we have to walk almost a block to get water for our coffee, my coworker is never here, and more

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

1. We have to walk almost a block to get water for our coffee machine

I work for a large company, and my office has seven people in it. The company has placed a Keurig machine in each office and provides pods for employees to use (yes, it’s an ecological nightmare, but it is what it is). My office has a policy of “you kill it, you fill it” when it comes to the Keurig machine. The water light comes on and you fill it up. No big deal, right?

The issue is that my supervisor insists that the machine must be refilled by taking a Brita pitcher to the water filter across our large building and then refilling the coffee maker from that. She insists the water be double-filtered before use. I think this is silly and a waste of time. The water in our city is clean and safe to drink, plus the coffee machine has a filter of its own. When it’s my turn to refill the machine, I just fill it up from the sink immediately beside the Keurig. I know my supervisor would be upset if she ever caught me, but it feels like such a waste of time to walk almost a city block to get water for coffee. Can I justify continuing to take the lazy way out in filling the machine? FWIW, my supervisor has never mentioned any health concerns that would require this sort of caution and she doesn’t seem bothered by eating shared food.

That is A Lot, and I would bet money you’re not the only one who’s just quietly not doing it. I don’t feel 100% comfortable saying “let someone believe you’re handling their food/beverages in a specific way that you’re not actually doing” but this is also an excessive ask from her! Can the rest of you band together and say it’s taking up too much time — especially if you’re grabbing coffee in the middle of a time-sensitive project and don’t have time to trek almost a block away and then trek back — and so you’re letting her know you’re not going to be fully consistent about it? Or just opt out of this magnificently filtered water altogether and just bring in your own coffee?

the 18-month coffee debate, and other stories of office coffee wars

2. Can I ask my boss what’s up with my coworker never being here?

I work for the federal government and am staff. My coworker, who trained me, is a contractor. I have no idea what her hours are. Sometimes she comes in at 7:30 am, sometimes it’s 9:30 am. Most days when she comes in, no matter what time she arrives, she announces that she needs to leave at 2:00 that day. It’s always random day by day. I never even know if she will show up!

Since I started working here, in January 2023, she has called in eight times telling me and/or our supervisor she will be late because she overslept. Usually late means arriving at 9:30 or 10 am. One day, she called in to another coworker and said she would not be in. I assumed she was sick. The next day, we hadn’t heard from her by 9:00, so I asked around. She ended up arriving at 11 and left at 2 pm. I asked her if she was feeling better and she said, “Yeah, why?” I told her I assumed she was sick. She said, “No, I was just stressed out about my move next week.” In other words, she inconvenienced us because she was stressed out moving into her new house. This is just one example of many that have me feeling resentful.

Our supervisor has made a comment once when our colleague was late that she “was getting tired of this.”

Am I out of bounds if I ask my supervisor what is going on with my coworker? This is a very abnormal situation. I know it’s none of my business, especially if they have worked something out I know nothing about, but it is impacting me and the other lady in our department.

It would be an overstep for you to ask what’s going on with your coworker  (because while it doesn’t sound like this is the case, it could be something medical, something she has formal accommodations for, etc.), but you can and should explain to your manager what the impact is on your own work and ask for her help in handling that. That’s the part that’s most relevant to you, and you’re on very solid ground in bringing up that piece of it.

my coworker is constantly out of the office — and I’m annoyed
my coworker constantly misses work and I have to do her job for her

3. Should I clue my staff in about internal politics and personalities?

I work in an intensely relationship-based organization, which is code for “if I don’t like you, I don’t have to do what you say.” As a result, my job is very political. I don’t mind and I think I’m pretty good at navigating it, but I worry about my team. Although they are individual contributors, their work is highly visible and they are often in political situations with the C-suite without being aware of the dynamics. I know my job as their manager is to shield them from politics, but I think navigating the realities of our work environment and knowing some basic psychology are critical job skills and key to their professional development.

How much should I be cluing them in on personality dynamics, the psychology behind change management, etc.? Obviously I don’t want to gossip and would share only what they need to know. For example, if I know Bob doesn’t get along with Sue and the meeting will go off the rails if they attend the same meeting, should I be explaining to my team that they can’t be in a room together, or do I need to make up an excuse? If I know Larry will automatically agree with you if you frame your proposal in a certain way, and for Deborah you need to bring it up in another way, how much can I explain the whys behind it?

I know this environment is probably most folks’ worst nightmare and I don’t want my team to be cynical, but I do want them to be able to operate independently without my constant air cover and be successful.

You should be cluing on them in on what they need to know to do their jobs effectively. In your Bob/Sue example, you definitely shouldn’t make up an excuse rather than explaining the situation forthrightly, because otherwise you’re opening the door to them inadvertently stepping on a land mine. For instance, if you say Bob won’t be available for the X meeting when you really just want to keep him out of a room with Sue, what if your employee decides to reschedule the meeting for a time when Bob can attend? Or mentions to Bob that she’s sorry he can’t attend, and he has no idea what she’s talking about? You’re better off just giving it to them straight so they can make fully-informed decisions and do their jobs well.

The key is to talk about it in a way that doesn’t feel gossipy. You’re just giving them the context they need to do their jobs effectively, and that should be your tone — the same tone you’d use to say “this client really doesn’t like us to push extra services” or “that funder won’t read emails, you’ve got to call them.” Be matter-of-fact and respectful about it; don’t roll your eyes or use a tone that says “what a baby.” Your staff is likely to take their cues from you, and if you talk about this stuff calmly and professionally, they’re likely to follow suit.

4. Can I advise my boss not to hire a contractor?

A year ago we hired a contract worker to help out and my boss is now talking about making that position permanent and hiring her into it. Everyone raves about her but I think she is failing at some key parts of the job. My manager doesn’t work with her and hasn’t been managing her because she’s a contractor. Is there a diplomatic way for me to suggest we not hire this contractor into the position?

The most pressing priority is to tell your boss the problems you’ve noticed. You could frame it this way: “I know you’re considering making Jane’s position permanent, so I wanted to share some concerns I have that I think you’d want to be aware of.” If she’s removed enough from the work not to understand why the specifics are serious, make sure you spell that out explicitly — “X caused Y consequences.”

Depending on how the conversation goes, at some point during it you might say, “I’d be concerned about bringing her on permanently if these issues aren’t resolved first.” But it sounds like your boss doesn’t even know there are problems, so fill her in on what’s going on right away.

5. Salary negotiation: a success story

Longtime reader, first-time writer. Late last summer I used your archive to guide myself through a request to increase my salary. I thought it might be a long shot because I appeared to be underpaid for my experience and role, so I was asking for a big hike in pay. The conversation went very well and my manager said she would advocate for whatever she could get me, but I knew I wouldn’t have an official raise until late Q1.

Then in mid-January, the company reorganized the division and my entire team of five was let go. On the same day I was notified, my grandboss chatted me to say she had a role which she had designed with me in mind; not just an open role I’d be a good fit for. I expressed interest and interviewed with her and my current boss. At the end of the interview, I asked about compensation, and my grandboss said that would need to be a future discussion.

Fast forward to yesterday: I was officially offered the role, at a nearly 30% increase in salary, a big bump in the profit sharing benefit, and jumping up to a higher level. She explained that she had to eliminate my old position in order to rehire me at this level, because I wouldn’t have been able to get this high of a promotion and raise from where I stood before. The offer was also more than my current boss is making, so she didn’t want to have an awkward discussion in the interview (and she’s planning on improving that situation in the next review cycle, too). She suggested I come back with a counteroffer and let her know what I think, but she wanted to hear back by the end of the day. It didn’t leave me much time to research with recruiters and people in my network.

I went back to AAM and read through a bunch of articles, then did some quick research on the title. I felt my situation was different since this was already a very generous offer, so I appreciated your advice that not every offer needs to be negotiated if the terms are favorable. I was reluctant to ask for much more, and I wasn’t about to say no, but I took my boss’s advice to heart to do some negotiating. I chatted her my reply and asked if she would consider a very slightly higher number.

She responded and confirmed she could do that without further deliberations, so we agreed and I signed my offer this morning! This just goes to reinforce what you’ve often said: salary negotiations are normal and expected, so it was worth it to ask for a little extra sauce on top.

Well done! Congratulations!

{ 351 comments… read them below }

  1. Sleepy birb*

    LW1, I’m wondering what is up with this supervisor. It sounds like she may be trying to keep maintenance on that machine down by double filtering the water so there’s less chance of it developing a chalky residue?

    And if it really is a health concern thing on her end, it may be worth pointing out that Brita filters are rather notorious for bacterial growth, presumably negating whatever health benefit she thinks she may get from it.

    1. BaffledBystander*

      I mean if it’s a bacteria thing, the water is getting boiled, so filter or no the water is probably quite safe.

      I wonder if OP could suggest they get a water cooler or something? Or even start buying gallons of distilled water?

      This just seems so onerous and silly… I’d probably stop using the Keurig altogether if the supervisor remained insistent.

      1. ThatOtherClare*

        I already mentioned it in a reply below, but a tabletop terracotta water purifier might be a good middle ground if the company won’t pay the cost of a full water cooler.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          This is the first time I’m hearing of terra-cotta filters, or that there’s anything wrong with a Brita pitcher. From a quick Google they look expensive. Could you provide a link with more information?

          1. IneffableBastard*

            I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in Brazil they are the cheapest and low-maintenance ones (look at Brazilian clay water purifiers). I am not a fan because I think the water still smells like chlorine if your tap water regularly smells of chlorine, but they are indeed safe even in places where the water is not as reliable, and keep the water at a cool temperature without electricity.

            1. Hrodvitnir*

              Oh, that’s really cool actually. I regularly feel lucky to have safe tap water that tastes fine, but I’m intrigued to look these up.

            2. ThatOtherClare*

              PSA if you ever get stuck somewhere with only tap water: much of the smell from chlorine-y water can offgas in a few hours. If you can leave water to sit in a receptacle with a large surface area (like a shallow bowl) for a few hours before filtering or drinking it will greatly reduce the smell.

          2. ThatOtherClare*


            It’s just a big pot with the Brita filter in the middle, basically. They’re often terracotta where I come from, I didn’t realise the actual term is ‘ceramic’. In the West they’ve been around since the Victorians, with an even longer history elsewhere. They’re not patented. Much like buying a keyboard or a pair of boots you can buy something generic and cheap or pay extra for something with a brand name and fancy marketing. So don’t let any flashy ‘latest technology advances’ fool you into dropping big money for one.

            1. IneffableBastard*

              differently from the Brita, the filtering element is reusable and just needs to be cleaned from time to time

        1. Becky S*

          Correct – coffee makers don’t quite boil the water and there are bacteria and fungi that can survive exposure to hot water.

              1. Erin B*

                I recently heard a talk at work on analytical water testing that amounted to “bottled water is full of microplastics and tap water is full of PFAS, and filters available to the general public don’t remove either.”

                1. Phryne*

                  Tap water differs so wildly from place to place that you can’t really make a blanket statement like that about it.

                  Fun anecdote: The water that comes out of my tap is pumped up out of a deep layer, its essentially prehistoric rain. As there is no stone/bedrock here, it is filtered though many layers of sand and soil and so quite low in deposits, I have hardly any limescale ever in my shower etc. Very convenient. Right next to the tap water pumping station there is a factory that pumps up the same water and sells it in bottles at about €0,85 per litre. Water from the tap costs €1,04 for 1000 litres. Those bottles are sold in the shops here… people buy them…

                2. Erin B*

                  It definitely varies location-to-location. Most of the municipal water in the US is from surface water. Mine comes from the Missouri River. Chicago’s water comes from
                  Lake Michigan. A lot of the American West gets its water at least partly from the Colorado River. The EPA does not require testing of municipal water for PFAS, so it can be hard to know what’s in your tap water if your city doesn’t test for it voluntarily.

            1. Hokey Puck*

              Bottled water is NOT regulated. The water from the tap is.
              This is such an important thing to understand.
              Not to mention the societal cost of plastic bottles, but if you just care about clean and safe water…it is from the tap, not from a bottle.

                1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                  And then there’s Hays, Kansas. It may be safe. However, a person pretty much needs to drink anything else.

                2. Lenora Rose*

                  This is true. However *in general* if you are not in a location with specific known issues, tap water is safer than bottled water. If you are in one of the First Nations whose drinking water concerns have not been resolved (and despite it not being in the news, several places have had theirs fixed), in Hays, or in Malta, you know it. If you’re in the middle of a major city and the majority of moderate or small towns, your water is safe.

          1. ThatOtherClare*

            Yes, they don’t quite boil the water because apparently coffee is best made at 95C/203F.

            I don’t actually know by experience since sweaty bean juice is nasty in my opinion, but a quick online search seems to agree with me – so don’t trust a coffee machine to boil water.

        2. WhatIntheWhat*

          letter 3- I know I will never know, but what is that place? On 1 end you get to decline things you don’t want to do, sounds nice. On the other side is the torture of having it do a detailed psychological profile on everyone you interact with to get anything you need done accomplished.
          aside – I wonder how many folk go running into the night when they realize the place works that way.

      2. Princess Sparklepony*

        Brita pitchers are pretty cheap. Why don’t they just buy one for the department. It’s the filters that are expensive – maybe the head could buy those since she’s insisting on it. You change the filter every 2 months.

        I’ve been using Brita for years. I do have to do a monthly cleaning of the unit because I keep it on the counter (I don’t like cold water) and it will develop algae otherwise. A quick clean and it’s good to go in between filter changes.

      3. Grith*

        This is what I thought of as well – if a company is big enough to own a city-block sized building, they can probably splash out on a second water cooler. Not even just for this, but so that employees who just want a drink of water don’t have to trek that far as well.

      1. Chas*

        I also thought of this, personally I filter the water at work because I’m overly sensitive to the taste of water and there’s something about the (considered to be suitable for consumption) tap-water in my city that gives it a weird aftertaste to me until I put it through a ceramic filter. So if I’m making a hot drink, I also use my filtered water for it.

        But then, I wouldn’t expect everyone else to go out of their way for me because I know it’s only me who’s affected. I wonder if maybe the boss is just assuming other people would be able to taste the difference between the filtered and non-filtered water and thinks telling people “you have to go down the street for better water” as a tip that’s helping everyone, rather than an order just for her? Either that, or there’s another benefit to using the filtered water that LW hasn’t thought of, like less limescale build-up in the machine.

        (I have the same problem with specific brands of mineral water, like Volvic, whereas cheap bottles of Tesco-brand “we just took some tap water and filtered it” water taste fine, so I assume it must be a specific mineral I don’t like the taste of that’s more prominent in my city’s tap-water).

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Speaking of – people are concerned about plastic in bottled water, but not about hot water running through that Keurig plastic thing that holds the coffee?
          Heat + plastic = phthalates and other chemicals released into the water (or food). I’d be just as concerned about that. Maybe more, since bottled water isn’t heated.

          1. SJ Coffee Adict*

            Also, do you know what lives in a Keurig? Sure that someone isn’t cleaning that thing on the regular.

          2. Random Dice*

            Agreed. We use a reusable stainless Keurig cup, because the plastic cups are an ecological nightmare, plus melted thin plastics are a bodily nightmare.

          3. Lenora Rose*

            there are Keurig-compatible pods with less or no plastic, and some of us go out of our way to look for them.

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              They’re also fairly cheap and easy to get. I got a 2-pack of them some years back at target when I worked at a place with a keurig (my current workplace doesn’t have one).

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      My guess is that the manager is worried about scale buildup inside the machine. However, britta pitchers don’t really help with hard water (which scales up faster). Switching to distilled is probably the easiest/fastest for employees to refill while still keeping the scale buildup to a minimum.

      1. Mongrel*

        They can help a lot though.
        I live in a hard water area in the UK, everything around me is chalk hills, and I’m not noticing any scale in the kettle that I use all day after getting Britta filter 2 years ago. Previously I was descaling it every 3-4 months

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, that’s specifically what I use a Brita filter for (we live in an area with ultra hard water, it helps a lot!)

      2. Echo*

        Yeah, my parents have a Keurig machine and my dad is also strongly and hilariously insistent that it only ever be filled from the Brita pitcher. It’s for both taste and to avoid scale buildup. I think the Keurig manual even strongly recommends filtered water only. Thankfully they keep the Keurig next to their fridge.

        (Cute side story: my mom is very eco-conscious. She was opposed to the Keurig but loves my dad. So her compromise is that she peels the foil off the top of the K-cups, composts the coffee grounds from inside, and rinses out and recycles the plastic cups.)

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          I think they make reusable K-cups that you fill with your own coffee grounds! That may be less onerous for them!

          1. Echo*

            Mom and Dad have one of those too! I’m not exactly sure what the full story is about when they do and don’t use the reusable one (I don’t live with them)

        2. Adultier Adult*

          We also live in a hard water area & I insist on the distilled water— Im not a crazy person at all- I just killed my first Keurig bc I didn’t realize how quickly the hard water would impact it– my kids know to use the “coffee water” now :)

        3. Betsy*

          We do that too. We have a gadget that cuts off the metal top of the pods so the plastic can be recycled.

          I specifically have things set up so I can fill from the sink, but I have a filter in the coffee machine, and I clean it with white vinegar every so often. This works for my household.

          I’d be curious about why the boss wants filtered water specifically. And also why they don’t think it’s weird to ask people to walk that far for it. Does the boss ever make the trek for filtered water? But I think asking about it might bring too much of boss’s attention to the situation.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Not just filtered, double filtered – she wants them to “… refill by taking a Brita pitcher to the water filter across our large building” – a city block away.

            IMO, this is excessive.

            My tap water is hard. We fill our cooking/drinking water bottle from a single stage filter, and it still scales up the hot water pot. But there’s no way we would walk a block to get twice filtered water. We just have to run vinegar through it once in a while.

            I personally am skeptical about the Brita pitchers because of the possibility for bacteria growth. I don’t think you can properly get the filter chamber dry enough to prevent it.

        4. Hokey Puck*

          You can just buy a refillable filter. They are everywhere around keurigs and similar, on amazon, etc. Just buy regular coffee and fill the resusable filter.

        5. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

          There are also compostable k-cup pods available on Amazon or through mail order. I used to try to compost and recycle my plastic k-cups until I found the Tayst pods.

      3. Orv*

        Britta pitchers don’t help with hard water, but some building filters do. Where I work the water bottle fill stations use a reverse-osmosis process; that may be what she’s walking the length of the building to get to.

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      Is it possible she’s from an area where the water is not safe to drink? Or that during her childhood, there was a time when the water in her area had some bacteria in it/some disease being spread by it and as a result she has this in her head?

      Habits like that, especially if they are developed in a situation where there is an implication that a mistake could make you or others sick can be hard to discard/

        1. H2*

          They not only don’t remove bacteria, they provide a great growing environment for bacteria. I had a graduate school professor, who is a prominent environmental microbiologist, and he would always culture every brita and similar filter around to show people what’s growing on them. Refrigerator filters, all of it. If you’re not religious about changing them they are very nasty.

      1. Observer*

        Is it possible she’s from an area where the water is not safe to drink? Or that during her childhood, there was a time when the water in her area had some bacteria in it/some disease being spread by it and as a result she has this in her head?

        Double filtering is unlikely to help that.

        There is one exception that I can think of. There are sink filters that get rid of very small creatures that may show up in some water systems (copepods, generally). Most sink filters that you will get at places like Home Depot, Lowes, etc. get rid of minerals, and some also get rid of other chemical compounds. I would think that any of the latter system would get rid of the copeods, too, if you are worried about that, but if you only have the first kind of filter, I could see getting a regular carbon or reverse osmosis filter in addition.

      2. Bear Expert*

        I grew up in Flint.

        I moved out before the water switched over to leach lead out of the pipes.

        I still have some religion about getting my home water tested regularly. I try not to be insane about it. Some I do independently, but whenever my town does water main work, they offer free testing to everyone who picks up a testing kit, as well as hang testing kits on the doors of all of the houses that should be affected. More than once, I’ve gone in to grab one and they’ve looked at my address and explained that I live across town from where the work was, and its really not necessary.
        “I’m from Flint.”
        “Here’s your kit.”
        “Thanks, I’ll put it in the drop box tomorrow.”

        But that is putting the onus on me, not some random colleague, and its maybe annually, not daily. Jane can have big feels about the Keurig water, but this workplace needs a better solution for handling it. Jane can bring in a Brita and have it sit next to the sink and coffee with a big card on it “For the Keurig!” Jane can lead the revolution to get the delivered big water jugs. Jane cannot demand that everyone add an unscheduled 10 minute walk into their day.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          One of the depressing things about that scandal is that there are a bunch of towns in Michigan that have higher levels of lead in the water than Flint did at its worst. It’s just always been the case in those towns; without a dramatic change/scandal, no one really pays attention.

    4. darsynia*

      We have a faucet filter in our kitchen, I wonder if that’s a solution here. You can activate the filtered part or just let it flow through regularly, so it’s not always filtered. Depending on how often the filter part is used, it goes through them anywhere from a month to three months before needing a new one.

      NGL though, it feels like this lady’s the sort to always use the filter and to just let the filter run for 10 minutes before filling something so she’s sure it’s REALLY working, or something. Genuinely sorry about the weird microaggression, LW1!

      1. darsynia*

        (On reread this feels very mean, sorry about that. I actually DID know someone who did the ‘let the filter run a long time to be sure it’s working’ fwiw, and my filter needs to run a few seconds before using, so I think of that immediately when I use it!)

      2. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I was going to say this! But I would recommend that the boss is the one to purchase them since they want to use it.

      3. Anonychick*

        This was my first thought, too.

        1) Get/attach a faucet filter
        2) Use faucet-filtered water to fill the Brita pitcher
        3) Use the (now double-filtered) water from the Brita pitcher to fill the Keurig

    5. Gozer*

      As long as you change them regularly the Brita filters work along the same route as the giant filtration beds at the water treatment plant. They’re pretty good at filtering out stuff larger than simple molecules.

      The problem occurs when you leave one for too long – then you get cracks in the sediment and stuff pours through that was growing on the top. Filtration beds are closed and cleaned regularly to prevent nasties like cryptosporidium getting into the taps for this reason.

      Brita filters will remove a lot of hard water – we have to use them here because the stuff in the taps will absolutely wreck a washing machine/kettle/shower/bog in a few years. Makes for great tasting tea though.

      From a microbiological perspective as long as the area you live has good water treatment and isn’t hard as rocks then you’re just fine with the stuff out of the taps. Hard water? Get a filter. Water with nasty germs in it? Boil it and cool it first.

      1. My Cat’s Human*

        You sound very knowledgeable – thank you for the detail. Any chance you have a link to a paper/article re “bad things grow in brita filters?” My husband prefers the filtered pitcher to our tap water but is terrible about “no big deal to use the same filter insert WAY longer than directions say to.” Non-scientist me has not convinced him. Thanks!

        1. Broken Lawn Chair*

          I keep trying Brita filters and then not using them because it turns out they don’t remove whatever makes our tap water taste bad to me. (It’s good safe city water, I just don’t like it.) Left a nearly new pitcher with nearly new filter in my fridge untouched for about six months. When I realized how long it had been and pulled it out, there was a blob of something growing out of the bottom of the filter. Bleurgh.

          They may be fine if maintained correctly, but they do need the maintenance.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            I doubt there’s any water that isn’t pure distilled that would be safe or acceptable or not have something growing out of it if left for six months in a fridge.

        2. Jayne*

          The link will get caught in moderation for a bit, but I will reply to this message with a link to an abstract of an article that examines water filters versus tap water.

          1. Jayne*

            Here is the link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01591360

            In case the link does not work, here is the relevant part of the abstract: “The microbiological quality of filtered water in a commercial water filter system (Brita) was tested in households and in two laboratories. In 24 of 34 filters used in households, bacterial counts increased in the filtered water up to 6,000 cfu/ml. In 4 of 6 filters tested in the laboratory, bacterial counts in the fresh filtrate were higher than in tap water after approximately one week of use both at room temperature and at 4°C, suggesting growth or biofilm formation in the filter material. In some cases colony counts in the filtered water were 10,000 times those in tap water. The filter material of 5 of 13 new commercial filters was contaminated with bacteria or moulds.”

        3. My Cat’s Human*

          Thank you all for taking the time to find links and add details – your internet good deed is much appreciated!

    6. Lucy III*

      From skimming the comments, I may be alone in this: a nice long walk to fill a water jug seems like the perfect excuse — plus actual exercise — to take a work break. But everyone is tied to the clock so that a potentially social, and physically healthy, walk to fetch some water is seen as a microaggression? I don’t get it. I love breaking up office days and moving around.

      I deliberately go to the “far away” break room (better coffee) and usually end up chit chatting with the “higher-ups” who dwell in that part of the of office, so some stupid bonus “networking” takes place, too.

      1. Festively Dressed Earl*

        Microaggression isn’t exactly the right term, but the boss is putting an unreasonable burden on her staff (especially if someone has a hidden disability). It’s one thing to take a rejuvenating walking break on your own initiative as needed. It’s another to have your workflow broken up for a journey to take care of some minor quest that could easily be avoided. Remember Katherine Johnson’s bathroom run in “Hidden Figures”?

    7. AnonInCanada*

      That was my guess. Descaling one of these Keurig machines is a bit of a pain in the derriere, and using filtered water instead of what comes from the tap mitigates having to keep doing this and thus extended the life of it. But if this boss wants it this way, this boss should also keep the Brita jug in the same room as the Keurig. Why does it have to be all the way in some far distant office where getting to it is extremely inconvenient?

      1. mango chiffon*

        I think the Brita pitcher itself IS in the same room, but boss wants to put filtered water into the pitcher from the water filter that’s a mile away. For the boss, it’s not enough that the Brita is filtering, but needs already filtered water in the Brita.

        1. sparkle emoji*

          Yes, this was my understanding as well. That’s what LW’s comment about “double filtering” sounded like to me.

        2. DLW*

          Yes, this is how I understood it. I think the best solution for the OP is to use the Brita pitcher, but just fill it from the tap. No walking a city block to get filtered water to put in the Brita.

          1. Cmdrshprd*

            Another thing to consider is that the city water might be good and healthy at the source. But I can get contaminated in transit and especially depending on the age of the building and what kind of pipes they have.

            I live in a place with lots of lead service lines and the water from the treatment plant is fine but it is the local pipes that are the issue. we have standing orders to flush the water everytime the water has not been running for more than a day or so.

        3. Bear Expert*

          That wasn’t how I read it because my brain refuses to believe that would sound like a good plan to anyone.

          If this is what is actually happening, I would be tempted to set up a whole lab distillation contraption and purify water on site. It’l look ridiculous, but that is just putting into the room the level of bananas that is being talked about.

    8. Katrine Fonsmark*

      I mean the actual problem is using a Keurig in the first place – blech. I’m not a coffee snob by any means, but they make SUCH terrible coffee. I’d just opt out and bring my own coffee to work.

      1. BaffledBystander*

        Yeah Keurig coffee is not worth me walking a block. I’d just start bringing in diet mountain dew or something.

        1. I Have RBF*

          I’d just bring in a Melitta pour over cone, filters, good coffee, and heat the water in the microwave. Much, much better than Keurig, which is both weak (even with dark roast on extra dense) and leaves @$&$^#$ grounds in the bottom of my cup.

      2. Orv*

        Keurigs aren’t great, but they’re better than some of the things people do with office drip coffeemakers. I used to have a coworker who would fill the ENTIRE filter basket with coffee grounds, to the brim, making coffee that was (to me) undrinkably strong. At another job I had a coworker who was fond of taking the coffee from the carafe and pouring it back into the coffeemaker’s water reservoir for another trip.

    9. Dust Bunny*

      The tap water where I am is safe but tastes weird. Our employer sprung for one of those water coolers that is hooked up to the regular water line (so no 5-gallon bottles). It can run hot or cold water, too, which is nice. A guy comes regularly to change the filter.

    10. EC*

      The tap water might just taste bad. Lots of places have tap water that’s safe to drink but tastes foul. When I lived in Ohio I had to double filter all the water I drank because it was disgusting out of the faucet.

    11. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      This whole thing cracks me up because none of us will use the Keurig machine because we call it cockroach coffee with reasons. No amount of prefiltering the water would matter.

    12. Can't get the hang of Thursdays*

      can the manager buy a Britta to keep at the coffee machine that can be filled from the sink right there?

    13. Momma Bear*

      I would offer the compromise of using the Brita at the sink nearest the coffee pot but double filtered is excessive and a big waste of time for a cup of coffee. If the boss wants the hike, let her do it. We have a filter in our kitchen while we do use filtered water, we don’t double filter anything.

    14. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I’ve used that kind of filter for years and I have a fantastic immune system, never got Covid despite coming in contact on several occasions, and hardly ever anything more than a runny nose all winter. We actually need to come in contact with bacteria and other germs, in order for our immune system to learn what to do about it.
      I would suggest simply getting a proper Brita water filter for the office.

  2. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Can the water filter not be moved closer to the kitchen? Or, heaven forbid, a filter get added to the kitchen tap itself too? This seems like it has an easy solution and I feel like I’m missing something, unless this business is just incredibly cheap.

    1. Jojo*

      I’m also confused about why there isn’t an easier (closer) solution.

      If it were me, I would just buy my own Keurig, put in the common area with a sign that says “fill with Tap water,” and problem solved. People can decide if they want to be in club “walk a mile for double filter” or club “just give me some dang coffee.”

    2. Angstrom*

      A tap filter was also my first thought. But if the concern is hard water, filtering alone won’t solve that — on-site OR across the street.
      Supervisor has good intentions but is unclear on the science.

      1. anonny*

        Depends on how hard the water is. Where I live, a filter will definitely make a difference because our water is hard enough that it almost measures in mohs. (We have one on our shower and you can feel the difference on washed hair.) If you live in a softer water area, though, it’s probably not worth it.

        On the other hand, if sticking a tap filter on the kitchen will give the supervisor peace of mind and mean you don’t have to walk ages to fill up the coffee machine, it’s probably worth it even if it’s just a placebo effect.

        1. Gozer*

          That’s a thought I hadn’t considered, thank you. Doing it for the placebo effect. Can’t say I’d be impressed with having to scoot my disabled self across whole blocks when I want a cuppa and if a simple filter on taps would ease the boss’ mind it’s worth a shot.

    3. mango chiffon*

      Maybe TWO brita filters and you fill one with tap water, and then pour the once filtered water into a second brita? If the boss really must have double filtered water?

    4. lilsheba*

      Maybe have jugs of drinking water? The jugs should be recyclable too. And one can get pods to put your own coffee in so they are reusable too.

      1. ErinW*

        This would be my solution, too – jugs of filtered water or even a 24-pack of bottled water if the boss isn’t averse. It can be right there at hand. When my building was under construction two years ago, I didn’t have access to our water dispenser, but I boil water for tea in an electric kettle every single day. I just brought in bottled water for the duration.

  3. H*

    For LW1, I imagine the supervisor’s concern is hard water build up. Can someone just weekly run vinegar through it and call it a day?
    Alternatively, is there any way to talk the supervisor into fronting the cost of a water cooler or at the very least a few gallons of distilled water a week? I get not wanting hard water build up but jeeze, this is taking the convenience of Keurig and turning it into a Chemex.

    1. I forgot my user name againn*

      I’ve learned the hard way. Do not used distilled water in the Keurig. It says that in the directions. The last time they were flushing the pipes by our house, the only bottled water we had was distilled, so we used it. Our machine broke the next day. I do not know why that happens, but it does.

      1. Twix*

        Regular water is a solution of H2O and dissolved trace minerals and gases. Distillation removes the impurities, which leaves you with water that’s (relatively) highly reactive with the things around it. It will react with CO2 in the air to form a solution of carbonic acid, making it more acidic than regular water, and will leach trace amounts of minerals from things it comes into contact with. Neither of those is dangerous – distilled water is perfectly safe to drink – but the former can cause problems with sensitive electronics and both can affect flavor. According to Keurig both are reasons you shouldn’t use it in their machines.

        1. Marie*

          A moderate amount of distilled water is safe to drink might be more accurate. If it can’t find anything else to react with, it will react with the minerals in teeth.

          Several stores stopped selling the distilled water my husband wants for beer brewing, because people were giving it to babies.

          1. darsynia*

            I use a Nespresso and it’s good to know this about distilled water! I’m sure it says as much in the materials but I bought one after it was recommended to a friend, who set it up for me and taught me how to use it, so I skimmed a lot of the accompanying booklet.

            I remember being instructed to use non tap water for formula, but it’s been 14 years since that kiddo so I can’t recall if they said filtered or distilled. I do remember we bought a few of the gallons before setting up a filter at home, and I know the individual bottled water comes in a few ‘kinds.’ I wonder if people were picking up the wrong gallons, or what.

            I also recall being told that CPAP machines use distilled water; I wonder if that’s at all related to the ultimate downfall of Phillips machines in that sphere, contributing to the (eventually) degrading carcinogenic sound-dampening material.

            1. Papper Person*

              Phillips’ cancer foam is unrelated to distilled water. The water is for the humidifier to moisten the outgoing air; the water does not touch the foam. ResMed (main competitor) and other manufacturers recommend distilled water, too, with no issues of offgassing. The only reason distilled water is recommended is to keep down the scale in the humidifier chamber, which is basically a low-level hot plate.

              Phillips’ issues came from lying to the FDA and other regulatory agencies for over a decade and covering up the toxic offgassing of the foam they used. (That foam was also used in other machines, such as ventilators, btw.) Then the replacement foam also had toxic offgassing that independent testing uncovered but Phillips said was fine. Then the replacement CPAP model, the Dreamstation 2, had over 200 reported “thermal events” (i.e., the things were overheating and catching on fire). The whole thing is a hot mess, pun intended.

              I use a ResMed CPAP. However, my sibling used a Phillips machine for over a decade.

            2. Observer*

              I wonder if that’s at all related to the ultimate downfall of Phillips machines in that sphere, contributing to the (eventually) degrading carcinogenic sound-dampening material

              Highly unlikely. For one thing, plenty of people are not using distilled water, despite the instructions. For another there were enough other issues with their designs – and in fact some that are still being sold cannot be used with metallic implants.

            3. Lime green Pacer*

              CPAP machines have always required distilled water, even before the Phillips “recall”. (My husband had one of the recalled machines; Phillips was unable to provide replacement before it reached its end-of-life, three years later.) We once used bottled “spring water” by accident for a month. Scale built up on the water chamber in that time. Fortunately, it was easily cleaned and the machine was undamaged.

              1. Cascadia*

                I have a few other machines that require distilled water. Our baby bottle warmer uses distilled water (not in the bottle, but to heat up the bottle) and the humidifier I use when I’m sick also says distilled water only. I had no idea you weren’t supposed to drink it! In the US it’s sold in the bottled water aisle next to all of the other bottled water for drinking.

              2. ErinW*

                I use distilled water for nasal irrigation. Distilled or boiled water is required because the bacteria in unboiled tap water will deposit directly into your brain or something.

                My grocery store (midwestern US) stocks it in a plastic jug (like milk) and it’s in the same aisle as bottled and spring water.

              3. Twix*

                Yup, I use a CPAP machine and they require sterilized water. Organisms in water introduced to your body nasally can infect the brain before your immune system can respond to them.

          2. bamcheeks*

            I was wondering whether people were using “distilled water” inaccurately to mean filtered or something, because I’ve never heard of people drinking distilled water! I’m assuming it’s one of those excessive “health” things like buying cans of oxygen or something?

            1. Garblesnark*

              maybe, but also, I had never heard any of this before and it looks like regular water and it’s in the grocery store with all the other water and no warning labels of any kind. I’m not sure why an overwhelmed new mom or person intentionally not exposed to science or just someone who didn’t realize why that was the last one on the shelf would be wary enough to look up the difference.

            2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

              It might be, but I think it’s likely giving it to babies was just confusion. Where I am, distilled water is sold right next to the filtered bottled water, and is priced the same or a little bit cheaper. I’ve certainly accidentally grabbed a gallon or two of distilled water when restocking emergency supplies. In places where the tap water isn’t safe for mixing baby formula, I’d imagine babies getting distilled water by mistake is pretty common.

              1. bamcheeks*

                I didn’t just mean about people giving it to babies, but the whole thing of drinking it! I don’t think distilled water is a grocery item where I live. You’d have to go to a hardware shop or a pharmacy to get it specially. It just wouldn’t have occured to me that you could buy it in a supermarket, much less confuse it with ordinary mineral/table water.

                (not sure if “table water” is the right term in English– in German Tafelwasser is water that’s been filtered but is basically tap water not from a natural spring, and I don’t know whether we have that here.)

                1. Myrin*

                  Yeah, where I am, distilled water can only be bought in drugstores or hardware shops (and possibly petrol stations?) and it’s grouped with household or cleaning items – it’s certainly not near any regular drinking water! (It also looks completely different – it’s sold in canisters.)

                2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                  That’s really interesting! I had to stop and think about why distilled water would be in a hardware store.

                  In my experience (in the US), distilled water is primarily used for home brewing, feeding sourdough starters, canning, and watering houseplants. In the US, though, most water is fluoridated unless you’re on a private well. It looks like that’s maybe not the case for Germany, so I wonder if those food-related uses can be done with filtered water there?

                3. AngryOctopus*

                  Yeah, I’m pretty sure you can’t buy distilled water in the grocery store. Also, real distilled water would be $$$ because of the process used to make it! Way more onerous than the filtering they do to make bottled water.

                4. Angstrom*

                  Distilled water used to be a common grocery store item when it was recommended for use in steam irons.

                5. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                  Distillation is pretty cheap and simple, though? Checking my local grocery store, a gallon of store-brand distilled water is $1.19. A gallon of store-brand “purified” water (reverse osmosis filtration, UV, and ozonation) is $1.19. A gallon of store-brand spring water is $1.19. I think the main cost is in transporting it to the stores for all three products.

                6. Not A Manager*

                  @angstrom – Are you not supposed to use distilled water in steam irons any more? What should I use to avoid little white specks on my clothes?

                7. Falling Diphthong*

                  I consider distilled water a pretty standard grocery store item (in US), for use in irons and humidifiers.

                8. Twix*

                  Yeah, it is safe to drink, but there’s no real reason to drink it over just filtered water unless you’re in an area where the water quality is dangerously bad. The reason you find it sold differently in hardware and drug stores is because those are the things it’s actually commonly used for and they have different packaging requirements than water meant for human consumption.

            3. Clisby*

              My grandmother used to when she came to visit us, because she didn’t like the taste of the water. We had well water, which had a higher-than-usual sulfur content. Tasted fine to me, but it was what I was used to.

          3. TooTiredToThink*

            Oh my word. I was going to buy a water distiller for plants I want to get (where they specifically do better with distilled water) and I saw it advertised for drinking water and thought – oh, maybe its a duel use. I am glad I saw this before I started using.

          4. Nonanon*

            Too much exposure to distilled water can also affect bloodstream and other cells, since it throws off osmotic balance; your cells NEED the water to have a certain amount of ions/minerals, so if you introduce water with less than their minimum, fluid enters/leaves cells to restore balance. IIRC, that’s one of the reasons they had to take it off the shelves when people were giving it to infants; increased likelihood of brain swelling (I cannot remember if there were any documented cases with this
            but it is a risk).

            1. Twix*

              Not exactly. Your brain needs to get those trace minerals from somewhere, but it doesn’t need to be from water. A balanced diet will generally provide plenty of them since plants also absorb those minerals from groundwater. The thing that’s an issue with babies is that they have such a limited diet that they won’t be getting enough of them elsewhere.

          5. amoeba*

            Yeah, it won’t hurt in reasonable amounts but it’s certainly not healthy! It’s basically the opposite of isotonic. I’d be pretty miffed about having to drink that instead of our tap water, which is perfectly safe for drinking and also contains, you know, minerals.

            1. Twix*

              I mean, it’s not unhealthy in and of itself either. It just mean that you’re not taking in trace minerals through your drinking water and will lose more of them when you pee, which is generally perfectly fine if you’re an adult eating a balanced diet. Of course, many people don’t.

          6. Twix*

            This is a very, very common misconception, and the public perception has led to things like stores changing their policies on selling it, but it’s completely untrue and has been repeatedly debunked. Distilled water that’s drunk is not in contact with your teeth or any other single part of your long enough to damage them. The only health concern with drinking distilled water is that your body needs some of the minerals that are commonly found in tap water, so if you’re not drinking them you need to get them from somewhere else.

            1. Twix*

              To add to this, that last bit is where there’s concerns about using it with babies, since they have a very limited diet and likely aren’t getting enough of them elsewhere.

        2. Rock Prof*

          This might be more of a language/terminology point, but distilled water hasn’t been completely de-ionized, it’s mainly just boiled and filtered water.
          I use distilled and de-ionized water in my lab and they get used for different purposes (I look at microplastics so I need things that are ‘clean’). Distilled water is technically only filtered at high levels and boiled, so while it can be a bit reactive can still be used in cooking purposes, but de-ionized water is incredibly reactive and definitely should never be used for drinking or cooking water.

          I definitely can’t find de-ionized water at the grocery store (but I can find distilled).

          1. darlingpants*

            Is distilled water not literally distilled? Ie boiled and then the steam is collected and cooled back into water.

            1. Rock Prof*

              I think so, that’s what makes it distilled, right? But that process isn’t going to get rid of all the ions and dissolved stuff. Like the distilled water I use in lab still has a measurable conductivity (it can conduct electricity), but the de-ionized doesn’t.
              A not-so-fun fact is that a lot of the DI water I use for lab STILL has microplastics in it because almost all of the dewars, filtration/reverse osmosis systems/jugs are made of plastic.

          2. Twix*

            The fact that distilled water and deionized water are different things is absolutely true. Both processes start with water that’s filtered to remove organic contaminants. Distilled water is then boiled to a vapor and recondensed, which is a mechanical process that removes any trace contaminants with a boiling point lower than water (which is essentially all minerals). Deionized water is instead exposed to anion and cation resins, which attracted the charged ions and replace them with H+ and OH-. Deionized water doesn’t conduct electricity because there are no free electrons, which is not the case for distilled water. But deionized water and very high-quality distilled water are similarly reactive and will develop a pH of ~5.8 if left exposed to air.

            That said, both are 100% safe to drink! The fact that either or both are dangerous because they’re acidic or will leach a dangerous amount of minerals from your body is a common misconception, but it’s been repeatedly debunked, including by the CDC. You can buy water bottled for human consumption that’s been purified using either process. The only health concern with them is that you may not be ingesting enough of the trace minerals normally found in tap water elsewhere in your diet. The reason the two are marketed differently is because they have different intended purposes with different bottling regulations. Deionized water in labs needs to be 100% deionized and stored in containers that won’t react with it. Distilled water is generally not 100% pure and distilled water marketed for consumption needs to meet food-safe regulations, while distilled water marketed for commercial/industrial use does not.

            1. Lacaille*

              Deionized water better be safe to drink, because my husband has a filtration system that makes deionized water for aquarium purposes and I love drinking it! Tasty RODI water.

      2. PSAs are Good*

        PSA: For older Keurigs, the manufacturer recommended using distilled water. For newer Keurigs, the manufacturer explicitly says NOT to use distilled water. I have had both machines. It’s a good idea to read the booklet that comes with the unit.

        I have a Brita pitcher I use for my plant water, it has an indicator light to tell you when to change the filter, but I don’t think it works, so I just change it quarterly. I also run the pitcher through the dishwasher, haven’t had any nasty build up.

        OP, walk when you want to, but boss is being ridiculous, in my opinion. If they want all this filtering, they can go on a walk then. Refilling the Keurig is not an official job duty.

    2. WellRed*

      Ha! We couldn’t figure out why we were going through so many bottles on the water cooler till we realized people were using it to fill the keurig.

  4. Brain the Brian*

    LW3: Yes, please do your staff into these dynamics. In but one example of dozens, my manager came around to a coworker and me today and spent a solid hour talking us through the C-suite dynamics that had played out around a potential reorg. It was all vital for us to understand so we can effectively advocate for our own jobs. Don’t baby your staff.

    1. Chas*

      Yes, there’s also a pretty good chance telling them will just confirm their suspicions about things anyway.

      I was really glad when my new boss spelled out the extent to which my old boss had severely damaged his relations with a lot of the higher-up support and admin staff. I had my own problems with oldboss, and assumed others would did to, so it was no surprise to hear that the support staff didn’t like him.

      What I didn’t know was that there’d been several times when he’d straight-up lied to them about things for his own benefit (which they now knew about), and it had got to the point where they held off on commercializing some of the work him and newboss were collaborating on, because they didn’t want to have to deal with oldboss when dealing with potentially huge amounts of money, so decided it was better to wait until he retired and they could just deal with newboss.

      That extra context made it very obvious that it would benefit me to start pulling away from working with oldboss (which I wanted to do anyway) and that I should make it clear that, as far as I was concerned, I report to newboss and oldboss is being kept on a strict information diet.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, there’s also a pretty good chance telling them will just confirm their suspicions about things anyway.

        Yes. And because of that, giving made up excuses is going to make *you* look untrustworthy. If you keep on making excuses to never put Bob and Sue in a room without explaining the context, *you* will wind up looking bad. Because people don’t like being treated like children, being lied to or having important information relevant to their jobs kept from them.

        And they are going *know* that SOMETHING is up. Your excuses will confirm that. And it will confirm that you’re not going to level with them.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      And also, since this sounds like a pretty intense place to work, perhaps clue your job applicants into these dynamics before they accept the job. I assume there are people out there who would thrive in such an environment (mad props to you, OP!) but I would find it a nightmare to work in a place like this. So to prevent new employees from feeling like they’re trapped in a political environment they didn’t expect, it would be a kindness to explain a little of that, whatever you feel comfortable sharing with an outsider, before someone accepts the job. Although if it’s obvious from the outside what your workplace is like, that might not be necessary, but you would probably also benefit from doing this in that you would find really good employees who would also be able to navigate the politics the way you can, OP.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      In yesterday’s thread on personality tests, someone described a division in which the management were Slytherins, and that tracked because the only way to get resources for one’s team in the start-up was to be a combination of ruthless and wily.

      1. ferrina*

        That was me. And yeah, I connected a lot with this letter because that workplace was drama.

        It’s important to give your team a head’s up that certain personalities will be [fill in the details], but also make sure that you are giving your staff support. I was a manager and one of the Slytherins. I described my job to my staff as “I’m hear to deal with the politics so you can get the real work done.” If I had a staff member collaborating with Volatile Coworker, I’d check in a lot more regularly, casually show up to status meetings as “a fly on the wall”, or even make a decision that my staff felt intimidated to make so I could be the Bad Guy. I regularly checked in with staff on how they were feeling; my questions weren’t around “what’s the best way to do the project”, but “what’s the best way to ensure Volatile Coworker collaborates”. I also made sure that everyone got to rotate through working with Wonderful Coworker, so everyone got a break from the politics.

        There were a couple people that I simply did not let my staff work with solo because those people were so volatile and my staff didn’t have the authority to stand up to them (I didn’t either, but I could and would play politics as needed- my staff had better things to do with their time). For those people, I told my staff who they were, why I would be on the project (i.e., because I didn’t trust Person X), and gave them some scripts to use in case Person X tried to go around me (amazing how Person X always “forgot” I had said no and tried to ask my staff to do the thing anyways. I always kept my staff updated, but also forewarned them that Person X would try to go around me. X didn’t actually have any connection with my team, and X only contacted them when X wanted something.). Most of my staff already knew Person X was a problem and were grateful to be kept out of the politics; one person thought I was exaggerating and ended up accidentally burning internal bridges (in her defense, she was acting reasonably; the problem was that she was expecting unreasonable people to act reasonably)

        1. Anonym*

          A friend of mine did this as a very senior manager. She had about ten teams working with different clients, but one client was such a nightmare she forbid them from contacting anyone on the team directly. All communications went through her for the project, despite how enormously it increased her workload. I really respected that move.

        2. Workplace politics OP*

          These are really great examples of how I try to handle things – thank you for articulating it so well!

    4. RunShaker*

      LW3, definitely and it is very important for your team. I’ve asked my manager about various people I need to have contact/meetings. The advice was invaluable and changed my approach which yielded the results I needed. I’ve also learned the hard way on how my company (been here 18 months) really focuses on employee retention and longevity. I’ve had someone tell me “well I’ve been here for 24 years” then proceed to voice their displeasure at being questioned. It didn’t matter if they were wrong and caused impact to a client.

    5. Charlotte Lucas*

      Knowing personalities is so helpful! I often have to get approvals or buy-in, as well as enforcing deadlines. And I approach different people depending on what I know about them.

      1. Anonym*

        It really is. It’s the first thing I ask colleagues when working with new partners or in a new job. Not “who sucks and how” but what are their expectations and what’s the best way of working with them?

    6. el l*

      Yes. I’ve been in similar places, and you’re absolutely going to have to clue them in on how best to frame things, who has historically butted heads, and so on. It will save them unnecessary trouble, and in the end it’s also your self-interest and even self-preservation to save yourself grief.

      My suggestions (which dovetail with Alison’s) about how to keep it neutral are:
      1. If you don’t know why 2 people disagree, say so. For example, “Frame the idea as coming from Bob, not from Sue. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know, but it’ll help you get this done.”
      2. If you can, try to think of what’s in play as an anthropologist or a sociologist would. What you know of a person’s background and current situation can build an understandable picture of proposals they’ll love, proposals they’ll hate, and so on. And most importantly, those facts should add up the same if you applied them to other people. Take the personal and personality out of it as much as you can. For example, “Sue’s biggest task is to deal with these customers, so her first thought is generally how to keep them happy. I’d have the same concerns if I were in her job, too. So if you can think of how to make Sue’s customers happy and at least address what it’ll do for them, you’re halfway there with getting her buy-in.”
      3. If they ever make a “that person is so weird!” kind of comment, stop that in its tracks. “We’re all weird.” Or, “Walk a mile in their shoes…” Or, “I get why this seems a lot, but let’s focus on what’ll work for them and what won’t. Can’t change them or the situation, all we can do is control how we interact with them.”

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I think suggestion 2 is important even in workplaces with low amounts of politics/drama. Different stakeholders are always going to have different priorities, and the best way to communicate with someone is to address their specific needs and concerns.

    7. K*

      I work in an organization that sounds very much like the OP’s. SUPER relationship-based, and you can accidentally get yourself in a LOT of trouble if you don’t understand the dynamics.

      I happen to think it’s an equity issue, because if you are new to this type of environment, then you don’t understand the unwritten rules and signs to look out for, and you get drummed out of the organization so fast that you never get a chance to learn, and we wonder why our senior leadership is all “pale, male, and Yale”.

      To try and rebalance the scales a bit, I maintain a practice of sitting down with my team members before important meetings, and being the one to ask “what do I need to know about meeting with X person?”. It’s been successful enough that my boss has adopted it too.

      Making it a standard part of meeting prep and having initiated from the top down has moved it away from coming across as gossip-y and into the realm of “you need to know this”.

      Sometimes it looks like “X Person came to the organization last year from the private sector; expect them to redirect the conversation to KPIs. Y Person’s last project was derailed by a KPI consultant, so you can expect from friction between the two. Recommend you lead off the conversation to set the objectives and be prepared to troubleshoot”.

      Other times it looks like “Person M has a lot of experience in this area, but has a track record of over-promising. Recommend you take anything they say with a grain of salt and undertake to come back with decision rather than agreeing at the table”.

      It’s actually standard practice for high-level meetings at the world leader level — every briefing book will include not just the talking points about an issue, but a section about likes/dislikes/last meeting/preferences/what to watch out for. The government version of the book Anne Hathaway’s character carries around for Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.

      1. Observer*

        Making it a standard part of meeting prep and having initiated from the top down has moved it away from coming across as gossip-y and into the realm of “you need to know this”.

        This is so crucial. Make is standard, as fact based as possible and totally non-gossip discussion of relevant information.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          Yes. The LW mentioned “it’s my job to shield my team from politics,” and while I won’t say that she’s wrong — that’s only true about the politics that aren’t necessary to successfully doing the team member’s work. If shielding your team from politics means that you don’t give them the information to do their jobs effectively, you’re cutting them off at the knees.

      2. Smithy*

        Completely agree with this as an equity piece.

        I also think this helps better explain “optics” directives. If you know that your CFO and the finance team’s top leadership came from the banking sector and have a more business formal perspective on the dress code – using both to explain that to junior staff when attending an important meeting with that team, really helps contextualize the guidance.

        However, if you’re just told that when meeting with the CFO you need to dress “nice” or “nicer” with no further context, it can be really more confusing. Does that guidance go for other c-suite staff? Have I been dressing poorly the whole time? Someone else had a meeting with the COO last week in jeans – am I getting this advice because of my gender, background, etc?

    8. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing – if my manager had clued me into some organizational dynamics and the fact that my direct report had expected to get the job I was hired for (despite the fact that he wasn’t qualified for it), it would have made my life a LOT easier and enabled me to get a handle on the political situation and how to manage the direct report MONTHS earlier than I did.

    9. Smithy*

      Agree with this – and also as you begin to share that information, in its own way that can serve as its own method of professional development in both ways.

      Sharing information about Bob and Sue, it’s a task or perhaps challenge for the OP to figure out how to share that information with enough context so their staff gets if, but also with some understanding that they may still be figuring out boundaries of how to share what. Even if the understanding is just that Bob and Sue don’t like each, and maybe it’s known that they don’t like each other due to personal or professional history that’s messy – as the OP starts, finding ways to say “My aim for the team is to always meet with Bob and Sue separately and when we need to work with both, to structure the process XYZ way. I find that approach to be a lot more effective based on their working style,” helps them and their staff.

      If someone more junior were to write that down in a notebook and have it left open on their desk, or to share that insight during a happy hour to a member of Bob or Sue’s staff – it gives the OP an opportunity to correct behavior and the needs around discretion, without putting themselves in as vulnerable a position if the information was shared as “Bob and Sue don’t like each other”. Staff who have been in the role longer or demonstrated a lot of skill in that area can take on more sensitive information in greater detail.

    10. ScruffyInternHerder*


      Definitely do this if it needs doing. And if there are un-obvious family dynamics at play, make SURE that your staff knows. Otherwise you may be setting them up for serious issues.

    11. I am Emily's failing memory*

      Also, LW3 probably knows this, but worth stressing: even though it’s totally legitimate and appropriate to help your staff with this kind of information, don’t put it in writing.

      I’ve always taken a page from a former boss of mine, and in their onboarding/training packet I’ll have an item on the agenda that just says, “Tips for working with different departments,” and when we get to that point on the agenda I tell them what they need to know. A lot of the other agenda items are things like vacation request procedure and “who to contact for what,” where I do write the details in the packet for them have for future reference. But no matter how tactfully and non-gossipy you word it, you don’t want Bob to somehow come into possession or view of a document that lays bare the fact that people need strategies for working around his difficult personality.

      1. Tesuji*

        Yeah, I feel like there’s a lot of “how much do you trust your underling’s discretion?” that I’m surprised isn’t part of this discussion.

        I mean, if there’s any chance that my briefing someone as to how to manage Bob is going to lead to that person ending a meeting with Bob by saying, “Gee, I don’t know why Boss said I needed to be careful what I said around you. Personally, I don’t mind you using racial slurs, and I find your sense of humor delightful.”… well, sorry, f__k them, they can figure it out on their own and live with the consequences.

        To me, briefing people you manage on office politics is above-and-beyond, not the norm that’s required of you as a manager. If the office is that full of bees, my #1 priority is not getting myself stung.

    12. tree frog*

      If I worked for this organization I would really need someone to spell this stuff out for me. I’m neurodivergent and this kind of internal politics stuff is really hard for me to pick up on my own. I find it quite frustrating when I’m directed to do things a certain way and the explanation is something vague like “some people don’t like this” or “personality differences.” That leaves me uncertain about how I should handle things outside of the very specific instance I was warned about.

  5. stratospherica*

    I used to do work that put me in regular contact with my large company’s executive level, and I really couldn’t have functioned at all if I didn’t get a rundown on what makes each exec tick.

    We had two who didn’t like each other and would always contradict each other, one who couldn’t make a decision to save his life but was also Very Important so just resign yourself to working your ass off for the first part and then follow up for the rest of eternity unless he assigns someone else as a proxy for himself, one who is great to work with but a massive cheapo, one who has grand ideas which are very good but he’s still new to the organisation so he’s earned himself some rivals… without that kind of context (put more diplomatically of course), work involving these big names with big personalities becomes unnavigable.

    1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      I had a manager whose first order to me was, in almost these words, “If [grandmanager] Miles tells you to do something that doesn’t make sense…”

      “Run it by a grown-up?” I suggested.

      “… I was going to say, run it by me, Elena, Baz, or Elli,” she said, “But yeah. He likes to throw a lot of things at the wall and see what sticks.”

      Warning the new person that if someone several ranks up says “jump in the lake,” you don’t always have to ask how high, sometimes you need to figure out if the lake absolutely needs to be jumped in, or a similar big personality situation, is vital to know and to learn early.

      1. ferrina*

        My favorite script to use with a C-Suite leader with bonkers ideas:

        “Interesting, I hadn’t thought of that! Let me look into it and see what I can find out.”

        i.e., I hear you and validate you, but I’m not committing to anything.
        It also gave me time to formulate a reasonable thing that was vaguely akin to the C-Suite person’s idea, then claim it was the “natural application of their idea” (totally not something different that I’d morphed from their original idea) so they could feel like they had a good idea that I was executing, and I wouldn’t actually have to waste my time executing bad ideas.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          To be even more fair, if Miles asked me to jump in a lake and Elena and Baz both said, “Hold it a moment,” I’d definitely listen to Elena and Baz.

          I can agree the Grandboss has his strengths and does some things really well and still agree that once in a while, other people do a better job being the Adults in the room.

    2. Office Secret Keeper*

      LW3 – I was gradually warned as I got more involved in projects. My manager discretly gave me a heads up about the politics as I was running things on my own and now I’m pretty clued on up on the inner workings. It’s been a blessing for me in helping me naviate the company – like you, I enjoy that side of my job! And it’s helped me progress so much. I have shown I can be a trusted confidante for my manager about these things and now its something we share both ways. And it’s a help to both of us to have some one else who understands the politics and we can laugh together at the absolutely bananapants drama that goes down!

  6. Reality.Bites*

    FFS, buy a water filter for the office! They’re relatively cheap. Paying people to waste time walking a block each way for water is ludicrous. Company is losing more money in lost productivity every day or two than a second Brita would cost@

    1. nnn*

      The issue isn’t that they don’t have a Brita. The issue is that the manager wants the Brits filled with already filtered water from the other office’s water dispenser. so that it’s double filtered.

      1. Sleve*

        What they’re saying is buy a second Brita. Fill second Brita from first Brita. Bam. Double filtered water.

      2. Coverage Associate*

        They could install a filter like the far one near to where this manager is.

        I don’t know anything about lab grade water filters or anything, but my gym has filters at every water fountain, and there are several kinds of residential water filters installed under or on kitchen faucets. If it’s just something like these, it’s a small cost for an organization of this size.

        If it’s more like a scientific grade filtration system, can they get 5 gallons delivered from across the building each week or whatever? I would expect if there’s one special faucet for special water, the department that actually needs the special water has large containers and such to move it around their department.

        Or at least appoint someone with few time sensitive tasks to get 2 gallons of this special water every day or week or whatever, rather than getting just a carafe’s worth at a time.

        There are also commercial grade under sink filtration systems similar to the ones for homes. My last office had this.

        1. I Have RBF*

          We fill two gallon bottles from our filtered tap at home, then we dispense cooking and drinking water from these. Our base tap water is very hard, leaves white spots on our dishes, and will silt up with white sediment any kettle that it’s used in. Even with the filtered water, we have to descale our hot water kettles once a month. Yes, the tap water is legally safe to drink, but it is well water sourced, so it’s very mineral rich.

          A single stage tap filter can remove a lot. We use one of the Pür ones. They could put one of these on the tap, then fill the Brita from that, instead of walking across a huge building.

          1. Anonychick*

            A single stage tap filter can remove a lot. We use one of the Pür ones. They could put one of these on the tap, then fill the Brita from that, instead of walking across a huge building.

            This is exactly what I was thinking, too.

    2. ThatOtherClare*

      Exactly! They could get one of those tabletop teracotta water purifiers that seemed to be all the rage in the 90’s. Shove it next to the coffee machine perhaps? They don’t have to get one of the full sized water coolers for everyone to chat around if it’s too expensive or space-consuming.

  7. John Smith*

    re #2. “I’m getting tired of this” suggests your boss already knows of problems with this coworker, in which case why is nothing being done? Unless….your manager is getting tired of people raising the issue with her? I’m not sure which is worse, but its not the best response. I’m tainted with a string of toxic managers, but I’d be putting my concerns in an email to her (following Alison’s wording) only so that if the excrement does hit the fan due to colleague, your manager can’t say she wasn’t warned or shift blame elsewhere.

    Working in local government (UK) myself, it’s an extraordinary beast that seemingly allows all sorts to happen that wouldn’t, in my experience, be tolerated in the private sector.

    1. Zelda*

      I think the contractor status is important here. AIUI, a contractor can’t really have their work time and location dictated– that would make them an employee. Unless there are classifications of contractors that I’m not familiar with, which is certainly possible. And it sounds like this particular contractor is taking full advantage of that.

      Maybe the best that could be done is to ask for her schedule in advance, and then ask that she arrives when she promises to, instead of making it up on the fly every day?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The federal government employs a ton of full-time contractors who work on site alongside staff; they’re W2 employees of a contracting company that places them there (so they’re not 1099 workers).

      2. MK*

        Also, what does it mean that OP is inconvenienced? Is this creating an actual work problem or is it just annoying? Because not having someone nailed down to a firm schedule is part of the deal in hiring a contractor.

        1. John Smith*

          I get a feeling that the contractor may be an agency worker rather than a contractor in the traditional sense. Either way, it’s obvious that expectations are off base or not being met. We have such contractors / agency workers and the expectation is that they work the same hours and ways we do.

          If this colleague is free to come and go in the way they do, that should be made clear in an acceptable way (“Jane is contracted to 30 hours a week but is free to decide when those hours are.”) or whatever. If it’s the contractors terms that are the issue, then that’s a discussion higher up the table.

          1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

            Yes, and there may be all sorts of fences around the contract that OP isn’t aware of.

          2. Berin*

            This is really dependent on the type of contract though; the contractors I work with have deliverables they’re contractually obligated to submit, but their actual hours are managed by their company. LW2’s boss can reach out to the lead on the contract side or to the COR on the government side and explain the impact these flexible hours are causing on the work that’s required by the contract, but if there are not set hours for the contractor written in the actual contract, the contractor’s hours are likely at the discretion of the parent company.

            That being said, most contractors want to keep working for the federal government, and will likely mandate core hours if you can demonstrate that there is a tangible impact on the work they’re contractually required to deliver.

      3. münchner kindl*

        Yes, that was my first thought – use Outlook calendar or similar.

        And boss doesn’t have to dictate what times the contractor is at work; but boss can require contractor to be in the office twice a week from 9 to 11 in order to work together with LW.

        But I see nothing at all that LW (now that they have been trained) does need to work together with contractor? It sounds more like LW is annoyed at contractor having more flexibility?

      4. ContractingVsFreelancing*

        Many (most?) contractors are W-2 employees of an agency. While some people and orgs use the term contractor for 1099 folks, freelancer or consultant are more common. And as someone who has done both, I haven’t seen a ton of real difference between the two in reality.

        1. Tim*

          That’s not what this is. OP is a fed worker and their colleague is a contractor for a private govt. contracting company. OPs boss has NO say on the colleague. The only way something might be done is if the COR (contracting office representative) steps in but that’s unusual. They are not the colleagues’ boss. While fed employees are held to an extremely structured work environment, contractors don’t have to do this. They are allowed to do whatever their Statement of Work/Performance Work Statement says.

          Govt contractors and federal workers have long been in a symbiotic relationship that is frustrating but there’s nothing you can do about it, unless you want to take a contracting job.

          1. B*

            Yes, this is the problem. OP’s boss is not her colleague’s boss. All OP’s boss can probably do is report the issue to whoever manages the contracting relationship, who passes it along to their point of contact at the contractor, who does… something, or nothing, with that information. Presumably there are contract requirements and consequences to the contractor for violating them, which would in theory make them want to address this, but it may not be a priority for any number of reasons.

            I think OP is safe to assume this is a known issue, and either will or will not be addressed, but OP’s boss is probably not the bottleneck.

          2. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Still though, there’s probably some understanding for how frequently the contractor is supposed to be onsite — if it’s legitimately impacting OP then they should ask their boss who (if there is some schedule) should be able to share that with OP.

        2. Laughing Kitten*

          When I was a contractor for the Fed Govt (US) I had a set number of hours a week to work that was less than 40 so some days I worked 6 some days I worked 4. This person might be the same. And the supervisory situation is different. While you work for the Fed Gov but actually you work for the company who has a person who is your supervisor. But its up the the contracting representative to speak with the company if that contractor’s work isnt up to standards.

          1. WeirdChemist*

            Yeah, at most LW’s office might be able to re-evaluate that contract to say “this position requires more/specific hours than we’re currently accounting for because of X”, but that requires a bit of red tape to wade through. So if the reason is just “we’ll I want them here more” or “it’s not fair”, then unlikely to change.

            Or the contractor DOES have hours requirements outlined in their contract that they’re not meeting and that’s a different kettle of fish. But they would still have to go through the contracting office to do anything about it, they can’t just discipline the contractor directly.

  8. Language Lover*

    I don’t feel 100% comfortable saying “let someone believe you’re handling their food/beverages in a specific way that you’re not actually doing”s
    And this is why I was against the suggestion a week ago to do pretty much that with the coffee (i.e. refilling the Kirkland tin with a non-Kirkland brand of coffee). I much prefer the recommendation this week.

    As for lw 2, you say your coworker is a contractor. Your supervisor might not even know what her situation is like if she technically works for a different company than you and your supervisor do.

    1. Phryne*

      In the case of the coffee, there had already been given a blanket ok by the co-workers for any kind of coffee as long as it was dark roast. If any brand was off the table for health reasons it would have been mentioned.
      In this case, we don’t know what the reason is, so there are unknown factors. Not the same.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        I’ve never heard of people having brand-specific sensitivities that aren’t covered under the amount of caffeine. Is that a thing?? I don’t drink a huge amount of coffee myself but do keep some for guests.

  9. Rivikah*

    I’d encourage LW1 to ask why the supervisor has this method of getting double filtered water.

    My city also has very good water, but the pipes in my workplace are less good and there have been some concerns about lead contamination. many of the water sources in the building have been declared non-potable. Appropriately filtered water is now available in the kitchens, but I gather it took a while between “lead has been discovered” and “an alternate water source is provided” and I imagine some people may have had awkward work-arounds during that time.

    1. Phryne*

      Sure, but if the water from the tap next to the machine has been deemed unfit to drink, OP would have known. If the supervisor knows this water is non-potable and she does not share that info there is a bigger problem in that team than the distance to the safe tap.

      1. Chas*

        Not saying this is the case with LW, but I work in a building that had unfit to drink tap water (something to do with copper in the pipes leaching into it) and there was at least one person who would still use it to fill the communal coffee pot because they didn’t think it would be a problem once it was boiled and it was quicker to get it from the tap than it was to wait for the safe-to-drink water machine to dispense the water.

        1. Observer*

          Not really relevant here.

          In this case, there is a Brita in the kitchen, which would handle the heavy metals issue. But by insisting on the *double* filtration, they have shot their credibility.

          If there *is* a good reason to use only filtered water, they should share it and make sure that the Brita pitcher that’s in the kitchen is always supplied with the appropriate refill cartridges. Not just make up rules that make no sense to anyone else.

        2. JustaTech*

          This is a common challenge in public health communications – explaining to the public that *sometimes* all you need to do is boil the water because of bacterial contamination, but *other times* the water has dangerous elements (lead) or compounds (fertilizers) and boiling won’t make it safe.

    2. mreasy*

      I am from a part of California where the water is technically “safe” to drink, but it tastes like dilated swimming pool, and makes some people nauseated to drink unfiltered. I can confirm that just using a Brita does not make it palatable in coffee. I wonder if your manager is sensitive to some off flavor in the water that other folks are used to and thinks that everyone tastes it? Regardless, I don’t know why getting a gallon container and filling it up from the filter tap much less often wouldn’t work!

      1. AngryOctopus*

        The Brita won’t filter chlorine! You need to fill a pitcher and leave it out uncovered for 24 hr to let the chlorine sublimate out. (My grandmother lived in a place with chlorinated water. She used to leave a bucket out all the time, so she could use it to refill the fish tanks when needed).

        1. the Viking Diva*

          The activated charcoal in a Brita does remove chlorine.
          And also chlorine will outgas when water stands, as your grandma did.

        2. Kara*

          As a heads up, many places use chloramine instead of chlorine now; that doesn’t outgas the way chlorine does. I got warned about that when i got a fish tank.

    3. Magpie*

      If lead is the problem, a Brita filter might not solve that problem. Only certain types of filters remove lead and packaging on water filters is often misleading to make it sound like the filter removes contaminants that it doesn’t.

      1. Dahlia*

        That’s probably the supervisor’s point, since she’s filling the Brita pitcher from a source with a different type of filter on it.

      2. amoeba*

        If lead was the problem, the tap water wouldn’t be safe to drink. Aren’t we supposed to take LW at their word? Like, yes, if the water was unsafe, it would be a very, very different situation. They say it’s not.

        1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          They say the water in the city is safe, but they don’t specify for the building. I’ve certainly worked in buildings where the water in the building is acceptable for washing, but not for drinking, and drinking water should only come from specific taps that had been modernized. I think the issue was iron, which a Brita filter would probably handle and LW would probably have noticed. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to ask the boss if there’s a reason that tap isn’t potable, though – maybe LW missed a memo.

          1. amoeba*

            I’d definitely ask (would assume that came up at some point, but who knows!)
            I’d be pretty shocked if there were no clearly visible warnings for non-potable water in an office building – it’d be very clearly marked here. I live in Europe though, so ymmv.

        2. Observer*

          If lead was the problem, the tap water wouldn’t be safe to drink. Aren’t we supposed to take LW at their word? Like, yes, if the water was unsafe, it would be a very, very different situation. They say it’s not.

          The *city* water is safe. It is quite possible that the building water may not be. It depends on how old the piping is. And this boss doesn’t sound like the kind of person who shares relevant information.

  10. nodramalama*

    LW3 sounds a bit like upwards management, which I definitely think is helpful to share. I’ll often tell new starters “oh Bob won’t read his emails- go and bother him if you need it urgently” etc

  11. ThatOtherClare*

    LW#2 I have no idea how your particular branch of government might work, but is there any chance that your colleague’s contract specifies $X of pay in exchange for Y output? If she’s getting paid a fixed amount to produce, say, a report by a fixed date then your supervisor might not have much ability to dictate her hours. So long as the required final output is produced as specified by the contract, there might technically be no problem.

    I will say that the comment by your supervisor that she’s “getting tired of this” makes me lean less strongly towards this idea, but I do still think its possible. If that’s the case you might need to plan for her to be unavailable at random times and adjust your workload to suit.

  12. Starry Motley*

    LW2, if she’s a “contractor” as in “legally not an employee,” then legally your boss CAN’T require her to work a specific schedule. If there are events like meetings she needs to be at then she has to do that, if she’s contracted for a specific number of hours she needs to do that, if her contract specifies a certain work output she needs to meet those benchmarks — but otherwise she could keep vampire hours or only work on the quarter moon or whatever she wants, and your boss has got no say. This is one of the very few advantages of being a contractor and one of the reasons to give up, you know, benefits packages and having your employer pay your taxes and so forth, everything that comes with being an Official Employee.

    If it’s actually interfering with your work tasks to not have her there, that’s something to take to your boss because they may need to make a different arrangement with her (or someone else). But if you’re just annoyed about the unpredictability (or maybe jealous of the flexibility and shorter hours?) then you’ve got to put it in perspective and see the trade-off being made.

    (If you take all that into account and you still feel a little itch of envy, that’s useful info to file away for your next job search.)

    1. Cat Tree*

      This is just incorrect. My company hires contractors for a variety of things and we absolutely dictate their hours, completely legally. There are several different types of contractors, and in some cases it may not be possible to dictate hours, but usually it is.

      1. Fed4Life*

        For a Fed government contract Starry Motley is correct. Certain types of contracts are only about the work getting done and do not/cannot set hours. OP likely wouldn’t have insight into the contract that brought the contractor onboard. If the contractor isn’t following the statement of work agreed to by the government and the contracting company then the supervisor and contracting officer’s representative will take it up with the Contracting Officer for the contract who in turn will take it up with the contracting company.

        1. WeirdChemist*

          As a Fed (and as someone who has a ton of family/friends that are Feds), I have personally never heard of a contractor for a US federal office that wasn’t a W2 employee and that didn’t have set hours to work as a part of their contract. In fact the contractor in my office has more stringent hours requirements than I do! She has to work 7 hrs a day or take leave through her contracting agency, I just have to work 80 hours across two weeks regardless how each day shakes out. Maybe different departments/agencies do things differently?

          Regardless, the LW and their boss would be wise to keep any discussion on this to “here’s how work is being affected” in relation to the specific contract for this contractor. If work isn’t getting done because of this persons hours, then their office might need to re-evaluate with the contracting agency to say that regular/specific hours are needed for the job. Or if the contractor does have specific hours they are supposed to be working and aren’t then that is something to bring up with the contracting agency as well. But if it’s “well I want them here more” just because, then it won’t go anywhere.

          1. Over Analyst*

            Yeah I’m also a fed, formerly a fed contractor, and except for FFRDC our in-office support contractors have stricter requirements than we do. And they definitely still need to adhere to core hours.
            When I was a contractor we even had to use vacation time if the office was closed for a snow day, and we were allowed to flex our time but could not do so to have a compressed work schedule, even though our government counterparts mostly worked 9/80 schedules.

          2. Fed4Life*

            I agree they are W2 employees of their contracting company. We have a contract with a company that provides us a niche support service. Their staff do not have set hours day in and day out and are all part-time on our contract due to the nature of the work. They are expected to do X amount of hours each month and the COR does track the overall burn rate on the contract hours. Most of the time the contract staff are working a regular schedule, but at times the contract company may adjust that.

    2. E*

      There’s a difference between a 1099 independent contractor (which is the type that sets their hours) and a contractor hired through a third party firm. The second type can have specified hours. It’s very common for big companies and government to hire the second type of contractor and less common to have completely independent 1099 workers.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yep. We have a lot of W2 contractors in biotech, who are employed through an agency that handles everything. Unlike in government we are allowed to set their parameters directly with them, but that’s mostly a government thing and not a contractor thing. Biotech is unlikely to have any 1099 contractors, expect in very very specific circumstances (many of them involving people who are kinda retiring but have worked on very long term projects, so they might offer to be contractors for a year or two in order to make sure it’s all transitioned on their end).

        1. Clisby*

          I worked for years as a W2-contractor in tech – the contracting company paid me, but I was supervised by the company I worked directly for. They absolutely could set contractors’ hours. In my case the hours were extremely flexible, but that was because of the particular job I had – it wouldn’t be true of everyone.

    3. Jay (no, the other one)*

      There’s a difference between an independent contractor paid on a 1099 and a company that is the contractor and then has employees. So the government has a contract with Llama Groomers Inc and LGI supplies four llama groomers to the Feds. The llama groomers are W2 employees of Llama Groomers Inc.

      I’m employed by a physician group (recently went back to work part-time after retiring). I work for a hospice that contracts with the physician group for my services. I am definitely a W2 employee and the hospice tells me when and where to work. I am also a contractor.

    4. Starry Motley*

      So I noticed a lot of folks saying I’m wrong because the coworker might be a W2 employee after all, and I want to gently point out that my first sentence specifies that this is if — IF — the coworker is legally not an employee, or in other words, she’s a 1099 contractor. So yeah, I agree, it’s different if she’s someone’s W2 employee.

      The reason I think that she’s likely a 1099, even if it’s not common, is specifically BECAUSE she’s acting this way about attendance and schedules. It’d be outrageous behavior and grounds for disciplinary action if she was a W2 employee for this company or another company that they’ve contracted with, but it’s totally reasonable behavior if she’s a 1099.

    5. Also-ADHD*

      That’s true if she is 1099 but not if she’s W2– though then it depends on the contract and many others have specified how many federal government contractors work. It’s confusing, and the person being a contractor is likely a factor in the issue though.

  13. Feotakahari*

    For #3, I’d be tempted to schedule Bob and Sue together in the same meeting as their bosses. Make the problem relevant to the bosses by putting it where they can see it and comment on it.

    1. CB212*

      When Bob and Sue are the c-suite, I’m sure the president /ceo/ whoever’s above them is FULLY aware. If they belong at the tops of their own pyramids, leading entire groups, that may well trump “playing well with others” at the higher level.

    2. House On The Rock*

      Unfortunately, in organizations like this everyone probably already knows that Bob and Sue can’t work together and they are treated like a collective broken stair.

      When I took over managing my current group, I got the rundown on all the people who can’t or shouldn’t work with one another both on my team and with others in our broader org structure. It was like Renaissance Papal Politics and also seen as entirely normal.

  14. bamcheeks*

    LW3, I think “protect my staff from politics” and “keep my staff in ignorance of the politics” are two very different things. Yeah, sure, you don’t want to be sharing random gossip and speculation, like, “we think grandboss doesn’t like Jean and is trying to push her out, watch how she looks at her in this meeting!” But if it’s information which is solid enough to affect how you do your job, and would affect how your employees do their jobs, it’s critical they know it. “Oser will disagree with Bel just as a matter of principle so talk to them separately” or “If you can get Ivan onside, you’re 80% of the way to getting Desplains to agree” is essential orientation.

    1. NS*

      Depending on context, it can also be useful to know things like “Galen and his team were really unhappy about the takeover/reorg” or “Haroche really wanted the our portfolio and still thinks it should be in his division” as it can change how you frame your message /communication, and how you structure your cooperation/ interactions with that team.

      1. Minimal Pear*

        Ha, “Galen and his team were really unhappy about the takeover/reorg” is a bit of an understatement! You got me cackling at my desk. :)

    2. Observer*

      I think “protect my staff from politics” and “keep my staff in ignorance of the politics” are two very different things.

      Totally agree. And to some extent, they are often in conflict. Because in many cases, the only way to help people is to give them enough information to keep them from inadvertently stepping on the wrong toes.

      But if it’s information which is solid enough to affect how you do your job, and would affect how your employees do their jobs, it’s critical they know it.

      Exactly. That’s why protecting people is at odd with keeping them ignorant. But if you approach it in this way – information that should legitimately affect how they do their jobs, you wind up providing *information* not gossip.

      If you don’t give them the information, you are going to get the reverse effect than what you are after. If your team are sharp people they will understand that there are lots of politics and relational dynamics at play. They are going to try to get that information *somehow*. So either they get straight information from you or they start befriending the office gossips.

    3. Distractinator*

      I really like your phrasing of that, bamcheeks!
      They’re definitely different things, and in some sense I’d ask OP3, what are you really trying to protect them from, is it really the existence of politics? To be explicit, one way that my managers have protected me from *being hurt by* politics is to make sure I know what the rules are.

      Add to that, I am succeeding at my job because I understand the politics, which I wouldn’t do if I didn’t have a manager helping me. This is one of my sources of occasional guilt about inequities – how do my choices about who I share my political advice with and how much affect that person’s chances of success, and how does that information (shared through traditional office networks) affect marginalized demographics? Unless I share things on a specific need-to-know basis, it all devolves into workplace gossip – but how I determine who needs to know is itself political. Which is to say, it’s complicated, but worth paying attention to.

  15. Earlk*

    LW2 doesn’t give any examples of how the contractor’s work hours are harming their work though. Before speaking to their manager I think the LW should actually make sure it’s a work concern and not jealousy of the less rigid schedule.

    1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      That would make sense if it was a matter of coming in 15 minutes late sometimes. But we are talking about missing entire mornings and afternoons with no awareness or acknowledgement. It seems reasonable that it would impact the rest of the team – and even without a clear direct work impact, if their work is similar enough, it seems fair to feel negatively about the inconsistency.

      Maybe LW could even ask the supervisor why the different working models. The answer might be “[insert excellent reasons here]” or it might be “you can work those hours too if you want.” LW might not want to do that, but at least there’s transparency and consistency in the approach.

      1. Earlk*

        There a multiple people in the department I work for who could work completely opposite hours to the rest of us and still not effect others’ work. Not all roles need to work at the same time.

        Furthermore, that excellent reason might be private for a reason.

        If the LW isn’t being affected by their colleague’s hours other than just generally being bothered they should get over it.

  16. Angstrom*

    A tap filter was also my first thought. But if the concern is hard water, filtering alone won’t solve that — on-site OR across the street.
    Supervisor has good intentions but is unclear on the science.

  17. 653-CXK*

    LW#2: Before COVID, I worked full time at the office (5 days per week); then when COVID hit, I transitioned to WFH with coming in once per week to collect the mail. After I got COVID myself in 2021, that time reduced further to “whenever I had the chance,” and they hired a new person, Rhoda, that lived closer to the work site to collect the mail.

    My absence from the site raised questions from other people – some friendly (“hey, I haven’t seen 653-CXK in awhile; I hope they’re OK!”), some not (a manager emailing my boss stating my mailbox was full and I should take care of it) – so when Rhoda comes in, they ask her why I haven’t come in.

    Last week, after not being in the office for eight months, I came in to clean up my desk and toss out old files. I put a sticky note above my desk stating, “I work from home, and come in once per month. Rhoda is collecting and processing the mail. Thanks for understanding.”

    If the work that both LW#2 and coworker perform is substantial (e.g. you do bank deposits, she has the spreadsheet to record them, but it’s password protected) and affects your part of your job, then it’s fine to raise that concern. For all other issues outside of that, LW#2 would be better not to overreach and ask why, because then it would be none of her business.

    1. amoeba*

      Well – you are working, though, so that seems to be a different situation? There is absolutely no mention of the colleague working from home the rest of the time. That would obviously not be a problem in most cases.

      1. 653-CXK*

        I’m aware of that WFH was not mentioned.

        The point I was making was that the “where are they/I haven’t seen this person in awhile” questions aren’t always innocuous; these questions border on nosy and passive-aggressive, and sometimes need to be addressed with a firm, boundary-establishing answer.

        If the co-workers absence is affecting LW2’s work, they should address it with their supervisor (diplomatically, of course, with clear examples).

  18. a clockwork lemon*

    LW 1: This seems like a problem easily solved by just keeping a pitcher for filtered water next to the Keurig? Unless I’m misunderstanding and she’s insisting that the water must be COLD before it goes into the Keurig where it presumably sits at room temperature until it’s time to refill the water dispenser?

      1. kiki*

        I think if manager really wants the water to be filtered, they could get two gallon jugs of filtered water each day and place it next to the Keurig for everyone’s use. Like, somebody needs to get the filtered water, but there are ways to make it more efficient and I think if somebody is insisting on an arbitrary extra step, they should be in charge of managing it.

        1. Clisby*

          Yeah, they seem to be approaching this from the standpoint of making it as inefficient as possible. Even buying 2 Brita pitchers and refilling both with already-filtered water at the same time would cut the number of trips in half.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      This is how I understand the situation:

      The letter writer fills a Brita pitcher with unfiltered water from the close-by tap, then fills the Keurig with the (once-filtered) water from the pitcher.

      The letter writer’s boss fills a Brita pitcher with water from a far-away filtered water source. The boss then fills the Keurig with the twice-filtered water (filtered once before going in to the Brita pitcher, filtered a second time by the Brita pitcher).

      1. a clockwork lemon*

        I think you’re right and I misread but I still remain unconvinced the solution isn’t just another Brita, either because you can “double filter” between the two pitchers or one person (ideally the manager) fills up two jugs.

        Personally I’d just quietly use the tap water instead of walking all the way across the building but the “filtered” water in my office is basically just a freestanding fridge filter hooked up to a dedicated water line so the only meaningful difference is that the filtered water comes cold by default.

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      It needs to be double filtered, according to the boss. Where the boss wants the water to come from is from one of those faucets or bottle filling stations that has a built in filter. then they fill the brita up and it filters the water a 2nd time.

      I think if this is such a concern for the OP’s boss that they should either buy and be responsible for a Brita filter on the sink thats by the Keurig or buy a 2nd Brita to poor the water into after the first filter.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Tap to Brita. Brita to pitcher. Stir vigorously. Pitcher back to Brita. Brita to coffeemaker.

        That’s double-filtered, right?

        1. linger*

          Passing through the same filter system twice does not necessarily give the same result as passing through two different filter systems. (For example, if the filter on the Holy Tap removes calcium and magnesium, which the Brita filter does not, and the Keurig doesn’t cope well with hard water, this is not solved by double-passing through the Brita.)

  19. JSPA*

    #1: standard brita doesn’t filter lead. Lead-specific only filters lead to a certain level. Lead generally enters the water through the building supply line or internal plumbing / fixtures. And one can buy a DIY lead-test kit (the ones for water are mostly collect-and-send). supervisor might be informed (but been told not to tell), not just a coffee snob or over-anxious. Bringing up concerns about microplastics in bottled waters (recent studies) might help to differentiate?

    1. amoeba*

      Knowing about lead in that water and not telling anybody would basically be endangering everybody in this building who assumes the water is safe to drink. Would it even be legal to keep that kind of information from the employees? Here (Europe though) it would be extremely clearly marked if a tap was not safe for drinking!

      I mean, we’re supposed to take LWs at their word and they clearly say the water is fine, so…

      1. JSPA*

        They say the area / city’s water is fine, and I don’t doubt it–and that’s generally a matter of public record. I’m mostly pointing out that “water supply in the area is fine” does not always equate to, “the water in this building / at this tap is fine.” And that someone can have independent knowledge (or a founded suspicion or have heard a rumor).

        It’s fairly recent that “no level of lead is safe” has become the official line, and so far as I know, there’s still no direct guidance on notifying / labeling and replacing pipes below the old EPA action level of 15 ppb. Link to very vague official statement to follow as comment to this comment.

      2. Polaris*

        Nobody is in jail over the Flint water crisis. Sure, there have been people criminally charged, but again: nobody has been held responsible for the whole mess ten years later.

        Mess, by the way, means the discovery and likely cover up/dismissal of proof (for over a year) that they were exposing a significant population to lead for at least a year prior to a state of emergency being declared. We could also include the significant distrust of municipal water sources, ten years later and after significant work to remedy the unsafe sources and create safe drinkable water, in “the mess” that was the Flint water crisis.

    2. Random Dice*

      Zero filters take out lead, and some of the Brita filters that attach directly to a sink, but not a Brita filter. But a Zero filter is so bloody expensive, and clogs so fast due to all the other impurities.

      … ohhh maybe that’s the reason for the second filter.

  20. I should really pick a name*

    If you talk to your supervisor about this, be very clear what the work impact to you is, because it was never actually mentioned in your letter (unless it was trimmed for length).

  21. I should really pick a name*

    She suggested I come back with a counteroffer and let her know what I think

    Does this sound weird to anyone else?
    My brain interprets it as “We’re willing to give you more, but only if you ask for it”.
    Though I suppose it could be her way of signaling “I want to give you more, but because of our rules, I can’t do it unless you ask.”

    1. VintageLydia*

      My boss did the same thing, but she hires a lot junior workers and she’s just signaling it’s OK to negotiate. I’m technically a junior worker but this is a second career (and I’ve been reading this blog since 2012) so I knew negotiating was OK and normal but most people hired in this role do not because they have so little experience.

      1. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

        Yeah, I do this a lot with both very junior staff and folks who do work that’s very specialized/technical. I don’t frame it exactly like that – usually I give a bit more context like “this is what I can offer you based on our assessment of the market, payscale and internal equity considerations, but if you have additional context you think I should consider and a different number in mind, please propose it.” Especially for technical roles, when I’m researching the market, I often don’t know as much about exactly what roles/salaries are comparable as my candidates do, and I want to invite them to push back if I get it wrong. With very junior folks it’s more about establishing the norm in our relationship of talking about salary as a low-consequence conversation (and if a super-strong junior candidate has another offer they’re considering that’s like $2k higher, I’m gonna do everything I can to match it). I’m always transparent that I can’t promise anything, and I’m almost always offering the highest number I can justify with the information I have, but sometimes I’m missing information and I don’t want to lose a candidate or have someone feel lowballed because of it.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I think this is really good! Sets them up for a “norm” of being able/allowed to negotiate that will hopefully they’ll use for a baseline of a good and positive working relationship for as long as they’re in that sector.

        2. I should really pick a name*

          this is what I can offer you based on our assessment of the market, payscale and internal equity considerations, but if you have additional context you think I should consider and a different number in mind, please propose it

          I really like this wording. You make adjustments based on concrete information, not negotiating skill.

    2. Kay*

      Not to me it doesn’t.

      To me this is the boss’s way of saying without saying “As part of a negotiating tactic on behalf of the business I was told to provide you with an initial offer of X, but have received approval or am aware of an amount absolutely higher than that which the company is absolutely willing to pay – I think you are worth it so ASK FOR MORE AND YOU WILL GET MORE”.

      At minimum it is saying – negotiating is part of the process, it is normal, stop short changing yourself people!

      Because sometimes you can help people, but they have to be willing to help themselves first.

  22. SockKnitter*

    #2: Another Federal person here to agree with Fed4Life. I’ve worked with contractors before and want to emphasize that federal employees don’t manage contractor hours or tasks. The group they work for has a contract to provide services to the group you work for. If you have a flaky person you can’t count on, here’s what I suggest. If you need them available for a meeting or a specific time of day, ask directly “will you be here for ___” and make a plan to work around them if they’re gone. Do Not Say “we need you to work these hours,” because that can be interpreted as an attempt to modify the contract and that can be big trouble. The tasks contractors can do are specified in the contract, so you want to make sure there’s no “mission creep” that is adding things (that’s a modification). Write the problems in an email for your boss to send to the COR (Contracting Officer Representative). The big thing to remember, like said in a lot of Alison’s advice, is to emphasize how this is impacting your office’s ability to do its mission. The COR can confirm to you what the contractor can or can’t do, and they are the proper person to tell the contract company to get their employee in line or give you somebody else. If your COR sucks, then your boss may be able to contact the Contracting Officer to complain. Always remember that they are working for somebody else – they are Not your coworker.

  23. Fed4Life*

    OP2 – Alison is right that this really isn’t your business. I can’t tell if you are new to the government or not. If you are new, one thing you will learn is that this person is not your co-worker. She is a contractor and subject to different rules and policies than you. You together and are colleagues, but in the Federal sector there are legal distinctions between a person employed by the Federal government such as yourself and a person employed by a company that has a contract with a Federal government agency that places a person (contractor) with an agency. Her work at your agency is dictated by the contract her employer has with your agency. She may not be full-time at your agency under the contract. She may have a flexible schedule. She may not even have to work the same number of hours each week under the contract depending on the type of contract.

    There are many different types of contracts a Federal agency can enter into with a contracting company. Some of these may dictate a contractor’s hours and others may only dictate that the contracting company will produce a product provide a service (this is a very basic description and there are many more nuances).

    As long as the contractor is performing under the terms of the contract between your agency and the contracting company that is what matters. Your supervisor may be aware of the contract type and conditions and if she has issues with this contractor, she can discuss with the agency contracting officer’s representative and the contracting officer. It may be that nothing would change as the terms of the contract are being upheld. It may mean a different type of contract is considered in the future. If the contractor isn’t doing as her company expects under the contract, they could replace her. There are many variables.

    Also, regardless of the differences between Feds and contractors, if the person has the leave with her company, she is entitled to use it and to use it to take a day off due to stress. AAM has several posts talking about normalizing the use of leave for self-care and for care for mental health.

    1. Kay*

      The LW did say that it was impacting her and her co-worker. So while the schedule isn’t the LW’s business, the impact to their work absolutely is – which is why the advice was to stick to the impact to their work when bringing this up.

    2. yet another federal employee*

      Another fed here. +1 and I laughed a little at this question. Your contractor is flaky and produces terrible work? LOL welcome to the federal government. I have worked with so many contracts. Maybe 20% of them are actually good at the jobs. There were ones who would bill 5 hours for something that would take anyone 15 minutes and an expert 2 minutes. Many of them did not know the software that the contract had them working on, and you could not teach them. I mean, I tried. But it did not get through to them ever. It wasn’t their problem, it was mine/my office’s, after all.

      If your program office wanted actual control over the product and how it’s developed, they’ll either hire for it or write very very careful contracts.

      If they don’t, you need to learn to brush it off. The contractor sucks? Yeah well, they didn’t want the FTEE so that’s their problem.

      (The one absolutely amazing contractor I know got hired as a permanent employee after a couple years, we were very very happy to get to keep her.)

      1. Momma Bear*

        I worked one job where someone was untouchable – no one knew for sure who is supervisor was and whoever it was certainly wasn’t around to see him. He was also known for filing EEO complaints at the drop of a hat. His lack of consistency did impact my job, but I did what I could with the workaround my direct supervisor provided. We were contractors and he was a fed.

        Another time I had a coworker more like described in the letter – coming and going at all hours. I think part of his problem was that he was hired for x role and it was really y. I had a similar job. Neither of us was thrilled, but while I pivoted to new duties, he just…wasn’t there. I didn’t say anything to the manager other than to confirm if I’d seen him that day and when. Eventually she got him on board but I left before the end of contract so I don’t know how it played out longterm. I wouldn’t rat out the coworker every day, but I would note the impact to your boss.

  24. NothappyinNY*

    My sister is a CFO of a federal agency that uses a lot of contractors. She says it is the responsibility of the manager to monitor their hours. She says while the contractors do receive W-2s from their agency, many do not work the usual 37.5 hours per week, but again it is the responsibility of the manager to see the agency does not get billed for more hours than worked. She said many people take contractor jobs because for a variety of reasons they want a flexible schedule. She also said if the schedule of a contractor is slowing work of others, the manager must address, BUT she says in some areas (IT, actuaries), they cannot hire enough qualified people at what the government pays, so they have to make do.

    1. Just Thinkin' Here*

      This! Especially in IT as the government can’t compete with tech company salaries. But yes, the government manager of the contractor is responsible for ensuring that a) contractor is doing quality work b) on time and c) not billing for more hours than worked.

      Government agencies can demand certain hours, conditions, and locations for their contractors. Many defense related agencies require contractor employees to have clearance and work in SCIFs or other cleared locations on and off base. Those contractors were not allowed to work at home during the pandemic as their work is not allowed to work outside these cleared areas.

  25. Dinwar*

    #1: People are so weird about coffee. If things get too weird, I start bringing in my French press. I make my own, using the microwave to heat the water, and it’s usually better than what the office has (especially coffee pods, which even my anosmic senses can tell aren’t as good as even regular pre-ground coffee).

    As for the water supply, I’m of two minds. On the one hand, I know that some people are much more sensitive to certain things than others. My wife can’t drink municipal water, it makes her sick. I, on the other hand, have drank from the tap in third-world countries without the least queasiness. On the other hand, some people are immune to logic and insist on crap like this for no rational reason. I do environmental work, and routinely check our water supply against EPA and state guidelines, and people still argue with me about its quality.

    I suppose the best compromise would be to buy (or have everyone chip in to buy) a pitcher filter to put near the coffee maker. That way if the boss is sensitive to something in the water they can still drink the coffee, and if it’s just psychosomatic they’ll see the water is filtered. As a bonus, if you keep a pitcher of filtered water around people may drink more water, which is always a plus in terms of health (especially in offices–dehydration and eye strain are a bad combo).

    1. I Have RBF*

      They already have a Brita pitcher filter. The boss wants them to trek across the building to fill the Brita filter pitcher with already filtered water, making it double filtered.

    2. Random Dice*

      Wow your gut is so strong! I had Montezuma’s Revenge so badly, even drinking only pump-filtered water.

  26. Gozer*

    1: Oh we’ve had a few of those people too – demanding the kettle only be filled with ultra-filtered water rather than the stuff out of the mains pipes. And like yourself, most of us just shrugged and put the kettle under the tap like always.

    (And we live in an area with Tiffany Aching levels of chalk – our water can kill a Nokia it’s that hard)

    Personally I’d not raise the issue – the pure water lot can be inflexible. If it’s an issue of the machine getting limescale all over it then get a cheap Brita filter jug (but change the filters regularly – those things are not designed for long term use). If it’s some kind of germ phobia then honestly the stuff out of the taps is probably cleaner – well if you’re in the UK anyway.

    (Used to work for water treatment – sewage division)

    1. amoeba*

      To be fair, if the problem is ultra-hard water, I’d be pretty annoyed by people who refuse to filter it first. It’s horrible for the machine and also, frankly, tastes pretty bad!
      But they already have a Brita, so that should not be the problem here…

    2. JustaTech*

      I’ve drunk the water in a lot of places with not-nice water, but I’ve never had water that could kill a Nokia or that made me think of Discworld!
      Dang, you all should weaponize that stuff.

      1. Momma Bear*

        1. Agreed

        2. Now I’m wondering if your office has anything suspiciously sentient like a piece of luggage or a cheese….?

  27. Over Analyst*

    LW 1 could you fill the Brita with the water that’s right there and use that? I agree with you that you don’t need to get double filtered water, but I have seen keurigs break because of impurities from using unfiltered water, so the Brita should at least help with that.

      1. Over Analyst*

        They said they were filling the machine directly from the sink, which I took to mean the keurig. If by machine they meant the Brita, then I take back what I said.

  28. Sloanicota*

    I’m a little confused by these LWs who I’m assuming are employees (W2 full time employees, I mean) complaining that “contractors” are less dedicated / available / not doing the same work. If you are an employee, you probably get many benefits like health insurance, 401K contributions, and paid leave. Contractors get none of that. The tradeoff for the contractor is often that they work their own hours and are in charge of their own workload in a different way. It’s a different employee-employer relationship. Having been both, I acknowledge that neither is a picnic, but there’s not the same expectation of “loyalty” / going the extra mile for free from contractors. You get what you pay for there.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      If you search for the comments by Ask A Manager, she explains why this might not be the type of contractor that sets their own hours.

    2. OP4*

      In my case this is our third contractor in the position so my expectations are based on things the previous two did. Those two chose not to renew their contracts with us at the end of their terms so I have no reason to think those they doing anything wrong.

      1. Observer*

        Maybe that’s why this one is sticking around, unlike the others?

        In other words, the others stuck to a schedule that you approved of, yes, but it may have not been worth it to them based on the salary / benefits they were getting. This one may have decided to stick around at this level to because she like the flexibility she seems to be getting.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Maybe you need to think about why they chose not to renew their contracts?

        At any rate, it seems to me that you have a definite need for somebody in that role, and if they have set hours etc. I don’t understand why it can’t be an employee?

    3. Dinwar*

      As a government contractor I’m not ALLOWED to “go the extra mile for free”. I mean, if I’m onsite anyway and it doesn’t interfere with the job I can provide a value added service, but legally I am required to bill the hours I work. Failure to do so can cost us the contract, or worse.

      Something worth considering when looking at contractor hours.

  29. Gozer (she/her)*

    3: I work for a very convoluted strong personalities rather old-boys-school environment employer with a lot of employees and..yeah, that talk is pretty mandatory for our new techies and those learning.

    Us old timers know who to talk to, how to approach them and who you’re just going to get an earful from no matter what you do. I try to warn them about the most egregious offenders (there’s a real sexist higher up who can’t cope with women in IT – I save all his calls for me so my staff don’t deal with him).

    So give them a quick run down of the biggest pitfalls and/or the ones you deal with most often. But also assure them that there’s backup if they really get messed up by some eejit.

  30. Over Analyst*

    LW 2, does your organization have core hours? Because contractors should be following those too and it sounds like yours isn’t. Additionally, I’d speak to the COR or have the supervisor speak to them. They at least should be able to see if the person is committing time card fraud or anything. I’ve been a contractor for the fed and currently working directly for the government and time card fraud would be an automatic firing. I also don’t know of any contracting company that would let an employee regularly work fewer than 40 hours a week unless there’s some extenuating circumstances. Either way though you and your supervisor can’t do much. You need to talk to the COR.

    1. Observer*

      Because contractors should be following those too and it sounds like yours isn’t. Additionally, I’d speak to the COR or have the supervisor speak to them.

      Why? Why is this any of the OP’s business?

      The supervisor knows what the contractor’s schedule is, so if there is any possible issue of time card fraud, she is the one who should be looking at that / talking to the COR. This is not the OP’s job or place.

      1. Over Analyst*

        It is the job of every federal employee to be a steward of taxpayers’ dollars and protect against fraud, waste, and abuse. This is potential fraud so the OP should alert the COR to ensure it is within the terms of the contract and not fraud.

        1. Observer*

          Sorry, there is a limit to that.

          And this goes well past the limit of appropriate behavior. Because it requires the OP to stick their nose into something that they have no way to have fill background on, and possibly subject someone to a difficult situation based on lack of knowledge.

          In this context, being a “good steward” and “protecting against” fraud include doing their work appropriately, managing anyone they are *supposed to manage* appropriately, and report solid evidence of misbehavior. “I don’t know what my coworker’s schedule is supposed to look like and I have absolutely not the faintest idea of what’s on her timesheet, but I don’t like it” does not come CLOSE to that. It doesn’t even rise to “credible suspicion”.

          1. Over Analyst*

            Wow you’re being strangely harsh to my suggestion that she flag this to the appropriate person, which if the contractor isn’t breaking rules will result in literally zero consequence to her. When I was a government contractor I didn’t work with my supervisor so if anyone had complaints about my work or whether I was abusing policy they’d have to let someone know or I’d just get away with it forever. The LW’s supervisor should also have a means to provide feedback on the contractor regularly so this is good to flag for the next report if nothing else. This is literally part of the job of working for the government with contractor support. And core hours if they exist in their agency are literally written into the contract, unless that contractor has other arrangements which the LW wouldn’t know but the COR would.

  31. Pretty as a Princess*

    For #3, anytime you get more than two people together there are politics, and I think that most people treating “office politics” like a dirty word scares people away from meaningful conversations AND from developing important skills. “Politics” is fundamentally recognizing that people have different needs, priorities, preferred approaches, and communication styles. And you rarely have just a single stakeholder, or homogeneous stakeholder group who needs to be satisfied. (This will be a long post because this is pretty much where I live.)

    For example, being able to communicate ideas to an audience *in a way that resonates with their experience, context, and preferred learning style* isn’t icky politics, it is a necessary skill. I would absolutely never shy away from “Joe is a data driven guy and so you need to lead with the quant factors right up front. Melissa historically likes to have things presented so she can understand the whole narrative including the perceptions by staff. So the way you approach meeting with each of them should be a bit different to talk about your project so they come away with the right understanding of the idea you want to convey.” Or “Melissa and Joe have different first-order priorities. I’ve found that if you approach Joe first and clarify anything he is concerned about on the quant side, Melissa will trust that due diligence and focus in her primary area of concern.”

    Of course, for example, my CFO and my CTO have different perspectives & priorities. If I’m pitching some kind of new research program to the C-suite, I need to satisfy both of those people that their priorities and concerns are addressed. How I brief them both is VERY different. And if I’m talking to them in the same meeting, then I need to be able to build comms that effectively address multiple dimensions even in the same meeting. I always teach people to listen to the questions they hear senior leaders or stakeholders asking – that gives you the clues about what is important to THEM, how they prioritize, and the comm approaches that resonate best with them: “Kate will always ask X, so don’t make her ask. Put X up front.”

    You also have to give people the information they need to do their jobs. If Joe and Melissa hate each other, you don’t need to speculate on that or feed on it or say “Joe and Melissa hate each other”. But you can say that Joe and Melissa have different priorities and seem to have a challenging relationship, and you’ve found that meeting with them separately helps everyone focus better on addressing questions associated with those priorities.

    If you are in a space that requires good sense for change management, then you absolutely should be equipping your team members with basic concepts of change management, including the psychological aspects. That’s not “office politics” at all – that’s social science! You don’t need to make exemplars out of specific interpersonal conflicts, but giving your staff the ability to understand how different people will have different psychological and communication needs depending on their roles, experience, and where you are on (whatever change management curve/model you use to frame your approaches) is really a necessary skill for the job and has nothing to do with “shielding people from politics.” If you give people that understanding and help them grow their skills, they will be in a position to diagnose those communication needs effectively without you having to couch things as “office politics.”

    1. Workplace politics OP*

      I couldn’t agree more, and I think that’s why my work environment doesn’t bother me that much – most of politicking is just being aware of basic human psychology and acknowledging interpersonal dynamics. However, I do remember being earlier in my career and it leaving a bad taste in my mouth, so I want to be sensitive how all of this is framed to my directs. I had someone tell me that it isn’t a matter of shielding from politics, it’s about preparing them for politics.

  32. Byzantine*

    LW2: I’m guessing that the coworker you mention is an institutional support contractor. That means she works for whatever company holds the contract and her boss is the project manager/director assigned by her company, ie, the two of you do not have the same boss. Your boss cannot directly instruct her. Unless your boss is the contracting officer’s representative (COR) for the institutional support contract, they can’t actually even instruct the project manager to do anything.

    If there is an issue, your boss must go to the COR and the COR should address the issue with the institutional support contractor project manager to tell them that the scope of work of the contract is not being met and it is up to the project manager (in consultation with their corporate office) to manage the people that work for them and the way they manage it is entirely their business. If they decide to swap her out for someone else, no one in your agency gets any say unless she is filling a designated key personnel position.

    I know that it feels weird that these people you work right next to you, who might have similar tasks to fulfill, etc are in such a different chain of command, but it is very important not to treat someone working on an institutional support contract like they are an employee or have a direct relationship with the federal government. When that line gets crossed, you will all of a sudden have the Contracting Officer getting involved. (For reference, I am a former institutional support contractor and our contract supported Contracting Officers!).

    1. Person from the Resume*

      It does strike me that the contractor is not here the hours expected of her (being late because she’s oversleeping and leaving at 2pm everyday with a statement “I have to leave at 2”) is something that can be reported to the COR and likely enforced. Generally most of these contractors are contracted to work the equivalent of full time hours.

      LW doesn’t really get to know details or why, but her boss should understand the level of support she’s contracted for and if that level of support is not received she should report the problem to the COR who can do something about it. If the contractor is expected there 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year except for paid time off then something is very fishy and something can be done if the proper people are made aware of the problem.

  33. Jennifer*

    I’m just laughing because my office takes up the entire floor of a building in NYC and I walk more than a “block” just to get to the bathroom, kitchen, or back to reception/the elevators. It’s good for exercise though!

    1. periwinkle*

      Also laughing a bit. My office is in a huge factory and it’s the equivalent of a block walk between the Keurig and the kitchen (for reasons unknown). It’s a half-block walk from my desk to the stairs, then down one flight to the bathroom. No elevator to the bathroom, but I could walk the equivalent of another block to the elevator for the ADA-compliant bathrooms. My previous office was in a better location for daily needs but was a 3/4 mile walk from the closest shuttle stop. The current one is a mere 1/2 mile walk.

      You don’t appreciate a typical office building configuration until you’re not in one anymore.

    2. Susie*

      Right? I’m trying to figure out if I just don’t understand how large a block is? I have to walk at least a block to get to the bathroom at work (I’m at a university, and we use the main building’s washrooms, don’t have anything special for faculty).

  34. PX*

    OP3: also chiming in to say that please please clue your staff up about things like this. like it or not, interpersonal dynamics are a part of any job, and in situations like yours where it’s a bit extreme, very neutrally and factually pointing stuff out is a benefit.

    I’m in a role where I sometimes end up being an unofficial guide to people in my company on this stuff and I wish I’d had more support when I started!

    plus at the end of the day, to me these are essential soft skills that really matter in some industries. learning how to frame things in a way so X will like it, knowing Y will always ask this type of question so be prepared, Z will always need to complain about it even if they will eventually approve it so don’t take a rejection personally etc are things that help you go far.

    Humans aren’t rational for the most part, so learn how to play the game to the level you need.

  35. HonorBox*

    In thinking about the second letter, I have a situation that is different, but similar. Not a contractor but an employee who is a coworker has been sort of AWOL a bunch recently. I’m in a position where I could say something to my manager, both because it was outside of normal parameters/expectations and because there were things that were falling to others to pick up. I think it is important to raise this concern, if you’re going to, with specific reasons this is a concern. Is this colleague’s absence putting extra work on your desk? Is the colleague’s absence causing delays in your/others’ work? And, this is a little more squishy, but is this colleague’s absence creating some sort of example that others might start to follow? If Jane can work only when she wants (assuming that’s not part of the contract language) will others do the same, ultimately causing more of a problem than just her absence?

  36. Michelle Smith*

    LW5: What a great story! Thanks for writing in and sharing your success with us! I hope the new position is extremely fulfilling and congratulations on the promotion!!

    1. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. I’m glad LW read the room and asked for a bit more. Answer is always no if not asked. Obviously they value LW. I hope the new role is great!

  37. ckee*

    I would say to put in only as much water as you need to make your own cup of coffee, and then when your supervisor finds the reservoir empty, if she really wants her special double-filtered water, she can make the walk herself.

    1. ferrina*

      Or add a note that says “water from sink currently in machine”. Type the note if you are worried about the manager recognizing your handwriting. That way you get your coffee, and the manager can make an informed decision about what she would like to do.

  38. RagingADHD*

    Look, the whole question of why the supervisor wants double filtered water is irrelevant. The supervisor is on a petty power trip, that’s all. That is clear because there are *so many easier ways* to solve for this. The problem is that the supervisor has offloaded the difficulty / wasted time, and therefore doesn’t perceive any need for an easier solution.

    If the supervisor wants somebody to walk all the way over to the big filter, they can do it themselves. Or they can opt for one of the several dozen easier solutions to this nonexistent problem.

    There are some things in life that are 100% worth calling someone’s bluff over. This is one of them. They want to make an issue of it? Let them try to explain to HR why this is an important work related issue. I doubt they would bother, because if they have half a brain they know this is petty and would only undermine their credibility to be in a supervisory role.

    Just stop playing along. “Hey, just so you know, I don’t have time to walk all the way over there every time it’s empty, because I have too much work to do. I’m going to refill it from the tap.”

    They wanna get mad about it? Let them be mad. It’s ridiculous.

  39. Angela Zeigler*

    #1 – Tap water has more minerals in it and running it through drink machines or kettles can lead to mineralization on some surfaces, which need to be cleaned using certain cleaners. Run the tap water through a Brita pitcher (which you can do right at the sink) and use that water in the coffee maker. Better for the taste, too.

    Also, if you have a kettle and see little dots building up in the inside surface? That’s mineralization! Scrub with some Bar Keeper’s Friend. Then use filtered water. :)

    1. jane's nemesis*

      In the letter, they say they DO already have a Brita pitcher. The manager is insisting they take the Brita pitcher to a different filtered water source and fill it from there.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Vinegar with hot water is the most effective solution for scale. Just remember to empty the kettle of the vinegar solution before making your tea!

  40. J!*

    I want to push back a little bit on LW #2 being annoyed about their colleague taking a day off because they were stressed about a move. In that case, it’s not like they did a no-call/no-show. They called in to let your team know they were taking a day off. It’s not really any of your business what they use their sick time for, and on top of that mental health IS health. I’m not sure how their time pool works as a contractor, but needing a personal day because you’re overstressed is a perfectly reasonable thing that happens to humans sometimes. I understand it’s frustrating given the other perceived flakiness, but…

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I agree I found that a little excessive. I think the problem is that the contractor does this a lot with coming in late, leaving early that they don’t know when to expect them. They might be getting to the BEC stage.

    2. Happy*

      Agreed! And the colleague was probability also using the time to pack, organize, or any of the dozens of other things that go along with moving that always take longer than you think they will. It’s not a great example of frivolously taking time off.

  41. placemat*

    As I do not believe the only water *fountain* in this building is that far away, solve this by getting a water bottle filler filter installed at your water fountain. Helps multiple people. When we did this at our office, we were able to reduce a lot of bottled water expenses.

  42. 1,000 Snails in a Lady Skin*

    I am not LW3 but have certain politics in my own organization that I’ve had trouble navigating and find this advice super useful, especially “Be matter-of-fact and respectful about it; don’t roll your eyes or use a tone that says ‘what a baby.'”

    My CEO and VP of my department both like things a certain way. Sometimes they are wrong but I’ve learned it’s not productive to argue (mostly about little nitpicky things) and I just go along with it. Think: teapots have to have green lids even though blue lids would be slightly easier and make no difference for sales. I have just told my team, “yep we’re doing green lids, if we want to change the colors on anything I need to get approvals so don’t make color updates without letting me know.” I know that sometimes I’ve rolled my eyes and it’s super unprofessional but it’s really hard because it’s a dumb decision! I’ve been pretty clear that this is coming from the top, not from me, because I hope it’s more clear why they absolutely can’t start making changes on colors, even though they’re encouraged to make other changes proactively.

    Anyway, I’m just frustrated and relate to OP3! Sometimes the advice here can be “fight back” or “that’s dysfunctional” but you learn quickly that there’s dysfunction everywhere and this not egregious enough to die on this hill. I just need to remember to be calm and matter-of-fact when relaying to my team!

  43. Delta Delta*

    #3 – At my first real job out of college I was out on a site visit with one of the managers. She asked if I’d met everyone in the office, and I mentioned I had met everyone except one person, Carol, who was out on vacation. She sort of sucked in a breath and said she needed to warn me about Carol, and then filled me in on lots of various Carol-related politics. Carol is very good at her job and the Big Boss really liked her, so she wasn’t going anywhere. But there were Things To Know about Carol. This really stuck with me over the years, because it was just weird to me that there are employees about whom people need to be warned, and that this is tolerated.

    Apparently there have been Broken Stairs forever.

    1. PSAs are Good*

      It’s important to take these kind of disclosures with a grain of salt. I once had a manager who told a new person who would be working closely with me that I was difficult and she wouldn’t like me. We turned out to work beautifully together and like each other a lot! The new person ended up having many problems and conflicts with that manager. The manager and I didn’t get along and she was trying to poison the well instead of letting new person form their own judgement about me.

      That said, politics are everywhere and it is a kindness to help employees navigate the political landscape when they need to.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yeah my former boss told the guy buying him out that I was an incompetent bitch. A short while later, the new boss said something about how very nice I was, and even good at my job, she sounded so surprised that I said “ah, you were told something else”. She wasn’t going to badmouth my former boss, but her look said it all.
        The former boss continued to work with them as a contractor (not on-site), and the boss mentioned that he’d been to head office to renew the contract. “Funnily enough he never asked after you or any of his former employees”. I just laughed (and did not ask after him either!)

  44. Oh yeah, Me again*

    I don’t get why they don’t just refill the Brita pitcher at the near-by sink? And then put it into the Keurig after it goes through the Brita. Are they expected to start with water that has already been distilled from a supply in a lab or something? If boss requires THAT she should be made responsible for bring it in/over in a barrel (use a hand-truck!)

  45. hobnob*

    The complicated rituals of daily coffee drinkers never fail to amaze me. So much drama over hot bean water!

    1. Phryne*

      I am honestly not a demanding coffee drinker. My main demand is availability. Sure I can appreciate good coffee, but I drink the bas stuff if that is what’s on hand. Until recently I did not think I had a lower limit on coffee quality. Until some new model coffee machines were installed at my place of work. Now I know I do. Fortunately there is several of the old models at other places in the building, so I just go there. I did give my opinion in the ‘what do you think of the new machines’ query though. Quite unvarnished.

      Anyway, OP and co-workers do not seem to cause the drama here, double-filter manager is.

    2. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      It isn’t typical. I love coffee but the behaviour described here is bizarre.

  46. Observer*

    #2 – Contractor who has a wonky schedule.

    Why is this any concern of yours? That’s a serious question. You say that she “inconvenienced you” by not coming on time. But how did her absence cause you a problem? Why did you spend time and effort tracking her down?

    If you need stuff from her that you’re not getting, or having to pick up her slack or anything like that *THAT* is what you ask your manager about. “What is up with her” really, really is none of your business. Only the impact is.

  47. Hedgehog*

    LW #2 – Just want to throw this out there: your “coworker” is a contractor.

    Both legally and in practice, your boss is not her boss. She is not an employee of the federal government. She is either self-employed, or she’s employed by the agency that contracts out her services.

    At least here in the state of Ohio, “no time schedule” is one of the defining features that allows a department to classify a person as a contractor. Contractors maintain the freedom to set their own schedule because they are not employees of the department; instead, the department is a *client* of the contractor.

    Depending on the nature of her work, she may very well have other clients!

    Contractors do not have the same legal rights as employees (FMLA, etc). If she’s an independent contractor rather than an agency employee, she also pays a higher tax rate, as she is legally responsible for both income tax and payroll tax

    So, given that contractors have far fewer rights than employees, it’s reasonable that they are also not subject to the same obligations as employees – including the obligation to work the same hours employees work, or the same hours every day.

    If your department leaders want to impose a schedule on this person, they need to actually hire her as an employee. Otherwise, schedules are mutually negotiated, just like any other aspect of a contract between two separate organizations forming a partnership.

    It’s entirely possible that this person negotiated a flexible end time into her contract, and control over which days she worked.

    That’s not uncommon, and it’s actually a priority for me when I negotiate my own contracts with client companies. If a client wanted to renegotiate and set a rigid schedule for the work I do (as opposed to just setting deadlines, which is normal), I would in turn negotiate for a significant hourly rate increase.

  48. Observer*

    #1 – Double filtered coffee water.

    Please do use the Brita filter for your coffee. The filter on the Keurig does not handle most of the things that even the standard Brita filter handles, such as most heavy metals. So, it really is possible that using the filter could be both a health benefit and also lengthen the life of the Keurig.

  49. vox*

    coffee water filter question – why not just buy a sink filter for the water source next to the pot? two filters, problem solved.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The supervisor wants to use the brita on water that has already been filtered.
      The prefiltered water is at the other end of the building.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, a lot of people are not reading for comprehension here.

        The Brita is not the problem. Having to walk all the way across a huge building to fill the Brita from a already filtered water source is the problem.

        1. Observer*

          True. But the OP is not even using the Brita because they think that the Keurig filters stuff, and it doesn’t.

  50. CubeFarmer*

    Pretty sure LW #2 is working with my former colleague. She had a hellish commute which she quickly determined was probably not worth it for this job. So, she started timing her arrivals to coincide with the first off-peak train, and she departed just in time to make the last off-peak train. She frequently called out, any weather event meant that she was “stuck at home,” and she made every excuse ever to “work from home.” She finally left, and took her shenanigans somewhere else.

  51. Anonymous Koala*

    LW1: Normally I’m against gifting up, but if you have a gift culture in your office, could you and your colleagues club together at the next holiday to buy your boss a single-serve coffee maker (I think they can be had for around $30 online)? She can fill her personal coffee machine with ultra-filtered water and stop bothering the rest of you about the kitchen Keurig.

  52. Immortal for a limited time*

    #1: Costco sells Brita water pitchers for a litte over $40. Surely your weird manager would see the benefit of having one, if she’s that freaked out by tap water (rolling my eyes).

    #2: Alison’s response didn’t mention anything about the coworker being a contractor. I’ve been a government contractor and if your manager isn’t holding that person to their contract obligations, that’s on them. I brought up some similar (but less egregious) problems with a contractor on a project in my current role and my director appreciated knowing about the issues and addressed it with that person. The expectation was that they either change their practices or we would part ways at the end of the contract. If they hadn’t been showing up at all or routinely showed up late, the contract would have been terminated immediately. But it’s possible your person’s contract only requires X number of hours and allows for those hours to be fulfilled any way they like; however, if it’s impacting your work, that’s a bigger deal and it seems very odd to me to say that you don’t have standing to bring it up.

    1. I Have RBF*

      #1: If you actually read the letter, you will see that they already have a Brita, but that the manager wants the Brita filled from an already filtered source.

  53. NMitford*

    Letter #1 — Walking a block for water is nothing. Back in my fundraising days, I managed the phonathon program, which employed student callers and was located in the basement of one of the dorms. The central development office declined to provide a copier in that facility, on the assumption the students would abuse it (probably not unfounded), so if I, as the manager, needed to make a copy of anything, I had to get in my car and drive to the central development office which was on the other side of a very large state university campus. Fun times.

  54. Coverage Associate*

    I haven’t gone through the overnight comments. Apologies if this has already been explained.

    There is litigation going on as I type about whether fluoride in drinking water causes neurological injury. It’s mostly about infants, but of course someone aware of the issue could want to be safe rather than sorry. If the far away filter addresses fluoride, that would explain the boss’s insistence.

    Household filters don’t remove fluoride. I understand that they are mainly for metals. I imagine a system that removes fluoride would also remove metals, not so much because it’s the same process but because a use that needs fluoride eliminated would also need metals eliminated, but I am not a scientist.

    There are places in the United States where the ground water has fluoride naturally, and the excess fluoride has to be removed, so the EPA has both maximum and minimum recommendations in fluoride, which could also be a factor in either the boss’s thinking or the building water supplies.

    (I don’t support plaintiffs in the fluoride litigation as a voter/citizen, but as someone who studied the legal issues 15 years ago, I think it’s interesting that their case got to trial.)

  55. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

    I know we generally say gifts shouldn’t flow upstream, but perhaps this is the rare exception where you and your colleagues buy a beautiful little personal machine for Supervisor to keep in her office and fill with the freshest water hand-gathered from pure natural springs so the rest of you can use the sink?

  56. CouldntPickAUsername*

    for the coffee water, just send HR an email asking how to mark ‘1 hour spent getting coffee water’ on your timesheet every day and see it get resolved real quick.

  57. Katherine Patterson*

    LW2 did mention that the coworker is a contractor. Contractors play by different rules, one of which is that contractors have control over the time and place at which they complete the work. There is probably nothing LW2 can do or say to influence her manager to make changes.

  58. Me*

    LW1: What I find strange is that the water filter is a city block away. Why isn’t there one closer than that?

Comments are closed.