letter that would qualify as “suffering an injury.” This is because it is impossible to calculate how having a different title than the one promised affected the LW financially. Because the LW would have no proof that it was a financial burden (because they didn’t get a cut in pay), then it would be very difficult to prove that they suffered a financial injury.

      This would also require that the LW can prove that their employer made a “clear and unambiguous promise.” That’s a higher bar to clear than it sounds like, and filing a lawsuit based on a verbal agreement with no other evidence is likely going to be a tough suit to win even if they could prove damages, which they probably can’t.

      Finally, there’s the cold, hard and unpleasant truth that filing a lawsuit against a former employer can absolutely bite you in the ass later, even if the lawsuit was 100% justified. Lawsuits are public records, you can’t do this and expect it to remain a secret. People talk. Depending on the size of your industry and your skillset, this could range from a mild inconvenience to career suicide.

      For all of the above reasons, if I was OP I wouldn’t bother with a lawyer. If OP is really bothered by this, the right play here is to start job hunting and get a new job.

  60. Daisy-dog*

    #3 – Commenters here do tend towards an anti-social slant. I know I would want to take advantage of seeing my boss in person if I could. And I would proactively provide an explanation for why it couldn’t happen during some trips. There is a benefit for me about having an in-person conversation that goes farther with relationship building (which can just make my job easier and make me feel more comfortable – not just help with raises/promotions).

    It’s certainly worth bringing up as a FYI when you mention their travel approval requirements. Also, consider what your calendar looks like. I know my boss’s calendar is completely full with overlapping events and some all-day blocks. I’m sure some of those are not actually booked up, but rather a reminder to her about certain activities that day. So try to clean up your calendar if that’s the case for you!

    1. bamcheeks*

      I’m a very social person, but it really depends on the boss! I’ve had bosses I’d proactively seek out meetings with, because I came out of meetings feeling positive and energised and excited about the work I had to do. I’ve had other bosses where I came out of meetings gritting my teeth and searching jobsites before I got back to my desk, or where they made me feel like I was wasting their very important and expensive time and I’d only seek a meeting if I really couldn’t move forward without an answer to something, and then I’d do so very apologetically. I don’t think it’s a social/not social thing.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        I was just potentially reassuring LW3 based on the amount of comments that I saw that lean towards preferring to not see boss in person. I got a very neutral feeling from LW3. With more information, my answer might change.

        1. SusieQQ*

          I have a different read on it; it’s not whether people are social or anti-social. It’s about LW3 communicating expectations to their DRs.

  61. Ruby Soho*

    LW5: I withdrew from an interview process a few years ago because I got what I thought would be a better offer from another company. The person coordinating the interviews said they had people pull out for offers from that company and end up unhappy and asked me to reconsider. I should have listened to her because she was 100% correct! That was actually the 2nd time I had interviewed at the company (I was unsuccessful the first time).
    Wanna guess where I work now? That very same company! So I wouldn’t worry about it too much. These things happen all the time.

  62. Pita Chips*

    I want more information regarding the remote employee. Why didn’t they schedule the meeting? What were the expectations set for presence in the office at the beginning of the remote position? It’s the manager’s job to set the norms. They’re different in every office. It’s poor management to expect an employee to read your mind.

    I’ve been in several different remote positions and never was expected to have special meetings with my boss when I visited the office. In one, I visited the office once a quarter, the company paid for flight and hotel and I had a (small) per diem for meals. I went to the office and did my work there. Meetings were as usual. These expectations were laid out beforehand.

    Admittedly a miniscule sample size, but I really don’t think this is the norm the LW thinks it is.

  63. KellyK*

    As someone who’s watching their blood sugar, I would be incredibly annoyed that a health-focused non-profit has deemed fruit juice “good” and diet soda “bad” but since I can drink a very little bit of alcohol, I’d probably hope they had light beer available.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable for Jane to want a drink ticket to actually cover something she can drink, rather than everyone else getting a freebie that she doesn’t.

    If Jane can drink fruit juice, there’s no reason to get her diet soda (although there are stevia-sweetened diet sodas that might fit the org’s definition of “healthy”), but it’s very weird to be “health focused” with no low-carb options.

    1. i like hound dogs*

      Where did it say fruit juice? There are plenty of low-sugar mocktails.

      There’s also sparkling water and water.

  64. Tammy 2*

    LW2–I’m ambivalent about the photos, but Joan should refrain from making comments about her coworker’s body parts. Even if it’s complementary. Even if it’s just their feet.

  65. Jiminy Cricket*

    In a normal office, I would say that the feet photos should be narrowed down to one or two discreet ones (bring your whole self to work and all that). But in advertising … well, my desk used to be directly underneath a large stuffed possum. So, norms are different.

    Also, never mind the fact that they’re feet, but do models of any kind enjoy working surrounded by images of themselves? That is hard for me to grasp. But, people are different.

  66. LifeLongMo*

    I did want to point out for LW #1 that for devout Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) mocktails can be a problem. We are counseled to avoid “the very appearance of evil” and therefore mocktails would not be an acceptable religious choice. Sparkling water would be fine, or juice (I’m assuming they’ll have fruit juice there) but anything that “looks like” an alcoholic beverage would be a no go. Now, it’s typically my experience that devout practitioners don’t drink Diet Coke, because of the caffeine issue. But, I’m not questioning anyone else’s religious practice. Just trying to provide a response to your statement that “there’s no religious reason” she couldn’t drink other non-alcoholic beverages.

    1. SubjectAvocado*

      As a practicing Latter-Day Saint, that’s an interesting interpretation/experience with that particular belief! I drink (a lot of) Diet Coke because I enjoy it, but also love a good mocktail at happy hour with my colleagues. Anecdotally, that’s also the case with most of my fellow congregants. I guess it goes to show that there’s a pretty wide dispersion of belief and practice while ostensibly under the same religious umbrella. As for the issue in the letter, presuming the employee shares my distinct religious belief, I think it’s probably fine to let her know that there are nonalcoholic options available and leave it at that.

      1. LifeLongMo*

        Yeah, I’ve found that outside of Utah, Diet Coke is never seen as an issue. In Utah, it depends? lol. I can’t function without Coke Zero.

        And I’m sure many, many of us don’t have a problem with mocktails (I don’t) but I have had friends who wouldn’t even eat risotto made with non-alcoholic wine. I think there’s a lot of room for personal interpretation in any religious practice? I try to just be accepting of anything that doesn’t hurt another person.

        1. SubjectAvocado*

          Same here; I think everyone is just trying to find our way in life’s journey in a way that makes sense to us!

    2. Utah Exmo*

      “devout followers don’t drink Diet Coke”
      That may have been true 40-ish years ago, but not today. Unless, of course, your personal definition of devout is “doesn’t drink caffeinated soda” – but that’s a you thing, and not at all common.

  67. Princess Pumpkin Spice*

    I’m wondering if the Diet Coke issue is also an optics issue. I have a friend who cannot drink alcohol for religious reasons, but that extends to consuming things that could be perceived as alcohol. So mocktails would be a non-starter. Additionally, fruit juices cause dietary issues for a number of medical conditions. I think it’s OK to say no to the soda (as that is a company value), but it’s best to engage in a convo about why the other options are not acceptable. At worst, Jane gets told to suck it up for an evening (less harsh, of course). At best, you’ll learn about a gap in catering that should be considered going forward.

    1. SubjectAvocado*

      I think you hit the nail on the head about engaging in a discussion about the company’s mission/values and how they can accommodate the religious belief without running afoul of that at a donor event. I think it’s reasonable to try and work together to find a solution.

  68. Veryanon*

    I do love me some Diet Coke, but I’d never consider demanding it be served as a religious accommodation (what the what?). I mean, if I can’t get it at some event, I’m slightly annoyed for about a half a second, and then I move on to find something else.

    1. The OG Sleepless*

      Same here! I am a huge Diet Coke drinker. When I go to events, especially in rural areas near me where there are a lot of Southern Baptist nondrinkers, the beverage choices are often sweet tea and water. I secretly don’t like sweet tea (I should have my Southern card revoked, for so many reasons), so I sigh and get water. It’s not my preference, but it’s not a big deal.

  69. Dawn*

    LW#1 – I don’t know why in the world she’s arguing it as a religious accommodation, maybe because she thought it’s the only way an overly-rigid company might approve it, but do you have anything with any actual flavour in it for diabetics?

    Because so far I’m reading “carbs and alcohol,” “sugar and alcohol,” “sugar and no alcohol,” and “water” and that’s a really great way to make diabetic guests feel unwelcome.

    1. WellRed*

      As a person with diabetes I’d be super bummed to have only water. But I’d certainly never argue about it. Probably also won’t be writing a big check either.

      1. Dawn*

        Right, like, I’m not saying it’s the end of the world, but it would certainly drive me right up the wall; as a presumably-valued employee (and one on a diuretic medication as well) I’d probably be quite irritated if the company insisted that “for my health” the only drink we could possibly have available that’s healthy for me to drink causes bloating. In the middle of a big fundraiser event. I hope I do not have to paint everyone a picture.

        1. Dawn*

          Even iced tea would be a reasonable compromise. Just something more than sparkling water, good heavens.

          1. Tammy 2*

            Did I miss exactly what’s being offered for mocktails because I’ve seen many based on herbal iced teas, shrubs (drinking vinegars), etc, and I think it’s reasonable to assume that a health-focused organization would choose some things like that.

            Since you’re asking other commenters to share their health credentials: I’m not technically diabetic but do watch my blood sugar and limit sugary liquids (including wine/beer) for health reasons.

            1. Dawn*

              It’s less that I want others to share their credentials and more that at my age I’m very tired of other people telling me what’s “fine”, you know?

              Anyway. I hope they are indeed like that (although most of those sound disgusting, good lord) and there’s some sugar-free selections. But it would probably be easier just to offer a basic drink with sweetener.

  70. Happily Retired*

    The titles for letters #1 and #2 is why I keep coming back to Ask a Manager, years after retiring!

  71. What is happening?!*

    I’m sorry, I had to stop reading because my mind got stuck trying to figure out what type of person prefers to work surrounded by photos of THEIR OWN FEET.

    1. edda ed*

      “[You] would like to see in writing” the LW’s friend’s workplace’s justification for their business decisions? You’re not going to get it. Also, seems way overbearing on your part, to me. You see the org’s position on “appearance of sugary soda” to be akin to some religions’ objection to “appearance of alcohol”? Are you going to expect Jane to justify to you in writing her abstention from alcohol? Because she does that due to religious adherence, which you’ve already deemed inadequate justification.

      Really, I don’t think the answer to the org’s restrictions on what they will and will not pay for is even more restrictions to meet the standards of some internet commenter. I also don’t think picking apart what is and isn’t “healthy” is the core of the matter, nor is it something useful to the LW, nor do I get the impression that it’s something within the LW’s friend’s power to effect.

  72. SusieQQ*

    LW #3 — I mean this in the kindest way, but you may want to check your ego. It’s not like this person is required to meet with you, or had a meeting a blew you off. If I knew one of my DRs were in town and hadn’t asked to schedule a meeting with me, I wouldn’t think twice about it. So what exactly is it that bothers you about it? The vibe I’m getting from your letter is “I’m important, therefore they should want to see me, and if they don’t then they must not think I’m important and that offends me.” But that’s flaws; the fact that they didn’t schedule an in-person meeting with you doesn’t mean they don’t think you’re important. You seem personally offended and I don’t know why. If YOU want to meet with them when they’re in town, that’s an expectation you should communicate to them.

  73. Doctor's orders*

    As an insulin dependent diabetic, my choice of beverages is very limited. Fruit juice has too much sugar (except to counter a low blood sugar episode), and I don’t drink any alcohol for a number of medical reasons. Sparkling water is nasty unless artificially sweetened. I know diet soda isn’t healthy, but for some of us it’s the lesser of two evils.

    1. Dawn*

      I said the same thing earlier up thread, but just wanted to make sure you know you’re not alone in this by any means; this event sounds, weirdly for a health-focused organization, really diabetic-unfriendly.

    2. Oregon Girl*

      I don’t drink soda at all. But I don’t actually think the science shows that diet soda is necessarily bad. Health influencers want you to believe that so they can sell you something. But your point is great. This is about Health virtue signaling not actual science.

      1. Dawn*

        No I agree with you there, too; if you do enough studies, you can “prove” anything if you take a very narrow focus of the available literature, and aspartame is, I believe, the second-most studied food additive in North America (second to MSG) and diet soda is also frequently studied with some frankly bizarre results. And bizarre methodologies which make one question what the authors wanted to find out in the first place.

  74. DefinitiveAnn*

    Just a funny story along the lines of #1. My husband is Mormon, and attending professional scientific meetings at Snowbird, in Utah. At the dinner, they had drink tickets for alcohol, coffee and tea (hot and iced). No water even! People were making jokes about how hard it is to get alcohol with a meal in a restaurant, and my husband noted that in Utah, as one of the only Mormons at the meeting, there was nothing for him to drink.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      I get the joke but…when I’ve been to this sort of thing any beverage they don’t have drink tickets for it’s because you don’t need a drink ticket for it. The bar will just serve it to you. So they’re limiting people’s booze, tea and coffee, but if you want water you could have unlimited water. Did this event not do that?

  75. Azure Jane Lunatic*

    LW#3 might find it’s worth pointing out that making time for a meeting with your manager when you are in town for work is different than attempting to make the time to visit with your friend who happens to live at/near a place you’re going for other reasons. I’ve lived in various places that people tend to visit and

    1. Azure Jane Lunatic*


      and the first time I ran up against a situation that was both a friend visiting town for work and a potential missed opportunity for a face-to-face with my manager, it turned out that I needed the face-to-face with my manager a lot more than chill time with my friend.

  76. Lbam*

    Oh Lordy, Diet Coke lady…

    I say this with full understanding that I have an uncontrolled Diet Pepsi addiction, and with the knowledge that this is going to be an Unpopular OpinionTM, but I get where Diet Coke lady is coming from. I read it this way – there are 5 options for her:
    Sparkling water
    Tap water (one assumes)
    That being said, two options she avoids for religious reasons. Three left. If it were me, I’d be avoiding the mocktails because of the amount of real sugar in a lot of mocktails giving me a stomach ache (we’re ignoring the healthy bit of this because I am racking my brain trying to figure out what a tasty and healthy mocktail would look like?!). That leaves sparkling water and water. Sparkling water is the devil’s bitter torture tonic, so that’s out.
    And all the sudden, you’re left with…tap water. Which, ok, yes, she can drink SOMETHING, but going to an event and being stuck with water seems a bit disappointing.

    But what the hell do I know, I’d be the lush at the bar double fisting chardonnays.

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